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4

The start of the new school year heralds Werner and Rieke, joining the Fassbinder academy – it's a Gesamtschule (comprehensive) school, comparable with the publicly-funded schools in North America, and although Werner hasn't passed his grade yet, the academy has accepted him anyways on part of his high intelligence aptitude.

For Rieke, being without any prior schooling, the Cybertronics corporation has consoled the headmasters in private, letting them know they'd be dealing with the world's first lifelike A.I., and while it shocks them at first, they manage to reconcile with this news and promise that they'll take good care looking out after her.

Along with Werner and his two friends.

It is September, and the leaves are in the midst of turning yellow and orange. The familiar Summer haze has gone, and Rieke misses the warmth and feeling of unbridled happiness she's felt with that season – replaced now by overcast melancholy, cool air, the occasional rain, and a generally more solemn feeling.

When her shoes step on the leaves, she feels them 'swish.'

She knows the concept of schooling, where the younger ones, not being as versed or experienced in knowledge, get taught common subjects by teachers – the ideal being to bring the younger people to a standard by the end, demonstrable in their assignments and exam scores. She just hopes that it'll be a happy experience.

The wait for the school bus has Werner and Rieke standing by a bus stop, and she's hoping to find Klaus and Rene later on at school; it's so much fun to have hung out with them, like seeing the movies (that part where she kisses him in his bedroom is so nice), playing football and the multiplayer matches on their game consoles (with so many other people from across the world).

It is the district #34 Schulbusfahrer, which looks like just any ordinary bus.

"Hallo!" Rieke greets the driver, who seems stupified that a young student would be courteous enough to even notice him. He nods at her as she tip-toes up the steps, her following Werner to a mid spot with two empty seats.

He doesn't recognise much of the faces of those kids his grade – maybe one or two, but none of them seem like the kind of person he'd be happy to know anytime soon, so he's grateful for Rieke for preventing anyone else sitting close to him.

He has his phone out, where he swiftly checks the gaming news for new releases and developments, and then he plays Angry Birds to pass time, even though out the corner of his eye, he knows Rieke is gazing out at the other people. Perhaps she wants to connect with them all, and be the very sociable kind of girl, at the centre of everyone's attention, and she'd have less time for Werner-

Is he actually feeling that way about her? This attachment. It makes him uncomfortable in a skittish way – he doesn't want to say it's love. It's more like a.. if she were his pet, he'd be releasing her in the company of a thousand wolves, all who could prey upon her companionship, and take the purity away from the bond between her and her master.

Non, I'm not her master. I'm her brother.

He finds himself holding onto her hand, and she feels soft and warm. On the inside, it makes him glad.

/

The Fassbinder academy, it resembles a mansion of four floors – being surrounded by a decoratively high fence, the gothic gates swooped open to allow students to enter, the leaves having grown like algae over the walls, with the pretty sight of the falling leaves being carried away by the autumn wind.

The building has a giant clock near the rooftop, chiming when the classes start, when it's lunch, and when it's over.

In the foyer, they find Klaus and Rene waiting for them.

"It's a long lineup!" Klaus goes – they're in a line of students who have yet to pick up their books on their respective subjects. For Klaus and Rene, their families had not the diligence to take them to the academy in August month. "I swear, those damn books look so heavy, you could drop them from the roof and they'd stone a teacher dead!"

The ones who have made it through the school offices, you can visibly see their arms rattling with effort as they strain to bring their subjects to their lockers.

It's almost 8:00, the time when classes start.

"You go on ahead without us-" Klaus says, as they're about to head through the doors. "You mustn't be late; some of the teachers lock the doors shut to teach straddling newcomers a lesson!"

Rieke's attention wanders from the ones who buy snacks at the vending machines, over to the ones who rambunctiously chatter over the summer months they've spent – "Oh, I've seen Nightwish on their tours in Leipzig, I even got it recorded..!"

To that little boy who suddenly stumbles, his books sent tumbling over the floor – calculus, Shakespeare and Goethe, physics introductions.. (He might just be in her classes.)

She zips into action, her feet carrying her to helping the boy up, and then picking up his books.

Moments later, after helping him get his textbooks stored, Rieke arrives back without so much as a sweat. "His name is Pepanin!" she glees. "More seriously, it'll be better if Werner and I help with your heavy textbooks."

