Chapter 30:

The Clock Strikes Zero // Act II

Tetraprisma: Chromatic

The time was 6:50 PM. From our station in the Mirror Hall, Aubrey and I could see the approaching hordes of spirits. The intercoms were faint, but I’d heard Aaron’s order: “Make guard on the towers”.

We’d just reached the balcony which held the shield generator when Aubrey spoke up. “Somethin’ about all this feels weird. It’s givin’ me the creeps.”

“Me, too. Why are the spirits going after us again? I wish I could ask Sakira.”

“You can ask Sakira?”

“Well, I could’ve, but he hasn’t been talking for a while now. I don’t think we have that connection anymore.”

Aubrey nodded. “Yeah, ya did mention somethin’ about that. Yer eyes are still red, though. Ya think that means you could still talk to ‘im?”

“He said they’d be like this forever.”


Dammit, Sakira. If it really is you sending these troops, what the hell happened to ending the war?

This was not my choice.

I hadn’t been expecting an answer.

Sakira? Where the hell have you been?

I didn’t want to intrude into your life any further.

Well, it would’ve been a lot nicer if you had. At least you’re still alive.

I wouldn’t die twice, would I, Shiera?

Sure you would.

I looked away from the mirror and over at Aubrey. “Hey, I’m talking to him right now.”

Aubrey blinked. “What’s he sayin’?”

“Let me ask.”

You said it wasn’t your choice. How? Aren’t they, like, your soldiers? They follow your orders.

I did indeed give the order to attack the Institute. Let it be known this was not out of choice, but out of obligation.

That doesn’t make any sense.

Because I haven’t told you everything. And, unfortunately, I can’t.

No one would know.

…You’re right. I’ll say what I can. Your reconnaissance team, led by Angelmask–

Sydney. I know who she is.

Yes, Sydney. She requested I send my forces to AIM.

What?! Why would she do that? And why would you follow through?!

She is a time traveler— you know this— and as such, she knows exactly how this event will unfold. She wanted me to cooperate with fate so as to not ‘shatter the timeline’.

And why did you say okay to that?

She had proof she was from the future.

Like what?

She brought with her a member of an artificially created species, one that I had begun work on just before we met. I could not refute such evidence.

So you’re just going to let us all die because Sydney is from the future?

As long as you maintain your guard in the Mirror Hall, this attack should amount to nothing. It will be a momentous victory for Atlas, and if anything, it should help show us spirits as willing to negotiate for peace.

So it all relies on me and Aubrey. Thanks, Sakira.

“What’d he say?” Aubrey asked.

“The recon team ordered him to send out his troops. The time travelers are definitely trying to kill us.”

“Shouldnta trusted ‘em fer a second. What do we gotta do?”

“Guard the shield generator. That’s it.”

“What about the backup shields?”

I sighed. “Where are those again?”


“Shit. I think they stationed one of the time travelers in there.”

“That was Dragonmask, right?”


“Then Aka’s gonna be in there, too! He’ll be able ta stop ‘im!”

“You’re right. So let’s just focus on this.”

I unsheathed the sickle on my hip. It was still strange to hold a weapon like this, but it came somewhat naturally to me. Behind me, I heard the clank of Aubrey’s battleaxe on the glass floor.

“Don’tcha think it’s weird, though?”

I turned my head and groaned. “What now?”

“If they wanted ta make it easy, the time travelers coulda just put a traveler up here instead of us. They got one in the arena, and they got one on recon. And of course they got one on the battlefield. Why not up here?”

“Is it because they want to take us out?”

“Ya could be onta somethin’. What about the attack plan?”

I strained my eyes to the mirrored walls to find where the marks had been made. I could see the line come from around 10 meters in front of me down to the floor. I had to walk up close to see where it went from there.

“Aubrey, something’s wrong.”


“The trail meets up with another one. And then another one. There are three of them.”

She nodded. “Yeah, I know. They both came from right around here.”

“Around where?”

She pointed the tip of her axe at two spots adjacent to the shield generator. “Here.”

“Could that be… us?”

“Probably. Which means— you guessed it— they’re definitely tryna kill us. Stay on yer guard.”

I stood up and backed up slowly until I was next to the generator. “Wait. They can’t kill me. I know they can’t.”

“Why? The sickle?”


“Ya know, they coulda just taken it from yer dead body.”

I shot her a glare. “If you’re gonna be morbid, do it without the accent.”

“Fine. What time is it?”

“Time? Uh…” I pulled out my phone with my free hand. “6:58.”


