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It was the start of a new semester in the Rhi’a’non academy. Unlike the acolytes and the warrior students, the magical studies in the academy only admitted new students twice a year. In theory this made it easier to arrange the lessons, since individual training was a lesser component in magical studies than in the other two main paths. In practice, it was mostly because there were significantly more students taking the path of magic in the academy, and it was less of a hassle for the administration, if they could just group up all the new students. Individual differences would rise to prominence during the first year of studies, after which the teachers would have enough of a handle on the students to divide them according to their skills.
What made the start of this semester, as well as the previous one, different from all the others, was the prevalence of non-elven students in the academy. Of the new students starting their studies this semester, almost half were non-elves, and the same had been true for last semester. There was also an influx of transfer students of advanced level of training and skill into the academy. The reason for all these non-elven students was fairly simple. Despite the unrest in the elven continent, the Rhi’a’non academy was by far the safest place for gifted young magicians to study, because the other races were involved in fairly vicious wars. The elves had stayed steadfastly neutral during the whole turmoil, and it seemed they would do so for the foreseeable future, thanks to their own trouble.
Thus it was that the high and mighty of the other races decided to send their offspring to the elven lands to study, because at home they were too much at risk. It also helped that the Rhi’a’non academy was famed for its high level of teaching. The mostly elven faculty of course knew that there would be trouble between students that came from races that were currently at war with one another. To dissuade this, they had formed a squad from the best elven students to enforce the peace, the disciplinary squad. Of course the faculty themselves were vigilant for any trouble, and had taken some additional measures. One of these measures was that they had decided to have every non-elven student share a room with an elven student, to foster friendships and to dissuade the formation of cliques made from members of the same race.
One of the new students was a naga girl named Kanako Yumi. Kanako was almost dizzy with all the things that were happening around her, with a throng of new students pressing forward through the gates to get admitted to the dorms that Kanako could see on either side of the wide path she was following. She had not visited the academy grounds before this, but she had found a map of the area, and knew the administration building was straight ahead. Even if she had not known that, the tidal wave of new students would have told her where to go anyway.
Moving in a packed group of people was not a pleasant experience for a naga. Although the naga were relatively similar to elves or humans from the waist up, they did have a rather sizeable tail from waist down, which even for the small sized Kanako extended a full meter behind her. The tail took a lot of space in a group of people where space was at premium. Kanako tried to straighten herself out as much as possible, to avoid bothering people, but she still got some rather mean looks. The situation only got worse when Kanako actually reached the administration building.
She would have felt rather bummed out if it wasn’t for the stunning array of different kinds of people surrounding her. Members from nearly all the major races could be seen. There weren’t that many members of other races in the underwater empire of the naga for obvious reasons, so this was a real treat for Kanako. Elves were prevalent of course, and Kanako was rather fond of how they looked. They seemed so graceful and pretty. Then there were the wild looking Beastmen ranging from the ferocious Lion tribe to the beautiful Rabbit tribe. Kanako was standing next to a smallish Cat tribe girl, and for some reason had a constant urge to pet the girl. She knew though that it could be very impolite, and decided against the urge.
Then there were the playful looking faeries and the majestic celestials. There weren’t that many celestials, seeing as they weren’t actually at war. She didn’t know why the celestials would also send their young to the academy, but assumed there must be a good reason. The demons looked positively dangerous to her, but they also had this suave grace and beauty to them, that Kanako could not explain. There was just something about them that made them interesting. Oh and there were some humans among the throng, but she didn’t’ really care about them. Kanako had always disliked humans, and at best thought them boring, and at worst wicked and smelly. Of course she was too polite to voice those opinions.
There weren’t all that many naga among the new students. That made sense since the Eternal Empress, may she live forever, didn’t like to send too many naga to the other continents, especially in the current unstable times. Even Kanako wasn’t here by her own volition. She was the daughter of a fairly major noble family in the imperial court. As such her family was very keen to avoid anything that would tarnish their reputation, and unfortunately Kanako could be counted as such. The naga were traditionally excellent in water and air magic, but Kanako’s affinities were wildly different. She had an excellent affinity in the darkness element, and good affinity with earth and fire. Just the kind of elements that a self-respecting noble family would not want their daughter to excel at.
So here she was hidden away from prying eyes in the elven lands. Not that she minded terribly. She wanted to do what she could to help her family, and didn’t want to be an embarrassment. In addition, she liked the chance to meet members of other races. If she learned to use her skills well, her family might be more willing to stand behind her, because her talents might be useful and not just shameful.
Kanako finally managed to complete the procedures for her enrollment, and got directions to the dorm she was assigned to. There she would apparently get more directions from the teacher in charge of the dorm. The teacher was called Maylin Rhys. Apparently the dorms for new students were relatively remote, although the man in charge of admission did mention Kanako was lucky that her dorm was the closest one of those meant for new students, and apparently Maylin was a strict but fair dorm manager.
