2017-01-28 - Chevaliers Go to War

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Title: Chevaliers Go to War

The Chevaliers invade Shinjuku, hunting ground of Eri Shimanouchi, in an attempt to put a stop to her practice of 'farming' Grief Seeds at the cost of innocent lives. Expecting little resistance, they are shocked to confront a powerful force of individualistic magical girls waiting to oppose them.


Chitose Shiratori, Eri Shimanouchi, Fuu Hououji, Garnet, Hikaru Shidou, Homura Akemi, Kasagami Araki, Kyouko Sakura, Mami Tomoe, Mikoto Minagi, Nori Ankou, Setsuna Higashi, Utena Tenjou


Shinjuku Capital Ward

OOC - IC Date:

01-28-2017 - 12-24-2014

[OOC] Global: Sayaka Miki has set the Scene Pose.
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Toy Soldiers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24tAAXy9IVw

It's all erased but the neon. Signs ten, twenty feet tall float suspended by nothing in the sky. Their commercial intent is here diabolical in curving red letters, there angelic in colorless white, but nowhere is there sign of concrete or steel. THe snow has taken the city, and even the ever-present yellow windows that checkboard its nights are gone, far too weak to serve as lighthouses in this dark. All that surrounds is howling black and muffled white, and the distant judgemental glow of signs floating high above.

But if the skies themselves do not want this to happen tonight, they haven't brought enough snow by half.

The shape of train tracks is still visible beneath layers of snow as the Chevaliers advance. The rail system is Tokyo's lifeblood, and city workers have been working double and triple shifts to keep it clear even as the rest of the city is buried. One by one the minor lines have gone down as the blizzard continued without relent. By morning the crucial Marunouchi Line was shut down and the rest were on altered schedules. As the snowfall exceeded even the most pessimistic predictions, Tokyo Metro made the decision to surrender by mid-afternoon, and its exhausted workers offered their assistance to the rival Japan Rail in order to buy as much time as possible for the highest-trafficked rail line in the world: JR Yamanote.

At 10pm, with Sugamo Station buried beyond hope of recovery and the loop broken, electricity was cut to the final Yamanote train, and employees left it to sit in state between stations. The Chevaliers are forced to part to walk around that train, separating around the corpse of a slumped aluminum serpent, feeling the dead eyes of its dark windows follow them in the dark. The backbreaking effort to keep the line clear has resulted in a canyon of snow, whose glistening walls rise up on either side of the relatively clear tracks. Swirls of flakes stir in the strange trapped winds as the Chevaliers proceed from Shibuya, Mami's southern holding, to Shinjuku, Eri's northern grounds: capital of the capital of Japan. When the ghostly signs of Shinjuku landmarks Lumine 1 and Lumine 2 become visible in the distance, Sayaka holds up her hand for a halt, turning around to face the group.

"You all know what this is about by now, I guess," she says with a self-conscious, brief smile. "We didn't want it to go this far, but it doesn't have to go any further. There's nothing Shimanouchi and that girl can do against all of us--they'll have to listen, or run away... that's what I hope. If they'll let us help the people here, if they'll let us help /them/... this could be a happy night. But it might not go like that. Expect the worst, I guess." Solemnly, she draws a sword from her cloak with a blue sizzle of magic.

"Fuu-chan... if we see anybody, can you use your wind to clear the area a little and block the snow falling so we can see? Just at first is fine. Everybody else, stay close together in case they try to jump us. All right?" After a moment, Sayaka nods firmly. "Let's go."

The tracks of many lines converge at Shinjuku station, and soon the narrow canyon has become a broad pavilion with seven rails side by side. Abandoned machines and discarded equipment litter the area as they approach the station, its dark bulk blotting out the horizon. Sayaka slows her pace to fall in step with Garnet.

"We might need to take Shimanouchi's Soul Gem tonight. That's dangerous, for her and us. If it comes to that, it has to be done right." She doesn't look up at Garnet as they walk, side by side, over the last few hundred yards of track. "Can I count on you?" she asks.

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

"I'll see what I can do about visibility," the Magic Knight of Wind promises to Sayaka.

