2015-06-14 - The Duel

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Title: The Duel

Months of conflict have come to their grand finale. Nanoha is putting everything on the line for one last chance to get through to Fate - this will be their final battle.


Nanoha Takamachi, Fate Testarossa, Precia Testarossa, Lera Camry, Ren Aizawa, Endo Naoki, Fiat Silver, Westar, Soular, Eas, Madoka Kaname, Homura Akemi


Rainbow Bridge

OOC - IC Date:

22 July 2014 - 06/14/2015

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

The whole setup was like a blazing beacon to the magical world. Even with the help of Yuuno Scrya erecting a double barrier over the intended location, the sudden audible gem-gleam pulse of no less than TEN artifacts of immense magical power- almost painful to hear- surging like a mighty spotlight atop the Rainbow Bridge just ASKING to be investigated.

They are the Jewel Seeds, and their power for wish granting is almost like a siren's song, even when sealed.

And they are sealed, ten precious blue gems, glittering with eternal promise, lingering in a slow circling orbit around the small figure in white standing atop one of the taller pillars of the bridge, lit up a stark pink and yellow illumination from the spotlights below.

Nanoha risks much with this gamble. Calling Fate Testarossa out for one final duel as she did; the weight of the earnest and full trust of her friends heavy on her shoulders as she lays out not only her Jewel Seeds, but every one they had managed to collect together on the line for this.

From on high as she is, a buffeting wind billows the skirt of her Barrier Jacket as gauntlet-clad fingers curl tightly around the staff in her grasp, her gaze locked squarely in the reflective surface of a puddle at her boots, left over from a recent light rain that had finally parted for a clear, bright sky.

"Come out, Fate. I know you're here."

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has fully healed herself.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi transforms into Barrier Jacket!

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [None] has posed.

The rustle of cape fabric answers her. It's almost imperceptible, within the air currents this high up, her mastery of flight magic such that there's no sound of her feet touching down behind her rival upon the high pillar. There was a certain intensity that clung to her like a second barrier jacket.

Eyes trail up to the ten jewel seeds hovering in the sky, but only briefly. While they were the means of reaching her goal, in truth the entirety of her focus was fixated on that girl. How many times had this twin-tailed prodigy offered her overtures of friendship? How many times had Fate wanted to believe they were insincere?

'She really believes it. It's just how she is.'

That made things harder. The wind shifts, causes the rustling of her cape to grow louder, as it flows sideways in the wind like a flag marking her resolution. The sound of leather squeezing hard against Bardiche's obsidian metal haft, but she doesn't so much as take a single step forward.

'So you'll have to show her how foolish it is. Win. That's what you need to do.' 'Then I'll win. I'll crush her so completely, that she won't be able to even think of offering that to me again.' '...That's right. It's necessary to crush her. Otherwise, she just keeps getting back up. Every time, no matter how stupid it is, no matter how obviously outclassed she is, she'll just keep getting back up. She'll say it's about people she has to protect, or something important to her, and keep doing it.'

The very moment Nanoha turns, Bardiche sings outwards in a whistle from parted outwhere, extending to his full reach to ward her backwards. "What do you see when you look into my eyes now?" Scarlet eyes glare at her with conviction from weeks of preparing herself for this inevitable confrontation. There's sadness too, but it lingers behind it all, "Do you still think you can get lost in them?"

'...So you've got to win there, too. Show her that none of it means anything. Show her how stupid and pointless her way of life is.'

"After today you'll realize you saw nothing in them all along, except for your final defeat. That is-" Her gaze lingers along the skyline, the soap bubble like horizon of the double layered barrier searching for other hearts, other lights, other mages who might be waiting in the wings to ambush her. Fortunately, she'd anticipated that sort of trap after the battle over the ocean, sent out her own call to her allies in Dark Fall, "-if you're ready to put it all on the line."

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera Camry wouldn't miss this for the world. She put her faith in Nanoha. It wouldn't be accurate to say that faith is absolute; she knows this could end terribly. But something told her that it was a good idea; that, somehow, Nanoha could get through to Fate and accomplish what none of them could. It came back to a conversation that she had with Endo Naoki, where they agreed that Nanoha had the best chance out of all of them.

She has her Barrier Jacket up and Soaring Sky is out. The broadsword-shaped Device is slung over her shoulder, though, and she has her hands resting on the railing at a makeshift observation platform: the roof of one of the buildings near one end of the bridge, inside of the double barrier. Her brown-gold eyes look out at the two girls, their words clear enough from here.

Sky is helping with that.

This is not, however, a sports match. Lera doesn't loudly cheer for Nanoha. Instead, her jaw sets with equal parts determination and nervousness. She hears what Fate says and feels something icy form in her stomach. "C'mon," she murmurs under her breath.

<Pose Tracker> Westar [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Today was the end of classes at Infinity - and at the other schools as well. A joyous day for thousands upon thousands of youths, practically begging to be turned miserable and disastrous...but there were more important concerns for Westar, denizen of Labyrinth. Important enough that he wound up missing the post-class party entirely, heading back to the mansion alone.

Tonight, the mantle of 'Hayato Nishi' is being put away; tonight, he is Westar, denizen of Labyrinth, and supporter of his Dark Fall ally. He remembers well the trap at the ocean - fortunately ruined in the end - and was more than pleased to help ensure there would be no interference in a Dark Fall scheme. Or at least, that's his justification carefully worked out after the fact, for submission to Mobius.

What he'd actually said was, "Of course, Testarossa! I want to see you beat her once and for all!"

Within the Midchildan barrier, there's a strange silence. Disjoint from reality, the cityscape is brightly illuminated but lifeless - automated vehicles continuing pointless treks along the brilliantly illuminated bridge's underside. Buildings stand tall without purpose, without the heart for which they were designed; the cityscape is cold and foreboding.

Save the lack of marching mindless human drones, it's just like home to Westar.

His cape flaps in the wind as he watches the impending violence from a rooftop, one foot up on the lip at the roof's edge. Bare muscled arms are folded, and he looms without looking to those behind him. This is going to be good...

...and he calls over to the next roof over, upon spotting its watcher. "Propane! You'd better not try anything - this is a duel!"

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

This was risky. And Ren does not exactly like it. As she stands nearby with Lera and Endo, clutching Souverain Heraut perhaps a bit too tensely, she can't help but feel nervous. But Nanoha wants this. And if Ren has learned anything ever since meeting her, the tiny little mage girl has an insurmountable amount of will. So Ren had ultimately given up the sole jewel seed in her possession for this plan. Now, as Nanoha and Fate met for what would surely be the clash to end all clashes, she tried her best to remain strong. The look unbothered.

It was mostly working.

Ren looks to Endo first, smiling softly, then to Lera, the smile unwavering. That is, of course, until Fate's backup is revealed. A frown is given in Westar direction. And a challenge, if he should read into it as such. They would remain civil if they did. Those were the terms...

<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

Eas is not here to support Fate Testarossa.

...The very idea is absurd. She barely tolerates working with her fellow agents of Labyrinth, let alone their allies of the moment in Dark Fall. When she was obligated to put up with the young mage staying in her residence, she made a point of treating her like a particularly talkative sculpture. No, she has no reason to put her faith in someone else.

...But still, she's obligated to keep aware of what's going on in their orbit. And...

She wants to see whether Fate can do it after all. Whether Fate can overcome this girl and prove once and for all that this is so much foolishness. To prove that she's /right/.


Eas stands in her Labyrinth attire, black and gray and dull red, arms crossed. Red eyes peer forth, her gray hair kept impeccably as usual... as she finally glances away from Fate for just a moment. ...Only a moment.

"Crush her," Eas speaks up, loudly, deliberately not looking at Lera.

The way Eas stares, as if her gaze might shove the younger girl forward, this demand comes off as the closest to a cheer she's ever given.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Endo is standing where the other Mages he knows are, with Lera and Ren, transformed into his own barrier jacket to watch the duel. Nanoha had told him it was coming, so he had to show up. Even if he couldn't fight--and that was irksome, to say the least--he could at least sit on the sidelines to show his support. And ensure that nobody interrupted the duel in progress.

Other than that, he'd have to put his faith in her to get through to Fate. There wasn't anything else to do for now, except lean on his Device, one arm propped up against the bulky sword as he glances from the bridge to Ren, to Lera, and then across.

"I'm sure Nanoha can do it."

<Pose Tracker> Lilian Abarth [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The Rainbow Bridge is beautiful to gaze upon from afar. That means people look at it. And SOME people - such as one L. A. - are able to see what may be hidden. The sight of those Jewel Seeds... Even if they're miniscule, far off. The last battle over them nearly killed an entire district of this city.

Thus, rises - and sails forth... Fiat Silver!

The masked thief, percieving at least two other mages surrounding the outer sphere of that barrier, stays rather carefully far away. <How did they know?> Silver Scorpion murmurs, in shock.

"Perhaps they know the two inside there... That's that Fate Testarossa, isn't it?" <They're certainly carrying around a great many of those treasures.> "Mm."

Fiat Silver floats off to one side, before attempting to fly casual and loop around the barrier, perhaps to listen in.

COMBAT: Lilian Abarth transforms into Barrier Jacket!

COMBAT: Lera Camry transforms into Barrier Jacket!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa transforms into Barrier Jacket!

<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Unlike Westar, Soular *hadn't* gone straight home. However, certain events ended up interrupting the end-of-spring-semester party, giving Shun an interesting show and allowing him a convenient exit. He appears independently of Westar and Eas, but still ends up on the same rooftop as them, similar to how cats will show up on the same slightly elevated object while pretending not to notice one another.

This is an important duel, after all. It would be gauche to miss it.

"So this is the girl," he murmurs, abbreviated cape and long hair blowing in the wind, as he observes Nanoha with one hand on his hip. He looks up from there at the empty landscape within the barrier; like Westar, it's a familiar landscape to him. It makes him feel nothing in particular, as is proper for a denizen of Labyrinth.

From there, he glances at "Propane-chan" on a nearby observational platform, who at this point he knows to be Lera. Hmph. Not as though Lera's the only magical girl present whom he recognizes--Endo and Ren, at the least, have appeared to oppose his Nakewamekes in the past--but Lera, well. It seems he keeps running into her, both in and out of uniform.

Fortunately, Eas voices everything he might have had to say on any topic at hand. Soular chuckles faintly and returns his green gaze to the two duelists.

Fate will surely win. That's why he's come, after all.

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

A steeling breath and Nanoha's eyes briefly close. And even though she stands alone atop the bridge, she knows, in spirit, she's not truly alone. Her friends are out there, she knows it; and she's certain others have come for Fate, as well, watching the tension wind up tighter and tighter than a coild spring, just waiting to snap. And those blue eyes slide back open when the gentle rustle of cloth ripples in the air behind her, gaze settling upon the figure of the blonde reflected in the puddle at her feet as fleeting memories tumble over each other at the back of her mind.

'It's because you want to help her, right?'

That is her main intent, but it's more than that for Nanoha. It is about getting this girl with the sad, scarlet, eyes to open up to her.

'It's dangerous, but... if anyone can do this, it's you, Nanoha.'

It's more than dangerous. If she loses, Nanoha will suffer more than the bitter sting of defeat and injury. She will have utterly failed.

'... Everything is going to work out.'

The words of Endo Naoki, Lera Camry, and Ren Aizawa tumble through her mind as the Jewel Seeds in her possession each slink back into storage at the head of her staff. "Mm. I don't think that's true." She finally replies. "After today is when you and I will truly begin." Murmured as she turns. "We'll each put all of our Jewel Seeds on the line tonight. For the sake of that new beginning I challenge you to thisthis, our first, and our last real fight." Stated with an iron resolve as she lifts her Device, pointing for the blonde, Nanoha readies herself, taking heed to the gentle warning chiming softly in her ear.


<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [None] has posed.

Everything that carries from that girl's lips, Fate realizes she believes it completely. Realizes that she was doing this for her. While on some level it was flattering, moreover it made her angry, and a little scared as it made her consider a life away from where she truly belonged. It shows in her eyes for a brief moment, that fear, before they harden, and she grits her teeth, "You're delusional. Soon you won't even be able to think things like that. There is nothing between us-"

She cants her head towards the Jewel Seeds, "-except for them. And if you're going to offer them up to me, then so be it. The only thing tonight marks is an ending." There's a chime hiss as pistons raise from Bardiche's head, releasing a tiny cloud of steam, as he prepares for what is to come.

Fate's gaze traverses the almost lifeless cityscape within the barrier, spotting each of the Midchildan Mages, her eyes lingering upon each of them individually. She'd fought each of them save perhaps one. If they tried anything here, then she would be in a lot of trouble. But there were her allies here too. Westar, Soular, and Eas, as much as Eas can be marked as an ally. Fate was grateful to each of them for distinctly different reasons. Grateful that they were here today. She might have smiled at Westar's open exuberance, or Soular's silent support or the fact that Eas was watching her, after her words.

