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Ghost Stories
Grave Importance
See Through To It


The World of Hybrids
The Stuff of Legends
The Birth of Legends [Worldbuilding]
Ideal With It
A Little Harmony
Out of My League


The World Made From A Wish
Type-Casting
The Final Front


Of Mana and Ether
Witch One?


Sisters of One Mind
An Open Book
Ever Mindful


Paths of a Fashion
Crossing Paths
Parallel Paths


Zzz... (Old, Iffy, Unsorted)
Focus
The World Was Made From A Wish
A Curious Kind of Tree





Type-Casting

I knew they needed me.

We were worn and battered, but the assault of the beasts would not cease. Raphael was on his last legs - and once he was gone, we were all doomed.

"Ellimac! You just gonna stand there?!"

Not today.

I reached into my bag, and clutched the wand tight.

...

Magical Deedle Ring-Ring.

——

Perhaps I should first explain how I found myself with them in the first place.

I was a wandering witch, who had long traveled and trained alone. In general, I pursued magic for my own purposes, though I did do the occasional odd jobs for people. Which could be... quite odd, honestly.

But even a witch gets lonely, and bored too. I decided I'd see if there was anyone who could really use my services, and took to hanging out in a popular tavern.

Soon enough, he came up to me.

"Oh, finally. You wanna join us?"

I looked them over. The man was clad in white robes, and behind him were two women: a tough-looking warrior, and a peaceful sort also in robes.

"White mage, warrior... white mage? ...You want a witch, hm?"

The female healer piped up. "Actually, I'm training to be a black mage!"

"And we know how well that's going," remarked the man. "Yes, we could use a black mage."

"...All right," I nodded, surprised at how quickly and easily this was going. "...Call me Ellimac."

"Raphael," he said. "These are Tina, our warrior, and Leah, our... gray mage."

"Hiya!", Tina waved.

"That's not a thing, Raph," Leah frowned.

"You made it one. Congrats."

"So... What is our objective, exactly?", I asked.

"Right to the point, I like it," Raphael nodded. "We're primarily in the business of collecting monster parts. But our odd little party has hit a bit of a snag when it comes to certain monsters. It's clear we need offensive magic to fell them, and lots of it."

I shrugged. "Yes, I can do that."

"I figured you could," he smirked.

——

"There!", Leah yelped, pointing at the creature of ice. "Use a fire spell, Ellimac!"

"I think she knows that," Raphael muttered.

He was right, of course; before either had said anything, I'd already sent off not just a fire spell, but a Flare. Hardly even a puddle remained.

Tina stared at where it had been, and asked, "What are we supposed to be collecting from these things, again?"

Raphael turned to her. "They have items frozen in them, sometimes."

"Hopefully nothing flammable," she joked.

We steadily descended deeper into the cavern, me leading the way and roasting all manner of magical creatures which the others could do little against.

Raphael guarded me, healing us but sucking up most of the damage himself. Tina primarily cheered me on. Leah got off the occasional spell, but it never finished a monster, so it effectively didn't have any impact whatsoever.

Really, I felt like I was doing what I could have always done alone.

However, there were a few things I neglected to mention.

We came upon a very big, sleeping ice monster, frozen inside of which was a large, ornate chest. Raphael said nothing, but I had a feeling this was the main thing they were after.

I hesitated, but the others weren't sure why. "Go for it," Raphael confirmed.

So I let off one last Flare.

The monster roared awake, half-melted but very angry about it. This woke up a lot of other monsters in the vicinity, it seemed.

I was unsure how to tell them the situation, and wondered if it even mattered at this point - however, the others seemed equally distraught.

Tina was the first to respond, lunging at the monster and hacking away at the ice, seemingly hoping to carve the chest out. It soon knocked her away, after which she seemed reluctant to try again.

"What're you even doing, Tina?", Raphael bitterly asked as bats attacked him.

"Says you?!", she yelled. "Heal me!"

"Why doesn't Leah do it for once?"

"Um...", Leah mumbled.

The ice monster slowly began advancing, and I noticed the others were backing away. And then I realized:

Were we all out of mana?