While moving towards her dorm, she saw a female student who had a hood covering her hair and a cloth covering her face. Kanako could only see a pair of deep blue eyes with the quick glance she have the girl. The strange girl’s form fitting clothing suggested someone trained as a warrior, and her tight form reinforced that notion. Kanako remembered seeing a few other students who similarly weren’t showing their face, and remember that it was a custom practiced in some elven and beastmen tribes. That particular girl’s height and form suggested an elf. Not that it really mattered to Kanako, she was simply curious.
Kanako found her dorm after ten minutes. She noticed the dorm symbol at the side of the building, and looked around to the other dorms and their symbols. She didn’t think it was all that fair that the girl’s dorms had flowers as symbols, while the boy’s dorms had animals. That sort of suggested frailty on the girl’s part, and Kanako kind of liked the idea of being a member of a wolf dorm, or a raven dorm. Well as long as it wasn’t the snake dorm, since she’d hear her fill of snake jokes anyway. No matter, she was now a proud member of the Lily dorm.
When she entered the dorm, she found the dorm manager immediately on the other side of the door. The elven woman clearly knew to expect new students, and stood near the door to guide them. The woman had a name tag with ‘Maylin’ on her chest. Kanako could see two demon girls talking with the manager, moaning about not being allowed to room together. The two looked like sisters. The dorm manager remained steadfast though, and shunted the two sisters towards their respective rooms. Kanako got her own turn after the two walked away.
“Hello, you must be a new student. Welcome to the Lily dorm. I’m the dorm manager Maylin Rhys.” The elven woman said with a bright voice and a bright smile.
Kanako answered a bit shyly, although she was excited to be talking to an elf. “Hello, my name is Kanako, and I was instructed to come here and get further instructions from the dorm manager, which seems to be you.”
“Right you are. Firstly the ground rules. Every non-elven student is rooming with an elf, to foster cooperation between different races. No you won’t be able to change rooms. Only way to have a different roommate is if either of you advances in rank and moves to a different dorm. Secondly, I don’t keep a list of confining rules, but I expect certain things from the students living here instead. Don’t act stupid, don’t do things in excess and keep the place clean. I reserve the right to smack anyone who doesn’t live by these principles.” That got a small giggle from Kanako.
Maylin consulted her list. ”Now where is Kanako? Oh you’re rooming with Lady Khalidor in room nine.” Her voice got an amused tinge.
“Lady?” Kanako asked before she could stop herself. All students were supposed to leave their ranks behind in the academy, where only your own skills mattered.
“Oh don’t mind me, I just happen to know Lady Khalidor personally. She moved into the dorm already yesterday, and has all her things in the room, so any free space is yours to use. I happen to know she went for some training a short while ago, so you probably won’t meet her until your lessons start. She should be a good roommate as long as you don’t piss her off too badly, so you have no need to worry about that. The rooms are locked with magic, just place your palm on the handle on the inside of the room to get the lock to recognize you as someone who lives there.” (Maylin)
Now Kanako was certain that the woman was greatly amused by something, but she could not figure out what. Hopefully her roommate didn’t turn out to be some weird person. Kanako thanked the teacher and went to find the room number nine, which turned out to be quite close to the door. That suited Kanako just fine.
The inside of the room was fairly austere, but Kanako had heard that the academy used more comfortable rooms as an inducement for student to work hard in advancing. No matter, the room would be quite comfy with a little decoration and bit of personal touch. She noticed that the bed that was left free was modified to fit a naga, and was more of a huge pillow, than a bed. It was also situated closer to the source of warmth in the room, a magical formation, which Kanako could really appreciate. She got cold during the night easily. She would have to say thanks to the dorm manager for taking her needs into consideration. She could sleep on a normal bed, but this was much better.
She could see some personal items of her roommate situated on the other bed, and on the table on that side of the room. Her roommate seemed to have some skill in tailoring, seeing as there was a tailoring kit on her table, in addition to some other tools, with a purpose Kanako didn’t recognize. All in all her roommate seemed to have a decent taste in things, although there were slight signs that she had a sloppy side. There was a piece of clothing thrown or dropped at the end of her bed. They both had their own cabinet for clothes. Kanako put her own things away first, and decided to clean away the discarded piece of clothing. She had a beat of a neat-streak after all. When she picked up the piece of clothing she was surprised. It was extremely soft, and didn’t quite match any designs Kanako had ever seen. It seemed to be some sort of undergarment, and for some reason Kanako though it had a weird…erotic vibe to it. She decided to let it stay where it was after all.
