Chapter 04: Owls and Cats
image @kahmurio deviantart
My legs were shaking like crazy when I held the key tightly and stared at the big and heavy wooden door in front of me.
The knowledge that we shared rooms in groups of three made me wonder who the other two girls would be that waited beyond that door.
Will they like me? Or maybe make fun of me because I passed out?
Maybe I am already done for since I didn’t make it through the gate…
The shivering intensified and my head became dizzy imagining the usual scenario you would see in town and villages were a girls gang up against outcasts, beating them up and calling them names.
Tears started to dwell in my eyes out of anxiety, but I gulped it down and slapped my face.
No Yachi, you are overthinking. Maybe those two will be your new classmates and you will get along super fine!
Determined I searched for the keyhole only to find… none.
The door had no knob, no handle and no keyhole to open it, making me wonder how to enter the room in the first place.
I checked the other doors in the hallways and they were all the same, so it must have a mechanism that opens the door in a different way.
While scratching my head with the key and narrowing my eyes, I took it in front of my eyes and observed it closely. Then I tried knocking the door but the knocking echoed through the halls for some seconds until it died down.
“The key must be something else then”, I muttered while closing my eyes, tapping the key against my upper arm in thought. Suddenly I remembered the piece of paper that was only an indicator for the actual navigator inside of it and wondered if the key had a similar work pattern. I placed one hand on the wood of the door but nothing happened.
As if my thoughts seeped into the key it started glimmering in a bright yellow light, becoming almost transparent and it slowly started to drown in my palm, the skin distorting until it merged into my body.
I shrieked at the sudden sight of a key being swallowed by my palm until the shift of weight made me slip through the closed door.
The stinging pain I felt when my knees and bum hit the ground were followed by a whining session of mine. Opening my eyes I realized I was somewhere else and not in the hallway anymore, turning around to see the wooden door behind me.
“Huuh?!”, I touched the door behind me that was as stable as it was from the other side yet when I focussed and imagined the key, my hands slipped through it and disappeared.
“O-Oh my god! I am cursed! I have been cursed!”, the panic spread inside of me as my hands were stuck in the wooden door and another rush of anxiety came up.
“Hey, are you okay?”, I felt someone tapping my shoulder to turn around and observing me from above. The sudden appearance of those eyes made me fall over to the side, my hands slipping out again and a rush of self-awareness was followed after when I realized I have not been alone.
My eyes followed the trail of the voice only to be encountered by a beauty with light-brown colored hair and grey eyes that watched me in worry helping me up.
What an embarrassment!
“I-I am fine, I guess… despite the fact that the door almost parted me and my arms”, I laughed helplessly while scratching my head and picking up my hat that fell off pretending like nothing happened.
I avoided as much eye-contact as possible but it was hard when another person started to walk around me observing me in curiosity despite that her expression seemed very relaxed and her eyes looked sleepy despite the smile she wore than it should be for someone who barged in like that.
T-Two… Two people who witnessed my uselessness.
“Are you the new witch joining us?”, the latter’s voice sounded rather sleepy and carefree, not irritated or judgemental at all.
“Y-Yes, my name is Yachi Hitoka. It’s my first day at this academy”, the one with the ponytail approached me and smiled at me looking at the door.
“It’s really scary when it happens so suddenly! I still remember that you know who got stuck in the midst of the door and needed help from Semi-Semi to get out”, she chuckled to the other girl with short reddish brown hair who nodded with a mischievous smile.
“Yes, he of all people had to call out for our names in the boys’ dorm hallways. In the end he didn’t even give me back my textbook from the first year elemental magic course”, she muttered lazily.
He? Who is he?
“You guys are not first years?”, I looked at both of them alternatively until the ponytail girl smiled.
“We are owls~”, the reddish haired one snickered and I tilted my head in confusion.
“No, no, don’t take her literally. We are from the Noble Owl Castle -Fukurodani, so the owl part is only partly true”, she laughed and patted my shoulder.
“Shirofuku is my name~”, the reddish-brown haired girl hummed in a sleepy voice almost a little bit too relaxed that it made it eerie, approaching and observing me close up.
