Mahou Shoujo Ayaka Salamanca

Chapter 5

The Secret of the Mage Princess

Sakurai Ayaka stepped back, horrified at the sight before her. A huge monstrous flower in a pot stood in the middle of a pile of broken pots and scattered soil. Its red eyes flashed eerily and the black gem on the forehead of the flower glimmered menacingly. Lago stood beside it, looking proud and dangerous at the same time.

"What…" stammered Ayaka. "What is that?"

"It's a Soul Breaker!" replied Spica in a voice that spelled danger.

Tsubaki Shun looked as puzzled as Ayaka. "A Soul Breaker?"

"I've read about it," answered Midorino Itsuki. There was no trace of fear in his voice as he spoke. "It's an abomination created by fusing aberrant magical power and a base object. It is said that it preys on a certain negative emotion."

"I don't really get it, but…" Shun reached out his hand and visible winds began spiraling around his arm. There was bright white shine as the winds turned into a pristine sword. However the sword ended up on a gun's stock instead of a normal handle and Shun carried it like it was a shotgun. Upon closer inspection, a barrel was attached underneath the silver blade. Or was it the other way around? "I'm not going let to anything hurt my precious princess."

"I agree," said Itsuki. It was his turn to reach out his hand and a flurry of leaves spun around. A shining green light emerged from his hand and a really long sword appeared. The bronze blade was cone-shaped and both the handle and the blade were both wrapped by green vines. It looked more like a spear than a sword at all.

"What…" said Ayaka, astounded. "They are…"

"They're the Mage Knights," said Spica. "The rest of them, at least."

"You mean, like Yukinawa-san and Akande-san?"

"Yes, those four represent each of the Elements. I guess they had a set ready just for you."

"A set?" For Ayaka, it sounded like she was collecting some kind of toys.

"Of course." However, for Spica, all made perfect sense. "What is a princess without her loyal knights?"

"A princess?" Ayaka looked blank as she pointed at herself. "Me?"

"Hah?" Spica looked dumbfounded. "Who else could it be?"

"Eh? But you didn't explain anything to me at all…"

Spica had a huge sweat drop. "Oh, that's right…"

Shun and Itsuki moved in front of them, blocking the two from the sight of the Soul Breaker. "Hime-sama, Guardian Beast-san," said Itsuki. "Please leave this to us."

"This isn't anything like we fought before," commented Shun, pointing his gun-sword at the monster. "But it's nothing that we couldn't handle."

In a swift movement that Ayaka did not think was possible, Shun sped up towards the monster, hitting the pot with its blade. A resounding banging sound echoed out of the impact and the Soul Breaker stepped back. But the monster recovered quickly and flapped one of its leaf-like hands towards Shun. The guy blocked the attack with his sword and jumped out of the way as the other leaf tried to squash him.

As soon as Shun evaded the attack, Itsuki moved towards the monster, hitting the pot again with a graceful piercing stroke from his sword. The Soul Breaker changed its target to him and tried slicing him off with its leaves. However, Itsuki sidestepped each of its attacks, while holding his sword close to him like a graceful fencer. Every time the monster missed, he counterattacked with his weapon and was able to connect several attacks.

Knowing that it couldn't win in its current situation, the Soul Breaker changed tactics. It suddenly stopped attacking and Itsuki was surprised. Then, the flower head of the monster began to spin and sent razor sharp petals towards the boy.

"Midorino-san, watch out!" yelled Ayaka.

But before the petals could hit Itsuki, Shun moved in front of him, pointed the muzzle of his weapon at the monster, closed one eye and pulled the trigger. A strong blast of wind shot out from the gun, blowing all of the razor petals out of the way. Most flew back at the Soul Breaker while some went flying out in all directions. One of the petals almost flattened Lago, but he dodged it just in time.

"Hey!" the bunny man yelled angrily. "Watch where you're throwing that, you stupid Soul Breaker!"

Itsuki was unharmed as well. "Thanks for that, Shun-san."

"That won't do, Itsuki-kun," said Shun. "You mustn't worry our princess so!"

"Well, that won't happen again. Let's finish this, shall we?"

"My pleasure!" said Shun with a wink. "And let's play with Hime-sama later, all right?"

Ayaka turned beet red. "Play with… Me?"

Itsuki's sword shone bright green as he swiped it in the air. The plants all around him shone in the same color and turned into long and thorny vines. He pointed his sword at the Soul Breaker. "Vine Trap!" he called.

The vines shot out of the pots and towards the Soul Breaker. From all over the greenhouse, endless vines spun around the different parts of the monster, tying it down. It couldn't even move a single inch.

