2015-07-06 - The Garden of Time (Part Two)

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Title: The Garden of Time (Part Two)

A decision is made. An ally arrives. And a mother's grief is confronted.


Nanoha Takamachi, Fate Testarossa, Ren Aizawa, Fiat Silver, Lera Camry, Masque Feu, Mai Tokiha, Fuu Hououji, Cure Berry
GM: Honoka Yukishiro


Dimensional Space: The Garden of Time

OOC - IC Date:

1 August 2014 - 07/06/2015

COMBAT: Setsuna Higashi transforms into Eas!

COMBAT: Seika Miuchi transforms into Masque Feu!
COMBAT: Shun Minami transforms into Soular!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa transforms into Barrier Jacket!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has fully healed herself.
COMBAT: Fiat Silver has fully healed herself.
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi transforms into Barrier Jacket!
COMBAT: Masque Feu has fully healed herself.
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has fully healed herself.

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.


The Tuner Organization has been maintaining a connection to the Garden of Time throughout the operation -- a shimmering teal circle, filled with complex runes. After all, some magical girls are coming from further away than others, or are simply not able to heed the word of their mascots and get to the park as quickly.

And the word is dire: a Grand Magus, Precia Testarossa, intends to misuse artifacts of terrible power called Jewel Seeds, and rend the very Earth asunder in her quest to travel to a place forgotten by time.

A boy in a leathery black coat, codenamed Grumpy Spike, is standing on the outside edge. He meets the second wave of volunteers as they assemble.

"Here's the word -- the first strike team has taken down the magical engine and secured about half the Jewel Seeds. But the reaction is still building, which means Precia Testarossa has the rest of them with her and is continuing her ritual personally."

He shakes his head at this recklessness.

"Hurry into the circle and you'll be transported into her fortress. It is collapsing from the top down. Fortunately, Testarossa is believed to be in the lowest levels. Still, you don't have much time! Meet up with the others and help them stop her and retrieve the Jewel Seeds for safekeeping!"



Whether newly warped in with a gut-wrenching pop, or rushing down from the top spire to the lowest levels, everyone rapidly discovers that Chrono Harlaown is a master of understatement. The strange fortress, with its golden halls, obsidian pillars, and flickering ghostlights, is not so much collapsing as it is imploding.

What were straightforward staircases have twisted into something outside of M.C. Escher's worst nightmares.

The winding black paths that travel in between luminous, undulating, and deadly Imaginary Space, where all magic is sucked away into a void beyond dimensional understanding, curl in on themselves.

Still, it remains true that the only way to go is down. Down, towards the source of the fingernails-down-the-spine resonance of truly massive powers being activated; terrible things being called up that ought never have been.

<< Hurry! >> exhorts Lindy Harlaown, codename Tea Mama, telepathically. << I'm meeting you down there -- just proceed towards my position! >>

The universe groans under the rising strain.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Don't be long - Nana Mizuki - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPzj7_7ybqU

'I don't know how you feel or how much it hurts, y'know?'

A prisoner, she was a prisoner. There were no locks, no restraints, and no guards save for her desire not to feel. It was too painful. Awake yet asleep in every way that mattered, she didn't comprehend the feel of the covers, the warmth of the pillow, the cool air venting into the room. The din of the battle played out before her ears, and yet she remained dormant beyond the veil that separated her from everything.

Almost everything.

'Did you even care about Fate!? How - - How can you work for someone like Precia Testarossa, Eas?'

A twitch, a subtle turn of the neck, eyes watching but still unseeing.

"Maybe I'm just better at this than Fate-chan."

'And Fate-Fate's not weak! You don't know half of what she's been through!'

'How long are you going to harp on Fate? I already told you I don't care about that pathetic girl! I don't care about anyone!'

'Westar cared about her!'

'LERA! Lera... DAMN YOU!"

With each word, she wanted to just sink deeper into herself. Maybe if she sank deep enough, she could just sleep forever.

'The point isn't Fate... isn't Fate. The point is that - after everything - after everything - That woman, Precia Testarossa... she threw her away! She condemned her for being different and said she always hated her! If she'd do that to her daughter, what would she do to the likes of YOU!?'

And just like that, the veil is shredded as if cut by a sharp knife. Hands twitched over the covers, as eyes blinked away the dryness. Arms encircled her legs, while she laid the side of her head against her knees, looking away from the explosions of battle on the monitor, she murmured to herself, "Mother never paid attention to me. Not even once. It was Alicia she wanted, not me. I'm just trash... Fake trash. A failure at even that." She corrected herself, and might have laughed, if not for the overwhelming depression that still lingered. A beat, "Maybe I should never have been born."

'Diviiiiiiiiiine...! BUSTERRRRRRR!'

Picking up her head, she shifted to laying her other cheek down upon her knees, watching the pink flow of mana erupt through the merging drones. She watched the fall of an executive at the hands of a masked mage, and an unwanted hand bring her out of danger. She watched a knight's blade sing, razors rain, and jewels dance. A concerted effort to bring low some of the worst artifice her mother had wrought

"We fought again and again. I did terrible things to them. In spite of that..." Her eyes shifted to one girl, the tip of her staff cannon still smoking. And another, as she carried her enemy up, out of danger. "...they kept trying to reach me. They called me by name. So..." Fate was surprised as her vision blurred, something wet dropping to the sheets and staining them. A hand moved up to her eyes in shock, but she didn't stop the tears she hadn't cried in years. She welcomed them. "...many times."

Spotting the warm pulse of a golden triangle, she shifted aside the covers, and tip-toed out of bed. Everyone was distracted right now, dealing with the crisis, and so they hadn't bothered to lock Bardiche up from the girl they suspected might never awaken.

As she grasped him, he materialized into his poleaxe form, sensing her intent, chiming with an enthusiasm she'd never yet felt from her partner, <GET SET!> "What did she say to me? That our story hadn't even yet begun? I'm not so sure what she means by that, but I know that I hate the idea of it ending like this."

A cape appeared in mid-air, and dropped onto her shoulders, as her barrier jacket took form in a haze of light. A runic circle formed at her feet, as golden mana boiled off her like flames. "Let's carve out own path together." <YES SIR! DIMENSIONAL TRANSFER!> Before she crossed the gap to the Garden of Time, she sent out a message, <<I'm sorry Miss Lindy. It's my fault that you won't be able to keep your promise. Thank you for being so kind.>>

As the siren song of destruction breaks the silence, new notes enter the song, a flash of golden light appears above them. The girl descends from on high down the winding staircases, cape billowing above her, as she grasped Bardiche in both hands. Eyes still wet with tears but fierce with determination, she says nothing at first, simply raising Bardiche high. <DIVIDE ENERGY>

In streams, it pours off of him, all that excess mana flowing into each of the battleworn girls. It has none of the harshness of her lightning. It sets them aglow with surging warmth that washes away fatigue, and recharges the energy that they've lost. It continues to pour off of him, even as she lowers herself to the ground with a click of her boots. First she looks at one girl in particular, "You told me that if I ever wanted to come find all of you, that you'll be right there waiting for me."

She doesn't smile, though beyond the tears in her eyes, her scarlet eyes are aglow with gratitude. "I hope that offer still applies." And then she looks at another, eyes still smiling even when her mouth does not, "I still don't know what you meant when you told me our story has only just begun, but I'd like to find out for myself." The groan as her former home is twisted and warped under the strain is unmistakable, and so she's forced to tear her eyes away to the immediate crisis she'd plunged herself into. Down. Down below, to where her mother waited for her journey to commence. "We don't have much time."

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket!

COMBAT: Lera Camry has fully healed herself.
COMBAT: Lera Camry transforms into Barrier Jacket!

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

The Magic Knight of Wind had let her bow and quiver vanish, arming herself instead with her sword for the trek down the stairs; that equipped her better to support herself during the descent into the lower levels of Precia's fortress. The absence of drones to bar the way is a welcome relief; she needs her full attention to keep her balance in spite of the warping of space; she's only hoping she'll have enough strength to help contribute to the fight that certainly awaits at the bottom.

... And then, Fate Testarossa appears - not unlike a guardian angel, Fuu thinks in the back of her mind - and mana flows forth from her Device to re-invigorate the weary magical girls. The Wind Knight stands up straight, letting the offered energy soak into her, and raises her sword in a salute. "We're glad to have you with us, Fate-san," she greets the twintailed blonde. "I only regret the circumstances which bring you to our side as a friend and an ally."

The Wind Knight also waves to those who are newly-arrived, and lets her sword disappear once more; after all, she can't reach out to support anyone (or to be supported, should it come to that) if her hands are full of weapon, and the footing is still liable to be treacherous on the way down.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has fully healed herself.

<Pose Tracker> Eas [None] has posed.

A broad red bracelet clatters against the walkway as Eas's arm falls, her effort to free herself too slow to escape the inevitable. Still trying to breathe, she closes her eyes, and--


For a moment she is slack, staring up at Lera in shock, red eyes wide. "W--why--"

Her wrist is held... and with the strength of desperation, her fingers close around Lera's arm to hang on. Pulled from the wreckage, after dealing with her in the gigantic armor she's light by comparison, trailing along behind Lera as she's held onto by her arm and hanging in the air.

Eas, too, stares down in silence a moment at the fate she only barely escaped.

A half-instant after her feet touch the ground, she flinches away from Lera, tugging her arm free and stumbling backward. "I--I didn't--"

A tangle of emotion she can't understands all mingles into one pained, fearful shout, "I didn't ask you to help me! I didn't!" She takes another half-step back, breathing heavy, the burns and scraps and cuts of the battle all clear on her--

Her eyes dart upward, though, her pale gaze fixed upon the golden light above that she recognizes instantly. Fate Testarossa appears, magic flowing...

Her /heart / overflowing. Eas's exhaustion twists her face into something almost longing before she forcefully shakes her head.

'We don't have much time.'

"Go!" Eas shouts at Lera. "Go help your precious /friends/," she spits with all the bile she can muster.

With one last look at Fate Testarossa, the agent of Labyrinth turns and bolts, taking off running deeper into the facility... Towards her way out of this Garden.

<Pose Tracker> Masque Feu [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

The truth is, Season 1 of Stars of the Silver Night only aired in Japan. In a rotten timeslot.

"I rather hope you can give me an idea of how long we have to claim the last of the Jewel Seeds," Seika Miuchi asks politely as she can while dashing towards Ueno Park.

From his perch on her shoulder, Augustine the Heretic spreads his wings a little. It is the birdy equivalent of a shrug.

"...Then can you give me an idea what Precia Testarossa will throw at us?" Seika asks.

Augustine again spreads his little turtledove wings. If he could smile ruefully, he could. It is hard with a beak.

Behind her glasses, Seika lowers her eyelids.

"Next time I'm buying your birdseed at Lawson," she threatens.

_.~' ( * ) '~._
"Let's Start At The End"

SMASH CUT - The Garden of Time.

Long, dark hair, freed from the high, poofy bun she normally wears in her civilian life to pour out into a waist-length wave of lustrous ojou ringlets, spills behind Masque Feu as she descends into the depths of the twisting Escherian nightmare of a fortress.

Masque Feu does not like to rush. Rushing is not a dignified action. Even now, with the universe hanging in the balance, with her mentor doing very little to actually help her, Seika cannot bring herself to be undignified. She /proceeds/ at a brisk clip. Energy washes past her; the only weariness she holds right now is anxiety, and no magic she or anyone else has can readily dispel it. It is the anxiety even someone like her feels when 'hunting vampires' abruptly changes to 'help these girls save the universe' without much warning.

Fuu, at least she recognizes; Masque Feu acknowledges her with a quiet nod the moment she catches sight of her.

"Masque Feu! Wait for me!" chirps Augustine from several screens back as he flaps madly to try and catch up to the sole Soeur on the scene. It is hard to be fast when you are a 600-year-old turtledove trying to outrun a magical girl in peak condition.

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

Fiat Silver, despite everything, feels a certain exhilaration. Perhaps it's from having gotten through to someone. Perhaps it's just that thrill of "my goodness, I didn't explode or fall into Imaginary Space." But it's a brief flare. That delicious if slightly dubious eclair from a mysterious Anko aren't enough.

But she can't stop now. And then from behind her -

<It seems we are being given power. I expect I am to receive it?> Silver Scorpion intones to Fiat.

"Yes!!" the thiefly girl says, turning her head to see the incoming form of Bardiche and Fate united and free.

<Good! I was already doing so. - My goodness; this is quite a surplus...>

"A surplus?"

<Reserves fully replenished. Indeed, the overflow capacitance is as well...>

"Really? That's wonderful," Fiat Silver says, looking back ahead of herself. "... Do you think that Eas person got clear?"

<We can but hope,> Silver Scorpion says. And so, forwards - forwards and /DOWN/.

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

The battle is far from over. Ren knows that as she looks around, unable to ignore that awful feeling emanating from deep below where Precia Testarossa is said to be dwelling, maniacally carrying out the plan that they've all assembled here to stop.

...But the weariness is weighing down on her. With a limited supply of mana at her fingertips Ren begins to wonder how much more effective she'll be in this conflict. Of course she wants to continue onward with all her heart. That has -- and probably never will -- change. The mage looks down at her device. Souverain Heraut chimes in response.


Heraut. Always attentive and willing to heed her words with nary a complaint. With him she's able to pull off the amazing feats of magic she's practiced so hard at. Where would she be without him? Would she still be that dull girl too meek to speak up? Would she have ever become as close as she had with Nanoha, Lera, and Endo due to their shared status as device-wielders? She, of course, knows the answer. At the end of the day her magic is what kept her connections to those special people in her life so strong. And that's more than enough for her to fight on desperately against the outside forces who seek to rip all of that away.

<A NEW MAGICAL SIGNATURE HAS BEEN DETECTED.> It's Heraut's voice that clues her in to Fate's arrival. Ren looks up at the rapidly descending blonde, widened eyes following her as she lets out an invigorating flow of mana that washes over everyone.


Her linker core pulses with seemingly new life, drinking in the healing energy. Heraut chimes once again, releasing bronze ribbons of energy that wrap themselves soothingly around Ren. <RECOVERY!> And the ribbons burst, raining motes of light down upon the still-shocked mage as she is restored to pristine condition. <STATUS: OK. ALL SYSTEMS GREEN.> Heraut is practically thrumming with overwhelming vigor within her grasp.

"Fate..." Ren is marveled by what the girl has done, unable to say much else at the moment.

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

Lera keeps a tight grip on Eas until she has the Labyrinth Executive back on the ground. When she hits the ground herself, she is panting; the exhaustion of battle, the wear and tear on her Barrier Jacket, and everything else has caught up with her. She looks back at the younger girl, tired -- and then the furious shout. Lera flinches back at that, standing up straighter but stepping back.

She didn't expect gratitude from her. She doesn't know, really, why it hurts when she gets nothing of the sort. She flinches and looks to the side, her expression more downcast than before a moment. "I couldn't leave you there!" Stress and frustration make her words more heated; then they cool as she continues: "I--I wouldn't want anyone to die in a place like this."

But she catches Eas looking up and follows her gaze, to see Fate Testarossa coming down. Lera's eyes widen again, with confusion -- but then they twinkle with something else.

'You told me that if I ever wanted to come find all of you, that you'll be right there waiting for me.'

A bright smile shoots across Lera's face as she stares up at the blonde-haired girl coming down. She nods up at her; then she turns to look at Eas. Her expression sinks, again, for just a moment when she hears those words. She flinches and looks away. "You better hurry," she says, quietly; her efforts to sound cool, instead of hurt and worried, fail completely. "This place doesn't have much time left."

Then she looks back up, and her smile comes back as she sees the look in Fate's eyes. She grins, in fact, and lifts off the ground as Bardiche's energy floods into her. Her Barrier Jacket mends; even some of the scrapes and scratches do, as the defensive spells heal away a few of her wounds. "Fate!" she calls out. "Of course we are! I-I'm glad you're here. That you're okay."

