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Chapter 36: My Way
When Riddle finally opened his eyes again, it was to a pitch black room. He could barely discern anything from his surroundings. He groaned, clutching his head.
"When did I...? I just lost consciousness...Where are those imbeciles!? Off with all their heads!" He suddenly became aware of just how little room to maneuver he had. "My movements are so limited... And it's too dark to see anything! What in the world is happening!?"
"Please calm down." A familiar voice spoke from the darkness. "It is very tight, so please stay quietly where you are, Riddle-san."
"That voice. Is that you, Azul?"
"How long have I been asleep? Where are we?"
"Unfortunately, the only person who can answer that question isn't here with us." Another person, Vil, answered.
Jamil then made his own presence known. "It's been about three hours since we were boarded onto this cramped cargo plane. I can't see outside, so I can't tell how far up we are or if we can safely jump out from here. All I can say is, we're definitely ways off from the school."
Riddle frowned. "Vil-senpai, and Jamil, too."
Vil huffed, clearly unamused by their situation. "Jamil is not a Prefect himself, so the reason should be easy to deduce. Look, Leona is here with us, too. That practically gives it away."
"Leona-senpai, too?" The Heartslabyul Dorm Leader asked.
A low rumble was then heard beside him. "Pretty bold of you to ask that when you've been using my lap as a pillow for three damn hours."
Riddle suddenly became grateful for the darkness as no one could see his reddening cheeks. "Pardon!? Have I, really...? I-I'm so sorry! I will move immediately!"
Almost immediately, the shorter male bumped into Vil. "Watch out. Be careful not to bump into me."
"Now that we're all awake, let us take this time to review the situation." Azul suggested.
"A magically equipped armed group took me into custody while I was in the middle of club activities... Idia-san and the men who took us captive seemed to be acquainted."
"I don't know how those guys are related, but I have an idea who took us." Leona stated. "I've seen those guys walking around in the palace back at the Afterglow Savannah. They're S.T.Y.X's special security unit, Charon. It's their job to capture magicians who have Overblotted so they could be transported to the Island of Woe. They carry wandering souls to the Island of Woe, so they're commonly known as "Ferrymen. Usually, a Magical Enforcement Officer or the Magical Force deal with any magician who goes into Overblot. Even then, some situations get extremely out of hand. Whenever that happens, S.T.Y.X. takes action. They are permitted to intervene as Blot specialists...... It doesn't matter if they were officially called for or not. I think I probably saw them all those times back then because they were called in to handle emergencies."
Riddle felt a chill pass through him as he suddenly remembered. The ferrymen hadn't just attacked him. Rapidash had gotten hurt trying to protect him. He hoped she was okay.
"What is S.T.Y.X. exactly?"
"They're an NGO that doesn't belong to a specific country." The prince explained. "We know that they research Blot and other magical technology, but the size of the organization, their research and their members are all undisclosed. S.T.Y.X's headquarters is in the Island of Woe, but it's not recorded in any world map."
"A hidden fortress, you mean?" Jamil asked.
Leona nodded. "But, I always thought that they only took in people who have Overblotted beyond repair."
"Wait a second. We have already recovered from that whole affair." Vil pointed out. "We underwent appropriate counseling and care under trained eyes, and all of our follow-ups came back normal. Why should we be taken all of a sudden?"
"That's what's stumping me." The lion admitted.
"Hm... The fact that we were taken now of all times becomes more confusing the more I think about it." Azul said. "What could be Idia-san's affiliation with this secret organization?"
Vil shrugged. "If he did have special authority, then the chances of them being more than acquaintances is highly likely. If I remember correctly, Idia's family is as wealthy as Kalim's, isn't it?"
"What!?" The others screamed.
"Well, it is not exactly obvious because Idia doesn't act like it, but I believe that the Shrouds are a branch family under the Jupiter Conglomerate. They made a fortune in undersea oil fields and rare metals."
Azul quickly recovered. "Th-the Jupiter Conglomerate, you say...? You mean to say that Olympus Corporation, owner of the world's largest market of Operating Systems and search engines, is one of their subsidiaries!?"
Riddle was equally as baffled. "I knew that the Shroud Family was listed as a branch under the Jupiter Conglomerate, but I simply thought that Idia-senpai shared a similar last name!"
