As she was walking through the hallway to her room, she found Aleveri strolling around. Joy filled her chest, prompting her to run to her friend. She didn’t care how childish she was acting in front of the other students. It was Aleveri. Her friend was alive. Hopefully, the same went to Haka, but right now she had to meet Aleveri. She had to make sure Aleveri was one hundred percent healed.
‘Aleveri!’ she said as she arrived in front of Aleveri. She hugged Aleveri before the latter could react, squeezing her a little bit.
‘Can’t - breath,’ Aleveri said before Ilami broke up the embrace.
‘Sorry. How are you?’ Ilami said, holding Aleveri’s hands as if they were her life line.
Aleveri gave her a weak smile and raised her shoulders slightly. ‘Alive and well, as you can see,’ she said. Instead of looking at Ilami, her eyes were focused on somewhere else - perhaps a wall that Ilami couldn’t find as being significant.
‘Is... is there something wrong?’ Ilami asked, noticing Aleveri’s change of attitude.
Aleveri sighed and shook her head. ‘Nothing. I guess my near-death attempt to heal someone takes a toll on me. I feel weak.’
Ilami grabbed Aleveri’s hand and led Aleveri to her room. They needed to talk about what happened to Aleveri after Jaxin’s people brought her to Natural-knew-where. After that, Ilami could ask her about Haka. Maybe that boy was alive as well as was heading to Gael. Ilami felt like skipping in joy right now, but she had to control herself. Being too childish would tarnish her reputation in the academy. Aleveri was silent as they went to Xesar-blessed dormitory.
Thankfully, Ilami’s roommate wasn’t in there. Ilami and Aleveri sat on Ilami’s bed facing each other.
‘What happened?’ Ilami asked. ‘Tell me everything.’
Aleveri shook her head. ‘There’s nothing to tell. The school’s ward doesn’t have the experts needed to treat my wounds, so I was taken to a special one. They treated me there.’
Ilami was silence for a few seconds before saying, ‘Is that all?’
Aleveri nodded. ‘I would say their healing magic is pretty advanced, but other than that, it’s a pretty normal treatment.’
Ilami wanted to believe Aleveri but she couldn’t. Not even a little bit. If there was a special ward in the academy, then why should it be concealed from the public’s view? There was no reason for that. She had the feeling Aleveri was hiding something, but what? At the end, Aleveri was here, well and alive. And yet… her actions felt somewhat off. For the time being, Ilami let the oddity slide.
‘How about Haka?’ she asked.
Aleveri sighed. ‘He was in a worse condition than I. I’d done everything I could to prevent him from dying, but I don’t know. We were treated separately.’ She bit her lower lip. ‘If they could treat me, then surely they could treat them. I think… I think we should just wait for his appearance. I’m confident it’s anytime soon.’
It wasn’t a clear answer, but Ilami felt slightly relieved. Although she wanted to tell Aleveri about her alliance with Felaris, she could feel Aleveri would resist to the idea. After what had happened, she wouldn’t be surprised if Aleveri force her to make another promise.
‘What have you been up to when I was gone?’ Aleveri asked, her eyes sharp on Ilami.
Ilami looked at her with an even gaze. ‘Nothing much. My extra training has been conducted by Mr. Haifei, though, so there. I guess Gael is too affected by what happened to Haka.’
Aleveri nodded. ‘As he should be.’ She frowned. ‘Don’t investigate the Restricted Area, Ilami. It’s obvious by now we students can’t handle whatever is in store there.’
I knew it, Ilami thought. ‘I won’t.’ She had to lie since Aleveri didn’t know the severeness of what the Restricted Area could contain. She had to know why Dayel and Arafel died, and whether Alyosha was involved in Arafel’s death. It was just the right thing to do, and if she ignored it, it would just irritate her.
Aleveri looked at her as if she wasn’t convinced, but then she sighed. ‘I guess I’ll have to trust your words. You’re smart, so I know you won’t risk investigating if it means doing it alone.’
ilami smiled. ‘That’s just it. Have you prepared for the upcoming test?’
‘How dare you! You know I don’t have time to study for it,’ Aleveri said. ‘That being said, it’s not too late. I can massive study in these couple of days.’
