The Tau Tree

“Or more specifically, this is a form of competitive archery in which they use modified arrows. It’s more of a race than a competition of skill,” Ms Luxford explained to the class, most of whom were still reeling from the explosion. “Each archer will work with one of the webmasters from the senior division to try and modify their arrows so that they will reach the target before all the others do. As you can see, sometimes the modifications can end up malfunctioning.”

She then began to make her way along the path again, gesturing for the class to follow her, “That woman who was with them is Ms Hargreve she leads the archery society and also is one of the combat magic teachers so some of you may be taught by her in the future.”

Ms Luxford brought them next, to the Meditation Gardens which Kason had walked around in the day before. She explained that the gardens were split into two parts, the recreational area where students could relax and which technically wasn’t part of the meditation gardens but since they were both in the same area they were both called it for simplicity’s sake, and the actual meditation gardens. She showed them where the dividing line was as they walked around in the gardens and Kason realised it was the same fence that he had encountered before.

She then led them back to the main path and through the archway at which Kason had turned back when he previously explored the place. Through the arch was a small circular cobbled area surrounded by a low wooden fence, there were benches placed at regular intervals around the edge of the area with some older students sitting on them watching the class with mild curiosity.

In the centre of the cobbled ground though, was a magnificent tree. It sprouted out of a basin filled with golden water that overflowed from its container only to disappear into the ground underneath the cobbles. The tree itself was strange and wonderful, it was around three meters tall and had a multitude of branches sprouting from its gnarled brown coloured trunk.

The branches were the most peculiar parts of the tree, their appearances differed but could be roughly fit into four categories. Some of the branches were withered and dead looking like they might seem in winter, while others were covered in many bright green sprouts like in spring. Still more had a lush and wholesome look, covered with midsummer leaves while others showed the small minute signs of wilt that come with autumn and were almost bare.

The class stopped in front of this tree and many of them let out gasps of admiration at its unearthly beauty. Kason looked at it in wonder, it’s weird yet wonderful shape and contrasting appearance made it look oddly profound, however, somewhere in Kason’s mind, a little voice couldn’t help suggesting that the tree might’ve just forgotten season it was in.

Ms Luxford let them admire the tree for a few moments before providing them with some background, “This is the Tau tree, it is said to have been planted in this spot by Constantine himself which makes it hundreds of years old. As you can see, it has a rather unique appearance and is currently the only known one of this species still around. Of course, we know that there is much of the world which we do not know, so there may be others out there, but in our country’s lands, this is the only one.”

“Why is the water around it all golden coloured?” Asked a student from the crowd.

“It is because of the tree, its roots secrete a substance which turns the water that colour and, incidentally, can also be used to make a wonderful golden paint.”

Ms Luxford then led them out of the Meditation Gardens, saying that they wouldn’t enter the actual Meditation Gardens so that they wouldn’t disturb anyone. They were then led back past the range and the training grounds all the way to the main building into the nexus with the statue of the monocled man. Once there, Ms Luxford pointed out each of the doors in turn, telling the students where each led and what they were for.

She then had them all cram into the library. Kason felt that the raised circular area where the door was situated was not meant to be filled with this many people but put up with it anyway. Once inside, Ms Luxford introduced them to an old man who had seemingly emerged from nowhere as soon as she said his name. He turned out to be Alivor, the caretaker of the library and custodian of all the books contained within along with his few apprentices.

She then took a step back and allowed Alivor to speak to the class. Alivor took a brief moment to look at the class before speaking and Kason used this time to take in his appearance, he had a head of long light grey hair that was almost white and a beard that could almost match its length. On his thin looking frame he wore a robe in much the same style as the children’s uniforms but all in black and his face bore an irritated-looking scowl that gave him seem rather grumpy. His talk consisted of him giving them a brief overview of the rules when borrowing books and how to look for a specific book or topic area. He finished in less than five minutes, talking in a hurried and sharp sounding voice, and immediately disappeared again back to wherever he had been before.

Ms Luxford stepped back in front of them and gave them an apologetic look, “Alivor is almost always short tempered and no-one really knows why. His apprentices are generally a sociable bunch though so if you ever come to the library then you should seek them out if you can instead of old Alivor.”

Ms Luxford then had them all back out through the door to the nexus and then led them back to their classroom. Once back in the classroom she announced that they would have ten minutes to chat while she prepared material for the next session.

Immediately as she turned to begin her preparations, Harper turned to Kason and began to batter him with excited babble. “What kind of societies do you think there are? Do you think there will be places where I can learn sword fighting and stuff?”

“Isn’t sword fighting a thing of the past?” Kason asked curiously, he remembered books his mother had read to him as a child where there had been gallant men and women brandishing mighty swords and going on epic quests. He had thus been disappointed, when he had asked the teacher at the little school he went to back at his home if he could learn to fight with swords like those heroes and the teacher had replied that combat using swords and pikes and other weapons like that was outdated.

