"Remarkable, Miss von Zimmer-Manteuffel! You've clearly bested all three of your older brothers in the family tradition." Professor Albert von Marienfeld's awed words mirrored his gleaming-onyx eyes as they examined the beautiful wings of Ariadne's flawless white pegasus. "Between such potential and your top-ranking grades, I'm sure the Knights Phantom eagerly await the day of your graduation!"
"Thank you, Professor Sir," Ariadne returned a courteous reply as she stood up and brushed back her silken pink cascade. Pleased with her own summoning, she finally let go of the breath she'd been unconsciously holding. With a step forward in the magic circle inscribed using crushed sapphire dust -- her birthstone -- mixed with holy water and her own blood, she placed a delicate kiss on the forehead of her new pegasus familiar to seal the bond.
"Very well done, everyone..."
Professor Albert -- since his cousin of the same surname also taught within the academy -- looked around to survey all the familiars. The menagerie of magical beasts ranged from the common, like Emilie von Bittenfeld's silver hawk, to the powerful glacier drake that Howard de Angelis was conversing with. Then, spotting the lone individual that stood by the windows, Albert just barely caught himself from swearing:
"Sir von Moltewitz, my apologies. I almost forgot you had offered to go last."
"No problem, Sir. I am the one who disrupted the order," Pascal remarked with nonchalance as he strode to the one remaining clearing within the Cancellation Field that opened a gap in the castle's Lockdown anti-teleportation ward. "I did not wish to cause an interruption when something unusual happened, since it is my first time accomplishing this."
Somehow, his drawling, aristocratic intonation managed to make even humble words sound arrogant.
"Show-off," several people muttered from among the crowd.
"Well, let's see what your future brings."
Professor Albert took care to suppress his eager curiosity, mostly because he agreed with the other students over Pascal's motivations, at least in part. In the meantime, he stood over Pascal with the examining eyes of a retired general as he watched the young lord retrieve one rune-engraved stone after another from an extra-dimensional belt pouch. After carefully positioning sixteen of them, Pascal connected the rocks with series of tiny malachite gems to form a perfect circle. Three larger runic stones followed, this time linked by lapis lazuli gems to draw the smallest equilateral triangle that would contain the ring.
"Amazing..." came a feminine murmur as others nodded in consent. "Trust the 'Runelord' Pascal to always do something creative."
"I believe you and Professor von Kirchner are the only two experts of ancient Runic Rituals on campus, and I'm not quite a specialist on gem magic," Professor Albert commented. "So would you please explain your setup to everyone?"
"Of course." Pascal relished in the opportunity. "As you know, Runic Magic was created by the Northmen to reduce the casting time of their battle magic. The runic glyphs on these granite stones replaces the mnemonic incantations of the ritual and substitute for our personalized verses. Each symbol is carved deep and inscribed with blood appropriate for bonding magic, and each gemstone is infused with my ether to supply additional magical power. The outer triangle, laid with the gems of truth and wisdom, will enhance the seek and search for the appropriate familiar for teleportation. Meanwhile the inner malachite ring, also known as 'the mirror of the soul', will serve as the primary focus of the ritual itself."
"As expected, you've put plenty of thought into preparing this," the Professor commented. "Very well, you may begin."
"With the runes handling everything, the ritual itself is quite simple and leaves no chance for errors," Pascal began with assured confidence as he gently cut his right index finger with a dagger. Carefully aiming, he dripped a drop of fresh blood into the top rune of the inner ring. Like water flowing across routed channels, the stones and gems lit up one after another, bathing the shadowy room with a combination of crimson, forest, and indigo light. Magic strong enough to be felt pulsed outwards as each glyph lit up, releasing a dense mist that soon enshrouded the entire dance hall.
Minutes passed as everyone stood within the concealment, unable to see, yet unwilling to disrupt a magical ceremony in fear of the often deadly consequences involved.
"The ritual is complete," Pascal announced as he quietly called a wind spell to clear away the mist.
The focus stones and precious gems had been reduced to a ring of worthless gray dust. But what drew gasps from everyone was the small girl that now lay unconscious within it, dressed in baggy clothing and holding onto a thin bag taller than herself.
"Sir von Moltewitz, please explain yourself."
