Competing Magic (Chapter Twenty-Six)
The two owners of those two different pairs of shoes said nothing. Instead, they unleashed a relentless barrage of magic bolts at Thornton and Trent. Although their backs were to Ezekiel, he could easily imagine the merciless glints in their glaring eyes as they attacked.
Ezekiel was overcome with relief. Professor Wu and Mrs. Wu had come to the rescue once again. Together, Paladin Academy's most powerful magical couple attacked Thornton and Trent. The garden square had become a fireworks display of their explosive magical bursts, forcing Trent and Thornton to go on the defensive once again.
Professor Wu lashed out, his arm a flurry of motion as he repeatedly flicked the large fountain pen in his hand at the villainous pair. From the tip of that fancy pen was where the bolts of magical light had come from. It was the same with the twin folding fans that Mrs. Wu used in her graceful, yet fierce and swift dance.
Suddenly, the weasel looked up as if to say something to Thornton. Ezekiel couldn't hear what was being said over the crackling and popping of magic energy. It was even loud enough to drown out Madam Duncan's violin playing.
Speaking of Madam Duncan, her protecting knight was gone. It had disappeared back into her shadow to be replaced by two long purple ribbons that looped around her before sinking into the individual shadows of Professor Wu and Mrs. Wu.
Was she going into the supporting role? Ezekiel wondered as he watched the two teachers and a security head work together to push their enemies back. Maybe those ribbons she attached to the Wus' shadows was feeding them energy.
After having finished talking to his servant, Trent opened his mouth, which stretched literally to the size of a standard basketball in diameter. Smoke spilled out of his mouth and quickly filled the entire square.
Before the smoke could reach them, Mrs. Wu stopped her attack and used her fans to redirect the smoke to go around her, Professor Wu, and Madam Duncan.
Professor Wu also stopped attacking with magic bolts of energy. He drew out an elegant straight sword from thin air and swiftly moved behind Madam Duncan. The magic teacher was just in time to block a cane coming down over his friend's head with his Chinese sword. Sparks flew as the cane struck the silver blade.
Thornton emerged from the smoke, pushing away Professor Wu's sword before striking at his former students again. It was Thornton's fencing style against Professor Wu's Chinese swordsmanship, and neither side would give way to the other. Metal chimed against metal in an almost musical way. Professor Wu twirled and spun. He jabbed forward again and again only for his sword to get batted away by Thornton's cane.
While Thornton kept Professor Wu busy, Mrs. Wu charged at the weasel. She sent a bolt of energy that exploded at the weasel's feet. The weasel hopped away from the destruction and landed just a few feet away from Ezekiel.
Trent glanced back. For a moment he and Ezekiel's eyes met. And then Trent's eyes narrowed while his weasel lips curled into a malicious grin.
Trent grew to the size of an adult lion. Horns emerged from the side of his head, while his fur sank into his body, turning into thick, stone-like hide. And as a final feature of his transformation, his front paws looked like they had become gauntlets with metal plating that sported rusted iron hooks for claws.
Ezekiel's heart started racing the moment that evil smile formed on Trent's weasel face. And it only got worst when Trent became that monster.
Trent lunged for Ezekiel, huge, sharp teeth bared as if to tear Ezekiel to pieces. But then a bolt of lightning cut in front of the monster causing an explosion that sent out a strong shock wave that swept the monster off of his feet and sent him flying in the air.
Madam Duncan danced her way between Ezekiel and Trent. She didn't miss a beat as she played the violin at the same time. Her eyes were trained on the giant, horned weasel, and they were as cold as ice. She put a pause in her performance only to say this to the enemy of her, the other Star Mages, and Veronica Waldenburg:
"You've threatened and endangered enough children."
Trent and Madam Duncan glared at each other.
"Hey!" shouted Mrs. Wu.
The giant, horned weasel turned around. Mrs. Wu stood behind him with her arms raised high in the air. Between the two folding fans she was holding was a huge ball of smoke circling around itself.
"Have a taste of your own poison!" Mrs. Wu shouted. She hurled the smoke ball at Trent and then added her own ball of pink smoke.
