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A note from Wutosama

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Edited 04/01/20

 


While schemes both dangerous and devious brewed below; Gwen was busy marvelling at the fluffy decor of Elvia's pastel bedroom. The furnishing was like a catalogue's: a four-post bed, satin sheets, antique white walls, and shelves full of plush toys.

Elvia sat on the edge, swinging her legs to and fro, an adorable life-sized doll. The duo had already been everywhere else in the house, greeting guests, sipping non-alcoholic cocktails and stealing canapés. Gwen was having the time of her life. In her previous incarnation, she had never had friends like Elvia, and so felt a little intoxicated by the euphoria of it all.

"Why does your brother have so much curry?" Gwen borrowed an old Aussie proverb.

"Well, its to do with my decision to pull out of Lilith's," Elvia confessed. "I guess he feels betrayed because Lil's and P's are brother-sister schools, they do a lot of activities together, you know, socials."

"Like a boy-girl Formal?" Gwen puzzlingly cocked a brow.

Elvia tilted her head puzzlingly, sometimes Gwen said the darnedest things.

"Like our Field Trip. However, theirs takes place all around the world. Prince's supplies London Imperial— as such, they can access different Zones across three continents. The final trial is with schools from Tier 1 cities."

"Sounds rough," Gwen remarked. She had yet to meet a single Mage her age from a tier 1 city.

"Yeah, but also rewarding. If the other schools like you, you just might receive a scholarship! You'll get to live in a tier 1 city!"

"So how come you're not going to Lilith's?"

Elvia rolled onto the bed.

"I was scared," she replied. "I was afraid that I couldn't be special like all the girls there, that I would awaken to something mundane. I went to Lilith's preparatory school, you should know. There are people there whose whole family were Quasi-Elementalists."

"Well, you're a Positive energy Mage, your uncle is one, is your dad one? You're in good hands, right?"

Elvia shook her head.

"He's an Air Diviner."

"Your brother?"

"Water Abjurer."

"Well then," Gwen tried one last time. "Your mother?"

Elvia beamed.

"She's a Positive energy Conjurer!"

"There we go!" Gwen marvelled. It was little wonder Elaina looked so radiant and so fresh. Usually, those gifted with Positive Energy seldom aged. Conversely, people like her, afflicted with Negative energy, may skip ageing entirely by dying young.

"Well, at any rate, your family has a genealogy of Positive Energy, so..."

"I was still scared." Elvia pouted. "Who knows, what if I became something bizarre like an Earth Illusionist? I'd be just a non-elemental caster."

"Why would you think that? No one in your family is an Earthen Mage nor an Illusionist!"

"Erik said I was a weirdo, that I'd probably awaken as a rock."

"Ridiculous! You are an Angel!" Gwen hugged her friend maternally against her bosom, soaking in some of that Positive Energy. "Say, last time, you told me that you were afraid of being set up."

"There's that too." Elvia felt a little heat colouring her face. Gwen was very close. "A lot of the girls from Lilith's get married as soon as they graduate, I was afraid that mum had that in store for me."

"Why would you think that?"

"She's an alumna— and Dad's a graduate of Prince's."

"Right. Gotcha." Gwen gazed at the ceiling, where a petite chandelier scintillated. "Are they happy together?"

"Very," Elvia admitted.

"You don't want that for yourself?"

"I don't know."

"That's alright, Evee. Do you regret coming to our school?"

Elvia shook her head, spreading her flaxen tresses over the bed.

"I am so happy I got to meet Yue and you." Elvia's accidental homonym caused Gwen to giggle indulgently.

Elvia's appeared so cute that Gwen leaned in and kissed her on the forehead in a sisterly manner. In response, her friend placed a hand on her forehead, blushing mightily. Pinching Elvia's rosy cheeks, Gwen felt her bosoms all aflutter.

"I am getting all kinds of thirsty." She lifted herself from Elvia's bed. "Shall we head down?"

"Sure," Elvia said quietly, still rubbing her forehead where Gwen had kissed her.

When they returned to the party, two young Mages were duelling on the jetty.

Both contestants were in their swimmers, a young man and a girl. The young bloke was an Earthen Evoker. Currently, he was throwing tier 2 Obsidian Spears straight at the frail-looking lass. The girl appeared to be an Air Transmuter, and flitted about here and there, dodging the spears. The exchange went on for several minutes until the dramatic speed difference between them grew apparent. The Evoker had his shield chipped away until the transparent underlayer of his mana shield becoming visible.

