The next day at university went without issue, not least because she only had a single lecture to attend, so Meg ran back to the sweet shop and up to her flat the moment she was done. Then a quick change into something a little more comfy followed by an hour wait for Yasuko to arrive.
She spent the time having something to eat and scanning the news for anything about the previous morning. Nothing so far. Probably a few people went to the hospital to get themselves checked out after waking, but she guessed it wasn’t enough to make the news.
A knock at the door indicated her friend had arrived, so Meg let her in and they settled together around the low glass-topped coffee table before the sofa. Yasuko grinned – it always seemed to Meg that her friend was literally incapable of smiling in a fashion that was anything but suggestive – and dropped a plastic bag onto the table.
“Evening! Here, I bought delicious things.” Yasuko produced several six-packs of Asabi light lager, two tubs of pecan and maple ice cream, and a thumb drive, no doubt containing music; she was always finding new things to listen to, and generally assaulted Meg’s ears the first chance she got.
“You’re not getting me drunk, Yacchan, I know your game,” Meg said in a stern tone, eyes narrowed.
“I’ll get you into bed one of these days, my girl, alcohol or not!”
Meg gave her friend a playful thump on the shoulder and opened a can of beer. “Is that all you think about?”
Yasuko opened a can and downed half in one go. “Yeah, pretty much just that. Well, that and drawing cute girls.
Her hobbies included art, though not the type Meg engaged in. No, Yasuko prayed at the altar of cute. Which was likely why she was always so infatuated with her best friend, and spent most of her waking hours drawing cute girls in various states of undress.
After sorting the music out by plugging the thumb drive into Meg’s modest sound system next to the TV, they relaxed with a fresh beer each. Yasuko was several years older and quite comfortable downing a few lagers of an evening, but Meg generally tried to hold herself in check; it wouldn’t do to go getting drunk with university the next morning.
“Your dad has a bee in his bonnet, right?” Yasuko said, more or less out of nowhere.
Meg twitched. “A bee in…?”
“His bonnet. That’s an English phrase, isn’t it?”
“It is, but I don’t think it means what you think it means.”
“So he collects bees?”
“Keeps, Yacchan, keeps bees.”
“Close enough.” Yasuko opened her tub of ice cream and tucked in with a little wooden stick provided for this express purpose, entirely unabashed. “So it’s a hobby?”
“Yeah. He was a movie star for most of his life until an accident left him with a dodgy leg, so he retired and went into bee keeping. Pretty sure he got interested in it when he was a kid living in Japan, though. Didn’t I already tell you this once?”
“You might’ve been drunk, now I think about it…”
“That would explain it,” Yasuko said, nodding sagely. Her memory could be a little unreliable if she’d been drinking. Selectively so, in fact. “So your father was an actor? I’d love to try acting, but I’m probably terrible at it!”
“Have you ever tried?”
“No… well, I did try it once at school. The drama club recruited me for a play. That didn’t go so well.”
“Do I even want to know?”
“Nothing dodgy, don’t worry! I hadn’t really found myself back then so it’s not something I thought much about. No, I was kind of clumsy as a kid so I ended up breaking a tree on the set and… yeah, that was that.”
Meg stifled a giggle. “I can’t even imagine you being clumsy.”
Yasuko shrugged. “I’m a different person now.”
“Maybe you should try again? You won’t know if you’re any good unless you give it another go.”
“True… though the type of acting I’d likely end up doing these days probably wouldn’t need much script.”
“Yasuko!” Meg snapped, blushing at her friend’s naughty allusion.
“Just kidding! I wouldn’t do anything like that for money. My love is given freely.”
Meg sat back, sipping her drink. “You’re such a generous girl. Though some people might have other names for it.” She grinned as Yasuko’s cheeks flushed a little, and went back to fidgeting. She took a desultory mouthful of ice cream here and there, washed down with beer. She wanted to change subject to the previous morning’s crazy events, but with her best friend in a playful mood…
Though to be fair, Yasuko was more or less always in a playful mood.
Despite the wholly carefree exterior, she was also a perceptive girl, so she opened a fresh can and leaned back on an arm. “You said you wanted to talk? We’ve got beer, ice cream, and great music. What better time?”
Meg agreed that there probably wasn’t one, all things considered, and did her best to relay what had happened. Her friend remained quiet and periodically sipped her drink, nodding once in a while.
Meg sat back, a concerned expression occupying her face. “Well? Pretty crazy, huh?”
