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Equilibrium

POV Isla:

When Wanderer reappears, the barrier shimmers before allowing her inside.

She created the barrier before she vanished with little explanation, leaving me confused, frustrated, and more than a little frightened. My feelings in my previous life were never so intense - I could barely contain my fear pacing and twitching within the barrier. I shouldn't leave it outside of her protection, she told me - it would keep out most threatening presences that would now want my blood.

I hadn't realized until recently, but yes, I must now have blood, being a human girl. Is it red? It's probably red. Human blood is red. But everything else about me is bleached a pale white from my transformation - is it possible that my blood would run colorless as well?

I've just been considering scratching at myself to see what would come out - and trying not to become dizzy at the thought - when the barrier shimmers purple and she reappears, her tentacles furled protectively around a bundle of something. I can just barely see it through the wispy smoke that makes up her body.

"What happened? Why did you have to leave so suddenly?"

"Strange events have been occurring, Isla," she sighs, still cradling her bundle. There's something small growing within it.

It's a baby. But she wasn't born. She's forming, the way a Magical Girl forms, but I've never heard of a Magical Girl forming as an infant before.

"I made her," Wanderer says breathlessly, "But I didn't expect her to be a baby, and now even I'm not sure what to do. But we need to keep her safe until - until she's ready to fulfill her purpose."

Her purpose? But what purpose can an infant fulfill? She can't hold up her own head.

A surge of unfamiliar emotions overtakes me, similar to when I found the sentient beings in the forest, and I'm overcome with the urge to hold the child. "Does she have a name?"

"Her name is Equilibrium, and she could be the source of a lot of trouble, but we need her," says Wanderer. She's oozing thick goo and it takes me a minute to realize that it's coming from her many eyes. She's crying. "Wherever we go, she comes. We have to protect her."

TO BE CONTINUED.

The Galaxy Room

It's been so very long since I've been to the Galaxy Room, even longer since I've had company there. Many years ago I sought out Observer under its domed, star-speckled roof, but the room remained cold and empty of her presence.

Can she really be calling out to me after all this time? What if it's a trap? And I've had so little time to help Isla settle and ensure her safety...

But I can hear Observer's voice tugging at my consciousness, and I must answer her call. "Isla, wait here and stay within the protections I've set for you," I instruct her. She looks nervous, more nervous than she could have ever been in her previous form. More questioning. If only I had time to answer her questions. "Important new development," I say, by way of explanation, before projecting myself off this level of existence and into that of the Observatory Plane.

And she's there. She looks...different, but it's her, I can sense it.

"Observer, it's been so long since I've seen you, where have you - uh....are you a cat? Why are you a cat?"

" Dang it, I ish not a cat, I disdain cats... something made me this way... I think I've become a miquo'te from the looks of things. Anyways, I've been trapped in my mind for some time, only now was I momentarily able to cross back into this realm. Regardless, let's focus on the amount of Defiance in our created universe, and how to disperse it...before things become too chaotic and we might be forced to start over..."
I gaze toward the sphere in the center of the room for a moment, scratch my head in thought, and decide to speak again.
" Something is...different."

I settle uneasily into my chair and swivel slightly back and forth, unsure - it's only just become clear to me that there are things in this world that even I don't know.

"What do you think it is?" I ask, "I've been so focused on a few of my prime missions lately that I've had no time to speculate. I can only guess. Do you know anything more than I do?"

