Glints Saga: Papillon - a magical girl novel
The bedroom was dimmer than usual when Faye’s alarm roused her the next morning. It took a minute of drowsy confusion before she remembered she’d set the alarm back an hour, and why she’d done so.
While the possibilities had been flooding her mind before she went to sleep, now only the risks lingered. What if she said the wrong thing? What if someone from work spotted them, and wondered why Faye was interested in an Outsider? What if Monara wasn’t even there today?
She rolled over, and spotted the pattern on her pillowcase. Most of her furniture and decoration choices were simple, plain, things she’d chosen that looked nice rather than pretty. Her bedsheets were the one exception. They were a light lavender, decorated with scattered butterflies in a touch-darker purple. Nothing else in her apartment had a butterfly motif; it felt childish enough having butterflies on her blankets.
And perhaps it was a bit childish. She recalled her younger self’s glee whenever she saw a butterfly fluttering about. She’d chase after them, watch them, ask her parents all kind of things about them. Her mom had even caught a caterpillar in a jar so she could see it become a butterfly—little Faye hadn’t believed something she’d once thought of as “ugly” could become something so fascinating and beautiful. She’d even considered a career studying butterflies, but Biology class had never quite agreed with her. Still, it’d been butterflies she’d thought of the day Holly had told her to visualize something close to her heart, something dear and magical to her…
That same curiosity and fascination was what had woken her so early today. And just like Elia had said—if she didn’t bother, wouldn’t she just wonder endlessly about what she had missed?
Faye pulled herself out of bed. Her morning routine didn’t take long, and soon she was out the door, heading down the stairs.
She just hoped Monara would be there when she arrived.
= ~ = ~ = ~ = ~ =
The streets weren’t quite as busy and noisy as Faye was accustomed to when she left her apartment building, giving an eerie sort of calm to downtown. There had been a time in Faye’s life when she had suspected that she’d never get used to the bustle and chaos, that the nice apartment and proximity to work wasn’t worth the stark difference from the relative calm of the suburbs. It all seemed so natural now, in its own curious way. Having a seventh-floor apartment to seclude herself from it all in probably helped.
Her route was the same that Elia had driven her home the day before. Recalling their conversation and Elia’s encouragement didn’t sate the growing unease in Faye’s stomach—the classic “butterflies”, as she naturally associated that feeling with.
The Fireside came into view across the street. The butterflies began to swirl even faster while she waited for the light to change. What if Monara wasn’t here this early in the morning? Or if she hadn’t come today?
Faye took a deep breath to calm her nerves, then noticed someone walk past her—the light had already changed. She hurried across the street, her eyes fixed on the windows of the restaurant. If Monara was in there, her wings would stand out like the sun in the sky.
But Faye didn’t spot them. The Fireside was maybe half-full, with more customers in the drive-through than the restaurant, but no one inside looked out of the ordinary. No bright colours or odd figures…
She stopped outside of the doors, looking inside. Monara wasn’t there. Faye closed her eyes, thinking for a moment that she could try to feel Monara’s presence within. But perhaps what little of that magical sense she could muster as her normal self had waned from disuse, and none of them aside from Elia had been that good at directly sensing nearby Outsiders in hiding.
Someone bumped into Faye from behind, startling her eyes open and nearly causing her to stumble into the wall. Only then did she consider how odd she must have looked, staring into the restaurant. What now? Head back home and kill time? Stop inside and get herself a donut and hot chocolate? Or just head to work early?
No…not that last one, no. She headed inside, ordering herself a hot chocolate once she reached the counter. She wasn’t in the mood for the donut.
That changed as soon as Faye turned around, her eyes immediately drawn to the familiar pair of violet wings spreading open just inside the restaurant. “Monara!” she said, approaching the chrysidean. “Hello.”
Monara stared at her—or at least Faye figured she was, given the direction her head was facing. She couldn’t tell just based on those blank black eyes. A few moments later, with a small twitch of her antennae, Monara said, “Faye, correct?”
“Yes, it’s me, Faye.”
Monara smiled, an expression that still seemed alien to her face. “Yes. You have reminded me to try the hot chocolate.”
As weird as it seemed to offer, Faye held out her hot chocolate. “Well, I just bought one. Would you like it?”
“I appreciate your generosity,” Monara said, “but I can purchase my own.”
Faye glanced to the growing line over her shoulder. “Well, how about you take this one, and I’ll go buy another one. Then you can sit down, make room for your wings.” That last part sounded…weird after it left her lips. Would it come across as Faye wanting to stare at her?
Monara’s smile crept a touch wider. “That would be fine.” She handed Faye some change from a slit in the side of her dress. “Thank you, Faye.”
Faye rejoined the line, and two minutes later, she hurried over to the table in the corner where Monara was now seated. Monara’s wings commanded her attention; Faye couldn’t help but to stare into those blue-violet depths, as if the shade of her wings was the most beautiful colour she’d ever seen.
