With this single word of mine, a new window appeared in front of me, similar to the status screen. However, this time, instead of the usual tables, there were drawings of lands and oceans. The world map.
It's been a couple of days since the intrusion was first reported and to be honest, there hasn't been much progress since. It was the first time that the [World System] requested for my assistance. Usually, it was the other way around. Since I refused to shut down the system, it was now expecting for me to deal with the 'threat' by myself, raising my privileges. I can accept that. My job as an admin, I guess. But the timing is a little inconvenient.
So far, the only useful thing I discovered was this: an interactive geographic map of the world's territories, showing different data, like demography, reliefs or natural resources. However, at the moment, I did not care about all that. I was much more interested in the two icons that the map was showing.
The first one was a red marker, indicating my position somewhere in the center, in the Middle Continent. The second one was a cross, much farther in the north, indicating the location of my problem, the unknown object. It was situated right in the middle of the North Continent, beyond the ocean, and this raised two problems.
First, the North was the realm of the most infamous beings in the world, demons, and I certainly didn't want to go there.
Don't be mistaken. I have nothing against demons. Demons here are quite different from those of Earth. Here, they were just another species among the others. Well, to be exact, they weren't exactly a species but a grouping of several species. By definition, we called anything that was not a human, an elf or a demi-human a demon. It could be a vampire or a werewolf, just like it could be a dryad.
My problem was not the demons themselves but their ruler. That's right: the Demon Lord. I had completely forgotten about him up until now, but he does still exist.
In a way, being the Demon Lord was just a title. He certainly was far stronger than the others, but in the end, he was still a mortal. If I were to give an example, on one-on-one, I would say that he would last maybe one hour against Yoko, if she's in a good mood. However, if possible, I still wanted to avoid having anything to do with him. Being involved with one of the Great Leaders would bring nothing but troubles. Who knows? One misunderstanding and I might find myself in the middle of a war.
The second problem was the fact that the unknown object was situated in another continent.
The thing is that here in Erthia, most people didn't even know that there were other continents. I had the occasion to see what people called the World map a couple of times now, but it was actually just a map of the Middle Continent.
There are five continents in Erthia, all separated by oceans. However, besides the other Gods and a small elite, this is something that only I know. Each continent was a world on its own, self-sufficient, with little to no interactions with the others. Most people had no idea of what lied beyond the oceans, so I doubt a lot of them would be willing to navigate in unknown seas.
However, good news is that our little virus seems inactive. I was getting concerned about this potential threat, but it's been a few days already, and I haven't received a new report from the [World System]. Furthermore, after checking its position every day, it doesn't seem to be moving. I'm even starting to wonder if it is really a threat.
"Young miss, you're awake? We have arrived!" A loud voice suddenly called out, pulling me out of my thoughts.
"Yes, give me a second," I replied.
Overwhelmed by the recent events, I completely forgot that I was on my way to meet my brother. That's right. For now, let's put aside the intrusion problem, and focus on the present moment. After all, after fourteen years, my school life was finally about to start.
Picking up the single luggage carefully placed between my feet, I alighted from the carriage as I saw the coachman waiting for me.
"It's here," he said with a dull voice.
Surveying my surroundings, I failed to spot any buildings. Instead, there were mountains and hills for as far as the eyes can see. As I was looking across the seemingly endless meadows, a soft breeze ruffled the white petals of wild flowers and a sweet fragrance of honey reached my nose. It was certainly a beautiful scenery. However, it was also very different from what I expected.
"Uhm... There is nothing here," I told the coachman.
"This is as far as I can go," he explained. "Someone should come to pick you up at anytime now, you just have to wait. In all cases, my job here is done."
Without giving me a chance to reply, the coachman approached his horses. After such a long journey, they were exhausted and their neck was lathered in thick sweat. The coachman took the flask filled with water attached to his waist and poured its content on his animals, in order to cool them down. Then, he gave them a small pat before taking the front seat of the carriage, and with a gentle whiplash, he ordered them to move forward. Leaving me behind in the middle of nowhere, the carriage left.
As I watched the vehicle slowly disappear from sight, I started growing restless. I couldn't help but think that the coachman got the destination wrong. These lands seemed like a perfectly wild area, without any human presence. Encountering a magical beast or a wild animal was not particularly worrying me. I was much more concerned by how I was supposed to find the school by myself. I wanted to ask the coachman to wait with me, but I didn't dare to ask. Paid on a commission basis, I could understand why he was such in hurry.
