Competing Magic (Chapter Five)
Ezekiel couldn't get that conversation between Madame Duncan and Mrs. Wu out of his head. He wondered what they could be talking about. If there was one vice to mar his would-be perfect self it was that he had a large amount of curiosity. Once his interest was piqued, he couldn't help but learn everything he could about it, be it how a story ends, or the truth behind a mystery. He would try almost any means to get to the bottom of things, even try something stupid like searching about it online, which was pretty much like looking for a needle in a hay stack that was a million stories high.
"Seriously?" he said out loud when the results came in on his computer. There were millions of hits about a teenage albino mage and Professor Wu.
Ezekiel was sitting up on his bed in the dorm room. Beside him, Maxwell was snoring softly. Beyond him, the digital clock displayed the time in red numbers. There was no need to look at it since Ezekiel already understood how late it was.
He clicked on one of the displayed search results, and a video played. In the video, at what looked like a campsite, an albino girl bearing semblance to the music teacher sneezed. Giant, purple tentacles sprouted from her shadow and lashed out at the Asian boy next to her. The boy in the lightly tinted glasses let out a high yelp and ran, but he was quickly caught by the tentacles. He was tossed up in the air, caught by a tentacle, and then tossed again, all the way into the top of a two-story cabin.
"This must be what they were talking about," Ezekiel said aloud over the audio of the boy going "Ow, ow, ow!" over a lot of crashing noise. Then he shook his head. No. The atmosphere between the two mages was too heavy to be explained away by something like this instance of comedy.
He glanced at the clock, and then back to his computer.
"Maybe just one more video," he said to himself.
The next video had the white-haired girl sitting at a picnic table, yawning. A giant bubble formed from her mouth and flew over to the young James Jing Wu, who was resting his head on another table not too far away. The bubble swallowed him up and carried him over a sign that said "Welcome to Aizawa Zoo" in colorful lettering. By the time he woke up, the younger version of Professor Wu was above a gorilla pit.
"What in the-?" he cried out just before the bubble popped and sent up straight down onto the back of a slumbering ape. Ezekiel couldn't help but laugh. He had always wished to see the teacher get a taste of his own medicine, and all this time, all he had to do to get that wish granted was to go online.
After closing his laptop, Ezekiel got up to do some stretches before finally turning in for real this time. As he stretched his arm up towards the ceiling, he thought he saw a flash of light out of the corner of his eye. He turned to the window and looked out, and sure enough, there were more flashes of bright, sky blue light, and they were flying around like specters in the dark.
There are three possible explanations for this: 1) The security guards or patrolling teachers were messing around with their flashlights. 2) An entertainment crew was doing a rehearsal for some kind of light show for a festival (this school has tons of festivals and carnivals every term). Or 3) someone was, for some reason, out late at night casting magic spells. Now, it definitely could not be the security guards messing around, because everyone knew how seriously the school took its security. Security was one of the school's selling points, after all. If there were any guards who would play around, they would be fired on the spot. And it couldn't be the second option. Ezekiel had memorized the schedule for all the year's festivities, and the next one wasn't coming for a couple of weeks at least. That just leaves Option 3. And you just know that when someone is casting spells late at night when everyone's supposed to be asleep, that must mean that they're up to no good.
"I definitely can't ignore this," Ezekiel thought aloud. If someone's planning mischief in this school, chances were, their aim was Veronica. And he couldn't have that.
Throwing on a pair of sneakers, Ezekiel hurried out of the dorm complex. He needn't worry about alarms as long as he remained within the boundaries of the dormitory, though he did keep a wary eye out in case any security guards decided to come around. After spotting more bright blue light from behind a two-story facility that housed a eatery and a computer lab, Ezekiel rushed toward the source, conjuring a sword of black obsidian in his hand, in case he needed to fight back.
Just as he got close to edge of the building where the light show was playing, he slowed his approach to a quiet tiptoe. With sword raised, he carefully leaned out of the corner to take a peek. Behind the building was a concrete courtyard that students would descend into from the surrounding, circle stairway. A fountain sat in the middle of the courtyard. It was off now, leaving only still water at its base. Beside the fountain stood a caped figure moving his (or her) arms about. Wisps of blue light lurched back and forth in response. At the figure's feet, Celtic runes glowed the same sky blue hue as the rays dancing above.
What could that person be up to? Ezekiel wondered as he watched. It was as if the man was performing to an audience of zero (well, one if you count Ezekiel, but he would probably be more like an unwanted guest). Blast, with the stranger so far away, Ezekiel could barely make out who this mysterious mage was.
