Maria cracked open the squeaky old door to the building that would serve as her dorm during her stay at Academia Utopia. The knob was made of old, somewhat dirty brass which had that peculiar metal texture, like keys or coins, that felt grimy and slimy to the touch even when the metal was bone dry. She swallowed, her eyes screwed shut. For some reason, she was scared to actually look at what lay ahead of her. A sign outside had warned her that this dorm was in disuse, but there was no mistaking the map she'd been given. It was undeniable that this building was her dormitory. Carol went inside on all fours, her soft tail flicking as she passed to brush the very tips of its fur against Maria's thigh. Deep breaths, Maria, she thought to herself. Whether she was being hazed, or the school was simply low on conventionally usable living space, this was her home now.
"Owner?" Asked Carroll, her voice lilting with concern like a dog whimpering in distress. The voice wasn't coming from far away, so she must have stopped. "Is everything alright, Owner?" She spoke with an increasing whine, and it gave Carroll's voice an upsetting twang which sliced through Maria and finally provoked within her enough willpower to open her eyes.
Maria opened them at last. The building's insides were…normal. A bit dusty, perhaps, but one expected that of a disused dormitory. It was big and spacious, and everything was a dull white color. She stepped inside with a gentle nod. She allowed the stress and fear to wash gradually out of her.
"I was just worried the building would be falling apart or, like, haunted or something," Maria chuckled with an embarrassed tint of red on her face. She could rest easy then, probably. Maybe the sign was out of date or something. These kinds of things happen in every institution, after all. Nothing to be done about it. "It's actually not half bad! Plus…I think we might have it to ourselves, in which case…" she allowed herself a smug grin. "...score."
"To…ourselves?" Asked Carroll. Her face (or more accurately, her snout) shifted from sadness and fear to a puzzled look. Her tail started swishing lazily back and forth, as well. "Don't you mean, uh…to yourself? Or 'myself' is the actual word you would mean, rather, but-"
"Nope!" Chirped Maria. She practically marched off to the side so she could open the door nearest to the entrance. "I did in fact mean we'd have it to ourselves, and I stand by that!" She gripped the doorknob, which had the same unpleasant texture as the last one, and tried to open it. The doorknob refused to twist more than ten degrees in either direction- it was locked. "Daaaaamnit," Maria lamented with mock frustration. "The dorm room doors are still loooocked! I was gonna have SO MUCH CLOSET SPACE." She pouted and gently, as a joke, punched the door once. It didn't move enough to rattle.
"But…I can't own things," pointed out Carroll. "I'm just a Familiar, you wouldn't say to a cat 'we have this house to ourselves-'"
"Gonna stop you right there," snarked Maria, already trying the next door over. It, too, was locked. "Yes, I absolutely would. Pets are family!" She moved to the next door after that one, and tried it as well. It was locked too. "You're my friend now! You don't have to put yourself down to please me, for that matter. We are a team." Another door, another one she couldn't open. Carroll padded over to her, looking extremely confused.
"But Ownerrrrrr," Carroll whined. "You can't survive here thinking like that!"
"According to what king? As decreed by what god?" Maria asked as yet another door denied her entry. At this point she was trying them all solely to amuse herself. "I rescued you from a guy who didn't think that way, did I not? Must there be greater proof that it can be done?" She walked slightly faster from door to door. In order to keep up, Carroll broke into a brisk trot that made her claws clack slightly against the floor.
"But I just-" Carroll whimpered. She pressed her head against the side of Maria's knee. "If you get too attached and somebody wins me from you, you'd be heartbroken and-" her ears and tail fell submissively. She was obviously deeply distressed by this idea.
"There there darling," Maria cooed, turning from her experiment with the doors to kneel and gently rub Carroll's forehead. "It's okay, I'm sorry. That's not going to happen, I promise. You're safe here with me and that's that, okay dearest?" She smiled, delighting in the wonderfully soft texture of Carroll's soft light grey fur. Carroll released an involuntary sound of joy at Maria's touch, and nuzzled equally involuntarily forwards into it. Maria chuckled with joy. The two shared a moment of quiet intimacy. Then Maria stood smiling back up and pivoted in place. "Now to try all these doors!"
