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Were Auberon a man of less than peerless decorum, Kellen might've gotten a laugh out of him there. Not in mockery - the expression of concern and offer to the rest of the House were both noble sentiments - but from the sheer absurdity of Kellen of all people saying it. The thought of his housemate on shaky legs with a sword - no, worse; a bow that couldn't hit the side of a barn - brandished against an advancing kidnapper that had thus far bested even the Knights of Seiros was hardly the image of a protector one would want accompanying them on a midnight stroll. And yet, he'd still offered of his own volition. That kid made no sense sometimes.

And so Auberon stared in incredulity, as if peering a hole through Kellen's head would offer a clue as to where that selfless bravery was hidden all the time. He seemed more frightened of an unexpected knock than an outright attack, yet allegedly couldn't even bring himself to lift a sword again because of some hellbound raiders.

"You're a good person, Kellen," He finally blurted out, for lack of any other encouraging words, "Even if I don't understand you at all." The blond patted his housemate on the back while he turned his attention to Derec. Right. He'd have to do something about Lienna too, whether she wanted him to butt in or not. He had the strangest notion that she leaned more heavily toward the 'not'. If Auberon offered to keep her safe, she'll call him a patronizing blowhard; if he reassured her she could handle herself and not to worry, she'd spit some more nonsense about the Goddess not liking her. Honestly, what did these peasant churches teach at mass every week? Fortunately, the Goddess saw fit to provide him a convenient escape before anyone talked him into another argument with the countess-to-be.

Tea with the archbishop promised to be an enlightening experience, though with so much going on, it was a surprise that Auberon was still allowed the honor. Then again, would the Goddess deny Her humble servants enlightenment in such trying times?

"I think that's my cue to depart. If anyone has further concerns, no matter how trivial they may seem, I'll be available later. Please seek me out." Auberon bowed his head toward the rest of the Lions before he slipped out of the pew and into the aisle. With a regretful pause, he gave one last look to Derec and Kellen. Just couldn't leave a job unfinished, could he? "If you want to try checking on her, I'd appreciate it, but I doubt she'll talk to any of us. She's -" Needlessly difficult? Then again, so was Kellen, "- headstrong like that."


If Rudolf didn't wish fervently every night that he was back at Fort Merceus before, he certainly did now. The rumors had him nervous enough, but confirmation just left him enervated and mildly annoyed. Disappearances. In Garreg Fucking Mach. Unbelievable; the Knights were a joke nowadays. If they seriously thought he might be a threat when something like this was in the works right under their noses, they must've been. Maybe Theo should've spent less time monitoring him and more time watching for infiltrators. At the very least, Rudolf should be well-protected once that silver-haired psychopath inevitably tried to name him as one of the suspects and stepped up his spying. Nothing could be worse than letting Rudolf von Bergliez, Criminal Mastermind, Serial Murderer, Peerless General, and Sorcerer Supreme run around unmonitored. He might go to the library or something - how positively dastardly.

The boy's momentary grimace was wiped away along with such bitter thoughts as the prince spoke up. Right. He was probably the safest person on campus even without the Knights hovering over his shoulder, not that he ever left his room enough to try his luck. Speaking of which, that sounded like a lovely place to retire to before he was cornered and interrogated for more things he didn't do. Whatever Kayden hoped to glean from Captain Battleaxe up there didn't interest him anyway. Any guard rotation schedules they gave to a student would probably have to be changed to prevent a leak anyway, even if it was one of the House Leaders.

Unfortunately, just as Rudolf went to make his escape, someone's arm slammed right into his face as he rose from the pew, which caused him to stagger into the seat in front of him. It wasn't the first time he'd been literally tripped over and it likely wouldn't be the last, but the fact that it happened so brazenly told him he must've slipped away more adeptly than he thought. His assailant - that ice magic girl from Faerghus - was nice enough to toss an apology back at him but clearly decided he wasn't worth any more of her time than that with the way she tried to scurry off. Not that he blamed her.

