A/N: This is the basic format for the story:

*More information at end of story.

Eldus places the necklace around Ziku's neck.

"This pendant is very special. I am sure you can already feel your magic increasing, becoming stronger, warmer."

"I feel different," Ziku said. "That's for sure."

"Concentrate on using magic. The process should be a lot easier. Soon, you will not need the Yasakani no Magatama at all. You will be able to learn decades worth of training in just a few years."

"That feels kind of like cheating."

"There is no such thing as cheating when it comes to magic. Your training is not how powerful your magic is, but how diverse it can become. How it can counteract the Dark Arts. And most importantly, how great your understanding of magic is."

Ziku held out his hand. Slowly, but surely, a small white orb began to form in his hand. It dissipated almost immediately.

"Very good," Eldus said. "Keep at it. Make sure you take turns with the pendant. And also, it is not infinite. It amplifies power, but it does not continuously supply it."

Over the next few hours, as the sun began to set, the two continuously attempted to hold their pure magic. They struggled to keep it from dissipating.

"This is... hard," Kai panted.

"Yeah," Ziku agreed. "You said it. I wonder if it'll always feel like this."

"Eldus doesn't seem to feel any pain or exhaustion."

"I guess that's true."

Eventually, as the last rays of the sun disappeared, Ziku managed to hold a small white orb for a full five seconds.

"Well done, Ziku," Eldus said. "Your progress is extraordinary, even with the Yasakani no Magatama. That is enough for today. We will resume practice tomorrow. We will train until you get the hang of it. Other techniques will have to wait. It is not good to focus on more than one ability at a time."

"I'm starting to wonder if you actually are crazy, after all," Kai said.

"I never said I was crazy. I said I have a little bit of madness in me. There is a difference. Now, then goodnight. Now, say goodnight to the mountain and all of its inhabitants."

"Uh, goodnight?" They said. The three wizards went to bed.

As they got to their beds, Ziku looked over to Kai.

"Wow. This is actually happening. Pure magic. We're becoming magicians."

"We shouldn't get too ahead of ourselves, though."


As the morning sun rose, the red rooster called out.

The young wizards got ready and walked over to the kitchen.

"Ah, niños. Welcome. There has been a change of plans. We will postpone our pure magic regiment for now. I know I said we should focus one thing at a time, but this, too, will help speed up progress."

"So, what are we learning today?" Ziku asked.

"I'll tell you once you've finished eating."

The three ate and went out to the training grounds.

"Alright, liberi," Eldus said. "Of course, you know of transmutation."

"Of course," Kai said. He demonstrated by grabbing a rock and turning into ice.

"Precisely. Today we will be learning advanced transmutation."

"Advanced transmutation? It doesn't sound too hard."

"Ah, 'tis not hard in the actual process. But it is taxing. It will help build up cognitive dexterity."

"Uh," Ziku said. "What?"

"It means that it will help you maintain your reflexes and critcal thinking skills in the middle of battle. Observe."

Eldus sent out a stream of elemental light upward. He set it a few meters above Kai's head. Suddenly, he waved a hand and transformed the light into lava. With no time to think, Kai spat out a burst of water. The lava cooled while it was pushed aside from the flow of the water.

"What the hell?!" He asked. "Were you trying to kill me?"

"Very good. You are already good at it. Now it is your turn. Attack me, Kai."

Kai sent out fire from his hands. Eldus turned the fire into water, and sent it back. As it washed over Kai, it was further transformed into metal, holding Kai in place.

"How is that? Not bad, huh?"

"I can't move," Kai said.

"Of course. In that case, Ziku, don't let him out."

"What?" They both asked.

"Kai will have to let himself out. By the way, impressive reflexes Kai. Using water that quickly when you have an affinity for lightning and fire."

"You can tell...?"

"I can sense it. Ziku has an affinity for lightning himself, I see. Anyway, in the meantime, keep practicing. It's about time for my tea. I'll be back in twenty minutes."

"Aahh," Kai groaned.

"Well, I guess I'll start practicing,"Ziku said. "While your stuck there, watch me."

As they continued to practice, Eldus poured his tea into his cup. The tea became cloudy.

"Oh my, there are troubling times ahead. Very troubling times."

He looked down into his cup, and it started to become clearer.

"But you will return, won't you? In one form or another. I know you will. To protect us."

The tea returned to normal, and he took a sip.

"Am I really losing more of myself? Sometimes, it seems that way. Here I am, talking to a dead man. But... you can hear me... can't you?"

He continued drinking until a bell rang.

"Time's up! I guess I shall go and see their progress."

Kai had escaped his metal confinement, and the two were transforming elements into one another, or into other materials.

Eldus nodded at them as they noticed him.

"You are doing well, shō kokumin. Very good. You should be able to grasp how magic transformation occurs. This will help you with your pure magic studies."

"Thank you, Master Eldus," Kai said.

"Yeah, thanks," Ziku agreed.

"Now," Eldus said. "I'm going out to visit Wu. I won't be back until sundown, so just keep practicing. Remember to take a break every once in a while."

With that he left them. As he walked down the hill, one thought lingered in his mind.

'Very troubling times, indeed.'