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Everyone shuffled in anticipation.

Dozens of capasians were bundled up in throngs on a large open field atop the floating Academy Rimmture, overlooking vibrant meadows that were teeming with herds of animals. The grass underneath our feet had been freshly cut and adorned our gathering with its pleasant smell; and a flock of long birds coloured in shades of white and orange flew overhead and sang their melodious hymn to the vast sky. The steady stream of airporters was still present between the various rimmtures, and to whatever lay beyond.

Everyone seemed eager to finally release this power they had been told they had since the beginning of their lives. There was palpable tension in the gathering as shoulders were tightened and breaths were held in abeyance all over the field.

Golyan Dol, known as the Stallion, was pacing up and down the front line of the mass alongside his aide, looking over his pupils. Several capasians were making their way through the crowd to be subjected to this inspection, eager to be noticed by the cohort head of the Stallion Knights. Gallant also seemed to make a move, but then stopped, looking visibly irritated.

“Want to go to the front, Gallant?” I felt sorry for him. It was quite ironic that he wanted to become a Stallion Knight, given that he wasn’t the most decisive of people. But who was I to judge? I knew nothing of the fascinating new technology of these lands, yet I wanted to master it nonetheless. Maybe we all wanted a piece of something we couldn’t quite grasp.

Gallant’s real eyes were locked on Golyan, but those on his top hat were looking at me. “Um, what? Go to the front? W-why would I do that?” He looked extremely anxious, and his hands were jittery.

“I want to see the Stallion up close. Come on,” I said, grabbing his arm and slowly leading him towards the front of the crowd. I owed him for being our guide to this strange new world. The rest of the party followed my lead. Golyan stood tall and looked mighty big with his muscular figure, and it made the absence of any pressure whatsoever even harder to acclimate to. It was too strange and out of the norm, and I felt so light-footed that I had to exert effort to stay rooted to the ground. It felt like I was gliding over it.

“Was wondering if we were just going to stand there,” Luton stated, initially following in pursuit but soon taking the lead. If there was anyone that could help bolster Gallant’s confidence, it was Luton. He was so assertive that it was infectious.

By the time we reached the front and made our way through, by virtue of Luton pushing aside a couple of capasians to make way for the rest of our party, Golyan had stopped pacing and was facing the mass of students dead centre. He cleared his throat, loud enough to be heard by everyone on the field.

“This is out of the norm, but I believe congratulations are in order,” Golyan boomed, instantaneously grabbing everyone’s attention. “You are no longer Eytes, what with the release of your capa. All of you standing before me may count yourselves Miradi.”

“You must now prove yourselves worthy of this evolution,” he continued. “The Academy in which you stand is the foremost out of all our academical institutions. What you learn here will last you for a lifetime… so make sure you take it seriously, because you will only be given one chance. Anyone that misses a single lesson without a valid reason will be expelled. That’s how seriously we take our pursuit of knowledge here.”

Murmurs spread throughout the passel, and Luton wore a scowl. “No way, mate. Skip one lesson and you’re out? That’s absurd.”

“It does seem excessive, but can you blame them? You’re supposed to come here to become somebody,” Moria replied, with Gallant nodding in agreement.

“Your first week with us,” continued Dolyan, silencing the crowd with his resonant tone of voice, “will acquaint you with the principles that are taught at the Academy. We will focus on education and general knowledge, rather than skilled work. You will be introduced to the refined facets of Capasian culture: the Traditional Arts which include CALEF and STEM, and the Modern Arts which focus on technology. You will also be taught about Medicine: how it works, why it works, and how to apply it. The Capasian Affairs class will detail the social dynamics of our peoples and of other races we share our planet with. And, finally, you will be taught how to defend your country through Military Service. All of these are the cornerstones of our edification, and in the coming days, you will be introduced to each one of them.”

“Hear that Kral? Military service.” Luton’s words dripped with sarcasm. I scoffed back. No doubt they were too good to get their hands dirty protecting the worthless folk of the Outer Lands.

