Tag Archives: The Academy

“The Pusher”

A tiny cloud of red mist burst at the end of the line we were standing in. Sir Gorak, a beast of a capasian seated in a raised chair overlooking the procession, had just released a student’s seal. He announced the nature of the capa to Elmada, who quickly started tapping on his Rimmpanel, recording the information.

Keos was also there, along with Principal Essitor Den-enald, who, as the mist spread throughout the room, shouted, “Do not breathe in this toxic fume, young Eytes. Hold your breath for a mere second. It will soon dissipate. Next!”

The line shifted forward, almost in perfect tandem. “A bit nerve-wracking, isn’t it?” I heard someone behind me say. I must have been shaking visibly, despite my best efforts to remain calm. I turned around slowly and noticed that it was the very capasa I had bumped into when I first arrived at the Academy. “Emhin Venn,” he announced. He didn’t seem to remember me, for which I was very glad. “A pleasure,” he continued. His mechanical eye, as protruding as when I first saw it, blinked on cue with each spoken word.

“Kral,” I croaked as I gave a curt nod before turning back. I could barely keep up the pretense of being calm and collected. Despite all of my efforts, my hands shook, and it felt like I had a lump in my throat. I shifted my weight, smearing sweat all over the screen of my Rimmpanel. I slid the panel back into the file case.

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“Kral! Are you alright?”

Moria’s subdued voice wasn’t enough to bring me out of my trance. I was staring at one of the many portraits dotting the hallway leading to the exhibition hall, the sound of heeled shoes stepping on marble a sharp cacophony, dulling my senses. “Everything fine, mate?” Luton’s husky voice, though, was distinct enough to grab my attention.

“Yes, Luton,” I said as I turned around, rubbing my eyes. It was comforting to see him again.

He snickered. “You sure? You’ve been zoning out real often as of late, you know that?” His hair didn’t look like it had been combed ever since we left the Medicon, and his wide, squarish jaw was starting to grow some stubble.

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I realised the choice was mine.

“Shall we check out the different cohorts?” asked Gallant, pulling me out of a deep pool of thoughts. “So you can decide which one to pick?” he continued, looking first at Moria, then at me.

“Right, where do we go?” A throng of young capasi were now lining up ahead of us to talk to the chestnut-haired capasa whom Gallant had informed us was the Eagle’s Reach head. The bold figure’s presence was inducing excited murmuring and inviting sheepish looks. A part of me was also excited to meet the cohort heads, and yet I couldn’t forego the lingering sense of betrayal. But this was not the time for such thoughts. We needed to settle in first.

“Like I said, there’s the Eagle.” Gallant pointed at the towering figure. I noticed his hat-eyes were staring at the line of eager capasi splayed in front of us. “Well, he’s not the Eagle, the founding noble died a long time ago obviously, but it’s common to refer to the heads by the title of the founders.”

“What’s his actual name?” chimed in Moria.

Gallant’s Strassty accessory was going cross-eyed again. “I’m… I’m not really sure. I know the head of the Stallion Knights is called Golyan. I don’t remember the names of the other two though,” he said, pausing. “No, no, I definitely don’t. I think I have their names around here somewhere though,” he said, swiping at his Rimmpanel. “Pretty sure I downloaded a pamphlet detailing the cohorts and the Academy a few days ago.”

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There were no more Entim left!

“Your name, please,” the spectacled lady in front of the desk said rather loudly as she stared at me disapprovingly, bringing me out of my trance. Gallant was to my left, being quizzed similarly by a younger-looking capasa.

“Kral Fenley, ma’am,” I replied. Best to be polite when far, far away from home.

“Kral Fenley,” she said, staring at me from the top of her silver framed glasses. I wasn’t sure on whether it was a question or a statement. She stood perhaps an inch or so shorter than me, and her wrinkled face seemed to be twisted in a permanent scowl. Soon after, she brought her panel up to my face and aligned it in front of me. “Look at the camera, please,” she said flatly. I could tell she had done this many, many times over.

She removed the panel as swiftly as she had brought it up, and I wondered if any sort of picture had been taken at all. I had encountered such devices before in Rumess as well but they were not half as subtle as these. The ones back home emitted an excruciatingly sharp and loud sound when the picture was being taken, and, worst of all, a flash that would blind a person for half a minute afterwards. While the lingering shadow of homesickness accompanied me everywhere, I was quite relieved that my senses weren’t assaulted in such a crude manner.

