Most likely something about Aneirin in the next chapter.
With the craziness that followed the end of the civil war finally winding down, Neleh was able to attend the academy lessons again. She had spent the previous evening getting reacquainted with Kanako and going over the material they had studied during her absence. Kanako was surprisingly good at taking notes, and she was also eager to learn, so it took Neleh only a couple of hours to go over the material. Rest of the time was spent sharing stories of what had happened to them during Neleh’s absence.
Neleh had been slightly worried that some members of Lucian’s group of trouble makers would have bothered Kanako, but apparently that was a needless worry. Either Lucian’s hold over his underlings was stronger than she assumed, or the civil war had distracted them enough that Neleh’s and Kanako’s actions had been forgotten. She had been especially worried because she had promised to protect the girl, and was glad that her extended absence had not caused her to break her word. She had seen enough of life to know that a promise was worth only so much, even when made by her, but she did aim to keep her word whenever even remotely possible. The value of your word was a currency on its own, after all.
Neleh was considering her way of dressing for the day when Asheara entered her room.
“Having trouble deciding on a route to take?” Asheara asked showing her insight.
Neleh gave a small sigh. “You are correct. Previously I was hiding my face while I attended the lessons. As a matter of fact, Kanako is the only one who has actually seen my face before. There’s no way to avoid attention now, and I’ve already resigned myself to not hiding anymore. That said, it’s still a big change and I’m not exactly sure how to deal with it.”
Asheara thought for a while, before replying with a grin. “Well, if we’re no longer doing the mysterious thing, then we might as well go all the way in the other direction. You’ve certainly got it, so why not flaunt it? You’re going to be the center of attention anyway, and that’s only likely to increase in the future, so might as well dress accordingly.”
Neleh gave a small grimace. “I’m not sure I know how to do that. I think I could go with the cool and aloof beauty. I don’t have the appropriate clothing though. All my previous clothing was aimed at hiding myself, aside from the light dress I used for flying and the white thing I used at parties. Even the one I wore at Nimue’s coronation was borrowed. I’m now noticing that I’ve been remiss in my preparations.”
“Well we have the undergarments covered.” Asheara replied with a grin, and waved at the large collection of undergarments they had made with their own skills. “I’ve actually wondered this since you made this house, can’t you just…you know…” Asheara waved her hand clearly suggestively, implying that Neleh use her magic to create her clothing.
“If I had the materials and some time to plan the spell, then maybe I could. But something as precise as clothing shouldn’t be made haphazardly, unless I want to risk a seam giving out in the middle of a crowd. I’m sure the crowd would enjoy seeing me in my undies, but I’m not relishing the opportunity personally.” Neleh suddenly had a thought. “That said, there is another possibility.”
Neleh focused for a while, and then Asheara saw a shadow grow from the floor to cover Neleh’s body. With a tilt of her head Neleh changed the magic a bit which resulted in white and gold highlights to appear on the shadow covering her body. With the spell finished Neleh was dressed in a long black dress that left most of her back open. It also didn’t cover her shoulders, and only had a strap behind her neck. On the other hand the narrow dress came down to cover her feet, and ended only a few cm above the ground. Since the dress was made of magical shadow, it had no seams or textile pattern, and was tight enough to look painted on. The white and golden highlights kept the dress from becoming too immodest.
“This should do the trick.” Neleh said with a grin.
“Can you maintain that?” Asheara asked, her curiosity piqued.
“Easily. Only the creation really took any power. I’ll also have to spend extra strength if I want to repair any damage, or to stop anyone silly enough to try and dispel it.” Neleh replied without worry.
“Wait, it can be dispelled?” Asheara asked, both a little worried and also considering any potential ways she could use this information to her own advantage and enjoyment later on.
“Only theoretically. The dress is within the natural magical territory projected by my body. Even if someone tried to do it by surprise, they would have to be able to overpower my territory, and at that point my dress is not the biggest problem.” Neleh replied with seriousness, also considering the possibilities though probably not quite in the same way. The possibilities that occurred to Neleh were decidedly less kinky.
