Master and Apprentice

"Dark Magic Attack!" A dark purple burst of power clouded my vision. I twirled my staff to deflect the attack, but it was too late. The initial strings of the blast knocked my only weapon away and I was left standing to take the blow head on. With a strangled cry, I flew backwards and landed outside the ring.

"Yeah!" I struggled to my feet, moaning. My hands and feet felt numb, and my head was spinning. I could barely see my opponent, but I knew who she was. I would be able to tell her presence from a mile away. My apprentice.

"Good…job…" I choked with huge gasps. My apprentice stood there beaming at me from behind her staff. I would have felt better if she had looked worried, helped, or at least had one line of concern in her face. No, she stood there grinning at me from the opposite side of the ring.

"Aw…Master, are you hurt?" Okay, there was the concern I needed, but she didn't fret over me like my mother or sister would have. She just stood there, and that was when I realized she was teasing me. I turned red in the face. How dare she? Well, let me return the favor…

"Oh!" I moaned in mock pain, falling to my knees. I gripped my arm tightly. "I think it's broken…" My apprentice finally reacted the way I wanted her to. She ran forward, kneeling beside me, her face drawn with worry.

I blushed slightly. She was very close to me now. Our faces were merely inches apart. If I moved…

"I'm sorry, did I hurt you?" she asked. I took my time to reply. It was probably the only time this week I would see her this calm.

"No…" I said slowly, grinning. She didn't even have time to react before I pushed her back, sending her sprawling on the floor. It was my turn to conquer.

Unfortunately, my blonde-haired apprentice had already gotten a hold of my arm to check if it was okay. When she was knocked back, she took me with her. I landed face first in the dirt of the training ring. My apprentice took this as a sign to start a giggling fit. I glared at her, the expression that used to reduce her to a puddle at the beginning of her apprenticeship. Now, she had gotten so used to me that it only made her laugh harder.

Great. Just great.

I stood there for the next ten minutes, brushing out my outfit while my apprentice laughed her head off on the floor. I did not concern myself with her. I merely looked over my outfit. Luckily, it was all a deep purple so any bit of dirt was easy to see. I checked to see if anything had happened to my boots, again purple, and checked my armor. Good, the damage was only to me, not to my outfit. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

My apprentice finally stopped her endless fit of laughter as I just finished adjusting my hair( and yes, that was also purple). My apprentice had once called me "a purple blob" when she had commented on seeing me from far away. Since then, I've been conscious with colors. And also, I had realized another thing. I realized the thing that had made me so conscious that my apprentice had noticed. Something I tried to suppress, because it was against the rules.

"I totally wiped the floor with you, Master," my apprentice said to me. I didn't even know why she called me that. It was a title of respect, and yet she threw it at me like it meant nothing. She might have even been mocking me, since she was starting to get stronger than me. And that was troubling. Not because it was embarrassing to get schooled by someone five years younger than you and your apprentice, but because she might be ready for the final exams. And she would no longer be my apprentice.

"Are you okay?" my apprentice waved her hand in front of me, her confusion reading why the heck are you staring off into space? I frowned at her and walked off. Within seconds, she was bouncing and twirling around me.

"So, what else are we doing today? Huh? What else? Am I learning new spells? Am I studying? Are we gonna have another battle? Eh? Can we? Can we?" my apprentice queried all in one breath as fast as she could, bouncing around me. Oh for Ra's sake, she was making me dizzy. As if that battle wasn't enough.

"I need to rest," I told her simply. What I wanted to say would have been I'm ready to punch you because your attack nearly knocked me unconscious, despite the fact that I, your master Dark Magician, taught you that attack and know three different ways to block it. My apprentice giggled. She would most likely infer that I was being a chicken and therefore shrunk away from another fight. Let her…it was half the truth anyway.

I walked away from her, scowling. My apprentice was still giggling. I needed some peace and quiet in my life. Instead of heading to my quarters, I took the route deep into a clearing in the forest.

