Chapter 1: Fated Tides

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Ten, nine, eight...

She just needed to breathe, breathe and focus on nothing but total balance. That meant an empty mind, sound emotions and... yes, balance. Eyes closed, Natalie drew in a slow and steady breath through her nose and eased it out her lips, trying her hardest not to shift her body posture due to the intake.

That's it. Like the moon that orbits the earth, or the earth that orbits the sun in the deep void of space, she was the center, the apex, the star. A star did not fear, a star did not doubt or regret, a star just pulled all things that were around it. Sending planets in orbit, a perfect equilibrium. Like that star, Natalie had to purge her wavering emotions and become one with herself otherwise-

"-You're doing good," Sophie whispered from just up ahead.

Natalie's eyelids twitched to that, although she was grateful to hear her traveling partner and now good friend praise her efforts. The simple gesture almost broke her concentration. With her emotions needing to be perfectly in sync, even the ghosts of a smile that flashed on her lips to the slight emotions of happiness she got had one of the now ten marbles she had orbiting around her almost fall to the sand by her crossed legs.

Stupid! Stars don't 'feel' emotions. Natalie chastised herself.

The sound of waves residing came to her ear, which helped her some. Hearing their present crashing to shore reminded Natalie of the orbiting moon bringing in the tides, that in turn reminded her of the sun they orbit that pulled her back to thoughts of that lone star. With her mind clear of all but the image of being a lone star, Natalie's rough mental count came to zero.

Good, she managed to keep all the marbles in orbit around her for give or take five minutes without dropping one. She would feel satisfied with her new record but she was a star. With another steady breath, Natalie gingelly nodded her head to give Sophie the go-ahead to try and disrupt her all in order to practice for the next test.

They talked and agreed upon this method of training. But even still, knowing how well Sophie can read a person's mood with just a look of their face along with her quick and quirky knack for words, Natalie could not help but be a little nervous as she waited for Sophie's distraction.

"Your tummy's getting bigger. You've been letting yourself go as of late," Sophie said. Natalie could hear the tinge of amusement in her tone.

If Natalie was not concentrating for the life of her she would have huffed and rolled her eyes up to her skull at that. She'd somehow gained weight, had she? Even though she eats half as much as the average person? And right now, she was a star-- the weight and mass of a star were what helped it pull and attract things to them so her gaining mass was a plus. And even if she did somehow gained weight, what did it matter to her so long as--

"--You don't think Andrew's noticed the lapse in mass have you?" That one pulled her right out of her concentration.

With all ten marbles falling to the white sands, Natalie blinked up in shock to the thump of her heart skipping in her chest.

Seeing her totally out of her comfort zone, Sophie chuckled in self-satisfaction from Natalie's reaction. Natalie could do nothing but try not to show the full extent of her embarrassment.

She wanted to throw sand at the chuckling girl sitting before her, but she held back from doing so. Sophie, being a proud member of the Westen temple of Hallow Peak,  wore the color of sky blue, the emblem of the great blue phoenix marked at the back of her long coat. With her brunette hair tied up in a braid over to one shoulder and her ocean blue eyes filled with wisdom, openness, calmness and now laughter, Sophie was the definition of beautiful, dependable and nowadays, like the older sister she never had.

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