“In your second week you will pick either one or two principles to focus on for the rest of the year. TA1, known as CALEF – the one you’re all attending right now – is mandatory for the first year of study. All Eytes – uh, Miradi, must learn to master their capa and their ability to levitate, and, eventually, fly. We will be touching on your use of capas in today’s session.

“You are also expected to carry out research in your spare time. We value independent thinking and initiative here at the Academy. A part of your spare time will no doubt be dedicated to earning your own funds. There are a variety of jobs available to you, like cooking and maintaining the Rimmtures. Ambitious and hard-working capasians can also acquire positions at one our facilities: Enaq Larantai’s Medicon welcomes prospective workers, and so do the famed Saydyn Rimmlabs, and of course, the Vorp.” Golyan placed more emphasis on the last part, as he continued to scan each one of us slowly.

“That’s my question answered,” commented Moria. I was glad as well. Relying on the generosity of our mysterious beneficiary was a dependency I wanted to be rid of as soon as possible.

Luton was nodding to himself. “The Vorp sounds nice. Would be nice to get the blood flowing again, and see what these royals are made of.” The Entim barracks was fitting for Luton, even though he wasn’t a particularly disciplined sort.

“Your second year is, more or less, the same as the first. Your first week will consist of mandatory introductory sessions for each of the principles. You can continue with the default principles during your second week, or you can choose to pursue a different path and change one of your existing principles. You also have the choice to study an additional one, if you so desire.

“The third year is when you will finally come into your own. You will be chosen for employment at one of the facilities that corresponds to your chosen principles. Your skills will be evaluated in order to confirm that you are capable of an apprenticeship. Be mindful: you can be rejected. More details regarding these subsequent years will be provided later. All clear?”

Nods were given by most of the crowd members, though a few of the faces bore worried looks. Whispers circulated throughout the crowd: “Sounds really rough. Maybe we shouldn’t have signed up for this.”

My party wasn’t really affected by this wave of doubt. Gallant was entranced, Gadget was at ease, and my weathered comrades and I had no other option. Being in Nehibia and building a future for ourselves was far better than being hunted in the woods of Rumess.

Golyan resumed. “Good. Now let us get started with the actual session. Does anyone here not know about this bulge?” He turned to the side and pointed at his capa. “This cloak-like extraction we are born with?” He was obviously having a laugh.

“Kinda hard to miss that, don’t you think?” And there was Luton’s smirk again.

“This is the source of our powers,” Golyan continued, his face serious and devoid of humour. “The capa courses with a substance called Liyadai, which empowers our cloak and allows it to release its ability. I have heard a lot of capasians compare Liyadai to blood; that is a fitting comparison, as you could say that the Liyadai is the capa’s lifeforce. Do not be misled, however: this substance is highly toxic to any living being except the Grodynn. If you come into contact with Liyadai, then you should consider yourself done for.”

“Grodynn?” I asked Gallant. He shrugged. I could see that some of the others were confused as well. I had heard this name before, whispered by the elders of my home town, but never found out what it meant. Hearing Golyan say it took me back to a time which now felt surreal.

“Yes, capasi.” Golyan was looking at our group, and the nostalgia embracing me in its bittersweet grasp dissolved in an instant. Moria had raised her hand.

“Um, what is a Grodynn?” I was glad she posed the question, because try as I might, I couldn’t recall what this word signified. To my surprise, I also felt a sense of foreboding, though the reason for it eluded me.

“Ah. You will be apprised of that information during the introduction of your Capasian Affairs session. Let us continue,” he said, scanning the crowd. Some capasians had started talking. “Settle down, please.” The commotion died out quickly. Golyan waited a few seconds before he spoke again.

“Our capas are dormant when we are born. They slowly develop over the course of our maturation, and fully unlock as we transition from an Eyte to a Miradi. Predicting the ability of an immature capa has proven to be impossible, despite our many attempts, and while some abilities are rarer than others, you should not let this affect your integrity. All capas are highly valuable tools that have allowed us to prosper and to reap the benefits of our pursuits.” He paused and scoured the crowd with his gaze once more.

“Since your seal has been released, you now have the capability of unleashing your capa. Be aware that releasing it without supervision is illegal and will be dealt with harshly, resulting in your immediate expulsion from the Academy. No second chances. We have LC counters tracking Liyadai energy spread all over school grounds, so we will detect each and every release, authorised or not. We can also identify the culprit of this crime, as each of your capas release a unique signature.”