We stood there for a bit, watching the entrance in silence. I could only faintly hear the armies fighting on the perimeter— all the rest was the echo of my own pacing footsteps.

“Sorry to talk again, but–”

“Oh my God. We’re trying to listen!”

“I know. But, uh. Just in case we kick the bucket, I wanted ta say…”

“Say what?”

“…you’ve been a really great friend. You’re kind of a bitch sometimes, but I’m glad I found you out on the battlefield.”

“Just in case I die, you’ve been pretty cool, too.”


“And if neither of us die, I revoke that statement.”

“Got it.”

And then we heard the shatter.

“What the fuck was that?”

Aubrey’s ears pointed straight at the source. “One of the mirrors at the entrance. They’re here.”

I swallowed my fear and held my sickle at the ready. Tap, tap, tap. There were footsteps approaching us— and fast.

“They’re in the wall!” Aubrey shouted. “Get ready! I’m gonna swing!” She readied her axe to destroy the mirror next to her.

But she didn’t have to.

Because, about ten meters in front of me, another mirror shattered first. A figure leapt through, shoulder first, and rolled on the floor for a split second before scrambling forward.

It wasn’t a time traveler. I saw its glowing amber eyes piercing me, its jagged claws digging into the mirror below.

It was a werewolf.

That was their plan. To unleash a monster to kill us. That way, they didn’t have to get any blood on their hands.

Fuck that plan!

I held my hand forward and channeled my focus into the sickle. The time travelers wouldn’t see this coming.

The werewolf was closing in, but not for long— Aubrey dashed forward and swung her axe at it. It stopped just short of the swing and scampered out of the way, glass shards cutting into its leg. Aubrey tugged the axe out of the floor and swung again, horizontally this time.

It ducked under the blade, a terrified expression on its face. I pushed forward with my hand in an attempt to send it backwards— its legs began to kick uselessly in the air. Take that.

And then… it stopped. The red aura around it disappeared, and it hit the ground running— towards me.

“Shiera! Stop it!” Aubrey roared. I took one last breath and ran forward to meet it. I would be overwhelmed by its sheer strength, but I had something it didn’t; a blade.

I grabbed it by the arm, covered in an ashy yellow jacket, and grappled it, pushing forward as best I could. I noticed quickly it wasn’t pushing back. It stumbled backwards to the floor.

Some pushover of a werewolf this is. Kori was stronger. I took my sickle and hooked it around its neck. “Aubrey!”

She was already running over, her axe behind her back. The werewolf flailed its claws at me helplessly, but I was just out of reach. I could see something in its eyes: fear. Primal fear.

I didn’t know whether to kill it. It was still a human, right? And maybe whoever it was could help us find out what the time travelers were up to. Aubrey had already begun to cast magenta from her weapon. The werewolf glanced at the axe, then back at me. I saw in its eyes something else then.


It desperately reached for the pouch on its hip, and the handle sticking out of it. I couldn’t risk letting it get away, so I tried my best to knee its arm off. Despite my efforts, it managed to grab onto the handle and pull it up and out.

Suddenly, I felt the sickle leave my hands. It clattered to the floor a couple feet behind me. I looked back to the werewolf.

It had pulled out a grappling weapon— something to get me off of it.

It held a sickle. The same as mine. The blue luster told me everything.

Aubrey stopped casting and tried to swing again as it rolled out from under my grasp, clawing my arm to push me off. The werewolf leaped out of the way and clambered to the shield generator.

“No!” But it was too late. It clawed through the machine, sparks flying. I looked up and saw the shield begin to shatter.

It looked at me again for a brief moment. It was remorseful, as if it had something to tell me but couldn’t. I saw a piece of myself in those eyes. The curl in the hair, the sickle, the ragged breathing— it was like looking in a twisted mirror.

Aubrey ran up to take another swing, but it dashed to the balcony and swung over the railing, falling to the floor below. I ran up behind it and shouted out “Werewolf!”

Strangely enough, this caused the werewolf to stop completely in its tracks. It was frozen solid for a moment before running off into the building faster than I’d ever seen anyone move. A boy on the floor below took notice of this and chased after it.

I turned to Aubrey, who was staring up in horror at the suspended shards. I had never seen her this mortified. “Aubrey! We have to go! They said there was a bunker somewhere!”

Aubrey didn’t move an inch. “Aubrey! Hey! Let’s move!”

