Now, to the Academy

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On the day of Sheila’s admission to the Royal Academy.

A piercing scream echoed through the mansion.

“Kyaaaa!!”

“What’s the matter?!”

The voice came from Sheila’s room.
Felix and Richard hurriedly rushed in, swords in hand.

When they opened the door with a slam, they found Lulu standing there.
Her slender, small back turned around shakily.
Her eyes were wet as they caught Felix, and her face was pale.

“Felix-sama….”

Lulu’s trembling fingertips pointed to Sheila at the back of the room.
There, he saw―

“Sheila!”

Sheila, who was at the window, was holding her favorite knife.
It was the one she had brought with her from the village and was well accustomed to holding.
And scattered at her feet was bright red………..
hair.

“Oh, good morning Felix, Richard.”

“Oh, good morning….
not! What the hell is this all about?”

Her fiery red hair had turned short and boyish.
Sheila laughed as she shook the remaining hair off her shoulders.

“Well, I have to pretend to be a boy, don’t I? I woke up and thought, ‘If I have to pretend to be a boy, I might as well cut it.’”

With her slim, toned body, long, slender arms and legs, and slightly slanted, yellowish-colored, triumph look in her eyes, she certainly looked like a boy.

However, Felix let out a long sigh as he tucked the blade into his sword belt.

“Some men have long hair, you should have left it the way it was….”

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“Really? But the less chance of being found out, the better.”

“It’s a good argument, but… it’s a shame.
You have such beautiful hair.”

She walked over and scooped up a tuft of her soft hair.
Sheila’s beautiful red hair had turned into a miserable mess.

Lulu looked like it was the end of the world and wept tearfully.

“Young miss’… lustrous and beautiful rose-colored hair is…”

“No, you’re exaggerating.”

“I am not exaggerating! Young miss’ hair is straight with no curls at all but it’s not stiff, it’s supple and firm to the touch like fine silk threads! The red color is also elegant, somewhat like a rose with a purple tinge….”

“I understand! All right, Lulu, just calm down!”

Sheila, who didn’t think it would be this big a deal, tried her best to calm Lulu.
Unable to watch the tears spill down her cheeks, she gently wiped them with her sleeve.

Felix opened his mouth, looking at the chaotic situation from a distance.

“Lulu.
I’m sorry, but would you mind tidying up Sheila’s hair before breakfast?”

“… Understood, sir.”

She couldn’t keep crying when the Lord commanded us to do something.
Lulu tried her best to hold back her tears, bowed, and left.

Sheila, tired and weary from the morning, thanked Felix for cleaning up the situation.

“Thank you, Felix.
I was saved.”

“You should take this as a lesson to think a little more carefully before you act.”

“Yes, I’ll keep that in mind.”

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Sheila nodded firmly, but couldn’t say anything back when Felix muttered, “Even if you give me a positive reply, you’ll probably forget it after you eat your dinner anyway….”

◇ ◆ ◇

Finally, it was time to head to the academy.

She was taken there by a horse-drawn carriage.
Sheila, who was unfamiliar with the geography of the area, was very grateful for this service.

But after all, it was strange that a commoner was sent and picked up by horse-drawn carriages.

She decided to tell her brother that she’ll be fine once she learned the directions.

Carriage rides were restricted near the entrance, so she had them drop her off in front of the gate.
Then, she passed through the robust gate in front of her.

“Wow….”

As it was a royal academy, the scale of the facility was beyond her imagination.
Well-maintained lawns and cultivated trees.
Huge buildings and towering towers in the distance.
The fact that there were no walls separating it from the outside world made it clear at first glance that it was a vast area of land.

The Royal Academy of Steitz was divided into two departments: the knight department and the civil administration department.

From there, the students were further divided into general and special courses.
She heard that if one had excellent grades and ability, commoners could also be admitted under a special quota, but still, she heard that the majority of the students were of certain status.

There was likely to be some kind of bullying targeting the commoners, so it was safer to keep a low profile.

In order not to worry Felix, she thought about the best way to go about it.

Perhaps it was because she was walking while immersed in her thoughts that she bumped into someone.

“Ah, I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too.”

