The couple met with Anna and Ari again to plan their visit to the magic academy. As it turned out, the two didn’t have to do much at all because Eluna was going to take care of most things as she used to be a famous instructor and teacher. Sophia and Maya could just take it easy and relax while helping her out when it’s needed. Once the new way of training takes root, the blonde could go wild and break everyone’s common sense.
Something else about this plan bothered the tiger greatly, though. She had to get up way too early to attend the school, which really wasn’t to her liking.
"Haa…" It wasn’t even close to 08:00 in the morning when the couple went back to the royal castle. There, in front of the entrance gates, Ari and Anna were already waiting.
"Good morning." Seeing the couple wearing the same uniform as herself and the princess, the jaguar lightly greeted the two.
"‘Morning." Maya waved her hand.
"Haaa…" Sophia, on the other hand, wasn’t even able to say a single word without it turning into a yawn. Her eyes, too, were almost fully closed while she was leaning against the cat-girl to support her sluggish body.
"Wow, someone really isn’t good with mornings." The jaguar almost looked impressed.
"…" The tiger in question didn’t answer.
"Don’t bother, Ari." Maya shook her head. "She isn’t even awake yet."
"Really?" Anna got closer to her and waved her around in front of Sophia’s face.
"…" There was next to no reaction.
"Wow, and here I thought I was bad with mornings. She’s worse than Ellie and I combined!"
"Tigers, huh?" The jaguar glanced at the cat-girl.
"Ahaha…" Maya wasn’t sure what to say. It’s not like Sophia was any better before becoming a tiger, after all. "W-Well… It got worse…"
"Hmm?" Ari tilted her head.
"Err… I mean, now that it’s getting colder, it’s gotten even harder to get her out of the bed.
"Ahh… T-True…" The black-haired girl nodded while a slight blush appeared on her face.
"The cold is the worst, after all!" Anna raised her voice. It seemed like the two were going through something similar.
"Not so loud… Haa~…" Sophia rubbed the side of her head against Maya’s shoulder while she was clinging to her arm. "People are trying to sleep here…"
"How’s that even possible while standing up?!" The taller tiger just had to retort.
"Dedication..." She let out yet another yawn while answering her.
"Okay." Anna quickly decided that she didn’t want to continue this conversation.
As it didn’t seem like Sophia’s condition would improve anytime soon, the group decided to leave for the academy while the blonde tiger was still holding onto Maya for support. The cold weather, especially in the morning, was the only reason she hadn’t curled up somewhere to sleep yet.
The four walked through the capital for around 20 minutes and eventually reached the academy. According to Ari, it usually was more of a 5 to 10-minute walk at best, but the sluggish and more than half-asleep blonde had held them up quite a bit.
"Ohh!" Once the girls arrived at the academy, Sophia finally started to wake up. To some degree, at least. "Impressive!" She looked at the vast area with an enormous mansion-like building at the opposite end of the campus. The whole place looked like a picture of a medieval fantasy-like magic academy illustrated in many novels the blonde had seen in her old world. "If I wouldn’t be so sleepy, I’d love to explore it!"
"I can give you a tour during lunch break." Anna smiled at her.
"Great! I’ll try to get some sleep until then!"
"No, it doesn’t!" Ari just had to make a retort. "The academy isn’t a place for you to sleep!" She looked at both tigers for some reason.
"Even for those just being here for fun, and or being talked into it for some reason she doesn’t even fully understand…?"
"Uhh…" The jaguar had no reply to Sophia’s comeback.
"Alright, good night." The blonde heard all she needed to hear and nuzzled her head against Maya’s arm again.
"S-So unfair…" Anna looked at her with an envious expression.
"What exactly?" The cat-girl rubbed her head against Sophia’s before grinning at the princess.
"N-Napping during classes!" Her face turned red. "I want to do that, too!"
"Yep, as long as I notice, I won’t ever let that happen!"
"You always notice!" The tiger complained to her jaguar. "It’s almost like you’re constantly watching me when we’re in class! Pay more attention to the teacher, will you?!"
"T-That’s…" Ari paused for a moment. "Wait, that’s not something you can defend yourself with when your goal is to sleep in school!"
"Also, we sit next to each other." The jaguar rolled her eyes. "It would be weirder for me not to catch you trying to take a nap."
"Hmnn…?" The blonde only reacted with a slight grumbling to her fellow tiger.
"Any interest in sitting together today?"
"Maya, translation please." Anna looked at the cat-girl for help.
"As long as my beloved Maya can sit on the other side, I don’t particularly mind."
"Yay!" The princess looked happy.
