Categories > Original > Drama > MGT: Uninvited Magic

MGT: Uninvited Magic

by Nidoking 0 reviews

There's nothing glamorous about being a magical girl. It's a never-ending battle for survival. These stories are about the trials that they must endure, both in and out of uniform.

Category: Drama - Rating: R - Genres: Angst, Drama, Fantasy - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2005-05-05 - Updated: 2005-05-06 - 10363 words

"Hey, wake up already!"
Amber groaned loudly and pulled the covers up over her head.
"Hey, what do I look like, an alarm clock? This isn't my job!"
Amber groaned again and rolled over, dislodging the animal that had just leapt onto her sleeping form. She heard the soft WHUMP as it landed on the floor and mumbled an apology without opening her mouth, rendering it completely incomprehensible.
"Ow! What was that for?"
"I know you and the girls had a late night, but you can't sleep in today. You've got an English test, remember?"
There was a brief, annoyed pause. "You're not even trying to make sense, are you? You're just making random noises." The tiny body landed on the bed next to her, and before she could roll on top of it, a set of sharp claws jabbed into her side. She was on her feet in an instant, glaring at the cat.
"Ouch! Dammit, Theron, you know I'm still sore there!"
"Why do you think I aimed for your wound?" the cat retorted smugly. "I know being a magical girl is tough on you, but you have to keep up your normal life or the hunters will figure out who you are."
"Yeah, yeah, I know." Amber hiked up her nightie and tenderly fingered the large bandage on her side. "But there's no way I can keep up the grades I used to have back when I had time to study."
"That's one of the things I can help you with, if you let me," said Theron.
"But using a telepathic link feels like cheating," Amber argued.
"You should probably change that," said Theron, jerking his head slightly toward her bandage.
Amber let the nightie fall around her. "Do you mind, you peeping tomcat?"
"Hey, you're the one who takes it off while I'm in the room," countered Theron. He obligingly hopped to the floor and crawled under the bed. "Hurry up and get changed. You're running late as it is."
"Yeah, yeah," she repeated, pulling the nightie completely off. She grabbed the edge of the bandage and pulled it off in a quick motion, gritting her teeth against the pain. The center of the wound was still black, but the skin around the edges was starting to fade to a mere purple. She sighed and reached for the antiseptic cream on her vanity.
Some miracle, huh? You actually made it to the bus on time.
Shut up, Amber shot back as she took her usual seat behind the driver.
My offer still stands.
Right. Like you've ever READ a book.
Not while anyone was watching me, replied Theron. I can't exactly let on that I'm not a normal cat, for obvious reasons.
Well, you won't be much help during the test unless you've read Catcher in the Rye, Amber pointed out.
Shouldn't be too hard to look things up as you need them, Theron replied smoothly.
"Oh shit!" Amber shouted, drawing confused stares from every direction. She blushed and buried her face in her backpack. I left the book at home? I was going to study during Math!
Rather than studying math during Math? You're going to fall even farther behind at that rate.
Oh, SORRY. Let me just stay home and catch up for a few nights while my friends get mauled by a pack of hunters.
Theron's sigh echoed in her head. I know you don't like being a magical girl, but there's no way to change who you are. You just have to learn to live with it.
Do you think maybe we'll ever find a magical girl whose power is removing the powers of other magical girls? asked Amber.
She'd probably use it on herself first, replied Theron.
"Hey, ready for the test today?" Jessica asked with every bit of her usual cheer.
Amber yawned pointedly. "No."
Jessica frowned and put her hands on her hips. "What's happened to you? You used to be at the top of the class, and now you're really slipping! Are you on drugs or something?"
Amber slammed her locker shut. "No way! Are you kidding? Drugs are for idiots!"
Jessica's eyes widened, and she leaned in close and lowered her voice. "You're not... a magical girl, are you?"
"No!" Amber replied far too quickly. She bit her tongue, but it was too late.
"You don't look like one of them," agreed Jessica, "but everybody says that magical girls don't look anything like themselves when they're in disguise."
"That's why it's called a disguise," Amber said condescendingly. "It wouldn't be any good if they looked like their magical girl selves when the hunters came looking for them, would it?"
"So you COULD be one of them!" Jessica decided. "That's so cool! My best friend could be a magical girl!"
"Your best friend will be a dead magical girl if you keep talking like that," snapped Amber. Jessica was usually such a great person to talk to, but there were those rare moments when Amber really wished she'd just take a hint and shut up. "The hunters won't care whether I'm really a magical girl or not. If they think I am, they'll attack me."
"Man, you really are scared of them, aren't you?"
"Aren't you?" returned Amber. "What would you do if one of them attacked you?"
"The magical girls would save me, of course! They're so cool!" She swooned. "I mean, hot guys are fine and all, but magical girls are so... glamorous!"
"There's nothing glamorous about being a magical girl," Amber said darkly. She turned a corner and made a beeline for the bathroom, once again giving Jessica a chance to take the hint and leave, but the other girl followed enthusiastically.
"Do you know one of them?" Jessica asked excitedly.
"I wouldn't tell you if I did," replied Amber. "There's a reason their identities are secret."
"Yeah, I know. The hunters again. I don't see why you're so terrified of them when the magical girls are there to protect us."
Amber's side twinged painfully as she closed the stall door behind her. "I don't know either," she lied.
"Well, I hope everyone's ready for the test," said Miss Hodgson as she passed out the stack of papers. Amber knew that it really didn't make any difference to the teacher one way or the other, but she really did want to get a good grade in defiance of her new lifestyle, at least once.
Unfortunately, it probably wouldn't be today. Theron, are you there?
I've got the book open, Theron assured her. Let's just hope she asks easy, literal questions.
Yeah, right, Amber replied glumly. Like this woman has ever asked a literal question in her life. Maybe 'what's your name?' but that's about it.
Maybe this test will be different, offered Theron.
The paper landed in front of Amber, and she read the first question in her telepathic voice for Theron's benefit. 'Describe three ways in which J. D. Salinger uses language as a device to exemplify his message. 20 points.'
Theron sighed. I'll be in the kitchen getting myself a bowl of milk.
Could you not do that? It's really creepy.
Hey, a cat's gotta eat.
