Chapter 152 – Four Months
Daichi’s face was covered in a wide smile. Anybody from his past would never have recognized him based on this smile alone which gave him a completely different aura. It was a true smile coming from the depths of his soul. A smile that radiated a pure emotion as he stepped out of Lydia’s home for the first time in almost 5 months.
Daichi his eyes wandered over everything in his surroundings and he couldn’t help but exclaim in giddiness within his heart. He kept himself composed, but he still couldn’t stop the smile on his face from giving him away. Damien and Leo walked out behind him trembling. Their entire bodies were nearly convulsing but if you looked at their faces, their eyes shown with nearly the same joy and excitement if not more so than Daichi himself.
Lydia walked out immediately afterwards and only gave them a sideways glance before muttering “Eh? Is getting some time away from me truly so refreshing?”
“No!” the three of them yelled in unison without a shred of hesitation. Damien was the first to speak up “We are just excited at the prospect of enjoying the other aspects the academy has to offer, Master.”
“Tch. How eloquent of you.” Despite the disgruntled response the others had already spent enough time with Lydia to tell she wasn’t particularly upset. They’d come to learn during their time together that despite Lydia’s general demeanor she was a straight forward person. In fact, her usual inpatient demeanor was only the case due to how fastidious they’d come to learn she truly was. On one such occasion Daichi had come to found out that whenever Lydia was not helping them with their training, Lydia was diligently training herself. When Daichi shared that piece of information with the others, they all shared the same look of determination that came from desiring strength and learning that the “strong” were still training themselves to get stronger.
“Remember what I told you. You can only travel outside of the academy together. You must get Haeru if you wish to leave, and again, only together. Otherwise, you’re free to come and go from now on.” Lydia said in a terse voice.
They’d all made fantastic progress in the past few months, but nothing had given them the impression that Lydia would suddenly decide to release them all of a sudden. Just yesterday she’d received word from somebody and told them they’d be allowed to come and go the following day.
“You have three days of absolute freedom. Afterwards we will meet again and discuss your participation in the newcomers tournament. Otherwise from then on, we’ll meet once every week or so unless I am on an assignment.” Lydia’s tone was strict as she sauntered back to her courtyard. The three of them only exchanged a quick glance waiting for Lydia to enter. Only a moment after Lydia was gone did Damien and Leo jump in the air screaming in excitement “WOOOO!! FREEDOM!”
Damien and Leo high fived followed by a forceful brotherly hug, the look in their eyes as if they were brothers that had survived an indescribable hardship together instead of basic training in the loftiest of living conditions the highest form of power Lumea still had to offer.
Daichi stood by still smiling, his expression only slightly wavering as he thought about how this should finally be his opportunity to visit the Lumea library. Even after all his tribulations, that was his still one of his most definite goals, everything regarding his future was abstract to him but the Lumea library was a concrete location, a place he’d already settled deep in his heart he had to visit no matter what.
Off to the side Leo finally calmed down enough to notice Daichi’s composure, “How are you so calm! You’re the one who had it the worst man! How can you not be jumping even higher than us now that you’re free!”
Daichi shrugged not answering but Leo was used to this. Daichi spoke when he wanted too and stayed quiet when he didn’t, they’d all grown closer during their “incarceration” at Lydia’s courtyards enough to understand one another far better.
“Whatever man! Freeeedooom!” Leo screamed as he spread his arm and embraced the barely noticeable breeze.
Daichi surveyed his surroundings one last time before turning to Damien to ask “Where are we?”
Damien was the most knowledgable as he had various family members who had attended the academy over generations. It was only obvious that he’d come to learn some things regarding the academy at home growing up. “We’re in one of the transitional courtyard spaces. It’s used for people to meet, congregate, and occasionally spar. There’s a bunch of these throughout the academy”
Leo’s nose scrunched up briefly at his words but didn’t say a thing, it didn’t go unnoticed by Damien. “What now?”
“Say it.” Damien probed.
“People are living in Lumea like rats clustered together. The rich have space while the poor struggle to fit in multiple people into small living accommodations, and these are still the lucky ones who haven’t been kicked out of the city.” Leo gestured before him “And… Here Lumea academy just has large open spaces for people to “meet” what a waste.”
Damien had no response. He’d grown up with plenty and never once thought much of some having more than others. “It’s only natural that the academy would have the best of the best. Space included. Moreover, before when the city wasn’t limited by the protection of the bubble, it’s not as if space wasn’t plentiful. I don’t think it was a consideration then.”
“Perhaps not, but with all this extra space. Those in charge should be thinking about using this space more appropriately! At least, they could lower the bar and let more students in, with all this space it’s a shame to be wasting it.” Leo said.
“If they lowered the bar, if people didn’t feel the desperate need to get stronger. Eventually this city will just be overrun with other creatures. This world is no longer for the weak.” Daichi finally spoke, and at this, Leo had no response.
Leo only sourly looked around shaking his head.
“Enough. We’re all desperate to stretch our legs and look around. Why don’t I take us to look around in the city?” Damien suggested.
Leo merely shook his head, “I’m going to go look for Marcos first.”
Damien looked at Daichi, “I’m going to the library.”
Damien could only shrug in defeat, “How about we look for Marcos first, and then go take a look at the library together? Afterwards, we can go eat in the city and get some delicious food.”
Damien’s eyes twinkled as he said the word food and Leo could only laugh in response. Unlike the others there, Damien had grown up pampered and Leo understood this even better than Daichi. Having eaten just basic food brought to them by Lydia that were basically the equivalent of survival rations Damien was most looking forward to eating like he was previously used too.
Daichi held back his impatience and nodded. Leo also nodded.
“Perfect! Alright, let’s go find your friend.” Damien was the first to start walking to the walls, their immediate destination was the earlier newcomers resting quarters they’d seen before.
Once they appeared their eyes were filled with numerous disgruntled looking newbies. Everyone looked irritatable and in poor spirits. A few of the closer students immediately looked weary after nothing the Damien’s group and seeing their unfamiliar faces.
As Damien walked in front with Daichi and Leo behind him as they started walking through the camp, more and more people started noticing them. Everyone’s expressions went from weary to defensive. Something that wasn’t lost on Daichi, even though Leo and Damien didn’t think too hard on the subject.
Leo was the first to start getting impatient, he wanted to make sure Marcos was alright and tried asking several students for help, but they all instantly cleared away from him. No one seemed willing to speak with him, only raising his irritation.
“What the hell! Who the hell is in charge here!” Leo shouted.
Damien and Daichi took a few steps back as Leo began going on a tirade yelling at everybody around him. To them the sight wasn’t too unusual.
Leo was beginning to get worried. In the past few weeks Haeru wouldn’t say much regarding how Marcos was doing. He’d been the most anxious to leave Lydia’s care recently. Even Daichi was yearning to visit the Lumea library couldn’t help but be content with his improvement, especially with Haeru bringing him books weekly.
Now standing in front of all of these meek students, none of which seemed willing to help him find his best friend Leo’s heart was sinking as he was beginning to get a very bad feeling.
“This is the last time I’m going to ask… Where. Is. Marcos.” Leo’s voice had suddenly gone very quiet. He merely uttered the words but with the utter silence in their surroundings most of the people could hear what he’d said. His body looked calm but his eyes were burning.
It was then that a student in the crowd finally spoke up “Marcos? Oh… I might know who’re talking about…” he spoke as he walked forward. The other students opened a path for him to make his way in front of Leo. Unlike every other student, there seemed to be absolutely no fear in this student’s eyes as he gazed back at Leo with an amicable smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.