Aelita Stones gulped as she looked up into the grand entrance hall of the towering building she had just entered. It was her new home at least for the next year. The glass chandelier reflected the light brilliantly in the room illuminating the beautiful antiques and expensive paintings hanging from the walls. The sheer grandness of the room made her feel inexplicably tiny and out of place.
She had entered a different world. A world not for her. Or at least… that's what it felt like.
It wasn't like she hadn't wanted to come here. The Kadic Royal Academy was the most prestigious school in Europe, possibly the world. It was situated in the Kingdom of Lyoko that neighbored France and Germany but, as the name suggested, it was a school for young royals. Something Aelita was far from.
The school was dedicated to training nobility of all ages and from all around the world to prepare them for their futures as governing rulers of their kingdoms. Aside from future monarchs, the school accepted the children of dukes and duchesses, lords and ladies as well as the children to advisors in royal courts. It was meant purely for the elite. Every now and then, the general public was allowed permission but the entrance examination alone was enough to turn away the majority of hopeful commoners desiring to attend the prestigious academy. Few got accepted and even fewer stayed for long. The royal lifestyle was incredibly difficult to fully blend into for someone not of noble birth.
Aelita had gotten lucky and had won the Academy's annual lottery. Conducted just for the citizens of Lyoko, the lottery was a system where young Lyokians between the ages of 12 to 17 were allowed to submit their name for consideration to be randomly selected to attend the elite boarding school. Growing up, Aelita had adored watching the ceremony on the orphanage's beat up old television. She hadn't many friends and the orphanage wasn't the nicest place to live in either. The idea of living in a modernistic beautiful castle and making amazing friends as the tabloids suggested had fed her fantasies for the longest time. It was only when Aelita grew up and finally turned 15 that she realized her fantasies were to be nothing more.
The school rarely accepted commoners let alone an orphan. The students, it seemed, were also arrogant tantrum driven celebrities. The paparazzi was very often staked out in front of the royal academy and many a story had emerged of the unfriendly spoilt students. It was mainly only a few regulars that made the top headlines and the school had more than a few hundred students but no longer did the tabloid spreads show cool popular girls and boys. It instead showed a dream that was unattainable and people who were too different. Even from what was published, how much of it was true? Nobody knew for sure but, of course, it was easier to believe and hate the royalty residing within the walls of the academy that was closed to the public than envy them openly.
Aelita had almost forgone submitting her name at all once she turned 17. The Kadic Royal Academy had announced their annual lottery and Aelita had already tried submitting her name the previous few years. She hadn't been expecting anything back then yet there was always a bitter stab of disappointment as someone else's name was declared at the selection ceremony. Someone who either dropped out halfway through their first semester or, as far as Aelita had found out, didn't manage to graduate on time. That only fueled her belief in what the paparazzi said was true and she wondered if going was worth it anymore at all.
Seventeen was officially her last year of being eligible to participate. A part of her didn't want to submit her name. The lingering 'what if' could probably fuel her fantasies of a better more magical life in the future if she never bothered and never got in. That was a dream that would be foiled if she submitted her name but never got in. Besides, she had to focus on making a living for herself. Once she turned 18 the orphanage would have no choice but to turn her away. However, the lingering child inside of her, the one that was innocent yet fearless, refused to let her back down. So Aelita had signed in to the Kadic Submissions website from the computer in the main room of the orphanage for possibly the last time.
The school had an unlimited submission policy and Aelita had, in previous years, submitted her name many times. This time she only settled for three submissions, letting her imagination let loose for a few minutes and allow her a daydream where her better life would consist not of waiting tables at restaurants but being an advisor to one of the royals. She would never be a Princess or a Duchess but an Advisor was a high-ranking position too. With a sigh, Aelita exited from the page. Three times was enough, she told herself. If it was meant to be she would get in. It wasn't like spending days on end trying to resubmit her name as many times as possible had done her any good in the previous years. .
Finally, D-day arrived. Aelita had been watching with her fellow girls in the orphanage as the regular formalities and speeches were made at the start of the ceremony held in one of Kadic's open lawns. She had braced herself for someone else's name, just like past years.
Finally, the moment arrived. The lottery barrel spun a few times and a dark-haired girl was invited to pick out the lucky winner. Unknowingly, Aelita held her breath, almost turning away to brace herself for disappointment.
In the next moment, "Aelita Stones" was declared as the year's lottery winner.
Aelita felt her mind go numb in shock before she was tackled in excitement by some of the younger girls in the orphanage! The fact of being the winner hadn't even begun to sink in yet lavish transportation arrived for her an hour later, and Aelita, still in shock, had hugged her younger peers goodbye and left for the prestigious academy. The very academy she now stood in the entrance hall of, feeling very out of place in.
As Aelita slowly walked in, she cringed at every step she took forward. Would she get into trouble for getting the carpet dirty with her muddy shoes? It was beautifully crafted and Aelita knew it was probably as expensive as the rest of the objects around her. Suddenly it made sense why the other winners tended to drop out. Aelita's clean yet old clothes, her meager luggage and her nervous mannerisms seemed to largely contrast with her proud lavish environment as well as the image of perfection she had grown up watching on TV.
Taking a deep breath, she geared her confidence and walked forward. She had been dreaming of this day since she was little. So what if she wasn't of noble birth? She had won her opportunity fair and square. She deserved to be here. With a smile, she stepped forward, surer of herself this time. Unfortunately, despite her regained confidence, she ended up stepping on someone in the very next second. So lost had she been in her thoughts that Aelita hardly realized where she was going and inadvertently bumped into someone, nearly ending up on the floor, if the stranger she had knocked into hadn't caught and steadied her.
