“I shouldn't even be here," Yuuno murmured to Arf, who'd invited him. “Yes, I know I have an animal form and no Device and lots of barrier spells, but I am still a human.”
“Never stopped Saito. And you're much more of a gentleman.”
“Thank you. I'm just worried that the rather large fellow made of rock is going to punch me in the face for being an interloper. I've gotten somewhat rusty.”
Arf glanced at the familiar currently swapping “My partner is an utter lunatic” stories with Noi Crezant. “Mana of Gold? Nah, he's cool. Anyway, we need to get you out of that dusty library, and it's become pretty clear you only make friends with familiars.”
“What? But what about Nanoha and Fate and Chrono and the rest?”
“And you haven't seen any of them in how long?”
“...You said there was a bar?”
There was, although the pair didn't get quite that far before Yuuno got sucked into an absolutely fascinating conversation with one Albert Chamomile and a rather unenthused Chachazero about various kinds of magical contracts (and how an ermine might use them to make bank, hypothetically). They were shortly joined by a smiling, catlike thing that introduced itself as Kyubey, the agent of a group working to postpone the heat death of the universe by similar contracts.
“We came to the conclusion that renewed investigation into alternative methods was merited when one of my contractees mentioned one to me. It is similar to the method we currently use, except instead of the girls we contract disappearing when brought to despair, they turn into 'Witches' which require other magical girls to destroy. That method would provide considerably higher energy gains, but there are certain engineering problems that cannot be surmounted with our current knowledge.”
There was a pause as the others digested this. Yuuno spoke first. “These Witches...monstrous and destructive?”
“So it seems.”
“Mindless or cunningly evil?”
“Any thoughts they have are alien to both us and humanity.”
“And you want to turn innocent children into them in order to save the universe?”
The librarian nodded, completely expressionless. “This sounds exactly like the arguments I agreed to stop having with the Lieze twins. I'm getting the hell out of this conversation. You have fun.” And so he left.
Chachazero was glancing thoughtfully from Chamo to Kyubey and back, somehow breathing heavily despite her lack of actual lungs. The ermine noticed, and murmured to her, “No threesome. I am not risking catching some bizarre alien STD.”
“Hey stranger,” said the stone lion outside the building the get-together was being held in this time. “I don't believe you've registered with the Guild of Magical Assistants? It's only by standing together that we can all protect ourselves against the bosses.”
“Er,” said Yuuno, “I'm a librarian, not a magical assistant. I have magical assistants working for me, actually, I'd be happy to drop your name to them, just as soon as I get it...
“I've told you Wati, it's not a job for everyone, it's a state of being,” said Arf, coming out to grab Yuuno and hustle him inside. “He must be getting frustrated, with how hit-and-miss his recruiting's been,” she continued in a low voice. “Walker just about laughed in his face at the idea he was being exploited.”
“He's the giant ground sloth, right? I can't imagine many people are going to try and exploit someone who can pick them up and throw them that far.”
“Although I hear his partner could probably throw him, too.”
Conversation stopped for a moment, as the swearing and shouts of “Magical punishment!” from the handful of arcade games in the corner would have drowned it out. Black Frost must have beaten Kero badly that time.
“You can stop looking around like there's an assassin hidden somewhere,” Arf said when the noise died down. “Len's not here today.”
Yuuno sagged in relief. “Thank the Saint. I'm sure she's a lovely person, but she looks ten, Arf.”
“I recall a time when you would have been happy to have been hit on by someone who looked ten.”
“Was I perhaps ten myself in this recolle- Oh Saint, is that Kyubey?”
It was, or at least a member of his race. Even if anyone knew how to tell the smiley little critters apart, they would have been hard-pressed to tell which one had been reduced to the ragged thing that had limped in. The Incubator looked more broken than Yuuno would have thought possible for someone without emotions.
Several members of the crowd who had some facility with healing magic were moving forward to do what they could when a black, spear-wielding figure mounted on a walking tooth charged past them, shrieking something in Ancient Belkan, to try and finish the job of whatever had left the Incubator looking half-dead.
Arf yanked Yuuno's arm down before he could start casting something to protect the Incubator (he didn't particularly like them, but he didn't approve of going around stabbing sapients in the face with pointy objects) and hissed, “Mrs. Norris is here, she'll have called security, don't get caught up in the response.”
Sure enough, a moment later a Mercury djinn appeared with a bucket of water that it dumped on the Luiselotte. A brief glow of magic later and the Luiselotte was frozen in a column of ice and Yuuno in a state of utter amazement.
“Okay,” he said a moment or two later, when the onlookers had generally concluded the excitement was over. “That sure looked like it was a transmutation effect, but with so little water to work with...” He experimentally tapped the column. Solid as a rock.
“You think that's crazy, wait until you see what they can do working together,” said Arf. “Although I'm not certain I believe everything I've heard about this 'Iris' move they have.”