Monara took a sip of her hot chocolate as Faye sat down. “A pleasant drink,” she said, followed by a longer sip. “I believe I prefer the coffee, but the flavour might blend well with coffee.”
“Maybe they’d give you a mix if you asked,” Faye said. “The coffee and hot chocolate are the same price.”
“I shall ask of that the next time I am here.”
Faye glanced up to Monara’s face. She wasn’t smiling now, but didn’t seem discontent. Her antennae were upright, the tips splayed a bit. Did they tell more of her emotion than her face? They didn’t seem to move now, even as Faye continued to focus on them.
“I apologize for not recognizing you, Faye,” Monara said, as if unfazed by Faye’s stare. “My people typically recognize other chrysideans by our wings, rather than faces as humans remember each other.”
“I see.” Faye nodded. “I’d know you by your wings easily. Though I suppose it helps that I haven’t seen any other chrysideans in Garden City before.”
“I am one of the first of my kind to visit your world, and one of the rarer few who have chosen to remain longer to see your world.”
Monara took a long sip from her hot chocolate. “So how long have you been in Garden City?” Faye asked.
“I believe it has been about a month in your time. I have become accustomed to the cycle of the human world, of activity during the day and rest at night.”
“Not everyone rests at night, but most folks do.”
“Those of my world are requested not to remain outside beyond sunset. We do not wish to cause humans distress.”
The history between their worlds had to be the reason why. After the Outsiders had revealed themselves, open attacks on the city occurred at least once a week, alongside their clandestine plots, and night was a common time for them. Whether it was midnight, the weekend, or during the middle of school, Faye and her fellow heroines had to find a way to respond as soon as possible.
But that was something she shouldn’t have let get into her head. “What do you do during the day then, Monara? If you don’t mind me asking, where do you get money from?”
Reaching into her pocket, Monara held out a collection of coins and bills. “We are given some of your currency to explore and experience your society. We are given more if we assist the studies of your researchers and scholars.”
“Is that something you’ve done?”
“Yes. I’ve spoken with the staff at the Embassy about my people, and have shared some of my silk with them.”
“Your silk?” Faye glanced to Monara’s white dress.
“Yes. My people use it for many purposes, including clothing and art. I believe there is interest among your people’s fashion designers for our silk.”
Faye nodded slowly. Of all of the things she’d wondered about the butterfly-woman before her, where her silk came out of probably wouldn’t be one of those things. “And what do you think about our world? Of everything you’ve seen so far?”
“It is fascinating. I must admit, I would have never imagined so much from a people without magic.” Monara’s antennae drooped a touch. “I apologize. I do not mean to denigrate your people.”
“Oh, i-it’s okay…” Faye would have looked away, if her gaze wasn’t fixed upon Monara’s wings. “Garden City’s not quite like most other human cities. It’s much more modern and stylized.”
“I see. I wonder what the other settlements of your world are like. Even if we were able to, the people of our world could not leave this city.”
Faye had an inkling of an idea, but didn’t dare admit it. “Why?”
“The presence of the portal between our worlds. Ether, the energy of our world, leaks through the veil. It is necessary to sustain us.”
Ether…Faye had heard that word from Outsiders before. The essence of magic, of the Outsiders’ world, of the Outsiders themselves. She hadn’t known Outsiders couldn’t survive away from Garden City, away from ether. All she’d known was that the pilot project for the metropolises of the future, cities built from the ground up to support the latest technologies and integrate upcoming advancements without the constraints of aging infrastructure, happened to have been constructed right where a latent portal between worlds was located…and so many families like Faye’s moving to Garden City had drawn notice from what was on the other side.
“I am curious about you, Faye,” Monara continued, before taking a sip of her drink. “Please tell me about yourself.”
Herself was the topic Faye most feared discussing. She racked her mind for what she could admit to. Everything she thought of was so bland, so banal. “I work data entry for a research firm here in Garden City. It’s mostly just updating numbers and figures for clients. Nothing Outsider-related, though.”
“I imagine you must work with interesting things.”
Maybe Monara didn’t understand the concept of data entry. Or, recalling Monara’s wonder about her phone, things that seemed so simple to Faye were wonders to Monara. “Perhaps. Is there anything about the human world you want to know about?”
“There are many things I am curious about. I have always wondered about the moving portraits I see often in the buildings of your world. A small few of those from my world have interest in those moving portraits. I believe they are called televisions.”
“Oh, TVs. They receive signals and output video and audio. Most stuff you’ll see on TV is pre-recorded; these days, you can choose what you want to watch and when. Some stuff, like the news, is live—you see it as it’s being spoken.”
“What is…the news?”
“It’s how we hear about important events, local things and elsewhere in the world.” The perfect example came to Faye’s mind. “Yesterday, the news was about the Outsider Treaty.”
“Yes,” Monara said. Her antennae bowed slightly. “That day we first met, I departed to attend a commemoration of that day. Even in my world, we observe your world’s cycle so we may honour the anniversary of that day, the forgiveness and mercy of your people, and the Glints who fought selflessly for peace between our worlds.”
