Chapter 4:

Chapter 4: Pain of the Pathetic (Elly)

The Heir of the Dragon

“Blake Harker.”Bookmark here

Harker?Bookmark here

Elly blinked. Where had she heard that name before? She glanced at Blake, and saw that the look on his face was stony and cold. Her mouth suddenly felt very dry.Bookmark here

“Blake Harker?”Bookmark here

“It can’t be.”Bookmark here

“He’s dead!”Bookmark here

“One of the Harkers is still alive?”Bookmark here

Whispers of curiosity rose up across the room. The more she overheard, the more Elly remembered from her history books. House Harker, known as the House of the Dragons. It had once been one of the oldest and most prestigious noble families, comparable only with the royal family itself and the other archduchies, like the Angeliques. Once upon a time, they had been a part of the main military force of Saekoria, but when the dragons went extinct they lost a lot of that power. They had retained their prestige, but 10 years ago a group of Estvalian terrorists had attacked their castle of Silverscale, and the entire family had been wiped out.Bookmark here

There was no way that any Blake Harker could be here. There was no way that this Blake could be…Bookmark here

Right?Bookmark here

And yet, with the way he had talked about dragons on the train ride there…Bookmark here

“Hey Blake, you aren’t this ‘Blake Harker’ guy, right?” Amy laughed, elbowing him in the side. Blake wasn’t laughing. The girls sitting in front of them were starting to grow interested, shooting glances back at him and whispering to each other.Bookmark here

“Blake…” Elly’s whispers were drowned out in the murmurs of the crowd.Bookmark here

Blake didn’t say a word. But to Elly’s shock, he rose from his seat, all eyes in the room turning in his direction.Bookmark here

“No way! For real?” Amy gasped, her eyes widening. It was like she was looking at him for the first time. Elly was seeing him in a new light herself.Bookmark here

Blake knelt down and picked up that large duffel bag he was carrying and hefted it up on his shoulder, turning toward the aisle.Bookmark here

“Ahem. You can leave that bag behind, Mr. Harker,” the Chancellor informed him. Blake lowered his head in a nod and set the bag back down.Bookmark here

“Don’tcha worry! We’ll watch it!” Amy told him. He didn’t seem very reassured by her reassurance. Without sparing either girl another glance, he headed down the aisle, a chorus of whispers following him.Bookmark here

“Wow, I can’t believe that guy was from the Harker Family,” Amy said. She gasped. “Oh, no! That means I totally ran into an archduke! Oh man, I’m gonna get in so much trouble! Elly, what’m I gonna do, huh?!Bookmark here

“Blake isn’t like that,” Elly assured her. But she wasn’t so sure herself. She didn’t think Blake had been lying when he said he worked on a farm… but he had lied, pretending that he wasn’t a noble. At this point, Elly didn’t even know who or what to believe anymore. Not that she had the luxury to think about it. She had her own issues to worry about coming very soon.Bookmark here

Elly glanced back at the dais. Blake stood in front of the orica, and the beautiful faeries were watching him quietly.Bookmark here

“So you’re Blake Harker.”Bookmark here

“Harker, Harker,” the faeries echoed, swirling around him.Bookmark here

“Place your hand on the orica, Blake Harker,” the white faerie asked him.Bookmark here

Blake reached out and placed his hand on the surface of the crystal, bright red light emanating out of it. The shining rays shifted into numbers pulsing above the orica.Bookmark here

2264Bookmark here

Amy whistled approvingly, and Elly gasped in surprise. Blake… that was quite a high number indeed! He had more mana than the prince did!Bookmark here

“What numbers!”Bookmark here

“Your mana, so bright and powerful!”Bookmark here

“A roaring flame!”Bookmark here

“So strong, so strong.”Bookmark here

“But…”Bookmark here

The white faerie interrupted the others, the fae falling silent as they glanced back at her.Bookmark here

“Such rage. Such anger. Such pain.” The white faerie floated down, circling around Blake’s head.Bookmark here

“So much lost, and yet you still have so much left to protect,” the faerie murmured. “Those children…”Bookmark here

