Chapter 4 - Let The Festival Start!
"Alright you 3, we'll see you when the festivities start." said Mr. Sparks as he slowed his car to a halt a few blocks away from the stadium. Twilight, Spyro and Shia all exited the car and stretched. The 2 hour ride to Canelot wasn't always a pleasant one.
"Alright Mom and Dad, we'll catch you after." Spyro said.
"Bye and good luck on the test." Mrs. Sparks waved as they drove off.
The 3 then turned their attention to the mass of people walking towards the stadium. The tests would begin in 10 minutes so they did need to hurry a little. Twilight looked much more presentable now. Her long dark purple hair was now combed, two streaks of violet and rosy pink ran through it. There weren't any bags under her violet eyes and her pale violet blazer was now pressed properly along with her blouse underneath and black skirt. Shia was wearing his work attire; a red army coat and white pants, a sword was also strapped to his waist. The collar was gold colored, as were the sleeve cuffs. He was also wearing gold bands around the bicep region of his sleeves. Each gold section had the same symbol, a navy blue shield with a violet six pointed star on it and 3 light blue stars above the shield. Shia topped the professional look off with cerulean blue eyes and 3 streaked, collar length blue hair composed of light blue, moderate blue and dark blue. He drew the attention of many of the crowd. Everyone knew that someone dressed the way he was had to be important and all gave the 3 space as they walked, as if out of respect. Twilight and Spyro either didn't seem to notice or didn't care.
"So Twilight, Spyro, are you two nervous?" Shia asked diligently as Twilight was extremely quiet the minute the car entered the city of Canelot.
"Well I'm not really all that nervous." Spyro answered before turning towards Twilight, "Her? I think that's a different story."
Twilight said nothing to this, instead she stared at seemingly nothing which prompted Shia and Spyro to call her name again.
"Huh? What is it?" She immediately snapped back into reality and looked at the two.
"You okay sis? You've been out of it ever since we made it to Canelot." Shia said worried, "Now, on the big day, isn't the time for you to be spacing out you know."
"I know, I'm just thinking...what if I fail? What if I disappoint her and you and everyone?" she asked distressed.
"Twilight, you won't fail. If I could get accepted into a specialized high school, you definitely can and disappoint Solisia or any of us? You couldn't disappoint any of us even if you tried."
"Yea Twilight, you're the smartest, most talented person I know. I mean come on, how many people can say they are one of Solisia's private students?" Spyro added.
This was true. At a young age, Twilight had an incident in school. Even then, she was an especially gifted magus with tremendous power but knew not how to control that power. One day, Solisia was visiting the town that Twilight lives in and that's when it happened. Twilight was trying to perform a spell she had seen her father do for show and tell, but being that she lacked experience, it went wrong and she lost control. She would have destroyed the entire school if Solisia hadn't stopped it in time. Twilight, after the traumatic event was almost ready to completely give up on magic but Solisia convinced her that her talent was special, all she needed was the right teacher. From then on, Twilight was homeschooled. She'd have biweekly lessons with Solisia where she'd travel to Canelot early in the morning and would spend the day at Solisia's home in her academy. She learned everything Solisia had to teach her for the day and then would return home where'd she spend most of her time studying and reading.
It was last year that Solisia suggested that she had enough control over her power and should attend normal school again. She specifically urged her to try and get in to a specialized highschool. It was Twilight's dream to attend one since she was a little girl but she thought that dream was scrapped since the incident. At first she didn't want to but after much goading from her family and Solisia, they were able to convince her. Now they were here today after much preparation. Her and Spyro were going to take the exams.
"Shia...what will be in the exams?" Twilight asked.
"Can't say for sure," he said rubbing the back of his head, "it's random each year. But what I do know, is school's representatives and their heads are very selective and diligent. They aren't kidding when they said that the headmasters only look for the best of the best. Be on your A game. Anyways, Spyro, which schools are you applying to?"
"Oh, well only two. Serpens Collegiate for obvious reasons and if not there, then whatever school Twilight is going to. Where are you applying Twilight?"
Twilight looked up at the sky, as if the answer was there.
