Chapter 36

“What is the Healer Hall doing here Shavie? I thought you said no one was following us?” Stella hissed at Shavie, clearly feeling like they had walked straight into a trap. The library was mostly famous for its secondary use an emergency shelter. A shelter that only had one entrance.

“They didn’t follow you! How could they know we would be at the library of all places?” That thought raised a few questions, one that the youngest person in the room would know. All three adults looked over to Isabella, who was already displaying a guilty look.

“I, I, may have told my teacher my Aunt was going to be the new Librarian…” Isabella said quietly.

They all stopped and stared at Isabella, who was standing in place shrunk with guilt. “Well, if you were skipping school, and you weren’t at your store, then the next logical place would have been to check would be the library,” Shavie said quietly, putting the pieces together. “It’s not all your fault, love. They must have already checked everywhere else that you could have gone.”

“I’ll handle it, sister. They shouldn’t have the power to do this, not without the Royal Family present. Libraries are strictly out of the Healer Hall’s jurisdiction, mainly since the Healer Hall is a well-known branch of the Imperial Family.”

Stella nodded gravely. “Okay sister. But we’ll all go together.” Quickly glancing at Shavie, Shavie nodded slowly, walking backward into the shadows. Her figure quickly faded from view as the woman’s voice once again called for them to come forward. “Isabella, it’ll be alright. No one will take you, we all promise.” Isabella nodded fearfully.

“We’re coming!” Stella shouted out. They all walked slowly toward the front, taking their time around the library to scout out their intruders. Two women were standing in the doorway, while two columns of knights stood on either side of the closed entrance. ‘At least they weren’t planning on making things public. For better or for worse.’ Stella almost cursed aloud as they got close enough to see emblems on their dresses. The Royal Family’s seal was adorned on one, while the other had the Healer Hall HeadMistress rank embroidered on the side.

“What can we do for you, your majesty, headmistress,” Luna said carefully, curtsying deeply to both the queen and the headmistress in order. Queen Rebecca the Third was standing there, her purple outfit flowing down to the floor. Her sky blue eyes were piercing to see, a shade lighter than Isabella’s. Her hair was braided into a crown that wove into a loosely braided ponytail. Stella could hear a faint clicking sound of chainmail coming from the queen, indicating that she was wearing at least one set of armor beneath her dress.

The queen turned to Stella nodding her head. “You have a sharp eye. I am Queen Rebecca the Third, and this is Headmistress Prim of the Healer Hall.” She paused slightly as she looked at Isabella. “We’ve noticed that young Isabella has been skirting the affinity testing. Care to tell us why?” Queen Rebecca said lightly, carefully scrutinizing the young girl in front of her. Stella moved Isabella behind her, blocking her from the two women in front of her.

“I regret to inform you, your highness, that per the Alcudian Constitution that you yourself ratified not even forty years ago, it is not required for children to check their affinity. So we haven’t.” Luna said carefully, checking the expressions of both women.

“But it is the tradition to do it once they reach six years old. Especially girls. It is better to know at a young age what affinities you are attuned to than not. Especially before going being taught spells and skills. How will you know what Class she could become?”

“Traditions can be broken, as is seen with Prince Daniel. Ratified rules, not so much.” Luna argued back, testing the Queen’s bottom line. Since the Queen had not remarried yet, and with the debacle surrounding the heroic weapon retrieval, Prince Daniel had requested the Imperial Family to give him control of the military, effectively taking half the power of the country under his, and by proxy the Imperial families control. It would be civil war at this point between her two children if the queen were to die, the most likely reason her skeleton was not sitting in a tomb right now. “No, we will not be checking her affinity.”

The two leaders looked at each other; the queen quickly waved her hand, her knights moving outside of the building. “We already know she has a greater affinity to healing.” The Headmistress said quietly after the knights left the building. Stella said nothing in response to the accusation, knowing it was just that. An accusation. Prim raised her eyebrow and smirked. “But you already knew that, didn’t you?” The queen turned and looked at the wall carefully. “Call out the person hiding in the shadow too.”

