2016-03-12 - "Akemi-chan"

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Title: "Akemi-chan"

Mami Tomoe and Homura Akemi have a polite, reasoned discussion. ...Briefly.


Mami Tomoe, Homura Akemi


Ohtori Academy - Classrooms (At first)

OOC - IC Date:

March 3, 2016 - October 6, 2014

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Two days. ...That's how much time Mami Tomoe missed of school, simply absent from her typical seat in her classroom at Ohtori Academy.

Today, however, she's been back. Not precisely at her most energetic, but few would have any reason to see that. What's most important at the moment is that the bell has rung, it's time for school to end...

And Mami Tomoe is still in her classroom, alone at her desk. She of course doesn't /have/ club visits.

Instead, she's looking blankly down at a set of papers, golden eyes passing over meaningless words. They're assignments, of couse.

...She missed two days.

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

Homura Akemi keeps careful tabs on every Puella Magi that goes to Ohtori. If one vanishes, she likely needs to know -- if only to be ready for what is to come. Even Mami Tomoe, a girl she is known to avoid, is someone she follows up on. The first day she didn't attend school, Homura didn't think much of it. The second day, she began to worry.

She appears like she always does: suddenly. The black-haired girl stands in the door frame, arms folded behind her back, and head cocked to one side.

"You haven't attended school lately," she states, bluntly. As always, she missed something -- the basic politeness, the way to express something like concern that sounds... well, concerned -- and thus she looks demanding. She sounds rude. "Why?"

Or, maybe, she is rude. This is Mami Tomoe.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

It was almost three. ...Almost.

Homura nearly catches Mami nodding off at her desk; her eyes certainly close like she's considering it, though they snap open very suddenly at the voice of the other Puella Magi.

But she can't conceal, in that moment, that she's /tired/ as she slowly looks over to Homura. Probably because it's slow. Probably because of the level look in her eyes.

Maybe because of the sigh.

"Why, Akemi-san," she begins, "How lovely to see you. How are you doing today?"

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

"I'm here," Homura says, as if it answers Mami's question. It possibly does; as always, there isn't a note of sarcasm in her voice. She still has her head cocked to the side, though, with an expression that is somehow defiant.

"Did you encounter a difficult situation?"

She hazards a guess. For Homura, it's like rattling off a hundred guesses; she isn't the type to guess much. But...

...this remains Mami Tomoe.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Of course that's her answer. Mami sighs again, rolling her eyes this time in a maneuver much truer to her age than is anything typical of her.

"Yes, what a burden for you."

A pause. "If you're going to talk, come in. I don't feel like shouting across a classroom."

A pause. ...She is, after all, Mami Tomoe. "I'm not sure it's any of your business. Why exactly are you asking?"

She shakes her head, and relents. "...I'm sure you'll hear regardless. I had a matter of territory I had to handle."

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

Homura doesn't answer Mami directly. Instead, she walks inside of the classroom; she doesn't sit at a desk near Mami, but stands at one, and then she crosses her arms over her chest. Her lips purse for a moment, before she glances down at her. The look on her face is neutral, again, but cold.

Colder than usual.

"After the events caused by Alyssa Searrs, I feel it necessary to keep track," Homura states. "These matters increasingly require my attention."

But... this wasn't anything like that. Her head lifts, eyes looking down at Mami. "Territory?" she asks. "Someone poaching, then."

It isn't a question.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Cold look or no, Mami considers that much a win.

"Ah, yes. One never knows which child we're going to have to murder next, does one? It's important to stay on top of these things."

Mami's eyes stay on Homura, her expression still not quite bothering with her usual pleasantries. ..As a matter of fact, she does seem different than she has in many timelines. Usually, the blonde has a certain vitality to her, but not today.

"...Yes," she allows. "Someone poaching. I suppose I should warn you about her." <Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"No," Homura says, then adds emphasis on one word: "/We/ don't. Do we?"

Her tone is icier than D-Point for a moment, but it thaws a little. The accusation leaves her voice; the lack of vitality in Mami begins to make Homura worry. Seeing something like that...

She frowns, slightly.

"Do you judge her to be a threat?" she asks. "To yourself? To other Puella Magi?"

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"...Do you think?" Mami asks instead, lifting her eyes so that her gaze is level with Homura, holding it there for a moment. There is nothing kind in that expression. ...There's not much in that expression at all, just a hard stare.

