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If you're interested in some short completed pieces of mine beyond my regular RP posts, feel free to rifle through my filing cabinet here.

About me:
  • Birth year 1998
  • Female
  • Canukistani
  • Timezone: Atlantic, GMT-4 (one hour ahead of ET)
  • Shitposter
  • So did the mod team just not read my bio or
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As hostile footfalls drew near, Lienna bit down hard on her lip, working hard to keep the curses inside her body lest she reveal herself too soon. With nowhere to go and the bandits closing in around her, she slipped underneath the carriage itself, lying prone and watching through the wheel spokes as the feet of bandits became visible through the fog. She held her breath as she watched them, three sets of feet shuffling blindly around until they found each other, exchanging words and curses alike as they searched for their fourth comrade.

Three, Lienna repeated in her head, already creeping to the opposite side of the carriage. But her eyes were locked on the bandits, whose legs faded into barely distinguishable dark spots as they receded into the fog. Moving towards… shit.

“Goddess be good, what is that?!”

“Cethleann’s tits, it’s a monster!”

Shit! Lienna cursed herself, inching faster to the other side of the damnably wide carriage. She hadn’t considered what would happen when they found their comrade’s body—she hadn’t thought anything at all aside from how to escape with her life! And now she didn’t have the luxury of being underestimated; then again, the terrified whimpering she heard a short distance away must mean something. Maybe if they were scared of her, they’d cut their losses and leave the caravan.

A sharp smack rang out through the fog, and the whimpering ceased abruptly. “Don’t be an idiot,” a rough voice reprimanded, “it’s not a monster, it’s magic. Remember? Like the boss uses? That girl is just a mage.”

“But shouldn’t we—”

There was a rustle and some clinking of metal. “If you’re about to suggest we turn tail and run, I will kill you myself,” the rough voice warned. There was another rustle, and then the thump of something heavy falling down. “Use your brain for once. If the boss hears we found a mage like that and didn’t bring her back, we’re as good as fried.”

Panic gripped her at that, and Lienna was done listening. An awful, awful feeling stirred inside her, screaming at her with disturbing familiarity to get as far away as possible. She didn’t waste any more time: while the bandits discussed, she shimmied out from under the carriage and broke into a sprint straight out from the caravan. She’d find the edge of the fog cloud and keep going and… and… well, she didn’t care how she did it, but she’d get away somehow. Maybe break into the trees or jump into the river, it didn’t matter.

She just ran, footsteps thundering much too loudly in the grass.

She could already hear the bandits start to shout and move as she saw the light of day begin to penetrate the fog, and she burst out of the cloud like a woman possessed, searching frantically for cover. The forest was ahead of her, and—Veronica?!

Lienna skidded to a halt in front of the brunette, only narrowly avoiding bowling her over. “What the hell are you doing?!”

The brunette threw a scowl Lienna's way, crossing her arms. "Looking for you, what else?" Her response was oddly calm. "Either the carriages have given you trouble or something is afoot, I thought I would give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it's the latter."

Lienna didn’t really hear Veronica’s words, her mind racing as she looked frantically between the princess and the shouts inside the fog. As the silhouettes of bandits began to distinguish themselves from the mist, she made a snap decision, grabbing Veronica roughly by the arm and throwing her, with all her might, towards the fog.

Veronica yelped as she was thrown, stumbling forward and disappearing into the mist. The dark splotches of bandits converged on her immediately, and Lienna watched with hard eyes as the silhouettes moved, raising her wand when she heard the sounds of struggle.

“Freeze!” she shouted, thrusting the wand forward. The same unfamiliar symbol flashed before her, and a powerful burst of magic sprang forth again, icicles stabbing up from the ground and racing through the fog. There was a short chorus of yelping, and the disturbingly wet sounds of flesh pierced by ice. Then all she could hear was her heart in her ears.

Jorah only stopped his assault when he saw Imogen roll too close to his target, but fortunately, the mage he was aiming at had more than enough arrows in him to take him out of the fight. He watched in muted surprise as the mage with the frightening staff disappeared in a flash of light, but didn’t bother trying to figure it out; instead, satisfied that the ritual had been halted, he left the other mage to the mercy of Imogen’s mania and directed his attention back to the commotion around the giant.