With a concerned yet smiling expression the other one faced her palms up as if to tell me to not be scared, “and I am Suzumeda, we are both in our last year also known as the seniors of this academy.”
She pulled Shirofuku back with a crinkled eyebrows yet her smile didn’t waver it seemed really genuine, “Despite the fact that we may be apart age-wise I am sure we are going to get along pretty well”. Shirofuku nodded and looked up to the slightly taller Suzumeda.
I feel like they are easy to get along with, and they did not judge me for being late…
But it seemed the person they were talking about was a whole different kind of deal which made me not stand out that much, I wonder if I met him already.
“You seemed surprised by the door mechanism”, Suzumeda heaved her index-finger as if to explain it to me and made her other one join in pointing at the door in a cheerful way.
“Y-Yes, I didn’t think I would slip through and the key- “, the realization that the key was in my body now made me nauseous again, all the color of my probably drained out.
“Those keys are only to make the visualisation for the spell much easier and indirectly activates when the user imagines a certain mechanism or picture. We call those spells indirect infuse, since they are not spells used by the person itself but indirectly infuses with the person’s right choice of image in their head”, she walked up to the door and her eyes fixated on it.
“Despite the fact that you were unaware of the actual spell you probably had a clue for what the key was after seeing the structure of the door, right?”, she stretched her arm out and it vanished immediately.
“Never gets boring to see, hehe~”, Shirofuku chuckled and propped her head with her hands watching Suzumeda, “but those kind of spells are very complex since their structure, formula and activation condition need a lot of research, a quite tiresome task”, she added to Suzumeda’s explanation.
“The research and development club are in charge of indirect infuse spells, trying to optimize them further and inventing new ones. Another example would be the navigator maps that the first years receive. Basically after you see the image the spell will be infused and the object either becomes something attached to the user, vanishes or merges. The key that merged into your body”, and now she pulled her arm back wriggling her five fingers to show that they are in full tact, “Was a special ID infused into you to verify the authorization to use this room that Semi had given you. Which makes it much more safer since nobody else could easily enter it, the doors have a special spell too, to identify each key and user. Kind of complex”, she laughed and scratched her head.
So basically the moment I started to visualize the key as a mechanism indirectly involved with the door the spell was infused and I became the user with an ID?
“Which means the second time my arms stuck in the door was because I really thought I would slip through because I was sure of it and they were stuck because-”, Suzumeda finished my part, “because you panicked and your image got distorted.”
“Woah~ You got it so fast. You must be a smart one”, Shirofuku clapped with a smile.
“Unlike someone else”, both of them sighed at the same time and I wondered more and more who they meant.
“Speaking of the devil”, Shirofuku watched through the window sticking her face against the glass, “poor Akaashi is on patrol today too~”, now I was sure she always sounded sleepy no matter in which way she spoke.
Suzumeda ran over to the window, opened it and leaned over to watch closely, followed by Shirofuku who leaned on the windowsill like she was watching some theatre or something.
“Bokuto-san, it’s past curfew. Please return to your room”, despite that the voice sounded calm and composed, it rang in my ears.
“That’s a talented Akaashi for you, running his legs off and still pulling out a spell for auditive amplification. Let me try too~”, Shirofuku put her hand on her throat and for a second it had a slight yellow glow, almost like it was never there and it vanished.
“Bokuto, where is my textbook?”, her voice rang in my ears now as well almost as if she was inside my head.
With much effort holding my ears, I walked towards the window to see a young man with messy black hair, looking up and nodding a little hello.
“Seniors, good evening. It’s the usual routine…”, he looked down and his voice became much quieter than before.
“Hang in there Akaashi~”, Shirofuku heaved her fist into the air.
“Only one more day until your shift is over”, Suzumeda tried to encourage him, but he sighed.
“Somehow even off-shift they call me in to get him”, he shook his head and I realized that he had the same uniform as the white-haired man in Hinata’s memories, only that he had a yellow band attached with a clip around his torso.
“Poor boy, since his first year he had it rough”, Suzumeda still smiled at him but her eyes trailed off to another creature or maybe even two lurking in the dark.
