Saga of Soul



My name is Ender, and I am no Downfall. Downfall was style over substance. He tried to live his life like a story, as if that gave him control over how the story went. Me? I consider myself a more pragmatic sort of terrorist.

I have been studying this world's humans for a while now. Their weakness is glaring: Information. They have too much of it. They're drowning in it. These… mass media… constantly bombard them with information from all over the world. Some of it is relevant to their lives. The majority, little more than sensationalism. And that makes it an excellent vector for terror.

Of course, it is one thing to be able to spread your message. It is another thing to make that message… memorable. Thankfully, I know a thing or two about shock value.

With a thought, the demon created a torch and, holding it, set it on fire. He gazed at the massive underground chamber. It had taken him whole days of work to hollow it inside the hill. It would now take him a whole day of nonstop magical exertion to fill it up.

Ender's eyes closed for a moment. And then, metric ton after metric ton of blood began to flow.



Sora didn't consider herself a particularly observant or sensitive girl. She hadn't given much thought to how quickly her boyfriend's facial injuries had been healing since the previous day. Still, the fact that he seemed distracted did not escape her.

"<So, the whole gang will be hanging out at the arcade later, including Terumi. You're invited, y'know.>"

"<That sounds grea… I mean…>" he paused. "<That sounds great, but I think I'll be busy, sorry. Hopefully next time?>"

"<What will you be busy with?>" she asked, eyebrow raised.

"<I... >" He briefly considered a doomed attempt at trivializing it with "<Just something,>" but thought better of it. "<Sorry, can't tell. Not my secret to share,>" he said with a sheepish smile.

"<Ooookay.>" She gazed at him intently. "<Just remember that if you get into trouble, you can tell me. Not that I expect you to get into trouble, except you talked someone into beating the shit out of you yesterday.>"

"<I promise, I'm not planning on taking any beatings,>" he chuckled.



"<Negotiations with the De Beers conglomerate have concluded successfully,>" Steel addressed the gathered members of Project Galactica. "<They will apply what lobbying capabilities they have to push for our agenda of magic regulation, provided that said regulation will, among other things, prohibit the manufacturing of diamonds and other gemstones.>"

"<I take it that they are also buying Maxcorp shares at thirty times their market value,>" one of the telecom execs at the table couldn't help but snipe.

"<28.7 to be precise,>" Steel replied without missing a beat, "<while also transferring 1.8 billion dollars to an account with the Bank of Japan. We are all here because we intend for our respective organizations to profit, be they private companies, government agencies or the Japanese nation. We are here because we stand to gain greater benefits by collaborating on this project.>"

"<True enough,>" said Chancell, as usual in the form of the Prime Minister. "<What about defense contractors?>"

"<Northrop Grumman has responded positively,>" Steel answered. "<A B-2 stealth bomber sells for over 700 million dollars. The last thing they want is for the military to be able to duplicate them for free. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and the Thales Group are still considering the offer. As for the pharmaceutical industry, three of the six highest-grossing companies in the field were contacted yesterday. Meetings are scheduled with the rest later today.>"

"<It's good to have them on board,>" said the foreign minister, "<but it's unlikely that everyone will agree. Even if it's in their interests, I expect some of these companies will refuse out of stubbornness, sheer stupidity, or simply internal corporate politics.>"

"<A small proportion of refusals will not cause significant harm to our strategy,>" said Steel. "<Even if they do not agree to our terms, they will still lobby for the magical regulation platform out of sheer self-preservation. All of these companies derive a vital part of their revenue from the production and sale of products whose price-per-ton ratio is high enough to make judicious targets for magical duplication. If the matter actually becomes problematic, the carrot and the stick apply: Northrop may not want mages to duplicate the stealth bombers in the USAF's hangars, but they would not object to the bombers in their hangars being duplicated for a token price. Meanwhile, punitive measures can be taken against those who make a nuisance of themselves.>"

"<That's where we, and PSIA, come in,>" said the Nachio director. "<We're making great strides in the use of Kamirentai portals for surveillance purpose. In time, we will be able to surveil problematic elements of the corporate milieu, and gather damaging information. For now, of course, we are focusing our attention on the NSA - to significant success, I might add. Earlier today, the cyber-warfare division was able to log in to an NSA server using the credentials of one its highest-ranking members. There is of course a limit to how much can be learned via remote hacking, but I expect that we will be privy to nearly everything the American intelligence community knows in the near future.>" Glancing at the American businesswoman, he added: "<We have also confirmed that the CIA has halted its investigation into Maxcorp.>"

"<One less thing to worry about, then,>" said Chancell. "<In the meanwhile, I also trust that you gentlemen have been discreetly encouraging your friends among currency speculators to invest in the Yen while it's cheap.>" There was a round of nods and confirmations. The various magical attacks of the past few months had hurt the economy worldwide simply by stirring fear, but Japan had been the hardest-hit; the value of the Yen respective to other currencies had reached its lowest point in decades. It was only starting to climb back up, but the conspirators of Project Galactica expected it to skyrocket soon due to their joint work; it thus served national interests to have the Japanese financial milieu buy back the Yens owned by foreign groups and individuals before that happened, trading Dollars, Yuans, Euros and more for the depreciated currency. Maxcorp had been among the first to make that gamble.

