We spent the rest of the day discussing why anyone would commit murder on the academy grounds, surely it would be better and safer to do it outside of Arcane River's jurisdiction. This made many students believe that it wasn't just an act of calculated revenge but either a random attack or challenging the academy's prestige.
Whichever it was, I was worried about my friends, especially Lili because Eina was already pretty strong, luckily we shared most lessons and I could just keep an eye on her. With Chopsticks at my side and with the contents of my bag, I felt relatively safe, especially when considering that the murderer used a knife and I was already pretty good at self-defense.
Valus was unable to get a hold of any teacher and had to stay in our dormitory for the night, I warned him to not try anything funny but he didn't take me seriously and some girls dragged him away into their room, leaving the three of us slack-jawed.
"Do you reckon these succubi will drain him dry?" I asked Eina half-jokingly as we climbed the stairs.
"What are you saying?!" She replied, pursing her lips.
"I don't think I understand," Lili said, shooting us a quizzical look.
"Men-" I started explaining but Eina cut me off.
She said to Lili, "You will understand in the future. I don't even know why she knows about it already."
Pouting, I asked Eina, "Me? Then what about you?"
She cleared her throat and said, "I am two years older than you, I heard from the other girls."
"Oh, surely," I said with a mischievous smile.
"You know better than anyone that it's the truth," She quietly replied, giving me a meaningful glance.
Feeling stupid, I apologized, "Sorry, it wasn't funny."
"I can't follow you two," Lili said with a sigh.
I poked her side and said, "Don't worry about it."
Eina opened the doors and we walked into the room, jumping onto our beds.
Lili asked us, "Do you feel like sleeping?"
"Not really," I replied, playing with Chopsticks on my bed.
Eina said, "I don't know. We should block the balcony, the doors too."
Chirping, Chopsticks said, "Pointless with me there. Even if the attacker was an Archmage I could block him long enough for you three to flee or for a teacher to arrive."
"Are you really that amazing?" Lili asked him, wide-eyed.
He clicked with his beak and replied, "Other than being an extraordinarily aesthetic pet, I am also Marie's protector, naturally I have to be amazing."
"Enough boasting," I said, grinning and tapping his little head.
"I will still lock the doors with this," Eina said, creating a long and relatively thick pole out of her glass. "The doors open inside so this should do for now."
"You are so smart Eina!" Lili said, taking the pole from her and wedging it between the doors and the floor. "This feels pretty secure."
Raising my eyebrows, I said, "You two realize that the dormitory is magically locked out?"
Eina snorted and said, "What if the murderer is in the dorm right now?"
Startled, I thought for a moment and replied, "This is a valid point, I am not really afraid though."
Chopsticks chirped and said, "You could probably kill anyone in this dormitory with that new spell of yours, I wouldn't even need to move a single feather."
"New spell?" Lili asked, crossing eyes with Eina who also looked curious.
"I didn't name it yet and it's very unstable," I said, grimacing at the thought of trying it out again.
"You saw that burnt tree, right?" Chopsticks asked Lili.
"Hey!" I shouted at him, violently picking him up, "If anyone learns about this I will get longer detention so shut your beak!"
"You did that?" Lili asked me with a frown.
"Please don't tell anyone," I begged her, puppy-eyed and all.
"Of course I won't but it didn't look like something you should have been able to do, that's all," She said scratching her head in confusion.
Crossing her legs, Eina said to me, "Make sure to not hit a student when you are practicing, that would be very unfortunate."
Shuddering at the thought, I said, "There wouldn't be much left of them."
We talked for some more time before going to sleep, Eina fell asleep almost instantly, she was cutting her sleeping hours because of the detention recently, I couldn't help but smile at her serene face. Lili shot me a weird look so I winked at her and rolled on my other side, wondering how the lessons would be organized tomorrow.
We got the answer in the morning, it was very miserable. Not as miserable as Valus though, we met him in the main hall, he was sitting alone near one of the fireplaces, looking distressed and somewhat different from yesterday.
Choking on laughter, I said to him, "Wonderful eyelashes, the hair also suits you."
He set his jaw and said, "I should have known I wasn't walking into heaven but hell."
"I didn't know Valus has a sister," Eina commented.
He just shook his head, staring into the fire. "You wouldn't believe what they did to me, there was this big girl there, she was so much stronger..."
Frowning, I asked, "They didn't go too far, right?"
On the verge of crying, he dramatically replied, "She held me while the other ones... Made my hair and forced me into a dress."
Clenching my teeth, I had to turn away so it wasn't too obvious I was currently dying from laughter, seeing my face Eina also pursed her lips, her shoulders shaking.
