Mahō no Gakkō: Chromatic
But even suspended animation can’t last forever. Nothing can. Time seemed to pick back up as the ground began to creep towards us once again.
We were falling, and fast. I couldn’t tell when we’d reach the ground— I never really understood physics— but I knew we couldn’t’ve had more than ten seconds. I began to focus my energy into stopping us, but I realized about five seconds in that we were only getting closer. Closer and closer, until it looked like we would fall flat in just a second or two.
From here, I could make out bullet trains and neon signs, all stacked on each other and elevated— we’d fallen past a couple already. There was a long stretch of metal between two tracks just below us, and it was about to be our tomb.
I took a quick breath and clenched my fists. With a massive swing of my arm, I twirled in the air, redirecting our momentum parallel to the ground. Kori hit first, but with his powerful new physique, he was able to skid just a bit before landing solidly. I, on the other hand, found myself rolling, tightening every muscle in my body as I hit the floor. I heard a crack, as if I’d broken a rib.
By the time I got to my feet, Kori was leaping at me. I pushed him over me and spun around, reversing our positions. He landed with a thud. “You can’t hear me, can you?” I groaned, gasping for air. My sides hurt from tumbling on the steel beneath us.
Kori lowered his stance, like a wolf stalking its prey. He didn’t respond to my question. I looked to my left, then to my right— I barely had any space to move. There were other metal platforms further down, but jumping down in this flashy abyss was a bad idea.
I felt a gust of wind blast through the buildings and turned around for a split second. There was a train headed to fly directly beside the two of us. When I looked back, I found Kori’s maw at my face, and I just barely snapped my head back in time to avoid getting chomped.
Kori made a slash at my torso, but with a good backstep, I managed to evade it. He still managed to hook my sickle with his claw, though— I could see the reflection of the train in its silver blade. I made a leap for the weapon, hoping I wouldn’t get run over.
I looked through my legs to see what had happened, and just seeing them was enough to confirm I had made it in time. The CMYK of the sleek metallic train cars flashed before my eyes, almost distracting me from the fact I was still falling uncontrollably. I glanced back to see the platform way closer than expected.
With a hasty rotation, I managed to land square on the platform, feeling my metal boots clang against it. I turned around and braced myself; the train had passed, and Kori was surely about to pounce.
He was gone. My eyes darted all around— he could be anywhere! A sudden pain shot through my leg like a bullet, sending me into a panicked frenzy. I found the source quickly. Kori, who had crawled under the platform, had come around and bit me in the shin. I used whatever focus I could muster to pull him off of me and onto the platform.
Bzzt! My intercom had somehow come back online. I threw Kori to the opposite end of the metal beam and tapped it. “What do you want now?!”
“Beta! It’s Milliheim! We’ve found Copper passed out in the command room, over!”
“Do you know what happened, Beta? Over.” I shot a cyan wall in front of Kori to keep him from getting to me.
He began to crawl over it. “Doesn’t matter! I’ll explain later, but get us the hell out of here!” I snarled, creating another wall to enclose him. He kept climbing over and around them, snaking through them as if they were a simple maze.
Milliheim’s voice was stressed through the intercom. “I need the codeword to initiate the emergency sequence, over!”
My face dropped. “Get Aubrey on the phone! Sumisu! Get her to tell you the code, ‘cause I don’t fucking know it!”
There wasn’t much platform left behind me, so I created a little more with my magic. Kori was getting dangerously close. “Please explain the situation, over.”
“I don’t have time! I’m about to get eaten alive by a werewolf!” I limped backwards just about as far as I could get, and watched as not one, but two trains whistled by us. I nearly fell off from the force of the wind alone.
The city around us was closing in like some kind of metropolitan monster. When I looked down, I found there were no sidewalks— only the roof of a train station. At this point I couldn’t tell whether they were subways or railroads. I couldn’t see the horizon past the thick urban lights.
When Kori inevitably reached me, I flipped backwards like a gymnast down to the roof. “Beta! Sumisu has activated the emergency sequence! Get to the teleporters right away, over!”
The teleporters?! I took as deep a breath I could to calm my nerves before Kori landed on the roof next to me. “We can’t get back to the teleporters! We need a helicopter or something!”
“How would you access a helicopter?! Where in God’s name are you? Over!”
I somersaulted to avoid Kori’s pounce. “Reapra! We can leave from the military base landing pad! Over!”
“You finally remembered to say over,” he muttered into the mic.
I blocked one of his swings with the sickle and caught his arm in its hook. “I don’t have time for that shit!” With a hard yank, I heard a sickening crack. Kori howled in pain, staggering back and clutching his arm— I’d probably broken it at the elbow. I didn’t want to damage him too badly, but a few injuries could be healed up just fine.
“Sending an emergency team heli. Over and out,” Milliheim said. The intercom returned to its static, and I tapped it out. Well, now I know we have a way out. The question is whether I’ll make it there at all.
I stared at Kori, who was still panting like a tired dog. “All I have to do is knock you out, right?”
He let out a growl, his fur illuminated by the magenta lights below and cyan above. “Rrruuuaaagghh!”
“Look who only has half a brain now!” I sent a cyan pillar flying at his legs, but he leaped up and avoided it. “Okay. Note to self, werewolves aren’t stupid.”
Kori charged at me with all his might and sent me flying back off the side of the train station platform. I created a rung of cyan off the edge so I wouldn’t fall, then I shoved my hand into the wall. I felt gravity spin, turning the side of the station into steady ground. I looked down to see what had become of Kori.