Very much happened at once. The giant was attacked on both sides; Michail’s blow sent the front of the creature’s armguard lolling haphazardly by one strap, and meanwhile, Euphemia managed to get in close enough to knock off its helmet. Seeing the giant’s head exposed set off an alarm in Jorah’s head, honed by years of avid hunting: he was vulnerable. Instinct raised his bow before he consciously registered the situation, but Jorah froze when the monster’s inhumanly quick reflexes kicked in, snatching Euphemia up by the throat.

“Fuck!” he cursed through gritted teeth, forced to reassess. Thankfully, Jorah’s legs moved quicker than his brain, strafing around the giant’s side with an arrow nocked and ready. There was no time to go for a killing shot; with fingertips growing numb from the sting of the bowstring and his quiver lighter than he’d like, he unloaded a rapid series of shots into the monster’s back, focused around its shoulder in hopes he could loosen its grip. If it helped, Jorah couldn’t tell; the thing had a hide like a rhinoceros and it seemed to be Euphemia’s blow that finally shook the beast.

In his periphery, Jorah saw Auberon rush in, and a flash of red—Clarissa?—behind him, breaking off at the last second to attend Euphemia—way too close to the giant for comfort. Skidding to a halt, Jorah planted his feet, cursing unintelligibly under his breath as he pulled one of his few remaining arrows from his quiver, and for once, took a second to line up his shot. The creature faced away from him, and even without a helmet, it had proven itself a tough bastard; for those reasons, Jorah didn’t aim for the back of the head or the neck like he’d have preferred. Instead, blinking through smoke and sweat and stinging tears, he aimed higher, intent on burying his broadhead deep into its ear.

April 10th—Afternoon

Emi stayed quiet and listened to Kinoshita’s explanation, nodding along absently as Nakano arrived and added her portion of the story. She didn’t know much about this Yamamoto boy aside from his father’s influence on the school, but it wasn’t like a powerful man’s son to behave outwardly badly—and even if he did, she would surely have heard about it before now. No, assuming it wasn’t just a few cruel words that were taken harshly by a sensitive girl, this had to be a recent change; one among many, it seemed. A year ago, she would have taken this information to her friends as grounds to scout out the school for Shadow activity, but now? With the mirror unyielding and no one to turn to, Emi wasn’t sure what to do.

She perked up when Naomi spoke up, brow furrowing with concern. “No, we can’t go rushing in and punishing people ourselves. Nakano-san is right, it could be dangerous and we're not equipped to deal with that. Besides, we’re not teachers; we might be the Student Council, but we still don’t have the authority to independently discipline fellow students like that,” she reminded her fellow councillor. Turning in Kinoshita’s direction, she added, “If you’re really that worried about what happened, then you should go report it to the Principal, but…”

Emi trailed off, chin in her hand as she thought. The signs were undeniable: this had to be shadow activity, she couldn’t think of any other way to explain it. But without a team who understood the issue to consult with and very little background information with which to reference, she was feeling much less sure of her conclusion than she’d like.

“Would you say that this is a new development?” She asked suddenly, not addressing anyone in particular. “Not just Yamamoto-san, but everything. The Principal says there’s a rise in delinquency, but since when? How long has it been going on?”

She tapped her cane on the floor in thought for a moment, but suddenly snapped her head back up, holding her hand out to her fellow councillors. “I need you three to tell me everything you know about the recent rise in agitation. Anyone or anything acting out of the ordinary, and where in the school it happened, if you can.” Her tone was urgent, and her demeanour changed, suddenly more confident than she was before; a little closer to her old self, with some extra determination to boot. “I might have an idea as to what’s going on, but I’ve been gone too long to know for sure. But if I can figure it out… I might have a solution.”

It was a gamble. A huge one, in fact. Emi still wasn’t sure how much she wanted to divulge—about the Shadows, corruption, Personas, any of it—and honestly, every last student in the school would think she was crazy no matter how little she revealed. But a terrible feeling that she’d seen this all before nagged too loudly in the back of her head to ignore any longer. There was a good amount of hope that this could lead her to her friends, too, and she’d be a liar if she claimed that wasn’t a good part of her motivation, but regardless, something needed to be done. Corruption bleeding over into the real world threatened everybody, and someone had to deal with it, sooner rather than later.

Even if she had to deal with it alone.