"Yeah," The boy mumbled awkwardly as his eyes shyly drifted toward his toes, "Keep an eye out for me next time, I guess..." Why was everyone around here so full of action all of a sudden? It wasn't like they could march up to the podium and nag the administration into finding the culprit. Or was that just what successful people did; threw aside passivity at the first sign of danger and paced around like ants near spilled honey until they found something decisive to act on. Whatever it was, Rudolf wasn't that person. He didn't belong here and now he was almost in danger for it.

@Obscene Symphony@POOHEAD189

Ugh, Max hated the way she spoke so calmly about his... magic situation. Then again, what was he supposed to do? Tell Lilie to stop talking about it because weirdos like Eris want to use him as breeding stock? She already wanted to use Aaron as breeding stock; probably wouldn't even understand where the issue was.

"So wouldn't it follow that you should go jump in a lake to get a better handle on this?" Max mused unenthusiastically, "Go underwater, get used to shaping a sphere and then repeat without the vessel to hold all your magic." At least, that was how he would do it if he wanted a large portion of his magic to vacate his immediate vicinity. Maybe he could line up a bunch of cans and bounce his magic across them until his dowsing field compressed, now that he thought of it. No, he'd probably just get another mental 'stretch'. Or send all the cans flying - better out in the woods than here, though.

With their dismissal, Max promptly dropped that train of thought. Waste of time. Not worth caring about. He could cross that bridge when he got to it, preferrably with a competent instructor next to him.

"Whatever, I don't care. I'm hungry." Of course all his exhausting classes had to be before lunch. Not that this should've been an exhausting class, but apparently entertaining the professor's weird complex was also part of the curriculum. Just like high school, except the eccentricities were twice as bad when the teachers were half-insane from years of vampiric servitude and the power trip of being able to shoot fire from their hands.

A bleak future to look forward to. Hopefully when he finally snaps he'll get lucky and take Eris with him.

Speaking of Eris, lunchtime was probably his cue to try and pester Max into doing his homework for him in whatever mortal psychology class he probably padded his schedule with. Okay, he had absolutely no idea what vampire classes were even about, but Max assumed they were probably mortal-related. They had like a century to learn all the ins and outs of vampirism beforehand, after all.

The mage rose with a sigh and trudged off toward the exit, heedless of whether Short, Pale, and Lovestruck was finished with their theorizing or not. And even that was infuriating because there was a little Eris somewhere in the back of his head saying, 'That's right, always make them chase you,' and that meant Max was marketable to all that leech's tabloid sycophants. He couldn't fucking win today.


The advent of an assembly itself wasn't concerning; the administration could've had any number of announcements deemed too important to simply be tacked on the end of a class by the professors. The concern arose from his professor's solemn vigil near the door. Auberon's first thought was that someone had died, since he doubted something like another attack on the church would warrant a public announcement if the one concurrent with the Luin massacre didn't. And if the Central Church itself had been attacked, he certainly would've heard the soldiers charging at the gates well beforehand.

Unfortunately, it seemed his intuition had failed him. Rumors that warranted a curfew and a transfer of guards weren't just rumors, which meant someone had actually disappeared already. How any kidnapper could operate underneath the noses of the Knights of Seiros and the watchful eyes of the Goddess without being immediately apprehended was mind-boggling, and Auberon suspected Michail agreed, based on his dour mood. Then again, that thief managed to get in simply enough. If he applied Clarissa's theory that every recent act against the church was a calculated part of a greater whole - which he frequently did, as the odds of this many unrelated iconoclasts disgracing Garreg Mach in such a short amount of time were slim - that might've been a trial run of their exfiltration plan. If their motive was simple coin, nearly any student here could generate quite the ransom. Otherwise, the next generation of the aristocracy would make for fine political leverage as hostages.

The target on his back almost made him want to go for a midnight stroll so he could ask them. After they'd been rendered harmless - with emphasis on the armless - but before they'd bled out, preferably.