Honestly? She hadn't planned on being here. Snow doesn't fall in Tokyo all that regularly to begin with; blizzards are a rare occurence, but a blizzard *THIS* heavy is virtually unheard of. She's pretty much certain that it isn't natural; the only reason why she isn't cooped up at home, curled up with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate in front of her computer, or playing video games with her lower body under a kotatsu, is because of that near-certainty.

But even for a magical girl, venturing out alone in these conditions is pretty close to a working definition of suicidal. The Chevaliers are allies whom the Wind Knight finds trustworthy; she's more comfortable in their company than she would be alone, and the more they have together, the better their combined chances are for coming back alive. The Wind Knight is less sure about how much she agrees with Sayaka's chosen mission - cutting down on the Familiar population in Shinjuku is all well and good, and she has no issues with disposing of the roaming minions of Witches. But if it comes down to fighting Eri, or taking her Soul Gem ...

It's a relief that Sayaka isn't asking *her* to try and take away somebody's Soul Gem. Dealing with falling snow will be tricky enough, but a good stiff updraft over a large enough area should give their visibility a much-needed boost. Keeping them from getting snowed under may well be the most that the Wind Knight can contribute, if things do break down into a general battle.

And win or lose - whether the Chevaliers carry the field or are forced into retreat - the Wind Knight knows she not only wants to, but *has* to do whatever she can to help make sure everyone comes away alive. In conditions like this, the green-clad Magic Knight is certain that Familiars are only the third- or fourth-most-dangerous being in Tokyo. And that list doesn't include magical girls.

<Pose Tracker> Hikaru Shidou [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Looking to Sayaka, the Magic Knight of Fire says, "We're going to do this! We can and will triumph!" She looks to the Wind Knight and adds, "Let's do this, Fuu-chan!" She looks to the others and then at the snow. A slight frown forms on her face for some reason, but then she shakes it off. She isn't going to let the cold bother her, after all it's never really bothered her in the past either. Instead, she narrows her eyes a little with a look of determination and bravery on her face.

Also, just like the Wind Knight, the Fire Knight intends to do everything she can to make sure everyone comes away alive. She believes in leaving no one behind, no matter how dangerous it might be, and will always help out an ally in danger, no matter what the risk might be.

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

It's cold. That's an understatement, and it would be appropriate to Mami's image to barely note it as such, the veteran unfazed by the elements. Unfortunately for her, she lives right now in something altogether different: the chill is biting even through her magic, and she has her own doubts about tonight's potential happy ending. Her boots crunch in the snow as she passes, looking up for possible angles of ambush, around at each of the Chevaliers.

Frost rests on her hairdrills, a light dusting of snow on her shoulders and on her hat. She thinks already of what could go wrong, and chooses not to voice it; she doesn't want to undo Sayaka's inspiration. She's been watching the group's backs, trying to dispel mundane concerns from her mind and focus on the tracks. She walks along with the others though.

But Mami strides up beside Garnet and Sayaka, waiting for the tall woman to answer before murmuring to her partner, "You're doing very well." She doesn't feel like she can offer much encouragement, which is exactly why she does it. Briefly, she reaches over to take Sayaka's hand and squeeze it with her own, before she starts to slow again and resumes her position at the back of the group.

"Just keep your eyes open; Shimanouchi-san knows this territory better than any of us." A pause, and a smile she doesn't feel. "We'll be fine."

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene du Nord [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

The snow is heaped high, like an element - frozen seas surging and rustling through the world. The passing of the great train, dark and metallic, appeals to la Sirene du Nord's aesthetic sense, just a bit.

Batiste, being small and not perfectly adapted to the cold, is riding in la Sirene's coat pocket. She has the Brazen Pharos held out, and the cold does not seem to be bothering her bare hand.

She has in large part brought up the rear, but not by a lot. She does not seem to have had a great deal to say - or perhaps she does not want to risk an avalanche. Mami's words get a look and a firm nod of reply.

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet looks solemn, even for Garnet.

"Yes." she replies to Sayaka. I don't want to fight these girls, they are still so young. But these monsters, these familiars can't be knowingly allowed to roam free to kill innocent humans one after the other, after the other. I keep telling myself Eri and Kyouko don't know any better, that they don't know there's another option. How can they do this? But there's no telling how many innocent people they've already murdered this way. They need to take the alternative offered to them. They cannot continue to sacrifice others, others with lives, and families and loved ones, to these monsters. And if they refuse put down these monsters themselves, we must... It can't continue."