"The Shrouds are known as "Commanders in the Shadow" because they never make media appearances." Jamil noted. "I never imagined Idia-senpai would be one of them."
"He is from a well-known and respected family, so why does he act the way he does!?" Riddle shouted.
Azul looked even more horrified. "Ah, what a blunder... Had I known this, I would have done more to put him in my debt!"
Riddle sighed, rolling his eyes. "I see you still haven't changed one bit."
"I can't imagine how he could attend school without a retainer, too... Ah!" Jamil's eyes widened. "I see how it is. He asked permission from the school to let his "little brother" attend with him."
Vil glanced at the direction Jamil's voice came from. "It would not be strange for these "Commanders in the Shadow" and this "Hidden Organization" to be connected now, would it?"
Azul sighed. "I feel a little bit more at ease now. They might let us off easy if Idia-san gives them the word."
Leona seemed less than convinced. "I wouldn't be too sure of that. We're being transported there as "subjects". I have no idea what we'll have to go through when the time comes. According to the history books I read in the palace, not one magician who's been taken to the Island of Woe has returned."
Nobody uttered a word, the implication sinking in. Leona only continued.
"There's another problem. The ones that caught me saw the Herbivores' monsters and they were more than curious."
Jamil grimaced. "That also happened at the Ramshackle Dorm. The biomes were attacked before they came after us."
"Do you think they took any of the Pokémon?" Azul asked, his voice nearly betraying his worry.
Riddle's eyes widened. "Rapidash! She was trying to protect me when they came, but they knocked her out! You don't think they-,"
"I doubt it." Leona cut in. "When the ferrymen came, Luxray was with me, but they were gonna subdue her and go for her furball. They probably wanted to go after the smaller, weaker ones, rather than risk the bigger ones. I doubt they had time to round up a fully grown horse, much less a flaming unicorn. As for the others, they're usually in big groups, so they're probably safe. Plus, when I told them I'd give up if they left them alone, they agreed, so they weren't a priority."
"That doesn't mean they couldn't become a priority later." Jamil pointed out.
It was only a modest comfort Leona provided, but Viper was right. Who's to say the ferrymen wouldn't return to the school. Before they could further discuss it, the container shook.
Vil balanced himself. "This turbulence... It looks like we're landing somewhere."
"Air pressure inside the machine has been adjusted." A robotic voice announced. "Releasing the airlock shortly."
The hatch slowly began to open, allowing light to flood into the darkness, temporarily blinding the boys.
"It's too bright!" Vil complained. "Where are we?"
"Hello, everyone." A familiar voice greeted. "Welcome to the dark and gloomy Island of Woe. You are currently in S.T.Y.X's Headquarters."
Vil hissed. "You!"
Idia stood before them, flanked by Ortho and the ferrymen, no longer in his Night Raven College uniform, but something more akin to lab equipment.
"H-hello... I'm S.T.Y.X's acting director, Idia Shroud. Fuhi..."
"...what?" They all said.
"Oh...The vibe feels kinda off... Shouldn't you be going "WHAT!?" or "NO WAY!"
"It is the same sentiment." Azul retorted. "We're so shocked to the point we feel serene."
Vil nodded. "Indeed. We did talk amongst ourselves about the Shroud family's possible connection with S.T.Y.X. Yet here you are, Acting Director. That's more than we anticipated...!"
"All right, ya big radish." Leona growled. "Spill it already. How dare you make someone like me suffer through such an awful plane ride, huh? That was worse than economy class. If you give me a lame excuse, I'm not lettin' you off easy."
Idia was unfazed. "A beast baring its fangs is scary, but let's all chill for a bit before we get to the technical stuff, alright?"
Jamil clicked his tongue. "Your people attacked the school without warning before kidnapping us, and now you're asking us to 'chill'?"
"How could we relax in this situation!? Do you want to part with your head that badly?!" Riddle yelled.
"Subject A was able to override the Stun System for a moment earlier." A ferryman report, a hoof print dented into his armor.
Idia sighed. "Ah— Hold up. Time out. My good gentlemen from Night Raven College, have you perhaps forgotten something important?
"What?" They asked.