Professor Albert kept his cool, but he was willing to bet his life that Pascal was somehow involved in this unnatural conclusion to a sacred rite of magecraft. In hindsight, he should have expected something like this, when Pascal was not only using magic beyond the supervisor's expertise but also showing off. The last time Albert saw that particular combination during a practical magic exam, the young noble not only painted the entire castle every shade of the rainbow, but also filled it with swarms of brightly glowing pink flamingos, just to prove he could.
...Had Pascal not been the Marshal's son, not to mention a cadet with great promise himself, Albert would have expelled him on the spot.
But Pascal himself paid no heed. His eyes were transfixed upon the unconscious girl. His body barely contained the boiling excitement as thoughts shouted across his mind in triumph: It worked perfectly! Followed closely by: Oh Heavenly Father has granted me an angel!
At barely one-fifty-seven centimeters (5'2") tall, the thin girl appeared no older than her mid-teens and gave off a fragile, almost doll-like appearance. Her figure lay concealed beneath a short-sleeved jacket and pair of pants that looked far too big to fit, but the small hands and cute face revealed her flawless white skin. She had an adorably tiny nose and thinly curled lashes, while straight cream-white hair ran all the way down to her thighs.
"Did he... just summon a Samaran girl for a familiar?"
"With that almost-white hair? Probably."
"But why a Samaran? Not only are they commoners... Republicans," Reynald spat out the word as though it was filthy, "but they're also nonbelieving heathens."
Meanwhile, Pascal knelt down in a dramatic one-kneed pose before taking the unconscious girl's right hand and kissing its back, thereby completing the familiar bonding ceremony.
"Sir von Moltewitz, you have some explaining to do!"
The retired general was not used to being ignored, even by this young upstart. His rising impatience had already reached a simmer.
"It is exactly what it looks like, Professor Sir," Pascal replied while picking up the unconscious girl in a cradling carry, his arms supporting her back and underneath her knees. "I decided to summon an actual, intelligent person, and now the ritual has already been completed."
He left the words 'and there is nothing more you can do about it' unsaid as he strode out the dance hall, leaving behind a roomful of bewildered eyes, gawking expressions, and one incensed advisor.
By the time Pascal reached his dorm room, the adrenaline from his excitement was beginning to wear off, quickly giving way to the feeling of exhaustion. The girl within his arms was as light as she looked, but his late working nights were finally catching up -- not to mention the summoning ceremony and its preparation had drained him dry.
With a swift gesture, his Unlock cantrip was recognized by the door's magical enhancement, and he carried the still-unconscious girl across the threshold into his room. It was officially a 'dorm', but in a school built for nobles, the spacious bedroom was larger and better-furnished than tavern guest rooms.
After gently laying her across his bed, Pascal went through his drawers to find some more appropriate clothes. The preparations he had been making all week included picking out apparel according to his tastes through fast mail order. The exact fit wasn't even a concern, as the enchanted garments were of the highest quality and magically self-adjusting.
Then, just as Pascal was getting into it, the door slammed open.
"Sir von Moltewitz! You still owe--"
Professor Albert's words trailed off into oblivion as he froze mid-step. Pascal was bent over the summoned girl, now naked on his four-poster bed with her baggy clothes tossed onto the floor. Meanwhile, his hands were in the midst of pulling lingerie up her thighs.
Pascal blinked at him, then raised a single eyebrow.
The professor couldn't have teleported out of the room faster, slamming the door again as he went.
He avoided Pascal for several days after that.
----- * * * -----
Kaede had never felt this tired after waking up from a nap. His entire body was felt sore and extraordinarily weak. It took exertion just to push against the bedcovers, with barely a sliver of his usual strength.
Wait a sec... when did I fall asleep?
It had been a tiring week. Kaede had been a member of his high school's athletics festival planning committee, and this year the timing overlapped with an archery tournament that he would be attending. He had been staying late every day to make sure that his previous years of experience would be passed down to his successor, all while joining the morning training sessions at the Kyūdō Archery Club as one of its senior members. Combined with the schoolwork that a 12th-grader still had to finish, it left Kaede with many late nights where he could squeeze in six hours of sleep at best.
It didn't help that his sister's family had fallen sick, prompting his Japanese mother to fly to Vladivostok to care for them. His father -- like most Russian men -- was useless at housework, so Kaede had to wake up even earlier every morning to prepare breakfast.
Today was one such morning, and Kaede's last memory had been laying on the couch as he waited for the clock to strike seven.
It was only half an hour before I needed to meet up with others and leave for the archery tournament.
