3.1: What A Wallace Does

A time not long ago, Nuria would’ve woken up hysterical, anxious to absorb her surroundings and get as much info on missed events as possible. Right now, as she wakes, she keeps her eyes shut a moment. She wipes the sweat from her brow with what she determines is a blanket. Her coconut scent wafts from the fabric.

     Ibri House?

     Nuria blinks her eyes open, slowly sitting up against her bed. The clothes she left a mess on her bed are folded neatly and stacked atop a dresser. The sleeves on the top shirt are folded at an angle.

     That’s how Rum folds his clothes.

     A varied set of breaths sound from around the room. In a slow circular sweep, Nuria marvels at the gathering. In the bed directly across from her, Rum and Pan slumber. Rum is asleep sitting up with his arms crossed. Pan has her head on his lap, completely horizontal. His buster sword and her recurve bow are leaned against the foot of their bed. The following two beds hold Shuri with Aven mirroring Rum’s pose at the foot, and Carnya and Syl together. The final bed on Nuria’s side is where Lauron lay, wrapped up snugly. The pommel of her broadsword brushes the side of her cheek. The between Lauron’s and Nuria’s is empty, but Koren lay on the floor between the empty bed and Nuria’s. Like the other Ohaida in the room, his weapon is within his reach.

     Nuria smiles, her heart warming over the fact her friends chose to stay close while she was defenseless for however many days she was asleep this time. She digs her phone out of her pocket and her eyebrows climb her forehead.

     That’s a first.

     It’s the next morning after their ordeal at the mall. She expected the surge of energy to have her comatose like it did last year.

     Then again, the fight against Liamria didn’t drain me either. Maybe I’m stronger now.

     The phoenix again looks at her peers slumbering peacefully. She narrows her eyes, frustrated.

     But not strong enough!

     Nuria gets out of bed and tiptoes past everyone, not bothering to change her clothes or touch her hair, the latter of which remains one long mess. She heads to the basement, briefly pausing to see Lauron’s shopping bags on the couch. The sole absentee from the dorm room is already there behind the glass partition, a similar shopping bag in her hands. A white ribbon is tied around the top of the angel’s ponytail.

     “I figured you’d come down here sooner or later,” Tyra says when Nuria crosses the glass partition.

     “No choice. If The Pure’s gonna keep messing with us, then I need to be ready! And right now…I’m a victim walking.”

     “You’re also only a teenager.”

     Nuria hears the unsaid meaning. “I’m not looking for fights, T. I’m using the switch thing that you do, but it doesn’t matter if I’m too weak when I flip it. Mastering my phoenix powers is the only way I- and I’m fifteen now- can keep up with The Pure.”

     “And how do you think you’re going to–”

     Nuria silences Tyra by turning to her sharply, an unusually intense look on her face. “I hate to do this, but The Pure isn’t giving me a choice. I…I-I need…” Nuria takes a deep breath. “You knew what my creature was before me. How?”

     “Your eyes.”

     “My eyes?”

     “For Vanusi, white eyes are a sign of your Hero’s Class status. Do you know what Hero’s Class is?”

     Nuria nods. “I found out about it earlier this semester. It’s one of the Vanusi echelons. Not sure of the others, though.”

     “There are three echelons. Hero’s class- you. Heaven’s class- me. Then there’s Hell’s class. The woman who attacked us last year was one of those Vanusi. While all three are rare, only Hero’s C lass share that distinct detail, making them easier to identify. Some of the people I know back home have the same eyes as you. Plus, your fire gave me a hint, too.”

     “What do they do to use their powers effectively?”

     “You don’t usually ask for the answer.”

     “Tyra,” Nuria says hotly.

     “Nuria, you can take it easy. We’re back on campus. Tameri ordered the school’s head of security to stand guard when it was clear nobody was willing to leave you. There’s no need to rush things.”

     Nuria clicks her tongue. “Do I have to learn without you, because I will. You know that. I just figured it’d be like old times like when I was learning to fly. That, and it’d probably be safer, too.”

     The phoenix waits a few seconds into the silence, then turns away.

     “Okay, wait!” Tyra calls out.

     Nuria whirls with a grin. “I wish Reddic was as easy to guilt.”

     Tyra huffs. “Whatever. I need you to stand against the wall there.”

     Nuria goes to the spot indicated, standing beneath one of the corner windows. “Now what?”

     “Without moving, I want you to focus on the heat behind you.”

     “Okay.”

