Not long after, everyone was allowed to take a short ten minute break before the next test. Well, except Caritas and I, as Civis barked at us to fetch drinks for the recruits, almost forgetting we would need them more from all the back and forth running. By the time we made our last trip, I was surprised Caritas still had energy to stand, since I was pretty much ready to collapse! As I reached for my own drink, I noticed that Civis was doing something I never thought she would do – socializing and talking to the recruits. Granted, she still looked kind of cold and menacing over them. I decided to inch just a little closer.
Why did you come back? She almost barked at this one girl who was huddling in a corner. That girl looked really young, though probably not more than a year less than myself. She had long and flowing black hair, and she was wearing a thin orange jacket over a simple white dress that seemed to fold and crumple all over the floor. In fact, she herself seemed kind of crumpled against the wall, just trying to look at Civis in the eye.
Well, never mind what I first guessed – Civis was bullying the recruits after all…or so I thought. The young girl simply shifted her big glasses for a moment, and looked back up at Civis with a shy smile.
I-I wanted to help out too, Civis! She replied confidently, I still think it’s amazing, you know, how you Magical Girls go around just to help people fulfil their wishes…!
Civis rubbed her temples before replying, still in her usual bad mood. This is not a game, Cassidy! We- Oh forget it! Nevermind! And then she violently turned around and left the room, not without a quick but angry glance at my direction. I tried to ignore her, and then I saw the sitting girl forcing herself to not cry. I felt inclined to say something to her… Hey, don’t be sad! I said to her, before realizing I had no idea how to continue. I think I must have surprised her, because the expression on her face changed from sadness to confusion… and maybe a little anxiety. Y-you are a magical girl too, right? I’m pretty sure she knew the answer since all the girls watched me and Caritas fighting the robot, but I nodded anyways.
I want to be a magical girl too and help people, just as Civis helped with my problems! Her voice sounded so convincing. She really did want to help. Well… if you keep working hard, you can be one! I said what was at the top of my head, and then I almost immediately regretted it. She just looked more confused and hopeless then than after she had finished talking with Civis! I-I’m sure you’ll be one! Just – Do you promise it!? She asked loudly, with excitement in her black eyes. Wasn’t she just crying only five seconds ago? I had to assure her that she will become one, even if I actually didn’t know it!
At least she was happy again. I continued my way to the kitchen for my drink, but then I heard some shouting – definitely people screaming. Were the recruits having problems? Or worse, maybe the Generals of System-M or one of their magical girls had spotted us?! I had to do something! I transformed into my magical girl outfit and ran to the main hall of the shop where all the girls were, only to discover that it was just two recruits fighting loudly.
You only came here because I wanted to! You always do the same thing as everyone! – I have my own purposes, darn it! My life doesn’t revolve around you! – Oh sure! Like you seriously wish to become a magical girl! – That’s none of your freaking business!
Raising their voices high and threatening each other with their fists, those two girls were about to start a brawl. The other recruits were watching them and whispering to each other, half of them terrified and the other half betting on who will win the fight. The tension was rising fast, and I knew I had to stop them before something bad could happen! Okay, girls! Girls! Stop it! I tried to force my voice at them like Vita, but they didn’t want to listen to me. I shouted a little more, trying to approach them. That was when the fight got more violent, and they were actually seriously hitting each other!
Trying to stop them and prevent both of them from getting hurt, I immediately separated them with my hands… but they were still struggling towards each other, with me in the middle! Stop it, you two! I shouted again with no results. What’s your problem!? Why are you fighting!? Can you please st— and then I suddenly felt something hard hit me the cheek, stopping me in my words and giving me a lot of aching in the skin. One of the girls accidentally punched me in the face! I couldn’t help but howl, with the astonished gazes of all the recruits on me.
Look at what have you done, idiot! You punched the magical girl! – It wasn’t my fault! I wanted to punch YOUR face! – Well, you failed! As always! – SHUT UP, JESSICA! And not even satisfied with that, the fight continued! The other girls in the shop were watching our struggle, like it was some weird comedy. Some of them were laughing, and some others were actually cheering for one side or the other. I had to put myself in the middle of them again, even with the threat of being smacked on my other cheek.
Can… you girls…just STOP IT!? I shouted at the top of my lungs, and then everybody suddenly got quiet. The girls stopped fighting and the other recruits were staring in awkward silence. Did they hear me? Or was it someone else? I then realized that all the recruits were watching the entrance of the shop, where the Masked Man and Vita just entered in calmly. They stared at all the people gathered in the shop, without saying a word for a good half a minute, until the Masked Man broke the silence. How enterprising! There seems to be a lot of people who want to become magical girls! He walked eagerly yet restrained through the sea of recruits and closely followed by Vita and towards the center of the shop.
