Eva stalked through the halls of Brakket Academy, trying to ignore the vampire following after her.
He was just far enough away for it to be conceivable that he had his own business in this particular direction. That could be possible. In some twisted alternate reality, it might even be true. However, in her world, it wasn’t something Eva was willing to believe.
Some might call her paranoid. Those people would probably be people she had never really spoken with. People who didn’t know her very well.
The fact of the matter was that if someone looked like they were following her, she was inclined to believe it.
Luckily, a vampire’s motivations weren’t hard to guess at. He would be wanting her blood. Eva had been extremely hesitant in giving Serena blood and she liked Serena. The chance this guy would get some was near zero. She hadn’t had a single conversation with the guy yet and she was already hating him.
“We could just kill him.”
Eva whipped her head to glare at Arachne, half wondering how the spider-demon knew what she was thinking about. Her anger must have been written on her face.
“You can’t say things like that. Especially in public.”
She glanced around. As usual, she was being given a fair bit of space to walk through the hallways. Arachne hadn’t spoken loudly, so probably nobody had heard. Except maybe the vampire. She actually wasn’t sure how good his hearing was.
Serena had said that he was of the August strain. Which, to Eva’s great joy, meant that he did not possess Serena’s mind magic. There was no need to avoid eye contact every time she glanced in his direction.
Augusts were the typical vampires. The ones everybody thought of when vampires came up in conversations. They weren’t bestial. They couldn’t trick people into thinking things were different from reality. They didn’t have the insane insight that some strain called Mekhet possessed. Augusts were nothing more than long-lived parasites on humanity.
Of course, they didn’t view themselves as such. Something snapped in their brains when turned. Whatever their station in life had been, once risen as a vampire, Augusts invariably believed that they were the greatest things to walk the Earth.
Hence the name ‘August.’
It made Eva wonder if the other strains had something obviously wrong with them. Did something snap in Serena’s brain when she turned? Something that made her somewhat obsessed with Zoe and Wayne?
Eva hadn’t asked.
But she figured she should admonish Arachne just in case someone had heard her.
“Besides, even if he is an entitled prick, that really isn’t enough to warrant such an extreme reaction. He is still a student anyway. Not an enemy.”
Eva couldn’t be sure how far his mania would drive him. It was entirely possible that he might get violent if Eva denied him her blood. Everything would be much easier on her if her other stalkers would get a clue and start fighting the vampire for her.
The two girls with eyes implanted in their chests were far from subtle. While it was conceivable that the vampire was merely walking in the same direction that Eva was going, the nuns were stopping at corners, peeking around, sneaking up to junctions or classrooms, and watching.
They weren’t even watching the vampire.
In fact, Eva was relatively certain that they actually bumped into the vampire, excused themselves, and both went their separate ways without noticing. Eva could not fathom how that was possible. To the best of her knowledge, the two hadn’t connected to their Source since arriving. Something that, according to Nel, would have informed them immediately if they were looking at a vampire.
But couldn’t they look at the darkened windows and at least assume that some vampire was running around? Granted, they hadn’t been in the school before the windows were darkened. They might not have noticed the change as Eva had.
With a sigh, Eva considered continuing to ignore both, but she had business to take care of. Some of it was business out in the Infinite Courtyard. She didn’t want either the vampire or the aspiring nuns following her around out there.
Turning down the next corner, Eva walked into the first empty classroom. One of the rooms used for standard elemental magic. Fire magic, judging by the scorch marks around the room. Oddly enough, not a room Eva had been inside before. With all the many rooms around the main academy building and the low number of teachers, it wasn’t surprising that there were a few older classrooms around.
She stayed outside just long enough to usher Arachne inside. They closed the door just in time for the vampire to round the corner.
Such a simple maneuver would never be able to juke the vampire. Especially not when Eva’s blood smelled so different compared to the rest of the students.
But he didn’t enter the room. He did pause at the door. Only for as long as it took to glance over his shoulder at the two ‘sneaky’ nuns coming up the hallway. With ever so slightly narrowed eyes, he continued down the hallway. He didn’t so much as glance through the window on the door.
The nuns were quite the opposite. Both seemed to panic upon finding the hallway deserted save for the vampire and a few other students. Splitting up, one on each side of the hall, they went and peeked through each window.
