“Kohana.” I gulp on impulse. I can feel myself turning into mush. This is the first time Isleen has ever said my name, and it’s ten times more beautiful coming out of her mouth. My name isn’t more beautiful than her, of course; I can barely keep my eyes on her from fear that my face will explode from blushing so much. I’m looking everywhere she isn’t, which is hard, because she’s all I want to look at, she encompasses all my thoughts. Knitting my fingers together isn’t helping me not to be a love-struck mess, and neither is playing with my hair. I need a distraction, nothing works. …Actually, the coiling-strands-of-my-hair-around-my-fingers thing probably looks like I’m trying to flirt with her or something—bad idea.
Before I can even get a chance to re-adjust myself, Isleen, with an unreadable expression, slowly begins to trace the shape of my cheek with the point of one of her nails. It’s intimidating. Her nails are super long, so very sharp. I’ve seen what those things can do to people, to Shadows. My heart is beating so fast it feels like it’ll come bursting out of my chest. Here I am panicking, and Isleen is standing cool and composed, basking in all my nervous movements. The tiniest quirk of her lips catches me off guard and I flinch, terrified by her smirk. She takes her nail across my jaw, under my chin, and then lifts my head up so that I have no choice but to look at her. My cheeks are burning. How is it possible for someone to be this pretty? I don’t do well around pretty girls, and Isleen is by far the prettiest.
“Look at me when I am speaking to you.” I nod my head. This is the most she’s ever said to me, so it must be important that I do so.
…The only problem is she doesn’t say anything for a while after I nod, so my mind has no choice but to wander. It’s funny, everything the Commander said is still fresh in my mind. Well, it’s not like it’s been too long since we talked, probably a half hour at most. As soon as I started crying, Blaire ditched me like I knew she would. So much for that other member of the SOF teaching me how to use that super secret technique, but whatever. I wanted to get out of the Commander’s labyrinth of a castle, but like hell I was going to ask someone for directions. I walked and walked, and then eventually Isleen showed up, backing me into this corner. She’s awfully close, like she doesn’t want anyone to see us. With the state the Earth is in, and my mother turning out to be possessed by some ancient god hellbent on destroying the multiverse, it’s been hard to focus on anything, but Isleen is easy to pay attention to.
She commands it, she’s commanding. Her gaze is scalpel-sharp, I feel like if I look away from her for one second I’ll be skewered, and so there’s this intense energy between us. I can’t make heads or tails of why she approached me like this, even worse is the fact that Isleen doesn’t talk in general. She has to want something, and as beautiful as she is I didn’t sign up for a staring contest. I have too much to do, too many places to be. I need to find Hiroyuki, we need to regroup. My mother’s out there, and I intend to find her. There must be some way to save her, I won’t give up. Not on her, not on Tasi, and not on the Earth.
“What, is there something on my face?” It’s a snarky response, sure, but it took me a lot of courage to even begin to break this silence. For all my nerve and infatuation, Isleen still terrifies me
“You brought a pest. Fix it.”
“That’s not very helpful. What’s going on?”
Isleen leads me to a nearby room with three people in it: Hiroyuki, D’ivoire, and some random girl. I’ve never been so happy to see Hiroyuki in my entire life. I’m dashing towards him, arms out, my eyes tearing up like the big baby I am. I can’t help but cry, you know? The last time I saw him my planet was on the brink of destruction. It was scary waking up on this foreign new planet with him nowhere in sight after that. I guess I’m too used to him being around all the time. When I’m finally able to latch onto him all my emotions start pouring out all at once. I’m bawling so hard I can’t get words out of my mouth. I’m just standing here crying and crying and crying into him and I’m expecting him to say something awful about it but he doesn’t. He places his hand on my head which makes me pause for a second to look at him, and then he runs his fingers through my hair. It’s such a kind gesture that it makes me cry even more.
