3.5: Game Time

“I can’t answer that,” Nuria tells Carnya. “I’m sure the winner will be bragging to me before long.”

     “That’s lame.” Carnya stuffs a handful of jellybeans into her mouth, spilling a dozen from the bowl on her lap. She munches on them as she enjoys the show.

     Nuria rides on Tyra’s shoulders, tracing a line across the yardstick held perfectly still by Syl. She finishes tracing and caps the marker. Tyra takes a step back so Nuria can marvel at the grid on the whiteboard. Seven vertical lines intersect another seven horizontal lines, creating forty-nine boxes.

     “Okay, you can put me down now,” Nuria says, but keeps talking as Tyra does so. “T, Syl, I need you guys to take the spare brown and green markers and draw trees of varying length. Just make sure that the vertical aisles all hold 3 each, save for the middle three. In fact, I’ll do those myself. Syl, handle the ones on the left. T, you cover my right.”

     Nuria lets her assistants do what they will while using the center aisle to house the tallest trees. On her tiptoes, she manages to reach the very top/bottom of the fifth/sixth box. She might have hopped a little. For the other two boxes she makes them smaller the farther from the center they are. The green marker is used to make imitation branches in the shape of upside down Vs.

     “So, what’s the purpose of this again?” Carnya asks. An empty bowl rests on the desk beside her, a different bowl- this one full of cherries- on her lap in its place.

     “I can’t learn to fly by just muscling it. By using this grid, I plan to better my ability to move in the air. It’s only two-dimensional at the moment, but I can’t risk jumping to 3-D before I’m ready. Stark told me to at least let my current bruises heal before more flight tests.” Most bruises reside on her arms, though a couple litter her cheek, all the size of a ten-year old’s fist. Slim bandages cover cuts on her elbows, fingers and one on the bridge of her nose.

     “Are you sure it’ll work?” Syl repeats the question for Carnya who originally asked around a mouthful.

     “Absolutely. I have this diving technique I perfected using this method. It started like this, too.” Nuria uncaps the brown marker and moves to the left end of the board. She draws dashes in a diagonal ascending line. Underneath, she adds an arrow by the highest dash. “This is where I’ll end up after a running start. The second my body starts to lower to the ground my wings will unfurl from…inside me. Still getting used to that fact.”

     “They have to stay inside. Helps conserve one’s strength,” Tyra says. “Only someone whose inherited absurdly powerful genes can stay transformed 24/7.”

     “But I’m a…you know,” Nuria hedges. “Shouldn’t my genes be powerful by default.”

     “Not necessarily. I’m a…you know, and even I have my limits,” Tyra says quietly.

     “No need to be so secretive,” Carnya says, holding up a handful of cherries. “Syl told me about the fire. Did some digging in the library and not many birds associated with fire. So, what are you exactly?”

     Nuria gives Syl a cross look. “Sorry,” he says, “but it felt wrong to leave her out of the loop. I didn’t tell anyone else, though.”

     “Still maifing oder herrre,” Carnya says, choking on the cherries by the end. Tyra smacks the top of her back and the cherries drop to the floor in one mangled mass. “Thank you,” she says around deep breaths.

     “I can tell you, but this has to stay between the four of us, okay?” Nuria says. She continues after Syl and Carnya nod. “I didn’t know what I was until the night of the fire. The way I discovered it…it wasn’t ideal. I freaked out and lost control of myself briefly. Which is why I’m training so hard to get this under control. I don’t want to lose my mind like that again.”

     Nuria turns and finds Tyra eyeing her suspiciously. She nods minutely before addressing the others again. “I’m a…phoenix.” She sucks in a sharp breath. “There, I actually said it. By Drijad, that was hard.”

     “What’s a phoenix?” Syl and Carnya chime simultaneously.

     “A firebird,” Nuria answers swiftly.

     “Ah,” Carnya says. “That’s why your fire powers are so strong.”

     “Sounds awesome,” Syl comments.

     Nuria smiles somberly as the enthusiastic interviewers turn to Tyra. That’s highly unlikely, since my normal flames seem to trigger differently. Besides, I’d bet anything those golden flames are the true connection. Wonder when I’ll be able to summon them again.

     “Nuria, help us out here,” Carnya pleads. “You clearly know what Tyra is. Tell us!”

     “Oh, I, uh…well, I promised not to tell. And unlike some people, I keep my promises.” She gives Syl a pointed stare.

