Chapter 3:

Love Over Fear

Happy Sweet Magical Girl Life

“I’m not finding anything here.” Nana sighed as she kicked at a piece of rubble. Bookmark here

“Well there was a fire, kyaa! There wouldn’t be much of anything left to look at, Kyaa!” Kyu-Chan chirped, clearly oblivious as to the fact that we were trespassing at a crime scene as he frolicked in the air. “Really. I never would have guessed that.” I deadpanned. Bookmark here

After school, Kyu and I had headed towards where they had found the body last night. I wanted to scope out the scene and see if there was anything for me to find. I mean, I was a magical girl now! If I could fight monsters, then I could hopefully solve a murder, right? Well, that had been my thought, anyway. But…well, there was nothing. Nothing that I could see that was evidence of a murder. Clearly, I was out of my depth here. Magical Girl or not, I was not a detective or a police officer. I was quickly realizing that me investigating this murder would be worse than useless because I didn’t actually know how to investigate a crime. This wasn’t like one of those detective dramas my mother loved to watch. Bookmark here

I jumped as I heard the sound of the two guards conversing with each other.Bookmark here

“You really don’t need to keep doing that, kyaa! There’s no way a normal human can see past your presence concealment.” Kyuu tapped me on the head with his paw. I squeezed my wand tightly. Kyuu-Chan had shown me how to use my wand to cast a concealment spell on myself, similar to how he could follow me around and not be seen by anyone else, but it still unnerved me. I wasn’t used to the concept of total invisibility yet, so I was constantly expecting someone to come and yell at me for being inside a restricted crime scene.Bookmark here

I knelt and touched the ground inside the body outline. This is where that man had been Bookmark here

‘Uh, Magical Girl powers from my wand, or whatever? I could use some help here. If you have anything that can help me sense anything about what happened…residual thoughts, feelings, impressions, anything? Even a little bit of mind reading or psychic stuff? I just want something that can help me figure out what happened to the man who died here.’Bookmark here

I brushed my fingertips against the pavement. Suddenly, and intense pain shot through my head, forcing me to grab it in agony. “Ugh!” I moaned, doubling over.Bookmark here

Why? Why was this happening? What had I done? Who had I angered to deserve this? Through the murky sea of consciousness in my mind, I could distantly hear them laughing. It was a haunting, grating sound, and I couldn’t tell if it was a male or female voice. It didn’t matter though, really. The laugh…was unhinged and not even human. But I knew my attacker was a human. Between the hit to my head, the oxygen deprivation, and my panic, my brain was incapable of processing who was in front of me. All I could see was a hazy, black shadow person, that’s how I knew that they were human, though they didn’t seem like it. Tears gushed down my cheeks and, despite my best effort, I couldn’t stop myself from drooling a mixture of saliva and bright, scarlet blood. It hurt! It hurt so much! I just wanted the pain to stop! At this point, it would have been much better to have been murdered outright. I’d asked them, begged them, with what few words I could choke out. “Ples….please…if…ta kil meh…du iht oow. Ples…’ They had paused for a moment, but only for a moment, in confusion, before shaking their head and smirking down at me. They said something that didn’t reach my disoriented mind, but I knew. They wanted to torture me to death; that was the point. This wasn’t about getting something out of me and there was no end goal. They just wanted to hurt me, and they wouldn’t give me the mercy of just killing me outright. I hadn’t wanted this…I didn’t think I did anything to deserve this. I just wanted to go for a night walk after work, that’s all. I liked seeing busy places eerily silent and peaceful under the moonlight... I was a bit strange. Had…had I committed some sin that I was unaware of? Was this…karma for something? I grasped at the ground, but there wasn’t anything for me to grab onto; just concreate and dirt. I scratched my nails across the surface, dug them in as my bones were broken…crushed…it hurt…it hurt so much! That mantra repeated over and over in my mind. I fixated on that thought, even as my heart burst in pain and began to beat out of my chest. It was probably rather selfish, but I didn’t want to die. I’d just graduated university and started my first real job. I hadn’t had any living family since middle school and had never had any close friends. I never been with a girl in any sense of the word because I was too painfully shy to even simply talk to member of the opposite sex. I wanted…my dream was…I just wanted to fall in love, get married, and have a real family of my own, that was all I had ever wanted. Nothing crazy but I had just wanted to not be alone for ever…being able to love and feel loved for once in my life sounded…beautiful. Now that I was finally fully out in the real world as an adult, it seemed like maybe I could be brave enough to make my dream my reality…but that would never happen now. I knew it from the moment this attack started. I was going to die here, all alone. No one would miss me, and no one would mourn my death. Would anyone even report me missing? No, I’d always been too shy and awkward, so me dropping of the face of the earth for a few days wasn’t weird to my acquaintances, and I had no one close enough to me to worry about my well-being. So, this was how it ended? This is what my short, boring life had amounted to? The tears kept coming, as much from fear as from the pain. I didn’t…I wasn’t ready to die! I wanted to keep living! God, someone, help me! I’m not ready to die yet-!”Bookmark here

