Mahō no Gakkō -School of Magic-
Aaron glared at me. “Did I stutter?”
“No, I just– I don’t know how someone could take someone hostage in a shielded school,” I said.
It’s not hard. Use a shield disruptor, take the hostage, walk out. And Kori was fast asleep— an easy target.
Sakira, would you shut up for a second? You kidnapped my brother. I’m trying to contemplate.
Aaron looked over at Aka. “You set up the shields sometimes, don’t you, Cryojen? Tell her how someone could get in.”
“Tell her yourself! You’re the almighty commander, so you must know everything!”
“Cryojen, I’ll give you a migraine for a week.”
“Fine!” He glanced over at me, as if to say ‘get a load of this guy’. “Someone could use a disruptor, grab the person in their sleep, and walk out, since the shields are one-way.”
What did I tell you?
Aubrey perked up. “A disruptor? No one’s got one a’ those! That’s expensive shit!”
“Some people might. Like, a high-ranking officer, or a trained bounty hunter,” Aka explained.
“You sayin’ someone’s tryna kill Kori?”
“No, just that they might’ve borrowed the device from someone. I have no idea who would take Kori as a hostage. He’s just like Shiera— they just got here.”
“How the hell do we get him back?” I asked.
You’re worried about him now?
Not really. He’ll probably be fine. I’d just like to get him back here on the sooner rather than later spectrum of things.
That’s convenient for me.
Aaron tilted his head a little. “Well, first we’d need to locate him. More than likely, he’ll be with the spirits. It’s possible Sakira ordered his troops to grab him because he was a Beta.”
I’m not sedentary. I can execute my own wishes.
“Actually, who is Sakira? I keep hearing his name.”
Oh. You wouldn’t know who I am, that’s right. You really are new to Dianoct. I’ll let him answer.
Then you’ll probably make some snarky comment about him being wrong.
Snarky is a strong word.
Aaron sighed. “Sakira is the leader of the evil spirit army. He commands them, gives them orders, and leads them on the battlefield. He also governs the region, so he has minor political experience.”
“So, is he, like, a human corrupted by spirits? Or is he some kind of demon? Or…”
“Huh?” Aubrey interjected. “What’re ya talkin’ about? He governs the spirits. He’s a spirit.”
You’re an evil spirit?!
There’s a distinction to be made there. I am a spirit, yes, but in no way am I evil.
You took my brother hostage!
Correction: I made a deal with you to take your brother hostage, which you accepted. Can you call me evil for the consequences of your own actions?
Guilt tripping me isn’t making you look very not-evil.
I’m not guilt tripping you, I’m asking why you humans all have the same outlook on us spirits. We’re nothing but evil to you, nothing but dark, malicious beings here to make your lives hell.
You are making my life hell.
Okay, yes, but that doesn’t mean all of us are.
“Shiera? You alright? What are you thinking about?” Aka asked, concerned.
“Are you… sure?”
“Well, okay, I was thinking about spirits. I’ve only seen them once. What are they like?”
Aka lowered his head. “They’re menacing creatures. Prone to terrorism and war. They love a big conflict. Sometimes people call them ‘evil spirits’. They got that nickname for a reason.”
Ask him what the reason is.
“What’s the reason?“
“Well, uh, they’ve been trying to steal the only bit of territory we have for years. And look, they’ve just declared war. Is it that hard to see?”
That’s unreasonable. You humans are unreasonable.
Would it kill you to stop talking for a few minutes?
Apologies. It’s been a long time since I’ve conversed with a human.
“Well, Shiera, I hate to break it to you,” Aaron said, “but it doesn’t seem like you’ll be able to leave for a little while.”
“Remember you’re being deployed today. I recommend spending as much time as you can training.”
“I don’t even know how fighting spirits works!”
“Get Cryojen to teach you, if he knows so much.”
Aka exhaled. “I guess I can, but don’t be such an ass about it, mister almighty commander sir.”
“I’m sorry you didn’t get the commander position in try-outs. Who was it you lost to again?” Aaron said.
“Really, I don’t remember. Mind clearing it up for me?”
