7 – Isa and Nadie
The center of the campus was just as deserted as it had looked from the incline where the Priestess building stood. As I got closer, I could just make out the form of a young woman sitting on the fountain.
Isa was unmistakable, even from the distance I first saw her in the setting sun. She still had her hair down but it curled down around her shoulders, without a strand out of place. Unlike Milana, she sat very courteously, with her feet crossed under each other at the ankles. She had her head down though as she played with something in her hand.
"What's that?" I asked politely as I came within speaking distance.
She lifted her head and gave me a radiant smile. She held up her right hand and opened her last two fingers so a strange little charm on a bright silver chain fell out of her palm and swung gently.
"It's my necklace. There's apparently some trick to the pendant part but I've never been able to figure it out."
I stopped in front of her and tentatively reached out toward the charm.
"May I see it?"
"Of course," she said, dropping it in my palm.
The pendant was rather small and it shined a strange array of colors in the dying light. There was an inscription I couldn't read on the outside but the very center of the tear-shaped charm held the carving of a star.
"It's pretty," I said, handing it back to her.
"Yes, now if only I could figure it out. Its colors change depending on the light and I think it has something to do with that. I thought I could even see through it at one point in time but…well I suppose I'll just have to keep trying," she said, opening the top of her uniform to secure it around her neck again. Isa pulled her long hair through and then redid the top of her shirt.
Isa got to her feet and I glanced around, but she didn't have a bag or anything else with her. She smiled winningly again and turned toward the top of the hill, toward our dormitory.
"It's almost sunset so there's no time to waste. Come on," she said.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"To my room."
Isa didn't answer but merely led the way up the path that went through the northern part of campus. I followed behind since I was technically in her care according to Ms. Valle.
"So…I heard you volunteered to show me around the night class," I started.
"Yes. I specifically asked your advisor," she answered.
"Thanks for your concern but…why?"
Isa laughed airily, like I had said something funny, "because I'm interested in getting to know you better."
That really didn't answer the question. She shrugged them off rather easily, in fact.
"I mean why me?"
"I suppose Milana has told you a little bit about me?"
"Just a bit but I got the impression that you're not really the type of person who gets too involved with new students," I said as diplomatically as I could.
"You read me correctly then," Isa started, still facing forward.
"I'd like to think I'm friendly to everyone but I don't usually speak to people I don't know very well."
"So why did you volunteer to help me?"
"Because I'm curious about you. It's not too unusual for students to transfer into our school but they're rarely so talented right from the start. I'm not sure what it is, but the fact that you can't remember anything also makes you a little hard to just leave alone."
So I was just a curiosity. That actually made me feel a little better than had she had a more specific reason.
"Oh…" was all I could manage. Isa laughed again.
"Don't think too hard about it. It's not as though I'm scoping you out for some evil secret mission. It's just I so rarely speak to anyone besides Nadie and Wisia that I was also getting a little bored."
I remembered Nadie from that morning but the other person she mentioned was unfamiliar. I didn't ask though as Isa's voice was pleasant but it almost seemed as though she didn't want me to prod into her personal affairs too much. I decided to keep my distance and I stayed silent as we headed toward Calla.
"So why are we going to your room?" I asked as we entered the lift. Only one other girl needed to go up with us and she stared as soon as I spoke to Isa.
"To start, I need to change for the evening…" Isa started. She still hadn't even looked my way. She still sounded as friendly as ever though. I glanced at the other girl in the elevator who stared at Isa nervously. She got out about two floors below mine and the elevator ride up to the top floor was also uncomfortably silent.
"Sheesh. That's some friend you have," Isa said, opening the gates and heading into the hall. She waited until I was out before she closed them and then gave me a strange look.
"What?" I asked.
"That girl. She's on the Priestess track. She joined our walk about halfway to Calla and she was completely eavesdropping on our conversation."
"I don't know her," I stated.
"No. Milana does. All of the Priestess girls like her. She was probably listening in to make sure I wasn't telling you something suspicious."
I had to smile at the sheer absurdity of her words. Why would Milana even do something like that? I could tell she didn't like Isa but that seemed to be going just a bit too far.