Suzumeda’s finger drew a short line, whispering something in it, before flicking the yellow whatever towards Akaashi. After receiving whatever it was he sprinted into the directions where her eyes were before.
“Who was it this time?”, Shirofuku’s eyes narrowed as she tried to see in the dark.
“Who else beside that sly cat Kuro…”
“E-Eh…”, I wanted to say something but got caught off when Suzumeda’s eyes turned into a sharp yellow, her pupils widening almost like…
“Akaashi”, she muttered and in the dark another pair of two yellow orbs emitted their lights in the depth of the night.
“Come on, share, share~”, Shirofuku sang in her sleepy voice and Suzumeda who didn’t even blink smiled widely while her eyebrows furrowed.
“I feel bad for him though”, for a second she closed her eyes that still slightly shone brightly under her lids and the room started shaking heavily making me lose my balance.
“W-Wuaaah!”, Shirofuku grabbed me by my robe and pulled me towards her.
“Don’t worry Yachi, afterall it will be only a projection of what is happening on her bonding partner’s side”, her chuckle
“Only a projection?!”, I saw the scene unfold before me as if I was in the midst of the outside grounds, two creatures shifting into a humanoid form as they stared at each other, Suzumeda who was now next to us held her hands against the walls to keep the projection in work.
It feels like I am really there, I cannot imagine that I am sharing a room with such a skilled person!
My eyes were still fixed on Suzumeda whose eyes didn’t move on her own accord but as if she-
“Eyes to the front~”, Shirofuku took my head in her hands and turned it towards the other young men who stood across from each other.
“Hey, Heey, Heey guess who caught the cat in the bag!”, the white-haired man from Hinata’s vision stretched out his hand approaching another black-haired man who wore a constant smirk, it seemed cunning.
Caught the cat in the bag? I don’t think… that’s the right term.
“Bokuto-san, you used the wrong phrase. It’s called let the cat out of the bag and it has another meaning”, surprisingly the voice of the guy called Akaashi sounded as if we were right next to him and Suzumeda’s eyes moved almost like she was the one talking.
“If you are wondering”, Shirofuku interrupted my train of thoughts, “Suzumeda is very focussed since Akaashi is sharing his visionary and auditory senses, as you may have noticed they are bonding partners. And that idiot over there”, she pointed at the young man who was referred to as Bokuto, “is my bonding partner. Despite that I can still communicate and share my vision too with Akaashi, since Suzumeda and I connected under a contract.”
My head was dizzy from all the information and input I was getting.
“Akaashi! Don’t say it in front of him… despite that as long as it sounds fitting, doesn’t it fit?”, a confident smile was on his face until the black-haired man supposedly called Kuro patted his shoulder in pity. Bokuto slapped it away and Akaashi sighed.
“No, it doesn’t work like that”, he simply said and his hand moved up making the other two jump.
“Easy there pretty owl boy, no need to chain us down for a little night jog”, Kuro snickered and pushed Bokuto towards Akaashi, at least it looked like that before he appeared behind Kuro to smack his head.
“T-Teleportation?!” , my eyes widened as I never have experienced teleportation but only read the theoretical part about it. Shirofuku chuckled again and watched Bokuto in a relaxed yet familiar way, “if there is one thing we owls mastered then it’s teleportation~”
“Please, just stop before everyone gets in trouble-”, Akaashi was cut off by the earth below them cracking upon, “seriously are you even listening?!”
“Sorry, but I really don’t like it when my bed-hair gets messy”, a pair of red eyes pupils almost like slits were the only thing visible when little stones hovered in the air, making Kuro shift into a whole cat again before my eyes lost him.
“Where did he vanish? Did he use teleportation too?”, his morphing was so fast it’s like I am imagining things.
“No, he just moves so fast that your eyes can’t see him. We know him so it’s much easier to follow his moves, but seeing it the first time it might look like teleportation. In the end he is a cat, they are known for their fast reflexes and reaction time”, Suzumeda whose eyes still didn’t budge a bit as well as her arms explained the difference between his high-speed movements and Bokuto’s teleportation.