The fear that he had overslept lit up his mind in a flash. His eyes sprang open, his arms reaching out by force of habit in search of his smartphone, only to promptly freeze as realization came.
Where the heck am I?
He didn't recognize the old-fashioned four-poster bed he laid in, or the redwood furniture that lined the walls, and certainly not the dimly-lit room itself.
He felt his pulse quickening as uncertainty washed over him. Being both too young to drink and uninterested in alcohol, or any kind of drugs for that matter, it was improbable that he had blacked out from some kind of wild club party and screwed up his memories' timeline.
...Especially not before the tournament.
Sitting up on the bed to get a better view, he suddenly realized that his back and shoulders were bared and chilly. By contrast, his chest was covered by a fabric smoother than anything he was used to.
Wait... something's not right...
He looked down, first noticing that his arms were one: far thinner than they should be, and two: wearing silky white gloves... long gloves reaching up his triceps... while sleeping...
What kind of a weird prank is...
Then his downward tracing eyes saw 'his' chest, and his mind promptly blanked out as every thought came to a crashing halt. His senses and mental capacities had to be rebooted one by one as a result.
Realization #1: He, or perhaps she was a better descriptor of this body, had small mounds of outward bulging flesh on the chest that could only be described as breasts. Petite but so very soft and sensitive, if his... her fingers' touch was correct.
Realization #2: She was wearing a pure white halter top of... charmeuse? Some kind of glossy satin-weave, with some kind of crest laid onto her chest -- bosom -- in delicate white gold, and not a stitch covering her back.
Realization #3: Shifting the thighs found nothing in between, therefore identifying, once again, that this was a she.
Realization #4: WHAT THE HELL!
Okay, deep breaths... calm down and think.
Kaede had no clue how long had passed since he, she, whatever one should refer to themselves in such outrageous circumstances, blanked out for the second time in a row.
Unfortunately, after two mental shocks and still no moment of startled awakening, Kaede concluded that this was probably not just a weird dream... which meant that the situation was truly nightmarish.
Some pervert with access to incomprehensible mad science had turned him into a her, and then left her in a fancy room with an extravagant bed dressed in scanty undergarments.
Kaede wasn't used to rape alarms going off in his head.
I've never even done it with the girl I dated before! Oh this is sooo messed up...
Nevertheless, fear did wonders in concentrating the mind, and her hyperactive thoughts soon realized exactly what should be done:
Objective #1: Find something weapon-like and get out of this room.
Objective #2: Figure out how to return to normal, probably by beating the pervert responsible for this unconscious and then forcing it out of him.
Pulling her legs out of the bed, Kaede noticed that the charmeuse halter top went down to form a single, seamless piece with both her underwear and the semi-translucent skirt covering it. Two garter straps also held up thigh-high socks, or more like solid white stockings.
What is this, bridal night lingerie?
A terrifying chill sent shivers down her spine and made her skin crawl.
With her feet on the carpet, she tried to stand up, only to sway once before collapsing back into the bed. Realizing that she still lacked the instinctive motor controls to handle her new body, she repeated the simple action, this time pacing herself with focused concentration.
This much effort just to stand and walk... this is beyond ridiculous.
Taking each step with care, Kaede gradually made her way over to the chair where her blue windbreaker jacket was draped over. She also recognized the bag containing her greatbow leaning against a nearby table, and mentally filed the information away for later. After covering herself with the jacket, she found her best option for self-defense in the form of a fireplace poker, which sat next to an unattended, still-burning hearth.
Kaede was self-taught in both eastern and western swordsmanship, so he could effectively use any stick of reasonable length. But she, with her thin arms and reduced motor skills, found the 'heavy' poker about as agile as an oversized baseball bat. Her first warm-up swing almost sent her crashing into a long dressing table. Her right hand managed to grab the edge just in time, but not before the metal rod plunged straight into the giant mirror behind the drawers.
The loud shattering noise was a dead giveaway.
Hearing faint but rushed footsteps beyond the door, Kaede rushed to take cover behind a protruding wall corner near the doorway. With her pervert-beating stick raised and ready, she could feel every heartbeat as the door opened and soft steps made its way in. The door was slow to close, but in the meantime the silhouette cast by the bright hallway lamps marked the intruder's exact position.
Kaede went into action the moment the door closed. Stepping out from behind the corner, she swung the iron poker with a two-handed grip, its metal spike facing forward. With her weak arms, she knew that maximizing damage on the initial hit was her only chance of winning.
