Saffron and I informed Professor Cordia about the attack immediately, and he and the rest of the class raced outside, following the friend of the attacked-- a taller girl with dark hair about a year younger than me. The professor carried a first aid kit in his hand filled with medical supplies, and what was odd about the frantic experience was that the professor seemed to be tenser than the rest of us like he had gone through it before and was dreading to live through it again. "This must've happened already," I thought. "It must've been kept under wraps last time". Although that was just a hunch I formed based on the professor's troubled expression.
We all gathered around the scene of the crime in the main plaza, and my friends and I huddled close together, just inches away from the injured girl. It didn't take long for the whole school body to notice and step outside and investigate the disturbance. The victim was about the same age as her friend but shorter and with blonde hair. She was curled up in the fetal position shaking and shivering, her eyes wide with shock and a gaping gash on her right shoulder, a claw mark. The only thing I could think of that would've been able to cause that much damage was a bear, but I don't think a bear would just attack a kid once and run for it, it didn't sit right with me.
"Dear, can you tell me what happened?" Professor Cordia asked the victim's friend as he tended to the bleeding girl, knowing that her assaulted friend would be too scared to respond.
"Well, we were just leaving Chess Club, then this... thing jumped out of the bushes! It was too fast to see, like a big blur, but before I could react Mary was attacked by the thing! She stabbed it with the handle of her comb, but it didn't do anything!" She cried as Saffron held her close to comfort her. "Will she be alright?"
"She'll be fine..." The professor said as he coated the wound in disinfectant and wrapped it in gauze. The wounded girl let out a shrill but quiet screech as the disinfectant began to take effect. "It's okay, you're okay..."
Headmistress Sparalk darted through the panicked crowd, along with the four house leaders and Sweetie. She silenced the terrified students and spoke. "Students, please. We cannot panic in a situation like this. I want everyone in their houses within the next hour. The school is under lockdown for the rest of tonight until we figure out what's going on."
Professor Armorè picked up the wounded girl and held her in his arms like a baby; he was much larger than she was. "Thank you, Disarro," He said to Professor Cordia. "I'll take her to Ms. Shae."
"Lockdown?!" Miles gulped. "That's never happened before, not since The Great Intestinal Spell of sixty-two."
"Great mental-image..." Fraylick cringed as he thought about it.
"Remind me again how you know these things, Miles?" Augustine gagged as her mind unintentionally visualized the event as well.
"I read?" Miles laughed pathetically and shrugged his shoulders
"Now's not the time to joke around. Be serious." Mura stated in a monotone voice with a stoic expression. Knowing full well the wrath of Mura, we all shut up. "We best be heading to our dorm rooms," She mumbled as she walked back to Dragonflame House with the rest of us following not far behind.
Before fled the scene with the others, however, I noticed a small pool of black sticky liquid on the sidewalk that I just happened to step on. Based on the viscosity, it was blood, but I couldn't tell how fresh. It smelled a lot like hot coals, which was odd, considering the fact that it didn't feel hot at all. I reached into my pocket and brought out a plastic bag that, conveniently, I mindlessly shoved in my pocket at lunch after I finished a packaged bag of carrots because I was too lazy to get up and throw it away. I was lucky that I remembered. Using my index and middle finger, I smeared the blood across the cement sidewalk and scooped it into the baggie.
As I mopped up the remaining slime, I noticed that Sweetie saw what I was doing. I cursed under my breath, preparing for the scolding of my life. I wasn't sure if picking up black sticky liquids were against the rules, but I wasn't keen to find out. Pathetically, I hid the baggie in my backpack as she drew closer to me, hoping she didn't see it. To my relief, she didn't.
"What were you doing there?" Sweetie asked me with a raised eyebrow. "You were crouching down and picking something up. What was it?"
"Oh, um," I quickly thought up a half-baked lie. "I just, um... dropped my pencil in the grass is all. It's... hard to see it in this long grass." I kept going with the lie, and I tried to use small talk to break the awkward tension. "They should really cut this grass a bit shorter, huh?"
"It's only an inch tall, John." She looked at me with a suspicious glare. My plan wasn't going as smooth as I originally anticipated.
"Well, back in my old school, it was only a half inch!" I announced with purpose. The little guilt-goblin in the back of my head was scratching against my skull, reminding me that I was a lying piece of crap. "I really should be getting back to Dragonflame!" I darted after my friends, but I didn't run, I was already suspicious enough. I power-walked instead.
When I caught up with them, I wiped off the thin layer of sweat on my forehead and took a deep breath. They all could tell I was on-edge, so naturally, they were curious. Augustine, being the outspoken individual she was, piped up first. "You seem nervous," She pried. "What were you doing back there?"
"I'll tell you guys about it later, once we get back," I said to them in a hushed tone. "I don't want anyone else to know."
"Oh no, secrets?" Miles ground his teeth together. "I'm not very, um-."
"Miles sucks at keeping secrets," Saffron said bluntly. "He told Mura about her surprise birthday party last year; cracked like an egg."
"I don't function well under pressure, guys! I'm fine as long as I don't experience confrontation!" Miles exploded in a nervous outrage. "How was I supposed to lie to Mura's face when she was giving me her trademark glare?!"
"Are you saying I look scary?" Mura's monotone voice had a barely noticeable growl to it, and she gave him a long and ominous stare.
"No, I-..." Miles started hyperventilating. "See what I mean?!"
"Don't worry, man. Just play it cool, and I'll cover for ya." Fraylick laughed lightly as he gave Miles a brotherly punch on the shoulder.
