Skyler’s remarkable performance in the initial project once again heightened his popularity.

The “Champion Skyler Fans Club” witnessed a rapid surge in membership as Skyler fostered a positive reputation and image within both Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw.

For many young wizards, joining the club represented an opportunity for glory. In their hearts, Skyler’s accomplishments were synonymous with Hogwarts’ honor, and being his classmate was a badge of distinction.

The club burgeoned into the largest and most populous in Hogwarts, outpacing the second-largest club, the Gobstone Club, by a factor of three.

As club leaders, Cho, Marietta, Luna, and Susan collaboratively crafted a “Support the Champion Skyler” badge, distributing it widely across Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. The response exceeded expectations, marking a warm welcome.

This development stirred an uneasy feeling in Harry for a while.

Subsequently, Hermione and Ron designed a “Support the Champion Harry” badge, which gained widespread popularity among Gryffindors, restoring Harry’s smile.

However, responses from the other three colleges were notably scarce.

Recognizing the opportune moment, Skyler decided it was time to advance to the next stage of his plan.

On a designated day, Skyler arranged to meet Cho and Susan in front of the expansive mirror on the fifth floor. With different eyes observing, he incanted the “Revelio” spell before the mirror.

Ripples emanated across its surface, unveiling a profound path.

“How cool!” Cho’s eyes gleamed with excitement. “Is this a secret passage? When did you discover it?” She gently touched the mirror, effortlessly passing through to the world on the other side.

Skyler responded in a half-joking tone, “If I told you I knew about its existence on the first day of school, would you believe it?”

Unexpectedly, Chang Cho nodded without hesitation, her expression serious. “As long as you say it, I believe it.”

This admission left Skyler slightly embarrassed.

Breaking the somewhat awkward silence, Susan remarked, “Skyler, you are really shameless. You knew about such an interesting place but didn’t share it with us. Remember, we are your ‘hardcore fans’! But enough of that, let’s get going. I’m eager to see what secrets lie inside.”

Skyler gazed deeply at the two girls, his eyes bright. Not only Susan but also Cho couldn’t help but sport a faint blush on her cheeks.

“The secret of this passage is just a trivial matter,” he said with a slight curl of his lips, his voice soft. “There are more interesting things!” The passage was shrouded in darkness.

Skyler gestured with his left hand, causing a slight tremor in the air. The sound transformed into three glowing orbs emitting a bright, gentle milky-white halo.

The light balls exhibited an autonomous consciousness, hovering around the three individuals, mirroring their every step.

“Is this… a transfiguration spell?” Cho inquired. Coming from a family skilled in transfiguration, she was no stranger to advanced transfiguration even as a fifth-year student.

Skyler affirmed, “Indeed, it’s a transfiguration spell. Speaking of which, I owe thanks to your great uncle. His ‘A Thousand Changes Technique’ enabled me to understand how to seamlessly integrate the characteristics of the Lumos spell into transformed objects.” Skyler’s tone carried a mix of emotion.

He sighed lightly, “The mysterious and ancient Eastern magic truly holds unique merits that captivate the imagination…”

“I really wish Master Hao would be able to teach me about the secret technique he promised me, though… lately, it feels like I’ve hit a wall in my learning journey of transfiguration.” Skyler continued while looking at Cho bitterly.

“Skyler,” Cho blushed, though it wasn’t discernible in the dim secret passage. “What my uncle said before was just a joke. Don’t take him too seriously…”

“Really?” Skyler’s eyes were half-smiled. “I was quite looking forward to the secret transfiguration technique he promised. Well, whatever…”

As the trio continued for fifteen minutes, peculiar patterns emerged on the stone walls of the secret passage. Resembling ancient runes yet possessing a distinct character, they seemed almost like the graffiti of an intoxicated artist.

“We’ve arrived!” Skyler exclaimed while coming to a full stop.

The two girls gazed at the images and texts with an entranced look as if some mysterious power within them held a deep allure.

Skyler stood still, attentively observing their reactions.

These magical marks are all Skyler’s masterpieces—spell marks crafted after intensive study of spiritual and soul magic. They have the power to evoke temptation, greed, and fear deep within the human heart, and only a resolute will can resist their influence.

Cho responded swiftly. Her vision had just cleared, and her eyes revealed profound fear, as if she had witnessed something truly terrifying.

