Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Eleven
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Imogen punched and clawed at the robed mage in a frenzied display of resolve and ferocity. Whatever they were doing, it was bad and she knew they must be stopped at all cost. And so she put her all in each strike, keeping in mind the other two that still need to be dealt with. Oh, just one now! Imogen cheered, amazed at Jory's awesome timing. It had been like that throughout this whole ordeal, she noticed; Jory always coming in to finish the bad guys off. His arrows always found their mark right on time! It didn't matter that one whizzed by her face and nicked the tip of her ear; in truth, she expected a lot worse when she realized she was putting herself within target range by tackling the mage.

A sudden flash of light from beside her stopped her onslaught. She braced herself for an attack that never came, pulling the mage up by their robes as she reflexively and unabashedly used them as a shield. Sorry, not sorry. When no fireballs or magic gusts of wind came flying at her, and no Dogberry warnings on top of it, Imogen took the chance to properly survey her surroundings. "Wait, what?"

Imogen gasped when she caught on, scandalized. "Your friend left you!" she told the now unconscious mage she still held by the collar. She had seen these men and women pillage and destroy a whole village, yet somehow it still shocked her to see them betraying one another without a second thought. "How mean! I know you guys are evil and all, but I thought you were at least nice to each other."

Professor Mik's anguished cry had her racing back to rejoin him and the others before she could fully process what was happening. From what she could see, Professor Euphie was badly hurt, although Clary had quickly swooped in to rescue her. She barely heard the call to charge, her blood pulsing too loudly in her ears as a surge of adrenaline carried her feet faster. Luckily, she'd had enough sense to pick her sword back up along the way. Was it strange that she seemed to function better when she was like this? She thought of nothing but the task at hand; keep Professor Euphie and the others safe by helping defeat this monster of a man.

Aubie was already mid-swing by the time she got close, and she spied Jory positioning himself for a shot. Imogen waited until both attacks landed before she rushed in, sliding low and behind the bandit to slice at his legs, hoping to fell him and leave him vulnerable on the ground in case he somehow withstood everyone else's assault.

After seeing what he was capable of, the thought hadn't seemed so impossible.
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Kellen did all he could to keep the air circulating through his lungs. He could feel the invisible hand tensed around his ribcage, ready to grip and force the air out the moment he let it. His eyes were darting about madly as he tried to maintain this discipline, and they landed up Imogen throwing her blade and proceeding to tackle one of the robed figures. The strength behind her punches made Kellen wince, and he was relieved when he saw arrows fly into the other standing mage, courtesy of Jorah and Kaira. As the final standing figure beat hasty retreat via a spell that almost made Kellen regret his lack of aptitude with the arcane, he recognized in a detached way that the tide was turning.

"Hold it together a little bit longer," Auberon said, facing the bandit. "I'll watch your back, but you have to calm down and watch your front too."

It wasn’t much, as far as comforting words went. But Kellen wasn’t used to much in the best of times, nor from the devout Galatea who, based on the sparse impression Kellen had formed of him, seemed more focused on heaven than earth. Kellen’s brow softened for a moment, and he let out a long shaky sigh.

“I’ll, umm. I can make it.” A bit of colour returned to his cheeks as his eyes set on their final obstacle. The Kalonic siblings struck the large bandit, one after the other. Kellen felt hope begin to grow as he realized that they might be able to take the bandit down on their own. But it was after Euphemia’s successful strike that the world seemed to tilt. As the bandit wrapped the fingers of one hand around the Golden Deer Professor’s neck, Kellen felt a familiar sense of warmth and weightlessness as the edges of objects began to blur. The cry of fear from Michail, who had otherwise seemed above the danger, only reinforced the sudden softness in Kellen’s knees. He could feel himself begin to buckle when he saw a rounded line of metal rise above Euphemia’s hand, and plunge itself into the arm of the bandit.

Not softly, she fell to the ground. Wounded, but not dead. Kellen felt his knees solidify. In the next 15 seconds, Kellen knew someone would die. He could almost guarantee it wouldn’t be him, if he stayed back. But it also raised the chances that it would be one of his classmates. He thumped his chest with a small fist, trying to regain some sense of warmth in his torso. With what remained of his willpower, he would keep himself together - for those 15 seconds.

As Auberon charged in, Kellen followed. His first thought was to try and extricate Euphemia, but he saw Clarissa had had the same thought and was far better equipped to tend to the professor. While the others sought to bring the brute down, looking for weak points in his admittedly failing armour, Kellen’s eyes never left the axe that had nearly bisected him. If allowed time to fully swing, Kellen wasn’t sure anyone, beyond the professors, would be able to parry the blow. As Auberon wound up to bring the man down, Kellen yelled out a curse and thrust his sword towards the uninjured arm of the bandit and the weapon he was wielding.
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by POOHEAD189
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Kayden might be Prince of the Empire, and he flaunted it when it suited him, but he was raised to lead men in battle. To face down an opponent and slay them, riding and charging from the front. The leader aspect might be for the professors here, and truth be told the other guild leaders had more loyalty from the other students than he. They had earned it and he didn't begrudge them. But he could still make good on the 'battle' aspect of his education prior to his schooling here, and Kayden Von Hresvelg was not going to sit by while the bandit leader was still up.

He charged forward to join the others despite the aches from exertion and the small stabs he felt as his clothing raked along the cuts he had received. The sensations of pain fell away when he saw Euphemia being grabbed the neck! It was as if the entirety of the students present received a boost from the Goddess with how they conducted themselves. She wasn't Kayden's professor, but he felt rage at the affront all the same.

Kayden saw Auberon rush in like a bull and Jorah loosed an arrow. Even students from behind the Bandit Leader appeared and attacked! The man was built like an armored carriage; they needed all the help they could get. He sprinted as fast as he could whilst still being in control of his sword, his adrenaline pumping, his heart beat roaring in his ears. Ignoring the wheeze of his breathing, he sidestepped Auberon and redirected his blade once he reached the leader.

"Die, fool!" He cried, his sword whipping in the air before he thrust it forward with all his strength. The Prince of the Empire attempted to shove his blade into the unprotected area below the armpit, now even further exposed from the strap of his armguard having been cut. He prayed to the Goddess this was enough to finally end the brute.
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Hero
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One mistake had spelled out the bandit's doom. The students didn't give him the time to dodge, let alone remove Euphemia's sword from his arm. Each hit connected, slowing him down further and further. His arm was forcibly removed, landing far from the fight and joined by blood as his wounds deepened. Whatever hope of escape evaporated as even his legs were hit, and he let out a howl of pain. Said howl, however, was cut off by the timely arrival of one arrow, piercing through his ear. There was something resembling shock on his face, the silence that followed whisked away as he fell to the ground with a mighty thud.

Michail remained ever at the ready, holding one arm out to signal the students to stop. He approached the body cautiously, waiting, but the behemoth would not rise. Even that didn't serve to relax him, especially as some movement caught his attention. Without hesitation, he changed the grip on his lance and immediately hurled it over to where the circle had been drawn; the mage that had fallen unconscious began to stir. As it landed next to him, the mage let out a gasp, though he outright screamed as Michail rushed at him.

Euphemia's coughing came to a stop thanks to Clarissa, the professor offering her a weary smile of gratitude, though as she looked over to Michail, she fumbled through her bag, getting to her feet. Before she could go, however, Tomai placed a hand on her shoulder, already carrying a rope--it looked like while everyone else was fighting he had decided to procure some.

The knight had all but jumped on the last mage, grabbing his arms and making sure he wouldn't escape. "Don-t--Don't kill me! Please!" The mage begged him.

"You should be thankful that Imogen didn't take your life. Otherwise, you'd be joining your allies," He stated as Tomai jogged over.

Together, the pair successfully bound the mage's arms and legs. Tomai looked around at the buildings, a majority of the flames gone. Homes had been destroyed, crops ruined, and lives lost. A few villagers poked their heads out as some of them carefully approached the group. He nudged Michail, who seemed to have the same thought in mind. It felt like a hollow victory, truth be told.

"People of Luin, listen now," Michail's voice easily carried itself around. "I am Michail Kalonic of the Knights of Seiros. Under the church's tenet, the Central Church will send aid to rebuild this village. For now, I highly urge that you gather what you can and return with us to Garreg Mach. If there are any injuries, we have healers that can help you. If there are horses and carriages available, I ask that you allow us to use them for now; I promise you will be compensated."

While no one dared move while he spoke, once he finished speaking, the villagers retreated, likely to take what they could from the ashes of our homes. A few men approached Michail with questions, though Tomai ended up fielding them, motioning for Michail to go. The blond appreciated it, leaving Tomai to it as he approached Euphemia, looking between her and Clarissa.

"I'm okay," Euphemia's voice was quiet but functional as she patted Clarissa's shoulder.

Michail gave Clarissa a grateful look before turning his attention to the rest of the class. His eyes flickered between them and the bodies surrounding them, their expressions, their clothes, their weapons. For a split second, the knight looked almost remorseful, but something seemed to change his mind.