She snapped back to reality and wordlessly began to sprint through the Hall. I followed suit, snatching up my sickle on the way. We looked back at the entrance as we left— sure enough, the panel above the memorial plaque was shattered.

As we tumbled down the stairs into the cathedral, explosions began to rumble all around. Aubrey held her hand out and grabbed mine, leading me out of the cathedral and through the halls.

The hallways in front of us collapsed, and ash began to seep through the cracked ceiling. Aubrey gripped my hand tighter and channeled magenta magic into my body— suddenly, I was moving in unison with her. She leaped forward, up onto the debris, and rolled over it to slide back into the hallway on the other side.

As we ran, spirits began to phase into the walls of the school. I casted a shield around us to protect from the bullet fire. I didn’t quite know where we were running to— I’d never been to the bunker.

We passed the cafeteria and entered the arenas. Aubrey dragged me to the first one on the right, let go of my hand to crank the vault door open, and pulled me inside. Spirits had begun to flood this area, too. We weren’t safe up here.

“Shiera! The bunker’s below the arena! I need to get to the control panel to put the password in!” Aubrey shouted over the ruckus.

“What’s the problem? I’ll just keep the shield going and we’ll be fine!”

“The problem is,” she said, “the spirits are gonna get into the bunker if we open it while they’re here!”

“Okay, then what the fuck do you want me to do?!”

“I don’t know! I’m thinking!”

I quickly glanced around the arena. Explosions rattled the walls, and the arcs holding up the ceiling were beginning to cave in. I saw the scattered training equipment, the debris, the control panel, and the deactivated ring of yellow fire.

It was hard to think with the bullets pelting my shield, impacting left and right. I could flip the gravity and make all the debris fly upwards, but that wouldn’t hurt the spirits unless the debris was magically enhanced. And I can’t enhance it all at the same time. Plus, doing all that would leave me and Aubrey open to getting shot.

Despite my focus, I could see the shield beginning to crack. I looked over to the ring of fire, then back at Aubrey. “This is gonna sound stupid, but I need you to listen!”

“Just say it!”

“Do you know how to cast the ring of fire for a duel?!”


“Can you give it effects or anything?!”

“I think so!”


Aubrey channeled her magic into my shoulder, rejuvenating my focus. I was able to mend the crack in the shield. “Depends on the effect! What are you trying to do?!”

“I’m gonna freeze the spirits so we can get in!”

“Freeze them? How? With ice?!”

“No! In time!”

“You don’t know key magic!”

“Sakira does!”

“Can he use it through you?!”

“We’re about to find out!” I shouted, teeth gritted.

Aubrey moved to the edge of the shield and placed her hand on part of the ring, channeling her magenta into it. Strangely enough, it turned yellow as it wrapped around the perimeter and shot up in flames.

“There! Cast the spell on something inside the ring!”

I scanned the area for any debris inside the ring. Upon finding it empty, I looked around in a panic. What do I do now? Throw something inside?!

Sakira was quick to respond. Yes! Quickly!

I took the first thing I could grab— my sickle— and hurled it into the ring of fire. I held my hand out behind it and shut my eyes, prepared for the worst.


Shiera, open your eyes.

I blinked open and looked around. The whole world was monochrome. Aubrey was kneeled down beside me, completely unmoving. Time itself had stopped.

Upon our agreement, I allowed you to use a portion of my innate power. That would be the red magic you’ve become accustomed to. I saw the red runes running up my forearms.

I didn’t intend to give you anything more. But, seeing you now, I feel… compelled, you could say. It’s still something I’m getting used to.

I turned around and saw his form— his metal armor, his crimson wrappings, his ghostly lavender skin. “Can’t you just cast it through me?”

No. Key magic is something the body attunes to. Even possessing you, I can’t cast key magic through you.

“So what do you have to do, then?”

I have to grant you that ability like I did your inhabitation.

“…There’ll be a trade-off.”



From what Sydney told me of the future, I know I have to finish the artificial species. Unfortunately, tests require test subjects, and we’re short on them.

“So… you’re going to order your spirits to take some of the students as test subjects.”

You understand.

“How many?”


“…You won’t take Kori. Or Aubrey.”

I can’t order my legions who and who not to take, only how many. But knowing Atlas, Kori is likely in the bunker already, and Aubrey is right next to you.


And I need you to promise me something.


You won’t use this magic like I did. Only use it sparsely, and for good reason. This sort of power is nearly unstoppable— and as such, it’s shunned heavily. I don’t want you to become a tyrant like I did.

“I promise.”

Then shake my hand, and it’s a deal.

