Robert had eighteen years of schooling, from pre-K through college, but that was in America. Tiana received her education from tutors alongside the royal kids and a handful of other resident children, in what might be described as an ad hoc one-room schoolhouse inside the royal residence. Needless to say, her only image of ‘attending classes’ in an organized environment was the spartan training courses delivered to squires.
So I walked into my first classroom at the Royal Academy unprepared for an Orestanian classroom. Twenty writing desks sat in the center, but the room had substantial space for more. The number was quite puzzling, because I knew the class size was quite a bit larger, but the desks each had only a single chair. All but one of them were occupied already.
Despite the remaining desk, many students stood with their backs against the walls, ringing the the tables. Each one held a ‘writing case’ in their arm. These were thin wooden boxes the size of large laptop computers whose hinged lids functioned as writing surfaces. Inside would be writing implements and sheets of paper. The student would hold the case in the crook of the arm and write on it like a clipboard.
A quick survey confirmed what I suspected. Every blatant noble daughter and noble son in the room sat. Several other students wearing school uniforms who might or might not be commonders, including Mireia, were also seated. Many of the standing students were in maid and house knight uniform, but probable commoner students in school uniform stood as well.
At his insistence, Cord was carrying my writing case, which held my supply of paper and pencils. (Huade has wooden pencils, although I’m not convinced that the lead is the same material as on Earth. They lay down an ink-like mark, and the eraser doesn’t seem to exist here.) As Esrene and Ferna took up stations against the wall, Cord strode over to the last empty desk and placed my case there, then pulled out the chair and seated me before joining the maids.
I noticed quite a few cross looks, and one of the noble daughters appeared to be about to address me, but at that moment, a pretty but rather prideful brunette came striding into the room, followed by a maid. I recalled her name from the previous night: Lady Sasie. She looked around, noted the lack of empty seats, then spotted Mireia and steered a course toward her.
“Thank you for holding my seat, girl,” she said, while standing over her, fanning herself.
Mireia opened her mouth, then seemed to catch her first impulse and correct herself. “Certainly, Young Mistress.”
The maid behind Sasie frowned at her mistress– out of her view– but said nothing as Mireia gathered her things and moved to the wall, followed by the maid.
The other girl, the one who had been prepared to speak to me, finally declared, “You there! Knights should be standing, should they not?”
“Is that so?” I asked, raising my eyebrows innocently. I searched my memory for the last time Tiana was called “You, there.” I think it was in the barracks, as a rookie squire.
“Obviously!” she retorted. “Attendants should stand, awaiting orders!”
Robert had stood plenty of shifts waiting on customers, and Tiana had become very accustomed to standing with a writing case in the Royal Knights. Every training course she attended as a squire involved lectures in which the students stood in ranks, taking notes as the instructors taught. Clearly, the standing students against the wall would be doing the same. I didn’t feel like arguing, and, thanks to Tiana’s training, I had no particular problem with standing, so I picked up my things and stood.
“My Lady!” I heard Cody protest, but I shot him a warning glance. As I took up a position between my attendants, the instructor entered the room. He gave the empty desk a puzzled glance, then laid his materials atop the podium and faced the class.
“I am Nicilo Willim Andor. For those of you who insist upon such things, I am second son of the Baron Gelis-Andor. Pleased to make your acquaintances. Most of you already know me, as I taught you in Lower School last year. I shall again instruct you in mathematics.”
He opened his case and took out a sheet, compared it to the class, then nodded. “The number looks about right, so I will assume everyone is present. The class is expected to choose a captain who will take role starting tomorrow.”
With another glance toward the empty seat, he noted. “It is also up to the students to sort out who uses the desks. However, the school asks you to defer to all persons worthy of respect, rather than simply the highest ranked nobles. Also, injuries in combat training do happen, and those recovering from them shall be given preference, regardless of rank or duty, so decide in advance who will surrender their seat in such as case.”
Well that was certainly a difference from squire training. There, you stood unless you were dying.
“My Lord…” Cord suddenly spoke, surprising me.
He frowned at Cord, then stated, “Raise your hand and wait to be addressed.”
Cord’s hand shot up like a rocket. The room had an assortment of titters and giggles. The man sighed. “Yes, boy, what is it?”
“Would a royal knight or the daughter of a duke be considered worthy of respect?”
I shook my head, “Instructor, this isn’t necessary.”
“Wait your turn, My Lady,” the instructor frowned at me. He returned to Cord and asked, “In comparison to each other?”
“No sir. Would either one be considered worthy?”
There was a distinct number of murmurs around the room.
The instructor scowled and retorted, “Of course, boy, both are!”
“My Lady is both, My Lord. Might she resume the seat that she was just ordered to surrender before you came in?”