"I'm sorry!" Aelita blurted out, her confidence fast fading again. She stood there waiting for a severe talking to from whichever stuck up royal she had the misfortune of meeting first. The stranger only laughed.
"It's alright," he replied kindly and Aelita for the first time took in his appearance. He was a little taller than her with blonde hair and blue eyes framed with black rimmed glasses. His eyes had an intelligent gleam to them yet they were focused on her and looked both curious but kind.
"You're Aelita Stones?" He asked and Aelita nodded.
"How did you know?" she asked. She hadn't expected anyone to know her already but she supposed it was obvious. She didn't quite blend in yet.
"You're the lottery winner," the boy replied matter-of-factly. "No one else would join a few days after the student arrival period." He gestured to the luggage behind her and Aelita felt somewhat cornered, not knowing how to respond.
"You also look quite nervous," the blonde continued, offering her a welcoming smile. He didn't mention she looked out-of-place compared to what he was used to but Aelita felt that was probably obvious too.
"Yes. A little." Aelita agreed shyly. "It's a lot to take in."
The boy looked sympathetic and Aelita felt the surge of confidence return enough to continue talking. She was nervous but she was excited too. "I'm happy to be here though. I've been dreaming of coming here since I was little. I didn't really expect that dream to come true."
The blonde smiled at her sweetly upon hearing that.
"Don't be nervous. Would you like for me to show you around? Principal Delmas probably sent his daughter but you're probably better off without her if you want to see the whole school properly."
Confusion painted Aelita's face. "Wouldn't she show me the whole school?"
The boy chuckled but Aelita felt comfortable knowing he wasn't laughing at her.
"Sissi is… pretty single minded. It's likely she'd show you her favorite spots around the school and forget to show you the actual classrooms. Not exactly the most ideal for a new student wanting to find their way around such a big school." The boy looked amused as he considered the aforementioned Principal's daughter.
"No. I wouldn't want to get lost..." Aelita agreed with a small laugh trailing off when she realized she didn't know the boy's name.
"Jeremy," the boy interjected. He looked at her, an embarrassed blush on his cheeks. "I'm sorry. I should have mentioned earlier." She hadn't asked and he'd already known her name.
"Jeremy." Aelita repeated softly. She smiled at the embarrassed boy. Jeremy was kind and made her feel safe and strangely at home. Despite her being aware he was a noble, he was nothing like the celebrity personality she expected him to be. Going with him seemed like a nice option and she didn't feel quite ready to leave the one person she knew in this school just yet.
"I'd love a tour," she added, answering Jeremy's earlier question. Jeremy smiled as he gestured for her to walk ahead of him, blushing again slightly when Aelita giggled at his chivalry.
It was nice to already have made a friend.
Jeremy took Aelita on a tour around the entire school. He first took her to Principal Delmas' office. The Principal was surprised to see her with Jeremy but was relieved Aelita already had someone to guide her around the school – the school's best pupil for that matter. After the formality of a welcoming speech and rundown of the rules were delivered, Delmas handed Aelita a folder of her required school documents and sent her on her way. Jeremy was waiting for her outside the office and Aelita was once again struck by the kindness of the boy who decided to wait for her while likely having better places to be.
"Principal Delmas allowed be to show you around," Jeremy explained, seeing her surprise. "Come on. I'll show you the classes and the best places to relax."
True to his word, Jeremy led Aelita around the huge campus. They walked slowly and Jeremy even stopped multiple times, allowing Aelita to take in whatever room she was entranced by. He couldn't help but smile seeing her awed expressions. Her eyes were filled with wonder and were like an innocent child's.
Jeremy also couldn't help but notice Aelita looked very pretty and every time she sent an excited smile towards Jeremy, the boy felt his heart beat just a bit faster. This had never happened to him before. He wasn't quite sure what to make of it.
After showing her the main classrooms, the cafeteria, the library, the computer labs, the front gardens and the rec room, Jeremy noticed Aelita was starting to drag her feet. Her focus was still on her surroundings but Jeremy realized showing her the dorms would be the best option. Dinner was an hour away and Aelita would want to freshen up and rest. So he led her to the building across the courtyard meant to house the students of the academy.
"I'm sure Jim will be by to grill you about all the rules at some point," Jeremy told her as they walked up the stairs. "The boys' dorms are upstairs and the girls' rooms are downstairs. Your room is on level 3 according to your documents."
He led Aelita to the 3rd floor entrance and stopped, unsure if he should walk with her further. There wasn't anything wrong per se about the boys being on the girls' floors before curfew but Jeremy suddenly felt self-conscious. He had noticed Aelita's smile had slipped at certain points during the tour he had given her and was concerned. Had he invaded Aelita's space too much? Had he rambled like he usually did and left her bored? Would she prefer to be alone now to take in the whole experience? It was a bit much, after all. Some space might be welcome.
"This is your floor. Your room should be down the hall. Dinner is at 8 in the cafeteria. I'm sure you'll want to rest a bit before then. You can see the rest of the campus tomorrow."
A flash of disappointment almost seemed to cross Aelita's face once she noticed Jeremy wasn't going to be walking with her any further. She had been enjoying his company and she didn't want to let go of his comforting presence and friendliness just yet. But rest did sound nice so she agreed. She did want to see him again though and before she could stop herself, she asked shyly, "If it's not too much trouble, can you show me the rest of the campus?"
