Fictober18 Day 18
Prompt: ““You should have seen it.”
Erin/Gerald Story!! Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6
At Wilhemina’s declaration, all the students standing near Erin stood several steps back, leaving her in a space standing by herself. Surprised, angry, she looked up at the student council vice president, shaking her head.
“OF COURSE you’re going to deny it!” Wilhemina interrupted, laughing. “But if you look at the facts, I think it’s easy to see just how obvious of a trail you’ve left behind.” She stepped down from the stage, the students parting to make a path for her as she moved closer to Erin, finally stopping just a few feet away. Her smile was cruel as she lifted a finger to point in Erin’s face.
“Normally I wouldn’t have done this so publically. But I have a duty to my fellow students to protect them from danger, and if the administration is going to ignore you because of your powerful relatives, then my only choice is to expose you for the devious criminal you are!”
At the girl’s self-righteous tone Erin felt her blood boil. Her magical power surged within her, a ringing in her ears beginning as the growing magic pressed up against the restriction spell. She wanted nothing more than to reach forward and crush the girl in front of her.
It would be so easy to destroy her.
She wouldn’t even have time to realize how she died.
As she stood there, struggling, she felt a hand rest softly on her shoulder, and a familiar voice spoke out, breaking her from her angry spiral.
“If you are willing to declare this so publically, I assume you have hard evidence of wrongdoing?”
Gerald’s voice was so cold the surrounding students took another step back, trying to distance themselves from the two. Between Erin’s terrifying aura and Gerald’s glare, even Wilhemina felt the pressure and wanted to retreat. Breaking out in a cold sweat, she stepped forward, her smile a little more forced.
“It’s simple:” She counted off on her fingers. “First, the only person who would benefit in this school from stealing level 3 fire powers is someone who has lesser abilities. In this school, admission criteria are high, there is only one student who has all abilities under level 3.” She chuckled. “In fact, despite being in your period of growth, you have yet to increase your power by even a single level, isn’t that right, Erin?”
The murmuring of the surrounding students grew louder, Erin felt more than one angry stare on her back.
“Second, despite her only having level 1 powers, she was able to strike a blow to Frederick several weeks ago, knocking him down. This would take considerably more power than she is known to have.”
Her eyes looked over at Gerald, and her grin widened. “And the final proof is you yourself, prince. Upon meeting her, what was the first thing you said? That she was the most powerful student in this academy, right?”
“But that…” Gerald tried to break in, but Wilhemina would not let him talk.
“Not even you can explain away how a student with only level 1 abilities can suddenly be the most powerful student in the academy… unless she is stealing powers from her fellow students.”
The murmurs around her had grown into angry shouts. Erin shook her head, realizing she had no hope of convincing them in this atmosphere. She looked her accuser in the eye, making the other girl grow pale.
“Wilhemina, you and I both know that I am not behind these. You can continue take advantage of this situation now, and spread these lies, but just know this:”
She stepped forward, only inches separating them now. When she finally spoke, it was just loud enough for the two of them to hear. “When the time comes, and the truth comes to light, I will remember to repay my debts. And you won’t be able to afford the cost.”
Wilhemina showed a vicious expression. “You know where to find me, Worthless Princess.”
The assembly ended with that, but Erin’s troubles were just beginning.
Her school life had never been pleasant, but now it had descended into absolute hell. Some students simply ignored her, refusing to be near her and pretending she didn’t exist. Erin preferred these methods.
Some, however, took a more devious route. Destroying her belongings, shredding her assignments before they could be handed in. Small, almost undetectable magic attacks struck her throughout magical theory class. Wind magic ripped out her hair, fire magic singed her clothes, water magic filled her shoes and froze into place. Exhausted, Erin would spend the majority of her mental energy countering or protecting herself from attacks in all directions. Her head pounded constantly as she was forced to draw on magic over and over, pushing constantly on her restrictions.
Things were even worse in the practical studies. Once on the practice field, sash after sash was thrown at her feet, as students lined up for the opportunity to face her in a magical fight. Unable to reject, she accepted each duel, and fought bitterly to the end. With her restrictions still in place, there was very little she could do, and each fight ended with her on the ground, her anger and bitterness growing with each loss.
