It was relatively rare, being summoned to an audience with the king along with all the princes. Heine wondered what could be the matter, especially considering the reports he had written all indicated such fantastic growth from every student.
Could the king only want to praise them?
"It's time, sir, Highnesses. Are you ready?" The same guard as before asked politely, to which everyone echoed their "Yes"s and "OK"s.
As the royal tutor stepped into the room, however, he was hit with a sense of dread so strong he almost stumbled.
Yet, he kept his cool, knelt, and greeted the king as usual. And when the king spoke, his sense of unease was confirmed.
"You can stand up, royal tutor. I am quite busy today, so I would like to get right down to business,"
Everyone nodded seriously. The princes must have been expecting reprimand like the last time.
"I want Heine to teach you art, as well." Th eking dropped the bomb unceremoniously. The room grasped, then exploded into whispering.
"Heine teaching art!?"
"Didn't he draw the cursed portrait of Adele last time!?"
"Would this be alright!?"
"I can't imagine it!"
The king, unable to hear the content of the whispers very well, ignored it and continued,
"Well, you see, in these reports you gave me, the princes are being taught very comprehensively, both in scholarly matters, sports, and life skills. Yet we seem to be missing art here. Art is a very important social skill as well, among us nobles. The ability to see and identify art decorating hallways, ballrooms, that can lead to accurate judgement of the owner's wealth, standing, and personality. Conversation about art can also help carve friendships where none would have been forthcoming."
"Indeed, Your Majesty. I must apologize in my lack in performing the duty of a royal tutor. However, if I may suggest inviting another art tutor with better skills. Surely learning from an expert—"
"Sorry to interrupt, royal tutor. But do you think that the princes will accept any other tutor out there? Besides, I invited you because we were old friends, and I know I can trust you. There is no need to hide that now. I do not want to risk the princes' and the palace staff's safety by inviting an unknown tutor in here."
The princes look on with a slow sense of horror rising.
After a long pause, Heine replied, "Reasonable, Your Majesty."
"So, I entrust my sons to your care, as always, Heine."
"Then, please allow me one week's time to prepare the lessons, my lord."
"Very well. Will you need to hold up on other classes during this week?"
"I will give the princes each a project to work on while I prepare, Your Majesty, if that suits your preferences."
"Indeed. By all means please do what you think best for the princes. You are all dismissed. See you later, my lovely sons."
"Master, will this really be all right?"
"Yes, highness. As long as I have some time to prepare." Heine replied in his usual cold demeanor, yet inside, he was a little apprehensive. A part of him wanted to curse Viktor for forcing him, again, to do all these impossible feats of learning.
He had been a street urchin, never gone to university or even to school. Yet here he is, reading and writing in staggering amounts everyday, always struggling to learn everything and prove himself.
He had unconsciously bore the weight of a nation before, in the form of his only friend, but now that he is definitely conscious of it, he is coming to realize that it is indeed, heavy.
"But Heine, you're bad at art. Just look at that horrible portrait!"
"Leonhard! That's downright rude!"
"But isn't it true, Leonie, Brunie?"
"Sensei, are you all right?"
The last statement from the soft-hearted prince Kai. Heine decided to answer that single one.
"Yes, highness. I appreciate your concerns. Now let us begin today's class as I will assign each of you a project to be finished in one week's time."
At eight o'clock to the second Heine appeared in the gathering room, carrying books, canvases, and supplies almost as tall as himself.
When he peeked from behind the tower of things, his eyes have dark bags and his face was haggard.
Kai relieved him of his load, and Heine took out his teaching rod, tiredly, if the princes had any say in it.
Heine didn't even seem to remember the projects assigned a week ago.
"Let's begin today's lesson, highnesses. As you may have reason to doubt my abilities as an art teacher, please take a look at the top canvas which I had drawn yesterday."
The princes looked at each other, then hesitantly lifted the top canvas, cautiously, as if it would bite.
From it, Adele beamed at them with her innocent, beautiful smile that lit that brotherly feeling within each and everyone of them.
As a portrait, it was perfect down to the creases.
"Heine... drawn this?" Leonhard said, in shock. It more or less represented the feelings of the others.
"Sensei, so good at art." Prince Kai mused.
"I can't believe it's the same person who drew that cursed painting that got Adele angry with Shadow!" This exclamation from the playboy Licht.
"As expected of Master!" Bruno gushed excitedly, his eyes sparkling. "I knew you've been hiding infinite genius, master! No, that first painting must also have been a masterpiece! Abstractionism! I apologize deeply for not being able to recognize it before, master! I will follow you for the rest of my life!"
Into the din the royal tutor coughed shyly, turning his face to the side.
"Not to create any misunderstandings, my former... attempt at a portrait really was a work of an amateur. I have spent the last week improving, however, and even though I cannot hope yet to match any professional artists, I am confident that my knowledge at this point is enough to teach the beginnings of the subject."
"Spent the last week... improving?"
"Sensei, you're amazing."
"But... in such a short time... have you even slept at all this last week?"
Heine paused, stared absently into space, then snapped out of it and said, "Now, let us begin the lesson in earnest."
He introduced them to the tools involved with art, the various materials and mediums. He explained each one in details, with vivid examples and demonstrations, as if he'd been familiar with them all his life.
Then he got them starting on shading exercises and drawing basic lines and shapes.
Prince Licht requested that he don't glower over them when they worked, because it made him nervous and made him want to stop drawing.
Heine relented and said that he would offer his comments once the exercises are finished. Then, he proceeded to sit down on one of the chairs a little ways separated from the work table.
"I'm finished!" Announced the cheerful Licht, "unlike you, Brunie." He added with a little snicker.
"I am serious with master's assignments, unlike someone!" Retorted Bruno looking at his youngest brother.
"Bruno, Licht, good boys." Prince Kai consoled.
"Why don't you show your work to Heine first while we continue our work?" Leonhard suggested helpfully.
"Will do! Sensei~!" Prince Licht called, only to be greeted with a total silence.
The high-backed chair facing away from them completely obscured the small frame, so Licht and the others tip-toed lightly around it. As they peeked over, an unusual sight greeted them.
There was their little professor, perfectly curled into a cat-like position, sleeping in the plush high chair. The princes looked at each other, each with a bemused expression that soon turned into a smile. And without a word, the four siblings retreated from the chair to continue their work quietly.
It would be a waste to let Heine's lesson pass unappreciated.