Breman: Morning Di Qi Ju.
Di Qi Ju: Morning…sir…
Breman: Haha, it’s rare to hear you address me as sir. However, what happened to you? You look terrible.
Breman: Don’t tell me you were so nervous about going to class that you couldn’t sleep?
Di Qi Ju: Err…let’s just take it as that…
Breman: Ah, make sure not to embarrass me even when you are in school.
Di Qi Ju: …I’ll do my best.
With Breman at the lead, I groggily followed him out of the Checkered Path, my eyes struggling to stay open as they adjusted to the light.
Recapping yesterday’s mess, I could only think of four words to describe it—
—my rifle’s still loaded.
Just the thought that I was about to drag my loaded rifle with me as I learnt some inexplicable theological knowledge made my mood sink to a new low.
And so the short trip passed with me mulling over my armed status. By the time I came back to my senses, we were already at the entrance of what looked like a school.
The school’s gate was a metallic grill gate that was flanked by a couple of white stone walls that circled around the entire school. Within was a pathway that cut through an ordinary courtyard, leading straight to a plain two-storey building.
Granted that its appearance didn’t necessarily equate to the quality of its education…but still…
Well, Breman did specifically say that this was the premier education institution in Reitdarke’s Corridor…it should be safe for me to have some expectations…
We came here yesterday after encountering Naysis Ferne in order to register. The staff told us then that there would be a short course starting today.
The course was not actually meant for people preparing to enter the middle ring. Instead, it was meant for the faithful who were entering for the first time, but were too young to have undergone the required education.
However, for me who couldn’t even read or write, it was only understandable for me to take it.
I wonder if they covered the basics of mandatory education…
Breman: Here’s your student card, you’re going to have to find your class from this point on.
Breman: Just ask anyone you meet on the way for directions. The teachers here tend to be too busy for such matters.
Breman: I’ve already asked them yesterday, they said that your classmates are around the same age as you, so you don’t have to be too concerned about your illiteracy.
Breman: Make sure to give your best, don’t waste the money I invested on you.
Di Qi Ju: Alright…then what are you going to do today?
Breman: I’ll continue searching for investors with that worm’s fang in tow.
Breman: That deal with Three’floral Dawn was definitely satisfactory, but Numbers and Faith are simply too far apart, therefore we need more investors.
Breman: Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to invite you to the flower district if I’m able to negotiate a few more deals.
Di Qi Ju: —please no, don’t invite back there again.
Breman: Haha—I’ll pick you up before dinner.
Di Qi Ju: I know the way back, you don’t have to treat me like a kid going to school for the first time!
As I saw him off with my eyes, his back reminded me of a gambler who was resolved to continue until he won enough.
Forget it, finding investors was his field of expertise, all I had to do was go for my lessons.
Di Qi Ju: Errr…excuse me.
As I approached the building, I called out to a passing female student,
She was roughly 13 to 14 years of age, with a head of short black hair that made her look like a middle schooler from China.
Her attire was at best, an austere dress. If one wanted to be brutally honest, it was a piece of cloth that had just enough stitching to qualify it as a dress.
Looks like she’s from a poor household. Didn’t Breman say that he had to spend a large sum to get me in here? Seemed like the poor was able to get in here as well.
Di Qi Ju: …Hi, I’m a student who just registered yesterday and I need some help finding my classroom.
She accepted my student card and gave me an appraising look
??: “Di Qi Ju”…
??: Oh, I’m in the same class as you.
Di Qi Ju: Is that so? Then I’ll be in your care from now on.
??: Follow me, our classroom’s on the second floor.
??: By the way, I’m Bailey Estrange, Bailey is fine.
Di Qi Ju: Oh, hey there, Bailey.
I turned to face her, my eyes coincidentally landing on what had to be a horse’s dream prairie, stretching endlessly into the horizon without a bump in sight.
Thinking back on last night’s events, I mentally heaved a sigh of relief.
If I had to choose, I would prefer undulating grasslands over the flatlands.
Bailey: Ah? What’s with that relieved look on your face?
Di Qi Ju: Ah—nothing.
Di Qi Ju: I was just worried that I would get bullied for being a foreigner. Thankfully, the first classmate I met was a kind person like you.
Bailey: Ah—there’s a ton of foreigners here, plus bullying others in Reitdarke’s Corridor is basically courting death. Only fools would do that.
Di Qi Ju: Haha…I guess you’re right.
Success! I think my lying skill just levelled up too! However, given that she’s just a little girl…this didn’t make up for my embarrassingly bad lies during the expedition.
Furthermore, what’s with those instincts of hers! She actually read my emotions just by looking at my eyes, don’t tell me this was a wish ability of some kind…
Bailey: We’re here.
Di Qi Ju: Oh.
Entering the classroom, I saw over thirty sets of tables and chairs lined up in a typical high school classroom fashion. As I looked at the blackboard in front with the sun shining in from the window at the side, I felt like I had been transported back to my own high school.
