Mistakes were made.
Octavia Irikai ran as fast as she knew how to through the streets of Igni's capital city, Aogan. Her feet slammed into the cobblestone ground, her shoes growing dirty quickly. No princess would be allowed to leave the palace under normal circumstances, which was exactly why she had run away. She was tired of being controlled, and it was time for her to break free.
Igni's common people darted out of the way as she ran from her assailant. Her dark hair whipped against her tanned neck, and she could feel herself growing exhausted. Octavia was a sage none could hope to parallel, but in that moment, she wished she was a bit more physically inclined. That would make getting away much easier.
The commoners dared not to aid her. They were all leaths, forced into poverty by the oligarchy of mages that had ruled over the planet since ancient times. A leath touching a mage, much less a royal mage, was a sin tantamount to death, and they all had something to live for, just as Octavia did. She didn't blame them for avoiding her. After all, if she had been in their shoes, she would have done the same.
A figure wearing all black seemed to sneak through the shadows, not bothered at all by the crowds. They slithered around more like a snake, and it wasn't until Octavia shot a risky glance over her shoulder that the enemy was a snake. Somewhere along the way, they had transformed from looking like a human to being a slimy creature that evaded all in its path.
Octavia let a swear fly from her lips, and she was stopped when something wrapped around her legs. She looked down, realizing it was the snake, and let out a cry of surprise. Fangs dug into her tanned skin, and she screamed. Suddenly, her life was flashing before her eyes, and everything in her body hurt. It didn't take long for her to trip over her feet and collapse, leaving her as a pile of limbs on the ground.
The snake slithered away not long after, and a shadow appeared around Octavia's limp form. The shadow swallowed her, and Octavia let out a whimper, praying one of the nearby people could see her. However, a hazy shield had filled her vision, and she knew there was a masking charm on the nearby area. Nobody would be able to see her until the charm was lifted, and it likely wouldn't be for quite some time.
When Octavia next opened her eyes, she was paralyzed on the ground looking up at the mysterious figure that had attacked her in the first place. Her body was quickly losing feeling, and she tried to cough, feeling blood in her throat from her rough fall. However, her body refused to cooperate, and her blood dribbled onto her shirt as she stared at her assailant with glazed-over eyes.
"Mistakes were made," they whispered, leaning over to Octavia. "If you had been smart, you would have listened to your grandfather when he said not to associate with these corrupted peasants. Leaths should not be around mages. That is the order of the world. It has been this way since our planet was founded, and it won't change just because you want it to."
"Leaths are people too," Octavia managed to mumble numbly. "They shouldn't be treated as less than dirt for merely existing." She cast a brief glance downwards to her leg, seeing some purple liquid leaking from her injury. This attacker had to be a poison mage of some sort. The numbness came from their power. That was the primary explanation she could think of.
"Leaths do not deserve to live in this dimension. Manifestation or not, they are more like the humans our ancestors vowed to escape generations ago than mages. Humans hurt us. They oppressed us. They killed us for simply existing. Allowing leaths, who are so similar to those who beat us down, to live as normal is ridiculous. You cannot find change by letting the same behavior continue in a constant cycle," the person told her, scoffing at her words.
"They have mage blood. They shouldn't be hurt in this way," Octavia insisted, anger and fear in her eyes. "They are just like us. What would Moonlight think of all of this? How much would Starlight hate their children for harming one another for merely drawing breath? This is an act of monstrosity."
"You have no right to judge me or any of my brethren. You should be like us. You're a mage. You're above them simply for existing. You have the sacred magic of our forefathers. Leaths do not. They don't deserve to live in this universe. Send them back to that god-forsaken Earth for all I care," the person murmured.
"They'll die for their abilities!" Octavia yelped, trying to force her body to rise, to do something to fight this person. She wasn't going to let them get the better of her. The Crown Princess of Igni bowed to no one. This was insulting to her on countless levels, and she wanted nothing more than to manipulate the earth around her to suffocate the fool who spewed all of this bull crap.
"It doesn't matter in the slightest to me. If they wanted to live, maybe they should have tried being born with magic," the person said with a shrug. "You tried to rile them up, to get them to fight back against the royal family... Your bloodline matters not before your crimes. You tried to incite a rebellion, and that is a crime worthy of only one punishment... Death."
"You can't do this! My parents... My grandfather is-" Octavia tried to say, feeling sweat start to roll down her face. This underground was so hot. Normally, it didn't bother her due to her volcanic magic, but it was incredibly aggravating when she was trying to escape this mysterious assassin with hopes to take her life.
