‘One…Two…Three.’ Adam carefully walked along, counting the door sills that his walking cane hit along the way. A couple weeks had passed since he had first arrived at Madame’s. It was only now that he was starting to get the hang of walking around on his own. In the dormitory, he counted the door sills to move around. It was difficult when everyone was saying ‘hi’ in the morning, though, as he needed to keep count! If he lost track, he would be very lost. The courtyard was far more difficult due to the many tiles between buildings. It wasn’t quite possible yet for him to fully explore Madame’s on his own.
Ahead, Adam heard a voice call out to him: “Hey Adam.”
Adam arrived at his destination to meet up with Alfred and the other boys to do some morning exercises under Hansen’s supervision. A few girls had seen Hansen and Adam training and had commented on Hansen’s muscles. The boys instantly wanted to get buff too, so that they could attract some girls. Something about ‘girls hanging off their arms.’ Adam couldn’t help shaking his head at them. ‘Thinking back, there was something pleasant when Susan wrapped her arms around mine, but… It’s definitely not worth all the teasing that comes with it!’
Susan had come along to pester Adam on more than one occasion. He did his best to avoid her, but was mostly unsuccessful. He never did encounter that other girl from the bath, though.
Together, the six of them met up with Hansen who would supervise their exercises. As usual, Hansen skipped pleasantries: “You boys know the drill, let’s get to it!”
They started out with a few stretches. During a quad stretch, Franklin ended up getting unbalanced: “Woah!” And ended up falling flat on his face!
Adam couldn’t see what happened, but he could easily guess from what he heard. Franklin was fairly clumsy, so this wasn’t new. But, somehow, the boys always found it funny every time! While laughing with the others, Alfred offered a hand to help Franklin up; “Here.”
Franklin heaved a sigh: “Thanks.”
At the same moment, Adam also lost balance from laughing and fell over! This time, it was Adam’s turn to be laughed at! A little embarrassed, he quickly picked himself up. Hansen broke up their jovial moment: “Enough laughing, continue your exercises!” Even as he hid a small grin himself.
It didn’t take long for them to finish up their morning exercises. Covered in sweat, they immediately headed to the baths before getting ready for the day. Taking a moment of relaxation, Franklin lamented: “Man, you’ve got it easy Adam! You put up with all this exercising and then you get to rest while playing music! We, on the other hand, have to do all sorts of odd jobs that normally involve heavy lifting! We’re already tired!”
Adam chuckled: “I might have it a little easier, but not by much. Sometimes I get a little shaky and that will ruin the music! Julianne will reprimand me if I do that!”
The conversation turned to a different direction as Bruno and Clyde joined in. Adam relaxed as he listened to them. Over the past couple of weeks, he had started to settle into this new home of his. Despite his losses, a new life that he liked was already forming.
The boys eventually finished their bath and left to start their day. Just outside the bath, Adam heard his mother call: “Adam, I have something to talk to you about.”
“What about my morning lesson with Julianne?”
“Let’s talk first, and then we’ll decide from there.”
Adam was a little concerned: ‘Why wouldn’t I continue lessons with Julianne?’
As Vivienne led him forward, Adam’s mind started coming up with all sorts of reasons why he wouldn’t be able to continue lessons with Julianne. His greatest fear was: ’Am I not learning fast enough for them to be confident in me? Will I not be allowed to continue performing at Madame’s?’
Vivienne took Adam to a bench out in the courtyard. “Adam, before I talk to you about this, you have to promise me something: Don’t get your hopes too high, okay?”
Vivienne had Adam’s full attention as he fearfully nodded, his worst fears seemingly coming to life. Vivienne couldn’t help but chuckle a little seeing this: “It’s okay, sweetie. There’s no reason to be afraid, it isn’t anything bad. I just don’t want you to get your hopes up, only to have them dashed to pieces. You’ve finally started smiling on your own again and I don’t want to see that go away. So just listen to what I have to say, okay?”