"Ellimac! You just gonna stand there?!"

Not today. Because there was another thing I hadn't mentioned.

I had a secret weapon.

I reached deep into my bag for my wand, and said the magic words:

"Magical Deedle Ring-Ring!"

——

Time seemed to slow down - of course, I'm pretty sure that for the monsters, it really did.

I closed my eyes. I felt a warmth like sunlight, despite my location. Then I swung the wand with a spin, and tossed my robes aside with a flutter, revealing a sparkling pink dress as if I'd been wearing it all along.

"Evildoer, hear my name! I am Camille, Wonder-Witch and protector of justice!"

I thrust the star wand forward, and from it came a wave of energy which split the ice monster in two with a great crack.

"Whereas YOU are JUST ICE!"

That alone scared many of the minor monsters away, but some still wanted to put up a fight, as did the ice creature. I had much more fight in me, however.

I leapt over toward the creature, light as air. "Diamond Cutter!!", I yelled, proceeding to cut it into many more pieces.

Seeing the swarms still remaining and hostile and the pile of ice, I got an idea.

"Icicle Storm!!"

The ice chunks floated into the air and magically rocketed toward their targets, quickly slaying the remainder of the foes.

"First, just ice," I said, wagging my finger at nothing in particular. "Now, just too bad."

All of a sudden, I remembered the others, and twirled to face them. "Oh, yeah! Guys! How'd I do?"

The three of them stared stupefied.

Then Tina asked, "Where did you get that dress?"

"That's what you ask?!", Raphael shouted. "Where'd you get that wand?! What in the world just happened?!"

"Saved your butts, that much should be clear!"

"I would have rather died!!"

"W-What do you mean, Raphael?", Leah said worriedly. "By the way, that is a very cute dress."

"I know, right?", Tina affirmed.

"What I mean is..." He fumed trying to find the words. "I don't want any of this girly magic stuff, Ellimac, it makes all of us look like a joke -"

"She said her name was Camille," Tina corrected. "Right?"

"Er, why Camille?", wondered Leah.

"I dunno!", I shrugged. "It just came to me."

"What do you mean you "dunno"?! It's just Ellimac backwards!!"

"Don't you mean Ellimac is Camille backwards?", Leah suggested.

"Okay, well, probably, but... Whatever your name is!" He glared at me while trying to decide the most important question to ask. "Where did you get that wand?!"

"Found it."

He was consistently unamused. "...Found it where?"

"I forget! Nowhere in particular, tho."

"Look, Raph, I'm not gonna say it's not silly but I don't see what your problem is," Tina quickly said. "Now I gotta ask before Raph digs into you again: Does the dress come with the wand?"

"Something like that!"

"Ooh, I want some of that -"

"Toss it!", Raphael suddenly shouted. "Either that, or you're out of the party!"

"R-Raph, I really think she did save us from the brink...", Leah commented.

"Hey, I may have been out of mana, but you weren't! She wasn't!"

I looked at Leah, and she looked at me. "We were."

Tina stared at me in amazement. "You can do that stuff without any mana?! That's sooooo broken I love it!"

Raphael stared again in silence, though I couldn't tell if it was at the wand or at me. "And here I thought you would be a serious witch."

"But I am serious," I replied, spinning the star wand between my fingers. "I'm a Wonder-Witch."

——

We worked our way out of the cavern. Tina was in back lugging the big chest, but Raphael didn't even look like he wanted it anymore.

"I know what I really want to ask now," he said. "What the hell happened to your personality?"

"Huh?" I'd been skipping alongside him, but now span in front of him and switched to walking backwards. "Whatcha mean?"

"Like that nonsense!", he said gesturing at me. "Before, you were someone who actually took her job seriously. Now you're just goofing around!"

I was beginning to see the misunderstandings that were at work here, but I wasn't really sure how to explain it to him. So I just said, "Well, this is more who I really am, Ralph."

"Ralph?" He put a hand to his head. "At least go with "Raph," it's one letter less."

