Prologue

Cattleya twirled, letting her dress spin outward far more than what was respectably lady like. Not that she cared mind you. Never before in her life did she have the energy to twirl like this. Her heart wasn't throbbing, her lungs didn't burn, and head didn't swim. She could walk and run and dance and laugh and be alive.

In all her life, she never once had understood how great being healthy was. She had dreamed of it, sure, but never understood until now. Until little Louise had summoned her as a familiar. Appearing in that summoning circle had been surprising, but not enough to stop Cattleya from recognizing the ritual. Nor was it enough to stop her from kissing her sister before Louise could back out and get expelled. She didn't regret her decision then, and she certainly didn't now that her diseased body was gone. Smiling, Cattleya looked across the room to where Louise sat at her desk, moping. Poor girl. Louise was always too serious for her own good. Sure a noble summoning another had never happened before. Sure, when mother learned of this she would be furious initially. But the affair was just in the Valliere family so there would be no real political fallout and mother would calm herself when she learned of Cattleya's improved state.

Gliding across the floor Cattleya came to a stop behind her little sister and looked over Louise's shoulder. The girl was reading some parchment. Old parchment from the looks of it. Though Cattleya stopped herself from reading her sister's private things, she did recognize the hand writing as their mother's. Well, that explained her sour mood at least. "Louise," Cattleya began, formulating a plan to cheer her sister up, "I know that these next few days will be hard but I'm sure everything will be fine." Louise tensed. "Mother can be difficult to deal with, but just let me explain everything to her."

The paper crinkled in Louise's hands. "Go away." The words were soft. So soft Cattleya wondered if she had heard them at all.

Reaching a hand forward, Cattleya stopped just short of her sister's shoulder and shied away from the tensing girl. "Louise. I know this situation is unique, but this proves that your magic can work!"

Despite Cattleya's inspiring words, Louise bent over, her whole body tensed. "Go away!" She all but yelled, not once looking back to her elder sister.

The floor creaked when Cattleya took a step back as if struck. Louise... Louise had never treated her poorly. Louise had always needed her, wanted to be together. Whatever mother's words were, the strict woman had obviously crossed the line. With as much grace as her hurt heart could muster, Cattleya turned and left the room. Time. Her sister just needed a little time to calm down. Cattleya nodded. Maybe she could go get some sweets from the servants. Louise's sweet tooth was always a good path to her heart.

Mind set, Cattleya began her exploration of the school. Exploration, rather than journey being key mind you. Cattleya had never been to the academy. What little training in magic Cattleya got was done by tutors, and even then it was mostly theoretical. Even Louise was probably a better mage than her. With a grin Cattleya turned the corner, mindlessly wandering the halls. A couple stood talking in the archway to the outside. Ah, maybe they could help? Cattleya moved toward the two and made to speak, only to stop when she overheard the boy. "Can you believe the Zero? Failing even the summon servant spell?" The two laughed and Cattleya's face soured.

Louise had hardly failed; she was just a little unique. Were Louise's classmates so entrenched in their mean-hearted dismissal of her sister that they would demean her regardless of the outcome? One side of Cattleya wanted to argue with the prat, but her wiser self noted that such actions would only cause more problems for Louise. She would let it slide for now, but once this whole summoning mess was cleared up she had a bone to pick with this one. Turning up her nose, Cattleya walked distinctly passed the two, letting her regal air do her talking for her. Though she couldn't look back lest she ruin the display, Cattleya was sure her rampant disregard for the two sent shivers up their spines.

Hiding her smile, Cattleya soon found herself in the cafeteria. Though the hall was clean, a great commotion could be heard from the back. No doubt the kitchens were still busy with life. It took a lot to clean up after the feast to celebrate the summoning of familiars. Gliding over, Cattleya sat patiently by the open air window to the cafeteria. It wouldn't do for a lady to enter the kitchen, but the servants would surely notice her in time and ask how they could serve. Though she wasn't a student, Cattleya was helping one.

So Cattleya waited, and waited. And waited. Once again Cattleya found her face was frowning. Honestly, she wasn't sure how pampered her life was. At the Valliere estate there was an entire staff to help her; she had assumed servants still helped nobles elsewhere. Was she being presumptuous? Raising a finger, she tried to call into the kitchen as a maid passed the window. "Excuse me-" The maid continued without response, too focused on the trays she carried. "Ma'am?" Another ignored Cattleya. The cacophony of sound within the kitchen didn't help matters. Several times the shouts of the head chef completely drowned out Cattleya's requests. It was the sour expressions of the servants that finally whittled away at Cattleya's resolve.

With more than a bit of dejection she left to return to Louise. The servants couldn't outright deny her as a noble, but she was far overstepping her bounds trying to bother them from their duties. Never before had Cattleya felt like such a spoiled brat. It wasn't like she was being selfish... She just wanted to help Louise. A little bit of Cattleya's cheer returned at the thought of Louise. Enough time had passed for Louise to calm down. Sweets of no, all she needed to do was give her sister a great big hug and everything would be okay.

By the time Cattleya had found her way back to Louise's room she was trotting. She was so eager to see Louise that Cattleya didn't even knock before entering. "Louise I-"

Cattleya's words died in her throat. Across the room Louise stood next to her desk, holding the letter near the candle, no doubt intent on burning it. "You." Louise's voice held such accusation it stole the glee from Cattleya's heart. Angry as she was, Louise crumpled the parchment in her hand and stepped toward Cattleya. "Just leave me alone! I'm not going crazy!" Tears formed at the edges of Louise's eyes.

Wide eyed, Cattleya searched for any way to comfort her sister. "Of course Louise. Why would you say such a thing?" Cattleya took step forward, arms outstretched to welcome her sister.

Louise's foot fell back a step against her will, trying to keep Cattleya at a distance. Gritting her teeth, she bit out, "You know what you are. Just leave!" Taking another step backward Louise stumbled into her desk.

No longer pained by Louise's words, Cattleya only worried for her. "Louise, it's me, Cattleya. Your sister. I love you. So just calm-"

With teary, panicked eyes Louise snapped, "You are not my sister!" Throwing the paper at Cattleya, Louise screamed. "You are dead!"

The old, weathered parchment passed through Cattleya's ethereal body. Looking down, Cattleya spied the parchment flutter to the floor. Upon it her mother's formal writing told a tale long passed.

"Daughter. I regret you could not be here, but Cattleya has passed away."
-Karin Valliere

Short, succinct, and utterly direct. Karin's handwriting reminded Cattleya of the day she had died.

Twelve years ago.