Osaka, Japan, Sunday February 4th, 2035
Like a beautiful flower unveiling its charms to the world for the first time, Orchid Tanaka opened her eyes and became aware of the myriad of vivid colors present in her surroundings. Her flesh was surrounded by a viscous liquid that held her body firmly in place, inside the transparent pod where she had been given birth.
Her unmoving arms and legs were extended horizontally on the inner surface of the vessel where she was currently resting. Her chest moved slightly back and forth as the young girl breathed the air fed to her through an oxygen tube. The tube, along with other cords, led outside of the pod to machines meant to sustain her vital functions.
Overwhelmed by the brilliant light coursing through the room, the comely teenager closed her eyes once more. A scientist was staring at her graceful form, running a hand on the outer surface of the glass vessel that housed her body. The diligent researcher, clad in a long white laboratory coat, was absorbed in his thoughts, monitoring the development of every piece constituting her whole.
"You're finally awake," the middle-aged man said to the captive red-haired maiden. "It is time for you to join the living..."
* * *
Tokyo, Japan, Wednesday February 14th, 2035
A young man woke up to the sound of his alarm clock, in the early hours of this cold Sunday morning. Cursing the fact that the weekend had been too short, he rubbed his sleepy eyes, then quickly shut the alarm off by tapping a large button on top of the digital clock.
Alas, the damage had already been done. Waiting a few moments, the young man tried to resume his slumber, but his dreams now seemed unreachable, his nighttime fantasies far and distant. Groaning in frustration, the teenager left his bed after having covered his feet with beige slippers. His legs numb with fatigue, he slowly walked towards the kitchen, where he saw his father sitting down behind the table they normally used for eating.
"Hey," the teenager greeted his father in a somnolent manner, noticing the older man was looking at his son more seriously than usual. "What's up?"
The parent had already taken a shower and dressed up for the day; he was now savoring a cup of warm tea. He gestured to his son, inviting the young man to sit down in front of him.
"I have important news for you, Yusuke," the middle-aged man said.
Yusuke quickly grabbed a seat, anxious to hear the important news. His dark brown hair was ruffled by a night of sleep and he did not take the time to prepare properly; he thus hoped the news had nothing to do with...
"We'll be receiving a guest today," the father said, hiding an amused grin behind his cup while he noticed his son's face blushing with embarrassment. "She'll be accompanying you to school!"
"Dad!" the young man exclaimed with a pleading tone of voice. "You couldn't have told me about this earlier?"
"Sorry," the father told his son, laughing heartily. "Her name's Orchid Tanaka, she's the daughter of a friend of mine who lives in Osaka," he continued, regaining his solemn composure. "She was named after the school, Tokyo's Orchid School of Magic," he went on, noting that his son was not paying enough attention to the matter.
"My friend Tanaka wants her to go to that school, and we are to help her in her integration. That's where you come in; I want you to show her around the school premises and protect her while she gets used to this new life."
"I see," Yusuke said, a little annoyed, his facial traits speaking volumes about his frustration. "What a chore, now I have to babysit a little girl!"
"And I want you to take this task very seriously," the father continued in spite of his son's protests. "She is not a normal human like you and I. She was not conceived in the womb of a woman. She was... created."
"Created?" the brown-haired teenager repeated, wondering what his father meant.
"Yes... It's difficult to explain," the old man said, trying to find the words to explain the details of Orchid's artificial birth. "What's important for you to know is that she's not quite mature when it comes to her personality," he rapidly continued his explanation, knowing time was not on his side. "It will be important for us to help her mingle with friends and thrive in a real-world environment."
Yusuke nodded right before he heard the doorbell of their residence. He rushed towards the entrance of the condominium and opened the door. Dumbfounded, the boy watched the lovely girl in front of him as she bowed to introduce herself. Snowflakes gently fell on her ruffled long red hair, leaving it slightly moist. She was dressed entirely in colors close to light red and pink, including her unfastened winter jacket, her blouse, her skirt, her leggings and ankle boots. The young man would not have hesitated to qualify her attire as 'cute'.
"Hello, my name is Orchid," the young girl politely said, her upper body still inclined in a manner of respect. "I was told to come stay here with uncle Ito for a while," she told Yusuke with some doubt in her tone of voice, uncertain she had come to the right address.
"You've finally come!" echoed the voice of Yusuke's father as he walked up to the two teenagers.
A cheerful smile illuminated Orchid's face as she saw the middle-aged man. She rapidly flew to his side and found solace in his arms, resting her weary head on his chest. The parent looked at his son and urged the boy to prepare himself to accompany her to her destination.
* * *
"So tell me a little about yourself," Yusuke asked his young female companion as they walked in the direction of her school, leaving footprints in the powdery snow behind them.