Gallant’s Strassty kept its eyes on Luton, who was yawning. He made no effort to hide it, which was typical of him.

“Some of you might have already experienced involuntary levitation or outright flight after the release of your capa. This is to be expected. Your natural abilities will flourish, now that the seal which kept them in place has been removed.” That would explain why I’d been feeling so light-footed. I felt like I would fly if I jumped.

Golyan stopped talking when he reached our group and looked us over with eyes of a deep blue-grey, as if judging our potential. He then pointed the camera of his Rimmpanel in our direction and took a glance at its screen, gave me a hard stare as he handed the panel back to his aide, and clasped his hands behind his back once more. This was the perfect moment for me to ask what had been on my mind for a while now, and I couldn’t hold it in any longer.

“Ehm, honourable sir, why do we not feel any pressure?” I asked.

Golyan stared at me for a few moments more. “What pressure are you speaking of, capasa?”

Really? What other pressure could there be except the pressure? I was determined to get an answer, though, so I continued: “The pressure around other capasians, honourable sir.”

The Stallion grabbed the panel from his aide once again, swiping and tapping on it before returning his focus back to me once again. “Kral Fenley, that is a very good question. I was wondering which one of you would be brave enough to ask,” he said, and I felt both relieved and flustered. The attention of the assembly was now directed towards me, and I felt its pressure. My cheeks were tingling, no doubt coloured scarlet, and felt like they would explode at any moment.

“You feel no pressure because you are under the Shroud, made possible through a conglomerate of rimmtech which link with and harness the power of Academy Neutralisers to suppress energies, and, when necessary, whole capas. This Shroud envelops the whole of the Academy, which is why we feel no pressure. We aren’t really in the habit of having everyone bow down whenever Principal Essitor makes his appearance,” he smiled while looking over our shoulders, the jest quite out of character from what we had seen of him so far, before turning his gaze back to me. “But fear not, Kral Fenley. We can deactivate this shroud when the need arises, so that you can feel more at home.” This time he was not smiling, and the steady gaze sent chills down my spine. Had he somehow found out where we had come from?

“Now then,” he shouted suddenly, almost making me jump. “It is time for your first lesson to begin. I need a Miradi in their second year to come assist me in the demonstration.”

A well built and tight-lipped capasian came out of the crowd and made his way to the Stallion’s side. “That’s my brother!” Gallant exclaimed. His sibling carried himself with pride and confidence, which was the polar opposite of Gallant.

“Ah, Agant Strasst. A great example to everyone,” Golyan spoke softly, mostly to himself, and then addressed the crowd. “Agant Strasst here is a lieutenant in the Stallions. He has excelled in all of his studies and has acquired a deep understanding of his capa. What ability does your capa hold, Agant?”

Gallant’s brother snapped to attention. “A Pusher of the 3rd degree, sir!”

“Of course. A capa that is universally appreciated. Neither focused on defense or offense, the Pusher features a straightforward ability that is not to be underestimated – an eponymous one that allows a capasian to propel an object towards their target. Tell me, lieutenant, what does the 3rd degree of your capa enable you to do?

“It allows me to push an object within 20 feet, sir!”

“Wonderful.” He dug a hand inside of his thobe and produced a small but perfectly circular ball. “Take this practice missile, Agant, and shoot it towards me when I call for it. Don’t hold back now.” Golyan handed him the ball, turned his back to his newfound assistant, and took about ten steps away from Agant.

The capas of both the lieutenant and the Stallion were now glistening with energy. Red fingers swirled behind Agant in wild shapes.

“Release your capa when you’re ready, lieutenant.” Golyan spread his legs and put both of his hands in front of him, as if he planned to physically catch the ball. Energy pulsated out of his capa as well – thicker and more solid energy, coloured a silvery grey. A mild breeze swept the field and set the grass to dancing. The airy sleeves of my thobe accepted the cooling gust of wind.

