“Yes!” Finch said, “I would love for you to teach me!”
But then he stopped.
“Are you even qualified?”
Chloe looked around at the shelves that surrounded her. She seemed to be thinking.
She said, “I got my qualifications nearly two decades ago. You will be my second student, if your father is okay with it of course.”
For the first time, Finch noticed the thick metal band around her neck. It was made of gold-coloured brass, and he knew it to be the royal crown worn by princes. He knew by her name, Rhye, that Chloe was a member of the royal family, but for whatever reason he hadn’t really taken it in until now.
Chloe watched Finch patiently as he turned his thoughts to Chloe’s statement. She was qualified. This was important, as his father was desperately looking for a new teacher, and they were cutting it very close.
“Wait a minute, Chloe,” He said, “You look like, what, eighteen? You can’t be more than twenty-four at the oldest. How could you get a qualification so young?”
“Ah, don’t you know about my family? Have you not heard about the King?” She asked.
Finch thought for only a moment, “Isn’t he thought to be really old? Some people claim that it was he who started the whole thing two thousand years ago.”
“Yeah,” Chloe nodded, “We age very slowly. After reaching maturity, time passes us by at almost one one-hundredth the speed of the average Solune. It’s actually a factor of 95.2, last I checked. It’s harder to calculate now that none of us are going through puberty. I’ve done some experiments to find out why it’s so slow… I can explain it later if you are interested.” She trailed off, and then found herself again, “I am eight-hundred-fifty-six.”**
At this the fair skin of her face turned a slight shade of red.
Channelling his father’s practicality, Finch asked, “How much? Will it cost to hire you, I mean.”
Chloe’s skin faded back to normal.
She smiled at him and brusquely stated, “Nothing, of course. Well, ah, I’m no cheap lass.”
Chloe laughed, it was a light but strong sound. Finch thought it to be a much more beautiful vocalization than the “ah” sounds she had the habit of making.
Chloe continued, “Maybe twenty-five Steel per month?”
Finch counted on his fingers. That made one Solune coin per day, not including weekends, which was about a third what most charged. Either way, this was clearly a very affordable option. In fact, her price seemed far too low.
After studying Finch’s face for a moment, she smiled and added, “Child, I am, ah, I’m of the royal family. What do you suppose I would do with any Solune coins? Not a lot. This will cover the cost of books and materials.”
Finch became very worried. “Well, why would you even want to teach me? Aren’t there better students you could be educating?”
Chloe continued to smile at him.
She said, “Possibly there are, but you came to me, no one else has. No one’s parents have. And further, you were not seeking me as a mentor in the first place. Your goals are pure, you came to me looking for knowledge! Tell me Finch, do you study outside of class? Do you go to the library and take out books on subjects that your parents have never taught you?”
“Yeah… Natural Studies.” He replied.
Chloe nodded knowingly, “I am entirely self-taught myself, I actually got my qualification by taking the entrance and exit tests alone. Personally, I focus on History and Culture, but I’m certain I’ve learned more about Natural Studies in my time then you have in yours.”
Finch considered this for a very long time.
“There’s another, possibly more convincing reason,” Chloe turned her head, a hint of mischief in her expression, “To find an intellectual match is the dream of many geniuses. While I don’t consider myself to be a genius per say, I have to admit that I have yet to find someone outside of Bradley Jeremy who can keep up with me in intellectual discussion.”
“And you think that I-” Finch was cut off.
“No, but I have a very strong feeling about you. I think you might in the future. In my library I saw you as we researched the guard. I saw you, and thought of myself. Searching for information. Eating knowledge. Ah…”
Finch didn’t know how to feel about this, so he just frowned instead.
“Why do not we, ah, why don’t we talk to your father?”
“Yeah,” He rubbed his forehead, “That sounds like a really good idea.”
They headed up the hazardous stairs, Finch leading the way.
“So I can catch you if you fall,” Chloe told him.
Finch had replied asking if he would just knock her down with him.
