Inside a dim-lit hallway. Beyond a wooden door, disaster is unfolding.
“Should we just enter?” I ask, peering up at Tori expectedly. His hand hovers in the air, unsure if to knock or wait until the screams have passed. We all stare in amazement as another boom is heard from the other side. “Or- do we just leave?”
Without getting much of a response, Jade takes the initiative and blasts his fist against the door in a supposed knock. I gulp as the door opens slowly so that only the head of a boy peaks through.
“Hi” I yelp.
His eyes widen as he shifts his view between the three of us. Blonde curls fall over brown eyes when he, unexpectedly, whiskers us in.
“Guys, guys” he faces away from us. “This is our new roommate!”
Joyful eyes meet mine when a tall, brunette boy comes to greet me with quite an energetic handshake. “Hello-”
He gives us a toothy grin. I stare for a second, taking in his warm complexion and log, pointy ears. Back in Yiondelienne, you would only see Elfians passing by as tourists, rarely to stay in one place for too long.
An uncomfortable chuckle forms in my throat, this guy won’t let go of my hand! I feel blood rushing to my cheeks. I’m already blushing, oh no! I’m not used to this. Tori must have noticed my distress for he quickly steps forward.
“Hello, nice to meet you” He comes in between me and the handshake guy. “This is Yue, he will be rooming with you guys for a while. I hope that’s okay” The only response he gets is a round of enthusiastic nods.
Who would say no to a seven feet mountain like Tori?
“My name’s Jordynn” the blonde steps up. “This here is Taillon” he points to the handshake boy. “And that over there is Noreen” On the far side of the room, lazily laying on a bed is another Elfian. Instead of introducing himself like the rest of his groupies have, he simply raises a hand in the air as a form of salute. I like him.
Time fleas and the introduction comes to an end. In between moments of silence, I manage to unpack most of my stuff. If there’s one thing that brings me joy in this place, that would be the closets! They have big closets, big enough to fit most of my clothes.
Had I brought the entirety of my collection - I don’t know if they would have fit in all four closets. Sadly, I have to make do with what I have.
I have also noticed something peculiar... my roommates’ quiet stares and attempts to help. If I ever so slightly needed to reach a higher place, or carry the weight of my baggage from one place to another, they wouldn’t hesitate to jump in my assistance. I don’t know if these guys are just nice or they are acting so. It would not be a surprise, seeing as Jade has been murderously staring at them for the past half an hour.
This is supposed to be a covert mission yet Jade is acting everything but covert! It’s incredible. Talking about Jade, Taillon must have noticed the menacing aura around him, for he asks, “Are they your parents?”
Tori and Jade freeze in place as do I. They stare at each other for a second, as if communicating with their eyes. I notice the faintest dust of pink on Jade’s cheeks before they swiftly turn to Taillon with a response.
“We’re his uncles” Tori laughs.
Uncles! I guess that is a believable story- if you don’t linger on it too much. Jordynn’s frown tells me that he smells the bullshit, he turns to study me, peeking at Tori from the corner of his eye. When opening his mouth to speak I panic and drop the Link on the floor.
I broke the screen! A big crack stretches from the top of the screen to the bottom. I quickly pick it up, trying to turn it on. When I notice it doesn’t as much as flicker, I gently (not so gently) shake it around, as if that is going to fix it.
“That’s not good,” Jade says.
No, it’s not! How am I supposed to speak to my parents now? Jordynn picks up the device only to clumsily drop it to the floor once again. Another crack.
“I-I’m sorry!” he yells.
It has been hours since finishing my installment. Jade and Tori have already left, not before forcing me into a bone-crushing hug, of course.
“Where will you be staying?”
“Brownpeak, a small town just beyond the Academy. You can come to visit us anytime you want”
Once I’ve forced Jade too into a hug, they finally departed.
Now I’m left alone on the porch, sitting my ass on the cold concrete stairs. The residential complex is god damn huge! A little plaza surrounded by at least five buildings. And they are certainly not small, each must have at least sixty rooms.
There’s a sizable park perched on the side of the complex, scattered with benches and spurting fountains. The very last rays of sunlight trickle through leaves, a red glow gleaming over the horizon. Three moons rest in the sun’s place.
Esther, Lunae and Umillum, those are the names given by Yomi to the moons. Apparently those are the exact names of the gods who claim to have created Soulma... or so religion says. Personally, I find it hard to believe in such things. If those Gods truly existed, they would have surely helped us through all the wars and times we nearly brought ourselves to the brink of death.
At least, that’s how I see it.
Students are beginning to gather around the park, settling on the fountains and on the grass. Whereas for me – I’m sitting on the porch of my apartment building, staring at the darkening sky. So exciting!
A gust of wind passes by, making me shiver in my boots. Right... I forgot we’re not in Yiondelienne anymore. What remained of the hot summer is now giving way for the chill of autumn. This wasn’t really the case back home, tropical weather made sure we all stayed warm and wet.
Thoughts of home disappear when the front door bursts open. I jump in a startle as Taillon emerges from inside, followed by Jordynn and Noreen. When his eyes land on mine, Jordynn’s lips pull back in a toothy grin.
I instantly bring about an awkward grin. I wish I weren’t so uncomfortable around them, but it’s impossible. I have just met them. It’s also hard not to be nervous when Noreen is towering over me, he’s a big lad!