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The wave of nausea was overwhelming…

And I nearly buckled.

How many were dead now because this capasa, our ruler and King, had abandoned us? How many had given their lives for him, in his name? Their mutilated bodies flashed across my eyes as I glared at the Majestica, wavering between awe and anger. A decade of relentless persecution, nearly half of that period without any help or support from the Entim, from the Majestica! Were we any lesser than capasas who stood in this hall with me now, idolising their leader? Why had we, then, been abandoned? I gathered my courage. My people had given their lives to protect me, Dravon had died for the very same thing, surely I could muster a little bit of courage to say what needed to be said.

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I was momentarily blinded…

The sudden transition from semi-darkness to the blinding daylight had caught me off-guard, and my hand moved to shield my eyes from the intruding sunlight. It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the new brightness, and everything seemed to come to life all of a sudden.

The opaque wooden walls around me had miraculously transformed into glass panels, permitting bright sunlight to wash its way into the hall. My eyes darted to the roof, noticing that it had also followed the example set by its two neighbouring walls. Moving my hand away from my face, I straightened my slumped form and peered ahead at the dazzling subject of everyone’s interest.

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Anomaly 1

It watched the procession patiently.

The details were blurred and the focus wavered from time to time but that was OK. It was a price it was willing to pay to stay in this form. It needed to observe.

The scent of fear and nervousness was palpable and oh so, so, exciting! Seeking out the fresh ones hardly required any effort any more. It had almost become second nature, as easy as breathing, even. It could feel the nervousness which they disguised underneath hushed conversations and the fear which escaped through their ragged breaths. It could probably draw it out if it wanted to, paint in thin air with a million different strokes, each as vivid and clear as the realities unfolding before them. But it should probably check on the existing cogs first before it got overexcited. It wouldn’t do to lose progress.

It shifted, now overlooking the bulk of the rows stretching to the entrance of the hall and housing the majority of the larger, bulkier and more animated occupants. The nervousness was less here. Not quite absent, but noticeably less than the fresh ones. The vacuum was filled, instead, with hopes and aspirations, envy and hatred, pride and fear! Yes, the inescapable fear. No matter how brave, a trace of it lingered in all entities, waiting to be cultivated. But it didn’t need to sense the raw streams of emotions for this task, it wasn’t necessary.  Even with the blanket of suppression, it could identify the Chosen.

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But it was too late…

I had already made a fool out of myself!

The next few moments were awkward to say the least. There were focused stares and hushed murmurs all around, but a few were even audacious enough to openly point and snigger. A pinstripe-suited capasa with a black and white tie and short-trimmed hair was the most brazen. His hands were covered in silver gauntlets that shone in the daylight. It didn’t help that he was in the queue to my left, almost beside me.

“You think he forgot to kiss his mummy goodbye Osrak?” He addressed a sturdy capasa to his right before resuming to leer at me. His comrade, outfitted in a creamy dress and wearing similar gauntlets, meanwhile, gave me a blank stare. If there were any emotions behind that plain look, they failed to register.

A hand on my shoulder diverted my attention from the duo, and I noticed Elmada’s towering presence converging towards my left and gently pushing me forward.

“Whatever’s got you in a bother, shake it off young Eyte. There’s no danger here.”

At that moment, my respect for the friendly giant grew tremendously. Overlooking my momentary lapse to save me embarrassment, he also positioned himself to conceal me from the pinstripe-suited capasa. Probably for the the first time in many, many years, I could truly say that I felt safe.

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I was floating in the air!

Actually, it was the whole building that was afloat, and I struggled to make sense of it as I stood stupefied on the marble platform. A vast expanse lay before me as far as the eye could see, only interrupted intermittently by the sight of another floating cone-shaped structure. Some had spherical outlines, others more dome-shaped, yet others with no clear recognisable structure or form. Some were above and some below, and they seemed to cover the entirety like little ants crawling on a tree trunk.

Yet there was no smoke, so how were these powered if not by steam? How could anything provide anywhere near enough power to keep these gigantic monolithic structures afloat? But before delving on that matter, I still had to get around the idea of an entire building floating on thin air in the first place!

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