<Bardiche. Well-timed as always.> Soaring Sky says. <Shall we?>

Lera nods; she glances at the other girls, at Ren and Nanoha, in particularly, and then with some more surprise at the freshly arrived Masque Feu. The Midchildan girl smiles; it flickers, though, after a moment. She thinks about Eas -- and then about the dangers ahead. Her smile turns into a more resolved look, before she darts down.

"Let's go!"

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

The hisssssss of venting steam isn't loud enough to mask the much more ragged sound. Desperate, panting, gasps of an exhausted girl gulping needily for air. Sweaty, bloodied, bruised throughout; with her Barrier Jacket in tatters, Nanoha surveys the aftermath of fending off those drones. Those terrible, menacing, drones, even backed by that Executive. For All Eas tried to bar their path and halt the assault; for all of her negativity, Nanoha still musters something of a smile when Lera prevents a worse fate from befalling the servant of Moebius.

Then, it feels like Nanoha is nearly spent. Dropping to her knees and clutching her side, fatigue winning out over the initial surge of silent simmering rage and adrenaline that has thus far carried her, before Ren and Heraut's gift enabling her to put out that one last sealing bombardment. For a long moment, Raising Heart is silent, focusing on venting off the buildup of magical heat. But after wave after wave of the defenses, her body belligerently fails to follow the directives of heart and spirit, and even still she starts to trudge on, regardless of the danger. Giving in to exhaustion is simply not an option to the small redhead, glancing over her shoulder. Everyone here had all come SO FAR. It would be utterly disrespectful to the efforts of her friends, and even strangers willing to rise to this momentous assault.

Ren, Lera, Endo- and even Fiat have had her back. Fuu a more distant but still supportive acquaintance, Lindy, Chrono, the Tuners. Nanoha would die before spitting on the mass effort brought forth.

Ready to brute force her weariness aside and force her body to near breaking, she is halted only by the sudden flash of brilliant light, a golden blitz so familiar and yes sudden and unexpected enough to leave her confused in the face of Fate Testarossa's arrival, only barely and distantly registering the sudden ping.


Raising Heart opens herself to the outpour of energy, putting this sudden new gift to immediate use in restoring Nanoha's strength and Barrier Jacket to pristine condition.


The name bearly dies on her throat, as bewilderment turns to astonishment, but Nanoha is back on her feet, wide blue eyes welling with moisture as they meet to vivid scarlet. "M-mmh!" An affirmative noise if ever there was one, Nanoha showing no shame in the least as she uses her sleeve for the purpose all sleeves were truly intended. Wiping her eyes. "Let's find out, together."

<Pose Tracker> Miki Aono [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Of course once ~Cure Berry~ heard of the trouble in other realms, she /had/ to join in. Still, she lingers at the edge of the circle, glancing back over her shoulder as if looking for friends to follow her. With a quick indrawn breath, she steels herself, turns her eyes forward and dives into the portal just in time for...

  • POP*!

Teleportation was still a new thing for her. Still, Berry gives a wink at others who might have teleported in with her, fighting the queasy feeling in her belly - one that only got worse when she saw the unreal nightmare that was spread before her. The Pretty Cure lunges forward after the others, her ponytail bobbing as she chases through the groaning universe, towards that feeling that only made her belly twist harder and harder. And on the way out - she lets her eyes track along Eas as she passes by her, surprise filling Berry's eyes - but only for a moment. "Is Fate a part of Labyrinth?" she wonders aloud.

COMBAT: Miki Aono has fully healed herself.

COMBAT: Miki Aono transforms into Cure Berry!

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUJVacmswM8

Reality makes another groan, and one dimension over, the endless lights of the towers of Midchilda flicker. A million million frightened eyes look at one another as the worst sort of prophecy of their kind begins to come to pass. One of the greatest of them, driving everything to destruction.

Everything old is new again.

Another buckling multiverse strut over, and Tokyo, for the briefest of moments, loses its gravity. Babies laugh, then cry. Silverwear tinkles on tables. More crucially, a number of trains throw their automated emergency brakes. Traffic will be hours cleaning itself up.

In the Garden of Time, however, things are weirder still.

The space opens up into a dome that is not unlike being inside a bubble filled with mirrored shards. The ultimate funhouse, each reflection and refraction sends the girls down every conceivable perspective, all at once.

It is very red here, the light of emergency, of 'stop', of the blood of death and that of afterbirth.

It becomes rapidly difficult to tell what is real and what is not. Through one crystal mirror darkly comes a younger, sadder Nanoha -- through another, a Magic Knight of Wind so wrinkled and stooped with age that she's practically unrecognizable.

Time is a dimension, too.

But the chief vision repeated over and over throughout the journey is not one that features any invader. This tormented place has one primary inhabitant, embodies one soul.

Papers fall in waves, filled to the brim with complex equations. They drip with tears, tears that fill up a glass with a clock at the bottom, a clock that ticks inexorably towards midnight.

"We aren't ready!" protests a soft, fierce voice -- a woman's voice. She speaks with the absolute conviction of an expert. "There have to be more tests..."

Sand blows across the pathway. Each individual grain is a single, perfectly carved, impossibly tiny tooth. From another direction gush a wake of coins that are not quite Earth's quarters but close enough to be clearly recognizable as the equivalent.

The voice resounds again, gentler this time, and apologetic, mortified.

"I know -- I'm sorry I wasn't there. I'm so sorry. You're so mature... thank you for being such a good girl for Mommy."

The scent of cheap noodles fills the chamber, and, underlying, the sharp aroma of antiseptic cream. It tastes like flowers. The air feels yellow, yellow like the light from Fate's Bardiche, but also yellow like sick like ginger ale, yellow like the sparkles behind burning eyelids after they've stared at the sun for too long.

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

Some say words of support, like the Magic Knight of Wind and receive a gracious nod. Others marvel at what she's done, like Ren, even if she feels like she's done nothing of note. Eas is spared a glance. There's hurt in her eyes as they linger on her, hesitation, before she tears her eyes away and looks straight forward once more. <I do pride myself on my punctuality.> Bardiche quips at Sky, despite being fashionably late. Before Fate whipsers to Lera, guilt showing within her words, "I'm sorry for worrying you."

And then Fate looks at a girl who was very important to her, as she calls out her name again, watches her wipe her eyes. 'What's her name again? She made certain I knew, every time.' In the chaos of her identity crisis, it was hard to seperate what was real from false, so it took her some time to remember it. Takamachi Nanoha. She doesn't say it, even though its on her lips, in her heart. "When this is over... we need to talk." It sounds strained, the guilt still there. Like it won't necessarily be good news. And yet, she was willing to talk, wasn't she?

A Pretty Cure asks if she's part of Labyrinth, and she turns slowly, eyes upon her Berry, "No, though I might as well have been. I've done many terrible things to try to fulfill my-" Hesitation comes on a word, "-mother's wish." She bows her head low, she'd likely be on her hands and knees, prostrate if not for how dire the situation was, "I don't think I could say anything that could make up for that. Even so, I'm sorry."

Fate has lived in the Garden of Time for most of her life, ever since Precia ripped it out of the mountains of Altseim and suspended it in dimensional space. She never knew why her mother gave it that name. She's starting to realize that, as she looks into another Crystal Mirror, showing a reflection of Nanoha as she were younger. Fate looks into a mirror of her own and sees- nothing. No reflection. It was as if she were a cipher. Non-existent after a certain point in her mother's quest to reclaim her lost past.

Moving forward, she feels like she's journeying backwards. She has no idea when the rain of papers began, flecked with tears, Fate's keen mind for math and science has her catch several of the fluttering, turning equations, only to find them so dizzyingly complex that she can't even begin to comprehend them. The voice, she still winces even if there's no venom, no hatred for her in it and everyone can see it. Only anxiety, exasperation, and worry. Emotions she could understand all too well, despite not having the context.

The rain of tiny teeth like Sand has Fate place a single hand over her mouth, worried perhaps that her own teeth might fall out. She licks her teeth with her tongue, relieved, until the words come. Memories. Shared memories, from a small child that was... not her. It causes a complex contradiction of emotions. Pride at being called mature swells within her over her mother's approval. Despair at the knowledge that it was never hers.

She whispers softly, repeating her own lines from the script Precia had given her mind before she was born, "It's alright Mama! I know your work is really important. Would you like to see?" If she'd opened her mouth to show off a gap-toothed smile and found a coin in her hand she'd have been entirely unsurprised. Which is why she doesn't, why she keeps her mouth firmly shut, and the inside of her hand hidden.

It's only the beginning. The smells evoke other memories, so few of them actually hers. It reinforced the sense that nothing about her was real. Nothing at all. Save maybe one thing, which she keeps to herself. "Mother." She doesn't really expect her to hear, in this trip through memories, guilt in her voice like it was still her fault for her ignorance "I wish I'd known how you felt, all this time."

<Pose Tracker> Masque Feu [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Masque Feu is more than aware of the way Lera is looking at her. The other girl's surprise is met with a sidelong glance and a quiet nod, somehow profoundly dignified and collected even though she's literally showing up at the last second with the fate of the universe on the line. It is as though the chaos stops about six feet out from the Soeur of Blessed Flame and only a stately air of serenity is allowed in.

"Gambatte," she urges, quietly, with a very small smile that might as well be like the dawn breaking. A dove lands on her shoulder.

Then the world seems to slide back. With a small intake of breath, Seika pivots on a heel and looks up towards the heavens, her eyes wide behind her elegant ballroom mask as her vision is filled with images she doesn't fully understand.

She can smell discount ramen. Then something medical - the peculiarly saline scent of a hospital. Her stomach churns a little.

The images are raw. Yet they are unlike the ones they evoke for her.

What she sees is not a colour. Not a scent. It is a quiet emptiness. A glance at a clock on a wall. An empty apartment that will never be filled. A lonely girl, waiting.

She lets her breath slide between her lips in a slow, controlled rush.

Drawing herself up, she holds out her arm, pausing just long enough for Augustine to land on her shoulder. Once again, the visions seem to stop just outside her bubble of personal calm, or if they penetrate it, to wash across her air of statuesque calm like water over steel. "Then we must be close," she says with a small bow of her head.

Augustine ducks his head down into his feathers a ways, wings bristling with obvious discomfort. "Back in my day," he says tartly, "we didn't /expose/ our psyches like this. We just got on our donkeys and went to see the Bishop for a good rousing romp in the confessional!"

Seika just stops and looks at Augustine for a long moment.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

The Magic Knights were summoned for a particular mission, on that fateful day when three girls were called from the Tokyo Tower into the other world of Cephiro. The Pillar of that world, Princess Emeraude, had been imprisoned by Zagato, and if she isn't able to pray for Cephiro's well-being, that world will be destroyed.

As she continues down the stairs, the Wind Knight remembers that mission, and wonders - in the face of reality increasingly out to lunch around her - whether this is anything like what Cephiro will face if Emeraude goes un-rescued for too long. Her train of thought is violently diverted for a moment at the sight of familiar armor and familiar eyes in a wholly unfamiliar face ...

Will she look like that, eventually? Surviving long enough to maybe be a grandmother while still being a Magic Knight?

But the vision is gone again, disappearing so quickly it was almost a subliminal flicker rather than truly seen. The Wind Knight shakes her head and continues onwards. The papers and their equations, the voices, the sandgrain teeth, the shower of coins, the voices, the smells ...

Still treading as carefully as she might, the green-clad Magic Knight quickens her pace a bit. Every second lost in transit raises the stakes. "Mama Tea-san, is there a way to slow what Precia-san is doing ... ?"

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

Things get stranger as the world opens upwards, outwards into a sea of mirrors.

Fiat Silver brakes in midair instinctually, but it doesn't do much. She actually jitters in the air for a moment, completely and profoundly dazzled by the huge swarm of reflections. Silver Scorpion keys in his audio reception though, and the world begins making more sense. Echoes filter out, yes, but there's less in the way, and Fiat is guided to land...

Sand passes. Fiat Silver leans forwards on reflex, dipping her hand in and raising up a handful of--

Her hand stiffens and the toothsand pours freely away. Behind her mask, Lilian Abarth goggles silently for a full second. Then the air starts to change, the smells odd, not quite alien any more, but cloying, choking. She glances over at the landed Masque, smiling in what is meant to be reassuring. She is far enough away that she does not hear avian grousing. (So to speak.)

The sight of the pouring of change makes her suck in a breath. "How wasteful, to leave so much money laying round," she murmurs to herself. One of the mirrors nearby flickers - but that distortion's gone before Fiat Silver can do more than get a glimpse of herself, dressed much like her aunt/guardian, far away.

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

The encouragement from Masque Feu brings a quick smile to Lera's face. She nods at her as she dives, sucking a breath in and holding it. A little more determination fills her heart. She'll need it.

"It's okay," Lera says, quietly, to Fate on their way down. She looks after her, as she goes to talk to Nanoha. She hesitates a moment, but doesn't linger. She looks at Cure Berry next -- and hesitates. She wants to say that it's fine, after Fate apologizes, but it seems wrong to do.

But she looks at Berry for a moment. "She's not," she says, "but... Eas was here. They were helping Precia Testarossa with this."

And down they go.

Lera didn't really know what to expect of a Grand Magus's inner sanctum. A part of her wonders if this is the usual decor or if the threat of a dimensional quake is at fault. She looks sideways, staring at a mirror showing the younger Nanoha. But, then she hears Precia talking to Alicia -- not Fate, she reminds herself -- and her head bows for a moment. Those words hit closer to home than she would like. Seeing the look on Fate's face rams that thought home.

Her expression hardens through the smell of antiseptic and cheap, starchy noodles. Her fingers tighten around Sky's hilt in a reflexive motion.

She doesn't notice the mirror to her left. It shows a girl of about three, unmistakably Lera -- if with shorter orange hair, but still with the sidebraid -- hugging a grown woman with the same shade of hair from behind. She kneels down in front of a gravestone, but in the haze of the mirror, the headstone's inscription can't be read.

Lera's amber eyes squint, as she feels the burn of that thick stench in her nostrils.

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

Space distortion is an odd thing to experience. Ren really doesn't like it. It feels as though she's being pulled in multiple directions all at once. She hopes the new arrivals can hack it, as she wobbles to and fro, trying to remain steady.

<THIS IS HIGHLY UNSTABLE.> And indeed it is. The reflections are profoundly jarring. Ren blinks as if trying to clear her vision, and when she focuses them again she's met with something that gives her great pause.

Herself. More specifically, a version of herself from before meeting Souverain Heraut. A quiet little thing clad in a Juuban Junior High School uniform with a look of blatant uncertainty. The persepctive is akin to looking through a fish-eye lens, her proportions distorted and weirdly comical. Whispers then fill her ears -- pressing in from all sides. They're not overtly hostile -- but at the same time are not wholly comforting at all.

And then it's all gun, replaced by tumbling papers, equations, sandy-grain teeth, and other confusing things. Ren wobbles again, raising a hand to her forehead this time with a wince. "That... What was...?"

<Pose Tracker> Cure Berry [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Berry takes a moment - her hair floating behind her as if she were underwater. Closing her eyes, she breathes in - breathes in as she feels the universe crackle and shudder. Feels the weight of everything and nothing altogether. It was all the same in the end. Berry breathes out, letting her eyes flutter open.

Berry breathes in again. The experience, the regret - the Pretty Cure's mind was whirling, twisting, grasping onto any point of reference and finding none.

Berry breathes out sand, the air crackling and grating against her lungs. Her eyes flutter open, and she looks back towards Fate. "Mothers are important to us - I am sorry that yours has asked you to do some terrible things," she says, turning her eyes towards Lera - her moon-hair floating half in her face.