Kanako made it to her first lessons in high spirits. The first lessons were fairly introductory, and the classroom was large holding almost forty people. The teachers of the first two classes simply gave a brief overview on their subject, which was interesting to Kanako, even if it didn’t really teach her anything. It was the third lesson that got at least a little interesting. The teacher was Kanako’s dorm manager, and she hadn’t really given any hints as to what her lessons would contain. Instead she had asked the class a question to test them and get them engaged. The question had two parts and was as follows:
“What is the most important area of magic and what is the most difficult area of magic?”
The students took turn answering, the answers ranging anywhere from casting speed, to power and to specific affinities. Kanako was fairly proud of her answer, although that was also deemed wrong. She had guessed defense for both. Finally Maylin pointed to a masked student sitting relatively close to Kanako.
“What about you Neleh, surely you know the answer?” Maylin asked with some resignation in her voice. Kanako recognized the masked student as the same one she had seem while walking to her dorm, and was surprised to learn that she was a new student too.
“The most important area for magic and for any mage is the ability to maintain their own magic territory. The most difficult magic is sensory magic, by a wide margin.” The girl’s answer caused a small stir among the other students. This was not what anyone had expected the answer to be.
“Correct, please explain your reasoning.” Maylin urged the masked student to continue.
“Taking the easier to explain first, sensory magic is the most difficult because there’s a thousand and one ways to go about it, depending on what you’re trying to detect and at what distance. What makes it really hard though is that there’s a million and one ways to avoid detection ranging from magic to warrior skills and to assassin’s stealth skills. No form of sensory magic works against everything, and some that work well against most techniques, are completely negated by others.” (Neleh)
“Again correct. How about the other question?” Maylin pressed on.
“Personal magic territory basically refers to an area that a mage exerts around herself, where no other mage can cast their spells. If a mage is unable to maintain their territory, the opposing mage can simply materialize their own magic right next to you, making defense impossible, or in worst cases they can even materialize the spell inside you. Defending against a fireball is a lot harder when it materializes inside of your stomach.” Neleh joked causing a small wave of laughter. “Notably magic cast within your territory also requires less power, and is easier to control, which is one of the reasons why most mages like to cast any projectile magic from inside their territory towards the opponent. There is also a slight chance that a very skilled mage might be able to take over your spell with their own power, if the spell is not cast within your own territory.”
Kanako was fairly impressed with the explanation. Now that she heard the principle explained, it made a lot of sense. The rest of the lesson was fairly uneventful. After lunch the new students were scheduled to demonstrate some of their abilities in the training grounds.
The training grounds were packed. Only one class of the new students was present, since the training grounds would be over capacity if all the new students were there. Nevertheless, there was no extra space even now, because there were warrior students and older students present as well. Kanako heard something about other new students using the arena for similar purposes at the same time. Of course, the older students and the warriors weren’t there just to train. They were there to scope out the new students, warriors because of simple curiosity, and mages because the new students would be competition for them. Know thy enemy and all that.
The purpose of the class they were having was to separate the new students into groups based on the level of their respective skills. Some new students had had their Awakening only a short time before the start of the semester, while some had months to prepare. Some students had also gotten some training before attending the academy, while others weren’t capable of forming even the most basic of spells. The people chosen for the academy were selected based on their potential, not their current level of skill. That said, it was not very useful to waste the time of those students that already knew the basics by teaching them the same stuff again.
The new students were divided into advanced groups and basic groups based on the test results. While at first this might seem unfair to some, teaching the basics only took a couple of weeks with the gifted teachers of the academy. After that, only your own merit and effort would determine your progress into the advanced group, or vice versa being dropped back into the basic group. The academy was a results driven environment, as also evidenced by the dorm inducements, and didn’t cuddle those who were unskilled or lazy.
Kanako wasn’t too worried about her own tests. She had a decent grasp on the basics and could perform the spells required by the test. They had to use the basic detection, movement and defense spells. The only oddity so far was when one of the students had an oddly shaped defensive shield. Normal shield was just like translucent orb around the caster, but the one person had a weird segmented shield, made of what Kanako thought to be hexagons or octagons. She couldn’t see who had cast that spell in the throng, but it didn’t really matter. The real event was next, where the students were lined about ten meters from a target, and took turns in small groups to cast an offensive spell of their choice at the target. This was the moment for the new students to shine, and everyone knew it, trying to one-up each other.
Kanako idly noticed that there were some older students having practice duels on the other side of the targets and hoped no one went too wild and hit them. Normally this would never be the case in the training grounds, but the place was too full and some allowances had to be made. Someone had to really muck up really badly to miss the target that much. The spells used ranged from simple flamestrikes to earth spikes and fireballs. The students were new, so you couldn’t expect anything too fancy from them. The most anyone managed to do was slightly damage the target.
