Surrounded by run down buildings, light streamed out from the single bar through its window frames, appearing like it did not belong in the slum area. Situated outside of the well maintained second inner wall, the slums only followed one rule, the rule of the fist. Seeing how none of the thieves stalking over the roofs or prowling in the streets even dared to look at the establishment, it was easy to guess who ruled over the complete area. Probably not even the king’s guard could control the place so well, in case they had any interest in the poorer quarters of the city, that is.
In case a certain dragon was to see the building itself, one point would stand out specifically. Layered in waves upon waves of enchantments and inscriptions, the building lit the spectral plane up like a small sun, a stark contrast to the tattered out huts everywhere else in the street.
Inside, one of the effects from the various spells quickly showed effect. Each visitor could not recognize the others, a vision obscuring veil covered one as soon as they entered.
Such was the case for the ambassador of the Dragon King, a lively young looking man going by the name of Niruth. Apart from his snake-like eyes and sharp nails, no one would link him to being a dragon. He even smiled when the spell descended, at his level this petty trick as well as all the other inscriptions and enchantments guarding the bar were more or less useless in front of his absolute power.
Nonetheless, he allowed the veil to cover him, he was the guest on this evening and should abide to the rules the owner set.
Inside the brightly lit lounge, many small seating arrangements hosted various men and women hidden by the obscurement of the spells. Talking in small circles or with a certain partner, none of the voices left the golden glowing markings on the ground, although there was still a background noise of people talking, just without any actual words that could be made out.
Taking a seat in front of the wooden counter, Niruth lifted the hood of his mantle, before his eyes drifted across the man behind it.
With an expressionless face, the employee neither paid attention to him nor was he unattentive.
A wave of his hand was enough as a sign, a glass of amber liquid immediately being prepared before him. Appreciating the pleasant smell of the high-class beverage, even the older dragon was tricked for a while before he noticed a familiar presence.
Taking another look at the nondescript man donned in formal attire attending to the bar, a claw reached through space, shattering a veil different from the kind the building possessed.
Lasting for a single breath, part of the mask shattered to reveal a broadly grinning crescent behind the mask of a simple attendant, then the illusion mended itself. Only the eyes of the employee brightened, guessing the identity of the visitor.
Even then - knowing the identity of the dragon - the disguised man continued to polish an empty glass, his attitude still showing how he paid neither attention nor disregarded him.
Finishing his drink, Niruth finally spoke first.
“Aren’t you afraid, staying here? Someone could discover you.
There’s not just one or two countries moving, everyone sent someone. A few might have reached your level by now.”
Playing with his empty glass as well, Niruth didn’t look towards the one he spoke to, yet he still oversaw the surroundings.
“Why should I be worried? I’m just the owner of a little bar. No, nevermind, I’m just employed at one. And for the chicks you mentioned … should I really be afraid of them? They’re not targeting me in the first place, so why bother.
Shouldn’t you take care instead? They’re gathering their forces to snatch some benefits from you.”
Placing down the cleaned glass, the man switched it for another and carried on with the boring task, showing no signs of impatience. Deep inside, disregarding everything else, Niruth slightly admired the disguised fellow.
“I dare say, none of them have a chance to gain advantages from me this time. What they can gain doesn’t involve me. As for snatching something away? I’m afraid not even my king could interfere in this matter, I believe you should know what that means.”
Receiving another glass full of the high class alcohol, the owner’s eyes narrowed for the first time, breaking through the mask with a chilling presence.
“Why are you here? And why bother telling me? I’m not involved in this mess. Tell me what you want.”
Tired of dancing around the actual topic, the masked man no longer denied his position. A matter of this dimension even exceeded his level, and he wasn’t afraid of Niruth in the least, not in his own house. While the old dragon could disregard most of the arrays placed on his bar, the foundation contained some of the real treasures. He wouldn’t start a fight in this place.
“Anyway, call out the guild master. I still have to work, unlike you.”
By now, the unremarkable man summoned another worker to fill in for him, whilst taking out a ruby coloured bottle for himself. The sanguine liquid inside repulsed the dragon, however he was not in a position to criticize the other’s choice of drink.
“What do you mean? There hasn’t been a guild master for a long time now. The [Thieves Guild] is governed by a circle of seats, so there’s no master to speak of.”
Emptying his glass, the unchanging mask replied with a confident manner.
“Cut the crap. There is no way you don’t have any contacts left. If I didn’t get some work done, wouldn’t everyone immediately know which task has been given by his Excellency? Nonetheless, I need a meeting with someone to represent the thieves, and I need my request to be done, there can be no opposition.
Or do you want me to report back your name when I get asked why the missions were a failure? Even if it isn’t his Excellency, you’d still be in a hard spot.
Rethinking everything, I should have killed you off centuries ago when we first met. I would have saved myself so much trouble …”
Turning the cup into dust in a play of mock anger and as a show of strength, Niruth started to put some pressure on his acquaintance.
“Stop it, I’m not that insensitive. Someone to represent them … is difficult. On the other hand, I could organize a meeting with all seats. The rest of it would be up to you then. I take it you have no issue with that?”
Giving in to the demands, the mysterious server raised his hands in defeat. Only he himself knew how much of that gesture was played and how much was serious. Although they knew each others for a long time already, before the absolute strength of a dragon the human knew when he had to stop his antics. Their relationship was just that, a beneficial agreement for both sides.