A smile touches her lips, a dazzling lune in the midst of stars. "I'm still trying to figure out what this is, exactly," she says, diving counter to her rising emotion, the woman pulled down to the inner sanctum proper. Another moment, and Fate has her eyes once more, "...won't you stop this? Whatever it is you are doing to... everything?"

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has fully healed herself.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha transforms into Mai-HiME!

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Are you really sure you should be dallying here?"

Fresh from finishing a late shift at work, cell phone still aglow in her hand, Mai Tokiha looks up to the nearest streetlamp with an expression conveying the exact opposite of amusement. Atop that lamp post, to her dismay, stands a silver-haired boy wearing an open book as a makeshift hat. Were she nearly any other waitress, this sight would be shocking, but... "...Nagi. I don't know what you're playing at, but I just talked to Takumi - he's at the theatre, and everything was fine. So don't try telling me..."

The boy, holding up a single finger, tuts briefly. "So defensive, Mai HiME. Is this because of who you're hanging around with these days?" As the high school girl grinds her teeth, he does a little spin atop the lamp post - waving his arms frantically to get his balance back. "But that's not the point. There's a woman who's gone and done something very, very foolish, and now your beloved brother is in danger. Well - he is, you are, everyone is, really..."

Mai freezes in place - then casts her gaze to the skies. Is there something off about them, today?...and then she looks back to Nagi, who is just smiling smugly at her. Hands clenched at her sides, she takes a deep breath. "...so are you actually going to tell me, or is this the part where I run around in a panic to find what's gone wrong?"

Nagi laughs - long and hard enough that he does lose his balance, and in short order is dangling from that streetlamp with one hand. The other, of course, is keeping his book in place atop his head. "That's the spirit! But I'll save you some trouble - run towards Ueno Park. I'm sure you can figure it out from there."

Before he's even finished his sentence, Mai is already running - flames already dancing before her Element has even appeared. Nagi watches this hasty departure, and smiles to himself. "I wonder, Mai HiME, what you'll do when you see who's involved..." He drops from the lamp, and disappears without touching the ground.


Even running as quickly as she can, Mai is late arriving at the park. Grumpy Spike is there with a greeting - and is immediately rebuffed by the bangle-bearing HiME, who barrels through the portal before he gets two sentences into his prepared speech - spurred on, in honesty, by the fact that gravity seemed to -hiccup- behind her. Within that gate...the closest analogy Mai can think of is a Witch's Labyrinth, with its own twisted world - but this surpasses that realm by a terrifying margin. Halls are collapsing in on themselves, and she does her best to fly straight - in this kind of situation, she's not even sure about touching the floors...


As she enters the realm of crimson light - finally catching up to those who have gone before - Mai catches a glimpse of her face in one mirror, and the sight of it derails her every train of thought. Like cold water has doused her flames, she loses control of her wild flight in an instant, practically tripping on air to skid along the floor. A spinning view as she carreens to a halt - filled with sights of other reflections. Papers, and sands, and a familiar-looking child...strange scents and sights and sounds as she tries to regain her footing.

When Mai sees Fate, she nearly collapses all over again. She'd only met the girl twice before, but each time was memorable. The first, an incident that ended in the world very nearly breaking, from which she fled to try to keep those precious to her safe personally...and the other, the X-Egg. As hazy as the details of the latter have grown, it all comes back at Fate's single plea. "...Fate. Your mother, is she..."

All the ardent fury that drove her to reach this place in time, all her conviction and certainty...she looks around, where time and reality are splintering. The rings she bears wobble uncertainly, the flames nowhere near their full blaze, and she tries to straighten up. "...is this what your mother was trying to do?"

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

Perhaps. Perhaps it was for the best, for Fate to arrive now. Not simply with the boutiful gift of new strength, but for Nanoha... Nanoha receives something else.

Like a soothing balm washing over an angry burn, the fire in Nanoha's heart is snuffed. The embers of fury and and the burgeouning beginnings of hate doused and brought to cool before they could gain the chance to reach an uncontrollable wildfire proportion. It is perhaps this that Nanoha needed more than anything else in this moment.

"M... Mm. That's all I've wanted." She replies to Fate, voice little more than a murmur. How her heart yearns to do so right now, but it must wait. There is a time and a place, and that's not now in this hell of breaking dimensions and...


Each one, with its reflections of the past, draws Nanoha's gaze, giving fleeting glimpses of days long gone by. And for a moment- for a long moment, locked within the silence of her own head, Nanoha feels... Shame. If anything from just these small glimpses. Precia Testarossa is a woman to be pitied, more than hated. A mother who loved her child so dearly, and lost her, and then clearly lost herself.

Another catches her eye. And for a moment she's staring back at herself. The small form of a three yeard old in pigtails, curled up in a ball, face buried in a pillow and sobbing. The weary, exhausted, and heartbroken looks of her mother and siblings haunting her still to this day.

On this sight, Nanoha turns her back, a hard look of renewed determination etched upon the child's face.

That was her past. This is her now. But. Curiosity gets the better of her. Though the events contained within the other mirrors are perhaps some of the most private and carefully cherished memories, or worst nightmares of the past, she knows one thing.

"... Ren... Lera? When this is over, let's make a promise. No matter what happens, we'll always be friends." But this is not just an offer made to them, blue eyes glancing aside briefly. "And Fiat. ... And you too, Fate."

Murmured as the warping dimensions apparently brings a strange and confounding synesthesia. Which of course leads to the most important question of all. "... Are we almost there?"

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0b_N6xhmY-k

An alarm blares, startling all the reflected girls, old and young, grieving and lonely, lost and found.

At the very tips of the crystalline shards comes just a hint of white light, like the shimmer off a wind-stirred summer lake.

<< I /am/ slowing it down, and have been this entire time, >> Lindy replies with the forced calm of someone underneath a magical strain of epic proportions. << And -- please be careful, Fate. I'd say 'you don't have to do this' but I know better. Just... please don't go off alone. You're almost there. >>

The white is rapidly spreading across the shattered chamber, like an infection. It pools in the eyes as it approaches.

"I told you, it's not safe!"

"I told you to stop!"

"I have to go -- Alicia -- ALICIA!!"

When the explosion clears, there's next to nothing left; the city gouged out of the land as though an immense shovel had simply scooped it away. No longer red or yellow, the room is blue, then black, as the last of the stars fade.

There's a sticky sickly sweet aftertaste.

All the clocks have stopped.

Now the teeth are skulls.

<< Not much further, now... soon, we'll be together again, my dear one. >>

It's the same voice that it has been all along, of course, albeit unrecognizably ragged with madness and grief. Choked with blood, her own and her enemies' and her children's. This one, however, lies in the present, not the past.

But the past's voice murmurs on, burbling on a tearful breeze.

"I won't rest. I won't stop. Not for anyone. No matter what! I -- will -- save -- you..."

Strange devices bleep and artifacts rattle. There's a second voice, an unrecognizable male one, who whispers a dark promise. "Lend me your resources, and together we will regain what you've lost. How could you not succeed? It's fate..." A Lost Logia, unmistakable as anything else with the strange skewed angles of its form, casts a strong purple radiance across the mirrors, forking like lightning.

The chamber shakes with the rising whine of activated Jewel Seeds, and finally buckles, ejecting everyone down its black path as though cracking a dimensional whip. It's like falling down a tall park slide.

Another slide, in crystalline passing, shows a brown and white cat seated at the top, flicking its tail back and forth. It rises, turns a circle, and vanishes.

"Yes, I know that. My best wasn't good enough, /again/. But I won't waste any more time on such a failure."

Now, as the vaulted ceiling, like a cracking egg, falls upwards and away, the girls find themselves facing a different sort of chasm. Floating obsidian glitters here and there in large chunks, relatively easy to leap between.

On the far side, barely visible in the distorted distance, stands a woman with robes of black and flowing purple hair. She wields a massive staff. Above her head, seven Jewel Seeds shine too brightly to look at directly.

<< Just -- a little -- more -- >>

COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro transforms into Precia Testarossa!

COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has fully healed herself. She is now ready to take on 9 opponents!

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Upon seeing the 'terrain' around Precia Testaross's lair - if you can still call it that - the Wind Knight comes to a decision; her bow and quiver rematerialize as she bounds across a couple of chunks of floating stone, clearing the way a bit for her allies to advance from the stairs.

The wrongness is palpable even to her; if she didn't know what marks the path back, she might well consider turning and fleeing, but there are multiple other reasons why she suppresses the desire to flee. Her friends need her - established companions like Nanoha or Lera, and less-familiar allies such as Fate or Masque Feu, alike - and she's not going to turn her back on them. She has a duty that she won't gainsay, since the dimensional quake that Precia's ritual threatens would certainly rend Cephiro asunder along with the other dimensions. And her own will won't permit her to break the promise she made by stepping into the portal which was conjured in Ueno Park: she crossed into the circle because she had decided to help, had been called to help and had answered that call: she won't retract the promise which her actions made more clearly than any words.

The Jewel Seeds shine too brightly to look at. She raises her left hand, partly to shield her gaze a bit, partly because her left hand is the one she normally uses to cast her spells ... but she doesn't cast, nor does she draw back an arrow. Not yet.

"Precia Testarossa-san!" she calls out. "Draw back the power you're conjuring, or nothing will survive to witness whether or not your plans bear the fruit you hope for!"

Surely Mama Tea-san has already issued some such ultimatum, but the Wind Knight doesn't want to resort immediately to weapons and spells if there's any choice, any chance that simple words will help persuade Precia. Then another lash of power makes her flinch back a fraction of a step - and the Wind Knight lets out a breath; there *is* no choice, it seems.

"Winds of Admonishment!!" she calls out; the binding whirlwind is certainly one of her standard opening gambits - and if Precia has monitored her potential (turned actual) enemies, she'll know it - but the Wind Knight has to hope that containing the raw, chaotic power will do SOME measure of good, instead of just bottling it up to erupt with greater force.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Admonishment on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.

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

Ren is still recovering from the deeply personal reflection. At the same time though she's aware of the others -- the ones pertaining to Fate and Precia specifically. The story is sad. Heartwrenching even. She fills pity and remorse for Precia for a few moments. A mother trying desperately to recover her lost daughter. Doesn't she know that's impossible? Once somoene is gone -- they're gone. She remembers her father explaining that to her when she was just a little girl -- right after her grandfather's funeral. It was eye-opening. And perhaps not something she should have been told at such an age.

Her ears perk up upon hearing Nanoha's words, however. A smile works it way onto her face -- it's strained, but it's there. "Of course. Friends. Always, Nanoha." Her words are filled with sincerity and warmth. And once again she's reminded of what she's fighting for. If the Earth were to be torn apart, so would the friendships she so treasures. And at that moment they crash into Precia's lair proper, Ren coming to a halt to hover slightly above where the Grand Magus is conjuring up the reality-destroying spell she so vehemently thinks will reunite her with her beloved Alicia. There's that twinge of sadness again, but that disappears quickly enough upon seeing Fuu attack. Right. No holding back. She /must/ be stopped.


And superheated jewels are flying down at the mad magus in an attempt to batter her good.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has used Seeker Barrage on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has finished attacking.

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

"Berry, it's--" Lera hesitates. "It's not like that. Fate's here with us, to help. It's--" She looks at Mai. Her eyes widen for a moment, as she looks at her, but she says nothing. They know, precisely, where they stand. That includes having no conflict here. "--like the mystery waitress said. Her mother's trying to do this."

She keeps walking, then, pointedly trying to not look at mirrors. She catches the glimpse of that sadder, more withdrawn Ren though. Her heart sinks for a moment, then.

"Mm?" Lera murmurs, coming through the haze of her own thoughts and the smell of the place. She glances sideways at Nanoha, blinking in surprise, before she smiles. She looks forward and nods. The smile doesn't leave her face, as she keeps walking forward. "Of course we will! Whatever may come!"

She slows, though, as she hears the voice. No, she corrects, the voices. A man's voice mixes in with the woman's; the voice that she knows, though she doesn't know the speaker, from the duel at the Rainbow Bridge. She tenses, then, and she stops as she sees the vaulted ceiling crack away. She gets her first good look at Precia Testarossa, standing on the chunk of obsidian -- with a chasm between them.

She frowns, then, and lifts off the ground. Once upon a time, she would have had to leap across the floating islands of obsidian stone. She learned to fly, though. "Sky?"


"I'm glad you're with me, buddy," the Midchildan says, flashing a smile down at the sword-Device. "Let's do this."

<You, too. And... be careful.>

"I'll try." Lera winks. Then she lifts the sword up, as she begins to fly towards Precia. A magical circle flickers off the tip of her sword. Two strands of plasma fire ignite, then swirl together into a sphere, which goes flying off the tip of the broadsword -- and straight for one of the Jewel Seeds. "Miss Testarossa! You have to stop this! You'll--you'll destroy this entire world, if you do this!"

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Plasma Ball on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly counters Fuu Hououji's Winds of Admonishment, taking 5 Fatigue damage! Fuu Hououji is Psyched! Honoka Yukishiro's Reverse ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Tactician ability activates! Cripple applied to Honoka Yukishiro!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro's counterattack, Hexagonal Shield, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Fuu Hououji!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly braces Ren Aizawa's Seeker Barrage, taking 8 Fatigue damage! Honoka Yukishiro's Block ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Parry ability activates! Exhausted applied to Honoka Yukishiro!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly counters Lera Camry's Plasma Ball, taking 7 Fatigue damage! Honoka Yukishiro's Reverse ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro's counterattack, Hexagonal Shield, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Lera Camry!

<Pose Tracker> Masque Feu [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Seika catches the look from Fiat Silver - (No, she can't be another Soeur,) part of her thinks immediately as she sees the silver mask. (Augustine would have said something.)

She nods, courteously. As though to assure her she's got this.

She listens, for a moment.

Mothers are important, Cure Berry says. Masque Feu says nothing. She closes her eyes, then opens them and stares ahead. She can hear the girls vowing to stay friends forever. She does not let anything show on her face, even though she knows that whatever she might say to encourage them, it would be a distant thing. The regal aura around her seems only to deepen, even though she stands alone - the only soeur, the only sister.

She does not even look at the image flickering to her left. Of a dark-haired girl standing in a lobby, watching the shadows of a man in a business suit and a woman in a glamorous dress smile and mouth i-love-you and walk out the door and leave her alone.

White washes out the image. Nothing besides remains. The chamber shakes; Masque Feu just tosses her head and touches a hand to her hip, a rock in the storm of chaotic imagery.

Emotions don't matter right now, she realizes. Only the mission.

She breathes. Presia Testarossa comes into view. The Jewel Seeds shine bright; she winces slightly and fixes her eyes on the woman instead.

"I am sorry," she says quietly, because it is all she can think of to say - because what is, for the friends with her, a close-cutting change of life, to Masque Feu is a duty.

With utter calm, she slides her right heel away from her left to brace herself. Coils of fire weave up around her in a double helix. They wind up her arms, circling up to her wrists as she brings her hands together near her right shoulder.

"Red Bind," she calls out, voice level but ringing. With a billow of dark ringlets, she throws her arms back, head tossed forward, before swinging each arm to cast a winding arc of shining fire whipping through the air - one coil, then the other.

The sacred flames writhe, spiralling in on themselves, then stretching out into ropy coils as she attempts to wrap Precia Testarossa up in a tangling embrace of flame.

COMBAT: Masque Feu has used Red Bind on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Masque Feu has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly braces Masque Feu's Red Bind, taking 6 Fatigue damage! Masque Feu is Psyched! Honoka Yukishiro's Block ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Parry ability activates! Tangle applied to Honoka Yukishiro!

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

Cure Berry draws her attention. Her lips crease, and she finally nods hesitantly, perhaps she wasn't expecting words like that so swiftly, thinking it would take years and years for what she'd done to be accepted, despite the kindness of others. "Thank you, but it was still my choice, and now I have to share the blame." She looks at Takamachi Nanoha, pain in her eyes, as she asks to promise that they'll be friends. And she says nothing. She doesn't make that promise, even if she wants to.