Instead, he cleared his throat. "Well done, everyone," He told them. "If you're hurt or exhausted, rest up. Whoever is still able, we're going to go around and help where we can. There are still fires burning and people who may need to be transported over here so Kaira can heal them. We'll also need to go get the carriages and rearrange them in case more people need to be transported. So we'll do..." He looked between people, the gears in his brain turning.

"I'll go," Euphemia volunteered, looking around. "Jorah, Clarissa, I believe the two of you can ride, so come with me."

Kaira watched the scene unfold, though she looked over at Tomai. The conversation was deep, and knowing that both Michail and Euphemia had the students handled left her comfortable enough to leave them for the moment. To her surprise, the group around Tomai dispersed. She thought she had been mistaken, but his expression was much too serious for her to leave alone.

"Is everything alright?" She asked him, worried.

Tomai looked at her when addressed, taking a second to think. "The mages had come here before seeking shelter last night. The village welcomed them with open arms and were repaid for their kindness with the attack," He stated.

Kaira's hand flew to her mouth, eyes wide. "But...but why?" She asked.

Tomai shook his head. "I don't know. But I did think it was strange," He admitted. "They didn't come to plunder and steal, they came to destroy and cause chaos. Truth be told, I don't like the implications."

"The implications? You don't mean..."

"This wasn't some out-of-the-blue attack, this was a premeditated strike."

Kaira muttered a prayer under her breath, her hand on her chest as she looked around once more. To think this was planned was too much! What was an already dreadful atmosphere intensified, an uneasiness spreading through her. Tomai seemed to think the same, though he straightened up a touch as he walked past her, intending to join Michail.


Everything happened so quickly that it was hard to tell what just happened. The one thing that Veronica was absolutely certain of, however, was that she did not fall. No, tripping and stumbling was unbecoming of someone on her status, and Goddess knew how many lessons had been drilled into her head from the moment she could stand on her own to prevent such a thing. There was a remnant of an older woman's voice stating that it was her own fault, really; she should have reacted faster or she should have kept her mouth shut.

But no, she didn't do any of those things. She reacted like any normal human did when they were thrown. She yelped and tumbled and had subsequently frozen up as the masses through the fog revealed themselves to her. She raised a shaky arm as she noticed their weapons, a plea on the tip of her tongue as she shook her head. A million thoughts ran through her head, though they all shattered as the closest bandit grabbed her arm. She let out a shriek as she was pulled up, panic and desperation clashing.

One word was shouted from behind them, a wide magical rune forming on the ground. Magic shot upwards, slicing across Veronica's arm. The cry of pain was trapped in her throat as several more came upwards, and she was convinced that this was going to be how she died. The sound of magic piercing flesh was close, too close, and she let out a gasp as she backed up into an icicle. As quickly as they came, it stopped, the rune disappearing shortly after.

Slowly, the fog began to dissipate and reveal what was left. The bandits' corpses were now on display, skewered on several icicles that had burst out of the ground. Their crystalline blue was showered with their blood that poured downwards freely. One of them was still twitching, eyes wide until he, too, stopped moving. It was a gruesome sight, and it took Veronica far too long to remember herself. Her left hand touched her right arm and she winced, looking down at the gash. The shock was slowly starting to wear off as pain came in, her knees buckling as she sank down. She was so sure she was going to die, but as her surroundings came back to her, everything was replaced with anger.

With the fog gone, she could look at Lienna behind her with hatred in her eyes. She clutched her injured arm, the urge to shout rising, but yelling and screaming was not the way to go about this. For now, she would stand on shaky feet, her eyes locked on Lienna.

"I sincerely hope you don't come to regret your decision," She said.


Eighteenth Bell, 7th Day of the Great Tree Moon
A day had come and gone since the students' trip to Luin. They could not depart in the night and so were forced to wait until dawn until they were able to make a safe return. As it was the Goddess' day, they were allowed to rest and were commended for their bravery and service personally by Ioannis. While they were dismissed, however, the four professors had to answer to a summons where they were to give a report and an explanation was due. After all, they had never made it to the practice grounds, and some felt that the students had been placed in uneccesary danger.

And so Michail, Euphemia, Tomai, and Kaira stood before Ioannis in his office. The child sat and listened without uttering a word, his expression unreadable. To his left stood Sirius, to his right Lysander. Neither one of them seemed any happier, although where Lysander had more concern, Sirius had more anger.

"...and that would be all," Michail concluded retelling the events.

"'All', he says," Sirius couldn't help but scoff in disbelief. "Your decision put the students in unnecessary danger and in unneeded duress."

"It was not unnecessary," Michail disagreed. "Routing bandits is a common mission given to all who attend here. I distinctly recall helping villages myself when I came here many years ago."

"By order, yes," Lysander said, frowning. "But this was not the same. The school year has barely begun, and the first month is delegated to practice matches in order to prepare for the inevitable. You threw them to the bandits, Michail."

"I didn't throw them in. They volunteered."

"They didn't know what they were getting into," Sirius countered. "It's every boy's dream to pick up a blade until the time comes for actual bloodshed. Do you truly think they knew what they were getting into? You and I know battle, they do not."

"Everyone performed spectacularly," Euphemia spoke up. "With their help, the village was saved. There was no way Michail or any of us could have done it alone."

"Is that the justification for putting children in danger?" He asked.

"It isn't justification, it's an explanation," She told him. "The entire village would've been reduced to ashes. How would our Deer feel knowing that a village in their territory was attacked and we simply moved on?"

"The job should have been left to the knights," Lysander insisted.

"There wasn't time," Michail reminded him. "But if this is the issue you have, then I don't see why everyone else is here. I made the decision and gave the students a choice. If you're looking for someone to blame, then I'm right here."

"You all participated, you're all involved, even if you were the ringleader to this," Sirius replied. "Word about this has already spread as well. Count Gloucester has recalled Raimund Kent, and Lady Aegir did the same out of concern for her children. Your actions, while well-intended, had consequences and reflected poorly on the academy."

"Does it now?" Tomai asked. "Because taking in the refugees of a fallen village sounds like a nice public image if you ask me."

Tomai's response was met with a glare. Lysander let out a small sigh, looking down at Ioannis. "What do you think?" He asked him gently.

Ioannis sat up slightly when he was addressed, though he kept his eyes on the professors. For a second, he stared at Kaira, who had similarly neglected to speak. "Do you have anything to add?" He asked her.

Kaira was a little surprised by the question, taking a second to think. "...I understand that with hindsight, it was an impulsive decision. But...it was the right thing to do," She spoke slowly.

Ioannis nodded. "I agree. The concerns are valid, but at the end of the day, everyone came home in one piece. That leads me to believe that it was because the Goddess supported Michail's decision," He said, placing his hands on his lap. "Going forward, however, I urge caution. the academy works on donations, and we cannot afford to upset the nobility that supports it. Had anything happened to the Imperial Prince, I fear we would have had unnecessary turmoil in Adrestia."

Lysander listened carefully, nodding towards the end. "I think we should all remember we are not training soldiers. We are training commanders, leaders...and we mustn't do anything that could jeopardize them before they would grow into their roles. Keep this in mind, please," He urged Michail.

"I understand," Michail replied.

Ioannis let out a small sigh. "Then there is nothing more to discuss. You're all dismissed," He said, pushing back his chair to stand.

The professors filed out one by one, and Sirius accompanied Ioannis away to his next appointment. As the distance grew, Lysander turned to the four, a wary expression on his face. "Maybe I should make sure I'm always available to accompany you going forward,"

Michail tried not to roll his eyes, albeit he was still very, very annoyed. "Really now?" He asked. "I've lost all your trust already?"

"No, it's just..." Lysander tried to put the words together. "The withdrawals are more than we expected. The unit can still work, but..."

"But it interferes with whatever you and the archbishop are planning?" He asked, getting right to it. "You can be honest."

"Michail, please," Euphemia shot him a look.

Lysander sighed. "I do trust you, Michail. But I can't deny Sirius' worries," He told him. "But I'll drop it."

Tomai stifled a yawn. "Actually, I don't think we mentioned what the villagers recalled," He mused.

Now Michail had to roll his eyes. "No, but I did include that in my written report," He said. "We have reason to believe that the attack on Luin was planned. We aren't sure why, though."

Lysander crossed his arms, frowning. "Luin suffers from many bandit attacks. Their farmlands are plentiful, so it's a common target for plundering. But as you mentioned, the village was more or less destroyed," He thought out loud. "But why Luin? Why not Ide, who produces metal, or Thoda, the river town? With how close they were, even Garreg Mach could have been a more fruitful target."

"We couldn't think of any good reason," Euphemia said. "But I'm worried...they demolished half the town and had no other purpose but destruction. We found strange barrels with an unknown substance that they used to cause the explosion, but we have no idea where they came from."

Kaira looked to the window, worried. "It's unsettling, isn't it?"

"What do you mean?" Lysander asked.

"Either someone is content to cause needless destruction, or there's a greater purpose behind it," She explained, looking back at him.

