Competing Magic (Chapter Eight)
Like the rest of the building known as Emrys Hall, the library was a lot bigger on the inside. There were books as far as the eye could see, from large ancient, leather-bound tomes to paperback booklets neatly shelved in their own little corner of the vast chandelier-lit chamber.
Of all the places in this school, the magic library of Emrys Hall was Ezekiel's least favorite place. In fact, he hated it. Why, you might ask? Well, being from a wealthy family with a noble lineage, Ezekiel was always fond of the more elegant side of things. The chandeliers and the old-fashioned look of the library would definitely be to his liking were it not for the huge arcade dance game machines, the disco dance floor and ball, and robots dressed like hippies. Seriously, just what is up with the magi in this school treating it like their own personal playground?
Ignoring the nonsensical riffraff (or trying to), Ezekiel scoured the shelves, searching for just the right spell book. All of them were filled with interesting knowledge of the magic arts, but going through subject, a lot of them were either useless in a fight, or just not for him.
"No, too flashy," he muttered as he flipped through the pages of his eleventh book. "No, too destructive . . . Too weak . . . Too disgusting . . . Too childish . . . Too disturbing . . . Honestly, none of these spells are really helpful."
Normally, when a student had trouble finding something to research, he'd turn to a teacher for help. Unfortunately in Ezekiel's case, the teacher he had would be of no help. Clearly, Professor Wu was one of those adults who believed that grownups should keep to grownup business and children should keep to children business. Such a hypocrite, Ezekiel thought of Professor Wu. After all, when Professor Wu was his age, he was already fighting off evil, even going as far as pushing back an entire army with just six others his age.
"What are you doing?"
Ezekiel turned around, but didn't find anyone. He turned around some more before the mysterious voice said: "Down here."
Right behind him was a little girl half his height with dark hair. She wore a an old-fashioned blouse and skirt, and a frilly purple headband that kept her bangs back.
Ezekiel's first thought was that she definitely wasn't a student of this school. She wasn't wearing the uniform, and right now Emrys Hall was supposed to be off-limits to anyone younger than ten (something about this place being a bad influence to the young).
Just where did she come from? Ezekiel wondered, rubbing his chin. Could she be a teacher's daughter? Plenty of the teachers in this school had families of their own, including children, like Professor Wu, after all.
"What are you doing?" the little girl asked again.
"This is a magic library, so isn't it obvious?" Ezekiel replied. "I'm looking for a magic spell."
"Why?" asked the little girl. She couldn't be more than six years old.
"What does it matter to you?"
"I'm curious, so I want to know. Hey, come on! Tell me! Tell me!"
Ezekiel sighed in exasperation.
"I want to get more powerful," he finally relented.
"Oh," the girl said, suddenly dejected.
What's wrong? Ezekiel wondered. Was it something he said?
"Hey, hey. No picking on little kids."
"I wasn't," Ezekiel snapped, turning to face Henry Di.
Henry bent his head to the side slightly with an expression of doubt on his face.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm sure," Ezekiel answered through gritted teeth.
"Okay then," the Merlin Institute student said with a shrug. "But what are you doing here? Homework for Professor Wu?"
"He said that he wants to get a spell to make himself more powerful," the girl grumbled.
"Oh?" said Henry. "Trying to get ahead of the contest between our schools, I see. In that case, couldn't you just ask Professor Wu? He might not seem all that smart, but he is still a magic teacher, and a famous magician. Maybe he can give you a few pointers?"
"Unfortunately, Professor Wu has no intention of teaching beyond what's required of his job," said Ezekiel. "He's even turned down his own sister when she asked about his more powerful spells. I'm guessing he either wants to take his secrets to the grave, or he's planning to pass down his magic exclusively to Kaylee, his daughter."
"Really?" said Henry.
The way he said that sounded really funny to Ezekiel.
"What did you mean by that?" he asked. "Do you know something?"
"Huh? Oh, um . . . it's just that from what Madame Duncan told everyone, I just thought that might not be it, Professor Wu just waiting to teach just his daughter his secrets."
"Explain," Ezekiel ordered. "Uh . . . Ahem! I mean, care to explain?"
"Well, Madame Duncan's my music teacher," said Henry. "During class, she likes to go on about her time with the other Seven Star Mages. From the way she described Professor Wu, it sounded like if he's actually looking for someone to teach his magic spells to. And he's really picky about who he teaches it to. He's actually taught the secret behind his endless magic supply to a few people."
"Really?" Ezekiel said, curious. "Who?"