I appreciate your presence here, and your desire to be part of our little team. I’m sure you already know what we do here and the terms of our contracts, as well as, of course, the importance of the wishes we grant here. This will be probably the most difficult work you will ever have, and you must be prepared for everything: problems, tragedies…even death. And then at that point of his speech, most of the recruits had a frightened look on their faces, showing clearly that he wasn’t being very motivational… but the Masked Man continued. So, I imagine that you passed the first part of the test… It’s the next part that will determine your choice. And then, he shifted his gaze to the bookshelves behind the counter of the shop again. Is everything ready for the next part of the training session, Civis Rebellio? And just when he had finished that question, the bookshelves moved, revealing another secret path. Civis strolled in, covered in oil and cleaning her wrench, and her face showed she was probably tired waiting for the end of the speech. Yeah, yeah, everything is ready, Mister Keibey. They can proceed.
Good luck, everybody. And after that, the Masked Man disappeared through a door in a corner of the shop. The recruits entered the secret door in an orderly manner, one by one, but all in completely silence to add to the awkward atmosphere. Caritas and I had to accompany them, but before entering I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Vita, who whispered into my ear. Watch all the girls carefully. See if one of them shouldn’t be here.
The hidden path behind the bookshelves led us to a second giant elevator, and we descended into the basement, where the next part of the training was prepared for the recruits. It was really creepy, dark, and not to mention full of steam. In the middle was a noisy machine as creepy as the basement itself. Before we even reached the ground, Civis gave us the instructions for this training.
Now, this test will improve your emotional side, which you must know is an important source of power for magical girls. That colossal device you see in the middle of the room will enter into your mind and show you the consequences of your wishes. Wait, such a thing exists? Why did no one tell me this before? It could have been very handy for me! Well, I couldn’t complain at all because Civis continued on with her explanation anyway. We usually don’t do this with the magical girls because it could be very traumatic, but due the large amount of recruits here, Mister Keibey commanded me to show you EXACTLY what it means to be a magical girl. There are several consequences about wishes that you don’t know about, but should understand…
She elaborated this endless explanation, and though I didn’t want to admit it, I couldn’t follow her for even more than two minutes. I started to think about what Vita told me. ‘Shouldn’t be here’? What does she mean? That there is an infiltrator? An enemy intruder? I tried to watch if any of the girls in the room looked suspicious, but all it seemed like was that the words of the Masked Man and the high expectations of Civis just made them regret taking the test – all of them were obviously and undoubtedly nervous… even terrified! The expressions on their faces were like they were already witnessing their worst nightmares… which only made me glad that I never had to use that machine to become a magical girl.
Civis soon interrupted my thoughts, ordering Caritas and I to follow her into a little control cabinet, full of monitors and weird devices scattered everywhere. We were constantly warned about how fragile this little cabinet is. Don’t touch anything, you two. That would be easier if the things in this place were at least a little more organized! Civis then grabbed onto a little microphone between the messy metallic stuff, and her voice echoed through the entire basement. The test will start in a few minutes, so please be prepared, and remember: this is just a test. Do not enter the machine in your panic. – Civis, can they quit if they start feeling uncomfortable? Caritas asked innocently. Of course not! We need to know what their wishes are! If they can’t endure some psychological trauma, they are not fit to be a magical girl! – B-but… We can’t be so cruel to them!
That confidence took me by surprise! Caritas looked firm and dead serious in her request! Wasn’t she the ultra-shy girl of the Wishes Shop? And now here she is, imposing on the professional Civis. For a moment, I thought I had underestimated her… just before she ran and hid behind me, retracting her words. I-I’m sorry! I- I didn’t want to- I just-!! And then she had a nervous attack. While I tried to calm her down, Civis sighed angrily and took back the microphone, forcing out the calmest voice she could. You all are allowed to leave this part of the test at any moment you feel too distressed. We won’t force you to stay.
There. Are you happy now? She spat at Caritas, not bothering to even look at her in the eye. The little girl nodded, but I don’t think Civis saw that… she was still busy pressing buttons and pulling levers of all kinds of shapes and sizes. Alright, she abruptly spoke to us again, both of you have to keep an eye on the screens, because they’ll show the wishes and dreams of the recruits. See carefully if there’s something wrong, and tell me immediately if so. I quietly asked myself what she meant by ‘something wrong’, but I couldn’t ask for any more information, as the machine started to work and make these loud noises like I’ve never heard before in all my life.