Gallant’s brother threw the ball up and shifted backwards. The missile traced a small arc and then started falling – he thrust his palms forward when it reached midway and discharged the missile with a deafening clap. The shockwave of the burst could be felt through the ground.

The Academy inscribed practice missile cut through the air and left behind a sharp whistle, heading directly towards the Stallion’s head. My group and I had once fought a Hunter who also possessed Golyan’s capa – all of our arrows had been deflected by its shield. I tensed up, trying to anticipate if the projectile would go stray and come our way, but what happened next made me realise just how little we knew about the true powers of even the most common capas. Agant’s projectile was not deflected by Golyan’s shield as I would have expected, but instead exploded in thousands of minuscule shards. Gallant wasn’t the only one who gasped.

“Good shot, lieutenant!” said Golyan as he relaxed his capa. “You have all witnessed the use of two common capas: that of the Pusher, and that of the Shielder. Both have served our nation greatly during times of strife, and should be appreciated for it. All you Pushers and Shielders should have something to be proud of.”

Gallant, quite understandably, had a big smile on his face.

“Throw it again!” He produced another practice ball, and swiftly threw it at Agant, who caught it effortlessly. “This time I want you all to observe the timing of our releases. Pay great attention to me and Agant. Inspect us closely. With a great amount of practice and no small amount of intuition, you can learn to detect when a capa is about to be released.” Agant then threw the ball up in the air again, jumped high in a flurry of spiralling red energy, and directed it towards Golyan by punching the empty air between him and the missile, which thundered fiercely once more.

The Stallion responded by manifesting his shield again. This time I was focusing more, and could see the silvery grey energy of his capa growing more and more solid, eventually coalescing into a protective dome. Agant’s bullet shattered against it in an instant.

Luton whistled. “Skar. Just like that.”

“That’s mighty crazy,” Gadget said as he ran a hand through his spiky hair, slick with fat.

“There you go. The release of a Pusher and a Shielder capa again. I hope you all paid attention to the timing.” An ominous glint flashed in his eyes before he turned to Agant. “Well done, lieutenant. I see that you are constantly improving. Let us hope others follow in your footsteps.” Gallant gulped while his brother nodded.

“Now I will call on each of you to come and release your capa for the first time,” Golyan continued, his attention now to his Rimmpanel. The next half hour was as flashy a show as I had ever seen: my fellow students, exercising their birthright with visible inexperience, sending tendrils of released energy all over the field, overwhelming those of us who were still waiting with a burning anticipation to finally use our own powers, or as was the case for me, with more reluctance than excitement. A rainbow of colours scintillated before us and danced in hypnotic waves and circles that slowly dissipated, or were absorbed back into the capas from which they came. A slight surge of adrenaline raced through my body and set my heart to skipping, because I knew that soon it would be my turn, and I had to be ready to pretend I had never released my capa before.

“Um, how are they going to test my capa?” Gallant looked worried.

“Who?”

“I mean, how am I going to do this? I activate my capa while something’s being shot at me?”

Luton snickered. “Sounds about right”.

That seemed to have agitated Gallant even further, whose eyes, both above and below, were frantically searching for someone. He soon found his target, as he turned to face his brother who was standing a little distance to the left of us.

“Next one: Gallant Strasst!” Golyan was looking at Gallant, who in turn was staring at his brother, and had become startled at hearing his name. Gadget was trying hard not to laugh.

Gallant’s head snapped back as if he had just woken up from a bad dream. “What!” He was visibly shaking. I tried to comfort him.

“Don’t worry, just… activate your shield—”

“It’s simple, Gallant,” Moria interrupted. “Focus your energy into your capa. Concentrate your force of will and direct it towards it. You’ll know what to do from there,” she said, nodding to herself as if she had released her capa many times before.

“Um, OK.” And then Gallant made his way over to Golyan, who looked slightly bemused by Gallant’s unease.

“So, you are Agant’s brother? I’ve heard a fair deal about you. Very well then, Gallant Strasst. Position yourself in front of me. You have…” he paused, taking a look at his panel, “the Shielder, I see. Wonderful. Then you’ve already seen me protect myself from your brother’s missile. You’ll have to do the same,” he paused once again, before adding: “Relax, Miradi, I’ll not shoot anything towards you just yet. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes and imagine the energy in your body, however you’d like to imagine it, moving towards your capa. Do you feel it tingle?

