The three Councillors were wearing midnight cloaks and identical circlets with some sort of black jewel in the front. All three carried similar looking black staffs, which seemed to be throwing off a golden glow at the top. I was watching Councillor H, who didn't even seem to be aware of me. He looked as cold as the other Councilors. So, I was pretty surprised when;
Ria. Ria, are you well? Are you alright?
I yelped, ignoring Kian's snort. Councillor H wasn't looking here, but it was definitely him.
Umm...yes I am.
I heard a mental sigh? or that's what it sounded like.
Good...that's good. For a second our eyes met and I sensed his relief. It will be alright. Just relax.
I nodded, feeling weirdly warm.
Then, Councillor K stepped forward, specs glinting. From the side, I saw Kian purse his lips...and plug his ears.
"WELCOME GUESTS AND STUDENTS, TO THE ANNUAL INVESTITURE CEREMONY AT ST WARRIORS HIGH!"
It was so deafening, I almost fell out of my seat in shock - and I wasn't the only one. Some kids actually did - which is probably why gales of laughter erupted from the audience.
"Holy..." I glared at the black haired boy, who stared back innocently, fingers in his ears.
I don't know if that was supposed to be the effect - but my eardrums popped. And not that it helped- the laughter continued...and we could only sit while the Class picked themselves up, red-faced, and humiliated.
Besides me, Henry gritted his teeth. He didn't seem to find it funny, and nor did, apparently Councillor K, whose specs started flashing with an ominous red light.
"SILENCE! SILENCE RIGHT NOW! OR FACE PUNISHMENT! ORDER!"
His voice boomed through the entire place - not deafening, but way too loud. Even though we were ready, everyone still winced.
Ahead, the Councillor was still yelli-speaking.
"I AM NOT AS YOU SAY IT 'JOKING'. SILENCE IN THE PAVILLION!" He whipped out something - and ye-ep. It was the huge black book holding it over his head. "NOOWWWW!"
Upon seeing it, the noise started dropping. I was wondering if the vibrating sensation in my ears was normal.
"Please say he isn't officiating." I heard Zack half whisper half groan from somewhere behind.
"I banged my head and knee at the same time!" Someone else moaned.
"God I think I peed myself!" Another whimpered. I don't know who that was...but I hoped they were okay.
"Sssh!" Kian hissed, sticking his head behind... "If he catches you - just keep watching."
Thankfully, Councillor W stepped up. We braced ourselves...but the shock never came. His voice was calm and so very pleasant.
"Welcome to the formal Investiture Ceremony. Today you shall be the witnesses to the official acceptance of our newest Saint Warriors - Warriors who have already demonstrated talent!"
The entire pavilion was the quietest it had been. The silver-haired Councillor gestured toward us.
"The challenge of the Fresher's is no easy task - and this year there has been a success of the type not seen for almost two cycles. It has been of such unique brilliance, that even the Academy board has allowed the overflowing demands of the students! So, before proceeding further, we shall begin by showing some parts from the original viewing.' Even as he finished, the audience started clapping.
"What?!" Someone gasped.
"Please maintain silence and order!" The audience was talking again...and it seemed to be getting louder.
"Hey what did he say?" I heard Damon hiss.
"I dunno." I was as confused. "Guys?"
"Huh?" Amir suddenly looked horrified, his big dark eyes wide. "No!"
"Sssshh!" Kian pointed where Councillor W stood... He looked feverish...eyes glinting. "Not now!"
Councillor W waited for the clapping to die down. "We also thank the prestigious Newspaper club which as usual co-hosted the Freshers, for their help. Also, as by popular demand, we shall show those clips which garnered the most votes on the viewing days."
Say what?! Viewing days?
And did he say the Stalker Club?
Beside me, Henry was looking rather pale. "Henry? Any idea?"
Henry didn't turn, his hands clenched on the armrests. "N.C..." He muttered feverishly. "Why didn't I think..."
I didn't have time to ponder over that - as;
"Ohhhh...what is that?"
We all sat up as the lights began to dim...and the walls began to glow bright white.
And when the first image appeared, my mouth dropped open. It was like the whole 500 meters walls were now screens - and we were in the biggest movie hall on the planet. Something felt so, so off.
And when I made out what was being displayed, I knew we were in trouble.