“Nana-Chan! Nana-Chan! Are you okay? Please, say something!” Kyuu-Chan was begging me. I realized that I was curled up in a pained fetal position on the scorched pavement, tears and sweat flowing as I gasped in agony. Bookmark here

“Kyuu…” I said as I took deep breaths, trying to calm down. “Nana! Are you okay? You were out of it and screaming! What happened?”Bookmark here

I stared in stunned horror at the pavement. I should never had asked my wand for help…I should never have asked to have supernatural insight into the crime!Bookmark here

“I-I saw him. He…he was in so much pain-“ I gasped. “Who? Who did you see? Wait, did you see the victim?” Kyuu demanded gently. I nodded. Bookmark here

“Y-yeah…he…he…was crying and begging not to die. Mom was right. H-h-he was definitely just a normal guy…an innocent person who didn’t deserve what happened to him. He…spent his whole life being socially awkward and alone and was scared about dying alone and having no one to care about his death.”Bookmark here

I had finally realized just how brutal this world could be. Fighting fluffy monsters with the powers of love and goodness was just a pipe dream, not something heroic. How many people would that really save? This was what really threatened people out in the real world. Even if I had powers now, all I was doing was living in a fantasy world compared to the rest of humanity. What was I really protecting? Who was I really saving? What did becoming Miracle Nana actually do to make things better for everyone? I curled up on my side and couldn’t stop sobbing.Bookmark here

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Hinewa threw his coat and briefcase on the floor and collapsed into his favorite chair.Bookmark here

This had been one of the longest days of his life. This murder case was exhausting in every single way possible, particularly mentally and emotionally. He needed about a gallon of alcohol and a year of sleep to recover. He sunk into the chair as far as humanly possible and stared at the ceiling. Lights from the Tokyo city life and passing cars danced across the white surface. Even turning on the light was too much for Hinewa at this point. He just wanted to sit and do nothing.Bookmark here

“What happened to you, Shiro Tanabe?” he muttered to no one in particular, unable to stop focusing his attention elsewhere, even when he was off-duty.Bookmark here

Shiro Tanabe, the murder victim found at the fire scene. Age 24; he had just graduated from University two months ago and had recently got a job working in an office complex. Someone on the track to become a normal Japanese salaryman, just like thousands of other men throughout Japan. He’d become an orphan in 8th grade when his parents died in a train crash and had been left to live alone off of his modest inheritance because he had no extended family. Even though they were currently searching for a Next of Kin, Hinewa was sure that there wasn’t one to find. As far he they could tell, Tanabe only had two or three friends and was an incredibly introverted and private person. Tomorrow, they’d be sending people to find and interview his friends and coworkers, though, he wasn’t counting on the interviews to dig up any sort of suspect or motive for him. Hinewa reached straight down and groped his briefcase, finally slipping his hand inside. After a few moments of stirring his papers around, his fingers brushed against the file. Bookmark here

He stared at the picture of Tanabe that was now fixed on the front of the folder. The victim had been nothing special; just an ordinary young man with black hair and brown eyes. finding out who their victim was just made Hinewa feel worse about this whole affair and worry that they may not be able to close the case. The guy really was just a kid; someone who was just starting out his life and heading in the direction that he wanted to take. It was so frustratingly unfair, but even more than that…Bookmark here

