Based on "The Illustrator", by Abicion
Part 2: Rising Sun
"So all I have to do…" said Yayoi to the being that called itself Kyubey, "… is fight Witches, and I'll get my wish? That's it?"
That's it, said Kyubey. We can even make the contract now, if you'd like.
The blonde-haired girl was kneeling on the tile floor, entranced by this strange creature that seemed to have stepped out of an anime. He had hopped down from the windowsill, and was now sitting close enough to her to touch… she desperately wanted to pet those cute long ears of his, but some instinct held her back. What he was offering was incredible, a chance to live her secret fantasy: to be something, not just a powerless little crybaby that got harassed by other girls, but a superhero. A real superhero like Taiyoman, fighting monsters and protecting justice. And with a wish on top of that?
"I'll do it," whispered Yayoi, nodding her head. She wasn't exactly sure why she was whispering; the bathroom was empty apart from Kyubey and herself. "I don't know how good I'll be at fighting, but I'll do it." She took a deep breath. "I wish… I could make people respect my drawings."
Then it's agreed. The tips of Kyubey's long ears began to glow, lifting off the floor and reaching for her like fingers. Yayoi felt a rush of fear and excitement so finely intertwined that she couldn't separate one feeling from the other. The ear-tips stretched, sinking into pools of nothingness an inch from her body. Something inside her heaved, and a small gasp escaped her lips. Kyubey was withdrawing something from her, pulling it out of her body… Distantly, she felt a tearing, wrenching sensation, and she shuddered… but the moment she thought about it, it melted away. A bright glow emerged from the empty space in front of her chest, hovering there between Kyubey's ears…
The contract is complete, said Kyubey. Your wish has surpassed entropy.
The glow solidified, forming something solid that shone from within like a lantern, very small but warm and comforting, like her favorite night light from when she was a child. Yayoi reached for it even as a wave of sudden exhaustion swept over her, as she tilted backward, as her vision went black…
When she awoke, the catlike creature was sitting on her chest, holding something in his paws. She was lying flat on her back, looking up at the bathroom ceiling… it seemed oddly clear to her, sharpened and defined in a way she couldn't identify. Her lips moved… her voice was faint. "Kyu… bey…?"
Good, you're awake, he said, tilting his head to one side. Are you all right, Yayoi?
"Just felt… faint for a second," she muttered. She reached for the object in his paws… her hands felt oddly fuzzy, filled with ginger ale, like they had been asleep for some time. "What is that?"
The glowing object looked like a Fabergé egg, a bright yellow jewel in a golden setting, with a lightning bolt-shaped design at its crown. A serene smile spread across her face as she touched it, felt its warmth spread through her body. Golden yellow, just like me, she thought dimly. Aloud, she said, "What is it?"
This is your Soul Gem, the source of your power, said Kyubey. You must guard it carefully.
"I will." She nodded again. There was no way she would let it out of her sight… it was her link to the world she had always imagined, she would never let anything happen to it. Fascinated, she watched as it changed into a yellow streak of light that wrapped around the third finger of her left hand… it solidified into a silver ring inscribed with strange runes, and set with an amber stone. There was now a mark on her fingernail, identical to the lightning bolt from the top of the Soul Gem. "Now how do I-"
The distant sound of a clanging bell interrupted her. Her brown eyes grew wide with panic. "Oh no, this is terrible! I have to get to class, I'm gonna be late!" Clambering to her feet, she bowed hurriedly to Kyubey and retrieved her bag and sketchbook, then leaped for the door. "Please excuse me, Kyubey-san! I have to go!"
Kyubey followed her as she ran out into the hall. Yayoi, wait. You don't have to-
The hall monitor and a passing teacher stared at the little blonde girl that had just tripped over her own feet and fallen flat on her face, who was now sprawled and motionless on the floor.
- to rush, finished Kyubey as he padded up to her. I can stay with you, if you'd like. No one else will know.
"Th-thank you," she sniffled quietly, rising to her knees and rubbing at her sore nose with the sleeve of her cardigan. "I'd like that."
Kyubey heaved a mental sigh, though to himself so the girl wouldn't hear. What strange creatures humans could be.
It was even more difficult than usual for Yayoi to pay attention in class. Throughout the rest of the day's lessons, Kyubey sat in her lap and whispered to her, telling her how to use her powers, how to replenish them with Grief Seeds from defeated Witches, and what magic could be used for. A few times she almost answered him aloud before she caught herself, drawing a stare or two from her classmates; soon she learned to communicate with him using only her thoughts, and by the last period it was almost natural. She took no notes that day; her grades would probably suffer later for it, but she found she didn't care.