A silence fell between the four of them afterward. None of them had anything that could dispute it, although the sound of the bells would end the conversation for them. It was late, and tomorrow was another day.
Thirteenth Bell, 8th Day of the Great Tree Moon
A gaggle of students gathered at the Entrance Hall, protesting as several knights had to clear the way. Michail had been on his way to the classroom when he noticed. He had to run back to his office to grab some papers that he had forgotten for the debrief and had everyone waiting for him. Well, he was already late anyway, he figured seeing what all the commotion was about wouldn't hurt. He stood taller than most of the students so it wasn't too hard to see over them, but he was surprised that all the hullabaloo was because of Ioannis. Not that the archbishop wasn't a big deal, but he thought people would be used to him.

However, the kid wasn't the only one drawing attention. A woman stood with him, tall and pale with a face blessed by the Goddess. Her green hair was covered by a veil, her eyes gentle as she spoke. After a few seconds, however, he realized who it was, hastily pushing past the students and ignoring their words.

He stopped before the pair, offering a salute. "Lady Arianthe, welcome back," He greeted her.

She gave him a warm smile. "Thank you, Michail. It's good to see you," She said.

Ioannis blinked up at Michail. "Um...aren't you supposed to be...?" He hesitated, clearly trying not to out him.

Right, right, he shouldn't have stopped. Still, as Arianthe chuckled, he figured she wouldn't hold it against him. "I did hear you volunteered to teach. Please, don't let me keep you. I'd be happy to see you later," She motioned for him to get going.

"I'm sorry. But I'll look for you," He promised, giving her a bow before turning his heel and speeding off. He had to dodge a few students, but he did make it to the classroom. The other professors and their bunch were already there, though he swore some bodies were missing. Wait, no, they did mention some students withdrew. For some reason, he didn't think it was true, but it couldn't be helped.

Throwing on a grin, he closed the door behind him. "Sorry I'm late, Lady Arianthe has returned to the church," He announced happily, walking to the front of the classroom.

Euphemia tapped Priscilla on the palm of her hand, unamused. "Honestly..." She sighed.

"Hey, don't worry, this'll be brief," He assured her, turning his attention to the class. "Good afternoon! Thanks for coming, I promise I won't keep you for too long since classes were already dismissed. Usually, after a mission, we get together to give feedback and debrief the situation. This time is a little different since our mission wasn't officially sanctioned by the Church, but it'll still give you a good idea on what to expect for the future."

He looked down at his notes, skimming his writing before he continued. "While we had only done drills earlier in the week, I'll say that as a whole, the group did fine. We had some coordination issues that I'll make sure to focus on in the future, but otherwise, it was fine," He said, approaching the board. "Next month, we'll do our practice match as it had been intended so we can see how your skills progress. By what most of you have now, though, I'll admit I'm looking forward to seeing more."

With chalk in hand, he wrote down three lines. "That said, there were three critical mistakes made that need addressing. First and foremost," He tapped the space next to the first line. "Don't rush in alone. You're not at the level where you can take down one opponent, let alone multiple. Keep that in mind." He looked over at Kayden, making sure he understood who his comment was directed at.

Not wanting to dwell on any one mistake, Michail continued, "Second, commit. Hesitation is what gets people killed," He stated it clearly, though he softened his glance when he looked at Kellen. "It's alright to be scared. But we can't let it paralyze us," He reprimanded him as gently as he could all things considered, though as he got to the third point, his face hardened considerably.

"Last but not least, don't overestimate your own abilities," He looked at Derec for this one. "Always assume your opponent is faster, stronger, and better. Isolde saved your life and ended up getting injured as a result. If it weren't for the fact that most of the bandits had been taken care of, you would've been responsible for not only your death, but hers as well."

His words were harsh, but the point had been made. Derec tore his gaze away from Michail, though he was too ashamed to look at Isolde. Michail exhaled, looking back at his papers as he took his place at the center of the room. "There's plenty of talent here. I want to recognize both Auberon and Jorah for their leadership and combat abilities. You're both in need of polish still, no doubt about it, but I was impressed. Overall the two of you did your parts well with axe and bow, and I have high expectations from the two of you going forward. The same goes for Clarissa--you worked tirelessly even after we said you needed not to do any more than was necessary, and I know for a fact Luin appreciates your services and sent a package to your room as thanks. You also have my own personal gratitude," He gave the three of them a nod. "Imogen, it's safe to say you prevented the second explosion, and I will definitely give the credit where it's due. The same goes for Kellen--it was only because the two of you went at the same time that Imogen was able to get through. Next time, you and Isolde will be with me in the front lines"

He let Imogen do her little cheer before he went on. "There's room for improvement for both men I haven't addressed, but I'll assume you two get the point. Skill-wise, you swing your weapons well and were fine until your mistakes were made," He looked at both Kayden and Derec, though he raised the papers in his hand and shook them. "Overall, that's it for me. If you have further questions, I'm happy to discuss them with you. Dismissed."

Tomai did a double take, standing up from his seat. "Michail," He called out. "The introduction."

"Introduction...?" Michail was confused for a second, though he remembered, snapping his fingers. "Oh, right, right. Some other news I almost forgot about--uh, unfortunately, Raimund, Valerian, and Saskia are no longer attending the academy. Though we do have a new student joining us...? Is he here?"

Tomai gave Michail an incredulous look, motioning to the student in question sitting towards the back. Michail followed his motion, looking back at him with a confused expression. There was a moment where Tomai looked like he was going to keel over from disbelief, but he composed himself. "Rudolf von Bergliez will be joining this unit," He stated, sitting back down.

"Oh. Oh! Yes, right, of course," He nodded. "Welcome aboard! Okay, now everyone's dismissed!"


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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Scribe of Thoth
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When Rudolf had first received the missive that he'd be transferring into the unit personally selected by the Archbishop, he'd assumed it was a joke. When Professor Malathice had reiterated the statement to him in person, he'd prayed it was a joke. Things were going so well; he was pretty sure no one had even learned his name yet, and then, somehow, he was thrust into the top class at the academy. He hadn't even done anything yet! His performance in training couldn't possibly have warranted his placement in a more advanced class; he did horribly! Okay, so maybe he vaporized that hay bale with a target painted on it, but anyone could've done that. Besides, that guy from the ass-end of Ochs territory kept knocking him over, and that should've been proof enough he was an incompetent one trick pony.

And yet, here he was, seated in the midst of a group - with the future emperor - that had already saved an entire village of people from demonic beasts, if the rumor mill was to be believed. Or maybe they said it was a guy that looked like a demonic beast? He wasn't really listening when he heard those Leicester students talk about it in the courtyard earlier. Though, with the way the blond professor talked, Rudolf wasn't certain that the rumors hadn't underestimated the situation for once. Explosions? Seriously? Whole villages had sent gifts to some of the students here for their heroic actions and the faculty thought the runt of House Bergliez would fit in? Why did this always happen? Couldn't they just pay attention to him?! At least this guy seemed to take his appraisal of the students seriously. With luck, he'd send Rudolf packing just like Raymond and Valerica or whoever he was just talking about.

His hopes were dashed mere seconds later when Michail revealed he had no clue Rudolf was even in the room. Of course. As usual, the boy would skirt by on failure and be praised for it.

"Um. Hello," Rudolf finally spoke up as he was introduced, rising from his seat to help gather everyone's attention. He figured they'd never spot him if he sat there quietly like he'd wanted to. His eyes flitted about the room as he gave the class a few seconds to locate him just in case - he'd need it to gather his thoughts anyway. Guilt stabbed deep into his gut as some of the gazes around him shifted from unfocused curiosity to actually seeing him. He shouldn't be here. They'd depend on him to back them up in whatever dangerous escapades this class was evidently thrusted into, and all he'd be able to do is cower like an idiot. Then they'd even pat him on the back as they died in front of him because he couldn't support them.

"You guys are... uh, sorry. First of all, it's nice to meet you." Public speaking was never his strong suit. His voice was too soft, his eyes always drifted down to his feet rather than out at his audience, and his posture was improper and reserved. No one ever noticed that last part. They always assumed it was the very image of military discipline; after all, they hadn't seen anything to the contrary, and how else would Count Bergliez's eldest son stand? "I don't know if you heard yet, but everyone's talking about your mission the other day. You guys sound really impressive. I don't really know if I can live up to that standard, if even half of the rumors are true, but..." Rudolf's voice trailed off as he stared cluelessly at the table in front of him. Idiot. That tutor that called him a genius should've been fired. "Um, I forgot where I was going with that."

Rudolf paused to collect his thoughts awkwardly, and though he opened his mouth once or twice as if he intended to continue, no words ever came. He eventually just bowed his head and returned to his seat wordlessly.



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Achronum The Pyro

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It was rare Clarissa faced a bout of restlessness she couldn’t overcome but when they’d been summoned to a meeting after classes were dismissed, she found herself letting out an irritable sigh. Her father’s letter weighed heavily on her mind even after her conversation with Auberon this morning; despite the fact they concurred that they were clearly more than ordinary bandits, Clarissa still found that the idea of an organization operating against one of the most influential and well protected institutions in modern history with little knowledge of who they were unnerving. The strategy was straight forward for all intensive purposes but that wasn’t what concerned her. Rather, she was more concerned about the depths of the atrocity they were willing to commit and the amount of resources they were capable of putting into it. Bandits or not, that kind of muscle wouldn’t have been cheap and the magic they’d employed even caught their professors off guard. And that was only half the attack. They still had the resources remaining to launch a secondary move against the Eastern Church all while they’d been handling the assault on Luin, under the noses of the Roundtable no less. What an embarrassment.

