May 18, 2021 5:17 AM
a genie offers wishes without a contract
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"Oh, fuck you. I'm a human trapped in this form, not something inherently malicious by nature. Unless you think humans are inherently malicious by nature."

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Homura merely frowns as she leaps off her balcony and lands lightly in the alley several stories below.

"I don't think either of us is human anymore, so I couldn't say. Regardless, you told me that you would try to turn my wishes against me. It would be foolish to ignore your own warning."

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"I do that to boring, uncreative idiots wishing for stupid selfish things. Prettiest girl in high school. Large quantities of money. Humiliation of their enemies. Being evil is exhausting, you know. Summoning up that much pettiness and spite when I've seen it all before is just... Tiring. Reserved for those who most deserve it."

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"I see."

Homura walks for a while, and when the city blocks her path, she leaps easily onto a tenth-story roof to continue her stroll. She thinks about how to word her wish. In the place between timestreams, the Incubator had explained a lot about the consequences of Madoka's wish. Homura had been too overwrought to process the implications at the time, but she did understand more of that explanation than the Incubator probably thought she did.

"How much do you need to understand, to grant a wish correctly?" Homura asks. "How much of the process is, you, yourself?"

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"It's mostly me. When a wish is made I see... Paths, shapes as the magic fills out and prepares to activate. I'm forced to mold and shape the magic into a form that has the desired result - an active participant who must attend to the details, even if it's something as simple as conjuring gold. Factors I didn't understand that are relevant to the wish become clear in that space, but I can't just... Wait and analyze if something strange comes up, once the wish is made it must be fulfilled. If I'm going to affect a god with your wish, I should probably have a good idea of what's going on, metaphysically speaking. I don't know much about you. The grief cubes thing is just a guess generated by some sort of temptation engine. I can tell you whether a prospective wish is impossible to fulfill, or a terrible idea in some way, though."

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So, in other words, to even attempt this, Homura will, in fact, have to trust him. Almost a worst-case scenario.

"In the past, have wishes you intended to fulfill correctly gone wrong anyway in ways we can guard against?"

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"Yes. Most often when people wish for complicated social results, like getting a government to change a law. I can do that but often it will not have the intended effect because society is dizzyingly confusing and I'm not a politician. Or it'll just get reversed in a year or two. Sometimes it happens when people ask for magical powers, artifacts, or changes to their body. We fail to think through all the implications, or the changes to their lives, fame or different family dynamics, make them less happy rather than more. But it's most dangerous when interacting with magic, curses, and gods. Don't ask for something like 'become the most powerful magician' - the only way to do that was to drive him mad, even if I hadn't wanted to. Don't wish to understand the true nature of divinity. I tried to talk her out of it, but of course, she made the wish anyway and then committed suicide. Also, I cannot change the past."

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Homura nods slowly.

"Alright. I'll do my best to explain the background."

Homura takes a breath.

"The power of a magical girl comes from the weight of her karmic destiny. That is to say, her importance in the shape of the future, her influence over the weave of fate. The form that power takes is determined by our wish, the wish that rips our soul out of our body and transubstantiates it into material form. Every magical girl is an immortal undead reality warper, with a technical form of local omnipotence. Our power is limited by a form of cosmic balance: every act of magic corrupts our soul, transforming hope into despair. Within the concept expressed by our wish, we are mostly shielded from the effects of this rebalancing and can act far more freely, but it will eventually catch up with us and destroy us, if we cannot siphon it off into grief cubes."

Homura pauses, letting a shadow fall over her face.

"The truth of this is worse than that. The corruption is as alive as the hope, a being with just as much karmic claim to our soul as we have. A dark reflection of our pain and misery, a living embodiment of our despair. These abominations were called witches, as they were what magical girls inevitably grew to become. Madoka Kaname undid the witches. She used her wish to travel simultaneously to every point in history where a magical girl's soul broke, and took their grief into her own soul. She undid every witch in reality, even her own."

Homura is getting a little choked up. She steadies herself.

"Even then, her power was that of a magical girl like any other, if vastly greater. But her intervention in the past and future was too much. It shattered the timestream entirely. That entire reality was erased and re-written to create this one, in which the girl called Madoka Kaname never existed, in which the wish of Madoka Kaname has been woven into the cosmos as a fundamental Law. Woven... by her, I'm certain, woven with such characteristic care. Not a single soul misplaced in billions of years of re-written history..."

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"Oh, so that's why... Hmm. Messing with that balance could have some nasty consequences. My power - I don't know where it comes from. Yours is very great in some ways, but bears that cost... I cannot recommend caution highly enough when your wish might have universe-wide consequences. Where do your wishes come from? Is it part of the... Karmic balancing, I suppose? The wish powered by the karmic debt of inevitably-going-to-fall?"

