Once, there were heroes.

Great men, and women, and non-binary people, and gods, and at least one very confused horse. They travelled the world, performed great deeds, amazed the world with their splendour and might, and in the case of the horse carried, like, a really big dude in really heavy armour.

This story is not about them.

Or, well, it is, but only partly.

Over time, the heroes went away. The world grew too small to contain them, and mankind slew its own demons, and built its own wonders to be shared by all. The heroes vanished, but their influence remained, to be called upon by those who knew how.

But those of great strength of will and a desire for justice would always rise, and in time a new model of hero was created. Balancing the normal with the mundane, they lived in the new world while fighting surprisingly well-animated battles with the old, and got up the next day and did it all again. In Japan, the Magical Girl burst forth onto the scene of legends, accompanied by like a million sparkles and some tactically obscuring light beams during the awkward bits of their transformation scenes.

This was mostly the fault of two horrible, horrible magical sticks, but we'll get to them later.

The Magical Girl's struggles reaffirmed the power of friendship and the importance of relying on those around you, as well as a host of other family-friendly messages suitable to market to a young audience, and where these heroes went, disaster on a literal and emotional level was averted.

For whatever reason, these new heroes were all very, very gay preteen girls, but we shouldn't ask any further about that.

This story isn't about them either, and in fact doesn't even take place in the same world, but this is all very important setup and I hope you didn't skip any of it.

Our story begins as so many others do. Stop me if you've heard this one before – an ordinary Japanese teenager has an encounter with something strange and magical, probably involving an attractive female lead and a cute mascot of some description, and falls headfirst into a world of adventure. I know, right, how unoriginal is that? Why don't I just go ahead and make him inexplicably magnetic towards the opposite sex as well, just to make him as good a wish-fulfilment blank slate as possible?

Well, look, I've already turned most of you off by talking about the grade-school lesbians, so if you're still here I can only assume you're interested in where all this is heading, so let's forget all about how derivative this story is (and it really is so derivative) and meet our main character.

I think you'll like him! He's very likable, in a vanilla, generic sort of way.

Cast your minds back, dear readers, into the distant past of 2016, and prepare for…


THE THRILLING ADVENTURES OF KALEIDO GARNET

Chapter 1 – In which Fujimaru Ritsuka nails an interview


The black cab sped away, and left Fujimaru Ritsuka standing outside in the rain.

He had been in London for a week now, and it had rained every single day. He was getting a bit tired of it, to be honest, and while that should have meant, proverbially, that he was getting tired of life, he thought he could be forgiven on this one.

His phone told him it was 14:56, which meant he only had to stand around getting wet for four minutes. He checked his messages again.

Hello, this is Fujimaru Ritsuka – is the Croydon flat you put up still available?

yeh m8 will do home viewing 3 on Thur if interested

u and 1 other

need to move out b4 cops find me lol

4 real tho plz take the flat bro

There was an address included, and if The Knowledge of the taxi driver was worth anything, then this should be the place.

Ritsuka looked around, taking in the street and trying to picture himself living there. It didn't exactly look the best in the rain. The flat was right on a main street, with the main door opening straight onto the pavement – there wasn't a garden, but there were some picturesque weeds growing up through the concrete slabs. The door was right in between a Polish supermarket and a betting shop, so Ritsuka's two favourite hobbies of gambling his allowance on horses and spending the winnings on interesting varieties of sausage were good to go.

On the other hand, beggars couldn't be choosers, so neither Ritsuka nor the gentleman with a dog and cardboard sign down the road were in much a position to complain.

He sighed, and tried to put a brighter face on things. It wasn't that bad, really. The main thing was, he was here, by himself, doing something with his life. That London hadn't quite lived up to his expectations was, well, only to be expected. The plain fact was, he needed somewhere to live. He could learn to like Croydon.

He checked his phone again. One minute to three. He checked himself over, and tried to look trustworthy and rentable-to, and not at all like he was going to throw a wild party and wreck the place.

He wasn't against wild parties, but he certainly didn't want to spook the landlord. Besides, he didn't really know anyone in London, so he was basically limited to as wild as he could get all by himself.

Ritsuka heard running feet, and looked round just as a girl skidded to a stop in front of the door.

She wasn't exactly dressed for exercise – a black dress with a red tie, tights, brown flats, and a white hoodie thrown over it all. The messenger bag she carried couldn't have helped either.

"Safe…" she panted. "Thank goodness…" She leaned over and put her hand on the wall, face flushed and lavender hair falling around her face.