“I’m sure I bought regular beer…” Yasuko muttered, peering into her can.
“I know it sounds totally insane, but it really happened! I even ran into the same girl on the way home from the gym last night!”
Yasuko held a hand up. “Relax, relax! I believe you, don’t worry. I’ve known you long enough to know you wouldn’t lie about something like this.”
Meg relaxed a little. “Thanks. I have no idea what to even do about it. I mean, what can I do? Is there anything I should do? I’m not a magical girl or anything, so it’s not like I’d be any use even if I did meet her again.”
Yasuko tilted her can towards her friend. “You don’t have to be a superhero to be useful to someone.” She finished the can and placed it on the table, taking another mouthful of ice cream directly after.
“Well… no, but…”
“Do you want to help her? Despite the terrifying experience yesterday, despite not being sure if you can help, despite having no super powers? You still want to help her?”
Yasuko gave a lopsided smile. “Isn’t that enough? You don’t need a reason to help people. Pretty sure I’ve heard that before somewhere. Where was it…?” Her brows furrowed as she attempted to bring the elusive thought to mind. “Eh, probably not important.”
“Mm…” Meg fiddled with her ice cream, idly poking the wooden stick in and out, leaving a circular pattern of oblong holes.
“You’ve been the most helpful person in my life since pretty much the day you got here, Meg. It’s one of your best points, in my considered opinion.” Yasuko took a slurp of beer. “But you seem unusually adamant about helping this girl. Any particular reason?”
“Probably just because I spent so much time as a kid watching magical girl shows. This is real life and all, but… I dunno, maybe I’m just reading too much into it. Maybe she doesn’t want or need any help. But she saved my life, Yasuko, that’s not something I can simply ignore. I need to at least ask.”
Yasuko leaned across the table at gave her friend a peck on the cheek. “Have at it, then. Just be careful, please, I’d hate to see anything bad happen to you.”
Meg blushed. “I will, I promise!” She ate some more ice cream, possibly the ultimate comfort food. “She seemed to handle herself okay, it’s clear she’s got some amazing powers. But wouldn’t doing something like that put you in a situation where you have to avoid people?”
“Best way to find out would be to ask her.”
“You said she’s got dark skin? Like she was from India or somewhere?”
“Yep, she was beautiful.”
“Always liked dark skin on a girl, really attractive,” Yasuko said apropos of nothing much, staring vacantly at the ceiling as some steamy vision played in her mind.
“You find anything vaguely female attractive.”
Yasuko’s face split into an enormous grin. “Can’t deny that.” She sat forward. “Feeling better?”
“A bit. Talking about it helps. I’ll just have to hope I see her again.”
“Life has a funny way of working itself out, I’m sure you’ll see her soon!” Yasuko stood, stretched, and made for the door. “Righto, I still have some things to do tonight, I should head off. Thanks for the company, Meg!”
“No problem, see you in a day or two.” Meg escorted her out, gave a wave and a farewell, and headed back inside.
Later that evening Meg headed out to grab a few things from a nearby convenience store. Returning to the sweet shop, she came to a screeching halt as she noticed a girl standing outside, visibly drooling over a promotional poster attached to the wall.
Sneaking up, Meg tapped her on the shoulder. “We meet again!”
The girl visibly jumped, turning to face Meg. “What the—! Oh… it’s you.” She breathed out after an initial sharp inhalation, holding her chest. “Are you trying to give me a heart attack?”
“Ah… sorry,” Meg mumbled, her cheeks glowing. Going by what this girl apparently dealt with on – she assumed – some sort of regular basis, it possibly wasn’t the brightest plan to go surprising her; she might end up squashed under one of those gravity balls if she wasn’t careful.
“What do you want?” the girl asked, backing away a couple of steps.
“Nothing in particular. Actually, that’s not quite true. I was wondering if you needed any help? Or… anything?” Meg gave an awkward laugh, a little ‘aha… aha…’ indicating her nervous state. “I’m not sure how much help I can be with giant monsters, but maybe I can help some other way? Anything at all!”
“It’s dangerous, I can’t go getting you involved!” The girl turned to leave, but hesitated briefly to say, “Th-Thank you for the offer, though! I’m happy with the thought.” She attempted to run, but a short and simple sentence from Meg stopped her dead.
“How about just being my friend?”
“Yep! Even if I can’t help you fight, I can give you some company. Maybe?”