     “I’ll keep this one, though,” Syl argues. “But out of curiosity, who else knows you’re a phoenix?”

     “Both Zathony and Marmagar, all of you, the headmaster, and of course, my brother.”

     “Is he one, too?” Carnya asks.

     Disguise the truth.

     “He’s something just as awesome,” Nuria declares.

     “Awesome enough to win his little competition today?”

     “Possibly, but I don’t think he should underestimate Shuri,” Nuria replies. “He’s really good, plus he has two swords.”

     “Who would you cheer on if you were there?” Carnya prods, her bowl of cherries long forgotten.


     “Not your boyfriend?”

     “I’m too young and too focused for a boyfriend. Phoenix training comes first. Speaking of which, let’s continue.”

     Nuria taps the back of the marker against the arrow. “This is my running start launch.” She moves to the next aisle to the right and draws two descending dashes, circling the lowest one. “This is where my wings will unfurl. Unfortunately, I still can’t fly on the strength of my wings alone. I have to use flames beneath my feet to handle sharp turns. Look.”

     Nuria sketches two stick figures with wings next to the circled dash, but she adds orange flames beneath one of them. She backs up and tosses the brown marker at the fourth box from the bottom in the middle aisle. She catches it midair and draws flight paths for the stick figures. The line leading from the flameless stick figure follows a wide curving path to the dot. The line leading from the fiery stick figure takes two sharp turns that form a right angle, cutting through several trees in the grid. She makes certain all brown lines are broken around the grid lines.

     “By using this grid, I plan to be ready for flight in several conditions. That way I’ll always know when and when not to use my flames for flight. Between now and then, it’ll just help to learn to grid space while in the air.”

     “Well, well, this isn’t half bad,” Zathony’s baritone voice floating into the room before the students spot him in the doorway.

     “Thank you,” Nuria says in a mumble.

     “Anyway, I’m here to ask you all for your votes. Today’s the deadline. Tyra, I expected you to be more on top of things.”

     “Sorry, professor, we were–”

     Zathony silences her with a raised hand. “Relax. I just need everyone to scribble a name on these slips of paper. The only rule is that it has to be the name of someone in this room.”

     “What’s this for?” Nuria asks, taking the last slit of paper.

     “If you didn’t develop the habit of sleeping in class you’d know. Write a name, please.”

     Nuria quickly scribbles one, but pauses before handing it to Zathony. She signed the same name last time he gave them slips of paper. She looks as Carnya and Syl fill out theirs without hesitation and gets an idea. She crosses out her original entry and carefully signs the other side of the paper, wanting Zathony to be able to clearly read her “maladroit penmanship” as he put it last time.

     She watches the professor’s expression closely as he reads her vote, but he doesn’t even flinch, passing over as he reads the two after it. She blinks when he moves to the board and erases the inside of the box where Nuria’s two stick figures stand. She starts to pout until she reads what he replaces it with:

Nuria: III

Zathony: I

     “Congratulations, Nuria,” he says plainly.

     Nuria sniggers and says, “Always nice to come out on top, especially against–”

     Professor Zathony silences her with the same gesture he used on Tyra, with a glare thrown into the mix. “Yes, you have bested me. Save the bluster. And since I have you awake, allow me to reiterate what your classmates already know of this vote. It was to determine the Vanusi class’s representative for the upcoming Freshman Derby, the academy’s annual event to fully indoctrinate new students to life here. It’s a time-honored tradition. And given how you chose Vanusi class at the behest of our dear headmaster, plus receiving the unanimous support of your peers, refusal would be to spit in their faces. On the other hand, all of your extra free time will need to be spent learning to play the game. Vanusi class hasn’t won in three years and I don’t want there to be a fourth. The reigning champ from those three years is the S’nue team. And from what I hear, you may want to stop them just as much.”

     “Any why’s that?” is Nuria’s only response. The rest of the speech forced shame and fury beneath the surface of her mind, and she knows if she snaps now that her battle for self-control will only become that much greater to overcome. She defeats herself to lose to him, but deep down is aware he’d have won regardless. Her sleeping during class has been enough disrespect for him. She wants to make amends.

     “Alcott is the co-captain of the S’nue team.” He says with a cocky grin.

     How does he know about me and her? Did Stark tell him? I get the feeling he planned that speech, but he’d have to know the others would vote for me. Either he’s a diabolical genius or a diabolical genius, though for the latter, only if he’s doing it for himself. Can’t be the teacher of a band of pathetic losers, I figure.