"Well, this is my assigned room, and it's also the last one so it-" Maria twisted at the doorknob. To the surprise of neither her nor Carroll, it didn't budge. She sighed. "I'll have to use my key I suppose…" she muttered as she fished her keyring out of her pocket. She slid the device into the doorknob's keyhole and twisted it to unlock it. "Ah! At last! Eureka!" She squeaked.
It hit her:
With all these rooms locked, were they even further in disuse than the building was in general? In her little escapades she had discovered a kitchen and a laundry room, both of which were in equally decent condition to the lobby. The stairwell and upstairs hallway, too, were in similar straits.
Maria sighed and took the doorknob-
A shiver assaulted her in an act of godless violence. She stumbled backwards as every hair on her neck stood on end like a frightened cat. It was like she could feel eyes on her, eyes full of emotion she knew not to trust. Carroll instinctively placed herself into position between Maria and the door with her eyes boring into it. Maria stared at the door in a mix of shock and disbelief. Had- what, what was that!? What had just happened!?
The feeling ebbed out of her over the course of a few seconds, but it felt like it had taken much longer than that. Once Maria regained her composure, she shakily walked back over to the door and with some hesitation she put her hand back on the doorknob. There was no moment of horror this time, much to her relief. She gripped awkwardly at the doorknob for a few seconds and worked up her nerves. She could do this…she could. She COULD, do this. And she was going to. She was gonna open this door.
Come on Maria, Prince urged from inside of her head, we're both tired and you need to rest. If there IS anything here, we can just have Carroll kick its ass. That was true enough, Maria supposed, but Carroll deserved some rest too. She sighed, twisted her wrist, and pushed the door open.
The dorm room was nothing spectacular, but it was in good condition. A single fairly large bed was tucked into the far corner with a decently big window in the wall next to it. There was a little table for studying and eating near the middle of the room, a bigger desk against a wall that one could use for studies, and on each side of the door there was a small closet. Maria entered the room, her steps hesitant and small. Carroll padded in after her as well, and gently used one of her hind legs to push the door closed behind them. Maria spent a moment looking the room over and then, having done enough of that to satisfy her own degree of curiosity, she turned her attention towards Carroll. The fluffy dog woman was perched on all fours, rather more like a cat than a dog, though the frantic flicking of her tail and the way her mouth hung open just a bit were still decidedly canine.
Had Maria…imposed that? She didn't like to think so. Her memory of the moment when Carroll became…for lack of a better word, "hers"...it was vague at best. Would she remember it better with experience, or was it a consequence of her total lack of knowledge regarding magic? She sighed and, without taking her eyes off of Carroll, she walked to the desk and placed her little toy horse on it near the corner. It could serve as a good luck charm. She contemplated for a moment whether to point the horsey's head towards her bed, or the window, or perhaps the door. She experimentally placed it once in each such orientation and judged the look of each, albeit going solely off what she could see in her peripheral vision.
The lil guy was sort of like her knight in shining armor, so it made sense to point him in the direction of danger to ward it off. That meant either the window or the door, as they were the only points of entry. No monsters would be hiding in her closet, after all- she was out. If it was pointed towards her bed, though, then it could watch over her protectively. But then again then again, she DID have Carroll already. So…door or window seemed most appropriate. In the end she chose to point it at the window. A break in, Carroll could attack with her teeth. The direction from which a ghost or a vampire might come through the window…that's where her knight would point, because that's where his services would be needed most.
Maria smiled and walked over to the bed. She flopped onto it facing upwards and quickly relaxed. Her arms were extended straight out to the sides, and they quickly went limp. The mattress beneath her was made of that lovely sort of foam that adjusted to one's body and let it slowly sink in a little bit. She felt supported, comfortable, embraced even. This bed? She could get used to sleeping in this bed.
