Competing Magic (Chapter Seven)
Sarah Wu was already waiting outside of the door to Professor Wu's office when Ezekiel entered the lecture hall.
"So, how do you want to do this?" she asked. "It's not like we can just walk up to him in his office and ask him what's going on."
"Actually, that is exactly how I wanted to do this," said Ezekiel. He had thought about just using the new power he copied from Sarah to peek into the past, but that would probably get him into trouble with the teacher who would absolutely take that power away if he ever found out that Ezekiel had it. And besides, it would also be too much of a bother for Ezekiel to have to explain to everyone how he could do something like copy other people's powers, which was something even his father doesn't know.
"Right, and then you can ask him for the keys to his car," Sarah said with unfiltered sarcasm.
"Professor Wu doesn't drive," Ezekiel responded. "And besides, although childish, insane, and moronic at an inhuman level, I'm sure he is at least someone who would listen to reason."
Ezekiel paused, noticing Sarah was looking over his shoulder.
"He's right behind me, isn't he?"
"Yup," was her answer.
Ezekiel turned around and there was Professor Wu, leaning against the frame of the doorway with his arms crossed.
"Well, I know who I'm gonna make the center of my next joke," he said.
Oh, great, Ezekiel thought.
"But we'll get to that, later," the magic teacher said. "Judging from your conversation I was totally eavesdropping on, you wanted to talk to me about something. What?"
Sarah and Ezekiel exchanged looks before Sarah did the talking.
"We want to know what's going on," she said. "We saw something during Madame Duncan's performance."
"I'm sure you did," said Professor Wu. "It's called illusion magic."
"Not that," Sarah snapped. "Something else. And I think you know what. I know how much you don't like playing games. I'm the same. So just cut to the chase and tell us what's up."
"And what will you do if I tell you?" Professor Wu asked. His eyes turned cold. "Actually, what can you do? Can you stop a squad of evil frost giants from freezing a whole town? Do you know how to banish a dragon lord into a pocket dimension without getting burned?"
"Well . . . " Sarah said. She struggled to get more words out of her mouth, but she just couldn't think of what to say.
"Could you have stopped June and Richard Starlington from getting separated at different corners of the world?"
Sarah closed her mouth.
"What about you, Number Whatever?" Professor Wu asked Ezekiel next. "Could you have stopped the fighting between the Montgomery family and the Chaplin family? If so, I would love to hear how."
Ezekiel glowered at the magic teacher. But like Sarah, he said nothing. He couldn't. Back when he and the others were dragged into the feud between the Chaplins and Montgomerys, things didn't go so well when they were trying to help June and Richard Starlington.
"What about with Winston Thornton?" Professor Wu continued. "Do you think you could stand a chance against him? Because it didn't look that way to me the last time around."
Sarah bit on her lower lip.
"Alright, we get your point," said Ezekiel.
"Do you? Do you really? Because the last time you kids tried butting in when you should have left things to the adults, Sarah, you ended up nearly blowing yourself up. And you, Number Whatever, just stared helplessly after being tossed around like a rag doll. Even after all that, you think you can do something about Josephine's problem?"
Ezekiel could feel anger stewing in his stomach. That magic teacher didn't need to bring that up. To Ezekiel, that just wasn't fair. There was no way for Ezekiel to argue back.
Feeling defeated, Ezekiel turned to retreat. But Sarah had other ideas.
"What about you?" Sarah said. "We were all kidnapped under your watch, weren't we? We get it. We can't do anything on our own. But we can't rely on you for everything either. You've already slipped up once, and it'll happen again. We'll need to be prepared to take care of ourselves when it does. And besides, what if it involves Veronica like last time did? Veronica is our friend. I think we all deserve to at least know what's going on with our friend. Don't you?"
Brother and sister locked eyes. Professor Wu's face was unreadable, but there was no mistaking the look of determination on Sarah Wu's. And then -
"What are you doing?" Sarah asked her brother as he put a stuffed wolf doll on top of her head.
"That thing I was talking about earlier was about texting Mom," he said. "You know how the school's supposed to be sending out weekly progress reports to parents of kids who didn't do so great the last term?"
Because of the whole mess with the Montgomery family and Chaplin family, Ezekiel and the others had a hard time concentrating on their exams. As a result, both Sarah and Maxwell had less than stellar grades on their report cards. Ezekiel and Veronica, on the other hand, being the geniuses that they were, were able to keep up decent grades, albeit a little lower than before. Sarah's other schoolwork was good enough to make up for the exam scores, but Maxwell had to retake all of his exams. Still, neither of their parents were exactly thrilled about this.
Professor Wu poked the doll's nose and the doll opened its mouth, belching: "You forgot to study."
"You're not doing so great in Literature," he said. "It wasn't bad, but according to the teacher, it didn't seem like you were concentrating all that much. So, she wanted me to make sure you're studying properly."