Distant lessons, from one of the more major influences of her life, memories of a cat-like teacher dance through her mind. Lessons on how to make use of her speed, her maneuverability to gain advantage over any opponent, no matter how powerful. "I'll take you out in one shot." She promises, complete certainty in her voice that lends credence to Raising Heart's warning.

Not a moment later, Fate soundlessly falls backwards off the pillar. Those who know her though would not think she fell. Indeed she's possibly more at home off the ground than she is on it. Gravity is the only force that carries her for a time, before her own power exerts itself just before she would strike the water, and that natural force holds no power over her.

In a blur of motion she vanishes from Nanoha's vision, though careful observers might notice her beneath the lower deck of the bridge, skirting the entire length of it, upside down. Her speed is remarkable, her maneuverability while moving this velocity had few peers, as she criss crosses between pillars and pylons beneath the lower deck. And then-

<Blitz Action>

A masculine chime, and suddenly she's above the bridge, moving so quickly that she looks like she's teleporting from side to side, flickering images of herself highlighted by yellow mana appearing close to her opponent, then far away. At some point, Bardiche shifts, and it's difficult to tell exactly when that happened, a jagged blade of radiant mana erupting from him. Abruptly, his wielder shifts angle, appearing like she's charging Nanoha head on, Bardiche held backwards to telegraph a brutal slice, but then she vanishes again.

From her flank, Nanoha would feel the eyes of her opponent on her for only a split second before Bardiche carves through wire ropes suspending the bridge, through her barrier jacket, through Raising Heart's haft with a snap crack of concussive force from the sheer violence behind it that drowns out even the aria of the attack.

It casts the small aerial mage through the pillar she originally stood upon, which twists under strain with a cacophonous shriek of metal as she moves through it, down to the upper deck of the bridge where concrete cracks and craters. Looking down upon her fallen opponent from high above, there's only a soft whisper, inaudible to all in the audience, "I'm sorry." She then turns her gaze away from her, upward away from this world. To where a child might imagine the Garden of Time to be in space, to where she truly belonged, "Goodbye."

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"I wouldn't think of it!" Lera barks back at Westar, her eyebrow twitching. "And the same goes for you, Westie!"


She glowers for a moment -- but then her expression evens out, as she hears Eas speak. 'Crush her.' Her eyes narrow for a moment as she looks at the girl, but there isn't any recognition there. Soular is there, too; that confirms what she suspected about who Fate spent time with, with no small amount of irritation at his presence. She never managed to get the best of him. She hesitates, though, and looks back at Eas.

Something that she cannot put her finger on makes her eyes her linger on the silver-haired other Labyrinth executive and wonder. Se sighs, then turns her head back to the fight. She sucks a deep breath in, but she nods to Endo's sentiment. "Yeah," she murmurs, quietly. Her fingers drum on the rail. "Hard to not be nervous, though."

She spots Fiat Silver in the distance. Her eyes drift to the Mage -- and she hesitates a moment. She watches Lilian, wondering, but she doesn't call out to her. "She was at the fight in the harbor," Lera says. "Keep an eye on her, just in case."

She looks directly at Fiat Silver, though. Her eyes linger a moment there, too; then she glances to the ground below. Some movement, perhaps, that catches her eye. She looks back up after that, though, and bites her lip. Nanoha is speaking. Lera bites her lip, then a little harder, at Fate's promise -- and the cables are cut with that terrible shriek of metal on metal. Her eyes widen and her knuckles whiten, while she waits to see what happened.

<Pose Tracker> Westar [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Three from Labyrinth, three supporting the enemy in white. While the stealthy thief might have escaped Westar's notice, the trio of mages rooting for Nanoha have not. He leans forward, peering over the building's edge for a moment, waiting for the battle to begin in earnest.

His calling out Propane absolutely was a challenge. As long as they fight fair, so will he - but any treachery, and he'll act. There's no less than five things nearby that would make a good Nakewameke, after all.

Westar answers Soular's not-quite-a-question with a nod. "Yeah, that's her - the one who keeps messing with Testarossa. She's determined - I mean, she tried to beat me in a fistfight - but Testarossa's stronger." It's not a question at all - on this, he speaks with certain belief. He turns as Eas gives her own order, and grins - that's how you cheer someone on, Eas!

...and then Propane gets his attention with a nickname. "Westar! I keep telling you, it's Westar! And your side's the one that always tries outnumbering us!" He seethes, teeth grinding - but can't do much more than that. The battle is getting started - tension snapping like a cable as Testarossa decrees an ending to the clashes between the pair.

This is why he's here, after all. To watch this incessant annoyance finally...cease. He actually lets out a sharp laugh as Fate vanishes from sight, so blindingly fast - of course she's got more power here, and that's all that matters. Today, she's going to win, and Westar's going to watch it happen.

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Ren continues to watch Westar, Eas, and Soular carefully. Would they truly hold themselves to the terms of the duel? She certainly hopes so. And even if they don't, she's ready to intervene and show them the errors of their ways.

...And then the battle began, forcing Ren to turn her attention onto the two tiny mages. "Come on Nanoha..." All of her everything is being channeled in the redhead's direction. Positives. All positives. No negatives. No mistakes.

Lera's pointing out of Fiat earned a dull blink of confusion from Ren. "Who...?" Yeah, she's at a lost as to who Fiat is. They've never met. But a new mage floating around this already tense situation? Not good...

<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

Nodding in approval at Fate's closed demeanor, Eas continues to stare upward at the combatants as they speak. ...Stare, but... She can certainly hear those on the roof across the way, those watching for the /other/ girl. It doesn't even occur to her to interfere, of course, despite what Westar's already said. ...Or what...


Soular confirmed what seemed obvious to her anyway... but she hasn't looked much at him so far today. Not that that's /too/ unusual.

"Hmph. We'll see now whether Testarossa's stronger. ...She'd better be."

But it's not like Eas /really/ has any stake.

The fight breaks out. Eas almost smiles, but it doesn't reach her eyes--it's more like she's showing teeth.

"How does it feel?" she calls out to the mages on the other building. "To see your little friend fight /her/? ...You'd better prepare yourselves for how this turns out."

She doesn't even /notice/ the thief.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Endo squints in the direction Lera indicates, the boy bobbing his head several times. "I'll keep an eye out." Except that Nanoha and Fate are doing things, and his attention is immediately drawn back to that. He winches visibly with the snap of metal, shifting around uneasily where he stands. There's another glance to his fellow Mages, and then he forces himself to still once again.

"This is really the worst, standing around here."

<Pose Tracker> Fiat Silver [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Fiat Silver's eyes cut towards 'Westie' when the name is mentioned. This is amusing. Less amusing is when that sudden sharp TWANGING and the smashing of the bridge - "They're going to destroy it," she says to herself, wonderingly.

<It seems likely,> Silver Scorpion concurs.

There is more silence.

<... It seems,> Silver Scorpion remarks to Fiat Silver, <That we may be the pivotal ones in this equation.>

"I don't know what that means," Fiat Silver mutters without moving her lips. Her attention turns over the Labyrinth executives.

<Three of them. Backing Testarossa. Three others, backing - er - I am not sure I heard her name...>

"They can all see us?"

<I am afraid so.>

FROM AFAR: It looks like Fiat Silver simply floats there, in silence. Internally, Lilian Abarth is trying not to freak out.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"I know," Lera answers Endo. She looks sideways at him, her expression still worried. "But we can't step in. We promised Nanoha. We just have to have faith. She has something planned." She didn't tell Lera what, which might be for the best. There could be no risk of it being discovered -- or pried out of her -- that way.

Then, Eas and Westar call out to them. Lera's eyebrow twitches -- and she turns to look back at the two of them. Westar's note about outnumbering them goes without retort. She doesn't precisely have a good comeback for that. She calls back, louder than before.

"The fight just started! And Fate's tough, but--" She looks back, hoping to see a blur of white -- or maybe pink -- any moment now. "--don't underestimate Nanoha!"

Her voice is clearer than her thoughts. She can't help but worry.

<Fiat Silver is staying put.> Soaring Sky transmits. Then, he reaches out to the other Devices with telepathy, deciding that would be easier. <You there. The one carried by the girl with the mask. Does your master have any untoward designs? Raising Heart and Bardiche will be very cross if you interfere.>

<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Soular had spoken purely for his own benefit, so when Westar responds to it, he glances over at him with silver eyebrows slightly raised. He doesn't bother to explain to Westar that he knows those things entirely, but the confirmation of what he'd already figured out doesn't hurt. 'Westie,' though?

"There's no helping it if she can't remember, Westar," Soular remarks smoothly of his irritation at Lera's nickname, loudly enough for Lera and anyone else nearby to overhear. "Poor memory is often a consequence of inferior mental faculties." The wind picks up then, flipping Soular's long hair for him as if in agreement.

He notes the presence of Fiat Silver in the near distance, but not recognizing her, he sees no reason to do anything about her. The bulk of his attention is on the battle itself, anyway, eyes flicking as Fate shoots towards Nanoha too fast for them to properly follow. The suspension bridge's wires scream in protest, a clawed-chalkboard cacophany that makes Soular's teeth hurt. He doesn't outwardly react to it, though, and when Eas sneers at the mages who showed up to support Nanoha, he smirks. Once again, she speaks what he thinks.

Not that he's going to outwardly acknowledge that, either.

"It should be an amusing battle, at the very least," he remarks to Westar and Eas of Fate's duel.

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

That speed is not remarkable. Fate's speed is outright -inhuman-. And though Raising Heart had warned her, though Nanoha had been warned, it's still just... Too fast for her. For a moment, she steps off her edge of the pillar, joining Fate in freefall to ready herself for the duel proper, when Fate goes off like a gunshot.


Raising Heart had warned her of flank attacks, and the barest, brieftest, flicker of motion indicating a full frontral and direct assault catches the child off guard, cobalt eyes widening as she raises her staff defensively. It is a fatal error.

Nanoha falls for the feint, succumbing to the briefest instant of panic when those scarlet eyes are suddenly no longer in front of her, but in her periphery. Too fast. She's too fast. I can't get my shield up in ti--

The thought, much like Raising Heart and Nanoha, is cleaved in half that instant. There's no cry, no sound of shock or pain, simply a look of mute, destroyed, surprise on the child's face before inertia gives out and she's sent flying in a depressingly downward trajectory, smashing through her pillar- and the next one. ... And another. ... And another and another in a series of painfully Nanoha-shaped holes as she sails end over end before landing in a crumpled heap of white and blue on cratered concrete. There is no question, no doubt about it. That singular blow was a quick, vicious, sudden and utterly decisive victory. And in in the chaos of the fall there is only a single thought before impact.

'Did I fail?'

It's a beat. A moment of tense silence before there's a twitch from the rubble. at first a pebble stirs. Then a larger chunk of broken stonework. And then Nanoha stands herself up with a slow sigh, a horrible gash running down the singed fabric of her Barrier Jacket and breastplate, down to the skin below, both halves of Raising Heart in her hands. The pigtailed Redhead's cherished Device is painfully silent in introspective thought. Without a registered user a Device is unable to release its power. The first time she had opened her heart was to this little girl who knew nothing of magic. And now that girl had taken terrible injury because of her failure to act, once again the Intelligent Device thinks to herself...

'Did I fail...?'

Mistakes such as having misjudged Testarossa's attack speed- is that truly how fast she can be when she is serious?- The Device was racked with regret and such sorrow that she no longer even remembers to repair the greivous damage to her main body; having given the advice to 'watch for flanking attacks' and still failing to help raise a defense in time.

"Fwuah... Thank you Raising Heart. If you didn't warn me like that that could have ended up a lot worse."

It's a simple, gentle, praise that instantly disperses the shrouding thoughts of nagging doubt. Knowing her Master's personality, Raising Heart knew that it was genuine, thanking her from the bottom of that small, strong, indomitable heart.

Piecing the two halves of the damaged Device together and funneling a surge of mana into the act, the chime of <RECOVERY!> signals both Nanoha and Raising Heart have not fallen.

Nanoha's words of gentle praise, and Nanoha's unbreakable will circled within the Device's iron frame, and Raising Heart makes her own final decision...

'To give this small Master of mine her desired victory...'


Pink wings of light flare at her boots and in an instant, Nanoha is a blur of trailing pink light, on a course careening straight for Fate, orbs of pink light forming at her flanks and lancing forward in a swirling hail asthe child gives an unfaltering wave of her staff.


COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Divine Shooter on Fate Testarossa.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa narrowly braces Nanoha Takamachi's Divine Shooter, taking 5 Fatigue damage!

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [None] has posed.

You would think that seeing her rival get up would shake Fate's confidence. Perhaps even Bardiche's, her ever silent companion. It does, but not visibly. Fate's gaze moves downward at the first sound of stone shifting, the pained noises, the quiet compliment to Raising Heart. And while she was surprised, allowing an aura of quiet self-confidence to exude off of her. After all, hadn't she been warned that she would get up again and again? It would take more than that for the unusually calm girl to show her true feelings.