The young man was walking in a carefree manner, holding the handle of his black schoolbag over his shoulder. He did not seem too anxious to hear about her past but still attempted to start a conversation with the young girl.
"Hum, let's see..." the adolescent maiden timidly thought out loud, stroking her light red hair with her hand. "Oh I know!" she cheerfully exclaimed after having found the perfect answer to her companion's question. "I love to cook," she started to say excitedly, happy to have found an occasion to share her passions with another person, "and sunbathing, oh sunbathing..."
Sheer joy permeated her words as she mentioned her love for sunbathing. The young girl was lost in her reverie, daydreaming about blissful summer days. Her eyes were sparkling, her hands joined near her heart in a gesture of elation.
The young man looked at her with disdainful eyes, finding her exhilaration to be a bit exaggerated. He grimaced at the thought of her continuing her emotional display.
"That's not really what I meant," Yusuke simply said. "What was it like in Osaka, what were your parents like?"
"Oh," Orchid said, snapping out of her fantasies. "I don't really have a mom, but that's okay because my dad always took good care of me!" she merrily told the young man. "I always do a lot of things with him, like shopping, fishing, enjoying good cuisine..."
"Is that so?" Yusuke thoughtlessly interrupted her, a little envious. "Wish my old man would do some stuff with me," he said, shifting his gaze from the young girl to the building towards which they were walking.
"Hm? What was your mom like, Yusuke?" she asked him, noticing how little she knew about the young man. "I know a lot about my uncle, but not much about my aunt..."
"She died a long time ago..." Yusuke told her, obviously feeling sadness from the memories evoked by the mention of his mother.
"Oh..." the red-haired teenager said while lowering her eyes to look at the ground, ashamed to have caused the young man such discomfort.
"Well, this is your school," the boy said after they had stopped walking in front of a sophisticated establishment. "I'll be back to pick you up once classes are over."
"You're not coming with me?" the adolescent girl asked him with a bit of surprise.
"No, I go to the school in front of yours; the school you're going to is a school for 'gifted' individuals..." Yusuke replied, stating facts as they were with no detour.
* * *
"We have a new student today!" echoed the voice of a middle-aged woman throughout her classroom as she introduced to her students the latest addition to their cohort. "Her name is Orchid Tanaka."
Orchid was standing next to the refined professor in front of a class of thirty students, in a small but elegant classroom. The new girl showed her good manners by bowing respectfully to her fellow classmates before the teacher concluded the introductions.
"She is gifted with the use of fire magic," the professor continued. "I hope you will treat her kindly."
Orchid walked awkwardly towards an empty seat in the front row, feeling a bit of shyness from being the focus of everyone's attention. She heard a few whispers from the crowd; some of these murmurs were quite candid.
"This one's an idiot... I can tell!" a faint whisper emerged from the noisy crowd to reach Orchid's embarrassed ears.
"Settle down," the teacher told her students before starting to walk between rows of desks, resuming her lecture where she had ended it the week earlier. "What I want to do today is stimulate a class discussion about the various schools of thought," she continued, a writing pad resting on the soft white fabric of her blouse as she held her notes against her chest with her forearms.
The sound of the teacher's high heels resonated throughout the small classroom as she continued her march, unfettered by the tightness of her long gray skirt. As the teacher finished circulating through a corridor made by two rows of students, she looked intently into the cold blue eyes of a particular pupil.
"Bleu, in order to start this discussion, we will need to be reminded of the four main categories of magic," the teacher asked the blue-haired student, whose austere demeanor could be readily mistaken for unfriendliness.
"Protection magic, Destruction magic, Transfer magic and Seduction magic," the light-skinned student simply said with her usual low-pitched and detached tone of voice.
Sitting at the back of the class and wearing the ordinary black and white uniform of her school, the young girl never tried to attract any attention to herself. She didn't quite understand why the teacher was picking on her all of a sudden.
Nevertheless, the pale girl felt something strange for a moment and turned her attention towards the new student, who was looking at her innocently. As Orchid's eyes met with Bleu's, the embarrassed red-haired girl turned around, disturbed by the icy sensation she felt taking a hold of her heart. Was it something she did? Something about Bleu felt so... cold.
The teacher turned her back on the diligent student she had just interrogated and resumed her walk through another row of the class, this time facing the front of the room.
"And can someone remind the class how minor influences work?" the teacher asked the students, hoping someone would answer without her having to pick a random person.
"A magic user who is endowed with the ability to use one major category of magic will also have an affinity for one of eight possible influences," boomed the articulate voice of a distinguished young girl sitting in the back. "These influences are Power, Reality, Mind, Astral, Rave, Elemental, Life and Soul."