Istuki turned to Shun. "Shun-san!"

"Leave it to me!" Shun pointed his weapon at the target. A bright white light charged at the muzzle of his weapon and as it does so, a flurry of winds began spiraling near the barrel of the gun. Finally, he pulled the trigger. "Zephyr Blast!"

A huge burst of wind shot out from the gun, heading towards the trapped the Soul Breaker. The impact was strong and deafening; Ayaka closed her eyes and covered her ears on impulse. And when she opened her eyes again, all that was left from where the Soul Breaker was white smoke…

"That was…" said Ayaka. "Really amazing…"

"Err…" Spica looked uncomfortable. "It's good and all but…"

There was a whirring sound as something moved from beyond the smoke.

"What?!" said Itsuki.

"But how could it withstand my attack?" asked Shun, incredulous.

To everyone's surprise, the Soul Breaker stood up from the smoke, battered and exhausted but still very much alive.

Spica sighed. "But only the Mage Princess can defeat a Soul Breaker."

"Eh?" said Ayaka as Spica, Itsuki and Shun turned to her.

"You do remember it, right, Ayaka-chan?" said Spica in a serious voice. "You defeated that Seal Breaker back then with your power…"

Ayaka did remember. She transformed and then defeated a monstrous spider-like creature. Come to think of it, that spider monster gave off the same negative energy as this monster before her. She remembered using some kind of power to turn it back to a normal spider…

"But that time…" said Ayaka. "I was trying to save Tomomi…"

"And if you don't defeat the Soul Breaker here," said Spica. "It will harm everybody in the school…"

"Not to mention it damaged the greenhouse badly," added Itsuki with a hint of anger in his usually gentle voice.

"A flower should be beautiful and elegant," said Shun, pointing at Lago. "But you turned it into something so hideous…"

Lago shrugged, looking nonplussed. "What kind of crap are you talking about? Flowers are nothing but weak objects. For it to bloom, you have to take care of it and water it every day. And what do you get after it does bloom? It's just a pointless waste of time and effort, if you ask me!"

"You're wrong!" said Ayaka in a loud voice that surprised everyone. "It's not pointless! Flowers may depend on a lot on others' support, but they always give you a sense of happiness! When you're sad or depressed, looking at flowers can lift your spirits up!"

The face of a beautiful and familiar woman appeared on her mind. Pink hair, gentle blue eyes and a perpetually smiling face… A white kimono with pink floral patterns… A golden hair decoration shaped like a sakura flower…

It was the woman in her dreams. The woman she'd been in the body of…

"I…" stammered Ayaka in a gentler and lower voice. "I once said the same things…" A strange feeling of déjà vu pulsated from deep within her but she couldn't put a finger on it…

"I don't know what you're mumbling about," said Lago in a sneering and furious voice as he clenched both his furry hands. "But don't talk to me about happiness!" In an unexpected and swift movement, he aimed a punch at her. His arms suddenly become elongated and it extended his reach and was headed for a shocked and confused Ayaka…

PANG! Itsuki blocked the attack with his sword. "I think so, too," he said. Ayaka looked up at him and he turned to her and smiled. "Flowers are things that can give us a little bit of joy, especially when we need it."

"SHUT UP!" roared Lago as he became increasingly ferocious and wild. His fur straightened up on ends and his eyes glowed eerily redder than ever. His other hand headed for Ayaka again, his arm flexing and extending.

PANG! This time, it was Shun who stopped Lago's hand from reaching her. "I can't say I disagree with them," he added. "Beautiful flowers are always relaxing to look at."

"SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP!" Lago put more power on his arms. And even though it moved Itsuki and Shun a little, they held their ground and halted his attack full-on. Angry, Lago shouted at the monster. "Soul Breaker, get them!"

Tiredly, the Soul Breaker stood up and moved towards them.

I… thought Ayaka. I have to do something. Or else, Itsuki and Shun would be in great danger! And not just that…

Ayaka looked at the pitiful state of the flower monster. The sight gave her strength and a determination to turn it back to normal…

And at that moment, the sword-shaped pendant on the necklace she held shone a bright, pink light…

Both Shun and Itsuki turned to see the glimmering brilliant light.

"That's…" said an awed Itsuki.

"Finally…" said Shun with a grin.

In a few seconds, the light dissipated and Ayaka now held a beautiful rapier with a pink handle and a diamond tip. Once again, a strange air of familiarity settled on her mind and heart. "The Salamanca Sword…" chanted Ayaka.

