Nuria slaps her cheeks the second she finally sits up, canceling her paralyzing inner monologue thinking about the fun Tyra and her other former classmates likely had last night. I’ve said my piece, so it’s time to move on. I’m an Ibri student now and class starts today. Today is Cylle 11th, and it’s a brand-new school year! Gotta make the best of it!
The young phoenix hurries and prepares for her day, stripping out of her overly large yellow t-shirt and brown sweatpants, showering, brushing her teeth, and drying her hair in a sphere of humid air she generates with her hands. She steals from her wardrobe a red t-shirt with a 3×3 box grid, numbers 1-9 in each of the boxes, a pair of black jeans shorts, and black sneakers sporting red lightning bolts on the sides. Her mother originally bought the outfit for Rum a couple of years ago, expecting him to outgrow his old ones. When he didn’t and Nuria grew taller over the summer, she gave it to the phoenix instead. The shoes Nuria bought to go with the ensemble afterward.
Still feels weird to be taller than my older brother, though.
Nuria grabs a three-subject notebook she got from the library store and a collection of pens and pencils in a coffee mug. She heads downstairs while humming the same bar of music over and over.
“Good morning,” Nuria greets in a singsong voice.
“Ah.” Reddic turns away from the blackboard, his jocund smile stealing Nuria’s attention away from his different colored eyes. “Sounds like you’re in a fantastic mood. Did you and your friend make up?”
“Nope,” Nuria says, mimicking his grin, “but I’m not here for her, anyway.” Nuria takes a seat at the desk in the front row directly opposite Reddic. “Never was.”
Reddic hums thoughtfully. “A story I’d enjoy hearing one day. The reason you’re here, I mean. In the meantime, I have a fun lesson planned for today.”
“Hit me with the instructions, Professor Reddic,” Nuria says, enthused even more that he didn’t ask for more details about her talk with Tyra. She’s expelled that foulness from her mind and doesn’t want to invite it back in.
“Please, Reddic is just fine, but if you need formality, then “sir” is acceptable.”
“If you’re fine with Reddic, then so am I.”
“Excellent. Now, I do apologize for not having a syllabus handy, however, there is a good reason for that. First off, we will only have classes four days a week. Acro, Anati, Motte, and Didaska will be class days. Tapho and Basi will be the days we relax. Secondly, every day will have core subjects combined with vocabulary. Today, just to give you an example, we’ll be combining vocabulary with chemistry, mathematics, and biology. So, if you’d please, grab from the bookshelf a dictionary and the textbooks “Bunsen Beakers”, “You Have To Be Odd To Be Number One”, and “Finding Porpoise”.”
As Nuria does as asked, she’s forced to say, “Who named these things?”
“Now, now, “Bunsen Beakers” could be worse.”
“It could still be better.” Nuria pushes her pencil mug to the edge of the desk to make room for the stack of textbooks. She cracks open her three-subject notebook and labels the sections for the three topics Reddic announced. She makes a mental note to secure more notebooks later.
“So, this is how today will go. I will write a word on the board pertaining to the subject we cover, you will look it up in the dictionary and recite its definition, and from there we will launch into the lesson. Got it?”
“Yes, sir,” Nuria says with a nod.
“Then let’s begin.” Reddic scribbles the first word with equally impressive celerity and penmanship.
Nuria quietly reads the letters aloud, “R-e-a-c–” She races to the back half of the dictionary and pauses to raise her hand.
“What if it has more than one definition?”
“Then read them all.”
“Reaction- an action performed or a feeling experienced in response to a situation or event; a person’s ability to respond physically and mentally to external stimuli; an adverse physiological response to a substance that has been breathed in, ingested, or touched; a chemical process in which two or more substances act mutually on each other and are changed into different substances, or one substance changes into two or more other substances; an analogous transformation–”
“Wait! Repeat the last one you finished,” Reddic orders.
“A chemical process in which two or more substances act mutually on each other and are changed into different substances, or one substance changes into two or more other substances.”
“We’ll be covering basic chemical reactions today, mainly those having to deal with natural elements and compounds. Turn to page thirty-three.”
Nuria cracks open the cover of “Bunsen Beakers”, leaving behind the cartoon beaker sweating over a Bunsen burner to find the periodic table containing all 119 elements, from hydrogen (H) to chalymus (CH).