"The king? I don't care. He hates leaths just as much as the rest of us mages do... Or rather, as much as us mages should. Exceptions to such a rule will not be tolerated. Igni has plans for you, fair Octavia... And those plans result in your death." The person showed a knife and took a few steps towards Octavia, showing the blade in the limited light of the underground.
Octavia tried to squirm away, but she found she was unable to do so due to her numbing body. An arm wrapped around her body, and she looked at the knife as it hesitated above her chest. "Let me go!" she exclaimed, unable to tear her gaze away from the blade.
"Don't worry a bit, Princess. This won't hurt at all," the person told her simply. She couldn't see their face, but she could hear the smile they had on their features. Her heart beat a million miles an hour, and she wanted to be somewhere, anywhere, that wasn't in the presence of this person.
Octavia stared at the knife for the what felt like thousands upon thousands of years until it came down onto her. Pain exploded from her chest, and she saw blood splatter everywhere in a grand display of crimson. However, that was the last thing that ever passed through the mind of Princess Octavia Irikai of Igni, as her consciousness gave way to darkness when death took her in its calm embrace...
Luce Elenes stepped out of the portal from Amity and onto the crisp green courtyard of the familiar Alitia lawn. A small smile spread across her face as she dragged her suitcase away from the rift. The hole in the sky closed soon after, and Luce looked around.
It had been a few weeks since the final battle with the Possession Master had drawn to a close. She and the others had split up for a few weeks as break came and went. Luce had gone back to Amity with the rest of her father's mercenary company, training her skills with a sword and her magic along the way. Lianna had been a great help as always, and sparring with Cryon was just as delightful as it always had been.
Luce had missed Alitia in her time away from the school. She smiled to herself as she looked around the lawn. Everything had changed, and nothing had changed at the same time. The wreckage left behind by Iago's invasion of the school had been cleaned away, and the sun was shining once again. However, it was still the same Alitia she had grown so fond of before the war against the Shadows had begun, and Luce had missed it. It was simultaneously different and the same as before, and she loved it in an odd way she didn't know how to describe. Alitia felt like home, even after all this time.
"Good morning, Alitia," Luce whispered, her grin wide.
Luce dragged her suitcase away from the green of the lawn and towards her dorm room. It had only been a few weeks since she was last there, but it felt like it had been ages. As much as she enjoyed spending time with the mercenaries, she had missed spending time with her friends. Everyone had split up to go home for the break, so even if Luce had stayed, she wouldn't have been able to see them, but she missed them regardless, and her own longing was killing her.
Luce rounded the corner towards the hallway where her dorm was located. She didn't bother knocking on her door, instead slipping her hand swiftly around the knob and twisting it quickly. She dashed inside, stopping her suitcase off to the side of the door.
The first person Luce was met with was Sophia, who had a small yet radiant smile, just as sweet as she always had been. Sophia had stayed behind at Alitia over break alongside Tanith since she didn't want to return home. Judging by the fact that Sophia was out in the main area alone, Tanith had left to do something else temporarily.
"Hey, Soph!" Luce smiled, wrapping her arms around Sophia. The two embraced for a few seconds before pulling away. "How was your break? I hope it was relaxing, because Starlight knows that we needed some time to take a deep breath and get away from the world after all that had happened."
Sophia let out a sigh in response. "You got that right. I spent nearly every day in Millennium City, finding new books to read, enjoying local cuisine, buying new plants... It was lovely. The city is recovering steadily after Iago's attack. The other schools are growing rather quickly as well," she replied. "I dropped by Acadia for a while to help Headmistress Latheia clean up. Most of her heroines were dragged home by their parents since families were worried about the war crisis."
"I understand that. I imagine my father would have panicked and lost his mind if he hadn't been around there to see that I was fine," Luce said. "It sounds like you had a lot of fun though. I'm glad to hear it."
"I spent some time with Tanith as well. She's helping Headmistress Satim to set up for the new semester. Alitia suffered a few damages in the fighting, but they're already mostly fixed. However, there's still a lot of work to be done before new students come in for the rest of the year," Sophia explained.
"I thought most students came in at the start of the school year... You know, in the autumn and all that," Luce remarked with a frown. She dragged her suitcase into her room, leaving it next to the entryway. She decided that she wasn't in the mood to fully unpack it yet, deciding to take care of it later on. She would have time after greeting her companions.