"Are you sure?" I asked.
"Milana's a bit too imaginative for her own good. You'll just have to tell her after tonight that I'm not a horribly evil person. I've tried several times but she never believes me."
She stopped in front of the last door down the hall and it opened immediately since she clearly hadn't locked it. The last floor's hallway was almost identical to mine, except there were far fewer doors.
My jaw dropped when I was inside her room, and for good reason. While I was surprised about how large my room was, it was a matchbox compared to the gigantic entry room Isa had. I could tell it was just an entrance since there was no bed in sight, just a number of chairs and sofas around a central table. Isa pushed me into the room and closed the door.
"You seem shocked. Oh yes, the rooms get smaller the farther down you go. This place is almost too big though so you shouldn't feel intimidated."
She walked past the furniture in the middle of the room and opened the door on the back wall. She smiled at me and gestured toward it.
"Come in. There's nothing interesting about the sitting room. Besides, what I need is in here."
I crossed the doorway and entered her bedroom. It was just a bit bigger than the one they gave me and she had a bed identical to mine, though the linens were far nicer. I supposed she must have brought them from home.
"You can have a seat. I need to change first," Isa said absentmindedly as she grabbed two hangers from the armoire next to another interior door and she entered the next room.
There was a bench at the end of her bed and I elected to sit there rather than mess up the mass of pillows that likely took Isa or someone else about fifteen minutes to construct.
"Thank you for waiting," Isa said, reentering the room. She wore the outfit I first saw her in, with white pants, heeled boots, but she wore her ribbon wrapped low on her hips, crossed several times so it wouldn't hang down at the ends.
She crossed the room and held out her hands to pull me politely to my feet. She then walked back to her armoire and opened both of the doors to survey the closely nestled clothes inside.
"You have a lot…" I observed.
"This really isn't half of it. I had to leave much of my wardrobe at home and from time to time I'll buy some new things."
She looked at me appraisingly.
"So what would you like?"
"I brought you up here so you could get pants and shoes for the night class."
I was utterly surprised. I honestly thought she had brought me up to wait for her to change, like she said.
"I don't want to take your clothes."
"I have too many as it is. I figured you wouldn't quite know what to wear anyway," Isa supplied.
"Well that is true."
"So it worked out rather well. So what would you like?"
I stared blankly at the many colors and fabrics before me. How could I choose? I wasn't quite sure what I liked or didn't like in clothes and the ones I owned tended to be either blue, black, or white.
"If you'd like I could pick something out for you," Isa said. Her smile was so dazzling I wondered if she really could naturally light up.
"Really?" I asked politely.
"Yes. I love cute things."
She patted my head and started rifling through the clothes in her closet. I stepped back as she moved to the center, clearly needing room to work. She threw out a few things on the chair beside her wardrobe until she had a small pile.
When she was done with that, she evaluated the clothes she had extracted, holding them up near my face to apparently envision how they would look on me before she finally pulled a pair of well-tailored white pants out of the group and handed them to me.
"They're likely going to be a little big on you right now but they'll fit properly after night comes. Go change into those first. The bathroom's right through there," she said, pointing to the room where she disappeared to before. I nodded politely and entered the indicated door.
Her bathroom was also similar in nature to mine but it was far more cluttered as cosmetics and hair paraphernalia had taken over her entire counter.
The pants were a little big but she was awfully slender for someone a few inches taller than myself so the pants most noticeable flaw was that they were a little too long. I exited the bathroom and she already had a few pairs of shoes out from another chest of drawers near her wardrobe.
"I'm not sure what size shoe you wear but mary janes aren't really ideal for combat. How about these?"
She held out simple lace-up white boots with a slight heel raising them up, likely to account a bit for the length of the pants.
"I don't want to…" I started.
"It's no problem really. You're from a merchant family which means you have money but I'm from nobility originally so I have quite a bit more. Please just accept it," she said as she handed me the shoes.
I sighed and pulled them on, pleased that they seemed to fit well enough. I pulled the pants over them as I thought it would look sort of strange since the pants were so well made. As I stood, Isa moved in and wrapped something soft and navy around my waist securely.