“What is element number eight?”
“And oxygen is part of two very common natural compounds. Now, you’re an Ibri blessed with pyromancy, the ability to conjure and manipulate fire and heat. The way you produce flames is a different kind of reaction inside your body, but perhaps you can explain how oxygen can help generate fire.”
“Oh, yeah,” Nuria boasts. “My mom made sure I was aware in case I ever needed to put out a fire.”
Reddic laughs. “Add that story to the queue.”
“Fire can’t exist without oxygen. It fuels it. Using light and heat, preferably supplying the latter through friction, in combination with a dry material like a log, can produce fire. Extinguishing fire means to cut it off from oxygen or heat, using dirt, water, suffocating it with a blanket, or even with a fire extinguisher. Also, and I swear this isn’t a story, but dryer lint can also catch fire.”
“What if I match the stories in the queue with my own?”
“Three it is,” Nuria snaps quickly.
This time when Reddic laughs, Nuria joins him. Afterward, they continue the chemistry lesson, moving on from fire to water. Reddic draws the diagram of H2O on the blackboard and explains to Nuria how atoms of elements bond to form compounds. He nails the point home with NaCl and CO2, explaining them as salt and carbonated beverages respectively. He provides applause when Nuria clarifies that CO2 is also a component in fire extinguishers.
Nuria flips to the second section of her notebook while Reddic clears the board for their mathematics hour. He writes “palindrome” this time around.
Nuria scribbles the definition as she recites it, the same as she did for reaction. “Palindrome- a word, phrase, sequence, or number that reads the same backward as forward, e.g. racecar or eye.”
“I’ve always appreciated palindromes. Perfectly balanced. The only Avinian creation to be so, in fact.”
“What about music?” Nuria asks with a single lifted brow.
“Too many genres and styles for it to be perfectly balanced, but that vast diversity is what makes music incredible. I take it you’re quite the connoisseur of music?”
“Nah,” Nuria admits. “I have a pretty limited taste to a few groups and artists.”
“I see. Oh, in the spirit of your vocab lessons, try saying “niche” or “discerning” next time you explain that to someone. I guarantee it’ll elevate your status in their eyes.”
“You got it,” Nuria says with a smirk.
They swiftly return to the lesson, Reddic helping Nuria learn how to solve algebraic equations. She gets the hang of it quickly, the basic idea being to determine the variable’s numerical value(s). Even when Reddic gives her trickier equations, such as 3x – 3y = 51, Nuria proves equal to the challenge by answering x = 8 and y = -9.
Lastly, they transition to biology as planned. The word Reddic writes down is “evolution”.
“Evolution- the process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of Avinia; the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form; the giving off –”
“That’s good,” Reddic says. “The first two are what we’ll focus on for this hour. Admittedly, this will involve a bit of history we’ll cover after our break tomorrow. There are no species immune to evolution, including Avinians ourselves. I’ll give you one guess as to how.”
“Ibri?” Nuria asks nervously, flinching when Reddic bursts out laughing.
“Do not feel discouraged, Nuria,” he says, salvaging her plummeting confidence. “Yes. Ibri is the correct answer. Do not think lowly of our kind. Others already do so; we can not add to that burden with our self-perception. Never forget that, Nuria.”
Nuria smirks wide, all her teeth showing. “I’m all in remember? Never forgetting is kind of a given.”
“Excellent. Now, let’s close out this last subject and grab some grub. I hope you didn’t make plans for lunch. I’m gonna cook us a nice meal upstairs.”
Nuria’s stomach growls straight away. “Great, now I’ll have to swallow my saliva all hour in anticipation.”
Reddic puts a thumb to his chin, eyeing Nuria with a playful expression. “And what if I say we can stop now?”
Nuria almost jumps on the opportunity, but she remembers why she joined Ibri House in the first place. Not to mention she planned to stick to the lesson plans more respectfully this year. It was an attitude she held for Professors Zathony and Marmagar’s time, but she resolves that she should afford that same respect to Reddic, also. Nuria slides back into her seat and places her thumb on the cover of “Finding Porpoise”. “What page are we turning to first?”
Reddic’s jocund smile is blinding. “Excellent!”