Mercenary Magic Page 57

“You’re very good,” Kai told her. “But that won’t be enough. The Magic Games are dangerous. They’re meant to push you to the extent of your magic, so the judges can get a good idea of your abilities. Swords won’t be enough. And in most matches, they’re not even allowed. Look here.” He pointed at the page with her fight schedule. “They’re starting you out in the Tier Three Division, which means they’re pretty sure your magic is at least Substantial. My guess is they expect you to fight your way up the divisions from there.”

“Couldn’t Sera just pretend not to have magic?” Riley asked.

“No. The Magic Games are over two thousand years old. That’s two thousand years we’ve had to figure out exactly how to get into a mage’s head,” Kai said. “The current Game Architect is very good. He’s been running the Magic Games for over ten years and not once has he failed. He will throw every weapon in his extensive and exceptionally well-funded arsenal at you until he cracks open your magic. The stress of it…”

“You broke?” Sera asked in surprise.

“The stronger the mage, the harder he breaks. Of course I broke. We all broke. But then we pulled ourselves back together and were stronger for it. It helped that I had a coach to prepare me before the Games. Some of the mages didn’t even have that.”

“Everyone who wasn’t born into the wealth of one of the prestigious dynasties, you mean,” she said.

“Yes.”

Riley gave her shoulder a squeeze.

“I’ll be fine,” she reassured him—and herself.

“Yes, you will be,” said Kai. “Because I’m going to coach you.”

Riley’s hand dropped off her shoulder, and they both stared at him.

“Don’t you have better things to do than save my bacon?” she stammered.

“Shh, don’t try to talk him out of helping you,” Riley whispered.

“I don’t want his help.”

“But you do need it.”

She slouched down, drowning in the collapse of her own denial. “I know.”

“Is that a yes?” Kai asked her.

“Yes.”

“Ok, then we’ll start tomorrow. The next Magic Games start in twenty-four days’ time. I’ll have only weeks to teach you magic other mages have had years to master. It won’t be easy. Or painless.”

“I understand. And I’m ready.”

“No, you’re not,” he told her. “But you’re strong. You’ll be all right.”

Sera rose into her knees and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. “Thank you,” she whispered into his ear.

“I’ll expect a favor in return,” he whispered back.

“Such as?”

He pulled back, giving her a wide grin. “Oh, I’m sure I’ll think of something.”

Prev