Updated: Nov 17, 2019
An hour had passed, and the square became more crowded. People were coming to the University, many in a hurry, and almost nobody paid attention to Tetsu. A few coppers and an apple – that was all Tetsu managed to get. In desperation, he thought that, maybe, he should succumb to his fate, go back to Bangloss and accept whatever punishment his master would give him – but then, all of a sudden, Tetsu heard a voice. Someone was calling him.
"Hey, aren’t you… Aren’t you that miqo’te boy from the pub? I always see you there when I drop by."
A stately, gray-haired Elezen with an accurately trimmed beard and keen eyes looked at Tetsu intently, and the catboy recalled that he saw this man a few times in “The Silver Quill”. He never stayed long, usually just exchanging a few words with Bremer or students – and Tetsu remembered that they treated the man with great respect. "They called him… yes, they called him 'Professor'.” Tetsu raised his head, and met the eyes of the man, who continued examining Tetsu.
"Hmm?" The man cast an inquiring glance at the catboy.
"Eh? Ah… H-hai… I am that miqo’te."
"Why are you here? In this shape? What happened?"
"I… I was robbed," Tetsu lowered his gaze, and his eyes became teary.
"Robbed?! Then why didn’t you ask for help? And why didn’t you go home? Where do you live?"
"Ah, that… sono…" Tetsu looked aside and, unable to contain himself anymore, broke into sobs.
"Oh, goodness. Come," the man beckoned to Tetsu and helped him to his feet. "This is not a place for a conversation. We’ll talk in my office. Follow me."
Sobbing and sniffing, Tetsu obediently trailed behind the gray-haired man, who suddenly stopped, took off his cloak and threw it over Tetsu’s shoulders.
"Here you go. That’s better." The man smiled.
Tetsu blinked and burst into tears. “A-aa-ariga-aa-tou…” Rubbing his eyes and sniffing, the catboy was pouring out all the stress of the past events.
"Ohhh, please, don’t cry." The Elezen patted Tetsu on the head. "What’s your name?"
"Tetsu? I see. And my name is Karl Hardenberg. Professor Hardenberg."
"P-professor…" Tetsu wiped his tears and straightened up. "Arigatou gozaimashita!" He made a deep bow.
"I haven’t done anything yet." Professor Hardenberg smiled and resumed his walk toward the University gates.
The office of Professor Hardenberg was large, but there wasn’t much empty space in the room. It was crammed with shelves and cabinets of all kinds. Books were everywhere: not only on shelves, but in piles as well: old and dusty folios were intermixed with elegant, freshly published journals. Stuffed animals decorated all the spots which were not occupied by books. Tetsu didn’t know where to look first; his eyes became so round that he started to resemble a lemur.
"Professor! This is a mantis from the Isles of Umbra, right? Ah! And this is a blue crab from the Isle of Bekko! You can only find them on that island, right? Ne, Professor? Professor!"
"Whoa, whoa! You surely are enthusiastic!" Professor Hardenberg chuckled merrily. "Calm down a bit. But you are right about the mantis. And the crab – it is called Unkiu, and this species is, indeed, endemic to the Isle of Bekko. But how did you learn about them?"
"Ah, I traveled a lot around Hydaelyn as a ship boy, and we visited all those places. That was before I started my apprenticeship with Doctor Bangloss."
"What?! Bangloss? You are an apprentice with that quack? Why on Earth did you choose to study under such a pompous idiot? What can you possibly learn from him?"
"Ahhh… well…" Tetsu lowered his head, and his voice faded. "It wasn’t much of a choice, Professor. You see… Becoming a ship boy wasn’t my choice either. I had to work to pay for the debts of my parents… And Doctor Bangloss… He bought me out of the debt contract and, of course, nobody asked about my opinion. So now I am obliged to work for the Doctor. He calls this 'apprenticeship', but it’s not like he teaches me something in particular. He often says I am too lazy and stupid to learn anything. All I am doing is scribing for him and attending to his needs.
Tetsu finished speaking, and silence hung in the air. Professor Hardenberg sat in the chair behind his desk, not saying anything in reply. He seemed to be deep in thought, not looking at Tetsu and drumming on the desk with his fingers. All of a sudden, he stood up.
"Wait for me here. I need to make some arrangements," and he left the office.
"That’s it," thought Tetsu. "That’s how it will end. Now Professor will send someone to escort me to Bangloss and…" Tetsu sat in silence, hanging his head and thinking about his pitiful fate. Well, he probably deserves it. Bangloss is right: Tetsu is lazy and stupid and… good-for-nothing.