Ritsuka fished inside his own bag. "Here," he said, holding out a bottle of water.

"Oh! Thank you," said the girl, accepting it and taking a swig. "I was sure I was going to be late for the viewing, so I had to run… but I guess since you're here it's OK?"

Ritsuka smiled. "Guess it is. You… know there are things called taxis that can help you get where you're going, right?"

"Ah, yes," the girl said, "but, erm, it's really expensive from where I work, and you miss out on so many interesting things along the way, so I prefer to walk..."

"Or charge around at full speed, apparently!" Ritsuka grinned.

The girl giggled, then flushed and fiddled with her glasses, and Ritsuka took pity on her.

"Hey, I'm not judging. Nothing wrong with wanting to get out and see the world. That's why I'm here, after all." He stuck out his hand. "Fujimaru Ritsuka – or, I guess, Ritsuka Fujimaru if we're putting it Western-style, and why would we not?"

The girl smiled, and took his hand. "Mash Kyrielight. Um, Kyrielight Mash if we're putting it Japanese-style, although I don't know why we would." She fidgeted. "You're… Japanese? What are you doing in London? Are you studying here?"

"Not really…" Ritsuka said. "I'm here because… oh, forget about it, it's stupid."

"I'm sure it's not," Mash protested, hands clasped at her chest. "I'd love to hear what brought you so far from home. Is it family? For work?" Her cheeks reddened. "Is… is there a girl?"

Ritsuka's smile froze. Of all the things to ask… "N-no…" he managed. "There's no girl." No one girl, at any rate.

Look, it wasn't his fault, okay? He honestly didn't know what he did. He was just friendly, and liked to make people laugh, and liked to help people out where he could. That was the bare minimum of being a functional member of society, wasn't it? So he was good at getting along with people. That didn't mean he was trying to set up some kind of harem, or anything.

It was just, no-one had told his harem that.

Well, harem was putting it strongly. Ritsuka had a lot of friends, and he treasured each and every one of them. Sometimes, these friends were girls, and sometimes, these girls wanted a little more than he was willing to commit. Sometimes, these girls did things like show up at his house uninvited at strange hours and give him creepy dolls woven of their own hair.

But the less said about his life back in Japan, the better, and Mash did not need to learn what a yandere was today. He was here now, in England, where girls were reserved and refined and wouldn't just throw themselves at him because he spent five minutes in their company.

Relying on a cultural stereotype for prudishness wasn't exactly the best reason for a move round the world, but there were worse. Probably. Like, he hadn't just seen a recruitment flyer and signed his life away to an unknown organisation for unknown purposes, to take a totally random if oddly specific example.

Mash seemed to pick up on his discomfort. "Um, I'm sorry, that was a strange thing to ask. So why then?"

"Well, you know, I just really wanted to travel," he said. "To see the world, get out and live on my own and prove to myself that I could support myself. I guess you could say I like the challenge. Japan wasn't really doing it for me, so I decided to come somewhere totally different. But, you know, somewhere that spoke English. I did sorta okay at that in school, but never took any other languages, so…" He laughed, putting a hand behind his head.

Honestly, that was all there was to it. He'd decided to cut ties – there was nothing keeping him in Japan, and no reason to stay. He could have studied, gone to university or gotten a corporate job somewhere, but the wide world had been calling and he'd just gotten a reason to leave his home country.

He was young to be doing it, but a lot of people travelled. It wasn't really anything special.

Mash didn't seem to agree.

"You're here all by yourself, learning to stand on your own two feet… that's really impressive!" Her purple eyes sparkled. "I've always been bad at doing things for myself, and yet you've come to the other side of the world to build a life. I guess I have a lot to learn about being a human after all…"

Being a human? What an odd turn of phrase. "Well, you know, it's not like I'm an expert in how to adult," Ritsuka said. "I like to think I do okay, though."

"No, it's amazing!" Mash said. "It's very, erm, admirable, or something… you're someone to look up to. I guess, in Japanese terms, you'd be my senpai?"

Ritsuka tilted his head. "That's… not how that word works. It's meant to be for people within the same organisation, like work or school…"

"No, I remember hearing about it. I've never been confident in dealing with the world, but you're exactly the kind of person I always wished I could be. You're like my senpai in humanity!"

"That's… no, it doesn't work that way…"

"Nonsense, senpai!"

"I think whoever told you about it might have gotten you confused…"

"Senpai!"

It was very flattering, but Ritsuka really did think she was making too much of it. Before he could say anything, though, the door opened.

