Princess Holy Aura – Chapter 09

Chapter 9.

Steve looked around the huge furnished basement again, trying to distract himself from what he was about to do. “Dang, I still can’t believe we’re living in this place. Thousands of square feet, including this, what, cut-price Danger Room?”

“Call it a practice room or perhaps dojo,” Silvertail, who was now in the shape of ‘Trayne Owen’ — a tall, slender, distinguished looking gentleman with black hair touched with pure silver at the temples, lightly tanned. His eyes were brilliant blue, a startling contrast to the hair, and his voice was not the tenor that Steve generally associated with the mahou shoujo spirit advisors but a deep, warm bass. “Neither your technology nor my limited magic is up to creating a ‘danger room’ as you envision it. But making a room that is secure and reinforced enough to survive some abuse, that can be done.” He raised one dark eyebrow. “You seem particularly nervous, Steve. What is it today?”

“Kinda silly, I guess,” Steve answered, feeling embarrassment trying to well up. “I mean, I know I’m committed to the course, but what I’m about to do . . . it’s really sort of sealing it.”

“I admit to not seeing it that way, but your perceptions are your own. However, is there any point in delaying?”

“No . . . guess not.” He swallowed, grasped the Star Nebula Brooch, and focused on the need to protect people — his friends, family, those who could not defend themselves. “To avert the Apocalypse, and shield the innocent from evil, and stand against the powers of destruction, I offer myself as wielder and weapon, as symbol and sword! Mistress of the spirit, ruler of the stars beyond, Mystic Galaxy Defender, Princess Holy Aura!”

Once more the echoing words called forth argent luminance that erased him in a chime of victory and renewal, rebuilt that which had been and would ever be in tingling silver sunshine, formed into a girl slender and strong as steel. She opened her eyes, already in the battle pose that she knew was the ending of the transformation. “Wow,” she said. “I mean . . . I did this before, but I was so scared, angry, confused . . . I couldn’t see it, feel it like that. Was it so . . . beautiful before?”

“It is always beautiful, more beautiful each time than the last,” Silvertail — Trayne — said, his voice rough with emotion. “I am glad you can see it that way . . . Holly?”

“Holy Aura right now . . . but yes, I guess you’d better just call me Holly.” She stared in wonder at her arms and hands. “Well, that’s one way to lose weight.”

“Technically, of course, it is not lost, merely . . . displaced, turned to potential rather than actuality. Was your trepidation due to the simple fact of the transformation?”

She laughed, hearing the sound echo back like a golden bell. “No, that wasn’t it. It’s that I’m not changing back for a long time. Maybe not for a year.”

Trayne Owen — since that’s how I’d better think of him when he’s human — frowned. “That is not at all necessary, Ste . . . Holly. I had assumed that you would spend a great deal of time as Stephen Russ, whenever possible.”

“That was my first thought,” she said, walking, feeling the shift in weight and motion that was at once completely wrong and . . . somehow . . . exactly right, and that was scary enough that she stopped and focused only on talking. “Umm . . . yeah. I thought that at first, but then I realized I’d be setting myself up for total disaster.

“I need to get used to being Holly Owen/Holy Aura, being her for a long time, because I’m going to be spending hours around teenagers every day when school starts, and if I’m going to have any chance of making contact with the right people, and making friends? I can’t be clueless about how to live like this.”

“Hm. You have a point. But I am still not clear as to why you would have to — as you implied — never turn back until the task is done.”

“I might change back once in a while, for various reasons . . .” she conceded, and swallowed hard again, “. . . if for no other reason than to remind me who I really am, because you know, I still find the fact that I’m a girl and absolutely accepting that to be really creepy. Because the other part of me isn’t accepting it at all, you know.”

Holly could see real concern on Trayne’s face. “Are you all right?”

“Of course I’m not! This is completely freaky! But I have to be all right with it by the time I actually meet the other Apocalypse Maidens. And I absolutely am not going to be that cliché, where the guy who gets his sex changed doesn’t even learn the basics about being a girl, gets surprised by having her first period, walks into the boys’ room without thinking about it, all those low-comedy tropes. Thanks, I’m going to be the lead in a serious Magical Girl show, not a joke.”

Trayne rubbed his chin. “This could take considerable time, Holy Aura. We do not — ”

“We are not going to rush this and screw it up,” Holly said with as much finality as her soprano voice could manage. “School won’t be in session for a couple months. If I practice living like . . . being Holly Owen for that long, I won’t blow my role the first time someone startles me. I have enough female relatives and friends to know that I’d damn well better know if having my period’s going to — do you know how weird it sounds to say that phrase? — having it’s going to just annoy me, or lay me up for a day or three. I’m assuming that this is a real honest-to-God fourteen-year-old girl’s body and that means it will have a monthly cycle, yes?”

