Friya was too weak to fight and Quylla was barely alive. They would be dead weight in the battle that was still ahead of them.
As soon as they crossed over, Phloria closed the Warp Steps.
"What do you think you are doing?" Orion was shocked.
"I already lost too much today." Phloria's eyes kept weeping, but her voice was steady.
"I'm not going to hide somewhere while you two risk your lives. Mom, dad. I couldn't live with myself if anything happens to you. Not while knowing I could have made a difference. Yurial is dead because of me."
"No, dear." Jirni caressed her shoulder, honoring her daughter's determination.
"Yurial is dead because of Nalear. You didn't make Quylla your slave. You didn't order her to hurt him nor you prevented the arrival of the healers who could have saved him. Let's put an end to this madness."
Milea Genys, the Magic Empress of the Gorgon Empire, had seen many awful things during her life as both wandering magician and ruler of her country. Yet seeing so many youths turned into beasts and lose their lives was a sight even her found disturbing.
"Leegaain, why did you bring me here? What's the point in watching this massacre and do nothing?" The fight between the two Awakened seemed out of a bard tale. Unlike the three Guardians, Milea couldn't avert her eyes from the bloodshed taking place on all five floors of the White Griffon.
"Because I wanted you to see first hand what was the Gorgon Empire when I left it. One thing is reading history books, another is living it." Leegaain explained.
"If you want to prevent such things from happening again during your rule, you must be brave enough to take unpopular decisions. Avoid grave problems long enough and everything will fester."
"Being a ruler it's not a popularity contest." Salaark snorted. "Those idiots of the Griffon Kingdom achieved such a long peace that they were afraid of the conflict with the noble households. Without conflict, there is no progress.
"They should have thought of the consequences of letting powerful people become even more powerful would have in the long term, instead of prioritizing the status quo. It ended with the Royal family almost losing its dominance.
"It would have caused a civil war that would have lasted years. Remember, powerful people already have all the means they need to protect themselves. If you let them, they'll drain your authority. A stable country requires balance and shared resources."
"Indeed." Tyris nodded. "My only hope is that, just like for Balkor, this bloodshed will bring some real changes. The royals have finally opened their eyes, now it's time for the nobles to see the errors of their way or get condemned by history."
Nalear was surrounded by undead students who stared at her with looks full of hunger and hatred. Their usually pristine white uniforms were tainted by blood and excrement, releasing a foul stench that would make hard for most people not to puke.
To Nalear it was just another day.
It was the exact same thing she felt every time she watched one of those disgusting stuck up noble kids walk along the corridors of the White Griffon like they owned the place. Nalear had suffered them ever since her first year of academy, back when she was just twelve years.
Her parents were employed as household staff of a minor noble and had been enthusiastic of their daughter becoming a mage. Nalear, not so much. Ever since the academy started, everyone treated her as a servant, not as a peer.
She hoped that with time she would manage to make some friends. That if she tried hard enough, people would see past her lack of a family name and respect her for her hard work.
Reality proved her wrong, turning her hope into despair.
She endured the hazing and the violence, only focusing on her studies. Magic was a fascinating subject, capable of taking her mind off the daily dose of misery. At least until it was night time.
In those hours, she would return to be just a little girl away from home. Nalear was completely alone, resorting even to eat in her room to avoid more "accidents." Most of the time, she would cry herself to sleep.
During the third year, her body bloomed and so did her magical talents. Things started with lecherous looks from the boys and harsh words from the girls, but quickly escalated.
Nalear was often groped while going to classes or before the lessons. Every attempt of self defense would end with her losing points and things getting worse. The Professors blamed her for being unable to fit in while the Headmistress condemned her overreacting over "practical jokes".
It was then that despair turned into hatred. When the academy turned out to be an enemy as much as her molesters were.
After a group of boys dragged her in an isolated room and almost r*ped her, the Headmistress finally gave her a Guilty Ballot. It wasn't something she could cover up, the wounds on Nalear's body spoke volume.
After healing the girl, Professor Vastor was ready to testify in Nalear's favor. His report would have likely put an end to many careers. It was only by offering a nice sum of money for her parents that the Headmistress managed to keep Nalear quiet.
The academy was still long and her family could use that gold to start a business. Nalear felt safe with the Ballot in hand, so she agreed. Her existence kept being isolated and miserable, but at least now everyone left her alone.
Nalear's hopes had long died, replaced by mistrust.
To never feel helpless again, she chose the Battle and War Mage specializations. Nalear quickly gained the recognition of her new Professors, Rudd included. Her mastery of dimensional magic surpassed even his hostility towards commoners.
Everything went fine until the end of the fourth year when the class went to the mining town to practice with mana crystals. Nalear had forgotten about the danger, of how outside the academy the Ballot was just a round stone.
It happened in the mines. Those who envied her talent, her ranking, or simply lusted for her beauty, ambushed her in a gallery. Their plan was to r*pe and kill her, disposing of the body in the forest.
Nalear fought back with everything she had. She managed to hurt some of her attackers, triggering their fury. They beat her an inch from death, until out of desperation she used her last ring to strike at a mana crystal, triggering a cave in.
The attackers managed to get away and left her for dead. They had dragged her into an isolated tunnel before she managed to regain consciousness. Deep enough to make sure no one would hear her screams.
They felt reassured when the cave in went unnoticed. They thought her death would be considered an accident.
Nalear survived. She remained there for over a week. Water wasn't a problem thanks to magic, but there was almost nothing to eat. Dimensional magic was blocked by the academy's array, so she had to survive by eating everything she could, even things that would make a goat throw up.
Rage kept her barely alive until she was rescued. After a week, the Professors responsible for her specialization courses got worried and investigated. Both the Headmistress and the Professor in charge of the Mana Crystal subject were fired, but the culprits got away with it for lack of proof.
Nalear spent all the time when she was recovering practicing true magic. Deep in the caves, surrounded by the mana coming out of Mogar, where it was so dense to take crystal form, she had relentlessly attempted to use dimensional magic to escape, until her rage and talent awakened her core.