26.4: Victory

A large decrescendo emptied all the noise from the room. Never had the mess hall been so quiet. Solana and Keith seemed unfazed by the whole ordeal, but the unusual change of atmosphere really threw me off.

The Master warily placed the gong and mallet on the floor, preventing them from causing any unnecessary clamor. When he stood up again, he observed the room. His solemn, expressionless face pierced me as his gaze slid towards me. Taken aback, I sank down in my seat, like a toddler whenever he sees his parents angry, even though none of the frustration was directed towards him. His stern gray eyes were like frigid blades to the heart.

Just watching him made me scared to ask him about the truth. He was far too intimidating for me to feel comfortable enough to speak about such a touchy subject. Who knew how he would react? It wasn’t something that I wanted to risk.

But before they could strike me down, the Master happily curved his lips upwards. His eyes scrunched closed, relieving all of the solemnity from his face. I blinked a few times to check if I was imagining, but he was, in fact, smiling.

“Elijah, you seem very nervous for some reason. Did my gong scare you?” he asked facetiously.

All of the Guardians in the cafeteria stared at me for a moment. Some began whispering to their friends, occasionally turning back to take another look. An awkward chill flashed through me from the embarrassment.

“Uh…” I didn’t want to tell the Master that he was the reason I was shaken up. “Yeah. That clanging came out of nowhere. I’m just a bit jarred.”

The Master took another gander at the Guardians surrounding him, “Everyone seems very fixated on you. They must not know who you are.”

“I’ve seen him a few times,” one of the Guardians spoke up. “He’s the newbie everyone’s talking about, right? The one with the white Essence?”

Another outburst of gossip spread like a disease. Even more faces rose to burn the image of me into their minds. All I could do to divert the tension was to wave awkwardly. I couldn’t stand being the center of attention. Why did the Master have to put me in this situation?

“You are correct. This is Elijah Oliveira, the first White Guardian after three centuries. The white Essence is not yet extinct!”

The crowds of Guardians cheered at the Master’s remark. The outcry continued until he raised his hand in the air, his palm facing us.

“Yes, yes. Celebrate all you want later. As of right now, I wanted to update you all on the status of our allies in New Perfi.”

Solana furiously tapped the ground with her foot. Her once drowsy disposition was now replaced with anticipation. Keith simply watched the Master intently, paying close attention to what he would say next.

“Our friends in New Perfi have been traveling home since the ID before last. Some have stayed behind to ensure that reconstruction of the city goes without disturbance from any Rogues still lurking in the area. The majority of them, however, are returning home to celebrate their victory. In fact, they should be arriving in a matter of minutes.”

“Now, before you swarm the front door of the Castle, allow me a few more words. All duties that you have been assigned today have been cancelled. You are all free to enjoy the day as you please. The children, however, must still attend classes today, but only for a shortened amount of time. As for our trainees—ahem, trainee—it is up to your mentor to decide whether or not she will train with you today.”

Wonderful. Not only was I the only White in the Order, I was also the only trainee. As if I needed to feel anymore special today.

“I hope all of you may celebrate peacefully with your loved ones, and that you enjoy this day of jubilee. This castle has been quite empty over the past two and a half months, so finally seeing it full again should bring joy to all of our hearts. Now go, find your families, your friends, your comrades, and enjoy their company once more.”

The remaining Guardians swarmed past the mess hall doors. Solana, without skipping a beat, pulled me by the wrist and flocked towards the myriad of people.

The End

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