Nana and the Night Palace
“Eat your cake, Nana.” Mrs. Hyde reminded her daughter after seeing her staring intently at a slice of blueberry cake without actually touching it.
“Yes, mother!” Nana gingerly answered before delightfully eating the cake.
Seeing her daughter acting like so, Mrs. Hyde could only shake her head exasperatingly. It was Nana’s 13th birthday and she requested a blueberry cake as her birthday cake. Knowing that she won’t be able to see her daughter for almost a year; Mrs. Hyde readily agrees.
“Just leave the dishes on the sink after you’re done eating. Tomorrow, your father will bring you to the Night Palace using the oxcart so make sure that you put everything that you wanted to bring along in your luggage, okay?”
Nana’s hand that was scooping the cake paused after hearing her mother’s instructions. After saying “okay” she resumed eating.
That night, Nana was busy double-checking the content of her luggage. Only upon making sure that everything she wanted to bring along with her was accounted for did she feel satisfied.
“Tomorrow, I would officially enter the Night Palace!” Nana said to herself softly with a tinge of excitement in her voice. “But the Night Palace… once I enter, I could not go out for a year.”
Nana is feeling a little reluctant to leave because she won’t be able to see her parents for one year once she was accepted into the palace. Sadly for her, she had no choice.
The law of the land dictates that all young girl age 13 and above that were proven to have the talent for magic and witchcraft must enter the Night Palace.
The Night Palace is like an academy for witches that only accepts magically talented girls. There’s also the Wizard Tower which only accepts boys with magical talent so it’s not like the law discriminates against boys.
That being said, Nana was not against going to the Night Palace. She was only feeling slightly reluctant because she’ll miss her parents greatly if she could not see them for an entire year.
“I should sleep early so that I won’t be sleepy during the test...”
The next day, an old rickety oxcart being pulled by a lazy-looking ox could be seen traversing an unpaved road.
Aboard the card were a young girl and a bearded man that seemed to be in his late twenties or early thirties.
The two people aboard the oxcart were Nana and her father, Mr. Hyde.
“Are you nervous?” Mr. Hyde asked.
“Not really,” Nana answered. “Okay, maybe a little…”
“Just relax. No need to stress the test too much,” Advises Mr. Hide without taking his eyes away from the road. “Even if you don’t pass, you can still enter the Night Palace as a junior trainee.”
“Ugh… No way! I want to be an official student!” Nana protested while pouting.
Although the law requires everyone with a talent for witchcraft to enter the Night Palace; not all that went there can pass the test. Every year, countless promising young girls would fail the test. Nana doesn’t want that since she would have to spend a year being a junior trainee before becoming an official student.
The father and daughter duo spend more than two hours on the road before arriving at a dock in a lake where a huge crowd was gathering.
The Night Palace was built on an island in the middle of a huge lake. And to get to the palace itself, people must use a boat. But not just any boat. It must be a boat approved by the Night Palace’s administrators.
Anyone trying to get to the island illegally would be quickly apprehended by the witches or the magical beings that they’ve summoned. Do not question the veracity of that statement because there had been many fool-hardy individuals and groups that had tried in the past and were punished because of it.
“So that’s the Night Palace. It’s so beautiful…”
“Indeed. And unlike me, or your mother, you’ll be able to stay in such a majestic place. So don’t waste the chance, okay?”
Nana nodded her head at her father’s advice. She then forcefully peels her eyes away from the palace in the middle of the lake and examined the crowd of people in the harbor.
“As expected she’s also here,” Nana saw a familiar and well-dressed girl among the crowds. The girl in question was named Margaret, a girl from the same town as her.
Margaret is the only daughter of the richest tycoon in their town. Being the daughter of a wealthy tycoon that was given whatever she wanted since she was young, Margaret grew quite haughty and spoiled. Nana and Margaret studied at the same school and didn’t exactly get along, mostly because of the other girl’s personality. The two girls weren’t enemies but they weren’t friends as well.
“You should try to get along with her,” Mr. Hyde advised after noticing her daughter staring at a wealthy-looking girl.
Since Mr. Hyde has no idea of the conflict between the two girls, he could carelessly give such advice. But even if he knew, he would still advise his daughter to get along with the other girl.
“What? No way! It’s not possible!” Nana put her arms together to form an “X” in protest of her father’s advice much to Mr. Hyde’s surprise.
“Oh, you…” Mr. Hyde could only shake his head. If he still could not tell that there’s some sort of conflict between the two girls he would be a fool.
Not long after the short banter between father and daughter; two boats arrived at the harbor wearing the Night Palace’s emblem. After saying goodbye to her father, she, along with the other girls boarded the boats.
“What is this place?” Nana questioned while looking warily at her surroundings.
“Can’t you tell? This is where we’ll be tested!” A girl wearing a beautiful dress answered.
Nana groaned internally after hearing the girl’s haughty words. She knew that this place was the testing ground but her question was not referring to that.
“Of all people… Margaret ended up being my teammate.”
Nana could not help but lament her luck. There were several dozen of girls in this year’s batch and yet she ended up being teamed with someone like Margaret. Thankfully she doesn’t have to suffer alone. That’s because…
“I think this place is created using magic. This means that we might run into some magical beast,” a girl with shoulder-length black hair said after examining the mysterious place that suddenly appeared in front of them.