At the end of the day, for the first time in a long time she walked out of the school gates with a smile. There was a long-absent warmth in her heart, a tingling anticipation of an adventure about to begin. Already she was thinking of little Kyubey as her secret best friend, her guardian angel, her fairy godmother… she giggled to herself at that last thought. He would look kind of cute in a dress…
"Oi, Kise! What're you so happy about?"
She came crashing down to reality as Arisu, Hidariko, and Migiko stepped around a corner, their arms folded. Arisu seemed to find Yayoi smiling personally repugnant… her pretty face twisted into a scowl as she stomped forward. "Don't tell me you already forgot your lesson from this afternoon?"
Yayoi whimpered and clutched her schoolbag tight to her chest. Kyubey…! she thought at the little creature by her ankles.
It's all right, he said, his confidence bolstering hers slightly. We talked about this, remember? Just do exactly as we planned.
"You know," said Arisu, reaching into her bag, "I'm thinking maybe what we're trying to tell you isn't sinking into that thick head of yours, Kise. Maybe it's time to try something a little different."
"Get out your sketchbook," said Arisu, her voice dangerously soft, like poison wrapped in silk.
Yayoi's lip trembled. If this didn't work… "A-All right, Sato-san…"
Arisu made a fist, and her lackeys sniggered.
"Sato-sama! I'm sorry, I forgot…"
"That's better. Seems you're really forgetful today, huh, Kise?"
Yayoi didn't answer. Her hands trembling, she made a show of digging into her bag for her sketchbook. She felt the familiar rings of its binding, but that wasn't what she was searching for. Focusing with all her might, she directed her power into her ring, just as Kyubey had tought her. Hoping the flash of light would not be seen inside the bag, she felt it materialize at her fingertips. Her heart beat faster as she traced the embossed golden lettering on the cover... Just as she had imagined.
"Well, come on! We don't have all day!" Arisu's limited patience was growing thin.
"J-Just a minute, Sato-sama…" Shaking with a combination of nerves and anticipation, she withdrew the new sketchbook, the special one she had crafted with her magic. It looked rather like an old storybook, with a handsome leather cover and binding, her name inscribed on the front in strange runic script that she couldn't read yet, the letters shining gold. The spine creaked excitingly as she opened it for the first time, and she shivered, inhaling the scent of fresh, clean paper. Yayoi loved opening a new sketchbook for the first time; a ream of pristine white pages always promised new ideas, new possibilities… and this particular book held far more than most.
Arisu snatched it out of her hand before she could finish savoring the moment. Idly she flipped through the pages, frowning in confusion. "The hell's this? Did you get a new one, Kise? It's all blank!"
Yayoi swallowed. "Y-Yes, Sato-sama."
Hidariko and Migiko slouched up behind their leader, wearing identical frowns. "You think this is funny?" growled Arisu, brandishing the book as if she meant to hit Yayoi with it for her impudence. "Is this your idea of a joke? Or do you think you'd just too clever for us, giving us a blank book?"
"Maybe she thinks we're too dumb to notice, aniki," said Migiko.
"Yeah, well guess what?" Arisu's lips curled into an ugly sneer. "You think we're just gonna let you off easy for this, you've got another thing coming. We'll get rid of this book first, then your other one… then maybe teach you a couple more lessons for being smart with me." Her free hand pulled something from her schoolbag… a tarnished silver cigarette lighter. With practiced ease she flipped it open one-handed and spun the wheel, igniting a spark, and then a flame…
Hardly believing her own boldness in the face of this new aggression, Yayoi reached up and touched the sketchbook's leather cover with her left hand. Screwing her eyes shut, she concentrated hard, sending her mental command to the book, along with a desperate prayer: Please, let this work.
"Wha-" Her action caught Arisu completely by surprise. Her hand released its grip on the lighter in her shock, and it began to fall. The book was opening in her hand, by itself… "What are you-"
There was a flash of amber light, a clap of displaced air, a sudden breeze that ruffled Yayoi's blonde curls. Arisu, Hidariko, and Migiko were there one instant, and simply gone the next. Not a trace of them was left, except for the lighter already falling to the sidewalk, its flame extinguished. Yayoi fumbled, trying to catch the book, but it slipped between her fingers and fell open on the pavement, wisps of smoke rising from it…
Its pages were blank no longer. On the left-hand page was a pen-and-ink Arisu Sato, drawn in Yayoi's manga style, still with an expression of disbelief on her pretty face. Hidariko and Migiko shared a page on the right, equally stupefied.
