2016-09-15 - Shinjuku Fight Night

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Shinjuku Fight Night

Mami Tomoe and Sayaka Miki come to Shinjuku to do exactly what they promised to.


Mami Tomoe, Sayaka Miki, Kyouko Sakura, Eri Shimanouchi


Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo

OOC - IC Date:

9/15/2016 - 11/21/2014

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

The extra tension tonight is difficult to deny. But if there's one difficult thing Sayaka is good at, it's denial.

"Yo-SSHA!" Sayaka exults, flinging a sword through a familiar as it creeps up a wall, inchworm style. Its patchwork-colored companion vibrates with alarm, and starts inching in a different direction. Sayaka pulls it off the wall and lets it wriggle around in her gloved hand, apparently blind as a bat. There's a pronounced bend in the center, and a hole at one end. There's no denying it.

"They're socks," Sayaka marvels. "Just a drawer fulla dumped-out socks." After holding it near her face to see if it's dangerous (it just quivers), she dangles it out towards Madoka the way she used to dangle horrifying bugs they'd find in the woods, grinning. "Shimanouchi-chan would have an easy time cleaning these little guys up. It's obviously on purpose."

Sayaka tosses the sock up in the air in Mami's sightline. "Pull!" she cries in English.

Gently touching the gem at her navel, Sayaka closes her eyes. "What do you think, senpai? Seems like... left, to me. Pretty weak, though... probably just more socks."

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

Mami Tomoe isn't bad at denial, herself. But she can't afford to loosen up /too/ much, even if Sayaka's manner certainly makes her want to. And to a point she can.

As she fires through another few, she glances over to Sayaka actually holding onto the familiar. She stares a moment, and immeiately sighs and laughs at the same time.

That laughter fades at the mention of the name, but her reflexes don't. 'Pull!' and gunfire erupts with a wave of Mami's hand, two shots perfectly through the little sock that is now so much dust, if that.

"...I'm surprised these are so easy. They must still be young, yet. We should be careful." ...But Sayaka meant what does she think about where to go. She reaches a hand up to her hat, gently touches the gem there, closes her eyes a half-moment. "...Yes, left. Your instincts are good, Sayaka-chan."

Mami start that way, glancing over her kohai for any injuries... and doesn't find any.

"You should both stick close to me," she says, ever-careful...

But she smiles a little anyway. It is fun to hunt with the three of them, sometimes, even in a situation like this.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Sayaka is correct.

It's certainly on purpose. That was a particularly weak one. Her phone had a map of Shinjuku at the ready with pins at the last known locations. She was in the middle of placing a new pin right now. Sure familiars moved around, but even saving a few minutes of time of playing hot and cold in this garden of skyscrapers was precious.

Hitting save, she checked upon the location of the next, locked the screen- slid a mitten back on that hand, and rubbed it back together, adjusting her scarf over her mouth. It was cold enough weather for a cap, a mitten, a scarf, a heavier jacket than the norm, all bundled up like this it was kind of difficult to tell who she was.

She was about to walk on when suddenly the pulse in her hand vanished. As if it had never been. Curious, she turns her eyes that way. Catches a glimpse down the alleyway. Freezes.

Her denial was a tad different than Sayaka's. It was a denial that they were actually serious- or if they were that they'd come so soon. There's a lump in her throat, seeing them both.

Just a few seconds as they start to veer left, and then she turns, stuffs her pockets in her jackets, walks away casually within the crowd of pedestrians. She keeps walking casually until she's a block down, turning into the landing of a hotel. Pressing her back against the wall, she could feel the sweat, despite the cold, as she pounded the back of her head once against it, and just let herself breathe.

She could just let it go today...

But even that's like an intrusive thought. If she let it go, then it'd give them license to try again, it'd deny her magic for when they did. It'd make her look weak for all the others. It wasn't an option. "Stupid- Acting like it's some sort of game."

She tore off her mittens furiously like she was taking it out of it. "Bringing Madoka-chan into this." Punching a code into her screen, she unlocked it.

Hit a certain number, held it up to her ear, waited for it to pick up- "Hey it's me." She doesn't wait for a response, continuing immediately, "They're here in Shinjuku, wiping out familiars. Mami-chan and Miki-chan. They even brought Madoka-chan with them, probably as incentive to let them have their way. Want me to stall them until you get here, or just wait?"

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.

Noodles are hanging out of her lips when her phone starts to buzz and blare, enjoying their last kiss of air like a cigarette for the condemned of a firing squad before getting slurped into gastrointestinal hell. Fishing it out with an appreciative lipsmack and a few twists of the wrists, she swallows and claps it to her ear at the same time, listening intently.

"Mmph...prob'ly hold back fer now..but if you see a moment go fer it. I'll be right there."

Kyouko doesn't wipe her mouth or even finish her meal, just jerks her head to the foodstand cook. "Tab, Soba-san." Sora-san waves her off without even looking. Pulling her hood up over her unruly red head she slips off behind the curtain and into the alley. r She's running, and the moment she's reliably out of view she scales roofward. Without breaking her stride, she shoves earbuds past her auburn nestings and slams on the first random entry on her battle list, eager to stoke her blood even hotter.

As quickly as she moves, she's no teleporter. She arrives in Shinjuku unsure of what she'll find. Making a point of sticking to rooftops, she makes her way in slowly now, sniffing out the intruders' trail by the magical markings left in their wake.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Who's There https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKBg0lWUcZ4

Madoka sucks at denial. She's been very, very quiet tonight. It's not disapproval. It is disapproval, but not of them. Sayaka knows -- it's the same sort of quiet with which she confronts the dentist, the semester final, or a sea urchin entree. There's a lot of nervous shifting, and almost no eye contact. Waggling that familiar at her doesn't get the outburst Sayaka might expect or hope for... she barely responds at all, other than a thin-shouldered shudder that is almost a reflex. She can tell -- she'll never, ever get used to Witches and their familiars. Their awfulness transcends adaptation.

Suddenly, she stops dead and looks up, like a deer in the headlights, at Mami -- stares at her with hungry eyes, the eyes of an artist about to sculpt, to immortalize, like she's never seen her before and may never see her again. Seconds pass, and then Sayaka gets the same treatment.

It's like she's memorizing them, the way they're smiling at each other, inscribing the laughter in Mami's voice, the marvel in Sayaka's, onto her heart.

Her hands are completely invisible beneath a fuzzy white muff, a stylish gift from Mama, but the tips of her ribbons tell her trembling story.

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Sayaka lets the sock familiar down morosely, averting her eyes from Madoka with a sudden, mild shame. That didn't work like she thought.

"N-no, I'm not good at it at all yet," Sayaka demurs, rubbing the back of her head. "I just do like you told me to, senpai..." She nods firmly. "Right. After all, we're Tokyo's premier Puella Magi konbi! Mami and Sayaka, with their too-cute manager, Madoka Kaname!"

Despite her outward mirth, Sayaka is being cautious. She expects that Eri and Kyouko were not bluffing. It's lucky that the familiars are weak today. It's maybe less lucky that the next batch are in an alley. Not that that's a rare circumstance.

Sayaka's shadow grows long in the streetlights, slithering diagonally across the wall, splitting as she passes a light. She glances at the rooftops briefly, but the dumpster ahead catches her attention, as the lid is popping up and down gently.

"Socks," Sayaka says grimly. "I bet it's full of old socks!"

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

Maybe, if the night had played out slightly different thus far, Mami would have seen Eri, seen her and maybe followed her, maybe not. But that isn't how it played out. At the very moment Eri spotted them, the blonde Puella Magi finds herself looking at Madoka, who's stopped there.

The look is perhaps gone by then, but she smiles at the younger girl anyway, before turning to Sayaka again. She gives her a look, head tilted forward and eyebrows slightly raised, but her golden eyes are encouraging. It changes anyway as she tilts her head right back forward in a nod. "That we are. The three of us can do anything."

She takes a step back, and follows along with Sayaka, her own shadow following hers. She doesn't take up the vanguard this time. Down the alley she goes, repeating the same glances, above and behind.

"All right. I'll cover you, just in case it's more than that." A rifle beautifully shimmers into existence from ribbons in her hand, and she points it past Sayaka, one-handed.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

The call ends. "If I see a moment?" There's an almost rueful look on her face, a rueful smile that's pained at the corners as she lowered the phone, went back to the map. It's like she's regretting ever trying to think up more efficient ways, "Don't worry- senpai." She says to nothing but air a sotto voce, "Got the feeling I'll be able to get ahead of them." She checks it one last time, tries to make a prediction of which one they'll be going for next. It's not the most accurate system, but there was only one other on this side of town.

Inside the hotel she goes past sliding glass doors, hands in pockets. Shaking her head as someone asks if she wants to check in. Into the elevator she goes-

-when it opens again at the second floor to the top floor, she leaves a faint scent behind in the air. The smell of a field after rain. She's not dressed the same way, a circlet of thorns with a glowing green leaf on her forehead. The sweat however, is still there- Lace sharp with thorns, she adjusts the gloves, walks over to the fire escape, shoves it open, uncaring about the whining trill as warm air mingles with cold again.

Up the two flights of stairs she goes to the rooftop, a short hop to the edge, and then she begins her own rooftop journey- avoiding tall skyscrapers, going for middle class mansions and the like in a display of parkour- with her own added touches to get around. It's like a nature spirit got free from Shinjuku Gyoen, decided to take a tour of the maze of metal and glass.

Branches would sometimes appear as footholds that would vanish just as quickly, vined whips would be used to cross gaps too far for her to leap. So girded, it becomes much easier to sense where they must be going. In the air she makes it ahead of them, but only just- there's a shadow on the rooftop, a flicker of movement. When Sayaka looks- she wonders if she's been spotted, but there she goes- talking about socks? She can barely make it out from here. Something in her eyes narrows as carefully creeps closer to the edge marks their positions. She feels her pulse quicken. Her eyes look around the environment looking for cover, advantages she could exploit.

She could just wait but-

So these are your colors Shimanouchi-san. As soon as you show your feelings, you wait for someone to jump in and rescue you. You're afraid, so you need someone to hide behind. Just like before. ...Just like for as long as I've known you.

Her eyes end on a pole sticking out, a rusted remnant of an old fire escape, before modern ones were built. She steps to the edge.

Something lashes through the night, a whistling sound, the length of a vine. It's aimed at the one she feels is truly responsible for this mess. It's aimed at Sayaka's- ankle, or wrist, but a torso or her abdomen would suit her just fine. It's a sidearm flick, the length moving past her, then snapping around in a circle around whatever part of the body it hits. An immediate sharp tug draws it taut as she tries to yank her off of her footing. Then she simply steps to the other side of the pole, and steps off the edge.

