Viola walked nervously after Kurama. She followed him close to avoid getting lost, for there was a maze of corridors and halls leading every which way. The sound of their footsteps reverberated off the cold stone walls and floors. The grand and spectacular way the stones were carved and set into their positions caused Viola to again think that she shouldn't be there. After a short while later that felt like a century to Viola, they finally stopped at a door. Kurama grabbed the handle and opened it, gesturing inside.
"Here is our room. Go ahead and leave your stuff here and I'll take you on a tour around the academy."
Viola walked into the room and immediate felt shock at the sight. She was use to big rooms, but never something that gave so much space. Two beds were spaced 15 feet apart on opposite walls. There was also a desk and nightstands that accompanied each bed. At the orphanage, there was barely any room to walk between the beds, not including all the other kids she had to maneuver around. But the room promised so much more room than she knew what to do with. Was it alright if she left some space empty?
She saw the bed on the right having various items around it and assumed Kurama was sleeping there. So she walked over to the bed on the left side and placed the bag that held what little she actually owned on top of it. She then turned and walked back out to where Kurama was waiting for her.
"Um...Ok, I'm set."
"Alright, then. I'll start at the training grounds and we'll move on from there."
She followed Kurama again through the maze of corridors until they emerged onto a balcony overlooking the front gate. As she looked about, she was able to see all the equipment used for training. She was able to identify them better now that she wasn't tried to ignore everyone's gossip and stares.
"This is the main training ground where we work to improve our combat skill and everything. Its tough at first when you're new, but after a while you get used to it and know what exactly you need to do to train on your own."
Viola watched as a couple paladins dueled inside a rope circle ring. As their blades clashed, she felt the color drain from her face.
"I've... I've never held a weapon in my life."
Kurama chuckled, causing her to look at him. "Don't worry, most of us who came here haven't held a weapon before either. I was only eight when I was introduced to this place, so I for sure didn't know how to hold a weapon."
It surprised Viola to hear that.
"Really? How did you do to get here?"
"Oh..". Kurama looked away embarrassed. "Well, it... wasn't that heroic. Mordokai happened to be passing through when he saw me."
"What? What did you do?"
"Well I... stood up to a bully on the streets. He was a good 4 years older than me and was as big as a gorilla. Smart as one too, now that I think of it."
"I won. Plain and simple. Well, not exactly... I had quite a few bruises and cuts on me, though. I just had a sense of importance... to stop him from picking on everyone that was smaller than him."
He paused for a moment.
"It was also easier to beat him then I expected. I seemed to know how he was going to throw his punches somehow. It also only took a black eye for him to scamper away like a little wimp crying like a puppy dog."
He chuckled at his recollection.
"That's... similar to what happened to me."
"It's what happens to everyone here. Everyone before you had the same feeling. We were chosen by destiny to be servants of justice and morality. To serve the greater good."
Viola looked back over all the paladin's training. Her breathing quickly increases as the realization of what was to be expected of her.
"I...don't think I'm... I can't do this. I shouldn't be here."
"Oh yes, you are. Mordokai doesn't make mistake when it comes to these sort of things. Everyone who has come in here have all heard the call of Paladinis."
She looked at him again.
"T-The call of... what?"
"Here, I'll show you."
He took her by the hand.
"We've got a lot more to see, and it does no good for you to hyperventilate out here."
Viola felt herself being led away and she followed without complaint. She walked the endless hallways again, barely aware of her surroundings. Kurama was telling her many different things, but she wasn't listening. Her thoughts kept straying to the future. What is going to happen? How will she do? Will she succeed?... What if she failed?
"...Hey, are you there?"
A waving hand in front of her face broke her train of thought.
"I said this is the mess hall. But since you're new and it's still a bit early for dinner, would you like it if they bring the food to our room?"
The thought of being the center of gossip again scared her.
"Yes. Please. That would be wonderful."
"Alright. Wait here for a minute."
Kurama walked in leaving Viola alone. She noticed that the hallway looked much bigger when she was by herself, waiting to collapse and bury her. She was thankful when he returned after only a short wait.
