The idea of being caught never crosses his mind, years of surviving as a thief since childhood gives him that sheer confidence. And yet, here is the young man being caught by the City Guard as he tries to escape with his ill-gotten score. Meanwhile, all of his accomplices have managed to escape the long arms of the law.
Everything was perfect, supposed to be perfect. He and his friends have scouted the target for weeks, studying everything from his routine to habits. He timed it well, down to the seconds, planning to pull the heist just before the target left the city where everyone is busy packing things up. He also picked the right people for the job, each one capable of their role and someone he can trust to watch his back. Everything should have gone perfectly that night...
But he should have known better not to choose an Archmagus as someone to rob. And now he’s paying that price.
"Put your hands in the air and surrender yourself!" Shouted the men in the dark blue City Guard uniforms surrounding him, encircling the hooded and masked thief right, left, and center. With his back facing a tall brick wall, he has his escape route sealed.
"Surrender, now!" The one that looks like the leader yelled at him again. “Do not make us use force!” he threatens again. All of his subordinates are pointing their Moonlanterns towards him, illuminating the usually dark narrow alley with blinding lights, along with dozens or so rifles, ready to shoot at a moment’s notice.
The young man, however, does not pay any heed to the man’s order. He’s turning his head around, looking for any possible route to escape. In the dense and narrow alleyways of the city, there are multitudes of ways he can slip through, but the problem is how to create the chance for him to do so. And so, the cornered thief raises his left hand, holding a small sack that contained the loot from his heist. His right hand, meanwhile, is reaching for something on the back of his waist.
“Stop!” shout the City Guard leader when he realizes what the young man is doing. “Stop now or we will open fire!”
But it's too late. The thief then throws to the ground what appears to be a metallic sphere with the colors red and white painted on its grey body. The moment the ball makes contact with the ground, a flash of light as bright as daylight suddenly erupts from its small body, blinding the City Guards who are caught off guard.
“Damn it!” the leader yells in pain, eyes burned from the sheer brightness of the light. “Keep an eye on him!”
Then there is another loud sound coming. When the City Guards’ vision returns, they find themselves being enveloped in thick grey smoke, a result of another item the thief used.
In a panic, and their vision compromised, the surrounding Guards broke their encirclement formation, a fact that the young man immediately exploited. Using their lanterns’ light as a reference, he managed to slip through the confused Guards amid the thick smoke.
“After him!” yells the leader of the City Guard as the smoke starts to thin, revealing that the thief managed to escape.
The young man runs as fast as he can, navigating through the dark alleyways as he tries to pull out from his memory the layout of the maze-like place of that part of the city. Some of the onlookers, the residents there, look on from the windows above the dark and dirty road, some are even cheering for him as the City Guards are chasing him. Like the young man, a lot of the people there hate the city’s authority, especially the City Guards. A lot of their source of income, after all, ran afoul of the city laws. Sympathy for the security forces will give you hell in that place.
“Run, boy, run!”
“Haha, look at the pigs running!”
“Don’t let them get your ass!”
The thief keeps running, taking a sudden turn here and there to confuse his chasers. Soon enough, the distance between them grows larger. And before long, he manages to get away from the City Guards.
The young man stops, out of breath. He rests his hands on his knees, trying to regain his energy before he continues his escape. His lips are smiling. His tense shoulders begin to relax.
Suddenly, he feels something heavy and solid striking his back. Something big, and fast. The impact launches him a few feet forwards and knocks him to the ground.
“Urgh..” he groans in pain. As he tries to stand up, that thing hits him again, knocking him to the ground for the second time.
He looks behind towards the source of the impact. It is then that he figures out what has just happened.
Standing a few meters behind him are two young men slightly older than him, looking at him with eyes of cold ruthlessness and disdain. Both of them wear the same kind of clothes, a military-style greyish white long coat with a black band hanging from their left shoulder to the leather belt that wraps around their waist. Both of them wear a black band on their left arm, but one of them wears another armband colored blue on his opposite arm. They both cut their hair short, but the one with the blue band let his blond hair cover his left eye, while the other one keep his black hair slicked back.
