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The Hallowing is a short story written by Pyrostar (t∣b∣c) for the Spooky Scary Fantendo Writing Contest. It is a direct sequel to his previous short story Crystal Cream Creamery, and is said to tie into a large project to be announced later.
11:00 PM on the dot. It was an hour away.
Gina got out of bed and changed into clothes suitable for the autumn night air. She had been taking her tests for three months, and now the time was right for the final rite of ascension. Packing her pockets with a few assorted odds and ends, she opened up her bedroom door and checked around.
Her parents were asleep, their lights completely off. Her sister was still awake, the faint blue flickering light telling her that she was on her laptop yet again. Nobody would notice her heading off for the night. Taking one last look around, she quietly tiptoed down the stairs and went straight out the front door.
Gina was a witch. At least, a witch's apprentice. She had found the old woman's course over the internet while searching for some extracurriculars; "Miss Samaina's Halloween Boot Camp", it said. "Learn real magic and help the community! Explore the meaning of Halloween and the history behind the most fight-filled holiday of them all! Earn volunteer hours and make some school credits and other rewards on the side!"
When she read the ad for the first time, she assumed this was a sort of Halloween-themed workshop that some confused old woman had set up three months too early to help keep kids under control and teach them magic tricks or something. Cool, cool. She liked taking care of people and it couldn't hurt to make some money on the side.
Nope. Samaina was a legitimate witch looking for an apprentice; Gina was the only one who had answered the call. The credits were real, but she suspected the school had fallen under the same pretenses that she had originally and thought it was volunteer work. It was certainly work, but as it turned out, the "other rewards" in the ad... were direct training under Mistress Samaina herself.
Elemental manipulation, levitation, minor necromancy... Under her teacher's tutelage, Gina had obtained powers beyond anything she could ever dream of before this amazing blessing came her way.
And tonight, at midnight, she would take the final step into becoming more than an apprentice... A real witch.
After her trek through the streets, Gina entered the forest that Samaina's house was located. It wasn't even a ramshackle hut or cabin that most people associated with witches or old people; it was just a nice modern two-story house with a surprising amount of modern amenities. She had even set up a hot tub in the basement, which Gina had used more times than she'd like to admit.
She approached the house and knocked on the door.
"Nyeh... Who is it?! Is this the pizza guy? I told ya, I don't want nothin'! Just leave me be!" Ah, the dulcet tones of Ms. Samaina herself. For all her kindness, wisdom, and sheer magical power, she was a bit on the senile side. Not that her use of magic hadn't helped alleviate some of the mental stress, but she was pushing it even for a witch of her age.
"Teacher, it's me, Gina. Tonight's the night, remember?"
"Ahhh! Oh, goodness, how did I forget? We need to do this tonight! Come in, come in!"
Samaina opened the door, letting Gina bask in her elderly visage once again. She was old, hunched over, small, and had a lot of the trait's one would usually associate with an old crone, but she was... less ugly or antagonistic. She looked more like Gina's grandmother than the generic witch you'd see on a card or decorations. It was the kind of appearance that made people feel sorry for her or feel safe instead of feeling scared.
Gina stepped inside quickly. There were only about twenty minutes left until midnight. Samaina started hurrying her too the bathroom.
"Quickly, quickly! Change into the casting outfit!"
Gina had worked on her casting clothes for about two weeks. Apparently, sewing was a natural skill that witches needed to have in order to actually cast magic. As Miss Samaina had explained to her, magic was most easily contained in clothing, such as robes or accessories like necklaces or earrings. It was still a strange concept to her, but it seemed logical. After all, why separate the magic from the caster via a wand when you could just wear it?
Gina was still proud of her work. Her costume consisted of a basic black sleeveless leotard, a pair of soft shoes that she based off of old images of Arabian princesses in her childhood, and a mixture of a trenchcoat and a poncho that covered almost her whole body. Of course, she couldn't forget the hardest part of the costume: the witch hat. Same fabric as the coat and shoes, with a little glass ball dangling off the tip for good measure.
She dumped her normal clothes on the floor after putting the hat on. It was time for the Hallowing.