.........

As I entered the glade, I was calmed by the soothing smell of jasmine flowers. I remembered that it was my apprentice that had put them here in the first place. I frowned. No thinking of her. It was my peaceful moment.

I walked forward and sat down on a tree stump that was in the exact center of the clearing. It was quite a few feet in diameter. My apprentice had actually possessed the patience to sit down and count the rings. For such a huge trunk, it had barely pushed a century before being cut down. My apprentice had told me what kind of tree it was, for I was not such a nature expert, but I forgot now. Oh no, I was thinking of her again. I had better stop it if I was going to save myself.

A few animals entered the clearing and birds sung sweet songs above my head. It was only afternoon, almost time for lunch, so the sun was pretty high in the sky. The flaming ball nestled softly in the endless light blue curtain behind it, untouched by clouds. The trees rose majestically around me, tall pillars of brown topped by wild crowns of green. The light breeze stirred the grass so they rippled in a wavy motion. I inhaled and the jasmine scent freely rushed through me. This was bliss.

No it was not. I heard my apprentice giggle. With a groan, I turned around, expecting to see her there. However, she wasn't. I turned back, warily glaring at the trees out of the corner of my eye. She was probably hiding, spying on me.

"I know you're there," I called out into the trees. Only my echo answered me. It surprised me, because I didn't know the clearing echoed. Maybe it was just my loneliness.

No, wait, I was not lonely. I wanted this peaceful time, because my apprentice was so bouncy and happy and hyper all the time she never heard a word I said. I never heard a word I said either, because she was so loud and yapping her head off. She was always so eager to talk to me. I will never understand that.

Okay, I admit it; I didn't really mind her talking to me. Now that I think about it, I missed her, sitting in this glade without her. I heard more giggling. This time I realized it was in my head. My brain was so used to her laughter that it was still ringing in my head.

"Great, my lovely apprentice. Just great. Apprentice, apprentice, apprentice, apprentice, apprentice…"

"Why are you calling me over and over again?"

I whipped around, faced by, who else, my apprentice. I flushed, caught unawares. I didn't know I had said that aloud.

"Oh…I…um…" I was stuttering! This is bad! "I was just thinking how you…" Schooled me? Whipped my butt? I was lost for words at her presence. "I was just, you know, thinking about how you've disturbed my day." And my life. And my sleep. And all my thoughts day and night.

Luckily, my blonde apprentice took that as a reasonable excuse and walked over so she faced me. When she was in front of me, she started hopping on her toes. Did I mention she could never keep still?

I also noticed her outfit at this time. She had changed, wisely, and was now wearing an incredibly short baby-blue skirt with a bright pink tube top that didn't quite make it to her waist. It was even more revealing then her normal outfit, which I considered quite un-magician-like the first moment I saw it. This one was also prettier, though. The skirt had ruffles and sparkles and the tube top was embroidered with blue flowers in places I really shouldn't have been looking. Then she had perfectly flawless skin everywhere: legs, arms, neck, shoulders…feet (in lovely brown sandals). Her blonde hair was flying around her as the breeze played with it.

At this time, I chose to shut my mouth. I was gaping at her, and I didn't notice until she was staring at me, hands on her hips. What was wrong with me? I was twenty-one, she was sixteen. I was her master, she was my apprentice.

I was in love with her; she was stupid enough not to know it by now.

Oh Ra, stupid rules! Why was it against the rules for a magician and his apprentice to fall in love, date, or marry? You know what? I didn't really care. The second my apprentice stood there in front of my like that, I knew the temptation was just too much to resist.

Great, I was gaping again.

"Seems like someone needs to tape your jaw shut…it's broken," my apprentice said. I grinned, and then wiped my face clean. Now that I had admitted it to myself and accepted it, there was no turning back.

I patted the side of the tree stump-bench on my right to motion for her to sit. She didn't take the cue. Instead, still bouncing on her toes, she made circles around the tree stump.

