May 18, 2021 4:29 AM
a genie offers wishes without a contract
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On an unremarkable day, in an unremarkable desk drawer, where nothing like it was before, there is now a small, intricate golden ring with a brown gem set into it. It doesn't appear with a flash of light or any kind of magical resonance, though it is faintly magical. Just... One moment nothing, the next, there.

Someone will find it sooner or later. They'll make wishes. He'll grant them. That's how it goes. Forever.

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Even after everything changed, its odd how many things stay exactly the same. Homura still lives in the same apartment, still attends the same school, and still gets up in the morning at the same time, despite living in a universe without Madoka.

She opens the drawer to retrieve The Ribbon. Madoka's gift. The proof of Madoka's existence.

There should not be anything else in this drawer, but there is. Homura freezes, and stares at the ring in shock.

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"Hello," a man's voice says sounding tired and resigned, coming from the ring. The brown gem glimmers faintly, but entirely unlike a soul gem's glow.

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A flash of purple; in an instant a magical girl in full raiment has a drawn longbow with a crackling purple energy-arrow trained at the drawer.

She hesitates. "What are you?"

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"Oh, that's unfamiliar. Fairly sure it would not do much to me, however." A touch of amusement. "I am a genie. Bound to this ring, cursed, if you will. Bound to give each bearer three wishes, terms and conditions apply, see inside for details."

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Homura lowers her bow, dissolving it back into her soul, which is on the back of her hand in its usual place. She flashes it briefly.

"I've already made my wish, so what could you want with me?"

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"I'd like to be freed. I don't think you can do that. Nothing short of a god could do that, seeing as one made me into this. Barring that- Modern stuff, looks like. Plop me in front of a television? Or get me some books? That'd be better than some drawer, at least. I'll move on eventually if you aren't going to wish for anything either way."

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Homura's first thought is that-

-no-

-definitely not-

She has to at least ask, "What kind of... god... made you?"

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"That would be Gatudu, the bastard son of Ninurta, lord of fraud, thousands of years ago on a different plane."

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"Oh."

Homura would like to be too jaded to feel the crushing disappointment this answer results in, but she'll just have to make do with pretending. This ring is certainly untrustworthy. Homura knows the price of wishes. But this is probably more important, not to mention more interesting, than school.

"If I pick you up, does anything happen that isn't already happening?"

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"No. I can only really do much that isn't talking or looking around if you make a wish."

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Well, it doesn't sound like he's lying, but he might be.

Homura uses magic to levitate the ring up in front of her, and leaves it hovering there while she retrieves The Ribbon and ties it into her hair.

"You should explain what your wishes entail, if you want me to consider making one. If your price is not one I've already spent."

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"The rules are thus: You cannot change the passions of the heart or the intricacies of the mind, whether for yourself or of others. It is forbidden to wish for the death of any person. Your wishes are but three, and any attempt to subvert or extend this limit shall end in failure. My grasp and reach is not infinite, but I am certainly capable of discussing the possibilities. I could make it so you don't need grief cubes, without changing too much else. Probably."

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"That's-"

"And the price?"

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"If I don't like you, you have to be very, very careful with your wording." Amused, again.

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Homura frowns at the ring.

"Stop deflecting."

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"Well, when the wishes are all wished, I disappear to grant wishes to someone else. The cost is really on me. I cannot refuse. It is the disproportionate punishment of a scummy demigod with little forethought. If you don't believe that, I suppose there's nothing I can do about it."

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Homura sighs.

"You're right. I have no proof you're not simply lying. But if you are not lying, you still haven't actually said that getting a wish won't cost me anything. I know better than to fall for the Incubator's favorite trick."

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"Getting a wish granted won't cost you anything, just decrement the number of remaining wishes you have. But as I said, if you word it poorly, I can do my best to make it backfire. This is considerably more likely if you have irritated me."

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Homura shuts her eyes. A flicker of darkness wriggles through her soul, tainting the pure violet light.

"I see."

Taking the ring at face value... it's certainly a very different flavor of trap. A free wish, that will inevitably go wrong, because the hostile wish-granter controls the details of the granting, rather than dooming one's soul less directly.

To be safe, she should throw the ring away and never look back, to avoid exposing herself to the temptation. After all, she might be able to out-smart him, but then, she might not.

But. There is one thing that Homura wants very dearly. Dearly enough to risk herself, certainly, if not dearly enough to risk Madoka's legacy. And the ring had said he wanted to be free, that only a god could...

"...I'd like to propose a deal."

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"...Oh, here we go. Propose away."

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"I know where you can find a goddess who will be more than happy to free you if that is within her capabilities. The deal is this: I will use my wishes in a way that allows you and this goddess to meet, and her to free you. In exchange, you will grant said wishes as I intend them, without sabotage."

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"A goddess, hm? I haven't had very good experiences with divinities. Not at all. Perhaps you should explain further."

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If she explains too much, the ring might be able to trick Madoka into freeing him in a way that keeps Homura and Madoka apart afterward.

"I was there for her... apotheosis. I know her. She... has the kindest heart of anyone I've ever met; nothing I ever did was enough to stop her from sacrificing herself for others. She will try to help you. That is an inevitability."

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The prospect of freedom is elating and terrifying.

 

 

"You seem to believe it. Though I'm not used to being the one who has to trust."

On the other hand, what exactly does he have to lose?

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"I am also, not used to being the one who has to trust, but it seems we are both risking betrayal in an appropriate symmetry."

Homura hesitates a moment, but then snatches the ring out the air and slips it onto her finger. Not the same hand as her soul gem. She de-transforms and finishes getting dressed in her normal clothes.

"Perhaps I am the frog, crossing the river. And you are the scorpion, riding on my back. We both may achieve something we dearly desire, if you can resist your nature, but otherwise you'll doom us both."

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