Chapter 6:

Deal with the Devil

Mahō no Gakkō -School of Magic-

I’d said going into war was a double-edged sword. Lying in a temporary guest bed near the hospital wing, I changed my mind. It wasn’t a sword, it was a gun. And there’s nothing double-edged about a shot to the chest.Bookmark here

If I had to choose now whether to forget all this and return to Serpho, I would. I might be a little self-centered, but this is too much, even for me. Aubrey had told me she would try to get it worked out with the drafting authorities, but I was still on edge.Bookmark here

Sleeing under the pressure of an oncoming war would be difficult. I turned to my side and adjusted the thin sheets. Magic is overrated if it can’t help me fall asleep. I closed my eyes and groaned.Bookmark here

After an eternity, I blinked my eyes open to check the clock. It only read ‘1:30 AM’, and having gone to sleep at around midnight, I was pissed.Bookmark here

“Screw it,” I whispered to myself, clambering out of the uncomfortable bed. If I can’t fall asleep, I’m not gonna waste any more time trying. I slipped on my socks and shoes before opening the door.Bookmark here

I gasped and stumbled back. What the hell? The door seemed to open into pitch-black, a void. Was it just really dark at night? I tentatively took a step out, and…Bookmark here

I pulled my leg back. I had stuck it just about a half-meter below the floor before deciding against going any further. That wasn’t just darkness, that was emptiness. How it had gotten there, I had no clue. I would have thought it was a dream, but I didn’t know what magic could do, and that clock seemed pretty accurate.Bookmark here

I was getting a little angry at not being able to leave, so I decided to try to sleep again. Or not. I turned around, and my bed was gone. Maybe this is a dream, actually.Bookmark here

The walls began teeming with darkness, bubbling and boiling until they, too, became nothing. I checked the clock before it disappeared— it still said 1:30. Okay, it’s just a dream. The black consumed the floor below me, and suddenly, I was free-falling.Bookmark here

I wasn’t scared, because I knew it was a dream, but the feeling of falling was still unnerving. Not nearly as unnerving, though, as hearing a voice that wasn’t my own.Bookmark here

“It’s been a long time since my nights have had company.”Bookmark here

His voice sounded like a whisper, low and almost a bit snarly. Not scary by any means, but quite unnerving in a black abyss.Bookmark here

“Who the fu–”Bookmark here

“You don’t need to talk yet.”Bookmark here

I looked around the void, trying to find the source of this voice.Bookmark here

“What are you– you do realize I’m not here, right? This is dream communication. I’m awake and you’re not.”Bookmark here

“Who are you?!”Bookmark here

“Who are you? I’d thought you were Teresa, but that’s clearly not the case. I’ve never heard your voice before, and you’re much younger than she is.”Bookmark here

“If you won’t tell me, why should I tell you?” I snarled.Bookmark here

“Don’t play tough. I can kill you right now.”Bookmark here

“Prove it.”Bookmark here

A few moments of silence. Had I made a mistake?Bookmark here

“When you wake up, check your arm. You should have a cut,” he replied.Bookmark here

I could feel a sting, but there was no cut. Perhaps he was using magic, or maybe my dream self wasn’t caught up on the state of my body.Bookmark here

“Fine. I’m a Beta. Is that enough?”Bookmark here

“…No. Because if you weren’t a Beta, I literally wouldn’t be able to communicate with you.”Bookmark here

“Ugh. Shiera Beta. That’s my name.”Bookmark here

“Shiera… I’ve heard that name before. Perhaps Nathan mentioned you once. Do you know who that is?”Bookmark here

“Nathan’s my dad.”Bookmark here

“Ah, that’s what it was. Didn’t you have a twin?”Bookmark here

“His name’s Kori.”Bookmark here

“Yes, yes. Is he here at Atlas?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, but I kinda wish he wasn’t.”Bookmark here

A slight snicker. “Really now?”Bookmark here

“He sucks.”Bookmark here

“Not a fan of your sibling, are you?”Bookmark here

“Okay, I’m done talking about Kori. Who are you?”Bookmark here

“My name is Sakira. Does that mean anything to you?”Bookmark here

I remembered Teresa had mentioned him in her speech. What had I thought of him, some sort of human corrupted by spirits? This man seemed rather polite. Though, he had invaded my dreams. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.Bookmark here

