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The Best B-Rank Mage

1

Chapter 1

14

“Move!” Gus yelled as he shoved away the unsuspecting bystanders. His focus was dead set on the dirty blonde man running away from him. The soles of his feet burned. His lungs were almost out of air.

 

“I got you now,” he thought. But when he was about to cross Colorado Ave, a bus drove through, almost hitting him. When the street cleared, the man was gone.

 

“Fuck,” he swore under his breath. While heaving, his eyes darted around the busy avenue. He couldn’t have gone too far. Dirty blonde hair. Dirty blonde hair. Where is he?

 

As he ran past a nearby bistro, something caught his eye. A woman wearing a familiar brown leather jacket, standing idly as if waiting for something.

 

“Hey, you there,” he called out but the woman didn’t budge. He might“Miss! I’m talking to you.” As he neared the woman, she threw the jacket at him and ran. She had the same clothes as the thief!

 

“Fucken shapeshifter!” Gus growled and chased after her. He pulled out his wand from its holster and aimed it at the woman. “Galeo!” A bullet of air projected through from the wand and hit the woman. She stumbled to the ground and when she stood back up, she had transformed back into a man.

 

Gus gritted his teeth. This person is a high-rank mage if they can transform back to back at that speed. As the pursuit went on, Gus’ stomach churned as he realized where the thief was going. He removed his shirt and sprinted to the beach, where a lot of people were hanging out, tanning themselves in the sun.

 

“No, this is bad!” He flicked his wand again. “Teper!” The earth in front of the thief suddenly elevated but he easily jumped out of its way. Gus felt he was running out of time. The thief could easily blend at the beach.

 

That’s it! Time! He aimed his wand back at the man. He has to try, he thought. “Ainorchana!” He yelled a time spell, to freeze the man entirely. His wand glowed a bright green color. It’s gonna work! Sparks flew before him. His hands trembled. Boom!

 

His wand flew off into the sky. It didn’t work. Gus scrambled to pick up his wand back but when he turned to aim it again, the thief was gone.

 

***

 

“So you let him go?”

 

Gus groaned. “I told you captain, they are a shapeshifter. I almost had them!”

 

“Almost is not good enough Warren, you know that especially in our coven.” the captain began his lecture. “The Grand Magic coven prides itself on having the best mages here in the west. As magic guards, we protect the people, we save lives from abusive mages. Here, we are the frontier of balance between mages and humans. So, Augustus Warren, your almost is not, and will never be good enough.”

 

Gus's fingernails dug into his palm, his breath heavy but controlled. He hated the fact that a few months ago, he only referred to this captain as Carl. Carl lectured him about the principles of their coven as if he has not been a magic guard longer than he did. But he despised more the idea that he was promoted as captain first because he’s an A-rank mage. Gus has been stuck as a B-rank mage ever since he graduated from the Magic Academy.

 

In their coven, there are four levels of mastery in magic. C-level, the lowest one, has mastered the basics of potion-making and spectral phenomena. B-rank mages like Gus, beyond potion-making, have mastered elemental magic. On the other hand, A-rank mages mastered more complex spells such as reconstruction and transformation magic. And the highest level, the S-rank mages can perform abstract spells such as time and spatial magic, necromancy, and other powerful spells.

 

“Warren, are you even listening?”

 

“Sir?”

 

“Tsk. Your head is above the clouds again. I said, what do you think went wrong with this?”

 

“I uh…I used a time spell.”

 

Carl clapped, “Genius. You have a brain after all. I just wish you could have used that to know that B-rank mages like you can’t do that kind of spell, yeah? But I suppose I can’t blame you that much. If he really was a shapeshifter, that’s an A-rank skill. You have no chance of winning. You should have called for backup though. And that’s your mistake.”

 

“But I couldn’t just let them go.”

 

“I know but at least you should have informed us. You know that is not your field.”

 

As a B-rank magic guard, he could only handle small-time crimes and conflict resolutions. Gus clenched his jaw as tight as he could as if preventing a monster from escaping his mouth. Luckily, someone knocked on Captain Carl’s office door, distracting them both.

 

“Hey Captain, new grimoires arrived for A-rank mages.”

 

Carl suddenly lost his stern facade and smiled like a kid he was. “Yes! I wonder what new spells are in here.”

 

“Are there new grimoires for B-levels?” Gus asked but his coworker shook her head.

 

“Cool! A fingerprint detection spell!”

 

“Can I see?” Gus asked.

 

Carl shut his book. “You’re still here? You’re dismissed.” Carl flicked his fingers, shooing him away.

 

Gus frowned and left his office. He slumped down on his chair and saw a poster of a familiar good-looking S-rank mage looking down at him. “Strive for the best, be an S-rank Mage!” the poster says. The S-rank mage sported a flashy bright smile and perfectly smooth skin. Anyone who would look at that face could tell that he got his life all sorted.

 

“I bet you’re doing fantastic, aren’t you?” Gus whispered. He sighed and looked at his reflection on his computer screen. His baggy eyes and the messy stubbles of his beard made him look older than his age. He’s only 31 but he looked like he has grandchildren.

 

Time sure went by. He could still remember how he looked like when he was at the magic academy. Although he was a lot thinner before, he doesn’t look like he was churned out by society. He had a lot of potential. At a young age, he was almost a master of elemental magic. He was lauded by many for his skills. But now, an almost would never be good enough. Maybe if he tried to strive for the best when he was still in the academy, maybe he would have been like him.

 

His phone buzzed. His mom was calling.

 

“Hey mom, what’s up? Do you need some money? Is Macy okay?”

 

“Look at you, you’re such a worrywart. Your sister is okay. And no I don’t need money.”

 

“Then is it Luke? Is he trouble again?”

 

“No, not all! I’m just calling to make sure you’re alright.”

