Chapter 2:


Metropolis No. 8 - Erde

My mind was racing.Bookmark here

Right after the headmaster left, I immediately ran up to my room, threw my bag onto the bed, and pulled out the practice suit.Bookmark here

Downstairs, my parents were arguing about something in the living room, but I didn’t care to listen, busy with trying to get my clothes off so I could put on the suit, but in my haste and nervousness, I just got tangled up, which only resulted in me getting even more nervous. I even heard a clear ripping sound from the black shirt with the tree symbol of Terra on the back that my parents bought me for my birthday.Bookmark here

“Dammit, just get! Off!”Bookmark here

Finally, I freed myself, and quickly slipped into the latest version of the commonplace technology allowing one to use magic, although this model was significantly less powerful than the standard one, as it had been made for beginners without much control.Bookmark here

Looking back, I should have found it weird that I cared this much about some random stone I found in a forest, but in the heat of the moment I paid it no mind.Bookmark here

“This won’t be enough”, I said to myself, taking the thing off again and putting it on my desk which was littered with cables and small pieces of metal.Bookmark here

I guess this is as good a time as any to mention that I planned on becoming an engineer and had been playing around with some machine stuff for a while. Working on developing these suits even further had been a small dream of mine at that time.Bookmark here

I took a screwdriver.Bookmark here

I inserted it into a gap on the box placed on the suit’s chest-Bookmark here

-and I cracked it open.Bookmark here

Good thing that this model used cheaper material.Bookmark here

Well, maybe it was a bad thing considering that it was easy to damage them, which would result in having to pay a hefty sum of money.Bookmark here

Really, why did I care so much?Bookmark here

“I can’t take too long on this- “Bookmark here

While I would’ve loved to properly study a real version, the situation demanded speed.Bookmark here

Quickly spotting the magic converter, which was responsible for drawing the raw magical energy out of the ground (that’s what those lines leading from the feet to the chest were for) and changing it into usable earth-type mana, I tried to take it out as gently as possible and instead put in my own version I’d only finished recently and hadn’t done much testing with.Bookmark here

“I hope this works as planned.”Bookmark here

Since I’d been so rough with opening the thing, I couldn’t close it again – and my prototype converter was too big anyway.Bookmark here

Putting on the suit again, I noticed a slight imbalance due to the extra weight in front, but that couldn’t stop me.Bookmark here

I opened the window and slid down the grass-covered wall before running off into the forest.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Why were there so many people here.Bookmark here

Cursing internally, I slowly lowered myself to the ground and crawled under a bush, trying to keep track of all the people in the area.Bookmark here

At least they didn’t care to hide themselves?Bookmark here

But realistically, if even one of them saw me, I’d be done for.Bookmark here

While I couldn’t see Mr. Grond, I did spot the PE teacher (the actual one) and several of the more skillful members of the school staff, along with some other adults I didn’t recognize, but they were even worse – everyone here (except for me of course) was wearing the most powerful of the three main models, usually reserved for police and military, and given the air these unknown adults carried themselves with, I had little doubt that they were actually part of those.Bookmark here

Meanwhile, I was alone, still 17, and had the student’s version with some modifications I didn’t even know for sure were safe…Bookmark here

Sigh.Bookmark here

My eyes opened wide and I resisted the urge to slap my hand over my mouth when one of the police/military guys immediately turned my way.Bookmark here

How good was his hearing?!Bookmark here

A step forward.Bookmark here

Shit, shit, shit.Bookmark here

Don’t panic.Bookmark here

I was covered by the bush-Bookmark here

But how much would that do when he was right in front of me?Bookmark here

Another step.Bookmark here

…I could still stand up and just… tell them I give up, right?Bookmark here

After considering it for a moment, I threw the idea overboard.Bookmark here

It wasn’t uncommon to hear about some police officer acting on impulse-Bookmark here