"And you're doing that by putting a burping wolf doll on my head?"
"That wolf doll is enchanted to remind you to pay attention and to study," Professor Wu said. "If it senses you forgetting to study or do your homework, or if you're mind starts to wander, it does the belching thing. It's Mom's idea. Not mine."
Sarah tried to get the doll off of her head. She tried shaking it off, and then she tried pulling it off. But nothing seemed to be working.
"This isn't funny, James," she said. "Get this thing off!"
"Sorry, no can do," her brother said. "My hands are tied."
"Come on, James, I can't go to class looking like this!" Sarah said. "Seriously, how is a belching doll going to help me get my grades up anyway?"
Professor Wu shrugged.
"I guess the threat of public embarrassment is a good motivator or something? Anyway, it'll only be like that if you slack off with schooling. As long as you keep up your studies, it'll stay like this."
Professor Wu snapped his fingers and silver sparks hit the doll. In a flash of silver light, the doll on Sarah's head had become a silver-color hairband. He snapped his fingers again and the hairband became a wolf doll again that opened its maw, unleashing a loud belch that echoed throughout the lecture chamber. Then it started burping the English Alphabet.
"Get this thing off of me, James!" Sarah demanded.
"Sure, when Mom gets your report card at the end of the term," Professor Wu said with a wide grin on his face. "Well, I have to go to a meeting right now. Have a nice day!"
"James! Hold on! James!"
Professor Wu ignored his sister at that point and walked out of the lecture hall. The doors closed behind him.
Livid red in the face, Sarah furiously tried to yank the doll off of her head again, but that wolf pup was going nowhere. She even tried to burn it off with a flamethrower spell. But all that did was leave the doll steaming as it burped a Nineties boy band song.
"One of these days, he's going to get what's coming to him!" she swore. "Those hints we got better be worth this."
"Hints?" Ezekiel asked. He wondered what Sarah could be talking about. "What hints?"
"Weren't you paying attention?" she said. "He said something about this being Josephine's problem. As in this is a problem of Madame Duncan's."
"I see," said Ezekiel. "What's the other hint? I'm guessing there's another hint since you said 'hints' which is plural."
"This doll," said Sarah, poking the stuffed animal on her head. "May told me that whenever James gives someone a present, there's usually some kind of protective charm or spell on it. I'm guessing that the real reason he gave this to me is because he wanted to make sure I have something that'll keep me safe. And if he's giving me something to protect me, it's a safe bet that something's going to happen around me, or Veronica. Even my mom's not so obsessed with my grades that she'd have James threaten me with public embarrassment. I think."
"Well, your mother could have been joking in her text message," Ezekiel said. "But knowing how much of a moron your brother can get, it would not surprise me if he took it literally."
"You're . . . not wrong there."
So, it was a problem of Merlin Institute's music teacher. Now that was a huge hint, Ezekiel thought. Probably the hugest hint ever to be found. With this, Ezekiel knew where to start looking. But before that, there was something else he had to look for.
"What?" Sarah asked when she noticed him staring.
"Nothing," Ezekiel quickly replied. "It's just that you look absolutely ridiculous with that thing on your head."
"Ugh!" Sarah groaned. "Just how do you get this thing to turn back into a hairband?"
As soon as she said that, silver light engulfed the doll and it became a hairband once more.
"Well, I have to go," Ezekiel said after checking his watch.
"Huh? Go where?" asked Sarah.
"Just to the library," he said. "There's some research I have to do for a paper."
"Oh. Okay. Then I guess I'll just head back to the dorms. I don't really feel like doing much of anything. Jeez, James can be such a jerk sometimes."
After parting ways with Sarah Wu, Ezekiel made his way to the library. As he walked, the anger and frustration he got from talking with Professor Wu made his stomach churn. He couldn't get what Professor Wu said out of his head. As much as it pained Ezekiel to admit it, the moronic magic teacher was right. For all his talent and magical knowledge that be boasted about to his peers, there was nothing he could have really done that day with the Montgomery family and the Chaplin family. He and the others had to be rescued by Professor Wu and his wife, again.
Ezekiel understood better than anyone since that day how helpless he was, and he was sick and tired of it. So, for almost all summer, he had been hitting the magic books, practicing new spells, and making use of his power to copy other people's skills to become more powerful. But it just didn't seem enough for him. None of the books he could get his hands on had any really impressive magic spells. And there was no way that he could try and copy any of his father's powers, or the powers of the magicians working under his father. If he tried, he was sure he would be caught in an instant.
Maybe there's something at the library, he thought. There must be a book there with the kind of magic spells that he was looking for. After all, this school is the world famous Paladin International Academy of All Sciences.
- Competing Magic (Chapter Six)
Now we see Josephine Desorciere Duncan, the Mad Witch as a teacher.
- Competing Magic (Chapter Eight)
Frustrated at his own weakness, Ezekiel heads to the library to learn more.