A Stone Re-Sealed?
Arche Plumfield opened her eyes to find the wind elemental Chiffon staring right back into her eyes. "Arche," came the elemental's soft voice. "Something's wrong-"
But before he could finish, Arche noticed the light outside the window. "Holy crackers, I'm late!" she cried, sitting bolt upright. "I was meant to look after the animals this morning! Oh no, oh no, Chiffon quick help me get dressed..!"
Seconds later, Arche was racing downstairs, dodging past her mother on the way to the ground floor. "Ah, Arche, are you excited for your first- wait, what is that?!" she cried out as Chiffon flew past her, chasing after his partner. Arche didn't spare any thought to what her mother was saying as she straightened her shawl, checked her sword, threw on her boots and raced out the door.
"Chiffon maybe if we use Unison we can get there in time!" Arche declared, reaching into her pocket to retrieve her elemental stone, Sylpheed. She focused her power, raising the stone to the skies... and nothing happened. Stopping in her tracks, she looked down at the stone and tapped it a few times. Why was it so dull...? It was meant to be a vibrant pink, not... this greyish pink colour!
"Is it broken? Oh, no, after all we went through to unseal it...! Maybe Ms. Sophia will know- crap no time run run run!" And off she ran again, through the village gate.
Leap across the gorge right outside Tolkiness - seriously why didn't they build a bridge this was way too dangerous - then on to sprint through the hills. Arche drew her sword the moment she saw the jiggling green flesh of a slime ahead of her. Where did they keep coming from? She'd killed over twenty on them over the past two weeks and the way was always littered with them the next day!
She dodged back as the slime leaped at her, then dashed forward to slice the slime clean in two! ... At least, that's what she intended. But her sword got stuck instead, forcing her to exert more effort - and requiring another blow to kill the monster. That's funny. How did her sword get so blunt in just one day...? She looked down at it.
"My practice sword?! I picked up the wrong sword before leaving the house! Aw maaannn," she sulked. She heard the second slime coming up behind her - and backflipped over it almost casually, before turning in the air and slicing vertically, performing the Reverse Full Moon technique, cleaving it fully in half like she had intended with the first one.
She landed on one hand, then flipped back over to her feet. She flicked her sword to get the slime gunk off of it, then sheathed it on her back.
It took her a few moments to hear someone clapping behind her. She turned around, to see the amazed face of Sana Poanet. Arche rubbed the back of her head, embarassed. "That was amazing!" Sana gushed.
"That was... kinda sloppy, really. C'mon, you know I can do better," Arche reponded with a blush.
"Really?!" Sana's eyes sparkled. "Wow... I can't even imagine! Where did you learn to do that?"
"Oh, you know, I trained with my dad, and I kinda improvised a lot when fighting monsters and stuff, and- oh crap I'm still super late, c'mon, we have to get to school!"
"Huh? Oh, you go to Minasa-Ratis Magic School too? I've never seen you around before!" But Arche was already running off, leaving Sana to chase after her. "Heeeey, slow down, school doesn't start for like half an hour!"
Arche was stumped. Sitting there in class, listening to Ms. Sophia teaching... The same introduction from her first day here, same lessons, nobody recognized her or Chiffon - not even Sana or Stella! Ms. Sophia had said her elemental stone seemed to be 'sealed'... just like it had been the first time she found it. What was going on-
"Holy crackers!" Arche suddenly exclaimed, standing bolt upright. "Time is repeating!"
There was a stunned silence in the class, before Colm burst out laughing. Ms. Sophia huffed. "Arche, I understand that mathematics may not be your favourite subject, but please keep comments about how bored you are to yourself."
Arche sat down, red faced, as her classmates giggled. So... that was why. "I tried to tell you..!" Chiffon whispered in her ear, pouting.
When she'd said she wanted to go on another adventure she didn't mean the exact same one...! Oh, well. It was fun the first time. Arche grinned and clenched her fist. It would be fun the second time, too!
New Loop: Fortune Summoners
Anchors: Arche Plumfield and Chiffon (Co-Anchors)
Low Gear Run
"Um, Arche, it's not like I... don't appreciate the new dress," Sana said carefully as she inspected herself in the clothing shop mirror. "It goes nicely with my beret, and... it offsets the colour of the blackmetal staff you bought me earlier..."
"What Sana is trying to say, Arche," Stella interjected. "Is that you keep spending all of your money on us, even on things that don't improve our combat abilities one jot, and yet you've been running around with no armour and a blunt sword for the past week!"
Arche was leaning against the wall, looking up at the ceiling. She'd seen Sana posing in the mirror with that exact same dress a dozen times already. It was cute, but it was starting to get a little old. "Well duh. I'm doing a challenge run of this adventure!" She stood up straight, flexing her biceps. "I don't need upgrades when I've got these!" As usual, she barely had any definition to her arms.
Stella stared at her blankly.
