Chapter 35 – Friends and Enemies
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My aura turned from gold to amber as I began to cast. I was trying out the summoning for ‘Bone collector’ in the magical testing room. I picked this one because the name sounded like it should be tough. I wanted to see how summoning worked without too many people around. The carriages have started showing up today. More and more would be showing up with classes starting in a few days. Once the kids all got back, getting any time in here would become more difficult.

I expected a monster to appear but after a few seconds only a tiny portal swirled into existence. It started as an amber then darkened to orange and faded again. This kept happening, slowly at first but then with increasing speed until out popped a fuzzy orange orb the size of a small frisbee. The thing only sat about five inches tall and looked like a plushy.

Once it appeared another health window attached itself to mine along with a cost to keep it summoned. It was only one mana per hour. I guess it was not as tough as I thought. It had low health, low cost and did not look like it could do much so names might not be as good of an indicator as I thought. I stared at it and the ball opened up its adorable eyes and blinked at me. I was about to have it attack when a group of students clamored in so I decided to wait. I wanted my summoning to be another secret. This world was vicious and the more things I had that could save my life in a pinch, the better.

I scooped up the fuzzy ball that weighed almost nothing and giving it one more look turned to leave the building. It was really soft, light and simply felt good to hold. I was unsure if it was the connection we shared, as summoner and summoned creature, but I simply knew it was happy and content. I stroked its soft fur with my left hand and felt it vibrate a bit. It was like it was purring but without sound.

I knew I was going to keep it around for a while so I set up the interface to deduct the cost automatically and then under the label feature named it Pumpkin. It might not be tough but it was soothing to just have around. I could use the calming affect with all the chaos lately even if that was all she was good for.

I was going to hit the obstacle courses again, but since I was going to keep my summoned creature around I decided first to make a little pouch that I could hang on my waist. It could rest there while I was doing things. I got to work after breaking out my sewing kit. After an hour and a million needle stabs into my fingertips I held a slightly crooked pouch. I got a few points in sewing for all my hard work so I was feeling pretty good. I then set up my herb ‘Garden’ which was really just a few pots by the window. I left my room content with my progress.

As I left the dorm, I felt like I was being watched. I looked around but saw nobody. Shrugging it off as paranoia, I went and grabbed something to eat and then made my way to the courses. I was almost there when I heard Bella’s voice shouting my name at the top of her lungs. I turned to look and saw her bouncing over, all smiles. ‘She must have gotten good news about Victoria,’ I thought.

“Alice, I succeeded! Victoria can stay.” Her smile slipped a little as she continued, “They said she might as well stay since she could no longer be married.”  I could see her sadness in her eyes briefly before she moved on.  She rambled on about her trip, some of the towns and so on to cover up her discomfort. I will never understand these people, especially the mothers. Were they not in similar situations? At least Victoria could stay.

Instead of going to the obstacle courses, I was pulled along to the medical center. I did not mind. I had been busy the last couple of days and missed a day visiting her. I felt like I abandoned her. I was unsure how to help her mentally so I wanted to simply be there in case it helped.

When we got there was a lot less people in the cots. It was logical since most of the students were not in the school to injure themselves. Victoria sat on her cot eating a plain looking broth. At least she was eating. She was like a doll before. Her eyes lifeless and had to be hand fed. While she looked as if she was miserable, she at least looked like a normal person. Whatever they had been doing here for her was having positive effects.

Bella let me go and shot off like a rocket towards Victoria. All the while yelling, “Good news, good news! Father said you can stay!” I could tell she wanted to hug her sister but could not figure out how to without spilling the broth Victoria held.

I walked up behind Bella and smiled at her sister. I personally was unsure if staying in a place you were abused was a great idea but at least here she had us to look out for her. I did not say much because I was unsure what would come out of my mouth. I just tried to be reassuring while Bella did almost all the talking. We spent hours there and only left when Victoria started yawning.

We made our way to the cafeteria and I saw the Spikey haired boy sitting with Amy. She did not look happy to be there but she was still hanging out with him. What happened to her engagement? I quickly checked her health window to see if there was any charm effects or question marks but saw nothing abnormal. “Bella, you know I do not understand the nobles that well. Do you see Amy over there? She was the girl that challenged me.” I asked and pointed subtly at Amy. “She said she was engaged. She even threatened me about it, but now is sitting with another guy. Is she under duress or something?”

She began laughing so hard that tears started coming out of her eyes as soon as I finished. It confused the hell out of me. “What is so funny?” I asked.

