Mahō no Gakkō -School of Magic-
Aubrey banged on the large wooden doors in front of us. We’d made our way past the cathedral all the way to the Headmaster’s office.
“Mr. Milliheim, you in there?” Aubrey yelled.
The doors creaked open, and the Headmaster gave Aubrey a warm smile. His face was old— he had to have been serving for quite a while. “General Sumisu. What a pleasant surprise! What’s the matter, kid?”
“We got a new kid we need help with.”
“Step inside, then.”
He opened the doors wider to allow the two of us to enter. I took in the room in light shock, looking up at the ornate glass ceiling and polished wooden walls. In the center of the room was a table on which a battle plan was laid, and behind it was Milliheim’s desk. There weren’t many papers on it.
He’s certainly got quite the room here.
You said you wouldn’t talk!
He hasn’t said anything noteworthy yet. I have nothing to gain until he does.
Aubrey tapped on my shoulder and motioned her head towards the desk, where three chairs were set. “We should probably sit down,” she whispered.
I sat in one of the empty seats next to her, and Milliheim sat in the seat adjacent. “Alright, Sumisu. What seems to be the issue?”
“Uh, remember that border skirmish yesterday?”
“Well, it was next to them old bunker ruins, y’know? An’ those things always end up riftin’ ta Earth.”
“Oh, dear. Did our friend here arrive mid-skirmish?”
“Yep.” Aubrey shrugged. “Unfortunate circumstances.”
He turned to face me. “Do you speak any English?”
“Yeah,” I answered.
“She’s from Serpho, sir. Kinda surprised me with that,” Aubrey said.
“Oho! And what’s your name, young miss?”
“Are you in the database?”
Aubrey stopped me. “Yeah, she’s in. Actually, she got put as a soldier in my sector when the draft hit. Didn’t get to ya in time, sir.”
“Well, Shiera, tell me a bit about yourself.”
I drew a blank. ‘Tell me a bit about yourself’? What was this, an interview? I never knew what to say to those types of questions.
Sakira, what the hell do I say?
I thought you didn’t want me talking.
That was before it was an interview!
I don’t know. Just mention your lineage, or talk about your magic powers, since you love them so much.
“U-Uh, yeah, of course. I’m Shiera Beta. I… uh, I–”
Milliheim looked shocked. “Beta?! Sumisu, have you told her about her lineage?”
“Yeah, she knows,” Aubrey said, rubbing her eyes. “She was there at the declaration last night. Look on ‘er face was hilarious.”
“Incredible! I’ve only known one Beta ever to live in… to live in Serpho.” His tone switched quickly. “Shiera, who is your father?”
I groaned. “Everyone keeps asking that.”
“I promise it’s for a reason, Shiera.”
“His name’s Nathan. He had two kids, me and my brother Kori. But Kori got kidnapped last night, so I’ve been kind of on edge.”
No, you haven’t.
I didn’t ask you to talk this time. And you’re one to talk about me telling a lie or two. I still want him back, at least.
“Ah, Nathan. Yes, he’s… certainly an interesting fellow. Aubrey, did you perform a cortisol check?”
“DeAndrick did, sir.”
“I assume the results were negative?”
“Ah, then we’ve nothing to worry about.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Well, there’s still Kori.”
“Oh, yes. We’ll get that taken care of. I’ll gather a squad to locate and retrieve him. He was probably taken as a hostage, given his bloodline. Do you know who took him?” A thin line of sweat began to form on my eyebrow. I wiped it off hastily.
Aubrey shrugged. “No, sir. If I had ta guess, one a’ Sakira’s lackeys took ‘im in the middle of the night. No cameras in the guest rooms, so we got no footage.”
“Hey, I have a question,” I said.
“Yes, Ms. Beta?”
“Why couldn’t a whole legion of spirits enter the shields using one disruptor?”
Let’s see if he knows.
“Why, a disruptor is a single-person device. It molds the shield around the user to let them pass. A hole in a shield that big doesn’t last long.”
He’s right. It’s like the surface tension of water, made of polarized molecules. It forms into a sphere because it’s the shape with the least surface area for its volume.
Okay, shut up.
Aubrey scratched at her face. “Oh, I remember why we came here.”
“And why’s that?” Milliheim asked.
“Shiera was asking how the wars work. You’d probably be better at explainin’ them than DeAndrick or Cryojen.”
Milliheim smiled. “Ah. I can explain that.”
He opened a drawer in his desk and took out a chess board. “It’s like chess?” I asked.
“No, no. I’m just using it as a demonstration.”
He placed a group of pieces on the board: two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and four pawns. Aubrey nodded, like something had just clicked for her. “The different types a’ pieces are different types a’ soldiers, right?” she asked.
“Precisely.” He tapped each piece sequentially— rook, then knight, then bishop, then pawn. “Rooks are defense casters. knights are melee casters, bishops are long-range casters, and pawns are melee soldiers.”
“What’s the difference between a melee soldier and a melee caster?” I asked.
“Soldiers use very basic magic or none at all. Casters use magic which helps them in melee combat.”
He placed the two rooks a few squares away from each other, then set the bishops near each of them to create a diamond. He then put the two knights behind each of the bishops, and the four pawns behind the rooks and the knights.
