House of Phloria Ernas, a week after Lith had left the academy.
After Headmaster Linjos gave the announcement about all the academy\'s activities being suspended, the students were left with two alternatives.
Remain in the castle and self study, or return to their homes.
The Professors were busy helping with Kandria\'s situation, either by providing materials, magic ingredients or searching for Manohar, but the academy would remain open.
Its size was the same of a small city, many clerks and their families lived there, just like most of the kitchen personnel.
Several students were orphans or had complicated family situations, hence once admitted, the academy would be their home until graduation or expulsion.
It was one of the reasons that galvanised all those of humble origins to give their best in their studies, to the point of overcoming their limits.
Once in the academy, they would never again fear cold, hunger or the abuses from their relatives or caretakers.
For them bullying was a small price to pay, because at least in their rooms they were kings and queens.
Before departing, Yurial had offered the girls hospitality in his home for as long as necessary, but they had politely refused.
Time, stress and the growth spurt had brought him to bloom as a man.
Whenever he wasn\'t focused on his magic studies, Yurial would hit on girls, jumping from one to another like a bee dancing among flowers.
Phloria didn\'t like how often she had caught him staring at her legs and a*s, just like Friya couldn\'t stand how whenever they started a conversation, it seemed to be directed at her bosom, since his eyes would rarely move from such spot.
My eyes are up here! She would often repeat, achieving only a temporary truce.
Quylla was the most bothered of the three, since he would not give her a look, if not by mistake or for asking her advice about school subjects.
She had stopped liking Yurial in a romantical way months ago, but his behaviour was aggravating nonetheless.
With his looks, charms and status, Yurial was a lady-killer, and receiving his attentions was a badge of honour for all girls, relegating the ones he ignored in the Homely Girls Club, of which Quylla\'s cruel peers had made her a founding member.
So, when the opportunity arose, they all left the academy\'s toxic environment and moved to Phloria\'s house.
Friya was determined to not follow her mother\'s plans anymore, to the point of sealing her communication amulet in a dimensional object to not have to hear from her again.
Phloria lived in a Duchy quite far from the academy, but thanks to the use of Warp Gates they reached her home in less than an hour.
The manor was surrounded by high white crystal walls, generating an array that prevented anyone to fly or Warp past its boundaries without the use of a special amulet.
The park around the manor extended as far as the eye could see.
The air smelled of freshly cut grass, flower beds adorned the cobblestone paths that went across the front gardens.
Trees and bushes were all artistically trimmed to resemble mythical beasts, like unicorns and griffons.
Even the benches, offering cool shades to the visitors, were made of white marble, engraved with runes that made them water and dirt proof, keeping them dry and clean no matter the weather.
The manor itself was bigger than Quylla\'s whole village, cultivated fields included.
It extended for at least 3,000 square meters (3,588 square yards), divided into a main building, a left and a right wing forming a reversed U shape.
It wasn\'t anything special for Friya, her house was even bigger, but for Quylla was akin to the royal palace she had dreamed about as a kid.
It took her a couple of days to recover from the shock of being served night and day, and being called young miss.
The academy was a spartan environment.
Despite even a single one of its stones was more expensive than the whole park, in the White Griffon everything was designed without pomp.
Looks held no significance for the academy\'s buildings, only practicality did.
Hence, despite being full of magical wonders, it resembled more a military boot camp rather than a mystical place where dreams could come true.
Quylla felt like a beggar suddenly admitted at the King\'s Court.
Aside for her uniform, she had no other dress.
The problem was quickly solved, since both the noble girls had plenty of unused clothes, that just like the uniform, were capable of shrinking to fit the wearer.
To make things worse, she had no notion of etiquette, so every meal was a nightmare.
There were so many plates and silverware, which she had never seen before, that made picking the right one for each dish harder than opening a Warp Steps.
When she was first offered a bowl of water and lemon juice, a nobles\' tradition for washing hands before a meal, she asked what kind of soup it was, making even the highly professional staff smirk for a split second at her blunder.
After that, they only consumed their meals in Phloria\'s quarters, to avoid Quylla further embarrassment and teach her the basics.
Phloria provided them amulets, allowing the girls to spend most of their days practicing dimensional magic.
With nothing to worry about and the mansion\'s relaxed environment, Quylla managed to teach her friends how to open a Warp Gate in less than a week.
The last thing they needed to pass Professor Rudd\'s class with flying colours was learning how to Blink.
During their stay, the girls were completely isolated from the outside world.
Phloria would often receive dispatches, often getting pale after reading them and always burning them afterwards.
She refused to discuss their contents, no matter how her friends insisted.
Between the rumours about a world ending plague, the slithering civil war and now the decree that allowed to confiscate everything from runaway nobles, unrest was growing in the Kingdom.
No one had predicted such a move from the Crown, crippling the old nobles\' faction in one fell swoop.
Along with their mansions and estates, the royal police had acquired many incriminating evidences, that was triggering a domino effect.
The noble faction was losing ground and influence fast, forcing their hand.
They had to either speed up their plans or give up and submit, before it was too late to do both.
Phloria didn\'t want to alarm the others.
In her mind, it was only a matter of time before they were conscripted and sent to the battlefront, there was no reason to spoil their last carefree days with such news.
Their peace was broken the day that Phloria\'s mother suddenly returned home.
Their relationship wasn\'t good to begin with, so Phloria had her friends dress up for the occasion, to not give a bad first impression to her demanding parent.