"...But I'm sure you're not interested in my opinion."

She goes back to as she was, glancing towards the blackboard, for a little while.

"Yes," Mami says simply. "To me. ...Likely to others. There's..." She looks distant. "There's something about that girl. Something in her eyes."

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

"I think you're a fool," Homura answers simply. She gives Mami a level stare in return -- even if she is silently unnerved by the lack of emotion in Mami's expression. Something, she decides, is wrong. She didn't often do hard stares like this. "...But not the sort of fool to let her go on like that."

She glances at the blackboard too -- and then back at Mami quickly, while she still looks away. She frowns.

"So this interloper will endanger other Puella Magi," she says. There isn't surprise in her voice; she has dealt with these sorts of things before. "Who is it? If you intend to tell me that."

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.


There's nothing on the blackboard. It's entirely clear. Still, Mami stares into it, for a while.

"...Yes," she agrees flatly. "I am. ...But not that kind, you're right. I'd have done the same thing myself. ...Even if the others wouldn't understand. But you do, don't you? You understand that much."

Mami is thoughtful in the next moment, her drills bouncing lightly as she looks up to the ceiling.

"No," Mami answers, "She won't. Because I'm going to stop her myself."

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

"I thought you would," Homura says. She opens her mouth -- to wonder, aloud, if Madoka would understand if Mami did it. She closes her mouth, instead. She doesn't want to face that truth. "...She intended to kill every magical girl in Tokyo. Anyone who thinks they would do differently is a fool. Or lying to themselves."

Or both, she seems to say. She frowns, and then she shakes her head once.

"Have it your way," she says. "I won't get involved, then. But... Mami."

That familiar form of address -- a little too familiar, and there is something that borders perilously close on concern in her voice. More concern than she shows for just Madoka. "...Don't bring Sayaka Miki with you, when you do this. I wouldn't even tell her what you're going to do."

She hesitates. "She isn't ready to see that."

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Plenty of us would do differently, Akemi-san." Mami speaks the correction calmly, without her earlier rancor. "You should realize that."

Mami's distance fades, just a moment, just a little. Not all the way, but enough, at hearing her name. Slowly, she turns to look at Homura, some feeling of longing mixed with dread in her eyes.


She remembers a time when Homura clung to her, briefly, before she pushed her away. A time during a battle...

She shakes her head. "Of course not."

Mami quiets. "...I wouldn't. And I don't intend to. There are..."

"There a lot of girls who couldn't do the things you and I do. But you understand. That's exactly why we have to act. ...Because others can't. So others don't have to."

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Plenty of us would do differently, Akemi-san." Mami speaks the correction calmly, without her earlier rancor. "You should realize that."

Mami's distance fades, just a moment, just a little. Not all the way, but enough, at hearing her name. Slowly, she turns to look at Homura, some feeling of longing mixed with dread in her eyes.


She remembers a time when Homura clung to her, briefly, before she pushed her away. A time during a battle...

She shakes her head. "Of course not."

Mami quiets. "...I wouldn't. And I don't intend to. There are..."

"There a lot of girls who couldn't do the things you and I do. But you understand. That's exactly why we have to act. ...Because others can't. So others don't have to."

...She doesn't speak about the strange concern in Homura's voice. Yet.

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

"Then, they're fools," Homura answers, but some of the anger has drifted from her tone too. She isn't arguing with Mami about whether it was necessary to do. The point can be pushed to the side for a moment.

She looks down at Mami, before she shakes her head.

"Yes. Others can't," she agrees. "...But don't mistake me. I don't do that for them, so they won't have to do the difficult things they may be forced to. I can't be everywhere and I can't stop everything. What we are..."

Her eyes narrow. "...It affords us little time to do those things. I protect the ones dearest to me." She swallows, her breath catching, and she looks to the side. "...The one dearest to me."

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"No," Mami disagrees. "It means they're good girls. Good people."

Is that even an argument? ...It may not be anymore. But this--

"Heh. Don't worry, Akemi-san. I'm not going to mistake you for some kind of hero anytime soon. I say we because I know precisely the kind of girl you are. ...I know it better than even I thought."

Mami's eyes are hard again, amber solidified.


"...I didn't expect you to show this kind of concern for Sayaka Miki. You seemed almost worried about her, a moment ago. Why is that?"

