There was only one local academy. She was enrolled by her parents in a full curriculum: agricultural trade classes, finishing school, and several business courses. She could still see the firm expression on her father’s face.
“You must be prepared. The time will come, very soon, when all this will be yours. We’re getting older… I can’t work like this much longer. My body is breaking down. I’ll have to retire. After that, you’ll take what we have and it will all be in your hands.”
His deep lavender eyes had a thousand-yard stare, and his gaze was like an arrow aimed straight through her. Her ears flattened and her tail drooped.
They insisted on being addressed by their first names now and that was really strange for her. She just defaulted to sir and ma’am frequently because she couldn’t get used to it. Nina always hesitated before speaking to them.
Every midweek, when classes were not in session with how they were scheduled, she went back home to visit them. It was always awkward and she couldn’t wait to get back to the dormitory instead.
No matter how many coats of paint they put on the buildings or new fancy gardens they added, it still couldn’t change the fact this old college had architecture at least seventy years out of date. It looked hopelessly old, surrounded by the more modern coastal town around it.
That was Coraldry Technical School.
Nina grew up in a rural milieu, which shaped her preconceptions and biases against townsfolk. That didn’t change until she was away from her family while finishing up her education – and lived inside the boundaries of that same town.
The academy was sponsored by a local religion that had services in the morning and tried to recruit the faithful from the student body, but Nina was too busy for any kind of extracurricular nonsecular path.
And there were other distractions.
It was her friendly, boisterous and raucous roommate that kicked down the last of those doors, the hinges destroyed and the metaphorical wood splintered into shreds. Her provincial attitudes didn’t stand a chance. Taokex the painted dog had tolerance for her smallminded farm friend, but plenty of time to introduce her to different ways of living that her insular parents probably wouldn’t have approved of.
Her roommate had come from a big city called Adenaport farther north. It was located in the center of the continent of Pendalosa, on the far side of the Spine Mountains. She had taken a ship to get here to Mistseek.
Tao pumped her fist in the air.
“Ready to go out and party?”
“M-maybe? How do I look?”
Nina wore on her cute dress she had got with some allowance money. She had been saving up for the last lunar period, about forty-six days for both moon phases to complete. She spun around to model it for her roommate. This was her first time wearing it.
“You look stunning!” Taokex gushed. “Everyone won’t be able to take their eyes off you.”
“For the amount I spent on it… I feel like it’s kind of a waste. How many more times will I even get to wear it?”
The dog draped an arm around the shy bunny’s shoulder conspiratorily. “Don’t you worry, I’ll make sure you get plenty of opportunities to get out and show off. You deserve it! You are literally the hardest-studying person here in this fumblemucked school. Your grades are stellar. And you never go out, you never get a chance to just relax! Trust me: you need some time to just go have a nice meal, have a drink, dance and meet people.”
“Are you sure?”
“How many friends did you have growing up?”
Nina tried to think back. She waited too long to answer.
“Yeah, see? This is only a good thing. It’s just a restaurant, it’s not like you’re signing yourself over to join the wartime efforts. You won’t be in any danger.”
“I guess,” Nina said reluctantly.
“Let’s go eat. A good meal will put you right.”