Essairyn padded away slowly as they departed in opposite directions. The soft beat of her soles seemingly increased in volume as the sound of Darren’s footsteps drifted further away. Just before the thump of his boots receded, she turned her head back, catching a glimpse of his back as he rounded the corner. Something prickled at the edges of her consciousness. But that inkling lasted only a minute before she pivoted and continued down her path.
The rest of the day passed quickly. Essairyn’s distracted mind hardly registered what exactly she had learned. Walking back down the same corridor from where they had separated, Essairyn suddenly stopped in her steps. The gnawing feeling from before had grown, making her feel vaguely irritated. Letting out a short sigh that sounded more like a huff, she ruffled the top of her head and narrowed her eyes. After straightening her posture and a moment’s pause, Essairyn abruptly turned back in the opposite direction of the dorms.
She halted her dash in front of an office door. The silver plaque on the golden-edged white door read, “Bodraig Hannsfel, First Chief of the Southern As’pyzen Province.” Essairyn stared at the tall entrance and gathered her grit. Clenching and rotating the handle firmly, she swung the door open and locked eyes with the knight who had flicked his gaze up from his desk at the bold entrance.
“Yes?” he voiced questioningly when she just stood in the doorway like a determined statue.
Essairyn moved forward as soon as he opened his mouth and closed the distance to the desk in long strides. She halted a step from the table’s edge for just a breath’s interlude. Deciding that she should be more assertive about the matter instead of allowing him to easily reject her request, she crossed the last step and placed her palms securely down on the varnished mahogany surface.
“Sir Bodraig, would you consider letting Darren attend the advanced courses too?” Although forceful in her tone, her words were still veiled in politeness.
A crooked grin tugged at a corner of his mouth. “You’re speaking of your friend from the entrance exam?”
Essairyn’s eyebrows furrowed slightly deeper. “Yes, Darren. The one who’s sword you flung at me.”
A low laugh rumbled within his throat at the cheeky girl. He smiled faintly and replied, “So you want him to attend the same classes as you do?”
Her left eyebrow twitched at him beating around the bush. “Yes. So please allow him to attend. I promise he’ll do well!” Bodraig blinked with amused eyes. Before he could question how she could promise on behalf of him, Essairyn hastily blurted, “He’s joining the Farinheld mission! So he needs to learn better skills as much as I do!”
A chuckle escaped him as he nodded casually. “All right Miss Essairyn. Although I don’t fully approve of your request, especially now that I know Darren is brazenly joining the expedition, youths will be youths. I will allow him to attend the advanced courses.”
Essairyn blinked. She was surprised that after his waffling, he forthrightly accepted her request. Joggling her head a bit, she leaned back and straightened herself. Then taking a bow, she thanked the Chief Knight for his permission.
Leaving the office partially in a fog, the girl quickly shook the stupor away. She clasped her fists and brandished them briefly in the air. Yes! That was easier than I thought! He did seem more laid-back than Hætherin while teaching, but now I’m sure of it. He’s way better than that stick up his ass! She couldn’t help a triumphant snicker slip out as she placed her hands on her hips.
Propitiously, most of her classes were taught by Chief Knight Bodraig as he was the head of the school in rank. As one of the three Chiefs in the Southern Province of As’pyze, and one of the fifteen total in the human-ruled kingdom, he oversaw all Academy and mission activity in the southernmost stretch by the cliffs. The campus of Byar’non technically had a headmaster, but Chiefs far outranked them according to the Knight’s Order. Only one of the five Commanders along with their directly subordinate Lieutenants were above the Chiefs. She had all shockingly learned this from her second class of the day. Most senior knights wouldn’t participate in the entrance exams, but Bodraig enjoyed witnessing emerging young talents.
Satisfied with how the school day ended, Essairyn caught herself from nearly trotting cheerfully back to the dorms like a silly, spoilt child. Now it wouldn’t feel so empty inside the classrooms and gyms. Since Akari wasn’t allowed to attend the courses, Essairyn was left with making friends out of strangers. Although she didn’t particularly mind making new friends, the advanced class was significantly smaller than all other classes. High ranks in humans were very uncommon after all. And the few people that also attended didn’t dare to even acknowledge her arrival after learning she wasn’t a sworn knight nor a student of the Academy nor even a native of the land! They didn’t appreciate the acceptance of someone so foreign and novice into their ranks. It took everyone years of arduous effort to get where they were. So in their eyes, Essairyn was given a free speed pass. Finding out further that she was the rumored mage allowed to join the Farinheld mission made matters only more sensitive.
