It was Thursday afternoon, or exactly forty-eight hours until Lucy’s match with Nora. Under normal circumstances, the lunch bell would have served as a grim reminder of this to Lucy, but today the bell meant something else. Today it meant that she would finally get be taught again by Cedric—the magicless boy who was somehow incredible at teaching magic.

At first, she asked if they could meet up again in the morning—after forcing a lesson out of him last night—but Cedric asserted that he would rather spend it getting familiar with how matches in the Sorcerer’s tournament worked. Lucy didn’t think there was much else to know besides the basics, though. This wasn’t even the official tournament yet, but rather the qualifying blocks meant to reduce the number of official contestants.

In a qualifying match, there was no big audience. You didn’t get to face anyone outside your own school, and—perhaps the most important difference—you didn’t have a full six-man team. Instead, the lead sorcerer fought alongside a single knight who was only allowed to battle with non-magical weapons.

In Lucy’s case, her knight was Rosseau—and he was very good at it. He was considerably athletic, and skilled with swordplay. Many nobles were. Of course, Rosseau insisted that his family was at the very bottom of that hierarchy. But even so, he still had much more exposure to combat than a farmer’s daughter such as herself would ever get. She felt lucky to have him as her knight and she didn’t want to let him down anymore.

“So, what’s this surprise you keep telling me about?” asked the very boy who had been occupying her thoughts.

“Hmm? Oh! I wonder if I should tell you?” Lucy teased, walking alongside him towards the practice fields again.

Rosseau smirked, returning her playfulness. He was glad to see her finally acting herself again. “I bet it’s a new spell.”

“That could be a part of it. But it’s not the full surprise.”

“Oh really? A new spell and something else? I can’t wait to find out.” He humored her.

“Well, you don’t have to wait any longer, we’re here!”

Rosseau found himself being left behind as Lucy broke into a jog to the middle of the grassy field they had finally reached. He didn’t have to wonder for too long what she was doing as he looked ahead of her, where he saw the same boy she was with yesterday standing by himself, waiting for their arrival.

Rosseau stopped at the edge of the field, hesitating. He hadn’t heard the rumor of there being a magicless student at Greidwhen until yesterday—when Nora took it upon herself to inform him about the boy he had left Lucy alone with in the classroom. At the time, he didn’t have any other thought except that Nora was lying and trying to put a wedge between him and Lucy. But this morning he asked Professor Borden about it, and he confirmed Nora’s information with a distasteful tone.

At the moment, Rosseau didn’t know what to think. His instincts were telling him to keep Lucy away from him, but from what Nora had told him, Lucy also knew the truth. She knew he was magicless and yet…she was running towards him with a smile. A smile that was just as bright and friendly as the one’s she would show to him. It was for that sole reason that he decided to continue forward. He may not have trusted the magicless, but he did trust his teammate.

“Rosseau! This is Cedric!” Lucy shouted from across the field. “He’s gonna be teaching us magic to use for our next match!”

Rosseau’s guarded mentality shattered upon hearing Lucy’s words. Teach? A magicless who can teach magic? Impossible. Lucy must have lost her mind. And the magicless boy, Cedric…what could he possibly have to gain from such an absurd claim?

“Oh, yeah?” Rosseau replied, wanting to see how the lesson from the magicless would play out.

Lucy, meanwhile, whispered to Cedric. “Remember, don’t tell Rosseau about my deal with the Headmaster. And don’t worry…I haven’t told him about…you know.”

“You don’t have to keep bringing it up. I won’t say anything. However…I’d say that he already knows about me,” the ever-stoic Cedric replied. Rosseau’s hesitant pause earlier didn’t escape his notice. It was clear that this other boy, Rosseau, knew. Cedric always recognized when someone knew.

“What!?” Lucy said in a low whisper, her eyes wide.

“It’ll be fine. As long as he’s willing to cooperate.”

Finally catching up to the pair, Rosseau got a good look at Cedric, who returned it right back.

“Uh…s-so this is Cedric. He’s the person I’ve been meeting in the library,” Lucy stuttered, worried that the boys weren’t going to play nice.

“Ah. So you’re the reason my teammate’s been skipping our second period,” Rosseau laughed. “Nice to meet you-“

“Let’s cut the pleasantries,” Cedric interrupted. “There’s only forty minutes left in the break,” he said, eyeing the southern face of the clock tower from afar. “Have either of you seen this girl, Nora, in a match before?”

“No. You Rosseau?” Lucy asked.

“I haven’t.”

“I see. Here, surely you’ve seen one of these before.” Cedric rummaged through his bag, pulling out a polished chunk of crystal that spanned his palm.

Lucy looked at it curiously, while Rosseau recognized the item.

“A recording crystal.” Rosseau said.

“Of Nora’s last match.” Cedric finished.

“Recording what?” Lucy asked.

“It’s…well I’m not sure how it works, but here I’ll show you.”

Rosseau grabbed the crystal excitedly, holding it out and channeling magic into it. Soon after, it began to glow while a miniature arena drawn with light hovered above it.

