The God I Stole

After I told the Kaname family that my parents were abusive, they let me move in with them. My real purpose for being there, however, was to watch over a certain girl. Fifteen year old Madoka Kaname sat together with me at the desk in her room. Madoka's pale pink hair was tied with her characteristic red ribbon, and I had fixed my long, black hair into a braid.

The two of us looked the same age, and for all intents and purposes, we were. Despite living through many timelines and having witnessed some forty years of events, neither my body nor my brain had matured past that of an intelligent fifteen-year-old. I still could not understand advanced subjects, but my middle school subjects I knew like the back of my hand. That's why I had taken to tutoring Madoka. The dear girl often felt useless and lacked confidence, but I sensed that improving her grades would boost her self-esteem.

"I'll be right back, Homura-chan," Madoka said with her rose-colored eyes glimmering. "I think I left a pen in your room and we'll need one for math problems."

"Be sure not to go into my closet," I warned her for probably the fiftieth time.

Naturally, she did not heed my warning. In a minute I heard her screech in terror. Cursing under my breath, I rushed down the stained floor hall and into my grey-walled room. I saw that Madoka had opened the large closet and pulled out the cage—that is, the cage where I kept Kyubey chained and starving, unable to teleport because of my universal supremacy. I had eliminated many of its powers when I reset reality. Still, simply looking at the white, cat-like alien filled me with hatred.

However, Madoka retained no memory of these atrocious aliens, and she began to cry, feeling sorry for the "poor animal."

"So, it used telepathy directed only at you and called for you to save it," I guessed. "That's it, right? I can tell from the way the beast is trembling. Tut tut, Kyubey. You should know by now that contacting Madoka is against the rules. Well, I'll just have to take that power away from you."

"Don't be mean to the poor thing!" Madoka begged me, but I didn't listen.

For a moment I closed my eyes and extended one hand toward the cage. I felt the aura of powerful, dark magic rise around me. This power allowed me to steal the abilities of others. If the Kyubey had been in full health, it might have been able to resist my dark magic, but I had crippled its will a year ago and enslaved its species.

"Huh?" said Madoka. "What's going on? Did you take its voice away? And how? That cloud around you… it must be some kind of dark magic. Homura, you've mentioned magic before, but I never thought you were serious. Are you a witch?"

Oh, the irony. Madoka had no idea how the actual witches had looked and behaved in previous universes. I decided that today would be the day I set up a plan for managing the Wraiths, and for telling Madoka the truth.

"Anyway, I only took away the alien's ability to speak YOU." (In my own head, I could hear Kyubey moaning in pain.) "This creature is extremely dangerous. It must be kept captive and have its will continually broken, or do you know what would happen? This Kyubey would start tearing out the souls of innocent girls, some of them even younger than you."

"Then why is such a creature even in your care?" Madoka asked.

"Kyubey has one positive ability," I replied. "It can turn girls into Magical Girls, which help the world and the universe by giving their lives to defeat Wraiths."

Madoka gasped. "Are you a Magical Girl, Homura-chan?"

The smile I gave her pained me. "You could say that. Now gather up your things. We're going to go visit our friends and tell them about this too. The Wraiths are becoming too numerous. And there's something I want to tell you while we walk."

Nodding as if she understood, Madoka grabbed her small white satchel and her new cell phone and left the house with me. I carried Kyubey with me, knowing we would need the creature's power. We walked down the little stone road by the creek, which would lead us past a friend's house before continuing on to our school. The air felt pleasantly warm, but clouds slowly gathered in the sky, and humid breezes flew by, forewarning us of rain. Before long, Madoka asked what I wanted to tell her.

"A story," I replied, "and a true one. It will sound strange, but listen closely. Once upon a time, a good God ruled the universe; He was made of many versions of Himself all across space and time. However, even God had a rule He must follow. He could not exist as an individual being with memories of His original past, except temporarily when he appeared to mortals. But then the Devil was born. The Devil knew of God's weak point. So He reached out and stole a part of God all for Himself."

"That's terrible," Madoka said emphatically. "Why would the Devil do that?"

"Even though he was demonic, the Devil loved God," I answered grimly. "The two were friends long ago before they became so powerful. The Devil stole away the part of God that contained His original memories and personality. It was so that the Devil and God could live together as friends."

