Chapter 9: A verdict arrived late in midnight
 
This is a story that happened not too long in the past. Or rather, it literally happened just a week ago.

Several hours has passed since the depart of those weird women from this world. All they left here is just me, a human male inside his own cell, awaiting the judgement for the sin of being summoned to their world.

The lifeless stone ceiling. The dead silence of the castle. The cold winds flowing through the wooden windows. Lonely, with no one to talk to, I spent most of that time just lying on the bed. I’m not sleepy, despite feeling tired at that moment. I just lie there, deep in thought, keep thinking about the future I can not foresee.

And within that trance, time passed. Slowly, like it’s trying to outslow an injured turtle. Before long, my mind was in a blank, half-dead state made to escape from reality, keep longing for something to happen, anything. A state of nihil.

At least, until the soldier outside walks into the room, or rather, he suddenly barges in, lightly knocks the door and says:

“The headmaster summoned you. Stand up.”

Half-sleep half awake, I followed the soldier’s order despite not feeling very sober. I loudly yawned after standing up. The soldier just shakes his head instead of wiping out any witty comments. With his spear hold firmly in hand, the soldier orders me to follow him. I obligated and walk outside after him. Doesn’t want more holes in my body, of course.

The hallway has lines of light bulbs attached to the wall, which help light the pathway for nightwalkers. Rather than the traditional electric light bulb, the ones used are more like a bunch of fireflies trapped inside a bottle. While not as good as the works of science, they are still good enough to be useful as light sources. Seems like people learn new things everyday when they go out of their comfort zone for a bit, heh?

The hallways are long and lifeless. No sign of other people except for me and the soldier. I take a peek outside of some nearby windows. The moon is at it’s highest in the sky. I guess the time is roughly midnight. Of course, people usually went to sleep at midnight, not going outside and haunts the night like a certain vigilante in bat costume, so the lack of people in this place is completely natural.

The soldier led me to a bunch of stairways at the end of our fourth hallway. The stairway he and I took is likely a way to some sort of tower. After another five minutes passed from walking the stair, finally, we arrived at the destination. This is the highest place of this tower. Before me, there stood an iron door, with two door knockers that has faces resembling that of western dragons. The soldier knocks the door using one of said knocker.

“You can come in.”

The permission from the one inside the room has been granted. The soldier just stood there, he opens the door, shows me the way and that’s it.

With no hesitation, I enter the room. The door quickly closes after I’m fully inside. Before my eyes are lots and lots of books, which were left there randomly into piles and piles. Not just books, but I can also see scrolls, staffs, random generic wizard’s strange stuffs…They are all over the room, not unlike that of a typical shut-in’s room, except this one adds a more mysterious charm to the atmosphere, to the point its messiness become bearable.

“I’m still waiting.”

Said the voice behind mountains of books. I make my way through this maze to find the person who asked me to come here. Near the center of the room, the Headmaster - Nilrem Erramun, is sitting behind her wodden desk – which is also full of documents and books laying around. She’s leisurely having a late night tea with a fancy tea cup as she wait for my appearance. I can smell the aroma of the tea even at the place where I’m standing, though with my lack of knowledge of such sophisticated hobby, I can’t tell what type of tea she’s drinking. Or rather, I wouldn’t have any ideas of the types of tea in this world. Hell, I can’t believe this world has tea in the first place.

However, let’s put the random gibberish thoughts aside. Time for business.

“You called me here. I guess that means my verdict has been decided, right? Though I expected it to arrived at my room, never have I thought I have to go and grab my death sentence myself.”

The woman in grey just lightly smile as she puts down the tea cup on her desk.

“There are some changes of plan, so your presence are needed. That’s why I called you. “

“Please cut out the gibberishs and get to the point.”

“Most women don’t like a hasty man, you know? “

The woman gives out another smile. She puts both her arms on to the desk and supports her chin using them, all while continuing to smirk.

“Like I said, there are some changes of plan. Instead of us giving out your verdict, I think that’s rather unfair for you, so I changed the plan myself. Now…you will have to choose your verdict yourself.”