Both of them look like normal military officers, if not for the presence of the blue tentacle-like thing that wraps around the left arm of the one with the blue armband. The tentacle arm looked solid, despite its liquid and water-like nature, wiggling around ready to strike at any given time.
A Magus, and a Water Magus at that. That is who the man with the blue armband is.
As the young thief tried to move his body again, the Water Magus moved his left hand that was wrapped by the tentacle. In a split second, the thing struck the thief again, knocking him again to the cold and hard ground of the dirty stone road. The Magus moves his tentacle arm again, this time to restrain the thief by using its weight to keep him pinned to the ground. Meanwhile, the other man shouted in the direction of the road where the thief came from, calling for the City Guards.
Soon enough, the City Guards appear, this time their faces are red from fatigue and anger. They quickly surround the now helpless young man.
“Thank you for your help.” says the leader to the two military officers.
“No need for thanks. It was the Archmagus’ order.” the one with slicked-back hair replies.
“Oh, is that so…” the leader then turns his attention to the thief. “Well, what matters is we got him in the end.”
As the bear-like Guard walks over the thief, the tentacles change their shape to tie up the thief by coiling itself on its body.
“Let's see the face of the Master Thief himself,” says the Guard. He then pulls off the mask and hood that conceals the thief’s face, revealing a young and handsome olive face with raven black hair, and a pair of blue icy eyes.
“Well, well, well...Turns out the great Shadow Rat is quite the looker eh? Too bad he won’t look the same after we’re done with him.” mocks the City Guard as the young man can only groan in pain while struggling to escape. The glare he gives to the man is full of anger and disgust.
The man then pulls out a baton from the belt on his waist.
“Good night, sonny…”
And with a good smack to the head, the thief blacks out.
The room smells funny. It's damp, full of the smell of mosses and water...and also dried blood. That distinctive smell of iron. It’s a very small room, with only a chair that he’s currently sitting on as the only furniture inside. A small lamp hanging overhead makes the room feel suffocating with its dim light.
He’s currently being tied up on the chair, his face swollen and full of pain after numerous beatings by the City Guards. After years of high-profile burglary cases forces the city’s elites to scrutinize them for their incompetence, it was obvious the City Guard will vent their frustration and anger at one of the city’s most infamous criminals now that he is tied up in their jail. The thief knows this will happen the moment he is caught, and takes the beating he did, though it still hurts like hell.
However, after quite a while, the Guards suddenly leave the room like they are being ordered to stop, and now he’s all alone in that dirty and dark place. With only the shadows and silence as his company, the thief is currently formulating a plan to make his escape.
However, he doesn’t need to do that, as soon enough, the door of the room finally opens again. And stepping inside is a familiar stranger...
He’s quite tall, a head over most average men, with a slender and athletic body worthy of envy. His hair is cut short and wavy, dirty blonde like faded gold. His clothes are very normal, a dark brown jacket over a red shirt. Still quite young, not even twice the thief’s age, that man’s appearance is completely normal and not out of ordinary.
And yet, the moment that man steps inside into the room, he exudes an aura of nobility, power, and gravitas that overwhelms even the tied-up young man, and an aura that the thief can only return with a glare as sharp as a knife. It is understandable why he reacts that way to the stranger. After all, the man is Charleone Augustus, an Archmagus of Fire, and the would-be victim of the young thief and his crew. At least, that’s how it was planned…
“Looks like they gave you quite a good beating.” says the blonde man in a mocking tone. “That's to be expected from them, I would have done the same. After all, you gave them lots of troubles, Shadow Rat, if that’s what they call you. If I had come just a bit later, they might have killed you already. Shadow Rat, what an interesting name. Did you make that up yourself?”
The young man can’t do anything but glare at him with fury.
“Not a talkative customer? I can respect that.” says the Archmagus. He then moves to lean on an area of the wall that is slightly cleaner, right in front of the thief.
“Do you know why I came here?” he asks while folding his arms.
The young man didn’t respond.
"Still won't talk? Fine by me. But you must have been dying to know the reason why I'm here, right? I can see it in your eyes."
Although the young man certainly doesn’t say it, his eyes agree with Archmagus’ words.
