Dark swirls of clouds hover over the green and luscious land below. The sun shines, just barely behind looming clouds, few rays cascading down onto the moving train below. Torrential rain pours onto the compartment windows, making the gloomy atmosphere even more insufferable.
Perched on the corner of a sofa, sprawled out on the windowsill, I watch as droplets of rain race down the window. Some don't make it though as they are swept by the wind. No surprise there, the train is moving at an incredible speed, even through the hard to navigate lands of Nefastwald.
I groan and adjust the blanket laying on my torso. I would lie if I were to say the blanket was uncomfortable, but I'd rather not have to put up with it. "Stop squirming for once, will you?" The man in front of me, Tori, grumbles.
I roll my eyes. "I wouldn't have to squirm if the heating worked"
"It does work; they just haven't turned it up yet"
Bored, I place my face in the palm of my hand, murmuring a 'yeah sure'. The man wears the same facial expression as I am. Bored and apathetic. This ride has been going on for far too long- first the flight to Boulnae then the train towards Elfia. I would have understood if I were on a family vacation, but I am not.
Far from it actually.
"You've been extremely snippy these past few hours. You'd better settle down before we get to the Academy" At the mention of the academy, my skin breaks into goosebumps. Geez, way to break the mood.
"I don't want to talk about it-"my voice comes of muffled as I stuff my face deeper into my palm. In an act of surprise, the man takes hold of my hands.
"You will be fine, Yuidan. Trust me".
Even though I am nodding my head, fear persists. Fear of what? I'm not even sure myself, maybe of the unknown? Or perhaps of the truth. I am going to be far away from my family and friends. That single thought drives me further into despair, I let go of Tori's hands and fall back into another state of regret and anxiety.
You see, after several threats were made to my family, the ever so graceful royal lineage of Yiondelienne, please note the sarcasm, my parents decided to ship me away to a far yet known academy. Of course, all of this had to be done in secret as to not alert any suspicion.
Even though the plan sounds quite smart, I have my own problems with it. But why would anyone listen to me? It's not like I was supposed to have a point of view in this matter. No...
Moments pass before the train starts to slow down. The once thick foliage and steep hills flatten down to a breezy forest with mountaintops visible in the background. My heartbeat starts accelerating, as we get closer and closer to the border of Elfia, where Coldruin academy is located.
I start throwing and shaking my hands to ease down some of the nerves, which are building up to an unimaginable amount. I feel like I'm about to pass out! The door to the compartment slides open as a broad man by the name of Jude enters.
"I think it's time to get ready, your highness,"
Tori starts searching in his bag before emerging with a small plastic container. In it lay two colored eye contacts. Before they even have the chance of slipping those into my eyes, I object. "What if they irritate my eyes?" I cover my face.
"These eye contacts cost a damn fortune, I'm pretty sure they knew what they were doing" I hate that I have to hide myself, and I hate that Tori is probably right.
"Fine..." I take the plastic cap and struggle for a good minute to press one of the contacts to my eye. I have done it before, forcefully actually. After finally having both of the contacts in my eyes, Tori gives me a mirror to look into. "This doesn't look like me at all!"
Staring at my blue skinned self, a sentiment of horror washes over me. My once long and blonde hair has been trimmed down to my ears, the blonde now replaced by cherry red. I'm not as mad about the color as I am about the length, though.
"Yep" Tori grins.
The eyes are completely different too, the colored contacts managing to mask the previous yellow with a pale blue. I would say I'm impressed if I weren't horrified.
"Am I meant to wear makeup too?"
"That would've been a great Idea. But the academy won't allow it; if they were to catch you with makeup on, you would be in a lot of trouble".
"But they have nothing against contact lenses and colored hair, huh?"
Tori sends me a grin before responding. "They won't find out, unless you manage to out yourself. Even so, the headmaster knows who you are! You'll be fine" A groan escapes my lips as I slam my back against the sofa. Hopefully, trouble won't follow me to the academy. I do not feel prepared to face it.
Once the mountains are fairly visible, the train hisses to a halt. People start collecting their luggage and stepping out of their compartments. I am no exception as I throw a heavy backpack over my shoulder and reach out to grab the luggage when it is snatched in front of me.
"You're already carrying too much" says Tori before leaving. I don't complain, it's true! The backpack is already far more than I'm accustomed to carry.
I guess things will have to change these few months- better said, I'll have to change. Exiting the train, I am met with an incredible view of the mountains, reaching high into dusty clouds. The sun has finally rose behind the gloom and the rain has stopped. A warm, orange light glistens upon damp land.
Wet trees drip onto the mud, stepped on by hundreds of people. The fresh smell of rain and pine enters my nostrils and it takes all of my will not to smile. It almost reminds me of home. Tori pushes me forwards into the mud, which has already caked my boots! I send him a glare before moving forwards.
A big, dome-like structure stands before us and my nerves start kicking in again. Will I really be able to do it? Can I survive in here? I have heard some very unpretty things about this place. Accusations of child endangerment or grave injuries that lead to death! I had better stop thinking about that, though... it's sure as hell not going to help me now.
