1 An Ignorant Mind Cannot Be Blamed

A young woman stands elegantly tall and reserved. As she pulls her arms up to cradle her elbows like a makeshift coat—she drags in the surrounding air, taking a deep breath and looking upon a dilapidated castle-like building towering before her. She breathes out. As she gazes, she tries to find any ounce of energy to get through the day ahead of her. The night before barely gave her a lick of sleep. The inns on the way were old, muddy, and smelled like only God knows what.

The girl pulls herself together and strides into this towering building's edifice.

Upon viewing the inside, the overwhelming scenery draws her awake. It's so much more than what she had previously envisioned. Beautiful, breathtaking even, is this building's interior. Something this ignorant girl from a small village would never have thought possible to step foot in, let alone attend school at. With white marble painting the floors, a dark glazed brick layering the walls, and white plaster trim with an intricate design framing the room, anyone would consider this grand hall to be built for royalty. To the girl, it's astonishing how much of an antithesis it is to the view outside. It's as if someone was trying to hide its beauty from prying eyes, like crystals in a cave—both grand in themselves, with one being much more marvelous.

After the girl is done gawking at the surrounding scenery, heart racing still and mouth ajar, an opening just left of the wall adorning the entrance calls her over. It's a booth-looking thing pressed into the beautifully crafted walls. She strides over, ready to get somewhere in this grand building, making a start to her day.

"Good Afternoon, I'm a new student, Venus Clay... I'd like to know where it is I could get my schedule?"

A plump lady with long, dark brown hair, hazel eyes, pale skin, and a couple of moles dotting her chin and nose sits in the booth. The older woman greets the girl with a steady porcelain grin, hugged by deep smile lines. Her thin lips give a more significant view of them. You wouldn't necessarily assume these lines come from age. No, but facial structure. The stretch of the mouth against the plumpness of her cheeks. She's wearing a glass name tag with gold writing on it. It's pinned onto her tan dress that hugs her figure. It could almost be considered a thick cotton slip. The dress's neck has frills that bloom out at her chin, holding it, her chin, as cupped hands would hold water. It's a dress that would be considered quite scandalous back in the village and most definitely almost anywhere she went where a man could set their judgment on her. However, she wears it with confidence, pride even. The tag on her breast reads Mrs. Lana. She has a book resting to her side. Its cover is a dazzling aqua blue.

"Venus, you say? Come, right this way... Ma'am?" Venus blushes, slightly dazed by the older woman once she stands, revealing a long slit in the thin material of her dress, accentuating her smooth, milky legs. The end of the dress is accented by the same frills at the neck of it-blooming over her slippers. Overall, this gown is an appropriate length. However, it was so thin she might as well have been wearing her nightgown. Such intimate clothing, which elders of the village church told Venus, were only meant to be seen by her husband. Not even your family should gaze upon such a sight as that. The old crones spoke in strict commands that seemed unquestionable, unchangeable.

Venus, reflecting on this, is taken aback, pleasantly overwhelmed. She considers that the school is very progressive. This realization didn't come as the disturbing shock it might have if these elders had gazed upon Mrs. Lana instead.

Venus soon thereafter considers another plaguing reflection. This woman was merely a secretary, yet she was so shockingly unique. She could guess that there would be a new, auspicious student every day. So, why pay attention to her? This dull girl was the least studious person they could invite to this academy. At least, this is what she mulls over before obediently following the lovely women. She walks through the ebony wood door placed next to the booth. The door is opened from the inside by Mrs. Lana, letting her in. Venus follows the plump lady into a waiting area. "Sit there while I find it, Ms. Clay." The girl nods and sits in a chair obediently. The chairs are oversized, with a red velvet material covering the cushion and golden handles that shine like they've been polished recently placed sturdily on the chair's body. Soon, she hears Mrs. Lana again.

"Oh! Here it is!" Venus pushes out a breathy laugh as Mrs. Lana exclaims her findings. Soon thereafter, she is scurrying into the room, Mrs. Lana. She's walking in with a piece of parchment that has been neatly scribbled on, in what the girl can only assume is in the older lady's handwriting.

"Here, dear. Now, if you get lost, just ask one of the children loitering around for directions. Have a splendid day." The girl smiles and bows slightly, thanking Mrs. Lana, leaving the office, and walking into the corridor.

This corridor begins with doors numbered in numerical order. The girl fills with discontent, letting a groan tumble from her and echo off the pristine walls. Her schedule tells her, her first-period class is in the hundreds. She ignorantly walks up three flights of a rounding staircase, and on the third set, she spots a map labeled Floor Key. The sign adorns the same glass panel with gold lettering as Mrs. Lana's name tag. It reads that the first floor contains doors one through one hundred. The second floor is two hundred. The third floor is three hundred and so on till the fifth floor. Five hundred ninety-nine doors in total. Venus scoffs, then chuckles, holding herself up on her bent knees, frustrated at the unnecessary steps she climbed. She rests against a wall, feeling the throb in her calves from her throbbing muscles. Despite Venus's obvious pain, she sucks up her frustrations, her discomfort and goes down a couple of flights in the closed-off stairwell. She opens a heavy wooden door. This door reveals a corridor full of rooms on either side of the walls. She reads down these brick walls until she gets to one-hundred thirty.

