Chapter 38.2

….or instance, when I think of [[Healing Wind]], I think of a summer breeze caressing me. Think of something that can relate to both darkness and comfort…

…think of the varying shades of darkness as a light…use that as the basis of [[Shadow Healing]] and g…

…you’ll do fine, Little Isabella. After all, a Princess can do some amazing things if given time to grow…

“Isabella, wake up! You’ll be late for training at this rate.”

Isabella heard a voice and groggily turned over, burrowing her head into a nearby pillow. Cracking an eyelid, the entire room was still rather dark, meaning that the sun hadn’t even started rising yet. “Mhmfhgm.”

“I don’t want to do this, my little cleric, but you may leave me no choice…” A hand grabbed her ankle and started dragging her from the comfort of the warm, dark, fluffy pillow she was hiding under. “You’re going to fall off the bed in five, four, three..” The lack of solid support at her legs indicated this was a true fact, and judging by how fast the feeling was traveling up her legs meant the voice was serious. 

“Mhggmmmhm. Stoooop, it’s dark outside.” Shaking her legs, she wiggled out of the hand’s grasp and dove back under the pillow, where greater darkness and fluffiness combined together.

“Auntie Luna is serious about training, Isabella. Hurry. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on the first day of school.”

Miss…school…day…..the thought drifted in her mind a few seconds until the words made sense. School! The wonderful word for learning and fun! And friends! Isabella shoved the pillow away and stood up groggily, though her eyes were bright. “I get to go to school today! But but but-” Her mother just pointed at her dresser and shooed her toward it, talking while she helped her put on her clothes for the day, a rather simple cloth skirt and a dress reinforced with leather below her chest to protect her from chemical burns, basically a scaled-down version of what her own mother was currently wearing.

Her mother looked her over and nodded at her outfit. “I don’t like the idea of you being out and about, but the queen is rather insistent. She’s already signed you up, so after morning training Shavie will take you over to your new classroom.” 

“Eh? New classroom? What about my friends? Will Hayden or Hana be there? Robin?”

“…probably not. Most of your old classmates will be going to the subsidiary schools still. Nespe Acadamy is typically for children ten and up, so it is really rare for you to be going right now. Now, come along.  By the time you finish with Shavie, I’ll be done cooking breakfast.”

“Mhm. Where is Auntie today?” Isabella asked hesitantly. Her mother smiled. “That’s for you to find out. Good luck finding her!” Isabella pouted, but started eyeing the shadows warily. Her aunt’s idea of training was … not particularly pleasant. Especially in the dark and early morning… but that was what skills are for, right? ‘[Night vision],’ Isabella whispered to herself, feeling something in the pit of her stomach start to empty. But the room suddenly brightened considerably, no longer dark like at night, but rather like she was holding a candle. ‘Auntie Shavie likes to hide by the walls. So I need to stick close to the walls.’ Isabella walked over to the walls and the clarity of the walls increased as she stayed close to the walls. “Momm-” Isabella turned but noticed that her mother had disappeared already as well. How she had done it was a mystery, as the window was still locked and the door was still closed.

Opening the door slightly, she checked the hinges of the door before opening the door wide enough for her to pass through. Isabella knew that her Aunt was probably already following her and grading her progress. She thought of what her aunt had constantly repeated. Check the door hinges to make sure you can move unhindered and in silence. Stay close to the walls to blend with the shadows. Light steps, make sure you know what material you are stepping on. Of course, her Aunt placed things in the hallways in the mornings to make sure she had to practice moving around objects. How early did her Aunt get up to move furniture into the hallways each morning? Not that she was complaining though since it was kinda fun to sneak around. “Auntie was hiding in the kitchen last time, so I’ll head that way.”

As she headed down the cluttered hallway, she stopped as she remembered her latest dream….there are ways to walk through the dark unhindered, Little Isabella. Sometimes going slow is not the best way to go, especially if you are trying to sneak through a path you know is trapped. A beautiful adult woman smiled at her kindly while explaining the hidden magic circle in front of her. The bright glowing circle slowly faded as she watched.”So what should I do?” I asked excitedly. The woman happily smiled back, “There are always two options. Use a skill, or set off the trap. There are only certain times you will ever need to sneak carefully, so if you have a skill, use it. You’ll do fine, Little Isabella. After all, a Princess can do some amazing things if given time to grow. Here, I’ll show you how to set off the magic circle…”

Blinking the dream away, she looked carefully at the cluttered hallway and frowned. Could it be trapped? No, Auntie Shavie wouldn’t do something dangerous. So, maybe it’s time to use another Skill? ‘…[Shadow Walking].’

