"I was wondering what you could tell me about Lucan Bordeleaux. I'm aware that you both have ties to the Noila family and was hoping...maybe you could give me some insight on him?"
Aaron's eyebrows shot up and his smile faltered, and a look of confused shock crossed his face. "...Lucan?" he wondered aloud.
He would never had believed it had the young man not handed him the photograph. But there he was, right there on a pairing sheet with the Noila crest and everything, all carefully constructed stoicism and beaten-in composure. Aaron's face split into a wide smile, some combination of disbelief and elation. "You lie," he gasped, before laughing once and smacking the photo with the back of his free hand. "I can't believe it!"
Still smiling, Aaron whipped out his phone and opened his messenger app, tapping out a quick text to Lucan and shooting disbelieving glances at the new mage as he did so.
> You sneaky bastard! You never told me you'd be here too!
Once he was done, he returned the picture and enthusiastically shook the mage's offered hand, who introduced himself as Salem Spellman.
"Great to meet you Salem, I'm Aaron Starag, but I guess you already knew that," he stuck his phone back in his pocket, leaning back and glancing around between Salem and Lilie, still surprised by the fact that Lucan was attending the Academy too. "You really won the lottery there Salem," he began, gesturing to the photo. "He's been my teacher for the past five years, taught me almost everything I know about swordplay, self-discipline, that sort of thing. Music too. I don't know what I would have turned into without him." A fond look crossed Aaron's face as he thought back, resting his left hand absently on the pommel of his sword before nodding with a grin in Salem's direction. "You're in good hands, I can guarantee you that."
His phone buzzed in his pocket, and he checked it to find a text back from Lucan.
> I wasn't truly given a choice, like most things. But the question is how exactly do you know I'm here?
Aaron nearly rolled his eyes at Lucan's usual formal tone before his lips caught a mischievous smirk. "Here, we'll get a rise out of him," Aaron said to Salem, crossing over next to him and opening the camera on his phone. He gently nudged Salem with his shoulder as he held the phone up to catch both of them in frame. "Smile."
He snapped the picture without leaving a whole lot of time for Salem to respond, looking very pleased with himself. He tapped out his next message to Lucan, sending the picture right after.
> Because look who I'm talking to!
With that, Aaron put his phone away for good, done for the moment with being impolite. "You and I are probably going to be seeing more of each other, Salem," he noted, and remembering Salem's second request, added "And of course, I'd be happy to help you study magic. You and anyone else interested." He shrugged, reminding himself not to be prideful. "But remember, I'm still learning."
Aaron was practically beaming. His Academy experience so far, while short, had been a roller coaster of excitement, horror, self-doubt and cautious optimism. Having William and Sariel around had been a small comfort, but now with Lucan there too, he was feeling a lot more like he could handle things. That, and it made him a little more confident that there really was a good reason for him being there, that he wasn't just being thrown away. After all, he highly doubted the Noilas were disposing of the Knight of the damn Evening, so maybe his own fate was a little more hopeful too. Nonetheless, Lucan was like a brother to him and knowing he was around was a welcome lifeline.
As he stood there with Lilie and Salem, and others in their year all around, Aaron felt lighter. Like the weight of the whole situation had been temporarily lifted. Without vampires around there was no upper class weighing down on them, and even though there were still expectations to meet (he was a Starag after all, they were meant to set an example) the consequences were a lot less dire. He allowed himself to be optimistic. Here he was, talking, making friends, spending the most time of his life thus far with people his own age. People seemed impressed by his magic. Lucan was around campus somewhere. In that moment, it really seemed like his time at the Academy would be a good thing after all, a chance to escape the ancient halls of Noila Castle and live a little with his peers before his life of servitude came into full swing. There was still the matter of uncertainty, and Varis... well, there was still hope for Varis. On the whole, things seemed to be looking up.