Mahō no Gakkō: Chromatic
My eyes strained as I sat in my bed, staring at my phone. I knew I’d have to get up early tomorrow, but I needed to review the map in case something went wrong. The photos were grainy and poorly stitched together, but overall, I had a good idea of what the military base looked like.
The general game plan was simple: Sakira’s office was on the tenth floor of the building, so all we had to do was sneak in through the ground floor entrance and find our way up through the main staircase. On the map, the staircase would only take us up to floor nine, so we had to locate the stairs to the tenth floor ourselves.
We knew the laboratory was accessible through the ninth floor, but entering through that entrance without a specific barcode would trigger the alarms. We either had to enter through the tenth floor or steal a barcode, which meant killing a spirit. Either way, it was going to be rough.
I turned in the bed. “Why did you have to capture him, Sakira…?”
No response. Damn.
The covers were thin as ever— they still hadn’t found a permanent dorm for me. I checked the time on my phone. 1:30. Ugh. I have to get up in four hours. I plugged my phone in beside my bed and closed my eyes.
Why did Sakira even want to take Kori, anyway? What makes him different from any other human they could’ve experimented on? My thoughts trailed. It was because we both had one of the alleles for the trait. It was easier to change one than it was two.
I mumbled to myself, pushing my head into the pillow. But how did we get those genes? Sakira said he was trying to prove a theory of his… he said the Queen was a Lunetian, or at least that’s what he was guessing. But that doesn’t explain why she hates werewolves so much.
So if his theory’s right, then I got my genes from her. Well, I guess I really got them from… from Nathan… I clenched my fists. No. That can’t be right. I mean, yes, I got my genes from Nathan. He’s my dad, that’s how that works. But…
Yeah, that’s not reasonable, is it? I know my dad had at least one of the alleles. That’s why me and Kori have them. But the chances of that are… I traced the Punnett square in my mind. One in two. One in two, and there are two of us. One in two, but we both have it.
Two times two is four, so it’s a one in four chance we’d both have it. That’s not that unlikely. I’m overthinking this. I’m overthinking. I need to sleep. I shut my eyes tightly and pulled the covers over my head.
I felt this was a puzzle to which I was missing a crucial piece. It all seemed sporadic and dissonant, a cacophony of clues I couldn’t understand. I thought back. The skirmish. Earlier. The ruins? Earlier. Serpho?
That wasn’t the first time dad got held up by traffic. It was probably a coincidence it happened on the full moon that time. But what about the ruins in our basement? How did the portal get there?
It wasn’t as if the storage room was a mystery to me. I’d been there a million times— to get away from Kori, to study, to sleep. Incidentally, I’d never entered on the full moon, because I was always outside trying to figure out how the telescope worked myself.
Click. I felt a piece of the puzzle snap into place, but it still felt out of place. Further back, then…
I remembered a time when I was younger, probably only ten. Nathan was sitting next to me on my bed, describing the story of Dianoct. It was a fairy tale to me then. Now, clutching my covers, I knew how real it was.
I remembered his expressions, his scruffy stubble, his unkempt brown-ish mess of hair. His voice was just as rough as his appearance, his eyes a bright hazel, almost amber like Teresa’s. His stench after work trips was unforgettable— I still had no clue what it was. Drugs? Sweat? Regret?
Click. That meant something, but I wasn’t sure what. I decided I should sleep on it and turned over in bed.
“Ow!” I hissed, shaking my hand. I’d put it under the bed and cut my finger on a sharp piece of metal. It was too dark to see how bad the cut was, but the sting was already fading, so it couldn’t have been very bad. I tried to fall asleep then, hoping I’d have some sort of conclusion in the morning.
“Getchyer ass up, Shiera! We got fifteen minutes!” Aubrey’s voice snapped me out of my sleep like an alarm.
I rolled out of bed and staggered up, stretching and yawning. “I forgot to set an alarm.”
“It’s fine,” Aubrey said. “Butcha gotta get out there by 6:30. Just get some clothes on ya and go.”
It wasn’t like I didn’t have clothes on— I wore a shirt and shorts to bed— but they definitely weren’t suited for much activity. I stumbled over to the dryer and pulled out a grey hoodie and a pair of ripped jeans. “Do these work?”
“Don’tcha normally wear yer suit?”
“Agh, whatever. Grab some bracelets from the arena or somethin’ if you ain’t gonna wear it.” With that, Aubrey walked away. “We’re meetin’ in the courtyard,” she called.
I pulled the hoodie over my head and fit my arms through the sleeves. Before I left to grab the bracelets, I took the charm off my desk and hung it around my neck. Seeing its amber glisten reminded me of my thoughts the night prior. Despite having slept on it, though, I was none the wiser.
The hallways were colder than usual as I ran through them— maybe the AC only kicked in once students were awake. I opened the cyan gate to the courtyard and ran across to the arenas. On my way, I saw the teleportation dock we would use and most of Sector 53 surrounding it.
The arena hallway was lit with only inset lights, so I had to stop running in fear I’d trip. I entered the first arena that was unlocked and shuffled through the weapons chest. After a bit of searching, I found a pair of iron bracelets— their metal rods twirled around each other elegantly.