     Being attuned to heat is second nature to Nuria, though she’s better at it while her body’s in motion. Well, aside from a boiling feeling she gets in her gut on occasion. After a minute, she locks onto the minuscule heat tickling her neck.

     “Next?”

     “The heat you feel, try and direct that energy into your eyes.”

     Nuria smirks. She hasn’t ever done so with her eyes, but directing heat through her muscles is the first step when she self-dries her clothes.

     “Open your eyes and walk to the glass.”

     Nuria does and immediately blinks, then blinks again. According to her reflection in the glass, her snow-white eyes now shine like little suns. The sun’s reflection shines to her left. Nuria uses the reflection to determine the sun is shooting rays of light through the corner windows.

     The sun is the secret?

     Tyra’s reflection appears next to Nuria’s, eclipsing the sun entirely. “I don’t know why,” the angel’s reflection says, “but the sun has an empowering effect on Hero’s Class Vanusi.”

     Nuria snaps her fingers and ignites both her thumbs. She draws on the heat from the sun and directs it to her thumbs. Not only do her thumb flames turn golden, but her entire fists are set ablaze.

     “Easy there, Nuria. That’s not a power to play with,” Tyra warns.

     “I’ll say,” Nuria agrees. She didn’t even call on that much heat and her flames grew so much. “But I have to test this.” She faces the angel. “How strong are those symbols you draw, defensively speaking?”

     “I don’t like where this is going…but just as strong as they are offensively.”

     “Good. I need you to make a barrier around yourself.”

     “Fantastic,” Tyra mutters sarcastically.

     “You saying that you don’t wanna test it? You have no curiosity which is stronger: Hero’s Class or Heaven’s Class?” Nuria can see the second Tyra finds the challenge worth testing.

     Tyra holds up a finger. “One test, Nuria. And only use one fist.”

     “Fair enough.” Nuria has trouble extinguishing her golden flames with thought alone, so she resorts to shaking her left hand until they vanish.

     That’s gonna take some getting used to.

     Tyra’s hands shine alabaster light and she inscribes that light around her in a circle of seven runic symbols. A dome erects around Tyra, an alabaster film separating the angel from the outside world. She lowers the shopping bag to the floor behind her.

     “Ready when you are,” Tyra says.

     Nuria dashes forward immediately, an excited look on her face. She plans to pull back before hitting Tyra, but she can’t wait to crack the barrier. The golden flames clash with the barrier so intensely that the resulting shockwave shatters the entire glass partition. Glass shards scatter across the desks and floor, some embedding into the walls. The shockwave knocks Nuria back, but she stops herself from crashing by way of her mezzo flames. She looks up swiftly, worried about Tyra, then pouts.

     The angel is still safe and sound inside her barrier, though she is also surprised. “Guess that answers that.”

     “What’s happening? Everything okay?” Officer Roark shouts from the base of the steps. He steps around the glass shards as he awes at the busted partition. “What was that explosion? Are you two okay?”

     “Nuria!” Rum shouts, his rushing footsteps leading an entire chorus. Every Ohaida from upstairs is front and center on the steps with their weapons at the ready. Carnya and Syl are in the rear, but they do their best to hide their anxiety.

     “My bad, everybody. Didn’t mean to wake you up like that,” Nuria says.

     Tyra erases the runes with her feet and the barrier drops. “It was both our fault, sorry.”

     “Wait, you two caused that explosion?” Roark asks sternly.

     Nuria chuckles awkwardly. “Explosion? What? T, you know about an explosion?”

     Tyra starts with a jump. “Um…no, not me.”

     Nuria points to the stairs. “You guys hear anything?”

     “I guess we were dreaming,” Lauron says. She sheathes her broadsword and walks away.

     Aven laughs as he follows her. “All of us had the same dream?”

     “Shut up.”

     “No cause for alarm,” Koren says, winking at the phoenix. He leaves with Carnya and Syl.

     Rum lowers his weapon, but looks at his sister hard. “Are you o–”

     Pan slaps her hand over his mouth and nods up the stairs. He grumbles as he follows her.

     Shuri lingers a second longer, eyeing the field of glass everywhere. When he meets the phoenix’s gaze and she nods, he sheathes his two swords at his waist, a brown leather harness holding them in place. The hurricane decal on his sheaths gets Nuria thinking.

     “You two are unhurt, right?” Roark asks, giving up on the explosion inquiry.

     “Yes,” they both say.