“You have been through a lot, hmm?” It’s so comforting to hear his voice again. My hold around him tightens. I pull myself together enough to look up at him, tears streaming down my face. I try to get words out of my mouth but all my lips do is quiver. “I never doubted you for a second, General.” I’m not sure what his aim is here. If he’s trying to cheer me up he’s doing a terrible job at it. He says that like I actually did something. I didn’t do anything but watch my planet get overrun by Shadows. Hiroyuki has so much faith in me, and for what? I told him I wouldn’t be good at this sort of thing, I told him Spectra should have picked a different person to be their general. “If it were not for you, our ship would not have made it off the Earth.”
“H-huh…?” I blink a few times in confusion. Rest assured, I’m still crying though.
“The umbrakinetic refused to suffer our escape. Just as she shot the Aphelion down, she was determined to shoot D’ivoire’s ship down as well.”
Speaking of D’ivoire, he gives me a small smile and brings his head to the back of his head, placing his other hand on his hip. “I’m not as skilled as Hiroyuki when it comes to driving, but I was almost certain we weren’t gonna make it out of that. I was doing all kinds of twists and turns, weaving through all her attacks but we were getting wailed on hard. The lady’s got some serious aim, I’ll tell you that.” It’s hard to find humour in this situation, but D’ivoire’s last comment managed to get a chuckle out of me. He knows it too, that’s why his smile’s gotten ten times as wide.
Unlike Hiroyuki, D’ivoire knows how exactly how to make someone feel happier. I really appreciate it, I’m glad he was one of the people sent to Earth to save us. “Happened to glance to the left and saw you lighting up the place. Were awfully calm and all; concentrating, I think. Ship took a blast that should’ve blown our shit straight up. Thanks to you, that didn’t happen.” To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember any of this. This is all coming as a complete surprise to me. I was convinced we were all going to die at the hands of my mother, who I couldn’t raise a single hand against. I was just going to let it happen because I love her so much.
“You did something far beyond your current skill level.” Hiroyuki says, continuing where D’ivoire left off. “You warped the space around D’ivoire’s ship to create a barrier. Since it was created from the intangible space-time continuum, it could not be penetrated by force. For a moment D’ivoire’s ship was completely separate from the flow of time. We could see the umbrakinetic’s attacks spatially phase through us.” Sure, it sounds like I saved them, but what about the rest of the people on Earth? Saving a handful of people instead of the billions who needed my help—some hero I am, huh? Hearing all this doesn’t make me feel better. Hiroyuki and D’ivoire are talking like this is something I should be proud of. I kind of miss Blaire being around and telling me how worthless I am. I’d even take the Commander’s pot-shots over this. “You grew exponentially in that moment. I am proud of you, Kohana.”
Hearing Hiroyuki say he is proud of me brings me to pause. For some reason I start thinking about my father and how I was never able to get those words out of him. From Hiroyuki they’re comforting, perhaps a bit too much. My eyes well up with tears again and before I know it I’m back to being a sobbing mess. It’s then that I realize Hiroyuki is really all that I have left. Suddenly I realize how important he is to me, that throughout this entire fiasco of Shadows ruining the Earth and finding out my mother’s true identity, he’s been the only one to stand beside me through it all. He’s been there from the beginning to the end of the Earth, always by my side, always picking me up when I fall. I clutch his coat a little tighter as I cry into it, my body trembling under the weight of all my emotions.
“P-please don’t leave me,” I manage to stutter out. It’s hitting me now that the umbrakinetic could have killed Hiroyuki, it could have been him instead of Vasche. I can’t afford to lose him. He’s been the only constant in my life. Through thick and through thin, I’ve become another person because of him.
“That is a much different tone from when we first met, isn’t it?” Now he’s teasing me again, but I don’t mind it. This is just regular old Hiroyuki. I don’t have to look up to see the smile on his face, I can hear it in his voice. “While I am certain you will once again be your usual fractious self in due time, I must remind you that I am your Advisor.” Here he goes, being all technical and stuff again. As if I didn’t know that, as if I forgot. Can he not be so professional for five seconds? “Always and forever, I will be your ears and eyes. Your hands, when you can no longer find the strength to use your fists. Your sword, when you find yourself unable to call upon the Star Stealer. Nothing can stand in the way of my oath to you. I will not falter. I cannot die.”
