After the practice, I and Lili went to the canteen for some breakfast. It was mostly empty other than some students who had a similar schedule to us. We approached the buffet, the automaton cook was still doing his thing, keeping the canteen open at all times.
"Free or custom?" It asked us.
"Custom, I want some of these scrambled eggs, white bread and whatever this meat is," I said, pointing at the things that interested me.
Lili shuffled her feet. "Free." She said in a small voice.
"Huh, no. She is getting custom too." I said to the cook and looked at Lili, "You need to eat well or you won't, uh, grow." I told her, hand waving over my chest.
Embarrassed she muttered, "I am tight on money."
I rolled my eyes and said to her, "I am not, pick whatever. Don't be silly."
She was hesitant at first but the smell of my meal must have snuffed out any reservations she previously had. With a rumbling stomach, Lili chose more food than even I did. I wasn't even sure if she would be physically able to eat that much.
It cost two silver Leos total for both meals and some drinks, Lili didn't want to admit it but I could see how excited and grateful she was, it really warmed my heart. We had a pleasant breakfast before heading to the supplies kiosk, I finally bought some pens and proper notebooks for myself.
After getting the necessary things, we headed to energy deduction lesson with Principal Awyn. Lili revealed to me that she was a bit afraid of him, even when he was being friendly.
Shrugging, I said, "Principal Dolor seems to be very nice despite his appearance, General Solba on the other hand..." I shook my head, Orion didn't look exactly friendly.
"I am too skinny to be a battlemage but people who train under General are all terrified of him," Lili said to me. "There are many stories about his lessons, I hope you will be okay."
"Don't worry, I am not that fragile," I told her with a smile.
Energy deduction was held indoors so we didn't have to go outside, we took a corner but after seeing what was behind I grabbed Lili and instantly changed directions.
"What happened?" She asked me.
Before I could answer, a sharp voice entered my ears. "If it isn't the new rising star, good morning."
Clenching my jaw, I turned around to see Eina walking up to us, she was on her own this time. Lili stiffened and subconsciously took a step behind me, smart girl.
"Good morning, what is it?" I asked her, doing my best to sound civil.
Her azure eyes paused on Lili before focusing on me. She said, "I've heard some things from Principal so I would like to apologize for our bumpy introduction."
I couldn't tell what she was thinking at all but it couldn't hurt to try.
"That's possible, let's try again then. Marie Penn." I said, sticking out my hand.
Eina walked up and shook it, "Eina Argent." She looked at Lili with a raised eyebrow and asked me, "Are you training her to be your retainer?"
"What?" I asked, stiffening up.
Eina retracted her hand and said, "She is a plebeian, isn't she? I am training two myself, you saw them the other day."
I glanced at Lili, she was eyeing me suspiciously. My heart whistling faster, I squeezed her arm and stared daggers at Eina.
"No, I am not." I hissed out.
She looked taken aback, "Then what's the point of keeping her around? I will introduce you to others like us, people with status."
"Sorry but I don't believe we can get along after all, now excuse us. We have a lesson to attend." I dryly said, pulling Lili along.
Eina stepped aside and didn't try to stop us but there was a dangerous glint in her eyes, her lips pursed. I ignored her and subconsciously started to walk faster, basically dragging Lili along. I glanced at Lili, the way she looked at me as if I were some traitor was breaking my heart.
"You are hurting me, stop," Lili said and shook my arm off.
"Please, tell me you didn't take what that snob said to heart," I said, worried.
"Well," She averted her gaze, in a quaky voice she said, "Why else would you be so nice to me? It makes sense."
I grabbed her by the shoulders and waited until she looked me in the eyes. Smiling, I quietly said, "Because I want a friend."
"Really?" Lili's eyes lit up but she still looked wary.
Cracking up I said, "You are nice, talented and pretty. Who wouldn't want to be friends with you?"
Lili looked at the ground and muttered, "Most people there avoid me after they learn I am not from a noble family."
"I don't care about that nonsense," I said and gave her a quick hug, "You need to believe in yourself more, Lili."
She returned the hug and didn't say anything, her teary eyes were enough of an answer for me. I wiped the corners of her eyes and gave her an encouraging smile.
"Let's go, we have a lesson in few minutes," I said, grabbing her elbow.
Lili only nodded her head and crossed elbows with me, together we headed to the classroom. It was pretty small when compared to spellcasting classroom, there were only a dozen or so desks. We picked one at random and sat next to each other.