Jorah grinned readily at Auberon’s reply, satisfied that there might just be hope for him yet if he could manage a bit of levity in the heat of battle. Of course, that didn’t quell a bit of competitive pride when his arrows hit their mark, clumsily-aimed as they were, while Auberon’s lance was swatted away like a fly. His little victory could probably be attributed more to the ballistic superiority of arrows over lances, sure, but that wouldn’t stop him from flaunting his win over Auberon when all this was done.

But small victories were short-lived, and a swell of anger coming from his fellow leader reminded Jorah of the gravity of the situation. Auberon’s infectious righteousness had soon tipped into righteous indignation, and Jorah was taken up in the tide; competition was all well and good, but with this giant bastard preying on the weak and endangering the lives of both his friend and his fellow students, Jorah couldn’t help but think he’d have preferred that lance to meet its mark—and as many other sharp and painful objects as could be found, for that matter—even at the cost of a petty victory.

"Strafe him and aim for his back while he's swinging at us, but don't be scared to take potshots at those mages if you see an opportunity," Auberon suggested, taking off without bothering to hear a reply. Not that Jorah had much of one; that seemed as good a plan as any, and that intoxicating fire in his chest made him more than happy to bury a few arrows into the brute’s back. But as he did just that, nocking and circling around the giant’s side while Auberon charged ahead, the anger that fueled him was suddenly siphoned away, disappearing like smoke on the wind.

Confused, he glanced at his surroundings, and his question was swiftly answered: he’d strafed over near Tomai and Kaira, catching the second half of the latter forming a plan.

"... follow up immediately after. The barrier is being manually conjured every time—I don't think it can block multiple attacks in succession."

Jorah lowered his bow a touch to listen, just as Euphemia arrived and handed hers to Kaira. "Alright. That'll fall on you, Jorah, and Imogen, then."

Jorah caught the smile Euphemia sent him as she passed, the young man watching her as she darted off, half a pleased grin hanging from his lips for a second before he snapped back into reality. Right, mages—Auberon’s single-minded ferocity was a good motivator, but it seemed to have clouded his mind from seeing the whole picture. Kaira’s calm and rational influence reminded him to survey the field, and in particular, the ring of mages behind the giant, conjuring up something foul-looking. Goddess above, was there not enough going on?

Jorah rolled his eyes, growling under his breath. That was probably by design, though he wasn’t fond of the idea of bandits with organizational skills. Maybe education was better left to the wealthy and well-connected after all—ha! Wouldn’t Duke Gloucester be proud of that. The thought made Jorah chuckle, at least, imagining the lecture he’d get from Clarissa if he made that suggestion out loud. Maybe an idea for the carriage ride back, to lighten the mood if they happened to survive.

Bah, mages! Saints be good, this was altogether too much concentrating for one day, but he was knee-deep in it now, and the only way out was through. Raising his bow once more, his eyes darted around the battlefield, taking a quick inventory. Before him were two tasks: shoot the bandit as he swung, and shoot the mages when their barrier fell. The giant was quick, he had to give him that, but it seemed those fast strikes came at the price of a long recovery; Jorah couldn’t tell when he’d strike at Auberon next. On the other hand, Imogen was nearing the barrier, sword at the ready, and it did seem like the giant was meant to be a distraction from whatever sinister doings those mages were up to.

Alright, alright, fine: mages first, giant after.

Jorah glanced over to Kaira as he raised his bow, catching her eye for an instant. “Ready?”

Eyes back on the mages, he picked out the one he was after, tracking Imogen’s movements in his periphery. As soon as she made her second charge, Jorah loosed his arrow at the mage farthest from her, then nocked and fired two more in quick succession. He paid little attention to whether or not they made it through the barrier; if volume was the name of the game, then getting more arrows downrange was better than waiting to see whether they met their mark.

<Snipped quote by Obscene Symphony>

Hey!!! I'm glad to see some of the old crew! Nice to see you again too! It's only been like 2 years, lol.

2 years, 6 years, who's counting really xD

I'm not sure I can join, but I'm definitely glad to see this RP get a second chance. Good luck!
Oh my god, it's like I've gone back in time! I think I still have the old thread for this archived somewhere...

