Lindsey couldn't help but smirk in response to Arlana trying to keep her story straight. This girl was one of the worst liars she had ever seen. Marigold herself had the skills of an actress, so this should be apparent to her as well. "Why yes! You'll need to drop by the main office to be let into the school grounds if this is your first time here. But if you have your student ID, there should be no problem getting in." Putting on a concerned expression, Lindsey looks back at Arlana. "You do have your student ID, right?"
Oh, how fun it was going to be to mess with this girl. As they talked, they neared the front entrance of Gateway, the towering castle-like gates looming before them. To their left was a building labeled 'Visitor's Office', meant for people who weren't students or faculty to use in order to get a guest pass. If Arlana tried stepping onto the school grounds as she was, a similar force field would greet her at the front gates.
Marigold had realized Arlana was fumbling her way through a story since the first moment they spoke. All her information was very much for Arlana's benefit. However, even a bad liar was still a liar. And she could be a threat to Marigold's friends here. As they approached the main gates, she tugged on Arlana's sleeve. "I'm going to have to frisk you before you go in." She said with utter seriousness. "And you're going to tell me why you came here."
“ID?” Arlana marched forward, trying to get away from the pair hidden beneath a cascade of words. She hadn’t realized that both of them didn’t believe a single word she said, but she felt the irresistible need to get away from those girls before her “cover” crumbled down like old bread. The strange and insistent pull she felt coming from the school was only getting stronger, urging her to run towards it like moth to a flame. Maybe that’s why she didn’t noticed the barrier. “O-of course I have my ID!” she said, between nervous giggles “Who do you think I a…BAM!” Suddenly, a mouthful of magical energy.
Arlana’s head was thrown backwards as if it was punched by a heavyweight boxer. She froze in place for a moment, in the middle of a step, before mechanically turning around towards Lindsey and Marigold. “Hehehehehe.. ehe..” the stream of blood that run through her chin and watery eyes betrayed her silly smile. “I-I guess I forgot to bring my ID today…” she explained with a weak voice. She was rubbing the small wound on her chin when Marigold spoke. “C-check me? Sure! Why not?” Arlana answered. She didn’t have a lot on her. A wallet with a couple of buck, an old cellphone and her regular deck of cards. But the girl was painfully conscious of the weight of Sun’s card on her right pocket. The card per se wasn’t something extraordinary. As Arlana had never summon Sun yet, the card hadn’t revealed itself and looked like a normal card, only longer and a bit thicker. There wasn’t any picture in it, just a brown and worn out canvas framed by the words “The Sun” on the bottom edge and the roman number XIX behind the old letters. It surely wasn’t something that would seem weird, right?
And speaking about Sun, the flaming bird had finally woken up from his unexpected nap. He flew out of Arlana’s hood and shook his tiny head. He was still dizzy and almost plummeted to the ground a couple of times. “God dammit, Lana! That hurt!” he screamed at his friend, without realizing in the pinch she was in.
Lindsey watched in total glee as Arlana slammed right into the barrier separating the town from the Gateway grounds themselves. This girl clearly had no idea about where she was, much less know enough information to actually pass herself off as a student here. But it was pretty clear that Arlana needed something that was in Gateway, probably needed to talk to somebody that she couldn't reach by cell phone if Lindsey had to guess. After turning away to get the chuckles out of her system, Lindsey looked back at Arlana with a more normal expression, talking in a lower volume than before so nobody nearby could hear. "Look, both of us knew you weren't a student from the second you walked in the town." Strolling over, Lindsey wrapped her arm around Arlana's neck, looking at her from the side. "But if you tell us why you're actually here, I have ways of getting you in here." Lindsey swished her tail back and forth as she talked, giving a small frown to Sun as he came back out. If he was going to keep being a pest, she'd consider leaving him outside if they let Arlana in.
Marigold's fingers were light as she quickly searched Arlana's body, catching her card and wallet and quickly looking at them. "She's clean." She informed Lindsey, handing Arlana's belongings back to her. "Look, both of us knew you weren't a student from the second you walked in the town." Lindsey informed Arlana, and Marigold nodded in agreement. "You're a spy. But I've been feeding you misinformation!" Marigold declared. In reality, she couldn't help but tell the truth when talking about something she's obsessed with. But the spy didn't need to know that.
Arlana froze in place when Lindsey called out her obvious attempts of concealing herself as a student. What would they do to her? Was there a punishment for getting inside that place? Maybe they’ll throw her to some kind of dungeon? Transform her into a slippery frog? The most ridiculous and ludicrous punishments passed like a blur through the poor girl’s mind. Fortunately, Lindsey and Marigold didn’t seem to have bad intentions. Nonetheless, Arlana’s skin shrank when the fox-lady laid her arms over her shoulders. With a nervous gulp, the tarot apprentice tried to figure some way to get out of that situation but she gave up fairly easily. Instead, she let out a sad sigh and her shoulders fell. “Y-you noticed, huh?”