“Yeah, the Queen said something about you.”Bookmark here

“Teresa and I have… a strained relationship, to put it modestly.”Bookmark here

“Why’s that?”Bookmark here

“War, something about unifying humanity, terrorism, and if I recall correctly, she thought I wanted to commit genocide.”Bookmark here

“Did you?”Bookmark here

“A little, but I wasn’t planning on it.”Bookmark here

“Didn’t you just make a declaration of war on Atlas?”Bookmark here

“There was a reason for that.”Bookmark here

“Tell me, then!”Bookmark here

“I’d rather not communicate with a sophomore for two hours explaining the history of Dianoct.”Bookmark here

I sighed. “So why the hell are you here, then?”Bookmark here

“I have a proposition.”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“How long have you been here in Dianoct?”Bookmark here

“Maybe half a day?”Bookmark here

“Oh. Then this is all rather unfortunate for you, isn’t it?”Bookmark here

“You think?”Bookmark here

“Say. I’m not going to… un-declare the war. That has to happen for other reasons. But I will do this, because I know how AIM’s drafting system works. Shiera, I can give you magical powers beyond your wildest fantasy. They’ll have already drafted you as a soldier, and if you were to go on the field with nothing, you’d be dead the moment you left those shields.”Bookmark here

“Magical powers…?”Bookmark here

“You’ll be able to soar beyond anyone and lift even the heaviest object. Gravity will mean nothing to you.”Bookmark here

My heart fluttered. Was this real? Or was it another part of the dream?Bookmark here

“Is there… is there a trade-off?”Bookmark here

“Of course. I can’t give you such powerful abilities for nothing.”Bookmark here

“Are you going to ask for my soul?”Bookmark here

Sakira chuckled again, a little louder this time. “I’m not a demon. What would I do with your soul, anyway?”Bookmark here

“I… I don’t know, you just seemed like…”Bookmark here

“No. I’ll take something from you that might come as an advantage to me. It doesn’t seem like you value it very much, so, as far as I’m aware, it’s a win-win.”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“That, I can’t tell you.”Bookmark here

“…What happens if I accept?”Bookmark here

“You’ll wake up with a cut on your arm and magical powers.”Bookmark here

“And if I don’t?”Bookmark here

“You’ll wake up with a cut on your arm without magical powers.”Bookmark here

I barely felt myself falling anymore. “How do I accept?”Bookmark here

“Shake my hand, and it’s a deal.”Bookmark here

A pale hand reached from the dark, falling with me. I couldn’t see a lot of detail, but I noticed it looked strange. It had no fingernails, with angular points for fingertips. It only had three fingers, and the skin looked a bit lavender. I had my doubts, but I decided it would be worth it.Bookmark here

I reached out my hand and shook Sakira’s.Bookmark here

“Good choice,” he said.Bookmark here

I suddenly stopped falling. Gravity will mean nothing to you. I looked around the void again. Sakira’s hand had disappeared, and everything was dark once more. I closed my eyes and felt myself lay back.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

“Shiera, gettup! Ya got, like, five hours ta train!”Bookmark here

I groaned, blinking my eyes open. Aubrey was shaking me by the shoulders, yelling in my face. “Get off of me…”Bookmark here

She let go and backed up. “I tried ta getchyer name off the draft, I really did! They kept sayin’ ya had ta fight ‘cause you were a student, but they didn’t know you were a newbie, and…”Bookmark here

“I get it, I get it. Stop talking for, like, two seconds.”Bookmark here

“I just wanted ta say I gotchu a battle suit. Ya can’t go out there without magic, so the suit’s got the focus shit in its wrists already. So do whatever it is ya did with those bracelets on the suit, and it should work.”Bookmark here

I slipped out of bed and groggily checked the clock. “Damn, it’s already ten?”Bookmark here

“Clock says ten o’ three.”Bookmark here

“That’s literally the same thing.”Bookmark here

“Nah, it’s literally three minutes off.”Bookmark here

“Oh my God, shut up.”Bookmark here

I looked around for my socks and shoes, but I couldn’t find them. What I did find was the folded-up suit Aubrey had mentioned along with a pair of metal boots.Bookmark here

“Do ya like ‘em?”Bookmark here

“They’re folded. I can’t see them yet.”Bookmark here

“Try ‘em on, then!”Bookmark here

I sludged over to the clothes, grabbed them, and walked into the bathroom. Unfolding the suit, I looked in the mirror and scanned it down. It was a simple beige color with darker wrists and brown leggings. It also had black tiger stripes all across it.Bookmark here

“Aubrey, did this used to be yours?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, howdja guess?”Bookmark here

