The Neophyte

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Aura

HEIDI

“The first rule of magic—always control your aura with your energy.”

Jessie took a few steps back. “I can see your aura but barely. You need to be one with it. Close your eyes and count your breath. Inhale, count to three, and exhale. You will feel that your mind will calm and be cleared.”

I closed my eyes.

“Your energies are the different focal points in your body when you meditate. Now, feel all the energies align within yourself so you can feel your current flow.”

I opened an eye, “So...how do I do that?”

“Close your eyes!”

I did. “How do I align my...energies?”

“Feel the universe flow through you, in and out. Embrace its fluidity.”

I focused and let my mind take control. “I feel…something.”

“I can see your aura, it’s white and pure, as every new Spellcaster would have. Now, concentrate. Good...good. It’s turning into a blue hue. The blue resembles Practical magic so I know what your mind and aura are leaning towards. Feel its presence and embrace it. The aura is constant, never changing. Let it move with you.”

I breathed.

“Focus. Bend your aura to your will. Let it move your energy and flow out of your—“

ZAP! A current flowed through and out of my fingertips. It burst before me, leaving a surge of current around us.

“I did it! Jessie I did it!”

Jessie beamed. “You did. Now, focus your willpower. Point to that pile of dirt on the bench over there.”

Another surge of current, this time I could feel it pulsate through my body from my head. It shot out this time, instead of bursting, and landed on the pile of dirt. The dirt dissipated and the bench looked clean.

“Congratulations, you have acquired Scrubbiro, the cleaning spell.”

Over the course of eight weeks, as planned, I had achieved the basics of Practical magic. I worked through my exhaustion and frustration just to master them. Jessie was patient, thank goodness, and focused on my capabilities to push to my limits. I could remain focused easily during my training.

As a Sage of Practical Magic, he taught me to tap into my logic and lean into it to summon my aura. I only had six months until I would complete my basic training and move up the rank from a Neophyte to an Acolyte.

One evening, two nights before I would start on Mischief magic training, I woke up startled. I was soaked in sweat and my heart was palpitating. I looked down on my hands and they were glistening from the light outside the dormitory window. I glanced at the digital clock which read ’3.30 A.M., TWENTY-ONE DEGREES CELSIUS’. That dream was too vivid to ignore.

In it, I was at a dinner party with the Vampires. Everyone was enjoying themselves when the lights and candles were put out. A second later, the lighting was restored and Lord Voltaire was cradling Vicky’s decapitated head in his arms. He had a wide grin on his face, uncharacteristically ghastly, and wiped the blood off with bloodied hands. Vicky’s body laid lifeless before me, writhing.

I got breathless. I tried to run but the Vampires captured me and chained my wrists and ankles in the middle of the dining hall. They spread my limbs apart like a starfish. I wanted to scream but I was running out of breath. How?

Lord Voltaire floated to me and pulled out a knife. He carved some symbols onto my arms and legs. I could not see what symbols they represented—the pain was too unbearable. At last, Lord Voltaire swiped my head off my neck like it was a twig from a tree branch with his bare hands, his black nails long.

That was when I awoke.

The next morning, I met with Jessie and Wynona for their training. They were in the midst of a conversation when I interrupted.

“Sorry, I was late—“

“Rule number one: never arrive later than stipulated time,” Jessie warned. He paused, then eyed me warily, “But I suppose you’ll never do that again. Is everything okay, Heidi? Your aura is pulsating.”

“I’m fine. Can we get started on the training?”

“No, no,” Wynona cut in. She stood up and placed herself before me. She held my shoulders, “You don’t look good. Have a seat. A Spellcaster cannot cast her spell if she is not at ease.”

I did as instructed. She continued, “Tell us, what’s bothering you?”

I exhaled slowly. This was going to sound awkward.

“I, uh, I had a dream of Lord Voltaire last night.”

Jessie’s cheeks turned bright red and Wynona let out a small laugh. Then she cleared her throat, “I mean, well, I guess he does have a charm—“

“What no! Goodness no! It was a bad dream. I dreamt that he killed my best friend—his girlfriend—and then me. It was very...vivid.”

The two Sages turned to each other, and might I add, a little relieved. Then Jessie turned to me.

“Well, perhaps the dream mirrors your feelings, like maybe of your distrust of Vampires? Or...Lord Voltaire himself?”

“No, I’m telling you, it wasn’t like that. This dream felt like it was trying to warn me about something. Like an omen. I’ve had this dream a year before my parents died. Except that in that dream, it wasn’t Voltaire. It was my dad. He killed my mum and then me. Somehow in these dreams, I always die last.”

Jessie looked thoughtfully. “There is a chance that it could be an omen.”

