March 2, 2015
“Alexei, where are you taking me?” Valon asked, following the Dragon King down the road. He quickened, moving to Alexei’s side and shuffling awkwardly as he glanced at the citizens bowing to them. Alexei held back a snort, motioning for their three guards to encircle them.
“Here, my love,” Alexei replied, stopping in front of a large, plain building made of polished limestone. It had many square windows and rose three stories high. Thin, patterned lines were painted over the white blocks of the building’s facade, at the base and roof of the building.
“What is this?” Valon questioned, confused. The courtyard in front of the building was empty, giving Valon no hints.
“This is a school building,” Alexei explained and Valon looked up, amazed.
“No way! That’s so cool! Come on, I wanna see their miserable, little faces,” Valon cackled. “Kidding,” he assured Alexei and the guards when he saw their expressions. “…Maybe,” he tacked on with a gleeful laugh, practically skipping into the building.
It was much more decorated on the inside than out. The ceilings were a deep burgundy shade, offsetting the white of the walls and the light wooden beams that split the ceiling into sections. Beautiful mosaics were painted every couple of yards; scenes of a monster flying through the air, a peaceful woodsy scene, farmers gathering grain or collecting fruit, a small dragon spitting fire, and many more beyond those.
“This is amazing,” Valon muttered, awed, after Alexei explained the significance of each of the mosaics while they walked. “So what is taught? How are the classrooms divided? Do they teach girls? Are there electives? Recess? What are the age groups, since a monster is an adult by twelve?” he asked Alexei rapidly, still taking in the large hallway. “Is there any—”
“Valon, calm down,” Alexei said, stopping Valon’s interrogation abruptly. A pinkish tinge bloomed across the human’s face and Alexei smiled gently, stroking Valon’s cheek with his knuckles.
“Sorry,” the younger man apologized. “Before I was… brought to Nocturna, I actually planned to go to college to become a teacher of some sort. Probably elementary or middle school.” At Alexei’s confused look, he elaborated, “Elementary is a section of schooling typically for five-year-olds to twelve-year-olds. Middle school is the second section that educates twelve- or thirteen-year-olds to fourteen-year-olds. The third section is high school, with fourteen- or fifteen-year-olds to nineteen-year-olds. After that, it’s the student’s choice if they want to continue their education further in college.”
“Pardon me, Your Majesty,” one of the guards, Akron, a gargoyle, interrupted. Each step he took sounded like a bunch of rocks bashing against each other. He carefully avoided banging his bat-shaped wings against the wall as he turned back to the rulers. “Why do the humans stay in schooling so long after adulthood?”
“Oh! Adulthood is now age eighteen, at least it is in America. You can vote, you can enlist in the army, but you can’t drink. Ah, America,” Valon stated with a roll of his eyes. The monsters’ eyes around him widened dramatically.
“So adulthood is truly not at their maturity anymore?” Alexei further questioned.
“No. It’s too young to be decided that way now. And too inconsistent.”
“Hm… I might need your assistance in updating the curriculum on human life,” Alexei murmured. Valon’s jaw dropped and he floundered for words.
“Happily!” he finally exclaimed, a grin spreading across his face. “So what else do they learn?”
“The basics. Reading, writing, maths, sciences, history. There are also affinity-based courses for those who need them,” he replied. “The students begin school their fourth year of age and at the end of their eighth year—”
“Of schooling or of age?”
“Age. They will be tested on their skill sets. Whatever they tested best in, they are sent to trade schools specific to their talents, such as architecture, healing, cooking, and many more. The children who excel in those skill sets are sent to the Main Palace to be trained. The males also have the option of going to the human world as a slave trader. At age twelve, the training for the student’s job would be complete and they become a fully-fledged adult.”
Valon hummed quietly to himself, making Alexei quirk an eyebrow. Valon just shook his head, waving it off. “When I look at the human life curriculum, may I also check out the science courses?”
“Of course. Might I ask why?”
“I just want to check if those are relatively up to date. Is it only for Nocturna or does it include human sciences?”
“We gain the majority of our sciences from the humans.” Valon nodded slowly.
“I have a question then: what is the center of the universe?”
“The Earth, of course,” Alexei answered immediately, staring at Valon strangely. Valon dropped his head into his palm, exasperated.
“Oh, we are going to have a lot to talk about,” Valon muttered then straightened. “Moving on, how are the classrooms divided?”
“Typically by age, class, species, and affinity. A water-affinity student must learn to manipulate bodies of water, creating floods, directing small streams to farmland, making rain fall, pulling the salt from sea water, or shooting a lance of ice through an attacker’s chest; while an air-affinity must learn to bend the air around them to fly or to attack, and how to cut off the air an enemy breathes if they wish it. The earth-affinity students must shake the very ground they stand upon and create chasms and mountains, and those with fire-affinities must control the power and intensity of the flame, learning both the peaceful warmth and the devastation a fire can provide.”