While I slipped them on, I felt a twinge of pain from my finger. Oh, that was the one I cut last night. I checked it to see if it had bled— it had, quite decently. The closest bathrooms are upstairs and past the courtyard. It’s not worth it to go wash it off now.
As I walked back to the courtyard, I remembered my conundrum the night before. It still feels like something’s missing. Sakira said I had all the information I needed, but maybe I’m forgetting something.
But what the hell does he care? I stepped out into the cold, a frigid gust blowing my reddish hair all over. This all started when I asked Teresa why she hated Nathan. She wouldn’t answer, so I decided to figure it out myself. So what do I know?
I know that my mom died when I was around two. Teresa says she was mauled by a werewolf. I can make a guess that Nathan was there, since me and Kori didn’t get mauled. Maybe she’s mad at him because he didn’t risk his life to save her?
“Shiera!” Aubrey called, waving a hand in front of my face. “Dianoct to Shiera!”
“Were you listenin’?”
“…Uh, no.” I decided this wasn’t a good time to lie.
Aubrey lowered her eyelids in what looked like an annoyed glare. “Pay Ms. Copper some attention.”
I turned my head to see Ms. Copper in her uniform. I hadn’t realized she was out here. Whoops. “Sorry.”
Ms. Copper counted our heads. “That’s only seven.”
“Yeah, the eighth one got expelled,” Marissa mumbled.
“The eighth student got expelled, so there are only seven of us. I thought you already knew about that.”
Ms. Copper seemed a bit nervous. “I can’t believe I forgot,” she groaned, rubbing her temples. “So you’re all here, correct?”
I heard shattering behind us, then the clanking of metal armor. “Wait for me,” Aaron said, jogging up to the dock. “Milliheim asked me to tag along.”
“That wasn’t in the plan,” Ms. Copper snapped.
“It is now.”
She seemed overly frustrated at this. I wasn’t particularly happy that Aaron would be joining us, either, but he was excellent in combat, which was something the rest of us couldn’t quite say. I had beaten him that one time in the arena, but I admit it didn’t really make me better than him.
Now thinking about it, Ms. Copper had been acting more snappy recently. Maybe the stress of the war had gotten to her, but even then, her reaction still felt off. “Fine, then,” Ms. Copper snarled. “You can tag along.”
Aaron nodded and stood with the rest of the group. “I’ll make sure they don’t end up killing themselves,” he smirked.
Ms. Copper only shot him a glare as she reached into her pocket and grabbed a couple small headphones. They wrapped around the back of the head to stay stable. “Give these to Beta and DeAndrick.”
Aubrey grabbed them and handed a pair to me. “One tap puts you on mic, two mutes ya, and three deafens ya. End all yer messages with over.” I put them over my ears and adjusted them.
“I’ll be in communication with the eight of you. First, though, I need to perform a final check. Have you all passed off your stealth regiment?” Ms. Copper asked.
“Yeah.” “Yes, ma’am.” “Mm-hmm.”
“Great. Step onto the dock when you’re ready.”
We got in line. I was set to go last, but Aaron moved me to the front before we started. After a flash of cyan and a thousand needles, I blinked and found myself in a dark basement, shiny ammunition scattered across the floor. Aaron appeared behind me and pulled me to the side.
He tapped on my headset twice, and his own too. “Do you notice something off about Copper?”
“That’s why you wanted me in front,” I replied vaguely.
“Yeah. She’s been kinda snappy. I think the war is getting to her.”
Aaron shook his head. “No. Even if the war was getting to her, I’m her most trusted commander. On any other day, she would let me tag along without a bit of pushback.”
“Do you know what’s wrong?”
“I have a feeling, but no proof.”
“I might have some proof, if you need it,” I said. I saw Wes appear behind the two of us, but he hadn’t seen us yet.
“Like what?” he whispered.
I thought back to the day I was deployed. I’d first met Ms. Copper when we were assigning sectors— I’d thought it was funny how her eyes were the color of rusty copper. But copper doesn’t rust red.
“Her eyes aren’t usually red, are they?” I asked.
Aaron blinked. “I don’t think so.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“So she is possessed?” he asked.
I sighed. “Probably.”
We unmuted our mics and turned back around. By now, the rest of the sector had arrived. We were safe down here until we decided to leave, and I wasn’t quite ready to leave just yet. I rubbed my nose, sniffling from the cold. Maybe the spirits weren’t affected by it.
What’s that… stench? I thought, confused. I didn’t know where it had come from, but I recognized it. It was the same odor that Nathan wore every time he came home. I started looking around, trying to pinpoint it.
“Shiera, you good?” Aka whispered as I glanced all around.
“I’m fine. Just thinking about something.”
I rubbed the excess mucus away with my finger. It’s hella cold down here. And dark. There’s nothing down here that should smell like that. I looked down at my hand. Unless.
I went up to rub my nose again, but stopped just before. It’s my hand. Is it just because I forgot to wash it? I flipped my hand around, looking for anything.
Then I saw it— the cut on my finger, and the blood staining my hand. That’s… that’s the smell of dried blood.
Click, click, click.
I stared at the bullets on the floor. I didn’t want to believe any of what my mind was telling me, but with the pieces connecting so clearly, it was the only conclusion I could reach.Nathan never told me how my mom died because he killed her.