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Take Me to the Savannah

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The dorm ribbon pulled back my hair into a ponytail. My reflection in the mirror stared back at me. Lack of makeup. Bags under my eyes from a lack of sleep due to staying up worrying too much. Frizzy and unkempt curls. The whole works, really.

Turned back into a pumpkin after the long weekend was over, that’s for sure. But this is about as good as it’s gonna get. At least my makeshift dorm leader outfit is pretty cute. That’s a start.

Walking out of the bathroom and slipping by the sleeping monster cat on the bed, I went down stairs into the main living area. I snagged my makeshift handbag off of the couch, sling it over one shoulder.

One last rundown before I go and get my coffee. My dorm leader uniform, check. My phone, check. My makeshift handbag with that report I typed up last night while at Malika’s place, check. Took my birth control, check-check.

“What’s with the fancy getup?” Lucia asked. “You never wore that outfit much before.”

I jolted. I whirled around. Lucia floated up in the air, laying on her back with her arms crossed behind her head. Connie floated beside her. No ax at her side, strangely enough.

“I have to wear this to that head prefect meeting in an hour.”

Lucia nodded. “Ah.”

I turned, walking in the direction of the hallway, and the other ghost floated along beside me.

“What’s this meeting about?” Connie asked.

I yawned. “Something about usual dorm upkeep and the Magishift tournament. Usual shit.”

Connie’s brows furrowed. “You’re talking about that already?”

Lucia deadpanned. “Magical Shift season usually starts in the Autumn term.”

Connie cleared her throat. “Certainly, I already knew that.”

Lucia rolled her eyes. “Sure you did.”

I don’t even know what else to really say to that. Magishift doesn’t exist in my dimension and never had the chance to look it up yet, so I know little about it. I’m still not sure if they managed to overhear the whole “I am an alien” conversation from when Ace and Deuce bunked here a few weeks ago. I don’t want to reveal that bombshell to that unless I have to.

“I’m kinda surprised you’re going to that considering…” Connie said, “the lack of people here.”

“My thoughts exactly,” I said curtly, walking into the front hallway alongside them. “But Crowbar wills it, I guess.”

“Crowbar?”

“The vice-chancellor. Many of my nicknames for him. Crowley, Crowbar.” I shrugged, slipping into my flats. “Get it?”

Connie nodded.

“Almost time for the moment of truth,” I mumbled, turning my attention to the front door.

Lucia giggled. “God, you're acting like you’re marching off into war.”

“She’s right,” Connie added before my sleep deprived brain had a chance to retort back. A surprisingly soft smile pulled along her lips. “Just relax. As long as you came prepared in advance, it should work out fine.”

Connie’s right. Completely right. Mom never had a hard time with these back home. She even complained about them being a waste of time and wishing that she could send things out via email instead.

At the same time… Easy for her to say. She’s not the one going to a business meeting for the first time and not just watching bits of ones from the sidelines like mom’s volunteer ones at Latincover. I’m not even sure she’s ever attended one. Saying that would be rude… I think.

I returned it. “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”

Oh, right.

“Make sure Grim doesn’t wreck anything while I’m gone. I’ll grab him when I get back.”

“Certainly,” Connie said with a curt nod, but even I could pick up the irritation in her eyes.

“Hurry back!” Lucia said softly as the front door shut behind me.

—0—

Stares, sneers and even a few leers followed me as I walked down the hall of the main building on Tuesday morning. Not really surprised as the only girl attending school here, which makes me stand out automatically in classroom settings. My outfit, complete with a skirt, adds to that even more.

Normally, back in my own world, I wouldn’t mind standing out once in a while. Might’ve even relished in it. When I look like total shit and feel like little gremlins are taking a sledge hammer to my skull from a lack of sleep from worrying so much last night? Not so much. The fact that the person who dragged me here is still out there adds to my desire to melt into the background even more.

Walking to the end of the hallway, I came across a door with a small sign saying “Meeting Room 04” beside it. Waking up my phone and bringing up Riddle’s email, my eyes bounced back and forth a couple times to double check if the names matched. They did. Unless Riddle sent me a document with the wrong information on it, which seems unlikely given his personality, this should be it.

