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5 mos ago
Current Have you tried NOT being a douche-canoe?
3 likes
3 yrs ago
After some soul searching, I've decided to let a lot of things go. It's just not worth it anymore. Let bygones be bygones, I'll carry on with my life and focus on me.
11 likes
3 yrs ago
Sometimes people become unrecognizable, doing things you never imagined they would and changing for the worse. It's a shame, but you can't help everyone.
9 likes
3 yrs ago
Whoever says "the customer is always right" has not worked with atual customers.
18 likes
3 yrs ago
"The flower that blooms in adversity. is the most rare and beautiful of them all." "Sir?" "You don't meet a girl like THAT every dynasty."
11 likes

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CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!

The bustle of the marketplace was just a low buzz, barely registering over the sound of iron meeting iron. After a few more hits, however, the world slowly started to permeate his senses: the buzz of the town got louder, the bite of the chilled air nipped at his cheeks, and the hammer in his hand regained its weight. Overall, Tsubasa was feeling the labor of his work drain him, but the finished product made everything worth it. As he placed his hammer down and cautiously lifted the iron structure up, he dipped the metal into the pool of water, watching the steam and leaving it there as he wiped his brow.

Even though it was cold out, the forge had a way to always make the boy feel like he was ready for a cold bath. Granted, it was natural--working with heat to mold metal into anything he wanted meant he was always going to be hot, and that was guaranteed even on the days he didn't bother using the heat sign. Once he deemed it had been long enough, he lifted the metallic structure out of the water and plopped it down some steps away, abandoning it to let it cool in the chilly air. Now all he needed to do was toss it in the cart with the slab of wood he had ordered and someone would come pick it up.

Exhaling, he watched his breath form a misty cloud and then dissipate, running a rag over his neck. Let's see, now that the table was finished, he supposed he could start on the iron gate that had been requested. It actually hadn't come as a request for him, but Tetsu always pawned off those projects onto him. Festivals and celebrations always meant that work piled up since Tetsu decided that he was more interested in drinking than...actually, he always found an excuse to drink, so Tsubasa should have known better. Not that he minded--busy hands were happy hands, and the kid actually liked working.

Tossing the rag aside, Tsubasa knelt down in front of a chest, gingerly plucking out the few iron bars that were left in there. At least Testu had left him everything he needed, so that was good! He placed the bars over the forge, lazily writing the Sign in the air. Once the metal glowed a bright red, Tsubaba carefully adjusted his hammer in his grip, taking a firm hold and lifting it into the air.

CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!


The rest of the bandit's forces stood towards the now decimated ruins of what was left of the other half of the village. The first explosion had taken everything out--even the buildings that still stood looked more like an assembly of broken walls than anything else. The few bandits that were there largely ignored the destruction, focusing on pulling a large, heavy cart filled with a multitude of barrels. At a glance, there seemed to be something scribbled onto them in a variety of different patterns. Once they reached their destination, the cart was abandoned as four cloaked mages took their place around the cart, muttering an incantation in unison. Light burst from the ground, slowly carving out a circle.

A pair behind them differed from the rest. One was clearly a leader, with his armor decidedly less tattered as he carried an axe that was considerably more bloody than the rest. He towered over the rest, a combination of size and muscle that let anyone who laid eyes on him know that he would not go down without one hell of a fight. Next to him stood another cloaked mage, albeit they carried a staff adorned with a skull. The pair spoke in low voices, observing the other mages. The leader gave an order and the small group of bandits split into two, with the first continuing into the village and the rest leaving.

Euphemia stayed a distance away, eyes trained on the leader. Her horse had been stowed away and she remained on foot with bow in hand, blending into the ruins of the village. While the nature of the destruction bothered her greatly, she paid no mind to it. If she could get in a clear shot, she was sure she could end the rampage. As she got closer, however, the magic in the air was electrifying, tingling the skin on the back of her neck. It was difficult to ignore, the pull of the incantation letting her know that a decision needed to be made. On the one hand, she had no doubt she could lodge an arrow in his neck to kill him, but she wasn't a fan of that magic business right there.

Readying an arrow, she made her decision. Narrowing her eyes, she waited for him to take in a breath before letting the arrow go. To her surprise, a shield erupted around the pair. She didn't let that discourage her, however, as she hastily drew back another arrow, this time her hit landing on a mage as her arrow pierced through their neck. The incantation broke immediately, and that was her queue to go. The feeling of lighting in the air resulted in a thunderbolt colliding with the wall in front of her. She took aim at a stunned mage, ending his life with an arrow, though instead of preparing another arrow, she chose to sling her bow around her arm, withdrawing her sword from its sheath as she ran.


It came a little too naturally to Derec, or at least, the thought came to him as he stabbed his spear through the bandit. Maybe it was the fact that it was for the service of others as opposed to the much-less-noble cause of self-defense. It had been a while since Matlock had gotten invaded, but getting raided once was already a harrowing experience as it was. What he couldn't help but wonder, however, was why the bandits were outright destroying the village. Sure, there were men who simply wanted to watch everything burn, but most bandits simply wanted to pillage. They wanted jewels, precious metals, women--here they were just destroying everything.