“Or it’s simply post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD,” Wynona chimed in. “There have been cases of PTSD victims reliving their trauma over and over, especially with her childhood experience. Such memories are only more vivid as you become a Spellcaster when your spiritual connection grows. We’ll keep an eye on this as long as you’re here. I’ll inform Tristan before he trains you.”

“I agree,” Jessie said. “In the meantime, we’ll keep training.”

“Can’t you heal me with your healing magic?” I asked, a tad annoyed.

Jessie shook his head, “No, this isn’t like getting poison ivy on your arm. This is your psychology that has been affected, and no magic can cure that. Only your own strength, with our help, of course.”

* * *

On the last day of Practical magic training, I arrived at the training grounds early. The dream came back to haunt me and I refused to sleep another wink.

“You’re early on your last day,” Jessie arrived with a pleasant smile but with a tinge of concern. “The same dream last night?”

“I think it was trying to tell me something, Jessie. Something’s about to happen to the Vampires, I just don’t know what yet.”

He thought for a moment before saying, “Then perhaps this last spell can aid you, albeit for a short time.”

My eyes widened, “Is it time to learn the healing spell?”

“Yes. But to acquire this, you must relax your mind and focus on your white aura instead of blue.”

“If I focus on my mind to get the blue aura, how am I supposed to get the white?”

Jessie sat on the ground and folded his legs. “”Well, meditation, of course! Once you meditate and align all your energies, you will feel lightness and ease. Now, try it.”

I did as instructed. I sat before him and crossed my legs. I shut my eyes and breathed.

“Feel the quietness around you.”

My heart began to race and my mind formed visions. I was losing my breath for some reason and I was starting to get antsy. The clearer my visions were getting, the louder my breathing became.

During all that, I could not open my eyes—it was as if some force took over and I was trapped in that position. Soon I felt a dark aura envelop me and in a mere second, the present world fell away and I was back at the Vampire Lair and chained.

My vision picked up where my dream had left off. The lucidity of the vision wrangled my logic and held my consciousness. As the Vampires beneath me began to fight for my limbs and torso, I struggled hard to break free somehow. My instincts started to kick in—I was about to cast a spell when I was viciously and suddenly yanked out of my subconsciousness, and back into the present realm.

“Heidi!”

I awoke, startled, but in Jessie’s arms. He held me up and held a palm to my forehead. I was too weak to move, like my energy was drained. I steadied my breathing and, when I finally had enough energy, I sat myself up.

“You didn’t respond for a moment there. What did you see?”

“I was Vampire food,” I croaked. Why was my throat so dry?

“Well,” Jessie stood me up, “let’s bring you back to the dormitory and have Nurse Hilda check up on you. We’ll finish the training some other time.”

I straightened myself as much as I could. “Jessie, I got this.”

He stared at me and shook his head. Then his voice got stern, which sounded almost like my grandmother when she got tired of my stubbornness.

“I cannot allow you to carry on after that. We will finish this another time.”

I nodded, “Another time, then.”

I eventually learned the magic, two days after. Jessie became extra wary of me and put me on ‘high alert’, as he informed Nurse Hilda. I was to be cared for by the nurse until I was ‘healthy’ enough, whenever that would be.

* * *

In the following four months, I had mastered the basics of Mischief magic. Wynona was a fantastic trainer, in my opinion, and a fun one too. I could shift my aura from white to blue to purple effortlessly, and I was left with two more months in The Academy before my six-month Neophyte rank training was up. All that was next was the Untamed magic training, and I had yet to meet the third Sage.

Wynona felt my impatience. I had asked to be trained by another Untamed magic trainer but rules were rules—a Voltaire recommendation had to be trained under a Sage. I gave up and decided to wait it out. That was when Wynona offered to train me herself.

“Untamed magic?” I asked, “You can do that?”

“Every Sage knows all the different magic types, although not as exceptional as their own magic specialty. I can teach you the first spell and its basics, but it won’t be as easy as Practical and Mischief magic.”

I thought about it for a second but time was running short. “It’s a head-start. I’ll take it.”

The training grounds were empty after midnight. No students were allowed, unless there was a Sage present.

“What I’m about to teach you is Untamed Magic. As its name, I would advise that it is best taught by the Sage himself. But I’ve taken you as my favourite,” she laughed. “Okay, in all seriousness, are you ready?”

“Born ready.”

Wynona nodded to a grass patch on the field. “You see that spot over there? This spell is called Arsonion. Think of fire, heat, lava, fumes. Feel the aura around you.”

I took my stance and breathed. The surge rose from inside me, but instead of my head like it always did, the current came from my lungs. Like the breath of fire, maybe? It seemed difficult to control. My limbs fought to keep my stance and my breath felt white-hot.