In his desperation, the Evoker switched to the tier 1 Stone Bullet to try and conserve his mana, but the Transmuter was simply too quick. Following another spell exchange, his shield glimmered. The Transmuter grinned mischievously as the lad put up his arms in surrender. There was a thump, and the young man flew off his feet, landing in the water with a spectacular splash.

A round of cheers erupted from the house. Congratulations greeted the winner and her relatives. The girl gracefully walked back along the jetty and pulled the young man from the water. Laughter resounded, after which the young man received pats of consolation.

Gwen felt immensely impressed at the sportsmanship. A friendly Mage Duel! How precious!

"Evee, how often—"

"Gwen Song! We challenge you to a duel!" shouted Erik Lindholm, Elvia's peevish blonde brother.

Gwen's mind went blank. Erik wanted to duel her? The boy was a junior, and he was a Water Abjurer. Even if Erik had the talent to Awaken early, it wasn't until late puberty that Mages came into their power.

"Duel me?" Gwen performed a double-take. "I am your senior."

"Of course! You didn't think we're challenging you to a one-on-one, did you?"

"You want to gang up on me?" Gwen blustered.

"You're a legendary Lightning Elementalist, right?"

"That may be." Gwen frowned. "But three at once? A girl can only take so much. I am not as experienced as you make me out to be."

Without warning, Erik's flushed a deep carmine. "Gwen Song! Do you want to duel or not? We're all tier 2, so you've got a whole tier of spells ahead of us."

"Evee?" Gwen looked toward her friend for advice. Elvia appeared equally confused.

"Why do you want to duel Gwen?" her friend demanded, her blue eyes narrowing suspiciously.

"Why do you care? Didn't you say she could kick my ass?"

"I am sure she could."

"I concur." Gwen gave Elvia a thumb's up.

Erik raised his voice so that the people around him could hear. "Gwen Song of Blackwattle! We, Erik Lindholm, Lionel Zachary and Todd Smith, of Prince's College, challenge you to a duel of honour!"

Elvia's smile faded.

"Erik! You can't bring Prince's into this! You'll make trouble for Gwen!"

"Wait, what's happening?" Gwen said quizzically. When it came to these superficial rituals and social codes, she may as well be a blind man riding a deaf donkey.

The rest of the crowd awaited Gwen's response.

"Evee— do I accept?"

"I don't know—" Elvia searched the crowd for aid.

Thankfully, Richard stepped forward.

"Gwen, you should teach these boys a lesson in humility," he remarked stoically. "Win or lose; they won't bother you again. I promise you that."

In and amidst the anticipation, Gwen wondered what the masters of the house thought of all this. She found Elvia's father shrugging, while Eliana was made eyes at her son.

Gwen looked towards Richard again.

"It's three on one, Richard, are you sure?"

"Rip him a new one," her cousin answered her with a twinkle in his eye. "Kick his ass so hard that his testes drop and Erik becomes a man."

"Cough—" Elvia's father choked on an olive.

Gwen met the boys' eager faces.

"Fine!" she clasped the boy;'s hand. "Let's duel!"

Elvia looked at the jetty worriedly.

"Did you bring a cossie?"

"Why?" Gwen asked. "Is Erik going to push me into the water?"

She flashed her Storage Ring.

"I got spare dresses, but no swimming suit, so this will have to do. Don't worry, Evee, I'll be right back."

Below, Richard stood front and centre of the crowd while an older gentleman with the rank of Magus made himself known to the duellists.

"First to shield break," the Magus announced solemnly. "Minimise damage to the surroundings; you break it, you pay for it."

With long strides, Gwen marched herself to the end of the jetty. On either side, enormous pillars of ancient, salt-soaked wood anchored the pontoon in place, sloshing as the bean-green waters below beckoned their next victim. Gingerly, his cousin knelt over and removed her heels, her dark hair cascading over her shoulders as she unclipped each shoe.

Richard's glasses gleamed. He could see that Gwen possessed at minimum a small Storage Ring, an uncommon item in the Frontier.

The boys from Prince's soon finished setting themselves up on the opposite side.

Their Adjudicator incanted a levitation spell and floated at a safe distance.

"Ready?"

Gwen nodded.

The boys nodded.

"Commence!"

"Lightning Blast!" Gwen opened with her signature spell, a torrent of hysterical electricity ionised from the air around the boys and lashed out with blue-white tentacles of pure plasma, scorching the flooring of the jetty.

"Water Shield!" Erik expanded a barrier of flowing water around him in a semi-sphere. To Richard's surprise, the shield reinforced itself by drawing water from the surrounding sea.

