Chapter 20:

Your Choice

The Wizard's Virginity

I got up late the next morning. The sofa had been surprisingly comfortable, but I had slept badly. My dreams had become more intense, and maybe because I now knew their significance, I was able to remember a lot more of them.

Last night’s dream began in the usual way. I was on a burning battlefield, surrounded by shouts, screams, and the howls of beasts. Then the battlefield melted away, and I was back in Ms Matthews’ classroom, tied to a chair. It was silent, except for the slow tap of footsteps approaching me. It was clearly Reiko, but her face was contorted in a disturbing way. It was like the left side was happy, her mouth smiling widely in manic joy. The right side, however, appeared to be in agony. That side of her mouth was contorted in a grimace of pain, and tears were streaming out of her right eye.

As she got closer she lifted her skirt, exposing some plain white underwear. There was nothing particularly sexy about it, but despite myself, I began to grow excited. Suddenly all of my clothes were off, and I was in the chair naked, although no longer tied up. I watched as Reiko stepped directly over and astride me. She began to lower herself down onto my lap, and as she did so, brought her still contorted face close to mine. Then she opened her mouth, and screamed. Not just a scream, but simultaneously a shout, a howl, an explosion. All the noises of the earlier battlefield were echoing from her, and I covered my ears, desperately trying to block out the hellish cacophony.

Reiko collapsed to the ground and the noise subsided, but was replaced with the sound of a woman’s laugh. A quiet chuckle at first, which then grew into a full cackle. As the laugh increased in volume, a shadow rose from the place where Reiko’s body lay before me. It was the shape of an adult woman. It was as though she was a silhouette, so I could not make out any of her features, only the curves of her figure. She was tall, had straight hair falling down past her shoulders, and was wearing a wide-brimmed hat. The shadow, still laughing, reached a hand out to me. My earlier arousal had gone, replaced completely now by a desperate sense of fear. Somehow, I knew that when this shadow touched me, that would be it. I would die. She got closer, and closer, and…

I woke up with a jolt. I could feel sweat soaking through the ill-fitting set of Dan’s pyjamas that Ms Matthews had lent me, and my chest was heaving. I tried to tell myself that it was just a nightmare, understandably prompted by the scary events of the last few days. Nevertheless, a small voice in my head repeated what Ms Matthews had told me. ‘For male magic users, dreams are part premonition…’

As I groggily came to, I heard hushed voices emanating from the kitchen. Shaking my head to try and dislodge the memory of my disturbing dream, I got up and went to see who was there. I found Mum and Ms Matthews at the kitchen table, drinking coffee. At first glance they would have just looked like a normal pair of adults having a conversation over breakfast, but it was clear from their tone and expressions that the discussion had been an intense one. They stopped talking when they noticed me enter the room.

“How’s Dan?” I asked straight away.

“Nothing new, I’m afraid,” replied Ms Matthews. “She’s stable, but still unconscious. We just need to wait now. It could be a few days…”

I noticed the time on the microwave read 10:22. I had missed the start of school. Out of instinct from my normal, pre-life-or-death-magic-battles days, I felt a wave of anxiety.

“I’m late for school,” I said. Then, after a little more thinking, “I guess that doesn’t matter.”

“It certainly does matter,” said Mum. “Just because you were nearly killed yesterday doesn’t give you an excuse to skip school.” Mum was trying to make light of the situation, but beneath her smile I could tell she was pretty upset.

“Even so,” Ms Matthews spoke up. “We decided to make an exception for the moment, whilst we decide our next steps.”

“Next steps?” I asked. “Like, leave the country, get plastic surgery and live out my days as a pig farmer in Mexico so witches stop trying to have sex with and/or kill me?”

“That was our number one choice,” said Mum, “but we’re considering other options that don’t require spending thousands of pounds on plastic surgery and plane tickets. We like you, but not enough to spend that sort of money.”

Ms Matthews slowly stood up from the kitchen table and picked up her coffee mug. “We can continue our chat later, Laura. For now, I think you two better catch up. I’ll go check on Dan.”

For an old lady, she was able to move quickly to get out of the room, before Mum or I had a chance to object. Maybe she could sense that although I knew this conversation needed to happen, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I expected that Mum felt the same way. I sat down in the chair that Ms Matthews had vacated, across from Mum.

“So…” Mum began. “I guess to start with, I better tell you that you were adopted.”


“Nah, just kidding. You weren’t adopted. But just imagine if you were. That should put everything else in perspective.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or just get up and leave the room. As it was, I settled with a big sigh. I decided to take control of the conversation before Mum decided to make any more attempts at being funny. I started with the biggest question.

“Why didn’t you tell me about all this?”

“I tried to. But you never wanted to speak about Dad.”

“You could have tried harder!” I made an effort to stay calm and not come across as accusatory, but it was difficult.