"U-um, a 'challenge run'? Isn't that usually something you do after you've already done it once...?" Sana spoke, confused.
"Yep! And I've done this, like, twenty times now I think. Anyway c'mon, let's go to Weathervane Tower! I wanna see if I can beat up the Wyvern with my practice sword!"
"What, you aren't going to fight it with your arms tied behind your back?" Stella mocked playfully. "I swear, no matter how many times Sana heals me, my jaw still feels stiff from when you kicked me in the face..."
Arche giggled. "I don't think I'm THAT good yet, but good idea! Maybe some other time." Sana and Stella had gotten somewhat used to Arche claiming she was reliving these events over and over. She certainly seemed to know a lot more than someone who only moved to the area just over a week ago should. The idea still didn't sit quite well with either of them, but Chiffon kept backing her up...
And then there was the way that elemental stone in the hidden shrine fused with the one Arche already had.
They began to file out of the clothing store, headed in the direction of Weathervane Tower and the third Crest of Wind. "...Wait, WYVERN?!" Sana suddenly exclaimed, having processed Arche's words finally.
Arche grinned. "Don't worry it's fiiiine, you two are probably strong enough by now to take it out on your own. ... Heeey, that's an idea-"
"Don't even think about it," Stella snapped.
Rising Action! - Her True Form Revealed?!
"Aaaand... gotcha!" Arche squealed as she tagged the Dark Witch Selene with her blade. If she was right, this should be just enough to overwhelm the Dark Witch.
Indeed, Selene's legs wobbled, and she collapsed down to one knee. Her magical shield shattered. "Yes! Chiffon, time!"
"Three minutes, forty-seven seconds!" Chiffon chirped.
"YEAH new record!" Arche fist-pumped, while Sana and Stella just stared at her blankly, panting with exertion. "...Hello? Mister Mysterious Evil Voice? Now's about the time you're supposed to- what is she doing?"
"You may have beaten this frail mortal shell," the Dark Witch panted with exertion, struggling back to her feet. "But my true powe-"
"Frail mortal shell? But you're a demon," Arche pointed out, perplexed.
"BUT MY TRUE POWER has still yet to be unleashed!" Selene insisted, raising one hand. What looked like an elemental stone appeared there in her hand - which was weird, because Arche was pretty sure demons didn't need elemental stones to do magic. She'd read that in a book once, right? "Dark Orb, fill me with the power of Everlasting Darkness!"
Arche stared in confusion as the Dark Witch rose up from the ground, body encircled by a dark aura. Her muscles began to grow grotesquely, as a pair of dark leathery wings erupted from her back.
"Aha! I knew it!" Sana suddenly exclaimed. "She really was the sealed form of Anarychon!" Arche turned to face her friend to see her pull a staff - a second staff, not the one with Eolamest attached - from out of nowhere. "To protect my friends, I'll have to unleash my secret magic powers!"
"You already have magic powers-" Arche began.
"My SECRET magic powers!" Sana explained, patiently. "MagiChange! Mari, Maji, Maririn!" Sana chanted, holding that new staff up high. There was an explosion of light as Sana levitated up into the air, twirling around as ribbons encircled her form - and a moment later, there stood... well, still Sana, but now wearing a cute, ridiculously frilly blue dress with gold accents, and wielding a staff that was almost as large as she was.
"Aha, I knew it!" suddenly came Stella's voice, as Sana leapt into battle against 'Anarychon'. "Magical Girl Aqua Sana was secretly Sana this whole time!"
"But isn't her name-" Chiffon began, only to be cut off.
"She may not be strong enough to take on a demon of Anarychon's calibre, though- I guess I have no choice. Royal Scarlet!" Stella raised her right arm, and more importantly the bracelet she kept her elemental stone in, to the sky. "Ready!"
The elemental stone pinged. "Ready," came a voice, startling Arche.
"Set Up!" ANOTHER explosion of light - although this one was red - enveloped the room. Stella threw her bracelet in front of her, where it somehow unfolded into a rapier. As soon as she grasped the new weapon, Stella's clothes exploded off of her, to be rapidly replaced by what appeared to be a fusion of a school uniform and plate armour.
"Since when could you wear armour?!" Arche complained, while Stella simply dove into battle.
Arche sank to the ground as she watched her two friends - who were apparently both Magical Girls now?? - fought a demon the size of a building. She was starting to feel kind of left out... Even though she had to admit the bursts of light and awesome magical spells and weapons were kinda cool to watch.
Pretty soon, 'Magical Girl Aqua Sana' had tied up 'Anarychon' with chains of water, while Stella lined up her 'Royal Scarlet Buster Mode' - which honestly was just a bigger rapier, although half the blade was replaced with fire for some reason. Arche didn't really think that would hit much harder than a normal stab, but what did she know?
Suddenly, the door was kicked in, and there stood a girl with brown hair, wearing a white school uniform with green highlights. "Never fear! Sailor Green is here to- oh, um, looks like you've got this handled after all."