Samaina had drawn a magic circle on her carpet in what looked like glowing orange ink. It was magic, of course, but magic in general just had sort of a liquidy feel to it from Gina's experience. In fact, most magic could basically be summed up as a fluid; it became chaotic and uncontrollable when solid, though her mistress had taught her that some creatures could do so.
Fully clothed in her casting outfit, Gina stepped into the circle. Her teacher smiled at her, confidence and pride brewing in her elderly eyes. She smiled back.
"You know, there's no going back from this. You'll be a true witch when this works. You sure you don't want to back out now, darling?"
"No, I'm fine." Gina had spent months preparing for this moment. There was no way she was backing down from becoming an actual witch.
"Alright, alright... Now, then, let's begin the Hallowing."
Samaina chuckled to herself as she snapped her fingers and an old tome blinked in out of nowhere. She claimed it was the Necronomicon, book of souls and endless witchcraft, but Gina suspected it was just a generic book of spells. After all, if the old woman's stories were to be believed, the Necronomicon was actually sentient, and this was just an ordinary book.
The old witch cleared her throat and began reading the book's arcane script.
"On this sacred eve, a young maiden desires to ascend beyond her mortal roots and attain witchhood. In doing so, she must comply with the vows that all of our kind aspire to keep- the vows of the Hallowing. Does this maiden agree to never utilize her powers to harm another witch on penalty of permanent loss?"
"Does she vow to avoid using her powers in excess, on penalty of possible soul consumption?"
"Lastly, does she promise to never consort with foul or eldritch daemons, on penalty of death and erasure from reality?"
"I- I do."
"Then let her soul be filled with magic... and her ascension begin! Klaatu Barada Nikto!"
The magic circle lost its shape as the liquid magic flowed into Gina, filling her very soul with unfathomable amounts of energy. The sole amount of fear she had left washed away as she felt herself growing stronger, more courageous... more powerful than any mortal human.
The changes weren't just to her soul. The glowing essence soaked itself into her casting clothes, turning the brown cloth a vivid glowing neon orange, like the flame of a jack-o-lantern. Even her hat sopped up the liquid arcane energies, and the glass ball on the end filled up with pure light like a beacon of power.
Gina could feel the raw amounts of energy rushing through her. It was astounding on so many levels... She couldn't believe it.
Finally, the intake of magic ceased. She had consumed the entire circle of magic without harm and completed the Hallowing; the tempering of her soul to withstand the massive energies of a true witch. Her eyes were still closed, but she felt a small impact in her feet from landing on the ground; she must've been hovering about six inches or so off of it.
Samaina rushed to her side, trying to support her and keep her steady.
"Easy, dearie. It worked. You can relax."
"Yes, the Hallowing was successful. Can I get you anything?"
"A mirror... please..."
Samaina snapped her fingers and a small hand mirror appeared. Gina couldn't believe the changes. The most striking to her at first was her hair. It had been magically bleached from its original dark shade to a pure white. Samaina told her about this during her studies; magic-imbued creatures typically had white hair, be they humans or demons. What she hadn't told her about were her eyes.
Gina's eyes used to be green, nothing too special there. Now, they were something that radiated magic, her sclera turned almost pitch black and her iris and cornea a glowing yellowy orange. She really was more than human now, something else entirely.
And she had never felt so strong.
"I can't believe it, ma'am. I'm finally a... a real witch!"
The old crone jumped for joy, dancing about and shouting her excitement to the world and waking up her old tomcat. Gina, in contrast, was still in shock, ecstatic that she had finally accomplished what she had worked so hard for. To her, it had all been worth it.
Samaina brought out a plastic pumpkin filled with candy. There was nothing magical about it, but she had been saving it for a Halloween gift for her prized pupil. The two ate, laughed, and fired off spell after spell until the student and master finally departed, Gina returning home more confident than ever.
The next two months flew by.
When Gina wasn't doing schoolwork, she was casting magic; casting spell after spell until she felt confident she was becoming a master. It had become part of her daily life, and she had begun using it for just about everything. Studying had evolved into basically downloading text into her brain, making food was as simple as manipulating the flow of magic to have the food do it itself, and she even went a little more visible with it in her babysitting job. Kids sure did love fireworks, especially when they were literal serpentine trails of fire and water spiraling throughout the living room.
