The Heir of the Dragon
When Eve sat down with the girls for breakfast it was immediately apparent that Sabine was in a particularly bad mood today. Eve thought she would be celebrating her no-doubt excellent score on the History and Magic Law midterm (with what Eve had taught her, her grade would be excellent) but the scowl she wore said otherwise.
Eve knew better than to pry directly. She had spent the past week endearing herself to the ground, so that she could remain their friend even after testing was over, and it seemed to be working. She wasn’t about to risk that by setting off a girl whose temper was as volatile as her magic.
“Parents are awful,” Sabine growled in frustration, the dainty way she cut her fruit at odds with the fury in her voice. “My mother is still going on about that ridiculous engagement, as though a duke like Calum Arslow of all people would be up to my standards? I was engaged to a future archduke if you remember!” She popped the piece of fruit into her mouth. “So I told her I’d find someone myself!”
Eve didn’t find it likely that Sabine could get a better match than a future duke, but she said nothing and let Mindy fawn in her place.
“That’s right, Sabine, you’re, like, totally hot! Anybody would be lucky to marry you!”
“I know!” Sabine boasted, holding her hand over her chest and sticking her chin out. “It’s like they don’t even trust my abilities!”
“That must be difficult,” Eve said, seeing a pretty safe place to add her voice to the conversation. She was wrong.
“Commoners like you are lucky,” Sabine scoffed, shooting her a look of derision. “You don’t have your parents breathing down your neck and forcing engagements on you. I swear, if I see that Arslow, I’m going to tell him in no uncertain terms-“
“Did someone call my name?”
Eve glanced up to see a tall boy with chopped blonde hair standing behind Sabine, smiling politely. Three other boys clustered around him, though none as tall or as well-built. Eve didn’t think he was all that appealing (though what boy was?) and Sabine clearly felt the same, with the way disgust colored her face. And yet she still smiled graciously, Eve having to give the girl props for her acting talents.
“My friends and I were just discussing a letter I got from my family, my lord,” Sabine politely replied, glancing up at him. “And a letter I sent in reply, expressing how honored I am about your proposal, but how I must decline to focus on my studies. I’m sorry, but marriage is the last thing on my mind.” It must have been a chore to sound that genuine.
“Oh, come on now, don’t be like that!” Calum laughed, placing his hand on Sabine’s shoulder. A far more intimate gesture than he had any business making, Eve thought! Sabine herself looked like she was about to throw a punch. “Come now my lady, we’re all quite aware of your aspirations to find a husband here, and as a duke I’d be more than happy to acquiesce!”
“As I said, I’ll be rejecting your offer,” Sabine repeated, a little more tensely. “I have no intention of getting married at this time.” Judging by the way she looked at him Eve could tell Sabine didn’t want to marry this boy at all, but her standing as a lower house wouldn’t let her say that so directly. Eve actually pitied the girl.
“Now, don’t be like that,” Calum said, reaching down and running his fingers through Sabine’s hair. “You have such lovely hair, you know that? I was enamored with you the moment I saw it. Your parents seem quite enthusiastic about our engagement, I’m surprised you aren’t. You can drop out of school and begin learning how to be a perfect duchess, you won’t need magic for that. Let your brother carry on the Scarlet name, and you can come be mine. Your family’s all but agreed to it!” He said these things like they were natural, like Sabine would OBVIOUSLY agree with him.
Eve had little experience with boys, but in the time she had been at this school, she had broadened her horizons. And having learned more about them, she could now say confidently that the one in front of her was human trash. Sabine might be a rather miserable human being, but the way he was talking to her made Eve want to punch his teeth in.
She could do it, too, that was the most infuriating part. All it would take would be a simple illusion and she could beat that smarmy face of his into a gooey red paste. Maybe if Sati were here she’d consider it. But instead it was the prideful Luci, standing behind her in her immaculate white dress and long dark hair, staring imperiously at her with those judgmental golden eyes. Using her powers in such a petty way before the Queen of Pride would be shameful.
And Sabine quickly proved she didn’t need the help.
“Ow!” Calum pulled his fingers back, their tips singed. The glow of Sabine’s hair faded and she rose from her seat, turning to face him with a glare and flicking her long tresses behind her shoulder.
“You should be more considerate of a lady’s hair, my lord!” Sabine rebuked him, the tone of her voice so close to enraged Eve could practically see the steam rise from her head. “I’ll be leaving now, if you don’t mind!”
Turning on her heel she strutted away from the table, Eve, Mindy, and Jasmine frantically gathering their things and chasing after her.
“Keep playing hard to get, red!” Calum shouted after them. “It always makes the chase more fun!”
