Strawberry And Knight

Chapter Three

A Duel's Worth

[The Familiar Of Zero Did What?]


Jean de Colbert woke up with a startled grunt of surprise.

Papers flew everywhere off of his desk and his many sensitive contraptions jittered and rattled from his abrupt movements. With startling haste of panic, the man looked everywhere for his long wooden staff - it had been resting to the side of his chair but was promptly knocked over upon his awakening - and he leapt for it on the ground.

Clunching onto it for dear life, the balding man lashed out and targeted his magical foci... only to find that there was nothing in front of him save for his usual - more like unusual - gadgetry of various ticks and tocks or chemical pips and pops.

In half exasperation and half relief Colbert slumped onto the ground, drenched in sweat, and let out a groan as he scrunched up his face and pinched his forehead.

'Well now...' he thought to himself, '...that was certainly a very realistic dream.'

The professor removed his fingers from his forehead only to pinch his nose in return. He calmed his breathing and then stood up to clean up the mess he had inadvertently made - he was rather grateful that nothing had been broken or accidentally set off to explode in his haste.

As always, it seemed that Colbert had fallen asleep at his work-bench while tinkering around. That, of course, somehow led to having that terrible dream he had just woken up from.

For some reason the professor had found himself facing against the young Valliere's familiar. Back again, yesterday, at the grassy field but this time there was a grand fire devouring all in its hungry spread whilst smoke and ashes clogged the air in thick blackness, corpses all around - so many of them - with the blood pooling and cascading everywhere with a dark glimmer... and the armored knight just simply stood there unfazed by anything as it stared down at him.

Judging him.

Colbert frantically looked left and right and noticed that he wasn't actually outside the school ground. No, there were burning houses and silent screams from the flickering flames - the layout resembled that of a small settlement.

...This dying place, he recognized it as D'Angleterre, for it was the very placed that he had personally helped burned down with his own hands.

His eyes widened as he view panned across the various charred bodies - many blackened to the flesh and bones from the raging fires - and to the few that were still reasonably human-looking and healthy - if not for the fact that they were also dead. "No..." he whispered. His orders were false, there was no plague here, this entire mission was a mistake. "No...!" Innocent people had died because of him.

Colbert's eyes found themselves back to the knight's own.

Judging him.

The huge black sword was in the Familiar's hand; poised and ready for the kill. It was his executioner.

'So... this is the end?' All Colbert could hear around him was the continuing noise of the ever-engulfing flames. 'Perhaps I should have died that day...' though he knew that his single life would not appease the many already gone. This event was the greatest shame and regret in his life that continued to haunt him even now. Why had he endured it all for so long? "If you're going to kill me then just do it." He couldn't remember, it hurt to remember, the feelings of guilt stabbed and weighed down on his heart. "End it!"

But then he heard a voice.

"Save... me..."

The weak voice of a child.

Colbert gasped as tears dripped from his eyes. That's right, he remembered now. There was a still a survivor in this burning village, a child who was barely hanging onto the strands of life. He needed to go now, he needed to save that innocent girl; dying now wouldn't solve a damn thing!

He made a vow that his power of fire was no longer meant for killing but for bettering and saving the lives around him!

"No, I can't die now!"

The ex-soldier shook his head as his hands clenched the dirt around him and his eyes noted where his staff was laying on the ground. He stared defiantly as the sword was swung down and then his legs suddenly leapt into the action to avoid the strike.

It was then that Jean de Colbert abruptly awoke from his dream.

The professor picked up the last pieces of paper and neatly stacked them together. "What does it mean...?" he mumbled to himself. Dreams and nightmares could mean many things, though no solid research had ever reached a conclusive answer. However, one common interpretation was that dreams and nightmares had a tendency to reveal things to come... if that was true then this was a dreadful premonition.

While Colbert was a man of research and science, he couldn't help but feel a slight shiver run down his spine.

The last time anything had spook him this much was when Colbert had encountered a sealed-up - but thankfully weakened - demon during one of his many research-trips. It had caused him to develop a twitch at every perceptible shadow considering how he had endured a several hours long nerve-wracking hunt of hide-and-seek in the hideous dark with that accursed demon. It took him two months to get rid of that quirk.

The man sincerely hoped that he wouldn't meet the Louise Francoise's Familiar anytime soon.

[...]

With a small click Colbert locked the door to his workroom that was simply a couple of steps away from his living quarters; just like the rooms given to the students, the ones occupied by a teacher in the enormous Central Tower were quite large - nearly thirty-percent more.

His room was rather bare - well, as fairly bare as one could get without removing the extravagant bed, table, rug, and so forth, that naturally came with the room - as everything of his personal effects were settled in his workroom, which also happened to truthfully be his bedroom filled with knicks and knacks.

Tucked in Colbert's arm was a notebook that had the compiled data from his class and the several other second-years who had just summoned their familiars yesterday. It was his job to properly go over all of it.

Barring the headmaster, Jean de Colbert was probably the most senior teacher here both in terms of age, years, and experience spent as a teacher here at the Tristain Academy Of Magic. He was unofficially the head-teacher of the staff and generally handled all manners of sorts before passing along the finished information to either the Secretary or the Headmaster himself. It really helped that Colbert enjoyed doing these things as well, which was quite a workload off the Secretary's shoulder, not to mention that plenty of the teachers also simply threw their responsibilities onto him too.

The professor placed the notebook onto his desk, tapped his fingers as he hummed, and then decided to leave it be for the moment and head out for breakfast. It was not as if he was lazy, he was very studious person, but the nightmare had thrown him into disarray; he just felt tired and he supposed that a good meal would lighten his mood.

Colbert had the entire day to himself - a privilege the rest of the Second-Year Teachers were also enjoying - so it's not like he was hard-pressed for time. So he could always finish up his duties later today.

Without further ado, the professor set off for the Alviss Dining Hall.

[...]

Colbert had awoken rather earlier today, so it unfortunately meant for him that he would have to wait a longer time before breakfast would be served. So early, in fact, that he was probably the only person part of the staff who was awake at this time - with the exception of the servants and guards who had rotating shifts.

The professor walked into the dining hall and was greeted by the typical hustle and bustle of the common-servants as they cleanly set up the tables for the morning.

Attentive as always, several of the servants had noticed him immediately - his appearance not all too unusual since he was practically the only noble who would be up and about this early in the morning for whatever possible reason they could think of. Upon silent agreement, a single butler was chosen to quickly attend to the teacher's needs, thus the younger man smoothly strode over and delivered a small bow, "How may I serve you, Professor?"

Colbert chuckled dryly, "Ah, well, perhaps a quarter-loaf of bread and a cup of coffee?"

The butler bowed again, "It shall be ready soon," and promptly left.

As the professor sat on his chair on the second-level of the dining hall, he didn't have to wait long before the butler returned with his light meal.

Though Colbert had not been descriptive with what sort of bread and coffee he wanted, the servants already knew his preferences well enough without him additionally saying so.

On his plate were four small but rather smooth and round-looking bread that made up a quarter-loaf in proportion. Colbert took a bite out of one and hummed in appreciation as the creamy-filling coated his tastebuds with sweet delight.

If he recalled correctly, the Santaduce Umputa had first come about in Romalia around two-thousand years ago. It was so well liked that it had almost become the country's representative bread - a position then held and still now held by Boyateas Zahasted, a sort of sweet-yeasted bread.

Colbert certainly enjoyed just how soft and easy it was to eat. He had first eaten this cream-filled bread about a couple years back when he had gone on a research trip in southern Romalia to investigate some fossilized remains of an ancient dragon. One of his colleagues had brought it along as a snack and, being as curious as he was, Colbert asked to have a try at one.

He simply fell in love with the taste.

After finishing up a second santaduce umputa, Colbert turned to gently pick up his cup of light-brown coffee. He took a deep but gentle whiff as he allowed the rich aroma of the drink to soothe his sense of smell.

