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Burning Skies - 1 - Ilya

by inprisonforsparkling


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

"I'm just the informant. If you can't use the information I give you, that's your problem, not mine." Ilya blows his bangs out of his eyes.

The man in front of him almost growls. "You saying I'm stupid?"

"Interpret it how you wish."

Ilya isn't naive. He knows he's about to be in a lot of trouble. He drops, kicks the man's legs out from under him, stands up, and runs for his life.

"Oi! GET HIM!"

...And there it is. Unfortunate, but he'd had a bad feeling when he took this job, anyway, so it's not like he's unprepared.

Ilya is fast and agile, traits you need to have if you're a small guy who gets into fights. But sometimes, that's not enough, especially when there are a large number of thugs coming from all sides. So you also need to know your fighting grounds extremely well — better than whoever you're fighting. Ilya prays to whichever gods will listen that this gang don't know everything he does.

He runs directly at a building, which throws the thugs off. This is one of the less funded districts of Lumine — not so much that it's completely decrepit, but enough that some of the buildings have chinks and weaknesses. Which this one does.

Ilya's thoughts are racing at a million miles a minute as he pulls himself up with one hand. This is easy if you get the hang of it — you just have to keep looking for the next foothold, you just have to keep going no matter if your hands are shaking. It's adrenaline, that's all, is what you have to keep telling yourself.

He gets to the roof, but he's not done — he needs to get far away before they find some other way up here, so he takes one deep breath, two, and then he runs, trusting his past self's calculations that if he jumps at just the right time, he'll make it. And he does, so he keeps running, and he keeps running. It feels immensely satisfying in an electric kind of way, to know he was right.

By this point, there's no way they're still after him, but that thinking is what gets people killed so Ilya keeps running, even though his lungs are burning and his legs are screaming at him to stop. He learnt long ago that sometimes you just have to ignore those sorts of things, if you want to survive. Which he really does.

He's not really sure how he ends up back at the old toyshop, but when he gets there, he's beaming. It has to be one of his worst traits that he actually likes when he has to run away from something.

Lexi is waiting there, an unamused look on her face. "Provoked them on purpose again, didn't you?"

"I'll have you know I am always an absolute delight," Ilya says, attempting to school his features into a serious expression and failing. He walks to the back of the shop, behind the curtain and into his makeshift room, and pulls off his gloves. It may be summer, but he looks good in gloves, so.

"Uh huh." Lexi may not be visible, but he can just tell she's rolling her eyes.

Ilya pokes his head out of the curtain and pouts.

Lexi snorts. She roughly ruffles his hair. "Dumbass."

"Meanie."

"Oh, shut up." Lexi flops into her favorite armchair. "I'm not mean, you're just reckless."

"Pfft. Has anyone ever caught me?"

Lexi just gives him a look.

She's one of his best friends, and has been for a long time. She's the one who took him in when he first arrived in Lumine; he'd been terrified, and cold, and alone, and she'd found him, and she took him to the old toyshop and tended to his wounds. She hadn't had to, but she had anyway, and he owes her his life.

Of course, that doesn't mean he always listens to what she has to say.

Ilya pushes the curtain to his room to the side, and walks in again. He likes the place, even though it is slightly creepy. He's always finding weird dolls in his wardrobe, but he's pretty sure it's Lexi pranking him.

His bed is... messy. And so is the rest of the room, because he's not a particularly clean person, and it's so much effort to put away all of his clothes every time.

Ilya picks a book up off the ground — it's been here for more than a month, probably. He should bring it back to the Library. Maybe he can do that later, after Lexi leaves for work. Or he could actually finish reading it, that might also be a good idea; he hasn't even properly bookmarked it, just stuck a corner of his winter jacket in between the pages.

He walks back into the front of the shop, opens up the book. It's quite good, actually, he'd forgotten — it's about a girl living in Steelgard who wants to be an engineer. He's pretty sure that the writer is from there. They describe it almost perfectly, if his blurry memories from the time he visited as a child are anything to go by.