“Me…?”

She’s telling me to decide my fate? That’s nice on paper, but for some reason, I’m feeling a bit anxious.

“What are the options?”

“It’s very simple, really. The first option is to send you back to the place you came from.”

“You can?”

I asked, with a bored tone. Or rather, a dissapointed tone.

“It’s pretty easy. If you want to, I can get the ritual ready in just five minutes, and you’ll get to go home again. We will pretend all this fiasco never happened to begin with. It’s win and win for all of us. Mr.Akuma, don’t you want to go home?”

“…”

Usually, this is the part where the protagonist said “Yes”, right? Yeah, I’ve heard stories like this before. A common man get summoned to god-knows-where. He have to fought his way to earns the ticket home. And here I am, with my round-trip ticket already laid out before my very eyes.

I lightly bit my lips. Why do they have to show me an easy escape way? Why don’t they go with the usual “You have to do this long, dangerous, epic quest in order to go home”?

I’m feeling a little furious inside of me. Seems like I picked out the short end of the stick again.

“Mr.Akuma? You’re listening?”

“Ah…right. Sorry.”

I answered.

“And what is the other option?”

The woman doesn’t let her smile wear off from the mask of a devilish woman. It’s like she’s expecting me to ask for this second option, rather than picking the escape switch the very moment it was proposed to me. Just what is this woman planning?

“I will allow you to join our Academy as a cadet.”

“!!”

Join this academy? That means…living here as a student, as a resident of this world. If the first option is somewhat a let down, this option however…is infinitely more interesting and worthy to be called the music for my ears.

“Are there any conditions?”

Of course there have to be some sort of conditions. After all, things that are too good to be true usually aren’t what they seem to be at first.

“Of course. First things first, there’s no way I’ll allow an enigmatic figure like you to freely walk around in my academy. There’ll be hidden supervisors to monitor every places you go and every moves you make. Please don’t think bad about it. This is just for insurance. As a Headmaster, of course I need to give you some restrictions. Can’t let you go and freely harm my cadets behind my back, can’t I?

She has a point. Although despite my bluff I gave her earlier, I’m just a normal human being, a teenager with average build. I doubt that I could even strangle a chicken, let alone superpowered fantasy high school students. Those glasses on my face probably didn’t help.

“The names of those who were assigned to supervise you are a secret. But one of them will be a person you met today. That is cadet Deborah.”

Did she meant that girl with long red hair?

“She’ll be your main supervisor. After all, she’s technically your master, yes? And a master needs to keep her dog tight with a leash in it’s neck. That’s why, if you choose to study in this academy, you’ll have to live in her room from now on and being obedient to her words”

Is she serious? Let put the cliché development aside, did the headmaster of an academy want a man to live together with a female student of her? I know this is a witch I’m talking with, but I bet even normal witches have more common sense than her.

“You do know I am a man, right?”

“I have a set of working eyes, Mr.Akuma. And is there a problem?”

“I bet you know what happens when two people of different gender live together, right? There’ll be troubles, big troubles. As Headmaster, isn’t it your job to worry about your students?”

“You mean Deborah? If it’s that girl, then it’s not her that I’m worry about. More like…you are the one who should be worry.”

I give up. There’s no winning against her in a nonsense contest. Still, if what she said has an ounce of truth, then what is the problem with the red hair girl I met? I saw that she’s not much different from a normal girl in my common image, aside from her taller than normal height, her unnatural red hair and eyes, and practically everything else. Then what’s her problem?

“Let’s get back to the topic at hand. The first thing is your supervision. The second thing is about your tution fee.”

That means money, which I don’t have any at the moment, and I doubt my world’s money would have any economic value in this world.

“I’ll be generous this time, since with your…special circumstance, I don’t think you’ll have what it take to pay for the tution fee. That’s why, you don’t have to worry about the tution fee for the first year for now.”

“That’s kind of you.”

“You don’t have to remind me that, hoh hoh.”