Oh yes, now what was the story behind this one? Long before the days of the Founders, 'Kafvyee' as the Germanian called it was originally some sort of extremely potent drink that was exclusively used by their berserkers during times of war. However, to counter the massive forces of demons during the Age Of Chaos, the ritualistic-only Kafvyee was severely watered-down and then spread amongst every able-bodied warrior.

The power-drink version was then quickly renamed 'Coffee' as not to confuse it with the original 'Kafvyee' that one would drink to induce bloodrage. Eventually coffee became a highly popular drink in Germanian, though not so much in the other countries - where it was often mocked as mud-water.

Still, not all coffee was imported from Germania and there was generally a Noble Family who provided their own homegrown variety for their respective country.

In particular, the one that Jean de Colbert was drinking was a type of milk-coffee - the idea being Tristainian in origin and known as 'Cafau Leit' - called Choprofolat Laineide. The man quite favored this drink because it complemented his santaduce umputa in perfect harmony.

It didn't take very long for Colbert to finish up his remaining two cream-filled bread, however - after one more sip of his coffee - the man simply sat in his seat as he stared into his swirling dark liquid. He was completely lost in thought, his haunting nightmares overriding even the inner-peace that would normally accompany him after his usual comfort meal. By the time he broke out of his daze, the Alviss Dining Hall was quickly being filled up with people and breakfast was just about ready to be served.

The surrounding comments from his fellow teachers caught his opened ears.

"My word," a middle-aged female teacher who taught third-year wind complained, "Did that child really need to bring in that familiar of hers into this sacred dining hall?"

"A little uncouth but she is a Valliere," another but younger female teacher who taught the first-year water answered, "You know how that family is."

"Now, now, calm yourselves," a rather portly man who taught first-year earth cut in, "It's down there and we're up here; the thing isn't going to bother us."

"You know what I meant," the middle-aged woman rebuked with a only slightly raised voice, "The girl brought in a half-giant. Those putrid mock-bloods don't deserve to be anywhere near our noble presence, let alone dine in the same room as us!"

"Stop your squawking, Elizabeth," the aged Third-Year Fire Teacher drawled out as he leaned forward and rested an elbow on the table, "If it starts making trouble then just blast it with some magic! Until then, be quiet so the rest of us can enjoy breakfast; it's bad enough with the half-breed already being here, we don't need your nagging fouling up the air too."

"Why I never...!" the woman thus named Elizabeth huffed out in an indignant voice. She noticed that several of the other staff were in agreement with the aged teacher and so quickly let the issue go.

Colbert mildly shrunk in seat at the mention of Louise's Familiar being in the same room that he was in. He was really hoping not to see the armored-knight anytime soon, at least not today anyways.

His attention was pulled away when a soft voice called for him.

"A newgot for your thought, Jean?"

The Effeminate-Looking Gallian Man, who could easily be mistaken for a very pretty lady, was a rather young teacher - if not the youngest here - who taught first-year wind. His name was Alexander de Brigander and he always appeared to have his eyes closed in a smiling manner and kept a cool air of serenity around him.

Colbert wasn't sure why but it seemed that the young man had a certain amount of respect for him. At the very least, Alexander had once told him that he looked up to him as fellow teachers.

"If I recall correctly, Miss Valliere happens to be one of your favorite student. Would you happen to know why she would bring in her familiar to the dining hall?"

The middle-aged professor awkwardly scratched his cheek, "Well, Miss Valliere has... some self-esteem issues."

Alexander hummed thoughtfully with a finger below his delicate chin, "Ah, because of her exploding magic." He nodded to himself, "I see, summoning a familiar must be a very big deal for her."

"Yes, that's more or less it," Colbert replied curtly, just hoping that the conversation was over now. Truthfully, he didn't feel comfortable talking about this, it was an issue of privacy since Louise Francoise had only ever - as far as he knew - confided in him about her problems. It didn't feel right to discuss about this unless he needed help to help her.

"Poor girl," the Gallian said with a sigh, "I heard she had the highest scholarly-grade last year, it's a shame that she can't properly cast magic... She would have made quite the mage, I'm sure."

Colbert nodded and quietly agreed with that sentiment.

[...]

Breakfast was an affair that went by quickly for Jean de Colbert.

The morning meal was served, the Headmaster gave his usual short speech, the daily prayer was done, and food was eaten. Other than having to wait until Louise Francoise and her familiar had completely left the building, everything was much the same as every other day.

The man swiftly went back to his room, grabbed the notebook, opened it up, adjusted his glasses, and got right down to business.

The Protector Of Fire, The Protector Of Water, The Protector Of Earth, The Protector Of Wind, The Weapon Of Fire, The Weapon Of Water, The Weapon Of Earth, The Weapon Of Wind, The Honor Of Fire, The Honor Of Water, The Honor Of Earth, The Honor Of Wind...

The more generic runic-phrases - which bequeath equally generic abilities - made up a majority of the transcribed runes, at a glance Colbert would say around seventy percent of the familiars had them. The more uncommon phrases made up about twenty percent if he had to guess and the more odder combinations were the last ten percent of them.

Colbert had quite a bit of interest in checking out those odd runic-phrases.

Surprisingly, four of the students from his homeroom class had made it onto the list. The professor playfully adjusted his glasses as a smile grew on his face; he was very proud of them.

Kirche Augusta Frederica von Anhalt Zerbst's Familiar - a Hellfire Saladrake she had named Flavyme - had the prestigious title of 'The Spirit Of Fire,' which supposedly meant that it had the blessings of the Fire God itself. But, more loosely translate, the title could also mean 'The Passionate Heat' which described Miss Zerbst fairly well and making it a very fitting familiar.

Vincent Hensworth ze voi Dickinson's Familiar - a Gravelord Spietle named Asche Zachery - was given the formal title of 'The Silent Guardian Of Sleep.'

Mary Lain de la Mayweather's Familiar - a Mountain Crown Goat she had cheerfully named Pegne'Iat - had the title of 'The Faithful Watcher.' This phrase was not all too unusual, however that title was generally only seen on more sharp-sighted animals.

Tabitha de Loiret's Familiar - some kind of Wind Dragon that she had taken to name as Sylphid - had the very strange title of 'The Songtress Of The Melodious Wind.' This title wasn't just strange, it was also unique; it was the first time Colbert had ever seen this particular title in all of his years working at the academy.

With that said, the professor quickly went over to check the remaining students on the list.

Colbert recorded and organized the student's name, their familiar's species, the locations of the runes, the specific standalone runes and their resulting combined phrase, the student's element and potential growth, and several other minor tidbits.

When he had finished, he doubled-checked the list again.

A frown appeared on his face, he had the oddest feeling that he was forgetting someone or something. 'But who?' The man hummed questioningly as he scratched his forehead and tapped his quill repeatedly on the notebook. When that jogged nothing of his memories, Colbert began to repeat the names of the second-year students out loud to himself but to no avail. He closed his eyes and he continued to rack his thoughts for answers.

Two judging eyes suddenly leapt out at him.

Colbert experienced a cold shiver down his spine, "Oh dear..." and he groaned. He had completely forgotten to take a look at Miss Valliere's Familiar's runes yesterday afternoon. Briefly, the thought of ignoring this issue had crossed his mind but he was a teacher and very well couldn't just intentionally turn in an incomplete report. He rubbed the sides of his eyes with his thumb and index finger, "Oh dear..." and shook his head in rather grim displeasure.

He had planned to avoid the half-giant but now it seemed that he had to actually go seek it out!

[...]

Colbert opened his door only to find a somewhat startled Alexander with his hand raised up in a knocking-gesture.

The other teacher quickly straightened himself out and spoke, "Oh, Jean, I was just about to call for you."

"I see, is there something you need from me, Alex?" he returned politely.

"Well, I'm not sure why, but it seems that the Headmaster is looking for you."