I tossed the empty coffee cup into the trash, and a small thud echoed when it fell inside of the container. Well, this is it. There’s no turning back.

Nope. As long as I act professional and not fuck up in any shape or form, I should be fine. Or I really fucking hope so.

Taking a deep breath, I opened the door and entered the room. It was just like any other meeting room in my own dimension. Plain brown walls lined the room. A long table stretched across the far centre of the room. Green lanterns floated on each side of the long windows, lighting up the room. Of course, not a single other soul in sight.

I’m the only one here? … Great. Just fantastic.

Might as well stand here and learn more about Magishift while I have some spare time thanks to my brain being stupid and being done my coffee. Especially since I forgot to look it up before during the long weekend… like the dumbass that I am. Going into a meeting about a subject that I know fuck-all about it would make me seem like a total dumbass and make other head prefects highly suspicious towards me. Texting either Ace and Deuce about it this early in the morning would be a dick move. Not like I have anything better to do right now besides go on Descent and annoy people on my servers or find a mobile game to play on the app store. Or sleep, which I really need, but can’t have—because life’s a bitch.

Logging onto the wifi network and then this dimension’s version of Google, I typed in “Magishift” in the top search bar. My finger tapped the first result. I scrolled down, my eyes scanning the text on screen.

Article upon article sang a similar tune. Magishift, or Magical Shift if you wanted to go by the long version, is a popular sport throughout Twisted Wonderland and other parts of the world. (Not Westernland, surprisingly enough.) In ancient times, it was used as a death match between others for the amusement of the kinds and upper crust in their version of the Roman Empire, much like gladiator battles, but morphed over time into a sport where no one dies to test out skill and strength or for fun.

The sport seems like the weird lovechild between football and ultimate frisbee. Each team is made up of seven players. The object of the game is you throw a heavy metal disc in the other team’s goal to score points. Whoever scores the most points is the winner.

Unfortunately, unlike football and ultimate frisbee in my own dimension, the sport requires magic to play. Period. Players must carry the disk with magic. All of the offence and defence techniques require magic as well. In fact, any non-lethal or dangerous attack is a go, especially magic based ones.

Great. Yet another thing barred from me thanks to my status as a non-mage. And something that sounded fun to play at first.

Footsteps echoed. Coming closer and closer. My phone slipped into my makeshift handbag.

The Simon-Looking Guy waltzed on through the door. Braids framed each side of his face. Dark brown hair cascaded down his back. The necklace across his collar was filled with different animal teeth, which popped against his deep-bronze skin, and jewels. He donned a black biker vest with a gold and black muscle shirt underneath, showing off his toned arms complete with a black lion head tattoo on one. Son of a bitch!

“You’re a head prefect!?”

“Yes,” the Simon-Looking Guy yawned and brushed past me. “Of course I am. What else did you think I came here for?”

I clapped on a Popular Bitch Smirk, playing with the pebble in my hand some more. “Got lost on the way to the biker convention?”

“Ha! As if,” The Simon-Looking Guy scoffed. His back smacked against the wall, and he leaned back as if he was one of my old coworkers wanting to chat beside the water cooler, arms crossed. “This is just the standard Savannahclaw uniform that I’m forced to wear to fancy events. Or did you actually believe that you were the only one who had to prance around in a fancy getup to these?”

My simper faltered, and the pebble pinched between my thumb and pointer finger. I have no comebacks for that. That’s actually a great point. Dammit! God, it’s far too early in the morning for this bullshit. Still, I have to ask. “What’s your name?”

The Simon-Looking Guy blinked, and then he stared at me with half-lid eyes as if he never got enough sleep last night.

“It’s only polite, especially since we’re kinda coworkers now.”

“Technically not, but…” The Simon-Looking Guy trailed off before he yawned into his elbow again.

Another smirk coiled along my lips, going back to my regular scheduled stimming. “Or do you want me to dub you Sir Sniffs A Lot?”

“Alright, fine!” he grumbled, leaning back against the wall with his arms crossed. “It’s Leona.”

Leona? Like that character from The King of Fighters series? And League of Legends? ...even if that last one sucks outside of the cinematics.

“Your’s?” he asked.

Continuing to play with the pebble in my free hand, I said, “Adriana.”

