Lux peeked around the corner of the girl’s dormitories around the main hallway of the Academy, furtive and quick before ducking back behind the wall again… they were still there. Gods, why were they still there? Weren’t they going to go eat? Lux nervously brushed a lock of blonde hair out of her face, tucking it back behind her headband where it belonged… a fidget that kept her from thinking about how hungry she was, and about how THEY were in between her and food. The young student looked even younger than her years… her blue eyes large and clear, making her seem even more innocent than she actually was.
“We should just go,” said the girl behind her. Soraka was her best friend in school… so much as the shy Lux had any friends at all. They stuck around one another, went to classes together, ate together, but their only real similarity was that the same people hated them both. While Lux was a classic beauty, Soraka was an exotic one… violent skin stood out vividly from her silver hair, and the horn growing out of her forehead was pulsing slowly with golden light in her agitation. “They aren’t going to let us past.”
Lux made a face. “Maybe they aren’t waiting for us.”
Soraka let out a sigh. “And maybe the dean will show up and graduate us early so we can escape. Or maybe expel them. And maybe we’ll win the lottery while we’re at it, Lux. Of course they’re waiting for us.”
Lux peeked around the corner again. Three girls waited there still, wearing each of them wearing clothing that could have paid for a year’s tuition at Summoner’s Academy. In theory, everyone in the academy was supposed to wear the same uniform. In practice, there was a lot of flexible room within that guideline. The three girls wore the uniform, same as hers… only theirs was woven of silk, and their buttons were gemstones, and their colors were crisper, and it had been tailored to each and every curve of their bodies. As she drew back from the corner, Lux couldn’t keep from tugging idly at her own clothing. It was clean, and it fit… mostly. Her breasts had grown, and it made the uniform a bit tight. She had grown an inch, so the cuffs were an inch short of her wrists, and the pants stopped just shy of her ankle. In theory they were wearing the same clothing. In practice, she felt every inch the pauper standing before the wealthy nobility… which was exactly how they intended for others to feel.
“We didn’t go to breakfast, either,” she said softly. “Or to dinner last night.” Lux’s stomach growled as if to emphasize her point.
Soraka peeked around the corner too, and said, “Lux… all three of them are there. We might as well leave. It’s the only way into the dining hall. They’re going to see us.”
“It’s not ALL of them,” Lux insisted. “Qiyana isn’t there, neither is Kat, or…”
Soraka let out a sigh of disgust. “No, no, instead it’s JUST Ahri, Eve, and Nid. That’s so much better. They’ll only skin us alive slowly, instead of right away.” She looked nervous. “Lux… I keep warning you to stay away from them. It’s only a matter of time before you get hurt.”
“I’m trying!” she protested. Ever since she had gotten in here on a scholarship at the start of the year, the clique of older girls had been all over her. “They won’t stay away from me!”
“That because they’re trying to tell you you don’t belong here,” Soraka said quietly. “You should… really, really, really go home. I mean it.”
Lux felt a surge of stubbornness coming. That was her brother’s attitude, the Crownguard family legacy. Stubbornness in the face of danger. It was what had gotten their family through hard times. It was why she had worked so hard to get here. Why her family had saved for generations to give her the opportunity. “I’m not missing lunch,” she insisted. “I have two tests this afternoon, and I was up all night from the hunger. If I have to skip another meal I’ll go insane… not to mention I’ll fail one of the tests and lose my scholarship. My family sacrificed a lot to get me here. I’m not going to disappoint them.”
Soraka grabbed her arm. “Please Lux, you’re not listening. Just… don’t.”
“It’ll be ok,” she said with a forced smile. “What’s the worst they could do?” She looked down the hallway, saw the time, and grimaced. “If we don’t hurry up, we won’t have time to eat either way. Let’s go… if we can time it right, we might be able to walk past them when someone else is coming out, and maybe they won’t see us.”
Soraka sighed. “You’re insane…” she moaned.
Lux’s belly cramped with hunger and made a gurgling noise. “I’m going,” she said. “Are you coming with me or not?”
Soraka bit his lip and shook his head, horn pulsing slowly. “I’m not hungry,” she said softly. “I’ll see you in class.”
Lux felt a swell of disappointment, but she couldn’t really blame the girl… she’d been here longer than Lux had, and been picked on for longer. It might not be worth it for her, but… surely if she just showed them that picking on her didn’t amount of anything, they would get bored, right?
“I’ll see you in class,” Lux said.
