THE SENTIENT CUMULUS SOARED over Marlia City in the sky above. The four teens peered down at the busy streets and took in the lights, vehicles, and folks flying below them. Seeing how vast and busy it was from so high up reminded them of how insignificant they truly were. Three of them had lived in this city for years and had never seen such a view from this vantage point. Needless to say, they were completely taken aback.
“Whoa!” Hotaru marveled at the view from above.
The blue-haired girl smiled. “It’s somethin’ else, innit?”
“Yes, it is!” bubbled Chiaki as she held onto her hat. “I’ve never been this high up before! This is completely different than riding on a broom.” She turned to the girl. “You know, if you were lost, you could’ve had Max take you to school.”
“Really? Wouldn’t I need a flying permit for that?”
“Mm-mm.” She shook her head. “That law only applies to witches. Over the decades, there have been many broom-flying accidents, so we young witches aren’t permitted to fly in Holy Kingdom territory until we’re sixteen.”
“Huh.” The blue-haired girl sighed and pursed her lips, seemingly annoyed at herself for not knowing this sooner. Chiaki understood what it was like being in a brand new place, especially somewhere as big as Marlia City. She recalled being turned around more times than she could count during her two-month excursion at Hullington Primary Academy. If it weren’t for meeting Hotaru, Will, and John, she’d probably still be all alone in Wiccastrea.
Chiaki then glanced over to Will. On the surface, the boy appeared to have resumed his usual stoic demeanor. But…his eyes. Something about them rang unusual, something she’d never seen before. Guilt washed over her. Had she known he was experiencing such inner turmoil, she would have recognized the emotional weight of seeing the Monarchs and would not have snapped at him in the way she did.
But still…she couldn't get over what she had seen. She hadn’t had a vision in years, not since her time in Wiccastrea. This one, however, was not as vivid. It came to her in increments, but even those few pieces were enough to make her heart race.
She clenched her left hand tightly in front of her chest. I can’t let it come true, she told herself. Not again… With so few details shown to her, she had no clue as to how she could prevent a potential tragedy. Her friends meant the world to her… If anything were to happen to them, she would...
The blue-haired girl cleared her throat, pulling Chiaki away from her thoughts. “Ahem. Well, seein’ as we’ll be up here for a while, we should take this time to get to know one another. That and I’d also like to know the names of my saviors. That okay with youse guys?”
The other three exchanged glances and nodded. Chiaki straightened her hat, taking this as her cue to begin.
“My name is Chiaki Sakaki. I’m a witch from the Flaystein Coven in the Witch Isles of Wiccastrea.” She glanced over to her friends and smiled gently. “Though my parents were against it, I ultimately chose to forego my final year at Green Man’s Academy of Witchcraft so I could attend secondary school with my friends here in Marlia City.”
“Chiaki…” The blue-haired girl repeated the name to herself before finally nodding. “Cute name.”
Chiaki blushed. It was the same thing John, his brother, Hotaru, and Will had all said about her name when they first met. And the pattern seemed to be continuing here.
“Ain’t it?!” Hotaru chimed in. “Feel free to call her Chi-Chi if you like.”
“—!” Chiaki turned beet red and fixed her best friend with a stony glare. “Q-Quiet, you!”
She reached over to try and bonk Hotaru on the head, but even aboard this cumulus cloud with so little space, the smaller girl evaded the blow with relative ease and grinned playfully.
“Sweet! So you’re from the Flaystein Coven, huh?” The blue-haired girl looked Chiaki over. “Whenever witches are brought up, the Flaysteins usually get the spotlight.”
I doubt it's for good reasons.
With Chiaki’s introduction finished, everyone’s eyes were now on Hotaru. Slightly taken aback by this, she smiled sheepishly.
“Oh! ‘Kay, so, I’m Hotaru. Hotaru Hyakuya! Born and raised here in Marlia City. I was born with superhuman strength and durability…” She flexed her arms for emphasis. “...and I’m currently training to get even stronger!”
“And it shows!” the blue-haired girl beamed. “You were awesome back there!”
“Hey, don’t go gassing her head up.” Will finally broke his silence, sounding more like his old self. “You do that, next thing you know, she’ll try and stop a runaway monorail or catch an airship out of the sky.”
Hotaru puffed her cheeks. “Oh, come on! Even I know I’m not that strong…” She paused, her eyes darting mischievously before raising her index finger. “...Not yet.”
The boy sighed and Chiaki giggled. It seemed the Will they knew and loved had returned.
“Ah, so you wanna be as strong as the Four Pillars or Phoenix headmaster Blûd Payne?” The blue-haired girl leaned in closer, captivated by what she was hearing.
Hotaru’s grin grew wider. “Even stronger!”
The blue-haired girl nodded. “Well, I’m looking to get stronger, myself. Think you and I could spar sometime in the near future?”
Hotaru’s eyes lit up at the prospect. “Oh, hell yeah! You’re on!”
Chiaki shook her head but she couldn’t stop the smile forming on her lips. Hotaru had finally found a new sparring buddy besides Will or John.
