Leon made his way back to the tower fairly early, only an hour or two after midday. During his time at the pool, he had thought he’d heard a whistling sound coming from just beyond the corner of the cliff, but when he’d investigated he’d found nothing. He started thinking that he’d just imagined the whistle, but he kept glancing back to the edge of the recess and couldn’t relax again. In the end, he had gone back to the runic circles behind the waterfall, deactivated the enchantments in the pool, and started walking back to the tower.
He heard a slight commotion as he walked in through the outer door. When he walked in through the inner door, he saw a dozen first-tier trainees huddled around a table. He was about to ignore them and continue to the top floor, but he noticed something that made him freeze just as he was about to start climbing the stairs: Henry and Alain, covered in blood and bruises.
The two had limped back to the tower half an hour prior. Their injuries were awful to look at, but they weren’t so bad that the healing spells in the first-aid boxes scattered around the tower wouldn’t make them right as rain. The only problem was that none of the trainees around them knew how to use the spells, and as they were trying to figure them out, three more injured trainees had returned to the tower.
Leon walked over to Henry and stared at the bruises and cuts. Henry had his shirt off, so Leon could see almost every place where he had been hit, as they had all started turning purple or dark red.
“What happened to all of you?” Leon asked calmly and quietly. Henry appreciated this attitude, as most of the other trainees had started to panic when they couldn’t get the healing spells to work properly.
“We were attacked on the street. We think it was some guys from the Deathbringers, but it’s hard to be sure given that we spent most of our time in their presence trying to protect our heads,” answered Henry.
“I’m sorry, I just can’t get this damned thing to work!” complained a nearby trainee, who was pressing a healing spell on Alain’s bruised stomach.
“Well don’t press down so hard!” responded Alain with a wince of pain. Leon could tell the trainee was aggravating the big guy’s injuries just by pressing down on them without successfully activating the healing spell.
Leon gently pushed the trainee aside and placed his hand on the paper. The trainee was about to say something until he noticed that it was one of the unit’s third-tier mages who was taking over, so he dutifully shut his mouth and watched.
Leon’s magic gently flowed out of his hand and into the glyphs written on the paper. Most of the glyph was built around a small runic circle made mostly of light runes, and that was where the spell was activated and powered.
The glyph on the paper glowed with a bright golden light for several seconds and the bruise on Alain’s stomach disappeared.
“Simply rubbing the spell on an injury won’t activate it, you need to channel your magic into it as well. Look for this circle in the glyph.” Leon indicated the runic circle to the watching trainee. The magic that flowed through the glyph had almost destroyed it, but the circle was still identifiable. The trainee enthusiastically nodded and started treating the other four’s injuries. He quickly explained what Leon had just told him to the other trainees who were helping these five injured Snow Lions, and soon enough, all five had almost completely recovered.
But, ‘almost completely’ still wasn’t ‘completely’. Alain’s left eye was still slightly swollen and the other four still had some visible bruising on their face and torsos.
“So, tell me what happened. In detail,” Leon said to Alain and Henry. He controlled his voice well, but the slight undercurrent of killing intent he was emitting betrayed his anger.
‘I’ve agreed to train these two! For someone to assault them is an assault upon me!’ he thought.
Henry bitterly recounted how he and Alain ran into the first Deathbringer trainee, only to be jumped by that group several minutes later. He made sure to mention the second-tier noble who was leading them.
When Henry was done, Leon looked over to the other trainees, who all told him similar stories.
It wasn’t too hard for Leon to guess that Gaius was behind this. Apart from Tiberias, Leon didn’t think he made any other enemies in his short time here. Gaius had to have ordered these attacks.
While this was going on, Castor and Alphonsus returned to the tower. There wasn’t anything in particular they had wanted to do in the city, so they came back after spending a few hours in the Heaven’s Eye Tower.
Alphonsus wasted no time heading for the stairs, but Castor curiously glanced at the group of trainees tending to their injuries. The healing spells had healed most of the damage, but the five injured trainees still had a few visible marks and bloody clothes. Castor froze from indecision; he wanted to follow Alphonsus to the stairs, but the Senior Instructors words also rang in his ear.
“You are the leader of the Snow Lions, are you not?”
“You’re training to be a knight, aren’t you?! Act like one!”
These were supposed to be his guys.
Castor slowly walked over while Alphonsus—who was already halfway up the first flight of stairs—turned back around, frowned, and reluctantly followed him. Castor looked around at the dozen or so trainees who had gathered around, then his eyes turned to Leon. Regardless of his origin, it was far more appropriate for Castor to speak with a fellow third-tier mage than any lower ranked trainees.
“What happened with these guys?” Castor asked Leon. Leon wasn’t paying any attention to Castor and was quite taken aback at the other man’s question, so it took him a moment to respond.
“… They were assaulted while in the city. Seems to be by trainees from the Deathbringers.”
“Are you sure?” Castor asked after a moment of thought.
“Wasn’t there, but I believe them,” responded Leon in a serious tone.
Castor frowned and looked back to the five injured trainees. He felt that this would not be an easy thing to fix, as he had fought Actaeon, one of the third-tier nobles from the Deathbringers, during the morning duels that week and lost fairly quickly.
“Do you have any proof that it was the Deathbringers?” he asked Henry.
