ARTHUR LEYWIN'S POV:

"Hey, Art . I thought we were heading to your home; where're we going?" Elijah turned to me after noticing we'd taken a different turn on the way back to Helstea Manor .

"There's a place I need to stop by first . Don't worry, it'll be a quick detour," I answered, quickening my pace even with Sylvie on my head .

Elijah broke into a jog behind me . "Wait up!"

When we reached the destination, I couldn't help but let out a disappointed breath, my shoulders dropping .

"I thought so," I mumbled to myself .

"Xyrus Elixirs? Did you need to buy something from here? It's almost midnight; of course it's closed . " Elijah cupped his eyes over the front glass door, hoping to spot someone inside .

"It's nothing . Let's head back home," I replied . As I was about to turn away from the building, a shiny object, caught in the crevice of the aged alley leading to Xyrus Elixirs, caught my attention .

As I kneeled down to retrieve it, my eyes narrowed . It was an orb similar to the one used on Tess, except, instead of rainbow speckles inside, there were golden flakes floating within . Attached to the small marble-sized orb was a crudely written note:

Your little Princess will probably need this

"What are you staring so intently at?" Elijah leaned over my shoulder to see .

I crumpled up the piece of parchment and quickly shoved the orb inside my dimension ring . "Let's head back home first, Elijah . I'll need to tell my family that I might have to miss a couple more days of school . Go back to the academy tomorrow and tell everyone that I'm okay . " I patted my best friend's shoulder and gave him a reassuring smile in response to his concerned expression .

"Don't worry, I'll tell you about everything after . " With that, Elijah gave me an accepting nod back .

­__________________________________________________________

KATHYLN GLAYDER'S POV:

After finding out what had happened down at the dungeon from my brother, I was shocked . I almost wanted to blame him, to blame Professor Glory, to blame someone but I knew it wasn't anyone's fault .

Arthur is going to be okay, right? He's just that type of person . No matter what situation comes up, he always returns with that lazy smile on his face that, for some reason, calms me .

"You're being foolish, Kathyln," I berated myself as I walked down the marble street to the disciplinary committee room . My thoughts lingered on Arthur as I imagined his grateful expression after heroically saving him… had I been there .

I shook my head, trying to snap out of my delusions . "No, no . It's not my job to look after him . Besides, he already has the student council president . "

A few faint giggles from students passing nearby sent blood rushing up to my cheeks as I veered in another direction .

I'm confident that he'll be okay! I convinced myself . I'm sure of it…

"Gah!" I heaved out before I quickly covered my mouth, surprised that I'd let out such a barbaric sound . After checking that I was alone in the alleyway between two buildings—a shortcut I had discovered to the disciplinary committee room—I exhaled a sharp breath of relief .

Maybe it was from the stress these days as a disciplinary committee officer . I had assumed things would stay quiet after the formation of the committee—almost to the point of wondering if we were even needed—but recently some unforeseen circumstances had been brought to our attention .

Claire Bladeheart, our leader, pulled each of us aside a few days ago . While explaining the cause, she implied that Arthur was an undeniable factor that led to this . I wanted to rebut then, but I decided to hear her out . Claire had been secretly gathering information with Kai, who specialized in stealth . From what she'd explained, it seemed that there was a radical group dissatisfied with the direction the academy was heading toward recently .

This group was made up of only humans, and from the few faces that Kai was able to catch a glimpse of, they were all from rather high-up noble families .

One particular noble that had been spotted was named Charles Ravenpor . His father was on rather close terms with mine, but strictly for business . Father would always grumble in dissatisfaction after having a meeting with Mr . Ravenpor because of how ill-mannered and self-centered he was .

While I was jealous of Claire's unwavering confidence that Arthur was still alive, she was also relieved that Arthur wasn't here at the moment because he was supposedly one of the main reasons this radical cult-like group had started . There was a big faction from this group that thought Arthur did not belong in this academy because of his "humble" background . The fact that he was a professor on top of having the privilege of taking upper division classes fueled the already built-in hatred that some of the envious royal students had .

We weren't allowed to confront them as of yet because of the lack of evidence, and the fact that they hadn't really done anything bad yet, but from the looks of it, there were even some professors of this academy supporting them, making it all the more difficult to rashly make a move .

It wasn't until a few days ago, though, that some of the radical group members started to act . Denton, one of my classmates that shared the same period in Arth—Professor Leywin's class, was the victim . He had actually been one of the students that strongly opposed Professor Leywin teaching a class that was so important in building foundations as this . However, he'd warmed up to him—rather, he looked up to him now .

Hopping up on a storage crate to clear the fence, I looked down at the isolated building of the disciplinary committee . Looking behind, I could see the tip of the statue where Denton had just been found three days ago, battered and naked while hung upside down, for all of the passing students to see, a note covering his privates instructing him to drop out of the 'plebeian's class' if he didn't want this to happen again .