Pulling his spear out, he watched Michail dispatch a pair not too far ahead. He made it look so effortless--Derec was genuinely impressed. Then again, out of everyone there, Michail was a Knight. He supposed that the silly, goofy personality betrayed the skill he had. Auberon was the right choice for the front line as well, his swings practiced and effective. Isolde was slowly coming out of her own shell as well; while she struggled with multiple enemies and her fear was plain all over her face, it was obvious that she held some sort of skill. Melee combat wasn't something he expected out of the timid girl, but boy, was she fast.

There wasn't much time to compliment or even think too hard on it, as he turned back to check on the rest of the party. As soon as he had turned back, however, he realized he had made a mistake, every sense in his body screaming at him to look back ahead. When he did so, however, it was too late: an axe was already swung at him, fully intending to part his head from his body. Whether it was dumb luck or the divine grace of the goddess, however, said axe was practically tossed aside. Blinking, he watched as Isolde stood, armed and ready as the bandit picked himself up. That was one hell of a flying kick on her side, the close call leaving him shocked for a moment. He shook it off, however, repaying the favor by deciding not to give the bandit the chance to get back up as he drove his spear into the man's calf.

Meanwhile, Tomai had made sure any bandit that was stupid enough to get too close was promptly cursed and killed on the spot. As he spotted the incoming back attack, he turned, fully prepared to strike them all. However, the prince decided to dive in, much to his annoyance. "...hm," He hummed in disapproval, watching as the kid was struck. Fortunately for the prince, both Clarissa and Kellen came to save the day, and Tomai decided he may as well act like a professor as he rummaged through his pack.

Bringing out a concoction, he popped it open and raised his staff. A surge of magic surrounded Kayden and pulled him back to Tomai. "Drink up, frontline's just about finished," He stated, presenting the drink to Kayden.

Kaira let out a tiny huff of frustration, feeling a little useless. Maybe she should have taken a sword from the carriage after all. The students were doing well for the most part, with Tomai's power amplified by the staff and making easy work of the bandits. She honestly couldn't believe how straightforward this was, even if the air was still electrifying. Or was it? Something had changed somewhere, the magic in the air considerably thinner than before.

An arrow shot through the air caused her great alarm as she noticed Jorah wasn't standing. Oh Michail, telling Jorah to just do the thing instead of helping out! Clucking her tongue in disapproval, Kaira cautiously hoisted herself up the side of the carriage, slowly climbing up. Thankfully, aside from a cut on his cheek, he didn't look hurt. She sighed in relief, focusing her magic onto her hand as she carefully crawled up next to Jorah, placing her hand on him to alert her to his presence and sending a tiny heal to stop the bleeding from his cheek.

"If Euphemia was here, she'd say you're doing well," She offered him some encouragement. "I'm going to draw the archer's attention, when you see them shoot for me, make sure to shoot them back, okay?"

Patting his shoulder without waiting for a response, Kaira stood up straight on the carriage, looking around. She couldn't see the archer, but she was sure Jorah would whenever they'd loose an arrow. So instead, she closed her eyes and concentrated as she formed a small ball of light in her hands, promptly squeezing it until it burst. A wave of healing was blown around in a circle around her, recovering the students' energy and invigorating them.

As soon as Michail felt Kaira's spell, he continued forward. "Let's go!" Michail called, running forward. Through the smoke, he suddenly came to a halt, a glyph glowing from his free hand and banishing the wind altogether just in time for something to come flying towards him. He was nearly knocked over, but he managed to catch the flying Euphemia, skidding backward a few feet. To his surprise, the behemoth of a bandit came charging forward.

"Move!" Euphemia scrambled to her feet, the Kalonic siblings immediately leaping away as the axe came down. narrowly missing the pair.

Derec was shocked that someone so big was there, but his size worked to his disadvantage--his swings were wide. When the man lifted his axe, Derec saw that as his chance, deciding to slip in and relieve him of his arm. Unfortunately, he didn't account for just how fast the massive man was as he was nearly gutted, the timely entrance of Isolde delivering a swift kick to change the swing's trajectory saving all but a few of Derec's red locks. The bandit leader took a hold of Isolde, the girl letting out a shriek as she was easily tossed into Derec without so much as a second thought, sending the pair flying to the side.

Euphemia gripped her sword in hand, standing next to Michail. To her dismay, the three remaining mages were back at it again, the light forming the runes once again. "Those mages back there are going to cause those barrels to explode," She informed him and the rest.

Michail narrowed his eyes, spear at the ready as the bandit leader sized them up. "Then I hope someone's fast enough to get past them and stop them," He noted, leaping backwards as the axe came down again. "Great Goddess above, a speedy boy, are we?"

"I haven't been able to get past him," Euphemia admitted. "I took out two of the mages and slowed down the process, but..."

"You did what needed to be done," Michail replied before raising his voice. "Keep your wits about you, we need to stop that spell from going off or we're all done here!"


The small group of bandits departed from the village, intent on retreating for a while. They traveled along the river for a distance until they spotted the carriages in the distance. After some deliberation, the decision was made to liberate the Knights of Seiros of the carriages. It was clear that the battle in the village was going poorly--at the very least, they could take their spoils and get away with their lives intact. And so they kept riding, intent on taking the carriages that had been seemingly abandoned by the knights...




The faculty meeting was generic and dull as always. A return to form meant relearning the same things they normally did every year with little variation. Despite the shiny new coat slapped onto the building, it was painfully superficial and a topic most of the adults had the wisdom to avoid talking about too much. The excess of wealth thrown around felt largely unneeded, but with a majority of the structural issues solved with a bulldozer, there wasn't much point in complaining too much.

