Chapter 47:

Epilogue: The Stars Cohort (Part 1)

The Heir of the Dragon


Damien

A sigh slipped past Damien’s lips as he occupied himself with the hardest part of his job: the paperwork. He had spent many an hour in the position he found himself in now, hunched over his desk and going over a student’s paper or considering their performance on a test. It wasn’t the most rewarding aspect of his job, but it was still essential.

Today, however, he found himself occupied by a matter of deeper consequence than grading papers. Looking through the notes he had taken over the first term on the 29 students that made up the First Year Stars Cohort, he prepared himself for a long day ahead.

Student conferences.

Damien would meet with each student individually to discuss their performance over the course of their first term, what he and other teachers noted about the individual student’s strengths and weaknesses, and provide them with advice for types of magic they might want to consider studying in the future. It was important to build a relationship with students early and get a feel for what their goals were, so that he could be a better instructor moving forward and help them achieve those goals, or work towards more attainable ones.

As he prepared for his meetings, he did so with a heavy heart. It wasn’t just his cohort that he would be meeting with, he would also be meeting with the students in the Sun Cohort as well. With Rio’s betrayal and subsequent arrest, the Sun Cohort found itself without a cohort leader, and until a replacement could be arranged, he would be handling those meetings as well.

Thinking about Rio only brought him pain. He couldn’t believe that she could fall so far. But even as he tried to put her behind him, he couldn’t keep her cold smile out of his mind.

She had ensured that. As the inquisitors took her away, she had whispered to Damien something that had stuck with him ever since.

“Be careful, Dami,” she had said. “One of your students isn’t all they appear to be.”

What she meant by those words, Damien couldn’t begin to guess. She might have even said them just to get one final stab in, to make him concerned and confused, make him suspicious of his students. But even knowing that, he couldn’t deny that it had stuck with him, a tiny seed of doubt burrowing away in the back of his skull.

He shook his head and dismissed those worries. Right now, he had to focus on his students. It was time for his first appointment.

Audrey

Audrey walked into the professor’s office with her head held high. She projected an aura of confidence and strength with every step, and when she entered she made sure to bow to Professor Darkflame to show him how much she respected him. While all professors were deserving of respect and admiration, his stern yet kind approach and air of professional consideration for his students made him her favorite.

“Hello, Ms. Angelique,” Professor Darkflame greeted her. “Please, have a seat.”

“Thank you professor.” She gave him a nod of appreciation for his professional demeanor.

“So the reason I called you here is because I wanted to talk about your plans moving forward here,” the professor explained, glancing through his notes. “Before we get to that, however, I would like to commend you for your conduct this term. I and several other professors have noticed that you treat both your peers and your teachers with dignity and respect, and you approach all of your assignments with diligence and a desire to learn.”

Audrey resisted the urge to smile, but she did sit a little higher up in her chair. “Of course, professor, I am only doing what one ought to do.”

“Wonderful,” Professor Darkflame nodded. “Now, I’ve noticed that you have significant experience with both your Bloodline Magic and your Sword Magic. Are those the areas you feel most comfortable in?”

“Yes, professor,” Audrey nodded. They were her family’s pride, after all. “The crimson eyes and sword prowess of the Angelique Family is something that we hold great pride in.” Holding her head high, she placed her hand over her breast. “From the moment an Angelique has their first vision, they are given a sword and trained in its use.”

“I am aware,” the professor said. “Are there any other fields of magic that you believe might interest you?”

Audrey had expected this question, and prepared an appropriate answer for it. “While I certainly do not discount the value of versatility in a mage, I do hold a degree of respect for my family’s traditions,” she explained. “So while I am not averse to learning other styles of magic, I believe that, as one must hone their talents at the sword, so too must I hone my talents in magic.”

“I see. On the topic of your family, your brother, Jaune Angelique, currently holds the title of Grand Inquisitor. Quite a position for one so young. Do you see yourself going down the same path?”

Audrey let out a soft sigh, hoping the professor didn’t notice.

“At this time, I have not determined with certainty what I wish to do following my graduation,” she explained. “I enrolled in the Rem Magic Academy to refine my skills and find my own path.”

“That’s fine, no one expects you to have your future planned out already,” Professor Darkflame assured her. “What goals have you set for yourself going forward?”

Audrey smiled a little, feeling her chest swell with confidence and pride. “Right now, my goal is to refine my skills and excel. And, in the future, I wish to perform admirably enough to reach the level of Sky Crest Scholar by my third year.”

The professor raised his eyebrow at that, which Audrey expected.

“That’s quite an ambition,” Professor Darkflame nodded. “Does that have anything to do with the fact that your brother made Sky Crest Scholar by his fourth year?”