Carrying a tray filled with sandwiches and a bowl of steaming hot soup, the intruder reflexively lurched the tray forward to use as a shield. Its contents hurled straight towards Kaede, especially the scorching soup which passed right through the middle of her opened jacket and onto the thin halter top.
Her painful yell muffled the young man's clenched grunt. The metal rod bounced off the silver tray with a resounding 'clang', but not before its iron spike slashed into his exposed left fist and broke his index and middle fingers.
Tossing the tray towards his left, he used its edge to catch the spike and disarmed her of the poker. Ignoring his broken digits, the man pressed her shaking body onto the floor and pinned her arms back in one fluid motion. With a twist from his wrist and two lightning-fast words, a linked pair of steel shackles appeared out of thin air, binding her hands behind her.
"OwwOwwOwwOwwOwwww!" Kaede continued to thrash about on the floor as her chest burned under the scalding soup.
With a deep sigh, the young man waved his hand again and the searing liquid disappeared. The mess left on the floor soon followed with a few more gestures and words. All that remained was the lingering pain of recent burns on her sensitive flesh.
"Sheesh, I leave to get you some food and this is the thanks I get?"
You're the one who turned me into a girl and you expect thanks!?
Still breathing hard, Kaede rolled onto her back, glaring at her foe through tear-stained eyes even as her thoughts slowly returned. Fluent in three languages and versed in another two, she only recognized his words as similar to Old High German, which she had no business understanding. Yet somehow, she did.
One-eighty-two (6'0") with broad shoulders accentuated by his stiff crimson-on-black uniform, the man turned to sit down on the four-poster bed while keeping her within his glance. Turning towards his bloodied hand, he took out a small pebble and pressed it into his left palm. He then covered the left fist with his right, while a large turquoise-set platinum ring began to glow from the exposed ring finger.
His eyes, as crystal clear as the aqua gemstone, held onto hers with a piercing gaze.
"Please do not attempt anything so stupid again. I am an experienced soldier and I really do not want to be forced to hurt you. Now... if I release your hands, will you be good and let us talk this out like rational people?"
Still glaring with angry eyes, Kaede took a brief moment before nodding in consent. With basic experience in martial arts, she could tell from his movements that the man's prowess was several magnitudes above hers... even before the body change.
He turned the ring towards her again. With a simple "dismiss," her bonds vanished as swiftly as they came. Kaede quickly brought her hands forward, rubbing her chest just above the breasts in an attempt to ease the lingering pain. Surprisingly, there was no longer a single spot of stain on the pure white fabric.
"Here, Invigorate," he reached forward with the glowing ring, hovering just beyond her chest without touching. A soothing cool soon spread over Kaede's inflamed skin, remaining so even after he pulled back.
"Surface wounds are easy. Just sleep on it and you will not even notice it by morning."
"...Thanks," her reply was weaker than a whisper.
"On to introductions: my name is Pascal Kay Lennart von Moltewitz, son of Weichsel Field Marshal von Moltewitz, heir to the Landgrave of Nordkreuz. What is yours?"
A Prussian Landgrave? Didn't the German Weimar Republic abolish the nobility?
Kaede didn't have a clue on what was going on, and only begrudgingly forced out a basic answer in her new wispy voice: "Kaede Nika Suvorsky."
"Are you Samaran? Your family name sure sounds like it," he went on while the turquoise gem continued to glow.
"My surname is Russian! I'm half-Russian and half-Japanese," she countered while sitting back up into a formal Japanese kneel, shifting uncomfortably as she felt her cold, satin-covered heels press against her bottom. "Where's Samaran referring to, anyway?"
For some reason, the words that rolled off her tongue seemed to be of the same language he used.
"People from the northeastern Grand Republic of Samara, usually pale with silver-blue to light-blond hair; social egalitarians who worship the sky-god and believe in spiritual reincarnation." Pascal explained in an irritatingly aristocratic, drawling accent. Then, with a confused look that he wasn't used to: "I have never heard of Russian or Japanese before."
Even Kaede was stumped now.
"Uhhh, where are we now, then? What part of the world?"