The pole is exploited like a pulley, knocking off leaves and thorns as she uses her own weight to try to drag the blue Puella Magi into the sky like prey caught in a snare, a journey which might send her crashing against brick repeatedly, and eventually against the pole itself if she doesn't manage to arrest it.

Eri's own weight is the impetus for her descent, as it brings her down rapidly as Sayaka goes up, using her foot every now and then like a rappeller to keep her own self from slamming into the wall. But the fingertips of her other hand touch the brick wall once as she goes, leaving the mark of her magic. Just in front of Madoka, green sparkles mark the appearance of a wall of tangled green and black briars that sprouts from one end of the alley to the other.

Her feet hit the ground, as she holds the vine fast to try to keep Sayaka going up and over and back down herself if she caught her. "Well now that you've shown me the two of you are serious-" Her breath fogs in the air as she looks up briefly to check the flight of the other, then forward at the other, bigger threat, "-it's time for me to return the favor. Sure you two don't want to back off before it's too late?"

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Moidon's Grasp on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki narrowly braces Eri Shimanouchi's Moidon's Grasp, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Sayaka Miki's Block ability activates!  Sayaka Miki's Parry ability activates!  Tangle applied to Sayaka Miki!
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYMa2XxRylc

Gravel rustles underfoot. She'd donned her raiment by now, and the heel of her boot grinds fast to the roofer's tar. After a few well placed leaps about, she's found the heat at its source. Unsure of what she'll find, she's torn between caution and haste, unwilling to blow an advantage nor leave a possibly ailing ally hanging.

Of course she grins like a madwoman when she makes the lay of the land. She isn't leaving Eri hanging at all, in fact her favorite person in the city is the one dangling from a strong. Not much time to enjoy it, unfortunately. Her friend's even cordoned off mild Madoka. Kyouko might not want to see what could happen if she held back and let Eri keep going solo, but it's a grand red carpet for her to make her entrance to.

Pressing off her feet as though gravity were a family friend willing to loosen a regulation or two for her, the javelineer takes advantage of the distractions down below and repositions to the roof closest to Mami's back. Without a word, she leaps from the edge, a spear flocking to her grip with its guillotined tip angled down towards the golden girl's gullet.

Before she can even tell if her stroke struke true, she's on her feet once more, bounding to Eri's side and brandishing her spear in readied defiance.

"Human shield, huh? Didn't know you two had it in you. Words from the wise though, they work better when you're behind them..."

Under her breath, for her kouhai's sake. "Nicely done. Let's beat down every thought they'll ever have of messing with us again."

COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has used Masterstroke on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe narrowly dodges Kyouko Sakura's Masterstroke, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Mami Tomoe's Fade ability activates!  Mami Tomoe's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"I-I'm not here to manage anyone," Madoka protests hotly, growing red as a beet at the very idea of having any authority whatsoever over Tokyo's premier Puella Magi konbi. And then a little redder still, at Mami's follow-up voicing of support.

So it is that when Eri and Kyouko make their moves, she's much more distracted then she might have been. She shrieks with surprise -- but not, perhaps hearteningly to some, with fear -- when the green sparkles surround her, the briars cut her off from the group. Getting on tip-toe, she peers through the brackage desperately, which becomes unnecessary when Sayaka is hefted, becoming extremely easy to see.

"Sayaka-chan!!" Madoka gasps. "Be careful!"

She doesn't bother replying to Kyouko's assessment. There isn't much point... especially because it's true, though not in the way most would think. But the way she looks up at the other girl, when her pink eyes meet those burning red ones -- it's sad, but also determined.

Kyuubey locks his tail around her neck, a matching scarf to her muff. He knows why she's here, and it isn't just to protect Sayaka and Mami.

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed. Sayaka's eyes widen as she drops, her sword clattering across the pavement, released to avoid injuring herself. Her foot goes up as her head goes down, and she has to catch herself on her forearms, just before she's ripped off the ground entirely, her white cape fluttering and extended. The creak of the vine as it strains is a familiar sound to her, ending any doubt she had about the identity of her attacker. Repeatedly she thuds against brick on her way up, grimacing and breathless, but she manages to hike her head up a bit to protect it, and to steal a glance down past her own bare stomach at where she's headed.

When she hits the pole, she's ready for it. Sayaka's boots strike metal with a united clangor, her knees bending to absorb the impact. Eri's fall slows, then reverses with a rapid four-foot tug as Sayaka wraps her wrist in the vine, then forces her legs straight with a loud groan of effort, dragging the vine out to hold it like a belaying line.

"Shimanouchi!" she shouts angrily, but a vivid red bolt draws her attention. "Senpai!" Drawing a fresh sword, she underhands it hard, directly alongside the vine, giving Eri the choice of abandoning her grip or dealing with the silver point shooting towards her.

"It's okay, Madoka!" Pulling hard on the vine, Sayaka slips it off the edge of the pole, allowing her to fall freely. Swivelling a new sword in reverse, she stabs it into the wall to slow her descent, leaving it there as her feet hit the ground. She's at Mami's side in a moment, gloved fist gleaming with a fresh blade.

"You two should be thanking us," Sayaka rejoins at Kyouko. "We're cleaning up your familiars for free. It's almost like you and the familiars are on the same side..." Sayaka looks to Mami, jaw firm.

"I can beat her, senpai," she says, and it's not a whisper. "That Anko. Let me handle her."

COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has used Perfect Pitch on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi narrowly braces Sayaka Miki's Perfect Pitch, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Sayaka Miki is Psyched!  Eri Shimanouchi's Block ability activates!  Eri Shimanouchi's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami isn't looking up when Eri steps to the edge. She's looking at that dumpster, doing as she said she would. By the time she flicks up her eyes as part of her watch, that vine is already in motion. Just the right time, without the hesitation that would have gotten her spotted. She hears it then, "Sayaka--" r As she's looking for the source, there's something else. Mami doesn't /see/ Kyouko's leap down. It's much too fast for her to actually look up. She hears the sound of leaving the edge, hears the wind whip down as that spear cuts through it. She weaves right in an instant, and the spear slices down her shoulder and down her back instead of right through her throat; the rifle in her hand clatters to the ground with a rich, metallic tone. She doesn't need to think about the fact that Kyouko could be here already, doesn't even need to see her.

Mami knows the feeling of that spear already, etched into her mind long ago.

She's recovering herself with her left side forward as she sees the two of them standing together, standint defiant. Her eyes flick to the barrier behind which Madoka stands, over to where Sayaka hangs, and her teeth press together until she sees her free herself. Only then does she look to the others again. "A shield, really?" The contempt in Mami's voice is obvious. She knows what she's done to protect Madoka.

"We're not backing down," she says, in support to Sayaka, though she glances her way at that statement that isn't a whisper. "No," she answers, and it isn't sharp, but it is firm. She murmurs then, "She's stronger than I am. You're not ready."

It doesn't take long. "...Something like this was inevitable, wasn't it Sakura-san? Ever since we split. ...Well I'm not that girl anymore."

Mami throws up her hand and a brace of a dozen rifles covers her leap, her kick against the wall--a dozen rifles that circle and fire straight back at Kyouko.

That's Mami's answer.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Circle on Kyouko Sakura.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura fails to dodge Mami Tomoe's Tiro Circle, taking 29 Fatigue damage!  Mami Tomoe is Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Eri is ready to move, after all, she's rather sure Mami won't take her up on that- and Mami is the greater threat in her eyes. But her off-hand does make a motion as Sayaka calls Shimanouchi, as if were some half-salute. Hook the other, then be ready to move on Mami- but she doesn't need to. There's a blur of red in her vision.

Some of her apprehension goes away, her expression actually changes momentarily into the ghost of a smile, as Kyouko descends with her thrust like one of the Erinyes once more. Bounding to her side- a whisper to her is returned by another as she holds fast to the length of vine. "Good timing. Doesn't matter what we think of them right?"

An echo of her earlier advice. But it becomes less of a whisper, then as she continues, "Noone gets to threaten our well-being."

But a fresh sword is coming her way. Clean and razor sharp. She's in motion instantly letting go, leaping back into an axel spin as she quite simply let's go of the one she has. Another conjured whip is out, her own twisting motion allowing her to snap against the flat of the blade mid-flight. It's trajectory changes just slightly. Whistling past her shoulder, carving a small gouge in the fluffy sleeve before it embeds in the brick.

She lands, skidding back on the concrete, "Not a bad pitch. Sure you don't belong in the bullpen?" It's her own kind of joke, since she knew the pitcher for Sayaka's team. She faces Sayaka as she embeds her sword in the wall, makes her descent, "Thanking you for what? Doing my weeding for me?"

There's a frown on her face that makes it all the way to her eyes, "That's your mistake. So long as I need them to get by- it's not weeding, it's an autumn harvest. I won't thank you for scything them down before they're ready." She wouldn't mind taking on Mami, but part of her- well a distant part is grateful that Mami seems fixated on taking on Kyouko, which keeps her attention on Sayaka.

She gets the feeling that now that Sayaka is down, she won't be throwing, she'll be trying to close in distance, but that's fine by her. She skips backwards a step, her new whip striking here, or there, but they're wide swings simply to distract, feints to try to halt any sudden advance. Mid whirling display as a cloud of gunsmoke fills the alley, she puts her fingers against the wall. A light touch, but it's like the brick has grown sparkling, ethereal veins of emerald for the blink of an eye.

Mortar explodes, and erupts, as gnarled roots that might remind them of a Cypress tree- above water burst forth at the Puella Magi from several different angles, trying to break past the Swordfighter's guard. To break skin and skewer her. It was rather brutal in it's intent but she'd seen her powers- she was rather certain she could heal this if it succeeds, "I won't thank you for coming here and forcing my hand. For bringing Madoka-chan to watch this all over again!" Bile in her throat, shadows of the past, Madoka and Sayaka kneeling over her in an alley.

No matter who won today, it felt like she lost.

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Jubokko's Sanguine Roots on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki narrowly counters Eri Shimanouchi's Jubokko's Sanguine Roots, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki's counterattack, Disjunct Chord, partially gets through, doing 14 Fatigue damage to Eri Shimanouchi!  Critical Counterhit!
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.

Kyouko nods to Eri. "That's right. We've given them every chance and they're forcing our hand." Her further words are meant for everybody. "It's a big city! It's got a lot of problems. Why don't you get to the ones on your own turf? This isn't a game. We warned you fair and square and you're spitting on us."

