Chapter 3:

Cortisol Rising

Mahō no Gakkō -School of Magic-


“Vitals look fine for the both of them,” someone said. “You’re clear to do screening questions.”
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I looked around the room. Pristine, white-tiled. It looked like it’d never been used. I looked to my side, and Kori was there, but he was turned on his side, drooling into a pillow. I wondered what those two girls had talked to him about.Bookmark here

The padded door opened, and Marissa entered, now in full uniform. Whereas before she wore basic protective gear, she now had on a sleek white-and-red outfit with various runes engraved on it. If they had any effect, I certainly couldn’t tell.Bookmark here

“Hi, Shiera! Are you ready for the screening?”Bookmark here

“The hell is a screening? Magic shit?”Bookmark here

“I thought screenings were a normal Earth thing! Did Aubrey lie again?!”Bookmark here

I shrugged under the sheets of the mattress. “They probably are. I just don’t go to the doctor much.”Bookmark here

“So, we’re just going to ask you a few questions to see what your status is, okay?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I’m ready.”Bookmark here

“Great!” She pulled a clipboard from under my mattress. “First, what’s your full name? Last, first, middle initial, please!”Bookmark here

“Beta, Shiera M. I know it’s a weird last name.”Bookmark here

She had a stunned look on her face, but quickly smiled and looked back to her clipboard. “Alright, when’s your birthday and how old are you?”Bookmark here

“June 1st, and I’m sixteen.”Bookmark here

“Uh… I need the year…”Bookmark here

“Oh, 2000.”Bookmark here

“Do you have any medical conditions we should know about?”Bookmark here

“Unless I have any undiscovered magical powers, no.”Bookmark here

“You don’t.”Bookmark here

“Shit.”Bookmark here

“Okay, next section!” She flipped a page. “I’m going to list some diseases and events. You’re gonna tell me if you know what they are, got it?”Bookmark here

“Alright.”Bookmark here

I wondered what she would ask me about. Was it testing my knowledge? Was this for magical evaluation? I almost wanted to say yes to everything- that’d make me look like a genius.Bookmark here

“Holocaust.”Bookmark here

“Why are you starting off so dark?”Bookmark here

“I’ll take that as a yes! The Great War’s up next.”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“You might call it World War I. I know a lot of people do.”Bookmark here

“Oh, yeah, I know both of the World Wars.”Bookmark here

“9/11?”Bookmark here

“Yeesh, don’t remind me of that.”Bookmark here

“Got it. Influenza?”Bookmark here

I scoffed. “We’ve all had the flu before.”Bookmark here

“Coronavirus?”Bookmark here

“Uh, isn’t that a whole type of virus? I think that’s what SARS was.”Bookmark here

Marissa shuffled. “Oh, sorry. It’s a sort of nickname. COVID-19 is a better term.”Bookmark here

“Never heard of it.”Bookmark here

“Han Hito?”Bookmark here

“Is that a movie?”Bookmark here

“The War in Ukraine?”Bookmark here

“Ukraine had a war?”Bookmark here

“GC-2050?”Bookmark here

“The hell?”Bookmark here

Marissa set down her clipboard. “That’s all for those questions! Thank you for your patience!”Bookmark here

She left the room with the paperwork, and I contemplated. Those seemed like historical events and diseases, until about halfway through, when it stopped being sensible entirely. Was it possible that it was a logic test? Or did they just know more than I did?Bookmark here

It only took a few moments for another man to walk in the room. He still wore his protective gear; he didn’t seem to be on the hospital wing staff. In contrast to my bed-ridden body, he was tall and muscular. It was intimidating, which I didn’t like. Intimidation was my thing.Bookmark here

“Ms. Beta, do you know why you’re here?”Bookmark here

“If I knew, I wouldn’t be here, dumbass.”Bookmark here

“Well, ma’am, this is Dianoct. And if you managed to get here from Earth, it means someone opened a rift. Since you’re clueless, it wasn’t you, and it probably wasn’t the idiot sleeping over there either.”Bookmark here

“No, duh.”Bookmark here

“I’m a commander, you’re some human from Earth. Show some respect.”Bookmark here

“Only thing I respect about you is that you insulted my brother without meeting him.”Bookmark here

“Ma’am, I presume you have some understanding of where you are, based on your lineage.”Bookmark here

I blinked. “No, I just know it through stories.”Bookmark here

“Stories. Alright. And what’s your father’s name?”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“Answer the question. I swear it’s relevant.”Bookmark here

“…Nathan?”Bookmark here

“I see.”Bookmark here

“See wha- hey, what are you doing?” I questioned. He was motioning with his hands like Aubrey had, but his were glowing magenta.Bookmark here

“I’m going to trigger your brain’s cortisol production. You’re going to feel very stressed for a moment, but be aware, nothing’s wrong.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean, nothing’s wrong? You can’t just tell me you’re gonna trigger my cortisol production and tell me not to worry! What the hell! You son of a bitch, stop it! Stop–”Bookmark here

“It’s done. You’re fine.”Bookmark here

I sighed. “Why did you…?”Bookmark here

“Basic genetic lycanthropy testing. You’re perfectly fine. I just had to check because of your lineage.”Bookmark here

“Lycantha-what?”Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about it, ma’am. We’ll explain in due time. Now, though. I’m sure Unit General Sumisu told you about the choice you have to make. You can stay here and fight for the army as compensation for our saving you, or you can return home and forget about all of this.”Bookmark here

The door opened behind his imposing figure, and Marissa leaned through. “Aaron, you know Aubrey forgets to tell everyone that.”Bookmark here