"Hi Ellie!" Chiffon chirped, waving to the new arrival.
"Hi Chiffon~!" 'Sailor Green' responded automatically. "I-I mean, I'm not Ellie, don't be-"
Arche pouted. "Are ALL of my classmates secretly magical girls?"
"N-no, don't be silly!" Ellie reassured Arche quickly. "...Three of our classmates are boys. They can't be magical girls."
Swap out your builds
Chiffon stared at Arche.
Arche stared at Chiffon.
"Uh..." Chiffon rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. "You look like a cute badger, I guess..."
"Of course I look cute," Arche said. "I'm an earth ewemental. Elemental. And you actuawy make a very adorable human boy."
"But how am I supposed to swing a swowd wike this?!" Arche cried to the heavens.
Chiffon blinked. "Uh... actually, I think I'm supposed to swing the sword this time."
"Oh." Arche looked him over. "Yeah, that makes sense."
"Uh... do we have to go on an adventure to get all the wind crests?"
"I think we need to get earth crests actuawy," Arche mused. "Cause I'm an earth ewemental--why do I keep doing that with my wl's?"
Watery Eyes for a Watery Girl
"Okay, the theme for this go around will be..." Arche pondered as she strolled her way towards school. "Guh, I dunno. Chiffon, do you have any ideas?"
"We couwd... do the Crests of Wind in a different order?" the little elemental suggested. "Maybe Weathervane Tower first?"
"Mmh. I dunno if Sana or Stella would really be up to that right away though... Plus, how would we befriend Sana without getting the one from Barness first? That's what makes her start to open up to us usually..."
Arche and Chiffon stopped on the trail. This was starting to get... boring, really. The same events playing out over and over. Even when they changed something, things still happened in the same general order every time. Even the weird times when she was the elemental and Chiffon was the human, or that time she and Stella had swapped places, things still went the same way! And nobody ever remembered! It was just her and Chiffon, repeating the same six months over and over again. Sometimes Arche imagined going on a rampage through Tonkiness, or joining the Dark Witch, just for a CHANGE-
"Arche?" came a soft voice from behind. Arche turned, startled, to find Sana peering at her quizically.
"Arche, is everything okay? You didn't come to pick me up this morning. And... and my mom said something really weird. She said how she wished I had more friends, but like... doesn't she remember you? We've been friends for months now, a-and she was gushing about how much I'd changed thanks to you just yesterday!" The blue-garbed girl looked rather worried.
"You... you remember...?" Arche spoke softly, in disbelief.
"Remember what?" Sana was very confused. "Arche, you're talking weird-"
Arche suddenly threw her arms around Sana. "Oh holy, Sana, I... I missed you so much! You never remembered me, a-and becoming your friend was fun every time but having to do it over and over again-"
Sana looked helplessly towards Chiffon as Arche began to cry in her arms. "Chiffon help! I don't know what's gotten into her!"
Chiffon frowned a little bit, then hovered in close. "Time is wooping. It repeats, over, and over, and over. The same six months. And it's just me and Arche who remember. But now you, too!" Chiffon beamed. "Oh, I hope this isn't another of those weird things where something is different for one go through but them turns out to be the same next time!"
Sana took a while to process this. Then, finally, she hugged Arche back. "Oh, Arche... that sounds so lonely... Don't worry. I... I'm here now, apparently. You're my best friend. And I won't ever forget that."
Arche sniffed. "Promise?"
Sana gave a beaming smile. "Promise!"
Arche pumped her fist. "Yeah! Got my math thingy done! And I think I got all the questions right!"
"Are you sure?" Sana asked.
"Yeah! Uh... I think so." Arche looked at the paper. "Uh... lissee... ten, eleven... um. Yeah. Definitely got it right!"
"Well, you're doing better," Sana said as miss Sophia started gathering up assignment sheets. "I guess spending a lot of time on the same lesson helps you learn it, huh?"
"...kind of?" Arche shrugged. "It's weird, but... you know how you can forget little things sometimes? Like where you put your socks?"
"Well I still do that, but it's only for the time I'm in. When I think about the times I was in before, I can remember everything perfectly."
Sana tilted her head in confusion. "Really?"
"...then why don't you pass these tests all the time?"
"Well, I don't think about the times before all the time," Arche explained. "If I did, I'd be too distracted to live in this time!"
Sana giggled. "Wow, that--that just makes so much sense for you!"
"I usuawy have to wemind her of what she's forgotten, fwoo." Chiffon shook his head. "She always wemembers the monsters we fight, but never where we found the keys we need!"
"Hey, I remember where we found the keys! Sometimes..." Arche pouted. "...a few times... well, I always find them!"
"Is that how you are so good with your swordfighting still?" Sana asked. "The... remembering between times?"
"Kind of. Well, maybe? Part of swordfighting is being able to know how to swing a sword on a deep level, like knowing how to walk. So... I guess I could be remembering how I trained," she admitted. "Maybe I should start training to try some new things...?"