Auberon opened his mouth to address his Housemates, but Lienna was already out of her seat and down the aisle before he could even ask where she was headed. At least she was probably the one he needed to worry least about. If the inevitable giant ice spire didn't tip off the guards to an abduction in progress, nothing would. "Kellen, you're probably the most valuable hostage in the Blue Lions," Auberon started before pausing briefly. The other boy barely left his room to begin with; he'd probably become a complete recluse if he thought he was in genuine danger. Derec was probably worth peanuts, so that just left the other handful of minor nobility to fret over and the mystery bastard who, quite frankly, Auberon wouldn't miss in the slightest. "But you're not the type to go skulking off alone, so I'm sure you'll be fine as long as you're mindful. Derec, don't try to play hero like that blunder with the fat bandit." Or at the very least, send Auberon an invitation before skewering the poor sinner.

Reining his face back into authoritative stoicism, Auberon twisted in his seat to address the remainder of his House within earshot. "I trust no one else will do anything rash either. Stay inside or bring an escort. Your sword isn't an escort."

April 11th - Evening

If that response was meant to dissuade him, it sucked. Most students weren't Maxwell Alderman and this class was a waste of time anyway, so he might as well get started on the curriculum for the class he should've been in. She could've at least thrown him a hint though. Whatever, it couldn't be too hard. He spent his last class playing with shapes, and he could do it again. Turning a sphere into some elongated mess sounded like it should be easy anyway.

Max closed his eyes and drew his magic tightly around him before projecting it forward. It wormed its way into the obnoxiously sized metal water bottle sitting on a desk in the row before him easily enough. And the piercings of the girl behind him. And Lilie's pen. For fuck's sake, why was it harder to use less energy? Even stripping the magic from the metallic objects in his surroundings, while vaguely strenuous, did nothing to reduce the field that still lingered around them, hungry to inhabit the vessels they'd been denied the moment Max relaxed. Every tug on the sides of his bubble just reduced the entire field rather than squishing it into a different shape. As usual, he was left pushing and pulling in too many directions at once if he wanted to do what he actually intended to.

Waste of time. Waste of frustration too, seeing as he'd already passed the class according to the professor's criteria. He could probably take a hike out into the woods and master it in ten minutes if he wasn't busy peeling magic away from half the auditorium like gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe. Y'know, if he needed to. This was a dumb skill anyway. So then why was it still pissing him off?

"Is it easier when you're not surrounded by your element?" He questioned offhandedly toward Lilie, though a quick glance in her direction left him pretty sure she wouldn't have a satisfactory answer for him. She probably had yet to even project a dowsing field to begin with, let alone start shaping it. "You have no idea; I don't know why I asked."


Rudolf was quite certain Victor remembering him was a far more commendable feat than the other way around. Well, he could've been politely pretending to recognize him instead. Or maybe he vaguely remembered one of the other Bergliez boys and assumed one of them had lost weight. He had no idea why Victor assumed mophead was the source of his discomfort though; he was still naked whether Isaac was the highest nobility in the land or some serf that floated from Brigid on a log. Maybe because Isaac had flailed so much. Why did Faerghians always have the worst reaction to his Crest?

"Nice to meet you. Both. Bo-both of you- Uh," He stuttered as he debated which arm to raise in order to wave without revealing too much of his body. In the end, he simply let his arms drop and resume the hug around his knees. Smooth. If everyone's kids were acquainted, maybe he'd underestimated the amount of effort invested in the Western Church. He couldn't fault House Varley for wanting to spread its influence to the Empire's neighbors, but how hard could it be to erect a few buildings and appoint a bishop or two? Then again, his idea of a chapel was a bit underwhelming; Bergliez holdings were often too fortified for such frivolous defensive liabilities like stained glass windows or expansive cathedrals that sat on prime real estate better used to house a castle. Outside of a few trips to Enbarr or Nuvelle Harbor, he prayed - if he found the time - in a quaint little room tucked against the outer wall of the local fort.

"Inter-house relations must be going well in your unit. I think the Lions imploded in ours." Rudolf shrank back into the not-very-deep depths of the pool from whence he emerged abruptly as that overzealous blond glanced over in tune with the conclusion of his statement. Thankfully, no scornful castigation emerged from the mouth of the Goddess' favored son, and Aubrey or Aubin or whatever his name was simply trailed his gaze along the wall in search of a place for that mural he'd rambled about. Probably didn't even notice the Bergliez boy was there; must've been an unlucky coincidence. Raising his mouth back above the water after the danger had seemingly passed, Rudolf continued, "Though I guess I can't really say I've been keeping to the Eagles myself either..." Kayden was... fine. Not the type of person Rudolf usually associated with - least of all because he was a prince and the ruby-eyed boy should've been beneath his notice anyway. But he probably knew the Edmund better and he'd talked to her exactly once.