Jeremy looked surprised but smiled eagerly, the slightest of heat rushing towards his cheeks when he realized Aelita actually enjoyed his company. "Of course! If you want to I don't mind at all. I'll see you at dinner later?"
Aelita nodded, smiling widely herself, before turning to walk to the dorms. Locating her room wasn't a struggle at all and Aelita found herself gaping as she entered it after unlocking the door.
Half the room was larger than her room had been at the orphanage. It was a double bedroom with two four poster beds on either side with curtains to form a barrier around the beds with. A small table and a dresser accompanying the bed was next to each and there were closets on each corner of the room for each occupant's belongings. The room was spacious and contained a small plush chair and mini sofa as well with a glass topped table. It was clear that the Kadic Academy spared no expense to make the students' lives here a luxury.
So amazed was Aelita by the room that she barely noticed her roommate sitting on her bed. The girl looked up as Aelita entered the room and waited for the pink-haired girl to notice her before smiling.
"Hi! I'm Yumi." The girl introduced. She was pretty. Dark hair framed the dark eyes of the Asian girl's oval face and Aelita looked startled upon seeing her until the girl laughed.
"I'm Aelita," she introduced with a smile.
"The lottery winner?" Yumi asked.
Aelita laughed, almost embarrassed. "Guess it's not that hard for people to tell, is it?"
Yumi grinned. "Not at all. Your name was announced for all of Lyoko to hear after all. But don't worry, the hype will die down."
"I certainly hope so. Adjusting has been difficult enough as it is. Even if it was my dream to attend."
"I understand," Yumi nodded sympathetically. "It was the same with me in certain aspects."
Aelita looked surprised. "Are you a princess? Or a lady royal?" She seemed to backtrack then unsure of Kadic's etiquette on that yet. "If you don't mind my asking."
Yumi chuckled. "I don't mind. Most people here would love to tell you their status. And I'm a princess. Yumi Ishiyama of Japan. Not directly in line for any thrones but I decided to come here either way. Eastern cultures are very different from the West so it took some time to adjust for me too. I did have the advantage of knowing royal customs, however. It was only the social environment that was a culture shock."
"Oh… Well for me everything is a shock really. I never really knew what to expect of royal life. It's a lot different from what I'm used to." Aelita looked shy and Yumi walked over to her and set a comforting hand on the shorter girl's shoulder.
"Don't sweat it. I'm sure you'll get the hang of how stuff around here works in no time. And I'm your roommate so I'll help you wherever you need." Not waiting for Aelita's response, the Asian girl turned to Aelita's side of the room, Yumi said, "They already delivered your luggage so if you want to rest before dinner, we have time. After dinner I'll help you unpack."
Aelita looked grateful as she nodded. Maybe all the people here weren't stuck up and fitting in and making friends wouldn't be so bad after all.
Later, Yumi took Aelita down to the cafeteria with her. The pink haired girl was famished and very much ready to eat. They got in line and selected their meals from the choices provided before Yumi led Aelita to her table. The younger girl had been looking somewhat lost, almost wondering if Yumi would want her to tag along before the Asian girl had simply said, "Come on Aelita!"
Yumi led Aelita to a table near the wide windows where two boys, a blonde and a brunette, were already seated.
"Yumi!" The blonde one yelled. His hair was gelled up and he had a purple dyed splotch on the front strands. "Who's this?"
"This is Aelita Stones," Yumi introduced her new friend to the boys. "She's my roommate. I thought she could join us for dinner."
The boys immediately nodded, recognizing the girl at once.
"Welcome to Kadic, Aelita," the brunette smiled. "I'm Ulrich."
"And I'm Odd!" The blonde introduced himself boisterously before turning to his meal and scarfing it down.
"Thank you," Aelita smiled nervously.
"Ulrich is the Crown Prince of Germany," Yumi detailed to the pink haired girl, answering the unspoken question. "And the one over there without the table manners is Odd, Prince of Italy."
"Hey!" Odd mumbled, barely swallowing before turning to talk. "If you had as many sisters as I did ready to sit on the throne, you'd see no use for twenty fork table manners in casual settings either."
Ulrich scoffed, "Odd, forget twenty forks. You barely even use the one!"
Yumi sighed and Aelita giggled, already relaxing around these people.
"Speaking of food and forks and sticklers for table manners, where's Einstein?" Odd asked.
"He had to run to the computer lab to pick up his laptop. He said he gave it to Mrs. Hertz before gym since he couldn't leave it at the dorms." Ulrich replied.
Before Aelita could ask who this Einstein was, a familiar voice called from behind her. "Sorry I'm late guys, Oh- Aelita?"
Aelita turned around to see Jeremy take a seat on the bench next to her. He looked as surprised as her to see her sitting next to his friends.
The three remaining royals looked between the new girl and their blonde-haired friend.
"You guys know each other?" Yumi asked.
"Yes." Aelita smiled. "Jeremy was the one who showed me around the school. After I ran into him at the entrance hall."
"So THAT'S where you were all afternoon," Ulrich exclaimed. "I was wondering where you went and why you came back as flustered as you did."
Jeremy turned red as he muttered something unintelligible.
"Well well, Einstein. I knew there was something suspicious going on when you came back to the dorms all blus-"
"ODD!" Jeremy exclaimed. He set his laptop and bag down on the table. "I'm going to get my dinner." He glared at the svelte prince as he stood up. "Behave!"
The flustered boy swiftly stood as he walked up to the counter, leaving behind an amused Yumi, Ulrich and Odd and a very confused Aelita.
"Where's Jeremy from?" Aelita asked, finally when studying the faces of her three new friends didn't help her figure out what just happened. She wanted to ask but given Jeremy's embarrassment, figured it was better left ignored.