Finally, Michail burst into the classroom. Thank the Goddess because all Clarissa wanted to do was bolt out of here, change into riding clothes, and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the land around Garreg Mach. Of course, his excuse quickly caught her attention. Lady Arainthe Styliano, the former second in command of the Church of Serios, was an instrumental figure to the stability of the Church following Archbishop Ascelpius’ death. In Clarissas’ part of the world, there was little to no information on her; apparently she was quite reserved and preferred to work behind the scenes rather than standing in the limelight. She did know that many people called for her to take up the mantle for the next Archbishop but she declined in favor of respecting Archbishop Ascelpius’ request. The restlessness shifted and Clarissa now had a new goal. She had a mile long list of questions for the woman, from the finer points of organizational management to more personal things of her life and how she found herself in her position all the way from the western church. Of course, she’d have to be more careful considering the Lady preferred her privacy but surely she could…

Clarissa shook her head, turning her attention back to Michail as he brought up their activity at Luin. She was grateful his first point was the suicide heroics the Prince had pulled, resisting the urge to send him a pointed look. The less their supporting soldiers had to rush into the thick of it, the better the entire Unit’s survivability became. Clarissa could barely hold back a shiver when she remembered that monster of a man wielding an axe with such deadly precision and speed. She kept the point in mind. She hadn’t necessarily hesitated but she had been overwhelmed at one point. She would have to make sure she kept her focus through the battle. Maybe that was something she could discuss with Euphemia later. She made a note of that one the parchment she’d been writing notes on, circling it for good measure. She nodded as Michail continued. Even if these points weren’t specifically for her, it was better to use her comrades’ failures as a lesson to improve herself.

It took everything in Clarissa not to laugh when Michail commended Jorah on his leadership abilities. She hadn’t any doubt that if he actually put effort into it, he’d excel in any leadership position much like he does with any task he sets his mind to but the simple fact of the matter was Jorah ran from the idea of responsibility and leadership as much as he could and it absolutely tickled her that once again, Jorah found himself in a position that his natural abilities shone through brighter than he’d care to admit. She managed to keep a straight face but her shoulders shook in silent laughter.

Her mirth vanished quickly as her name was called and she found herself under Michail’s scrutiny. She blinked at his feedback, eyes mistier than she cared to admit. No matter what she’d been told, the Goddess would never witness Clarissa’s back turned to those suffering if she could help them. The poor villagers, innocents in the dark designs of a larger evil, deserved more than what the world could offer in recompense and if what little aid she could offer was enough to provide some succor to them, then she would offer it until she collapsed. She didn’t feel she deserved thanks for offering what any soul with the tiniest ounce of compassion would have but whatever they’d gifted her, she’d thank them and remember why she was here-to create a world where tragedies like this never happened.

At the news of Raimund leaving, she frowned. What a sudden change in decisions. Perhaps the original reason for his living with the Gloucesters was finally coming to fruition or perhaps something had happened at home in response to the recent attack. Still, she couldn’t say he was heartbroken. Raimund had always left her on edge and frankly, she thought of him as a poor influence on Jorah. Jorah by himself was a handful but reasonable. Jorah and Raimund together? Clarissa could scarcely believe the trouble the pair could get into. Jorah would be sad to see his friend go, considering how long they were forced apart, but Clarissa sincerely believed that was for the better. Raimund was a distraction more than anything.

She was confused with the introduction of a newcomer. Usually, she made it a point to mark new faces in a crowd, draw connections and relations before they even spoke, but she hadn’t noticed anyone new in the classroom. Only the few absent faces but other than that―

She startled as a boy made himself known, a quiet, timid thing, in the back of the classroom. If she hadn’t known better, she’d have claimed he’d materialized out of thin air but that’d be ludicrous. She clearly only overlooked him and there was no reason for her to have not to. His eyes were fixed firmly on the ground and she was practically straining to hear him. Much in the suit of the two nobles who left, this was another weak willed noble, without a backbone nor conviction to see himself through the end of a heated discussion, much less a battle. From what they’d encountered thus far, Clarissa was developing legitimate and sincere concerns about the future of the empire. How did they believe they would keep order with leaders who were barely able to keep themselves alive, much less hundred of thousands of others?

But she supposed that none of that was her concern.

“Jorah,” She turned to her friend as Michail officially dismissed the class. “Do you have anything planned for a little later this afternoon? I thought a ride might be a nice way to clear my head and get to know the area around Garreg Mach a bit. I have to discuss something with Professor Euphemia first and I have to get changed so you’d have sometime before we set out. I just need a brief change of pace before we get back into the swing of warfare and studies.”
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The time after the giant fell crawled slowly. Fueled by the adrenaline and indignation of battle, Jorah’s first instinct was to march over to Kayden and punch him in the jaw for his tomfoolery on the backlines; fortunately for both of them, Euphemia tore him away before he got the chance, leaving him fuming in the saddle of a horse, rounding up carriages. But too soon the anger faded, and in crept… no. It wasn’t as gentle as creeping. As soon as the last red haze of battle cleared away, it was like Jorah was thrown into an icy lake, submerged and drowning in the heart-rending grief and sorrow of a village destroyed. People crying out over burning homes, livelihoods ruined, and loved ones taken too soon, or worse, those who stayed like statues as they steeped in hopeless grief—so tightly did the icy fingers of abject sorrow grip his chest, it was a miracle Jorah could draw breath at all.

The eventual trip back to Garreg Mach was no better. The desperate cries of upended souls might have been muffled in the shelter of a separate carriage, but they weren’t gone—and that was to say nothing of the somber mood inside the carriages themselves. Happening upon a gruesome garden of impaled bandits back at the caravan did nobody any good either, and for the first time, Jorah spent a carriage ride in silence. There were no songs, no off-colour jokes to lighten the mood, not even a hushed conversation with Clarissa; hells, in the hours they rocked and reeled back to the mountains, it was all he could do to keep his lips from quivering.

He thought—and hoped—that things would get better when they got back. With the displaced villagers dispersed around the monastery instead of all clumped together, Jorah thought their grief would lose its volume, and he could find refuge in some distant corner of the Monastery (or better yet, a seat in an alehouse in the attached village), to cleanse their sadness from his mind. It was borrowed, after all; their plight was tragic, but he’d lost nothing in the blaze—though not for Kayden’s lack of trying. But it was no use. Even in the midst of evening merriment at a nearby tavern, regaling war stories to a pretty girl on his knee, the drunken happiness of others couldn’t quite permeate his gloom. His mind was stuck in a deep, dark rut, and if drink and songs couldn’t get him out of it, he wasn’t sure what could.

An after-class meeting was just as well; the sleepy auras of bored classmates were a better alternative to steeping in cold gloom somewhere else on Monastery grounds, and Jorah had little energy for troublemaking. But he wasn’t exactly the most attentive student. He vaguely heard Michail’s tepid admonishment of Kayden’s recklessness—and his baffling recognition of him of all people—but it was far away. He didn’t even think to joke about the impending doom of the Alliance if Duke Riegan heard his son was being leaderly. He barely heard Clarissa get the recognition she deserved.

The thing that had his attention instead was the scab on his cheek, where that one bandit’s arrow had grazed him. That was what his thoughts always seemed to wander back to, and his fingers as well; whenever he caught himself brooding, he always found himself touching that mark, running his fingertips over the rough line that miraculously wasn’t a hole through his neck. Kaira had offered to finish healing it, and Clarissa after her, but he’d refused both times. “Ladies love battle scars” was his excuse but in truth, he wasn’t sure why he kept it. Maybe it would make good proof to his father that Jorah von Riegan wasn’t fit for leadership; maybe it was just a reminder that he escaped death by luck and the grace of the Goddess alone.

Yeah, some leader. And now Michail had “high expectations” of him. What a joke. It was a miracle that whoever was dumb enough to put him in charge didn’t have Golden Deer blood on their hands.

Jorah was bitter by the time the meeting drew to a close, shooting the new boy a harsher look than he meant—once he managed to find the kid, anyway. Cethleann’s tits, this one looked even more a mess than Kevin. It would be a wonder if Kayden didn’t trample him underfoot by accident, boar that he was.

Before Jorah’s mind could descend back into the spiteful depths he’d been swimming since Luin, Clarissa’s voice pulled him back to the surface, proposing an afternoon ride. He had to grin; just like Delia, Clarissa always seemed to know what he needed, even when he didn’t. A somber thought crossed his mind that he’d miss her when he was gone, but that was a conversation for later.

“Yeah, of course. That sounds good,” he agreed clumsily, feigning his usual, carefree self. Probably to no avail; Clarissa always saw right through him. “I’ll swipe some dinner from the dining hall and meet you at the stables later.”

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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Scribe of Thoth
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Auberon didn't like the somber atmosphere that still clung to the class. He was guilty of it himself, in part, but the sight of it in others left him uneasy. It wasn't solemn determination that arose from tragedy yet, it was the uncomfortable silence of people troubled and in pain, and the debriefing that Michail seemed intent on hosting would only serve to rip open wounds that hadn't quite healed yet. Still, it was something they needed to hear if they wanted to improve.

