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Author's note: Chapter 22 for your perusing pleasure. I think this one has more dialogue than any of my earlier chapters so far...


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”You...you are my roommate?” Kanako asked Neleh. “I heard my roommate was supposed to be someone called Lady Khalidor?”

“Correct. My name is Neleh Khalidor. I’m not so sure about the ‘Lady’ part, but I’m assuming you got that from our dorm manager Maylin.” Neleh answered introducing herself.

“Oh! I’m Kanako as you know. Pleasure to meet you. Especially since you saved me from a bit of a bind. Are you sure that was fine, by the way? They’ll be likely to carry a grudge, and they probably transferred their dislike of me over to you.” Kanako asked with a worried voice.

“That group won’t pose any problem for me. I am a little worried about them coming after you though, and I have to apologize for antagonizing them even more. I just can’t stand creeps like that. For now, you should probably stay close to me, and if it seems that they will cause you more trouble, I have some ways to make sure they are dealt with.” Neleh’s voice carried certainty and confidence, so Kanako decided to trust her words.

“I think I’ll take your word on that and I think you are right. It might be better if neither of us is alone for the foreseeable future. As such, I look forward to getting to know you better.” Kanako’s voice had regained a chipper tone, her worries being erased by the chance to get to know an elf better.

The two started to talk a bit more about themselves while they walked towards their dorm. Both managed to give a much abbreviated summary of their life, although both still considered it prudent to not reveal any important details. Neither was sure how trustworthy the other person was yet, though that would change fairly quickly, once they got to know each other. Kanako was quite surprised when she found out that Neleh had already received training both as a warrior and as a priestess.

“Wow, you’re training in all three paths! How old are you? I can’t tell because of the mask. What’s your rank as a warrior?” Kanako was so enthusiastic with her questions, that she didn’t even notice that her questions might be considered impolite.

“Now, now, you know it’s impolite to ask about a girl’s age.” Neleh answered in a joking tone, not wanting to admit she was only a little over 14 years old. “As for my warrior rank, I’m not actually sure. I haven’t taken any tests for rank ups because I find ranks quite meaningless both as a measure of warrior’s skill or as a mage’s skill. Assigning a rank just seems too arbitrary, when a lower ranked mage can easily defeat a higher ranked one with a good match of abilities, or a proper plan. I guess they serve their purpose somewhat in giving an indication of strength, but that’s just about it. For reference though, I’m about at the level of the warrior teachers here in the academy, when it comes to just fighting skills. Of course some of the teachers have a wider base of knowledge when it comes to overall skills, which is why I’m studying under them. Although, I’m spending less time on those lessons, now that I’m a mage student.” Neleh said with a thoughtful voice.

“A match to the teachers here? That’s awesome! No wonder you had no worries when you walked in the middle of the problem earlier.” Kanako had a sort of admiring tone.

The two finally reached their room in the Lily dorm. When they got inside Neleh brought up the living arrangements. “Did you fit your stuff in alright? I got in before you and just tried to put my things out of the way, but I have no idea how much stuff you have.”

“Oh I’m quite good. I could fit my things just fine. We might want to decorate the room a bit when we have the time. I’ll have to thank the dorm manager for making such good accommodations for me being a naga. I really tend to get cold during winter and the bed is…goddess damn!” Kanako was quite shocked when she saw Neleh, who had taken most of her clothing off, including the hood and the mask, and was now picking up the discarded pieces of clothing.

“What?” Neleh asked innocently, although she had a pretty good idea why Kanako was shocked.

“You’re not wearing that mask due to cultural reasons, are you?” Kanako asked incredulously.

“No, no I’m not.” Neleh answered with a grin.

“I can see why you would wear the hood and the mask. You might run into problems otherwise.” (Kanako)

“It’s not so bad surprisingly. I do draw a bit too much attention though, hence the mask. It’s getting worse the older I get though. Now it’s getting to the point that some people have trouble speaking coherently with me. Oh well, the mask isn’t so bad.” Neleh sighed.

“Yeah, I can sympathize with those people a little bit. You are a little overwhelming. I’ll get over it. I had a similar problem when I saw the Eternal Empress, may she live forever.” Kanako said, already grinning with expectation at future shenanigans.

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The next day started rather uneventfully. Kanako was rather jealous of Neleh’s morning exercise, but her Naga body prevented her from learning the same system of exercise. When they got to their lessons, they both found out that they had been assigned to the most advanced class, the A-class of the new students. Neither was terribly surprised, seeing as they both had a solid handle on the basics. Of course Neleh had far wider knowledge than she was letting on, so she’d have no trouble staying in the A-class.

Things got interesting during lunch. Neleh and Kanako were having lunch together, when they saw an older demon student approaching them. The male demon was rather impressive looking in a dark and handsome way. The insignia on his chest signified that he was a mage of fifth circle. Graduating from the academy required you to be a sixth circle mage, so fifth circle meant he was a senior student.

