“Mm-hmm. Let me have a look.” Upon touching the ruined blouse, Chiaki brought her hand down to the burned area. She opened her palm, closed her eyes, channeled her mana, and…
Suddenly, the blouse began to emit a bright golden aura. And then, from out of thin air, countless miniature clocks materialized around it, their hands dialing backward at a rapid pace.
“Wha…?” Daytona was beside herself. She turned to Hotaru. “Th-This is…”
“Yep!” Hotaru affirmed, nodding proudly. “Willy isn’t the only one here that can use a Celestial Art.”
“Gods…” Daytona exhaled. “A human girl with super strength, a gyromancer, and a chronomage all in one morning….” She shook her head in disbelief. “You lot are somethin’ else!”
Chiaki remained focused on the task at hand. As the seconds flew by, Daytona's blouse began to resemble its base form. The black burn marks faded and a familiar purple fabric began to weave itself back into place. The shielded Requiem emblem sewn on the breast pocket was no longer melted and looked far more presentable than it did previously.
7:47 PM…7:46 PM…7:45 PM!
It was finished. Chiaki interrupted the spell from going back any further and held up a short-sleeved Requiem uniform blouse similar to hers and Hotaru’s.
She peeked around it and smiled warmly. “There. Good as new!”
“Whoa…” Daytona took the blouse and looked it over. She felt around for burn marks with her thumbs, but there weren’t any to speak of. She finally glanced up at Chiaki, her eyes swam with tears. “Chiaki, I…I can’t tell you how much this was stressing me out.” She then smiled brightly and her yellow irises seemed to glow. “Thanks! I won’t ever forget this!”
“No problem,” beamed Chiaki. “Glad I could help.”
They were interrupted by the sound of an earsplitting roar. The foursome covered their ears and looked around for the source of the horrible sound.
“Ugh! What the hell was that?!” Hotaru, irritated, frantically searched for the source.
Daytona shrugged. “Whatever it was, it damn near blew out my eardrum! Anything you recognize, Chiaki?”
“Mmm, no clue. The loudest roar of any living mabeast would belong to a manticore, but that’s a land creature.”
Whatever had made that sound, it couldn’t have been from Terra’s ecosystem. When it came to magifauna, the children of the magical world were well-educated, from recognizing their cries to eating habits and even the markings of their territory. This was done to reduce the number of student fatalities over the previous decades.
This was a cry neither of them had ever heard in all their years of studying.
Could it have come from beyond The Yolk? That was a possibility, but it would not have gotten past the Zorro Unit, a group of mercenaries tasked with keeping an eye on The Yolk and its twelve warp zones for monster invasions. They've been doing it for so long that a blunder like this would be devastating to their reputation.
Just as Chiaki continued to wrack her brain on this matter, Will’s voice disrupted her thoughts. He pointed at something flying in the distance. A large, dark figure with matching dark wings was soaring in their general direction.
Will was the first to stand. He locked eyes with the creature, his gyro aura coursing through him.
“Yeah…” She stood beside him and assumed her fighting stance. “Daytona, Chiaki, get behind us.”
“W-Wait a second, you two!” Chiaki raised a hand in protest. “You might provoke it, like that. We don’t know what this creature is—”
With blinding speed, the thing soared straight at them, slamming into Max with great force.
Max cried out in pain and began to bounce, twist, and jerk in random directions. The sentient cumulus then did what they all feared, he tipped over. The four teens screamed and hollered as they struggled to hold on.
“Max, no!” Daytona was the first to lose her balance, she tried to grab onto the Max, but her hand only caught air.
“Shit, shit, shit!!”
The others watched in horror as their new friend began to descend hundreds of feet to the ground below.
As Chiaki and Hotaru cried out, Will didn’t hesitate. His aura had now engulfed his entire body. Using his feet to push against the air, he dove after her like an airstrike missile.
“Will, be careful!”
This is going against regulations, but I don’t have much choice!
Chiaki quickly opened a small rift and pulled out her trusty broom from her spatial pocket. Letting go of Max, she mounted the broomstick and then turned to reach out to her best friend.
“Hotaru, with me!”
“Mm!!” Still holding on to Max, the smaller girl nodded before grabbing Chiaki’s hand and hoisting herself onto the broom behind her.
“Hold on tight!”
“‘Kay!” She wrapped her arms around Chiaki’s waist.
As the two began their descent, they noticed that they were over Hullington Public Park. A few feet below them, Will had caught Daytona and was close to reaching the ground. Chiaki and Hotaru then turned their attention back to the sky.
