The radio station loves above all others, 82.2 Diamond Rave, has a dedicated Basi night playlist. She knows the playlist by heart, and even though the order is always expertly mixed by hosts Q-Tune and Marble, she sometimes tries her hand at it in her head. Of all the songs by The Four Feathermen (TFF), she has a solid mashup of the songs called “Blue Tickets”, “Hot Pink Promise”, “White & Peanut”, and “Celebration Black”.
Taking a break, some time, hitting pause
loosing my heart, a smile to tear down walls
Blue ticket in hand
front row for the band
these guys for their eyes are infamous
making girls drop that hot pink promise
Forget the master, the mistress, all of the above
the only one to matter is the one that I love
The young lady recites those three verses on repeat to herself while waiting in the foyer outside of Headmaster Neth’s office. She’s been in the same cross-legged position since Reddic ventured inside for permission for the two of them to peruse the archives. Whatever they’ve been discussing, it’s given Nuria enough time to reflect on her performance to grab Reddic’s tail. He said he’d learned that she wasn’t aware of all her strengths as a phoenix. She never thought that, but she suspected it was just her golden flames, which she has not learned how to consciously summon, even after her intensive spring training regimen. The way Reddic spoke sure surely leads Nuria to believe it’s not just that after all. And since she’s fairly sure he’s not a killer, he wasn’t referring to her ability to revive.
Or is it more like a reincarnation thing?
“I apologize for making you wait,” the headmaster says, leading both Reddic and Stark out of the office. “Stark and I were in the middle of a meeting when you both arrived.”
Nuria shrugs as she rises. “No prob–” She nearly falls, her legs numb from sitting so long, but with his preternatural celerity, Reddic saves her from a face plant. “Thanks. Guess I’m still a little fatigued.” She turns to address the headmaster and catches a cross expression aimed at Reddic’s back.
Wait, is he mad? What went down in there?
Nuria blinks when Neth approaches, not bothering to fix his face until right in front of her.
“I owe you an apology for last year,” Neth says.
“What do you mean?” Nuria asks nervously.
“I told you last year to explore your Vanusi heritage. However, upon the terrible way in which it was discovered you were a phoenix, I felt it best not to overwhelm you with any other knowledge until you’d had more time to digest what you’d already read.”
When he pauses, Nuria learns it’s her turn to speak with a nod from Stark. “Are you saying that there’s information on phoenixes in the archives?”
“Not exactly,” Neth states. “Halko’s Notes are the only reputable records of the species. The archives here will present you with a different perspective. While I do agree with Reddic’s argument that it will be beneficial for you to learn, I want to urge you to take this slowly, Nuria.”
His expression now makes sense as Nuria picks up on the underlying message. The phoenix grins and flicks her fingers forward. “Oh, I gotcha. And don’t worry, I’ve learned from last year.” She and Reddic exchange a pair of knowing looks. “Losing control is the last thing I want to have happen again. It’s why I chose to join Ibri house. But, since I know how important the archives are, I only intend to peruse one of the journals. Which is the one you most recommend?”
“What do you think, Reddic?” Neth turns the inquiry over to him.
“If only one, then just the first shall do for today,” Reddic replies.
“Very well.” Neth digs into his pockets to unveil a sticky note pad and a large key with emerald paint in the grooves of the teeth. He tears off the top sticky note and hands it to Nuria, bequeathing the key to Reddic. “You may be on your way now. Best of luck, Nuria.”
“Thank you,” Nuria says, then turns to depart after Reddic. However, something in Neth’s tone throughout the conversation didn’t sound right. “Oh!” Nuria exclaims, whirling quickly and catching the same cross look on Neth’s face yet again. “Stark should come, too. I don’t plan to go past my one journal limit, but having her water powers present is a solid backup plan.”
Nuria narrows her eyes when Stark and Neth exchange knowing looks of their own. She peers at Reddic through her periphery and can identify the lively energy in his eyes is gone as he watches them, too.
Oh yeah, something definitely went down in there.
My powers were a blessing. My parents and I all thought so, especially since neither of them inherited any from their parents. It turned out that my family tree on my mother’s side was notorious for producing powerless offspring. Okay, I apologize for the phrasing of that, but it stays in. I want these journals to possess my thoughts with complete transparency. And to that end, I just have to say that learning I was a phoenix BLEW MY MIND! At least, once I learned the truth of the gravity of such…well, power isn’t the right word. It may sound self-aggrandizing, but status is fitting. For you see, Vanusi are placed into specific echelons, or classes, rather. Phoenixes are but one species that belong to what’s known as the Hero’s class.