“You two are most likely the people I’m looking for. There's not many new female naga students and a masked female elf student as a combo around here . My name is Daemon Lucian, and I heard you entertained a few of my underlings last night.” The man said with a grin.

Neleh laughed. “I’m sorry, I have to ask. Daemon the demon? Really?”

The man’s grin grew wider. “Better believe it. You can use Lucian if my first name cracks you up too badly.” Lucian was not used to people laughing at him so openly, because they were usually too afraid. He found the experience quite fun actually.

“Well Lucian, if you mean the trash that waylaid a female rookie student with a gang of five, then yes we met them. Don’t know about entertainment though. They didn’t seem too entertained, and they didn’t put up enough of a fight to entertain me. You have my condolences for such crummy lackeys.” Neleh answered still chuckling.

“Indeed. Hard to find proper flunkies these days. One of the reasons I’m here, is to let you know that those guys will not be troubling you or any other students again. They suddenly found a desire to leave the school. I happen to despise rapists, and while their attempt was rather pathetic, that doesn’t’ excuse them. I’m ashamed to admit some of my underlings would be that stupid.” Lucian said with some sincerity in his voice.

“We appreciate it. Saves me the trouble of dealing with them.” (Neleh)

“That brings us to the second reason I’m here. While those idiots certainly deserved anything you did to them, it’s kind of problematic for me to have some of my underlings humiliated. As worthless as they were, it’s bad if the other students think it’s a smart idea to stand against members of my group. Thus it’s important I show my strength and punish the transgressor, which would be you, by defeating you in a duel. More public the better. I’m not really happy that I’m forced to do this to a first circle mage, but them’s the breaks.” Lucian still had a rather jovial voice and attitude despite what he was saying.

“Well now, that puts you in a bit of a bind. You can challenge me to a duel and I’ll quite happily accept, I welcome the entertainment, but you won’t win that duel. And that would make your situation even worse. I’m not first circle mage because I’m weak, I’m first circle because I’m new. See the difference?” Neleh answered still amused.

Lucian did see the difference. He realized that what Neleh was saying was that the only reason she was first circle, was that she hadn’t yet had the chance to take the test for promotion. The academy only allowed students to test for a rank promotion at the end of each semester, to assure the students took the test seriously, and as a new student Neleh would only get her chance at the end of the semester. Most students didn’t test for promotion at the end of every semester, because they knew they would not pass and because the test could be dangerous. It was not uncommon to see students in their thirties in the academy, because the tests were so difficult.

Lucian was just about to challenge Neleh anyway, confident in his victory, when they heard a new voice intrude. “Daemon. It’s only the second day of the semester, and you’re already making trouble for new students. Why don’t you try picking a fight with someone your own size for a change?”

They all turned towards the source of the new voice, and saw a red haired and black winged male celestial. He was very impressive looking, although he had this wild, if handsome, look about him, which was rather odd in a celestial. Wild was not among the first adjectives you thought of in combination with celestials.

“Micah. Should’ve guessed it would be you. You never could read the mood. We were having a good time, me and the lady. Though I suppose kicking your sorry ass in a duel would serve my purposes just as well, if not even better. I hope you won’t try and have your little pals at the disciplinary squad save you when you’re losing?” Lucian answered the celestial with obvious hostility, though his grin was still present.

“Oh don’t worry, I wouldn’t miss the chance to kick your ass for anything. And the discipline squad guys can be such spoilsports sometimes. The duel is on!” Micah said with enthusiasm. Their duel had been a long time coming, Neleh had simply provided them the necessary excuse.

Neleh wasn’t too happy about the development. She had been a bit worried about drawing too much attention if she kicked the demon’s ass, but at least it would’ve been fun. Now she was drawing attention anyway, although attention of a different kind, but the prospect of fun seemed to be gone. Kanako on the other hand was almost giddy with the development. In her mind it was romantic that Neleh already had two handsome guys dueling due to her beauty, conveniently ignoring the fact that neither guy had actually seen Neleh without the mask, and that one of the guys had just been about to have a duel with Neleh. Kanako simply happened to be a hopeless romantic, and the juicy development had sent her imagination to overdrive.

“You two girls can be the judges right?” Micah asked Neleh and Kanako, getting an affirmative nod in return.

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By the time they reached the arena, the word about the duel had traveled, and there was a large number of students in the audience. The four of them were in the preparation area, when a group of elven students wearing the badges of the disciplinary squad entered. The woman leading them launched straight away into a tirade towards Lucian and Micah, while the two guys were adamant that the duel was legitimate and within the school rules. Neleh’s thoughts were interrupted when she heard a voice speak to her from behind.