Leona nodded. Green eyes drifted shut. Suppose I don’t blame him for getting a few extra z’s before this stupid meeting. Part of myself wants nothing more than to go back to my dorm and take a nap, especially with the minor headache that’s coming on.

“Alright,” a voice said in an accent I couldn’t pin down. “I’m logged on.”

I whirled around. A black tablet, with that one Hades dorm on the screen, hovered in the air near eye level. Holy shit! Floating electronics exist here? Since when? Or is that some prototype that people attending university here are working on?

How does that even work? Does it have some type of component that allows for that? Sound acoustics? Powered by unicorn farts trapped in there? Okay… Highly unlikely. This is a fantasy universe, anything is possible!

“Hi Adriana!” Kalim called out.

I whirled around. Kalim, who was dressed in his more fancy uniform, rushed up to me. I slapped on a more professional composure like my mom’s. “Oh, hey.”

“Attending these meetings now too, huh?”

“Yup. The vice chancellor ordered me to come here, so I must abide by his orders,” I said, and the pebble pinched between my fingertips, “even if it seems stupid since it’s only me and my familiar attending school here in that dorm.”

Kalim hummed. “I see. Nice to have you here either way.”

I went back to just twirling the blue pebble in my fingertips. My eyes shimmered. “Thanks, you too.”

His eyes opened. Leona blinked, rubbing the side of his face. “You two know each other?”

“Yeah,” Kalim said. “We met a few times before. Adriana, this is Leona—the head prefect of Savannahclaw, and the tablet’s Idia—the one of Ignihyde… Erm, well, not the tablet itself. The tablet is allowing him to live stream the meeting. Idia’s human.”

“I already met Leona before very briefly,” I said, trying my damndest not to bring up the sniffing incident and be professional, “but it's a pleasure to meet you, Idia.”

“Nice to meet you,” Idia squeaked. Is he afraid of me or something? I know I’m an alien, but I highly doubt that he would pick up on that already. No one would come to that conclusion automatically. Occam's Razor and all. Is he afraid of girls or something? Or I could be misinterpreting social cues...again. Most likely that.

Heels clacked against the floor before a fair-skinned guy holding a portable coffee mug strolled into the room. If there was ever a God of Sex in human form, either this guy… or Jamil would be it. His fair skinned, heart-shaped face was expertly painted with cosmetics that accentuate his natural features even more. Blond hair cascaded down to just above his shoulders with purple tips that matched his powerful eyes. Purple robes clade his lithe figure with high heeled boots on his feet. Very much like if Ben Barnes had a blond much younger brother. Or a much younger version of the Darkling from that Shadow and Bones series I watched earlier this year. And that one villain from The Punisher.

“So you’re the magicless girl attending uni here that everyone is talking about…?” Darkles Junior said in a vaguely British accent.

“Yes?”

His free hand grabbed my chin, forcing it up towards him. His amethyst gaze studied every angle of my face.

“You have good bone structure. In pretty good physical shape. Your outfit choice is pretty decent given the circumstances.”

“Thanks…?” I said, unsure what else to say to any of that.

“Bewitching and rare dark brown eyes, too.”

There’s that phrase again—rare brown eyes… or another way of saying that. Guess things really are the exact opposite here. Candy coloured eyes seem to be common here, come to think of it. Grey, red and blue eyes are probably the equivalent to brown due to how many people here have them, while brown eyes are like violet back in my homeworld with how sparse they are. That would certainly explain why I never saw a single person with that eye colour since I was isekai’d here.

Darkles Junior shook his head. “Ashamed, though. Your appearance still needs a lot of work. Posture is indecent. Face needs a lot of polishing. No makeup. Your hair is quite frizzy. You have huge split ends as if you never cut it in many months. I can tell you don’t use any cream rinse...or wash it correctly to get all of the grease out. Or style your hair properly. Or got enough sleep in the last while. And your skin, did you even use more than soap and water to take care of it before a few days ago?”

“For the last while, yes…?”

Darkles Junior shook his head. “Such a lazy potato. While I can tell that you are in decent shape, you should take more care of your appearance and health more. Such a waste.”

My brain blue screened at that. Fuck him, too, I guess.