“Wait…is that…?”

“It’s one of the arenas for the tournament qualifiers,” Rosseau said. “And look.” He nodded towards a pair of figures also entering from the edge of the display. “It’s Nora and her teammate.”

“Oh, wow! So is this thing is a recording of her match?”

Rosseau and Cedric both looked at Lucy, expressionless at her playing catch-up.

“Of course, we don’t have enough time to watch it right now, but you should both find time to watch it later, and study the spells she uses.”

“Wow, that’s very helpful, Cedric. Thanks!” Lucy cheered.

Rosseau stopped channeling magic into the crystal, causing the display to cut out. His gaze was focused on the crystal chunk, but his thoughts were elsewhere. This magicless—no—Cedric, was more clever than Rosseau gave him credit for.

“Yeah, thanks.” Rosseau said.

Cedric didn’t reply, but gave an acknowledging nod before heaving an absurdly thick book out from a separate bag on the ground beside him.

“And what’s that?” Lucy asked, worried.

“It’s the official rulebook for the Sorcerer’s Tournament. Latest edition, of course.” Cedric said, almost sounding proud. “Have you read this?”

Lucy and Rosseau both shook their heads slowly, shuddering at the thought of trying to read that monstrosity.

“Well, I rummaged through it this morning to get an understanding of how a match works and a particular section stood out to me.” He looked at Lucy. “The part that says you can begin each round with up to two charms in place on your persons…what do you use?”

“Oh. That rule,” Lucy said. “Well…” She glanced to Rosseau, feeling embarrassed.

“We don’t use any,” Rosseau said, not wanting to make anything more of it.

“I see…” Cedric got the hint. “Then that’s the first thing we should work on right now.”

“But there’s so many different charms. Which one’s do we even pick?” Rosseau asked.

“Well, I looked through some match records for previous tournaments, and a popular one looks to be Staughsen’s Triggering-Barrier charm.”

“Eh…what’s that?” Lucy asked.

“A perimeter charm that detects when a high velocity attack passes through it and promptly creates a barrier to protect the caster.”

“Sounds complex.” Rosseau rubbed his chin. “Are the prep-periods between rounds long enough for her to cast it?”

“For a beginner? Just barely.”

“But what about the second charm?” Lucy chimed in. “Maybe two easier charms would be better than a difficult one?”

Rosseau thought that Lucy made a good point, but could also tell Cedric had something more to say.

“No, this will take up both charms. You’ll be casting it for the both of you.”

Rosseau and Lucy both looked shocked.

“What! Won’t it take twice as long to cast, then!?” Lucy exclaimed.

“It won’t,” Cedric said calmly. “The adjustments necessary for extending a charm’s cast to another target should only add a few extra seconds. It will require twice the amount of magic used, however.”

Rosseau was, again, bewildered by Cedric’s knowledge. These weren’t the kinds of things a first-year student knew. This could be third-year, or even graduate level course-matter.

“That’s amazing…” Lucy said in awe.

Rosseau had to agree. It was amazing.

“Alright! Let’s go for it!” Lucy threw her fist into the air, excited at the idea of learning her first truly advanced spell.

Rosseau smirked at his teammate’s gusto, while Cedric completely ignored the girl’s cheer.

“Now then, let’s get started.”

It had been twenty minutes since the trio had begun their actual practice. It started with Cedric reviewing charms, and how they were simply dormant spells that could be activated at a later time. From there, however, the lecture began to increase in complexity. But, as Rosseau and Lucy realized, Cedric made it surprisingly easy to follow.

“A charm at this level is really just a chain of simpler ones: shaping a perimeter, detecting foreign magic, and creating a barrier. In fact, shaping and detecting are essentially the building blocks for many popular combat charms, and it’s only the spells following that make them different.”

Cedric then went into a rough overview of the concept known as spell chaining.

“Now, unfortunately, there isn’t a single catch-all spell for chaining the major spells of a charm together. Thankfully the second-simplest solution does hold true…and it’s that for any two spells you want to chain, a spell exists that can chain them together.”

It was a simple lecture that glossed over many of the specific intricacies that made a charm this complicated possible, but Cedric knew it was the bare amount of information the two needed to try and cast it. And now, after finishing his overview, he was guiding them on how to cast the first chain in the charm—perimeter and detection.

“Eeeek!” Lucy cried, the rebound from her latest failed attempt threw her backwards onto her butt. “Ugh, just tell me the secret to this already!” she whined.

Cedric gave her a scolding look. “If you think every failed spellcast can be solved with some posture correction, you’re wrong. You still have to channel your magic correctly.”

Lucy groaned. Channeling was the hardest part of spell-casting. Of course, each spell’s channeling process typically only needed to be learned once—and then you just needed to remember it—but learning the process for a new spell was always frustrating, especially for a spell as complicated as this.

