She knew his type. There was one in every class. Some hotshot whiz kid who was untouchable in high school, who is sure he would’ve been accepted to Paracelsus University if only he’d applied, and thinks that his natural talent for casting makes him smarter than everyone around him. Even his professors. “Actually,” he said, confirming everything she suspected about him with a single word, “Moonlight is physically indistinguishable from sunlight. A photon is a photon, no matter where it comes from. Well, it’s also an oscillation in the electromagnetic field, but-” “I’m sorry, but if you’re trying to impress me, it’s going to take more than a Wikipedia-based understanding of particle-wave duality,” she snapped. It wasn’t very professorly of her, but she’d put up with enough wizards like him in her short time as a teacher. They were always wizards. “Care to share with the class why Night Magicks can only be performed during certain phases of the moon?” she asked. “Sure, I’ll do your job for you,” he said, “It’s purely psychological. For many years, dark magic-” “Night Magicks,” she corrected, reveling in the opportunity to be as annoying as he was. “You know, most people who nitpick pedantic things are a lot less clever than they think they are,” he retorted. The class snickered. She rolled her eyes. The difference between Night Magicks and Dark Magic was as stark as the difference between a firefighter and a Fire Warrior. But she saw no point in correcting him. His grade was his problem. “Noted,” she said, curtly, “as you were saying?” “Anyway, Night Magicks,” he said, voice dripping with indignation, “were outlawed by The Orthodoxy in ancient times. As such, it was only practiced at night, despite requiring light to perform. So people came to believe that it relied on the phases of the Moon. This myth has become so firmly entrenched that wizards think it won’t work during certain phases, so it won’t. A self-fulfilling prophesy. I don’t even know why I bothered coming to this school if my high school teachers were smarter than the professors here.” “That’s an interesting hypothesis,” the professor said, barely maintaining her composure, “but I’d like to see some evidence. If you’re so sure that any light suffices, cast a Nyxian infertility hex. Right now.” “What’d I even cast it on? It’s not like we have a field of crops handy,” he said. “Cast it on me, then. You won’t get in trouble,” she said. “What, are you crazy? I doubt you could shield one of my hexes. You’d-” “Oh, I have no intention of shielding anything,” she taunted. “Because it won’t work.” “Fine!” he shouted. “Anything to wipe that smug look off your face.” He took the words out of her mouth.
He stood, inscribed the appropriate symbols on his quartz runestone, uttered the necessary incantations, and… nothing. “Is something the matter?” she asked, “You said any light would work. Would a flashlight help?” “It’s not that I can’t cast it,” he barked, “I just don’t feel right hexing a pretty lady like you. That’s all.” “A likely story,” she said. He began laughing. “You do know that it’s a full moon, right? So even if it were powered by moonlight, your point is invalid. You know, I really hope, for your sake, that you have tenure. If I employed a witch as idiotic as you, I’d have her fired!” “But Night Magicks are most powerful during the New Moon. That’s because they’re powered by a kind of light you can’t see: imaginary light,” she said. “Imaginary light? Are you mentally unwell? I’m seriously concerned,” he sneered. She sighed. “Since you were so eager to explain quantum mechanics to me just a bit ago, I assume you’re familiar with complex numbers: sums of real and imaginary numbers, which can be described by their magnitude and phase. The latter is an angle which describes the proportion of the imaginary to the real component. And this is exactly what phases of the moon are: the moon is always reflecting the same amount of light, it’s just how much of it that’s real that changes.” “What, you’re talking about math, now? How cute. Math is just something mortals do because they’re not clever enough to figure out magic,” he said. “The Merlin Committee certainly didn’t seem to think so when they awarded the most prestigious magical honor to the inventor of Complex Lunar Analysis,” she said. “Yeah, right,” he said, pulling out his phone to prove her wrong, “Like anyone would get a Merlin Award for that crap.” When he looked it up, he almost dropped his phone in shock. “Awarded to Cecilia Holly? That’s impossible! After what happened with Morgan le Fay, Merlin specifically forbade his riches from ever falling into the hands of a witch!” “Oh, I’m no witch,” the professor said, smiling, “Just a mortal who’s cleverer than you.”