Chapter 25: Going Off Script 1
The next few days passed normally… or at least, relatively uninterestingly. Louise had her lessons and practice, Nimble Rabbit had chores and several personal tasks, both of them fended off Kirche and Professor Colbert with according degrees of seriousness and irritation, and no revelations or discoveries of note were had.
Louise was a bit disappointed. After the initial brief period to get things sorted out… hardly a day at that… having a familiar seemed to make no difference in her life other than having Rabbit on-hand. Other than finding out some admittedly interesting things about some of the items in the Academy's vault, there had been no breakthroughs in her magic or associated skills, no guiding presence that made the way of the world clear, just a return to the tedium of scholastic life and magical ineffectiveness.
Well, she was having comfortable and peaceful breakfasts, and Rabbit made for a sympathetic ear for her troubles, but those were just about the only benefits… Oh, plus a newly-cordial association with Montmorency, a wary but polite respect (with the occasional glances to check if a certain green-eyed man was nearby) from Guiche, and while Kirche was being just as annoying as always the Germanian wasn't making fun of her quite as much as teasing and flirting with Rabbit… but really, not anything that she had really been hoping for!
Fortunately, it was the Day of the Void, so the day was free to be spent as one wished. Normally she would use the time to just rest, or study more, but now that she had Nimble Rabbit as her familiar she felt that she should… do something. Perhaps head to town and purchase some things for his use? He had been spending some time borrowing some basic alchemical equipment on some 'minor project,' so perhaps buying some for him to use on a more permanent basis? Additionally, having such items around would make it easier if she did decide to see if her own talents leaned in that direction…
"Back in a little while, Miss. Have a small appointment to keep," Rabbit said, disturbing her thoughts.
"Huh?" She glanced at him, and the small flask that he was holding. She had seen him mixing some powder and liquid earlier, which was now in the container, but he hadn't used almost any of the oddly-shaped vials and bowls and tools that he had obtained. "Where are you going with that?"
"Had a… request from a young man a while back. This is what he wanted, so I just need to deliver it is all."
"Oh. What did he ask for?" she wondered, walking over.
Rabbit shrugged, smiling slightly. "Just a minor thing. It was easy to make, but for his peace of mind I figured making a bit of a show would be the way to go about it."
Louise blinked, and glanced back at the equipment which had been stored in a corner of her room. "You mean you didn't even need all of that?
"Not for actual use, no…"
She glared at him. "So you were just wasting Academy materials and time for nothing? Just what is that stuff anyway, then?"
He had to dodge slightly as she went to grab the flask. "It's just a basic mixture of sorts. Not even a true potion. It's just a bit… sensitive in nature of why he thinks he wants it."
Still looking at the bottle, Louise grimaced. "'Sensitive nature'? What in the world are you talking about?"
"A bit of privacy is all. Between fellow men, I suppose you could call it."
"This isn't something obscene, is it?" Louise asked dubiously.
"Not hardly," Rabbit said. "It's more about what he thinks it is than what it actually is."
"Which would be…?"
Nimble Rabbit rolled his eyes. "Really on about this, aren't you, Miss? Fine, fine." He swirled the liquid around, listening to it slosh. "Far as the young man knows, it's to make him braver. In particular, braver about some girl he apparently has taken a liking to."
Louise cocked her head to the side. "That's it? That's your big secret? He can't bring himself to begin courting, so he thinks he needs a potion?"
"More or less," he replied, shrugging.
She shook her head exasperatedly, before glancing at him. "Does it work?"
"In its own way. If he thinks it works, it will... At least as well as anything might. I've made no promise that whoever he's taken to will say 'yes' or such, but so long as he believes it will make him able to just ask in the first place…"
Louise grimaced slightly, but soon enough just nodded. "I see your point, though it still seems suspect. What's he giving you in exchange; I presume you are being compensated in some way?"
"Just some coin, which he offered on his own. Not that I have anything to spend it on, but it's good to have."
"If this is just a placebo, I trust you're not overcharging him," Louise said firmly. "If you do end up needing to make purchases in the future, I should have enough available for anything reasonable."
Rabbit shrugged. "Can't hurt, though. Plus the fact that he does pay goes towards his views of the thing. If he just got it for free he could hardly put trust in it, could he?"
Sighing, Louise just waved him toward the door. "I expect you to return the alchemy equipment as soon as possible."
"Right, Miss," he said. With a quick bow to her Rabbit opened the door and took a step out… only to quickly halt as he was blocked by the presence of Kirche on the other side of the doorframe.
"Don't you have anything better to do?"
"Not particularly. Tabitha has all but barricaded herself in her room as usual, and nearly everyone else has either departed out for the day or found some corner of the Academy to occupy with their own matters."
"As do we, but that doesn't seem to be stopping you."
"Ah, but this is so much more interesting. And just think about the potential gossip I could pick up from this. I wouldn't forgive myself if I had to end up hearing about the results elsewhere when I can see it firsthand myself."