“Shut it, Kyona. You’ll refer to me only by Head Commander DeAndrick, understood?”Bookmark here

“Whatever you say, Aaron,” she said, closing the door.Bookmark here

Aaron turned back to me. “Ahem. So. Choice. Make it.”Bookmark here

“Can you give me a few days here to find out if I want to stay?”Bookmark here

“That’s not usually how the rules work.”Bookmark here

“You could make an exception.”Bookmark here

“Why would I make an exception for you?”Bookmark here

“Isn’t it fair to let people see what they’re getting into before blindly choosing?”Bookmark here

Aaron pondered this.Bookmark here

“Fine. You and your mongrel brother get two days to accustom yourselves to Dianoct. If you end up hating it, fine by me. If you don’t, I’ll have to tolerate you.”Bookmark here

“Okay.”Bookmark here

He was about to walk out of the room, but I sat up and called, “Wait.”Bookmark here

“What now?”Bookmark here

“Marissa said I had to stay here for a day. Does that still apply?”Bookmark here

“No. Get out of bed, and wake your brother up. You wanna be an exception so badly, you’re gonna have to learn how we work around here.”Bookmark here


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“…And that about wraps it up! Any questions?” Marissa asked the both of us. She had just finished the test on Kori, who was half-asleep, but still as confused as always.Bookmark here

“No, I’m just a little weirded out by why you didn’t wake me up…”Bookmark here

“I’m not sure you have the brainpower to wake up on your own,” I said.Bookmark here

Marissa smiled, embarrassed. “Hey, let’s not insult anyone. He just sleeps more heavily, that’s all.” She clearly did not understand our dynamic.Bookmark here

“No wonder, since he gets a full twenty hours of sleep, counting all his classes.”Bookmark here

Kori turned groggily. “Explain that 64 in history, Shiera.”Bookmark here

“I was counting in binary.”Bookmark here

“That doesn’t even make sense.”Bookmark here

“You don’t even make sense.”Bookmark here

“Hey, guys, Aaron’ll be ready in a few moments, so if you could collect yourselves…” Marissa said.Bookmark here

That reminded me. “Hey, what’s up with Aaron and using all official names and stuff? Is he a military geek?”Bookmark here

“Head Commander DeAndrick is his title, so he’s always like ‘call me by this-that-whatever, Kyona’,” she said. “Oh, Kyona’s my last name!”Bookmark here

“I assumed.”Bookmark here

“He wasn’t like this before he became Head Commander. When he was Sector 1, he was a lot more friendly,” Marissa sighed. Bookmark here

Kori was still flabbergasted. “Commander? Is this a military camp? Am I gonna die?!”Bookmark here

Marissa put a hand on his shoulder. “You won’t die if you listen to Aaron. He knows what he’s doing.”Bookmark here

The door opened behind her, and out walked Aaron, armor and all. “Kyona, remember your training. You’re to call me by my title.”Bookmark here

“Aaron, come on! I’m not in boot camp! We know each other!” Marissa whined.Bookmark here

“That doesn’t change the fact that I’m your superior, and I’m the one who enforces protocol.”Bookmark here

Marissa groaned and dropped her head. “Fiiine.”Bookmark here

Aaron made his way past her as she left and looked down at the two of us. Now that I was standing up, I found he wasn’t actually as tall as I’d thought— he only seemed about five centimeters taller than me. Suddenly, I felt a lot more confident about talking back to him.Bookmark here

“Look who’s here, muscle man,” I sneered.Bookmark here

“Shut up.”Bookmark here

“Ooh, feisty today, are we? Here to prey on some children’s dreams?”Bookmark here

“I’ll give you the cortisol check again.”Bookmark here

“Go ahead, pussy. You won’t.”Bookmark here

He reached out a hand to my forehead. Maybe I made a mistake. I started breathing quicker, and everything felt overwhelming.Bookmark here

“Are we done yet?”Bookmark here

“I get it!”Bookmark here

“Good.” He lowered his hand, and I began to calm down. “By the way, you noticed I didn’t use any of that magic this time, right?”Bookmark here

I hadn’t. “Uh… yeah.”Bookmark here

“Do you know what the placebo effect is?”Bookmark here

“Oh, you bitch.”Bookmark here

Kori tilted his head. “What just happened?”Bookmark here

“I told your sister I would activate the stress chemicals in her brain, and just saying that activa-”Bookmark here

“Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.”Bookmark here

“Uh… what did you come in here for?” Kori asked.Bookmark here

Aaron fixed his posture. “I’m here to get you accustomed to this world. I’ll get someone else to work with her. Preferably someone from the Special Needs department.”Bookmark here

My eyebrow twitched. “Wha–”Bookmark here

“Right through the door, sir. Ma’am, you stay here until someone comes and gets you.” He took Kori through the padded door and slammed it shut in my face. It didn’t make much of a sound, but the gesture wasn’t dulled.Bookmark here

I grabbed the handle to yank the door back open, but as soon as I touched it, a splitting headache shot through my brain. I nearly collapsed, but it faded fairly quickly. The door creaked open.Bookmark here

“Don’t try to leave,” Aaron hissed before closing it again.Bookmark here

I stomped over to the bed and slammed my fist on it. Why couldn’t the other world have been nice? I was more angry at his taking Kori than anything else. What had Kori done to deserve that that I hadn’t?Bookmark here

After waiting for what seemed to be at least ten minutes, the door opened again. I was ready to clock Aaron in the skull, but I found that he wasn’t the one at the door.Bookmark here

“DeAndrick sent me over. How’re ya holdin’ up? Kinda sucks bein’ alone for a while, don’t it?”Bookmark here

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