It was the JAXA director's turn to speak. "<The Galactica network construction is proceeding at an incredible pace. The Kamirentai Aces were able to place 51 comm satellites in low Earth orbit yesterday - a new record. At the current pace, it will take between two and three weeks to complete the satellite cluster - after which, we intend to launch the Mars mission. We expect travel time to be less than 48 hours each way, though an exact estimation is harder than usual, given the use of portals.>" From JAXA's perspective, the Kamirentai's portals were not just changing the game, they were tearing down the old board game shop and erecting a video game store in its place: Designing the satellites for the Galactica network had been trivial, since there had been no need for miniaturization, each satellite weighing nearly five times as much as the average comsat. Similarly, the Mars mission was not going to need to even reach escape velocity, since nearly the entire work of getting it from Earth to the red planet would be accomplished via portals - magical telekinesis would mostly be needed to match the craft's speed to the ground it needed to land on.

Chancell acknowledged the report, giving the foreign minister a knowing glance. "<On the diplomatic front, negotiations with the United States are proceeding apace. The diplomatic corps and I are obtaining certain concessions and working toward getting Washington to enforce international regulation, but we believe we can delay by at least another month before letting them in on the secrets of magical augmentation. Ouvertures are being made to other foreign powers, but for now, it remains imperative that Galactica seizes the window of opportunity.>"

Heads nodded around the table. They understood well enough.

The corporate executives understood that short-term profits measured in trillions of yens were up for grabs if they played their cards right, and that the project could allow them to dominate the industry.

The public sector representatives understood that if they played their cards right, Japan could simultaneously boost its GDP by a significant fraction, obtain a massive intelligence advantage, and acquire tremendous international influence and prestige - enough to make it a global superpower.

Chancell understood that with Project Galactica, he was gradually establishing a politico-financial cabal through which both the industry and politics of Japan could be controlled, thus allowing the Elysium to influence the world via a rising local superpower that didn't even know it had already been conquered… while also limiting the rise of private mages, which would make this world easier to administer once it was officially under Elysium control.

As for Victoria Steel… she understood enough, for now, while realizing there was more left to understand yet.



My name is Watanabe Eriko. I'm a thirteen-year-old magical girl, and, if my sources are to be believed, my life is actually a cosmic horror story about how the multiverse is an accidental simulation run by not-Azathoth, which he seeks to end by completing his evil plan to achieve sapience.

The fact that I'm not freaking out harder suggests, to me, that I haven't fully internalized these revelations. Assuming I even believe them. Dae-Hyun didn't seem to… but his motivation for doubting the story was of a religious nature, which isn't the same as...

Actually, what am I supposed to do about Dae-Hyun? Mother Aurora says his… compassion, I guess… is supposed to be one of the keys to saving the world, and apparently Mother Aurora now has some kind of precognition that gives her a path to victory or something. One more thing I'm not sure what I think of. But what am I actually supposed to do? Hang out with him after school? Invite him over to Castle Nexus, have him watch while I run my experiments and work on my enchantments? Bring him over when I talk to inspector Aoyama, or Steel-Sama, or professor Maru? I mean… I brought Junko here because she's my best friend, and because she was feeling neglected. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do in this situation.

So, I suppose for now, I'll fall back on what I do know how to do.

It was with that thought in mind that she portalled to Castle Nexus.

Huh. No Monsoon. Guess she isn't back yet.

Moving to what she had come think of as the "workshop", she pulled out a wand about as long as her arm and two centimeters thick, its shaft engraved with symbols, its ending shaped like a metal rose.

Titanium. Decent ratio of tensile strength to density. Not too fragile, easy to wield.

Now I just need to finish enchanting it. It's been a while.



My name is Shodo Mihiro. I work in the movie industry. Currently, I'm involved with the production of a live-action movie about a little girl who gets lost in Tokyo and goes through a number of contrived events to find her home.

My job is baby-sitting the main actress. Because apparently her parents can't be bothered to show up on the set.

Kagitani Ryoko is considered by some the great new find of Japanese cinema, if only because she's one of the few ten-year-olds out there who can act without it being utterly obvious that she's a kid with a script.

"<I can't believe he made us shoot that scene fifteen times!>" Ryoko stomped about. "<It was just fine the first time!>"

"<It's the director's job to make sure every scene in the movie looks perfect,>" Mihiro said with a neutral expression.