Adam slowly nodded his head before Vivienne continued: “Healer Edward gave me a few papers before we had left. They describe two ways your eyes might be healed.”
“Yes, but remember you promised not to get too hopeful?”
Adam’s excited face fell a little. He simply asked: “Why?”
Vivienne sighed. “Because there is almost no chance for them to actually happen! The first method is to somehow get the king’s personal physician, who is a spiritualist skilled in healing, to treat your eyes. It is the most likely method to succeed, but it would be extremely expensive to pay him for the treatment if he would even see you. Nobles, and those who work for them have a certain kind of pride that prevents them from normally associating with commoners, So the physician would probably never treat you.”
Adam was speechless. He had no idea what to say or even think about this. Vivienne continued: “Besides, the capital is far from here. I don’t know how we would even go about making such a journey! That leaves the less likely to succeed method… which is to become a spiritualist yourself.”
“…What?” At the same time, he thought: ‘A spiritualist… me?’
Vivienne brought his attention back: “Adam, there is a school here in Hessler called SIH or The Spirit Institute of Heider. It is a school that exists in our kingdom to find people with the talent to become a spiritualist. If we go to them, they can test your chances of becoming a spiritualist. If you can become one… there are stories of blind spiritualists that are somehow able to see. But becoming a spiritualist is definitely not easy! Without being able to see… I’m sure you’ll be at a disadvantage. However, we can at least try since we don’t have to go somewhere out of the city.”
Adam didn’t pay much heed to Vivienne’s warning. Putting aside his blindness, this was something all the boys around Fort Erich dreamed about! Just having the opportunity to be tested for becoming a spiritualist was exciting! “When can I go get tested!?”
Vivienne smiled: “Well, that’s why I told you earlier we would decide whether you wanted to go to your lesson with Julianne. We could instead take a coach over to SIH. They are doing tests today.”
Vivienne’s smile only grew: “I thought you would say that. I already let Julianne know, so we’re good to go right now.”
Excitement grew in Adam as Vivienne took his hand and started to guide him out of Madame’s. Along the way, Adam heard the heavy thunking of Vivienne’s cast. She had recently undergone the rebreaking treatment. Instead of a splint, her leg was now wrapped by a cast. It was more uncomfortable than the splint but less painful. Her leg hardly twinged with any pain at all!
There was a coach station just on the opposite side of the street from Madame’s. It made it incredibly easy for people to visit Madame’s, regardless of their working class.
Just as they started out, Vivienne said: “There’s another thing that’s been on my mind a little. You’ve been so busy recently that you haven’t been around when Dallen, Sarah, and the others came over to talk.”
Now that she brought it up, Adam felt a little guilty for not thinking about them much. “How’ve they been?”
“Good, They’ve found a town just outside Hessler that they were more comfortable living at. Before long, they will move there. Well, everyone but Dallen. He’s been deeply considering joining the army since he really hates what Luxom did back at Fort Erich…”
“Oh… Are we going to see them off?”
Vivienne nodded: “There will be a little get together in a few days.”
There wasn’t much more to say beyond that, so Adam’s attention turned to the sounds coming in from outside the coach. While it was all very similar, there were many small differences Adam worked to pick out. From the number of people haggling over goods to soldiers marching along the road.
Before too long, they arrived at their destination. The coach stopped before a large spectacular building. It was oval instead of a standard rectangular structure. It was also rounded going up, almost like an egg sitting on its side. Beautifully colored glass followed the contours of the building. It was totally foreign and out of place when compared to the other buildings around it.
This oval building had a large open ground surrounding it that had many people walking to and from the oddly shaped building. Above the entrance to the large foyer were gold gilded letters reading: ‘Spirit Institute of Heider’
Vivienne had never been to the institute before. She’d had no reason to believe she could become a spiritualist, so the place had little interest to her when she was growing up. Now, she stared at everything in awe of its majesty as she described everything to Adam.