She tears her scarlet eyes away and looks a mirror to the side. She sees Lera's eyes as a dim reflection in them. She sees the gravestone. A sudden chill raises goosepimples all over her body. She remembers Lera's discussion on how Fathers can be important as well.

Maybe it wasn't until now that she realized how Lera truly felt. "I'm so sorry." She whispers, believing it was her fault that she was feeling this pain all over again. Cure Berry draws her attention again, through the yellow light, brighter than Bardiche's, "I don't - think I'm doing it. Mother has activated the Jewel Seeds I think, so they may be reacting to our strong emotions." A beat, "And hers." A look to Mai, "I - think she's trying to reclaim someone very important to her. Someone she lost." Her shoulders shake a little, there's notable hesitation, like she doesn't want to admit it but she does, each word showing her own pain. "The daughter I failed to replace."

Again the calm, supportive voice enters into her skull. Someone who had been so kind to her when she was at her lowest point. <<I'll be careful. And I won't go off on my own. I know now that I'm not alone. Now that I know something of her feelings I'll say what I have to say with all of them at my side.>>

White. So bright. So blindingly bright. She remembers. She /remembers/ the sound like the roar of distant thunder. She remembers running to the balcony with a brown and white-furred cat following her closely, rubbing against her legs as she watched the column appear in the distance at the facility where her mother had worked. The only pain was in looking at the light, and then the light went out.

The dividing line between transplanted memories and that which are hers. The sound of beeping monitors. A familiar one filled with such black grief and resolution. A darker one taking advantage of it. "Fate." She repeats the origin of her name, growing a shade paler. And then with a trembling shake, she's deposited downward. She makes nary a sound as she slides through the darkness, the only light she sees being Bardiche's gem.

The same cat. Or is it? She grows even paler, and chokes out, "L-Linith!" Remembering the last time she'd seen her, placing her hood over her head, walking away into blinding flurries of snow. She had to clear her throat to clear away the now blinding wave of nausea, and grief just as falls onto an obsidian chunk. She doesn't land too heavily, her flight magic asserts itself at the last moment, her boots clattering and stares across the room at her mother.

Her everything.

Even if Precia didn't feel the same, even if her mother had done unspeakable things to her, Fate realized that she loved her no less. She floats from one chunk of Obsidian, to the next, then even closer. She doesn't tell the girls with her to stay their attack, she didn't have the right to assert her love for her mother over the welfare of so many people. But she did have the right to speak to her.

So for the first time in a long time, Fate lifts her eyes from the floor to meet her mother's. It's something she hadn't dared to do in years. "I have something I want to say to you. Maybe it's true that I'm a failure and a fake. I'm sorry that I couldn't be Alicia, or live up to your expectations. I'm sorry that I was too selfish to realize your true feelings until now."

She reaches out a gloved hand to her palm up. How many times had she stretched out her hand for what she wished for, but couldn't reach her? And yet, it was something she had to do all the same, "The only thing real I have to offer you are my feelings. My own true feelings. Ever since you-" She hesitates, "-made me, I've always wanted you. I still do. I want to make you happy, to see you smile again. If nothing else, isn't that real?"

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used The True Feelings of Fate Testarossa on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Without the Barrier flag, only a ranged attack can counter a ranged attack. Please counter with the correct range of attack, or with an attack with the Barrier flag.

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

This delay does let Fiat Silver spot those behind her. Fate is there. She's alive, doing well - shes' with Nanoha. And then Nanoha is turning her attention towards her--

Blue eyes hit the opaque lenses of Fiat Silver's mask. "Tsk," she says, hand on her hip as she looks away. "... I don't know if I'm the kind of person you'd be so eager to call a 'friend,' Takamachi. But... we'll always have today to look back to, at least." And with another, brief glance, she smiles.

The world shifts, then. White, then red, blue, black, something sticking in the back of her mouth. A voice rippling, choked - The ceiling rises - and there she is. A woman with seven seeds, seven stars, above her.

Lilian Abarth's spine turns momentarily to ice. Her teeth grind slightly against each other. Terror fills her for a single screaming moment. The world slides - Lilian misses sight of the cat, but the whip-crack of reality itself is enough to break her momentary tension. Beneath that fear, two things twirl together, braided in her heart:

You can't let someone like this go unchallenged--

-- and if you're going to go out, go out with style.

Fiat Silver rises upwards with her head tilted back. "Precia Testarossa!!"

And then Fiat Silver... claps her hands. Once. It rings outwards.

"As one thief to another, I must applaud your courage. You weren't content to steal these Lost Logia - powerful and precious as they are - a single one would be a career-topper for anyone, and you've had so many you could throw them away to try to stop our approach. And now, you're threatening to steal away the dreams and the hopes and the very existence of untold multitudes!" Fiat doesn't want to think of quite how many there are. She keeps a mental hand firmly on that throbbing braiding of passion.

Fiat Silver keeps rising upwards. Somehow it gets easier. She wonders, a little, if she's glowing. "No - you succeed in your goals, and you aren't content. You rob the real - you plunder the hearts of your success. You steal from her -- You steal from yourself!"

She sweeps her unarmored hand through her hair. "But even among thieves--"

Fiat Silver's armored gauntlet comes up, index finger jabbing forwards. She hears Fate's word, and her voice chokes up, enunciation interfering. "Some things can't be forgiven--!" Ugh, she thinks, my eyes are misting up again--! Not now!!

COMBAT: Fiat Silver has used Cutting Remarks on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Fiat Silver has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly counters Fate Testarossa's The True Feelings of Fate Testarossa, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Honoka Yukishiro's Reverse ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro's counterattack, I Always Hated You, partially gets through, doing 3 Fatigue damage to Fate Testarossa! Fate Testarossa is Quipped! Fate Testarossa is Taunted! Stun applied to Fate Testarossa!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly counters Fiat Silver's Cutting Remarks, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Fiat Silver is Psyched! Honoka Yukishiro's Reverse ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Tactician ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro is Taunted!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro's counterattack, Photon Barrage, partially gets through, doing 16 Fatigue damage to Fiat Silver! Critical Counterhit!

<Pose Tracker> Cure Berry [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

A moment's smile - and Berry lets her gaze linger upon Fate for a moment longer.

The world turns into a slide. Striking her head against the ground and finding it pliant, she starts to slide backwards down the thing, the whole surreal experience becoming rather... like a dream. As if she could just close her eyes and wish it all away. But the feeling of falling was real - she cries out - twisting around, and pushing up, kinda tripping as she launches herself into a leap at the last moment, landing upon one of the floating islands. "And this... must be her mother," says Berry, her eyes flickering towards Lera. Her voice was calm - tightly controlled. And as the other magical girls launch their attacks...!

Berry lets a little smile touch her lips. Even in this surreal dream world, if it was real... she launches herself from island to island - noticing Fiat's tears - but she can't be distracted - not yet...!

Not until she bounds off of the last island nearest the floating sorceress, and with a mighty cry, spin around and try to give her a kick in the midsection. A kick solved a fair few things, after all.

COMBAT: Cure Berry has used Perfect Dart on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Cure Berry has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro perfectly dodges Cure Berry's Perfect Dart, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Dodge!

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The universe trembles, screams out in anguish, tears Mai's attention from the girl at the centre of all this. Tea Mama's voice - familiar from the fireworks incident, for better or worse - serves as a reminder of everything at stake. They're almost there - as the final vision appears, as the past's scream of anguish sings out the devastation that befell that city, as tragedy spurred on desperation...Mai's hands are slack at her sides. Fate explains - an explanation that makes things all the more horrible. "Replace? You don't mean..." But then, the vision is fading, the truth revealed.

A chasm of glittering obsidian yawns between the girls and the woman, between those desperate to save reality and the one driven by deeper desperation. But...Mai doesn't scream out a challenge, doesn't rush rashly into battle against those seven brilliant lights...instead, those sentences from the past seem to resound in her ears, striking deeply into her worst fears.

'No matter what! I will save you...' 'My best wasn't good enough, again...'

Bearing a cold bangle of gold and jade around her wrist, Mai brings one hand up to her chest. It clenches the cloth of her shirt, holds the feelings that brought her this far at bay. Deep down at heart...she can understand. If she had been in this kind of situation, this kind of despair, this kind of loss over her last loved one...can Mai Tokiha truly say that she wouldn't have gone to the same extremes?

She doesn't know. And that uncertainty is the root of fear.

Part of her can't work up the anger needed to oppose this - this drive that she can find sympathy with. Another part wants to leave the Testarossas to have it out, to complain about being drawn into another disaster. And part...knows that she needs to step up. Knows what's at peril for the world, for her loved ones...Mai's on the edge, and needs something to be the tipping point.

Fate's desperate plea - and the harsh rebuke in return - are enough to be that push.

Mai closes her eyes, to hide the deep sorrow within. "I can understand. That's the horrible part - I can understand -why-. This...you're going so far, and part of me can still understand. But..." Words from another mother ring in Mai's ears as she raises her chin, opens her eyes to glare defiantly at Precia. "A mother who would reject one child to save another...that I can't accept." At last, her rings blaze to life - and raising them high, Mai brings a wave of flame to bear down on Precia Testarossa, to envelop and ensnare.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has used Infernal Embrace on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly braces Mai Tokiha's Infernal Embrace, taking 7 Fatigue damage! Honoka Yukishiro's Block ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Parry ability activates! Diversion and Trap applied to Honoka Yukishiro!

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

"'Nanoha'." The correction is simple and gentle. She's even smiling when Fiat attempts that light dissuasion. Nanoha is not curtailed.

But before she can go any further down that road, the chaotic shift, alarm, and hall of mirrors to days long gone by turn to such a blinding white light, she's forced to cover her eyes. In the rush of blinding brightness and the swirl of voices from the past, when she blinks away the burning after-glow on her vision, blue eyes focus squarely upon that woman. Not even the Jewel Seeds above Precia's head can match the brighteness of their intensity to the clench-toothed expression upon the girl's face.

Fate opens her heart.

Even after all of the abuse, even after Precia had flat out told the girl that she could never hold a candle to the long dead Alicia, Nanoha is silent as Fate still proclaims her undying affections. It's utterly heart wrenchingly pure. How many mothers would kill for a girl like Fate? A child who thinks of nothing but her parent's happiness and light above all else. They say mother is god in the eyes of a child, and Nanoha now understands just what that very saying means in this one instant.

And yet this broken woman intends to break the mightiest of taboos, to bring back the dead, at great threat and cost to everyone and everything around her. The maybe even destroy a whole world.

"... Precia Testarossa... I came here today... Not knowing what I would do when we came face to face..." She admits, voice soft and level. "The fact that we've all come this far, that Fate is here standing in front of you now should mean something; that she still loves you even after all those things you said and did. For all you think she's a failure, I see a girl who wants nothing but your love and to be your daughter, and to make you happy. She's not Alicia, but that doesn't make her any less your daughter, and she's desperately hoping you can see that."

Here she pauses, as though searching for words, before her hand grips tighter on her Device, gauntlet creaking from the strength of her grip, "I came here to stop what you're doing. And I was going to do it with anger in my heart, but now I can't even feel that anymore. I'm sorry for you, miss Testarossa. In genuinely am. I'm sorry for your loss. But you need to make peace and accept the love that Fate has for you..."

Now that dark shadow casts over Nanoha's expression, fingers curling and flexing briefly before...

-She's off like a bullet.

In an instant, a blur of white, blue, and pink launches straight for the grand magus, a blitz fast enough to push a forcible bow wave of air pressure in front of her and leaving behind only a resultant miniature sonig boom in her wake, as she reels one hand back. And swings her open palm with every single ounce of her strength, aimed for Precia's face.

"And that's why we're going to MAKE you see that."

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used When a Nine-Year-Old Hauls Off and Slaps Someone on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro perfectly counters Nanoha Takamachi's When a Nine-Year-Old Hauls Off and Slaps Someone, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Counter! Honoka Yukishiro's Reverse ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro's counterattack, Hexagonal Shield, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Nanoha Takamachi!

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNTi3BU6X1k

The girls come for Precia en masse.

And at first, it barely seems like she notices their presence. A violet shield made up of a complex arrangement of shimmering hexagons intervenes over and over, more brightly against the Magic Knight's cyclone and Midchildan's ball of plasma -- which is most certainly /not/ allowed to threaten the Jewel Seed with more than a little proximate heat -- and more dimly against Ren's jewels and Masque Feu's flames.

Nothing touches her.

It is only when Fate addresses her that she even turns around.

"You -- even after all this, you come crawling to me? You're pathetic. Nothing like Alicia. Your 'real feelings' are worth less than nothing to me."

Her eyes widen, crazed, as she sends forth a Photon Barrage from her staff, the purple version of Fate's, and also about five times more dense with individual shots. It screams straight towards Fiat Silver. "You think it's /your/ forgiveness I want?"

Fading backwards away from Cure Berry's kick, she allows her shields to ward off Mai's disapproval. Nanoha she allows to get close to her -- point-blank close -- before bringing them back into being, stopping the girl's palm a flat inch from her cheek.

And then she smiles.

It is not a pretty expression.

"My adorable Fate -- /this/ is the friend you have brought to see me? Such naughty children. Such naughty children; they must be punished."

And then her other hand, her free hand, which has yet to be seen, emerges holding something not so different from her daughter's Spark End, a scintillating bolt of Jewel Seed-charged magical energy sufficiently massive as to, as it lengthens upon revelation, be both wider and taller than Nanoha by a wide margin.

It detonates in the girl's face, Precia flying upwards from the explosion (though mindful to stay close to the tube at her side, the tube from before, which contains a pretty corpse).

She swings her staff outwards, and it becomes a whip. A massive whip, one with enough tails, made of crackling yellow energy, for everyone's throats.

And it launches its tips in all directions, to rend, to tear, and most of all, to choke.

The only one spared is Fate. Well -- 'spared' might be a little generous.

"You say you care about me, but you've brought an army to stop me! You've always hated me most of all, my cruel Fate. Or perhaps it's your so-called friends you despise... sending them to their deaths..."

COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Thunder Crash on Nanoha Takamachi.

COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Charge Lash on Mai Tokiha.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Charge Lash on Cure Berry.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Charge Lash on Fiat Silver.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Charge Lash on Masque Feu.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Charge Lash on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Charge Lash on Ren Aizawa.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Charge Lash on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used My Cruel Fate on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Cure Berry narrowly dodges Honoka Yukishiro's Charge Lash, taking 7 Fatigue damage! Cure Berry's Flash ability activates! Cure Berry is Taunted! Trap applied to Cure Berry!
COMBAT: Fiat Silver fails to dodge Honoka Yukishiro's Charge Lash, taking 10 Fatigue damage! Trap applied to Fiat Silver!
COMBAT: Masque Feu fails to dodge Honoka Yukishiro's Charge Lash, taking 8 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha narrowly braces Honoka Yukishiro's Charge Lash, taking 3 Fatigue damage! Mai Tokiha's Block ability activates! Mai Tokiha is Taunted!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi narrowly dodges Honoka Yukishiro's Thunder Crash, taking 33 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa fails to brace Honoka Yukishiro's My Cruel Fate, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Fate Testarossa is Quipped!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa narrowly braces Honoka Yukishiro's Charge Lash, taking 1 Fatigue damage! Ren Aizawa's Block ability activates! Ren Aizawa's Parry ability activates! Trap applied to Ren Aizawa!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji perfectly counters Honoka Yukishiro's Charge Lash, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Critical Counter!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji's counterattack, Spinning Slash, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Honoka Yukishiro!
COMBAT: Lera Camry perfectly counters Honoka Yukishiro's Charge Lash, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Critical Counter! Lera Camry's Reverse ability activates! Lera Camry's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Lera Camry's counterattack, Sentinel Cross, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Honoka Yukishiro!