Right up until one pair of eyes edged over the door window to Eva’s room.
The blue eyes disappeared almost instantly, but not before widening to the size of dinner plates.
Eva just sighed again, taking a seat on one of the tables in the room as the girl called her companion over.
From there, they entered into what looked like a fairly heated argument. Eva saw her own name cross their lips more than once. She wasn’t the best at reading lips through her blood sight, but her own name was familiar enough. The two nun trainees obviously knew who she was.
They took so long discussing what to do just outside the door that Eva was about to stand up and drag them into the room. Unless their plan was to sit around outside all day wondering just what her dastardly evil plans were, they probably had something to say.
Before she could, the two girls finally decided to enter the room.
And they entered… tactically.
The door flung open. One marched in, sweeping her gaze past Eva to check the corners of the room, especially the one behind the door. The second followed right on the heels of the first, though she kept her glowing eyes on Eva.
Arachne, Eva noted, shifted her posture upon seeing the flames burning out from the girls’ eyes. A bit more aggressive of a posture, readying herself to attack them.
Eva wasn’t too concerned. A little, yes. Especially if they could use lightning as powerful as the bolt that had taken out Arachne. However, she was prepared to blink at the slightest gesture from either of them.
If they did attack, she would blink behind them and rake her claws across their throats without hesitation.
But she didn’t think that they would attack. They were still children—possibly even younger than most of the other contenders, now that Eva got a decent look at them—and they hadn’t opened with an attack upon entering the room. Which would have been the smart thing to do if they wanted to take her out.
Worst of all, they allowed the door to shut behind them. As tactical as they had looked while entering, it struck Eva as odd to let the door shut. It cut off an avenue of escape if things went poorly. From Nel, Eva knew that only the higher ranking nuns were taught the ability to teleport. Maybe they had intended to trap Eva in, but they had already been blocking the door with their bodies.
It struck Eva more as a privacy measure than any sort of attack.
Hence her feeling that they wouldn’t attack.
“No one else here,” the girl with curly brown hair said, just barely above a whisper. She spoke more to the second girl into the room than Eva and was clearly deferring to her, waiting to see her response.
Without taking her eyes off Eva, the blond gave a shallow nod.
Eva crossed her legs, swinging them slightly as she sat on the table. Her wide grin was actually starting to strain her cheeks. She had never been a very big smiler. Especially not in recent months as she felt her teeth would unnecessarily unnerve those around her. So she kept her smile subdued around people she didn’t want to unease.
Yet they weren’t talking. Or attacking. Just watching her.
“Well you found me,” Eva said in a slow drawl, mostly so that she could move her mouth. “Congratulations. Was it worth it? Because the only thing you’ve managed to do so far is waste all of our time.”
Which was absolutely true. Professor Lepus’ office hours wouldn’t last forever. She needed to go ask about weather warding.
“Seriously, what was your plan? Did you come in here to fight me? Talk to me? Admonish me for being a demon?”
“We’ve been following you–”
“I never would have guessed,” Eva said, ensuring the sarcasm in her voice could not go unnoticed. “Half the school knows you two have been stalking me. It would be hard to be more obvious if you tried.”
Eva stared, no longer smiling. Her face was frozen in a deep glower. She probably wasn’t doing herself any favors in convincing them to stop following her. Just looking at them was irritating Eva enough to lash out.
“Even the vampire isn’t so obvious in his stalking,” Eva said with a theatrical sigh.
“Vampire?” curly hair said, glowing eyes widening as she glanced towards her partner.
“Trying to distract us. Ignore it.”
Eva actually rolled her eyes. These two gave Eva the distinct impression that they could bump into a grinning Serena and not notice anything odd about her. Not to mention the Nod Complex vampire who seemed to have a much better handle on hiding his presence than Serena.
“If you don’t have anything to say, I’ve got homework to do and need to speak with my warding professor. Not to mention the stupid tournament,” Eva said with only a mild groan.
She still had to meet with whoever else had been chosen from Brakket Academy. Getting into the first match was something of a priority. Ultimately, she didn’t care. However, being exempt from the second event might be worth it. She should have a decent amount of downtime between the first and third events with nothing to worry about.
And if she could bring about the end of the world before the third event, all the better.