"Gotcha, Ralph. I mean, Raph."

"I have a question," Leah asked as Raphael shook his head. "Why were you in those dark robes in the first place, if this is how you really are?"

I stumbled slightly mid-skip, then stopped, the others following suit. "Um, well, you see... I think I actually am going to go back to that once we get out of here."

"Oh, thank the Goddess," Raph muttered.

"I mean, I kinda know, you know. How nobody'd take me seriously if I went around like this all the time. And it does sorta... take a lot out of me, in a way."

"Just not mana," added Tina. "(So broken.)"

"...So it's not something you'd show to everyone," Leah realized. "But... you showed it to us?"

I blushed a bit. "Well... Not really on purpose, but... And look, if you really don't want me now, I'll leave, but..."

Tina and Leah seemed greatly opposed to that idea, but Raphael was still thinking, and it did seem like he was the leader here.

Finally, he made up his mind. "...All right, I'm sorry. I've really been overreacting. And at any rate... you do seem very powerful. Regardless of how you, uh, express it."

"That's what we've been trying to say!", Tina said with a huff.

He looked to the others. "Right, yes, I'm sorry to you too." Then back to me: "I guess I only have my own assumptions to blame."

"...It's okay," I sighed. That, of course, was nothing new.

People who actually understood it, on the other hand...

"Well," Leah began, seeming a bit nervous, "we'll be here for you! W-Won't we?" She looked around at us.

Raphael seemed to be caught off-guard by that remark. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Tina groaned - though maybe because she was still carrying a heavy treasure chest - then started walking ahead of us with a smile.

"It means we're gonna have a hell of a time together!"

——

What Tina said turned out to be right - but before that, what I'd said would happen did.

By the time we reached town to sell the treasures we'd found, I was back in my robes, the way they'd first found me.

"So the dress just... vanishes, huh?", Tina asked, looking me over. "That's a shame."

I shrugged.

Leah was oddly silent. I'm sure she was wondering just how I could be the same witch she'd seen minutes earlier. Raphael, meanwhile, did seem relieved.

"I think we can call it a day," he said. "Let's meet up here again tomorrow, alright?"

"Gotcha," Tina said. Leah and I just nodded.

Raphael and Tina went off to sleep, and I was about to as well, but I noticed Leah was still around.

"Um...", she said, probably just to keep my attention. "If you're willing to talk, I'll listen for as long as it takes."

"...Talk about what?", I asked. "I'm fine."

"W-Well... You said this isn't the real you," she recalled. "That's... that's not "fine," is it?"

"It would really take a while."

"I'll wait," she replied surprisingly quickly, then took a seat at a nearby table.

I sat across from her. How quick her response came just made me feel worse about how long I would spend thinking about what to say. But she kept her word and waited, no matter how much it looked like I had decided to just not talk.

"It's like," I finally began after many minutes of thought, "casting a spell. You know a spell takes preparation, so you can't just fire it off right away, unless you're really good."

"Yeah," she nodded. "I've messed up a lot of spells that way..."

"Well..." I paused again, though not for as long. "Whenever I want to say anything... it's also like a spell. Except I never want to mess it up. If I mess up... everyone will know what a screwup I really am."

"I-I wouldn't think you're a screwup!", Leah exclaimed. "And... it doesn't really matter what people think anyway..."

Another long pause. "There's more to it than that. Since I never want to say anything until I'm ready... usually, I just don't get to say anything at all. People never get to hear what I'm thinking. So they just make assumptions about who I am." I hung my head. "Which is just setting them up for disappointment."

Leah was silent, and I felt the same uncertainty about whether any reply would come she must have felt. I decided I should change the subject slightly, and took out the star wand.

"I don't know what it is about this wand," I said, laying it on the table, "but it makes me feel a lot better about that stuff. The things you're saying, about how it really doesn't matter that much - I know those things are true, but only when I go full Wonder-Witch can I actually believe them."

"I see..." Leah nodded. "I mean, I'm sure you want to believe them all the time... but I think it's a good first step."

I sighed. "It's such a stupid thing to rely on, though."