“Yeah, you’re right.” Mum looked down. “I’m sorry, James. It wasn’t just that. It was also… I was scared. I thought that if you had a normal life, and didn’t think about magic or any of that stuff, you’d be safe. You could be happy.”

“Dad knew about magic and he was happy.”

Mum nodded slowly. “Yes… He was. But then that happiness was cut short…”

We both stayed silent for a few moments. I was still angry at being kept in the dark for so long, but I could understand her feelings. I knew that if I ever had to choose between being honest with Hayley or lying to keep her safe, I would always go for the latter.

Eventually, Mum took a deep breath, and started speaking.

“We still don’t know how your dad died. Officially, it was an accident, and that’s what I told you. Agnies got in touch when he died, and warned me that there may be more to it. Alex helped a lot of people, and did some wonderful things, but he still made enemies. That’s what happens when you have power, no matter what you choose to use that power for.

“I already knew that your dad’s magic, his potential or whatever it is, would probably be passed down to you. When Agnies came, she told me that we had to remove anything related to Alex from the house, especially anything magic-related. I didn’t want to. It didn’t seem fair that as well as losing my husband, I had to lose everything I had to remember him by. But Agnies told me that keeping anything at all would put you in danger. Apparently there are some spells that can be used to trace the presence of magic.”

I remembered Ms Matthews telling me the same thing, and Reiko’s comment that ‘Magic is like a smell’.

“Your dad had kept your existence secret from any of his magical contacts, aside from Agnies. From what he told me, men who have the potential to use magic are something like one in a billion, and because their powers can be taken, entire wars have been fought over young boys with magic potential in the past. Apparently, most of these wars don’t end happily for the boy. One side usually decides they would rather kill him than let anyone else have him…

“Somehow, after your dad died, the secret got out. ‘Alex the powerful wizard has a cute son just waiting for his potential to be taken.’ With Alex not around to protect you himself, Agnies said that she would. The first step was removing anything that could be used to sense magic and track you down. That’s why I sent you and Hayley to stay with my mum, and some ladies from the coven came to help clear everything away. The next step…”

Mum seemed to hesitate for a moment, apparently unsure whether to tell me what this next step was.

“The next step was that she wanted to take you away. To raise you in the priory where Alex grew up, where she could protect you herself until you were older. But I… I said no. I knew it was selfish, but I didn’t want to lose any more of my family. I said that I would keep you at home, and protect you myself. Obviously, I didn’t have any idea how to actually do that. Agnies put up some kind of barrier around our house, something that couldn’t be traced but would protect you from magic. Of course, that only helped while you were at home. That’s why she sent Dan and Ms Matthews to start looking out for you when you started secondary school.”

“I’m glad you kept me at home,” I said. “I doubt they have a PS5 at the priory.”

Mum smiled. “Thanks. Given what happened yesterday, I started wondering if I made the right decision. So even if it’s just for the video games, it’s good to hear you say that.”

“The thing I can’t accept, though,” I said. “Is keeping all this secret. I know you wanted me to live a normal life and be safer, but that should have been my choice to make. As it was, I had to find out yesterday morning that my best friend for the last six years has been lying to me about everything, including their gender.”

“I know… I am sorry, James. Although Dan posing as a boy was Agnies’ idea. Dan had been a tomboy anyway, and Agnies thought you’d be more willing to befriend her if you didn’t know she was a girl. It made sense to me, as you’ve always kept your distance from girls, ever since you started puberty.”

It seemed it was time for a confession of my own.

“That wasn’t because of puberty, Mum. That’s because I read in Dad’s journal that if I stayed a virgin until I was 30 years old, I would become a wizard.”

Mum’s mouth dropped open. “What? His journal?”

“Yeah. After you got rid of everything, I went searching to see if there was anything left. I thought you might have kept some photos or something. There was nothing in the house, but in the bins outside, I found some of his notebooks. I rescued them and read them in secret. I couldn’t understand most of them, but I could read his journal, and that’s where I learnt about magic and the virginity stuff.”

Mum looked confused now, rather than shocked. “I’m sure I burnt all his notebooks… But, anyway, that explains why you never brought a girl home. Well, never knowingly brought one home. I thought you were just unpopular.”

I decided not to tell her that her original theory had also been correct, and instead asked another question. “Dan knew about me trying to avoid girls so that I could become a wizard. Didn’t he… Sorry, didn’t she mention it to you?”

Mum shook her head. “No. I mean, I knew about Dan and Ms Matthews, but it’s not like we spoke much without you there. We never needed to. I just had their number in case of any emergencies.”