"<We wasted hours! I wanted to do things this afternoon!>" Ryoko moped. "<We've done nothing but shoot scenes all week.>"

Any enthusiasm the kid might have had when she got cast in the role, four months of the actual work have done a great job of carving away. To be honest, for her sake, I hope her parents won't make her do further movies after this. "<It has been a busy week, but the day after tomorrow, the only thing on the schedule is the interview in Tokyo. We can have the rest of the day for doing something you want!" Mihiro said in her best encouraging tone. "Is there something you want to do in Tokyo?>"

The child fell silent.


"<I…" Ryoko hesitated. "Do you think we could see Soul?>"


"<Magical Girl Soul! She saves people and she fights monsters in Toyko!>" Ryoko's eyes lit up. "<Is there a way to see her?>"

Mihiro blinked. "<I… I'll ask around? I can't make promises, though.>"

Huh. I can't really think of a way to arrange that, but... That's the first time I've seen her enthusiastic about something all month.



My name is Junko Takahashi, and I'm nervous as heck about meeting a boy.

That sounded more romantic than it actually is.

Dae-Hyun is this Korean boy that Mother Aurora dropped on Eriko and me yesterday. Among a lot of other things she dropped on us. She says he's some kind of champion of Love. It… also sounded like she was calling Eriko a champion of Truth (fitting; Eriko hates lying and sucks at it) and me a champion of Loyalty, but that was kind of ambiguous? I'm not sure if that means I'm important or not.

Eriko and Dae-Hyun definitely are, though.

Anyway, he called earlier and said he wanted to meet up, talk about this crazy situation. I told him I'd ask if Eriko was free today. He said meeting just me today was fine.

So, now we're meeting, and I'm not sure why. Does he think, because I hang out with Soul, I'm important too? I mean, I could see him getting that impression, but…

"<Ah, hello, Junko!>"

She turned around, giving a wave and a nervous smile. "<Hi, Dae-Hyun. How are you doing?>"

"<If I'm honest?>" he gave an embarrassed chuckle. "<Still pretty shaken up by everything I heard yesterday. What about you?>"

"<I'm OK, I guess? I mean… things have been weird for a while now.>"

"<Yeah, I guess. But, the whole bit with He Who Is was new for you and Eriko too, right?>"

"<Yeah, but, is it really much weirder than…>" she paused, glancing at the passerby around them. "<...the whole place, or the tricks Eriko can do?>"

Dae-Hyun blinked rapidly. What? Did I say something weird? "<Ah… Well, it's all weird, I'll grant you that.>" He paused. "<So… Is there any place you feel like going right now?>"

That gave her pause. "<What do you mean? What are we doing?>"

"<Hanging out?>" he shrugged with a good-natured smile. "<I mean, it sounds like we're sort of supposed to be a team? I'm not really sure what I'm getting into, but I figured I'd love to be your friend, at least.>"

"<Shouldn't you be doing this with Eriko?>"

"<Well, her too, but I can do that tomorrow. Unless today's a bad time for you?>"

"<No, I said I was free.>" She paused. "<Uh, is there some place you want to go?>"

He shrugged. "<Usually my girlfriend picks places. I don't really have a favorite sort of hangouts.>"

Huh. OK, so, that definitely doesn't sound like a date. "<Well… How do you feel about cat cafés?>"



"<...and she kept apologizing for hitting me, even after I said it was just a misunderstanding,>" Dae-Hyun concluded the anecdote.

Junko laughed, slightly startling the cat she was petting. "<So did you end up asking her out like you'd planned after that?>"

"<Well, no, I didn't want to ask her while she was feeling guilty. That would be kind of unfair. I waited two more weeks.>"

Junko smiled, refocusing her attention on the contented feline. Dae-Hyun pitched in, providing assistance with the tactical petting effort, before speaking again: "<So… how did you and Eriko meet?>"




"<...and we all rushed to the hospital. She came back home a few days later.>"

"<Wow.>" Daey-Hyun paused. "<I'm… I'm really sorry you had to go through all that. Parents are…>" he trailed off.

"<It's… It's OK. It wasn't that bad.>"

He made a skeptical face for a moment. "<I guess it's no wonder Eriko does what she does. She was a hero even before things got weird.>"

"<She really is,>" Junko nodded. "<Look, I'm sure you can meet her tomorrow. We'll make time.>"

"<Junko,>" he smiled at her, "<I do want to talk to Eriko, but you're not some consolation prize. You're nice, you're fun, you're a good friend, and you pet cats like a pro. I want to be your friend because I think you're a good friend to have, not because you know Eriko.>"

Junko blinked. "<...Thanks,>" she said hesitatingly. Even so, her smiles were slightly less forced afterwards.


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