Fortunately, I didn't have to wait too long and my worries quickly subsided as I saw a woman heading in my direction. Dressed in a tight-fitting garment and her black hair swept up into a bun, she reminded me of a lawyer. Distant and professional. However, as her eyes met mine, she greeted me with a warm smile.
"Hello. You must be Lynett, right?" She asked.
I nodded. "Yes, that's me."
"My name is Agatha Kelly. You can call me Mrs. Kelly. I'm the Chief Secretary of the Arcane Academy." She introduced herself. "Are you alone? And is that all you have?" She then inquired, as her eyes fell upon my suitcase.
"Yes, is it weird?"
Mrs. Kelly shook her head. "Not weird, but rare," she explained. "Usually, young nobles are always accompanied by one or two attendants. They also have this bad habit of taking too many luggages with them."
I see her point. It was true that I didn't have a lot of personal effects and I couldn't bring Ivy with me.
The Academy allowed young nobles to bring one attendant with them -two for the richest- provided that they would also be enrolled in the school. While they didn't follow the same classes as their master, they were still considered students of the academy. Such a practice wasn't rare.
Usually, in order to build loyalty, noble families would take in young orphans or children sold by their parents at a very young age and made them become attendants of their children, which is why most of the time, masters and attendants are about the same age. Not in my case though. Ivy, my attendant, was originally a maid. As I grew older, my uncle didn't bother hiring someone new and just changed Ivy's job, so I couldn't bring her with me. Already in her forties, she was clearly past the age to go to school.
"So, shall we go?" The chief secretary proposed with a gentle smile, as she invited me to follow her with her hand.
"Is it far?" I asked. "I can't see the school anywhere."
Seemingly amused, Mrs. Kelly chuckled. "Don't worry, we won't have to walk a lot. In fact, we are already here."
I tilted my head to the side and squinted, trying to study her expression. She didn't seem to be joking. So what? Is the school hidden or something?
"The Academy is protected by a barrier," Mrs. Kelly then started to explain, confirming my assumptions. "It may not look like this, but this place is actually infused with mana and attracts a lot of magical beasts, so the headmaster created a barrier to protect the school from a potential attack. It also avoids unwarranted visitors."
She marked a pause, as she showed me the sterling silver ring placed on her pinky finger. "You'll need this to enter the barrier. It's a proof that you belong to the school. Every student and every staff member here possesses one. You'll receive yours as soon as your enrollment is completed, but for now, I'll have to ask you to stick with me. Alright?"
Mrs. Kelly extended her hand in front of me, clearly expecting me to take it. At my age, it was pretty embarrassing to hold hands with someone else, but it couldn't be helped. With a simple nod, I took her hand and she guided me to the path she had taken through the meadows to meet me.
After only a few seconds, similarly to the time where Harri used his barrier, I felt the atmosphere change as it became a lot heavier. It was as if I just left an air-conditioned room and was now assaulted by a sudden heat wave. It was clearly not a pleasant feeling.
"Don't worry, you'll get used to it," Mrs. Kelly said, as she saw me wincing, before letting go of my hand.
Taking another look at my surroundings, I could finally see it: the Arcane Academy. Mrs. Kelly didn't lie. It was here the whole time, just before us. As we approached the gates, I felt the excitement slowly building up within me and soon became unable to hide my enthusiasm, a broad smile drawing on my face.
Mrs. Kelly chanted an incantation and the gates immediately opened, offering a view on the Academy. Buildings and facilities made out of stone were scattered throughout the main campus. Made of pointed arches, buttresses and rib vault, they gave off a strong gothic vibe.
"Welcome to the Arcane Academy!" Mrs. Kelly announced enthusiastically. "So, what do you think?"
Her hands joined in front of her chest, she looked at me with bright and expectant eyes. She almost seemed like she was the one who was about to join the school.
"It's huge," I answered. "Much bigger than I thought. There are also a lot of open spaces, it's pretty nice."
"Right?" She exclaimed. "Everything was designed for the students' comfort! Each structure was ingeniously placed in order to avoid the pupils to walk long distances and each department possesses their own internal structure. However, it hasn't always been like this. It started from nothing. When it was first built, the Academy only had one library and one building. Lectures, classes, laboratory work... Everything was done in the same place!"
