Starlight - Book 1 in the Starlight Trilogy

After an enjoyably peaceful year living and attending university in the east coast town of Kamogawa in Japan, Meg Momozono finds herself thrust into an exhilarating and terrifying adventure of magical girls, fairies, and gods. And the discovery that not everything can be easily explained by science...

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8. Chapter 8

  As they strolled through the near-deserted evening streets, Lifa arrived a little out of breath. “Ah, there you both are. Two elementals have appeared! Separate from one another, one near the old lighthouse, the other is at Sea World.”

  “You can handle yourself now, right?” Emilia said to her friend and partner.

  Meg puffed her chest out. “I won’t let you down!”

  “I know you won’t, I’m just concerned about you being hurt…” Emilia murmured, going bright red again. After Meg’s concern earlier, she felt a little uncomfortable having this caring and lovely girl put herself in danger, regardless of the new powers she possessed.

  “Emilia…” Meg murmured in return, her own cheeks heating the local atmosphere by several degrees.

  “Come along, you two, there’s work to be done!” Lifa said, placing her hands on her hips in that matronly way she was so fond of. “Honestly, if I wasn’t around, nothing would get done!”

  Meg’s vocal chords strained, wanting nothing more than to say ‘yes, Mother’, but she overruled them. Instead, she said, “I’ll take Sea World! Wish me luck!” and transformed, bounding away into the night, her blazing orange braided ponytail fluttering behind her.

  Arriving at the Sea World centre by the beach, she scanned the area for mischief makers. A lone woman had collapsed on the pavement, and two young men seemingly out getting drunk had fallen in the road as they crossed. Meg spent a moment dragging them to the pavement, made sure the woman was okay, then jumped to a nearby roof.

  Sea World was one of Kamogawa’s main attractions as far as tourism went, putting on various shows involving dolphins, orcas, seals, and other sea life. During the day, this place was filled with many voices, both human and animal, but at night it felt eerie. The moon cast odd shadows, its cold white light illuminating the most mundane of objects in ways that made them feel far more threatening.

  She jumped from the roof down to one of the large, circular pools. “Where is it…?”

  “I thought one of you would turn up,” came a voice. A female voice.

  Meg jumped. “What the hell!” Looking wildly about, her nostrils filled with the salty scent of water, she homed in on the sound. It had come from one of the Sea World buildings further down the beach, where a girl similar to her age sat on the edge of the roof. “You people sure like roofs, huh?”

  The girl who had spoken shifted, bringing a hand up to her mouth as she yawned in an entirely-too-bored manner. “A roof is convenient for looking down on those beneath you.” Her hair was pink, much to Meg’s surprise. Not a dyed pink either, more of a natural cerise shade, the sort of colour one might see in a coral reef. Combined with the amber eyes, she had an otherworldly, alien look.

  “Wow… she might actually be worse than Tear,” Meg muttered.

  “I’d really rather not have to deal with you, so if you’d just run along, that’d be lovely,” the girl said, making some vague shooing motions with a hand.

  Meg had to stifle a brief laugh despite the situation. “Wow, you’re like… the most unenthusiastic villain I’ve ever seen.”

  The girl merely shrugged. “I don’t have the energy to care. Got a job to do if I want to go home, but that doesn’t mean I have to work overtime.” While her speech came across as bored, it also carried a distinct hint of haughtiness, a condescending arrogance Meg found even more annoying than Tear’s smugness.

  Spying an opportunity to learn about their enemy, Meg investigated further. “You’re trying to go home as well?”

  “Maybe. What’s it to you?”

  “I just thought we don’t need to be enemies. I can help—”

  The girl’s expression soured. “You can’t help. Don’t bother pretending you can.”

  “You don’t know that!”

  “Are you from my world? No? Then how can you possibly help?”

  “I’m guessing you’re from Ereth?” Meg hazarded.

  “Maybe.”

  “I know someone who’s from there, it’s possible she can hel—”

  “That girl who’s been getting in our way every time we try and collec—carry out our tasks? No, thank you.”

  Meg wasn’t sure the girl’s expression could turn any more sour, but she’d just managed it. “Can you at least tell me why you’re doing this? What purpose—?”

  The girl jumped to her feet and glared. “Looking for love.” With that, she bounded away into the night, revealing her hair to be long enough that it fell to her ankles, flowing behind her as she jumped from building to building.

  A final echoing comment rang out in the night, “I’ll let you get acquainted with my friend for now, I really don’t have any inclination to play with you myself.”

  “Looking for love? What’s that supposed to mean?” Meg muttered. “And I never even asked her name. And I let her cut me off three times in a row. I’m really not very good at this, am I?” She emitted a silent sigh and cast about for the aforementioned friend.

  She expected an elemental. And while she did indeed receive one, it was different to the previous several she had encountered. This one floated with no visible means of support, vaguely dolphin-shaped but – Meg swallowed – it had apparently had its skeleton attached to the outside.

  A translucent blue skin showed none of the usual bits and pieces Meg might reasonably assume a living creature should have inside them; it appeared empty, lifeless. The off-white skeletal structure covered its body from head to tail, and the usual biomechanical parts she become familiar with were nowhere to be seen.

  Backing away, Meg muttered, “I wonder if its form depends on the one controlling it or something?” She made a mental note to talk to Emilia about this in the near future. For now, she needed to focus.

  The creature emitted an odd sound, sort of how Meg imagined a dolphin might sound if trapped in an echo chamber with the reverb turned up to max. It closed the distance, its faceless gaze again giving her the creeps. Opening its mouth to reveal lines of razor sharp teeth more akin to a shark, it fired a spray of water at supersonic speeds.