“Hey, Chi-Chi…where did that thing, go?”
“That’s a good question. Keep your eyes peeled.”
They scanned the area around them, but the creature was nowhere to be found. Did it give up? Unlikely, Chiaki thought. Why go through the trouble of knocking us down if it didn’t plan to continue its assault?
Suddenly, a massive shadow loomed over them. Chiaki’s breath caught in her throat and the terror of the situation caused the hair on the back of her neck to stand on end.
I didn’t even hear it approach us!
Without a second thought, she accelerated and descended further, hearing a faint swipe at the air from behind them, narrowly avoiding a potential fatality. When they reached ground level, the girls dismounted the broom and ran across the grassy field and over to the concrete mage battlefields where their friends had landed.
“Are you guys alright?” worried Chiaki.
“Yeah…” With Daytona still in his arms, Will gently lowered her legs to the ground. She staggered, but he was there to catch her once more, slinging her arm over his shoulder.
“Th-Thanks, Will. That’s twice now you’ve saved my hide…” She grimaced. “Ow! My neck is killing me.”
Chiaki rushed over to Daytona and looked her over. “Hmm… Don’t move your head too much,” she warned. “That collision might’ve given you whiplash.”
Something massive slammed into the pavement just a few feet away. All four sets of eyes were drawn to the noise, landing on the creature. Initially, its appearance was indistinguishable, but its features were now much more visible. It stood well over seven feet tall. Its skin was almost obsidian. It had the head and upper torso of a human male, but everything below the belt favored beasts of various species. The creature’s eyes were sealed shut. It cocked its head and sniffed the air, as if trying to locate the teenagers in front of it, its neck creaking and snapping loudly as it moved to the left, then to the right.
Chiaki closed her eyes and placed two fingers on her chest. She quickly shuddered as the monster released a massive amount of magical energy. Its aura was hostile and red; most humanoid creatures couldn't handle such power. That is if said creature was conceived naturally in the first place.
“—Ah!” Chiaki felt a sense of dread as realization struck her. The monster suddenly emerged from out of nowhere. It managed to fly around undetected by any mercenaries or monster hunters. Not to mention its unusual mana pool and hastily thrown-together appearance.
There was only one name for such a being.
“It has to be a…a Chimera…”
A brief silence followed Chiaki's words. No one could refute her claim. Chimerization in modern times, on the other hand, was a shocking thing to witness as the practice had been outlawed for decades.
Then, as if things couldn't get any worse, the chimera's closed sockets snapped wide open.
Chiaki’s heart sank. No… No, it can’t be…
But it was. Her body trembled. She was seeing fragments of her jumbled vision come to life. The monster's eyes were large and bulbous…glowing a bright golden.
It’s happening…There’s no way to stop it…
Will guided Daytona over to Chiaki, ensuring she was secure before turning to face the chimera. He stepped forward and Hotaru joined him by his side.
“Hotaru, Will, what are you…?”
The two of them stopped, not taking their eyes off the monster. Will then raised his hands and a large purple barrier formed around the chimera, encapsulating it.
It flailed and circled inside the small space, trying to find a way out. When that venture failed, it began vigorously slamming its weight into the barrier in an attempt to break it.
“This thing...” Will began. There was clear anger in the boy's voice, his gyro mana still flowing around him. “Is it from the vision you had earlier, Chiaki?”
“Cuz if it is...” Hotaru pounded her fist into her open palm, her knuckles cracking. “Then best believe we're gonna kick its ass!!”
“You guys...” Her lip quivered, and tears welled up in her eyes. “I...” She knew they had been backed into a corner. She knew they had no other choice but to fight. And she knew her request was going to sound selfish and beyond anyone's power to fulfill, but still...she had to say it.
“Please don't... I can't lose you...either of you...”
“Chiaki…” Daytona placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“You’re not gonna lose us!” shouted Hotaru, turning to lock eyes with her best friend. “Mr. Pete has put Will and me through hell and back with his training, all to prepare us for moments like these! So please…” She gave a comforting smile. “Have a little faith in your friends, okay?”
“Hotaru…” Chiaki bit her lip, then hung her head low. She knew better than anyone that her friends had been undergoing rigorous training to become the best mages they could be. She knew that, yet here she was trying to baby them like they were still children. This burden wasn’t something she had to face alone…but the fear of losing them always seemed to creep back in.
She clenched her fists tight. Hotaru’s right…I need to have more faith. Alright then…
She swallowed, wiped away her tears, and then nodded. “Go get 'im,” she said with newfound confidence. “I’ll support you two from the rear!”
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