"Wanna join me, Carroll?" Maria asked lazily. Some soft fluffy snuggles sounded EXCELLENT to her cozy little brain at the moment, and Carroll seemed like she could use a hug. "The bed is suuuuuper comfy, you should really come and try it."
"Is that an…order, Owner?" Asked Carroll, her voice a little shaky and timid. Maria forced herself (and it was no easy task) to sit up enough to look down at her fluffy companion. They sat on all fours, ears drooping slightly.
"Well, um. Not necessarily, I guess? I just thought…" Did Carroll want to sleep on the floor? The dorm didn't seem like it had a lounge area, so there wasn't a couch anywhere to serve as an alternative. Perhaps Carroll just wanted to be able to sleep on her own! Yes, come to think of it, she likely didn't have a bed of her own wherever she'd been before today. It would make sense for her to want to sleep alone now. "If you just want to be alone, I can scavenge around for a sleeping bag, alright dea-"
"No!" Carroll blurted out, then clamped her hands over her maw in horror. Her eyes stared wide at Maria and her ears and tail both fell instantly. "I- I'm so sorry, I don't know where that came from, please forgive me I'll be good I'm so sorry-"
"Sweetheart…" murmured Maria. Her heart twisted in on itself with empathetic pain. Whoever had mistreated Carroll- not just that dickhead boy, but anyone else as well- she was going to make them pay for what they had done to her. She clutched at the sheets with her hands but positioned her body and arms so that Carroll couldn't see it. "Sweetheart, may I ask what you think you've done, that you need to apologize for?"
"I…" whined Carroll. "You were being so sweet and considerate and I," she seemed to lose the drive to finish the thought out loud. Maria tried not to frown.
"Darling…you don't have to apologize for saying no, okay? Never. In fact, I'm making a rule: You will always tell me no when you want to and you will not apologize for it, okay?"
Maria felt…something changing in the air between them. Carroll clamped up and mewled as the glowing words affixed to her neck changed color to a radiant gold. Her head shot up and back gracefully and she whimpered, at first sounding distressed, then slowly adjusting.
The light subsided. Carroll flopped forward back onto all fours. "Y…yes Master." Master? Maria shouldn't let Carroll call her that, should she? It would be demeaning to Carroll, surely, and it could make her sound all arrogant and authoritarian. Besides, "master" was a masculine word!
And what, you'd prefer "Mistress?" Teased Prince's voice in her head. No, no, "Mistress" was even worse. More overtly sexual, too many consonants, such a fumbly word to have to actually pronounce.
"Wh…huh?" Maria asked, unsure why she was blushing. "Wha wuzzat?"
"I said yes, Master," Carroll repeated herself, louder and more deliberately this time. She blushed…through her fur…SOMEHOW. Fuck. Hearing Carroll call her that…did things to Maria, and she was ashamed to admit she kinda liked those things. But Carroll shouldn't call her that!
"Call me Maria, please," Maria insisted as she wiggled uncomfortably.
"No!" Blurted out Carroll, even faster this time. Well…whatever Maria had done by accident earlier, it was working. She took some solace in knowing that much.
"Well…if you say so," Maria conceded. For a moment she contemplated asking Carroll to explain why, but it didn't feel like a terribly considerate idea at the present. "So…do you want to join me up here in the bed?" She asked again, and patted the mattress for emphasis. "It's very comfortable. I promise." Carroll stared up at her for a few seconds, before giving Maria a silent nod.
"Good girl!" Maria squealed, excited. She shimmied off to the side to make room. "Come on up dear~" Carroll eagerly obliged.