"It's a belt just to make sure that the pants fit alright, though they seem to be fine…but even if it has no purpose, it looks so cute," she said, flushing as she stepped back to look at me from head to toe.
"T…thank you," I said.
"Don't mention it," Isa said, still glowing euphorically about her efforts.
"I figured Milana would want to lend you clothes and she has absolutely no taste in brand or styles and you're so cute that I couldn't have that."
She stepped in again and started to mess with my hair with her hands, pulling strands lightly around my head in what I figured was her approximation of a style.
"I see you just let your hair dry. You should at least put some product in it to make the ends curl out. That would be even cuter."
"I'm just getting adjusted to all this so I haven't really had the time to go through everything I've brought with me," I explained.
"Don't worry about it, Isa just always gets carried away," said the young lady who came through the open door to Isa's bedroom.
Isa pulled me forward and pushed me in front of her as I faced the girl I had seen earlier.
"Isn't Emine adorable?"
"She looks fine," Nadie said, shaking her head at her friend's strange enthusiasm.
"Oh. You haven't been introduced. Emine, this is my constant companion, Nadie Giada."
Nadie wore tight white pants tucked in to dark boots and she wore her white ribbon in her hair to keep it away from her face.
"Most people would refer to me as your friend, Isa," Nadie chided.
"I don't like referring to you in such familiar terms. When have you ever been friendly with me?" she asked.
"I suppose this is another incident of the same then," Nadie started, "it's nearly sundown and you haven't been to eat yet so I came to get you before you let too much time pass."
"Ah, I forgot. We should get you downstairs then," Isa said and she quickly moved toward her bed. Nadie moved over to the large windows and pushed the curtains back to glance outside.
"So it's going to happen again," I said faintly.
"Yes. Any moment now. It's easier the more it happens," Nadie supplied.
Isa emerged from leaning next to her bed with a sheathed sword in hand.
"I can hold your hand if it helps, Emine," she said jokingly.
"Isa, don't tell me you threw your sword under the bed again…"
The young lady sighed and attached the sword to her uniform ribbon so she wouldn't have to carry it. It rested across the back of her hips sideways, with the hilt resting against the right side of her body so she would only have to reach back to draw the blade.
"I was too tired last night to put it up properly. It's not like the sword cares what I do with it," Isa sighed.
"But that was your father's sword…"
"Hmm. It seems the sun's officially set," Isa interrupted with a bitter sort of smile.
Just as she said it, I felt an unsettling pain spreading through my limbs. My eyes seemed to close on their own and I doubled over with my hands over my head till it subsided. I kept my balance as I straightened but I felt a hand grab my arm to make sure I didn't fall over.
"Wow. You're still really cute. I guess there isn't much of a difference for some people," Isa said.
I turned and immediately wanted to laugh when I saw him. I wasn't significantly taller, but he certainly was. He had gone from being unbelievably beautiful as a woman to unnaturally good looking as a man. His hair had remained just as perfect as before but his features were more refined and his smile seemed a bit more mature than before. How odd for him to be calling me cute.
"If you've had enough," Nadie said. I turned my attention to him, but he really didn't look remarkably different as a man.
"You're right. I can't have Emine going to his first night class without eating beforehand," Isa said.
He headed toward the door after Nadie, keeping a much quicker stride than earlier. It was probably due to his longer legs but I had to hurry to keep up, especially since I still felt strangely unbalanced. I brushed my hand down over the top of my uniform and I noticed that even the pants fit better than before.
"Umm…" I started as we headed for the lift.
"What is it?" Isa asked.
"So do you all refer to each other as men at night?" I asked.
"Yes. This situation is strange but it's just easier to refer to each other by what we see. We could use feminine pronouns for everyone but considering some of the people who sneak in here are actually men, that seems sort of cruel."
I thought it made some sense since we technically were men, to the point where I didn't quite want to be fully aware of how my body had changed.
"Does it bother you to change into a man at night?" I asked.
"You'll hear this a lot but at first it bothers everyone. There's no way it wouldn't. Some adjust better than others but it comes down to your outlook. If you're determined to not let it bother you then you'll do better," Isa said.
