Yes, Raena could see it now. The fox would represent slyness as with the snake as they attempted to tempt her from the safety of the hut.
Yes, a story of learning who seeks to trick you, and
A pale hand reached out to her white cover notebook, slapping it shut with her pencil still mid doodle.
“Are you crazy?” Meina’s eyes lit with terror, her hand causing the book to shake as she hastily shoved it under her friend’s desk. “Do you want someone to catch you?”
“Its a children’s book idea!” Raena protested, slightly irritated by the interuption of thought. “Its part of my project.”
“You know how strict things are.” Meina hissed. “What if they took you away?”
“They won’t take me away!” Raena rolled her eyes, but nonetheless, pulled the pencil free from the gumming lips of the notebook and returning it to the vault of her pencil case.
“They took down a girl for playing an A minor on the piano, you think they won’t seize a symbolic image of trickery?”
Though defiant and firm in defending her piece, a part of Raena knew her friend was right.
“Fine.” She supressed a thick exhale of defeat, shoving her notebook into her bag, watching it tangle in the nest of books and her sweater. “Wait.. how did you know it was a symbol of trickery?”
“Foxes and snakes? What’s their common interpreted trait? Slyness and trickery.” Meina slipped back into her seat beside her, the tension easing in her small figure. “It’s kind of obvious.”
“You’d make a good writer along side me.” Raena chuckled, but paused as she noticed the draining of colour from Meina’s face.
“Please, don’t joke about that.” She trembled, though the room temperature was barely low enough.
“Ah who cares about the Law!” A boy with rough cut hair threw himself onto the girl’s ajoined desks, reaping their squeaks of surprise.
“Elliot!” Raena scolded, furious at the sudden spook. “Don’t do that!”
“And don’t say that.” Meina added, dragging the conversation into the volume of whisper. “What if one of them hears you?”
“Bah screw the Law!” Eliot grinned, though wisely keeping his voice relatively low. “What do they do for us anyway? They just con- TRMH!”
“Don’t say anything bad about them,” Meina warned, slowly releasing her notebook’s grip over his face. “You never know who's listening.”
“Alright, aight!” Eliot spat, wiping his face. “Geez.”
“Meina’s right on that. Kids like Brendan without a plan might be student guards. You know he, Kole and those jerks would love to stir up some trouble to tell the guards?” Raena couldn’t help but agree.
Sure Liberdeiusis was their home that paved a path for everyone, but no one could live there without knowing how strictly one would have to obey the rules of Law.
Afterall, it was the reason why no crime ever existed in this land. Any one guilty of commiting an offense aged above twelve would be immediately put to death.
Such threats were unhelpful to this cause of productivity. What would it do but keep the people in fear? No, such a threat could not be allowed to linger. The Emperor would purge his kingdom of criminals, to protect his people.
Yes, a wise and honourable ruler.
Afterall, he had created this perfect land, this perfect system. A system that promised everyone’s happiness and the growth of the kingdom.
Instead of mindless schools that taught unhelpful subjects, every child enrolled in Skill Schools, where for the firsts few years of their lives, they would explore through play. Once they found a career field they wished to pursue, would be put into class of different skill students, and would spend their time reading from the Emperor’s books. One on one sessions with the well educated teachers and assessment projects would mark their development and further their expertise.
These children would learn and grow, and find their place in the kingdom and their careers to serve their land.
It was all for the sake of development and productivity. The people’s happiness ensured by their acomplishment of their dreams.
A perfect society.
Of course certain rules were established that may have seemed extreme, but the people soon accepted it as soon as they understood it was the Emperor’s doing to protect them and keep them happy.
He was afterall, only serving his people. It was only fair they obeyed and served him.
Raena knew Henri would have told them the Law memorised by heart. He always had that special respect for the Emperor and how the Council worked.
He was afterall a student officer, already dubbed worthy by the Skill School to resume his studies through apprenticeship into the Royal House itself.
Soon he would be a high ranking officer of the Council, and he would help the Emperor manage the Law.
And of all people he had dubbed Raena worthy to be his mate. What an honour it was to be deemed tolerable by one soon to be of such high rank.
She would proudly bear his offspring once married at 18. Only 3 years away.
Yes, they would serve the land through the production of more youths, who in turn would repeat the cycle.
All was for the cause of Liberdeiusis.
The thought of Henri sparked only motivation in Raena. She would finish her projects with flying colours and earn legal authorisation to write and create under the Counsil.
She would make books for children, little stories of friendship and morals to teach them to grow in the ways of the Law as they grew.
Yes, they would all serve the land in the end.
“Raena? How is your project coming along?”
Eliot mouthed ‘Good luck’ as he dashed away from their table to his own, earning a small scowl from the teacher as he approached.
“Yes Teacher Lenard.” Raena beamed with pride as she dove into her bag. She burrow deep, pushing away stray bits of paper and her notebook coupled with her sweater to fish out her project notes.