Lexi lets out a breath, then pushes herself up. "Well, I'm off. Gotta make money somehow, if you keep pissing off your customers."

"I always get payment upfront and you know that! Plus, it's a good thing the bars haven't banned me yet," Ilya says, shaking his head, "if you're going to keep abandoning me every day."

"You're sixteen, that's not old enough to be drinking alcohol."

Ilya shrugs. "I tried it once, it's not great. Tastes like-"

"I swear," Lexi laughs, "if you finish that sentence I'm telling Demelza about the Eclair Incident."

"NO PLEASE I BEG OF YOU." But Lexi's already out the door. Eh, he's not going to a bar anyway, so who cares.

Ilya always, one way or another, finds himself here. The Lumine Library.

Overlooking the Idoran Ocean, it houses the largest collection of books in Chandelle — maybe even the largest in Idora. It's situated on the edge of the university district, and there are always maybe a hundred or so students studying in the ivory towers of the Library at any one time. Ilya isn't a student, but he likes the place, the smell of books and the sea. It doesn't remind him of home at all, which is a welcome change.

Today, he's sitting on the balcony outside the main Library with a few books. The sun is shining on his back, because if he turns towards it he'll definitely burn. He's not reading anything, though, not even the book he needs to return; he needs a minute to just... sit here.

He's in the the capital city of one of the richest countries in the world. And it's a weird disconnect, because he's lived here for so long, but he's not from here. He loves Lexi like she's his sister, but the old toyshop isn't his home like it is hers. His home is far to the north, in snow and — and this sort of thing is exactly what he comes here to not think about, so he really shouldn't be thinking about it!

Ilya takes a breath. He lets it out.

It's been eight years. That should be long enough to forget, surely.

He's never been very good at deciding not to think about things, especially this thing, so instead he takes the books back to the receptionist and leaves the Library. Lexi needs a couple things from the market, she left him a list, so he'll go and buy those.

The market district is one of Ilya's favorite places. It's somehow comforting, to know that there are so many lives, so many stories playing out around him all the time. He likes the noise.

"Did you hear the King of Najahashi is throwing some kind of party?" That's a young woman, talking to her friend and the owner of the stall she's at. (Ilya has a bad habit of eavesdropping.)

Her friend scoffs. "A blatant attempt to show off how rich he is. Pitiful, if you ask me."

"Isn't he just fourteen?" the stall owner asks.

A laugh, from the young woman. "He was, eight years ago!"

"Have you been living under a rock or something?" the friend asks, amused.

Ilya walks away. Kind of interesting. He doesn't keep up much with news of world leaders, not even those of Chandelle. He's... pretty sure there's a king, and maybe a prince. Or was it a princess? Not important, he needs to buy eggs.

On his way back to the toyshop, he passes by a jewellery stall. Pretty, but expensive and unnecessary—

"You there!"

Ilya turns around. The middle-aged person running the stall beckons him closer. He walks over, cautious.

They lean back in their chair. "Those earrings, where did you get them?"

Ilya, almost involuntarily, reaches a hand up to his ear. His earrings are opals in the shape of a teardrop, with a gold ear cuff and a fine chain connecting the gems and the cuffs. He really shouldn't have worn them here, but they were gifts from Alexei, who's almost as much of a father to him as his actual one.

Ilya turns away again. "They're not for sale."

"Oh, I don't mean to buy them," the stall owner laughs, "it's just that that's Sau gold, isn't it? You don't find much of that this far south."

Ilya freezes. The gold of his earrings is from Chiesau Nova, of course it is, but he had never expected anyone to notice. "...My aunt visited once," he lies, not looking the stall owner in the eyes. "She brought these back as a souvenir."

The stall owner smiles. "Ah, you're lucky. The borders have been closed for years, she must've been there a while ago."

(He knows the borders are closed. He knows why the borders are closed.) He smiles back. "Yes, it's a good few years ago now." And he walks away, heart beating painfully against his ribs.