As they walked up, Chloe explained, “You’re much lighter than I am. Not only are you a child, but you are also Riley, one of the lightest races. Probably I, ah, I could probably throw you if I wished.”
She laughed again.
“But, in addition, I’ve been gaining far more bone mass than usual due to my age. That’s why I’m a little taller than a normal Solune. I, ah, I used to be rather short, you understand.”
“Wait!” Finch stopped on a step and turned, “You must know I studied this! The Solune’s bones never stop thickening as they grow, right? That’s why Solune scales are so good, because they are judged based off of how well a medical person can guess the age based on the weight of a person! Are you telling me that the bone density increase applies to size too?”
“Well,” Chloe prodded the boy to continue moving, “It always does, just by fractions of a cubit. Have you seen my father? Four-thousand years have done the works on him, we had to elevate the second floor roof you know.”
Chloe promptly headed out the open doors when they had reached the top floor. The two walked into town, with Chloe strutting nobly ahead of Finch. That was, until she realized she didn’t know where she was going.
“Ah, where do you live dear?” She said.
And so Finch took the lead, and Chloe adjusted her step to more of a stride to better suit her new situation.
It wasn’t long before they arrived at Finch’s door. He broke out in a sweat, and it felt as though his primary heart was getting stuck on suddenly thickened blood.
“Err, I’m not so sure,” Finch started.
But Chloe had reached right over him, being exceptionally tall, and knocked on the door.
A few moments later, Ilias answered with a chisel in his hands.
“Who’s this now?” He said, and then, “Finch, boy, what have you done to have a prince bringing you back home?”
Finch was not surprised that his father had assumed something bad. That was a tendency of his, Ilias was not an optimist; rather he had become very defensive.
“Incorrect,” Chloe said resolutely, “I’m here to offer myself as a secondary teacher.”
“No!” Ilias shouted, much to Finch’s surprise, “I can barely afford a regular tutor, and now you bring me royalty, Finch?”
“Incorrect,” Chloe said again, “I charge twenty-five Solune Steel per month.”
Ilias, who had always been particularly good at math, said, “Two-hundred per year? That is the absolute cheapest offer I’ve gotten.”
But Ilias didn’t question it. He was highly intelligent, like his son. In mere moments, he realized a prince would have little use for money. He also noted that he would be able to work full time now, meaning the cost would be further lowered. Additionally, he would finally be off of public assistance.
“I accept.” He stated squarely.
“What?” Finch said quietly.
“Alright. Shall we draft a contract?” Chloe offered.
So Ilias and Chloe sat down at the marked and battered kitchen table. Ilias cleared his war games off easily, simply lifting up the terrain map and pouring all the pieces into a box. Chloe, for whatever reason, had reeds paper and a fountain pen on her person. And so they began.
Finch realized that this wasn’t going to be a particularly short process, so he sat down with them and tried to comprehend what was going on. After about an hour of fervent conversation between his father and Ms. Rhye, she stood.
“We will have to get this reviewed by a Poet of Law.”
“Of course,” Ilias said, “Go ahead and do it yourself.”
He signed the contract he and Chloe had just finished drafting.
“Surely if I can’t trust the royalty, I cannot trust anything,” Then he added, “I need to get myself a real occupation.”
“Right,” Chloe stood and turned to Finch, “Come, youth, there are sixths still left in the day. According to this, you are to start immediately. Kindly bring your most recent work with you.”
Finch nodded, and ran to his room to stuff his bag. When his eyes reached the Jurassic Park novel, he stared at it for a moment, and then looked out the window.
“I won’t have to worry about that for another few years.”
He closed his shutters.
Finch and Chloe took the short walk down to the Kingdom Hall of Poetry and Law, one of the seven circular towers that made up the Kingdom Halls. The contract was subjected to a couple minor changes.
“Would you like this re-drafted in the language of scholars, Methus?” The poet had asked.
“No, I am, ah, I’m unsure if my second party can read Methus.”
And so they left, and Finch readied himself for his first day of classes.
And so, Finch, who entered the castle not too long ago looking for one prince, had instead found another.
My head hurts… it’s bed time! XD