"Then maybe the Devil was not so bad," Madoka thought aloud. "He shouldn't have stolen from God, but he had good intentions. Then what happened?"

"The Devil set up a new universe for everybody to live in as friends. That's the universe we are in right now. But neither the Devil nor any pieces of God could control the evil of Humanity. The Wraiths are the curses and pains of humans given form. But the Devil enslaved the alien race of Kyubeys, ordering them to make pure-hearted Magical Girls to destroy the Wraiths."

I saw that we were approaching our first destination, and decided to end the story there for now. I would explain more about Magical Girls after we had the attention of our friends Sayaka and Kyoko.

***Break***

When I reset reality, I had pulled Sayaka and Kyoko into the new universe accidentally. During the time when I set up the life of Madoka to be nearly perfect, I forgot to restore Sayaka and Kyoko to full happiness. That said, Kyoko had no family, just as in previous universes. I started encouraging her to move in with Sayaka's family. Then I pulled some strings and soon my plan had been fulfilled. I did this because I thought Kyoko would be happiest with Sayaka.

It was no secret that Sayaka and Kyoko shared a deep bond beyond that of normal friends. In several previous universes, they had died together. Kyoko always tried save Sayaka and to teach her things about life, and Sayaka slowly came to love this. In the present universe, I heard some interesting rumors about them, and when Madoka and I walked into Sayaka's house, I had to wonder if the rumors were true.

Sayaka and Kyoko lay asleep on the sofa of the main living room. Judging by all the soda cans and candy wrappers, they presumably gave themselves a sugar crash and decided to take an afternoon nap. The amusing thing about it was that the girls were snuggled up together like a couple. Their legs were intertwined and Sayaka lay with her back against Kyoko, whose arms were wrapped around the other girl. It looked like they had been nuzzling each other's hair, with their heads so close together. Strange, I thought, for mere fifteen year olds to already know about their unusual orientation, and to be so obvious about it in a family house. But then again, Sayaka could be quite stupid—maybe she hadn't yet realized it yet after all.

"Sa-Sayaka!" exclaimed Madoka in confusion. "What are you doing? That looks like something you shouldn't do! We're only fifteen!"

The blue-haired girl sat up on the couch sleepily, leaving Kyoko snoring softly behind her. "Sorry, Madoka," she yawned. "You're right. Someone as young and healthy as me shouldn't have eaten so much candy. It's Kyoko's fault, though."

"I wasn't talking about the candy…" Madoka murmured unsurely.

Kyoko sat up abruptly with her red hair in a spiky mess. "Eh? What the hell's goin' on?" she asked, looking like an angry hedgehog. "You guys didn't tell us you were coming over today. And what the ACTUAL HELL are you holding, Homura? A stuffed animal with blood and bruises? That thing is in just plain bad taste."

"This creature is alive," I replied, holding Kyubey up by his tail. "Kyubey, come on, you know the spiel. Start talking."

The cat-like creature raised its head weakly and blinked its inexpressive red eyes. Then everybody except Madoka heard him start talking in a light, weak, and rasping voice.

"P-pleased to meet you, girls. My name is K-Kyubey. You two have been chosen to b-become Magical Girls! My—my master, Homura Akemi, has been anxiously a-a-awaiting this day. To become a Magical Girl, you have to make a c-contract w-with me. I will grant you any one wish in exchange for… giving your lives… to fight the evil…W-Wraiths."

"Um, wow, that thing really is alive—if barely," remarked Kyoko. "I was going to say we're all way too old to believe in magic, but this creature is pretty good proof."

"Is it a robot?" Sayaka whispered half-jokingly. "It can't be real."

"I was just telling Madoka a story," I cut in a bit coldly. "Perhaps you'll hear it too. The story was about how the Devil stole a piece of God for Himself and then created a new universe where everybody could live peacefully. However, neither God nor the Devil can control all evil. On our planet, the strife and the cruelties of humanity take the form of Wraiths. You may have seen some at night without knowing what they were. It's the duty of Magical Girls to defeat those Wraiths."

To prove my point, I showed the other girls a little bit of magic. In truth, I no longer qualified as a Magical Girl, but being the creator of the current universe, plenty of kinds of magic waited at my beck and call. I snapped my fingers and a black gun appeared in my hand. Knowing this was not enough, I also summoned some healing magic and begrudgingly healed the bleeding whip-marks on Kyubey's back and sides.