“How is she doing?” Stella asked Shavie quietly. Luna, Shavie and Stella were sitting in the courtyard, listening to Isabella’s progress inside the house. They sipped on their hot coffee as they waited for Isabella to come outside. In truth, the test Shavie had set up was not supposed to force Isabella to use Skills, but rather to force her to use her brain to come to the best conclusion on how to approach a problem. Stella hoped that Isabella would eventually just go out the window, since that would be the easiest way to quickly look around the house for Shavie, but she wasn’t about to ruin Shavie’s fun; even though it was a pain to move the furniture around for the test each morning.

“She’s going slow, but this time she is actually missing most of the clutter. Listen, her steps have gotten confident. Think she is using a Skill or two?” Shavie said with a frown. Stella froze and listened harder, immediately noticing that Shavie was right. Isabella was moving more confidently today. She was still quiet and her steps were carefully placed, but much faster, as though she could see what was in front of her.

“…[Night Vision] or [Lesser Intuition]? No, it should be [Night Vision], since she does have an affinity towards Darkness. But I never taught her that. Shavie, Luna?” Stella frowned as she looked at her sister and friend. They should have known not to waste Isabella’s time with learning something as useless as [Night Vision]. She had no intention of pushing Isabella toward anything that was even remotely close to Assassins or Night Walkers like they were.

“I never taught her that. Shavie?” Luna said as she glanced at her friend.

“Nope. Not me. It’s not entirely useless, but I’d rather she have actual skills rather than a Skill. Besides, nothing I’ve done requires [Night Vision] to do. A city isn’t the best place to learn [Night Vision], and it takes a long time to learn too. It took me almost two weeks in a cave to learn [Night Vision]. I don’t know about you two, but I’m not about to force Isabella to learn like that.” Shavie said hurtfully. Stella knew she wouldn’t force Isabella into a dangerous situation, but it didn’t hurt to ask. There weren’t any dark forests in the city either, so Luna probably wouldn’t have taught Isabella the way they had learned growing up.”

“Why is Isabella hesistating? Do you think she ran out of mana?” Shavie asked after not hearing Isabella move for a minute. Stella looked over and focused on Isabella, lightly releasing her mana in her direction. “No. She still has some mana left, and she is absorbing it at the same time, based upon how the ambient mana is being drawn to her. Bu-” She stopped as Isabella moved and disappeared from her senses.  Standing up quickly, she was about to dash to the room when Isabella showed up in front of her, walking out of the shadow of the exterior wall of the hallway, her head covered in sweat. Stella dashed and caught Isabella before she fell to the ground. She let out a breath as she checked over Isabella’s condition. Mana exhaustion. 

“Shavie! Why did you teach Isabella [Shadow Walking]?! You know that is too dangerous for her to learn at this age!”  Stella turned toward Shavie, her voice laced with fury, but her anger quickly disappeared as she took in Shavie’s surprised and worried expression, her dark dirty brown hair shaking from side to side.

“I didn’t teach her that, Stella. I promise on my name. I know what Isabella can and can’t do. Don’t forget I started learning how to be an Assassin at a younger age than Isabella is. Is she alright?” Shavie walked over and gently picked Isabella up, resting the girl’s head on her shoulder’s.

“Mhmm. Mana exhaustion. She overdrafted her mana and fainted. But the bigger question is why can she do that? [Shadow Walking] is a fairly complex and mana heavy Skill.” Stella frowned as she massaged Isabella’s back, slowly gathering the ambient mana around Isabella to accelerate her recovery.

“Do you think she learned it from watching us? I mean, I know I use it often, but I’ve never explained the Skill I used.”

“Maybe it’s not a good day for Isabella to go to school. I’ll ju-“

“Shavie, go ahead and watch over Isabella like we planned. Stella, cancel your appointments today. We’ll look for books at the library and see if we can find anything about innate skill acquisition. Maybe it’s not rare for humans to have? Or maybe it’s just a function of her main Class. We never did figure out what Blessed Apprentice really meant anyways, so we’ll go and look for more information about that now that I have more access to the library vaults.” Luna stopped the conversation and stopped Stella from continuing.

“Sister! Bu-“

“No. Come on.”

…it’s time to get up, Little Isabella. You still have to learn from…

“I have to go learn–Ack! Auntie Shavie?” Isabella awoke with a startle, scaring the person in front of her. “Where is mommy? And why is the sun starting to rise? What happened?”

“Shhh. You found me, fair and square. Honestly though, why didn’t you tell anyone you gained a Skill? We would’ve had a party to celebrate.”

