Chapter 2:

Phantasmic (Redux)

Mahō no Gakkō -School of Magic-

I stood on the roof of the bunker for a while, letting the wind blow on my clothes and through my hair. Words weren’t necessary- the world around us was tangible, real.Bookmark here

I clutched the dented charm in my hand and tore my eyes off of the holy lights to look at it. Rather than just an arrow, the whole inside was glowing. I let my gaze drift back to the horizon before I heard Kori.Bookmark here

“Is this Dianoct?”Bookmark here

His voice was dazed, like he had just woken from a dream.Bookmark here

“Hell yeah it is.”Bookmark here

Suddenly, an arrow whizzed by, only a few centimeters in front of my face. I blinked and realized what was happening.Bookmark here

To my left, incorporeal spirits. To my right, skin-and-flesh humans.Bookmark here

We were caught in the middle of a war.Bookmark here

“Shiera!”Bookmark here

Kori grabbed me by my collar and yanked me back into the safety of the bunker. For a moment, I couldn’t breathe— I stumbled beside him until I was stable.Bookmark here

“The hell was that for?” I growled.Bookmark here

“Are you a dumbass?! Someone’s shooting at us!”Bookmark here

“So? It’s not like we can just go home!”Bookmark here

“The ladder’s right there, you-”Bookmark here

“But we just got here!”Bookmark here

“Fine! You can just go out there and get yourself killed!”Bookmark here

“And you can be a pussy!”Bookmark here

I swatted Kori’s hand off my collar, and he slapped my hand back. I was tempted to smack him across the face.Bookmark here

“What are you waiting for, then?!” Kori yapped.Bookmark here

“I’m waiting for you to shut up!”Bookmark here

“Shiera, can you make sense for once in your life?!”Bookmark here

“Can you have half a brain for once?!”Bookmark here

He wouldn’t say anything further. Maybe he got the hint. I glanced around for anything I could use as protection against the crossfire.Bookmark here

“What are you doing now?”Bookmark here

“Looking for a shield, or something! I’m not stupid! Going out there with nothing is like suicide!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I-”Bookmark here

“Which is something you should consider!”Bookmark here

“This is the fifth time you’ve said that this week!”Bookmark here

“So why haven’t you done it yet?!”Bookmark here

I found a slab of concrete broken off from the bunker and heaved it upright. The backside was caked with dirt.Bookmark here

“Help me carry this!”Bookmark here

“Why the hell would I help you?!”Bookmark here

“Do you really want to kill yourself that badly?”Bookmark here

“Ugh, fine!”Bookmark here

Kori helped me grab it and hold it out in front of the two of us. With one big heave, we hoisted it up as a shield.Bookmark here

“Wait, Shiera, are you an idiot?!”Bookmark here

“I’m smarter than-”Bookmark here

“They’re shooting from both sides!”Bookmark here

“The humans won’t shoot at us if they know what’s good for them!”Bookmark here

I bumped Kori with my hip to get him to turn. As it stood now, we were facing the humans. The phantom creatures would keep firing.Bookmark here

It took us a moment, but we eventually turned the slab around to face the phantoms. It took a bit of courage to begin the first step back onto the battlefield.Bookmark here

“Shiera, wait!”Bookmark here

“Again?!”Bookmark here

“What if there are land mines?!”Bookmark here

“They’re shooting with bows and arrows! Why the hell would they have land mines?”Bookmark here

“But what if-“Bookmark here

“They don’t!”Bookmark here

We started trudging across the battlefield. Like I hoped, the humans weren’t firing at us.Bookmark here

Each step we took on the muddled stones below brought us closer to the human army. I was beginning to feel safe behind our makeshift barricade.Bookmark here

“Stop!” an unfamiliar voice called out. I turned around to find a squad of humans making their way towards us. Floating runes circled around them, like a magic shield of some sort.Bookmark here

Kori was in a state of panic. “Shiera, they’re gonna kill us! We’re gonna die! We–”Bookmark here

“They’re not trying to kill us, you- Kori?” Where was he? I looked around quickly, but he was nowhere to be found. What happened to him? Was he right? Were the humans our enemies? I glanced left and right, trying to find a way to run.Bookmark here

I took off to my left, then-Bookmark here


A piercing whine emanated through my whole body. I covered my ears, falling to the floor. For a moment, everything hurt, then the lights in the distance began to fade.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

