A Party of Wizards and Wands
Yukimino Sora expected a lot of things as she entered the enormous mansion of the Azimuras. This was a party attended by Wizards, so she thought of flying dishes or something that was out of the ordinary. So she was extremely put out to know that nothing extraordinary was actually happening inside the wide ballroom.
But of course, the hall itself was extraordinary, even by normal human standards. The floor was made of white marble, polished to the point that it sparkled like jewels. The hall spread up to a grand staircase, which seemed to double as a stage, since a stand was set there. The walls were pearly white and clean, decorated with a few blue curtains and golden hangings. Hanging above was a big crystal chandelier and several other lamps that gave illumination to the whole room. Sora gaped at the magnificence of it all.
The room was almost packed with people on their best suits and dresses. Most of them were adults and acted normally, chatting and shaking hands with each other. If Sora did not know better, she would have thought they were just some rich aristocrats invited on a fabulous dinner party.
"Move it," whispered Agami Hikaru, who was right behind her. Since Sora was still a bit dazed, she was a bit slow on the uptake and Hikaru had to drag her out of the main doorway. The brothers Konta Shou and Konta Tsubasa calmly followed them.
Even though she was being unceremoniously dragged away by Hikaru, Sora kept gazing on the assorted people who were there. Sora was not the most brilliant student, but she had a keen sense of sight and above average observation skills. Sora's Wand powers had even boosted it and now she was seeing some things that convinced her that she was not in an ordinary party.
She saw a man whose eyes were of different colors. As she continued to watch, it seemed the blue in his right eye was slowly turning purple. There was an old woman leaning to a cane, which looked ordinary until she saw that the cane had two chiseled feet. A young girl stood near a window, who looked as if she was watching what was happening outside. But Sora saw a disturbance in the window's glass and caught a glimpse of a pale-haired boy kissing a raven-haired girl. The watching girl curled her fists and walked out of the party.
"I feel sorry for the guy," spoke Tsubasa suddenly. He seemed to have watched the same thing as Sora. "You don't want to make Mio-san angry."
"Did she…" asked Sora, wondering how to say it. "Did she just see her boyfriend cheating on her? In the glass?"
"Glass scrying," said Shou. "You can do the same thing with crystal balls, if you're good with Psychic Magic."
"Psychic Magic? That's another type of Magic, right?"
Shou nodded. "Precognition, Divination, Cognizance, Telepathy… Those fall under Psychic Magic. It's quite a complex branch of Magic, one that can only be mastered by those of the strongest minds."
"Well-phrased, Shou-kun," said a stooped old man, waiting for them in a nearby table. He was wearing a formal red changshan. He had a friendly face and slits for eyes, with a rather long wispy white beard. He stood up from his seat.
Hikaru stopped dragging Sora, Shou lightly bowed to the old man while Tsubasa smiled brightly. "Hey there, old man! Didn't know you're coming!"
"Tsubasa!" scolded Shou. "You don't call Master Po 'old man'."
The old man, Po just chuckled. "As breezy as usual, I see. As light as a feather, your name really suits you, Tsubasa-kun." He eyed Hikaru next. "And oh, if it isn't Hikaru-kun. Wouldn't you mind to introduce the lovely companion you're locking hands with?"
Sora noticed that they were holding hands a little too late. Flustered, she snatched her hand out of his grasp. He didn't seem to notice, because he was busy glaring at the old man. "I don't have to," he told him. "You already know who she is, don't you?"
"An old man can guess," said Po with a smile, irritating Hikaru more.
"Ojii-san!" called a pink-haired young girl, coming towards them with a plate full of food. Then, she noticed the rest of the people. "Oh, it's everyone…"
"Hinata-san!" said Sora, recognizing the girl. "You're wearing the dress I picked for you…"
"Oh, yeah," replied Sanada Hinata, who was wearing an emerald-green dress. "So, you need something from my grandfather?"
"Yes, my name is Xia Po," answered the old man. "From an old line of Chinese Wizards that specialize in Fire Magic. I am Hina-chan's maternal grandfather."
"So you're the one who knew that I was in danger…" said Sora.
"Master Po is a well-known practitioner of Psychic Magic," Shou informed her. "He specializes in Divination and Telepathy."
"Telepathy? Like mind-reading?"