“Alright, alright, this father / daughter family reunion is over.” I’m grateful D’ivoire decided to cut in, because I don’t exactly know what to say to that. On one hand Hiroyuki always leaves me to fend for myself. On the other hand he’s right, he has never completely left me, and I’m still in one piece. Still, I take slight offense to what D’ivoire said, but I guess that’s not fair to him. He doesn’t know I have massive daddy issues, and I’d never call Hiroyuki my father. In fact, I don’t need a father anymore, I’m my own father. “It’s time to get back to business. You may have noticed Hiroyuki was MIA for a while. That’s ‘cause we were trying to deal with this little problem here.” D’ivoire gestures to the green-haired girl sitting in the chair behind him and Hiroyuki. I noticed her when Isleen and I walked into the room, but I’m just now only noticing the way she’s staring at me. She looks absolutely star-struck, it’s unnerving.
She must be some Celestial Being who is really excited to see me for some reason. While Blaire and I were making our way to see the Commander, she told me I was really popular, said I’m a celebrity on this planet and to not be surprised if people were crawling over each other to meet me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the attention, being popular somewhere in this multiverse is very relieving to me, it’s like I’m finally being rewarded for my good looks and general superiority over others, but it seems like she was waiting her whole life to meet me. Her face lights up the second we make eye-contact. It’s such a sudden change in her expression that I take a step back, worried she’ll jump out of her chair and maul me trying to give me a big hug. I don’t recognize her but her face says she recognizes me, like I’m an old friend she hasn’t seen in over a decade.
“—Says she knows you,” D’ivoire continues, folding his arms. The casualness of his gesture clashes with the serious look in his eyes. “Was wondering if that’s true.” What? No. Is this what this whole thing is about? I take it this is the problem Isleen wanted me to ‘solve.’ I look back at her for some answers and, of course, her face has none. She’s as unreadable as she’s ever been, and everyone else is awfully silent. I feel like a spotlight has just been cast on me. I don’t know what everyone wants me to do with some random girl, but okay, I’ll bite. I wipe my eyes of any stray tears and straighten my posture, smoothing out my clothes. I get my game face on since it’s obvious the atmosphere in the room has taken a turn for the worst. And here I was thinking I was going to have time to relax after we managed to escape the apocalypse on Earth.
“Ahem.” I clear my throat for dramatic effect. “Who are you?”
That should be enough to answer D’ivoire’s question. The girl, ecstatic that I’ve spoken directly to her, can hardly stay seated. I can tell she wants to jump up and get close, but with Hiroyuki and D’ivoire towering over her she can’t move. It’s like they’re protecting me from her. “Whoever you are, it seems like you’ve raised quite the commotion over me.” It now crosses my mind that she might be dangerous. That’s why my Advisor and a member of the SOF are ensuring she stays a good distance away from me. I’ll try not to say anything that might be taken the wrong way, even though the girl looks like she wouldn’t hurt a fly. She has these big, gentle green eyes. I can’t connect the dots on this one. Is she friend or foe? “You’ve got the attention of my best men.” ‘Best men’ sounds better than ‘good friends,’ which is what I would have said if I wasn’t a general and everyone in this room outside of this girl—or at least I think—wasn’t a soldier. “Care to explain why that is?”
She nods and averts her gaze from me. I find it odd that she’s now being shy after staring bullet holes into my skull. “I, um, I’m Baishō Masae! We’ve never met officially…” comes her trailing confession, like she’s sad about that last bit, “but I mean, I know you! I didn’t lie, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“From?” I tilt my head, one second away from squinting at her. She looks Spectrian, she’s definitely wearing Spectrian clothes. Her outfit looks a lot like Hiroyuki’s now that I’m giving her a closer look. “I don’t want to be a downer, but if this is your way of trying to look cool and telling everyone you know me, all it’s managed to do is garner the suspicion of those close to me. You should run along and do whatever it is you Celestial Beings do. To be frank, I don’t have time for you.”