“Fives sparks, soon to grow into a fire…” The other faeries said.Bookmark here

“Waiting, waiting.”Bookmark here

“Like your eggs, your path… still growing, nurtured by the heat of your mana… your flame… the egg of your soul… what shall hatch? A noble dragon? Or a wicked beast, driven to ruin? So curious…”Bookmark here

The white faerie fluttered away from Blake.Bookmark here

“I hope you shall find an adequate path. I look forward to it,” the white faerie giggled. “Now, your path forward… only one shall do, yes?”Bookmark here

“Yes, yes!” The faeries giggled as one, circling closer to Blake. “Only one cohort, yes.”Bookmark here

“The Stars,” the white faerie declared.Bookmark here

“The Stars, the Stars!” The other faeries chanted. “It is said, it is said.”Bookmark here

“Whoooo!” Amy cheered, standing up and clapping. “Way to go, Blake! We’re in the same cohort, this is gonna be so much fun!”Bookmark here

“Amy…” Elly whispered. She could feel the judging looks from the students in front of them, she just wanted to die of shame!Bookmark here

Blake returned to his seat without a word, the students not even applauding him as he left the dais, though Amy still did. Elly watched him return, Amy already asking him a load of questions that it was clear he didn’t want to answer.Bookmark here

“Dabrik Hask,” the Chancellor continued on to the next name, trying to get things off of the topic of Blake Harker.Bookmark here

“So are you, like, a ‘Harker’ Harker?” Amy asked. “Like, dragons and everything?”Bookmark here

She gasped.Bookmark here

“Wait, that egg thing in your bag, was that a-“Bookmark here

“Amy, please, just shut up,” Blake hissed at her. Amy’s face fell and she nodded obediently. Elly frowned. That look in his eye… it was like suddenly he wasn’t the same guy she’d gotten to know yesterday.Bookmark here

Elly didn’t want to think about it anymore. She glanced up at the dais, staring at the cute faeries. In the books that she’d read, faeries were sweet and playful, while occasionally naughty and mischievous too. They were connected to the mana in the sky more than any other race, and were said to be born from mana itself. As a child, they had filled her with awe and curiosity, but seeing them before her eyes, it wasn’t excitement she was feeling as much as worry and dread. A reminder of her childhood dreams, poisoned by her own inferiority.Bookmark here

Elly would get her turn soon. And when she did… the entire first-year class would see just how much she didn’t belong here. Each name called was another stake driven into her heart, another step closer to the edge of the cliff.Bookmark here

More people Elly recognized were called as the Chancellor went down the list. Est was placed in the Stars Cohort, filling out the trio, and so was another girl named Josie, who would sometimes hang out with them back home. Derek Lyder, one of the bullies who had tormented her the most, had been placed in the Sun Cohort, and that made two cohorts now that Elly was praying she didn’t get placed in. She liked Amy, and Blake was, well… she wasn’t sure what she thought of him now. But if she was in the same cohort as the prince for the next five years, she wasn’t sure how she would handle it.Bookmark here

Who was she kidding? No matter where she ended up, it wasn’t like she would be living the fulfilling school life her mother had hoped for.Bookmark here

Another girl Elly had heard of through rumor, Nina Marslow, was called next. She had achieved moderate recognition for being a child of one of the very few malkin noble families. She rose from her seat with a dignified look on her face. With her curly brownish-grey striped hair perfectly styled around her twitching ears, she carried the poise of a noble. Her tail, long and slender like a cat, swished behind her with each careful step, and Elly couldn’t help but admire her beauty and grace with an envious longing. Bookmark here

More names. Some Elly recognized, many she didn’t. The blonde girl who had spoken with Blake earlier in the plaza she learned was named Evangeline Moonshadow, and to Elly’s curiosity, she saw her glance at one of the professors as she stepped up to be selected, a man with curly brown hair and a cane. They shared a nod and she placed her hand on the orica. Her mana level was 777, not a very high score, but not a particularly low one, either. The faeries sent her to the Stars Cohort, and Elly could see the disappointment on her face as she walked back to her seat. Elly suspected she would wear the same look herself if she was assigned there.Bookmark here