I sighed and shook my head, looking down a bit. As I raised my eyes once more, I saw the girl who had snapped at me growing pale.
The instructor quickly consulted the sheet he was holding, which I guessed must be the class roll. He then looked up at me with a confused expression and asked, “Tiana Pendor?”
I curtseyed quickly, taking my skirt one-handed since I was holding my writing case. “Yes, My Lord.”
“I’m addressed as Instructor in class,” he noted, with a glance toward Cord as well. “Please take the remaining seat, My Lady.”
I glanced at a certain pink-haired girl across the room from me, and raised my hand. “A question first?”
He sounded a little wary as he asked, “Yes?”
“Should a member of the student council who is the current top ranking student in our grade be seated or standing?”
“What are you doing?” Sasie immediately demanded of me. “She’s a maid of my house!”
The instructor spotted Mireia, blinked, then scowled and studied the sheet in his hand. With a frown, he stated, “Lady Sasie, your maid is listed here as a ‘Miss Gisela’. You have a maid and a knight already attending you in this class, and you are only authorized those two. Miss Mireia, you are a student in your own right. You are not a maid of Parna House during school hours. Please be seated.”
Parna House? Sasie was related to that old duke? No wonder I disliked her.
She wasn’t the daughter though. I already knew I was the only ducal daughter in the upper school. But that man was easily old enough be her grandfather.
Mireia looked worried and unsure what to do. Sasie was glaring daggers at me.
I looked at Mireia and said, “Knights are quite used to standing, Miss Mireia. Please take the desk.”
There were now several seated men looking around uncertainly. I think they were wondering if they should now offer me their seat. The correct answer was ‘yes’,considering I was the highest ranking noble in the room, but I simply nodded to the instructor and waited for class to begin.
# # #
Classes are six out of the seven day week. Either the day before or after Rest Day is off every other week, so there was a two-day weekend twice a month, but otherwise we had two schedules, on alternating days.
For my class, the first day is Mathematics, History, Theology, Lunch, Elective, Combat Training. The second day is Magic Studies, Military Science, Geography, Lunch, Elective, Combat Training.
The theology course is in the Atian religion. I wonder how the Northerners and Dorians feel about that. I should ask my attendants.
The four first-year classrooms rotate the first three courses, then everyone does their electives, then everyone does combat training. What kind of combat training depends on your skills.
But those electives are only ‘elective’ for everyone else. Royal tutors teach the princess and the princes, and it turns out I must also take instruction from them. In what? Whatever they decided I was lacking as a future princess of Orestania. Even though I’m apparently already a princess…
I enjoyed lunch in a corner of the Royal Lounge with Amelia and her friends, while a room full of nobility regularly shot glances my way. It was a bit uncomfortable, especially when my ears were picking up quiet exchanges around the room that included things like ‘That’s the one that was dancing with the princes last night, isn’t it?’ and ‘Did she just address Her Highness by first name?’
After lunch, I went to collect my writing case from Cord. He was in the back room with other attendants getting his meal. As I headed that direction, a few of the noble girls, including Lady Josannah, suddenly surrounded me. Boxed in, I halted, of course.
“Lady… Tiana, is it?” Josannah asked.
“Yes, Lady Josannah.”
“Would you mind if I asked you something quite personal?”
“What is it?” I wondered, feeling my eyebrows bunching up.
The girl’s head raised a bit, to look a bit more superior as she asked, “Do succubi really drink that to sustain themselves?”
Dead silence of course. My face grew hot and probably blazed red. Amelia, Clara and Erin, had seen the older girls stop me and had already been coming to join me. They were like…
Then bursts of laughter from all three. I sighed and lowered my eyes, not wanting to look anyone in the eye, as the three quickly got themselves back under control.
Amelia came and gave me a one-arm hug of assurance. “We’re so sorry, Tiana.” She looked apologetic, but she was still fighting the giggles.
Succubi get their mana the same way amazons do, through skin-to-skin contact, but most humans have the misconception that they get it through performing oral sex. In other words, if vampires swallow blood, succubi must swallow that, right?
“What is it?” Josannah demanded. “What’s so funny?”
I looked her in the eye and answered, quite frankly, “I’m not a succubus.”
“But, your wings. Your hair and your skin, and… your uniform…”
I’m certain every inch of gratuitous décolletage and back bared by that uniform was solid crimson.
“This is the new duty uniform for lady royal knights.” Amelia told her, then glanced at my exposed back and said, “With a hole added so she can grow her wings.”
I smiled at Josannah and added, “I have wings because I’m half-vampire, My Lady. My father was Lord Egon, Duke of Pendor.”
Her mouth dropped open, then shut. Then she just nodded.