"He's Crown Prince of France," Ulrich responded easily.
Aelita looked between the group. They all seemed to know each other so well. "How did you all meet?" she asked.
"Well, Jeremy I've known since we were kids. We have an adjacent dorm at Kadic too so we've known each other almost our whole lives. He was my first friend." Ulrich answered.
"And the rest of you?"
"I met Odd when he was assigned my roommate," Ulrich answered. "And man, he was so annoying. Wouldn't stop talking and following me!"
"Ha!" Odd replied. "Well you got used to me didn't you, good buddy? Now you wouldn't know what to do without me."
"Whatever you say," Ulrich said sarcastically. An amused smile told Aelita he was joking.
"What about you, Yumi?" Aelita asked.
"I met Ulrich in our Pencak Silat class," Yumi replied. "We were the only ones who signed up in the first few weeks. The others chose different sports to train in. We sparred together and um…"
Yumi and Ulrich suddenly both blushed. Aelita grinned, realizing the situation between the two.
"Anyway," Yumi cleared her throat, "We sparred and didn't really talk then but Ulrich came back to get his ass kicked the next day-"
"We agreed it was a tie!"
"And we became friends. He introduced me to Odd and Jeremy," Yumi finished.
"Wow," Aelita said in awe, just as Jeremy came back. "So, you guys have been friends for a long time then." Her voice was almost wistful. For a second, she wondered if she was imposing on the group but Jeremy was quick to get rid of those thoughts.
"Not entirely," he said comfortingly, easily reading the direction of her train of thought. "Ulrich must have told you but only the two of us have been friends since we were little but even then, we didn't see each other often enough to know the other well until Kadic. The rest of us only became friends a few years ago. Now we have a new friend. You, Aelita."
Aelita looked surprised but hopeful as she looked at the group's smiling faces before turning back to Jeremy. His eyes shone almost as hopefully as hers.
"You really mean it?"
Before Jeremy had a chance to answer though a loud high-pitched voice reached Aelita's ears. "ULRICH DEAR!"
Said boy groaned, slouching down further into his seat as if willing himself to disappear. Aelita's face was marred with confusion as a familiar girl with dark hair and a glamorous appearance approached the table. Aelita soon realized she was the girl who pulled out her name from the lottery barrel.
"Ulrich Dear, where have you been! I haven't seen you all day."
"Gee… wonder why, Sissi," Ulrich muttered sarcastically.
Aelita realized this was the famed principal's daughter right as the girl turned to the rest of the table's occupants.
"Jeremy," Sissi acknowledged the boy genius.
"Sissi," Jeremy responded flatly.
Sissi then looked at Aelita taken aback by the new presence. Sissi seemed to scan her almost, taking in the girl's appearance and meek body language.
"Oh, you!" Sissi looked at Aelita. "Aren't you that new student? Pebbles or whatever?"
"Aelita Stones…" Aelita replied with a frown. Sissi was turning out to be ruder than she expected. The paparazzi's poster child. Sissi turned back to Ulrich, wrinkling her nose disdainfully.
"Really Ulrich? First Yumi and Odd and now you're choosing to spend time with the rabble?"
"Sissi!" Ulrich hissed angrily.
"I thought by refusing to spend time with you, Ulrich already refused to spend time with rabble." Yumi retorted flippantly. The Asian girl casually took a sip of her juice as the other dark-haired girl spluttered at the insult.
"Commoners aren't allowed in Kadic for a reason!" Sissi fired back and Aelita suddenly shrunk in her seat, unintentionally feeling the sting of Sissi's words.
"If that were the case you wouldn't be here either, Sissi," Jeremy said, voice hard. It was a low blow and he knew it but since the moment he met Aelita, he had felt strangely protective towards her. It was as if his emotions had gone out of his control and knew better what to do. Jeremy would be damned if he allowed Sissi to let Aelita feel any less than that she belonged.
"Excuse Me!?" Sissi glowered.
"Oh, come off it Sissi," Odd grinned up at the annoyed girl. "Everyone knows the crown for your head is as fake as the tiger claws for nails you wear all the time!"
Sissi gave an angry squawk before turning around and stomping off. Aelita was somewhat surprised at how riled up the principal's daughter had gotten by that simple statement but before she could dwell on it, her newfound friends turned towards her.
"Are you ok, Aelita?" Jeremy asked, concerned.
"Don't pay any mind to Sissi," Yumi added. "She likes to boss people around cuz she's the Principal's daughter and in line for the Lyoko throne but she's just a student like the rest of us until we graduate."
"What did you mean her crown is fake, Odd?" Aelita asked, not yet sure how she should answer Jeremy. She would be lying if she said Sissi's words hadn't deepened the insecurities of being an outsider to this very new world.
"Oh! Sissi isn't a royal," Odd responded easily. "She belongs to an esteemed family but the original princess of Lyoko was killed with the King and Queen years ago. Sissi wouldn't have been in line at all if she were alive"
"How do you know?" Aelita asked. She didn't remember learning much about the Princess of Lyoko growing up and certainly nothing about the Delmas' connection to the royal family.
"They're my distant family. The Lyokian Princess would have been somewhat like a cousin if she were alive." Odd explained as if it were no big deal. It was clear he didn't want to talk about it more because he changed the topic. "But anyway, Sissi isn't royal by blood. Jeremy and Ulrich know more about why she's in line for the throne though."
Aelita turned to the blonde and brunette sitting beside and across from her. Ulrich groaned.