More names. Over half the students had been called now, and Elly was getting antsy, finding her seat more and more uncomfortable as she fidgeted. She wasn’t even focused on who was going where now; she was too concerned with keeping her head down and praying hers wasn’t the next name called. Elly… Elly didn’t have a last name. Her mother didn’t, and she never could have inherited her father’s name. So she would likely be at the bottom of the list. It was a cold comfort. Hers, the last name called? No one else called afterwards, to take the attention off the spectacle? At this point, Elly would even consider praying to the Celestials if it would make that moment take just a little longer to arrive.Bookmark here

“Sabine Scarlet,” the Chancellor called next.Bookmark here

“Finally,” crowed a haughty voice Elly recognized. Elly’s head jerked up to see a familiar ripple of crimson. Sitting in the front row was one of the girls from the train, her bright red hair unmistakable. She practically pranced up to the dais.Bookmark here

“Let’s get this done,” she rudely declared. “Someone of my prestige? To compare with the others, the Stars cohort is the only fitting place, wouldn’t you agree?”Bookmark here

“…We shall see,” the white faerie replied. Sabine placed her hand on the orica, which began glowing a red as deep as her hair. Her mana level was 964. It was a respectable number, but only slightly above average for the mana levels so far.Bookmark here

“Such a fire burning in you,” one of the faeries murmured, the others humming in agreement.Bookmark here

“But she’s so prideful, so vain, thinking only of herself,” another replied.Bookmark here

“Seeks to be above the others.”Bookmark here

“Looks down on those beneath her.”Bookmark here

Enough,” Sabine scoffed. “Just tell me that I’m in the Stars Cohort already.”Bookmark here

“So impatient,” the white faerie giggled. “But… you’re right. A girl like you… will have a lot to learn from those around you. The Stars Cohort it is.”Bookmark here

“It is said, it is said,” the other faeries chanted.Bookmark here

“Of course,” Sabine crowed, walking back to her seat and flicking her hair aside, sitting down proudly in her chair. Her number wasn’t particularly high, and yet she still carried herself with such pride. Elly stared enviously at her. She wished she had the mana for such confidence…Bookmark here

The list got shorter and shorter. The number of students without cohorts was fewer and fewer. Elly had lost count a while ago. She knew there would be thirty students for each cohort, but which ones had already reached that limit? She was kicking herself for not keeping track. Not that it would matter. But it would make the anxiety she was feeling abate slightly if she knew that there were no more openings in the Stars or Sun Cohorts.Bookmark here

“And finally… Elaindra.”Bookmark here

The Chancellor’s voice was a death sentence, and Elly swallowed in resignation.Bookmark here

Elly rose from her seat and slowly walked down the aisle, her vision blurry. She tried to block out the feeling of the other students’ eyes. The room was spinning around her and all she could see were the flashes of color in the orica and the small figures of the fae as she approached. She stepped onto the dais and gulped, getting a good look at the faeries for the first time. Bookmark here

They were as pretty as the stories said they were, though Elly was in no condition to admire their beauty. Behind the faeries, she could see the faces of the teachers and the Chancellor. He was younger than Elly had thought at a closer look, thin wrinkles adding a wizened look to his dignified face. His silvery eyes were kind, looking at her without judgment, something she was so unused to seeing from the adults in her life. He stroked his goatee and nodded to her, Elly turning back to the white faerie.Bookmark here

“Place your hand here, child,” the white faerie sweetly asked her. Elly stepped forward, her hand trembling as she placed it on the orica. The surface of the crystal was cool to the touch; with the mana surging through it, Elly had expected it to be warm with life. She held her breath, focusing her mana. She tried to summon as much of it as she could. If there was a time when she would need to look strong, now was that time.Bookmark here

322.Bookmark here

The numbers stared accusingly down at Elly, and her heart sank in her chest. She was as abysmal of a failure as she’d expected.Bookmark here

The faeries hummed and giggled, but the sounds they made were drowned out by a loud laugh coming from behind her.Bookmark here

“322? That’s the mana level of a child!” The haughty voice was Sabine’s, and Elly felt her face grow hot as she hung her head in shame. The redhead’s mocking laugh was joined by many others, a chorus of scorn echoing across the walls behind her.Bookmark here

