Oct 28, 2021 10:25 AM
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There is a park in the middle of a suburb. It's a small park, a loop of paved pink sidewalk around a play area with a jungle gym rising from springy ground. Around the outside there are benches and flowers, a single bird feeder, a drinking fountain, a little free library with books in a language that feels like it should be Indo-European, maybe Germanic. The skyscrapers of a nearby city are visible in the distance.

It's just past noon on a school day and there aren't, at this moment, any children in the park. There is one adult, though, sitting on a bench with a book and a notebook, alternating between reading the former and writing in the latter in three alphabets.

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Two young women standing back to back, one in white, one in red, holding swords, appear.

The one in red - collapses - the one in white spins when she feels her companion slump, alarmed, and pulls her ring off her finger, transforming it in the process into a glowing white bauble wrapped in aesthetically unharmonious black wire, and waves the bauble around, squinting at it. "San Niang?" she says urgently to her fallen friend. "San Niang -"

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She's not in great shape. "Too - too far -"

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"- your gem? Your gem's right on your hair like it always is -"

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San Niang shakes her head. Gives a shudder. "I'll - be all right. Where - are we?"

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"I have no idea. It doesn't seem like a witch..."

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Well, that seems like something that needs dealt with urgently. She shuts her book and turns to a fresh page in her notebook. "Hello. What brings you two here and do you need anything?"

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"We're magical girls. We were fighting a witch, and a familiar appeared out of nowhere and attacked us, and now we're here, and San Niang doesn't seem - well."

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San Niang has sat up by this point but still has not assayed standing.

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She has a lot of questions about that but the medical emergency should really come first. "There's a payphone not far over that way." She gestures over that way. "I can go call an ambulance if it's urgent - I can try laying on hands but that's never worked that well for me before - is it urgent?"

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"No. I'll be fine."

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"San Niang, you can't even stand up!" She checks the condition of the glowing red jewel on the end of San Niang's braid. "You look like you have plenty of magic, can you heal yourself from whatever's wrong?"

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"I will be fine, jiejie."

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...And no sooner does she get to stop worrying about the medical emergency than she has to start worrying about the magic. Which might be fine; omniglossia only goes so far and some languages don't distinguish miracles from witchcraft. And it's a good sign that they're talking about it openly either way. "I'm glad you'll be fine. Um, would you mind clarifying what you mean by 'magic'?"

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"...the kind magical girls have." She squashes her bauble back into a ring on her finger and taps it.

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"I don't know what a magical girl is and haven't seen jewelry do that before."

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"...I can't demonstrate very much, most of my powers are sealed away."

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"That's... I have no idea what to say to that so let's go with 'that's fine'. I was just wondering where you get it from, I'm not great at checking that kind of thing on the fly."

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"These days there's a form you can fill out online? We weren't doing things that way when I made my wish though. I got - headhunted, you could say. San Niang, what's your story -"

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"Oh, San Niang would not want to bore jiejie."

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"That is... probably illegal here? I think. I don't recognize it and even if I did I'm not going to go run to the authorities about it right now, but you should know evil magic is illegal."

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"...what do you do about witches without magical girls, if you think magical girls are evil?"

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"...I... am not sure how you divide up the supernatural in - um, I'm an omniglot and never actually learned whatever this language is. Supernatural abilities are legally classified based on whether you get them from, say, a devil, or from trying to impose your will on the world, and they encourage you to be more selfish and angry and petty, or if you get them from, say, meditating on wanting to have compassion for the whole world, and they encourage you to be in a state of mind where you remember other people's inherent worth. It sounds like you're talking about something orthogonal to that?"

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"It's English, but I know others if that would be better? I've never heard of an omniglot though. Magical girls get our powers from making wishes? I do meditate a lot but it doesn't give me magic."

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"That... sounds evil? Maybe depending on the wish. It's not a category I've ever used, anyway. And what is a witch?"

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"They're also called monsters? They're pocket dimensions invisible to normal people that kill people near them."

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