Yeah, but serving yourself from our fridge... how do you DO that, anyway? You never do it when I'm around....
Now you know why, Theron said smugly. Besides, you've got more important things to worry about now.
Amber's heart skipped a beat. A hunter?
Theron actually laughed. I was talking about J. D. Salinger's use of language.
Damn, groaned Amber. A hunter would have been just the thing to get me out of this test.
And I thought you were afraid of them.
Not as afraid as I am of this. She picked up her pencil. "Holden Caulfield swears all the time because his life sucks," she wrote. Just like mine.
At least you're not alone, Theron reminded her. You've got two partners there. Many magical girls never meet any others at all, or at least don't realize it at the time.
I'd love to be able to hide like that, said Amber. I used to be able to enjoy life. I was happy. If I didn't have to be a magical girl....
Mmmm, that's good stuff.
Oh, sorry. Just got started on the milk. Your mom's buying a different brand now, isn't she?
Buttermilk. She's concerned that I might be getting sick or something, so she thinks it'll be better for me.
It's so smooth and creamy....
Do you mind? I'm trying to take a test here!
Sorry. Good luck with that.
Amber reread the one sentence she'd managed to produce thus far. "Yeah, right."
"All right, class, time's up," announced Miss Hodgson. "Put your pencils down and pass your papers to the front."
Amber groaned as she turned around to take Ben's test from him. For a second, she let herself wonder whether some aspect of her magical girl power would help her erase his name and put hers on the paper - even though he was a slacker, Ben usually managed to get decent grades, and his score couldn't possibly be any worse than hers.
She felt eyes staring at her and meekly handed the papers forward, names unchanged.
As Miss Hodgson crossed the front of the room collecting the papers, a siren echoed through the halls of the school. "All right, everyone!" shouted the teacher. "Leave the papers on your desks and file out of the room!"
"Great," moaned Amber. "NOW the hunter shows up." She stood up and followed her classmates toward the classroom door, beyond which the excited students were already beginning their race for the nearest emergency exit in varying degrees of panic. The soft hiss of the gas jets turning on was barely perceptible amid the din. It wouldn't have any effect on the hunter, since they'd acclimated to the latest toxin years ago, and would only serve to obscure her vision as she tried to fight it, but the school officials and military were too lazy and bureaucratic to shut the system off. Still, it would make it easier for her to slip away from the crowd and find an empty place to transform.
She slunk off into a side hallway, trying not to move against the rush too obviously, and pushed her way into a classroom that was already empty. Sighing, she clasped her hands to her chest and let the magic take hold. Her fingers closed around the familiar wand, and she raised it over her head. "SONIC YURIKA ENERGY!" she shouted, causing a fountain of light to spring from the tip of her wand and surround her. Within the curtain of light, she felt her clothes tear apart while new ones took their place. She knew they were just going into some interdimensional storage area that Theron had named once, but she couldn't remember what he'd called it. Still, as long as they were returned in as few pieces as when she was wearing them, she had no complaints there.
The gloves and boots formed around her extremities, pulling her arms and legs into what could only be described as a pose rarely seen outside of cheerleading or exotic dancing. She had tried to convince Theron to configure her clothes to appear where she was, rather than dragging her body to where they wanted to be, but he claimed to have no control over it. Then she stood upright and tilted her head upward just enough... being dragged into place by gloves was one thing, but the jewelry could pull in a very painful way if she wasn't ready for it. Earrings and a headband completed her ensemble, finding their places neatly amid the newly-grown head of jet-black hair that stretched to her knees. It wasn't much darker than her natural shade, but every little detail served to help hide her identity.
Finally, the light faded, leaving her standing in the middle of the classroom in a colorful skintight leotard with a skirt that barely reached her crotch. The wand had vanished, its job done, but she was not weaponless. On the contrary, she could do things that most conventional weapons could not. She was - ah, screw it. There was a hunter to fight.
Sonic Yurika pushed the desks out of her way and set off into the gas-filled corridors in search of the monster that had tripped the alarm.
It wasn't hard to tell which way the hunter had gone - even through the thinning clouds of gas, it was easy to see that the walls, floors, and even parts of the ceiling had been melted. In a few places, she could even see right through into classrooms, storage closets, or bathrooms on the other side. One gender or the other was going to be rather pleased with that last hole until the maintenance crew could get it patched up. It was a very bad sign on the whole... a hunter that could melt walls could probably melt her just as easily. She'd have to be careful and try to hold it off until the others could back her up.
She finally found it at the end of the hall, a bloated green sac of a monster that had several girls cornered. Two teachers lay unconscious on the floor behind the monster, their clothes and faces burnt by the same acid that had destroyed the walls. The students in its sights weren't undamaged either, but they remained conscious and screaming as the hunter advanced on them. Its top half bulged and pulsated like an overfilled water balloon about to burst.
"Hey, ugly!" shouted Yurika.
It burst. A shower of acid fountained in all directions, coating the walls and ceiling yet again. Yurika leapt backward, leaving only her lower half in the path of the acid, but large patches of her skin burned as the liquid splattered on her exposed legs, and the front half of her skirt dissolved almost instantly. "Son of a bitch!" she shouted. The windows rattled.
The explosion had dispelled the remaining gas, allowing Yurika to get a better look past what remained of the hunter. The oldest of the girls, a senior who had received a few athletic awards in her time at the school, had thrown herself across the other two girls to take most of the damage. Her back was a bloody mess, and most of her hair had been burned off. Yurika couldn't see how badly the other girls were injured, but if any of them were still alive, they'd need medical attention immediately, and that meant cleaning up the mess before the medical team arrived so they could do their job. They wouldn't be long now.
Yurika carefully stepped over the puddles of acid that were just seeping into the floor tiles and approached the hunter's bottom half, watching it carefully for signs of life. She knew from experience that just because a hunter had exploded didn't mean it was dead. Indeed, the stump of the hunter's top was already beginning to swell with a new batch of acid. And still no sign of her partners, which meant she was going to have to stall it somehow.
"That's it!" she shouted, carefully backing away in her footsteps. "Stop right there, hunter!"
The hunter didn't seem to notice her, or didn't care. It just kept growing, replenishing its supply of deadly acid.