The woman in grey calmly laughs, she then sips another drink from her fancy tea cup before getting back to talk.

“But nothing in life comes for free, you know? I’m fully expecting you to pay for the following years should you choose to pursue your education here. Also, I would like you to pay back the enrollment fee at the end of the first year. Rather than charity, just think of it as a student loan. I would ask for some interest as well, but I’ll be content with your school results alone, so don’t slack off. If your school results don’t meet my expectations, you’ll be expelled.”

I take back what I just said earlier. This woman is by no mean kind, she’s a witch not in just appearance but also in heart and mind!

“Are there any other options left?”

“The only one left is to have you publicly executed.”

Wait, what? Executed? That escalated quickly.

“Why would you want to do that?”

“Well, you don’t want to go home. And you don’t want to study here. What other choices do we have? By refusing the other two options, we will treat you as an enemy from the Heaven Realm since you have similar appearance with them. Mr.Akuma, do you know why we put you into a guest room? Because we have no prison here. We don’t take prisoners and we have no intention to keep and feed any. Every enemy we captured? We publicly executed them all to save the trouble. And we will make no exception.”

“What if I escape?”

That’s pretty unlikely, but it’s an option for me. Just run, run and run, toward the uncertainty ahead. Though on paper, it’s still a pretty stupid choice.

“I assure you, you’ll find that being executed here is a blessing should you venture to the world outside alone. Demons roam everywhere in this continent. The lands are dead, the air are ominous, monster lairs are numerous. Even if some miracles happened and you get to be free, you’ll certainly regret your choice of running away.”

She’s right. I’m still blind to this unknown world. With how I am right now, going out there is no different than signing a suicide pact.

“So…what is your choice, Mr.Akuma?”

Seems like I can’t get any more options out of her. This concluded the intel gathering part. I closed my eyes off for a moment, and began to dive deep in thought.

To go home, back to my family, back to my school, back to my friends, back to my life.

Or to stay here in an unknown world, live in an unknown school, befriend unknown people, and spend a portion of my life for an unknown future ahead.

What other choices do I have?

“I’ll stay.”

Right, I’ll stay. That world have nothing left waiting for me there. This choice is my salvation, my saving rope. Right, who doesn’t want a fun adventure? I bet there’re idiots back in my world who’ll happily throw themselves in front of some trucks to have the choice I just made here.

Yeah, why not? An adventure in a strange world. What do I have to lose? Nothing!

“I expected you would say that.”

The woman in grey happily smirks. She puts her hand to a drawer behind her desk, and takes out a brown sheet of paper full with writtings. After a quick glance, I noticed that this is an enrollment form for students, with my name and some informations written on it. Aside from the name, most information on this paper is rather boring, the typical stuff about terms and conditions, likely just put there for the sake of filling out the form. At the end of the paper, there’s a blank space, reserved for my signature.

“Let us seal the deal.”

She points her finger toward a quill pen and a bottle of black ink on the desk. To think that there’ll come the day I have to use such antiqued type of pen.

I grab the quill pen with my left hand, lightly dip it in ink and sign the paper with my signature and name at the bottom. Suprisingly, when I wrote my name, rather than in Japanese, my instinct automatically directs my hand and turn it into a strange writing, with no resemblance to my mother language.

The headmaster takes back the paper after I’m done. She took a quick glance at it then makes a remark.

“So you already know our language. That confirms the pact is working, alright.”

The headmaster takes the quill pen and signs her name on the other part of the paper to seal the deal.

“With this, you have finally become a cadet of Melas Military Academy. As Headmaster, I congratulate you, young man. I’m looking forward to your time in our school.”

“Thank you, Headmaster.”

I noded, while not giving out any notable reaction. Strangely…rather than excited, I felt rather light, like I just dropped a huge bag of worry off my back. Right, maybe because with my enrollment, I have officially run away from my house (and by extension, my world), with no intention of going back.

