Princess Holy Aura – Chapter 07
Steve had to admit there was a vast satisfaction in seeing the patrician features of Varatraine nee Silvertail go slack-jawed with shock. “Er . . . I beg your pardon?”
I need something to keep my mind off the other issues. This conversation hasn’t fixed them, just . . . temporarily reduced my panic mode. “You haven’t thought this part through, Silvertail. Oh, if it’s easier for you, you can pop back to your rat form.”
“How . . . kind. What do you mean, I have not thought this through? I have spent a great deal of time thinking of this approach, rather than the prior one.”
“In your prior approach, your girls all had parents or guardians, I’m betting. Me, though — your Holy Aura is being created out of nothing, or at least nothing you ever want to admit to the school administration. Assuming they’d believe you. A fourteen-year-old girl is not an independent adult in this culture. She’s expected to have parents or at least a guardian who registers her, looks out for her welfare, tracks whether she’s doing her homework, and generally has responsibility for her.”
Varatraine blinked, then closed his eyes as though he had a headache. “Ah. I see. You do have a point, Stephen.”
“Like they say on TV, but wait, there’s more! Where we are right now? Not in Whitney High’s school district. You have to get almost over to DIY Home’s little mall before you cross into that district. And my hours working at Barron’s Bagels, they overlap with school hours. Now, we’re lucky at the moment — school’s about to let out for the summer this week, so we don’t have to solve these problems this very minute — but the way I see it, you’re going to have to help me solve at least three problems: being Holy Aura’s parent, getting an apartment or even a house that’s in the Fullertown district, and figuring out how we’re going to live there when I won’t be able to keep working at Barron’s.”
Another thought occurred to him. “Oh, and we’ll have to figure out how to do all the documentation. Which means we need a name for me . . . or her . . . other than Holy Aura and we’ll need a social security number and, well, a lot of other stuff.”
Varatraine had slowly opened his eyes as Steve continued his narration. Once Steve stopped, Varatraine nodded slowly. “You are correct, Stephen Russ. There is indeed more to do than I had thought. To your latter problem . . . can you show me, or find me, examples of the needed documentation?”
“Ummm . . . Probably. I’ll have to check on things like dates and form changes. Like, my social security card was issued when I was born thirty-five years ago, and I’d bet that the cards didn’t stay the same up until fourteen years back, so you couldn’t use a duplicate of mine. Plus they’ll probably check background . . .” It started to become clear to him that this could be a major problem. Holy Aura, or whatever name we end up using, never existed before. We have to fake up her name, probably birth records, and prior school records, employment records and stuff for Varatraine or whatever his name will be . . . “And even if we get past that, I just realized that I won’t really be able to work at all. If Holy Aura’s going to actually make friends, she’ll have to meet up with them outside of school, hang out, really get to know them. Plus actually do her homework and stuff. Yeah, that will probably be easier since I’ve already done the whole high-school thing, but I’ll bet they’ve changed even the curriculum stuff since I was there.”
Varatraine shimmered and turned back to the white rat. “I find that I do need to stay in this form more,” Silvertail said in a peeved tone. “I will need to weave the transformation spells carefully to permit longer-term stability. A considerable annoyance.”
He looked up at Steve, a tiny white face with a far-too-wise expression. “However, I believe I can put your other immediate concerns to rest. As you have seen, I still have some significant magic at my disposal. In terms of raw power, of course, it does not in any way rival that of Princess Holy Aura or any of our likely adversaries. However, given my rather extended age, I believe I can claim to be more skilled with magic than any other mortal being has ever achieved, and one can often substitute skill for power; moreover, most mortal problems are better solved through subtlety and caution than through the application of a sledgehammer of power.
“If I understand correctly, in this era as in others, money is a powerful lever.”
“Is it ever,” Steve said with feeling. “Especially for those of us without it.”
“Very well. I can give us access to very significant funds quite easily.”
“What? You can . . . what, summon cash or something?” Steve was somewhat ashamed at how eager he felt at the thought. I have a cosmic mission and here I am thinking that I could maybe afford to have a nice roast chicken for dinner.
