Lexia and Alford made their way over from the door and sat down on the other side of the table next to Kayla. Menus appeared in front of each of them as they sat and they each chose something from the list which promptly disappeared to be replaced with their chosen meal a few moments later.
As Lexia and Alford ate their lunch, Kayla and Harper continued their discussion about the junior division. Once Lexia finished her lunch, Kayla immediately set upon her, “Hey, can I see the new filter you got?”
“We left the regulators in the classroom remember,” Lexia replied slightly exasperatedly.
“Oh yeah, I forgot,” Kayla said ruefully, “But can I see when we go back?” Lexia nodded in response, indicating her approval.
“Are your filters much different to the ones we have?” Asked Kason, who had been listening in to their conversation.
Lexia looked like she was going to answer but surprisingly, was beaten to it by Alford, who was sitting beside her. “There’s not much of a difference between the two,” He explained rather forcefully, “The gauze bit on mine is a more blue than purple and Lexia’s is just a little bit lighter in colour.” Kason couldn’t help thinking that he sounded slightly defensive, but he couldn’t figure out why.
Harper, who had been finishing his lunch having been prevented from eating it earlier by Kayla’s questioning, then joined in the conversation. “Why do you think the colour changes?” He asked inquisitively.
Alford looked at him for a moment and then shrugged, “I don’t know. Also, who are you two? I saw you in class but we never introduced ourselves.”
Harper blinked at him a few times as if taking time to process what he had asked, then hurriedly answered the question, “I’m Harper, we’re the two who joined your guide when he was guiding you
to the college.”
“My name’s Kason,” Kason added hastily after Harper finished introducing himself.
Alford nodded and introduced himself to them properly as well. After he had done so, Kayla jumped into their exchange to add some extra information, “Although he isn’t from Vitrica like me and Lexy, Alford’s an old friend and is quite protective of Lexy, so if he seems a bit confrontational don’t take it personally.” She then turned and winked at Alford as if she had done him a favour by explaining this to them. Alford scowled back at her, stating with his gaze that she was being bothersome, but Kayla just grinned mischievously back at him. Lexia, who was caught in between the two, let out a small sigh like she was used to these kinds of things occurring, and continued to eat.
After lunch, they wandered aimlessly around the college facilities for a short while before returning to the classroom to wait for the remainder of the time allocated for lunch to pass. As the time for the lesson to continue crept ever closer, the classroom slowly started to fill with more students, most entering in packs while a few entered on their own.
Once the appointed time for the lesson to continue arrived, Ms Luxford entered the classroom, quickly followed by a few stragglers who, given by their heavy breathing, seemed to have run to get to the class on time. Once she was sure that everyone was seated and listening, Ms Luxord addressed the class, “Now that you’ve eaten, we’ll begin this afternoon’s lesson, except that it isn’t really a lesson. This afternoon, I’ll be giving you a tour of the college facilities that you’ll have access to during your time in the junior division.”
She then marched over to the door and motioned for them all to follow her. This announcement came out of nowhere, so many students took a short while to realise what they were doing and get up to follow the rapidly departing back of Ms Luxford. Ms Luxford walked down the corridor outside the classroom and out into the nexus, she then waited until all the class had followed her out before exiting the building into the courtyard.
Once outside, Ms Luxford gave them a brief overview of the what each of the six buildings surrounding the courtyard was for, before leading them down the path Kason had taken just the day before leading towards the meditation gardens. Kason felt that the descriptions she had given the buildings were grossly inadequate, however, he wasn’t too concerned about it and so didn’t speak up, only making a few vague comments to Harper who was walking nearby.
They carried on up the path until the wall of the planetarium on the right fell away, revealing the lawn that stretched down to the eaves of the forest. Ms Luxford gathered them around her on the grass by the side of the path so that they were out of the way and began to speak, “A few safety warnings before we continue with the tour,” she pointed to the forest at the end of the lawn, “That forest down there is simply known as ‘The Forest’. This is because it’s the only natural forest in this area; so no one thought it necessary to give it a proper name and that’s just how it has stayed. There may be other forests that come and go sometimes but all of them will probably be magically made and will disappear eventually.”
Ms Luxford then became silent and a slight scowl appeared on her otherwise cheery face, Kason wondered if she had had any bad experiences with these magical forests, perhaps the botanists had been involved? Ms Luxford shook herself after a few short moments and then continued her talk with her scowl gone, “Although the college does not advise that you enter that forest, given that there are all sorts dangerous creatures hiding in its depths, if you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can go exploring inside from your third year onwards. If any you try entering at an earlier stage, you will be punished.” She stopped and thought, then added, “And probably also injured in some way by the life that lurks inside.”
After Ms Luxford’s speech, most students were looking towards the forest with apprehensive looks on their faces. Kason felt less nervous, having grown up inside the outskirts of a large forest himself, but still couldn’t prevent a slight flutter of fear from appearing somewhere in his stomach considering that he had almost wandered off into that place the day before. After Ms Luxford warned them about the forest at the end of the lawn, she resumed leading them onwards down the path.
The next place which they visited on their tour was the Training Ground. It was a large rectangular area of what looked like some kind of rock, stretching away perhaps twenty meters parallel to the path. There were no walls or anything surrounding it, only metallic posts, around two meters tall, planted into the ground at each of the four corners of the rectangle.
Ms Luxford stopped the pupils following behind her when she reached roughly halfway along the side of the rectangle and turned to them to explain its purpose. When she looked at them, Kason thought that her eyes seemed to gleam more brightly than he had seen so far and an excited grin seemed to tug at the corners of her mouth.
