Richard had almost completely forgotten he was a duke. He did very little with his status, and it rarely came up. After all, it was only relevant to the Noxian nobility, and after the fiasco with Geran, nobody had been much interested in causing more commotion. Because he lived off planet, he also didn’t have to attend the annual council meetings. That was fine with him, because not only would they be boring, but nothing would be done.
It was only later that he actually attended some council meetings, at behest of the king. There were several reasons for this. First, it was to get people used to the idea that he was actually a member of the nobility. His presence gained some disapproving frowns from some members of the traditionalist faction… but that would have likely also been true anyway, because he was definitely part of the king’s faction. The second reason he attended was to provide support for a number of provisions that were being voted on. They were relatively minor, but having another vote helped secure them, or deny them in some cases. Richard didn’t technically have to follow the votes of the king’s faction, but he did. He was on good terms with them, which made him happy enough to support them on issues he had no particular opinions on. As for the rest, he agreed with the stance anyway.
Richard learned Noxian, and though it would take him more than just the few years of study he had to be fluent, with translation technology it wasn’t really an issue anyway. Besides, Noxians spoke Common- many of them even better than they spoke Noxian. Even as he learned some of the more subtle cultural details, Richard didn’t really fit in. Even if he covered his head, wore long sleeves, and gloves… it didn’t matter if he did. He wasn’t a Noxian, so to him it wasn’t important, though he did it anyway. To them, it was tradition… but also a necessity. Otherwise, the wrong move could have painful consequences for people who touched. Noxians weren’t nearly so likely to kill each other on accident… but in some cases it could possibly happen.
The lab had a lot fewer beakers and test tube than Richard would have expected when he was younger. Not that there weren’t any, but it wasn’t a purely chemistry lab. Instead, the lab had a large number of petri dishes and a number of chambers. This was a lab… one studying Noxian fertility. Richard and Elena were both working there as assistants, as a way to get practical experience in the field. It hadn’t been hard to land the positions, with one of them being the princess and another a duke… but they were also qualified. Perhaps they hadn’t needed two assistants… but the positions just happened to come open.
Though he was here to learn, Richard also planned to contribute as much help as he could. While a small portion of duties was fetching things, their jobs as assistants were often setting up experiments, calibrating systems, and the like. These were still relevant duties, and being familiar with the equipment was good. They didn’t contribute to the planning of experiments, but helping to run them was important experience.
The experiments weren’t physically exciting- there were never any explosions or anything like that. However, when there were good results, there were a number of smiles. Excitement was subdued, but still possible. Now, if they miraculously figured out a cure for the Noxian’s infertility, there would be more than a little cheering. That wasn’t what experiments did, even if they were successful. At best, the results were ideas. In certain conditions, the cells replicated more… or a specific gene seemed promising.
Over the years, the most successful things were tests to determine fertility. They’d gotten very accurate. However, they weren’t just genetic tests. If they were, they would have already isolated the correct genes, and could have already started modifying those Noxians who didn’t fit. That would perhaps be an inelegant solution, and would cause problems with genetic diversity… but if it would stop them from dying out, they would certainly do it. The tests measured many things, including various types of elements and compounds in the blood. More thorough ones involved samples of various bodily fluids and tissue. Richard couldn’t help but think of Geran. Though there was a simple test performed in public, afterwards he was put through a battery of different tests by many different doctors. After all, they had to be sure of his infertility. The king was not so powerful or domineering that he could or would easily execute someone without good proof. Even so, even the simple tests were accurate enough.
This lab was not the only one the Noxians had studying infertility. Even though the political factions might have disagreed on many things, everyone understood that this was the most important issue. Thus, there were many labs, and even the ones primarily funded by particular opposing factions shared information, if only grudgingly and upon request. It might have been political bias that the king and Elena said this one was the best… but it was definitely top tier. Everything was well organized, and Richard could see how intelligent and hardworking everyone was.
The labs did more than research with the goal of a complete cure or fix, they also helped people with lesser fertility problems. They had some solutions for marginal cases- those whose pregnancies wouldn’t fully develop without help. This was part of what was keeping the Noxian population from falling too rapidly. Noxians still experienced the standard problems people had with fertility as well, though they had become experts at dealing with most of them. This was one of their small comforts.
Though the experience was more valuable than study, Richard and Elena didn’t slack off in the area of traditional studies either. They had less time to devote during their job as assistants, but that didn’t mean they stopped entirely. Even if they could learn everything they needed to know as assistants, without study they would be lacking in some areas in the field. Richard knew that wouldn’t do, because he still had his eyes on bigger things.