"We are in the Königsfeld Academy of Magic, forty-nine kilopaces outside Königsfeld itself, Capital of the Kingdom of Weichsel. The Grand Republic of Samara lays to our east, the Empire of Rhin-Lotharingie to our west, the Holy Imperium of the Inner Sea to our south, and to our north is the Greater Jarldom of Skagen, the North Sea, and across it -- the Kingdom of Västergötland. All of this on the continent of Hyperion."
Kaede only knew 'Samara' as a Russian city and region, and the other names mostly sounded either Germanic or Scandinavian, except the continent name, which matched Greek mythology. But it didn't take a linguist to realize that all those foreign nation-states, not to mention the keywords Academy of Magic, meant only one thing:
"This isn't Earth." Her words left in a dazed whisper.
"Of course not. The ground is three levels below." His left eyebrow arced upwards in curiosity. "What kind of weird place did you come from?"
Her mind still reeling, she barely even heard his remark.
"Why... what... this is just... how did this even happen?"
"I summoned you to be my familiar. And either you're some stupid, backwater peasant--"
Kaede stood back up in a flash and almost fell over again. Her rose-quartz eyes narrowed back into a furious glare:
HE did this?
"--Or... I guess asking for someone with a 'whole different world outlook' bought me more than I bargained for."
Somehow, the man was looking more smug by the second and increasingly proud of himself.
"Why the heck did you summon me?" Her arms flailed dramatically. "And why the hell did you turn me into a girl?"
"The spell picked you, not me... wait a second, you are a man?"
"Seventeen, before I woke up here!" Her otherwise wispy voice had climbed up to a soft yell.
With his brows furrowed, Pascal looked split between confusion and disbelief.
"No such procedure was added to the spell."
"Well, whatever you did, fix it!"
"Just send me back however you brought me here then!"
"What do you mean you can't!"
His ring finally stopped glowing, and he stretched out his left hand, whole again without a single scratch. With his eyes examining the healed result, he answered with a tone of uncaring nonchalance:
"I meant what I said. Familiar contracts are not meant to ever be broken. Familiars also rarely live long after the master's death, so even if I can sever it, you are likely to die in the process."
Then, his penetrating gaze locked onto her widening eyes once again:
"And if the summoning spell really did transform your physical body, that means it also materialized -- or better said, naturalized -- you for our world. That means I cannot just banish you back to wherever you came from. So for all purposes, you are now a denizen of this world."
"...As a familiar?" Kaede could only shake her head slowly, her eyes quivering in denial of the words coming from her mouth.
"As my familiar, yes."
This time, it was irritation and anger that dragged Kaede back into reality: a growing desire to tear that smile off his handsome face.
"The only way you'll get me to call you 'master' is by animating my cold, dead body!"
"There is no need for such tasteless measures," he simply shrugged. "I am not one of those commoners who needs their ego constantly stroked."
That is clearly. Not. The point!
"I believe this is quite a fair deal. Be my companion, and I will make certain you are well taken care of and live a comfortable life."
"I had a perfectly good life back there!"
"--And you will have just as good of a life here. I promise."
"You can kiss my ass!"
"--And a cute ass it is. I would not really mind." Pascal chuckled as he eyed the semi-translucent skirt poking out from underneath her jacket.
Kaede quickly pulled the bottom hem of her now-oversized jacket down, with shades of embarrassment working into a pale face reddened by frustrated anger:
"What part of 'I'm a guy' are you not understanding?"
"The fact that you are an adorable young lady."
With an amused grin and a glance at the wall clock, Pascal decided to wrap this conversation up:
"We can continue discussing this tomorrow. Although... it appears I forgot to prepare you a new bed. So just sleep in mine for tonight, and I will have that fixed as soon as I can."
He pulled back the bed cover before starting to undress, clearly intending to sleep in it himself.
I am NOT sleeping next to a man who put me in bridal lingerie! Kaede's mind shouted. If I'm doing it for the first time it should at least be in MY body with a girl I like, not AS the girl with a guy I don't even know!
"You can't seriously be expecting me to... and like... wearing... this!"
"Do not worry. A proper nobleman like myself would never do anything without consent, especially not to a sleeping lady." His reassurance proved anything but reassuring as he finished unbuttoning his undershirt, revealing the chiseled muscles beneath.
"B-but you changed my clothes while I was asleep!"
"Of course. Your jacket and trousers were dirty."
"That's not the point! Do... DON'T YOU HAVE ANY COMMON SENSE!!"
He turned back around and his handsome, noble-bred features lit up with the perfect smile:
"Plenty, just my own!"
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