"Absorb Elements!" Erik added to their team's defence.

Against the boy's shield, Gwen's lightning fractured into glowing Lichtenberg figures, draining harmlessly into the bay, frying the fish feeding from the barnacles.

Richard whistled. Erik was a better Abjurer than he had initially thought.

"BLAST BOLT!" Gwen upped her intensity. With enough offensive power, all tricks melted away. "BREAK!"

Her bolt pierced Erik's barrier and blasted the two junior Mages hiding behind the boy's shield. Gwen yelled with triumph, only to see the bodies fade into the aether.

"Ah—" Richard nodded. "Well done. Projected Images."

Immediately, Gwen switched to the defensive. To Richard's surprise, his cousin's shield was no less potent that than of a bona fide Abjurer.

SPAK! SPAK! SPAK!

The barrier manifested just in time, three shards of ice skidded off her semi-sphere, transforming the locations where they'd struck opaque. Though Richard's juniors were novices, their volley packed quite a punch; the last of the boys was an Evoker, not to mention a Quasi-Elementalist like Gwen herself.

SPAK! SPAK! SPAK!

A second volley of Magic Missiles struck Gwen's shield. Richard puckered his lips. His cousin shouldn't just keep defending as she was bound to be OoM sooner or later.

"FLASHBANG!"

BUNG!

An explosion of sound and light erupted above the three boys.

Richard's eyes glowed with triumph, filled with the dazzling light of his cousin's Conjuration spell.

Gwen wracked her head for something viable. She had been too reliant on Caliban and Ariel while she was out amongst the NoMs, and now she was struggling with her utilitarian Schools of Magic. In particular, she struggled to manifest Detect Magic, a spell which could discern if the boys were tricking her with illusions.

For her present battle, she felt as though punching wool. Her current repertoire of Evocation such as Guiding Bolt, Lightning Blast, and Lightning Bolt wasn't very helpful against opponents she couldn't brute-force. Each of her staple spells was excellent in a straight-up fight, but she lacked the utility to nail the boys.

To win, as such, she would have to play the match by ear and catch the Prince's boys on the backfoot. Therefore, forcing herself to calm, Gwen awaited the volley of Magil Missiles that would inevitably come.

SPAK! SPAK! SPAK!

The ice shattered, turning her double-glazed barrier milky white.

Instantly, she retracted her shield, clearing her field of view. Across the jetty, she saw Erik. There was a second figure hidden behind Erik, while the third boy hid behind his illusions.

Gwen raised her hand.
Erik pushed more mana into his shield.

"Flashbang!"

Gwen incanted the Conjuration variant, over-channelling her mana into the manifestation. The unstable crystal ionised from thin air, delivering a cacophonic cargo of sound and light directly over the boys' heads.

"Arrrgh!"
"Shit!"

The flash turned Erik's barrier brilliant white, stabbing into his eyes. The young man who had been hiding behind Erik fell to this knees, holding both ears.

Meanwhile, Gwen took advantage of the fulminating distraction to cast Detect Magic.

Two down, Gwen scanned her surroundings. Erik and his mate were down for the count for now, but where was the third bloke? Where was their Illusionist?

Her electric-blue eyes scanned the surroundings.

Behind Erik, the Evoker was beginning to recover; realising that she had to make a call, Gwen pointed a finger towards the whimpering duo.

"Lightning Bolt!"

A zigzagging bolt of plasma arced through their air. The tier 3 spell struck the water shield, scattering motes of water and electrifying the surface.

"ARRRGH!" Elvia's brother sounded like he was pushing his guts outside his body. His shield spluttered, but it held.

Gwen cursed. She had underestimated these elite schoolboys; they were not like the small fries from Blackwattle, nor like haphazardly trained Mages from Blackheath.

Unlike herself, the boys' foundations were built upon a life of privileged access to resource and instruction. In a one-on-one, she could smelt Erik like a nugget, but now she faced three of the little tykes.

Likewise, while she fought alone, Erik had a party. While the Abjurer solely focused on defence— she had to do both.

"!"

Unbidden, Gwen felt the gathering of mana behind her.

She instinctively dived.

A water-blast erupted where she had stood a second prior. Were it not for her premonition; she would have copped the hit and tumbled into the water. Still, the liquid washed over her before she could erect a mana shield, drenching her diaphanous linen dress.

"Bloody oath!" Gwen swore under her breath; the seawater rode up her skirt and made her feel ashamed and embarrassed. "Alright, you asked for it—"

Gwen fumed. She would not show all her trump cards, but she may as well give them a show. Its the Xmas spirit after all.

