The day was like any other. Arena practice with Scarlett against Bianca Aradare and Amelia Yetchsmith. Bianca kept giving me funny looks, cat-eyed and long-lashed.
She was, admittedly, very pretty.
But I was sure that she had a boyfriend, and plus, I could never betray Scarlett like that.
I mean, I might spend too much time with Bianca and Scarlett might be jealous.
Not that I´d be better off with her than Bianca.
Amelia, despite her innocent exterior, is a pretty good fighter; she gave me a few red flashes.
Bianca wouldn´t touch me, but when she did, she would leap onto me and land chest-to-chest on top of me, where she would make a small joke on not slitting my throat just this time, and then laughing and getting back up into combat.
I notice out of the corner of my eye Scarlett´s olive face flaming every time she does this.
"Get up, blondie," she says roughly. "Combo move or nah?"
"Sure," I breath, jumping to my feet.
I lock my fingers together to make a hold. Scarlett steps on it and readies herself.
"Ready?" she asks.
"Yup," I reply.
I give her a boost as she is flung off my hand, poised with her sword ahead of her.
She collides with Bianca, giving up the Final Flash for us.
"Good one, Mudhead," I say, helping her up.
"Not so bad yourself, Blondie," she says, stepping out of her armour. "I mean, you tried your best, and that´s what matters," she jokes.
I feel my face flood with colour as she stands on her toes and playfully ruffles my hair.
I push her over, laughing. I guess we´re friends more than enemies now, but we´re sort of in a love-hate relationship.
Woah, wait, not that kind of relationship! No loving involved.
Just good friends.
"Man, I can´t believe we´re going tomorrow," I tell Chase Rogue, one of my best friends, as we walk back from dinner to our Common Room. "It seems too soon. I mean, Scarlett still has her bandages and all..."
"Scarlett, eh?" Chase laughs. "Scarlett this, Scarlett that. Me thinks someone likes a certain girl...!"
"No! Eww. Not, cool, dude. That´s...ugh."
"I´m serious, bro!" I say, clenching my fists. "That chick is crazy-weird!"
"Ace likes her," Chase says matter-of-factly.
"Ace Carker?" I say coldly. He´s one of those popular kids who´s known to be a fierce player.
"Yup, since the start of the year." I feel Chase´s eyes boring into me, searching for some reaction.
"That´s...cool," I stifle.
"Oh my godge, dude, you are so into her!" Chase falls about laughing.
"Nah, bro, I´m done with this. I´m gonna go to bed, we´ve got an important day tomorrow," I sigh.
"You do that," Chase says, still giggling. "Night, bro."
I jump into my nightclothes and bury myself under the silken covers, where I instantly fall asleep.
"Dude, I´m serious now, WAKE THE H UP!" I wake up to an urgent tone.
I peek through my eyelashes to see Chase and my other best friend, Asher Loafman, peering over me. I sit up poker-straight.
"We´re going to miss breakfast if you don´t move your butt, bro!" Asher moans, blowing his strawberry blonde hair out of his eyes.
"Holy stuff," I cry, closing the curtains and shoving myself into a black polo shirt, grey jeans and black Vans. "I´m coming! I can´t believe I overslept!!"
We all clamber down the stairs and skid and stumble to the Hall, where we all flop in the seats opposite from Bea, Celeste and Scarlett.
Kitty was sitting with Bianca, Amelia and Hally, a few seats down from Scarlett. Rumour has it that she had promised to cook part of Bianca´s breakfast to thank her for doing her hair, which was currently in a lovely Dutch Braid.
"You okay there?" laughs that familiar husky voice as I shovel food into my mouth.
I look up, mouth crammed with toast, to see Scarlett there, dressed in a grey, loose jumper navy denim jeans, golden wedges to match her signature lightening necklace and an equally gold hair pin securing her copper hair into a high ponytail.
"Mmm, mm-mm mm," I struggle through the walls of buttered toast.
I finally swallow it all after thirty prolonged seconds of madly waving my hands about.
"We´re trying to do everything outside before we leave at 11."
"Us too!" pipes up Bea. "It is now nine o´clock in morning. We have two hours till elven. Levleven...lev-levlevlevlev..."
