1. Eà



People have always said I was different. They took one look and me and judged me right there and then. A society where only 'normal' people are accepted is a society of dystopia. My mother had provided the bare minimum for me; she wasn't proud. Most parents aspired to send their children to the Royal Academy of Procyon but my mother…she wanted me hidden away. Procyon was a school for the talented. But not the talented like the Infra people are: a special kind of talented.

We are adapted to the harsh bitter winds, the vastness of our empty kingdom, the way the government rules. Our government, the Rigel, came into power as appointed by the king of Eà, our kingdom, and a year later, the king was dead. With no successor to his throne, the Rigel took position as the ruling power of Eà. Ever since then, people like me have been hunted. One by one, we were tracked and taken down, covertly and with no blood left behind. My best and only friend, Augustus, was taken away. I had met up with him on the border of the forest and that was the last time I saw him. Never heard a word since. His mother doesn't talk about him; it's as if she doesn't even remember him. But she still keeps his photo on her mantelpiece above the fireplace in her home. I used to always be welcome in her house; it was cosy and warm and she was more like a mother to me than my own. But ever since Augustus was taken, she treated me with hostility and bitterness. I was on my own.



Chapter 1

"Mai!" I rolled my eyes and heaved myself from the scratchy sheets of my bed, perching on the foot of it. Yawning, I eyed a cobweb hanging in the corner of the ceiling for a few minutes waiting for my mother's shrill voice to call out again. "MAI!" Her screech pierced my ears but I still didn't move. My legs were heavy and my vision was clouded. Darkness started to seep in round the edges and I could feel my heart pounding faster and faster until...

Everything stopped. My vision went normal, my heart returned to a steady beat and I could lift my legs. This had been happening for a few weeks now but I couldn't tell my mother. I didn't want to. She'd take away my Freedom Rights. My Freedom Rights were rights that she gave me if I acted normal. I was allowed to go out, to attend school and to visit friends. Any sign of abnormality and I'd be stuck in the house for a month. My mother was crazy about keeping me hidden. She insisted she was doing it to protect me but I knew why she didn't want me outside. Still, it was nice that tried lying to me rather than saying straight out she thought I was a freak. I anticipated another shrill cry from my mother but the house stayed silent. Given up. I figured she had gone back to doing whatever she did with her time. She wouldn't want to waste another precious second on someone she didn't love. I prised my body from the foot of the bed and shuffled reluctantly over the wooden floorboards to the threshold of my door. My room was my own. The entire house was sparse and a dull brown but mine was painted with murals of skydragons; mythical creatures that ruled the skies and learned to bend the water in the air to create clouds. I had used paints from the Jade Market, a market that comes only at night: no one knows when it will come until it's there. They deal with spirit magic and I found the paints on a stall in the very corner of the market. They were worth every gold coin I paid because when you paint something, it comes to life. It doesn't come out of the surface you're painting on but it moves. The dragons I painted move so gracefully, as if they're dancing amongst the clouds. They shift the air and the clouds swirl around them. At night, when the house is silent, I can the rush of the air going past their long, slender bodies and the beating of their wings. Sometimes, I can hear the gentle crackling of the fire they breathe, spreading warmth throughout me that was never there before. I left the comfort of the skydragons and took painfully slow steps down the stairs and across the hall to the main room. It was damp and dingy, with a dwindling fire struggling on a stove in the corner. A brass kettle perched on top, whistling to itself quietly.

"Finally." I looked over to see my mother leaning over a wooden table, with two plates in her hand. She placed them down and crossed the room to get some cutlery. "Dinner is almost ready." She said impatiently. I rolled my eyes, accustomed to her vitriolic behaviour, and sat down on the wooden chairs. The poles of the chair hurt my back and I squirmed, trying to get into a more satiable position. Before I could pick up the ladle, my mother had already started putting the dinner on my plate, spooning it from the pot in the middle. "For once, I wish I wouldn't have to treat you like a baby." She muttered irritably.

"Well, if you'd given me the chance to, I would have done that myself. But you have to take control of every part of my life, don't you." I sarcastically drawled and folded my arms, stubbornly refusing to look away from the ground.

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