It had been a week since the Conventus introduction lecture had taken place. The students were originally due to start school at the first sign of Autumn however, for unknown reasons the start of the school term was pushed back a week to the next Monday. Layla had a sneaky suspicion that the delay was down to the shamefu- the bot having to be repaired. Fortunately, this gave Layla some more time to acclimatise to the idea of being in such close quarters with people that many Southies viewed as adversaries.

Most of the students from the South who had joined the Conventus program shared the same sentiment. Everyone was finally getting used to the idea that they were going to have to play nice where they had never been required to before. The weekend after the Conventus introduction seminar, the students of the South, and their parents and guardians, gathered for an impromptu meeting about the Conventus program. The meeting was conducted under the premise that the older generations were concerned over the injection of Northist ideals into the minds of the young adults. Layla found this notion absurd given that the average age of the Southie students in the Conventus grogram was twenty-one; old enough to decide their own foundation for integrity as far as she was concerned. Rather than worries motivating the spontaneous meeting, Layla was sure that most of the parents were just curious about the demarcation zone and the Northies that they had rarely interacted with for the last twenty-five years.

Ergo, the Southies had gathered in the town hall, the Caenatorium. The Caenatorium was an old building right in the middle of town that somehow stood the test of time through the one-mind war and the Bifuricate Civil war. Most elders of the South considered the Caenatorium to be something of a majestic landmark. In reality, the building looked as if it was on its last legs, and thus the younger generations did not put so much of a price on it. The Caenatorium, however, did proudly boast of being the largest hall in Southie territory, although its size was hardly sufficient for the meeting of two hundred and fifty people at hand. Provided that only fifteen Southie students were partaking in the Conventus program, the inquisitiveness of the relatives and acquaintances proved to be quite extraordinary.

Layla was not one in a position to judge though; her whole immediate family came to the meeting. Her parents presence she could understand as they were starting to take up the leadership role in South town, but her babbling baby sister, her younger brother and nattering, eagle-eyed aunt; overkill in Laylas mind.

Laylas family were the first ones present, an autumn miracle given the number of times her mother had superfluously changed clothes and the babys clothes too, of course, to match. Not too much later the hall was filled up to the brim with eager, inquisitive faces. Layla could only hope that no one dared jump in excitement, if that occurred than the already rotting, wooden floor might have finally given up and caved in.

Layla immediately recognised the forms of her two best friends in the crowd trying to find a seat. The twins, Nova and Camila with the surname Smith, were two very different peas in a pod. Even the way that they navigated the crowd in search of a seat was intrinsically different.

Nova, the slighter older twin, had a strong lean figure. She loved all types of sports and was a little bit bulkier than her ultra-feminine voice and outfits would originally have one expect. But incongruous with the cute, tiny, pink bow behind her headpiece, she barged people out of her way to get to the calm eye of the storm.

The seats that people were talking around were set up like a fashion show with half the seats facing the other with a stage in the middle. Layla was quite confident that Nova was just trying to make her way there so that she could confidently strut her stuff on the slightly elevated plane before having to take a seat. It was easy to find Nova in a crowd, as long as the place where most attention could be garnered were to be identified.

As expected from people who were joined at the hip, Novas sister Camila walked just behind her sister taking advantage of the clear path, her sister had worked hard to create. Camila was extremely legalistic in her thinking, and it showed in everything she did. Her gait resembled a robot with only a slight smoothing effect. Nearly every step she took her rectangular, thick glasses slid down the bridge of her nose, and just like a robot would, she didn display an ounce of frustration any of the times that she had to move her slightly chubby arm to re-set her glasses on her face. Layla surmised that Camilas walking behind her sister was a purposeful decision she made in the hope of conserving energy, so the crowd served her no inconvenience.

John Johnson, Laylas dad suddenly got on the stage, he cleared his throat and at once the whole hall quietened down. ”Please find a seat ” Mr Johnson said in his usual commanding tone.

The Southies who had once looked lost and drowned out by the crowd of their own making instantly moved swiftly like soldiers. The twins found their way over to Leila in record time. Even Laylas baby sister who was once fussing and crying in line with the hustle and bustle of the atmosphere, stopped snivelling and turned big, brown, watery eyes over to her dad. It was almost amusing how quickly the Southies found a seat in one of the battered pews. A sea of heads adorned with gold beads were pointed straight at Mr John Johnson.

Some people just commanded respect and Mr Johnson was one of them. Even so, Layla could tell he was still a little bit trepidatious as his Adams apple bobbed slightly before finding its way to its rightful place. ”As you know, ” his deep voice rumbled. ”Some of our children have been, yet again, enlisted into the Conventus program. ”

A voice interjected from far back in the midst of the crowd, ”This is too dangerous, you saw what happened last time. We must protect the children. ” The voice shrilled. Everyone turned their heads, keen to locate the source of the high-pitched voice.

”Who spoke? ” Mr Johnson grimaced. A blonde and extremely round girl who looked about thirteen years of age stepped forward to claim the title of the insubordinate child.

Layla was confused as to why a child was calling people almost a decade older than her children. But at the same time, she was touched that a little girl cared for her so deeply. Layla pondered on whether her own ego rendered her weak against care and compliments, but she quickly dismissed the notion. She recognised that she had a problem. She just loved herself a lot, but as far as she was concerned if anyone had half the qualities she herself had, they too would act in a similar fashion.

Oomph-. Layla felt a sharp pain in her ribs. She already knew who had done such a terrible thing and why they did it for. And for that reason, she kept her eyes firmly ahead looking at the commotion and did not turn her attention to the gnarly perpetrator. Mrs Scarlett Johnson or rather, Mr John Johnsons wife had nudged Layla with her sharp little elbow to stop her from daydreaming. Mrs Scarlett Johnson loved her husband and wouldn tolerate any disrespect thrown his way, the act of daydreaming when Mr John Johnsons wifes husband was talking was too much for Mrs John Johnson to bear.

One mans trash was another mans treasure. The same elbows that were used way too frequently against Layla, Mrs Scarlett Johnson had carefully sculpted through a strict diet of lettuce and cucumbers to keep herself fit for her man; Mrs Johnsons own words, Layla retched at the thought. Not that her dad minded what size his wife was, he would love the pretty witch at any size. In all truth, Mrs Scarlett Johnson, or Mr john Johnsons wife or, last but not least, Laylas own mother was lovely, but she was just more lovely to the man that paid the bills. Fairs fair, Layla had to console herself with the phrase all her life.

Whilst Layla had been trying to console herself, a man behind the insubordinate child, the girls father, or so Layla assumed from both his uncanny facial resemblance to the girl and the look of embarrassment on his face, tried pulling the girl back down to her seat. But alas, he had skinny, little arms and could not manage against a force like his daughter.

The teenage girls grit and determination carried her forward in the conversation. ”The North are always launching attacks on us. The Overridded- ”

Laylas dad cut off the girl as soon as she used the slur, Overrided, against the North. ” Don say that word. I understand your point but in the past twenty-five years, we have lived side by side with the North without war. ” Laylas dad said thoughtfully. ”In the last quarter century, there is no proof that the Northies have physically attacked any of us ”.

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