This was originally a Valentine's Day story for a contest, but I decided to put it up as a oneshot. Even though it's late, enjoy!
Co-written by Lightning13
A bitterly cold wind blew through the town of Witchelny on that fateful winter morning. Freshly fallen snow blanketed the cobblestone roads, which paved the way for rows of brick and wooden homes. Farther in town stood the three largest, oldest, and most precious buildings this cozy town had to offer: the school and the community library, which were flanked on either side of the town hall.
Witchelny was one of the best places to live. It was close to the Digital Sea, and over time had grown into a bustling trading center for travelers and merchants alike. It was a very temperate place to live, and was just out of the way of any major disasters, such as freak snowstorms (frequent on File Island).
Witchelny had but one rule that every citizen held in the highest regards when it came to their children: A certified wizard could hold any job, but to be the best out of all of your colleagues guarantees enormous success later in life. This could not ring any more true than for the top two mages in the entire school: a Wizardmon named Austin, and a Witchmon named Shantay.
Austin and Shantay were both 17 years old, and mature for their age. Both of them had mastered the four elements before their 12th birthdays, and classes usually did nothing but bore them. Both were about to graduate soon, and their magic abilities were deadlocked at perfect levels. This created much tension between the two ever since they realized the other's power at a young age.
Austin was a kind, but contemptuous fellow with long brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, as was the custom among his kind. His piercing gold eyes, pale blue skin, and vast intellect made him a target for jealousy that every Wizardmon in the school shared. His doppelganger, Shantay, kept her midnight black hair cascading over her shoulders. The only time she would ever put it up is when she sensed a fight coming on. Many girls envied her for her aptitude and biting wit.
Their hatred for each other boiled over outside of school one late January afternoon. Shantay and Austin had met at the town square, both shopping for a magic book. The two grabbed the same book, one that taught psychic magic.
"Come on Austin," Shantay bargained, "I'll be done with it in less than a week."
"Please," Austin interjected, pulling the book back toward her chest. "By the time you finish the book, I'll be an old sage, perceptive and wise."
She looked at him, astonished, and asked, "How much aging serum did you drink? You're certainly senile like an old wise man."
Austin narrowed his eyes and tugged on the book again, yet it was slowly inching out of his reach. Shantay smirked with delight and gave a final tug on it, prying it completely out of his hands. She grinned mischievously, paid for her well-earned reward, and turned her back on her foe.
"Never turn your back, Shantay," Austin cautioned under his breath, "or it will be the last thing you ever do." He focused his energy on her and recited an incantation: Feuseca Tantimota (Fiery Demise). A fireball materialized in his right hand and after taking careful aim, he struck her square in the back, the scorch mark marking its way through her two layers of clothing and burning all the way into her spine.
She cried out and faced him, and recited a spell of her own: Arenisca (Earthquake), in which tremors from the ground shook the spot where he stood, knocking him to the earth. She flung him up and down with a simple levitation spell. It was so easily, much like a child throws their teddy bear in the air. Once or twice, his arm or leg would hit the side of a building and she would grin a bit more each time.
Uninterested in continuing this pointless battle, she dropped him and fervently rushed home to tend to her burn and then to read her book. The battered Austin desperately made his way to his feet just to catch Shantay lose herself in the crowd. His pride, his rage, and his loathing erupted. He limped through the swarm of mages and followed her. It was his book. He absolutely needed it; otherwise he would fail his wizard exams, therefore ruining his perfect grade point average he had strived to preserve.
He was now less than thirty feet from her.
He demanded nothing less, perfection or failure was his philosophy. In his eyes, Shantay was a cheater, a parasite feeding off of his power. It was time he took care of this pest once and for all. What he didn't count on was that Shantay knew a spell to give herself eyes in the back of her head.
She saw the anger in his eyes and cringed. She hadn't the energy to fight back. Her burn now spread, stinging every part of her body. The two forces clashed as Austin struck her skull with a Thunder Ball. She whipped her head around and tried to block it, but reacted too late. She fell to the ground, devoid of consciousness. He was tempted to walk away, to leave her there, but he was not a vicious monster. He was a gentleman, so he decided to take her home.
