Chapter 6: Moving out
“How much longer am I going to be grounded?” I complained through my Xenophone. A prim voice answered.
“As long as the investigation is ongoing, you will stay in your room.” I sighed. That was the same answer they told me the past week. I fell back down on my bed and looked at my teddy bear.
“I’m bored.” I deadpanned. It had been a week since the attack on the mall. After we had been rescued from the building, we were immediately thrust into the hospital for a check-up. When the doctors were absolutely sure we didn’t have any serious injuries, we were brought back to our homes and told to stay put.
Which was boring.
I liked staying at home. But I had already played through my collection of games five times: there was a limit how much boredom I could handle!
Suddenly, I heard someone knock on my door. I ruffled my unkempt hair and rolled out of bed. I stumbled through my apartment and unlocked the door.
“Hi Carnel! Are you ready?” Angelique’s voice echoed from behind the door. The squid-girl cradled a couple of boxes in her arms.
“Angelique? What are you doing here? Ready for what?” I asked, perplexed. The seaweed-haired girl frowned and pointed at the boxes.
“Didn’t you get the memo? W-We are... supposed to live together now, by the orders of the city council.” Angelique explained with blushing cheeks. It took a while before my brain had processed that information. After a couple of long seconds, A shock rushed through my mind.
“… Say what?” I asked in a lost voice. This day was getting crazier by the minute! I had a very small apartment, barely fitting one person. Where was I going to put three people?!
“It’s for your own protection.” A deep female voice announced. A police officer walked towards us, closely followed by Lily. The redhead brushed her hair backwards while she tapped on her Xenophone. She didn’t give a damn about what happened around her.
“Protection? You mean against those nutjobs? I’ve said it a countless times: we don’t need anyone’s protection. We are more than strong enough to look after ourselves.” The police officer ignored my complaints.
“R-Ready to go?” She asked. This was getting more and more puzzling: where would we be going?
“To ensure the safety of you three, the mayor of the city has ordered you three to go live together in a house. It’s easier to protect the three of you that way.” The police officer explained. That took me by surprise. I thought we had to stay inside while the investigation was ongoing, not to wait until a house was done.
“W-Why? I don’t want to relocate!” I complained. Lily chuckled and put her arm around me.
“Give it up, boy. I’ve tried every trick in the book, and some out of its pages, and they didn’t budge!” The redhead said. I groaned and glared at the officer. But she seemed far more interested by something on the wall.
“Where are we going anyway? Isn’t it better to keep us all apart so that they can’t take us all down at once.” The officer shook her head.
“No. The commanders have decided you will live in a house secluded from other civilians. Besides, having you three in the same building makes it easier to safeguard all of you with less manpower.” I gritted my teeth. Those damned old people! What gives them the right to just decide that on their own?
“There’s, like, no use fighting it, Carnel.” Lily repeated. I looked at the redhaired vixen. The girl poked against her Xenophone. Probably typing something at her friends.
“Are you okay with this?” I asked. Angelique blushed, but she slowly nodded. Lily’s eyebrows went up.
“Hell no! But they threatened to put me in jail if I didn’t complain, so I had to oblige.” The redhead mumbled. I looked at the police officer one last time, then turned around.
“Fine… Give me some minutes to grab my stuff.” I said and stumbled back into my apartment. I didn’t have that much stuff, anyway. My teddy-bear, my games and consoles, my clothes and that’s it. The rest was all part of the apartment. I couldn’t take it with me.
“Wow. You’ve got even less stuff than I’d imagined for a nerd like you.” Lily remarked. I rolled my eyes and followed the police officer to the car. There, I dropped my stuff into a nearby van and stepped into the car. Lily took the front seat, while Angelique shuffled besides me.
While we were driving to my--- excuse me-- OUR new home, I turned to Angelique.
“Are you really okay with this? I mean, living with Lily? She’s an insufferable bitch.” The squid-girl turned to me. She shyly glanced at the redhaired vixen, but Lily was too occupied with her Xenophone to notice anything.
“Yes. But you said to show her I am better than her. Besides, I’ve heard her cry in her hospital room. About her friend, I mean...” She whispered back. Right... One of her friends had been shocked to death right in front of her eyes. But still, I couldn’t believe the reasoning behind this decision. Had the council another plan in mind?
Was there another reason why they did it?
“We’re here.” The police officer driving the car announced. I looked through the tinted windows of the car and saw a modest two-story building, surrounded by trees. It wasn’t anything special, yet it had more than enough space to accommodate the three of us.
