March 5, 2019 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
When a Princess Tells You to Do Something…
Taikie was giggling. Saydrie was smiling. Even Riensin was laughing. It was a good moment. Saydrie felt a little relaxed, even in the midst of this Calenyen city.
“Pardon me, I know that this is likely a bad time, but we must go.”
Riensin, looking over Saydrie’s shoulder, stiffened, bowed, and looked panicked all in the same breath. Saydrie turned around and bowed at the same time. His nose had not told him that it was someone bad – no. No, it was Princess Oltyellalobtello. “Princess.” He bowed even deeper.
Taiki, next to him, was doing the same. “Have to go? But-”
“I’m sorry, I know it’s very irregular, but they’re attempting to push the Treaty Meet through faster than I had any expectation that they would. That is, I knew they’d try to push it through very quickly, but this is quicker than I thought anyone would be able to manage. One almost starts to think that they really do have the Three on their side – let’s pretend I didn’t say that.” She cleared her throat. “Do you know where your third is? You seem to have had a change of staff.”
Riensin bowed. “Princess. It’s my honor. If I can serve you in any way-”
“If you could find Enerenarie, that would be wonderful,” the princess cut him off. “We’re under a very tight time constraint and I imagine these three would like to have a change of clothes before they travel.”
“Right! Right, I can probably find Enerenarie, just look for the little trails of hearts dripping off of her and Gianci – Hey, Saydrie, can you smell those? They have to leave some sort of humanic aether, uh, sugar-smell, don’t they?”
Saydrie stifled a laugh. “I don’t think it works that way, although you might be able to get Taikie to build a machine for it. Not today, Taikie.”
“I’ll be back soon. Where will you be?”
“By the Imperial Office. We’ll meet you there.”
Saydrie found himself gulping. Good Cevati Bitrani tried to avoid Imperial Offices. They were the places where bad things happened – where your enclave got broken up, for instance, or you found out you were going to a school on the other side of the world. They weren’t places you just waited for your friends, certainly not while standing around with a Calenyena princess.
Then again, when a princess told you to do something, the clever thing to do was do it, quickly and without asking too many difficult questions. Saydrie bowed at the princess. Riensin bowed at the princess and ran off. Taiki stared at her Device.
“That’s an interesting mechanism there. Here, we’re going to walk this way. Casually, I’m sure you two can handle that. You’ve had quite an interesting school career so far.”
“I’m glad it’s been interesting.” Taikie was still looking at her Device, even as they follow the Princess down the road and around a corner. “I’m worried it might be as far as my school career goes.”
“Taikie, what do you mean?” Saydrie stared at her in worry. “We’re not going to get expelled. We haven’t broken any school rules, well… not ones we haven’t been forgiven or completely vindicated for.”
“My mother was right,” Taikie sighed. “the Academy is a lot harder than school was back home. I’m not going to be top of my class. I might not even be close.”
Saydrie wanted to scoff, but this was very important to Taikie. “You’ve been a little busy saving people.”
“It’s not just that. It’s things like Instructor Pelnyen’s class, that made no sense, and some of the other things – I am very good at Engineering,” she added on plaintively. “I didn’t expect the other things to be so hard.”
“I remember that feeling.” Princess Oltyellalobtello‘s smile was gentle and benign. Saydrie was relieved that someone knew what to say. “In my case, it was History that was very easy and Engineering and Biology that were very hard, but it was the same idea – I had been focused for my whole life on the things that I wanted to do. Here I was at Edally, and suddenly things were difficult. I was afraid that they’d send me home.”
“My mother –” Taikie winced. “If I go home, she’ll never stop lecturing me. She told me it was hard.”
“Hey.” Saydrie cut in. “She never told you that there’d be a rogue Engineering student hitting you over the head with a wrench, did she?”
“Did she tell you that there would be a treaty hidden in the folklore, or a teacher who got angry at you for trying to understand the idea of his philosophy or, or a House MOnitor who thought you were here for your suffix?”
“You are not going to get sent home, I know it. But if you are, I will talk to your mother for you.” He smiled at her, and if she’d been Cevati Bitrani, he would have hugged her. “We’re a team. And a team looks out for one another. All right?”
“All – all right.” Taikie looked up at him with wide eyes. “But I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know how much I can do. What if I can’t manage it here? What if I’m really not smart?”
“That,” the Princess interrupted before Saydrie could say anything, “is malarkey. Absolute nonsense. I have heard of the things the three of you have done, and you could not have done them if you were not bright, dedicated, and driven.”
“But that’s different from smart!” Taikie wailed. “Anyone can be dedicated and driven! Anyone can see that there’s a problem! I was the top student in my class for every class, my whole life! And then I came here.” She swept her free hand around – she was still clutching the Device with the other – as if trying to take in the whole of the school, the town, and her problems. “And Now I’m going to be lucky to be in the top thirty in my year!”
“You know,” Saydrie murmured, “There are lots of people who will write home happy that they’re in the top thirty.”
“Good! Let them be happy! That’s not who I am! I am the smartest girl in the school! In any school before this stupid school…” She caught her breath on something that sounded suspiciously like a sob. “I- oh, what if I’m not really smart?”
Saydrie looked helplessly between the Princess and his friend, and then, risking losing a hand, patted Taikie carefully on the back. “You know that you’re brilliant. If you’re having trouble with your grades, maybe we should talk to the head of your house? After all, you did solve an Engineering mystery. Maybe we can get you some extra credit?”
Taikie was brilliant, he knew that. At least, he was pretty sure that she was. But he was starting to understand that that wasn’t as important as other people – specifically, probably, her mother – knowing that she was smart.
She perked up at extra credit. Then the Princess cleared her throat.
“Aside from the amazing plumbing work of a certain goat that I understand you might not have claimed credit for, what about the Device you are carrying right now?”
“That’s, that’s not school work, that’s practical work.” Taikie rubbed her eyes with her free hand.
“Well, I think that perhaps you and Saydrie ought to talk to your Head of House. And if they don’t think that your work that is helping bridge a cultural divide and is a completely functional Device is worthy of some extra credit, then perhaps I ought to talk to them.”
“I’m – I’m not that sort of student!” Taikie’s wail horrified Saydrie and he reached to hug her again. She put her head on his shoulder and muttered at him. “I’m not the sort of student that, that needs someone to make the school keep her, or to get her out of trouble. That’s not who I am! I’m a good student!”
Saydrie patted her back and looked helplessly over her head at the Princess. “We know that, Taikie. We do. Taikie…”
What was he supposed to do?
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