Masae sits up straight, hums a peppy tune to herself, and the taps her finger against her cheek. This girl is definitely bubbly. After pretty much being told I’ve no interest in dealing with her, she’s still as upbeat as ever.
“Okay! Let me re-introduce myself. That was a bad introduction on my part, sorry.” For an apology, that was awfully bright. “I’m Baishō Masae, from Earth! I’m no Celestial Being, though I kinda wish I was. They’re all so pretty…” My heart skips a beat. This conversation has gotten way more intense. There’s no way she is from Earth, she has to be lying. Even Tasi couldn’t make it back, there’s no way some regular old human managed to make all the way here to Spectra on their own. “I’ve already met your best men, they’re all pretty nice! Mister D’accardi, D’ivoire, Isleen…” She points to all of them as she names them. “Oh, and that really beautiful woman Blaire! They helped me get out of lots of trouble, I can’t thank them enough. And now they’ve given me the opportunity to meet you, I’m the happiest girl on Ear—ah… The happiest girl on Spectra! It’s nice to finally speak to you, Kohana.”
“At least on that she’s telling the truth.” D’ivoire cuts in, taking the reins of this conversation again. “Our number one priority was getting you to the infirmary as soon as we landed. After you pulled that miracle move you were out cold, didn’t know what happened to you. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, had to carry your unconscious body through droves of people dying to meet the Summoner of Time, didn’t matter to them that you were about as conscious as a bear in torpor. We’re neck deep in the middle of the crowd of your adoring fans and then all of a sudden everyone just stopped. Looked back, and there was this girl who was standing in the threshold of my ship.”
“So what, you’re saying Masae snuck on somehow without anyone noticing?” I find that really hard to believe. With all the technology and magic Spectra’s about, there’s no way a human would have given the slip to all the Celestial Beings aboard that ship. I don’t know why this is making me angry, but I am. This girl, Masae, she’s normal, she doesn’t belong here. Her place is back on Earth with everyone else. Spectra is my curse, my prison. I had my normalcy snatched from me, I wasn’t given a choice. Masae thinks she can just board a ship to another planet and just forget how good she’s had it? What I wouldn’t give to be in her shoes, to live her normal life with normal people around her on a normal planet.
“That’s exactly it. Problem is, she shouldn’t have been able to sneak on, much less have seen it. And you wouldn’t know it, but…”
“‘But?’ Come on, finish what you were saying!” I snap at him, deflating shortly thereafter and slumping my shoulders. “Be upfront with me D’ivoire.” This conversation is making me tired. “You’re the furthest thing away from a secretive person. If there’s anyone who can get anything out of their mouth, it’s you. Please, I need answers. Why are we here, what’s with this girl?” For some reason D’ivoire’s hesitant to answer. I give a pointed look at Hiroyuki who, upon noticing me looking at him, begins to adjust the glove on his right hand.
“If I may,” Hiroyuki says. I nod at him. “Extraterrestrials are not allowed on Spectra.” Okay now that doesn’t make sense. That makes negative sense. Obviously I’m an extraterrestrial, and no one has a problem with me being here. In fact, judging by D’ivoire’s account, they all seem to love me a little too much. “You and Isleen are Summoners. The people here do not see you as beings hailing from another planet. They see you as cosmic weapons, our cosmic weapons. To them you are tools with which to thwart the impossible first and nothing second. You have no identity outside being Summoners, which grants you the right to walk freely here. What makes you Summoners is the magic of our planetary core inside of you. You are full of Spectrian blood, you are as Celestial as me or D’ivoire in that regard.” Hiroyuki knows how I feel about being seen as a tool. I would argue with him again about it, but it would be a waste of energy at this point.