“I am afraid so, yes. You are as real as any other young woman, including the annoyances that may incur.”

“Right. So I have to learn how to deal with that. Have to figure out how to dress — I assume I can’t just summon regular clothes out of nowhere to replace this useless-looking sparkly magical girl armor?”

“No. We can . . . tweak the transformation so that you switch between Holly Owen and Holy Aura rather than between Stephen and Holy Aura, and in that case changing back to Holly would also put her in whatever clothes Holly was wearing at the time, but Holly would still have had to dress herself beforehand.”

“Man, I’ll have to learn so much. How to dress right and wear the stuff right.” Holly shook her head. “Freaks me out, really.” She tried to make it come out light, but the trembling in her voice gave her away. Not nearly as relaxed about this as I want to make myself think.

She was seized by an almost irresistible urge to change back, become Stephen again. No, she told herself, this will not get any easier if I put it off. If I do . . . I might even hesitate the next time a monster comes calling, and that could get me — and a lot of other people — killed. I made this decision, I have to stick with it!

“It strikes me,” Trayne said slowly, apparently unaware of the conflict within her, “that you are . . . oddly nonchalant about the whole idea of dressing in girls’ clothing. Or is that an act?”

She seized the question like a lifeline, a focus of something to think about. “No, no, not really. I mean, my being all calm is sort of an act . . . actually, totally an act, I want to run around screaming or just change back right now . . . but the wearing girls’ clothing? Well, I will be a girl, so it’s not like Stephen-me walking around in women’s clothing. And I’ve been in plays — tried out for Dr. Frank N. Furter in Rocky Horror one year, in fact . . . anyway, I can play the role. But I do have to get used to it, or I’ll blow the role at the worst possible time.”

“Well, I do have the simple outfits you asked me to pick up. Having seen many young women of your age, I believe I was able to do reasonably well in terms of size.”

“Guess I’d better go change. How’s this going to work with the armor outfit?”

“Let me think a moment.” Trayne suddenly shrank back to the white rat. “I cannot perform much magic unless I am in this form; most of it is being used to hold the human shape otherwise,” said Silvertail Heartseeker. “Now let me see . . .”

The little animal scurried around Holly’s feet three times clockwise, three times counterclockwise, and then stopped before her, intoning something in what she had to assume was ancient Lemurian. “Aiylen ta vrayna, hai embreisan!” he finished, and a brilliant fountain of rainbow light enveloped her, sent a tingling electric shock through her body. “There. I believe that if you now simply will yourself to become Holly Owen the accoutrements of Holy Aura will vanish.”

“Okay, I’ll try it when I go to change.” She picked up the bags Trayne had indicated. “Be right back.”

Steve made it into the bathroom and collapsed to the floor, shaking. Part of me really thinks of itself as Holy Aura. I hear “Holy Aura” or even “Holly” and part of me’s already saying “Oh, that’s me.” Jesus. Am I going to lose myself? She visualized herself as a man, and shuddered at the realization that it was almost as hard to do that as it had been before to visualize himself as a woman.

It really was too much. She knew she had to accept this, could not yield to the temptation to change back, not now, not so soon, but she . . . Steve . . . also felt she couldn’t bear another second of this alien-yet-absolutely-right body. Tears began to stream down her face and she gave a scream of fear and frustration and slammed her arm against the tub.

The porcelain-coated cast iron shattered like candy glass, the impact a cannon shot that shook the house, showering her with debris, cracking the ceiling above. The shock snapped her out of her panic. “Holy moley, as the Captain used to say,” she murmured, staring in disbelief at the slender arm and delicate, long-fingered hand which were not damaged — not even scraped — by that titanic impact.

“Holy Aura! Are you all right?” Silvertail’s worried voice came through the door.

“Okay. Yeah, okay for now. Sorry about that. We’ll have to replace the tub and get the room fixed.”

“Are you certain you are all right?” Silvertail asked again. His concern was unmistakable. “I am not worried about repairs. I am worried about you. I have placed a nearly intolerable burden on you, Stephen, and — ”

“It’s done, Silvertail,” she said, not without a touch of anger, but controlled this time, controlled, not running away. “I have to deal with it. I was freaking out, yes, but my superhuman tantrum snapped me out of it. I’ll finish changing and then get out of here.”

She brushed away the debris and opened up the bags carefully. Panties — nice simple ones, thank God . . . jeans . . . T-shirt . . . bra? Jesus, yes, I’m going to have to wear one. Don’t want to think about that. But no avoiding it. Even without looking down, she could feel that she was . . . well developed for a fourteen-year-old girl. Not ridiculously so (thank GOD that part of the meme isn’t applying) but more than enough to make a brassiere a normal part of her clothing in this here and now.