Nice to see you again @HylianRose ^_^

Twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine…

Though she was only counting heartbeats, each one felt like an eternity, even longer when punctuated by the crunch of dirt and stones or the approaching rustle of grass announcing the bandits’ presence. The men’s own words paled in significance to their steps in Lienna’s ears: a word could be carried on the wind, but each footfall was itself a threat of increasing urgency.

And they were approaching faster than she’d like; when their hoofbeats grew loud enough to distinguish multiple different horses, and even worse, when she heard the riders thump to the ground off their backs, she knew her time was almost up. She could hear them breathing now, and even see the tops of some of their heads over the carriage walls—but she was lucky. It seemed they didn’t notice her yet. But her naive hope that they might be satisfied with a look around was dashed as she saw them moving to the back of the carriage, jiggling the latch on the door opposite her hiding place.

She held her breath.

The latch clanked, and the hinges creaked as the door began to lower. Lienna drew her bow, only waiting until the bandit’s head was visible before making her move.

“Wh—?!” The bandit’s cry of surprise was cut off when the arrow hit his face, knocking him to the ground and making the carriage door fall with a BANG along with him. Then, everything was a slew of shouting. Lienna could scarcely keep track; her bow was pulled from her grip by someone reaching over the side of the carriage, and two more assailants began clamoring into the carriage after her, swords drawn. Fuck, so much for that plan. There was no time to fight; she abandoned the bow, blindly grabbing for the nearest weapon with one hand and the wand in her belt with the other. Time seemed to slow as she clutched it, squeezing her eyes shut as she tried to focus on what Michail had told her. Concentrate into it.

To her surprise, the wand did as it was meant to: the slightest push of magic and a fog erupted around the carriage, halting the bandits’ advance for a second in a flurry of curses and coughs. Lienna didn’t hesitate; with the advantage of cover she was sure would be brief, she felt her way back up the front of the carriage, groping through the fog to climb up over the driver’s seat once more. The carriage shook with the flustered footfalls of blinded men, and using the cover of their clumsiness, she dropped to the ground as quietly as she could manage, doing her best to keep the carriage between her and where she thought the bandits were.

But she couldn’t stay still for long. At least one of them had been around the side of the carriage near her, and the others quickly realized it was empty and disembarked. Squinting at the weapon she’d managed to grab—the gauntlets—she scowled. What the hell now? These were useless to her. Cover was all well and good, but they’d find her ere long, or else start swinging blindly until their blades met flesh. Could she run? She might get out of the fog bank before they realized the direction she fled, but where could she go? They’d see her for miles if she ran down the road, and her spine crawled at the idea of running to the forest, her gut twisting with uncommon disgust that she couldn’t quite explain.

Whatever, there was no time to think that far ahead. Hearing footsteps come nearer, she blindly threw the gauntlets, which landed on the ground some distance away with a notable thump. That was followed by more shouting, and the footsteps turned away, receding in the direction of the gauntlets. With a bit more distance between them, Lienna rounded the carriage, keeping it between her and the bandits.

Well, all but one.

“Little bitch!

The sharp grip of a gauntleted hand on her shoulder elicited a yelp from Lienna, and she was yanked around, coming face-to-face with her attacker. He was short, stocky, and blood seeped from a wound on his nose next to the dented prong of a helmet protruding over his nose. She gasped in horror; that was the man she’d shot! That stupid nose-covering helmet must have stopped the arrow from killing him, the bastard. What the hell kind of valley bandit even wore a helmet?

The man wound back to strike her, wicked blades on his gauntlets glinting through the fog, and there was no time to curse him before she had to act. With a yell of effort, Lienna did the only thing she could; mercifully quicker than her injured assailant, she raised the narrow butt of her wand and stabbed it into his eye, twisting out of his grasp as he shrieked and stumbled backward. Lienna’s back hit the carriage, and without hesitation she raised the wand, channeling her magic to give the reeling bandit a taste of Faerghian winter.

An unfamiliar symbol flashed in front of her, and a rush of energy rocked through her body, through the wand, and out in a burst of wicked cold. Spikes of ice exploded out of the ground in a column before her, racing through the fog until the bandit’s painful moaning went abruptly silent.

Eyes wide with disbelief, Lienna crept forward, following the ice until a dark silhouette emerged from the fog. She didn’t go close enough to see the details; the unnatural crick of the man’s spine hanging from a spike of ice was enough for her to know her magic had done its job.