The girls caught up with Sabine on the quad, making sure to give her a wide berth. Her hair was practically ablaze.
“The nerve of that INSUFFERABLE-! Who in the hells does he think he is, laying a hand on ME?!” She fumed. “He thinks I would lie down and be his little-?! Just because his father is a duke?! Someone like that should know his place! Worshipping the ground I walk on!”
While Sabine’s opinion of herself might be more than a little puffed up, Eve could understand her anger. If her master told her that she would have to marry someone like that? She would sooner see him dead than in her bed.
Sabine let out an annoyed scream and slammed her palm against the courtyard wall, panting. She looked back at Eve and the others, her green eyes filled with frustration and malice.
“Where’s that little knife-eared bitch?” She growled.
Tracking Elly down hadn’t been hard at all. She was at the training field, struggling with her magic. Eve felt a great swell of pity when she saw the look of terror on her face as Sabine approached. If the poor thing had just stayed in her room, she would have been safe.
“Hey, look who we have here! The little knife-ear trying to play magic like she’s a big girl!” Sabine called out across the training field. Elly stepped back, her eyes shifting around like she was looking for somewhere to run. But by the time she summoned the will to flee she was already surrounded. Sabine grabbed her wrist and pulled it behind her back, eliciting a yelp of pain from the girl. Eve averted her eyes.
“Let’s lend her a hand, girls, maybe she can learn a thing or two from a real mage!”
Eve hated this side of Sabine, the casual cruelty with which she made Elly’s life miserable. As far as Eve knew, Elly had never done a thing to Sabine. The frustrated noble was just in a bad mood, and Elly’s status in the cohort made her a convenient punching bag. Another yelp from the girl as Sabine tore back her hood and began pulling at her hair. She pushed Elly into Jasmine, the tall girl shoving the half-elf too, Elly stumbling and nearly falling over before Sabine caught her.
“Not so brave now, huh?” Sabine crowed triumphantly. “Where’s that Audrey Angelique? Gonna hide behind your knight? Or maybe Blake? That’s what you knife-ears do, right, cower behind your betters? Aww, are you gonna cry? DON’T! YOU! CRY!” Sabine punctuated her anger with tugs on Elly’s ears. She regained her composure, a wicked smile crossing her face. “Tell you what, to cheer you up, I’m going to help you with your magic! Fireball, right?”
Sabine held her hand up, flames dancing in her palm as her face glowed with cruelty.
“Truly repugnant, you humans.” For the first time, Luci had deigned to speak. Eve glanced back at her, the beautiful demon holding her robed hand in front of her mouth and staring at the display like she was sickened. “I can’t imagine why you so wish to debase yourself by consorting with such vermin.”
Eve was forced to agree.
“See, if you want to make a fireball, you need to do it like this!” Sabine cackled, flinging the fireball at the ground at Elly’s feet. Elly jumped back as the sparks exploded in front of her, Sabine’s cruel laugher echoing in the courtyard. “Come on, I’m sure even someone as pathetic as you could do it! Let’s have another demonstration, okay?” Sabine lifted her finger and created another fireball, preparing to fling it, when a loud, booming voice froze all of them.
“What’s going on here?!”
The five girls turned to see who had called out to them. For a second, Eve thought she had finally seen a bear. The large beast stomped over to them, glaring down at the girls from beneath a bushy mane of thick brown hair. His eyes were cold and hateful, which combined with his hulking appearance intimidated even Eve.
“D…Derek…” From the corner of her eye Eve saw Elly’s face twist in horror and go pale, the girl slumping over like the life had been drained from her.
“What’s it to you?” Sabine snapped. “This is Stars Cohort business. Our friend Elly here is having some difficulty with her Fireball spell, so we’re helping her practice for midterms. Isn’t that right, girls?
“Yeah, totally!” Mindy agreed, Jasmine nodding.
Derek threw back his head and laughed, a loud and cruel laugh that gave even the haughty Sabine pause.
“Your friend? You girls are friends with a knife-ear like that?” He snarled.
“N-No, of course not!” Sabine said, quickly changing tone as she realized that she wasn’t talking to Elly’s would-be savior. Eve tensed, feeling the atmosphere getting dangerous. She could sense a problem beginning to boil, Elly’s terrified expression said more than enough.
“No use in trying to teach some ghostie like her magic,” Derek scoffed, pushing Sabine out of the way with a swipe of his meaty hand, towering over trembling Elly. She looked up at him with tears in her empty eyes. “She’s been trash from way back, just a freak daughter of a ghostie whore.”
He grabbed Elly by the collar of her blouse and hoisted her off the ground.