"Where were you again? Do you remember who I am? I am the boss...Keep things easy for me, and none of you will get hurt. Okay?"
"Following Brother's instructions lessens your chances of being hurt by 56%." Ortho calculated.
Vil scoffed. "Very well, we have no other choice but to comply. We're letting you keep us captive, so at the very least, I hope you have some tea ready."
"You lot don't look like you're being held against your will, but... all right, fine. Follow me." Idia then whispered to his brother. "Ortho, please prepare some tea before we reach the Conference Room."
(Y/N) darted up with gasp, flashes of the fight playing in her eyes. Swampert was unsurprisingly by her side, nudging her intently. She patted his head, wincing as her head began to throb."
"Hey, buddy. Looks like we got our butts kicked, huh?"
He huffed indignantly as she glanced around. She was on a cot in the Alchemy room. Several were also in there, groaning and covered in bandages. The attack must have been much wider in scale than she previously thought. Slowly, she rose to her feet, Swampert helping her up.
"I would advise against that, little lady."
(Y/N) turned to see Sam there, his usually coy expression replaced with a firm one. Marshadow was on his shoulder, but immediately leapt into his trainers arms.
"Sam?" She half groaned as she hugged the Mythical Pokémon back. "What happened?"
"Nasty business." He replied. "Plenty of wandering souls got caught in the crossfire"
"My Pokémon! Are they okay?"
He gave a half smile. "Better off than most of us. They gave those wicked ghouls some scars to remember them by. But, according to my spooky little friend here, one of them is missing."
She nodded. "It's fine. I know where they are."
He nodded. "I would say to get some rest, but you don't look like you wanna chase dreams again. The other dorm leaders are in the headmaster's office. You should join them."
She nodded. "Thanks, Sam." She handed Marshadow back to him. "Help Sam with the other students."
The ghost type saluted as (Y/N) and Swampert made their way to Crowley's office. As they skidded to a halt outside, she could hear the sounds of other voices.
"Do you mean to say that the Island of Woe's watchman is Ignihyde's very own Idia Shroud?" Rook could be heard asking.
"Yes." Malleus answered. "However, "Watchman" isn't something personal. It is a general term for people from their family. If I am not mistaken, the current head is Idne Shroud."
"Nay." Lilia corrected. "She has long since retired. The current head should be her son, Idia's father."
"I see... Humans do age faster."
"Their organization being referred to as "S.T.Y.X." was a recent development as well. Has it not only been a century since they were referred to by such a name?"
"P-please wait a moment." Ruggie requested. "I'm a bit confused. All I heard from Leona-san was that Idia-san's family was a part of some big-shot conglomerate. I'm speculating here, but uh...Does that mean that not only is he the Watchman, but he's also S.T.Y.X's boss?"
"Indeed." Lilia said. "The Island of Woe's Watchman is still the subject of quite a few mysteries, however, even when we mages were referred to as "wizards" and "witches" in times now forgotten, their name was already feared. When a wizard forgets themselves and succumbs to their own power, punishment from the Island of Woe shall befall them. Or so the legends say."
Malleus continued. "According to documents passed down in our royal family, their history is very ancient. One that dates back to a time of deities. They have existed long before we identified the origins of both magic and Blot. To the general public, Overblot is simply a sudden calamity. The ones who provided the people with peace during such events were from the House of Jupiter, and records show that the Shroud Family was appointed Watchmen should such a tragedy occur again."
"Isn't that more of a myth than a record though?" Cater pointed out. "It's too grand that I can't quite follow..."
"All I'm hearing is that Idia's to blame for this." (Y/N) said as she and Swampert marched in.
"Madame Dompteur de Bêtes! You should be resting!"
"I'm fine, Rook." She assured, taking a spot next to Malleus. "I've taken worse hits than that. Lilia, Tsu-Malleus, tell me more about S.T.Y.X."
"Beyond what we've provided, there is very little we can offer." Lilia admitted. "Humans are filled with curiosity. They ceased not with the research on magic. Time passed, and magic has developed into something more stable. "Wizards" and "witches" are now referred to as "mages." Nowadays, mages are required to have licenses to practice magic. The general public has acknowledged us, and we now co-exist peacefully. Now, we even have government-sanctioned organizations that keep ill-willing mages under control. It wasn't long before the Watchmen of the Island of Woe stepped back into the shadows. They continued their research of Blot, and now operate as an NGO known as S.T.Y.X."
