At the mansion on Saturday morning, Emilia gave her partner some lessons on the fine art of beating up monsters. Blue wandered around the lush lawns in the rear garden, occasionally engaging in a little desultory hedge trimming in-between nibbling grass, leaves, and berries. Otherwise, he kept to himself and let the girls practice.
Emilia had transformed and now hovered a few feet above the grass in the centre of the lawn. Tall conifers and weeping willows on all three sides of the garden made for an excellent privacy guard in any case, but since non-magic users couldn’t see the mansion in any case, Emilia was free to openly use her powers.
“All right, Meg, transform, please!” she called over.
Meg stood on a paved patio area at the rear of the mansion, a sliding door leading back inside open behind her. The yellow stones beneath her feet felt reassuringly solid, unlike the sensation of flying while transformed.
She sighed and did as requested, her crimson and orange outfit materialising around her. “I still don’t like flying…” After attempting it several times since her first transformation, Meg couldn’t seem to get past the fear of being suspended hundreds of feet in the air on what amounted to sheer willpower.
“You’ll never get better if you don’t practice and overcome your fears!”
“I know, but…”
Emilia floated across and landed before her friend. “I was scared at first, too. And I was born with these powers. I’ll be here to catch you if you fall, Meg, I promise!”
Setting her face into a determined expression, Meg nodded. “Okay!” She hesitantly jumped a few times, like an athlete limbering up. But unlike most athletes, Meg had to be careful not to put forth too much effort lest she launch herself into space.
“Now, remember what I told you last time,” Emilia continued. “The magic is always there, you just have to trust it. Believe you won’t fall and you won’t fall!”
“Easier said than done…” Meg murmured, jumping once more and ascending a few metres. Wobbling and flailing her arms about, she focused on remaining airborne.
“Try not to think about it too much, let your subconscious deal with it.”
Staring down the length of the garden, Meg unwisely gave a thumbs-up, meaning she was now focusing on that instead of remaining upright. She dropped straight into Emilia’s waiting arms.
“Your world has airplanes, Meg, I’m not sure how you can be this bad at staying in the sky,” Emilia said, exasperated.
“That’s not the same thing at all!”
“Okay, maybe that wasn’t a great comparison.”
“Not even remotely.”
“Is there anything that could give you a clue?” Emilia wondered out loud, placing her partner back down on her feet.
Blue chose this moment to ride unsteadily past on a bicycle. In deference to his current penchant for being weird, he did so backwards, sitting on the handlebars and waving his arms around like he just didn’t care.
“Cycling…” Meg muttered.
Recalling her childhood, she remembered how she had tried riding a bike the first time, falling off and grazing her knees to the point of air raid siren-level wailing. Her father had popped her back on after applying several plasters and hugging her till the tears stopped, and talked her through the process of keeping balance and letting her body work without needing to consciously think about it.
“Thought of something?” Emilia asked.
“I just remembered when Dad taught me how to ride a bike. He held onto the bike at the back while I pedalled, then let go without me realising. I kept going without problems… until I noticed he wasn’t there any more and fell off, haha.”
Emilia privately wondered if Blue had ridden past them intentionally. Given his strange behaviour of late she felt it equally possible he was just being random. Either way, they had something to work with now.
“Take my hand,” she said. Meg did so. Emilia lifted off, using her own perfected control of magic to support her partner until they hovered a few hundred feet above the garden. “How do you feel?”
“O-Okay! I think. It helps having you beside me, ehe…” Meg said, taking in the view. “It’s beautiful up here.”
“There are perks to being a… what did you call us? Magical girls?”
Open and empty fields of green grass surrounded the mansion for a mile or so on three of the sides excluding the front, all of which had the same magical enchantment cast upon them; no one could see or even be aware of their existence unless Blue – or Emilia – willed it.
