Editors: Templar, Jack Vanatis, genericIntent
Author’s notes: Fifth chapter release, one more. No complaining that this one is painfully short for a chapter, you just got two chapters that were 1.5x as long. ^.^
Chapter 22 – Return
Regal ascends the stairs and exits Theore Substructure, emerging from the clocktower at the center of Grand Theore with a dazed expression. It is still early in the morning so the two city guards stationed outside are surprised to see a student leaving the dungeon so early. They take a moment before noticing that Regal’s uniform is actually different from the students who entered the dungeon this morning and move to apprehend him.
“Hey, you don’t belong with Mountain Gate Academy, what were you doing in the dungeon?” The taller of the two guards grabs Regal’s elbow to prevent him from escaping.
“I was just leaving, sir. I was trapped within the dungeon and only managed to escape now.”
Regal thinks that once he explains himself, the guards will let him leave, so he isn’t worried. But after the guards give him suspicious looks, his hopes quickly plummet.
“No one has ever been lost in the dungeon before. What nonsense. Thodrick, take him down to the guard post to verify his age and question him. This could be a hunter pretending to be a student just to cause trouble. Interrupting an academy when they have reserved the dungeon is a crime, kid.”
Once Regal turns eighteen and graduates from the academy, he can halt his body’s external aging and look the same for centuries, preventing anyone other than those with certain analysis skills from discerning his age. Regal realizes this is what they suspect and quickly tries to explain.
“No! I am a student of Bluemist Academy, seventeen years old this year. Everything I said is the truth, I am not suspicious at all!” Regal frantically cries out, attracting the attention of some nearby people in the process.
The guard named Thodrick frowns as he grabs Regal and forcefully cuffs his hands together with a set of solid bronze handcuffs. Regal tries to claim his innocence a few more times, but the guard just tells him to shut up and drags him away.
Hundreds of people witness Regal’s arrest and watch as he is dragged through the streets toward the guard post, some of them recognizing him and spit on the ground in disgust while cursing, “Soulless!”
While the students at Regal’s academy don’t harass him for being a Soulless anymore and most have fully accepted him, there are still adults on the street who hate and discriminate against Soulless no matter the circumstance. Seeing him in handcuffs only fuels their courage to act out, even in front of a guard.
Thodrick glares at the crowd with hostility after he hears the “Soulless” comments, but he doesn’t do anything else to shield Regal from their slander. He does notice that some people in the crowd do recognize him though, and begins to think Regal may have been telling the truth after all.
They eventually reach the guard post and the guard takes Regal inside and places him in a small temporary holding cell.
“Wait here. I will be back with someone to verify your identity and question why you were in the dungeon.”
Thodrick leaves the depressed Regal in the cell, leaving to find his captain, who is known for his excellent investigation skills.
The penalty for interrupting an academy in the dungeon is a month in jail, but if someone lies to the guard as well, that will often double or triple the jail time. The only exception to this is for first time offenders but even then a month in jail is usually enough to discourage most would-be offenders.
When Thodrick returns to the holding cell, he is followed by the captain. The captain is a tall man, with charming blond hair and captivating eyes as blue as the sky.
“Captain Justice!” Regal exclaims in surprise and stands up abruptly.
The two city guards show immediate reactions. Thodrick quickly turns his head away to hide a smirk that flashes across his face, while Justice’s facial expression darkens dramatically. Captain Justice then looks closely at who is in the holding cell and turns to Thodrick with a confused look.
“Thodrick, why is this boy in here again?”
“Captain, he was in the dungeon while it was reserved for Mountain Gate Academy, and is suspected of impersonating a student.”
“I said release him, Thodrick. You have five seconds to do so before you get a pay cut.”
Thodrick frantically rushes into the holding cell and unlocks Regal’s handcuffs. Justice then barks at him to return to his post before turning to Regal with a smile on his face.
“Regal, it has been a long time. I hope you have been well, but can you please explain to me what happened and why you were in Theore Substructure off schedule?”
Regal thanks Justice profusely and then tells his tale of how he fell down a shaft and found a fourth floor in Theore Substructure. Justice is amazed as he hears about the Mutant Rat Kings and the Obsidian Wolf. Regal then explains how the monster captured him and held him hostage for a month and a half.
Regal hesitates, debating whether to tell the guard captain about the notebook and the words left by the human Shen Wan Xing.
“Please, Regal. Just call me Justice, or captain.”
“…Justice, if someone told you something important, and asked you not to tell anyone else, what would you do?”
“That depends. How important is the information?”
“Would knowing it change the person it was told to?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you mean.”