Auberon listened intently to the professor's assessment of the class, sure to note every flaw and whether or not he had noticed it himself. Kayden was perhaps a more valiant man, or maybe a more stupid man, than he thought, if the prince had been willing to throw himself in the middle of several opponents at once. Kellen's internal conflict was an obvious liability, but it probably would've elicited more annoyance than sympathy from Auberon had it actually resulted in consequences back in the village. He made sure to nudge the boy's arm reassuringly as Michail singled him out regardless.

Derec's mistake was one the blond had both witnessed and failed to register. Sure, obviously anyone who had been tossed through a wall like a toy had to have done something wrong, but his moves seemed reasonable and sane at the time. If folly lied in the assumption his opponent was a mere mortal and not some wicked demon set upon them, Auberon personally found it understandable. The lesson Michail had used the redhead to illustrate was important, though, so perhaps that explained the gravity.

He was in the midst of patting Derec's shoulder for encouragement - Saint Cichol above, he might become a hugger if this continued long enough - when Michail commended him and Jorah of all people. Auberon knew he was impressive, the adjective was practically written in his blood, but every time he played that sequence in Luin over again in his head, he found his performance merely satisfactory. He never would've beaten that brute in a fight, but his pride wouldn't allow him to do something productive instead. In the end, he didn't help those people enough, and that wouldn't stand.

The announcement of a new student broke his ruminations, a reminder that replaying the event in his head wouldn't be any more productive now than it had been the night before. The Galatea heir twisted himself in his chair to get a good look at the new Eagle, though he couldn't say he ever accomplished that. His eyes swept over the nondescript figure that stood over a desk in the rear at least twice before his brain registered even a single facet of the kid's appearance. The newcomer was a pale, waifish boy that barely looked big enough for the amice around his shoulders that he seemed to cower under. House Bergliez sounded more impressive in the storybooks, all things considered; Auberon would've figured he'd been fished out of some gutter rather than a prominent Imperial line. All they needed was a soft-spoken Goneril and the Rose Unit would have a complete trifecta of failed sons from renowned military families. The blond's eyes trailed away from Rudolf and over to Kellen. He liked his failure better, most importantly because Kellen never actually felt like a failure when Auberon spoke to him. On the other hand, the Adrestian oozed 'pathetic' from every pore; he'd have to rib Kayden about that sometime.

As he returned his gaze to the front of the room, Auberon's thoughts returned in force. Three Deer receiving praise while his two Lions were criticized didn't sit right with Auberon, even if he couldn't find any flaw in Michail's assessment. He likely would've said something similar if they'd asked him, and the harshness toward Derec might've been out of place, but not unwarranted. Worst of all, Auberon didn't even have anyone to be angry at. Sure, his housemates' failings sounded bad on paper, but back in Luin he didn't see grievous flaws, just simple mistakes anyone could've made. Perhaps the blame lied in himself; he couldn't even get Lienna to go, let alone keep them all in formation once they got there.

The Goddess would see him through, as always, but the period of uncertainty that preceded it was always a difficult tonic to swallow.

"We should train together sometime this week," Auberon announced to the other Lions, "Can't let the Golden Deer outperform us this early." That didn't sound as encouraging as he'd meant it. Actually, it sort of sounded like chastisement. The blond's mouth parted to clarify the statement, though words never came. He had no inspirational speech prepared, no assurances of comfort or support, no way to transform the formless sentiments in his head into concrete language. If he just fumbled his way through it, he'd probably end up sounding like that Adrestian kid just did and accomplish nothing anyway.




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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Obscene Symphony
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The rest of the day after the fog cleared was less eventful than Lienna expected. Veronica was full of piss, vinegar, and ominous warnings, sure, but “I hope you don’t come to regret your decision” wasn’t much of a threat when she was already feeling pretty good about how things turned out. The fog cleared to reveal four very unlucky bandits and an angry, but very much alive princess: all things considered, things worked out better than Lienna expected.

The others were shocked at the sight, as one would expect, but aside from a suspiciously short line of questioning from Michail, nobody really had much to say on the matter. All the better—Lienna wasn’t interested in talking about it. Besides, with the entire class somehow limping back in one piece, and with scores of displaced villagers in tow, there seemed to be bigger fish to fry than the quick and unceremonious burial of a few impaled bandits.

But even as they got back to the Monastery and she watched half her classmates shuffle around like ghosts, what confused Lienna was how ordinary everything felt. Sure, the bodies were a disturbing sight, and she’d confess some weakness in the knees after fighting for her life, but it didn’t feel… life-changing. Not the way the realities of bloodshed seemed to hit her classmates, anyway. Could it be that she really was just, tragically, used to it? It wasn’t like she’d ever taken up a place on the front lines, but even the semi-annual raids in Hima, which brought with them fire, death, and destruction, eventually felt routine. Everyone knew what to do: grab your children, run for the forest, try not to be found, and scrape together whatever was left in the morning. The terror in the moment never faded, sure, but the aftermath was simply not extraordinary.

It seemed dark, but Lienna supposed this might be the same. All that really changed was the change of scenery in her dreams, from frozen forests with the glow of fire on her back to idyllic fields marred with blood and ice. She still woke up panting, but that was already routine. Why taking four lives didn’t astonish her more was a heavier consideration than she was interested in getting into, but she decided she’d chalk it up to that lifetime of exposure to violence and the satisfaction of finally holding her ground. It was them or her, after all; she won, she’d earned the right to go on and prosper. Why should she suffer a weight on her conscience when she simply did what was in her best interest?

That’s what she would tell herself, at least.

For better or worse, she got plenty of time to mull over it. Most of her classes were droned out of books she couldn’t parse and filled with classmates who stared into the distance, pallid and still, paying as little attention as she did, so there didn’t seem to be much expectation for her to listen. Hmpf. The “Heroes of Luin” (she didn’t miss the baskets outside the other students’ doors) seemed to finally appreciate the meaning of battle, at least. Still, she was eager to get that day behind her, if only to clear the endless, tedious loop of wondering in her head. At the very least, the day brought a few new things to wonder over: For one, Lienna stepped out of her room that morning to find a letter bearing Count Francis’ seal. Unfortunately her fiancé had written it in that illegible loopy style the nobles had, but it looked like a matter of some importance; her guess was further justified when Auberon approached her later in the day, “asking” her to meet him to talk about some topic he’d only divulge as “politics”. Maybe the Queen chose a new national flower or something; that seemed like something patriotic and inane enough to get Auberon’s feathers ruffled.

A Rose Unit meeting to debrief the battle seemed like an appropriately uninteresting end to an inappropriately uninteresting day. With no frame of reference, most of what was said went far over Lienna’s head, although she did concede an inward groan at Auberon’s recognition. Just what he needed, a further inflated head. The withdrawal of some students she couldn’t remember was as unsurprising as everything else had been thus far, though the introduction of a new addition to the Unit was interesting, although if the “von” in the new kid’s name denoted Imperial heritage rather than Leicesterian, Lienna suspected the two might not get along. Hells, she half-expected Veronica to rally the Black Eagles as a whole against her. Of course, she was hardly intimidated; doubly so when the new boy revealed himself to be so insignificant looking the eye practically slid over him.

Lienna was impatiently waiting for the meeting to come to an end when Auberon turned around and addressed the Lions, her brow raising in response. “Can’t let the Deer outperform us”? She had to wonder if he hadn’t laid eyes on her garden of bodies when he got back after the battle. It had been totally unexpected, sure, but performance was performance, wasn’t it? Or perhaps he was just insecure that he was the only Lion applauded and the other two scolded in the debrief.

“Fine,” she tepidly agreed, leaning an elbow on the desk in front of her. “But don’t bother coming to get me for another ‘sunrise spar’.” She just barely resisted rolling her eyes.

Across the room, Tomai looked over at Veronica, who was looking right at him. Letting out a sigh, he stood from his seat with a book in hand. He mechanically walked over to Lienna, knocking on the wood of the desk to catch her attention.

“We need to talk. Come,” He stated simply, taking off as quickly as he came.


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The bandit attack, its aftermath, and the slow ride became a jumbled chain of events in her head, one moment bleeding into the next to form one impossibly long day. After the behemoth of a man fell and they were certain the village was finally safe, Imogen had spent the remaining time in Luin running about what was left of the town, helping where she could. There were fires to put out and crying children to console and reunite with their parents. There were injured villagers that needed help getting to Kai or Clary and so much debris to clean up. There were people to bury. So many things to do, so little time. Imogen didn't stop milling about until they had to leave the next morning.

Sleep had been a stranger to her since, but not because she had been haunted by the blood of their slain enemies or anything dramatic like that. In truth, Imogen barely gave it more than a passing thought—a detached "oh, I killed someone the other day" and then a reluctant acceptance of her sullied hands. Even she could understand that battles had casualties; Caius' stories had prepared her for that.