"And communicating through the mind as well," said Po, but without opening his mouth.
Sora realized what had just happened. "Did you just talk to my mind?" she asked.
"I believe I did," said Po with a kind smile. Sora looked alarmed and the old man chuckled at her expression. "Don't worry, young lady. You have enough Magic to keep me out of your mind. The simplest Protection Magic can create telepathic barriers and knowing as exactly who you are, you will have no problem doing it."
"Exactly who I am…?" repeated Sora, not exactly getting it.
"He's talking about your Title," replied Hikaru, still glaring at the old man. "What is it you want, Po? Knowing you, meeting us here is no coincidence."
"How well do you know me, Hikaru-kun," said Po, still smiling. "I do not deny that I've been waiting for you."
"So, what do you want? Out with it, old man."
Hinata frowned at Hikaru's disrespectfulness, but she didn't say anything. Sora thought he was being rude as well, but spent enough time with Hikaru to consider it his normal way of behaving to anybody, be it an elder or not.
Po was unaffected by Hikaru's rudeness, as he continued to smile brightly. "Actually, I need to speak with your Wand."
Hikaru shifted, hiding Sora out of sight of the old man. "I won't allow you to do that."
"Agami-kun!" yelled Shou and Hinata in synchrony. They both looked at each other in surprise, but Hinata recovered first. "My grandfather had no bad intentions on whatever he needs to say."
Hikaru's eyes glinted threateningly. "So you don't even know what he has to say?"
Hinata's usual passive face betrayed her for a moment, but she recovered herself immediately. But even Sora knew that the brief show of emotion confirmed Hikaru's suspicions. She opened her mouth to say something, but no words came out.
Shou came to her rescue. "Master Po saved her life. I'm sure what he has to say isn't anything dangerous."
"There's nothing more dangerous than knowing things you're not supposed to know," said Hikaru in gritted teeth.
Po's smile vanished. "I'm truly sorry for that incident-"
"Shut it. I don't need your apologies." And with that, Hikaru grabbed Sora's hand and pulled her out of the group.
"Hikaru-kun, wait!" yelled Sora, but Hikaru did not seem to hear. "Hikaru-kun!"
Sora's yelling caught the attention of some of the guests and a few were already staring at them. Some were whispering at each other and Sora's voice left her throat at the sight of this. Her old fear of people whispering behind her back came back flushing inside her and her fear allowed Hikaru to drag her to the back of the room without restraint.
Outside the Azimura mansion, a new guest arrived. However, he was not dressed in a flashy tuxedo or a prim suit. He did not arrive through a luxurious car either. His arrival did not stir any disturbance, except perhaps the slight tap of his feet as he landed on a third-floor balcony.
This new guest was a strange one. He was wearing tights of aquamarine color, fashioned in a style that was neither fancy nor ugly. It was just a simple outfit, devoid of any decoration or accessory. However, this guest was wearing a mask of blue, covering half of his face except for his deep blue eyes and his mouth, which was currently formed in a slight grin.
"Welcome home…" he whispered.
Sora found herself seated in a table at the back, at the rightmost corner of the hall. Hikaru dragged her all the way there, in a place where she could not see anything that was happening in the room. She was annoyed at how he decided everything for her and spent some time glaring at him, who was sitting opposite her and was on the lookout for anybody that might come across them. It looked like they were surrounded by dangerous animals rather than noisy party-goers.
Sora sighed. Her meeting with Hinata's grandfather had put a lot of thought in her mind. What did Po want to tell her? Why was Hikaru so apprehensive and angry about it? And what was that incident the old man was sorry for? She was getting too curious for her own good.
"You okay?" Hikaru suddenly asked, watching her intently. She must have looked disturbed when she was thinking.
"Uh, no, I'm fine," replied Sora. "But are you okay? You've been really weird the whole time we were here…"
Hikaru frowned. "That should be obvious. I didn't want to be here."
"But why exactly do you not want to be here?"
Hikaru opened his mouth but his response was cut out by a really loud yell. "Soooora-chan! You're heeeeeere!"
In ten seconds flat, Megane Sayuri successfully enveloped Sora in a really big and loud hug.
"Sa-Sayuri-chan?" muttered Sora, who was taken aback at Sayuri's sudden appearance.