<Pose Tracker> Masque Feu [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Masque Feu does not change her expression as Fate is so forcefully rebuffed. But somewhere behind the mask, something clicks into place.

A small, furious spark.

The crack of a whip rings through the chamber. Masque Feu lets out a sudden gasp, leaping backwards briskly enough to go legs over head. It does not do her much good save that instead of her neck, the coiling lash catches her by the ankle. Her hair billows behind her as she twists unthinkingly, clenching her teeth as she slips free of the bond and goes spiralling back to earth to land with a dull thump not far from Fate.

"Masque Feu, be careful!" Augustine trills, flitting in a circle around Seika as the girl begins to push to her feet. "She has some form of barrier. Somehow we are going to have to punch through it!"

"Yes, so I can see," Masque Feu murmurs, her voice hollow in her throat as she pushes to one knee, a high heel braced against the floor.

When she stands again, it is with a flourish. She tosses her hair back, turning to glare towards Precia, a long, steady lance of disapproval.

She does not hold it long enough to wound. Just enough that the hardness in her clear blue-grey eyes and the hand poised at her hip convey a trace of ice.

"The most precious gift that one can ever share is their true heart. It is not a gift that can ever be rightly thrown away, even by ones bound by the ties of family," she says, her voice clear and even - and it is clear she is not talking to Precia, as she takes a step to one side.

To stand beside Fate Testarossa. As though to try and bring her into that aura of assured calm she seems to carry around her.

Beneath the ballroom mask she wears, Masque Feu's smile is not large, but it shines with quiet encouragement as she nods to Fate, once.

"Never let anyone throw your heart away. Even someone dear to you. There are so many here who love you.

"Never forget it."

COMBAT: Masque Feu has used Ojou-sama Believes In You on Fate Testarossa.

COMBAT: Masque Feu has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa accepts Masque Feu's Ojou-sama Believes In You, taking 0 Fatigue damage!

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

Lera watches her attack fizzle against the shield of fire. Her eyes widen for a moment, and then she narrows them. She didn't expect a mere fireball to get through the defenses of a Grand Magus. But the ease with which she negates their attacks and holds them at bay makes her heart sink in her chest, for a moment, and she opens her mouth to cry out when Nanoha goes charging in.

But it's too late. She sees the blast fire right towards the small mage, and then Precia's whip is sweeping out across the room. <Dual Form.> Lera's sword splits into two; paired sabers spin up, then cross, and the whip of energy collides into the cross-shaped blades with a shower and spray of sparks. She separates her swords, staring at the mage.

'You've always hated me most of all, my cruel Fate.'

"Shut... SHUT UP!" Lera screams at Precia. The girl shoots up off the ground, suddenly accelerating to the speed of a rushing train. Her swords are held out to each side like wings. They leave trails of red-orange light burning in their wake -- and Lera pivots as she comes in towards the Grand Magus. She doesn't think she can hit her, really.

But she isn't thinking.

Her sword slashes out at nearly supersonic speeds, as she yanks to a stop in front of the older woman. "Do you even see what she put yourself through!? She worked so hard for you, and you--you can't even appreciate it! What kind of mother are you!?"

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Line Burst on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly braces Lera Camry's Line Burst, taking 9 Fatigue damage! Lera Camry is Psyched! Honoka Yukishiro's Block ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Parry ability activates!

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

That barrage of blasts slams into Fiat Silver, oh boy do they! She is able to parry some with the Prosoma Guard once she's been blasted back a few dozen meters, but she slams into one of those obsidian platforms, hard.

She kips back up. Fury drives her, even if the whips lashing downwards do less so. "Telson mode, go!" she declares, even as one of the whipping, electrically yellow tendrils of agony moves towards her. As if moved on its own accord, her arm raises up -

<Deploying,> Silver Scorpion says, with perhaps a whiff of unwonted electronic passion -

But her efforts to send her own day-glo blue ribbon against the yellow come to naught, or at least mostly naught; it's enough to send her staggering with a whip around her shoulder and her unshielded arm, which is better at least than being choked, if little less painful.

But something else is driving her forwards. "You liar!!" she shouts at Precia. "I heard your opinions - she heard you, and now you're doing this!? Have you no decency, no dignity? She is a person --" <Grenadier Mode,> Silver Scorpion choruses as Fiat Silver pivots the baton forwards.

"Tortoise!" That new spell is what comes to her first, lashed as she is. A small cluster of the golden disklike grenades whip out, spinning around - aiming to gracefully bracket Precia, before they erupt in their scintillant dozens of colors as they spend their force in radial blasts. Will it be able to ring home against a woman fueled by /seven/ lost logia?

Fiat Silver can only hope.

COMBAT: Fiat Silver has used Scorpio Tortoise on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Fiat Silver has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro fails to dodge Fiat Silver's Scorpio Tortoise, taking 19 Fatigue damage! Diversion and Stagger applied to Honoka Yukishiro!

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Flames crash against a barrier, burning with Mai's disgust - but she can't be elated at the result. No confident quips spring to her lips, no joy at an enemy faltering - not that Precia is even close to faltering. This kind of foe...a deep-buried part of Mai doesn't want to fight Precia. Not out of self-preservation, not out of feeling out of place, not out of fear - but because it's like one of those twisted mirrors from before. If pushed beyond all reason, if she had no other options...is this what she might become?

One of the few things to help is Precia Testarossa's unbridled cruelty - her eyes hold no mercy for those who have come to stand against her, her words holding mockery and not a hint of kindness. Every word helps put a little more distance between this woman and the visage looming in her imagination...but it's disconcerting, all the same.

Lightning crackles, snapping Mai from her thoughts - just in time to bring her rings up as a guard against that cruel whip. It's enough to spare her the worst of its 'mercies', but it sears with cruelty - and one quavering arm is all that keeps it from outright choking her into silence. Pain at the back of her neck, her Element only warding Precia's cruelty away from her throat... As she grits her teeth, she glances over to Fate. Fate, who was prepared to shatter the world for this woman, whose shadow taunted about those feelings never being returned...

That monster was right, after all this time. And that thought makes Mai's heart sink even further.

"...so this is the kind of...mother you are? You're going out of your way to blame this Fate girl for everything, even when..." It's close to her - but all the same, the ring holding the lightning lash at bay begins to spin, fire and lightning sparking against each other. "Even when it isn't her fault? Your grief, your regrets...the world's breaking because of what you're doing. You're the reason we're here...!"

Flames ignite brightly, forcing lightning back enough for Mai to escape the noose - and with a roar of heat, she reclaims the air she abandoned. Her jaw works as she rises into the air, tentatively closing in while hesitating to approach Precia directly. "...that's not right. Whatever the circumstances - whatever the reasons..."

Mai glances towards Fate, then returns her gaze to the elder Testarossa. "...she's your daughter, and you should never have treated her like that." In response to Precia's attack, Mai lashes out. It's a thin whip of flame, carving a path through the air before rushing to slam against Precia's staff. Her gaze, burning behind the flames...is strangely dull, as if this isn't where she's really looking...

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has used Misplaced Pyre Lash on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

A moment ago, the Wind Knight had her bow at the ready. As soon as Precia brings her whip to bear, though, sword replaces bow and the Magic Knight of Wind pivots in place, a powerful slash deflecting the whip. "If it's a 'cruel fate' you speak of, Precia-san," she calls out, "then you need not blame your daughter!"

She plants her sword next to her, bow rematerializing as she reaches over her shoulder for an arrow. She's keeping an eye on her allies; some of them look substantially worse off from the whipping dispensed by Precia, but everyone still seems to be bearing up under the sorceress's assault. A breeze with no regard for the space-warped currents rises about her, ruffling her skirts and tousling her hair, but she pays it little mind as she takes a kyuudou stance, lowering her bow and drawing back her shaft ...

"Gale Arrow!"

The wind around her whips forward, encompassing her arrow at the instant she releases her draw, and both steadies the arrow's flight and propels it even faster; the Wind Knight's will guides it, hoping to slip it through a crack between the panels of Precia's barrier ... if such a crack exists, perhaps while she's focused on defending against something bigger.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Gale Arrow on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Without the Barrier flag, only a melee attack can counter a melee attack. Please counter with the correct range of attack, or with an attack with the Barrier flag.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro fails to dodge Mai Tokiha's Misplaced Pyre Lash, taking 15 Fatigue damage! Exhausted applied to Honoka Yukishiro!

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

The attacks ping harmlessly off of Precia's barrier, and Ren grits her teeth. She isn't even acknowledging them! Truly the mark of a Grand Magus. Ren looks to everyone briefly, then back to Precia. She knew this wasn't going to be easy. And talking with this woman...

...Is not an option. The words she directs at Fate are vicious. Ren's mouth momentarily falls open. This is wrong. And cruel. Something twists inside of the mage at that moment. "How dare you..." She says in a shaky tone, narrowing her gaze on the Grand Magus. "You don't deserve happiness. I felt sorry for you. But not anymore. I'm not going to go easy on you. YOU'RE THE WORST!" Ren shouts the last part, quaking with anger. She's never spoken to anyone in this manner before. Sure, she's gotten mouthy with some of the enemies she's faced in the past but /this/ is /completely/ different.

She truly /hates/ Precia Testarossa. Fate deserves so much better. And seeing Nanoha boldly rush in to deliver a slap to Precia -- albeit an unsuccessful one -- gives her validation in her feelings. So does everyone else's reactions. Of course, Precia herself isn't going to just stand there and take whatever's thrown at her. In a flash she retaliates, Ren barely having time to throw up a barrier. It holds momentarily, before shattering, the whip of energy shooting through. Ren, however, raises her hand at the last moment, grabbing onto it as it attempts to wrap itself around her neck. This leads to the whip not quite tightening all the way, but it still hurts as she struggles to keep it from doing so.

"Hrk!" She winces, but is able to raise up her rapier and slash it downward into the whip. Upon impact there's a burst of energy that travels down the length of the tendril, heading directly back to the source. In this case, Precia and her device.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has used Magical Burst on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly braces Fuu Hououji's Gale Arrow, taking 5 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Fuu Hououji is Psyched! Honoka Yukishiro's Block ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro perfectly counters Ren Aizawa's Magical Burst, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Counter! Honoka Yukishiro's Reverse ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro's counterattack, Hexagonal Shield, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Ren Aizawa!

<Pose Tracker> Cure Berry [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.
  • WHAK*

Normally, that was a good sound - the sound bad guys make when Berry's boot strikes them. Unfortunately - the barrier that the sorceress erects means that that whaking sound? That was less Berry's boot striking the barrier, and more the barrier striking Berry's foot. Tears well up at the corners of Berry's eyes - doubly so as the whips last out. As opposed to letting the lash find throat, Berry uses her hand to grasp it, twisting it around a forearm and giving it a tug.

All around her, Berry sees people trying - calling out, fighting - Berry twists the whip once more around her forearm, trying to untwist it now - it was trapped! And the energy tingled through her arm. "Fight on, Fate!" calls Berry - the fate of the universe tickling at the back of her mind. "Don't let her... urk!" she calls.

Said urking comes from the pain of the lash around her arm.

"...there's always hope! For everyone!" she says, her mind flickering back to Setsuna as she says that. Well. Maybe not everyone.

But she didn't really mean that.

COMBAT: Cure Berry has used Never Give Up Hope! on Fate Testarossa.

COMBAT: Cure Berry has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa accepts Cure Berry's Never Give Up Hope!, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Surge applied to Fate Testarossa!

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Innocent Starter(Music Box) - Original by Nana Mizuki - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBQYDijYZPg

Each word is like a physical blow. Like ice deposited right into her chest cavity. At once her eyes lower, her hand trembles and shakes, then falls back to her side. "N-No, that's not true." The denial is there, but does she actually believe her own denial? The only thing real about her is worth less than nothing to her mother. She didn't know what to say, not at all. All words fled her once again. Maybe it would have better if she'd simply slept forever in waking.

When her name is spoken again, she doesn't take 'adorable' as a term of endearment, but she reflexively looked up, eyes wide as she saw Nanoha's palm stopped within an inch from her cheek, her mouth opens and becomes agape as she sees the aerial combat mage doing anything but aerial combat. She wanted to scream when she saw that smile. She knew what was coming. "No!" She puts a a shaking hand to her chest, "She's not my friend! I don't deserve her kindness! Please, leave her alone! Punish /me/ instead!"

The growing bolt of violet light in her mother's hand tells her that she's going to do anything but that. Fortunately, Nanoha survives the detonation. But the whip, all too familiar, causes a strangled noise to erupt from her throat, she cringes in place... and nothing. Well not quite nothing. Her punishment took on a far different form. Her whole body felt numb as she hears those words as the ice and chill finally ran it's course. She tries to speak, but finds that her tongue feels like sand.

Masque Feu speaks to her in that moment, telling her that her true feelings are a gift. She wants to believe it, wants to believe it so desperately. That someone can't simply throw her feelings away, but everything her mother says to refute it feels like her feelings were absolutely worthless, wasted. She says, "You're right." Though she doesn't believe it, there's no conviction in her words. "I won't forget it."

And then Berry, it's disheartening to see a rival of Eas' cut off so easily by her mother's attack. Her eyes widen at the brutality she'd seen a hundred times before, but never inflicted upon anyone she didn't feel deserve it, that being herself. "Pretty Cure! I-" She feels a kernel of hope within her chest, it's small, but enough that she feels she can speak to her mother again, "I won't lose hope." A promise, though it might be one she can't keep.

Slowly she turns to face Precia once more. The words come, but not from a place where she'd practiced them, rehearsed them. They come right from the bottom of her vulnerable and hurting heart, "I didn't bring them. They came of their own accord. I once told myself that granting you your wish was the most important thing to me, no matter what it might be. I was wrong. /You're/ the most important thing to me! And because I know that I can tell you you're wrong in placing your wish over the lives of so many people."

Looking up at Precia again, she then speaks again slowly deliberately, "I may not be Alicia, but I have her memories. Those will always be a part of me, and I know she wouldn't want you to do this either. She would always love you no matter what, but she would hate what you're doing now. If I'm cruel for saying that, then I can accept that. So I'm asking you to stop this and-"

She raises her hand again, "-to come with me. Come with me and I'll protect you from anything and everything that comes our way. Not because I'm your daughter..." She slowly lurches forward, like she wants to hug her, but stops short, knowing the power she wields, knowing that each word could be her last "...but because you're my mother! The only future I want is one I can share with you!"

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Because you're my Mother! on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly counters Fate Testarossa's Because you're my Mother!, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Honoka Yukishiro's Reverse ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro's counterattack, Thunder Crash, partially gets through, doing 47 Fatigue damage to Fate Testarossa! Critical Counterhit!

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edpDD0fdmUQ

There was nothing else Nanoha could do. No other option, choice, or action to take that would satisfy the outcry of her heart, screaming for justice with every furious and fast paced beat, a screaming need for resolution of this tragdey boiling within her blood. Of course against a vastly superior foe, even if Nanoha's blow had connected it would have been little more than an insect bite upon a rhinocerous. One that gores her in disproportionate retaliation.

With her palm stopped just a mew fraction of an inch from Precia's face, blue eyes widen, a sharp, bitter, degree of shock worming its way into her heart on the realization that Nanoha may have just bitten off more than she could possibly chew.

The best she can do is clench her teeth and bear the pain. Pain that washes over her in a wave of light and searing pain as she's engulfed completely.

When the bright light dies down, Nanoha is braced on knees and hand some distance away, Barrier Jacket smoldering terribly, Raising Heart's autodefenses having kicked in just barely in time to keep the assault from knocking Nanoha out cold completely- or worse.

"... That's right. Even if I haven't heard it from her mouth, I am her friend- at least I'm willing to be. Even if she denies me." Even after all the pain. The tears and sadness, that much will always be true, cobalt eyes turning to Fate as the blonde denies her and pleads for punishment to befall herself rather than Nanoha. "But you... No. Fate's not cruel. You're the cruel one. And that makes me sad."