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

Homura stares down at Mami. She doesn't expect to be thought of as a hero. Fancies of that kind ended years ago, for her. She stares at those hardened eyes, though, and she realizes something. It makes her afraid; it makes her blood begin to run cold.

She is quiet, when Mami responds, and when she asks her final question. She turns around, like she might walk away from her. Instead, she grabs a chair, and turns it to face Mami's desk. She sits down in it, so she is level with the amber-eyed Puella Magi.

"...I am not what you think I am," she finally says. "I do what I think I have to. I won't let myself hesitate. I'll do it alone. But... I can still look at any of you, who share my circumstances, and feel empathy."

She lifts her chin, and she stares at Mami with her head half-cocked. Her violet eyes aren't hard -- but there is something sincere in them. That sincerity, though, reaches to the core of what she is. That may not be a good thing, all told.

"I remember what it feels like to be human."

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami doesn't even blink at Homura's stare.

She resigns herself to Homura simply walking away again. Except that she doesn't, and Mami instead finds the dark-haired girl sitting directly across from her. All that changes for Mami is the tilt of her head, as she slowly looks down again to meet Homura's eyes. And...


Something softens, just slightly, in her eyes. She can't help it, seeing something in Homura that she wanted to see a long time ago. Something she thought she wouldn't.

Something she wondered might not be there.

"...Can you?" Mami asks, softly. "...Then why..."

She stops herself from opening that, waching Homura Akemi in silence at those words. She could say more. She could ask questions. She could...

'I remember what it feels like to be human.'

Mami is silent again moments after. Until finally...

"How lucky for you."

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

Homura almost answers the question that Mami starts to ask, until she sees the look in her eyes. It makes her scared, all over, to stare at Mami and see that look; it reminds her of when she had been wrapped in ribbons, staring at the barrel of one of her pistols. Her mouth opens, before it closes. She fights the feeling down.

It isn't easy.

"It isn't lucky," Homura says. She only barely masks the bitterness in her voice. "...If I could help more of you, I would. I'm not that strong. And knowing what I am..."

She looks down at her hand. "...I think anyone rational must hate me. I won't lie to them about who and what I really am."

Her eyes narrow. She almost keeps the venom out of her voice. But only almost.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami doesn't finish asking it. She passed that point a long time ago. She wants to know, and yet...

"...More of us?" Mami does ask, instead, her eyebrow not even raised in her usual mockery. There's not enough life in her, just at the moment, for that. And this close, Homura can see the signs that Mami's makeup hides; the lines under her eyes, the red about her sclera. ...The only sign that doesn't fit...

Is the polished gleam of the ring on her left hand.

"No. You'll hide information, I suppose, but you don't lie much, do you? There's something honest about that. ...Not that I'll admit to saying so."

She pauses.

"...I think it's lucky," Mami answers. "I don't remember at all. I like, sometimes, to imagine otherwise... But it's just pretending. I know what I am."

Mami looks back, her mouth closed again. She doesn't smile.

"...Do you know how they say, Akemi-san, that beauty is skin-deep? ...I liked to imagine that it wasn't true."

Her chair screeches against the floor as she pushes it back, standing up again.

Her fingers curl on her hand, twitching slightly as she makes a fist.

"I'd like to hate you, Akemi-san. I really would. ...But, I don't. I think there's a real girl, somewhere, underneath all of what you claim you are."

"...You don't fool me. You're as much a liar as I am."

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

"I wouldn't expect you to admit anything," Homura says, and it's almost an icy snap. She chides herself, mentally. She shouldn't have come; she doubts she can exit this gracefully, if it becomes a fight. She rarely could against Mami.

She doesn't know if she wants to.

She stays quiet after that and listens, but her eyes narrow slowly. There is something dangerous -- something aggravated -- in her stare. She hears the chair scrape across the floor, and she lifts her head to look up at Mami. Her expression tenses, while she watches the other Puella Magi stand.

Her hand falls to her side, casually -- but in position for her shield to form. She knows how quickly Mami can strike.

"Think whatever you like," she says. "I'm what I need to be. I don't have time to be anything else. If that bothers you..."

She scrapes her chair, then stands up, and lifts her hand to her hair. She flicks it out, with a snap of her wrist. "...then be bothered. It won't change who and what I am."