What kept her up at night was a restlessness that gnawed at her gut. A seed of awareness planted after witnessing the aftermath of a bandit attack first-hand, slowly sprouting into a relentless itch to just! do! something! It made her fingers drum impatiently upon tabletops and her legs bounce whenever she sat for too long. She could hardly pay attention in class—not that she was ever fully paid attention to them in the first place, but that was beside the point. In her daydreams, which came more frequently than usual, Imogen thought of other villages in need of saving and how she wished she could help them all. What if those villages get attacked by a scary giant man, too? What if no one was there to stop the mages from exploding everyone in time? Even Caius, so far away from them, wrote to her about similar concerns.

Imogen paced about the classroom as she waited for Professor Mik, eager to find out what their after-class meeting was about. She hoped they would be given another mission, or really, just anything to do. More training sessions, maybe? Instead, the meeting turned out to be nothing more than a debriefing, where Professor Mik pointed out what worked well and what didn't during the bandit attack. Aubie and Jory and got their well-deserved praises and Imogen cheered for them—she already knew from the get-go that Jory was awesome, he was their Deer Boss, after all. But seeing Aubie on the field reshaped her image of him: from Mr. Holy Stick up his Butt to a kickass warrior with hilarious trash-talking skills.

Clary was basically a literal saint, Imogen thought, feeling proud by proxy. Deer power, yeah!

"Me too? Yay!" Imogen beamed upon getting recognition and reached out to give Kel a high-five for his assist. "Dogberry says we could have died in that explosion so I'm glad we didn't."

The news of Rai-Rai and the (not?) twins leaving would have hit Imogen harder if it wasn't for the surprise introduction of a Rudy ham Burger. Imogen did a double-take as the person in question made himself known, seemingly materializing out of nowhere. "Wow, how'd you do that? You were like a ghost!" Imogen blurted out. Then she realized that might have been rude, so she added, "Oh, and welcome to the team! Don't let Aubie intimidate you—he's actually pretty funny!"

As soon as they were dismissed, Clary approached her and Iz, asking to meet up later that day. Imogen, excitable as always, accepted for both of them. See that? Literal saint. It was like Clary knew she could use some company to stave off her restlessness. "We'd love to, right, Iz? See you in a bit!"

For now, Imogen ran off to the stables. She learned from Iz that it was a good place to volunteer her services, and she needed to feel useful right about now.
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With the class dissipating, Jorah decided he’d make himself scarce for a while until meeting up with Clarissa later, offering some nondescript farewell and slipping out of the classroom. The afternoon sun did uncharacteristically little to lighten his mood, and while he didn’t usually mind wandering aimlessly in search of entertainment, he wasn’t used to being so bothered by it. Leaning on a pillar, he glanced around the courtyard and adjoining corridors for anything to take his mind off the increasingly annoying mire raging in the back of his head. There was a bit of a commotion going on not too far off; maybe he could go find whatever that was? The excitement of some students that hadn’t just limped back from battle might lift his spirits again, and he figured it was probably better than waiting around near the Rose Unit classrooms - after all, he was pretty sure if he saw Kayden again before he managed to cool off, it wouldn’t end well for either of them, and he’d already marked his face up enough already.

“I hear Lady Arianthe’s at the cathedral! We should hurry!”

Kaira watched the pair of students hurriedly run by, her eyes following them until they landed on the church. Her hand reached up and touched her ribbon, holding it nervously. After a few seconds, she dropped her hand, intent on getting as far away from the church as possible. Maybe she could retreat to the marketplace or the greenhouse? Anywhere was fine, she just needed to go before any of the clergy came looking for her.

As the thought crossed her mind, Jorah entered her peripheral vision. Despite her initial hesitance, she ended up approaching him. “Hey—ah, hello, I…” She stumbled over her words, unable to form a sentence until she managed to get something cohesive out. “Are you headed somewhere?”

As he pondered over his plans, Jorah suddenly felt the storm inside him start to ebb away, an unnaturally still—yet not unwelcome—calm creeping in to take its place. No sooner did he notice the feeling than Kaira spoke up, the poorly-contained look of worry on her face clashing queerly with the almost oppressively neutral tone of her aura. Jorah couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at the shocking contrast; Kaira’s calming aura had been a Saintsend in Luin, but it was beginning to occur to him that the extent to which it stretched was just downright odd.

He remembered himself soon after, calmed enough from his former tumult to offer a charming grin. Conflicted, confused, or otherwise, it would never do to show his bad side to a lady—and he did like a mysterious woman. “Aside from wherever you’re headed?” he replied smoothly, placing a hand on his hip. So much for finding the source of the commotion, but he was pretty sure a stroll with Kaira would be a much better use of his time.






Tomai’s office looked more like a miniature library than anything. While one bookshelf matched the desk and was filled to the brim with a myriad of textbooks, the other two looked as if they had been brought in and crammed into the corner, made of a much sturdier wood to hold the impressive amount of bound papers. Said desk was also littered with an assortment of books and loose pages—if they were organized, Lienna wouldn’t be able to tell.

The man walked straight to the middle of the room and stopped in front of a circle on the floor. He looked back at Lienna for a second, gesturing to her to follow.

“This is called a Hanneman device—you hold your hand over it and then it shows you your Crest. Like so,” He explained as he held his hand over it. The shadow of said hand glowed for a moment, and with a flash, the Crest of Lamine appeared above.



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Derec watched as several members of the clergy came this way and that, speaking to one another in hushed voices. Occasionally, a knight would stop to ask why he was waiting outside of Professor Michail's office, giving little more than a hum of approval once he explained himself. Now that he thought about it, the church got awfully busy once classes were dismissed. He heard some students make plans about visiting, but he wasn't too sure why.

As another knight stopped before him, he straightened up, though this time the guy wasn't there to ask him any questions. There were several knights lined up and saluting, the movement in the hallway ceasing until he saw the woman clad in white at the end of the hallway. Archbishop Ioannis walked with her, pensive, though he seemed to brighten up. She was clearly hanging on every word, her features gentle and otherwordly. He had no idea who she was, though she must have been someone important for the knights to act the way they were.

All except one knight dispersed, though he moved to join another at the door as Professor Michail and Professor Simeon came up the stairs. He couldn't tell what they were talking about, but they bid each other farewell and separated--she went into the same room as the Archbishop and his guest, and Michail stopped in front of him.

"Sorry for the wait, I had to slip in with Kaira just so I could get here," He said, chuckling as he unlocked his office. "This place goes crazy whenever Lady Arianthe visits."

"Lady Arianthe?" Derec asked, following Michail inside. "Lord Ascelipus' former assistant? I thought she was helping the Western Church."

"She was, and she'll probably head back once she finishes her business here," He said, looking around. "Hm. I should...tidy up for the future."

It wasn't necessarily that the office was messy, but if Michail got rid of the armor and weapon display, it probably wouldn't feel so crowded. That said, the mountain of paperwork on one side of the desk didn't help things. Of course, there was a weird thought in the back of his head that Michail had set things up this way on purpose--some of those lances looked very, very intimidating, but judging by the professor not really giving them any attention, it was unfounded. Or at least, he hoped so.

Derec shook those thoughts out of his head, clearing his throat. "So...I was told that if I should encounter any trouble that I should go to you, but..." He trailed off for a second, thinking of the best way to say it, but ultimately deciding that he should get to it. "...I don't think you like me very much."

To his surprise, Michail outright laughed, crossing his arms. "I am the head of the Blue Lions," He said. "Though, I'm guessing you're referring to what Duke Charon told you."

Derec nodded. "Yes, he did. But...how can I turn to you if you don't really care for me?" He asked.

"I'm a professional, kid. If it's my job, then I'll give it my full effort," Michail stated. "So no, I won't look the other way if you're in danger, nor will I let any assassins get to you. I even went out of my way to get Theo to use his connections to make sure you're safe at all times."

That didn't do much to assure him, though Derec did notice he didn't address the other thing he said. "And you hate me because...of the claim?" He guessed.

"If I hated you, don't you think I would've exposed you from the start?" Michail replied with a question of his own. "With the exception of a handful of people, all that anyone knows is that you're here due to a sponsership from a noble. I couldn't do much about your unit assignment, but considering you have a Galatea, a Fraldarius, and a future Gautier, I think I made the right call. Or do you disagree?"

"As you said, you're a professional. You know how to separate your work from your personal feelings, even if you glare at me like I killed your father or something," Derec wasn't buying it. "I'd like to know. Is it the claim? Though I haven't heard of a House Kalonic taking any sides, unlike the other counts and dukes."

"Baron Eddard Kalonic is a minor lord in Charon territory. He isn't really anyone of importance, no--but Leon Charon is," Michail sighed. "I'm not really sure how much he's told you or what he did to get you on his side, but I recommend taking anything he says with a grain of salt."

"So your beef is with him, not me. But considering he's one of my biggest supporters...I didn't think you were so petty," Derec returned Michail's sigh with one of his own. "Here I thought it was something else. Still, whatever issues you have with him, they have nothing to do with me."

"Actually, it has less to do with pettiness and more concern for my country," Michail replied sharply.

Derec somehow stood his ground--though he wasn't sure why. "You're a Knight of Seiros, doesn't that mean you gave up whatever titles and the like back in Faerghus?" He frowned. "I don't understand."