Eventually, there was a brief lull, and several teachers grouped up to have separate discussions. Suzuki let out a tiny sigh, rubbing her temples as she took advantage of the break and looked over her lesson plans. She would have liked to skip the meeting altogether--she swore these things could be summed up and better retained in an email--but working together as a team after a tumultuous end was what it was all about. At the very least the media stopped coming around, even if she was sure that the mother of one of the victims of the case was bound to pop up sooner or later. Not that she blamed her; closure was difficult to attain and the police reports did little to convince her of her daughter's fate.

At that point Taniguchi approached her, taking the open seat next to hers. "I was hoping to speak with you a moment, Suzuki-san," He spoke apologetically but went straight to his point. "I heard about the mishap that occurred in your homeroom. yesterday."

"Ito Maki's graffiti?" She asked.

"You already know the culprit?"

"Nakano-san's not very popular, but the students recognized Ito was in the wrong this time," She replied, closing her notebook. "Some of them quietly informed me of what happened since the evidence was gone. I was planning to bring this up to you and Wada afterward."

"I appreciate the initiative," He replied. "The things young people do...it was a shame, I was told Ito's talents would have put her on a good path. But a rotten apple spoils the bunch."

"Pushing back too hard could also result in good intentions backfiring," She pointed out. "I was considering referring her to Counselor Miyamoto, but I'm not sure how effective that would be."

Taniguchi fell silent as he watched Suzuki for a moment. After some contemplation, he shifting forward in his seat. "It's shown that having good peers to surround the troublemaker proves to be a good thing. Why not have her join Nakano's council?" He asked.

Suzuki's eyebrows shot up. That sounded like a terrible idea. For one, such a punishment would more likely result in sabotage than anything. And for another, it was up to them to correct Ito's behavior, wasn't it? "The council isn't a disciplinary committee," She said slowly. "I've heard you've placed Hoshino Noriaki under her care as well. You'd have her look after two problem children?"

"Hoshino?" A nearby Momoji overheard the conversation, stepping before the pair. "Hoshino hasn't shown any troublesome behaviors, why is Nakano looking after him?"

"Because Nakano is an exemplary student and a good influence," Taniguchi sighed.

Suzuki narrowed her eyes at the man. "Pushing problem children onto Nakano would harm more than help," She said. "Not to mention with Nakano Hiroshi's trial coming up..."

"Besides, Asakura Kazuyoshi has been looking after Hoshino," Momoji said. "I saw them together yesterday at a pet store."

"That's arguably worse," Taniguchi sighed, shaking his head. "Asakura's accident has drawn ire to us as well. Putting him along with the other two under Nakano's care--"

"With all due respect, Vice Principal, why are you pawning off responsibility onto a teenager instead of letting the adults handle it?" Suzuki couldn't help but cut him off. "You expect someone who should be thinking about her future and getting ready for college to take care of three unruly students?"

"They're not unruly," Momoji frowned. "But I agree."

Letting out a sigh, Taniguchi stood from his seat. "Ladies, there are times where you have to prioritize. The three of them need to be set straight one way or another. At the very least, we know Ito and Asakura have been problems in the past. Nakano will continue to look after Hoshino, and the other two will be called here so we can let them know how they're to act going forward."

They were running around in circles, it would seem. Suzuki let out a sigh of annoyance, shaking her head as the vice principal walked away towards the loudspeaker. "I can't believe this..." She muttered, crossing her arms.

"Attention. Ito Maki and Asakura Kazuyoshi, please report to the faculty room," The announcement rang out through the entire school, much to Suzuki's annoyance.

Momoji also let out a sigh. "I don't know why he's doing this," She said, dismayed. "If you punish students for something they haven't done, what does that say about us?"

Suzuki didn't have an answer for that, unfortunately.


The cat looked down at the boy calling to it, tail slowly curling as she stretched her limbs out. Peeking over the edge of the lockers, she stared at her own reflection in his glasses. She watched his movement for a moment, ears perked and alert, but evidently decided he had a point. Hopping down and landing seamlessly on her feet, she wrapped herself around his legs, looking up at him.

As Noriaki stopped at his locker, however, the cat immediately took notice of him, letting out a rather loud meow as she made a beeline towards him. She nuzzled his legs, stepping between them and tangling herself around them. She meowed repeatedly, looking up at him.





The princess-to-be let out a tiny groan, furrowing her brow. Her pinky nail was uneven and it was bothering her to no end. It was to be expected, of course; the rabble they designated as caretakers had no hope at keeping up with her standards. It was shocking, to say the least—The Officers Academy was always hailed as this elite housing of nobles and the rich, but seeing as they freely let the rabble join in if they can fish the coin, she should have known better.

Either way, her nails were vastly more interesting than running along with the bold Knight of Seiros. ‘Strength in numbers’ sounded like a good idea, but she was all too aware that the students were more likely to be fodder than anything else. Considering ‘Professor’ Michail wasn’t of any renown, she wouldn’t have gone along even if they didn’t have a choice.