Lili frowned and said to him, "That's horrible! You shouldn't let them bully you like that!"
"How could I retaliate? I am not exactly built for fights," He replied, sighing in defeat.
"Magic?" Lili asked, unsure.
"Too dangerous, I don't want to hurt anyone," Valus said.
I finally got over my laughing attack and turned around just to see worried Lili and defeated Valus, she was patting him on the back as if he had just survived the most traumatizing event of his life.
Valus' eyes glinted as he pitifully said to Lili, "Only you understood how terrible it was, thank you."
"Oh, don't worry about it," She replied, shuffling her feet.
"You are so kind. If only I could find a girl like this," Valus sighed.
I slapped the back of his head and hissed out, "You are too old for her, stop playing tricks."
He chuckled awkwardly and said, "My bad, my bad."
Lili shook her head in disbelief and wanted to say something but the deafening ringing cut her off, apparently, some teachers were waiting for us outside, prepared to teleport us to our lessons. We exchanged glances and went outside, sure enough, four teachers were waiting there.
"Five stars and above to the right, below to the left!" An old skinny man I recognized to be one of Alchemy teachers said.
"See you later," Eina said, going in that direction.
"I don't think we will see each other until this situation is resolved, stay safe," Valus said to us.
"You too, and make sure to not return there," I said to him, smiling wryly.
"Goodbye," Lili said, waving to him.
Lili and I approached another teacher, he asked us, "Which lesson?"
"Energy Deduction for beginners with Principal," I replied.
"Hold on," He said and waving his arm shouted out, "Energy Deduction beginners, gather up!"
Sure enough, a few other girls that shared the lesson with us approached and we were all teleported straight into Awyn's classroom, he was already waiting inside which was quite uncharacteristic for him. Not before long, boys also were teleported in, we all took our seats in silence, the atmosphere was somber, as expected.
"Two people are missing," Lili suddenly whispered to me.
Frowning, I looked around and whispered back, "Who?."
"Jeng and Feli, you know, the second year lovebirds," She whispered, her voice shaky.
"Oh no," I blurted out, covering my mouth.
Even if I didn't interact with them often, I still knew who Lili was talking about, Feli was a pretty black haired girl from Larn, she didn't look as oriental as Valus but she definitely shared some general features with him, like her black eyes for example. Jeng was a burly boy with short sandy hair, he wasn't exactly handsome but had a really good sense of humor, we also shared the lessons with General Solba.
"Is something the matter?" Awyn asked.
I don't think he was asking us but the classroom in general, there was some murmuring but no one answered the question.
Taking a deep breath, I raised my hand and asked, "Can we know who?"
Everything went deathly silent and all the attention was on me, feeling jittery I lowered my hand and clenched my jaw.
Awyn thought for a moment before replying, "You would learn sooner or later anyway, surely you noticed that we are missing some people today; indeed, Feli Zun is the victim."
The previously silent classroom exploded once more, the students forgot to keep their voices quiet and no longer whispered or murmured, they even forgot that the Principal himself was sitting before them.
"That's enough," Awyn calmly said, his voice much quieter than those of the students.
Somehow, it really was enough, the classroom went quiet once again and the students settled down, nervously exchanging glances with each other.
"Let us start today's topic then," Awyn said, standing up and drawing something on the blackboard. "We will discuss Essence vestiges that stay after a spell is cast," He paused and looked at me, "These vestiges can allow for deducing who was the caster. For example, Miss Penn over there exploded a tree recently."
Feeling everyone's eyes homing in on me, I sank into my seat and pursed my lips, shooting an apologetic glance to Awyn. The rest of the lesson was uneventful if ignoring the fact that most of us couldn't focus on what Awyn was talking about, I only automatically made notes to study them later, it was really hard to pay attention with the knowledge that one of my classmates was murdered.
The rest of the day felt equally off, we were teleported between classrooms and to the canteen for breaks and to eat, because of this it was unusually packed. Eina quickly found me and Lili and took us to a remote table for three after we picked our meals.
The moment we sat down, I leaned in and in a lowered voice said to her, "We know who was murdered. It was our classmate, Feli Zun."
Eina nodded her head, "I know the name, I think everyone knows by now because the teachers told us."
Lili sighed, poking at a piece of meat on her plate, "She was really nice, why would anyone do that?"
"Normal people wouldn't commit a crime like this, we can't know," Eina replied, shooting me a meaningful glance.
Pinching my chin, I thought out loud, "There always is a reason for the crime, even if it isn't obvious on the first glance."