"Alright, it's all settled. Now, to show you the most important part of the tour. This way."
Kurama lead her down a spiral staircase. After a while, she lost track of how many steps had passed as she descended further down the never ending staircase. They passed several levels that looked exactly alike that she was unsure of where she was anymore. She was now really worried about becoming lost around here.
"Why is it that the halls all look the same?"
"Oh, it is just a minor trick for defense."
Viola looks at him with a confused look.
"Being an academy for paladins, there are many enemies sworn against it. It's sort of like baiting all evil to show up an attack us, and there have been several failed attempt. Still, there may be one of them that is actually pretty strong, so one of the trick is to try to get them lost. If they can't tell what floor they're on or what part of the fortress they're at, it gives us an advantage."
Viola gulped, her look was clearly nervous.
"Oh don't worry. As long as you stay with me, you'll learn where everything is soon enough."
Viola nodded, but didn't feel convinced. It was then that she noticed that there were no longer floors they were passing. The staircase now just spiraled down into the ground. She was sure they were descending into the earth itself now. After some time, they finally got to the bottom of the stair well. Before them was a pair of Iron doors that looked quite sturdy.
"Where are we?"
"Well I don't know exactly, but I think we're 500 feet underground give or take."
"Yeah. However, it was this right here that was the reason for this fortress being made in the first place. Mordokai is the founder of this place and he discovered something here that started the order of the paladin, or even started the concept of the Paladin."
"And... what is that?"
Kurama walked forward and grabbed the ring to open the door.
"The key to a paladin's power..."
Kurama heaved and the door was yanked open, making a lot of noise as it did so. There was a bright glow that emanated from inside that Viola had to hold up her hand to shield her eyes. As her eyes adjusted and she looked in and with a gasp, saw that in a cavern was hundreds upon hundreds of different colored crystals. It was a moment before Viola realized the light was coming from the crystals themselves.
She stepped inside and circled around and around with wonder.
"What... What are these?"
"These are our Paladinis Crystals. But every one just calls them the 'crystals'."
Viola looked closer at a foundation of crystals. She could see her own reflection looking back at her from the many surfaces.
"They're so beautiful! What do they do?"
"Like I said, they provide us with our power. While no one truly understands how or why, these crystals actually grow. For you see, each crystal is set and bound to a particular person that is destined to be a servant of good. Each new one is formed when that person is born and grows as they grow, based on their beliefs and ideals as well as their strength and resolve."
Viola turned around to look at him.
"Wait... so if the crystals form when each paladin is born... then that means...?"
"Yes. Your own crystal is here somewhere among the others."
Viola quickly looked around eagerly, expecting to see something pop out at her. However, her feelings quickly turned to disappointment. There were hundreds of crystals all around and while they each looked different in color and size, none of them distinguished themselves to her.
"There are so many. How can I tell which one is mine?"
Kurama laughed at her words causing her to turn and look at him. "You won't be able to find out which one is yours until you past the first test. If you succeed, then you will be able to find your crystal."
Viola looked back at all the different crystals.
"But... there can't be this many people who are destined to come here..."
"Actually yes, there are. Remember, each crystal forms when the person is born and sometimes the person who arrives hasn't realized his destiny until much later in his life. We get a variety of all ages from 3 years to 55 years old."
Viola seemed to think over these words.
"So many people... But what exactly do they do? You said the Crystals were the source of the paladin's power."
"Yes, they are. Like I said, each crystal grows as you grow. Through your personality and experiences, the crystal develops an unusual trait that grants you special abilities. Most have to do with the elements, like fire, water, earth and air. While others develop other kind of elemental abilities. One even had the ability to manipulate wood to an extent."
"These crystals really can do all that?"
"Yes, they can. However, when you first get it the ability won't be that advanced. You'll have to work on it and grow to be able to develop the power. If you can manipulate your Crystal's energy a certain way, sometimes you've got a move you execute. Some of our top paladin's have even named their strongest moves. And of course Mordokai has developed an ultimate technique for his crystal."
