It seemed Sosoka got a kick out of mentioning animals around Nosderag. In between babbling to her friends about how well she was doing in her magic classes, of course.
Naturally, Nosderag relayed this information to Dalzonf, who groaned.
Dalzonf stroked her chin. ‘I think I have a plan.’
‘Another one?’ Nosderag asked with a laugh. A laugh that continued rolling around Dalzonf’s mind long after Nosderag stopped.
Dalzonf didn’t explain her plan, instead deciding to spend her time smiling at Nosderag. The two fell into that familiar comfortable silence. Eventually, Dalzonf returned to her book, though she kept sneaking glances at Nosderag as she did her homework.
During Potions the next day, Nosderag barely paid attention to what Dr Lomaschramm said, preferring to watch her body language and ponder the times she mentioned the black market.
‘Ms Zotmin, care to tell the class?’ Nosderag raised her head and hummed in confusion. Dr Lomaschramm sighed. ‘Please pay attention if you wish to pass this subject,’ she said with a sneer, her voice nasal with mockery.
Nosderag hung her head in shame.
As the sun slowly dug into the horizon, Dalzonf headed down to the 50th floor. She knocked on a door that had two names on it.
Sosoka opened the door and immediately felt the air leave her throat as Dalzonf’s hand curled around it.
‘You stole those animals so you could get me in trouble, didn’t you?’ Dalzonf interrogated her as she pushed her further into the room by her neck. ‘Didn’t you? Answer me!’
Sosoka rapidly tapped the hand around her throat. ‘I can’t…’
Dalzonf let go and stared at her own hand. Sosoka took multiple heaving breaths before she could finally talk.
‘I thought you stole them,’ she croaked.
‘No, obviously you stole them so you could make me into a scapegoat. It wasn’t good enough for you to accuse me of sexual assault, no! You had to accuse me of theft too!’
‘Well, someone had to accuse you of sexual assault since clearly your girl toy Nosderag won’t! I don’t care how you get brought to justice, only that you do.’
‘You don’t care about Nosderag.’
Sosoka inspected her sore neck in the mirror from her bedside table. ‘I don’t have to like someone to worry about their safety.’ She smirked at Dalzonf. ‘Plus, I was not going to lose that fight. Might as well kill two birds with one stone, right?’
‘Yes. Birds. Now, speaking of which, where are the animals?’
Sosoka shrugged, still checking her mirror. ‘I only heard about the animals getting stolen when everyone else did. I assumed you did it but it’s not like I told on you. I had way less evidence of that than I do of you manipulating Nosderag.’
‘What do you care about evidence?’
Sosoka put down the mirror back down on the bedside table, next to a photo of her as a child in the arms of a policewoman with a similar appearance to her.
Dalzonf noticed the photo. ‘So you don’t know who did it?’
Sosoka shook her head. Her eyes shined with sincerity.
Dalzonf murmured an apology before shuffling out of the room. She passed by Sosoka’s roommate as said roommate entered the room at the same time.
Once Dalzonf was in her own room, she collapsed face-first onto her bed and did her signature groan.
Nosderag patted her on the head. ‘There, there.’ She couldn’t contain her grin at being able to do this.
Dalzonf turned until she was facing her dormmate. ‘Is it nice having no powers?’ Nosderag raised an eyebrow. ‘Sorry, that was… I just… wonder if I’d have been better off.’
Nosderag returned the apology with a smile. ‘Well, I wouldn’t mind having tolxing abilities if they were as strong as yours.’
Dalzonf sat up and became fixated with her own hands. She curled them into fists.
Nosderag placed a gentle hand on her fists. When Dalzonf lifted her head in surprise, Nosderag pulled her hand back.
Between awkward laughter, Nosderag said, ‘So, yeah, people suck.’ Dalzonf nodded. ‘I mean, you used to suck, Miss Blackmailer Extraordinaire.’
Dalzonf nudged her. ‘Failed Blackmailer Extraordinaire.’
‘So why did you treat me so different from the other girls? You know, before the Sosoka fight.’ After asking that question, Nosderag pulled Dalzonf’s pillow out from behind her and flopped it onto her lap. She did the same thing with her own pillow on her own lap, tapping all her fingers on the pillow like she was playing the piano. Her eyes on Dalzonf were expected.
Dalzonf tried to stop herself from smiling. Even looking away couldn’t hide it. She tapped her pillow with her entire hand.
‘You said it earlier. People suck.’ A giggle left Nosderag’s lips. Dalzonf’s smile quickly dropped. ‘You want to know when I first heard the word ‘rapist’?’
Nosderag stopped giggling. She winced, unsure whether to nod out of curiosity or shake her head out of respect.
Nevertheless, Dalzonf continued. ‘I was 7.’ Nosderag covered her mouth to hold back a gasp. ‘Some kid in my class randomly called me that word one day. I didn’t even know what that word meant.’ She paused to remember something. ‘The worst thing I’d ever done by that point was say that a boy in my class had big ears.’
‘How did that kid know that word?’
Dalzonf shrugged. ‘Probably his mother. Parents tended to keep their eyes on me when picking up their kids.’
‘Astra…’ Nosderag cursed. Astra, the creator god and Astraboleria’s chief deity, was a popular method of cursing.
Dalzonf leaned closer. ‘I’ll follow up your question with my own. Why did you defend me on that day?’
‘I don’t know. It was the right thing to do.’
‘And you didn't think it’d be a little weird to defend a love tolxer?’
Nosderag chuckled. ‘You saying I’m weird?’
The two leaned in even closer.
‘Yep,’ Dalzonf said. ‘The weirdest. Wow, look at Nosderag. She’s the quirkiest girl I know.’
Nosderag raised her pillow. ‘Don’t make me hit you.’
‘Oh, please. Like it’d be a competition. Even a person with love powers could beat an Omler.’
For the first time, Nosderag enjoyed the sadistic smirk coming from Dalzonf’s face. She took up Dalzonf’s challenge and initiated a fierce pillow battle.
She won by default as Dalzonf laughed too much to focus on hits. Soon enough, Nosderag the victor was sitting on top of the loser Dalzonf. Nosderag’s hands were on her pillow on Dalzonf’s chest. Their faces were close. Dangerously close.
Nosderag gulped and returned to her own bed. Dalzonf limply handed Nosderag her pillow back. The two both lied on their bed, staring silently at the ceiling. Unlike many silences between them, this quiet turned them into a couple of fidgeting messes.