"I really didn't care much at all," Nadie explained as I looked in his direction.
"Nadie's never been a very feminine girl so I don't think she even noticed," Isa laughed.
"You two knew each other before coming to school?"
"Yes. Nadie's been my constant companion since I was five years old. She was almost adorable then but she always looked like she was an 80 year old woman trapped in a little girl's body," Isa explained.
Isa seemed less dignified the longer I spoke with him. I couldn't help but notice his odd affection for 'cute' things. He'd also had several stuffed animals on his bed in addition to the pillows.
"Just make sure that Isa doesn't bother you too much," Nadie said as he closed the gates to the lift and hit the button to take it to the ground floor, "when he finds someone he likes he's incessant."
I smiled and leaned against the back wall of the lift, "It doesn't bother me. It's nice to have friends here."
Isa leaned over and ruffled my hair again. I had originally felt somewhat suspicious about his motives, but he had become so friendly that it was hard to imagine he wasn't being sincere.
"Well don't worry, most people are nice here…" Isa started.
"Except when they're bitchy," Nadie interjected.
Isa moved back to his position and we rode back down in silence until we reached the first floor.
Isa regained his polite smile as he entered the dining room where a couple of students were finishing up their meals. Sail reentered from the kitchen area and smiled at him like he was her favorite son.
"You're here early, Isa," she said.
"I'm trying to be punctual for Emine," Isa explained. He moved over to Sail and took the bowl of soup from her hands politely and he set it down on the table. The older woman flushed and put a hand over her mouth to hide her grin.
"You're so sweet, Isa."
"Don't mention it. You're our advisor here, not a servant," he explained.
"Oh, Ema. How are you doing this evening? Better, I hope," Sail said, drawing near to look up at me.
"Yes, thank you. I'm not nearly as disoriented the second time I've been aware of it."
"We don't have much time for formalities," Nadie said. He was already seated and he had poured three bowls of soup. He handed one to me and I thanked him quickly as I sat down about a chair away. Isa sat between us and, rather than eating his soup, he continued to speak animatedly with Sail.
"Isa. We need to go in no less than five minutes. Finish," Nadie stated, grabbing his spoon and nearly hitting him in the face as Isa turned to face forward again.
"It's alright. I ate earlier anyway," Isa started.
I quickly finished my soup as Nadie's eyes moved to me next and in about three minutes he was back on his feet, gathering the bowls to take them into the kitchen. I sat quietly beside Isa, who finally broke off conversation with Sail when he saw that Nadie wasn't beside him. His face quickly registered an emotion like panic and he got to his feet, grabbed my arm, and quickly pulled me to my feet as Nadie came back outside.
"We're ready," he said triumphantly as I extracted my arm and rubbed at my shoulder.
"Good. Then let's go."
He led the way and I watched as Isa started off behind him. I followed but I now had my doubts about who was in charge between the two of them. Isa didn't seem to be concerned with where he was until Nadie started to lecture him.
It was rather dark outside, but there were small lights along the path, hanging about four feet in the air. I hesitated on the path, entranced by the dancing orb of light. I reached out to touch it but Isa turned and called for me to catch up right then.
"Sorry…" I said.
"Don't touch the lights or you'll get a shock," Isa explained.
"They put them out at night?"
"Yes, because they don't want to mess up the landscape with posts so they get some of the Sorceress girls to set them before they go to the evening class."
"Where is the evening class?" I asked.
"Behind the indoor training courts. Some people stay inside when they're having private tutoring with instructors but the rest of us have class in the outdoors. People don't usually go there during the day," Isa explained.
We neared the building where Milana had found a weapon for me and traced the concrete path around it to a steep incline that led down to what I could only call an area. It was ground deep into the earth and there were faint lines dividing the area into several smaller areas.
Young men stood in small groups and I could barely hear the collective droning of their voices from where we stood. Isa crossed his arms and glanced down at the crowd without a word.
I wrote this chapter faster than I expected so I thought I would go ahead and post it. Getting through the introduction to the Evening class is taking longer than I thought XD
As always, comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks so much for reading.