It was cold, which was to be expected considering that the entirety of the campus grounds was located on a high plateau, in the midst of the continent’s largest mountain range. It also didn’t help that winter had only ended just last week, though many of the students were quite disappointed that there wouldn’t be anymore snow falling every other day as it had been for the last two months. Now, instead of being coated with a layer of beautiful, powdered snow, the ground was simply wet, which only made it slightly less dangerous for Lucy and Rosseau to be cantering down the steps leading from the Headmaster’s Court.

Lucy glimpsed ahead every few steps, the sight of a few, scattered students whom were pacing down the cobblestone paths, trying to find their respective buildings had caught her eye. For a moment, Lucy thought a bit low of them until she realized that without Rosseau, she herself would probably be lost on how to find their classroom from here. The campus itself was vast with open space, and the architecture of the buildings so beautifully constructed—their dark lavender roofs particularly outstanding without the snow to hide them away.

Lucy and Rosseau continued to make their way to class, cutting across a field of grass towards the colonnade which made up the whole western border of the campus. Pacing through it, Lucy could see between its columns the miles of plains extending away from the mountain’s base below. She could also see the expansive village which most of the students journeyed to during off-days. It was really the only place to go when one wanted to get away from campus, though Lucy herself had never felt such a need. No, seeing all this, Lucy was only reminded of how much she loved being here. But this time her excitement was short-lived, the deal she had made with the Headmaster loomed ever present in her mind. It had only been two months since she arrived, but there was still so much to experience at Greidwhen.

The jarring sound of Rosseau opening the door before them brought back Lucy’s attention. Heading through, Lucy recognized it as the correct hallway that lead to their class, though it was the first time she had come through this way and not from the main foyer as usual. Turning a corner, Lucy noticed Rosseau’s breath of relief upon seeing the classroom doors still opened. The lecture had not yet started.

Coming upon the doors, Lucy noticed as a few other late-comers seemed to glance at her, trying their best to stifle a laugh as they passed into the room. Rosseau picked up on the group’s peculiar behavior as well, speeding up his pace towards them, but before he could pass into the room to confront them, a faint blue glow coming from the other side of the door had caught his eye. Rosseau grabbed the door and swung it closed to see what was on the other side. Catching up, Lucy studied the glow as well, realizing it to be a message charmed onto the face of the door…

Lucy Hardtvelt is in this class!
Leave immediately if you don’t want to
be blown up by another one of her
rogue spells!

Lucy felt her stomach drop as a few trace laughs from behind the door caught her ear. Were they laughing about her? Surely everyone had seen the message? And worst yet, the fact that it was still here meant nobody at all had felt the need to erase it.

“This has Nora written all over it,” Rosseau stated, flustered. With a fast wave of his hand he caused the message to dissipate. “Don’t mind it Lu’, you know Nora is as arrogant as they come,” he tried to console her.

“Yeah…” Lucy managed to mutter, her gaze lowered away from her partner.

Helpless to say anything else, Rosseau moved to open the door, trying his best to keep Lucy from feeling pitied as well as managing his own anger. Before he could even move it however, a voice called out to them.

“Yoo-hoo~! Lucy~! Rosseau~!”

Further down the hall, a girl with long, snow white hair and a proud yet devilish smile on her face approached the two. Her eyes were like jewels and her face, flawless, though to both Lucy and Rosseau she might as well have been the ugliest girl in the academy.

“Nora…” Rosseau spat bitterly, closing the classroom door with a hard, audible slam.

“My-my Rosseau, is something wrong?” Nora asked with a sarcastic innocence. “Ah, Lucy!” she turned her attention. “I never got to thank you for cutting our morning class short today! Much better than your work in the girl’s restroom last week!”

“It was an accident!” Lucy pleaded. “I didn’t mean for that to happen!”

Nora gave a dumbfounded look. “Oh? And here I thought that you had felt the same way I do about Professor Farland’s lectures. Honestly, always going on about how anyone can become a strong mage with hard work and practice. He doesn’t understand what it’s like to be born to a powerful family… not like we do, right Rosseau?”

Nora looked to Rosseau, whom could well sense the cunning behind her innocent demeanor.

“No, I wouldn’t know anything about that.” Rosseau tried to remain calm. “But more importantly, apologize to Lucy.”

“Whatever for?” Nora kept up her facade.

“For that awful message you wrote about her! There’s nobody in the school who would stoop so low except you!”

“My, Rosseau, I never thought you’d be one to throw around harsh accusations like that. You’ve always been so calm ever since we were children. I’m a bit hurt that you’d think of me in such a way.”

Nora attempted to put on a distressed face.