"I'm warning you! If you so much as twitch...."
There was no reaction. The girls on the floor screamed, knowing what was about to happen.
Yurika clenched her fists and tried to convince herself that she wasn't bluffing. "You'd better stop it right now, or I'll... ask again, even louder!"
The hunter made a noise that she could only assume was laughter... which told her that it wasn't a particularly intelligent example of its race.
And she was still alone.
The balloon was nearly as big now as it had been when she'd first spotted the hunter.
She took a deep, nervous breath.
"I'm Sonic Yurika!" she announced. "This is your last chance!"
The balloon began to pulsate.
"Help us!" cried one of the girls.
They weren't coming. The time when she most needed her friends, they weren't coming.
The hunter was seconds from bursting.
Nothing else for it.
Yurika inhaled sharply and screamed. The echoes quickly filled the hallway, drilling into everyone and everything in their path. Every window in the hallway shattered instantly. Yurika herself quickly felt the familiar tingles through her body, but she pushed them aside just as she had the pain in her legs. The girls on the floor were screaming, adding their own tiny contribution to the noise level. But it was the hunter that felt the worst of the attack. It shuddered even more violently as the sound waves tore through it, causing the acid to spurt out in random jets. The hunter was screaming too, now, as it slowly died, but the process wasn't nearly over yet. The monster's skin popped in more and more places, spilling its acid liberally across the floor until Yurika had to back away even further to avoid it. She quickly scooped up the teachers and pulled them to safety without lowering her voice. Her lungs were starting to burn, but it wouldn't be much longer....
The hunter finally exploded, sending tiny sprays of what remained of its innards in all directions. It wasn't nearly the magnitude of the first blast, now that most of the acid had spilled onto the floor around the hunter, but a bit of it landed right in Yurika's mouth, quickly silencing her scream as she tried to spit it out before it could burn her. She ran to the nearest water fountain and pushed the pedal, but no water came out. She had to resort to hawking and spitting rapidly, more blood than saliva each time.
The double cadence of running footsteps hailed her partners' arrival on the scene. "Yurika, are you all right?" asked Razor Wind Nephtali.
"NOW you guyth thow up," moaned Yurika.
"What happened to you?" asked Lancer Tabitha.
"That thing," replied Yurika, "wath a TOTAL thon of a bith."
"Well, you're still alive, at least," said Tabitha.
"What about them?" Yurika pointed toward the far corner where the girls had been. Their screaming had long since stopped, and she worried that the final death throes of the hunter might have killed the girls she was trying to save.
Tabitha leapt across the gaping hole in the floor and quick-stepped through the acid to minimize the dissolution of her boot soles. She bent down and pressed her fingers to the throat of the hallway's single occupant. "Just one girl here," she announced. "Dead."
"The otherth mutht have ethcaped through the window," said Yurika. She ran to one of the destroyed panes and peered out onto the lawn to see the two girls being helped to their feet by paramedics.
"I'm sorry, Yurika," said Nephtali. "I know you hate having to use your power."
"The teacher was watching us like a hawk," added Tabitha. "We couldn't get away."
"Yeah, ith all right," Yurika assured them. "We do what we have to do."
Nephtali shook her head. "No. We agreed a long time ago that you wouldn't have to do this anymore."
"But I'm thtill a magical girl...."
"And that's why we have to stick up for each other," finished Nephtali. "Listen, how about we go out tonight and have some fun, just the three of us?"
"But I have homework and there'th thcool tomorrow...."
"Like homework is going to affect your grade anymore," Tabitha casually remarked.
Yurika sighed sadly.
"Sorry. I forgot that was still a sore spot. You used to be up there."
Nephtali quickly intervened diplomatically. "What she means is that grades aren't important anymore. You can do what most people only dream of. You save lives every day. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
"Yeah. It meanth I have louthy gradeth and bruitheth all over my body."
"Oh, honey," whispered Nephtali, wrapping her arms around Yurika in a hug. "We understand. We've been through it all, and we're here for you."
"I'm covered in athid," Yurika warned her.
"You wanna turn down a hug?" asked Nephtali.
Yurika couldn't stop herself from smiling. "Not a chanthe."
Amber took another sip of the cool iced tea. It felt wonderful on her still-charred tongue, although most of the pain had faded a few hours earlier. "I'm just saying I don't get why the hunters are attacking magical girls in the first place."
"Because magical girls are a threat to their existence," replied Rachel. "Even with everything the army's got, it's still magical girls who do most of the damage."
"But think about it," countered Amber. "Magical girls don't usually go looking for hunters to kill. They just fight to defend themselves. If the hunters didn't attack first, then there wouldn't be any fighting at all. Magical girls aren't a threat to the hunters; it's the other way around."
"So what you're saying is, there's some other reason the hunters want magical girls dead?" Rachel ventured.
Amber shrugged. "How should I know? Nobody really knows anything about them."
"Well, you brought it up in the first place. You're the one who said we'd be better off trying to get into their heads. Right, Chenyce?"
Their other companion continued to studiously look away from them, taking in the pedestrians who walked past the open-air café instead. "I think you two are thinking too much. It's like talking about homework over the weekend. You just don't do it."
"What are you talking about, girl?" asked Rachel.
"You guys are seriously depressing, you know that?" Chenyce turned around and favored them with a smile as she picked up her soda. "We're here to relax! So let's cut it with the downer talk and make with the girl talk!"
"Girl talk?" asked Amber, who would have expected Chenyce to want anything but.
Chenyce sighed. "You know, anything BESIDES what we do for 'fun'?"
Amber shrugged again. "Well, there was that English test today."
"Doing any better?" asked Rachel with some concern.
"Worse," replied Amber. "I'm not even sure I can pass this quarter anymore."
Chenyce nodded. "Yeah, it'll do that to you. I stopped letting it bother me after a few months and just let everyone think I was going through a phase. I still don't think anyone suspected the truth. You know... nobody wants to think that THEIR daughter might be."
Amber nodded sullenly. "Yeah. Sometimes I wish someone would figure it out, though. Even if it meant having hunters breathing down my neck twenty-four seven... just so someone would know what's happening to me."
"We know," Rachel reminded her.