Gerald was beside himself. He stayed by her side despite the pressure, healing her after each fight. His face was pale, his hands trembling as he helped her to her feet each time.
“Let me help!” He begged her one day after her fifth loss since practical studies had begun, wanting to take her place. “This is killing you!”
Erin smiled wanly, reaching out to gently touch his face. “I have to fight my own battles.” She shook her head, trying to clear it as she tried to steady herself on her feet. “Besides, they may not realize it, but they are actually helping me grow stronger.” She grinned. “That was the point of the restriction spell in the first place, after all.”
Gerald did not return her smile, looking more worried. “Being stronger in the future won’t help anything if you’re dead.” He looked at her determined expression, and then sighed loudly. “At least let me help out with the ones who are breaking the rules to attack you during theory class.”
Erin tilted her head, blinking her eyes as her vision blurred briefly. “Would that make you feel better?”
His expression was grim. “No, but it will definitely make them feel worse.”
Laughing bitterly, she agreed, turning to face her next opponent.
Having gotten her agreement, Gerald didn’t waste any time. He immediately went on a rampage, challenging every student that had attacked her secretly during class. Caught in the same trap that Erin was, they had no choice but to accept a formal duel.
They didn’t stand a chance.
Against average students, his level 5 Insight truly shined, allowing him to counter and utterly defeat each opponent. He showed no mercy, often attacking faster than they could surrender. Many were carried off the field unconscious, broken bones and internal injuries became a common sight in the infirmary.
It didn’t lessen the number of challenges that Erin received each day, but quickly the secret harassment she received during class stopped, as word got around that it was a easiest way to find oneself facing one of the strongest students of the academy.
Erin knew that it was causing Gerald to be viewed as an accomplice, that he was being avoided and ostracized as well. She felt guilty about it, talked to him multiple times, but still he stubbornly refused to leave her side.
“How can I convince you to marry me if I can’t handle a little pressure like this?” He would say with a grin before going out to challenge students once again.
Day by day Erin’s frustration grew. Each fight she pushed harder on her restrictions, trying to win. Occasionally she would be able to pull out extra power and land a blow, but it always came at the cost of headache, dizziness, sometimes to the point of knocking her unconscious. And any time she did use more power, the rumors regarding her being the attacker simply grew stronger.
Erin was getting tired.
In the midst of this situation spiraling out of control, she received a summons from Lady Belanna, the headmistress of St. Julienne’s Academy. Frustrated, Erin considered pretending she hadn’t received it, but knowing it was unavoidable as long as she was at this school, she headed slowly to the administrative office. This had to be about the rumors of her being the attacker.
Immediately after arriving Erin realized this meeting was not going to go well.
“Sit down, dear! Can I get you a cup of tea?” Lady Belanna’s voice was sickly sweet, her face a perfect mask of concern and caring. All it succeeded in doing was making Erin more uncomfortable, as she hunched her shoulders, avoiding contact with the older woman.
“No I’m fine, thanks.”
“Alright then.” Abruptly frowning, the headmistress sat at her desk, staring over at Erin with a pensive expression. “You’re in a very difficult position, dear.”
She waved a hand, interrupting Erin mid-sentence. “Oh, I know you’re not the attacker. You’re simply not capable of that advanced magic.” She leaned forward, lacing her fingers together. “The problem is that everyone now believes you are, and I have really no way to prove that you are innocent.”
“Shouldn’t you have to prove I’m guilty?” Erin asked, shaking her head.
“It’s the perception of your guilt that’s important, dear. No one has ever cared about the facts. What they want is a story.” She smiled, but the expression didn’t reflect in her eyes. “If this continues onward, I will be left with no choice but to move forward with your expulsion.”
“…” A few breaths of silence hung in the air as they both processed the implications of that statement. Finally Erin broke it, throwing her head back and laughing loudly. She laughed for a while, unrestrained, until she finally caught her breath, wiping tears from her eyes.
“What, may I ask, do you find so funny about this situation?” The headmistress’s voice was cold.
“I just thought about what my father’s reaction will be to his only child be expelled.” She chuckled again. “I am the only black spot on his otherwise perfect reputation. He is going to lose his mind when he hears this.”
