Chapter 1:

Enter: Shiera Beta (Redux)

Mahō no Gakkō -School of Magic-

Nathan once told me a story.Bookmark here

“Shiera, do you know what Dianoct is?”Bookmark here

“No.”Bookmark here

He sat down beside me on the bed, his face so thin I could see his skull. He’d been working later than usual.Bookmark here

“They say there’s another planet out there, Shiera. One with life, like ours.”Bookmark here

I could smell something unusual on him. He had the scent whenever he came back from long work trips. It was tangy and rancid, like rotten sweat.Bookmark here

“But dad, you’ve never shown me that through the telescope.”Bookmark here

“It’s just a story, Shiera. They say you can only see it on a full moon.”Bookmark here

I met his eyes and nodded. “What’s it like?”Bookmark here

“It’s full of magic and wonders, and lights coming from the ground. There was a queen who ruled over it and stopped evil spirits there from killing the humans.”Bookmark here

“Dad, that’s just some kid’s story!”Bookmark here

“And you’re a kid, aren’t you?”Bookmark here

“I’m ten!”Bookmark here

I still remember his laugh at that moment. Back then, I didn’t understand.Bookmark here

“Well, Shiera, just listen to me, okay?”Bookmark here

I pouted. “Okay.”Bookmark here

“I got something for you.”Bookmark here

He reached into the back pocket of his khakis and revealed a small charm. Its silver sheen reflected the warm lamplight. In its center, a beautiful orange gemstone was set.Bookmark here

“Woah!”Bookmark here

He pulled it away from my grubby hands with a smile.Bookmark here

“I’m not done, Shiera. Just wait a little longer, okay?”Bookmark here

“…Fine.”Bookmark here

“I want you to keep this charm with you. It’s supposed to represent Dianoct, the other world. While I’m not here, remember me with it, okay?”Bookmark here

I was so focused on the lustrous charm that I didn’t care.Bookmark here

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I slid open the doors, the cold metal stinging my fingertips. A frigid gust blew through the entrance as I stomped through, shivering. I closed the doors behind me, ushering in the silence I was accustomed to.Bookmark here

My routine of calling out would have been in vain, knowing there was no one to answer me. I slipped off my jacket with a sigh, shaken from the onset of an early winter. It was only September, after all.Bookmark here

I wondered where Nathan was— he was normally home on Fridays. If he had been held up by traffic, I could understand, but I still felt a twinge.Bookmark here

Another voice lingered, subdued by the relentless wind outside. The door creaked open again, and my brother Kori stumbled in. He was talking on the phone with some of his friends.Bookmark here

“Yeah, yeah,” he responded. “I’m open Sunday.”Bookmark here

I watched as he awkwardly tried to slip his backpack off. Why he couldn’t have just set his phone down for a moment, I couldn’t guess. In his trivial effort, his bag’s strap knocked his phone out of his hand and onto the dull wooden floor.Bookmark here

He panicked and ran to pick it up, hurriedly checking it for any cracks. I honestly couldn’t understand him— the phone was so broken already, it was damn near impossible for it to be any worse.Bookmark here

“Alright, I gotta go. See you guys on Sunday,” he finished, tapping the ‘end call’ button and setting down his phone.Bookmark here

“All that trouble just to say goodbye?”Bookmark here

He met my glare and groaned. “Why are you pissed at me?”Bookmark here

“I’d ask the same of you.”Bookmark here

Our conversations usually went that way— meaningless, mediocre, rude. It was a rare day when Kori had something interesting to say. If he wasn’t my brother, I wouldn’t have given him a second thought.Bookmark here

“It’s because Nathan’s not coming home, isn’t it?”Bookmark here

He must have caught me off guard, because I turned away without a word. I hated when he pressed like that. For all I knew, he cared nothing for our father. He was even scrolling through his phone while we spoke.Bookmark here

“He’ll probably be here tomorrow. Life’s just like that.”Bookmark here

“Why do you care?!”Bookmark here

“Shiera, calm the hell down. He’s my dad too, you know.”Bookmark here

“You don’t act like it!”Bookmark here

“Ugh. Get over yourself.”Bookmark here

Meaningless, mediocre, rude.Bookmark here

“…It’s the full moon tonight.” I was surprised to find myself speaking.Bookmark here

“Oh, that’s why you wanted him home.”Bookmark here

“Well, he never is anyway. He’s probably out there getting laid by some-”Bookmark here

“You know dad wouldn’t.”Bookmark here

“Who’s to say?”Bookmark here

“Remember mom?”Bookmark here

The room filled with silence for a moment. Silence was peaceful. Silence was calm. But not now.Bookmark here

The silence broke with the buzz of Kori’s phone. He looked at it tentatively.Bookmark here

“Nathan says he’ll be home tomorrow.”Bookmark here

I breathed a sigh of relief.Bookmark here

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Time whizzed by, and after studying for a few hours, I noticed a glint of orange through the blinds. I was bored of studying, anyway, so I stood up and stretched my back. I could feel it crack as I extended my arms to the ceiling.Bookmark here

