Saga of Soul
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"<My name it Watanabe Eriko. Junko is my sister.>" She waved around. "<Welcome to Castle Nexus.>"
Dae-Hyun nodded. "<Nice to meet you… Eriko? Junko?>" So, Eriko would be the real name behind the heroine. It's… oddly mundane, for someone who's managed to become a living legend like that. But the weirder thing is… that transformation. She doesn't look at all like Soul now. I guess all those animes lied to us - magical girls actually get great disguises!
Hesitantly, Eriko shook his outstretched hand. "<To answer your earlier question… Yeah. We're from this world. We're both Tokyo girls.>"
"<Really? You've got a bit of an accent…>"
She blushed slightly. "<It's a hybrid. I've spent some time in America.>"
"<Ah, cool.>" He smiled. "<English is my third language. I grew up with Japanese and Korean.>"
"<You're trilingual?>" She sounded impressed.
"<Quadri, actually,>" he said with a slightly embarrassed chuckle. "<I've been getting the hang of Mandarin.>"
"<Niiice.>" She paused and looked around. "<So, um, do you have any questions, or…?>"
"<Well…>" So many, I'm not sure where to begin. "<I suppose before all else, I should thank you for protecting the world.>"
"<Er, you're welcome?>" She paused. "<You don't really need to thank me. It's my world too.>"
"<True,>" he said with a chuckle, "<but most people still wouldn't have done what you have. So, yeah. Thanks all around.>" He paused. "<Forgive me if I'm being indiscreet, but, how did you two get into this whole business in the first place?>"
"<Well…>" she looked around, "<I had an injury that put me in a coma a few months ago, had an NDE, got magic. Built Castle Nexus. I was showing it to Junko for the first time when Mother Aurora suddenly showed up, and told me the world was in terrible danger and I should prepare to defend it. I started training for combat, and then, Downfall.>" She shrugged. "<The rest is history.>"
"<Wait, you built this place?>"
"<Well, yeah. My powers meant it only took a few spare afternoons, and most of that was because of all the trial-and-error I was having with the architecture.>" She looked around again, this time with some embarrassment. "<...As is plain to see, I am not a professional architect.>"
"<Well, for a non-professional architect, I think it's amazing.>" OK, Dae, that's enough gushing over the superheroine. Don't neglect the other person in the room. He turned his attention to Junko. "<So, what do you do around here? Provide moral support?>"
"<Er.>" She seemed surprised to be addressed. "<I do small stuff. Like, cover for Eriko whenever she transforms into Soul, so classmates, or teachers, or her parents don't discover her secret.>"
Several thoughts ran through Dae-Hyun's mind. First, that of course secrecy was an important aspect of it all, and that it was a bit silly that he had barely given it any thought. Second, that apparently Soul's own parents didn't know about her secret identity, which struck him as potentially problematic. Third, that even though Soul had described Junko as her sister, Junko referred to the concerned individuals as Eriko's parents. And looking closer, he couldn't really find any family resemblance between them…
Before he could fully process it all, however, Junko went on: "<I also help a little with her science experiments. A bit.>"
He blinked. "<Science experiments?>"
"<Oh yes!>" Eriko was suddenly speaking with enthusiasm. "<These powers are an incredible opportunity. I don't just mean because you can use them to go to the Moon or Mars, though that's awesome - I've been using them to create hypothetical materials, and, even better, I've been trying to figure these powers out.>" She headed toward one of the rooms surrounding the castle's court, getting some papers. "<I've been taking extensive notes. It's, well, it's probably not as professional as an adult scientist would have managed, but I've tried to be rigorous about everything. I've actually had several running conjectures about how magic actually worked, ranging from quantum effects to magic being root access for editing reality, though Mother Aurora's revelations suggest that it's closer to the latter…>"
"<...Huh.>" Soul is a would-be scientist? I guess all the stuff she was saying during the Moon mission wasn't just reading from a JAXA script. "<Er, isn't that a contradiction? Trying to use science to understand magic? I mean, isn't this all supernatural stuff we're talking about here?>"
"<No.>" Eriko's tone was suddenly firm. "<That's not the way it works. You can't have stuff exist and then say it's not scientific. That's a contradiction in terms.>"
He seemed unconvinced, but preferred not to press the matter. She, on the other hand, elected to go on:
"<It's… it's like this. Science isn't some arcane, mystical thing practiced by a cabal of warlocks who are called scientists. It is just the methodical study of stuff. The attempts to understand it.>" She took a deep breath. "<Look at it this way: Science is the study of reality, and then some. Anything that exists falls under the purview of science pretty much by definition. Calling it 'supernatural' is meaningless.>"
"<Even magic.>" He allowed some curiosity to filter into his mostly neutral expression.
"<Well, it exists. It obeys rules. If you study its rules, compile your observations, and figure out bits and pieces of how magic operates… then, congrats. You've done science to it.>"
"<I see,>" he said, hand to his chin. She seems passionate about this stuff. Smart, too, but I could have guessed that from her fights. "<But what Mother Aurora described sounded like downright mythological, creation-of-the-world stuff. You think science is applicable even to that?>"
"<As long as there are rules, science will always be applicable,>" she said, then grinned; "<and there will always be rules.>"
He smiled. I envy her her confidence, at least. She… wait, what time is it?
He turned around, then remembered that there was no visible exit. "<Um, look. I really want to talk some more with the both of you, but can we do that later? It's just occurred to me that my family could realize I'm missing any moment.>"
"<Fair enough. I'll just portal you back to your room.>"
"<Thanks. I'll leave you my phone number…>"
A short bit later, Dae-Hyun was back home, lost in thought.
I don't really know what to think of the fairies and all that mythology they gave… but if Soul needs help, I'll do what I can.
Soul… no, Eriko seems like a nice girl. Junko… I don't know, she looked like a mess of contradictions. She might actually need help more than her sister. Adopted? Happily or unhappily? Too early to tell.
Eriko looks so different from Soul. Younger. Maybe even younger than me, not sure. Did she design that look herself, or did the fairies? Because while neither her Eriko nor her Soul forms are unpleasant to look at, neither of them is particularly pretty, either. Wouldn't most girls, most people, choose good-looking forms in this sort of situation? If Eriko did design Soul's looks, what does it say that she kept her looking average?
Eriko's parents don't know she's Soul. That can't be healthy, hiding something like that from your own family. How should I handle things with my own, actually? I can't reveal secrets without Eriko and Junko's permission - it's their secrets too - but I don't want to be leading some kind of double life.
Although… Eriko's parents may not know, but Mother Aurora does. Mother Aurora came to a girl who looks younger than me, gave her minimal information about a coming danger, and started training her to fight monsters like Downfall and Murder.
Mother Aurora convinced Eriko to become Soul.
What does it say about Mother Aurora, that she approached this problem by training a child soldier?