"There are a lot of words behind a short mhmm, huh?" Ari rolled her eyes. "Also, beloved? Really?"
"Try to prove that my translation’s wrong~." The cat-girl flashed her a grin.
"It’s fine." The jaguar lacked the motivation for such an endeavor. "Well, I don’t really mind. Your other side is still free, after all, Anna. Nothing will change~."
"Ah." The princess hadn’t thought about that.
"Oh, a good morning to you, princess- Mhm?" Noticing Anna, two dog-girls, one with red and one with light-gray hair, wearing the same uniform as the group, started walking towards the tiger but quickly stopped once they saw who else was with her.
"Mai, Amy, good morning!" Anna turned around after hearing her voice and greeted them back. "Sure is getting cold, huh?"
"I-Indeed…" The red-haired girl weakly nodded.
"Is… Is that…?" The gray dog ignored her small-talk entirely and looked in Sophia’s direction with big eyes. "She’s the rumored blonde tiger, isn’t she? Your long-lost family member, right?!"
"Err… something along those lines, sure…" The princess sounded slightly tired for some reason.
"Seriously?!" The two dogs got loud. "I’ve never seen her this close!"
"Me, neither! I saw her from afar in the shopping district one or two times, but she was always gone before I could get close!" The two seemed pretty excited about her. "Why is she here with you, though, princess?"
"Uhh… long story very short, she’s going to join the academy for a project."
"Is that so?!" They got even more excited.
"By the way, her name’s Sophia."
"Nice to meet you, Sophia! I’m Mai."
"Amy!" The two introduced themselves. "It’s a pleasure to finally meet you in person!"
"Mhmm." The blonde reacted to her name on instinct. Still, her consciousness was already gone as she was mostly asleep again while was leaning against Maya’s arm.
"Huh?" The two dogs tilted their heads.
"Don’t mind her." Maya waved her free hand. "She’s just a little…"
"Oh, it’s fine!" The red-haired girl. "A timid and well-spoken tiger princess is fresh!"
"Indeed!" The other dog agreed. "I always thought tigers are easily excited and the to go overboard by nature. Seeing that there are also tigers like this is interesting! Something like a mysterious and silent beauty is super cool! I bet she’s also super dignified, too!"
"Our academy has been blessed by an ice-queen!"
"…" It was one of the rare times where Maya had become utterly speechless. As she had never heard a description of her girlfriend that was this far away from the truth, she was at a loss and decided to completely ignore it instead. "Y-You have lovely friends, Anna~." She did enjoy how the two dogs had casually trash-talked the orange princess, though.
"S-Shut up!" Her face turned red.
"It wasn’t an insult!" The gray dog tried to defend herself. "We love how friendly and sociable Anna is! Everyone gets along with her really easily, after all!"
"Yes!" The other girl joined in. "That’s one of the reasons why she’s so popular, too! Her good mood is infectious, and no one can feel down around her!"
"T-Thanks…" Anna got even more embarrassed.
"It’s just that this stark contrast between those two makes the mysterious blonde tiger even more interesting! It’s something entirely different, and that’s exciting!"
"I see…" The princess and the cat-girl shared the same exhausted expression. Both of them knew how the blonde really was, after all.
"By the way," The dogs finally paid some more attention to Maya. "Who are you?"
"Smooth." The cat in question rolled her eyes. "I’m Maya. Girlfriend of your mysterious blonde tiger i-ice queen…" She couldn’t stay serious while saying it.
"Is that so?" The red-haired girl seemed a bit disappointed.
"Of course, this tiger isn’t single, either…" The other dog had a similar expression while mumbling something to herself.
"Anyway, good for!" They still looked happy for her. "Quite the catch you made there."
"Thanks~." Maya liked the response. "Trust me, it wasn’t easy."
"I can imagine." They reacted with a nod. The three weren’t necessarily on the same page, though.
The two dogs kept chatting with the group a little longer, mainly Maya and Anna, that is, because Sophia was basically fully asleep, and Ari decided to become one with the background. Eventually, though, they decided to head inside the academy. The four tried to do the same, but they kept getting stopped by other students on the way. Everyone was curious about the group, after all. A few boys were interested as well, but the overwhelming majority were girls. Their aura alone made it more than clear that the boys had no chance, and so they just wanted to get a better look and see what was happening before moving on.
Even without being actually conscious, or precisely because of that, Sophia managed to create even more misunderstandings around her person. By the time her group finally made it into the academy building, her position as a mysterious ice-queen, thanks to her taciturnity, combined with a general calm and collected aura, had already been established. For some reason, probably because it was too unbelievable to even think about, no one had noticed that they were trying to talk to a, more or less, fast asleep girl the entire time.