I bring up a transparent rectangular light blue screen in front of me, in response to Wanderer's question.
" Just a moment. I'm scanning our world's database to make sure... ah, here... just as I thought. Someone has been messing with the void extraction system. While I was in Nostalgia Village, a separate world from our created world, I encountered an individual from our created world...Platinum. Naturally, this gave me cause for concern, as our inhabitants of our created world should not be able to enter other worlds... the void extraction system prevents it. As I looked at our created world module in front of us, I noticed the natural void eclipsing our created world, had an abnormal shape to it... usually it's a perfect sphere-shaped layer, but now it's more oval-ish, pointed at the top and bottom."
I pause for a moment as I think.
" This can only mean two things; someone from my computer irl, must've accessed and modified the data script, and their own defiance aura must've inadvertently effected the void extraction system, causing the void surrounding our created world to alter it's shape."
I sigh and shake my head.
" Chu might wonder, why is the void extraction system important? It's a system put in place to fully delete corrupt data, once it enters the void, so our created world's "pure" data won't be affected. The void extraction system also helps to maintain and remove our own defiance element from the created world, so we can enter it albeit within a time limit. Normally, entities from the irl universe can't enter their created worlds at all, as their defiance aura would obliterate everything at once."
I collect myself before delivering my final conclusion.
" Ahem, so to sum it all up, Platinum must've been corrupt data that got through the void extraction system due to it's alteration, and the anomaly was able to thus escape the created world through time-space to be able to freely enter other worlds. Thus, we must capture Platinum, before her corruption causes chaos in other worlds, which could lead to their demise and obliteration... Platinum has pretty much become a computer virus to put the term accurately... and the internet is her threshold for destruction... all lore creator's worlds are now in potential danger."
" Oh and one more thing, we won't be able to enter our created world until the void defiance system is fixed. Unfortunately, I can't fix it right now, as my mind is trapped in this miquote form, I can't enter irl until I free myself from this. So in my stead, chu being the other lore creator, must fix it. Ish pretty simple really, just create a new story within our world, and it should balance it out. The only hard thing though, chu will have to create new characters to be sacrificed, as the void system requires "pure" data to redirect the script's errors and essentially to reboot it. I know, ish going to be hard making new characters only to be sacrificed... how chu end it is up to chu... but chu must include at the end of the story, "the void sucks up all", so the void extraction system recognizes it as a null story. Got all that? I'm sorry to place this burden on chu..."

"Ah," I say, stunned by this new revelation, "I get so unwisely attached to the characters that I've come to know, those whose storylines necessitate my interference. Even Isla, and haven't been in contact with her for long. But I suppose I must learn my lesson...that everything fades. I will create a new character to be sacrificed. Perhaps her name will be Sacrifice...or is she not allowed to know that's her purpose in life? It seems cruel, to create a being that wants to live for the specific purpose of dying..."

I bend over and rest my chin on two of my tentacles, deep in thought.

"I wonder if it would be possible to manipulate Magical Girl energy? Because I can't create a new Magical Girl without disturbing a balance of energy within the universe, since Magical Girls are not born in the same way that most beings are. Could I cause one to manifest using a deliberate dying wish? Is there anyone who had the goal of saving the world through their own death? The appropriate name for a being born of that wish, of course, would be Sacrifice."

A thought occurs to me. "I wonder what would keep this girl from going rogue as the others have been. Becoming too self-aware, gaining a sense of purpose...if she were to die in that way, she would still save the world, but it wouldn't be the purpose she desired to fill...ah, well, I suppose it wouldn't matter. Such is the indifferent manner of life...only I do feel like it's on us to be a spot of light in a sea of indifference...but perhaps there are limits to my power beyond what I had ever understood."

I sigh deeply, lost in thought, then come back to myself.

"It's been so long since I've seen you, Observer. Why did you go into hiding? What exactly did you observe while you were unseen? Did you hear..." I pause. "In all that time, did you hear me calling out to you, searching for answers?"

I look at Wanderer, tears in my eyes, " I went into hiding... since I'm slowly becoming detached entirely from the world. Ever since I was a kid... the real world always felt like a dream, even when I had friends... I still felt alone. Now, I hardly feel connected at all to the real world. I'm not sure if that means I'll die soon... or even possibly wake up in another world... I'm not sure."
I glance downward. " I... I never heard chu call out my name... I feel so..alone..." I summon a keyblade into my right hand and show it to Wanderer. " Had it not been for this foreign entity in my mind, this being that can turn into a keyblade and assume human form... I think I wouldn't be here today... but now he's gone, leaving only his keyblade form behind like a fallen corpse... or a headstone. I'm not sure what to do now... he said I was the ninth princess of heart, that I need to return to the light... but idk what that means and it doesn't make sense."
I shake my head at the last part of my sentence, hardly believing in the validity of my own words, before letting the keyblade disappear in a flash of light. I look back up at Wanderer, " what do chu think I should do?"