Lost in her own enthusiasm, Mrs. Kelly started to tell me about the incredible history of the Academy. Clearly, she took her pride in this school and was really keen about her work. However, while I thrilled to discover this place, I didn't share her excitement. I've never really been passionate about history. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I simply feigned listening to her.
"But enough about that," she finally said, after what seemed an endless monologue. "I'll have someone show you around later. For now, I'll take you to your room. After such a long journey, you must be tired, right? It mustn't be fun to haul your luggage around."
Mrs. Kelly invited me to follow her as she guided me across the school. It must have been time for classes; we didn't pass a lot of students. Only a few were out, studying on a bench or discussing with each other. However, although I only saw a little, I was glad to notice the racial diversity among the students. Growing in a human kingdom, I wasn't used to see this many non-human races. Actually, if it wasn't for my mom, Yao, and the other rare demi-human slaves, I would have almost forgotten that there were other races.
After walking for a while, we stopped in front of a large building made of concrete steel sheets.
"This is your dormitory. Your room is on the second floor, number 24. You'll be fine, right?" Mrs. Kelly inquired, as she handed me the key of my room.
"Good. I need to inform the headmaster that you have arrived," she added. "Take your time to unpack your suitcase and get familiarized with your new environment. I should be back in ten minutes."
Mrs. Kelly excused herself and left, returning in the direction from which we came.
Dragging my luggage behind me, I entered the dormitory. The first thing I saw was an old staircase twisted in a perfect spiral. Although it looked worn down and tired, there was absolutely no trace of dust. I placed my hand on the wrought-iron banister and walked swiftly to the second floor, as the stairs creaked in complain with each step I took.
It didn't take me long to find my room. I ventured into the hallway and stopped in front of the door numbered 24, before unlocking it with the key Mrs. Kelly just entrusted me.
The room wasn't really large, but it still appeared somewhat spacious. Two neatly made beds pushed against the wall, a bureau and a straight-backed chair, a dresser with a gilt mirror over it, and one window curtained with white cotton cloth. The decoration was minimalist. However, judging by the draws overflowing with clothes and the few books placed on the desk, this room already has an occupant.
"So I have a roommate..."
Solely base on the decoration and the clothes, it was hard to determine my roommate's gender. He was either a modest boy or a boyish girl, although I'm pretty sure it's the latter, since I don't think the dormitories are mixed.
Looking around, trying to find more information, my eyes eventually fell upon the books stacked on the desk. They were all science textbooks -mostly math and physics. It seems like my roomie is a nerd. I browsed through the first page of one of the notebooks left here and immediately found what I was looking for: my roommate's name. Nomi. Yup, definitely a girl's name.
"What the heck?"A voice suddenly exclaimed.
I shifted my gaze toward the door, where someone just entered. It was a young girl, as tall as your average sixteen years old. Her eyes were grey, glistening like sparkling diamonds, and her long purple hair was tightly tied into a ponytail, revealing long ears pointing toward the ceiling. She was an elf; the first one I've ever seen besides mother.
"Who are you and why are you rifling through my belongings?" She inquired, with a slight hint of indignation in her voice.
So this is Nomi. I was completely mistaken; there is nothing boyish in her.
Nomi moved forward with a serious look on her face, clearly upset that someone touched her stuff without her permission. However, her expression quickly softened as she noticed my luggage. "Could you be Minette?" She asked.
"It's Lynett," I corrected her. "And you must be Nomi, my roommate."
Nomi didn't bother to respond. Instead, she gave me a critical look, inspecting me from head to toes. Tilting her head to the side, she kept squinting, as if something was bothering her. I wasn't sure what it was, but it made me pretty uncomfortable. After a short moment, she took a step forward and raised her hand to my cheek. Her sudden action startled me, but I soon realized what she was trying to do. She passed her fingers in my hair, slowly uncovering my ears.
"You're a half."
Nomi placed her hand across her face, seemingly dejected. "First a human, now a half." She complained. "I should have known something was up when they told me my new roommate would be an elf."
"Well, half elf. Is that a problem?"
The young girl flinched. She was about to say something, but the words never came out. Instead, she let out a loud sigh. "Nevermind..."