"Only because it's happening to you too." She took another sip of her iced tea, surprised at how close she was to crying. "I meant someone on the outside. One of the people who are always looking down on me because I can't keep up like I used to. The people who think I'm on drugs or in a gang now because of the grades, and the injuries, and the late nights.... I wish I could tell them that there's nothing wrong with me."
"It gets easier after a while," said Rachel, putting a hand on Amber's shoulder. "I wish I could give you more encouragement than that, but it's just something you've gotta deal with."
"You know, you don't HAVE to keep doing it," said Chenyce. "We've told you before, we can handle the hunters ourselves. Just because you CAN help doesn't mean you should."
Amber shook her head adamantly. "No," she said, fighting back a sob. "I'm sticking by you guys. You're the closest friends I've got now."
Rachel blinked. "Hey, are you okay? You look like you're about to cry."
Amber nodded. "Yeah...."
"Aww, there there." Rachel pulled Amber's head to her chest and stroked her hair lightly. "It's okay. The stress is just getting to you, that's all."
Amber sniffed loudly. "I shouldn't be doing this." She tried to push herself away, but Rachel held her firmly.
"Sometimes, you have to let it all out," Rachel advised. "Once you're done, we can go somewhere else."
"She did this for me, too, when I was just starting," said Chenyce. "It helps."
Amber couldn't see how crying would help, but once the tears had started, they came out so easily that she just let them flow. She could feel people staring at her from all sides, but there was something comforting about Rachel's touch just the same. It didn't matter what anyone else thought - for that moment, there was nothing wrong with the world at all.
"Are you going to be okay?" Rachel asked at last, once the tears had slowed to a mere trickle.
"No," Amber replied truthfully. "I'm going to stop crying, and things will go back to the way they were."
"But crying isn't going to change that," Rachel reminded her. "You're going to have to deal with your problems eventually."
"Now that you've gotten all the emotion and stress out of your system, you should think about what to do next," added Chenyce.
Amber slowly sat up and dried her eyes. "I still hate my life."
"It's the only one you've got," said Rachel. "You have to make the most of it."
A shrill scream quickly ended the conversation, as well as the rest of the ambient noise. Less than a block down the street, a tall pale creature with long, gangly arms and legs was crawling toward the café, picking up the parked cars and hurling them at whomever it saw. One of the cars landed on top of an adjacent table, narrowly missing the young couple who had vacated it at the first sign of the beast.
"Bastard!" shouted Amber. "This was supposed to be our night out!" She brought her hands to her chest, but Chenyce quickly pulled her aside before she could start her transformation.
"Not here, where everyone can see you!" she warned. She quickly led the way toward the main building, where the three girls slipped into the women's room unseen.
Rachel bent down. "Nobody's in the stalls," she announced. "Let's do this."
Amber nodded. "SONIC YURIKA ENERGY!"
"NEPHTALI'S WIND, BLOW!" shouted Chenyce.
"DARING LANCER, TABITHA!" echoed Rachel.
The three girls disappeared into curtains of light for the duration of their transformations, emerging in their magical girl forms. Yurika found herself staring at her reflection in the mirror, still unable to believe how much she changed in those thirty seconds. It wasn't just her clothes and hair - people changed those all the time without magic, and they could still be recognized afterward. It was her face, so much more energetic and youthful even though her body looked more mature.
"Ready?" asked Nephtali, whose transformation was by far the most impressive. Chenyce's skin was about as dark as could be, but Nephtali's was a light tan, and her eyes were narrow enough to look almost Oriental even when they were fully open. She normally wore her hair so short she was almost bald, but her magical girl side had long flowing hair and a thin crown that circled her head to hold it down just enough while she used her attack.
"Ready," replied Tabitha. Rachel's magical girl form looked rather similar to her normal body, but never having seen them side by side, Amber attributed that to her knowledge of Tabitha's true identity rather than any actual resemblance. Her legs were just a bit longer and more slender in this form, and her chest was more pronounced, but that was true of most magical girls.
"That thing is dead," spat Yurika. "For once, I was actually starting to feel good about this whole thing."
"Do you always cry when you feel good?" quipped Nephtali. Tabitha quickly shushed her.
"Not really," Yurika replied indifferently. "But I do feel good when I cry."
Tabitha smiled cruelly. "Let's make that hunter cry and see how HE feels."
"Take aim, men!" shouted the commander as his soldiers crouched behind the barricade. Bazooka barrels, mounted machine guns, and the tank cannon all swiveled to face the hunter, which was too occupied with tearing down the Boston Market across the street to notice them. "FIRE!" The first salvo of heavy weaponry flew across the street toward the oblivious hunter. It effortlessly curled up its legs and arms and leapt upward at the last second, barely escaping the blast that leveled what remained of the once-great restaurant.
Undaunted, the commander craned his neck to follow the monster's movement. "Ready second round!" Those who had had the presence of mind to reload their weapons pointed them upward at the falling hunter, but it surprised them again by stretching its legs to the ground in front of them and immediately dropping to street level. It swung a mighty arm, sweeping the entire company aside like crumbs off a tablecloth. The tank rolled over on top of the unlucky men positioned beside it, but their deaths were only a precursor to the slaughter that quickly followed as the hunter's arm smacked into the line of buildings at the side of the street, dashing everyone and everything in its path against the walls. The lucky ones crashed through the display windows of the stores in the strip mall, although some of them were crushed by the heavy weaponry that followed them. The rest of the men, as well as the tank, were merely smashed into a fine paste on the bricks.
A shiver ran down Yurika's spine as she watched the city's entire military splattered to death in an instant. "We have to fight THAT thing?" she asked nervously.
"No different than any other hunter," said Tabitha. "We've got powers, and we know how to use them."
Nephtali put a hand on Yurika's shoulder. "Don't worry about it. We'll handle this. You just back us up."
"Oh, yeah," Tabitha said quickly, trying to hide her embarrassment. "Let's take this guy down hard and fast." She held her arms in front of her body with her palms up. "SHINING LANCE!" she shouted. Energy swirled into her hands, taking a long conical shape as it coalesced. She closed her fingers around the wide end of what looked like a jousting lance made of light and swung it around, ending with its tip pointing at the hunter.