He had dug his claws into the metal and begun climbing up to me, tail waving wildly behind him. I’d hoped he hadn’t seen me, but he was looking me in the eye— scrape, clack. Scrape, clack. His claws against metal were nails on a chalkboard.
I tapped my intercom. “Aubrey!”
“Shiera! What is it? Are you okay?!”
I glanced over the edge and found him only a few scrapes away from clambering up to me. “No. I need help.”
“Kori’s trying to kill me, and I’m running out of options to avoid him.” Scrape, clack. Scrape, clack. I dashed back and found the underside of the floor— if I needed to buy more time, I could do the same thing there. “How do you stop a werewolf?!”
Aubrey took a second to come up with a response. “Magenta magic! You need to knock him out or calm him down!”
His claws appeared on the ledge. “What can I do?!”
“Just keep running! I’ll find a way down th–” static pierced my ears as Kori sneered at me. With an angry sigh, I ran forward and jumped cleanly over him, grabbing onto the rail of a bullet train track. From there, I pulled my free hand back, sending gravity back in its normal direction. Kori almost fell over the edge he was laying on.
I fucked up. I realized then I was hanging just above Kori’s gnarled jaws. I’m pretty strong, but I can’t hold on for much longer. And my focus is pretty much gone.
I dangled above certain death, bringing my other hand up with it to strengthen my grip. I breathed in, then out. In, then out. This wasn’t magic, this was a matter of resolve. I looked up and began crawling along the rail, trying to find a safe place to fall.
It just took one noise to turn my resolve into despair.
The clack-clack-clack of an oncoming train rumbled in the rails. I knew what was coming. I tried to create some form of platform below me, but I was too stressed. C’mon, Shiera. Calm down. Calm down. Calm the fuck down!
I could see its silver front flying towards me like a bullet, just as the name would imply. I looked down, hoping that by some miracle, Kori had left. He hadn’t. I looked up— it was moments from crushing my hands.
I tensed up every muscle in my body. I’m sorry. I couldn’t tell who I was apologizing to. Teresa, maybe? Kori? Nathan? …Mom? I didn’t know. But I knew what was about to happen.
I felt the rail slip away.
I blinked open my eyes to find myself still hanging, legs dangling just beyond Kori’s fangs. I felt a cold hand clasped to mine, so tight it might never have let go.
I let my gaze drift upwards. Intertwined with mine was a phantasmic arm, armored with crimson wrappings and metal plates. I saw his face for the first time then— gentler than I’d imagined, he looked no more threatening than any other spirit. I could almost imagine him smiling, his ghostly lavender skin softly reflecting the lights around us.
“A promise is a promise, Shiera.”
I’d barely noticed the magenta seeping from his other hand before I passed out.
“Shiera! Shiera, are you awake?”
A faint ringing echoed in my ears. Those words repeating themselves over and over… ‘A promise is a promise.’
“Dammit, don’t tell me yer friggin’ dead! C’mon, get up!”
I blinked my eyes open. Against the harsh light of the sunrise, I could barely see the two silhouettes of Marissa and Aubrey, who were crouched over me. A massive whirring sound drowned out almost everything.
I drew in a deep breath and blinked some more. “What… what happened?”
Aubrey’s smile was almost as bright as the rising sun. “Holy shit, yer alive.” She fell down on top of me and gave me a bear hug. It was a little hard on my ribs, but I didn’t mind. I could almost make out the reflection of tears…
Marissa let out a massive sigh of relief. “We, uh… whew. Aubrey filled me in.”
Aubrey eventually got off of me. “You were out on the catwalks, carrying Kori and callin’ fer help. You fell over when we got to ya, and we thoughtcha died of shock.”
I tried to sit up— it was hard, but I managed. I took in my surroundings quickly. I was sitting in the back of a helicopter, along with the rest of Sector 53. The sun was shining from a distance, and the lights of Reapra were sparkling below us.
“Hey, you’re back up,” Aka murmured. “Thank God.”
Aaron shot a look at him from across the heli. “You better thank Aubrey and Sydney. They’re the ones who found her.”
I glanced around. “Wait, what did you do with Kori?”
“He’s right here.” Marissa scooted out of the way to show Kori, in his human form, laid neatly on the other side. “He hasn’t woken up yet, but he’s definitely alive.”
I had to hold my reaction back. “Oh… God, I’m… thank you.”
Aubrey wiped her eyes with one arm. “Howdja manage ta carry ‘im, anyway?”
“Oh, I… I didn’t.”
I took in a choked-up breath. “That was Sakira.”
The chatter in the helicopter died down. “That… what?” Aubrey stammered.
“I… I’ll explain later.”
I glanced at my arm— there were crimson wrappings around it, presumably to protect it from getting wounded further. I didn’t even have to ask who’d bandaged me.
“Hey,” I found myself asking. “When’s Kori gonna wake up?”
“Probably never,” Aubrey blurted.
“Shut up, he’s fine,” Marissa sighed with a smile, turning to me. “I don’t think she really…”
Aubrey smirked. “Naw, I just like makin’ stupid jokes.”
“Am I missing something?” Aka asked, leaning forward in his seat.
“Ya had ta be there,” Aubrey replied.
The helicopter’s whirring drowned everyone’s voices out as I began to see the familiar sights of Atlas below us. The Atlas Fissure, the Flatlands… the school of magic that had changed my life forever.
I looked out at the sunrise behind it all, the rise of a new day for Dianoct. The cyan of the morning sky, the magenta of the breaking clouds, the yellow of the glowing sun.I’ll fight for the chromatic dawn of my future.