And… Potato? What kind of insult is that!? It sounds like something a kindergartener would come up with on the fly when they can’t think of something more scathing to say!

My eyes shifted over. The tablet just floated there. Kalim stared at Darkles Junior as if he turned into a talking snowman. Leona huffed, being the first to speak up. “Of course you would criticize a girl about that shit before you even learn her name.”

Darkles Junior huffed, letting go of my face. “Working hard to take care of one's own health and appearance is important regardless of gender, even if you don’t think so.”

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever.”

Okay. I totally agree with Darkles Junior’s sentiment. But why the hell did he grab my chin and list off all of my physical flaws? Who does that!? You know that you’re being a weirdo when the guy who sniffed my shoulder when we first met points out how bizarre that is.

Boots padded against the tiled floor. Riddle, who was dressed in that same fancy outfit from that duel, strolled into the room. “I apologize for the holdup.”

“So I came second and Riddle was almost late?” Leona mused. A smug smirk pulled along his lips as he never moved from that spot on the wall. “Wow. Tartarus really must be freezing over.”

Riddle huffed. “If you really must know, I had some business to attend to at my dorm before coming here.”

“Sure, sure. Whatever.”

Riddle turned to me, and whispered, “Is that cat familiar of yours here?”

“Don’t worry,” I whispered back… or as much as I could given my loud speaking voice. “Grim’s sleeping back in my dorm. He complained about coming here, so I told him that he can sit all of these out. I’ll just worry about it.”

“Ah,” Riddle nodded. “I see.”

A guy, dressed in black and lalic business attire, walked in. A fedora hat with a conch shell on the brim rested on top of his head with platinum blond curls framing his fair-skinned face. A cane with a strange bobble on top clenched in one hand. He kinda looks like a much younger Astarion from Baldur's Gate 3 in an Ursula Disneybound outfit without the elf ears. Or a much younger Priminger from that one Barbie movie.

How the hell is he not roasting alive in that? I know it’s the end of September, and it’s already beginning to get cooler, but he’s wearing two coats, one black blazer and one thicker, lilac one, while indoors. I would take those off, just wearing that lilac dress shirt underneath if that were me. Same goes for Darkles Junior for that matter.

“Alright,” Priminger said in a faint fantasy Italian accent. “Everyone’s here. Time to start the meeting.”

We all shuffled over to the long table. I pulled up a seat at the edge of the table beside Kalim and across from Riddle, due to them being the only ones I know here semi-well. Putting my makeshift handbag into my lap, I forced my feet to stay put on the ground. (Can’t cross my legs in the chair like the bi bitch I am right now, especially while in a skirt.) The others took their seats around the table with Leona beside Kalim to my utter joy.

Priminger took the head of the table. His cane turned back into a simple magipen, and he slipped it into his pocket. Wow. That’s so cool. Guess these guys are able to change their magipens on demand. How are they able to do that? Does it come naturally to them? Need to look into that later.

Darkles Junior pulled up a seat for the tablet, which the electronic device promptly took before he sat down on the chair beside it. I bit my bottom lip to prevent myself from laughing. Wow… just wow. It’s like something lifted straight out of a parody video or TikTok meme, but this is playing for real right before my eyes.

Priminger adjusted his square-framed glasses. “Welcome to our second meeting of the year. First off all, since we have a new face in the crowd, some introductions are in order.” He placed a hand on his chest. “My name is Azul Ashengrotto.”

I fiddled with the pebble. “Adriana Strano-García, but Adriana or Addie works.”

Darkles Junior’s brows furrowed. “Did you just say your Hidden Name out loud?”

I shook my head. “Nope, two last names separated with a hyphen.”

Darkles Junior nodded. Some of the confusion washed off of his features.

“Don’t worry about it,” Kalim shrugged. “I get that sometimes when I say one of my shortened surnames too.”

One of his shortened last names…?

Oh, yeah. MENA people have super long surnames that include their father’s, grandfather’s and family name, and is often shortened to make things easier on everyone, even on legal documents. Or at least that’s what Sahar told me that awhile ago. He probably uses multiple versions of those.

Amethyst eyes hardened. “Also, your name?”

Kalim smiled awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck. “To keep formalities…I guess, I’m Kalim ibn al-Asim, but just call me Kalim.”