"I've been looking everywhere for you!" said Sayuri, taking her petite form out of the hug. "I wanted to thank you. People keep telling me that I look great on my dress."
Sora had enough space to see that Sayuri was wearing the short purple gown she picked for her. She even had her hair tied up the way Sora had when she helped her. "Yes, you do look great."
"All thanks to you, of course," said Sayuri cheerfully. "Even Yosuke-nii-san praised me."
Sayuri did not hear her. "Oh, Hikaru-kun, didn't notice you there!"
"Apparently you didn't," said Hikaru in a very sour mood. "But everyone else had." He had his back on a crowd of people visibly pointing and talking about them.
"Oops," said Sayuri. "I forgot you always want to keep a low profile in events like this."
Hikaru did not reply. Instead, he glared at the onlookers, who immediately looked like they were chatting about something else.
Sayuri sat beside Sora, keeping her voice low. "You're pretty popular here, Sora-chan."
"How come?" asked Sora, but she already had an idea why.
"It's not everyday that a rare Wand is born," Sayuri told her. "Plus, your Hikaru-kun's Wand. He's pretty famous himself. You know about his family?"
"That they're wealthy and from a respectable line of Wizards? Yes."
"Wow, you do good research, Sora-chan."
"Actually, it was Minato-san who told me that."
"Oh, old Minato-kun," said Sayuri in a chirpy voice. "He's such a nice man and a good butler as well. He's Yuuta-nii-san's idol." She smiled as she kept talking. "He's always babbling at how good Minato-kun is in his job. Of course, he also idolizes Yosuke-nii-san and Yamato-nii-san, but you have to hear him talk about Minato-san to know how he really looked up to him."
Sora had no idea who Yosuke and Yamato were, but they must be Sayuri's elder brothers who were at the same time professional butlers, whom she mentioned some time ago.
Sayuri kept talking, however. "Of course, Minato-san is exceptional in his work. He's also a good Wizard. He's really good with Illusion Magic, like his granddaughter! It's too bad she's acting up, though, she's the only family he had left."
"Why's that?" asked Sora.
Sayuri's face fell. "Oh, errr…" She looked really uncomfortable "I don't think that's my story to tell, Sora-chan…"
"Oh, I understand," said Sora with a smile. "Some things are better heard from the source." She was curious though.
"And you babble too much, Sayuri," Hikaru told her. He was actually listening, even though he was still glaring at onlookers and other guests.
"Well, excuse me," pouted Sayuri. She stuck her tongue out at Hikaru but the guy did not even notice. "Hmmm, Sora-chan, how about we have a look around? I can give you a tour of the house."
Sora was about to say "Sure" when Hikaru's voice rang loudly. "Absolutely not."
"And why's that?" snapped Sora. She was getting fed up by Hikaru deciding everything for her.
"I told you," said Hikaru, turning to face Sora. "You can't leave my side tonight."
Sayuri turned red at this remark. Sora turned red as well, but more of the angry kind of reddening. "Do you expect me to follow your stupid little rules without explaining anything about it?"
"I'm telling you, it's for your own good!" said Hikaru, his voice rising.
Sora was about to shout a harsh retort when a guy's voice interrupted her. "Hikaru! Is that you?"
Sora and Hikaru's argument was cut short when a tall guy with silver hair came running towards them. He was impressive in his black tuxedo and he had a really sweet and sincere smile. His silvery-gray eyes shone as he looked at Hikaru. The other guy was stunned at his presence as well.
"Keisuke-kun!" gasped Sayuri. "You're back!"
"Sayuri-chan, it's nice to see you again," said the guy named Keisuke. "You too, Hikaru."
"Keisuke…" said Hikaru in a low tone that was unlike him. "When did you get back?"
"Just today," replied Keisuke with a smile. "I heard this party was for a really serious purpose. I hope it's nothing too grave." He patted Hikaru's back. "You've grown a lot since I've last seen you, Hikaru. I heard you had your Wand now and a rare one at that. Congratulations!"
Sayuri smiled while Sora didn't know how to react. This was another person she never met before - a person that seemed to be related to Hikaru. It was a constant reminder to her that she doesn't know everything about him.
Keisuke seemed to finally notice Sora. "And who is the lovely young lady?" he asked.