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"I thought so, before Madoka defied the balance entirely."

Homura resumes her roofhopping stroll.

"Now, given the end result of Madoka's wish, given the cost... I believe that it is a more straightforward sacrifice. A magical girl trades away her karmic destiny, destroying something metaphysical to create something physical in its place."

Homura shakes her head, then runs a hand through her hair. She touches The Ribbon.

"Madoka gave me this. After she became the Law of Cycles. I still have the powers I had in the original reality, in addition to the powers I gained in this one. I still remember the history that she erased, or I wouldn't know any of this. When a magical girl dies, sometimes her comrades will claim to have seen an apparition, and the description always resembles Madoka."

Homura shakes her head.

"She can still touch this world. She still does touch this world. These things are proof of that."

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"Then, I take it your wish would be aimed to reverse the grand sacrifice? Or not reverse, precisely. To save the one who sacrificed herself to save all magical girls?"

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"No," Homura says sharply. "...no. This... is what she wanted. Besides, if you can't change the past, that is impossible. The Law of Cycles is timeless. Madoka exists throughout all of time without being subject to time. And I think... I believe that is why she is so limited. She is barred from things which have beginnings or ends."

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Hmm.

"...How do you know these things? How confident are you in your knowledge of the mechanics of it all?"

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"Reasonably. After the destruction of the original timestream, I was able to follow Madoka into the void between timestreams, I think because we are both... gestalts of multiple timelines. In that void I spoke with both the Incubator and with the true Madoka. I believe I know enough."

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"This is going to give me a headache and I don't even have a head. What do you want, then?"

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Homura puts her thoughts in order.

"I want to grant Madoka the freedom to act within the linear time of this reality."

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"The problem, so far as I can tell from vague possible-wish-shape impressions, is that Kaname Madoka is now so vast and important, not to mention timeless, that... She is almost literally incapable of paying attention to things that aren't taking on everyone's despair, releasing their burdens. The interpretations of that wish that don't feel like terrible ideas are along the lines of... Giving her something to hold onto here-and-now. But that wouldn't do it, by itself. It might let you talk to her but she'd still be timeless."

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"We have three wishes with which to accomplish this. If the first merely allows her to help us with the other two, that might be worth it."

Homura hesitates.

"And I am not certain that it isn't better for her to remain timeless in her fundamental nature. If she was once again fully subject to linear time, that would make her vulnerable. It would make it possible for the Law of Cycles to end. We don't want that."

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"All things can die. Infinity is a big place."

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"If you can give Madoka the means to speak with us with minimal risk to her, I... wish for that."

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"Are you certain? Now, I want to help, here. Asking that resets the clock slightly. If you would like to spend an hour thinking of ways this might go wrong so I can avoid them, now would be the time to do so."

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Homura shakes her head.

"We're just... opening a door for her. I have faith in her that it will be enough."

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The wish takes hold. "Very well. So it is spoken, so mote it be."

Magic flows, twists, inward to a tiny point, outward to the vast sky-

This is challenging. This is metamagic. He almost feels ill as he tries to guide it. It could go wrong so many ways. Make it something stable, a rock in an ocean, a hook to catch on the threads of divinity... But non-invasive, not something that pushes on Kaname Madoka, just something available

The ribbon is, by far, the physical object with the greatest resonance. As a physical anchor for this magic, as an extant metaphor for Kaname Madoka, it reduces the metaphysical load considerably. He might as well make it nigh-indestructible while he's at it. (It glows slightly in Homura's hair.)

In a timeless and location-less place, as much as 'place' even means anything, an elegant spiral of magic opens up like a flower. A tunnel... No, a telephone line of sorts, from nowhere to a specific place and time. And a specific person- Homura Akemi.

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The connection is alike with countless others. It is the connection that Madoka has, and has always had, with every magical girl's soul in the cosmos. It is the path she follows, every time a magical girl dies, to enter the timestream and uplift those souls out of their despair. For the first and only time, it does not lead to a magical girl at the moment of her fall. Instead it leads to a point in time much earlier.

This soul in particular is one that the part of her that is still human has spent her existence longing to see again. Madoka has also spent an eternity she has not yet lived, planning for this moment.

 

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A beautiful pattern of sakura petals carves itself into the air, in the sky above Homura, concentric rings of light. It does not cover the sky. Rather, the fabric of space stretches around it, adding extra degrees to the circle of their awareness. A path materializes, connecting this apparition to the rooftop where Homura stands.

A girl in a white dress full of stars, with light pink hair, fades into being with a small, proud, joyous smile on her face. She descends to the rooftop and immediately pulls Homura into a tight embrace.

"I told you didn't I? You would see me again," she says happily.

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