From the enormous machine, hundreds of helmets connected to hoses appeared and flew directly at the recruits, as if they had homing instincts. That frightened them like crazy, and some of them even tried to run away, but the flying headgears placed themselves on their heads anyway, twinkling and giving off what looked like electrical sparks. Uh… Is that normal, Civis? – Less talk, more watching monitors! Suddenly, all the screens in the cabin turned on and started to show what was happening in the minds of all the girls. Happiness, money, love, fame… all the wishes of the recruits were shown on the monitors. I tried to watch them, but there was something that bothered me… some of the recruits were screaming in terror! Especially one of them, who was downright panicking, as if it was hurting her physically. She was the first one of the recruits to take out her helmet, collapsing onto the floor in lethargy.
I left the cabin immediately and ran to assist her. I instinctively grabbed her by the arm and tried to help her stand up, but she kept avoiding my hand, watching me and my eyes. Then I realized I could recognize her… It was Miia Nylund! Don’t touch me! She finally pushed me away violently and tightly grabbed her ears. I can’t do this anymore! I’m out of this damn place! She took her earphone out of her pocket and put it back on before running out of the basement. What in the world just happened…? I was so confused by that reaction, but I could only quickly return to the cabin.
What are you doing? Just watch the screens! Great, Civis told me off just for doing something good! I watched the monitors again, and all of them were showing the wishes, one after another … Not only that, but it showed something like a simulated future of the magical girls: fights with Ethereals, Generals and System-M. They were all vague shadows, but I could tell that was what they were doing. On top of that, I saw something really weird: magical girls fighting against bizarre, almost alien and unstructured monsters… those weren’t Ethereals, were they? I tried to figure out what those things were, but the images kept changing. What a mystery…
The new image was the young girl who was bullied by Civis… Cassidy Doniphan, the words on the screen were. She looked scared fighting against the Ethereal-lookalike creatures, but she was helping other magical girls to defeat it. I- I wish to help people… as the other Magical girls helped me before. Her high-pitched voice resounded in the middle of the battle. I wonder what Civis did for her…
The monitor changed its images again and it showed two magical girls fighting as a team. It wasn’t necessary to see the name of the girls to recognize them: They were the girls who were fighting earlier in the hall of the shop, Jessica and Shanna Thayne. As shown on the screen, they were defeating some magical girls as a coordinated team, completely and utterly opposite of what happened just earlier! I only understood why when I heard their wishes. My sister Jessica always wanted to be a high-ranking officer in the Air Navy… I just wish she would be able to fulfil it – I just want my Sister Shanna to be happy, whatever her wish might be. Weird, they wished for one another’s happiness, yet before entering the test, they looked like they couldn’t stand each other. Are they bipolar or what?
Many magical girls’ wishes later, the machine slowly shut down. One by one, the recruits took off the helmets and were able to breathe normally again. Almost all of them were exhausted, psychologically damaged, but that wasn’t important to Civis. She simply wiped sweat off her eyebrows, taking the microphone to speak to the girls one more time. Alright, we have finished the test.
Congratulations on finishing the test, everybody. We hoped it has… enlightened you, as well as help you make up your minds about being a magical girl. The Masked Man received the traumatized recruits in the lobby of the shop. I imagined he must have had a large grin behind that mask of his, because his voice conveyed only excitement… And probably was the only one with that mood out of all of us. I had no idea how they will score the test, or if they even cared at all. If you decide to fulfil your desired wishes and become part of our team, we will wait for you tomorrow, and every subsequent day of this next, at this same hour. You may leave now.
The girls left the shop relieved and in a whole bunch. I could hear all sorts of murmurs from them, with almost all of them whining or complaining. That was even worse than a nightmare! – I just want to go home and cry! – I’ll sue them for this! Yup… most of them definitely won’t come back tomorrow… maybe even no one. The test only scared them away, but I can’t blame them… If I had taken the test, I highly doubt I would have returned myself.
Before I could think any more about that, the recruits all started to scatter. Outside the shop, I heard a sound like a car stopping, and all the girls were gasping and wowing. I ran outside too, and right before us was the most amazing car I had ever seen! It was huge, yet sleek, black and silver. Its wheels looked just as huge, and front to back, everything was designed so smoothly. For a moment, I wondered if it was some rich person driving it, but then I was surprised by who stepped out of the driver’s seat, and was walking right towards the shop.