Trent managed to dodge the first ball of smoke, but was struck right in the forehead with the second. His entire head was submerged into the pink smoke, and no matter how much he writhed around, he couldn't get it off. He hacked and coughed, suffocating from the magic smoke. But still, he managed to give one final order to his servant.
"Thornton!" he choked. "Save me! And retreat!"
Hearing his master's orders, Thornton broke away from his duel with Professor Wu and ran to Trent's side. He used his cane to cut through the pink smoke, coating the cane with supernatural energy that caused the smoke to break and disappear.
Trent took several deep gasps of breath before finally glaring up at the trio of mages with teary eyes filled with hatred.
"Don't think this is over!" he snarled. "I will be victorious!"
A wall of light appeared behind them which they began to walk right into.
"Oh no you don't!" Professor Wu shouted.
He ran after them, becoming a literal bullet-fast streak of light. But although he was fast, he was not fast enough. Before he, as a streak of light could catch the retreating enemies, Thornton waved his cane and conjured another wall of light in Professor Wu's path. Only a nano-second had passed between Professor Wu becoming a bolt of light and the explosion from his collision against Thornton's wall.
By the time Ezekiel's vision was cleared of colorful sparks induced by the blinding flash of light from the explosive collision, Thornton and Trent had sunk into the wall of light and disappeared with it.
Professor Wu was thrown back from the collision. It was the first time ever for Ezekiel to see the teacher lose balance and fall flat on his back, unintentionally.
With a pained grimace, Professor Wu gingerly picked himself up off the ground. He let out a frustrated growl and hammered his fist once against the pavement, which was, again, another new sight for Ezekiel. That bout of tantrum from the magic teacher left a small crater in the ground.
Ezekiel, for the most part, was relieved to see Thornton and that monster weasel, Trent, gone. He took a deep breath in, realizing that he had been holding his breath for nearly the whole battle, and felt his muscles relaxed after being tense for so long.
Madam Duncan slowly went over to Professor Wu and held out a hand to help him up.
"Are you okay?" the magical violinist asked as she pulled her friend up.
"I should be asking you that," Professor Wu said, sending the question right back at his helper.
"Yeah," said Mrs. Wu as she made the duo of adults into a trio. "You used some powerful magic. There's no backlash?"
Madam Duncan shrugged, facing away.
Both Wu's eyes half-narrowed with suspicion. They looked like they had something more to say but they were interrupted by the sounds of someone's muffled screams.
"Oh! I nearly forgot!" Madam Duncan exclaimed.
She clapped her hands twice and Ezekiel was suddenly submerged in fresh, cool air. Bright light from the sun hit his eyes as the purple cocoon dissolved around him.
Professor Wu and Mrs. Wu rushed over to Ezekiel and Sarah's side, barraging them with questions.
"Are you okay?"
"What were you doing here?"
"What did Thornton want with you?"
"That ugly vermin and Thornton didn't do anything to you, did they?"
"Did they say anything to you?"
"Why do you have cat ears?"
"Are you hurt anywhere?"
"Seriously, you look like you're turning into a cat. What's up with that?"
Why was Professor Wu asking about cats? Ezekiel wondered as he gaped at him. Sometimes the magic teacher just didn't make any sense. But then -
"Whoa!" went Sarah.
He turned around wondering what Sarah's outburst was about and saw giant cat with a vivid red pelt gawking at him with her jaws dropped. The cat wore the school's uniform for the girls.
"What in the world?" Ezekiel exclaimed, taking a step back in surprise. His arms were raised into his line of sight, and he realized that they were covered in black fur.
A dreadful thought crossed his mind, and he rushed over to the fountain. There, his fears were realized. Across the water's surface where his handsome reflection should have been shown, was the image of a black cat wearing a Paladin Academy blazer. His feline eyes were wide, and his mouth was open in an expression of horror.
How did this happen? He wondered as he stared at his reflection. When did he transform? And why a cat? Wait a minute. Cats! Wasn't there someone here whose animal symbol was the cat?
Ezekiel swiveled around to Madam Duncan who was looking up at the sky while innocently whistling. When she noticed Ezekiel's gaze on her, she stopped, looked him square in the eye, and said:
"Is something the matter?"
