• Aaron Shim

Arrogance of Wizardry

The shop door opened as a middle-aged man with a soaked coat entered. The man walked straight up to the counter without looking at the products. The shop owner recognized him and went into the back of the room. They were old friends. The shopkeeper was once a powerful Wielder, but had lost his job when he misused his abilities. Now, he worked in this shop, which was supported by the government. He sold magical objects to qualified Wielders.

A few moments later, the middle-aged man left the shop with a small bag in his hands. He turned the corner and went into an apartment house. As he unlocked the door he took off his wet shoes and his coat. At the front door a message appeared, letters hovering in mid-air, asking him if he was available tonight. The man waved his hand, spoke a few words and the message disappeared.

The man’s name was Stanley Grover. He was forty-seven years old living in a run-down apartment in the Zaekidia empire. Like a few other people, he had magical powers. When he was young his parents often reminded him that his powers were extremely rare, and gravely serious. His parents had left the house on a voyage and tragically never returned. Stanley Grover had lived all his life, since fifteen, alone. He had a few friends, but felt none of them were as smart as him. Grover had graduated from an elite Magical Arts School and had become a teacher. However, now, he was jobless, but not without a purpose.

The Zaekidia Empire had many types of people. Slaves who had to work full time and barely got enough to eat, the middle-classes, and the top-class rich people right below the royal family.

After a quick break, Stanley Grover prepared to leave the house. He had to look sharp for tonight. He waved over his new black coat and waved his hand to bring his shoe out. These minor powers were not even close to what he could do. He was going to show the people what he was capable of that night. He brought his small bag and went outside. The rain had stopped. Grover jumped over the puddles and slowly started walking west. He entered a small building.

Passing by an elevator, he went instead to the far side of the corridor and mumbled a few words. Nothing happened for a few seconds. Then, the wall transformed into a portal. The portal was shaped like an entrance to the cave. In the middle, there was a white and blueish milky substance. Grover slowly stepped into the portal, and a step later he was entering a deep cavern.

He saw a few friends and waved. Chris Kedwoods walked over and greeted him. Two others also came to greet him. All were graduates from the same Magical Arts School. They could all Wield. But tonight, they would see that Grover was the strongest. However, there was one problem. Keepers. Agents assigned by the king who prohibited everyone from using magic the wrong way. If someone was caught using magic unnecessarily, there were consequences.

Grover took out the thing inside his small bag. It was a small metallic chain. In the middle of the chain, there was a small stone. Zenonite. The stone glowed light blue. Everyone held their breath as he put it in his hand. Everyone knew what it was. It was only given to the strongest Wielders. Grover had just passed the Avepacaite Trials. It was known as the hardest test to become a true magic Wielder. It had taken him three years after he quit the job as a teacher. None of his friends had passed the test yet. Grover summoned light into his hands and all the lights disappeared from the room. He released the light from the chain and the light came back.

Everyone gasped. They were all powerful Wielders, but they had never seen someone perform this level of magic. The crowd stood still. Grover raised the stone and mumbled a few words. The wind came rushing into the cavern. People held onto their chairs or tables to stop from flying away. Grover grinned. He was officially one of the most powerful Wielders in the country. No one would be able to stop him. Suddenly loud footsteps rang through the cavern tunnel. Damn. Grover was so focused on showing off that he had forgotten about the keepers.

The crowd started to disperse as fast as they gathered. However, Grover didn’t flee. He murmured a few words and the chairs and the tables flew to the door, blocking the entrance. It was his chance to prove that no one could defeat him. Grover gathered his light power as the keepers used their magic to try to break through the barrier. When the keepers finally came through, he controlled all light power and shot it. He expected the light to shoot and hit them. However, all the light just returned to its place. Crap. Now he was in trouble. He started to run towards the other side but soon fell as the keeper’s wind tripped him. Grover was not prepared. He still didn’t know how to control all his magic. Another wind power tugged at his leg. Grover used all his anger and tried to control the keeper’s wind. When it seemed like it was going to work, something hit him on the head and the world went black.