I reached out my hand and shook Sakira’s.

Suddenly, I opened my eyes as if I’d been dreaming. My hand was still held forward. I channeled all my conscience into the sickle as it spun in the air…

The red runes on my hand turned to a deep black as the sickle stopped on a dime. The ring of fire resonated to this— in its yellow flames, black sparks began to appear. Aubrey looked back at me in awe.

The shield around us had vanished. “Can you make the ring bigger?!” I cried.

“Yeah, but that means we’ll–”

“Trust me! Do it!”

Aubrey sunk further into her kneel, and the ring shot outwards at blinding speed. Anything the ring touched froze solid, creating hundreds of monochrome statues hovering around us. I’d expected it to happen just to the spirits, but Aubrey was no exception.

I took a moment to marvel at the scene. Every little piece of debris scattered in the air was still. I felt a light wind flow through the open ceiling, the magenta sunset seeping through into the monochromatic arena.

…How did you… do that, Shiera?

Do what?

How are you unaffected?

I cast the spell, right? It shouldn’t affect me.

No, this is… this isn’t right. No one is immune to their own magic. Not unless they have some innate magic of their own.

What’s that supposed to mean?

Nevermind. This only lasts as long as you focus on it. You need to unfreeze Aubrey and go.

I crouched down and pushed on Aubrey, moving her to the side. The color returned to her body, and she fell over. “Did it work?”

“Fuck yeah, it did! Put that password in and get us the hell out of here!”

She hopped to her feet and ran to the control panel. The ring hadn’t counted it as a separate entity from the ground, so it wasn’t frozen— as soon as she typed in the code, a loud ka-clack sounded from below my feet.

The floor inside the ring began to recede into the ground, acting as a pseudo-elevator. Aubrey vaulted over the control panel and landed beside me. The monochrome was beginning to fade— my focus was waning.

“Get on!” she called, taking my hand and leaping onto the platform as it descended. I tensed my muscles and watched the runes on my hand spread up my arm. The werewolf had ripped my sleeve, so I could see my blood turning black above the sigils.

“Aubrey, I can’t keep holding them off!”

“I know! Get ready to fall!”


The platform dropped open, breaking into two pieces down the middle. I couldn’t stop myself from tumbling down into the pit below. Spinning out of control, I looked up to see the color had returned to the arena. Of course— I’d lost focus. The spirits began to move as they had before, but before they could enter the hatch, the two sides slammed upwards into their previous positions, leaving Aubrey and I falling in the dark.

I could only see Aubrey by the magenta light gleaming from her axe. “Grab my hand!”

I held my hand out, but it was weak from the key magic I’d pushed through it. She was able to reach out and clasp onto it. Magenta flowed through her body into mine, and I found myself beginning to glow. With that light, I could see the ground just a bit further below us.

I strained myself to float us to the ground, but it didn’t seem like we were slowing down. The stone bricks below were approaching fast; I winced and prepared for impact.

But the impact never came. We stopped, hovering with our faces just inches from the ground. Aubrey let out a quick sigh and smiled at me. “We’re safe!” she whispered.

I stood up and looked around. It was dimly lit, but I could see a stone bunker around us, similar to the one I’d first entered Dianoct through. Medics ran back and forth, tending to injured students. Supervisors led a roll call, trying to account for everyone who hadn’t made it.

A couple of mages guarding the entrance turned back in shock as we dusted ourselves off. They both wore cyan cuffs all over their outfits— my best guess was they were there to catch those who fell into the bunker.

“Halt, both of you!”

Aubrey and I stood still as they looked the two of us up and down. “What are they doing?” I whispered to Aubrey.

“Making sure you’re not possessed.”

One of them grabbed my weakened arm and turned to face Aubrey. “Your friend here is possessed, I’m afraid. We have to take her in.”

“Wha– no I’m not!”

“Red eyes and key magic. You spirits really need to get your act together,” he said with a scowl.

Aubrey pulled me away from the mage. “She’s not.”

“This is my job, not yours, Vurainoga.”

She grimaced. “Who do you report to?”


“Perfect. Ask him.”

“I understand you care for your friend here, but the best thing you can do for her is to let us–”

“Ask. Him.” She bared her teeth in a fierce snarl, an expression I’d never seen before.

The mage tapped on his earpiece. “Headmaster. We have a possessed human girl and a Vurainoga at the Arena Alpha gateway.”

“Shiera and Aubrey,” Aubrey hissed.

“The Vurainoga says their names are Shiera and Aubrey… Oh, I’ll bring them to you, then, sir.”