“Enough…” The Chancellor’s voice silenced the laughter. “This is a sacred ceremony.”Bookmark here

Even without the mocking of their voices, Elly still felt the shame burning a hole in her chest. It had stopped now, but it would only start again. The level of mana in her body was a pitiful amount; she had no business at all being a mage, much less a student at the most prestigious magic academy in the sky. Surely the faeries could see that. Surely they would say something, let her know she didn’t belong.Bookmark here

“You think you’re weak,” the voice of a faerie touched her ear. Bookmark here

“Your mana, so low…” Another voice, this one a little further.Bookmark here

“She thinks she’s different.”Bookmark here

“Thinks her blood impure.”Bookmark here

“Thinks she’s flawed.”Bookmark here

Elly didn’t understand what the purpose of this was. Why were they telling her what she already knew? To humiliate her in front of everyone? She’d done that quite well herself.Bookmark here

“Thinks it matters.”Bookmark here

“Your path. Still. Waits.”Bookmark here

Elly didn’t understand what she was hearing, the swirl of voices growing louder, blending together, until she could barely make anything out.Bookmark here

“The Stars Cohort,” the white faerie's voice pierced the storm. “The only path forward. Walk down it, little lost child. Your eyes and your path, no different than any other. Your blood and your heart, no different than any other.”Bookmark here

“It is said. It is said.”Bookmark here

Elly let out the breath she forgot she’d been holding and felt her body crumpling. Her hand slipped from the orica and she stumbled back, nearly falling from the dais.Bookmark here

“Her?! A girl like her doesn’t belong in the Stars Cohort!” Sabine’s cruel voice cut shattered the silence, ringing in Elly's ears as she stumbled blindly back to her seat, her body numb.Bookmark here

She was in the Stars Cohort, the prince’s cohort. She would spend the next five years of her life at this school going to classes with him and his friends, that girl Sabine and her friends, people with talent and skill that far outclassed her own. What was the point of it? What did the faeries tell her? That this was the only path forward?Bookmark here

Nothing. There wasn’t any path forward for her, there would only be more sadness, more suffering. She could feel their eyes on her, all of them. She was an outcast here, like she was back home. All the "peers" in her cohort, all the students in her year, they could all see for themselves how inferior she was, and they hadn’t even discovered her greatest shame yet.Bookmark here

She knew there was nothing worthwhile at this school. Not for someone like her.Bookmark here

She didn’t realize that she had made it back to her seat until Amy called out to her.Bookmark here

“Hey, Elly! We’re in the same cohort! Isn’t that great?” Amy asked. Elly looked up to see the girl’s eyes shining with excitement. So bright and pure, it made Elly sting with guilt that she couldn’t exactly share her feelings.Bookmark here

“Yeah, all three of us!” Amy continued, turning back to Blake. He had a look that was no doubt as troubled as the one Elly must be wearing.Bookmark here

The Chancellor’s voice turned the attention of the gossiping students back to the front of the auditorium.Bookmark here

“You’ve all been assigned to your cohorts now. Thank you for your patience through this important ritual. And be sure to thank the Muses as well.”Bookmark here

The faeries all giggled, and with a swirl of colors they disappeared in flashes of light, the orica vanishing with them.Bookmark here

“Now, you’ll move on to your cohort leaders,” the Chancellor announced, “who will be taking charge of you. They will inform you of the next steps you will take. Please, form four orderly lines, if you would…”Bookmark here

He continued to speak, but Elly was too numb to hear.Bookmark here

“The Clouds Cohort, Professor Aria Esterwind.”Bookmark here

The one-armed woman who had led them here stretched, rising from her seat, and walked to the edge of the dais. She waved her hand up and down in a “rise” gesture. Several murmurs went out across the crowd as a few students rose from their chairs.Bookmark here

“The Moon Cohort, Professor Argent Reycom.”Bookmark here

The man with the cane rose from his seat, limping over to the front of the dais. More students rose to line up in front of him.Bookmark here