"One of them, I think, was Madame Duncan, herself," said Henry, looking up thoughtfully. "It's no surprise since they're friends. But other than her, I think he taught some guy from Egypt. And then there was another girl from some remote European village."
"Now what makes those other two so special that he would choose them over his own family to teach his magic spells to?" Ezekiel wondered.
While the two boys talked, the child behind them started reaching high up to a book, hopping up and down for it. For some reason, she became very interested in the worn-out paperback with the cover wrapped in plastic. Even with the height disadvantage, she wouldn't give up, and continued to hop and hop and hop. And with each hop, purple sparks flashed at her heels.
Then with one final hop, she shot past the book up toward the ceiling. Before her descent down, she was able to grab hold of the top of the bookshelf, and from there, she hung.
"Ah! How did she get up there?" Henry screamed.
"What in the world?" Ezekiel exclaimed, his heart leaping to his throat.
She gripped tightly to the shelf, but her strength didn't last. The little girl quickly slipped and fell, her fingers brushing against the top of a book. Ezekiel quickly conjured a giant black pillow from his shadow and tossed it. It landed beneath the girl just in time to cushion her landing. Seeing her unharmed, Ezekiel sighed in relief. Then a book landed on his head.
"Ow!" Ezekiel cried.
"Hey, are you okay?" said Henry.
"I'm fine," said Ezekiel, rubbing his stinging head. "But what about the girl?"
"Oh, she's . . . Huh? She's gone!"
"Hey! What's going on here?" shouted the librarian as he came running towards them.
"Uh-oh," went Henry.
"Nothing," replied Ezekiel. "He just accidentally slipped is all."
"Huh?" said Henry.
"Hmph!' sniffed the librarian, glowering at Henry. "Be careful in here. This is a library. Not a playground."
"What? Hey! I-!"
The librarian left before Henry could say anything. Ezekiel took that as his cue to leave, too.
"I'm so going to make you pay for this!" Henry said, turning around."Huh? Where'd he go?"
Ezekiel was already close to the checkout desk, flipping through the pages of the book that had fallen on his head. He had absentmindedly brought it with him and decided since he had it with him, he may as well flip through it. There were a lot of interesting spells in this book, though all to take care of a specific thing. But one spell caught his eye.
"A mirror ritual spell, huh?" he said. According to the book, this particular spell which needed a mirror, was almost like his own magic power to mimic the talents of other people. Actually, it might take it to the next level!
He quickly went over to check the book out before heading back to his dorm room to start practicing. As he ran off, Rose Woods walked by, looking around with wary eyes. The two passed each other by without noticing each other.
"For goodness sake!" the Hispanic mage grumbled. "Where could she have gone?"
She ended up going to the back of the library building. That was where she found the dark-haired girl tracing purple sparks in the air like waving a gymnast's ribbon.
"Oh!" the girl exclaimed excitedly. She ran toward and embraced Rose. "Rosey!"
"There you are, Josephine," said Rose. "Where have you been? I've been searching for you everywhere. Now hold still."
"Are you going to take a picture?" the little girl asked, innocently.
"Yeah, something like that," said Rose. "Say cheese."
Rose pointed toward the girl and traced a circle in the air with her finger. Green stones sprouted from the ground, completely covering the girl. Green light leaked from the thin gaps in between. When the stones receded back into the ground, the little girl had transformed into Josephine Desorciere Duncan.
"Oh dear," the violinist said, looking embarrassed. "It seems like I've caused everyone trouble again."
"Tell me about it," said Rose, putting her hands to her hips. "The headmaster really freaked when you suddenly turned into a three-year-old in front of him. You have such terrible magic control, even though you're a High Master. And the headmaster freaked even worse when you suddenly vanished. What were you doing?"
"Just helping someone out," Josephine replied. "Apparently, there was a boy looking for spells to become more powerful."
"So that's why you seem down right now," Rose said. "Of course, usually wanting more power means getting into trouble with something bad, which is especially true for anyone in the magic business. That's why you don't like it when someone wants to be more powerful."
"If I could, I would make it so that all the children in the world didn't have to follow such a path," said Josephine. "Sadly, none of us have such a luxury. Regardless of our wishes, we can't protect them forever."
"Isn't that why we have to teach them to take care of themselves?" Rose said. "The best way an adult can make sure kids live safe and happy is to teach them how, after all."
"That is true."
- Competing Magic (Chapter Seven)
Professor Wu is hiding something, and Ezekiel wants to know what it is.