The darkness impaired my vision. I was having trouble seeing where I was going as I ran down the halls of the second floor, letting out ragged breathes without stopping.
I turned my head around while my eyes widened in fear. "Oh, you gotta be kidding me?!" Behind me was a swarm of shadow people and it was the first time I had ever encountered such creatures. I had read books about them but seeing them physically…that's a whole different story. I turned to my right and sprinted down the stairwell. I tripped and tumbled down the last few steps. I got back up and continued running before making another right down the hallway. Because of the adrenaline coursing through me, the pain subsided, but after 5 minutes of running, I seethed while my right leg started to hurt.
However, they continued to pursue me, and boy were they relentless. I ran into the cafeteria and hid behind the trash bin. I gingerly peeked over, gleaming at the entrance with my eyes widening at what I was seeing.
They crawled across the walls, as I watched the darkness they dispersed, spreading all over the cafeteria, while they searched for me. One of them eventually spotted me and alerted the rest of its pack. I guess the saying was true that you can run, but can't hide, because no matter where I ran or hid, the darkness was their territory. My heart was racing and so was my mind. I was frozen in place, being unable to move as they got closer. At that moment, I regained my strength, leaped up, and dashed away to the hallways once more.
While I ran, I looked at each room number. I grimaced. "Where the fuck is that room? It's got to be around here somewhere." Due to the nightmare that has befallen onto me, I was unable to recall where the open window was as my thoughts were clouded with fear. Unfortunately, I hit a dead end. Literally. I ran right into a wall and fell onto the floor.
I groaned and rubbed my head, seething in pain while a throbbing headache appeared. I even looked at my hand and tensed when I saw some blood on the palm. I quickly got up and stood my ground. They were coming in faster than before. They must have been really hungry. I took deep breath and glowered at the swarm. Clenching my hand, I channeled all of my energy and was ready for a fight.
"Okay. If there's nowhere left to run and no place to hide, then I guess the only option is to fight." I had never used my powers in a fight before, however that made it the perfect opportunity to try, and I knew it was going to be messy. I had been testing this ability by using bottles in the basement and, after that I would clean up the refuge before my relatives came home.
They charged as they bared their fangs and claws. Extending my arm, I watched my hand glowed ethereal green. I chanted under my breath: "Dimittere ignis!" and watched a beam of energy firing out from my hand.
It struck the shadow people, incinerating about 5 or 6 of them into dust. However, that wasn't enough as they regrouped and charged again. That blast exerted much of my energy, having only an iota left to stay conscious as I sat down and waited for them to arrive.
"God, get off your lazy ass and give me a miracle!" I prayed wildly. Nothing happened. I took huge, ragged breaths. This was it. I was dead. If there was an afterlife, at least I will get to see mom again.
Suddenly, a cloud of red light appeared, and, in an instant, the shadow people were no more. What remained was a cloud of dark mist as it floated in an air. Then I heard a sucking sound like someone had just turned on a vacuum cleaning while watching the mist being taken in by the mouth of a slender figure until there was nothing left. Then a loud gulping sound followed.
The pitter-patter of shoes squeaking echoed in the hallway as they got closer and closer. "Really? I said that we should hang out again, and right when we're in the middle of a shadow creature infestation, here we are. If I have to guess, I think our paths are crossed by fate." My jaw almost dropped to the ground while my eyes bulged in surprise.
Coming out from the dark was Gabrielle who moseyed over and stood with her arms crossed while she arched her brow.
"Honestly, when we first met, I didn't peg you as a magic user as well," she commented.
My body hyped while I started to panic. Waving my hands nonthreateningly, I became hysterical as I tried to come up with an excuse. "Magic user?! I'm not a magic user! I don't even know what that even means!"
Her eyes rolled while she smirked. "Yeah, sure, and I suppose that beam of energy that came from your hand was a medical condition. You're not fooling anyone."
I sighed in defeat as I lowered my head. Usually, I was good at lying when it came to my "gifts", but since I was tired and exhausted, I couldn't muster a proper deception. Also, it might have worked if she hadn't seen me use magic right in front of her in the first place.
"Okay, fine. You caught me. I am a magic user," I grimaced. Leaning back up, I crossed my arms and furrowed my brows. "Then again, I can say the same thing about you. I didn't think I would find another magician so early in my life time, especially on the first day of school."
"Really? How would you meet another one?"
"Probably, through a letter that would take me to some magical school of wizards and witches."
The two of us just laughed. When you think about it, something like that would be a little absurd. Then everything went silent and Gabrielle and I just stood face-to-face for a mere 10 seconds.
Placing a hand on her hip, she glowered and frowned. "So, are you going to tell me why you're here, or not?"
I replied straightforwardly, "I just came here to get my math book, but the door's lock in Room 203 and that's when everything became crazy."
She shrugged her shoulders and nodded her head. "Hey, life is random, man. You just have to make the best of it." Grabbing my arm she placed it around her neck and guided me to the staircase, while she grinned half-heartedly.
"Come on. I'll help you get your book back."
I stood beside the door, watching Gabrielle get to work. In her hands were a bobby pin and a screwdriver. The sound of rattling emitted from the lock. I was impressed by how calm she was as her face remained placid the entire time.