He said it with such elegance and sincerity that Sora felt herself blush. There was something in those gray eyes of Keisuke that was mysteriously familiar, like he'd seen him somewhere before…
"This is Yukimino Sora," introduced Sayuri, cutting off Sora's thoughts. "She's Hikaru-kun's Wand."
At this, Keisuke's eyes widened. "So you're the famous Sacred Wand everyone is talking about? The Seraphim, how fitting…"
"Fitting?" repeated Sora.
Keisuke stared at her eyes. Sora felt her heart skip a beat, mesmerized by the moon-like shine his eyes were giving. "Fitting to somebody as angelic as you," he told her.
"Charming as your sweet-talking is," interrupted Hikaru, looking really annoyed. "She doesn't deserve it. There's nothing angelic about her."
Sora glared at him. "There's nothing good about you either!" she snapped and quickly ran out of the table. Sayuri immediately followed her, but not before she gave Hikaru an angry look.
Hikaru attempted to follow them, but Keisuke stopped him. "That wasn't very nice," he told him, grabbing his arm.
"Sorry, I just…" said Hikaru. "I just… snapped…"
Keisuke grinned. "Jealous of me?"
"No way," Hikaru countered. "I have to follow them."
"Sayuri-chan will take care of her," said Keisuke. "If you follow her, she'll just go berserk and more arguments will break out. Just leave them be for the moment."
"You don't understand, Kei," Hikaru told him. "I can't take my eyes off her."
Keisuke's eyebrows shot up. "Really now?"
Hikaru realized the double meaning of his statement. "I meant that I need to watch her, I uh…" he said, getting red on the cheeks. "Urggggh, just help me find them!"
"Fine, fine," said Keisuke, amused at Hikaru's behavior.
Sora had no idea where she was supposed to go before she ran out of Hikaru, but it was a good thing Sayuri caught up with her. She led her to the buffet table, where lots of delicious-looking food was arranged. A few people mingled in the table, carrying some cuisines in their plates.
Sora and Sayuri stood near the bowl of red punch, where the maid filled two glasses and gave one to Sora.
"It was kinda immature of me to run away like that," reflected Sora, holding the glass of punch while Sayuri drank hers in one gulp. "But Hikaru was being more immature!" she continued.
"Yeah, he definitely was," said Sayuri. "But maybe he's just jealous?"
"Jealous? Jealous of whom?"
"Keisuke-kun," Sayuri told her.
"Why would he be jealous of Keisuke-kun?" asked Sora. "And who is that guy, by the way?"
"Oh, Keisuke-kun is a member of the Higara family." Sora looked blank, so Sayuri continued on. "The Higara family is just like the Azimuras and the Agamis. Powerful Wizards, wealthy folks, you know the type."
Sora nodded. "Are all Wizard families rich?"
"Nope, not all, but most of the really powerful ones are," Sayuri told her.
"So Keisuke-kun came from another powerful clan?" asked Sora. "And oh, rich too, yes?"
"Yup," said Sayuri. "Keisuke-kun is a year older than us, but he was really close to Hikaru-kun. He's really good with Magic, he's considered a genius among the young Wizards. Just like Shiori-sama, of course."
Another Shiori, huh? thought Sora. But one thing bothered her. "How come I never saw him in school?"
Sayuri smiled. "I knew you'll ask that. Well, because he's not studying in our school. He's studying abroad, in London."
"Yup, London. A lot of Wizards live there, too," said Sayuri, grinning at Sora's surprised expression. "You're not thinking Wizards live in Japan only, do you?"
"No, not really," replied Sora. After hearing that some ancient and international dignitaries were actually Wizards a few days ago, she had aptly concluded that Wizards exist all over the world. "I was more surprised that he's studying outside of the country. I mean, at his age…"
"It's actually quite normal," said Hinata, who went to the punch bowl and scooped up a glassful. Sora was startled at her appearance.
Sayuri looked happy to see her though. "Hinata-chan! You look really good."
"Thanks," replied Hinata, filling up her glass with the red juice. "So, you're talking about Higara-kun? I heard he's back."
"Yup," answered Sayuri. "We were with him and Hikaru-kun a while ago."
Hinata was in deep thought, leaning on the table while circling the glass on her palm. "I wonder why he came back…"
"I think he said something about the serious purpose of this party."