Flexing her hand upon Bardiche- a poleaxe of light, who had done everything in his own power to become an extension of herself; carrying on the will of another to protect his master and become a blade that cuts her destiny for her. It is the meaning of his own pride, to face and embrace his master's path and choices with deep respect.

She presses the cool metal of his haft against her forehead, a silent resolution, a bond between them to do this for the one who imparted this will unto him, even if Fate was unaware of it. "We'll look for an opening during the aerial battle. Let's go Bardiche." <Get Set.>

Neither hesitates.

As orbs of pink light fly towards her, she swings her partner, cutting through several of them, which dissipate into motes and sparkles. The last makes it through her guard, striking into the yellow lines which make up her auto-protection spells. <Protection.> It blasts a hole in it, and even Fate can't hide the wince as a sizzle of smoke appears on her barrier jacket, can't hide the pain in her voice. "You should have stayed down."

Fate needs no flier fins to stay aloft, and as she moves, she chases Nanoha up and down the length of the bridge, the two cross paths countless times, forming an almost double helix appearance of pink and yellow jetstreams of mana throughout the sky to mark their many clashes.

Pulling up, Fate moves just behind her, chasing her, and slowly closing in. Before- <Photon Lancer>

Golden lit orbs, with arcs of violet electricity appear, hovering around Fate. "Fire." At her command, they lance towards her opponent one by one in an attempt to knock her out of the sky. The skyline of the bridge marked with various explosions which blossom up as they try to harry her opponent, causing small catastrophes here and there which would make any construction worker pale, and any rubber necker gawk. Good thing they're inside a barrier, right?

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Photon Lancer: Multishot on Nanoha Takamachi.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi fails to dodge Fate Testarossa's Photon Lancer: Multishot, taking 19 Fatigue damage!

<Pose Tracker> Westar [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

All Westar can really say to the comments about his new nickname is to grumble. Audibly, loudly, but without any actual words attached for a while. Eventually, the growls give way to a harrumph, as he reaches one arm beneath the concealment of his cape. What secret weapon did he bring to this pivotal duel?...

...a bag of donuts.

He sets the bag next to him, opening it up to take one out. As Fate unleashes a decisive blow, he takes a bite from his snack - because he, at least, thought ahead enough to do this. Pillar after pillar breaking, enough devastation that any of his Nakewameke would be proud. "There we go - over kind of quickly, but Testarossa is-"

He doesn't quite drop his snack as Takamachi recovers, but it's a narrow thing. "Wha- she hasn't given up yet?" He whirls around to face Soular, then Eas, half-eaten donut and incredulous expression both present. "She hasn't given up yet! That's ridiculous!"

He turns back to the battle, and calls out as lightning yellow opposes shining pink. "Get her, Testarossa!"

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Yes. Being unable to help is maddening. Ren keeps her eyes on Nanoha and Fate. If this works... If Nanoha wins... This could mean an end to months of conflict. Maybe even that friendship that Nanoha has desperately trying to cultivate will come to fruition. It fills the teen mage with a sudden surge of happiness. And makes the stakes of this fight all the more greater.

Flashes of light from the dazzling magic being thrown between the two mages dots the muted skyline of the barrier. Hearing Westar cheer Fate on makes her want to do the same for Nanoha, though she restrains herself lest she proves to be a distraction.

<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

"...Hmph." Eas glances over again at Lera skeptically, as if she can read through what the girl is really thinking just by watching. ...But, she doesn't, not now anyway.

Arms still crossed, she looks away and down, at an angle, rather than joining in the speculation as to the Midchildan's mental acuity.

The rubble shifts. Lifting her eyes, the younger denizen of Labyrinth quickly looks to see Nanoha rising from the wreckage, rising into the air...

It isn't over after all. /Pink/ light brightens the sky within the Barrier.

...But yellow blasts through again, too. As both crash together, Westar speaks up again.

'She hasn't given up yet!'

"No, she won't give up that easily. ...Testarossa is going to have to grind her into the dirt before she'll see how stupid it is to keep trying." Eas reaches to Westar's bag and takes a donut without looking. Her eyes are on the combatants.

"Don't disappoint me."

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera's eyebrow twitches and she glares in Soular's direction. That particular Labyrinth executive is -- to her knowledge, though it would change if she knew the full facts -- the best at getting under her skin. Her fingers tighten into a fist.

<Don't lose your temper right.> Sky's admonition is gentle, all things considered. <Remember who's fighting.>

"Right," she says, softly.

Her heart sinks when she sees Nanoha plummet down into the ground below. For a moment, she wonders if Fate made good on her promise. Then, that bolt of white and pink that Lera hoped for makes herself known. She sees Nanoha shoot into the air on her flight spell and her worried face breaks into a triumphant grin.

She hears the executives calling out to Fate. She hesitates, before she yells: "You can do it, Nanoha!"

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

In an instant the skies are lit. The bright backdrop of pink and gold lighting of the bridge by night paling in comparison to the two blitzing streaks that whirl through the skies; contrails of sparkling light in loops and violent helixes being the only visible indication of the path the two dogfighting mages take in speeds quickly rising to breakneck.

The bridge rocks with every impact, small explosions of electric light gouging frightening chunks of stonework free to splash impotently to the lapping waters below, and Nanoha is instantly on the backfoot. This is not her kind of fight. Nanoha's battle style is that of strong defence and ranged attack. To be forced into a constant, highly mobile aerial battle against an opponent who makes this kind of fight her specialty... Difficult is not the word for it. Nanoha is harried, sweat already beading on her brow as she swerves and jinks into turns and spirals that would shatter bone if she so much as grazes the bridge, weaving in and out amid supports and cables as she whips around in a sudden, brutal turn.

A gleaming circle of pink light expands from her fingertips, forming into the complex shape of a Mid-Childan magic circle and reinforcing itself against the hailstorm of electric light that chases her. But it hits too hard. A yelp of pain sounding amid the shattering glass sound of her spell getting crushed and her abused Barrier Jacket is forced to soak the blow. From a distance, a single trail of pink light streaks downwards again, like a falling star hurtling for the icy waters below before Nanoha regains control, curving a parabolic arc to hide under the bridge for a moment.

<IT IS GOOD, MY MASTER.> Raising Heart chimes.

It is good because there's a tiny speck... Just the faintest glimmer of pink light that Fate might see in her periphery, as Nanoha's prior shots that were not cleaved... Swerve around in the air. the sudden swipe of the white-clad mage's hand directing them in a sudden reversal to try and take her from behind.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Divine Ballistics on Fate Testarossa.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Fiat Silver [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Bursting, crashing, linking together in battle -- <They're both quite skilled,> Silver Scorpion remarks.

Fiat Silver continues to float coolly. (Inwardly, Lilian thinks: oh god, oh god, they're going to blast that barrier apart and crush us.)

"Maybe we should go to one of those other groups."

<I would hesitate to choose one... in this situation...>

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa narrowly counters Nanoha Takamachi's Divine Ballistics, taking 12 Fatigue damage! Nanoha Takamachi is Psyched! Fate Testarossa's Reverse ability activates! Fate Testarossa's Tactician ability activates!

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa's counterattack, Photon Lancer: Full Auto Fire, partially gets through, doing 9 Fatigue damage to Nanoha Takamachi!

<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Soular watches as Nanoha goes flying through pillar after pillar, a nasty chuckle bubbling out of his throat. He is genuinely surprised when she manages to stand up again anyway, and utters a low, "Hm... It seems this battle really *will* be amusing."

Westar whirls on him and Eas then, voicing his shock that Nanoha hasn't yet given up. Soular glances over at him and his bag of donuts, and like Eas snakes out a hand to grab one for himself. "Indeed," he chimes in after Eas, the portrait of unruffled calm. "If that girl weren't that stubborn, she wouldn't have given Fate so much trouble all this time." Internally, as he takes a bite and chews... he doesn't think Fate will *lose*, but he is concerned about what effect a prolonged battle might have on her. The trouble she has with her mother... If she can't win this battle /decisively/, how will that affect her mental state?

Well, there's no point in worrying about it. This battle is in Fate's hands. He's only here to watch her win.

Lera is glaring at him. Soular swallows, smiles at her, and holds up the donut. "My apologies. Did you want one too?" he asks with the most sincere insincerity.

<Pose Tracker> Westar [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Westar's donuts remain, as ever, foolishly unguarded. He may never learn.

"...she's stubborn. Kind of like the Pretty Cure you keep having to deal with, right?" It's a quiet comment, to Eas with only Soular to hear, but it's stated simply all the same. Westar's quiet a moment longer as he watches Takamachi rally once more, being stupidly stubborn - and Westar knows stupidly stubborn. "...going to take more than dirt."

Westar snarls as Propane-chan calls out encouragement, and raises his voice to match. "Smash her into the ground!" He's going to have to work at that, Propane's good at being loud - and then Soular makes another snide comment that actually gets him to whirl around. "Hey! Don't go offering them freely, she's had enough of my do..."

Soular's holding a donut. Eas is holding a donut. He's...ninety percent sure they didn't bring their own bags. ...but he can't prove it, and the resigned expresion verging on despair on his face shows that he knows it, and he turns back to the battle with a humph.

And then a shout over to the other roof. "Should have brought your own snacks!"

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [None] has posed.

With each spiral, bank, and turn, Fate tries to show that she has the upper hand. Tries to show that she's superior. Tries to prove to her rival that resisting her is meaningless. And yet, she's sweating too. She tries not to show it, but it beads upon her own forehead as clear as day. She desperately tries not to think upon how a mage with so little experience is keeping pace with her, could get up from that brutal strike. And yet, she can't help it. It's at the forefront of her thoughts.

It's only the few words of encouragement offered from afar by Westar that allows her to redouble her focus, catches a quick tidbit of Eas' quite reinforcement of her earlier advice that she'd need to grind her into dust again and again. And Soular- the only encouragement she could find is that he was still watching, still smug in his amusement over their clashes. Perhaps because she thought this way, it indicated that she understood Soular the least of the three, despite her many experiences with him.

As her rival turns to hide beneath the bridge, Fate whips about beneath to try to catch her opponent off guard in a sudden ambush. Instead she finds herself in her rival's sights, catching only a faint premonition of what was to come out of her periphery. She had to admit, she was good, pulling a reversal like this on her.

Turning around, Fate pants as she aims Bardiche's head, yellow light erupting from the top, just between the pistons as if they were tesla coils to fire back a steady stream as she moves between. Several of the orbs are caught within it and clash, vanishing. Others pepper Nanoha's auto-protection spells.

She pays for this riposte, as one of the orbs strikes her head on in the flank as she rolls to try to bring Bardiche to bear in an interception attempt, the force of it testing her defenses as she's sent downwards towards the depths of the ocean.

A split second before she would strike the surface she pulls up, corkscrewing towards Nanoha with Bardiche spinning unpredictably, lit by the shining yellow beacons lighting up the bridge, she doesn't move quite as swiftly as before, but that's fully intended, to try to bait her foe into complacency by underestimating the attack.

As she closes in, she tries to hook Bardiche's beard upwards in an attempt to throw Raising Heart wide, her other hand jutting out as a hastily formed runic circle manifests. <Spark Edge> It gathers, like the center of a Tesla coil, except drawn inward rather than outward into a spherical shape that then streams towards her foe like a blade of lightning, intended to smash right into Nanoha's defenses and send her dovetailing towards the ocean herself.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Spark Edge on Nanoha Takamachi.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi narrowly counters Fate Testarossa's Spark Edge, taking 3 Fatigue damage! Nanoha Takamachi's Reverse ability activates! Nanoha Takamachi's Tactician ability activates! Cripple and Stagger applied to Nanoha Takamachi!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi's counterattack, Strike Smasher, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Fate Testarossa!

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Lera has brought a companion to her rooftop, one who has been standing further back this whole time, fumbling with her hands, barely able to look at the battle. Every so often she peeks through her fingers.

She knows about Nanoha, of course; Nanoha once saved her life from a rampaging Jewel Seed catfish monster.

And she's seen the sad-eyed Fate around some of the Sister Schools events, and also in battle against magical girls at another time and place.

Yellow and pink explosions blossom in her roseate eyes. They're beautiful, but so, so poignant. Her heart is in her throat.

Her fingers, however, finally untwine from one another, and gently tug on Lera's sleeve.

"U-um, ah, excuse me... do you know why, um, the yellow one... feels that she has to fight Nanoha-chan?"

Her free hand she waves at the floating, nearby Fiat Silver. "A-and... w-would you like to join us? I, um, I brought cookies..."

There is a picnic basket at her feet. There's an awful cognative dissonance between her horror at watching magical girls clash in some kind of formalized duel, and her determination to provide what comfort she can.

Through, for example, sugary snacks. And a thermos of milk tea. "...I probably have enough for everyone..."

/That/ may be in earshot of the Labyrinthine.

<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

Eas didn't have to bring her own donuts, because she can just take Westar's. The donut is a welcome weight in her hand, the motion keeping her head clearer as she listens to Lera shouting encouragement while Nanoha makes a daring maneuver.