On the other hand, Sun didn’t share Arlana’s concerns. “It’s no surprise, you’re acting is even worse than your self-control around muffins” he mocked, flying in a safe distance around Arlana’s head to avoid another whack. Meanwhile, Marigold lashed at Arlana for being a spy.
“I’m not a spy!” She said, shaking her hands desperately in front of her face. “I’m sorry I lied to you” she muttered, fixing her eyes on the stone below her feet. “But we really needed to get in here, we’re looking for…” she bit her tongue mid-sentence and glanced at Sun out the corner of her eye. He had explained a lot about the cards of the Arcana and if half of what he had said was true, she need to keep her mouth shut about them. Arlana might not be the smartest, but she knew that going around talking about power of gods wasn’t a good idea “… a friend of that flaming jerk over there” she finished after a brief pause. It wasn’t a lie, after all. Pointing at Gateway with her a short movement of her head, Arlana added “And I think he’s inside that thing”
Lindsey listened as Arlana attempted to explain herself after finally being told that she wasn't fooling anyone with her acting skills. So, they were looking for a friend of this strange bird that could talk...wait, how could that creature speak English? Nearly all of the summon creatures in Gateway weren't even sentient beings, let alone have the ability to communicate in the same language as them. Lindsey remembered another person with a summon that could speak as well...but she figured that the method of summoning that creature was much different to everyone else's method of calling upon creatures.
Before her lay a difficult choice; either go back into Gateway and leave Arlana out in the snow, or get her a guest pass and hope that this little adventure of theirs wasn't going to violate any school rules. Lindsey was already known for her liberal ideas about rules, so breaking any major ones with Arlana could land Lindsey in more trouble than ever. But...this sounded fun.
"A friend...huh? Do you think it is a student? Teacher? Or some kind of inanimate object?" She couldn't help but note the strange card Marigold pulled from Arlana's person. Was that how she summoned that annoying bird?
"It's not against any school rules to get you a guest pass." Marigold noted. She studied Arlana and Sun again. She would be awfully cold if they left her out here. And Marigold remembered the barrenness of Arlana's wallet. She couldn't get a hotel room with that little. Without another town for miles, it would be prudent to try to get her inside for a while, hopefully the night if she couldn't teleport off. "So we should find your friend. Just follow our lead so nobody else picks up on you, spy."
Arlana and Sun exchanged a quick glance after Lindsey questions. They had already agreed that they should keep the nature of the Mayor Arcana as a secret, so they had to avoid that last question. “Well… I really don’t know who he is... or what’s he like” the girl scratched the back of her head, feeling kind of embarrassed. What could she tell them? That they were looking for a magical card part of a divine set with unknown, and possibly dangerous, power? “We’ve been tracking him down for a while and we ended up stumbling here, so we think he might be inside of that giant castle” Sun added before they turned towards Marigold.
“I could have gotten in here with just a guest pass? Ugh! I’m such a moron, no wonder you guys thought I was a spy” Arlana groaned, shaking his head with embarrassment “Not gonna argue with that” “with what?” “The moron part” the bird chuckled. For once, she decided to ignore her annoying companion. “Would you really do that?” Arlana mumbled when Marigold offered her help “I don’t to bother you two more than I already have”.
"Nonsense! You're not bothering us at all!" Lindsey beamed, trying to lighten this annoyingly dour mood. "So you don't know who he is, or what he is like. Well...if you found a way to track him here, I am sure you can find him once inside. Let's get going!" Lightly grabbing Arlana by the arm, Lindsey leads her into the nearby office building, where a man with dark black hair sat behind the counter, reading a magazine. It was obvious that not many people were getting guest passes today.
"Hello! We need a guest pass for Arlana here! She says she is thinking about enrolling, and wants us to give her a tour first." Lindsey proudly states to the receptionist, who looks at the tarot mage over his thin-rimmed glasses. "...full name, age and tick that box at the end of the form." He says bluntly, offering a small white form to Arlana. Sure enough, all she had to fill in was her name, age...and check a box at the end that states that she will be monitored by the staff, she can't interrupt any classes, she can be removed at any time...just normal stuff.
Marigold admired the entrance to Gateway like she always did. Such majestic gates, made with the architecture of England and China, but decorated with the carvings of Azur's family painted by Ikkuma and Zhenfeng's people, combining all the involved cultures. The entrance to the main building was similarly huge wooden doors, carved again by Azur's family, depicting a hundred stories. However, those doors would have to wait, as they headed for a more modern building for registration. She doubted Arlana's friend would be here. "We can't find your friend if you can't tell us anything about them. Gateway owns over 40 square miles of land, not counting pocket dimensions, and over 100 departments." She listed these statistics from memory.
