Competing Magic (Chapter Sixteen)
Ezekiel leaned back in his seat as Professor Wu was talking about the different ways mages from different countries controlled magic power without saying spells out loud, or drawing magic circles or runes. Behind Professor Wu was a video of himself shooting a bolt of energy from his fist playing on the big screen. He had made that video just last summer at a park in Hawaii.
Apparently, according to the teacher himself, while recording that video of him practicing a Chinese chi blast attack, he accidentally demolished a public restroom. Before he could get in trouble, Professor Wu quickly used a spell to reverse the damage he had done, restoring the restroom to how it was before it was blown to pieces.
But Ezekiel wasn't really paying attention to the lecture. He was thinking back to the day before when the twins approached him.
"Do you know anything about something your dad might have handled over eleven years ago?" Alice Desorciere had asked him.
"No, I don't," he had replied. He spoke the truth. But the way he replied probably made the twins not believe him. He could see the distrust in their eyes and the annoyed scowls on their faces. "What of it?"
"I-it's nothing," stammered Alice's brother.
Before Ezekiel could press further, Jacques pulled his sister away and the two ran away.
Now why would they be interested in something his father did eleven years ago? Ezekiel had wondered about that for the rest of that day. Could it have something to do with their sister? He had thought back to when he questioned Professor Wu about that Beacon Bead he found. The twins had funny looks on their faces when the magic teacher talked about before their sister joined the IGM.
As he stared at Professor Wu's slideshow, Ezekiel came to a decision. Once he had some free time, he would make a phone call to his father.
Of course, his father was too busy to come to the phone. Manfred von Ghoul was an important man, after all. Being a Guild Master and in charge of an administration comes with a lot of responsibilities. Instead of Ezekiel's father, Ezekiel got his father's secretary, instead. Ezekiel was used to this, as was the secretary, John. He and John got to know each other well over the past three years since John replaced the previous secretary, and was more than willing to tell Ezekiel whatever he wanted to know as long as he hadn't heard anything from Manfred von Ghoul.
"Something that happened eleven years ago?" the secretary said. "You'll have to be a bit more specific."
Ezekiel leaned back in his chair. He was in his dorm room with homework strewn all over the desk. He thought carefully before answering.
"Does the name Desorciere mean anything?" he finally said.
"Hold on," said John. Ezekiel could hear the rapid tip-tapping of fingers on a keyboard in the background. The secretary was probably behind a computer right now.
"Here's something," said John. "There was a politician by that name working in England at the time. But I don't see anything that relates to your father. Your father and this politician never even met each other, as far as the records show."
So he had hit a dead end. And here he thought he finally found a promising lead. Ezekiel could barely contain his disappointment.
"Huh," went John. "Speaking of England, do you remember when I told you how I was part of a government magic department's junior apprenticeship program that's sort of like the thing the IGM did?"
"Yes," Ezekiel said. Ezekiel and John have made small talk with each other plenty of times in the past. Some of those times, John talked about what he did before he became the von Ghoul secretary. Some of John's stories were particularly interesting to the young Ezekiel, such as when he helped take down a criminal magician who fed on the fear of those he put into nightmarish dreams. Ezekiel wasn't sure how much of it were exaggerations though.
"Well, I remember hearing from one of my friends at the time about how one of our fellow apprentices was kidnapped!"
Ezekiel straightened up.
"Really?" he said.
"Yeah," John replied. "I think it was around eleven or twelve years ago. It was a really unpleasant case. Some wackadoo tore a hole in the fabric of reality and tossed a girl into some horrific nightmare dimension!"
A tear in the fabric of reality and a nightmare dimension. Two things that sounded really familiar to Ezekiel. Could it be related to the portal to that world of monsters that he closed as Professor Wu? Ezekiel stared down at the Beacon Bead he had left lying beside his history textbook, and a thought crossed his mind.
"Say, John," Ezekiel said. "This program you were in, did they teach you how to make Beacon Beads?"
