Chapter 1: The Ninth Year
Despite the lighted torches surrounding one of the council rooms, it was oddly cold or maybe because Alexei was just really anxious. He was standing at the center of the room where a symbol embedded on the floor indicated where he should stand. In front of him, an old long oak wood table was placed where three people sat. Alex's father, Marcus Vitreus sat at the center, on his left was Porto Orbis (current head of the Orbis family in Tellus City) and on his right, Lucinda Fortis, the current council leader. Each one of them was wearing the ceremonial robe representing each family's color.
"Alexei… glad to have you with us... again." It was Lucinda and from the way she said it, emphasizing on 'again', she was never glad to have Alex in front of them. Her sharp gray eyes never weaken, always with the serious menacing look. Her graying hair, the same as always, kept in a high ponytail; not one strand of hair was out of place. She was like the strict grandmother of these mass and scattered families.
It was never in Alex's personality to retort like what Keith would do in these situations. He could only laugh in his head imagining what Keith would say. Despite always arguing with him, it was always a wonder of why he was on Alex's mind even on this tight uncomfortable setting.
Alex only nodded. He needed to stand firm and not look away especially since he was representing the honorable Vitreus name. He caught glimpse of his father's small nod of approval. He quickly felt a little at ease.
"I see you are in your the seventh year in Crylson Academy." Lucinda continued. "And your grades are above average… impressive." She was looking at the scattered papers laid out on the table. Alex was a few feet away and could only catch glimpse of paper with his photo in it. Deep inside he knew Lucinda was not impressed. Nothing impresses her; even if she would see her grandchild's first steps she would just say that it was the most natural and common thing in the world.
"Thank you." Alex managed to blurt out. He fought himself from rolling his eyes at her.
"and… I see that you still have yet to state your gift." Lucinda said as she eyed Alex. He tensed. This. This was what he hated the most, the talk on gifts.
In Opheria, a country not found in the world map of the Ordinari, was a place where 'gifts' meant abilities that were passed down by ancients. You could either be an Elementalist, Doctus or Robur depending on the family and genetics. At Crylson City, capital of Opheria, there is this ceremony that when a child reached the age of seven, he or she must state the gifts they received in front of three people: a council head, a founding family head and one of the child's parents. If a child was an Elementalist, he or she can already wield any one of the basic elements: Earth, Fire, Wind or Water. If a child was a Doctus, a leaf symbol shall appear in both palms, the same goes with Robur but with a star symbol. Doctus were born with great intelligence; they study spells, summoning and potion making while Robur were those with great physical abilities, they were born as warriors, future guards of Opheria. They specialize in close combat fighting and weaponry. For the last nine years, Alex was not in any of these classes. He's been teased at school, calling him an Ordinari, kick out or a late bloomer.
Maybe because Alex was adopted that he did not know of his genetics, his origin. His foster parents seemed to have no idea other than they found him in a burned mansion outside of Ignis City, unharmed. He continued to believe that he was a Fire Elementalist, Ignis City was the home for them. Still, it was his ninth time facing the same three people in nine years and he could not yet come up with the gift.
"Yes, I apologize." He lowered his head. Celine, his best friend would have smacked his head right about now for apologizing for something he didn't do, for something he had no control of, but it was all he could say… every year. The shame and fear of knowing that nothing will ever make you belong to a family… to a home.
"Lucinda, don't be so hard on the child." Porto said. He was a large balding white haired man, the drunk, red-faced, funny uncle present in every celebration. Alex liked him; he always found himself laughing at his lame jokes and even teaching him and Celine a few prankster tricks.
"You're always spoiling him." Lucinda argued. She stood up and made her way thru the door before stopping and looked back at Alex. "Consider this 'ninth time' as a realization of not becoming anything at all worthy of being a citizen of Opheria. If it comes that you are indeed an Ordinari, brush up on your language and study of the outside world. You will need it." And then she left.
Alex stood there, frozen. He knew that this day would come where he will be banished from Opheria. Ordinari or people who didn't deserve that said gifts from the ancients were forced to leave the country, live the normal life… move on, though they were few and very rare cases. Some Specialis or gifted leave the country, they were free to do so but their abilities must be sealed and were given new identities. Could Alex live like that? Could he really start over in a different place, leaving everything he loved behind?
For eight years, everyone believed he was only child nursing a trauma that the council could not kick him out, that and he was adopted by one of the founding families in the country. In the end, there was no real home for him in Crylson City or in any places in Opheria.
He felt a hand rest on his shoulder; he was surprised that it was not Porto but his father, Marcus. Consoling him was one of the rare things he'd ever done for Alex. It was always his mother, Elena, who did the consoling, the hugging and gentle scolding. Again, the thought of leaving made it hurt more; Alex did not notice he was clutching his chest.
"I'll talk to her." Marcus didn't look at Alex and walked out following Lucinda.
"You should go back to class." This time it was Porto smiling. His hand on Alex's shoulder was very heavy and sweaty but it brought him back to reality. "You need not to worry about what that old woman said!"
"Thank you for being here every year uncle." Alex said, a weak smile on his face.
"But of course!" Porto exclaimed. He always did his outrageous hand gestures, this time he clenched one of his fists in the air. "I would travel every year to Crylson just to keep that old woman from bullying you." He grinned. Alex barely laughed and remembered how many of the council members opposed to the Vitreus family in adopting him not knowing where he really came from, one of them was Lucinda. It never did stopped Elena from treating Alex as her own. Porto was one of the people that really welcomed Alex in the Vitreus family.
Alex nodded and bid goodbye to Porto and ran as fast as he could back to the academy. He didn't care for the glares of the people he passed by while he trotted the halls of the Judiciary building. He needed to feel the air hit his face; he needed to be back to the academy, become free of worry. Everything would be back to normal and that none of this talk ever happened.
Dad, mom, Adrian and even Celine would not let that happen. Alex thought. He kept repeating this while as he ran. I have a home. I belong here. I am a Vitreus!