Colbert only raised a brow slightly in response. It wasn't often that the Headmaster would call for him and that generally meant that something was not good. 'A problem now? Of all times for it to happen...' He nodded. "Thank you, I'll see him right away then."

The Gallian smiled and nodded back, "I'll let you be on your way then," and stepped aside from the doorway. He gave a small wave as the professor walked pass and then also left for his own business.

Colbert's thought flew here and there - Louise Francoise and her familiar having been quickly forgotten once more - as he wondered why the Headmaster was calling for him. Were there more complaints about the explosions coming from his lab, again? Did the wizard need him to retrieve some sensitive artifacts out in the middle of nowhere, again? Where the gnomes bothering the guards, again? Maybe there was another group of bandits prowling around near the school that needed to be removed, again?

It was probably none of those. His gut feeling told him that it wasn't going to be anything remotely that simple.

Regardless, his thoughts were left to stew; the trip to the Headmaster's office was quite a long one due to it being positioned near the very top of the Central Tower.

It was the pleasant voice of the secretary that returned him to reality.

"Good morning, Jean," she greeted him upon approach.

The middle-aged man fumbled somewhat over his tongue, "G-Good morning, Rhea."

Colbert had a bit of a one-sided crush on her; love at first sight as it were. Was it because of her fair skin or her modest yet hardworking attitude? Was it her serene olive green eyes that caught his own or because of her lush dark green hair that was cleanly swept back and tied into a short pony-tail? Perhaps it was the thin-framed glasses that sat cutely over the bridge of her nose?

She flashed him a small smile, "Have you made any progress on your latest invention?"

"O-Oh, yes! I plan to it demonstrate its capability to my homeroom soon enough! I call it an 'engine,' it's made from primarily fr-"

"Jean," she giggled, "Please, not now, you can explain it to me later. We don't want to keep the Headmaster waiting too long, do we?"

"R-R-Right..." Colbert embarrassingly cleared his throat, "Um, well, t-tonight, dinner?"

"Of course, I wouldn't miss it," the secretary agreed, she even gave him a sly wink.

The professor straightened himself out with a somewhat goofy but cheerful face, "Ah... well, I'll be seeing you later then, Rhea." He nodded his head before pushing open the two large doors that lead into the Headmaster's office.

The inside of the room was the same as it was everyday.

Two empty-armored knights with a shield and spear in hands flanked the entranceway. A large pentagon-shaped rug sat neatly in the center of the room. Bookshelves filled the sidewalls and were stacked with numerously illegible tomes of vastly different sizes and many obscure but minor items. The grand-looking wooden desk that came into immediate view was backed by a singularly huge window with a beautiful view of the vast skies and distant lands.

The Headmaster, hands behind his back, was looking out said window. The sunlight silhouetted his frame and wrapped him in an imposing aura.

Malbis Rulen Ozmandia - or Old Osmand as many have come to call him now - was the oldest mage alive in Halkeginia; he was the very man who had founded and established the Tristain Academy Of Magic nearly four-hundred years ago.

The secrets of his longevity were never discovered but, because Malbis was a renowned adventurer back in his prime, there were many rumors that he owned multiple artifacts that could extend his life - there were even less savory rumors that accused him of sacrificing his humanity and making contracts with demons to prolong his death instead.

Nobody but him knew the truth of the matter.

Tristain-born and probably the closest thing to a mythical Pentagon-Class Mage, Old Osmand was described as having the strength to decimate armies with but a flick of his wand. His very presence alone was a deterrent against any plans of attack against Tristain and even his homeland preferred to keep on his good side.

Right behind the Founder himself, Malbis was considered the strongest mage ever seen in all of history. At least that was before a certain Tristainian Soldier by the epitaph of Iavictorem Of The Heavy Wind made his presence known in the last thirty years. Now Old Osmand shared the title of strongest with the nobody-knows-where-they-are Iavictorem.

But Malbis Rulen Ozmandia had a certain quirk of character.

"Mister Colbert," the Headmaster addressed him without turning around, "Do you know what color of underwear Miss Longueville is wearing today?"

It was the simple fact that the old wizard was a pervert. Almost completely unashamed of his actions - often playing it off as senility - he had little qualms about acting like an idiot even in the presence of other Nobles. He only retained dignity and poise when facing a member of Royalty but even then he wasn't afraid of speaking his mind to those of the Crown.

The middle-aged man coughed, "Um, no... Sir."

"Well, it's white!" The much older man turned around with narrowed brows, "WHITE!" and scoffed, "Black would suit her better!" Colbert imaginatively agreed but wouldn't be caught dead saying that aloud. "And it's cotton! COTTON! It should be wondrous silk, Mister Colbert! Founder knows that I pay her well enough that she could start her own lingerie store! Where and what is that secretary of mines spending all of her money on?!"

Colbert could only wryly chuckle at Old Osmand's usual rants.

"I can hear you, you know," Rhea de Longueville stated simply. The door was slightly ajar and her dull deadpanned expression was clear to see for both male occupants.

"Good," Old Osmand retorted. He swiftly plunged his hands into his robe's pocket, pulled out a bag of money, and threw it to the woman. "Now don't come back until you've bought yourself some lacy underwear! Agente Proyvatic! Vivian's Segratio! I don't care what brand! Just choose something erotic! It's a woman's duty to look just as attractive as she is dressed and just as attractive as she is underdressed!"

Longueville sighed. She briskly walked into the room and then casually beat on the Headmaster until he was a twitching mess on the floor. With that done she quickly strode out.

When she passed by Colbert, she left him a whisper, "What kind of lingerie would you like me to wear tonight?"

The professor was absolutely speechless, nothing but croaks come out of his throat.

She stifled a giggle and smirk and then quietly closed the door behind her.

Slowly, Old Osmand rose up from the floor. He went to grab his wooden staff from its resting place on the side of a bookshelf and tapped it onto the floor. The room became silent and was suddenly proofed against sound leaving the domain of his office. "Well, now we can get down to business." His serious face no longer contained a hint of his usual bumbling self.

Colbert snapped to attention, "Yes, Sir."

"Tell me, Colbert, what is your impression of Miss Valliere's Familiar?"

"It is... a threatening anomaly," the ex-soldier choose his words somewhat slowly, "It is intimidating enough that I do not feel as if I would survive a fight against it." He paused briefly, "It frightens me, Headmaster, in the same way a demon induces primal fear."

"Quite right," the old wizard agreed with a small brush of his beard. "The rumors pegs the familiar as a Half-Giant; what is your opinion?"

"...I am hesitant to believe that it is merely a half-giant."

"As I am."

"...There is also something I have yet to mention, Headmaster."

"Oh? And what would that be?"

"During the familiar summoning ritual yesterday, I had... forgotten to take record of the runes on Miss Valliere's Familiar. If I had, then we would have had more insight on the nature of this thing's capabilities..."

Old Osmand nodded his head, "Troubling but understandable, Colbert. Don't blame yourself, I trust that you made the right choice in that situation." He gestured for the teacher to follow him to the window, "That is why I called you here, Colbert. It seems that a situation has cropped up, one that may reveal a little more of our mysterious familiar."

With a mutter and wave of his staff, the glass window shimmered brightly and adopted a more liquid-like quality. Images soon appeared on its surface: a crowd of students were gathered around the main arena of the Vestri Court.

"What am I looking at, Sir?"

"A duel that is soon to begin."

Colbert frowned instantly, "A duel? But those have been forbidden under the Acun Duleu Policy unless..." he gasped, "You cannot be serious, Headmaster!" His eyes zoomed onto the lone occupant waiting around on the center of the stage, "You can't honestly allow Mister Gramont to fight; he has no real experience in combat and he's only a dot-mage!"

"I'm well aware of the possible dangers to the young lad," Old Osmand instantly rebuked in a semi-harsh voice, "It troubles me to allow a student to take this risk but this only came to be because of his own doing. Whatever the case, it has given us an opportunity to observe."

