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Chapter 2: Angelique

Author’s note: I love to read what you thought of this chapter. Don’t be afraid to leave a comment, I don’t bite ;)

“Why does time in the Academy pass so slowly?” I complained. It was lunchtime, three days after the start of the Academic year. And it was steadily getting more and more boring. Aside from Lily’s questionable pranks on both me and Angelique. She seemed to have grown a grudge against me, probably because I went against her will on the first day of school. Oh well. I could handle it.

However, Angelique wasn’t so lucky. Every day, the girl looked a bit more stressed out. Yesterday, she came to school and the tips of her squid-tentacles were coloured brown. When Tanya asked her about it, she said it was due to stress from living a new life here at the Academy. But I knew better. I saw how Lily followed her after school. I still didn’t know what the redhaired vixen did then, but it couldn’t be anything pleasant, I knew that for certain.

Today was no exception.

Lunch hadn’t even begun for ten minutes and while I was digging into my food, I saw Angelique running off. A set of painful wooden clothespins bit into the tentacles braided into her seaweed-coloured hair. I’ve heard that tentacles of merfolk acted like feelers on some occasions, and were sensitive, so that must’ve hurt a lot. Lily’s laughter echoed throughout the lunch hall. I clicked my tongue and put my food away.

After I cleaned my own plate, I followed the girl throughout the hallway. I found her crying on the roof as she looked out over the city. Her entire body shook with every sob as tears trailed along the slime-covered tentacles framing her face.

“Angelique?” I carefully asked. The girl shrieked when she heard my voice and quickly turned around. She looked very afraid. Each step I took to get closer to her, she shuffled backwards. Until she couldn’t go further back anymore. With her back against the fence, she collapsed and started crying again.

“H-Hey, don’t cry. I’m not here to hurt you. Let me see your tentacles.” That stopped her bawling. She looked at me through the wet tresses of her tentacles. I knelt right in front of her. When she had calmed down enough, I touched one of her tentacles. Cold and slimy, but not uncomfortable. The girl blushed when she noticed how I took one of the clothespins and pulled it away from her sensitive tentacles.

“W-Why are you helping me? Aren’t you afraid of Lily’s wrath?” I scoffed. I didn’t mind being the target of her pranks: I could handle it. It wouldn’t be the first time I was the target of bullying. However, Angelique wasn’t able to cope with it.

“Afraid? Of her? No, she’s an asshole. I know I’m better than her.” I mumbled. I’d almost removed every clothespin I found. The girl mumbled a soft thank-you as she caressed her tortured tentacles. I heard her whimper each time she touched the swollen spots where the clothespins were.

“You alright now?” I asked. Angelique nodded and rubbed the remains of her tears from her face. She even flashed me a soft smile before she stood back up. She sighed.

“We’ve got practical again…” She mumbled. I nodded. Tanya kept her out of practice sessions for the past few days after her spell went haywire on the first day of school. But today, she needed to train alongside the rest of the students again. Otherwise, she would be too far behind on the rest. Not that I fared any better: I still couldn’t form any spells without the being of my Mark devour every single bit of my magic circle.

“Yeah. Are you afraid?” I asked while I took a place beside her. Angelique recoiled away from me, but when she noticed I wasn’t about to pull any pranks, she visibly relaxed.

“Yeah.” The squid-girl nodded. “I still can’t use my powers. In fact, I’d rather not have them at all…” She whispered. Her voice sounded soft, and kind. I took a good look at her. She wasn’t really suited for combat, that’s for sure: she’s too kind to try and hurt anyone.

“But isn’t it exciting? I mean, you have unique powers that no one else has. You’ve got to be happy about that.” I tried. The girl just shrugged. After Angelique sighed, she shook her head and looked up at the sky.

“Maybe. But every time I use my powers, it burns me. I wanted a Mark with aquatic powers, not one that can burn anything it touches. Including me.” Ah. She’s afraid to hurt herself and others. The seaweed-haired girl leaned back and sighed.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever come to terms with my powers. Have you seen Lily or the teacher’s powers? They are so strong and can control it fairly well and here I am… Afraid to use my powers.” She explained. I shook my head.

“Don’t think that way. You can form magic circles, even if you can’t control them very well. I can’t even do that.” I countered. The girl chuckled softly. I stood up when I heard the lunch bell tolling in the distance.

“Come on. Let’s go. If your spell goes haywire, I’ll try to protect you, okay? No promises though, I don’t really have faith in my own strength.” Angelique chuckled softly before she stood up as well. She dusted herself off while her eyes gazed at the training field.

“That’s nice of you to say, Carnel.” The girl smiled before she walked alongside me. Her presence alone was quite soothing, even if she didn’t say a lot. Soon, we arrived at the training field. The rest of the class was already there. Including Lily, who shot both of us a nasty glare.

“All right, now that everyone is present… I’ll summon my mud army again. This time, I want to see more controlled magic circles, understood?” The teacher glanced over at Angelique, who gulped and nodded. Lily scoffed and walked away. A mud doll rose out of the ground right beside her.