Big trouble. I blinked and blinked again. "What on Earth...?" I stared harder. "Where was this?"
No...it couldn't be.
"Ria..."Asta's voice shook.
It showed Henry, standing before what looked like a creepy cabin in the woods, holding a club? pointing to the sun or something - right beside Asta, Zach, and Miguel. It looked like movie footage.
"Just watch." Amir's voice was the grimmest I'd heard so far. "And I think you know already, Ria."
My eyes swiveled back to the screen which displayed a dimmish sun.
My worst fears were confirmed.
It was Tamas.
Why were they showing this? I already knew...but no way I wanted to think about it.
Suddenly it got way, way worse - we heard noises start to play.
The video? suddenly zoomed in closer, and voices suddenly started, like hi-def quality.
"We need to be ready. No time to waste..." Henry was staring at what looked like the start of the woods with an intense look on his face. In the backdrop were kids with horrified expressions on their faces.
"We need to be ready...to survive.." He looked...pretty cool.
That is till subtitles appeared in bold black: Charisma level: unPresidented!
A few cheers erupted from the audience, people were pointing towards our end of the table.
"Henry...?" Henry was like, frozen.
I looked back as I felt Asta jump.
The walls basically showed what looked like a class trek from hell with a bunch of kids crying and wailing. The next clip showed Asta kicking them silently with a smile on her face. She looked angellic...but we knew that smile.
Subtitles appeared again: Ohhhh the ice is cold!
I leaned forward to see her.
"It's okay..." Amir was saying to an ashen-faced Asta. "It's not a big-"
"Oh hell!" I heard someone groan - it was Kian who looked horrorstruck.
I looked back to the screen...and yep it was him. And yeah it was bad.
It was dark...but we could see what was going on.
Kian was standing before a dark circle - the Pit - I recognized, looking grim. Inside, you could make out lots and lots of gleaming bones. He suddenly jumped down, and the video zoomed in again - in time to see his freaked out face as he crouched before a grinning skull.
He was silent for a few seconds then he suddenly started yelling.
"LONG! You idiot!"
We stared at Kian - who was just staring at himself with a dumbstruck expression on his face.
The clips which followed showed him running through the woods, and the horrible dum dum sounds, muttering revenges against Henry. [point to note: Henry staring at Kian]
And then it got really bad. As in really.
The next scene showed me and Amir sitting in the cave trying to figure out the writing. Beside me, Amir tensed.
Wait a second...wasn't this...
"This is terrible! I can't make anything out!" Screen Amir sounded distressed as he peered at it. "How could anyone read this? Is it even writing?"
Oh no...I knew what was coming next. I cringed as I saw myself sit up and easily decipher it in ten seconds flat.
"Amazing! How did you do that?" Screen Amir sounded impressed. "Did I miss something? A code?"
"Err...no it was easy for me."
Amir looked confused. Screen me grinned and flashed the peace sign. "My writing's way worse. This was a piece of cake!"
Cheers filled the hall again.
The camera zoomed in on Amir's slack-jawed face. Captions appeared: Treasurer just found an odd treasure...?
I just tried to melt into my seat. But that didn't save me from the million or so faces looking at me.
A few more clips followed - Damon being kicked out his group, Miguel having a fit and reading the knife(so, so freaky), some girls doing a ghost summoning dance?
In Henry's group some hungry kid who tried to eat...bark?! (which ended when Zach and the others tied him up). The clips were not in order - but they were from Day One it seemed.
The most disturbing was when they showed how Damon got wounded - that was scary AF.
We hadn't known how bad it had been in the Western Woods - as he watched his friends being surrounded by the mist and the god-awful drums.
"Ohhh f***, s***, this is one f*****up ..."
Screen Damon was shivering as he hid behind a tree. "How - how should I?"
And I jumped the next second when he jumped on screen - as a grinning undead suddenly appeared, slicing his arm. Even though it was over, we still felt better as he managed to get away.
Next clip showed Kian, Amir and I running at breakneck speed. My mouth fell open in surprise as I saw myself run.
It wasn't as clumsy as I'd thought, and nothing like Kian and Amir. It looked different like I almost streamed through trees in flutters. That might not have been bad - but then I remembered the scene.
"Hurry the hell up Hiwatari!" Kian was yelling from the front. Screen me looked pissed.