Stealing glance at Lili, I noticed that she was holding her head higher than usual. Nodding in satisfaction, I pulled out a notebook and a pen. Some latecomers squeezed into desks around us but Awyn was still not there.
The clocktower dinging out a full hour announced Awyn's arrival, he got to the class perfectly on time. He climbed onto the podium and regarded everyone inside before nodding his head, and clearing his throat to get everyone's attention.
"Today we will do something more practical than usual, please hide your notebooks," Awyn said.
The students muttered and did as he said, the rustling of notebooks and paper sheets filled the classroom. Only when everything calmed down did Awyn continue. He took out a glass jar filled with little marbles and placed it on his desk, the contents rattling quietly.
"I've managed to prepare these marbles with some assistance from other teachers and high star students." He said, pointing at the jar. "Each of them has different elemental energy sealed within, your job is to find out which."
The students around us exchanged some excited whispers, Lili told me that these lessons are usually only theory and that it was a nice change. Awyn told us to come up one by one and grab a single marble, soon everyone had one. The marbles were of the same size and color, there were no defining characteristics that would help with the task.
I expected Awyn to give us some pointers, or at least tell me some basics but he did no such thing, instead, he reclined in his chair and calmly watched us trying to come up with something. Confused, I tried to repeat the trick from spellcasting lessons, closing my eyes, I imagined my energy flow into the marble.
Nothing happened so I tried a different approach, tapping it, listening to it and even trying to bite it. Lili gave me a weirded outlook when I did so but she didn't say anything, drops of sweat were forming on her forehead so she must have been focusing hard.
Glancing around the class, I realized that most students had no idea what to do and were trying weird things like me. This made me think, we only had to deduce what's inside. I squeezed the marble hard, it started to creak but didn't crack.
My heart revved up, I had a gut feeling that this was a very important hint. I stood up, receiving some curious glances, some people even muttered about me being fast. Awyn squinted his eyes and focused on me.
Taking a deep breath, I threw the marble onto the ground; it shattered into a million pieces and a strong gust of wind whipped my hair.
Grinning, I turned to Awyn and said, "Wind element."
"Yes, good job." Awyn nodded his head and looked at other students who were about to throw their marbles, "The marbles are connected, each solution can only be used once so I would kindly ask you to not throw yours around." He thought for a moment before adding, "There are only five solutions, by the way."
Excited, I sat back down amongst laments of other students, they were cursing themselves for not trying it earlier. Lili looked at me in amazement before focusing on her marble again, she muttered something about beginners luck.
To be honest, I could not disagree with her, it was by a pure fluke that I managed to get any result, of course, it was hard to not be smug about taking first place. Awyn told me to not waste time and borrowed me a book about the subject to read.
It turned out to be pretty interesting but confusing, explaining magic was much easier in practice than on text. I took out my notebook and scribbled down the more interesting quotes while everyone else was slaving away with their marbles.
Lili actually managed to take the third place after pushing out the energy from within the marble using her own. A ball of fire exploded in her face and covered it with soot but she couldn't be more excited about it.
"I never did so well before!" She told me about the lesson.
"You were amazing, told you, didn't I?" I asked her, smiling.
"What?" She asked, pouting.
"That you should believe in yourself more," I chuckled, poking her side.
Lili beamed at me and didn't reply, there was a sparkle of excitement dancing in her eyes. Our schedules were different from this point on so we separated, we would meet for dinner at the canteen.
Numeracy was my next lesson, as expected it was just plain old math but with different symbols. Math was universal so three is three no matter what world you are in, that was easy. What wasn't easy was the way everything was written down, it looked nothing like the math I was used to.
Sabrine Vigil was a quirky teacher but after explaining my problem and proving that I am not struggling with numbers, she was kind enough to explain everything to me. This time around I had to keep peeping from above my glasses to learn the numbers used in this world.
This was my last lesson for the day so I decided to take a walk around the castle, there was nothing better to do until dinner. I came across one of these golem fights that I saw on the first day, it was genuinely fun cheering on the little automatons that tried to bash their heads in.
What wasn't nice, however, was what happened next. Lost, I wandered up to a pretty desolate part of the castle, there were no students there. This wouldn't be a tragedy if not for the fact that every corridor looked almost the same, and that I wasn't alone.
I heard a voice echo behind me. "There she is."
Sure enough, it was Eina and her goons, as well as some big male student I haven't seen before, four stars glittered on his shoulders. My stomach twisted and I hurriedly hid my Golden Spectacles into the bag of holding, they were irreplaceable. Heart whistling in my ears, I waited for them to get closer.