“Are you…” she whispered. “Are you really sure you want to do this?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.” With that, Lux stepped around the corner and started down the hallways toward the dining hall.
Autumn sunlight cut through the chill air outside and poured through the windows, lighting everything in brilliant, cheerful shades. Lux had to admit she thought the Academy was beautiful. Plenty of marbles and rich crimson carpeting and hardwood, with plants by each window in greens and reds and blues rising out of pots. Birds flitted by outside, flashing through the sunshine or perching on the sills of windows and singing. It all looked peaceful and lovely beyond anything Lux could have imagined.
She would have given anywhere to be back home where people loved her instead. She hated this place.
Ahri and her friends were in their usual part… the gumiho standing and leaning against a statue while talking to her sitting friends, nine tails swirling around her feet. Her hair ran down to her mid-back, it and the pointed ears emerging from it just a slightly darker shade of red than her tails. Her outfit had clearly been tailored personally to fit her, and embroidered with threads of the same shade of gold as her eyes. The fox was absolutely gorgeous, a fourth-year student and the de facto queen bee of the students in the Academy, and Lux would have given nearly anything to never see the cruel fox again.
As Lux approached the dining hall, she hurried her steps. She only needed to avoid notice for a few more feet…
“Well well well,” said a cold voice. From the bench, Evelynn rose to her feet. The other student had her blonde hair up with flowers holding it in place. She looked lovely, even sweet… but her blue eyes were hard and cold as she looked at Lux. “If it isn’t little miss Crownguard.”
Ahri turned to look at her with a slowly spreading smile. Lux tried to walk further forward… get past them and into the dining hall, but someone grabbed her from behind abruptly. She felt breasts against her back, saw tanned arms wrapping around her, and winced. Nidalee had risen up and quickly stepped behind her, the athletic girl gripping her firmly. The brunette had at a foot on her in height, and probably weighed thirty or forty pounds of muscle more than Lux did. Struggling against her grip was like pushing against a brick wall.
Ahri got up from where she casually leaned against a statue that cost more than Lux’s family entire worth and stalked forward, nine tails swirling around her in wicked agitation. “Well well well, she does finally appear after all,” she said, voice as sweet as honey wine. Her words were clipped, precise, aristocratic… every syllable precisely the same length, every word ending sharply. Compared to her, Lux sounded like the country bumpkin that she felt like in this school. “I thought you told you you didn’t belong here, light-bender… that the books, the classrooms, the food… it was all for real students. People who belonged here. Unlike you.”
Her grin widened as she moved to stand right before the blonde, thumb beneath Lux’s chin as she raised her head up to make her meet her eyes. Two of the woman’s nails dug into her throat like claws as she did. “Didn’t I tell you that if I caught you breaking the rules, you’d pay for it?” Her golden eyes glittered. “What was it I said I’d do again?”
Evelynn appeared behind Ahri, wrapping one arm around her midsection as she pressed herself against the gumiho. Ahri’s tails wrapped around the blonde woman as she embraced her from behind. “I believe you said you’d take her out to the gardens and plant her like a shrub,” Evelynn said with obvious glee.
Ahri put one finger on her lip as she considered. “I did say that, didn’t I… but if I took her out to the gardens, no one would see her…” The gumiho tapped the side of Lux’s cheek with her wet finger. “That’s no way for her to learn proper respect for her betters.”
Lux ground his teeth in frustration. She had dreamed of coming here, to the best school in the world, and it wasn’t fair that someone like this fox could take away something her family had saved for generations to be able to afford. “Ahri, please… just… leave me alone. I never did anything to you… I just want to get some lunch.”
Ahri looked left and right with a puzzled look on her face, then she put her hand to her ear. “Nidalee… did you hear something? I could have sworn I just heard something…”
From where she held the struggling blonde student, Nidalee whispered into Lux’s ear, loudly enough for all of them to hear. “I think it was an annoying fly. You want me to swat it for you?”
“No need, I can do it myself,” Ahri said with a grin as she noticed Lux looking towards three students walking out of the cafeteria… all of which were carefully looking at the wall in the other direction as they walked past. “Were you hoping someone was going to help you, little lightning bug? Think that if you could get their attention, the big bad fox would leave you alone?” She chuckled. “They don’t want you here anymore than I do… they’re all just too polite to let you know. Here… I’ll show you.”