“What’d he say?” I asked.

“He wants to see you two, I suppose.”

The mages led us through the small crowd into a central stone room. The torchlight flickered starkly on the smooth rocky walls— it was like being in a dungeon. In this room, Milliheim stood behind a marble table covered in scattered papers. He seemed stressed, to put it lightly.

He glanced up. “Singh, you can leave them be.”

“Yes, sir.” The mage holding my wrists back let go and walked away.

“Alright, you two. Give me a brief status check.”

I blinked. “Like, of ourselves?”


“I got clawed by a werewolf and shot at by a bunch of spirits, but I’m still walking, so I’m alright.”

“I wasn’t hurt,” Aubrey added. She brushed a shard of a mirror off of her face, letting it clatter on the ground.

Milliheim nodded. “Shiera, if you don’t mind me asking, what else happened to your arm?”

I gave it a glance— the key magic had atrophied it somewhat, and black still leaked out of the cuts the werewolf had left. “I… It’s really complicated. I don’t want to get into it.”

“She had Sakira channel his magic through her to stop the spirits from entering the bunker,” Aubrey said.

“You’re still in contact with him?” His face shifted to something I hadn’t seen from him before. Was he angry at me?

“Well, I didn’t–”

“Then why didn’t you tell him to call the attack off?!”

“Let me finish!”

“No! You’ve just let several innocent students die from your ignorance! I will not excuse your behavior! Are you siding with him? Did he grant you his power so you could help him kill this institution one student at a time?!”

“I didn’t know! It only happened ‘cause the time travelers–”

“The time travelers were here to save us! Their plans only failed because you messed them up! Want to know how I know, Shiera? I know because they told me you would do this! And I thought you were better than that!”

Aubrey tried to intervene. “With all due respect, sir, they unleashed a werewolf on–”

“They did no such thing! They meticulously scouted every student for any sign of lycanthropy, all because of the bombing they went through! And because of you, that bombing has become our reality, too!”

“Milliheim! You can see the claw marks on my arm!” I cried.

“I can see the key magic in your arm! For all I know, you could be working with Sakira to fool me like Copper did!”

“I used it to save you! I used it to protect the school!”

“What, to gain my trust? To help convince me to raise an army of key-casting warlocks to overthrow the kingdom with?! Is that it, Ms. Beta? If the Queen could only see you now, staining her bloodline with your tricks and schemes!”

“Milliheim, we just got the reports back– Milliheim?” Marissa questioned, limping into the room holding a stack of papers. “Aubrey! Shiera! You made it!”

None of us spoke a word. Tensions were too high to give up ground like that. “I… walked in on something. Milliheim, here are your documents,” she whispered, holding out the papers for him to collect. He took a prolonged breath and took them.

When Marissa staggered off, Milliheim turned away from the two of us. He had his arms crossed behind his back, his gaze transfixed on the map of the continent displayed on the wall. “Until I see reason to revoke my judgment, you are both dishonorably discharged from the Atlas Student Body Military, and from Sector 53. You are dismissed.”

Aubrey tightened up, her lip quivering. “B-but–”

“Would you like an immediate expulsion, too?”

“…No, sir.”

“Good. Then you’re dismissed.”

As we stepped out of the room, I noticed Aubrey was beginning to tear up. I wanted to talk to her, to cheer her up somehow, but I didn’t have the words. She had always cheered me up, never the other way around. We just walked in silence to the hospital quarter.

When we arrived, I found where Marissa had gone— she was still treating her injured shin, focusing magenta light into her leg. “Hey. What were you guys talking about over there? I’ve never heard Milliheim like that.”

I swallowed. “He’s… he thinks it’s all our fault this happened.” Aubrey said nothing and rubbed away her tears.

“It’s been a rough night for him. For all of us, actually. He’ll understand tomorrow morning.”


“By the way, what the heck happened to your arm? Did you get hit with key magic?”

“I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

“You didn’t… cast it, did you?”

“…I didn’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Marissa looked away. “No wonder he thinks it’s your fault.”

“I stopped the spirits from getting into the bunker, okay? That’s what I did with it. And suddenly I’m the bad guy.”

She gave me a strong stare. “You don’t just use key magic, alright? I know you don’t get it, because you’re not from here, I know, but it just doesn’t work like that. Key magic is a slippery slope. It’s taboo for a reason.”

I sighed. “I was just trying to keep you guys safe.”

“There were better ways.”