The hunter continued its idle destruction, ignoring the girls.
Tabitha wound up and hurled the lance with all her might.
The hunter's blank head swiveled toward the approaching weapon, and it leapt into the air. Tabitha quickly gathered energy for another shot, but Nephtali was even quicker. "RAZOR WIND!" she shouted, stretching her arms into the air. Thousands of green arcs shot across the space between her hands and the hunter, so fast and thick that they looked more like a solid beam than discrete blades of air.
The hunter effortlessly stretched its legs to the ground and pulled itself down faster than gravity could take it, slipping under the wind attack. Tabitha threw her lance even before it had come to a stop, but the monster surprised her by effortlessly batting the projectile aside with its mighty forearm, shattering it on contact. Moving with the same fluid grace that seemed impossible for such a lanky form, it reached out with both arms at once, grabbing the two girls who had dared attack it before they could think to dodge or counterattack. It lifted them into the air and squeezed until they screamed in pain.
Yurika tensed up at the sound of her friends' screams. She quickly drew in a deep breath, preparing to unleash a scream of her own.
"Don't do it!" shouted Tabitha. "I said... you'd never... have to use... your power... again... and I meant it!" The tip of her lance tore through the hunter's palm in a spray of purple ooze, and the hunter dropped her, shaking its hand furiously in an attempt to dislodge the blade.
Not wanting to let its other prisoner go, the hunter swung its arm to the side, opening its fist so that Nephtali would be smashed between its hand and the brick wall. Yurika screamed, and the wall shattered on impact, dumping Nephtali in the dressing room of the Coat Outlet with minor bruises. Her wind attack flew out through the gap seconds later, and the hunter tensed its legs to jump away again.
"No you don't!" shouted Tabitha, clenching her fist. The spear in the hunter's hand drove itself downward into the ground, pinning the hunter in place. It quickly tore its hand free, but before it could return to its leaping posture, the wind blades sliced through its body, ripping off chunks of flesh as they struck. The purple blood flowed liberally, coating the hunter and pooling in the street around it.
"SHINING LANCE!" shouted Tabitha, summoning a new copy of her weapon. Moving her feet carefully to avoid sliding in the slick puddle of blood, she hurled the lance at the hunter's chest. At such close range, the hunter couldn't dodge in time, and the weapon gouged out a wide hole in its side. It leapt away, finally escaping the range of Nephtali's attack, and landed in a heap half a block down the street.
"God, why won't it die?" asked Yurika.
Nephtali charged out of the dressing room, turning to take aim at the hunter, and lost her footing in the pool of blood. She slid sideways and fell flat on her back, making just enough of a splash to cover her clothes and face with purple polka dots.
Tabitha threw another lance, and the hunter raised its arm to swat it away as it had before, but the wounds slowed it down. The lance went right through its forearm and pierced its heart, drawing what little blood the creature had left. The pale hunter gave one last shudder before finally collapsing, motionless.
Nephtali groaned. "Finally. Nice shot, Rachel."
Yurika bent down to help Nephtali to her feet. "Are you okay?"
"Not really," replied Nephtali as she waded to drier ground. "I'm covered in hunter blood, my back is killing me, and I just got smashed through a brick wall. Of course, I'd be dead if you hadn't crumbled that wall for me...."
"Stop it," warned Yurika. "You'll make me cry again."
"Why? What's wrong?"
Yurika looked up to confirm that Tabitha had made her way over before continuing. "You guys are always telling me I don't have to use my powers... but the hunters are getting so much more powerful! You can't keep fighting them without me!"
Tabitha sighed. "We've been over this. It isn't about us. What you do should be what's best for YOU."
"We were fighting hunters long before you moved here," Nephtali added. "If we need your help, like we do tonight, that means the two of us need more practice."
"It's not that we don't appreciate your help," Tabitha quickly put in, "but we should be able to handle anything on our own. You have a very unusual power, unlike anything I've ever heard of. I know it hurts you as much as anyone else when you use it. And unlike most of the magical girls I've known, your life really meant something before you changed. You know we'd never ask you to throw it all away for our sakes."
Yurika sighed heavily, her eyes squeezed tightly closed. "I can't change what I am."
"If the hunters come after you, we'll keep you safe," Tabitha promised. "You don't have to fight anymore. You never did."
"I know I don't have to," said Yurika. "And I don't really WANT to.... I just do."
"It's not like we can't still be friends if you decide to stop," Nephtali reminded her.
"That's exactly what you say to break up with someone," said Yurika.
"Please, don't look at it that way," urged Tabitha. "We're really concerned for you."
"I know. I'm just not used to people caring about me. I'm not used to... needing to be cared about."
Tabitha stepped forward to give her friend a hug, but Yurika stepped back. "I'm sorry... I have to go." She turned around and ran. Tabitha and Nephtali watched her until she was out of sight.
"Think she'll ever be able to get back to her own life?" asked Nephtali.
Tabitha shook her head. "I really hope so. If there was ever a girl who didn't deserve to be saddled with magical powers...."
Amber quietly let herself in the front door, but she knew it wouldn't make a difference. The lights were still on; her mother had waited for her as usual. She took a deep breath and waited for the guilt trip. If anything could upset her more than her friends worrying about her, it was her mother worrying about her.
It began even before she could close the door behind her. "Amber, darling! You're late again! What happened?"
"There was a hunter attack right near the café, and we had to hide until the magical girls could kill it," Amber replied. It was pointless to make up a cover story when her mother would be reading about it in the next day's paper.
Her mother sighed. "It's always the same thing, isn't it? I keep telling you you need to stay close to home. Those girls are a bad influence on you!"
"Right. I'll just go spend my days with Jimmy, the crackhead down the street."
"Don't do this to me, Amber," snarled her mother, the love barely oozing through her tone. "Don't try to turn this around on me. I'm trying to protect you. That's why we moved to this town in the first place... there were two magical girls keeping people safe. And now there's a third one as well. But that doesn't mean you should go out there and be in harm's way!"
Amber's mother jumped a bit as Theron rubbed his head against her leg and meowed softly. Tell her the hunters can appear here as easily as anywhere else.
You're not helping, Amber shot back as her mother picked the cat up. "I just want to live a normal life," she said aloud. "Is that so wrong?"