"Of course," said John. "They taught how to make those to every kid who joined to program. In case any of us got lost or something, us kid apprentices could use the Beacon Beads to make it easier for the adults to find us. They really drilled that part of our training into our brains. I remember my teacher making the whole lot of us write the same line over and over again until we filled ten pages! I will use the Beacon Bead when I get lost. I will use the Beacon Bead when I get lost I don't know about you, but that bit of homework gave me the worst blisters of my life!"
Ezekiel wasn't listening at that point. His mind was racing putting in everything he knew so far with the new bit of information John had given him. Could it be that Josephine Desorciere was the girl from that case eleven years ago? After all, according to Professor Wu, the Beacon Bead that Ezekiel found was made by Madame Desorciere before she joined the International Guild of Magic, which would be when she was a kid. And only people who joined that apprenticeship program John was in knew how to make those beads, a program that the girl in John's story was a part of. Maybe whoever tossed her into that monster world all those years ago was back, and he, or she, wanted revenge for some reason.
"That girl," Ezekiel said, cutting into John's mumbling of the past. "Do you know what ever happened to that girl you talked about?"
"Huh?" John snapped out of his nostalgia-induced stupor. "Oh, you mean the one tossed into that nightmare world? I heard that she was rescued by a couple of magicians. Obviously, her parents pulled her out of the program. But after that, no one really knows for sure. Some say she had gone made from the experience and was sent to the loony bin. Others believe she found a happily ever after. Probably the only thing we all agree on was that she was probably the daughter of a big, rich or important family. Normally a case like that girl's would be all over the news. But the whole thing was kept quiet, like it never happened. Only a really powerful person could do that."
"Oh? In that case, how would you know for sure that the case actually happened?" asked Ezekiel.
"Oh, that's easy," said John. "They'd just look it up in the archives. I've done it, and I was only about thirteen years old. As long as you're a member, you can have access to any of the organization's files."
There was something really wrong with the security of wherever John had learned magic, Ezekiel thought.
"Is that all you wanted to know?" John asked.
"I do have one more question," Ezekiel said. "Who was the person who would do such a thing to a kid? And why did he do it?"
"That's two questions," John corrected him. Ezekiel scowled, but it wasn't like John could see his face over the phone. "I don't know who it was. He's never been caught. If he could open up portals to other dimensions, chances are he must have escaped to another world."
That would explain why the culprit would enact revenge now of all times, Ezekiel thought. If someone was in another world, they'd lose track of time with their old world. A day in one world, could be a year in this world. It was entirely possible that only a few minutes had passed for the culprit before he returned to this world. But in that case, how in the world did he find Madame Duncan? Ten years is a long time, after all.
"I smell a rat," Ezekiel said aloud.
"Pardon?" went John.
"It's nothing," said Ezekiel. "Thank you, John. You've been really helpful."
"Always a pleasure," the secretary replied. "But Ezekiel, I've been hearing a lot of weird things have been happening around your school."
"Like how some retired villains tried to drain kids of their magic power, or like how the school somehow got caught up in a feud between two magical families. You didn't have anything to do with those, did you?"
"Of course not," said Ezekiel, putting up an innocent front. "I don't know what you could be talking about."
That, of course, was a big fat lie. Ezekiel had almost everything to do with those two incidents. He was one of those retired villains' hostages, and he was caught up right in the middle of that war between the feuding noble families from his roommate's home country.
"Really?" John said. He didn't sound convinced. "Well, just be careful. You wouldn't want your father to worry, would you? And personally, I don't want to see you get in trouble."
John could be such a worrywart sometimes, Ezekiel thought, rolling his eyes.
"Don't worry," he said. "I'll be careful."
"You do that," John said. "Oh, but before you go, there is something I forgot to mention."
"What is it?" Ezekiel asked.
"While no one knows who the culprit is, there are clues that point to the criminal being a scientist."
- Competing Magic (Chapter Fifteen)
Ezekiel gets training.
- Competing Magic (Chapter Seventeen)
Ezekiel gets into the detective's spirit.