“Are you coming with us to the cafeteria?” Jordynn asks.
I puff out my cheeks in thought. It would be nice to eat something. As if on cue, my stomach savagely growls. I don’t have time to respond though, as I’m already being dragged along the pavement.
Taillon pulls me by the shirt, “you need some food inside you. You look so skinny”
Jordynn sneakers. “You’re one to talk” Taillon retaliates with a pout.
I stop in my tracks, pulling at the hand gripped to my shirt. “Wait- are you guys’ second-year students?”
“Yes?” Jordynn responds.
“All of you?”
They nod, except for Noreen who simply hums. This changes everything! I had hoped to connect with people that could follow and help me throughout most of my classes. Oh no... Taillon hoovers over me “Don’t worry about that. We can help you with homework” he steps closer, “we know the ropes around here”
I take a step back. “Meaning?”
“You’d be surprised. There aren’t that many teachers in the academy and we know all of their knishes” – That is very comforting yet so scary, especially with the creepy smile he has going on.
Jordynn pulls him away. “Let’s not weird him out just yet”
In no time, we arrive at the cafeteria. Separated from the rest of the buildings, the place is bustling with people. There is a stream of students entering through double doors, all eager to get some food in their stomachs.
I think I spot some of the teachers too.
“Is it always this busy?” I peer up at Jordynn.
He nods. “Recently the academy has had a lot of students coming in. I think this year the numbers have gone down, but still, there’s a lot of people here”
That’s really interesting. Before leaving home I managed to do some research myself. It’s a really well-known academy, renowned for its programs and successful graduates. However, I noticed a few negative articles talking about unsatisfied students, bad classes, training being too harsh, and such.
My parents did not pay them any mind though, seeing as I’m already here. My train of thought is lost when we enter the cafeteria and the smell of food hits my nostril. All of my worries are carried away by the current, replaced by cravings.
Will there be any good salads? I hope they can accommodate for each dietetic lifestyle. I don’t think my stomach could appreciate greasy food and hard meets. I might barf it all out if that’s the case.
I’m tempted to ask the guys for their recommendations, but I’m already squished in between the line and they are nowhere to be seen – in other words, I’m alone again.
Sweat begins forming on my palms as my nerves ramp up. Why am I nervous? I’m just getting food, get it together Yuidan. It’s not that easy though, being surrounded by a crowd is suffocating, my lungs constrict and I can feel myself gasping for air.
My nervousness reaches critical levels when I reach the end of the line. There is no green in sight, only meat and more meat.
What- what is this? I cannot digest all of this! Sure, some meat is okay from time to time. But where’s the salad? Where is the fish? Where are the fruits? I feel a slight push from behind. I’m almost too mortified to move.
A tap on my shoulder has me finally spinning around to face a Boulnae. Why do I have déjà vu? “Are you planning to move?” he asks. I fear if I don’t answer quickly enough he will be the one moving me.
Nervously, I nod and pick up a tray, sliding it across the counter while passing all the cooked and seared meet. Even though they are not for my stomach’s liking, the dishes look extremely appetizing. Steaming dishes of meats and some vegetables on the side, I can see people already ogling and probably even salivating at the thought of food. Just thinking about it puts a nasty picture in my mind.
Once I’m at the end of the line and I’ve been stared at by everyone, I leave with the tray almost empty, having snatched a few chicken wings on the fly. A hand grips my shoulder and I’m forced to turn around, yet again to the same guy as before.
“Yes?” I peer up at him.
He says nothing but points to somewhere beyond the tables. He must have realized my look of confusion, for he says, “there’s a vegetarian section over there” and turns back around to mind his business.
A vegetarian section... why did nobody tell me that! Thank the Lords. Hesitant, I make my way towards the general direction the Boulnae pointed at and Lord behold! There is a vegetarian section.
It takes me no time to indulge in fresh salads and steamed vegetables. Now I’m left wondering if there’s a pescatarian section. I’m lucky to find my roommates through all the commotion, Tables upon tables filled with people, It’s honestly tiring.
“I thought you’d never find us,” says Taillon, with a spoonful of broth in his mouth. I sit at the table and immediately start eating my salad. All of this stressing and worrying has only caused me hunger. Now I can finally relax and not worry about what is to come.
Munching on broccoli has never felt so relieving.
“You’re from Yiondelienne, right?” Taillon asks, and I stop eating.
“Yes... Is it that obvious?” Did he find out something? Is there something wrong?
He shrugs “Your complexion is quite telling”
Even after he goes back to minding his own business, sipping on that damn broth, I cannot help but feel something is wrong. My eyes travel all around the canteen, spooking myself when random people make eye contact. This is not good.
The chances of me actually being in trouble are seriously low; even so, I do not want to let my guard down. I slowly return to eating again but with much less gusto. The food tastes bland and looks unappealing; suddenly I don’t have an appetite anymore.
After all that hustle, Yuidan doesn’t even get to have a decent meal. Poor boy, he deserves some good food! Living in stress and worry is never healthy, even if the situation calls for it, we must always try to balance ourselves out.
We have met the roommates! They are quite the group, aren’t they? Is that all there is to them, though? Are Yuidan’s fears justified, should he be frightened? Maybe... maybe not. We shall see.