  Meg was slammed into the wall behind her, cracking the plaster, a pained gasp escaping her mouth. “Okay… might’ve been a good idea to dodge that, Meg,” she said to herself. She anticipated the next, moving in time to avoid it.

  Firing off three blasts of fire, she dodged towards the sea-facing edge of the area, wanting to move the fight away from Sea World itself. The creature followed, blasting jets of water as it did so, adjusting the velocity and impact by opening or closing its mouth. A stream scythed out and cut a lamp post in half, the metal object thudding into the sand just beyond this section of paving.

  Meg swore. “Water can cut metal!? Better not let that hit me…!”

  She jumped and dodged as best she could, firing her own attacks off in return. The creature blocked them with bursts of water each time. Another dodge, and she gathered all her energy together to fire one more blast, a wide-area firestorm that covered the creature in searing flame. It screamed, shattering several windows.

  Seeing her opportunity, Meg used the Fireblaster – the name she had privately given to the machinegun-like attack she attempted earlier, much to her own minor naming embarrassment – to pepper the elemental with a dozen shots, piercing its thick skeletal covering and puncturing the body.

  It exploded, raining water across the entire area and dousing Meg’s own flames in steam. She collapsed to the sand just as Emilia arrived, bouncing her way over the buildings to find her partner out of breath, out of magic, and almost out of luck.

  “You okay, Meg?” Emilia said, crouching to give some support.

  “Yeah… that one was just a bit more powerful than I expected.”

  “Was that annoying man here again?”

  “No… this time it was a girl about our age. Long pink hair. Gold eyes. Kind of irritating.” Meg fell back to lie flat, staring up at the stars. “And she had a different type of elemental, too!” She did her best to describe it.

  “Another one, huh? I’ll let Lifa know, she’s channelling some of Blue’s power to fix up the lighthouse right now. She’ll be here soon.”

  “It felt way more dangerous this time,” Meg said, tilting her head to look at her friend.

  “You made the right choice, Meg. You thought it’d probably be a water type, right? That’s why you chose this one? We need to fight to our strengths, but you also need to build your stamina a bit more.”

  “Haha, kinda. I can’t afford to run out of magic during a fight, can I?”

  “Not when it’s your life on the line, Meg.”

  Lifa arrived and issued a brief sigh. “Really, now, we can’t have you burning yourself out like this.” A magic top-up later and Meg was back on her feet. “Well done, Meg. It appears you had a considerably more difficult experience this time, I’m glad you’re all right.”

  “I’ve got uni in the morning as well,” Meg said, releasing her transformation. “Well, it’ll be fine, it’s just one lecture.” The lecture wasn’t the problem, though. Sleeping would be the problem.

  Emilia reverted her own form and took Meg’s hand. “You’re welcome at the mansion whenever you like, no need to knock! If you need some company, come straight round.”

  “Quite so, yes,” Lifa said, fixing up the damage caused by the water elemental. With this complete, she floated in the direction of the mansion.

  “Thanks, both of you!” Meg said, happy and content despite the danger of the past hour. Then she walked home with her partner, eager for their next training session together.

 

***

 

  At an abandoned warehouse on the edge of town, surrounded by trees making their way to the base of Mount Atago, the pink-haired girl arrived, sidling around a partially open sliding metal door into the building itself. Cavernous and dark, lit in places by bright spots of white moonlight pouring through gaps in the broken roof, the warehouse had clearly not seen use in many years. Until now.

  She shambled forward, reaching the centre of the structure where a threadbare sofa and several ancient armchairs, all in surgical pink, had been arranged to face each other. Between them, a rickety coffee table made from cheap pine, and a number of candles providing a gentle flickering light Meg would probably have found quite romantic.

  Around the rest of the football-sized structure various debris was strewn; sheets of metal, old wooden crates and pallets, empty paint tins, a few errant tools, even a rusty old forklift missing its rear wheel. And permeating the air throughout the whole building, a musty smell of mould and dead rats.

  The girl made her way to one of the armchairs and flopped down, putting her feet up on the table. “I’m back.”

  Tear lay comfortably along the sofa reading a magazine. He tilted his head a little to stare at the new arrival. “You’re late, Kaba-nee. Problems?”

  “Ran into your little friend.”

  A wry smile appeared on Tear’s cold lips. “Which one?”

  The girl addressed as Kaba-nee waved an irritable hand. “Ponytail? Seems to enjoy poking her nose into other people’s business?”

  “Oh.” Tear went back to his magazine.

  “Shouldn’t you do something about them before they get in our way any more?”

  A third figure, silently relaxing in a chair out of the direct candlelight to one side, spoke in a soft voice. “Keep them away from the Loconds, but avoid harming them if possible. We’ve lost enough already, I won’t inflict the same on this world. Earth is already too far along that path without our interference.”

  “Must we? Sounds like a pain.”

  “We must. Our mission is more important than any of our individual lives, Kabane,” the figure said, using the lethargic girl’s real name instead of the more familiar form Tear preferred.

  Tear sat upright and swung his legs off the sofa, tossing the magazine onto the table. “I dislike having the Loconds fight for me anyway. I’ll be interested to see how that girl handles herself in a real fight.”

  Kabane shrugged. “Feel free, if it means I don’t need to exert myself.”

  “Tear runs interference while Kabane collects, then,” the shadowy figure, who appeared to be their leader, said. “There are two of them now, be careful.”

  The other two confirmed this – with fervour in Kabane’s case, less so in Tear’s – and made plans for their next excursion…

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