"It's not!", she exclaimed. "I know we just met, really, but... it's not..."

"You really think so?", I asked doubtfully.

"I know so! I can just tell you know so much more about magic than me," she smiled. "So of course I'll believe what you believe."

"Even...?"

She put the wand back in my hands. "Even Magical Deedle Ring-Ring."

——

That day was, of course, not the first time I'd used the wand. But it was the first time I'd used it in front of others; and the reaction was a combination of things I'd expected and things I hadn't.

Among those, the last thing I would have expected was an immediate interest in and concern for my situation, like Leah seemed to have.

Yes, she was a stranger. I couldn't know how sincere she was. She could even have some ulterior motive, though I couldn't imagine what - to eventually reveal she didn't actually care and make fun of me, maybe?

But probably for the same reasons I was able to believe in a sparkly wand, I wanted to believe she was being honest. I don't know what else I could have done.

It got me thinking about the wand again as I lied in bed that night. If it was so powerful, and so rare that no one knew what it was, why had I just found it lying around?

Maybe someone lost it. Maybe it was a miracle from the Goddess herself. Maybe... someone threw it away?

I couldn't imagine that. Not only because of its apparent rarity and power, but because I couldn't imagine throwing it away.

Was it that unimportant to them? Am I the only one who would ever want it, or ever consider it valuable?

That... wasn't true, though. Tina said she wanted one for herself, even if she didn't seem to want it for the same reasons as me. And if Leah believed it was as "magical" as I did...

I drifted off with the thought that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't alone.

——

The four of us met again the next day, and many more days after that. These were in some ways very much like that first day. But things gradually began to change.

I got the impression that Leah, at some point, told the others about what I'd told her. I also got the impression she didn't want me to know she'd done so, but it was clear from how abruptly their attitudes changed. ...I did my best to feign ignorance, though.

Raphael went from only accepting "Wonder-Witch mode" as a last resort to encouraging me to use it as much as I felt like. Tina seemed like a fan from the start, of course, but later attempted to work with me, shouting her own made-up attack names.

And while Leah didn't seem to change all that much, I could see her getting progressively better at both black and white magic - like I'd actually taught her something important there, though I couldn't imagine what.

Most importantly, no one seemed to think I was an odd one out anymore, and neither did I. Before I knew it, we weren't a party hunting monsters. We were just... friends.

So we went out adventuring less and less. Instead, we just met to talk; because we really enjoyed it, and really cared that much about each other.

And that was something I could really never claim to have experienced before.

——

One day, Tina gave us advance notice of a date a few days in the future which she referred to only as "a big day." We didn't see her for a few days leading up to it - which could happen from time to time with any of us, but we couldn't help being worried.

But thankfully, on that day, we did see her, and she sat down to talk to the group.

"Well," she said, smiling at us, "I came out to my parents today."

Leah gasped. "Oh my gosh, really?! I'm so glad for you, Tina!"

"C... Congratulations!", I told her, though immediately felt like I could have said something better. I knew she'd been very secretive about it, and couldn't imagine what it took for her to finally tell them.

"...How did they take it?", Raph asked.

"Well, I mean..." Tina scratched behind her neck. "I'm here now, right?"

Raph probably wasn't very satisfied with that answer, but knew he wouldn't get any more than that out of Tina.

"Anyway, the time just seemed right, everything was in place for it. Not to mention..." She turned to me. "You really inspired me, Elli."

I was completely taken aback. "I did?"

"Of course! I've never met anyone as honest about who they really are as you."

"Well... I..." I had even less of an idea what to say, except... "Thank you."

She patted me on the back. "Aww, don't mention it!"

"Don't mention it" was right. I didn't feel deserving of any praise.

And I wouldn't in the days to come, either.

——

I searched high and low, but I could come to no other conclusion.

The star wand was gone.

I had no idea how. I always kept it on me, I couldn't imagine it being stolen in my sleep, it didn't seem likely I would have sold it along with something else by mistake...

Tina and Leah had no ideas, so I went to ask Raph in desperation. But Raph came to me first - regardless, I needed to tell him my plight.