Harper looked at him with his blond brows raised in surprise. “Not at all!” He said indignantly, “If you’d seen any of the annual bouts then you wouldn’t think that. Every year you see people with all sorts of swords in the mock battles, although the swords are usually different to just normal swords. Last year there was a guy called Gareth who fought with a sword that was over a meter long and covered in raging flames, it looked really cool!”

“I thought that Emelia girl was your favourite person?” Kason asked.

“Of course she is!” Harper replied, “But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any other people who are worth watching. Gareth was also good, just not as good as Emelia.”

The remainder of the day went by rather slowly. Ms Luxford had them do all sorts of tests to check their basic knowledge and other skills. After the last period, she reminded them that their timetables came into effect properly the next day and then bade them goodbye. Kason and the rest of the class left feeling relieved that the day was finished, the afternoon had been tough after the tour and most of the class were glad that it was over.

He walked back to the junior dorm building with Harper planning to change out of his uniform and then go with Harper to the coliseum again so that they could watch more mock battles. Although Kason didn’t feel like participating in them, he could not help but admit that they were very entertaining to watch. He also thought that Harper’s motivation for doing this was more the possibility of seeing Emelia again than actually watching the battles.

They walked across the courtyard which was dyed with a slight orange colour in the light of the slowly setting sun and entered the junior dorm building. They walked across the blue carpeted floor and through the door to floor seventeen, talking casually about what they might see in the coliseum later on.

When they entered the corridor, which had taken on the same hue as the courtyard outside thanks to its large windows, they saw a familiar head of purple hair hobbling along a few meters in front of them.

“Fenston!” Harper called out.

The purple headed boy turned as he was walking and, noticing the two of them, stopped and waited for them as they walked over to him.

“Hello,” he said in his high pitched voice, “How was the first day?”

“What do you mean?” Harper said, furrowing his brows slightly, “Weren’t you just in class yourself?”

Fenston rolled his eyes at Harper and gestured to his leg, “I broke a bone in my ankle yesterday so I couldn’t attend, could I.” he replied slightly exasperatedly, “So? What did you do? Actually, can we go and sit in the common room first? My foot isn’t completely fixed yet.”

They all walked into the common room and sat down on some of the chairs. Harper and Kason then began to narrate their experiences during the day, giving great detail about the explosive events at the archery practice they had witnessed.

“Sounds like it was fun,” Fenston said slightly wistfully when they finished.

“Well, that’s what our class did. I’m not sure if the others all did the same.” Harper added.

“I’m IN your class,” Fenston said, rolling his eyes again.

“How did you know that?” Kason asked curiously, even the little rule booklet that Brent had dropped off with his uniform and that hadn’t had anything to do with classes in.

Fenston’s face froze for a second before he answered them in a slightly uncertain sounding voice, “I, read it in the- the rule booklet that we were given when we went and registered at the registry office. Our entire floor is in the same class.”

Kason frowned slightly, but then dispelled his doubts, thinking that he had probably just skimmed over this particular piece of information, or perhaps he had simply forgotten it.

“Really?” Harper said, sounding excited for some reason.

Kason looked over at him, eyebrow raised in an unspoken question. “That reminded me that Lexia and Alford are on our floor,” Harper explained, seeing Kason’s look, “This means I’ll be able to ask them about training to raise my ether saturation!”

“You could just ask me,” Fenston said, and sniffed, after hearing Harper’s exclamation.

Harper turned to look at him, “You’ve already trained your ether saturation? What’s your saturation level?”

Fenston made a satisfied smirk, “It was about fifty-five last time I checked, but it’s probably higher now.”

Harper made an incredulous look and then just leaned back in his seat with a helpless expression on his face. “Why did my family never teach me before I came here,” he lamented.

“I wasn’t taught either,” Kason reminded Harper, trying to raise his spirits.

They carried on talking, that is to say, Harper asked Fenston all the questions he hadn’t managed to ask Lexia, for maybe half an hour after which Kason decided that he would temporarily take his leave to change out his uniform. Although he was being besieged by Harper’s questions, Fenston still looked perfectly happy, so Kason decided to leave Harper at it and left.

He went into his room, changed, and then went back to the common room. On his way back, he met Kayla and Lexia who walked out of room 17i together.

“H- Hello,” Kason greeted them as he got closer.

“Hi,” Kayla replied, “What are you going to do while you wait for dinner to come around?”

“Harper’s in the common room with Fenston so I’m just going to wait with them.”

Kayla nodded and led Lexia past him down the corridor in the opposite direction, saying as she passed, “We might come and join you later.”

Kason carried on back to the common room and entered to find Harper and Fenston still talking as they had been before. He went and sat back in the seat he had been in before and watched them as they bantered back and forth, Harper obviously having run out of questions to ask. After watching them for a few minutes Kason remembered something that he had been meaning to find out since he had arrived and raised his voice to ask the two of them something.


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