“And honestly, do you really think no one else in our year could have written that message on the door? Especially after everything our little prodigy here has done?”

Nora’s words cut into Lucy. The thought of the previous laughter she had heard from inside the classroom began to etch at her heart. But it was nothing compared to what Lucy began to feel when she realized that there was no noise coming from the classroom at all now.

“Thats not-!”

“Miss Hardvelt!” an aged voice interrupted Lucy from behind.

Lucy and Rosseau both turned themselves around, immediately giving their attention upon recognizing who it was.

“Professor Borden!” Lucy squealed from shock.

The old professor made an odd noise with his throat as he moved one shaking hand to adjust his spectacles while holding on to few books and papers with the other.

“I’d hope you to remember that while I might be running late, there are still other classes taking place at this moment. And it would be courteous to keep your voice at a respectable level.” The old man ended with pursed lips and raised brows.

“Yes… of course, sir. I apologize” Lucy replied, keeping her head low as to avoid the Professor’s awkward stare.

“And as for you two,” Borden turned his lecturing gaze to Rosseau and Nora, “knowing where you come from, I should expect you both to conduct yourselves in a professional manner.”

“Of course sir.” Nora was quick to absolve herself of any wrongdoing.

Rosseau remained silent, a heated feeling rising in his stomach at the professor’s remark which was only a few words short of being a direct remark about Lucy’s social class.

“We were just having a lighthearted exchange as rivals,” Nora followed up. “Seeing as we’ll be opponents in our next Sorcerer’s match,” Nora finished with another smile.

Lucy and Rosseau both had shocked looks on their face.

“Wait… what are you talking about?” Rosseau asked hastily.

With a bubbly smile, Nora procured an envelope from her robe, holding it out to Lucy and Rosseau.

Rosseau quickly snatched it from her hand and surveyed it, recognizing the wax seal as the official one from the Tournament office. Throwing a cautious glance at Nora, Rosseau began to open the envelope.

“After our lecture was cut short this morning, I figured I’d go to the Tournament office to see if they had finished setting up the next set of matches,” Nora spoke proudly. “And when I found out that my next opponents were you two, I just had to tell them what good friends we were, and that I’d love to personally deliver your Match Statement to you.”

Having finished opening the envelope, Rosseau read over the letter that was contained inside. Looking it over, his expression hardened. Nora wasn’t lying.

Rosseau handed the letter over to Lucy, neglecting to look her in the eye.

“Well isn’t that just kind of you Miss Straughtvern,” Professor Borden remarked. “If I am correct, winning this match will qualify you for the next segment of the tournament, no?”

“Yes sir, as one of the few participants who has won every one of their matches so far, I only need one more to qualify. I was just wishing Lucy the best, and asked that there be no hard feelings no matter the outcome.”

Lucy barely processed Nora’s story as she read the match statement herself.

Nora was strong. It was a quality of her’s even Lucy had to admit, even if she didn’t like her. But to have to face against her in the next match-

Lucy’s heart suddenly dropped. The next match… the one that she had to win or otherwise be forced to leave Greidwhen. This had to be a cruel prank.

“Lucy…?” Rosseau spoke up.

“Magnificent sportsmanship,” Professor Borden commended them. “But alas, it is now time for me to begin my lecture. Come now-“

The professor was cut short by Lucy, whom let out a crying gasp and began to sprint down the hall away from the group.

“Lucy!” Rosseau moved to chase after her but found himself unable to take one more step.

“Now, now, Master Lambourgh, I won’t have two students running out on me.”

Rosseau managed to turn his head, seeing a single one of Professor Borden’s fingers pointed directly at him.

“What about Lucy?” Rosseau struggled to remain polite.

“Nothing can be done about it today,” He answered flatly. “Now then, come inside.”

As the professor withdrew his finger, Rosseau found himself able to fully move again.

“Now come.” Professor Borden said as he walked into the classroom, with Nora following behind with a smirk.

Rosseau thought about running after Lucy once again, but now knew that the professor wouldn’t hesitate to stop him. The thought of Borden’s blatant disregard for Lucy’s well-being made Rosseau sick as he begrudgingly found a seat in the classroom.

Taking his seat, Rosseau looked over to the empty one next to him. He wasn’t stupid, he knew the moment Lucy had come back from meeting the Headmaster that something had happened. But it was clear that Lucy didn’t want him to know, and he accepted that. But now, Rosseau wondered if he was right in keeping his distance on this one.

Rosseau’s thoughts were soon interrupted however, as Professor Borden began his lecture on the different applications of Arcanic Totems and Diamets. Taking notes, Rosseau could only hope that his suspicions were unfounded, and that things were not at all as bad as they seemed…