"Amazing!" said Kyoko.

"This all seems somehow familiar," Sayaka said, cocking her head to one side. "And with what you just showed us… I want to believe your story."

"Then you'll hear me out?" I asked. "Listen, Magical Girls have their wishes granted, but their lives are not easy. Wraiths are dangerous to fight. And after making the contract with Kyubey, Magical Girls have to continue fighting Wraiths until they die or come close to reaching despair. But before reaching total despair, the girls disappear. It's said they go to join God and become part of Him. This is called the Law of the Cycle, because Magical Girls are removed from the circle of despair, pain, and tragedy."

"You're a Magical Girl, aren't you, Homura-chan?" Madoka asked. "If all of what you say is true and there are Wraiths out there, why did you wait so long to tell us?"

"I thought that much would be obvious," I replied, sitting down and looking dismal. "I don't want any of you to become Magical Girls. Do you think I would want you all to experience the same pain and difficulties as me? On the other hand, the Wraiths are getting out of my control. Rather than entrap some strangers to become Magical Girls—like this alien wanted—I thought I would be honest with my friends and just say the opportunity is there."

For a few long seconds, silence filled the room. Then Kyoko gave a loud, irritated sigh as she began to tie her thick hair back.

"Dammit, Homura," she said. "If you had asked me a year or two ago, I would have said yes in a heartbeat. I've always wanted to fight the evil in this world, but whenever I remember that my dad was a peaceful preacher, I think there have to be better ways than just fighting. I'd rather try to stop some of the pain and curses humans feel BEFORE they can escape and take the form of wraiths."

"I'm afraid I'm with her," Sayaka said, scratching her short hair as she often did when she actually thought hard about something. "Sure, the world isn't perfect, but with Kyoko here I'm pretty happy. Besides, what would I wish for? It seems unfair that someone as fortunate in life as me would be given the chance to have any wish granted. It just doesn't feel fair. There have to be other girls out there with much harsher lives than mine. They could use their wishes for far better things."

"I'm truly relieved to hear that," I said, for once being completely honest. "I don't want either of you dying or disappearing when you're young. Now, we would normally be happy to stay, but Madoka and I must go tell Mami about this. Thank you, and please excuse us."

"Be careful!" Sayaka shouted after us as we left her house. "You'd better get to Mami-san's apartment fast, cuz it looks like a storm is on the way!"

Madoka and I started walking away from the suburbs and closer into the city. Mami had lived alone in past universes since most of her close relatives died, but now she lived with her parents in her spacious, yellow-themed apartment. It stood only two miles from us if we took the right shortcuts. I wondered why we hadn't brought our bikes, and then I remembered I had to keep hold of the deplorable Kyubey.

By and by I said to Madoka, "There's something I didn't tell the others. Do you know why I know the story about God and the Devil? It's because I'm a special kind of Magical girl who has lived in several different universes, or timelines. Remember when you said the Devil might not be so bad after all?"

"Yeah," Madoka shrugged. "Was I right?"

"Maybe," I rejoined. "What I know for sure is this: in the previous universe, Sayaka became a Magical Girl and disappeared. She became part of the Law of the Cycle, but she had to live in some divine dimension knowing she would never see her friends and family again. Kyoko was also a Magical Girl, and because of her wish, her entire family ended up tragically dying. When the Devil made this new universe, He pulled the souls of Kyoko and Sayaka into it, and gave them the happy life they live now."

Madoka wiped a tear from her eye. "Sorry," she said, "I just got this feeling that I've tried to save Sayaka before, and I can never manage to do it. Even if it was the Devil's doing… I'm… I'm so happy for Sayaka." She sniffled. "So happy."

***Break***

By the time we reached Mami Tomoe's apartment, the rain started falling. The nearly seventeen year old Mami gave Madoka a big, tight hug and welcomed us in from the downpour. Her father was at work, but Mami's mother greeted us and gave us warm, fluffy towels with which to dry off. When Mami saw the creature in my arms, she called to her mother, without missing a beat, asking if she would let us talk alone in the living room. Mrs. Tomoe nodded understandingly and soon only the three of us girls remained.