To Mami, she shakes her head, her lip a little curled. "Don't act like this is fate. I know you know the rules. Romping around in somebody else's territory is a declaration of war. You should go back to...y'know what, forget it. The old me would be disgusted by how much breath I've wasted on trying for peace with you."

From time to time Kyouko truly is the proverbial dog on the hunt, blinded to all things but the pursuit in its gaze. When Mami leapt, Kyouko leapt with her, her muscles calling the shots before her mind has a chance to weigh in. Twelve black suns lined with silver eclipse all hover before her, ill portents bursting into a concert of supernovas.

Twist as she might, she can do little to move without an opposing force to act on. She catches the full brunt of the volley with her body, metal missles shredding through her body and drawing a fair spot more blood than she'd hope to shed so soon. But Kyouko's a bull, and it'll take more than some grapeshot to halt her charge.

Just as Mami leapt back to the wall and then up for the heights, Kyouko leaps forward before launching up. Instead of kicking off of the wall, she pushes off with her hands, blitzing in a swooping arc towards her former friend's leaping form with her feet first. Her toes are pressed together, and a foot wide impaler sprouts between them, leading the missle with a silver streak like an anglerfish's lure.

COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has used Rocket's Red Glare on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe narrowly braces Kyouko Sakura's Rocket's Red Glare, taking 3 Fatigue damage!
<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Nothing's okay, but Madoka has the uneasy feeling that Sayaka isn't lying. She watches her best friend in action and it steals her breath away, as it always does. If the bluenette spares a second to see the evening star rise in those shining pink eyes, they're there. But there's a cloud over them tonight, too. Eri isn't the only one who's seeing that day in the alley.

<< You want to stop this, >> Kyuubey remarks for all to hear. << But you can't. This is between Puella Magi... it's not for you to even judge them, Madoka. >> The little guy seems pretty stern on this point.

Madoka, though, is unusually unchastened. "I'm not here to judge anyone," she can be heard to reply steadily, quietly. Truthfully, as golden and silver lights reflect in her eyes, bullets and spears. "I just... I wish there was a better way to resolve all this." She sounds plaintative. Frustrated. Sad.

<< You do? >> Kyuubey chirps eagerly...

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Sayaka lowers her voice to match Mami's, her blue eyes flickering with a blink. "Senpai... that's not true at all." But she casts a sidelong glance at Kyouko, and swallows.

As Mami begins her assault, Sayaka rockets into motion as well, cloaking her upper body in her cap as she goes in order to hide any telegraphing. She ducks side to side, agile as she moves, but as she closes distance, a landmine goes off before her foot hits the ground. Instinctively, Sayaka just /slashes/ the explosion, crying out fiercely as she splits the erupting root cleanly in half, the enchanted blade peeling the plant neatly as fast as it offers itself. From another angle a root rips across her shoulder, grinding through her cape and down to the skin to burn and cut. Kick-flipping horizontally, Sayaka slashes aside the roots as they come, and as they bristle up to protect Eri from her, crossing in an X before the gardener, Sayaka's sword comes down, splitting through them to find her instead.

For a moment, Eri's vision is filled with nothing but white. Sayaka's cape ripples audibly, dragged away like the canvas over a statue, to reveal... nothing. An empty alley, or at least, empty of blue.

A sharp whistle sounds from behind Eri. If she's baited into turning her head, she'll get the elegant golden pommel of a sword across her cheek.

COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has used Caprice on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi narrowly dodges Sayaka Miki's Caprice, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Eri Shimanouchi's Fade ability activates!  Eri Shimanouchi's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami is fixated, though she has reasons to want to fight the both of them--and she meant what she said. Nonetheless she doesn't want to shake Sayaka's confidence. She murmurs back, "Maybe you're right. I'll be fine."

"Your well-being," Mami repeats Eri, with a light shake of her head. "Would she?" Mami asks Kyouko.

But then she's in motion, and she sees Kyouko coming towards her ready for battle. She's trying to make up the distance, but Kyouko is too fast; Mami'd assumed the other girl would move quickly, but had counted on her assault to buy her a little more breathing room. But it didn't, and so she has to act; there's no room as Kyouko rushes her to get another gun in her path, and Mami herself is already more wounded than she wants to be. She sees feet pressed together and a spear between them, and has no place to dodge at this point in her leap. She throws out her hands for one of Kyouko's feet, pushes herself against it and pays the price in slicing one of her gloves open to merely be /kicked/ out of the air, spinning in mid-air until she manages to grab hold of the wall and push back off.

"I was willing for a while to let it go, I know. But I understand now..."

She whips out her hand again and ribbons burst into being, seeking to wrap around Kyouko's limbs and body and hold her in place.

"I just wasn't strong enough to do what's right!" COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Legare on Kyouko Sakura. COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking. COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura narrowly braces Mami Tomoe's Legare, taking 6 Fatigue damage! Kyouko Sakura's Block ability activates! Kyouko Sakura's Parry ability activates! Tangle and Trap applied to Kyouko Sakura!

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Part of her wants to watch the pursuit of Kyouko after Mami. "Go get her." She whispers as she catches the Red Puella Magi vault after her. She'd seen Mami fight plenty and she'd seen Kyouko fight plenty but she'd never seen the two of them fight. She felt there was something to learn in it- even if right now she'd certainly be lending a hand too.

It's not that she wanted Mami dead, but taken down another peg- humiliated into never acting against them again, would be enough. Her dance card however had already been filled for the night, as evidenced by the bladework of the other one.

Her magic is trying to compensate for her rush, but she's coming. More motes of her magic float out of her wrist- keeping it going, but she's still coming. With one last snarl the final set of roots erupt and the X carved through it in twin slashes that send her staggering backward, as she clutches at her chest, the whip she was holding severed by the act. Her opposite hand raises to attack rippling white-

But she's not there.

Her instincts from for fighting another Puella Magi, a stealthy one whose movements she could hardly follow, guide her instincts now. Fearing she'd be run through from behind, she hops forwards instead of back, twisting mid-leap, a pommel aimed at her cheek now whooshing past her ear with a thump.

It sets that ear ringing. She hears her pulse pounding.

Her flight takes her to the wall, where she kicks off of it, and to the opposite wall, then backwards towards Madoka's end of the alleyway. This wasn't an intentional choice on her part, just a reflexive way to widen the distance between them, but Sayaka could certainly interpret it that way.

She's going to land not far in front of the briars. A newly conjured whip is in her hand, she reaches over her opposite shoulder with a backswing that causes the coiled lengths to lash through the air, a whistle and blur the only sign as it's coming before it would attempt to strike her solar plexus with numbing force, try to steal the fight out of her with a snap-crack.

"The pommel-" She pants in a sudden realization of the less lethal use of the blade, "-are you thinking you can end this by just taking my soul gem or something? As if I'd let you!"

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Natural Backlash on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki narrowly counters Eri Shimanouchi's Natural Backlash, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Eri Shimanouchi is Psyched!
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki's counterattack, Righteous Advance, partially gets through, doing 14 Fatigue damage to Eri Shimanouchi!  Critical Counterhit!
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.

Glowing bands clap to her limbs, singing at her flesh beneath the fabric, twisting tight to try to tie her in place. Growling audibly, Kyouko tenses as little sharkteethed blades burst from beneath the bonds, grinding and pulping at the would be snares, but just enough to loosen them. Mami's magic is too strong to counter casually and perfectly.

"Every time I open my heart and try to see the world you talk about, I get burned and remember why it closed in the first place. I'm sorry I ever taught her to fight. Now she's ruined all of us."

Extending her arms out to her sides, she twists an ankle, raising up to the ball of its foot, and spins in a tight pirouette. The spearshaft grows from her wrist so quickly that it's like a hidden object revealed under a light cypher, the trailing silver streamers tipping the arc too fast to see in any detail, cutting through the air with an almost insectoid hum.

A mundane person could find themselves without a head after a dance like that. She'll settle for whatever part of Mami she can get...knowing full well that she needs to turn the momentum of this fight around. However the night ends, it'll end close and bloody all around.

COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has used Masterstroke on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe fails to brace Kyouko Sakura's Masterstroke, taking 34 Fatigue damage!
<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"...yeah," confirms Madoka, making the little guy's eyes uncomfortably intense, and somewhere, across town, causes Homura to erupt into hives. "...but,"


"--but, I'm not sure what to wish for. 'A better way' seems kind of... vague. Kyouko-chan taught me to be real careful for what I wish for, to not do it for anything lame, so..."

She gestures, Kyuubey seems to deflate, Homura probably takes a Benadryl.

The former isn't quite done, though. Even as Madoka winces from the sounds of battle, wanting nothing more than to hug her knees and fold her head between them, he tightens his tail around her neck comfortingly.

<< It doesn't really matter what you wish for, in that sense. >>


<< You see, Madoka... if you make a Contract with me, you'll be come extraordinarily powerful. Stronger than all three of these girls combined. So you could just... /make/ a better way. >>

"You mean, beat them up until they stop fighting?! That's exactly what's happening here, except they're... beating them up until they... start fighting... familiars..."

Her eyes lose their focus as she tries to sort through the ethics of all this. A pounding headache is rising.

<< I'm not sure you really have the luxury of time, Madoka. Someone here is going to get hurt. >>

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed. <SoundTracker> Lost https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ypw_tyo8hx0 Sayaka sets off to the chase along the ground, sheathed once more in her white cape. "You're surprised?" Sayaka demands as she goes. "I'm not a murderer like you and your--"

A whip curls out, dizzyingly fast, and at the same time Sayaka twists, her cape erupting as though it were a great soft cannon and a silver barb shrieking through the air, aiming for the whip-arm to steal its force. "--bloodthirsty senpai!" The whip cannot be stopped now, however, by anything short of Kyouko's great wall of latticework, and the tongue of leathery flora catches Sayaka across the eyebrow, causing her to flinch and skewing her charge diagonally, the way a pull at the reins redirects a horse by its head.

A trickle of blood flows down a pale eyelid, the blue iris beneath freezing gradually. "You," she rasps, and she continues her diagonal path, running past Eri, her white boots planting once, twice on the briar-wall, the crunchy sound leaving motes of floating plant particulate behind as she launches herself in the air above Eri, twisting balletically as she drags a long, gleaming sword from her cloak. "You never stand between me and her." Her hair flows loose in the air as she descends, her whole body one clutching raptor talon.

She comes down hard, reaping the blade wide as she falls, twisting, into Eri. Her feet scrabble against the ground, her posture low as she flips the sword to a reverse grip. "You don't deserve that Soul Gem." She launches herself alongside and past Eri, dragging her sword across the plant-Magi's bodyline as she goes. "You never did."

COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has used Furioso on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi narrowly braces Sayaka Miki's Furioso, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Eri Shimanouchi's Block ability activates!  Eri Shimanouchi's Parry ability activates!  Sayaka Miki drains 6 fatigue from Eri Shimanouchi!
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkQKqyAQmEY

Mami has just long enough for a few moments, back here on the ground again, to decide she'll have to give up on getting away. It's more dangerous for her, but maybe it's almost better this way. Sweat sticks a little of Mami's usually-perfect hair to her forehead, her golden eyes tight and focused on her foe. In what little light there is they aren't bright.

"I wish I could show you better than I've been able. But my feelings aren't as important as the lives lost from a system I've been too afraid to change. /She/ hasn't ruined anything!"

Mami is already calling up another rifle when Kyouko is free enough to move again. It's in her hand, which is rising for Mami's next shot, but the start of Kyouko's spin is faster than Mami's approach. It cuts across her suddenly, and she can't even move herself to defend. The spear cuts through flesh in Kyouko's hands, hacking through her arm, her shoulder, leaving a deep red line just below her neck, jagged not due to Kyouko's impeccable aim but due to pure luck of how Mami was moving. She's not a mundane person and even then it was close, saved only by the way she was already starting to step back. She manages to keep hold of her rifle as she stumbles, a cough escaping her throat. She can't even answer before she attacks, lifting up her weapon and firing even as another manifests to fire, and another, and another as she tries to push Kyouko back to the wall. Muffled by gunfire she calls out, "I won't--hold back this time!"

However it ends, it'll end close and bloody indeed.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Flourish on Kyouko Sakura.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura narrowly braces Mami Tomoe's Tiro Flourish, taking 17 Fatigue damage!  Kyouko Sakura's Block ability activates!  Kyouko Sakura's Parry ability activates!  Stagger applied to Kyouko Sakura!
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

The lash strikes Sayaka's brow, and part of her curses her aim. This battle is taking way too long. She felt herself at a disadvantage with every passing moment, her breath rattling within her chest. Sayaka's healing powers just seem to tip the odds in her favor. Sayaka is running, and she's trying to anticipate that- "I'm surprised you don't realize that if it's in your senpai's hands- I'm as good as dead anyhow. After what she's done. I wouldn't trust her to water my flowers!" - a sideways jaunt here, and there and-

-she's kicking off the briar wall. Eri snarls like a wild animal at Sayaka's statement of never standing between Madoka and her, but she has no time to talk right now- the blade descends. Twisting at the last moment is all that saves her flank, as the blade hitches just on the woven in thorns before shredding it and the blouse.

Backpedaling, there's just no gap between them. Sayaka is dragging her sword, and she bends over backwards. Her whip leads first, smacking the flat, as she tries to limbo beneath that blade. It's in her vision, it's going to lop off the tip of her nose like this, so her head jerks, and instead she gets a trim, dark hair highlighted green strands floating into the night and dirtying up the alleyway.

Pressing one palm in the ground into a one handed push up that leaves a trace of her magic, she presses on her toes and launches upward. Simultaneously her whip snaps out, catching around the lower rung of the fire escape, a desperate swing away from her. "If you think I'd ever hurt her then you've really lost it! Say what you want on whether I deserve it or not-" But in the meanwhile, if Sayaka keeps her eyes on her too long she'll catch the bad end of magical ivy sprouting from where she touched, waving back and forth hypnotically as if responding to a snakecharmer's flute at play.

They snap out to try and encircle her, gripping limbs and body torso, trying to restrain her and slam her down to the alleyway floor- and linger behind, to restrict her movement. Eri lets go of her whip, and conjures another, boots skidding across to raise up a small cloud of dust as she turns to face her. She lifts her chin, her bangs shadowing her eyes, "-survival is the only standard of a Puella Magi. And I'm going to survive your- your little war too! But are you really waging it for your ideals- or did you make this personal- come after me just so you and Mami-chan can feel good about yourselves?"

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Moidon Imposition on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki narrowly dodges Eri Shimanouchi's Moidon Imposition, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Sayaka Miki is Quipped!  Exhausted and Trap applied to Sayaka Miki!
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mY9JNrQCY5M

Tossing her arms in her eyes, Kyouko reaffirms her membership in that ultraexclusive club of human beings who have blocked bullets, launching forward in brazen contempt for the murderous swarm. Angry red mists burst along her forearms like popping squibs, and in fact that piece of movie magic far more closely resembles this than actual gunshot wounds. She's a bit worse for the wear, and the thundering noises and impacts stun her senses a fair measure.

They're really in the mud with this one. Fights are usually depicted with the spirits favoring one combatant over the other early on. This is the less romantic sort, more like two boxers too exhausted to do much more than stand there, slamming each other in the skull. Bare knuckle and savage, a space Kyouko feels right at home in. If she goes down, then it'll come in the way she's always known it would be. Despite the pain she doesn't break her stride, barreling down on Mami in a one woman bayonet charge.

Spear-bladed daggers manifest in her hands, steel fangs unsheating from her boottips. Whirling around, Kyouko lashes and slices, punching and kicking like a mixed martial artist, a fog of war unto herself. She stays intensely near, but dances from side to side, attempting to disorient Mami with four limbs appearing as sixteen from sixty four directions.

COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has used Bloodcraze on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe perfectly dodges Kyouko Sakura's Bloodcraze, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Critical Dodge!  Mami Tomoe's Fade ability activates!  Mami Tomoe's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka can't hope to hear Eri and Sayaka's conversation over the retort of Mami's rifles, the impact of the bullets on Kyouko's blades. Her eyes do widen though as the two girls seem to chase each other towards her barrier, and she leans forward, trying to see them better.

<< What would you even say to them? That you're okay? Not to worry about you? >>

"I'd tell Sayaka-chan that Eri-chan would never hurt me. And I'd tell Eri-chan that Sayaka-chan is trying to not play favorites and save everyone, every single person."

<< That's impossible. Even while these four fight, there are Witches in Tokyo attacking ordinary people. Somewhere. >>

Madoka winces, conceding the point. Kyuubey presses it.

<< I don't understand humans. It makes no sense to me why Sayaka would fight people over something that's impossible for her. But... >>

Kyuubey leaps off Madoka's shoulders, his back facing the battle and the briars separating them from it, staring up at her.

<< For you, nothing's impossible. Your power is beyond my ability to measure, rendering it fundamentally unlimited. You could make Sayaka's dream come true. >>

Tears spring to Madoka's eyes, but she doesn't ask the question he was hoping for. A different one erupts out of her, exasperated, miserable, haunted.


Kyuubey says nothing. Madoka clarifies, choking into a sob as she sees Eri using the plants she loves as tools to try to grab and whip Sayaka like a dog. As she can't see Kyouko at all anymore, just a bladed blur that hurts her heart to even be near.

"Why /me/?"

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcgEHrwdSO4

Sayaka is about to lunge again, but her feet are suddenly bolted to the ground. Ivy catches at the bottom of her cape, tugging, and lashes about first one wrist, then the other as it tries to assist. Flipping her sword to stab it into the ground, Sayaka pulls hard until one ankle rips free, but more and stronger vines immediate lash around it. Her trembling body is fastened from all sides, ivy by ivy, a white-caped Gulliver surrounded by green Lilliputians. Her sword shrieks along the pavement as its support wavers, and it's all she can do to twist her shoulder down to protect her face as she's crammed into the floor.

"You're right," she rasps as the ivy creaks, tightening around her pale limbs, broad leaves creeping around and around. "I want to feel good about myself again. I want to be able to feel rain on my skin again without thinking about that little child you killed." Sayaka forces herself back onto one elbow, then plants the opposite fist on the ground, sword still clenched in it. "I want to feel good about being Puella Magi, about what we do every night. I want to look at my soul gem and not feel sick because I know I'm letting Eri Shimanouchi feed people to monsters."

Twisting her wrist, Sayaka severs the ivies grasping her swordarm with a slithering of metal. "Say it, Shimanouchi." Sliding the sword along her own back, Sayaka rips it free with a spray of greenery. "Tell me why Madoka-chan matters to you." Two scything strikes, and her legs are free. Sayaka's shoulders rise, a lion's pride in their sacral width. "Admit to yourself that you wouldn't know to care if she lived or died..." Sayaka swipes her sword in a graceful figure eight, dicing the remaining ivy as she lifts her eyes to Eri coldly.

"If she hadn't joined the Gardening Club."

A mystical circle spreads suddenly at Sayaka's feet, squirting her into the air amidst fluttering cape and glistening music. "Mami-senpai taught us to be heroes, Shimanouchi-san." Sayaka's cape floats about her shoulders as her momentum runs out, then reverses, falling up above her head as she comes back down. Her boots strike the roof of a car, and the windows crack on both sides. With a geometric silver flourish, Sayaka chops her sword in a triangle to arrange her cape over her arm, then slings it out diagonally to her side, the bright tip sparkling in the dark, her clean young face calm again as she faces her foe, chest filled, shoulders back. "One of us still remembers that."

COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has used Mermaid Errant on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki accepts Sayaka Miki's Mermaid Errant, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Withstand applied to Sayaka Miki!  Cleanse! All of Sayaka Miki's debuffs are cleared!
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjwwMn8rZG4

It can't surprise Mami that Kyouko charges forward /through/ her barrage. She sees each and every burst of red, but it's not enough on its own. Mami can see it, can see it the way she can't see Kyouko's eyes anymore.

Bloody and savage is not the way Mami likes to fight. She likes to imagine herself above the battle, dancing through from attack to attack, a whirlwind of elegance, of grace. ...But this isn't elegant. It's ugly, and vicious, and all the things Mami sometimes thinks of herself when she's alone.

She doesn't get what she likes today. Not in this.

Kyouko barrels down on her, and Mami has no time for introspection, has no time to think about this. Her blood runs as she takes in a single breath before her former friend closes. The strikes are almost too fast for Mami to see, but only almost. Mami shifts to the side, then again, ducking under one, hopping over another, as again and again those blades come. One is right where her face was before she moved; another almost hits her stomach, another would have tripped her if not for her moving, and more than one cuts through her stained sleeve and a few leave tiny locks of blonde fluttering in the air. One passes milimeters from her throat. In the dark, her golden eyes show only her concentration as she moves so quickly herself.

Finally she spots an opening and lunges to the side, rolling on the ground before she can hop back up. Her breathing is up even harder, and each breath echoes in her wounds. She has one chance. She can't even waste it on talking.