Garnet walks along with the others, to her the talk of taking a Gem is relatively normal. Perhaps the Puella have a way of bubbling, though she may perhaps misunderstand exactly what this means for Puella. Garnet is likely to believe that their selves persist when their gems are removed from their bodies. But just in case. She doesn't know whether she really wants to know the answer. There is a deep wrongness to all of this, all that she's learned of Puella and their magics. She doesn't know what to think of it.

For her part, Garnet seems completely unbothered and unburdened by the cold and snow, it falls on her, and what doesn't fall off while walking merely stays attached. Marching in the middle of the formation pace is as steady as always, which may remind others watching her of her inhumanity, and implacability as an alien guardian of Humanity, here by her own moral choice.

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

Overconfidence seems to be the name of Sayaka's game. After all she'd give her a date- a time. But why shouldn't she be overconfident given everyone who follows her? All she had to do was alert the troops. That didn't sound right. Troops. It didn't sound right at all. Especially given how loosely they made contact with each other. A few phone calls were placed to girls, and some of them knew a girl who knew a girl or had a mascot that could get a message to them.

She wishes she knew everyone who had showed up to fight for her. It felt wrong not to. They were coming in weather like this, on a holiday like tonight. She knew they were all fighting for their own interests, and their collective interests but some level was touched that nevertheless they still came to fight for her.

While she waits, she scrolls through something on her phone, thumbing from one picture to the next, until she stops. Stares at it for a while, eyes clouded with something. Closing it, she presses down on the app for her mail, goes to drafts. Touches a letter that's been typed out for a few months now. All it takes is her hitting send. She toys with her finger over the button. Eri puffs out a wisp of hot air that appears in this cold, sighs, squeezes her eyes shut for a moment. Then types out:



She put it away without waiting for a return buzz- which came moments later. that came not too long after. When she transforms it's a subtle scent of rain hidden amongst snow. She drapes a scarf around her neck. Her soul gem is alit on her forehead, shaped like a leaf as she walks to the edge of the awning over the bus platform. Given the overpass nature of the train tracks, it gave her the best vantage point of the Southern approach.

As ghostly as Shinjuku's landmarks look to the approaching girls, their shapes look just as ethereal, like a line of Yuki-Onna appearing in the train tunnels. She puts a thumb to her nose and sniffles once. "Don't blame you for just marching in." She gives her head this little shake, sounding rueful, "I mean the way you figure, it's just going to be senpai and me at most." She starts walking to the other side of the awning with metallic clanking and shifting of snow with each step before dropping off the other side onto the roadway.

Despite the station itself being dormant save the shop lights, the Southern terrace still shines with seasonal cheer, planted trees bare of leaves but not color, festooned by prismatic lights and garland and other symbols of the season. A larger Christmas Tree has also been set up decorated by local schoolchildren with lovingly hand-crafted ornaments, tip-topped by a star.

She looks over to those who were already here. Would others be showing up soon? Or was everyone here? "They're on their way. As tempting as it might be, we probably shouldn't ambush them. We're not all used to working with each other and we'd probably trip each other up. What do you think- divide and conquer?"

Her eyes flit over to Kyouko, but she doesn't specifically address her, feeling awkward in this position but trying to remember she actually has self-confidence to work without her. She clears her throat which feels raspy in the night air. "Thank you for coming. I know it- I know it's not a great night to be out and I appreciate you're all here. Look. Ah- I'm not good at speeches. We're all here for our own reasons but I think the end we're all trying to protect our bottom line from idealists who don't understand the kind of world we live in and the kind of things we have to do to live in it. If we don't stop them tonight- then it'll just send them the message they can enforce their will on everyone unopposed." After a few moments she balances up onto her toes on the mound of snow and says, "Let's send them a message back that it's not so easy."