“The Sun Cohort, Professor Rio Saleigh.”Bookmark here

A woman with long brown hair was the next to rise.Bookmark here

“The Stars Cohort, Professor Damien Darkflame.”Bookmark here

The stern-looking black haired man was the last to stand, walking to the dais. Elly gulped. This was her cohort leader. He looked rather mean. She noticed that Amy and Blake were already standing and she moved to stand up as well, swallowing anxiously and pulling her hood a little further forward. Hopefully, no one was looking at her.Bookmark here

“Heya, no time for sleeping!” Amy chirped, waking up the blue-haired girl that was also part of their cohort. Elly envied her. If Elly had a mana level like hers, then she maybe she would be relaxing and taking it easy, too.Bookmark here

Soon, all the students had gathered in front of their cohort leaders. At the back of the line, it was Elly who noticed first that their cohort was a student short. Apparently, there were only 119 students this year. Bookmark here

Elly’s eyes joined the other students in looking up at the black-haired man standing above them, waiting for him to say something. The other cohort leaders were already speaking to their groups, probably outlining what was to be expected from them today. Professor Darkflame seemed less interested in that.Bookmark here

He stepped down off the dais, still tall enough to look down at them easily. While she could feel the others tensing, Elly herself felt surprisingly relaxed. His eyes were stern, but they weren’t cruel.Bookmark here

“Professor, if I may-“Bookmark here

“You may not.” The professor’s harsh voice interrupted the silver-haired Audrey Angelique, the line-leading girl falling silent. “We’re going.”Bookmark here

With that, the professor turned from them, his dark robes fluttering behind him. Elly’s mouth dropped in shock, as did many others. This was their cohort leader?Bookmark here

Unsurprisingly, it was the prince, Lance, that walked after the professor first, followed by Audrey and some of the others. The line had turned into more of a clump of people, with Elly trailing along near the rear, but the professor didn’t seem to care as he led them out one of the side doors of the auditorium and down a long marble hallway.Bookmark here

“Professor, where are you taking us?” Audrey overtook the prince and tried speaking to their professor again, but he either didn’t hear her, or more likely, didn’t care to answer.Bookmark here

“Professor?” She tried for a third time, her sword rattling at her waist as she stormed down the hall after him, the other students following behind her.Bookmark here

As it became clear that the professor had no intention of explaining anything to the students, they began mingling with one another. Josie had been quick to start chumming it up with the prince and his party, and she had been joined with a few others, namely Sabine and her cronies. As Elly expected, the handsome prince had gotten the attention of more than a few girls. What was a bit of a surprise was the fact that Blake was getting a decent amount of attention as well, Amy chatting him up along with a few others.Bookmark here

I suppose that’s to be expected, if he really is the Blake Harker, Elly thought. Most people didn’t have many opportunities to speak with a supposedly-dead heir to a famous family. She had thought that Blake might be a potential friend, but she was quickly realizing that she didn’t really belong with a crowd like that. She was better-suited to just hanging on the outside.Bookmark here

That was fine with her. She’d been an outcast all her life, and that was often a good thing. If no one was paying attention to her, then that meant no one was making fun of her, or looking down on her or treating her like trash. She lowered her head and pretended she was invisible, hoping that everyone was so caught up in the experience of meeting new classmates that they wouldn’t notice the pathetic girl whose mana level was as low as a child’s.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

After a few more minutes of walking through the halls, the professor stopped in front of a large set of double doors. He pushed them open and strolled through, leading the students inside. Elly’s breath stopped in her throat as she looked up at the large room, taking a few cautious steps forward.Bookmark here

Before her was the grandest library Elly had ever seen. By the gasps of the students around her, she was not the only one in awe at the sight. Elly had thought that the royal library in the palace was impressive, but this was a far greater fare. The ceiling was so high above that Elly couldn’t even see the tops of the tower of shelves stacked high, stretching across each open wall and out along the floor in a veritable labyrinth of knowledge. Squinting her eyes, Elly could see people atop floating platforms traveling along the shelves. Elly applauded the notion; without stairs or floor, there was more room to hold the books! Rays of light streamed in through stained-glass the windows, bathing the grand room in warm feeling of coziness that made Elly feel welcome at the Rem Magic Academy for the first time since she’d stepped off the train. Elly could already imagine herself curling up in some corner and just losing herself in a thick tome, escaping into a world where there was no one to laugh at her or treat her like a freak.Bookmark here

