Princess Holy Aura – Chapter 05
The silver burst from his body and he became the light, flying outward, making a universe of argent and white touched with rainbows, a whirling cyclone of light that chimed and rang and sang a song of triumph and rebirth. Steve felt a body reforming, electric warmth like a hot shower on a cold, cold day curling around and defining every line, every curve that was coalescing from pure light, tingling like a brush of lightest snow on the finest day. He seemed both within and without, part of the body yet outside of it, a slender form a fraction of the prior size, contours smooth and oddly familiar while being strange, almost alien, and he felt a distant spurt of fear.
But elation and triumph pushed fear back, drowned it out with the sound of trumpets and drums as she spun about —
Steve realized that the thought had felt natural, yet at the same time clashed with the deepest reflexes of his mind. He! That’s how I . . . How Stephen Russ . . .
But I’m not Stephen Russ. Not now. Not exactly.
Now the terror of uncertainty — of his own identity being changed, being different and unknown — burst fully in on her. Yet the ecstasy and certainty of the transformation could not be denied or cast aside, and even in her confusion, Steve knew that what he was becoming was necessary, that lives hung in the balance, and he seized that horror, that numbing dread, and shoved it away, into the very farthest reaches of her mind. This must be. This I have accepted. There will be a price . . . but one to be paid later.
She threw her arms out, feeling the light blazing across her body, forming into the raiment that she knew must appear, both in the ancient echoes of knowledge from eons past and in the memories of images Stephen Russ had seen many times. Delicate armored gloves nearly to the elbow, glittering white and silver and pearl shimmering into existence as crystal and metal and cloth, shoulder-guards and sparkling boots and a chiming-crystal skirt of diamond-bright gems edged with mystic metal, woven from the purity of magic as she spun through the perfect pearlescent void — or it spun about her.
Now the light drew in, revealing the world beyond, concentrating to twin arcs of light the brightness of the sun and the essence of hope, arcs that bound themselves around her brows with a flash of pain, flame and ice and lightning forming into a glittering coronet.
It was then that she (he? a tiny voice within asked, hopelessly) realized the dhole was speaking, in a voice lower than anything human, words shaking the ground.
“Seeking, seeking, smell the light . . . consume the light . . . tell us where!” The thing reared up, looming above terrified shoppers, some trapped in wreckage. “Surface-crawlers, water-life, nothings, anakh gryll oman’nanql b’harni Azathoth!” As it finished the last incomprehensible alien phrase, it began to descend, and screams began to rise.
The screams awakened Steve and what he had become to full awareness and acceptance of this impossible reality. “STOP!“
The shout echoed across the lot, a whipcrack of imperative brilliance, and the immense rock-worm halted, curled swiftly around.
Even as it did, he/she felt her mouth open, the hand extend. Oh my God, I even have to follow through with the hackneyed introduction?
At the same time, she spoke. “I am the one you seek, monster! Mystic Galaxy Defender, Apocalypse Maiden the First, Princess Holy Aura, reborn as sword and shield, weapon and wielder, mistress of souls and stars!”
Steve, trying desperately to hold onto a sense of himself, focused on the words. I am not going to have a catchphrase that ends like “in the name of the stars, I will give you a spanking!” I will be Princess Holy Aura — I AM Princess Holy Aura — but on my terms! I accept you — now you accept me!
With that thought Steve found himself fully aware of a body that was not his, but hers, but belonged as much to Steve as ever his own had, and the words of Holy Aura belonged to Steve as well. “You have threatened innocents and brought fear to this world,” she continued, “and for that, this Apocalypse Maiden says that you” — the extended hand pointed, and then turned to a fist with the thumb outthrust, turning until it pointed to the ground — “are going down!”
The dhole bellowed its challenge and charged with a speed that belied its immense bulk.
Holy crap, what the hell am I doing?
She saw the monster bearing down on her like a runaway freight train and desperately leapt aside —
To find herself sailing effortlessly through the air, a jump thirty, forty feet high and twice that in length, evading the clumsy charge with ridiculous ease. Another charge, another leap, and her heart began to slow its pounding just a hair. It really can’t keep up with me! And me . . . I’m jumping like Spider-Man on speed!
The realization that she wasn’t helpless — that this thing was wrecking real estate but unable to reach her — finally allowed Princess Holy Aura to accept that she could act. And also to become aware of a distant, clear voice:
“Princess! Holy Aura! You must stop it swiftly, before it thinks to call to its brethren!”
Stop it? Even if her strength was equal to her jumping ability, she wasn’t sure her hand would survive punching the thing. But . . . I’m a mahou shoujo now, so I should have a weapon . . .
The thought triggered the certainty, and once more the pure silver light shone out, this time between her hands. What will it be? A wand? A bow? Please don’t let it be some kind of Frisbee or anything.
A long shaft, glittering as argent as the light, grew from pure luminance and extended out, one end a huge blade, the other a massive ball, the entire thing almost twice Holy Aura’s height, and she felt a broad, savage grin spreading across her newfound face. A broad-bladed naginata, a bisento! A weapon I actually know how to use! Despite its great size, the bladed spear felt light as a dagger in her hands, and she spun it around, creating a shining circle of dazzling reflections before her.
“That . . . is rather different,” Silvertail’s quiet voice said. “But no matter! You will need to invoke the –”
She wasn’t listening. Seeing the destruction that the monster had caused, and realizing that there were people injured — people who might die if this thing wasn’t stopped fast — raised the fury and outrage to its peak again. “Here, monster — try this!”
She leapt once more, but this time toward the dhole, drawing the great weapon back as she did. It lunged to meet her, but she rose above it, then descended, bringing the massive blade down with every ounce of strength she had and a shouted battlecry. “Ginhikari no Bisento!”
The concussion blew out the remaining windows around the mall lot. The Silverlight Bisento sundered the dhole’s head, shattering stone skin, splintering and crushing the mighty grinding jaws, driving the monster’s body downward with the same irresistible, absolute force of an avalanche, hammering the multiton creature’s body into the pavement with a shockwave of power, bowing the surface of the parking lot into a crater eighty feet and more across. The worm-thing gave one tremendous, shuddering convulsion and collapsed.
For a moment, all was silent; Holy Aura landed atop the stony corpse of her fallen foe and gazed out, shellshocked at the abrupt beginning and end, as people rose from the ground, began to stare at her and point, murmurs of shock and disbelief turning to gratitude.
Then she heard sirens approaching fast. Instinctively she gave a smile and a bow to the assembled people, then leapt away, bounding to the roof of DIY Home and sprinting across it.
As she ran, Steve felt the confusion returning, and a new panic. What happened there? I was doing that . . . but I wasn’t! I didn’t think about half of that! I just . . . did it! I didn’t make up most of that speech! And . . . who am I? I’m a . . . a man, but I’m thinking I’m not! I’m Holy Aura! I’m Stephen Russ! I was shouting an attack I never knew! What . . . and I haven’t even . . . how . . .
Thoughts beginning to unravel, the girl in glittering, implausible armor ran faster, streaking through the air, trying to outrun the one thing she could never escape: herself.