Chapter 5

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“Stupid halo.” I glared at it.

Harder than I’d expected. I’ve got plenty of experience with magic, but using the halo is like learning magic all over again. I’m so used to channeling my powers through my feathers, and… well, I guess that’s why we had to pluck ourselves: to force us to use the halos instead. And here I thought it was just because angels are frickin’ insane about their religion.

I was determined to get out of Ms. Slaphappy’s class. Despite my best efforts to obey her, she still yells at me for nothing. And slaps me with that damn ruler.

I sighed and put the halo back on. Closed my eyes and meditated some more.

The age-old problem of learning magic: it doesn’t work if you’re not calm and centered, and it’s hard to be calm and centered when you’re struggling with magic. And when you keep thinking about Ms. Slaphappy.

“Alex? You in there?” Lilly. “You wanted some help with your halo, remember?”

Lilly and I had agreed to help each other with the halos so we could get away from Ms. Slaphappy as soon as possible.

I hopped off my bed and unlocked the door for her. “Thanks for coming.”

“No problem. Always happy to help a friend. What are you stuck on?”

“Everything.” I sat on my bed again. “I–I can’t get this thing to work at all. I can’t even sense minds with it.” Sensing minds, by the way, comes as easily as hearing and seeing.

“Huh.” Lilly frowned. “Maybe it’s not calibrated properly?”

“I’ve tried recalibrating it. I think it might be busted or something.”

“Could be… mind if I try it?”

I shrugged. “Worth a try. Let’s switch.”

“Yeah,” she said once she had mine on, “The settings feel kind of messed up. It might be defective.”

I took her halo off. Hurts a little to wear it. “Yours feels even worse than mine. The settings on mine are probably different because–oh, shit. That explains it.”

“What? Something wrong?”

“Possibly…” I sighed heavily. “Do these things come in different models? You know, for different kinds of magic?” A desperate hope. Maybe a different model would work better for…

“You think you got one that’s just for healing or something?”

“No. I…” I sighed. “I think they might only work for light magic.”

“Well, why would that be a–” She stopped and stared at me. “Wait. Are you saying you–”

“Use dark magic?” I shrugged. “I see no reason to bother some diety when I can do things myself. So, yeah. I use dark magic.”

Brief explanation: in light magic, the power is siphoned off someone else, either a spirit/diety, or a group of other magicians. The benefit is that the individual magician doesn’t need to be powerful, because the power comes from eleswhere. It also tends to be easier, because the magical energy comes pre-packaged for whatever spell you need.

Dark magic, on the other hand, is self-contained. The magician uses their own power, so they’re free to use it as they wish. Harder, but you don’t have to worry about some diety saying “nah, I don’t really care about your issues. You’re (insert minority here).” Seriously, it happens. Deities can be highly judgmental.

“I guess that explains it,” Lilly said, “These halos connect you to God, so… if you’re not using His power…”

“Then it’s just a worthless headpiece?” I clenched my toes. “Crap. And… and if I can’t use a halo… then I can’t pass the test. And I’ll never be rid of Ms. Slaphappy.”

“It just means you have to learn light–”

“I’ll… I’ll flunk training. If I can’t use a halo, then I can’t–I can’t… And it’s… bye-bye wings. or… or I get marked as ‘fallen’, and… shit. Why the hell do I have to be a frickin’ angel!” I’d been holding it in for a long time, trying to assure myself that everything would be okay, that I could get through it and get back to my life, but… if I can’t use a halo, then I’m screwed. Utterly screwed.

“Hey. Relax.” Lilly put her hand on my shoulder. “Don’t get so worked up. It just means you need to use light magic. That’s all. And it won’t be hard. Angels are naturals at it, so–”

I blinked. Suddenly feeling better. Way better. No explanation except…

“Did… did you do that?” I stared at Lilly.

“What?” She pulled her hand away.

She genuinely had no idea. Interesting…

“You channeled energy into me. Emotional healing energy. Or something”

“Did I?”

“Yeah. And guess what?” I smiled. “I can feel your mind now. Halo’s working. My guess is it waits for the wearer to recieve energy from someone else, and then…” I concentrated on my trash can. Made it catch fire. “Then it works!”

Lilly jumped back.

“Oh, right. The fire. Yeah, I did that. Don’t worry. I’ll put it–”

Turns out the fire sprinklers work, too.

“–out.” We were both soaking wet within seconds.

Lilly stared at me.

I laughed. “Hey, at least we don’t have any feathers to dry, right?”

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