Whatever response she might have made right after, however, is interrupted by Westar bringing up Pretty Cure. "..." Eas glances forward, instead of up at the fight, a moment. "Hmph. Don't be an idiot. Their styles are completely different. You've fought Cure Peach enough to know that."

...Is she offended? Or just trying to deflect?

She almost laughs despite herself at Soular's comment... though it's only almost, because Eas doesn't laugh that way. "Maybe, Soular. But I'm not sure she can hear us over the sound of her little friend losing."

Lightning crashes upward once again, and... She...

There's enough for 'everyone'?

Eas sees Madoka over by Lera, and is suddenly even pricklier than she was a moment ago.

"So bored with the fight that you've got to have a tea party?" Eas calls out with a sneer in her voice.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"I'm fine," Lera snaps at Soular. Then, under her breath: "Stupid donuts, stupid perfect hair, stupid everything..."

Her momentary surprise is distracted by Madoka Kaname. She didn't quite know what to do when she first found her, but reached two quick conclusions: Madoka would be safest with them and she knew Nanoha. Maybe a surprise cheer would help. She doesn't know her so well, but it doesn't take much. She turns when Madoka tugs on her sleeve.

"It's--" She hesitates. She wishes she asked Mami about the girl, now, but she didn't want to bring up bad memories more than she already did. She saw a Witch's Labyrinth, though. She could see this. "Her name's Fate Testarossa. She wants to help her. She's... she's not a bad person."

She swallows. "But she's got a lot of problems, y'know? She keeps trying to take the Jewel Seeds, for someone close to her, even when she hates it. So Nanoha's trying to get through to her--" She winces, when the Spark Edge flies, its flash lighting the entire area golden for a moment. "--even if it's hard."

She pauses, then she grins sheepishly. "And I'd love some snacks, you have no ide--" She hears Eas's remark and turns her head. She finishes the syllable at some length, while yelling in Eastward*: "--ee-uh. You don't have to be mean about it!"


<Pose Tracker> Fiat Silver [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The odds shift decisively even as Fate unleashes a bursting Spark Edge towards the smaller defensive figure. What are they fighting for? Fiat Silver can't quite tell. The Jewel Seeds...

She could go for them - if she knew more. If she were bolder. Whatever they are - they're what they're fighting over, they're dangerous. And then...

She's offered cookies.

Fiat Silver's head, eyes veiled, turns towards the voice of Madoka Kaname with sharp speed! At the invitation, she floats towards her. Silver Scorpio's audio scanners pick up Lera's words, which illuminate a few things. She lowers herself down, feet coming to a gentle rest on the rooftop as her weight actually shifts onto them.

Fiat Silver is about to answer -- when Eas pops off! Her head snaps up, looking towards the Labyrinth Executive with silent disapproval written on her lips for about two lingering seconds. (In the back of her mind, Lilian thinks: Who is that person?? Is she going to throw one of those things on a thing and create a Bridge Monsterwameke or something??)

But then...

"I wouldn't mind a cookie," she tells Madoka. Ren and Endo get a slightly more wary glance, but they also don't have cookies.

<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

'It's like that Pretty Cure you always fight,' Westar says, and Soular glances at him and Eas--particularly Eas, whom he watches as she makes her cold response. He says nothing, though; even if they were back at the mansion, just the three of them, it would be neither the time nor the place. As long as Eas knows *her* place, it should be fine, anyhow.

"Is it? Well, I suppose you're hardly unused to going hungry," Soular calls back to Lera before taking another bite. It's soured somewhat by Madoka making her presence, and the presence of her picnic basket, known. Fortunately for him, Eas brings her own special blend of malice to the fore.

"It *would* be difficult with this cacophony," he agrees, smirking on top of that when Eas goes on to sneer at Madoka. And it *is* loud as Fate responds to Nanoha's comeback with a blade of lightning. While Fate might think that he is only smug and amused, he's not ONLY those things. His presence is meant as its own kind of encouragement, a symbol of his confidence in her victory; there's no need for Soular to shout when Westar and even Eas, to a lesser extent, are doing that for him. ...Never mind that he'll watch a fight whether he's confident in his ally's victory or not. Soular is not precisely good at communicating his feelings. He isn't supposed to have any, after all.

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

The truth is, in a flat out, direct fight like this... Fate does have the advantage. Her speed is putting a brutal tax on Nanoha, one that will eventually tap the redhead dry. But for the time being she still has energy to spare, and is putting it all on the defence. Once again Fate is coming back at her and Nanoha is forced on the retreat, kicking up her throttle to full tilt, the girl's heart beats at a racehorse gallop as she tries to outmaneuver Fate's reprisal, several squeaks and cries of alarm as spheres of voltaic energies smash into the brief flickering pink light of Raising Heart raising the autodefenses in time, resulting in multiple flashy eruptions of clashing pink and gold in the skies.

with a flip in the air, she lands side-ways on one of the bridge's struts and commences blitzing straight up the wall, several paces of a completely vertical run to bleed off the breakneck speed before back-flipping off to reverse herself in a 180 headed straight for the blonde. Even from this distance, Nanoha can almost feel the palpable support of her friends. The stalwart and unshakeable Endo, Ren's gentle words of constant and positive encouragement. Lera Camry, ever reliable and worthy of faith and trust. Even gentle and kind Madoka. In the face of Fate's cutting edge, Nanoha throws her right hand forward, glowing bright and vibrant with a pink light, she meets that incoming unstoppable searing blade of lightning...

And she stops it.

Arcing lances of electricity visibly dances along Nanoha's arm as she eats the strike with her bare hand, earning herself a badly bleeding palm and crumpled gauntlet for her effort. Before her gauntlet explodes, erupting in a brilliant discharge of pink light to dissipate the violent force. It's little more than a bright blinding flare as the spell is eaten for the sake of buffeting the impact, the real reprisal comes from... The fact that Nanoha is not right handed, Raising Heart aimed at close range at the blonde's slim midsection.


It's the only warning Fate will receive as Nanoha yanks the trigger on her Device with a menacing click and releases a quick burst of snap shot orbs fired at point blank.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Snap Barret on Fate Testarossa.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa narrowly dodges Nanoha Takamachi's Snap Barret, taking 2 Fatigue damage! Fate Testarossa's Fade ability activates! Fate Testarossa's Flash ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Oh. Right. Umm... Madoka, was it? Ren remembers her as the adorable little girl she helped protect from that space elf guy in the movie theatre. And now she's here. Courtesy of Lera. It's a bit weird. If things get dicey they'll definitely have to protect her again. But she tries not to worry too much about that now because Nanoha needs her support! Well, their support. Yes. Plural.

<Pose Tracker> Westar [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

The other rooftop provides distraction after distraction, even as Westar tries to keep his attention on the battle. His gaze keeps whipping to speakers before returning to the clashes of black and white, of gold and pink. Those flashes of the ongoing battle he does see, though...the beaming grin turns to a worried frown. Testarossa is...having more trouble than she should. Isn't moving as fast as he'd expected from her.


Madoka's words catch his suddenly-perking ears - enough for everyone? He's part of everyone, right? But then reason kicks in, reminding him that that's the enemy. He switches legs to ease up on a cramped knee, now leaning with the other foot on the roof-edge, and raises one hand to shield his eyes as he peers over. That's... "...a picnic basket? And - drinks?"

Westar didn't think to bring drinks!

Eas is immediately grumpy, and Westar wracks his brain for ideas on what he might have offended her with this time. He mentioned the Pretty Cure sure, but... "It's just stupid and stubborn, that's the only comparison between them. That's..." He shakes his head. Not important - and she's helpfully reminded him that the fight is what he needs to focus on.

Also, Eas absolutely has to be mean, that's what makes her Eas.

That worried frown deepens as Nanoha desperately manages to punch the blade of lightning - or at least close enough to it from where he's watching. The thoughts continue to churn, worry worming its way into his head, and he mutters loud enough for the other two denizens of Labyrinth to hear. "Why's she having trouble? Testarossa can handle this kind of thing, right?..." It's troubling.

It's something he'll have to try to bury under sheer volume. "Don't let up, Testarossa! Give it everything you've got!" He glances over to the other roof, and their picnic basket, and their drinks...and yells out again. "And afterwards, we have donuts and they don't!"

Never mind that they have what looks like a really good set of snacks, they don't have /donuts/.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Endo has been watching the fight with rapt attention, for the most part. He kind of wobbles back and forth as Nanoha and Fate fly around the bridge, eyes following as best they can. It looks like he wants to be right there with them, his body juking and jiving, the will to get up and go places barely constrained as he keeps watch. Wiggle wiggle wiggle.

Cookies, though, can break his concentration briefly. Once he realizes that they exist. The boy turns, eyeing Fiat Silver when the girl touches down, and then turning his gaze to Madoka. "Thank you." He doesn't know her, and he doesn't know why she'd be here, but he can only assume that Lera had something in mind when she brought her. Even if that thing was just baked goods.

And then back to watching. He can't keep his eyes off for too long, Nanoha needs his support. Even if his support is just watching and hoping she does her best.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Phalanx - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0J-lqbbsJgE

Fate's eyes widen perceptibly as her opponent stops her lightning with a blast from her hand. Her gambit thwarted by the sheer grit and determination behind the move as the gauntlet shatters. It's enough, that when Nanoha's own riposte comes, she almost doesn't move. Almost. The smart move is to go up, but instead she ducks down abruptly, descending just as snap shot orbs sear the side of her neck and over her left twintail, searing away the bottom of the hair ribbon even as she curves down and back upwards then down the length of the bridge to get her distance.

The thought crosses her mind that she can be beaten as she soars away, "If I'm beaten here, then I can't help her." She says aloud, perhaps not even realizing she said it. That her feelings had reached the surface. In that moment of raw vulnerability, that she realizes just how far she'll have to go to stop this girl. And it's not as if she weren't willing to do that. She remembered as a younger child, always thinking so selfishly, always asking for so much of her mother's time even when it was troublesome for the woman she loved so much to give.

It was really such kindness that her mother had rid her of that childish selfishness. And yet, it remained below the surface, bubbling up now as she stops abruptly and turns to face her, with a harsh snap of cape fabric, lit by the remaining beacons of pink and yellow across the bridge as she hovers in place. Desperation enters into her tone as she clutches Bardiche like her sole shield with both hands, "Things won't be able to go back to the way they used to be!"

Raising him aloft overhead suddenly, one runic circle forms at her feet, and with each second it grows, adding one layer of Midchildan runes after another, until it's radiance gleams down over the upper deck of the bridge like the light of the sun. Usually she speaks the ritual chant, but she feels the words in her heart, the desperate energy she feels taking it's place. And one by one, they manifest, hundreds of crackling orbs stretching out over the bridge and over the ocean, parallel to her in a line.

And yet in that gap of time, that opening where Fate was ever so vulnerable, her opponent might feel it a moment before it happens as Bardiche acts in perfect concert with his master's will. <Lightning Bind> A cube of yellow mana materializes to attempt to latch down and encase one limb. Then another. And another. If successful, it might give observers the distinct feeling that Fate Testarossa was about to try to shoot fish in a barrel with a whole phalanx of her own making.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Lightning Bind: Standard on Nanoha Takamachi.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi narrowly braces Fate Testarossa's Lightning Bind: Standard, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Fate Testarossa is Psyched! Nanoha Takamachi's Block ability activates! Stun, Tangle, and Trap applied to Nanoha Takamachi!

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka is always pink, but Eas causes her to become beet red. She is totally unable to defend herself; she needs Sayaka here to leap to her defense, her brave knight and future wife.

In her awesome but awkward way, Lera actually seems to confirm Eas' slam, at least to Madoka's sensitive, hyperselfcritical ears, and she sinks even further into the rooftop, her little shoulders hunching up until the scraggly tips of her twintails brush against them.

At this rate, there won't be cookies for anybody after all.


Distantly, in a dark place, a dark glass pipe waits, with a dark purpose.



Biting her lip, she looks away -- and up, at the girls' battle. She ought to witness this. Someone has to, someone who isn't really involved in the Jewel Seeds at all, other than having been endangered by them.

She's quickly lost in the intricacy of their tactics, which fly by almost faster than she can see. Once her eyes adjust and relax, she's tempted to stop looking at the girls themselves and simply watch the streamers of light.

But then, that would be missing the point.

And so she squints, her whole face locked in befuddled concentration, and manages to catch a glimpse of Nanoha's face just as she thrusts out her hand to stop a lightning blade dead with no fear of harm to her palm. Of her fierce expression of friendship.

Of Fate's expression, too, as she says something inaudible, but her vulnerability in the moment comes through painfully clear even as her flashes of lightning begin to trace a line as long as the horizon.

And suddenly the flush of humiliation in her own cheeks doesn't seem like such a heavy burden for Madoka's heart to bear. Slowly, a heartbeat at a time, it begins to fade.

'I wouldn't mind a cookie.'

"Oh! S-sorry for the wait," she says, the service industry standard Japanese dialect flowing off her tongue as easily as any waitress -- which, indeed, she is part-time, at the diner near Ohtori Academy.