Only one other was smart enough not to go: Lienna Orhneaht. She had seen her a few times lingering around Professor Malathice, but she was a little more interesting than others. For one, nothing about her said ‘highborn’ but the way she walked around would have anyone assume she thought she was someone of importance. It wouldn’t be the first time some pretty thing managed to wrap up a baron or a count around her finger to elevate her position, but it did surprise her that she was at a military academy of all places.

When she spoke, at the very least Veronica let out a hum of acknowledgement. “If the Knight does his job, then there won’t be anything to worry about,” She replied. “Assuming he isn’t too busy dragging back corpses.”

Lienna had turned her attention back to the wand, crossing her legs under her and removing the thing from her waist to examine it in her lap. Holding silver in her hands was still novel to her—even after learning that apparently every single piece of cutlery in the dining hall was made of the stuff—and the crystal on top, the way its many facets captured the afternoon sun and broke her reflection into a thousand pieces… well, it what could she say? It was breathtaking.

The other girl’s voice pulled her head up from admiring the wand, Lienna looking over her shoulder just enough to catch the Queenling in the corner of her eye. Sitting on a log looking dissatisfied, absorbed in her nails or something. Typical. Not that Lienna herself was doing much more, but this girl had a way of turning any little tick into something irksome. Lienna had to wonder if Veronica ever had to worry about birds flying up her nose, walking around like she did with it held up so high.

Still, she was talking more sense than any of the other students had, and Lienna had to surrender a grunt of agreement. That being said, she couldn’t resist a little jab.

“I’m not worried,” she offered offhandedly, crossing her arms and straightening in her carriage seat. She caught Veronica in the corner of her eye again, raising an eyebrow. “Aren’t you, though? What happens to you if our favourite Princeling doesn’t manage to limp his way back?”

“Then I don’t have to go through a marriage with a cowardly prince that I was against in the first place,” Veronica replied without skipping a beat, although she finally lifted her head to level a look on Lienna. She looked like she was inspecting her, eyes searching for something. “It’s not every day a noble speaks of such a thing so casually, especially since if that were to happen, it would throw the Empire into chaos.”

“So? I’m not Adrestian,” Lienna shrugged, “I’ll be spending my life about as far from the Empire as you can get, go nuts.” Throw the Empire into chaos, please. What made Veronica think she’d care? Or was that sort of arrogance just bred into her the same as her black hair and blue eyes? Lienna wasn’t sure she could even recognize Adrestia on a map before she came here, and this girl thought she’d quake at the idea of some faraway foreign country falling to shambles. It had once already with that plague, hadn’t it? Sure, her world might come crashing down if their precious Prince killed himself on some bandit’s lance, but it seemed a lot of these highborn fledgelings didn’t realize just how small their worlds really were.

Speaking of which… “Though, I find that puzzling,” Lienna continued airily, pointedly tapping her finger against her chin. “You were very careful to tell us all about your position on the first day here, remember? But if Kayden dies, how will you become the new Queen?”

Veronica stared at her for a moment, raising a finger to her chin as she narrowed her eyes. An understanding came over her, and she ended up rolling her eyes as she crossed one leg over the other.

“My sincerest apologies, I misunderstood you,” She stated airily. “After hearing your conversation with Professor Malathice on the first day, I found your line of questioning odd. Having a sheltered and naive noble isn’t uncommon—in fact, those with crests find themselves hidden away more often than not. But after what you just said about not caring about the Adrestian Empire, now I realize you aren’t naive, you’re just an idiot.”

A derisive snort escaped Lienna, the white-haired girl equal parts amused and livid. Oh, how the claws come out! Honestly, Veronica would be better off picking a side early: she could be either the dutiful damsel trapped in an unwanted betrothal, or the opportunistic future Adrestian Queen, but not both. It seemed she must have struck a nerve, though; an argument with a stuck-up wannabe Princess wasn’t what Lienna had planned while she waited for her peers to return, but apparently it was what she was going to get.

“If you’re so worldly, I’m surprised you weren’t tipped off sooner,” Lienna retorted sharply, turning in her seat. “Honestly, highborn rose you are, have you ever heard the name Orhneaht listed among the ranks of Faerghian nobility? Do the math, darling.” She couldn’t lie and say she wasn’t doing her best to fit the noble mold here—if nothing else, it would be good practice for her life after her wedding—but she’d be cold in the ground before she let some doe-eyed, soft-handed little shit make her feel inferior for the accident of her birth.

“My sincerest apologies for treading my peasant filth all over your pristine noble tapestry,” she snapped, “but given I managed to live most of my life without needing to know the colour of the Emperor’s underclothes, I’d hazard a guess that the affairs of Adrestian nobility aren’t as vitally important to the whole of Fódlan as you’d like to believe.”

“So quick to defend, oh my…” Veronica couldn’t help but giggle, taking a second to collect herself. “I know only of the major families, there are some that escape my memory—I suppose you think it’s a mistake to have given you the benefit of the doubt?”

She didn’t linger too long on that, however, letting out a tiny sigh. “You’re wrong about one thing, however. The Adrestian Empire collapsing would affect everyone on Fódlan, from high to low-born and both Faerghian and Leicesteran,” She stated plainly. “But tell me, who have you decided to use to improve your life?”

“Count Francis Gautier, younger brother of the current Margrave,” Lienna replied proudly, raising an eyebrow. What, did she think the question would sting? There was no way arrangements like hers weren’t common, and it was a win-win for the both of them: the Count got a Crest freshly injected into his family line, and Lienna got to live a warm, comfortable life of personal and financial security for the rest of her days. Her only regret was that she hadn’t done it sooner.

