16 The return of my mortal enemy
"This way young miss!"
Evlin was trying hard to contain her excitement. She was very close to completing her goal and becoming a full mage. She passed the test of morality and the test of self-defense, and now all that was left was the test of promise. After coming this far she felt like there was nothing that could get in her way by that point.
"Would you like me to explain you the rules?"
She was being guided by one of the assistants of the guild, the same man who just a second ago couldn't stop looking at her with eyes of wonder. The fact that a little girl had managed to pass the self-defense exam really took him by surprise. She started to worry that this news would spread and other kids would try to take the exam without being fully prepared. The last thing she needed was hearing that a bunch of crazy children got their hands bitten off by a giant beaver in a attempt to copy her insane stunt. She did not need that on her conscience. The assistant halted before a door that connected to the final room.
"After you enter this room one of my colleagues will give you a wand made of the channeling tree's wood. You will be asked to aim at a target positioned in the center of the room and shoot it with as much energy as you can. To pass the test you need to damage the target at least a little bit. The target will not be damaged by raw energy, you need to give it the shape of one of the four elements if you want to succeed."
"Why does it need to be one of the four elements...?"
"It's the most basic form of energy shaping. If you can't perform that much you will never be able to use more advanced forms of channeling energy."
"Is that so... ? How advanced i would have to be to use healing energy?"
"Mmm... To give energy the shape of healing i would say you need to be at least two ranks higher than the basic rank."
"Oh... So there are ranks?"
"Indeed. Training rank is for those who are still trying to master the basic element shapes. Medium rank is for those who can release the four elements with total control and in larger quantities. High rank are for those who can use more types of shapes like healing, and other kinds with more difficult to grasp shapes. Expert rank are for those who can use different types of energy at the same time and finally mage-master rank are for those who can manipulate the energy without the need of a channeling tree."
"It's possible to use magic without the tree's wood?"
"It is very rare but if you keep practicing for many years it is possible. The channeling tree, as it's name says, it just an item to help you channel the energy. Mage-masters are those who managed to find ways to channel the energy all by themselves. They are usually acting as servants for the royal house or as extremely costly mercenaries, usually designed for jobs like assisting on the killing of a dragon or something."
So there are dragons in this world after all, Evlin thought. On top of that, using magic without a staff or wand. If Evlin could learn that, she could possibly be able to do anything. But from what the man described, Evlyn was still just at high-rank level. She was probably really good but had no idea if she was even close to master-mage rank. On top of that, using two shapes at the same time was something that still sounded difficult from what she had experienced so far. It took quite a lot of work to get healing shape down. Imagine how hard it would be to use that plus another type of shape.
"Well, i hope i can get there some day..."
"Oh i have no doubts. From what you showed me, you have quite the promising future ahead of you!"
She was happy to hear she had a promising future but she didn't want to spend her whole life working as a mage. As cool as that sounded, she would probably be asked to go on many dangerous missions or, worse, work for the royal family. She would rather just use magic as a means to earn enough money to fulfill her current goals.
"Well excuse me then. Wish me luck!"
"I doubt you need it, but good luck young miss!"
She entered the room and almost had a heart-attack. Inside the final room was a statue in the shape of the beaver that was attacking her a second ago in the same size as the animal itself. It took a second to notice it wasn't the actual rodent and Evlin almost fainted due to imagining she would have to fight that thing again.
"What is that!!?? Is that some kind of sick joke to scare people away? You guy really don't want anyone becoming mages anytime soon do you??"
One of the assistants came towards her and explained the situation.
"Sorry young miss. The guild-master assumed that if people needed a target for this exam, this animal would be the first thing anyone would want to hit after the second test. We tried to convince him that this might be a bad idea, in fact, we actually tried to convince him to change the way the second test was handled many times... But he would just laugh and say "Young ones these days need to be ready for anything if they want to go out adventuring!" or something..."
"Ugh... let's just get this over with..."
The assistant handed her a wand. Evlin stared at the animal while thinking about what element she should use to shoot the energy with. It was true that the beaver gave her a hard time before, but the truth was that Evlin loved animals. Even with the rodent from before she felt bad about hurting him and returned the small stick it was trying to eat before she left. Animals were beings that acted on instinct not malice so she could never truly be angry at them.
Regardless she still needed to pass this test. Releasing energy was easy for her but what element to use? Fire? She had spent so many nights at Della's cold cabin that she barely remembered what the feeling of heat was like. Air? Every time Evlin was away from the ground something would show up out of nowhere and slam her down so that was also rejected. Water? When was the last time she took a bath? She grabbed the tip of her clothes and sniffed it a little and almost vomited from the terrible smell. Earth? Well she had recently started to become closer and closer to the ground for one reason or another, might as well go with what she was familiar with.
She begun to picture on her mind the essence of the earth. Every time she would get smashed against the floor, be it from falling from the castle or being slammed by the beaver against the ground, she had started to feel more and more what it was like to be closer to the earth. She started to imagine a sand particle, then imagine that particle joining together with many more particles and forming a rock, followed by the rock joining other rocks and forming a boulder, and repeating the processes until her mind had the picture of a mountain. Breaking down something so big down to it's core and realizing how much potential for growth it could have.
Evlin's wand started to shine with a yellow energy surrounding it. She assumed that was the color of earth. She aimed at the statue and at the end of the wand a small rock started to take form. The rock started to become bigger and bigger as it was absorbing other smaller pieces of stone from the room.
"You guys want to know if i show promise? So let's find out!"