The blonde Puella Magi throws out both of her hands at once, her lighter fingers standing out against her gloves until coils of ribbon burst into two dozen of her rifles clustered all at once, gleaming in what light there is and in what light they came with.

Maybe she could never say enough anyway. Mami fires.

All her guns at once erupt in golden light, firing those intricate bullets of hers straight at the red-clad girl who was once her only friend.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Salvo on Kyouko Sakura.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura narrowly braces Mami Tomoe's Finisher, Tiro Salvo, taking 40 Fatigue damage!  Kyouko Sakura's Block ability activates!  Kyouko Sakura's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Battle Against a True Hero - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqDJwG81lkw

Eri watches Sayaka's struggle at first with the clinical eye of a gardener who is perhaps evaluating which flowers to dead-head so that the rest can survive. She doesn't attack during this. She wants to know-

-and her answer causes her hairs to stand on end. Her fist to clench and unclench. There's so many things she can say about that. How she feels about Yaori. How she feels about Sayaka taking her side. But she can't sympathize, it just winds upon itself and becomes self-pity instead. And she wouldn't allow that. It made that girl's death meaningless. She had to own it and give it meaning in how she lived.

Her eyes clench shut when she talks about Madoka, and then when they open they're sparkling wet, but she doesn't even allow herself to sniffle or whimper or let them fall. "I'll admit that circumstances brought us together. That she was my first real friend. That I care for her a lot for even showing an interest in the girl that I was. Look inside yourself and you'll find that the people who matter most were brought to you by circumstance. Birth- family- what class you're in- who you grew up near-"

She slices an arm across the gap. "-and what's wrong with that?! People you don't know die to tragedies every day! I bet you hear about a shooting overseas and you don't spare a thought other than 'Oh that's so sad!' and then it's nothing to you anymore. That's normal. That's how it is. People invest themselves in the people who come to them, who they're drawn to, they think about the people they connect with, who they love and care about! I can't spare time for anyone else! I won't! When I did- it almost got me killed!"

Sayaka is standing so tall and proud. She never had that kind of confidence, that poise, even when she felt she was dumb enough to be helping people. There's dignity in how Sayaka carries herself, what she believes. That glow, that tinkling music. Everything about her is something she never had, and will never have again. She closes her eyes again, "But you wanna be a hero- so be it. Hero." Those eyes open, the wet is gone, like she sucked it back up, "Heroes just die unmourned in alleyways. In my case something else came out of one, or maybe you're right, maybe I was like this all along-" She spits out those words, "-but you'd better be glad I still have more mercy than her. That circumstances brought us together. That you connected with me enough that I'd care to spare you and your fairweather senpai!"

In a quick motion a grief seed, pressed to her forehead's soul gem, as she purifies it rapidly. Part of her shudders, and she flexes her arms once as if working something out of them. A glow appears upon her back. There's something behind her.

It's not a sickening sound in and of itself despite the implications, it's the sound of leaves rustling in a chill wind, that smell of rain again. The magic is shimmering as they gradually grow, six in all, fanning out behind her back, thorned vines with leaves the color of every season, each thicker than her ordinary whips as flora appendages, appearing four pointed up, the other four pointed down in their coils. They must be growing out of her clothes, or her shoulderblades- or something. "I was hoping to beat you quickly and let you scurry away. Hope you'd leave us alone for good. But you had to be the hero."

A snap of the wrist, and one extra whip shimmers into view. Two in hands, eight behind her. Ten in all. It starts in an irregular rhythm, like she's still getting the hang of it of controlling them like this. The two in her hands lead. The top four follow, lashing from different avenues of attack. Then the last three. Strike then recoil, strike then draw back.

Then it speeds up. Eight lashing as fast as she can manage. They're not individually too dense. Sayaka can slash through them easily, but a glimmer of green magic would start to repair the damage immediately. They come from every which way, the rhythm changing up unexpectedly. Each snap now causing a thunderous crack which might remind everyone of the city during a Summer Festival. The popping and snapping of fireworks going off.

They're not aimed accurately at all, having to rely partially on instinct to guide where they go since her arms aren't doing most of the work but they're coming from so many directions that it's hard to predict.

The lack of finesse makes it simply a savage beatdown, to try to punish her for every forward ground gained, to try to pound her into submission.

To keep those bright blades from touching her again. If it works to the extent she wants it to, then no matter how well Sayaka heals- she soon won't be able to muster another offense. She's got the feeling that if she allows her to, then- well she remembers the feeling of that crossbow bolt in her chest, and she's not convinced that Sayaka wouldn't run her through with a sword easy as she pleases.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Eri Shimanouchi has used Wrath of the Kodama on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki narrowly braces Eri Shimanouchi's Finisher, Wrath of the Kodama, taking 57 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Sayaka Miki's Block ability activates!  Sayaka Miki's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04QpInkz9so

Kyouko bays bloody, frustrated and enraged by the blurred memories of a target replacing the blood and bone she sought to master. For all her efforts she is dodged at every turn, her flashbang salvo rotting on the vine, a string of duds like a dead length of Christmas lights. Her countenance is the sort that gives allies pause, for fear of what a creature might manage in the wrong situation.

The mongoose evades the serpent, and in short order the vermillion viper is staring down her own person al firing squad. Her only recourse is to carry on with the dance, flashing to and fro with limb and lancet, striking at artilleries instead of arteries. A preposterous notion, but somehow she finds more success with it. She's punctured and pierced in a dozen places but the arsenal, worthy of conquering the Aurelian Walls, is not enough to bring her down to her knees. As the dust clears and the debris settles she retains enough sinew to stay standing.

She shakes a little. Everything is all just so much, and all at once besides. Mental processes, orderly columned, shudder and teeter in the aftershocks, swaying uncertainly. Everything is spinning in uncertainty, the light struggling and failing to resolve coherently, a triple ringed zoetrope tearing around in different directions and speeds.

Suddenly, the slits align. Light penetrates from core to cosmos. Murderous purpose lifts its gore-stained maw from the corpse of the moment, sniffing the oxidized air.

The bloody lines caressing Kyouko's contours lift from her body on their own accord, standing like frightened hairs. Amino acids strip away into the atmosphere, leaving nothing but their molecular cores of iron. In corkscrewing cascades, the silver-from-red shards flechette away from her, growing in midflight, accumulating carbon and self-forging into steel. Kyouko's body, in effect, becomes a three hundred and sixty degree Claymore mine, bursting out with blades instead of ball bearings.

That Mami Tomoe bears the brunt is obvious. But Kyouko is not out to win a duel. She doesn't work to conquer her tournament seed. She fights to strangle all ambition of encroachment from the hearts and minds of invaders who would steal the bread from her mouth. That she has not crossed metal with Sayaka this evening won't save the blue haired interloper. Her blood made blades carry just enough of her heart to swerve away from Eri as her ally, to stymie the craze that they would have needed to burrow through the trellis wall keeping the human girl safe.

But for the intruders, nothing. She spits out the words, unsure if they could be heard by anybody at all, with a wet mouthful of viscera.

"Stay out of Shinjuku."

COMBAT: FINISHER! Kyouko Sakura has used A Rain of Razors on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Kyouko Sakura has used A Rain of Razors on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe fails to dodge Kyouko Sakura's Finisher, A Rain of Razors, taking 101 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Mami Tomoe is unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki counters Kyouko Sakura's A Rain of Razors with Wassermusik, initiating a BEAMWAR! Please see +help beamwar for further information.
BEAMWAR! Sayaka Miki and Kyouko Sakura's attacks collide. Kyouko Sakura has the advantage!
BEAMWAR! Now accepting mana bids for the first of three rounds! Now accepting new BEAMWAR entrants in this round only!
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

The undersides of Sayaka's eyes crease as Eri seems to sprout wings, transfiguring into a fallen angel of petal and thorn. The tips of her gloves crinkle as the fingers within push together more tightly around the hilt of her sword. She can feel the intensity of Eri's magic disrupting the still air of the alleyway. She lets out a measured breath. Mami is fighting her hardest. Madoka is watching. If there is a Sayaka Miki who can withstand what is about to come, it is time for her to become that Sayaka Miki. The moments pass with reluctant langour. Sayaka closes her eyes.

The vines rush, spread, and converge, painting a fifty-foot living portrait of a scream.

The silver arc of Sayaka's blade draws a bright home-run right through the first vine to reach her, her cape spraying wide around her as she swings. The foot her weight rests upon shoves hard to avoid the second whip coming in at the same time, turning that rotation into an aerial twirl as a deafening crash crumples the roof of the car she had been standing on. Sayaka descends to the ground amidst the slow eruption of glistening window pebbles, her bare knee striking a large flake of glass and setting it to a dizzy twirl. Her blue eyes are near to neon in the dark as they fix on Eri's face, her foot pointed to receive the ground below. Suddenly her face is bisected by the mirrored flat of a blade as she snaps it into place. Her toes are inches from the ground.

The thunderbolt of a snapping whip sixty feet long and thicker than Sayaka's fist goes off at her chest.

Sayaka's shoulderblades smash into the side windows of the car, the remaining glass falling down in sheets like winter ice. The flat of her own sword strikes Sayaka in the sternum with great force, and in that liquid moment of impact the vine just flows around both sides of it, the sum effect like a giant punching her flat on the ribcage. Three other vines have landed as well, but the aim is crude so far, and they are all dug into the car itself right now, one having caved in the trunk, another the hood.

Sayaka coughs loudly, and takes a step forward. Immediately she's forced into a hard parry, this time bracing the flat of her sword against the outside of her upper arm to mitigate the force her arms cannot withstand. They're coming in constantly now, and Sayaka keeps shifting her sword around to catch them, each time feeling like she body-blocked a charging linebacker. The first time one lands unimpeded, it's on her thigh, and the sound of impact is loud enough, and the pain so blood-curdling, that for a moment she is sure the bone is broken. Unable to even mourn her agony, Sayaka keeps slamming parries into the vines to drive them off, lacking a moment's time to hack them up. But they keep striking her, and it's like her own nerves are blinding her. Crack, crack, crack. She doesn't notice her sword starting to give until it snaps.

From there it is nothing but a beating. Sayaka raises her arms to shield her face and neck like a boxer, but she isn't being boxed, she's /in/ a box, vines striking from all around her. As she takes step after heavy step into the storm, the impacts leave vast stinging welts that pummel muscle and pound bone. It hurts. It hurts enough to make her frantic, make her wish her skin would just crawl off instead of filling with these invisible needles. It seems impossible for her to reach the green-eyed foe at the other end of this canyon of punishing blows.