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

Kyouko Sakura leans against tall against a triangular column marking the arrivals and departures of the various trains coming and going from Shinjuku Station. The flourescent gleam of the backlit obelisk casts a ghostly glow along the shimmering snowflakes falling in great preponderance, and illuminates the savage's outline in an incandescent corona. The white material of her cowboy hat is nearly indistinguishable in the white powdery downpour of the season's reaping. The snowfall marks her like carbon dating. It's clear that she's been waiting here for awhile.

A silver harmonica in her bare hand shimmers with moonlight as she plays a soft tune of menace and mourning, pausing only to rip a chunk of flesh from a scarlet apple. A small scattering of emaciated cores form a circle of bones near her feet, each of a different varietal. The ruby shaft of her spear is streaked in alabaster, its razored tip half obscured in the snowmound before her that she'd thrust it in like the sword in the stone.

An abandoned train car, its silver shining even more brightly in the surreal dreamscape, has been slathered with a bright red paint on its side, the half empty paint can long since buried beside it in the storm. Dull and obscured in the wintry mists, one has to get moderately close to make it out clearly. The crimson etchings form a slightly modified quote from the Bible, one last dramatic gesture from one who seeks to make an impression on those that would do them harm.


Kyouko pauses in her long and loping tune to grin a wolfish grin at Eri and their assembled allies. "What a night for it..couldn't be better if y'ask me. Like from a movie.." Her attention shifts more fully to the friends and comrades who stood with them. Homura Akemi. The Crimson Rose Duelist. Chitose Shiratori. Sailor Pluto They didn't have a name, they didn't have a creed. They weren't a gang, invading town in matching hats to plunder and steal. They were a posse, a gathering of people protecting themselves from intruders. And she'd be lying if she said she wasn't a bit moved.

"Thank you all for coming. For letting us do this the right way, instead of skulking in the dark because that's all we can do to survive. If it still comes to that in the end, then please know how grateful I am for all of you, that you stood with Eri tonight with me. It's a big city. Hopefully tonight they'll realize they don't need all of it."

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Hope on Fire https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3Ua5DBj6Hw

For all the sunshine breaking through the roiling clouds and sheets of snow, it might as well be midnight, but actually it's afternoon. Utena's red bike shorts, exchanged for red leggings, are the brightest thing in the world, when stacked against an academy empty of all but the students who had nowhere else to go for Christmas, slumbering beneath the rising white tides, but even they are getting peppered with white as she stands there, at the end of the world.

No -- the edge of the basketball court. She blinks slowly, dislodging flakes from her lashes as she peers up, then out, only gradually realizing where her wandering feet have taken her. It startles a laugh. Of course she's here. When she's restless, playing basketball is her favorite refuge.

Thankfully, that's imprecise, huh? What she really needs is to move her body. Basketball's out, but there are other things to do.

Turning on a heel, she heads to a nearby shed.

                         gotta fight gotta strike
                      'cause there's no turning away
                     from what you don't want to know

Her muscles burn after an hour of snow shoveling. Sweat paints rivers of hard-earned exhaustion along her hair and down her back. Her breath comes in gasps, every hitch a stitch.


She keeps on, stopping only ever so often to summon a wad of spit into her dry mouth and add it to the frozen pile on the ledge.


But no matter how she tries, she can't stop thinking. Can't stop seeing. Soldiers who leer in death as they did in life. A blizzard of ash melts them away, and now they look like girls instead. People her own age. Classmates, even. Gardeners. Girls. And they, too, are willing to kill to get what they...


Wakaba's face, eyes huge with fright as a monster loomed over her. Anthy's face, spun away from her by a backhanded slap. Green hair everywhere. A shower of light from a sword.

                            gotta see gotta be
                       if they're all going astray
                      don't let them take you in tow


The bell tolls ten; the sun's gone down and she didn't even notice. Now, though, she flips the shovel onto her shoulder, looks across a court every bit as white as it was when she started, and starts heading for the train tracks. Her thighs flash like beacons in the darkness as she breaks into a run.

A glow surrounds her waist, her chest. As unconscious as the steps that guided her to the ball court in the first place, her hand drifts over her heart, and as ruffles erupt from her coat, pauldrons blossom atop it, she thinks again of Anthy.

Anthy, who's waiting up in the dorm room with cocoa.

Anthy, who she could be spending Christmas Eve with, right now.

In a way, she is.