She did have a fleeting thought that the accusation of “using” her betrothed might offend the Count if it reached his ears via… whoever he’d sent to keep an eye on her, but she quickly dismissed the thought. Even if they weren’t openly using each other in equal measure—to quite the agreeable conclusion, she might add—she wasn’t so sure the conversation would be overheard. Not only were they desolately alone at the moment, but she hadn’t felt the weight of eyes on her since they left the Monastery; a welcome change, and perhaps the only pleasant thing about this entire farce of an excursion. Even after just three days, the inescapable feeling of being watched was already grating on her, raising goosebumps on the back of her neck even in her dormitory, where she should have been sure to be alone. Lienna wouldn’t deny agreeing to the Count’s terms of a chaperone—it was fair enough for him to make sure she didn’t take his tuition money and run away with it—but was it really so necessary that he keep her stalker’s identity a secret? At least then she might finally be able to relax out of his view.

“But yes, alright, the whole realm will fall into disarray if your betrothed bites an arrow today. The whole world, in fact. I bet the mice and the birds will each shed a bitter tear for your loss.” Lienna continued at last, already bored of this conversation. Were catty insults the way noblewomen settled their disputes? Maybe they’d all be a little less stiff if they had it out the peasant way. Children slinging dung at one another was certainly how a lot of the noble snits she’d witnessed looked from the outside.

“Except you, that is,” she continued. “I suppose you’ll just be relieved, because obviously the notion of ruling Adrestia by proxy never appealed to you in the first place. Hence, of course, why you make your future Queenship abundantly clear every chance you get. I understand now.” Lienna made a face of mock enlightenment, spreading her arms for effect.

Veronica looped a lock of her hair around her finger, absentmindedly toying with it. Even the hairdressers left much to be desired, judging from her less than impressive ends. As Lienna stopped speaking, she let out a small giggle, leaning back slightly to look up at the sky. "Do you?" She asked rhetorically, eyeing a cloud above them as she shielded her eyes from the sun, free hand dismissing the question. "Ah, why bother asking, you don't seem like the type to read between the lines."

Instead of continuing, however, she decided to turn back on a more interesting subject. "Count Francis Gautier...he just made a generous donation to the Academy, too. I assumed his contribution had come because the Margrave's son had long since graduated," She thought out loud. "Just low enough to take the apple off the tree. I'm impressed, most would try giving empty promises or seduction, but you seemed to have come out of the deal relatively intact. Do the two of you get along, or will you settle in a cycle of complacency?"

“I thought you only knew the major families,” Lienna retorted boredly, leaning back in her seat. A soft breeze blew past, and she watched lazily as it rippled through the grass of the surrounding field like a wave over water. Alright, this was fun, but with Veronica insisting on running her in circles like a guilty child, she was quickly growing bored. And exhausted. Indech’s teeth, was this how noblewomen spent their days, in the throes of catty pissing contests? She didn’t know how they could stand it.

“Anyway, if you don’t want to answer my question, fine; but could you at least do it quietly and spare me the shrill pitch of your voice?” she asked, though it sounded less like a question and more like a statement as her eyes wandered back down to the wand Michail had given her.

Veronica couldn’t help her laugh that time, standing from the log and brushing off anything that chose to cling to her skirt. "Have you considered that I simply find the prince insufferable?" She asked as she plucked a leaf off her sleeve. "If he lives or dies, as the princess consort, it would be a terrible thing. Personally? I couldn't care less if he got himself killed playing hero to a village that isn't even worth the time. Only fools go out of their way to bleed for people that don't matter."

She put on a smile as she turned to Lienna. "Contempt is common between husbands and wives—since you decided not to answer my question, I'll assume that's where you stand with your betrothed," She stated. "Now, to properly welcome you to the noble life, I shall do my part and impart some unwanted wisdom."

Lienna had to wonder if Veronica wouldn’t even admit to herself that she’d weep shameful tears if her precious royal future was taken away, insufferable fiancé or not, given the enthusiasm with which she dodged the question. Maybe it was something the little Queenlet just couldn’t bear to consider; in any case, it wasn’t Lienna’s problem. She assumed she’d get her answer regardless, when the professors came back dragging the Prince’s battered corpse.

“On what, the finer points of seizing some nobleman’s co—” she paused for a second, letting out a very loud and intentional cough for effect, “—oinpurse? Thanks, I’m good,” she replied, rolling her eyes.

Wrinkling her nose in disdain, Veronica needed to take a second to compose herself to return to something resembling neutral. Of course, she wasn’t going to be forgetting that anytime soon, but that wasn't what she was trying to say.

"No, no...as an unmarried woman, I haven't the foggiest idea to manage a man's...finances," The word came out uttered, albeit she cleared her throat before she continued with, "However, more important than pleasing your husband is navigating the nobility and their long time tradition of verbally tearing down anything they dislike. I won't bore you with lessons or lectures, but I can at least warn you, from one woman to another: be wary of wearing your heart on your sleeve. This doesn't manifest in weeping maidens, it manifests most in those quick to prickle at the first word uttered negatively in their direction. I'd so hate to see your engagement canceled simply because you took offense to something said and didn't know how to properly combat it."

