They filed around the table in the circular room and took their ordered places, all twelve of them: all female. Girls about to complete their penultimate year of study, and their elder teacher Fumiko-sensei, leading the count to their seats before taking her place at the table’s largest orb.

No males typically made it to this high level of telepathic training.

Of the few boys that had stayed in Azalea’s class throughout the years, they had all been switched the day they turned 12– or, as Himawari-sensei had reminded them every year prior, the Day of Age where your most basic aptitude and abilities were set.  

Henry, Tao, and Robert, Azalea remembered, were transferred to the Orange Class– a class that focused on how to transport goods and other menial levitation skills. Yuuto and Li were moved to the Green Class, which trained students almost entirely in environmental sanitation. And Zhong was placed in the Brown Class, designed to teach all the skills necessary to communicate with people in the Lower District:

Reading.

Writing.

And elocution of spoken words.

Skills considered unnecessary for any genuine telepath.

Making the Brown Class the lowest class that prepared students for the lowest of diplomatic jobs between districts.

If Kaito had stayed, Azalea wondered, would this have been his placement?

She stared quietly at her reflection in the smaller silver orb in front of her on the table. While her classmates closed their eyes and concentrated– many still needing to practice projecting their auras into their orbsAzalea had mastered this task a long time ago.

She looked around. The sky outside their classroom window was a pale blue with tinges of yellow. A perfectly normal, reflective day, she noted by its colors, for the people of Society. The classroom’s water rippled around the circumference of their room, placidly powering their orbs with its properties as usual, just as the small trees that grew on their walls gave off their usual scent of freshness for the room. Fumiko-sensei calmly monitored the students from her seat with the power of her silver medallion, and chanted her usual words to everyone. ((Let Water clear your eyes… let Fire clear your hearts…))

Another normal day in their year. Yet, nothing ever felt normal to Azalea anymore… not since the day Kaito left. Nearly eight years ago now…

*Strain.*

*Worry.*

*Frustration.*

Azalea could feel her classmates’ feelings and unspoken desires as they practiced, bringing her slightly out of her own thoughts. Some were hungry and wanted it to be dinner time already; some were distracted, wanting to succeed with their end-of-year exams coming soon; many were struggling to keep their auras steady.

Fumiko-sensei continued observing and offering her guidance. 

((Remember to let your inner essence of Water flow through your orbs, everyone! Project the image you want to display into the orbs, and let your thoughts be shown. You are Water-Speakers, don’t let the Earth of your physical beings block your natural abilities!))

*STRAIN.*

Not from any of the other students, however; this time, it was Azalea’s.

It had happened again. At the very mention of Earth being a hindrance to their Water, Azalea felt a shot of discomfort. But, she did not let it show.

Instead, Azalea closed her eyes, breathed in, and exhaled. A picture of the Convent’s peach tree appeared in her mind’s eye— sparse in its branches, save for the single peach that had caught her attention. Remembering… working and working to pull the fruit down to her… then, a boy’s voice to her: “You need a hand?” Turning around, seeing his cobalt eyes…

Before her memory could carry on any further, Azalea centered on the image of the tree itself. Then she raised her hands to the orb and mentally pushed this image out from within her, flooding it into the orb as it began to magnify.

Azalea felt Fumiko-sensei appraise the image in her mind’s eye; the teacher gave a small smile, and nodded her approval. ((Hmm-mm.)) Then she moved her consciousness to the next student’s orb, telling her to try to release the tension from her shoulders.

Azalea lowered her hands back underneath the table and sighed.

Normally, she could reason away the more uncomfortable thoughts she had anytime anyone mentioned Earth to her. She’d done so for years, after all— learning very early on from her teachers and peers how Earth was to be viewed: as dirt. It was the least of the Four Elements; a necessity that gave them their mortal bodies, but a base necessity that was to be tamed and dominated by the higher, purer form of Water within them.

Yet, no matter what, there was always something that just… didn’t go away.

Azalea was FROM the Lower-District.

And while she herself had been blessed with Water… what did it mean, then, as she came from the place where, as they’d been taught, was the domain of the Earth-speakers? The place where, except under very limited circumstances, Water-speakers couldn’t go, and couldn’t mingle? If this COULD not be the domain of Water-speakers… then how could she herself even be, coming from there? 

When Azalea was younger, her teachers always gave the same answer to her confusion: Azalea was an exception because she had been blessed with Water. That’s what her parents told her. That’s why she could not stay with them. Because she was blessed. And this was the place for her.

So then, did this mean that, unlike Azalea, her parents were simply NOT blessed?

And that unlike Azalea… Kaito was also…?

Even though Azalea knew… 

ABSOLUTELY knew better…

As all of the students around her finally finished their warm-ups, she could feel that same single itch rise from within… a pang…

((Alright class, well done,)) said Fumiko-sensei, tapping her medallion to record the students’ grades, ((Before we move on, does anyone have any topics they would like to review? Any questions they might have?))

Nobody raised their hands. Everyone was tired, worn, wanting the class to move as quickly as possible, and NOT be bombarded with the piles of information they’d already need to regurgitate in just a few days’ time for their final exams.

But then…

*Yearning.*

*Drive*.

*Unsettled.*

*A need to know.*

And none of them had ANY doubt as to where these feelings were coming from. Purposely veiled from their teacher, they all sent their thoughts as undercurrents in one pointed direction: 

((You better not, Purple.)) said Harmony, head cast down .

((DON’T. ASK. ANYTHING. I want to get to dinner on TIME for once!)) added Chiriko, resentment pouring from her as she grimaced at her orb.

((Ughhhh isn’t knowing everything already ENOUGH for you???)) said Beatrice, unabashedly glaring right at Azalea.

Feeling everyone’s thoughts, Azalea looked down. Sad. Once again, she was just being a bother.

((No questions at all?)) asked Fumiko.

And then Azalea thought of Kaito. His calm smile as he sat beside her. 

((Alright then,)) Fumiko-sensei spoke in her normal tone, ((If no one has anything they want to review, then our topic for today’s lesson will be- ))

Azalea’s hand shot up.

((Um… Sensei? I have a question…))

The whole class stifled their verbal groans, their frustration rolling in waves, but Fumiko-sensei merely smiled at her star pupil and asked, ((Yes, Azalea?))

Azalea lowered her hand, looking down at her reflection, and blinked. She knew she’d pay for this in the usual taunts from her classmates. But, she had to know.

((Sensei, can you please remind me… why is it EXACTLY that… people in the Low District and people in the High District have to be kept separate from each other?))

((AH, an excellent question,)) Fumiko-sensei said, pleased to be able to review one of her favorite history topics. Rising from her chair, she draped her hands in front of her orb and concentrated her aura, eyes and fingers faintly glowing the color of her teal hair as the orb began to charge.

A collective sigh passed through all of Azalea’s classmates. They faced their orbs and concentrated their auras as well— eyes glowing their own respective colors. Azalea focused on her orb, and let Fumiko-sensei’s thoughts and images flood into her mind. 

In her mind’s eye, Azalea saw whiteness all around.

((To answer this question,)) Fumiko-sensei’s voice echoed, ((we must return to and reflect upon the ancient past. In the beginning, it is said there was nothing… save for a white expanse…))

-End-