Lady Belanna lost it. “I can’t believe you would find that amusing!” She stood up, her face red. “Your father has given you everything, you ungrateful brat, and all you have done is caused him trouble!” At those spiteful words she seemed to catch herself, and realizing that her mask was slipping, carefully tried to rearrange it into a pleasant expression once again.
“I’m sorry, Éirinne. I’m not angry, I’m just worried about your future.” She sat back down with a sigh. “Why don’t I contact your father? Between the two of us, I bet we can get this nasty rumor business all sorted out. You shouldn’t have to suffer like this, dear.”
Erin stood up herself with a calm smile, startling the older woman. “I’m not suffering at all, Headmistress. I know that in the end, the truth will win out. So thank you for the offer, but I don’t need your help, or my father’s.” She turned towards the door, pretending not to notice when the chair arm that Lady Belanna was grasping cracked in her grip. “I’ll see myself out.”
With that, she left the office, feeling satisfied for the first time since Wilhemina called her out in the assembly.
Hearing her name called out by a familiar voice as she left the administrative building, Erin paused and turned to face them.
“Olivia. How have you been?” Her tone was bland, her face blank. She had barely seen the other girl since the student assembly. Despite sitting near each other in class, they hadn’t spoken or spent any time together since her harassment started.
Olivia stood in front of her, looking exhausted and worn down. Erin looked in her eyes and was startled to see unshed tears hovering there.
“Look, Erin, I know I’ve been a terrible friend. I should have been there for you… but…” The girl trailed off miserably.
“I understand you have your own issues, and you have to prioritize your family and scholarship over my troubles. I would have never wanted you to hurt yourself trying to stand by me.” Erin spoke slowly, trying to reign in her temper. “But I can’t lie and say it didn’t hurt to see you ignore me. I mean, we share a dorm suite and I still haven’t seen you in days. Where have you even been sleeping?”
Olivia shook her head. “I saw you leaving the Headmistress’s office. Are you in trouble?”
“You should have seen it.” Erin grinned. “She tried to pressure me to depend on her and my father, using vague threats without a shred of evidence. Her face when I turned her down was priceless.”
“… Why did you turn her down?” the question was asked so quietly, Erin almost couldn’t hear it.
Even when she realized what had been asked, she didn’t believe she had heard right. They had been friends for years. Although Olivia didn’t know the specifics about her family situation, she knew that her father hated her, and that Lady Belanna wanted to use her to get in her father’s good graces. Just that alone should have prevented her from asking this.
“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.” Erin’s voice was cold, and Olivia shuddered visibly and shrank back. But seeming to find some hidden determination, she met Erin’s eyes again and pushed forward.
“You have to think practically! You could get expelled! Is it really that big of a deal to depend on people, even if you don’t like them?”
Seeing Erin’s stony face and obviously realizing she wasn’t getting anywhere, Olivia sighed and continued. “This isn’t even why I was trying to talk to you. I wanted to warn you.”
Erin raised an eyebrow. “Warn me?”
“Yes. I didn’t want to say anything because he seemed so nice and liked you and everything, but you need to be careful around Gerald.”
“…” Erin stared at Olivia in shock.
“Look, the timing of the attacks is just too coincidental. They started right after he got here! How much do we really know about him anyways?” She trailed off again, realizing that Erin’s expression was growing more and more angry.
“And why do you think he would be stealing powers from other students?” Erin struggled to keep her voice calm. “He has level 5 insight, level 4 water and earth abilities. How would he benefit from stealing powers that were weaker than what he currently has?”
Olivia hesitated, before reaching out to grasp Erin’s hand. “What if he’s doing it for you? He may be planning to transfer their abilities to you, to help you get stronger…”
Erin stared at Olivia. She considered telling her the truth… that she wasn’t weak, that there was no reason for him to bestow powers onto her. But in the end she stopped herself, pulling her hand away from her friend’s grasp.
“I’m sorry, but you’re wrong about him.”
“Erin…” Olivia sounded like she was about to cry.
“I have to go.” With that, Erin turned around and walked away, refusing to look back.
Erin spent the night in her dorm room, thinking things over carefully. Everything was happening too quickly. She briefly thought over Olivia’s accusations before brushing them aside, unwilling to exam too closely why even the idea of it made her heart hurt. Closing her eyes and sighing, she leaned back in her bed.
