Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 45

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In addition to studying or the occasional interesting discussion, Richard put some time into studying the customs of the Noxians. Though he knew some things from being friends with Elena, he made sure to take proper care and details. It was one thing to be with someone from another culture, and quite another to be in that culture, surrounded by its people. Very different things would be expected.

That would be especially true in the context of royalty and nobility. Some people might be offended by the very presence of ‘outsiders’ but Elena had the right to invite who she wished. What Richard was worried about was not offending such people, but those she actually cared about the opinion of. That seemed only fair to Elena. Richard thought that actually bringing them along was a strong sign of trust, and he didn’t want to betray that. Hiroshi had apparently already learned the necessary etiquette, but he still reviewed. Jot, Richard, and his father all worked together with Elena to understand the important details. When the ship finally arrived at the end of the week, everyone was as prepared as they reasonably could be.


Richard took a look at himself in the mirror. It was a somewhat strange sight, he almost wondered what he was looking at. The person in the mirror was wearing a black suit and had neatly combed hair. Though Richard’s hair wasn’t particularly wild to begin with, it generally had no particular care taken to make it look good. There was one addition to his outfit that he hadn’t particularly considered. That was gloves. Fortunately, Hiroshi had thought of it. There was more than that, though.

Richard stepped out of the room to see Jot, who was already ready. He was a strange sight to see, with a light brown suit instead of in casual clothing or exercise clothes. Jot kept glancing down at himself, as if he had also never seen such as sight. In fact, that was the case. “I don’t feel formal,” Jot said as he picked at a sleeve. “The material is so light, and it has sleeves.” Jot shook his head. “I do not mind sleeves, but this is not what I am used to. Still, it certainly fits into this culture better than a sleeveless vest. That would have been… an unpleasant oversight.” Somehow, Hiroshi and Richard’s father’s efforts combined had managed to get a suit that for Jot in the few hours they had before they had gotten on the ship. That showed some foresight… and something else, because the suit actually was the right size, and a color that still fit Jot’s Xevaronian taste.

Hiroshi fit into his own suit quite well, looking as natural as if it was what he always wore. Richard’s father wore a suit, but also had his hair up in a turban. It wasn’t something he’d seen on his father before, and though it felt a bit out of place… it was good enough. There was a good reason to have it that way, just like the gloves. Noxians had toxic bodily fluids, which included the oils that would be on their skin… or their hair. Although they of course understood that others weren’t the same way, it translated in a practical manner to their culture and dress. Having exposed skin or long, unrestrained hair was not only a health hazard, it was culturally unacceptable. While they wouldn’t necessarily hold others to the same standards all of the time, since Richard and the rest were attending a formal function specifically of Noxians, following those traditions were the best way to be polite. Though their faces and the short hair several of them had were still uncovered, Elena had assured them that it wasn’t a problem.

Susan was the next to arrive. She was in a nice dress, also hastily arranged like Jot’s suit, but still quite adequate. Richard had never seen her in a dress before, but he had seen his mother in a dress, and thus it was not an entirely foreign sight. Still, like many experiences, it was new to Susan. “This is a very nice dress, uncle Gilbert. I’m afraid to ask how much it cost.”

Richard’s father shrugged. “Not too much, don’t worry about it. Besides, you needed it.”

After a few minutes of waiting, Elena herself finally came out. She was wearing a dress, and though it came in the same sorts of greens as her usual clothing, it felt very different. Although the top still had the same basic function, and still covered her completely from her neck to the tips of her fingers, it had intricate designs instead of being plain. The sort of hood and veil that Elena was wearing was also stylized, with the gauze-looking part of the veil having patterns in it. The dress continued downward from her waist, not billowing out like some. It gave a very different impression from the pants she normally wore. Noxians weren’t much for jewelry, since it would be hidden by their clothing, but Richard saw some small sparkles on the surface of her dress, forming intricate swirls. He imagined that those weren’t just pretty pieces of plastic.

Richard managed to say, “You look good.” There wasn’t much else he could say. Though she was his friend, Richard was also occasionally reminded that she was also an attractive woman… even if acknowledging that was about as far as things could go before there was danger to his health.

“I know.” Elena smiled. “You boys clean up pretty nice yourselves.” Her eyes darted between Richard and his father. “You know, with his hair hidden like that, you look even more similar.” She looked up at a clock on the wall. “We should be landing any moment now.”

There wasn’t really any uncertainty to be had about travel times in a space ship. It wasn’t like travel around a planet, where there were air conditions to deal with, except during the brief minutes of takeoff and landing. When travelling through explored space, there weren’t any unknown variables to deal with, and once the cruising speed was reached, there was no change in motion. Thus, an arrival time could be predicted exactly. Of course, there might still be some time change based on when the spaceport was open for landings, but since this ship was expected, and carrying the princess, there would be no wait. That meant that Richard would be meeting Elena’s family soon… and unlike with her, he was aware they were royals. That made him somewhat nervous, since the only things he knew about them was their names, learned on the trip. The formal clothing didn’t help make the event seem as casual as meeting a friend’s family either, and with the Noxian cultural emphasis on formality, Richard was just hoping he wouldn’t make a fool of himself.

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