Mhm, how convincing. Little spots of light glittered across Lienna’s face as she turned the wand in her hands, the crystal at its top breaking the sunlight into a scattered rainbow as she half-listened to Veronica’s “advice”. Yes, because Veronica cared so much about her success in the noble world. How considerate. Lienna would have assumed it was all garbage and done the opposite if not for the… ooh, was that embarrassment in the poor Adrestian flower’s voice? With a name like Gerth Lienna found it very hard to believe she hadn’t jumped on every nobleman with a connection to the Imperial family to work her way up to the Prince, but that was neither here nor there. What actually shocked her was that Veronica’s little tidbit didn’t sound that stupid. Sure, it was cute that saving face was the biggest thing noblewomen had to worry about, but she supposed she’d be lying if she claimed keeping her distaste under her hat didn’t make a bit of sense.

Still, she wasn’t about to give Veronica credit for that. “Mm, I’ll keep that in mind the next time one of you glowing mountain flowers dodges a question with a cutting remark; must mean I struck a nerve,” she answered absently, turning the wand once more before finally sitting up straighter.

Tossing her hair, she finally turned to look at Veronica, her gaze icy as ever. “I’m not one for favours, though, so I’ll trade you this: Li vra vrako; vrako balai jo erenj,” she stated proudly, crossing her arms. Surely a highborn scholar like Veronica could figure it out. “It’s simple, but it’s true. You’ll probably find it applies to any challenge you might face, Queen or not.”

Openly rolling her eyes, Veronica returned her attention back to her hands. No one could say that she didn’t try. She’d have to keep an eye to see how that turned out; no doubt it’d be greatly entertaining, at minimum. The conversation ended and the pair were plunged into silence, the vague sounds of nature and an extremely muffled sound of steps in the distance if you strained your ears enough.

After a while, the princess consort stood, smoothing out her skirt as she looked towards the forest. She shifted in place, eventually making a decision. “I’ll be back in a moment,” She stated, already departing.

The room you awaken in is draped in a swathe of deep blue. It appears to be a luxurious train cart, a variety of cushioned seats on either side. You swear you can hear what sounds like music coming from all around you, though there are no speakers that you can see. The train feels like it is moving, though several curtains block the outside view. Any attempt at removing them is blocked, and a single wooden door decorated in an odd insignia appearing to be a mask. For some reason, it looks familiar, but you vaguely remember that it wasn't nearly as blue as it was now. Without realizing it, however, your hand is reaching out towards the handle. As your hand is just about to touch the doorknob, a voice calls out to you.

"Welcome to the Velvet Room."

The voice is decidedly male and coming from behind you; standing next to a small, wooden desk with a quill and paper on it is a young man dressed entirely in rich, blue clothes and platinum blonde hair with golden eyes gives you a warm smile, a large book residing in one hand with his other hand raised to his chest as he bows to you. You vaguely remember his name: William. As he straightens, his smile is much warmer than before.

"I have some wonderful news. The previous denizen of the stage has made it to your world," He informs you politely with a subtle relief in his eyes. "While the details remain unclear, it is certain now that hope is not yet lost. As I was bound to serve them as well, it is comforting to see them persevere. But that is not why you have come, is it?"

William taps the paper on the desk. "The corruption of that world has started to seep into your own. You are duty-bound to stop it but worry not. Multiple people have signed contracts much like yourself, and thus fate will work to bring you together," He assures you. "Tomorrow, you will find one another and be led to the Reflected World. But fear not, for you have the power to purify the corrupted land. While Lilith ever lurks and plants her seeds of destruction, you have the flames of rebirth on your side. The Arcana is the means by which all is revealed."

He bows his head once more. "We will meet again, I am sure. Until then, take care of yourself."

Hinotori High School
Kyoto Prefecture
APRIL 10TH, 2018
CLOUDY DAY

"Ugh, this is why I don't trust the weatherman! He said it would be sunny all week!"

"It looks like it's gonna pour any second. I totally forgot my umbrella, too..."

The general grumbling escalated as the school day came to an end. Despite the soul-sucking drain of school, no one was quite eager to leave just yet. Thick, gray clouds covered the entire sky, a stark contrast from the previously sunny morning. Thunder rolled off in the distance, signaling a storm. Some students debated whether to leave now or wait it out, unsure of just how much it would rain. Some club leaders had decided to make things easier by canceling sessions, though others insisted the storm would pass by the time they finished. Regardless, it was universally agreed that the sudden weather change was downright weird.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn't the only thing that was weird. The gym had been closed off without explanation, with a myriad of rumors circling around as to why. Some say a random cat had trapped itself in there, others claim there had been faulty wiring that had caused a panic in the staff, but the truth was much less exciting. A few students had poked their heads in and had seen one of the floor-length mirrors on the wall had fallen and shattered, and so it was left until some professionals would come to dispose of and replace the broken mirror. Still, the truth did little to deter the rumors.

Meanwhile, a majority of the faculty had gathered to meet. While they would be otherwise indisposed, Sakuya was all too pleased to get to kendo practice. There would be a council meeting today, but she wouldn't be surprised if no one ended up showing up--the weather was looking pretty bad and she wouldn't blame anyone for deciding to go home. Personally, she was hoping to catch a certain someone before they left the building, but she wasn't sure if she'd catch the girl. It wasn't a total loss, as she had happened to catch Sanada-san and had gotten herself a shinai to take home. While taking out equipment from the gym normally wasn't allowed, apparently, they had planned to get rid of it, and she was all too happy to take it off their hands.