"Before we get down to business," said Mami cheerfully, "let me serve you both some cake. I'll also make some tea. Have either of you tried white tea blends? There's a new one I bought flavored with hibiscus, lemongrass, and peach."

"Don't trouble yourself," I answered, always a little less comfortable with Mami than with the rest of the girls. "This is going to be a short but somewhat shocking visit. We'll explain things and be out of your hair in fifteen minutes."

"That's more than enough time to enjoy a cup of tea!" Mami insisted happily.

To my annoyance, Madoka bounced into the kitchen after her and I could hear the two of them chattering about tea and books and Mami's first boyfriend. Finally they both returned to the sitting room, and I do have to say that Mami looked lovely holding the tea tray, with her golden hair worn long, and her yellow-and-white summer dress flattering her chest enough to make a twenty-year-old jealous. Madoka, adorable as always, carried a slice of cake for each of us.

I started talking of Magical Girls at once. When I was explaining the contract and the wish, Mami raised her hand delicately to tell me she needed to speak.

"Before you go on," she began lightly, "I'd like to tell you my own side of the story. You see, I already believe that magic exists."

It seemed that a shadow fell over her face, and she continued without the overly cheerful smile. "About a year ago, I started having terrifying nightmares. For a while, it was always the same nightmare: I would be in a major car accident, and my older brother, mother, and father were horribly killed. Each time, I somehow survived."

"That's awful, Mami-san," said Madoka, placing her hand over Mami's. "I had no idea. Why didn't you talk to me about it?"

"Because everybody seemed so happy," Mami sighed in answer. "And I knew I should be happy too instead of worrying others with my nightmares. But then things got even stranger. I started to have dreams about fighting. Always fighting. And at the end of each of those dreams, I would die. Sometimes I got caught up in explosions, sometimes arrows pierced my heart, and sometimes a giant, horrible monster would bite my head off and eat me."

"What does this have to do with magic?" I asked suspiciously.

"Well," continued Mami, "I came to believe that those were not just dreams. I came to believe that they were all my past lives. Then one day, when I had just started high school, I realized that I was incredibly fortunate. After so many of my past lives ended in loneliness and horrific death, it must be a miracle that I am living the happy life I live right now. I knew that magic was the only thing that could have altered my fate. So you see, I have no doubt that angelic magical girls exist, destroying the curses of the world."

"That makes it simpler," I said a bit drily. "Look, I'm not here because I really want you to become a Magical Girl. I just thought that you deserved to hear about it, since this is your last chance. After you turn seventeen, the Kyubey race can no longer contract with you. In other worlds, you'll be too old."

"But you won't become a Magical Girl, will you, Mami?" Madoka implored. "I would worry about you so much. And you wouldn't have time for tea and cake and boys and good grades. You would… you would feel alone again."

Mami patted Madoka's head. "You've become such an insightful girl," she smiled, figuratively lighting up the room. "You're exactly right. Magic has finally brought me to a happy world. There is nothing I want so badly that I would sell my life for it. I'm sorry Homura, but you'll have to recruit new Magical Girls."

I tried my best to give her a cheerful smile. "Don't apologize. I was also hoping you wouldn't agree to make the contract. You deserve to know, though, that we'll be asking little Charlotte next. I know you two are close. What will you do if she agrees to make a contract?"

"Well, I would be a little sad," Mami confessed. "But as long as she used her wish for something that will really make her happy, I think I can accept it."

"We'll let you know," I said, finishing my tea out of courtesy. "Now Madoka and I must get going. Forgive my coarseness, but could you lend us two umbrellas?"

"Naturally," Mami answered, back to her merry self. "I have raincoats you can borrow, too. Charlotte lives with her foster parents just a few blocks away, in the apartments next to the sweets shop. I think the number is 107." She hugged us both. "Now, both of you take care. And don't be too rough with that poor creature. I can hardly believe he's a heartless alien. I mean, look how cute his little face is!"

"I'll keep that in mind," I lied, stepping outside.

As Madoka and I walked down the apartment stairs in matching green raincoats and two colorful umbrellas, I noticed my housemate walking slowly. I saw that tears had come to Madoka's eyes again. I took her hand and asked what was wrong.

"Homura," she replied, "Mami was remembering things from other universes in her dreams, wasn't she? She was a Magical Girl too, right? So she really was in that car wreck, and she really did die."

