The Neophyte

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The Ranking Ceremony

Spellcasters from all over The Academy and the Worldly Realm congregated at The Academy hall for the big annual event. I sat on a wooden chair—carefully carved by highly-skilled carpenters, Jessie prided—near the front row of the stage. I donned a white robe with a symbol of The Academy; a flying dove. I hadn’t realised The Academy had one.

“I’ll be on stage with Wynona and Jessie,” Tristan said before the event. “Jessie will be giving out the badges, so you’ll see some familiar faces.”

The clock struck eleven in the morning. Spellcasters got seated and the three Sages made their way on stage. They dressed formally, a way I had never seen them. Wynona adorned a white choker that accentuated her collarbone. The upper half of her violet hair was braided to the back while the rest flowed past her shoulders. Underneath her purple coat was a black tube dress that stopped an inch above her knees. On her finger was a diamond ring.

Jessie’s sandy-blond hair was neatly parted in the middle, as it always was, like a Tolkien elf. His smile was as wide as ever, ocean-blue eyes scanning the hall at every spellcaster, like a proud father. He was a white turtle neck tucked neatly into black trousers and belted at the waist underneath his crisp blue coat.

Tristan, last but never the least, donned a black collared shirt tucked into black trousers, also belted. His red coat flowed past his knees and he wore a pair of black loafers instead of his usual combat boots. His dark brown curls hovered neatly just above just his inky eyebrows. His ruby eyes glimmered as he nodded at the audience who was cheering from them. Somewhere inside he was smiling, I was sure.

All three Sages had their amethyst, sapphire and ruby gems pinned to the front pockets of their coats respectively instead of their cuffs as they usually did. They shone underneath the stage lights. As Wynona and Tristan took their seats, Jessie strode forward with a microphone in hand. More applause and he held up his hand. The cheers subsided.

“Once again we are welcomed by this beautiful sight of enthusiastic Spellcasters attending our very special annual event; the Ranking Ceremony.”

While Jessie went on, a kid sat next to me in his green robe. An Adept.

“Elton!” I said, noticing the familiar mousey face from my first day at The Academy.

The teenage boy’s face broke into a wide grin. His round eyes widened behind his spectacles. “Heidi! You’re finally going to be an Acolyte, huh?”

“Glad your little fire magic didn’t expel me completely,” I jested.

The boy let out a nervous laughter. “I heard you were possessed by Synto. Are you okay?”

I was moved. “I’m okay, kid. Thanks.”

When Jessie finished his speech, he the Neophytes were asked to stand in line for their turn to receive the Acolyte badges. Elton nudged me a ‘good luck’ and I made my way with the other Neophytes. The hall remained silent, watching every move and applauded every time a Neophyte received their new rank. They also shook hands with Wynona and Tristan, thanking them for their support.

I was up next. Jessie’s blue eyes bore on me from the stage, in one hand he held a silver-coloured badge with the symbol of an eagle, the symbol of an Acolyte, and in the other hand he held out to receive my hand.

I ascended the steps to the stage and shook his hand. His smile widened and whispered, “Good job, Heidi. I knew you had it in you.”

I nodded and thanked him. An applause erupted, some louder than others. I bowed to the audience and made my way across the stage. As I headed for the two Sages, Wynona stood up and hugged me.

“I’m proud of you, Heidi.”

I held back a tear. We pulled away and I stuck out a hand to Tristan. I did not know why I felt nervous seeing him there, like he was silently waiting on me. I kept replaying the kiss in my head, blushing at the thought of the hundred pairs of eyes scrutinising the way my gaze involuntarily fell on his lips.

He took my hand and maintained eye-contact. He remained professional, like he always did, and nodded with a glimmer in his ruby eyes. “Welcome to the family, Heidi.”

I nodded and smiled before exiting the stage as a newly-ranked Acolyte.

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