‘I expect nothing less from you,’ Ilami said, smiling wider. ‘I have to go meet Mr. Haifei. Want me to accompany you to your dorm?’
‘And feeling like a proper lady? I won’t pass that chance, of course.’ Aleveri said, also smiling. Suddenly, she intertwined her arm with Ilami’s. ‘Shall we?’
As they exited Ilami’s room, Ilami was thinking about their intertwined arms. Curious, she thought. I actually don’t mind having Aleveri’s arm around mine. Why isn’t it as uncomfortable as Seya grabbing my hand? Perhaps… perhaps I’m feeling what Gael feel with Haka? Is such thing possible?
Once Ilami left from Aleveri’s room, she went outside of the mansion. The afternoon air rejuvenated her and the sunlight warmed her. She went to the open field and found Mr. Haifei sitting under a tree. He wore spectacles, and in his hand was a book. It was an odd sight to behold. Who would have thought the stoic teacher specialized in combat lessons would bother to have a dip in the well of knowledge? In that exact moment, he looked more like a teacher for Scholar students than Fighter students.
‘You’re five minutes late,’ Mr. Haifei said without looking away from bis book.
Ilami rolled her eyes. It had been a couple of weeks since they practiced, and this was the first time she was late. And for a good reason too. ‘I met Aleveri. She just got out from… wherever.’
Mr. Haifei closed his book. ‘I see,’ he said. ‘After what she has went through, how is she doing?’
Ilami raised her eyebrows, her heart nearly stopped beating. ‘What do you mean?’
Turning away from his book, Mr. Haifei looked at her with his deep black eyes. ‘She was with you in the Restricted Area, wasn’t she?’
He knew! Ilami mentally screamed. Instinctively, she looked around, and was relieved no one was nearby. Then, she focused back on Mr. Haifei. ‘All this time, you’ve known. Why didn’t you say anything?’
Mr. Haifei shrugged. ‘There’s no reason for me to. I was being serious. How was Aleveri?’
‘She’s fine,’ Ilami said. Half of her wanted to start their lesson just to get away from this sensitive topic, while another half was curious how much Mr. Haifei knew and whether – whether -
‘All staffs know,’ Mr. Haifei said, as if he could read her mind. ‘We have to, if we are to help them conceal what they’re doing.’
Everyone knew. The thought sank. The teachers, librarians – even the nurses – knew. And they acted like – they acted like nothing happened. She felt pain piercing her gut. Betrayal. It was the only thing that could explain why she felt sick. It wasn’t just Jaxin she couldn’t trust – it was everyone who worked for Mother.
‘This is to be expected, Ilami,’ Mr. Haifei said, standing up. ‘Whatever Ms. Venaria has planned in the Restricted Area, it’s too big for people who work in the academy to not know – or at least, suspect.’
She felt anger like it was a second materializing around her. ‘You, who teach students to become better than their current selves – to help them achieve success – are also the one who help end their lives? Is that the kind of teacher you are?’
Mr. Haifei’s eyes turned steely. When he spoke, his voice was deep. ‘You have no idea what you are talking about. You don’t know about us staffs. Not all of us support whatever Ms. Venaria is doing in there, and to those who do, well, you can’t say their reasons are too simple to be chastised.’
‘What is Mother planning in there?’ Ilami asked, pressing on. ‘It must have something to do with experimenting people, mustn’t it? Innocent, unwilling people, right?’
‘I won’t tell you. You’re not worthy,’ Mr. Haifei said. With that, he tossed her a sword he had taken near the tree, and held one himself. ‘Now, we have a few classes left before your test start. Let us prepare yourself.’
Ilami held caught the sword and held it too tightly. I’m not worthy? The memory of Mother telling her about Gael’s secret flashed in her mind, as well as when Mother told her not to supervise Gael anymore. She gritted her teeth. She was frustrated of being told she wasn’t worthy. As far as she knew, she had the right to know what the academy was doing, seeing as she was one of its students. Here, she had found someone who could tell him the academy’s secret. If being worthy was required for Mr. Haifei to tell her about it, then… she would show him she was worthy.
And then he would pay for what he had done.