Chapter 12:

The Price You Pay (Redux)

Tetraprisma: Chromatic

That was quite the stunt you pulled.

I was walking alone in the arena corridor. I was a free spirit at heart— I wanted the chance to explore the school in my free time without anyone pulling me around.

Thanks, evil spirit dude. Now tell me what’s up with Kori.

Someone’s a bit eager, huh?

Eager? No. Interested? Yeah.

Alright. Get yourself comfortable— I’ve got a bit of explaining to do.

I opened the door to the courtyard with the painfully long passcode and stepped out into the warm sun. It was still disorienting to see the stars against the navy blue sky, if only faintly.

Try to sum it up in less words than jackass.

Fine, then. As I’m sure you’re aware, Dianoct does not only consist of Atlas. In fact, Atlas itself is quite small, surrounded by much larger chunks of suspended land.

Yeah, I assumed.

Good. Now, one of the nearby territories is called Lunett. The Atlean government uses it as a penal colony of sorts— mostly for criminals and class C species. Lunett in specific was home to the first werewolves known to Atla, which is why it’s used.

Penal colony? Like Australia was?

Well, it was like that for a time. At this point it’s more used to exploit werewolves and make a profit off their labor. For a world far more advanced than Earth, the humans here in Dianoct are certainly no less corrupt.

I decided to head forward to the cathedral. I wondered what it would look like without a mass of people blocking every path. I opened the metal doors and looked around.

Now, the reason why I bring up Lunett is that their native race has a tendency towards genetic lycanthropy. I’ve always found werewolves very intriguing— the way the cells in their body all transform in response to the moon’s light is something I’ve been trying to find the cause of for years.

Great, but that doesn’t explain much.

I’m getting to that. Recently, Atlas has taken control of Lunett, so I’m unable to find any suitable test subjects. Besides, despite their predisposed tendencies, Lunetians aren’t always werewolves. As such, my line of sources has been running staggeringly low for years.

Hey, uh, I hate to break this to you, but Kori’s not a werewolf. I’ve seen him under the full moon and everything, and they did a cortisol check when he first arrived. We’re both clear.

I’m fully aware. Let me finish.

Fine, but I’m not sitting through much more of this unless you get to the interesting part soon.

I got a good look at the Mirror Hall behind the stage. It was certainly as ornate as I remembered, with multicolored gems floating around its entrance like stalactites without a ceiling. I knew it was off-limits, but I was tempted to jump up and check it out for myself.

Over the years, I’ve studied the Beta family line carefully. Every few generations, a werewolf appears, and it’s been like that for at least three centuries. I still haven’t quite found the root of it all, but it seems like a Lunetian entered the gene pool early on. I’m quite certain both of you have one of the alleles for the trait.

Alleles? Like, the shit they taught us in biology?

Yes. Essentially, for lycanthropy, if you have two of them, you end up a werewolf. If you have one, you’re a carrier, and if you have none, you’re fully clear.

Oh, so like a recessive gene.

Exactly, because that’s what it is.

Does that technically make me a werewolf?

It’s your phenotype that determines your lycanthropy, just as someone with a single allele for blue eyes doesn’t have blue eyes. So, sorry if you wanted to brag to your friends about being a werewolf for… some reason, but no.

I walked past the main stage area of the cathedral and around to a hallway. It was more pristine and decorated than the halls in the arenas and hospital wing, but I found I couldn’t quite find a use for it. There were rooms on either side, but all their doors were closed.

I peered inside each of the rooms— each was equipped with a bed, a dresser, and another door, presumably to a restroom. They were quite similar to the guest dorm I’d stayed in, so more likely than not, they were just single dorms.

Bit fancy for a dormitory.

Certainly. Atlas loves its pristinity and adornments. I was never one for the simplistic designs— I like what they’ve done with the cathedral much better.

When’d you become an expert on interior design?

Eleven thousand years, Shiera.


Right. Where were we?

You told me I wasn’t a werewolf.