“Huh. It’s smaller than I anticipated.” I commented as I stepped out of the car. If I remembered correctly, this area was located just outside the Devil’s district, near the Eastern entrance of the city. Lily and Angelique walked towards the moving van and grabbed the boxes with their stuff.
“Oh yeah, boy! You’re sleeping on the second floor. Me and the squid already chose our rooms. The biggest one for me, of course!” Lily casually explained. Angelique politely bowed to say sorry and grabbed her own boxes.
“I can’t even chose my own room? Aww, man!” I complained and brought my own stuff inside. Inside, it was quite cosy. The furniture was nice, there were two bathrooms, a kitchen, a spacious living room and more. Yet…
“Have you noticed?” I whispered to Angelique when we were alone in the hallway on the second floor. I loosely pointed behind my back. A camera was watching our every move. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
“Yeah. I think they consider us suspects regarding that attack on the mall the other day.” Angelique explained. I clicked my tongue; We should watch out what we said and did then. Who knows what they actually wanted to see. Those old creeps...
When the two of us walked to the stairs, I heard a peculiar sound coming from the nearest door. I grabbed Angelique’s shoulder and pulled her to the wall. I put my ears against the wooden door and listened.
“I-I can’t... Why...? Why did you have to...?” The voice sobbed uncontrollably. It was Lily! So that attack affected her more than she let on. I looked at Angelique, who gazed back into my eyes with a soft gaze.
“W-Who’s there?!” Lily suddenly jumped up. She looked around and brushed her tears away. I saw how her body shivered. Was it an after-effect of the attack, I asked myself. Like a trauma?
I wanted to react, but Angelique stopped me. She pushed me back and opened the door. I looked at her: the squid-girl seemed really determined.
“Okay, I’ll leave you to it then.” I whispered and went down the stairs. I heard how Lily broke into sobs again and how Angelique tried to soothe the redhead. I was quite surprised, but I reasoned that Angelique had gotten over her memories about Lily now she saw she had emotions like a normal human being.
The doorbell rang. When I opened it, Angelique’s mother greeted me and pushed a small package into my hands.
“What’s this?” I asked. The package wasn’t big; It fit on my handpalm. But something hard and round rested in the middle of it.
“My darling guppy had been complaining about severe burns and dehydration whenever she summoned her magic. So I’ve had some friends of mine create a prototype. They called it... a hydrobead or something like that? She needs to wear it at all times.” The seaweed-haired woman explained. I nodded and carefully placed the package on the kitchen counter.
“Anyway... I need to return back to Hydropolis. My company can’t do without me, it seems.” She sighed. Before she turned around, however, she gazed deep into my eyes.
“Protect her, Carnel. Protect my baby. That attack on the mall almost caused a heart attack, so please... Keep her safe.” I nodded. There wasn’t much else I could do, was there?! The mature woman flashed me a soft smile before she turned around and stepped into a taxi.
“What are you doing, staring out in the distance like that?” Angelique’s voice echoed behind me. I shut the door and gestured at the package.
“Your mother came to bring something before she left. It’s apparently something you need to wear at all times. Anyway, how is Lily?” I asked. The squid-girl shook her head while she tore off the paper of her package. In her hands lied an azure-coloured gemstone. It hung from a golden cord.
“She cried herself to sleep. The poor thing let out all the accumulated stress she build up during the past week.” Angelique answered before she turned her back to me.
“Can you help me with this?” She asked and showed me the clasp of the golden cord. I walked towards and fumbled with the clasp. Delicate stuff really wasn’t my forte. However, after a couple of botched attempts I managed to clasp the cords together.
“So we’re going back to school tomorrow?” I asked. Angelique nodded. She showed a small piece of paper with the emblem of the Academy printed on it.
“A monthly test? Why?” I asked after I’d read through the entire letter. Apparently, we were supposed to take a test to measure our abilities.
“Seeing that we have unique Marks, they want to monitor our progress.” Angelique explained. But there was a hint of doubt in her voice. And I could guess why. Between the monitoring equipment put all over the house, our forced relocation and those tests... The governing board wanted to keep us down. Eliminate any threats to their power, as it were.
And that counted double for me, since I had an unknown Mark. I had to watch what I did and said in the future.
“Right. I’ll cook up something, and then I’m going to call it a day.” I announced. Angelique’s eyebrows raised. And she wasn’t the only one that was surprised.
“Oho, a man that can cook?” Lily leaned against the staircase. Her make-up created black rivers across her smooth cheeks. Her scarlet hair was dishevelled and her eyes had gone red from all the crying.
