It was dead silent.
The strong rustic smell of blood wafted in the air.
"What is this smell… Where am I?" the woman muttered to herself. Her hands, which were on her lap, were tied, and she was also tightly blindfolded. Struggling, she moved her hands trying to loosen the piece of cloth tightly wrapped around her wrists.
It took her a moment before finally succeeding in breaking free and immediately pulled the blindfold upwards for her to see where she was…
Only to find out that numerous dead bodies were scattered around her. Her vision was still blurry, but their gruesome appearances were already engraved in her mind. Some had deep cuts on their chests, while some were stabbed multiple times. She then glanced at the horrified faces of the corpses surrounding her. They were dead, but it was as if she was still hearing their terrified screams.
The woman, wearing a beautiful white gown stained with blood, covered her ears and trembled at the awful sight. She couldn't move because of fear. She's all by herself, in a place covered in blood -- a place unknown.
"Why… What am I doing here?" she mumbled, confused as to what really happened. Her mind's filled with boggling thoughts. She kept thinking whether to shout for help or silently try to escape the place.
Mustering up her courage, she wobbly stood up and searched for something to help her. She tiptoed, trying not to touch the blood, but almost stepped on a bloody sword near her bare feet. She grabbed it and while covering her nose with the back of her hand, she quickly ran away from the room until reaching the hallway in a place that seemed like a castle. She was still figuring out what she was doing there and what happened before she was blindfolded. However, even in the hallway, there were corpses lying around. Most of them looked like knights, judging from their silver plated armors.
She ran without looking back. She just concentrated on finding an exit from that filthy place, finally reaching a garden full of roses, with high hedges serving as a fence. It looked very peaceful; there seemed to be no bloodshed in that part of the castle.
Relieved, she walked slowly, and breathed the fresher, flowery scent of the rose-garden. The stench of blood has finally disappeared.
"Master," a voice of a man surprised her.
She lifted the bloody sword up to her waist as she turned around to the man who called out. She scrutinized him from head to toe, "Who are you?"
A tall handsome man was smiling at her. His crimson-colored eyes were as vivid as the bloodstains on his clothes.
"I am your loyal servant," he softly spoke, smiling sweetly at her afterwards.
The woman, enchanted with the man's smile, trusted him immediately. She dropped her sword and stepped towards him, "What happened here? Why is everyone… dead?"
"Ah… that," the man smirked, "They failed to protect you."
"What… do you mean?" her brows furrowed, puzzled as to why he talked bad about the dead people, "And please... don't be rude… I'm certain that they did their best."
"Their best? You're certainly sure that's their best?" he suddenly laughed maniacally.
His laugh sent shivers down her spine; her heart's starting to pound fast. Slowly stepping backward, she realized that he may be insane, "What's so funny?".
The man looked at her with amazement and continued speaking, "Cause they're all fucking losers! Why would they die if they are weaklings?"
"But… but I am alive?" she wanted to explain, but it was the only words that came out of her mouth. "I know, they did their best, that's why I am alive right now, so-"
"Master," he spoke softly before stepping forward, closing the gap between them. "I am the reason why you're alive right now. Can't you just be happy that you and I are both alive?"
The woman's eyes widened, "You? You protected me?". He nodded. She thought that it may be the reason why he was the only one alive with her. "Why, thank you… Thank you so much…" she couldn't help but shed tears, relieved that her servant was there to protect her.
"I'll do anything for you, master,'' his crimson-colored irises gazed endearingly at the woman's light blue irises. He gently grabbed her right hand, planting a soft kiss on the back of it.
She smiled sweetly at him, touched by her servant's loyal attitude.
He caressed it as if she's his treasure, "Do you accept me now as your only servant?" and stared at her, waiting for an answer.
The woman acknowledged him without even wondering what his words meant.
"Finally," the man grinned from ear to ear, intertwining his hands with hers.
Out of the blue, she then asked him curiously, "But who killed them?"
But it was too late when she noticed the change in his mood. His sweet smile turned into a blank expression. His endearing gaze shifted to dullness, and his grip on his master's hand tightened, leaving the woman in pure shock.
"They're all not worthy to be your servants, so…" the man pulled the woman's hand towards his face and brushed it onto his cheek. He stared at his master like he's hungry for her, and he said,
"There's no one else in this place who took their lives but I."