“Hmph, pathetic.” She degraded the doll. The scarlet-haired vixen took a swift step forwards before she grabbed the muddy head with both her hands. I saw her eyes light up in a hot pink colour before a magic circle appeared in her irises.

The mud doll, previously moving on its own accord with uncontrolled flailing, stood still. It looked at Lily, like it expected something. The redhaired woman waved her hand, which caused the doll to nod and immediately storm off to fight its former brethren. On its back, a magic circle shone. I saw the dark red of the Devil Marking, then the light purple of psychokinesis. However, I didn’t recognize the third part of the magic circle: The symbols were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. In a book or in real life.

“Suprised?” Lily asked.” This is the magic my Devil Mark granted me: mind manipulation.” She proudly continued. So that’s what she tried to do to me. But my Mark devoured her spell before she could complete her magic circle…

“Huh. Any other spells?” I asked her. The redhaired girl’s face tensed up. She looked around, trying to find something that could bring this conversation to an end. Sadly for her, Tanya heard it all.

“No. Remarkably, Lily has a Mark that doesn’t allow her to use any other magic than psychokinesis. Instead, it gives her heightened physical capabilities. Harder kicks and punches and whatnot.” Lily scoffed. Her face revealed her feelings, even if she didn’t want to say anything: this conversation wasn’t going the way she wanted it to.

“That wasn’t necessary, Tanya!” The redhead complained. However, the fact that she didn’t use the correct title brushed the teacher the wrong way.

“Is that so? Well, if you used the correct form to speak to me, I was willing to forgive your transgression. However, now that you didn’t… Follow me to my office, young lady!” The blonde butterfly-woman ordered. Lily grumbled as she contemplated just running away and ignoring the professor. However, Tanya must’ve guessed that the woman wanted to try that and quickly summoned some walls to block off all her routes.

“No running. Right this way, now!” She ordered. The redhead sighed. After throwing Angelique and I a foul gaze, she followed the teacher inside.

“Well, that happened. Right, shall we get on with it then?” I said. Angelique nodded before she formed her magic circle. I noticed the golden glow of an Angelic Mark surrounding the fire-red glow of a fire spell. Then, the third part of the spell appeared. I recognized it as the symbols needed to summon up a small fireball. However, the symbols just formed or something forced them to change.

“There it is again!” Angelique panicked. I saw her Mark, which was on her right cheek, light up in a copper colour. It looked like a wing, with flames spouting out from every possible side. Her spell morphed as I saw the symbols change from accommodating a normal fireball to something called… ‘Righteous Inferno’?

“Oh no!” Those were the only words the seaweed-haired girl could say before a massive flame stretched to the sky. It was the same spell that chased me on the first day of school. I saw how Angelique was starting to freak out.

“Calm down! Your fear is only making it worse!” I yelled over the howling of the flames. But the girl didn’t listen, or was unable to. The flames curled and turned towards us. They approached at an alarming speed. I saw the magic circle on Angelique’s hands: she was frozen with fear and unable to control her magic.

“Nothing for it!” I pepped myself up before I jumped towards her. Feeling the magic circle coming closer to me, the misty figure living inside of my Mark immediately licked its teeth and started chomping at the magic. However, since the circle already had been activated, it seemed to go slower than I anticipated.

“Come here!” I quickly grabbed Angelique, who stood stunned and in the direct path of her own spell before I pulled her close to me. She let out a surprised yelp, but I didn’t care. I turned my attention to the approaching flames. They were still getting closer, and my Mark wasn’t done yet with eating through the magic circle. Judging from its reaction, an already working magic-circle was really touch and chewy…

“Get on with it!” I yelled to the ghostly figure. Its red eyes glared at me before it started to chomp even faster. I felt the scorching heat radiating down my back, burning some of the hair on the top of my head. Finally, my Mark managed to chew through the magic circle and swallowed it whole. It licked its lips before it eagerly retreated into my body.

“Watch out!” Angelique hugged me tightly while her eyes went wide. I saw the reflection of the flames in her brown eyes and pulled her even closer. With my back first in its route, I would be scorched first. Luckily, the flames started to die out once my Mark had devoured the magic circle. At first, the change was minimal. But the farther the spell travelled, the weaker it became.

“That was close…” I said in a tired tone before falling to the ground. The only thing remained of Angelique’s misfire was only a small cinder, something that died out once it touched the muddy ground. The squid-girl let out a happy sigh before she sunk to the floor.

“Thanks for stopping the flames, Carnel.” She whispered. I nodded and pushed myself back on my feet. However, just as I stretched out, I felt a massive heatwave spreading throughout my body. I immediately collapsed again, as if somebody kicked me in the knees. My entire body felt like it was burning with the power of a thousand fireballs. My Mark shone in an eerie white colour.

Was this the payback of devouring a spell that was already in effect?, I wondered.

The pain and heat inside my body continued to grow, eating away at my nerves. Every inch of my skin felt like it was being scorched by the same flames my Mark just devoured. The grass around me wilted immediately while my body radiated a massive amount of heat.