“Lily! What are you doing here? I thought you fell asleep.” Angelique said while she walked towards the redhead.
“I did. But sleeping with wet eyes is hard, ya know. Besides, like you said... She wouldn’t want me to seclude myself to my room.” The scarlet-haired vixen teared up again. But she took a deep breath and calmed herself. She’s strong, I realized. Much stronger than I gave her credit for.
“I’m glad that my words had at least some effect on you.” The squid-girl said before she extended her hand towards the redhead.
“H-Huh?” Lily was confused. Her eyes bounced from Angelique’s webbed hand to the big brown eyes of the girl herself.
“I’ve decided something. If we are to live in the same house, share the same space with each other for most of the day and night, we need to have a good understanding with each other.” Angelique explained.
“B-But why? I-I’ve bullied you for so long!” Lily retorted. Angelique shook her head and glanced over at me.
“There’s a certain someone that told me it was better to for me to just forgive those that opposed me in the past. And to show them that I can be better than them.” She answered. Lily scoffed and grabbed Angelique’s extended hand.
“Fine. But don’t think you can be better than me. No one can be!” The redhead answered while she flashed a smile.
“Right... I heard you were going to cook for us? Get to it, chop-chop!” Lily said while she pointed at the kitchen counter. I sighed and nodded; I understood the hierarchy in this house already.
The next day, it was time for our Monthly Examination. This time, it was some kind of target practice. Tanya, the teacher, had erected countless mud dolls that behaved erratically. We had to beat them as fast as we could.
To make things easier, we were divided in groups of three each. As luck would have it, I had been grouped with Lily and Angelique. We were last to begin and watched the how the others demolished the armies of mud dolls quickly. Or in some cases, rather slowly.
When it was finally our turn, we were interrupted by a pompous voice coming from the Academy’s entrance.
“...Teach? Ya going to give us the go-ahead or are you going to stare into the sky like that for the rest of the exam?” Lily joked. The blonde teacher gasped and fumbled with her butterfly feelers before she collected herself.
“Ri-Right. Ready... Set... Go!” She yelled. Immediately, an entire army of mud dolls rose up from the muddy ground. Lily and Angelique smirked before the redhead stormed towards the nearest opponent she could find. She kicked a doll to pieces with one kick, then grabbed another one’s head and stared deep into the cavities where its eyes should be.
The redhead’s eyes glowed in a hot pink colour before the doll froze. When the scarlet-haired vixen snapped her fingers, it suddenly started attacking other mud dolls. So that’s how her Original Magic worked, I realized.
Angelique had finished her magic circle and sent a torrent of flames barreling through the mud dolls’ ranks. Many clumps of mud flew everywhere before the flames exploded.
“You’re getting better, Angelique!” I exclaimed. The squid-girl flashed me a pleased smile before she started charging up for another blast. Meanwhile, I decided to jump into the fray as well.
I saw that magic circles were embedded on each and every mud doll. So I jumped over one of them and had my Mark devour it. The doll fell apart immediately. I had my Mark recreate the spell, much to the beast’s dismay. I promised it would have its fill of spells soon, and that seemed to calm it down. Somewhat.
“All right! Let’s do this!” I spurred myself on.
The recreated spell went off without a hitch and summoned a big mud doll. It was three times as big as its other brethren and held a club of hardened rock in its right hand. I snapped my fingers and commanded the doll to ravage our enemies.
The dolls stood no chance. Between Lily, Angelique and me, none of them were even capable of attacking us. The examination was done in 3 minutes. Which was among the fastest times of the class.
Tanya seemed to be pre-occupied with something else though. She checked her watch each passing five seconds and glanced at the entrance of the Academy.
“So, Teach? How did we do?” Lily asked. She dusted herself off. I saw blood trickling from both her legs and her forehead. She must’ve kicked extremely hard. Angelique waved her wabbed hands back and forth to make them cool down quicker. Her soft tentacles seemed to be fine, though. The azure stone resting on her chest glowed in a calming manner.
“Y-Yeah, good... I-I suppose.” Tanya answered dismissively. A moment later, the bell rang. The blond eteacher jumped up, unfurled her multi-coloured wings and ran towards the Academy entrance. I couldn’t hold my curiosity and followed her.
I looked around the corner of the Academy entrance and saw how Tanya stepped into a limousine. The black windows prevented me from seeing who was in that car. However, I recognized the emblems on the flags of the car as those of the Fairy Court. The strongest warriors of the Elves. They were strong and respected by many. But there were many unsavoury rumours about them as well.
Why would Tanya be in cahoots with them?