“It’s kind of obvious.”Bookmark here

I closed the door, took off my shirt and jeans, and opened the zipper in the back. The metal pieces around the waist and on the wrists helped me get it on. By the time I’d finally gotten it on, I groaned.Bookmark here

“Aubrey, it looks stupid on me.”Bookmark here

“Lemme take a look.”Bookmark here

Aubrey opened the door and looked me up and down.Bookmark here

“So?”Bookmark here

“Kinda stupid, yeah. But I think if ya slicked yer hair back, it’d look fine. It’s mostly the hair that’s makin’ it look weird right now.”Bookmark here

I grabbed a comb lying on the counter. “Hey, could you close the door while I fix my hair?”Bookmark here

“Alright.”Bookmark here

With the door closed, I felt a little more secure. Combing and fixing only took a minute or so, and just like Aubrey had said, it looked a little better already. Maybe she made some good points sometimes.Bookmark here

I was about to grab the handle, when suddenly—Bookmark here

Don’t forget about our deal, Shiera.Bookmark here

I nearly replied out loud. That was real?Bookmark here

Yes. Check your arm.Bookmark here

I rolled up the metal cuffs on my new suit and checked both my arms. My right forearm had a large cut across it, but it seemed mostly scabbed over.Bookmark here

Where are the new powers you promised?Bookmark here

Try lifting that comb. Not with your hands, with your mind. Imagine it floating in the air, and zipping into your hand.Bookmark here

Alright…?Bookmark here

I stared the comb down. I held out my hand, but nothing happened.Bookmark here

You didn’t give me anything!Bookmark here

You didn’t imagine anything. Try it again.Bookmark here

I sighed and tried meekly again, knowing nothing would happen. I’d just been scammed out of something, and–Bookmark here

See?Bookmark here

See what?Bookmark here

The comb. It’s in your hand.Bookmark here

I looked up at where the comb was. Huh? It’s gone. Only then did I feel the prickle of the comb’s edge along my fingers.Bookmark here

Now try turning the knobs on the sink.Bookmark here

I tentatively did what he asked, focusing on the knob closest to me. I imagined it rotating.Bookmark here

Sssssssss! The water began to flow.Bookmark here

I don’t back out on promises, Shiera.Bookmark here

I tried to cover the shock on my face as I opened the door. Aubrey looked puzzled.Bookmark here

“Ya look pretty good, but what took ya so long?”Bookmark here

“Uh, just had to, um, you know…”Bookmark here

“Just say ya took a piss.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, that’s what I did, yeah.”Bookmark here

“Great. Let’s go grab breakfast, I’m starvin’.”Bookmark here

I followed her for a minute or so in the hallways until we ended up in a sort of cafeteria. Despite being in a different world, the school’s cafeteria looked like the ones on Earth, just with a little more food variety.Bookmark here

Aubrey grabbed some oatmeal for the two of us— I would have objected, but I was in a good mood.Bookmark here

“Hey, Aka’s comin’,” Aubrey said, her mouth full. Sure enough, I turned around and saw Aka approaching the table.Bookmark here

“Is that Aubrey’s old battle suit?” he asked. “I thought you guys were gonna get her out of the draft.”Bookmark here

Aubrey swallowed. “I tried, believe me. They weren’t havin’ none of it. ‘Oh, she’s a student, she has to be a soldier!’. It sucks.”Bookmark here

“Agh, that sucks. Shiera, we’ll make sure you don’t get hurt, got it?”Bookmark here

“I can handle myself.”Bookmark here

“Hopefully.”Bookmark here

Aka sat down with us, and we continued to eat. I didn’t particularly like oatmeal, but it wasn’t bad. A little small talk circulated before I got bored.Bookmark here

Hey, Sakira.Bookmark here

Don’t treat me like a pet. I live a life outside of your head.Bookmark here

No, I just wanted to ask. What was that trade-off?Bookmark here

You mean the cost of your powers?Bookmark here

Yeah.Bookmark here

Just ask him.Bookmark here

Aaron slammed open the doors and walked to our table, frustrated. “We have an issue. Cryojen, Sumisu, I want you to be on the lookout.”Bookmark here

“Huh? What’s the issue?” Aka asked.Bookmark here

“Kori’s gone. Looked for him everywhere. We think he’s been taken hostage. Shiera, do you know anything?”Bookmark here

Do you have any regrets, Shiera?Bookmark here

Fuzzy Rabid Usagi
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