"Most of them do, but some come in at semester. For example, Anneliese is starting at Sacred Heart. She'll be joining in as a first-year student, though if you ask me, she's too advanced for that since she has her Illunae already. Regardless, she's going to be heading into Nebula's dorm for the rest of the year," Sophia replied. "Iris is the only one who's come by so far. She dropped off her things and then went to Sacred Heart to help Anneliese set up her room. I bet Nebula is there too. She stayed here over break as well and did as much as she could to fix up both Sacred Heart and Sierra."
"I'm glad to hear that everyone is coming together to help with the restoration process. It isn't going to be easy to get things back to the way they were before Iago attacked, but if we all come together... I think we can pull it off," Luce remarked, crossing her arms.
Sophia let out a small snicker. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were a motivational statement on a poster or shirt," she remarked, punching Luce in the arm teasingly.
Luce didn't flinch at the contact due to how much more mass she had in comparison to Sophia, but she did let out a hearty laugh. "Alright, alright... You got me there. Even if that's the case though, you have to admit that I have a point. I haven't seen this sense of unity anywhere before. Even when tragedy strikes, you don't expect so many people to come together as a group," Luce told her.
"Millennia is the heart of our magical universe. If there was any location known for its importance, it would be Millennium City. Of course people are going to step in when they learn that it's been ravaged by Shadows. I understand your surprise though. After all, we all know that you can be pretty brutally realistic when you aren't spewing emotionally touching speeches," Sophia laughed.
Luce picked up a pillow off the couch and tossed it at Sophia teasingly. Sophia caught it just before it hit her shoulder, laughing at Luce's attempts to get her to stop talking. Sophia dropped it back on the couch before speaking. "Alright, alright... I get it. I should probably keep from teasing the wall of muscle if it's possible," she commented.
"I'm glad that you've finally learned your lesson," Luce chuckled. A warm feeling had blossomed in her chest thanks to the playful banter she was sharing with Sophia. It had been a long time since she was last with her friends, and she had missed it a lot more than she realized. It was good to be back.
The door creaked open, and Sophia and Luce stopped talking to see who it was. Luce gasped upon realizing who it was, a wide grin appearing on her face. She didn't think she had ever been so excited to see someone.
The difference compared to the last time Luce had seen Sylvia was incredible. Sylvia's regularly glassy and tired eyes had perked up. There was a lightness about her that Luce hadn't ever seen before. No longer did she seemed weighed down by the burden of her own existence. Her skin had gained a tint of pink it hadn't had before, and her hair seemed more vibrant. Her posture had grown better, and it was as if she was an entirely different person. Sylvia looked more like Zylphia or Carys than herself, and the sudden assault of all these changes made Luce stare. Her body refused to allow her to do anything else, and she spent far longer than was probably appropriate just looking at Sylvia's body.
"Sylvia!" Sophia exclaimed, and her voice snapped Luce out of her trance. The nature enchantress walked forward and wrapped her arms around Sylvia's body. Luce followed suit soon after, pulling her two close companions into an embrace.
"I missed you guys," Sylvia said. The pace of her words had quickened, and that might have been the difference that caught Luce off guard the most. She actually sounded like she wanted to be alive after spending so many years hating everything due to the Thanatos Curse.
"What did you do over the break?" Sophia asked. She pulled away from the hug, though Luce and Sylvia remained close. As Sophie spoke, Luce pressed a brief, modest kiss to Sylvia's forehead before wrapping an arm around Sylvia's waist and standing beside her.
"I went back home... I actually got the chance to reconnect with my father after all this time. He was unsure about if the curse was really gone, but... After he saw me, Myra, and Chester, all his doubts were gone. I spent the entire break bonding with them. My mother might not be around anymore, but... The rest of us can still be close as a family," Sylvia explained. "They're going to be going back to school this semester as well. Their memories are mostly fuzzy after spending so much time under the influence of the Thanatos Curse, but it's clear that they're getting a lot better. It'll take time for them to recover fully, but... It's a step in the right direction."
"I'm glad that things have been going well for you. I wasn't sure of how your future would turn out after the curse was broken, but it seems like you're enjoying the rest of your life now that it's gone," Sophia smiled. "It's so sweet to see."
"I get the feeling that you've finally learned what it's like to not have to sleep all the time. You seem so much more awake. I mean, you could barely keep your eyes open when we first met at the start of the school year, but now... You've come so far, and I'm proud of you," Luce told Sylvia, pulling her a bit closer into the hug. "I hope that you've been enjoying it too."