“I must say, however, what you did tonight was nothing short of...entertaining. Incredible, even. You and your ilks not only managed to elude detection but to find an entry point at that location is very ingenious of you. Not to mention, of course, how you managed to bypass all of the security spells and items I put all over the building...splendid work I must say.” The victim praises his thief. “But...Although you have shown marks of an almost perfect plan, one that must have taken such immaculate planning and preparation, you forgot about one thing, kid…”
The blonde man’s lips then turn into a wide grin while his eyes give off the sight of smug pettiness.
“Have you ever considered that I let you rob me?”
In an instant, the thief’s eyes widened. Without another word, he knows what the victim that’s standing before him means. His expression turns from a man full of anger, into that of a horrified one.
“Ah, so you do can speak.”
“Impossible...But why? Don’t tell me you want to-”
“Catch you?” interrupts the Archmagus. “Exactly my reason, Rat.”
He steps forward until only a few footsteps are left that separate the thief from his ‘victim’.
“You think you can outwit me, kid? You might be good, but not that good. Only I can outsmart myself.” he mocks the young man. “But don’t worry, I have no intention to hand you over to the city’s authority, that would be a waste of talent and life. The whole place can just burn down for all I care…”
The thief stares at him with eyes full of questions. But he, even in his current state of physical pain and cognitive confusion, still manages to see through the Archmagus’ words.
“So...the reason why you want to catch me...was not because of the bounty or duty, but to meet with me?”
The blonde man claps his hands, smiling.
“Precisely! You’re one smart kid, aren’t you?”
“Simple, I want to enroll you in a school, a Magus School.”
The answer that comes out from the Archmagus’ mouth is something that the young man is so fully unprepared to hear, that it leaves him speechless. His jaw slightly drops while the fierce fire in his eyes is now extinguished and turns into ashes of bewilderment.
“Surprised, aren’t you?’
“B-But why?” The tone of the young thief’s voice is now different than before, the one he has now befits his appearance more, that of a young man at the peak of his youth. “I can’t even use Magic.”
“That is precisely why you go to that place, kid, to learn how to use magic.”
“But why me?”
“Because, Shadow Rat, you're a Hatchling, someone born to be able to use magic, as all Magus does initially.” Answers Charleone. "Only a Hatchling could disable the traps and contraptions made by Sho Magus like you did tonight. And then there's another reason why I wanted you to be a Magus…"
The Archmagus folds his arms again.
“I just think that it's time for the Magus Society to have someone of such nature, quality, and roots as yours.”
The young thief is left pondering deeply, trying to ascertain the true intent of the Archmagus’ plan. Is he trying to make a scene by enrolling a lowlife like him? Someone who knows nothing about magic? Even the methods he used to disable the security devices in his work can hardly be described as Magic in nature. Does he want the young man to steal things there? Or does he genuinely want him to enroll as a student?
“But..would they just accept me as a student?”
“Don’t worry about that. As a newly appointed Archmagus, I have some arrangements I can make. Besides, they won’t care in the slightest about someone like you enrolling. What’s one more new student for them when they already have hundreds?”
That answers one of the young man’s questions, at the very least.
“Ah, but do answer it quickly, will you? The new academic year is starting soon, so you have to answer it as soon as possible.”
“Tonight.” Charleone grins.
Ah, the young thief thought, that’s the catch. This is not so much an offer as it is a threat. Either accept his offer or be handed to the City Guard and spend the rest of his life in a small jail. Possibly even being sent to the gallows like some of his previous ‘colleagues’.
"So, how is it going to be, Shadow Rat? Are you going to take up my offer?"
The young man stares at the Archmagus. And after pondering for a while, he finally gives his answer….
"Yes...I'm going with you." He hesitantly said.
"Splendid!" The older man grins. "I'll go make the arrangements, wait here."
But when the blonde man almost reaches for the door, he stops and turns back in the thief's direction.
"Oh, I almost forgot. But you haven't said your real name yet, have you? So what is it, Shadow Rat, what is your name?"
The thief stares the Archmagus in the eyes.
"Kayrus. That's my name, Kayrus."