Yes, I did. As I said, both you and Kori have only one allele for the trait, which I find interesting. I’ve taken blood samples from him to find out what percentage Lunetian he is, which I can use to find when Lunetian blood first entered the Beta lineage.

Is that all?

Not quite. I’ve also been working with transformation magic for a long time. It’s a property of magenta magic which carries over to key magic. I’m able to cast a spell to temporarily alter the physical form of any living being. It’s quite useful.

I made my way down the hallway until I turned a corner and found a much less pristine set of dormitories ahead. I looked inside and saw all sorts of decorations on the walls, but not the gem-embedded ones from before— posters of pop idols, pictures of family, and banners lined the room. On top of that, I noticed these rooms had two beds.

Does the person have to be unconscious for it to work?

No. Remember in your battle with Aaron, when he turned himself invisible to avoid you? He used a transformation spell to conceal himself.

Hm. Alright. So where are you headed with this?

I took a few moments looking into the windows of the dorms. One of them, I noticed, had a picture of Aubrey and her family on the wall. She had her arm wrapped around a boy who I noticed looked quite similar to her.

That’s what he’ll look like in a few years, huh?

You get sidetracked easily, Shiera.

Hey, I’m just interested.

In the picture, she had a beanie over her ears, most likely to hide them. I noticed her brother had no such beanie, and no such ears. Like she’d said, she was the only Vurainoga in her family.

Alright, Shiera, I’m going to need you to move on. I have important information to tell you, and you’re not getting me anywhere looking at some pictures in Aubrey’s dorm.

Fine. Where do you want me to go?

The cathedral would be just alright.

Great, off we go, wooo.

I started walking the other way, back to the cathedral. It had more to look at than the dorms, anyway, so I could zone out and stare at it more easily.

Where were we? Transformation magic, right?


Okay. So, the thing about genetic werewolves and transformation magic is that the effects of genetic lycanthropy can’t be replicated with magic. It’s a strictly human condition.

Alright, but how does that help?

It means I need to actually have a real werewolf to study the effects of the transformation and how it works. And, as we know, Kori’s not a real werewolf.

Then what’s the point?

The point is, genetic experimentation is getting easier and easier. It’s gotten to the point I could just use some form of gene therapy to replace an allele or two.

…Genetic experimentation? You’re– what’re you planning?

If I don’t have any werewolf test subjects, I can make my own out of what I have available.

As the cathedral came back into sight, I clenched my fists. Sakira, after I made that deal, you said you wouldn’t kill my brother. Turning him into a werewolf is basically the same thing! Unless you plan on turning him back, then–

Why would I turn him back? He’s much more useful as a werewolf. I can use him as a bargain with Queen Teresa, find a way to use him in combat… if I turned him back, I’d lose all that benefit just because some teenage girl might lose her shit.

You said you were a man of your word!

I am. Never once did I say you’d get to see Kori again.

“Sakira, do you know how messed up you are?” I accidentally mumbled it aloud. No one was around to hear it, though.

Woah, now. Remember, you’re the one who made the deal. You’re the one who didn’t care what happened to Kori. I don’t know why you’ve had a sudden change of heart about him, but I’m not going to adjust my plans around it.

I was speechless. I couldn’t argue against him— his consistency was undeniable, whereas I was a chaotic mess. I didn’t care about Kori. I really didn’t. So why was I so worried for his safety now?

I… I need to be by myself. Don’t talk to me for a while.

Fine by me. I’ll stay out of your head for an hour or so. I’ve got troops to order, anyway. By the time I’m back, I hope you’ll have yourself sorted out.

My head felt empty without Sakira’s voice. I took a seat in one of the cathedral’s chairs and clutched my forehead. “What the hell am I supposed to do…?”

“What is it?” I jumped at the voice behind me.

“I– don’t scare me like that!”

Aka snickered. “Sorry. What’s got you down?”

“Uh… nothing. Haha.”

He stared at me blankly. “That was really unconvincing, you know.”