Oh, Flora. Perfect timing, and nice to see you again. – L-Lord Dearche?! I took a step backwards from the shock, but she looked back at me with a gentle smile. Please, please, just Christine is fine. – O-okay, C-Christine… It was not like I was scared of her, despite what happened the first time we met, but even when she looked casual, she looked like she was always holding herself up, graceful but imposing… and she could drive too?!
She looked back at the car, and the passenger doors that were opening. Are you girls okay? The first one to walk, or rather roll, out of the car was Anzai. She looked dizzy, probably carsick, and was mumbling to herself. Four other girls walked out of the car – three of them said hi to me too, but the last girl kind of folded her arms and walked straight in to the shop, with this frowning look on her face. I wasn’t sure if she was just shy or she didn’t like me, but Anzai was looking at her with a little bit of irritation… but that might have been from the dizziness too.
A-are you okay, Anzai? I asked her nervously, and she tried to smile. Oh, hey again Flora… nah, it’s nothing, just… freaking Black Fairy, crazy robot car… - Who’s Black Fairy?
Just as I asked that question, a voice came from the last place I expected it to. The car spoke!
Hiiiiii! Black Fairy here! Magical Girl of Truth, Justice, and FIREPOWER!
I jumped back from the car in shock too. I was so confused and terrified! The car— Black Fairy, was talking to me?! And it called itself a Magical Girl?! Since when did the Wishes Shop have a Magical Girl robot car?! More importantly, how?!
I stood there frozen with surprise for a few seconds. Then Civis ran out of the shop, and she looked a little surprised too. What the… how’d you get out of the hangar?! Seeing her yell at a car like that was already weird in and of itself, but again, the car talked back to her! Sorry Miss Rebellio! It even laughed too… I just immediately detected a Level 3 alert and I drove out as fast as I could! Apparently the VR girls took care of it already, and they asked for a lift back here! – What? You could… nevermind! Just go back in already! – Gotcha!
Then the car… Magical Girl… robot… turned around and drove into another corner, probably leading to the back of the shop. Suddenly, Civis grabbed me by the arm, and without another word dragged me back into the shop. Way to be courteous, Civis… though I wondered if she was a little upset at Black Fairy. When we got in, the Masked Man was standing in the center of the lobby, and everyone else stood around him. Vita, Caritas, Civis, myself, and even Christine and her team of Magical Girls, all stood around the Masked Man. It was like some kind of Magical Girl meeting!
Thank you all for coming on such a short notice, the Masked Man began talking again. Firstly, I believe today’s Recruit Test was quite a success. I would like to thank Miss Civis and Christine for the simulation machine. Despite the psychological stress it gives, it might just very well prove useful with its results. As he continued to ramble, Civis turned aside and looked almost proud, but Christine turned to the girl next to her, an orange haired girl, and sighed. I was a little surprised to hear she helped on that scary machine… but she didn’t seem too happy about it. Then again, everyone was looking at the Masked Man like he was crazy then. Why was he so excited about scaring so many girls off with such a thing anyway?
Secondly, I believe the Requiem Heralds here have some… dire news to share with us. – Not exactly dire, but it is somewhat urgent. Christine stepped forward, and showed to us in her hands was a large poster. One look, and I could already recognize the singer on the poster – it was Miia Nylund again. What was it with everyone today and Miia Nylund? Christine answered my question almost immediately…
We did a bit of investigation earlier today, and we’ve discovered that this girl and her concert… it’s all another plan from System-M.
I was shocked… again… but Vita, Caritas and Civis all looked at each other with this “I knew it” face. Now everything made sense – why Miia was acting so weird when she came and left, why Civis asked her to remove her earphone, and why Vita told me someone shouldn’t have been here… the famous singer coming to our home was a spy from System-M? Even now, I couldn’t believe it!
Anzai was punching her fists together. Even though she didn’t step forward, she spoke abruptly, and sounded almost angry. You see that date of the concert there? We’ve got less than a week to decide how we trash their stupid brainwashing fest, so let’s get to it. – Easy, Anzai. Christine tried to calm down her partner, and then she rolled up the poster. Even though she wasn’t angry, she looked around at all of us very seriously. The six of us will share what we found out earlier today, and from there, we will all have to work together to possibly stop whatever plans our enemy might be working on. Do we have your cooperation?
The Masked Man nodded immediately. Civis, Caritas and Vita all did as well. Seeing the very serious look they all had, I nodded too, even though I was nervous.
It looks like I was going to have another big mission on my hands…