But as she takes another step, and another, the bruise on her sternum is contracting in on itself, narrowing. The cuts from earlier are sealing themselves gradually, squeezing out a final string of blood droplets before leaving them stranded on smooth, unbroken skin. Her cape is growing tattered, and one of her gloves is gone, that wrist darkening with countless bruises from her futile efforts to protect her body. Her heroic posture is bent and wretched.

But Eri is rapidly burning through the power in that grief seed. The attacks come more slowly, with less force. As Sayaka draws close, she's briefly knocked to one knee by a blow to her shin, but when she rises, she stumbles the last few paces all at once and her bare hand shoves itself into Eri's collar and seizes it, at least as much to support herself as to threaten Eri. She pants, her skin crisscrossed with dark marks from the vines, trembling with pain. She expects to be struck down at any moment.

But as she stares into Eri's face, Sayaka understands. "That's it, isn't it?" She's panting, but she painfully forces one shoulder back, equalizing her posture, reassuming her chivalrous glare as though painting it over her old expression. "You're finished."

A glowing blue circle spreads rapidly around the two combatants, its center Sayaka's boots. "They're not overseas, Shimanouchi." Underlit, Sayaka's welted face has an icy glow. "They're right here, and it's supposed to be you who protects them."

Somehow she was deaf to the howl of a bloodied throat, somehow the screech of the first blades didn't reach her. But Mami's body, light as an autumn leaf, soft as a dandelion puff, is loud to her. Eri can see her expression freeze, her lips draw back in fear. She can feel the fingers loosen at her collar.

"Senpai," Sayaka whispers.

Mami lies punctured, the centerpiece of a Renaissance painting of hell. She's lying incorrectly; no conscious human would let themselves fall like that, and no moral human could possibly make her beloved mentor have to. Rippling above like a bloody star is Kyouko Sakura; radiating from her, all the choirs of blades and hate she commands. The rain is not coming. It is here.

Sayaka lets go of Eri. Two swords drop from her cape, and her fingers curve to receive them.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

She keeps it up for as long as she can, unfortunately her magic isn't as efficient as she likes. Such a display burns through magical power, keeping them formed, shaped, guiding them as weapons. Sayaka is being battered from so many directions, but she's not going down. Desperation guides the next few seconds, but the strikes are coming slower and slower until.

Instinct tells her the moment she can't keep it up any longer, when she's burned through too much magic- and too tired besides to sustain it. And all at once it fades in a shower of green cinders that float heavenward as Sayaka takes a knee. Sayaka's rise, her walk forward looks torturous, even amongst the pretty glow of her spent magic. The realization that she had nothing left to attack her with, nothing that could put her down was a stunning one.

Fear grips her heart just as the hand seizes her collar, her pulse pounding so hard in her ear. There's so much that rings too close to past memories in this alleyway. It even smells the same. A bouquet of blood, sweat, and filth. Her breathing quickens as she sucks in more chill, stagnant air. Staring in silence, her expression still one of shock and horror.

Sayaka is in her face, realizing what she had only moments later. There's a sword in her hand, it's no longer quite so clean but it's sharp- Oh is it sharp. Something in her head screams at her to move, to survive. But she can't, she can just stare in shock as she's lit up by the glow of her circle, the icy glare in her face.

A hand finally reaches up to grasp the other's wrist, but even that hurts, as her gloves brush against the healing welts on Sayaka's wrist. Even that feels like too much. Every muscle is screaming at her too right now, a burning, side-splitting feeling. It's the feeble grip of someone trying to pull a bolt out, but without the strength to manage.

Her mind catches up to her through the swell of memories, crashing down like the tides. But she finally manages to stand up within them, up to her neck, and speak, "You think I didn't- want to? I'm tired."

Hoarse, exhausted, scared it doesn't sound like her voice even to her. She was caught but she refused to beg. She wouldn't beg again for the privilege of living- /her life/ "Tired of putting everyone else's happiness first. I'm not killing myself for the sake of people who I don't even know- anymore." Her grip suddenly tightens, even if Sayaka can slip out of it easily, her tone becomes something of a snarl as she remembers more of who she is right now, "/I refuse/!" There's a sound in the alleyway now. It reminds her of something, but she's looking at Sayaka still. She can't stop right now.

But Sayaka isn't looking at her, she's looking up past her. The word from her mouth makes it clear what's going on. The grip loosens, a blur of red descends.

She defies screaming muscles to leap backwards the moment the grip loosens, away from the deadly rain, away from the sharp sword. Shame kicks in. Maybe the only standard of a Puella Magi was survival but that doesn't stop the feeling that she was so useless in this battle that Kyouko had to bail her out, after investing so much in her.

A glance was stolen towards the edge of the briars to make sure it was still standing. She didn't trust that it could remain standing against that rain but it was still holding for now. Her attention turns to Kyouko.

And what is the red Puella Magi right now, but an angry wolverine? Even if she could recognize Eri as an ally right now, you still don't want to test that by running into her storm of flying fang and claw to lend her whatever meager effort she could muster right now.

So what could she do for her? Her eyes are drawn to one spot as Sayaka looked at earlier. It's a sight very familiar to her. For a while she could only just stare, the pulse in the ear that Sayaka struck was louder than the clashes of battle.

As she looked upon the pooling blood- something finally slices through that haze. It occurred to her just what she could do for her.

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> The Archers' Bows Have Broken - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sS964ecfWo

Sayaka's twin swords chart an elegant geometry as she is fired into the air as a human symphony, their glinting edges repelling metal shards with a staccato clatter. She slings them down to her sides as she strikes a second ring of musical staff and notes, her cape plastering fully around her shoulders and body as she's launched laterally, pushing her out of the way of the thickest part of the storm. A third ring rebounds her directly upwards, the shards following just behind her the entire time, not quite leading her fast enough, pinpoints of glistening waterspray lingering from each of her three points of impact.

Sayaka clears the level of the buildings and for a moment there is silence, marred only by the distant whistling of shards disappearing up into the night sky. Her cape unfurls like lily petals as her ascent slows, and Sayaka locks eyes with Kyouko, now far below her.

Behind Kyouko, the candy-floss softness of amusement park lights and music lined the night's horizon. Knee-deep in the grass, she grinned back at Sayaka. Always so sharp and careless. She never cared who she cut with that grin.

Kyouko held up a tear in the chainlink, opening a secret path into that distant glow. She held it like she had found it just for Sayaka.

With a resonant flourish of strings, a chain-eruption of mystical rings erupts out from Sayaka, aquatic and phosphourescent. They are spaced irregularly but according to some hidden melody, each a different size and texture, each tilted at a slightly different angle. Music is the dream of mathematics; the angles of each ring cancel out perfectly, zeroing out to a perfectly straight line between Sayaka and the radiating core of the bladestorm. Kyouko Sakura.

But Sayaka's never said that name.

The first circle propels Sayaka back into the storm, and the silence is long gone. Windows shatter on every side of the alley, metal pelts into concrete, car tires burst under repeated punctures. Swivelling her wrists, Sayaka whips her swords up just as she hits the next wave of blades, cape and shouting throat both flung wide in a wordless, furious challenge.

BEAMWAR! Sayaka Miki has placed her bid! Kyouko Sakura still needs to bid!
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhMukHbUYJ0

It even looked like a pumpkin on the inside. It was a nice touch. It didn't feel much like one, but...it was merry enough, and it did go 'round.

Breath comes wet and ragged, bloody condensation seeping in through cracks in the pipeline.

"Anko," she asks seriously.

Spitting out red slime, Kyouko wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, her anger etched on her face in broad strokes.

"Are you happy?"

Spearshafts litter the ground like pine needles, and the screeching pings of her lances against the surrounding buildings had sounded excruciating in the enclosed space.

"A happy Puella Magi? No such thing. But I try to enjoy myself along the way. I believe I'll live. That's what really counts."

It's quiet for a moment. For a moment it looks like Sayaka might have fled..but Kyouko doesn't believe it for a moment. She wouldn't leave Mami's fate in their hands, and that means she won't be gone long at all. So Kyouko doesn't cast a glance to any of the fallen, the beaten, the terrified. Their time will come if hers doesn't come first.

"What happens to somebody who loses the thing they love the most?"

Clapping her hands together, a handful of articulated spear hafts connected by chainlink burst out of her waist at different angles, bouncing up and around the contoured interior of the enclosed urban glade about three or four times, ending just beneath the roofs' lips. A full sized spear blinks into her hands, at least as tall as its mistress, gleaming with the colors of her standard.

"They learn to live without it. Sometimes they don't. That's their test. That's how it's supposed to go. You learn that you want to live. It's a lot better than not ever appreciating it, trust me..."

Kyouko's feet lift off of the ground, chains detaching and reattaching from her hips, some snapping her up like rubber bands, others catching her momentum. She isn't quite floating, but in this cage she's made the best of that failure. Coming up to about a third of the way of the vertical span and roughly in the horizontal center, she's as ready as she'll be.

"I don't think that's how it's supposed to go. No. I don't think that's right at all."

It was nice for awhile, playing pretend.

Sayaka turns to look at Kyouko, but her cheek is still resting on her palm.

Trying on a smile again like an old jacket and finding that the nostalgia faded before the marred and musty leather could shed its deteriorations and be as good as new again. Somehow she had deluded herself into thinking that there could be an alternative to this. She didn't hate Sayaka for destroying that dream of peace. The dream itself had been a false one. But she hated that she'd been reminded of the truth by one so lost to its light. She'd feel more ashen if adrenal impulses hadn't already painted over her less survivalist emotions, but her savagery can't snuff out the sickness in her stomach. Perhaps the bitterness will outlast the bloodlust, too.

"I get it. Life's hard. But you're supposed to have a chance, a chance to do the things you dream about. How's somebody supposed to live with not being able to try?"

Kyouko knows that she's crying, but she doesn't understand why. Her life had been so simple. It was a brutal and meager lot but she'd understood it. Before she had she'd wandered about until she did. Now there is only confusion. Even returning to the bunker mentality that had preserved her this far couldn't quell it. Eve couldn't put down the apple core and strip off her coverings and pretend it had all been a dream.

She sits up straight, eyes flinty, tugging the sleeves from where they lay girlishly overlapping her hands."

There she comes, shining in the night sky on her way to the Earth like the Morning Star himself. Kyouko sucks in the air like she's waking from a nightmare, and brandishes her spear up like a shaman's scepter, feeling her pulse in the temple of her skull.

"I want to be a Puella Magi. I'm ready now...

The saltwater tears slipping loose of her baleful gaze weather scarlet lines of irritation in the etchings of her skin, darkening with dust and dirt. Launching her spear like a javelineer, the mighty shaft fragments into a hundred pieces, launching themselves at the incoming fighter in rapidly successive order, each one whistling a little in the dark.