“You aren’t acting how I expected.”
Eva blinked as her darkly humorous muses faded. She stared for just a moment before flashing a grin again. “There aren’t many babies around Brakket Academy. Sadly, I have to eat human food instead.”
“Half of what they served us last night was not food fit for people. And I’m not sure what everyone was eating for lunch.”
That actually had Eva letting out a genuine laugh. A short one, but a real one. “I never have any idea what the food is. I think the chef goes on the internet and looks up the most obscure dishes possible.”
Her momentary good humor died off as she stared at the nun before her. “So what’s the deal. Do we need to fight or something? Because I really have zero interest in your… is it a religion or just an organization masquerading as one?” Eva shook her head. It really didn’t matter. “Or are you just going to buzz around my back like particularly persistent flies?”
“Zero interest? You’ve attacked the Elysium Order multiple times.”
“I can think of… one time. And I gave back what I stole that time. Then you people attacked me one time. Any other interactions have been either incidental or you’ve got me mistaken with someone else.”
Possibly Ylva. Eva had been entirely unconscious and therefore uninvolved with the slaughter of a decently sized group of nuns during the rescue of Nel. Technically she had also caused the riot in the city against the Elysium Order as well. But she was perfectly willing to foist responsibility for that little incident off to Zagan. Especially because he wasn’t even here to defend himself.
Not that he would bother anyway.
“So,” Eva started, slipping off the table she had been sitting on.
She didn’t continue speaking, pausing to watch both girls take a step backwards. Curly-hair actually got an arc of lightning crossing between her fingertips. The sight of which had Arachne rumbling out a low growl from the back of her throat.
Eva raised her hands to her chest, palms out. A move she hoped was a universal placating gesture. She had not been lying; fighting them was possibly the highest item on her list of things she didn’t want to do at the moment. Especially because of the limited hive-mind thing. If she fought them, a million other nuns would probably start crawling out of the woodwork.
Luckily, they both seemed to recognize the gesture for what it was. Neither one of them fully dropped their guard. Eva would have called them absolute idiots if they had. However, the lightning crackling between Curly’s fingers faded away, dispersed harmlessly into the air.
“So I’m going to go. Follow me around if you feel you must, but you won’t find whatever you’re looking for. If you’re here to protect the students or whatever, they have nothing to fear from me. Though I can’t speak for the dozen other demons running around or the vampire one of the other schools brought with them—I wasn’t lying about that.”
The two glanced towards each other, frowns crossing their faces.
Eva used the distraction to slip around them. Where she edged around them, trying to avoid looking like she was going to attack them, Arachne followed with far less subtlety. Her footsteps were heavier than normal and she leered over the two much smaller girls as she moved. Eva couldn’t really blame her. The nuns had been the ones to blow her head off, after all.
Neither girl tried to stop them as they left the room. They didn’t try to follow either. By the time Eva and Arachne reached the end of the hallway, both girls were talking back and forth at a speed that would make an auctioneer envious.
“Pointless waste of time.”
“Maybe. Maybe not,” Eva said. “Hopefully they don’t follow me around anymore. With saying all but the name about the vampire, I’m counting on each to distract the other enough for both to leave me alone.”
“What about your vampire friend? Assuming they believe you, you just set them on a vampire hunt.”
“Well, Serena should be fine. She isn’t wandering around the halls and isn’t from one of the other schools, something I explicitly said. They should focus on the students before Serena. But I’ll warn her later just in case.”
Arachne shrugged with a noncommittal grunt. Her interest in Serena amounted solely to any harm she could do towards Eva, she had confessed earlier. So long as Serena kept her fangs in other people, Arachne wouldn’t blink an eye.
Eva had wisely—in her opinion—neglected to mention the teleportation incident.
Momentarily free of both the vampire and the Elysium Order trainees, Eva stopped her aimless wandering through the halls. She headed straight towards the warding room.
Professor Lepus was still inside, much to Eva’s relief. It had been getting close to the end of her office hours. From outside the room, Eva only had her blood sight to tell what she was doing.
Namely, sitting at her desk in the office attached to the classroom. Her hands whisked across what Eva assumed were sheets of paper. They moved fast enough to be a blur. The way her eyes twitched across the paper was almost dizzying.