They heard a voice from behind them, from the door of the room. “You know, you could’ve just used the official robes of the academy.” They saw Azrael at the door.
“Where’s the fun in that?” Asheara asked, while Neleh had another question. “We had one of those? Nobody uses one, so I wasn’t even sure.”
Azrael sighed. “Alright, get a move on. Your first lesson is with Maylin today, and you shouldn’t keep her waiting.”
Neleh and Kanako were going for the first lesson of the day, and they were drawing quite a lot of attention. Neleh claimed that she didn’t know how to act as the center of attention, but she had quite naturally adopted a similar mien to the one she had used after her first time testing the Song of Gabriel on Solana. Nimue would instantly recognize the sashaying gait, the hypnotic movement of her hips drawing the eyes of everyone around them. The only difference was that unlike with the time with Nimue, this time Neleh wasn’t oozing sexual charisma from her every pore, but instead had the air of grace and power. Not to say she wasn’t still sexy. She simply wasn’t causing everyone around her to get horny.
Neleh had added a tasteful silver diadem that came from behind her ears to cover a part of her forehead. She knew she would draw attention both because of her looks and her position as a Chosen, but she didn’t want to waste time explaining the moon Ignasia on her forehead. The diadem was meant to cover that. Combined with her dress, she did seem a little overdressed for school, but considering her new position it wasn’t too over the top.
In addition to the standard desire and awe, there was a weird mix or surprise and recognition in the looks they were receiving. Many of the students were able to recognize Neleh as the new Chosen. She had been fairly visible during the ceremonies following the coronation of the empress Nimue, especially during the procession through the city. On the other hand they were wondering about the reason for her presence inside the academy. There were very few people that made the connection between the current Neleh and Kanako’s masked friend that had been missing for the last few weeks.
The crowd of people parted to let them through, and most of the students stopping to stare at them. Neleh tried to ignore the stares for the most part, while replying to the greetings directed her way. Kanako on the other hand seemed to be oblivious to the stares, and was giving a running commentary on the people that were assigned to the group of advanced students the two of them were also assigned to, A-class. Neleh noticed Aneirin among the crowd. From the shocked look on her face, the head of the disciplinary squad was among the few that had made the connection. Neleh gave the older girl a nod in greeting, which was returned by a scowl.
It was when they were seated in their classroom when the students within the class finally started to make the connection and finally understood why Neleh was there. Some of the students would have tried to make conversation with them, and tried to introduce themselves, but that was spoiled by the arrival of Maylin.
“Greetings to everyone. Hopefully the excitement of the recent events has subsided for now. You may be the advanced class of students, but you’ve still missed several weeks’ worth of lessons. We have plenty of catching up to do. Especially you Lady Neleh, you’ve been missing even more lessons than the rest of us. Hopefully Kanako managed brief you on what we have gone over so far.” Maylin started the lesson.
“Don’t worry teacher. Kanako’s notes were most enlightening.” Neleh replied cheerfully.
“Good. As the subject of this lesson is about the magical elements, you wouldn’t mind giving us a list of the magical elements to start us off, would you?” Maylin wanted to both get the discussion started, and also wanted to make sure that everyone understood that there would be no favoritism for the new Chosen.
Questions like this were the reason Neleh had gone over the teaching material. She could easily list all the elements even without the extra effort, but the problem was that she might accidentally list elements that had not been discovered in this world before. She couldn’t avoid drawing attention in her current position, but it might be a good idea to avoid advertising her knowledge of subjects outside this world.
“Firstly we have the prime elements: earth, fire, water, air, light and dark. They are the most commonly used elements and the most common affinities. Then we have the derivative elements that use much of the laws of their respective prime elements, and skill in the prime element usually comes with skill with the appropriate derivative element. These are respectively: nature, destruction, ice, lightning, life and death. The derivative elements are in some rare cases the exceptions to the principle that most mages are only really good with three elements, because skill in water magic for example often translates into skill with ice magic. This is however not always the case. Some derivative elements are less tied to their prime element. For example, skill in dark magic rarely translates into skill with death magic.” Neleh started off.