Elly could feel a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. A library like this was more than she could have imagined.Bookmark here

“Professor Darkflame? You’re early, we weren’t expecting the students here for another hour yet.”Bookmark here

The professor turned to look at an older man with a shiny head, peering quizzically at the professor from behind a very tiny pair of glasses.Bookmark here

“I thought it was best to get the students settled in early,” the professor explained, sounding almost compassionate. “So I brought them here to check out the books from their syllabus.”Bookmark here

“…Y-yes, well,” the old librarian mumbled, his face flushing. “W-we have not yet, erhem, taken the books down for the students, if you could return-“Bookmark here

“Nonsense,” the professor said. “I was thinking this would be the perfect opportunity to teach them how to navigate the library. It’s an essential skill for them to learn, wouldn’t you agree?”Bookmark here

The librarian’s mouth fluttered open and closed.Bookmark here

“…Yes, indeed,” he meekly replied, nodding his head.Bookmark here

“Excellent!” Professor Darkflame clapped his hands together and turned back to the students, wearing what could charitably be called a smile. “Please, take it away, Mr. Lavendar.Bookmark here

The librarian, Mr. Lavendar, cleared his throat and addressed them directly. “Students, you’re now standing in the center of the Sadie Maeventide Library. One of our academy’s founders, Sadie Maeventide, as a venti, was capable of flying without the use of magic. Thus, the library she designed was not the most accommodating to those among us without wings. To remedy this situation, the school has since implemented the use of magic to aid students and faculty in their travel of the shelves. Come.”Bookmark here

The librarian led the group through the library, the professor following silently as well. A few steps later they arrived at a “room” formed by walls of bookshelves. Platforms like the ones seen floating over their heads rested on the carpet, hemmed in by red cloth barriers. A round orica the color of the sky was mounted on a pedestal nearby.Bookmark here

“These are our guides. Should you need to make use of one of them, simply place your hand here, and direct your mana into the orica,” the librarian explained, placing his hand on the round orb. “The guide will come and you can take it to wherever you wish. Each guide comes with a similar system.”Bookmark here

Upon closer look, Elly could see smaller orica on each of the platforms, connected to the railings.Bookmark here

“Simply name the shelf number you are looking for, and it will take you there,” the professor explained. “To return, you state ‘home’ and it will bring you back here.”Bookmark here

Elly thought that was a wonderful system, but she still had a question. She wasn’t about to raise her hand to ask it, though.Bookmark here

Fortunately, another student was quick to speak up. A girl with curly brown hair pulled back in a ponytail and thick glasses raised her hand.Bookmark here

“Sir, what if we don’t know which shelf the book we’re looking for is located on?”Bookmark here

“Then speak to one of the actual library guides,” Mr. Lavendar informed her. “We’re happy to help.”Bookmark here

“These are the books you’ll need for the first quarter,” the professor said, reaching into his cloak and withdrawing a folder, removing sheets of paper from within it. He began passing them out to the students. “If you have any other questions, speak with one of the librarians.”Bookmark here

Elly took the booklist and began looking it over.Bookmark here

· Cohort Meeting – Professor DarkflameBookmark here

o (No text)Bookmark here

· Fundamentals of Magic – Professor Darkflame Bookmark here

o What is Magic? By Sadie MaeventideBookmark here

· Intro to Combat Magic: Part 1 – Professor DarkflameBookmark here

o Basic Spells and Charms, by Wyllis UmberBookmark here

· Intro to Support Magic: Part 1 – Professor MarinaBookmark here

o Basic Spells and Charms, by Wyllis UmberBookmark here

· Physical Training – Professor EsterwindBookmark here

o (No text)Bookmark here

· Intro to History and Magic Law – Professor ReycomBookmark here

o The Unification of the Sky Nation, by Sir Argent AngeliqueBookmark here

o Laws of Magic, by J.D. Whitecloud, Ezra Sallandor, and T.R. CastainBookmark here

