Mahō no Gakkō -School of Magic-
“So when am I finally gonna learn magic?”
Aubrey and I were walking down the medical wing’s pristine hallways. She kept turning in various directions at each intersection of the halls, and I wondered if she knew where she was going.
Aubrey cracked her knuckles. “What kinda magic?”
“There are types?”
“Duh. The ones you can learn come in three types, but the abilities some people got come in a lot more.”
“So what types can I learn?”
“Pretty simple. Ya got cyan magic, magenta magic, and yellow magic. Cyan changes spatial stuff, like with teleportation and invisible barriers. Magenta affects yer body an’ mind, like transformation, healin’, and cortisol checks. And yellow deals with weapons and combat, like explosions and resistances. ‘Course, you can learn all three, but people like ta specialize.”
I nodded. “So are you gonna teach me?”
“Hell nah. I can’t cast for shit. But I know someone who can, and I’m takin’ ya right to ‘im.”
“If it’s Aaron, I’ll kill you.”
“Nah, this guy hates DeAndrick. They’d probably kill each other if someone let ‘em at it.”
“That’s good to know.”
We finally found our way out of the medical wing, into what seemed to be a line of arenas. I peered into one, only to find it empty.
“Oh, people don’t really use ‘em recreationally.”
“You have arenas and you barely use them?”
“I mean, I dunno about you, but I wouldn’ wanna risk my life in a recreational activity.”
“Earth’s pretty different from Dianoct, huh…”
Aubrey stopped at one of the arenas. “He said he’d be in here. Wanna check?”
“I’m not checking anything. You know how this works, do it yourself.”
“Fine,” she scowled. She unlatched the door and stuck her head in. “Akaaa!!”
I heard a faint “Whaaaat?” from the door.
“Newbie wants ta learn castin’! Mind helpin’ ‘er out for a lil’ while?”
“Hell no! I just got started training! Go find Marissa!”
“Kyona’s helpin’ DeAndrick!”
“The other newbie!”
“There are two?!”
“Just say yes, dammit!”
Aubrey sighed as she pushed the door further, allowing me room to enter. I hesitated.
“Is he always like this?“ I asked.
“Yup. Never does anythin’ without a reason. I can never get ‘im to hang out with us.”
The door opened to reveal a medium-sized arena with a few spectator seats and a trio of training dummies. A boy was practicing with bladed nunchucks— he whipped them at one of the dummies and wrapped their chains around its neck. He then turned his head.
“Hi,” he said.
“Heya,” Aubrey replied. “This is Shiera. She’s from Earth. Teach ‘er how ta cast.”
“Wha- Earth? You can’t–”
“Good luck!” Aubrey slammed the door, leaving the two of us to figure it out.
He looked at me, dazed. “Dammit, does she think my power works with languages?”
He almost jumped. “Wait, you- okay, we can work with that.”
“Answer the question, dumbass. What power?”
“U-uh, my power lets me handle weapons like an expert. I think Aubrey thought I could learn languages with–”
“I thought you had to cast spells to use magic.”
“Aubrey literally told you nothing, huh?”
“Well, she told me about the types of magic!”
“Probably just the casting types.”
“What do I not know?”
He seemed pensive. “…Let’s just teach you the casting part, actually.”
“What is it with you guys and always making fun of me for not knowing shit? Couldn’t you at least tell me?!”
“I could, but do you want to spend twenty minutes learning magic or twenty minutes learning the history of magic?”
“Could you do both?”
“I’m not spending more than twenty minutes on you.”
“Ugh, fine! Just teach me the damn magic!”
The boy began walking towards a worn-out wooden box on the periphery of the arena. “Over here.”
“What’s in there?”
“You need a focus point to channel magic. Do you want me to explain why?”
“I don’t need you wasting my time with explanations if they aren’t necessary.”
“Same thing with you and learning about the ability stuff.”
“Son of a bitch.”
He opened the chest up and dug around in it; I could hear metal clanking inside. “We have a few different casting points. Wands, staffs, and rings are all old-fashioned, but they’re easy to learn with. We also have charms, bracelets, and all that. If you have any weapons, you can use those, and…”
“I have a charm. Does this work?” I held up my amber charm, which was still glowing.
“No, that kind doesn’t– hey, wait, is that a rift marker?”
“Nevermind. Just, uh… here, take the bracelets. They look the coolest.”
He handed me a pair of clunky bracelets. They were engraved with the same runes I’d seen over all sorts of things— triangular, alien-like glyphs. “What do I do with them?”
“That depends on what you want to do.”
“Uh… let’s say I wanna fly.”
“You’re gonna wanna focus on the bracelets as much as you can for this.” He walked in a circle around me, and I noticed his ears were a little pointier than a human’s. His green-dyed hair covered them up, for the most part.
“…So do I just say some words, or do a motion, or…”
He chuckled. “No, none of that. Just imagine cyan energy swirling around your fists. It should work if you do it right, but it can take a few tries.”
“Imagine? What do you think I am, a kindergartener?”
“Do you want me to explain why?”
“Fine, I’ll do it, you shithead.”
I concentrated on the bracelets. Come on, don’t look like an idiot in front of this moron. If you don’t get this your first try, you’re done for. They’ll send you home with no memory, and your one shot’ll have been totally wasted. Come on, fly, fly–
“Hey, snap out of it for a second,” the boy said. I blinked back to my senses and turned my head.
“You ruined it. This is your fault.”
“No, you just started squinting and grimacing. You weren’t focusing on the bracelets.”
“I- you can’t prove that!”
“Just do it again.”
“Fine! But don’t interrupt me!”
He backed away. Don’t get carried away this time. I focused on the bracelets around my wrists and, just like the boy had told me, imagined cyan energy wrapping around my fists. I could see it in my mind as if it were real.