"Oh! Hey," said a nondescript dude. "Here for the flat viewing?"

Ritsuka and Mash both nodded.

"Awesome. Look, you're really doing me a solid here, cause I gotta be out of this city in like a week or else… uh, never mind. There's nothing wrong with the place, though, for real. Perfect for couples."

"Oh, we're not a couple," said Ritsuka quickly. Mash nodded in agreement.

"No big, place is perfect for two singles as well. Come on in, and don't mind the smell, I got lemon juice for days to get rid of that and none of the stash is left in any case…"

Ritsuka followed the outgoing tenant and Mash inside. It still bothered him, though.

Just who was Mash using as role models if he was the best one she'd come across?


The flat was… well, it was about what Ritsuka had expected, really. A two-bedroom affair, with a shared living room/dining/room/kitchen combo, but two bathrooms. It wasn't the Ritz, but it was cheap, and available.

And Ritsuka loved things that were cheap and available.

Unfortunately, it wasn't that cheap, because the Elder God that lived under London demanded payment in the blood, sweat and tears of those who foolishly sought to rent above it. Ritsuka's budget could just about stretch to a thousand pounds per month – the current tenant's contract with the landlord was about fifteen hundred.

On the bright side, he was willing to handle all the changeover fees himself, and even leave all his furnishings. He hadn't specified why he needed to leave in such a hurry, and Ritsuka wasn't about to ask. Mash was either being similarly tactful, or just didn't realise how shady the whole thing was, but either way she hadn't brought it up either.

Given how she'd managed to compliment their host on 'such an interesting vase, with the pipe coming out of it like that!' with an entirely straight face, he was betting on the second one.

In any case, since they were just taking over the contract, the downside was that he absolutely couldn't renegotiate the price. It was fifteen hundred, or nothing.

In less than half an hour, Ritsuka and Mash were back out on the street, getting wetter by the minute but with a lot to think about. Ritsuka spoke up first.

"So, what did you think?" he said.

Mash chewed her lip, deep in thought. "Well, I wouldn't be able to afford it by myself, our expenses budget doesn't cover that much…"

"Expenses?"

Mash started. "Ah! Um, the flat sort of comes with rent covered by my job, but my boss says she can't free up a lot of funds, so…"

A job where they covered your rent? It sounded too good to be true, but Ritsuka wasn't about to pry.

He looked again at the girl, muttering to herself as she tried to work out her options. She'd seemed friendly and polite so far. She was even about his age – it was a bit strange that two young teenagers would be looking for a place at the same time, but weirder things happened every day, Ritsuka supposed.

And, hey. When had Ritsuka ever met someone he couldn't get along with?

He made the decision.

"Well – I can't quite cover all of it myself either," he said. "It might be a bit forward of me, but… want to be flatmates, Mash?"


In many ways, Mash was the perfect person to live with.

She was clean and tidy, and very conscientious about things like washing up dishes and sorting laundry. Although putting two teenagers of the opposite sex together in a flat was bound to lead to a certain amount of awkwardness, around showers if nothing else, she didn't seem either brazenly uncaring of the implications or inclined to make it a big thing. She was quiet, and while she didn't go out of her way to avoid Ritsuka seemed inclined to give him his space.

In fact, she was out of the flat for most of the day, at her job. She'd never actually said what she did – and, after a week of living with her, it was just reaching the point where it'd be really awkward to ask now.

Whatever it was, she scampered out the door early most mornings, dressed in some combination of a dark dress and that hoodie, and always carrying that messenger bag. It didn't look like any uniform he'd ever seen, and he wondered whether she had something she changed into wherever it was she worked or if her boss was just very lenient on the dress code. Some new techy company that thought it was hip and cool? A modelling agency that provided her clothes?

Probably not that. Mash was cute, but not the kind of glamorous, cool beauty that Ritsuka usually associated with models – and in any case, she'd probably self-destruct out of embarrassment if forced into a job where people had to look at her.

She was friendly enough to Ritsuka, but he'd never met anyone so shy and uncertain in public. He knew she must have at least some kind of social nous, because, well, she actually had a job while he was still stuck looking for one.

And he did occasionally hear her talking in her room – presumably on the phone. She seemed to be good friends with this Sapphire person, whoever they were, so good for her. Ritsuka hadn't asked to be introduced, because Mash had seemed a little cagey about the subject when he brought it up. It was fine, though! Anyone Mash could get along with would surely be alright with Ritsuka.