“I see.. so the eagle is the Emperor leading them to safety? I see..” The legalised expert reviewed her piece with a pleased expression before returning it carefully. “I must say, I’m wonderfully surprised by your work! The Emperor will be blessed to have you working under him in the Library.”
“Thank you Teacher Lenard.” Raena bowed, delight flushing her face with cherry colour and warmth. Pride blossomed like the flowers in her chest.
“And Meina, may I see your essay?” His attentioned turned to her deskmate, who meekly handed her neat set of papers.
He skimmed through the pages, analysing the text for any deviations before returning it.
“Not bad.” He nodded. “Though you could have elaborated on how much the boy’s future had been made bright by the system.”
“Yes Teacher Lenard.” Meina mumbled, warily drawing back her work.
“And Eliot, it seems you have finished your comedy script idea?” He turned his gaze to fall upon the jokester of the class.
“Yes indeedy do, my good sir!” Eliot chirped, pretentiously presenting his piece.
The teacher rolled his eyes before skimming his work.
“Eliot, this line seems to be directed towards discontentment to the Law.” He suddenly noted, eyes darkening as he scowled at the boy.
“What? Really?” Emphasized shock filled his face as he struck a semi dramatic pose. “I never intended so! Greatest and most humblest apologies.”
Teacher Lenard fixed him a tight glare before passing him back his papers. “Fix it. And I’m afraid I will have to inform the Council of what you have done the next time this happens. Keep this warning in mind.”
“Sure thing mister Lenardo sir!” Eliot saluted, grinning like an idiot though Raena picked out that tiny blaze of hatred in his usually bright blue eyes.
The teacher raked the student under a disaproving gaze before moving on to check up on the others down the row.
“Eliot, I don’t think he was joking. You need to be careful the Counsil doesn’t hear about you that way.” Meina whispered after Teacher Lenard was out of earshot.
“Oh what do I have to fear?” Eliot scoffed in his dramatic charisma. “Its not like they’d be so horrible to destroy a child as punishment for such a little thing? Oh right, they do!”
“We’re serious, Eliot. You could get yourself killed.” Raena cautioned, eyes brimming with deep concern. “You can’t joke with that kind of humour.”
“Why? Did your brain washed male of interest tell you so?” He sneered before adopting the mock posture of an officer reading from a book. “Yes, indeed, it is so.”
“Don’t talk about Henri like that.” Raena felt her cheeks burn, not with happiness, but rage. “He knows the Law well and it isn’t his fault if you refuse to listen and get yourself stuck headfirst in trouble!”
“Geez, chill Rae.” Eliot held out his hands as if to magically repel her back with some sort of spell. “I was just joking. That’s what I do.”
“Well that joke wasn’t funny.” She huffed.
“Hey, lets simmer down a bit, okay?” Meina spoke up tentatively. “Try not to down talk Henri like that, okay?”
“Ugh. Fine.” Eliot sighed. “I won’t.”
Raena watched him a moment before relenting.
Why couldn’t her friends just choose to wisely avoid the darker corners of the Law?
It would ease the tension and fear a great lot. She wouldn’t have to worry about them being next to show up on the street, faces frozen mid scream and bodies battered.
Obeying was simple, and the smartest choice. Which, was why she supposed Henri liked her so.
They were different, yet simmilar.
“So how was your project? Did you teacher approve of it?”
“Yeah, he was pretty pleased with it.” Raena smiled. “He even commended on how happy the Emperor would be to have be working in the Library!”
“That’s great.” Henri nodded, eyes brimming in his own pride and respect of this young woman he chose to be his partner.
“How did your session with your mentor go?”
“Good. Officer Gen is very wise.” He grunted. “He knows how to lead a patrol.”
“I hope you didn’t have to be part of any..” She hesitated. “Violence.”
“Nothing too extreme.” He assured. “Afterall, the patrols only do their jobs. Cleaning the land of criminals.”
“Yes, of course.” Raena murmured in soft agreement, though discomfort gnawed at her.
“You will be careful not to cross the line of Law, right?” Henri suddenly questioned. “I know what you intend with your children books, but you will be careful, yes? I do not wish to face a legal predicament in the future.”
“Of course.” It felt like a stone dropping in her throat. “I am a faithful citizen to Liberdeiuris and the Emperor.”
“Eliot!” Raena perked, noticing the hyper male bouncing towards them, the more quiet Meina following after. “Meina, hey!”
“Meina,” Henri greeted. “.. Eliot.”
“Heyo Henri dude!” Eliot leapt forward, playfully slapping his arm as he skidded to a halt.
“Hi.” Meina mumbled softly, raising a small hand in greeting.
“Raena here is almost done with her last few projects, ain’t ya?” Eliot proudly announced, rifling up her thankfully tied hair. “Ain’t ya proud of your girl?”
A muscle ticked in Henri’s jaw. “Of course. Raena is very smart and talented in appealing to children.”
"Of course. Raena is very smart and talented in appealing to children." Eliot mimicked cheekily, only earning a glare from Henri in response. “Geez you sound like she’s your apprentice or daughter!”