"People haven't been living normal lives for nearly forty years," replied her mother. "The hunters are everywhere now, and despite what the government says, it's not safe out there."
"'Everywhere' includes this neighborhood, Mom," said Amber, finally seeing Theron's point. "It's my school, your job, and every place in between. We can't get away from them by shutting ourselves up at home."
"It's not just the hunters, darling," said her mother.
Oh, boy. Here we go. Theron leapt out of her arms. Let me know when the lecture's over.
"I don't know what it really is that keeps you out so late, but I don't like it, and I don't like that you can't tell me the truth."
"Mom, I -"
"Please don't interrupt me." The woman's hands were shaking quite visibly. "Now, I'm not going to ask what it is anymore. I know you're not going to tell me, and I accept that. I'm going to try something different this time. I'm going to make your favorite dinner tomorrow evening. It will be ready at five p.m. sharp. And you're going to be here to eat it. Is that understood?"
That was a surprise. Amber hesitated to respond, searching for the trick, but it probably wouldn't make any difference if she refused. Her mother's insidious plan would reach fruition eventually, and if she went along with it, she'd get stroganoff along with the guilt. Her friends would understand... heck, they'd urge her to go along even if a hunter was tearing them to pieces while they said it. Sure, it hurt to think that way, but she'd been nurturing that feeling for months. It was time to fight the guilt monster hovering over her mother for a while. "I promise. I'll be here."
"I don't get it. So many things are changing right now."
"Well, you DID become a magical girl. I'd expect you're used to that by now."
"I know. But even that wasn't really a big deal. I knew where I stood back then. Now... I'm not so sure. It's all gotten so complicated."
"You're confused. Everyone's pressuring you to do exactly what you want to do. Your friends, your mother, your teachers... they all want you to stop being Sonic Yurika, even if they don't know that you are her."
"Yeah. I'm not used to people wanting me to be me. They're always wanting me to do more, to achieve more... and now I'm achieving more than anyone ever has, and they want me to stop."
"But you don't like it any more than they do."
"What about you, Theron?"
"Me? Well, I'd love nothing more than to tell you to hang up your wand and never transform again. But we both know that whether you transform or not, the blood of a magical girl is in you, and the hunters will stop at nothing to kill you. Becoming Yurika is a matter of survival."
"I don't really have a choice, do I?"
"Well, it's a choice between living as a magical girl or dying as an ordinary one."
"... It's tempting."
"I'd miss you. So would your mother, and your friends."
"I know. Most of them don't understand the consequences if I try to pretend I'm normal."
"You are pretending to be normal. You're just not fooling yourself."
"Am I fooling anyone? Really? Everyone notices that I've changed. Even Jessica... and she didn't realize her parents had gotten divorced until three days later."
"No. That was a joke."
"Oh. It only took her two days, right?"
"You're not going to cry again, are you?"
"... I'm trying not to."
"You've been doing a lot of that today... what's wrong? You're not usually this emotional."
"I just never realized... there are so many magical girls out there, and they all had to go through all the stuff I'm going through. So why does it feel like I'm the only one?"
"You're the only one of them that's you."
"That doesn't make any sense."
"A lot of things don't, but that doesn't change the way you feel about them."
"... You've had this same conversation before, haven't you?"
"Well, I've been an animal companion for forty years. I've been with a few magical girls in that time."
"It's weird, but I am starting to feel a lot better now."
"It's my impeccable sense of humor. It cheers everyone up."
Amber laughed and lowered her head onto the pillow. Theron curled up beside her, and for the first time in months, she fell asleep quickly and didn't wake up from several nightmares in the brief period between evening and morning.
When the bell rang, Amber stayed behind and waited for the rest of the students to file out of the room. It was time to do what she had to, and nobody else could be there to watch her do it. This encounter would change her life forever... and it was the first such encounter in which she didn't plan to suit up for the fight. Instead, she strode nervously to the front of the room and faced her opponent, not as Sonic Yurika, but as Amber Sabine, common junior high student.
"You wanted to see me, Miss Hodgson?" she asked, putting the ungraded test paper on the desk. The only red marks on the paper were a note asking Amber to see her after class. "I suppose it's too much to hope that I did so well you're going to accuse me of cheating?"
"I'm afraid not," replied her teacher, adjusting her glasses. "Good grades were rather commonplace for you until a few months ago. This test, though... it's become a disturbing trend in your work."
Amber's heart sank. "Yeah, I know. Things are just different now. It's hard to explain."
"I understand. I've been a teacher for nearly twenty years, so I've seen this happen before."
Amber wasn't so out of it that she couldn't recognize a loaded statement. "Seen what happen?"
Miss Hodgson smiled nostalgically and picked up the ungraded paper. "I know you're better than this at interpreting stories, so let me tell you one. You can make of it whatever you want."
"Okay..." Amber agreed uneasily. When a teacher smiled while holding a test you failed, it was never a good sign.
"I knew a girl some time ago who was extremely intelligent, just like you," the story began. "She got the top grades in all of her classes until she hit puberty. That was when she found out that she was a magical girl."
Amber schooled her expression carefully. Miss Hodgson wasn't trying to lay a trap for her... she was just describing a student with a similar problem. It simply happened to be far more similar than she knew.
"She had a hard time at first balancing schoolwork and her new responsibilities, but she buckled down and devoted herself entirely to her work, and managed to bring her grades back up. I remember a short period when she thought it would be impossible, and she nearly gave up, but she pulled herself together admirably."
Amber nodded glumly. Yet another of those "shining example" stories people loved to tell, thinking she'd be inspired, when all it did was remind her of what she'd tried and failed to achieve. It felt like a punishment for her failed test, even if it wasn't meant to be. But she kept these thoughts to herself as always.
"That girl went on to become a successful teacher and a good colleague. But she always seemed to be full of regret about the opportunities she'd missed. Keeping up her grades had kept her from her friends and family... between that and the pressure of fighting the hunters, she hadn't gotten to experience her life. Once she'd finished school and found her first teaching job, she started spending every free moment enjoying herself in any way she could find. I don't know whether she ever made up for her lost adolescence... but I'm sure she tried."