When the color of the world returned to his eyes, Grover found himself on a white bed. He frantically looked for his Zenonite. When he didn’t find the chain on his wrist, he panicked. What if the keepers had taken his gem? He looked in his pocket and found the gem. It was still glowing light blue. He breathed a sigh of relief. When he stood up, he realized how fancy the bedroom looked. It had glowing diamonds all over the ceiling and the chandelier was made of gold. When he turned around, he realized that the bed he was on was also extremely fancy. Confusion went through his mind. This was not his room. He tried to remember things. Magic. Zenonite. Cavern. Keepers… then with a devastating realization, he figured out where he finally was. He was inside the grand castle of the Zaekidia Empire.

He first thought about why the royal family had brought him here. According to the law, the punishment for the use of magic could be as harsh as being stripped from all types of magic. His second thought was about the royal family. Everyone knew they were corrupted. The royal family smuggled in products from other countries for their good. None of them had magic, but the King had royal guards who knew how to wield magic. His third thought was that he should get out of the palace. As well as corrupted, the King was also a bit out of his mind. He barely paid attention to his kingdom and only did what he wanted to do. If Grover didn’t want trouble, he should leave. His fourth thought was that he should take the palace for himself. He laughed at the idea. He would be insane to try. After a few moments, he decided to go insane. He took the Zenonite and kicked the doors open. He faced a long corridor lined with pictures. He was standing in the biggest and the grandest corridor in the whole empire. The side walls were lined with portraits of the past kings. He also realized how close he was to the royal chamber where the royal family lived. With his skills, he could easily overcome the guard and take the throne for himself.

As he walked through the corridor, he suddenly had a flashback of the cavern. How he was easily overpowered by two keepers. But, he wasn't knocked out by their attack. Someone or something else had hit him at the back of his head. He kept reminding himself that nobody was smarter or more powerful than him. As he confidently strode towards the royale chamber, he started hearing footsteps. It was coming right from the corner. He moved closer to the wall and crept slowly. The footsteps became louder and clearer. It was the Wielders. He could sense their power even from this distance. He started grabbing the wind from behind. He made them into a ball and concentrated on pure power. The last time he tried the same thing with the light, it failed miserably. However this time, he focused more on throwing the pure power towards the target rather than just flailing wildly. As soon as he turned around the corner, he focused on the Wielder and shot. This time, the wind formed into a tunnel and shot towards the guard. The guard didn’t realize what was coming until the pure wind hit him straight at the back. The opposition cursed as the pure wind flung him backward. Then, Grover gathered water from the fountain and flung it towards the guard. This time, he was so happy and unfocused that the water just trickled in front of the guard.

The guard got up to his feet. He glared at Grover. He wasted no time and flew a nearby lantern at him. Grover barely managed to dodge only to see a vase hurtling towards him. The vase hit him straight in the face. As Grover groaned, the guard got ready for his third attack. However, this time, using pure hatred, Grover controlled the shattered vase pieces and threw them at the guard. Pure red power drove the pieces to the guard. He had no chance. The shattered glass dove into the guard’s flesh, making him scream. Just for a brief moment, Grover’s Zenonite had turned red. He had killed a royal guard. Nobody could handle him. Grover cackled with joy and laughter. He confidently strode to the chamber, throwing everything in his path to the wall.

When he was about to smash the royal chamber’s wall into pieces, something tugged at his feat. It was wind power. He was mildly annoyed. He could just kill another guard. But when he turned around, he didn’t face any guard. His friend, Chris Kedwoods stood behind him.

Grover drank a sip of coffee. Chris did the same. They sat in a cafe. A few awkward seconds passed.

Grover said, ”why did you stop me?”

“You were getting out of control.”

“I was not. I felt power, Chris.”

“You were getting out of control. Your Zenonite had turned red. Only one other person shared that experience. You know who he is.”

“Chris, I am not going to be like him. I can control power. I felt pure energy Chris.”

