Whitestag Middle School stood on a small hill just north of the town. Claude and his three companions arrived five minutes before class started, right before the gates closed.
Stellin IX had ordered the school’s construction. The war’s first shot had been fired on that hill, and the king wanted the town to grow prosperously because of its historical and personal significance.
The prince’s old army camp was turned into a memorial. A large plaque stood by its entrance. A majestic sculpture of the prince on horseback with his gun also adorned the site. Nobody knew it, but the first shot missed its mark. His subordinates rushed in immediately after and attacked his attackers.
Claude was in the second year. His year had four classes in total, three boys classes, 200 students in total, and one girls class, 32 students. Boys and girls had the same rights to education, but most parents prioritised their sons. Some could only afford to send one child to school and sent their son rather than their daughter.
While the schools were allowed to take in girls, they kept them separate from the boys as much as possible to avoid trouble. Almost all the girls were also in the academic course. While their subjects were identical to the boys’, their physical training course subjects were replaced with flower arrangement, painting, art appreciation, sewing, cooking, and other household-related subjects. They could sign up for swordsmanship and equitation if they wanted, it just wasn’t mandatory as it was for the boys.
The day had six classes, three in the morning and three in the afternoon. Unlike Claude’s past life, each period lasted an hour with a 20-minute break between sessions. Morning classes started at eight and ended around half-past eleven. The school provided lunch, and the students were free to walk around on school grounds, but not to leave. Their first afternoon session began at one and classes continued until around five.
Academic course subjects were usually taught in the morning. Claude had language, arithmetic, and history on this particular day. He sat at the row right at the back because he was the tallest in class and because the instructors tended to let physical training course students sit at the back, to keep them from disturbing the students that actually wanted to pay attention.
But when Claude raised his grades to average, his homeroom instructor asked him whether he wanted to move up a few rows so the instructors could pay more attention to him. He declined, however. He wanted to keep a low profile to avoid anyone asking unwelcome question and maybe realising what he was.
“…Even under heavy fire, the great prince didn’t lose his confidence. His Highness resolutely refused his subordinates’ wish to leave the battlefield. He stood on the highest point he could find to observe the enemy as they closed in despite being at risk of being shot by enemy artillery or stray bullets. His Highness soon noticed a weakness in the enemy lines. Their artillery was far from their main forces. He ordered his guards to circle around and attack their artillery.
“They were the last of the prince’s reserves. Out of worry for his safety, his subordinates strongly advised against it but he wouldn’t budge.
‘As the commander of such brave men, I should lead them to victory as they fight. I cannot retreat and leave them behind. Go fight. I will stand here and watch over you as you plant the banner of victory in the enemy’s camp.’
“Motivated by the prince’s speech, the guards charged like fierce tigers and took the enemy camp in one fell-swoop. They then turned the artillery on the enemy and won the day. The enemy scattered, and the prince ran them down, conquering Engelir Hill.
“His Highness, with fewer than eight thousand men, defeated the enemy’s 20 thousand. About 15 thousand enemies died. Not only was the Triumph of Engelir Hill the first battle His Highness fought in the north, it was also the first triumph that led to the kingdom’s restoration. This battle symbolised not only the first proper victory on the battlefield, it also…”
The third morning session trudged on. The history instructor, Mister Ellim, read the textbook monotonously from behind the podium, pretending not to hear the hushed whispers of his students. As long as the students didn’t get in the way of his reading, Ellim usually didn’t care about class discipline. They considered him the best teacher because of that.
Claude yawned uncontrollably. Welikro had long fallen asleep next to him, snorting occasionally. Eriksson and Borkel whispered incessantly as they wrote stuff on their papers from time to time.
Claude flipped through his textbook out of boredom. Even if he were interested in the kingdom’s history, he had been learning about the same thing in class from his first year in elementary school. Everything they learned concerned the kingdom. Everyone was sick of it at this point.
As a transmigrator, Claude was more interested in the history of the whole continent. His textbook only provided the briefest of summaries, however. One of the taboo words, however, attracted the transmigrator’s attention.
The textbooks said there used to be a millennia-long dark age. Evil magi used ruled the continent. But five hundred years before his arrival, the stonemasons formed an underground brotherhood to fight against them. They fought for eighty years and final defeated the magi, chasing them off the continent to a small island called Siklos.
The brotherhood’s leader, Regius Au Syr, founded the first dynasty, Amsra, on Freia and titled three thousand nobles to rule over the land.
The magi weren’t willing to accept their loss, however. They hatched one plot after the other to bring the new order crashing down in the flames of chaos and war. They finally succeeded when Emperor Regius Au Syr passed away and everything fell apart. The nobles turned on one another and the continent was plunged into a century of war.
Three centuries ago, a minor noble, Baron Aueras Tam Stellin, decided to end the chaos. He took his warriors on a grand campaign which saw him conquer a massive swathe of the continent over several years. He died before he could form the lands into a kingdom, however, but his son successfully held everything together and did so a few years after his death. His son named the kingdom after his father, Aueras.
That was as far as the textbooks went concerning the rest of the world. Everything else was only about the kingdom and its kings.
<i>This is odd,</i> Claude thought.
All the historical records merely glossed over the time of the magi. Even the novels superficially depicted the brave knights defeating the magi and saving the damsels in distress in the end. They never said why the magi were supposedly evil. Everyone just accepted that they were, as if it were a law of nature.
Did the world really have magic? Claude remembered asking as much once when he was younger. His father gave him a good hiding as an answer. The man told him repeatedly as he flogged him that the magi were the physical manifestations of evil, even just using the word magic was forbidden. Magic was nothing but misfortune and had to be eradicated as soon as it was discovered.
“Hey, Claude! What are you thinking about?” Borkal called softly.
Claude snapped out of his dreams.
“Oh, I’m fine. Just dozing.”
Borkal handed him a piece of paper.
“Take a look. These are the things Eyke and I need. Did we miss anything?”
Their camping shopping list covered the paper. They didn’t have to buy much since they could gather most of it from their homes.
“Wero says he has a tent at home and Eyke says we can use the tents from his father’s ship. Two tents should be enough. Wero can bring his father’s gun, but we’ll have to buy gunpowder and bullets. He doesn’t have many left. Eyke’ll bring a pistol but its rounds won’t work with Wero’s musket.”
Borkal briefed Claude thoroughly as the teacher chattered on.
“We’ll spend the most money on renting a boat. Sunny said we can rent his boat for two days for four riyas, but I got him down to just three riyas and two sunars. He won’t leave the nets though. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem since we will only go to Egret for a quick camp.”
Claude pointed at the four bottles of gran wine listed on the paper.
“What’s with this? We don’t need this for our trip, do we?”
Borkal chuckled. “Well… I heard Wero say the nights in the mountains are cold, so his father always takes alcohol to warm himself. I thought that, since we are camping near the coast, we should take a few bottles along.”
Claude snorted. Everyone knew 16-year-olds were most curious. Given that they couldn’t drink alcohol at home, Borkal didn’t want to miss this chance to get his hands on some.
Borkal would definitely regret it, no doubt at all. Gran wine wasn’t good wine, it was nothing like the stuff he had at home. It was the harsh stuff sailors drank when they were out at sea. It would be more accurate to describe it as a mild acid.