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed. <SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hy7KQevw5-w

"You wouldn't, would you? You don't /expect/ anything. Akemi, Akemi, always in control, always composed."

There isn't much ice in Mami's tone anymore--not that isn't melting quickly, quickly enough for heat.

"You say things like that, little things like you don't care at all. But, you do. We both know it."

Mami smirks--it doesn't even pretend to be an ordinary smile, the desk and chairs still between them.

"I know what you are. It's amazing. ...For the longest time, even /I/ was fooled by your act. ...Do you remember? Do you remember how I wanted to be friends? How I thought we could work together? This new Puella Magi, out of nowhere. And oh, I tried."

"Absurd, isn't it? Even knowing what I do about girls like us, still I tried. And then, the little signs, here and there. Little looks, little looks too long, for Madoka-chan... And for me. And here you are, talking about how you want to /help/."

Her eyes flash, and Mami raises her voice.

"There isn't any /help/, Akemi-san! You see that. I know you do. ...After all..."

"I wasn't good enough for you. But don't worry."

Her eyes narrow. "/I'll/ solve it. I'll fix things. Myself. Without your /help/."

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

Homura doesn't think. The memory of that terrible night, when three of her friends died -- and she nearly did, comes rushing back. Ribbons tightening around her, squeezing her so tightly she could barely breathe. The angry, desperate, and completely controlled look in those amber eyes -- which is so like the look in Mami's eyes right now, Homura thinks. It makes her feel afraid all over.

She takes a trembling step back, her foot almost stumbling. But then she remembers who she is -- who she /is/, damn it! -- and her foot steadies. She stares at Mami, listening to everything thrown into her face. Everything about her act; everything that she tried to convince others of.

Mami saw that she cared and that feeling doesn't matter.

It hurts, for a moment; that feeling like Madoka might notice, too, and like she can't help Madoka -- just like she couldn't save Mami. Her shoulders shake and she doesn't quite catch it.

'Without your /help/.'

Something snaps inside of Homura. She hasn't been furious in a long time. She almost forgot what it felt like to feel this sort of anger; to feel /alive/ in a way that she hasn't in ages, her face growing hot. Other emotions do not quite compare to it, and Homura Akemi forgets herself completely for a moment.

Purple light swirls up around her, before it blows outward -- and ruffles the purple ribbons at her waist. Her white jacket is still -- and so is her arm and her hand, pointed towards Mami. She has the same Desert Eagle she used to kill Alyssa Searrs in her hand.

Her voice is quiet. Homura is often quiet when she feels strong emotions. But her words reveal the depths of her fury. "Shut your damn mouth."

COMBAT: Homura Akemi transforms into Puella Magi Homura!

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami's smirk widens, as she watches Homura Akemi, of all people, stumble backward. Anger--desperation... And pain.

And total control.

The purple light bursts before her, the gun already in Homura's hand. For a moment, Mami Tomoe--ordinary high school girl--simply stands where she is. Just a moment. Before the words come.

"My, my, Akemi-san, such /language!/ ...Or should I address you less formally? After all, we're so /alike/."

Mami doesn't even blink as a golden aura envelops her, transforming her suddenly from ordinary girl to battle-ready warrior, her hat pin gleaming bright in the afternoon sun filtering in through the window.

Suddenly, she's in motion. Her hand flicks out--but in it isn't a gun, but a ribbon, growing from her sleeve to snap around Homura, to go for her limbs, just as Mami herself /lunges/ for a tackle to knock her clear through the window of the classroom.

It doesn't matter whether or not it works; Mami follows through, a rifle already in her hand as she leaps after.

She murmurs over breaking glass as they crash outside, "You're adorable when you're angry, Akemi-chan." COMBAT: Mami Tomoe transforms into Puella Mami! COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Legare on Homura Akemi. COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking. COMBAT: Homura Akemi narrowly counters Mami Tomoe's Legare, taking 3 Fatigue damage! Homura Akemi's Reverse ability activates! Homura Akemi's Tactician ability activates! Tangle and Trap applied to Homura Akemi! COMBAT: Homura Akemi's counterattack, Homemade Bomb, partially gets through, doing 21 Fatigue damage to Mami Tomoe! Critical Counterhit!

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

"What are you--gh!"