Silvertail laughed. “Not so outrÃ© a power, no, something rather more mundane. I have been around since the beginning, and over the many, many centuries I have accumulated a little wealth here, a little there, each time the cycle repeated, before I had to return to my small form and remain that way. With practice I have become most proficient at assuring the resources are available in various locations. Just a few touches of magic to assure, shall we say, proper provenance of the resources, and money will cease to be an issue. This will, of course, solve both the problem of your employment and that of where you shall stay.”
“That . . . yeah, if by ‘cease to be an issue’ you mean we can live in decent style, yeah, that solves those problems. But –”
“Yes, the bona fides for both Holy Aura and myself as ‘Dad’ will require some thinking.” Silvertail twitched his ears and somehow managed a grin. “And while I admit to being . . . taken unawares by the suggestion, I confess I can think of no better way to provide your civilian self with a proper guardian.
“Still, once I fully understand the requirements of documentation, I believe that I can establish background credentials of sufficient solidity, and then we can do whatever the appropriate registration activity is in the proper, mundane manner. This should suffice for a year, which is the longest I can see this having to hold.”
Steve couldn’t help but grin. “So you can just . . . magic the documentation into existence that shows, oh, I was born in 2001 in Nebraska or something, and moved around until I got here?”
“I certainly believe I can. The great advantage of papers and, once understood, electronics is that it takes very little energy to modify them. If your documentation had to be carved into giant stone tablets we could have a serious issue, but for this? I am reasonably confident — if you can guide me in determining all of the factors that must be addressed, including the appropriate seals, signatures, forms, and so on.”
Wow. “Lucky you’re on the side of the good guys. Being able to magically forge documents would be power with major potential for abuse.”
“In my era, there had to be significant security magic enacted to prevent exactly that, so yes, I am very familiar with the potential implications of that use of my power. In this case, though, I do not see any moral issues; while the identifications and records will be placed retroactively, they will not be used for nefarious purposes, merely to allow you to enter the school for a mission that will save the entire world.”
“Yeah, I guess I can give us a pass on that.” Steve glanced hesitantly down at him. “How long would it take to deal with the money side of the equation?”
“A few days, no more. As I said, the wealth involved is quite real, I merely need to arrange access to it. Why?” Before Steve could answer, Silvertail shook his own head. “A foolish question. You are in economic distress already and this concern will not assist you in focusing on the problems at hand. I will address this issue as quickly as I can, Stephen. And that will not be long, even as you think of things.”
“So . . . my savings . . . ?”
Silvertail did not laugh; his tiny face showed great sympathy. “Stephen, for all you are sacrificing I will not begrudge replenishing — indeed, increasing vastly — your own resources. As I said, if we succeed, you shall find yourself improving your position. If we do not . . . I see no reason to force you to live in less than pleasant circumstances.”
“Thanks.” The little rodent-who-wasn’t really did seem to be a decent guy.
But I don’t want to be played for a sucker either, so . . . “A couple other questions, Silvertail.”
The tiny head tilted, whiskers twitching. “Your tone is serious. Go ahead, then.”
“It might be a little late, but . . . I want to know if there’s any catches in this arrangement you haven’t told me.”
“Yeah. You mentioned you know the memes — that you promoted the mahou shoujo memes. So you also have to know how some of those things don’t go so well for the girls. Sure, the outline’s usually the same, whether it’s Sailor Moon, Dynamic Avatar Akane, Zenkai Millennium Symmetry, or Madoka Magica: Girl gets chosen to fight evil of some kind and gets a neat new outfit and shiny new powers, usually has a cute sidekick, and usually gets one or more companions along the way, yada yada. BUT the details vary — and they can be a real screw-fest for the poor girl in the middle. Like, turns out the girl’s destiny is to be sacrificed at the end of the show, or that she’ll end up turning into one of the monsters, or she’s sold her soul as part of the contract and will burn up at the end, et cetera.”
“Stephen, I — ”
“Hold on. I just want to make it clear I want to know all of the ‘provisos and quid pro quos.’ I know I’m committed to the course — I can feel it, really, if I think about it, and that still scares the hell out of me. But if there’s any more surprises, I want to know them now, even if you’re really the bad guy. I’d rather just deal with the betrayal up front.”
Silvertail did laugh then, long and loud. “Stephen Russ, isn’t this something you should have asked before?”