"Cool! Like what?"
"Well, he's the only one to have developed so far. Basically, his crystal grants him mastery over light itself. He can bend it and even make it solid at will. His ultimate technique is called the 'Sun Buster'."
Kurama seemed deep in thought. A smile was playing on his lips.
But even though he's the only one with an ultimate technique so far, I'm going to be the next one to do it. I know I will be the next paladin to develop my own Ultimate Technique with my crystal!"
"Really? What does your crystal do?"
Kurama pulled himself out of his train of thought.
"Later. We've been here for quite a while. They've probably delivered the food to our room."
At that moment, Viola's stomach growled loudly. She put her hand to her stomach and grinned at him embarrassed.
Uh, yeah... Alright.
And she followed Kurama out with one last backward glace at the room of crystals before the door shut.
A while later, they were entering their room. Two steaming plates lay on the desks with an assortment of meat and vegetables. Viola quickly dug into her meal, too hungry to talk further. The food was delicious, much better than anything she ever got at the orphanage. Finally, both plates were scraped clean and each of them leaned back in their chairs.
"Man, that was good."
"Yeah, the food is pretty good. Well, I think it would be best to get to bed. It's pretty dark out."
Viola looked out their window at the pattern of stairs all winking down at her. For the first time since entering, she was actually content. Then some movement to her right made her look around. Almost immediately she wished she didn't. Kurama was removing his shirt and was standing bare chested in the room. Viola instantly felt herself go red and look away hurriedly.
"W-What Are You Doing?!"
Kurama looked at the back of her head confused.
"Getting ready for bed."
"But... I'm Here!"
She called over her shoulder. She didn't want him to see her blushing brilliantly. She was sure she was brighter than the lighting candles.
Kurama still looked at her confused.
"So?! You're a guy! I'm a girl!"
"Mordokai told you, we're all equal here. We are not set by petty differences such as gender."
It was incredibly hard not to turn around as she yelled at him.
"The differences are still quite significant!"
Kurama sighed again.
"Fine. If you don't want to look, don't look."
Viola could still feel herself blushing as she heard him change behind her. She kept herself rigidly still, refusing to budge even an inch. Finally, Kurama called to her.
"Alright, I'm dressed now. You can turn around safely."
Slowly she turned her head and saw that he was dressed in pajamas. She sighed in relief and slumped down on her bed.
"So, are you going to change or sleep in that?"
Instantly, she blushed red again.
"N-No! I mean, not in front of you!"
Kurama rolled his eyes.
"You know, you should try and get use to this soon. You'll have to get into your armor tomorrow in the changing room."
"Well, that's different. At least I'll be surrounded only by other girls."
Kurama smiled and put a hand to his mouth trying to stop himself from chuckling. Viola glared at him suspiciously.
"What's so funny?"
"Well, there is only one changing room and its shared by everyone. Like I said before, gender is considered a petty difference here."
It took Viola a moment for this to sink in before she blushed even redder.
"You mean that...?!"
"Yup, there will be a lot of other boys than me there as well as the girls. You're going to have to get use to it."
Viola sat very still with her arms wrapped around her, her eyes were wide open with many different emotions running through her head. The most noticeable was shock, nervousness, and embarrassment.
"But if it really bothers you that much, I'll wait out in the hall for you to change. Just let me know when you're done."
Kurama grabbed a book from his desk and walked out of the room, closing the door with a snap.
It took Viola a minute to gather herself together, but finally she got up and quickly dressed herself. After finishing with the last button, she sat down on her bed and called out to Kurama.
"Okay. I-I'm done."
Kurama entered in.
"About time. I attracted some weird looks by others passing by. I just hope you get use to it before long."
"Don't count on it!"
For some reason she still couldn't look at him.
He climbed into his bed and blew the candles out.
"Good night, Viola."
Viola crawled slowly into her bed, raising the blankets over her.
"Good night... Kurama."
Silently, she looked back out at the sea of stars. She stared at them until she quietly fell asleep.