"Eleven," Celeste finishes for her. "Two hours until eleven."
"We don´t have too much time, then," Scarlett sighs. "We better get going, girls. Let´s go get Kitty."
"Oh, by the way, Felix," Celeste says. "Kitty, Celeste and Bea and out partners are going to be camping with you and three of your buddies and their partners."
"Um, okay. Chase, Asher, you guys in, right?"
"Yeah," they both reply simultaneously.
"Aw, man, who´s gonna be our third bro?" Chase asks.
"I heard another two boys transferred here when Bianca did. We better go see them." replies Asher.
"Yeah, we should see if they can hang out soon to jump our horses and stuff," I add. "So we better go ask Bianca where we could find them."
"Dude, I´m not speaking to her!" Chase says, stepping back.
"Well, I´m not!" I say, shaking my head.
"Ladies, ladies," Asher says calmly. "Watch and learn."
He walks over to Bianca, Amelia, Hally and Kitty.
"Hey, Bianca," he says lowly. "What?" she sighs impatiently.
"I was just wondering where these two new boys would be?"
Bianca´s face loosens. "Wolfgang and Finlay would probably be by where the most food is," she sighs. "You just can´t stop those two from eating, yet they never grow any fatter."
"Wolfgang?" Kitty says, eyes alert. "Wolfgang who? You mean Wolfie, right?"
"Yes, he does rather to be called Wolfie. I don´t know why, he´s blessed to have such a fine and proper name as Wolfgang."
"What´s his second name?" Kitty demands, eyes wide and green.
"Wolfie Hemberry," Bianca replies. "Why?"
Kitty snatches Asher´s and Chase´s wrist, Chase flooding with colour as her skin meets his.
"Felix, go find the most food," Kitty hisses.
I obey, searching the long table until I see a cluster of hard-boiled eggs, racks of toast and piles of black pudding. Almost concealed behind the mountain of food are two boys.
One is around my size, with tanned skin and a short crop of dark-chocolate brown hair, and crystal-blue eyes, with a clingy grey top and black jeans. The other is slightly smaller, with a full head of buttery hair and simple blue clothing with mint-green eyes.
Kitty skids to a halt behind me and staggers toward the boy in grey.
"Wolfie?" she whispers.
His angular face looks up from his plate, which was piled with Black Pudding and rashers and every other meat on the table.
"Who are you?" he says.
"Wolfie," she whispers, near to tears, glassy eyed. "I´m Kitty."
"Yes! Of course! Why, was it hard for you to survive?"
"Of course. I need to be free sometimes, Kitty, and no one likes my animal. Guns here, traps there, zoos absolutely everywhere. Hey, I can turn into my animal at any time now, this school operated on me as soon as possible." "Me too!" Kitty laughs.
"You were in the Lab together?" Chase asks.
"Yes!" Kitty beams. "Felix, Chase, Asher, this is Wolfie. Wolfie, this is Felix, Chase and Asher," she says, prodding each one of us as she says our name.
"Hey," Wolfie says.
"Hey, Wolfie, do you wanna hang out?" I ask.
"Sure," he replies. "As long as Finn can come too, right?"
"Finn," I repeat cluelessly. I then suddenly remember the blonde boy, Finlay, who apparently came here with Wolfie.
"Oh, yeah! Sure, he can come. Hey, Finn."
"Hay!" he smiles. "Dude, you wanna go practice killing stuff in the arena?"
"Finn, we´re just chilling for now," Wolfie murmurs. "Finn´s quite handy with the sword."
"I have my own!" Finn says excitedly.
"Well, we best go now if we want to bag the good activities," Asher says in a conclusive tone.
"There you are, Kitty!" shouts Celeste from behind us. "We´ve been looking for you everywhere!"
"Yes, we have been searching for Kitty," says Bea, standing next to me.
"Come on, we gotta go horse riding or something," says Scarlett. "Who are these guys?"
"Name´s Wolfie. Yours?" says Wolfie in a much more soft tone than before.
"Scarlett. Hello," smiles Scarlett sweetly.
"And I´m Finn!" Finn says. "Hi."
"Hi Finn." Celeste is the only one who replies. "I´m Celeste."
"Hello Celeste," Finn smiles.
Celeste smiles back.