If Max rolled his eyes any more today, they'd tumble right out of his head. If she was this concerned about people failing her class, maybe she was just a shitty teacher. Especially with such a piss-easy subject. Was dowsing seriously that hard for the riff-raff that weren't blessed with Taldrin magic? Maybe those leeches that went wild over it had a point, if normal mages had to be trained to do anything beyond manipulating what was directly in front of them. Professor Mara raised a decent point though, if only indirectly. Max had never actually tested his range to its limits yet; he hadn't needed to. The ability to count every single metallic object on a city block was, quite frankly, not something he ever figured he'd need.

Max briefly flirted with the idea of pretending to struggle with the exercise, but he supposed he might as well get something out of the class since he clearly wasn't going to get a nap. At the very least, he'd have a head start on the higher courses where the professor wasn't an insecure hack. The brunette shifted his posture to something that passed for upright at last, closed his eyes, sucked in a deep breath, and slowly exhaled. What little tension there was in his frame melted away as his shoulders sunk and widened in mirror of his magic creeping further and further outward. At first, the field grew effortlessly; his energy, no longer restrained by any of Max's will to remain nearby and useable, washed across the immediate rows of seats, hungrily worming its way into every metallic trinket and chair frame in its path. Before Max had a chance to grow confident he could rip the piercings out of every woman in the auditorium at once, the easy flow of energy soon became the arcane equivalent of a tight stretch as the quicksilver currents that had filled out his dowsing field once again settled with the rigid surety of steel.

With another deep breath, Max tensed his muscles against nothing as he internally willed the magic out of the metal reservoirs within his field that it had instinctively inhabited and pushed it against the stubborn threshold of his sorcerous bubble. There had to be a more efficient way to do this; he was functionally managing hundreds of individual objects at once, and he wasn't even doing anything with them except trying to leave them alone. He could handle pushing magic out of his body, but every single dorm key in the room too?

As if to taunt him, his magic returned to its mercurial fluidity once he released the pressure he had exerted on it and it shrunk back to a more comfortable radius around the mage. Like a fucking string he'd pulled too tight - except he knew it wasn't too tight, his magic just loved sitting in pen tips and shit. Naturally, the most obvious solution was to just remove all the extraneous distractions.

Max raised a hand languidly. "Do dowsing fields always manifest as a sphere or are they shapeable without excessive effort on the caster's part? It seems like it'd be inefficient to project magic backward too if you knew the object you were dowsing for was in front of you." Or better yet, just snake the field around the chairs entirely.


Auberon sighed as everyone predictably noticed the issue in his mosaic idea. That's what he deserved for trying to pass himself off as a patron of the arts, he supposed. What else would fit? Landscape art? It was a church; religious iconography was a given. Not that he particularly wanted Saint Macuil to stare at his undressed form either. Depictions of violent events like the first Battle of Tailtean would be visually impressive but hardly conductive to relaxation, and most of the other key scenes from the scriptures would have the same failing of Saint Seiros oogling his naked ass. He hoped the Count had a seneschal that was skilled in interior decoration already, because Auberon was wholly out of his depth.

"Yes, thank you, I saw the flaw as soon as I said it. Not that naked women frolicking about would be any better in a place of worship," The blonde muttered in a deadpan. Saint Cethleann would probably weap if she bore witness to this conversation anyway. Taking a secret (or not-so-secret) lover in the face of an arranged marriage wasn't underheard of, but Auberon always assumed such acts were crimes of passion spawned from the heat of the moment that progressed into extended affairs, not an unvirtuous soul deliberately hunting for gullible courtesans. Couldn't Kayden just eat a potato or something?