"...because of you."

BEAMWAR! Kyouko Sakura has placed her bid! 
BEAMWAR! Sayaka Miki rallies, her Wassermusik exploding through Kyouko Sakura's A Rain of Razors for a total of 71 Fatigue damage! Sayaka Miki is victorious!
BEAMWAR! Kyouko Sakura is unable to keep fighting!
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> ibid. The Archers' Bows Have Broken - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sS964ecfWo

That one great scarlet-headed spear careens through her musical circles, unimpeded and unimpeding. Sayaka's breath catches at the intensity of the danger, at the speed with which she is approaching that fatal point. Then, reflected in her irises, that one danger bristles into a hundred.

In the end Sayaka couldn't be like her. In the end Sayaka belonged to "should be" even at the cost of "is." But until she met Kyouko, she hadn't really seen that she had the choice. She understood the thrill of it before she understood the reason. She remembered the thrill after she forgot the reason.

Twin swords sweep out, twirling through and violently redirecting the incomining hail. She can see that Kyouko's standing only by the virtue of her own ferocity, her body showing the clear cost of a battle with Mami. As she passes through the next ring, she contracts her body and then shoves off it violently, pouring magic into it to propel her faster, harder. Her ungloved hand is sweatslippery, and the combined force of her momentum and Kyouko's strength rips the sword from that palm the next time she hacks a spear out of her way, her frustrated cry following it as flips through the air behind her.

So what if she's better? This isn't a school examination. It isn't an appraisal of their respective skills by a panel of judges. Kyouko taught her that herself. No matter how good you are, you're just one bad moment away from the end.

The wind is so hard now it's stinging her eyes shut, the demands of shooting back and forth zigzag along her line of circles draining both her Soul Gem and her energy. Every exertion feels like it's velcro-ripped from her vine-smashed muscles. Shouting as she launches from the final circle, Sayaka shifts to a two-handed grip, swinging hard back and forth as though she were macheteing aside bamboo, hacking away three spears in less than a second, one of them driving a hole-puncher neat circle in her extended cape.

About a yard behind Kyouko, a final circle spreads wide.

I'd love to see you strong.

Kyouko is ready to receive the charge. The spear is a weapon built for just that. But Sayaka isn't quite attacking her; no, the music hadn't been quite perfect after all. Artistry is what happens when you wander subtly from the sheet music. Flipping around so her feet lead the way, she slips just past Kyouko without striking at her. The curtain of her cape lifts and extends, and briefly, gently, her elbow brushes Kyouko's. Her blue eyes are drawn to the other girl's face.

I'd love to see what you can do...to see that match up with what you are inside.

Sayaka slams into the concentric circle just behind Kyouko, her legs collapsing instantly under the rocketing force of her self-driven fall. But the circle reacts just as instantly, sucking power from Sayaka's Soul Gem thirstily to repel her back up, and she uncurls while dragging her sword up hard and wide, right across Kyouko's back.

A moment passes.

Sayaka lands on the pavement on both feet, one hand, and the tip of her sword, and even so she stumbles, rubber-legged. One by one, her circles wink out above her.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Creeping into... - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDk4VFnvTeI&feature=youtu.be

Sayaka has just landed, hasn't even fully found her legs yet after dragging her sword across Kyouko's back. Kyouko probably hasn't even finished falling yet. Maybe neither have had time to comprehend the outcome. To process it. To decide. Maybe that's how someone wanted it. To prevent thought and action- on the outcome- to shift focus from the outcome with a word. That would be logical- but this isn't logical, and this isn't what she wanted at all.


It almost blends into the night. A soft sound, from a throat which sounds like it's been scorched to contrast the chill.

"Just stop- please stop." And if Sayaka is still caught within the savage thrill of the clash, If she hasn't looked, it becomes a command again. "Stop and look at- us."

And when she does look, there she is, standing and someone is standing with her. There's a trail of blood from the place where Mami lay in the alley, droplets that lead to the point where they're standing now. Dripping. It's like she's holding up a crumpled paper shikigami of yellow and blonde, stained red by brutal artistry.

One arm is hooked under her armpit, and ends right on the opposite side of her neck, pressing her tight to her. Another hand is poised right above her hat pin and it's dull yellow shine. There's a shard of rusted metal in her hand, scrap from the alley floor, more real and less ephemeral than the fading spearshafts from the storm of Kyouko's magic, poised just right over her hat pin.

It's as if the Sword of Damocles that had always been hanging over Mami's head- from the moment she became a Puella Magi, just materialized into her hands. A threat for Sayaka not to do anything else it would descend. Matted blood is shared between them, staining green red and yellow more red, her eyes eclipsed by Mami's own shadow.

"You want more pre-" It's like spidery cracks have formed somewhere within her. A threat within a plea. A plea within a threat, "-precious days with your senpai right? More tea parties and cake? Isn't another one of those days more- more important to you than what you're doing here tonight?"

She remembers laying in an alleyway like this one, blood pooling out. A hand on her wrist. Fading into blackness- then returning in the warm embrace of golden light. Even with that pleasant end, there was still all that came before in that first nightmare.

She just wants this second nightmare to end. A nightmare she's bought into, that she's a part of. A participant in the lucid terror of all of this. Did she have any other choice than this? It's stifling, the air is choking her, an olfactory, respiratory torture. Maybe if she woke up, maybe if she could breathe again, maybe if she could smell something fragrant.

Maybe if she woke up- she'd be in a world where she wouldn't have to do this.

"I don't want to hurt her. I don't- I don't." Her arm, the one holding the stake trembles. Something nasally enters into her tone, "So please- please let me- let me let her go. Step away from Kyouko."

Ever the coward- needing someone to hide behind, even now.

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_XFuwO8UyU

Kyouko fell badly. The system of chains suspending her sagged and fell without her will, but the anchor points lingered just a little longer then the lengths between. Her body is a burgundy laundry bag, tumbling about and slamming against the urban cliffsides as she goes, each moment of freefalling stayed by another careening crash into anchorage. She hits face first. Her fingers shake and scrabble at the ground, attempting to stubborn herself to her feet. She's still conscious, but not by any sort of safe margin.

She couldn't believe it. Sayaka had grown so tremendously, so quickly. On paper, she should have been flattened. But it seems the flame of her convictions burns even hotter than the fires of Kyouko's spirit, at least on this night. Dueling with Mami had exhausted her, but even still..the knight of flames had built a net and the knight of waters danced through it. All of Kyouko's efforts couldn't turn her around fast enough, not nearly.

Of course she saw her, hacking through the maelstrom like she was harvesting wheat. As she approached, every muscle in her little body clenched, and the gentleness of the touch that came startled her so badly that she jumped in suspension, softly bobbing in her twitches along her chains. Her face was stricken. She lookedworn to a crisp, and whatever light shone in her eyes was too intensely wild to belong to hatred or battle. It was a glow that exceeded her iris' ability to contain, a gas leak shedding a few of her soul's twenty one grams.

A crescent moon oozes ichor from her back, the ruby oils squeezed from her marble indistinguishable amid her rosefield dress. Hidden reserves of panic and terror flickered alight in her depths. She could not die. She would not die. But then..her authority over what she could and would was seeping out of her and onto the pavement.

The girl who would be immortal can just make out Eri's voice over the throb scourging her skull. She understands two thirds of what she hears, and two thirds of that subconsciously at best. Slow, tremulous hands reach out in front of her, each curling into an "o" with her right stacked on top of her left. A lance forms in the open space, and as it grows it bears her to an uncertain uprightness.

Patches of skin have been scoured off of her nose, forehead, and right cheek, the wounds pebbled with gravel and pressed with dirt. Clutching the spear like a crutch, she limps in Eri's direction with an agonizing slowness, catching herself from falling more than once by extending secondary spearlengths from her hands to the ground.

All the shock of all the rest would wait. She will live if she can.

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

Hanging limply in Eri's arms is the bloodied Mami Tomoe, bound by her one arm just so, easily carried by the strength of a magical girl. 'Stop and look at us,' Eri had said, and slowly, too slowly, Mami lifts her golden eyes, half-open. She isn't awake or stable enough to stand on her own right now; even if Eri let her go, she'd only fall.

It hurts worse now than it did before, her body still so heavy to her. She had been blessedly unconscious, for all that falling was unwelcome and unwanted, and now she is just aware enough to feel herself being held up in Eri's care. Her fingers twitch, but she doesn't shift enough to break the green Puella Magi's grip. "Hurts," she murmurs. "It..."

The blonde found herself fading into darkness in this very alley, where prints of her own blood mark the point where she fell. But golden light isn't what awaited her, and isn't what stirred her to half-awareness. There's more than air choking Mami. Her breathing was shallow enough before, but this position cuts off her airway even more. She feels like she's suffocating, though she isn't, like she's drowning and her too-heavy limbs can't help her break the surface. Her fingers twitch again, but her feet stay on the ground.

She's aware, vaguely, of Eri's voice talking about something, desperate for something. But she can't tell what it is anymore. It seemed important a few moments ago. Her voice is bleary, weak.

"Eri, what...?"

She slumps a little further, her head falling back against her captor. She doesn't notice Kyouko's approach.

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

All at once the spears fade, and Madoka goes stumbling through a wall that isn't there. She falls hard, bruises her knees, paints the concrete with the blood on her hands.

She scrabbles. Kyuubey -- Kyuubey -- where is --

Above, unseen, he chews, swallows. And then:

<< I'm right here, Madoka! >>

He leaps down in front of her, and then his eyes bulge a little as she reaches out and squeezes, buries her head in his pristine fur. She is unintelligible as she weeps -- but then, her actions are always that way to her.

<< But... I thought you cared about your friends. >>

Abruptly, Madoka comes to a gurgling halt. Kyuubey frees himself from her grasp, swirls his way up onto her shoulders, resumes his place as a stylish white stole. Helpfully, his tail gestures, point-point, in the proper direction.

The world seems gray and strange, everything's stopped moving. Is Homura here? No -- it's just taking her a long time to process what she sees. It's like a magic eye puzzle; Papa is fond of them, has several around the house. Color infects her vision gradually. At first it just seems like a vomitorium of blue and green and yellow and red, red, red. But gradually, a bigger picture resolves...

Her throat is already raw from screaming, but she has one more in her. "S-Stop! Please!"