Flipping the lid off the basket reveals that half of the cookies are gone, and a little white and pink furry creature that is possibly a cat is lounging very plumply in their place.

Kyuubey raises his head laboriously and cocks it to one side, double-ears dangling, as if to ask, 'Whut?'

The other half of the cookies are still safely interred in a clean cloth napkin, however, and Madoka, shaking her head, fishes them out and offers them around, first to Fiat Silver, then to the others.

They are soft, gooey chocolate chip, and they are /fantastic/. They taste like... family.

She recognizes Ren from the movie theater, which is not an entirely good memory for her. That's hardly the gleaming scepter-wielder's fault, however. "Nice to see you again," she says in such a shy undertone that it's practically a whisper.

And as she hefts the thermos to pass it around, her eyes briefly meet Westar's. Lifting it a little higher in what is almost a salute, it's a clear invitation.

Come to the light side, Westar.

We have tea.

<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

As blasts tear through the air above, the youngest of the three executives of Labyrinth here looks on uncaring, her expression a mask of indifference. ...But it's a mask that lets loose flashes of disdain easily.

...But down here on the ground, to Eas, Soular /not/ saying anything about Pretty Cure is easily as louder than if he'd spoken up for real. Her fingers curl on her left hand, balling up, but she doesn't look over at him.

"Wouldn't it?" She stares right back over at Fiat Silver in that moment, emboldened by her reaction. Even further, she's mollified somewhat by Westar's justification, making a thoughtful noise before she waves a hand lazily to brush the matter off, a thick bracelet about her wrist shifting with the motion. "Whatever," she says, and it's only dismissive instead of hostile.

Sparing one last cruel look for Madoka at seeing her collapse, she smirks maliciously. For just a moment, she does brush past her concerns, unaware that she's earned fuzzy ire in the process.

...It was easy.

But Westar speaks something that she can't help but find is true. Eas widens her eyes to try to take in more of the scene, looking up to the riotous magical color above. "...She's having trouble because she's weak," Eas says, an edge in her voice as she is again transfixed by the battle. Transfixed to see--

/Binding/ magic. Eas takes a breathe without noticing, on the edge of her seat... so to speak. /This/ is going to be the moment, isn't it? The tangle of feelings is too thick to sort through, but from her gaze she changed her mind about before.

She can only call, "Do it, Testarossa!" Her hands unclasp as she stares further, sitting up straighter and pouring her will into the dark magical girl above. "Show her how strong you can be!"

<Pose Tracker> Fiat Silver [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Fiat Silver's eyes stay towards the battle. It is, in fact, gripping-- especially now that she knows a bit more of the stakes. The barrier keeps Silver Scorpio's audio spells from picking up Fate's words directly... "Ohh," she says, though: The binding, at least, is clear.

But the cookie is proffered. Fiat Silver crouches down, sitting on her heels, and says to Madoka, "Thank you. You're very kind." She raises it to her lips...

A memory comes to her. The cookies were honey and ginger and vanilla, but the texture... the subtle imperfections, like the charm points in rustic pottery... the perfection of the flavor that shines through those home-made edges...

Fiat Silver can't speak. Her eyes are misting up. She takes a sip of the milktea when it passes, then another bite of the cookie.

Silver Scorpion has, at least, some memories of picnics (if in different surroundings). He also is inclined, at times, to talk too much. <Terribly kind of you to share in this sort of a pinch, madame. You and your -> A blue light flickers on Fiat Silver's gauntleted arm, approximately towards Kyubey.


Silver Scorpion's voice becomes inquisitive. <What are we, exactly? A sea cucumber?>

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera blinks at Fiat Silver. She stares for a second, because she knows her secret; she saw when the mask was torn off. But, she also knows that this is not the time or the place for that conversation -- and not in front of others, either. She nods slowly, warily, because she doesn't know where the thief stands. Lera's face screws up, briefly, at what Soular says.

But then she sees how Madoka shrinks back. She looks -- and feels, more importantly -- guilty when she does. She frowns and looks down for a couple of seconds.

A bright flash makes Lera look back at the fight. Her eyes widen, when she sees Raising Heart meet that blade of lightning. She knows precisely how tough Intelligent Devices are. Her mother warned her that most are not meant for excessive parrying -- that it risks damage. Soaring Sky, she explained, was built differently than many of them. She wonders about that, sometimes, but it is a distant thought now. Her concern is for Raising Heart.

She realizes that she shouldn't have been concerned. Raising Heart and Nanoha persevere in the face of the attack. Bloodied, perhaps, but still standing -- and she counterattacks with force. Lera winces, inhaling sharply.

She may be rooting for Nanoha, but she doesn't want to see Fate hurt. Her fingers tense, nervously. 'Things won't be able to go back to the way they used to be!'

Lera hesitates, then she says quietly -- a whisper, that Ren, Endo, and Madoka (and, of course, Kyubey) can hear: "It's her mom. Fate's mom is why she's doing this. It's terrible."

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

All Nanoha needs is that small grain. That fledgling thought. If she can instill the thought in Fate that this primitive little girl from a backwater planet, who learned magic in a handful of months has a chance of beating a vastly superior opponent who has trained her whole life... That is all the true edge that Nanoha needs in this fight, the small, quiet hope for her own victory already burning bright in her breast.

But again Fate puts on that speed, leaving Nanoha grunting from the exertion of trying to counter her own inertia after bloodying her hand to stop that attack, and her own does little more than ping off Bardiche's Defenser. But no. After this things most certainly will never be the same, as the redhead lurches forward.

"Then stop looking to the past and make a new future!" Nearly bellowed to the skies, before... The fire in Nanoha's eyes instantly, and utterly dies with a choked sound. And the reason why is glaringly obvious as her momentum is killed by the cube of gold forming around her arm- the rest of her sailing on before she squeaks and realizes if she goes any further she could seriously hurt her arm. A sudden moment of shocked terror is to follow as another snaps around her ankles, and then her other arm, leaving Nanoha held dead in the air. "A-ah?!"

Every tug, every yank to try and test and break free of her binds is met with heart-quailing failure, locking the white-clad mage in a prime position to be fired upon. And when she glances up and sees that spell, Nanoha's breath catches in her throat. A wall of golden light ready to unleash a devastating fussilade upon her, and she is wholly defenseless in its face.

So why doesn't she look scared?

No, if anything, the observant just might see the clench of her jaw as the tiny mage prepares herself mentally and physically for the onslaught of unending pain to follow. But there's something else there. Something in her eyes that seems to dare Fate to fire upon her in heated, tense silence, as the only sound Nanoha can hear is the beat of blood pumping in her ears. Something in that titanium gaze giving only the vaguest hint not of fear... But certainty as she waits for the inevitable to strike her down. There's just the faintest glimmer of pink light that seems to do nothing.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Restrict Lock on Fate Testarossa.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa fails to brace Nanoha Takamachi's Restrict Lock, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Nanoha Takamachi is Psyched! Tangle and Trap applied to Fate Testarossa!

<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Leave it to Eas to cause a little bit of misery even in a time and place like this. Soular chuckles at the way Madoka shrinks in on herself, but that amusement is short-lived. To stop a blade of magic in midair... Soular understands all of a sudden why Fate has had trouble with this girl. That's not something just anyone could do. Fate must realize it as well, and he frowns over at the blonde warrior. In the worst-case scenario, it might have a grave effect on her morale. The longer this battle drags on, the more her fear of disappointing her mother will weigh on her. 'Things won't ever go back to the way they used to be,' Fate calls, and Soular's frown deepens even as Westar and even Eas shout their support. It seems his concerns were well-founded.

That isn't the only concerning thing, either. Eas vocalizing support makes him look her way too, enough to see the way her fists tighten. Perhaps she's feelings things she oughtn't, as a member of Labyrinth...? And if Westar's questioning why Fate is having so much trouble... he must be unaware of *that*, much like Soular was until recently.

It will never occur to Soular that it's not normal for a Labyrinthite to pay so much attention to the subtleties of his companions, either.

But encouragement... is just not something Soular knows how to do, and besides, he doesn't want to bring up Fate's mother here and potentially distract her. He silently agrees with Westar and Eas's encouragements, but doesn't add to them beyond his continued presence and focus upon the battle. From where he stands, Nanoha seems to be on the defensive. If Fate can just keep her focus and finish the job, then surely it will turn out as it should--as it must. Surely Fate won't have to add to her collection of scars.

<Pose Tracker> Westar [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

It must have been his imagination running wild. Never mind that Westar's not supposed to have imagination, that must have been it. Testarossa looking desperate, looking cornered...that can't have been right at all. The Executive of Labyrinth straightens up a bit, and grins once more - he's not worried. There's no need to worry. Their comrade will win, and Takamachi will admit defeat, and everything will be just fine.

Right there- that's enough proof. The binding lightning, preparing the target for the impending phalanx of devastation - that's proof. There's no way the mage in white can withstand something like that. "That's it-" He starts to yell - just as Eas gives an encouraging shout of her own, and he practically beams. Labyrinth as...united as it ever gets here.

There's motion from the corner of his eye, and he turns just in time to catch Madoka's gaze. Holding the tea. Holding it invitingly - like she doesn't care that he's personally fought most of the mages she's with, doesn't care about his rampaging monsters, but wants to be friendly all the same. That...

Westar's gaze lingers a moment, questioning - but he looks away first, muttering. "She doesn't make sense either..." He should have brought something to drink after all, because that tea looked incredibly good...but he's here to support Testarossa. Here as part of Labyrinth, part of Dark Fall - to accept that (bizarrely kind) offer would be a betrayal! Maybe she's trying to trick him?

This whole evening is turning more worrying than Westar had expected. This was supposed to be a quick victory, and he's still not sure why Testarossa's having trouble - why she's letting herself get caught by those binds. But...Soular's here, and not making fun of her. Eas is here, and cheering her on. Testarossa has Labyrinth's support, and that's enough for Westar. "You've got her now - go for it! Take her down!"

If his voice is a little hoarse, it's because he's not having any tea.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [None] has posed.

Fate doesn't notice the delayed bind cast with the glimmer of magic, pleased only at the result that she'd suspended her foe in the air. Between the fear of failure and the panic, she's focused on only one thing, crushing this girl into the ground. Perhaps Eas doesn't know it, but she feeds into this frantic panic.

The fact that she was having to do this didn't feel like she was showing her strength at all, it felt like she was only proving her weakness having to use this much destructive force against a singular opponent. Her declarations of strength always a front to ward away the lack of self-worth her mother instilled within her.

It wouldn't cause her to stay her hand though, would it? Certainly not. She stares ahead at the girl, who just declared that she stop looking to the past, and to make a new future. "Impossible! You don't understand! You couldn't possibly-" She sputters, her face twisting into a mask of rage that seems completely unlike the calm and serious-minded child, "Phalanx-" Bardiche cleaves downwards, and Fate yells out from her small lungs like some tiny general standing upon a radiant platform above the battlefield, "-SMASH HER TO PIECES!"

What follows is a barrage of photonic orbs that speaks her denial of any truth in Nanoha's words for her. Upon first strike, her mage opponent disappears within countless explosions of light. As more and more streak towards her from every curved angle, they turn the bridge into swiss cheese, one deck collapsing, then another. The other massive pillar starts to fall, the few wires not shredded by her assault snapping beneath it.

While the bridge as a whole doesn't disintegrate, the area directly beneath Nanoha crumbles piecemeal into the ocean in both directions along its length, splashes of various size punctuating the night. It seems like it will never end, and yet eventually it does, the brightness fading, replaced only by a haze of smoke and debris dust, the aggressor of this particular exchange hovering in mid-air, breathing in and out rapidly, her small chest burning from the effort she just exercised.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Photon Lancer: Phalanx Shift on Nanoha Takamachi.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi narrowly braces Fate Testarossa's Photon Lancer: Phalanx Shift, taking 37 Fatigue damage! Nanoha Takamachi's Block ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

More times than she can count, Lera Camry has been on the receiving end of those lightning binds. They have thrown her plan of action off more than once and seeing one used on Nanoha makes her gasp sharply. She worries, then, what might happen. She has lost his way before.

"Nanoha!" Lera cries out loudly, when she sees Fate preparing the bombardment spell. The golden orbs of energy shred the shield, a rending pop coming with each cable as it gets pulled free. Her fingers tighten againa round the rails, as she looks at the dust and waits. She can't see Nanoha -- whether she got away, whether the blasts overwhelmed her, or whether she is falling into the ocean.

The cookie in her hand is briefly forgotten, while she waits with bated breath.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka gives the silver-masked maiden a brief, wavery smile, but at this point she can hardly tear her eyes away from the battle above, the two girls clashing back and forth, magic and feelings so intertwined that they're indistinguishable from each other.

'It's her mom.'

Now she's a white 'doka instead of a redoka, and her eyes are filling with tears. She can hardly see the endless stream of energy pounding at Nanoha at all, but she thinks she can feel it, straining her heart.

