Chapter 12:

No room for failure (Part 1).

A Reverie for Another Eternity

"Here I am, typing away at 2:25 am in the morning. Please send help."Bookmark here

- Yours trulyBookmark here

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“Heeeeey. Mikuuuuta. How long are you going to stay there? It’s your turn to go now...”Bookmark here

The black fabric that veiled over her face was lifted and the harsh sun overhead outlined a bent figure as she peered forward. Though they were underneath a park bench with tree branches overhead, the light filtering through the leaves was still much too bright for Mikuta. Bookmark here

“Give me about five more minutes pleeeease.”Bookmark here

She flopped onto her stomach, facing away from Helena. In front of the plaza was a huge line to a prestigious-looking building, but its regality didn’t matter much to the more pressing matters in her mind. Bookmark here

So. Miyori. A blonde girl my age when I was a guy. Someone who I should’ve known but hadn’t ever since my arrival to this world…Bookmark here

But that begs the question: Who is the Miyori in this world?Bookmark here

As she thought that, Helena circled and stood over the end of the bench. She sighed, not being able to decipher Mikuta’s gloomy mood ever since morning. Unresponsive and unusually slow, there probably must be something wrong with her. It probably has to do something with her room being ransacked by an intruder.Bookmark here

But that was no excuse to lie around when it was her turn to proceed to the test-taking site.Bookmark here

“Oi. Are you there or not?”Bookmark here

A few light knocks came down onto Mikuta’s head.Bookmark here

“Mikuta, we’ve been waiting here for around two hours now. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that long and you still need to get your butt up there.”Bookmark here

Disgruntled, she sat up and faced Helena.Bookmark here

“Do you really think I can pass a test in which I can’t read or write?? And what's up with you having to take one as well? Like, since you’re enrolled here already and all.”Bookmark here

“Well, it's an annual thing where students, both old and incoming, have to go through to get accepted. As a school of magic, if your level of said magic is too low, then you would get rejected on the spot.”Bookmark here

She puffed out her chest, hands on her hips, giving out a smug smile.Bookmark here

“I already took my test and here’s proof that I passed yet again, now to be a second year. Though… I do wish that I performed a bit better - ANYWAYS as long as you pass it's fine.”Bookmark here

A small blue medal clinked from the upper leftmost of her breasts. Bookmark here

“Well isn’t that fine and dandy. But I still don’t get how I, a person without any magic practice, can take a test specifically meant for practitioners of magic.”Bookmark here

Helena patted Mikuta’s shoulder with an expression that said to try her best. She hated those pitying eyes.Bookmark here

“Oh, uh. I haven’t thought about that at all. They have stations where they gauge your abilities and whatnot. But hmmm. The bottom line is that you don’t have to really do anything. You either get in or out and if you get in, then you won’t have to look for a job.”Bookmark here

Mikuta was annoyed at this explanation. She felt as if she deserved to know at least one thing, one spell or incantation similar to whatever Helena had done back then, similar to those little flames of hers. She didn’t wait here just to fail. Then, a brilliant idea had formed inside her mind as she grabbed Helena by the arm.Bookmark here

“What specific thing did you do at the stations?”Bookmark here

“Like I said-”Bookmark here

“I mean spell. What spell did you use?”Bookmark here

She sighed, smacking away Mikuta’s hand. She had a forlorn expression on her face.Bookmark here

“Listen. This most likely won’t work but just say this: tàladh dealanaich.”Bookmark here

“Talad deal what?”Bookmark here

“Don’t say it yet. Say it when they tell you to use a spell of your choice. You better know how to pronounce it by the time you get there.”Bookmark here

Oh, right. She couldn’t just haphazardly put the people around her in danger - if the spell was supposed to be dangerous. Bookmark here

“If only I had more time to practice this stupid thing… Gotta thank Florentine for that…”Bookmark here

Lady Florentine. And it’s your fault for not waking up earlier~~.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever.”Bookmark here

Mikuta stood up and made her way to the front of the academy. Though she didn’t pay any heed to its appearance, up close she had no choice but to take notice of how grandiose it truly was, its white marble pillars standing out in the middle of an otherwise ordinary-looking plaza. Relatively ordinary.Bookmark here

“Number 568, Mikuta of the Ratnasambhava church! Are you there or not?”Bookmark here

Now they added something weird to my name… But still, good to know what the church is called I guess. Bookmark here

“Yes, that’d be me.”Bookmark here

Taking a deep breath, she grabbed the slip from the counter and headed inside the huge doors.Bookmark here

From behind, Helena comfortably laid down on the same bench that Mikuta was on, waiting for her to be finished. As she began to doze off, a steadfast set of eyes looked at her from the shadows.Bookmark here

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“Alright everyone, please be seated in your assigned seats. We will begin once all 600 of you are here for this section.”Bookmark here