"You want to sit? Do you want to sit? Do you want to sit?" I had to repeat myself thrice for her even to look in my direction, twice more before she answered.

"No." Now how hard was that? I could tell her I was in love with her and she wouldn't know it.

Hey, now that was an idea. I had to tell her some time. And that time was now. If she graduated, earned the official title of Dark Magician Girl, and then slipped out of my grasp, I would never forgive myself.

"I have to tell you something. Apprentice…" I liked to call her that. It was cute. It was a strange feeling that overtook me when I said that, and I had this huge inclination to blush. "Apprentice…" There was no chance that she was listening, but I needed to talk. She would eventually listen; that's how most of our lessons began. She would miss out the first few minutes, but after that she would listen, stepping on her toes in the eagerness.

"I love you." I hoped maybe that sentence would make her stop. It didn't. The remark simply passed over her blonde head. It was worth a shot. Maybe drastic measures would work.

My idea of drastic measures was to reach out and grab her hand when she passed by. She stopped and looked at me. Yes, a moment of peace.

"Listen." I said. I had to keep my voice steady, because my hand was trembling. We had touched very little. We usually kept our distance, because that was how battles were played. She had touched my arm, of course, but I had on that outfit. Now my bare hand was touching her un-gloved wrist; more precisely, gripping her un-gloved wrist. I couldn't help it. I blushed.

"What? Did I miss something important?" Did you miss something important? Did the sun rise today? Of course you missed something important!

"Sort of…" I said. I motioned to the tree trunk. This time, she obeyed. I noticed she had a slight blush on her cheeks too. No, I was imagining it. Her cheeks were usually pink anyway. Pink from battle. And usually, to my annoyance, a victory. A pretty pink, like rose petals glistening after they bloom.

I could describe almost everything about her in poetic fashion. It's a side effect of love.

"What is it? You look sort of red, is something wrong?" I look sort of red?

"I need your help." Really, that was said at the spur of the moment. I have no idea what she needs to help me with. My love life? Wait…

"Yeah, what?"

"Listen…" Have I said that already? Yeah…oh well. Now, how should I break this secret love of mine to her, creatively. No one seems to appreciate a traditional 'I love you' these days. "I have a small problem…" Sometimes I amuse myself with my own understatements.

"Oh I can help you!" My apprentice cried eagerly, clasping her hands together and sitting up. I glanced at her with my eyebrows raised. She looked so cute.

"Are you sure?" I asked. "Cause it's a really big problem."

"I can solve anything!" my apprentice assured me.

"Okay…" I said slowly. "You see, there's this girl…" My apprentice immediately started to giggle. Was it something I said?

"Oh," she murmured. "Is my master in love?" I grinned. She said my master. I felt happier than I ever had when she had said the word master. My master. I felt like I couldn't let those words go.

Then I realized what she said.

"How come as soon as I mention a girl, you think I'm in love with her? Maybe I want to take her as my new apprentice when you move on?" My apprentice's grin faded, I think in realization of something.

"Are you saying I might be ready to move on?" I mentally smacked my forehead. We were heading into the wrong topic.

"Not yet…but about the girl." That was a rather quick change of topic, but she immediately began to look as lively as before. "Okay, so maybe I do love her…"

"I knew it!" My apprentice squealed. Why was she so happy that I loved another girl? I had two options. One: she was being overly happy because she thought I was finally growing up. Two: she was being overly happy to conceal her jealousy or her disappointment. I hoped it was the latter, but it was most likely the former.

"Yeah, but I still have that problem. How should I tell her? What if she doesn't love me back?"

"You shouldn't worry about that!" my apprentice told me. "Be a man! Have courage!" She's right. I should have courage.

"Good idea," I said to my apprentice.

"Maybe you can tell me who she is, so I can go bring her. You can tell her right here! What's a more romantic spot?" I pursed my lips together. I had an idea in my head, and I thanked my apprentice's eagerness. She wouldn't even pay attention. Now one more thing to clear up…

"Hold on," I said to her. "But there's only one problem. There's like this rule…that says I can't love her. It's really complicated, but it's a…family thing." I made something up at the last moment. My apprentice didn't hesitate.

