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Chapter 4: A deadly shopping trip

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 ;)

“Carnel! You’re awake!” Angelique’s big brown eyes suddenly clouded my vision. Her soft tentacles caressed my face: it honestly felt rather nice. She smiled when I nodded softly. I tried pushing myself up, but the squid-girl held me down.

“You need to rest. Your body has suffered severe burns and cuts. The doctors said it’ll take about a week for you to fully heal.” She said while she caressed my bandaged hands. I saw how her arms were covered in bandages, along with some of her tentacles tenderly wrapped in soft gauze.

“And you? How’re you feeling?” I answered. I was shocked to hear my own voice; I sounded so weak! The girl smiled and shushed me to silence.

“Nothing that can’t be healed. You’ve taken far more damage since I held you underwater for too long.” That’s right, I realized. I passed out when Angelique swam us both to safety. The rest after that was just a black hole.

“Right… Tell me, what happened after we ditched the old man?” I asked. Angelique tapped her chin as she recalled the events of the past night.

“Well… After I swum for a while, I arrived in the mainstream river that runs through the city. I followed it and jumped when I reached the Academy. From there, I carried you to the hospital.

“…You’re really amazing, you know that?” I commented. It was quite a feat to drag a human for so long underwater, let alone carrying them five streets further to bring them to a hospital. My squid-like companion blushed and shifted on her chair.

“No… we did it together, you know? If you hadn’t shown up with that weird old man… I don’t even want to think about the outcome.” She shivered. I caressed her shoulder to make her feel better until a deep bong echoed from the hospital hallway.

“Oh, seems visiting hours are over. Please, Carnel, get better soon, okay? I’ll come back tomorrow to visit after school.” Angelique promised before she left my hospital room. And she meant that.
Every evening, the seaweed-haired girl visited me with fresh fruit while she vividly told about the things she experienced that day. She seemed so much happier than when I first met her. Her happiness was infectious.

Normally, I would be out of the hospital in a couple of days. But whenever the doctors wanted to use their magic to heal me, my Mark would activate and gobble up all magic. My Mark’s beast seemed happy enough, though. So I had to rely on salves and my own body’s strength.

And soon….

“Okay, Sir. You’re dismissed!” The secretary at the entrance of the hospital said to me. It had been a full week since I had been outside. Almost no marks were left on my body, only the remainders of some scars.

When I walked outside, I felt a cool breeze roll over my face. It was almost winter now, wasn’t it? I smiled: I always loved the winter.

Not much people were out and about on this nightly hour. I walked back to my own room. It was Friday, so school would not resume until Monday. While I was contemplating what to do during the weekend after processing my schoolwork, I felt a chill travel across my back.

It isn’t that cold, I reasoned. What was that?

I looked around and noticed that there weren’t any people or vehicles around me. Only an empty, desolate street. Suddenly, I heard a rustle behind me. Cloth rubbing against skin. I jumped forwards. Right in time before a fist smashed the pavement to pieces.

“What the fuck, lady?!” I yelled loudly at the person that attacked me. Somehow, she reminded me of someone… She had deep green hair and big, blue eyes. Scales adorned her skin with a powerful fishy tail swaying behind her.

“You! You hurt her, didn’t you?!” Without waiting for an answer, she charged forwards and tackled me. All air got knocked out of my lungs before I rolled aside. Another punch smashed into the pavement and cracked it.

“The fuck are you talking about, woman?! I don’t even know you!” I yelled. I turned around and dashed away. The woman immediately followed me. And she was a lot faster than me!

Too fast!, I realized as she caught me in a matter of seconds. When I saw her hand rearing back for another punch, I crossed my arms in front of me to protect me. However, they froze in place midway through.

“Time lock!” I saw an Angelic magic circle hovering above the woman. However, my Mark’s being was totally incapacitated; I couldn’t move my arms!

“Mother, stop!” A familiar voice cut through the night sky. From the moment the syllables reached the woman’s ears, she immediately froze. She looked fervently around her, until a figure appeared out of a nearby alley.

“Mother, please get away from him! He isn’t the one who hurt me!” It was Angelique! Now I saw the resemblance: Both had the same seaweed-coloured hair and body type. The only difference were their eye colour and skin. While Angelique’s was smooth and slimy, I’d imagined the woman’s skin to be much coarser.

“B-But… Deary, you said in your letter that—” The squid-girl cut the woman off.

“I said that some men hurt me AND that someone rescued me. Let me guess: you saw Carnel’s picture fall out of the letter and simply dashed off?” I judged from the woman’s reaction that Angelique hit the nail on the head.

“Sorry but… What is happening here?” Both ladies ignored me as I pushed myself back on my feet. Angelique walked over to me and checked me out. Once she was certain I wasn’t injured, she smiled and turned towards her mother.

“This is the person that helped me escape, mom!” She said again. The truth started to dawn on the woman’s face before she immediately bowed.

“I-I am so sorry! When I saw you walking and then that picture—I--And my sweet guppy—I did—” I shook my head.

“What’s done is done. There is no reason to apologize. You thought your daughter was in danger, and you acted on it. I see nothing wrong with that.” I answered. The woman straightened her back again and looked me over.

“So… This is the Carnel you’ve talked about in your letter, my guppy? He seems a lot less… muscular than you described.” Angelique’s face immediately went as red as a cooked lobster.

“M-Mom! Don’t tell him that!” She yelled. Seeing her embarrassed like that made me chuckle: she looked just as cute, if not cuter!

“…Right, right. I shouldn’t force you two together.” The woman answered with a smile. Force together?, I asked myself. What was this woman thinking?