Bella finally got herself under control enough to respond, “That boy is richer than the one she is engaged to. His father is a big merchant. I imagine that she had the thought to upgrade but judging on her frown she discovered that he is the illegitimate son and sleeps around with any woman that is willing. My guess is she cannot figure out how to get away from him without causing a scene.” She finished as if she was telling the funniest joke and was not happy I did not laugh.

Amy was looking at me. Her eyes held a pleading look. Like she was crying for help and any amusement I had about her reaping what she sowed faded away. ‘UGH! I am too soft hearted’ I thought. “Hold on Bella, I am going to go rescue her.”  I felt like an idiot saying it and by the look Bella was giving me she agreed with how I felt. I simply wanted my enemy close at hand. She was not the brightest so having her around may give me valuable information and if she does try to kill me again, I can just use her as a meat shield.

I walked up to Amy while silently cursing my stupidity in my heart. Spiky head’s group watched me come up with smiles. A few offered me a seat next to them once I got close. Ignoring them I looked at Amy and said, “Amy, I would like to talk with you about what happened yesterday.” I wanted to know what they asked her when the guards took us so it was not a lie. It was the most polite thing I could think of.

Amy for her part quickly stood up and tried to get away but was held back by spiky head. I just slapped his hand away and Amy quickly got away. She followed me back and I heard her softly say, “Thanks.” I heard Spiky head yell something but ignored him. Villains all had the same dialog it seemed.

“Let us get food and then if you could tell me what happened after we were rescued I would be grateful. I am trying to figure out a few things.” Amy nodded. She appeared to be happy to be with me. We waited in line for a little bit which showed that more students had arrived today than I expected.

Sitting down, we chatted as we ate. Bella did most of the talking about her relatives. I got a little information about what happen to Amy after we got separated. According to her all they asked was what happened in the medical center, what could she remember, and why assassins were after her. She did also say that she talked with a royal envoy but she could not talk about it.

As the meal ended, Pumpkin began to move around in the pouch I made. I could feel she wanted something so I took her out and held her in my hands. Bella and Amy gasped and began to ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ over the cuteness of my new summons. Pumpkin blinked her oversized eyes and then focused on my plate. Was she hungry? As far as I could tell she did not have a mouth. I moved her closer and once she was closer a few strands of her fur shot out and wrapped around the half-eaten chicken leg I left on my plate. Then the hairs retracted, pulling the leg to her. Pumpkin radiated happiness once she had the tiny leg and began to rub her fur against it.

We quickly left once we were done eating. Amy wanted to leave and I could not blame her. I was unsure if she really wanted to talk about my new summons but she used it as an excuse to leave with us. We spent the rest of the day at the courses. We mostly watched but entered every once in a while, when a spot opened up. Amy managed to do a level three agility based course while all I managed to do was get thrashed. My endurance rose as a result but I still failed to get another skill. 

Amy for the most part did not say much. She would just look at me and then look away when I turned to look back. She was acting weird. Bella notice it but did not say anything. She just gave me a questioning look that was asking, ‘What was going on?’ to which I shrugged. I had no clue so what could I say?

Pumpkin was now nestled in the pouch with the chicken bone that was polished clean. It held onto it with little strands of its hair. I did not let the girls know it was a summons so they assumed it was a pet I bought. I did not argue. After all, Pumpkin seemed useless except as an adorable pet. I planned on telling Lilly and Bella that I could summon but not while Amy was around. I would need their help to keep my new magic a secret and to practice it in secret.

I had a few surprises awaiting me the next day. For example, I thought Spiky head was going to be an issue but I was quickly proven wrong. When we bumped into him the following day his face went from the lazy arrogance that it normally held, to frightened. He looked at me, stuttered an apology and left like a ghost was chasing after him. 

I also thought Amy would only stay with us for the day but everywhere I went the next day she kept showing up. I finally gave up. It was too awkward to pretend she did not exist. Bella and I spent the next couple of days hanging out with her. We discussed our goals and upcoming classes while getting everything we might need for class prepared. It was actually quite pleasant.

Lilly did not show up until the third day. I was worried since her caravan was running late so I was extremely happy to see her. The smile on my face from seeing her was replaced by concern. It was like the life was sucked out of her. Her head was down and she looked so gloomy that even though it was bright and sunny, it felt as if it should be raining. What happened? I glance at her and then her new maid who just shrugged her shoulders. The maid either did not know or could not say.

Bella and I quickly excused ourselves from Amy and rushed over to Lilly. She looked like she needed a hug and while I hesitated Bella did not. I watched them hug and softly whisper to each other. I caught a few words from their exchange. I would find out more later, but it seemed her betrothed mother was not happy with her even though she agreed to the marriage. It did not seem like a big issue to me but to a fourteen-year-old girl, it probably seemed like the end of the world was coming.