If this had been Earth, Essairyn would have pried away their misgivings out of a need to reverse their presumptuous impressions as well as to be accepted and known for who she was. But even then, that act had merely been a social device of hers. Very few had actually seen beyond her safe boundaries and past the towering, entrenched walls around her chaotically regulated heart and mind. This time around, she didn’t even bother to waste her time on something so pointless. If she wanted to make an acquaintance, she would. But just as easily as she gave up on pursuing people at times, she was also steadfast in holding near those dear to her. But perhaps even that was a beautiful lie.
Tossing herself onto the blue blankets of her bed, she sprawled out contently with a small smile. Just as she was about to get up and check the time available before dinner, Akari slunk into the room through a window.
Seeing the girl lolling like a cat, the fox tutted. “What’re you so happy about?”
“I was starting to feel like everything was slipping away again, but now it’s okay,” Essairyn replied while propping herself up with an elbow to peer over at Akari.
“Slipping away?” murmured the fox with a raised brow. “What do you mean? Something wasn’t going the way you wanted, but then you’re back in control now?”
Akari’s words stung momentarily like salt on a sunburn. The fox was startlingly too close to the truth. Essairyn chuckled half-heartedly. “Yeah, something like that.” She didn’t even admit to herself that she just wanted to finally have her life go the way she wanted. So when her ideal plan inside her head wasn’t working out, a part of her strongly resented it.
“Anyway, Darren’s now going to attend the advanced classes. So that’ll be great for preparing for the mission.”
The fox swished her tail and hummed in thought. “I see. That works out well I suppose.”
“By the way, what have you been doing all this time?” Essairyn tipped her head to the side. Seeing as the fox had returned from outside, Akari had been making ample use of her free time while she and Darren were in class.
“Eh, just strolling around here and there.” The fox waved her paw languidly in a dismissive gesture.
“Hm, I see.” Essairyn stared directly at Akari with unblinking eyes. “Well,” she began and turned her head away with a stretch of her arms, “let me know if you find anything fun or interesting in this city. The hands on training is only going to increase everyday, so we’ll need something relaxing to unwind.”
“Got it.” Akari raised her paw in confirmation. Seeing the fox make an “OK” gesture to the best of her anatomical abilities made Essairyn crack a lopsided smile.
“I’m going to review what I learned today before dinner. Is there anything you want me to bring back?” Essairyn knew that the food lover would jump at the chance to request something from the hot bar. Being in the advanced classes had additional perks like this.
As expected, the fox leapt toward Essairyn and placed her front paws on the girl’s lap. “Yes please! Meat meat meat!”
The girl burst out in laughter. “How’d I know you’d say that? You’re the same as me!” She winked and took the opportunity to take the distracted fox into her hands for a quick pet. Akari squeaked in discontent but soon stilled her struggle, dissolving under the expert scratches of Essairyn. Hehe, not so far away from your doggie cousins, huh? Stopping after a half a minute passed, Essairyn got up from the bed and headed over to her desk to study. Akari immediately missed the massage and indistinctly grunted her discontent without admitting she liked being petted by the girl.
Taking out a flat device, much like an electronic tablet but even thinner like compressed cardboard, Essairyn activated it and accessed her textbooks through the library portal. Even if she weren’t on campus premises, she would still be able to connect to the service through the magic waves. It was akin to radio or cellular connection. As she began her studies, she chuckled to herself how paradoxical it was that she would willingly and eagerly study school materials. Well, if the education system was better structured and implemented, students would love learning and going to school. That aspect of education had always disappointed her back on Earth. But now, everything was different.
She opened the airborne display which seamlessly projected multiple floating screens that could become semi-transparent in front of her. Arranging them in a grid, she swiped though the textbook pages in the air. After a few minutes passed, her mind drifted back to Darren, wondering how he would react tomorrow when notified of the class changes. Convincing herself that it would perfectly fine since there was no reason to reject better training, Essairyn refocused her attention back onto her studies. But contrary to her wishful belief, not everything would go as expected.