"Help! That crook stole my bag!" A middle-aged woman cried hysterically. The young man who had collided with Carniff stood and poised himself, tidying his clothes. He did not pay heed to the frantic yell of the victim; neither did he direct any attention to the young lady who he had crashed on. A couple of law enforcers rushed to the direction of the bandit, and one of them obliviously hit the young man beside Carniff. But still, it appeared as if he had not been touched at all. He collected his strewn things on the ground and unmindfully left. Carniff labored to stand on her feet. She neatened herself and gathered her scattered belongings. "Unbelievable," uttered Carniff to herself. "Now where in the world could those two be?"

In the duration of the two-day course to Evyora aboard the Yintrail Airship, Dion and Ayna had grown close to each other – a bond one might confuse with a chummy brother-sister relationship. They had a tad too much things in common that somehow they failed to complement each other as a potential pair. Outbursts of ideas would always be imparted, and on certain occasions, they would complete each other's sentences. Torrents of hilarity would never be in short supply whenever they would crack their share of witty comic nutshells. This particular hue of closeness had grown on Ayna, and it made her initial affection for Dion simply fade away. The warmth of their congenial tie had flourished in a couple of days…and they both very well knew that they had it for keeps.

At an alleyway.

"Bloody! I can't believe you did that!" exclaimed Raz Rainhyne. "You are utterly crazy!" His hands trembled in angst and excitement; his heart pounded violently.

Quolah Buel respired heavily. "I've never felt so madly twitchy!" she said, panting. Her lips implied a hint of boosted savvy. "That didn't look so hard, now did it?" Her brown eyes seemed to twinkle because of extreme delight.

"Actually, Quolah, yes, it looked hard. Are you alright?" retorted Raz firmly with a trace of mock concern. He rested his back on a side of the dark alley. "Goodness!" Goaded, he scuffed his scalp through the thick red strands of his hair. "Don't you ever do such a thing again," he added. "You could've been caught, you know! For a moment there, while I was watching the whole thing crop up, I thought I'd go back to Armbronze alone!"

"No matter, I have three bunches of Pomzig Pebbles!" Quolah rejoiced, flaunting the small bundles of chocolate specks. "Want some?"

"Oh, reward yourself, Quolah," answered Raz. "Satisfy your craving!" His eyes of dim navy rested on a puddle on the ground. "What's with those Pomzig thingies, anyway?"

Munching on the bits of chocolate, Quolah responded in a rather boyish means, "Nothing, really. They're just incredibly tasty; plus, these bunches I'm holding were the last ones at the bazaar. I just took my chances. I've been dying to get my hands on these for the longest time!"

"Goodness, what your appetite can compel you to do," replied Raz. He put his hands in his pocket and set off walking out of the murky confined alley. "C'mon, Quolah, break's almost over. We still have to make the last preparations for later. And, oh, we still have a whole week ahead of us." His voice echoed within the margins of the congested zone.

"Oh, yeah," she uttered, chuckling, and began tracking Raz. "I wonder how Nicolas is doing. We actually deserted him at the office."

"Right," answered the young man. "He'd have a companion if you didn't pull me out."

Second year students at Armbronze Palace, Raz and Quolah volunteered to be part of the Welcoming Committee for the new batch of freshmen students. For preparations, they, along with the other members of the Welcoming Committee, had arrived at Armbronze Palace three days earlier than the first-year students who were, in turn, expected to arrive that afternoon for their initial accommodations – seven days earlier than the intended arrival of the rest of the student body. A weeklong tour of the palace vicinity had been organized for the neophytes. The closing stages of the tour would then mark the formal commencement of the academic year.

Raz and Quolah had been close friends since they were both seven years old. Quolah, a boyish brat of nineteen years of age was born and raised in Evyora. Being the bold and daring puckish woman she had always been, Quolah would engage in foolishly audacious bustles like pilfering, working out silly pranks, and breaking palace regulations just so she could spare herself from boredom. On the other hand, Raz, a well-off timid, cowardly young man, was born in Liyampola. His family moved to Evyora after an appalling incident in their hometown. Among the wealthiest and most influential kinfolk in Filispain, the Rainhynes, Raz's family, had been involved in most of the developmental matters in Evyora, having been denizens of the city for more than a decade.