It takes her a second to get back on her feet, and her first step is a wobbly one, but her boots finally get on proper bearing as she levels her Device.

"Even now she's giving you nothing but her purest love and you're spitting on it..."

"How would Alicia feel if she saw her mother treating a hurt girl like this? Her sister no less?"

Nanoha's voice is almost a roar, shouting herself hoarse with raw emotions that had been plugged up in her heart for far too long. "You're not listening to anything we're saying are you? Even if I have to rip open the gates of HELL and cast aside my soul, I'll make you listen!" Declared as Nanoha no longer holds back. This woman will kill them if not stopped. She will wipe out her home. But worst of all. She is hurting Nanoha's friends. All of them.

And that is something she will not abide as she takes aim, gathering power at a breakneck pace and unleashing it in a violent pillar of rose colored divine retribution.


COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Divine Buster: Shoot on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly braces Nanoha Takamachi's Divine Buster: Shoot, taking 24 Fatigue damage! Honoka Yukishiro's Block ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Parry ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhMukHbUYJ0

Precia sneers at Seika, at Lera, at Fiat Silver. "They're awfully quick to proclaim their love to someone they don't even know, aren't they? Or should I say... something. You ask what kind of mother I am," her shield neatly catches a plasma blade, then explodes backwards, "And I answer you: a grieving one. That thing is not my daughter. But I shall not grieve for much longer!"

Fiat Silver's rainbow blasts land, opening up the first scratch on Precia's face. Then Mai's little whip adds another. They weep blood that seems black in the weird light of this unstable space. Contorting with fury, she fires back with a second, larger barrage of photon lights, ones that swirl around the phantom thief and HiME, to also come at Masque Feu from behind.

<< You're right -- you won't. You're dying, Precia. And you know that, don't you? >>

Across the room is Lindy, containing so much power that it leaks from her back in pale, fairy-like wings. With a sweep of her hand she summons another teal circle.

"I am suppressing this reaction! But even if I weren't, you would never be able to reach Al-Hazard with the power of seven Jewel Seeds or seventy! There is nothing for you there. It's a precautionary tale... one you've failed to heed."


Precia's free hand clenches into a fist, and one of the Jewel Seeds orbiting her emits an immense blast of light -- not out at her enemies, but inwards at her. "This power will burn away all of my impurities -- my failures! Alicia and I will regain everything we've lost! We'll regain it all!"

Fuu's arrow finds no such crack, and indeed, the shield surges forth stronger than ever to absorb the magic from the momentary connection with Ren's power.

But it comes down for a split second as that power surges forth again, amplified to a terrifying degree, surging towards the girls -- and Cure Berry, nearby -- in a crackling electric wave!

It drowns out most of Fate's words. Most, but not all. And then Nanoha's come after, echoing. Precia's shields may be able to stop Divine Buster, but they cannot stop the girl's fierce expressions.

"You -- how dare you, both of you -- how dare you speak on behalf of my Alicia! How dare you tell me how she feels!"

With a gesture as sharp as an executioner's blade, she catches the rest of that mighty blast on the backswing and sends it flying, from all directions, at Fate, at Nanoha.

"You want me to punish you instead? You want that to be your future? If my future is ending right now, then I'll grant your wish -- I'LL TAKE YOU WITH ME! I'LL TAKE YOU ALL!"

The Jewel Seeds, already strained past all reasonable limits, scream upwards to an even higher frequency. There isn't much time left!

COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Barrier Burst on Lera Camry.

COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Photon Burst on Fiat Silver.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Photon Burst on Masque Feu.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Photon Burst on Mai Tokiha.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Thunder Crash on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Thunder Crash on Ren Aizawa.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Thunder Crash on Cure Berry.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Jewel Seed Explosion on Nanoha Takamachi.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Jewel Seed Explosion on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: You can only attack people in the same room as you.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Reactor Burst on Honoka Yukishiro.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Cure Berry narrowly braces Honoka Yukishiro's Thunder Crash, taking 28 Fatigue damage! Cure Berry's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro accepts Honoka Yukishiro's Reactor Burst, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Empower applied to Honoka Yukishiro! Cleanse! All of Honoka Yukishiro's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Masque Feu narrowly dodges Honoka Yukishiro's Photon Burst, taking 22 Fatigue damage! Masque Feu's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Masque Feu covers Fate Testarossa for Honoka Yukishiro's attack, Jewel Seed Explosion, taking it upon themselves instead!
COMBAT: Masque Feu fails to dodge Honoka Yukishiro's Jewel Seed Explosion, taking 70 Fatigue damage! Masque Feu is unable to keep fighting! Cripple applied to Masque Feu!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa fails to counter Honoka Yukishiro's Thunder Crash, taking 67 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa's counterattack, Quartz Guard, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Honoka Yukishiro!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly dodges Honoka Yukishiro's Thunder Crash, taking 51 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Fuu Hououji's Fade ability activates! Fuu Hououji's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji covers Nanoha Takamachi for Honoka Yukishiro's attack, Jewel Seed Explosion, taking it upon themselves instead!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji fails to counter Honoka Yukishiro's Jewel Seed Explosion, taking 89 Fatigue damage! Fuu Hououji is unable to keep fighting! Cripple applied to Fuu Hououji!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji's counterattack, Winds of Protection, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Honoka Yukishiro!
COMBAT: Lera Camry fails to dodge Honoka Yukishiro's Barrier Burst, taking 26 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha narrowly dodges Honoka Yukishiro's Photon Burst, taking 16 Fatigue damage!

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.


The Wind Knight's bow vanishes as she releases it, the quiver following suit; she yanks her sword free and pushes off from her 'safe ground' as hard as she can, not calling out a spell but simply *willing* the wind to speed her forward. She should cast Winds of Protection, she realizes too late - not for her own sake, but for the girl she's trying to protect.

The wind surges, pushing the Magic Knight further and faster; she brings her sword up for what measure of protection it'll provide -

And at the last fraction of a second, she's in between little Nanoha and the explosive blast of energy. "Winds of --"

Even with time and space themselves shearing at the seams, she can't finish the invocation in time; the blast slams into the Magic Knight of Wind like a brick wall on the front of a bullet train. She expects it to hurt; somehow it doesn't seem to.

"Nanoha ... -san ... keep fighting ..."

Oh wait. There's the pain. Quite a lot of it, really ....

She goes limp, her sword vanishing from her hand.

COMBAT: Fiat Silver narrowly counters Honoka Yukishiro's Photon Burst, taking 9 Fatigue damage!

COMBAT: Fiat Silver's counterattack, Prosoma Guard, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Honoka Yukishiro!

<Pose Tracker> Masque Feu [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Masque Feu stands for a moment, watching with quiet dignity as Fate makes her plea to her mother. Behind that delicate ballroom mask, her eyes are filled with a question.

They narrow to dangerous slits. She does not say anything yet to Precia Testarossa, only offering up that look of frosty reproof, every bit as biting as flame.

The woman casts away Fate's entreaties. The girl's words are lost. And flame rings out. Seika grits her teeth as photon blasts ring out around her; they shred past her, grazing hips and shoulders, cutting close enough to send locks of hair spiralling into the air in severed array.

The woman in the mask tosses her head and looks down at Fate, as though realizing her words didn't mean anything to her. It bothers her. It bothers her more than it really should. She doesn't know this girl, nor Nanoha for that matter.

All she can think of is the thing at which she dared not look, back there in the corridor. And at the images at which she did. At how the head of soft blonde hair could be every bit a crown of lustrous dark curls and a pair of spectacles, calling out, Okasan, otosan, don't go, please~~.

At how they went anyway. Every time.

The Jewel Seeds erupt with what is certain to be death. Masque Feu does not move. She watches with clinical calm as the immense blast wave is reined in, then cast out towards Precia's pleading daughter.

Again she looks down, towards Fate. Once again, the softest ghost of a smile courses across her face, the halo of serenity around her broken for just a moment. The girl may be a stranger to her - all of them might - but it doesn't matter.

"Please live," she urges.

And with a calm sidestep, she interposes herself between the blast and Fate. She does not so much as flinch as she levels a hand forward.

From her palm, a sudden bloom of pale flame erupts, whirling out into a billowing shield. For a second, the Sacred Flame strains against the incredible force. Billows of the Jewel Seed blast rip past the shield, then, searing across the lone Silver Soeur. The sheer light of the collision casts her shadow back across Fate, the silhouette of her body seeming to cast across the girl like a no-fly zone. No destructive force may enter. Her brow brads with sweat and her teeth click together. She does not cry out.

There is a sudden, sickly pop, then - and the flame collapses.

The light closes in. The shadow over Fate Testarossa remains in place. Everything else divides into two streams to either side of her, for a long moment.

Finally, the fury begins to wane - slowly. The eyes begin to adjust. Masque Feu is still on her feet, her hand extended, cuts and burns riddling her body and scorching the tabard-like uniform she wears.

Her smile has not waned, nor her eyes left Fate, as she speaks.

"Live for you."

"Masque Feu!" shrieks Augustine from somewhere above as the girl with the ojou ringlets slumps to the ground, hitting on her knees first, then slouching forward to her side as consciousless leaves her. But not the smile.

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

"You--you made her! You treated her like she was your daughter! What more could you possibly want!?" Lera yells back at Precia. The barrier comes rushing at her then, though, and while she turns to bolt away, she can't in time. The blast of energy slams into her and throws her to the side. Lera hits the ground hard, bouncing once, and then comes rolling to a stop. Her Barrier Jacket is scuffed and burnt, there, but she has felt worse. She lets out a long, ragged gasp.

And then her eyes widen, sharply, her pupils seeming to shrink as Fuu and then Masque Feu are struck down to save Nanoha and Fate. She shakes her head in disbelief. "She's... she's so strong..."

But, she thinks, neither of those girls stepped into the line of fire just so they could be frightened out of taking action. She closes her eyes, tears in them, and then she stands up. "Fate! Nanoha!" she yells. "We can't--we can't give up! We're still in this! If we're gonna be friends for the rest of our lives, we've gotta keep going!"

<Fencer Form.> The two sabers seal back together, forming a broadsword, and Lera goes running again. Her sword drags after her, sparks and fire alighting across the ground. Her eyes light up as she looks at Precia, furiously, and then she leaps as she reaches the end. Lera spins the sword over her head. A magical circle erupts behind her.

Fire leaps down the length of the blade, practically doubling its length, and Lera slashes down hard. The blade ignites, then, and an edge of explosive force shoots off it to punctuate her strike.

<Inferno Slasher!>

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Inferno Slasher on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro perfectly dodges Lera Camry's Inferno Slasher, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Dodge!

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

Again her attempts at harming Precia aren't too effective. Ren grits her teeth as she flies back a bit, panting heavily. The longer they let her remain in contact with the jewel seeds...

Words spoken by everyone set Precia off further. Especially those said by Nanoha and Fate. The magus retaliates in a most devestating fashion but... What's this? The Wind Knight and Masque Feu bravely take the hits meant for the two tiny mage girls. Ren gasps as they go down, grip on her rapier loosening slightly.

...And then it tightens again. No. She couldn't just sit here and let their sacrifices be in vain. As Precia's rage is directed her way too, she holds up Souverain Heraut, the device gleaming.


The shield is formed, though when hit proceeds to ripple and then shatter, exposing Ren to the brunt of the dark energies. She lets out a scream and is sent flying backward -- out of the air and into the ground. Dust settles over the area after her impact, though before it completely clears she's getting to her feet, barrier jacket heavily damaged but still holding strong. The bronze jewel on the sword's hilt pulses as if Heraut is going to say something. But Ren doesn't give him the chance to, charging forward to close the distance between her and Precia. Lera swoops in before her, and Ren uses this to her advantage, jumping into the air with a spin. In that instant her device transforms itself back into the elegant scepter that is it's base form, and she brings it down with all of her might.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has used Imperial Slam on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly braces Ren Aizawa's Imperial Slam, taking 21 Fatigue damage! Ren Aizawa is Psyched! Honoka Yukishiro's Block ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Parry ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"...thing. -Thing.- The fact that she loves you means nothing?!" Further vehemence on Mai's part must wait - the skies are filled with countless baleful stars, crackling with power and fury and hatred. With a measure of that hatred brought to bear on Mai...she flies as best she can, doing her best to bring her rings to bear against the storm of lights hounding her. One finds its mark, and another, and a steady barrage of blasts forces her from the air around Precia.

Landing heavily on a spire of cool obsidian, Mai takes a moment to catch her breath. The brilliance of the Jewel Seeds' light is baleful, terrifying, awe-inspiring. For all the power brought to bear against this one woman, for all that the world around them is crumbling into oblivion... "She's not even fazed...but if she's fighting to reclaim..."

Her gaze flickers to the corpse at Precia's side.

Fate and Nanoha both speak defiance - both making pleas to Precia's heart, speaking of the chosen daughter. Another pang striking Mai's heart - that if Fate gains Precia's acceptance after all this, joins in fighting against everyone...

The mother's rebuke is terrible, horrible, and a strange kind of relief. Whatever sympathy, whatever understanding Mai might have for this woman's actions...relief in a way. Indecision is crumbling, even as fear is rising - it's not about whether they should stop Precia Testarossa, it's whether they can.

As the Jewel Seeds ring out, cracking reality with their raw might, fear locks Mai in place. The last time, the skies began to quake, that reverberating cataclysm screaming at her instincts that all is lose, that she should flee...

Fuu falls. Masque Feu falls. Existence might fall next - and with a scream of fury, Mai explodes from her obsidian perch towards Precia once more. "No! You horrible - are you just punishing Fate for existing now?!" Flames bloom before her as she rushes in recklessly - a trio of magatama, the symbol of Kagutsuchi, as a blazing wall between her and the terrifying Precia. "What daughter would accept a mother like that?!"

She doesn't stop her charge - she moves to smash her barrier against whatever power Precia might bring to bear against it, heedless of consequence.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has used Sanctum Blaze on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has finished attacking.

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

An irrelevant fact washes through Fiat Silver's mind as she launches her projectile. She insists I call her Nanoha. Why? It's brief, though. There are bigger problems at hand, after all.

Like Precia. Actually, pretty much entirely Precia. "-- No!!" she shouts, before being buried in a photonic barrage, concealing her from view even as Lindy sweeps in. She is revealed as the streaking obsidian dust dissipates, and her eyes widen. Two of them did fall like that.

"You don't get to just use her like this," Fiat Silver says, perhaps more to herself than Precia. The shimmering glow of her own slim but firm Prosoma barrier fades. "What you're doing is worse than abandoning her - you're just twisting the knife!!"

<Telson Mode,> and with that Fiat Silver snaps up into the air, lashing forwards. Her own whip is blue and glowing with passion - her target is Precia's leg, perhaps to throw HER into the ground before she can do more with the Jewel Seeds. She doesn't know how to handle those - and the Seeds, at least, are for all their power only tools (as far as she knows).

COMBAT: Fiat Silver has used Scorpio Seize on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Fiat Silver has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly dodges Mai Tokiha's Sanctum Blaze, taking 11 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro narrowly braces Fiat Silver's Scorpio Seize, taking 4 Fatigue damage! Honoka Yukishiro's Block ability activates! Honoka Yukishiro's Parry ability activates! Trap applied to Honoka Yukishiro!

<Pose Tracker> Cure Berry [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

It was there - that moment where Berry saw that crackling wave turn her world into shades of yellow. Where all she could do was lift crossed arms, and feel the energy surge through her and around her, hearing the voice of the faeries in the back of her mind. Channel the electricity - it was only energy, and if one let it run through them ~perfectly~...