· Intro to Dungeon Exploration: Magic Beasts and Magic Artifacts – Professor Salamandra, Professor SaleighBookmark here

o The Compendium, Vol. 1
Bookmark here

o Orica and Artifacts, by Marson SkyjumperBookmark here

· Intro to Herbology and Potions – Professor LunarkBookmark here

o Basic Herbs and Potions, by Luana WhitewoodBookmark here

Seven classes along with the cohort assembly in the morning, it was quite a strenuous workload by Elly’s eye. Elly looked up from the syllabus to see that other students were still looking it over, and a few had already gone to speak with the librarian. Elly had questions about the locations of the books as well, but… Elly didn’t have it in her to wade through the crowd. She looked longingly up at the tall shelves towering over her, when a hand on her shoulder made her nearly jump out of her skin.Bookmark here

“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.” Elly peaked out from under bangs to see two girls standing behind her. The blue-eyed girl with glasses from earlier was the one who addressed her, and beside her stood a shorter girl with wavy black hair and eyes of sharp emerald. One pair warm and the other stern, but both sets of eyes looked at Elly with no trace of disdain. She relaxed a little.Bookmark here

“Um, d-do you n-need something?” Elly stuttered. Bookmark here

“We just wanted to introduce ourselves,” the brunette girl said, extending a hand Elly refused to take. “I’m Wendina. You know, like the famous mage? But you can just call me Wendy.”Bookmark here

She nodded to the shorter girl, who gave a small wave. “This is my friend Melody. And… you’re Elaindra, right?”Bookmark here

Elly nodded meekly.Bookmark here

“Elaindra, that’s an Elven name, isn’t it?”Bookmark here

“W-well…”Bookmark here

“I think that it’s pretty,” Melody said, her voice as tiny as she was. “Elvish is such a beautiful language.”Bookmark here

“Uhum, um, thank you,” Elly murmured, glancing over her shoulder to make sure no one had overheard what the two girls had just said, before turning back to get another look at them. If either suspected anything, she didn’t see it. “But, please, just… um, you can call me Elly, okay?”Bookmark here

“Sounds good, Elly!” Wendy smiled, giving her a thumbs' up.Bookmark here

“A-Anyway, I need to find my textbooks, so…” Elly glanced over her shoulder again, desperate to find a way out of the conversation.Bookmark here

“Would you like to look with us, then?”Bookmark here

Elly blinked in surprise. Was she… actually being invited to hang out with these girls?Bookmark here

“But, um… did… didn’t you see my mana level?” Elly asked, confused why they would want to spend time with her.Bookmark here

“So what?” Wendy shrugged. “My mana level is only 697, that’s not very high at all, is it?”Bookmark here

“Mine is… only 583,” Melody said. “It’s… really low too.”Bookmark here

Elly felt slightly miffed that these girls were trying to compare themselves with her. Certainly, their mana levels were middling, but they were entirely respectable for kids their age. Elly’s mana level was simply insulting. But she would never say something like that to someone!Bookmark here

Wait… were they trying to make her feel better? She’d heard that was something people did.Bookmark here

“See? Don’t worry about it!” Wendy smiled, adjusting her glasses and puffing her chest out proudly. “Stuff like mana levels doesn’t have anything to do with being a good mage! Keeping up with your studies is much more important!”Bookmark here

Elly didn’t quite agree, but found herself nodding along with the girls anyway. She didn’t want to ruin their positive moods.Bookmark here

“Besides, you can have high levels of mana but still not be a very good student,” Wendy assured her. “Like that girl, she might be strong, but I hope she doesn’t behave like that in class…”Bookmark here

Wendy nodded her head at Chloe Bellajean, who was snoring away on a couch rather than searching for her textbooks.Bookmark here

“So, wanna come with?” Wendy asked.Bookmark here

“Um…” Elly was tempted, really tempted. But still unsure.Bookmark here

“We already talked to the librarian about what sections the books can be found on,” Wendy added. Elly glanced at the librarian, who was now being crowded with more questions. Seeing that, Elly agreed to accompany them for a little while.Bookmark here