Holding hands, they moved back and forth, floating around and keeping Meg the right way up as much as possible; she had a tendency to roll forward until her legs pointed skyward. Fortunate, then, that their outfits included spats for modesty purposes. Meg still wondered how the magic knew to do that…
Over the next half an hour, clasping her mentor’s hand tightly, she learned to control her power a little better. Gradually, she got used to the idea of letting the magic carry her and to stop consciously thinking about it so much. And much as her father had done so many years ago, Emilia stuck close by, offering advice and preparing to let her go which, in due time, she did.
Zooming around the sky, Meg wheeled and rolled, laughing as she had all those years ago when she had learned to ride a bike. Forgetting the previous terror, she let herself be lost in the moment, performing barrel rolls and, on one occasion, attempting the magical girl equivalent of a stall turn.
Unfortunately, at her zenith she looked down, realised Emilia was no longer there, and returned to reality with all the subtlety of a brick through a window. “Ohshi—!” She dropped like a stone.
Fortunately her partner had been prepared for this and was, as promised, there to catch her. “Don’t get too carried away, you’re still new to this!”
Meg, enjoying the feeling of being princess carried, giggled. Despite the fall, she was perfectly relaxed. “That was wonderful!”
“Want to give it another try? Or should we land for now?”
“I’d love to! But maybe I shouldn’t push myself too quickly?” Meg said, yawning. She was still getting used to simply being a magical girl, never mind all these extra shenanigans.
Emilia agreed this sounded wise, so she descended at a sedate pace, gently setting her friend down on the patio. “You got the hang of that pretty quickly. Now we just need to work on your stamina and making sure you can keep it up without losing concentration.”
With a magic top-up from Lifa, Meg was ready to continue her practice. Next up, she spent an hour doing her best to visualise attacks and fire them off without the pause to wind her arm up.
Several wooden targets in the rough shape of an elemental had been set up at the end of the garden, around which they had piled sand. Blue’s ability to create items came in handy for situations like this, making for minimal expenditure of effort. They didn’t want to accidentally burn the trees down, so the sandbanks made for a useful guard, similar to a shooting range.
This went considerably more smoothly than the flight practice, at least. Before long she had the hang of firing bolts of concentrated and superheated fire from the palms of her hands, and now worked to refine the speed and intensity of each shot.
“Ey!” she muttered, tossing another spitting ball of fire at a target. She watched in satisfaction as it disintegrated in a cloud of black smoke and orange sparks. “Mm, getting better, getting better…”
“Try a machinegun!” Emilia suggested from behind her.
“Eh? Oh, you mean rapid fire?” Meg said, and aimed for the final target. Concentrating, she let off a burst of half a dozen smaller fireballs from a fingertip, each around six inches long and two inches wide. They punched a circular series of holes in the target. “Wow, that’s kind of neat!”
As evening was beginning to set in and Japan didn’t use Daylight Savings Time, Meg decided it was time to head home before it got too dark. Releasing their transformations, they strolled back inside the mansion.
“I’ll walk you home,” Emilia said, grabbing a lightweight jacket. “You said before you like exploring old buildings?” she said as they exited the mansion, walking down the driveway and out of the gates that marked the end of the magic barrier zone.
“I love it! Though I’ve not had much chance to do any urbex since arriving in Japan. Busy with uni, and there aren’t all that many places I’d feel comfy exploring anyway.”
“Maybe you’d feel more comfortable with a friend?” Emilia suggested, blushing a little as they stepped out onto the pavement and turned towards the city.
Meg looked mildly surprised. “I thought you weren’t interested?”
Emilia stared at the pavement. “Not by myself, but it might be nice with you…”
“I’ll have a look around for somewhere we can explore!” Meg stated, her enthusiasm plainly evident in the way her eyes lit up like a sweets-addicted kid trick-or-treating around Candy Cul-de-sac.
They reached Meg’s place above the sweet shop, at which point Emilia surprised her with a quick hug. “I’m glad I met you, Meg. I don’t feel so alone now. Night!” She ran.
Shivering a little in happy delight, Meg headed up to her flat…