It was painfully clear to anyone who looked at the summary of his short life that Tanabe was a withdrawn and shy man who had limited contact with others throughout his life and had no one who knew that much about him. That meant that this was almost certainly a stranger murder, as there was literally no one who had any reason to harm him and barely a chance that he would have met someone as unhinged as this killer in his daily life. Stranger murders were one of the hardest crimes to solve and they had barely any evidence to go on thanks to that damn fire! He gritted his teeth. They were looking for someone who managed to quickly sneak up on a random stranger and incapacitate him without being seen by any cameras. They had the analysis of all the cameras in and they had a hot load of nothing. The girl that he had seen earlier hadn’t been anywhere near the scene as she hadn’t been picked up by any of the cameras close to it. Aside from her, there had literally been no one in the area…at least not that they knew of. Clearly the murder was there and, whether he’d just gotten lucky or known where to avoid so he wasn’t caught on camera, he’d managed to leave no trace. He was like a ghost. This whole investigation was going to be one long, drawn out, massive pain in the ass. And that just made him seethe even more.Bookmark here

It just got to him because of how senseless and stupid this all was. The Tanabe kid had clearly not done a thing to deserve what had happened to him; he was a person who didn’t bother anyone, a good person. He wasn’t engaging in risky or illegal behavior and he wasn’t actively putting himself in situations where he’d be likely to become the victim of the most gruesome crime in recent Japanese memory. The kid had his whole life ahead of him. Really, he hadn’t even lived much at all, and he now had been robbed of his chance to become someone and start to enjoy his life and it was unlikely that they’d ever be able to identify or catch the person who’d tortured and killed him for their sick amusement. The crime was bad enough, but the fact that justice for it was highly unlikely made Hinewa want to scream and break something.Bookmark here

And this was why he wasn’t married. He could devote all his time, energy, and emotions to his job and didn’t have to deal with anyone complaining about it. No one else could understand why he got so invested in the cases he worked.Bookmark here

He winced, his legs frozen stiff in pain from all the long periods of sitting he had done today. It didn’t help that it had been standing room only on the train tonight and that it had taken even longer than usual to arrive because of a water leak, or that he had to walk half a mile after his stop to reach his apartment. Maybe he’d overdone it a bit today, even considering the circumstances. Bookmark here

Hinewa briefly thought about making something to eat, but his exhaustion snuck up on him and he was suddenly asleep in his chair before he knew what had happened.Bookmark here

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A dog barked off in the distance as I stared across the room at my wall. I was curled up in the fetal position, like a burrito, in my bed. Wearing my soft, pink flannel PJs and being wrapped up in my fluffiest blankets didn’t do anything to calm me down. All I could think about was the dead man and his horrible final moments. I couldn’t exactly put my racing thoughts into words, but I was scared, sad, and stressed. These indescribable, negative feelings left me feeling like crap. All I wanted was to sleep so I wouldn’t be conscious and constantly obsessing over what had happened, but I was too emotionally pained and worn out to fall asleep. I listened to Kyuu-Chan’s soft breathing as it ruffled my hair. He’d curled around my neck like a scarf and passed out.Bookmark here

If nothing else, my new familiar was understanding. He’d annoyed me initially, but…he saw that I was just a scared little girl who was way out of her depths. Bookmark here

He said that I shouldn’t think about solving human crimes until I fully understood my mission and had control over my powers. He promised me that, starting tomorrow after school, he’d use this weekend to explicitly teach me the basics. Kyuu even apologized for being confusing and unhelpful! He was…a good devil cat. And he was right. I was chosen to defend this world from supernatural threats; tangible threats like murders were on a whole different level and I couldn’t simply learn some magical spells to solve those. I had to master the skills I needed to conquer what I’d actually been called to do, then I’d be ready to figure out how to handle other issues. Besides, realistically…stopping a murder was one thing. I could easily use my powers for that. But solving a murder? What had I planned on doing, really? How was I going to get evidence? And what was I going to do if I got it? I couldn’t go to the cops and there was no way they’d believe anything I had to say, particularly if I could disclose how and why I knew stuff. It was best to leave this stuff to the cops.Bookmark here

But what I’d saw and felt…I wouldn’t be able to forget anytime soon. I felt…helpless. I wanted to help the man so badly but…he was already dead. I couldn’t save him, and I was too weak and useless to even be able to get justice for him.Bookmark here

Suddenly, my cell phone buzzed, shocking me out of my funk. When I saw who the text was from, my face immediately turned red and I forgot all about the murder. “I-Igumi-Kun?!?” H-how did he get my phone number? Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Igumi-Kun was actually texting me! Me!Bookmark here

Ryo: Hey, Nana-Chan, are you okay? Bookmark here

Nana: How did you get my number? I never gave it to you. At least, not that I remember.Bookmark here

