Looking at us critically, the Etiquette and Oratory teacher said, “You’re 50 students in total, yes? Choose 25 students and let them come forward.”
Looking at each other, Sia motioned forward the hunting team of 9 people now that Celsus had left, the combat team of 6 people now that Iole along with Marrok had left, the tailoring team of 6 people, and the cooking team of 3 people with Sia rounding us up to make 25 students.
Nodding as he looked at us, the Etiquette and Oratory teacher said, “Now divide yourself further into three groups.”
Puzzled, we followed what he said as we formed into two groups of 8, and one group of 9.
Then, pointing at the classrooms, the Etiquette and Oratory teacher said, “First group, classroom 1. Second group, classroom 2. Third group, classroom 3.”
Dutifully, we began moving toward the three classrooms in our respective groups, only to pause as the Herbology teacher said, “All the ones remaining are dismissed for the day. You are free to pursue whatever it is that you normally do. Though I would advise you to study but the choice is yours.”
Looking at the ones who were dispersing, we felt disgruntled until we thought that there was definitely a catch in store for them.
Nodding sagely, and comforting ourselves with that thought, we trudged to the classrooms.
Behind us, the Etiquette and Oratory teacher, along with the Herbology teacher and the Refined Brutish teacher, followed along before they split up to join each of the three groups, respectively.
Looking at the Etiquette and Oratory teacher who had joined my group in the classroom, I fell silent along with the rest of the seven in my group.
Rapping his knuckles on the table in front of him, the Etiquette and Oratory teacher said, “You all have come from various backgrounds. Backgrounds which mean that your knowledge differs from person to person.”
Pausing, he examined each of us before he continued, “I have only one rule in my class. You will do your best, or else you will leave. Now make your choice. The door is open.”
He waited for a moment, and seeing no movement, he nodded and said, “Good. Now I will briefly run through what you can expect in my class.”
“First, Manners. As I said, you have come from various backgrounds. My goal is to make you all stand on the same level by the end of my lessons regarding manners. It is not a difficult task, but it will take effort for you to internalize it.” he said with a small smile.
“Secondly; Grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The three go hand in hand. Some of you may know how to write already. Some don’t. Irrespective, I will teach you how to write, how to read, and how to speak with logic and clarity supporting your expression of thoughts.”
Stunned, I turned around to some of the other Maidens who looked discomfited as they looked at the floor.
Noticing my look and that of a few others, The Etiquette and Oratory teacher said, “As I said. Different backgrounds. Do not look down upon them, for their background dictated their circumstances. Circumstances that they had no control over, but they fought on and reached Yamal Academy. Here, those circumstances are firmly in their hands, and they will surpass you lot if you don’t put in the effort too!”
Looking at the Maidens, who were now looking fixedly at the teacher with burning eyes, I realized it was true.
I had been blessed to be born into a noble family. To the House of Drayke.
These comrades of mine? They might not have been that lucky.
To be honest, none of us really talked about our pasts. We were content with just being part of the Maidens.
Shaking my head mentally, I decried myself as I thought that this had to change.
Firming up my thoughts, I came back to face the Etiquette and Oratory teacher, who looked at us thoughtfully and said, “Bonds can be forged through trials faced together. Years can pass without knowing anything else about the other. But still those bonds stay firm. Just remember one thing though… Everyone here has a past, a present, and a future.”
Eyes flaring, I repeated those words to myself, “Everyone has a past, a present, and a future.”
Looking around at the Maidens, I wondered what their past was and what their future was to be; just like how they looked at me and wondered the same.
Grinning at each other, we turned our attention back to the teacher who smiled as he said, “Some people have pasts that they would rather not talk about. Do not pry and wait for them to tell you on their own. If they do not, then look rather to the present… and to the future that you can reach with them.”
Eyes widening again, I sat up straight as I devoted my full concentration to the teacher and his words.
For his words… not only were they profound… but they seemed to be talking to something inside of me. Something which was stirring as jumbled thoughts about all the people in my life came to the surface.
Voicing out the doubt that I had, I asked, “What if… our future is not with them?”
Turning to look at me, the teacher smiled widely as he said, “Then focus on the present exclusively, and leave the future for when it becomes the present.”
Stunned, I looked at the man, who kept smiling as he looked at each one of the students in turn.
Letting out a deep breath as my jumbled thoughts seemed to freeze and then dissipate along with my breath, I felt relaxed and at ease.
Looking at the teacher, I realized that perhaps coming to Yamal Academy had been the best decision I had made.
Nodding at us, the Etiquette and Oratory teacher then asked us, “How many of you can read and write?”
3 of us raised our hands while the others looked straight ahead, unashamed… as they should be.
Pointing at the three of us, the teacher said, “After today’s lesson on the basics of reading and writing, you will teach the rest in your own free time. Is that understood?”
Nodding firmly, we quickly agreed, and the teacher clapped his hands as he truly began the lesson.
Immersed in learning, I didn’t realize that all the apprehension that I had felt toward the lesson had vanished.
I mean, the surroundings were peaceful. The drone of the teacher’s voice was soothing. The scribbling of quills on paper was calming.
The sound of the classroom next door shaking as an explosive sound ripped through the air was deligh- wait a second.
Wide eyed, we stared at the Etiquette and Oratory teacher who, unperturbed, said, “That’s just the Herbology and Potioneering classroom. Don’t worry about it. Your next class will be there after we’re done here.”
Gulping, we looked at each other before we swore that we would pay close attention to every word, every cough, and every movement of the Herbology and Potioneering teacher.
Then, we dove back into studying. Willingly and with vigor.