Whispering voices intruded his thoughts. Dark, malicious whispering drowned out the noise of the magical energy dancing about.
"They will pay! They will pay! All of them! They will rue underestimating my genius and ruining everything! Especially her! ESPECIALLY HER!"
The mad, vengeful rants from the raspy, hoarse voice of a man without sanity sent shivers down Ezekiel's spine. These shivers rippled across, spreading to his arms and legs, causing him to drop his sword with a loud clatter against the ground. The sky blue magical lights disappeared abruptly and footsteps rapidly approached where Ezekiel was hiding.
This is bad, Ezekiel thought to himself. He turned and ran. There was no way he could face that stranger, not with so little information. For all he knew, that person could be as powerful as Professor Wu. Well, maybe not as powerful as Professor Wu, but that person could still be really powerful. And Ezekiel came for investigating, not for a fight.
And just when he thought to do a tactical retreat, his way was blocked by a turbulence of sky blue energy that just dropped from out of nowhere and nearly crushed him. One misstep and he would have become as flat as a pancake. The energy was dispersed as shrouded figures burst out, landing all around him. Ezekiel was completely surrounded. There was no escape.
Laughing could be heard, echoing from wherever the stranger was hiding.
"You'll do," he said. "Such as saint as her will not stand idle when innocents are harmed. She will act, and fall into my hands."
As the stranger's voice spoke, Ezekiel conjured black energy bolts in his fists and threw them at the shrouded figures. Since he couldn't run anymore, he had to fight. He was able to blow up a few of the figures, which turned out to be a bunch of animated mannequins. But where one fell, two would take its place. There just seemed to be an endless stream of them. As they inched closer and closer to him, fear began to set in, and Ezekiel mustered all the power he had to keep them at bay.
"Yes, yes!" cackled the malevolent voice. "Tire yourself out. Let desperation overtake you! Your panic and fear will feed me!"
Just what had he gotten himself into? He thought as he continued to fight back. In the blink of an eye, he went from sleuthing to what was likely the end of the line for him. Ezekiel drew back his hand for another throw when he felt cold plastic wrap around his wrist. A mannequin had caught him. More latched onto his ankles, and he was lifted off of his feet.
"L-let go!" he cried out. "Unhand me this instant!"
Two approached, pulling a wagon by rope. On the wagon was a large steaming cauldron.
"My latest invention," said the unseen villain. "I just brewed it on a whim so even I don't know its effects. But I'm sure that it will be very interesting to watch. Eh heh heh heh!"
Ezekiel took one look of the cauldron's bubbling, toxic-looking contents, and then wriggled about, using every ounce of his strength to try to break free. But it was to no avail.
As the villain laughed triumphantly from a safe distance, one of the mannequins pulled out a ladle, scooping up some of the bubbling, swamp-green potion. The mannequin with the ladle was soon above Ezekiel, tipping the ladle above his face. Ezekiel tried to turn away, but the other mannequins forced him still as the potion began to drip down.
Was this really happening? Was this really how it was going to end for the great Ezekiel von Ghoul? He didn't even have his debut into the world of magic yet!
He closed his eyes, waiting for whatever was coming to come. And then-
Ezekiel was thrown up into the air. He opened his eyes and realized that he was falling form two stories up. His descent was interrupted by a giant inflatable cushion that appeared from a flash of silver light. At first, he couldn't understand what was happening, but when it sunk in that he had probably been saved, he laughed.
Hearing the sounds of a fight nearby, Ezekiel crawled to the edge of the cushion and peered down. A familiar man in a familiar silver gown was fighting off the mannequins with a mix of Kung Fu and magic. The impacts of his punches and kicks caused bursts of silver light, and the mannequins shattered into pieces.
"It's useless! Useless!" cried the voice of the villain. "No matter how many you destroy, I will keep making more. And no matter how many times you destroy them, they will keep coming back up! My army is infinite!"
"Infinite?" Ezekiel heard his savior say. "Infinite, you say? Well, that's a funny coincidence. You see, the word 'infinite' is in my nickname!"
Professor Wu pulled out a sheathed sword and then spun around like a top. A shock wave of silver light spread and blew all the mannequins away. He continued to dance around with his sword, sending shock wave after shock wave with each rapid, graceful swing of the weapon. To the eyes of any stranger, he would seem more like a performing acrobat rather than a combating warrior magician. Well, almost like one, if it weren't for all the explosions his shock waves were causing, totally ruining the image of grace.