The duo boarded the underwater bullet transit to the Coreheart Splinter. Upon entering a door to a train fragment, Nicolas Forndrale took off from another at the Elgium Splinter station. He was not only meaning to find his friends, Raz and Quolah, who had left him at the Welcoming Committee office earlier without his consent; but also, he had to take his breakfast and lunch outside the palace premises since he was not so sure if he had the guts to face Mrs. Blissbauts, head of the palace's vast classy cafeteria. Only a small section of the lavish dining hall had been opened especially for the Welcoming Committee members, and so it was assured that the clever young man would come face to face with the cutely plump kitchen mistress.

Just the night before, after dinnertime, he had given her a constructive criticism concerning her nastily shabby appearance when vending the scrumptious-looking cuisines at the cafeteria. It had been bothering him since his first year at Armbronze, and somehow he managed to gather enough boldness to helpfully enlighten Mrs. Blissbauts. In a gentlemanly way, he did so; however, it did not come easy to the flabby cook. Instantly, he had been vividly dredging up, tears began to shed from her tiny eyes. The pang of being miserably regretful had hit him like an incredible jolt upon that sight. He did not wish to make the hypersensitive jolly chubby lady feel awful with his kind words; but it was out of his control. Since then, a twinge of guilt had been unsettling him; he could not seem to get it out of his head. But there were still other matters he had to attend to. I better get going now, he reminded himself.

His light indigo eyes scouted the surrounding area for familiar faces through his clear oval eyeglasses, but to no avail. Nicolas made his way up to the city streets, hands in the pockets of his casual jacket. The metropolitan ambiance was bright as ever with the enriching glow from the sun; but still, it was rather chilly. He heard his stomach grumble, and so he settled on finding a bistro to eat at. He bypassed a few expensive-looking eateries and went for an unfussy one, which appeared affordable based on the menu stand before its entrance.

Fanatical shrieks could be heard nearby, but it was out of the young man's sight. He decided to check it out before going inside the restaurant. A chaotic throng of people was swarming around something, or perhaps someone, Nicolas thought. What or who it was, he had no idea. The young man felt his swelling appetite grouse yet again, and so he made his way inside the eatery notwithstanding the unusual site.

The pleasantly crisp aroma of cooking attacked his senses. It was delightfully warm inside, and the dim ambient glow of light from outside that penetrated through the glass windows served illumination to the slightly congested leeway of the restaurant. Nicolas' eyes searched for available seats, only to find one vacant. If I'm going to take that seat, I'll have to share the table with that girl, he mused.

For a second, his feet were glued onto the wooden floor, struggling to decide whether he should or should not take his chances to share a table with a stranger – a beautiful stranger, he thought. From the doorway, Nicolas could catch sight of the young woman's sleek light complexion that seemed to emit an inner glow because of the sunlight that assailed through the windows adjacent to her. Her long dark brunette locks flowed smoothly at the sides of her temple, and she gracefully went about her eating. As he stared at this enchanting view, eternity seemed to have grasped him out of the bound truths of reality. He could not hear the clanking of silverwares and glasses, the sound of music, nor the endless chatter of the other strangers. All he could feel and hear was his blood rushing through his veins, and his heart throbbing strongly. And all he could see was this beautiful woman…this beautiful stranger.

Nicolas composed himself, heaved a vehement sigh, and trailed the way to the table. He then found himself standing before her…lost for words.

She looked up at him, beaming, and said, "May I help you?" The young lady was rather perplexed and surprised. Her lovely smile was coupled with furrowed eyebrows, indicating her feeling of bewilderment.

"I—I..." – Nicolas paused in anxiety – "…was just wondering if—if this seat's already taken." He let out a sigh, and, with his fingers, he brushed his reddish-brown hair that covered his ears and the back of his neck. And before letting down his right hand, he adjusted his spectacles, which was slightly off the bridge of his nose, offering a small coy twist on both ends of his lips.

As if hit by yet another bolt from the blue, the young woman wrinkled her eyebrows in inquisitiveness.