"Unfortunately, Jeremy and I had a third playmate growing up. Mostly me though. I'm just that unlucky."
"Sissi's family was related to Lyoko's foreign relations," Jeremy explained after he'd swallowed his bite of food. "Ulrich and I often played with her when we were growing up. Lord XANA, the previous King and Queen's senior advisor, made Sissi his successor. He wasn't able to be crowned himself but a ruler did need to be chosen and the Lyoko Princess was an only child, as were her parents. For some reason, Lord XANA chose Sissi over a bunch of other eligible families. Otherwise she might have only been here near the same level as you."
Aelita blinked, taking in all this information slowly. The history of the Kingdom seemed unreal. All she had learnt growing up was that Lyoko's rulers had perished back when she was only a baby and the next family in line for the throne had always been the Delmas'. She shook her head.
"I still would be a commoner and Sissi the daughter of a politician," Aelita pointed out.
Yumi snorted. "And why should that matter? I think you'll realize Aelita, that this charm academy business isn't really about bossing people around."
"No buts." Yumi's voice was firm. "Ruling over people isn't easy. It's not all fun and games. It's a lot of responsibility. You actually have to think of the consequences of your decisions. Governing the people is in their interest. The media paints us as a bunch of rich kids with no responsibility but you'll find that most of us are actually pretty down-to-Earth. The weight of the burden isn't all that easy outside these four walls of Kadic."
Aelita nodded in understanding right as Odd left out a cackle. "It honestly makes you wonder why Sissi was chosen to rule at all. That girl's as brainless as a headless chicken."
Aelita looked around at the royals surrounding her. Yumi's explanation did make sense. "You really think of me as a friend?" She confirmed again. Sissi had interrupted the first time and Aelita still felt she needed to ask.
"Of course, Aelita!"
"It'd be nice to have another girl to deal with these bozos with."
"You fit right in."
Seeing how welcoming these people were being, Aelita almost felt a desire to cry. She had never had friends before, not properly. She had been a loner for her school years and she was significantly older than all the girls at the orphanage. Seeing a group of people welcoming her so kindly was a first and Aelita felt the years of self-doubt and loneliness melt away. She replied with a smile, her cheeks almost bursting. Her new friends just cheered. They all knew this would be the start of an incredible friendship.
The pink haired girl turned to Jeremy who had yet to say something.
"You'll see, Aelita," the boy promised, shyly taking her hand. "Everything will fit right into place.
Except it didn't. At least… not without some work. Three weeks into the semester it quickly became clear that Aelita was far behind her other classmates.
Theoretical subjects she aced because she had been studying them at her school back before joining Kadic. The material had been somewhat outdated at her old school but it took no time for Aelita to catch up and even rival Jeremy in certain subjects.
Unfortunately, when it came to the more 'nobility oriented' subjects she was wildly out of her element. She was also extremely clueless which had led to a few embarrassing situations.
In her first week, Sissi had directed Aelita towards the boys' showers, telling her there was no line there. Aelita had thanked her lucky stars Ulrich and Odd were there brushing their teeth and had quickly sent her back. They had played a major prank on Sissi after that but Aelita still felt embarrassed thinking back to the incident, reprimanding herself for not knowing better. Aelita had lost her way and had ended up mixing up instructions more than a few times during classes as well and that only added to her growing self-esteem issues.
It didn't help that Lord XANA seemed to have it out for her. He was the teacher of the Political Strategy class and even supervised a number of other classes. As a royal advisor to the former King and Queen, he had a duty to supervise the education especially since his selected candidate for the throne was studying in her final year. Since the first day, he had seen Aelita and had gone out of his way to reprimand her in front of the whole class. Strict teachers weren't an oddity but while other teachers seemed to be going easy on Aelita and granting her an adjustment period, Lord XANA seemed to be out to make Aelita's life more difficult, even egging Sissi's bullying behavior in certain subtle instances.
The weathered teacher had even pulled Aelita aside and had given her what appeared to be almost a threatening suggestion to quit. It had taken a week for the group to get Aelita out of her funk when that had happened. Sissi had also let it slip that the royal advisor had also suggested the mild Principal of Kadic Academy expel the pink haired girl due to her lack of progress in political subjects.
The group was hanging out in Odd and Ulrich's dorm room one day when Odd brought it up. "It's really strange how XANA seems to be picking on Aelita, isn't it? Am I the only one who noticed?"
"Are you kidding me?" Ulrich responded. "I'd be surprised if there's someone who hasn't noticed yet."
Yumi frowned. "Wasn't he supposedly a lottery student too?" the Japanese princess asked. She remembered reading something during one of her research sprees on Lyoko before attending Kadic.
"He was." Ulrich answered. "King Waldo chose him as his advisor a few years after he graduated but he was definitely a lottery student."
Odd gaped. "Ulrich? How do YOU know this," he said, taking a jab at the brunette's intelligence and less than stellar grades.
Ulrich rolled his eyes. "I'm not completely clueless you know. I know enough foreign relations of my neighboring countries to get by at least."
"In any case it's too bad XANA keeps trying to get Aelita expelled though. Delmas isn't that cruel but eventually Sissi and XANA would wear him down. Especially since XANA is the one who got Sissi in line for the throne." It was silent for a moment before Yumi spoke again, her voice filled with anger. "I bet he wouldn't dare do that if she were a royal like us."
Ulrich sighed. Yumi was right. It was a good thing Aelita and Jeremy weren't here to hear the discussion. Aelita was incredibly sensitive about her status as a commoner among royals and Jeremy easily got angry at anything that upset Aelita or was said against her. The boy had it bad and it was quite amusing on most occasions since he was so shy. This was not one of them.