Nimble Rabbit shook his head as the two girls trailing behind him argued, increasing his pace just a bit. Kirche had, of course, been unwilling to simply leave after what she 'had just happened to overhear, by purest chance.' Which led, of course, to Louise coming along as well to keep an eye on the Germanian student. Thus resulting in, of course, the two of them getting into one of their usual... debates.
At least they hadn't picked up any more people on the walk through the halls. Either the remaining students were more interested in whatever they already were doing, or just wanted to avoid getting near Louise and Kirche's raised voices. Speaking of which…
"Right then," Rabbit said, stopping in place and turning around suddenly. Both girls bumped into him before realizing what had happened, and took a step back in confusion.
"Now, not to sound a bit pushy, Misses, but it'd be much appreciated if you'd put a halt on that discussion and hang back a bit."
"What? Why?" Louise asked.
"Since you both decided to come along this far on the delivery, not much that can be done now," said Rabbit. "Thing is, I was asked in confidence, and having the two of you along when I hand over is a bit much, and unprofessional on top of it. I'd like to provide the young sir with at least the seeming of privacy in this. Leastwise he's likely to take off if anyone other than myself is about."
"How clandestine," Kirche said, smiling. "If I didn't already know what was going on… Of course, Nimble. Discretion shall be provided."
"Hmph! I'm surprised you even know the word," Louise sniffed.
The pinkette sighed and nodded. "I only came to keep an eye on Zerbst to begin with. I am perfectly fine with remaining back from the meeting."
"Thank you much, Miss Valliere, Miss Kirche," Rabbit said, bowing to them. "I'd best hurry on, as I'm a touch late as it stands." With that, he jogged off towards the main tower.
After he had passed out of sight, Kirche immediately grabbed Louise's shoulder and began dragging the shorter girl after her familiar.
"Ack! What are you… release me!"
"Oh, come on!" Kirche cajoled. "We'll miss it if we don't hurry!"
"You just said that you would keep away-!"
"Nimble said we couldn't be seen, not that we couldn't watch! Now come on!"
Against her better judgment, Louise allowed herself to be pulled along. While she wasn't as interested in gossip and rumors as Kirche (having often been the target of such herself), she did have a certain amount of curiosity due to her familiar's involvement. At the very least, she wanted to make sure his dealings with other nobles was acceptable. Considering that she had already found the situation to be somewhat dubious already, despite giving him grudging permission to continue…
After regaining sight of Nimble Rabbit, the two of them trailed behind until they saw him approaching someone in a black student's cloak near the side of the central tower. Quickly hiding behind a low hedge wall, they peeked over to watch the meeting.
"Who is that?"
"Hmm…" Kirche murmured, squinting. "I think I recognize him from our year… Antoine? Antin? Antonio? Something along those lines." She tapped her chin for a moment. "'The Pillar' I believe his runic name is, regardless. Earth mage."
"Another one of your… callers, Zerbst?"
"Mmm… no… I've seen him here and there around the Academy, but he's not tried to join my company." She grinned suddenly. "Do you suppose he intends to approach me once his daring has been enhanced? Oh, that would be just adorable!"
Louise just rolled her eyes.
"Oh, don't be that way," Kirche said. "Who knows? Maybe it's you that he wishes to pursue?"
Her cheeks immediately flushing, Louise could only stutter out denials until another voice interrupted the two of them: "What in the Founder's name are you doing, Valliere? Alongside Zerbst, no less?"
Both of them spun to see Montmorency standing behind them, arms crossed as she stared at them. Kirche immediately pulled the blonde girl down behind the hedge.
"What! Why are you-?" she protested.
"Shh!" both Louise and Kirche whispered, and the former continued, "What about yourself?"
"Seeing as this is a public area of the Academy, I don't see why I shouldn't be here," Montmorency replied, a slight smirk on her face. "Though if you must know, I received an unsigned letter asking that I meet the sender here." She frowned for a moment, "It's not either of you who sent the message, was it?"
Kirche grinned, glancing between Montmorency and the men. "You can't go out there!" she said gleefully. "He hasn't taken the courage potion yet!"
"Courage potion?" Montmorency asked, glancing over the side of the hedge. On spotting Rabbit and the other young man, the blonde-ringleted girl frowned. "I cannot believe he would actually… He even admitted that it was a sham of a potion, and he's trying to sell it to nobles?" She immediately stood up and began stalking over at a brisk pace. Louise and Kirche glanced at each other for a few moments, and then started off after Montmorency (though for different reasons) as she approached the two men.
They had already crossed roughly have the distance when they first felt the rumble. In an empty area to the side of the building, the earth bulged and cracked, rising upward in a form that only roughly resembled a human over half the height of the tower, looming over the people below.
Then, with a single wide, deceptively slow-looking swing, it struck the side of the central tower with the force of an avalanche.
