In the auditorium the girls were cheering in pure excitement as the video ended, just as they were meant to be. Once their applause died down, Tiffany and I walked on-stage to address them, sitting down at two pastel chairs with a cute teapot and cups on a table before us for a sort of panel discussion. I was expecting Tiffany to be covering most of the talk; I just really hoped she wouldn’t say anything stupid and then rope me into it.
“How are we feeling right now, magical girls!?” she began. The girls cheered back at her from their seats, to which she pointed the mic out towards them for a moment and let their applause ring through the speakers.
“I graduated from the Castle a few years ago. My name is Miss Tiffany, but you can call me by my magical girl name, Farside! Now that you’ve all been sorted into your groups, pretty soon you’re gonna get your group names and your awesome magical girl names as well, just like with my friend, Moonbeam, who you all met on the way in here!”
She handed the mic over to me just as I had poured out some tea for myself. I didn’t know what to say and had to wing it.
“H-hi! My name is Ellery, but here at the Castle I was given the name Moonbeam for our performances. I’m actually 23 just like Tiffany, I’ve just been blessed with keeping my powers for a long time!”
I would realistically use the term cursed rather than blessed, but talking on the spot to a group of excited young girls, you do what you can. I continued, reaching for anything to say.
“So, yeah, having kept my powers, Tiffany reached out to me to help with the training of incoming magicals. While I haven’t performed with my powers in a long time, I still have a lot that I’ve learned, that I’m happy to pass on, and, uhh…”
I couldn’t think of things to say and I was getting nervous. I could feel a few of my hairs stand on end as I began to glow from nervousness. It was then that I got an idea. I began to concentrate myself, and I took control of my glowing to be bright enough that the girls could see the aura radiating around me. I then slowly and delicately released my grip from the microphone, having it telekinetically suspended in the air. This was probably the first time the girls were seeing such a finessed usage of magic since transforming and arriving at the Castle, and they went wild with excitement. Hearing their excitement and now confidently in control of that same magic that had flared up from my anxiety, I began to recline more comfortably in my chair and continued.
“Because with magic, you can learn how to do some pretty cool stuff!”
I began pouring tea for myself with the teapot suspended in the air, to which the girls were equally entertained. Up until this point the girls had just seen their magic as a sort of life-changing anomaly, but this could be a chance to let them explore their powers themselves too.
“Can I get the pleasure of seeing you guys’s magic with what you know so far!?” I asked, confidently.
It worked; the girls began to cheer as sparks shot off around them! A few of the string gym bags they’d been given at registration shuffled around on the floor, looking like none of them had really yet developed the telekinetic ability needed to actually get them off the ground. They were all ecstatic about sharing their powers though, much more than when Tiffany had just addressed them. I looked out at the girls, then back at Tiffany. She was still smiling, but I sensed a bit of nervousness within that smile. Her hands were uncomfortably clasped together as she watched a whole room showing off the powers she had flatlined out of. I telekinetically passed the mic back to her, but she had to smile and wait for several seconds for their excitement to die down before primly grasping it and clearing her throat.
“W-wow! That’s, that’s not normally how we do things around here, but I’m so excited to see all of you so eager about using your magic! I swear, I think I’m the only one in this room who’s not actively magical, y’all are almost making me jealous!
She twitched a bit before continuing. “Moonbeam is definitely gonna be able to teach you so many awesome techniques with your magic. And we want—we want to make sure all of you reach your magical and creative potential. We want all of you to be successful, because it’s a really crazy time to be an idol. Me and Moonbeam had another girl in our group, her magical name is Belle, who…”
“Oh no, here we fucking go,” I thought to myself as she continued.
“…who was recently the victim of a crazy incident last week. We’re praying for her recovery right now, but it’s a crazy time and a lot of idols are being pressured to work in some complicated situations outside of the industry after their idol groups disband. Part of the reason Moonbeam and I are here is that we want to make you all as successful as possible so we can keep you in the industry! It’s gonna be awesome! Anyway, onto your curriculum…”
She kept going on about the drier parts of the talk, the parts girls have every year about the roadmap for girls’ group namings and the beginnings of their winter semester. It was relieving that she didn’t go into as much detail about Bailey’s crazy presumed-simp attack as I was scared she might’ve. Still though, on a cosmic level I thought it was kind of ironic that she was lowkey demonizing post-idol careers as illegitimate. “Stay legitimate, like with the industry you’ve just been separated from your families and forced into functionally against your will! Remember how some of y’all were crying about this like an hour ago? We’re awesome at making you forget about that part!”
Tiffany finished up the boring parts of her speech after a few minutes, to which the alma mater song of the Asphalt Castle began and the excited girls were ushered over to get acquainted with the on-campus dormitories. With the girls leaving the auditorium, we shuffled backstage together.
“Ellery, that was great!” she told me. She seemed to have recovered from that awkwardness when the girls and I were practicing our magic—she’d never even admit to it if I asked her about it.
“Thanks! I think we did a really great job. It’s crazy to be back, but I’m looking forward to seeing where this all goes.”
“Yeah! Ellery, do…do you want to catch a drink together after this? There’s so much we need to go over!”
I accepted the offer for that evening. We’d be going to the most expensive hibachi place in Los Cosmopilas after immediately after signing the contract that would make me a legally-bound employee of the Starvocal and the Asphalt Castle. Moonbeam was officially back.
Tiffany didn’t even have to do a lot of persuading to get me to sign the contract; most of it was formatted similarly to the contract my parents signed for me when I attended as a student, except now I was being paid as an employee for the spring semester that would be acting as the trial run for Tiffany’s program. It was only a few months I thought, anyway. Even if I didn’t like it, it was just a short-term trial contract. What’s the worst that could happen?