Arc 702, 122nd trial of AshanVluharqih wandered, the shining city bright and glorious to her eyes. She smiled, and laughed, looking down at her shimmering arms. She twirled in the street, her head tossed back, soaking in the sights and sounds of this wonderful place.
Behind her, Warren and Ashley smiled at their little girl, her face a blank slate. Their faces were blurred, but Vluharqih could recognize their voices, and their presence wrapped Vluharqih in a veil of safety. She laughed and danced down the roads, her parents following her along.
Soon, the bells tolled, a pealing, clear sound above the murmur of the city, and her parents grabbed Vluharqih's hands and began walking. She was distracted, staring at the buildings they passed, buildings that appeared alive, and Warren was forced to pick her up. As they walked, they passed other Yludih, and Vluharqih began to see the first ones who had fully formed faces. Their structure was elegant, and the infinite facets forming their features caught the light, making them appear to glow. These ancestors smiled at them and waved the family on, their chisels and hammers pausing as they passed.
Before long, they appeared before the school. The massive, glittering building appeared as though it would touch the sky to Vluharqih, and when she looked down and saw the other children entering the building, she excitedly hopped up and down.
Her parents, smiling, brought her to a table set up in the front. "Hello, we are here to register our little girl for classes?" Her father asked, his deep baritone seeming deeper than normal. A grin kept splitting his face, no matter how hard he tried to hide it, and when he looked at his wife, she could see the pride he had for his daughter shine through.
"Yes, Sir. I'll just need her name, her age, as well as your names, and your city of origin. This is to provide additional information and teaching relevant to your individual locations. If you would like to provide her current forms, we can also teach languages and habits for those." Her chipper voice didn't show the fact that she had done this for hundreds of parents before, and would continue to do it for hundreds more.
"Her name is Vluharqih, and we are Vahmorquh and Gurvah. She is 7, and-"
"Seven and a half!" her little voice rung out.
Her father chuckled as he continued. "Yes, seven and a half, and we are from Ne'haer. We would prefer not to list her forms, if that's okay."
"Yep! No problem! Just let me finish these forms....and.... there. So she can head inside, and we can dismiss them ourselves. Enjoy the rest of your night!" She replied, ink flying from her quill as scribbled across several forms, and handed them off to an attendant.
Her father knelt beside Vluharqih, and stared at her face. "Now you behave, okay? And remember, you only use your real name here. Have a good night, little princess. We'll see you at home." As he gave her a tight hug, and whispered in her ear "I love you, Vluharqih, and I'm so proud of you."
With that, her parents turned and walked away, but Vluharqih didn't see that. She had already turned and sprinted for the doors. Her parents had taught her Yludih from the time she was young, but hearing the buzz of it among the other children was a novel experience for Vluharqih. She sat in a large, open room with hundreds of other students. A fuzzy-faced teacher walked in, and introduced himself to the class. “Good Evening class, my name is Vluhome. I am to be your teacher in the ways of the Yludih.”
The buzzing of the class slowly died down, and he smiled at them. "So, first we will divide you up based on language- those of you who understand Yludih, please stay where you are." He then proceeded to speak the same language she heard her parents talk in sometimes, and she noticed many students perk up at the sound of it. With a rumble of noise, most of the students stood up, and filed out the door. Vluharqih looked around anxiously, and saw about thirty students left behind. What am I supposed to be doing? Before she could get up, the man at the front of the room spoke again.
"Good. So you all understand Yludih, right? Now do any of you also understand Common?" A few children raised their hands, but most of the class just looked around, confused. "Very good. So, for those of you who don't know, this is going to be your formal schooling. It's probably the only schooling you'll get, but we're going to make it count."
He clapped his hands, and three more Yludih walked in, pushing carts overflowing with books. Each cart had a large name on it- one cart for each major city in Idalos. Vluhome walked over the a cart, and pulled out a large list. It was a list of books containing information about customs, practices, races, and history for that city. "You are all from different cities, so I would like you to go find your own cart, and wait there for further instructions."
Another rise of noise as the students jostled their way towards the carts. Vluharqih pushed her way to her cart, and looked around. There was only one other person standing at her cart, an she stared at them curiously. I didn't know there was another one who lives in Ne'haer!. They stared back, obviously wondering the same thing, before they both looked away awkwardly.
"Oooookay class. Now you'd better get started! These books are all in Yludih, so you should be able to read them. If not, ask someone for help. I want you all to pick out a book to read, and learn its contents. No matter where you are, or who you are, knowledge of your surroundings is always helpful." He strode back and forth in front of the small crowd of students, his hands clasped behind his back. When they didn't move, he turned and yelled "Well go on then!"