"Yeah" Ulrich agreed with the Japanese princess. "But she isn't a princess, Yumi. And there isn't exactly a way to make her one either," He pointed out.
Odd who had been silent for a while suddenly perked up. His face displayed pure innocence but his eyes glinted with his true intent. "Isn't there?" The Italian prince grinned.
Yumi and Ulrich looked confused right as Jeremy entered the room. Odd's grin widened.
"Oh Jeremy!" Odd called, his tone sing-song. "We were just discussing how XANA seems to be after Aelita because she's not a royal like us. And Ulrich said there's no way for us to make her a princess but I think differently."
Jeremy, who had no context to the prior discussion, looked confused for a moment. When he finally caught up, he looked to Odd, a question already on his lips. "How-"
Odd didn't wait for him to finish. "Anyway Einstein? When you popping the question? A royal wedding sounds nice."
Jeremy blushed crimson "ODD!" The blonde growled in embarrassment. Ulrich and Odd had made it their pastime to tease Jeremy about his feelings since the very first day when he showed her around. At the moment, the Italian prince was rolling on the floor laughing while Yumi and Ulrich also chuckled. It was no secret how Jeremy felt about Aelita and vice versa and each opportunity with to tease the shy couple was too good to pass up.
Aelita's arrival quickly boosted the opportunity further.
Odd looked positively evil to Jeremy as he loudly greeted the pink haired girl with an obnoxious "Hello Princess!"
Aelita looked surprised. She looked first at Odd then Yumi and then herself. Realizing Odd had addressed her she said, "Princess? Me? I'm not a princess, Odd?"
Odd only grinned. "No but I bet soon you will be." The boy with the spiked hair looked at Jeremy all too pointedly.
Aelita seemed to not pick up on it, or if she did, she didn't say anything to show it.
"Don't be silly, Odd," She said as she went to sit down next to Jeremy who was still extremely red from his face to the tips of his ears. Yumi and Ulrich were clearly trying very hard not to explode with laughter, their Cheshire grins matching Odd's.
They looked like they were about to jump in on the joke but Odd quickly seeing Jeremy wouldn't remain merciful much longer quickly muttered "Nevermind, I'm gonna go feed Kiwi."
The boy with the purple streaked hair quickly went and did as he said. His smuggled dog had come as an extreme shock to Aelita but it seemed to be an open secret. Yumi had told her practically everyone in the school knew Kiwi belonged to Odd and looked the other way. Mainly because Kiwi was extremely friendly and brought a lot of antics whenever anyone had a chance to see Odd try to distract a suspicious teacher from the origins of the 'stray' mutt that was often seen around the campus.
The 'Princess' nickname stuck much to Jeremy's half-hearted annoyance. Secretly, the idea of marrying Aelita was one he dreamed off a lot too. He'd never admit it but the image of sweeping her off her feet grew more and more constant in his dreams even though his insecurities told him she'd never feel the same way.
He would never admit it but he was glad Odd had stuck that nickname for Aelita even though she didn't express whether she knew exactly how it came about. Along with the Princess "Mrs. Einstein" was also a popular fixture as a nickname even outside their group especially with Aelita becoming increasingly more competitive with Jeremy in their theoretical lessons. Jeremy loved the challenge although Sissi's 'friend', the son of a duke, Herve was less than pleased because he no longer claimed the 2nd spot in class rankings. Aelita too, loved seeing her grades and her friends' pride when she got a test and her score was among the top three.
Unfortunately, there still remained the matter with practical lessons. After a close call with Delmas issuing Aelita a warning for what was very obviously an accident, the royal teens knew they had to come up with something. Delmas had no doubt been pressured by XANA again and Sissi had no doubt heard and had given her two unpleasant cents too prompting her father to take more serious action.
The girl had never stopped insulting Aelita but Aelita had quickly learnt to brush them off after realizing it wasn't just her but everyone besides Ulrich who was on the receiving end of those insults. However, for Aelita, some of the jabs felt more personal than others and the ones about not belonging definitely fed into her insecurities.
The evening Aelita had been called to the Principal's office, she barely ate any dinner. She had found her first family here and Delmas' warning about having to leave only upset her. Jeremy had quickly noticed and slid his strawberry shortcake across to her tray. Odd had looked almost offended at not being the recipient of offered food but a glare from Jeremy shut him up.
Aelita had looked at the concerned blonde gratefully. Jeremy was always doing things like this. He normally saved his croissant for her at breakfast because he knew how much she liked them with her hot chocolate. Now he was offering his dessert because he knew Aelita liked sweets and would willingly eat them even if she wasn't feeling up to the steak and mashed potatoes Rosa had prepared.
"I have a plan," Jeremy announced, once he was satisfied Aelita was actually eating the treat he had given her.
"About what?" Yumi raised an eyebrow.
"How we keep XANA from framing Aelita and getting Delmas to expel her." Jeremy looked at the others flatly as if the answer had been obvious.
"Whatcha got for us Einstein?" Odd asked, mouth full. He was on his second helping of mashed potatoes, having charmed Rosa to give him more per usual.
"I've been observing Lord XANA's methods," Jeremy explained. "Normally he has someone on his side, usually Sissi, when something goes wrong. A lot of the time Aelita isn't even near whatever accident occurs. I propose… that we start taking the blame."
The others blinked.
"How do you want us to do that Jeremy?" Ulrich asked, pointing at the boy with his fork. "Lord XANA can simply deny it and say he saw Aelita do it or whatever."