It left a feeling, raw and cold, in her bones. But Berry stands tall again - only to cry out when she turns, turns and sees Fuu - whom she had fought with before, and that new young woman fall beneath the assault. Her heart trembles.

The blue heart is the emblem of hope.

  • CLAP*

She couldn't muster the energy to call upon the powers that slept within her, but that clap - usually the start of her most powerful attack, soothes her spirits some. It gave her a physicial point to push herself forward with, and Berry leaps again, lunging to another island.

The blue heart is the emblem of... "Your future isn't ending - the memories of you will be carried with all of us forever," calls Berry to Precia. "And you yourself will be carried on in the life of your daughter." Lifting a leg high, she drives it into the fragment of reality in front of herself, soil and sand lifting up to cloud in front of her.

"If this has to be an ending for you..." Berry lunges forward, spinning in the air - that sand hopefully obscuring her motions enough for her to get near enough to twist and /kick/, propelling the stone she had carried with her at the woman.

"Have hope for the future."

COMBAT: Cure Berry has used Twisting Strike on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Cure Berry has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro fails to dodge Cure Berry's Twisting Strike, taking 9 Fatigue damage!

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

Nanoha dares. She dares speak for Alicia, because even though Nanoha never knew her and even though the girl in the tube is long dead, what kind-hearted child would like to see their mother acting in such a terrible, malicious, way. "I will NOT be silent!" Nanoha snaps, rebellion and rage cracking the child's voice as Raising Heart snaps her vetns open to quickly bleed off the heat buildup. But before she can ready again Precia unleashes the raw, elemental, force of the Jewel Seeds.

For a moment. For a brief, heart-stopping fraction of a moment, Nanoha freezes. Eyes wide with shock, awe, and a worming terror weaving into her heart as she sees that unfathomable level of power arrayed against her and- "Fate!"

She waits for it to come. She waits for the flash. The sound. The brief pain, and then the nothingness to follow. ...

And it does not.

When she finally peeks out from between her fingers, the sight that greets her is an astonishing one. The Knight of Wind- a girl Nanoha only barely knows as Fuu Hououji, an upperclassman from her school, suddenly shielding her with her very body.

A glance askance gives her a sight equally shocking. In the chaos and din, Nanoha had not failed to notice the masked woman- a figure she had never seen before, and yet one that was unflinchingly supportive regardless. A woman who, in such a brief amount of time reached out with words of kindness to try and staunch Fate's emotional wounds left by Precia's stabbing remarks. And she too had cast herself in the path of world-shaking amounts of power to protect a girl she barely even knew.

In an instant. Nanoha's heart beats again, a pounding fury welling in her very soul with each surging pump of blood that courses through her veins, thawed free of the chilling grip of fear in the span of a breath.

"... I really am sorry for you. To go through all this, the pain you must be in must be unfathomable. And to have a dream, a wish to go back to those shining days is admitable... But... That doesn't give you the right to destroy so many other lives just for that dream."

Lera calls out to her. No, Nanoha has no intent of giving in now. Not so shortly after asking for that simple and innocent promise of friendship. So much has been given just for this moment. And she refuses to back down, as... She reaches a hand out. Right then and there. Fate so desperately trying to reach out to Precia only to be rewarded with spite and rejection... Nanoha holds her hand out to the girl she wants to be her friend most in the world.

"Fate... Deserves a mother like how you used to be. I'm sure of it. The way she always spoke of you as though you were perfect in every way. I don't doubt that before you were stricken with such grief, it was true. And she's trying her best to make you see that. So why don't you? Everyone here can see what you're blinded to by your despair."

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Take My Hand on Fate Testarossa.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa accepts Nanoha Takamachi's Take My Hand, taking 0 Fatigue damage!

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

Another wince as Precia calls her a thing. Denies that she's her daughter. Lindy Harlaown's words cut through everything. They tear Fate's eyes off Precia Testarossa. She actually turns to behold her with her fairy like wings, giving her all to suppress what her mother had wrought. She denies that Precia's attempt could ever be a valid one. She looks back at her mother just in time, and perhaps for the first time realizes something. Unfortunately, a crackling electric wave arcs towards her, <WARNING IMMINE-> That's about all Bardiche gets before his reply is cut off in static, as the pair are struck head on.

Her whole body spasms, unable to scream as her faithful device's auto-protection spells are overloaded in an instant. Not even her bloodline affinity to lightning could cut off a single amp of that force. Fate falls to her knees, eyes glassy, as she watches her mother empower herself with a Jewel Seed. Watches her deny that she could ever possibly speak for her Alicia.

With a cutting gesture, the remaining energy of Nanoha's blast is caught and hurled back, and Fate tries to move, but her body denies her that. Closing her eyes, she prepares for the possibility that she may in fact sleep forever this time. 'It just feels so - right.' She tells herself, if her mother wasn't going to have a future. Then why should she, her castoff, be allowed what she was denied? 'Please live.'

Her eyes open so suddenly, to look at Masque Feu, interposing in the way. And she tries to scream, for an outpouring of emotion that she's not worth sacrificing herself for. Instead, the blast strikes the flame, and for a moment, she hopes beyond hope that maybe, just maybe, she'll still be standing afterwards. But no, the flame denies, the blast parts, and... 'Live for you.' The girl falls, and Fate finally scrambles forward on her knees, catching her as she falls and immediately checking her neck with shaking hands, tears coming unbidden and streaming down her face.

Some selfish, distant part of her is touched that someone would consider her life to have enough worth to risk her own. The rest of her cries because she feels it was absolutely a worthless gesture, since she had absolutely no worth to speak of. Relief floods her when she realizes that her heart is still beating. When she stands, it's not all at once, she stumbles forward a pace on an obsidian chunk, nearly collapsing under her own weight, then another, as she stands in front of the girl that fell for her.

"You were dying all along?" A question she knows the answer to already, remembering the times her mother had angrily passed off the coughing fits. "You-" She nearly chokes on the words, "-Mother, why didn't you ever tell me?" The answer to that is obvious, and yet, so overwhelmed by her own feelings of grief at the thought that Precia Testarossa was dying all along that she can't help but to say it all the same.

Her expression wracked by indecision, between feelings of growing worthlessness and worth everyone but the one she wanted placed on her. Which is when a Pretty Cure speaks her feelings. Fate's head turns, and for a moment, her expression is filled with so much awe of the girl that can so easily say something like that. She realizes now why Labyrinth so desperately wants to crush someone like that.

Then that girl she'd been fighting so long, surprises her, by showing some measure of kindness to the mother that means so much to her. She speaks on what Fate deserves, and while Fate absolutely doesn't deserve it, she sees the offered hand. She wanted to take it, she wanted to grasp it tightly with both hands, and never let go. Unfortunately she didn't feel like she deserved it, and so she says now, what she was going to say to her later, because perhaps there wouldn't be a later, "Thank you. Your kind feelings have made me very happy, but I can't accept that." The gratitude shines in her eyes, even over her grief, her sorrow, her despair, "I've caused too much trouble for too many people. You can make much better friends than me."

It takes a lot of effort to pry her eyes away from the offered hand, even more to look at her mother again. Her expression softens, soften, realizing that even now she can't bring herself to raise arms against her, "They're right, Mother. I can't replace your lost past. The purpose you gave to me at birth is meaningless. Alicia and I, we're not-" She closes her eyes for a moment, choking back more tears, "-we're not the same person, even if I feel close to her all the same. I have her fond memories of her love for you. A love which I share-"

She puts a hand back to her chest, "-and so I've decided I need to live for myself. But, the Pretty Cure is right. I'm going to carry my memories of you for as long as I live, so I'm living for you too, whether you want me to or not. No matter what happens to you, someone will still remember you fondly and carry on your legacy. I may not be your daughter, but I am in that respect at least. But-"

She looks at her, the hand moving up to wipe at her eyes before holding it again in a gesture that Precia had rendered meaningless every other time she'd made it, "-I want to spend my time with you if you'll have me. No matter how much time that might be, so that I can make more fond memories. So that I can show you how much I do care for as long as I possibly can. So that maybe, just maybe I can make you happy again, even if it's for a short time, and carry your feelings with me into the future."

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used The Legacy of Precia Testarossa on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro accepts Fate Testarossa's The Legacy of Precia Testarossa, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Honoka Yukishiro is Taunted!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa is unable to keep fighting!

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoDV7TEhGDE

The time for words isn't totally past, but the fight has definitely reached a new level of intensity.

Precia accelerates back, not allowing Lera's explosive blast to touch her. The words do. Her chest heaves from the effort, and she spits out some blood for good measure. This is not a woman with long to live.

"I -- want -- Alicia! I want her to live, even if I can't! She -- never -- deserved --"

Ren soars in with her scepter, and though the shield reappears, it's half-hearted, and the impact forms a number of cracks. Its owner notices them with panic, her bloodshot eyes straining.

She thus elects to totally avoid Mai's barrier-smashing flame, and loses the rest of her sentence to the effort of evading such scorching heat. She cannot do that and prevent Fiat Silver's whip from wrapping around her leg, though, and goes slamming towards the ground.

A fast-flung hand stops her with levitation, an inch from the ground.

"Have hope for the future."

The Pretty Cure's stone flies much too quickly to be ducked, taking the woman firmly in the solar plexus. She whoofs out the last of her air, chokes, and gasps.

And that's when the figure of Fate swims before her eyes. Fate -- and Alicia.

'It's your birthday soon -- whatever do you want?'

"Everyone here can see what you're blinded to by your despair."

'Haha~! Mama, mama, I want a sister!'

"Maybe I can make you happy again, even if it's for a short time, and carry your feelings with me into the future."

Precia reaches out -- just as the crumbling ground underneath her gives way.

Perhaps that moment could have gone differently, but now that it's happened, she reaches up, as well, expending the last of her magic not to save herself from the plunge into Imaginary Space, but to knock the tip of Alicia's tube down into it with her.

It is the coward's choice, but it is also a mother's choice; a dying woman's choice; a choice so far beyond the edge of sanity that there's little to compare it to. She would rather join her eldest daughter in a final journey than struggle for a few more days, perhaps hours, only to die alone, with her younger daughter at her side.

Once they're together, her eyes close with satisfaction. This selfishness, at least, no one can deny her.

"...someday...together...in Al-Hazard..."

And she may still yet get her original wish. Unguided by her will as she plunges into the abyss, the seven Jewel Seeds flare even more brutally.

<< We must seal them before the dimensional quake erupts any further -- and this space is collapsing! It's now or never!! >>

Tasting a tear she hadn't realized was there, Lindy raises her hands, and her massive targeting circle brackets the seven gems vertically, Midchildan runes alight. Defiant to the end, they begin a sustained detonation, turning this strange space-outside-space blue and white, white, white--!

COMBAT: FINISHER! Honoka Yukishiro has used Dimensional Quake on Nanoha Takamachi.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Honoka Yukishiro has used Dimensional Quake on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Honoka Yukishiro has used Dimensional Quake on Ren Aizawa.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Dimensional Foreshock on Cure Berry.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Dimensional Foreshock on Mai Tokiha.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has used Dimensional Rend on Fiat Silver.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha narrowly braces Honoka Yukishiro's Dimensional Foreshock, taking 6 Fatigue damage! Mai Tokiha is Quipped! Mai Tokiha's Block ability activates!
COMBAT: Fiat Silver narrowly dodges Honoka Yukishiro's Dimensional Rend, taking 33 Fatigue damage! Fiat Silver's Fade ability activates! Fiat Silver's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Lera Camry narrowly dodges Honoka Yukishiro's Finisher, Dimensional Quake, taking 70 Fatigue damage! Lera Camry's Fade ability activates! Lera Camry's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa narrowly dodges Honoka Yukishiro's Finisher, Dimensional Quake, taking 28 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi narrowly dodges Honoka Yukishiro's Finisher, Dimensional Quake, taking 68 Fatigue damage!

<Pose Tracker> Masque Feu [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

(You don't have to be sad,) Masque Feu wishes she can say as she catches sight of the tears in Fate Testarossa's eyes. (Please don't doubt yourself. You are worth it. Please don't grow up to be a lonely girl with a hole in your heart.)

She cannot say the words; there is scarcely a thread of energy left, as she sags into Fate's last-minute catch. She does not weigh all that much. The younger girl's touch finds still flesh at first, before there is the flutter of a pulse beneath it, the stirring of a breath. Clear grey-blue eyes hover half-open, scarcely seeing.

With a flutter of pure white feathers, the turtledove, Augustine, comes down to perch on Masque Feu's arm. If it is possible for a dove to cry, there would be tears standing in his eyes. He says nothing, merely listening for the beat of Seika's heart, before his eyes lift to watch Nanoha and Fate, to watch the crying Fate rise and say her piece. To watch Precia make her choice, leaving behind only the furious flare of the Jewel Seeds.

He ruffles his wingfeathers and bows his head in quiet reverence. "The love of a daughter for a mother... that is a love that is unconditional," he murmurs, his normally shrill voice barely soft enough to be heard.

"Someone who can love so strongly... a person with such a heart is the kind of friend that is the most precious of all."

From beneath the turtledove, Masque Feu cannot manage words. Instead, tiny tears bead from her eyes, even as everything begins to fade to white.

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

Lera's sword slams into the ground, sending obsidian shards flying up into the air. She swings it back up and looks at Precia, staring for a moment at her. She hears the words and the cries of Fate and Nanoha. "You--you have a daughter right here," she says, but it comes out weaker. She realizes that Precia won't listen. It's the wrong daughter. Her shoulders slump. "Why can't you see it? Why--"

And then the land collapses out from underneath Precia. When she falls down to the vastness below, she decides to bring that terrible red tube down with her. She stares as it tumbles after the mage, the girl inside going with her.

"Oh, no," she murmurs softly. Her head bows, too. Is this what it feels like? To never be enough? Her eyes are shadowed by her bangs, but then Lindy Harlaown's voice reaches her her ears. She looks up to see flecks of bright cyan shooting off the Jewel Seeds. The dimensional detonation blasts into the girl, hurtling her back. In the end, she twists -- and rolls with it, shooting away from it.

Her green Barrier Jacket burns away, half eaten away. The sleeveless silver shirt underneath is revealed, with burnt patches here and there, and her pants and gloves have holes in them. She pants hard, bringing a hand up to the tiny golden necklace hanging from her neck. Her mother gave it to her. She squeezes it.

<< All right, Miss Harlaown. I'm gonna do it. >>

Then she looks up, swinging her broadsword around, and pointing it at one of the Jewel Seeds. "Nanoha! Ren! Silver!" she yells. "Let's do this thing! We'll... we'll knock them out together!"

<Raising Heart! Heraut! Bardiche! Scorpion! We're not going to let our masters down now, are we?>

Motes of red-orange light begin to draw into the red gem at the center of Lera's sword. The blade splits down the middle -- pushing apart, but not splitting into separate blades -- and lightning begins to jump between the two halves. It changes from orange, to brilliant gold, and finally to white tinged with both colors. The light reflects in Lera Camry's eyes and she grits her teeth.


A magical circle forms off the blade's tip. Then, Lera fires through it. A column of white fire shoots from it, driving her feet backward with the recoil. Red, orange, and gold leak to the edges, as the beam shoots into Lindy's targeting circle -- and for the Jewel Seeds.


COMBAT: FINISHER! Lera Camry has used Aurora Burst on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Promise - Tales of the Abyss OST - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5SF5pvsxfU

"MOTHER!" What do you do when the person who means the most to you falls into Imaginary space? Fate didn't know when she started moving, she did it on her own, soaring forward with the speed she's known for, heedless of her own safety, until the last moment. She stops near the edge, skidding on her stomach, and stopping just at the edge of the gap, her chest bent over the edge, hand extended down.

Reaching towards what she wanted the most yet again. Failing the grasp it yet again. She can't tear her eyes away, as she moves further, and further away from her outstretched hand followed by the angelic girl in the tube, hair still aglow like a halo. It was like looking at an ideal version of her past, the past she remembers fondly, slipping away from her.