She released her rock-bullet towards the fake beaver and the rock that was still in the process of gathering more mass was sent flying at crazy speed, collided with the object and created a massive explosion in the room. Smoke was spread everywhere leaving the assistant and Evlin herself mesmerized.
When the smoke cleared out, a small object appeared in the place where the beaver used to be. The statue itself was gone, and in it's place a new statue was standing. A real-size replica of Evlin in the same position she had while launching the energy from the wand. She felt like she was looking at a mirror for a moment. The assistant stared at the figure and then at Evlin.
"You changed the shape of the statue?"
"Well... It was in bad taste don't you think so...?"
"You used earth energy and modeling energy at the same time!"
"... I did what now...?"
"You are an expert-rank class! You can use more than one kind of shape at once!"
"Huh... Thanks...? Does this mean i can get my tree-piece now...?"
"Tree piece? Young lady you are a genius! There has never been such a young expert-rank before! I'll talk to the guild master to see if he can provide some extra pieces for you! Such talent needs to be supported!"
"Wow! Thank you very much!"
"... That said... Should you change the figure back...? Are you ok with people using your face as target practice?"
"Good call... But i don't want people shooting the poor beaver either... Oh i know!"
Evlin shot the statue with another bullet giving it an new shape that wasn't neither her or the beaver. The assistant gasped when re realized what the figure had now turned into.
"Huh... Young miss... Will that be ok... ?"
"I just get the feeling that there will be some people that will be glad to have the chance to attack this one person in particular. It will be our little secret ok? If anyone asks why there is such a strange object as the target for the promising test just say the guild-master "Felt like adventures needed to be ready for anything!", he he."
"Eh... This will probably not end well for me..."
They left the room that now had a new target in the form of a small statue with the shape of the prince of the castle and proceeded to the exit of the exam.
Evlin took sight of Dalla in the entrance waiting for her. Dalla came running like a train and started to hold Evlin tightly on her arms.
"Dalla! Dalla! You're crushing me! I can't breath!!"
"I was so worried for you! You wouldn't come out so i feared something had happened to you!!"
"Ooff... What do you mean something happened to me? Of course something happened, i was taking the exam!"
"I know but i thought you would fail the first one and then we would leave quickly..."
"Excuse me!? You thought i would fail from the beginning?"
"I was hoping for actually... I didn't want you to take such dangerous exam to begin with, but you wouldn't listen to me, so i assumed they would caught you lying about something and would reject you."
"Well... Thanks for your concern but there is nothing to worry. I passed all the exams and will receive my piece of the tree in three days."
At that moment all the individuals inside the guild who just happened to overhear the conversation aimed their eyes at the two of them.
"Evlin... What did you say...?"
"I said i passed. I will become an expert-rank mage or whatever."
Some of the individuals who were in the middle of their drinks started to spit on their tables when Evlin left out that small bit of information.
"Oh yeah, the assistant that was with me was also very surprised... I guess this really is not very common..."
"We... We should go now..."
Dalla grabbed Evlin by the hand and started to walk towards the cabin.
"Dalla, is eveything ok...? You look tense... "
"Evlin... Is what you just said to me true? You were ranked as an expert class?"
"That's what the guy that was evaluating me said... I didn't even know ranks were a thing until a couple minutes ago..."
"Evlin... There has never been an expert-rank below the age of twenty-five before."
"...! Really... ?"
"You will receive your wand or staff from the royal family in three days right? Do not go there... If they find out about you, they will never let you go!"
"... Oh God... What have i done!!"
"If you go to get your wand, they will never let you return home ever again. Such a small girl with this much skill... They will exploit you for the rest of your life, even if you are just fourteen... "
"Ugh... I told them i was twelve..."
"I wanted to show off a bit!! I'm sorry!"
"... You are not receiving the wand, are you?"
"I need to become a mage!"
"So i can repay you!!"
"Repay... You took this exam for me??"
"Well... Also because i wanted to see if it would help me return home... But you just have been so nice to me these last few days, i wanted to show i appreciate all you've done!"
"By almost killing yourself?"
"... You would have done the same...I know you would..."
"You found me on the verge of death right outside the castle's door. You must have known that i was being chased by the royal family! And yet you still took care of me despite me being a total stranger when you could have just sold me out and received some kind of reward for it! You risked yourself for me! Why can't i risk myself for you?"
"Because... You! Are! A! Kid!! You don't know what could happen to you! They could turn you into their slave! Or maybe worse! I'm an old lady who can probably still live for only ten years or less... You still have your whole life ahead of you!"
"What's the point of living if i am not doing anything important with it?? You want me to just stay inside your cabin for the rest of my life letting you take care of me?"
"At least then you would be safe..."
"I don't want to repeat the same mistake again... "
Evlin wanted to ask what did she mean by mistake but she assumed it could be a painful memory and decided not to dig it deeper. She did the same thing when she told Dalla that she had realized she wasn't at home anymore when they first met, and Dalla responded that she "knew the feeling". Dalla's life was probably much harder than she was letting it out to be. Evlin didn't know how to approach this kind of situation. Comforting people in pain was never her strongest skill. When her sister's cat died and she locked herself in the room for the whole day Evlin had no idea what to say to her. She didn't know what was the secret to fix broken feelings. The only thing she could do was try to reassure Dalla that nothing bad was going to happen.
"I will be fine!"
"And what if you're wrong!?"
"The examiner told me i was a genius, therefore i am never wrong! He he!"
Evlin tried to smile to the now teary-eyed Dalla and the two shared a hug.
Three days had passed, and it was time for Evlin to meet the prince and receive her wand.