Vluharqih jumped at his voice, and looked down at the cart. She reached out for a book on the history of Na'hear, only to have her hand bump into another's. The other student looked at her, and withdrew his hand. "Oh, sorry about that! My name's Quhbah. What's yours?" His voice was high, but distinctly masculine, and as he spoke he held out his hand.
"Hey, my names is Al...Vluharqih!" She replied, barely catching herself in time. She shook his hand, and looked back at the cart. "I'm thinking I'll look at a different book- this one's all yours."
She flipped through the books, before one caught her eye. 'The Underground World of Western Idalos; Famous Crimes' .Ohh, I always loved hearing stories about daring escapades. Maybe this one will be interesting. She pulled it off the shelves, and headed back to her seat. As she sat down, Quhbah sat beside her. "I'm excited to read about this!" He said, as he returned his gaze to the book in his lap. After a break or two, and some incredibly interesting stories, Vluhome returned to the room. "Okay, so that's enough of that for today. Return your books, but don't forget where they are, or which one you read. You'll have to pick them up again tomorrow."
"Okay, next we are going to focus on one of the most critical tasks for any Yludih, no matter where you are or what you do: Meditation."Vluhome paused, as if expecting a response, but upon receiving none, he continued. "For those of you who don't know, Meditation is the key to remaining in Uleuda after death, not to mention the key to unlocking your inner ability to appear as various races and even animals." His voice was barely more than a whisper, and the class exploded at that knowledge. "What I can be-"
"Who knew that-"
"This is so amazing! I can totally be-"
Raising his hands, he slowly quieted the class. "Yes. So today we will begin with a rather simple exercise. I want you all to sit on the floor. Relax, it's clean."
He gestured them all down, and sat with them in a small circle. "Good. Now sit straight up, but be somewhat relaxed. Good? Okay, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Ignore the other sounds and smells. Focus on that feeling. The involuntary in and out of your body."
The class fell silent, devoid of noise. Vluharqih found it easy at first, but soon found her attention wandering. As if by reading her mind, Vluhome quietly intoned "If your mind wanders, simply bring it back to the breathing."
He had them remain motionless for almost a full break, and when he ended the session, the class was oddly quiet. None of the chattering that had occurred before was heard. "Good, you all feel different, right?"
Without waiting for their response, he quietly continued " That feeling is what you should feel after every meditation session. I want you all to practice meditation every day for a break in Idalos, before returning here for your schooling. And do not think of cheating- trust me when I say it is very obvious who has and hasn't followed my instructions." Slowly getting to his feet, he continued. "In a few months we will move on to walking meditations, where your body must continue a basic task while maintaining its solace and clarity. If it helps, instead find an object or repetitive sound to focus on. The idea behind it is to focus on one thing, and let the rest of your thoughts fade into nothingness."
He then turned on his heel, and called over his shoulder "On to our third section of school!" The crowd went down a long hallway, past classrooms filled with other students, until they came to the end, where a large door was inset in the wall. He leaned into the door, and it slowly creaked open, presenting a massive room, filled with rows upon rows of nondescript books.
"Here we learn how to change forms- purely theoretically, since it's impossible to change our forms up here. But you will choose your forms, and learn all you can about them. Also, for those of you who are unaware, you can also choose to transform into an animal-but you cannot change your size. This will take more practice than the other races, but the processes are identical. The books are not categorized, so take your time" He lectured them, his voice growing more serious as he continued. "They remain unsorted to preserve our anonymity. Do not attempt to discover another person's race under any circumstances. This will lead to severe punishment."
With that, he released them, and the children scattered to all corners of the library. Vluharqin headed to the back corner, and soon found herself alone among the stacks. The towers of shelves were made of pure crystal, and stood over a dozen feet tall. Ladders were lying on the floor of the aisles, but Vluharqin kept her eyes on the bottom few rows. Soon she spotted what she was looking for- a copy of 'Introduction to Avriel Customs'. Pulling the thin book out, she began to read.
Several breaks later, she heard Vluhome's booming voice echo throughout the chamber. "We are done for the day. You may go home!" Vluharqin got out the chair, and stretched. She hadn't finished learning about Avriels, but that was what she wanted to be. Free, majestic and powerful, she felt a strong pull towards them. This is my first form. This is who I want to be.
Heading back into her own body was not difficult by this point, and she felt herself return. She lifted her arm, and the heavy blanket shifted off it, revealing a decidedly pink hand. I'm back she thought, before passing out again.