Amber wasn't sure what to say to that. Was her teacher telling her NOT to improve her grades? "I'm not sure I understand what you mean...."
Miss Hodgson sighed. "My point was that we all have choices to make, many of them not our own creation. Life likes to pile situations on our plates, and we have to deal with them as they come. Whatever choice you make, you'll probably live to regret it. But there's no shame in choosing what you think is best for you at the time. And if what you choose isn't the academic path... then so be it." She wrote something on the paper. "But try not to let yourself go all at once... people notice that."
Amber accepted the B- and saw her teacher in a new light. "That magical girl...?"
"She taught at the school where I taught before I transferred here," replied Miss Hodgson. "She disappeared from there some time ago and hasn't been seen since. I suppose I was never very close to her, except for knowing her secret, so I didn't keep in touch."
Amber nodded. The meeting hadn't gone as badly as she'd anticipated, and she couldn't remember having done anything that would incriminate her as a magical girl. But had Miss Hodgson given her a passing grade out of the goodness of her heart? If she knew Amber's secret, wouldn't she have said something about it? She stared at the paper as if the mark would vanish if she questioned its validity. Never look a gift horse in the mouth, right? But she had to know. "Um... this grade...?"
"The next one will be exactly what you earn," the teacher replied curtly. "You're not so far down the path that you can't turn back... if that's what you choose. I believe in second chances for everyone."
"Oh." Amber left an awkward pause before filling in the obligatory "Thank you." She turned and left the room, elated but somehow certain that, on a level she couldn't understand, she'd come out of the conversation in second place.
The moment of choice was rapidly approaching. And she didn't even know what the choices were.
"I've decided."
"Yeah. I'm not going to do it anymore."
"Good. I was starting to feel sick, watching you push yourself that hard. It just wasn't right."
"I'm sorry I can't help you anymore. Really...."
"Stop that. Apologizing will just make you regret it. You've made your choice, and we're all happy for you. Right, Chenyce?"
"Of course. I've wanted you to quit for weeks now... for your own good. You need to be yourself, and you need to get your life back together."
"You guys... you really don't want me any more?"
"Ugh... stop trying to make the worst of everything we say! Of course we'd love to keep fighting with you... but more than that, we want you to be happy."
"Girl, do you WANT us to beg you to stay with us? Is that the way you want to end up?"
"Well, no...."
"Then accept your decision and quit trying to find a reason to change your mind. You can't go through life expecting people to make your choices for you!"
"Especially if you expect them to change your mind. You made the right choice. Now just stick to it and don't look back. Okay?"
"Yeah.... Thanks, you guys. You're the best."
"You just take care of yourself. And don't worry about us anymore. It's your life from now on."
"I know."
Amber heaved a heavy sigh as she stepped off school grounds at the end of the day. She felt liberated in a way she couldn't explain... as if she'd become a whole new person. But she hadn't. She had become who she used to be once again. The magical girl phase was over, and she was back to normal.
It was still impossible to believe.
She was even going to make it home in time for dinner. She HAD promised.
The familiar siren split the air. The students who had been lazily filing out of the building ran for safety, and the buses started, preparing to leave as soon as they were loaded.
"Just when I think I'm free, they pull me back in," groaned Yurika. She was startled at the sound of her own voice... she'd ducked into the bushes and changed without even noticing it as soon as the siren had sounded. It was a natural reaction now, like salivating at the smell of food.
She almost wanted to cry when she realized how completely Yurika had taken over her life, but strangely enough, it was a smile that crossed her face first. If she was already transformed, she might as well have one last fight as a magical girl and go out with a bang. The other girls would understand.
Yurika pushed her way out of the bushes and felt a pair of astonished eyes watching her. "Oh... my... god!" gasped Jessica. "Amber... you're totally Sonic Yurika! Oh my god!"
She sounded more excited than surprised, but excited was the only mood Jessica ever really demonstrated. Yurika tried to cower without actually diving back into the bushes.
"My best friend is a magical girl! That is so cool!"
She couldn't keep gushing about it or someone would hear. "Listen, Jessica... you have to keep it a secret, okay? If anyone finds out about it, the hunters will come after me."
Jessica's face took on a very serious expression. "Well, yeah. You can trust me. After all, we're best friends, right?"
Yurika nodded. When it was put that way, she didn't feel anything as much as guilt. "Right... I'm sorry I hid it from you. I should have trusted you sooner."
"No need to apologize," said Jessica. "I know it's a tough life for you. But now we can share it with each other, can't we?"
The hunter be damned. Yurika ran forward to give her friend a hug before she could burst into tears again. So many things were suddenly changing in her life... in the excitement, she'd completely forgotten her promise to her other friends that she wouldn't become Yurika anymore. As long as Jessica, someone on the outside of the conflict, knew her secret... she wasn't alone anymore.
There was a soft snap as Jessica's arms closed around Yurika's neck, twisting her head firmly, and her spine split in two. She died instantly.
Tabitha and Nephtali strode down the empty hallways side by side, each keeping an eye on the other's back to prevent a sneak attack. But there didn't seem to be much cause for worry, because even though the siren insisted that a hunter was present on the grounds, there was no sign of one. Most hunters liked to make a commotion to draw the magical girls out... civilian deaths, if any, were a means to that end. Tabitha didn't like the silent ones... that meant they were lying in wait to spring some sort of trap, and the diversity of hunters made it impossible to know what to expect. There were numerous stories of a hunter who teleported into enclosed spaces, filled them with toxic gas, then vanished before anyone could attack it.
She wasn't surprised to find that she was unconsciously holding her breath. She forced herself to inhale normally and adjusted her epaulets. "What do you think?" she asked.
"At the risk of sounding cliché... it's too quiet," replied Nephtali. "Something's waiting for us."
Tabitha nodded. She could hear something now... a set of footsteps approaching. They sounded human, but that didn't mean it wasn't a hunter. She created a lance of light and moved toward the corner, hoping to catch whoever it was by surprise.
She leapt into the cross hallway and prepared to attack, but quickly stopped as she recognized the student standing before her. "Jessica? What are you doing here? There's a -" Then she got a good look at the bundle in Jessica's arms, and her voice died. She heard Nephtali retching behind her and felt like throwing up herself.