Spica cheered for her. "Now, Ayaka-chan!"

Ayaka spun the sword clockwise and pointed it towards the sky. "With the power of the Mage Princess, I command you to show me your true form!"

From above them, a pillar of pink light appeared from the sky, passed through the greenhouse ceiling and settled down on Ayaka. Once again, a shower of glimmering orbs appeared from beneath the sword. Several orbs encircled her torso and turned into a pink blouse with a ring of white feathers on the tip of it sleeves. Another circle of orbs rounded on her hips and formed into a frilly pink skirt with white ends. Two orbs reached her feet and transformed into a pair of knee-high pink boots. Two more orbs landed on her arms and changed into pink braces. Another orb settled on the center of her chest and turned into a pink ribbon with a golden star in the center. Ayaka's flowing hair extended up to her legs and on top of her head, the last orb turned into a diamond-encrusted golden tiara.

Ayaka emerged from the light in her new form. She swiped her sword and spun it clockwise once more. "Mahou Shoujo!" she declared. "Ayaka Salamanca!"

Shun and Itsuki looked overwhelmed at the sight of Ayaka in her transformed state. A blush seeped out in Itsuki's cheeks and Shun's eyes glimmered with her reflection.

Itsuki almost choked on his words. "A-amazing…"

"Really…" said a dazed Shun. "Astounding…"

Ayaka pointed her sword at the Soul Breaker, which was still trying to reach them. "With the power entrusted to me," she declared with utmost confidence that she never knew was possible of her. "I shall cleanse your darkened heart!"

Ayaka closed her eyes and held the Salamanca Sword tight. She felt the familiar connection with the sword and opened her eyes once again.

As the Salamanca Sword shone a brilliant pink light, Ayaka swung the sword towards the Soul Breaker. "Taste the power of a maiden's pure heart!" she yelled as she drew a shining circle in front of her with the sword's shining blade.

"Shine!" yelled Ayaka and the circle shone, revealing a magic circle with a star on the center and intricate designs on the outer ring. "Starlight…"

Ayaka thrust the sword into the center of the pink magic circle. "…Burst!"

A humongous cannon of pink light erupted from Ayaka's circle. It swallowed the Soul Breaker entirely in its brilliant light. The flower monster's dark silhouette melted inside the light, dissipating bit by bit. The black gem that was once on its forehead cracked and then broke into dust. And when the light fainted, all that's left was the flower and its pot.

As Ayaka finally defeated the monster, Shun and Itsuki sprung into action. They both hit Lago's two hands at the same time, sending it back to the monster. Seeing his creation destroyed like that, the shock calmed him down and he turned back into his normal and less menacing form.

"I…" stammered Lago as he panted. "I'll get you for this!" A black portal appeared behind him and he fled towards it.

"And he's gone, just like that!" said Shun.

In an instant, Ayaka's transformation dissolved in a shower of pink light and she sat on the ground, exhausted. "I did it…" she said. "I saved the flower…"

"You did it, Hime-sama," said Itsuki, stepping towards her, holding the flower pot.

Ayaka smiled. "Thank goodness…"

Itsuki smiled, Shun grinned and gave her a thumb up while Spica looked relieved as she sat down beside her master. It was a peaceful and happy sight until…

"Hah? You created this much destruction and you didn't invite me?"

All four of them turned to see a red-haired guy coming towards them. "Haruto-san!" said Itsuki.

"Yo!" greeted Akande Haruto. Then he looked at Ayaka with a sneer. "Really, trouble always follows you everywhere you go."

"She can't help it," said Shun with a sigh. "She is the Mage Princess, you know."

Haruto had a suspicious glint on his eyes as he looked at Ayaka once more. "I really doubt that…" he said. "But Hoshi and Anna are looking for you, so let's get you there…"

With no warning whatsoever, Haruto picked up Ayaka with both his hands. "Ehhhh?" yelled Ayaka as she blushed and struggled against his grip.

"Hey, careful!" said Haruto. "You get weak in the knees after a fight, right? It'll be a bother if you kept on stumbling around as we go…"

Itsuki blushed, but not as red as Ayaka was. "B-but Haruto-san, that's!" he protested.

"Heh, Haruto," said Shun with a grin. "I didn't know you had it in you! Spoken like a true knight!"

"Sh-shut up!"

Exhaustion and the fast beating of her heart made Ayaka light-headed. Just what kind of mess had she gotten herself into?