Sana looked at her staff. "Now that you mention it... I can remember the spells I learned the first time around, even if... I haven't learned them yet? If that makes sense..." She shook her head. "Do you think I should try figuring out new spells?"
"Sure! If you want to. I'd love to see what you can figure out!"
The water mage giggled. "Okay! I'll work on that!"
Sana's Sorcerous Schediasm
"Hey, Arche," Sana said one day, as the two walked home from school.
"You know how I've been trying to think up new spells? Well, I think I have something. Y'know when I cast Diamond Dust, sometimes monsters will be frozen solid for a bit if they get hit?" Arche nodded. "Well, see, that happens because sometimes the 'water freezing' aspect of the spell sticks around even after the 'launching' aspect goes off, so if one of the ice spikes touches something made of water - like a monster - it can sometimes still cause it to freeze," Sana said while pulling out her spellbook.
Arche was now completely in over her head, but she just nodded her head anyway, figuring it was more important for Sana to keep talking through her idea than for Arche to know what she was talking about!
"Well... combining the 'manifest' aspect of Heal Water with the 'water freezing' aspect of Diamond Dust should let me target a monster and freeze them directly. At least, in theory! I think I have the spell pattern down but I haven't tested it yet-"
Arche's eyes went wide. "You're making a spell to freeze monsters?! Oh wow, that's awesome! It's so useful when they get frozen by Diamond Dust, they can't fight back for a few seconds so we can focus on other monsters. Sana, you're a genius!"
Chiffon fist pumped in the air. "Sana is amazing!"
Sana rubbed the back of her head. "Eheh... like I said, I haven't really tested it yet, so I don't know if it works..."
Arche grinned and drew her sword. "Well, let's go test it right now!" she declared, turning around and heading back towards school in the direction of Korat Village.
"Ah, hold on..!" Sana called after her, uselessly, before sighing and running to keep up.
Two sabercats and two poison mothbees. Once this would have been deadly, but now it was simply annoying to deal with. The mothbees perfectly shored up the sabercats' weaknesses, and they seemed to coordinate with each other in an almost supernatural manner...
"Sana, quick, freeze one of the mothbees!" Arche called, as she parried a claw swipe from a sabercat.
"O-okay, I'll do my best!" She raised her staff. A magic circle formed at her feet, and another in front of her between herself and her target. Concentrating her willpower through her elemental stone, Eolamest, like a lens, she brought the spell into focus. "Ivory Flesh!" she called, voice reverberating with power. Suddenly, her target iced over like it had suddenly been doused in liquid nitrogen, freezing it solid in a matter of moments. It fell to the floor, thudding off the grass, completely intact - simply in a state of harmless suspended animation despite being covered in frost.
"That was amazing!" Chiffon cheered.
And then the frozen mothbee shattered, exploding forcefully into a million pieces.
"AAAAAAAH!" all three screamed in unison.
Safety, Slimes, and Serious Things
"Everyone, go straight home and watch out for slimes!"
"Yes, miss Sophia!" the class chorused, sliding out from their desks.
Arche frowned for a moment as her classmates bustled about. "...Hey, Sana?"
"Why does Miss Sophia tell us to look out for slimes every time school closes?"
Sana frowned. "Because they're dangerous...?"
"Are they, though? I mean some of the tougher ones, like the red and yellow ones, they can be, but green and blue slimes are easy to put down. And all the students have magic, right?"
"Just because we have magic doesn't mean we're all good at fighting monsters," Sana pointed out. "You know how I was when you first met me."
"Okay, but... why slimes?" Arche asked. "Mothbees are more dangerous then slimes. Heck, snakes are more dangerous then slimes!"
"It's because all monsters are dangerous," said a voice right behind her.
"Gah!" Arche spun around, looking up at her stern teacher. "Miss Sophia! I--"
"And the best way to survive a monster attack is not to get attacked in the first place," she continued. "Slimes might not be dangerous on their own, but a lot of smarter monsters know that they can slow people down. So it's better to avoid them then go looking for trouble."
"Oh." Arche considered for a moment. "But... what if you can't avoid them?"
"That's what we have the guard for. And... each other." Miss Sophia knelt down. "I've seen the way you hold that sword, Arche. You're really good at it. You could go out and beat up all the monsters you want, but it won't help if even one manages to slip by and hurt somebody you love. But if you walk with your classmates, then if a monster attacks them, you'll be there to save them."
"And if I walk with you, I can heal you if you get hurt," Sana added. "Maybe you can handle slimes easy--I know you can--but a lot of people can't. That's why we have the guard to protect us--and why healers help out the guard when they get hurt."
"I know I can't fight swimes," Chiffon pointed out. "I can't... weawy do anything, actually."
"Don't say that!" Arche said. "You can fly! That's cool! And it lets you see monsters before I can, so you can tell me if they're coming!"
