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.
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.
“Is this Dianoct?”
His voice was dazed, like he had just woken from a dream.
“Hell yeah it is.”
Suddenly, an arrow whizzed by, only a few centimeters in front of my face. I blinked and realized what was happening.
To my left, incorporeal spirits. To my right, skin-and-flesh humans.
We were caught in the middle of a war.
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.
“The hell was that for?” I growled.
“Are you a dumbass?! Someone’s shooting at us!”
“So? It’s not like we can just go home!”
“The ladder’s right there, you-”
“But we just got here!”
“Fine! You can just go out there and get yourself killed!”
“And you can be a pussy!”
I swatted Kori’s hand off my collar, and he slapped my hand back. I was tempted to smack him across the face.
“What are you waiting for, then?!” Kori yapped.
“I’m waiting for you to shut up!”
“Shiera, can you make sense for once in your life?!”
“Can you have half a brain for once?!”
He wouldn’t say anything further. Maybe he got the hint. I glanced around for anything I could use as protection against the crossfire.
“What are you doing now?”
“Looking for a shield, or something! I’m not stupid! Going out there with nothing is like suicide!”
“Which is something you should consider!”
“This is the fifth time you’ve said that this week!”
“So why haven’t you done it yet?!”
I found a slab of concrete broken off from the bunker and heaved it upright. The backside was caked with dirt.
“Help me carry this!”
“Why the hell would I help you?!”
“Do you really want to kill yourself that badly?”
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.
“Wait, Shiera, are you an idiot?!”
“I’m smarter than-”
“They’re shooting from both sides!”
“The humans won’t shoot at us if they know what’s good for them!”
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.
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.
“What if there are land mines?!”
“They’re shooting with bows and arrows! Why the hell would they have land mines?”
“But what if-“
We started trudging across the battlefield. Like I hoped, the humans weren’t firing at us.
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.
“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.
Kori was in a state of panic. “Shiera, they’re gonna kill us! We’re gonna die! We–”
“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.
I took off to my left, then-
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.
“Are you awake?”
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.
“You’ve been out for, like, five minutes!”
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.
“Don’t tell me she’s friggin’ dead, Marissa! The one time ya try it on somethin’ alive, it had ta be her!”
Her voice was raspy and southern, which made her words sting a little more.
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!”
Her voice was softer and more Midwestern. It was a lot higher than the other girl’s.
“Damn well ya didn’t! So why then?! We coulda turned off the shield and-”
“Then we would’ve gotten shot, Aubrey!”
“Not if we used that concrete right!”
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.
“Thank God! Ya didn’t kill ‘er!”
I rubbed my eyes. “What happened…?”
“And she speaks English! Ya know how rare that is?! Last time, kid was talkin’ straight Korean!”
“I remember that…” the Marissa sighed. “Hey, I can’t really get a good look at her injuries. It’s dark.”
“Ack! Sorry, gets hard ta tell what y’all can’t see.”
Suddenly, a couple of sparks flared up from beside me. I scooted away to avoid them on their fall.
“You’re not doing it right,” Marissa said bluntly.
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.
“Here’s why you’re in honors spellcasting three and I ain’t,” Aubrey said.
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.
Not to mention, she had a cat’s ears and tail.
“So, uh, hi! Do you know where you are?” Marissa asked.
“I’m in Dianoct, right?”
The two stared at me like I was crazy.
“What? Am I wrong?”
“No, the weird thing is that you’re not,” Marissa said.
“Yeah. That ain’t normal. Most people who come here like you did get totally flabbergasted,” Aubrey added.
“It’s fun ta say.”
“What’s special about how I came here?”
“You and your brother came from earth, and in the middle of a border skirmish, too! Damn, you got guts!”
“Shouldn’t we start with names?” Marissa said.
“I’m gettin’ ta that.”
“Can you get to it now?” she pressed.
“Gah, fine! Name’s Aubrey. But they’re gonna make ya call me ‘Unit General Sumisu’, so get used ta that, too.”
“No one calls you that, Aubrey.”
“Kyona, anyone ever called you by yer last name before?”
“No, everyone just calls me Marissa, same way they call you Aubrey.”
I sighed for a number of reasons.
“I’m Shiera. My brother is- wait, Kori!”
I jolted up to my feet, and Aubrey and Marissa backed up. The sleeping bag at my feet was in disarray.
“Where the hell is Kori?!”
“He’s right there! Chill out, jeez!” Aubrey hissed.
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.
“Haaah. Alright.” I sat down.
“Y’know, I really didn’t think anyone from Earth would get here durin’ a border skirmish.”
“Hold on, you’re going to have to explain everything to her,” Marissa said.
“Nah. She said she knew this was Dianoct, so she musta been here before. No need ta tell ‘er everything.”
I picked at my nails. “Actually, tell me.”
“Wait, ya don’t know? How?” Aubrey asked.
“My dad told me a story about this place once.”
“What’d he say?”
“Well. He said there was a big war and a queen that drove away spirits from human land. Wait, which means-”
“Is this the past?!”
Aubrey stared at me like I was a dumbass. It was almost the same face Kori had made at me.
“He said a queen drove out the spirits, but you’re still fighting them, which means…”
“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’.”
“Oh. Wait, why are kids fighting? Shouldn’t there be soldiers?”
“Eh. Attendin’ the war school means you gotta fight in border skirmishes. It’s the cost for the free education.”
“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.”
Aubrey shrugged. “Probably never.”
“No!” Marissa yelled, smiling. “Aubrey, shut up! He’s fine! He’ll wake up in a few minutes!”
“What the hell did you do?!”
Marissa chuckled. “He’s fine. Aubrey’s stupid. I don’t think she’s really aware of the seriousness of the situation for-”
“Nah, I know, I just like makin’ stupid jokes,” Aubrey said.
“Or she could just like making stupid jokes, I guess,” Marissa sighed.
“Speaking of that, what the hell was that thing you pulled on me? With the ringing noise and the unconsciousness?”
Marissa looked intrigued. “Ringing noise? How loud was it?”
“I thought my ears were going to bleed.”
“Wow! Well, now we know that, Aubrey!”
Aubrey looked over. “Yeah, know that ya shouldn’ta used yer teleportation shit on a whole-ass human.”
“Shut up, it worked!” Marissa yelled.
I raised an eyebrow. “Huh?”
“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.”
“Do that, then, uh, whatever you guys do with people that come from Earth.”
“Yer gonna be stayin’ in the medical wing for a day,” Aubrey said.
“Don’t try to fool me again.”
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.”
“Oh, magic shit. Great.”
“If ya insult magic again, I won’t teach ya,” Aubrey said solemnly.
“You’ll teach me?”
“If you wanna stay, I literally don’t get a choice,” she sighed.
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?”
“Shiera. With an ‘s-h’. Like ‘shee-era’.”
“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?”
“Why the hell?!”
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.”
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.
Then, suddenly, they were no more, and next thing I knew, I was blinking my eyes open in a medical bed.