...He's fine. He just needs to get back to the toyshop.


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Tue Sep 27, 2022 7:11 am
HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: Okay...this is quite nicely done I think. As far as first chapters this one does its job fairly well. I think you can take this story a few places with how you've established this, and I like the places it appears to be headed towards.

Anyway let's get right to it,

"I'm just the informant. If you can't use the information I give you, that's your problem, not mine." Ilya blows his bangs out of his eyes.

The man in front of him almost growls. "You saying I'm stupid?"

"Interpret it how you wish."

Ilya isn't naive. He knows he's about to be in a lot of trouble. He drops, kicks the man's legs out from under him, stands up, and runs for his life.

"Oi! GET HIM!"


Okay.... well that's quite a start. It seems we're diving straight into the action on this one, and its some pretty immediate action too. Its a little confusing on the start because we have absolutely no idea what is going on, but I love that, its a nice touch of mystery and I think it works wonders at getting the reader's attention and making them curious to see what this could all be about.

...And there it is. Unfortunate, but he'd had a bad feeling when he took this job, anyway, so it's not like he's unprepared.

Ilya is fast and agile, traits you need to have if you're a small guy who gets into fights. But sometimes, that's not enough, especially when there are a large number of thugs coming from all sides. So you also need to know your fighting grounds extremely well — better than whoever you're fighting. Ilya prays to whichever gods will listen that this gang don't know everything he does.

He runs directly at a building, which throws the thugs off. This is one of the less funded districts of Lumine — not so much that it's completely decrepit, but enough that some of the buildings have chinks and weaknesses. Which this one does.


Okay...well that's a decent move there, but I think the little interruption there to provide a full paragraph on just what sort of fighter Ilya is kind of breaks the pacing of this a little, and you don't want to see that happening so early into a chapter. I'd suggest reducing that down a bit and maybe going for showcasing that through what Ilya does as opposed to just outright stopping in the middle of the fight to explain this because that doesn't help the story at all.

Here's something that should help.

Ilya's thoughts are racing at a million miles a minute as he pulls himself up with one hand. This is easy if you get the hang of it — you just have to keep looking for the next foothold, you just have to keep going no matter if your hands are shaking. It's adrenaline, that's all, is what you have to keep telling yourself.

He gets to the roof, but he's not done — he needs to get far away before they find some other way up here, so he takes one deep breath, two, and then he runs, trusting his past self's calculations that if he jumps at just the right time, he'll make it. And he does, so he keeps running, and he keeps running. It feels immensely satisfying in an electric kind of way, to know he was right.

By this point, there's no way they're still after him, but that thinking is what gets people killed so Ilya keeps running, even though his lungs are burning and his legs are screaming at him to stop. He learnt long ago that sometimes you just have to ignore those sorts of things, if you want to survive. Which he really does.


Okay....well this is a bit mixed here for me. I love this little almost chase sequence of sorts where he's running away, but those comments mixed in there really don't help too much especially the ones about Ilya's ability. A couple of these are fine, like the reference to learning that a long time ago, but then that one with the adrenaline really doesn't work at all. So I'd say sort of if you're hinting at sort of this person's past it works alright, but then just talking about what they're doing in extra detail out of nowhere really is breaking the pacing up here.

He's not really sure how he ends up back at the old toyshop, but when he gets there, he's beaming. It has to be one of his worst traits that he actually likes when he has to run away from something.

Lexi is waiting there, an unamused look on her face. "Provoked them on purpose again, didn't you?"

"I'll have you know I am always an absolute delight," Ilya says, attempting to school his features into a serious expression and failing. He walks to the back of the shop, behind the curtain and into his makeshift room, and pulls off his gloves. It may be summer, but he looks good in gloves, so.


Well this is a lovely bit of interaction. A little bit more could perhaps go into describing Lexi there. Its a perfect chance to introduce her a bit better, and this is rather vague. Of course this is simply the basic things. The dialogue does a wonderful job already of telling us more about what sort of connection they have and what their relationship might be like.