“That’s our formation!” Aubrey exclaimed.
“Did I never show you this example?” Milliheim asked.
“Nah. Cryojen taught me.”
“Ah. Well, yes, this is our formation. The defense casters create a shield around the rest of the pack. The others attack the spirits from the safety of the shields. Ms. Beta, I believe you were drafted as a melee soldier?”
I shrugged. “I dunno. I didn’t sign myself up for this.”
“She is, sir,” Aubrey said, “but I kinda think she should be a melee caster. She’s pretty good at magic.”
“Really? Well, she has a suit on. Ms. Beta, would you like to demonstrate?”
I shook my head. “No. No, I would not. Aubrey, tell him no.”
“She should totally do it!”
“No! Aubrey, no. You’d better not.”
Milliheim smiled again. “You can videotape her later. A change in position would take a couple days, regardless.”
“I don’t got a phone.”
“Get Beta to lend you hers. Or, do you not have one either?”
“No, I have one. Aubrey, we’ll do this later.”
She groaned. “Fine…”
“Well, regardless, Ms. Beta, do you have any further questions?”
I want to ask him something you said you could tell me and see what he says.
You’re still doing this?
“Yeah, actually. How did the world get all… cracked? Or is that just Atlas?”
Milliheim sighed. “It happened some eleven thousand years ago. In our history, Umbrian Spirits were used as slaves by early humans. Now, obviously, this has changed, but at that time…”
“What’s an Umbrian Spirit?”
“It’s an indigenous intelligent species of Dianoct. They mostly live in Altaria now, but their descendants in Sakeru grew to become what we call evil spirits.”
“Oh, so they’re like… beta-version spirits.”
“That’s certainly a way to put it. When the humans enslaved the Umbrians, a small rebel group arose and the first natural abilities came about. Their leader, 1076, started a full rebellion when he broke out of imprisonment and killed the Umbrian executioner 522.
“His rebellion joined him in a small base of sorts which they called Atlas. After months of planning and fighting off the humans’ attacks, they launched what might be called the greatest counter-strike in Dianian history.
1076 had the power to create ice from the water molecules in the air— along with his subordinates 1077, who could shape the earth, 1078, who could cause a torrential rain in a snap, and 1079, who could fly and crush any object with just his mind, they destroyed the humans who had enslaved them, along with Dianoct itself.
Dianoct, for a moment, seemed as if it were doomed. But with 1079’s incredible psychic ability, he suspended the planet as it broke into chunks. And here we are today. The light coming from the fissures at night is simply sunlight from the other side.”
Shiera, can I just say that listening to that made me happy and mad at the same time?
The hell are you talking about?
He nailed almost every detail, but the Umbrians who stayed loyal to the humans ended up all dead, and the humans submitted to the rebellion. Those of us that died returned as spirits, and I, for one, was fuming when I discovered that 1076 and his stupid human followers had taken Atlas as their own.
You were alive eleven thousand years ago?!
As an Umbrian, yes. In fact, I knew 1076 personally.
The son of a bitch drowned me. Froze the water over my head, never looked back.
He killed you?!
I was Executioner 522.
“Shiera, you good? Yer takin’ a real long time ta say anything,” Aubrey said.
“Oh, sorry, I was just thinking about all that. Hearing all that was like listening to a Greek myth.”
“It is quite similar,” Milliheim agreed, “but the main difference would be that Greek myths never happened.”
“What happened to the Umbrians that didn’t oppose the humans?”
Milliheim’s expression shifted to one of remorse. ”1076 killed all his opposition off. It was the cost of liberty.”
Liberty for who? The people that sucked up to 1076 and his cohort?!
Sakira, are you actually–
You’re an unreasonable human like the rest of them! You’re not going to understand.
Just… stop talking for a little while. You need to calm down.
I don’t need a human telling me to calm down. I’ve– …fine. Fine, I’ll stop.
“Alright, will that be all, Ms. Beta?”
“Well, just one thing.”
“Do you ever wonder how the spirits are handling all this?”
He returned to his previous jolly manner. “Oh, Ms. Beta. You mustn’t worry about the spirits! They’re called evil spirits for a reason. Some say most of them can barely think!”
“Well, what if they can? What if they think we’re the bad ones?”
Shiera, stop it.
“If they think we’re the bad ones, then that only solidifies their idiocy. What have we done to them?”
“You enslaved them for centuries and sucked up to the one who killed most of them off, right?”
“Ms. Beta, that was long ago. If they can’t forgive us for something eleven thousand years ago, that’s their fault.”
Aubrey looked over at me. “We… we should get back ta trainin’! Yeah! Shiera, c’mon, ya only got four hours!”
“Sure. Are we excused, sir?”
“Absolutely. Good luck on the battlefield, you two.”
I scooted my chair back and turned around to leave. As I walked out, I made sure to look at the battle plan laid on the center table. Get a good look at that, Sakira.
Aubrey hurried me out the door. “See ya, Milliheim, sir!” She quickly closed the doors and turned to me with a scowl. “The hell were you just going on about?” Her accent disappeared again.
“I– I was just wondering if they’d considered a different viewpoint on things.”
“He probably thinks you’re a spirit sympathizer. And with the red eyes and all… Shiera, I didn’t want to ask this.”
“Are you possessed?”