The days began to whir by now. Months passed with little change in Finch’s schedule. The only thing that broke into his joyous days at the castle were the weekends. Finch had been keeping up with Artus most of the time.
They didn’t always play territory fight, and they didn’t always play in the field either. Finch had thought playing outside the castle walls was bad, but it seemed that Hallin, the third Riley kid, had discovered another place. Finch had thought for sure that the guard would get angry at them if they played here. That’s actually why he hadn’t made a fuss when Hallin had suggested it; he hoped that he might encounter Natasha. It was only afterwards that Finch remembered Natasha was part of the castle guard, and not the city guard.
Hallin had said, “I know the perfect place to play seek the hidden!”
“What? Where? There are no good places to play that, that’s the whole reason we almost never bother.” Artus replied.
“Yeah, well, the new district.” Hallin said proudly.
“What?” Jutt asked.
“The new district! You know, the place east of the castle right in the corner of the city walls. They built all these new houses and hotels, but there was no need for them, so now they just sit all empty and whatnot.”
“Let’s do it.” Finch said.
Jutt looked apprehensive, but she wasn’t about to spoil their fun.
In fact, she said, “Well, there’s no rule against playing there as far as I know. If a guard stops us, he or she wouldn’t be able to do anything unless there is a rule, other than maybe give us a warning.”
So they went to the abandoned district. All the doors were locked, but this place was big. You could hide actively, dodging in and out of cover or running around corners to stay hidden.
Finch enjoyed this game a lot more than territory fight. It seemed that as a Riley, his dark features, lightfootedness, and good ears gave him an advantage. It was usually him, Jutt, and some other kid left at the end of most games.
When they had finished, Finch said, “We have to do that again next weekend.”
“Yeah, well, I think I’ve thought up a better game to play here. We’ll be back for sure.” Artus said, and the group split.
Again, Jutt stayed behind for a bit.
She said, “You were pretty good this time around.”
He knew that this statement was part insult, but he just said, “Yeah, you too.”
And then she left.
On the second day of the new week, it was back to classes again.
Finch sat in Chloe’s library, using her little reading desk. It was a bit awkward at times, because it was tilted at an angle, but he managed with little issue.
“Alright,” Chloe started, “I talked to the serviceman, and he’s readying us one of the spare rooms for classes. We should be able to use it tomorrow.”
Chloe looked at Finch, who was struggling to keep his pencil on the lip of the reading table.
“And it will, ah, it’ll have a proper desk for you too.”
“That’s good.” Finch mumbled.
“Okay, now on to today’s topic. Remember we covered genes more broadly last week? Well today we’re talking about alleles, or allelomorphs.”
“What?” Finch asked, more curious than confused.
“Alleles. They are the different forms a gene can have.”
Chloe wrote ἀλλήλ on the board she had hung on one of her shelves.
By now, Finch was getting very familiar with the language of scholars, Methusa, and Chloe had been using it freely in his lessons. She had instructed him to ask any questions he had, should one of the words confuse him. So far he had asked none, but she had also only given single words.
“Hmm. The serviceman, Gehald, said that there will be an inkboard in the new room too. That will be nice.”
“Okay.” Finch had no idea what an inkboard was, but he didn’t want to stray from alleles, so he decided to wait until he actually saw it to ask questions.
“Right, so your alleles are taken from your parents. They are responsible for your traits, among other things, but we’ll cover that later.”
“Sure,” Finch jotted down a short note.
“Right, so you for example, likely inherited your dark hair and eyes from your father.”
“Not quite,” Finch corrected her, “My father has dark brown eyes you see. I think he had a touch of Solune in his past.”
Finch pointed to his own eyes, “My eyes are pale blue. More typical Riley colours. Dad says I get them from my mother.”
“Oh yes, I never did feel comfortable asking about your mother.”
“Well,” Finch said, a little nervously, “We tell people she’s dead, but really, she’s more just dead to us.”
Chloe gave him a questioning look.
“Diesel Dirge abandoned us shortly after my birth. My dad said that she fancied a one night stand and got stuck with me. Shame they weren’t smart enough to channel the Servant of Birth before hand.”
Finch realized what he said, and then added, “I mean, I guess it’s good for me, but still.”
Then he shrugged. Finch had never known his mother, so what was there to care about?
Chloe didn’t say that she wasn’t surprised. She didn’t mention that this was unusually common in Riley families, especially those with less Solune blood. Chloe knew that in the ancient Riley communities, monogamy and even polygamy was unheard of. Instead, all members were freely promiscuous, and all children were raised communally by the village.
Now that all Riley had between five to fifty percent Solune blood, such habits had become more and more unusual. There was no longer a social structure to support such abandoned children. She realized now why the Riley town of FACE had such a large orphanage, and why few seemed to be concerned about it.
“Okay, well, we’ll move past eye colour as it’s one of the more complex topics. It’s actually influenced by a large array of alleles from your deoxyribonucleic acids strands. I think now we’ll talk about the person who discovered alleles and how important they were.”
“It was Gregor Mendel who did the testings. That was oh, about two hundred years ago. I met him, but I wasn’t interested in biology at the time. Shame, otherwise I would have asked more questions!”
“Okay, so what did he test?”
“He bred something with a short maturity cycle. That is, he bred deadly leaves.”
“What?” Finch had never heard of this plant before.
“Deadly leaves. They’re usually quite normal, but as the leaves wither, they harden, becoming very sharp, and then fall off. You wouldn’t want to be near a tree during the autumn. You very well could die!”
“How can a tree be a fast growing subject?” Finch was confused.
“Well, the leaves each hold a seed. That’s why they’re so sharp, see? It’s so that they can cut through the ground and plant themselves. Well, saplings grow very aggressively for this same reason. They don’t know where they’re going to land.”
Finch was copying her words down furiously.
“Anyway, there were two varieties, yellow and green. He bred them, and also kept a purebred. He found that yellow leaves were the dominant phenotype.”
She hadn’t explained this word, “Dominant what?”
Chloe wrote the word on the board too, φαινότυπο.
Finch copied it down, but said, “And what is a phenotype?”
“It’s the physical trait that we can actually observe. It’s break time now though, I’ll explain phenotypes and genotypes when we return. Would you like some tea today?” Chloe asked.
“Sure…” Finch was still trying to figure out all this biology stuff out. It was his hardest subject out of the three, and so they had to spend more time on it. Finch didn’t really like memorizing things; he preferred to figure them out instead. That’s why he preferred physics and chemistry.
They had tea, and then the lesson continued as normal. Finch’s life continued as normal, accelerating back to full pace.