Chapter 35

“Mommy, mommy! Wake up, wake up!” A young girls voice called out, rousing Stella from her sleep.

Stella sleeply called out, hoping to doze back to sleep quickly.“Wake me up when the sun is above us.”

“Nooo, We’re gonna miss the event! Remember! Even Auntie Luna is already awake!”

Stella gasped as she fully awoken, realizing what today was. “You’re right! It’s time to get dressed! Quick, get your dress on. It’s a big day today!”

“It is! It is! It’s testing day today!” Isabella shouted excitedly. Stella stopped suddenly but picked her pace back up. “It is that, but it’s also the first day your Aunt Luna is opening the Library officially as the new Vice Librarian! We’re gonna have a party today!”

“Mommy… Remember my teachers said I have to do it this time.” The girl pouted cutely, knowing exactly how she looked. Her long platinum hair was braided in a bow, a simple ribbon holding her braid together at the end. Stella smiled ruefully at her daughter. “Maybe next time love. Today’s just not a good day.”

“The teacher said I was gonna get into trouble. I don’t want to be in trouble!” Isabella pouted sadly.

“If you get in trouble, they’ll get into even more,” a voice called out from behind Isabella, eliciting a scream from Isabella. The scream caused Stella to wince in pain. “Too early Shavie for that. I think you just ruptured my eardrum with that little prank.”

“Auntie! That is not funny!” Isabella pouted angrily at the shadow behind her.

“It was pretty funny though.” The shadows from the wall spoke aloud, showing the outline of a figure. Stella groaned in displeasure though. “[[Shadow Talking]]? For real Shavie? You have that much mana to waste that you decided to use what you had saved on a prank?” A sudden thought caused Stella’s eyes to twitch. “Don’t tell me you forgot to deactivate the wards before your little trick. That cost me twenty grams of Alcudian Moss every time you decide to break the wards forcibly.”

The shadow stopped laughing suddenly, it’s motions jerking as it started to scratch its head, clearly nervous. “… whoops. Anyways, we’re waiting at the library. Hurry up, Bye!”

“SHAVIE! Of all the-” Stella counted to ten lightly before turning to her daughter. “Well, accidents happen right? Come on, they’re waiting for us. Wait by the door while I get changed Isabella!”

“Mhmm,” Isabella nodded in understanding as she walked to the courtyard entrance.

Stella watched as her daughter left. She smiled at that thought. Her daughter. If anything, these last few years in peace had taught her to value family much more than she had before. “Shavie and Luna are family too. Bishner too, if he ever decides to come back again. A dysfunctional sort of family, but one nonetheless.”

Stella thoughts were racing as she put on her slightly frilled white shirt, her dark leather pants, opting for something that was easy to move in, yet durable enough to resist chemical stains. “Looks professional enough.”

“Isabella, come along, and remember…” Luna paused, waiting for Isabella’s answer.

“To always disarm and rearm the safety wards when leaving. Too many dangerous chemimicals in the house,” the young girl answered carefully, looking to the discrete wards places at the foot of the entrance gate. She carefully bent down and erased a few symbols before leaving and creating a few symbols after stepping over the gate’s threshold.”

“Good job!” Luna praised cheerfully after checking the symbols herself.

“If it’s really that dangerous, how come we don’t keep it separated from where we sleep?” Isabella asked dubiously. “How come I’ve never seen anything dangerous in the house?

“That’s easy. Shavie usually guards anything dangerous. The wards are mainly there just in case Shavie is being Shavie. It’s just easier to get into the habit of protecting than reacting than not at all.”

The young girl nodded her head, though whether or not she truly understood was another matter, one that Shavie could explain later. Stella smiled and grabbed her hand gently, pulling her toward the library. “I know that your teacher wants you to test your affinity, but I’ve already told you that it is too dangerous for you, since we’ve already tested your affinities at home. You’d attract too much attention, and there is a good chance that you’d be taken away from us.”

“But I don’t want to leave,” Isabella said quietly, squeezing her hand mother’s hand. “I just don’t like when the teacher tells me you’re wrong for not following the rules.”

Stella scoffed. “Let me worry about your teachers. I’m your mom so I’ll decide what they can do. And don’t let them tell you otherwise.”

“Yes mommy. Are you sure I won’t get into trouble though? The teachers sai-”

“It will be fine Isabella. The country cannot force children to find out their affinities. Now, let’s get the cake and magic poppers!” Isabella brightened up at the sound of that. The city of Nespe was full of life as children and young adults traveled to the many schools in the city. Stella noticed that Isabella looked on a little envious as children her age moved toward the school district. “I know you want to go to school today. We’ll make it up to you, my love.”

Isabella hesitated. “I know, mommy. I want a pet.”

“Oh! A pet we can do. Do you want a death snake? A dark drake? Slime? We could probably even find a baby Beholder if we search the black markets!” Stella said happily. She had a dark drake as a child. Such a good pet too, once you get it fully trained to not eat anything that moved.

“Nooo, nothing dangerous or evil! I want a kitty! Or a unicorn!” Isabella whined. Her mother had such a weird sense of pets!