"Did he now?" said Hinata, her eyes glinting with something Sora recognized as suspicion.
"Anyway, where was I?" said Sayuri, facing Sora again. "Ah, yeah, Keisuke-kun. Hikaru-kun really looks up to him."
"He does?" asked Sora.
Sayuri nodded. "As I said, Keisuke-kun is a genius with regards to Magic. He's also really good in dealing with other people, which Hikaru-kun has a problem of."
Sora snorted. "He does, alright."
"You can't blame him, though," said Hinata in a low, sad voice, but her face was still expressionless. "After all that he's been through."
"You mean the thing about his mother?" asked Sora, blurting the first thing that came to her mind.
Sayuri and Hinata looked really shocked. "How did you know about that?" asked Hinata, looking panic-stricken and a little more than angry. "Did Agami-kun told you? Tell me!"
Sora was taken aback at Hinata's outburst. "I…" she stuttered. "Minato-san told me… About how his mother was in comatose for ten years…"
Sayuri held back Hinata by grabbing her arm. "Is that all you know, Sora-chan?" asked Sayuri calmly, restraining Hinata who looked like she was about to harm somebody.
"Y-yeah," said Sora. "That's all I know… Is there something I should know other than that?"
"No, nothing," replied Hinata a little too quickly. "Forget about it." But she knew the damage was done, and so did Sora. There was no way she would ever forget how Hinata acted.
It appeared however, that Sora was not the only one who saw Hinata's outburst. On the other side of the table, standing near the punch bowl were two pretty girls dressed in dazzling outfits.
"Is that Sanada-san?" asked one in a sneer. She was wearing a blue cocktail dress.
Her friend, dressed in a pink gown, snorted. "I wonder what Ryuu-kun sees in her. She's a total weirdo."
"Yeah. I bet she threatened to curse Ryuu-kun if he doesn't become her Wand."
"Yeah, that seems like the kind of things she does," added the other one and they both laughed.
Sora watched as Hinata shifted uncomfortably. She didn't have any expression on her face, but it was plain clear in her eyes that she was hurt. Although Sora hated getting any attention on her, she crossed the table to say something to the gossiping girls.
But before Sora could even utter a word, the punch bowl suddenly moved and dropped to the floor, showering the two girls with red punch and flying glass. The gossipers screamed, but none of the glass hit them, but they were dripping wet with red juice. To Sora's eyes, it seemed like the punch rained down on them from the head, although the bowl only dropped for about two feet to the ground.
People flocked over the two wet girls, asking them if they were okay. The girls moaned while some of the less caring and not-so-concerned party goers laughed at them.
Sayuri, for one, giggled like she never saw anything so funny. Both Sora and Hinata stared suspiciously at her, so she stopped laughing and headed towards the fray.
"Oh, I deeply apologize for this accident," she said in her formal maid voice. "May I escort you towards the nearest changing rooms?"
After some grumbling and crying, the girls finally followed Sayuri. They moved towards Sora and Hinata and Sayuri gave them a meaningful wink. Sora smiled; she was pretty sure the girls' rough night was not about to end soon.
Sora and Hinata watched as Sayuri marched off with the two unsuspecting girls. "She didn't have to do that," said Hinata suddenly.
Sora grinned. "It's natural to get angry when your friend is being insulted."
Hinata blushed, but only for a short moment. She was back on her expressionless face when she added, "I hope she gets back soon, I want to look at the blue rose garden she was talking about the other day."
"Blue rose garden?" asked Sora, curious.
Hinata smiled. "You'll see…"
To be continued
Author's Note: Well, Chapter 17 is done. After a month, again. *sigh* I need to speed things up a bit.
So, yes, this is the first part of the party. And we meet three new characters: Po, whom we technically met some chapters back, but officially introduced on this chapter; Keisuke, the genius Wizard whom Hikaru idolizes; and the mysterious masked man. Whew, another bunch of characters to add to the repertoire. I should be sued… or something…
And of course, the plot questions: Why is Hikaru so angry with Po? What are Hikaru and the rest hiding about his mother? What is the mysterious man up to in the mansion? How will the return of Keisuke affect everything?
Anyway, this chapter is just a foreshadowing of what's to happen next. I'll see you in the next update!