I felt my feet lift off the ground, weightless.
“Hell yeah!” I whispered under my breath. It was like unlocking a sense I’d never felt before; I could fly in whichever direction I wanted.
I soared to the top of the arena and looked down at the seats, at the training dummies, at the equipment. If I could do this, then surely this world would realize I had potential.
The energy began crackling like electricity. Does that mean I’m doing it right, or–
Gravity kicked back in.
I plummeted to the paved sand floor, not ready to accept my demise. This would be even more humiliating than just failing. I didn’t even do anything wrong!
Just a couple centimeters above the ground, I felt myself stabilize, turn, and land on the ground with my feet. I had been suspended in the air for a couple seconds. Did I do that?
“What’d I tell you about concentrating?”
I looked up— cyan energy had just fizzled out in the boy’s hands. Oh. He saved me.
“I was concentrating! I don’t know what happened! It’s not my fault!”
“The energy only crackles like that when you stop focusing. It does that to try and remind you to concentrate. Which you didn’t.”
“At least I did it! Bet not a lot of people can say that!”
“It’s actually– never mind. Yeah.”
“It’s actually what?”
“Most people get it on their first or second try.”
“So you’re saying I’m average?”
“You– uh, yeah.”
I groaned. Me? Average? I guess I’d have to prove myself later. I was so much more than average.
“Hey, you never told me your name,” the boy said.
“You never told me yours, either.”
“Oh. I’m Aka.”
“Like Sierra, but with an ‘sh’?”
I slipped off the bracelets and tossed them to him. He didn’t catch them; they just ended up falling on the ground.
“…So, how do you know Aubrey? And that Aaron guy?”
“Aubrey’s been a friend for a while. I thought it was really cool that she was from Earth, so I asked about it in, like, fourth grade. That’s how we met.”
“What about– wait, Aubrey’s from where?!”
“I know, it was crazy to me, too. Yeah, somehow she flew under the radar wearing beanies, hoods, hats, all that. Only her mom and dad know. Not even her brothers!”
“Where did she live?”
“Ohio. Suburban Serpho, is what she told me. I’ve never been. I only know where it is because of history class.”
“Wha– that’s where I live!”
“Have you seen Aubrey there?”
“I know an Aubrey, but she’s not my age. I think she’s, like, twelve.”
“Aubrey does a weird thing whenever she travels to Dianoct. She intentionally sets herself four years off when she travels, so she always ends up four years back when she’s here. If she went back to Earth right now, it’d be September 2020.”
“That might be her!”
“Or it could just be someone else named Aubrey.”
“No, she had the braid and the beanie and everything! And I think she had some brothers…”
Aka was smiling. “What a wild coincidence.”
“And she would go off to boarding school every so often. That was her coming here, wasn’t it? I remember her twin brother always hating when she had to leave. I think his name was… Nick? Nate? Something that started with N.”
The door slammed open. “Y’all aren’t even practicin’ anymore! Aka, didja even teach ‘er anything?!”
Aka turned to Aubrey. “Well, I gave her bracelets. She was able to fly for a few seconds, then I had to catch her on the way down.”
“Why aren’tcha still tryin’, then?”
“I thought that was all we had to do for now,” I said.
“So she just kind of threw the bracelets at me,” Aka added.
“Oh, okay. What’re ya talkin’ about, then?”
I shrugged. “Uh, just introducing ourselves, and–”
“We were talking about how I met you, and I mentioned that you were from Earth, and she asked where, and I said Serpho, and turns out she’s from Serpho, too, and that she might remember you from–”
Aubrey waved her hands in front of Aka’s face. “Say all that again but slower.”
Aka exhaled. “Shiera asked how I knew you. I told her about the fourth grade thing, right? And she was confused, because you don’t look like a Gaian.”
“Gaian?” I asked.
“Means yer from Earth,” Aubrey answered. “Keep going.”
“So she asks where you’re from, and I tell her you’re from suburban Serpho,” Aka said.
“Coulda just said Ohio,” Aubrey said.
“I did, then she asked where in Ohio.”
“No, I didn’t,” I interjected.
“Okay, I guess she didn’t, but anyway. Her face goes wild. It turns out she’s from Serpho, too!”
“Shiera, yer from Serpho?!” Aubrey gasped.
“And she said she’d seen you before! Like, with your beanie and everything!”
“Couldn’ta been me. Remember the four year thing?”
“She said you were twelve!”
“Don’t you have a twin brother or something?” I asked.
“Yeah, he doesn’t know about all this,” she replied, motioning to her ears. “I woulda told ‘im, but he ain’t respondin’ to my letters. Could just be a COVID thing, but I’m a little worried.”
I lowered my head. “I keep hearing that word. What does it mean?”
“Oh, COVID?” Aka said. “It’s… uh, are we allowed to…”
Aubrey nodded her head. “She’ll find out anyway. And if she ends up leaving, she’s gonna forget, so might as well, y’know?”
“What is it, some crazy future event?”
“It’s a virus from the end of 2019. Made a big global pandemic,” Aka explained.
“It sucked,” Aubrey said. “Oh, by the way, I came ta grab you two. Big gathering at the cathedral. Queen’s here.”
Aka gasped. “Now?! What happened? Why didn’t you tell us when you opened the door?”
“Y’all seemed like you were talkin’ about something important.”
“That’s way more important!”
“What’s so special about the queen being here? Shouldn’t she, like, always be here?” I asked.
“I’ll explain on the way,” Aka said quickly. “But what you need to know right now is that we have to go!”
He grabbed my wrist and pulled me out the door— whoever this Queen was, I was ready to find out.