It turned out that he had been taken to one of the narrow alleys between the back buildings and beaten up by the radical group . From what Claire told me, they wanted to "teach" him how to properly use mana, since they didn't really think Arthur was be good enough to nurture the "potential" that he had . Denton ended up becoming a target dummy for various spells when he resisted .

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Director Goodsky was still away so her assistant, Tricia, and Professor Glory had ended up pulling him down and making sure he was okay .

Since then, having no choice but to act on behalf of Director Goodsky, Tricia had been trying to quell the anger from various elven and dwarven parents who thought this had to do with racial discrimination since the victim was an elf .

Needless to say, Denton was taking a break from school for the time being .

Why was this happening? What was the point of doing this? What good did dividing students like this do? Did these students have such low self-esteem that they needed to bring down anyone they thought was better than them to feel better about themselves? Why was it that the more power and privileges someone had, the more greedy they became?Was it naive of me to wish for everyone to just work together for our continent?

To top it off, a dark and gloomy atmosphere had clung to the disciplinary committee room since the accident with Arthur . Claire and my brother hadn't spoken at first, the both of them blaming themselves, while everyone remained frustrated because our actions were so restricted . Now, everyone was on high alert; all of the disciplinary committee upperclassmen were out for surveillance during the morning and afternoon while Feyrith and I took watch in the evening, with one of the upperclassmen helping us out instead of going to class .

Kai tried to find out their meeting spots but as soon as he had a lead, those places would always change . It seemed as if they were always one step ahead of us, always relocating so someplace new .

The professors were useless . Most of them were all talk in front of the dissatisfied elven and dwarven parents, saying they'd do their best to find the culprit, but not being able to take direct action because the human parents were also dissatisfied due to their children being accused of racial discrimination .

In the end, the professors were too tied in their little game of tug-of-war to be of much help . As they tried hard to be on both sides, they ended up being on neither .

That was the problem with a school so heavily funded by the parents of the students . The only one that had the authority to oppose them directly and openly was Director Goodsky, and she was nowhere to be seen .

It seemed as if her disappearance had allowed this radical group to now openly create a disturbance… because she wasn't here to stop them .

I finally made it to the disciplinary committee room and walked up the stairs, the echo of Claire's voice getting louder the closer I got .

"Things are escalating faster than we thought . I had a feeling that this would be the case—the group is trying to create as much of an uproar before Director Goodsky gets back and then go into hiding temporarily after," Claire announced while leaning forward with her arms on the table . The dark bags underneath her eyes told me she hasn't rested since getting back .

I took a seat after everyone acknowledged me with a nod, too frustrated to verbally greet me . I couldn't help but notice it—the seat where Arthur usually sat, empty . But now wasn't the time to brood . I turned my attention back to the group just as my brother began to speak .

"I talked to multiple professors about the situation like you asked, but it seems you were right . None of them were willing to actively help in finding the crux of the problem . They're turning a blind eye to all of this because of our 'lack of evidence,'" my brother reported through gritted teeth, running his fingers through his hair .

"We already know who one of the members of the groups are so why not just take that rat out and interrogate him? I doubt he has the balls to last even a couple of minutes before spilling out some secrets," grunted Doradrea while leaning back in her chair .

"Already tried that but Charles Ravenpor is never by himself these days; he's always surrounded by at least five lackeys . It'll be impossible to take action secretly with them there . Besides, we need to think about our actions from the entire academy's perspective . No matter how many things we could get away with, it wouldn't look good if a student was just taken in by us without proper reason," Kai argued, shaking his head .

Theodore pounded his fist on the table, tipping over a cup of water . "What the hell is the point of having something like the Disciplinary Committee if we can't do anything in cases like this?"

"It can't be helped . We know too little about what this group is planning on doing and more importantly, what they're capable of . We have too little information on them and it doesn't seem like there's only a few of them," Claire sighed as she sat back down .

"…We need to wait for Director Goodsky to come back," I said .

"Of course that would be the best thing to do, but we have no idea where she is let alone when she'll come back," our leader responded .

"If only Arthur was here," I mumbled aloud .

I immediately regretted what I said as my brother's expression turned crestfallen as I mentioned him . They were both there and they were trying to stay strong . After getting the students back to the hospital, my brother told me that Professor Glory was planning on going back down with a reconnaissance team to look for Arthur . She'd said that there's a high probability that he was still alive if he survived the fall because most likely, all of the mana beasts in the dungeon were on the first floor .

"Kat, I'm sorry, but we just can't factor in Arthur as an element . " My brother tried his best to fake a smile .

"…He'll come soon . " I must've said this aloud by mistake because everyone, even Theodore, gave me a pained look .