In a huge auditorium lined with fancy lights and many chairs, there stood a bald and feeble man at the podium. Mikuta snickered at the shine on his head. After all, first impressions are most important. Hopefully, her rudeness was well hidden away since she sat in the middle of the mob. Bookmark here

As expected, there was a lot of chattering from the people around her. Well, not all of them were people nor did they look ordinary. Most of them had really colorful hair, ranging from the entire spectrum of perceivable colors. Some were scaly reptilian anthropomorphs, while others were a bit furrier.Bookmark here

Their appearance surprised her. After all, wasn’t there a certain stigma to be had against demihumans? It was very unapparent here. Helena wasn’t the type of person to lie and the problems in the slums were obviously real. Perhaps there was more to this world that she didn’t know about. She’d have to ask her later for the details.Bookmark here

Just then, she felt a few taps to her shoulder. Turning her head, her cheek was met with a poke from a dainty finger. Her eyes widened at a familiar flamboyant show of bouncing auburn curls and a smile that looked down from above.Bookmark here

“We meet again, Mikuta of… of the Ratnasambhava church.”Bookmark here

So much for first impressions...Bookmark here

She sat down, blatantly laughing out loud while slapping Mikuta on the back. Mikuta squeamishly tried to make herself seem as small as possible, pressing her legs and arms together while looking down in embarrassment.Bookmark here

Miyori retracted her arm and sighed.Bookmark here

“You don’t seem very happy. Something on your mind?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, it’s just I don’t know how this whole exam thing works…”Bookmark here

“As in the prerequisites you need to fulfill, the general history, what you need to be able to do now, and such?”Bookmark here

“Yeah… All of those.”Bookmark here

Helena hadn’t explained anything to her, having dragged her from bed to breakfast and now here. It was very irritating having to sit through all this with failure in mind.Bookmark here

“Well, for starters, there isn’t an age limit, only a minimum of twelve years is necessary to be able to attend. So you don’t need to worry about that. Secondly, this exam is there just to test your skills in magic, physical labors, and plain academics; the academy isn’t just about magic, though that is its main selling point for all who come here.”Bookmark here

“Ok, so that’s not all that bad… But I’m worried about the tests or stations as they called it. And besides, I don’t know any spells or languages…”Bookmark here

“Wait, then why’d you enroll if you can’t do any of those things? Actually, what stations did you enroll for?”Bookmark here

“I… I don’t know.”Bookmark here

Miyori sighed, putting her arms in a cross behind her head as she stretched. Bookmark here

“Not my problem and not my business I guess. But what I can say is: as long as you got what it takes in their eyes, you’ll get in no problem. After all-” she smirked as she spun a brown bracelet with yellow lines coursing through it on her finger -”If that failure of a sister managed to get in for her second year, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t.”Bookmark here

“I see.”Bookmark here

“Do you know any incantations or phrases to speak of at least? I’m pretty sure she would’ve had the courtesy to tell you at least a few before sending you in here.”Bookmark here

“Uh, but wouldn’t saying it accidentally trigger the spell?”Bookmark here

Mikuta doubted that she would’ve done anything even if she had said it properly.Bookmark here

“Oh, a verbal one. In that case, it all depends on your intent which also depends on the type of spell it is. So like, if it's an offensive type of spell, then your intent would also need to be somewhat similar to what you are achieving with it, makes sense?”Bookmark here

“So, it’s okay for me to say it if there is no intent behind it?”Bookmark here

“Correct.”Bookmark here

“But what if that lack of intent causes it to trigger?”Bookmark here

She gave a cursory shrug, slowly looking around the room as it became quieter as a new presenter rose to the podium. She quickly cupped her hands next to Mikuta’s ear. Bookmark here

“Then you’ll just have to deal with it, won’t you?”Bookmark here

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“This will be the final aptitude test: a spell examination. In front of you are targets in which you have to hit with a choice of your very own magic. Please be careful not to blow up the other examinees or destroy any of the facility equipment. Good luck, and may your god, gods, and goddesses be on your side.”Bookmark here

With a curt nod, the short lady gave a polite bow and walked off the field full of concrete blocks.Bookmark here

Tàladh dealanaich tàladh dealanaich tàladh dealanaich tàladh dealanaich. Bookmark here

For the majority of the exams, that was the only thing running through Mikuta’s head. Even when running for her physicals and filling in the bubbles for simple mathematics, she was careful not to utter the actual phrase, only moving her lips which luckily didn’t cause anything to explode. Sadly, she had to leave some portions of the language-based questions blank on the mathematics portion, and the entire language and essay portion blank. This meant that she absolutely cannot fail the spell casting part of the exam; this was mostly because she didn’t want the time she spent waiting to be wasted.Bookmark here