“Whatever, fine, Celestial Beings can see me as a weapon with no agency, I don’t care, but how does this relate to Masae here?”
“You said you wanted me to give it to you straight, and here I am. Bottom line, it’s illegal as hell to bring an extraterrestrial to Spectra, especially one from a third world planet like Earth. Hiroyuki mentioned that you don’t like a lot of what goes on on Spectra, told me about the giant mental breakdown you had at hearing we used to conquer universes and stuff.” Hey! I did not have a mental breakdown! Any person with a shred of empathy would have been horrified at the stuff Spectra does! I can’t believe he’d call it that. And to think for one second I trusted him! “Just didn’t want to break your toes again, that’s all. Supposedly bringing extraterrestrials to Spectra ‘taints’ our planet. I don’t agree with it, but them’s the breaks. The Commander says he worked too hard to eliminate pollution entirely on our planet to see it mucked up by the presence of extraterrestrials. He doesn’t want outsiders bringing their sicknesses to our planet either, and everyone’s scared of the possibility that they’ll get something Spectrian medicine can’t cure. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but Masae put the fear of the All Creator into everyone present.”
Masae’s looking down at her hands now with a frown on her face. She’s either embarrassed, or ashamed. Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t stop her from talking. “I didn’t mean to startle everyone, honest! I just wanted to meet you, that’s all. Amidst the chaos I saw D’ivoire take Blaire onto his ship and leave—that’s when I made my move and snuck on! I figured you would be leaving with them, and I didn’t want to be left behind. I would never have gotten another opportunity to meet you again.”
“Ah, so that explains it. Wasn’t that you could see the ship despite the cloaking device, it’s just that you’re a slippery little sneak.” I’m so glad D’ivoire’s learning new things, now where’s my clarity? “But yeah, every Celestial Being within a 500 foot radius was ready to tear the girl limb from limb. Thought it’d be better to interrogate her a bit, so we went through the trouble of saving her. I managed to convince the Commander to let Masae live, at least until you woke up, so that’s the dilemma. We’ve got no idea what to do with the girl. What happens from here on in is your call, general.”
“So then you saw,” I murmur darkly, turning my hands into fists. Masae affirms my suspicions by nodding. She doesn’t see anything wrong with that. What happened with my mother was something between only myself and everyone else involved in this Summoner mess. She had no right to see that. “I don’t get it. You weren’t one of my neighbors, you weren’t one of my friends, so how were you remotely close to that scene?” I pause, looking up and scowling at her. “Who are you Masae?”
I must’ve frightened her. Now she’s got this terrified look on her face, and she’s scrambling to come up with words. “I-I… Baishō Masae, f-from Earth, and I’m a big fan of your work. Y’know… your magical girl double life.”
Out of all the things she could have said, I definitely wasn’t expecting that. It’s odd hearing someone else compare my life to that of a magical girl, I thought I was the only one who saw those parallels.
D’ivoire is visibly confused by what Masae is said, and then it dawns on me that these people really don’t know what a magical girl is. If D’ivoire doesn’t know what one is, then Hiroyuki doesn’t know what one is either. Why would he know? Neither of them strike me as the shōjo-loving type, although I’m pretty sure that’s just an Earth thing despite how obvious the concept is with the Summoner Project. Anyway, Masae takes the softening of my expression as a cue to finish what she started. “I’m a year older than you. We went to the same school, though you probably didn’t notice me. That’s okay though! The first time I saw you, you were quickly changing into your cute save-the-world outfit, the one you always wear when you’re about to start fighting monsters.” My general uniform? Well yes, I always wear it when I have to deal with Shadows, it helps me get into character. “I watched you fight that huge, ugly monster that was terrorizing our school. It was all so cool. Your magic, your sword, your acrobatics and tumbling—gosh! I wanted to be you.”
“No, you don’t.” Fighting a ‘huge, ugly monster’ at my school is far too vague for me to remember a specific instance. Shadows would attack our school intermittently after the fiasco with Jinnouchi-sensei. “Nobody wants to be me.”