“Riddle Rosehearts.”

Darkles Junior took a sip from his portable coffee mug. “Vil Schönheit.”

“Idia Shroud,” the voice over the tablet speaker.

Leona rubbed his eye. “Leona Kingscholar.”

Between one of the seats being taken by a floating tablet, some people seemingly cosplaying Disney characters and my Smurfette Ass, this has to be one of the most bizarre gatherings of college students ever.

…Or just a gathering of college students in general, really, the more I think about it. College students are just bizarre like this. Myself included.

Wait… Hold on. Eight seats in this section of the long table. One on the far side of my row beside Leona is empty. No sign of that guy who looks like genderbent Maleficent.

My hand shot up. “Excuse me.”

“Yes,” Azul blinked. “What is it?”

I set my forearm down on the table. “Before we start, aren’t we missing someone?”

Kalim’s brows scrunched together. “What do you mean?”

“There’s seven of us, but there are eight dormitories if you include mine. So I think we’re missing… that dragon prince guy...”

Red eyes widened. “Crap! We forgot Malleus!”

“Finally, someone else noticed besides me!” Vil threw up his hands, exasperated. Purple eyes shifted towards Leona across from him, and Vil scowled. “I thought you got Diasomnia’s head prefect and had to text out the schedule to him.”

“Must’ve slipped my mind.” Leona laid his head down on the table again.

My brows bumped together as I stared at Leona. “What do you mean by that?”

“Oh,” Kalim chimed in. He crossed his arms behind his head, leaning back in his office chair. “We use an app that lets us draw lots to see who had to tell the missing members about the meeting. I got Idia, and Leona got...Malleus. Riddle offered to let you know, since he already had your contact info.”

I nodded. Makes sense. Need to thank Riddle for that later.

“No different than usual,” Leona mumbled half asleep. “That dragon bastard always skips out on these, anyways.”

Seriously? Skipping out is the norm for him? Wow. Someone’s irresponsible. Give Sir Sniffs A Lot some credit, at least he is being a professional adult and bothered showing up.

“It’s fine,” Azul said. “I’ll text and email him the details later.”

Well, as long as Azul keeps his word, that’s all we can really do about it. Waiting a long time for someone who’ll probably never show up would be just a waste of time. Show must go on.

“Let’s start with the dorm reports.”

Everyone else proceeded to rattle them off. I tuned them all out. My mind wandered, ignoring the urge to whip out my phone and go on Descent. Ways for me to get back home or contact my family. Who took me here and why. How I didn’t complete that art trade back in my dimension. If Rankin-Bass movies counted as anime or not. The works, really.

“Adriana?” Azul asked, jarring me from my train of thought.

“Uh, yeah?”

Azul raised a brow. “The report?”

“Right, on it.”

Shifting the pebble into my other hand, I reached into my bag. My hand shifted around, never touching any folded up piece of paper. What? That can't be right!

My hand patted around it once more. Again, nothing.

Once more, nothing.

My eyes dropped. Opening it up under the table confirmed all of my suspicions—it wasn’t there.

My grip on the pebble in my other hand tightened. Fuck! I must’ve fallen out of my bag at some point.

No matter. I’ll just make something up on the fly.

“Grim is doing...fine. He’s passing all of his classes, albeit barely. Right now, at least. My own marks are all passing. Even though my alchemy grades are on the lower side, I'll make sure to get passing marks by the end of the semester...I mean term. I can text you my grade… or whatever those are called here, transcript if you want. No one else is in our dorm besides me and Grim, besides two ghosts, but they don’t go to school here. There are a lot of renos to be done. Almost endless, really. Nothing else happened in the dorm as of late. That’s everything to report.”

Many sets of eyes stared at me, blinking or outright judging me. Riddle leaned over and face palmed, his hand sliding across his face before just covering it. It didn’t take a neurotypical person to see the second hand embarrassment coming off of him.

“You never made a report about that, did you?” Azul questioned.

I bowed my head in shame, cheeks flaring up. “I did. I just forgot to bring it here.”

“Very well. Make sure to remember your stuff for these meetings.”

“You know,” Vil scowled. “It would’ve been a lot easier if you just used an app and typed it up on your mobile.”