The teacher turned around to glance at the sophisticated Prudence Elle Lonergan, a child destined to preserve the legacy of the illustrious Lonergan family. The Canadian adolescent girl ran a hand through her long dark brown hair. She gracefully complemented the school's customary attire, a black skirt and a white blouse, with a prominent ebony cross resting between her breasts. The Christian ornament lied at the end of a necklace that surrounded the collar of her blouse. She often preferred not to draw any attention to her religious beliefs by concealing that necklace under her clothing.
"You're right, Prudence," the teacher acknowledged the student's answer as being correct before walking up to her desk. "If you consider the relationship between the aforementioned elements, you can clearly see thirty-two possible schools of thought," the teacher said while she pressed a key on her laptop to project the image of a neatly divided square on the classroom's display panel.
"A person using Seduction magic and influenced by the Reality sphere belongs to the illusionist school of thought, whereas another user of Seduction magic whose affinity lies with the Astral sphere will belong to the school of Mysticism," the teacher continued her lecture, looking at her students. "A person endowed with Transfer magic and influenced by Reality will belong to the summoning school of thought, while a caster of Protection magic influenced by Life will belong to the school of Healing."
"Now if you consider methods of channeling magic on top of that," the teacher said while emphasizing her words to capture the attention of the young girls, "you'll see the square becomes a three-dimensional cube."
Orchid just sat there, simply entranced by the words of her teacher. Meanwhile, the other young girls were frantically taking notes, expecting this lecture to be exam material. The teacher continued her explanations unabashedly.
"The Federation of Schools of Magic, using the works of several academicians such as the late Henry Wright, attempted to categorize these thirty-two types of magic into schools of thought, but the classifications and studies are still incomplete, and this is where our debate comes in..." the teacher said, opening the class to a group discussion on the many possibilities offered to them by the use of magic. "For instance, all major categories using the Elemental influence have been studied, since elemental magic is one of the most frequent types of magic found among casters..."
"So what you are saying, Mrs. Assaf, is that there are still many schools of thought that have yet to be discovered..." Prudence asked from the back of the class, unwittingly cutting the teacher's explanations short.
"Well, have you ever seen someone use Transfer magic with an Astral or Rave influence?" a classmate asked Prudence. "Like, how would that even work?"
"There's something I want to know above all else..." Prudence said without pausing to consider her classmate's question. "How does magic interact with the divine?" she asked her teacher, her ebony cross nestled in the palm of her hand. "We all know about the existence of the school of thought known as the Forbidden Divine Arts..."
"Prudence!" an attractive blond girl yelled at the Canadian student from the front row with a low-pitched tone of voice. "That school of thought is forbidden for a reason!"
"Claire..." the Canadian girl whispered, looking at her friend with a dumbfounded expression before the school bell abruptly tolled, announcing the beginning of recess.
* * *
A few moments later, the pale young maiden known as Bleu Heisashi sat on a wooden bench in the schoolyard. She was accompanied by a comely teenage girl, whose long and textured auburn hair was a pleasant vision of beauty in the midst of this austere white winter snow, and a contrast to Bleu's own short blue hair. The light-skinned young girl peeled an apple before cutting it in half, giving a portion of the fruit to her comrade.
"There you go," Bleu told her friend before receiving her companion's thanks.
The two adolescent girls enjoyed the fruit while having a delightful conversation, remembering old times. A warm smile illuminated Bleu's face for the first time in many months. This is because she felt truly happy when in the presence of her childhood friend, a person she had not seen for a while. This happiness did not last, since their frugal meal was soon to be interrupted by the approach of three notorious schoolgirls.
"Eh, Bleu has a friend, I didn't even think that was possible," the blond leader of the group said contemptuously, standing proudly before her two interlocutors with her arms crossed. "Just because your father is the head of NATO..."
"If it isn't the three stooges," Bleu's friend retorted with amusement, interrupting the American maiden. The five girls knew these harsh words were only spoken in jest, however, and exchanged affectionate smiles shortly thereafter.
"Welcome back, milady Ellis of the wind elemental," the heiress to the Lonergan family name told her esteemed classmate, greeting the young girl with a bow.
"Where have you been!" the third student, another Canadian girl known as Amelia Whitfield, asked Ellis with a loud and passionate voice, glad to see her comrade after such a long absence.
"Ah, the heavenly Prudence, the ambitious Claire Wright, and the wily temptress Amelia Whitfield," Ellis said with a chuckle, looking at the three girls in front of her successively. "It's been a while; to tell you the truth, I've been traveling."
"You owe us a detailed account, then!" Amelia told Ellis gleefully, encouraging her classmate to indulge her in stories of her travels.