"What if the thing goes out of control? Someone could die here, Malbis!" Colbert was fuming, "Where are all the other teachers?! This duel must be stopped immediately!"

"Calm yourselves, Jean!" the Headmaster barked out in an authoritative tone which quickly silenced the middle-aged man, "I have already notified all the teachers and guards to ignore this duel; no laws have been legally broken here - the duel will continue." His cold glare raged against Colbert's own nasty glare. "Your concerns have been duly noted," he raised his left pinky-finger that had a small ring on it, "Beneath the primary arena is a spell capable of restraining even a Elemental Spirit. If Miss Valliere's Familiar's crosses a lin-"

"It'll be too late when the line is crossed."

"If. If the line is crossed," the Headmaster reprimanded, "Are you so quick to both condemn the Gramont Boy to a fate of death and the familiar to a life-style of murder?"

Jean de Colbert grimly gritted his teeth, "There must be a better precaution than this!"

"Tell me then, Jean, would you like me to stop this duel right now? Would you have have me maybe save Mister Gramont's life? Would you allow me strip Miss Valliere of her familiar on the grounds that it is merely potentially dangerous?"

"There is no need to take away her fa-"

"No, there is no need, but it is the best method of preventative-danger that you are asking for." Old Osmand allowed his next words to sink in slowly, "As much as you wish to shelter them, Jean... the danger of Miss Valliere's Familiar is something we either learn now or never."

Inner-turmoil raged inside Colbert. He couldn't just do that to Louise Francoise, he knew how important a familiar was to the young girl. Just because he was scared didn't mean he had the right to take it away from her. He took in a slow but shallow breath to sooth himself.

"Are you calm now, Jean?"

"...Yes, Sir."

No more was said between the two mages as they merely turned to face the scrying mirror.

Now they simply and silently waited for the event to unfold.

[...]

Kirche Augusta Frederica von Anhalt Zerbst found the daily life at the Tristain Academy Of Magic to be one of a very dull existence.

Her usual past-times - which involved seducing males, taunting envious females, and teasing Louise Francoise - were starting to become stale. It was not surprising considering how that was essentially her basic routine for the entirety of her first year at school.

The Tristain Academy Of Magic just wasn't exciting to Kirche and the lack of duels had a lot to do with it. In Germania, duels were something that happened quite often and were even encouraged amongst the student-body; if there was a problem then you solved it with a duel. Here, in Tristain though, there was an explicit 'No Duel Policy' which prevented Nobles from challenging one another - this unfortunately allowed a majority of the students to gloat or insult others with very little formal opposition.

In Kirche's opinion, most of the Tristainian Nobles were conceited cowards who probably couldn't handle the heat when the going got hot.

Thus, this duel between Guiche and Louise's Familiar, was a major breath of fresh air in her mostly dull year - the only other exciting event that she could name was the recent Springtime Familiar Ritual in which she had summoned her precious Flayvme.

Disheartingly however was that the duel might not even happen anymore.

The twenty-minute mark had already come and gone but Louise and her familiar were still nowhere to be seen on the Vestri Court; people were becoming bored and restless and so quite a few of the audience had already left elsewhere.

Kirche could easily imagine that the pinkette was probably still yelling indignities at armored-familiar and simply wasting time with her outburst. 'Little Louise really needs to reign in that temper of hers.'

At this rate the duel might as well become canceled.

Such a thing was an honest shame to Kirche as she was looking forward to it.

Apparently Tabitha was of the same opinion. Being shielded from the crowd by her dragon, the Gallian girl was simply standing up while reading a book. But her eyes were not on the text, they were actually staring pleadingly to Kirche.

Kirche easily understood the intention of her best friend's gaze. It was rare for Tabitha to take interest in anything and anything the bluette found interesting so did Kirche too find interesting - if she didn't find it interesting already. As they were best friends and had coinciding goals, Zerbst was more than happy to find a way to keep Guiche from leaving the arena.

The Germanian girl gave her familiar a light kick to action, "Flayvme, head for the blond boy in the middle there." The Hellfire Saladrake flickered his tongue in acceptance and quickly scurried to the arena. As Kirche was sitting atop the lizard-like beast, every step made had given her round breasts a certain bounce to them which easily attracted the eyes of the heated crowd to her - either either out of arousal or envy.

Guiche - for his own part - was wary of her approach.

Despite the fact that he flirted with nearly every female he encountered, he did not get along well with the busty girl who was essentially his opposite. He would always fall back to an aloof formality and keep a cool distance whenever he would have to deal with her.

In a manner of speaking, they were both predators amongst prey, like wolves amongst sheep. However, Kirche was a wolf that frolicked plainly with sheep, Guiche on the other hand was a wolf in sheep's clothing. If there was one person in this school who could see through his disguise and righteously call him out on his ways, then it would be none other than Kirche.

Not that it mattered at this point; there was nothing left for her to blackmail him with - his secret was already out.

Still, Guiche was wary of dealing with Kirche.

The fact that she was suddenly coming over to meet him, now of all times, was more than enough to make him a tad suspicious of her motives.

The boy kept his rose-wand up to his mouth, hiding the small frown of displeasure that he had on his face, "Augusta Frederica," he called out to her using only her middle-name, their conversation could be heard from the surrounding crowd, "Is there something you need from me?"

Kirche merely smiled and held back her ferocious predatory grin, "Oh, indeed, Rosvige Kanben, I do need something from you."

Guiche knew a bit about the other languages in Halkeginia - just another thing he brushed up on to impress the ladies - and, as far as his knowledge went, 'Rosvige Kanben' meant 'Rosy Boy' in Germanic. Notably, the last time they had spoken, she had called him 'Gelvye Gablumcen' which was translated as 'Yellow Daisy.'

His gut always told him that she was insulting him with such nicknames.

"And that would be?"

"Oh, you know, you just seem to be getting rather angsty about the duel~"

Guiche barely raised his voice, "Me? Angsty?"

"Am I wrong?" she questioned in an expression like that of a mother nicely scolding a not-so-truthful child, "It seems to me that you're getting a bit jittery about the duel~"

Guiche did not take her baiting words so easily and kept cool, "Thank you for your concern but it is nothing for you to worry about. Well then, will that be all, Augusta Frederica?"

Unfortunately for him, Kirche had him hooked already - she had only needed him to subtlety remind himself about his own position. Now that she knew that he would stick to the duel when it would happen, she now needed to make sure that he would wait around for the duel so that it could happen.

'That shouldn't be too hard,' she mused. "Oh dear no, that isn't all, Rosvige Kanben," she replied all too happily, "You seem quite bored waiting around for Louise's Familiar to get here," and crossed her legs quite sensually with a slightly arched back, "Would you like to relieve some time with me?"

Guiche rolled his rose-wand in between his fingers - almost contemptuously so. "I shall have to respectfully decline that offer of yours." It was also at this moment that he realized that the Germanian Girl was stalling for time.

The redette laughed his answer off. "What a shame. I was sure that we could have found something productive to do," she purred in a rather taunting manner - not that the oogly-eyed male audience could tell the difference in her tone. "But that's fine, we would have probably missed the duel if we did have some fun with each other."

"Indeed," Guiche replied curtly and decided to cut to the point, "I wouldn't want to miss out on this duel either; I won't allow a mock-blood to insult me and get away with it."

Kirche inwardly smirked, 'Well, that was easy enough.' He played along but now he couldn't take back his words; she had him snared. "What a coincidence, I'm looking forward to the duel too." She gave a light kick to Flavyme to return to Tabitha's side and waved her hand, "Good luck, Rosvige Kanben."

The Hellfire Saladrake sauntered back and parked himself at his original position in the crowd. His tongue gave a flicker as his master lowered herself onto him and allowed her large breasts to rest over his head.

Upon her best friend's return, Tabitha spoke quietly, "Thank you."