Stella and Luna hesitated and glanced at each other. Luna nodded, quickly flashing a hand motion. Shavie appeared moments later, unhappily scowling. The queen just frowned as the new woman appeared. ‘Damn you Shavie! Use a different technique once in a while. [[Stealth]] is definitely not a skill any regular person could have.’ The queen took a glance at her gloves and relaxed her grip on her rapier, something that Stella noted quickly. But a quiver on her dress caused Stella to worry about more pressing matters. She turned and looked as Isabella trembled quietly, hiding behind her mother. Stella squeezed her hand tightly and looked over to the two women. “…She’s not going anywhere. Especially not to the Healer’s Hall.”

“Her natural affinities would be a tremendous benefit to all of humanity. That is the Healer Hall’s responsibility after all. Just think of it, young lady. Being able to go anywhere in the world, meeting new people, exploring distant lands. Anything and everything you could ever wish for.” Prim said graciously as she painted a pretty picture for Isabella.

“You forgot to mention that Healer are specifically targeted by every other race and that it is often too dangerous to leave the Healer Hall without worrying about assassins. No, she is staying in this city.” Luna rebutted rather quickly.

Stella noticed that Prim looked rather astonished by Luna’s depth of knowledge. “Where did you hear that from? There is no danger in becoming a Healer.”

“Tell that to Peter and his many travel journals. He paints a rather different picture than the one you just painted.”

While Prim and Luna argued about the safety and validity of Peter’s journals, Queen Rebecca and Stella were having a different battle; one that Stella thought was infinitely more dangerous than the former. Queen Rebecca just stared at the girl. “Can I talk with the girl for a moment?” she asked Stella politely. Stella glanced at Isabella, who was still trembling with fear. “Just for a moment. I’ll be right here Isabella.”

To her surprise, the Queen crouched down to her height and just sadly smiled. “I once had a daughter named Isabella. She…died at childbirth though. Maybe if she was born with a class, she would have lived. But the doctors all said the chances of that happening were minimal. Do you know what the name Isabella means?”

“…it, it means to live a happy life?” Isabella said timidly.

“Your mother taught you well. It does mean that. I wanted her to have a happy life, for as long as she could live. Even my best friend, Peter, couldn’t do anything about it. He said only a Princess would have been able to save her, and one that was truly selfless and cared enough to willingly give away her class. But the Imperial Family wouldn’t dispatch one out here to save a little princess from a border country… Do you know why I’m telling you this?” Isabella shook her head. “I want you to have a happy life as well, little Isabella. At least, as long as I am able to.”

The Queen waved at Prim and shook her head. “The Imperial Family has ways to track potential healers. It would behoove you to figure out some countermeasures against scrying, either through the black market or through using artifacts. I can at least give you until she is ten, but she will have to go to Nespe Academy. No exceptions. If she excels there, she may transfer over to Alduit Academy. But that will all depend on her.”

Stella spoke up suddenly. “What’s stopping us from running away? Surely we can find somewhere safe.”

The queen smiled ruefully. “No, not with the Imperial Scions here. For some reason, the Imperial Family is taking the border fight seriously. Historically speaking, Trent’s armies would have retreated out of Evidia by now, but for some reason, they are securing the borders. So until they leave or we push them out of Evidia, The Imperial Scions will be here in the country. They’ll have full control of the Healer’s Hall until they leave.”

“…How is the rest of your family doing? I know you have two other daughters.” Stella asked, feeling awkward. She knew that Isabella was actually her daughter, but know she was saying that her daughter had died at childbirth. A conundrum for sure. She silently activated her one skill, [Good Friend], in the hopes of figuring out the temperament of the queen.