"But I think what miss Sophia is saying is that swimes are dangerous for most people, even if they aren't for you."
"...Yeah, I guess you're right." Arche nodded. "Okay! I'll look out for slimes--just to make sure they don't hurt the people that need to run!"
"That's good to hear." Miss Sophia patted her shoulder, standing up. "Now I have papers to grade, so have a fun--and safe --afternoon."
Arche watched her walk off for a moment.
Then she turned to Sana. "Sooooooooooooo we still up for the crypt in Chautrux today?"
"I think we should wait until Stella invites us for a sleepover."
"Okay, that's fair..."
Arche's Amazing Announcement
"You know, now that I think about it, I kinda want to be something like a Preserver," Arche commented idly, while skewering a ghost with Ghost Blaster. Ah, she loved this sword. Always a shame to have to buy it again every time the timeline reset.
"What are you prattling about now?" Stella asked with a sigh, glancing up from her spellbook. She had to admit, Arche's inane chattering did help calm her nerves in some ways during battle... if only to fray them a little more in other ways. It was frankly amazing to her that Arche could do two things at once so easily.
"Well, you know how Sana is training to be a Preserver? She's even got the beret and everything," Arche continued on, dodging a skeleton's swipe and skewering her sword through its skull in the same motion. Was she even looking?
"I am aware. To be honest she is really rather talented - I've met real Preservers without half her skill before. Fire Handling!" Stella suddenly shouted as she shot a fireball over Arche's head to hit a ghost trying to sneak up on them. "...When Sana returns from her bathroom break you are not to tell her I said that, are we clear?"
Arche giggled. "Fiiiine~ But, anyway- hup!" She leapt into the air, twirling her sword around to cleave the ghost's 'skull' cleanly in half. The ghost floated on up to Heaven before Arche even landed. "So, Sana wants to be a Preserver to help people. And I want to help people too! Buuut, um, not in exactly the same sort of way."
"Well, that last part is good at least. You'd need another elemental stone, for one thing - I very much doubt that one has any affinity for healing magic. I've never even HEARD of a wind-elemental healer before. Maybe a stone focused on the lightning sub-element..." Stella mused.
"So! Basically! I think I want to use my sword skills to slay monsters in order to protect people! Buut I don't want to be a guard. Guard life is boring. I wanna be a roaming adventurer who goes to trouble spots and sorts them out!"
"So. ... Your goal in life, the thing you have just realized you wish to do well into adulthood, perhaps until you are too weak to lift a blade assuming that mysterious elemental stone doesn't make you immortal or something, is... exactly what we're doing right now?"
Stella sighed. "...What an amazing revelation that must have been," she said, voice dripping with sarcasm.
The sound of hurried footsteps preceded Sana's arrival. "Hey guys sorry, what did I miss?" Sana squeaked, trying not to pant too heavily.
"Arche has decided that she wishes to be an adventurer for the rest of eternity," Stella snarked. Arche meanwhile was tackling a particularly hardy ghost, and miraculously actually had to shut up for a minute to concentrate on her swordwork.
"Oh, well, that's good," Sana mused, glancing down at her spellbook. "She's got the rest of eternity to be one, after all."
"...Uh, wait, what?"
Stella Mayberk had been staring at the empty seat next to Colm for some time. It was yet another bit of... wrongness she had discovered today. She remembered that seat being filled, she remembered a bright (if idiotic) smile and a gleaming sword, but... she also remembered the Dark Witch Selene being defeated, yet just this morning she had heard reports of her assault. It was unnerving enough that she didn't join in the cheerful greeting of her teacher with the rest of the class--but not quite so unnerving to make her miss the next announcement.
"Now, before we begin today, we have a new transfer student joining us."
The blonde heiress sat up, ignoring the babble of her classmates. This was... almost identical to... it couldn't be. It didn't make sense.
"I do kind of hope it's a boy," Leon offered. "This school could use a few more boys in it..."
Colm smirked. "Five coppers gets you ten it's a tomboy!"
"Haha! Well, maybe."
Sana leaned forward, tapping Colm on the shoulder. "I'll throw ten copper in for 'cheerful adventurer.'"
"Pfff." Colm waved a hand. "Sure, your money to waste."
"Quiet down, everyone!" the teacher commanded. "Now let me introduce her. You can come in now, Arche."
A girl jumped in through the door, sliding to a stop and striking a pose. "Hello everyone! I'm Arche Plumfield, micro-adventurer extra ore dairy, and this is my loyal companion Chiffon!"
"Fwoo, hewo evewyone!" said the vested rabbit hovering next to the girl.
"You owe me two silver," Sana informed Colm with a smug grin.
"But--how did--" Colm looked from the front of the room to the girl behind him. "You--you've met her before!"
"How could I have?" Sana asked innocently. "She's completely new."
"My family just moved into the item store in Tonkiness, and I'm so eager to make (and protect) new friends! And learn magic. But that's just part of the protecting thing."