“This is the Training Ground where you will do physical training next year to build up your strength. It is also the place where the various sporting events take place and where student teams can practice.” Ms Luxford looked around at the slightly shocked expressions some of the students were wearing, “Learning isn’t the only thing you can do here!” She said with exasperation, “There are other recreational activities that happen outside of lessons. If you look at your timetables, you should notice that there are some periods where you don’t have any lessons, you can use these to attend these ‘Societies’ as they’re called, which are usually led by some members of the senior division.
The look on her face then became determined and she continued invoice filled with passion, “Of course not all societies are led by students, some are led by the teachers. For example, I coach the college’s ‘Pakaura’ team.” Ms Luxford looked around at the class with a proud smile on her face, only to be met with blank gazes from most of the class. Eventually, one student bravely raised their hand and asked the question which most of the class had been silently thinking, “Ms, what’s ‘Pakaura’?”.
Ms Luxford surveyed the class who were looking up at her with innocent curiosity, her passionate smiling expression slowly crumbling into one of disappointed resignation. “It’s not really a surprise that you don’t know what pakaura is,” she sighed, “It would take a while to explain it now so I’ll leave it until the day of the introduction fair.”
“What’s the introduction fair?” Another student asked,
“It’s a day set aside where students can look around at the different societies run throughout the college.” Ms Luxford replied, still looking slightly mournful, “It’s always set to be on a Tarisday(1), when you have no lessons.”
After satisfying the remaining questions any of the students had, Ms Luxford carried on with their tour, leading them a short way up the path to the place which was called ‘The Range’. It was a large stretch of verdant green, shortly clipped lawn with some targets placed at the other end from where they stood. Unlike the training grounds, there was a fence surrounding the area made of wood that, quite frankly, looked like a strong gust of wind could blow it over. A small clump of trees grew sparsely around the targets, seeming pretty pointless in the whole scheme of things apart from making the place look nice.
Ms Luxford explained that this was the area that was specifically used to train in the various forms of ranged combat, like archery. She pointed inside the enclosure to a group of people who looked to be practising. There was a tall young woman who was standing nearby inside the enclosure holding a large bow that gleamed with a sort of inner radiance. The woman was watching a group of other young people who were standing a short way of in front of her, holding bows fully stretched and ready to fire. At some unspoken command, the young people who were lined up all released their arrows, sending them hurtling towards the targets at the other end of the field.
As the arrows flew, they slowly began to change in various different ways. One began to glow a brilliant white colour and speed up tremendously, while another which somehow seemed to sense that another arrow was pulling ahead and suddenly materialised a rope of an unremarkable grey colour out of thin air. This rope went speeding after the glowing white arrow and curled tightly around it, forcing the glowing arrow to drag the other arrow along with it as it sped forwards.
The other arrows all manifested similar mystical abilities allowing them to accelerate dramatically and catch up with the two who had gotten ahead. All arrows except one that is, which flew with the same velocity which it had upon release, except that it had begun to vibrate ever so slightly as it flew. This last arrow began to vibrate more and more noticeably as the arrows drew closer to their targets until it reached the halfway mark.
By this time all the archers back at the other end had noticed this arrow lagging behind and were looking at it with fearful expressions on their faces. Some of them were casting worried looks over their shoulders to the young woman standing behind them, who ignored their gazes and carried on silently watching the flight of the arrows.
When the vibrating arrow reached the halfway point, the other arrows had almost reached the targets, the glowing white arrow still maintaining its lead, having somehow gotten rid of the rope coiled around it. It looked like the glowing arrow was guaranteed to hit its target first, however before it got there, something unexpected happened which meant that it never reached its destination.
The vibrating arrow, now having made it perhaps two-thirds of the way up the field, was beginning to fall apart. The feathers on its tail were flying off in every direction as it vibrated ferociously and the wood that the arrow was made of seemed to be bending in ways that wood was never meant to be bent.
Suddenly, just as the glowing arrow was just about to reach its target, the crazily vibrating arrow exploded!
A great fireball of a magnificent, rich red colour blossomed out with the arrow as its centre, spreading quickly in all directions, obliterating everything it touched, including the other arrows. The archers, who had long since abandoned their stances and run as far away from the arrow as they could, all firmly clamped their hands over their ears and turned their backs to the flame as a light shockwave spread out from the blast.
In contrast to the scared looking archers, the young woman who had been watching them seemed as calm as ever. When the arrow exploded, she looked at it with a resigned look on her face and slowly moved forward while lifting the bow she held and holding it in a position where she could pull the string back. She did so calmly and as she did, a shimmering blue arrow appeared on the bow.
She then released the arrow with a soft twanging sound and watched it shoot towards the rapidly expanding fireball. The blue arrow pierced easily into the fireball and disappeared into its depths. For a moment it seemed like nothing had happened, but then a hissing sound became audile of the roaring of the fire and then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the fireball vanished, leaving only a light mist in the area where it had been falling upon the scorched earth and burnt remains of the targets and trees.
The young woman lowered her bow and turned a stern gaze upon the archers who had stopped cowering and were walking towards her, one with a particularly sheepish look on his face. “Your arrow exploded. Again!” She said in a sharp voice to the sheepish looking archer.
The sheepish archer flinched and grimaced when she said this, then he nodded his head slowly in agreement. The young woman rolled her eyes at him and said, “You know then drill then, make sure you fix this properly.” The young man looked sorrowful but nodded his head again.
The young woman then looked up and seemed to notice Ms Luxford for the first time, she raised a hand and grinned at her. Ms Luxford grinned back and then turned to look at her students, only to find most of them frozen in shock. She grimaced slightly and gave a light cough, bringing them back to reality. “This,” She said with an amused undertone to her voice, “Is archery.”