My cheeks were practically on fire. “Uh, thanks. I wasn’t sure if phones were allowed at these meetings, but guess I was wrong. I’ll keep that in mind for next time.”

I buried my face in one hand. Ugh! Why did I do that? How could I forget to double check before leaving the dorm this morning? There’s my chance of leaving a good first impression. Now I look like a complete dumbass in front of everyone.

Sky blue eyes shimmered when my gaze shifted upwards. “You know, Adriana. I would like to see you again about that little problem of yours. Perhaps you'd care to visit me in the Monstro Lounge some time? I’m quite the miracle worker.”

If that doesn’t give off more red flags than Crowley in general. That sounds like something a person would say to a sucker before luring them into a trap. I don’t trust the look in his eye. At all.

“No thanks,” I scoffed, playing with the pebble some more. “I’m good.”

“Don’t you want to have more time to think about this more?”

My eyes hardened. “Again, I’m good. Thanks.”

“Well—”

“Back off!” Leona snapped. “She’s clearly not interested in making a deal with you.”

Make a deal with me? Like Ursula in the Disney movie in my own dimension? Should’ve seen that one coming. But still, dodged a bullet there.

I rubbed the pebble between my fingertips. “What he said.”

“Right,” Azul gave in. “Of course.”

I reached behind Kalim, gripping onto the armrests to prevent myself from falling over. I turned to Leona. “Thanks,” I said softly as I could.

“Don’t mention it, really,” Leona snapped back a bit too harshly. Wow. Someone’s a tsundere. Considering how many others here act like tsunderes, he’s just a dime in a dozen.

I pulled back, sitting up in my chair normally again. Still, I never expected him to jump into my defence like that. Or be an old fashioned gentleman in general. Guess Leona does have a heart.

Azul adjusted his glasses. “Now...that’s been settled, let’s move onto the next portion of the meeting. The Inter-Rose Kingdom Magishift Tournament.”

“Finally,” Leona mumbled under his breath. His head thumped back onto the table, eyes drifting shut.

Azul rolled his eyes at Leona’s outburst. “I would like to talk about the pop-up stalls that will be positioned around the stadium.”

Azul pulled out his magipen. With a flick of it, a holographic screen covered in graphs and charts popped up in front of us. I might have the math and accounting skills of roadkill, something I never inherited from my mom, but even I can tell from the solid pie chart and the large numbers that we were going to make bank.

Red eyes shimmered, and Kalim leaned forward. “Nice! Looks like it’s gonna be bustling this year!”

“Indeed,” Azul said. “Ticket-selling for the masses is proceeding smoothly. All the invitations for each nation’s royal families in Twisted Wonderland, the Seven Deserts and Cushland have also been sent.”

“Oh cool,” Kalim said. “I always got really excited whenever I received my invitation for these.”

Wait, WHAT? “You’re a prince?”

Kalim shook his head. “Nope. I’m just the son of one of the co-owners of XS Tech.”

“Oh, right. I remember you alluding to the fact that you’re the son of business owners before. Just forgot.”

“Eh, it happens,” Kalim shrugged. “But I’m one of the nephews of the sultan in the Land of Scalding Sands and directly related to Sultan Jafar, for what it’s worth.”

He’s one of Jafar’s descendants!? Granted, it kinda makes sense, considering Jafar became the sultan here, and must’ve had many children of his own to fulfill his duties. But I would’ve never guessed that one given his personality. He’s nothing like Jafar… or the one in the movie in my own dimension, anyways. Much like the Jay situation all over again. (Even if that’s one of the few things I know about the Descendants series besides Jay being miscast due to not being played by a MENA person, Cameron Boyce’s untimely passing and Mal is a bitch.)

Kalim ignored my shock, and continued, “Leona’s the prince of Afterglow Savannah, though. We even passed by each other in the stadium a lot when we were kids. Right, Leona?”

Kalim prodded him in the shoulder, the bracelets around his wrist jinggling.

“Don’t know, don’t care,” Leona said, his face still buried in his elbows. “Stop poking me!”

Leona is a prince? Would’ve never expected that one given how he carries himself, even with his Scar aesthetic.

