There in the corner, encircled by shadows, was Headmaster Jules. He was a controlled man, who gave you the feeling that he was imperturbable. A former student at the school who, back in his day, was widely touted as the ideal version of a soldier. He was also rumoured to have been Nick’s teacher in his black suit days, and considered to have mastered the field of inferno magic. In other words, he was the best of the best. You can imagine how Evan felt suddenly finding him here.

“H-Headmaster Jules”, stuttered Evan.

“Evan,” the Headmaster spoke with a slight nod. “I see that I scared you. Well, that wasn’t my intention.” He said this in a soldier-like voice exhibiting no emotion, exactly as expected of someone like him.

“No need to apologize Headmaster, I didn’t properly greet you myself,” Evan said. He was getting over the initial shock of seeing a former genius soldier, and started to act like himself again. It was expected of student soldiers to show the maximum amount of respect possible for authorities such as their teacher, and especially for the Headmaster.

“Nick told me that I would find you here. You guys were going to practise this morning?”

“Yes, Headmaster. If I may ask, where is Nick? He should be here already by now.”

“He has a bad fever right now and is in the nurse’s care. Unfortunately, he will be unable to practise with you today.”

“And are you here to take his place?” Evan immediately regretted saying this. Was he implying that the Headmaster of all people, should take some time out from his industrious schedule to do some silly magic practise with him? However, the Headmaster didn’t seem to mind.

“No, unfortunately not. I am here because Nick had a very important mission scheduled today, which he cannot complete in his current condition. He has been prohibited by the nurse to even leave the bed. The mission he was supposed to complete was a A grade mission. We can’t put this one off. We need it done today. I have chosen you to take Nick’s place to complete the mission.””

“...”

The missions at the school were organized into letter grades representative of the relative difficulty of the mission. The students were given ranks which indicated the highest possible grade of mission they were allowed to complete. Students of a particular rank could be easily identified based on the colour of their suit. Those with a light blue suit are able to complete missions of up to grade E difficulty. A dark blue suit corresponded with missions of up to grade C difficulty, and a gray suit corresponded with missions of grade B difficulty. Students with a black suit, like Evan’s teacher Nick, were able to have an apprentice, as well as participate in missions of any difficulty. Grade A difficulty missions were considered emergency missions. They were rare, and the Headmaster would selectively choose who would complete these missions on a case by case basis. Due to them also being considered the most difficult of all missions, only the best of the best would be chosen to complete them.

“A g-grade A mission?” stammered Evan. “But I’m only a blue suit, I’m technically not allowed to complete missions past grade C.”

“You very well know yourself that you have abilities way beyond a blue suit level. You would be a black suit by now if it weren’t for your age. And you’ve already done numerous grade B missions before, I’m sure you remember.” It was true that Evan had done missions above his skill level quite often. Evan was very well trusted by the Headmaster and was at a skill level at which he was able to do these harder missions. Seeing his silence, the Headmaster continued.

“I would get another black suit to do it, but this mission requires an inferno user. Excluding Nick, your the only other inferno user we have.”

“Very well then, Headmaster. I will do the mission for Nick.”

“Excellent,” stated the Headmaster. He handed Evan a black file containing numerous papers. The words ‘Grade A’ were written on the label. “There’s the mission file. Read them over carefully. Meet me at my office at no later than two o’clock today.”

“Yes, Headmaster.”

“Very well then. You are a good soldier. I doubt any problems will arise. However, as this will be the hardest mission you have done so far, you would do well to really be on your guard. Don’t give any impulse to the Forbidden Utterances.” The last phrase left a eerie echo in the room. It felt out of place to hear the Headmaster saying that phrase.

“I understand. I will do my best,” Evan replied. It was then that he felt the presence of something strange in the room.. There was a familiar aura hanging in the air, but it was so subtle that he couldn’t figure out what it was. ‘A cloak spell maybe?' thought Evan.

Anyhow, it didn’t really matter. After all, the Headmaster was around, and if he wasn’t reacting at all to this, then it would probably be something trivial.

The Headmaster seemed to have noticed Evan’s change in temperament and fixed his face on Evan in a thoughtful way. There was a pause of about five seconds. Evan was just about to go crazy because of the silence when the Headmaster spoke.

“You were a lot like me when I was a soldier. I still remember some things from back then, the days when Nick was still my apprentice.”

So the rumours about Nick being the Headmaster’s apprentice were true, thought Evan. He had always wanted to ask Nick personally, but never found the courage.

“Well anyways, you may go now to study for the mission. I know it was quick change of events, but I wouldn’t tell you to do it if I didn’t think you could.”

“Yes, Headmaster,” replied Evan. “I will do my best.” And with that, Evan left. The enchanted doors opened for him and slowly closed after he was gone. The Headmaster waited for a while, seemingly staring at nothing.

Once he deemed that Evan was a safe distance away, he spoke.

“Philip, you may reveal yourself now.”

There was a whoosh of wind. In a corner of the arena, a swirl of black particles appeared and started to spin in circles around a fixed point.

A black tornado.

The shape of a human began to slowly materialize in the middle of the swirl. After a couple seconds, a boy slightly older than Evan stood where the black particles used to be. As evident by his uniform, he was also a student of the school. Moreover, he was a black suit.

“That was a close call, I thought that he had noticed me,” Philip spoke.

“He indeed did look like he felt something strange. He’s very sharp indeed. To notice traces of a cloak spell from so skilled a lightning user.”

“Evan has always been better at magic then me, even though he’s younger.”

“It indeed is incredible. I heard from the previous Headmaster in my position that he got full marks on the compatibility test. If I recall correctly, you got a 8/10.”

“Yeah, I only got 8/10. Both you and Nick also got full marks right?”

“Yes, we did. Mine was a long time ago,” the Headmaster reminisced.

“Anyway, why did I need to come here if all I’m doing is just staying invisible the entire time?”

“It’s some mental preparation I wanted you to go through. Remember how I told you earlier that you would be shadowing Evan for this mission?”

“Yes I do, Headmaster.”

There was a slight pause. The Headmaster seemed to be perusing which words to use.

“Things recently have been … hmm, quite aberrant from the expected path.”

“So you mean you feel like things are out of control?”

“Maybe in a sense. I’ve just had some strange notions towards the turn of events, especially with the mission and Nick’s sudden illness. Anyhow, all I want from you is to keep Evan under bay. That’s it.”

“I’ve shadowed numerous people before. I’m a lightning user, hiding ourselves is what we do best. What makes this time so special?”

“Like I said, I want you to be mentally prepared for this. You and Evan have been quite close for quite a while now, right?”

“Y-Yes,” Philip replied with a somewhat forced tone.

“Your composure is ebbing Philip. You’ve always been like this under pressure. You know where this conversation is going, right? This is what I mean by wanting to prepare you mentally.”

“Y-Y-Yes.” Philip’s military-like soldier voice was crumbling. Dammit, why did this have to happen in front of the Headmaster, he thought.

“Pull yourself together. Are you really going to give into it? Your going to let compassion overtake you?” the Headmaster spoke in a teacher-like manner. At the sound of the word ‘compassion’, Philip shuddered.

The Headmaster had just spoke a Forbidden Utterance like it was nothing!

Shoot, what am I doing, thought Philip. He was a soldier after all. Was he really going to give in? He pulled his regular sedateness back together.

“That’s the spirit,” spoke the Headmaster, noticing the change. “You do realize what you will need to do should Evan go off the rails, right?

“Yes, Headmaster.”

“Don’t give a second thought to your feeble little feelings. You are to eliminate him right then and there. That is an order. Understood?”

“…”

“Yes, Headmaster.”