CHAPTER I: CLYNE
The tapping of their shoes echoed in the wide and long marbled hallway. Paintings of gold, white, and blue covered the high ceiling. The walls are bared white. Life-sized white statues lined the walls near the columns. Clyne Sherburne couldn’t take off his eyes around him. This place is majestic. The only time he saw something similar up close was when they found hundred-year-old destroyed chapels. His eyes widened and mouth agape. Living outside the city all his life and in a small hut near the mountain, he saw luxurious houses and places in books. However, he didn’t mind. He loved the smell of fresh earth. But he hoped that even once in her life he could bring his grandmother somewhere nice. This, however, will never happen. His chest started to hurt due to that thought. If only I wasn’t…
His thoughts were interrupted by someone painfully grabbing his arm so he stopped walking. He looked at the pale white skin then her fiery eyes, which seem to tell him to pay attention. He smiled goofily but she only rolled her eyes as she removed her hand. The two guards in front of them stopped in front of a hardwood double doors with two swords carved on each of them. Another two guards stood each holding a thick polearm, with their backs facing the doors. Are those Bardiche polearms? All the guards were in complex layers of black, white and blue clothing, navy-colored helmet, and black long boots. One stood on Clyne’s side. His eyes were didn’t stray from the doors. His right arm gripped the handle of his Claymore sword hanging on his waist. He stood a foot taller and really intimidating. He noticed an unusual design on their chest – a sword with two wings. Clyne wasn’t good in History but he figured that the guards in this place looked similar to the Renaissance knights with distinct differences in the armours and weapons. However, he knew that Concordians have their different set of knights in fortresses and not in the Academy. If his guess is correct, these gentlemen are Legionnaires.
Their team was surrounded by ten Legionnaires. Clyne was more curious than scared. He had seen worse things before so the sight wasn’t as scary. He gripped the straps of his bag to hoist it up. It was really heavy and his back was killing him. The guard, however, immediately told him to stay still. His pitch-black eyes seemed to be staring at his soul. Clyne gave a small smile and nodded. Faz wasn’t a talker so he didn’t know a lot of things about this world, but it didn’t stop Clyne from dreaming and hoping to see and experience more. They probably stood there for five minutes and he was already impatient.
He shifted towards Tessa, who’s standing on his right.
“Who do think is behind these doors?” he whispered.
“I’m not sure. I don’t know these people,” Tessa replied with a disappointed smile. He saw her be very witty but observant and considerate.
“Quiet,” the guard beside him ordered. It surprised Tessa and made Aria turn to Clyne to glare at him.
“You’re going to get us in trouble,” Aria whisper-shouted at him. Clyne smiled broadly. It was so easy to get her attention. She was very uptight but he didn’t mind.
“We have to be patient. This is not a playground.” Skhy didn’t look at them but just stared at the doors. Clyne’s smile quickly withdrew. Everyone knew that. Everyone knew that whatever is behind the doors can make or break the nine of them. He peeked behind him and found Faz glaring at the doors as if remembering the unwanted memory. Clyne let him be. He will only make matter worse if he confronts him now. He will have to comfort him later.
The two Legionnaires guarding the doors suddenly tap the end of their polearms on the ground then turned to open the door for them. Clyne squinted his eyes because of the bright light inside. He was still blinking rapidly when someone pushed him to move forward. He did but his sight was still blurry. When his sight cleared, he found himself in a large empty ballroom. The floor was tiled with blue and white. The walls and ceiling were white. He finally looked in front when the group stopped walking. A man in a black suit with white hairs sticking on his head stood in the middle of four men wearing black sunglasses with their hands behind them. Bodyguards?
The man smiled as if he was waiting for them to come. His eyes, however, weren’t welcoming. Clyne saw Skhy tensed up. He stood in front, leading the group. Tessa now stood beside him. Lei found herself between Clyne and Aria. Faz was behind Clyne together with Nate. Blondie (Hanne) stood behind them with Storm.
Does Skhy know the man?
“Come. I will escort you,” the man said. His voice was coarse and deep as if he had been shouting before he came here. He looked at the nearest guard near him and said, “You may go.”
The ten Legionnaires saluted then went their way. When they left, exiting where they entered, Skhy took two steps towards the man before the four bodyguards raised their hands to stop him.
“Where?” Skhy probed. The man seemed to be surprised by his question but he recovered quickly and gave a small smile.
“To keep you and everyone safe,” he replied. There was an underlying meaning to it, Clyne knew. He peeked at his friends and everyone was either poker-faced or scoffing.
“Even if you don’t believe me,” the man added. His eyes searched for someone in the group and when he found what he was looking for, his jaw tensed and his eyes held emotions Clyne couldn’t decipher. Anger? Fear? Or both?
“You’re not going to let us in the Academy, are you?” Skhy asked. It took a moment before the man replied. He was staring at Skhy intensely. That’s disappointment right there in his eyes.
“No. And you know why.” He emphasized the word ‘you.’
“And what if we don’t follow you?” Faz finally said something.
“We won’t allow you.” Faz laughed without humour.
“We’re going to enter the Academy,” Tessa commented. The man raised his eyebrow at him. He probably didn’t expect the others to speak against him.
“You have to follow the protocol-“
“What kind of protocol shoo young people away from a good education?” Aria interrupted him. This made Clyne grin. She really was a cool person. The man coughed lightly. He was no longer smiling. Displeasure was evident in his face.
“This is no longer up for a discussion.”
“Because it was already discussed without the people involved,” Tessa added. Someone behind Clyne coughed. Someone disguised the laugh as a cough.
“If you don’t follow-“
“You will force us,” Skhy completed his sentence. The room temperature suddenly increased. Clyne, just like his friends, felt the undeniable tension in the air. He thought that a fight might happen but they were outnumbered and it won’t help their situation.
“Well, how about making ourselves a deal?”
Everyone turned around. A middle-aged man blue suit and polka dot tie stood smiling with his hands on his pockets. His greenish eyes twinkled behind his squared glasses. Another man stood beside him in a black suit and maroon tie. He was several inches taller with a grim expression and tensed face.
“Will we be able to enter the Academy?” Tessa asked.
“Let’s see,” the spectacled man replied, beaming.
This is getting more interesting.