“What’s wrong? Carnel?!” I heard Angelique’s voice in the distance while I desperately held on to my consciousness. After a gruelling five minutes, the flames inside me finally subsided. The heat radiating from my body died down as well. I felt sweat trickling down my back as my body slowly cooled down again.

“Carnel…?” Angelique carefully rubbed my right shoulder as I pushed myself on my knees. I rubbed the drool from my chin and tried to stand up. However, it felt like my muscles were fried. They didn’t react to any command I tried to give them. Guess I’ll have to wait until I cooled down some more, I reasoned.

“I-I’ll help!” The seaweed-haired girl said. Her voice sounded like she wouldn’t accept any counterarguments. She grabbed a couple of her slime-covered tentacles and draped them over my scorching-hot limbs. Her tentacles sizzled for a second before I felt how cool they were. The slime oozed over my skin, cooling it down. It actually felt good.

“Thanks, Angelique.” I said. I felt my power returning to my legs and stood back up. I saw Tanya standing a couple of feet further away, her gaze discerning every inch about me. I shrugged and checked my body: there didn’t seem to be any external injuries. Only the remaining warmth was a testament of what just happened.

“All right, that’s it for today, guys! Tomorrow will be your last day of your first school week, I expect you to do even better!” Tanya announced before she walked into the school building. I stretched my body before walking towards the exit of the Academy.

“P-Please… C-Can I walk with you to my dorm?” Angelique asked. I felt her soft, webbed hand around my right one. I remembered how she had been followed yesterday so I accepted. Her dorm wasn’t all that far: only two streets from the Academy. When we arrived, the girl thanked me with blushing cheeks.

“O-Oh, I know! H-Here’s my contact information. It’s fine if you don’t want that from me but---” I cut her off with a simple shake of my head.

“No, it’s fine!” She held out a metallic object I recognized as a Xenophone. It was a rather new piece of technology that allows people to talk to each on great distances. I swiped my own Xenophone on hers and a bleeping noise confirmed we had each other’s contact information.

“Well then, see you tomorrow!” I said before I turned around and went on my own way to my own home a couple of streets down the road. I heard Angelique’s soft voice behind me, but I couldn’t quite make out what. I waved back at her and returned to my own apartment for a quiet evening.

The next day, it was the last day of school in the week. That seemed to get the students rowdy. Well, louder than they already were, anyway. Our practical was the same as the four days before, yet there were way more mud dolls this time. Now that most of the students of my class started to understand where their strengths and weaknesses lied , they started to build their spelling-repertoire around that. However, I still couldn’t cast any spells since my Mark was still as hungry as ever.

Angelique however made more progress. Now that her fear of being roasted alive had been nullified somewhat, since she knew I would break her spell before that could happen, she seemed more comfortable around her own Mark. Albeit a little. At the end of the day, she was able to blast a single mud doll to pieces with a well-aimed fireball. Her smile was soothing to anyone who caught it.

“Did you see what I did, Carnel?!” She laughed proudly while we were going back to her dorm. Angelique looked like a completely different person now: her smile was truly a sight a to behold and that twinkle in her eyes made her look cute.

“Yeah, good job!” I answered with a smile. I was still bummed out when I remembered my failed attempts to form a proper magic circle. However, Angelique was way too happy to notice that, and I didn’t blame her. She was slowly getting over her fear of her Mark. Like she was accepting her destiny.

“Oh! D-D-Do you… Do you have any plans for tonight?” Angelique’s trademark shy stutter had returned. She fumbled her squid tentacles between her trembling fingers as she inspected the ground before her.

“No, why do you ask?” I responded. While I patiently waited for her answer, I leaned against a concrete pillar.

“W-Well… W-What would you think of… o-of… eating with me?” Her voice became softer and softer the further she got with her sentence. I frowned: this was a new experience. A girl asking me out?

“Sure, I don’t mind!” The girl happily smiled and giggled. She turned around and started a dash towards her apartment.

“P-Please wait here! I’ll go put on something more comfortable!” She said in a shy tone before she raced towards her dorm. I chuckled. That girl: shy and fumbling one moment, bold in the next. I guess that means she feels comfortable around me, I reasoned. It doesn’t feel bad to have someone that is comfortable around me… For once.

I waited five minutes. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Just as I started thinking the girl was pulling a fast one on me, my Xenophone rumbled in my back pocket. Angelique’s name appeared on it. I tapped the thing and placed it against my air. I was very careful not to touch it with my bare skin. Else, my mark would happily gobble it up again!

“Angelique? Where--?!’ Instead of her voice, I heard some screams, yells and rustling of clothes. I couldn’t quite make out what was happening on the other side. But it didn’t sound good. I heard a deep male voice echo at the other end. I couldn’t quite understand him, though.

“Carnel, help!” Her voice cut through the cacophony of sounds. Then, the connection got broken. A Xenophone always functioned on the user’s magic force, which was why it never caught on to the greater public. So that meant Angelique was unconscious right now or…

Not good. Not good at all.

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