“You’re a dragon. Wouldn’t you have to be in both classes? Water and air?”
“My sisters and I were trained privately in the Palace in Ruzea, but no. The element I wield is water. Fliers learn to fly when they are a year or two old. It does not get covered in school.”
“You said the students were sorted by class. You meant by social standing?” Valon asked, narrowing his eyes. Alexei nodded once, on edge from the irritated waves he felt traveling through their bond.
“So who gets schooling, then?”
“Everyone,” Alexei said automatically. Valon turned to stare at the guards. The youngest of the group, a gryphon, Clovis, refused to meet his gaze.
“Clovis.” The gryphon jumped and looked up startled at Valon’s sharp call. “What is your view on schooling?”
“Y-Your Majesty, I don’t believe it is appropriate for me to—”
“Speak, Clovis,” Alexei interrupted his stuttering. He gulped, wrapping his dull brown wings closer around him.
“I was born in the southwestern parts of Udea, Your Majesties, the—the poorer district. There is a schoolhouse located there, but the instruction is less comprehensive, our unique affinities were less focused on, and we received many fewer opportunities than the children whose parents are better off.”
“What did you want to be instead of a guard, Clovis?” Valon asked sympathetically. He looked hesitantly at his stunned King, then focused on the Nasusara.
“A linguist, Milord,” he admitted. “The English taught at my school was basic and my parents were from Austria. It is still sometimes hard to adjust.” Valon nodded understandingly. “I have accepted my place as a guard though.”
Valon turned to Alexei with a sharp, inquiring look. Alexei sighed heavily. “We will discuss this when we return to the palace.” Valon grinned wide and nodded, turning back to Clovis, who looked slightly hopeful.
“Anything else to add?” Valon asked gently. Clovis shook his head. Another guard, Thodrekr, cleared his throat. As a woodland elf, it was rare to see one in the city, but Alexei told Valon that Thodrekr was a distant relation of Lucianna, Alexei’s mother, who had served his father and was a trusted friend. He would be a general if Thodrekr hadn’t refused the position. He chose to live near the western gates, closer to the market, and sent his children to the school in question as well.
“Females are not allowed education in the poorer areas. There is limited space and, as Clovis said, resources and opportunities. I remember my daughter was quite upset when she was told that she couldn’t go while her younger brother could.”
“We’ll work on that. Everyone should have an equal opportunity for education,” Alexei said firmly.
Valon linked his arm through Alexei’s, letting his husband lead him down the large halls. Valon spotted ornately carved, wooden double doors out of the corner of his eye. He paused, slipping away from Alexei, and admired the decorations. Swirls like twisting vines curled around what looked like a symbol for a flame. Curious, Valon pushed open the door before Alexei could stop him.
He yelped as Alexi yanked him away, narrowly escaping the fireball aimed at his head. It crashed against the wall, singeing the stone with black tendrils. “Holy shit,” Valon gasped, pale as he peered back into the room.
“Why is it these things always happen when you’re involved?” Alexei asked with a heavy sigh, sending waves of comfort over the link despite his words. Valon slowly relaxed then turned to glare back at the dragon.
“I’m not that accident prone,” he argued. The guards behind them snorted, earning the Nasusara’s glare.
“Apologies, Your Majesty,” they muttered sheepishly. A man hurried out of the room, looking harried and ashamed.
“I am very sorry for my pupil’s fireball. He was distracted by the door opening and reacted on instinct,” the teacher explained, bowing low.
“No worries. It was my mistake,” Valon replied easily, pulling the man up with a compassionate smile as he waved off the incident. “Will I be able to meet the kids?”
The teacher hesitated, glancing up at Alexei before looking back to the human. “I was about to send them to the field to test their speed and strength, but I’m sure the children wouldn’t mind too much.”
“No, no, that’s alright. Just go about your day. Pretend we’re not here,” Valon said, eyes alight with excitement. The teacher gulped, the patches of red scales scattered on his body paling in color with the rest of his skin.
Alexei growled, grumbled, and hissed at the teacher who looked surprised. He composed himself, then hissed back. Alexei nodded once. The teacher turned on heel, making his way back into the classroom.
“What was that?” Valon asked confused.
“Serpentine language. Ahuiliztli is a fire serpent,” Alexei responded. “I simply told him that he is allowed to reveal his true form during this training session.
“Would he not usually?”
Alexei looked surprised and then realization dawned on him. “Ah, yes, he would. That’s why he took so long to come out here, because he was transforming into his human form. The laws proclaim that he is not allowed to be in his natural state while a human is nearby unless explicitly given permission,” Alexei explained. “I thought you would appreciate a demonstration of how the students are taught, since you are so inclined to stay and observe.” After a few seconds of blinking up at the King, Valon’s face lit up, brighter than it had the entire day.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Valon cried out, launching himself at the dragon in human form, pressing a quick kiss to his lips. Alexei chuckled as Valon lowered himself down, just as Ahuiliztli came out with a gaggle of children trailing behind him. He smiled hesitantly at the King and the Nasusara, then continued guiding the children along. Some of the children waved and smiled wide, others stared bashfully at their feet. Only a couple girls were huddled together amongst the group of at least twenty kids.
