Oliver and Galahad ate in the Academy's Great Hall, and their first lesson every morning was exactly ninety-three steps away. It was eighteen steps from the hall to the main stairwell, thirty-nine steps to the third floor, fourteen steps to the east wing, and twenty-two steps to Room 305. Galahad would talk the entire journey, so Oliver had learnt to count the steps while he half-listened.
"I still don't get why they just challenge me directly - it's not that I don't like being your champion but wouldn't it be easier for everyone?"
"Fifty-nine, sixty - oh, sorry - it's because they're cowards. They can't afford to embarrass themselves by losing to you, but I'm still technically an aristocrat, remember? Even if my parents are-"
Oliver sighed, "I was going to say 'unlucky,' but that works too. Anyway, that means they can challenge me as much as they want without any consequences."
"Isn't that a little-"
Galahad rolled his eyes, "I knew that already - I was going to say 'stupid.'"
"You've been doing this for two years now. That shouldn't surprise you at this point."
The door to Room 305 was already open, and they got to their desks just as their teacher entered the room.
Attendance was low, but there had been a party the night before, so only the teacher seemed surprised. She frowned as she looked out over the sea of empty chairs, and for a moment it seemed like she was about to comment on how lazy her class was, but she already knew it was pointless to complain when the only people who could hear her were the innocent ones. She sighed, assigned some mostly pointless work to the class, and started marking the previous week's exams.
The lesson was only an hour-long, and more than half that time had passed before someone - a student - crashed through the door, stuttering an apology through a mess of black hair that was barely being kept at bay by a single white hairband.
Until that point, Oliver had been diligently working through the papers he'd been given, if only because there was nothing else to do, but that stopped the instant he saw the round glasses that were balanced haphazardly on the nose of the new student. He fought back the smile that threatened to spill onto his face as Laelinae stumbled towards her seat.
"Shut up," he whispered to Galahad, who sat behind him.
"I didn't say anything-"
"I can hear you rolling your eyes."
"Sure you can. You were thinking about how she smelled like pancakes, weren't you?"
"Well I am now, aren't I?"
"Mission accomplished. Have fun trying to focus on finishing the worksheet now."
"You just wanted me to get more homework, didn't you?" Oliver said, accusingly.
"Guilty as charged."
There was a suspicious pause, and Oliver filled with dread as he waited for Galahad to reveal his latest scheme.
"What? I was just going to say that Laelinae doesn't want any homework either."
It didn't take long for Oliver to realise what Galahad was hinting at.
"That's a terrible idea."
"Why? People share their work all the time - just help her catch up to where you are before the end of class."
There was another pause as Oliver tried to think of a good reason not to. He swore when he realised that there wasn't one. Galahad grinned.
"It doesn't even have to be right now. You both have Faecraft next, right? Give her your notes- or, even better, offer to help her finish the work tonight."
"Then you have to talk to her during your next lesson - that's your only other option."
"I could always just not do that. That's still an option."
Galahad rolled his eyes, "Again? Coward."
"There's no shame in avoiding an unfavourable battle."
"Unfavourable? These are the best conditions you could hope for!"
"She needs your help, idiot. At this rate, you'll graduate without even saying hello."
"Hey, we've still got eight months left before-"
"You mean we've only got eight months left, and we've got exams for two of those."
Oliver closed his eyes and sighed. He wasn't used to losing an argument to his friend, and he didn't like the feeling.
"Fine," he said, doing his best to ignore Galahad's smug expression, "I'll think about it. Happy?"
"I'm going to start a journal just so I can remember this moment forever."
The bell rang, echoing across the courtyard from the clocktower, and Oliver waited for Galahad and Laelinae to leave the room before he got up from his chair and slowly made his way to the door as the teacher started to wave the next class in.