A wave of darkness swept over the city. The Lionheart Champions of Ao glanced up at the Elysium with an uneasiness of Armageddon approaching. The wave was brusque, instantaneous, but left a cataclysmic inkling of sensation in every Lionheart across the city. The darkness dawdled in the sky, obscured from the valorous by the veneer of the clouds. It glanced down, whispered an archaic, intelligible word that only the great would understand, and dissipated into nothingness, consumed in itself.
I watched the skies with an overwrought sensation, as if something evil was looming in the skies, but my train of thoughts were disrupted by my company.
"Ao, the world's greatest city," Thomas exclaimed, spreading his arms and shooting a fireball into the night sky, illuminating the city from my penthouse rooftop.
"You should probably put a restrainer on your powers before the assessment, Exter," I advised, watching the fireball explode like a firework a hundred meters above us, almost burning both our sweaters. "You don't want the Steel Force to come and detain your powers."
"You're such a bore, Gin," Thomas rolled his black, tenebrous eyes. "It'll be fine, as long as I don't destroy anything they won't even bat an eye."
"Just don't get yourself in trouble," I nudged his arm. "Your father's not gonna like it if you do." Thomas flinched at the thought of his father.
"Yeah, yeah, party pooper," he mumbled. "Hey Gin, whaddaya think your powers are gonna be?"
"Well," I scratched my cheek. "Hopefully not something too flashy."
"Why not? Don't you wanna be, like, a Lionheart or somethin'?" Thomas brushed through his hair, black with slivers of red after the annexation of his abilities. It was true I wanted to be a Lionheart.
"I just wanna live a normal life, Thomas. I don't want trouble, I don't want nothing. I'm fine with being the way I am. Hell, I'd be a vanilla if I could."
Thomas nodded his head slowly. "Broooooo... that's just... boring. You're so ugh. You're just like your father. So uptight about everything. I mean, apart from that cherished library of yours, you're just b-o-r-i-n-g." He plopped down on the couch and twirled a little ball of fire around his fingers. "Your father's a vanilla, your mom's, like, dea" um, sorry."
"Doesn't matter," I sipped on my Dr. Peppers to much of Thomas' relief. My mother's death was long ago. It didn't matter anymore. "You know, you're got pretty damn lucky with your power."
"I know right?" Thomas chuckled in his enthusiastic self. "It's like all I've ever wanted. I'm gonna be the greatest fireman in history...," then he glanced at me with a weak smile, but eyes shining brightly, and continued in a defeated, croaky voice. "Just like my father was." Now that was a touchy subject.
I wondered the images that flashed across his head. I remembered the headlines of that fateful day. Firefighter chief Marvin Exter critical in City Hall fire.
"Let's get back inside," I said, trying to distract Thomas from the thought of the tragedy in which had costed the life of his father. I knew how much it pained him to think about the subject. "We gotta finish the chips."
Thomas smirked at me. "Nah, it's getting pretty late. My mom's gonna kill me if I keep gettin' back this late." I nodded my head. "See ya tomorrow, bro," he said, and jolted down the hallways. I could see his tears starting to flow out.
"Don't break, Thomas," I whispered as I watched the skies turned Stygian and moonless. I stared at my gray hair with my blue, cobalt eyes in the nearest mirror. "We can get through this together."
The bells chimed as 16-year olds filed into the classroom and sat in their seats, as their powers are nullified, and the teacher strolled into the room, leaning on the stand and browsing through his papers. Thomas was in the corner, flirting with the girls, like usual. As long as his mind wasn't clinging onto his father's death, heavy concern was not needed. A white dot appeared in the seat left of me as a girl flashed into place. Macy, or Foggy Glasses as we call her. You weren't supposed to use your powers until after the assessments by law, but in Ao, where the fire of powers resides, powers are encouraged at the point they are obtained. ACPD has a loose grip on the law, unlike the other cities. Garn, for example, you could be punished by death if you were to use powers before the assessment. I glanced at my watch. May 15th. A recognizable throat-clearing emerged from the front of the classroom, followed by a tapping on the stand. I twisted down my headphones blasting Miles Davis.
"My little disciples," he bellowed in his thick, New Zealand accent. Tall figure, muscle man, dark-ish skin. Mr. Anderson. Though his glasses were always a little off. His power? He can create images with his mind and project it. "The assessments are next week. It will be the dictation in which you will all be seperated." The assessments, aka the trials every 16 year old takes after they obtain their power. For as long as I knew, when people reached the age of 16, they would be assigned some type of power by god-knows-who out there. Normally, they're mild powers like mind reading or teleportation or substance manipulating. Thomas was among those lucky enough to have a grip on one of the more powerful types " fire manipulation. Every so often, somebody is marked as a 'villain' of Ao, and dispatched. Their powers are branded as too strong to control. I guessed Ao really liked to keep their powers in check.
He projected an image on the wall showing the symbols of the factions.
"Most of you have gotten your powers, I believe," Mr. Anderson gestured. "It matters not who got theirs first or who got theirs last, the League will make sure you control your power." He glanced at me, as if he knew something. Then again, he always does that. Just this time... it felt intimidating. I squirmed in my seat. "Assuming you pass." He pushed his glasses up.
