Chapter 10:

Into the Ring of Fire

Tetraprisma: Chromatic

Aaron had announced the first matchup would be between two teams I didn’t know, so Aubrey and I backed off to the side to discuss our strategy.

As it turned out, we had none yet.

“Just watch ‘em fight,” Aubrey recommended. “We’ll talk after. Watch what they do and copy it when it’s our turn.”

“Don’t you know how this works? Why can’t you just tell me now?”

“Visual demonstrations are better, y’know!”

“Is that an excuse for ‘I’m lazy and I don’t want to explain’?”

“No– well okay yeah. But still watch.”

The two teams stepped up onto opposite sides of the ring. When the last person made it in, the circle around them appeared to light with yellow fire. Aubrey and I were quite close to it, but I didn’t feel any warmth.

Immediately, one of the members of the left team began conjuring up a crackling cyan shield to protect the two of them. Both of the right teammates ran forward to attack with the readied yellow fire swirling around their hands. I wasn’t quite sure what the yellow magic would do— I was told it was for combat, but I didn’t know how.

Both of the left team members were cowering behind their shield, which gave the right team a good opportunity to cast their magic. From one of their hands flew a flurry of spectral missiles, which all curved and shot at the shield.

With that blow, the shield broke apart for just a moment, which let the second teammate summon an explosion, blowing the left team out of the ring.

I blinked. “Do they normally go that fast?”

“Eh. Team on the left was younger. Right team knew how ta take defensive teams out real quick.”

“So was that a normal length or not?”

“It’s usually a good thirty seconds longer than that.”

“What’s the yellow fire for?” I asked. It just so happened to die down at that moment.

“You remember the types a’ magic? Yellow’s fer combat. Put a ring around a duel, and it acts like a sorta checker ta make sure no one’s teleportin’ or leavin’ the ring.”

“Couldn’t you just see them leave?”

“Well, yeah, but time magic’s a thing.”

“Oh, so stopping time.”

“Pffft. Nah. Stopping time’s impossible. Bout as likely as a werewolf protestin’ for its rights. It just don’t happen, y’know?”

“So what do you mean?”

“Well, ya know the three colors a’ magic?”


“There’s a fourth. They call it key magic, but, like, everyone just calls it dark magic, ‘cause that’s basically what it is.”

“What does it do?”

“Everything the other three do plus some really messed-up shit. Messing around with time’s a big one, like rewinding it, I guess. Oh, and torture. Only evil spirits use it.”

Not true. There are many of you humans who’ve learned to wield key magic. But they fly under the radar because the government sees them as a powerful ally. Key magic isn’t evil, it’s simply more powerful.

She just mentioned torture. Are you sure it’s not evil?

You can torture someone with a cortisol check.

Huh. Well, I guess that means Aaron’s tortured me before.

Don’t get it mixed up. You can torture someone with a cortisol check, but that doesn’t mean cortisol checks are inherently torturous. Take water. You all need it to survive, but you can drown someone with it.

But drowning is a lot of water, right?

And cortisol torture means a lot of magic. It’s the same in principle.

Aaron hit some buttons on a machine in the corner, and the bracket displayed above us updated itself. It seemed “Arctin/Singh” had defeated “Karlsson/Katsume”. The next battle on the roster was “Williams/Lee” versus “DeAndrick/Davis”.

“Williams and Lee, go in the red. Davis and I will be in the blue,” Aaron called. I noticed the ring had a red marking on one side and a blue marking on the other. I guessed that was their way of telling teams apart.

Two seemingly American kids stepped up on the red side as Aaron and another boy stepped up on the blue. The fire relit itself, and the battle commenced.

“Hopefully, Aaron won’t get out in the first round. I wanna beat the shit out of him,” I whispered to Aubrey.

“He usually wins,” she replied. “Bracket says if we’re gonna see ‘im, it’ll be in the finals. So watch what they’re doin’, yeah?”

I turned my eyes back to the battlefield. The kid beside Aaron— Davis, as the bracket said— had conjured a shield similarly to the losing team in the previous match. Aaron, however, was not about to cower and let himself be blown away. He extended his hand towards the opposing team, which was running his way, and muttered something I couldn’t hear.

