New Student

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Roland guided an unfamiliar individual into the cafeteria. With a sigh, he bolted toward his classmates, sitting down between Maxwell and Darren. Jerking his thumb at the lithe figure behind him, Roland sighed. "Everyone, this is the Academy's newest student, Wayne Iydril."

The fresh face brushed blond hair out of his eyes as he pulled out the vacant seat across from Roland. Wayne lifted an eyebrow and examined each of the gathered students. "Nice to see you all."

Roland groaned, scooping food into his bowl. He knocked the clinging bits off the utensil and pointed it toward the others. "Wayne, this is Maxwell Creegan, Darren Gilbert, Norry Haysmith, Semil Bellas, Elayne Reinfield, and Kira Ibryiil."

While the others acknowledged the newcomer, Darren dropped his spoon into his stew and leaned against his chair. "How are you doing, Wayne?"

The young man looked down his nose at the gathered pupils, claiming the serving ladle. He eased the utensil into the thick liquid as he stirred the stew. "Is this the best cuisine we're served?"

Darren scrunched his face and scooped a mouthful of the stew. With a flourish, he shoved it into his mouth and started speaking around the bite. "The food is delicious."

The others nodded as they scooted away from Wayne.

"It might be... tasty," Wayne amended through clenched lips as he filled the ladle. As a stiff smile inched across his face, Wayne poured its contents into his bowl and groaned. "But I doubt it's up to my standards."

Norry rested his chin on his hands as his utensil dangled over his food. "You know, you'd be more comfortable if you extracted the silver spoon you are sitting on."

With a sigh, Wayne placed his hand against his forehead. "I'm used to the finer aspects of life."

"You're moneyed, aren't you?" Elayne asked as her fingers drummed the table on either side of her meal.

"That's quite a crass question," Wayne replied as he inspected his serving. With a wink at her, Wayne continued, "I like you. But to answer your inquiry, yes, my family is well off. Though I don't understand why they deigned to send me here."

"It's better than having to deal with the Hunters," Kira retorted.

Roland took a bite and nodded his consent.

"It would seem that my parents agree with you and Leodar." He ate a small bit of the food and gagged as it went down. As he rolled his head, the haughty newcomer cleared his throat and pounded his chest. "Unfortunately, I disagree with the lot of you. The Hunters and the governing council have power." He dropped his spoon, shoving the bowl. "And I'd rather be on that path."

"I'm surprised you're here with that attitude," Darren muttered.

Wayne shrugged and took a sip from his glass. "Are we only given water?"

"There are options available over there," Maxwell answered, gesturing toward the counter on the other side of the cafeteria.

The newcomer pushed away from the table and grabbed his mug. "Is there anything stronger up there?"

Roland grimaced as he shoved more food into his mouth.

Maxwell shook his head. "Tea and coffee are about the strongest beverages available here."

"This is an Academy," Elayne chimed, lifting her drink. "Though they have a wide variety of teas. I'm sure there's something there for you."

With a sigh, the student dragged himself towards the beverage station.

Norry tossed a small hunk of bread at Roland, capturing the boy's attention. "You got stuck with him?"

"I did," Roland grunted. He swirled the stew and tapped his fingers. "Does anyone else want to take him?"

"No," Darren replied. While the rest of the students agreed, Darren downed his drink and climbed to his feet. "Maybe he just needs a hand to pry that silver spoon out."

"Good luck with that," Maxwell grumbled between mouthfuls.

Darren chuckled as he crossed the room. He grabbed the pitcher of water and started refilling his glass. "Did you find anything worth drinking?"

Wayne continued looking through ramakins of tea and asked, "Is Birel Eloetin your mother?"

The decanter trembled in Darren's hand. He swallowed the unease down and eased the carafe to the counter. "How do you know her?"

"That's simple, Birel is my aunt," Wayne commented. With a huff, he filled a fine steel mesh with an array of leaves. "At least they have some proper tea."

"Our mothers are related?"

Wayne lifted a kettle and poured the steaming liquid over the ball. "Well, Birel discarded her lineage when she raced off to wed that common peasant. But yes, she's my aunt." As the water filled the cup, a smile crept across Wayne's face. "Though I will give you the benefit of the doubt."

"Oh, how gracious of you," Darren grumbled through clenched teeth.

"I'll show you what Birel willfully abandoned," Wayne continued as he returned the kettle.

"How can you deal with me?" Darren whispered, grabbing his drink. "You said it. I'm just the son of some peasant."

"But you have the potential for so much more," Wayne offered as he leaned against the counter. "If you prove worthy, I will give you access to your heritage."

Darren took a pull from his cup and licked his lips. "Why would someone of your station desire to interact with a lowly peasant's son?"

Wayne lifted the strainer from his mug and placed it on the saucer. His finger searched for the container of cream and plucked it from the counter. After pouring some into his drink, he sipped the tea and sighed with content. "If you prove to be worthy, you could make my exile bearable. Besides, we are family. Perhaps you could draw me out and help me settle into this school."

Darren's lips bulged as his tongue ran across his teeth. "Well, when you feel like socializing with everyone, then possibly I'll extend my hand in friendship." He raised his glass, adding, "Till then, I will see you around the campus."

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