I turned to Aubrey, who was still silent. “…you alright?”

She looked back at me. I could feel her distress— she looked torn. “I’m fine.” No accent.

“Aubrey?” Marissa asked. “Did you get hurt?”


“So you don’t need healing?”

“No.” Her responses were faint.

“Alright. Shiera, sit down so I can get your arm.”

I got on the ground and held out my arm for her, pulling back my sleeve. She set one hand on my wrist and the other on my elbow, and began channeling magenta.

“Walk me through how you got this messed up.”

“The time travelers threw a werewolf at us when we were guarding the Mirror Hall. I got clawed by it, it got through and destroyed the shield generator.”

“That’s how the shields went down,” Marissa said.

“And then Aubrey and I ran all the way here.”

The key magic in my arm began to fade away into glowing white wisps— the magenta slowly healed the claw marks, my skin and muscles mending themselves back together. It hurt pretty badly, but I’d endured worse.

When she was done, there were four slightly darker marks dragged across my arm. “Are those scars?”


“Why doesn’t the magenta heal the scars?”

“It just speeds up the healing process, it doesn’t get rid of the end product. That’s why it hurts so bad. You’re feeling all the pain you would have over the entire healing time in just a few seconds.”

“Oh, okay.”

“And, lucky for you, the key magic went away fast. It usually overpowers the effects of other types of magic.”

“Why would my own magic affect me?”

“…Why wouldn’t it? I mean, you can fly, right? That’s your own magic affecting you.”

“Huh, I guess it is.”

I told you it was strange, Shiera.

I’m not in the mood for ‘I told you so’.

That wasn’t how I meant for it to come off. You clearly have something… different going on with your magic. You’re not immune to your own magic, because you can float, you can change your own gravity, and all that. So what’s going on?

Internal monologues are supposed to be internal.

I figured you’d want to be in the know about yourself, is all. I already couldn’t figure you out before, but this is an enigma.

You can solve that on your own time. I’m gonna check on Kori.

“Shiera, are you alright? You look like you just saw a ghost.”

“I’m good, yeah.” I stood back up, and she began healing her shin again. “Before I go, what happened to your leg?”

“Bullet. Aka wasn’t there, so we got blown up. I think we’re all safe, except him.”

“He was in Arenamega.”

“Doing what?”

“Dueling one of the time travelers. The backup shields didn’t work, so he… probably lost.”

Marissa nodded. “He’s super strong. Like, you wouldn’t know it, but he’s one of the best casters in Dianoct. He’s been practicing since he was five, or something crazy like that. One of my biggest inspirations. If he lost, he’s definitely not dead. The recon team’ll find him.”

“What about Aaron? Where’s he?”

“He helped fend off the spirits while we ran. He’s probably still fighting right now. He’s one of the most courageous guys I know. He’s super annoying about it, but, like, he’d never run from a fight, you know? He’s a good commander.”

“Who all made it back here?”

“From Sector 53?”


“Me, Aubrey, you, Wes, Reyna, and… that’s… it. I guess Sydney’s gone, too.”

“Alright, uh… I’m gonna go check on Kori, if that’s alright. Do you know where he is?”

“Ask a receptionist. They brought him down.”


I hit up the receptionist desk to find a dejected young man working it. Aubrey had followed me quietly instead of staying with Marissa. “Hello…” the receptionist said drearily.

“Hey, I was wondering about Kori Beta.”


“Uh… fuck, I never got one.”

“…Sorry, uh, just give me your name, then.”

“Shiera Beta. I’m his sister.”

He typed something into a laptop. “It’ll take a bit to come up. It’s on low battery so we can make it last.”

We don’t have power down here. Makes sense. “You alright?” I asked the receptionist.

“I… I’m okay. It’s just hard without my partner.”

“What happened?”

“She didn’t make it into the bunker. She usually does all the hard parts of the receptionist job. I… hope she’s okay.”

“What was her name?”

“Virien Nikita. She was on the data team. Have you seen her?”

“No, I don’t really know where the data team works. If I did, I would’ve checked for you.”

“It’s alright. She’s smart. She’ll probably hide.” A small blip sounded from the laptop. “Oh, okay. Yeah, you have clearance to visit Kori.”

I looked down the hallway. “What room’s he in?”

“First one on the right. They couldn’t keep him under when they transported him, so he might be awake. Definitely not a werewolf anymore, though.”


“Oh, and your friend here, the Vurainoga. Is she with you?”

“Her name’s Aubrey. And yeah.”

“Alright. You can go on ahead.”