Jessica dumped Yurika's lifeless body on the floor. "Pity, really. I was almost hoping she'd live a little longer."
Bile rose in Tabitha's throat. "You... bitch! You're a hunter!" She raised her lance, but Jessica held up a hand to warn her off.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you. You don't want to hurt an innocent student, do you?"
Tabitha shivered. "Then... you're some kind of parasite?"
"Perhaps a demonstration is in order," replied Jessica. Her eyes glazed over, and a thin white liquid oozed out of her ear. It quickly formed a long thread that whipped around Jessica once and darted across the hallway, seeping into Nephtali's ear before Tabitha could try to stop it. The retching stopped, and Nephtali got to her feet as the last of the liquid entered her head.
Tabitha felt rage taking over and panted heavily with the effort of trying to suppress it. "Get out of her," she ordered coldly.
Nephtali turned around with a smile on her face. "No, I don't think I'll be doing that," the hunter said through her mouth. "See, I only have as much power as the body I'm in. Ordinary people like your friend over there are too weak to be of much use to me. But a magical girl has so many advantages!"
Tabitha sneered. "Right. Like you even know how to use her power."
"Let's find out, shall we?" Nephtali raised her arms. "RAZOR WIND!" Unprepared for the attack, Tabitha barely had time to spin aside, rolling with the impact of the blades she couldn't dodge. She felt the wind slicing holes in her clothing, several of them tearing chunks out of her skin as well.
Tabitha curled both hands around her lance and prepared to throw it, but she stopped in mid-motion. The hunter had already killed Yurika... she couldn't let it kill Nephtali as well. Especially not with her own hands.
Noting her hesitation, Nephtali cackled. "Exactly! That's what I love about my power. You know you can't hurt me without hurting your friend as well!"
Tabitha felt a fleeting moment of hope. "So... if I hurt her, I'd be hurting you as well?"
Nephtali's eyes darted nervously. "I didn't say that," she said carefully.
"You didn't have to." She raised her lance again.
Nephtali held up her hands. "You wouldn't kill your best friend, would you?" she asked innocently.
"She's already dead," Tabitha replied. She hurled the lance without a second thought.
Nephtali wasn't caught off guard. She leapt out of the way, twisting in the air so that she was still facing Tabitha when she landed. "RAZOR WIND!" she shouted, loosing her attack as soon as her feet hit the ground.
Tabitha stood firm. "SHINING LANCE!" she shouted again, creating a new projectile to replace the one she's just thrown. She let it fly into the storm of air blades, switching to a defensive posture to protect herself as best she could when the attack hit. The blades sliced into every inch of her body, drawing more and more blood with every strike. But the single attack that hit her opponent was far more damaging.
Nephtali collapsed to the floor, driving the lance even deeper into her chest.
Tabitha shivered, the blood loss already beginning to weaken her. "Maybe you know how to use her power... but I know she can't move while she's using it." She gasped, clutching her sides as she realized what she'd just done. "Looks like I win... and I lose."
As she fell to her knees, she saw a thin trail of white ooze seeping out of Nephtali's ear. "No... no, you bastard. I just killed my other best friend. You have to be dead."
The ooze stretched toward her, and her hair stood on end as it made a beeline for her ear. A bright flash blinded her, and she felt a pair of comforting arms wrap around her. The silky smooth hands brushed her face and neck, and then she gave herself to unconsciousness.
Rachel awoke suddenly from a horrible dream. Amber and Chenyce were dead, and she too had fallen victim to the parasitic hunter that took over innocent bodies and....
She wasn't in her bedroom. She was in a white room with a low, repetitive beep and the strong odor of antiseptics mixed with just a bit of human suffering. Two of the "walls" were white curtains hanging from metal racks. And she could still feel the wounds all over her body, sending pain shooting through her every time the sheet brushed against her. It wasn't just the sheet, either... she was wearing a smooth robe of some sort that didn't seem to come between her and the mattress....
She was in a hospital. It hadn't been a dream. And that wasn't a surprise. She seemed to wake up every morning wishing that everything she remembered were a dream. This time, the only difference was where she was waking up and who wouldn't be there to greet her when she got to school.
"You're awake," said a familiar voice before she could fully understand the emotion her thoughts were leading up to. Rachel didn't have to turn far to see one of Amber's teachers sitting beside the bed. "I volunteered to bring your homework to you."
"Don't they usually get a student to do that?" asked Rachel.
"We thought it best if as few students as possible know who you are," the teacher replied. "There are quite a few students missing after the recent wave of hunter attacks, so your identity might still be safe."
Which meant that she'd been found out, at least by a few people. "What about the others?"
"Two of them were dead when I found them. The third was alive and unharmed, but I had to keep her from killing herself until the ambulances arrived... she's in the psychiatric ward now, suicidal with guilt. They say she'll recover in time, but until then, she has to be protected from herself."
"You found us?" repeated Rachel. "Then, the one who killed the hunter...?"
"There's a fourth magical girl at our school," the teacher explained. "It was her power that destroyed the hunter."
Rachel's heart sank. "You mean... she could have stepped in at any time? She could have saved Amber and Chenyce, and she waited until it was too late?"
"I understand that you were the one who killed Chenyce," said the teacher. "It's possible that by doing so, you weakened the hunter enough to allow the other's power to work." She closed her eyes. "I'm sorry... for your loss."
Rachel's fists clenched tightly in frustration. "I can't believe they're gone. I can't believe... I killed my own partner."
"The decisions are never easy," the teacher assured her. "There's no way to avoid making them... you can only hope that you're making them the right way."
Tears filled Rachel's eyes. "What am I going to do?"
"That's up to you," the teacher replied. "Each of us must choose her own path. Whether you choose to embrace your magical girl nature or try to reject it and live as a normal girl, all you can do is live to your fullest and enjoy every moment as if it is your last."
"I don't know which one to choose," sobbed Rachel. "It's so hard."
"Your choice will be clear in time," Miss Hodgson assured her. "Just do what you feel is right. No matter the outcome, that is never the wrong choice." With that, she stood up and pushed her way through the curtain, leaving Rachel alone with her thoughts.
Sign up to rate and review this story