This time the frown did reach Audrey’s lips. Why did he keep asking about her brother?

Caelia

Caelia studied the professor as he went over his notes. She sat as still as a statue, quite used to situations requiring such extensive patience. She could wait all day for him to speak if she needed to.

“Ms. Auburn, I find it interesting that you use a bow to enhance your magic,” the professor finally spoke. “Many students find wands or staves or even swords to be far more effective tools for channeling their mana.”

Caelia didn’t respond. It was not something that merited addressing.

The professor didn’t seem bothered by it. “Personally, I appreciate it,” he continued. “I enjoy teaching students like you, who have your own specialties and talents that you take such great care to nurture,” he explained. “To not only be so proficient at archery but to take that skill and use it in conjunction with your magic requires a great deal of dedication.”

Caelia blinked, staring curiously at him. It was the first time she’d heard a teacher say something like that.

“Thank you,” she murmured.

“It’s one thing to practice your archery as a hobby, but to also use it for your magic suggests to me that you have a path in mind where such skills would be exceptional,” Professor Darkflame added. “And I would like to help you along that path. Is there anything you’d like to share about your goals for the future?”

Caelia had nothing to reveal to him. Telling him that she was a quarter Estvalian and that she wanted to join the military and one day oversee the occupation of Estval to improve life for the Estvalians was not likely to end well.

“…I see,” the professor said, stroking his chin. “Well, in that case, let’s move on to improving your relationships with your classmates. It says here…”

Chloe

Chloe yawned. She was getting really sleepy. Professor Darkflame was saying something, but she really wanted to sleep… her eyelids were getting heavier and heavier.

“Ms. Bellajean, your mana levels are, frankly, phenomenal.” She heard the professor’s voice somewhere off in the distance, and she tried to pay attention.

Come on, Chloe! Stay awake! She encouraged herself, but that was only making her sleepier.

“This is a level of natural-born talent that rarely comes along even once in a generation,” the professor continued. “With proper training of your abilities, I can’t imagine any path would be closed for you. Even the title of Grand Sky Mage is within your grasp! I think if you start applying yourself now, then by the time you graduate you could achieve anything you dream of, even…”

What a nice word, dream. Chloe didn’t hear the rest. The professor’s face was swirling with cute little dancing birdies all around it, and the chair she was sitting in was a nice, fluffy cloud. Perfect, it was time for nappies She yawned, wishing the professor and the birdies good night.

Chloe was going to sleep her best tomorrow, too!

Mindy

“So, like, I’m not stupid!” Mindy insisted loudly.

“Ms. Crenshaw, no one thinks you’re stupid, all I was saying was that you need to apply yourself more-“

“I’m trying my hardest!” Mindy shouted, jumping up out of her chair and stomping her foot. “But it’s always ‘stupid Mindy this’ and ‘dumb Mindy that’! I’m smart! Ask Sabine! She thinks I’m really smart!”

“On the topic of Ms. Scarlett, I wanted to discuss your conduct regarding your classmates,” the professor rudely interrupted her. “Specifically Elly.”

Mindy sighed, and sat back down. “Okay, so, like, I don’t hate Elly or anything, it’s just, like, well, Sabine was like, well, you know!” She looked at him to see if he got it, but he was just staring at her like he thought she was stupid. That made her mad. She wasn’t stupid!

“Have you considered that Ms. Scarlet might be a bad influence on you?” He asked.

“No! Sabine’s like, so totally awesome! She’s my best friend! She thinks I’m really smart, unlike you teachers!”

“Ms. Crenshaw, I actually think you’re quite clever,” the professor said. There he was, using words she totally didn’t get!

“I’m not clever, I’m… I’m not clever or stupid!” Mindy insisted, crossing her arms and letting out a huff.

“…I think this might be an issue of approach,” the professor said, and she stared at him, confused. “Ms. Crenshaw, do you have any hobbies?”

Mindy brightened. Finally, something she could totally brag about! “Oh, totally! I love shopping, and playing with my stuffies, and also decorating, doing my hair, my nails, my makeup, just, like, I have so many hobbies!”

The professor was giving her a blank expression, like the way Jasmine totally did whenever Mindy was talking makeup.

“Mindy, let me ask you something,” Professor Darkflame finally said. “Let’s say you cast three Fireball spells and two Lightning Bolts. In total, you spent 640 points of mana. Assuming that each Lightning Bolt cost you 140 mana points, how much would each Fireball cost if they cost the same amount of mana?”

Ugh! She HATED these kinds of questions! “This is like, so unfair!” Mindy shouted. “I’m not stupid, that question is stupid! Like, nobody could answer that! How am I supposed to figure out how much mana a stupid Fireball spell costs?!”