He was talking about the banisher's wastelands. The outskirts of the city where the claimed 'villains' who had been deemed too dangerous were sent.
I felt something hot on my table. I looked down. When's the party? It said. Only one person would do such a thing. I whipped my head and saw a strand of fire grizzling from the tips of Thomas' fingers. I rolled my eyes and mouthed eight.
"Mr. Exter," Mr. Anderson projected an image of himself behind Thomas. His power. "Are you, perhaps, cold?" Mr. Anderson said in a menacing tone that earned giggles from the others, and a bone-chilling chuckle from Simon who sat behind. Simon Dent, freezing abilities, son of captain Dent, a captain of the Lionhearts and a high-ranking officer in the Steel Forces, earning him a position in the Lionhearts by birthright. Also the class bully. Well, whatever. He had talent, potential and intelligence. Easy rise in society. Though he was wicked, and my father told me a man with a dark heart cannot generate light for this city.
Thomas blushed, retreated his strands of fire into his fingertips and winked at me. Mischievious Exter.
"Norms, heroes, or villains. That simple," Mr. Anderson said, pressing his tone heavily on the last word. "All of you have been with me for the past few years, I trust your abilities to be accepted as heroes. Even Mr. Dent," he gestured at Simon, who grinned like a madman. I scorned him for the easy ticket in. Did he even understand the glory of wearing the badge of the Lionhearts, emitting the light of our city? And at the top of that? Admiral of the Lionhearts. The strongest of the city; the most revered of all. And that is my goal. To wear the uniform of the Lionhearts and protect this city. And I want to do that without any powers in my way " I wanted it old-fashioned, with my pure strength. Then a thought crosses my mind.
"What makes them villains?" I daringly asked. From what I had read, little of them had done anything terribly malevolent or wrecked chaos, and the ones who did were detainde by the Steel Forces, not sent to roam in the dead wastelands. Mr. Anderson stopped in his tracks and fixed his striped suit.
"Gin, if you ever listened, you'd know they were deemed too dangerous during the assessments," Paris from two desks over boasted with her arrogant pride. Smartest girl in the school, sure, but was also probably the most hated. She would've been a millionare if she got ten bucks each time somebody rolled their eyes at her.
"That is correct, Paris," Mr. Anderson smiled, but I wasn't satisfied with that poor explanation. So much for the smartest.
"And what exactly did they do to deserve being labelled as dangerous?" He took a deep breath and started looking at me with his stern, humorless face. I continued. "It's not like they wrecked the city, or committed crimes, or murdered people," I professed.
"Yo..." Thomas whispered to me. I ignored him.
"Aren't you basically banishing innocent people who hasn't done a thing but gain powers that they have absolutely **no** power over choosing""
"Enough, Mr. Zolcs!" Mr. Anderson shouted, slamming his hands on my desk. Whoa. I had been a mischief long before, but this is the first time he had actually raised his voice with this... intensity. And boy, was it blood-curling. I couldn't help but be petrified and swallow my own spit. "They may not be a threat yet, but if they continue to thrive in our society... one day, they will."
"And how do you determine that?" "We have our own sources," he said in his usual tone, fixing his tie and walked back to the front of the room. He cleared his throat. "Now, continuing my explanation..."
I tried to distract myself from the incident. I'd read everything he was talking about in my father's study before. Norms, Heroes, and Villains. The three major categories. Obviously, different people have different names for them, but the original founders of Ao were evidently very creative. There's barely any study on the villains, but in the heroes, there are the Alpha Guardians, the Navypact, the Steel Forces, and the Lionhearts " pride of the city. I could've gone deeper and deeper with that, there's probably a hundred subcategories known and unknown across Ao alone. Lionhearts...
"Yo!" Thomas slapped my face.
"Ow, what was that for?" I clutched my cheek from the impact. It felt hot and burnt.
"Classes are over," he said. I looked around me. Sure enough, we were the only ones there. I looked at my watch. 3:45 PM. Mr. Anderson's speech was at 8:52 AM. 7 hours passed?
"Damn. What happened?" I asked, sighing and packing my bags.
"Dude, I don't know. Your eyes had this like, black stuff in them and you were shaking," he waved his hands like a fanatic. "You wouldn't even budge when I called for you during recess. It's like you passed out. Thank god Anderson didn't notice. What's going on?"
"Nothing," I lied playfully. He gave me one of those 'really?' looks. He knew me too well. "I was just thinking about stuff," I shook my head and confessed, my lips tightening.
"Hmm..." he said under his breath. "Oh well."
I slapped his back and swung my pack over my shouders.
"Hey," he called out. I spun around. "Can I, like, punch you again?" I rolled my eyes as he made a hilariously weak boxing motion. "It felt like pretty good punching a person, dude, come on," he laughed.
"Real intimidating, Exter," I chuckled and tossed him a Dr. Peppers from my hoodie as I felt a swish of cold air, darkness, forming behind my back. I spun my head around, with cold sweat. Trepidation. There was nobody. Must be my senses playing tricks on me.