“Are you awake?”Bookmark here

A faint ringing still echoed in my ears. I blinked, groggy and paranoid. It was dim outside, so I could barely see the shadow looming above. I felt the comfort of something soft underneath me.Bookmark here

“You’ve been out for, like, five minutes!”Bookmark here

I would have thought it all a dream, but I’d never heard this voice before, and the bed under me felt more like a sleeping bag than a mattress.Bookmark here

“Don’t tell me she’s friggin’ dead, Marissa! The one time ya try it on somethin’ alive, it had ta be her!”Bookmark here

Her voice was raspy and southern, which made her words sting a little more.Bookmark here

Another voice chimed in from my left, most likely the Marissa who’d been referred to. “I didn’t know what was gonna happen! Don’t blame me!”Bookmark here

Her voice was softer and more Midwestern. It was a lot higher than the other girl’s.Bookmark here

“Damn well ya didn’t! So why then?! We coulda turned off the shield and-”Bookmark here

“Then we would’ve gotten shot, Aubrey!”Bookmark here

“Not if we used that concrete right!”Bookmark here

I groaned and funneled my energy into sitting upright. I could barely see the silhouettes of the two I heard talking, but the one leaning over me jumped back.Bookmark here

“Thank God! Ya didn’t kill ‘er!”Bookmark here

I rubbed my eyes. “What happened…?”Bookmark here

“And she speaks English! Ya know how rare that is?! Last time, kid was talkin’ straight Korean!”Bookmark here

“I remember that…” the Marissa sighed. “Hey, I can’t really get a good look at her injuries. It’s dark.”Bookmark here

“Ack! Sorry, gets hard ta tell what y’all can’t see.”Bookmark here

Suddenly, a couple of sparks flared up from beside me. I scooted away to avoid them on their fall.Bookmark here

“You’re not doing it right,” Marissa said bluntly.Bookmark here

A blue light shone from beside me. The source was the hand of a girl just a bit younger than me— she had a look of anxiety on her face. Her short brown hair was pulled back and left to hang in two long bangs, tucked behind her long ears.Bookmark here

“Here’s why you’re in honors spellcasting three and I ain’t,” Aubrey said.Bookmark here

I turned to get a better look at Aubrey, who was staring right back. She had her blonde hair tied in a braid on one side and cut straight on the other, her bangs swept to the right rather neatly. Her cutting green eyes peered at me in earnest.Bookmark here

Not to mention, she had a cat’s ears and tail.Bookmark here

“So, uh, hi! Do you know where you are?” Marissa asked.Bookmark here

“I’m in Dianoct, right?”Bookmark here

The two stared at me like I was crazy.Bookmark here

“What? Am I wrong?”Bookmark here

“No, the weird thing is that you’re not,” Marissa said.Bookmark here

“Yeah. That ain’t normal. Most people who come here like you did get totally flabbergasted,” Aubrey added.Bookmark here

“Flabbergasted?”Bookmark here

“It’s fun ta say.”Bookmark here

“What’s special about how I came here?”Bookmark here

“You and your brother came from earth, and in the middle of a border skirmish, too! Damn, you got guts!”Bookmark here

“Shouldn’t we start with names?” Marissa said.Bookmark here

“I’m gettin’ ta that.”Bookmark here

“Can you get to it now?” she pressed.Bookmark here

“Gah, fine! Name’s Aubrey. But they’re gonna make ya call me ‘Unit General Sumisu’, so get used ta that, too.”Bookmark here

“No one calls you that, Aubrey.”Bookmark here

“Kyona, anyone ever called you by yer last name before?”Bookmark here

“No, everyone just calls me Marissa, same way they call you Aubrey.”Bookmark here

“Ah, shaddup.”Bookmark here

I sighed for a number of reasons.Bookmark here

“I’m Shiera. My brother is- wait, Kori!”Bookmark here

I jolted up to my feet, and Aubrey and Marissa backed up. The sleeping bag at my feet was in disarray.Bookmark here

“Where the hell is Kori?!”Bookmark here

“He’s right there! Chill out, jeez!” Aubrey hissed.Bookmark here

She pointed a clawed finger a little ways away to another sleeping bag of sorts. Kori rested in it with his arms crossed over his chest.Bookmark here

“Haaah. Alright.” I sat down.Bookmark here

“Y’know, I really didn’t think anyone from Earth would get here durin’ a border skirmish.”Bookmark here

“Hold on, you’re going to have to explain everything to her,” Marissa said.Bookmark here