“I’ve never seen a place such as this…”
Vivienne led Adam through the entrance. Inside, the foyer was packed with people lined up before reception desks. Vivienne found one with a sign hanging over it, that read with gold gilded letters; ‘Spirit Essence Affinity Testing’
Waiting impatiently in line, Adam constantly thought: ‘Can’t the line go any faster?’ His hopes were riding on the test, and he was anxious to get it done. He ended up asking Vivienne: “What are they doing for the test?”
Vivienne shook her head: “I can’t really tell. It looks like the receptionist is giving the testee something but… I can’t see anything more than that from here.”
Adam gently sighed. It only made him more anxious that he had no idea how he was going to be tested! Vivienne draped her arm around his shoulders to try to comfort him a little. Adam took to humming to both occupy himself and to try drowning out the hubbub surrounding them.
Vivienne watched the people being tested, trying to find out what was going on. However, she only saw the same thing over and over. The families that hopefully approached the desk would leave with disappointed looks just minutes later. Finally, their turn came. Vivienne led Adam forward while telling him: “The receptionist just motioned us over.”
Adam nervously followed Vivienne as they went forward. There was a small area roped off before the reception desk to separate it from the line. As soon as they crossed into this roped off area, all the noise of the busy foyer disappeared! Vivienne’s eyes went wide. “Is this done by a Spiritualist?”
Adam was equally stunned. The bustling noise of the foyer was gone. In its place, though, was a faint sound. It was almost like music that tantalized the edges of his thoughts. He couldn’t hear it with his ears, but felt it all the same. He heard Vivienne’s remark and only had one thing to say: “Wow!”
As they approached the receptionist, she gave Adam a concerned look. While he no longer really needed to wear bandages over his eyes, he preferred to continue wearing a blindfold. He had heard a few comments about how weird he looked with his eyes being unfocused that he became self-conscious about it and decided to hide his eyes away.
After the brief concerned look, the receptionist launched into her task: “My name is Alyssa. I imagine you’re here to test your chances at becoming a spiritualist?”
Adam enthusiastically nodded his head: “Yup!”
Alyssa smiled at his response. Vivienne stepped in and said: “This is Adam and I am Vivienne. He has come to be tested.”
“Come, sit in the chairs. I have to ask, are your eyes injured?”
Adam nodded his head: “I’m blind now…”
Alyssa was taken aback: “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that… Well, let’s move on to the testing.”
Vivienne helped Adam to sit properly on the chair. Alyssa opened a drawer on her side of the desk and pulled out a small rod of metal the size of a piece of chalk. When she brought it out, Adam curiously found the tantalizing music at the edge of his thoughts disturbed. Alyssa told him: “Hold out your hand.”
When Adam did so, she put the small rod in his hand. “Hold onto this and do your best to concentrate it. It will do the rest of the work.”
When the cool metal touched his hand, Adam heard something new! A different tune from the one that started tantalizing the edge of his thoughts when he entered the roped off area. Instead of concentrating on the metal in his hand, he instead concentrated on the tune. While doing so, he couldn’t help but hum along with it. As he did so, the rod in his hand turned a bright green!
Alyssa showed a look of surprise. She then smiled: “Looks like you have good affinity with Wind Spirit Essence. With that, you have the chance of becoming a Spiritualist!”
Adam was stunned for just a moment, then his hands shot up as he excitedly screamed: “Yes!”
Alyssa couldn’t help but smile at Adam’s enthusiasm. It wasn’t a very common occurrence for someone to appear that had a strong affinity for any type of Spirit Essence. But then she sighed. She hadn’t spoken of it earlier because most people failed the test. However, Adam didn’t fail! Alyssa said: “Congratulations. Only… I feel the state of your eyes is going to severely affect your studies.”
Adam’s excitement was curbed: “What do you mean?”
“Well, to do anything special that a Spiritualist does, you need to use what’s called a Spirit Formation. The only way to learn them is to read and memorize their shape and form…”
Adam was at a loss as his heart fell and tears started to form at the corner of his eyes. “But I had heard that there were some Spiritualists that were blind.”