     Nuria smiles and says, “It’s a Freshman Derby, right? That means I wouldn’t beat her. However, I do have one question.”

     “You know my rule. If you have a question, just ask it,” Zathony says, crossing his arms.

     “Who’s the Ohaida representative?”

     Zathony lifts his wrist and checks his watch. “Professor Tameri and her class should be returning any minute. Go and ask them who they chose.”

     Nuria’s out the door in the next second.


     The one-way lane to the academy is a blessing. The solitude it affords, with the aid of the heart trees that grow around the campus, eases Tameri’s suffering. No prying eyes can see the low spirits and demure and deflated enthusiasm. The only freshman behind her still holding his weapon is Aven, wisely pointing the blade of his scythe away from his neck in case of bumps in the road.

     Tameri uses the rearview mirror to mine their expressions and postures for what they’re feeling. Given the intensity of today’s events, she figures it won’t be hard. Aven is the first in her hunt, him being the closest. There’s swelling in the corner between his chin and jaw, marked by similar bruises on his forearms. From what Pan described she saw, his back is likely similarly sore. He looks less afraid and more…ashamed. The fire in his eyes tells her he wished he’d been capable of more. That he should’ve been.

     Roy’s easy to pinpoint. He was the sole one out of the five uninvolved in the attack. He chose to stay outside when he saw the fire and there he waited until the fire trucks arrived. He’s at a loss of words to say, his head swiveling as he turns from one classmate to the next. Life unmarred by tragedy is one that cannot fathom life with such events. Close as he was to the events, he wasn’t privy to their fear. He’ll be alienated by the others in slow and gradual degrees if he tries to press into them for details.

     In Pan’s sapphire eyes, sore from too many tears, telegraph banked anger. It’d arose after Tameri informed them all to call their parents or guardians. None but Pan and Shuri obeyed, neither one happy to do so. Pan spoke with her father, whom after grilled her about not stealing promptly hung up. She cried for almost ten minutes after that and has been silent since.

     Shuri was more of the same, though his talk with Headmaster Neth hadn’t been quite so abrupt or harsh. The headmaster spoke softly and warmly, easing most of Shuri’s dread around what transpired. It was the fact he had to turn over his camera to Stark and Sheriff Will which fuels his somber mood. And it bugs Tameri as well. The only good to come from today’s competition was their group photo. Between the attack and their quiet drive, it was the only time they’ve all smiled.

     Tameri looks to Rum, the young Ohaida sitting directly behind Pan, still insistent on having her back. She ignores the surface thoughts of his mind, knowing he’s glad his classmates are safe. The intensely private young man betrays nothing of how he feels about taking the axe-wielder’s life. She narrows her eyes, concerned. Whatever he hides now will likely never reach her ears.

     She nearly flinches when he meets her gaze in the mirror’s reflection. Tameri darts her eyes away, guilty for prying into his brood, but not before realizing the unguarded look on his face when he noticed her.

     He believes I glimpsed his thoughts. Should I tell him otherwise? Would he believe me? Will he confess all if he believes I know?

     She puts the bus in park and looks beyond the hood. Stark pulls further into the campus and stops to Tameri’s left.

     No, she thinks.

     He will confide in another.

     Nuria races up beside the headmaster in the courtyard. Her energy surges as she bounces from foot to foot, her smile soothing Tameri’s soul, as she hopes it’ll do for Rum. She watches her class depart the bus with Rum bringing up the rear. She has one more thought before following.

     Whatever is on Aurum’s mind is so great that he hasn’t noticed he went the entire trip back without puking once.


     “What do you mean by “healed me”?” Nuria asked, pulling off more hair from her shoulders, and a few strands from her exposed collarbone. That, however, is the only skin untouched by blood and bruises. She licked some that spilled from her busted lip, then spat venomously to the ground.

     “I did it before,” Tyra said. “The night you were attacked.” The angel shuddered, remembering the night of her friend bleeding to death beneath her. “It’s one of my unique abilities.”

     “Why’d you use it in front of that woman, then?” Nuria asked after allowing Tyra to heal her cuts, contusions, and bruises, recognizing the light as what she thought was a flashlight at the time. It took three tries as Nuria fought the heat flowing into her flesh to stitch and repair her body.

     “You must be willing to accept the gift. It went better last time because you were near unconsciousness,” Tyra explained during the process. “Your life was in danger. I couldn’t risk waiting, even at the expense of exposing myself.”