"Of course! I can actually stay awake! I've been taking special care not to exhaust myself or anything though. I haven't stayed up really late or anything because I'm not taking any chances, but... It feels so nice to actually feel alert. It's like I've been living my life on one side of a glass wall, but I've finally crossed through it after all this time," Sylvia sighed dreamily.
"Let me guess... It was like everything was being censored before now. It's hard to enjoy life when everything you hear and see is dulled and fuzzy, but you can actually tell what's going on now. I'm so proud of you," Sophia smiled gently. "I'm sure the others will be happy to see that you've changed as well."
"I'm still the same Sylvia at heart, so don't worry about me being a new person. A few weeks away from Alitia wouldn't do that to a person," Sylvia laughed. "However, I do like to think of this as the new and improved version of Sylvia Loveknot! I'm taking my first steps into the rest of my life, and I'm enjoying it a lot more than I ever could have imagined."
"I can't wait for the others to get here and see you. They're going to be amazed beyond imagination, I'm sure of it," Luce remarked, ruffling Sylvia's hair. Granted, it didn't do much since Sylvia's hair was already tied down in twin braids, but the gesture was still comforting to both Luce and Sylvia.
"What is it that we're going to be amazed about?"
The trio focused their attention on the door, seeing a pair of new people there. It didn't take long for Luce to recognize them as Helena and Carys. The two girls were standing side by side with their many bags next to them. Luce assumed that most of the bags belonged to Carys with the small remainder holding Helena's belongings.
"Hey there, you two!" Sylvia chirped, throwing her arms around them. She didn't stop laughing all the way, and her excitement was contagious. A few seconds later, even Carys, who was regularly grumpy and hated touching people, smiled and returned the gesture.
"You sure are excited today," Helena commented. "Wow... I don't think I've ever seen you so bright and chipper. I thought that your main thing was sleeping everywhere and barely keeping your eyes open."
"Without the curse dragging me down, I can do more than I ever thought possible. I'm staying awake for an entire day, something I never imagined doing when the curse was still in effect. I can also cast magic without it draining the energy of the people around me. I did a few tests while I was back at home, and not only has my magic gotten stronger, but it doesn't hurt others unless I want it to. If you ask me, I've made significant progress compared to how things were last time I was here," Sylvia rattled, her words slurring together in her excitement.
"You'll have to give us all the details when the other girls get here. I don't know where S.M. is at, but I bet Iris and Tanith will be back here soon. Maybe Iris will bring along Anneliese and Nebula," Sophia told the newcomers.
"That's right! Anneliese is going to be attending Sacred Heart this semester," Helena remembered. "I hope that this semester doesn't wind up being as horrible as the last one. I'd rather not get attacked consistently by a man who's over a hundred years old looking for a suitable partner for reproduction. It was... Well..."
"Awful!" Carys exclaimed dramatically. "It was terrible! We all know it was terrible! I'm just glad the guy is finally dead. It took him long enough to go to hell. Moonlight is going to have a lot to say to him in the afterlife. After Moonlight, it'll be Starlight's turn, and I get the feeling they're both going to be pissed."
"There's the sin of attacking someone descended from the Keeper of Starlight, misusing a Moonlight Blessing, and then literally everything else he did. His soul isn't going to see peace for a long time, and that's assuming it ever does," Helena remarked, shaking her head.
"I hope he doesn't see peace! He doesn't deserve it. We're the ones who deserve some rest and relaxation after all that. The students of these schools are barely over twenty years old, and they had to fight in a war. We need some peace," Carys sighed.
"Let me guess. Your idea of peace includes a serene spa day when we can dip our toes into some nice warm water while other people pamper us," Sophia giggled, hiding her mouth behind her hand.
"Maybe that is it. Don't judge me. I'm sure you'd all really enjoy it. We don't have to fight for our lives in a spa," Carys pointed out.
"I don't know if I trust that given our luck last semester. Every single time we tried to have a nice, relaxing day in the city, something went horribly wrong. I don't know if chancing it would be a good idea. I want to spend some time unwinding, but I'm not sure if we'll get the chance," Helena said with a frown.
"We'll have to find some chance to do that then. Even if we were on break, I felt like I couldn't fully relax. After spending half a year freaking out over if I would get attacked every second, I couldn't properly calm down. It's like the adrenaline rush of battle carried over into my break," Sylvia admitted. "I know I'm safe, but I don't think my body is fully aware of that yet."