She's one of his best friends, and has been for a long time. She's the one who took him in when he first arrived in Lumine; he'd been terrified, and cold, and alone, and she'd found him, and she took him to the old toyshop and tended to his wounds. She hadn't had to, but she had anyway, and he owes her his life.

Of course, that doesn't mean he always listens to what she has to say.

Ilya pushes the curtain to his room to the side, and walks in again. He likes the place, even though it is slightly creepy. He's always finding weird dolls in his wardrobe, but he's pretty sure it's Lexi pranking him.


Okay..well see that's pretty much exactly what I mentioned earlier, I think you could just have that a bit earlier, although this way it does work too, so it should be okay as it stands. Well let's see where this takes us next.

He walks back into the front of the shop, opens up the book. It's quite good, actually, he'd forgotten — it's about a girl living in Steelgard who wants to be an engineer. He's pretty sure that the writer is from there. They describe it almost perfectly, if his blurry memories from the time he visited as a child are anything to go by.


I love this little snippet here. It adds on quite nicely to the idea of this person that we already have. Although I do have to say that perhaps this place could use a touch more description, because besides the messy room, Ilya and Lexi are currently floating in a bit of a black void.

Lexi lets out a breath, then pushes herself up. "Well, I'm off. Gotta make money somehow, if you keep pissing off your customers."

"I always get payment upfront and you know that! Plus, it's a good thing the bars haven't banned me yet," Ilya says, shaking his head, "if you're going to keep abandoning me every day."

"You're sixteen, that's not old enough to be drinking alcohol."

Ilya shrugs. "I tried it once, it's not great. Tastes like-"

"I swear," Lexi laughs, "if you finish that sentence I'm telling Demelza about the Eclair Incident."

"NO PLEASE I BEG OF YOU." But Lexi's already out the door. Eh, he's not going to a bar anyway, so who cares.

Ilya always, one way or another, finds himself here. The Lumine Library.


Okay that was a cute interaction again, you can really see that they are definitely best friends, but the transition there to the library is a bit jarring. We barely get an indicator that this person is going anywhere and then just BOOM scene transition. I think you need to either include a scene break or have a clearer transition there.

Today, he's sitting on the balcony outside the main Library with a few books. The sun is shining on his back, because if he turns towards it he'll definitely burn. He's not reading anything, though, not even the book he needs to return; he needs a minute to just... sit here.

He's in the the capital city of one of the richest countries in the world. And it's a weird disconnect, because he's lived here for so long, but he's not from here. He loves Lexi like she's his sister, but the old toyshop isn't his home like it is hers. His home is far to the north, in snow and — and this sort of thing is exactly what he comes here to not think about, so he really shouldn't be thinking about it!


Okay this is a fun moment of reflection here. I think it balances out that faster paced start quite nicely and tells us quite a few things about the place and this person's history. Its a nice touch I think. You get a good sense of how much of a habit this is, and why it would be so much of a habit.

Ilya takes a breath. He lets it out.

It's been eight years. That should be long enough to forget, surely.

He's never been very good at deciding not to think about things, especially this thing, so instead he takes the books back to the receptionist and leaves the Library. Lexi needs a couple things from the market, she left him a list, so he'll go and buy those.


Well that hints at so much there and I love it. Its a wonderful detail to include here, especially right at the start because that really goes a long way to telling us what sort of person this is.

"Did you hear the King of Najahashi is throwing some kind of party?" That's a young woman, talking to her friend and the owner of the stall she's at. (Ilya has a bad habit of eavesdropping.)


Not sure why the bit in the bracket is remotely necessary there.

On his way back to the toyshop, he passes by a jewellery stall. Pretty, but expensive and unnecessary—

"You there!"

Ilya turns around. The middle-aged person running the stall beckons him closer. He walks over, cautious.

They lean back in their chair. "Those earrings, where did you get them?"