Professor Trein, who seemed to be leading this meeting in place of the headmaster, rubbed his chin. "Idia Shroud...We were aware of his standing as the Shroud Family's son. However, this is my first time hearing of their intimate connection with S.T.Y.X. I dare say I am quite proud of my extensive knowledge on magical history. However, I have not heard of such a record before."
"You refer to history and lore gathered by humans, yes?" Lilia asked. "We fae have lived lives longer than humans, dear boy. We are of different nations, races, and of course, histories. It is not unthinkable that we would know different truths as well. It is not uncommon for one's perception to be distorted by others' opinions. Such is history."
The trainer felt a cold shiver at his words. "Distorted perception of history..." She thought. "This is making me nervous for some reason."
"Do you think that the Headmaster knew of Idia Shroud's affiliation with S.T.Y.X?" Trein pondered.
(Y/N) rolled her eyes. "Wouldn't surprise me if he did and kept it quiet."
"Then could he not have found a way to negotiate with the Shroud Family to avoid our current situation?"
Malleus shook his head. "One could not say. Even if he did, I doubt that it would be enough to stop the Watchman from fulfilling his duties."
Trey looked ready to have a heart attack. "S.T.Y.X. is...What do you think they plan to do with Riddle and the others about the whole Overblot thing?"
"Judging by Sir Lilia's story, I doubt that they would be treated with much hospitality." Jade stated bluntly. "If we are fortunate, they might be thoroughly interrogated. Worse is they are being experimented on, and worst would be that they are no longer with us."
"Stop!" Kalim yelled. "Don't even joke about that, Jade!"
From the corner of her eye, (Y/N) saw Rook fidget.
"Hey, I've been listening to Umiushi-senpai explain, but those guys wrecked the school looking for multiple targets, right?" Floyd pointed out. "Some people took videos, so doesn't that cancel out their whole 'secret organization' schtick? Or what? Do they know some kinda advanced method to erase their existence from memory?"
"I have a bad feeling about this." Ruggie said. "I feel like I should watch out for my own head rather than worry about Leona-san right now."
Trein looked at all of them. "I have a few things I want to say about your crudeness, Bucchi, but yes, you do have a point. We do not know who they are, so we have no clue where to start looking. Return to your dorms and do a roll-call. Confirm the number of injured and then report back to me."
"Yes, sir." The boys stated as (Y/N) and Rook kept quiet as they filed out.
"Geez... Why the heck'd Leona-san leave me in charge?" Ruggie complained. "Talk about a bad bargain!"
"It is because the Roi du Leon trusts you greatly, Monsieur Dandelion." Rook stated. "He is confident enough in you to leave you in charge of his pride."
"Trust isn't going to feed me though. Imma get him to treat me to some expensive meat for doing all this."
"Yes, indeed. We must ensure that they return safely in order for that to happen, then."
"Believe me, I plan to." (Y/N) muttered under her breath, though it didn't slip past the hunter.
"Ruggie-senpai!" Jack came barreling down the hall. "I received your text. Those men who attacked the school kidnapped Leona-senpai? What did you mean by that?!"
"Like, literally what it says. I'm in charge of rounding the guys up at the dorm while he's away, so I'm gonna need your help."
"Y-yes, of course I'd be happy to help." His eyes then widened at the sight of (Y/N). "Swampert! (Y/N)! You're all beat up, too! Did those guys hurt you?"
"Just a little bang up, nothing serious." She assured him.
Jack rubbed his head. "Man, they even got past Swampert?"
Rook nodded. "The NRC Tribe members were attacked in the middle of a reflection meeting regarding the VDC. Vil, Jamil-kun, and even Little Grim were all taken away like Leona-san.
"Vil-senpai and Jamil-senpai, too!?"
"The freshmen tried to rescue Little Grim, but they were badly defeated.
Jack growled. "Those guys were being reckless again..."
"I must return and fulfill my duties as Vice Dorm Leader. Monsieur Louve, will you please escort (Y/N) to the infirmary? Please check on the others while you're there, too."
Ruggie seemed to agree. "Perfect timing. Go and check how many of our guys are in there, Jack-kun."
