A few early rays of sunlight crept through a crack in the curtains, waking Meg from her slumber. She crawled out of the comfy bed, had a stretch, and wandered off downstairs to see if she could rustle up some breakfast, her mind still filled with a degree of cotton wool.
Lifa floated about the kitchen, frying bacon and eggs and generally preparing breakfast. A hint of salt, pepper, and oregano filled Meg’s nostrils, clearing her addled mind a little. The sight of a cute winged girl some six inches in height frying things in a pan twice as wide as she was tall would probably stay with Meg for some time, however. Possibly during nightmares.
“Good morning, Meg, I trust you slept well?” Lifa said over her diminutive shoulder.
“Yes, thank you! I almost felt like I was going to get sucked into the mattress, it was so soft.” Meg sat at the large central table.
Compared to her modest kitchenette this room had a cavernous feel, featuring two ranges, many metres’ worth of worktop, the enormous table in the centre, and more cooking utensils than Meg would even know what to do with.
Lifa used a spatula to poke the eggs sizzling in the pan, again speaking over her shoulder. “You simply wouldn’t believe the trouble I have every morning attempting to rouse Emilia. She loves sleeping more than can possibly be good for her. It’s a pleasure to meet a girl who can rise without effort!”
Meg stifled a giggle as her new fairy friend brought a glass of milk over. Taking the glass, she had a sip. “Is she awake yet?”
“She was briefly, though I suspect she has lost consciousness again by now. I would appreciate it greatly if you could check on her. You may need to apply some percussive force.” Lifa floated back across to the pans.
“I’ll see what I can do.” Meg guzzled the rest of the milk and ran upstairs to Emilia’s room, knocking and entering. As expected, the girl herself was fast asleep under not one, but two heavy duvets. Clearly doesn’t do so well during the colder months, Meg thought. She raised her voice to a level close to the shattering point of glass. “Morning, Emilia!”
Under the duvets, movement, followed by a minor barrage of sotto voce complaints. The heavy covers were pushed back, revealing a bleary-eyed Emilia. “What time do you think it is, Meg?”
“Time you were up!”
Emilia crawled out of the bed, shivering a little in the chilly spring atmosphere. “Well… since it’s you I guess I’ll let you off.” Struggling out of her light purple pyjamas, she dressed in a short purple skirt and a forest green t-shirt, tugging a pair of thigh-length black and purple striped socks on to finish. She took Meg’s hand and dragged her back downstairs.
Lifa had just served up, so the girls sat opposite each other at the kitchen table and ate in silence. After this, they retreated to the living room – or the parlour as Lifa would probably call it – to talk about recent events.
Meg sat next to Emilia on one of the sofas. “So uh… where do we even begin?” Again, she sipped at a delicious cup of milk tea prepared by their benevolent fairy tea overlord.
“I guess we should ask if you actually want to help us? I know you transformed and everything, but we shouldn’t just assume…” Emilia said, clearly worried.
Lifa, sitting on the coffee table for a change, let out an approving giggle. “I’m pleased to see you taking the time to think, Emilia.”
“I always think!”
“After the fact, yes,” Lifa said, laughing as her partner coloured.
“Anyway!” Emilia turned to Meg. “You uh… want to help us?”
“I said before I’d like to. I meant that, Emilia,” Meg said, giving her new friend a quick hug. “And now I can help you for real, right?”
Emilia grinned. “Yep!”
Something seemed to occur to Meg. She frantically patted her pockets. “Wait… where’s the gem!?”
Blue turned up and hovered around near the doorway to the kitchen. He gave a mildly crazed smile. “It’s inside you, baby, yeah!”
“Inside you, baby, yeah!”
Emilia felt that letting Blue explain things would lead to unnecessary complications, so she took over. “What Blue means is that the gem is a part of you now, it’s the source of your power. You know Lifa said she restored your magic reserves? That’s what she meant. The gem itself is… uh…”
Lifa jumped in with, “Think of it sort of like a second heart, but instead of pumping blood it fills your body with magical potential.”
“Did you receive a gem as well?” Meg asked Emilia.