She hadn't been sleeping much. She tended to stay up late at night, either researching more magical lore or just screwing around with magic herself. She didn't feel tired anymore. She found out how to basically erase any stress or lack of sleep pretty early on.
Her grades had improved in pretty much every area but P.E. As she found out the hard way, not even master witches were able to manipulate their bodies or stamina- the magic inside them refused to feedback onto itself lest it burn out. She actually wound up spraining her ankle just trying to enhance her own stamina, and was unable to heal herself for the same reasons.
Gina went and told Samaina she had never told her that little factoid. Samaina just asked why she would even bother giving herself enhanced physical power when she was capable of so much more.
Nobody noticed her change in personality, demeanor, or even appearance that much. Her powers were basically unnoticeable by everyone, save the children she actually showed them to. The one thing they did seem to notice was her hair; the white color was clear for all to see. She brushed it off as a dye job, and while her mother didn't really approve of that in general, most others actually complimented her for it.
Gina's life had improved in almost every way.
So why did she feel uneasy?
It was two weeks until Christmas break. Gina had begun to feel like she was being stalked in school.
It was the same two kids, day in and day out. Gina was new to the school, and she didn't know anything about them, but she had to assume they were here before she arrived. One was the typical bummy friend that you saw on a lot of TV shows; slouching constantly, scruffy beard, jacket and headphones, etc.
The other one was the focus of her attention. She had white hair and ridiculously pale skin, and had been wearing heavy winter gear as long as Gina had seen her. She could even recall back to when school got back in for the summer... and she could swear that this girl was wearing a heavy jacket even back then.
Gina didn't want to tell anybody about it, but it seemed less like they were stalking her and more like they were... keeping tabs on her. Did they know she was a witch? Was there something else going on?
"Look, I just don't feel comfortable with this."
"This is the first sign of magical activity we've had since last year. I'm concerned that something bad's gonna happen."
"Just because a girl has white hair doesn't mean she's magical. It could be a complete coincidence."
"No, I have good word in. She's actively using magic beyond anything I've actually seen in the open."
"Two six-year-olds. That's not really a reliable resource."
"Noel, just trust me on this. Something big is about to happen, and it involves that girl."
"C'mon, can't we just leave her alone?"
"The fact of humanity as a whole might be at stake."
"...Alright, alright. I'm with you, Aire. Just don't ice my hand again."
Gina was getting worried. The two kids following her, the sinister feelings clouding her heart... Something was up. She decided to tell Mistress Samaina about the issue; certainly she'd know what to do.
Waking up again at 11:00 at night, she slipped into her casting clothes. The fabric immediately lit up on contact with her skin, reacting to the pure magic energy coursing through her veins. Luckily, it wouldn't be a problem, as she could simply shield herself from the naked eye and make her way to Samaina's house in peace.
She had to stop to think about how crazy that was. She was using invisibility like it was a normal, everyday thing- and to her, it almost was.
At any rate, the trek through the forest was a cold one. The snow alone was one thing, but there was an eerie chill up her spine. Something was about to go wrong, she could feel it. And the way the snow actually stung... No. It was just her imagination.
Finally, Samaina's house. Normally she was up at this hour, but this time the house seemed dark and empty. Gina knocked on the door, and it just opened on contact; it wasn't even closed. She stepped inside and everything was trashed. Samaina's cat was lying unconscious on the floor, and the old crone herself was nowhere to be seen.
That's when she saw the light reflecting off of its eyes.
A huge, lumbering creature, almost skeletal in form, orange flames flickering ever so small in the sockets. It was hulking over what appeared to be her mistress's body, and the burns and wounds on it implied she had actually fought and wounded the monster. Its glowing eyes turned to her... It lunged towards her.
She lashed out almost instinctively, her fear powering up her magic in a fit of adrenaline. Ropes of liquid magma emerged from her fingertips, burning the bone but not fazing the creature at all. It grabbed her by the neck, slamming her into the wall and choking her. It was staring directly into her soul with those eerie, lifeless eyes... It was the first time since the Hallowing that she had felt real, honest-to-goodness fear.