Alyssa nodded: “Yes, they were all unique circumstances. I don’t know the details of it though. The first class you can attend will be next week. I can pass the word on to your teacher and see if they can figure anything out for you, I just don’t know what will happen.”
Vivienne spoke: “Remember that I told you not get your hopes too high?”
Adam nodded, so she continued: “We’ll just have to wait and see what will happen. There is still a chance you could become a Spiritualist, but we just don’t know how good of a chance it really is.”
Alyssa retrieved the metal rod from Adam before pulling out a golden medallion. Inlaid in a circle were a series of symbols. There was a radiant sun, waves of water, swirls of wind, a deathly skull, a raging fire, and a stout mountain. “Adam, this medallion shows that you have been recognized by the institute to come and learn. Please hold onto it and concentrate on it for a moment.”
“Okay?” Adam felt the round metal medallion in his hand. There was no apparent tune, like when he held the rod. Unsure of what else to do, he concentrated on the feel of the round metal in his hand. Suddenly, a tune flared up that seemed to suck him into the medallion! Adam dipped forward in his chair, becoming unbalanced, before both the tune and the sensation went away as suddenly as they came! Vivienne became concerned: “Are you okay, Adam?”
Adam briefly shook his head: “I think I’m fine, just got a little dizzy.”
Alyssa nodded her head: “The medallion just took an imprint of you. It will recognize only yourself as its owner until the spirit formation inside it is reset. You’ll show this medallion to one of the admission reception desks by the grand staircase. They will verify it and then tell you where to go. There isn’t a learning structure to classes beyond an introductory class that is held once a week. This week’s introductory class has already passed, so you’ll have to wait till next week. Everything else will be explained in class.”
After letting them know the date and time of the next class, Alyssa saw Adam and Vivienne off. Adam felt a little lost about everything. “So, what does this mean, mom?”
Vivienne shook her head: “Nothing’s really changed, Adam. You shouldn’t hold too much hope on this, but it is a chance. We will have to see how things go next week…”
They passed back over the sound barrier to hear a rather loud voice complaining: “Why is it that my son is refused entrance to this institution when that plebeian is allowed!? Don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about, that receptionist clearly spent more time with him and gave him something!”
Vivienne looked over to the commotion. A richly adorned man was yelling at someone who was dressed similarly to how Alyssa had been. Most likely, he was another receptionist. To her horror, though, Vivienne noticed the rich man was pointing his finger at Adam while he was yelling! Attracting the disdain of someone with power was the last thing she wanted.
The receptionist responded: “We only accept students if they have an affinity for Spirit Essence. No money or political recommendation will override this. If that boy was accepted, then he clearly has the potential to become a Spiritualist, where your son does not. If you don’t even know about this, don’t come complaining to me about why your son was not accepted! I expect you don’t even understand what this place is!”
The rich man was astounded that he was being back talked. Vivienne took this chance to quickly steer Adam away and out of sight. Adam asked: “What was that yelling about?”
Vivienne tried to play it down: “Oh, just a father upset that his son didn’t make the cut.”
The two of them boarded another coach to get back to Madame’s. The whole way, Adam gingerly held the medallion in his hands. He could feel the cool metal in his hands, and he rubbed his thumbs across its front. ‘With this… will I be able to become a Spiritualist?’
As he continued to focus on it, Adam also began to feel something odd. It was like a song, whispering in the back of his mind. Somehow, this whispering let him feel the location of the medallion. It was an odd sensation that was completely separate from his other senses.
‘Is this another special thing about it? … I guess I’ll just have to wait till next week when cla-’ Adam then exclaimed aloud: “-Crap!”
Vivienne suddenly looked at Adam, slightly startled by his sudden outburst: “Something wrong?”
“I thought I was finally done with school, but now I have to go back again to learn how to be a Spiritualist!”
Vivienne couldn’t help but burst into laughter while Adam sat grumbling about his misfortunes.