I like the rain well enough, but this is outrageous.
An intense lightning storm crackles above the river’s delta. Constant thunderous noise reverberates from afar, disturbing the mana in the air. Yet the buildings in the complex in front of me are busy with people. How they even want to study here is the biggest question of my life right now.
“Welcome to Stormbrewer Academy!” Professor Saki shouts. I roll my eyes.
“Did nobody come up with a better name?” I shout back. She laughs, then gestures for me to follow her. The moment I walk past the gates, the crackling ceases, replaced by the murmurs of the crowd. I shake my head, my ears still ringing a bit.
“Sound barriers. Thank goodness.”
“I hear they had to replace the barriers every day back in the old days,” Prof says, pointing at the old symbols carved into the stone gates. Beside them, metallic rod-shaped devices stand tall. A transparent plastic tube surrounds each of them, triangle-shaped yellow stickers saying DO NOT TOUCH warning away anyone who has bright ideas about touching the metal.
“Both lightning rod and a sound barrier in one device. Huh.”
“Yes. The lightning powers them. Technology to the rescue yet again,” Prof pipes in.
“For the sake of everyone’s eardrums, I’d say.”
I observe the storm. The light shows are amazing, even more so without the thunders. I take a photo and send it to Aiden.
Nature on a rampage, I type. And send.
Prof’s voice snaps me out of my amazement. “Come on, Nya. No time to be mesmerized.”
I lock my phone and put it in my pocket, then hurry to follow her.
Four hours later, my thesis notebook is filled with scribbles of things I should look up later. They’re mostly books related to artificial mana circulation technology, or in simpler terms, man-made lightning.
Any junior highschooler can tell you that lightning enhances magic, but the complex mechanism is only taught in university-level Physics. Lightning naturally recharges depleted mana particles, and since this place has constant lightning storms, people residing here tend to discover their magic earlier than anywhere else in the world. Magical experiments and matter manipulation run smoother here due to the high density of mana particles in the air. Such is the history of this renowned academy.
I put my notebook in my bag and whip out my phone. Aiden has sent a reply. But before I can read it, someone crashes into me. My phone falls freely from my hand to the shallow pond below. I fall backward, the person’s books raining on top of me.
“What the what!”
“I’m so sorry! Are you OK?” a small voice squeaks. The owner of the voice is a woman dressed in gray for the office.
“I’m OK, but my phone fell two floors below.”
Ignoring the woman, I hurry downstairs and find my phone in a small, dirty pond of water. I pick it up and sigh. Its shape is less than ideal. Drips of water come out of the ugly gap it now has at the sides. No solid matter manipulation can save it now.
“Goodbye, old friend,” I say to myself. I stare at my broken phone, my Time Guardian Aislinn fan art wallpaper substituted by blackness and my dark reflection. An idea pops into my mind.
Time magic, huh? Won’t hurt to try.
“Rewiiiiiiind,” I mumble, halfheartedly making a counterclockwise gesture with my fingers.
You know those times you try to do something silly because you’ve seen it on video games, like clapping your hands to do alchemy? This is one of those times.
Except something happens.
Water seeps out of the gaps and stops mid-air. The metal creaks and straightens. A soft clack vibrates through my hand, and the display lightens up. The water droplets fall alongside the rain.
I nearly drop my phone again. Trembling, I touch a button. And then another button. And another. Everything works normally. But how?
What on Realta just happened?
“You what?” Prof shakes her head in disbelief.
“I, uh, fixed my impossible-to-fix phone by rewinding it?” I offer.
“You’re a time mage?”
“Yeah, right.” I scoff.
“Great name you have there,” Prof coughs, breaking the silence. I groan.
“Do you have any acquaintances well-versed in this matter?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. He teaches in this academy. Should still be in his office. Let’s go meet him.”
I follow her through the academy’s corridors to arrive in front of a small office door. She knocks. A muffled old man’s voice chimes from within.
“Come in, it’s unlocked,” he says. The door creaks open with Prof’s push, and inside is a small old man surrounded by books. The musty smell of old paper greets me.
The old man lifts his head from his desk. “Oh, Saki! Came to visit your old mentor?”
“Yes, Professor Nakamoto,” she shakes his hand, then gestures to me.
“But more importantly, this here is Chronia. She’s… a time mage, I think.”
“Oh, really? Wise parents.”
I hold back my groan this time, offering my hand instead. Professor Nakamoto’s eyes widen as his colder hand grasps mine. From his magic, I feel kind of a kinship with him.
“A time mage indeed,” he says, giving a smile. “Congratulations.”
I release my handshake, shaking my head in disbelief. “Me. A time mage.”
“Yes,” he strikes his chin. “You felt it, didn’t you? I’m also a time mage.” I nod slowly, staring at my hand. I can still feel the way his magic strengthens mine.
“The dense mana particles here must have triggered it,” he says, amused. He turns to Prof.
“So, Saki. You haven’t turned my old room into a storage, haven’t you?”
“I… sorry, I just did. A few weeks ago,” she says.
“Well, move them somewhere else, I’m coming home,” Professor Nakamoto says with a confident grin. His eyes meet mine with a grandfatherly warmth.
“Seems like your dear old dad still has someone else to train.”
“And that’s how I ended up studying time magic under Professor Nakamoto,” Chronia says, ending her tale. Aislinn whistles.
“You drew a fan art of me and made it your phone wallpaper. I’m touched.”
Chronia’s face turns red. “You were a mysterious Guardian. Everyone who loves The Guardians’ Tales documentary loves you.” She shakes her head. “I didn’t think the real person’s like… this.”
“Hey!” Aislinn protests.
“So that’s why Uncle went home,” Kumiko interrupts. “Glad he’s home when he died.”
“Yes, well. He died just after I finished my training,” Chronia says, reminiscence in her eyes.
“Doing what he loves,” Kumiko smiles. She stands and stretches.
“Well, Chronia. Since you were trained by my uncle, I’ve got some techniques I developed for combat while in the military that I think would suit you.” She offers her hand to the younger woman. “Want to train?”
Chronia takes Kumiko’s hand and nods.
“Anything to fix the world.”
I was bored, so I asked for a prompt in the Come Write Indo Discord group. kavacha gave me a picture prompt: Catatumbo Lightning Storm (see above image). The plotting process brought me back to writing Inertia shorts.
(Inertia is the title of my unfinished NaNoWriMo 2017 novel.)