Jack nodded. "Yessir. I'll contact you as soon as I can. Let's go, (Y/N)."
The infirmary was packed to the brim with students, and Professor Crewel seemed to barely be managing, even with the aid of Alcremie, Roserade, and Shaymin, who immediately greeted their trainer as they entered.
"Excuse us, sir." Jack said.
"Stay!" The Professor demanded. "Sorry, but the beds are all occupied. Write your names on that paper and wait on stand-by in your dorms. I will ask the school nurse to patrol later... Wait, you look completely fine. What is your business in the infirmary?"
"Ruggie-senpai and Rook-senpai asked us to check on the guys here at the infirmary. What about you? What are you doing here, Professor Crewel?"
He sighed. "I heard that two of my pups were sent here. Good god, to think they'd be defenseless just because they're little pups." He then glanced at the girl. "I see you've got a few scratches on you. Come over here. I can treat light injuries like yours myself."
"I'll be fine, Professor." She stated as she shooed off Roserade and Alcremie who had been trying to seal up her wounds. "The others need it more."
"Where are Deuce and... Ah." Jack's question died as he caught sight of the two in the back.
Epel was glancing down at the unconscious males, looking dejected.
"They haven't regained consciousness yet."
Jack blinked. "Epel? Are you sure you should be up already?"
"I'm all right, thanks. My body still feels a little sluggish though."
"I have looked into the kind of magic you've been afflicted with, and I have concluded that it was mostly used to stun you." Crewel stated.
"Try telling that to the guy who blasted me into a wall." (Y/N) snarked as Swampert growled at the memory.
"You likely received grave injuries because you fought in quite an unfortunate terrain."
"What do you mean by that, sir?" Epel asked.
"Injuries are inevitable after fighting in such a rundown dorm. I would think you would be aware of that, Stone."
(Y/N) glanced away shamefully. She should have known better, but all she could think about was protecting the guys and Grim.
"It is a pretty difficult task for a freshman to perform offensive magic while protecting yourselves from the rubble. It is very important to keep a level-head when it comes to emergency situations. You will end up hurting yourself if you act rashly."
Epel coughed. "Ah, I do remember debris flying about everywhere while we were fighting..."
"Bad boys like you don't think of the consequences. As for you Stone, you should have understood the risks."
"Don't blame her!" Epel argued. "(Y/N) was trying to protect us! And Ace and Deuce both did this to help Grim-kun, and..."
Crewel cut him off. "It doesn't matter who they tried to help. It is a trainer's responsibility to put a leash on foolish pups. You should consider yourselves lucky to have survived. Had those intruders been serious enough to take your lives, you would not be here right now.
(Y/N) bowed her head. "I'm sorry, Professor. You're right. I should have known better."
"(Y/N), no, this isn't on you!" Epel insisted. "Ugh, I'm such an idiot. I ain't graduatin' from bein' a loser soon. I couldn't do nuthin' but watch 'em get taken 'way."
"There's no one who's all-mighty right at the start." Jack stated.
"Our seniors weren't crazy strong in the beginning, too. Neither did (Y/N) or Swampert. Didn't they become strong by gritting their teeth and working hard to get where they are now? If we become discouraged by our failures now, we won't become stronger. What's important is for us to figure out what we can and should do from here on. Stop sulking, both of you. It's not doing us any good."
(Y/N) gave a half smile and nodded. "Right. Failure is just another teacher."
Crewel nodded in return. "Excellent answers from both of you. I will try and look into what happened to the kidnapped students as well as the Headmaster's whereabouts. Felmier and Stone, you two focus on recovery for now."
"Yes, Professor." The small male agreed. "I can walk just fine, so I'll be heading back to my dorm."
Jack quickly glanced around. "It looks like there's no one from Savanaclaw here, so I'm heading back, too."
"Professor Crewel, please take care of Ace and Deuce." (Y/N) asked.
He nodded. "Without question. These pups were under me, so I will look after them thoroughly, you and Grim as well. Everyone from Class 1-A are the great Crewel's little pups, and yet...I will not allow anyone to harm you. How absolutely maddening!"
"I'm frustrated as 'ell!" Epel yelled
"Sit down! Listen, little pups. The adults are in charge now. Behave and refrain from doing anything reckless."