“Imagine my surprise! Hearing some shouts from the training field and stumbling upon my old toy! So where have you been hiding yourself, pet?” He asked joyfully, a sick smile breaking his face in half. “I’ve been so lonely these last few months!”
The girls weren’t sure what to do. Jasmine and Mindy both looked to Sabine, their faces worried and confused, and Sabine herself looked stunned. When Derek looked her way she finally snapped out of it, giving him a wary look.
“You were showing her how things go around here for knife-ears, I get that,” Derek’s affable smile at odds with the madness in his eyes. “The thing is though, these leafers are stupid. All they know how to do is spread their legs. No matter what you say it’s like those knife-ears of theirs don’t hear it. Only way you can get anything through to them is to be a little rough.”
The sickening smack of the brute bringing his fist up into Elly’s stomach shook the girls. It sounded like raw meat smashing against cobblestones. Elly let out a choked gasp and curled around him, coughing, Derek dropping her to the ground with a thud.
“They might look a little fragile, but they’re actually pretty tough,” he laughed, pulling his foot back and driving it into Elly’s side. “Their bodies are built to take abuse like this, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to last with human partners.”
He kicked Elly again, and her pained wail forced Eve to avert her eyes. She wanted to step in and help, but could she? If she got caught using her magic…
“Aaaah!” Elly let out another cry of agony, curling up into a ball as Derek kicked her again. He knelt down and raised his fist, bringing it down into Elly’s face with a sickening crunch that put an end to Elly’s wailing.
“Sabine, what should we do?!” Mindy hissed, her blue eyes wide with fright as she looked at her friend. Sabine herself looked numb.
“H-Hey,” Sabine said, taking a shaky step closer, “that… that’s enough, don’t you think? You don’t need to take things that far…”
“What, you got a problem?” Derek dropped his bloody fist and rose to his feet, turning back to the girls. The anger in his eyes sent a shiver down Eve’s spine. It was a different kind of anger than she saw in Sabine, all the girls freezing up.
“L-Look, we were just… we were just kidding around,” Sabine fumbled nervously, and Eve could tell she’d been shaken. The redhead’s empty eyes never left Elly, locked on the horrific sight of the girl’s blood-soaked face. Elly let out a whimper, spitting some blood from her mouth as she turned over.
“I’m just giving this knife-ear what she needs.” The calm, matter-of-fact way he said that shocked Eve. She glanced questioningly at Luci, pleading for guidance. Eve didn’t know what to do. Should she use magic? Let this continue? Or stand up for Elly herself? What was the right thing to do in this situation? Her inexperience in human matters was never more clear to her than it was right now.
She never had to make that choice.
A crash came from behind them, everyone but the stunned Sabine turning to see what it was. Prince Lancelus was standing at the entrance to the training field, his orica having fallen from his hand. He stared wide-eyed at the girls, then at Derek.
And when his eyes landed on Elly his face morphed into an inferno of rage that terrified Eve far more than any other look she had seen today.
A roar from deep within Lancelus’s throat startled them all, the girls scattering as the prince threw himself at the brute. Placing his hand on Derek’s shoulder and sweeping his foot, he brought the mountain of a boy down just as Miss Esterwind had done to him days before. Derek’s massive frame slammed into the ground with a loud thud, and the prince was on top of him, straddling his waist.
“DON’T YOU TOUCH HER!” He shouted, the sound of his fist cracking against Derek’s face far more satisfying to Eve’s ear than when it had been Elly’s. “DON’T! YOU! TOUCH! HER!”
Eve didn’t know how many punches the prince had gotten in before Sabine finally managed to pull herself away from the sight of Elly’s groaning figure, turning back to the others. Her face was pale and her eyes were wide with shock as she stared vacantly at them.
“Let… let’s get out of here,” she mumbled, pushing past Eve and running towards the main building. Mindy and Jasmine followed after her, and Eve spared one last look back to see that the prince was still roaring and punching, making blood spurt with each hit.
Sabine collapsed in the corridor and clutched at her stomach, beginning to throw up. The girls hung back, not sure what to say. Eve felt a bit like vomiting herself.
The clack of shoes on cobblestone broke their fugue, all four glancing up to see the approach of Audrey Angelique.
“What are you four doing here?” Audrey coldly asked, narrowing those crimson eyes of hers. Teary-eyed Mindy, shockingly, was the one who spoke first.
“B-Back there! At the training field!” She blubbered. “It’s… they were-!”
“Mindy, shut the hells up!” Sabine shouted, rising unsteadily to her feet and wiping her mouth. She yelled frantically at the silver-haired girl, “we didn’t have anything to do with that, you hear me?! It’s none of our business!”
Sabine shoved past Audrey and fled, Eve surprised by the look of horror in her eyes.