She waited for other people to cast their own spells while in one of the three lines behind the entry-point. In awe, she watched blazing blue flames fly through the air, gusts of purple wind knocking over a few targets which soon replenished themselves. Through magic or something alike. By the time a hundred or so of them had gone, it was up to Mikuta to fire her own shot as she moved up to the front along with a lot of others.Bookmark here

Breathe in, breathe out. Cmon, show ‘em what you’re made of. Bookmark here

“Tàladh dealanaich!”Bookmark here

There weren’t many verbal spells at the site, most of whom shot out bright bolts of light, gusts of wind, and balls of fire. Some even brought little wands, fashioned in all sorts of glossy wood. Bookmark here

By far, hers was the weirdest sounding spell. Maybe it was some kind of ancient Gaelic language or something. But, nothing happened. She tried pointing her arm at the target.Bookmark here

“T-tàladh dealanaich!”Bookmark here

Still nothing.Bookmark here

Oh my god oh my god oh my god… What am I gonna do??Bookmark here

Perhaps there was something with her intent. Yeah, that’s most likely it. And yet, it felt really wrong, almost as if what Miyori had told her was wrong…Bookmark here

“That’s an interesting spell you got there, Mikuta. Mind if I try it?”Bookmark here

She quickly spun her head towards a confident-looking young lady with auburn curls. She had her hand in a finger gun, seemingly ready to fire something.Bookmark here

“Tàladh dealanaich!”Bookmark here

A lash of lightning sprung out from her fingertip, instantly weaving its way through the air until it finally struck a block. Latching on, it pulled the target towards Miyori for a solid ten feet or so.Bookmark here

The rope of lightning dispersed into particles as Miyori gave a short puff on her finger.Bookmark here

“Aaaand that’s how you do it. Any questions?”Bookmark here

“A lot. But I’m guessing I don’t have much time here.”Bookmark here

Someone from the distance began shouting and Miyori just nodded along.Bookmark here

"Ugh, fine. Còn fuar!"Bookmark here

In close proximity, even Mikuta could feel the chilling gust blow from her palms. And in the distance, she could see a few targets slowly form a shiny, glass-like exterior. Miyori sighed and spun back around to Mikuta.Bookmark here

“Don't listen to them; who cares, really? But do you understand what I meant by having intent infused in your spells?”Bookmark here

Mikuta quickly looks around the surroundings to make sure she wasn’t violating anything in order. Much to her relief, most of the other examinees were talking to one another. Some were even talking to the instructors. She looks back at Miyori speechlessly, amazed at her overflowing skill and confidence.Bookmark here

“What intent - what feelings - did you have when you casted the spell?”Bookmark here

“Asking a question in the face of a question I see. Well, I don’t have any qualms with it.” She went around Mikuta, wrapping her arms around and slowly inching forward until she held Mikuta’s hands in her own. “You just need to feel it.”Bookmark here

The bracelet let off a slight glow that no one else noticed except the two. And with great hesitancy, she readied her arms, holding her hands up in a finger gun. Bookmark here

“Tàladh dealanaich!”Bookmark here

At that moment, it was as if she had dissociated from reality itself, her vision warping as a bright yellow streak shot out from her fingers. It was pleasantly mind-numbing, so much so that her legs and arms were to give out if not for Miyori’s support. Bookmark here

“Haa..ah…”Bookmark here

“Not bad for your first time. It seems as if you pulled it off well, judging by how they’re grading you.”Bookmark here

Miyori nodded in the direction of the instructors who were talking to one another delightfully. Bookmark here

“That’s… Great. Hey, can you drag me to a chair or something?”Bookmark here

Had the couple stayed in the front any longer, the situation would’ve gotten awkward. They could hear the other examinees grumbling in the back.Bookmark here

“Yeah, of course.”Bookmark here

Heaving, the two made their way towards the benches on the side of the stadium and Mikuta collapsed, taking up four seats in the process.Bookmark here

“Just… Let me lie here for a while, ok?”Bookmark here

“Ok doke. Well, this is where I’m gonna leave. You’ll receive a message of approval from your church if you manage to get in. Any last words before I go?”Bookmark here

Yeah, who are you exactly and why do you share the same name as a busty blonde girl that I know?

