Chapter 8

June 9th, U.C. 0053, 7:10 AM

The knock at her front door surprised Élisabeth. She wasn’t expecting visitors. Still, she put down the kitchen knife and went to check who was there.

“Koharu-san, Aina-san,” she greeted her visitors warmly. They were both wearing casual clothing. It was the first time Élisabeth had seen them out of their uniforms. “Please, come in. To what to I owe the pleasure?”

“We were in the neighborhood and noticed a bakery selling these wonderful-smelling pastries,” Koharu explained. “We bought far too many, so we figured we would share them with you.”

“How nice,” Élisabeth said, smiling. “You didn’t have to do that for me.”

“Oh please,” Aina said. “After you killed all the goshujin and freed me from slavery…”

“And after you brought heiwa to the world and disbanded the guntai so I could mentor mahou shoujo in a more constructive setting…” Koharu continued.

“… this is the least we could do,” Aina finished.

“It really is,” Koharu agreed.

Arigatou, both of you,” Élisabeth beamed. With a wave of one hand she summoned a tablecloth and dishes directly onto the dining room table. “Make yourselves at home. I’ll put on some ocha. Give me just a minute. I’m finishing up Risa’s bentou.”

Ojamashimasu,” Koharu and Aina called out as they stepped past the entryway into the house. As Élisabeth finished up in the kitchen, the two of them unpacked the muffins and scones and put them on a large serving tray. Élisabeth returned a few minutes later with a teapot. They were just sitting down to breakfast when they heard a scream from downstairs, followed by the pounding of footsteps ascending to their level.

“Risa, nani’s the matter?” Élisabeth asked as Ryoko’s younger sister burst into the room.

“There’s an otoko chained up in the basement,” Risa blurted out.

“Oh, that’s just Father Millot,” Élisabeth sought to reassure the girl. “Don’t mind him. Nani were you doing in the basement?”

“I was looking for my spare—That doesn’t matter. We need to get him out of there. There’s this floating whip—”

“Don’t worry,” Élisabeth interrupted. “He’s not in danger. That’s just his punishment.”

“Punishment? It’s torture! Have you seen what it’s doing to him? It’s gruesome.”

“I don’t need to see it,” Élisabeth said. “I only need to know it’s happening. It may not be pretty, but it’s seigi.”

“That’s fucked up,” Risa said.

“Risa,” Élisabeth admonished, “I won’t moralize at you about your language, but please don’t do anything that might offend our guests.”

Risa looked at Koharu and Aina as if seeing them in the room for the first time. “Are you having a tea party with your teki and nee-san’s murderer?” She asked. “Nani the fuck is going on here?”

“She is not my teki,” Élisabeth clarified, “and it was self-defense, not murder. Aina-san didn’t want to kill Ryoko-san, and she’s already apologized for it. Don’t you think it’s time you forgave her?”

“So… So you get to torture that guy for whatever he did, but I’m just supposed to forgive her?”

“Aina-san, I am so sorry—” Élisabeth started.

“It’s OK,” Aina assured her. “Risa-san is right. We live in a sekai with seigi now. It’s not right that I should escape from my punishment.” She knelt before Risa. “I am at your mercy. How should I be punished?”

“You should shine,” Risa proclaimed, tears welling up in her eyes.

“Iie! An eye for an eye is not seigi,” Élisabeth protested. Risa turned away, unable to look at Aina any longer, but Aina reached out and grabbed Risa’s hand.

“If that’s what you really want,” Aina began to offer, but was interrupted when Élisabeth slapped the back of Aina’s hand.

“Don’t touch Risa,” Élisabeth ordered. “I don’t want you turning her… you know.”

“Gomen, Élisabeth-san,” Aina apologized. “I didn’t mean to worry you. If it will put you at ease, I’ll turn straight. After all you’ve done for me, I owe you at least that much. I swear, I’ll never look at an onna that way again.”

“Nani’s going on?” Risa asked, confused.