And with such thought in my head, I smile. The missing emotions have finally arrived and begin to fill me up. Joy, excitement, expectations, wishful thinkings…it may be just a figure of speaking, but right now, I’m overflowing with emotions to the point that I thought I’m drowning from my emotions themselves.

An adventure in a fantasy world. It’s still unbelievable as it sounds, and yet I’m here, going to experience it for the following years. How can I not excited!?

“Since you have become one of my student, it’s time for me to return your confiscated belongings. Here, all of them, tell me if you see something missing.”

From her drawer, Headmaster Nilrem began to take and drop my stuff on her desk. After she’s done, in front of me right now are my personal belongings, which were taken by the soldiers here after I got knocked unconscious. There are some (now useless) money, an (equally useless) phone, and more important: Mr.Cat! To think that witch kept you hidden in a filthy drawer…

And the only thing left, is that thing. The black metal L-shaped weapon, still looks as imposing as ever. I remembered it’s name. 「Beretta 92FS」. Comes with an unnecessary metal compensator and a fifteen rounds magazine. A weapon widely used around the world. I know Japan is not exactly a haven for guns, this type of weapon however could be found if you look hard enough and have enough power to acquire it. The very sight of it on a wooden desk, inside a room full of ancient tomes and in front of a witch in flesh is a rather…interesting sight to behold.

I take back Mr.Cat from the evil witch first. After that, I put the money and the phone to my trouser’s pockets, with the intention of hiding them later. Finally, I take the gun with my left hand, and begin to check on it. It seems like the safety lock haven’t got tinkered by anyone yet. You could say the people here are afraid of the unknown too much to tamper with it.

“What exactly is that thing, by the way?”

I can see the headmaster firmly holds her staff while asking that question. Nilrem looks like she’s on her guard from the very sight of me taking back my gun.

“A magic wand, of sort.”

“You’re a mage as well? You can also perform magic?”

“My own type of magic, yes. It’s a unique magic from my world. Rather than a mage, I guess you could call me…a magician.”

Magician, of the pulling rabbits from a top hat variety that is.

“A magician? Is that another type of mage?”

I nodded and smiled. In a sense, the power of this gun could be a type of magic in their eyes. That makes me a practitioner of Clarke’s Third Law, I guess. Usually, this is the start for the part where I have to enlight the savages around me using the power of science and gunpowder, right? With making guns and stuff and conquer the world with stuff blowing up, Michael Bay-style. Add in some hot chicks and we’ll have a good movie to pass for a Saturday night.

But no, I have no intention of running around screaming “This is my boomstick and I bought it from Walmart!”. The ambiguousness is my friend, my ally and my weapon. I am nothing but a weak, puny human being. Holding a gun in my hand doesn’t make me invincible. Fifteen limited round doesn’t make it any better. The moment I’m out of bullet is also the moment I’m done of fighting.

My true test begins here, if I seek to venture myself into this strange world.

“If so, then I’m looking forward to what you could do in this world.”

I didn’t answer back. When I’m done looking, I put the gun back to an empty pocket of my trouser. With such weapon, I feel relieved already.

“I also got something I’ve prepared for you.”

The woman stands up. She walks to a nearby coat hanger and takes out a black cloak, likely the one the students here wear.

“This is the uniform of this school. Take pride on wearing it as a cadet of Melas yourself. The symbol of death, of sacrifice but also of the beginning. I grant you your cloak, cadet Akuma. Take it.”

From her hands, I take out the cloak and wear it. It’s a mix of a buttonless longcoat and a hooded cloak. A pretty comfy cloak. The very moment I’m done wearing, it seems like all the coldness around me instantly dissappeared. This thing acts very well against the cold weather.

“Congratulation, cadet Akuma. May Dargoth himself blesses you with successes.”

I lightly bowed as a sign of gratitude.

After the short ceremony, I got sent back to the room I previously stayed. When I arrived, the fatigue took over, render me with no strength left to think about my new life. I jump on the bed, slowly close my eyes and let the god of sleep do his job.

And thus, from this day, I…become 「Akuma」.