Her eyes, easy to see down the alley now that those briars have faded -- when did that happen? She was faced the other direction at the time -- are far more communicative than her broken voice. They are bright with tears, but dull with horror. All the violence tonight has made her weep, but only now, seeing her friend Eri hold her friend Mami hostage, on a stage painted with everyone's blood, does the vertigo of this unexpected new twist catch up with her.

She braces her hands on her knees. There's a terrible pain in her chest, and she heaves.

In a sick little spatter, her dinner joins her blood, mingling together on the ground.

<< Only Puella Magi have the right to judge other Puella Magi, >> Kyuubey reminds her pedantically.

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd0nIsGHIvc

Sayaka stops. She stops, but she doesn't yet look. She doesn't want to.

It isn't that she knows what she'll see. Her mind can't bring itself to stir and work back through the past--how long was it, a minute? Less?--to try and figure out what might have happened. All she knows is that when she left Eri, she seemed too empty to wring so much as a blade of grass from the ground, and now there's a threat in her voice. In the brief time Sayaka was absent, something changed.

Only when she's commanded does she turn. The shoulder on that side is naked, her cape askew. Her eyes fall first to Mami, whose limp form is still at first. But like a miracle, she shifts, and Sayaka takes what may be, for Eri, a very nerve-wracking step forward, her posture tight and desperate. It's her fault that Mami's hurt. For that matter, all four of them are hurt.

"Mami-senpai," she whispers.

Madoka's scream lands on her heart like the vines landed on her flesh. She doesn't look over, but her reaction is visible in her shoulders, in the tips of her fingers. This was not the shining dream she wanted to show Madoka.

Mami recedes to limpness, a doll in Eri's arms. Even like this she's so beautiful. She doesn't know she might die at any moment, she doesn't know a jagged metal shard is ready to make her last words the name of her murderer.

These tears are hot and stinging, and they resist falling, piling upon Sayaka's lower lashes. "Idiot!" she barks sharply at Eri, a bare fist into those spiderwebbing cracks. "Stop talking. You know I'll do it. You know I'll do whatever you want for her. So shut up." The first tear shoots down her cheek, and her voice grows quiet and harsh. After all this, can it really be grief?

"Every word you say is another we'll both regret hearing."

Pointedly, Sayaka keeps her feet planted as Kyouko limps past her. She stares at Eri. The plant-Magi can see Sayaka is still vibrating where she plucked her. Even if it was just one day, she'd give so much.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

The only writ here is her arms. One is holding up Mami, the other- her execution, or a quivering stay from it. Eri can only watch Kyouko's approach out of her periphery. She has to keep her eyes on Sayaka. Her heart hurts to see the girl who taught her to be a survivor stooped so low in her periphery, skin cavitated by squibs and lacerated by ribbons and blade, needing her lance to even stand. But it shouldn't. This is the life Kyouko chose, the one she's following her into. The only standard was the fact that she did- that they did.

And as for the girl who had her head ready to be brought to the block... "Shhh." Is all she says softly, soothingly to Mami, just by her ear, so low it'd be hard for anyone else to make out. "It's going to be alright." If it has a hint of harsh sibilance, it's only because of her scoured throat This badly hurt- she needed all the strength she could get to survive. Pangs of guilt palpitated within her chest, even as she tried to discard feeling guilty about this. She shouldn't feel guilty about the treatment of someone who was trying to murder her way of life. She shouldn't be worried about her well-being. She couldn't stop though. Even with the necessity she felt was there, she just couldn't.

As red enters close enough into her vision, she sacrifices the hold on the piece of scrap metal to clatter on the ground. The whole mass of them dipping to grab Kyouko under the armpit and steady her. But that's only the one arm. With her other, she opens her hand. There's a gleaming point of a grief seed, needle sharp and pointed up towards Mami's limply tilted head. It's an awkward angle, and less of a threat, but it's still there. She leans her head forward, let wisps flow out of her grief seed until it's just a little less dirty.

But even half purified- she still felt fully tainted by it. Her forehead is moves away from the half spent seed, leans to Kyouko, whispers. "Let's get out of here."

Backwards she walks at a measured pace, a diagonal towards the alley wall and dumpster, keeping her eyes on Sayaka. A glimpse of pink far behind her is just another sin she'll have to bear- but the pain is already numbing, numbing in the chill of the cold night. Eri doesn't say another word as she keeps eye contact with the Mermaid Errant. The reason why is simple. She agrees with her. One step after another they go, as they reach the dumpster, she dips just fractionally to lower Mami down, so she won't go into free fall, but limply slide against it.

Then with a celerity that's not unlike having the actual Erinyes on her heels, her grip under Kyouko's arm falls lax, as she turns a full 180, catching her again with her opposite arm and instantly hefting her up with one arm at her back, the other under her knees. Kyouko won't likely thank her for this method of carrying her- but she doesn't have time to work out another one with the possibility of retribution.

A kick of her foot leaves a a hint of her magic, and she leaps at the same moment, as briars criss cross perform a spiral criss cross across the alley as a whole, within seconds blocking off the two from the rest, leaving more foliage in this urban glade. She leaps, a blur of green as she vaults from one alley wall to the other, and vanishes over the rooftops.

She's already finished cresting the rooftop, when a sound not unlike a 'tink' of porcelain chipping strikes the alley floor behind the briars that will soon be fading. Such a hasty exit. Maybe she dropped something...

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Sayaka finally spares a direct look for Kyouko as Eri supports her with an arm. If she's less disappointed in her, it's for a grim reason: she always knew Kyouko would do something like Eri just did. She doesn't call out to Eri. She just watches.

Stealing Mami's grief seed at a moment like this is a lot like stealing her blood. Sayaka flinches, but she doesn't speak.

When her senpai is allowed to roll to the ground, Sayaka moves instantly, rushing to her side. She assumes Eri will cover her trail, but that doesn't keep her from hesitating briefly before picking up Mami, to make sure. If she didn't, Sayaka does not have any compunction at all about chasing them down.

But the vines slither up, and Sayaka hasn't yet noticed anything unusual left behind. Considering chase for one more second, she abandons the idea angrily, and instead turns to her fallen senpai, kneeling and scooping her onto her lap horizontally. With an arm under her shoulders, she cradles Mami like an oversized baby, burying her face in her shoulder. She doesn't move for long seconds, her tears communicating themselves to Mami's puffy shoulder instead.

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

Madoka's breath is hot, but her blood runs cold. She swallows, grimaces, and works up the froth to spit. She'll never hock a good one like some of her jock friends, but it's enough to clear her mouth of the immediate presence of vomit.

The taste lingers, beneath the greater taste of grief, like poisoned salt on a caramel.

With a soft moan, she rubs at her face with the back of her hand, then hurls herself towards Sayaka and Mami with such momentum that Kyuubey loses his grip and goes falling to the concrete. He's not a cat, but he lands on his feet anyway. Madoka doesn't notice, or care. She's already around Sayaka, embracing her from behind, her knees pressing into her friend's hips.

She can feel the rain, hear the crinkle of a tarp. Sayaka feels her twintails tremble and swish as Madoka shakes her head, trying to clear it.

"I-is... is she...?"

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

Mami has already succumbed again to unconsciousness, already slipped back into the darkness from which she was stirred when Eri started moving her. The words, that quiet reassurance, even the scream--all of them fade.

Stealing her blood would be difficult, but only because right now it's still so freely given in the alleyway. She slips against the dumpser easily, rolling back down to the ground limply, her arm falling over her. Her elegant outfit is torn and stained, and the blood comes from numerous cuts all over her... including in her stomach. Almost comically, her hair is still intact, her drills still in their shape. But her eyes are closed, and she's pale. She doesn't move from the ground, except to shift under the force of Sayaka's movements.

...But, as they look, they'll see that Mami is still breathing, still alive. With help she'll stay that way.

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1ryRb2M8AY

Sayaka didn't cast a glance to her as she went by. It made it easy for Kyouko to respond in kind. For all her dragging feet she maintained some ember of dignity in the directness of her stride. She passed the swordswoman as a peer, moving directly and without cowering shivers or proud bloat.

When she reaches Eri she smiles softly, and nods. It's more than a little garish, what with blooded teeth and a herky jerky control of her musculature, but she means it all the same. She alone isn't afraid for Mami's life. Eri has to worry about having her bluffed called, everybody else just saw the jag and the gem. Kyouko alone enjoyed the comfortable understanding that Eri's gambit would stand unchallenged. Whether she'd have lived or died tonight wouldn't have been up to her. Thanks to Eri, it wasn't up to those that nudged her throat into naked exposure, either.

She doesn't hesitate to accept Eri's shoulder, and even her embrace, but before she assents to either she stops, and turns to Sayaka. Standing on her own two feet, she releases her spear, letting it dissipate before clattering down.

When she issued the call for a voice, she didn't enjoy an abundance of candidates. Grasping for her own native sounds she found only the most ragged and snaggled chunk of leathery warped vocal cords. She makes do, her voice a snake among the dead leaves of Fall.

"This...be...cause, you...innnnn---vayyy...ded...we, will...de-fend...any, else...dead...no...sehhh.....cund...chance...please...end, here..."

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

When words are purchased at such high cost, Sayaka cannot help but listen to them, cannot help but watch her weakened foe force them out. She shakes her head, as small a motion as she can make it.

"It ends when the people in your territories are safe. And since neither of you will back down... I guess that means it ends when you /have/ no territories."

Sayaka holds Mami close, Madoka holds Sayaka close. Some hugs make it harder to breathe. Some hugs make it possible.

Sayaka exhales raggedly, rubbing her face against Mami's shoulder to dry it. She draws herself up a little, enough to see Mami's face. "She's not," she says, and she makes her voice gentle for Madoka. "She'll be okay. We'll just use grief like normal, and her Soul Gem will fix her..."

Like a parent with a maxed-out credit card, she doesn't mention the dire state of their grief seed supply. Mami will get whatever they have. Sayaka herself... she'll make due. Hers was a wish of healing.

But as she lifts her head, her eyes fall on the grief seed Eri left behind, glistening in its leaden delicacy on the pavement.

"Hold her for me," she asks Madoka softly.

When the three of them have rearranged, Sayaka approaches the grief seed and stops, just looking at it for a moment. Her steps continue, leaving it behind, and as she walks, she withdraws a sword from her cape with a soft sizzle. With a short hop, she's atop the dumpster, with a rough kick, she's ripped one of the two panels covering it clean off, sending it clattering to the ground. Madoka hears an otherworldly chorus of little wails as Sayaka reaps her blade back and forth in the nest of socks, a puffy dark smoke trickling as the familiars bleed into nothingness.

Sayaka's boots thud onto the ground again, and this time when she passes the grief seed, she plucks it smoothly off the ground as she passes.