“Risa,” Élisabeth said, “most hito fall in koi with someone of the opposite sex, but there are—”

“I know what homosexuality is,” Risa asserted. “I know it’s not something that you can just decide not to be, and it’s not contagious either.”

“Isn’t it?” Élisabeth asked, looking to Aina.

Shirimasen,” Aina replied. “You created me, so I can’t possibly know something you do not.”

“She’s a nisemono,” Risa realized. “Her too?”

“They’re real,” Élisabeth said. “They’re not illusions or anything like that. They’re just not the same Koharu-san and Aina-san from the other sekai.”

Other sekai?” Risa pressed.

Élisabeth sighed. “I was going to wait for a better time to tell you, but I might as well tell you now. I created an atarashii sekai where seigi could exist.”

“Nani happened to the old one?” Risa asked, stunned.

“It’s still there, still seigi-less,” Élisabeth responded. “I created an entire new dimension for my sekai.”

“Just how big is this sekai?” Risa followed up.

“Not yet as big as the machi,” Élisabeth said. “Not even half as big. Demo, in the coming weeks, I plan to expand it until it’s at least as big as Neo Crystal Tokyo.”

“That’s impossible,” Risa asserted. “Not even nee-san could make a pocket dimension that big.”

“She probably could have if she had realized the shinjitsu,” Élisabeth claimed. “We were so conceited. We thought we were generating mahou energy, as if we were the reason it existed. Mahou energy exists, and we just use it.”

“Nee-san knew that,” Risa bragged. “She said that mahou energy came from another dimension, and mahou shoujo are apertures through which it flows into ours. She was the strongest because her aperture was the biggest.”

“I like that way of describing it,” Élisabeth said, “but it’s chigau. Still too self-centered. As a result, she was limiting the amount of energy she could shape. Nothing needs to exist, not the energy, and not ourselves, and yet we do exist. Once you realize that, you can see the energy for what it is. It doesn’t belong to anyone, and it has no intrinsic shape. You’re free to shape it directly, however you want.”

“Are you telling me you’re using all the mahou energy at once?” Risa asked.

“All the energy that I know of. There could be more energy in other dimensions that I don’t know about.”

“Well, that explains the how,” Risa said. “Demo, naze?”

“I had the most horrific experience last night,” Élisabeth said, “and it taught me that there is no seigi in that other sekai.”

“That sounds terrible,” Koharu commiserated.

“You got your butt kicked,” Risa snickered, “so you created a private sekai where you wouldn’t have to face genjitsu. Dare else did you drag into this?”

“That’s not what happened,” Élisabeth insisted, “and just you. I couldn’t leave you to fend for yourself.”

“I am not hanging out with you while you throw your little tantrum,” Risa scoffed. “I have things to do. Send me back.”

“Absolutely not,” Élisabeth huffed. “It’s much better here. If there’s anything you miss from the other sekai, I’ll create it for you.”

“Better?” Risa laughed. “This sekai works according to your rules, and you thought homosexuality was contagious. In a few days, minna would be gaying it up in the streets, and you’d be barricading yourself away so you wouldn’t catch it. Dare knows what else will go wrong?”

“Whatever else happens, it will be better because there’s seigi,” Élisabeth said through gritted teeth.

“Seigi isn’t everything,” Risa stated, “and you’re fucked up. I don’t want anything to do with this. Send me back.”

“That’s not happening,” Élisabeth told her, “so you might as well make the best of it. Come, join us for breakfast.”

“Whatever,” Risa said, walking towards the door.

“Doko are you going?” Élisabeth demanded.

“Anywhere else,” Risa shot back. “I obviously can’t get through to you while you’re like this.”

“I’ve had enough of your attitude,”  Élisabeth told her. “You’re going to sit down and have breakfast with us.” She cast a hypnotism spell on Risa, who stopped in her tracks and mechanically walked back to the table to sit down. “Soshite, from now on, you’ll call me okaa-san,” Élisabeth added.