After apologizing, she realized how bad it would be if the other party was an aristocrat.
She had just decided not to cause trouble, but this could quickly turn into a problem.
Sheila vigorously moved away and bowed deeply.

“I’m sorry! Really, I didn’t do it on purpose!”

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“Ah, no it’s okay…”

“Please! Please forgive me! I can’t have the blame extended to my relatives!”

Sheila apologized to him earnestly, but was too scared to look up.
As she remained motionless, a chuckle escaped from the other person.

“That….
it’s all right.
Please raise your head.”

“Um, but…”

“I’m an aristocrat, but I don’t have much status.”

She looked up carefully, drawn by the soft sound of his voice.
Standing there was a boy who looked as calm as his voice.

Even through his light blue blazer and white slacks, you could tell that he had a slender body, the characteristic of a young boy.
He had chestnut-colored hair and eyes of the same color, and also lightly freckled cheeks.
It might be rude to the aristocrat, but she felt a sense of friendliness from him.

When their eyes met, he smiled.

“I’ve never seen you before, what grade are you in? I don’t suppose you’re a freshman, are you?”

She had promised her brother that she wouldn’t have much contact with the aristocrats.
But was that still valid when they were the ones talking to her? It would be worse to ignore them.
Sheila answered, struggling to keep her wits.

“I’m 15 years old.
I had a lot of luck and was allowed to enroll in the middle of the school year.”

“Then, we’re the same age.
If you’re aiming to be a knight too, maybe we can study together.
I’m Cody Aswan.
Nice to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you.
My name’s….
no, I’m Sheila Danau[1].
I’m going to join the knight department.
There are a lot of things I don’t understand, so I may cause you some trouble.”

“Sheila? That’s kind of like a girl’s name.”

Cody wondered, but the suspicion that she was a woman didn’t seem to occur to him.
Was it because of the prejudice that knights were supposed to be men, or was it because of her appearance?

“I-is that so? I get that a lot.”

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By the time she realized that a woman’s name would make her suspicious, it was too late.
It was all rather confusing for Sheila’s mind.
Feeling a little negligent, she resigned herself to go by “Sheila”.

Cody laughed at Sheila, who was depressed about her careless actions right from the beginning.

“You really don’t have to worry about it.
Besides, we’re the same age, so there’s no need for honorifics.
But if you’re dealing with a proper aristocrat, you have to be more careful, okay?”

“Err… isn’t Cody a proper aristocrat?”

Tossing aside the messy honorifics quickly, Sheila uttered a genuine question.
When she looked straight at him, Cody removed his gaze as if he was confused.
Then, he let out a small smile.
It was a smile that was both troubled and pitiful.

“I’m a very half-hearted existence.
I can’t be an aristocrat, and I don’t fully fit in with the common people.
Even here, there’s no place for me…..
That’s why I’d be happy if you and I could become friends.”

His gentle chestnut eyes were shaking nervously.
She didn’t know why, but her instincts told her that he was okay.
They could be friends.

“Thank you.
I’d be happy to be your friend too.
Nice to meet you again, Cody.”

“Yes.
It’s nice to meet you, Sheila.”

They shook hands lightly and started walking side by side.
It was fun to feel like equals.

Her childhood friends in the village of Denan were equals when they were little and still playing in the mud.
As they grew older, however, she was often excluded, such as when she invited them to go hunting together and they refused.
The relationship seemed to be changing little by little, which made Sheila very sad.

But now she had a friend who treated her as an equal again.
Even if it was because he didn’t know her true gender, she was happy.
It tickled her heart.
She wondered if she would make more friends like that if she continued to live here.

“Cody is kind.
I thought aristocrats would be more pompous than this.
I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get along with them, but now I feel a little more confident.”

As she clenched her fist with a big smile on her face, Cody subtly looked away.

“No, I’m not sure that you’re doing well.
It’s not that you’ve been wrong all along, or rather, you just don’t know what to look out for…..
In the first place, such true feelings should never be leaked out….”

“Eh, Cody? Sorry, I can’t hear you.”

“Hmm.
Being able to enroll mid-course means that you should be associated with a nobleman of some stature…”

The grumbles of her first friend from the academy didn’t reach the ears of Sheila, who was filled with anticipation.

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