I need help.
She turned the silver ring on her finger, and whispered the incantation to activate the artifact her aunt had given her.
-This had better be an emergency, Erin.
Aunt Elsinore’s voice sounded in her ear, the irritable tone strangely comforting.
“I’m sorry, but honestly, I don’t know who else to talk to.” Erin felt tears prick at the corners of her eyes, and absentmindedly wiped them away.
-… What the heck is going on? Do I need to kill someone?
With a quiet laugh, Erin detailed all of the attacks that had been going on, including the accusations against her and Gerald, as well as Lady Belanna’s offer.
-That stupid girl is still lusting after the devil while thinking he’s an angel.
Aunt Elsinore was nothing if not blunt.
- You were right to stay far away from her and your father. As for these attacks… it’s very strange.
- Procurement is a top-secret ability, much like my restriction. It is a variant of the spiritual reinforcement power combined with a healing ability, but instead of strengthening the ability in question; it cuts it off at the source and heals off the connection, as if the person in question had never had the ability to begin with.
Erin frowned, getting more frustrated. “Who would be able to do something like this?”
- They would have to have high up connections in the government. I don’t know the magic user, their identity is hidden much my own, but whoever it is produces artifacts that can be activated to steal abilities.
Her voice was cynical.
- It’s supposed to be used as a military grade weapon. For the artifacts to appear at a school… whoever it is has some serious backing.
“Can the victim’s powers be restored?”
- If you get your hands on the artifact used to steal the powers in the first place, they can be used to reverse the process.
Erin sighed with relief. “Well at least that’s something.” She rubbed her face, exhausted. “Now I just have to figure out who is doing this… and why.”
-There’s not much I can do to help you…
Her Aunt hesitated, before speaking in a much sterner tone.
- Erin, What have you done to the restriction spell?
Erin’s eyes snapped open, confused. “What do you mean?”
-It’s cracking, coming apart at the seams. I don’t know what foolishness you’ve been up to, but stop it. If you break the spell forcibly, the backlash could kill you.
“Why don’t you just remove it then?” She threw up her hands in frustration, forgetting that her aunt couldn’t see the gesture.
-If I remove it, I won’t be able to fully seal your powers again like I did when you were thirteen. You will lose your advantage when it comes time to kill your father.
Aunt Elsinore’s voice sighed quietly.
-Just be careful, and let the spell do its work. I’ll do some research, I may be able to repair the spell somewhat. I’ll contact you soon.
With that, her aunt’s presence was gone. She was alone once again.
Unable to sleep, she went outside for a walk. Despite it being dark out, Erin couldn’t find it within herself to feel nervous.
After all, she reasoned with herself, right now they’re successfully blaming me for all this, it would be counterproductive to attack me right now.
Despite this, she was fairly distracted, keeping her head down and walking forward… only to run straight into someone’s chest.
“Fancy meeting you here.” A cheerful greeting immediately slowed down her racing heart rate.
“Gerald.” She looked up at him with a smile, before glancing around. “What are you doing here so late?”
“I heard about you getting called to the Headmistress’s office, and I was worried.” He shrugged. “So I snuck over to make sure you were okay.”
“I’m…” Erin tried to force out the word “okay”, but it stuck in her throat.
Distressed she looked away, and so was surprised when a pair of arms surrounded her, pulling her into a gentle hug.
“You don’t have to be fine, Erin. You’re allowed to be not okay after all this.” Gerald spoke quietly, his breath warm against the top of her head.
“I hate this.” She whispered back, “I’m angry, and I want to hurt whoever is doing this.”
He chuckled in response. “I’ll help you hold them down and you can beat them up.” He straightened up, slowly letting go of Erin, and giving her a wide smile when she made a reluctant face at the parting as well.
“Okay, I’m going to change the subject, before my brain fries from excitement.” He took a deep breath, looking away, a light flush coloring the tips of his ears. “What happened this afternoon?”
Erin summarized her encounters with the headmistress and her aunt, but left out Olivia and her accusations. She felt bad, but didn’t want him to dislike her best friend for some poorly chosen comments.
He nodded with satisfaction as she described turning down the headmistress. “Good. She’s super creepy and staying away from her seems like a strong plan. As for what your aunt said…”
He then hesitated. “Erin, I have to confess something.”