Jeremy grinned. "True, but he can't deny it if others see us create the chaos, can he?"
The group still looked confused and Jeremy sighed, pushing his glasses up his nose.
"Normally when Lord XANA ends up blaming the chaos in class on Aelita, no one denies it because no one else has done it. It's either Sissi or Nikolas and Herve. We start taking the blame for the things that happen, then our classmates will start to believe it too. Especially if it's Odd and you, Ulrich. If you start acting out a little bit in class regularly then it'll be easier still."
Ulrich held up a hand to stop Jeremy's rambling. "Are you asking us to get in trouble?" he asked incredulously.
"Unfortunately, yes." Jeremy answered. Aelita looked horrified.
"No! You can't do that."
"Aelita, we all have been at Kadic for years," he replied looking apologetic when she winced at the reminder. "They won't expel us in our last year of training and we all have reasonable enough grades. But for lottery winners… they expect them to drop out and especially in the last year when catching up is even harder."
Aelita looked conflicted. She fidgeted once more, playing with her food again, thinking it over as the others were. Ulrich looked dubious too, his parents already disappointed with his subpar grades throughout his years at Kadic. The believed that if he didn't excel it meat he wasn't practically fit to rule.
"Ok." Yumi was first to answer. "But we can't rely on that alone until the end of the year. It's too far away." She pointed out. "We can't all risk our grades forever, Jeremy. We have an advantage but Odd and Ulrich are barely getting by as it is."
Jeremy nodded. "I know that. I have a plan for that as well. We'll all have to tutor Aelita. I know we already help her in class and with homework. But this will be different. We'll have to each take a subject and tutor her properly in it. The practical ones."
Understanding dawned on the group's faces as well as excitement.
"I can take Personal and Public Presentation along with Etiquette Class," Yumi offered. The Japanese girl had been trained in poise and grace and the art of self-presentation and behavior even before the boys had. "I can teach her both Eastern and Western methods. Ulrich doesn't like this class and Odd can't stay still long enough to balance a book on his head… and no offense Jeremy but you're not the most socially adept of us either."
Jeremy sighed. Yumi was right. While he was alright when it came to his public persona, he wasn't the best person to ask for advice regarding the general attitude and style to adopt when on diplomatic missions.
"I'll teach her self-defense then." Ulrich offered, relieved that they wouldn't just be taking the blame but helping Aelita too. If she could manage to learn quick, hopefully his grades wouldn't fall beyond help during the year. Besides, he liked his martial arts class and he was the fastest in his grade too.
Each student at Kadic was required to take basic self-defense in need of emergency given the students were all high profile and needed to be able to hold their own. While this self-defense included handling weaponry, it wasn't a necessity and more of a hobby or extra credit. Odd, Yumi and Ulrich trained with weapons but Jeremy was hopeless. Jim, the Physical Education instructor, had attempted to get Jeremy interested in many a weapon but for Jeremy, his intellect served as his survival skills. The gym teacher had eventually given up and had trained Jeremy in basic escape maneuvers. Jeremy wasn't exactly top of his class but running, hiding, climbing and shooting a gun was something he had managed to at least pass in.
It was uncontested that Ulrich teach Aelita Phys Ed since it was a class he had an A in. His only match was Yumi and even she fell behind sometimes due to Ulrich outmatching her in sheer determination. Aelita had tried out different weapons just like Jeremy had but none had felt right and Jim had decided to help her focus on basic survival skills before attempting to teach her weaponry. It was soon discovered that Aelita was agile and quick on her feet, almost flying when she wanted to be. Unfortunately, her technique needed work and Ulrich figured he could ask Yumi for help if they got to the point of helping Aelita with a weapon. Aelita was more interested in the long-range ones and Yumi knew the best about those.
Jeremy looked pleased. "I was hoping you would say that," he admitted. "Odd?"
The boy with the purple streaked spikey hair looked thoughtful before answering. "Charm class."
Jeremy rolled his eyes. "Not this again, Odd. Diplomatic Relations isn't charm class."
"Sure it is!" Odd said breezily. "You're basically just sweet talking to people until they agree with you or stop being angry. Besides, I have the most practical experience in that."
Yumi shook her head at Odd as if he was a hopeless case as she turned to Jeremy. "You have to admit he isn't wrong there, Jeremy. Odd's gotten himself in trouble every day we've been at Kadic and somehow managed to worm his way out of most detentions."
"Alright," Jeremy sighed. "But Odd. Remember, the goal is to keep Aelita OUT of trouble so don't bring her on any of your practical experiences unless you want to give XANA more ammunition."
"Aye Aye, Einstein," Odd grinned. He turned to Aelita. "You're in safe hands with me Princess. I'll give you all the charm classes you need and then you can turn em on good ol' Jeremy here so he can rate their effectiveness."
Jeremy rolled his eyes but his cheeks turned an obvious soft pink at the idea of Aelita charming him. "Ok, that leaves Political Strategy for me. I think I can manage that pretty well."
"Well duh!" Ulrich rolled his eyes. "You don't have a 99 in that class for no reason, genius."
"I think that's all then," Jeremy concluded. He turned to Aelita to ask if she was alright with the plan but before he could ask, Odd tutted.
"Uh uh uh, Jeremy. Not so fast." Odd had his usual mischief in his eyes and Jeremy grew wary. "Aren't you forgetting something?"
Jeremy's brow furrowed. "No. I think that's all the classes."
"Oh, Einstein my poor friend. How could you forget the most important class? You really know nothing to woo the ladies." The Italian prince mocked a woeful expression.
Jeremy blinked, bewildered.