Nomi walked past me, stopping at the foot of one of the bed, just before she returned her attention on me.
"This is your bed," she explained. "I'll make some space later on so that you can stow away your stuff, but for now you can use the top left drawer."
"Okay," I replied.
"Also, I would appreciate it if you didn't touch what belongs to me anymore," she noted.
"Ah, yeah, sorry..."
Nomi glared at me coldly, still upset. I know I'm at fault here -nobody likes it when a stranger rummages through their things- but isn't she overreacting? I mean, it's just a notebook after all. It's not like there was anything important in it... right?
"Oh, and one last thing," Nomi added, as she suddenly remembered something. "Don't talk to me. Just because we share a room, it doesn't mean that we're friends, okay? I wouldn't want to be associated with a slave's daughter."
Ouch. That hurts. It hasn't even been one hour that I arrived, and I'm already being disliked -by my roommate on top of that. I had prepared myself for something like that. I wasn't so naïve to think that the prejudices would suddenly vanish, just because the Academy accepted students disregarding their race and their background. While the rules stated that students should be judged only for their true worth, it didn't mean everyone shared the school's value. I knew that. Still, I couldn't let it pass.
No matter the prejudices she had against me, she had no right to insult my mother. Whatever happened to her, it wasn't her fault. She was a victim, and if there is one thing I can't stand, it's victim blaming.
"My mother isn't a slave," I retorted.
Or at least, not anymore. However, since Nomi clearly had something against slaves, I omitted to mention this specific detail.
"So what? You're going to tell me you were born out of love, or something?" She asked, half joking.
"Actually yeah, this is pretty much what happened."
Nomi furrowed her brows, not pleased by my answer. For a few seconds, she just glared at me in silent. Then, she let out a stifled chortle.
"A traitor's daughter then. Even better!" She exclaimed with a sarcastic tone.
Obviously, this young lady has human issues. She didn't like the fact that my father was human, and she hated even more the fact my mother, an elf, liked a human, going as far as calling her a traitor. While her hatred toward humans was justified -after all, no one would appreciate having their people captured and traded as trophies- I couldn't help but feel disheartened seeing this vicious circle of distrust and hate.
"You know, humans are not all that bad," I tried to reason her. "You should give them a chance. They have some good people too, like the maids in the residence where I grew. They were all really nice!"
"They're servants. They're paid to be nice. It's just human hypocrisy," Nomi coldly retorted, annoyed by my attempt to advise her.
Although I prefer to tell myself that it's not the case, she does have a point. Even if their kindness is now genuine, it hasn't always been the case. I didn't forget how the maids used to avoid me when I first arrived at the residence. In fact, if it wasn't because they had been ordered to, they would've probably never approached me.
"Well then there is my brother!" I exclaimed after pondering for a while, as I remembered Aoban. Born human but fostered by an elf, he was raised without any prejudices and was the perfect example of an open-minded and tolerant human.
"Unlike me, he is completely human," I explained. "But he is really kind! You should meet him if you haven't already. He is also in this school, his name is Aoban!"
As she heard this, Nomi widened her eyes. "Aoban? As in Aoban Whiteheart? You're that guy's sister?"
"Oh~! So you know him after all! Isn't he a great person?" I asked, suddenly excited to talk about my brother.
But Nomi just burst out laughing, and I felt my enthusiasm slowly melting away as I understood something wasn't right.
"A great guy?" She repeated with a mocking tone once her laugher subsided. "Your brother is a jerk!"
What the... How rude! How could she call him a jerk, Aoban of all people? My brother is the kindest person in the world! First she insults my mother, and now my brother. I give up. No more attempt to reason her and no more attempt to be friendly. She doesn't even like me anyway. I guess she and I will never be on the same wavelength after all.
The door opened, and we both turned our gaze toward the entrance, as a woman walked into the room. It was Mrs. Kelly.
"Uhm? You two have already met each other?" She asked as she saw us. "Well, that's perfect! I'm sure that you will get along well!"
Completely oblivious to the mood, Mrs. Kelly showed us her brightest smile, seemingly convinced to witness the beginning of a great friendship. Nomi and I exchanged a quick glance, without uttering a word. She gave me a meaningful look and grinned in a somewhat provoking way. I sighed.
"Yeah. We're already best friends..."