After a brief pause, Will straightened up. “William B. Fox. I was born in Brookville, but I’ve been going to school in Marlia City since Hullington Primary. That’s how I met these girls. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m a gyromancer, the rarest of the four Celestial Arts.”
“Incredibly so!” approved the blue-haired girl. “So, is it a bloodline thing, or did you learn it through training?”
His expression darkened a bit. “Bloodline. My… My father was born with it…”
“Oh, I see. You were pretty cool, too!” Her praise was short-lived upon noticing his dismay. She then changed the subject. “S-So your middle initial. What does the ‘b’ stand for?”
Her face glowed again. “Epic!”
He averted his gaze. “You…think so?”
Well now… Chiaki thought her eyes were deceiving her. Only Hotaru and herself could make Will—a well-known stoic—blush like that, but here came this new girl, charming it up like a storm and making it look easy.
Oh, my…She grinned to herself. What do we have here?
“Guess that just leaves me.” The blue-haired girl folded her legs, placing a hand on her chest. “My name is Daytona Fields. I’m an Electro mage. As you can guess from my surname, I was born in the Great Forest of Everwood, the Eternal Fields to be exact. I grew up in Lotan, New Dragonia, though, so I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an Everwoodian. You lot may have already figured it out based on my appearance…” She reached up and ran a hand through her teal blue hair. Her index finger rested on her yellow lightning bolt strand. “But I am the illegitimate child of a noble. A noble who belonged to the House of Mazin!”
Chiaki frowned at her use of the past tense. “Belonged?”
“Yeah, my mum. She passed away shortly after I was born.” Daytona pointed to her Minerva tank top. “This belonged to her. It’s all I have to remember her by.”
“Oh…” Chiaki pursed her lips and bowed slightly. “My condolences.”
“Yeah, same here.” Hotaru nodded with an understanding expression on her face. One that Chiaki and Will were all too familiar with.
“Ditto,” Will said. “Not getting the chance to meet one of your parents, that's…” He paused. There was a look in his eyes that told Chiaki he was speaking from the heart. “That’s gotta be rough.”
“Thanks, you guys. When I learned of her death, it tore me apart for a while…but I’m fine, now.” Daytona smiled brightly. Perhaps an attempt to conceal her melancholy. “Besides, my da’s done a damn good job raising me on ‘is own!”
“Oooh, what’s he like?” Hotaru asked.
“He’s…” Daytona paused as if carefully considering her answer, before finally speaking up. “He’s just some big jolly bloke who lives in the forest. Likes to wrestle all kinds o’ bears. Drop bears, grizzlies, short faces, you name it.”
“Is he an Electro mage, too?” inquired Chiaki.
“Oh, yeah! He’s the best, in fact! Stronger than any mage from House Mazin or McDonald alive today.”
Hotaru’s blue eyes lit up once more. “Ooh, he sounds awesome!” She pumped her fists.”If he’s that strong, I’d love to spar against him one day!”
“Hey, now,” Daytona chuckled. “You’re pretty strong, but my da’s as tough as they come.”
“That only makes me wanna spar with him more!”
Chiaki laughed. “Looks like you two are hitting it off just fine.” Her eyes settled on her spheric wristwatch. The Chrono sprite imbued into the device stood in the center, its right hand counted the hours while its left managed the minutes.
“7:23…” She returned her gaze to the others. “We should probably be on our way to school, you guys.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” Daytona then turned to Will. “I’ll have Max drop you off, first then. Phoenix Academy is southwest of Requiem, innit?”
“Yeah,” Will confirmed with a nod. “I appreciate it.”
“No, problem. Max! Set course for Phoenix Military Academy!”
As Max began its route down Hullington Road, Daytona suddenly hammered her fist into her palm.
“Oh! I was hopin’ I’d run into some Requiem schoolmates.” She unwrapped her Requiem blouse from around her waist, holding it up to the others. “Cuz I’ve got a bit of a problem on my hands.”
Hotaru and Chiaki gasped as they got a good look at the blouse. If one could even call it that anymore. Half of the cloth was already burned to a crisp, the Requiem emblem had nearly melted, and only the top part retained its signature purple color.
Chiaki was at a loss for words. After a few moments of struggling to come up with something, she decided to simply speak from the heart.
“How did this happen and why?”
Embarrassed, Daytona’s cheeks flushed. “W-Well, as I’ve said, I’m an Electro mage and um…Every so often, whenever I’m doing any mundane chores involving electricity, like ironing, my mana pool kinda sorta…goes friggin’ haywire!” She held up the rag again. “Exhibit A.”
Chiaki put a hand to her chin. “Hmm…” If the accident had occurred not too long ago, then the blouse wasn’t beyond saving. “How long has it been since then? Do you recall the approximate time?”
“Mmm, yesterday evening, around…I wanna say…7:45 PM?”
“Nine hours and twenty-two minutes since then…” She mulled it over some more. Finally, she turned to the blue-haired girl, a look of determination settled in her eyes.
“I can fix it.”
Daytona’s eyes went wide. “Y-You can?”
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