Chapter 6:

Deal with the Devil

Tetraprisma: Chromatic

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.

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.

Sleeping 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.

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.

“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.

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…

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

“Who the fu–”

“You don’t need to talk yet.”

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

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

“Who are you?!”

“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.”

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

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

“Prove it.”

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

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

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.

“Fine. I’m a Beta. Is that enough?”

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

“Ugh. Shiera Beta. That’s my name.”

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

“Nathan’s my dad.”

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

“His name’s Kori.”

“Yes, yes. Is he here at Atlas?”

“Yeah, but I kinda wish he wasn’t.”

A slight snicker. “Really now?”

“He sucks.”

“Not a fan of your sibling, are you?”

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

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

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.

“Yeah, the Queen said something about you.”

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

“Why’s that?”

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

“Did you?”

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

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

“There was a reason for that.”

“Tell me, then!”

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

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

“I have a proposition.”


“How long have you been here in Dianoct?”

“Maybe half a day?”

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

“You think?”

“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.”

“Magical powers…?”

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

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

“Is there… is there a trade-off?”

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

“Are you going to ask for my soul?”

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

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

“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.”


“That, I can’t tell you.”

“…What happens if I accept?”

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

“And if I don’t?”

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

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

“Shake my hand, and it’s a deal.”

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.

I reached out my hand and shook Sakira’s.

“Good choice,” he said.

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.

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

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

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…”

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

“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.”

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

“Clock says ten o’ three.”

“That’s literally the same thing.”

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

“Oh my God, shut up.”

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.

“Do ya like ‘em?”

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

“Try ‘em on, then!”

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.

“Aubrey, did this used to be yours?”

“Yeah, howdja guess?”

“It’s kind of obvious.”

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.

“Aubrey, it looks stupid on me.”

“Lemme take a look.”

Aubrey opened the door and looked me up and down.


“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.”

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


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.

I was about to grab the handle, when suddenly—

Don’t forget about our deal, Shiera.

I nearly replied out loud. That was real?

Yes. Check your arm.

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.

Where are the new powers you promised?

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


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

You didn’t give me anything!

You didn’t imagine anything. Try it again.

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


See what?

The comb. It’s in your hand.

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.

Now try turning the knobs on the sink.

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

Sssssssss! The water began to flow.

I don’t back out on promises, Shiera.

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

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

“Uh, just had to, um, you know…”

“Just say ya took a piss.”

“Yeah, that’s what I did, yeah.”

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

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.

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

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

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

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.”

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

“I can handle myself.”


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.

Hey, Sakira.

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

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

You mean the cost of your powers?


Just ask him.

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.”

“Huh? What’s the issue?” Aka asked.

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

Do you have any regrets, Shiera?

Slashed Ink.
Steward McOy
Kya Hon