Chapter 3 : Melting Point
Jumping ahead 4 years, both Ava and Sayuki had turned 14 years old. They had a much better understanding of magic which led to Sayuki discovering her mastery. A mastery is a type of magic that a person is most proficient at. Through trial and error, trying out different types of magic and assessing how proficient she is at them, she finally landed on cryomancy. Meanwhile, Ava hadn’t found her mastery yet. She tried various different types of magic, but found that she was similarly decent at each of them. This wasn’t an uncommon case. There were loads of people who didn't really have a mastery. It didn’t stop them from becoming a good mage, it just prevented them from reaching further beyond a “good mage”. Most great mages had at least one mastery in their repertoire.
This disheartened Ava, who felt that she was falling behind or even worse—failing. But Teros made sure to remind her that most people don’t immediately find their mastery. It could take years to find it and that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t find it, it just takes patience. He reassured her that she’ll find her mastery eventually. After that, Teros instructed the girls to follow him. He took them to an empty field that was located outside of the city. It was pretty barren with not a lot of vegetation—just dirt. They were confused as to why they were there. He then explained that they were here to put what they have learned to the test. He touched the dirt on the right side of the field and it started to vibrate. The dirt then started to rise from the ground, creating a giant statue that resembled a person. He then did the same thing on the left side.
It took them a while, but eventually it dawned on them that these statues were going to be their test dummies. Teros explained to them, “All right. Here’s what you two need to do. You’ll each be assigned a statue that you need to completely destroy to pass this test.” He then clarified, “It doesn’t matter who finishes first. This isn’t a competition,” knowing full well that these two would make it a competition. These two were pumped for it. They instinctively get into their positions, Ava on the right and Sayuki on the left. Ava looked like she was thinking of a plan to tackle this, while Sayuki looked like she was ready to get on with it. Teros stepped back to a reasonable distance, then gave the signal to start.
Immediately, Sayuki went in for a punch. Augmented by her cryomancy, she was able to make her fists hard as ice. She punched away its legs, causing it to fall over. Then she started chipping away at it, making dent after dent. Meanwhile, Ava has yet to make a move. She was too busy thinking of what she might want to do instead of making any progress. In an effort to understand the structure of the statue a bit better, she tapped on it and it turned out that it was hollow. This gave her an idea.
Over by Sayuki’s statue, she was making good progress on the statue. She took a quick glance at what Ava was doing and saw that she was touching the ground. This was because she was trying to draw in the groundwater into the statue’s interior. In theory, if the entire statue kept filling up with water, then eventually it would run out of space and start spilling out. Plus, the dirt would eventually start to turn into mud, making it more unstable. Sayuki didn’t figure out Ava’s plans as she was going at it. Eventually, there was only a little bit left of Sayuki’s statue. But over at Ava's statue, she successfully managed to fill it with water and holes started to form on it at a rapid pace. In response, Sayuki picked up the pace. She went as quickly as she could, while Ava’s statue was quickly eroding away. They both were neck and neck. It could have been anyone’s game. Ava was also trying to hurry it up as Sayuki only had a couple more bits to go. Both of their statues were almost completely gone. It looked like a close game as they both finished destroying their statues.
They finished at almost the exact same time and went to Teros to confirm who finished first. Realizing that either way, one of them was going to be unhappy, he said, “Well. It was too close to call. You both did good anyways.”
Both of them were unhappy at his answer and chose to debate each other on who won. “Clearly, I’m the winner,” Sayuki declared.
Ava rebutted with, “No you didn’t. I was the one who finished first.”
This went on for a while until eventually, Teros calmed them down, “Girls, calm down. Like I said, it’s not a competition and you both did an excellent job. Sayuki, your speed and strength at which you destroyed that statue was amazing. Ava, your idea to fill the statue with water to destroy it, was ingenious. All that matters is that you both did it in your own way.” Even though this stopped them from bickering, they still were a bit acrimonious about it.
A few weeks after the test, Sayuki came to Ava with an offer. She offered to settle the score with a duel. The duel was to take place in the same field that they had the test and it would happen at dusk. The conditions for the duel were as follows—They both would have a crystal on their bodies that could detect every time they get hit; Every time they get hit the crystal cracks a bit and given enough hits, it would eventually break; One of them needed to break the other’s crystal first to win.