Suddenly, both the opposing teammates began to grasp at their chests, like they were having heart attacks. The looks on their faces were desperate— I almost wanted to step in and help. Davis quickly collapsed the shield and set a blue force to push both members out of the ring, and just like that, the match was over.

The red team both stood to their feet, breathing quickly. They weren’t dead, nor were they suffering from heart attacks. They walked up, shook Aaron and Davis’s hands, and left the arena.

“What the hell just happened?” I asked Aubrey.

“Right. That’s Aaron’s ability. Calls it ‘Whiplash’. He can stimulate nerve cells inside of anyone’s body, make ‘em feel pain wherever and whenever he needs ta. Great ability, sucks ta deal with.”

“It looked like he gave them heart attacks!”

“He triggered nerves around their chests. Nothing deadly, just really painful.”

“And we have to go against that?!”

“I did say he usually wins.”

Shit. How the hell do I beat that?!

Don’t panic. Every ability has a weakness, even if you can’t find it at first.

Then what’s my weakness?!

You can still be hit by any magic when you levitate— you can’t lift magic away from you. For example, if one of the boys from the previous round shot missilies at you, you wouldn’t be able to redirect them.

Aaron’s weakness might be similar, then.

I’d imagine so. Keep all of that in mind while fighting.

I looked up at the bracket— the next fight was “Dubois/Garcia” vs. “Cryojen/Kyona”. Aaron updated the bracket and called the groups to the ring.

On the red side, Dubois and Garcia stepped in with what I could only describe as overconfidence. On the blue side, Cryojen and– Oh, that’s Aka and Marissa.

As Marissa tentatively stepped over the ring, it caught fire around the four of them. It seemed that was the signal to begin. If I recalled correctly, Aka’s ability had to do with weapons, so being in a setting without weapons was a big setback for him. I wasn’t so sure about Marissa, though.

This time, neither team took the defensive. I’d never seen Aka use magic outside of catching me that once, so I was interested in what he would do. He summoned yellow fire, which began forming into what looked like… a net launcher?

Hmph. I’ll give you humans credit, I wouldn’t have thought of that.


Aka’s ability lets him wield any weapon with expertise, but no weapons are allowed, so he’s making his own out of magic.

Dubois and Garcia split ways to wrap around Aka and Marissa. I noticed both of them had their hands low to the ground— it looked like they were laying some sort of spell down, but I wasn’t sure what. Marissa summoned a cyan wall in front of the two of them to block their paths, then moved the wall slowly to push them out. Garcia managed to duck out of the way, but Dubois was caught and fell out of the ring.

“Dammit!” Garcia shouted. He shook his head and shot a bit more yellow magic beyond where the wall had appeared. This completed the circle the two had created, which flared to life. Suddenly, I realized what they’d done— they’d created a ring inside the ring.

Wait, what’s the point? That ring isn’t the main ring. Aka and Marissa can just walk out!

Yellow magic can be trapped. For example, I assume touching the edge of that ring will likely send Aka or Marissa flying. Garcia has essentially restricted their movement.

All that time, Aka had been lining up a shot, and the moment Garcia stopped moving, he took it. A fiery yellow net shot out and wrapped itself around Garcia, and though Aka couldn’t reach him to push him out, Marissa took the opportunity to redirect her cyan energy to do just that.

Dubois helped Garcia to his feet, and the two shook hands with Aka and Marissa. Unlike the last two, they decided to come over to the bleachers to watch. Aubrey held up her hand, and the two high-fived her in quick succession.

“Nice goin’ out there,” Aubrey said.

“Thanks.” “Thank you.”

The two opted to sit behind us on the bleachers. Aubrey leaned over to me. “He’s about ta call us up. Getchyer self ready.”

“Who are we up against?”

“Screen says Wilron/Kiroka. Don’t know either of ‘em.”

“Great. That helps.”

Aubrey and I got up from our seats and stepped out next to the ring. “Beta and Sumisu, you’re in the red. Wilron and Kiroka, you’re in the blue. Good luck,” Aaron announced.

I saw a pair of Kamunai step up, one with orange hair and the other with purple. The orange one was staring me down. “Hey, Aubrey, what’s our plan?”

“I’ll use magenta on ‘em, you use cyan ta push ‘em out.”

