I sat on the bed next to Hunter and began eating a strawberry pastry.
“When I left last year, I went to this school called Harkside Academy of Advanced Learning,” Hunter began.
I nodded recalling him mentioning this school before.
“I wasn’t allowed to have contact with the outside world.”
Reason why he didn’t write to me: check.
“They said they were going teach us how to control our powers, but what they did was teach us how to become heartless, coldblooded killing machines. They completely destroyed our emotions and any attachment to anything that would make us weak. As far as they were concerned, we had no friends or family. We had no one to care about and no one to love.”
Reason that he acted like I didn’t exist when he got back: check.
“We trained for days, sometimes without any food or sleep. Those who didn’t complete the exercises, they were punished. The headmaster would take us from class and lock us in solitude in a pitch black, freezing cold room. We would stay in there for at least a week and the door only opened when he came in to torture us.”
Reason why he was a total jerk with practice: check.
“The point was to break us. Make us emotionally empty.”
“…that’s harsh,” was all I could say.
He shook his head. “That’s not even the worst of it. Sometimes, training that was too hard caused people to get sick…or even die.”
I looked at him. He seemed worried and he was thinking of something.
“What?” I asked.
“…One time during training, we were in group doing an energy transfer exercise but we were being timed. You know how difficult that is when there’s no time pressure. This was the first time we’d worked on it. This one guy was taking the energy from me and it got stuck in his chest. He begged me for help, but I just stood there and watched as the guards dragged him off while he died.
At this point I had stopped eating. “…Hunter…I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“Yes it is,” I said grabbing his arm. “I should have fought harder to stop you from leaving.”
“Ro, it’s not your fault. You couldn’t have changed their minds.”
He grabbed my wrist and stared into my eyes. “No. You’re not the one to blame.”
I blushed a little under his gaze. “F-fine, but I’m not letting you go away again.”
I looked away from him and tried to change the topic. “So, why are those people after us?”
He sighed and said, “Leon Cain, that brat, is one of the headmaster’s favorites. He’s in charge of recruits, but he’s coming after both of us.”
This confused me. “I understand why he’s after me, but aren’t you already a student?”
He ran his fingers through his hair like he does when he was disappointed. “I was assigned to be your mentor for a reason. One, to test you. Two, to test me. We both failed.”
“They were testing to see if I could hurt you and not care.” He looked away from me. “When I saw you crying and backed off, they knew that I failed. Running away let them know that I am officially a threat to the academy.”
“They want you because you have great potential.”
“How do I of all people have potential?”
Hunter looked very uncomfortable and when he spoke I knew why.
“You never knew your mother, but everyone at the academy does.”
He knew my mother was a sore subject for me, which is probably why he held my hand as he continued.
“She was the most important fighter against the academy. She was a student, the headmaster’s favorite. She had the best training, but she later rebelled and escaped. When she left, she took the best student with her. The headmaster desperately searched for her and the top student. When he found your mother he tortured her to tell him when the other one was, but she refused and he…killed her.”
“No!” I started to cry again. Not only was I sad, I was furious at that man for killing my mother.
Hunter stood and walked to the other side of the room. “Ro.”
I looked at him.
“…That top student that your mother took was you.”
“…And the headmaster…is your father.”
I hoped and pleaded that I had misheard Hunter, but his look, full of pain and sympathy, told me I hadn’t.
How could my father kill my mother and be in charge of something so dangerous?
Hunter looked away, I assume to avoid looking at my horrified face, and continued talking.
“We need to find the rebel group that your mother started to fight against the academy. It’s called The Existence. I read all about your mother when I was at The Academy.”
He was looking at me.
“She set the record for all of her magic and combat classes. She got the highest scores in her academic classes. But, most importantly, she pointed out the flaws in the security system to help several students escape. She was a hero and an inspiration, Ro.”
I nodded understanding what he meant, but something still felt off.
“The headmaster has known about me for a long time. Why is he just coming for me now?” I asked.
“Your mother,” Hunter said sitting next to me, “lied about who her parents were and where she lived when she entered The Academy. This caused the headmaster to have no idea where to look for you after those leads failed him.”
“Then…they found me because they found you,” I said, realizing why Hunter felt so bad. He nodded.
“It’s not your fault, Hunt. I don’t blame you. Just tell me what we’re going to do.”
“We want to get rid of the academy and save the students trapped inside.”
“What about my father?” I asked still in disbelief about that one little detail.
“I don’t know about that yet,” Hunter said, rubbing his head.
“I mean, even if we can get rid of the academy, he could just start a new one, right?”
Hunter looked at me with a slight worried, yet determined look on his face. “That’s why we need to find The Existence. They should know what to do about him.”
I nodded and added, “Fine, but if we run into him first, I want revenge.”
“Okay,” Hunter said, and then he looked at me and smiled. “You’ll have to train harder before you take him on though.”
I fell back onto the bed. “No more training today! I need sleep!”
“Alright. Get some rest. You deserve it,” he said with a chuckle.
I rolled around on the bed to take in its softness. “I love this thing!” I exclaim.
“Relax, Ro. It’s time for you to rest your pretty, little head,” he said as he kissed my forehead and then walked over to the sofa.
“Aren’t you going to sleep, too?” I asked. I watched him lay a blanket on the arm and sit a pillow next to that.
“Not yet,” he responds.
“Are you going to sleep there?”
He looked at me and smiled a little. “I thought you’d like the bed and from here I can keep watch better.”
“Okay…well, goodnight,” I said as I crawled under the covers.
“Night,” he said, turning his attention back to his makeshift bed.
I hesitated then said, “I love you, Hunter.”
It made me feel more comfortable to hear that he paused breathing before he said, “I love you too, Rosaline.”
I liked that this dating thing was as awkward for him as it was for me. If this is what dating Hunter would be like, I could enjoy to being with him—minus the running from my psycho father and his psycho academy drones, who were possibly going to kill us. Oh the joy of being in love. Just wonderful…