“Mommy said not to tell anyone my skills or to show them my status, so I didn’t.”  Isabella’s eyes widened as she processed her aunt’s statement. “I found you! So my Skill did work!” 

A swift knock on the head was her only reply. “Next time tell us before you use a Skill for the first time. You’re lucky we got to you in time, Isabella. Mana exhaustion is no joke, especially for someone your age. Come on, we’ll eat as we head to your new school.”

Walking beside her aunt, Isabella noticed that the shadows were no longer as dark as she remembered. She could even see straight down the northern and southern alleyways, even though they were oriented so that the light wouldn’t travel down them. She enjoyed walking with her aunt, as her peculiar habits were fun to watch and follow. For some reason, her aunt only travelled in the shadows of the buildings, and avoided the sun as much as possible. Isabella was jealous of her aunt hair though, as it allowed her aunt to blend much better than she could with her white, platinum hair. “Hey Auntie, how come you like to stay in the shade so much? The middle of the road is much nicer and smoother to walk on.”

“It’s simple. I don’t like standing out. Which is pretty hard with you here, Isabella. Hard, but not impossible,” Shavie said with a rueful smile as yet another person took notice of her. “Just your hair alone is pretty noticeable, you know. We could try another of your mother’s concoctions. I’m sure one will last longer than a few days.”

“No thank you. They smell. A lot.” Isabella scrunched her nose at the thought of trying another one of her mother’s weird magic paste. Smelly, magic paste.

“Hm. Maybe I can get you a cloak then. That should help hide your looks then. But that’ll be for later. Are you excited for school?”

“I am! I’m going to make a lot of friends! I’ll have the most friends ever!”Isabella said excitedly as she thought what her first day would be like. So many new friends, new classes, new school! She noticed the castle walls were getting closer. Looking around, she noticed that her new school was much closer to the Library.  “Can we go visit mommy and Auntie Luna?”

“Nope. We’re gonna go straight to the school. You can’t be late for your first day, Isabella. Just head straight over to the Library when your done, ‘kay?” Shavie said with a slight smile as she stopped at the school’s gates; the Library directly across the city square was highly noticeable even from where they were standing. 

“You don’t want to meet my teachers?”

“Can’t. They have a strict rule about student’s and teachers only, unless it’s visiting day. Don’t worry, if you can’t find your way, just ask for help from another student or teacher. Female teacher or student though. It’s the first day of school for everyone, so there will be plenty of people around to help. Have fun, we’ll be at the Library, so just head over when school is done.”

Watching her aunt walking briskly toward the Library, Isabella hesitated to walk inside the building. “I can do this. I can do this. New friends. New friends. Today will be a good day.” Pumping herself up, Isabella walked into Nespe Academy for the first time. 

—-

“I HATE SCHOOL! I WANNA GO BACK TO MY OTHER SCHOOL!” A sharp yell penetrated the halls of the library and startled Stella, who quickly shut the books she was reading with a grimace. Although she didn’t know how much she could trust from reading a historical account of past Human Heroes, it seemed that Isabella might actually have had the Princess Class, as much as she hated to admit. ‘Advanced senses, increased skill and spell acquisition, and insane amount of luck fit Isabella’s circumstances practically to a tee. But why would Paige Alduit give up the class willingly? And why can’t I find any historical accounts of Princesses? I guess I need to tell Luna and Shavie. Maybe Bishner knows something about Princesses as well.’ “Isabella, we’re over here!”

Stella’s heart almost broke in two at the sight of her daughter crying profusely. Was school really that bad? “Hey hey, calm down, we’re here. What happened that was so bad?”

“They they they…” Isabella could hardly even talk through her sobbing. Looking over at the shadows, Stella gave a confused and worried look. 

“They stuck her in a class all alone. She’s in a class of one. Apparently, the Healer Hall let out word that she was going to be a future Cleric, so the school decided to keep her well-protected.” Shavie said as she appeared out of the shadows. “Her protectors are true Clerics and their Guardians, so I had to be wary of what Skills I used. That means on some level the Imperial Family must know, or that Headmistress had more power than we’d both thought.”

“…what are their plans for her Shavie?”

Shavie’s face said it all, her expression dark. “At this point it is more like a prison for her than a school. They have plans to watch us as well, to make sure we don’t run off with their precious Cleric.”

That made no sense to Stella. Who in their right mind would even accept something like that? ‘I don’t think the Queen would do that. So that leaves only Prim. But what is she so afraid of that she’d go to that extent to protect a potential Apprentice Cleric?’ Isabella’s crying snapped Stella out of her thoughts as she quickly went about comforting the girl . Whatever the case, these next few years will be troublesome unless something changes.

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