One amplifies his already natural physical abilities that surpass the usual speed and the other manipulates his body and what’s around him…
As Bokuto appeared mid-air launching his body recklessly towards Kuro, he hit the ground with an impact followed by a big hole in the ground. Kuro on the other side dodged and shifted back into a much more humanoid form that consisted of small cat ears and a tail, as he clawed his hands on the ground to stop his acceleration.
He snickered and watched Bokuto rise on his feet again, his whole body dirty from the earth and dirt. His cat-like eyes took a crimson colour and became slits again watching every movement carefully, despite the way he was dressed his movements seemed to smooth. His Yutaka which’s sleeve he only wore on his left arm while the other part of his body was uncovered resembled the colour of his eyes with golden accents, the collar was covered in black fur and he wore chocolate coloured airy pants. The uncovered part of his chest revealed a torso covered in black bandages and the muscles in his arms seemed different whether right after his shift or when he stayed a bit longer in humanoid form.
“That’s enough. It’s my duty to stop you guys even if you are my seniors”, Akaashi teleported behind Bokuto but was not fast enough and fell over as he pushed him away.
“Sorry Akaashi, but this is a fight between two clan leaders”, Bokuto’s usual smile disappeared leaving a serious expression in his face.
“Wow, wow. Slow down with that serious expression it doesn’t suit you at all. Aren’t you one of the top three? Ah I forgot you didn’t make it in, my bad but hey Top five is nice too”, the sly comments and the cunning eyes of mischief that knew what was coming after barely dodged an attack by the so called guy of the top five.
“Seriously, that was my favourite one…”, Kuro held the sleeve that was cut off by Bokuto in an instant. “You know Kenma will give me that look if another one rips this week, sheesh”, he scratched his head.
Before Bokuto could even move he was grazed by a column of earth that manifested into stone immediately, drops of blood coming out of the scratch on his hand.
His expression was on alert and he tried to teleport again but froze in place for some seconds.
Shirofuku and Suzumeda just watched silently and didn’t explain anything this time.
“What is going on here?”, the grumpy-looking guy from the reception ran over to the scene and helped Akaashi up who couldn’t move until now.
“I am sorry, I know I am on patrol but no matter how I tried…” , again he stretched out his arm in success, something started to heave up Bokuto’s body while his clothes looked like they were squeezed.
“Oh no, It’s Semi-Semi. Sucks to be you Bokuto, it’s tied now”, Kuro’s last words hung in the air before he vanished into the darkness of the night.
“Kuro Tetsuro! I saw you, do you think you won’t be punished for the disgraceful demeanor you are showing especially towards the underclassman”, then he turned to Akaashi.
“You, make sure the air-rope is tight enough. We are going to get him to the pharmacy and then bring him to the disciplinary committee”, suddenly he looked up where our room was, “and you instead of watching this for your own amusement you could have called someone!”
“But it’s past curfew, if we meddle in like last time you will still be mad, right?”, Shirofuku shrugged and Semi sighed.
“All of you are a bunch of troublemakers”, he sighed and looked at Akaashi, “but I can’t really blame you. Thank you for holding them off, who knows what damage they could have done next. At times like this I wish you had someone from the seniors patrol along with you”, the projection stopped and Suzumeda wiped off the little bit of sweat on her forehead, her eyes turning normal.
“Semi used another paralyse spell as well, Bokuto will be out of it for a while”, Suzumeda smiled.
Is that something you must be happy about?
“Until the day after tomorrow when they go easy on him again?”, Shirofuku prepared her bed.
“Please don’t jinx it.”
“I-Is this usual? Like destroying the ground to that excess?”, I stuttered and both stared at me then at each other and laughed.
“Those two have been rivals for a long time now, they are doing their best to challenge each other.”
“Despite the damage it is useful as practice for the restoration class~”
It’s too much to understand, cats, owls, fighting in the midst of night and it seemed much more light-hearted than the actual scene I have witnessed?
“You had a hard day, right? Just relax and get a good night’s rest. Tomorrow your first classes start”, Suzumeda’s smile was enough to wipe off my negative thoughts.
“Soon you will get used to a lot of stuff, it’s never boring~”
On that night I wondered how Kageyama and Hinata were doing.