“A bit, sir.” Gallant was shaking so badly I thought he might faint.

“Good! And now, amplify that tingling. Feel the tingling, and grab control of it. Seize it, and cover your whole body with it, as you might with a cloak or a blanket.

Gallant swayed from side to side as his capa started radiating grey energy. It swooped over its sleek, bulging surface, and started licking down his arm, dangling from his fingertips like a puppetmaster’s cut strings. Then his capa popped, and the energy swept back up his arm, towards his torso. Gallant’s stomach became covered in a layer of what looked to be living rock, constantly shifting and contorting.

“Well done! And that’s all there is to it. You will grow more and more used to releasing your capa each time you do so. The more you practice, the easier it gets. It’ll soon be second nature.” Golyan assured Gallant.

A few capasians to the side of us were chuckling at Gallant’s swaying form as he made his way back to us. “Poor capasa’s about to faint.” Luton started looking their way, clutching his steambow. “Ignore them”, I quickly advised him, out of fear of escalating matters.

Miraculously, he listened. Perhaps it was the prospect of releasing his capa and not delaying the event any further, for he was brimming with eagerness when it was his turn. He strode up to the field with an unmistakable swagger and displayed his iconic grin for all to see. He looked quite formidable already with his muscular form, so the steambow strapped over his back only added to his powerful presence.

“Alright mate. Let’s blow things up.” Golyan then did his best to ensure Luton understood that you should never abuse the power of your capa. He nodded in agreement, but I knew the lesson wouldn’t really stick.

Under Golyan’s instructions, Luton closed his eyes and focused the energy in his capa. It started glistening, and he thrust his oversized palm forward, from which a bronze bolt of energy burst. It crackled across the field and exploded against the metallic dummy Golyan had placed to the left, leaving a small dent in the metal. Luton’s arm muscles rippled like a wave when he discharged his capa, and he whooped. “Skar, that felt good! Can I do it again?” Golyan gave a wary nod.

“Hey, that looks powerful.” Gadget looked quite impressed. “And that’s just the first degree.”

I thought the same. While Luton’s missile wasn’t by any means awe-inspiring, it was effective and flashy enough to make people think twice about jumping into combat with a Blaster like himself. My mind went wild with illustrations of how Luton’s bolt would look like when he would have achieved his maximum potential.

“It does, doesn’t it?” Moria looked more worried than impressed. “Makes it kind of hard to accept the fact that all capasians can just—”

She flinched when she heard the loud clang that came from the training dummy. A sliver of smoke was wafting from a tiny hole in the dummy’s head.

Golyan looked a bit uneasy. “Good shot, Voracia. Bit too good of a shot. You’ve done enough. Get out of here before you pulverise this thing,” he instructed. Another shot, and Luton would probably leave as much of a mark in the dummy as his fancy new Steambow.

“How about that?” he said when he got back to us. “I could do that all day. Would’ve been a fine thing to be able to do this when the Hunters came. Could’ve blown their heads clean off.”

Gallant raised an eyebrow. “The Hunters? Who’re they?” Gadget looked like he wanted to find out as well. Me and Moria tensed up, hesitant as always to reveal anything about our past.

“Ehm, an inside joke,” I croaked, desperately trying to fake a chuckle. I breathed in relief when Gallant shrugged and Gadget turned his attention on Golyan, who was staring at his panel again. I locked my gaze on Luton’s and squinted. Watch it.

“Next: Moria!”

A capasi a couple of feet away from us gasped loudly, and three capasians snickered. “She’s an orphan,” I heard someone say. “No family name. Nothing good can come out of her.” I had always known Moria was an orphan, but back in the Outer Lands, this was mostly seen as something to pity someone for, not hate him. It seemed to me like cosmopolitan capasian culture, instead of being more open-minded, was more steeped in tradition than that of those who grew away from the cities.

She gave us a pleading look before she headed over to Golyan. Almost all of the males on the field were leering at her, and it made me boil with rage. Some looked with disgust, others with simple interest, but most looked with lust. She kept her head down, clearly uncomfortable with all of this attention.