"I'm not condoning any of this," Auberon leveled a stern glare at his fellow House Leaders to make it patently clear he had nothing but scorn for the idea, "but Jorah's right. If you absolutely must engage in some pointless tryst, at least do so with someone who fully knows what she's in for." Otherwise, the Empire was likely to surpass Faerghus in uppity bastard rebellions. "Or you could find a nice girl, walk her down to the cathedral, and remember the wages of sin is death and those shallow pleasures of the flesh will be little comfort in a lake of eternal fire," He suggested with a flippant perkiness in his tone. This was why the bathhouse needed to be churchlike - people like Jorah and Kayden had to be reminded where they were anytime the topic of women came up - which it often did for some reason whenever people were naked.

The blond lowered himself further into the pool as he sprawled out in a full body stretch that he held until the heat from the water fully soaked in. Might as well loosen up before he ended up all tense again from matters that didn't even concern him. As nice as the bath was now, Auberon was certain this feeling would be absolutely heavenly in the winter. Every village beyond the most irrelevant hamlets in Faerghus should have one of these, as far as he was concerned. Though heating the water might've been an issue. Was this a natural spring or did servants have to maintain a constant fire in the basement like those pretentious southern villas? Or maybe there was a spell for it. If Lienna could figure out icicles in her dirt hovel, surely one of the more well-off yeomen could figure out heated water.

@Obscene Symphony@POOHEAD189

Rudolf let out a startled yelp at Kayden's acknowledgement, muffled into incoherence by the water that submerged his mouth as bubbles frothed up on the surface of the pool above. Why? Of all the times for his unfortunate curse to fail him, why did it have to be when he was naked? The boy curled in on himself tighter, hugging his knees to his chest and squinting in concentration, as if willing his Crest into being would make everyone miraculously forget he was there. Unfortunately, it seemed the blood of Saint Noa was not his to command, and Kayden's eyes lingered too consistently for Rudolf to have shifted from an insecure little boy to a nebulous bathhouse phantom.

"I'd rather not talk to her at all if I can avoid it," Rudolf murmured in Kayden's direction as he finally lifted his mouth above the water's surface. The pool was too full. Too many eyes would have picked up at least a vague sense of his person. Any one of those strangers could take a direct interest in him, and then even ducking into the foliage wouldn't suffice to fully conceal him. He was stuck in the midst of an uncomfortable conversation between strangers about Veronica - which he might be expected to have an opinion on as an Adrestian student.

But it wasn't just strangers. Crown Prince aside, a head of black hair across the pool looked awfully familiar. He wasn't one of the Varley kids that Rudolf could recall, unless the count had a bastard running around that the Adrestian gossip sphere wasn't privy to yet. No, he'd definitely seen this guy before. Formal wear was involved. Probably. Something with a V... Vlad von- no, that sounded like a cheesy play. Victor! Victor von Varley. That still didn't sound right, but Rudolf was out of V names. He'd try it.

Rudolf sunk low in the water again and awkwardly shifted away from the House Leader triumvirate and the probable Gautier bastard, keeping his back to the edge of the bath and his knees up high to cover his... everything as he approached the arguing trio from outside his class. Whether his escape went unnoticed or not didn't concern him; he had nothing to say to Kayden with an audience present and even less to discuss with foreigners. They'd forget about him in a moment and he'd only have to evade the already-distracted students in the corner to slip away back to his room.

"Hi. Sorry. Uh. Victor, right? You probably don't remember me. Rudolf von Bergliez. I think we met at Count Hevring's ball a few years ago. Well, we didn't really meet, but I was there... in the corner... um. That- that sounds creepy, ignore that." The pallid boy fumbled awkwardly through his words, only able to maintain eye contact for short intervals before his gaze drifted back down to his knees. "Anyway," Rudolf continued nervously upon the realization that nothing he'd said so far actually had a point, "I just wanted to introduce myself and... say hello. I'd shake your hand but we're... uh... disrobed at the moment."

Saints have mercy, a conversation about Veronica would've been a million times less awkward than this. The limits of his own stupidity always managed to astound him; Rudolf had no idea how no one else saw it.

@POOHEAD189@Obscene Symphony@Hero
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