One child stepped away from the pack, moving to stand in front of Valon. Ahuiliztli stopped as well, moving off to the side and guiding the children past him, gently touching each one on the back to push them along as he kept his gaze on his straggling student.
“I apologize for almost hurting you, Your Majesty,” the six-year-old kid said, bowing low just as his teacher had done. Valon bit back a smile, instead staring at the child sternly.
“What is your name?”
“What type of monster are you?” Valon asked curiously, tilting his head.
“A True Demon, Your Majesty,” he replied instantly, still not raising his head. A True Demon was a type of monster that was born as a demon, rather than turned. Faustus, one of the Councilmen, was a True Demon as well. Alexei had made sure to stuff Valon’s mind full of the many variations of creatures in Nocturna over the past two weeks since their wedding.
“Well then, as Nasusara, I order that you should–” Valon paused and the boy flinched, bowing his head further, “–go outside and practice what you’ve learned with your teacher.” Lucian’s head shot up and he looked at Valon, surprised. The nineteen-year-old grinned back cheekily then shooed him away to Ahuiliztli’s side. The teacher bowed shortly, his eyes alight with amusement, then he guided the six of them outside to the rest of the children.
Behind the school, there was a large, empty field. Chunks of grass grew unevenly from the dirt and a wooden fence wrapped around the area, blocking it off from the area outside. The guards brought Alexei and Valon over to the left side of the fence, hovering protectively beside them as they stood and watched.
Ahuiliztli stood away from the children and Valon watched alarmed as the man’s skin slowly turned a fiery red, like flames burning through his veins. His skin blackened and shriveled where it wasn’t burning and Ahuiliztli let out a loud, long, pained hiss as his body pulsed, his arm or his leg or some other body part bulging for only a second before shrinking back to normal. The man squirmed uncomfortably, as if holding back from scratching an itch, then he threw his head back in a silent scream.
Valon gasped as the human body shredded off of him and a gigantic flaming red and black snake shot through the space where the mouth had just been. Its bottom half coiled up in three rings while its head reared back as it went to its full height. It must have been at least seventy feet long and as wide as a tree trunk. Maybe a tree trunk and a half. The snake opened its mouth, revealing long, sharp fangs, and fire gathered in the back of its throat, aimed at the children. A moment later, a continuous surge of flames spiraled toward the children, followed quickly by a strike from the monster’s fangs.
~ * ~
“That was amazing!” Valon gushed as he walked with Alexei and their guards back to the Main Palace. “The speed the kids had when dodging and forming attacks. The strength that one kid had when he threw that flaming boulder at the teacher. It was incredible! They were definitely talented,” Valon commented to Alexei.
The initial attack by Ahuiliztli was just to single out who was the first student to go against him, one on one. The children were amazing. Valon kept replaying the battles in his mind. One of the girls, a harpy, was vicious in her attacks, using her claws on both her hands and feet and her fire bursts to attack the teacher as she flew around him. Another boy, a miniature Fire Giant complete with claws, fangs, and flaming hair, wielded a sword of fire to attack the teacher. It was like Valon was a spectator to a boss battle in a video game, except it was really right in front of his face! He couldn’t hide his broad grin even if he tried.
“Indeed. They seemed above the normal level their peers fall into. Perhaps some of them might come to train here in the future,” Alexei said as they separated from their guards once they stepped through the front doors, the guards on duty bowing deeply.
“Thank you so much for taking me. It was great,” Valon said seriously, pausing on the empty stairwell. Alexei looked back surprised, then his face softened and he smiled fondly.
“You are welcome, my dear,” he rumbled, stepping back down to Valon’s level to press a kiss to Valon’s curls. He then cupped Valon’s chin and tilted it up, meeting his lips with his own. Valon twisted his hands in the outer layer of Alexei’s robe, pulling himself closer without breaking the kiss, then pulled away abruptly. A smug grin crossed his face as Alexei leaned forward, his mouth trailing after Valon’s with his eyes still closed.
Alexei straightened and mock-glared at Valon. “Minx,” he huffed, smirking back. “You’ll pay for that.” He suddenly scooped Valon into his arms, draping the human over his shoulder, and continued walking up the stairs despite Valon’s struggles to be let down and his laughs.
A/N: FINALLY posting this! I am SO sorry for falling so behind on this. Jeez, college is really stressful. Never let someone tell you it’s not. Wow, it’s already 12:00 AM. Yep, typical. So this is longer than my previous one to make up for the long wait. Hope you enjoyed it! Leave your comments below and leave suggestions on what I should write next.