Ahri grabbed onto Lux’s hair hand enough that her hairband came free and began dragging her forward. She needed to stumble to keep up, Nidalee releasing her as she and Eve followed behind, the former tittering into her hands. When they walked into the cafeteria, however, the soft sounds of noises all slowly began to taper off, slow stop… and then stop. The room went deadly silent as Ahri dragged Lux through the room by her hair, passing between table after table as she walked towards the bay windows in the back of the room. Lux tried frantically to meet someone’s eyes… but wherever she looked, the boys and girls looked away from her. Most of them looked uncomfortable… but none of them were willing to stand up the gumiho while she was amusing himself at someone else’s expense.
Ahri pushed the window open with a few of her tails before grabbing Lux by the collar of her uniform and lifting her off the ground, showing up significantly more strength than her slight form suggested. Lux couldn’t help but look down as Ahri lifted her out of the window… the ground was only about ten feet below, but the dirt ground was covered with thick mud from the recent rain. The plants all had thorns, too… it would rip her uniform to shreds, even as it stained it brown and probably stuck her in soft earth.
“I wonder what kind of fruit a lightning bug grows when you plant one like a seed?” Ahri mused as swung Lux back and forth over the edge, letting her feet just touch the floor again for a second before letting her dangle over the plummet. “Probably something sour and not worth eating, don’t you t-”
A scoop of mashed potatoes struck the gumiho in the side of the face.
Ahri was so surprised she dropped Lux. Thankfully she was halfway over the ground at the time… She reached out desperately to grab onto something, grip the window sides, pull herself in so she could topple onto the floor. At any second, Ahri could use one of her tails to simply push her out the windows… but the gumiho’s attention wasn’t on Lux anymore.
Riven had not been having a good day. She didn’t like it here… she’d rather be home, but her academy had wanted to transfer her here, and her parents, the school, her teachers… none of them had been willing to take no for an answer. The food was strange, the clothing awkward, the weather too hot, the people spoke funny, and no one much liked her… she had left all her friends behind in Noxus, and here she was all alone with only one girl in the school that she could even maybe call a friend, and even she was hanging out with her other friends. She had been eating alone at a table, listlessly pushing around her remaining food with a fork, when Ahri walked in dragging the pretty blonde girl.
At first, Riven had been confused… but as long seconds passed, and no one DID anything, that confusion began to become disgust… and then anger. She looked over at where had gotten her food, and found that the teachers there had vanished… and while some of the students watched what the 9 tailed fox was doing, no one said anything. No one did ANYTHING.
Cowards. They were all cowards.
She had faced bullies before. Two particular ones at her old school, a pair of brothers, had enjoyed beating up on those weaker than them. They had tried that with her, too.
Riven didn’t think about what she did. She just reached down, grabbed a handful of her remaining food, and threw it at the fox girl while the blonde was still mostly inside the building. She barely timed it right, but she did… and Ahri dropped the girl before whirling, outrage plastered across her face where only smug arrogance had been seconds before. “Who threw that?” she demanded, scanning the crowd.
The room was absolutely silent. No one said a thing.
The two other girls with her got behind Ahri, flanking her like the sycophants they are.“Who…” Ahri hissed between clenched teeth. “Threw. That.”
Riven was about to stand up when, to her surprise, someone else spoke up. “Leave her alone!”
Everyone in the room turned to look at a shorter girl climbed up onto the table. “Just leave her alone, Ahri!” the girl said. Riven had never seen her before, but she stood defiantly on top of her table, glaring at the trio of women. Her skin had a blue tint, and she wore her white hair in a pair of ponytails as she put one hand on each hip. “She’s done nothing to you.”
Ahri growled as she slowly raised one hand and flicked away the food still crusted on her cheek with a shudder of disgust. “You threw this, Poppy?” Ahri said, tilting her head. “Are you that stupid?”
Some of the other girls at Poppy’s table looked uncomfortable beneath the gumiho’s glare, but Poppy didn’t flinch. “You not the Queen, Ahri,” she said firmly. “She has as much right to be here as you do.”
“We’ll see about that,” Ahri said, starting forward.
Riven wasn’t going to let the short girl get hurt for something she had done. She rose to her own feet, but before she could take more than a few steps towards the Poppy, someone else stood up from a nearby table filled with a few other athletic girls… and Riven smiled as she saw a familiar pink haired girl facing down the advancing on Poppy. “Why you gotta pick on people smaller than you, you furry bitch?” Vi spat with a cocky grin on her face. One of the girls at her side tugged at her arm, trying to get her to sit down, but Vi shrugged away the hand. “How about to mess with someone your own size?”