Ayaka was back again in the infirmary, where she once woke up after the strain of her transformation knocked her out. The assistant nurse, Hikaga Hoshi welcomed her immediately and he had directed Haruto to put her on one of the beds. Haruto then left the room, leaving Ayaka with Spica, Hoshi and the woman Ayaka met before. However, this other occupant of the Infirmary had a little less welcoming look on her face. Ayaka couldn't blame her; after all she sneaked out without any permission during the last time they met.

The more Ayaka looked at the woman, the more she recognized her…

"It's nice to see you again, Sakurai-san," said the woman. She had a rather severe look on her face and Ayaka gulped. "I don't think I've introduced myself to you yet. My name is Hikaga Anna and I currently work as the school nurse here."

That's right, thought Ayaka. During her first day in school, she was accidentally hit by a running Tomomi and had a wound on her knee as a result. Tomomi had brought her to the infirmary that time and Ayaka remembered Anna treating it. She looked just as scary as that time. Tomomi vowed never to get hurt during her whole stay in high school, to which Ayaka also agreed. And that was the time they actually started becoming friends.

"I…" stammered Ayaka. "I know who you are, Hikaga-sensei."

"If you did, then you should have had the decency to ask before leaving."

"I'm really sorry…" said Ayaka, bowing her head low. "I was just scared… At what's happening that time…"

"Lighten up, nee-san," commented Hoshi.

"I cannot just lighten up, Hoshi," said Anna in a loud voice. Then, she sighed. "We have a serious problem here. Seal Breakers and Soul Breakers are on the loose. I don't know what we should do anymore."

"Don't worry about it, Anna-chan," said Spica, who was licking one of her paws on the floor near Ayaka's bed. "We have the new Mage Princess now, everything will be fine!"

"I don't remember you being so carefree," Anna told the cat. Ayaka noticed Spica freezing in place but when the cat spoke again, she sounded fine.

"This is not being carefree," said Spica. "I'm just not letting the whole situation weigh down on me so much. Ayaka-chan will be fine, as long as I'm with her."

A snide but unfamiliar voice echoed in the room. "Will she now?"

Spica's cat ears perked up. "That voice…"

The door to the infirmary open and a small creature flew inside. It was a cat-like creature with exactly the same features as Spica. However this particular cat had red instead of purple fur, but it still had a pair of white wings on its back. The tail was split in half and the end was colored black. The cat had fierce-looking golden eyes and a diagonal scar tore through its right eye.

Spica let out a loud gasp. "Sirius!"

"It's so nice to meet you again, Spica," said Sirius in a distinctively male voice. "So nice to see you, after you abandoned your duty and run away."

It was clear that the other cat hit a nerve. "I did not abandon my duty to the Mage Princess!"

"So you say, but where have you been all these years?"

"Well, I!" Spica faltered and Ayaka was surprised to see her in such a state. "I!"

"That's enough, Sirius," said Haruto in a commanding yet surprisingly calm voice. He entered the room together with Shun and Itsuki. Then he turned to Anna. "Kai'll be here in a moment."

"We'll start without him, then," concluded Anna.

Ayaka couldn't help but ask. "Start with what?"

Anna looked at her with a distressed look. "To start explaining to you how important it is that you fully understand your role."

"My role…" said Ayaka, knowing where the conversation was going. "You mean, as the Mage Princess?"

Anna nodded. "I'll start from the very beginning. Life persists because of the Four Great Elements: Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Humanity once had the power to manipulate each of these Elements; a power we call 'magic'. The entire world bowed under one rule, the Mage Queen – known to possess the power to use all of the four elements." Anna paused for Ayaka to sink it all in.

Then she said bitterly, "It was once an era of peace and prosperity."

"However with power comes greed. Human beings used this power for selfish reasons and a chaotic war was waged. In order to stop the bloodbath, the daughter of the Mage Queen, the Princess sealed humanity's bond with magic. With the seal, all of humanity was stripped of their power. And without magic, the wars did not continue. That event was known as The Great Sealing."

"But…" said Ayaka with a confused expression. "If magic was sealed, how come I can use it?" Then she turned at Haruto, Shun and Itsuki. "And the others as well?"

"That…" said Anna. "That is the secret of the Mage Princess."

"A secret?"

Anna nodded. "The Princess made the people believe that she sacrificed everyone's power in order to save the world. This is only half of the truth. She did save the world, but she saved some of the powers for herself and a small circle of her personal knights. These are the Mage Knights and these people are the ancestors of the ones gathered here today."