“I don’t want to endanger anyone else if I can avoid it,” the girl muttered, her brows furrowing.
“I’ll run at the first sign of trouble, I promise.”
“Just accept the offer, Emilia!” came an exasperated voice, seemingly from the depths of the girl’s jacket.
Now it was Meg’s turn to jump, spinning around a few times as she attempted to place the sound. “Where did that voice come from?”
“What voice?” The girl named Emilia attempted to appear innocent, with mixed results.
“I’m sure I just heard a voice.”
“That was… my ventriloquism practice! Yeah, that’s it.”
Meg narrowed her eyes. “Really…?”
Something from the previous evening popped into Meg’s mind, something she had noticed at the time but which had been forgotten upon the meeting in the park. “Now I remember! You had a little, um, girl? Or a fairy? She had cute blue butterfly wings and orange hair! Was that her?”
A brief sigh escaped the mystery girl’s lips. She had a look around to ensure they were alone, then stuffed a hand down the front of her heavy jacket. “I suppose it’s pointless hiding it if you saw her last night.”
Meg’s face lit up as the little fairy girl she had spied the previous evening was produced, looking what might be described as dishabille, or what Meg imagined the word dishabille meant, which in this case was ruffled.
The fairy, maybe half a foot in height with the aforementioned blue butterfly wings and bright orange hair – held in twin ponytails, one to either side of her head – sat on Emilia’s outstretched palm and gazed up at Meg with a great deal of visible interest, her eyes a crystal clear sky blue colour.
“Pleasure, I’m sure!” the fairy said, giving a shallow bow. “I am Lifa, and this young lass here is Emilia. How do you do?”
The fairy’s voice and mode of speech reminded Meg of those upper class ladies she had occasionally seen in the old period dramas her mother sometimes watched; posh, well-enunciated to a fault, and given half a chance she would likely start using words like ‘smashing’ and ‘super’ in an entirely over-exuberant manner.
Meg managed to find her own voice in order to respond. “Oh, yes, nice to meet you both!” She almost curtsied. “If Emilia can transform and you’re a fairy, does that mean you really are a magical girl?”
Emilia blinked. “A magical what, now?”
“Girl. Magical girl. It’s uh… it’s a type of show here. You can see it on TV?”
Emilia did her best to hide her confusion. “O-Oh yeah, those. I’ve not watched them.”
“We aren’t really from around here, you see,” Lifa said.
“I can show you around if you like?” Meg suggested.
“No, we’re okay—”
“Yes, that would be splendid—”
Attempting to speak at the same time and at cross purposes merely resulted in Meg’s own confusion multiplying. “Mm, so is that a yes or a no?”
Lifa jumped up into the air, her wings a blur as she hovered before Meg’s face. “Perhaps we should discuss this further over a nice cup of tea?”
Every time Lifa spoke, Meg had the feeling she was back at primary school; this adorable little fairy had a matronly air to her, a voice that made her legs want to buckle every time she heard it, the type of voice that never gets into a flap and always knows what to do. She was less certain as to the reason for Lifa sounding posh and British, however.
Putting these thoughts aside for now, Meg agreed this sounded nice, so Emilia stuffed Lifa back inside her jacket and led the way. Apparently she lived in some large manor house on the outskirts of the city; going by Lifa’s overall demeanour, Meg could believe it.
They arrived at the large house, nestled in a veritable sea of trees, bushes, and hedges. A paved driveway led via black metal gates to the front door, a double affair as befitted the gravitas its owner was clearly going for.
Emilia entered and wandered through into an enormous living room, furnished such that Meg thought she had entered a period drama. Blue featured predominately; blue sofa, blue flowery wallpaper, blue carpet, blue crockery, blue curtains.
“That’s a lot of blue,” she said under her breath.
A voice floated through from an adjacent room, followed by its owner. “Welcome, welcome! Make yourself at home.”
A young man had appeared. He was… blue? Meg was quite certain of what her eyes were telling her. Oh, not his skin, naturally, that was a pretty regular deep pink tone, but his hair was a vivid azure, matching the overall theme of the room.
He wore a shirt, open with manly chest hairs waving in the breeze from the door. And those trousers… the trousers had certainly been picked for their flair; literal flair, they might as well have come directly from a 1970s disco dance floor. They were of course blue, and made from a cord material.
Emilia held an arm out in the man’s direction. “This is Azurine Azul Siyonami, he’s uh… our friend? I guess that’s the best way to describe him for now.”
