7th chapter- enjoy!

Sorry for the late update—writer's block has been a beast!

Thanks to Carmel March and yesika0512 for reviewing. Stay loving and keep on reading!

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Locked Out

ERIA'S POV

One of us could've been injured already. Between the wolf and me, I was pretty sure I was the one who's going to earn those scratches and bruises.

But we were only staring at each other. I wasn't sure if Diana, the wolf, was sizing me up or what, but I was just staring out of plain fear with the thoughts Why me? Why me? I don't want to die! swirling in my mind.

And what really scared me more was how much Diana looked exactly the same as the wolf in my dreams-

My dreams!

Maybe I was only dreaming... Maybe if I pinch myself, I'll be gone from this horrible dream.

Slowly, I closed my eyes and lifted my hand, and just as I was about to pinch myself, the wolf growled. I flinched as I felt the pinch on my forearm. Opening my eyes, I felt a pang of dismay to find out that this was not a dream. Of course.

The wolf growled again and I let out a soft whimper. Aside from staring, Diana growled at me whenever I tried to move.

We just couldn't go on like this. I have to escape somehow...

The engines in my brain started to spin as I thought of a plan. I could run well, especially if my life depended on it (just like now), but I doubt I could outrun the wolf. My gaze landed on some little rocks and then I realized that maybe I could distract Diana by throwing some rocks at her... But would it work? It was highly unlikely, but maybe not impossible. I'm not one of the best strategists, but I had to try it, I just couldn't be in this position forever!

My fingers shook as I gathered some rocks. Some of them were sharp and jagged, but most were as smooth as marbles. I closed my palm around the rocks, feeling the sharp, jagged ones pierce my skin.

Please, please, please work!

I took a deep breath and threw the rocks at the wolf. As soon as the first rock hit the ground, I stood up, spun around, and ran as fast as my shaky legs could carry me.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid!" I gasped as soon as I heard the pounding of paws against the rocky ground.

I immediately changed my direction to the left, just as Diana bit the exact place where I was just moments ago. I wasn't sure if I was lucky or smart or what, but I was definitely grateful.

I screeched to a halt and looked over my shoulder—just in time to see Diana growling at me as she charged again. This time I jumped to the right but not before I got scratched at the leg.

"Agghh," I groaned. I took a look at my leg for about a second—ripped pyjamas with a small, bleeding scratch—and looked away just as fast. If I took any longer, I would get more rips and scratches.

Diana howled and scratched the ground like some bull ready to charge. Her eyes narrowed and her lips curled. Before she could attack again, I ran straight to the house.

I know—stupid move, right? Well, I guess that's what happens when you've never trained how to use your magic before.

Getting hit by a hurtling mass of fur is not exactly the most pleasant thing. While the fur was soft, the sharp claws that were digging into my skin were not. And if I didn't act quickly, I'd be able to feel her teeth sinking into my flesh.

I flailed around, kicking the wolf with all my might. Something flashed in her eyes, and surprisingly, I was able to kick her off of me.

Is that all you've got? growled a voice.

I scrambled back. Did the wolf just speak in my head?

Probably enjoying my surprise, the wolf did a gurgling noise—laughter. Yes, are you scared, little mage?

Whenever I imagined of a talking wolf (not like I always did), I'd be thinking of something, well, not-so-human. Like a monster's deep, scary growl. But this voice... it was surprisingly human. A human boy, to be exact—nothing like a girl's.

Let's see how long you survive, mutt!

I recoiled when I was called a "mutt." While I do know that there are a few mixed-race people who refer to themselves that, the way Diana called me... was quite insulting. And the longer I thought about it, the more I felt the tingly and warm sensation growing in my fingers.

Diana lunged at me again and without thinking, I flicked my wrist as hard as I could, a fire ball hurtling towards Diana suddenly appearing. And when it made contact, she actually stumbled backwards, her fur singed.

I wasn't sure, but I thought I saw fear in the wolf's eyes. But it disappeared as quickly as it appeared so I dismissed the thought.

A fireball? she growled in her man-voice. How unoriginal.

"I-"

Let's see if you can do better, a new voice interrupted. It sounded like Etoile. Her voice was soft and soothing, almost caring. Elementals are supposed to be quite powerful. But maybe because you had no education yet... How long can you last? The wind blew softly, as if it was carrying her voice.