Mami rams into Homura, smashing her into the window, even as a curl of ribbon slaps around her wrist. Her eyes widen -- even as enraged as she is, she knows that she could give away her time manipulation if they are connected like that. Then, she hits the ground, and rolls across. She comes to a stop, yanking away, but she pulls the ribbon taut.

Something drops into her other hand, with a shake of her shield: a pipe bomb. She throws it underhanded, and it goes careening towards Mami before it explodes. Shrapnel and fire shred through the ribbon. Homura yanks back quickly, before she looks at Mami, holding that rifle.


Her blood pounds in her neck; her eyes widen and her vision swims. She sees red literally, for a second. "Don't call me that! What sort of senpai are you!?" she shouts, now. "You knew how dangerous this is! You lured Madoka and Sayaka to help you!"

She starts running, moving to the side of Mami in a serpentine pattern. The Desert Eagle flips up, Homura's teeth gritting, and then she starts shooting. The explosion a few seconds ago is joined by the repeated crack-boom of her pistol firing. Students in the school start screaming, though mercifully nowhere near.

"For someone who doesn't need help, YOU RUIN A LOT OF LIVES!"

COMBAT: Homura Akemi has used Impossible Aim on Mami Tomoe. COMBAT: Homura Akemi has finished attacking. COMBAT: Mami Tomoe perfectly counters Homura Akemi's Impossible Aim, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Critical Counter! COMBAT: Mami Tomoe's counterattack, Tiro Retort, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Homura Akemi!

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

They don't just shred through the ribbon; that shrapnel explodes close enough to Mami that she falls straight through the blast, coming out on the other side lit by fire like from out of some nightmare.

...Maybe Homura's.

There are already cuts and burns, bleeding through Mami's white sleeves.

Homura's words she can hear, as she hits the ground, rolling forward to keep her balance. "Shouldn't I!?"

Homura is running, but Mami is already jumping, leaping upward and farther from the school to lead her opponent on. There's already screams.

...But Homura fires, and Mami is in motion. A dozen rifles spring into existence, and every one of Homura's bullets meets a golden end by Mami's guns, shots matched in midair with an impossible grace.

But those words...

"I did," she can only answer. "I saw a chance. ...A chance for something you can't understand. And now I have it!"

Mami takes to the air again in an instant, firing on Homura once, twice with a second gun, three times with another, as she maximizes her distance from the school.

"Why don't you share your feelings with me, Akemi-chan? Tell me! Tell me how you wish you could do what I have!" COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Flourish on Homura Akemi. COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking. COMBAT: Homura Akemi fails to dodge Mami Tomoe's Tiro Flourish, taking 48 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Stagger applied to Homura Akemi!

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

Homura doesn't have time to be awed by how Mami intercepted each of her pistol's shots with her rifles. She already starts running, gritting her teeth -- even more infuriated to hear Mami admit to it. Her eyes widen with anger, and she throws the Desert Eagle over her shoulder. It hits a sidewalk, scraping and skidding to a stop, as Homura draws out an Uzi.

She flicks the submachinegun's safety off.

Then she sees Mami flying up into the air, carried on ribbons, and she turns after her. The other Puella Magi fires, gun after gun, and Homura's anger proves her undoing. She isn't thinking straight. The first shot punches just below her collarbone, shooting out of her back. The second hits her stomach, grazing along the side, and rips through. The third slams into her left hip, and gets wedged against the bone there. She stumbles--

--and the superhuman strength of resilience of the Puella Magi let her stay standing. She looks up, spitting -- there's blood in it -- and glares at Mami. "Shut up!" she yells, then screams at her, "SHUT UP!"

She swings the Uzi up, aiming at Mami and the ribbons she uses to fire, then pulls the trigger. The muzzle flashes and bullets fly from the barrel in a wild spray. Homura shouts over the roar of gunfire. "I don't want what you have! I don't want a trail of my friend's corpses in my wake! I hate it! I hate that feeling!"

She keeps firing. "I hate you! I hate how you lure them in, knowing what it will do to them! You were supposed to PROTECT THEM! All you did was use them!"

The magazine empties; the submachinegun emits a hollow clicking. Homura tosses it to the side, too, and keeps screaming. "I should have put a bullet in your head along time ago, you damn witch!"