"What do you mean?" Lili asked, pressing her brows together.
"She had a boyfriend, he wasn't in the classroom with us today, right?" I asked her.
Wide-eyed, she mumbled, "You don't mean..."
"Argument, a rival in love, revenge; all of these are valid reasons," I explained.
"I don't know, the murderer used a knife," Eina said, looking up, deep in thought.
This reminded me of something, "Right!" I exclaimed.
"What?" Lili asked while Eina shot me a quizzical look.
"Today's Energy Deduction, Lili!" I said, pulling out my notes. "Essence vestiges, the person must have already known about this!"
Eina frowned and picked up my notebook, her eyes dashed through the page and then fixed on me, she said, "You shouldn't be doing this yet, this is a lesson from the advanced group."
Lili clicked her tongue and asked, "Do you think Principal did it on purpose? Showing us this earlier than normal?"
"Definitely," I replied, biting my lip. "Advanced group is five stars and up, this is a clue."
Eina shook her head and said, "I don't know, they could have known about it from a different source. You can literally read about it in the library."
Energized, I pointed at her and asked, "Which book and how many copies?"
Frowning, she thought for a moment and replied, "Essence Dispersal Theory I believe, I don't know how many copies the library has."
"Are there queues for it?" I asked again, nervously tapping the table.
"Yes, I am in the queue myself, why?" Eina asked, raising her eyebrow.
I took a deep breath and explained, "I am assuming that only five-star students and up are interested in this book. By checking if any lower star students borrowed the book; we could find a suspect."
Chopsticks pecked me on the ear and said, "I wouldn't have thought of that, good job."
"You don't plan on doing anything stupid, right?" Eina asked me, looking worried.
Hiding my notes back into my bag, I replied, "Just thinking out loud."
"You are not," Lili said with a pout, "Make sure to tell some teacher about this instead of playing detective on your own, it's dangerous."
"I will, either to teacher Terroso or to Principal, maybe to General," I said and frowned, "I wonder if we will still have our weapons practice today."
Eina said to me, "I don't think it will be canceled, the General is always near us during the practice so it's very safe."
Sighing, Lili said under her breath, "I will have to sit alone in the room again."
"Why don't you join us?" I asked her.
She gave me a weird look and said, "Look at me, I am small and skinny while you are super trained and Eina is tall and also in shape. I am not suited for this."
"You can always gain some muscle," I tried to persuade her.
Eina added, "You are still growing too, I wasn't any taller than you are when I was fourteen."
Lili shuffled in her seat and said, "I am a bit scared of the General too."
"Oh, he shouts all the time but he is very nice," I reassured her.
She thought for a moment and said, "I'll try one time, I don't think it's for me though."
Overjoyed, I said to her, "I hope you will like it!"
"Same here," Eina said to her with a smile.
Lili smiled back but then she remembered something and asked us, "Isn't Aren in the group?"
Sighing, I replied, "Yep."
"Just ignore him," Eina added.
Puffing her cheeks, Lili said, "Just this once, I really don't want to see him."
"It's going to be fun, trust me," I said to her.
After eating the teachers teleported us back to our dormitory, we didn't forget to inquire about our Weapon's Practice, we were told that General himself would pick us up because there was only a few of us. We spent some time in our room, explaining to Lili how to act during the lesson, she didn't look too confident but I could tell that the prospect of sharing a lesson with us excited her.
Later that day General did indeed come to pick us up, waiting for us near the entrance.
"Who's this?" Orion asked us, looking at Lili.
"Sir, this is Lili Abel, she is interested in trying Weapon Practice," Eina reported with a salute.
"Abel! Very good!" Orion bellowed at her, "Gather up, we need to pick up the boys!"
"Yes, Sir!" I and Eina replied, Lili was a little slow but she shakily copied us, "Yes, Sir!"
This was the first time we had a peek at the boy's dormitory, it was actually built into the cliffside and there was a special path that led to it. It wasn't as isolated as the girl's dormitory and it would be pretty easy for anyone to sneak in and out of there.
Aren and Tomas were pretty surprised to see Lili with us, Aren especially looked distressed today, he shot me a quick glance and nervously averted his gaze. The practice was the same as usual, except for Lili also being there, Orion was kind enough to teach her the basics while the four of us sparred
in the sandpit.
Lili quickly ran out of breath but she looked to be having fun, waving her little rapier under Orion's watchful eye. I really hoped she would pick up this lesson permanently, I would definitely feel better knowing that she could defend herself a little bit.
As for Aren, he was uncharacteristically silent through the entire practice, it would be great if he didn't act so weird.