Yes, Nana has another teammate beside Margaret; a girl named Liza. Who seemed to be someone she’ll get along with? Ignoring the haughty Margaret whose nose was pointing at the sky; Nana walked towards a tree and put her hand on its trunk.
“Was everything here created using witchcraft? If so, witches are amazing…,” she murmured.
“Yeah, but I wonder… How are we supposed to pass the test? The teacher that brought us here didn’t explain anything.” Liza questioned.
“No matter what kind of test it is, I will surely pass it!” Margaret declares confidently.
“Where is she getting her confidence from?”
Nana internally scoffed at the girl’s overconfidence but didn’t show it on her face. She had decided to just ignore Margaret completely. She believed that as long as she works with Liza, they should be able to pass the test.
Unfortunately for Nana, she was dead wrong because not long after, they were chased by a panther-like magical beast that had appeared out of nowhere.
“Keep running!” Nana urges the other girls after seeing them slowing down.
“No more… I can‘t run anymore,” Margaret that seemed like she was about to collapse from exhaustion weakly answered.
“Maybe, we could rest a little?” Liza, who was exhausted as well, asked.
Nana was torn. Like the other girls, she too was exhausted but if they stopped now, the panther-like magical beast might attack them. Moreover, they would fail the test if the beast catches them.
“Seriously, what’s with the rule of the test?” Nana complained to herself. Could anyone even pass this test? “Where are the written exam and the exciting magic duel? This is completely different from what I’ve imagined!”
The test that was given to them was completely different from what the girl had imagined. She had tried to guess what type of test she must take to become an official student on many occasions but not once did she imagined having to escape the chase of a magical beast.
Nana finally understood the reasoning behind the team-up. Not only must they work together but they must also ensure each other’s safety to pass. That’s because no matter how talented a person was, there’s no way that a young girl that has yet to receive proper magic training to defeat a magical beast.
“Ah! It’s here!” Margaret screamed after hearing the roar of the magical beast.
“We can’t stay here any longer!”
Nana took Margaret’s arm and put it around her shoulder much to the girl’s surprise. Seeing this, Liza also Margaret’s other arm and helped the girl to stand up even though she was exhausted herself.
“You, you guys…” Margaret stared at Nana with a complicated look on her face. She was aware that the girl before her has a great dislike for her. It was for this reason that her action catches her completely off guard.
“Just leave me!” Margaret said after gritting her teeth. Even someone as selfish as her knows that she’s just dead weight and could cause the other to fail the test.
“We’ve already been running for so long so don’t give up just yet,” Nana answered while completely ignoring her protest.
“She’s right. I doubt the proctor would give us a test that’s impossible to pass.” Liza agreed.
While Margaret was hesitating, the panther-like magical beast finally showed itself to them. No, rather than show, the magical beast was barring their path forward.
“No, no way!”
“You’re kidding me!”
The three girls showed different reactions but all of them are feeling despair. In the last half an hour, the magical beast was just stalking them while making its presence knew – forcing them to run with all their might. This was the first time that the magical beast decided to face them. Was it impossible to pass the test?
Unaware of the girls’ feelings; the magical beast slowly circled the three girls. The creature’s fearsome appearance and huge size made the girls shivered. Looking at its sharp teeth; the girls wondered if they’re going to get eaten.
But when the girls are on the verge of falling into complete despair, a voice was suddenly heard, prompting the magical beast to stop moving. And before the girls’ eyes, the beast flops on the ground like a house cat!
“What, what’s happening?!”
Seeing the fierce-looking magical beast acting like a cat, confusion suffused the girls’ hearts. But that confusion didn’t last long because the proctor appeared calmly before them.
“Congratulations. The three of you passed the test,” the proctor declared with a smile on her face.
“We passed?” The girls asked almost at the same time.
“Indeed you did,” the proctor patiently answered.
“But how? We didn’t do anything the entire time but run.” Liza asked while looking more confused.
“That doesn’t matter as that’s not the point of the test. As long as you three stick with each other for a certain amount of time without abandoning anyone, you’ll pass the test.”
The three girls were startled after hearing how they passed the test. Unexpectedly it was that simple.
“Don’t think that the test is simple. Trying to stay together while facing overwhelming odds is no easy matter. Many would not hesitate to abandon their teammate to ensure their survival. For example, in this test, the majority of test-takers had failed. Your team was among the few that passed,” the proctor revealed.
“Really?” The girls’ asked.
The proctor nodded her head in affirmation. And upon seeing this, the girls cheered and hugged each other.
“We did it!”
The proctor watched the girls hugged each other with a smile on her face. As she was observing everything from the very beginning, she was aware that two of the girls: Nana and Margaret has some sort of conflict with each other.
Nonetheless, when facing overwhelming odds, Nana (and Liza) was willing to lend a hand with the other while Margaret was willing to be left behind to allow the two girls to pass. This proves that despite their conflict, these children are willing to make sacrifices for their teammate.
“They’re still young but they’re very promising,” the proctor thought to herself. “It seemed like we got some good seeds this year.”
“Okay that’s enough,” the proctor said while clapping her hands to get the girls’ attention. “Since the three of you had passed. I now officially welcome you three to the Night Palace!”
…And that’s how Nana’s life in the Night Palace started. During her stay in the palace, Nana (and her friends) would experience a lot of exciting, joyful, and sad moments while training to officially become a witch. But that’s a story for another time.