Chapter 2:

Chapter 2: Nowhere to Belong


"I am a new student. I am looking for-" Fa Wen started to say stiffly in Elvish before pausing to search her limited vocabulary for the correct word, "-boss."

"Do you mean the Oversight Commission? It is in the Hall of the Black Tortoise," the student replied and skirted past Fa Wen before she could ask any follow-up questions.

"Rude," Fa Wen muttered under her breath before turning around to look at the central building the student had pointed to.

She decided to walk down the west corridor in an attempt to hide from the gaze of students and faculty strolling through the bridges and gardens dotting the central courtyard and across the lake. Unfortunately, her stiffly walking in an attempt to not step on the folds of her dress did little to shield her from the attention of those around her.

Students wore either practical qi paos or chang paos. What she presumed were faculty wore more formal suit dresses which emphasized wide sleeves and heavily decorated scholar hats. Some people wore the more traditional long flowing hanfus similar to what Fa Wen was wearing - but nothing that stretched down and nested at their feet.

Most just quietly stared at her as she walked past. A group of girls quietly snickered. Despite her partial grasp of the language, Fa Wen caught one of them whispering " a wet peacock dragging its feathers" to her friends.

Trying to hold back the embarrassment from coloring her face any more than it already had, Fa Wen made her way up into the Hall of the Black Tortoise to the Office of the Oversight Commission. "Please tell me you have a change of clothes," she desperately said as she approached the desk surprising the middle-aged elf sitting there. The elves she was used to seeing, usually other nobility and ambassadors, were the epitome of perfection. This man was anything but. A slight pot belly and balding hair with some indescribable small stains on his rather simple chang pao.

"Well - I personally have a change of clothes but I do not think that's what you're asking about," he said as he straightened up. Fa Wen slumped down and splayed over the counter in near tears. The elf nervously looked around trying to find some words. "Umm, could I help you with anything else?"

"Today's my first day and I didn't even know it was my first day and my dad put me into this stupid gown and I had to walk past all of the other students while tripping over myself and I just want to go to bed and die," she sobbed.

"First day. Got it - you must be Fa Wen," the elf continued trying his best to ignore everything else, "I see you're on the half-elf track. Professor Feng Hua will be leading your orientation at thirteen o'clock." He paused and looked at Fa Wen dejectedly listening to his information and sighed. "Look, I'm just an administrative staff. I don't know anything about fashion or social cliques or anything. But there are other half-elves at this school. Maybe they'd be willing to help."

Fa Wen was willing to take whatever she could get. "Thanks," she sniffled. She took her orientation packet and shuffled out of the room.

She had three hours before her orientation. As she crept along the hall both trying to hide discreetly and look for any friendly faces, she managed to spot two half-elves chatting in one of the side corridors.

Their clothing was a little alien to Fa Wen, mostly consisting of deeply colored and embroidered overcoats and pants, but goddess the fact that someone else in this school was even wearing pants nearly caused Fa Wen to shout with excitement. She stepped into the hallway and excitedly called out, "Oh my goddess, I'm so happy to see other half-elves. I just got here from Lyrial and I am having a rough morning."

In an increasingly worrying trend, she was met with a blank look of confusion. They whispered among themselves. The few words Fa Wen did hear sounded completely foreign to her. Finally, the young man in dark and light green striped robes stepped forward. "You are from Lyrial?" His Elvish was much better than hers, but it was accented, and it was hard enough for her to learn normal Elvish.

"Are you not?" she asked back.

"We are from the Dune Cities of Parth," his companion, a dark-skinned woman with beautifully curly amber-brown hair replied.

"Oh, I never heard of Parth. Are there a lot of half-elves from there?"

"Yes, a lot. Most of the half-elves here are from Parth."

"Well, maybe I could tag along with all of you. I'd love to learn more!"

The two of them looked at the absolute wreck of a state that Fa Wen was in and exchanged nervous glances with each other. The boy quickly spoke with what seemed to be an even more heavily accented Elvish, "Erh sorry, our Elvish is not so good and we don't speak Lyrial. Maybe you have a better time looking for your type of half-elf."

Fa Wen felt beaten. This was an utterly direct rejection. A wellspring of anxiety pushed up threatening to swallow her. She could barely utter a word of farewell before she turned around and rushed down the hallway.

As she reached Professor Feng Hua's office, she collapsed to the ground in a combination of desperate gasps for air and futile attempts to hold back gentle sobs. No elf or even half-elf would associate with her. She looked ridicolous compared to everyone else. She hadn't even had the opportunity to settle down and collect her bearings. She left her friends back home. And all of this on her first fucking day.

"What do we have here," a voice asked as Fa Wen had her face buried into her knees. She looked up and saw a gorgeous woman with long black hair and two little fox ears. She wore a deep crimson pink kimono that matched the color that tipped each of her nine tails. There was no way that she wasn't the most beautiful and popular girl here.

"Eek, sorry! I'll get out of your way. Just don't tell anyone you saw me like this," Fa Wen yelped. She braced herself from the normal cycle of confusion followed by disparagement or avoidance.

But thankfully what followed was a crystal clear laugh of mirth. Not cruel and prodding like the girls from earlier. But thoroughly bemused at the entire situation. "Oh dear, I'm afraid you have had quite a bad initial impression of our little school. Let me apologize on behalf of the Institute. My name is Yin Tao. I'm Professor Feng Hua's teaching assistant. Unfortunately, she's a little busy so I'll be handling your orientation. Why don't we get you inside for a cup of tea."

Fa Wen blinked back tears and allowed some semblance of hope to return to her before nodding gratefully and following Yin Tao into the office.