Michail paused a moment to rub his temple. "...You know, I was under the assumption that Duke Charon had you under his thumb," He muttered. "Even though I've joined the church, that doesn't mean that I don't care about what happens to my country. You've uprooted the lives of the royal family, of all the lords--of the entire country. Do you really think making a claim wouldn't earn any resentment?"

For once, Derec was silent. Michail was actually right about that, actually--he really didn't think of how it would affect anyone. It was selfish, but at the time, nothing else really mattered. He had nowhere to go or anyone to turn to. It was sheer coincidence that Duke Charon had been visiting that small church and had bore witness to the reveal of his Crest. The rest happened so quickly that he never did stop to think of how his actions would impact anyone.

"...even so...I'm here," Derec said slowly. "I'm not going to apologize for existing, so...if it's at all possible, I'd like it if we could have a truce. Just until the end of this year. Then, after that, you can keep on hating me."

Michail tapped his fingers against his arm, staring at Derec. "It depends. What has Leon said to you about me?"

That was a weird question, but Derec didn't see the harm in saying it. "That despite being a knight, you're indebted to him, so you'd help me out if I ever needed it," He paused. Now that he thought about it, the duke never said why he was indebted. Maybe that's why he was so hostile? He wished he hadn't made the revelation right there and then, but it couldn't be helped. "...if that isn't the case, then that's fine."

Michail stared at Derec, though for once, his expression was blank. Derec couldn't tell if he said the right or wrong thing, and for a second he was a little worried. Okay, a lot worried. But as he uncrossed his arms, Derec noticed Michail looked warier than anything. Whatever Duke Charon had on him must have been bad.

"As I said, I'm a professional. You're safe with me, and I won't be turning my back on you anytime soon," Michail broke the silence. "That said, I recommend keeping your wits about you when it comes to him. He never sticks his neck out for anyone if it doesn't benefit him in some way. And all things considered, you have a lot to offer."

That was a fair enough statement. Derec nodded, scratching the back of his head. "I'd also like to go over the fight in Luin--if you don't mind," He added, realizing the conversation was impossible to gauge.

Michail motioned to the chair, walking around his desk. "Sit down, I'll see what I wrote so we can go through the details," He plopped down in his seat, taking a second to shift through the many, many papers. "...uh, actually, I remember most of it. We'll start with form--it seemed alright, but I got the impression you're self-taught. I'll make sure to take you back a step to make sure your grip and the like are better."
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Seventh Bell, 13th of the Great Tree Moon
Taking in the fresh, crisp air of the morning, Michail let out a satisfied sigh. He flashed a grin over at Tomai, who looked at his pocket watch with boredom in his eyes, and then at Kaira, who stifled a yawn behind her hand. He shot a grin at Lysander, who offered him a thumbs up, and then finally looked at Euphemia, who was...dozing off. Lysander noticed, giving her a nudge to wake her.

“Ah--Sorry, I’m awake, I’m awake…” Euphemia apologized, rubbing her eye. “Did you really have to take the first slot, though?”

“There is nothing better to start off the day with than exercise!” Michail informed her brightly. “Isn’t that right, everyone?”

He was met with grumbles, quiet agreements, and a not-so-subtle mumble. Well, that was as good as it was going to get, so that was fine. More importantly, he had students to teach and they were going to learn his specialty today: how to eat a good old plate of ass-whooping.“Good morning!” Michail greeted the incoming students. “I hope you’re all ready to get your asses handed to you!”

Lysander looked at Michail, bewildered. “Michail!”

“Oh, right, language. I hope you’re all ready to get your butts handed to you!” He corrected himself, though he frowned. “You know, it doesn’t really have the same impact.”

Lysander tried to hold back his disappointment, instead choosing to continue. “Before we begin, I’ll go over training. Every Saturday morning, you have the option to visit the Arena and better hone your skills with someone of expertise. While the times may vary, you can always check the schedule posted over by the Armory. We’re generally pretty good at letting everyone know when we’re available, and sometimes the Knights of Seiros also volunteer their services. Lady Kalliope herself is known to be a frequent visitor, so you never know who will show up!”

They waited for the next person to speak, though as no one spoke, they all looked to Euphemia. To her credit, she hadn’t fallen asleep, but it was clear she was out of it. Deciding to throw her a line, Kaira clapped her hands. “For today, we’ll be doing a proper assessment of your abilities, both offensive and defensive,” She announced, her voice light and airy. “There’s no need to push yourselves, we’ve seen what most of you can do, but we’d like to double check and offer corrections where needed.”

“Those defensive abilities include dodging both physical and magical attacks,” Tomai mentioned with a shrug. “...if you get caught, Kaira can probably heal you.”

The four professors looked at Tomai, who didn’t seem the least bit regretful. He just shrugged again, and at that point, Euphemia remembered that she was supposed to speak. “Oh, right. Uh, we’ll be testing everyone for everything. We’ll start with what you believe are your strengths, so everyone please pick up your preferred weapon, and we can split, uh…” She scratched her head, looking around. “...there aren’t any targets set up…”

Michail mimicked her, letting out a laugh. “Oops. Eh, we really only need one, so I’ll use myself as a target as penance,” He offered.

Tomai couldn’t hold back his sneaker, though Lysander, once again, looked horrified. “Michail, no,” He shook his head. “I’ll...go get the targets. For now, everyone split into your preferred weapon types, please.”

He jogged over to the armory to get a target as both Michail and Tomai put themselves into position. Michail smacked the closest training dummy, making sure it was sturdy enough. Once Lysander returned, they took a few minutes to organize everyone, and soon there were multiple dummies and targets. Each physical attacker was assigned a dummy, and the targets were divided between casters and archers.

Michail made sure he could see everyone, and once he deemed them ready, he made sure everyone could hear him “I’d like the fighters to execute a basic combo. Magical folks, Tomai and Kaira are watching you guys hit the targets. And archers...well, you get it by now. Ready?” He lifted an arm. “Go!”



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Rudolf could think of a million better ways to start his day than exercise. In fact, he could plan his schedule for an entire month and not once include strenuous physical activity, and certainly not 'getting his ass handed to him'. This was just going to be a repeat of last week, except he was tired and the one shattering through his pitiful block would be an Archbishop-chosen veteran of demonic beast combat instead of some prick Adrestian yeoman whose experience only came from slaying a hay bale with a pitchfork. As if the wooden sword he'd inevitably be whacked with wasn't bad enough, apparently Professor Malathice expected them to dodge fireballs and 'probably' be healed afterward. Was the Leicester professor seriously the only sane one here? He would've expected her to be the most loony, with the way he'd seen her brandishing that stick of hers.

The diminutive teenager shuffled groggily toward the targets under Kaira and Tomai's purview before he stifled a yawn. If this was to be a regular occurance, he'd have to write to his grandfather for coffee sometime; Rudolf doubted the monastery bothered to keep imported goods stocked this far inland. On the other hand, the looming threat of mortal danger was sure to wake him up once the professors transitioned to the defense portion of the assessment. They might even let him leave if - no, when - he got hit, unless they didn't even notice he was there, in which case he might actually survive the day without injury.

Professor Simeon said they didn't need to push themselves, so Rudolf could surely get away with some meager spell that wouldn't draw attention and allow him to blend into the background for the entire session. That ran the risk of him falling into the same treatment he'd gotten back home, though. So... he needed a showy spell that would garner everyone's attention and show his ineptitude plainly for all to see. Unless they assumed he was just very ambitious and took a display like that as a sign of unrefined talent rather than hopelessness. Better to mess up a simple spell. But... then they might not notice. Rudolf's posture shrunk even more than usual as his brain cycled through the same infinite loop a few more times; he just wanted to disappear already.

With deliberation getting him nowhere, Rudolf finally cupped his hands in front of his chest as if he were holding a ball. Between them, fell symbols flickered to life and aligned around a luminant bead of violet. After but a moment of channeling, the bead expanded into a turbulent orb of dark magic that fit snugly between both of the boy's palms.

"Is- Is this good? Should I use a stronger spell...? Or, uh, is this just a test of aim?" Rudolf questioned aloud to make absolutely certain his performance would have witnesses as the miasma still buzzed in his grasp. The two professors seemed... oddly attentive to his presence, so he likely had no reason to worry, but he supposed frequently losing track of one of your students was embarrassing enough that they'd try to hide it even if they had no idea of Rudolf's presence most of the time. Props to Professor Michail for having the candidness to look at him like a ghost everytime they passed in the hall, at least.

Rudolf didn't wait for a response, only that he had an audience before he released the spell. He heaved away from his chest with both hands delicately, as if he intended to send the projectile listing along at a leisurely pace toward the target. Unaffected by the vigor of Rudolf's gestures, the miasma shot forward with typical haste instead to impact the target before him. To his chagrin, it didn't miss, but surely Tomai's icy demeanor would translate into a critical deconstruction of every flaw in his spellwork regardless. He messed up somewhere, surely; Rudolf was just too tired to see where yet.