It was a small town where less than five hundred digimon resided in. He left the cluster of two-story homes near the center of town out into the suburbs. He knew that Shantay's parents weren't well endowed financially. They were humble earth mages who oversaw anything agricultural. It wasn't a high-paying job, but it did provide them with first picks of the best kinds of food.
Her single story house was fairly easy to get into, seeing as how her family didn't lock the door. The rooms were small and not well furnished. Her bedroom was easy to spot; it was the only one with an overcrowded bookcase. Setting her gently onto her bed, he covered her with her blanket and equipped her with ice before making his way to the exit. He stopped and turned around, staring at her. She was defenseless, fragile even, and there was no one to protect her. Not that he should care. Yet he did.
After everything that had happened between them, he still cared. After all, he still had a heart that could be beaten and broken like anyone else's. He pulled a chair up to the edge of her bed and waited for her to wake up from her seemingly endless slumber.
Two hours had passed since she first stirred, but it would take another thirty minutes for her to open her eyes. Her first reaction was that of shock. Why was Austin, her most hated foe, sitting in her room? More importantly, what did he do while she was sleeping? Once he explained the situation to her, she calmed down considerably and tried to tend to her wounds, but he gripped her hands.
"No need to fix yourself up. I already did that for you." Austin commented.
She eyed him slyly and listened to him. "Alright then… why are you still here?"
He blinked twice and replied, "I only wanted to make sure you were feeling better, that's all. Don't worry, I'll be going soon. Your parents would freak out if they saw me in here."
Shantay smirked and softly murmured, "No they wouldn't."
Again, he stopped and glared at her. "What do you mean?"
"Nothing. It's just—no, never mind." She stumbled through her words as he gave her a dubious look. Taking his hand, she drew a small symbol with her finger in the palm of his hand. He knew exactly what she was trying to insinuate: a magic seal of trust.
He sighed, "Alright, I get it. I promise not to say anything to anyone." Her cheekbones moved upwards slightly, indicating a hidden, grateful smile underneath her cloak. The two sat on her bed as she stared him directly in the eyes.
"I've never said this to anyone, but for some reason, I think I have to tell you. Seeing as how you promised not to use whatever I say against me, I feel obligated to confess something to you." She paused and drew in an unsteady breath as she said, "I'm adopted."
He cocked his head slightly and raised an eyebrow. "Go on."
Eagerly, Shantay began, "My real parents were very powerful mages. In fact, they graduated with honors for being the highest-ranking witch and wizard in school. It's not like that today, you know."
He nodded. The system had changed considerably since the last generation. Instead of celebrating the highest witch and wizard, it was changed to "Highest Mage" award. An insubordinate group of feminist Witchmon argued that witches could be the same rank—if not higher—than most wizards.
"Anyway," Shantay continued, "my father decided to become part of the council and challenged one of its members to become certified as, well, a high wizard. And of course, only the best of the best can become those. He cast a very powerful spell that backfired on him, and it killed him. By this time, I was two years old..." Her tone grew more somber as she revealed, "and by age three, I was an orphan. I guess Mom just couldn't take it anymore."
By this time, Austin had stopped listening. It was not that he didn't care, but because he was drawn to a moment in his past, one of the few moments he mentioned her parents. He remembered saying to her that if she wasn't so gifted that her parents couldn't care less about her. Now, he realized that he was partially right: Her mother obviously didn't care about Shantay's needs, otherwise she wouldn't have committed suicide. If she cared, she would have stayed alive long enough to see her daughter succeed in just about everything.
Guilt began to wash over him for the mistakes in his past, so he took Shantay's gloved hand and kissed it softly. "I'm sorry for everything I've done. I didn't realize that you were suffering. You never showed it."
She pulled her hand away and awkwardly replied, "Yeah, well no one's life is perfect. I'm sure you aren't living on Easy Street, despite the fact that you have one of those big luxurious homes in the center of town."