“Hai, okaa-san,” Risa obeyed.

“You know, it’s not right to keep her here against her will,” Koharu pointed out.

“I just want to have a nice breakfast, with ii hito in a sekai with seigi,” Élisabeth mumbled. “Surely that’s not too much to ask.”

“Demo—” Koharu started, but Élisabeth cast a hypnotism spell on her to shut her up.

“Would you like to add anything, Aina-san?” Élisabeth asked threateningly.

“I have no complaints,” Aina said, taking a sip of her tea. “I’m more than happy with the heiwa and jiyuu you have given me. I don’t need seigi too.”

“Demo, we have seigi,” said Élisabeth. “That’s the whole point.”

You have seigi,” Aina said. “Your sekai, your seigi.”

“That’s not how seigi works,” Élisabeth protested. She didn’t like where this conversation was going, so she tried to hypnotize Aina, but it didn’t work. She had created this Aina to be immune to magic, just like the Aina in the real world.

“Of course it is,” Aina said. “Seigi is subjective. The keisatsu officers you killed thought they were getting seigi for their fellow officers who were injured by mahou shoujo.”

This was not a new argument to Élisabeth. The government negotiator had told her the same thing. This Aina was just regurgitating arguments she had already considered and dismissed. What bothered her, however, was that Aina was not the kind of person to make stupid arguments. Perhaps these ideas had more merit than she thought.

“They were chigau,” Élisabeth countered.

“That’s how I feel as well,” Aina shrugged. “Demo, that’s what makes it subjective. We’re the ones deciding what’s right and wrong.”

“So you’re saying that seigi can’t exist without some kind of objective judge?” Élisabeth pressed. “Could I even create something like that?”

“That’s not what I’m saying at all,” Aina replied. “Seigi exists, it’s just subjective. Even if some all-knowing god told you what seigi was, would you accept it if it meant letting the keisatsu and the goshujin go unpunished?”

“A god…” Élisabeth repeated. Her stomach sank. Was believing in justice literally the same thing as believing in God? “Demo, we both know that God doesn’t exist.”

“Quite,” Aina agreed. “This ocha is wonderful,” she observed, taking another sip. “Arigatou, Élisabeth-san.”

“You’re not bothered at all that I’m the only one in this sekai who decides what seigi is?” Élisabeth asked, dumbfounded.

“Not really,” Aina answered. “I think this sekai is great. It’s just a shame that it can’t last forever.”

“Actually, it can,” Élisabeth said, perking up. “I can make you all ageless, and I can probably sustain myself for eternity on magical energy. If not, I can create a new body for myself.”

“Iie, Risa-san was right,” said Aina. “You’ll make mistakes. You’ve probably already made many.”

“I’ll fix any problems that come up,” Élisabeth asserted. “If that doesn’t work, I’ll start over. I’ll get it right eventually.”

“Genjitsu is complex,” Aina said. “You could spend millennia and still not get it right.”

“Are you saying I can’t make my own sekai because I’m not God? We don’t need gods, Aina-san.”

“Gomen,” Aina apologized. “I didn’t mean to upset you. Look, even if you could do it, you’ll abandon this sekai before too long. You’re an ii hito, Élisabeth-san. You still care about what happens in the honmono no sekai.” She tried to place her hand reassuringly over Élisabeth’s, but pulled back, unsure of how Élisabeth would interpret the gesture. “There are hito you care about in that sekai who are in danger. Soshite, you can torture the Father Millot in this sekai all you want, but the one who really wronged you goes unpunished.”

“Enough,” Élisabeth growled. “I don’t want to think about that.” Aina obliged her request and returned to her tea.

“These scones are delicious,” the hypnotized Koharu said unenthusiastically. “Please, try one.”

Élisabeth picked a scone from the plate and took a bite. Koharu was right, it was delicious. It was perhaps the best scone she had ever tasted, yet it brought her no happiness.