It took me years to discover that, but I do plan to pen down those experiences, but allow me some creative narrative license to build up to that. That’s a phrase Roman loves to throw out, him being a writer and all. He’d love nothing more than to edit these. But back to the topic at hand. Depending on the order in which you’re reading these, you may or may not know that us Founding Four all met in a juvenile detention center.
Nuria laughs as she recalls the antics detailed in that particular journal. When Stark grabs her attention by clearing her throat, the young lady blinks and yelps to realize she’s standing and reaching for a second journal. She professes her innocence with a hand behind her head and tongue poked out. “My bad.” Nuria sits and resumes her required reading.
If you haven’t read that story yet, the original sentencing we all received was two years. When Roman, Talas, and I were released in half that time, it was on the condition that we work community service as field workers for this man named Jetes. When Keria joined us after her full sentence, and he saw how the two of us interacted, he called us Hot Kollars with a “K” since both our names start with “K”. Oh, if I haven’t introduced myself yet in this journal, my name is Kirin. I’d say “Nice to meet you”, but…yeah, time defeats everyone. Okay, I have to apologize again. I did not want to derail my momentum like that. Back to the important parts.
When our community service ended, I chose to stay by his side as a field worker. It was thanks to him that my Sudita triggered. And to my surprise, he knew a great deal about phoenix lo–
“Wait!” Nuria snaps loudly. She only now realizes what Neth meant. She goes back to the first paragraph and reads it aloud. “‘And to that end, I just have to say that learning I was a phoenix BLEW MY MIND!’” She applies proper emphasis on the last three words. She whips her head Stark’s direction and says, “Is this true?”
Stark nods. “It is. And I suppose it’s my turn to apologize. During your first coma, Neth instructed me to visit these archives to truly understand what you were. Afterward, I agreed it was best not to overtax your spirit last year.”
Nuria takes a deep breath, her stare sinking to the floor. I can’t blame them. I’m a few paragraphs in and there’s so much I’m unclear on. The biggest concerns on her mind linger on how Kirin’s Sudita triggered, if phoenix Vanusi are rare because it may not be an easy Sudita to experience, and if that “time defeats everyone” line means she managed to die completely. She looks up and shakes her head vehemently. “No apology necessary. You and Headmaster Neth made the right decision.”
“Honestly, I still worry about what reading these will make you think. I haven’t read them all myself, but I don’t want you to spiral if you come across a similar experience detailed inside of these journals.”
“Oh, that’s the other reason I asked you to come along,” Nuria announces. “You’re pretty good at talking me down. And even if you’re not here, I still have Reddic.”
Stark smirks as she steps into the aisle. “How was your first day with him?”
Nuria sniggers and lowers the journal, keeping her place by jamming her thumb between the pages. “He’s pretty cool. I mean, he made vocabulary fun. Vocabulary, Stark! And he loves to teach. I can see why Neth hired him. Plus, he’s a real quick study. He knew to bring me here to advance my phoenix knowledge. Who knows how many of these he’s read?”
“Yeah, that is something,” Stark says, arms crossing.
Stark covers her rigid posture with a grin, but Nuria isn’t buying it. “We all just have different ideas about taking care of you. We’ll figure it out on our own, though. You just do what you need to do. Okay?”
Nuria narrows her eyes. “And what if my idea lines up more with his than yours?”
Stark shrugs. “Then it does.”
Nuria tries to do the energy behind the eyes trick on Stark, but it doesn’t translate well inside of her blue marbles. She blinks then, not sure where the hostility toward Stark came from. She decides to trust the officer and nods at her calmly.
“Get back to reading. I’ll go and check on Reddic and be right back.”
Stark’s vanishing black uniform leaves more room in the aisle for Nuria’s growing anxiety. To keep herself from wallowing in that feeling, she pinches herself on the arm to realign her focus.
And to my surprise, he knew a great deal about phoenix lore. He possessed tomes called Halko’s Notes–
Nuria drops the journal immediately, shakes the embers from her fingertips, takes several deep breaths, then picks it back up. Stay in control, Nuria.
–and while he made sure I never read them directly, he used the knowledge from within them to coach me properly. While Star Derby was forming, so was I. Keria, Talas, and Roman slowly joined our training camp of sorts as their powers awakened, Jetes was a true renaissance man, capable of teaching us all. Once I achieved an adequate handle on flight, he helped me develop another- and my favorite- phoenix power: sonic voice.