I checked my watch— the screen displayed ‘7:33 PM’ in its blocky font. When I pushed my chair in and opened the door to the back porch, I was met with a frosty slap. Though the temperature wasn’t that cold, the wind was. I didn’t bother donning my jacket.Bookmark here

I stared out into the sun as it dipped below the sea of land. Its glow reminded me of something. I instinctively reached for my pocket.Bookmark here

The charm still had its metal shine after many years, though it was worn and smudged. The orange gemstone embedded within still sparkled majestically, as if placing a tiara on my forehead, proclaiming me as royalty. The sun was out of sight now as I clutched the amulet in my hand.Bookmark here

Remember me with it, he’d said.Bookmark here

Hard to remember someone who always forgets about us!Bookmark here

I brought my hand up and chucked the amulet at the ground. It slammed into the wooden planks with a resounding ‘clang’. I could taste my own hatred on my tongue.Bookmark here

It took me a few minutes to properly assess what I’d just done. When I did, however, I was quick to locate the dented charm. The gemstone was scratched and dirty, which ripped a hole in the bottom of my stomach. I quickly tried to rub it off with my shirt.Bookmark here

When I took the brim of my shirt off of the stone, I noticed something. An arrow of sorts had formed inside of it. Inside. I turned to get a better look at it in the moonlight, but the arrow turned, too. It was a bright white against the orange stone, as if the moonlight were striking it at an odd angle.Bookmark here

I caught a glimpse of Kori as he turned the corner. I quickly pocketed the charm before he saw it.Bookmark here

“Shiera? Why the hell are you outside?”Bookmark here

“Why the hell does it matter to you?”Bookmark here

Kori groaned again. I mimicked him as I walked back inside.Bookmark here

“Oh, it’s about that Dianoct thing, isn’t it?”Bookmark here

“No! Go away!”Bookmark here

I stormed to the basement and slammed the door behind me. I took deep breaths, though rarely did they ever calm me down. Kori always treated me like an afterthought, and it pissed me off. We were twins, for God’s sake. Why couldn’t he act like it?Bookmark here

I pulled the charm from my pocket again, but the arrow wasn’t there anymore. The basement had a single window, through which moonlight streamed. I shuffled over and held the stone up to the light. Sure enough, the arrow reappeared, this time in a new direction.Bookmark here

I turned in the direction of the arrow— it was pointing to our storage room. I reached out and turned the door’s handle, and…Bookmark here

I let go.Bookmark here

I didn’t know why, but I knew I needed Kori here.Bookmark here

“Kori! Get down here!”Bookmark here

My voice was strained, but I heard the basement door open and knew he had heard me. He snarled at me.Bookmark here

“What now?”Bookmark here

I twisted the handle and pushed it open, still looking at him. I wanted to gauge his reaction. His face went from confusion to shock.Bookmark here

“Shiera, what the hell did you do?”Bookmark here

I turned around and gaped at the scene behind me. It wasn’t massively impressive, but that wasn’t so important. I was more impressed that our storage room had been turned into a decrepit stone bunker.Bookmark here

Without saying a word to Kori, I stepped in and looked around. He kept on saying useless words, trying to understand what was going on with what little brain power he had. By the time he stopped trying to reason, I had already found a ladder.Bookmark here

I climbed up each rung tentatively. Rust covered the surface of some more than others, and tetanus would not suffice. There was a hatch above me with a twist lock, which was similarly rusty.Bookmark here

Despite Kori’s complaints- “Shiera, what the hell! What are you doing?! Are you an idiot?!”- I twisted the hatch as hard as I could. Flakes of oxidized iron snowed from the lock, but I managed to grip it just tight enough that it creaked and clicked open.Bookmark here

“Are you coming or not?” I growled.Bookmark here

“Why the hell would I-”Bookmark here

“Is that a no?”Bookmark here

Kori hesitated.Bookmark here

“I’ll go, but what the hell, Shiera?”Bookmark here

With Kori approaching behind me, I pushed open the hatch with all my strength. When it flung open, I saw the night sky. Stars speckled it like astral seasoning, but even having studied the stars before, I couldn’t pinpoint a single constellation.Bookmark here

I climbed out of the hatch like it was an open vault and clambered to my feet on top of the rough stone. Kori soon followed behind, but I barely noticed.Bookmark here

The ground was broken by massive fissures, interconnected by roads and bridges. Sunlight burst through the fissures like heavenly beams, brightening the void above. The clanging of swords and the tang of blood stung the atmosphere.Bookmark here

I faltered on my feet, and when Kori saw it, he stood completely still.Bookmark here

The light, the stars, the war, splayed in front of me like a mural, brought only one word to mind.Bookmark here

Fuzzy Rabid Usagi
Robin Paharya
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