Instinctively she reaches out a hand and puts it over Lera's on the railing, as much clinging for support as offering it.

<Pose Tracker> Fiat Silver [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Fiat Silver stiffens when Lera says that. It's wordless, but clear; like she'd had ice put down her back.

"I see..."

Silver Scorpion is still trying to classify Kyubey, which is keeping him busy.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

<< I'm Kyuubey! I help magical girls make wishes come true! >>

<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

Labryinth, united? ...Aren't they always?

Eas's gaze is unblinking as she looks up at Fate and Nanoha and the magical bindings. She doesn't know that she's feeding into Fate's fear... but she isn't thinking about that. She feels a need for Fate to win as if Fate's battle were her own, and it's seized her tightly so that she can't look away. She can see the other girl fighting on. She can see that she's clearly having trouble.

...But none of that matters. All of those things are only excuses. The only thing that matters is the mission.

...It's not as if the agent of Labyrinth ever bothered to ask Fate what was on her mind anyway.

At least in this, Eas's 'feelings' such as they are display the normal ranges, just a little more. She's angry. She's agitated. It's not like it's any caring, or investment, or /empathy/. ...She's just failed to notice that Fate, too, has slipped past her emotional defenses.

So certainly, she adds to the pressure... and sees that incredible eruption of power, the orbs crashing forward, the light blinding enough that Eas has to look away, shielding her eyes with an arm in irritation. But still, she hears it going. 'Smash her' comes back to her mind, and Eas looks back up to the site of all the explosions.

Her anger briefly melts into something underneath, and she holds her breath, waiting in silence. ...This...

She wanted Fate to show her strength, but like this...?

For a moment, she isn't sure /what/ she feels. But Eas can't look away.

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oLdiLunHmo

No amount of preparation can ready Nanoha for what is to come. Bound and simply waiting for that inevitable, inexorable wall of pain to bear down on her, and she meets it with an intent stare, determination wrought of iron and will of steel, forged and tempered by hardship, pain, and muddled emotions finally taking omre concrete after all this time. Nanoha's goal is singular. It is not simply to win this fight. No, this fight is little more than yet another battle in a much more overarching war, which will not be won until she gets exactly what she wants.

Nanoha Takamachi desires for nothing more than to see Fate Testarossa smile.

Nanoha Takamachi's heart BURNS with the singular molten, hot blooded, wish to one day hold Fate's hand in a gesture of simple friendship.

One can only hope this simple, titanium-willed. desire will protect her from the merciless hail of Fate's scorn, panicked fury, and deadly spell craft. And at first the initial impacts are horrifying to watch, Nanoha's body jerking from several direct hits before the force begins to pulverize concrete and sent water spraying in an obscuring mist of dust and steam for a long moment... And when a wind finally gusts it off to reveal the results of that monstrous fussilare...


Nanoha Takamachi is still standing. Though she's in a sorry state, worse for wear. Her Barrier Jacket is almost wholly demolished, quietly soaking a worrying red in places, a trickle of blood creeping down her forehead into one eye. The armored segments are dented, charred, her hand gripping Raising Heart with a light tremble as the electrical discharge dances along her nerves.

"I'm fine."

She is very not fine, clearly almost completely at her limit. But when has that ever stopped the bull-headedly determined ten year old as she wrenches her arm free of one of the binds with a SNAP as she motions for Fate. Now... NOW the delayed bind comes to life, bands of pink light seeking to ensnare the blonde by the ankles and one wrist.

'... My hands really are still so small...' Nanoha muses quietly to herself. 'But in them is the magic capable of blasthing through anything. Be it tears. Pain. Or even destiny itself.'

For so long, Nanoha had felt lost. Trapped in a mire of confused feelings and pain. The crushing darkness of a soul-crushing loneliness. But when lost in any darkness. The starlight of hope guides a path.

The whole bridge seems to come to life... The seas. A gentle, almost timid firefly flare of infinitesimally small motes of pink light lifting towards the skies. From the air, off of Nanoha. Fate, perhaps even the watchers in the distance as they all glimmer and slowly ascend. Because Nanoha is gone. A blitz of pink trailing after her as she rises above the clouds, which SPREAD to reveal the light of a very new, rose-colored star as she gathers the residual mana bled off and spent over the course of the whole fight into one focussed point, with a clarion chime from her Device, with the finality of a death knell.


"It's over Fate. These are the wisdom and tactics Raising Heart, my friends, and I have come up with. Let's see if you can take this, because I'm coming at you with my full power! My full -STRENGTH-!"

Raising her Device over head, the now IMMENSE sphere of pink magic throbs, pulsing as though beating with its very own heart from within, as multiple guidance rings form in the air from snap-formed calculations and firing solutions.


All it takes is a tap, but she baseball bats the immense orb with all the might her tiny body can muster. In an instant the outpour is torrential, overloading the guidance rings and simply launching a towering, monumental, wave of pink light downwards, pulverizing a massive segment of the bridge below, entirely. And even though the hailstorm of relentless mana is enough to reduce the bridge to its constituent atoms within the Barrier...

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Nanoha still has the control to know this will not hurt Fate.


COMBAT: FINISHER! Nanoha Takamachi has used Starlight Breaker on Fate Testarossa.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa counters Nanoha Takamachi's Starlight Breaker with Spark End, initiating a BEAMWAR! Please see +help beamwar for further information.
BEAMWAR! Fate Testarossa and Nanoha Takamachi's attacks collide. Nanoha Takamachi has the advantage!

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [None] has posed.

"It's over." Fate finally dares to breathe out more calmly than before, completely certain that she could not be upright after that. She even starts to lower herself down towards the ground as Raising Heart's chime sounds, when suddenly she jerks back up, realizing her arm won't move. Eyes widen suddenly shock at the pink manacle holding her there, before her gaze suddenly shifts forward in disbelief. Double-checking for confirmation what all evidence already pointed to. She was still floating, she hadn't managed to actually grind her into the dust even if she was at her limit.

As motes all over the battlefield gather into a sparkling pink orb of power, her breathing quickens, her pupils dilate as she sees what Nanoha has done. It feels like a nightmare that has come true. She shouldn't be capable of this! There's no way. None whatsoever. And yet there it was, more evidence before her eyes that this was no illusion, in fact, seeing her up there, it was almost- awe-inspiring. Some part of her that she wouldn't even admit, is proud of her. Yet, that's overwhelmed by the fear, of failure, of losing and returning empty handed. Of never reclaiming her lost past, and relationship. Of never seeing the kind mother she used to have back.

That's when Fate Testarossa screams. Screams in defiance, in denial of her defeat. In denial of this reality, letting out every feeling of frustration she'd felt over the years that she couldn't express. "NO! NO! IT'S NOT OVER!" The irony being that she'd just already declared the fight was over. But when it comes from Nanoha's lips, she's terrified. She doesn't ask Bardiche to bind-break, there isn't time, instead she forcefully wrenches her arm down, sacrificing her wrist to shatter the magic in a pop of bone and a sputtering of pink light. The runic circle reforms in an instant, as she raises the hand with the broken wrist skyward in denial of even the agony.

Pouring almost every last iota of her magic and his into the effort to rapidly form her most powerful spell, a lance of lightning forms over her hand, easily five times as long as the girl was high. "SPARK END!" Completely in the throes of panic, her cry sounds more like a sob than anything, even if tears do not join it.

She didn't really need to make the throwing motion, it was controlled by her heart, by her mind, by her will; and yet she does, denying the burning agony that would normally cause her to buckle and fold as her arm slings it forward. It sails through the air to strike the center of the outpouring of colossal power and drive into it, though it looks woefully inadequate of contending against it. And yet, in this state where she felt like she had nothing left to lose, could she pull it off?

BEAMWAR! Nanoha Takamachi presses her advantage, overwhelmingly driving back Fate Testarossa! Nanoha Takamachi has the advantage!

BEAMWAR! Fate Testarossa takes 20 damage! Nanoha Takamachi takes 0 Fatigue damage!
BEAMWAR! Now accepting mana bids for the second of three rounds! No longer accepting any more BEAMWAR entrants!
BEAMWARNING! Fate Testarossa must regain the advantage this round, or they will be unable to continue fighting!

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

When Madoka's hand slides over hers, Lera blinks in surprise. She didn't expect that. She squeezes back, but she stays silent, and waits.

Nanoha promised that she had a plan. Lera had faith that she would see that plan here, but she didn't know what it was; she wondered if it might be a strategy or something to tell her. Instead, she realizes, it is a spell. Her eyes widen with each new guidance ring, each pulse of growth in the blast of energy, and the final blast that shoots down to meet Fate. She hasn't seen a spell like that in person.

Making spells is hard. It requires advanced mathematics, for one. It also requires a bond with a Device that even the best mages often only form after years. She opens her mouth, then closes it. She said it before: if anyone can do this, it's Nanoha.

When the blast of pink light slams into the blast of golden, she winces -- and her fingers tighten again around the bars. She hears the panic in Fate's voice, but she remembers when she hurled Aurora Burst against Fate in a similar circumstance. She lost that bout and it started everything falling apart for her, lately. Lera's jaw sets.

This isn't over.

<Pose Tracker> Westar [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Rarely, if ever, has Westar heard Fate Testarossa this emotional, this enraged. The shout startles him enough that he fumbles what's left of his donut - and utterly fails to catch it. Farewell, piece of donut, falling from the height of the rooftop.

Still, his distraction is understandable - this kind of power, raw and furious, is a spectacle not to be missed. Lightning ball after lightning ball, blotting out the heavens as they convey Testarossa's fury...the silence left by Eas is broken by Westar letting out a low impressed whistle. "No way she's getting up after that." Brushing crumbs from his hands, he starts to stand. But then...

There's a glimmer of pink light and faint voice, in the wake of the devastation, and Westar's jaw drops. "No way..." It was supposed to be over - supposed to be time for him to congratulate his comrade. Instead, he cups his hands around his mouth, and calls out loudly. "TESTAROSSA! SHE'S NOT DOWN YET, DO THAT AGAIN!"

Westar is of considerably fewer minds than Eas on the situation.

Takamachi's attack shines brighter than the cityscape, bright as a new sun, and the sheer power seems to wash out his words. All he can do, struck dumb by the power on display, is watch. Watch, and hope for Testarossa and Bardiche to claim victory against that overwhelming power.

Hope that his friends win.

<Pose Tracker> Fiat Silver [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Having identified Kyubey, Silver Scorpion is satisfied. But this only means that he lacks the depth of heartfelt astonishment that Fiat Silver does - and so he is the first to speak. <Such technique-- and both of them so young...!>

Fiat Silver rises to her feet, beyond words. Whether this may twinge the concern of Lera, or Ren, or Endo is uncertain. The baton-shape of her Device's systems appears in her hand - a thoughtless reflex, a desire for self defense, an opportunity to unleash hell while they're vulnerable...!?

Despite all of this, behind the mask, the already tearful eyes of Lilian Abarth are wide as saucers.

<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

It's not surprising to Soular that Westar is invested in Fate's battle; the two of them have worked together many times over the months since they first met. In a lot of ways, Westar is Labyrinth's representative to Dark Fall, something that bothers Soular but not enough to try to fix (anymore). What *is* surprising, when he glances sidelong at his companions, is how engrossed /Eas/ looks by the battle. She's become more and more invested in it the longer it goes on. As he watches her profile, he recalls what Westar had said comparing Fate and Nanoha to Eas and Cure Peach.

His lips thin.

But before he can formulate a proper remark, Nanoha rallies against all odds--rallies and summons forth *immense* power, such that she annihilates part of the bridge, and Fate can only respond while shattering all semblance of holding herself together. Soular jerks his head back towards the fight, jaw and fist clenched, but the brilliance of the magic of Nanoha's and Fate's hearts makes it difficult at best for him to look dead-on upon the clashing light.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka just hangs on wordlessly to Lera's hand, tears pouring silently down her face. It's all so beautiful... and so sad. Why does it have to be this way?

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

It IS over. If Nanoha has any say in this matter, this is the blow that will seal the moment. Nanoha is certain of it, believeing beyond a shadow of a doubt in herself, and knowing full well of the shared feeling of belief from her staunch friends. The look of sheer determination etched upon her face is almost frighetning to be seen on such a young girl as her arm quivers, trying to keep control of the unstoppable mana, even with pain and exhaustion pushing her into the very last dregs of her reserves. But she does not stop, even as every single nerve in her body SCREAMS in burning plea for her to stop this madness.

A body may break. But a will like that is eternal.

Raising Heart's silence is a mute testament to her own fortitude, ignoring the hairline cracks and fractures that begin to form upon her shaft and gem.

'To give this small Master of mine her desire victory... I have given my all. And she has given even more.'

Once again the Device's silent thoughts circle within that battered iron frame, content in her knowledge that she has chosen a partner truly worthy of her. Or perhaps it was she who was chosen as worthy for this iron willed little girl.