He'd mentioned, pointedly, that he was totally fine with Mash bringing her friends over to the flat, but Mash had just stared at him blankly as if she had no idea what he was talking about, and eventually Ritsuka had just given up.

Anyway. It was a good thing Mash was so easy-going, because Ritsuka was having enough trouble all by himself.

The job market in London, in 2016 was… well, for a sixteen-year-old kid from Japan there basically wasn't one. This was in no way for lack of trying, and in no way because Ritsuka was too good to take any job he was offered. Construction, garbage removal, janitorial staff, he was happy to take anything, and he'd trawled the internet looking on site after site for any openings.

He was spending his nine-to-five at the local library, either online or printing out resumes to physically hand out to anywhere that would let him through the front door. When he wasn't doing that, he was pounding the pavement, speaking to manager after manager in the hopes that one would give him a shot.

No, I'm afraid we're after someone with more experience, said the café, with an understanding tone.

No, sorry, you need to have at least these qualifications, said the roofing firm, dismissively.

No, but we'll keep your resumé on file, said the bookshop, blatantly lying to his face.

Still, he hadn't lost his youthful optimism, and remained the same friendly and optimistic soul he had been when he arrived in the country.

"Resumé on file, my ass," he muttered, entering his flat after another hard day of… well, not work, but, like, pre-work? "I'll resumé my fist upside your face, manager man…"

"Welcome back, senpai!" came Mash's voice from the living room. Despite his bad mood, Ritsuka smiled. It was nice to have something to come back to – made the place really feel like home.

And no, Mash utterly refused to call him anything but 'senpai'. It was okay. As Japanese affectations went, there were far worse things she could be doing.

"Hi, Mash," he said, dropping his coat off in the hall and making his way inside. "How was your day?"

Her face lit up. "It was good, thank you!" she said. "It looks like I'll be pretty busy soon. My, um, project at work is very close to being allowed to move forward."

"Oh, that's great!" Ritsuka knew nothing about Mash's job, but he knew a lot about being a good friend, and friends took an interest in each other's lives when they were shared freely. Besides, this was his chance to find out more about what it was his flatmate did all day. He sat down on the sofa opposite her. "I'm happy it's going well for you. What exactly was stopping the project?"

Mash's smile froze on her face, and Ritsuka could see the gears turning as she tried to work out what to say, caught between an apparent need to keep a secret and her goody-two-shoes nature that refused to let her tell a lie. He stepped in before she fried a circuit.

"Hey, if it's secret, no need to tell me. I'm not trying to be nosy, I'm just curious."

"Ah, well… it is a secret. Sorry, senpai." She looked it too, all big eyes and trembling lip. Ritsuka felt like he'd kicked a puppy for putting her in this position. He waved a hand.

"No worries. I know it's hard being a secret agent for the British Government."

Mash giggled. "Senpai!"

"I don't hear you denying it…" Ritsuka chuckled, but then his face fell and he sighed. "Man, though, I wish I had a job I could refuse to tell you about."

"Oh, no, still no luck?" Mash clasped her hands under her chin, the picture of adorable concern. "I'm sure you'll find something soon! You're so, erm, worldly!"

Ritsuka smiled. "Thank you. I keep telling them that, but it looks like 'being from another country' isn't quite the employability trump card you'd expect. But, you're right. I'm sure something will come up." His smile dropped. "I've only been searching for two weeks, after all. For nine hours every day. In every industry I can think of. With nothing to show for it… Mash, is it me? Is there something on my face that screams, 'don't employ this man'?"

Mash shook her head. "No, no, not at all, senpai! I think you look very, um, reliable…"

Ritsuka tried hard not to blush, because that would have totally ruined his image as someone 'very, um, reliable'. "You're a sweetheart, Mash. I don't think I tell you that enough. Thank you." He got up from the sofa. "Well, I'm going to eat something and go to bed. Another long day of failing to find work tomorrow…"

Later, lying in bed, he heard Mash's voice from the next room. She must have been talking to her friend again – and, although he wasn't trying to listen in, he couldn't help but overhear a couple of phrases.

"… want to at least give him a try… think the Director will agree? …okay. For senpai."

Ritsuka mulled it over, in that half-awake way people did late at night before they went to sleep, but decided not to worry about it. He rolled over, and was dead to the world.


The next morning, Ritsuka was woken by a knock on his bedroom door.

"Whuh?"

"Senpai, it's me," came a voice from the other side. "Mash."

