Raising my eyebrows I shrugged and said, "Yeah, Thunder mentioned it would happen. When we met in the dreamland last time."
Looking stunned, Nec asked me, "You are not planning on persuading me to let you go there?"
"Eh?" I grimaced at him and asked, "And what would I do to him? I can barely move not to mention how low my stats are."
"You can't do anything to him but I can," Nec seriously said. His silver eyes were boring into mine, clearly looking for something in them.
How silly of him. Shaking my head, I said, "That wouldn't be the same, I can't agree."
"In the end, it's your choice to make," Nec said, it was hard to read his emotions at that moment.
Heaving a sigh, I said, "It will take years for anyone to kill Ash considering how long he stood in Espain."
Smiling, Nec said to me, "Maybe, not many can challenge Phasian trials in this world."
This piqued my interest so I asked, "There are more than these two?"
"Technically it's a single one," Nec corrected me. He stroked his beard and said, "Most are passively waiting, Phasians can't enter this realm with their true bodies."
"They use avatars? Like in a game?" I asked, my lips curling up at the irony of this statement.
Nec must have felt the same because he laughed and nodded his head. "You could say that." A yawn overpowered whatever I wanted to say next, it completely jumped out of my head. Seeing this, Nec warmly said to me, "You should rest, I will fetch you in the morning."
"Oh? Okay," I said to him, yawning again.
He approached me and ruffled my hair, "Good night, Marie."
"You too," I replied as everything around me changed. Once again, I found myself in the infirmary.
"Thank Heavens you are finally here!" Maggie's voice called out to me.
Turning around just in time to see her worried face, I raised my hands and defensively said, "I didn't move more than I was allowed!"
"Oh, just jump back into the bed!" Maggie ordered, looking terribly tired.
Waddling towards my bed, I asked her, "How was it?"
"Wonderful of course!" She replied, giving me a side eye. There was some conflict in her eyes but she finally worked up her courage and asked, "Sorry if I'm being rude but are you interested in men at all?"
Rolling my eyes, I replied, "Not really. I can tell if a man is handsome or not but it just doesn't work for me."
"I see," Maggie muttered, complicated emotions flashing in her eyes.
After making sure that I was going to bed, Maggie excused herself, most likely to change out of her dress. Sighing, I rubbed my eyes and dazedly slipped through the curtains.
"You are back!" Chopsticks cried out when he saw me. He flew a circle around me before carefully landing on my shoulder and asking, "How was it?"
"Mostly good," I replied and pointed at the drawer with my chin.
Understanding my intention, he chirped and begrudgingly climbed into it, he even somehow managed to close it himself. After changing, I let Chopsticks out of the drawer and undid my braid. It would take some time getting used to waist length hair but I wasn't planning on cutting it. Eina seemed to really like it.
There were a lot of things running through my head, preventing my tired self from falling asleep for longer than it was healthy. My eyes wide open, I stared at the ceiling and caressed Chopsticks who was snuggling at my side. I was worried about Eina, she appeared headstrong and composed at all times but I knew that she struggled internally even more than I did.
Another thing that was bugging me was what Nec had told me about Ash. Yes, I had it in the back of my mind most of the time but the feeling of powerlessness was not a nice one. Nec probably thought that I had learned on my mistakes and wouldn't force the issue, he was wrong. The only thing stopping me from asking him to go there was my stupid pride.
The morning wasn't any better, I might have not moved much during the ball but it was still more than I really should have. When I woke up my entire side was aching so much that I teared up, each breath was another explosion of pain. When Sir Cana came to check up on me he told me that there was nothing that he can do.
The way he said it made me suspect that it wasn't the truth, he must have felt it was a necessary punishment for going against his recommendations. Yeah, let's have the girl suffer for wanting to go on a date, how nice of him.
Angered by the constant pain, I clenched my teeth and squeezed Chopsticks so hard that he squeaked like a toy. Afraid that I was hurting him, I apologized and moved him to the drawer before curling up and hissing through my teeth. It was beyond unbearable, dying couldn't have been any worse than what I was feeling.