COMBAT: Homura Akemi has used Firing Pattern on Mami Tomoe. COMBAT: Homura Akemi has finished attacking. COMBAT: Mami Tomoe narrowly dodges Homura Akemi's Firing Pattern, taking 21 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Homura Akemi is Psyched! Mami Tomoe's Fade ability activates! Mami Tomoe's Flash ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

It isn't enough, of course. Mami doubted that it would be. Still, her golden eyes track each and every shot, each one as Homura stumbles--

But she doesn't stop yet. She already nearly lost one fight recently to carelessness, and that look of /control/--of sheer focus--hasn't left Mami's eyes since before they started fighting.

"It seems I struck a nerve," the blonde comments lightly, before Homura's bullets rip through her. She tries to turn, but in mid-air, it's difficult; she succeeds only in protecting her firing arms, her legs, still taking an array of shots to the side that ought to kill any ordinary girl.

But they already established that neither of them are ordinary girls.

"You should have!" Mami agrees, almost mildly, touching down on ruined ground that used to be forest. "Because you said you wouldn't lie--and yet here you are. You hate me for not /protecting/ them?"

Mami's eyes glint, as she gathes another ribbon about her wrist, her movements careful. "It seems to me they're both alive and well. Sayaka-chan is more radiant than she's been in a long time. She's making plans. So you say you /hate/ it..."

Mami tosses the ribbon to the ground, makes another, and another, as she runs now to the side, leaping upward.

"But what would you do? I've seen how you look at her, /Akemi-chan/. What are your intentions for Madoka Kaname? /Really/? Can you honestly tell me you just want to look on from afar, 'protecting' her forever?"

She lifts her other hand, and a rifle forms.

It's a feint. Her ribbon hand yanks upward, and an array of golden ribbon sharp enough to cut through steel erupts around Homura Akemi. COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tagliare on Homura Akemi. COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking. COMBAT: Homura Akemi fails to counter Mami Tomoe's Tagliare, taking 28 Fatigue damage! Cripple, Stun, and Trap applied to Homura Akemi! COMBAT: Homura Akemi's counterattack, Flashstep, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mami Tomoe!

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

Homura tenses, when she hears that Sayaka is making plans. Historically, that is never a good thing.

But then, she is already tense, and she sees the glint in Mami's eyes -- and the ribbons on the ground. She starts to dart to the side, to keep pace with her. But those words hit her; words that cut to the heart of Homura's feelings on Madoka Kaname, to the doubts she harbors and doesn't want to deal with. Normally, she can repress such things.

She is far too angry to repress them today. Her expression screws up, eyes widening and showing red at the edges -- from a few enraged tears and a blood vessel popping in her eye.

"SHUT UP! Don't talk about her like that! I--it doesn't matter what I want! It matters what I can do!" Homura yells back. "And I can keep her from being dragged into this by a monster like you!"

The rifle forms, and she side steps it. Then, the ribbons erupt around her. She reaches for her shield--and not in time, as the ribbons cut into her arms, her legs, her torso. Bloody lines appear across her; one slashes along her cheek. She crumples to the ground, falling onto her knees, and staring down at the ground. Her eyes brim with tears.

She looks -- and for all the world, acts -- defeated. The act is quite good; it plays on the truth.

"I... I don't care about myself," she says. Her voice is small; it cracks, the same way her glasses cracked when Mami had her wrapped up before. Blood drips from her cheek onto the ground and her fingers tremble. "...I know what I am. Madoka should hate me. She would, if she knew what I became."

She hangs her head, tears blurring her vision. "That's the difference between us, Mami." Just walk closer, she thinks. "We both know what we are. I just have the decency to push people away, before I hurt them more. But... I wasn't strong enough."

Her voice catches in her throat. "I couldn't finish it."

COMBAT: Homura Akemi has used Relativity on Mami Tomoe. COMBAT: Homura Akemi has finished attacking. COMBAT: Mami Tomoe perfectly dodges Homura Akemi's Relativity, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Critical Dodge! Mami Tomoe's Fade ability activates! Mami Tomoe's Flash ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

In few situations does Mami Tomoe show the extent of what she can do. As she'd advised another Puella Magi, it's important to keep someting up one's sleeve.

...But Homura may know. She, of all people, knows better than anyone what Mami hides.

"Like what?" she asks, eyes on Homura even as she carefully arranges her attack. "Don't play that game with me. Do you /really/ just wish to keep her away from me, away from all of this? Because that's awfully noble. I certainly can't fault wanting to protect Madoka-chan."