Well, obviously. Who else ever called him senpai? Who else even had a key to the flat?

Ritsuka struggled his way to sitting upright, rubbing his eyes. "Mnnn… I know, Mash. Come in if you want, I'm good."

"Please excuse me, then…"

The door opened and Mash came in, wearing her usual hoodie and a big beaming smile. "Good morning senpai! I wanted to ask if you – hyah!" She shrieked and turned away, covering her eyes.

"Hm?" Ritsuka said, still a little groggy. His brain provided the appropriate dad joke on autopilot. "Well, I have been known to hyah every now and then. I haven't had a good proper hyah since coming to England, though, you just don't have the climate for it…"

"Senpai!" squeaked Mash, the tips of her ears a deep red. "Y-your clothes! You said you were good!"

"What?" Ritsuka looked down. He was wearing what he usually wore to bed, which was a plaid pair of pyjama bottoms and nothing else whatsoever. "I am good. I'm not naked, am I?"

"Please put something on…" said Mash.

"Fine, fine." Ritsuka pulled on an old t-shirt. "I'm good this time. For real."

"Uuu…" Mash turned around, face still flaming red. Ritsuka waited for her to say something, but she seemed to have forgotten why she came in. And her eyes kept on drifting downwards.

Ritsuka decided to hurry things along. "While this is a lovely surprise, what's the special occasion, Mash? What did you want to talk about?"

Mash seemed to realise she was still there. "Oh! Um, senpai, it might be a little rude of me, but… you're still looking for a job, aren't you?"

"I didn't manage to find one hiding inside my pillow, so, yes," Ritsuka said, wondering where Mash was going with this.

"Would you… maybe… be interested in working with me?" Mash shuffled her feet and peeked out at him from under her glasses shyly, like he was going to shout at her for daring to interfere in his great journey of self-discovery.

Ritsuka just stared. Of all the things he'd expected Mash to visit him in his room for, this was nowhere near on the list.

"I don't know what to say," he started. "I mean, can Japanese nationals even work at MI6?"

"Senpai!"

"I know. Sorry. This is all just very sudden, and sometimes I think I'm funny. I'm grateful, Mash, honest." He put a hand on his chin and thought about it.

On the positive side, it was a job – and the way things were going, he was never going to get one. Mash mentioned it was providing her rent for the flat, but even if that was something she'd negotiated herself, she didn't seem to be too hard up for money. She didn't seem to have strange hours or weird requirements that would put him off the job.

On the other hand, he knew literally nothing about what Mash did. He joked, but what if it was something illegal? Mash really didn't seem like the type of person to get involved with something like that, but people could have hidden sides, he guessed. With this, he could be doing anything.

But, well. If he stayed jobless for too long, the plain fact was he was going to have to move back to Japan, and the entire point of him moving and trying to make it on his own would be shot. He literally couldn't afford to ignore this opportunity.

And, hey, if it turned out he'd be working as a stripper or something, he could always just thank Mash and decline to take the job.

Okay, bad example, Ritsuka would make an awesome stripper.

But yes.

"I think I'd like that, Mash," he said.

Mash's face lit up. "You do? That's great, senpai! I know how important it is for you to do things by yourself…"

"Hey, I'm not worried about that. No man is an island, right? But, are you sure it's okay, Mash? I'm not making trouble for you or anything, am I?"

"No, no! I called the Director this morning and she said she'd be happy to give you a shot. Not everyone is, um, qualified to do the job, but she said you may as well come in and try. We can go in this afternoon for the interview?"

Well, heck. Why not?

Looked like he'd finally get to see where Mash went every day.


Mash, apparently, went to university every day. It wasn't any of the ones Ritsuka was familiar with, but it had to be one – the grand halls, the old brownstone buildings, the exhausted-looking students wandering around. It was exactly how Ritsuka had imagined a proper, old-school campus should look – walled off, in its own little bubble, with Mash waved through a gate emblazoned with the numeral VIII by a bored-looking security guard.

"Where are we?" he whispered to Mash. It was just a whispery kind of place, where the sheer age of the buildings swallowed all sound.

"The Clock Tower," whispered Mash back. "Or, well, the Astromancy Department, at least. The main building is elsewhere…"

"The what?"

She didn't reply, but led him into the grandest and oldest-looking building in the centre of the campus.

Inside, it was all wood panelling, soft carpet, and strange carvings, all lit by the afternoon sun filtered through dusty old glass windows. It wasn't an unpleasant atmosphere, but it was a little intimidating. Mash didn't seem to mind it, and made her way through the halls. Ritsuka had tried to keep a sense of direction, but it was one of those old buildings built before people had invented symmetry, and he'd quickly lost track.