“Your Zenonite. You would have lost it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I knocked you unconscious. I tried to drag you to safety, but I didn’t have enough time. I only had time to get your Zenonite before the keepers did.”

“Why did you knock me out? I was going to beat them.”

“You were not!”

“I killed one of them just now. I am the strongest Wielder! Nobody can stop me!”

“You killed? Your Zenonite. It’s turning red again. Grover, you are losing.”

“I am not. I am invincible!”

“You are LOSING CONTROL!”

Grover finally lost it. He flung the table right at Chris and hurled him through and out of the window. Chris was a good Wielder. However, Grover was using hatred as power again. Chris couldn’t handle that much power. Chris smashed through the window onto the road. Grover started smashing everything around him. He was blind. But he liked the power. He used it and used it and used it. He smashed the wall into pieces and strode outside. He heard the keepers coming outside. But he didn’t care. He smashed the floor beneath into shatters and dove inside.

Chris sat against the windowsill. He stared at the TV, devastated. His friend, Grover. Grover had attacked him. Grover had almost killed him. Grover, his best friend. The news only added to his devastation. “Rampage in the cafe. 12 heavily injured, 1 dead. Criminal is reported to be, Stanley Grover”

Grover’s head throbbed. After he went underground, he walked a few miles to put distance between him and the police. After that, he slept. He was so tired after his burst of energy that he was barely able to move. Now his head hurts like hell. He tried to remember things. Chris, cafe, Zenonite, oh no. Chris Kedwoods. What had he done? Power. He had felt power. However, Chris was right. He hadn’t controlled magic. Magic had controlled him. Now, god knows what happened to Chris. Grover was a killer. A murderer.

As Grover walked around, his mind was torn into two. Should he go back and give in, or should he go away. In the end, he chose neither. His arrogance got the better of him. He decided to go back and take the throne. That was the only way to live in the Zaekidia Empire. And now, everyone knew that he was powerful.

His plan was simple. He would go through the sewage. Then, he would enter the palace from the bottom. He would kill some guards and become the emperor. It would be easy. He was the most powerful Wielder after all.

A few hours later, Grover stood inside the royale palace for the second time. This time, he was going to kill everyone. As he gathered wind, he felt pain in his arm. He realized once again that the Zenonite had turned red. However, instead of sensation, he felt terrible pain. His arm hurt like hell. He tried to grab the wind, but it only made his arm hurt. Footsteps started to become louder. The guards had come to check on the intruder. Grover couldn’t fight. He was strong, but right now, his arm hurts too much. He decided to back up. He used wind to open the gates. He couldn’t go back underground. He ran. He ran towards his house. When he finally arrived, the scene devastated him. His house was surrounded by guards and keepers. He was stuck. He couldn’t get out of the city, but he had nowhere else to go. Then, one place flashed in his mind. This was a big risk. But he had no choice. He headed to Chris Kedwoods’s house.

When he arrived at Chris’s house, he expected no one to be there. Chris lived alone and he was probably in the hospital. However, he found two unfamiliar people. He guessed them to be Chris’s parents. They had the same dark blue eyes. He didn’t see any policemen. He wandered around the place, wasting time. His plan was to go up to Chris and apologize. Maybe Chris would forgive him.

His plan was shattered when Chris appeared with two other keepers. Grover cursed under his breath. If the keepers were guarding Chris, Grover had no chance of even getting close. Grover tried his magic. Nope. His arm still felt like it was going to melt. After a few more minutes of thinking, he decided to try something stupid. He still had his phone, surprisingly. The frame was broken, but the phone still worked. He recorded him saying, “I see the criminal! There’s Grover!” He maxed out the volume and put it inside a bush far away from the house. Then, he pressed the play button. As his voice came out, the two keepers tried to locate the sound. They said something to Chris and ran out of the building. The plan was extremely sloppy. Chris might have decided to follow the keepers. However this time, Grover was in luck. Chris stayed where he was. Grover slowly approached the building. When Chris saw him, he looked sad. Grover realized that Chris’s left arm was completely bandaged. Chris basically looked like a living mummy. As Grover walked towards him, Chris didn’t shout to the keepers, nor did he run away. He stood right there and met Grover.