"It was my pleasure, Tabby," Kirche replied in kind and started up a small chit-chat, "It's going to be a very interesting duel, isn't it~?"

The Gallian Girl nodded her head.

Unlike the many students here, Kirche and Tabitha did not believe that Louise Francoise's Familiar was just an ordinary Half-Giant.

Though the Zerbst did not know what her friend's reasoning was based on, she herself wouldn't be able to explain why she thought so either... But, simply put, the armored-entity had a certain aura around him - akin to ancient yet powerful fire - and it attracted her to him; it was odd, as a Fire Mage, she felt some sort of primordial connection with the strange familiar.

Kirche was very much looking forward to this duel and couldn't wait for it to start.

She was quite excited.

[...]

Montmorency Margarita la Fere de Montmorency stood alone in the audience - the crowd unwilling to stand next to her - with her arms folded, as she waited rather menacingly for the duel between her ex-secret-boyfriend and the Zero's Familiar to begin.

There was hardly any real reason for why she was attending the fight; she honestly did not believe that a Half-Giant could beat a Mage. After the earlier event, she would have been better off spending her time by holing herself in her room and then concocting some kind of potion for revenge - like something that could give Guiche diarrhea for a week.

So why was she here? Montmorency wasn't all too sure herself. It was a spontaneous decision to come.

The blondette tapped her foot impatiently.

'Curse that imbecile!' Her outward expression promised pain to anyone who would interrupt her foul tirade. 'That dirty, cheating, low-life! I should have expected him to be unable to keep his hands to himself!'

The pace of her tapping increased and her eyes homed into the browned-hair girl that she could consider her rival-in-love.

'What's so good about that first-year anyways? She's plain-looking and unremarkable, her voice is a pitch too high and her eyes are droopy, she's also just some girl from a low-ranking Noble Family... There's nothing special about her at all!'

She ground her teeth from pure frustration.

Her eyes quickly darted back to Guiche de Gramont.

'I hope you get mauled by a dragon! Or be ripped apart by demons!'

She so dearly wanted someone to wipe that smug smile off of his face.

[...]

The previous night before Tabitha had attempted to spy on Louise Francoise's Familiar.

Though the Valliere's Familiar was not an immediate enemy, it was indeed an abnormality - an unknown - and therefore a dangerous factor.

She had used the slight of wind to probe the entity's defenses - it transmitted to her the feel of its warm and rough yet smooth black armor as though she was touching it herself. Her method was so subtle that only a Square-Class Wind Mage or the Headmaster would have been able to detect her intruding winds.

But her information-gathering was cut abruptly short.

The supposed half-giant had quickly discovered her trespassing and... it did something.

The air around the familiar had heated up and buffeted against her cool night wind. It was clearly unnatural and the sudden counter had caused her to cut loose her spell. It was too precise, too controlled; the familiar must have noticed her, it must have been intentional. Even her closer inspection after breakfast did not yield much results, just more things that she had already hypothesized.

But now this duel was a perfect opportunity to learn more about it.

Tabitha's eyes left the pages of her current book. The crowd was opening up to let through Louise Francoise and her familiar - the supposed half-giant's towering figure and distinct silhouette was quite easy to spot.

There were no overt actions on her part but the Gallian's senses and mind went into overdrive as she analyzed the knight's every movement.

Fluid and sturdy movement; no excess weight, poise refined, battlefield capable. Thick armor but silent; lack of stress in gait. Sword obviously deadly.

Guiche spoke. In response the Familiar cracked its neck.

The referee announced the duel. Guiche introduced himself.

Louise identified her familiar as 'Siegeinherd' and 'Dragonarok Knightmare.' Unusual, therefore noted - further investigation needed.

Louise left the arena. Referee started the duel and also left.

Guiche flicked his wand. Petal fell off. Transmuted into a Bronze Valkyrie.

'Slow,' Tabitha's mind noted off-handedly. In the time it took Guiche de Gramont to complete that single action, she could have eliminated him in at least twenty different methods.

Familiar still not reacting; intentional inaction. Studying foe? Curiosity or genuine precaution?

Guiche summons more Bronze Valkyries. Still no reaction from Familiar; definite inaction.

Naturally passive? No, first action enacted by the Familiar. Valkyries counter with a by-the-book circular formation.

Valkyrie - designate V1 - attacked with a spear. Spear broke against the chestplate. Familiar reached out and crushed V1's head in hand.

Armor tough enough to destroy impacting bronze, noted. Enough physical strength to crush bronze with little resistance, noted. Comparison to an average Half-Giant's endurance and strength needed; further investigation for exact limitations also needed.

All remaining Valkyries struck out. Familiar destroyed another Valkyrie - designate V2. Valkyries scattered.

Valkyrie - designate V3 - aimed for head. Spear caught, pulled in. Promptly destroyed by fist-to-face contact.

Valkyrie - designate V4 - sneak attack on back. Familiar turned around, previous captured spear still in hand, thrusted out weapon. V4 utterly destroyed along with spear.

Faster than size suggests, noted. Not easy to surprise, noted. Current recommendation: engage at a distance. No range capability determined, further investigation needed.

Guiche summoned more Bronze Valkyries - designate V9-16 labeled.

V9 and V10 are incomplete, currently immobilizing the Familiar's legs. Quickly dispatched.

Guiche casts Ground Pound. Familiar momentarily paused, still escaped by charging out. V11, V5, and V7 are casualties.

Guiche casts Earth Tower. Familiar momentarily flinched, still managed to shift arms and block the continuous spell.

V6, V8, V12, V13 jump onto Familiar. Guiche casts Shattered Earth. Previously designated valkyries exploded, view of arena obscured by dust cloud.

Guiche declared a premature victory. Unknown action - V14, V15, and V16 are apparently destroyed under cover, a mangled Valkyrie was tossed at Guiche's feet.

Familiar clapped hand three times. Genuine applause? Taunting? Further investigation needed.

Armor shows no sign of wear from dot-class earth explosion, noted. Familiar shows equal signs of no fatigue, noted.

Familiar unsheathed sword and struck between Guiche's legs. Intentional miss, clear intimidation tactic. Guiche yields.

With the proper end of the duel, the processes of Tabitha's mind and senses dimmed - but only slightly as she continued to observe the situation. With the duel being recorded so succinctly, she began to organize and file away all of her new information. The duel itself was double-checked for its validity so that it could be later reviewed at her own precise leisure. Her conjectures and theories were separated between confirmed, unconfirmed, and discarded. New objectives and investigations were added on her list of things to do. Her strategies were revised and would be cross-examined later as well.

When that was all completed, the girl allowed herself a brief moment to break her focus.

She blinked once to rest her eyes and then immediately went back to concentrating to examine Louise Francoise's Familiar.

[...]

Katherine de Stanhope was a simple young maiden and like most girls at her age had developed an interest in the opposite sex.

As a student at the prestigious Tristain Academy Of Magic she was considered a young adult who could make decisions for herself. That alone gave her some more courage to seek out love. She thought she had found that with Guiche de Gramont but it turned out not to be and the two-timing cheat broke her heart.

She had her suspicions, that Guiche was already dating Montmorency, yet she naively ignored them. Her Guiche couldn't possibly be cheating on her... could he? Yes, yes, he was.

Katherine slapped Guiche and then ran away, crying her heart out in anguish. How could she be so stupid? Her best friends came over to her room and began to comfort her, she merely sobbed with her eyes hidden behind her hands as they soothingly stroked her back.

That's when the gossip began.

For some reason, Guiche had challenged the familiar of some second-year girl named Louise Francoise to a duel. All of the first-years were getting rather riled by it. They had all seen duels before, quite often really as children, but there was something different about duels that were fought for honor and prestige rather than those of a simple issue of formality or practice.

Katherine's friends were just as interested in the duel as many others.

So they half-convinced and half-dragged the fairly passive girl to the Vestri Court.