A sea of people move towards the dome structure. Elfian's, Boulnae and Yomi alike. I have no idea how many of my kind are in the academy, but it's safe to assume I'll have to keep my guard up.
Several, what I would call, guards are spear out, watching over the whole ore-deal. They do not seem like any regular police officer though, wearing thick vests and dark blue clothing underneath, there's several holsters and devices stripped to their hips. Admittedly, I don't know much about Elfia's protection system, but they seem way too serious to be normal officers.
The again, this is Coldruin Academy.
Moving into the Dome structure, desperately clutching onto Tori's hand, we witness the huge line's ahead of us. "We are going to be stuck here for ages! Look at that!"
"Settle down" he shakes my hand. Tori let's go before kneeling in front of me. "Let's get over the basics again"
A groan leaves my lips.
"What's your name?"
"My name is Yue Minong. I was born in Yiondelienne in a small town nearing the edge of the capital. My parents are farmers and live modest but happy lives" After finishing, I add the final touch, a stretched grin to match my fake speech.
Slowly, Tori nods. "Good... but tone it down, you sound brain washed"
"That's all thanks to you," he snorts.
"You're going to be just fine" a real smile find its way on my lips.
"I know" I walk into the line. The amount of people swallow me whole, there is no turning back now. My stomach twists and turns just as my breath quickens. The nerves are coming back in full force. Just looking around gives me a headache. Too many unknown faces and too much commotion.
I would have never guessed so many are eager to join the academy. I, for one am not. My eyes travel to the ceiling, where long and graceful chandeliers hang above us. The top is completely covered in glass, letting through the evening glow, which spreads in tones of orange across the room.
In my negligence, I collide with the person in front of me. A broad and tall Boulnae stands before me. They slowly turn around to stare at my smaller frame. Petrified, I can do nothing more than stare back. Eventually, they turn around and act like nothing has happened.
With shaky legs, I glide across the room to then end of the line, where an Elfian woman stands before a counter. She shows her pearly white smile before starting her interrogation.
"Your name, please?"
I fiddle with my hands while responding. "Yue, Yue Minong"
She hums, working on her Link device. She scrolls through documents before stopping at one in particular, probably mine. Well, not exactly mine since, you know, it's a fake.
"Second year of secondary group, right?" second of secondary – what? I'm confused, what does she want? Her inquisitive stare bullies me into scrambling my brain for answers, my anxiety increases ten-fold, especially when her stare turns impatient. The pressure serves for something though as it brings a memory to surface.
"That's right! Secondary group" I smile like nothing happened.
Apparently, Elfia's schooling system is drastically different from ours. To avoid confusion they convert our system into theirs. It's quite simple when you think of it!
"Alright, I need you to sign this document" she gently passes me a Link device. It is now when I'm confronted with a serious dilemma. Should I write my own signature or forge one?
The answer comes faster than I am comfortable with, but special circumstances require special measures. They could just track the signature to my name if they wanted to, so I have to make it as strange and different from my usual signature as possible.
I end up scratching 'Yue' on the display, taking my sweet time making it as plain as it could be. Quite a contrast to my actual signature – bold and presumptuous.
I hand her the Link. She smiles elegantly before ducking behind the counter, in a moment she rises back with a small, plastic card in her grasp.
"You will use this card to access your room. It has your block and apartment number on it so don't lose it" the card has the two numbers on the front and my supposed name on the back.
Block 13, room 24.
"Oh... thank you "I send her a crooked smile before hurriedly circling back to Tori and Jade who are waiting by the door. When nearing them, a triumphant smile crosses my lips.
Naturally, only Tori reacts with a smile of his own. Jade simply stares and nods his head. I narrowly avoid my hair being ruffled yet again, showing of the card to my precious bodyguards.
"The room better be great, your parents spent a pretty penny on it," Tori says.
"Really? There are different prices for apartments? Shouldn't the academy pay for it or something?" Tori places a finger on my forehead and pushes, sending me stumbling back.
"And who pays for the academy? Did you forget our government has a part in all this?"
Right... Coldruin Academy belongs to no particular state; it's a shared entity that supposedly holds a purpose. Yiondelienne is part of the share; therefore, they must pay the necessary fees.
Tori shakes his head, "let's get you settled in"
Exiting the building, the nerves settle down. My breath becomes even and my smile relaxed. Students walk side by side with their parents or friends. Several groups gather around in circles or under wooden porches dispersed around the campus.
The atmosphere is calm and, dare I say a little sweet.
These feelings don't last though. There is something wrong, I can feel it in the pit of my stomach. Shivers run down my spine and the feeling of being watched takes over me. You know, that thorn in the back of your mind that keeps screaming at you for attention.
Even though these feelings persist, I push them at the back of my head. I've had enough of problems and anxiety… It's time for a break. Forcing my intuition to stifle and with a tight hold on Tori’s hand, I continue towards the residential area.
The problem is, signs like these should never be ignored, no matter how much we despise them or convince ourselves it is nothing, because in the end they always catch up with us.