 

“Oh…” Gus fell silent for a second. He stood up from his chair and collected his things. “I’m alright mom. I’m just about to head home.”

 

“Good. Head straight home, okay? I’m worried about you. I had a nightmare.”

 

Gus sighed and left their office building. “What nightmare?”

 

“Oh, I don’t want to talk about it but just be careful, okay?”

 

“It’s just a nightmare mom,” Gus assured her.

 

“Aren’t some mages capable of seeing the future?”

 

“Maybe, but that’s some S-rank magic, and you’re not a mage.”

 

“I might be. It’s rare for a human and a mage to have a magical children.”

 

A bitter smile formed on Gus’ lips. “Dad was a good mage though, so he must have a lot of mana to share with me.”

 

“He was, wasn’t he?”

 

“Anyway, I have to go. Okay? I’ll message you when I got home. Love you.”

 

Gus abruptly ended the call. It had been years since he and his mom had talked about his dad. Unlike Gus, his father was an A-rank magic guard. He could remember, his dad going home with a lot of stories about the crimes he solved and the bad guys he caught. Macy and Luke loved to hear his stories. They would climb on their father’s lap and ask him to tell them how his day went. Gus would pretend not to listen but he love to hear his dad’s adventure just as much.

 

He was so inspired by his father’s stories that he wanted to follow in his footsteps. As the only other mage in their family, his dad was livid to hear that. He was enrolled in the magic academy, a prestigious school of wizardry. He was a full scholar, one of the benefits of having an A-rank mage parent. His father often told him that he would be an S-rank mage.

 

But one day, on duty, his father was struck by a spell. A sharpened rock flew in his direction, hitting him in the lungs. Their lives were never the same after. Gus could remember, just as clearly as his father’s stories, his mother’s cries of despair. He hated that sound. Maybe even feared it. So much so that an idea was planted in his mind; it grew and festered, seemingly anchoring its root on his whole being. He swore he wouldn’t be an A-rank mage.

 

Though now, he was beginning to question where that idea got him. Stuck as a B-rank mage. Mediocre. Just enough. Words that he never thought would affect him.

 

A few blocks away from his home, there was an abandoned lot. He walked against the tall grass that had grown over the years it was unattended. Although not an ideal location to be in, this is the only place he could think of where he could practice without creating a mess.

 

Gus waved his wand and cast a small flame on the tip of it, illuminating the place. He then pulled out from his bag an old tattered grimoire he found in the trash a few weeks ago. He squinted his eyes as he read the faded text on the grimoire. If only grimoires were open for everyone to use, he wouldn’t settle for his.

 

Ainorchana!” he yelled, repeating the same spell he attempted earlier. This nothing happened. He tried again. “Ainorchana!” Still nothing. Maybe he was missing something.

 

Gus repeatedly tried to cast the spell but the only thing achieved over a couple of hours was a measly green spark. He laid down on the ground, defeated, his muscles sore from all the spell-casting. Gus was about to pass out when he heard a voice.

 

“Stop!” the voice screamed. “Help!!”

 

Gus forced himself up and ran in the direction of trouble. His eyes widened as he saw the source of the voice. It was a woman floating mid-air, her arms seemingly bound by an invisible rope. A man who was trying to cover up her mouth was just as surprised to see Gus, a magic guard in uniform.

 

“This is none of your business, go along now.”

 

Galeo!” Gus didn’t hesitate to shoot out a burst of air.

 

The man revealed his wand as well and flicked it. “Idure!” A force field materialized, shielding him from the gust of air.

 

An energy spell, Gus thought. An A-rank mage. His heart raced. This is bad.

 

“How about this?” Gus swung his wand, hurling a block of earth at the man but it only shattered against his force field.

 

“Wait…” the man scoffed. “You’re kidding me. You’re just a B-rank mage! This is what a real spell is. Volio!” A plasma ball zipped from the man’s wand and hit Gus’s stomach.

 

Gus yelped in pain as blood spilled from the ghastly hole in his stomach. Clutching his wand, he mustered his strength and aimed it back at the man. Knowing his elemental magic would be futile, he had to try something else.

 

Ainorchana!” The tip of his wand glowed with an eerie green light.

 

The man frowned for a second but then burst into laughter. “You almost had me there! I thought you knew a time spell. I feel bad for you. It’s like fate played a cruel joke against you.”

 

“Shut up!” Gus bellowed. “Ainorchana!” he tried again but still nothing.

 

The man sighed and pointed his wand directly at Gus’s head. “Volio.”

 

Ainorchana!” Gus attempted one last desperate time, closing his eyes, prepared for the imminent impact of the man's plasma ball. Unbeknownst to him, his entire body was enveloped in a vibrant green light. When the man's spell hit him, the green light erupted, radiating throughout the city. In the blink of an eye, the light spectacle was gone and so was Gus.

 

***

 

“Hey, Gus! Gus, wake up!”

 

Gus felt the heat of the sun against his skin. He covered his face with his hand and slowly opened his eyes. It seemed that he was lying on the concrete ground. A crowd of people had gathered around him, murmuring to themselves.

 

“You’re awake! Thank goodness.”

 

It took a few seconds before Gus’s vision got clear. Standing in front of him was a student from the magic academy he used to go to. He could tell based on his uniform.

 

When he looked up to see who it was, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

 

“Shane?” he asked. It had been a while since he last saw him. “You look like you didn’t age a day,”

 

“What are you talking about?” Shane asked, grinning. He offered Gus his hand and pulled him up to his feet.

 

“Careful!” he yelled as he instinctively covered the wound on his stomach. But to his surprise, his gut was unscathed. No blood or hole anywhere. And strangely, he noticed he was wearing his old uniform, just like Shane.

 

“What? What the fuck just happened?”

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