"You see," continued Anna. "The royal lineage was blessed with unique powers. One of the Princess' ability was to see the future. She had foreseen that people will try to break the seal, in order to use its power for their own. You met some of those people already." Ayaka nodded, remembering the odd bunny man and those other creatures serving him. "The Seal Breakers and the Soul Breakers are the least of our problems. There are others, more powerful and menacing creatures…"

"So, in order to stop it, the Mage Princess decided to take up another role - as a secret guardian and protector of this world, the world that had forgotten magic. She also knew that in her place, her descendants would continue her legacy. But for her to be able to keep the seal away from those who wants to break it, she needed power. But since all of the magic was sealed, she needed a 'key'."

"A key?"

"A key to temporarily break the seal and regain her powers," said Anna. "That key is the Salamanca Sword."

Ayaka looked at the pendant on her neck. No wonder that Lago person was after her. She was holding an item that can grant incredible powers…

A familiar voice continued the story as he stepped inside the infirmary. "The Princess also created other keys and gave them to her loyal knights. Just like the Salamanca Sword, it allows them to borrow the magic from beyond the seal. With the key, they would be able to access their powers." Yukinawa Kai entered the infirmary and despite all the revelations, Ayaka felt her heart skip a beat.

"And four of these keys are here with us," declared Anna.

Anna turned to Itsuki, who brought out a small leaf-like brooch. "The Key of Earth, Titania."

Then she faced Shun, who smiled and showed a silver spiral ring on a finger on his right hand. "The Key of Air, Sylph."

After that, Kai reached out for his neck, pulled a silver chain and Ayaka saw a drop-like pendant made of blue sapphire. "The Key of Water, Undine."

And last Haruto presented his arm, where a gold bracelet with intricate red linings was worn. "And the Key of Fire, Phoenix."

Anna then turned to Ayaka. "And finally, you have the most powerful of them all. The Key of the Seal, Salamanca – the power held by the Mage Princess herself."

Ayaka instinctively touched the pin-like pendant on her neck. A lot of things had happened and she could never deny that what Anna was saying was not true. Still… "But, even so…"

"Only those descended from the Mage Princess will be able to use the Salamanca Sword," Anna told her. However, her next words were full of doubts. "However, in your case, Ayaka-chan…"

Ayaka turned to the teacher. "What do you mean?"

"The last Mage Princess did not have a daughter," explained Anna. "She…" She paused and then turned her back. "She died young…"

Everyone gathered in the room bowed their heads, all of their faces etched with sadness. The only expression Ayaka couldn't see was that of Anna's…

But when Anna turned to meet Ayaka's eyes again, there was no change in her previous expression. "And so we thought that the lineage of the Mage Princess had already ended, but…"

There was another great pause as this fact was revealed. Honestly, Ayaka was not surprised. She was pretty sure that her grandmother and her mother did not keep a legendary magical sword as an heirloom. And this was just a guess for her, but wouldn't the family keep this story and secret throughout the generations? Her family had never anything like it.

"Then…" said Ayaka. "Then why was I chosen?"

Ayaka turned to each one of them, but nobody would look her in the eye. Not even Spica.

Anna looked awkward as she spoke. "Unfortunately, we do not have the answer to that. It is truly a mystery."

Ayaka shook her head. This wasn't right. "I don't want this…" she stammered. "I…"

Spica looked up at her with a sad face. "But Ayaka-chan…"

"I understand," said Anna, surprising both Ayaka and Spica. There was no anger on Anna's eyes as continued. "This is not your burden, Sakurai-san. It is not right to let you do it."

"But Anna-chan!" protested Spica.

"I will not let an innocent girl get dragged by-" yelled Anna angrily, shocking everyone. For Ayaka, it looked like she almost slipped on something, but she was able to hold it in. She sighed and said, "Sakurai-san, if you would kindly return the Salamanca Sword…"

Ayaka handed over the pendant. She was shocked at the gaping hole in her heart when it left her hand. Why did it feel like she just gave out something really precious to her?

Was this… thought Ayaka. Was this the right thing to do?

To be continued…

Ayaka-chan and Spica-chan's Preview Corner!

Spica: Ayaka-chan…

Ayaka: I'm sorry, Spica, but I couldn't do it after all…

Spica: But if you just…

Ayaka: I'm sorry…

Spica: …

Ayaka: …

Spica: Then… Next in Mahou Shoujo Ayaka Salamanca… Chapter 6… Spica's Sorrowful Story…

Ayaka: What…? Spica's… Sorrowful… Story…?

Spica: It is the story of the Mage Princess before you…

Ayaka: !

Spica: You better come listen to it, too, readers…

Ayaka: The last Mage Princess… What happened to her…?