Grover honestly thought that Chris may refuse his apology. But he still couldn’t stand it when Chris said that Grover couldn’t stay at his house. The only reason was because he was unstable. Grover was unstable. Grover tried to explain, but the keepers were coming back. They had Grover’s phone in their hands. Grover didn’t have time. He pleaded as his last attempt, but Chris didn’t budge. Grover had no choice. He ran towards the other side as fast as possible.

When Grover finally stopped running, he realized that he was lost. He had never been outside of the Zaekidia Empire before. Last time, he was technically connected to the Zaekidia Empire’s sewage system. Now, he was completely lost in the dark. He was in a forest. He dug up his memory and remembered that the place was called Bloodhill. It was named when the Zaekidia Empire won a war against the Anarshan Empire. The Anarshan Empire also had Wielders, but in the end, they were massacred right where Grover was standing. Grover sat down in a nearby tree trunk. His last plan had miserably failed. Now, he was in a worse position than before. He tried to think, but his mind wouldn’t respond. He finally admitted defeat to his brain and decided to go to sleep.

Grover did not have any idea. He definitely didn’t have a plan. He didn’t know what to do. One option was to live in the forest forever. The second option was heading back to the Zaekidia Empire and claiming the throne. The third option was heading to the Anarshan Empire. They resented people from the Zaekidia Empire. However, if Grover told them that he could destroy the Zaekidia Empire, they might provide shelter. He drew numbers one to three on the ground. He couldn’t decide what to choose, so he would let nature choose. He would rest and let leaves settle, and then select the number where most leaves had fallen by day’s end. He had all the time in the world.

Zero, Zero, and Zero. Wow. None of the numbers had any leaves. Grover tossed the leaves using wind, but was rewarded with a sharp pain in his shoulder. Grover had no choice. He had to go back to the Zaekidia Empire. His arm was getting worse by the day.

He started trotting back towards the Zaekidia Empire. He should have left some marks behind just in case. Now, he didn’t know where he was going. He thought he was going the right way, but it was hard to be sure since there were trees everywhere. He realized how devastated he was. His original arrogance had faded away. He was still angry and he was also still confident that he would kill everyone, but he was still dampened. He rested for a bit. His pack was running out. He skipped sleeping and walked on. The sound of the twigs crunching under his feet sounded like his lifeline being sacked bit by bit.

His worries came true. For a few glorious seconds, he thought he had made it back to the Zaekidia Empire. Too soon did he realize that he hadn’t. The structures were the same, but the color scheme and the ground had a different feeling. He had arrived. But not at the Zaekidia Empire. He had arrived at the Anarshan Empire, the greatest enemy of Zaekidia.

As soon as he entered the realm of the empire, he felt different. The whole place had a dry feeling. Almost nobody was outside. He only saw a few beggars. He was devastated. For the last week, nothing had worked out properly for him. He had failed to get shelter in Chris’s house. Now, he had tried to return to the Zaekidia Empire, but had ended up with it’s greatest enemy. He didn’t know what to do. He needs food desperately. But he didn’t know anyone in the empire. His head hurt. His whole body ached. And he didn’t have a single idea on what to do.

He decided to find a hotel that he could stay in. If this place was half the same as the Zaekidia Empire, it would have a hotel. As a bonus, nobody in this empire knew who he was, so he could pretend to be anyone. Maybe he could claim to be a magician. He was fairly sure that no one in this empire knew magic. Or maybe he could become a zoo keeper. He laughed at the idea of taking care of animals.