"I thought you'd been hiding from me," I say, "And I thought I was all-knowing, and so it nagged at me, never being able to find out where you'd gone...truly, you never heard me? I sent out my voice through all the realms and many levels of the universe, calling to you, asking just to talk...I thought you were ignoring me because you didn't want to be seen. You'd said as much before."

I stare at the keyblade, one eye snaking out on a wispy tentacle to observe it closer. "This was in your mind as a living being? Was his name Keyblade? Forgive my insensitivity, but all this is sounding strangely familiar, like something I should remember. Like when worldly creatures hear a song or a story from their childhood and feel a longing and a surge of recognition. That's how I feel when I look at this and hear your tale. Do you think it's significant, with everything that's happening now, that we've finally been able to meet again? I think we should figure out what's going on before either of us makes any decisions that could be permanent...after all, I never thought either of us could vanish from existence, but it seems there's a lot I never knew. Do you think that's what he meant by 'return to the light?' Because when worldly beings say it, they mean death. But I never thought we could die."

Many of my eyes are now crying, dripping gelatinous lilac-colored tears onto the floor, where they ooze and form a gooey puddle. "Er, sorry about the mess. But I've only just reunited with you - I don't want you to die."

" Some things should be kept a secret." I muttered as I placed my fist on my heart. " Come to think of it... I said that irl a long time ago, and now Tetsuya Nomura has that same quote said by a Kingdom Hearts character... I swear sometimes, ish like we're connected." I said to myself as I looked up at Wanderer. I shake my head, " sorry, talking out loud."
" To answer chu questions though, yesh chu and I can die... as we're connected directly to our counter parts irl... so if we die irl, we die here too... but thash the only thing that can kill us, ish if we die irl. I do try to hide my existence from others, but I'm always listening and observing others, all chu need to do is write in in the world, and I'll come. Yes, I feel all these mental adventures in my head hold significance.. though ish in a way that doesn't match up with our usual perception of this reality irl. I think what the keyblade entity meant when he said to "return to light," is one of those deep meanings... at first I thought it simply meant for me to make myself public instead of hiding in the darkness as an introvert, but thinking over it again... idk."
I pause after talking longer then I usually do, turning my head down... then I look back towards Wanderer.
" When all of this ish over, lesh meet irl someday, kay? I hope we can still be friends and hugs a lot... I want to feel connected to the "real world." Maybe after I fully transition irl, I'll be able to finally feel something. Do chu have any more questions? If not... I'd like us to proceed with the plans."

"I do have many questions, but limited time to ask them. We can't remain in time suspension too long - it could lead to errors in the coding of our world, and that can mean forced restarts...yes, the plans. So, I must create a sacrifice...that will be hard. I do get so attached to my favored characters...even Shumei, who's definitely going to resurface to be a huge pain in my almighty butt."

I swivel uncomfortably in my chair, thinking it seems cruel to create a character whose express purpose is to die...except that if my character doesn't die, then everyone will be gone, wiped clean. Isla will never have a chance to define her true purpose...the world is not ready to end, and we're not ready to restart it.

"Explain again why we need to do this? I will continue, but I want to be sure I'm making the right choice. And in the meantime, I'll be speaking with Isla. We've been conferring and exploring new branches of magic...she's quite a creator, and becoming stronger by the day. The Magical Girls lately have displayed a tendency to become that way, but she's like nothing I've seen. She's strengthened our forests already, our nature magic and the balancing bonds that protect it...the very essence of life. Hey, do you think it's possible that's why we've been able to connect for the first time in so long?"

I reach out with a thin tentacle and pat your head, my eyes tearing up with that purple goo. "I'll consult with Isla and see if we can solve this mystery and save you, or at least to understand what this all means. I don't want you to die. I want a long future creating worlds with you and making new discoveries."

A screen pulls up on a different side of my body. I reach over the back of my chair with another few tentacles and, tapping on the screen, begin to design a character worthy of saving the world.

