PART ONE

He was in a somber mood, as usual. He sat there at the bench contemplating the colorful memoir that was his life, thinking and reflecting on every thought he could remember. Today…was probably the biggest—not to mention pivotal—day of his existence.

It was time to take his quest for perfection a step further. He was to choose today—choose his final and ultimate path. The choices had been laid before him yesterday by the Mistress.

Would he go for White Magic, the path of the supportive spells? The skills were fascinating, no doubt of it—but they rendered all his spells learned useless. The skills of a White Sorcerer could match those of a High Priest's, indeed. But…it seemed off…

Would he then go for Black Magic? Black Magic—the path of dangerous darkness in which there is no turning back? It offered a wide range of destructive spells—it had no space left for any support magic. It required extensive physical and mental sacrifice—but it also offered the possibility of wielding Cosmic Energy, Magic in its purest and most powerful form. But this path—

He sighed and looked at his bleeding hands. He watched as a droplet of blood gathered and swelled—glistening—and taking an eternity to fall. It fell to the ground with a soft and almost inaudible flok, the sound echoing in the room where he was alone, the sound bouncing off the walls.

He lay down on the floor, his eyes staring at the roof. What would his choice be? He knew what he wanted, all right, but the danger of what he wanted haunted his mind, ringing his conscience. Moreover, the Mistress had warned him about it. He could lose his sanity. He could lose his memory. He could lose his emotions. He could lose his soul.

A moth fluttered by, close to the light. Its wings caught fire. The flames quickly creeped to the rest of its frail body and consumed it, leaving only a few dark particles that were ashes. He mused—perhaps; the moth gave him a warning. A warning about the path he was going to take.

But he had this unhealthy knack of ignoring warnings…

He sat up, wincing a bit because of the pain on his hands. He reached up and caught a few strands of his hair between his thumb and forefinger. He had always wanted to conquer Magic's purest form—an attempt in which he hasn't succeeded yet. By taking the path of the darkness, he would be a step closer to this goal—this sole purpose of his life.

The Mistress appeared out of nowhere, her shining silvery hair falling around her. Her eyes lingered upon his battered form, taking on the blood, the fresh wounds and empty eyes. He faced her, his eyes listless as they had always been.

"Have you made up your mind?" she asked.

She held out her hands—and they contained two different spheres. In her right hand was a superb thing, shining and bright, representing the sincerity and goodness of White Magic. In her left hand was a dark and cold object, harsh and hostile, representing the evil of Dark Magic.

"Choose." She continued. "But remember that, once you have chosen, you can never turn back…your first and last chance…now choose…"

He swallowed painfully, his eyes on the white sphere. His heart ached for it, but his mind was bent on the dark one. Then his gaze switched to the dark one, the thing with shadows and nightmares swirling freely on its surface. Then he looked at the white sphere once more. It was so pure, so gentle…so…good

The Mistress sensed the doubt in his heart. "Follow your heart, because it knows what is best."

He met her eyes. He could see his reflection in those soulful orbs. He broke the gaze and stuck out the tip of his pink tongue and wet his lips with it. He extended his right and forward, reaching…

His bloodstained fingers stopped some two inches from the white sphere. A slight frown appeared on the Mistress's face. He met her eyes, and transferred his hand to the dark one, his fingers closing in on it—making the shadows and nightmares swirl wilder than ever. He took it from her hand, this darkness…

"I hope you do not regret your choice…" she said sadly. "But hear me when I say this…Dark Magic is not necessarily evil…it is the path that you take to conquer it that is full of evil things, but not the magic itself. I pray that—whatever obstacles and problems you might encounter in this path you've chosen—I hope that you will not fall for them, that they will not corrupt you. Your heart shines with definite brightness, it shines of hope and love, of virtue and innocence. I do not want to see that radiance die."

And then everything—the room, the drops of blood on the floor and the Mistress—disappeared with a sudden rush of blackness.