He found a nearby hotel called ZoneIn. He really needed time to zone in on his mind and figure out what to do. So, he went inside. It wasn’t a fancy hotel. He could deal with that though. He soon realized that he had much more problems. First, he didn’t have any money. He had Zaekidian money, but Anarshans probably used another currency. Second, the Anarshans had a thick accent. He only noticed that when he walked up to the counter he was greeted by a man who said, “Jood Efternuun, Mister.” Grover didn’t know that the Anarshans had a different language. Therefore, he decided to go silent. He couldn’t let other people be suspicious of him. He just waved and pointed at a slot that said “1 person, 1 month”. The receptionist raised his eyebrow, but nodded and asked his name. Grover had to speak now. He tried to remember the accent. The man had switched G with J, and A with E. Grover decided to risk using his real name and answered, “Jrover.” The receptionist nodded and led him toward the elevator. There, he was led by a middle aged man. He asked, “Do you carry any luggage with you?”

Grover said no. They told him that he was to stay in A-5 and left him there to wait for the elevator. Grover really hoped that he didn’t get caught. If he did, he would be dead before he even had a plan. The elevator dinged and he got on. There was a small TV built on the top of the elevator. The next news shocked Grover. Not shocked, horrified. The news said “A man missing from Zaekidia Empire. Name, Stanley Grover.” And next to that, there was a giant picture of him.

He hadn’t expected anyone to even care about what was happening in the Zaekidia Empire. But now, everyone knew who he was. There were two possibilities. First, police in the Anarshan Empire might come to get him. Second, the people in this empire might choose to help him. He didn’t know what to do. He tried his magic. It still hurt. He went inside his room. It was quite big. He first went to the fridge and gathered all the food he could get. He put them all in his bag and prepared to leave in case anybody attacked. He opened the window and checked the distance between him and the ground. It was not too far since his room was on the second floor just above the lobby. For a few minutes, nothing happened. When he finally thought nobody even noticed that Stanley Grover was him, there was a knock on the door. He heard people shuffling outside. He didn’t know what to do. When he was about to jump outside, he heard somebody shout, “Stanley Grover? We know you are in. We want to help you. We aren’t going to capture you.” Grover didn’t know if it was a lie or not. He decided to open the door. He expected somebody to stab him, but two people wearing cloaks awaited him.

A few hours later, he was standing with the two men wearing cloaks. They were in a dark alley. The two men introduced themselves as Diogo and Roberto. They told him that they were Wielders. A group of Wielders had heard the news about Grover and wanted to help. When Grover went to their underground hideout, there were more Wielders than Grover expected. There were at least thirty Wielders. Diogo told him that Wielders weren’t appreciated in this empire. They wanted to take over the Anarshan Empire, but their guards were too strong. However, the Zaekidian palace barely had any army. As the other Wielders told him their plan, Grover’s smile just got bigger and bigger. When he tried showing them his Zenonite and his magic, his arm felt like it was going to explode. He had forgotten about his arm. As he screamed in pain, Roberto said that he would get magic healers. Five of the thirty Wielders were healers who were amazing at healing other Wielders. They gave Grover sleep medicine and painkillers. In no time, Grover was fast asleep.

When Grover finally woke up, he realized that he was surrounded by Wielders. He looked down at his arm, but nothing seemed different. He tried to wield wind. His arm didn’t hurt. Instead, it felt more powerful. He felt full of energy.

“How do you feel?” Diogo asked

“Nobody can kill me.” Grover replied

Diogo smiled.

“Do you think you can leave tomorrow? We’ve already had our plan since a month ago. We are ready. Are you?”

“More than ready. We can pack today and go tomorrow.”

The next day, Grover had his travel pack. The group of Wielders were a lot more prepared than he thought. They had even built an underground tunnel so that they could get out of the empire easily. Grover wasn’t afraid. Now that his arm was fully healed, he was confident. As he marched through the dark tunnel, he imagined himself on the throne, making everyone do whatever he wanted. He didn’t tell the others, but after this war, he was going to kill every one of the Wielders. He didn’t want anyone threatening his place as a king. But for now, he needed their help to destroy the Zaekidia Empire.

