Byar’non. High rises of muted and pastel color schemes peppered with the occasional brilliant splash of electric color, smooth obsidian streets teeming with ethic diversity and canopied sidewalk stalls, the gong of heavy bells and clack-chip-pop of hustle and bustle, the smell of something musky, something fragrantly savory, delicious—all these visuals and sensations struck the trio as they roamed the minor city.
“Essairyn, how are we supposed to find the Knight-Mage Academy in these crowds? Should we just ask someone?” Darren rose up on the front soles of his boots in an attempt to survey the area above everyone’s heads. Taller than Essairyn by five inches, he was able to see in front of them better. But even at five ten plus the boot heels, he saw nothing but people.
“Yeah..that’s probably best.” Although she was amazed by the crowds and felt like they had truly entered civilization as they knew it, Essairyn was beginning to get annoyed by being pushed around and not really moving forward.
“It’s not yet even noon, and the roads are this packed! Now I’m starting to appreciate the invention of cars. At least then we could walk around on the street lanes to get somewhere,” muttered Essairyn loudly.
At her remark, Darren guffawed. She wasn’t at all troubled by the possibility of being hit by a car in that kind of situation. Or even held accountable for jaywalking if that was prohibited here. He wondered what she was like on Earth with this kind of straightforward attitude.
“Hey, let’s ask someone standing in line at one of the stalls. I don’t think anyone going to stop for us in this crowd…” Darren suggested and began elbowing a path for them toward the closest stand. Reaching the middle of the line, he asked an amiable-looking woman for directions. Since the Academy was widely known, he received an acceptable answer without having to ask anyone else.
“So apparently it’s near the center of the city by the plaza. If we go straight north for a hundred or so blocks we’ll reach it,” he recited back to Essairyn due to the ambient noise.
“A hundred blocks?!” she exclaimed incredulously. Based on the size of blocks in Reisparte, it took about two minutes to walk one side unhindered. So with these droves of people, it would take at least twice as long the three to four hours needed to reach the heart of the city.
“No way, it’ll take us the whole day even when the crowds start dispersing! There has to be some quicker way…” Essairyn propped up her chin with a hand and carefully deliberated. The common means of transportation was mostly walking followed by animal-drawn vehicles. But the wagons on the narrow path weren’t much faster than the pedestrians. So that left one option: the air instead of the ground.
However, flying would draw too much attention. Additionally, it was risky. They were still newcomers to this world and had to proceed with more caution. Lachlan had also warned them about some group targeting mages. Thus, this option was immediately erased.
“Darren…” Essairyn began as an idea began formulating in her head. “How comfortable are you with jumping over roofs?”
The boy blinked at her with wide eyes. “Over roofs? You’re thinking about crossing over all these people by running on top of the buildings?” He peered up at the imposing edifices. They weren’t skyscrapers, but it was still absurd considering some were ten stories or higher. And jumping from a tall to short building or vice versa was bound to be difficult even with improved physical abilities.
“Yup! I think we can do it!” Essairyn smacked her palm with a fist in determination.
Darren draw back his head, aghast at her proposal. He was still getting used to his improved body, and as much as he was still perturbed about being in an unfamiliar world, he didn’t want to die in it either. Although, to be fair, he was more likely to injure himself than die by engaging in rooftop parkour.
Akari too expressed her demurral. “I can just feel the nausea now…” She mocked-gagged and held her white belly. The fox was all to used to being thrown back and forth like a rag doll while clinging onto Essairyn’s shoulder as she jumped through the trees. She expected the buildings to provide no less of an unpleasant experience.
“Ay, you guys…it’ll be fun!” Essairyn hooked an arm around the retreating fox while dragging Darren with the other to the corner of a building in a dim alley. Releasing his arm, Essairyn sprinted a few paces to the end of the passage and sprung up onto the roof. Completely upright, she then spun around on her heel and looked encouragingly at Darren while Akari drooped over on the girl’s shoulder in defeat.
