For the siblings at least, most of the second term went almost as uneventfully. Students were allowed to take two extra classes from a huge variety; they had any class that would serve a knight in the slightest.

The normal classes had gotten more intensive and there was less free time. It took its toll especially on Stein. This year, whether by luck or by careful examination by the instructors, Tom shared a room with him.

He had lost a little weight and now stooped slightly. Worse of all his confidence dropped and as a result he stuttered more and more. He has enrolled in a heavy weapons class and Tom guessed that was especially taxing. However he had no idea what his other special class was.

As for himself he had taken advanced swordsmanship and a supplementary marksmanship class. Sally had also taken the swordsmanship class. Her other class, which referred to entire reason for becoming a knight, was field medicine.
Inside Tom didn’t know whether his gun would help in the slightest. The silver polish and the weight in his hand added some security. However, there was research that darklings did flinch at bullets, so at the very least it would never be useless.

With his free time Tom would practice the “blank” method. He would sit upright on his bed and focus intently. His breathing slowed, he rid himself of all emotions, and for good measures he’d rid all other thoughts too. He didn’t know whether his vision really turned monochrome, or that he just didn’t care about the colors.

He did feel one emotion though, a splitting indifference. His thought process was unaffected and he felt numb more than anything. His conception of time was probably distorted but he didn’t know for sure nor cared.

I should test this. I probably wouldn’t want to meet a darkling unprepared. I’ll go look for darkling.

At this point his common sense was keen, although his sense of danger was at flaw.

I should go tomorrow night. Worst case scenario I’ll flee and let the guards save me. It wouldn’t be advantageous to let Sally know.

He didn’t know how to revert back yet. He’d usually just loosen his focus and let his senses return. Sometimes he’d have to sleep through it, although he didn’t feel the urge to do so.

As a result he lost more than a little sleep and quite everyone noticed. At this point he had become completely isolated from the school’s community, save for Sal and Stein.

The next morning Tom woke up much earlier. He’d have no conflict in his schedule. He practiced blank and for the first time he noted a strange phenomenon. It happened right before he loosened his focus.

 He remembered the frosty phenomenon that he felt around his heart. Frankly he hadn’t felt it in a fearfully long time. It appeared right after the most of the blank method wore off. Perhaps it was always there, and he only realized when his senses returned. He’s came close to perfecting it, he decided.

Dawn had just risen. A brilliant vermillion surrounded the flatlands around Oakwood. Blood will be shed today, Tom thought to himself. He sat in his bed, shocked at what he had just thought. He changed and left his dorm without waking Stein.

Outside, a fragrant breeze blew across the school. It would normally hard to stumble across a darkling after dawn, but since Oakwood was a place of great distress, they were in plenty. Guards were posted 24-7. In fact, the school rules said nothing about confronting darklings. Though, that was probably an unwritten rule. No one in their right minds would do such a thing. Luckily for Tom, his poor social skills made him that no one.

He had been walking around for half an hour now. He didn’t want to stray too far, so he instead made circles near the school. He didn’t quite know the extent of a darklings power, so he played it safe.

Finally, a hiss rattled through the prairie. A large darkling in the guise of a scorpion appeared. As soon as Tom saw it, he was instantly frozen in fear. He couldn’t tell whether it was the darkling’s effect or his own cowardice.

It scuttled towards him at an unbelievable speed. Scorpions are pretty fast considering their size, and since this one is at least a few meters in length, it was no surprise!

I’m going to be dead if I don’t use blank right now, he thought out to himself. He focused and luckily he was able to regain control.

I don’t feel fear. It’s not interfering with my movements away at least. I have my weapons, I shall fight.

He drew his gun and shot precisely. He was able to stun it long enough to land a slash with his sword.

I indeed can combat while using blank. It is best for me to retreat now.

A guard rushed to his side and swiftly stabbed the creature with a long spear. Its shadows dispersed and left no corpse.  
Tom returned to his bed and only released blank as he was falling asleep. He could faintly remember waking Stein, and the subsequent insults from him.


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