They decided to camp a bit over midway. They told him that the police in the Anarshan Empire wouldn’t be able to catch up to them. They were using wind magic to propel themselves faster. When everybody was asleep, Grover slowly floated out of his tent using wind magic. Luckily, nobody was inside his tent. There was a big fireplace in the middle. Grover used his magic to extinguish it. Nobody was allowed to go out of their tents in this dark. He slowly crept up to Diogo. He thought about killing him now, but he managed to control himself. He only wanted one thing. He went up to Diogo’s wrist and used light power to slightly light up the place. Luckily, Diogo didn’t wake up. Grover touched the stone on Diogo’s wrist. Zenonite. Grover was right. He had felt the presence of another Zenonite when he had first met Diogo. Grover took out the stone from DIogo’s wrist. He immediately felt dizzy. But he also felt refreshed. Nobody had ever combined two Zenonites. However, Grover was more powerful than any other person in the universe. He again used wind power, but it felt different. He realized that the wind now surrounded him. He could just will himself to fly and wind would gather around him. With a cruel smile, Grover finally went to sleep.

When Grover woke up, the Anarshans were already breaking camp. Diogo was in the middle, using wind power to stack the tents together. He didn’t seem to notice that his Zenonite was gone. Grover took it as a good sign and started working on his tent. Roberto and Diogo went by and had a few laughs with him, but nobody seemed bothered about the disappeared Zenonite. Grover was too arrogant. He thought he had done such a great job that nobody even noticed. As they walked through the damp underground tunnel, Grover tried to hide his smiling face.

It turned out that the Zaekidia Empire had improved their army after Grover was gone. The Zaekidia Empire had placed keepers all around the border. Grover wasn’t too concerned about any of the keepers. With two Zenonites, he could wield the world. Diogo and Roberto got rid of most of them. Grover also realized that with two Zenonites, he could perform harder magic easily.. He used air and light to create an invisible shield around him and marched forward.

After a few small fights, the group of thirty Wielders faced an entire army. The news had already spread that he was back. The royal palace had created an army of a hundred men to defeat the Wielders. Only a few keepers were left to protect the royal family. As Grover led the Wielders, he imagined himself on the throne, commanding everyone. He walked up the stairs leading to the main square. He blasted at least a dozen men with wind then quickly switched to light and created a fire between them and the army. The army was stunned, but they reacted quickly and started using arrows. The Wielders used wind to block these arrows, but Grover heard a few screams. Grover slowly pushed the army back towards the palace. The whole scene was devastating. Once grand and elegant Zaekidia Empire had turned into a place of horror. People screamed and tried to escape. Grover killed all of them. Finally, only about ten men stood against him. There were at least twenty Wielders. Grover was about to blast them all into pieces when his shield broke. He thought the invisible shield would protect him, but the shield shattered against an arrow. Unbearable pain soared through him. He would kill whoever shot this arrow. He looked towards the castle and found Chris staring at him. Chris was wearing an armor, but Grover could see his sad eyes. But anger got the better of him. Grover soard through the air and killed the ten men. As he shot his beam of light towards Chris, Grover fell. His wind magic wasn’t working. With a terrible feeling, he realized that for once, his magic had failed him.

Grover fell from at least fifty feet. He didn’t die, but the pain was unbearable. His vision was fuzzy and he could barely see. But he saw Diogo and Roberto. Their expression was grim. He also saw Chris. Chris walked towards them and casually dismissed Diogo and Roberto by waving his hand. Grover tried to scream. What was going on! Why were Diogo and Roberto listening to Chris! They were his soldiers! But the remaining Wielders gathered and stood behind Chris.

Grover realized what had happened. Trickery. For once, his magic didn’t seem useful. He couldn’t do anything. He could barely see, but he could hear perfectly well.

Chris said, “Stanley Grover, I, as the new commander of Wielders in the Zaekidia Empire, declare you an outlaw who rebelled against the empire. As punishment, you shall be killed.”

Grover tried to squirm out of the way, but it was futile. His Zenonite lay broken beside him. There was a swish of a sword and Grover’s life broke, just like his Zenonite.

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