Scrambling to her feet, Lucy tried again, closing her eyes and focusing with her staff held out in front of her. As usual, a pressure rose in her chest from drawing out her raw magic. She tried to move and shape it as the spell book described but she couldn’t maintain control and promptly found herself flying backwards from another rebound.

Lucy hit the ground with a thud.

“Hmm…it could be that you are trying to force it too much.” Cedric approached Lucy who looked quizzically back at him.

“Force what?”

“The magic into the channeling pattern.” Cedric said, thinking hard for a moment. “Tell me, when you tap into your raw supply of magic, it seems to flow like a stream of water, right?”

“Uh…I guess…?” Lucy answered, having never thought about it.

“And much like how a stream will spill over if it meets a sharp turn, so will your magic if you try too harshly to manipulate it—that’s when rebounds happen.” Cedric pointed back towards where Lucy had been thrown from. “So, perhaps, instead of viewing the steps in the book as how you should move your magic, view it as a path that you are digging to gently guide its natural flow within you.”

Lucy glanced to Rosseau, who shrugged back with an intrigued look.

“Al…alright. I’ll try it…” Lucy stood up, not knowing if she truly understood Cedric’s instructions. Draw a path for the magic to flow through? No, draw a gentle path, she corrected, otherwise she’d end up getting tossed across the field again.

Trying once more, Lucy drew out her magic, trying to guide it in the way Cedric explained. It wasn’t something she had considered before, but her raw magic did seem to have its own, natural flow after drawing it out. Focusing on that feeling, Lucy tried to draw a path for it, one that her magic’s flow wouldn’t fight against. And after “guiding” it through the first channeling movement, the raw magic pulsed—a sign that it was transforming.

“WOAH!” Lucy shouted, surprised that it had worked. Her loss of focus caused her to lose control however, and she found herself flying backwards for a third time.

“Lucy!” Rosseau rushed over, frightened by how much harsher this last rebound was. After rushing to her side, though, his fears were put at ease as he noticed the ecstatic look on her face.

“That was incredible, it worked! Or, well- it was working…but still!” Lucy’s eyes beamed with excitement. “You should have told me sooner that there was another way to channel magic!” she teased, smiling.

Cedric didn’t reply. She was wrong about it being another way to channel magic—it was merely a different way to think about it. But he didn’t want to risk affecting her progression, so he remained silent.

Lucy continued to make steady progress, her failures this time being due to simply not having a grasp of how to channel the spell. There were no rebounds anymore, however. Instead, her failed attempts simply fizzled into gentle breezes out of her staff. Eventually, though, one of her attempts didn’t fizzle out and the channeling process had extended far past any one of her previous tries, ending with a strong pulse of magic and followed by the appearance of a distinct circle of light on the ground around her.

“I think- I think it’s HAPPENING!” Lucy shrieked, unsure if she was allowed to move.

“Only one way to find out,” Rosseau said, equally excited. Pulling his wand out, he pointed it towards Lucy and shot a weak burst of wind magic directly at her.

As the waft of magical wind passed into the circle, it’s lighted edge flashed briefly—a fact that made Rosseau pump his arm excitedly.

“It worked, Lucy! It detects magic!”

“That’s amazing!” The girl yelled back, still stiff as a board as she clung to her staff.

“You can relax. The charm was completed so you don’t have to worry about manipulating it anymore.” Cedric said. “Try walking around.”

“Okay.” Lucy replied, unable to help her immense smile. Relaxing her body, she took a few steps forward and noticed something peculiar—the circle was moving with her.

“Incredible!” Rosseau awed. “A charm that detects magic and follows the caster. Something like that hasn’t even been touched on in our classes so far!”

Lucy trotted around the field, watching with an excited smile as the circle followed her around. The pain from getting thrown several feet across the field from the rebounds, the frustration from the spell fizzling out whenever she came close to completing the cast…it was all worth it for this.

The clock-tower’s bell resounded, a signal for the group that it was time to end their practice.

“We’ll pick up from here when classes are over.” Cedric said while his two students nodding in agreement and gathered their stuff. “I’ll do some more research in the meantime. I’m interested in the matches of past tournament champions, so I’ll see if I can find any information on them.”

“Sounds good.” Rosseau replied, anxiously trying to get his next words out. “And, thanks. For your help, I mean.”

“Yeah! This was great! I can’t wait to start again!” Lucy exclaimed, excited.

Cedric was caught by surprise. He wasn’t used to being thanked, especially by his peers. It made him somewhat uncomfortable, but also somewhat pleased.

“Glad I could help,” was all he could muster.

The cobblestone paths on the edges of the training fields began to swarm with students all heading to their next classrooms.

“Alright then! We’re gonna head out. See you after class!” Lucy waved goodbye to Cedric as she turned to leave down the field. Rosseau gave a last, courteous nod before joining her.

Cedric watched as they both walked off to class, smiling and laughing with each other until their figures finally disappeared amongst the droves of other students. Eventually, the crowds finished passing through, and Cedric walked back to the library, alone. He didn’t feel like he was alone, however. And though he would never tell the two…he looked forward to meeting up with them again, too.