“We kind of met that one time. I was in such awe of you that I wanted to get closer, so I left the safe spot I was watching you from. A little airheaded, I know, but I don’t regret it. That monster turned its attention to me and almost skewered me with its claws, but you saved me!” There are stars in Masae’s eyes, she’s practically glowing with admiration for me. I almost feel bad about being horrified at this recollection of events. Even if I were a magical girl, what’s happened to me, what continues to happen to me isn’t anything remotely close to what magical girls go through. She doesn’t want this kind of life. I don’t know how to tell her. “You jumped in front of me and deflected its claws with your sword. I didn’t get a chance to thank you, because right after that you launched off the ground and charged at it. That’s probably why you don’t remember me, you were too busy taking that goliath down. I knew I wanted to see it again and again, so whenever strange things started happening in our school, I made sure to follow you.”
I turn to Hiroyuki. “Tell me she doesn’t remember that. She’s not supposed to remember that.”
“You are correct. Not only would I thoroughly wipe the memory of all present in the school after a Shadow attack, I would do so for all those associated with the school, even a bit. I assume Masae’s desire to remember you was so strong that my memory-wiping magic had no effect on her.” Hiroyuki is useless. I never agreed with his whole memory-erasing thing to begin with, but if he was going to do it he could have at least made it foolproof. Maybe it would have saved this girl it it worked as intended.
“Magical girls are empowering, and I saw that a lot in you. The second time I saw you fighting those monsters, I had my camera with me to record it.”
This girl is nuts. Why would she put herself in harm’s way to record me, especially when she knew it was dangerous and she could be killed? I don’t know what unnerves me more, the fact that she thinks I’m a real magical girl written out of Tokyo Mew Mew or Sailor Moon or the fact that she has zero self-preservation and would throw herself into the jaws of a lion if it meant seeing me for even a fraction of a second.
“I have so many videos of you.” She pauses to tap her finger on her chin. “Um… Almost 50, I think?” Gee, that’s not alarming at all. How did I not see this girl? “You’d fight a lot! I kind of want to ask you what you were fighting for, but I know it was for something really important. I don’t think you would continue to fight and put yourself in harm’s way every day if there was no one to protect by doing so, right?” She has this whole thing figured out to a ‘t’. “You’re determined, you have real perseverance. Sometimes it looked like you were down for the count, but you always bounced back and saved the day, eventually!”
“No, no more, I’ve had enough.” My life is not some glamorous fairytale, this is real, people are dying. I don’t want to hear it!
“Oh! And I was looking for the guy who is in love with you but works from the shadows, you know, the guy who’s a massive jerkbag to you but he has a massive crush on you and you two are soulmates and by the end of everything you’re going to end up together, but imagine my surprise when I found out it was a girl!” I can feel the colour drain from my face. Not this, not in front of Isleen. “You and Isleen are really cute together! Have you guys had your first kiss together after surviving an incredibly dangerous fight? Or maybe you two kissed on accident and now you can’t bare to look at each other again? When are you two getting married? Oh, I guess it wouldn’t be until after you guys have saved the universe—or multiverse, I overheard someone saying—but I want to be the flower girl when you do get married! And the wedding planner! And the maid of honor! And the—!”
Masae can’t continue because I’ve run over to her and slapped my hands over her mouth. The only thing that’s coming out of her mouth now is muffled babbling. Isleen at least seems indifferent to everything Masae has said. Good. I’m almost worried, does Masae know I have a crush on her? She couldn’t have possibly gleaned that from watching me fight Shadows.
“I’ve come to a decision,” I hastily say, taking my hands away from Masae’s face. Maybe if things were different, we could have been real friends. But they’re not, this situation is bigger than the both of us. She’s so full of cheerful high spirits that I almost feel bad about what I’m about to say, but it must be done. D’ivoire made it sound like Masae was going to be killed had he not intervened, so I assume if I don’t come up with a plan she’ll be killed, and I don’t want that. “Masae, we’re sending you back to Earth. It’s where you belong, you should have never boarded D’ivoire’s ship.”