For only a fraction of a moment a shift claims Nanoha's expression. A flickering look of worry when Fate breaks her restraint- not for the reprisal as it is swallowed in the initial downpour, but for that nasty sound she had heard as she strains to keep the monstrous beam under her will.

The bridge sags. chunks ripping free before being pounded to dust, as the very sea itself splits down to the silt abd bedrock below in an outward spreading wave of nearly biblical proportions.

BEAMWAR! Nanoha Takamachi presses her advantage, her Starlight Breaker exploding through Fate Testarossa's Spark End for a total of 156 Fatigue damage! Nanoha Takamachi is victorious!

BEAMWAR! Fate Testarossa is unable to keep fighting!

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [None] has posed.

Light. The last time she saw light like this, felt like so long ago. She remembered everything from that day as clear as yesterday, hearing a loud shriek from afar, she'd run to the balcony of her Midchildan apartment. There was a flash of light in the distance, at the place where her mother worked. The next thing she knew, she was waking up in a place she didn't recognize that seemed so cold and sterile and mechanical. More light, then a familiar face.

'There was an accident, but you're fine now.' Her mother was crying, despite all her efforts not to, she picked her up, and cradled her in arms so warm and inviting, just like she remembered. She felt like she was barely awake, when her mother carried her to her room, the sights of constellations upon the ceiling filling her with the wonder and awe of a child.

'Rest for a while, and when you get better, I'll take you to a picnic!' Sleepily, she'd asked, 'But aren't you busy with work?' And Precia, perhaps too quickly responded, 'It's fine, everything is fine now!' With a dreamy smile, she'd put a hand to her mother's cheek, which caused her to stiffen. 'Mama?' 'It's nothing, nothing at all. Everything is fine- Alicia!'

The single word slips back into her head, as clear as the flash, as clear as the memory of being carried to her new room.

Who is Alicia?

And that starts the landslide, like a small pebble that caused a cascade within her mind. For just one instant, the fog of memories clear, back to before they moved to Altseim. Her mother presenting her a spoon full of food. It slid down her throat, warm and sweet. 'How does it taste Alicia? Is it good?' 'Delicious!' A picnic in the public park, with all the wonderful food she could eat. Her smiling mother presenting her with a crown of flowers as a wreath upon her head. 'You're so adorable- Alicia!"

Who is she?

Each memory more clear that the last as she stares into that intense radiance, Fate Testarossa faces the relentless pink light, as it devours her lance, quenching it in a moment as if it never existed. She wanted to yell at her mother, 'No mother, I'm Fate!' even if she was only a phantasmal memory. Her eyes look so hollow, as the next question rings through her mind. 'Alicia. Alicia. Alicia.'

...Who am I?

She's struck head on, and to her credit, despite her spirit being broken, she remains there for a while. Her cape disintegrates fully first, then much of her barrier jacket, then Bardiche, cracks forming all along his length before it becomes too much for her to handle.

She's slammed down into the disintegrating bridge, then into the ocean water beneath it, before vanishing for just a moment.

When everything clears, she rises out of the water, gasping for breath at first, before she saves herself, realizing she's able to fly. She hovers upwards, so slowly that it feels like she's walking, head bowed, unable to look at her opponent. With an electric hiss of static, Bardiche speaks where Fate is unwilling to. <R-R-Release.>

And suddenly twelve small cerulean lights move out of his tortured form, one by one, floating in the air in a perfect circle. Fate then turns around, looking completely broken by the experience, cracks having formed in her very identity as she listlessly hangs there.

<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

It's jarring, seeing this kind of emotion. Eas knows control slipping when she feels it, and she feels it in Fate's voice. But after all those words from Nanoha, after the huge beam, Fate is still fighting. And Westar...

Westar is loud, and Eas turns to glare at him hotly before, without a word, looking back up again. Her uncertainty has been replaced; Nanoha survived...

She doesn't look at Soular. She just lets herself look over at Nanoha's backup, everyone over there with their tea and snacks and their /hope/.

It hurts her eyes to look at that magic, but she forces herself to stare through, to see them, both of them, through all that magic and through the nauseating sense of...

Of something.


Eas can see what is there. She can almost sense Nanoha's feelings, even though she doesn't know her. And in that moment, she's certain; the tension in her heart goes slack, and in the next moment she's already closing off the thread, closing her eyes and balling her other hand into a fist. Her nails dig into her pale palms, and she lets out the breath she'd been holding.

It would be natural for her to fall like her strings were cut, in that sort of feeling. It's like the wind is gone. But...

Setsuna Higashi does not give up that easily. She lifts a hand and places it over her heart, though that hand is still a fist, and looks up again at Fate.

The younger girl is hanging there in the air, and Eas only sets her jaw, burning the image of her ally's loss into her eyes. One more breath is drawn in.

She lets her hands fall to her sides. Only then does she speak, her voice hollow like the wind, all feeling drained out like so much color from something left in the sun. She can't just leave it in silence; it's not enough. So in that voice...

"...She was too weak after all." Eas turns on her heel, her back to Fate and to the battle as she shakes her head. "How pathetic."

That same wind only carries her voice further as her heels click against the roof, announcing her walking the other way.

"Completely pathetic," Eas announces.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera raises the hand not in Madoka's to cover her eyes when the Starlight Breaker tears through Fate's shot, and then slams into her. She sees her go down and hit the water, splashing down. She sucks in a sharp breath, staring when the Jewel Seeds release. A flood of emotions hit her at once, as she realizes that Nanoha won. She doesn't linger on those sparkling lights, though, but down at Fate. She can only imagine what she feels.

But, Nanoha is there. She can get down there and help -- and recover the Jewel Seeds and everything else. She tilts her head to the side, not smiling, but not frowning either. There is, she thinks, a chance.

'How pathetic.'

Lera turns her head to look at Eas from an angle while she walks away. Her eyes widen; a few tears even build up in the corners of her eyes, and she shakes her head heatedly. Then, she yells: "You're wrong!"

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka, surprising herself and perhaps others, doesn't turn away. She watches the entire thing, from end to end. It might be a little blurry, and she might need oxygen afterwards because her breath has stopped in her throat, but the vision is going to be burned into her mind forever. It's the kind of thing you don't forget.



--and that empty look in a young girl's eyes.

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWAjEQBOMZc

As soon as Fate can no longer handle the downpour, it comes to an end. A final, desperate, pained gasp erupting from Nanoha's lips as the breath she had been holding for too long grows too burningly hot within her lungs to hold any longer. Brow soaked with sweat and blood, the tiny mage pants desperately. Every ounce of her body roaring in fiery, indignant, rage at her for pushing herself so far.

With a few spluttering coughs, she ignores the storming wash of throbbing aching agony that pervades through her whole body. No ten year old should feel this level of pain and still be standing as she sags in the air. Raising Heart is in no better condition, twin golden prongs snapping open to vent whistling jets of steam and blead off an immense accumulation of magical heat. And even still the Device- that loyal, faithful, unstoppable AI simply gives her beloved master the same praise she had given when the two had their very first meeting.


But victory is short lived. "A-ah! Fate!"

As the blonde careens down to the waters, Nanoha jets downwards, looking ready to catch her-- only to look sheepish when Fate gets herself back up on her own power and the strength of her own indomitable, if now broken, will. "U-um..." Pitiably unaware of the shattering turmoil going on within the blonde, the earnest look of genuine worry says even now, Nanoha is willing to listen as her Device spits out the ten Jewel Seeds in her own possession, putting them on display for the transfer ritual to come.


"... Will you please finally talk with me now...?"

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Ren watches the tug-of-war going on between Nanoha and Fate. Someone has to give eventually. "So much power..." She utters softly. Indeed, there is a victor...

...And it's Nanoha!

She doesn't cheer. Outwardly, anyway. But there's relief flooding through her veins at least. "It's... over."

<Pose Tracker> Precia Testarossa [None] has posed.

Excerpt from the Infinity Institute Sorcerous Preparation Program, 5th Grade Textbook, Chapter 2: Calamities To Avoid At All Costs

There are a number of strong indicators of a large-scale magical working earing its way through the gaps between dimensions. The reasons for their occurrence are as varied as the sources, but there is a curious commonality all the same.

1) The sky may darken, either with magically induced gathering clouds or simply a blockage of light.

2) Thunder may be heard that has nothing to do with natural lightning. In reality, this roar of sound has to do with the strain on the air from the dimensional interference.

3) Flickering of light is also typical. The color of the light often provides a clue as to the source of the disturbance.

To call what's happening now 'textbook' would really be a gross understatement of the situation.

The skies have darkened almost in an eyeblink, clouds churning themselves into existence with such haste that the temperature instantly drops a spine-chilling fifteen degrees. Little sunlight can hope to penetrate these thunderheads.

They roar a challenge but a split second before the light appears. It is perhaps more truly lightning than most effects of this kind; it has the same similarity to, and difference from, natural electric discharge as that of Fate Testarossa herself. Indeed, the peculiar way that fingers of energy crawl their way across the booming clouds seems very like the young girl's, only far more intense, in density, in heat, in menace.

That, and it's not yellow, but violet.

A moment later, threat becomes promise, buildup becomes expression; a truly horrifying amount of heavenly wrath streams through the atmosphere, forking in all directions before converging inexorably upon a single point:

Fate Testarossa, and the twenty-two Jewel Seeds she and her opponent had put on the line for this duel.

<Pose Tracker> Westar [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Titanic power clashing against something unfathomably powerful - all Westar can do is watch the forces strain against each other, a bag of donuts left abandoned by his side. In spite of everything declared, in spite of this being a duel - part of him wants to throw caution to the wind and help. But...what he could do here would be far from helpful. And Testarossa's pride is on the line.

Pride isn't enough. The pink energy overwhelms the yellow lightning storm utterly, engulfing the combatant Labyrinth came here to cheer on. When it fades...

Every hour of Westar's education in Labyrinth made a number of things clear. One is that a fellow member of Labyrinth is to be left to their own mission, success or failure. That if one falls, no one will help them up. A fact Eas makes clear as Fate emerges staggering from the ocean to admit defeat. A fact to be remembered as the skies turn cold and tempestuous, as violet lightning descends upon the listless warrior.


As a yellow diamond turns a broken bridge support into a monster - one immediately looming over Fate to be ravaged by the wrath of the heavens in her stead - it becomes clear that Westar has never been good at learning.

Cape billowing, Westar moves - sprinting with all the strength he has, leaping to snatch Fate from the path of destruction for the moments his monster will last. The footing is far from sure, but he bellows as he leaps from bridge fragment to bridge fragment, bound for the barrier's edge.

"That's it - we're taking Testarossa out of here! None of you even THINK of following!"

<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Nanoha's Starlight Breaker shatters through Fate's Spark End, sending her crashing into the ocean. Soular doesn't speak, per se, but he does jerk forward, a rare glimpse of alarm on his face before Fate surfaces and Soular regains his self-control. He looks less than pleased by the result, though. This battle wasn't amusing in the slightest. Never mind that Fate was crushed instead of Nanoha; Soular knows what was at stake in this battle, and knows what the consequences will be for Fate to have lost everything she's fought so hard to gain.

To his left, Eas turns away, declaring Fate weak and pathetic as she leaves entirely. Soular side-eyes her... but in *her* case, that reaction is good. It's better for her sake that she stay the same as always. ...Although it would be convenient for Soular if something were to shatter her morale as well.

Lera shouts at Eas, and Soular glances her way, frown and eyes sharp. However, if an argument is to follow, he will stay out of it. Besides which, with the sky darkening and a vortex of purple energy tears down from the heavens directly towards Fate. Soular shoots a sharp, expectant look Westar's way.

This time, he does not disappoint.

As the other executive of Labyrinth leaps forth to retrieve the fallen warrior, Soular breathes out a faint sigh. ...It's good, sometimes, to have Westar around. And, knowing that the matter is handled, Soular turns away, hands folded neatly behind his back. He begins to walk off in the same general direction as Eas, sparing her only a brief glance if she happens to eyeball him.

It's very important to Soular that he /appear/ aloof and unaffected.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [None] has posed.

The young girl is so distraught that she doesn't feel the swelling of magical power, at first, only Nanoha's desperate plea to talk to her. What could she say? What could she answer, when she doubted even her own name?

However, she knows that magic too well to be distracted away from it for long. At first she looks up, at the dark clouds, at the violet lightning crackling overhead, "Mother!" She sounds desperate, pleading, like a small child caught committing some terrible taboo. And yet she was uncertain what to make of it, as the swelling of dark clouds and violet lightning increases. Surely not. Surely this display of anger and wrath wasn't for her.

Her chin dips back down, and she looks backwards at her rival for just a moment, with eyes so sad, and- terrified. And then, as violet light threatens to consume her, her whole posture cringes in mid-air as if she were about to be the recipient of a new lesson. Yet it never hits her. The bridge support eclipses her, struck instead, ravaged by the punishment meant for her.

Instead of being consumed, Fate has all the breath driven from her body as she's snatched from the air. "Westar." She whispers softly once she realized what happens, that he sacrificed one comrade for another. Deeply touched, despite how she feels right now. "Why would you ever-?"