"It shouldn't bother her anymore," I assured my best friend.

"I know," sniffled Madoka. "It's just like with Sayaka. I'm only emotional because I'm so happy for Mami. She's living every teenage girl's dream life. That happened because of this new universe, right? Mami got pulled into a universe where she doesn't have to fight and die." She wiped her eyes. "I think I'd be scared, but I would like to meet the Devil someday. Wouldn't you like to meet Him too, Homura? We both need to thank him for making everybody so truly happy."

I gave Madoka's hand a gentle squeeze, saying, "You never know, Madoka. You might get to meet both God and the Devil before it's all over."

***Break***

Nicknamed "Bebe", Charlotte was the Magical Girl who had reached despair and turned into the sweets Witch in most previous timelines. She had been a powerful Witch, always causing us trouble, often killing Mami or another one of our group. These days, Charlotte retained no memories of her past and stayed in her rather cute human form, now a fourteen year old girl with long white hair and endearing brown eyes. She welcomed us into her apartment and started ranting about the latest cheeses and pastries she had tried.

Since the creation of my world with Madoka, I always felt a bit guilty talking to Charlotte. I had pulled her into my universe entirely by accident, and felt unable to forgive her for past incidents. I did nothing to ensure her happiness. In fact, out of spite, I altered her ability to see certain things. She could perceive the Clara Dolls, fake humans, and other oddities that lingered, usually invisible, around my universe. Now I severely regretted doing such a thing to her.

"How have you been, Charlotte?" I asked politely. "Are things with your foster parents working out?"

"Oh yes!" Charlotte said in her light voice. "I think we really all love each other! Dad is at work, and mom's taking a quick nap upstairs because she and I worked all morning on cooking pies! My foster parents say I behave beautifully, and you know why? Because they don't care if I'm a little weird or if I believe in spirits. They say they love me for who I am."

While she talked, we all went upstairs and sat down in the young girl's room. It was full of unusual artwork, books about the supernatural, and excellently carved statues that represented famous shrines.

"If it keeps going well," Charlotte finished, "my foster parents might adopt me!"

"That's wonderful news, Bebe!" cried Madoka, hugging Charlotte and holding both her hands. "I hope you know I accept you too. You can believe in strange things if you want. Homura and I have come to tell you about something very strange."

"Wait a moment," I cut in suspiciously. "Charlotte, aren't you bothered by the things you see? Don't they scare you? Aren't you afraid they will curse you?"

Charlotte giggled genuinely, as if I had just told an extremely amusing joke. "It's not like that at all," she explained. "Sure, I was a little creeped out at first, but the spirits I see aren't dangerous at all. They're only lost. They have no memories and they tell me they don't feel like they're part of this universe. If I couldn't see them, the world would be so dull and boring. I love the spirits. So I always do what I can to help them: the soldier girls, the transparent people, and the air-balloon spirits! I talk to everybody—oh, except the wraiths, I mean."

"You know about Wraiths?" I questioned. "You must have stumbled upon them wandering around and looking for spirits. You're lucky you survived. Unlike the other things you can see, the Wraiths are born of THIS universe. They are spirits that represent suffering and human evil. Whenever they appear, they curse people and make their deaths look natural. For example, Wraiths might start a landslide in the mountains, destroying towns, and never looking like the responsible party.

"What's even worse is the fact that only a few Magical Girls remain to fight them," I went on. "You see, the Devil keeps the Kyubeys enslaved, so they can no longer run around and make dozens of contracts. The Devil wishes to recruit Magical Girls Himself, so He can always supervise Kyubey's actions. I was given this alien," I lied, "because I'm a special Magical Girl. I'm the only one the Devil trusts to recruit others. Anyway, because of this oversight on the Devil's part, there's a major shortage of Magical Girls. The Wraiths have been killing thousands of people. They've become too numerous lately."

"I knew those Wraiths were no good!" Charlotte exclaimed angrily.

"Would you like to fight them?" Kyubey said, though Madoka could still not hear the creature. "Charlotte, my name is Kyubey. You have been chosen to become a Magical Girl! It's the Magical Girls who battle the evil Wraiths and…"

Kyubey continued, and I let him explain everything except soul gems. I would tell Charlotte about that myself.