Scratch that, death was worse. Speaking from experience of course.
"Marie?" A worried voice called out from behind the curtain.
"Come in," I replied, looking at Nec through the tears.
"Was it worth it?" He worriedly asked me, pulling up a stool and sitting on it.
I squeezed his hand and hissed, "The pain is telling me no. The heart is telling me yes. What about that?"
"Then it was worth it," He replied, caressing my head. "I cracked him."
"You did?" I asked, propping myself up and wiping my eyes.
"Yes, and it's serious. Do you want to come?" He asked me.
"I don't want to see what state he's in," I instantly replied, disgusted by the idea of having to go into the dungeon again.
Shaking his head, Nec said, "We are not going to see him. I arranged a meeting to reveal what I had learned, you should come."
"Alright," I rasped, getting off the bed and hurriedly putting something on. My legs were shaking so Nec helped me stay upright. I said, "I need to sit down quickly."
"Don't worry about it," He said, shifting us into a different location.
Looking around, I realized that it was the circular room I first entered for my examination. Most of the seats were empty but three were occupied by Awyn, Orion and Gand. Awyn let go of the middle spot and sat to the side instead, another nearby seat was also empty so I sat there with Gand to my left and Nec to my right.
Sitting in the middle, Nec accounted for everyone in the room before saying, "There's only three of us that know what is really going on. Marie is still in the dark but I will fill her in as we go."
"She doesn't know yet, Master?" Awyn asked, looking genuinely surprised.
"Marie is still a kid, it was unnecessary and dangerous," Nec replied.
Now then, I might be a kid and even call myself that but that was me, him calling me that in front of the teachers wasn't exactly pleasant.
"Please, do tell," I said, begrudgingly.
"I will sweety, just listen for now," Nec reassured me, giving me an apologetic look. His eyes roamed around all of us and after taking a deep breath, he said, "The mirror came from Han."
Orion's frown deepened while Gand only lightly shook his head, his face unreadable. Heaving a sigh, Awyn massaged the bridge of his nose and said, "We should have expected this."
"Wait," I interjected, looking at Nec. "Just to make sure, we are talking about that Han?"
"Yes," Nec replied.
"That would make sense. It's from Lemuria?" I openly asked him, wondering if it was an item from a later expansion.
"No, it's his original creation," Nec replied. He added, "Or so I believe."
The teachers looked intrigued, even Awyn seemed to not know what Lemuria was. Crossing my legs, I shifted my weight to my less painful side and supported myself on the desk, waiting for Nec to start elaborating.
"Marie the thing I haven't mentioned before is Han's element. He is an Arcane mage but I am not sure what type," Nec said to me.
Now then, that was quite a bomb considering that Arcane mages supposedly died out in this world. Taking a deep and painful breath, I asked him, "Really now?"
"Yes, luckily it's not as strong as the legendary Arcanists," Nec said.
Awyn then added, "We believe that it might just be pure Essence with Arcane transformation. A combination like this is unheard of."
After chewing through this piece of information, I asked them, "Okay so, he wasn't targeting me because the goon prince wanted to kill me. What's the idea then?"
"Why would he be targeting you?" Gand asked, the other teachers looking as confused as he did.
"It's a matter you don't have to be aware of," Nec replied, giving me a side eye. Of course, I understood his intention and kept my mouth shut. He then said, "Reymon was sent there with the mirror before I had returned and before Marie found herself in Espain. It just took him a long time to reach Arcane River."
"His goal was destroying our reputation?" Orion grumbled, his eyes dangerously squinted.
"No, his goal was to see if I am paying attention to Arcane River despite my disappearance," Nec replied. "As you know, I was busy with my research in the wild continent and it wasn't exactly easy to know what was happening here."
"So it's a coincidence that he started now?" Awyn said, pressing his eyebrows together. He muttered, "This doesn't make sense."
"He was supposed to flee in case I appeared," Nec explained.
Grimacing, I asked, "He didn't because of me?"