“Magenta? What’ll that do?”

“I– just trust me, Shiera, it’s gonna work. Follow through an’ I’ll explain later.”

Aubrey skipped into the ring, ready to fight. I was a little less enthusiastic about it. What if I messed up? What would people think? ‘A Beta that can’t even use magic properly?’

You won’t have to worry about it if you succeed.

But the whole point is that I might fail!

You worry far too much about how people view you. If you channel that energy into your fighting, you might not have to worry at all.

I stepped into the ring, and the fire flared up. The opposing team began conjuring yellow— they were planning on an all-out attack, an idea I wasn’t very fond of.

I looked at Aubrey, waiting to see what she would do. She cast magenta towards the two Kamunai, but I couldn’t tell exactly what it had done. “Now, Shiera!” Aubrey hissed.

I closed my eyes and focused my will into the bracelets on my suit. Come on. Don’t fail me now. I snapped open my eyes and pushed my hands in their direction. A cyan energy field crackled to life, ensnaring the two of them.

I lowered my eyebrows. Go. The energy field flashed red for a moment before whipping back and throwing both of them far out of the ring. I grinned.

“Woo! Take that!” I shouted, ecstatic. I turned to Aubrey. “How was that?!”

Aubrey was beaming. “Holy shit! We made it past the first round!”

“Hell yeah we did!”

We stepped out of the ring and ran over to shake hands with the other team. Since it was the end of the first round, we had a couple minutes to chit-chat.

I helped the girl with orange hair to her feet. “Thanks, Shiera,” she said. I realized this was the girl who’d been looking at me weird before— in the courtyard, in the cathedral, and now here.

“No problem. Good luck on the– wait, how’d you know my name?”

“I heard Aubrey say it.”

“Well, what’s your name, then?”

“I’m Sydney Wilron.”

“Nice. I’m Shiera Beta.”

Her voice lowered down to a whisper. “And Sakira’s in there too, isn’t he?”

Who does she think she is? You haven’t told anyone about our deal.


“Don’t bother lying. I have foresight. I’ve known who you are for years, and I know all about inhabitation. I’m not trying to out you, but please understand it’s worthless to hide anything from me.”

I lowered my brow at her. “Why are you telling me all this?”

“I have no choice. Fate commands me to.”

“Okay, then why is fate telling me this?”

“Reassurance, most likely. It’s not my role in your story to be anything more than a point of interest. Think of me as a side character, if that’s how you want to go about it.”

“A side character? To what? My life?”

“Moreso the story that your life is currently experiencing.”

“Hey, I’m–”

“Going to go? Please. I’d rather you not dilly-dally these few minutes while you have a tournament to win.”

“Uh… bye.”

I sort of backed away before turning around and getting back to the bleachers.

What the hell was up with that girl?

You tell me. I’ve never seen anything like that in my eleven thousand years. I’ve known foresight was an ability some possessed, but that girl seems almost convinced she’s in a story of some sort, a story she claims you’re the main character of. I would avoid her.

I sat down beside Aubrey. “So what did you do with that magenta magic?”

“Oh, I made ‘em see double!”

“See… what?”

“Ya know how ya start ta see things all weird when yer dizzy? I basically did that. Then they couldn’t see yer attack comin’!”

“So should we do it again?”

“Nah. We gotta think of somethin’ else. Aka would find a way ta push us out before you could getchyer spell off. I’ll tell you the plan once we get in the ring next round.”

I nodded and looked back at the ring, seeing the yellow flames burn themselves out. It was weirdly calming.

Hey, Sakira. Question before the round starts.

What is it?

When I created that field and pushed those two out, the cyan turned red for a second. Did that count as using my powers?

No. You didn’t do it consciously. The stronger you get with your magic, the more often that will happen. Eventually, you’ll learn to use your magic and ability in unison.

What would you say my chances are of taking it home now?

The tournament? I can say with confidence they’ve increased, but likely from around 1% to 4%. You’ve still got Aka, Marissa, and quite possibly Aaron to face, all of whom are prodigies in their respective fields. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

Aaron walked up to his little scoreboard and updated the bracket. “Alright, it’ll be Singh and Arctin versus me and Davis. Everyone, leave or take a seat. The second round begins now.”
Slashed Ink.
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