"Don't become fond of this alien creature," I warned. "If I let him run free he would rip out the souls of the girls he contracts with. In ancient times, your soul gem created from your wish would become your actual soul. If anything happened to it, or you even stepped too far away from it, you would die. The Kyubeys would never mention this, so many girls fell into despair when they found out. But the Devil who created this universe forced the alien race to change their system. There is an advantage in battle to having the body and soul separate. So now, the soul gem only appears when Magical Girls are in battle with Wraiths. When the battle ends, your soul is returned to your body, and there is no danger of losing, breaking, or tainting it. Eventually, your will to fight still breaks, but before you are eaten by despair, the Law of the Cycle will take you away to join God."

"God is awfully nice for making that Law of the Cycle," Charlotte observed. "But that Devil you keep mentioning also helped improved the system to protect souls. It sounds like He might actually care about Magical Girls. Still, a lifetime of fighting would be tough. I bet none of our friends made the contract. Not even Kyoko, right?" She gave a light sigh. "I guess I'll have to fight alone."

Madoka gasped. "Bebe-chan! You want to become a Magical Girl?!"

"I want a few more days to think about it," the young girl replied, "but I'm pretty sure. Someone has to start helping Homura fight, and recruit more girls, right?"

"If that's what you really want," I replied a bit uncertainly, "I will bring Kyubey back to you in a few days. There's one more thing you should know, however. You must make a wish that will bring YOU happiness. Making wishes for the sake of others ends up causing more curses."

"I already have an idea for my wish," Charlotte smiled. "I don't want to be alone. I also want the Wraiths to be stopped, which means I want there to be more Magical Girls. So I will probably wish to become the director of a secret school for Magical Girls. Homura, if you sent new recruits there, I would be happy to teach them how to fight! I wouldn't have to feel alone that way—in fact, nobody would."

Everything I had ever held against Charlotte melted away from me. For the first time, I felt like we might be able to be genuine friends. Having her as a Magical Girl would help me considerably, and the idea of a school to train new recruits—simply brilliant! How could a fourteen year old come up with such a perfect plan?

I took hold of Charlotte's hands and said sincerely, "Thank you."

***Break***

"Um, Homura?" asked Madoka later. "I have…a question."

We had returned home and eaten a hearty dinner with the Kaname family. After chaining up Kyubey and stuffing the cage in my closet, I invited Madoka to my room to help her with the math homework we had forgotten earlier. She ended up too distractible, so we put away the work and listened to music, drew manga (Madoka's hobby), and relaxed. Soon we changed into our nightclothes—mine a black nightgown, and hers a matching set of soft, pastel-pink pajamas—and we stole a snack from downstairs. As we ate the "stolen" icecream, Madoka raised the inevitable question.

"Homura-chan, why didn't you ask ME if I wanted to become a Magical Girl?"

My face became as grim and unmoving as a stone wall. "It's completely out of the question," I said, "for YOU to be part of that world. If you did, everything in this universe would fall apart. You're too holy to fight. The Law of the Cycle would take you up into it right away."

My voice shook, and the metaphorical mask fell from my face. "You would be taken away," I cried, "and then my very best would be gone forever. I wouldn't be able to go on living! …I wouldn't be able to hold this new world together," I added softly, in barely a whisper.

"I didn't hear that last part," Madoka said, and then she saw my face. "Homura-chan, are you crying?!" She came and threw her arms around me, hugging me tightly. "It's ok, Homura. I only asked because I was curious. You know how I am. I could never handle a life full of terrible fights, and having friends disappear. Maybe I'm a coward, but I know I just couldn't ever handle being a Magical Girl."

I hugged her back, sobbing softly. "Madoka, tell me. Are you happy here?"

"Of course," she answered, wiping tears from my dark blue eyes. "I'm happy because everybody else is so contented in this world. I'm happy because I've been getting better grades, and I've gotten better at drawing Manga. And most of all, I'm happy that I get to share my home with you, my best friend."

Somewhat calmed, I climbed onto my bed, pulled up the window shades, and sat down on my knees. I called Madoka and she climbed up too, sitting on her knees facing me. For a moment, I didn't know how I should begin, and I remarked that the storm outside looked pretty, with the lightning and thunder and wind-swept trees.

Madoka chuckled. "You always did like darker stuff, Homura-chan."