In one of the tallest towers of the campus, part of a building hidden in a space first- and second- years could not see, let alone access, there was a great marble room. Its dimensions and surroundings were never the same twice: a backdrop of stars, or a clear blue sky, or a renaissance era castle, or a sprawling surrealist labyrinth styled after modernity. Today it was a plain square, with one fancy rectangular table at its center. The room had three entrances, all from long corridors. Its high ceiling sported a massive, impressive chandelier with dozens of lit candles that burned with blue plumes half a foot tall.
"Student council, rollll CALL!" Announced a skinny, overeager boy with an androgynous face. He wore dark blue robes befitting a youth with aspirations of wizardry, and a pointy witch hat to math. From one sleeve he procured an old timey pocket watch, all clockwork and Roman numerals.
"Drake, present," declared a confident boy with hair that fell to his shoulder blades. He sat slouched in a chair, his angular jaw resting on a single fist and one of his lanky legs resting atop the other at the knee. Two young women fawned over him, notably with no text labeling the necks that their plunging tops deliberately left exposed.
"Gerome, present," chimed in the voice of an angsting boy from the far side of the room. He leaned against a wall with his arms crossed, the sunken eyes on his gaunt face pointing straight at the floor. The boy with the pocket watch spoke up next.
"Keith, present!" He squeaked with excitement. The two young men who had previously spoken glanced his way for a brief moment. He reacted physically to the shift in their gaze, almost flinched from it, but regained his composure in a timely manner. He still fidgeted underneath his robes, though, even if he hoped that nobody would notice.
"Alba, present," said a female voice which took attention off of Keith. This voice had come from a girl who sat in a chair at the same table as Drake. She sat with a teacup in one hand and a saucer in the other, and took a dainty little sip after she spoke. She wore a needlessly extravagant yellow dress that matched her long blonde locks, and which covered all of her porcelain-colored skin except that on her hands, face, feet, and neck.
There was an uncomfortably long pause.
"Does anyone…" said Keith nervously, "know where Yuri is?"
"She got owned," said Gerome with a dismissive sneer.
"Literally," said Alba, who then giggled.
"By a first-year, of all people," mused Drake, who sounded merely contemplative. He looked off to the side at Gerome and sighed. The two women flanking him glanced at each other but put their attention back on him in short order when he leaned forward. "Two duels happened today, both involving first-years. Said first-years also both won. For a first day, that's completely unprecedented."
"Poor Yuri didn't even last far enough into the day to get her welcome letter!" Cackled Alba. She took a swig of her tea and grinned with wickedness in her eyes. "SWORD my ass!"
"That's rich coming from you, Alba," Drake chided with a smug look over his shoulder at her. "Let's not forget that the stamp peered into the deepest chasm of your being and called you PRIVILEGE. Would you like to go cross blades with her and see how it turns out for you?"
"Oh shut up!" Squealed Alba. "Not everybody gets to be something cool like you do, DRAGON!"
"Pshhh. Alba, you think yours is bad?" Gerome said with a smarmy smile. He held up his hand, which had "WORM" glowing on it in the usual magical light. "You got off easy. Besides, anyone can tell you're a privileged little bitch just by spending any amount of time around you. Or do I need to remind you that your only friends are all either magically enslaved or using you as a possibility to gather money and clout?"
"Grrrrr," growled Alba, nearly choking on her tea. "I'll make you eat those words, boy! Peasant!"
"Enough!" Cried Drake, frustrated. "Our first order of business today is to decide who we add to the student council. My vote goes to one of the first years."
"Likewise," said Alba.
"No strong opinions," said Gerome, "I abstain from voting."
"I vote first years," Keith tried to cut in. He was heard, but his words failed to give him a foothold in the conversation.
"Then the question is, which of them?" Asked Gerome.
"We could always make them fight for it," said Alba with a sadistic smile. "Just give one invitation to the both of them, but make them fight a duel where the winner earns the right to accept it or something."
"I like that plan," muttered Drake as he rubbed his chin. "All in favor, one hand up!" Every body in the room extended a single arm towards the ceiling. "Then it's decided!"