“Would you really send me back to Earth with that monster?”
“Excuse me?” I raise a brow, my tone defensive. I know she’s talking about my mother. Yes, I’m fully aware of the state the Earth is in. Yes, I know that there might not be an Earth to send Masae back to, but if we let Masae stay here we’ll have to let the entirety of Earth stay here. I feel bad about everything that happened as it is, I’m not going to let Masae make me feel worse by taking a jab at my mother. She probably didn’t mean any offense, but her comment still hurt.
“You heard her, kid,” D’ivoire says with a shrug. “Back to Earth we go. Could be worse, was sure I was going to have to leave this room covered in blood.”
Masae gets up from her chair and glances at everyone except for me. It looks like she’s accepted the fate I’ve given her, but I can’t be one-hundred percent certain when I barely know her. Surely she won’t attempt to fight D’ivoire, especially after what she saw him do to the umbrakinet—I mean my mother. What am I thinking, there’s no way she would try to fight a Celestial Being. She knows she’s powerless against everyone here, what with being human. If there’s anything Masae is, it’s that she’s savvy. I’m sure she knew how this was going to go from the beginning.
“Oh dear, I was wrong about you being altruistic, huh?” What? I guess she’s talking about me. Unfortunately for her, I don’t care about what other people think of me. I’m a good person, I don’t need her to affirm that. “To send me back to a desolate planet is unconscionable.” Her tone has shifted considerably. She sounds filled with aplomb, turning her back on everyone else and staring at me with fire in her eyes, pointing at me dramatically. “You should be ashamed of yourself. You are not the Summoner of Time I thought you were.”
“Listen, Masae, I can’t waste anymore time on this.” I turn my back and start to walking to leave the room. I need to find that SOF member that was going to teach me how to do the pendulum so I can get off this planet and help those who need me elsewhere. “You don’t understand, I’m busy.”
“I am going to punish you, for I am the Summoner of Power and I will punish you, fellow Summoner, in the name of all things good! I will right wrongs and triumph over evil! And that means you!” Okay, good Sailor Moon impression, it’s not like that’s going to stop me from leaving.
…Summoner of Power, what kind of made up name is that? Is that the best she can come up with? Summoners are supposed to be powerful in general, it makes no sense that there would be one for power, but whatever floats her boat. I put my hand on the doorknob and start to turn it, but a shriek of bright yellow light floods the room and I reflexively move my head to the right, dodging a bullet that pulverizes the door, sending the remaining bits of it sliding down the corridor. I whip around and see Masae holding a percussion-lock rifled musket aimed directly at me, smoke wafting from the barrel. Either this is all one big trick and Masae is a Celestial Being or she’s actually a Summoner, but she can’t be. Regardless, I have no choice but to defend myself. I give a giant sigh and wave my arms out, scowling deep. Whatever she is, she doesn’t want to try me. I just watched my planet go up in flames, I might just do anything.
“Oh, I’ll be evil alright,” I hiss, the Star Stealer appearing in my right hand. I’ve missed this stupidly-long thing. “I don’t take too kindly to people who try to kill me.”
Masae loses the seriousness in her expression and stance. It’s not because she’s scared, but because she’s fangirling over me. Her musket disappears in a flurry of electricity and she clasps her hands together, squealing. What is happening. I was seriously going to hurt her, but now I don’t think I can bring myself to do that. To her this is all a game, there probably isn’t a single bit of killing intent in her body. She shot at me just to get a reaction out of me, and I let her have it.
“That was so cool! Say it again, you were so badass in that moment! You should have seen the way your eyes started glowing. They were luminous, like you have two suns in your eye sockets instead of eyeballs! Do they always glow when you’re getting ready to fight like that? It happens way too many times to be a coincidence, of course they do!”