Venus takes a deep breath, calming the nerves pushing through her arms and legs. She glances back at her schedule to make sure she isn't about to open a door not assigned to her. Once she's confident, she pulls it agape. Immediately, when the movement happens, the chattering classroom silences. Everyone in the class is looking in her direction, and noticing this, she steps into the room hushed as the wind and as hurried as it too. The instructor smiles at her warmly. The woman has a wide mouth with thin tan lips. Her hair is short, shoulder-length, and dark brown. It's braided tightly against her head, cream-colored ribbons woven into it. She's wearing what seems to be men's attire, brown pants, and a cream silk dress shirt. However, she's wearing a woman's shoe, black with a golden buckle. Venus stands beside the podium with the instructor standing at its base. She pushes herself more to the center of the wooden block, trying her best to disappear into it. The students' stares make her nerves spike to an all-new high, giving her anxiety that makes her skin prick and her hands shake. She keeps her head down, not daring to look back into the fellow student's burning gazes. She's never possessed so much attention in her life, and it's a jarring feeling.

"Everyone, continue with your work!" Just as quickly as the introduction started, it was over. The students return to their intimate chatter, and Venus is readdressed. Her fluttering heart now takes a rest, no longer beating against its ribbed cage.

"Let us see, Ms. Clay, you will sit next to... Zaire." The girl raises her head in response to the instructor's words and sees that the teacher is pointing at a young man seated in the front row of desks on the right side of the classroom. His hair is long enough to reach his shoulders and faintly wavy. However, it's not tied up as most men typically have it once it gets to that length. It makes him look like a boy, messy and innocent. It's dark brown, almost black. You wouldn't even notice it was brown if it wasn't for the light pouring through the window beside him. He has a tan-olive skin tone that, with the natural light, makes him look almost golden, glowing. That or he's sweaty. His posture and height in the seat make him appear very tall, compared to the men around him. To the left of him, there is an empty seat.

Venus complacently nods to her instructor, dropping her head again to walk over to the seat. She places her leather satchel down, sitting in a chair almost identical to the ones in the office. The only difference is its size.

"Today, we're reviewing a book called The Divine Comedy. I know it's a little advanced, so we'll be reading it as a class first so you can become accustomed to the vernacular. Then you'll read the second half on your own." Venus listens as the teacher reads the book, pronouncing every word with vigor and perfect placement of tone. It's as though this was her own story. She stops mid-sentence and places the book down on her podium, removing her reading glasses as she does so.

"Soon, you'll all be able to read, just as I did, and understand what it means as you do. All of you will learn how to write literature, just like this one. Well, close enough, at least! Your duration of this class will be in mastering the art of literature, not just the learning of it." The class goes into a fester of whispers, and the girl continues intently listening to the teacher, whom she can now see the name tag of. It reads Ms. Vivian.

"This training will count towards the credit of this class. So I suggest you do your best because once we're done with the book, you'll do a twenty-page essay elucidating what you've read." Groaning and whining commenced from the class at Ms. Vivian's announcement.

"I suppose it's better than a pop quiz on it two weeks after reading the damned book," Zaire speaks in a groaning whisper, his words drawn out like a hiss. She assumes he's talking to himself because while spitting his venom, he looks out the window at his side. So, she ignores his rhetorical banter, not wanting to make a fool out of herself by acknowledging him.

"For now, however, we will explain vocabulary that might not be known throughout the book." The girl is pulled away from her thoughts. She turns to her side at the instructor's words, plucking a notebook from her bag. She searches for her quill as she holds a pot of ink in her hand. Silently cursing herself for not being thoroughly prepared, she turns and lightly taps Zaire, who isn't paying attention, on the shoulder.

"Excuse me, but do you happen to have a spare quill? I seem to have forgotten mine." He smiles at her with a smirk that could melt a million hearts—Something she'd seen enough from her brother to know not to fall for.

"Actually, I seem to have an extra quill. Here, just for you." She smiles a quick and shallow grin back and nods, taking the gift. However, not as kindly does she accept his honey-doused words.

"Is everyone paying attention? I will not repeat myself." The girl refocuses and continues to listen, writing the vocabulary swiftly and neatly as possible while the teacher speaks it.

Once the class is over, she stays behind to look at her schedule once more, attempting to memorize every meticulous detail. Currently, she has a 2-hour unmarked period where she could lounge about the building or in her dorm. She hasn't settled into her flat. She could only drop her luggage off before heading to class.

Yawning obnoxiously, she walks out, ready to head to her flat and take a nap to escape from the exhausting day she's had. Though her exhaustion is not stemming from the school work, she's exhausted nonetheless. That's when an idea swims its way through the fog of exhaustion and hits her. Venus runs down toward the administrative office, and in a blind race of movement, she slams into someone. Much like a bird hitting a window, she never sees it coming and falls, disoriented, to the ground. A shot of pain traveling up her tailbone as she hits the unmerciful marble.

"Oh my, my apologies! I didn't see you there!" A gentleman with a deep-set, whiny voice and nicely tailored clothing reaches out to help Venus. She accepts his hand, and he pulls her up with ease. Once up, she dusts her clothes off and apologizes to the man.

"It's fine; I was in a hurry and wasn't watching where I was going either." She stands there and examines the man, noticing his unique face with very androgynous features: large plump lips that sort up upturn at the ends. High cheekbones, thin, elegant eyes, a square jaw, big muscular shoulders with rounded hips. He looks foreign and noticeably tanner than the man she sat in class with. Enough silence had passed for it to be very awkward that she was still staring at him. So, she refocuses, turning her attention back to the conversation,

"Thank you—For helping me up, I mean. I need to be off, though. Have a blessed day." She walks off, still in a hurry, but this time more aware of her surroundings and blushing furiously. She arrives a bit out of breath, and more exhausted than before, which speaks enough for her wish to sleep.

"Hello again, I was wondering if I could know the schedule of another student?" Mrs. Lana looks at her with an empathetic smile.

"No, sorry, dear. Unless they're relatives or a betrothed, I can't release personal information." Venus grins, wide and toothy, relieved that she came.

"Well, I suppose I'm in luck! He's my brother, Alistarr,"

Next chapter