"Etoile," I growled.

Don't get too distracted, she chided just as Diana leapt and plunged her claws into my skin again. That's the number one rule when you're in battle.

Containing the scream that wanted to get out, I grabbed hold of the wolf and clutched hard, knowing that my hands were still as hot as fire. Steam started to rise out of her fur and Diana yelped, releasing me for a moment.

Why was Etoile doing this? She's like a cunning old villain inside the body of a thirteen-year-old French girl!

With all my might I pushed the wolf and rolled to the right. I went to a kneeling position and lighted my two hands with a new batch of fireballs. Diana expertly dodged the attacks as I threw and stumbled back, suddenly finding myself leaning on the trunk of a tree.

"S-Stay back!" I warned, waving my hands like crazy even though it hurt to do so. The fireballs in my hands extinguished without warning and was replaced by a single flame dancing on top of my right index finger.

For a second, Diana and I both stared at the flame in wonder, but it seemed like I was the first one to get it. I pointed the finger at her and waved it around. The flame flickered and grew bigger, until it looked like a small whip. Diana whimpered and took a step back as I lashed the flame around like some lasso. I was actually getting used to this already. Maybe I could actually escape her.

"Stay back," I repeated, with much more confidence this time. "Or else..."

The flame's embers flew out and landed on the tress behind me. Usually, it would do no harm, but for some odd reason, the embers actually made trees go on fire. And the fire quickly spread, covering the surrounding trees in hot oranges, yellows, and reds.

"What the...?"

You should learn how to control your magic. You overdone it! Etoile said, but her voice no longer sounded calm; she sounded worried.

I squeezed my eyes shut and lifted my hands, trying to control my own magic. I opened my eyes but the fire was still there. It was slowly spreading now, but still it was spreading.

I looked behind me and saw Diana with her mouth slightly opened with a frantic look in her eyes as she stared at the fire in complete shock. If I wasn't in this kind of situation, I would've actual laughed at the wolf.

The wind blew harder and I heard some kind of ringing in my ears. And as quickly as it started, the fire stopped, leaving behind charred trees, ash and burnt leaves swirling in the air.

It stopped, just like that. And probably all because of Etoile.

I was such a failure.

The wolf let out a howl and I turned around, shaking. It seemed like she already recovered from her state of shock and was ready to pounce on me again.

Adrenaline coursed through me, giving me the energy to run. And that's what I did—I ran. I guess that's all I could do when I can't even control my magic anymore.

Pounding of paws gave me the indication she was near and without looking back, I fired a few fireballs at her. I really didn't care whether or not the fireballs hit Diana, all that I could think of was the house. Just a few more-

"Ah," I yelped, tripping over my own feet and face-planted on the ground, the tiny rocks scraping my chin. I slowly lifted my head, wincing in pain. I was already at the base of the steps and I had to trip? Classic.

I rolled over and just as I was about to stand up, the wolf already reached me. She walked over me and planted a paw on my chest. Diana leaned closed as I shut my eyes and I could feel her breath tickling my skin. And her breath, for some reason, smelled like... mint?

Seconds passed but nothing happened. And then suddenly, I felt the weight of her paw disappear. Slowly, I opened my eyes and to my surprise, found a boy who looked just as surprised as me. I blinked up at him, unable to process what I was seeing. All I could think of was how familiar he looked.

"I..." His eyebrows furrowed and started to mumble something. Finally he was able to compose himself and glare at me, starting to stand up. "You... you're lucky-"

A blast of water shot out from behind me, pushing him away. He landed near the fountain with a loud thud.

I lifted my head and saw Jazz towering over me, her arm outstretched and stiff and her breathing heavy. "J-Jazz...?"

"This guy... this guy has the magic to turn himself into anything he wants," she declared her voice shaky with anger. "Isn't that right, Marco?"

I studied the boy, Marco, as he struggled to stand up as he rubbed his head. He was a lanky boy with curly black hair and big brown eyes and looked to be about a year older than me. My eyes widened when I finally recognized him—he was one of the eighth graders I saw when I was with Ari in the Great Hall.

"Really nice," Marco grumbled, giving us a glare.