They were lucky to get a front-row view of the arena, as many of the other first-years stayed in the background. However, that was only because the older students had recognized her as 'the girl who Guiche cheated on' so they gave her some breathing room out of pity. Katherine found the attention to be less than pleasant.

For the most part, the young maiden paid little attention to her surroundings. The chattering of the audience - and even that of her best friends - went unheard, the sight of the crowd went unseen, the warmth of the sun went unfelt... she was simply too gloomy.

In particular, Katherine actively avoided looking at the arena and one other spot. She couldn't stand to look at Guiche de Gramont; not because she hated him, no, it was because she didn't want to look at the person she loved yet did not love her back. Neither could she stand to look at Montmorency Margarita la Fere de Montmorency; a sense of jealously at the other girl for holding the boy's initial affections yet also a sense of understanding as they were both led around with by him.

The girl was only still here because she was too timid and too tired to just walk away as her friends continued to both coo her and excitedly wait for the duel to start.

And soon the duel started.

Katherine ignored most of the fight. She winced ever so slightly whenever Guiche spoke, his sweet voice filling her ears once more only to be quickly repulsed by the bitter feeling of hearing them again.

Then the explosion happened.

At the sight of Guiche nearly being cleaved from the bottom-up, her heart frantically raced and she had almost leapt up into the arena. Yet, at that sight of the Gramont begging on the floor for his life, she felt a mix of emotions that she could not discern - though a small amount of satisfaction was definitely in there.

Now the crowd was silent.

The atmosphere was not dark nor oppressive but neither was it warm and energetic... it was simply filled with shock and disbelief - hardly anybody could believe in the outcome of the duel.

As soon as the pink-haired girl and her familiar left, the first to show any reaction besides stunned silence was the Germanian Girl named Kirche Augusta Frederica von Anhalt Zerbst as she humorously laughed, plucked Tabitha de Loiret away, and then had her Hellfire Saladrake slither on after the previous leaving duo. The next to move were Montmorency with a headstart and then Katherine herself.

The two girls rushed toward Guiche's side, concern truly etched on their face; they knelt next to him and called out his name in small panick as they slowly tried to get him onto his feet. But, despite their tending of him, the boy merely kept on his knees - facing staring into the ground with little movement.

"Monmon, Katie, I'm fine... I'm just fine..." he spoke quietly and softly, "I...I'm sorry."

Katherine was not sure how she felt when she heard those words.

Her heart still yearned for him but could she still forgive him?

That was - perhaps - a story for another time.

[...]

Siesta of Tarbes was an ordinary girl who did ordinary things.

She was a simple maid at the Tristain Academy Of Magic and did simple things like washed the laundry, cooked the food, or carried the furniture and so forth.

Yet, somehow, she found herself in unordinary situations.

The first had occurred just yesterday night. It was suppose to have been the usual routine of watering the circular garden that surrounded the Central Tower but she had unexpectedly encountered a familiar during her shift. Now, that by itself wasn't all too unusual as there were quite a few nocturnal-types of creatures, but the familiar she had met was a Half-Giant. It scared her witless to see such a dangerous thing appear almost under the moonlight - and right behind her no less!

She was sure that it was checking her out and she for one did not want that sort of attention directed at her.

Certainly, before the incident, she had entertained the thoughts of being ravaged from a half-breed in good jest, perhaps even a few times after it too - her imaginations no thanks to those raunchy books she often read - but when push came to shove... it was, well, too scary. She thanked the Founder that nothing happened that day.

The next had occurred today and that was more of a complicated affair.

She had merely picked up a perfume bottle that some blond noble boy had dropped and tried to return it. Soon a dispute of some sort had popped-up between said noble and two other girls. And then after that the noble had went on to accuse her of ruining his reputation. It was all just happening too fast; Siesta's eyes were practically spinning!

She could barely speak in her defense, the only sounds that came out of her mouth were the odd sputters caused by panic.

Then the Half-Giant from last night arrived and everything went to hell.

Why was he here? That's a silly question, the maid chided herself derisively, she already knew why the he was here: he had decided that she was his woman - everyone else surely thought the same at that moment. Like all creatures, Half-Giants were sort of territorial yet protective like that; so she believed. The maid couldn't possibly imagine any other conceivable reason for the Familiar to interfere otherwise.

'Why couldn't it have been a knight in shining armor or a prince charming?!'

The entity had strutted in between her and the noble boy, cared little for the authority of its master, crushed a wand, and then got challenged to a duel! It all sounded quite romantic really and would have made for a decent story if it wasn't actually happening to her. But that was none of Siesta's business as she had wordlessly jolted away from the scene; She didn't want to be anywhere near either the Noble Brat or the Half-Giant Familiar.

So, right now, Siesta tried to busy herself - doing anything and everything to keep her mind off the duel and its participants.

By now the fight should have been over and she dreaded the results. A noble in the front who could punish her... and a half-breed in the back who she didn't want near her behind for obvious reasons. It would have been so nice if the two could just kill each other and therefore leave her alone - she just wanted a return to her ordinary life.

The three large kitchens of the academy was abuzz with noise and activity. Preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner on time for hundreds of Nobles and more casually for the equally hundreds of Commoners at the school was a near around-the-clock job that could always keep a person real busy with work.

Siesta was in the third kitchen but she couldn't keep entirely away from the duel. The other servants were chattering amongst each other, speculating and even betting, on the outcome of the duel - many wished that they could have had the free-time to watch it there in person. It was hard to ignore since it was the only thing being talked about.

Then with a bang and a clang - easily drowned out in the loud ambient noises - a certain maid by the name of Alice from a village called Liddell, a black-haired beauty who was a bit touched in the head, had entered the kitchen. Her eyes darted from one place to another before spotting and locking onto Siesta. The maid easily weaved through the crowd with a bizarre grace that wouldn't have been out of place from a competent fighter as she arrived at her friend's location.

"Siesta!" the maid called out, "I have seen the most wonderful of things!"

The young woman from Tarbes could only smile wryly. She could have made an educated guess about what Alice had seen but then it wouldn't have been fair considering that the only reason Alice had seen it anyways was because they had traded duties. Still, Siesta humored her friend, "Oh? What ever could that be?"

Alice clasped her hands together and sighed dreamily.

"A frightening knight, as black as night~! Tall and strong, a sword just as long~! A noble boy on his knees, begging for mercy, see~? A tiny girl in pink, a cold medicine she did make them all drink~!" She sang in song before reverting back to normal - or at least what counted as normal for her, "Dreadful lack of blood there was, I must admit, but exciting still nonetheless!"

"I-Is that so? My... that really does sound quite wonderful," Siesta replied half-heartedly. 'No blood? So nobody died?' She felt as if the other half of her heart had shrunk.

"Indeed, indeed! I must thank you, My O' Festive Siesta, were it not for you taking my work I would not have seen such a show!" She was practically skipping on her heels yet was still not excitable enough to have directly interrupted her friend from her current physical duties.

"You're welcomed," she replied dryly.

"You're a lucky girl, O' Festive Siesta," Alice continued, "If Siegeinherd hadn't made you his queen then I would offer myself up just for him~!"

"Siegeinherd?"

"The frightening knight, as black as night~!" She wagged her finger, "That's what the tiny girl in pink called him."

'Siegeinherd...' It was actually a rather appealing name but Siesta quickly shook her head, "I-Is that so? That's a good sounding name."

"Right? Right?" Alice repeated excitedly, "Anyways, congratulations to you, Siesta! When can I expect your wedding?"

The black-haired maid paled, "W-W-Wedding?! I... that's..!" Her voice rose a pitch, "A-Alice, take over for me! I-I need to go back to my room and rest!" and scurried away in haste.

Her friend merely nodded and waved, "You deserve it, working hard as you have. See you around, My Festive!"

As Siesta made her way back to her room, most people would have said that she had a fever since her face was quite flushed, but the truth of the matter was that she was blushing and her imagination was running quite wild.