“Death magic is on the border of belonging to the third group of elements, which is the special elements. Special elements are elements that are very hard to learn to control or are limited to only certain races. Very few people have natural affinity with them aside from racial magic, like humans with spirit magic. The special elements are: illusion, spirit, time, arcane, blood, necromancy, primal, and gravity. There’s also unofficially a fourth group of magic categorized by the fact that they don’t use mana to bring out their effects. These are currently holy magic and the supportive spells used by musicians. Strictly speaking you could categorize warrior’s internal power derived abilities here, but I’m fairly sure the warriors would reject that labeling.” Neleh finished with a grin, her last point bringing a gale of laughter from the students and Maylin.
The special elements actually had several more affinities that were not classified by the people of this world. There were also other prime elements such as chaos and order, but no need to advertise that. Arcane magic referred to the group of spell that used pure magical power by itself, without assigning it another element, while primal magic was the group of magic that gathered anything where the mages had no idea how it worked.
“Well done, that was a comprehensive answer.” Maylin complimented Neleh’s answer, and proceeded to her lesson on the nature and connections of the elements.
Neleh and Kanako were having lunch in the cafeteria, surrounded by several of their female classmates that had gathered their courage and approached them during the lunch. Their conversations were fairly introductory, and didn’t really go into any deeper subjects. A couple of them wondered about Neleh’s dress, but she only replied with a secretive smile. She noticed a familiar figure approaching their table.
“Well, well, if it isn’t the masked girl. Decided to give up on your mysterious angle?” Lucian asked trying to get a rise out of the girl.
“The delinquent demon Lucian, I see. What brings you to the newbie area? Considering how few times I’ve eaten in the cafeteria, I’ve seen you here almost every time. Lacking friends among your peers?” Neleh shot back with a grin.
“I heard some wild rumors about some gorgeous new flower of nobility. Imagine my disappointment when I find out it was about you, neither new nor noble.” Lucian had a fake thoughtful expression. “Beauty could be argued, I suppose.”
The girls with them at the table were about to make some angry reply, but Neleh waved them down. She didn’t need or want anyone defending her. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As for the other two, well I could agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong. Now was there something you actually wanted, or are you just here to waste my lunch period?” Neleh replied confidently.
“Mostly just a waste of our time. I like checking out beauties, and beauties like checking me out even more. I was planning on saving both of us the time of seeking each other out. Now that I’m here though, I seem to recall you still owe me a duel. Last time the brainless celestial spoiled our fun.” Lucian replied just as confident.
“Oh dear, you’re not pretty enough to be this stupid. I thought I explained the reasons why it was a bad idea to you last time, but apparently memory is not one of your strengths. I’m assuming you have strengths?” Neleh was having some fun needling the demon. He had enough smarts to argue back.
They heard a familiar voice again. “Daemon, you’re picking on the newbies again? Did our last duel bruise your ego so badly that you need to take it out on first circle mages?” Micah appeared sporting a wide grin. “Inquisitor Neleh, good to meet you again.” Micah greeted Neleh with a nod.
“Inquisitor?” Lucian wondered noticing the insignia ring on Neleh’s finger. “Now, this is interesting. How did someone as young as you become an Inquisitor?” Lucian wondered out loud.
“You really don’t’ follow the events of the elven empire do you?” Micah asked almost sympathetically. “Not only are you picking a fight with the Inquisitor that became famous as a result of the civil war, but also the Chosen of Elune.”
“The Chosen?” Lucian asked with a raised eyebrow. “Why is the Chosen studying in the academy?”
“For the same reason as everyone else, to learn magic.” Neleh replied calmly. “As for your request of a duel, I see no reason to bother. There’s no upside for me, since I don’t gain anything from trouncing you. Come back when you have something to offer in exchange.”
Duels required the consent of both parties, though usually it was considered very dishonorable to refuse. Refusing was thought to be equal to an admittance of cowardice. In Neleh’s case, her power and courage were not up to question, she was the Chosen after all. Lucian realized that she was right. Unlike in a normal case, she had no reason to accept, and he would need a reason to have her do so. Not that he was too hung up on having the duel. He was mostly just curious about the girl’s strength, and was looking for some amusement. He also had to admit that he wanted to impress the girl.
