Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 8
Academic and Physical Streams
"I don't know why you think you have the right to decide I shouldn't attend the equitation class," Claude snapped, glaring at Arbeit coldly, "Compared to some fools that spent five thales on equitation lessons and still can't ride properly, I can ride a horse already, certainly much better than you. And all of that without spending a single penny! I guess you're just jealous because I have talent. You don't want me to get better because you're jealous!"
"You... Who are you calling a fool?! I... I'm not jealous!" Arbeit cried, jumping with a flushed face.
Claude had a way of striking where it hurt most.
Claude had already been in this world for six months but he still found himself baffled at his new world at times. Many things were the same in both worlds. The week was seven days, for example, Sundays were free days meant for prayer and recuperation, the country had basic education, and so on.
But there were also things that were radically different. His new world had two moons. One of the big ones was that most people were polytheists. Everyone had a primary god they worshipped most of the time, this one was usually linked to their profession, farmers worshiped the goddess of the earth, for example, sailors the god of the sea, warriors the god of war, and healers the goddess of the silver moon and the god of the sun, but they also worshipped many others depending on what they wanted.
Claude didn't care much for religion, but he was somewhat troubled by the country's education system, the syllabus specifically. It was very different from what he'd already gone through. One could choose one of two main course selections. Rather than his previous world's main choice between a science-focused or arts-focused course, people chose between a general academic course, or a physical training course. The academic course focused on teaching six subjects: language, history, arithmetic, theology, geography, and nature.
The language classes especially were very different. Hebrai, the kingdom's <i>lingua franca</i> was a daughter language of Hez. It was most prevalent in the east of Freia. Nasri and the now-annexed Berkeley's people spoke it natively.
The elementary school language classes were, well, elementary. They focused mainly on reading, writing and simple diction and grammar. Hebrai wasn't written in alphabetical scripts, instead it used rhombus-shaped logographs. Each symbol had two parts, a large, primary character made the upper half of the character, and the bottom half had a smaller secondary character. The calligraphic style made the words look like little ants. The primary school taught the six thousand most common graphs.
Middle school introduced the rarer graphs as well as more technical graphs for words used primarily in business and administration. They also taught the basics of two other common languages: Jimil, most common in the north, and Leishart, most common in the centre of the continent. They were sister languages of Hebrai, though they differed from one another rather significantly thanks to long independent histories of development and change.
History was one of the primary subjects in school. It being a very medieval society, however, most of it was either myth, legend, or outright propaganda. It focused exclusively on Aueras's history, and only on its glorious achievements and the lives of its kings. Stellin IX in particular took up half the year. Every test had at least a couple of questions on the Tricolour War.
Arithmetic was excruciatingly basic. Primary school only taught addition and subtraction, and middle school only multiplication and something akin to, though not exactly the same as, division. They didn't touch on geometry, substitution, or algebra. Bizarrely, however, accounting was part of the subject.
Theology focused on the superfluity of deities in the kingdom, they touched on their history, origin stories and some of the most well-known legends and myths surrounding them, but focused mainly on the various traditions and conventions of each sect, such as how to pray, special attire, what was taboo, and so on.
Geography, for all its allusion to actual science, was a business management class. It had a quick introduction on the layout of the kingdom and where one could find good resources and under what conditions, it focused mainly on how to exploit the various tribes and nations on the continent. It went into excruciating depth concerning their specialities and special needs, for example.
Nature came the closest to an actual science subject though its material was so convoluted and haphazard it was more dangerous than beneficial. There was no structure to the course or the material such that it turned mainly into a class that taught a random selection of facts and commonly held beliefs about the natural world and medicine. Most of it focused on describing plants and animals, and it had the most extensive information on those subjects. One interesting bit discussed how scholars came to decide which part of a goat's pelt would make the best scarf.
Most academic course middle-school graduates had little trouble finding work. Claude's elder brother, for example, found immediate employment with a local council representative upon his graduation.
