“Quiet!” Miss Mia Joy, the homeroom teacher, suddenly shouted just when she got into the classroom.
Jed’s classroom, a round-table discussion and seminar type of place, sat in the southwest corner of the school, stuck between two of the Manifestor-specialist turrets where the only classes “interesting” to the students were conducted.
But today was a little strange, huh? Jed thought. Miss Mia Joy usually wouldn’t be so aggressive.
Indeed, the beautiful lady with brown hair and deep-black eyes (and legs that were longer than the vertical highway was high—but Jed didn’t notice that part)—she usually was very patient. Even when it came to students that went over the line (bullying or homework), she still sat them down and had a heart-to-heart instead of just outright admonishing them in public—as all the other homeroom teachers of the school did.
“Today is a special day,” she explained to the class. Their ears, of course, perked up.
“As you all know, we have Manifestor specialisations in our school. Even though this is your third year here, you might have only heard of their existence.” The class became increasingly alert. “Do you know why this is the case?”
She let them hang to dry for a few seconds.
“Miss Mia Joy, can you just tell us?”
“Why do you have to do this to our innocent little lives?”
Students were grumbling.
“Okay, okay. I was teasing you. The reason is that you guys haven’t all Manifested.”
“Who is that lowly bast—” Richie shut up when the teacher glared at him.
Julia darted Jed a side-eye.
Nobody except best friends would tell each other this information. The school knew: this was one of the required fields on their enrolment questionnaires. But it wouldn’t let anybody know who was undergoing Manifestation, lest something detrimental took place.
Of course, students would sometimes brag about their Manifested Cards, but there were still some silent ones that (either because they liked being mysterious or because they simply didn’t want to say anything to anybody)—there’d always be those who would never show anything. So the suspicion was up in the air.
“Now that you all are, this is where the selection . . .” Miss Mia Joy paused. Her voice sounded tantalising like grape to a fox’s ear. “. . . begins.”
Woah! The classes burst out in pandemonium.
“What does that mean? We have to be selected?” Pang-zi, with squinted eyes and a body frame wider than he was tall, shrieked.
“Yes, why do we have to be selected?! Isn’t it supposed to be an equal society?” Someone else chimed in.
“I heard that only the rich kids don’t need to be selected.”
“Richie, is this true?”
“Hah! Of course not. I still have to go . . .,” Richie flashed a brilliant smile.
“Tsk—go, go where?” Julia spat. “Both you and I know that as long as we live above the Ninetieth Street, our spots are guaranteed.”
Well, this got awkward really quickly. The only good thing was that this conversation was only part of the many that were happening in the garbled classroom.
“Quiet!” Miss Mia Joy said again.
“Now, the reason for your lack of information about the Manifestor classes is because some of you, hmm, won’t make it.” Her voice sounded almost—just a little—sad, as if she were reminiscing about something hurtful to herself.
The class was silent, some of the students grimacing.
“I know this will hurt. And I’ve been there before. I myself wasn’t accepted into the class—until my fifth year here, when I finally got in—” She paused to let this information sink in.
“—The reality is that it’s a very simple test. The school just needs to know your sensitivity to Spirit energy. At least for your age, this would be the case,” she said.
“If you’re not sensitive enough to Spirit energy, there’s no need to feel bad! The road might be harder for fourth, fifth, or even sixth years. But I believe that you’ll all make it!” After all, if you didn’t, then you’d be expelled—Miss Mia left this part out with a sigh.
The class was silent. Some of the meaner kids started to smirk at the thought of those left-behinds. Richie, that boaster, almost had the urge to say something sadistic, but he could feel the room and knew that, if he did say something bad, he could only drag himself to the hospital and watch his own reputation get destroyed.
This was a tense time of the year, when students with bad luck would sometimes get violent.
In fact, three years ago, just when this very class was enrolling students, there’d be a case of juvenile manslaughter. . . .
“Cheer up, everybody. No matter what, we’re all students of the prettiest teacher in school!” This wasn’t Miss Mia, but Julia.
The class laughed and relaxed somewhat. Miss Mia darted Julia an appreciate smile.
“Okay,” Miss Mia turned her hand, and a Card floated in the air, Manifesting afterwards into a little scale. “This is an energy attraction scale,” she continued.
“Shit!” Pang-zi almost blurted out. The class laughed even harder.
“You won’t be measured by your weight,” Miss Mia smiled. “What you’re going to do is put all of your Cards, and your hand as well, on top of this scale. A number will show up to say how well the Cards and you attracted Spirit energy altogether, because this scale is a Spirit conductor.” Spirit conductors were very expensive, mainly because they could gather the Spirit energy in the air and spit it out to whoever was performing a Revolution.
“There will be a point system. Fifty points and you pass for general training.
“Sixty and you’ll go to the east turret to study.
“Seventy for the west.
“Eighty for the south.
“And finally, ninety for the north.
“You may or may not have noticed it when you first Manifested. The concentration of Spirit energy in the school is much higher than outside. But the turrets are where things start to get even more special. Each turret in the order I mentioned will have a Spirit energy density that is twenty percent more than the previous, and the east turret is at least fifty percent more concentrated to begin with.” Miss Mia said. “The special thing is that when you Revolve inside the turrets, the extra-dense energy will help energise you so that you can perform more Revolutions everyday. The gap between techniques can thus be breached.”
Woah! The class became boisterous again.
“I bet I’ll get into the south—”
“Oh, yeah, say it louder. Remember to say that your parents are Spades as well!”
“Huh?” The one who started saying this began to tear up. “This is very unfair!”
“Richie, what turret are you assigned to by the city council?” One of the richer kids who were friends with Richie asked.
Richie puffed his chest out. “My uncle got me into the north turret, hahaha.”
“Julia,” Jed called out in a whisper, “Julia!”
The girl finally turned around. “Yes, Mr. One-Card Wonder?”
“What turret did you get?” Jed asked.
“I don’t know. Dad says I’ll go to whichever turret that I get. That darted old man!” Julia didn’t really look angry. “Whichever turret you get, I’ll join!”
“We both know that you won’t get into a turret, but it’ll be fine! I was just joking! Haha! I got into the north one.” Julia laughed: Jed was really naive, she thought. But she saw him smile, and felt bitter. Best friends naturally wanted each other to be the best. This, alas, couldn’t always be the case.