Erin balked, her face draining of blood. Please don’t let it be…
Gerald saw her expression and held his hands up quickly. “No! Nothing terrible… it’s just…” He ran his hand through his hair, obviously uncomfortable. “It’s just… I may know who is behind this.”
Erin reached out, grabbing his arm. “Who?!”
“It’s not that simple.” He shook his head. “I only have suspicions, not evidence, and I think there’s something bigger going on behind the scenes. What your aunt said about the culprit having high up government connections confirms that.”
He pulled away, reaching inside his pocket and pulling out two packages.
“I have to confirm one last thing, and then I promise I’ll lay all my cards out on the table, and we’ll talk this through. I just don’t want to accuse the wrong person and hurt someone. But just in case, I want you to take these:”
He opened the first package, pulling out a simple gold chain necklace with a red stone.
Erin reached out, but then hesitated to touch it. “It’s an artifact?”
Gerald grinned. “It’s a level 5 insight type artifact, you don’t have to worry about it crumbling to dust when you touch it.”
“Okay.” She took it from him, looked at it a moment, then placed it around her neck. “What is it for?”
“It has a tracking ability.” He gently tapped the red stone on the chain. “It has a drop of my blood used in the forging of it. If you activate it, you should be able to find me, no matter where I am.”
Erin frowned. “Why should I…”
“If you need me, you can reach me.” His grin was rueful. “I can’t make communication artifacts, this is the best I can do.”
“Fine.” She looked at the cloth package still in his hand. “What’s that?”
“This?” He hesitated, weighing it in his hand for a moment. “This is just the level 2 wind artifact that I owe Olivia. You know, the one i tossed you that was accidentally destroyed? I had it made in town, but haven’t had a chance to give it to her. If you see her, can you make sure she gets it?”
Erin thought about refusing, saying that Gerald should give it to her himself, but remembering the other girl’s accusations earlier, decided against it. “I can’t touch this one, though, with my wind abilities, it will immediately self destruct.”
“You’ll be fine if you keep it in the cloth.” With that he handed it to her and sighed, seemingly relieved.
“I’m going to go do my best, please promise me no matter what that you’ll take care of yourself.”
Why did this seem like a final goodbye?
Worried, Erin reached out to grab his hand, but Gerald simply took it, bowed, and gave a light kiss to the back of her hand before stepping away.
“Gerald…” She couldn’t conceal the anxiety she felt, but he only smiled in response.
He paused, and then spoke once more. “The last student who was attacked... She had grade 4 wind magic. You should know this, just in case.”
“What do you…?”
With that, he turned and strode away, leaving Erin alone on the walkway. She stared at his back, a dark sense of foreboding welling up within her.
He’ll be okay. She told herself. He has to be.
Except he wasn’t. The next day, he didn’t show up to theory class, to practical studies, or anywhere else on campus. He was gone.
Erin wandered around the pathways, as the sun was setting. Moving away from the other students, she looked around trying to find a place where she could be alone.
“Erin? What are you doing here?”
It was Olivia again.
“I’m looking for Gerald, have you seen him?” Erin was distracted, barely noticing when the other girl flinched slightly at his name.
“No, Erin I thought I told you to stay away…”
“Nevermind then I’ll keep looking.” Distraught, she looked around helplessly.
Where could he be?
Wait… the artifact! She remembered that Gerald had given her the necklace to track him down. Had he predicted something like this would happen?
That reminded her.
“By the way, this is for you.” She tossed the cloth covered wind artifact over to Olivia, who caught it. A curious expression on her face, she unwrapped the pendant…
Only to have it dissolve into dust in her hands.
“Erin?” Olivia’s voice was strangely flat. “What was that? An artifact?”
“It was the replacement…” Erin trailed off, confused. It was a level 2 wind artifact… why would it self-destruct in Olivia’s hands? She had level 2 wind powers, at the same level of ability or lower, it should have been fine…
She thought about what Gerald had told her, right before he said goodbye.
“The last student who was attacked... She had grade 4 wind magic. You should know this, just in case.”
She had gained abilities from someone else.
“Olivia…?” Erin’s voice cracked on the name, her hands trembling so badly she gripped them together. “What have you done?”
204 notes · View notes