Her hand shifts back to the shovel, and a white rose is left in its place. She doesn't notice, squinting into the storm and surging faster, faster, until the whole world is a blur of white, and she a flash of pink.

                  you're a one-man shift in the weather
                   you're the woman who just won't sell
                     climbing up and ringing the bell

Utena's fashionably late to the appointed time and place, which is to say, not late at all; for this sort of thing, the right thing to do is to assuage peoples' fears by being one of the first to arrive. She's a quiet but utterly steadfast presence on Nori's right, just behind Sayaka.

There's something encouraging in the way she meets peoples' eyes, and something charming about the way that, with every step towards danger, stray bits of long pink hair bounce across her shoulders, back and forth and back and forth.

The only real inconsistency in her image is her weapon. She'd meant to filch a bokken from the kendo hall, but lost all track of time. So what she's got will have to be enough.

Shovel still slung as casually over her shoulder as a warrior of old might sling a greatsword, one gets the keen sense that, in her hands, it will be.

"You can count on all of us," she adds. "They're killers. We've got your back, Sayaka."

She surges forward with the others like a wave. Even in this darkness, the ring on her hand manages to catch the light and glisten.

So do her determined eyes.

                        ooh you're gonna make your
                              mark this time
                        ooh you're gonna set your
                               hope on fire

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Kasagami has luckily recovered from the pure horror of Eri's situation. She'd at first tried to argue against it, before the pure futility of it all finally dawned on her. And so, it was reluctance that agreed to help our the gardener-Puella that gave her a hand in the Labyrinth and saved her from a possible Sayaka-shanking.

Or more likely, put it off for a bit. Kasagami is here, scarf protecting her neck from the frigid cold. There's a deep scowl on her face. She loathes youma, and puts Familiars and Witches firmly in that camp. She knows these things eat and kill now, and it infuriates her. But she knows if all of the creatures are wiped out, then Puella Magi like Eri will starve and die. And then the whole cycle begins again.

Practicality wins out. She needs Eri's support in case Mami tries to come after her seriously. And she /owes/ Eri, after all.

As Eri and Kyouko give their speeches, Kasagami gives a grin. Rose scents and petals flow around her, constantly defying the frigid weather with life and warmth. Her nodachi rests at a rakish angle along her shoulders. Metal taps on her coat occasionally.

"Now that's how things should be. They simply don't understand how much of a travesty this whole thing is. I mean really? There's no good answers here. Coming in and just snapping up territory like that? Well. I can admire their guts and bravery. Skulking in the dark is for starving dogs, not kings! If they want to take us, then let them show themselves worthy of ruling here! Only the strong can live in this dirty, rotten world!" Her hand grips her blade. Her face, flushed more in rage than through the wind.

A slash of her sword, and crimson petals sway along the group gathered to mark their coming. Their territory.

<Pose Tracker> Chitose Shiratori [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Chitose Shiratori stands with Eri and everyone else. She shivers from the cold, though her barrier jacket keeps it from getting dangerously cold. Her glasses start fogging from her body heat, momentarily before they frost back again. Eri and Kyouko may be speaking, and she's listening of course. But she's staring off into space, spending some brain power pretending she's elsewhere.


The door to her room bursts open, and in storms her father. "Happy birthday, Chitose!"

His daughter stirs in bed. "Augh, Dad! What time is it?" She rolls over and reaches over to get her glasses, before checking the clock, then she looks back at her father. "Can I at least sleep in on my birthday?" She sighs after a moment, and smiles. "Thank you, dad." But she pauses, briefly, before her eyes narrow. "I'm... not going to go out tonight?"

Her father, very much aware that she's what she is, had occasionally been sending Chitose out for supplies and things like that. "Oh no, we should be fine for a few days, I think. I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday, and hope you have a great da--"

Suddenly, her phone rings. She takes it and looks at the caller. After a few moments, she sighs and gets out of bed, already cupping her hair up in preparation for the braiding. "On second thought..." She finally looks at her father again. "Do you need anything while I'm out?"


Chitose continues shivering. And that's... really about all she can do right now. She's not not much to offer on the battle plan, she enjoys coming up with them long before they go into effect. She also enjoys coming up with them in warm climates, too. She really hopes the next fight is in the spring, or at the very least the rainy season.