"Dance Class!" Odd burst out finally. "Geez, Jeremy. I know you're not the best at it but I didn't think you'd forget it entirely."
Yumi nodded. "He's right, Jeremy. Someone needs to teach her to dance. So far Aelita's record is almost as catastrophic as yours." She pointed out. "No offense, Aelita."
Aelita smiled. "None taken. I've never really had an occasion to dance with someone before."
Jeremy frowned as he looked over the notes he was making about their plans. "Well we're all already teaching a class. Who's left to teach Aelita dance?" Jeremy asked.
"William?" Ulrich volunteered. His suggestion was dual purpose. One, to see Jeremy get riled up but deny jealousy, and two, to get rid of his own competition. William had long since been pursuing the Japanese princess and Ulrich hadn't always enjoyed watching it. Yumi regularly rejected William's advances but with their own relationship hanging between friend and friendlier, Ulrich couldn't help the flare of insecurity and annoyance every time he was around.
Yumi shot down the idea at once. "No. Not William. I don't trust him and anyway it'd be easier if it's just us." The dark-haired girl had been made uncomfortable by William's pursuits before and she wasn't quite sure if Aelita could handle it. The girl had a habit of undermining her value and Yumi wasn't about to let anyone take advantage of her friend like that.
Jeremy looked relieved. So far during dance class, Aelita had normally been paired up with him, Odd or Ulrich. The few times she had had different partners hadn't gone so well so he had managed to keep his jealousy down to a minimum.
"Why don't we all teach dance class?" Odd suggested. "We'd get to have fun hanging out that way too."
"What do you mean?" Aelita asked.
"Well, Ulrich, Yumi and I are significantly better at dance than you and Einstein, Princess," Odd pointed out. "Of course, I'm the best so naturally I'd teach you. But Einstein has two left feet too and I think any future ladies he courts would appreciate him taking extra lessons with you."
"Odd," Jeremy muttered, realizing the set up occurring.
"No, he's right, Jeremy." Yumi voiced her support. "You need practice too. And you and Aelita are paired together most of the time in dance class anyway. You'd both get into less trouble this way."
Jeremy found this a hard argument to refute. It was true. Odd normally had a different girl or the other he wanted to woo during dance class and Ulrich took the opportunity to pair up with Yumi whenever he could. This normally left Jeremy paired with Aelita and it was often both their fault if any mistakes were made in the routine. Not wanting Aelita to suffer because of his performance, Jeremy agreed.
"Ok. We'll all be together for dance class practice."
"How will we get the key to the ballroom?" Ulrich asked. Their dorm rooms weren't spacious enough for proper practices and having extra dance lessons in the lawn wasn't the most appealing idea with the entire school as an audience.
Jeremy thought about it for a moment. "Odd is class representative. He and I can go ask Principal Delmas. I can say I want the extra practice. That way Lord XANA can't intervene and forbid it if he thinks just Aelita is trying to get better."
"This is all so exciting," Aelita smiled at her friends. "Thank you all for working so hard to come up with ways to help me. You're giving up your free time when you don't have to."
"It's nothing Aelita," Yumi smiled. She reached for the younger girl's hand. "It's what friends do."
Ulrich nodded with his regular smirk, fully in agreement.
"Royal Bodyguards and Tutors as the Princess commands." Odd teased. It had become a joke, her nickname. She was the only one of them not a royal and while the original intent had been to tease Jeremy, it now served as an ironic nickname as well since Aelita was the only one of them who didn't hold the title.
Aelita turned to Jeremy, then surprised everyone by kissing him on the cheek, leaving the boy with a burning blush. "What was that for?" Jeremy spluttered, trying hard to catch his breath and calm his heart.
"You're the one who came up with the idea of how to help me, even though it harms your records in the final year."
"It's nothing," Jeremy whispered, still blushing as she turned to the others who were looking at her in encouragement.
Behind them, Aelita could see Sissi glowering at their table and in her heart, she felt an anger burn towards her and Lord XANA as well. She was still nervous but Aelita had a reason to fight, seeing the faces of her found family. She wanted to stay at Kadic and reach a good position in life so she could stay with her friends. She deserved to stay and even if people like XANA and Sissi would deny it, Aelita knew she had to try.
Aelita set her jaw, a determined gleam in her emerald eyes. "Let's do this."
So... I had a sudden inspiration for this AU more than a month ago when I first was getting into Code Lyoko. I had just watched Barbie Princess Charm School which is my favorite Barbie film and the plots just intertwined. I basically just wanted to write Jerlita Royalty AU fluff and writing the plot parts of this was SO hard to crank out. Anyway... I put more than a month of effort into this. It was supposed to be a oneshot but it became so long I divided it into three parts and possibly an Epilogue for pacing purposes.
I really like Odissi as a potential relationship so there's bits of that as well. Ulumi, I do like but unfortunately find hard to write so there aren't many of their moments but I hope you will enjoy this story all the same.
I hate coming up with titles. The one for this is extremely cheesy I know but I couldn't think of anything else and didn't want to waste time posting this. Its sheer coincidence I got it done in time for Code July especially AU day. I have exams so I'm glad I managed to get this done in time.
So...I hope you enjoy!
I worked EXTREMELY hard on this so if you enjoyed even a single scene of this fic I really really hope you'll be kind enough to leave a review! It would honestly make my day and make all the effort I put into it worth it.
I'm OceanSpray5 on FFN so you may see this there as well although I post there more frequently than here. My tumblr is Oceanspray5 like on here too and my twitter is Iff-ustin if you wanna come say Hi there.