“Nope! I was born with my powers.”
“You’re… not really from India, are you?” Meg said, figuring they didn’t need to play games any longer.
“Guess that’s pretty obvious, huh?” Emilia said. “Yeah, I’m from a world called Ereth.”
“So you’re aliens? But you look totally human…”
Emilia cracked up. “I’m human like you. Our world exists, um… sort of next door to Earth?”
“Yes, think of it as a mirror image, a world living precisely opposite Earth,” Lifa said. “Normally our worlds have little to do with one another, but they are nonetheless connected.”
“So you’re from Ereth as well, Lifa?” Meg said.
“Actually, no. I belong firmly to Earth.” Lifa’s expression indicated extreme pride. “I found Emilia here not long after she arrived on our fair planet.”
“Tailed me, you mean,” Emilia said darkly.
“I had to be sure of your intentions,” Lifa said. “I consider myself most fortunate to have you as an ally, Emilia. I am glad we met.”
This made Emilia blush. “Lifa…”
“So is everyone in your world born with amazing powers?” Meg said.
Emilia briefly shook her head. “Nope, only certain people.”
“But magic itself is common?”
“Wow, so it’s totally different to our world? I’d like to visit one day!”
Emilia sighed. “I’d love to be able to take you, but I’m stuck here.”
Lifa drained her cup of tea and placed it to one side, her expression unusually sombre. “There are only limited means available to travel between our worlds, you see. Emilia’s route home has vanished.”
Meg’s face dropped. “I’m sorry…”
“It’s okay,” Emilia said with a shrug. “Your world has plenty going for it, too. I miss my family and everything, but I’ll get back home one day, I’m sure of it!”
“I’ll help however I can!” Meg said, giving Emilia a considerably firmer hug this time.
“Thanks.” Emilia accepted the warm embrace of her new friend, then pulled back. “You said something about a man last night?”
“Hmm? Oh! Yeah, he called himself Tear, he’s the one controlling the elemental creatures! He turned up just before I transformed.”
Lifa scratched her chin, frowning and tilting her head back and forth in a thoughtful sort of way. “Interesting. I suppose this confirms our surmise, then. I noticed immediately when Emilia arrived, however, so why…?”
“Lifa?” Emilia said, waving a hand before her fairy partner’s face.
Coming back to reality, Lifa shook her head and smiled. “No, nothing, Emilia, I simply wondered why I didn’t notice a new arrival.”
“Maybe he’s from Earth?” Meg suggested.
“Good point, we know nothing about him, we shouldn’t automatically assume he’s from Ereth,” Emilia said, hoping to appear wise.
This wasn’t lost on Lifa. “Getting the hang of being less rash, I see, Emilia. This pleases me.”
“All right, you don’t need to go on about it,” Emilia muttered.
“Was Emilia really headstrong when you met her?” Meg said.
Lifa nodded in a vaguely distracted manner. “Indeed she was. Still is, really, but she seems better at thinking first now.”
“On that subject… I’m still not sure why Blue gave me the gem. I’m glad he did, of course! I’m just confused over why he chose me. Was it random? Or does he know something we don’t?”
“He’s kind of useless at most things, but he seems better when it comes to people and nature. Blue is a… I suppose the closest word I can think of is god?” Emilia said, turning to Lifa for confirmation.
“Yes, as accurate as any. A natural god, if you will, embodying nature itself. Or at least, one aspect of it,” Lifa said.
“Ah, I’ve got this one,” Meg said, figuring the insane quantity of blue in this room was probably an unsubtle hint. “Water?”
Lifa’s little head bobbed. “Excellent surmise, well done, Meg. Yes, water is his primary domain, though this naturally includes ice and life as offshoots.”
“The existence of water is essential to all life, is it not?”
An expression of revelation appeared on Meg’s face. “Oh!” She glanced at Blue, still hovering around the doorway to the kitchen. “He doesn’t seem very godlike to me.”