Louise and Kirche backpedalled as the giant fist pulled away from the undamaged wall. Even as they stared up at it, the golem was pulling back to take another swing.
"What? How?" Louise sputtered. "That's big enough to need at least a Triangle-class mage!"
"Who cares? Run!" Kirche replied, her panic accentuated by the echoing of another impact on the tower.
"I can't! Nimble Rabbit is over there!"
"And he's more than smart enough to run away from a giant golem!" Kirche countered.
A heavy crash and shaking of the ground, and looking over the two saw that the golem had struck downward at where they had last spotted Nimble Rabbit, Montmorency, and the other student. Dust swirled around the impact site as the two girls' eyes widened. "Rabbit!" Louise cried.
The golem pulled back, turning to face the two of them. Louise started to slump to the ground in shock, but Kirche swiftly caught her. "They're fine!" the Germanian girl said. "Look!"
The dust had settled, and the three would-be victims of the golem could be seen, surrounded by a ring of white stone columns which had apparently protected them. There wasn't any time to be relieved, however, as the construct was now facing the two of them. Its arm rose into the air, likely in preparation for a downward swing.
"Valliere!" Kirche shouted, drawing her wand. The pink-haired girl nodded, pulling out her own as well. As one they chanted: "Fireball!"
Kirche's spell sped out from the tip of her wand and impacted the earthen body of the golem, but other than a blackened scorch mark it was unharmed. Louise's spell, on the other hand…
For a moment it seemed that nothing at all had happened when Louise had attempted to cast the spell. Then, suddenly, a small groove of the golem's shoulder exploded into a cloud of fragments. The construct paused for a moment, seeming to assess the damage.
"That's it?" Kirche asked. "That's barely more than a scratch to it!"
"It's better than what you managed!" Louise said. She pointed her wand again. "Fireball! Fireball!"
The next explosion blasted out a bit of the golem's torso, while the third missed entirely. The hulking form had finally attempted to avoid the spell by staggering to the side, leaving whatever force behind the spell to impact on the side of the tower, cracking it slightly.
"You missed!" scoffed Kirche.
"It moved!" Louise objected, panting slightly from having cast several spells that close together.
"It's nearly half the size of the tower! That's hardly a pheasant on the wing!"
"Would the two of you shut up!" interrupted Montmorency as she and the male student dashed past the two arguing mages.
Louise blinked. "Huh? Wha- Wait! Where's Rabbit?"
"On top of the golem," Montmorency said, smacking the boy next to her in the shoulder and causing him to wince.
"He said that he spotted someone on top, most likely the mage controlling it," he said. "He was going to try and stop them…"
"And you let him?" Louise shrieked.
"This fool didn't just let him, he-" Montmorency was cut off by the crash of the golem's footsteps as it lurched around the courtyard. They all scattered for a moment to avoid being flattened, Louise following the blonde girl as they made for the nearest cover.
"Rabbit is really up there?" she asked in disbelief as they glanced at the golem. Even without Montmorency answering, she could see two people on top of the giant's broad back. Rabbit was crouched on one side, an unrecognizable cloaked figure on the other, both managing to avoid being thrown by their unstable perch. She couldn't make out what was going on due to the distance and movements of the golem, or who had the upper hand in the confrontation… and considering how her wand aim had been just a little bit earlier attempting to help him was more than just a little dicey even if she knew just what Rabbit was doing.
Montmorency's own spoken thoughts mirrored Louise's own: "What in Brimir's name does he hope to do? Facing a mage straight on like that is suicide for a commoner, never mind that they're so high up. He doesn't even have a weapon of any sort…"
"I don't know," Louise moaned. "He might be trying to influence the mage's mind, but I don't know if… what in the-!"
A group of marble pillars had burst out of the ground around one of the golem's feet, angled to entrap it. The sudden restraint caused the hulk to tilt, both of the riders moving quickly in response. They closed in on each other, and struggled with each other before the golem's earthen hide rippled, tossing one of them into the air.
"Rabbit!" Louise shouted, seeing her Familiar flail as he became airborne and over empty space. Gravity quickly took over and he plummeted towards the ground. Reacting instantly, she pointed her wand. "L-Levitation!"
"Valliere, no!" Montmorency was too late to try and stop the pink-haired mage, and both watched in horror as an explosion caught Nimble Rabbit in mid-air halfway into his descent, his body jerking upward from the force before leaving him to continue to drop. The sound as he inevitably crashed to the ground…
Louise didn't notice the golem breaking free of the marble shackle and striding towards and over the outer wall of the Academy. She barely heard the myriad voices around her as she ran to Rabbit's prone form, or saw the glow from Montmorency's wand as hasty healing spells were cast. Even when Zerbst pulled her away to let just-arrived teachers to check on him, all she could see and hear were Rabbit's tattered and singed tunic, his pale unconscious face, and the lingering echo of his body hitting the solid earth.
R&R, C&C, and so forth. Thank you.