But, eh. Maybe next time. I do owe her a lot for today.
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Too tired to speak and also not wanting to ruin the moment, Mikuta waved her hand, shooing her away. Bookmark here

"I see. Anyways, good luck and good night, Mikuta."
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Slowly glancing up, she could see Miyori leaving with a small wave and back turned, walking towards the entrance of the academics room. The bracelet jiggled up and down, its glowing yellowness distinctly standing out to Mikuta. Bookmark here

And that was the last thing Mikuta saw before losing consciousness.Bookmark here

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“How many times are you going to sleep in a single day?”Bookmark here

“Hweh wha-?”Bookmark here

Mikuta awoke suddenly in the darkness, the smell of freshly baked bread churning her hungry stomach. Under the metal eaves of the stadium, she could see a myriad of sparkling stars in the open sky up ahead. Helena’s silhouette sat down next to Mikuta’s feet.Bookmark here

Judging by the color of the sky, Mikuta knew that she had long overslept. Why hadn’t anyone awoken her? And why, out of all times, is Helena here? Couldn’t she have come earlier? She would’ve liked it if she had made it back to the dorms before nightfall.Bookmark here

Just as she was about to make her inquiries, Helena blurted her own words out loud.Bookmark here

“I know what you’re about to ask, so don’t. I also dozed off… a little…” She gave a weak laugh. “Don’t pin this one on me though!”Bookmark here

“I won’t I won’t…”Bookmark here

“Instead of grumbling, how about you look on the bright side. Here.” Helena tosses her something small. “Congrats on getting in. You won’t have to look for a job anymore!” Bookmark here

“Thanks… Say, can I have a piece of bread? I’m starving.”Bookmark here

She reached over into the bag and took a small roll, ravenously devouring the piece without savoring it.Bookmark here

“Are you good now?”

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“Yeah, yeah. So what now?”Bookmark here

“I was thinking that maybe we could go back to the abandoned cathedral and give the rest to the kids. And then, we can head to the cafeteria, the showers, and call it a night.” She got up with a smile. “Of course, had you not forgotten to take a spare bed sheet this morning you would’ve been able to sleep in your own bed tonight. Oh well.”Bookmark here

Mikuta silently thanked the gods for not reminding her about it. She certainly felt comfortable sleeping next to Helena, though it probably couldn’t have been said the same for Helena. She hoped it was not a burden on her.Bookmark here

The two began walking through the empty halls and exits, soon making their way outside, the lamps lighting up the entire plaza.Bookmark here

She took another look at the medal in her hand: a red medal with white ribbons. It certainly looked pretty with the little glint it gave off.Bookmark here

“Honestly, I didn’t expect you to get in at all.” She took a few breaths more as she speed-walked down the street from which they first came. Mikuta soon caught up with her.Bookmark here

“Yeah? Well, I didn’t expect this place to accept illiterates or bums either. But good for me, right?”Bookmark here

“Yes yes. Congratulations.”Bookmark here

After their little banter, the two grew silent, not wanting to own up to their faults. They continued their way through the various turns and roads, eventually to a series of run-down buildings.Bookmark here

“I wasn’t expecting the slums to be so nearby, not gonna lie.”

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“Well, the academy and thereby the dorms are pretty close to the outskirts, making it a popular target for all peoples regardless of race or class.”
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“Does that include demi-humans like Maya too?”Bookmark here

There were demi-human examinees, after all, some even more animalistic than those in the slums. It wasn’t obvious as to why Maya from the slums hadn't attempted to take the exams themselves, especially when Mikuta herself had managed to get in. Better yet, why weren't the other examinees socially outcasting them at the time, talking to them normally as they would for anyone else?

“Weeeell. You see, there is an unwritten rule for all who present themselves at the academy: to not discriminate and to not harm others. Though that’s said and done, it's mostly just what the academy itself wants to promote.”Bookmark here

“You mean… the people there are extremely biased and the stigma towards demi-humans, or any race other than humans, for that matter, is still there?”Bookmark here

“Yes. Oh, by no means do I partake in the bullying though.” She waved her hands as if to emphasize that fact. “It’s just… sometimes you want to help them, but even the instructors are biased too so you really can’t do anything much…”Bookmark here

That was not good news to Mikuta. If bias was the only reason why she managed to pass at all in contrast to the much more skilled demi-humans, it’d only infuriate her she thought. But deep down, she was glad to have passed regardless. Bookmark here

“But you’re saying there’s still a chance for them, right?”Bookmark here

“Only slightly, but even then they’d have to be the top performers. Everyone, including them, pretends like it’s no big deal - but the mutual hatred is there.”Bookmark here

Perhaps the other examinees were all cool and skillful in her eyes because of how powerful their intentions were. Powerful in doing and powerful in pretending. So long as they could bring forth their emotions rationally, there was nothing to stop them from upholding the rule whilst greeting one another with common pleasantries.Bookmark here

And there certainly was nothing to prevent them from using those same emotions to cast their spells - maybe even at each other. Mikuta shuddered at the thought of total war between the two races, each one as skilled as the other. If spells were to be cast and perhaps intensified with those same emotions, it’d be complete chaos. Bookmark here

“What if-”Bookmark here

Helena shushed her in front of the cathedral and lowered her voice. “Let’s talk about this on the way back, okay?” Bookmark here

Mikuta begrudgingly obliged.Bookmark here

Suddenly, one of the kids rushed out from the entrance and hugged Helena tightly. He looked up at her with a tearful expression.Bookmark here

“B-big sis is hurt!”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.