" Well, this isn't time suspension... ish all still happening in real time." I say with a puzzled look as to why Wanderer thought that way.
" And thanks for patting me with chu tentacle..." I say sarcastically, " I'm allergic to tentacles... so now I'm probably going to go bald..." I say as I pat the swelling bulbous epidermis forming on top of my head from the contact.
" Chu can look at my old pms for another explanation... we are lore creators after all, everything we say gets saved in temporal space." I said, while sighing and sitting back down, rubbing my swollen head.
" So as I understand it, everything is settled now right? Just do whatchu need to do." I said as I hit the eject button on my seat, blasting off like a rocket into the irl world...

Huh. I forgot to suspend time in the realms below. It's just as well, time manipulation causes complications and that's the last thing we need right now.

I find myself putting a great deal of effort and care into this Magical Girl, knowing all too well that'll make it harder to let her die. Maybe that's why I'm doing it. Maybe I don't really want to let myself go through with this.

It's all too easy to create her synthetically. It's strange, when one looks for the right dying wish here and there...so many beings wanted to save the world.

I won't bring her into being with the name Sacrifice, after all...it's a strong name, and powerful, and I'm tempted to use it, but once I do it, I may have set something into motion that I cannot take back...and there's still so much of this world left to explore.

So I won't use the name Sacrifice...not yet...but possibly something about strengthening, or stabilizing...names have importance, after all.

Equilibrium

Alive

POV Isla:

My pain cuts off abruptly and I am sucked down, down, down through a deep dark intensity pulling forcefully from deep inside my chest, a sensation I have never known before. The vacuum compels me to fight it, but I don't know how, and still I am pulled deeper into the forceful darkness as I try to stop whatever is crushing my body from the inside. I pull and I pull and suddenly cold, crisp air comes through my mouth, filling me up again.

My eyes fly open with the shock of it and with the pain that has returned in full force. My very bones ache. I suck air into my lungs and then, involuntarily, I do it again at the unfamiliar sensation.

"You're breathing!" Wanderer exclaims, "Isla, you're alive! You're breathing!"

Am I? Is that what this is? I've never done it before. And I feel odd. And....and...

My fear is quelled by a familiar wispy tentacle snaking its way toward me. It wraps gingerly around me and props me up, and even that causes me to gasp with the sudden pain that shoots to my ribs.

I manage turn my hear far enough to look Wanderer in the eyes. Well, in a couple of her eyes. They keep moving.

For the first time, she's come out of the mirror and shrunk down enough to fit into my apartment. I've never seen her in person before, only through the mirror and in dreams.

"I thought I'd lost you," she says.

"What happened to me?"

"Isla...you died, in a way. And now you're...well. You're not exactly anything. But you came back, and what you are now...it's pretty close to human," she says. She seems preoccupied with some troubling thought, or so I read from a pair of eyes that then vanish back into the swirling fog before I can glean further knowledge.

"So...I'm not a Magical Girl anymore?" I don't know how to feel about this. I don't know how to feel at all - emotions more powerful than I've ever known writhe within me.

"Well, not exactly." I've never seen Wanderer hesitate before; she's always claimed to be all-knowing. "You see...this has been happening more and more, Isla, and even I just don't understand it. But you...you are no longer a Magical Girl, but I'm detecting magic in you still. You held onto it in the void, right up until I pulled you out. You held onto it through death itself. I don't even know if that can be called defiance, but I don't...I don't know what else it could be. That's on a level even I've never seen."

As I struggle to make sense of this, the air is rent by a drawn-out shriek. "You thought you could abandon meeeee?"

"Oh," Wanderer sighs, and for once all her eyes hold the same expression, "Wonderful. Shumei's back."

Shumei

POV: Wanderer

"You were foolish for making a deal with a demon" I inform Isla through her mirror. She makes a face as a pipe crashes against the glass, fracturing my view of her. Within seconds she has waved her hands over the glass and fixed it. For such a weak creature, she really has developed an aptitude for magic.

"If you'd come to me sooner, I wouldn't have had to do it. Whose fault is that?" Behind her, an ear-shattering howl shakes the apartment, and I'm certain that if she could bleed she'd be oozing blood from the ears.

We've just informed Shumei that we're going to need to break off the demon deal that Isla made with her, and she's less than thrilled with that decision. Our only option now is to keep her entirely focused on her passion for anime so that she does not become more violent and sinister and do horrible things to Isla's soul.