"I hope that changes soon too. You wouldn't be the only one to think that. Even if he's dead and gone, we're still feeling the aftershock of his existence. I almost wish I could kill him each morning just to let myself know that I'm safe," Luce snorted.
"What's going on in here?"
A small figure appeared in the doorway, and when Luce looked a bit closer, she realized it was none other than Tanith. Tanith looked mostly the same as she had the last time Luce had seen her, though she did appear more tired than before. Her eyes were exhausted, and she looked like she was tempted to leave the world behind to become a full-blown hermit.
"Hey there, Tanith," Sophia smiled, waving optimistically to the newcomer. "Are you finally getting a break from helping Headmistress Satim? You've been in and out of here all day."
"I don't know if I would call it a break... Zylphia wanted me to come get you all and make sure that you were ready for the announcement. She's giving a brief speech now that all of the students are streaming back into the school. She has a lot to say after all that happened with the Possession Master, and I get the feeling the students are going to need some reassurance that the future isn't filled with doom and gloom," Tanith replied. The words tumbled off her lips frantically, and it was clear that she was running on adrenaline as a primary energy source.
"How has the Alitia restoration effort been going?" Luce asked. She gestured for Tanith to take a seat on the couch. Tanith pretended not to see Luce's actions, but Luce took hold of her wrist and dragged her over to ensure she took a breather.
Tanith sighed once she was sitting, and her body practically collapsed in on itself, as if Tanith didn't realize how overworked she was until she finally had the chance to sit down. "It's been going well, I must say. Alitia is nearly entirely back to the way it was before the war started. The recovery process has been perfectly on pace for the school to be fixed fully in less than two weeks, though the remaining changes won't impact classes. Teachers are hoping to pick up with their lesson plans from before all of this started, though I feel like that's a lot easier said than done," Tanith explained.
"I agree with that one. How can we just pick up our schoolwork like none of this ever happened? Sounds nearly impossible to me. We got in too deep to even think of forgetting all that happened at this place. Classes are cool and all, but we can't really forget about the fact that we fought in a war for the fate of multiple planets," Carys snorted.
"They aren't asking us to completely forget. The scars of the war will never fully heal. All they want is to move towards the future. When we don't want to look to the past, the future is all we've got, and we don't want to abandon it now, right?" Tanith asked. She shook her head after a few seconds of silence. "Either way, we should probably get going. Zylphia is going to start talking soon."
"Shouldn't she wait until all the students have gotten back here? I know there are still a few people who haven't arrived yet. For one, S.M. hasn't arrived," Helena pointed out, a small frown on her face.
"She's sure that the people who aren't here will get the message soon enough. This was the only chance she had to talk to everybody because of the restoration effort. The next few days are going to be chaotic as she tries to keep everything together. She can do a lot through sheer force of will alone, but willpower alone can't keep this place fully on its feet," Tanith shrugged. "We can always tell S.M. about it."
"Iris should be headed back here soon too," Sophia said. She had pulled her phone out of her pocket at some point when Luce wasn't watching. Sophia tapped at the surface quietly. "I got a text while we were talking. She's finished helping Anneliese set up and will be making her way back our direction shortly."
"Perfect. In that case, we'll only need to catch S.M. up on everything when she returns," Helena smiled. "We should probably get ready to head out soon. I don't want to leave Headmistress Satim waiting for too long. She's under enough stress as it is working on Alitia's restoration. Plus, I imagine that she's been putting in work to help with the other schools as well... This war really did take a lot from everyone, huh? There's no going back to how things were."
The truth of her last statement left her words hanging in the air for far longer than was comfortable. All six girls stood still, processing the sentence over and over with hopes that it might go away the longer it was left alone. As much as they hated to admit it, she had a point. No matter how much they tried to pray that things went back to normal, they wouldn't be doing that for quite a while, and that was assuming it happened at all. Even so, nothing would ever be fully the same again. The traces of war remained around them everywhere, and a return to form was something that only existed in dreams just out of reach.
Luce was the first one to speak up after Helena's statement cut through the air. "We have to get going. There's no reason to stand around here when there's other business to take care of out there, right?" she asked. She helped Tanith rise to her feet before starting to head for the door. The other girls followed her lead, walking out of the room.
Luce was the last one left in their dorm, and she glanced over it one last time. Even if things never went back to how they were before, she was glad to have returned to Alitia once again. A small sigh left her lips as the door creaked shut once again. "Good morning, Alitia," she whispered again, and she left.
ALITIA TWO IS HERE BOYS I'M SO FRICKIN EXCITED