Chapter 26:

Volume 2, Chapter 6, Stacia

Don't Worry, We Have the Best Supporter in Our Team

“Did you look into the documents I sent the other day?”Bookmark here

“Not yet. I need to mark the exam papers first. I will get them done by tomorrow so that I could resume my work. How’s your end? I heard that you were assigned to an interesting project.”Bookmark here

“It is going smoothly, so far. We’re still working on the foundation as of now.”Bookmark here

“What was it?”Bookmark here

“Sorry. I was told not to inform anyone about it, but we will when we confirm everything.”Bookmark here

Lecturers who worked in the Adventurer Academy sometimes took on the role of researchers. Adventurers were bound to discover new herbs, animals, ores, monsters and new areas during their quests. Bookmark here

Of course, most adventurers were taught the basics of acquiring such materials or drawing the locations on their maps and report them back to the Academy if they wish to do so. Most of the materials sent to the Academy for research purposes were from the Capital Headquarters.Bookmark here

Their conversation continued down the hallway until they were out of the earshot. Then, a silhouette appeared from the shadow formed from the window frames. He listened to his surroundings once more to make sure the coast is clear. Bookmark here

“I never thought the training takes place during the first day of the holiday,” Aiden sighed.Bookmark here

Before he sneaked into the building, he equipped himself with his grey adventurer ensemble and a pair of blade gauntlets back from his apartment. Weapons weren’t allowed to be carried by students in the academy, Bookmark here

He was well aware that he would get in trouble if anyone, except for his guildmates and Stacia, found him in the Academy hallway or classrooms at this time. He had pointed that out to Stacia before commencing this training, but all he received was, What’s this? An assassin scared of exploring the academy during the night? Want me to send someone to hold your hands and lead you to me? Bookmark here

Just thinking about how absurd his master gave him a slight headache. His friends might not know about this, but his master was highly audacious when providing unreasonable training regimens. There were times where he was trained to the point where his entire body sore for five days.Bookmark here

Aiden’s objective was the same as usual: locate and take down Stacia without getting noticed by anyone aside from Stacia. He placed those thoughts to the back of his mind and continued further into the Academy. Bookmark here

Whenever Aiden explores new places or revisits them by himself or with someone else, he did his best to draw the map within his mind. But that didn’t apply when it came to the Academy. Instead, the entire building was a living maze as it has a defence mechanism that prevents intruders from meeting students and lecturers, and it applies to training and theirs.Bookmark here

“Let’s hunt.Bookmark here

A sinister, childish voice came from behind.Bookmark here

Aiden didn’t need to turn around. That was Stacia usual way of signalling the start of their training. Even though he had experienced this many times, it still made him shudder, and cold sweats ran down his cheeks. Bookmark here

Cutting through the air, a small throwing knife flew toward him. He managed to dodge the weapon with minimum effort, but another suddenly came from behind and landed square on his back.Bookmark here

Shards of blue light scattered and dissolved in the air from his back, but part of it soon recovered at the expend of his mana.Bookmark here

“Hehehe.”Bookmark here

A figure appeared on all four at the ceiling above him. Its limbs were positioned as if anyone world deemed them as dislocated and the head. If anyone ever saw this, they would probably scream and run away at that point.Bookmark here

He adjusted his grey hood, then checked his blade gauntlet’s spring mechanism, raring for the offensive. Coursing mana through his arms, legs and blades’ runes, he launched himself. Bookmark here

Bouncing from wall to wall, toward the ceiling where his target was. When the target came within his range, he swung his right blade at it from the side. Bookmark here

“Is that all?”Bookmark here

Stacia’s playful voice came from the creature itself. However, he could sense a hint of her bloodlust consuming his entire body and mind. But even so…Bookmark here

He twisted his body and raised his left gauntlet to defend himself, but Stacia was no longer there. Bookmark here

As gravity pulling him down, he couldn’t afford to let his guard down. He knew this was her way for combat: instilling fear into her foes until they couldn’t make rational decisions and finish them off. Bookmark here

“Ngh!”Bookmark here

Halfway back to the ground, a powerful kick landed on his stomach, causing him to fall to the ground with his back. He gasped for air. A considerable chunk of mana shields chipped off from his abdomen section.Bookmark here

He made use of the momentum to distance himself away from Stacia. Bookmark here

Even with the mana gloves, it was surprisingly hurt, clutching onto his stomach with his right hand. Compared to his friends, Stacia’s attack was more decisive, and the pain he just felt was between moderate and high.Bookmark here

“Giving up?” asked Stacia innocently while holding three throwing knives in one hand.Bookmark here

“Not a chance.”Bookmark here

“Hmm?”Bookmark here

Aiden appeared behind Stacia within milliseconds. But his attack soon got deflected by her dagger to steered him to the side, then gave a knee kick to his stomach and slammed his back with the other dagger’s pommel.Bookmark here

You still got a long way to go, kid, thought Stacia.Bookmark here

“Hmm. Did he notice it?”Bookmark here

While Stacia’s other self (?) was fighting Aiden, she relaxed on a couch in one of the guild rooms. Her action would consider trespassing with the time and place in mind when it comes to guild rooms, but she received hospitality from the room’s guild master herself.Bookmark here