"My dad is a judge at the town hall, and my mom is a librarian."
"Born with a silver spoon in your mouth, huh?" Shantay joked.
He nodded and chuckled a bit. "You could say that. Although I'm rich, I'm not spoiled rotten. I think I would've been beaten if I started acting like a pompous brat." The two shared a few laughs, and when they died down, Austin got up and headed for the door. "I think it would be wise if I headed home. Just make sure you keep that ice on your back, okay?"
Shantay slowly nodded, wincing in pain a bit at her burn. As she watched him leave, she felt a pang of remorse herself. Why, she was uncertain about. His family was well off, and hers was struggling to get by. He was clandestine, his actions stealthy. Somewhere in the depths of his mind was a secret locked up tightly, and she was the one who had to navigate through the darkness to find the key.
Three weeks passed and a new holiday emerged on the calendars: Valentine's Day. It was a day to celebrate with your loved one, where girls would wait for their boyfriends to give them chocolates, small stuffed animals, flowers, and much more. Everyone was in a carefree and pleasant mood. Everyone that is, except for Shantay. Valentine's Day, she felt, was a waste of time. It was just a normal day for her.
After her injury, she had been out for nearly a week, missing homework assignments and tests galore. She fell behind just slightly, and missed a question on her test, resulting in her receiving a 99. That was it. Her perfect grades that she had maintained through twelve years of school were now ruined, and it was all Austin's fault.
She stormed home and used her mind to slam the door shut. The echo reverberated off of the empty walls as she scampered into her room. She fell onto her bed and cried. Sadness was an unusual emotion for her to express, but she just felt an overwhelming sense of failure.
A knock on the door shook her out of her state of depression long enough for her to acknowledge their presence, and then she buried her head in the pillow again. Less than a minute passed until she felt a warm hand on her shoulder, comforting her. What surprised her was that the voice she heard was not the one she was expecting.
"Shantay, are you alright? What's the matter?"
She stared at him, surprised that he was here. "Austin?"
He turned away embarrassed, seemingly forsaking his name. "Yeah, I know what you're thinking: 'Why are you here?'"
"Pretty much. So, what's the answer?"
"I—I don't know," he stammered. "You were more bitter than your normal self. Has Valentine's Day got you in a bad mood?"
"No, but Valentine's Day is a bit of a joke. Why should there be one day out of all the others that couples should spend exorbitant amounts of money to make their lovers happy? I just don't understand it!"
"Maybe because digimon do crazy things when they're in love. Love is blind."
"Yeah, and love also doesn't comprehend the concept of a dollar."
"It's just a way for the guys to impress the girls. Don't tell, but there's a girl at school that I have a big crush on. She's attractive, intelligent and overall, a really nice young woman. You know her really well, actually."
"Oh?" Shantay gaped at him for a moment and mentioned, "You're in love with one of my friends?"
He grinned under his cloak and replied, "You could say that. Anyway, I bought her something that I'm sure she'll love."
Shantay's curiosity was piqued, "Like what? Flowers? Chocolates? Some other elaborate, insignificant trinket I haven't mentioned?"
Austin snapped his fingers and a small black box appeared in his palm. "Take a look at it."
Reluctantly, she opened the box and gasped. It wasn't some worthless, fancy knick-knack, but rather a thin, silver necklace. The charm at the end of it was a replica of a dragon's hand holding a crystal ball, its claws grazing the surface of it. The glass ball was empty, but as soon as she touched it, it began to glow green. Astonished by the quick reaction of the necklace, she let it go.
Searching for words, she mumbled, "It's beautiful."
Austin nudged it toward her. "It's yours."
"Mine? You mean that the girl is—" She stopped herself short for they both knew the answer to such a simple question. She eyed him and coyly remarked, "You knew I'd want to see it."
"Yes," he retorted. "That's what made it all the more better. If you didn't pick up on it yet, it's a mood necklace. But unlike the ones you'll find in the Real World, this one is accurate. I've also been told that it's helpful during meditation because it pulls you into a deeper state of harmony. Oh, and when you attack, this doubles your attack power, yet it also conserves your energy."