“Nah. She said she knew this was Dianoct, so she musta been here before. No need ta tell ‘er everything.”Bookmark here

I picked at my nails. “Actually, tell me.”Bookmark here

“Wait, ya don’t know? How?” Aubrey asked.Bookmark here

“My dad told me a story about this place once.”Bookmark here

“What’d he say?”Bookmark here

“Well. He said there was a big war and a queen that drove away spirits from human land. Wait, which means-”Bookmark here

I gasped.Bookmark here

“Is this the past?!”Bookmark here

Aubrey stared at me like I was a dumbass. It was almost the same face Kori had made at me.Bookmark here

“…Wha…?”Bookmark here

“He said a queen drove out the spirits, but you’re still fighting them, which means…”Bookmark here

“He musta meant Queen Teresa. She drove out the spirits, yeah. But they didn’t really get the memo, y’know? Thought the war wasn’t over. So we’re still fightin’.”Bookmark here

“Oh. Wait, why are kids fighting? Shouldn’t there be soldiers?”Bookmark here

“Eh. Attendin’ the war school means you gotta fight in border skirmishes. It’s the cost for the free education.”Bookmark here

“But if it’s free education, there shouldn’t… your government, uh… whatever. When’s Kori gonna wake up? I don’t want him to die if I’m not the one that kills him.”Bookmark here

Aubrey shrugged. “Probably never.”Bookmark here

“No!” Marissa yelled, smiling. “Aubrey, shut up! He’s fine! He’ll wake up in a few minutes!”Bookmark here

“What the hell did you do?!”Bookmark here

Marissa chuckled. “He’s fine. Aubrey’s stupid. I don’t think she’s really aware of the seriousness of the situation for-”Bookmark here

“Nah, I know, I just like makin’ stupid jokes,” Aubrey said.Bookmark here

“Or she could just like making stupid jokes, I guess,” Marissa sighed.Bookmark here

“Speaking of that, what the hell was that thing you pulled on me? With the ringing noise and the unconsciousness?”Bookmark here

Marissa looked intrigued. “Ringing noise? How loud was it?”Bookmark here

“I thought my ears were going to bleed.”Bookmark here

“Wow! Well, now we know that, Aubrey!”Bookmark here

Aubrey looked over. “Yeah, know that ya shouldn’ta used yer teleportation shit on a whole-ass human.”Bookmark here

“Shut up, it worked!” Marissa yelled.Bookmark here

I raised an eyebrow. “Huh?”Bookmark here

“I’ll explain later.” Marissa zipped up her first-aid kit and looked over to Kori. “He’ll probably wake up if I tap him.”Bookmark here

“Do that, then, uh, whatever you guys do with people that come from Earth.”Bookmark here

“Yer gonna be stayin’ in the medical wing for a day,” Aubrey said.Bookmark here

“Don’t try to fool me again.”Bookmark here

Marissa chuckled nervously. “Uh, no, she’s actually right. Curses, spells, possession, diseases, all that stuff. We’ll ask you questions and give you a basic rundown, then you decide whether you stay or go.”Bookmark here

“Oh, magic shit. Great.”Bookmark here

“If ya insult magic again, I won’t teach ya,” Aubrey said solemnly.Bookmark here

“You’ll teach me?”Bookmark here

“If you wanna stay, I literally don’t get a choice,” she sighed.Bookmark here

“Sick.”Bookmark here

While Aubrey and I had been talking, Marissa had gone over to wake up Kori. He appeared quite dazed. “Hey, whatever-your-name-was. Sierra, right?”Bookmark here

Shiera. With an ‘s-h’. Like ‘shee-era’.”Bookmark here

“Okay, Shiera, we’re gonna have to knock you out again, okay? We’ll wake you back up when we get to the medical wing, got it?”Bookmark here

“Why the hell?!”Bookmark here

Aubrey started maneuvering her hands in a strange, ritualistic manner. “In case yer possessed, we don’t want the spirits knowin’ how ta get inta the shields. We’re gonna talk ta Kori for a bit and knock ‘im out too. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt this time.”Bookmark here

I gulped as the space between Aubrey’s hands began to glow a faint cyan. Would I be able to do that if I chose to stay? What was this place? Was this world one I wanted to inhabit? All manner of questions flooded my mind.Bookmark here

Then, suddenly, they were no more, and next thing I knew, I was blinking my eyes open in a medical bed.Bookmark here

Fuzzy Rabid Usagi
Robin Paharya
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