The Adept

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The Ranking Ceremony

HEIDI

Midnight came around as I sat underneath the illuminated clock at the training grounds.

When I saw him at the funeral but I couldn’t bring around to speak to him. I couldn’t face him after breaking the one promise I was willing to make. Could that possibly be why he walked away like that? Something inside me held me back from chasing after him. Perhaps it was my pride.

But he left his wand with me and I had to return it.

“You’re early,” Tristan spoke as he approached me.

I stood up and handed him his wand. “You left this in my room.”

He received it and nodded. “Thank you. Are you ready for your ceremony?”

“About that,” I said as he adjusted his coat, “how is this a ceremony, exactly? I have not had any Adept training and there’s no one around.”

“You’re right. It’s just us.” His ruby eyes glimmered in the dark.

Tristan always revealed fragments of information when he had something up his sleeve. I became a little wary.

“Fret not, Miss Heidi, you do not need any training. The Adept training consists of basic combat skills and utilising your magic during battles. I have assessed and deemed you fit to rank up to a Virtuoso. So, shall we start?”

I stared at him. I wasn’t sure if it was a ploy or that Tristan was simply being...well, Tristan; hard to read and understand.

“Start what?”

Tristan closed the gap between us. “The ranking ceremony for Adepts is a duel. If you can win at least two out of three duels, I will award you your rank.”

He teleported himself to the other side of the court. I pulled out my wand and readied my stance. I channeled my Mischief aura and pointed my wand towards him. I cleared my mind as I stood before him—a standoff against the Duel Master himself.

Delirium!

Tristan ducked and aimed his wand at me. “Electricus!

A bolt of current shot out and directly landed onto my lower body. I fell back but steadied myself in time. He shot another spell out but I summoned my shield just in time.

“Good timing, Adept,” Tristan said from the distance. Then he teleported to my side and shot out a bolt of electricity.

I fell as it landed on me, paralysing me for two seconds. I clutched the dull ache at the side of my waist.

“If you’re on the ground for three seconds, you lose the round.”

I lowered my head and sigh. I needed to win the next two rounds.

“Don’t give up on me, Adept.”

I pushed myself up off the ground. He returned to his position across the court and we locked eyes. The whole world fell away and it was just us, battling to see who would go on top. I needed to make a precise calculation. I had fought side by side on many occasions with this man—even had the privilege to see his whole being. I had to focus on his strengths to calculate his weaknesses.

Tristan cast the first spell and I swerved. I aimed and shot out the spell of arson. As he ducked, I teleported behind him and cast the spell of electricity. He fell forward but rolled to the side immediately, still on his feet. Then he teleported himself to my side, just as I predicted, and I hooked his arm and pinned it to his back. He countered this by reversing my arm as he cast the freezing spell. I blocked it immediately with my protective shield. While he ducked from his spell which bounced back towards him, I cast Electricus.

The spell shot at him and he fell, landing on his back in a daze.

“Three seconds,” I said as I teleported back to my position.

Tristan got up and shook off the numbness from the current. “Very good, Heidi. But this is a magic duel, not a fist fight.”

Tristan teleported himself back into position. His Sage’s ruby was glowing dimly.

“In this third round,” he spoke, his voice echoing the court, “I will not hold back. Are you ready, Adept?”

I nodded. “Born ready.”

A slight smirk before he directed his wand at me. And waited.

I gripped my wand tighter. Tristan had a pattern—I just needed to figure what it was.

I studied his stance; knees bent, his right foot in front of the other, his toe pointing towards me. His arms outstretched, the right holding up the wand and the left behind him, palm outwards. He eyed me with his ruby irises like he was reading me, waiting for me to strike—and I felt compelled to do so.

Frozium!

Tristan turned his body and the spell missed. He passed his wand to his left hand and aimed. “Electricus!

I blocked with my shield. Then I cried, “Furium!

He ducked and pointed above me, “Frozium!

Sheets of ice projected towards me like an arc across the court. Instinctively, I held my wand up at him, “Arsonion!

The two spells met halfway and neutralised each other. I cast another spell at Tristan who blocked as well.

“Your reflexes are getting quicker,” he said before casting a protective dome around himself.

I aimed my wand and cried, “Frozium!

He disappeared in an instant and materialised behind me. Before I could turn, he teleported to my left and shot out a large bolt of electricity at me. I was hurled back but steadied myself in the last moment. Tristan then cast the spell of arson and flames shot out immediately. I held out my palm to cast a protective shield around myself and as I did, sheets of ice blasted from his wand as well. They combined and broke my shield, causing me to fall backwards.

One, two...

I pushed myself off the ground. He aimed his wand, “Arsonion!

I ducked and teleported behind him, “Electricus!

Caught off guard, Tristan did not turn in time. He fell forward and landed some metres from me.

One, two...

“Three seconds, Tristan.”

He stood up and dusted himself off. Then he teleported to me.

“Well then, Miss Heidi. That was what I expected from a Spellcaster such as yourself.” He nodded with a slight grin.

His red aura dimmed and ruby eyes bore on me. He stood in front of me and pocketed his wand.

“Congratulations, Adept, you have officially won two rounds out of three. As promised,”—he pulled out a badge with the symbol of an eagle—“this is the badge of a Virtuoso, as well as a new wand.”

I received them and pinned the badge on my shirt. The wand was a little longer than the one I was gifted as a Neophyte—the Virtuoso wand was longer and straight with the head of an eagle carved into the wood. It was darker too; a solid oak brown polished carefully.

“Thank you,” I said, slipping the wand into my back pocket.

He nodded. “I’ll see you next week for your Virtuoso training.”

There was a slight hesitation before he turned away to leave—like he wanted to say something but checked himself. I got a hold of his arm.

“Tristan.”

He looked at me, eyeing me warily and curiously. There was something in his movements and eyes that made me uneasy—like a tinge of coldness towards me.

“You’ve been avoiding me,” I said and released his arm. “Aren’t you?”

He read my face wordlessly. His eyes traced mine, then moved down my nose and my lips. Then they returned to my eyes again.

“You broke your promise, Heidi.”

I felt something in my throat. Like a dull pain.

“Why did you walk out the way you did?” My voice was trembling but I didn’t care.

Tristan sighed and glanced around us. Then he moved closer, held my face in his hands and tilted my face up towards him. I felt the directness of his gaze, the same piercing look he gave the first time we met when Elvis burnt the tree in the Gardens. Only this time, our faces were so close that our noses were brushing.

“Forgive me,” he said, his voice low and almost a whisper, “but this is not because I don’t love you. I realised I have thrown away my responsibilities of a Sage when I continue to love you. As your lover, I cannot protect my title but as your Sage, I can protect you. So I will choose to protect you, my Heidi, even if it means that I must learn to lose you.”

“But you love me?” Was all that came out of my mouth. It was the first time that he had uttered that word to me.

“And that’s why this hurts,” he said, his voice breaking slightly.

A tear escaped his eye. I had never seen him so open the way he chose to show me. I lifted a finger and wiped it away, not knowing what I say or do. Tristan held my face for a moment longer, ruby eyes darting back and forth, before dropping his hands. He cleared his throat, shoved his hands in his pockets and made his way back to the HQ.

I watched his red coat swing behind him as he strode towards the building. I stood there with empty hands, grasping the words that remained to echo in my head.

“I love you too.”

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