* * *
Moments after recess, Orchid played tennis inside a gymnasium, in the company of many other girls. The adolescent maiden panted as she ran around on her side of the tennis court, trying to send the rubber ball back to her adversary. Orchid's opponent, an innocent girl whose purity rivaled her own, tried her best to catch the ball with her racket. Every time the girls were about to drop the ball, they shrieked from fear of losing.
"You're good!" Orchid's opponent exclaimed, her long brown hair flowing with the wind as she actively went from one end of the indoor court to another.
"You're not so bad yourself, Hitomi!" the red-haired maiden replied cheerfully, enjoying the fun moment she was sharing with a person she now valued as a friend.
Shortly thereafter, the girls were showering in the restroom, finally relaxing from their physical education class and washing the sweat off their flesh. Orchid, naked, timidly enveloped her voluptuous body in a towel and awkwardly walked towards a shower cabinet she thought was empty. The door was partially open, and the steam surrounding the area slightly blurred her vision.
Peering inside the shower cabinet, she saw an intriguing blond woman whose graceful body was covered with strange black markings. The adolescent girl known as Claire Wright was drying her short golden hair by rubbing it against her towel. Unexpectedly, she noticed Orchid's presence and stared at the red-haired maiden with deep hatred in her eyes.
"You want to die?" the blond girl snapped at the new student with rage that was easily noticeable in her low-pitched tone of voice.
"Orchy, let's... leave Claire alone," another blond girl said with concern as she passed by. Orchid's most recent acquaintance encircled the red-haired maiden's right arm with her hands, steering the young girl away from where she was currently standing.
"Leave it to Gwen to save a peasant's life," Amelia Whitfield told Orchid's protector with a mixture of amusement and scorn. She had witnessed the scene from afar while stroking her back with a towel, her bare body resting on a wooden bench that stretched from one end of the room to the next.
* * *
The girls studying in the Japanese Orchid School of Magic concluded their afternoon with one final class in magic channeling practicum. The course was supervised by a woman known throughout the school as a magistrate, or rather a professor of high rank who also held administrative responsibilities within the academic institution.
For the purpose of this class, the magistrate was accompanied in her duties by an assistant tasked with helping in the supervision of the students as they practiced their magic.This was a perfect opportunity for magic users to get hands-on experience in controlling their 'gift'.
As Magistrate Airin circulated back and forth among her students, her light blue robe was slightly lifted from the ground by surrounding air currents. She quietly monitored her pupils as they cast their spells. The magistrate first looked over to the student known as Ellis Lyonorr while the young girl merrily created a minuscule whirlwind within the palm of her hand through the absorption of air from her surroundings.
The magistrate shifted her gaze to the Canadian girl known as Prudence Elle Lonergan and witnessed the young girl create a magical barrier around her body by chanting the words of a prayer. The student's long brown hair was slightly lifted upwards by the air currents produced by her aura, and the ebony cross found on the end of her necklace glowed with a radiant white light.
The magistrate then turned her attention to Bleu Heisashi, daughter of the renowned Ryunosuke Heisashi, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Her father's appointment was an honor bestowed upon Japan after its entry in the organization. The blue-haired student simply manipulated the particles of hydrogen found in her environment, condensing them to create water. Seconds later, she froze that water into ice by drastically lowering its temperature.
She finally looked at her newest pupil. The red-haired maiden innocently rose her hands to place them right in front of her face. With a shriek of excitement, she witnessed vibrant flames suddenly appear out of nowhere to float over the palm of her hands. Her eyes, partly reflecting the light of the bright fire, sparkled with delight. The magistrate looked at this spectacle with worry; needless to say, she was not amused.
"You seem a little distraught," the assistant whispered to Airin after having caught up with her. "What are we looking at?" she wondered. "She simply manipulated the elements around her to create fire."
"Is that what you think?" Airin asked the young and inexperienced female assistant. "I sense no shred of Elemental influence in this girl, and I did not see any particles being manipulated either," the magistrate went on, gently touching her chin with her right hand.
"Ellis uses elemental magic by draining air from her surroundings and focusing it in a smaller area; Bleu uses the same type of magic by manipulating hydrogen, condensing it into water which she then freezes at will," the magistrate explained to her young attendant. "This girl, however... Orchid, was it? She did not create those flames, she simply summoned them from another place."
The magistrate looked at the assistant, fully aware the young woman would not understand her concerns.
"Orchid's magic is not elemental magic, it is reality distortion magic," she quickly continued her comments while staring at the lively red-haired child. "This child just stepped into this school, and already she can manipulate planes of existence?" Airin concluded, looking at the attendant with perplexed eyes.
Gary Germeil, M. Sc.