“So that’s what happened.” Elma sat in an armchair with her chin in her hand. The outfit she was wearing before was gone, replaced with a black business suit. Her clothes transformed suddenly as they entered the apartment. However the witch’s hat still rested on her head.
Stanly was seated in a couch next to the armchair. The two were in a small apartment that consisted of a combined kitchen and living room, a bedroom, and a single bathroom. The apartment was quite messy, with empty soda bottles, food garbage and used plates scattered around every surface. Elma clearly was not prepared for guests, and likely hadn’t had any in a while, Stanly thought.
Stanly had just finished recounting what happened prior to Elma arriving on the scene, including his gender change. Elma gave him a concerned look. “Well, I don’t really know how much I can explain. It’d honestly be better if you just talked to Kapella.”
“Kapella?” Stanly was confused. As far as he could see, there was no one else in the apartment to talk to. Perhaps Elma was planning to call someone?
“Here.” Elma took off her hat and handed it to Stanly.
Just as he was beginning to think this woman might be insane, he touched the hat and suddenly heard an old woman’s voice in his head. “Good evening, child. It is a pleasure to formally meet you.”
Stanly jumped back in shock with a high pitched yelp, dropping the hat. The voice rang in his head again. “Well that was rude. Do pick me up quickly. This woman doesn’t clean her floors regularly and I dread to think foul substances will get on me if I spend too much time here.”
“O-Of course!” Stanly leaned forward and picked up the hat again, still very confused. “So… you can talk?”
“Yes, yes. Goodness, humans in this era are always so surprised by that. My name is Kapella. Once again, it is a pleasure to meet you, Stanly.”
“Y-Yeah… you too.” Stanly was still trying to process the fact that he was talking to a hat, but it wasn’t the strangest part of his day. “So… can you tell me what’s happening?”
“I can. It’s quite simple really. You’ve come in contact with an Arete, a spirit like me. That spirit forged a bond with you, and you have become a bonder, much like Elma. That is the reason for your transformation and magical powers.”
Stanly blinked and tried to process what he was hearing. “So… like a magical girl?”
“Ugh, that woman said the same thing when I found her. Yes, like a magical girl, if that helps you understand.”
Elma shrugged. “The terminology really isn’t that big a deal.”
“It most certainly is!” The hat’s voice rang out in both Elma and Stanly’s heads. “There are centuries, nay millennia worth of tradition behind your powers. You must show them proper respect.”
“I have another question, if you don’t mind, Miss Kapella.” Stanly said, breaking their argument short. “What about that other girl, and those monsters we fought?”
“Ha ha, ‘Miss Kapella’ eh? At least someone knows how to show proper respect.” Elma rolled her eyes. “Anyway, that is a long story. Given all you’ve been through, and the late hour, I will be brief. Those monsters were beings of negative emotion called kakia. They are the spiritual opposite to arete and are our enemies. That girl is a villain who has learned to control the kakia. You can think of her as a counterpart to you bonders.”
Elma chimed in. “Like a dark magical girl.”
Kapella sighed loudly. “Yes, yes, like a dark magical girl.” There was immense defeat in her voice.
“I see, I see.” Stanly nodded, taking in the information.
“You following everything?” Elma looked over to Stanly with a bit of concern.
“Oh, yes, I would certainly say so!” Stanly smiled, excitement in his eyes. “It appears my destiny extends beyond the stage. Perhaps this is my chance to become a true star on the cosmic scale! A hero fighting for the forces of good! Yes, this is absolutely wonderful!”
“Oh… I see…” Elma was a bit taken aback by Stanly sudden bold proclamation of heroism.
“Heh, makes you feel bad for immediately bringing up payment when I asked you to be a bonder, doesn’t it?” Kapella smugly taunted Elma.
“Hey, I’m a working adult, not a college student. There’s a big difference!”
“Ah, I do have another question.” Stanly interrupted. It was not out of a desire to break up the other two’s argument, Stanly was simply completely oblivious to it. “Is it possible for me to turn back? I noticed Miss Elma seemed to transform out of her outfit when we arrived here, how do you do that?”
Elma glanced at Kapella before answering. “Well, you should have turned back already. I have a hard time holding my transformation as long as you have. Its… a bit concerning that you haven’t.”
“Try focusing on the feeling of magic within you and pushing it away.” Kapella added.
“I see, very well then.” Stanly closed his eyes and meditated for a moment, with intense focus. Eventually, he was enveloped in a bright light, however nothing seemed to change except his clothes. The idol outfit was replaced with a pink button up sweater and white, pleated skirt. Stanly was still very much female.