The queen blinked but answered sadly, “Princess Alexandra has to serve the Imperial Scion until he leaves. A political hostage, to make sure I stay in line. Beatrice is safe within the Healer Hall. For now at least.” Stella could see the fog slowly entering the building and quickly canceled her skill. That was the problem with this weird fog, it was drawn to them every time they used their mana. And bad things usually happened if it fully touched them, something she did not want to deal with at the moment. ‘If only the fog didn’t slow down mana absorption!’

The queen blinked and frowned, knowing that she had used a skill. She checked her gloves again and the tension melted away from her body posture. ‘She said artifacts. Maybe those gloves have been warded? Is it checking for ill-intent or something?’ “Anyway, back to your daughter. Isabella is safe for now, but the future is uncertain. I just hope the Imperial Family will leave soon.”

Stella was sure that would not happen any time soon. “Do you know someone called Paige Alduit, your majesty?” In her initial interrogation with Isabella, she had said the female warrior was called Paige, which both the king’s journal and the wind mage had confirmed during the battle. But the only names she had recognized from hearing about the debacle at the mausoleum was Tyler and Zenith. There was nothing about a person named Nick or Paige. But it goes to say that Paige would have to either be siblings or spouses if they have the same last name. ‘Peter Alduit and Paige Alduit. Peter, a well-known Hero. That would have to make Paige a Princess. And she actually gave away her class? But then shouldn’t Isabella be a Princess instead of a Cleric?’ Stella’s head swam with unanswered questions, although her face didn’t betray anything.

“…where did you hear that name from?” The queen asked suspiciously. Stella glanced around at the library. The queen nodded, as though she understood. “Ah, you must have seen it in Peter’s journal. That was his younger sister, but she died a long time ago. He never really liked to talk about what happened to her though.” She hesitated but continued on. “He always believed that his sister was still alive, just…lost. Said the gods were watching over her. But the gods are dead, so how could that be true?”

“I, I don’t want to go away!” Isabella cried sadly as she held onto the fluffy cat. Her brave front had quickly left her once the queen had left.

“You’re not going anywhere, my love,” Stella said gently. Shavie and Luna escorted the two women out, carefully. Luna and Shavie came back holding a few books and the cake intended for the party. Shavie and Isabella dug into it, venting their frustrations onto the sugary treat.

“This meeting didn’t go too bad, you guys. Stella, I got preliminary access to the lower vaults. I’ll start looking into it, but i need to have a guard with me for the first few months, in case of emergency. I don’t know quite why she said it like that, but it shouldn’t be too bad. I think?” Luna said nonchalantly, waving away any potential dangers. 

“We needed more information, and what better source than the two that just arrived. Look here,” Luna said as she held out a book for Stella. She grabbed it and was immediately shocked. The book was rather worn, but you could still make out the words. Tome of Healing. Luna nodded. “Since the Queen is reluctant to move her, the Headmistress wants Isabella to learn how to Heal on her own. If she can’t learn it by the age of ten, she will be taken by the Healer Hall. They want her to gain the full Class shortly before enrolling in school, tch, as though she could control that. But not only that, we got definitive news on Trent as well. They never moved their armies back. We all know it was never the plan for the Senate to occupy Evidia. If anything, we needed to cooperate with Evidia to secure an evacuation route. The frontlines were still in danger of being overrun when we left years ago. And now it looks like they are occupying the safe zones. So what’s changed since we’ve been gone?”

“…mommy, aren’t Trent demons evil?” Isabella said quietly behind them, her eyes wide. “Why do you care so much about the bad guys?”

“They’re not evil, Isabella. Just like how your classmates Sophia and Hayden aren’t evil just because they are demons. It’s just that Trent has its own problems to deal with, and they made a mistake. Several mistakes actually. That’s what your Uncle Bishner is doing right now. He’s trying to find clues as to why they did all these bad things.” Stella sighed while hugging Isabella. “We all came from Evidia, but Trent was not like that when we left. They were peaceful neighbors. Something must have happened.” They had all agreed that it would be for the best to tell Isabella they were from Evidia. While this would be highly suspect if told to the wrong people, the war had displaced many people from both Evidia and Alcudia, and being Human helped lessen the prejudice against them immensely. Hopefully her classmates weren’t coloring her perception of Trent. But Stella knew it was looking bad for their home country. ‘Bishner better have some news to share the next time he comes back, or there will be hell to pay.’