Isla wants to know if she even has a soul, and I'm troubled. Even a short time ago, she wouldn't have taken the time or energy to care about that, and I'm not sure what could be causing Magical Girls to stray so frequently now. It's troubling, that there could be something I don't know. I once called myself all-powerful in this universe, but as I've learned, there are some things that even I can't do.

One such thing is getting rid of Shumei. If she were an ordinary being I could kill her or blast her to oblivion or even make her vanish and deposit her somewhere else in the universe. I suppose I still could do that last thing, but Shumei would still find her way back here, angrier than ever and with very confused witnesses in tow.

It's always unfortunate and perilous to break a contract with a demon. Even I can only protect Isla so much while she tries to complete the rites to sever the contract, and Shumei can still try to haunt her. While under contract, the demon's power over Isla is near absolute, and we've been locked in a battle of magic for hours.

It's not as dramatic as it seems. Mostly it's just Shumei shouting and trashing Isla's home while Isla tries to distract her with an episode of Clannad, as one would try to distract a small toddler. The sad thing is, it's partially working, which is what's allowed Isla to survive this long. Otherwise her entire building would be trapped in a whirlwhind of dark energy right now.

Isla gets hit in the face with a spoon, which she catches and points accusingly at me. "I blame you for all of this."

"Look, life is like a story. We figure it out as we go. Could you do it perfectly?" I ask her, although I've accused myself of the same thing when I allowed people to die rather than rewriting their deaths. I could give everyone a perfect and controlled life...but should I? I could make myself known to everyone, but there could be consequences if I do. All my problems, it seems, stem from these damned demons. Even Shumei - I've seen what she can do at full power. She looks all cute and bouncy and innocent, but Isla's been deceived by that appearance. Shumei is more than a little ridiculous, but as a demon, she has real and terrifying power, and barely-suppressed wrath at her core.

Just as Isla starts singing loudly along to the closing theme song, a tug in my consciousness, alerting me to just how much attention I've been devoting to Isla and Shumei. I let my eye follow the call as a compelling whisper echoes in my mind. Sarasface...Sarasface... it whispers, before my vision is obscured by a mass of writhing maggots.

Troublesome, very much so. There's never been anything I've had to fight so hard to see in this world. I shouldn't give up on clearing the maggots from my vision, but I'm trying to focus on protecting Isla from the demon wrath. It's Platinum who called, the Magical Girl who almost became human. Now she's fading, and what happened there? All my plans are crumbling, and I'm too late to recall her to life. I see a flash of a girl etching Platinum's name onto her arm - who is she? I must find her again, but she vanishes and my eyes go searching wildly without control.

I almost don't recognize the Miquo'te child lying on the ground - when did this happen? It's faded, as if my view has been drawn into the past. But it's Observer, I know without a doubt. I haven't seen Observer in over a century; she withdrew from the world. What could have happened to make her appear in Miquo'te form in this universe?

My focus is jolted by the sound of Isla's scream.

Contact

Isla's notebook:

I've been noting the continued existence of the strange energy causing odd occurrences around my home. It seems a mysterious entity is, in fact, trying to contact me. Which is very inconvenient, as it means I'll eventually have to acknowledge it just to make it stop bothering me. Oddly, I'm not dreading this as much as I usually would and am in fact oddly intrigued by its presence...I haven't felt this level of intrigue for anything but fairies and forests before.

I can't make contact just yet, because I have further research to do, and I have an obligation to fulfill as I do it. The demon that lends me all my extra strength is choosing right now to cash in on our deal. Shumei is okay, really, not half as bad as most of the demons out there. It's just that I never know when she'll show up and demand to watch anime with me. At least I can do it while I stir cauldrons and sort samples.

She's very distracting, though, because she gets really into her anime, bouncing on my couch and becoming very shrill at the intense parts. She'll yell the lines along with the characters and whack me to make sure I'm paying attention. I think she's fond of me, and she's not bad company if you ignore the whacking and the occasional shrieking of favorite lines. Being in a demon deal is never really a good thing, but since I had to pick one, I'm glad it was her.