"I'm trying, dumbass! Shut UP!"
"Yeah, get more slower and you'd be going backwards!" Screen Kian grinned like he said something hilarious. Screen me lost my shit.
"Well at least not mentally like you keep doing, you retard!"
Subtitles appeared: Ohhh burn! The backdrop showed Amir sighing as Kian almost tripped.
The crowd exploded in laughter.
I saw Asta shaking and realized she was laughing. Like crazily.
"Hey!" I felt betrayed...though I could see what was funny. Kian's face was like a color of the coca cola can.
"It's just -" she pointed at Amir - who wore the same done expression as on the screen.
Okay, I had to admit that was pretty funny.
The screen switched to Henry's group breaking up, and six kids running together. We all gasped when we saw them cut their hands to lead the Undead away. They looked so cool! This sounds wrong but even the cutting part looked so awesome.
Next was the captured kids' shot - who were screaming non-stop in some sort of cage while holding onto each other. It looked like they were in a contest or something...if it weren't for their terrified expression.
And it would have been pretty funny - if not for the skeletal faces that surrounded them. The audience didn't mind though. This got the loudest laughs yet.
"Popular bits?' Asta hissed. "They are showing the worst!"
"And here comes 'Day Two'." Amir sounded angry as the screen showed the new title. "This isn't funny!" I agreed. But it wasn't like we could do anything about it...
It showed Damon alone pretty badly injured, then me, Kian and Amir looking sick as we peered down the pit.
And we heard most of the class gasp as they saw the evil mountain/cave thingy.
I had to admit - it looked freaking terrifying on screen. The screen cut to Zach, Miguel, and Raven in the cave throwing up in turn. [Subtitles: Puke #1-3! appeared.]
The screen cut to Rani and Yifan in some sort of eye match complete with finger flicking. Rani won. Yifan nodded...and started to...hop?
Next cut, me and Kian bickering over Damon. Amir's face was zoomed into with the subtitle: #done
The next was ever weirder - It showed Asta catching a falling Damon by leaping up, as her hair billowed out - all in slow motion. Damon's face looked very red - probably as he had been ill and all. The subtitles read: Take me to heaven!
The immediate next scene showed a smiling Asta slapping the hell out of him. The subtitles changed: Not to hell!
Loud hoots came from the audience.
There was a commotion - I looked up to see Damon being held back by his friends. He looked like he was going to spontaneously combust or something. Asta didn't look any better - Kian was shaking his head at her. Besides me, Amir stiffened again, and I faced forward.
I gasped as I saw myself falter while running, then come crashing down horribly on the ground. Yikes. It showed Amir picking me up, looking super worried as he wiped a cut on my head. [subtitles: Ohlala~Dreamboy alert!]
"I am so, so sorry," I muttered as Amir made a funny sound.
The next scenes showed Miguel talking to a skull? [Subtitle: Someone's finally lost it!] Zach and Miguel throwing up again [Puke! #4 and #5], and Kian beating the hell out of Damon. The crowd cheered at the subtitles: Someone does it old-school!
It was disturbing how much the audience loved violence.
In the corner, Councillor K was also staring at the screen.
"Ohhh I know this part!" Asta gasped. "We all do!"
It was the part in which Rani and Yifan showed up. It looked seriously badass - how they appeared suddenly. The audience and even we gasped when the undead showed up and the shot ended with us running.
[next clip - some kid singing... Hakuna Matata in the Pit?]
[Damon and Yifan explaining something about the undead traveling to west...] As I watched, I couldn't really figure out what I was feeling. It felt unreal and totally real at the same time. And everything felt jumbled - like emotions were going through me faster than I was able to process them. And there was no time to think.
This was so insane and so very bad.
"Are they going to show everything?" I felt so, so ...I didn't know what I felt as I watched the next few scenes of the underground caves. Which were getting cheers - especially for Henry's plans. I almost freaked out as I remembered our conversation about familiars in the cave - but thank god it had been done telepathically. Plus it hadn't been shown...along with my weird falling on the cage bars moment.
"This is strange." Henry's voice entered my head. "They have not concentrated upon our abilities or their strangeness for some reason. I have to say I feel relieved."
"Right." Asta joined in. "I was wondering about that. Good, isn't it?"