“Yeah, probably. So?”
The silvery rat stood on his hind legs and gave a very humanlike shrug. “Stephen, if I were the ‘bad guy,’ do you think I’d just tell you like that?”
“Might, since you’ve already got me suckered. But sure, you could still lie, I guess.”
“I could. But I will not. Stephen, I have to admit that I probably won’t think of all of the . . . ‘gotchas,’ so to speak, in this most unique situation. But I will tell you the remaining . . . well, not traps or tricks, but key aspects of the situation as they may pertain to you.”
“Better than nothing, anyway.”
“First . . . no, I am in no way the ‘bad guy,’ at least as you and I would view it. I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but the mission I have for you, and the others, is exactly as I told you. It is not in my plans, and certainly would in no way please me, for any of you to meet an untimely end during the final, or any other, battle. It is my most fervent hope that you will all succeed and emerge alive from the conflict, and I believe that all of you can; your predecessors mostly did, and all of them did succeed — obviously — in the main mission.
“Our enemies, of course, are aware of my existence, although they cannot trace me directly. They will be preparing a response to your presence. That, too, will be affected by the zeitgeist, the memes of your era.”
“So I can expect not just monsters but demon generals, dark magical girls, something like that?”
“Something of the sort. Exactly what I cannot predict, but there will definitely be coordinated assaults as well as random perils.” He twitched his whiskers. “Each of the Apocalypse Maidens will have their own . . . psychological issues. Overcoming adversity — sacrifice, in other words — is as much a part of their existence and power as it is yours. We already know much of your challenge, and undoubtedly there are aspects of that which we have yet to understand.”
“But my new friends are also going to have some kind of baggage they have to deal with.” Steve sighed, but that didn’t actually bother him as much. Helping kids deal with their issues, well, I’ve done that before. This’ll be a lot different, but I actually like helping people work out their problems. “I can live with that.”
“Good. The power of our adversaries will of course increase as we get closer to the time when Azathoth Nine-Armed manifests. I will get a better idea of when that time will be after a few months.” He looked down thoughtfully, then looked up. “I believe I mentioned this, but I should emphasize — any people killed directly by our adversaries will remain dead in the . . . repaired continuity. This makes it very important to fight efficiently and well; there truly are lives at stake in this world and the one we hope will exist.”
Steve nodded. That part didn’t make him happy, but it did, as Silvertail said, make this a lot less of a game, something with real stakes. He wasn’t just marking time until the Big Bad showed up, what he . . . well, she did was going to matter right from the start.
For the first time since the transformation, he felt himself smile with wonder. “My god, I really did turn into a superhero and beat the hell out of a monster, didn’t I?”
“You did indeed, Stephen Russ, and did so in a way . . . most uniquely your own.”
“What? You mean my catchphrase?”
Silvertail snorted. “Well, yes, there was that, but I meant in the more . . . direct approach you used. The Silverlight Weapon can channel the power of Holy Aura into a powerful attack. I admit I had underestimated just how powerful you are — I would not have expected a direct physical assault to work on a rock-worm of that size.”
“So I’ve got signature attacks too.”
“As you said, Stephen, the outline of the meme is very well known. But we will discuss these when next you are ready to transform. I think that can be left for another day.”
Something much more urgent suddenly occurred to him. “Oh, one more thing. How often can we expect attacks?”
“Initially, not very frequently. But once more than two or three of the Maidens have been gathered . . . once a week, on average.”
Well, of course. One episode a week. I should have guessed. “So I shouldn’t be needed in the next few days?”
“No, I would not think so.”
“And you’ll have money for me in the next few days?”
“Yes. I will promise you that much.”
Steve stretched, finally feeling one set of tensions slowly starting to fade away, replaced by a much more mundane and urgent demand. “All right, then — I’m going to order us some real food!”
The fact that high school is letting out is actually a disadvantage, in that it wastes three precious months. Does the high school have summer programs? If so, signing up for one might be a good idea. Of course, it could be that Holy Aura needs three months of training. However, there has to be something useful that can be done over the next three months.
They’ve touched on some of the issues that can be addressed in that three months. Later chapters will show you other things that are needed in those three months.