Surprised by Lindsey sudden outburst of energy, Arlana let herself be carried away by the fox-girl and her knowledgeable friend, with Sun gliding lazily behind them. The poor girl was wishing she had more eyes, to be able to see and admire every small detail of that strange place that seemed to be pulled out of the wildest of fantasy novels. On the other hand, Sun was less than impressed. After watching a couple of pyramids getting built, it took more than some pretty carvings to get his attention.
Arlana barely noticed when they arrived at the front desk. With her mind stuck a few meters behind them, still trying to unravel a particularly complex carving on the gates, she mechanically signed the paper in front of her as “Arlana Ethne Caswallan” in a curvy handwriting. It all seemed so… normal. Like just a regular school, with dragons and pocket dimensions. As she slowly processed all around her, the curiosity Arlana felt over Gateway began to bully the compelling need to find the card away.
Behind her, Marigold asked about whatever they were trying to find and hopefully, Sun paying more attention than his slow friend. As she mentioned another one of Gateway’s astounding characteristics, the flaming sparrow seemed to click and the way the puzzle pieces fit together in his mind were almost visible behind the bitter expression that took over his acute bird features. “If the guy we’re looking for came to a place like this… he must be an annoying bookworm” he muttered, almost chewing on the words.
The joy on Arlana's face was pretty funny to Lindsey, as the wonder of Gateway's unique architecture was somewhat diminished after living here for a few years in the dorms, most parts of the school being more familiar to her than most of her friend's houses. After taking the paper from Arlana, the person places it in a filing cabinet and fires a tiny blue cloud of dust at Arlana, which dissipates into nothingness after it hits her. "There, your guest pass is good for one day. If you need to spend the night, ask one of these two or visit the front office inside. Have a nice day."
And with that, the receptionist turns back to his magazine. Lindsey grins a little, and turns to Arlana and Marigold. "Right! Marigold, you know this place better than anyone. Mind showing her around, maybe we'll find this...thing along the way."
Marigold sprung into action at the term "bookworm". "There are several places one who enjoys learning could be found. The classrooms of course, Professor Iris' lab, and the nature trail come to mind. But the obvious choice is the grand central library." Her voice actually grew in inflection when she said "library", dripping with passion for it. It was an amazing place she had spent hundreds of hours in, learned a million facts in. It may have been bias that suggested it to her now. "To the library." She walked out of the reception building and turned to make a beeline for the library. She was almost smiling now.
Arlana was left sneezing at the front desk, after getting a handful of magical dust to her face, as the weird pair walked towards the school. When the bluish cloud finally disappeared, the girl blinked a couple of times and called Sun with just a mere whisper. “Psst! Sun!” The magical bird, who was flying towards Lindesy and Marigold, turned around and glided curiously towards his friend. The girl kneeled down as if she was tying her shoe laces to get some distance between her and her guides.
“Just now, did you figure something out?” she whispered when Sun was close enough “After all that bookworm-thingy”. “Maybe” The bird replied “There are a couple of us that would prefer to be stuck in a boring library rather than being free to go wherever the hell they want. For now we should follow that hottie and her friend over there, they seem to know this place.”
Arlana stared at Lindsey’s back and her eyes inevitably ended up on the fluffy and pointy ears that made their way through the Kitsune’s hair. Sun did the same, but he wasn’t exactly focused on her ears “What is she?” Arlana wondered, hoping that those ears were just for show “Some kind werewolf?”. Sun shrugged “Beats me. The last time I was around, there were rumors about creatures like her that lived somewhere in the west. But I guess things are different now, I’ve learned a lot in that piece of crap you call computer” Arlana raised an eyebrow as Sun drew a sinister smile “I saw someone pretty similar to that babe in this called yiff...” “Eugh, eugh, eugh! Stop right there!” Arlana shuddered and had to stop the urge to slap his friend “I don’t even wanna know what sites you get it. If say just one more word and I swear I’ll change the password!” Sun looked shockingly terrified “You can do that! Do you even know how much porn there is on the internet?” “No…” Arlana replied suspiciously as the bird flew closer to her, face to face “Me either” he said “But I intend to find out”
“You’re impossible” Arlana, much to her regret, chuckled as she shook her head and shoo Sun away from her face. Finally she stood up and tried to catch up with the girls. “Hey moron” she said, when a fleeting thought came through her mind “You have the hots for Lindsey all right, but… if you ever get to… you know, how on earth would you even do it?” Sun’s chest puffed up “Hey! If Zeus could get it on transformed into a swan, there is still hope for me!” he said with all seriousness. Arlana couldn’t help but smile at his goofy friend “Then I wish you the best of luck, my flaming idiot” she commented as she jogged towards Lindsey and Marigold.