She swallows, "You should leave me. I'm-" 'Completely pathetic.' Hearing Eas' words echo, she slumps in his arms, realizing she doesn't want to be left behind, doesn't want to be alone. Not now, not ever again. Doesn't that make her all the more pathetic, all the more worthless in the end, since she can't tell him that? Her eyes sparkle with tears that don't fall. Silence reigns for only a short time, and Fate isn't about to break that, but Bardiche does with an electric crackle, <T-T-Thank y-you. S-S-Sir.> And then the yellow marble like orb grows dark, spent to his own limit.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Everything happens too fast for Lera to process, at first. The heavens suddenly roar and rumble, and Lera can see that it's a magical reaction. Something powerful and terrible; a level of spell that she could never dream of. She swallows, hard, and then she looks straight up. As a result, she misses the moment when Westar throws the Data Diamond. She looks down in time to see the Nakewameke appear.

She sees it -- and the Jewel Seeds, and she reaches towards her back, hand grabbing the hilt of her sword. "Wait--" She stumbles with her words. "Westie! What are you doing!? You can't grab those--"

She looks sideways at Madoka and murmurs a quick apology. Then she vaults herself over the edge of the roof with one hand, dropping down into the air. Her coat billows around, before the flight spell kicks in. "Ren-chan!" she yells. "We've got to get Nanoha out of there! We--"

She looks down at the Jewel Seeds. Her flight jerks to a stop.

"--where did they go!?"

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Someone else watched this battle. She knew the day and time that it would occur and found her front row seat, well in advance of the others. She knew where the spectators often sat. She decided to claim a different part of the house.

Homura Akemi has watched this terrible battle the way that she always has: with the ghosts of emotions that she once felt strongly. She can remember, in a far earlier iteration of this battle, standing here with her hand up to her collarbone and fingers tensed tightly as it came to its climax. She can remember the shock that she felt, when lightning tore at the sky, and threatened a horrible ending to this. She remembers those emotions, but she only feels them dully now.

Or so she tells herself, while she waits.

When the twenty-two Jewel Seeds appear, they light up in her purple eyes. She takes a step out of the building that she was watching from, and then looks straight up at the Nakewameke that is struck by the lightning blast. For a moment, they may see her: the girl with a white and violet jacket, long black hair blowing out in the seaside breeze, with the short buckler of clockwork on her arm. In the next moment, she is seemingly gone--

--no, she is suddenly standing on a large chunk of concrete falling from the bridge. She balances with that eerie perfection on the falling piece of concrete, right where the Jewel Seeds had been a moment before. She glances at Fate and then Nanoha, her expression utterly impassive and unmoved. Then she glances up at the heavens and her violet eyes narrow with a hint of real anger. She reaches her hand up to her hair and flicks it out..

"These Jewel Seeds have caused enough trouble." Her hand moves along the clockwork shield, fingertips seizing on one of the outer plates. "Your stewardship is no longer necessary."

She gives the sky an icy look -- the same direction that lightning came from -- and then her hand moves over her shield. In the next moment, the raven-haired girl is simply gone and the Jewel Seeds with her.

<Pose Tracker> Precia Testarossa [None] has posed.

Precia Testarossa -- for surely at least Fate knows that that awful lightning could have had no other source -- screams. The sound is even more horrible than the thunder was, as it pours from the Garden of Time into the skies above Tokyo.

Whether that's a better or worse noise than the satisfied laughter of a successful greatmage depends on who you are, but it is unmistakably the sound of someone who has just been unexpectedly, and significantly, thwarted in her ambitions. It is a scream of frustration -- of rage, purely embodied in sound, wrenched from her gut to bloody the ears. Even beyond that, it is a scream of desperation... there's a hoarse quality to the timbre that, all by itself, evokes sand trickling through hourglasses, doors sliding shut, countdowns ticking inexorably towards their end.

Once her scream is spent, however, her presence withdraws. The clouds disperse, and light returns to the sky.



Over the sound of blaring alarms, Time-Space Administration Bureau officers on the bridge of the Dimensional Warship Arthra call reports up to their commander.

"Captain Lindy! The Jewel Seeds have disappeared!"

"/All/ Jewel Seed signatures have vanished, both Nanoha and Fate's!"

"Jewel Seeds transferred away by unknown method! Our sensors can't track their movement!"

"Impossible..." Amy thrusts herself away from her control panel for a long moment, staring not at the sensors but at the middle distance. One moment the Jewel Seeds were present, and then they were gone. Transfers through Dimensional Space leave a signature, but this left nothing at all.

Captain Lindy Harlaown's voice brings order to the chaos instantly, snapping out not like a whip but like a beacon, a guiding lamp. She thrums with urgency, but also the exact sort of eye in the storm, a center of calm, that draws people like a lodestone.

"All right, here we go."

This is not the first emergency she's had to find such strength to manage, and the apparent effortlessness of the feat lends that same strength to her people.

"Transfer the Arthra to Earth's second-stage Dimensional Space immediately." "Yes, sir!"

"Where is Fate Testarossa?" "Pulling up the last known images of her extraction now, Captain!"

The inexorably alarming red tint of the room is mercifully muted by the change in screenery, but the new images are no less worrisome in their own way. There she is -- Fate Testarossa, flagship effort of Project Fate and agent of Precia Testarossa -- looking desperate and sad and exhausted. There comes the violet lightning, undoubtedly an attempt at intervention by Precia herself.

Without looking away, Lindy murmurs, "Amy -- start backtracing the residue of that massive spell. Locate the Garden of Time." "Y-yes, Captain!" Amy shakes her head, a little filip of hair popping up in the back, and clears herself from her reverie, which was as much thoughtfulness as panic. Her fingers fly across the keyboards.

Lindy has returned to the images, which show exactly what happened with crystal clarity: just before Precia Testarossa's lightning could strike Fate, someone else interposed himself. With that blond hair he could be a brother... But that was foolishness. Fate could be argued to have one blood sibling, perhaps, but only the one. No, the style of this interloper's dress wasn't Midchildan at all, and the analysis of his energies indicate that his origins are quite different, quite different indeed...

"Labyrinth." It's as much a curse as revelation, the way she says it, and several bridge officers startle, looking over at her worriedly. Lindy clears her throat. "Who's tracking the retreat of this... Westar?" He's not in any TSAB databanks but hers, for the Arthra has been monitoring magical activity in Tokyo for some time now in pursuit of the Jewel Seeds, and he hasn't been shy about self-introduction at other times.

"Captain! He appears to have retreated with Fate Testarossa into the forests of 'Tama.' There's something strange about the specific area he disappeared into, but I think we can pin it down long enough to..."

"I've got it."

Lindy briefly smiles over at her son, a proud mother -- he frowns -- and then reviews the grainy image. "A magical mansion... I doubt we'll be able to penetrate its defenses more than once."

"Permission to pursue the Jewel Seeds, Captain?" Now Chrono is looking at another screen, one that has frozen on a blurry still, all that could be caught in the tiny timeframe of its existence. The girl has long black hair and purple clothes. And the girl is long, long gone.

"Denied, Enforcer." She's no happier about the answer than he is, but far more dignified in her frustration. "In the meantime, you may go explain the situation to that girl in white... and anyone else who might be helpful. But beyond that, we have no jurisdiction. Earth is in peril, though, as well as all the other worlds... there's no saying how far a Dimensional Quake would spread with twenty-two Jewel Seeds being activated at once. Perhaps I can open a channel and convince my superiors to allow an intervention."

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

The sky darking is never a good sign. Ren furrows her brows, and Souverain Heraut pings urgently.


He's cut off. Mostly by the horrible violet lightning that streaks towards Fate. Ren stands there in utter shock. Thankfully Westar is a great enough ally to Fate to shield her and get her away from the scene. Lera jumping into action and shouting her name causes Ren to snap out of her trance. Giving Madoka a look she realizes things are really /not/ over.

"Stay here!" She shouts to the pink-haired girl. As if she has a choice in the matter, really. And Endo will likely protect her should something menacing come their way at least. Ren kicks off the ground and goes after Lera. "Nanoha! Are you-"

And then around this time she notices the Jewel Seeds are /gone/. "Wuh-wuh...!?"

Oh good grief!

<Pose Tracker> Fiat Silver [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The sky splits. Tears fall. A dark presence, vaster than even Nanoha and Fate, arrives - something powerful enough that that creature, the same kind of creature making the same cry as the thing that nearly slayed a district, is crushed swiftly.

The others move to protect Fate. Seize her. Fiat Silver can't tell. Those jewels sparkle like a constellation-

Someone appears near them. Fiat Silver could swear she saw her toss her hair. Her mouth hangs open in quiet shock.

A moment later, the Jewel Seeds are gone. (<Well played,> Silver Scorpion remarks, but quietly.) That ice-cold feeling up her spine doesn't leave Fiat Silver - and so she steps silently back, towards the rear of the roof, witnessing in shock alone. She'll remember it later, of course - in all of its wrenching, confusing intensity.

But if she has a thought now, it is: I hope that Fate is alright.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka never looked away, and all these flashes of light and summoned monsters and sound and fury -- and the bridge -- all of it, it's all so much. She's not broken, but she is dazed.


<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

'You're wrong!'

Eas pauses, setting her foot down with another click against the stone beneath her feet, at Lera's words. She does not look up at Fate. She does not look up at Nanoha, or at the jewel seeds. And she does not turn to face Lera. "...Yelling something doesn't make it true," she replies coldly. "And--"

The sky darkens. The sheer /power/ in the air out of nowhere shocks Eas into silence, and she can only turn in suddenly confusion towards the sudden storm. The roar shocks her a second time, but she isn't the target, for all her instinct to jump uot of the way.

She sees, in that instant, the seeds all together, the violet lightning crashing down towards them, and--

The data diamond.

The bridge.

Suddenly, the girl in black and red has no idea what is going on except that Westar is acting. She opens her mouth and then closes it again, suddenly glaring up at the sky as if to scare away the storm.

...It doesn't work, of course. But it gets her moving. "Westar, you--"

Whatever angry screed she was going to throw at him turns into a growl. She doesn't even see Homura appear out of nowhere. Quite the opposite, she sees the other denizen of Labyrinth absconding with Fate, and...

She draws the only conclusion she /can/ in the moment. And then she acts: bending her knees, Eas /leaps/, sprinting from her landing point amidst the darkened sky and making her way to the other building, towards the bridge.

"We don't need your /advice/," she snaps as she grabs Lera with both arms and jumps in the opposite direction. It's while she's moving that she sees the prize taken, hears the laughter.

"Did you think we'd go into this without a plan?"

The /scream/ still echoes as she jumps away from the epicenter. ...That the presence withdraws only registers after she's touched down again.

...There's no way Westar did this own his own... Right? He /can't/ have. She's sure of it.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera lets out a yelp when she is grabbed. She goes into a sudden, tight spin with Eas; for a moment, the two go spinning through the air, well away from the lightning that comes crashing down. They're clear of it -- and Lera stares at the silver-haired girl with those strange, cold eyes that...

...that somehow look so familiar.

She opens her mouth to say something, but nothing comes to her. She shakes her head sharply, though, and starts to push away from Eas. "What are you doing, you--"


Lera's eyes widen -- and she turns her head to look at the water, realizing then that it was far closer than she expected. Her teeth grit; she closes her eyes immediately. The two girls hit the ocean surface and splash down, sending up a burst of water that rains down droplets while the sky blackens and roils overhead.

The anguished cry still echoes, even as ripples from their landing roll across the ocean waves.

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

In that moment. In that one, hopeful moment of victory, Nanoha had hoped she would finally get what she wanted. And in the end, after all that work, after the hardest fight of her whole life, it is all ripped away in the span of an instant. The skies darken so ominously, and the redhead falters where she floats.

Fate calls out 'Mother'. Nanoha can only look on in horror. Complete and utter abject horror, as if knowing just was going to happen the instant that utterly defeated, shamed, face etches upon the blonde's features. Amid the roiling anger of the skies, another sound can be heard, soft, almost imperceptible because it is muffled by a fragile wall of ribs, muscle, and breast.

It is the sound of Nanoha Takamachi's heart ripping itself in two at the sheer sight of those eyes once again, in the final instant before the sky is a deadlier place to be in.


With a cry of mixed terror and outrage, Nanoha's voice is drowned in the storm. Losing track of the Jewel Seeds in the resultant chaos, focusing only on Westar leaping to rescue the blonde, leaving her in a washed mix of confusion, pain, and jealousy as everything this duel was supposed to earn from her is so unfairly ripped away.

Fate's -mother- would do that to her? Fate's mother is the cause of that monstrous energy? "Fate! -FATE-!"

It's a question for later as she just completely gives out, spent, hurt physically and emotionally as she slaps down on one last remaining chunk of bridge, sitting up a moment later, beaten and soaked, face wrought in a grim rictus of anguish and impotent fury.

The trails of glistening wetness freely running down her cheeks, no matter how much she may blame them on it later, are not the fault of her splashdown.