"There are so many options for me to choose from. Chrysalis Changeling Institute is the new school on the block. It's only 2 years old and has gotten recognized as a specialized highschool. Chrysalis Changeling, the headmistress was a prodigy growing up and is currently the youngest council member in history at 23 years old. There is Discidium Technical Highschool where chaotic elements are studied instead of harmonic ones. Dr. Drocsid Strife is the headmaster and eldest council member. Starswirl School for the Magical Studies is a great choice too. It was founded by philosopher and magus innovator, Albus Starswirl for other aspiring, young magus. His great grand daughter, Elise Starswirl is the headmistress and one of the strongest magus in the country. Then, there is The Equestrian Academy for the Skilled & Brilliant. Of the 4 multiracial schools, it has the lowest acceptance rate and the highest standards of all the specialized high schools. They say the headmaster, Sombra, is a very mysterious and captious young man. No one even knows his full name despite him being on the council. To get into his school though would be such a great honor..." Twilight ranted out loud more to herself rather than as an answer to her brothers.
"But?" Shia raised his eyebrow with a smile.
"Their all good choices but I really want to get into The Equestrian Academy for the Gifted & Talented, the school that Solisia is headmistress for. A lot of people refer to it as the most carefree of the specialized high schools with the most diverse group of students. It's where you went Shia and you turned out quite fine plus I'll be able to continue lessons with Solisia. So my mind is made up, I'm applying there as my first option." Twilight declared.
"Heh, I could have guessed that." Spyro replied.
After a few more minutes of walking, the three finally reached the festival. There were a bunch of stands and attractions around the Canelot Stadium which was extremely large, big enough to hold over 100,000 people at a time. Some stands were from clubs and teams of the academies, others were from Camelot citizens trying to make a profit off the event that drew thousands to the city. Shia walked with them through the crowd all the way up to the stadium entrance where a huge line was formed around a check in.
"Alright you two, I need to make my way inside and find out where Solisia is before they have my head. Good luck on the exam. Me, Mom and Dad will be cheering you guys on from the stands." Shia said as he gave them both a thumbs up before disappearing amongst the crowd.
Twilight let out a sigh and walked up towards the line with Spyro at her side.
"Don't fret Twilight, whenever you lose confidence, just remember how smart you are." Spyro comforted her and she nodded.
"Finally!" Raine exclaimed when they reached the check in point at the entrance.
"I hate lines." she went on, "Now squirt, don't do anything stupid or get lost while we are taking the test."
"Oh please big sis, I can handle myself. It's these Canelot people who I'm worried that can't handle me." Scotlyn grinned with her hands on her hips.
"That's what I want to hear." Raine gave her a thumbs up.
"Names please?" one of the people sitting at the check in asked.
"Florice Shyans, Caelum."
"Raine Bowens, Caelum."
After a few seconds of looking through his computer he answered, "Alright, you're both good, you can go in."
They walked in through a long set of hallways for a while before reaching the interior of the stadium. There were thousands of seats around a incredibly large field which had a hard metallic surface plated over it and thousands of seats with test papers on them.
"The stadium, it looks so much larger in the inside...like really larger." Florice said in awe as she looked around.
"That's because there is a powerful spell placed on the stadium for the festival. It makes in here 4 times as big." Raine explained.
"I knew a lot of students were going to be here but not this much."
"Yea well trust me when I say this, at least a quarter of these people won't be here after the exams."
"Why do you say that?" Florice asked nervously.
"Because, despite it being just an exam, the written test has a way of getting rid of people. All I can say to you is, keep your eyes on your own sheet of paper."
After another 15 minutes or so, the mass of teenagers finally crowded into the stadium and were all seated alphabetically by their last names. Raine was a few rows away from the front since her last name was Bowens. Florice would be near the back due to her name Shyans as would Twlight and Spyro who sat right next to each other with the last name of Sparks. Rarity wrote in a very fine cursive, "Rarity Delacour." She was a handful of rows behind Raine. All the way in the middle, Apphia sat, her last name being Jackson. Everyone was told to write their names on the test papers and that they'd get half an hour for each section of the test. Cheating wouldn't be tolerated in any form. If caught cheating you were ejected from the stadium and your application to the specialized high schools was deemed null and void. Then, just like that, the test started. Nothing more was said and the dome was in complete silence.