“Give me a retry.”

“No. Seriously, what’s going on?”

I groaned. “Little stressed out over the war. You know, I just got here, and boom, here I am, barely knowing anything, about to get thrown on the battlefield.”

“You did killer in the tournament, though.”

“You think that changes anything? Battling against a bunch of dorks isn’t anything like battling a bunch of spirits that want you dead.”

“Heh. That’s what they don’t tell you about AIM. From the outside looking in, it’s free education with some combat training here and there. From the inside, we all know how scary it is. It’s not something you really get over.”

I looked down. Yeah, and you’re not the one with a spirit in your head telling you he’s going to turn your brother into a werewolf. “I guess so.”

Aka took a seat next to me. “Y’know, I’ve always wanted to see what’s inside the Mirror Hall.”

“Mirrors, probably.”

“Hey, I’m being serious.”

“So am I.”

Aka exhaled, giving me a sharp look. “Well, okay, yeah. Mirrors. But like, it can’t just be that. They have it guarded for a reason. The main shield generators are in there, but other than that, no one knows anything.”

“No one’s guarding it now. You could just go in.”

“There are security cameras, and I’m not breaking the law.”


“I’m not a pussy! You’re the weird one.”

I rested my cheek on my hand and my elbow on the arm of the chair. “You’ve been in battle before, right?”

“Of course. It’s, like, my job.”

“Would there be any way to… uh, I don’t know. Push forward into Sakira’s territory?”

“If all goes well, that’s what we’re planning. How far?”

“Uh, how far is the main city?”

Aka turned his head. “The main city?”

“I mean, yeah, they have to get together somewhere. The spirits, I mean.”

“No, I mean– I know there’s a city. It’s just, uh, that’d be, like, five kilometers from Sakeru’s border, and they have the city as heavily guarded as ours.”

“Do you still think we could get there?”

“Why do you want to push to the city?”

“Uh… I… hate spirits.”

“That was even less convincing, and it really shouldn’t have been...”

I rolled my eyes. “Retry?”


“I want to try and get Kori back.”

Aka’s eyes widened. “Oh, I– yeah, that makes sense. But I don’t think we’ll be able to find him and bring him back on our first day of drafting.”

“You said they sent a recon team. Did they come back?”

“Yeah. They said Sakira had a few test subjects lined up. They saw Kori, but they said they didn’t recognize anyone else. Which is totally bullshit, because the government definitely forks over subjects, but of course they’re not allowed to talk about that.” He grimaced. “Anyway, I’d hate to be a test subject for that psycho.”

“So what’s the holdup? Let’s send a squad out there to nab him back!”

“We don’t have a team like that. We’d need to gather a bunch of people who’d be willing to risk their lives for some stranger they’ve never met. I don’t expect turnout to be very high for that.”

“So how the hell do we get him back?”

“We wait until we’ve pushed far enough into enemy territory. I know it’s a grueling wait, but we just don’t have a way to get in now.”

“How long do you think it’ll take?”

“A little shorter than a month.”

“We don’t have a month!”

“Wha– why… don’t we have a month?”

Shit. “Uh… because Sakira’s gonna do some messed-up shit to Kori while we’re sitting here twiddling our thumbs, that’s why.”

“How do you know?”

“I don’t know. It’s a guess. But I don’t wanna take a chance on it.”

“I get you.” Aka sighed. “The best we can do is hope he’s too focused on his troops. If Sakira has done experiments by the time we rescue him, we’ll try our best to undo what he’s done.”

Suddenly, a loud bell rang. I had to cover my ears— the speakers closest to us were broken. “What was that for?!”

“It’s lunch,” Aka replied. “They say the best way to get the war off your mind is with food.”

“Do they actually?”

“No, I’m hungry. I’m gonna go eat. Feel free to stay here and… do what you were doing before I got here.”

I shrugged. “Personally, I’d rather have food.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Come on, you don’t want to be the last in line.”

Slashed Ink.
Steward McOy