"Hey, Wolfie, you wanna camp with us on the journey today?" Scarlett asks.
"Anything for you."
Scarlett blushes crimson.
I jump up and down on top of my night-black stallion, Apatchi, repeating the same large circle in the sawdust, behind Scarlett riding Quest and in front of Wolfie riding Feral.
I look at a certain spot in the ring and see a girl slumped there, hair sodden, stomach sliced open and intestines dragged out of her body. I open my mouth to shout and blink, but when I open my eyes, she is gone.
"Hurry up, Mr Daydream!" yells Wolfie from behind me.
I shake off the hallucination and grip the reins, and turn to the front of Apatchi.
Instead of the back of Scarlett, I see Cleo, perched sideways on Quest, a sly smile stretched unnaturally and wildly across her pale face, her cunning, hawk eyes open widely, her white hair hanging in wet strands around her face.
I panic, and pull the reins hard. Apatchi whinnies irritatedly and gallops across the circle.
"What are you doing?" Scarlett asks. I reluctantly turn to Quest, where Scarlett sits as if nothing happened.
"I-I´m sorry, I have to get out of the ring," I hyperventilate.
I turn to the front again and see Cleo once more, same wild complexion, a pair of bloody sewing scissors clutched in her hand.
I immediately halt Apatchi, where he skids and throws me over his head.
I fly through the air for what seems like an eternity, and land on my stomach, winded and wheezing.
"Felix? Are you okay?"
I nod, coughing, clamber to my feet and run as far away from the ring as possible, where I see Mr Kennelley and a lot of students from my tutor crowded around him and a large tube sloping into the ground.
I recover and assume that it´s time to leave.
I run back to the entrance of the ring, not daring to step any further in, and call for the others.
I leave with them to go to Mr Kennelley, who was handing out small vials of gold watery fluid to every student.
"Drink these. It´ll equip you with suitable clothing and a fully packed backpack. Also, choose a weapon from the boxes. You will be given a Pet Transporter in your backpack so you can teleport your pet or your horse to where you are. Do not try and teleport humans or objects, though, or there will be severe consequences." "I´m actually really excited for this!" Scarlett tells me, picking up a quiver of arrows and a bow from the box.
"Yeah. The journey to The Young Magic Emporium can´t be easy, though," I sigh.
"Yeah, but we get to kill Kyra´s face," Scarlett laughs, counting her arrows. "How awesome is that?"
"Pretty awesome," I admit. "Let´s go this."
We simultaneously chug our vials of liquid.
I feel nothing, until I look down and see that I´m dressed in a black, clingy top with a camo-print waterproof jacket over it, a grey belt with a flotation device fitted in, a walkie talkie and several daggers and pistols, black leggings and camo, breathing, mountain boots. Under my clothes, I see a flimsy wet-suit, that Mr Kennelley tells us is cool when it´s warm but preserves thermal body heat at plummeting temperatures.
My backpack isn´t heavy at all, but when I look inside, I see it´s very, very deep, and there´s tonnes of stuff- food, matches, survival books, wood, five fleeces, the pet transporter, medicine, a package containing equipment to make a tent and even a rolled up sleeping bag.
"Your backpacks have a charm on them to make them deeper and lighter," Mr Kennelley says.
I put my phone, a pencil and pad and a picture of my mum inside one of the pockets of the backpack.
"Go down the tube with your partner when you are ready. Please call us via your cellphones if you are in extreme trouble. You have flares in your backpack; the red one is for if one of your camp has died, and the green one is for if you´re lost off course. Good luck, all of you."
Finn and Wolfie jump down the tube. "See you on the other siiiiiiide!" Finn´s voice echoes.
Celeste giggles. "He´s a goofball."
"Let´s go!" Scarlett says, tugging on my arm. She´s wearing the same as me, only her camo jacket sleeves are rolled up and her hairs pulled into a high ponytail.
I grab a sword from the box. "Hold on. We need to do a count. We got seven daggers, sixty-nine arrows and a bow for you, three packets of medicine each, two Pet Transporters-"
"Yeah, yeah, and a partridge in a pear tree," Scarlett finishes. "Now let´s GO!" And with that, she grabs my arm and jumps down the tube, with me in tow.