Past

The deep booming sound of the gong awoke her. Aithne rubbed her face into her pillow and drifted off into her deep slumber again. She felt droplets of cold water on her face before a torrent of it cascaded upon her. Shooting upwards in her bed, she opened her eyes to scream, but a piece of raisin bread was squeezed into her open mouth.

"Agrff…"

Her best friend regarded her with a raised eyebrow and pointed at the windows.

"You do know that it is the third call. You have precisely a quarter of an incense to ready for your morning battle strategy lesson".

Aithne spat the bread out hurriedly at Aiymar before scrambling furiously out of bed and catapulting to her wardrobe. She threw on her trousers and a fitting long white sleeved shirt slipping into her combat boots. Grabbing her scrolls and ink, she thrust herself into the hallways only remembering to bid Aiymar a hurried, mumbled farewell. She dashed down the corridors, flung opened the dormitory doors and sped across the courtyard. She hurriedly checked her belongings for any forgotten scrolls, looking up only in time to see a boy in front of her. Unable to stop with her momentum catapulting her forward, she crashed into his solid back. She fell backwards and in her haste to grab onto anything to remain upright, she grabbed his vest and dragged him down with her.

She heard a ripping noise.

Eyes closed, she prayed that it was not her scrolls that were ripped. She cracked an eyelid and squinted at the boy. He looked to be in shock and highly disgruntled. Worse still, his hands were fumbling behind him, and annoyance marked his face when he realized that she had ripped his vest.

Oh no…please rip my scrolls instead.

He pushed himself off the ground and towering over her, he folded his arms in annoyance. Aithne ignored his offered hand and scrambled from the ground herself. She proceeded to pick up her scrolls and leaking ink glass. She stared at it for a moment before glancing around and throwing it into the nearest bush. She turned to see him regarding her amusedly and could swear that she heard him chuckle.

"You are the most unladylike female I have ever had the fortune to meet."

Aithne raised an eyebrow and retorted.

"Then you have obviously been very unfortunate."

She turned on her heel and stalked off with the arrogant air of an aristocrat. Her aura of mock arrogance was short-lived, as she missed the raised step to the oak doors and stumbled. He could not suppress his laughter and it came out as a snort. She glanced back to give him a scathing glare before entering the study in a fluster.


All eyes turned on her. She was the sole female present. She felt her face heat up and tried to suppress the blush that she knew was threatening to colour her face. Aithne lifted her face and met their gaze.

"Good morning, Squire Cadwallader."

The door swung open and someone stepped in.

"And you too, Squire Llewellyn."

"I apologize, sire, for my tardiness," Aithne mumbled.

"I apologize too, sire."

"Take your seats."

Aithne slid into the seat nearest to her, and she could see, feel, the boys in the same row all incline collectively to the other side as though she were a repelling force.

I probably am.

Aithne turned to the front and saw the boy she had knocked into previously sit near the front role in a seat reserved for him.

Have I seen him before?

"Now, please take out your scroll on the history of the War of the Seven Isles. I trust that you have read the portion on the conquering of Castolania. I will be hearing your views on this historical battle."

"What do you say, Squire Blandon?"

There were scattered guffaws throughout the class, as the blonde-haired boy shrugged his shoulders and stood up.

"Well, it was rather apparent that the Castolanian army was stupid and seriously untrained. They were doomed to lose right from the beginning. The general picked the wrong strategy, and it was cowardly of him to surrender even before he lost."

Commander Gareld nodded his head at Erwin Blandon's heated comments and the class broke into applause at his words. Nearly all but two agreed with him. Kai opened his mouth to object to Erwin's ultimatum on the Castolanian army but was cut off by the Commander who shot him an amused look that clearly told him to hold his thoughts.

"Anyone has any other view to this?"

Near the back of the class, a small voice spoke up.

"Me."

Heads turned to look at Aithne. She stood up and glared at Erwin before she looked up and responded to the Commander's nod for her to continue.

"What Squire Blandon said is a widely held opinion shared by all with an incomplete understanding of their situation and the politics behind that battle."

Kai smirked at the blatant insult directed at his friend, looking sidelong at the burning face of Erwin.

"The battle for Castolanian was not as simple as it seemed. The army, which was previously deemed stupid and seriously untrained consists of a small force of young men, trained for a mere two months with little knowledge of war and weapons. True, they were doomed to lose from the start, but, the General had no choice of strategy. He was caught between the rocky terrains and the rapids. The only thing that he could do was to fight head on. Even in this, I think that it was a good choice to surrender even before the battle ended. It is not a show of cowardice, but that of courage, knowing that he will be remembered as the General who surrendered. But, he would rather prevent unnecessary bloodshed. War is not about glory and the ballads of fighting till death that the bards sing of. It is about death and sometimes, very hard decisions."

There was silence as Aithne finished and sat down again.