And also, I was in too deep.Bookmark here

The third step.Bookmark here

Okay, what do I do.Bookmark here

In a move of desperation, I decided to try and slowly have a layer of earth cover me, so that I would just look like a random hump in the ground.Bookmark here

I heard the sound of boots crunching grass coming closer second by second.Bookmark here

The earth was slowly moving up my sides.Bookmark here

I closed my eyes and pressed my head to the ground.Bookmark here

Robbed of one of my five senses, the noise only became clearer.Bookmark here

Step, step, step.Bookmark here

Cool soil slowly covered my shoulder blades.Bookmark here

My breathing became faster, but even with the air pocket I left for myself, it was getting harder-Bookmark here

The guy sounded way too close now.Bookmark here

Then, I was fully covered.Bookmark here

A final step right in front of me.Bookmark here

Then, silence.Bookmark here

No, that’s wrong.Bookmark here

It wasn’t silent at all.Bookmark here

My heartbeat sounded like cannons in my ears.Bookmark here

Thmp. Thmp. Thmp.Bookmark here

For a moment I thought my heart would stop, and for another, I wished it would.Bookmark here

My body felt hot.Bookmark here

Then-Bookmark here

A voice.Bookmark here

“Hey, you guys!”Bookmark here

Wait.Bookmark here

I recognized that-Bookmark here

Jasmine?Bookmark here

What was a girl from my class doing here?Bookmark here

I kept quiet (of course) and listened harder.Bookmark here

She told the guy and the others around here that our physics teacher had called everyone to move farther in.Bookmark here

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to laugh or cry, but both were a really bad option right now.Bookmark here

And then I felt dirt in my nose.Bookmark here

Bad timing.Bookmark here

Resisting the urge to do literally anything, I forced myself to hold my breath and waited.Bookmark here

It was excruciating.Bookmark here

Everyone seemed to be on the move now, but I couldn’t let my guard down just yet.Bookmark here

I had to wait until they were actually gone.Bookmark here

And so, while every fiber of my being was screaming at me, I waited.Bookmark here

The steps were slowly getting quieter, but I couldn’t tell how much of that was the distance and how much it was my consciousness fading.Bookmark here

They didn’t move particularly slowly from what little I could tell, but they didn’t seem in a hurry either.Bookmark here

I had to hold on just a bit longer.Bookmark here

My stomach started to tingle and I felt like throwing up.Bookmark here

But I held on somehow.Bookmark here

And then they were gone.Bookmark here

I could barely hold myself back from jumping out of my hiding spot, but as slowly as I could realistically bring myself to go, I pushed my head out, put a finger against the side of my nose that wasn’t blocked, and forcefully pushed what little air I had left from my lungs.Bookmark here

I was lightheaded and probably the gladdest I’d ever been over a simple breath of air.Bookmark here

But I wouldn’t stop here. Bookmark here

I needed to continue.Bookmark here

…After a moment of rest, of course.Bookmark here

Silently, I promised to show some more respect for our physics teacher from now on.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Having recovered a bit (but still sweating, was it getting hotter?), I slowly proceeded towards the inner parts – the others may have gone ahead, but there was still the possibility of them having left behind a guard.Bookmark here

For stealth purposes, I crawled along the ground, lowering it right in front of me so that I was always slightly below ground level, which would let me cover myself more naturally in case I’d need it. Of course, I raised the ground again right behind me as to not leave a trail.Bookmark here

It took a good while before seeing something again, but that wasn’t really a good thing.Bookmark here

They were close to the clearing.Bookmark here

Quickly scanning my surroundings, I was able to spot Jasmine along with another student from a parallel class, a teacher I didn’t recognize, the headmaster, and one of those military grunts.Bookmark here

Not the best odds.Bookmark here

“Are you sure we’re on the right path? You sounded so confident choosing this direction back when we split up for the search, but…”Bookmark here