There were more students going about their day inside. Some of them gave strange looks to Mash and Ritsuka. He supposed they didn't quite fit in. For a start, their fashion sense was about fifty years ahead of pretty much anyone else – in her dress and hoodie, and her messenger bag, Mash looked quite normal in London, but she stood out here.

Eventually, they stopped before an expensive-looking door. The plate on it read 'Olga Marie Animusphere – Astromancy Faculty, Department Head'. Below, there was a laminated sheet, stuck on with tape, that read 'Director, Chaldea Security Organisation'.

Mash's boss? Ritsuka hadn't known she was quite that highly-placed.

Mash knocked on the door, and a stern female voice replied. "Enter."

They entered an office, that looked like it was trying to be the grandest and oldest thing in a very grand and old building. Bookshelves lined the wood-panelled walls, an ornate chandelier dangled from the high ceiling, and the room was dominated by an enormous desk, behind which a decidedly not grand and old woman sat.

Well, she was a little grand. She was dressed in some black and orange formal affair, with gold ornamentation on the sleeves and collar, and her hair was done up in an elegant braid at the side. However, despite how white her hair was, she wasn't old at all.

Presumably, this was Olga Marie Animusphere. She looked young to be a department head of an entire faculty, but then Ritsuka had never even gone to university, so what did he know?

No time to dwell on that. This was an interview! Sort of! He had to make a good first impression!

"So, this is the boy you keep on talking about, Mash. Hm." She examined Ritsuka from head to toe. "And how are you this afternoon?"

"Goal-oriented, thank you," said Ritsuka.

Nailed it!

Olga Marie was silent for five full seconds.

After a moment, Ritsuka plastered a big smile on his face to show that he was a positive personality.

He wasn't panicking!

Olga Marie sighed, looking very tired indeed. "Just… just fetch the horrible thing out of its box, Mash. Let's get this over with." She looked at Ritsuka. "Do you know why you're here?"

Ritsuka nodded, thoughtfully. "I would say my biggest weakness is probably the way I don't listen to people asking me questions."

"Senpai, you're not helping!"

While Ritsuka was crushing his interview, Mash had hauled an old wooden chest out of a closet – and while it was old, it also looked incredibly sturdy. It looked like the kind of thing you'd expect to see filled with gold and jewels in a videogame.

It was also chained shut, locked with a comically enormous padlock. Someone really did not want whatever was inside being stolen.

Or whatever was inside getting out…

Mash finally unlocked it, and opened the lid. Then she stood back. Very far back. On the other side of the room, in fact.

Ritsuka wondered what the point of it all was, but he didn't turn his head to look. Eye contact was important in interviews, and so far he hadn't blinked at all or stopped leering into Olga Marie's eyes. That meant he was winning, probably.

"Thank you, Mash," said Olga Marie. "Mr Fujimaru – is there something on my face?"

Ritsuka shook his head, slowly, so as not to lose eye contact.

"… I see. In any case, please prick your thumb and pick up the item in the box."

… well, that was an odd test. But, well, this was technically the furthest Ritsuka had gotten, and he wasn't about to stop now.

He made his way over to the box, and looked inside. It contained… a magic wand? A child's magic wand, pink and gold, with a ring containing a five-pointed star flanked by six wings. There was also a small knife – probably for pricking himself with. He prodded at his thumb with it until he broke the skin.

He looked back at Olga Marie, and saw she'd joined Mash by the far wall.

With a certain amount of trepidation, he reached down and closed his fingers around the shaft of the wand.

Nothing happened.

"Is that it?" he said. "What should I do n-"

And then, without warning, his clothes exploded. A blinding swirl of pink light appeared all around him, and a voice came from nowhere, accompanied by triumphal music and sparkly visual effects.

"Hahahaha! Oh, yes! He's perfect, I'll take him!"it squealed. "I've never seen such protagonist potential!"

The pink light solidified into equally pink cloth, and when it cleared, Rituska found himself standing in Olga Marie's office, dressed in… he didn't really want to think about it.

At the far wall, Mash and Olga Marie wore matching expressions of bewilderment.

"What just happened?" he asked.

In answer, the wand jerked itself out of his hand and hovered in front of him.

"You just became this world's first Magical Boy, that's what happened! I'm Magical Ruby, and you…" it chuckled darkly.

"You're my new project."