"Umm, excuse me?"

Every one of the Disciplinary Committee members, including myself, whipped our heads at the unexpected voice coming from the first floor of the room .

It was Arthur's best friend, Elijah .

"Ah, you're Arthur's close friend, right?" Claire, who immediately softened her expression, motioned him upstairs .

"Yes, I'm sorry for intruding . I got to school a bit later than I expected but it's great that you guys are all here . Listen, I know you guys are worried about Ar—"

Arthur's friend was cut off by a series of thunderous explosions that shook even the reinforced walls of this room .

*****************

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ELIJAH KNIGHT’S POV:

Holy c.r.a.p…

What the h.e.l.l was going on? All I did was miss half a day of school; suddenly Denton gets hung up, b.u.t.t-naked, and now a building’s on fire?

We had all just rushed out of the Disciplinary Committee room after hearing the explosion. I thought that it was a spell gone wrong or something of that nature.

This… this looked more like a purposeful act of terrorism. Who would do this? Why would someone do this? What is going on?

“F*ck! it’s them again,” I overheard Theodore say as if he predicted this.

The ‘them’ that Theodore was talking about, was he possibly referring to the same people that beat and humiliated Denton?

KATHYLN GLAYDER’S POV:

I remember one time being lectured as a child by my home instructor. I have little memory of why I was chastised, but from what I was told, I had refused to partic.i.p.ate in cla.s.s with some of the other n.o.bles’ children; apparently, my mother had thought it was a good idea for me to make friends while I was learning.

That hadn’t work out as smoothly as she had hoped it would because I had ended up throwing a tantrum on the first day saying that I didn’t want to make friends with them because they weren’t princesses like me.

Ignoring the kindly knitted words of discipline from the home instructor, I had barged into my room and slammed the door shut, refusing to come out.

Later that afternoon, after the other n.o.ble children and home instructor had left, my mother knocked on the door even though there was no lock.

She sat down next to me on my bed and ran her fingers gently through my hair; even though I couldn’t remember how I responded, what she had said to me left such a lasting impression that, even as a six year old, I can still almost recall her exact words:

“My little Kathlyn, I know you think you did nothing wrong; everyone gets angry and fights for what they believe in. What I want you to know, my little baby, is that before you are a princess, you are a person. It doesn’t matter if it’s a king, a servant, a powerful mage, an elf or a dwarf. A person is a person.

Everyone is different and that is what makes everyone special in their own ways. Don’t hate someone for something that they can’t change. What if people didn’t like you because you had round ears or because you had beautiful white skin? Or a perky little nose?”

She proceeded to tickle me in each of the parts she mentioned, leaving me in a fit of giggles.

My mother was sensible and smart but not in the least bit cold like her appearance sometimes implied. She cared for everyone as people, not as humans, elves, or dwarves. She disciplined my brother and me heavily when it came to any type of discrimination; whether it was social cla.s.ses or races.

All of us bolted up from our seats at the sound of the explosions and immediately headed outside. I couldn’t help but cringe, tightening my fists in both frustration and disappointment upon seeing the disastrous scene laid out before us.

There was a thick cloud of smoke rising from the area near the center of the campus.

Behind me, I could hear Claire click her tongue as she continued to mutter a string of curses under her breath.

Half of the recently-constructed building was up in flames, while the other half was crumbling down, collapsing beneath its own weight. There were students evacuating out of the building while some nearby capable staff members and professors were already going into the building to look for those stranded or stuck.

“I should’ve known they would aim for this building at some point,” Theodore swore aloud as he stomped his foot into the ground.

We hurriedly made our way to the site.

This building was named Tri-Union Hall. It served as both a museum and a monument for the alliance between the three races. My mother, who argued heavily to persuade the rest of the Council to erect this building was the happiest when it was first built.

She had explained to me that it had been built to be both a symbol as well as a place for the three races to learn about the differences in each other’s culture.

For it to have been a target, my a.s.sumption could also only lean towards the same radical group that had been creating a mess these days.

I strained my eyes, holding my tears back.

Claire ordered Kai to go alert the rest of the professors and staff. When she ordered Feyrith and I to help the mages who were already there put out the fire before it brought down the whole building, I couldn’t help but notice his expression turning from angry to dejected.

I almost wanted to apologize, as if it was my fault. Doradrea didn’t seem to take this whole event to heart but I could tell Feyrith wasn’t as emotionally strong. I wanted him to know that not all humans thought like this but somehow the words got caught in my throat. I was never good at expressing my thoughts like my mother… or Arthur.

While supporting the professors that went inside the collapsing building, I spotted the Student Council, minus the President, making their way towards the scene as well.

Without even the time to exchange h.e.l.los, we all got to work, the water attribute mages helped put out the fire while earth and wind attribute mages kept the building from collapsing. A couple of other student mages were already chanting spells in harmony by the time we got there.

