We made it to the capital without issue, but somehow Im more nervous than before. Something about being this close to the academy, even if well not be there until tomorrow.

The guards at the gate recognized our carriage almost immediately. Father makes regular trips here, so I would be surprised if they didn . Passing the gate, I spot the massive clock tower at the center of the city. While its imposing, it is dwarfed by the castle in the bay just behind it. I don know how I didn see it until just now, but it is absolutely gigantic.

That veritable fortress would be the home of the royal family, and the most important building in the country, The Pyrite Palace.

When I learned that I would be attending the academy, I did some research on the capital:

…The Pyrite Palace. Named as such for its golden glow during sunrise and sunset, despite not being golden at any other time. It is situated at the western edge of Shancross, in the bay. Standing at an astounding 2000 feet tall, it is the tallest man made structure on the continent! There is only one entrance to the palace from the city, a bridge that leads straight to it from Sunlight Plaza… Or something like that.

In the past, Father has told me about how massive it is, but hearing and seeing are very different. Needless to say, Im astonished. No clue how they would use all that space.

I take in the citys sights as we travel to our familys villa in the city. Shancross is far more advanced than the few cities in our territory, but that only makes sense, since one is the heart of the country and the others are small towns at the edge.

Shops and restaurants line the streets, with people milling about. Some stop and point or stare at our carriage, and I avoid their gazes. Something about it feels bad and I don like it.

Being stuck in crowds makes me nauseous, so I can imagine how itll feel when I have to move about the city. Luckily the academy campus is mostly detached from the city, so it won be a daily ordeal.

We arrive at the villa and Im immediately reminded of the only other time Ive been to the capital. It should have been around ten years ago, when I was six. I don remember the city at all, but this is familiar.

Marble upon marble upon marble. Father told me that the king gifted it to him as a joke, as Father hates extremely gaudy buildings. Our mansion is primarily wood and stone, and Father constructed it himself.

”Welcome. ”

The staff greet us warmly in the entrance hall. A tall older man at the front continues.

”Greetings, I am Vince, the head butler. ”

”Your rooms have been thoroughly cleaned and are ready for you whenever you wish. ”

Just as he says this, we can hear the clock tower bell ring for 8pm. Very good timing.

”We shall eat first. ”

”Yes Madam. ”

Mom and Vince converse about food and I decide to explore the building. I vaguely remember the layout, but its better to actually know it.

I find a study, a library, four bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room that is far too large, two bathrooms, and other miscellaneous rooms not worth noting. Its much bigger than I thought, but if I stay here for any period of time I doubt Ill use more than a few of the rooms. The library appeals to me, so maybe Ill spend some time in it after the tour.

For now, I navigate back to the dining room, since I imagine that dinner is prepared.

”There you are! The food is nearly done and I was about to send someone to look for you. ”

Mom ushers me into the dining room and to the table with a smile, then sits across from me. I don know what she asked for, but it will probably be good.

Several minutes pass, and a faint yet distinct garlic and basil smell wafts into the room. I don think Mom has noticed it, by her impatient expression.

”Seems like theyve finished. ”

”Have they? ”

Two butlers enter the room from the double doors separating the kitchen and dining room, with steaming hot plates of pesto ravioli.

”Our apologies for taking longer than anticipated, we wanted it perfect. ”

One bows while the other places our plates.

”There isn any problem, the delay wasn long. ”

Outwardly Mom seems fine, but I can tell from her smile that she was very much looking forward to this and wanted it as soon as possible.

”Thank you, you may go. ”

I send away the butlers before she has the chance to say anything else.

”Lets eat, tomorrow is a big day. ”

”You
e right. ”

While it did take longer, the food is incredible. Pesto is a gift from the gods.

Mom and I talked while we ate, but most of my attention was on the food.

After dinner, Mom promptly passed out. Food comas are common in our family. Im faring better, but I can feel it catching up to me.

I should carry Mom to her room then get to bed.

Doing exactly that, I end up in what will be my room whenever we
e here. Even more exhausted than before, I flop down onto the bed after changing into more comfortable clothes. Sleep comes quickly and suddenly.

* * * * * * *

A heart beats like thunder.

* * * * * * *

The next morning went by fast. I got up, got ready, and we departed for the academy, all before the sun rose. I thought it was excessive, but Mom insisted that we can be late by even a second. The staff saw us off, and now we
e on the road.

As we go, I spot several other carriages seemingly heading in the same direction. I guess Moms insistence had merit. I also see kids in red and white uniforms. I recognize it as the academys colors, and suddenly feel dread.

”Mom, did I need to wear the uniform to the tour? ”

”No, not that Im aware? ”

”Are you sure? Because I see a bunch of other kids my age wearing them. ”

”Oh… ”

She thinks for a moment with a finger to her lips.

”Ah well its probably fine. ”

While thats the answer I was looking for, somehow it frightens me more. The last thing I want to do is stand out right from the beginning.

”After insisting that we get there perfectly on time, you feel a bit too lax with this. ”

”See but this is this and that is that, they
e entirely different issues. ”

… Thats not encouraging.

”You don need to fret over it too much, it likely isn a big deal and I doubt you will be the only one not wearing it. Trust me. ”

”… Fine, Ill trust you. ”

I trust her, but Im still worried.

Soon enough, the academy wall and gates come into view. At this point we
e at the northern outskirts of the city, and everything past this point is the academy campus. Weve joined a small caravan of well decorated carriages at just about the middle. A crowd of what I assume are future students have gathered along the side of the carriages, and are walking with them… and they
e all wearing uniforms.

I turn to Mom, and she is completely oblivious.

Passing the gates, we enter into what at first appears to be just another part of the city, but with all the citizens replaced by kids in uniforms. Buildings and roads stretch far in every direction, and there are a few very large structures towering over the smaller shops.

The large buildings on the right seem to dorms by their shape. However the buildings on the left are much more varied in shape, and at the moment I can make a good guess as to what they may be.

We continue down the road, towards what appears to be an exhibition hall. I make sure to take in everything around me since Ill be here constantly for the next four years. Just like in the main city, many of the people on the street point and/or stare at the carriages as they pass, including mine. Just as I did in the city, I shrink back when our eyes meet.

Continuing like this for several more minutes, we finally arrive in front of what at first I thought was an exhibition hall, but at closer inspection I can tell that its a stadium. The carriage caravan is redirected to form a line along the side, and people start disembarking.

I follow suit and begin to get up. Mom pushes the door open and gets out first. I follow her out the door and onto the ground below. Stretching, I peek at the other nobles getting out of their carriages. Not all of the heirs have come with attendants or parents, but one thing stands out to me even more.

Not a single one of them is wearing the uniform, and to top it off, all of them are far better dressed than I am.

As I turn my gaze to save what little confidence I have left, my eyes land on a man standing on a platform in front of the entrance to the stadium. As Im inspecting his outfit, he loudly shouts.

”Welcome first years! ”

He pauses until he has everyones attention, then continues quieter.

”To Shancross Academy. ”

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