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

In every timeline, there is a moment when things fall apart. Homura has tried to trace it back to that moment. Tried to find out which each one is. It rarely stands out as obvious. The effect is easy to spot; the cause is near enough to impossible, or else she wouldn't be jumping into a new one. She can't, usually, identify them with certainty. The moments may not even exist, except in her head; a fiction she creates, for when a timeline went from salvageable to not, and manufactured entirely after the fact.

But she still looks for the moments. She wonders, as a timeline progresses, if they've reached it -- and she hasn't noticed, yet. She doesn't know, yet. She doubts she would change her course of action even if she did. Homura looks down for a moment. Eri's face is frozen, mouth open, colored grey. Kyouko is watching, grin on her face and harmonica in hand. Kasagami keeping her scarf 'round her neck. Chitose shivering -- or frozen in a shover. The others, too, are there.

All colorless and grey, as time is frozen for everyone but her, at first. Homura stands next to the wall that she had been leaning on, then turns around, and punches the wall in frustration. She hisses out: "Everything is going to shit."

Then she pulls her hand back, and snaps her shield into place, and time resumes. Homura stands there, arms folded, head down, looking quiet and cool.

"We're with you, Eri-san," she says, calmly.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Snow mixes with her evergreen hair as it whips in the strange winds, and her skin is unpebbled by goosebumps and untouched by frost; this blizzard, fierce though it be, is no match for the scathingly frozen surface of her home planet.

Sailor Pluto stands near the back of the gathered girls, taller than many, perhaps taller than all, an imposing figure with an imposing staff at her side. Her impassive face shows nothing of the thoughts in her head. She is here to honor an alliance forged by her dear comrades, to represent them in battle, and it feels right that she do this for them. She still cherishes the newness of being able to take on their battles for them, rather than watching from her own distant post.

What's more, she understands the urgency of their mission, the desperate needs that drive blades to dip into darkness. She knows how to hold a line. And so Sailor Pluto nods as Eri speaks, once, to underscore that understanding.

It is not their opponents that trouble her. It is their allies. She keeps her scarlet gaze forward, steadfastly not looking at Homura Akemi. She does not need to. The screaming of tortured time is unmistakeable. Sailor Pluto clutches the Garnet Rod's haft a bit more tightly, but that is all.

She is ready, and nods once more to Kyouko's words. She will deal with what is in front of her, and deal with the time criminal later.

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

The blizzard certainly isn't getting any less intense, thinks the Wind Knight, but if her sense of location and distance is right, shouldn't they be about where they want to be?

"Winds of Protection!!"

She picks a spot ahead of herself, Sayaka, and the others, and releases the spell - rather modified, since she's not trying to guard somebody specific, but rather, to try and shield the whole area. It's not going to hold for long, but hopefully she can blow the snow out of the air far enough over a modest area for long enough that people can see each other, and talk ...

And possibly, maybe, *hopefully* sort this out without resorting to duking it out. Even an orderly duel would be preferable to a general knock-down-drag-out; even a simple loss of transformation could be fatal in a hurry.

(The 'bubble' being shielded is only keeping out snow and some of the wind, people can pass through it just fine. It probably won't last very long.)

<Pose Tracker> Hikaru Shidou [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

While the Wind Knight does her thing, the Fire Knight stands by idly, waiting and watching for the time being. She figures that the Wind Knight has things under control, so the Fire Knight is more on standby than anything. Still, she's got her senses on high alert and her magic ready to go at the drop of a hat. Hopefully, she won't need to use it, but you never know...

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

Sayaka turns her eyes sideways to Garnet for the first time as she speaks. It's rare for Garnet to say so much at one time, so she wants to listen carefully. Her senpai Utena chimes in too with an even more forceful declaration. At the end, she turns her eyes forward again and nods solemnly. "It makes me feel better that you think so, too. I'm counting on you."

"Sayaka turns her face down, feeling warm with happiness, walking hand-in-hand with Mami for a few paces. "This is your dream," she says quietly to her senpai. "Now we're all dreaming it."