Wait. If he’s a prince of that country, and Scar… or King Askari is likely the one who started off his royal bloodline…

Nope, nope. Brain bleaching that one. I’m not thinking about that one any further.

Besides, it’s probably how it was in Greek Mythology where genetics make no sense. Medusa gave birth to a human and a pegasus, if I remember that one Jon Solo video right. Something similar to that could’ve happened at some point in his family line. Ace and Deuce did mention that everyone here is a descendant of gods and fae, so the same logic could transfer there. And he’s a beastman, which is just a variation of humans here, which plays a part here. No… that involved. At all.

“Ahem!” Azul cleared his throat. “Everyone, please stay on topic.”

Kalim winced, pulling his arm back. “Right, my bad.”

“Same,” I added.

“Outside of that,” Azul continued. “All of the major social media influencers have been notified, including all of the food vloggers. There are more measures to prevent what happened… last year.”

I blinked. “Last year?”

“Something went down last Samhain involving some careless Magicammers throwing out food,” Kalim grimaced, turning his face away. “… I really don’t think I should talk about it.”

Wonder what the story behind that one is. It must be a doozy if Kalim is this reluctant to talk about it.

“The telly crews that will be helping with the broadcast have all been arranged as well,” Azul said.

Azul pointed his magipen at the screen, making it disappear. His magipen slipped back into his pocket. Sky blue eyes stared at something behind me, most likely the clock.

“Oh,” Azul said. “It appears that we’re running short on time, but there is one last thing we must cover.”

Leona bolted upright, straightening his posture and rubbed the side of his face. “What might that be?”

“Glad you asked,” Azul said. “The vice-chancellor has a proposal.”

I blinked. “Proposal?”

“Yes,” Azul said, pushing up his glasses. “He wants Malleus Draconia to become a member of the Night Raven Hall of Fame.”

Silence exploded in the room. No one moved a muscle. I half expected a literal pin to drop in the middle of the room.

Leona lurched forward and his hands slammed down against the table, glaring daggers at him as if he wanted to jump across the table and strangle his ass. “What do you mean!?” Leona growled. Wait ago shooting the fucking messanger.

Azul remained cool as a cucumber. “What I mean is that according to Crowley, Malleus is a huge asset to our team. Any other uni that competed against us when he’s present, outside of Royal Sword, is annihilated.”

“Really?” I said.

“Yup,” Kalim added. “The last time we competed against the University of Lysaya Gora, hardly anyone on our team besides Malleus was able to raise a pinky finger against them. Many players even got benched the whole time, including Leona here.” Kalim jabbed his thumb at Leona, who shot him a similar death glare. Kalim relented.

“I’m a little confused about the context of this whole thing. Like what’s the big deal about this tournament and the Hall of Fame shit?”

“Language,” Riddle scolded.

“My bad,” I winced.

“Westernlanders,” Leona said, kicking back in his office chair with his arms crossed behind his head. A smirk replaced his glower. “Never care much about Magishift.”

That confirms it. Magishift really is like soccer back in my own dimension—popular pretty much everywhere else besides Canada and the US… or this dimension’s versions of them.

A simper pulled along my lips as I continued to rub the pebble between my fingertips. “Are you gonna be helpful or what?”

His smug smile crashed to the floor, and Leona groaned, sitting up straight again. “Official Magishift Tournaments like this aren’t held for fun. Much like the ones for different sports on your side of the pond, these are huge events where scouts from across Twisted Wonderland come to pick out players for the pro-league here and the world cup, even smaller events like the Inter-Rose Kingdom Tournament.”

“So far, makes sense.”

“Usually, plenty of people from my dorm eventually go pro.” Green eyes hardened. “As of two years ago, that honour has shifted to Diasomnia. Hades, not a lot of people from Savannahclaw made the cut compared to other years either.”

Oh, yeah. Two people were talking about that in the hallway a few weeks ago. But I’m leaving out that bit, even if Kalim already knows, because I learnt it while eavesdropping like a weirdo.

“What about the Hall of Fame?” I asked.

“The Hall of Fame here is pretty much the same as it is in your neck of the woods. It’s a place to honour all-star players. It’s a spot that only the cream of the crop make… or however the hades that idiom goes here, and something you have to earn.”

“Very good,” I said. “Thanks.”