After being cured of the effect Madam Duncan's protective cocoon had over them, Sarah and Ezekiel told their teachers everything, from being threatened by Thornton, to hearing him out about the scientist and his master's goals. Madam Duncan sat a few feet away on one of the stone benches doing some music exercises with her violin while Professor Wu and Mrs. Wu had Ezekiel and Sarah's full, undivided (almost) attention.
Sometimes while Ezekiel and Sarah talked, Professor Wu would glance somewhere else. Sometimes it was to Madam Duncan, but most other times it was to follow some small bug that had flown by his face. He was especially interested in the mosquitoes and seemed intent to eliminate any and all in his presence. But even with these distractions, he still seemed to get the gist of everything.
After telling the adults their story, Ezekiel and Sarah were allowed to go on their way. Upon reaching the exit, they found Veronica, Maxwell, and the others all waiting for them with worried looks on their faces. Apparently, while on their way to their next class, they spotted Mrs. Wu rushing towards Emrys Hall, clenching folding fans in each hand. Mrs. Wu usually only had those out when she was fighting, so of course, Veronica realized that something must have been wrong.
They all listened in astonishment as Ezekiel and Sarah regaled to them the tale of their meeting with Thornton and what happened after with the unexpected appearance of the evil weasel called Trent. Their listeners gobbled everything up, tensing up when things got serious, and looked visibly relieved once the storytellers reached the part of the heroes' arrival.
"So the Star Mages have everything figured out now?" Jacques asked.
"Don't you mean that we have everything figured out now?" he said with a visible glower. "If it wasn't for my quick thinking, we might have never learned of their true plans!"
"What do you mean by your quick thinking?" Sarah cut in with a scowl of her own.
"Neither of us had a choice."
"Yes, well, if I hadn't decided that it was better not fight Thornton and just listen to what he had to say, we probably wouldn't have learned anything," Ezekiel said, hands to his hips while standing proud.
"I'm pretty sure Thornton could have just stopped you in your tracks with just a snap of his fingers and made you listen to him anyway," Sarah said, rolling her eyes.
Ezekiel glared at her.
"So it's all over now?" Veronica asked.
Sarah turned to her roommate and shook her head.
"Not yet," she said. "James and the others managed to chase Thornton and Trent away, but there's still that scientist and his machine."
Sarah was right. This thing wasn't going to be over until the scientist was caught and his plans all turned to scrap garbage.
And that happy end happened the very next day when news spread that Doctor Smith had been discovered beneath the stadium putting the finishing touches of a very dangerous machine. He was quickly subdued by security and the machine was turned off, permanently. Because of the machine's presence, the whole stadium as closed down for a complete and thorough investigation while Doctor Smith was locked up in jail. With the stadium no longer usable, another stadium was set up for the games.
After the Desorciere Twins relayed to everyone this news, Ezekiel said to everyone:
"Now it's all over."
"That was quite a good performance, if I do say so myself."
The one who spoke was a white-furred weasel. He walked side-by-side with a sharply dressed, elderly gentleman with a Fedora hat and T-shaped cane. No one, not the students in yellow uniforms, nor the teachers in their old, patched suits noticed the odd pair passing along the road, shielded from the sun by the large trees that lined the sides. It's as if the duo were invisible to everyone in the world.
Thornton, the old man, was silent.
Undeterred, the weasel, Trent kept talking.
"By now, those fools must have found our little present. They should have no idea that he's just an innocent man, and that the true culprit behind the monster attacks is still free as a bird."
That's right. Everything that Ezekiel and Sarah had been through at the garden square was all planned by Trent, the weasel. And he couldn't be happier for it. This was probably the first time that the old man had ever seen Trent smile before in his long years of servitude beneath him.
But what was the purpose of this big act of trying to kidnap two kids and then get in a fight with their super-powered magical teachers, you might ask? Why, obviously -
"With this, our friend, the culprit won't have to worry and can get on with his part of our master plan to get rid of those irritating bugs, the Star Mages James Wu, May Wu, Rose Woods, and Josephine Duncan! They won't know what hit them until it's too late!"
- Competing Magic (Chapter Twenty-Five)
The big boss villain turns out to be a small weasel. What happens next?
- Competing Magic (Chapter Twenty-Seven)
Ezekiel learns more about the past during a late night stroll.