     “Well,” Nuria said, “thank you again for that. One day you’ll have to tell me how you beat her. Stark wouldn’t budge and plus, that bitch had skin hard as steel. One measly finger stronger than my whole fist!” Nuria was fuming then.

     “We might have to go to the gym for that. You a fan of boxing?”

     “No!” Rum tells Nuria. “Just let it go,’ he finishes in a sharp whisper as he pulls out his case from underneath the bus.

     Nuria follows behind him and they stop beside the rest of his classmates, though Shuri stands apart with Professor Tameri, Stark and Headmaster Neth. She shoots Shuri a sympathetic gaze even though he doesn’t see, his group whispering intensely as Rum did to her. Shuri’s cast seizes her attention on occasion.

     When the Ohaida class had first appeared, Nuria attributed their wounds to them taking their contest too far. Shuri had given her a swift summary before joining the adults’ conversation. She whirled and coaxed as much as she could from her brother. She seethed when he refused to tell her anything more detailed.

     Nuria’s coming to despise secrets. She’d collected and had many betrayed her since coming to Four Hearts Academy. Back home, she and Rum and their mother kept nothing from each other. She now knows that was a lie, but that only reflected on her relationship with her mother. She and Rum never lied to one another. She relaxes when she assures herself Rum will talk to her once he’s calmed down. She remembers fondly he gave her space to reach out when she chose. He’d threatened to tell their mother otherwise, but she knew that for the bluff it was.

     Nuria smiles, thinking, Maybe he’ll talk if I do the same thing to him? I’ll wait till after I get them all in better shape. Sorry, Tyra.

     Nuria cuts through the Ohaida freshman and brazenly interrupts the hushed conversation.

     “Nuria, do you mind stepping back to the others?” Neth asks.

     “I have an idea to help, but it has to happen in private. Can you take these guys to your office? I’ll meet you there in ten minutes,” Nuria replies.

     “What idea?”

     “Just trust me,” she says then adds, “I won’t be joining you there alone.” She gives him a pointed look and smiles when he nods, understanding instantly.

     “Make haste,” Neth orders.

     Nuria turns and runs off, ignoring the quizzical and astonished expressions on Shuri and Tameri’s faces respectively.


     Tyra says, “I’m not so sure, Nuria,” as she steps through the door Nuria holds open. “My mom will get mad if I expose myself any more than I’ve already done.”

     “Then she shouldn’t have sent you all the way out here to school,” Nuria counters. “And my mother shouldn’t have either. Can’t make friends if I’m always holding back because of silly rules. You and I are friends because we decided to follow our own. So, I say we keep that going. Our lives, our choices.”

     Tyra follows after Nuria, suddenly both envious and awed by her attitude. She sees the fearlessness of the young phoenix, even in the face of consequences she isn’t even aware of. In fact, not even the headmaster is cognizant of what could happen due to her attendance. The same attendance that wasn’t approved of by her mother. She wants nothing more than to be as fearless, but leaving home was her limit. Betraying her identity to anyone, especially the woman who attacked Nuria- which was necessary to save a life- wrenches the knife deeper in her gut.

     Her mother always says that the ability to lie exists within a dam in every person’s mind. Each lie forms a crack in the dam, making it easier for the next one to escape. The larger the lie, the larger the crack. She also says that secrets are only temporary patches and that sooner or later the truth erupts. The resulting flood represents the guilt one feels for having kept the secret, the lies to guard it, and for the pain it eventually causes others.

     Tyra shares the theory to Nuria and says, “Is that why you did this? To stem our floods?”

     “Yeah,” Nuria admits somberly. “I don’t like keeping secrets. That’s not to say I’m doing this to out ourselves entirely. It’s simply us dipping our toes in. We don’t have to tell them I’m a phoenix or that you’re an angel. We’re going in there to reveal that we were also attacked and that you can heal them. If we don’t emphasize your power beyond that, they’ll think it a normal ability. I mean, Rum can use lightning and Shuri can ride the wind. Yours will seem tame in comparison.”

     Tyra remains silent as they climb the steps. I can’t really say no. Nuria’s asking not only to help her brother and his classmates, but to alleviate our own stress. By my own rule, I should oblige. I should be happy to do so. So, why aren’t I?


     The angel blinks, pauses and stares at Nuria. She instantly recognizes the question blazing in her snowy eyes. “Yes, I’m still in.”

     Nuria smiles and says, “Then brace yourself. We’re here.”

