We always have a choice, it's just a matter of seeing and making the right one.
This is something that my brother has engraved inside my head.
Unfortunately for me, this night is the start of many things to come, and how I handle them would be the question.
This fateful night marks the start of a life that's going to be full of battles.
Under the full moon, I watched the stigma on my left hand that brands me a soldier -a warrior that would ultimately decide the future of this world.
I am a warrior that signed a contract with the gods of war, and this stigma on my left hand is the proof.
I hold the power of royals, a King Candidate.
I am Iris Weiss, and this is my requiem.
~ * ~
This marks the first night in my new life.
Posing as a prestigious school only the selected elite can enter, the Academia Caila Aquila will become my new home for the next four years. Well, it's a little bit selfish to call this my home; rather, this is going to be our new home. Yes, people like me; people that are not normal and bound to be monsters. The world is not yet ready for us and this place is our sanctuary.
I am a person whose life is now tied to battle. One can say that the definition of my life can be synonymous to the words battle, conflict, and death. Beginning this night, I am no longer a human; rather, I am a soldier of fate -someone, along with my kind, who will decide the very fate of this world in the near future.
The only thing that differentiates humans from animals is the tendency to change. Humans chose to reject stasis and decided to improve. Without this so-called improvement, humans are no more than animals who just think highly of themselves -an ugly sight.
And before mankind knew it, the existence of a third kind of being rose. They are human in appearance but attained a kind of power that transcends humanity. In a way, they took one step towards godhood. Eventually, they were named King Candidates by those who discovered this phenomenon.
We King Candidates were former humans who achieved these godly powers and abilities through a contract with ethereal beings called Avatars of War. The contract is sealed with an irremovable seal branded somewhere on the King Candidate's body, a stigma that serves as a reminder to us that we are no longer human. Not all humans are capable of establishing contracts with the Avatars of War for some unknown reason, but eventually the humans found a way of determining those people that could establish a contract with these unexplainable beings and referred to as Entrants.
The existence of King Candidates, Avatars of War, and Entrants are being kept from the rest of the world in fear of a global panic. Humans tend to become fearful of those things they can't comprehend with, and they end up doing stupid things. To avoid that, keeping it a secret is necessary.
It is also necessary to rally these beings that transcend humanity simply because we're no longer humans, and the world is not yet ready for us. This is also necessary to help us grow into fine beings capable of coexistence with the humans we once were. It's also to ensure the safety of the future, as a single King Candidate's power, with improper use, could endanger countless lives and even destroy that future we are supposed to protect.
As of this moment, there are four established institutions that address the need of us King Candidates and Entrants in the guise of a school, Academia Caila Aquila being one of those institutions.
And for some reason, the Academia decided to start the year with a Newcomer's Ball.
Every freshman enrolled for the year is in this Function Hall, or so it seems. I don't think everyone decided to come in this pointless gathering, and I should've opted not to come as well, but here I am and there's nothing I can do about it. Besides, leaving now would make a perfect waste of this dress the school provided for each and every freshman of this year; talk about a huge waste of funds.
I don't know why the school would go so far as to hold something as taxing as a ball despite knowing that everyone will not participate. If its purpose is to introduce each freshman to each other, then I only see it successful if each freshman actually came; the possibility of that happening is as close as the possibility of seeing the moon painted in blood red.
I stayed at the balcony with a glass of wine in hand. I can't believe they'd actually serve wine -they do realize that the audience of this night's ball is students, right? While this place is an institution for beings like us, this is still a place for growth and learning, hence a school, and a school would never do something like serve wine to its students. Anyway, I shouldn't complain too much or I'd lose one thing I get to enjoy this night.
I stared at the full moon sitting in the night sky. The night was cold and silent, but at the same time, boring. I honestly don't think anything will happen tonight. I know the school provided us dresses for tonight's ball to encourage us to attend, but seeing the same dress being worn by a stranger makes this night dull.
All of a sudden, the moon seemed…red. I blinked for a second, and the moon I was gazing at was the same color as the red wine in my right hand. It only happened in a split-second, but I'm convinced that the moon turned blood red. Don't tell me the alcohol is already getting to my head.
The soft background music slowly died down. I turned my head to see an old man dressed up rather nicely for his age. His head is already bald to the top, with a little bit of hair remaining to the side. His long mustache makes him look older than how he really is, I think.
The principal decided to take the stage. I wonder what he's going to say.
"Good evening everyone, and thank you for coming to this year's Newcomer's Ball." That's one dull way of opening the night. "This has been a yearly tradition for you freshmen, so I hope you really enjoy this night and get acquainted with each other."
I looked inside the function hall, and then down outside and I counted that this year's batch would count to at least a hundred students, at least those in attendance this night. If one were to ask me, I'd say this is a rather huge number. Statistics say that out of a hundred Entrants, one of them is already a King Candidate. I wonder how many King Candidates are in this batch and what kind of Avatar of War are they contracted to.
"This year's batch consists of one hundred and nine Entrants." I'm a little bit off with my estimate, but I was close. "Unfortunately, only eighty of you made it here."