“Haha, maybe we’ll search the pet stores after this. Shavie might know someone who is selling some specialty pets.”

Stella pulled Isabella close as they got closer to the library, the plaza surrounding the library full of people as they traveled to the many separate sectors of the city. The library entrance itself was practically empty though, as a large sign hung above the library door. “CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS,” Stella sighed as she realized how Luna had secured the building for their celebration party. “Luna’s going to be in so much trouble if someone actually looked into it. She should know better than to use government property for private use!”

“The library is actually under renovations, dear sister. Give me some credit at least, I’ve been informing all the patrons for the last few weeks that the library will be closed today. ” Luna said as she stepped out of the shadows with Shavie. Giving her sister the cold shoulder, she knelt down to Isabella’s height. “Come on little Isabella, I’ll show you around my new office.”

“She has done a lot, you know. At least, more than when we were back home. I didn’t know she liked to read that much,” Shavie said as she gave Stella a slight tap on her shoulder. “We’re clear, by the way. I didn’t notice anyone following you.”

“Okay. I don’t want her teachers to find us. They’ve been rather pushy about testing lately. I don’t know why though,” Stella said with a small frown.

Shavie shrugged her shoulders. “Does it matter? If they push, we push back. Luna’s read every law book in the library. She’s sure she can get Isabella out of testing. And if that doesn’t work, a few bribes here, some blackmail there, and everything will sort itself out.”

Stella could hardly disagree with that, as it had worked quite well so far. That, and being one of the best Alchemists in town helped soothe out any…inconveniences.

As they passed through the doorway, Stella’s eyes focused on the bookshelves to her right, specifically the corner farthest from the entrance. “Has Luna gotten access to the lower levels yet?”

“Not yet. The rumor going around is that they were doing background checks on all of us. Nothing’s come up so far though, at least from what Bishner and I could tell anyway. Our identities as refugees helped, as most of the smaller towns were totally destroyed. Bishner said he had already forged some documents for us as well, so we should be good.”

“Okay. So long as you’re sure about it. I think most of our answers will be found there. The fog still isn’t decreasing though.”

“Mommy, look at Auntie’s office! It’s amazing!” Isabella voice echoed throughout the vast and empty library. “We’re coming, my love!” Stella laughed as she moved to the back of the library.

“Do you miss Trent?” Shavie asked suddenly. Stella slowed as she turned to Shavie, her gaze questioning. “I mean it, do you want to go home? We both know that the war on the frontlines are still ongoing. They need us back there. They need Isabella. If she can teach them how to heal-”

“No Shavie. We’ve had this discussion before, in many different forms. Isabella is still too young, and I’m not even sure we would even be accepted back into the country, not without Markus. You know his dad has most likely killed everyone we know since his son died. Either that or he’s consolidating his power to get revenge. That’s the only explanation why the Imperial Family still has not left the country after four years here. They know there is a threat that can take over this border country,” Stella spoke terse, knowing full well how this argument would end. “And I like the peaceful city. It’s everything we were working towards.”

Shavie nodded slowly. Stella knew that Shavie did not quite agree with her reasons, but that would be an argument for later. Turning a corner, Stella saw Luna’s office and winced as she entered. The whole room was covered in a random spattering of decorations, ranging from mundane plants to semi-exotic dragon skeleton. Or maybe they were highly realistic fakes. Probably not if Shavie was involved with it’s procurement.

“It’s…totally you Luna! Random with a bit of excitement.” Stella chuckled, knowing that the room represented almost all of Luna’s interests. The only thing missing was a dagger collection.

“I know what you’re thinking sister. Miss Heather actually said to hide my dagger collection. ‘Too dangerous’, or ‘You can’t use a dagger as a bookmark!’.” Luna said dryly. Stella could see her twin doing that though, especially if her focus was split.

“Mommy, look! She even has a pet!” Isabella said as she petted the animal in question. The black, fuzzy furball was hard to recognize at first, but the telltale purring identified it as a cat. Albeit, a large, fluffy cat that was almost as long as Isabella was tall.

“It’s a Midnight Maine Coon. Or some weird name like that. But he’s Midnight for short.” Luna said as she held up a rather large, dried fish. “Lucky for us, his food is already placed within the Library’s budget. Otherwise I’d have to get rid of this old lump of a cat.” Luna teased, holding the fish above her head. “Come on you lazy cat, you need a lot more exercise than what Miss Heather was giving you.” Midnight just stared at Luna, huffing in displeasure.

“Auntie…” Isabella said sadly, pouting at the injustice her new furry friend was receiving. Luna took one look at the girls expression and quietly lowered the fish to Midnight. Stella could tell that Luna was already whispering promises of exercise to the cat while her back was turned to Isabella.

A knock on the door stopped their celebration before it could officially begin however. “The Library is closed!” Luna yelled at the top of her lungs, the sound of her voice echoing clearly.

“This is the Healer Hall. We’re looking for a Miss Isabella.” A woman’s voice echoed back, her tone full of authority. “By the Order of the Alcudian Royal Family, please present her here.”

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