After trudging through traffic the bus dropped the ladies off at the very last stop. It wasn’t a dangerous part of town to walk through, but it still put the two girls on edge. Something about the area felt off, like an unfinished thought at the tip of someone’s tongue. The closer they got to their building, the quieter the city became. The few buildings they passed were struggling shops and foreclosed businesses whose For Sale signs had been put up in vain. The occasional person they’d walk past was going in the opposite direction, away from what felt like a ghost town to join the rest of civilization. Once they reached their destination there was no one to be found. The entire building was left to stand like a quiet relic that had been left behind by the rest of the city.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this,” Bree said.
“She’s doing it on purpose, to make sure no one knows that we’re here.”
“Isn’t that a bit… unsettling?”
“Which part? The quiet? Or her having enough power to ward off this area?”
“We have a lot of power, too,” Marianna said as she walked up to the door and pressed her hand against it. The beads in her bracelet shimmered as a purple light surrounded her fingers, the door slowly sliding open for her.
“Yeah… not sure if we have enough to quarantine a building,” Bree muttered as she followed Marianna inside.
The bleakness of the outside was nothing compared to the inside. It had been an office building once upon a time. The furnishings were still intact, from the couches in the front lobby, to the fake plants by the elevator. The colors were all muted and dull, making the girls feel like they were walking through a black and white painting where the only bits of color were their own clothes and skin. There was history here, they could feel it, but Blaze had deemed their curiosity over the building as nothing to worry about.
Bree, of course, had felt that it was cause for, at the very least, a bit of experimentation. What was the point of having a mysterious command center if you didn’t test its limits? So she walked over to one of the plants and knocked it over by giving it a swift kick. “See?”
Bree pointed to the fake, potted greenery and asked, “Why can we hear our voices but nothing else?”
Instead of answering the question, Marianna countered with another question. “Do you have to do this all the time?” It was an ongoing conversation between the two girls: the silent void of the office building they called home. For a moment Marianna wondered if this was how Bree felt whenever she was getting yet another lecture.
Bree sat down in one of the office chairs and used her feet to push herself across the floor. “I’ve done this numerous times and it never, ever makes any noise. No wheels sliding across the floor. No squeak from the chair. Nothing.”
“You won’t let me ask her about it anymore, so I have to figure this whole thing out myself.”
“We already know she’s doing it so people won’t know that we’re here.”
“Yes, but how is she able to do this?”
“Same way you can create pixels with the palms of your hand,” Marianna pointed out. “Same way this bracelet around my wrist transforms me into a purple haired magical girl.”
“Her name is Golden Blaze, not Golden Void Creator. And why this particular building? Why not a house or something like that?”
Marianna shrugged as she pushed the button to the elevator. “And here I thought you’d be the one pointing out how all heroes have a secret hideout…”
Bree stood up from the chair to walk over to Marianna as the elevator doors opened. “They do, but there’s always an explanation to them. Discovering the secrets of this one keeps me motivated.”
“Uh huh. So the arcade center where talking cats guide five planetary defenders of love and justice makes sense?”
Bree chuckled and said, “That’s just a normal day in Japan, Mari, but I’m glad you remembered one of my fandoms.”
“You have an answer for everything, huh?”
“Almost everything,” then Bree turned and gestured toward the office.
“You could at least put the chair back and pick the plant up.”
“Why bother? You know they’ll be back in place when we come through here again.”
Marianna stepped onto the elevator with Bree and let the doors slide shut. Instead of hitting the button to the top floor, she pressed the button to open the elevator doors again. Just as Bree had predicated, the plant and the office chair were back in their original positions. “I never said it wasn’t odd,” Marianna pointed out to her friend. “I just trust Blaze, that’s all.”
The elevator brought them to the top floor of the building. Blaze was sitting in a chair, dressed in a simple white shirt with a long, orange skirt that flowed over her legs like water. While the other floors in the building were lifeless and void of color — beyond their own living quarters on the floor below — the top floor felt like they were walking into a private solar system. The walls were made up of galactic skies and bright stars that twinkled around them, with Blaze settled in the center of it all like a supreme sorceress waiting for her students to arrive. Despite Blaze contacting them via a television screen whenever the city was in need of a good saving, there were no signs of any equipment. There was no sign of any doors that could lead to a bedroom, or space for a kitchen or any kind of living arrangements. Bree had once asked where the woman slept and was met with a playful smirk and a nod to the right. Had that meant that there was a door, somewhere, in the middle of what felt like outer space? Or did their leader sleep among the stars?
Did their leader sleep at all?
“Good afternoon, girls.”
“Good afternoon, Blaze,” both girls said in unison.
Blaze smiled at both of them. Despite her intimidating appearance, it only took one smile to make the girls feel welcome in her presence.
Also check out this companion piece that goes with this scene by Ann Uland art! This art is also inside of the book itself!