"Yes, sir!" The boys said. "Please excuse us!"
As they left, Crewel glanced at (Y/N) who was addressing her Pokémon.
"Stay here and lend a hand, the flying types will keep everyone posted."
"Stone." The professor's voice was warning. "I mean it when I said to not act recklessly. You may be the most responsible of your group, but that doesn't mean I'm blind to your more rash tendencies. Let us handle this."
She stood, glancing over at her unconscious friends as a fire seem to light in her eyes. "Sorry, Professor, but after everything, I can't promise anything."
She quickly left, catching up to the other first years.
"I'm gonna head to my dorm real quick...or what's left of it. I'll see you guys later." She quickly got on Swampert and bolted off.
Jack sighed. "I guess she wants to check in on her Pokémon."
"Makes sense. Those guys were after 'em too." Epel growled at the memory. "I'm gonna offer a place to stay at Pomefiore. I'm sure Vil wouldn't mind."
"That does sound like him. See you later, Epel."
"Thank you so much, Jack-kun."
The two went their separate ways as Epel headed towards the Mirror Chamber, wanting to get a quick shower in before he went to talk to (Y/N). As he entered, something slammed into him.
"Ow... Who the heck'd come runnin' outta the mirror wuthout checkin'!?" Epel snapped.
Rook stood, offering a hand to his dormmate. "My apologies, Monsieur Crabapple. I was in a hurry. Are you hurt anywhere...?"
"Oh, it's you, Rook-san... It's pretty rare for you to not pay attention to where you're going." He then saw a suspicious amount of cargo behind him. "That luggage and your broom... Are you heading out somewhere?"
Rook nodded. "Yes, I am. I may not come back for a while, but... Please stay safe."
"What?! What do you mean by that? Where do you plan on going?!"
"To the Island of Woe!"
"WHAT!? 'old it right there! Ya trynna say yer runnin' off after Vil-san an' the others?!"
The Vice Dorm Leader nodded. "Oui. I am aware of the dangers, but please, do not try to stop me. I had a frightening realization as soon as I returned to the dorm."
"When he was taken away, Vil was...He hadn't brought any skincare products with him at all!" "Come again...?"
"The changing seasons are extremely harsh on the skin. Dehydration is healthy skin's greatest enemy. Forbidden red fruits will quickly emerge if the skin is not taken good care of."
"What forbidden fruit? Wait, do you mean a pimple?"
"A pimple. It is, in its own way, a kind of charm. However, Vil is scheduled to be on the cover of a magazine next week. Being in perfect condition all the time is his specialty."
Epel facepalmed. "To 'ell with 'is photoshoot. We dun even know if 'e's comin' back to us alive...! Yer the Vice-Prefect, aintcha?! Take care of the damn dorm!"
"Indeed, I am the Vice-Prefect. However, I am a Hunter of Love, first and foremost. I yearn only for beauty and to protect it. I could not let such beauty disintegrate when there is something I can do to help! And now... I am off on a journey to help protect my dear friend's beauty!"
"No, that's not my point...! I...how are you even going to find them!?"
"I think I can handle that."
The boys turned to see (Y/N), a travel bag strapped to her back and Dragapult at her side.
Epel's eyes widened. "You too, (Y/N)! You're supposed to be the level headed one!"
She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, well, now I'm the pissed off one. Those goons trashed my dorm, hurt my Pokémon, and kidnapped my friends! This is personal."
Rook narrowed his eyes. "Madame Dompteur de Bêtes, I insist you stay here and rest. I cannot allow you to go in your condition."
"Rook." She gave him a hard stare that scared both males. "I don't remember asking you for permission. I will go with or without you." She then got on her Pokémon. "Well, you coming?"
Rook was taken aback, but nodded. "Oui."
Epel rubbed his temples. "Your crazy! We don't even know where to start lookin'!"
(Y/N) smirked, holding up her Nav as a map with beeping beacon appeared. "Don't worry. The guys weren't the only thing those ferrymen took."
(Isle of Woe)
As a ferrymen tucked his armor away to be fixed as it had been damaged in the fight on campus, the circuits flashed a bright blue as a grinning face began laughing on the monitor in the room.
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