Yayoi could feel nothing but the pounding of her heart in her breast. It worked, she thought numbly. It actually worked. I can't believe it…
Of course it worked, thought Kyubey with just a touch of pride. I granted your wish. This was what you designed the book to do, after all, and real magic always works.
Trembling more than ever, Yayoi knelt and picked up the book, holding it tight… as her fingers touched the paper, the pen drawings of the three girls began to move. She watched, fascinated, as Arisu blinked, looked back and forth at the white void she was trapped in, and opened her mouth to speak… Just like in a manga, a speech bubble appeared next to her, drawn as if by an invisible pen, and neat little ink kana printed: "What the hell? What happened? Hidariko? Migiko? Kise…?" Yayoi even heard her voice in the back of her mind, but faintly, as if from far away.
On the other page, the two lackeys stared at each other, looked down at themselves, touched their hands and fingers to make sure they were all there… then they began to babble incoherently, their speech bubbles overlapping. Yayoi could hear their words as well, a tiny, irritating buzz of noise like flies might make… With but a thought, she tuned it out.
A bright, winning smile spread across her face as she clapped the book closed. She had done it, she had really done it. Arisu and her lackeys were powerless. As soon as she got home, Yayoi would teach them a lesson… and then they would never hurt her or anyone else again. Pressing the book to her chest, she gripped the strap of her schoolbag tightly as she ran for home, leaving the tarnished lighter lying abandoned on the walk. Unseen by anyone else, Kyubey ran after her.
Halfway home, the catlike creature halted in his tracks. Yayoi, wait. His face was unmoving as ever, but there was a note of caution in his voice.
Yayoi slowed to a stop, wobbling a bit on one heel. "Hmm? What's wrong?"
I feel something.
"You do? What is it?"
Darkness, said Kyubey ominously, making her shiver. I think it's time to fulfill your end of your contract.
"N-Now?" She stared at him incredulously. "This soon?"
I admit, it's slightly unusual for a Puella Magi to go into battle so soon after contracting, but there's no other choice. I don't feel any others nearby.
"Wait, you said 'others', does that mean-"
Yayoi, quickly. You need to find some place out of sight where you can transform.
"Oh! Right!" A quick glance revealed a narrow alleyway across the street. Scooping Kyubey into her arms, she ducked into it, pressing herself against the brick wall. Her heart fluttered with nervous excitement. "So I'm that kind of magical girl, huh… That's good, I don't know what I'd do if I had to make a costume myself."
Yes, I suppose that would be difficult. Summon your Soul Gem, said Kyubey, hopping down to street level.
Nodding, Yayoi focused her energy on her ring, just as she had to create the sketchbook. Appear, she thought… and she was barely finished thinking it when the ring unwound from her finger and changed into the warm, glowing, egg-shaped jewel, which fell into her open palm. "Now, do I have to say anything, or-"
The process began before she could finish the question. Yayoi gasped as her feet left the ground, and the Soul Gem shone with golden light that wrapped her in its embrace. Her body moving by itself, in a dance far more graceful than she could manage on her own, she felt her school uniform falling away. Before she could be concerned that someone could see her body, the girl felt new and unfamiliar clothes replacing her uniform, piece by piece. The Soul Gem transformed again, attaching itself to her hip, the light shrank away and faded…
Yayoi blinked and stumbled as it let her go. Her first thought was that her new costume was very yellow… yellow and frilly seemed to be the two defining elements. White, V-cut boots, a pleated yellow skirt with a white ruffle, a sort of yellow-and-white leotard or sleeveless overcoat with a big bow on the front, puffy shoulders, cuffs on her wrists… and the Soul Gem on her hip, now in the shape of a lightning bolt. She turned, trying to look back over her shoulder, and the weight of a much different hairstyle than she had had a moment ago moved with her… from what she could feel, she now had a very large, fan-shaped ponytail extending from a peak at the top of her head. Not exactly what she pictured as a battle outfit, but she supposed she wasn't cut out to wear armor like Taiyoman's, after all. "It's… really cute," she whispered, looking down at herself and taking stock. Her hands traveled to the bow on her front. There was a brooch there, golden and shining, but for some reason it looked oddly plain; the surface was smooth and blank, and she couldn't shake the bizarre feeling that there should be something there…
Yayoi? said Kyubey, startling her. She had almost forgotten he was there. Are you ready to go?