So in the end, Rieke and Werner barely make it in time for their first lessons – introductions to calculus. They sit by the unoccupied middle desks, where Rieke mimics the other kids pulling out the textbooks, notepads and phones (she doesn't have one yet) from their knapsacks onto their desktops.

Their teacher, Herr Heinrich Lunge (it says so on a placard on his desk), he shuts the door right as the bell rings, and whacks the ruler down on his desk, commanding everyone's focus. He looks like a harsh man.

"Greetings, everyone!" he goes, sliding the ruler across the desk's edge. "My name is Heinrich Lunge, and I am the one who will discipline you in the art of mathematical calculus. You shall address me as Herr Lunge."

There's two guys at the back, who are still chattering on about Pokemon-

Herr Lunge narrows his eyes.

"Ja," he goes, "do go on about Gengar and his special attack modifiers beating Garfield the cat!"

They pipe down, the intimidation sending shivers through their skin.

"Better." Herr Lunge begins pacing back and forth in front of the glowing smartboard, like a metronome – a time-tested classic technique to help keep the students' attention on the lesson. "What is calculus? Can someone in this class tell me?"

He waits for one of those nerds to shoot their hand up like a rocket, but all he gets is Rieke saying, "I thought you know already."

"Of course, smarty pants!" he goes. "I'm asking to see if you young ones have looked up the subject beforehand."

There's nervous murmurs; "How were we expected to know?" and stuff like that.

"I thought not. Luckily, I am your teacher." He grins. "I'll tell you a story about a Greek athlete who is racing against a bunny. Because the athlete fell mid-way while running, the bunny overtook him. Too proud to allow himself to be beaten by this animal, he accelerates, sprinting.

"There is a distance between himself and the bunny, which he must make up for. In order to reach the original point where the bunny was, the bunny would have hopped some further distance already, and to reach that second distance hopped by the bunny, it's hopped another third distance. This can be said to go on and on, infinitely forever – however far the athlete catches up, he still has some distance to go. And because there are an infinite number of points he must reach where the bunny has already been, you can say he'll never catch up."

"But that doesn't make sense-" Rieke blurts out.

"Silence!" Herr Lunge slaps his ruler against his palm. "What is your name, fraulein?"

"Rieke."

"You like to blurt and interrupt while I'm speaking. I will not stand for that. Maybe I will get you to teach the class for me, it'll save me the trouble!"

She visibly blushes. "Nein.."

"If you want to talk, next time raise your hand." Herr Lunge illustrates the Greek paradox on the smartboard, jotting digital ink on the crisp display, drawing several lines illustrating how the runner has to catch up with infinite points where the hare has been. "This is Zeno's first paradox. Like the young Rieke has said, it doesn't make sense – common sense dictates that he will catch up with the hare. And that is where calculus comes in.

"Calculus is the mathematical understanding of the rate of change of something. Whether it is how a car's velocity changing with acceleration, how a 3D shape's volume changes with regard to its 2D-counterpart's area, or.. how the athlete named Achilles is able to eventually outrun the slower hare – with the distance between them closing in on a limit. The concept of it is not new – rudimentary versions have been come up with by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Arabians and Indians, when they needed to calculate volumes of complex objects by their surface areas.

"It is around the late 1600s, when Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz have derived the fundamentals of calculus that we have come to a modern understanding of this branch of mathematics. Newton through his idiosyncratic notations while he solved physics problems, and Leibniz for formalising the syntax and giving it a name.. Calculus!"

The rest of the lesson proceeds as Herr Lunge introduces derivatives of formulas to the class, with the chain and product rules to account for deriving multiple formulas at once. To practise, everyone uses the school-installed apps on their phones to try out some problems – or for Rieke, she rapidly scribbles on her notebook and comes up with the solutions in seconds flat, attracting much attention for her frentic writings.

"Let's see a good solution," Herr Lunge goes in front of the class.

Without asking, Rieke leaps from her seat, snags the stylus from the teacher and writes all over the board with what she's derived.

Everyone's mouths are awestruck – the machine-like way she handwrites, and someone drops his gum from his mouth.

"That is a good solution," she says, bowing.

Werner looks as though someone has won the lottery right in front of him.

"T-that's correct.." Herr Lunge reaches his finger out to the board, seeing the way she's tastefully wrote 'dy/dx,' begrudgingly admitting that this petite student can actually have the potential to surpass him.