The professor sighed. “Okay, I have another question.”

Mindy crossed her arms. “A fair one?”

He sighed again. “Yes, a fair one. About shopping.”

Mindy brightened immediately and sat up, leaning in closely.

“Let’s say that on a shopping trip, you spent 640 Wingals,” the professor explained. “You bought three handbags and two coats. If each coat cost 140 Wingals, how many Wingals would one handbag cost if they all cost the same?”

Geez, finally, something easy! Mindy rolled her eyes. “Okay, so, like, I start with 640 Wingals, right? I need to buy the coats first to see if the handbag goes with it, obviously. So, like, since they’re each 140 Wingals then that means after I buy both, then I have 360 Wingals left. So since I bought three handbags with 360 Wingals then that means each bag is 120 Wingals! Which, like, is totally way too much to pay for a handbag. Unless it’s an Innocenti Original, in which case- hey! Why are you laughing?! I totally got that right!” She scowled.

Nothing, nothing, the professor said, still laughing. “I just think I figured out the best way to teach you, that’s all.”

Lance

“I must say, Mr. Eldaria, your performance in this term has been quite amazing,” Professor Darkflame noted. Lance smiled a little and held his head high at the praise.

“I do my best, sir,” he stated.

“I’ve gotten nothing but praise for you from Miss Esterwind, she says you may have the most talent for swordsmanship out of anyone she’s trained,” he continued. “And in terms of your personal interactions, you certainly demonstrated not just excellent strategy in the Chess Games but a superb understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your cohort.”

“Thank you, sir,” Lance said, nodding.

“Also, with regards to the incident that occurred in Estval, I hear your judgment there was crucial in ensuring there were no fatalities, for which the faculty and I are incredibly grateful,” the professor added. Lance winced. That wasn’t something he was proud of, actually.

“There are only a few issues I have to discuss with you,” the professor said, his face darkening. “Elly, and Blake Harker.”

“Regarding my sister, I’ve been working to improve my relationship with her,” Lance explained. “I know it’s slow, but after what we’ve gone through, I believe we’ll get there.”

“And Blake?”

Lance winced. That was a point of guilt he felt personally.

“That’s… trickier. He and I didn’t get off to a good start, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Hearing what he’s done for Elly, I would like to try to get to know him better, but right now…”

The professor was nodding. “That’s good enough, I think. He’s in a hard place, but he’s slowly improving I think. Give it your best.”

Lance nodded.

Rafe

Rafe hated listening to the professor blab. It was always “Rafe, you need to apply yourself more” or “Rafe, you need to stop flirting in class.”

The only thing he heard that was actually worth listening to was when the professor was talking about how well he was doing in Physical Training.

“I know it must be difficult being a malkin,” Professor Darkflame said, “but you’re a very sociable person, if you approach people with more friendliness and less rudeness, I’m sure-“

Ugh. He was still talking. Rafe just sat there and nodded dumbly as the professor continued to move his mouth.

Amy

It had been difficult for Amy to get to the professor’s office. After what had happened to her legs in the forest of Estval, she had spent the last few weeks getting around in a chair with wheels while waiting for her injuries to fully heal.

So it wasn’t her fault that she wasn’t her usual perky self.

“I know you’re going through a difficult time right now, with your injuries,” Professor Darkflame said, his voice unusually soft. “But right now, I want you to think about what you want to do after you get better, okay?”

Amy tried to smile a little. But right now, it was difficult to think about her future.

“After…” She echoed, shaking her head. “Professor… do you think that I’m a good mage?”

“I think you’re learning, like everyone else in your class,” the professor said.

“What about my speed? I’ve been using my magic to boost my speed, do you think I’m good at it?”

The professor blinked. “Yes, you’re quite good. What’s this about?”

“…I couldn’t outrun that Estvalian,” Amy said. She’d tried her hardest, and she couldn’t get away. He thought she was tough and fast? No, she was just a weakling. No wonder she’d gotten hurt. “I always wanted to play professional Star Tower, but if I’m not fast enough…”

“There’s a Star Tower club on campus, you know. You could join next term,” the professor told her.

Amy blinked, this was the first she was hearing of it.

“…I’m not fast enough,” she said, shaking her head. “I got so badly hurt…”

“Do you know what Miss Esterwind would have to say about that?” Professor Darkflame asked. Amy winced. Her sister wasn’t exactly warm and loving.

“Get up and run faster,” she sighed.

“So why don’t you?”

When he put it like that, it sounded simple. But she wasn’t sure if she could.

“Maybe… I can try,” she admitted, smiling a little. “I do like playing Star Tower, and I don’t want to give it up.”

Fai

Fai squirmed anxiously in his seat. The way the professor looked at him… his heart hurt. He ducked down and hid behind his blonde bangs.