We walked into the hallway and eventually found the first room after rounding a bend. Naturally, the door had no windows, being made of stone, so I went to open it.

“Hey, Shiera.” Aubrey mumbled.


“I’m sorry I told Milliheim about the key magic.”

“Hey, don’t apologize for that. He was gonna get mad at me either way.”

“And I’m sorry I couldn’t hit the werewolf.”

“Aubrey, it’s okay, really. That’s not your fault.”

“No. I didn’t look at the attack plan all the way through. I didn’t suspect the travelers like you and Aka did. I couldn’t stop the werewolf from destroying the shields. I couldn’t even stop you from getting hurt.”

I looked over at her. She was crying again, more this time, trying to maintain composure. “Aubrey…”

“I messed it all up. I let the school get destroyed. I let people die, all because I couldn’t aim a frickin’ axe right! What kind of general am I?”


“Why am I so useless? I could barely even help you! I’ve been here for years! Why can’t I get anything right?! Why can’t I save anyone?! Why can’t I–”

I wrapped my arms around her in a tight embrace. I could feel the shards of glass stuck in her arms and in her back, but that didn’t matter to me. I didn’t think it mattered to her, either.

“Trust me, Aubrey. It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay.”

She sobbed into my shoulder, returning my embrace. She didn’t need to say anything else.

We stood there for a while.

When Aubrey had finished crying, she backed away and wiped her eyes. “…Thank you, Shiera.”

“You too.”

“I’m gonna go talk to Marissa so you can be alone with Kori, if that’s okay.”


She turned and began to walk away. “Before I forget,” she said, sniffling, “Shiera, you’re amazing, okay? Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not.”

She rounded the corner before I had the chance to respond. I rubbed my eyes and opened the door into Kori’s room.

“Yeah. I took the medicine. Jeez, why do you keep– oh, you’re not the doctor.” Kori was sitting on his bed, a cup of water in hand. His hair still had streaks of silver, and his eyes were still amber.

I closed the door behind me. “I don’t think I am.”

“Wait, Shiera?”

I blinked. “No. I’m just your other twin sister.”

He scratched the back of his head. “Damn, your hair got a lot messier. Did you forget to brush it again?”

“No, I just haven’t had a haircut in a month. And, uh, speak for yourself.” His hair was longer than mine.

“What? We both went and got ours on Wednesday, remember?”

I smiled and let out a sigh. Oh boy. “You were out for, like, a month.”

“Oh. It… didn’t feel that long.”

“Yeah, being unconscious wouldn’t really feel very long, would it?”

“I had a weird dream, though.”

“Your dreams are always weird.”

“Okay, so, I woke up on this weird balcony, right? It was, like, super windy, and the sky was weird and purple and stuff. And you were there, I think. You were telling me not to look down.”

“Did you look down?”

“Well, I, uh, I tried not to. But when I stepped forward, I heard a crack, so I ended up looking anyway. And yeah, the entire thing was made of glass. Why would anyone make a balcony out of glass?”

Makes more sense if you don’t have legs, I guess. “Dreams can be weird. Did you fall?”

“I kind of remember starting to fall. I don’t know. I started getting stressed out, and I just sorta blacked out.”


“So, yeah, uh… where am I? The doctor keeps telling me to do weird shit. Like, last time he came in here, he gave me medicine that he said would make me feel stressed for a little bit. I did, and yeah, it, uh, it did that. I don’t know why he made me do that.”

I struggled to come up with a response. “Um. You got kidnapped or something in your sleep, and the school thinks you got genetically experimented on. They’re testing everything to make sure you’re all fixed up.”

“That’s… weird. So we’re still at the war school then?”

“Well, I wasn’t just gonna leave without you.”

Kori lowered his eyebrows and smirked. “Bullshit. You totally would’ve done that.”

I laughed. “Yeah. I would’ve.”

“So what went down with that war thing? The commander guy with the blonde hair was talking to me about it at the announcement. Did you know the Queen is, like, two thousand years old?”

“She’s also our ancestor.”

“Sweet! So we’re royalty?”


“Aw. Well, uh, what happened with the war?”

“You got captured to use as a bargaining token with the Queen. I got drafted into the military and went in to save you.”

“So, uh, we’re in a stone bunker right now, and the doctor’s doing weird shit, and everyone’s running around, so I’m gonna guess you failed…?”

“No, we’re at Atlas right now. Just, uh, a really bad time to wake up. Kind of a terrorist attack going on.”

“Is that normal?”