She concentrated on reversing the change, and in a flash of light the crystal boots, sparkling skirt, and other elements of Princess Holy Aura’s mahou shoujo existence disappeared. Aaaaand now I’m naked. Does that make me automatically now a peeping tom? It’s my body, but it’s not. She tried to avoid looking down too much as she dressed, but the contours that were, once more, alien yet familiar tried to draw the eye . . . and the panic.

Finally she was dressed and stood, shakily, to leave. A movement caught her attention and for the first time she looked at the mirror . . . and froze.

A waterfall of shining deep purple, eyes that shimmered with the depths of the twilight sky, a face drawn from legends and a form from the dreams of angels, wearing a simple black T-shirt and jeans. Holly Owen stared back at her, eyes haunted with unnamed fears, yet with a face filled with utter determination and a strength Steve had not imagined.

Her mouth was dry and her eyes stung, and she realized she had been staring in utter disbelief for . . . minutes? “That’s . . . me?” she whispered. “Oh, crap.”

“What is it, Steve? You sound . . . worse.”

“Just realizing that this is worse,” she said, finally tearing her gaze from the impossibility in the mirror and yanking the door open.

Silvertail blinked in surprise. “I see nothing wrong.”

“I don’t look like ‘a teenage girl,’ Silvertail! I look like . . . like . . . like some idealized image of a teenage girl! I haven’t TOUCHED a makeup case and I look like someone took four hours and Photoshop to make me look perfect! Half the girls are going to hate me just on looks alone, and the boys are all going to act like complete idiots around me, when they’re not following me around!”

Silvertail sighed. “The meme of the magical girl — and for that matter, the superheroine — makes much of that rather inescapable. Your appearance is something of a trial for me as well, I must confess.”

“Why? Do I look like some fantasy of yours?” As he said that, Steve-Holly knew that had gone too far. “Sorry. Sorry. I didn’t mean that.”

“I should hope not. Holly . . . you look almost identical to my daughter, as I have remembered her throughout the centuries. Holy Aura always echoed Aureline, of course . . . but only you have ever duplicated her.” The pain in the tiny voice was all too real, and it reached Holly through her self-absorbed conflict. “Now she stands before me again, reborn in you . . . and once more, I must send her — you — into the dangers that I cannot face.”

“Oh. Jesus, I’m sorry, Silvertail.” She felt the pain of the older man acutely, remembering her losses as Steve. Imagine seeing someone that looked like Mom, exactly like her, and knowing I had to send her into, well, what I am going into. “I . . . well, I guess there’s not much I can do about that, but . . .”

“No, there is not,” he said. “But perhaps . . . perhaps it is right that it be so. I must act like your father; seeing you like this, I realize that will be far easier than I had thought.” A wan, tiny smile crossed the furry face. “And I do not think you will do less than honor to her memory.”

“Thanks, Silvertail.” As the other shimmered and turned back to the tall human form, she corrected herself: “. . . Dad.”

He chuckled, though there was still a note of tears in his voice before he cleared his throat. “You are welcome, of course.”

There was a pause of uncomfortable silence. Holly looked back, seeing the wreckage of the tub. “Ugh. That has to get cleaned up. I guess we could at least put all the pieces into what’s left of the tub.” She stepped back into the bathroom and reached down to pick up the largest chunk of cast iron — and nearly fell over. “What the heck . . . ?”

“Ah. Yes, that is an obvious consequence.”

“What? I just broke this thing like it was made of saltine crackers a second ago –”

“Princess Holy Aura broke it. Holly Owen, like Stephen Russ, is a normal human being,” Trayne Owen said. “I transposed, or rather added, the transformation to a female form, as you indicated, but the conversion to, well, mortality remains an integral part of the enchantment. And as a fourteen-year-old girl, even one in excellent physical condition, you have nothing even close to the physical strength that Stephen Russ possessed.”

“Oh, I get it. Makes sense, I guess. And that does keep me from accidentally doing something that blows my cover. I won’t have Clark Kent’s problems.”

“No. But I see now that your determination to take significant time to accustom yourself to this life was even wiser than I had thought; you have many assumptions in the way you conduct yourself that are predicated on your size and strength, as well as your sex. You will need to recognize and address all of them.”

It was a little disconcerting to realize that she couldn’t even lift things she-as-Stephen would have moved easily, but Silvertail was right. And the fact was that their conversation had stilled — at least for the moment — her panic and confusion. She straightened. “Fine, I’ll leave it to you to clean up. For now, I guess I’d better get started on that practice!”