“Notice what?” Bookmark here

A girl inquired while repairing her weapons on the workbench. The Academy’s guilds could purchase and install any equipment and tools to their guild rooms as long as they received permission from the Academy’s faculty. In this case, the guild room where Stacia currently relaxed had every tool and equipment needed to create parts or upgrade and maintain their equipment.Bookmark here

“Don’t play dumb with me. You know what I mean,” said Stacia as she was flinging her arms.Bookmark here

Stacia seemed mature and well respected to any onlookers, but she acted like a spoiled child when it came to interacting with her apprentices. Bookmark here

“Master… I don’t know what you are talking about.” Bookmark here

She placed down her tools and tested her weapon. Its mechanism failed to function. Her mind wandered elsewhere, thinking about solutions to her weapon’s issue. Bookmark here

“I’m talking about Aiden. He might have seen— I mean heard through my skill. Also, you should meet him in person. As you master, I ord—”Bookmark here

Before she could finish her sentence, she heard a set of footsteps outside. She usually kept her breathing steady but silent. Even if the sound of footsteps faded into the distance, she remained cautious.Bookmark here

“Master, why don’t you fight Aiden with full strength? I’m sure he will grow stronger quickly.”Bookmark here

“I could do that, but I will end up killing him in the process. Besides, he wasn’t even ready for it yet.”Bookmark here

“But still… what are you trying to teach him anyway?”Bookmark here

“It’s a secret.”Bookmark here

She heaved a sigh, silently praying for Aiden’s safety. After all, she was Aiden’s senior.Bookmark here

When tea was ready, she went over to refilled the teapot and placed it on the coffee table next to Stacia, then returned to her workstation. The holiday had just begun. She took this opportunity to repair and improve her weapons and armour. Bookmark here

“I’m sorry for intruding on your guild room at this hour. I will be heading out now. Thank you for your hospitality.”Bookmark here

Stacia downed her tea, got up from the couch and headed for the door. But, instead of opening the door, she melted into the shadows as if she was a ghost. Bookmark here

“You could have at least leave the guild room like a normal person,” she muttered as she was dismantling her weapon, sending some metal parts flying.Bookmark here

Throughout the bright illuminated hallway, just walking through it in the middle of the night alone would make one feel anxiety. However, that wasn’t so bad as there were sparks and sounds of clashing steels. If one with keen eyesight looked at the sources of origin, a boy with a blindfold was fighting against a young girl with azure eyes.Bookmark here

Between the two, Aiden was being pushed back by Stacia’s ongoing assault. However, her expression was relaxed, treating this battle as nothing but a trivial matter. Bookmark here

He did everything he could to dodge her strikes by using the floors, ceilings and walls as footholds while not leaving any traces of their activities and searching for an opening. Bookmark here

Even if he tried to seize an opening, Stacia returned his actions in kind by parrying his blades and made use of her free hand or legs to topple him over. Not a single hit lay on her. Bookmark here

“Is that the best you got?”Bookmark here

“It would be a lot easier if you just stay still.”Bookmark here

He gave an upward swing with his blade gauntlet then lunged with the other.Bookmark here

She took one step back, dodging his first swing, then grabbed his other arm and circled around him, forcing him in a difficult position. But he twisted his body to avoid that outcome and gave a horizontal sweep with his leg.Bookmark here

Good response. Stacia smiled gingerly to herself as she let go of his arm to jump over his leg and kicked his arms to distance herself away from himBookmark here

Although she was in a difficult position right now, her moves were deliberate. Making use of a crouch position, she gave herself a short dash toward Aiden, close enough that he couldn’t make use of his blade gauntlet. Bookmark here

She made use of the momentum to punch his chest after placing a foot behind his, causing him to lose balance and fall. Before he fell to the floor, Stacia’s other hand quickly took out a dagger from her waist and brought it down toward the exact spot where her punch had landed. Bookmark here

Aiden quickly crossed his arms to block the dagger, but that caused him to land on the ground with his back. Luckily the mana shield absorbed most of the impact on his head and back. However, he is losing a lot of mana for his mana shield.Bookmark here

“Now, why would I stay still? Surely you don’t think your targets would be dumb enough to act that way?”Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

He wasn’t frustrated; he was enjoying this training. Every time his master invited him for training, he always thought that might be the day where he could defeat her. Battle after battle, he always got himself beaten to a pulp. All he had, for now, was speed and the ability to find the weak spots, but those wouldn’t work against the opponent before him. Bookmark here

I need to find the weakness behind her skill.Bookmark here

Thinking back on their past training, Stacia’s fighting style didn’t seem to be what he and his friends had in mind for an assassin. It was the exact opposite of what an assassin should be doing; she had engaged in a battle against him head-on, hand-to-hand combat, and sometimes with her daggers. With her nature and class in mind, he had a feeling that those daggers were not her primary weapons.Bookmark here