“Hello, capasi. Let’s see… it says here you have the Mister. One of my favourite capas. It enables you to release and cover your surrounding area with mist. To… adopt obfuscation, as Mirissa puts it. Direct your bodily energy into your capa and then, very slowly, start pushing it out.”

Moria focused, solid purple tendrils of energy dancing from her capa. They then started fading away and changing colour, melting into a grey mist that wrapped itself around Moria’s upper body. “With practice, you will be able to cover your whole body, and then expand outwards,” the Stallion remarked. After a couple of seconds, the mist slowly dispersed, like smoke being overtaken by air, and revealed Moria’s face. I could see a bead of sweat run down her forehead.

“That felt weird. Like my body was bubbling.” An uneasy smile had appeared on her face. “Like I could feel every particle that I’m made of. And then, I could direct these particles to become this… mist.”

Golyan agreed. “Quite so. We all experience these things when we release our capas, but it’s different for each of us. Not from capa to capa, but from capasian to capasian. I’ve heard other Misters describe it differently.” He took a quick glance at his panel and shouted at the crowd once again. “Timlis Oh… Oh… Owevome!”

“Ohfvomm,” said Gadget, his pronunciation presumably perfectly precise, though still incomprehensible. He sighed.

“That’s your name?” asked Luton, ever the inquisitive one.

He didn’t answer, instead choosing to roll his eyes and heading towards Golyan, who was waiting for him with his arms crossed. “Sir.” He looked calm and confident, probably because he’d done it before, being in his second year and all.

He was tasked with pushing a crate. Reddish energy swept up his body, swirling around his capa, and then surrounded his hands like a glove. He was tensing and breathing unevenly when he tried to direct his energy into his hand. A gust of air blew from his palm in a puff of red, and nudged the crate a couple of meters backwards
Golyan clapped a few times. “Good job. You’re getting better with each release.” He then turned towards the crowd. “Kiem Yasri!”

I snapped to attention immediately. I could see him heading towards Golyan, bristling with arrogance, followed by his lackeys, who were trying their best to adopt his grating personality. “That’s me,” he declared, locking his arms across his chest as he stood before the Stallion. “Son of Hiadaillo Yasri. You know, the Chief of the Nidaell,” he added for good measure. Oh how I detested this arrogant and over-privileged capasa more with each passing second!

“I’m sure everyone has heard of you, Miradi.” Golyan replied. “And of your little outburst earlier today. Your heritage will grant you no leeway with me. I accept only results. And discipline. Understand?”

“Yes,” Kiem answered reluctantly.

“Do not think that your earlier release has gone unnoticed, either. We are giving you another chance simply because we can’t apply the punishment before the rules have been explained. Now that they have, you’d best behave. Now, forget about everyone and everything else around you, focus on your energy, and demonstrate to us your capa.”

The air around Kiem started shimmering. Orange energy whirled around his capa. He brazenly walked up to the training dummy and reached for its neck. His fingers looked like they were boiling, red-hot billets of metal grasping for its kin. The dummy started sizzling, and the metal looked like it was slowly changing shape. Before it could turn to liquid, however, Kiem shot back his hand while shaking it vigorously, as if he had just burned himself.

“The Burner can be a terrible capa,” Golyan observed. “Most would argue that its powers are purely destructive. It can disrupt the machines of the enemies, and sear the flesh of their soldiers. But you can find opposing qualities in almost every force. Kiem’s capa can cause ruination, yes, but, in its own way, can also heal.” He turned towards Kiem. ” Envision, for example, a bloody, chaotic battlefield. Your comrade is lying next to you, bleeding from a wound. What can you do to help him?” he asked.

“Cauterise the wound,” muttered Moria as if on cue. She was a dutiful bookworm, after all, and had a reputation to uphold.

“Cauterise it,” echoed the Stallion. “You can seal his wound by applying the Burner. His tissue will be damaged badly, but the flow of blood will be staunched. You would save him.” He then addressed the rest of the students. “In my many years of service, I have witnessed countless capas utilised in completely unconventional and contradictory ways. Creative use of your abilities can save lives. Use your brain, not just your capa.”