The Illusionist was visible now, clearly pleased with his sneak attack. The other boys were moving up, giving him support, recovering from their stunned state.

Gwen took a deep breath.

"Jump!" She leapt back. It was a universally known Transmutation invocation, one that was no cause for drama or suspicion. Simultaneously, she activated the Feather Fall effect stored within her ring.

For a split-second, she hovered over the jetty.

"Ice Spines!"
"Magic Missile!"

Both the Evoker and the Illusionist had recovered from their spell fatigue and now launched their renewed attacks.

A shimmering sphere enveloped Gwen. Her stolen Abjuration talent made her barriers near-instantaneous.

SPAK! SPAK!
Thump! THUMP!

Electrical sparks showered from her shield. The boys appeared aghast, unable to conceive that Gwen, an Evoker, possessed an impenetrable shield.

Gwen began her descent.

"Warding Bolt!" she invoked her new spells.

In the next moment, twin orbs appeared beside her contoured silhouette, each a menacing ball of living lightning.

"Call Lightning!" An ominous and dangerous-looking cloud formed above Gwen's head, rapidly coalescing until it blotted out the sun.

A commotion broke out from the observing crowd, fixing jubilance with shock.

Gwen's shield dissipated into the atmosphere.

"Ice—"
"Magic—"
"No!" Erik suddenly realised that Gwen's spells did not require her active casting.

CRACK—CRACK!

Blasts of electricity shot from each of the globes, lashing into the young Mages. The cloud above likewise made its power known, raining down an arm-thick bolt of purple plasma.

Gwen watched as Elvia's brother grunted, somehow holding out against her semi-autonomous volleys.

"Lightning Bolt!"

She added to their already impressive burden.
By her third volley, Erik's Absorb Elements faded.
The boys' were at their limits.

Gwen fought off the spell-fatigue clawing at her guts. Thanks to Evocation, her turret spells delivered full payloads at the cost of doubling expenditure.

Finally, with the last of her mana, she gestured a finger toward the heavens, then with a flourish, pointed it towards the nadir.

"Blast Bolt!"

The clouds above them rumbled.

CRACK!
Three separate bolts conjoined into one.
No amount of reinforced shielding and Absorb Elements could withstand the combined effort of Call Lightning, Warding Bolt, and Blast Bolt. Before the crowd, a tidal wave of electricity washed over the trio, azure and white, violet and amethyst, crisscrossing until the boys were barely visible.

"Halt! Halt! The victor is Gwen Song!" Their Adjudicator cried out.

Gwen cut her mana channels.
The electricity faded.
The boys emerged looking worse for wear, their clothes smoking gently with heat; their bodies numb with static.

"We yield!" The Illusionist and the Evoker both raised their hands.

"Do you yield, Erik?" Gwen asked.

"I yield," Elvia's brother announced dejectedly.

Gwen exhaled.

"You got lucky," Erik grumbled.

The little twerp! Gwen gritted her teeth, feeling an ardent desire to teach the boy a lesson. When Erik added insult to injury by trying to give her a handshake as though they were equals, she instead pulled him close and planted a kiss on the cheek.

As expected, the young man jumped back as though bitten by a Red Back, stuttering incoherently before fleeing from the jovial laughter of the crowd.

"Thanks for the duel, Ma'am," the remaining Prince's boys introduced themselves. "Todd Smith, at your service."

"Likewise, Ma'am." The other boy bowed. "Lionel Zachary."

"Nice to meet you both," Gwen replied. "Please, just Gwen is fine."

"May we ask a question, Ma'am?" Lionel maintained his tone of formality.

"Sure." Gwen smiled, though she was still mindful of her drenched attire.

"Are you... are you a Magus?"

"Ha!" Gwen snorted. "No, I am just a student."

Behind them, the crowd erupted.

"Did you see that?"
"Who had Detect Magic on?"
"She as using Conjuration! Isn't she an Evoker?"

Among the crowd stood Elvia, her mouth half-open in disbelief. Her parents, likewise, were staring slack-jawed at Gwen.

And not too far from Elvia, her cousin's mind raced. Richard desperately wanted to know the depth of Gwen's talent. He wanted to know what her Familiar could be. Now that he's seen her talent, he felt left with even more unanswered questions.

Besides him, the crowd boiled over, full of questions Gwen couldn't address even if she had the answers. When finally the girl grew too flustered by the attention, she took her friend Elvia by the hand, then disappeared into the depth of the Lindholm's multi-layered.

 

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A note from Wutosama

Chapter Ref :: 


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Wutosama

Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

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