Meg bowed her head. “Nice to meet you, A… Azureeen!” She coughed. “Um, sorry, that’s a difficult name to remember after only hearing it once.”
“We normally just call him Blue,” Emilia added.
“Ah, that’s much easier, thanks. Nice to meet you, Blue!” Meg said, thinking that while this was easier, it was also odd. Then she remembered seeing an American actor called Rainbow and figured maybe she shouldn’t judge.
Blue’s expression morphed into something welcoming and he clapped his hands together. “A new friend for Emilia? Wonderful! Just this morning I was thinking she really does need some more friends, well done.”
The way he spoke reminded Meg of… well, if she was honest with herself, he reminded her of a character in a TV show she had once seen. A character who spent most of his time stoned. This contrasted with the way Blue fidgeted more or less continually, stepping from foot to foot, snapping his fingers, even doing a little dance on occasion.
Lifa prepared them a cup of tea each – watching this tiny fairy girl lifting a full pot of tea in a single thimble-sized hand left Meg feeling terrified for reasons she couldn’t quite pin down – and the four of them relaxed on one of two long sofas arranged in an L-shape.
Now they were indoors and rather more relaxed, Meg noticed something about Lifa she hadn’t originally; her skin complexion had a shifting quality to it, an almost pearlescent effect moving from white to pink to warm orange and back. It was quite beautiful.
Returning to the matter at hand, Meg asked the important question. “So… are you facing some terrible evil that needs to be vanquished to secure the world’s peace?” She held her cup in shaking hands, afraid she might drop it; she was knowledgeable enough to understand these cups alone were probably worth more than her university tuition fees.
“Eh? Evil? I don’t think so,” Emilia said.
Lifa concurred. “You wouldn’t think of a force of nature as evil, correct? What we face is somewhat of a similar nature.”
“That creature looked pretty evil to me,” Meg muttered.
“Think of it like an element. Fire, water, wind, that type of thing. Benign for the most part, but they can rage out of control in the right conditions.” Lifa sipped her tea and frowned. “However, we believe there is an as-yet unseen force controlling these elements.”
“Yeah, and when I find whoever it is I’m going to punch them in the face! Probably more than once!” Emilia said in a surprisingly malevolent tone. “Is it too much to ask that I get a few minutes uninterrupted so I can see a bit of this world? Really? Is that too much to ask?”
Meg’s ears pricked up at this. “Are you from another world?” She beamed to the point of blinding her new friends.
“Uh, country, I meant country! We’re not from Japan, we’re from… Indiana! Yep, that’s the place, all right.”
“Do you perhaps mean India?” Meg hazarded.
If Emilia’s face had been any hotter she would have set fire to the curtains. “Yes, India. Language barrier, I’m not so used to speaking Japanese.” She nodded, clearly pleased at managing to reverse out of a corner of her own making.
Meg let the matter drop for now. She had her suspicions, of course, but didn’t feel a need to press the issue right at this moment. “Anyway, I’d love to stick around for longer but I have to be in bed soon. I can maybe show you around a bit if you like, Emilia? I’ve been here nearly a year now so I know the city fairly well. I love exploring!”
“I might take you up on that,” Emilia said, looking down. The change from a fiery girl threatening to punch someone in the face to this cute girl who had difficulty making eye contact was as night and day.
Meg carefully placed her empty cup on its saucer, and stood. “Thanks for inviting me round! I’m looking forward to getting to know you some more, Emilia. And Lifa, too.” As she went to leave, she was stopped by Blue.
He held a hand up to his mouth and coughed in a theatrical manner, producing a sparkling red gem between thumb and finger. He held it out. “Here you go, babe, a special gem for a special Meg. Did you know that Meg backwards spells gem? How’s that for crazy coincidence?”
Meg did her best to ignore Blue’s disturbing speech and accepted the gem, holding it up to her eye. “It’s beautiful. Thanks, I’ll treasure it!” A deep translucent crimson, the star-shaped gem sparkled and glittered, and inside she could make out something reminiscent of molten lava. “I’ve never seen a gem like this before.”
“Blue’s gems are special,” Emilia said. “Kind of like Blue himself,” she muttered as an afterthought.
Meg performed a final thank you for the lovely gift, gave her new friends a farewell, and exited, wandering back home. She absentmindedly examined the gem as she walked, before slipping it into her jacket’s inside pocket and continuing on her way.