The next batch of Miradi were mostly an assortment of Pullers and Pushers. A particularly pale capasian had made use of the Freezer, covering the training dummy’s head in a film of crackling ice, and then there was another Blaster, whose energy bolt missed the dummy entirely, and sizzled out as it hit the sleek transparent walls of the Rimmture to the far left.

And then it was Osrak’s turn, Kiem Yasri’s emotionless friend. He nonchalantly stepped before Golyan, and got to activating his capa after a short set of instructions from Golyan. His capa pulsated with a cirrus of intertwined red and blue energy. Osrak took a step towards the crate that Gadget and others after him had pushed and pulled many times, and put his now blue palm forward. Nothing happened. Golyan’s lips moved, but did not hear what he said. Osrak took two more steps towards the crate and focused again. This time, the object of his attention nudged, and was pulled towards him, its hard metallic edges brushing against grass.

“Osrak Eudora has the Magnet,” Golyan explained.

A couple of capasians started murmuring when Osrak’s family name was revealed. “Eudora? The Eudora family?” I wondered as well if Osrak was in any way related to Eudora the Majestica. If so, then it was a wonder he followed Kiem around, and with none the boasting of his boss.

Our tutor continued. “This capa features the abilities of both the Pusher and the Puller. Go ahead and push the crate away from you now, Osrak.”

He took a step forward, his palm still aimed towards the crate, which was now two feet away from him. It tumbled backwards twice. No sign of happiness, nor relief, nor that of any emotion, for that matter, appeared on Osrak’s stone-carved face.

“Well done. You made it seem so effortless. A natural, no doubt.” Osrak remained emotionless as he walked back to his position. “We’re almost done. Last one is Kral Fenley.” My heart skipped a beat.

“Good luck with your first release, mate.” Luton was trying not to giggle, and Moria gave me a knowing look that was also seeping humor at the edges. Gallant told me not to worry as I stepped out from the crowd. I could feel everyone’s prying eyes, no doubt eager to discover my capa. If it was up to me, they would never find out.

“Kral Fenley,” Golyan repeated when I was before him, then spoke in hushed tones. “You have an extremely rare capa, and must employ utmost caution in its release. Please focus your power on the test dummy only, and release when you’re ready.” The excitement in his eyes betrayed the emotionless expression he wore on his face, but I couldn’t achieve the same feat. The fear and the anxiety of the task set before me almost left me paralysed.

But there was no other way out. This was it. It was time to stop hiding in the shadows and embrace my true self. I searched deep within my being, within my core, and summoned up the energy that I needed. My capa responded, and it felt like a hole had opened up in my spine. Through my capa I breathed in – and through it I breathed out. I felt like I was emitting bursts of energy with each convulsion. “Like this?” I asked Golyan, trying to pretend I had never done this before. He nodded, croaking slightly as if caught off guard.

My veins coursed with what felt like bubbles. My body felt empty and hollow to begin with, but it then started to fill with this radiant, scarlet light that erupted from my capa. The light transformed into a warm liquid, which itself turned into a hissing, steaming gas. My vision went red, and the familiar headache started to pound at my temples with renewed ferocity. I was both scared and relieved, like I’d finally found something that I’d been searching for, but was terrified of finding it all the same. I knew I was ready when I saw that golden strands of energy interspersed the scarlet ones that were pouring out of my capa, tantalisingly weaving towards a focal point, ready to strike.

I channeled all that I felt into my target: the training dummy, the crescent shape of the Academy finely engraved on its chest, now peppered with marks from energy bolts and bullets. Time seemed to slow down. I could faintly hear what sounded like the whistling of a steam train.

And then its head exploded, showering our part of the field in shrapnel. A deafening boom silenced every noise around with a decisive finality. The birds, flying above us, screeched in terror as the explosion almost shook them out of the sky. What remained of the training dummy was vibrating, a constant brrrrrr that would not seem to stop. My face tickled, and I realised I was sweating. I quickly wiped my forehead with a shaking hand and turned towards my fellow Miradi.

Their mouths were all agape, and silence ruled the field.