Rui folded the last of his clothes into a large cloth bag. He had checked and re-checked making sure he had all the sets of clothes he needed. Five sets of undergarments, as well as general purpose clothes. He packed in all of his necessities and belongings carefully, ensuring they would all fit in once he folded and tied the cloth down. This world did have the equivalent of suit-cases, but they were a bit on the expensive side.
Rui had declined the offer of being bought one by the Orphanage, he wasn’t profligate by any stretch, what was the point of wasting precious money when there was a perfectly apt and cheap alternative? Thankfully, for the same reason, he had few belongings. His luggage ended up being conveniently light and small.
“The day has finally come…” Rui mused to himself.
Nearly a month had passed since the Induction Ceremony, the long-awaited and sought start of the Rui’s first Academic year was the very next day. Tomorrow, Rui would leave the Quarrier Orphanage and head to the Mantian branch of the Kandrian Martial Academy where he would stay until he became a Martial Squire, or, God forbid, was expelled. Not that Rui had any intention of getting expelled. In the past month, he had memorized the rules of the Academy quite well, he was determined to not give them even the tiniest hole that could be conceived as a violation of the rules.
“Rui, it’s dinner time!” Myra called out.
“Yeah, I’ll be there in a second.” He replied, having tied up his make-shift cloth bag and put it on his bed. He sauntered into the dining room pausing, everyone had already gathered at the tables, even the utensils and food was in place, yet they all waited for Rui to take his place. There were eighteen children and fourteen adults, far more than usual.
Many former members of the Orphanage during Rui’s time, who had moved out and started their own family, were also present. These were people who had formed strong bonds with Rui as he’d grown up, having known Rui practically his entire life. They’d taken time away from their families to be present to send Rui off.
The sight evoked emotion. It made his inevitable departure much more painful.
“Oh? Looks like the star of tonight’s celebration is here.” Nina smirked, offering him the seat at the head of the table.
“He sure kept us waiting.” Farion grumbled, putting on a grumpy façade.
“Now now, he has a big day tomorrow with plenty of preparation, cut him some slack, will you?” Alice chided.
“Come on Rui.” Julian smiled, coaxing Rui. “Let’s eat.”
The entire room conveyed their love for him in their own way, welcoming him. He smiled and took his seat without a word; he was choked with emotion. He didn’t trust himself to not burst down sobbing if he opened his mouth. He didn’t want to ruin the mood with sorrow.
The adults began serving, which in itself took a while. Myra had planned a feast for this day; the last day Rui would live with them for quite a while.
He indulged himself with food and love as dinner proceeded with boisterous energy. There was many a reunion, the mood was extremely high.
Watching everyone hit him hard. This was what he was forgoing. Was it really worth it? It wasn’t as if he hadn’t thought about this before. The answer was always the same too. Yet, today, of all days, he found it hard to reaffirm it.
“Don’t look so sad Rui.” Julian consoled with a serene smile. “I know exactly how you feel. After all, I felt the same way when I left for the Kandrian Institute of Sciences.”
Julian had spent two years in the Kandrian Institute of Sciences for a higher education at the age of sixteen, before graduating and being accepted as an apprentice scholar.
“It’s painful to be separated from your family. But your life is your life, Rui. You need to live it, you owe that to yourself.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll be seeing you during the season breaks, and to congratulate when you graduate successfully graduate as a Martial Artist.” Julian consoled.
“Cheer up Rui, don’t look so down!” Alice refilled his plate with another large serving.
He obliged, as much as he could. Alice really did serve him far too much. He looked down at the large pile of meat and rice that occupied his plate, sighing in resignation.
(‘I hope eating this much won’t make me ill on the first day of the Academy.’)
He hoped the Academy had some potions that could instantly fix indigestion. It wasn’t too much to ask considering the miracles that potions were capable of.
Still, he appreciated it, even if it were ill-advised on the stomach. The food was truly extravagant. The Orphanage had pulled all stops for this celebration and farewell party of his. He ate his food as he engaged with various people who came to speak with him. As the star of the dinner and the focus of the night, many people, children and adult alike were interested in conversing with him.
After a while he excused himself for some fresh air, heading out into the balcony. He wasn’t accustomed to dealing with this much food or people, certainly not simultaneously.
(‘It’s like they’re trying to cram all the home-cooked food and family I’ll be missing in my time in the Academy in one night.’) He mused, burping a bit to free up some space in his bloated belly.
(‘We haven’t even gotten to desert yet…’) Thankfully, Rui believed in the saying that desert went to the heart. He rarely had multiple course meals. It was something that Orphanage could not afford to do, at least, on even an occasional basis.
(‘Well, all said and done, I ought to enjoy it while it lasts.’) Rui relented. He returned to the dining room.