She shook her head, astonished by what he had bought her. "I can't believe I'm saying it, but… happy Valentine's Day."
"You're right, I can't believe it." He took her hand and pulled her closer to him. Pulling down the cowl of his cloak, he gently kissed her cheek. Shantay blushed, her cheeks flushed with a rosy red color.
She gawked at him, pure bewilderment in her features. Never had anyone tried to kiss her, because she never got that close to anyone. But Austin was different. He was genuine in his feelings; she would have picked up on his lies or half-truths. He wasn't put up to this by anyone; he came here of his own free will. For the first time in a long time, she smiled, genuinely and carefree. Gone were her problems with school as a warm feeling entered her heart.
Austin saw her happiness and, in turn, smiled back. He never understood what attracted him to her, whether it was her power, her attitude, or something else. He just knew that from the first time he saw her, he was in love with her. But from the start, he was pitted against her, and kept up a hateful front. No one ever knew that he had a crush on her, and that was the way he wanted it to be.
The two embraced each other, and from that moment, they were together.
The sweltering June sun hovered over Witchelny as one of the largest annual events began to take place: graduation. Austin sat in the seat on the right closest to the podium, while Shantay sat next to him. They had been dating for four months in secret; none of their friends or family knew of their furtive behavior.
Austin was the valedictorian, while Shantay was forced to serve as the salutatorian. She had expressed her distress over such an injustice, but there was nothing that either of them could do about it. It was the school board's decision to change everything about ten years ago. In their eyes, she wasn't the greatest witch to grace the small town of two hundred students. She was merely second best.
As Austin stepped up on his soapbox, he addressed the crowd first by congratulating all two hundred witches and wizards for making it that far in their magical career. "It's not an easy journey," he commented. "It's simple to fall in between the cracks, easy to slip and never get back up." By this time, most of the graduates were applauding him.
Clearing his throat, he persisted, "It's not easy to get this far, and it's even harder to maintain a perfect grade point average like I did. But there is one other digimon here that deserves my title, and she just happens to be ranked as the second-best mage." He motioned for Shantay to rise and stand next to him, which she did. He took off his 'Valedictorian' pin and attached it to her outfit, and vise versa with her pin.
"Please welcome your new—and true—valedictorian. She may not have had the perfect GPA like me, but the only reason it became that way was because of me. I was the one that injured her, leaving her out for a while to recover, making her fall behind." Austin jumped off of his soapbox and took her old seat, waiting for her to speak.
Shantay, who was not a natural orator, fidgeted onstage for a moment until a few words came to her. "I'm not sure what to say that hasn't already been said except that it's such an honor to be called the valedictorian. It may not have seemed like it, but I did work exceptionally hard to get this good. I didn't just do this for myself, but to show my parents that I was really something."
She glanced back at Austin for a minute, and then turned to the crowd once more. "You know, my mom once told me that on this day, graduation day, over twenty years ago, there used to be two people of equal status standing up here delivering their speeches: the strongest witch and the most powerful wizard. I think that, for her sake, I will continue that tradition just for today."
She beckoned for Austin to come forward and stand beside her. She gripped his hand and raised them over their heads. "Congrats to us, and to all of you graduating scholars! It's party time!" As the swarm of students cheered at their own accomplishments, throwing their pointed black hats into the ubiquitous sun, Shantay and Austin stared at each other for a moment.
She sighed, "Why did you do that for me? You could have had all the glory, financial success, and first dibs on graduation cake, and yet you gave that all up for me. What were you thinking?"
His reply was simple. "Didn't anyone ever tell you that digimon do crazy things when they're in love?"
Her eyes narrowed as she spoke, "Someone once did. Of course, that was four months ago, and he's still out of his mind. Don't the effects ever wear off?"
He shook his head, laughing to himself as he placed his hand on her cheek. She got the hint as the two pulled down their cloaks and engaged in a passionate kiss, blissfully unaware of all the bustling activity around them. In their own little world, the two had now achieved perfection, not alone, but together.