Stanly looked to the others. “Did I do something wrong?”
“Hmm, no… unfortunately I believe that was it.” Kapella seemed slightly concerned. “I can sense that your transformation has ended. There shouldn’t be any magic left changing your form.”
“Looks like all it did was change your clothes and hair color.”
Stanly grabbed a bit of his still very long hair and looked at it. It had changed from bright pink to silver. “I see… do you have a mirror I could use?”
Elma nodded. “Sure, in the bathroom. Just uh… don’t mind the mess.” She blushed a bit from embarrassment at other people being in her messy home.
Stanly did as he was instructed and looked at his new reflection in the bathroom mirror. As Elma had said, he really didn’t look much different. His clothes and hair color had indeed changed, and his eyes were now brown. However, he was still the same unfamiliar woman as before.
Once he was content with examining his new form, Stanly emerged from the bathroom, lost deep in his thoughts.
Elma put a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, you okay? Kapella and I can look into a way to change you back. Once we figured out what happened it probably won’t be too hard.”
Kapella seemed a bit less hopeful. “Don’t go giving him false hope. I can’t guarantee its possible. I won’t know until we figure out why this change isn’t going away in the first place.”
Stanly looked up at the two, completely oblivious as to why they seemed so serious. “Hmm? Oh, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I mean, sure, do look into changing me back. However, I think this will be an excellent opportunity!”
“O-Oh?” Elma seemed very confused at the outburst.
“You see, I am an actor! The way I see it, this is a fabulous chance to experience a whole new role for myself! Where before I was limited to male roles, I can now witness the other side of the gender boundary! This is truly a once in a lifetime experience that I have been given, and I do not intend to squander it!”
“Wow… well, I suppose it’s good to stay positive.” Elma still couldn’t fully comprehend Stanly’s rationale. Surely, he could just act out female roles before, couldn’t he? Elma figured he might just be a bit on the dense side.
“Ah, although I suppose my home and school situations will be a bit difficult. Is there a rule against explaining this situation? I’m not sure about telling the school, but I would at least like to tell my sibling.”
“It might be problematic if a lot of people know, but telling those close to you is fine, as long as they can be trusted.” Kapella advised. “If you give me some time, I can help with your school situation. For now, I recommend taking time off. You can say it’s for illness. I’ll work things out in the meantime.”
“Wonderful! Yes, everything is coming together perfectly. I’ll use this time to master the art of being a woman. Imagine the growth I’ll gain as an actor!” Stanly’s eyes were completely starstruck as dreams of wild fame and success filled his thoughts. “Oh, but if I’m to be studying the art of being female, I’ll need to go in all the way. If you two don’t mind, please consider me female from now until I turn back.”
“A-Are you sure? I wouldn’t want this to be too disorienting for you.” Elma was still wary. Her naturally cautious nature made it difficult to understand Stanly’s relentless, and perhaps foolish optimism.
“A fair concern, but I assure you, I will be fine! Just another role! Ah, and this role needs a name! After all Stanly is not a fitting name for a wonderful maiden like myself.” Stanly thought for only a moment, before the perfect name stuck him. In this instance, he felt his mind a true whirlwind of inspiration. “Yes, that’s it! You may call me Stella, a fitting name for the star I will become!”
“S-Sure…” Elma questioned what she got herself into by bringing this individual into her world of magic.
Elma walked Stella to the train station. She had offered to let Stella spend the night, but Stella was eager to get home to her sibling. The fires of her strange passion still burned bright. As the train arrived, Elma waved. “Stay safe, alright? Don’t exhaust yourself too much.”
“I assure you, I will be quite alright!” Stella’s smile was one of the largest Elma had ever seen.
“If you say so.” Elma chuckled a little to herself. “Text me your address. Next time I’m free I’ll come by to go over some more things with you.”
“Very well! I look forward to being your magical girl partner!”
Stella waved fiercely as she boarded the train the doors closed between her and Elma. She sat down in the empty train car and looked dreamily into the distance, excited at all the new opportunities before her. At least that’s what she was pushing for.
A thought crossed her mind, and she reached around behind her head to take off the ribbon and get a closer look at it. She could feel some sort of deep connection with it, even though she wasn’t even sure where it came from. “You know, I forgot to ask about you. Well, I suppose there will be time tomorrow.”
Stella smiled, holding the ribbon close. “This will be the start of our journey to stardom!”