Chapter 24:

Magical Girl Awakening (Amai side)

Magical Girl SNAFU - Two Facades

“Amai Sugi. As far as I was aware, you hadn’t yet gained power.”

“Yeah, that’s right. I ain’t got any powers like you guys do. But I still won’t let you hurt her.” I stood at the top of the stairs, the large hammer I had picked up from the floor below in my hands. I could barely even hold it, but I knew I had to do something. Even if it was just to buy time for the other girls.

“Are you quite mad? Or do you simply have a death wish?” The girl with my face looked at me with a sneer, as if she thought me completely stupid.

“You could say that. But you could also just say I’m a girl crazy in love.” I beamed a grin at Sora, putting up a peace sign with my left hand while steadying the hammer with my right. She rolled her eyes and shot me a look that said ‘if you have time to tease me, you have time to run away,’ but I knew that wasn’t an option.

In truth, my teasing was a way to steady my own nerves. I wasn’t stupid enough to believe I had a chance of winning. The best I could hope for was to survive long enough for Saki to contact me.

“The four of you still have a part to play in this story, so I hadn’t intended to kill any of you today. But I may be unable to hold back enough to keep you alive. I hope he forgives me for that fatal error.” Before she had even finished speaking, she lowered her body until her hand was on the ground. I read her eye movements to predicted when she would move, and swung preemptively.

She saw it coming.

Moving so fast that she seemed to disappear to my eyes, just practically flew across the room, stopping just centimetres short of where I swung the hammer. Her form was beautiful, as if she calculated every movement down to the fraction of a second.

Was this genius in practice? No, this was just the impassable divide between humans and magical girls. I’m sure that, to her, it was no different from walking.

She had retained much of her momentum by putting her foot forward and shifting her weight. The same fraction of a second that my swing ended, she used all of the stored momentum to launch her body into mine, landing a flying kick to my body that sent me flying into the wall behind me.

I knew instantaneously that my ribs were broken, and by my complete breathlessness, I assumed it had also punctured my lungs. I wouldn’t asphyxiate, but the internal bleeding would be enough to render me unconscious soon.

In most situations it would likely be fatal, but Nao’s 「Guardian Angel」would be able to save my life. Regardless, I was completely incapacitated, and unable to speak to call for help.

I looked up, unable to even stand, and saw that the girl had already turned away and re-engaged Sora. It was evident just from watching that Sora wouldn’t last long.

I had failed. I had failed completely to save her. My best friend, my favourite person in the world. I had let her down.

“You want the power to save your beloved? I can give you that.”

A voice rang out in my head, one that I couldn’t begin to describe. It was as if God himself was speaking directly into my mind.

The very moment it finished speaking, the pain in my chest began to ease. I wasn’t healed, my ribs were still broken and breath was still hard to draw, but I was able to rise to my feet.

Was this… the power I had craved so desperately? Had I finally become a magical girl?

My body felt light. Incredibly light. Like it was no longer bound by physics. It was exactly as the others had described it.

I looked at the two girls who were still fighting. Sora was being overwhelmed, and there was no way for me to get involved while slowed down by injury. But there was another option. I still had one more card up my sleeve.

Technically, it was a knife, not a card.

“Hey, ugly!” I shouted at the person wearing my face, as I threw my second kunai at her. She dodged it deftly, as I had anticipated, and looked at me with derision. “I’ve got more where that came from!”

I was bluffing. That was my last knife.

“I’m surprised you can even stand. That blow should have incapacitated you completely.”

“I’m… harder… to knock down… than that…” I made a show of panting and clutching my ribs, to sell that I was completely defenceless. I needed her guard to be as low as possible for this idea to work. Frankly, it was incredibly risky.

“Mai, no!”

“I suppose I’ll have to take more drastic measures.” Sora’s hoarse shout was drowned out by the face stealer’s words, as she once again assumed her lowered body position. Just as last time, she dashed forward so fast that a normal human being would be unable to even see her.

I, however, could see her perfectly.

In fact, from the very instant her first muscle twitched to move, I saw everything. The exact movements she would make the exact attack she would use. The exact way to counter it.

It was as if I could see the future.

It was the power of 「The Clairvoyant」.

She once again tried for a flying kick, this time aimed for my head. She intended to render me unconscious, if not to outright kill me. But unfortunately for her, I dodged at the absolute last moment to ensure that she would overcommit to the movement.

She sailed past me, flying into the very wall I had just been slammed into myself. Were her guard still up, she would likely have simply bent her knees on contact and sprung herself back towards me, but she got cocky. She didn’t brace upon impact, and I could tell by sound alone that her legs took a tremendous amount of force. It would have rendered a normal person unable to walk.

“Argh! Fuck!” she wailed as she fell to the ground. She quickly scrambled to her feet, but even her stance showed just how much pain her legs were in. For someone who fought mainly with kicks, it was a death sentence. “You… you awakened? How?!”

“Call it a quirk of fate.” I lunged in her direction, ensuring she couldn’t move away from the wall. As long as she was stuck in that corner, her range of movement would be completely stunted. Considering her fighting style relied on open space, and my ribs were in too poor of a condition for me to make too many large movements, this was my one and only win condition.

I threw punch after punch, every hit landing perfectly without guard. Thanks to 「The Clairvoyant」I could perfectly tell where she was going to dodge and block everytime. Her stamina was wearing away much faster than my own, and before long she started making serious mistakes. As soon as I saw her drop her guard on her head, I landed a quick 1-2 combo into her face, finishing with an uppercut that seemed to visibly shatter her 「Shapeshifter」disguise.

Unfortunately, my 「Clairvoyant」had about run it’s course too.

“My face! You bitch!” with me unable to predict her next movement, she landed a desperate punch to the side of my face that knocked me off my guard, before she bolted for a boarded up window at the back of the large hallway. She launched her whole body weight into it, and took flight as soon as she was outside. The whole time, she was covering her face in her hands.

The adrenaline fading, I collapsed to the ground.

“Mai!” Sora scrambled to her feet, clearly still hurt herself, and practically limped over to where I was sat, back to the wall. She took me into her arms and looked my broken body up and down. “Shit, that’s a lot of blood…”

The strange clothes that had magically appeared on my body had now disappeared, and there was blood visible on my shirt. Somehow I hadn’t noticed that my shattered ribs had also pierced my skin. The pain was worse than any I had ever felt. But that didn’t matter.

“Sora… you’re okay… that’s good.”

“I’m okay, don’t worry about me. Saki said the other three have finished their fights, Nao is on her way to heal you up. Just hang in there for me, okay? Just a little longer…”

I heard footsteps sounding out throughout the building as my vision started to blacken.

I fell unconscious with a smile on my face. After all, who wouldn’t want to fall asleep in the arms of the person they loved?

Mario Nakano 64
Steward McOy