“Saints be good,” she whispered breathlessly, backing away from the gruesome scene before her. But shouting from behind reminded her of her situation, and she crouched down behind the carriage once more, forcing the impaled man from her mind. Right, one down, and… she wasn’t sure how many more there were. Two at least that she could hear talking, maybe three? More? It was impossible to tell. She could only hear their footfalls and curses, spread invisibly all around her, and she couldn’t help but wonder if the cover of fog was more to their benefit than hers. But for now, at least, they didn’t seem to know where she was.

That still left the matter of dispatching them alone, but at least she had a second to think. And speaking of, where the hell was Veronica?!

April 10th—Afternoon

Emi was admittedly a little too distracted to listen carefully to what Naomi was saying, tapping her way alongside the girl with her head in the clouds—literally. The tumultuous weather was growing nearer by the minute by the sound of it, and if it decided to settle upon the school, Emi was pretty sure she’d have another clue. An actual storm whipped up by corruption bleeding through from the Reflected World… that would probably be the biggest disturbance she and her friends had seen if it was true. What did that say about the scale of the disturbance, then? Was what stirred inside the mirror this time a more formidable foe than she’d faced before? And how could she hope to take it on alone?

Those thoughts and others troubled her as she walked, though it was as if Naomi read her mind, bringing up the thunder of her own accord. “The writing on the board and the weather? You think they’re connected somehow?” she feigned ignorance, tossing Naomi an innocent shrug. “I mean, I’m no meteorologist, but who knows? Maybe the electricity building up from the storm riles people up or something?”

There wasn’t much time for further conversation; as they rounded the corner to the Student Council room, a familiar presence made itself known—in the form of shouting at them, anyway.

"Naomi-enpai! Ueno-senpai! You haven't seen Nakano-senpai or the third year Yamamoto, have you?"

“Nakano-san isn’t here yet?” Emi asked in return, brow knit in confusion. The weather was likely going to call off the meeting, sure, but from what Emi knew of Nakano, she wouldn’t be the type to shirk her duty as President until she knew nobody else would be there.

As for Yamamoto, the first person who came to mind was Yamamoto Kenta, the son of a wealthy benefactor of the school. But what did he have to do with anything? Kinoshita sounded more than a little distressed—had something happened to them? “I haven’t come across either of them, why? What’s wrong?”

Even more annoyed now that he was forced to take his attention off the idiot prince, Jorah scanned the fringes of the battlefield from his prone position, eyes burning as he searched for that last bastard archer. Goddess above, he wasn’t a violent person—disregard the arrows—but he wanted nothing more than to ring Kayden’s stupid neck for his recklessness. He obviously knew the appeal of risky behaviour, but Jorah’s stunts only ever put his own life at risk, not other people’s! Especially not healers from another House forced to walk into danger to save his sorry ass!

His anger threatened his concentration; he knew well enough that Clarissa could handle herself, but he also knew she was altruistic to a fault, and while he’d never admit it, he worried about her. That must be the difference between lordlings like himself and royalty: apparently Kayden had enough fawning servants at home willing to lay down their lives for his petty whims that he didn’t give jumping into danger a second thought.

Fucking Imperials.

In an instant, though, Jorah’s anger melted away; only a cool, empty calm was left behind, like the still air of a cathedral after the worshipers had left. At first, he thought it must have been magic, but his theory was proven wrong when Kaira came into view on his periphery, laying a hand on his shoulder. He felt her magic then, soothing the sting in his cheek, but her calming aura definitely came from his Crest; he remembered a similar feeling when he met her in the infirmary, mistaking it for a calming enchantment placed on the room.

"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?"

It was passing strange indeed—Jorah couldn’t recall meeting anyone with such a neutral aura before, not even his sister—but Kaira had a point; there were more pressing matters to think about. Thus calmed by her presence, the apprehension his brain told him he should feel at the concept of using a woman as archer bait never came; instead, he trained his eyes on the battlefield with newfound focus, an arrow nocked and ready for the inevitable shot.