Abruptly, she dropped to her knees, covering her face as she wept bitterly.

In the midst of Susan recovering from her enchantment, she let out a sudden scream, rolled her eyes, and fainted.

Skyler swiftly retrieved his magic wand, casting “Finite Incantatem” on both girls.

Gradually, they awakened or regained their senses, yet were unable to recall the events that transpired.

Rubbing her sore eyes, Susan questioned, “What just happened?”

Skyler explained, “The stone wall is inscribed with magic marks designed to temper the will and soul. If you successfully pass their test, it can strengthen your willpower and soul, immensely benefiting your magical strength, but…”

“But what?” Susan inquired eagerly.

“You both,” Skyler said calmly, “failed the test just now.”

“Ah!” Both girls exclaimed simultaneously, wearing expressions of extreme disappointment.

Skyler reassured them in a deep voice, “Honestly, it’s nothing. You’re all my friends. You can let me know whenever you’re ready, and I can bring you here to try again.”

“Really? Have we really become an acquaintance of yours in that short amount of time?” Cho displayed a look of surprise, and Susan, standing beside her, mirrored an expression of anticipation and excitement.

“Of course, it’s true,” Skyler smiled. “After all, Master Chang Hao and Madam Amelia have provided me with a lot of help and guidance. Let’s consider this as a reward for their kindness! However, you have to promise not to reveal the secret of this passage to anyone else!”

The two girls nodded in agreement.

“Okay, today’s adventure ends here!” Skyler declared. “I’ll take you back first; Daphne and the others are still waiting for me up front!”

The two girls seemed to have sensed something and exchanged knowing glances. Despite a brief gaze, neither showed any inclination to turn around.

Finally, Cho summoned the courage to speak, “Is there something beyond the secret passage? Can we explore it as well?”

Although aware that the mentioned “Daphne and the others” likely referred to Skyler’s fellow Slytherins, the feeling of exclusion was unsettling, especially after learning that the secrets within the passage could contribute to their strength.

“Knowing too much is not necessarily a good thing,” Skyler’s gaze moved back and forth between the two of them, and he spoke with significance, “The secrets beyond the passage involve a larger aspect of my life. So far, those who have been part of it are my closest and most trusted confidants. Once you become privy to this secret, there’s no turning back. Have you thought it through?”

Skyler’s bright gray pupils seemed to illuminate the somewhat dim secret passage.

Whether due to psychological effects or an actual change, both girls sensed a gust of wind within the darkness, and the air temperature seemed to drop. Even the milky white glow emitted by the three floating light balls lost its soft and warm quality.

An unexplained chill enveloped the two girls. Skyler’s usual gentleness gradually blurred in the shadows, creating an eerie and unfamiliar atmosphere.

Cho hesitated and recoiled slightly, but she couldn’t dismiss Skyler’s consistent gentlemanly and amiable demeanor, his positive reputation for intercollegiate friendliness, and most importantly, the high praise he received from her great uncle, Chang Hao.

Recalling how Skyler had helped her master the Patronus Charm during summer vacation, a faint blush graced her face, and she made a sudden decision in her heart.

She gritted her teeth, suppressing the uneasiness within her. Staring into Skyler’s eyes, Cho observed a hint of firmness, stating, “Whether it’s the magic mark or your question just now, it’s a test, isn’t it?”

A trace of appreciation flickered in Skyler’s eyes, though he remained silent.

Interpreting Skyler’s gaze, Cho affirmed her suspicions. The hesitation vanished, replaced by a determined sparkle in her eyes, and she spoke with conviction, “I failed the test earlier. I admit it. It brought me fear -“

“But this time, I won’t make the same mistake again -“

“I’ve decided – I want to participate in your so-called secret,” Cho’s tone grew resolute, “I’ve thought it through. Even if there’s no turning back, I won’t regret it.”

With Cho taking the lead, Susan nodded, expressing her agreement.

“Don’t worry!” Skyler’s face resumed its usual gentle smile, warming the atmosphere in the secret passage. Even the three light balls seemed brighter.

“You won’t regret today’s decision,” Skyler led the way, waving for the two to follow. “What you’re about to encounter is an opportunity that will shape the world’s future destiny!”

“Ready yourself for the true test!” Skyler greeted them with a cold smile.

 

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Published On: February 19, 2024

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