After they were summoned in her mother\'s chambers, Phloria instructed them about what to say and how to behave.
After your introduction, just make a curtsy and then only speak when questioned.
Try to keep the answers short, if she starts nagging at us, we\'ll lose all day!
Lady Jirni Ernas was a petite woman, barely 1.52 cm (5\') high, with blonde hair and sapphire blue eyes.
Despite being at home, she wore a beautiful light blue day dress worthy of the Court, her hair was perfectly curled, framing her face like she was out of a painting.
The first thought Friya and Quylla had after seeing them together, was that Phloria may have been adopted.
The two couldn\'t be more different.
Jirni had aged gracefully.
In her soft round visage, there was still a spark of youth.
She was quite different from the monster Phloria had described time and time again.
Mother, is wonderful to have you back… Phloria started to say, but Jirni froze her with a stern look.
Good gods, I swear on my children\'s life that wearing a skirt from time to time will not do any harm! How can we find you a husband if you dress like this
Phloria cursed inwardly her stupidity.
She had been so worried about her friends to forget about herself, still wearing her training suit and smelling because of the physical exercise.
I\'m really sorry, I…
Where are your manners You should first introduce your friends to me.
I\'m so sorry, despite all my efforts, my daughter acts and behaves like she was raised by bears.
I\'m Duchess Ernas. She interrupted Phloria again, making her guest a curtsy.
Miss Quylla, Miss Solivar, it\'s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.
The girls were so stunned by the exchange that could only return the curtsy and thank their host.
It\'s Lady Solivar, mother. Phloria rebuked, happy to be able to return a hit.
Really Didn\'t you hear A cruel smirk marred Jirni\'s otherwise kind visage.
After several documents incriminating Duke Selimar, General Lizhark and Mage Fernath(*), your father and the royal constable went to interrogate them.
Alas, they were found dead, but their assassin didn\'t make in time to erase all the evidences.
The three of them were secretly in league with Duchess Solivar, who after being summoned for questioning, preferred to flee to the Blood Desert.
The poor Duchess is now considered a traitor, and we hope to seize her lands for the Ernas household.
There was no trace of pity in her voice, and Phloria knew why.
She was the royal constable.
Countless people had fallen for her innocent and naïve look, until the questioning began.
Friya went pale, needing Quylla\'s help to not fall on her knees from the shock.
I\'m so sorry, dear. Jirni patted Friya\'s hands with an odd motherly tone.
I thought you already knew, otherwise I wouldn\'t have been so blunt. Phloria didn\'t believe a word coming out of her mouth.
Not everything is lost, dear.
The Ernas household is always looking for talents, me and my husband would be more than happy to adopt you both.
What Phloria blurted out, incapable of holding back anymore.
Are you crazy How can you say something like that so abruptly
Jirni clicked her tongue in disapproval.
Because is the perfect moment.
Miss Quylla, despite her great talent, has no roots or backers.
Our family is full of soldiers and no healers, I\'d say is a match made in heavens.
She could carry on our name, even if not our blood, and will be much easier to marry compared to a certain tomboy! Her cold gaze made Phloria swallow her reply.
As for Miss Solivar, having her in our family, will make much easier for us to beat the competition for the Solivar\'s lands, while at the same time giving her a place to call home and avoid her mother\'s action ruining her future career.
With a figure and talent like hers, finding suitors will be a snap.
It\'s a win-win situation for everyone.
Going back to Lutia from Derios (**) took Lith only half the usual time.
Between his core\'s breakthrough and the constant practice of magic under Small World, Lith felt the mana flow with unprecedented clarity, enhancing all his spells.
- Cr*p! If only I had the time to practice dimensional magic, by now I would be able to Blink.
I bet everyone else is at least able to open Warp Steps. –
For once, his pessimism was right.
On his way home, he was flying over the village when his heightened hearing perceived a familiar voice screaming.
Tista was suffering once again from Garth\'s unwanted attentions.
He was the son of the richest merchant of the village, which made him feel entitled to do whatever he wanted.
He had courted her for over a year, obtaining only rejections and spite in return.
Since Tista had always said no but never roasted his a*s, his father had convinced Garth that her \'no\' meant \'yes\', and that it was time for a more manly approach.
Garth Renkin, let go of my arm immediately, or I swear that…
Or what Without your gestures and gibberish, you are just a woman like any other.
If even your mentor does not step in to stop me, who do you think will
From her office, Nana was sighing, facepalming herself every time Garth spoke and Tista didn\'t kick him in the nuts or hit him with chore magic like she had instructed her countless times.
Why are you doing nothing Said Elina, Tista\'s mother holding an axe and barely resisting the temptation to split Garth\'s skull in half.
Because your daughter is too kind.
This is a learning experience.
Sometimes violence is necessary, words aren\'t going to stop all the idiots out there.
She needs to learn to stand up for herself before it\'s too late.
I mean, look! She saved half the passers-by\'s lives, help the other half being born and no one is doing anything.
Too much kindness will make her die young.
Since Garith was dragging her away and Tista still refused to act, Nana decided to step in, before Elina turned into a murderer, the street into a mess, and then she would be forced to clean everything up.
She was about to open the door and give the youngster the beating of a lifetime, when suddenly the sky went dark, the temperature dropped by several degrees, and a thunder roared in the distance.
It was like the shadow of death was befalling Lutia.
I swear, I was willing to take care of him. Nana said in an apologetic tone to Elina.
But it seems that the shadow of death has returned home.