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TAoCD ch3: Welcome
Shimmering, golden eyes. That was all Clementine could remember of his attacker's face—all he could remember of the moment everything he desired to do might have come to an end. He looked around the art studio, hiding behind his blank canvas. He searched for a student with those eyes, white hair, and a navy turtleneck. But no one fit the picture.
He massaged his bruised neck with his hand, resting his other arm on his knee. Last night, he'd deduced that he should find a crowd in order to avoid suspicion, and now, he thought he should do so for safety, too. He had come here assured that he was the hunter, but it was only his second day and someone had tried to take his life already. It would happen again, and next time, he might not get so lucky. He was strong and confident, but he knew there were students here that were stronger, and he couldn't afford to be naïve.
"Having trouble, Mr Darlington?" came Professor McMillan's drawling voice.
Clementine looked up at the lanky professor, who was standing beside him, glowering down at his blank canvas.
"I'm going to assume you've spent the last hour envisioning your piece, but I'd suggest you make a start," he said, placing his hand on Clementine's shoulder. "Pick up your brush."
He picked up his paintbrush and set his eyes on the clothesless model posing in the middle of the class with a stag skull on her face and that of a human in her hand. Then, as McMillan sleeked around the class once more, Clementine sighed and got to work.
With each stroke of his brush, however, he sunk deeper into his thoughts. His attacker was smart enough not to get caught and to remove any suspicion from himself, too. He'd kissed Clementine and made it look like that was what had been going on the whole time. The kids that had found them had been so disgusted by what they'd seen that they hadn't suspected a thing. They'd had no idea they'd just stopped an attempted murder.
Clementine rolled his eyes, glancing at the model in the centre of the class. He needed to focus on creating cover. But who was he going to try to get close to? Elliot? No. Clementine would rather walk around and risk his life than pretend to be that guy's friend. And not only did he have to consider his ability to be around someone intolerable for very long, but he also had to take into account what these kids were. Seelie, wolf walker, Ravenblood; they were all different. If Clementine chose the wrong person to approach, he might be setting himself up for a re-enactment of the bathroom stall.
There were only seventeen students in this class. They were hidden behind their canvases, and the glances he caught of their faces when they looked at the model weren't enough for him to try and work out what they were. He'd have to wait until lunch.
He got back to work, trying to focus on his painting. He didn't care for art, but if he wanted to remain in the academy to find the people that had killed his sister, he had to make sure he did the work.
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"There you are." Elliot's voice broke Clementine's concentration.
His blue eyes stopped searching the lunch hall as he fiddled with the neck of his turtleneck sweater, which he'd fetched from his room after art. He didn't need anyone seeing his bruises. He looked up at Elliot, who had a trio of bright-eyed boys behind him, all holding their lunch trays.
"This is my roommate, Clementine," he said, nodding to him. "I didn't see you in history."
As Elliot and his friends sat at Clementine's table, he shuffled around uncomfortably and leaned back in his seat. He'd been scouring the hall for his attacker but still hadn't spotted anyone that fit what he remembered.
"Did you hear the rumours?" Elliot asked.
Part of him wanted to snap at this kid and ask him why he was bothering him, but he didn't really know anything about Elliot other than he was annoying. He wasn't about to upset someone he didn't know enough about. So, he deadpanned and looked over at him. "What?"
"Gregory Davis saw two guys necking in the bathroom."
As Elliot and his friends laughed, Clementine rolled his eyes and glared back out at the hall, eyeing each student like a starved hawk. He twisted the spaghetti on his plate around his fork, watching as a group of black-haired boys waited for one another at the end of the lunch line. His eyes wandered down to their hands—no rings.
"Anyway," came Elliot's voice, "this is Carmichael, Bernard, and Stanley," he said, pointing to each of his friends, all of which had pointed ears like a seelie.
"Hello," Carmichael said with a nod.
"Bernard Vance," the second said, holding out his hand, which Clementine shook.
The third smiled over at him.
"We all just had music together—I thought I'd see you there," Elliot said with a frown.
"I took art," Clementine muttered, eyeing his friends for a moment. It took him a moment, but he realized they were three boys that had seemed angry about Molly's attack last night.
"Oh...how was it?"
Clementine sighed and ate a mouthful of his spaghetti. "Relaxing," he answered—it sounded like something one should say about painting naked women.
Elliot's voice then drowned out again as he watched the group of black-haired boys making their way through the hall like spectres. He watched as a lot of the students glanced and shuddered, almost as if they were scared of them. Why?
He looked around the room again, realizing that he didn't know anything about anyone. He'd only made sure to learn all he could about the Ravenblood, and now that he'd experienced his first near-death already, he felt pretty foolish for coming to an academy filled with supernatural students without learning how to identify who and what each kid was. But he hadn't had time. Perhaps that was the first thing he should do: find an ally that could help him in that department. But who?