"Hmm." Louise tapped her books thoughtfully. "She certainly seems cheerful, doesn't she?"
Stella didn't reply. She was too busy staring, gobsmacked, at Arche. Sure, the girl had always been... enthusiastic. But... she remembered Arche had been nervous when she first arrived. And she hadn't had Chiffon until much later. And--and Sana had...
...what magic was this? It had to be magic, obviously, nothing else made sense--but none of the elements could explain her going back in time. Maybe... maybe it was one of the four great stones--the great stone of wind that Arche carried allowed for the Unision spell, which didn't seem related to the element of wind, but there it was. One of the other four elemental kings had to have some connection to time--perhaps it could be tied to the legendary stone of water, or of earth...
It was a trick. The dark witch Selene--no, not her, but whoever had been commanding her. They had arranged this... somehow... for some reason. With one of the legendary stones Selene had been hunting for... though both her and Arche had one, which made two of the four...
Stella shook her head as Arche took her seat. There was something going on, she knew it--and it was clear that Arche did too, since she had Chiffon with her already. Maybe even Sana? She seemed more... open, today.
The heiress resolved to confront them after class. Even if they knew nothing, at the very least she could ensure they would be prepared for the future.
"--and now that you're repeating too we can make your fire magic even hotter! Oh, hey, that Pheonix thing you do, do you think you could ride it like a horse? Then you could fly! That would be so cool!"
"Arche," Stella said flatly, "I am not riding a bird-shaped mass of flame."
Sana giggled. "She's just trying to help, Stella."
"Aren't either of you worried about the time repeat we appear to be trapped in?"
Arche shrugged. "I mean... nobody I've talked to knows about it. So... if we can't do anything, why worry?"
Stella gaped at her. "Why worry? Because we are stuck as little girls and will constantly have to thwart Selene without knowing whether any of our actions will have an impact on the future, maybe?!"
Sana put a hand on her shoulder. "Stella... If it matters so much, we'll try to look into explanations. But if we are stuck, then at the least we can... try to make things better? The world, and ourselves?"
"Yeah!" Arche agreed. "Whenever I get stuck on an adventure, I go on another adventure! And I usually figure out how to work on the first adventure during that!"
Stella crossed her arms, frowning. "...I suppose... if you have had the unfair advantage of time, I could work some effort into training..."
"YAY!" Arche wrapped her arms around her. "Team Marisa-Ratis is back together!"
"Stop that!" Stella snapped, shoving her off. "You'll mess up my clothes!"
Sana shook her head as the pair fell to squabbling. "Some things don't change, do they?"
"Nope," Chiffon agreed. "Some things don't change at all."
"This is ridiculous!" Stella complained as she fended off a bat with a blast of water from her elemental stone Royal Cerulean. "How am I supposed to be a proper battlemage with a water stone? I can’t burn my enemies to cinders with water! Aaah, no offense, Sana," she quickly added, as she caught the red-garbed healer out of the corner of her eye.
"None taken," Sana chirped happily, placing two hands on Arche’s back. "Life Force!" she called, red magic circles appearing both below her feet and surrounding Arche’s wound – filling the young swordsgirl with warmth and courage as the magic knitted her flesh back together. It was annoying how easily Sana had adapted to using a fire stone.
"Maybe you can try using steam?" Arche suggested, sheathing her sword now that the danger had passed. For now, anyway. "That’s kinda burn-y!"
Stella sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. "The problem, Arche, is that I know absolutely nothing about water magic. Materialization is all well and good, but other than splashing monsters with high-speed water there’s not a lot I can do!" She rounded on Sana. "Sana here has clearly experienced enough time loops where she wielded a fire stone to get to grips with it, but this is the first time-"
"No I haven’t," Sana interrupted. "This is the first time." Stella’s jaw dropped. Was Sana really just that much of a prodigy? To be fair, she managed to keep up with Arche and Stella while they both had Great Elemental Stones and Sana simply had a mass produced one, but surely…
"Didn’t you learn to do water magic this time?" Arche asked.
"Wh- what do you mean ‘this time’?"
"Every time something’s diffewent," Chiffon pitched in, "we wemember the diffewences! Like, one time I was a human and Arche was an ewemental and I knew how to use a sword and she could… do burrowing earth magic things!"
Stella continued to stare. What? How could a simple time loop give her different memories? But… on the other hand, why would a simple time loop swap her and Sana’s elemental affinities…
"Ah, Arche, behind you!" Sana cried suddenly. Arche reached to draw her sword, turning to see a Sabercat dashing at her.
Stella raised one hand. A blue magic circle appeared at her feet, and another appeared under the sabercat, tracking it perfectly as it moved. "GEYSER!" Stella shouted, voice reverberating with power, the magic circle beneath the sabercat dutifully disgorging a pillar of water straight up and flinging the battered big cat into the sky.
Arche dashed in to finish the feline off, while Chiffon and Sana cheered. "See! You alweady knew how to do it!"