“Hello sis! Why am I not surprised to see you involved in something like this, even though it’s only the second day for you?” Neleh turned around to see her sister Delia standing behind her.

“Delia! What brings you here?” Neleh asked glad to see her sister.

“I’m part of the disciplinary squad.” Delia answered, while showing the badge of the squad on her chest. She also had the insignia of a fourth circle mage. “I’d ask you to join too, if I didn’t know what kind of troublemaker you are. We could use your strength to keep the peace.”

“I object to that characterization. I don’t make trouble, I just happen to be at the right place at the right time.” Neleh said with a grin.

“Too often, I’d say. I don’t know anyone more prone to trouble as you are. So what’s this all about? Some of your suitors fighting over you again? Need someone to warm your bed now that Solana can't enter the dorms?” Delia asked with a cheeky grin, eliciting a squeal from Kanako.

“That’s rich coming from someone who spent most of her nights in my bed, until you left for the academy.” Neleh teased back, getting another squeal from Kanako.

Delia blushed. “That’s not a fair characterization, you were eight at the time. Besides, mother spent more time in bed with you than I did.” Another, even louder squeal from Kanako. Clearly the girl was getting the wrong picture.

“Say what you will. You had trouble sleeping without your darling little sister, just admit it. Keeping with the theme, have you already found someone to warm your bed now that you can’t take advantage of your baby sister anymore?” Neleh asked with a wide grin.

“Well…” Delia looked shyly at the female disciplinary squad leader, who was still yelling at the two guys.

“Oh? She’s quite beautiful. God job sis!” Neleh said, while giving Delia the thumbs up. Suddenly she frowned. “Oh, I didn’t think of that.”

“What?” Asked Delia.

“Well you’ll remember that there was some talk years ago, that I would pick up father’s profession, and then pass it on to one of the sons my sister’s had. I didn’t even consider the possibility that all my sisters might swing the other way.” Neleh said while frowning.

“Oh right, I remember that. Well you’ll get no help from me. Selene is planning on becoming one of those virginal priestesses, unlike you, and I’m pretty sure she’s also the same as me. Selvaria should be the only one that actually fancies guys, although Elsaria is a bit young to know for sure. This is what you get when you have a scummy father, and a little sister blessed by Aphrodite. Better hope Selvaria finds someone, baby sis!” Delia said with mirth in her voice.

“Why do I think you’re enjoying this whole thing a bit too much?” Neleh asked grumpily.

“Oh I don’t know. Maybe because it’s nice to see that even your plans can go awry.” Delia answered while laughing.

Suddenly Neleh looked towards the arguing trio. “Oh, looks like your girlfriend is starting to wrap up.”

“…and what were you thinking having a pair of rookies as judges!? Can they even form the shield required, not to mention have enough power to ensure your survival?” The disciplinary squad woman yelled.

Surprisingly Delia jumped in at that point. “Now, now, Aneirin. Haven’t I told you before to not judge book by its covers. My sister at least would absolutely murder you in a duel, so no need to worry about her shielding skills.”

That certainly got the attention of the trio. The woman, apparently named Aneirin, was also a fifth circle student, as one would expect from a leader of the disciplinary squad.

“Your sister? This is the genius little sister you’ve been talking about?” Aneirin asked while raising an eyebrow.

“Been talking too much again, sister dearest?” Neleh asked sweetly.

“I didn’t go into too much detail. I think.” Delia answered hesitantly.

“Do you even know how the judging of duels works here in the academy?” Aneirin asked interrupting the two sisters.

“Yes, I was a warrior student here, before I became a mage student. We saw a couple of duels. There’s two judges, one for each duelist. The judges cover their duelist in a protective shield using their full strength. If one of the judges feels their shield getting hit, they will halt the duel, and their duelist is proclaimed as the loser.” Neleh gave a quick explanation.

“Can you two handle being a judge? Do you have the strength to stop whatever spells that might break through the defenses of your respective duelist?” Aneirin asked, wanting to make sure.

Both Neleh and Kanako nodded. “Additionally, I’m a trained priestess, so should anything happen, I can take care of the healing.” Neleh also added.

“Alright then. Despite my better judgement, these knuckleheads have decided to go through with this charade, and I can’t stop them. You little sister, be the judge for Lucian, while you naga girl, be the judge for Micah.” Aneirin clearly wasn’t too happy with the situation.

“Well isn’t this an interesting turn of events dear. We go from having a duel of our own, into you being my protector.” Lucian said with a grin.

“Keep yakking it up buster, and I might forget to put any strength into your shield. Rookies make mistakes and all that.” Neleh answered in a stern voice, though internally finding the situation equally amusing.

“Oh that won’t be a problem. I have no intention of losing this duel, so your services will not be required.” Lucian answered with confidence.
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Vihyungrang

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