Suddenly, a bolt of silver light shot from the teacher's outstretched finger and flew right by Ezekiel's left ear. Something went "boom!" beside him. Turning around, he spotted the charred remains of a mannequin. Thinking that it was done for, Ezekiel bent down for a closer look, but leaped back with a yell when the mannequin pieces and ashes gathered together and repaired themselves into one healthy mannequin. It was not the only one to revive from the dead.
"I told you it was useless!" the villain gloated. "Thanks to my genius in the magic arts, I have found a way to create an army of soldiers that will revive over and over no matter how many times they are destroyed. Cut them down all you want. You cannot destroy them!"
"I never thought that this was going to stop them," Professor Wu said before flipping a mannequin onto its back. "I was just buying time until I found what I really needed to break."
He was enveloped in silver light. When the light faded, instead of a man, a faceless man-sized doll in Professor Wu's clothes stood, waving its hand, as if to say "hello".
"What?" screamed the hiding villain. "Have my minions been downed by a single puppet this whole time?"
If that was the case, Ezekiel thought, then where was the real Professor Wu?
His question was soon answered.
"Yoo hoo!" the magic teacher called out. He was standing by a lamppost that had a magic rune drawn on it. "Guess what I found," he sang, pointing towards the rune. His fingers glowing, he flicked at the rune and it shattered like glass before disappearing.
Suddenly, all the mannequins collapsed into piles of plastic limbs, unmoving. Vapors of sky blue lifted from the pieces and then vanished into nothing.
"Now I know that I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, but come on," Professor Wu continued with a grin. "Putting a magic rune on a lamppost? Really? Anyone could see that it was right there! Even without the scrying magic on my glasses, I would have found that . . . And I'm talking to myself, because that rune's also how he was seeing and hearing everything."
Ezekiel stood motionless. He was trying to collect himself. There were a few questions that he wanted to ask the magic teacher, but only one, the most important one, managed to come out of his lips.
"Yeah?" he asked, pacing around while he held the back of his head in some kind of arm stretch.
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but do the Chinese writing circling around your wrist mean something like 'blast through wall' and 'fingernails fuse to ground'?"
"You're not wrong, Number Whatever," the magic teacher replied. "I just thought I'd add a little something to make him think twice before messing around on my turf. That, and hopefully keep him from escaping while the police are on their way."
"But who was he?" Ezekiel asked. "How did he get in here? And who was he trying to get revenge on?"
Professor Wu froze. He turned around, shooting a piercing gaze at his student.
"Someone said something about revenge?" he asked.
"Y-yes," Ezekiel stammered, a bit startled to see Professor Wu transform from his usual playful nature to a grim, frowning figure. "That person who was controlling all these puppets. There seemed to be a lot of people he had a vendetta against, but it seemed that a woman, in particular, was at the top of his list. You wouldn't happen to know who he was talking about, do you?"
Professor Wu didn't say anything at first. Ezekiel wondered if he had no intention of answering, but then realized from the way the teacher was staring at him (making funny faces like curling his lips in while moving his jaw up, that were probably meant to make him look thoughtful) that Professor Wu was actually trying to think of what to say next.
Finally, he said: "What are you doing out here at this hour? Doesn't being out of the dorms at this hour equal you getting detention, several neat stuff like game room access, revoked, and your parents getting a call?"
Ezekiel was frustrated and outraged that Professor Wu wasn't going to give him any answers, especially now being directly involved in whatever mess he was trying to clean up. And then his insides turned cold upon remembering that, despite being a childish man, he was a teacher not to be messed with. He had seen many of his peers realize the hard way that if Professor Wu said he was going to do something, he was going to do it.
"Well, I . . . uh . . . um," Ezekiel stammered. "Will you look at the time? I better get going."
He was relieved that Professor Wu didn't stop him as he ran back to his dorm room. There were still questions swirling around his head as he finally laid down for the night, like who was that mysterious attacker who controlled the mannequins? Who was this attacker after? Why was this attacker after them? All questions that would have to be answered another day, unfortunately. It would be bad if Professor Wu called his father about his rule-breaking, after all.
- Competing Magic (Chapter Four)
Nothing like a good mystery to bring a group together.
- Competing Magic (Chapter Six)
Now we see Josephine Desorciere Duncan, the Mad Witch as a teacher.