The physical training course devoted all its time and energy on training its students' bodies. Endurance training, swordsmanship, boxing, wrestling, shot put, and stick-fighting were the most common subjects. The second year of middle school saw students take a short module in equitation and the third year offered a module in firearms maintenance and use. It felt more like a cadet bootcamp than a school.
Students weren't divided into classes for their modules, instead the teachers simply changed the topics at certain times of day. Every student, despite their course designation, took the same fundamental classes, everyone thus had done at least a little of both courses by the time they graduated.
Claude was in the physical training course due to his horrible grades. Luckily he was well-built and had decent physical ability, so much so, in fact, that he was one of the top students in his course for his year. His elder brother, of course, passed through the academic course, graduating as his year's top student. His grades were objectively depressing for his physical training subjects, however, one of if not the lowest in the school's history, in fact.
His equitation classes, for example, took him two years and cost him two silver thales, but he couldn't ride a horse even to this day. He wasn't his usual model student self during those classes either. He usually horsed around, disrupting the class.
It was an embarrassing and debilitating lack of ability, especially since horses and carriages were the only means of transport on land. Morssen hired an additional private tutor at the cost of another three thales, but the man quit after a fortnight.
"Your son rides like a log. At best he can handle a fast walk, anything more and he just bounces off. He will never ride a horse properly in his life," the man had said before leaving.
Luckily, his instructor had used his gentlest horse and only let Arbeit ride it on thick grass, so, despite countless falls, only his ego had been bruised. That said, Arbeit had been deathly afraid of horses ever since.
"Shut up!" Morssen snapped, "You are a physical training course student. Arbeit is an academic course student. Don't compare your strengths with your brother's weaknesses. I'll only allow you to lecture your brother if you graduate top of your year!"
Claude pouted. He didn't want to get first place. He had had to read the graduation essays written by every top student from every year that had passed before him. His brother's was naturally among them. It even had full marks, but Claude nearly vomited when he read it.
It praised Stellin IX with flowery, flamboyant, redundant prose. It rang hollow. It was nothing but a shallow praise-piece. He couldn't even imagine how shameless his brother was to write something like that. The instructors had no choice but to give it full marks as any correction could easily be argued to reflect a dissatisfaction with and an insult to the king.
Morssen took out a gold-laced, black deerskin pouch and removed from it a shiny thale. He twirled it in his hand a few times before plonking it on the table in front of Claude.
"I give what you deserve. I won't favour one child over another. And I won't I mistreat any of you. Since your brother spent a thale each semester on equitation, it will be no different for you. When Little Blowk grows up, he'll also get the same budget."
Claude glanced at the thale.
"But Father, I need to buy books as well. I heard Boa mention the town just got a new batch and I want to take a look."
Arbeit glared at the thale as if he was trying to melt it. He exploded when he heard Claude ask for more.
"You? Buy books? Aren't you just trying to trick Father out of more money?! You're just going to blow it with those rats you call friends! We have over a hundred books in the study. Go pick a few of them if you're so desperate to read something!"
"I'm disappointed, Elder Brother. Father let you use the study, but you didn't make good use of it. I've already read all the books. If you don't believe me, you can go check the books, I left at least one bookmark in each one I read."
"You?! You read all the books?" Morssen nearly spat his tea.
"Yes," Claude nodded, "I even sorted the books into genres. They were too disorganised."
"That's great!" Morssen grinned, taking out a small silver coin, "One riyas should be enough. Ah, whatever. I'll give you two, but they're for books only, okay?"
Claude nodded, a smile splitting his face as he took the three mints.
"Thanks. I'm done with breakfast. I should get going to school now."
He dashed upstairs and got his bag from his room in the attic.
Angelina wiped her mouth with the linen cloth and stood up.
"I'm also done," she announced, heading for the door with her bag.
"Father..." Arbeit said, glancing at Morssen.
The middle-aged man waved casually.
"You are a little too harsh on your siblings. I don't mind Claude asking me for spending money. I just don't want him to lie to me for it. It's easy to check whether he buys books with the money, so it's okay."