It was all so vivid in her mind; all so surreal yet so right. She could hear herself moaning the name of a certain now-named knight as the two of them proceeded to many lascivious and debauchery deeds before enacting the bed-shaking act of baby-making.

...And, deep in inside, she liked it.

[...]

Old Osmand was the first to break the silence between them, "Well," he drawled slowly, "That was certainly an informative duel."

"Informative?" Colbert asked rhetorically with a slight tone of disdain.

"Quite," the Headmaster responded without explaining himself. He stroked his beard, "This is a lot to take in and will take time for both of us to digest. For now, I suggest you carefully consider what you have seen about Miss Valliere's Familiar... When you have come to your conclusion then we may can continue our conversation. Feel free to push aside your usual duties as a teacher until you have confirmed your decision; you are dismissed, Colbert."

The middle-aged man could only frown as he nodded mildly, "Sir," and turned to leave.

Jean de Colbert had a lot of things to think about and sort through. It would take hours - perhaps days but most likely weeks - for him to come to a consensus with himself.

After all, it was his decision that would ultimately decide the fate of a certain strawberry blond student.

He hoped that he would make it in time.


Author Notes

So here's chapter three, which is like an intermission of sorts where we see the different POVs during and after the duel along with some of the beginning as well. I made it a separate chapter as to not interrupt the flow of the previous one (it would get quite confusing and info-dumpish with so many different POVs at work). I'll try not to do it too much (outside of Louise and the Overlord) because I do know how annoying it is to have a perspective change every two minutes.

I had originally planned to cut off Katherine's and Siesta's POV for this chapter. But, after Tabitha's robotic analysis section, it felt a bit too skimpy since the ending was right behind.

I think one of the most 'minor' but constructive criticism that simply appeared once in ZNO (Chapter 21, Grosstoad) was that only a few characters ever got development/screentime in the story. I definitely agree with that review; hence I'll try to balance this screentime thing with plot advancement, let's see if I can succeed...

Thank you for reading, reviewing, favoriting, following, and whatever else!


Review Notes

Selias, I agree that cliches go hand to hand with Overlord; its what made the video game so entertaining (along with the MIINNNIIIIOOOOONNNNNNSSSSSSS!). I'm not so worried about using cliches, as so much whether I'm using them in an entertaining manner...

GreyMan19, There is indeed a lot more about the Halkeginia Magic System to delve into then what I've shown; it probably won't appear in the main story though, so expect it to show in up a World Notes section very far in the future. Well, here's Katherine getting some more screentime; we'll just have to wait and see if she gets a bigger role for anything else soon (for now this will have to do)...

RoughStar333, In ZNO Mathilda develops plenty of respect for the Overlord but didn't develop any intimate feelings for him. Now, don't get me wrong, I did say in ZNO (and eventually in SAK, I'm sure) that the Mathilda Route was open. But that was less her wanting the demi-god's affection, as so much that the Overlord could gain her love if he decided to pursue a relationship with her. Basically, the answer is a 'probably.'

Der Kaiser, I pretty much plan to keep him as silent as ever with plenty of snark and commentaries inside his thoughts.

Litewarior, Actually, the Overlord didn't encounter Guiche or Katie at night, the original draft was for him to hear about it during the lunch-time gossips and therefore caused the duel to occur later, and the Overlord would have also gone after Guiche on principle. So with those variables all together, the set-up pretty much makes it impossible to avoid the duel.

What I meant wasn't that the Guiche Duel was unavoidable in all stories... it was simply unavoidable in SAK is all. Anyways, duly noted.

Twigon Halolover, I actually have a reason for why the Royals don't summon a familiar and this will most likely pop-up in the main story eventually; for now I've added a World Notes section for it.

Anyways, will the familiars get more screentime? Possibly. I don't really have any arcs in mind that is specifically for them (outside of the Familiar Exhibition, which only showcases a few anyways). But mentions or appearances every so often will probably occur.

TeninChwang, If I'm using real-word explanations/analogies then its probably because I'm presuming that it's a very simple thing to mentally visualize; it might break the immersion a bit but it does get the point across fairly easily. On that note, the Sahara is an actual location in The Familiar Of Zero canon (it's located in Romalia near the borders of the Holy Lands and there's some spoilerific things buried there...).

And nope, this isn't the Evil Overlord or the Jerk Overlord, it's the Noble Overlord. I didn't state such a thing directly but it's all right there in the beginning of chapter one (returned the food to the peasants, remained faithful to Rose, protected the sacred elf tree, ensured the elve's survival, returned the goddess statue, and didn't kill the townspeople).

Sevenar, The Overlord doesn't speak because he isn't a man of few words but a man of action instead, or at least that's how I prefer to interpret and write his character.


World Notes

This segment shall be dedicated to explaining the differences between Zero's Noble Overlord and Strawberry And Knight that I feel like pointing out (or has been requested by reviewers). It shall also be used to explain additional background stuff whenever I feel like it.

Loads of bonus information but not necessary to read to enjoy the main-story. Please feel free to skip.

[...]

Royal Familiars: Plot spoilers for Strawberry And Knight ahead; read at your own discretion.

Now bear with me, if I recall correctly about canon... Tristain has Gandalfr, Romalia has Windalfr, Gallia has Myozunitonirn, and Albion has Lifdrasir, these Void Familiars can only belong to the respective Void Mage of each country. A Void Mage is someone who hails from Brimir's bloodline (hence, that would typically either be Royalty or those related to royalty) and they pretty much only appear in times of upheaval and turmoil. Likewise, if the current Void Mage dies then a new one will be selected from someone else.

Well, I've decided to do a bit more than just that.

In this story, there are two types of Void Mages. The first kind are the ones described above, the direct inheritor of Brimir's powers and familiars, who I'm going to label as 'Legacy Void Mages.' The last time anyone saw them legitimately was roughly 4500 years ago during a certain world-crisis.

Then there's the second kind, the regular bunch of Void Mages who are simply born into the element. These people are generally born about once-every-third-or-fourth generation in the Royal-Blood Families and generally about once-every-thirteen-to-fifteen-generation in the other Mage Families.

If my math isn't wrong, in 6000 years and over the course of 300 generations, that's about a minimum of 75-100 Void Mages conceived by a single Royal Family... And that's on the assumption that the Royal Family has about two children every generation - the numbers could easily double depending on how many partners a Royal has (and it's not unusual for a Royal to have gone through multiple partners either).

Assuming that these children aren't hidden away for their explosive spells, these regular Void Mages are incapable of summoning familiars (because there's no proper void-aligned beast in Halkeginia). Hence, because of this situation, there is a Secret Familiar Division within the Royal Families that tame wild beasts and gift those as 'familiars' to these Void Mages and also Royals.

Now that's all fine and dandy, but what does that have to do with legitimate mages - like Princess Henrietta - who can summon a familiar if they wanted to? Why aren't they allowed to summon familiars? Well... after a certain world-wide catastrophe where three-to-five generations of the immediate successors to the thrones were unexpectedly Void Mages, the Secret Familiar Division basically got a promotion to constantly provide familiars for all Royal Members just in case.

Add that in to the fact that most Royals don't end up any higher than Triangle-Class (there were massively huge gigantically large amounts of inbreeding 6000 years ago trying to keep the Direct Brimir Bloodline as pure as possible; while that didn't cause any mental retardation there was indeed magical degradation of the Willpower Body Network)... Thus, there is an unwritten rule that Royals are not allowed to summon a familiar, since the Secret Familiar Division would be able to provide a more righteously majestic one that befitted their image.

IN SHORT, Royals aren't allowed to summon a familiar because the Secret Familiar Division will just give them a very awesome and obedient pet instead.

But wait! Are Royals not to allow to summon familiars in the TFOZ-canon? I really don't know - if they are, I've never seen them. Hence, this entire hooplah is just for this story; I hope its a decent and logically answer.