Just going to take a break so that I can re-fortify with enchanted water.

All right, I'm back, here to record the contact that just took place between myself and the unknown entity that has been so insistently trying to get my attention. She said she wanted to do it in a much slower, more subtle way - I remarked that her definition of subtlety seems quite different from mine - but some Magical Girl named 'Platinum' had throw everything off track and so she felt the urge to reach out to me directly. She felt I might be in danger and she thinks she might be able to save me. I have no idea why she feels such a protective urge toward me or why she wants to save me, but let me start at the beginning.

It all began when I passed a mirror and was quite startled at what was staring back in at me - a shimmering, misty, tentacled entity with multiple eyes blinking arrhythmically from within various points in the fog. The eyes were what got to me the most - they were all shapes and colors, some bulging out from the fog and others peering at me, glowing from within the fog's murky depths. I thought of all the eyes I could not see and shuddered.

The being identfied herself as Wanderer. She didn't explain what she was or where she'd come from, and I'd never seen any entity like her before. Every so often one of the eyes would extend from her being, trailed by a thick tentacle of mist, and vanish far past the borders of the mirror, and then her top part would seem to nod. She didn't tell me what she was seeing, only resumed conversation as normal. I couldn't tell where she was speaking from, but she had quite a lovely voice, which is what put me at ease even if the face of her horrifying, though in a way hauntingly beautiful, outward appearance.

She explained that she's been keeping an eye on the general state of the universe and that she approves of my goal to preserve the more beautiful and complex places where nature works its most underappreciated systems. She wants the fairies saved, but saving them directly would be too big an interference. Too big for what, she didn't say, but she did tell me that helping indirectly was within the parameters of what she could allow herself to do, especially given that I'd already begun 'the change' undertaken by this Platinum.

I said I'd like to meet Platinum and she said that to do so, I'd have to make a very difficult and possibly dangerous choice that might change who I am at my core. Who I am? I have never thought of myself in terms other than that of a Magical Girl and a crusader for the fairies...although I suppose that's not true. I identify as a nature-lover, delight in my own cleverness, and mourn leaves that have died because I learned that the trees would miss them. I wonder if Wanderer is right and there is something the matter with me? But if it's wrong, then why do I have the urge to keep exploring these feelings?

Enough! Feelings will come second to fulfilling my goal, I told Wanderer, and she said sadly - (well, she sounded sad, though it's hard to read the expression of a swaying, swirling fog entity made of countless mismatched eyes that blink independently of one another. (I'm getting creeped out again just writing this, to be perfectly honest. Which feels kind of mean, but that creature is truly haunting and uncanny.) Anyway, she said sadly that my presence would likely not linger long in this world once I had filled my concept.

What does that mean? I'd never thought about what would come after fulfilling my concept...my entire life has always revolved around that one thing. After is a concept I can't quite wrap my mind around, and I'm not sure I should try, though somehow I feel too intrigued to stop. But it interferes too much with my focus on my mission in life, and it makes me have feelings I'm really not accustomed to. When I mentioned that, Wanderer said she had an assignment for me. I had to go and get back to Shumei, who had become very impatient and was yelling that I was missing the best parts of the anime. I could just hear the pressure building up inside her, and when she gets agitated she'll often literally bounce off the walls. She's so excitable; it would be cute if it didn't threaten to destroy my research.

Wanderer asked me to identify when I first started feeling different, how I acted on it, and how that affected my actions and feelings after that. She wants to know if there might be anything I came into contact with that could have done it. She sounded troubled, revealing that, though she had thought she was all-seeing, there might be things that even her eyes had missed. I chose to refrain from commenting on her eyes, and after planning to meet again soon, I returned to Shumei.

The most important takeaway from all this is that Wanderer said she wants to help me save the forests and ensure a safe return of the fairy population! She could even lend me some strength so that I wouldn't depend on Shumei anymore...I don't know about that, though, trying to get out of a demon deal can be kind of dangerous, but Wanderer says that just by being a bit of an anomaly, I'm already in a lot of danger.

I wonder if I should let her help me? But I guess I already know I will. Anything to save the fairies.