“Mom, you’re killing me!” Angelique complained. In fact, she got so embarrassed that her tentacles shot out some ink. I’ve heard that squids sometimes do that whenever high emotions got the better of them. The girl pushed her mother away before she turned to me.

“S-Sorry to let you see this, Carnel… M-My mom is a bit overprotective… When I send her a letter to explain what had happened, she must’ve immediately bolted off to come and ‘safe me’… I-I’m so sorry.” She whispered. I didn’t think about the issue that way.

“No, don’t be sorry. That’s proof your mother loves you more than anything, right? Anyway, I need to rest and I think your mother has a lot of explaining to do. See you Monday at school?” I asked. Angelique nodded eagerly before she pulled her mother towards her own dorm. I chuckled before I walked to my own home.

“Those two are… quite the pair.” I commented as I walked into my apartment and went about my weekend. I didn’t do anything special, as I loved to laze about. The only thing I did do was my school work and make that report detailing about my Mark. However, I decided to keep a lot of details to myself.

No one unsavoury needs to know about my Mark, after all.

The weekend passed way too quickly, and school resumed. There were a lot of questions from my classmates, but I decided to leave them in the dark. I didn’t even tell the teacher, Tanya, about anything. I just told her I fell down the stairs and ended the conversation there.

The week passed without much incident, although I still couldn’t form any spells on my own. Not even the fireball spell I swallowed and spit back out when I helped out Angelique.

It seems that I can only use swallowed spells once, I concluded. Which was a major bummer.

My Mark’s beast seemed insatiable as always during the entire week. Whenever magic got too close too me, it munched down on it eagerly. I couldn’t even control it; I tried yelling at it, but the creature seemed deaf. Only if I said it was dinner time, then it reacted to my voice. What a pain in my ass.

After five gruelling days of school, it was finally weekend again. When I walked back home, I noticed Angelique standing right outside the Academy gates. She seemed shifty.

“O-Oh, Carnel!” From the moment she saw me, her cheeks flushed red.

“Hi Angelique. Are you on your way home?” The girl nodded and walked alongside me. Behind us were Lily and her group of friends, discussing which shop they should visit this weekend.

“Hey, Carnel. Do you have anything to do this weekend?” My squid-like companion suddenly asked. Her blush intensified even more.

“No, just like any other weekend. Why?” I responded curiously. Angelique squirmed while she struggled to find the right words.

“W-Well… I-I was thinking… D-D-Do… Do you want to go out with me tomorrow?” She blurted out. I was almost sure the entire street heard her. When she realized that, her blush intensified even more. I saw some black ink drip along her tentacles as well.

“Uhmm… Sure. I don’t see why not? How about 10 AM at the mall in the centre of the city?” I proposed. The girl eagerly nodded and quickly said goodbye. I had the distinct impression she wanted to hurry home before her embarrassment caused her to shoot ink in all directions from her cute tentacles.

And I didn’t blame her: the entire street watched her run to her dorm.

The following day, I waited for Angelique to arrive. I gazed at the mall behind me; I’ve heard it was the biggest collection of shops in the entire country. And when I looked over the five-story tall building, I was inclined to believe those rumours.

“Carnel! Over here!” Angelique’s voice echoed behind me. When I turned around, I got greeted by a whole other girl.

Somebody had done her hair; Instead of letting her hair fall, she braided it along with her soft tentacles. The deep green and white had a nice synergy going on. The squid-girl wore a mint-green dress that worked wonders with her eyes. She twirled around on her 3-inch heels. I saw the faintest glimmering, coming from stalactite-based earrings, peaking from underneath her hair.

“D-Do I look good? M-Mom insisted I should wear this instead of my normal clothes.” She stuttered. Her shy side was cute too. I smiled and nodded. When we walked into the shopping mall, I noticed Lily and her friends giggling in the corner of my eye.

I need to keep them apart somehow, I reasoned. Angelique was still scared of Lily , no matter the situation. She wanted this day, and I wanted to make it as good as possible.

We first went to a plushie shop, at Angelique’s insistence. She smiled brightly while she browsed through the various soft plushies. In the end, she chose a dolphin-one. According to her, it reminded her of home. She cuddled it close to her as we walked through the shopping mall.

Next, we visited an electronics shop. Not because Angelique was particularly interested in that, but because she lost her Xenophone after she got grabbed. And she wanted my opinion what colour would fit her best. We both decided on an emerald-coloured Xenophone.

After that, we went to a restaurant. I saw how Angelique only drank water with salt. Lots of salt. I realized that a squid-girl like her needed a lot of salt and water to keep herself from drying out.
Just when we were getting to the dessert, a rumble shook the building. I frowned: earthquakes weren’t common in this country. So what were these tremors?

The lights started to dim and flare in an irregular fashion. Some even came crashing down. People started freaking out, only adding to the confusion. After a couple of seconds, the lights shut off. The rumbling stopped as well.

“What did you think that--?!” Angelique’s voice got cut off by a massive ‘bang’ echoing from the ground floor. A plume of smoke rose up from the central staircase as screams erupted at the same time.

“Everybody freeze!” An unknown voice echoed from within the cloud of smoke. Before I could react, a barrage of icicles shot in our direction. I immediately pulled the squid-girl closer before I kicked the table. The sound of the icicles smashing into the wood was terrifying.

Just what was happening here?! I inspected the clothes of the unwelcome newcomers. They all wore the same: brown robes that covered their faces and bodies completely with golden stitches. On their backs, I saw that the stitches formed some kind of … plant?

“Nobody moves! If even a single one of you moves, everyone dies!” I grunted and looked at Angelique. She gulped. I saw her hands trembling and I fared no better.

Just what were these guys doing here?

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