That served as the perfect bridge into what I actually wanted to say. "Yes, Madoka," I began, "I do like the Darkness. To me, it's somehow soothing. That's because I am someone evil, someone who works in opposition to God. Madoka, can I tell you a little more about the story of God and the Devil?"

She held my hand and nodded seriously.

"The God I told you about was one and the same as the Law of the Cycle. He is the force that exists in all universes and all times to rescue the souls of Magical Girls. God is not a person with an individual identity, but a force or a being, made up of many. However, the one who first set the Law of the Cycle into motion—who choose to lose her personhood become God—was the Devil's best friend."

Emotion had crept into my voice again, but I didn't know if the feelings were resentment, shame, despondency, or all in one. I grabbed both of Madoka's wrists, clasping them between our kneeling bodies.

"B-best friend, huh?" Madoka stammered. "Right. That's why the Devil reached up to God and stole the original, human identity that God once had. Is that right?"

"The original identity we will call M," I nodded, continuing. "The Devil changed M's memories so that she would never remember starting the phenomenon of 'God.' If M were ever to remember, she would rejoin God, and destroy this world. You see, God never willed for this particular universe to exist."

Without really knowing why, I pushed Madoka onto her back and continued holding her wrists, staring into her deep, rosy eyes.

"My creation was an act of love," I said intensely, "but for all those who believe God should not be touched, my creation came to be called an act of rebellion."

"YOUR creation?" Madoka asked, eyes wide. "Homura-chan, you can't mean—"

Desire overtook me, and I quickly kissed her mouth.

"Yes, Madoka," I told her, "I AM the Devil. I know you aren't stupid, my sweet Goddess Madoka. As you said to me a year ago, you sometimes feel like you should be in another place, or in another role. Those feelings are your last faint ties to God."

I lowered myself on top of her, and Madoka's face became confused. She pulled one of her hands free and held it against my face, as if wanting to say she loved me, but was too distracted by my dark story to move or speak.

"YOU were the one who sacrificed yourself to start the force known as the Law of the Cycle," I stated. "But you lost all your individuality and no longer existed as a human girl." My body began to shake with sobs. "I missed you!"

I kissed Madoka's forehead and then wrapped my arms around her shoulders, sobbing,

"I missed you! I don't even know if I have a soul anymore… because the world became so dark without you in it. I was the only one who remembered you in the world! I had chased you through a hundred timelines, but you abandoned me to become God."

Overcome with sorrow, I let my head fall on Madoka's chest and wept.

"So… I stole the part of God that contained your original identity. …I stole you back, all for myself. And because of that… I became known as the Devil."

Slowly, Madoka put her arms around me. She began to stroke my long, black hair. When she spoke, she truly sounded like a gentle, benevolent Goddess.

"Oh Homura, you always try to handle things on your own, and then you break. Why don't you tell me your feelings more often? I will always be there to hold you and tell you that you're worried about nothing. You're right that I think I used to be part of a different kind of being—a Goddess, maybe. But right now I'm just Madoka."

She kissed each of my tear-stained cheeks and went on, "The Madoka that I am right now is happy. Being with you is all I need. I don't even want my memories back, if that would force me to rejoin the Law of the Cycle again. Breaking the rules of the world is not right, so if you had tried to drag down the entire Law of the Cycle, then I'd be angry. But you only took a small piece of God—you only bent the rules a little—and I'm so glad you did. Because now, I don't have to leave you."

I could barely believe or process what I was hearing. Emotions swept over me like rivers, but the pain inside me lessened, and my shame washed away. All I could do was gasp out through my sobs,

"I love you, Madoka."

The sweet-natured girl gave me a gentle squeeze and said, "I love you too, Homura. I love you as much more than a best friend. But um… I AM a little uncomfortable. About all the kissing and stuff… well, why don't we wait till we're a year or two older? Um… how does that sound to you?"

I pulled myself off Madoka at once. "Yes, I'm sorry. I got carried away. I—I barely know what I'm feeling, myself. I love you, but I'm a little confused…"

Standing up out of the bed, Madoka stretched and then turned back to face me, wearing that perfect smile that belonged to her alone.

"We'll figure it out together," she assured me. "Because I'm not going anywhere. I won't leave you alone again, Homura. Not for all the world."