“Shiera, we’re leaving, c’mon. Aubrey, you too.”
Aka got up and began to walk away. Aubrey slurped up the rest of her oatmeal and set it next to Aka’s. “Just leave it. Magic makes it easy ta clean up,” she told me.
I pushed my chair out and started following them, when suddenly, Aaron placed his hand on my shoulder. “Shiera, if you want to progress faster, I suggest coming with me instead. Kori learned how to teleport himself before he was captured— all you learned was a little bit of flight.”
“I’m good, thanks. I don’t need to know how to do all that.”
“You’re about to get sent out on the battlefield.”
“Don’t you think I can just do this?” I spun around and imagined Aaron flying back against the table.
“Do wha– agh!” I watched as he was helplessly thrown across the room like a ragdoll. My hands were glowing red; triangular runes flickered along them.
You’re a quick learner, huh?
That was crazy! Can I just… move anything?
Anything is an exaggeration, but you can control most objects and lifeforms. Notably, not spirits. Wouldn’t want you going off and genociding my own kind.
Aaron grunted, picking himself up off the floor. All the bowls had spilled, but they’d narrowly avoided him. “How– who taught you that?!” he spat.
I never answered him— I had already ran off to catch Aubrey and Aka before I lost sight of them.
“What took ya so long?” Aubrey asked. She was standing in front of another keypad. “I was waitin’ ta show ya the pass.”
“Sorry. Aaron wanted to talk to me about something.”
Aka smirked. “By the way, he totally likes you.”
“What the hell?” I questioned. “How old is he? Not that I’d even want to be with him anyway, I’m just curious.”
“He’s… I think he turns sixteen next April?”
“I’m older than him?”
“I guess so.”
Aubrey was glaring at the both of us. “I’m still waitin’, Shiera.”
“Okay, fine, what is it?”
“S-T-U-R-D-Y. They made all the passes nationalistic an’ shit. Least this one’s short.” She entered ‘sturdy’ into the keypad, and the force field to the courtyard dematerialized.
If the next one is ‘everlasting’, I’ll terrorize humanity.
Aren’t you already doing that?
I stepped out into the courtyard and looked up at the open sky. To my surprise, there were long glowing streaks of purple across the dark blue atmosphere.
Aka chuckled. “Everyone from Earth always does that.”
“Looks at the sky like they’ve never seen it before.”
“Because I haven’t.”
“Well, yeah, I just thought it was… uh, that, um, never mind.”
“Why are there streaks of purple?”
The planet has reserves of argon. When it cracked, the argon flooded the atmosphere along where the cracks were. Occasional atmospheric shifts charge the argon and make it glow.
I didn’t ask you, I asked Aka.
Then let’s see what explanation he gives you.
“Oh, uh, it has to do with the magical energy the atmosphere contains and how it reacts with the sun.”
See, he’s completely wrong.
I would’ve been better off just thinking it was magic than wondering why the hell this planet is cracked.
I can tell you that too, you know.
Before I knew it, we’d made our way to another forcefield, leading back into the school. Another group of students had come up and opened the forcefield before us, so it was already dematerialized. One of the students gave me a weird look.
When we walked inside, I realized where we were. “Oh, we’re back at the arenas.”
“We’re trainin’ for a war, where’d ya think we were goin’?”
We made our way to the same arena we had trained in the day before. Aubrey closed the door behind us.
“Shiera, before we start, I was gonna ask you a question,” Aubrey said.
I tilted my head. “What is it?”
She made direct eye contact. “Have yer eyes always been red? Noticed it at breakfast. I was just wonderin’.”
I blinked. “My… uh–”
“Y-yeah, they’ve been red. Dunno how you didn’t notice that during those screenings, haha.”
“Ah, gotcha. Just thought they were cool.”
Sakira, what the hell just happened?
By giving you those powers, I also inhabited you to an extent. That’s how I can talk to you right now. When someone becomes inhabited, the protein production in their body cells switches for unknown reasons. That includes the protein in your irises, which colors your eyes.
If you uninhabited me, would they switch back?