"Have you done this before?"
"Yeah, I have. I'm your typical housebreaking chica." Twirling her screwdriver in the air, she smirked with sarcasm in her tone. "Let me guess, the reason you were so desperate for getting your math book is because you love math and get agitated when you can't do it. Am I right?"
I deadpanned while I pinched the bridge of my eyes. "Okay. Okay. I get the gist. Also, no, that's not the reason why. Stereotypes aside, have you really done this before?" I asked sullenly.
"No. I've never picked a lock, but I've seen a lot of YouTube videos on the subject and thought this seemed like a perfect opportunity to try."
That made a lot of sense, actually. There are a lot of videos on the subject. While she did look like a troublemaker, I didn't want to judge a book by its cover. However, our small talk was cut short as a loud click appeared and the door to the math room opened.
"There you go. Don't worry, I'll mail you the bill," Gabrielle remarked.
I walked in, grabbed my book, and slid it into my jacket. After closing and locking the classroom, Gabrielle and I climbed out of the school through the window and proceeded walking down the street as we headed home.
"So, why did you come to the school at this hour, anyway?" the two of us were traveling down the sidewalk for probably 20 minutes and I thought it was nice to pass the time with some small talk.
"Well, obviously, because of the shadow creatures. I've been investigating that phenomenon even before the school day started and was trying to find the source of it all." The way she spoke was like that of a detective, from her straightened posture to her stoic expression. Holding her chin, her brows furrowed as she thought analytically. "So far, my inquiry has led me to a dead end, but my assumption is that one of our classmates might be responsible for such an infestation."
Arching a brow, I couldn't help but stare at her with a weird look. Gabrielle became anxious as she chuckled and scratched her cheek while droplets of sweat formed on her head. "Sorry about that. When I was a kid, I used to read a lot of Sherlock Holmes. Because of that, I have a habit of acting like a private eye. It's my greatest shame."
Not wanting to get into that further, I changed the subject. "S-so, tell me about that trick earlier. How were you able to devour those shadow creature's remains like that?"
"It's a little power called 'soul-sucking'. It allows me to consume, not just souls, but any form of spiritual entity as it can increase my arsenal to use in my attacks." Something like that was really impressive, but it was a little terrifying with my face becoming perturbed as my eyes rose.
"…and how did you come across such an ability?"
"Don't ask questions you might not want the answer to." At the time, I didn't really get what she meant, but I would have learned it one way or another. "What about you, Genji? How long have you been able to use Aether?"
"It is one of the seven elements in the world and is considered by many to be the breath of the gods." stated Gabrielle. She held a finger up while her glare became serious. We both stopped as I listened to her explained. "I don't mean the elements on a periodic table. In this world, there are seven 'true' elements: Fire, Earth, Air, Water, Light, Darkness, and Aether. Among them are several sub-elements like combustion and ice, which are powers magicians can develop after mastering their respective element. However, since Aether is a powerful and impossible element to harness in this world, it is rare to see a magician be able to control such an ability."
"How do you even know all of this?"
Shrugging her shoulders, Gabrielle answered, "Like you, I also did my research."
"Well, to be honest, it all happened when I was 11-years-old, and I had a lot of baggage." I told what she needed to know. I left some other…personal stuff out because I didn't want her to feel sorry for me. However, the part about me 'freaking out while working out' did make her laugh, which made my cheeks turned a little red. "Long story short, I got powers and a fake excuse on why my bedroom lamp was shattered into pieces."
"And you used as a beginners guide?!" Holding a hand to her face, she let out a bellowing laugh before leaning back a little. The way she laughed kind of got on my nerves as I glared at her with a deadpanned expression.
"Yeah, and before I could finish my training, the site was taken down a year afterwards. Luckily, I managed to copy some of the spells on the site and write it down on a piece of paper."
"You do know that that sight was posted by magic-user wannabes in hopes of finding actual magicians, right?! Because of people constantly mistaking it for a grammar-checking site and because of rants from Christian fanatics, the makers got sick and tired of the complaints and had to take it down out of fruitlessness!"
"How do you even know that?" I questioned with my arms crossed.
"Same as you. When my powers came in, I used the same site also. However, unlike you, I actually printed my spell list, instead of writing them down," she replied. Having a hand on her hip, she moved a strand of hair away from her face while she pursed her lips.
Once we finished talking, we kept on walking while the sound of our laughter filled the air until we reached our destination. The only time we ever stopped laughing was when someone told us "Shut up! I'm trying to sleep!"
I stood on the footsteps at the front door. I waved Gabrielle goodbye as she walked down on the opposite side of the street. Reaching into my pocket and pulling out my smartphone, my eyes bulged when I saw how late it was. Luckily, the door wasn't locked, which meant that either Rose must have unlocked it for me or possibly Uncle Josh was waiting to give me a stern talking about where I was and why I came home so late. Hopefully, Aunt Rebecca's still at the office. So, she wouldn't partake in the bashing. Luckily, that didn't concern me as I was happy to have met another magic-user just like me, and someone so…free-spirited and jovial at best. Who knows? Maybe our meeting was fated to be and maybe the red thread had already been tied to our fingers. However, I couldn't help but feel there was more to Gabrielle than meets the eye.