There's no Pikachu hat today. Sayaka is bare-headed, bare-armed, bare-thighed in the snow. Flakes have stopped melting when they land on her skin. It feels strange, to know the surface of her body is no longer warmer than snow, and yet feel only this vague, general chill. Sayaka has a habit of wondering about things that aren't good for her.

It's the letters she sees first. OF THEIR DEEDS I WILL DRIVE THEM FROM MY HOUSE! I WILL LOVE THEM NO MORE; ALL THEIR PRINCESSES ARE REBELS. A sensation exceeding that of the blizzard runs up Sayaka's spinal column like a cold spoon. She traces her eyes up the rest of the text, not comprehending the full meaning but understanding the emotion. There's a charnelhouse wrongness to this desecrated train amidst Christmas lights and snowladen trees. Just then, the haunting strains of a harmonica seem to come from all around the broad snow-canyon, and Sayaka brandishes her sword in startled fear.

A globe of wind lifts and clears the heavy mist of thick snowflakes, and both sides are fully revealed to one another. Sayaka's eyes fall first on Kyouko's bright scarlet, narrowing her eyes at the cowboy hat. It's the sort of careless touch that would have seemed pretention on many, but on that girl seemed like a frightening whim. She always did what she wanted, when she wanted. It's only after she tears her eyes from that threat that she realizes something's wrong. There are too many of them.

"Wha--" Sayaka's eyes flit from Homura's slim menace, to Kasagami's noble mien, to Eri's verdancy, to long-haired Chitose's arcane raiment, to Pluto's towering melancholy. She loops her sword a few times on a loose wrist nervously. Since when did Eri have more allies than just her fearsome senpai?

Sayaka turns her head to regard the Chevaliers. The truth is, Homura and Pluto aren't the only ones with control over time. The human heart knows its own clock, and Sayaka's is nearly stopped. A moment ago she was just walking, now she's in perhaps the most important crossroads of her life.

She could call for a retreat now. This has gone from tense to life-and-death. She's had no time to even consider the possibility of these renegades having such force. Among them are known murderers like Homura Akemi. The second hand is moving like an hour hand as she turns back to face the enemy. Is it possible she was wrong? Do so many agree that the world requires barbarism just to survive?

Sayaka looks down at her own sword, and twists it, watching the multicolored glow of Christmas lights ripple on the steel. "No," she whispers.

Soundtrack Kick

"No!" she calls to Eri directly. "The world isn't like you think it is. Or... if it is..." She lifts her sword directly to the sky, its tip glinting. "It doesn't have to be! Every window in this city has a person behind it, a person who wants to be happy and loved! Not even for one more minute, Shimanouchi, Anko, the rest of you! Not for one more minute will we let you forget them!"

Sayaka whirls about a full three hundred and sixty degrees, her white cape blossoming like a lily around her, using the distance between her and her foe for a powerful, elaborate windup. Her sword whips out screeching, a silver dart fletched with gold, near Kyouko's feet, to challenge or wound alike. "Chevaliers!" Sayaka shouts with throat-rasping volume. "We're stopping this tonight!"

COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has used Perfect Pitch on Kyouko Sakura.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura narrowly braces Sayaka Miki's Perfect Pitch, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Sayaka Miki is Psyched!  Kyouko Sakura's Block ability activates!  Kyouko Sakura's Parry ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene du Nord [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Having Utena Tenjou at her side, or at least a bit behind her, makes la Sirene feel...

She doesn't know. Good, though, she decides. It's a source of energy. (And Batiste has given her a wave and perhaps an idle remark or two during the travel.) Much less positive is the red slash ahead of them. No: It's a train car. Words come down.

Words everywhere. Batiste draws himself into la Sirene's coat pocket, as the woman herself frowns softly. The words get heated, fast, despite the snow - it seems that the offer of a venue for peace is rejected. Oh, that sounds so dispassionate, doesn't it?

Sayaka calls them to action. Nori, or is it la Sirene?, stiffens upwards, her lantern raised up. She pulls the handle. Why can't I speak? la Sirene thinks, even as her eyes - her pale eyes, veiled by the magic change and the coat that she wears - rest upon Kasagami, speaking with such a dramatic flourish in the wind.