Hearing those numbers, I think the school could consider this a huge success. I was expecting about a third of the freshmen population not coming to this night's ball, but it seems that wasn't the case. Having the majority of this year's batch to attend this year's ball is a success, in my opinion.
"As for the number of King Candidates…" There was a strange pause in the principal's next statement. "…it's up to you guys to figure it out."
Suddenly, there was a strange atmosphere inside the hall. The silence was almost deafening. I find it logical for the principal to not reveal the total number of King Candidates in our batch, but for some reason it stirred some kind of curiosity in this night's attendance.
It's only normal for King Candidates like me to not reveal our status as a King Candidate, and the same goes for the Entrants of this batch. It's also normal to not reveal the nature of the Avatar of War that we're contracted to, because we were instructed to do so. I'm not really fond of following instructions or obeying troublesome rules, but I think keeping our identities a secret is a must if we want to stay long in this hostile environment. What happens inside this place is totally unpredictable, and it is best if I keep my guard up at all times.
"…and so with that, I hope you enjoy this night." The principal ended his long speech with this. He left the stage and the soft background music resumed.
The hall was filled with light chatter. It seems that after the principal's speech, most of the freshmen decided to continue meeting new acquaintances. I, on the other hand, can't get the principal's words out of my mind. I want to know those people I need to watch out for -I need to know the possible King Candidates like me.
It's only now that struck me the true purpose of this night. I realized that the school administration went this far with a purpose, and it's only now that I realize what that purpose is. I also think that some of the students realized that as well, maybe even sooner than I did. Well, it doesn't matter as long as you understand the purpose of this night.
"And so, the first test has begun, don't you agree?" A young man said to me as he slowly headed towards me.
"What do you mean?" I feigned, hoping to confirm my suspicions.
I observed the young man who came to me. He seems to be my age, and the suit the school provided for him suits him well. His blonde hair covers the right part of his face, and aside from his striking blue eyes, there's nothing much to note physically.
He chuckled at my response. I guess I'm not the actor I thought I was. "Your face totally gives away your acting; nice try anyway."
"It's just the first night and they're already giving us a difficult task." The young man added. I looked to his direction and saw him watching the crowd inside the hall. "Tell me, how are you going to identify a King Candidate from this crowd?"
We both arrived at the same question. I also think that this night is a test for us on how we're going to indentify the King Candidates in this crowd. I guess successfully identifying one would mean we passed this test, if it were one. It's not certain if this is actually a test or not but if I can identify at least one King Candidate in this crowd, then this night was worth it.
"…beats me." I replied as I also observed the crowd. I can tell he's looking at me, before taking another light laugh.
He then took his leave after giving me a slight wave. "I guess good luck to us identifying one, then."
There are actually numerous ways to identify a King Candidate, and the most obvious one would be to look for those marked with the stigma. Each stigma is unique, its position, and how it looks like depend on the Avatar of War the King Candidate is contracted to. This is a fact I can take advantage of since only King Candidates can see the stigma of other King Candidates. Well, it was rather close on my part because my stigma is found on my left hand; if not for these long, white gloves that came with this dress, I wouldn't have come to this party.
With that, the only thing I can do right now is observe the other students. With this, I might be lucky and find someone that could be a King Candidate and at the same time, make it seem that I am not one. I'd rather not identify a King Candidate if it means other students realizing that I'm one myself.
After a couple of minutes observing, there are only three people that stands out. It's too early to say that they're King Candidates by the way they act, but it seems plausible that they are.
One of them is a woman who seems to be slightly older than me. She's literally eating on the buffet table, and she doesn't seem to care how her actions bother the people around her. This brunette doesn't seem to care if she stands out or not, as long as she can fill that huge stomach of hers. She's suspicious, but it seems unlikely that she's a King Candidate.
Another student that stands out is a young male standing in the corner as he's filled with women. He also seems to be somewhat older than me, and I think he had no problem hooking those girls with just his smile and his play with words. He may look good with that model-like physique, but he already lost his appeal the moment I saw how much of a playboy he is. Either way, he seems a more possible King Candidate than the brunette glutton, but I can't say so without proof.
The last one that stood out in my opinion is another male; this time, about my age. He's standing there alone, watching the crowd as he leans against one of the hall's post. After seeing him reject numerous girls inviting him to dance, I can conclude that he wants to be alone. Is he one of those secluded-type characters who think they're cool by acting alone? Anyway, I can't tell if he's a King Candidate or not, but there's no doubt about how he stands out.
Suddenly, there was a sudden chill in the air. All of a sudden, there was a nauseating feeling looming around the room. I don't like this feeling. I looked around and suddenly, everything that my eyes can reach turned bronze-colored.
This isn't good.
There's no doubt about it -a King Candidate raised his Closed Space.
A Closed Space is an ability that only King Candidates are capable of. An area covered by a King Candidate's Closed Space is disconnected with the world, hence everything is suspended. The radius and duration at which the Closed Space is up depends on how strong the Avatar of War the King Candidate is contracted to. Anyone or anything that's lower to the King Candidate will be suspended inside his Closed Space -basically, humans and Entrants will be unable to move inside the Closed Space. How a Closed Space appears also differs to each Avatar of War; in this case, everything is in suspended animation while everything restricted on the Closed Space turns bronze-colored.
