Chapter 3: An Irritated Illudo

You find yourself in a bustling city—not really a place you would expect a Sorting Trial to be, but the whole process has challenged your perspective on things. Cars, horses, and flying vehicles swerve all around as you try to head to your destination. It makes you miss the majestic mountaintop you were camping on just a few days prior.

That being said, a city means access to a shower. And you could really use a shower.

While exploring the city, a building with a prominent Illudo sigil on the door piques your interest. Following your curiosity, you enter the otherwise non-descript building.

As you walk inside the building, you spot a tall woman effortlessly juggling what looks to be about 8 or 10 colorful balls. She oozes an authoritative aura, and with how she is dressed—top hat, embellished blazer, cape—you assume she is an Illudo. Her juggling is mesmerizing, even more so because she hasn't dropped any of the balls. You can't help but stare.

"You're late," she states, not breaking her concentration from the task at hand.

"Uhh… I didn't think these trials were some sort of timed thing," you say, snapping out of your daze, her statement making you nervous and a bit confused.

"They're not." The Illudo stops her juggling routine, catching all of the balls and finishing with a spinning flourish. "But you're still late."

Nice to see I have already made a good first impression, you think to yourself.

"So… uh… you like juggling?" You try to connect with her, hoping you can dig your way out of the hole you seem to have found yourself in.

"Illuden need to have masterful hand-eye coordination. Not only for something as small as sleight of hand, but also for tasks as intensive as… say… working with meta-magical robotics. Juggling is just one of the many ways that I try to keep myself in top shape." The Illudo stares intensely at you. She is very passionate about the whole affair.

"Sounds difficult," you mumble.

"Everything is difficult. Until it isn't." She states this as if it is a universal truth.

"I… guess that makes sense." You pause for a bit before adding, "Can I try?" You vaguely motion towards what she is carrying and juggling.

She smiles, happy with your request. "You should start smaller." She tosses you two of the multicolored balls she has been holding.

"Watch me," the Illudo instructs. She puts down all but two balls and starts to slowly juggle them for a visual demonstration. "The key is to actually not look at your hands. Trust your instincts, and your body will know what to do." You note that she is, indeed, not looking at her hands or at what she is juggling, but merely staring straight ahead while her hands adjust to where they need to be.

You try to mimic, carefully throwing a ball up and trying to catch it while throwing the other. The Illudo definitely made this look a lot easier than it was shaping up to be, but you are still adamant about trying to get something. After several attempts and several screw ups, you manage to awkwardly juggle three balls for a solid 45 seconds. The Illudo, carefully examining your technique and suggesting pointers every now and then, claps for your performance—a praise you weren't expecting to get from her. You put the balls down on a nearby table and do a lighthearted bow.

"What is your name by the way?" you ask, curious to have gotten this far in your budding juggling education without knowing.

"Alice," she responds, placing her juggling instruments down as well. "Alice Contoso." She extends her hand. You respond, giving Alice your name and shaking her hand.

As expected, Alice's handshake is firm and sure.

"Let's do your trial, shall we?"

"Hopefully it's not something to do with juggling," you laugh as you proceed further into the building with Alice.