The Neophyte

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Her jacket and boots were missing. Her painkillers were still on the side table. Vicky scanned the room, her red eyes glowing.

“I thought you said she was here?”

“She was,” I said, dumbfounded. Where could she have possibly gone off to?

Vicky closed her eyes. “I don’t feel too good about this.”

I recalled our conversations. “Perhaps we could try your apartment in the Worldly Realm. My instincts are telling me that she must’ve gone back to feed her cat.”

She nodded and I immediately opened a portal. We stepped through it and arrived at her apartment.

The fat cat ran to Vicky’s feet and greeted her. It meowed very loudly.

“Her heartbeat is faint,” Vicky said, bending down and petting the feline.

Anxiety was starting to inch its way up my throat. I sighed, “Then she has to be here, somewhere in this realm.”

“We should split up,” Vicky suggested. “Come back here in twenty-four hours if she still isn’t found.”

Soon after, she hopped out the window and I made my way out the door. I contacted Jessie and Wynona before continuing the search.

I walked down the streets of Orchidville, autumn settling her presence in the amber-coloured trees and crispy winds. Some heads turned as I walked past them, hands in my red coat. A man tipped his hat at me and a woman eyed me head to toe, neither of whom were Spellcasters. I looked inside every shop and cafe of the center of the town, all the restaurants that I could find.

“She is this tall, black hair with a fringe?” I explained to a barista working in a nearby cafe, my palm levelling with my shoulder. “She might be wearing a black leather jacket and boots as well.” The barista shook his head and went back to the other customers.

I exited the cafe, my anxiety peaking. I was running out of places to go to and wanted to ask for my parents’ help. And then a thought struck me. The Lucky Orphan orphanage.

I didn’t teleport myself there, in case I met her in the streets. I walked to the two-storey building beside the sheriff’s department that had its name written in bold on its facade. I went up to the front door, straightened my coat and knocked.

A pair of soft, round eyes greeted me. She looked barely twenty. And curious.

“I’m Tristan Embers, from the Academy. I’m looking for a former resident of yours.”

Her brown eyes read me before she tilted her head. “Mr Embers, yes, we know who you are. But which former resident are you referring to? If you’re referring to a child that had grown up and left, we have plenty.”

“Heidi Danielson,” I replied and proceeded to describe her physical attributes.

“I’m not sure if I know where she is,” she shook her head. Then she widened the door, “Please come in, maybe you can speak to Mrs Tabitha.”

I stepped through the threshold and felt like a hundred pairs of eyes bore on me. Some stopped what they were doing. I cleared my throat and my movements became quite...awkward.

“Move on, now, children, nothing interesting to see,” the girl said. Then she turned to me. “I’m Dora, by the way.”

I nodded. “Nice to meet you, Dora. Is Mrs Tabitha…?”

“Right this way,” she said and walked in front of me.

Dora had a fair complexion and dark brown hair, parted in the middle. She tied it in a bun and had a white apron around her waist. Her small frame reminded me a little bit of Heidi.

“Mrs Tabitha, Mr Embers is here to ask you some questions,” she spoke as we entered the dining area where the staff were setting the table. I had just realised that it was approaching dinner time.

The staff looked up. One older woman in particular, widened her eyes when she saw me. She looked matronly, her blonde hair also tied into a bun. This might be Mrs Tabitha.

“Gracious,” she muttered, her face reddening a little. “The Tristan Embers?”

“Yes ma’am,” I spoke. “May I trouble you to speak with me in person?”

“It’s no trouble at all,” the matronly lady said. She then ushered me into another room, one smaller than the dining.

“Would you care for some—“

“No, thank you. I am pressing for time, so please pardon my impatience. I am here to ask about a former resident of yours. Her name is Heidi Danielson and I’m wondering if she has visited here today or yesterday.”

Her hazel eyes widened at Heidi’s name. She wiped her hands onto her white apron mindlessly, her mouth agape. “Heidi? Our Heidi? Is she in trouble?”

“I hope not, ma’am. Have you seen her recently?”

Her penciled eyebrows furrowed for two seconds before responding with the negative. “No, sir, I haven’t seen her at all. In fact, she’s never visited us since she left a year ago.”

My heart sank. Back to square one. Dora stood by the doorway and listened to our conversation.