Darren shook his head in reluctant amazement. Essairyn was casually standing on top of a three story building egging him on. With an amused sigh, he copied her movements and hoisted himself over the roof edge. He didn’t quite make the leap as successfully as she did, but he managed to catch himself with his arms. How the hell did she jump up here so easily? I can’t believe I’m actually hanging off the edge of a building like a wuss…
After he stood up, he rubbed his sore elbows that took the brunt of the impact. I need to get my act together. This is how it’s going to be from now on whether I like it or not. He inhaled a sharp, deep breath. Instead of moping around, I should probably make the most out of this huh? He fixed his eyes upon the streets below with an equivocal gaze. After all, it’s like you’re reenacting your childhood for real..living in this fantasy game-like world. The video games, the stories, fantasies, and aspirations of his early youth, the magic was coming alive again. He truly missed his old life on Earth, but at the same time, a strange feeling crept into his heart as he stood above the people. Release? Anticipation? He wasn’t sure exactly what it was. But Darren knew that something had unlocked in him—a burning desire to chase after the extraordinary. In leaving behind his loved ones, a part of him was forever lost. But the cavity was welling up into an unfathomable spring of exhilaration. Perhaps this was what the first explorers felt in a new land. Whether that spring would muddy, freeze, or congeal the wounds that were not fully realized was vastly yet to be seen.
“If we skirt around the especially tall buildings, we can conserve our energy. It should take us…no more than an hour,” Essairyn reasonably calculated. The distance was an easy feat considering they had ran most of the way from Reisparte. Their staminas would be able to last. Darren nodded his head, and they began their rooftop exploits.
By the middle of their trip, they had both fallen into a harmonious rhythm, matching each other pace for pace. The scenery flew by, and in a little less than an hour, they finally arrived at the plaza. Kaleidoscope blossoms encircled the mosaic center of the enormous space, and artfully pruned shrubs and trees were scattered across the entire square. From their elevated vantage point, it was easy to appreciate the designer and artist of the plaza. The gorgeous mosaic depicted some story. A woman with flowing hair and garments above a castle tower marked the center while other scenes spiraled around her. Lacking in time to decipher its meaning, they furtively descended to the ground.
“Thank gods we’re finally here,” grumbled Akari who looked completely wiped. “I think I need to feel the ground underneath my paws for a moment…” She lethargically shimmied down Essairyn and sunk to the tile floor with her legs spread out. Feeling the cool, steady ground beneath her, Akari smiled doltishly in satisfaction.
“You look like a pancake.”
Essairyn’s comment made Akari jerk her head up. “Wat?” The fox blurted out. What the heck is this girl talking about? Akari was confounded at what exited Essairyn’s mouth sometimes.
“A pancake! Lying flat on your stomach like that with your coloring and fluffy fur…you look like a cute pancake,” the girl explained with the growing visage of a mirthful grin.
“…” …..Someone please take me away. Akari plopped her chin back down and closed her eyes. Essairyn’s eyes winked a smile at the thoroughly done fox before she tilted her head up to scan the surroundings.
“The lady said it was on the left side of the plaza and that we should see an indigo spire,” Darren recalled while also looking around. Sure enough, they spotted the blue tip of the Academy building on the left and began moving toward it. Seeing them leave, Akari scrambled up and chased after the duo.
Upon reaching the school, they immediately noticed various students milling about along with guards stationed at the front. It was in complete contrast to the quaintly quiet atmosphere of the Reisparte branch campus.
“Hello there! Are you here to see the Knight Mage Academy?” One of the guards promptly queried as they approached the entrance.
“Yes,” Essairyn replied before adding as an afterthought, “Lachlan sent us here.”
The shocked guard’s eyes widened into saucers. “Lachlan?! Oh! I’m sorry! Yes, welcome to the Knight Mage Academy Regional Campus of Byar’non! I hope you find your stay here pleasant! Please let me us know if you need anything!” The guard saluted them with a crisp clack of his armor as his legs bunched together in a stiff, proper form.
Surprised by the guard’s reaction, Essairyn mentally noted to refrain from mentioning Lachlan’s name in the future. It seemed that the man was of high status. At the very least, it was a relief to know that he was respected at the Academy to draw this kind of formal, obsequious response.
“Thank you. We’re actually new to this whole Academy thing. He said that we could train here for free?” Essairyn pushed Lachlan’s authority a little. He had said that training would be free if they joined the Knight’s Order, but it didn’t hurt to test out their limits considering that the crash-course was completely free.