Ignoring him, Jazz bent down and extended down her arm at me.

"Thanks," I croaked, taking it.

"Does it hurt?"

I looked down at my wounds, and I realized that it didn't hurt that much anymore—probably it felt like that earlier because I was so scared. "No. Not anymore, I mean."

Jazz nodded, her face void of expression. "That's good, but just in case-"

She was interrupted by a squeaking sound and when we turned around, we saw Marie holding Fuzzyshadow, her face full of concern. Beside her, looming over Marco was—oh gosh no—my aunt.

"What is going on in here?!" she demanded.

"I..."

My aunt raised a palm, silencing Jazz. "The two of you, go in. Now!" she barked. Without looking behind her back, she jerked her thumb to the direction of Marie, silently telling her to come in too. "You too, Vega. I need to speak to you." Marco's eyes widened, but he nodded his head and slowly stood up. He shakily followed us into the house.

When we went inside, we found everyone gathered in the living room. Joy was, again, pedalling fast and hard on the exercising bike. Gianni helping Wei untangle this thin, transparent piece of rope from her pale arms. As soon as Wei was released, the rope disappeared in a flurry glitters.

"Eria!" Wei exclaimed in relief.

"Hey," I greeted her, but my gaze was on Etoile, who was sitting on one of the couches, her hands folded on her lap as she looked away. But it didn't stop me from seeing the slight frown stamped on her face.

The door closed with a bang, and I jumped a little. "Alright, I'll get straight to the point," growled Aunt Abby, "what are all of you doing up past eleven, doing some sort some wrestling match against Vega who was pretending to be Diana?"

Etoile seemed to stiffen up, and Joy casted me a fearful look. "How about you, Aunt Abby," I laughed nervously, taking a seat across Etoile, "what are you doing past eleven?"

She shot me a glare, but answered my question. "I admit that I thought most of you would be sleeping by now or huddled in front of the TV watching some re-runs, but I decided it would be nice to check up on my niece. However, I was not expecting to see... this." She spread out her arms, gesturing to all of us. "Care to enlighten me?" Something about her tone gave us the feeling it would be a danger to lie, but none of us answered. "Since none of you are going to answer..." She turned towards Marco, who was leaning against the door frame. "...you, tell me."

Marco started to play with is fingers, and when I thought that my aunt would start screaming at his to confess, he cleared his throat and began. "Look, i-it's not like I planned to harm your niece, okay? I mean, it's not like she got harmed anyway, but, uh..." He nervously scratched the back of his neck and cleared his throat again. "I know this sounds kinda stupid, but it's prank night. My friends and I usually do this every Sunday. Earlier, I saw your niece in the Great Hall with this other girl, and I was like, 'Why not prank the new girl?' It was part of the plan to shift-shape into Diana, but I swear, that's it. I was just supposed to go around the house and—"

"Then how come Eria has some scratches?"

"Uhh..." I caught Marco looking at Etoile, and Aunt Abby probably did too, because she asked, "Were you part of this, Monyleux?" Etoile slowly nodded, her facing turning pink. "Explain."

"It was supposed to be for a little prank too," Etoile said slowly. "S-Stephanie texted me on how she saw Diana pass by their house and I figured out that it was just a shift-shaper. I convinced Marco to say longer, see what Eria can do as mage." Aunt Abby opened her mouth, but Etoile interrupted. "It was only me and Marco. Stephanie didn't know it was Marco." She added quickly.

Aunt Abby turned to the rest. "And I suppose you four were stopped by anti-magic spells?" Joy, Jazz, Gianni, and Wei nodded quickly. "Very well." She nodded her head and pursed her lips. "Monyleux and Vega, come with me. To the rest of you, have a good night." I watched as she turned to leave with Etoile and Marco. Etoile actually had to drag Marco by the hand to get him moving. The door slammed closed, and only then did I realize that my aunt never bothered to give me a second glance or ask how I was doing.

"Are you alright?" Marie suddenly gasped as she rushed to my side.

"Yeah." I forced a smile. "I'm just tired... The wounds don't hurt though."

"Something's wrong with Etoile," I heard Joy mutter. "She's bonkers."

But it's not only Etoile, I thought. Everything here is bonkers.