With bag and shinai in hand, Sakuya left the council room and ascended the stairs. Day two was going much better than day one, and she was actually happy--no, not happy per se, but being genuinely untroubled was a relief. Ueno-san's determination to save all the clubs and get through the financial crisis was a massive relief. While everyone would be stretched thin, it was better than the alternative. She was glad her council was serious, with Kinoshita already working to find a good day to collect all the club leaders for a meeting. One less thing to worry about, she supposed.

As she climbed, she spotted a pair of students a little too close to one another. She really wished she had a hose or something to spray them, but she figured telling them to knock it off would at least get them to relocate somewhere she wouldn't have to see them. Once she got closer, however, she noticed it was less of a makeout session than she had initially assumed.

"I said, let go!" The girl made an attempt to pull back her arm, wincing as the boy's grip tightened.

To Sakuya's shock, Yamamoto was the one keeping her there, a look of anger on his face. "I'm not finished talking to you yet," He insisted.

Their conversation yesterday immediately came to mind, and without hesitation, Sakuya approached the pair, clearing her throat loudly. The two froze, with Yamamoto loosening his grip. The girl slipped out and away, stumbling as she held the rail. "I--I have to go," She muttered, hastily taking her leave without another word.

Yamamoto looked ready to chase her down until Sakuya stepped into his line of sight. She was surprised to see the complete look of fury etched on his face, his eyes outright glaring daggers at her. It was a little unsettling if she was being honest, but his actions were inexcusable regardless of what happened.

With that in mind, she regained her footing. "Harassment is inexcusable," She reprimanded him. "Whatever happened, you shouldn't--"

"What, is it suddenly a crime to talk to someone?" He snapped, cutting her off.

"Conversations happen with words, not by grabbing someone's arm," She replied cooly. "Whatever the case may be, it would've reflected poorly on you had a teacher seen."

Scoffing, Yamamoto raised a hand to his head. "You're overreacting and sticking your nose where it doesn't belong," He grumbled. After taking in a deep breath, he seemed to have calmed himself down somewhat, leveling a look at the girl. "You said you didn't have time yesterday, but can I assume you have time today to talk?"

She would rather stick pencils in her ears, but that is indeed what she stated yesterday. Despite clearly knowing that there would be nothing positive about this conversation, Sakuya ended up nodding. "What is it that you wanted to talk about?"

"I'm a little concerned with how you're going to be handling your position going forward."

For the love of all that is holy, why? No, she had no one to blame but herself for this. "That concern seems to be misplaced considering I hadn't had the chance to actually do anything yet," She couldn't help her dry response.

"True. But I was speaking of your father," Yamamoto said. "I don't believe there are many who would know about it, but I believe his trial is coming up. How would it reflect upon the school if people were aware a criminal's daughter was Student Council President without earning the position?"

This was the absolute last thing she wanted to talk to anyone about, let alone this pompous idiot. Still, it was bound to come out sooner than later, so maybe dealing with it once and for all would settle the matter. A naive thought, for sure, but it was worth an effort. "Get to the point. Are you asking for my resignation?" She outright asked.

Fortunately, for whatever reason, Yamamoto was completely calm now. "No, no...the school has suffered enough change. But I would like to make an offer."

"An offer," She repeated in disbelief.

"Don't act so high and mighty, your reputation is already in shambles," He cut her off again, raising his voice as he took a step closer. "The truth of the matter is you're no better than--no, you're the absolute bottom of the barrel. Someone like you doesn't deserve to be here, you're nothing but a stain on the otherwise perfect reputation Hinotori has!"

To his credit, Sakuya was completely speechless. Had he lost his marbles? She would've laughed if it wasn't for the terrifying look of anger on his face. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't the only one angry. Snapping her mouth shut, she leveled her own glare at him. "What are you, stupid? Don't waste my time with such nonsense," She had enough of the conversation, turning around and descending the steps. No way was she sticking around--he looked about ready to do something reckless.

Stretching out its limbs, the cat let out a soft mewl of happiness. Sitting on the shoe lockers, it stared down at the many students. Most students ignored it, though the few that approached it were widely unsuccessful at getting it down. Its mismatched eyes and blonde coat indicated that it wasn't a stray, or at least it was a little smarter than most. The way it kept searching people's faces made it seem like it was looking for someone, though it lacked any collar to indicate who it belonged to. Occasionally, it would look up and stare at the ceiling, but otherwise stayed put.



"If you have to do a tracheotomy, a knife should be preferable to a spoon," Taro replied nonchalantly, glancing at his watch. "Though you're right about Jirou, I'm pretty sure he'd struggle to pour water out of a boot with the instructions on the heel."

He let out a small sigh, slowly shaking his head. Jirou was a good guy, but his antics probably made things harder in hindsight. Ito probably wouldn't be the only one happy to hear he was gone. He had his two full-timers covering the graveyard and morning shifts, so if he stepped in to help during the afternoon and evening, he figured he could fill in the holes with a few part-timers. It'd be a rough time until he got some help, but he figured most of the locals were patient enough to suffer through one cashier for a while.