“I’m sorry, Mr Embers. Perhaps we would keep a lookout for you and let you know if we find anything,” Mrs Tabitha said. Then almost to herself, “I hope she’s okay.”

I smiled and nodded at the two ladies, “Well, thank you for your time.”

“Maybe not here,” Dora blurted right as I was at the door. “Maybe she went to visit the old address?”

“And where would that be?” I asked eagerly.

“I’ll hand it to you,” Mrs Tabitha said and passed me a piece of paper before I made my way out the door with a spark of hope.

* * *

The sun had sunk beneath the horizon by the time I arrived at the given address. The dark sky melted across the heavens but there were no stars. Night clouds hung ominously above. If anything happened to Heidi, I ought to be responsible.

The address took me to an old part of town located in the outskirts of Orchidville. I remembered this area where it was lively and modern in its time, about two decades ago. Today, it was a ghost town occupied by rundown buildings and tumbleweed everywhere.

“They told you she’d be here too, huh?”

I turned to see Vicky’s glowing red eyes, her cheek slightly red-stained. Her fangs were white and visible.

“You look like you got into a fight,” I said, eyeing her blood-stained fingers.

“I was at her grandmother’s old house, thinking she’d be there. A couple of djinns decided to join in the party.”

“They told you she’d be here?”

She shook her long, ebony hair. “They wouldn’t say a word so I had to read their memories.”

I cringed. “What did that feel like?”

Her lips twisted like she tasted something vile, “Like if hell and purgatory had a baby.”

We stood before the dark former orphanage that had become merely a shell of a building.

“Do you think Dean found her?” Vicky asked, almost a whisper.

“If he did, we best get ready for a fight,” I replied before walking up to the front door.

Two distinct voices. We lowered our bodies and stayed close to the shadows. The voices seemed to be coming from inside the building.

“That sounds a lot like Heidi,” Vicky whispered. I nodded.

I waited for the other voice to speak. I peeked into the room from the porch. Heidi’s back was facing me, her leather jacket, black hair and all. My heart leapt at the sight of her standing and alive, but it dropped as soon as I saw whom she was standing in front of.

“He found her,” was all I could utter.

Vicky stared at me, eyes wide in horror. Then she composed herself, “We need to split up. If anything happens, you cover the roof and I cover the ground.”

I nodded and teleported to the second storey. I remained as still as possible and listened to their conversation. But as soon as I found a room to settle in, a scuffle broke out below. Heidi fought off the djinns. Instinctively I wanted to aid her, but seeing her capabilities, I stopped myself. Dean Ryans must not know I was there.

Not yet.

“You think I would let you off so easily?” I heard him bellow beneath me. Heat was radiating from him as his black aura grew.

The fight moved into the kitchen as the living area caught fire. In a distance, I heard a howl. I moved into one of the three bedrooms and hid myself in there. I took my wand from my pocket and pointed to the large djinns that ran towards the building. Hundreds of them emerged from the forest nearby. My heart raced in their presence—as the mortal heart always did—and I cast the oblivion spell. One down, two, three, four...

Fire burst the wooden door in the kitchen. A giant djinn breached the perimeters. How did I not see it?

A djinn flew in from the window. It crashed the glass and set its black eyes on me.

Oblivion!” I cast my spell successfully.

Then another djinn crashed through a window and wrestled me. I fought back as its fangs attempted to pierce my skin. I kicked it and cast another spell.

Frozium!” I waved my wand and the djinn froze.

I gave a roundhouse kick and broke it in half. The fire from below was licking away at the first storey, the rotting wood dissipating and breaking its foundations apart. The building would not last.

I was about to leave the room and make my way down to Heidi when she raced up the stairs and into another bedroom. I followed after her before fighting another djinn. She shut the door.

After successfully fighting it off, I busted the door open with my boot. I found her at the window with one leg out. I yanked her by the shoulders and we fell onto the dusty floor. Smoke was rising to the second storey as Dean’s thunderous roars echoed through the halls.

She looked dazed. Her eyes searching the dark and body tightened. I locked my gaze into hers and whispered, “You’re safe now. Close your eyes.”

She did as told and I chanted the Homewardial spell. Nothing. I glanced at the door where it burst open. A black mass of smokey mist stood there with its golden yellow eyes fixated on me. I was revealed.

Unmistakably, that was Dean Ryans in full ‘Synto form’.

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