Ava wholeheartedly accepted this offer and started to come up with a strategy to win this duel. They both had their own strengths and weaknesses that could impact this duel. Ava was very good at casting long ranged magic, while Sayuki excelled at close range. This meant that if Ava kept her distance she would have no problem dealing with her. But, she also knew that Sayuki would expect this and try to get as close to her as possible—as quickly as possible. This meant that what Ava needed to do was slow her down, so she couldn’t get to her so easily. While Ava was thinking of her plan, Sayuki was coming up with a plan of her own. Similar to Ava’s thought process, she was also anticipating that Ava would try to prevent her from getting close. To combat this, she planned to move in an erratic pattern so that Ava would have a difficult time trying to target her. With both of their plans set in stone, they ventured out to the location of the duel.
It was the middle of dusk as the sky was a lovely gradient of blue and orange. The girls were on standby—with their crystals on hand—waiting to start the duel. They both stood on opposite ends of the field as they prepared themselves. Silence took hold of the field for a brief—fleeting moment until the hour had arrived. They rushed to each other’s position as Ava immediately cast a gust of wind towards Sayuki. Luckily, she managed to dodge it and lunge towards her. Ava was caught off guard and unfortunately got hit. The crystal cracked, leaving only 2 hits left.
“Don’t think you would get me that easily,” Sayuki snidely remarked.
“Ok then,” Ava smiled and then splashed water towards Sayuki’s feet, “How about this?!” and immediately froze it, “Looks like you got cold feet.”
Sayuki couldn’t move. She started to punch away at the ice, but Ava quickly hit her with a gust of wind, leaving Sayuki with only 2 hits left. They both had 2 hits left as Sayuki started her next strike by rushing towards Ava in an erratic pattern which made it hard for Ava to aim at her. Eventually, Sayuki managed to get a hit in—leaving Ava with only 1 hit left. But Ava immediately jumped backwards and started encircling her with water which she then used to create a barrier of ice to surround Sayuki, preventing her from knowing where she is coming.
“Hey! This is wildly unfair!” Sayuki protested.
Ava rebutted, “Hey it’s not my fault you couldn’t walk a couple steps to the side.”
She was expecting Ava to punch a hole through the ice to hit her, but instead Ava flung a bolt of water from over the ice and hit her—which left her with 1 hit left as well. Sayuki punched through the ice which collapsed the barrier. Both of their crystals were on the verge of breaking, one hit was all that it took. All of the ice that was created melted and left a bunch of water on the field. Sayuki hadn’t got the chance to use her mastery, but all of this water gave her an idea.
She started to charge Ava once again, but this time, every time Ava sent an attack, she blocked it by creating an ice wall from the water. She kept doing this until she got close to Ava, but Ava was hoping for this to happen. Every time Sayuki broke one of the ice walls, Ava was actually creating slush from the ice. She was gathering all of the slush using the wind into a pile and was forming a ball. Without Sayuki noticing, Ava flung the ball into her, hitting her and ending the match. Sayuki collapsed as she wallowed in her defeat.
Afterwards, they both sat down near the field to convene. Despite her defeat, Sayuki congratulated Ava, “Ok, I’ll admit that last move was pretty smart.”
It was a close match and even Ava herself admitted, “Thanks, you weren’t so bad yourself. If you've noticed it, you could’ve won.”
It had been 3 years since that day. The girls were 17 years old and finally eligible for the Magical Aptitude Exam (MAE). This exam evaluated the participant’s magical knowledge and abilities and gave them a rank. The ranks going from lowest to highest were: C, B, A, S, and L. These ranks are officially recognized by the International Mage Federation (IMF). If a participant already had a rank and they did better than the last time they took the test, then their rank would be promoted. These ranks would determine a mage’s future prospects, like getting jobs or into higher education. People would want to employ high ranking mages. The exam would be held at the IMF’s headquarters—located in Myskis—where hundreds of participants from all around the world would gather to take the exam. The girls were about to take this exam which made them excited, but also deeply anxious. Would they be able to succeed? Or would they be deeply disappointed?