Fire and Flame
The palpable turmoil of the school only made the anxiety of the approaching annual exams feel more acute. Our future hung in the balance with these results. Indeed, success was the hope of a place in one of the largest clans in the country. It was the dream of every self-respecting student after all, the proof of success!
- Miss Ewlia, it is not by daydreaming that your results will improve!" my teacher reprimanded me, bringing me out of my thoughts.
- Excuse me," I stammered shamefully, lowering my head.
The whole class laughed, mocking me. This year would be my second attempt at the exams. But if I couldn't master my magic, what was the point of trying, knowing full well that I would fail...
The bell rang and I was finally able to get some fresh air away from prying eyes.
- Hiding on the roof of the Academy is not the way to solve your problem, Ewlia," said a familiar voice behind me.
- Yael... How did you find me?
- All I needed was a little common sense. So, tell me, what's bothering you so much?
He sat down next to me and smiled sincerely. Yael was a year younger than I was, but he acted like an older brother, or a guardian angel, depending on how you look at it. His short brown hair began to wave in the wind and his big ocean blue eyes stared at me patiently, waiting for the answer to his question:
- Exams, I answered with a sigh.
- Don't worry! You have all your chances! he said, rubbing my head with an affectionate gesture.
- That's not true... You, on the other hand, will certainly be retained and then you will leave...
- Don't be so depressed Ewlia. It's not because I'm leaving that we won't see each other anymore. You know, it's a small world.
- What will become of me without you?
I felt a twinge of sadness. I had always had trouble fitting in with people my own age, well with people in general, but Yael was the only one who accepted me and above all, the only one with whom I was able to be myself.
- You will live in the moment, you will also become an exceptional person!
He stood up and held out his little finger to me. I looked at him with curiosity.
- I promise you that once you graduate from this school, you will become a great shaman.
My little finger wrapped around his to seal this naive promise and never forget it.
- I have to go now! To the next Flammèche!
- To the next...
My mahogany hair, the origin of this nickname, was twirling in the breeze. Yael had given it to me as soon as we met.
The exams were at the end of the month, in one week. They consisted of a knowledge-based test and a random test that changed every year. Just thinking about it made me depressed... But I couldn't give up, I shouldn't. Even if I was alone against 100 candidates, I would pass. I had to.
I went home and made a detour to the library. I borrowed several books, including one on myths and legends. Grandpa's was so reassuring to me at the time. Maybe I would find more in this book.
- Go to work Ewlia! A little reading to educate yourself! I whispered to myself to motivate myself.
Deep down I wasn't sure that reading all these books would help me, but I was ready to do anything to succeed this year.
I dozed off, still reading the last chapter I could store in my hollow memory. Then I glanced up and saw the time on the old clock: 9:30! I was going to be late for the first test. In one week I had only read about ten books and I had stayed up so much that I had half fallen asleep at my desk.
I ran through the alleys, taking shortcuts to save time. I arrived right on time in the room where all eyes had suddenly turned to me.
- And to think that we thought you had chickened out! said a voice.
- Go back to sleep, it's a waste of time for you!" mocked a suggestion in a petty tone.
In spite of the remarks, I took my place without answering the provocations. In the distance, at the other end of the room, I saw Yael, his thumb raised to wish me good luck. Fortunately, he was there.
The exam papers were handed out and we were ready to go. My eyes fell on the paper and it was a brutal shock. Panic took hold of me. I didn't understand anything! I was screwed!
I looked around me, everyone was getting restless. I was the only one not writing anything.
- You have one hour left.Think, Ewlia! Think about it! You're not that stupid. You have spent days and nights working! It's only the stress that makes you forget!I tried to regain my composure by trying to understand the problems given. I answered, without much confidence in what I was doing, and handed in the paper at the end of the two-hour intellectual slaughter. When the first test was over, the examiners began to announce the top ten. The others were eliminated immediately.
- First: Cale Teos, Second: Yael Cage, Third: Solchy Hylf...I was happy that Yael was part of the podium but what worried me the most was that Cale and Solchy were also part of it... No wonder, but those two were formidable. The thought that it was all over for the rest of the competition was still with me as I waited for the announcement of the others. But to my surprise I was second to last. I was somewhat relieved to know that I would continue. From 100 people, we were down to ten. I didn't even know how I got past that stage. Either the others were terrible or I was overly good at writing and way too stressed. Cale, Yael, and Solchy didn't seem to care what happened next, which I didn't. - Oh, I didn't think you'd make it this far this year, Ewlia, but watch out for the last test. Accidents happen so quickly," Solchy whispered to me with a smile.- Leave me alone you poisonous thistle. It's not as if you could scare me.- Have you become so mediocre as to be so confident?- I'll leave you to find out," I continued.- I'll mostly enjoy watching you whine when you realize you've failed again. Solchy was known to be a thorny problem in battle, both literally and figuratively. She would do anything to win.Yael came to me once Solchy had dropped me:- What did she want from you?- Nothing important...- You must not let her get you down, okay? You can do it! I'm confident.- Don't worry about me... I'll be fine.- Good luck Ewlia.- Good luck Yael.