“Mr. Fleau… I have to admit, your grades could certainly do with some improvement,” Professor Darkflame said, his stern voice harsh to Fai’s ears.

“I’m sorry professor, I’ll try harder next time,” Fai said, a shiver running down his spine. He could feel it again, that pain, threatening to come out if he didn’t hold it down.

“I’ve noticed that you seem to recoil every time you cast a spell. It seems to me almost like… you’re scared of using magic,” the professor mused.

Fai froze. “N-No, that’s not…”

A whisper hissed against his ear, and he sprung from his seat. “Sorry professor!” He cried, dashing out of the room before he got overwhelmed.

Ein

Ein peered up at the professor, surprised. In class, Professor Darkflame looked so stern and intimidating, but right now he seemed gentle.

“Mr. Florret, I’ve noticed you’re having some difficulty fitting in with your classmates,” the professor said softly. “Your parents mentioned that you were bullied a lot for your height when you were younger, is anything like that happening now?”

Ein gulped, and shook his head. “No, sir,” he murmured. At least not by anyone in his cohort, anyway. But the other cohorts…

“I’m glad. Now, I noticed that for Attack Magic, your performance isn’t very good. But you’re quite skilled at Support Magic. And Professor Lunark tells me that you’re one of the best students at mixing herbs and gathering potions. Are these areas of study that interest you?”

“I… I like flowers,” Ein admitted, blushing a little as he looked down. “That… that isn’t weird, right?” He glanced warily up at the professor, relieved by the smile he wore.

“I think that’s just fine,” Professor Darkflame assured him with a smile. Ein sighed in relief.

Ark

“I’m glad to see your injuries are recovering nicely, Mr. Greenland,” Professor Darkflame said. “It was fortunate that you didn’t sustain any more serious wounds.”

“Thank you, sir,” Ark coldly replied. He wasn’t here to talk about Estval, and his icy tone emphasized that. The professor clearly understood, and moved on.

“When it comes to your grades, you’re top of the class across the board, save Physical Training,” the professor noted, looking through Ark’s transcripts. “With your mana level and how hard you apply yourself, that isn’t a surprise.”

Of course not, it was only natural.

“If you stay on this track, you’ll have a lot paths open for you when you graduate,” the professor said. “Any idea about what you’d like to do with your talents? You’re of Sevnordian ancestry, isn’t that right? Have you ever considered studying abroad?”

“Nothing worth discussing,” Ark answered.

“…I don’t believe I’ve seen you interact much with your classmates,” the professor said, changing the subject. “Do you have trouble making friends?”

“I have no use for them,” Ark answered, and the professor looked startled by that answer.

“…In Estval, you worked with other students in your cohort,” he replied. “What was that like? It’s thanks to you that you all got out alive, you know that, right?”

Ark didn’t dignify that with a response. He just glared coldly at the professor.

Blake

“Hello, Blake,” Professor Darkflame said, smiling a little as Blake entered the office. “You seem tired. Caring for baby dragons must be difficult.”

It was. Even with Professor Salamandra’s (or Drana, as she asked him to call her) help, he spent a lot of late nights caring for them.

Blake smiled. It was one of the most rewarding feelings in the world, though. Well worth the sleepless nights and the constant pressure by students across the school who were bugging him constantly, asking him for a chance to see the cute little dragons for themselves.

“They’re wonderful,” he sighed. Each one was cute and special in their own way.

Professor Darkflame nodded. “I see you’re smiling more these days.”

Blake glanced down, feeling a little sheepish. “I guess… I’m just feeling a little better, is all.”

“And how is your temper doing?” The professor asked. “Any rage attacks?”

Blake winced.

“That’s…”

“Blake, I know that you’re happy with your dragons, and believe me, I’m happy for you. But that anger didn’t just go away now that things make it go away are turning around for you. It’s still there somewhere, and you need the opportunity to process it and deal with it, or else it might come out at the worst possible time,” the professor gently urged him.

Blake knew he was right, of course. He could still feel that anger bubbling down deep. And he hated it. He wished he could just make it go away, he’d give anything to do it. Reed had been right, if he wanted to take care of his children properly, he needed to find a way to move past his pain and anger.

“What do you recommend, sir?” He asked, staring hopefully at the professor. The professor smiled back.

“For starters, what you’re doing now seems to work wonders. Getting closer to the members of your cohort and making friends. But I think it’s also important for you to talk to a professional. I’m going to recommend that you speak to the school counselor twice a week starting next term, does that sound appropriate?”

Blake nodded. “Yes, sir, if that’s what you think will help.”

He had more to think about than just himself. He needed to take care of his kids properly.

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