The sunlight peering in through the corner windows keeps Nuria bathed in a warm glow. As she circles Reddic, half of her face is always in the sun’s spotlight. She holds his gaze the entire time, but not to discern his mood, but to avoid telegraphing her target. Or…maybe I could be? Yeah, let’s do it!
Nuria runs at him without pausing her circling, almost tripping because of that, but recovers and throws a punch at his face. As expected, he catches her fist in his palm. Nuria grabs hold of his arm and uses it as a fulcrum to swing above him, planting her knees on his shoulders. She leans back to slam him on the floor, however, his firm footing and concrete stance shake her loose.
The phoenix gets back up right away and runs at his back, this time lunging forward with both hands reaching for his tail. She curses when Reddic backflips behind her. Her third charge ends with a barrage of punches.
“No fire? No wings?” Reddic asks as he deflects every punch. “You’re not gonna best me without either.”
Nuria ignores his taunts and keeps her pattern of two right jabs, one left jab, right uppercut, and two more left jabs going until she switches the uppercut over to her left fist. Reddic scrambles to block it, but then Nuria clamps her hand around his wrist instead. She pulls him close and grabs hold of his vest at the same time. He rolls away after Nuria slams him, curling his tail around his leg in the process. He looks up to see Nuria already descending with an axe kick ready. He barely avoids the blow, this time rolling into a defensive crouch.
Nuria decides to keep him guessing by not charging at him immediately again. Instead, she resumes circling him, hoping to conceal her heavy breathing with a mask of intense focus. Reddic mirrors her technique, circling the exercise mat directly opposite her.
“Had you used your powers with that combo, you definitely would’ve had me. You almost had me without them.”
Nuria keeps her mouth shut. Engaging him in chitchat will undo her concentration.
“C’mon. Talk to me,” Reddic pleads. “Silent sparring isn’t any fun. Makes it seem more jovial. Your silent treatment makes this seem too serious. Like an actual fight.”
“No, thanks. I’ve failed this assignment once. Don’t want to do that again.”
“Failed? You threw me outside of the mat,” Reddic says, sounding perplexed.
“Only halfway. I want a definite pass this time!”
Reddic raises a single eyebrow, but his solemn façade breaks when he laughs. “Okay, time out.” He signals the ceasefire with his hands. “This is my fault. First-time teacher problems. Yes, the goal is to knock me off of the mat or grab my tail, but you’re not graded on if you do or not.”
“No. The true objective of this exercise is to judge how well you use your powers. Your flames are very impressive, as is your flight, but I want to help you access your other phoenix powers. That’s what our trip to the archives was for.”
“Oh,” Nuria says. She sighs and finally relaxes her body and spirit.
“I know we were rushed out of there, but did you learn anything new?”
“Not much. There was a mention of something called “sonic voice”, but I got to learn what that was, not how to use it.”
“Then back to vocabulary for a moment. Define sonic voice.”
Nuria takes a second to collect her thoughts. “Okay, um, basically it’s the ability to emit a high-frequency pulse from one’s mouth. Those aren’t the exact words Kirin used, but I wanted to make it sound more definition-y.”
“Sounded pretty official to me,” Reddic says with a smile. “Then sonic voice will be our focus as soon as I come up with a clever way to test it. Until then, we can suspend this exercise.”
“I don’t think so!” Nuria declares, instantly displeased that she wouldn’t be able to prove to herself she can succeed.
“It’s okay, Nuria. We don’t have–”
Nuria shakes her fingers as she says, “Oh, yes, we do! I’m not moving onto anything until I ace this my way! I mean, I’m your only student, so it’s not like we have to rush anything. Let’s just take our time and be…jovial.”
Reddic looks at her with a playful skepticism. “Only if you promise to use one or both of your powers next time.”
“Deal!” Nuria thrusts her hand forward.
“A deal indeed.” Reddic shakes her hand. “However, I am calling it for today.”
“Yeah…I have a few calls to make,” he says, his eyes shifting to the left during his brief pause.
Nuria follows his gaze, but she sees nothing beyond the glass wall.
“So, feel free to do what you please. Will I be seeing you for dinner, or do you have other plans?”
Nuria thinks about grabbing dinner with Rum, but she doesn’t want to third wheel with him and Pan, nor does she wish to see Tyra so soon after their split. “I’ll be back around 5:30. Can’t wait to see what you cook this time!”
The next book Nuria finds on her list has a pile of CDs in the shape of a tidal wave on the cover, the manual itself called “Sound Wave”. She rolls her eyes, but finds it less awful a title as “So Loud It Hertz”. Nor surprisingly, she found nothing in the library system on sonic voice, and any other related searches had to do with music theory and choir orientation. The last desire of Nuria’s is to sing in front of anyone. Inversely, it’s her greatest joy when she’s alone. She loves being able to sing all she wants in Ibri house without facing judgment. She doesn’t know how professional singers do it, but she respects them greatly for it.