"Good?" Kian just sounded pissed. "How is this is any better? We got filmed!"
"Well I did have a suspicion...and as usual it turned out right. Not that I'm happy about it in this particular case."
"Just watch for now guys." Even telepathically, Amir sounded done.
"Oh wow." The scene before us showed what looked like the Eastern woods group running towards a huge sheet of silvery light - the portal. "Is that what it looked like?" It was like a shimmery wall.
The next few scenes were basically us screaming and running. The crowd oohed and aahed at the crazy scenes - us dodging the undead. Kian's crazy attempt back at the gorge was met with hooting and claps - something that had him sliding down into his seat.
[zoom to Amir's face with subtitle: when you are beyond #done]
From the corner - Councillor K seemed to be facepalming?
Then it switched to us in the Eastern woods - when we'd come across Maria and the others.
It showed Amir and I and Damon staring with horrified expression towards Kian, and the others arguing.
Oh, I knew what they were going to show even before they zoomed in on Damon.
"ARE YOU CRAZY?! F****** RUN, MORONS!" (subtitles: I don't wanna dieeee!)
Damon's screaming fit was met by a literal volley of claps, and the final few scenes were the most intense. They showed the last group leaving/running through the portal and as I feared - they did show the final scene.
Our final scene.
It felt so, so weird as I watched myself black out. And it did honestly scare me - as I remembered nothing. That faded from my mind as I saw what had unfolded.
Kian was literally surrounded by the undead - till waves of crimson and black fire broke out all over - even him - which curiously left him unharmed.
The arena was deathly quiet as everyone watched Amir leap over and carry him back.
[Asta slapping me pretty hard]
[Kian laughing like maniac]
And the last scene showed us walking into the light...
But, that wasn't the end. Oh no, it wasn't.
The scene changed - and it showed the pavilion, this place - the stage to be exact, though we could make out parts of the crowd too. In the center was this shimmery silver circle, which looked like a floating mirror.
What the? Why weren't we in it?
That wasn't all - surrounding the stage were people in familiar green gowns.
"The Ashwinis?" Amir muttered. "What is going on?"
"What is this?" Asta was leaning forward too. "Why...?
"Oh, I think I know..." Henry sounded grim as the scenes showed something weird in the audience section. The seats were filled, but not as full as today. It was mostly kids in uniforms - the front two sides occupied in red and blue...
Then we saw that the screens were lit too - they showed the silver portal - in Tamas!
Then I got it. It couldn't be..., right? Please no!
Henry's cool voice broke through my prayers.
"Oh yes, Hiwatari. They have been watching us all along." Henry was leaning forward, specs flashing. "Needless to say, they did remember..."
As we watched, the silvery mirror flickered, and kids started popping out of it in twos and three even as the seniors cheered. All looked dazed and stood there till they collapsed. Most collapsed as soon as they stepped out, others a few seconds later - but all did, even Rani and Yifan who fell as they leaped out of the portal.
The funniest was Damon - who did pass out too - but somehow kept running with his eyes shut. It showed two Ashwini's having to hold him down and inject him with a huge syringe or something.
Then all five of us were there - literally piled up on top of each other - with poor Henry at the bottom. Then the scene faded to show us - as we were now.
Now the whole place was full of cheering.
"No wonder..." Asta was standing up and staring at down the table at the now probably traumatized class. "The others said they remembered something - they remembered this!"
"Bright lights...stage...noise..." She shook her head. "It all fits."
I'd realized that too. "This is what Miguel must have been saying."
Kian and Amir just looked really, really unhappy. Kian - yeah I got that, but Amir? He looked the angriest I'd ever seen him. Which was like, never.
"Uh - Amir?"
We all turned - and stared. His face was dark...pretty dark. "The Fresher's and Newspaper's committees..." He shook his head, teeth clenching. "They went too far."
"Don't worry Nimr. We are not gonna let them have the last word." Kian's eyes narrowed as he stared ahead at the cheering crowd. "I say, we'll have a smile on our faces before we leave." His eyes glittered. "I say you can bet on it."
What on Earth was he talking about?
I looked down the side...it looked like most of the class were slowly coming out of their shock/confusion/fright. And many of them looked angry.
As in seriously angry.
A/N: DID YOU ENJOY THIS CHAPTER?
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?!