A/N: This story has (so far) been one of my favorites to write. I do hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do! I would love to hear what you think, so please review!

All characters in this story belong to me. Please do not use them without my permission.

Also, Clover is a boy. Sorry if that was confusing...

I suppose I should have known from the start that the girl I found sitting in a dark, damp alley that night so long ago was a demon. Perhaps I was too young to put two and two together, or maybe I was too angry at my parents to care. I had only been ten for a few days, if I recall correctly, and I had just gotten into an awful fight with my father. I had looked to my mother for help, but to my dismay, she took my father's side. They were both strictly against me going into magic.

Ten was an important age for me; it was an important age for any youngster who desired a future in the magic arts. There was a yearly event attended by every magic loving ten-year-old around. Skilled mages arrived at the event in dramatic manners, appearing out of thin air or emerging from colums of fire, to speak with the children and find an apprentice. I had yearned to be one of those lucky kids to leave in a cloud of mist with a skilled magic user, off to who-knows-where to learn amazing tricks and powerful spells. My parents, very against magic, had been furious when I admitted my desires to them over dinner one night. My father, a big, weathered man who believed good work could only be done through hard labor, sternly forbid me. I had stood up on my chair to match his towering height and put on the most determined expression I could muster, and then told him with a small but even voice that I would have a future in magic whether he approved of it or not. I can say with complete certainty that I never want to see my father that angry again.

Perhaps, if they hadn't forbidden me to learn the ways of magic, or even been more understanding that night, I wouldn't have chosen to pursue magic against their will. Maybe we would have been able to talk it out, or perhaps they would have managed to convince me that it wasn't worth the risk. Either way, their negative reaction to my desire ultimately led me to find magic.

I had chosen to slip out my window that night, wanting to walk off my anger and put strength back into my shaking legs. I didn't sneak out very often, but my fear of getting caught was outweighed by my desire to escape the confines of my home. I sometimes wonder if Nika guided me to her, or if I just happened upon her while taking the less familiar route through the small, dirty city I lived in. Either way, I will never forget the first time I saw her.

With a mind clouded by anger and an unknown purpose propelling me through the back streets like my tail was on fire, it's a wonder I heard the small shuffling noise at the end of the dark alley I found her in. I nearly walked by it too, but that shuffling wedged its way into my mind and tugged hard, bringing me to a sharp halt just a few paces past the corner. More curiously than cautiously, I did an about-face and paced more slowly back to the alley's entrance. I had it in my mind that I would beat the crap out of whatever hid in the darkness, mostly just to vent my frustration, but when I paraded around the corner with my head held high and my chest out, all thoughts of violence escaped me.
Ten years old wasn't quite the age I started ogling girls, but the first time I laid my eyes on Nika, I found myself wanting to hold her more than anything in the world. It wasn't an attraction like you might think; I wanted her the way a young girl would want the beautiful doll in the window, or the way a young magic user might want a gorgeous, tattered tome filled with vast amounts of knowledge. I had been staring at her so intently, pondering the intensity of the feeling of want that filled me, that I didn't even hear her speak. I saw her lips moving, though, and that snapped me back into reality. I shook my head to clear my thoughts, and she seemed to understand that I hadn't been listening. She smiled, almost deviously, and repeated herself.

"What angers you so on this lovely evening?" Her voice was smooth but demanding; it was as if the entire night was heavy with her question, pressing me for an answer.

My voice, just starting to crack with the transition to a double-digit age, seemed almost dirty next to hers. "My parents…" I croaked feebly, taking a step forward.

She was seated atop an empty wooden crate, far back in the dead end alley. Almost as if it knew she deserved her own spotlight, the moon filtered in from above to light the area around her. Her hair, flowing gently past her shoulders, almost blended in with the light of the moon. It was a silvery white color that I had never seen before in my life. Strands of it seemed to float around her, though there was no trace of a breeze in the dark backstreets. I thought I saw something on her head, but she lifted her chin a bit and I couldn't tell what it might have been. I stepped closer. She was dressed quite strangely, but I only thought it more appealing. She wore black boots, mostly covered by bright red leg-warmers that extended to her knees. They were baggy and tied off with strips of black cloth; two tiny golden bells hung from each. Her dress was even more peculiar, a short white kimono-like cloth with no sleeves, held on by a gigantic red cloth belt that was tied in an obnoxiously large bow behind her. When she shifted, I heard a small jingle that told me there was almost certainly another bell on the bow. The only jewelry she had was a thin, simple black chain with a red jewel on the end. It swung forward suddenly, and I noticed she was leaning toward me. That's when it finally occurred to me that her foreign beauty wasn't from her pale hair or unique dress. It was the bright, playful red eyes that peered back at me, waiting for me to continue.

Feeling plain in comparison to her unique appearance, I shuffled uncomfortably. I knew I looked bad; my light brown hair was messy from the hour I had to lay in bed pretending to be asleep before I could sneak out. I had thrown on some clothing without caring what it looked like, and my sneakers were riddled with holes. The girl continued to stare straight at me, looking like she cared more about my story than the state of my appearance. I sighed and gave in.

I spent the better part of the night sitting on a crate across from her, telling her how my parents just didn't understand how beautiful magic was, and how I could do so much with my life if I could only become the apprentice of a skilled magician. It rained on and off, though the clouds seemed to be half-hearted in their attempts to get us wet. I must have sounded whiney to her, but she didn't complain once. She simply smiled at me, nodding when appropriate and prodding me to continue when I fell silent. Finally, out of breath, I slouched on my crate and brought my eyes up to meet hers. I started when she slipped from the crate with unnerving grace, but I wasn't afraid when she stepped toward me and said, "Come down here."

I slipped off my crate and, for the first time, realized that I was actually shorter than she was. I was almost certain she was the same age as I was, and I found myself embarrassed that I had to tilt my head up a bit to meet the glowing red orbs that stared at me with an intensity that made me shiver.

"You want to use magic, yes?" Of course she knew this by now, but I nodded anyway, never taking my eyes from hers. "Do you want it enough to give up your life to it?" Growing nervous, I shifted on my feet and glanced away for a moment. Remembering my anger from before, though, I lifted my head again and spoke firmly.

"I want to learn magic more than anything. I want to become so amazing that, on apprentice day, hundreds of boys and girls line up in hopes to talk to me. I want to be so skilled that my parents will regret telling me no."

She smiled a smile so chilling that my brain set off warning bells, telling me to get my sorry butt out of that alley and back in my bed where it belonged, but I stayed planted in my spot.

"My name is Stellamonika. Go home now and learn what you can. There are great magic books among the dusty contents of this city's bookstores. When you have learned enough that you feel you can impress me, draw a circle and place a red rose in it. Call my name and we'll meet again."

My mind repeated what she said over and over, already thinking of ways to impress her and already mourning her absence, as she was about to leave.

"Wait," I gasped as she turned. "My name is Clover."

She glanced over her shoulder to grin at me. "I know."