Faintly, Hazel was aware that had she had even a second to think about it, she might have taken in the vast array of new colors….
Textures….
PEOPLE all around her…

But at the moment, all she felt was a complete sense of numb shock as Kiara led her endlessly through the streets of Edinburgh.

“What’s next on your list?” Kiara asked, looking at her watch.

Hazel didn’t immediately answer;  she was still reeling from the fact that when they had just crossed the street, everyone had crossed all at once— pedestrians walking on all sides of the road, left, right, diagonal, sideways, with every car in the intersection waiting for them— instead of only one group crossing with the flow of traffic, like she was used to back home.

“Uh, Hazie?”

“Wha-? O-oh, um,” Hazel snapped back from her stupor, “… the university says I need to buy my own sheets for my bed.”

Kiara nodded. “Right. There’s a decent home goods place in Marchmont. We’ll stop there next. Cross through Sciennes, and then I can take you through Morningside. We can go to Rose Foods in case you want to get some of the NICE bougie stuff to stock your pantry with, haha. Ah, but then Sainsco’s would be cheaper… and there’s one on the way to the library if we cut through the Meadows… ”

“…Bougie?” remarked Hazel, not even taking in the names of the places Kiara mentioned. They passed through what seemed like a blurring, winding, indeterminate maze of tall gray row buildings.

“Oh yeah,” said Kiara, “We live in the ghetto area of Edinburgh, ‘round Newington. Marchmont and Morningside, those are the nice, bougie areas in Old Town, where the rich people live.”

“…I … see,” said Hazel, panting a little and trying to re-hoist her shopping bags full of school supplies on top of her luggage.

Though, really…. she didn’t.

They continued past scores of people. 

————————–

Here, there was no one.

Azalea had noticed this from the very start. It had been a very calm, uneventful three days’ boat ride, traveling down the Eastern Channel from the Convent to the Guild. Indeed, it was especially smooth, with fewer and fewer people ushering them through ports, the closer they got to their destination. Far from this consoling Azalea, she found her sense of foreboding increasing.

It didn’t help that along the way, jarringly—- as though a switch had suddenly been flipped the second she had left her dorm— Azalea was now being treated like royalty by the few people she had met. Those guides who transported her belongings refused to let her lift even one object with her mind: they furnished her seats with lush velvet cushions, fanned her underneath silk tents, brought her piping hot, rich food in woven baskets, and guided the boat entirely on their own, saying that it was no trouble.

Most of all, they had called her by her new titles.

“Weaver.”
“Lady Azalea.”

None of it felt real.

And now… here she was, standing at the gates. The Guild: a beautiful, lush complex of green hills, tall, jade-roofed domes and pearl-colored towers… pale mist under a continual, soft pink and yellow sky, and the scent of fragrant flowers all around with gentle trickling of water close by.

And, there was absolutely no one across this estate that Azalea could see or hear at all… The one exception was a lone, green-aura, elderly woman in orange-trimmed robes. She stood silently on the dock, waiting to receive Azalea while the couriers unloaded her things off of the boat.

((Welcome, Lady Azalea,)) the woman said, giving her a small, slow, and shaky bow in her age— of servant class, judging by her medallion’s engraving—  ((My name is Megumi, of Green Aura… Please allow me to show you to your quarters… and we’ll settle you into your position in twelve tides’ time…))

Azalea nodded… taken aback as ever by the new title, and from an elder appointee at that.

She was trying, trying her best to hope that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad… Megumi levitating Azalea’s things and solely leading the way before her…
The couriers leaving on the boat behind her.
But try as she might, Azalea’s foreboding was growing ever-heavier. Deep, like a stone.