     Officer Roark sighs through his nose. “Then I’ll inform Reddic upon his return and leave the punishment up to him. You may go. I’ll clean this up. Just be–” He whirls to watch them sail over the glass on mighty wings.

     The young ladies land in the middle of the first floor. All of Lauron’s bags are gone.

     “Looks like they left,” Tyra says.

     “Yeah. I’ve probably made them late for class as it is,” Nuria says.

     “Oh, Ohaida and Vanusi classes were canceled for today.”

     Nuria’s mind cranks out an idea as she moves to the now clear couch. “Is that right?”

     “Why do I have a feeling I’m not gonna like your next idea?”

     “I think I’m gonna crash Sulublei class next.”

     Tyra hangs her head low. “I thought as much.”

     “But hey, this isn’t like before. I was trying to avoid you before we made up. I plan on having dinner with you later. You and the rest of the Vanusi crew.”

     Tyra smiles bittersweet. “Then let’s at least make you presentable.” Tyra hefts her shopping bag as she advances. “You never told me a color, so I picked one at random.”

     Nuria leans over and peeks inside the bag. She grins broadly, partly because of the gift, but mostly over getting her braid back. She’s never had anyone outside her mother and brother twist it before, but if she has to now, she’s more than glad it’s her sister doing the honors.

-FHA-

     A fresh braid sways between Nuria’s shoulder blades as she marches toward the Sulublei dorm. It’s not as tight as usual, but if the phoenix keeps sweating like she has been lately, it’ll come undone by dinner. She wishes she waited for Tyra to braid her hair and wrap the yellow ribbon through it until she showered.

     Well, it was her first time. Rum was sloppy at first, too.

     Nuria giggles as she recalls him once knotting one of his hands inside her braid. She makes a note to tell Tyra that story later.

     As Nuria closes in on the Sulublei dormitory, the same kind of cylindrical tower as the other three, a horde of students exit with loud cheers. They all dash past her, racing toward the heart of campus excitedly, save for one young man with olive hair. His fair skin stands out against his dark brown, short-sleeved button-up. He marches away with a relaxed pace, hands in his blue jean pockets. The dull expression on his face nags at Nuria, feeling she should recognize him.

     Oh, well. Got other business here.

     Nuria shrugs and presses forward. She skips through the doors just as they shut, entering the wide foyer customary of the original four dorms. The floor is made up of wood sculpted as tree bark, which provides uneven footing. However, the jungle theme it achieves with real vines decorating the green wallpaper and spiral staircase banner reminds Nuria of home. She lives in a desert, but to the east and west of Sakela are the jungle states Shuya and Flico. She’s never visited either, but imagined they were like this, just less artificial.

     “Excuse me, miss. May I help you?” asks the man beside a wooden pedestal. He looks older than any student, his sandy blonde beard full, though cut short. His eyes are light blue and soft and warm. Even his posture makes him appear easy-going. Nuria recognizes him instantly, but now that none of the other professors are at his side, she can see his age more clearly.

     Twenty-four? Maybe twenty-five? Wait, what was his name again?

     “Hi, I’m Nuria. I–”

     “Ah,” the man says slowly. “Is it my turn to teach you?”

     Nuria blinks. “How’d you know?”

     “After you went from S’nue to Vanusi, we professors discussed when and if you’d study under myself and Professor Tameri. Admittedly, Tameri’s a stretch. Then again, so was S’nue. Sorry, I’m rambling.” The man crosses to Nuria and holds out his hand. “Hi, Nuria. I’m Professor Lynald. A pleasure.”

     Nuria grins and shakes his hand. “Does this mean I’m in?”

     “Absolutely.”

     That was easy.

     “Don’t we have to discuss this with the headmaster first?”

     “Normally, yes, but he’s made a rare call and given all students today off. I doubt he’ll mind you joining my class, at least until Professor Reddic returns. Or, until you’ve learned what you’re here to learn.”

     Nuria doesn’t even realize she was walking in step with him until she bumps into the wooden pedestal. She swiftly balances the glass case on top and the jade sculpture of a woman inside. “Sorry. Also, isn’t that rude? To just use you like that?”

     Professor Lynald shakes his head. “Not at all. I think lesson plans have their place, but we have students who come here from all around the world. To have them all conform to our usual schedules isn’t the best idea. I’m sure you’ve seen how it doesn’t work.”

     Nuria nods. “Learning to fly meant going against Professor Zathony’s timeline.”