No. You’ll have red irises for the rest of your life.
“Alright, Shiera, you need to practice evasive maneuvers in case a spirit attacks you,” Aka said, throwing me a pair of bracelets.
“I’m wearing a battle suit.”
“Oh, uh, can you hand those back to me, then?”
I kicked the bracelets back to him. He secured them around his wrists and nodded.
“Alright. We’re going to try flying again first. It’s the best way to outmaneuver a spirit.”
“I can try flying again.”
“Aubrey, can you get ready to catch her?”
Aubrey shrugged. “Yer the one with bracelets.”
“Okay, fine. Shiera, remember— focus on the bracelets.”
I smirked. Focus? I didn’t have to worry about that anymore. I flexed my fingers and closed my eyes. You can do this, Shiera. Prove to them what you can do.
My feet lifted off the ground.
When I opened my eyes, I found myself two meters above the ground. Red magic swirled around my body, and the runes crept up from my hands to the suit on my arms. It felt like unlocking a sixth sense— I could move whichever way I wanted.
You’ve got quite a hang on this. Magic’s in your bloodline.
Aka was completely speechless, and Aubrey was cackling. I carefully landed on the ground, shaking my hands out. “So, was that any better?”
“How– you just– what…?!” Aka stammered.
“If I didn’t know any betta’, I’da said she practiced overnight!”
“Yeah, she must’ve– wait, if you didn’t know any better?”
Aubrey glanced at the runes still imprinted on my hands. “That magic was red, not cyan. That’s an ability. Shiera can levitate any time she wants.”
“How did you… did you always have that ability?” Aka asked, still flabbergasted.
Say yes again.
“No. I’m not sure how, but it sort of came to me overnight…”
Aubrey shrugged. “Means you’ve always had it, ya just figured it out today. Pretty cool.”
“Pretty cool? That’s crazy! I’ve never seen an ability like that!”
“Well, I mean, ya have.”
“Dammit, Aubrey.” Aka turned around and started digging through the chest of weapons. “Hold on, give me a second.”
Why didn’t you listen to me?
It worked out, didn’t it?
That’s not what matters. Why?
I have to fight spirits soon, right?
Well, yes. What does that have to do with it?
I figured I’d start by fighting the spirit in my head.
I’m on your side, Shiera. Believe me, if I wanted you dead, you’d have more than just a cut on your arm.
Aka turned back to me. “Alright, I want you to try using this.” He handed me a strange curved blade. “It’s a grappling weapon. If a spirit tries to attack you, you can block them and fly off.”
“If a spirit tries to– how does this kind of war even work?”
You can have him explain it, or you can have me.
He’s on my side of the war, I’d rather have him.
Thousands of years versus maybe six. Your choice.
You humans are unreasonable.
“Uh… war. It’s… complicated, you know?”
Aubrey groaned. “Nah, it’s just basic combat. Spirits fly in, try ta kill ya. We mostly stick in groups ta fend ‘em off. If they pick ya off, ya use a grapplin’ weapon and get away.”
“You know who could tell you a lot more about war?” Aka said.
“Who?” I asked.
“Headmaster Milliheim. Aaron has to pass plans through him before we execute them. He’s a military head and a good teacher. We should get you to talk to him.”
“Actually, why haven’t we got ‘im ta talk to ‘er?” Aubrey asked. “That coulda resolved the drafting issue. But now she’s fine ‘cause she’s got magic.”
“That doesn’t mean we can’t still talk to him,” Aka replied.
“I mean, it’s you guys’ choice, honestly. I don’t care,” I said.
“We got time ta train later. Shiera, yer comin’ with me!” Aubrey yanked me out the arena door for my second time in twenty-four hours.
Milliheim. I haven’t met him myself. Guess this will be both our first times.
Please don’t talk while I’m meeting him.
I will not. I have much to learn from this encounter, too.
Being inhabited is a form of mutualism. We both gain advantages— you, power, me, knowledge. We both benefit. And that extends to the knowledge I can gain from the Headmaster. So you’d best not ruin it for the both of us.