"So, who cares?" she replied. "All rules are meant to be broken." She gave me a grin. Good, now I had the green light. Go, go, go!

"Okay then," I said. "Why don't you go get her? Let's see. She has glistening blonde hair that's the shade of the sun, emerald eyes that sparkle…she's pretty short and has a wonderful figure…and she's my apprentice." My apprentice, already on her feet and bouncing to go, only seemed to catch half of that. Or even less.

"Blonde hair…green eyes…your apprentice…got it!" She ran off in excitement. I leaned back, palms against the warm surface of the tree trunk, heart pumping in eagerness. Now I was the one excited. I strangely felt like hopping on my toes. It wouldn't be long now.

Soon, I heard footsteps once again. My apprentice came back into the clearing, back-tracking until she stood in front of me. Her cheeks were blushing, definitely blushing. And her eyes looked wide with…some expression. I think surprise.

"You only have one apprentice…" she said slowly, as if wanting me to tell her I said something wrong. I nodded my head slowly, smiling at her.

"And that's me…" she offered once again. I nodded, still smiling.

"And I have blonde hair…and green eyes…" I nodded, this time smiling and holding out my hands.

"I love you," I said. "And I always will. Will you have me?" I watched my apprentice, hoping she would. She was paused, standing still, hands still out, eyes wide in surprise. How rare was this moment. Her mouth was open too.

"But…but…but…but…but…but…but…but…but…but…"

"Is that your favorite word? You say that a lot when we start warm-ups." My apprentice blushed as deep a red as strawberries, bright and ripe and ready to be eaten.

"Why?" was her only reply. Her eyes dropped slightly so she no longer met my gaze.

"I don't know," I said. "But you are just so hyper and so happy…and so full of this energy that no one else has. I didn't really recognize this love until I thought about life without you, after you had become an official Dark Magician Girl and no longer my apprentice. I couldn't live with that. And if you are going to move on, I still want to be with you…"

Then, I nearly jumped out of my spot, because something warm was in my hands. Her hands. She had placed her hands in mine. I looked down at them, small and dainty compared to mine. I looked back up to her face, and she blushed deeper. It looked really cute on her.

"Well…" she said, not really looking at me but at our hands. I gripped hers firmly and she only blushed deeper. I was afraid she was going to get sick at this rate. "I've…you know…admired you from the beginning. I always used to dream that…you…would be like my prince charming and always thought I was so foolish because I was some crazy child and you were so grown-up and…so powerful…and everything!" I smiled up at her, and she had the courage to say one more line. "And you're so hot too." I burst out laughing at that one. She grinned, but she still did not look at me. Instead, she tried to squirm out of my grasp, too embarrassed to just stand there any longer.

"No you don't!" I said, pulling her forward so she landed pretty much on me. I placed my arm around her waist, which was nearly at my chest because I was sitting and she was standing. I pulled her closer until her body was pressed to mine, and her arms crawled around my neck. "Ra kill me if I ever let you go…"

I don't know who moved first, but pretty soon her lips were on mine and I didn't care. I placed a hand behind her head and pulled her deeper, desiring every part of her I couldn't have before. She met my kiss with every bit of passion she had to offer, and more. She didn't resist when I let my tongue slide into her mouth, tasting her, as she did the same to mine. She just tightened her grip around my neck and pressed her mouth roughly onto mine. And I loved every moment of it.

When she pulled back a little while later, she was thoroughly out of breath. She sat on my knees, playing with my fingers, as I traced kisses down her cheeks and through her hair.

"But the rule…" she said softly.

"All rules are meant to be broken, right?" I asked her, echoing her earlier words. She grinned, grabbed the collar of my outfit, and pulled me forward for another kiss.

I gladly accepted.