Ivory Sprucemint woke up from falling down the creaking, wooden bed. She stroked her butt, feeling sore because of her ugly fall. 'What a weird nightmare,' she thought.
"You're so loud!" Her sister Katie, who is three years younger than Ivory, shouted. "Isn't today your first day in Qawiun Academy? Why are you still here-"
"GAAAAH!" She screamed and hurriedly ran out of the room.
Ivory washed her face, brushed her teeth, and changed into her most comfortable checkered buttoned shirt, brown knee-length skirt, and favorite field boots in an instant.
"Bye, mother! Bye, father!" She waved at her parents who were eating in the dining room. She just recently received the news that she's now eligible to enter the academy, and she was very enthusiastic about it.
"How about your breakfast-", her mother Anne tried to stop her, but she was already leaving the house.
"She's so excited to go to the academy," Her father Gordon laughed, as he felt proud of his daughter being chosen to go to the most prestigious school in the Kingdom of Destinia.
Qawiun Academy is a special academy only for those people chosen by the Goddess Destinia herself. Upon birth, an indicator called the 'birthmark of Destinia', which is shaped like a harp, has already been engraved on their skin permanently. These people possess an abundant amount of magic power or mana, and through the help of the academy's Educators, they shall learn how to properly use their mana and learn combat skills.
"Are you leaving Greensteid Town?" her neighbor Ken asked when he saw Ivory running. He was riding in a wagon which was pulled forward by his donkey, "Hop on, I can at least drop you off at Alpharion City."
Ivory gave him a wide smile, thinking how very lucky she was on her first day, "Oh my, thank you Ken!"
She rode the wagon and was asked to ride at the back with crates of fruits.
"You're going to deliver these to Alpharion City?" Ivory asked him.
"I'll be going around the three main cities, Omegalion, Alpharion, and Betania City."
"I see… So you're going to deliver to stores, huh…" she stared at one of the crates, where the shiny vibrant red apples caught her eyes. She thought of stealing one, but pinched her cheeks hard to stop herself from thinking about such evil thoughts.
Ken knew his childhood friend very well, so he told her, "Ivory, you see the crate with no cover there?"
"Hmmm, yes," she tried not to look at the crate with the apples.
"You can take as many apples as you want. It's mine anyways."
"You really know me huh?" she burst out laughing. "Thanks again, Ken! You really are the best!"
Ivory took five apples from the crate and placed them in her bag. 'Did I take too many? Ahh, he said I can take as many as I want, so I guess it will be okay,' she thought. She then took another one and ate it on the way.
As the wagon went forward, the warm wind brushed on Ivory's long and silky silver hair. She looked up to the sky and through her light blue eyes, the reflections of the clouds could be seen.
The two of them took the Western course, in which they would pass through the green fields of Barion Town where wheat was being planted and harvested. If they took the Eastern course, they would need to pass through two cities and one town.
It was after one hour that they arrived at Alpharion City.
"I'm sorry I had to drop you here. This is as far as I can bring you," Ken said apologetically. He felt sad about not bringing his childhood friend to her new school.
"It's alright! You've already helped me a lot. If I were to travel alone, it might take me three hours!" Ivory replied in an energetic manner, before waving goodbye to him.
'Now… I think I can walk to Qawiun Academy by myself,' she mused, as she moved her feet forward.
Compared to her hometown, Greensteid Town, which was secluded in the forests, Alpharion City seemed more alive. As Ivory walked past through a couple of stores and was reaching the middle part of the city, the sound of walking horses on cobblestone roads and the chattering of city folks became louder and louder. Merchants could be seen everywhere, selling a variety of goods, including jewelries and clothes. Ivory could also see some eateries around, and she dreamed of dining there once she got her allowance from the Castle.
After around ten minutes of walking, Ivory arrived at the academy's gate in which the letters 'QAWIUN ACADEMY' were carved on very large orange-colored amber, its color intensifying whenever the sunlight struck it.
"Excuse me, I have the birthmark of Destinia. Can I come inside the campus now?" Ivory politely asked the male gatekeeper.
"Can you show me your birthmark?" he asked her.
"Ahh… That… It's…" she bit her lower lip, trying her best not to look at the man in front of her.
"Will you show me or I'll ask you to leave the premises?" the gatekeeper sternly asked again.
Ivory was still biting her lower lip and her cheeks were starting to flush. Her legs squirmed upon hearing the gatekeeper's question again, "That...i...it's…'