That voice was Jasmine’s, and she was talking to Mr. Grond.Bookmark here

“Well, I wasn’t one hundred percent certain, but… let’s say, 98.3? And I can feel that we’re getting closer. It’s kind of nostalgic, to be quite honest…”Bookmark here

There were a lot of questions on my mind, mainly how he could feel the position of that place, but I wasn’t exactly focused on getting any answers right now.Bookmark here

“And also,” he then added, turning towards my hiding spot below another bush.Bookmark here

I swallowed.Bookmark here

Hard.Bookmark here

“I now have another reason to believe this is the right place.”Bookmark here

With a smile that I wasn’t sure was fake or genuine, the headmaster signaled to the military dude to not immediately attack.Bookmark here

That was… kind of reassuring, at least?Bookmark here

“Vide, you can come out now.”Bookmark here

I charged.Bookmark here

Not thinking, I just went on the offensive.Bookmark here

Creating something akin to a sprint starting block from the earth below me, I pushed my feet against it and let it push me forward as fast as I could go.Bookmark here

For a moment, I almost fell over, but then I was racing towards Mr. Grond, shouting some sort of battle cry and took a swing-Bookmark here

-and then, all of the air in my body was gone as I felt his fist collide with my stomach.Bookmark here

I couldn’t stop the earth pushing me, so with the momentum at my feet and the hand blocking my upper body, I went flying, the world spinning around me, before inelegantly landing on my back.Bookmark here

The next moment, he was above me.Bookmark here

Instinctively, I rolled to the side, but it didn’t look like he had attacked the spot I was in.Bookmark here

So, he wasn’t about to beat me up for fun, at least.Bookmark here

But when I turned to run to the clearing, I found myself suddenly staring at a wall of clay blocking my path.Bookmark here

Some voice-like noises reached my ears, but with everything going on, I couldn’t properly register what they were saying.Bookmark here

The wall was too thick for a regular practice suit to do anything about-Bookmark here

But maybe with my modifications…?Bookmark here

Trying to calm my heavy breathing, I focused on a spot in the middle of the barrier and threw myself against it, the hands where the Mana was concentrated colliding with it first and weakening it enough for me to break through.Bookmark here

A small feeling of success ran through my body, I’d somehow managed to strengthen the suit-Bookmark here

And then, a searing pain bit into my conscious.Bookmark here

My hands felt like they were on fire.Bookmark here

I screamed, surprised by the sudden sting, and tripped.Bookmark here

What?Bookmark here

Why?Bookmark here

Looking down, it hit me.Bookmark here

It hadn’t been getting hotter-Bookmark here

The suit was overheating.Bookmark here

“Damn it”, I spat, getting up again.Bookmark here

No time to waste, then.Bookmark here

And again, the next moment, I saw the headmaster in front of me, this time clearly intending to strike.Bookmark here

Almost on instinct, I forced the nearest tree to fall over, directly onto him.Bookmark here

He jumped back in time, while I felt the heat tearing into my hands once more.Bookmark here

This time I had been prepared for it and kept moving, but it still hurt like hell.Bookmark here

I took a few fast steps.Bookmark here

And then I was there.Bookmark here

Alright, one final time.Bookmark here

Bracing myself for some nasty burns, I let myself be pushed by an earth block again.Bookmark here

At this speed, if anyone tried to stop me, I could probably easily break my neck and die.Bookmark here

But they wouldn’t risk something like that.Bookmark here

…right?Bookmark here

Apparently not, since I only heard Mr. Grond shouting something after me.Bookmark here

“Vide, just listen, for fucks sake!”Bookmark here

I came to a halt before the stone.Bookmark here

…wasn’t it brighter than before?Bookmark here

Like, quite a lot, actually.Bookmark here

I had never noticed that it slowly got more and more light over the days I visited.Bookmark here

“It’s dangerous there! Get back!”, the headmaster said.Bookmark here

Huh?Bookmark here

The stone began to glow.Bookmark here

And then, everything went white.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.