Memories come unbidden of herself, and not her under the covers of a shared bed, 'Mama. Will you always be working so much?' 'Not always. In fact, my project is in it's final phase. Once it's taken care of, how about I take you somewhere, anywhere you want?' A girl that was her and not her's eyes lit up, 'Really!?' 'Yes, really.' 'You promise!?' 'Of course! Where do you want to go?' 'Hrmm - well, anywhere is fine, so long as we're together!' A shared hug between mother and daughter, a promise sealed

Space laps up a not insignificant number of tears, as the two vanish. Her hand clenching into a fist, taking out the pain of yet another failure on her hand. "Y-You kept your promise in the end, M-Mother."

Slowly, she drifts away from the edge, barely comprehending the all too critical directions of Lindy Harlaown, beneath the choking sobs, she looks upwards, to see the Jewel Seeds detonate. The spectacular chained blasts of energy fling her across the room, where she strikes the crumbling remnant of the wall, and then falls to the floor. The pain is not insigificant, it's not drowned out by her grief right now, it only adds to the agony behind her sobs. While still awake, she feels like she doesn't want to be, her eyes blurred, and still upon the growing abyss that her mother fell into.

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

Fiat stares at that hovering countermotion in silence. Her heart quails for an instant. She knows she is beyond where she should be here. But - 'Have hope for the future!' - it passes. And then Precia --

<Imaginary Space...> Silver Scorpion says, not fully comprehending what his sensors have picked up. Fiat Silver breathes heavily, feeling the absurd relief of this... before Lindy reminds them, quite unambiguously, that they're not done yet.

"... both of them are in danger right now, aren't they," Fiat Silver finally says.

<Yes. If I may -> The baton shifts, and Fiat Silver chuckles faintly.

"Charge fast - I'll get into a firing angle!" Fiat says, flitting forwards with vim and vigor and directly into a dimensional distortion that sends her tumbling forwards AND with a quivering anxiety that actually is physical rather than emotional running through her guts. "Kyuh--!"

<I have no intention of losing, Soaring Sky,> Silver Scorpion replies to the other Device, tartly. <I have not guided six generations of -- master thieves in order to fall now!>

Fiat smiles, a little weakly. Then the baton comes up. She's oriented now - another wave of distortion's coming. <Rise above it, Madame!>

Fiat Silver takes that literally - rising upwards several yards (but does that have meaning in this sort of a space? Well, it's all relative) and drifting back as the opening of the Device glows. Glows a pure and fluorescent blue, glimmering with threads of silver as the disk prepares itself.

<Lining up...>

"Thank you, Scorpion," Fiat murmurs to her ally.

<Focus, focus -- there!> "Scorpio Sabot!"

And the burst comes forwards.

The penetrant ray of light is almost a bolt, really, and as it launches forwards that energetic disk wraps around it, igniting as it goes. If the Jewel Seeds looked at it dead on it would be quite the gorgeous flower, the intersecting lines of the circle compressing and wrapping in self-fuelling silver fire. But the Jewel Seeds, most likely, don't care.

What is more relevant is the huge burst of light, the thunderous sound, and the high speed projectile moving fast enough to scream its feelings through the air itself as Fiat Silver tries to intersect as many Jewel Seeds as she can!

COMBAT: FINISHER! Fiat Silver has used Scorpio Sabot on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Fiat Silver has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The sigil of flame fades as Mai blazes past, the heat of her rings bringing her to a spinning halt in the air. Her question - almost rhetorical - is answered by Fate's desperate plea, and her gaze goes to the desperate blonde girl. An earnest promise to a dying parent...

'Promise that you'll take care of him...'

"...she'll never forget, will she?" Mai muses aloud - more for her own benefit than anyone else's. Steeling herself for whatever horrible thing Precia is going to say next, she turns to face the woman of the hour-

And for an instant, Mai can't breathe. Her eyes clench shut, as if to try to contain the tears within - but she answers a little louder, even as she sinks back down to another obsidian spike. "She didn't. They never deserve those things, and that's the worst part..." One hand grasps black stone, to steady herself - to try to deal with the turmoil, and Mai looks up again...just in time to get a view of Precia and Alicia falling into the abyss, together.

Silence. 'Tea Mama' shouts orders about the crisis, the universe shudders violently enough to slam Mai up against her handhold - and she doesn't utter a word, doesn't draw a breath. Her gaze, in spite of space and time beginning to fragment around her, remains locked on that hole in the universe. After all that - after Fate's last plea, on the verge of connecting with Precia at last...

"...she's gone." Two words, whispered at last, echoing the past as Fate begins to sob - followed by a shuddering breath drawn slowly.

There's no monster, no nemesis, no one to condemn for Precia's fate - except perhaps Precia herself. All that's left is the disaster she left in her wake - the glittering jewels, howling a song that heralds the end. Mai...isn't trained to seal dimensional rift things. But if the method to quell it is 'power'...

She staggers forward. The flames around her rings are flickering worryingly, fires doused in some phantom rain - but Mai summons what heat she can. Another step forward, another step closer to the heart of the storm...another glance to the daughter-in-mourning. Heat blazes forth from Mai's rings, slamming into the nexus as a fiery bludgeon to smack stability into the potent artifacts.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has used Vehement Ignition on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Cure Berry narrowly dodges Honoka Yukishiro's Dimensional Foreshock, taking 13 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Cure Berry is Quipped! Cure Berry's Flash ability activates!

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

Seeing that barrier crack is enough for Ren. She'll bash and bash and bash against it with all of her might until it breaks. She doesn't get the chance to do so, however. The quaking intensifies, sending her stumbling backawards away from Precia. At the same time the desperate Grand Magus succumbs to the ground suddenly disappearing from under her. Though she manages to reach out and take the body of Alicia with her, still kept safely within the tube. It's the first time Ren's really looked at her. A shiver goes down her spine as she thinks about how long the deceased girl's corpse has been kept in stasis by her grief stricken mother -- and hopes that her spirit lies somewhere much happier than this Al-Hazard they've heard so much about, which she hopes to never see herself.

Lindy's insistence on sealing the jewel seeds quickly takes precendance over any speculation Ren has over Precia'a ultimate fate, however. As does the increasing dimensional quaking that upends what little ground is left within the distorted space. Jagged rocks pop up, and Ren does her best to avoid them with some quick aerial maneuvers. She gets battered along the way, but nothing she can't handle. Once she's clear of them she takes a deep breath in -- then out -- before holding her scepter out in front of her. A chime sounds.

<NO WE ARE NOT.> Heraut says in reply to Soaring Sky, as the head of the scepter detatches itself from the shaft, which Ren swivels out to point directly at Lindy's targeting circle. There's a series of metal clinks as three legs extend out from it, planting themselves firmly into the Midchildan circle that has appeared beneath her feet. Meanwhile, the detatched head of the scepter burns bright bronze, forming itself into a glittering jewel that implants itself into a slot on the top-side of the shaft.


There's another series of clinks as the shaft twists itself into an ornate gun barrel complete with the finest of filigree. Ren's gaze narrows and she leans forward, a stream of numerical data streaming through her mind.




"Thank you."


There's a ripple in the air around Ren before an explosion of light is launched out from her device, streaking through space where it's aided by Lindy's magic. Ren knows she won't miss.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Ren Aizawa has used Gemlight Fusillade on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Berry [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

There was a flash of light, and reality tears through Berry.

Was she a little different in its passing? No - was she a little changed? No. Reality shifts like tectonic plates, and something stronger in Berry - in everyone here, perhaps - is a bulwark against that shifting.

The blue heart is an emblem of hope.

Berry breathes in, breathes out - and her eyes snap up - focused - sure.

It wasn't yet desperate enough to sing to that blue heart. Berry purses her lips, and ducks down low. Lunging from platform to platform, she nears that nexus, as Magical Girl after Magical Girl throws themselves at the nexus.

And she too, leaps, and extends a foot - hoping to slap a powerful kick against it.

Wedge it shut, even by the power of her faith alone, translated to the kinetic through her boot.


COMBAT: FINISHER! Cure Berry has used Precure Kick! on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Cure Berry has finished attacking.

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

How desperately Nanoha wants Fate to accept- to take her hand. Bloody gauntlet is held out in a steady grip despite the tremble in the rest of the child's body, hoping with all her might to feel those fingers set within her grasp.

And yet this time, the rejection she receives- thought not the same frigid, silent, and unbending denial from before, is somehow more painful. To her credit, Nanoha hides her flinch, but she still tenses as if physically stricken when Fate says she can simply make better friends.

To Nanoha Takamachi that simple, gentle, rebuttal is like a knife in the heart. To know that it makes Fate so happy, after all this time. Only to be denied still.

Blue eyes squeeze shut. And the worst is still yet to come. For try as they all might to reach out to Precia, her rejection is more complete. "--No!" It's a simple, breathless cry, as the dimensional quakes render the ground such a precarious place to be, and she watches in abject horror as the sorrowul mother chooses to fall and forever be with her dead child, rather than live the last of her days with the one that lives and loves her so purely.

For the span of far too many heartbeats, Nanoha is lost. Lindy Harlaown's voice is in her ear, distant and almost missed completely in the wash of quiet misery that overtakes the girl, barely even registering the quake shaking time and space itself all around her, numb to the world, numb to the pain of everything deteriorating aroung her. Before Nanoha comes to a single, simple decision.

That is entirely unacceptable.

Though her body is battered, Nanoha's heart shines.

"... Fate. I'm sorry but I can't accept that answer. Not now. When this is over; please. Let's have that talk. If you still feel that way afterwards, then I'll accept it. But we can't just let it end here, half way in."

A step forward, and Nanoha meets Lera's call, pink speckled fireflies beginning to glimmer in the air as she draws a slow breath, taking place beside Lera, Ren. Even Fiat.

Silent for all this time, Raising Heart finally speaks up. A clarion and firm reply to Soaring Sky. Once again, to give this small master of hers-- no- to give her friends the victory they so desire...



In an instant a massive aiming rune forms to life, the complex calculations required, performed in the span of a breath as the immense amounts of manag circulated within the chamber are gathered as quickly as the Device can before it's all lost to null space; a new pink star forming, brilliant and terrible to behold, right in the chamber glowing like the sun as Nanoha raises her Device high.


The Jewel Seeds must be sealed.

"Jewel Seeds... BE SEALED!" Declared as she swings the staff down, slamming the massice core of energy with the force of a home run swing, making it erupt forth in a tidal wave of warm pink.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Nanoha Takamachi has used Starlight Breaker on Honoka Yukishiro.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro fails to brace Lera Camry's Finisher, Aurora Burst, taking 130 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro fails to brace Fiat Silver's Finisher, Scorpio Sabot, taking 92 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro fails to brace Mai Tokiha's Vehement Ignition, taking 35 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro fails to brace Ren Aizawa's Finisher, Gemlight Fusillade, taking 140 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa is unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro fails to brace Cure Berry's Finisher, Precure Kick!, taking 56 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Honoka Yukishiro fails to brace Nanoha Takamachi's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 140 Fatigue damage! Honoka Yukishiro is unable to keep fighting!

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYBqlD7AJOQ

The girls aren't fighting the Jewel Seeds anymore.

They're fighting a cascading tear in reality itself, a gaping wound in all worlds. Distant stars, never seen by human or Midchildan eyes, glint through the gaps forming here, the rends widening there. They are strange colors which have no name, because no sentient being has ever had the opportunity to name them.

But if they did, they might have names like 'Nanoha Takamachi's Eyes' or 'Cure Berry's Hair' or 'A Magic Knight's Dress' or 'Masque Feu's Nails'.

It's a breathtaking glimpse, but one rapidly obscured by other colors -- a bursting aurora ringed in quicksilver petals; flame-wreathed scintillation.

The energy rocks back and forth. At a crucial moment, it seems like it might burst through in a tremendous backblast, which is the time that a booted foot lands defiantly to stick a rend in place.

And then it comes, acting out its name literally today, not just figuratively. Pink energy from a heart large enough to love even her enemies -- it flows into the other attacks, and together they merge into something of all colors and none.

The starlight breaks, cut off from a place it never should have been, as the Jewel Seeds finally -- /finally/ -- quiet, casting little orbs of blue radiance around themselves.

They rush into Raising Heart, just as Lindy extends yet another circle around the entire group, conscious and otherwise.


Landing in Ueno, she sinks to her knees beside Fate, then looks up, tiredly, at Nanoha.

"Don't worry," she promises softly. "I will ensure that she has the time and space she needs to face everything... and heal."

Since, presumably, some combination of Earth and Midchildan forces would love to lock her away around now.

"This would not have happened without you -- all of you. On behalf of myself and my people, thank you all so much for your courage and sacrifice."

Nearby, a girl in a black leather trench, sporting a pair of red-tinted mirrored shades, gives a thumbs-up. "You all kicked ass! The Tuner Organization will arrange medical attention -- and compensation -- for all of y'all. And if you're interested in working with us again, we're in the book."

"...no we're not," corrects a smaller girl, in a spectacularly petaled white outfit. She might be a Puella Magi.

"Shut up," says the first girl, "I was planning on leaving them with my card."


COIN FLIP: Masque Feu flips a coin. It lands on heads!

COMBAT: Masque Feu transforms into Seika Miuchi!

<Pose Tracker> Seika Miuchi [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Dimensions shift.

Masque Feu does not immediately get up. In fact she remains an inert pile of semi-conscious magical girl for the duration of the trip. She can, at least, make things out now.

"...Did everyone make it?" she manages. Her voice is very small and lacking in energy.

Augustine just sighs and hops over to perch on Seika's head. "Yes, Masque Feu," he assures. "Yes, they d-"

He pauses.


Another pause.

"I hope it's birdseed. And not from Lawson."

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

It's over. They're in Ueno Park again.

Lera collapses down to her knees, breathing hard; she flashes a grin at the trenchcoat wearing girl. It takes a moment to process everything. The sealed away Jewel Seeds; the final blast of power and light; the brief glimpse at those alien stars. But then, the important things come to mind. Fate is here with them, safe, and she can recover. Even if her mother...

Her hand goes back to her pendant, clapsing it tightly. She looks saddened for a moment. She glances at Lindy, then at Nanoha, and smiles at them for a moment. "Yeah," she says. "We..."

She lived, despite the dire conversation with Setsuna. She should go see her, too, and let her know everything is fine. She laughs when she realizes. They made it. They saved Fate and they saved the Earth. This time, when she reached out and tried to help someone, it didn't all fall apart. This time, for once, it worked.

"We did it!" She laughs again, before she launches sideways at Ren Aizawa and hugs her tightly.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has fully healed herself.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa transforms into Ren Aizawa!

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

Never before had Nanoha seen anything like it. The very fabric of reality threatening to come apart. A sight so devastating, so dangerous, and yet fleetingly gorgeous at the same time. A twinkling display of the true fragility of everything she has ever known. So brief, and yet Nanoha's eyes are drawn to the dazzling display of colors. A sight she'll sure see but once in all her years, and yet at the same time, she'll be blessed with every single day when she spends even just a moment thinking of her friends.

When the chaos and the tumult is brought to a halt by the wash of spells sealing the last of the Jewel Seeds are quieted one last time. The sudden rip and shift from the collapsing fortress of Precia Testarossa leaves Nanoha Takamachi landing on her knees in Ueno park, exhaustion finally claiming the young mage as she drops to hands and knees, Raising Heart hissing softly in her grasp. "Did we...?"

The answer comes to her in the form of Lindy Harlaown's voice.

Her gaze trails towards that quiet, gentle, strong, blonde girl with the vivid scarlet eyes. She'll heal. And then she and Nanoha can finally have that talk that Nanoha have always wanted.

But until then, Nanoha simply collapses onto her back, quietly staring up at the sky with a faint, satisfied, smile.