While Lith spoke with the Marchioness, everyone was having a conversation with their respective families, deciding how to face the incoming storm.
Everyone but Quylla, of course.
She had no relatives, hence she never spent precious points for a communication amulet.
Yet it was the second time already she was considering getting one.
The first time had been during the four days break.
While the others had returned to their homes, she had remained in the academy.
Even in her old village, she had always been surrounded by people.
The bustling noise of the daily activities had become part of her life.
But during the break, she had no lessons to attend, nowhere to go, and no one to talk to.
Ever since Quylla had got her Ballot, she had become an outcast, but she never really noticed up until that point.
She would always spend so much time with her friends, that being alone once in a while was actually pleasant.
During those four days, though, the silence had started to scare her.
Walking along the empty corridors, Quylla felt like she was traveling through the belly of a giant dead beast, with only her steps\' echo to keep her company.
Being apart from Yurial or Phloria was meh, while from Lith was actually good, it gave her the time to sort her feelings.
The emotional rollercoaster she went through every time they met, was so frustrating that more than once she almost confessed, just to get rid of the uneasiness.
Until the fear of being rejected kicked in, making her thank the gods for stopping her.
What she really missed was Friya\'s company.
She didn\'t know if Lith was her first love or just a crush, she never had experienced anything like that before.
What she did know, was that Friya was the closest thing to a family she had ever had.
They would spend hours together, not only for studying, but also talking about their dreams and hopes once they graduated from the academy.
She would listen to all the stupid little things that crossed her mind, her fears and anxiety and never judged her for that.
And now, seeing them talking to their parents, gave her a sense of estrangement.
- I know it\'s stupid, but maybe if I had one too, if I could call them whenever I want, I wouldn\'t feel so… different.
– She thought.
Velan Deirus, Yurial\'s father, was so outraged that his eyes almost popped out.
That Lukart scum.
How dares treating my son like a dog I was willing to remain on the sidelines, to see from which side we could profit the most.
But this blatant lack of respect shows that if those old farts have it their way, there will be no future for us but servitude.
What do you want me to do, father
Tell Linjos what happened, get a Coward\'s… I mean a Ballot, and then wait for my instructions.
Don\'t try to get revenge, if he is smart, Lyam has a Ballot too.
That little act was probably meant to either make you submit, or anger you enough to retaliate and get you expelled.
Trying to recruit you like that makes no sense, unless they wanted to make us an example for other young magical families.
To show that they can reach us both on the inside and the outside.
Would be a good plan, if we were some stuck-up self-righteous idiot nobles.
I\'ll play this game by my rules.
Don\'t do anything stupid, son.
Think before you act, and if anything new happens, contact me.
The conversation between Friya and his mother, Duchess Solivar was of a different tone.
Sabotaging a new Headmaster It has always happened, even to the most insignificant, petty bootlicker.
Let alone to a young radical, uncaring for political gains. Her voice was bored.
Everyone with half a brain knows there is a huge storm ahead, and I don\'t plan getting caught in the middle of it.
We will remain neutral.
In every war, the real winner is the one that does not take part in it, profiting from both sides.
Whoever comes on top, I\'m covered.
Contact me only if you need to get out of the academy.
You are the first real mage of household Solivar, act as one.
Take no unnecessary risks.
Then she hanged up the call.
- Well, I love you too, mother.
Thanks for asking me if I was all right or if I needed something.
F*ck you and your precious Solivar household! I\'ll do whatever I want.
For once, I am in control.
You need me, not the other way around! –
Friya was so angry that only Quylla\'s worried face prevented her for throwing the communication amulet against a wall.
Phloria\'s father, Orion Ernas, was of course well informed too.
He was deeply involved in one of the factions that were closest to the Queen, so nothing she said was actually of any relevance, outside the attack on Yurial.
Orion had kept her in the dark, because he didn\'t want her to grow up scared by the rumors about the impending civil war.
He had hoped for the stalemate to hold until she was big enough to choose what to do, but time was running out.
He told her the same things Marchioness Distar had explained to Lith.
I think that they are closing ranks.
Attacking a member of a magical bloodline means that they are not willing to tolerate neutrality anymore.
Either you are with them or against them.
What can I do for the Queen, dad
You Orion laughed for the first time since that conversation started.
What can you possibly do You are just a kid, the real battle is out here, what has happened is barely a ripple effect.
This is but the last attempt to sabotage in a long line.
They have simply raised the ante a little.
Instead of worrying for the Queen, here is what you can do for me.
Pick a Ballot, stay out of trouble, and if push comes to shove, attack first and ask questions later.
Always go all out, no one can get killed in an academy, the castle does not allow for that.
It\'s the first time I hear about this.
How do you know for sure
It\'s supposed to be a secret, but when your daddy was younger and hot blooded, someone dared to draw his sword against me.
I lost my temper and…
well, let\'s just say that the academy\'s arrays saved a lot of people that day.
Things escalated quite a bit.
If it\'s a secret, aren\'t you breaking some rule by telling me
Do you think I would put a \'secret\' that the gods only know how many idiots like me know above my daughter\'s safety I would rather see you safe and expelled, than let anyone put a finger on you.
At that point, Lith had already returned in the room.
Not exchanging any pleasantries saved him a lot of time.
Only Friya was already done with her amulet.
Lith didn\'t know what to do, being a commoner was a double-edged sword in that situation.
It meant that he and Quylla were more likely to be left alone, but at the same time that they had no way to help their friends.
When all the conversations ended, with the exception of Lith, they shared the information received.
The Marchioness had made clear from the beginning that she had already enough on her plate.
Revealing their connection would only draw more attention, something that both were glad to avoid.
I guess we both need a Ballot, now. Yurial sighed.
Being a victim was a scary feeling for him.
His family name had always been the strongest sword and shield, yet now it was reduced to a bullseye.
We need to go to Linjos\' office. Phloria nodded.
And let everyone know that even powerful people like you are scared That would mean playing into their hands. Lith objected.
What do you propose then Ignore my father\'s advice and wait for their next move
That would be stupid.
I say to play it smart. He took out his Ballot, pushing the button twice.
A Warp Steps opened, and Professor Trasque came out of it.
When he saw where he was, he furrowed his brows in disapproval.
Kid, a Ballot is not a toy.
Don\'t try to give me the \'I accidentally sat on it\' bullsh*t.
We need to see the Headmaster, it\'s an urgent matter.
I had to resort to the Ballot because we can\'t allow for others to know about it.
I\'m sorry if I caused a false alarm. Lith deeply bowed, even though if necessary, he would do it again.
Trasque\'s interest was piqued.
He opened another portal, leading straight to the Headmaster\'s office.
The room was immaculate as Lith remembered it.
His hardwood brown desk was right in front of a glass wall, capable of blocking the excess daylight or amplify it, keeping the lighting uniform during the whole day.
Several pieces of paper were arranging themselves in ordinate piles after he finished looking at them.
Hearing the Gate open, he turned towards them.
He seemed to have aged ten years since the last time they saw him.