But a moment, please! ...Does that mean Henrietta will get a (fake) familiar in SAK? Yes... No more spoilers for you; be quiet.

[...]

Hair Colors And Eye Colors: In Tristain the hair-color of the people is a vibrant spectrum that basically encompasses the rainbow and then some. Though most of their colors are usually black, brown, or blond-hair, but other colors like pink, purple, and red have their fair-share as well.

In Germania the hair-color is generally more of a shade of dull-earth or vibrant-hot. They range from black to brown or yellow to red with the slightly uncommon pink and purple.

In Romalia the hair-color is typically light and bright. Pretty much all of them fall under having golden-hair or close to pale-white-hair.

In Gallia the hair-color tends to be on the cool and perhaps even darker side. Most of the citizens have either some sort of blue or green color and purple can be a common sight as well.

In Albion the hair-color is similar to Tristain with its wide-spectrum of colors but it leans toward have more cooler colors than brighter ones. The people usually have brown or blond hair but green, blue, and purple are not all that unusual either.

Eye-colors in general tend to match the hair-color (especially true if one is a mage) but that isn't always the case and can often be a different color as well.

[...]

Money: Originally in Halkeginia (shortly after the time of Founder Brimir and the end of the Age Of Chaos) the currencies were copper-pieces Dernier, silver-pieces Sou, and gold-pieces Ecu. These money were the size, weight, appearance, and texture of a very tiny pebble.

However the Nobles did not want to associate with the same lower-money used by the Commoners and created a new kind of coin (which happened to a real coin this time instead of a lump of metal) for themselves to use exclusively: New Gold (or Newgot). From then on, Dernier, Sou, and Ecu were grouped together and renamed as Commoner Currency.

Soon a very noticeable problem for the Nobles came up: as Exiled Nobles were still mages they could conjure up as many Commoner Currency as they wished to pay the masses. Likewise, newgot-less or poorer Nobles could easily continue to live in a relative life of luxury and comfort due to the same reasons.

Loathing to do it, but their large pride of properly punishing other nobles to set an example had won out over their simple dislike of Commoners, the Nobles and Royals of Halkeginia quickly phased out the Commoner Currency and introduced New Gold to them (which soon came to be known as Newgot by both sides since the newer incarnations used even lesser gold in its design).

This act had actually helped Halkeginia in the long run by stabilizing their economy.

But exiled and disgraced mages alike, unable to pay for their previous life-styles, swiftly faded away into obscurity...

[...]

Gods: Halkeginia's many mythologies and lore allude to all sorts of gods. But the Nobles predominantly only believe in five true gods.

These five deities are known as The Gods Of The Pentagon Powers or as The Gods Of Elemental Magic. They are the very beings said to have blessed Founder Brimir with magic and also passed down their teachings to him (making Brimir their Patron Saint).

The Fire God: Ashirandon Of The Absolute Fire; it is often depicted as a large and powerful male warrior, wreathed in raging flames and wielding a terrifyingly large sword. Ashirandon is often associated with war, honor, and death.

The Earth God: Mundoremog Of The Measureless Earth; it is often depicted as a bulky and armored male knight, disproportionate in size with a larger-upper body and humongous arms supported by somewhat lanky legs, he is covered in fertile earth with a wide assortment of beautiful plant-life growing on over it. Mundoremog is often associated with agriculture and expansion.

The Water God: Irisveiya Of The Immortal Water; it is often depicted as a mature and attractive female (quite curvy in form) and almost draped immodestly in vibrantly flowing robes. Irisveiya is often associated with healing, loyalty, and beauty.

The Wind God: Erefoseva Of The Eternal Wind; it is often depicted as a lithe female with multiple white bird-like wings (a pair of wings on her head, three pair of wings on her back, pairs of wings wrapping around her chest and genitals, and wings on her ankles). Erefoseva is often associated with the weather, emotions, and secrets.

The Void God: Zelgis Of The Zenith Void; it is often depicted as a shadowy but kingly figure with three staring eyes. Zelgis is often associated with rulership and power.

[...]

Familiars: What elements do Dogs, Cats, Snakes, etc fall under? The most commonly accepted answer in the scientific-community is that these animals do not have an explicit sort of element and are like humans because they can come in a variety of elements. The easiest way to tell what element they are aligned to (and therefore their Master's as well) is to check their runes.

A Gravelord Spietle is a beast that is a cross between a beetle and a spider with some humanoid characteristics, it is exclusively considered as a Earth Element creature and is primarily summoned by Line Class or lower-to-average Triangle Class Mages. They have the lowerbody of a spider (eight-legs) and the bulky upperbody of a beetle, their two arms are scythe-like and they have a single large horn on their head. They are around the size of a two bears and primarily dark in coloration. This particular species of Spietle have made their homes in the ancient underground ruins that dot everywhere all over Halkeginia. They are not very social creatures, preferring to be alone most of the time, and are quite aggressive. They apparently communicate through a means of shrill or guttural clicks. Gravelord Spietles are the most common hazard to treasure-hunters and archeologists.

The Mountain Crown Goat is a fairly large species of goat that makes their home in cool and high mountainous areas (a large amount of their population exists in Gallia, while smaller ones can be found in Albion and Tristain). They are light in color, have very large curly horns (that almost looks like a crown from a certain angle), a sturdy forehead, and a impressive jump-strength. They are considered as Line Class and Earth Element beasts. Their non-mountainous cousins, the Lance Crown Goat, have distinctly sharper horns that curl in a different pattern, much less wool, and also meatier and stronger legs. When charging, they have poor eyesight and tend to move in a straight line.

[...]

Iavictorem Of The Heavy Wind: The famous Mage-Knight Of Tristain, Iavictorem Of The Heavy Wind currently holds the rank of Royal Fleet Admiral - the highest rank available to a soldier, allowing him to effectively take control of any or all of Tristain's military forces during times of war.

Records state that he was previously only a Commander in the Manticore Corps but quickly rose up in position during the short war known as the Fallen City Of Demonic Return (a group of stupid adventurers had accidentally broken the barriers to an ancient island-city, located near the southern coast of Gallia, that was sealed away for being infested with demons). Purportedly, eyewitnesses stated that it was Iavictorem who single-handedly destroyed the entire city with multiple giant spears of wind.

Iavictorem is described as a an average-sized person, however he was always seen wearing the fearsome and fully-plated Manticore Knight Armor that also hid his face, he had a rather deep and almost inhuman-esque voice (it is speculated to be caused by some sort of obscure Wind Spell), and always carried himself with immense confidence and warrior-like grace.

'Iavictorem' is not a real name, it is simply Halkeginic for 'Victory.' In other words, his alias is literally read as 'Victory Of The Heavy Wind.' His true identity and current whereabouts are unknown but he has not officially retire from the Tristain Royal Army.

Though, despite his lack of official activities, every so often there are unexplained events - such as the annihilation of a horde of monsters, the destruction of criminal organizations, or the routing of insurrectionist elements - occurring strictly in Tristain. These events are attributed to Iavictorem, whose name is still feared in the dark underbelly of the world...

[...]

Siesta Of Tarbes: In the original Zero's Noble Overlord, Siesta was suppose to be a secondary character of sorts. I had no real plans for her besides showing her off as a character that wanted to get underneath the Overlord's armor, with a casual descent into darkness on the side. In fact, she warmed up to the Overlord a bit too fast and then sorta just faded away from the story...

Here? There's some conflict about her attraction to the Overlord. But, really, I'm going to spoil it for you, but Siesta's romance-subplot is ultimately nothing to worry about. Female Hormone Imbalances plus Manly Overlord equals Resistance Is Futile (the end).

And of course (though I have yet to decide for any expanded roles for Siesta in SAK) she will still get more screentime/development for the previous events that she attended in ZNO - such as the Invasion Of Tarbes which will get more elaborated on, or the Treasure Hunt if I don't skimp on that.