***

“I read the report twice, but it seems to be exaggerated. Are you sure of it’s contents?” Lucas looked at his younger brother after he finished reading.

“I am not sure. The agent in charge seemed pretty sure but also indicated that Alice failed to confirm it.” Gideon pointed at the last paragraph of the note held in Lucas’s hand. “You do realize that if father finds out about this, even if it is a rumor, he will have her either married to one of us or himself. He will want her close at hand in case it is true. If she really can bring back the dead she is close to a national treasure. Others will either want her for themselves or they will want her destroyed before we can use her.”

“She is too young and her background is unknown. I just got a report that her parents vanished from her village. It is unknown if it was fowl play or their own actions. We are back to square one without them to confirm her lineage. Instead we should bring her into one of our teams. She is a decent healer. Even if Amy was near death, to be able to save her that quickly, shows skill.”

“That is not a bad plan. That way if our father finds out he will assume we already have plans for her and will leave her be until he can talk to us. It would be better if you approached her first. I will try if you fail. I do not want to make her uncomfortable. She had gone through too much for such a little girl. The fact that she is only thirteen and is this powerful will probably cause her endless hardship. It is better that if one of us is close at hand to help.” Gideon finished speaking with a brooding look.

“There is still no news on the vial. It does not seem to be on campus and all but three of those rescued have been cleared.”

“We will just have to wait and see. It will show up sooner or later. That type of item always does. Let us just hope it is not too late for those around the person that has it.”

“Agree! Ok enough of this disheartening news. School will start soon and I will make sure to bump into Alice. Do not look so down Gideon you are not to blame and from what I can tell she does not hate you.” Lucas finished and ruffled his brother’s hair playfully trying to get him to lighten up. Finally seeing a smile, he went on to talk about less important things trying to keep the mood light.

***

We finally cheered Lilly up. We had gone back to Bella’s room for a girl’s night. The fact that I felt like I was being watched everywhere I went, except for the girl’s dorm, had me a bit on edge. I was unsure who it might be. Was the school watching me because of me resurrecting Amy or was it the people trying to kill me? Perhaps it was something else altogether.

I found out that Lilly’s mother-in-law to be was a real bitch. The man in question was not exceptional but he was nice. He would treat her well and that was what her parents wanted, a pleasant life for their daughter. It was not until she was about to leave that she overheard the maids talking about her and the mothers plan to “put her in her place” for her darling boy. I for my part made a few suggestions on how she could handle it, my main one was tell her parents, get them involved and learn to use her magic better. She could literally just teleport home with enough practice or teleport the mother a hundred feet up and watch her fall. I did not tell her the last part. I just thought it.

I then caught them up on everything that happened while they were gone. They were not blunt and said I was an idiot to save Amy. Not that I disagreed but the extra stat points were too nice to let go.

Finally, I held up my fuzzy ball, “This is Pumpkin. It is a summoned creature by me. I am going to need your help to hide the fact that I can summon. This magic is also untested at the moment, so I have to figure out how to do it without others finding out. I was thinking that it might be useful to have a hidden ability. Well, that was my plan but unless I can get something stronger or more versatile, I might just give up on hiding it and just go all out to strengthen it. What do you all think?”

Lilly was the first to reply with, “You can summon?” followed by Bella’s, “But you have had it for days. Why has it not gone back?”

“I just maintain it with my mana. It is pretty cheap, so I do not mind.” They just stared at me when I finished so I added “what?”

“Alice, I am not sure about Lilly but I have never heard of any summoner being able to keep their summoned monsters for more than a few hours; a day at most. Now you are saying that yours can just hang around without you struggling! Oh my … I do not think hiding that it is a summons will be an issue. Have you tried anything else?” Bella looked all excited, like she was the one that was going to do it.

“Not yet, Amy has been hanging around and I do not trust her. She cannot ever keep from looking at me weirdly. I am pretty sure that she is struggling to mask her hatred of me. But you know what they say, ‘Keep your friends close...’ ” I trailed off and they both looked at me strangely.

“Keep your friends close? Is she a friend?” Lilly asked and I then had to explain about keeping a watch on your enemies by keeping them close. I guess that saying never made it to this world. A pity since it was pretty good advice.

Bella added, “Her look did not appear to be angry to me.” But left it at that and would not say what kind of look she thought it was. The rest of the night we spent eating and talking. It would be the last free night since classes would start in two days.

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