Training wasn't easy. Anyone who said that being a wizard was as simple as waving a wand or chanting some incantation was bonkers.
Plus Stephen was being intentionally frustrating.
"Can you just tell me what I'm doing wrong?" Casey snapped, lowering her hands from their defensive position. Yet again, she had lost to the six foot holographic construct that Stephen had created to spar with her. It had shoved her to the ground and pinned her beneath a massive shield, its force threatening to crush the air out of her before Stephen dissipated it.
After their trip through the portal to Kamar-Taj a month ago, Stephen had begun putting her through her paces when it came to training. It hadn't taken them long to figure out that her natural talents weren't exactly for astral projection or sling ring use (she still hadn't mastered that). Instead, she was drawn to combat spells.
So far she knew how to make shields and small offensive rings, and from diving into the books Wong had given her, she was teaching herself how to create magic glowy-glowy knives. Sometimes Stephen sparred with her himself and sometimes he had her fight the construct so he could watch the match, like he was now.
"Look, punching things isn't my forte. I'm not the worst in a fight, far from it, but I'm decidedly more cerebral," Stephen said with a hefty dose of arrogant honesty. "But you always jump in, you never just wait and watch."
"The best defense is a good offense," quipped Casey, bringing up a saying a million people before her had used. She shoved her hair back from her face and trudged over to grab her water bottle. The training was making her stronger, but she still had a long ways to go if she was supposed to be fighting Arpath again one day. She and Stephen hadn't really talked about what that was going to look like, but they still had a little over a year and a half, maybe more.
"Your offense would be more effective if you learned to use your head."
"I'm learning to use knives. I think that'll help a lot. I'll be very stabby-stabby."
Stephen sighed and walked over. He was wearing sweatpants and an old worn-out Columbia University t-shirt. That was where he had gotten his doctorate. Over the last month, she had also learned a few things about her mentor, like how and why he had become a sorcerer and why his hands shook and stuff like that. She also knew that he liked little hole-in-the-wall restaurants, disliked sitcoms, loved music trivia, and practically ate magic books. He went through them so fast. He had started wearing normal clothes more often, even when he was studying magic. It was sort of funny watching a Master of the Mystic Arts sitting on a couch in jeans and old concert t-shirts, flipping through massive tomes of incantations and whatnot. His cloak of levitation seemed to adore him, acting very much like a good friend rather than a statement wardrobe piece.
Stephen grumbled. "Do you have to learn the knife thing." He hadn't forbidden her from it, but that didn't mean he liked it.
"I think it'll be useful," she said, rubbing her shoulder where the construct had slammed her with its shield. "Did you base that construct guy off Captain America?"
"He's not the only person who uses a shield."
"But he's one of the few people who will beat you unconscious with one," Casey said.
Popping the lid closed on her water bottle, she flopped to the ground and looked up at the ceiling. Their little gym was tucked away on the forbidden third floor, which was slowly becoming less forbidden. The room seemed way bigger than it should be based on what the Sanctum looked like from the outside. She was getting used to things just generally being odd in her world now.
"Don't get comfortable, we're not finished. You still need to practice with your sling ring, and then you have homework."
"Magic homework or real homework?"
"Like you need me to tell you it's both," Stephen said, "And you need to pick where you want to order from tonight."
"One of us really needs to learn to cook," Casey said before putting her finger on the tip of her nose. "Nose goes."
"And I can cook. I choose not to, I'd rather keep ordering takeout," Stephen mused, not bothering to really argue with her. He nudged her in the side with his foot. "Come on, get up."
Groaning, she sat up and then flopped over again. "I'm done. I'm magic-ed out. Leave me here to become one with the Force." She had been watching more Star Wars lately.
"So dramatic. We're not space wizards," Stephen said. "The Force isn't a thing in this universe."
Casey sighed and rolled over before getting to her feet. She rubbed her shoulder again, making a big deal of it to show Stephen how exhausted she was. Then she remembered a different way she could distract him. "Hey, did you find Jonathan Pangborn yet?"
Stephen frowned, like he always did when she brought up this subject. "Not yet."
It had to be a bad sign that he had been missing that long. Casey nodded. "Sorry."
"It's all right," Stephen said and shook his head, "Wong and I haven't given up yet, and there are other people looking for him."
"Isn't there some kind of locator spell? Or a scrying spell, I was reading about those last week."
"Nothing has worked," Stephen said, his frown deepening as he focused beyond her, blue eyes troubled. Now Casey felt bad for bringing it up. It had to mean something bad if they weren't working… "Speaking of Wong, he said he'll be coming by tomorrow with new books for you. I gave him a list that I think you'd benefit from, and I know you've finished most of the other ones."
"I'm keeping the knife book," Casey said.
Stephen gave her a withering look clearly meant to dissuade her from her decision. She gave him one right back and shook her head.
"Hey, do you think my parents would've liked the knife thing?" she asked casually, though a deep pang within her wanted to know the truth. Over the past month, she hadn't learned much about her parents from him even though he had said he'd tell her. Not even how they had managed to get rid of Arpath in the first place, and she knew he had to know. Her grampa had told her all about them but…now she knew there was a whole new side of both of them that she had never known about before. Stephen kept saying they would talk about it when Wong was there, but it had been so long...
"I don't know," Stephen said with a sigh, his tone softening. "I hope they wouldn't hate me for letting you learn it."
"They'd want me to be safe," she said with a shrug. She did know that about them.
"I'll be safe with knives. When exactly are we going to talk about them…my parents, I mean?"
"Soon," he said, which was basically what he said every time she brought it up. Maybe 'soon' was a favorite word with magic types. She heard it often enough these days.
Casey blinked and then turned toward the door. "All right. Then I'll practice my sling ring stuff soon."
"Soon!" Speeding up, she ran out of the room before he could really get into scolding her. For never having dealt with a teenager before, he was getting very good at scolding. His scowl was especially ferocious.