     Tyra squares her shoulders, hardens her gaze, and strides surely and confidently into the foyer. She keeps to her own pace as Nuria races to Shuri and the others, Rum the only freshman absent.

     “Where’s Rum?” Nuria asks.

     Shuri points to the office door across the hall. “He’s still inside with Tameri, Stark, and the headmaster. They’ve been in there since we all arrived.”

     As they continue to talk with Pan adding in comments of her own, Tyra witnesses the bond of the Ohaida class blazing all around her, the brilliant glow flowing off their bodies. Streaks of crimson light peel off their persons as well, but only a trained eye could spot them amidst the alabaster rays.

     When Nuria turns to Tyra with a grin, a blinding alabaster light scorches her soul. She turns down her sensitivity to emotion and the light in the room fades in time for her to see Nuria’s beckoning nod.

     Tyra takes one second to reflect on the warmth she just felt from them all. Not only did they stay here to wait for Rum, but they’re happy to do so, injuries and all. Whatever they experienced today has undoubtedly brought them together, no second thoughts nor doubts remaining. She’s never felt such warmth in the presence of anyone. Not until now. Nuria’s one smile showered her with more love and adoration than anyone else. Well, almost anyone else.

     “I have to tell you all something,” Tyra announces. “I’m an angel,” she says after a deep breath.

     Roy and Pan ask, “What’s that?”

     Tyra turns to Nuria and replenishes her courage through the young lady’s smile. “A creature with the ability to heal wounds. Nuria came to me and asked me to use my powers on you. That’s why I’m here.”

     “And just for full disclosure- I’m a phoenix,” Nuria states, then hastily adds, “Which is basically a firebird.”

     There’s that fearlessness. I didn’t give her any warning I would out myelf after all, but she joined me without hesitation.

     Roy and Pan repeat their earlier response while at the same time Shuri says, “Seriously?”

     Tyra turns and sees Aven’s expression to be more piercing now, aimed at her and Nuria. She nervously taps into her senses and finds only an alabaster glow around him, though flecks of crimson twinkle in his eyes.

     He knows more of what we are than the others. And…he’s impressed. And if I’m not mistaken, I see

     The door to the headmaster’s office opens. Rum leads the procession out with the headmaster himself bringing up the rear. Tyra whirls to face them, both hands covering a series of fake coughs to shield reddened cheeks from view.

     “Good of you to come, Tyra. But are you sure about this? Nobody’s forcing you to do this,” Headmaster Neth says.

     “It’s fine, sir. I’m happy to help,” she says. “If it’s okay, I’ll start with Rum.”

     “What are you going to do?” Rum asks nervously.

     Tyra explains the details of her powers to Rum while the others listen intently. Nuria adds that Tyra’s powers were an instrumental part of how she survived her coma at the start of the year. She then says, “We gotta take the stitches out first, bro,” Nuria says. “Tyra will handle the rest.”

     Professor Tameri states, “Then perhaps the infirmary is be–”

     Rum strips off his jacket, raises his arm and bites down on the wire. He yanks with one hard motion and rips the wire clean from his flesh. He groans as he holds his arm together, careful to only allow blood to drip onto his jacket and not directly to the carpet. Tyra hesitates only briefly to blink at his intensity.

     “By Drijad, you and Nuria are both reckless about pain!”

     Tyra’s hands hum and pulsate alabaster light, appearing as if she were wearing glittery white gloves. She clamps them over his bleeding arm. The light seeps into the contours of the gash. The tear in Rum’s flesh shrinks until the light compresses into a thin line before vanishing.

     Rum raises his hand for all to see, flexing his muscles and punching the air. He grins. “It’s like the cut never happened. I don’t even feel phantom pain.”

     Tyra wipes sweat from her brow and looks up. “Who’s next?” She whirls on the other Ohaida freshman- she forgot to dull her senses- and is blinded all over again.


     Night washes over the campus, a blanket sprinkled by the lights across the courtyard and beyond by lampposts. The sole location not directly illuminated is the flagpole atop the administrative building, as well as the young man seated against it. He fidgets and twists and turns, unable to calm his mind and body to a standstill. Meditation escapes him and he finally gives up on it.

     His hands are empty and void of any purpose. The weight, or lack thereof, of his back half- maybe less- than what it usually is. He could ignore his back if his hands were full, and he could pay no mind to his hands if his back felt normal. Today, the tragic events that occurred, would be manageable if it didn’t cost him access to his outlets.