“That wouldn’t be you,” Ahri bit back as she flicked her gaze between Poppy and Vi, like a predator deciding who to pounce on first. “For such a tall whore, you’re awfully far beneath me.”
Vi snorted, her fists clenching at her sides as she glared down the trio of women. “No one’s gonna be beneath you after I put you on your ass, you cocky shit.”
Riven hadn’t stopped walking… but no one was paying attention to her now. No one but Vi, who flashed her a tiny grin. Ahri was too outraged to notice… Evelynn wasn’t. She turned to see the exchange student coming up behind them and touched Ahri’s side. Too late.
Riven smashed her tray across the back of Ahri’s head. It still had some food on it, too, and all it flung all over her as she drove the gumiho down to the ground, sprawling bonelessly on the marble. “Oh, I’m sooo sorry,” Riven said, loudly enough for her voice to carry through the entire room. “I am just sooo clumsy.”
Nidalee drew back a fist and punched for Riven’s neck. The blow was quick, powerful, skilled… Nidalee was an athlete, and strong as hell, but she didn’t have a fraction of the experience Riven had with brawling from what she had gained on the streets of Noxus. The white-haired woman ducked beneath the punch and drove a pair of jabs into Nidalee’s belly. Her breath exploded from her chest, and she staggered, and Riven took the opportunity to grab her by the head and drive her knee into the darker-skinned woman’s stomach. A moment later, she was sprawling down on top of Ahri. “Oh, sorry,” she called again. “Didn’t see you there. Are you alright?”
Riven looked at Evelynn expectantly, but the blonde woman was already backing away, hands up wardingly. She bent down and pulled Ahri to her feet, and Riven smirked to see that the woman’s lip and nose were bleeding from where she’d hit the ground. Her perfect clothing was a mess, splattered with food and mussed up, but despite all of that her lips were curled back in a snarl, revealing sharp canines and a manic intensity in her golden eyes.
“You…” she hissed.
“Not so far above them now, are you?” Riven said as Evelynn pulled the breathless Nidalee roughly to her feet, meeting Ahri’s glare as she saw Vi and Poppy close in on them from behind. There was a sudden burst of stifled giggles from the students watching the exchange. “You’re pathetic, fox. You’re a spoiled bitch who is too much a coward to face anyone strong enough to hurt you. You have to pick on a first-year like her,” she said, pointing at where the blonde was just climbing to her feet, “because you’re weak. You’re nothing. Leave the girl alone. In fact… leave them all alone. From now on, you want to hurt anyone here… you’re going through me first.”
Nidalee looked ready to rush at the girl again, but Ahri rested a hand of her shoulder… even though that restraining hand was actually trembling with barely restrained fury. When Ahri spoke, however, her voice was as calm, clipped, and perfect as ever. “Fine,” she said. “You want me to go through you? I’ll go through you. Idiot.” She spun and stalked off, her tails swirling around her furiously, pushing chairs out of her way. With quick glances at Riven, Evelynn and Nidalee followed.
The white-haired exchange student waited until they had left the room. Then she grinned widely at Poppy and Vi for a moment and got matching grins in return. Then she turned to the girl they had been picking on. The blonde certainly was cute… made all the more so by how wide and starry-eyed her gaze was at the moment. “You… you made her stop!” Lux said. Tears leaked from her big blue eyes. “She was… she was never going to stop… and… you made her stop!”
“Sure did,” Riven said with a smile. “I hate bullies… and I’m glad to see I’m not alone. Right girls?”
“Right,” Vi said, coming up alongside Riven and spitting on the ground. “Hate that stuck up bitch.”
“What she’s doing is wrong,” Poppy said from her other side. “Someone had to do something.”
“And we did,” Riven agreed. “So, listen… she ever bothers you again? You come to us, ok? We’ll look out for you.” She turned to look at the fallen tray on the ground and laughed. “You know what? Suddenly, I’m hungry. You girls want to sit with me and get a bite?”
“I… I would!” Lux exclaimed.
Poppy smiled at nodded.
“Hell yes,” Vi laughed.
Riven turned, leading the way back to the line to get more food, where the teachers had mysteriously reappeared now that Ahri was gone. This still wasn’t home… but somehow, the school seemed far more friendly than it had a few minutes ago to her. Maybe this was going to be alright.