As she ran, she felt more light and optimistic than she had felt in a long time. After the gloomy and depressive months that she had passed from the moment of the incident, that moment was a breath of fresh and pure air. And now, close to a card and free of the feeling she would get caught at any moment, Arlana started feeling like her old self again. With the joy she experienced, it was no surprise that she decided to pop her heard between her two guides and offered them a wide and brilliant smile. “So! What do they even teach in a place like this?” she asked happily as she turned towards Marigold, who seem to be the more knowledgeable one “Defense against the Dark arts?”
Meanwhile, Sun glided at Lindsey’s side. “Did you gals really think that idiot was a spy?” He asked, trying to start what it seemed like innocent conversation.
As Lindsey walked toward the library with Marigold, she decided to focus her superhuman hearing that came with her fox ears onto the conversation Arlana was having with the annoying bird. She couldn't help but lower her eyebrow in confusion at Sun's comment on porn. Birds watch porn? How did that thing even use the Internet, did it fly down and press each key with its body? When Arlana mentioned how the bird had the hots for her, Lindsey shook her head slightly, finding it weird how a bird was talking about wanting to do stuff with her. He was going to get shot down, and quick.
Turning to Arlana when they both came back to their sides, Lindsey shook her head at the bird next to her. "If she was, she wasn't a good one. We can't really have mundanes walking around here, it would just bring annoying press, and we don't need that." She answered, not giving any indication she heard what they were talking about. If she was going to reject this annoying bird, she was going to do it right.
Marigold just gave Sun a blank stare. "She's not." Despite her lack of infliction, it was intended as a question. "A variety of subjects are taught at Gateway, from mundane subjects such as mathematics and home ec., to ones specific to the magical population. These include the history of the Hidden World, proper care and training of summons, various magical classes, and magical biology." With her British accent and choice of words, she sounded like she was narrating a BBC documentary.
They approached the library, a vast building set in a wooded area of the campus. While at first it appeared to be merely among the trees, close inspection revealed that a massive tree, clearly not native to the region, consisted of the corner of the building, and in fact the entire building was a massive fusion of trees. Rutendo, a mighty Shona mage, called by many the first great plant mage, grew the library over 800 years after the school was built. Marigold paused to admire the building, if you could call something that was not built a building. Its brilliance was in its simplicity. A library that always grew to accommodate more books was as perfect as a library could be.
As the trio of girls and the flaming sparrow made their way towards Gateway’s library, Arlana listen fascinated to every word that came from Marigold’s mouth. Magical classes? Summoning? Those were regular classes? The red haired girl couldn’t wrap around her mind how awesome all of that sounded. She didn’t understand the part about that Hidden world thing and was about to ask when Sun spoke.
“It’s no wonder you figure out she wasn’t a student” Sun chuckled “That moron can’t even put her shoes in the right foot”. Arlana gifted his feathered friend a venomous glare “Hey! That only happened onc…” the reply got stuck on her throat once the group stood in front of that incredible and massive tree. “Wow…” the whisper slipped through Arlana’s amazed lips. The mere thought of all the books that could fit inside that monstrosity were enough to make the girl shudder in pleasure. Arlana was never a fan of studying or even getting close to a textbook. But that wasn’t just boring history books or dense math problems. Inside of that strangely compelling tree, probably laid the biggest collection of magic knowledge and secrets. Arlana could see herself getting lost for days between the pages held inside.
A small, chaotic, semi anarchic part of her couldn’t help but to imagine the incommensurable mess throwing a burning match inside would cause and her eyes fixed on his flaming companion. He curiosly returned the stare. “Ehm… you think getting a burning ball of feathers inside a library would be a good idea?” she asked “Wouldn’t someone get nervous if they see him flying near thousands of flammable pages? Because just thinking about it makes me want to throw him in a bucket of water”
Sun's comment about Arlana being dumb made Lindsey frown slightly at the bird, but kept on walking. While she liked joking around with her own friends, she sensed a little more malice in the bird's voice than she'd put in her own. Shaking her head at Arlana's comment, Lindsey kicked one of the walls nearby, producing a slight blue tinge in the point of impact. "Nope, this area is protected with a spell that prevents the tree and books from catching on fire. We have an entire house full of fire mages, so they didn't want any of the little newbies lighting the place on fire when practicing."
Opening the library door, Lindsey motioned for them all to follow. "After you~" She says in a sing-song voice, deliberately looking at Marigold and nowhere near Sun or Arlana.
Marigold darted inside the instant the door was open. Her eyes glittered as they gazed upon row after row of books, shelves growing right out of the ground. It took serious self control not to vanish from sight among the shelves. "If your friend is here, you still have a lot of searching to do. Are you sure you cannot describe him too us." Her monotone voice once again asked for some clarification on just what Arlana was looking for. Of course, she wouldn't mind searching the whole library, but it would take hours. Hours they didn't have.