Zola awakened from her slumber, blinking as her eyes adjusted to the brightness of her room light and her ears pricked at the ruckus going on outside her room.
Damn, I forgot to switch off the light. And wow, people are so happy about the first day of classes?
She got up from her bed steadily as she rubbed her sleepy eyes a bit. She walked to the window to take a look outside.
Before she could even gasp, a firm face appeared right in front of her and his arms embraced her tightly, while a burning meteor-like giant stone flew towards them from behind him at a rapid speed.
Zola and the stranger disappeared just as the fiery stone crashed into Zola’s room, wrecking walls and shattering glass, producing a thunderous cacophony and strewing a devastating mosaic of the opaque and the transparent.
Zola gasped loudly as she appeared at a hall full of students with the stranger. There must have been hundreds of them; some sitting on the benches, some tending to their wounds, and a few were lying on wheeled-beds. She trembled and nearly fainted as the stranger stepped away from her and disappeared from sight. Right at that moment, a girl caught her just in time and propped her up from her left.
“It’s okay, I got you. Just try to calm down a bit. Let’s sit over there with the other first-year girls,” the girl said gently and Zola immediately realised who it was.
Zola nodded weakly and tried to muster all the strength in her legs. She was too stunned and too bewildered to say anything. She was not even sure if she knew of any questions to ask. She would just have to trust Venera. Zola sat beside a girl who was trembling like her and sobbing quietly while Venera took her place beside Zola. Zola tried to find her voice to ask Venera about the situation at hand but failed. Venera, who seemed to have deciphered Zola’s confusion, rubbed Zola’s back comfortingly and said, “I think it’s best if you don’t look up or look around yet until you are calm enough to speak. For now, just know that something very serious is going on right now. The school is in a state of emergency. More will be explained to you later when you are no longer in a state of shock.”
Zola nodded weakly again and closed her eyes for a bit. She inhaled deeply before exhaling it all out. She repeated the breathing technique her mother taught her when she was a child after waking up from a horrible nightmare. Since then, nightmares became a frequent occurrence for Zola. Zola was able to put up with it at first but the intensity of the nightmares increased until she was hospitalised for a severe panic attack one night. Despaired, her mother brought her to stay with her grandmother in a remote village in Nigeria. Zola could not recall what those nightmares were about. She could not recall exactly what happened at her grandmother’s house either. All she could recall were the times she spent happily with her grandmother, learning about flowers and their uses in her grandmother’s garden. And that the nightmares stopped since then.
“Venera…” Zola’s voiced trailed off as she turned to her left, only to find Venera’s seat vacant. During that short glance to her left, Zola noticed that a few benches were empty and managed to catch sight of a girl leaving her seat, following a line of girls who were being ushered out of the hall by student councillors. She wondered where they were heading to and if she needed to leave the hall with them as well.
“They’re being sent home, Zola,” Venera interrupted her thoughts while propping Nerea and leading her to the empty space on the bench beside Zola.
Zola found Nerea’s pallid visage and vacant stare disconcerting. She looked at Venera and asked meekly, “All of us?”
There was a look of hesitation on Venera’s face. Zola found that to be even more disconcerting. For someone like Venera to be uncertain, the situation at hand must have been a greatly distressing one. Before Venera could answer, she was tugged away by a girl who whispered something urgently in her ear as they pulled away from Zola’s sight.
Zola looked down, slightly afraid to look at Nerea and the girl on her right, who was still sobbing and trembling.
What the hell is going on?
“Damn it! It’s my bedtime! Give me a break! I must have already killed at least fifty of you!” Yezekael yelled as he landed a blow with his fist on the creature’s face before him.
“Ouch! Shit! Is your head made of brick or something?!” Yezekael continued to punch with his other fist.
The creature screeched horribly at each of his hit. It opened its mouth and Yezekael could spot a glowing ember emerging from the back of the creature’s mouth.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Yezekael got down and swept the creature’s legs with his right leg. The creature was knocked over and Yezekael could see a burning ball of fiery stone shooting out of its mouth before quickly dropping back into it due to gravity.
The creature went into spasms and choked. Yezekael took the opportunity to take his dagger chucked aside nearby on the ground and stabbed the creature in the chest with it.
Black liquid flowed from it as Yezekael yanked his dagger out. He was ready to plunge it in again but stopped when he saw the creature’s eyes roll up. The creature shook vigorously for a few more moments before it went limp and then immobile.
Yezekael heard a horrible screech that must have been a hundred times worse than that of the creature before him. Yezekael covered his ears quickly and looked up.
The mother of the Qakkirs he killed was getting angrier, especially at him.