I suddenly saw a faint glow in my left hand. My stigma is releasing a faint light. I've also thought about this method, using my Closed Space to identify the other King Candidates, but doing so would reveal that I'm a King Candidate myself, and I don't want that to happen. Whoever owns this Closed Space isn't afraid to let everyone know he's a King Candidate.
I quickly looked around to see who it was that set up the Closed Space, and saw a student sitting by the grand staircase inside the hall. He was looking straight at me. There's no doubt about it, he's the one who set up this Closed Space. There are a few faint lights within the crowd, but I'm an easy target seems I'm alone here in the balcony and there's a clear view of the balcony from where he's sitting. This isn't good for me.
Suddenly, our attention was diverted by a low sound.
I looked around the room to see where the sound came from. Slowly, the sound became a series of low tones, and before I knew it, I was already listening to a piece. Without a doubt, this is a piano piece, a piece I haven't heard before. I think this is an original composition, and all our attention is diverted to the white grand piano near the stage and the student who's playing it.
The piece he's playing is slow and soft. It had a strange, calming effect attached to its tune. Slowly, I found myself relaxed while listening to his performance. I moved to get a closer view of the student playing the piano, but there was something strange.
I looked at my left hand and the stigma engraved there is releasing a faint glow. I looked at the student on the staircase and his glowing stigma is located on the left side of his chest. Both the owner of this Closed Space and I had a puzzled look on our faces as we looked at the student playing the piano. For some reason, I can't see where his stigma is.
Suddenly, the Closed Space was dispelled and when I turned my eyes at the staircase, he was no longer there. I observed the young man playing the piano, and he seemed plain everywhere you look at and you wouldn't suspect of him being a King Candidate. However, it's strange how his stigma didn't release a faint glow inside the Closed Space, which only means that he's not a King Candidate. If that's the case, then how was he able to move inside the Closed Space? I'm sure all the other King Candidates in attendance tonight, as well as the one who set up that Closed Space, is asking the same question I am asking myself now.
I wonder if the school administration knows something about this. However, this is really a strange phenomenon. I can't imagine an existence that could move inside a Closed Space and not be a King Candidate. Don't tell me there's already an existence higher than a King Candidate? I haven't heard of anything along those lines as of now, and I don't think that's possible. He must have some kind of trick up his sleeve.
I looked at the mysterious male playing the piano, and then suddenly he looked at my direction with a small smile in his lips. I suddenly felt tense for some reason. I think the fact that this man is an anomaly must have gotten to me and made me a little wary towards him.
I will never forget that face, that thin headband that sweeps his jet-black hair up and that small smile as if he's sending a message to all the King Candidates of this batch, and maybe to the school itself. I'm sure even the school saw that strange series of events. To be honest, I still find things hard to believe.
Soon, he finished the piece he was playing. There was a loud round of applause for his great performance, but if I were to give him a round of applause, it's not because of his skill with the piano, but because of his own way of making a statement as he practically told all the King Candidates of this batch that all eyes should be on him. Clearly, he got everyone's attention from different reasons. He has my full attention, and I'm going to get to the bottom of this.
~ * ~
Nothing worth noting happened afterwards.
The mysterious young man was asked by the audience to return back on stage and perform a couple more pieces, but he was nowhere to be found. Soon, the night passed dull and boring like how it started. It wasn't a worthless night, thought. I'm actually happy I attended the Newcomer's Ball because I was able to witness some interesting things happening.
I know that there are a couple of King Candidates in this batch, and I already know one of them. One King Candidate is daring enough to reveal himself to us King Candidates, and even went as far as setting up his Closed Space just so he can identify the other King Candidates. It was a risky move, something I will never be able to pull off. Things are going to be interesting knowing that I'm going to go up against someone like that in the future. Those piercing green eyes, that stern-looking face, and that slightly-long, dark-colored hair extending up to the back of your neck -I'll be looking forward to our next confrontation.
But what caps the night of is that grand spectacle by the mysterious black-haired boy. You don't have a stigma, but you can move within the Closed Space, suggesting you're something higher than a King Candidate, something that's unheard of. If you're truly a whole new different breed of monster than us, then I want to know more about you.
With all these things happening in a single night, I don't think I'll be able to sleep that well.
Suddenly, this has become a school year I'll be looking forward to.
I guess I made the right choice this time, right brother?
~ * ~
Our life is a product of our choices.
Who we are right now, what kind of life we're living -this is all because of the choices we've made in the past, and the choices we're about to make in the future will ultimately decide what kind of person we'll be and what kind of ending we'll reach.
Now, try imagining a straightforward life without any choices.
Try living a life where all the choices are made for you and all you have to do is go with the flow.
It may sound easy, but there's only one possible ending -a hellish life.
That's the very life Entrants and King Candidates have.
They didn't choose to be one, and in the end, the only life they have is a hellish one.
Now tell me, how is that fair?