She sighed. “Anyway, I guess all the secrecy was pointless in the end. You had Alex’s notebooks, and were already planning to become a wizard. Maybe if I’d just explained it all to you, you wouldn’t have been so set on it…”

I didn’t say it out loud, but yeah, she was probably right. The reason I became so obsessed with learning about magic was because I wanted to feel close with Dad, and that seemed to be the only way. If Mum had spoken to me about him, shared memories of him with me, and told me honestly about the dangers of magic, maybe things would have been different.

“It’s not just about the notebooks though, right?” I asked. “Ms Matthews said that my magic potential would naturally get easier to sense as I got older, so there was always going to be a day when I would get attacked and have to learn about this stuff.”

“That’s not what your dad thought,” Mum said. “When Alex was alive, we had originally decided to let you make the choice yourself, once you were old enough. Although you have this potential, it only turns into power if you consciously train to make it happen. If you just led a normal life, that potential should have stayed sleeping inside you, and nobody would have been able to sense it. And then so long as you had sex once by the time you were 30, it never would have awoken.”

I was confused, and said as much. “Ms Matthews told me that my potential awakened naturally during adolescence. That’s why witches have been able to start tracking me.”

Mum shrugged. “Well, she would know more about it than I do. I just know what your dad told me. That it would have been entirely possible for you to lead a normal life, despite the potential buried inside you, if that was what you wanted. I don’t know what could have changed to make it so that witches are able to sense you. Reading his journal shouldn’t have been enough to trigger it. Or, maybe he was just wrong. Anyway, it’s a bit of a moot point now.”

Neither of us said anything for a while. Then, Mum continued.

“I know it’s a bit late. Seven years late. But I want to give you the choice now. There is a powerful witch coming for you, and according to Ms Matthews, she could arrive at any time. Ms Matthews spoke to Agnies, and she suggested sharing one of the coven’s tomes with you, so you can learn a spell. Something to help you fight like Dan does. That way, you’ll be able to defend yourself, at least in theory. That’s option one.” She paused for a few seconds, to let it sink in.

“The other option is that you travel to the priory now, where the coven is based, and stay there for a while. They will keep you safe whilst Agnies deals with the Japanese witch. And then… You could give your magic potential to one of them. To someone who wants it, and will use it for good. Then you would be free of all this stuff, and you could live a normal life without any magic. You would be safe. And, hey, you’ll get to have sex in the process.”

“But, what about you and Hay?” I asked. “Would you come to the priory with me?”

Mum shook her head. “Agnies has forbidden it. We aren’t part of the coven, so we’re not allowed to go there, or even know where it is.”

“What happens if Fusae comes for you, to get at me?”

“Don’t worry about that,” Mum said quickly. “It shouldn’t influence your decision.”

“How can it not influence my decision?!”

Mum sighed. “Agnies said that they will most likely come after you. That said… There’s a chance that they will still come here, yes, so Hayley and I will need to go somewhere else for a while. Maybe take an extended holiday abroad for a few weeks, or months, or however long it takes. You never know, I might even find a sexy foreign step dad for you kids!”

I disregarded her weak attempt at a joke, and asked, “What about Hayley’s school?”

“Oh, she’ll be fine not going to school for a while. What kid likes school anyway?”

We both knew, despite Mum’s rhetorical question, that Hayley very much liked school. She had worked hard to get into a grammar school and enjoyed her education. She also, unlike me, had made lots of friends there.

Mum looked me directly in the eye. “This is your choice, James. As it always should have been. You don’t need to worry about me and Hayley, we’ll be fine. This is about you. And we’ll support you whatever you decide.”

My choice… To start on the path to being a wizard, but take all the danger that comes with that. Or to turn away from the path and give up my potential, but lead a safe, normal life.

I still wanted to be like Dad. How far would that go though? I wanted to be a man I could be proud of. A powerful man, who used that power to help others. But Dad had eventually died because of that power. Even if the details were hazy, Mum seemed to believe that had it not been for magic, he wouldn’t have died. But if not for magic, would he have been the same man?

My choice was made. It had been made ever since I first read Dad’s journal when I was 10 years old. I was going to be like my dad. I was going to be a wizard. Some Japanese witches trying to steal my magic potential weren’t about to change that.

Instead, I would fight them off. I would protect my future, and at the same time, I would protect my family. Even if it meant danger for me, I wasn’t going to force my mum and sister to go on the run. And I wasn’t going to sit alone in some secret witches’ hideout until someone else dealt with Fusae. Dan had been fighting for me all this time. Now it was time to fight for myself.

"I've decided. I want to learn magic. I want to become a wizard. I want to protect myself, and our family. I want to fight."

Mum smiled, but her lip was shaking, and her eyes were wet. I had never seen her like this before. Even when Dad died, she made a point of staying strong, and not showing any sadness or fear. It was strange to see her like this now. But I had made my decision, and I was going to stand by it.

"I thought you might say that…" Mum wiped her eyes with her sleeve. "Your dad would have been proud."