"I can't find my star wand," I mumbled to him.

"Huh?!", he exclaimed. "How did you lose it?"

"If I knew that, I'd probably have found it..."

Raph could tell the disappointment in my eyes. "Look, Elli... It's not a big deal."

"It is a big deal!", I whined.

"But do you really need that wand? You can be who you want to be!"

"I know I can, but..." I looked away from him. "I can't."

He was silent, deep in thought.

"...I'll do whatever I can to get it back to you, Elli. But in the meantime... there was something I wanted to tell you."

I looked at him doubtfully. "...Just me?"

"Just you," he confirmed, then gulped. "I haven't told anyone else. ...I'm a trans boy."

Raph sighed and spoke slowly, with long pauses as he thought the words over. "I'm afraid to tell anyone, most of all my mom. I don't have any idea how she'd react, but I'm inclined to think poorly."

"I never, ever felt like a girl, so I just wanted to reject all of it. That's really why I had such a knee-jerk reaction to your Wonder-Witch thing. I know it was completely selfish and stupid of me, when you have your own problems to deal with... but it's the truth."

"And now, I think I'm feeling like you. Tina was brave enough to trust that things were going to be all right. I can't do that. If my mom rejects me, who do I have?"

"...But do I want to allow myself to ignore that possibility or not? The way your wand helped you show who you really are - would that really work for me?"

I had let Raphael talk, slowly but surely, waiting on every word. Now I needed to tell him something, at least the start of something, that could give him the sort of hope I had apparently given Tina.

So I said:

"I completely understand, Raphael."

But there was no response.

"...I completely understand, Raphael."

Still nothing happened.



...Don't tell me.





...The internet had cut out.

——

"Elizabeth, you need to get ready!"

No, there was something else I needed to do.

"M-Mom...", I stuttered. "The..."

"Yes, I know, I unplugged it so you'd get ready. Come on, Elizabeth, be social!"

Social? You mean talk to people? You mean talk to people who need my advice right now more than ever?

Because unless they're Raphael, I don't think being face-to-face with anyone is going to be more important than this, mom.

...

But these... were things I could never say.

No matter how much time I spent spelling them out in my head. Because if I cast them out my mouth, what would happen? I couldn't predict it.

In that sense, I could understand just a fraction of what Raphael felt. But I certainly couldn't help him any more than I could help myself.

That's what I had to tell myself to get out of the chair and start getting ready to leave.

But I still couldn't stop thinking about everything I could never say.

I'm not your favorite doormat. I have lots of my own thoughts, even if I might not say them. I have friends, they're online, and no, that doesn't make a difference. Don't say I'm smart just to make my blunders that much more catastrophic.

Of course, there was one more thing I'd never say simply because it was too embarrassing: I can't be who I want to be, even on the internet.

Now that was pathetic. It made me feel all the more terrible about Tina attributing what was purely her own resolve to me. I needed a crutch - some pixels shaped like a wand - to do in a game what she could do all by herself in real life.

I just wanted to lie down and cry. I knew I had it so much better than them - but my utter cowardice messed it all up.

...But then...

In the closet, I found my wand.

I picked it up and looked it over with wonder. Was it even real? Er, real in what sense? It greatly resembled the wand from the game, though it did seem a lot cheaper.

I tried to think. Where could it have come from? Did someone lose it? Or was it a miracle from the Goddess herself?

I dimly recalled making something like this in grade school once. However... I didn't doubt that it was still a miracle of some kind.

Keeping the wand in hand, I deliberated over the cutest outfit I could get out of my wardrobe. I didn't have a lot to work with, but I was satisfied with the result.

"Hey, mom!", I called once I was all dressed.

She came into the room and was caught off-guard by the sight of me in a pretty dress. "What was... taking you so long?"

"I dunno either," I smiled. "But it's gonna have to take a little longer. 'Cause..."

I waved the star wand in the direction of the router. "I need to cast some spells for a friend in need."



(Bonus: Click this link for some... added dialogue throughout the story.)


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