Henry blinked in momentary confusion at why Castor was asking him this, before growing angry. “Proof? Proof? What fuckin’ proof?! We saw who it was who attacked us! We recognized them!”
“But can you prove definitively that it was the Deathbringers?” asked Castor again, with a little more insistence this time.
“What proof is there to be had?! A bunch of guys ambushed us, dragged us into an alley, and beat the hell out of us! We know who did because we saw them, what else do you need?!” Henry’s tone was a mix of anger and incredulousness at Castor’s question.
“Are you calling us liars?!” asked Alain with growing fury. The other three assaulted Snow Lions appeared to be of varying levels of anger, but all were obviously annoyed at Castor’s requests for proof.
“Be quiet, peasant! We’re not talking to you!” reprimanded Alphonsus with a cold glare. Just as Alain was about to shout back in rage, a flash of killing intent from Leon shut both of their mouths.
Castor glared at Alphonsus to make sure he wasn’t going to talk again before continuing. “You all want revenge, right? You want retaliation?” Castor asked, looking at the five in turn, then moving on the other half dozen or so trainees who had gathered around.
“We do!” shouted Henry, with a few of the others nodding in agreement. Many others didn’t, though, preferring instead to see how the three third-tier mages fell on the issue.
“We can’t simply retaliate without proof it was them! Right now, it’s just our word against theirs!”
Before Henry, Alain, or any of the other trainees could respond, Leon spoke up. “It was the Deathbringers. If they say it’s them, then there’s no doubt in my mind.” As Leon spoke, Castor looked like he wanted to interrupt, but Leon held up his hand to stop him. “My enmity with that asshat Gaius is no secret. He’s the only one with the motive to have this done. But, if you want proof, then I figure you’ll get it come dinner-time.”
No one really knew what Leon meant when he said that, and he didn’t bother explaining himself. Castor had a few more exchanges with the other trainees before he and Alphonsus went back to the top floor, leaving the others to stew in their own anger. Leon followed not long after, but not before giving both Henry and Alain a nod of solidarity, which they returned.
By early evening, almost the entirety of all ten units had heard about what the Deathbringers did to the Snow Lions. The Snow Lions were furious, especially Charles when he returned and learned of the events.
What Leon had said about getting proof became clear during that meal, as many Deathbringers smiled and laughed at the Snow Lions, while those who carried out the ambushes bragged about how easy it had been. By the time dinner came to an end, almost all the Snow Lions had been thoroughly infuriated.
Henry and Alain made sure to identify the trainees who assaulted them to Leon, especially the second-tier noble who led them. Leon nodded and kept an eye on them, particularly that noble and the other four second-tier nobles he sat with who kept smugly smiling, though they rarely glanced at them.
“I know what you all want, but we should wait first! I’ll speak with the Deathbringers tomorrow and get them to apologize! We’ll work out something to put this whole uneasiness behind us!” said Castor to the assembled trainees after the Senior Instructor led them back to their tower.
“Are you kidding?!”
“Are we supposed to just accept getting attacked in the streets?!”
“What happens if this is repeated tomorrow?!”
The first-tier trainees made it extremely clear that they wanted something more substantial than just words, though Castor seemed oddly unwilling to offer anything except ‘we’ll talk’. After about ten minutes of getting nowhere, Castor simply reiterated what he said and made for the stairs, with Alphonsus and the second-tier trainees close behind.
“The spineless little shit! Those fuck boys were laughing at us and he just goes slinking away with his tail between his legs! He’ll go and talk to Gaius, and then he’ll roll over like a good dog and we’ll keep getting fucked!” ranted Alain in terrifically obvious rage.
“Focus on your training,” said Leon calmly. “And make sure you get some rest tonight.”
“What for?” asked Charles with a sly smile. He could tell Leon was just as furious as they were, but his stoic expression made it exceptionally hard for most anyone else to see.
“Those nobles should be dismissed from their tower around the same time as us. They shouldn’t be in any particular hurry, so if we book it, we can cut them off before they leave the forest,” mused Leon with a casual tone. He didn’t make any attempt to keep his voice down, so many of the other trainees heard what he said.
“So, to be clear, you’re going to ambush those guys who ambushed us today?” asked Henry, with a subtle glance at the trainees listening to what the third-tier Leon was saying.
“’Ambush’ is such a nasty, yet apt word. I’ll take those second-tier assholes, you three should be able to handle the rest, right?” Leon made eye contact with Charles, Henry, and Alain.
“Maybe…” said Henry. He liked the idea, but the Deathbringers probably had a couple dozen first-tier trainees roped in this, and the three of them couldn’t take on eight to ten of their contemporaries even with what Leon had shown them in the past week.
“Um, excuse me…” said one of the trainees listening in. Leon recognized him as one of the three who had been assaulted in addition to Henry and Alain. “Did I hear you right? You’re going to seek revenge for us?”
Leon narrowed his eyes a little at the interruption, but he still nodded at the trainee.
“Then if it’s alright, could I join you?” The trainee’s eyes almost sparkled as he made this request.
“Of course! The more the merrier!” shouted Alain.
The entire first-tier common room heard his shout, and many other trainees came over to ask to join. In the end, there were twenty-four trainees who joined Leon, Charles, Henry, and Alain.
Few of them could sleep that night as they looked forward to the fight they would seek out the next day.
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