She concentrated as hard as she could and imagined the magic flowing through this creature as a series of pipes. In one burst of power, she imagined the pipes bursting, and the arm the monster was using to hold her still burst clean off. It roared in pain as she kicked it away from her, preparing her next spell.
Before she could do anything to it, a blast of ice shot from the open door, freezing the monster in a solid chunk of ice. Gina turned to the shot's origin; it was the two kids who had been following her, the girl's outstretched hand giving off cold vapors. She nodded to Gina, who took it as a sign to finish off the monster before she blacked out. Using the last of her energy reserves, she summoned a drill-like spiral of magma and fired it straight through the frozen monster; the ice shattered, and the monster along with it. Gina promptly blacked out, but not before hearing something from the girl.
"...I knew it. Another yokai."
Gina woke up on Samaina's couch. The sun was shining through the windows, implying that she'd been out for a while. Her mom wasn't the kind of person to ground her immediately, but she'd be concerned.
Samaina was talking with the two kids who had saved her. The old woman seemed fine save a blood stain on her forehead, and the three seemed to be getting along well over some store-bought coffee... Gina could swear the girl's cup was frosting over where she touched it. She got up and tried her best to walk over.
"Lady, your kid's up." It seemed the boy was jumping to conclusions pretty quickly.
"She's not my daughter, you ninny. She's my former apprentice, and a good one at that."
"Oh yeah, so powerful that two yokai of lesser strength could beat her in a fight."
"Noel, don't. I've been training and practicing for a year."
Gina was confused. "What's a... yokai?"
They all paused before Samaina cleared her throat. "I told you about demons and that drivel, so you know the gist of that. Yokai are a... special case. They mostly come from the East, and are immensely powerful, far more than a typical demon."
The girl stuck out her hand, steam emanating from it. "I'm Aire, and this is my friend Noel. I'm a yuki-onna. Formerly human."
"Is it safe to shake?"
"A little chilly, but it's safe."
Gina and Aire had a hearty handshake while Noel slurped some more of his coffee. Samaina went on talking. "As you can see, yokai are actually powerful enough to convert humans into their race. It's positively devilish."
"Says the granny who apparently has the Necronomicon around."
"Touche. Anyways, you three should rest here. I've already called your parents. Told 'em Gina got into trouble and you to carried her to my house for safety. They said you can stay as long as you need to."
"Thank you, mistress. I'm sorry for coming this."
"Not at all, not at all... Just don't freeload for four years like my last husband did."
The three sat back and relaxed as Gina recuperated. Aire told her about her transformation into a yokai almost a year ago, and her subsequent research into what they were and what they were capable of- hence her natural ice powers. What was strange was the idea that she couldn't actually pinpoint their origin, almost as if they were otherworldly in origin...
"This is an unacceptable failure."
Tenkō paced about her room, seething with anger that her minion had failed... and at the hands of another yokai, no less. Her tails swished back and forth in deep thought. The fact that the minion she had sent to kill the feeble old woman had failed in its task was bad enough, but now she had four people aware somebody seemed to be gunning for them.
Just like the old days...
She pressed her hand into the pool of liquid magic at her side, calling up a mirror-like screen that displayed a control panel. Pressing a few buttons called up the woman of her interest- Anna Oyuki, formerly human and supposed to be one of the recruiters for her cause. She'd been AWOL for over a year. Nothing her minions couldn't track down.
"That new yuki-onna... I believe she's your doing?"
"I was just *gasp* trying to *gasp* get a recruit-"
"But you didn't. You transformed her and just left her to her own devices, told her about us and abandoned her. You should have brought her here for conditioning."
"What if I just thought yokai could exist without having to do your bidding? Is that so wrong?"
Tenkō just laughed in her face, a haughty, royal laugh that shattered what little confidence Anna had left.
"Silly woman. You forget one thing... You wouldn't be alive without me. Almost none of the yokai under my command would have lasted a century without my command. Now, you think about that while I put you back in conditioning."
With a snap of her fingers, Tenkō's guards hauled the yuki-onna back to her cell. The kitsune pulled out her pipe- one of her few creature comforts- and pulled up her mirror panel again. It was time to prepare for battle.
"...I will have my revenge on your race, Kiyomi. You killed my master, and I'll kill your kind. Sound like a fair deal to me."