While Masae is rambling on and on about me I let go of the Star Stealer and take a deep breath. Closing my eyes, I shout at the top of my lungs “Will someone start making sense!” which brings Masae to pause. By the end of my scream I am breathing heavy, my face red with frustration. For some reason Masae sees that as an invitation to take the floor.
“I’m sorry.” I fail to see how she can be sorry when she just shot at me for fun. I don’t accept her apology. “I thought if I showed you my power, that would be better than just telling you. Truth be told, I didn’t want anyone telling you but me. I wanted to be given that honour. I didn’t mean to make you mad.” Tell me what? I’m sick to death of people beating around the bush. “I met with the Commander. He’s nice too, I don’t think I said that before.” The Commander, nice? Now I’ve heard it all. Isn’t that the same guy that made it illegal for Masae to be here? Wouldn’t she not be in this mess if it weren’t for him? “He was really understanding! He made sure I was comfortable and got me whatever I wanted. He even let me stay in this comfy room.” Is Masae not aware that this is just a gilded jail cell, that she was probably confined in here until I woke up from being unconscious? This girl can’t be this stupid. “He said if I agreed to become a Summoner, I wouldn’t cause any more trouble for you and your friends.”
“No…” The word falls out of my mouth like water out of a leaky faucet. I didn’t mean for it to. The level of distress that I feel is unreal. She was human, she was normal. How dare he take that away from her. She was innocent in all this. She could have gone home, been with her family, been anything but this. Her life is over now, it’s ruined, and it didn’t have to be this way. I’m so stupid, I should have paid more attention, I should have noticed right away what Masae was doing and led her in the opposite direction. I’m as much to blame as the Commander is.
“Hiroyuki made me this uniform, and gave me this musket, see?” A bolt of lightning jolts down the bar of her arm and her weapon’s there again. My stomach starts doing flips. I look to Hiroyuki for an explanation, but he doesn’t give me one. Figures. “It’s called Bolts From the Blue! Cool, isn’t it? It’s plural because I can summon multiple muskets at once, so technically it’s like I’m holding a bazillion muskets in my hand. Or hands, I can dual wield them if I want.” I ignore Masae’s ramblings and walk up to her, putting my hands on her shoulders. She is so excited to be a Summoner. I’ll be sad when that smile of hers goes away when she realizes how this life really is. I wanted better for her. That’s all I wanted. “I trained with D’ivoire and Hiroyuki for a little while, so don’t think I don’t know how to fight! I’m ready to do what I can and fight beside you, Kohana. Let’s be the best magical girls together.”
“The Commander had not got around to making the last Summoner. He was going to chew Hiroyuki and I out, until he realized Masae had what it takes to handle being imbued with our planet’s magic. It all ended up working out in the end. We don’t have to kill anyone, and you’ve got yourself another Summoner partner.” D’ivoire throws his hands behind his head and starts walking out of the room, yawning. He’s so casual about this whole thing. He feels as if everything has been solved. It hasn’t. This is a massive problem, and I’m the only one who can see that. “No need to thank me for the delivery Outtaike, this one’s on me.” Shortly after D’ivoire leaves, Isleen, too, makes her exit. I’m so distraught that I didn’t realize I had been crying in front of Masae, who takes her thumb against my cheek to wipe my tears away.
“Why are you sad?” She asks softly. Her question only makes me cry even more. I don’t want to get snot on her.
“Just another person I couldn’t save,” is what I manage in between my tears.
Masae pulls me into a tight hug after that, and I let all my defenses down. I hadn’t realized how much I had been craving someone else’s touch. She begins to rub her hand up and down my back and I whimper into her jabot. “I saw you save so many people. You’re a hero, Kohana. You saved me, in more ways than one. I’m glad I get the chance to repay you.” She’s just saying that. She doesn’t yet realize that I’ve ruined her life. How could she? She hasn’t even begun to be a Summoner. All she knows is what she’s seen in magical girl stories, but soon she’ll be given a hard reality check, just like I was.