"Y-Yeah, I'm ready," said Yayoi, clenching her small fists. She could already feel power circulating through her, almost intoxicating… then she remembered, and faltered a bit. "Wait. Kyubey, what's my name? I can't just call myself 'Yayoi'…"
Kyubey paused at the entrance to the alley. I don't understand. Why would you need a different name? Don't you like your own?
"Well, yes, but… this is my secret-" She sighed. "Never mind, let's go. I'll think of something on the way." Her mind buzzed as she ran: Taiyogirl, Lady Taiyo, Goldizer, Sun Golden, Sunshine Sketch, Sun Yellow, Yellow Ranger… no, no, that won't work…
With Kyubey's help, the light of her Soul Gem led her to a small children's park, not too far from her home. Yayoi allowed herself to be amazed by the abilities of her transformed state: running all the way there didn't tire her in the least, and she easily cleared the fence surrounding the park with a spectacular vertical leap, touching down on the other side with a graceful, quiet thump instead of an embarrassing fall. Wasting no time, she followed her Gem's light like a beacon.
There were two figures ahead: one very tall and upright, the other much smaller and prone on the ground. As Yayoi approached them, something happened to the sky… Late afternoon turned into dead of night, with a huge full moon hanging overhead. That's not possible, it was only a crescent moon last night! It's gotta be him that's doing it…
Jabbing a finger at the taller figure, she shouted with as much volume as she could as she ground to a halt: "Hold it right… there?" Her voice petered out into a squeak, her finger wavered.
The first thing she saw was the teeth; they gleamed in the light of the full moon, dagger-shaped and pearly white, set in a long, pointed snout. Piercing blue eyes glared at her in a mixture of annoyance and amusement. The wolf-man turned around, brushing back a very long mane of white hair… he was dressed like a biker, all in black, with a sleeveless, high-collared shirt and silver-studded bands around his wrists and biceps. Leering at her, he put one hand on his hip. The other balanced an ominous-looking black book, wrapped in an aura of dark power.
That aura surrounded a second figure, a green-haired girl in some kind of bronze chain mail… details were hard to make out, as the aura was obscuring her features like fog. This girl was huddled in a fetal position on the dusty ground, rocking slightly back and forth, and Yayoi heard her moan…
"Another one?" said the wolf, his tone boisterous and rude. "Geez, what a pain. Wait your turn while I finish off this one… shouldn't take long."
Her concern for the other girl overrode Yayoi's fear. "Wh-what are you doing to her? Stop it right now!"
"What do you care, midget?" the wolf snorted with contempt. "It's none of your business. Who are you, anyway?"
"I'm…" Yayoi struck the first pose she could think of, raising her right arm at an angle and bringing her left up to her side, making a fist. She swallowed. Oh no, I didn't even think of a speech or anything! This isn't going well… There were several moments of awkward silence. "Well… I'm not exactly sure what my name is yet," she admitted shamefully, "but I'm gonna stop you anyway! Let that girl go!"
The wolf sighed and closed his book. "Look, kid, obviously you're new at this, so why don't you just-"
"Run," said another voice.
Both Yayoi and the wolf stared. The voice had come from the girl on the ground. She had pulled herself into a kneeling position, and had her hands clasped over her heart. Tears streamed down her face from her haunted eyes… she was staring at Yayoi. Her voice built into a scream. "Get away from him, before it's too late! RUN!"
Yayoi heard something shatter, and the other girl's scream grew wild, primal, echoing on far past the point where her voice should have faded out. Her body jerked backward spastically as something black rose from her heart, and she screamed even louder to the inexplicable night sky, her eyes staring sightlessly up at the full moon. There was something else in her voice now, an inhuman screech that grated up and down Yayoi's spine... A black whirlwind surrounded her as she slumped over, still howling, still staring. The whirlwind grew, and grew, and grew, snatching up the wolf, Yayoi, and Kyubey, just now coming up behind them. Clouds of fog blossomed in the park, obscuring it from sight… Yayoi's own scream and the startled cry of the wolf were swallowed by its depths.
END OF PART 2