But even with bait, sniffing out this archer was no easy task. Smoke still stung his watering eyes, fires grew larger as they consumed thatched roofs, and the constant movement of bandits and civilians alike distracted the eye every which way. The burst of healing magic that sprang forth from Kaira was energizing, though, and soothed soreness Jorah hadn’t even noticed he had, making the search a little more tolerable. And apparently, that was the boost he needed: Not seconds later, an arrow came whistling toward Kaira, its heading a dead giveaway to the last archer’s hiding spot. This one was sneaky; apparently they’d been on the opposite slope of an as-yet unburnt roof the whole time, hiding behind a chimney. At long last, Jorah was able to loose an arrow, and another for good measure, sending the archer’s body tumbling off the roof.

“Okay, finally cle—!” Jorah cut himself off as another projectile came screaming toward the group, revealing itself to be none other than Professor Euphemia. He might have wondered what could possibly have sent her flying so quickly, but as soon as his eyes left the Kalonics, they were met with a new adversary that seemed eager to draw the eye: an absolute beast of a man, swinging an axe like a giant at the ants that were his classmates.

“Saint’s taint, what is that? Jorah exclaimed, watching in muted fascination as one of the Lions and one of his own were flicked aside like ragdolls. Shit, was that the Ordelia chick? She didn’t look dead, but she didn’t look great either; hopefully Clarissa could heal from a distance, cause he wasn’t fond of the idea of her entering that monster’s sphere of influence to help.

When he could finally tear his eyes from the nightmarish sight before him, he noticed the figures behind the beast, a small group of mages who looked to be reciting an enchantment. They were far from him, but that cart full of barrels didn’t look like it was up to any good, doubly so if they were casting some kind of spell on it. Auberon seemed to want to draw the giant’s attention, and Jorah watched in interest as Kellen—that was his name!—and Imogen tried to dart around it, apparently headed for the mages.

So what now? Jorah might have thought to shoot for the mages; they were the farthest foes on the battlefield by a fair distance, and with the line having moved forward, they were far enough away that he wasn’t confident he could land any good hits. He might have shot for them anyway—an arrow landing near them might at least startle them out of concentration—but the two friendlies closing the gap were too close for comfort—if he shot, he risked catching one of them in the back. So did he shoot at the big guy from up here? He wasn’t sure if that would even do much; that thing looked like it ate arrows for breakfast.

Strategy was not his strong suit, and it hurt his head just to get this far, but he had to do something—and then it came to him. Strategy wasn’t his strong suit, but attention grabbing? Why, he might as well have made his living off that.

Acting on his decision before Kaira’s rational influence could make him think otherwise, Jorah leapt off the carriage, landing acrobatically and running to the front to take up a spot by Auberon’s side.

“Sounds like you’re starting a tavern brawl; I’m insulted that nobody invited me,” he quipped to the Lion leader when he arrived, planting his feet and pulling two arrows from his dwindling quiver. Nocking them both at once, he tilted his bow on an angle and took aim at the giant.

“How about a taste of this?” he shouted, contining the theme of Auberon’s taunting as he loosed both arrows at once in the giant’s direction. It was more of a flashy party trick than an archery technique of any use, but at this range they’d at least land somewhere on his enormous target. Besides, two arrows flying in his direction at once would at least have to make it take notice, and that was all Jorah was really after.

Though Meredith’s impromptu lesson supplement was a speedbump to his concentration, Aaron couldn’t deny that it was, in a way, kind of exciting. Not only was the sudden flood of magic a shock to his own, but the feeling of sunlight, actual sunlight entering the stream was… exhilarating. Not just from a practical standpoint, either; aside from the very tangible burst of energy, the idea that he had, by proxy, finally worked with sunlight was like a glimpse into a very exciting future. After all, that was what light mages were known for, their biggest claim to fame: the power to protect, and also to destroy, by manipulating the single most dangerous substance known to vampires. He knew on an intellectual level that such a power would someday be his to command, but to feel it, even just for an instant, was a kind of thrilling he hadn’t experienced before, and couldn’t wait to feel again.

Things calmed down for the rest of the lesson, and though the excitement never quite faded, it wasn’t long before the two of them were working well in tandem, having found a rhythm that worked for both of them. By the time the lesson was up, Aaron felt leagues better than he did when he came in, like he’d just come back from a run in the woods.

As jazzed up as he was, he was still definitely ready for a break, but Aaron hardly took two steps toward his coat before Meredith whirled around in his way, asking for his number. He opened his mouth to give it, but hesitated, remembering the conditions of his isolation, should he agree to undertake it.