My heart pounded as I waited for a reply. Was my phrasing too harsh? Did I come off as accusing him of being a stalker or something? But it was true that I didn’t know how he got my number. We did hang out together outside of school, as our parents had been old friends and we had known each other basically since before we were born, but I still didn’t have the courage to give him my personal phone number. It had been over a year since I got my first cell phone, but I still didn’t have the guts to give him my phone number. We were childhood friends and all, so it’s not like it would have been that strange a thing to do, but my massive crush on him made it seem as scary as one of those awful gore-horror movies his older brother was obsessed with. Bookmark here

Ryo: Nanoka-San wanted me to check on you. She’s worried because she says you were acting weird and moody today, but she had something else she had to do and wouldn’t get home until really late. Something about volunteer work?Bookmark here

Ryo: So, are you? Okay, I mean?Bookmark here

His story tracked; Nano-Chan was always worried about everything, especially other people. My dark, philosophical tangent about the murder earlier must have scared her. It wasn’t what I was intending, of course, but I must have acted too out of character for her tastes. I mean, after Ryo-Kun, Nanoka was the second person who had known me the longest. Nanoka was the type of person who always had to be doing something for someone else and could easily get roped into things because she had such a hard time saying no. When she wasn’t at the gardening club, she did lots of volunteer work with different organizations. Today was one of the days where she helped with the little kids at a childcare center run by some foreign organization. And she knew that me and Ryo had known each other for years; she’d be far more likely to ask him to check on me than Aoi or Akami. Aoi would have teased the crap out of her and told her that she was worried about nothing and wouldn't have contacted me. Akame would have had a panic attack and probably would have shown up at my house to interrogate and lecture me.Bookmark here

Nana: I’m fine. Just feeling kinda funky and gross today because I couldn’t sleep last night. And then hearing about that murder that happened last night made me feel depressed…I got pretty dark and miserable when I was talking to Nanoka this morning and then I was grouchy and lethargic all day because of my lack of sleep, so I probably just made her worry even more. Bookmark here

Ryo: Oh, that makes sense. I know that your mother is always on your case about studying and stuff because she has your high school and university years already planned out for you, but you need to slow down and take care of yourself, Nana-Chan! You’re already the person with the most consistent grades in our class and are at the top of both our year and the school. School is important, but sleep and taking care yourself is more important. You’re going to make yourself sick if you don’t balance, your life better.Bookmark here

I smiled. That wasn’t the issue at all right now, but it made me happy that Ryo was watching me and worried about my health. It was part of why I loved him, after all. He knew my families’ habits and weaknesses, stuff that most other people didn’t. Honestly, it made me feel a bit better to know that there was someone who cared about me. Between Ryo’s texts and Kyuu cuddling with me, this was honestly just what I needed tonight.Bookmark here

Nana: Don’t worry, I’m fine! I’m actually about to go to bed right now because I’m tired out and exhausted. But thanks so much for checking in. It makes me happy that you still worry about me even though we aren’t little kids anymore. I’ll talk to Nano-Chan tomorrow so that she isn’t worried about me.Bookmark here

Ryo: I’m glad I could make you feel better! See you tomorrow, Nana-Chan. Sweet dreams.Bookmark here

I squeed to myself and rolled around in my bed. Ryo-Chan was worried about me! Ryo-Chan had texted me for the first time ever! And now since he’d taken the lead…it was totally okay for me to text him whenever I felt like it, right? Right! Oh my gosh! I blushed happily and curled up under my covers, feeling like a weight had been lifted off of me.Bookmark here

The murder was sad, but there wasn’t anything I could have done to save the man, and finding the killer wasn’t my problem. That’s why we had police officers. Monsters from another world were my issue and evil humans were theirs. It didn’t make the loss of another human any better, but this sort of thing happened all over the world every day. I had never even seen the man before; why bother myself over his death so much? I was worrying about stuff that wasn’t my problem and ruining my own life and mental health for no good reason. I just needed to ignore this whole episode and move on, for my own good. Bookmark here

Starting tomorrow after school, my official magical girl training would start! I needed to focus on that and do my best. I needed to cherish my friends and not worry them anymore. Making myself miserable wouldn’t help anyone else or solve anything. Mind over matter. Drowsiness made my eyelids start fluttering, and I gently stroked Kyuu-Chan’s silky fur as I settled down for the night. Honestly, I had good things to look forward to right now. All I could really think about was Ryo-Chan. My stress and fear had suddenly melted away.Bookmark here

Warm thoughts of love fluttered through my mind as I peacefully floated off to sleep.Bookmark here

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