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Kayden had spent his time since the bandit attack resting, save for when he had that predictably uncomfortable conversation with Veronica. It was a good decision to get his sleep. It helped him get up at a reasonable time in order to be crisp for this training exercise, not that he felt lively, exactly. Every yawn he heard made him yawn and Professor Euphemia's dropping eyes made him want to close his own. But stubbornly he kept his back straight and his eyes welded open. He was nothing if not disciplined, thanks to his 'beloved' father's constant schooling and attentions.

The Professors seemed as dysfunctional as ever, though there was an undercurrent of heightened awareness even considering the time of morning. The attack at Luin and the Eastern Church likely weighed on them as it did him. The Prince had been taught as a child that everything was interconnected, even atrocities and skirmishes off Adrestian Land. Whatever happened would echo in foreign affairs and even the lives of the citizens. If the culprit behind these attacks wasn't caught soon, he himself might very well have to deal with it once he assumed the throne. Then again, maybe that was just anxiety. He had been on edge lately, from nearly getting killed and the news of his father's health.

He glanced at the other Eagles, hoping they were paying attention. He saw Rudolph looked a bit worried, or at least disturbed. Kayden made a note to speak to him at some point. They'd been around one another before, but he'd yet to offer a proper welcome into the Eagles. Next, he accidentally caught Veronica's eye and promptly played it off like it was a casual glance, moving over back to the Professors. He didn't agree with them wholeheartedly on the morning exercise, but it might help him clear his head to use his sword again. He wished Professor Tomai was a bit more involved in their assessment. Likely he would pay attention to Rudolph, considering their shared magical talent.

"Well, let's make a good show of it, at least." He told himself under his breath, making sure to stretch as they went and fetched the dummies and targets. He warmed up his legs and arms, hoping to make a better impression after his 'heroics' at Luin. He wasn't certain what else he could have done at the time, but he fully understood if he died during a routine trip, his father would be more than a bit irate.

Taking one of the offered swords, he stalked off to one of the designated spots where the melee wielders were set to demonstrate. The Prince whipped his blade through the air, the material whistling smoothly. He grinned, satisfied, and made his way over toward's the dummy. The Prince had read and been taught various dueling treatises of swordplay, and he took a stance that put his left foot forward, his sword point out before him. Moving closer, he replayed a maneuver he had been taught by his Master-At-Arms, sending his sword striking into the dummy thrice, feinting between each strike and moving as if the dummy struck back through each interval. Once he was done, he flourished his blade and made a salute to the Professor's in one movement, though it wasn't as smooth as he would have liked. He supposed he hadn't performed the basic drills in a year or two.
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Early mornings were no stranger to Clarissa, waking before or with the sun since she was a child, and her usual morning energy bubbled with excitement at the prospect of Arena training. She found it a pleasant surprise that Professor Michail was so eager at the early hour; while she conceded his expertise in the manner of war, she’d found his personality and attitude lacking overall. Perhaps it was how eerily similar he and Jorah were and if that were the case, she had only had room for one of that sort and Jorah had long claimed that spot.

And as if on cue, Professor Michail swore in front of an arena full of nobles and Clarissa sighed. Was she unfamiliar with foul mouthed, crude language that seemed to pervade the masses? No, of course not. She’d walked the streets of her home and not everyone guards their tongue so well when they think they’re out of sight around a corner or down the street but she disliked the vulgarity. There were so many other ways to express yourself with a similar intensity that it baffled her that anyone chose such impropriety, especially in front of an assembly of students promised a high standard of learning.

While waiting for Professor Roland to set up the targets, Clarissa considered Professor Malathice's advice. He’s said r runes were drawn well and reasonably paced, if the lack of criticism was anything to go by, but she’d clearly spent too much time focusing on her restorative magic if her Nosferatu spell was noticeably weaker than her restorative magic. She wasn’t entirely sure the best way to go about that but with both Professor Malathice and Professor Simeon in attendance, she was certain she’d have it figured out by the end of the day. She made her way to the cluster of training targets dedicated to magical practice and picked one, drawing heavily on the familiar well of righteous indignation.

Only to startle at the sudden appearance of the newest member of the Unit. Honestly, she’d all but forgotten about him in the emotional turbulence of the past few days which was strange. Rarely did she find herself so inattentive that she missed an entire person’s presence, much less someone she was unfamiliar with in a group she was around regularly. She recalled a similar experience when he was introduced. Did he really have such little presence that he could just vanish?

What a strange boy.

Shaking herself out of her contemplation of Rudolf’s oddity, she turned to focus on her own target. She focused on her movements, runes of light dancing from the tips of her fingers to swirl in front of her, and drew on the familiar font of faith and determination that fueled all her magic before she released the spell with a flick of her wrist. Light burst out from beneath the target and she smiled at the pleasant feeling of shimmer light soaking into her skin like a warm hug on a cold night.

“I don’t think I’ve had an opportunity to introduce myself yet. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, outside of Professor Michail’s brief introduction.” Clarissa offered Rudolf a curtsy once she'd completed her spell. The battle had distracted her from her original goal; make connections and allies and while training wasn’t enough time for anything remotely resembling a decent conversation, she wasn’t about to let him fade away before she got something rolling. “I’m Clarissa von Edmund.”
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Jorah had always been a fan of the sun, but he’d be the first to admit he far preferred the haze of afternoon and the gentle glow of evening to the stabbing glare of dawn. Unfortunately, he hadn’t yet learned how to sleep through the toll of the early church bells, and even when he pretended to be asleep, sick, or dead in his bed, Clarissa’s impatient door-banging always forced him to his feet far earlier than was decent or humane. Goddess’ mercy, it was like every Roundtable session they spent together in Derdriu; those dastard red curls got to bouncing through the halls of Riegan Manor before the birds were even awake, and she was always dragging him out of bed to join her, decency be damned. Jorah figured the only thing stopping her this time was the fact she was probably less willing to pick locks when they belonged to the Church.

So here he was, still squinting in the post-dawn light, albeit the walls of the arena mercifully kept the full force of the sun at bay. There was no roof, though, and it was early enough that the air in the uncovered arena was still cold from the morning chill, his breath fogging a bit in front of his face as he watched Euphemia try and fail not to fall asleep in front of the similarly drowsy Rose Unit. At least they had that much in common; were he not standing, Jorah would have been tempted to do the same. Not bothering to stifle his yawn, he stretched backwards, yawn turning into a groan as the muscles in his legs and lower back complained. Wow, somehow scarcely a week at Garreg Mach and he was already losing his riding muscles? He could have ridden twice the distance back home as he did last night and never felt a thing! No, no, it couldn’t be him. The Monastery apparently had shitty saddles. Where was all that donation money going, then?

Well, at least the ride had helped his spirits, if not his legs. It definitely helped that the prevailing attitude of the Rose Unit had turned from trauma to fatigue and general early-morning grumbliness, but airing his concerns to Clarissa had definitely helped him get a weight off his chest. As it always did, if he was honest. Couldn’t tell her that, of course; she’d be much too proud of her counseling skills and he couldn’t have that. And besides, it wasn’t like she did all the work; he could think of more than a few times he’d had to coax her out of her room or some forest glen somewhere with some gentle words and friendly reminders that the world has to keep on turning.

Oh, shoot. The professors were talking. Or, apparently, had just finished talking; Jorah missed just about all of it, but the skinny counselor was setting up targets and people were collecting weapons, so he figured he pretty much got the gist. Not having thought to bring his bow, he grabbed one of the steel training bows—the same ones they’d taken to Luin—and got a decent surprise when he crossed paths with the small Lion boy collecting a bow of his own. Hadn’t he been a swordsman at Luin? Kevin was gone before Jorah thought to ask, though he did level the boy with a not-at-all hidden look of confusion before shrugging his shoulders and sauntering back to claim a target.

The others began their little drills in short order—with what energy at this hour, Jorah had no idea—though before the mages did their thing, a glimmer down by the melee dummies caught Jorah’s attention. Not one to let a chance to procrastinate go by, he stepped back from the firing line, hands on his hips to observe what turned out to be the Eagle prince’s demonstration. By the end of it, though, Jorah simply rolled his eyes. He couldn’t fairly condemn the showmanship, but seriously, who had the energy for it this early? There was a time and a place for flourish, and a crack-of-dawn training exercise was more irritating than anything. Not to mention the clumsy execution. He supposed the benefit of an imaginary opponent was that they were both greatly skilled and easily defeated—and of course, Jorah hadn’t forgotten how Prince Hresvelg’s “confidence” had very nearly gotten two of his housemates killed just the other day.

Besides, that little salute was just corny.

Rolling his shoulders, Jorah stepped back into place, setting his sights back on his target. Like he’d noted, it was way too early for showboating; instead, he simply shot three arrows, forming a neat vertical line from the top of the target to the bullseye. Shots to the forehead, throat, and heart, he could say. Job done, he took it as permission to rest, crouching down on the balls of his feet so as not to get his pants full of damp arena sand.

“Maybe next we’ll shoot apples off heads, eh?” he said to no one in particular, though he did turn once again to watch the recently-converted-to-archer Lion. His stomach complained loudly; was everyone hungry, or did these madmen get up even earlier to eat beforehand? Jorah leaned his elbows on his knees, feeling fatigue wash over him once again. Lunatics, the lot of them. It was much more natural to stay up till dawn than to rise before it.

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