"Can I help you with something?" I asked Eina.
"Yes, you can." She looked at the big guy and said, "Grab her."
"Hey, hey!" I shouted, taking a few steps back and putting up my fists.
"Sorry girl, they will just beat you up a little, no hard feelings, okay?" The big guy said to me, walking up.
The two goons also attacked, trying to tackle me, but they were too slow. I jumped back and pulled out the Stick of Punishment, my arms slightly dropping from its weight. Before they could react, I whacked one of the goons in her shin.
The crack made by her leg when the metal stick hit it was nauseating, I clenched my jaw and tried to control my breathing. She grabbed her broken leg and screeched while the other goon jumped back in fear.
The big guy whistled and said, "Merciless, aren't you?"
"Get lost or I'll pull out a real weapon," I said to him, keeping Eina in the corner of my eye, she was fuming.
"Nope, that won't do," He shook his head and jumped me.
Gritting my teeth, I tried to whack him in the head but he easily dodged and grabbed my wrist. The world spun around and I landed on my back, air forced out of my lungs and the metal stick rattling on the ground.
My heart revved up to the limit, I couldn't control myself, not that I wanted to anymore.
I think the guy tried to grab after the throw but I am not sure anymore, there was too much happening. My hair stood on its end and then it happened, a jolt of heat running through my body into my fingers.
I punched him in the face, a loud crack and a flash of gold light shaking me up.
Wheezing, I crawled away and got a good look at what just happened. The big guy was holding his smoking face, rolling on the ground and screeching. Eina was storming to me, her fingers shining with a cold crystaline light.
There was lightning dancing around my fingers, again. Hyperventilating, I waved my arm in Eina's direction and hoped to god that the lightning would blast her and leave me alone. As if listening to my prayers, it happily crackled and flew off my arm; violently ricocheting around the corridor.
"What the hell is happening here?!" Someone shouted out.
My lightning instantly evaporated and the light on Eina's fingers was snuffed out. Gasping for breath I turned my head just in time to see an upper star student striding to us. He looked at the people on the ground and then on me, and finally on Eina.
"You again?! That's it, we are going to Principal!" He bellowed at Eina and turned his head to look at me, "You are going too, the rules are clear. No. Harming. Spells."
The big guy propped himself against the wall, one side of his face was charred. Rasping, he squeezed out, "Eina, you bitch! You told me she can't cast!"
Eina shot me a hateful gaze but the person who stopped our fight was a good deterrence, there were eight stars and five stripes on his shoulders. I struggled to get up, he saw it and actually propped me up but it was a bit awkward because of his height.
"Thanks." I squeezed out, still struggling to breathe.
"Don't worry, I am Jean by the way." He said, and looked at Eina, "Argent, was it? This is the third time, you are in trouble."
Eina snorted, "You followed us?"
"I sure did, you only get him when you are going to pick on someone," Jean said pointing at the big guy, he had a fruity voice.
My heart and breathing started getting normal so I walked away from Jean and picked up Stick of Punishment, staring daggers at Eina all the time. She was similarly staring at me, venom erupting from her azure eyes.
Through my teeth, I hissed out, "Try anything funny with Lili and I will kill you."
"Hey, you probably shouldn't go around saying things like this," Jean said to me.
I turned to look at him and smiled, "Sorry. Thanks for the help, I am Marie."
Jean had shoulder-length brown hair loosely tied into a ponytail, thick and sharp-angled eyebrows of the same color, his deep-set eyes were dark blue. He nodded his head and smiled back staring at me for a moment. This gaze again, I really wished Jean was a pretty girl instead of a handsome stud, it would be less awkward for me.
"Screw you guys, I am going to medical wing." The big guy gruffed, struggling to his feet.
"Go ahead, take her too," Jean said, pointing with his chan at the girl with a broken leg. "I will mention you to Principal, don't you worry about that."
The big guy shot us hateful gazes before carefully picking up the girl and walking away, both of them quivering and cussing from pain. Eina pursed lips and escorted them with her eyes, the other goon waiting by her side.
Jean coughed and said, "All of you, come with me. Alternatively, I will drag you, and trust me when I say you can't run away."
"Fine be me," I said and looked at Eina, "Remember what I said."
Jean sighed and rounded us up before taking the lead, I was on his right and Eina with her goon was on his left. And that's how I got my first detention for a fight, no one could convince me that I lost this one though.
The lightning, as ironic as it was, saved my ass this time around.