“Giving up?” She brought down her dagger at his abdomen.Bookmark here

Hearing the sound of the dagger slicing through the air, Aiden rolled to the side and got back up. By the time he did, he heard a dagger thrown at him. He dodged and sprinted down the hallway, away from Stacia. Bookmark here

But no matter where he went, Stacia was always there. To him, no human or adventurer could pull it off like that unless…Bookmark here

They didn’t call you Azure Phantom for nothing.Bookmark here

“Where might you be heading to? I thought you’re looking forward to this battle.”Bookmark here

She appeared next to him and gave a roundhouse kick, sending him crashing through a door and into a classroom. The door shattered into pieces and spread on the floor beneath Aiden, who lay sprawled on the ground face down. Bookmark here

“Ughhh. You know, for an assassin, you hit hard,” chuckled Aiden, even though he was losing this battle, as he slowly got himself up with his hand and knee.Bookmark here

“I will take that as a compliment.” Stacia smiled and puffed her chest out proudly, not leaving a single opening.Bookmark here

Tch. I was hoping she would lower down her guard a bit. Guess that doesn’t work for her.Bookmark here

Stacia disappeared then reappeared at the podium. The corner of her lips curved upward slightly as she crossed her legs. Without a word, she silently produced another dagger from her sleeve. Not a single sound was made from that.Bookmark here

“It would be in your best interest not to underestimate me, Aiden. Shall we continue where we left off?”Bookmark here

“Underestimating you? I always go all-out when I fight—”Bookmark here

Before he could finish his sentence, she threw a dagger, aiming for his head. He crouched down as soon as he could, to a point where the dagger flew over his head. While he crouched low enough, he focused his mana on his legs and dashed toward Stacia.Bookmark here

Stacia jumped off from the podium, landing on one of the tables. To her surprise, Aiden was already next to her, swinging his blades toward her arms.Bookmark here

“—Until I defeat you, of course.”Bookmark here

Without any time to parry them, she raised both arms, sending her flying to the back wall of the class. She landed on the border with both feet gracefully.Bookmark here

Aiden wasn’t going to let this momentum die out, so he continued his offence by closing his distance. Bookmark here

“I’m not letting you get away this time.”Bookmark here

“We will see about that.”Bookmark here

By the time his subsequent attacks landed on Stacia, they had met nothing but air.Bookmark here

“Tch.”Bookmark here

“Don’t be mad. You should be happy that you put me in a situation where I had to activate my skill.”Bookmark here

He listened to his surroundings, even though there was a chance that he couldn’t locate her presence.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

He could barely hear the inconsistent footsteps from the ground, wall, ceiling. Sometimes the footsteps from all directions could be heard simultaneously, and not a single movement for the furniture in this room. Bookmark here

To make things complicated, her inconsistent presence was starting to confuse him further, masking her movements.Bookmark here

She’s everywhere. Bookmark here

He took a deep breath and exhaled.Bookmark here

“Come.” Bookmark here

He raised his blade gauntlets in a defensive stance.Bookmark here

With that signal, ghostly strikes landed on his back, left leg and right arm in quick succession, causing him to drop down in one knee. Even though he couldn’t defend himself from her, he kept his ignore all of his senses and focus on his hearing, trying to locate her until…Bookmark here

What was that sound?Bookmark here

The sound was eerie. He turned his attention to it, but nothing was there.Bookmark here

The sound disappeared when it noticed his attention. When it stopped, he could briefly sense Stacia’s presence.Bookmark here

She appeared behind him and struck him at the back of his neck with full force. Aiden’s magic gloves’ safety mechanism kicked in. He fell forward and dropped down to the floor.Bookmark here

Stacia stared at his unconscious state and sighed to herself.Bookmark here

“That was close.”Bookmark here

She signalled it to go back home. Her partner nodded and disappeared into the shadows.Bookmark here

“Ughhhh. What happened? Where am I?”Bookmark here

“You lost the fight. We’re in our apartment. Stacia brought you here and left,” said Irene as she was placing two dishes next to him in bed. “I also brought some dinner from a café.”Bookmark here

It was normal for Irene to see Aiden’s current state every time he went out for training with her. She sometimes went out with Stacia to know how their training went and asked for further details on her assignments while she was at it.Bookmark here

According to Stacia, Aiden seemed to be improving. Irene wasn’t concerned about his safety, but instead, she wanted to know how much he had progressed as they see each other as rivals and comrades.Bookmark here

“Thanks.”Bookmark here

Trying to get himself up from bed, the pain started to spread all over his body, but he could manage on his own. This was the effect of the magic gloves’ safety mechanism. Mana was crucial for adventurers to execute class skills and improves physical prowess. With mana deficiency, adventurers could barely walk properly, so the best they could do was either consume mana potions or rest.Bookmark here

“How long was I out?”Bookmark here

“About two hours.”Bookmark here

“So that means it’s about 11:30 PM?”Bookmark here

“Yeah.”Bookmark here

After confirming Aiden’s condition, Irene began heading back to her room, leaving Aiden to his device. Bookmark here

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