Elly followed the girls onto one of the platforms. Melody held her hand up and placed it on the orica.Bookmark here

“Shelf 17-89.”Bookmark here

“89?” Elly gasped in surprise. She barely had enough time to realize how high that number was before the platform shook under her feet, forcing her to grab onto the railing or risk falling back on her butt. The platform jerked up off the carpet and moved through air, driven by the power of magic. Elly looked down at her cohort members getting smaller and smaller below her, swallowing.Bookmark here

“Woooo!” Wendy called, enjoying the feeling of the wind blowing through her hair. “Melody, Elly, what do you think? This is a lot of fun!” She cupped her hands and called out again, “wooooo!”Bookmark here

“Wendy, we’re in a library,” Melody told her friend. Wendy’s voice cut out and she flushed red, dropping her hands.Bookmark here

“Oh… I… I forgot,” she said. “Don’t, uh… don’t tell people I did that, okay?”Bookmark here

Elly was too busy resisting the urge to throw up to assure her. The train had been totally fine for her, but this was nothing like that.Bookmark here

Suddenly, the platform jerked to a halt, hovering right in front of one of the bookshelves. Shelf 89 was right at eyelevel for Melody. The platform began to slowly move across the long shelf, Melody watching for the title.Bookmark here

“Stop,” she said, reaching out and taking one of the books off the shelf, Basic Spells and Charms. The girls each took one. “Next-“Bookmark here

“Mel, hold on,” Wendy gasped, still recovering from the sudden shock. “I don’t think I’m ready for more of this.”Bookmark here

Melody nodded. Elly glanced down at the floor, feeling dizzy as she realized how high off the ground they were. There… there were magical protections in case they fell, right? There had to be.Bookmark here

“Shelf 19-58,” Melody said next. A sinking feeling in Elly’s gut told her that they were falling. They weren’t falling very fast, but the descent was still making her nauseous, and she gripped the rail so tight her knuckles went white. The platform slid a few shelves over, hovering in front of the 58th shelf of the 19th bookshelf.Bookmark here

“There are two books on our list here,” Wendy said, scanning the shelves as well, pulling out copies of Laws of Magic and Basic Herbs and Potions. With minimal shifting (and thankfully no vomiting) the girls collected the rest of their textbooks, and the platform descended to the ground. Elly and Wendy stumbled off the platform, a little dizzy, barely holding onto the stacks of heavy textbooks in their hands. Melody walked off of the platform without even blinking.Bookmark here

“That was… that was one heck of a ride,” Wendy said, flopping down on one of the nearby couches, adjusting her glasses. Melody sat down next to her. Elly glanced at the girls, and looked warily around the library. She caught a flash of red, that Sabine Scarlet girl and her friends, the tall one and the peppy one, walking towards her. Elly lifted the stack of books in front of her to hide her face, hoping she wouldn’t get seen. With the way the other girl had laughed at her earlier, she was in no mood to be mocked by her again. No such luck. As Sabine walked past, she placed her hand on the side of the stack and pushed, the books tumbling out of Elly’s grasp.Bookmark here

“I didn’t know low mana levels would make you such a klutz,” Sabine said, flashing a smirk at Elly, breaking out into peals of cruel laughter along with her friends as Elly knelt on the ground and hurriedly began to pick her books up.Bookmark here

“Hey, uh…”Bookmark here

Elly looked up to see Wendy standing over her, handing one of her books to her.Bookmark here

“Th-Thanks,” Elly said, taking the book from Wendy.Bookmark here

“Those girls are rude,” Wendy scowled. “I can’t believe they just did that!”Bookmark here

“I’m used to it,” Elly muttered, shaking her head. She’d put up with worse back home, far worse.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Wendy apologized. She and Melody helped Elly finish picking up all the books, and she stood back up, looking gratefully at them. She resisted the urge to break out into a smile, not wanting to seem too hopeful. She might not have the courage to talk more with Amy and Blake, but these two girls seemed nice. As the girls headed to speak with the professor, she hoped that maybe they would even grow to become friends?Bookmark here

Bookmark here

She could hope for that, right?Bookmark here

Real Aire
Meme Mikitaka
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