Pondering, he looked over at Elliot. He watched as he nattered on to his friends, barely touching his food. He sure liked to talk, didn't he? Elliot certainly gave off the vibes of someone that might know what to look for on someone—freckles, glasses, a pile of books in his lap instead of in his backpack. For whatever reason, he also seemed to like Clementine—why else would he have come to sit with him when he had three friends already? What was the harm in asking?
"Elliot," he said, interrupting their conversion.
"Huh?" he asked, looking over at him.
"You wouldn't happen to know who they are, would you?" Clementine nodded over at the group of boys as they sent a frigid girl running from her table, which they then sat at.
Elliot frowned. "Oh. Yeah. Ian Carter, Connor Massimo, and the other three...I don't know. They all came over from the New World."
"That's Horace Radcliff," Carmichael said, nodding at one of them.
"Their parents are members of the council over there," Bernard revealed.
"Do you know what they are?" Clementine asked, looking at Elliot and his friends.
"I heard Connor's a wolf walker, so I assume they must all be if they're hanging out together," Elliot answered.
"Right...because wolves only group up with their own," Clementine mumbled.
Elliot nodded. "Exactly. Why? You thinking of trying to get in with them?"
"You're a wolf walker?" Stanley asked.
"No and no," Clementine muttered, pushing his food around his plate again. "Everyone just seems a little scared of them."
"Well...yeah," Elliot scoffed. "They came from the New World. They've been trained since they were kids to pass this place—trained by people who've passed before."
Clementine nodded, glancing over at them again. That made sense. If what Elliot and his friends were saying was true, then those kids were probably among the toughest competition here. Part of him felt glad he hadn't actually come here to try to get into the New World. At least he now knew to avoid them.
"You can tell, though," Elliot said.
He looked over at him.
"Wolf walkers—if you're close enough, they smell a little like wet dog. From afar, you can see their eyes reflecting the light like a cat."
Interesting. Clementine looked over at them again, watching...and as the sun shone in through the clear glass windows, the eyes of two of the dark-haired boys flickered for half a moment. He smirked—it might seem as though Elliot was useful after all.
But then...if Elliot was as observant as he was proving himself to be, how long would it be until he worked out Clementine's secret? He glanced over at him, watching as he started ravenously eating his lunch. What was he? He watched his eyes, but they didn't shimmer in the light. He looked at his ears, but they weren't pointed like a seelie's, and he certainly didn't smell like a wet dog. His scent was more like sage.
"Biology next," Elliot said, looking over at him. "You excited?"
"Sure," he uttered, looking back down at his plate.
"We were going to pay Molly a visit," Bernard said. "Would you two like to come?"
Clementine looked over at him, as did Elliot.
"Sure!" Elliot said. "Is she awake?"
"We haven't been allowed to see her yet, but we're going to sneak in after biology," Carmichael said.
Elliot looked over at Clementine. "You wanna come?"
If he was going to get Elliot to trust and help him identify who was what here, he should probably put in some effort and try to act like his friend. "Why not?" he said with a shrug.
"Maybe she can tell us who attacked her," Elliot schemed. "Hopefully, it was one of the New World kids—if we get one of them kicked out, that's more of a chance for us to pass, right?"
His three friends nodded.
Clementine then pondered. Could Elliot help him identify his attacker with a simple description? It was worth a shot. "I saw somebody earlier," he started. "White hair...golden eyes—I've never seen anyone like that before. Have you?"
Elliot seemed to think to himself for a moment...but to Clementine's disappointment, he shook his head. "I haven't even seen someone like that walking around."
He looked over at Elliot's friends, but they all shook their heads.
With a quiet sigh, he leaned back in his seat. He was no closer to finding his attacker, and by the looks of it, every student was now in the hall, but not one possessed the ashen hair he had seen. Could it be possible that in his state of confusion, his eyes had seen a random flurry of colours? Could his attacker's hair have been a light blonde? Could he have been wearing a white hat or hoodie? No...he'd been wearing a turtleneck—he was sure about that. But as he glared around the room, he didn't even see anyone wearing that.
Then again, why would someone remain in the same clothes after a failed attempt at murdering another kid? This guy had been smart enough to cover up his attack with something so alarming that the witnesses hadn't suspected a thing, so why wouldn't he be as cautious as to change his clothes, too? And if Clementine really had mistaken the colour of his hair...his attacker could be anyone in this room. Anyone.
His attacker really was smart. But whoever they were...he'd find them. He didn't plan on leaving this world until he'd taken out the entire generation of Ravenblood attending this academy; no kid here, no matter how devious, would stop him.
TAoCD ch3: Text
TAoCD ch3: Image
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