If it hadn’t been for that holiday trip, if it hadn’t been for that earthquake, if I hadn’t transmigrated…I would probably be in a university classroom right now wouldn’t I…
New classmates, new friends, the start of my journey into the working society. A new chapter in my life. Now however, all that was lost to me forever…
Even though those years of strict mandatory education weren’t pleasant. I still managed to persevere to the end. Compared to my peers, my results were exceptional and yet it all dissipated with the coming of that tsunami…
All I had left was this meagre existence, struggling to even survive.
Bailey: Why are you…crying??
Di Qi Ju: …
Di Qi Ju: —it’s nothing. Just pretend you saw nothing.
Bailey: Your seat is over there.
Di Qi Ju: Understood…thanks…
Seems like my student card even had my seating imprinted on it. It was situated in the middle of the third row, right in the center of the classroom. While it’s not like I wanted some window seat at the second to last row, this location seemed a tad…conspicuous.
There weren’t that many students in the classroom, just a sparsely distributed group of female students. As I sat down on my seat, I wiped the tears from my eyes while I tried to figure out the foreign hieroglyphs on my student card.
??: Yo, Di Qi Ju, we meet again.
Di Qi Ju: —!?
My head jerked upwards at the familiar voice that called my name. Standing right before me were those two ladies I met yesterday, Naysis Ferne, the youngest princess of Reitdarke and her butler, Carmen.
She plopped herself down into the seat in front of me, her elbows resting on my desk, staring at me with an intent gaze with her back to the blackboard.
Naysis Ferne: From today onwards, we’ll be classmates Di Qi Ju.
Di Qi Ju: ……
Di Qi Ju: Err…hello.
Di Qi Ju: By the way, what’s the princess of this country doing studying in place like this?
Naysis Ferne: Even though I’ve already graduated from school, going through a revision course before my Sacred Rite is a form of respect towards Westrealm.
Di Qi Ju: Why do I get the feeling that you were an outstanding student? So outstanding that you wouldn’t need more revision.
Naysis Ferne: Oh, so you’ve been paying attention to me. Sounds like you’re pretty interested in me…
Di Qi Ju: No no, I was merely guessing…
Di Qi Ju: —by the way, class should be starting soon. You should get back to your seat.
Naysis Ferne: This is my seat.
Di Qi Ju: Then you should at least face the blackboard…
Naysis Ferne: I can roughly guess what’s going to be taught on it so there’s no need for that.
Di Qi Ju: Then exactly what are you doing here…
Naysis Ferne: I’m sure you know exactly what I’m doing here.
Di Qi Ju: I don’t wish to know…
Just as I was about to go all out to reject her, I noticed Bailey looking at me from my side.
At the same time, Carmen stepped onto the podium and gathered the attention of those present.
Carmen: The students of this class, I have something to say.
Carmen: Firstly, I’m not your teacher, but due to Princess Naysis registering in this school last night, there has been a small change to this class’s roster.
Di Qi Ju: …??
Carmen: This morning, when the boys heard that the Princess was coming to their class, all of them applied to transfer classes.
Carmen: So there are only females left in this class…that’s all.
Carmen: Oh—there is however, a certain exception.
Di Qi Ju: …
Di Qi Ju: ……
Di Qi Ju: Err, is it too late for me to transfer classes as well?
Carmen: Not possible, the teacher’s already here.
As she said that, I heard a set of loud, heavy footsteps echo in the hallway.
It was a set of footsteps that definitely didn’t belong to a student. It sounded more like an adult’s with the signature clack of a pair of high heels stepping onto wooden boards.
Naysis Ferne stopped her chattering while the rest of the students went back to their seats and quietened down.
Carmen: By the way, the male teacher in charge of this class applied for a transfer as well. I still haven’t checked who the new teacher is, Princess.
Naysis Ferne: Ah ah, it’s fine. Those men aren’t my target anyway.
Di Qi Ju: Are you the nemesis of all men, Princess…
As the footsteps stopped in front of our classroom, the room became so silent you could hear a pin drop.
A pale hand pushed open the door after which a slender figure began her slow walk up to the podium.
Di Qi Ju: …..
Di Qi Ju: ……??
My mind blanked out as I sat there silently, my jaw wide open.
Right before my very eyes was that familiar blazing head of red hair, resting delicately on a long pale dress.
On her face was the same elegant and calm smile that greeted me the first time I opened my eyes in this world, capturing my heart at that very moment.
Her eyes swept over the classroom, stopping briefly on my face, her expression gained a hint of levity as it did so.
While it was a miniscule change, I was able to garner a multitude of messages that only I could understand.
I think, it was the same for her as well; a multitude of things to communicate but yet was unable to do so due to a sudden “accident”.
Di Qi Ju: …
Di Qi Ju: Po..Poppy?
Special thanks to Steve Granger!!