"He was a degenerate," Nec said.
"Wait. Was?" I asked with a frown, hoping that he didn't kill him.
As if understanding my intentions, Nec gave me a guilty look and said, "In my anger... I have erased his mind."
"So he's a vegetable now?" I asked in a high voice. If not for the pain, I would have stood up. Shaking from anger, I asked Nec, "He was supposed to be executed with his mind intact! He won't even understand that he's being punished now!"
"I'm truly sorry," Nec said, lowering his head.
"Whatever," I spat out, the thunder in my eyes dissipating. Nec was one of the few people I didn't want to have a conflict with, my heart couldn't take it. "I'm disappointed you would do that," I muttered in the end, fixing my eyes on the floor.
In an attempt to cushion the argument, Awyn said to me, "Marie, I am sure Master will make up to you for that. Please, calm down."
Ah yes, let's calm down everyone. All Awyn got from me in return was a stinky eye, my mood was ruined and my disappointment in Nec was immeasurable. It must have been my rebellious phase acting up or something because I didn't remember feeling like that in a long time, some really nasty thoughts ran through my head at that moment.
Nec heaved a sigh and said, "Anyway, going back to the important topic..."
He shouldn't have said that. It made me feel even worse. In his words; how I felt about his actions wasn't important, at least that's how I took it. If not for the fact that I had to know what was really going on, I would have asked him to teleport me back to the infirmary.
"...He didn't heed Han's order and instead chose to stick around to commit more heinous acts. According to what he said, his personal goal was to drag our academy through the dirt as Orion suggested."
"Then he wasn't directly controlled by Lord Han?" Gand asked, straightening his beard and appearing to be in deep thought.
"No, his will was completely free," Nec replied.
"Master, do you reckon that Lord Han's goal is another confrontation with you?" Awyn seriously asked the implication of his question was clear.
My heart revved up and I said, "None of you could stop Han if he attacked."
"You are underestimating them, Marie," Nec said, trying to shot me a friendly smile.
Averting my gaze, I quietly said, "We both know that without the wards Arcane River has he could just flatten it if he wanted to."
"I feel saddened that you think so lowly of us," Awyn said half-jokingly. "Inside the academy, we could even stop Master if he couldn't control the defensive spells."
Perked up, I asked them, "It's really that powerful?"
"It's more than enough as long as at least a single disciple of mine is in Arcane River at all times," Nec replied. He then said to us, "The real problem is that he was the one fleeing last time. If he looks for confrontation then it means that something is making him confident of victory."
"Wait," I interjected with a frown. "What if he has a helper now?" I asked Nec, hoping that he would understand what I meant.
"This would be a disaster considering your current state," Nec heavily replied after a moment of silence. He frowned and stroked his beard, muttering, "We would need to fetch CoM then."
"You know my stance on this," I said to him with a frown.
"Marie, I won't force it but you should know the importance of that," Nec said to me. He shook his head and said to the teachers, "If he has a helper on a similar level, it'll be bad news. I would have to invite some old fellows to help defend Arcane River, it won't be cheap."
"Let's not make rash moves," Awyn said, "He is still a Lord of Aural Empire, he can't just attack us openly."
"Maybe it's just some powerful artifact or a new spell," Gand reasoned.
"Whatever it is we need to be alert," Nec finally said. He then ordered, "Alarm the other teachers but keep everything that was said in this room to yourselves. Officially, some unknown rival organization is targeting us."
"Yes, Master," Awyn replied. Meanwhile, Gand and Orion also nodded their heads.
Looking at me, Nec said, "Let's talk in private."
"I don't want to, put me back in the infirmary," I said to him.
He froze, a pitiful expression twisting his handsome face. In the end, he nodded his head and snapped his fingers, teleporting me straight to the edge of my bed.
"You look angry, something happened?" Chopsticks asked me when I appeared, letting out a quiet chirp in the process.
"Nothing, I want to rest," I replied absentmindedly, clutching my aching rib and snuggling into the sheets.