/

When the bell rings for next period, the calculus students murmuring as they go out the door, Werner takes Rieke by her hand into a secluded section in the hallway. "Rieke, you gotta be careful about showing off your abilities. People will notice if you do feats that are beyond human levels, and not in a good way. They'll think something's up – at best, they'll think you have a mental condition, and at worst, they'd start to wonder if you aren't actually like an alien inside."

"I understand.." Even though Rieke will never forget the looks on everyone's faces as she's impressed them, solving the problems.

"What do you have next?" Werner asks.

"Literature studies, with Frau Groen."

"Right, I have fine arts-" He notices how down she looks, the shadows from the lockers revealing a melancholy side to her usually bright face. "Hey, it's just so you won't have trouble getting picked on by anyone in the school. Only me, Klaus and Rene here accept the fact you are an android – the others won't be so nice-"

"I don't want to be an android.." she mutters.

"Eh?"

"I want to be like you Werner. To have a flesh and blood body, so that I may belong and be happy with you as a human being."

For some reason, hearing this from her makes himself wince inside. "Non.. don't you say that. Rieke, I.. I do like you. To admit – I've grown attached to you, more than just being my sister. You are this one of a kind girl, who I can never imagine anyone else being like. You're so kind and interesting, the way you are, and you don't get bored or weirded out by me."

In her eyes, there is a delicate quivering. "Really?"

"I mean it!" He smiles. "You're much better than so many of the other girls I barely know."

It's like a renewed light sheens from her. "Thank you.."

The bell rings again, interrupting their reverie. "Damn, we're late. Well let's hope our teachers aren't like Herr Lunge, all strict and stuff."

/

All she can imagine is the colour of roses, as she preps her books of Goethe and Shakespeare onto the desk – in this classroom where its walls are covered with portraits of famous writers and their associated quotes, and an image of a book's words being turned into concepts and images in someone's mind.

She stops to contemplate each one of them, and then amidst the students pouring in, there is Pepanin, who to his delight finds Rieke in the class, and joyfully sits beside her, before he shudders when a few members of the Axe group stride in also, who take the seats at the very back.

He's on edge.

"What's there to be scared of?" Rieke whispers to him, before Frau Groen herself enters the class, in her brown dress that reminds of the Victorian-era outfits in Eternum Souls. Her fey appearance arrests everyone's eyes.

Even Pepanin's looking – maybe he'll tell Rieke later.

"How do you, my class?" Frau Groen says, her feet trailing. "How now, how fares each one of you after a lovely summer?"

"It's WONDERFUL!" some over-enthusiastic shrill girl yells, along with her friends who clap together.

"It blows, I had to attend summer preparations," a guy says.

"Oh, was it very boring?" Frau Groen asks.

"Tres tres ennuyeux."

"It is that bad? French should never have to bore – they are teaching you wrongly." She casually shuts the door. "To know or not to know Shakespeare, that is not the question. To understand him is also not the question; you can easily look up what he means over the internet. To feel him – the emotions he puts into every scene and every character, that is what we'll be covering. And what better than to introduce you to his most esteemed tragedy, Romeo and Juliet?"

Frau Groen quickly fills them in with the play's synopsis, as she prepares the smartscreen to play the Franco Zeffirelli movie. "His words have thrived on for over 400 years, and his plays are the skeletons over which directors and production companies have laid over it their flesh and sinews."

Rieke glees – it already sounds so romantic, imagining the star-crossed lovers.

As the blinds are drawn over the windows and the lights dim, Pepanin inches in closer to her. "The ones behind me are part of the Axe group, from my last school. They're ruthless as hell – they push the weaker people like me out of the way, they hog all the best seats at the tables. They even cheated on the finals. I was humiliated on the playgrounds.. along with my friends.."

"They should know to be nicer," Rieke goes, slowly peering her eyes to the back (as to not get noticed).

"I wish they were, but there's always going to be mean people about. They'll hurt you too if you're not careful."

"Hush..!" Frau Groen says, noticing them talking.

The movie progresses on, where Romeo finds Juliet aboard her balcony. "O Romeo, Romeo.. wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name. Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I'll no longer be a Capulet."

The ones in the back snicker. "Yeah, right! You're still a Capulet by blood!"

"Hushh!"

"Pepanin.." Rieke goes. "You can come eat lunch with me and my brother Werner. It'll be safer with us." She winks, holding his hand as romantically as Romeo professes his love for Juliet.

"Cool!"

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