Hmm...I have a feeling the earlier conversation about royalty is somehow important later on, although there's not telling, it could be a random red herring. Besides that love this little moment here, although I now get the feeling we might have another chase on our hands, or at least cliffhanger for the ending.

Ilya turns away again. "They're not for sale."

"Oh, I don't mean to buy them," the stall owner laughs, "it's just that that's Sau gold, isn't it? You don't find much of that this far south."

Ilya freezes. The gold of his earrings is from Chiesau Nova, of course it is, but he had never expected anyone to notice. "...My aunt visited once," he lies, not looking the stall owner in the eyes. "She brought these back as a souvenir."

The stall owner smiles. "Ah, you're lucky. The borders have been closed for years, she must've been there a while ago."


Well that's a fun little detail now. Also very tactful move there to escape being questioned too much. I think that was timed quite nicely there by this person although now this opens up a few more questions.

(He knows the borders are closed. He knows why the borders are closed.) He smiles back. "Yes, it's a good few years ago now." And he walks away, heart beating painfully against his ribs.

...He's fine. He just needs to get back to the toyshop.


This time I think the bracketed part is a good detail, I just don't see why it has to be in brackets. As for this ending, well its no cliffhanger, but its a powerful one nonetheless for the start of a story. I think you've done quite well here. We do find ourselves curious to see what happens next.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, this is a nice solid start here. There's a few kinks to iron out but for the most part it does the job of a first chapter quite well and I think its certainly done enough to make me want to read a second part of this.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry






Thank you for the review!!!

I'm definitely going to put a bit more work into the first and second scene in future drafts; like you said I want to describe Lexi a bit more!
For the sudden transition to the library, I think you're right, but the software I'm using makes it so I'm always writing scenes separate from each other.
As for the brackets, it's a stylistic preference, I'd say.
Again thank you for the review!! And I hope you enjoy future chapters :D



HarryHardy says...


You're Welcome!!

Makes sense on the software.

As for the brackets, I guess that's probably personal preference on my part two. It just feels out of place to my eyes :D

And you're Welcome again!!



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Sat Sep 24, 2022 5:24 pm
Horisun wrote a review...



Hello! I hope you’re having a good day or night!
Right off the bat, you jump straight into an action sequence. There was a ton to like about it! I do agree with the previous reviewer, that it was a little confusing, and I didn’t fully understand what was happening, who the characters were, and why they were angry, but I believe with a more fleshed out setting, it would make for a killer opening!
By far, my favorite aspect of this chapter was the dynamic between Lexie and Ilya. I really appreciate a good friendship in fiction, (especially since it’s, unfortunately, so hard to come by) I wish we got a little more information on Lexie in this chapter, and I would’ve liked to see some character descriptions, but you’ve got the bones for some extremely strong characters! Ilya has such a distinct voice already, (and, bonus, a mysterious past) he’s funny and energetic, but never once comes off annoying or arrogant. Once again, this plays off very well against Lexies more matronly demeanor.
This is a more minor nitpick, but I’d warn you away from using ALL CAPS. Generally speaking, it’s something you mostly see in newer writers works, and you won’t often find it in published stuff. Of course, there are exceptions, but in narrative writing, ALL CAPS implies FLAT OUT SCREAMING. Usually, it suggests the character in question is in extreme distress, whereas here-

"NO PLEASE I BEG OF YOU." But Lexi's already out the door. Eh, he's not going to a bar anyway, so who cares.

-where he seems to more be messing with Lexie. It fits a wee better earlier in the chapter-
"Oi! GET HIM!"