Raine looked at her test one time, smirked and then crossed her arms and closed her eyes, not making any kind of movements for the duration of the test. Everyone else seemed to be hard at work. The first 20 minutes was silence only disturbed by the soft scratching noise of pencils and the occasional cough. But as you got towards the end of each section, the difficulty of the subject increases. Spyro rubbed his forehead while reading the final part of the English section. It was to write an essay about why he wanted to and should attend a specialized highschool. He hated these type of things and he could have sworn Shia told them it'd be the final part of the test. They must have changed up the format. What about Twilight? He looked over to his right to see his foster sister diligently writing her own essay. Maybe a quick peek wouldnt be bad. It's not like he was cheating, he just wanted an idea for his essay.
Next to Raine, a young boy couldn't help but fidget. He was stuck at the essay part as well. He kept thinking about how every part of his exam needed to be flawless but had no idea what to write in the essay that he'd consider flawless. To his left was a girl with rainbow colored hair, sitting their confidently with her arms crossed and her eyes shut. She looked as if she was asleep. The test must have easy for her if she blitzed through that entire section so quickly. Would it hurt to take a peek? He looked to his left and then his right. No one was looking his direction. This was his only chance, if he was to act, he'd need to do it now.
Spyro began to slowly lean towards Twilight. She paused in the middle of a sentence as she noticed from the corner of her eyes that something was moving towards her. She turned her attention to Spyro who was just about to whisper her name when one of the test coordinators shouted out.
"Row 5, column 16. You've been ejected from the exam room because of attempted cheating."
Without warning, magic completely engulfed the boy next to Raine and he was sent flying towards the top of the dome. Everyone stared in awe as he skyrocketed towards the top which suddenly opened to let him fly through and immediately closed again. All of the first time test takers couldn't believe what they just saw and the rest looked a bit shook by what transpired as well.
"Well darn, looks like they really went and made the ejections even more brutal." Apphia said with a nervous smile.
Raine had a slight grin on her face but kept her eyes shut and arms crossed, "So it begins."
Spyro's eyes were wide, confused and frightened. That could have been him in maybe one or two more seconds. He looked at Twilight who had just as startled a look as everyone else on her face. She turned towards him and shook her head, signifying "Don't even think about trying to cheat." The interruption was enough to make everyone lose track of time.
"The reading and writing part of the test is done, pencils down!" the main coordinator shouted.
Everyone gasped and scrambled to finish their essays, Twilight included. She about to press her pen against the paper again when the dome opened up once more, then in rapid succession, other kids around them began to launch up through the dome. It sounded like small rockets going off repeatedly while most screamed as they felt themselves randomly ascend. It went on for at least half a minute before stopping. At least a third of all the test takers were gone and everyone left were completely beside themselves with shock and fear. This was even more extreme than any rumors of the test they had heard about before. The main test coordinator then addressed them all again.
"Certain people believe that over the past couple of years that the council members as well as test coordinators have been too lenient with the students resulting in easier festivals, meaning the the special high schools allow students who aren't quote on quote 'The Best of the Best' to get admitted in. We all take offense to that so from now on, the SHSAF difficulty and strictness will be beefed up. So let me make myself clear again for you all, I don't care how hard it is, cheating will not be tolerated. Not following instructions when told to will not be tolerated. If you want to get through today, you better do it on your own and by following the rules."
Twilight sweated as her pencil was centimeters away from the paper. She let it fall out of her hand and the sound of it hitting her desk echoed. This is serious, more serious than any festival before hand. Just her luck. The year they decide to make the admission exams into the schools 10 times as tough is the year she's applying. Spyro banged his head against the desk.
"I'm so stupid. I nearly got both me and Twilight kicked out."
Florice was trembling, too afraid to do anything in fear that'd she find herself blasting off into the sky. Apphia gritted her teeth. Macintosh had already told her about the difficulty of the test but now that they decided to amp it up, she couldn't help but feel that this would be a futile effort. Rarity was trying her best to hold her composure. It was unladylike to stare with such aghast looks on ones face so she tried to stay calm and cool but in reality she wanted to ball out in anguish. Her hopes of living in Canelot for her highschool life were looking all but dead. Raine, however, seemed very naturally composed. She did not move or even flinch at all the entire time. But with each second, her grin grew more and more into a confident smile.
"Bring it on."