“That’s a good idea, but do you think we could exchange numbers later?” he suggested, hoping a friendly grin would cover the outright oddness of the request. “There’s just a good chance I’m gonna be getting a new phone soon; no point in giving you a number that won’t work in a few nights.”

"Oh, yeah, totes! Just let me know when you get your new stuff working and we'll do a tradsies then!" Meredith agreed, unphased by the request. "Not like you can get away from me anytime soon anyways!"

Vaguely ominous statement aside, Aaron nodded in agreement, bidding Meredith goodbye for the time being. With that hurdle jumped, he collected his coat and made his way outside, leaving the front unbuttoned to take advantage of the chilly air. He had nowhere to go, really, and with the benches covered in snow he opted to lean on a wall near the entrance, calmly watching the snow. He could feel a bit of fatigue creeping in from his lesson, but it paled in comparison to the buzzing of his magic: His body might have been starting to feel the strain of the magical workout he’d just undergone, but his magic was raring to go, alive and excited from the new and challenging stimulation of more complex work. He was greatly looking forward to tackling the challenges in store for the next lesson; in fact, daunting as his major was, the fact that it came with early access to higher levels of Affinity Mastery was definitely a silver lining. With any luck, the eagerness of his magic would persist throughout his education, and that enthusiasm would help protect him from the grim possibility of affinity loss going forward.

But that was far too dour of a subject to dwell on, and for the first time in a week, Aaron was feeling… content. His magic’s thrum, the pleasant fatigue of exercise, the satisfaction of a job well done in class; it all worked together to bring him a rare tranquil moment, his head not clouded with the worry, fear, or dread for the future that usually harried his waking mind. It was a little selfish—moon only knew there were plenty of things that deserved his attention right now—but if dark thoughts were content to stay at bay, he wouldn’t invite them back just yet.

Holding his palm out in front of him, he let his magic flow freely, forming a trio of little lights in his hand, slowly orbiting one another. They weren’t very bright—there wasn’t much light on a cloudy night aside from what he could pull from nearby street lamps, and he had no interest in pulling very hard to brighten them—but they were charming, occasionally forming links among themselves as they traveled. The sight brought a smile to Aaron’s face; a few months ago, merely pulling light from the environment required full focus, and now pulling and shaping it felt as natural as breathing. If he wanted to think very hard on it, he supposed it was reassuring, a tangible example that, at least in this one single area, he was actually moving forward for the better.

He passed a few minutes that way, until his magic finally calmed down enough not to be bursting at the seams—a smirk met his lips at the thought that Meredith’s out-of-control magic might be a bad influence on his. Flicking his wrist to check the time, he noticed there was still an unread notification on his phone, from Max of all people. Right, that came in right before class started. Sighing, Aaron supposed he’d deign to take a look, fully prepared for some poor taste jab about Varis’ survival as he pulled his phone from his pocket.

> Attached: 1 IMG
> Thought you dyed your hair for a sec smh

Hm, not about Varis after all. Aaron peered at the image, examining it for a moment in confusion. At first, he wasn’t really sure what he was looking at; upon realizing it was a mage in a garish outfit, he felt no more enlightened. Aaron was no fashion expert, but at least he didn’t walk around looking like a Charms student that got into a fight with a can of paint. What about this had anything to do with— oh. He finally noticed what must have been the focal point of the picture: a heavy leather collar around the mage’s neck, secured with… what on earth were those things? Straws?

Aaron rolled his eyes, closing the image. It didn’t matter; this was no different than any other of Max’s “Fido” comments. Collared mages weren’t the norm, luckily, but they were common enough that you’d see them from time to time; a few—this one included, obviously—walked around campus, and Aaron had seen his fair share accompanying nobles and delegates at Noila Castle. Fortunately, despite her rather… particular preferences for the dress code of her mages, Her Majesty wasn’t a fan of collaring, and popular opinion in his circles was that it was something of a faux pas: frowned upon, but best dealt with by pretending you didn’t see anything. Was this Max’s class partner, then? If that was the case, Aaron didn’t envy him. It sounded more than a little distracting to try and dance around that elephant in the room and work on his magic at the same time.

> Classy.
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