     “Yes, and he was truly annoyed back then. However, I think we could use more of that flexibility around here. I don’t know what Reddic’s end goal is with all the class hopping, but I’m all for it.”

     Nuria believes him and smirks. Ever since Reddic began preparing her to use Manifestation, almost every other faculty member has shown him some form of hostility or treated him unfairly. It’s the main reason she has yet to go back to Cwen’s choir.

     “As sure as I am that you’d like to start today, it’s still a day off. Most of the…what’s the word Roy used? Sophmen. Yes, most of my sophmen class are likely still playing in the sand upstairs.”

     Nuria thinks of her true home this time. Playing in the sand was mainstream in Sakela. “Can I–”

     Lynald gestures to the stairs. “By all means.”

     Nuria vaults over the banister and races up the spiral staircase. She’s already befriended Lauron, Valine, Sticker, and Koren. She doesn’t know who’s next, but if they play in the sand, she’s sure they’ll be just as awesome. The second she reaches the sophmen floor, the sound of infectious laughter draws her to the door on her right. She opens the door and catches a spray of sand to the face.

     The laughter cuts out as the kids inside notice her. The young man with sand piled over his lap wiggles his fingers; the sand on Nuria’s face and in the hallway return to the room, the entire floor modeled after a desert. “Sorry, didn’t see you come in,” he says. The top of his head is covered in blonde hair, but the lower parts are dyed blue and green in descending order.

     Next to him is a young man with dark skin dressed like a cowboy. His shaggy brown hair dangles bangs before his honey-colored eyes. He tips his hat back to get a good look at Nuria.

     The only other girl in the room has deep yellow eyes and blonde hair parted on the right that stops above her shoulders. She’s wearing an orange dress that exposes her shoulders as well as a pair of sandals. She ends up coughing up sand after lifting handfuls to her lips out of shock.

     “Nuria, are you okay? We heard about the attack on the news,” Roy says, sand leaking from his hand pointed to a television in the rear of the room. Where Nuria’s skin is more akin to milk chocolate, Roy’s is more coffee-colored. His dark hair is riddled with grains of sand. His broad claws are absent. Both wrists are wrapped with white exercise tape. His brown eyes are charged with concern.

     Nuria hangs her head low. “I’m okay. Everyone’s okay.” She sinks onto her knees. “But I didn’t run up here about that.” She quickly scoops up two handfuls of sand and takes aim at Roy and the cowboy. “You don’t wanna see me in a sand fight!”

     The fight resumes after Nuria blasts the standing boys in their chests. After discovering the boy with the three hair colors can manipulate sand, she stops worrying about the sand that flies into the hallway. Despite her heightened fatigue, Nuria enjoys the sand fight to the end. By the time it concludes, all of them are drenched in the sand, as well as the beds. Like the banister outside, the bed frames are decorated with vines.

     “Give me a sec,” says the boy with the colorful hair. He waves his hands in circles and the sand withdraws from everyone and every mattress to join with what remains on the floor, down to the last grain. “All right, good game.”

     “You guys do that a lot?”

     “Only on the mornings when Roy spends the night,” the cowboy says. “I’m Donovan, by the way.”

     “You can call me Dig,” says the sand manipulator.

     “Oh, you’re officially done with Lig–”

     “Yes!” Dig cuts off the girl with deep yellow eyes.

     “I’m Barry,” the girl announces.

     “Nice to meet you…but I thought there were more of you in Sulublei?”

     “Two more. Wallace isn’t very active, so he left when the sand fight started,” Donovan explains.

     “Wallace,” Nuria mumbles. A memory from last year’s Freshman Derby flashes through her mind. Wallace was content to obstruct the game by just lying down. She recalls the olive hair and knows he was the boy she passed at the entrance.

     “There’s Su, too,” Barry says. “She plays with us sometimes, but she’s a real bookworm.”

     “Yeah, but she’s got a good reason,” Donovan says. “I don’t have a clue what Wallace does during his downtime.”

     “Where’s Su now?” Nuria asks, not particularly interested to discuss Wallace further.

     Donovan smirks and nods at the doorway.

     Nuria turns her head as the door to the dorm opposite opens. A redheaded young lady exits, carrying a large bag full of books. She’s short and her body is rectangular. She has on a red t-shirt, brown capris, also wearing sandals. She whirls and shows her cream skin and the comb-over on her right side. She freezes when she notices Nuria, eyes open wide. Her snow-white eyes.

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