The thought didn't go too far as he was approached by one of the schoolboys he had greeted previously. The flyer had done the trick in record time, it seemed. He turned to face the kid fully, giving him a quick look. He didn't look like he'd struggle with merchandise and not dumb enough to get into the alcohol all at once, so it was a start.

"It's twelve hundred yen an hour. Flexible schedule--come in whenever you feel like getting paid. Ito here's pretty good at setting things up," He jabbed a thumb Maki's way. "You look like you've got a decent head on your shoulders. Just don't go eating the inventory and you should be fine."

He paused for a second, scratching his chin. "...you move here recently?" He suddenly asked, but as quickly as he did, he ended up dismissing it. "Not that it matters. I just tend to at least recognize everyone that comes in, though your face is new."




It all happened so fast. One second, Lilie was confident they had succeeded without any issue, and in the next, there was the clash. Was it a clash? That felt like too strong of a word--she could swear their magic had only just barely touched one another. But no matter how small it was, the contact was enough to break their focus in more ways than one. "Ah--!" While Lilie's reaction was to immediately withdraw and step back as if to move away from the shock, Jonathan's reaction made sure to make the water from the barrel shoot out. Without really thinking, Lilie raised her hands as if trying to control it, eventually throwing her arms above her head as she ended up getting splashed.

Somehow, she didn't end up as drenched as Jonathan, but she was equally surprised. Was she too forceful? She was trying to be smooth and gentle, but then again, they both reacted in surprise. Once he started laughing, Lilie couldn't help her grin, wringing out her ponytail a touch. Well, at least the class wouldn't be boring!

At that point Baron had stepped in and easily gathered the water from both the floor and their clothes, explaining the importance of practice. Maybe she was too ambitious and started with too much. "Is this how all magic feels like when they hit each other?" She ended up asking as she dipped her finger in the barrel, deciding to start with a much smaller stream. Would a smaller source of magic result in a smaller shock? "Or is it because we're trying to mingle our magic together?" She sent the stream to Jonathan, bracing herself.



The door on the far side wall opened, the sound of a few clicks punctuated with the last one signaling that whoever was coming through had missed the receiver of the phone a few times. Once he finished, the man stepped out and held the door, likely to prevent it from just slamming against the hinges. He was generally unremarkable with a mess of black hair and dark eyes blankly staring ahead, albeit he was definitely on the paler side. Unlike Maki, he wore a black polo and slacks, a nametag pinned to his left lapel reading the name Yamada Taro with a capitalized 'MANAGER' sitting underneath.

Right before the door closed, the phone rang again. Taro took a step backward to pick the phone up, only to place it back where it was before fully stepping out again. He approached Maki with a few papers in hand, though he noticed the trio of kids gathered around. "Welcome," He gave them a brief greeting before focusing on Maki. "Jirou won't be coming in anytime soon, said he ended up somewhere bad and ended up getting shot in the leg. If you want the extra hours, they're yours. But I'm going to need an extra pair of hands or two in the meantime," He stated as he let himself out of the cashier's area.

He placed down a 'help wanted' advertisement on the counter, smoothing it out. "I'd prefer a full-timer, but it'll probably be easier with more bodies," He mused out loud, hand scratching his neck and revealing the tip of what looked like a tattoo as he scratched, though once he stopped, it was easily hidden by his collar.


Sora smiled sheepishly at Oka's comment, albeit he wisely chose to stow his gear away to avoid distractions. He chose to listen as she spoke, though before he could contribute, the last member they waited for arrived. He perked up considerably at Oka's introduction of him, bowing his head to Emi. "Ah...nice to meet you," He stated, moving to stand, though he saw that was pointless as he noticed that there was an empty seat across from him.

"Sit wherever, Ueno-san. This is just a casual meeting for us to touch base," Sakuya stated as she pulled the seat next to hers back. "I was just saying that the Vice Principal has asked that we assist with the rise in delinquency and briefly touched on budgetary changes. They're significant enough that the club leaders are aware that there are going to be some unwanted changes."

Taking a page filled with braille, she slid it over to Emi. "It's precisely around forty percent across the board. We do have the option of shifting some from lesser needed clubs and those that don't have enough members that'll probably end up disqualified, but this is what it looks like for now," She explained, looking at her own notes. "It's not too surprising considering how expensive the renovations were, but I mistakenly assumed that it wouldn't be this much."

"Forty percent? That's a lot," Sora said, surprised. "Mmm...it could just be that we're just unlucky this year?"


Anzu let out a giggle of agreement--she was glad to see she wasn't the only one that had seen the new bows as redundant. She did, however, lose a little bit of her smile at Yori's comment. While it was a little comforting to see not too much had changed, she was all too aware of how much she chafed with the other members. However, Yori's question completely flipped a switch in Anzu, the older girl openly rolling her eyes.

"I'm actually a little shocked she's only infamous in our grade. All the third years know that Hinotori's Tyrant is Nakano Sakuya," Anzu huffed. "I've had the misfortune of being in the same class as that bossy know-it-all three years straight--she was always our class leader and now she's the council president. Unlike Natsuhime-san, she's completely rigid and never compromises. She used to clash a lot with uh..." She trailed off, trying to remember.

"...with...ugh, I don't remember who," She shook her head, but returned to her angry rant right away. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. Giving someone who's so obviously power-hungry a position of power is a terrible mistake, and if I can't convince her to cut us some slack, we'll probably be in trouble."



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