“To be frank, we have no idea why he even exists.” Lifa stared at Blue as he attempted to eat what appeared to be a piece of plastic wrapping from a pack of sweets. “Gods are most certainly not supposed to manifest in such a form and fashion on Earth. This is most unwonted, yes.”
“Hang on, if he’s not supposed to exist, what about this mansion?” Meg said.
“Ah, you are quite the clever girl!” Lifa said, her expression radiating pleasure. “Without Emilia to guide you here you would never have noticed this place. It technically doesn’t exist in our world.”
Emilia waved a hand around. “Yeah, it’s not something normal people can see.”
“Quite so. The mansion exists everywhere at once, and nowhere. Most convenient, I must say.”
Meg was thoroughly lost by now. “Convenient? And how can it exist everywhere and nowhere?”
“Alas, even I don’t understand the specifics. Blue has the ability to create and sustain various objects, but in his current form those traits are much diminished.” Lifa sighed. “It is most vexatious. To answer your question, though, the mansion itself is a pocket dimension allowing instantaneous travel to any point in this world. It’s not so much travelling as… rearranging matters so you are already there.”
Meg’s eyes glazed. “I’m pretty sure you’re speaking a language I’m meant to understand, but I have no idea what you just said.”
“We can use a special room full of mirrors upstairs to teleport to anywhere on the planet,” Emilia said, coming to the rescue with a factually incorrect statement which nevertheless allowed Meg to understand.
“That’s handy. So when you said before that you’re not from around here, you used this system to travel from somewhere else?” Meg said.
“Quite so, yes,” Lifa said.
“We’ve been all over the place, trying to figure out a pattern to the elementals,” Emilia said. “We’ve never encountered a human before now, though. I wonder if something changed?”
“We’ll just have to find out,” Meg said. She was silent for a moment, staring at Lifa. “You said you’re an Earth-born fairy, right? I’m pretty sure magic isn’t normal here, so how…?”
“Noticed that as well, did you? Yes, I am the same as Blue in that respect. I… technically should not exist, Meg.”
“I’m glad you do!”
Lifa’s tiny cheeks glowed bright enough to illuminate the room. “Thank you kindly, Meg.”
“Oh, while I’m here, Emilia, I have a friend who’d like to meet you soon, if you’re interested?” Meg added, laughing at the embarrassed yet happy expression on their fairy friend’s face.
“I’d like to meet some new people, it’s been pretty lonely since I got here, but—”
“She’s my best friend, you can trust her, I promise,” Meg said, hoping to put Emilia at ease. She avoided mentioning Yasuko’s interests for now, she didn’t want to unintentionally lie about how safe Emilia would be around her.
Emilia stared at the fireplace opposite the sofa. Eventually she made a decision. “Well, if you’re sure? I’ve been trying to limit my contact with people from your world, it’s too easy to slip up and reveal more than I should. And Lifa gets annoyed when I do things without thinking.”
Her cheeks glowing with minor embarrassment, Meg gave a discrete cough. “Ah, well I… um, I already told her all about what happened that morning you saved me. So uh… she already knows.”
Lifa jumped up from the table to hover before them. “You have no reason to hesitate in that case, go say hello to Meg’s friend. As Blue remarked not long ago, you really should try and find some new friends. You’re only twenty, you should enjoy yourself when you can. And we need allies, Emilia.”
“I guess I can at least meet her once. I make no promises, though!” Emilia said, unsuccessfully attempting to hide her excitement at the potential for another new friend.
With this decided, Meg stood and tugged Emilia along for the ride. “Great! I should probably tell you a bit about her first. She’s a lovely girl, but she’s also a bit unique.”
Emilia looked mildly worried. “Unique?”
“Yep. How about we talk a bit more over a few drinks? It’s Sunday morning, we have the whole day ahead of us, right?”
Lifa beamed. “Off you go, then. Just make sure to have her back before midnight, Meg.”
“Lifa!” Emilia snapped.
Meg smiled and took Emilia’s hand. “I promise nothing! See you later, Lifa, Blue.” Exiting the mansion, she took the gently steaming Emilia into the city centre, found a nice café… and spent the rest of the day getting to know her brand new friend.