“Control, Heidi.”

In a split second, the current shot out onto the grass and white flames formed. I stared, mouth agape as Wynona cast a freezing spell on it immediately. The flames soon dissipated and ice shards were left on the grass patch.

“Well,” Wynona recovered herself, her voice shaken. “That was a bad idea.”

“That was rather...mischievous,” I blurted. “Sorry, I had to.”

Wynona stared for a moment and then let out a laugh. “Because I’m the Sage of Mischief magic! I get it!” Then her laugh faded and she composed herself.

“Promise me you won’t tell Jessie or Tristan? They’re not as forgiving or as fun as I am. Especially Tristan.”

“Something tells me this Tristan isn’t going to make his training as fun and easy-going as I had hoped.”

“Not a chance, Danielson,” she replied, scoffing. “He is the Sage of Untamed magic after all, and if he finds out that I tried to teach you without his knowledge—I’m done for.”

We headed back to the dormitories afterwards, keeping our secret to ourselves. I appreciated her effort and thought in allowing me to learn, even if it was just for a small price to pay.

In the next three days, I kept practising the spell of arson. I tried conjuring the aura but nothing. I hid myself somewhere in the Gardens in front of the HQ, hoping that the open air would be safer than casting an arson spell indoors. I found a spot near a tree where it was large enough to cover me if anyone saw me. I had no clue what Tristan looked like and would not dare to be caught by him.

I breathed, shut my eyes, and exhaled. Fire, fumes, lava...I wanted to feel the heat. I thought I felt it in my lungs and I grew excited. I steadied the energy within me and—POP! A small flame burst from my fingertips. I almost dropped my wand in agony.

“Are you trying to cast Arsonion? That’s easy!”

I turned to see Elton, the fourteen-year-old kid, watching me from one of the pathways leading from the gates. I had heard that he had become one rank my senior, an Acolyte. He snatched my wand and waved. Teenagers.

“Oh but Elton, that is the—”

Elton waved the wand towards the tree beside us. Flames shot out of the wand and straight to it. The tree that stood erected in the middle of the Academy grounds caught fire immediately as they enveloped the bark and leaves. It was a rather old, massive tree and I could not believe my eyes. I turned to Elton who looked quite smug, proud of his little ol’ self.

“See, Heidi, all you gotta do is—”

Elton!” I exclaimed in my panic-stricken voice, “The tree is smouldering!”

The heat from the tree grew intense as the blue flames were beginning to change into a lighter shade, and eventually white. The shrubbery around it would have caught the flames too if it didn’t capture the attention of everyone in The Academy. Everyone including Jessie and Wynona.

“Put that fire out!” Yelled Jessie over the cackling of the flames.

Before either of us could react, a dark-haired man cried out, “Frozium!”

A glacier of ice formed from his wand to the roots of the tree and shot up to the sky, extinguishing the large flames.

My heart rammed against my ribcage. Elton looked small and pale. Jessie and Wynona looked furious. The third man, whom I had never seen before, looked graven. This man turned his attention to Elton and me, breathing through his nose. His jaw clenched.

Jessie whispered to him when they got close to us, “Not too harsh on her, Tristan, she is new.”

“I deal with her whichever way I deem worthy.” Tristan uttered as he walked over to us. “Come with me to my office.”

Elton and I followed the man. He wore a similar overcoat to Jessie and Wynona, but unlike theirs, his was red. I felt a wave of shame and fear throughout my body.

We were brought to his office. Elton and I stood in the middle of it awkwardly, like two children in the principal’s office. Well, one of us was an awkwardly overgrown child. Mr Red-Coat closed the door behind us and slid behind his dark oak desk, similar to Jessie’s. Even his office was immaculate too.

“I’m sorry, Tristan, please don’t expel me! I’ll go to detention, anything but expulsion!” Cried Elton. I felt sorry for the kid.

“Elton, please, let me speak.” Tristan was calm. He had red eyes, like rubies, and they darted from Elton to me. I shrank a little underneath his gaze. “You must be the Neophyte, Heidi.”

I nodded. “I’m really sorry. If you’re going to expel anyone, it should be me. I went ahead to practise Untamed magic without your supervision...I didn’t think it through.”

“That’s right, you didn’t. Such irresponsibility is unacceptable. Elton, I’m utterly disappointed in you. And Heidi, you are not that new despite what Jessie said. You may still be a Neophyte but you have already mastered Practical and Mischief magic. You have been here for eight weeks. I think I may know who taught you Arsonion without my supervision and you don’t have to tell me. This means you’re not held fully accountable for this. However, you two still burnt the tree on Academy grounds. I will send you both to detention for three weeks.”