     He fell in love with photography the year before he bonded with his twin swords. He knew his grandfather hoped it would stanch his desire to try to experience Bond of the Blade. The camera he uses belonged to his father, now deceased thirteen years, going on fourteen. It’s the only memento Shuri was given from his parents. His grandfather says all photos of his parents burned in the fire that ended their lives. He was in his grandfather’s care that night, sparing both of them grim fates. Shuri’s life was not forfeited and Neth didn’t lose the last of his family.

     Shuri believes the root of his grandfather’s overprotective nature comes from the night of that fire, but doesn’t understand his aversion to Ohaida culture when he and Professor Tameri are as close as they are. He was amazed, however, by how calm Neth was when she explained the attack on Jojen’s Dojo. It didn’t last long and Shuri scowls. As soon as his wrist was healed and the others had all vacated, his twin swords were confiscated, and Neth will only release them for class if Tameri deems it absolutely necessary.

     Shuri wishes he’d been left the scabbards so as to feign he had his swords on hand. Without his swords and camera- which Stark has to examine as evidence- his tried and true hobbies are forfeit. He’s had little time and chance to focus on others. He wipes away the tear as it forms, finally painfully aware of how empty his life’s been until now. Two avenues of activity have been taken from him and he can’t seem to function.

     Damn you, gr

     His morose thought is shattered by a sudden scream, but the end is choked off, as if the person responsible regretted the sound escaped their lungs in the first place. Shuri peeks over the edge and his eyes widen.


     The young phoenix dangles by her fingers on a ledge some ten feet beneath the roof, backlit by the lampposts illuminating the stairs leading into the building proper. She looks up and smiles, despite the sweat dripping between her lips as she heaves deeply.

     “Could use…a hand, or…perhaps a…sword,” she says between heaves.

     His anger rises and infuses into his facial muscles before he has time to calm himself. Not only does he not have his weapons, but to rescue Nuria, he has to use the power he boasted to his grandfather he wouldn’t need to anymore, and now he has to use it for the second time within as many hours.

     He steps out onto a dense plate of swirling air, then lowers to Nuria’s left. “And what, pray tell, did you do to get into this mess?”

     “I promise to…tell you…if you promise…not…to tell anyone else.”

     “Fine, but after I get you on solid ground. Now, I can’t make this plate any wider, so you’ll have to–”

     Nuria swings out with her legs and locks them and her arms around Shuri’s body. She hides her bashful expression by burying her head into his shoulder, providing him the same shield for his flushed cheeks. They end their embrace soon as Shuri’s feet touch the roof.

     “Thanks for the save,” Nuria says after a dozen deep breaths. “Turns out my wings aren’t so powerful at night. They went back inside me before I could reach the top. Can’t believe I screamed. I never scream when I’m falling.”

     “Do you fall…a lot?”

     With a laugh, Nuria says, “More than you know.” She takes a seat against the flagpole.

     Shuri joins her there and when he faces her, he sees her gaze fixed on the stars above. He looks her up and down and she’s not tapping any part of her body, and she’s not singing or humming. Unlike himself, her favorite hobbies include only her body. He figures the reason she isn’t is the same as his. They don’t have any serenity or peace of mind to enjoy them.

     Before he can reignite their dialogue, Nuria says to him, “My brother’s being cagey about what happened. And honestly, I wish he stays that way. If he doesn’t confess to whatever he did, I can keep the image in my head that Stark or Professor Tameri or that Jojen guy were the ones who…you know.”

     Shuri wants to protest, to share his praises of what Rum did to save them all, but he respects that she fears for her brother’s soul. Even at the cost of losing her singing voice. He hopes it’s only for the night. He’s come to enjoy her humming. It helps him get into the right mind for meditation, but he refuses to ask her to do so for his sake. So, he decides to say, “Just thank Drijad that we were lucky today. Because we were. And we all know that.”

     The second she smirks he finds himself doing the same. In fact, looking at her smile reminds him of a question he had earlier.

     “Why’d you meet us out front? Not that I’m complaining.” He wiggles his cast-free wrist. “You seemed excited about something.”

     “Oh, I was chosen as the Vanusi representative for this so-called Freshman Derby. Although, it’s going to cut into my phoenix training.” She groans as she lowers her head. “I was coming to see who your class chose.”

     Shuri grins again, though not entirely out of joy. Like her, his training has been interrupted, and given who runs the school, he has an idea of how he was chosen. He voices it for Nuria.

     “It’s yours truly.”

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