Finally it was the turn of Kanako’s group. Idly she noted that the person next to her was the masked girl from earlier. Kanako was a little curious about the chosen element of the masked girl, who had answered the question in class in such an interesting manner, so she paid half attention to what she was doing while also chanting her own spell. She was rather shocked to see the masked girl simply materialize a spell without chanting and even more shocked to see the spell itself. She had been rather proud of her own darkspike spell, certain that she could at least make a hole in the target, but this was something else.
The spell took the form of a fairly sized lance of fire. Fire lance was a pretty high level fire spell famed for its penetrative power, but the weirdest part was that the fire was all white. Kanako had a good affinity in fire herself, but she had never seen or even heard about white fire. The target was completely annihilated when the weird lance struck it. In her shock Kanako had forgot to control her own spell, and she now realized with a start that the spell was about to fire wildly. Kanako hurriedly tried to aim the spell in the general direction of the target in order to avoid hurting anyone.
She was shocked to see her darspike sail wide over the target, and to her dismay hit one of the platforms that the older students were practicing on behind the target. The platform was brittle on purpose, to force the students to pay attention to their footing, and broke from the impact. The older student fell quite embarrassingly in a heap to the ground. Luckily the drop wasn’t very high, but Kanako was sure the student would be quite angry at what she had done.
The monitoring teachers ran to check up on the fallen student, while one of them approached Kanako.
“How did that happen? Did you try a too difficult spell in order to impress?” The teacher asked fairly patiently. Kanako would not have been the first one to try something too difficult. In fact there were a dozen students who had fumbled with their spells.
“No, the fire lance next to me just shocked me so badly, that I didn’t finish my spell properly. I’m very sorry.” Kanako said while bowing in apology.
“The other student doesn’t seem to be hurt, so we’ll let this one slide, but be more careful in the future. Keeping your cool in all situations is a requirement for a proper magician. It would be bad for you if this developed into a habit.” The teacher explained patiently.
In truth the teacher had been shocked himself, so could not really blame the young naga for her mistake. He just hoped the older student that got embarrassed wouldn’t hold a grudge. Especially since the older student had been a human from a fairly sizeable group of students from different races, that often caused trouble for the disciplinary squad. And in the teachers mind, everybody knew that humans liked to hold a grudge, the more pointless the grudge, the stronger the humans liked to hold it.
After the lessons Kanako was going back towards her dorm, still somewhat downcast due to her mistake. She had stayed behind to show that she really could cast the spell correctly, and had done so several times, impressing the teacher. As a result, the day had become a bit late, and most of the students had already gone to their dorms. Kanako tried to hurry along, because she was eager to meet her new roommate.
She had to stop though, when she was waylaid by a group of five male students. Three from the front and two from behind. She noticed that one of them was the nasty human that had fallen victim to her failed spell. Kanako knew the man was not happy, and probably had come to take some sort of revenge. She hoped she could get by with an apology.
“Well, well, well. If it isn’t the snake who dared to embarrass an upperclassman. You do realize that it was quite an ordeal for me, to be laughed at because of your little stunt? Now how are you going to repay me? I kind of like to show snakes their rightful place, and you aren’t half bad looking. Maybe there is something we could think of that you could do to repay me.” The man’s voice left no doubt that what he had in mind was something humiliating and sexual.
Kanako shaking with revulsion was just about to make a snappy comeback, when they all heard a beautiful female voice.
“Five upperclassmen ganging up on a single new student. This hardly seems fair, no matter if you were just having a friendly chat. How about I even the odds a bit.” The masked student had entered the encirclement before anyone had noticed what had happened.
The man gave the masked girl an appreciative look. Despite the mask, her clothes showed that her body was clearly filled right in the proper places, while just the right kind of slim in others. “Well even if you’re hideous under that mask, I guess your body could satisfy us if you want to join your little friend.” The man was about to continue before the girl interrupted him.
“Oh I’m sorry, you misunderstand me. The only female company ugly dogs like you will ever have, is mother Palm and her five daughters. Even they might find a pathetic man like you too revolting. No, my plan was to castrate all of you little weaklings, so you won’t bark at your betters anymore.” The masked girl’s words shocked Kanako, and completely enraged the men.
They were about to attack the girls, when a lance of fire appeared only a couple of cm away from each of their faces. All five of them could feel the heat from the lances while they hovered in front of them, and they all got sweaty real fast. Whether from the heat or fear is a separate question. They all started backing away with the lances following them.
“You will regret this day bitch! Daemon will have your head!” The man yelled at them before they all ran away.
The masked girl turned towards Kanako and spoke. “You are called Kanako, right? I was quite worried that something had happened to my new roommate, when you were so late. My name is Neleh. A pleasure to meet you!”