Miles breathed deeply and ran his hand through his hair. "Thanks... man!" Miles' awkward tone of voice didn't sound smooth at all, like a forty-year-old man trying to be 'hip with the kids'. "You're the best... bro?"
"Never say 'bro' or 'man' again, Miles." Fraylick crossed his arms and shook his head with a grin on his face. We all laughed as we entered Dragonflame House, including Miles.
"Alright, watch this..." Fraylick lined up his shot and punched the white ball with his cue, slamming the ball right into the ordered colored pool balls and breaking the arrangement.
The gathering of balls split up and shot out in random directions, one banked off the side and went into a middle pocket, another landed right in a pocket at the end of the table. He had a few 'friends', which was pretty impressive, but I think he wanted the whole arrangement to go down, which was ridiculous. Any competent pool player knew it was pure fiction to successfully put every ball in a pocket on the first shot.
"Nice, nice..." I nodded with a half smile as I watched him take his next shot.
The prefects set up a pool table in the lounge, and we spent our last couple of hours shooting away. They figured it would be beneficial to switch things up now and then, just so that the others didn't get bored. There were a few new faces in the lounge that day, a few jocks, some popular girls, a couple nerds. Most of them were talking, but some of them were either playing chess or darts, casual games. Roderick was watching us all for a bit, and took turns with his fellow prefects to monitor the lounge. Every time he showed up, I could see a little spark in Augustine's eyes as she stared at him from her chair, adjacent to the pool table. It was obvious she was into him. I walked over to her once I made my shot (I scratched...), crouching down beside and gesturing to Roderick.
"So, you like him, huh?" I said with a smug grin on my face, watching her face turn red.
"No, I-... respect him," Augustine tried to cover her tracks, but I could see through her lie, and she knew it. "He's... a superb magic-dueller, and a... very handsome-." She cut herself off abruptly and crossed her arms out of frustration.
"Hey, it's cool," I laughed as I stood up. "Your secret is safe with me."
"Um... thank you?" It looked as if she were unsure, like it was the first time she had said thank you. It only took her a few seconds to regain her composure, and she looked at me with suspicious eyes. I knew what she going to say next. "So, how about that order of business you were going to tell us about, hmm? Have you forgotten?"
"Oh, right," I rolled my eyes and looked around to make sure no one was watching. "Tell the others to meet me in my room. I don't want any of the prefects to know about it."
"Alright," She agreed. "But this better be good."
We all gathered in my room after Fraylick and I finished our game of pool. Miles and Fraylick sat on my sofa in front of the window, I sat on my rolling armchair at my desk, and the girls sat on my bed. We all huddled closer together as I withdrew the baggie filled with the strange black liquid from my backpack. I could see a curious twinkle in their eyes as they investigate the odd substance. To my surprise, it didn't dry up as much as I thought it would.
"Whoa, what is this stuff?" Miles' face recoiled in disgust at the sight of the revolting slime.
"It's blood, I think," I told them with an unsure expression. "Although, it doesn't really smell like any blood I know."
"Do you think it came from the creature that attacked Mary?" Saffron wondered.
"I think so, it was close by, and her friend said it fled soon after Mary stabbed it. So I suppose it could be blood." I thought of any other evidence to support my claim, but I came up with nothing.
"But, there's no real way we'll know for sure..." Fraylick scowled, a little disappointed that the trail went cold.
"Actually, there is a way..." Augustine chimed in. "Professor Lee, the mistress of Spriggan House, the Biology teacher. She'll know if that's blood or not, and if it is blood, I think she can figure out what creature secreted that foul substance."
"But we can't leave Dragonflame House, remember?" Miles reminded us. "We'll get suspended or, even worse, expelled if we leave."
"Then I suppose we'll have to wait until morning then, huh?" Saffron stated as she leaned back against the wall.
"Yes, we do," Augustine said as she plugged her nose to prevent the ghastly scent of the revolting substance from entering her nostrils. "And for Solare's sake, Jonathan... would you close that bag?!"
"Is it bothering you, Augustine?" Fraylick looked at her with a phony puppy-dog face. He snatched the bag out of my hands and began chasing her around my room with the bag. "You just need to get used to it!"
"Ah!" She screeched in horror as she fled from as he held it out towards her. "Someone! Stop him at once!"
"I don't know. What do you think, Saffron?" I went along with the running joke.
"Hmm... you know, I think Fraylick may be right. Maybe you do just need a little time with it." She mocked her and giggled under her breath as she watched Augustine squirm.
Eventually the joke got old (emphasis on "eventually") and we let Augustine breathe. She was pissed, but I could tell part of her was laughing on the inside, perhaps the part of her that I saw when she was eyeing Roderick. While she didn't show it, I think she was more contained than Mura was. She always wore that mask in her day to day life, and I think she was tired underneath that disguise. It must've been hard to act mature and proper all the time, to be from a high social class and be forced to act the part. Her father was a wealthy businessman and her mother was royalty. She had pretty big shoes to fill.
"I'm gonna voice chat with my parents here, so I think you guys should head back to your rooms. I'll keep the blood with me." I insisted as I opened my door.
"I think you'll have to voice chat with them tomorrow," Miles told me as he adjusted his glasses. "The school is on lockdown, so the internet and the landline will get shut off tonight."
"The service is crap here too," Saffron added. "You probably won't be able to use a mobile hotspot to run a voice chat. Even if there was good service, a hotspot is always pretty iffy."
"Damn..." I shook my head in disappointment. "I was going to talk to my sister."
"Sorry, John...I know how you feel." Saffron shrugged. "I was going to phone my dad tonight."
"It's cool, it's just one night," I sighed as I close the door. "Just one night..."