“I am simply proud of her talents alongside her personality.” Henri replied dryly.
“Eliot, I think you should let it go now.” Meina whispered. “Sorry Henri, pay no attention to him.”
“Not cool Meina!” Eliot scoffed playfully. “Don’t be so Mein!”
“You just need to know when to filter the unwanted waste from your words.” Henri grumbled.
“Hey.. is that serious talk for ‘Don’t give me bullshit’?” Eliot faked a gasp. “Wow, I’m so proud of you Hen boy! I never knew Council peeps could express themselves like that!”
“Karen Juli, you have been found guilty of illegal unsupervised sculpting.”
“It was just a character from a scene of the book-”
Though such banter was common to hear, the teens couldn’t help but turn towards the sound of commotion.
Raena recognised the girl being marched out of the sculptor room of the other Skill School across the lane.
Her brown frizzy hair fell in irregular tangles across her tanned face. Her honey eyes melting spheres of terror as she was forced to her knees on the street.
“Its a book of the Emperor!” She justified, trembling easily noticed even from such a distance. “I just want to sculpt her in a make belief scene..”
“You did so unsupervised and your creation was not passed through the Council to be dubbed legal.” The guard spat, coldly analysing only her supposed wrong doing. “You are suspended from your art and will be judged by the Council in court. If found guilty, will be instantly put to death.”
“I didn’t do anything!” Karen denied, trying to pull away.
Meina winced, knowing the events triggered from her slight protest would not end well.
The group fell silent as her shrieks forced silence across the street.
She sank to her knees, shaking with agony as blood splattered her shirt fired out from the blow to her abdomen.
The guard tugged her painfully to her feet with her hair as a grip hold and marched her off to his patrol.
“Will she really be.. you know..” Raena was first to speak up. Worry fluttering within her. She hadn’t spoken much with Karen, but this was a girl she once shared a pie as neighbours.
A girl who once asked for her opinion on a coral bead she carved.
Someone who could have been her in another life.
“She was sculpting unsupervised without getting permission from the Council.” Henri explained. “She could have created something negative and un motivative to the public, and thus being a threat to the cause of Liberdeiuris.”
“Right, cause kids obviously think of destroying the motivation of their peers by creating art in honour of the Emperor’s precious books.” Eliot laughed.
Raena looked at her friend in horror.
Henri caught on most easily and sized up the lankier boy. “Dark humour is also an illegal activity and threat to the Law.”
“Ooooh scary! The oh mighty Council is scared of a boy telling some jokes!” Eliot dramatically struck a pose. “What else will be banned to protect the kingdom? Shit? Because that’s what I hear all of you Emperor ass kissing idiots spew from your mouths!”
“Eliot!” Raena paled, grabbing Henri’s arm as he made his way towards him. She could feel him tense in the muscles of his arm.
Much to her relief, he didn’t fight against her, just silently taking in slow deep breaths.
“Eliot, I think you’ve said enough.” Meina hissed, fear quivering in her black eyes as she snatched a quick glance at the enraged Henri. “Don’t start a fight you can’t win.”
“It wouldn’t be a problem to win if some people would just open their bloody eyes to see what the Emperor and his ‘Council’ are doing!” Eliot snapped.
Shock struck the group into freezing in place.
The girls eyes both males warily, both dumbfounded and yet terrified of what would happen between the males.
“I’d be more careful of my words if I were you.” Henri spoke after a shaky moment of tension. “You never know whose listening.”
“Why? You going to report me for realising the truth?” Eliot huffed.
“Raena, I’ll walk you home.” Henri turned, taking his turn to grab her arm as he tugged her towards the street.
“How can you bear with yourself?” Eliot laughed shakily, his voice breaking. “Knowing what kind of ‘cause’ you serve?”
“Shh.. Don’t say any more.” Meina held him back in awkward embrace. “Please.”
The comedian opened his mouth to hurl another string of insults but halted at Meina’s plea.
Both groups silently created distance between them as the setting sun cued their return to their homes.
“Henri, you won’t report him, right?” Raena murmured, slightly frightened by how quiet Henri had been, tugging her down the street towards her home.
He said nothing, expression obscured by the darkness of night creeping across the streets, seeking any lingering students to call them home.
“Henri?” Her voice quivered with anxiety. “Henri, please say you won’t. I know Eliot can be a blabber mouthed idiot, but don’t report him. Please, he didn’t know what he was saying.”
“Goodnight, Raena.” He responded stiffly, halting as he released her at her house.
“Henri, please.” She pleaded. “Just this once. I’ll talk to him tomorrow. It won’t happen again. You promised you wouldn’t partake in the Council’s violence.”
“He’s our friend.”
Henri paused, letting the cool evening night air chill his temper and allowing him to think through the haze of anger.
“Fine.” He murmured. “I won’t.”
“You won’t report him? Or..” Raena faltered, realising he was already a shadow silhouette across the street.