And her heart. Someone in the middle of a marathon wouldn’t have a beat rate so fast. There was a student at the feast of the schools whose heart was beating faster than any human heart. Even that looked like it wasn’t moving compared to how fast the professor’s heart was currently beating.
Eva burst into the classroom and the attached office without so much as a single knock.
The second she opened the office door, everything seemed to warp. Professor Lepus’ heart dropped its speed to what Eva would consider normal for someone who had just been startled by a demon bursting into their room. She stared at Eva over the bridge of a pair of reading glasses. Her eyes started wide before narrowing to angry slits.
“Was there a reason for entering my office unannounced?”
“I just…” Eva stared, trying to figure out how her heart could possibly have been beating so fast without killing her. Unfortunately, she couldn’t exactly say that she had seen her blood. Anderson knowing about her blood magic was one thing. Wayne and Zoe another.
Really, she was lucky that demon blood was black or everyone would put two and two together. Or would they? Even if people saw her turn the blood to crystal, would they really make the connection? After all, where would all that blood have come from?
Obviously, she hadn’t been doing any blood magic. It had been a demon thing.
All the more important to keep it secret while she could. Especially because the nuns probably suspected at the very least. She didn’t need to give them another reason to chase her around.
“Are you alright?”
“Perfect,” Lepus said with a terse frown. “Did you have a reason for intruding in my office?”
“This is still open hours, right?”
Her frown lessened slightly as she nodded her head. “I prefer a knock next time.”
“I’ll try to remember.”
“See that you do.”
There was a slight pause while Eva stood around, still trying to figure out just what had happened. The professor said she was alright and who was Eva to disagree. Sticking her nose too far into more problems would just add to her workload.
Deciding not to pursue the matter further at the moment, Eva took one step into the room.
Only to find Professor Lepus glaring at her once again. “Your friend can wait outside,” she said, flicking her eyes towards Arachne. “It is bad enough that she follows you around all day. However, my open door policy is for students only.”
“With everything that’s been going on, she’s just been a little protective,” Eva said before turning to Arachne. “But I’ll be fine. Keep an eye out for the vampire or the nuns and politely scare them off if they wander by.”
“Professor Lepus isn’t going to attack me.” As Arachne opened her mouth, Eva held up a hand. “I’m one room away. In the extraordinarily low chance that she does decide to attack me, I’ll just shout out for you.”
Arachne actually glared at Eva for a moment. Not long. And not a very harsh glare either. She turned a far more vicious look towards the professor before storming out of the room.
Eva just sighed as the door closer did its job closing the door. “Sorry about that,” she said, moving up to take the seat on the opposite side of the desk.
It was the first time she had been inside her warding professor’s office. Unlike her classroom, which was fairly spartan, the office was well decorated. She had several classical looking paintings hung up around the room. The most prominent of which was of a fairly empty landscape with a bunch of melting pocket watches.
Eva only got to glance around for a second before Professor Lepus started speaking.
“Vampires,” she said with a disbelieving huff. “I remember when this institution had some integrity. Dean Halsey’s mismanagement threw much of it in the trash. Turner’s questionable associates didn’t help. Don’t even get me started on Anderson.”
Eva kept her mouth firmly closed. She was not interested in any kind of rant on the school’s staff.
Seeing that she wasn’t about to continue her discussion, Professor Lepus sighed. “Anyway, did you need something?”
“Warding help, actually.”
“That is my specialty.”
“I’ve been working on a bit of an extracurricular project. An experiment, though really only to test myself. I need to create a large ward to keep out rain and snow.”
Turning to a large grandfather clock to the side of her desk, Professor Lepus nodded her head. “Alright. Four minutes. I will teach you the necessary thought patterns. After that, actually constructing the ward will be up to you.”
Four minutes? That was almost no time at all. She had anticipated spending the better part of the evening with the professor. Then again, she was only going to teach the thought patterns, not supervise the creation of a test ward.
But that should be decent enough. All the practice she had been giving herself in her free time would help.
“Why don’t you tell me how far you’ve gotten on your own.”
“Alright,” Eva said, settling into her seat. She would leave any mention of the ritual out. If asked what the ward was for, it would be to keep the weather out of the cracked roof in a house. She didn’t always live at the dorms after all. Most teachers knew that. One more wouldn’t change anything.