We nodded silently and exited the office.

“Heidi,” Tristan called, “I need to speak to you privately before you leave.”

He closed the door behind me and sat behind his desk. “I hear that you are close to Lord Voltaire?”

I did not realise that I had been holding my breath until I sighed. “Not close per se, but—”

“You are his recommendation?” Tristan asked, waving a stack of papers in the air with my name on them.

“Yes, but he is dating my best friend. So yeah, he has to be nice to me,” I jested.

Tristan’s face looked unamused. He lowered his hand onto the desk and perused through my personal particulars and letter of recommendation. I was not sure why but I felt a knot in my stomach.

“So you’re saying,” he said slowly, like it just clicked, “that the only reason why you’re recommended by the High Lord of the Vampires is because he’s sleeping with your best friend?”

“Yes, but I owe him. I didn’t ask him to and he didn’t—”

“What was it like when you first cast Arsonion?”

I paused, then checked myself. “You...did you just cut me off?”

Tristan blinked. “Well, what was it like?”

I frowned, “You just cut me off and changed the subject. You’re much ruder than the other two Sages.”

“I think you may find that I am much stricter than my colleagues.”

“Good for you. Look, I’m really sorry. I know I should’ve waited for you, but time is running short for me. I have proven to Jessie and Wynona that I am good—”

“Show me, then.” Tristan crossed his arms.

I paused. “Show…?”

Tristan stood and straightened his red coat. He stood almost two metres tall, towering over me as he planted his feet in front of me. “I will bring you to the training grounds and you will show me what you have.”

* * *

“What’s the meaning of this?” Jessie demanded from a distance. He and Wynona jogged over to the training grounds where Tristan and I were.

“Tristan, what are you doing?” Wynona added, her voice wary.

Tristan ignored them. “Are you ready, Neophyte? You told me you were good.”

“Born ready.” I did not waiver.

Tristan’s ruby pin on his right cuff shone in the light. His red eyes glimmered, a slight smirk formed on his face like he was enjoying it. Jessie strode to my side and whispered.

“Heidi, you don’t have to do this. Tristan isn’t just a Sage, he specialises in duels.”

“I got this.”

We readied our stances. I steadied my breathing to keep the nerves calm and cleared my mind. Just like training.

Tristan was calm but his eyes were glimmering. He watched me carefully as I could feel the strength of his aura even as we stood five metres apart. I shut my eyes and let my energy flow from my mind to my limbs.

Go for the basics, my instincts whispered. A surge of current flowed through my arm and out of my fingertips.

Delirium!

The first bolt shot out and towards Tristan, a Mischief magic spell that caused one to be delirious. He dodged it effortlessly like he knew it was coming. Had he been calculating my moves? I refused to back down.

I shot out one spell after another but missed each time. At last, Tristan concluded the duel—he shot out a lightning-speed bolt and right on target. It was a spell I had never seen before but it sent electrical shockwaves through my limbs that sent me backwards and paralysed for two seconds. I crashed onto the ground and dropped my wand. That was it—game over.

“Heidi! Are you okay?” Jessie asked as Wynona hovered over and lifted my shoulders.

“I didn’t hurt her too much, don’t worry,” Tristan responded, pocketing his wand back into the inside of his red coat.

“I’m fine, just a hard fall,” I answered. Jessie sighed in relief as Wynona scowled at Tristan.

“That was unnecessary.”

Tristan walked over and knelt in front of me. I was still reeling from the fall. His face was indifferent.

“I do apologise if there was any injury done but that was to teach you a lesson.”

“I get it,” I mumbled.

“Three weeks of suspension,” he said, standing up. “Rules are rules. Come back after three weeks and I will train you.”

* * *

The three Sages brought me to the portal to the Worldly realm. It was hidden somewhere in the Gardens. My heart was heavy and it grew heavier after seeing the disappointed faces on Jessie and Wynona. They had become special to me. Sentimental, I know.

Tristan? He remained nonchalant to my temporary departure.

“I’ll return and be better.”

“I sure hope so,” Tristan said. There was no trace of sarcasm—he was sincere. He took a step forward and right in my face. Too close, buddy.

But right before I could tell him to back up, I noticed his youth. He seemed much younger than Jessie and Wynona. His red eyes were calm and they reminded me of Vicky and Lord Voltaire, except his were more soothing and less Underworldly.

“You have a lot of potential, Heidi. Spellcasting is a skill, not a talent. There’s nothing to celebrate about if you have mastered any of the three Magic types. Us Sages, we protect the sanctity of our realm and knowledge. You must understand the severity of your punishment. See you in three weeks.”

“Thank you for the lesson. I will see you then,” I nodded before entering the portal.

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