Justice seems to ponder over his thoughts for a while before saying to Regal, “Okay, let’s say you told me some information. Would it change the way I do my job? Would it change what I will do tomorrow, or in ten years?”
“Umm, when you put it that way, I don’t think much would change. But I believe it would make the other person worry a lot.”
“Then it won’t help the other person but instead harm them. If that is the case, perhaps it would be best to respect the initial person’s wish and not pass on the information.”
Regal thinks on Justice’s explanation for a while before understanding. The information hints toward a danger somewhere beyond the horizon, and everyone knowing this would surely result in a degree of panic. Rather than warn everyone, Shen Wan Xing placed his trust in Regal to wear the burden and help them prepare for such an event.
“If that’s all, Regal, you can leave now. Go rest for the day and return to your academy tomorrow. Everyone else will surely have been worried about you.”
“Yes! Thank you, Justice!”
Regal hurries out of the guard post, startling some of the guards on his way. Justice emerges from the post himself a moment later and mumbles to himself, “I forgot to ask how he got out of that fourth level of Theore Substructure. Who would have thought that there is more to that dungeon than we ever knew? Never mind all that, thank the king he stopped calling me Captain Justice.”
The next day, Regal arrives at Bluemist Academy with an awkward expression. All the other students, and even some parents, stare at him incredulously. After all, as far as they know, he simply didn’t come to the academy for over a month. Only a few students and teachers knew that he went missing in Theore Substructure and was most likely trapped there this entire time.
As Regal is halfway toward the academy building, Veronica appears in front of him, staring at him with a face void of expression. She simply stands there and stares without moving as Regal silently looks back. Regal notices the other students taking a few steps away from the area and watching as if there is a large scene about to take place. He even notices Astore and Kilde looking on with a trace of curiosity.
Regal notes how everyone is maintaining their distance warily, but he doesn’t feel as if there is any hostility coming from Veronica so he doesn’t understand why. Just as his confusion is reaching its limit, Veronica pulls her arm back and punches him square in the face in a manner that is very unlady-like. Regal’s back arches from the blow and he takes a step back as he cries out in surprise and pain while grasping his eye, but Veronica’s voice overshadows his.
“That’s for disappearing for a month and a half, and for leaving the squad so suddenly. We thought something bad had happened to you,” Veronica explains in a stately manner, her expression not changing in the slightest nor any hostility coming from her face.
Regal rubs his throbbing eye. He can tell that Veronica has definitely put a few points in her strength stat.
“I, I can explain that-”
Before Regal can finish what he is saying, Veronica steps forward and wraps her arms around him. She pulls herself tightly against Regal and places her lips over his. The pain in Regal’s eye fades and is replaced by the sweet sensation of her lips.
“Umm, Veronica,” Regal awkwardly pulls his head away, his entire neck, face, and ears red. “You’re supposed to close your eyes. It’s really awkward if you, umm, keep staring at me like that.”
“Oh, right,” Veronica’s face turns slightly pink as she pauses speaking. She then closes her eyes and kisses Regal once more, this time for longer.
Regal’s mind begins to waver and he can’t focus on anything other than the blissful sensation of each of his lips pressing against each of hers. He doesn’t know what else he is supposed to do in this situation, but he has heard some of the other students talking about it. He pulls Veronica closer to him and tightly presses their bodies together. At the same time, Regal gently extends his tongue and feels her quivering lips.
Veronica is about to meet him halfway, when suddenly her chest starts pounding harder than it ever has before and she pulls away in a flurry. She takes a moment to catch her breath, her face a deeper shade of pink than it was before and says to Regal,“That is because I love you.”
Regal gently smiles at Veronica and replies with, “I believe I’ve said this before, but for one reason or another, I can’t remember it. So I will say it again now. I love you too, Veronica.”
Regal and Veronica stand out front of the academy, oblivious to the crowd around them. They seemed to have formed their own world around them, which all the students stare at silently, like it is some kind of spectacle.
There is a disturbance in the crowd, as a student with fiery red hair cut at her shoulders comes rushing out in exasperation. It is Piora, whose jaw drops as soon as she sees the two. Rather than speaking to Regal who has just reappeared after over a month missing, she shouts at Veronica instead.
“How could you do that here?! What I told you is something you are meant to do in private, not in front of everyone!”
Veronica only looks at her strangely, as if she doesn’t understand what she is saying. Regal chuckles and grabs Veronica by the hand, ignoring Piora while leading her to class and telling her what happened to him over the past month and a half. He only leaves out the words of Shen Wan Xing, silently vowing to protect her instead.