Quails on the Cliffs of Marigold

Quails on the Cliffs of Marigold

Group story with darkxXxside, Quotegal and prcy_808.

Chapter 1

The Chocolate Girl

She stepped off the half-sunken dock, clutching the small suitcase in her hand. The air was cold, humid and salty, very similar to the murky water that trickled over the rotten wood of the dock. Mist appeared to slither through the air, while in the distance a horn blared to guide the lost souls who'd stepped off the boat.

She followed the sound at once; of course she did. Every little fiber of her had grown out of curiosity, was based on the yearning to never stop learning. This way of living had earned her many nicknames - too many to keep track of, perhaps, and not all positive. Oh, she did not mind. There were more important matters at hand, and much more interesting ones at that.

The trees creaked and croaked and cracked, seemingly stretching towards the many students that were gathered together in one big hoard, all walking in a zombie-like manner towards the direction of the mist horn. The sound of heavy footsteps echoed through the distance in a neat rhythm, a little reminiscent of a waltz. Sometimes the gross noise of someone getting their foot stuck in the wet mud broke the harmony. All remained eerily silent, however. It was as if some invisible woman had kissed their lips shut, as if they'd been bewitched by an evil madame. The very notion of speaking seemed preposterous; blasphemous.

Smooth, bleached tiles replaced the soggy ground. Not too far ahead, impressive walls doomed up. They were like the white cliffs of Dover: so beautiful, so raw, so... Well, who would have thought that? She, the one who was always so fond of ridiculously long words, didn't know how to describe it.

Upon closer inspection, however, those cliffs bore a closer resemblance to cheap plastic. Someone had graffiti'd a large part of the walls with a blinding orange, while the west wing was full of a dark blue that would've been beautiful if it hadn't clashed with the other color so much. The more she looked, though, the more shades she found ‒ there, next to the orange, was a lovely pastel yellow. And just under the marine blue was a color that reminded her of her father's blouse, a sort of light blue one could also find on either side of your Wordpad page. A few pictures hung next to the broad doors, which had been thrown open in anticipation of the new students.

The throng around her was visible now: some faces were blank, others excited. It made her wonder what she looked like at this precise moment, whether she was one of those chameleon-like people with sleepy eyes and tight lips and pale cheeks.

"Name," a voice droned.

She started and looked towards a small desk on her left, behind which a plump little man sat. He shuffled in discomfort on his wooden seat, a stamp ready in his hand. The obnoxious sound of gum being chewed on carried through the air.

"I'm sorry," she responded politely, "I don't understand what you mean."

"Your name," he repeated, looking rather annoyed. "According to the rules, you need a name to go by."

"Well..." She glanced around, unnerved by the situation. "What are my choices?"

"Whatever you want," he said, bored. "As long as it is not already taken."

"How will I know‒"

"The computer will know." The man sighed in exasperation, clearly not used to so many questions. "Pick a name."

Nervousness bubbled up inside of her, causing her hands to grow sweaty. She wiped them on her trousers and swallowed hard, trying desperately to get rid of the dryness that had suddenly rendered her unable to speak. Upon seeing the impatient look on the chubby man's face, she blurted out the first word that came to mind, regretting it as soon as it left her lips. "Chocolate."

"TAKEN!" he shouted, causing her to jump in fright. "Pick another."

"Anne?" Anne was good, Anne was normal, Anne was average. You couldn't go wrong with an Anne, could you?

"TAKEN!" he shouted again, slamming his hands down on the desk and tossing a look at all the other people waiting in line. The queue was steadily growing larger, almost disappearing into the mist. Probably realizing how long it would take for the girl to come up with a proper name, he stamped the piece of paper and flung it towards her. She caught it hurriedly and clutched it to her chest, as if to protect it from the hothead behind the desk. "Welcome to the campus, Anne Chocolate."

"But I‒"

"Move on!" he barked. "Shoo!"

Anne Chocolate gave him an angry look and began walking again, her too-large sneakers squeaking against the smooth floor. The tiles gradually changed to a darker color as she moved on, whereas the walls took on the pattern of the some sort of nebula. The fact that she didn't know what it was called irritated her immensely; the realization that many of the other students did irritated her even more. Whispered sentences like "it's the Cat's Eye Nebula" and "I wonder if there's study groups" and "am I the only boy" flew around, too loud in a room this large.