"Very insightful indeed. This is the view that I share as well…"

Throughout the rest of the lesson, the boys repeatedly snuck glances at her, unsettled by her sudden heated discussion on the battle. And, maybe, even a little awed by her.

The bell sounded, signaling the end of the lesson, and gathering her scrolls and ink into her arms, Aithne made for the door. A hand tapped her on her back. Swerving around, she met the deep blue eyes of Kai.

"Hey."

She nodded at him, before walking straight ahead again. He caught up with her in a few strides.

"So…where are you heading to right now?"

"Healing."

He stopped at stared at her in amazement.

"You take other lessons on top of the Regime?"

Aithne nodded her head silently and turned to look at him with an eyebrow raised questioningly. She waved slightly before walking on to the herbs garden where her healing lesson would be held.

Kai watched her walk away, while shaking his head and smiling to himself.

Interesting.


Present

The loud ringing of her alarm clock awoke her. Aithne covered her face with her pillow and drifted off into her deep slumber again. She felt droplets of cold water on her face before a torrent of it cascaded upon her. Shooting upwards in her bed, she opened her eyes to scream, but a piece of chocolate bread was stuffed into her open mouth.

"Agrff…"

Her best friend regarded her with a raised eyebrow and pointed at the windows.

"Wake up! You have exactly fifteen minutes to get to your medieval history class."

Aithne spat the bread out hurriedly at Aiymar before scrambling furiously out of bed and catapulting to her wardrobe. She threw on her jeans and a fitting short white sleeved shirt slipping into her sneakers. Grabbing her book bag, she thrust herself into the hallways only remembering to bid Aiymar a hurried, mumbled goodbye. She dashed down the corridors, flung opened the dormitory doors and sped across the open square. She hurriedly checked her bag for any forgotten books, looking up only in time to see a boy in front of her. Unable to stop with her momentum hurtling her forward, she crashed into his solid back. She fell backwards and in her haste to grab onto anything to remain upright, she grabbed his shirt and dragged him down with her.

She heard a ripping noise.

Eyes closed, she prayed that it was not her bag that was ripped. She opened an eyelid and squinted at the boy. He looked to be in shock and highly disgruntled. Worse still, his hands were fumbling behind him, and annoyance marked his face when he realized that she had ripped his shirt.

Crap…please rip my books instead.

He pushed himself off the ground and towering over her, he folded his arms in annoyance. Aithne waited for him to offer his hand while he stared at her blankly. She scrambled from the ground herself and muttered loudly.

"Chivalry is dead."

She proceeded to pick up her books. She stared at it for a moment before reaching inside for her leaking bottle. Glancing around, she threw it into the nearest bush. She turned to see him regarding her amusedly and could swear that she heard him chuckle.

"I may not be the perfect gentleman, but you're the most unladylike girl I've ever met."

Aithne raised an eyebrow and retorted.

"Then you have obviously met very few girls."

She turned on her heel and stalked off with the arrogance of a princess. Her aura of mock arrogance was short-lived, as she missed the raised step to the revolving doors and stumbled. He could not suppress his laughter and it came out as a snort. She glanced back to give him a scathing glare before entering the building in a fluster.


All eyes turned on her. She was the sole female present. She felt her face heat up and knew that her face was like a baboon's bottom. Aithne lifted her face and met their gaze.

"Good morning, Aithne."

The door swung open and someone stepped in.

"And you too, Kai."

"Sorry, Mr. Gareld," Aithne mumbled.

"Sorry."

"Take your seats."

Aithne sat in the nearest empty seat, and she could see - feel- the boys in the same row all incline collectively to the other side as though she were a repelling force.

I probably am.

Aithne turned to the front and saw the boy she had knocked into previously sit near the front role in a seat reserved for him.

Why does he look so familiar?

"Now, take out your book on the classical tales of medieval era. I trust that you have read the chapter on the battle of the mystical land of Castolania which has been highly debated upon by scholars to exist somewhere near today's Cornwall. I will be hearing your views on this historical battle."

And this is why no other girls took this course. Once they realized that its not about princesses…

"What do you say, Erwin?"

There were scattered guffaws throughout the class, as the blonde-haired boy shrugged his shoulders and stood up, entertaining the class with his comments.


The bell sounded, signaling the end of the lesson, picking up her book bag, Aithne made for the door. A hand tapped her on her back. Swerving around, she met the deep blue eyes of Kai.

"Hey."

She nodded at him, before walking straight ahead again. He caught up with her in a few strides.

"So…where are you heading to right now?"

"Wildlife biology."

He stopped at stared at her in amazement.

"You take other sciences on top of humanities?"

Aithne nodded her head silently and turned to look at him with an eyebrow raised questioningly. She waved slightly before walking on to the herbs garden where her lesson on plants with healing properties would be held.

Kai watched her walk away, while shaking his head and smiling to himself.

Interesting.