Nuria finds an empty classroom after peeking through the narrow window above the doorknob. She slides inside and slams her books on the front desk. She writes S-O-N on the whiteboard when she hears, “And there goes my peaceful solitude.”
“Wait, what?” Nuria spins and frowns. “What are you doing in here?”
Aven turns his head to her, his frown deeper than hers. He lay atop three desks pushed together; his scythe next to him on a parallel setup. “You intruded on my space, so you should offer the reason behind your trespassing first.”
“I have to study up on soundwaves and frequencies. Ironically, I’ll be quiet while I do so, so you can nap there in peace.” Nuria sits in the chair behind the desk and cracks open “Sound Wave”, but not even one sentence in when Aven says, “Don’t you wanna know why I’m here?”
“Not interested,” she says without looking up.
“I almost hurt your brother.”
Nuria’s got his collar in her hands so fast that she almost doesn’t’ register she flew to him in a heartbeat. “I swear, if you make him bleed, I’ll–”
“Whoa, there.” Aven lifts his open palms in surrender. “I said “almost”. And I never would’ve done it, even if he does annoy me on occasion. Just wanted to see if I could make him wet his pants as payback.”
Nuria pushes him back against his desk hammock and dismounts. “My brother does not wet his pants. And leave him alone.” She sucks her wings into her back as she walks away.
“That’s all you have to say? You’re not curious what he did to me?”
“Whatever it was, I’m sure you’ve blown it out of proportion. My brother doesn’t start things like that.” Nuria looks up after opening “Sound Wave” again, annoyed to find Aven leaning on the desk before her. This is the closest look she’s had of his deep olive eyes, glaring at him lividly. “Fine. Since you wanna talk so badly, go ahead and get it off your chest so I can get back to work.”
“Easy there, Feathers. I always pay it forward. You listen to my side of the story and I’ll tell you what you need to know about “sonic voice”,” he says with air quotes attached.
Nuria huffs as she slams “Sound Wave” shut. “Does everyone in school know about this but me?”
“Do we have a deal?”
Nuria looks at Aven crossly. The main reason she agrees is that she’s had enough of digging through dry textbooks with terrible titles. And since Stark isn’t on campus, she can’t risk going to the archives. She listens to Aven air his current grievance with her brother, but she’s caught off guard by the Tameri stuff, as well as his confession to owe Pan an apology.
“Sounds like both of you and the professor were all a little bent out of shape. So, yeah, apologize the next time you see her.”
“And to your brother, too, right?”
“Um…it may sound bad, but no. I’m sure it was an accident, but I know firsthand how having your powers abused or disrespected hurts. Just don’t throw your scythe at him next time. Maybe just a slap upside the head, or punch his arm.”
Aven snorts softly. “Understood.”
“So…sonic voice?” she asks sweetly.
“First, the whole school doesn’t know. Phoenixes have been extinct longer than even the professors have been alive. Longer than the headmaster, even. I’m sure your “firebird” explanation would placate most anyone here. Plus, those reporters would be here every day if everyone knew. All it takes is one person to turn a secret into information.”
“Is that how you learned the significance of what a phoenix is? Someone fed you information?”
“Yes and no.”
Nuria gives him a curt look.
“What I mean is that you told me the phoenix name. I found out the rest last year in the archives by accident.”
“Okay, I come from a military family. War stories were one of the few things my dad actually shared with me, and he practically worshipped Keria, the Ohaida among the Founding Four.”
“You went down there to read her journals.”
“Ditto. That’s honestly one of the bigger reasons I came here for. I spent a lot of nights down there after leaning my upperclassmen didn’t know anything. Unfortunately, Keria didn’t like writing, so she doesn’t have nearly as many as Kirin. Until I read them here for myself, I wasn’t sure if I believed my dad or not. A lot of the legends he recited over and over seemed too outlandish.”
Nuria leans in, too curious now. “Like what?”
“Keria was blessed apparently, because she bonded with a scimitar whose blade was fashioned from a meteorite. The only one of its kind. According to my dad and her journals, she could level a small town with one swing.”
“What makes you believe it now? It could be an exaggeration.”
“Well, you,” Aven says plainly.
Nuria looks to the side, embarrassed by the compliment. “Me? Why?”
“You’re a phoenix. Kirin was a phoenix. She was a master of it. Plus, you were the one who drove off Stark’s mom last year. That had to take some kind of legendary strength.” He stops himself from reaching for his back.
Nuria notices, but refuses to acknowledge it, lest she derail the conversation. “I appreciate the compliment, but that doesn’t mean sonic voice is impressive. From what I know–”
Which is little.
“–the best it can be used for is maybe as an alarm.”
Aven smirks fiendishly. “Want to hear the outlandish part?”
Nuria inhales deep and swift. “Hit me.”
“According to both Keria and Kirin, her “sonic voice”- what I call screeching- was capable of making even dragons cower in fear.”