“Definitely not.”

“Cool. So I guess you can do magic now?”

I shrugged. “Eh. Kind of. I just got discharged for using black magic. So I guess, yeah.”

“Oh. Okay. Yeah, that’s normal.”

“Yeah, like I said. Really bad time to wake up.”

“So I guess the spirits are still trying to kill the humans?”

“Oh, that. Uh… it’s complicated. ‘Cause, like, yeah, they’re bombing the school right now, but it’s kind of out of obligation, because of some weird time travel shit. I know Sakira wants to negotiate for peace.”

“Sakira? Is that their leader?”

“Yeah. He’s also the one who captured you.”

“Oh. That sucks, I guess.” He took a deep breath and shook his head, ruffling the sheets on the hospital bed. “Sorry, it’s just a lot to take in.”

“You’ll figure it out.”

“If you figured it out, I’ll be totally fine.”

“Okay, mister half-a-brain.”

“Okay, miss got-a-64-in-an-on-level-history-class.”

“Hey, I have an 85 in war history. I’m working on it.”

“Good for you.”

Short of conversation topics, we just stared at each other for a little bit. We did that a lot as kids. I noticed his hospital gown was coated with magenta magic, likely to accelerate his healing. I had broken his rib, after all, and–

“You blinked.”


“You might know magic, but I know the ancient techniques of not blinking! Take that!”

“This bullshit is why I hate you so much.”

“I don’t know… you’ve been smiling the whole time…”

“Get over here, idiot.”

He slid off the bed and gave me a quick hug. “I bet you didn’t miss me at all.”

“Nope. I only got you back for political reasons.”


As we talked, the intercom clicked on. Kori’s hospital room was pretty small and made of the same stone as the rest of the bunker, so the echo was deafening. “The attack has now concluded. Anyone willing to help with reconstruction can talk to the mages on the surface. Thank you for doing your part to keep Atlas safe for everyone.”

“We should help with that,” I suggested.


“Talk to the mages, I guess.”

“No, like, how am I gonna help anyone? I don’t have magic.”

“Oh, I don’t think they cleared you to leave the hospital wing yet.”

“Whoops. Yeah. Duh.”

“So I’ll go help with that, and you stay here and wait on your doctor again.”

“Woo, can’t wait. Guess I’ll, uh, see you, then?”

“Yeah. See you.”



I closed the door.

Meaningless, mediocre, rude.

But when it counts, I’m here for you.


AIM would take some time to rebuild. It wasn’t a smooth process, by any means, and because school was technically still in session, it became even more of a hassle. But all of it showed our resilience, even through tragedy.

The recon team scouted out the ruins in search of unconscious and deceased students. They found seventeen casualties in total— seventeen more than should have died that day, as Milliheim put it.

Aaron DeAndrick was found knocked out under a pile of debris with several bones broken. While recovering, he admitted to having run from the fleets of spirits— something which Milliheim would have revoked his title for, if he’d had a suitable replacement.

Unfortunately, three students were never found after the Strike was done and through. Virien Nikita, a member of the data team, had gone missing when the command offices were invaded by spirits. Sydney Wilron had been captured while on recon. And Aka Cryojen, who would have become the new head commander, was never found after his fight in Arenamega.

It wasn’t easy, but Atlas moved on. Classes normalized and extracurriculars resumed. Recon moved from the ruins of Atlas to the outskirts, then into Sakeru, the spirits’ territory. There was still some hope the missing students were alive, but knowing the deal I’d made with Sakira, I doubted it.

A memorial was dedicated to those who had died in the Strike, as they called it. They commemorated it next to the memorial plaque in the ruins of the Mirror Hall, which the school board had decided to leave untouched. I would never see that tessellated infinity ever again.

As for us, the students… Well, not much has changed. Aubrey still puts on that goofy southern accent for who knows why, Marissa still practices her magic for hours on end, and Aaron’s still a mansplaining jackass. The Strike couldn’t take everything from us.

As long as we trust in one another, we can rebuild from any setback. Really, we can do anything we set our minds to. But that’s not just limited to some school of magic. That’s the way we work. That’s what makes us human.

We just have to stand together.

-Tetraprisma: Chromatic-

The End

Hello, reader. I thank you for reading mine and Shiera’s story to a close.

But our experience was but one chapter in this world we call Dianoct. There is always another story to be told, a new story of our dreams.

As one story ends, another begins. The story of Atlas will continue in Tetraprisma: Backtrack.


Slashed Ink.
Steward McOy