Where we the reader know there’s significant cause for concern. Still, there are other ways to portray a character shouting angrily, such as dialogue tags and descriptions.
Again, this is very subjective, so disregard if you feel differently.
(In general though, while your dialogue itself was excellent, I would’ve liked to see more descriptions surrounding it)
All in all, excellent start to your chapter! I didn’t mention your world building much, but I also thought that was a great addition. I liked how you sprinkled hints of it all throughout this chapter. Once more, the characters were wonderful, and I’m excited to see more of them! Genuinely look forward to reading the continuation of this story! Keep on writing, and welcome to YWS :D






Hi!! Thank you for the review!!
Yeah, I'm definitely going to flesh out that sequence when I get the chance.
I'm glad you like the characters/dynamics! I'll also flesh out Lexi a bit more in future drafts, but at this point in time I'm just trying to get a first draft done, y'know? Because there's nothing to edit if there's nothing written :D And I'm glad you're intrigued by Ilya's past!!
As to the all caps, it's honestly just a stylistic choice because I like it, haha. "NO PLEASE I BEG OF YOU" was meant as a sort of exaggeration, because it's not that big of a deal, but Ilya's making it out to be.
I'm glad you like the worldbuilding! It's one of my favorite parts of the story to be honest.
Thank you again!!



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Fri Sep 23, 2022 8:42 am
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi there Oliver! Lim here with a review.

First Impressions
I found the characters in this to be really likeable, especially Ilya! His inner commentary can be really funny.

He's... pretty sure there's a king, and maybe a prince. Or was it a princess? Not important, he needs to buy eggs.

^ I liked this line in particular! Made me chuckle.

Speaking of which, the narrative voice is something that stood out to me. The present tense kind of makes it feel like the narrator in a modern movie, or maybe even a documentary in parts where the setting is being described. I’m not sure at this point what the main story event is or what the plot’s going to be about, though this is only the first chapter, so I’m assuming that might come in the following parts.

Characters
Something I like about this chapter is Ilya’s characterisation. I feel like I get a good sense of who he is, even in a relatively short space, and that it’s conveyed through his actions and thoughts rather than through straightforward narration. The dialogue towards the man in the beginning shows that he has a rebellious streak and is also witty.
He walks to the back of the shop, behind the curtain and into his makeshift room, and pulls off his gloves. It may be summer, but he looks good in gloves, so.

I also like this detail. I think it shows how he does what he wants, which isn’t always the most objectively practical thing. Lexi doesn’t receive as much focus in this chapter, but I can tell she and Ilya have a friendly almost sibling-like relationship based on their interactions.

Style
Something that could be improved on I think could be the introduction. It was a bit hard for me to imagine the first scene in this chapter because it starts with a dialogue exchange with very little context. I was a little lost as to where the characters were, what sort of business Ilya had with this man and who the people chasing after him were. I think having that context and sense of place can really make a scene feel more vivid, and is especially helpful to reader’s imaginations in a chapter that goes through at least 3 different locations.

Worldbuilding
I thought it was very interesting how you embedded mentions of Ilya’s old home in the north throughout the chapter. I like that it wasn’t a big info dump all at once, but came in subtly, first with the book he was reading and then with the person commenting on his ear-rings at the marketplace.
"...My aunt visited once," he lies, not looking the stall owner in the eyes. "She brought these back as a souvenir."

I like how this line shows that it’s a touchy subject!

Overall
I thought this was a pretty catchy chapter, even if the first paragraph or so was a bit hard to follow. I’m definitely curious to see more. I wonder what kinds of people Ilya works for, and whether gathering information is really all he does (he seems more prepared for fighting and running at least in this chapter, and I find it a bit odd that people looking for information would hire someone who doesn’t have an established reputation, i.e. hire him for one-off jobs rather than relying on a spy who’s worked for them before, or something like that). I’m also curious to read more about this north/south division in the setting of the story and how it will impact the plot.

Hope some of this helps, and feel free to ask for more feedback!
-Lim






Thank you so much for the review!! Yeah, I think in future drafts I'm definitely going to expand on the first part.
On Ilya being a source of information: He's a pretty well-known informant among the gangs in the city, though he isn't allied with any of them in particular. He's actually very careful not to be allied with any of them ahaha.



Liminality says...


Ah I see! That's interesting!




Go in fear of abstractions.
— Ezra Pound