Later that evening Neleh had gone to the practice grounds with Asheara in order to start her training. Azrael had tagged along to see the methods of used.
“Now first things first, I have to admit that teaching is one of the things I’m not very good at. I can try and explain the necessary concepts to you but I can’t understand them for you. What you get from the training is completely up to your own ability to grasp various concepts.” Neleh started with a caveat.
“I understand. I will do my best, and try to keep my mind open. I ask for your patience.” Asheara replied with a small bow.
“You have some training and skill in the warrior arts, which might help you in understanding some things, or stop you from understanding others. That said, I’m going to start from the ground up, because good basics are the foundation upon which everything else is built on. I will show you two exercises out of the three that I want you to keep up for the rest of your life. They will not only help you with the basics, but will also help you adjust to the changes that will happen in your body, and will allow for a better control of both your body and your weapons. These are exercises that you can and should perform while I’m at class.” Neleh said with a stern voice.
“I’m ready to learn.” Asheara replied.
Neleh cast a small spell, and a weird construct rose from the ground on the edge of the training grounds. There were two poles holding up a long and thick piece of brownish matter. The brownish mass was of a hard to identify material, and changed color along its length. One end of the matter looked extremely soft, almost liquid, while the other end looked as hard as stone. The mass was not uniform in thickness, but had a small thin black line running in the middle.
“The first exercise is both very simple and very difficult. The purpose of this exercise is to train minute control of your muscles and your weapons. You are supposed to strike the brown mass with your weapon at different points of its length with enough strength to reach the black line in the middle, but no further. If your strike doesn’t reach the line, you did not use enough strength, and if your weapon crosses the line, you used too much strength. You’ll notice that different parts of the mass will require different amounts of strength. A true warrior uses the right amount of strength, no more, no less. Too little strength, and you will not do the required damage and you will leave yourself open for a counterattack. Too much strength and you will overextend and might even get your weapon stuck inside the enemy. Do you understand so far?” Neleh explained.
“I understand both the exercise and the reasons for it. Won’t the mass break though, if I strike it repeatedly?” Asheara asked.
“No, the mass is of a material that will repair itself automatically, as long as you don’t use your inner power to widen the damage. You are allowed to use your inner power for cutting power, that is part of what you will need to learn to control after all, but don’t rely on it as a crutch except on the harder parts. As for the intensity of the exercise, you will determine how hard you work yourself. Of course the harder you work, the faster you learn.” Neleh replied, certain that her mother would most likely work herself as hard as possible and then some. She got a nod of understanding as a reply.
“The second exercise is something you have seen me perform at home. It is meant to improve your balance, your footwork, the control of your center of gravity and your eyesight and ability to think ahead.” Neleh said and performed another spell.
A hundred pillars of differing height rose on the very edge of the practice field, out of the way of other people. The smallest pillars were about knee-height while the longest ones were four times the height of Asheara. There was also a platform at the start and the end of the course, the pillars growing in height from the start towards the end and the platform at maximum height. The pillars were of varying thickness, and their tops ranged from the sharpness of a spear to completely flat to complex forms that would give a weird foothold. Notably the pillars were not stable. They had some space to move at the bottom, which caused the tops to move even more ranging from a barely noticeable movement to a pretty wide swing. This was something Asheara had indeed seen before.
“As you can see, your purpose is to make it from the starting platform to the ending platform by using the pillars as footholds. In the beginning you only need to make it from one platform to another, and later your purpose is to do it faster and faster. The faster routes have the more difficult footholds. Obviously you’re not allowed to use your magic or inner power to simply leap from one platform to another. Once this track becomes too easy, I’ll make you a harder one.” Neleh explained, again getting a nod of understanding.
“As for the third exercise, you will join me in performing it tomorrow morning. Again, it is something that you’ve seen me do before quite often. I will start teaching it to you tomorrow.” Neleh intended to teach Asheara the basics of the body sculpting art Neleh herself still used almost every morning.