Stella dusted herself off. "...I feel like an idiot for not even considering… Let us never mention this incident again."
Sana and Chiffon giggled.
Stella was amazed at how keen her memory was. It had always been exceptional, of course, but her memories of previous time loops were just... so clear. As if a master artist had painted every single scene she experienced, as she was experiencing them, down to the most minute details.
This, of course, meant researching magical theory and other esoteric studies was very easy. She just had to glance through a book, and then six months later time would reset and she had a perfect recollection of every single word. It was... a little boring to do it that way, however, so Stella was still reading through books manually anyway.
"Hey, Louise," Stella said one day after class. "Do you think you could lend me your copy of A Treatise on the Properties of the Elemental Kings: Undine, King of Water ?"
The class president looked up from her desk, where she had multiple books stacked up as usual. "Hm? I..." she adjusted her glasses. "I don't believe I own a copy of that book. I don't recognize the title, but perhaps I donated it to the library and forgot about it since?"
Stella was stunned. She was sure... "But, you told me..."
Later, back in Stella's mansion, Stella threw a cushion at the wall. "Gah! You could have TOLD me things can change this much between timeline resets!"
"We... thought you knew?" Sana responded, carefully backing away from the raging magician.
"Knew? How would I know?! You three have been at this far longer than I have!"
"Two loops ago you were a water mage!" Arche countered, crossing her arms in a pout. "If stuff like that can change, why not everything else?"
Stella threw her hands up in the air. "Yes, very extreme variant timelines can occur, but this is... what you're saying is that every single time the timeline resets, almost our entire history is altered in subtle ways! Not even the Elemental Kings' NAMES are consistent!" She threw another cushion, just barely missing Chiffon in the process. "Even with infinite time, tracking down the other two Great Elemental Stones like this is just... this is never going to work. All the time in the world and I can't do the one thing I swore I would do!"
Arche rubbed the back of her head. "I mean... if we got Sana the water stone, she'd probably keep it between loops like we keep ours, so... we could just try to hunt down the water stone every loop until we finally get it?"
Stella huffed, sitting down on her bed and pouting. "...And I thought I had a really good idea for how to memorize books, too," she complained.
In Each Other's Shoes
Twice, Stella had been made the fool by a fluctuating history. But not this time, no. This time, she would think about what had happened before. Well, before in this time. Yes, she absolutely would...
...discover her name was Stella Plumfield, and she'd just moved into the Tonkiness item shop with her family?
She looked around the room she found herself in--an attic?! Who would sleep in an attic?! --and groaned quietly. "Isn't this where Arche is supposed to start? Where is she, then?"
"Cheerio, milady, and might I say that is a fine example of bladecraft you have, wot wot!"
Stella couldn't help but glare at Arche. "Stop that."
"Stop wot, guvna? I think it's right sporting of you to come prepared for the veggie-bonds wot stream the roads, eh?" Arche adjusted her bizarre cylindrical hat and took a sip from the empty teacup she was inexplicably holding. "Ah! But where are my manners, I've yet to introduce my bonnie companion. Chiffon, dahlinhg, have you had the pleasure of a-quaint-prince with our newest classmate, then?"
Chiffon, a young boy with pale white hair and a red cap, sighed in exasperation. "Yes, Arche, we met on the road. Why are you talking like that?"
"Wotchyamean, guvna? Oh!" Arche twirled her cane why in the name of Minasa-Ratis did she have a cane and smiled indulgently. "Sorry, mate, the dial-ex of the wealthy is a touch word-heavy, if you know what I mean, and I sometimes forget to murder-ate my phraseology."
Stella facepalmed. "Arche, I have never talked like that. Nobody I know has ever talked like that! And the cane, and that--that weird hat, and the teacup, that's--what are you even... why?! This isn't--" She gestured expansively. "WHY?!"
"...I dunno, felt like it."
"Eurrgh." Stella dragged a hand down her face. "Fine. Whatever. There's something more important than... whatever this is."
"Whatevah do ye mean, guvna? I'd've thought wot bein' fancy would be your right cup o' tea!"
"I mean," Stella ground out, "if Chiffon is here, then where is Sana?"
A small otter in a blue beret and vest stared at the door in front of her.
"...Arche will be here. Maybe in a few hours, but... she'll be here. Somehow."
A Little Stress Relief
"AHAHAHAHA! BURN, you fools! Suffer the wrath of Stella Mayberk, true inheritor to the legacy of Minasa-Ratis!"
Arche, Sana, and Chiffon stood on the sidelines, watching Stella fling fireballs and lay down patches of flame with abandon.
"Isn't this a little overkill?" Sana asked her best friend, hesitently. "They're just merkids. It almost seems kind of cruel..."
Arche shrugged. "They want to eat us. And apparently Stella's dad is kind of a jerk this time? So I guess she's just blowing off steam. I know I've done the same before!"
"The water is on fire! HOW IS THE WATER ON FIRE?!" one of the merkids screeched.