"Attention, please!" a clear voice said. A young woman in a black fought her way through the crowd, trying to get everyone to pay attention. There was something painfully bright about her, like someone had painted an invisible rainbow all over her sober attire. "Everyone, gather around me!"

A lot of pushing and protest ensued as everyone tried to get a good look at the colorful woman, some of the twelve-year-olds going so far as to climb on the back of the taller teenagers. Anne pulled a face as one of the smaller students trod on her toes, but kept her lips pinned tightly together to refrain from saying something rude. The girl gave her an apologetic smile before darting towards the front of the horde, her unruly hair quivering with every pace.

The rainbow woman cleared her throat and gave the mob a calm smile. "Welcome to TOW, everyone, and good afternoon."

"Good afternoon," the crowd echoed dully.

The woman twitched a little at the unexpected response, her eyes taking in some of the students at leisure. Every time she caught someone holding back a laugh, her eyebrows inched up. By the time everyone had settled down, they were dangerously close to her hairline. "You need only know me as Rachel Clase. I am one of the MA's representatives, which is formed by a group of TOW's top students. Work hard, and you might become one of us someday.

"In a moment, each of you will be asked to describe your manner of arrival and your personality. Based on your answers, you will be sorted into a group with students with a similar outlook on life. Do not feel pressured: this is merely to prevent fights, not to enforce a stereotype on any of you.

"You will be called forward in alphabetic order. If you have any questions, please check the FAQ board in the front hall or save them for later." She cleared her throat. "Thank you for your patience."

"Any questions?" a boy next to Anne muttered. "I have about a billion. For one, why are there so many freaking girls?"

Anne turned to him, a little embarrassed upon realizing she was at least a foot taller than the person in question. "Well," she replied in a hushed tone, "it is a school that's been designed to encourage creative young students. The opposite gender is usually more interested in cars at this age."

"No one asked you," he grumbled.

"No one asked you to complain, either," she said snappishly, turning back to look at Rachel Clase. The latter had her gaze fixed on some kind of megaphone that had been fixed to the ceiling. Desperation lingered in her eyes; it wasn't hard to imagine what she was thinking. Anne herself would be feeling much the same if she were obligated to watch over a large group of hormonal kids.

Anne shuddered a little and rubbed her hands together, trying to create enough friction to cause some form of warmth. Her mind drifted off as a monotone voice filtered through the megaphones and students trickled out of the room one by one, all looking equally terrified. She was far away, on some tropical island, living out her dream. Perhaps she was a famous artist; perhaps she was an author. Perhaps, just perhaps, she would have finished college with a perfect GPA. Perhaps, just perhaps, just perhaps...

"Anne Chocolate, room 10A, section 16," the intervoice called, sound much like rusty old chains. She started out of her thoughts and followed a mysterious-looking representative who introduced herself as Ithil Wen; Anne promptly forgot her name and just followed the woman, too anxious to listen to her rational welcome speech.

"Well," Ithil something-something said, giving Anne a kind look. She gestured gracefully at the yellow door in front of them. "Here we are, then. Good luck, Ms. Chocolate."

"Will I need it?" Anne squeaked, attempting a joke. Spotting the utterly blank look on the representative's face, who was clearly a person for more serious conversations, she just let out a sigh and faced the yellow door. Yellow, yellow as the sun and honey and beaches and the old, raggedy chair back home.

"Good luck," Ithil repeated graciously, turning away from Anne. She strode back towards the arrival hall with brisk paces, her long, half-wavy hair ‒ were those blue streaks? ‒ barely moving, as if it had been glued to her slim back. Eerie.

Anne looked back at the door, gently putting her hand on the handle. Yellow had always meant happiness for her, had always been some great metaphor that guaranteed good fortune. Though this entrance led to a new life ‒ though her future depended on it, in a manner of speaking ‒ it also promised her new opportunities, new knowledge, new talents. And if the hue was one that signified happiness, how bad could a simple, yellow door be?

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