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I didn’t use water attribute spells as frequently after becoming accustomed to using the more powerful ice attribute ones but I was still fairly familiar with the spells because of the affinity they had for each other.

“EVERYONE, STEP ASIDE!” From behind, a couple of professors were rushing towards us, wands already pulled out.

After a few moments of mute chanting, one of the professors that taught an upper division magic warfare cla.s.s, Professor Malkinheim, conjured a thick cloud of mist around the whole building.

The other professor, one that I didn’t recognize, supported Professor Malkinheim and used the moisture from the mist cloud, which now surrounded the building, to evoke multiple water streams. The size of these two spells from just two professors were more than three times that of the meticulously prepared spells conjured by over ten students.

Within ten minutes, the monstrous fire was out and other professors were rushing inside while chanting spells which raised support beams made of earth to hold up the crumbling portion of the building.

As expected of professors… they were on a different level.

This train of thought led me to be reminded of the time Arthur had completely overwhelmed Professor Geist before taking over his cla.s.s. Just how strong was Arthur then? What would he do in this situation?

Shaking my head, I reprimanded myself for thinking of Arthur again. Why did he pop into my mind so often? I needed to stay strong for when he comes back.

He was going to come back, right?

I start chanting again when I spot a group of students hastily making their way out of the scene. I thought nothing of it at first until I got a glimpse of the student within the group – It was Charles Ravenpor.

Even from this distance, I could tell he was nervously darting his eyes around as he made his escape from the scene. When his eyes met mine, he quickly whipped his head around and quickened his pace.

Before I had the chance to do something, Theodore, who had been helping an injured student, spotted him as well, and without even a word, augmented his body before furiously dashing towards Charles.

“AAAHHH! Someone help!” Unexpectedly, the group surrounding him did nothing to aid Charles, as he was easily grabbed and picked up by the collar, almost choking; instead they acted frightened.

Keeping my wand at the ready, I followed behind my brother who was also rushing towards Theodore and Charles.

“We need to ask you a couple of questions. If you would so kindly cut the c.r.a.p and come with us,” growled Theodore as he dragged the flailing Charles.

I usually didn’t condone Theodore’s rash behaviors, but this time – excuse me for these crude thoughts – I was hoping he would be a bit rougher with Charles. A small part of me, a very tiny part, wanted to stoop down to their level and use the same barbaric antics the radical group had to make a statement.

However, before Theodore had the chance to do anything else, a voice interrupted us.

“What’s the meaning of this?!” Professor Malkinheim barked as he blocked Theodore’s path.

Professor Malkinheim was of a scrawny build, with his main features being a balding head and a beak-like nose. You could tell the professor was rather conscious of his lack of hair by how he combed back the hairs growing on his side to try and cover up the bald spot on the top of his head.

Professor Malkinheim wouldn’t physically be able to hold someone as thickly built as Theodore down, but he had his needle-thin wand pointed directly at Theodore.

“I should be asking you the same thing, Professor!” Theodore snarled back as Charles, who was helplessly lying on the floor, had a pleading look on his face.

“I wasn’t aware that the prestigious Disciplinary Committee officers were mere thugs that would try to drag an innocent student away,” Professor Malkinheim reprimands as his wand stayed trained on Theodore.

“Innocent?! Ha! This brat has been seen multiple times with the radical group you’ve been having such a hard time capturing. It can hardly be anything short of guilt by a.s.sociation. What, are you protecting a criminal right now?” I could tell Theodore was at his last straw as the ground underneath him started crumbling from his gravity infused mana.

“Eeek! S-someone save me from this brute! I’m innocent! I s-swear!” Charles, who was still on the ground trapped in Theodore’s grasp, started whimpering as the ground underneath him started giving out as well.

“Theodore, I understand how you feel, but this isn’t the right way to do things. Taking in a student without any evidence besides your word will lead to repercussions from parents and maybe even the Council. Please, we can’t afford to be rash right now.” The voice came from another professor who helped extinguish the flames; she got in between Professor Malkinheim and Theodore, trying to quell the tension.

“Professor Genert is right. Theodore, we can’t go out of line right now. Too much is at stake to be reckless. Besides, there are more important things to do than this. We need to make sure that no one had been left inside that building,” Curtis said, his face a mixture of frustration and helplessness.

*Thud*

Wordlessly, Theodore threw the quivering Charles Ravenpor back towards his groupies. He gives Professor Malkenheim one last threatening look before walking away.

Professor Malkenheim just clicked his tongue in response and walked towards the other direction after yelling at the students who were spectating to disperse.

I shifted my glance towards Charles Ravenpor, who was getting carried away by his friends.

His disheveled bangs were covering most of his face but I swear… I saw him smile.

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