Leona just grumbled in response like the tsundere he is.

“You know,” Vil mused after taking another sip of coffee. “We should drag Adriana around to these things more often. Make Leona more cooperative with us.”

I smiled awkwardly, continuing to stim. “You’re in luck. I have to attend the rest of these, for better and worse.”

“Oh, goodie,” Leona groaned.

“Glad to feel loved,” I said sarcastically, and Leona rolled his eyes.

Still, why is Leona acting like an old school gentleman around me? It seems he’s not normally like this around the others if Vil’s comment is of any concern. I doubt he has a crush on me. I can’t think of any other reason for him to do that.

Is it because this dimension is tied with Disney properties, including all of the Disney Princess ones? Movies and the odd TV show where girls are treated with the utmost respect and held in high regard? Something unique to his culture? Mixture of both? Something else completely?

… Or I’m thinking about this way too hard. Probably should text Ace or Deuce about it later.

Azul cleared his throat. We turned our attention back to him. “The vice chancellor wants all of your votes about this. Whichever side has the most votes automatically wins.”

“I vote nay,” Leona said. “I hate being told ‘You’ll never become number one!’ the most. Many others in this uni are the same as me. I must admit, Malleus is a strong opponent. My ancestor, King Askari, managed to take the crown from his brother through his cunning and wisdom. Others can use their heads to do the same when it comes to that spot. I’m not letting others’ opportunity to do the same get squashed because of him.”

Damn. Totally didn’t see his decision coming with how he reacted before.

Vil took another sip of his drink. “I vote nay. I was going to say that the vice-chancellor's suggestion is utter rubbish. Excluding other talented people from obtaining such an honour before they even compete is an unconscious bias on his part.”

“I second that,” Riddle said. “Making other players throw in the towel before the battle for that title has begun is unsightly.”

I rubbed the blue pebble between my fingertips. You know what? I already know my answer. “I vote nay, too.”

Vil blinked. “I’m rather surprised that you said that.”

“Handing off such a title to someone who hasn’t competed this year seems extremely unfair. Everyone on the team should have a fair shot at it, you know?” I shrugged.

Brown eyes shifted over. Kalim’s expression was rather hard to pin down. Leona stared at me with an unreadable expression and one brow raised.

“Well,” Azul said, “it seems like we’ve come to a decision, and I’ll tell the vice-chancellor our ruling. That is all for today’s meeting. The next one will be in two week’s time. Thank you all for coming, and have a good rest of your day.”

The tablet turned off when its user presumably signed out. It collapsed back into the office chair. Some of the others filled out of the room. Colourful bursts went off like fireworks as most of the others changed into their casual outfits with that quick-change spell. Leona stayed behind, sleeping away with his head on the table.

Sauntering out of the large room and through the door, I stretched my arms above my head with the pebble clenched in one fist. Glad that’s finally over with. Now I can move on with my day and go back to my dorm to get some well needed rest before work.

Kalim smiled, rushing up to me, dressed in much simpler red polo and black pants. “Hey, Adriana. Do you need me to do a quick-change for you?”

I shrugged, playing around with the pebble in one hand. “Thanks for the offer, but I think I’m good. I can change my normal threads when I get back to my dorm.”

“Alright, cool. I really need to get back to Scarabia or Jamil will freak out. Nice talking with you.”

Jamil will freak out? The hell? Why would Jamil freak out if he’s not around immediately? They might be friends, but Kalim’s his boss, not the other way around. Right? They aren’t related. I REALLY doubt they are boyfriends, especially considering Kalim tried to set me up with Jamil. Just… what?

Kalim stared at me. Right… He wants a response.

I gave Kalim an awkward smile, continuing to stim. “Thanks, you too.”

Kalim waved at me, sliding his magipen into his pocket. I smiled. He turned around, running down the hall.

Trey and Cater are right — he is a lot different compared to the head prefects. He’s sweet and outgoing like a human ball of sunshine. Even if he can be a bit suffocating at times. And rather scattered brained, too. And clueless. And the human embodiment of Spongebob to Jamil’s Squidward.

An ear piercing scream echoed somewhere nearby. Holy shit! That sounds just like Trey.

I booked it down the hallway as fast as I could, heading in the direction of the voice.