“The bigger issue will be her Class though. We don’t know of anyone who could Mentor her, besides the Healer’s Hall of course. Stella, do you think you could teach her spells?” Shavie asked from the side, her face a scrunched in worry. “If she can gain the class, we would have a buffer of a few years to plan. It took almost ten years for me to gain my class though, even as an Apprentice.”

“I- I want to become a Cleric and stay with you all!” Isabella declared loudly, her mana leaking out steadily as she held onto the massive cat. For some reason though, it wasn’t the golden mana that Stella knew she had, but rather a cloud of pale white mana instead. The cloud of mana started to swiftly rotate and condense around her. Stella blinked as the pale white cloud started to form symbols around her and started to worry. Class recognition? How did Isabella get it that easily? But Isabella was already starting to panic at the unfamiliar sight. “I-I can’t stop it mommy!”

Locking eyes with Luna and Shavie, she bit her lip and released her own mana, Shavie and Luna moving to either side of Isabella and doing the same. A dark cloud of mana released around each of them and started to flow in a circle around all of them. “Don’t worry Isabella; we’ll help you stabilize your Class. Close your eyes and focus on what we say.” 

“Mhmm!” Closing her eyes, she got ready to listen, missing the sight of a wisp of golden mana encircling around her head in a ring. 

Oh, why isn’t anything normal for Isabella? Well, nevermind, Stella thought. Nothing is particularly normal for them right now either. “…Flowing darkness, combine and congeal around the target. [[Dark Mana Cluster]].” The cloud of mana Stella, Shavie and Luna had released started to gather around Isabella and forced the symbols to gather densely around her. “Isabella, stay calm. Class stabilization is an important first step whe-” She had hardly even began to force their mana to push Isabella mana back into her core when the golden ring around Isabella’s head flashed brightly and engulfed their dark mana and Isabella’s own mana into a bead, which it silently absorbed and flowed back into Isabella without fail. 

Stella stared at Isabella, who still had her eyes shut tight. Peeking at Luna and Shavie’s expressions, she noted wryly that the process Isabella had gone through was definitely not how receiving a Class was supposed to go. “…Okay, all done Isabella. Go ahead and check your status, shall we?” 

“All done? But I don’t feel different,” Isabella said unconfidently. Gently motioning her to go ahead, she watched as Isabella call out her status. “I, Isabella Freal Platz, of my own accord, hereby request to show my status. [[Status]].” Platz. Stella still didn’t know why Isabella had gotten her last name, but she was still happy to hear it spoken out loud by her daughter.

Isabella Freal Platz
Apprentice Cleric

“Huh, it is different than what I can see?” Isabella cocked her head and frowned confusedly.

Stella let out a breath she had been silently holding. “That’s because your status is private. There’s not many spells that can force a person’s status to show up with all the details. Not even [[Advanced Status]] or [[Command Status]] can show a person’s skills, unless you want to. But remember Isabella-“

“Never show my full status to anyone but family, and only when we are in the safe zone.”

“Mhmm. I understand. “

Isabella looked at her mother’s face and beamed happily. Her status had gotten significantly larger now that she had a Class. Although it looked a little weird, she was more than content to have it so filled in.

Name: Isabella Freal Platz
Race: Human/Demon
Affinity: Greater Healing, Greater Darkness, Lesser Light, Lesser Wind
Class: Blessed Apprentice / Subclass Apprentice Cleric 
Skills: [Mana Sensitivity], [Mana Sense], [Shadow Walking], [Truth Seeker], [Night Vision], [Good Friend]

Spells: [[Healing Touch]], [[Mana Light]], [[Gust]]
Party: None

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