"...I guess that's fair," Sana conceded with a sigh. "I really hope my mom doesn't get replaced by some jerk, but I've seen weirder by now so I guess I should just... expect it at some point."
"Nah, your mom is way too nice to be a jerk!" Arche countered, patting Sana on the shoulder. Sana just chuckled. She hoped that was how it worked...
"Look, she's low on mana!" one of the merkids exclaimed. Indeed, Stella was actually leaning against a wall, panting slightly. "Get her!"
Stella raised one hand in the direction of her companions. Arche went for her sword, but then Stella called over: "Chiffon! Candy!"
The little elemental gave a salute, procuring a Magic Candy out of his pockets and tossing it over to Stella, with a little "Fwoo!" of effort and a little gust of wind to steer it on its course. Stella caught the candy, unwrapping it before shoving it swiftly into her mouth. An aura of power emerged from her body, as she took a deep breath. "BLADE!" she shouted, surrounding her body with blades of fire as two merkids jumped at her, only to be skewered and burned by the spell.
"...Stella's kinda badass, huh?" Arche commented. Sana made an affirmative sound.
"You may have defeated my underlings, Flame Witch Stella Mayberk," grumbled the leader of the merkids. "But my power is greater than theirs! Fear the wrath of my-"
Stella was suddenly in front of the Lead Merkid. Arche raised her eyebrows - Stella had gotten fast! "Counterpoint," Stella chirped, placing two fingers right into the merkid's mouth. "EXPLOSION!"
Arche shielded her eyes while Sana cast a literal Shield spell. There was a loud boom, a rush of heat, the smell of cooked fish, and then a wet sound as Arche was splattered with viscera. "...Ewww. Fish guy guts."
"...Sorry. I may have overdone that," Stella acknowledged, completely untouched despite being right next to where the Lead Merkid was standing just a few seconds ago.
Not Really Magical Girl Material
"ARCHE!" Sana cried in alarm, as the Org Leader batted her across the room with the flat side of his sword. Arche hit the wall hard, sliding down to crumple on the floor. "If this keeps up you're going to get hurt! Come on, at least let me heal you..!"
Arche dug into her pack and pulled out a vial of holy water. "No! I said I'd clear out the entire org nest without any help and I'm going to!" Arche called back stubbornly. When she put her mind to something she never gave up on it. It was, in Sana's opinion, simultaneously her best and worst feature. She downed the holy water in one gulp, throwing the vial aside and then dodging the other way to avoid a swipe from the org.
"At least use your own magic, Arche," Stella grumbled.
"Yeah! I can help wight Arche?" Chiffon called, excitedly.
"...Fine. I guess that doesn't count as help from Sana or Stella. And it has been," she ducked another blow. "A long time. Okay, Chiffon, let's go!" She pulled her bright pink elemental stone, Sylpheed, out of her pocket, and concentrated. Chiffon rushed in close, as a very pink magic circle sprang up under Arche's feet. "UNISON!" Arche called out, and her body was pulled towards Chiffon even as Chiffon raced towards her. There was a flash of light, and...!
"BUSTER TORNADO!" came Arche's reverberating voice, interlaced with elements of Chiffon's own voice, as she shot a spinning maelstrom of cutting winds at the Org Leader, throwing it back.
Sana sighed with relief. With Unison, Arche should be fine. Emphasis on should. So she kept her eye on Arche as she flipped around the battlefield, but returned to her conversation with Stella. "...Anyway, we've both improved a lot over time, huh? But... isn't it weird that Arche... hasn't learned any new spells? She's been reliving the same six months for way longer than either of us, but the only thing she ever gets better at is fencing."
"Well... I have a few theories on this matter, actually," replied Stella thoughtfully. "Firstly, with our support, Arche may not think she requires any more magical assistance. And I must concede that this is likely true, as long as we continue to improve. Secondly, the only spells she knows are Unison, which is imprinted directly into the stone and requires almost no knowledge of spellwork to cast despite its complexity, and Buster Tornado, the single spell I am aware of that actually uses a sword as a catalyst."
"Thirdly," Stella continued, while watching Arche leap into the air on wings of pink wind, "She refuses to discard that sword, never even taking the scabbard off of her back unless she's changing into her pajamas or about to have a bath. That much metal inhibits her ability to control magic very effectively, so she is unlikely to be able to do anything more than blast wind at enemies - which she is already quite adept at and requires no real improvement that simple practice won't provide. Fourthly, she is not a very fast reader, so even switching between spells during combat could prove problematic. And, on a related note, finally, my dear friend..."
Arche slashed her sword clean through the Org Leader's torso while its guard was broken from another tornado to the face. Enhanced by the increase in strength Unison provides, and the ridiculous sharpness of her Battle Sword, she cut the monster clean in half. "Ha! Org Leader error indicated!"
"...Arche is an idiot who can't even count to eleven without taking her shoes and socks off."