At the same time, in a mansion located in the noble district, a festive atmosphere covered the whole building. Gathered inside the dining room, laughter and alcohol ran in streams.
Coming from the kitchen, which had a red glowing hearth by now, rows of delicacies and dishes appeared.
As soon as he had returned from the issue he had had to deal with, Luthais got news of the miraculous luck his son and adopted daughter had had while obtaining their companions.
Even the servants received the right to feast as much as they wanted, albeit not in the dining room.
In a merry mood, Galan recounted the events and the younger generation held onto their [Wind Wolf] and [Cerulean Sky Owl], pampering them by feeding them small bits of meat.
“Incredible! Of course I have been wishing you good luck, since the first partner is always a bit special, but to think you managed to obtain three beasts! This is simply … incredible!”
This was not the first time Luthais praised the two, he couldn’t help but be elated at their future prospects.
Especially after he appealed to the royal family to obtain two [Blood Lion] cubs, the official symbol of Leandar. As natural rank seven monsters, each descendant to the direct line has the right to possess one. For Henry, who shared a maternal ancestor with the royal line, it wasn’t unreasonable to get granted one, yet they were still turned down, one of the reasons why Luthais hadn’t placed much expectations on his son getting a monster partner and agreed to delay the selection when Henry started attending the academy.
But now he obtained a supreme beast as his companion, not one but even two steps higher! A natural beast of the eighth step with hopes to reach the ninth!
“Ah, I can’t eat another bite anymore. As always, you prepared a fine meal, even the royal kitchen can’t make anything better.”
Faced with the praises of the head of the house, Galan’s wife only laughed and declined, far too modest to compare herself with the best cooks in the country.
“Henry, Nisha, I know you are excited to spend time with your new companions, however tomorrow starts the enrollment period and lessons at the academy. While Henry already knows the procedure, it’s not good to skip lectures, so I trust you will not be absent throughout the first week. You will still have enough time to get familiar with your griffin and owl.
And for you Nisha, the first week is reserved for new students to arrive at the academy. Which means in practice, all new nobles attending will have to hand over their enrollment papers and get issued a student badge, and pick the lessons they want to attend.”
Making sure he held their attention, Luthais emptied his cup before he continued.
“Traditionally, for the first three days only nobles will finish their filing, with the general rule that the less important people will sign up earlier and the prestigious families later on.
You can pick any date you like to enroll, among the first three days, as far as I am concerned. As part of a duke household, there are very few people that could dispute this.”
Refilling his glass with the remaining wine in the bottle, his face gained a slight red hue. So far, Nisha had never seen him drunk, a sign how happy he was today to let himself go to this degree
“During the next two days, the scholarship students usually are instructed to complete their enrollment. While signing up later on is an expression of prestige, the first to go will be able to pick the courses they like, so the order is only adhered to within a social class.
There aren’t that many gifted youths who obtain a recommendation, but their social value is still vastly above commoners, so two days are reserved for them.
Lastly, the commoners, usually coming from a rich merchant household or similar situations, who are able to afford the tuition for the royal academy, get the last day of the week before the Day of Light to finish. During this period, the lessons won’t start, so you have a slight advantage, Nisha. Take this week to familiarise yourself with your beast. Because starting from next week, the lectures will usually keep you occupied till the afternoon, unless you take lessons pertaining to Dungeon Exploring or a monster related profession, you can’t spend much time with your wolf.”
Stretching his arms and yawning, the head of the house rose from his seat.
“Alright, you two can discuss how you will start the new term, I’ll go and rest first.”
Similarly, Galan and his wife excused themselves, leaving only the two youngest inside the dining room, Annabelle and Lydia already left earlier to settle into their old room.
“How about it, are you looking forward to attending the academy, Nisha?”
Interested in her perspective, the young man finished his meal, feeding the last remaining bits to the owl who cried in happiness.
Mirroring his actions, the dragon relinquished her leftovers to Lia, who wolfed them down.
“I’m looking forward to learn new stuff. When I lived in the forest with Grandpa Eldrin, we only had a few books and only grandpa could teach me about general knowledge. Now I can choose from a whole range of teachers and topics that interest me, so I’m really looking forward to it. And grandpa also wished for me to go there, he said I could really benefit from the experience.
All in all, I’m mostly curious and a tad excited.”
Petting the small canine in her lap, who showed her belly to get stroked, Nisha offered her step brother a half smile, imagining what new and exciting adventurers awaited her.
“It’s good that you don’t think attending the academy is a chore. Most of my friends used to hate going there and often just skipped or slept in the lessons.
Don’t be discouraged if others don’t take the lectures as seriously as you and give it your best.
I knew I would succeed the House some day and worked hard right from the start, while the others took at least a turn before they realized how important learning the right skill set is.
Tomorrow I’ll bring you along to give you a small tour, I only have to pick some general courses anyway, most of the classes from last turn(term?) still go on.
Sleep well, Nisha.”
Ascending the stairs after leaving the dining room together, the young noble parted with her, heading for his own room on the second floor.
Nisha couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come and practically dived into her bed, still holding onto Little Lia like a plush toy. The wolf didn’t complain and snuggled closer to her master, enjoying the subtle aura and mana radiating from her body. While she was still small, she could easily stay inside the house, therefore she enjoyed staying with the dragon for now, who quickly drifted off into the realm of dreams.