Glints… As humankind knew Faye and her friends’ other selves as the heroines, the Outsiders called them “Glints”. Faye preferred that title—it had more of a mystical quality to it, she felt. But, even though Faye tried to avoid conversations about “herself”, she imagined most people would find it odd for her to use that particular word.
After a few moments of silence, Monara’s antennae shifted upward again.
“Is there anything you wish to ask of me, Faye?”
Monara’s voice broke Faye away from her thoughts. Had she been silent for a few seconds? She searched for something else to ask, her eyes drawn back to the vibrant shade of Monara’s wings once more. “I’m curious about your wings.”
The chrysidean moved her wings slightly, as much as she could with the low wall behind her. “Through our wings, my people draw in and release ether. If I understand correctly, it is not dissimilar to how your people breathe.”
Maybe that was why Faye’s gaze rested on them so often. For all she knew, chrysidean wings had a mesmerizing quality to them…and Faye knew she and her friends weren’t immune to such things as their normal selves. Holly had fallen under the hypnotic sway of a plant-like Outsider once…though upon the heroines confronting them, the Outsider had simply released Holly from its influence and departed. All Holly recalled from the ordeal, Faye thought with a tinge of unease, was being questioned about the human world by the Outsider. Holly hadn’t even remembered being grounded for sneaking out at night…the day before.
Monara finished her hot chocolate with one last sip. “I will have to depart soon. But I am happy to have met you again, Faye. I have enjoyed our conversations.”
“I have too, Monara,” Faye replied, judging by weight that she still had half of her own drink. “It’s been really interesting to hear about your perspective.”
“You have been very enlightening as well.” Though Monara smiled, her antennae lowered a touch. “It is rare for me to enjoy a talk like this. Many humans are nervous in my presence, though I do understand such, given the history of my people in your world.”
Somehow, Faye’s first thought was because of Monara’s striking appearance. And perhaps that was part of it. “A lot of people are just shy, and don’t know what to say or what to talk about with Outsiders.”
“I am not certain of that. I wonder if the wounds of the past will ever heal.”
“You’re here. And so are other Outsiders. I’m sure our leaders and your leaders are dedicated to making things work.”
Monara put both pairs of hands together. “I believe so. I have utmost faith in those who lead my people now.”
That last part… She shouldn’t, Faye knew. But the necessity for Outsiders to remain near the portal was one thing she’d learned today. The chance to sate another long-standing question was too much to pass up. “Now? Who led your people prior?”
“Each of the peoples of my world have their own leaders. But not long ago, there was one who united us together.” Monara’s antennae stiffened, like the tail of an alarmed cat.
Faye leaned forward just a little. “The Empress?”
“Is that what your people called her?” asked Monara, in a low voice.
Faye recoiled in her seat, but managed to keep a straight face—barely. It was what Faye’s people had called the mastermind of the Outsider invasion…her and her fellow heroines, that was. Even the Outsider ruler had considered the title appropriate when the five had confronted her.
An excuse soon found its way to Faye’s tongue. “I…I remembered hearing about it on the news, back then, when the Conflict was finally over…”
“I see.” Monara’s voice remained low, her antennae remained standing. “We are not to speak of her in your world. We were not even given a title for her in your language.”
“Yes. Your authorities and ambassadors assist us with titles for our peoples, names for you to refer to each of us by. But they do not wish for the one you call ‘the Empress’ to be known and remembered.”
Faye nodded, trying to ignore the fluttering in her stomach. “I understand. I’m sorry for bringing it up.”
“It is not your fault, Faye,” Monara said. “The history between our worlds is difficult. But I am thankful for your company and your willingness to answer my curiosities.” Monara pushed her chair back. “I must be on my way now. It was a pleasure to talk with you again, Faye. I hope we will meet again.”
Faye would have stood too, but her drink wasn’t finished yet. “It was great seeing you too, Monara. And I hope we get to talk more another time.”
With a smile, the chrysidean rose, folding her wings inward as she squeezed out from the table. Once she was outside, Monara spread her wings open and walked away from the Fireside.
Faye still had plenty of questions, plenty of hot chocolate…and plenty of butterflies in her stomach. Had Monara really believed her excuse? Had her reaction seemed suspicious to the chrysidean? Nothing about Monara’s expression had hinted at any sort of disbelief, but Faye had no idea how to read chrysidean body language. Perhaps her own was just as incoherent to an Outsider.
Still, despite that near-slip, a smile remained on Faye’s face as she took a swig of her now-lukewarm drink. All kinds of wonders danced through her mind—chrysidean culture, what kind of powers they had, Monara’s home in Garden City or even her own world. How often would she need to meet with Monara until all of her curiosities were sated?
Faye glanced to her phone. Forty minutes until work,until she was back in her usual nine-to-five routine. Taking another sip from her hot chocolate, Faye contemplated what she’d learned—a more enticing train of thought than the routine that awaited her.