She doesn't pull a punch with that attack. Now standing on the ground, Mami eyes Homura very carefully. She sees the pain she's in, the tears.

The words.

Mami is silent, in those moments. She lets herself listen to what she asked Homura to share, what she requested of the younger girl. Still dripping blood from her arms, still standing with the gunshots that have hit her, too, Mami watches Homura, her blonde hair ruffled in the wind. Her golden eyes stay level.

...She doesn't move closer.

"No," Mami says simply.

"No. I don't believe you. I don't know where you come from... But I know girls like us. I know the wishes we hold."

"...You wouldn't fight this hard without a hope for something more than that. You don't just want to /protect/ her. ...You want her to see it. You want her to know that you're protecting her, to appreciate your efforts."

She lifts a hand, curled into a fist, parallel with her body.

"..I won't finish it for you either, Akemi-san."

Ribbon forms in her hand, coils to the ones still at Homura's feet. But these aren't sharp. These are thicker, growing, tangling, /coiling/ around her.

Mami watches, and the amber of her eyes may as well be ancient amber in truth. COMBAT: FINISHER! Mami Tomoe has used Concludere on Homura Akemi. COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking. Long distance to Hayato Nishi: Mami Tomoe brofists COMBAT: Homura Akemi fails to dodge Mami Tomoe's Finisher, Concludere, taking 91 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Homura Akemi is unable to keep fighting!

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

Homura realizes she didn't trick her. She doesn't manage to swear softly; her eyes widen and her teeth grit together. Then, the ribbons wrapp around her -- sticky and thick, this time -- and bind her in them. They lift her off the ground and the black-haired girl sags in them, her violet eyes lifting to look at Mami's amber eyes.

"It's more complicated than that," she says, again. Her voice breaks, this time, and there is even less acting. Her fingers slacken; blood drips down onto the ground, and her eyes break away from Mami's.

"Maybe I have thought about it," she says. "But if Madoka knew what I did for her and saw what lengths I went to... she would never want to see me again."

Her head drops down, bangs covering her eyes, and her shoulders slump. "I would have to lie to her. I don't want that." She isn't meeting Mami's eyes -- but then her teeth grit together, and she finds the anger hasn't left her entirely. She spits out, quietly: "I don't want to become like you, senpai."

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Still Mami keeps her distance, watching Homura from far enough away to see it, should she wriggle free, should she simply /be/ elsewhere like she always does.

"Is it?" she asks, a quiet triumph in her voice. The blonde girl continues to watch, as Homura's voice breaks, as her fingers go slack, as...

Still, Mami's eyes remain on Homura. The wind ruffles her outfit, a cold breeze out here in what used to be a forest, that once might have filtered through the trees. And at Homura's final words, spit out with the anger that Mami got to see here...

The older Puella Magi's mouth thins into a line.

"...You're afraid," she pronounces, dismissively. "I understand that. ...But I'm not sure /you/ do."

"...You don't want to become like me?"

Finally, Mami approaches, slow, even steps padding against the ground, leaving tracks in the ruined dirt. She approaches, with her ribbons still holding Homura up, tight enough to keep her bound.

She gets close enough that she can stand before Homura, that she can see her close.

"...You couldn't become me," Mami Tomoe murmurs to Homura Akemi.

"You don't have what it takes."

She walks away. ...She'll dismiss the magic... eventually.

But the older girl isn't in any hurry, now.

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

"No," Homura says in a hoarse whisper. "You don't understand. You're... you're going to do what you always do."

The anger begins to melt away from her. It leaves her feeling emptied and hollowed out. The blood loss likely doesn't help with that either. She looks after Mami, falling silent. Thoughts and responses roll around in her head, but the anger isn't there any longer, and Homura slumps down. She should have known better.

The tears were never far away, but they come back, to fill the hole left by the anger. She thinks of what she admitted about Madoka. The truth of those words hurts.

She bites her lip, lowers her head, and tries to hide her crying from nothing.

But then, a second thought comes to mind. She has seen this before. She knows what she saw in those hardened amber eyes. Her shoulders tremble and she finally surrenders, letting out a wrenching sob -- and with no stopped time to hide it from the world.

If she wants to stop it, she has to kill her friend.