What does come out of the Brazen Pharos cloaks around her, her outline blurring. The poured unlight moves like a strange distortion of heat or mist or luminosity, or something like either of those things. It ripples outwards, bouncing with fluid weight and no sound whatever from the ground and up onto those nearest to her - Mami Tomoe and Utena Tenjou.

She finds words to speak: "I suppose we must fight, now," and she wishes they sounded bolder.

COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord has used Vision Displace on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord has used Vision Displace on Utena Tenjou.
COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord has used Vision Displace on La Sirene du Nord.
COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord has finished attacking.
COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord accepts La Sirene du Nord's Vision Displace, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Accelerate applied to La Sirene du Nord!
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou accepts La Sirene du Nord's Vision Displace, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Accelerate applied to Utena Tenjou!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe accepts La Sirene du Nord's Vision Displace, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Accelerate applied to Mami Tomoe!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Protecting the bottom line. Defending the way of things. They're good motivations, but they're not what burns in Mikoto's heart, fighting headstrong against the bitter chill of Christmas Eve. Her eyes squint against the snowflakes, searching out Eri's outline as she and Kyouko talk. Her breath mists against the inside of her scarf, the gold-and-black edges trailing about her midsection; the words are muffled by the earmuffs covering her delicate ears.

It's Eri. She's fighting for Eri, who she loves. She'll destroy Eri's enemies, the people who don't want her to eat.

Mikoto's fingers rub against Miroku's strap through their gloves, itchy like a trigger-finger, ears searching for the familiar crunch of shoes in snow even as she listens to the words. The fight will come soon. The fight will come soon, and she'll prove to her enemies that they cannot hurt her people. The music is soothing, almost.

And then it all comes apart.

Fuu's magic has been a welcome ally in many a battle Mikoto has known, but here the protective gusts are the first notes of oblivion as the arena is captured, inclement weather kept out with a windy bubble. In a flash, Mikoto swings Miroku's case around and draws Miroku, grasping it as Sayaka makes her impassioned speech.

In another time, in another place, she might have been able to find common ground with her. Mikoto doesn't much like the killing of innocents. But she understands the circle of life, and she loves Eri, and she doesn't want her to die.

So here... we... go.

Fuu Hououji hasn't made a threatening move beyond clearing the area, but that's enough. It's a threat, a gesture made to make them obvious to their enemies. And people who attack you are enemies, Mikoto. Did you know that? Did you know? Forget so many times those winds restored you, forget the kindness, the care, the concern, forget it, forget it --

"Aaaah--!" Mikoto screams, charging forward, Miroku kicking up the snow on the ground as it drags. She springs upwards, that claymore swinging up, cleaving down, aimed /right/ for Fuu's centre of mass. Her yellow eyes blaze. Hell is empty, and all the demons are here.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly dodges Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness, taking 38 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Psyched!  Fuu Hououji's Fade ability activates!  Fuu Hououji's Flash ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Pins and Needles - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4LJdJeGE9k

Senpai's dream. Mami's dream. Sayaka says it's hers, and Mami knows, as she walks hand in hand with Sayaka, that they aren't alone here. The questions that come to her mind fade for now in the face of a hand that isn't even warm anymore. She's walking frozen, and keeps walking frozen when she moves back.

The back of her neck has frost on it too; there's something almost lovely about the snow on the gold of her hair, that she fails to notice, like she's a statue in the cold, her brown skirt stiff with ice, her fingers limber only because she keeps moving thm against the cold. But walk she does, until...

The letters she can only read bits and pieces of, not enough to gain meaning except by the angry paint. It makes her think of one girl, one girl who would still be here.

But then she can see all of the others. She picks out Kyouko and Eri first, those she expected, and then Homura. Chitose, from the other night and many times before. ...And...

"Sailor Pluto...?" Mami murmurs, eyes widening. What could bring her here? Why is she with them? ...There must be some reason. She knows...

She knows Sayaka is looking at her. She knows Sayaka issues a challenge to Eri and an attack at Kyouko. She knows...

Sayaka told Mami that this is her dream. Golden eyes look over former friends uncertainly, despite herself. It's her dream. ...Isn't it? The blonde veteran feels frozen.

Mami is too old and experienced to think of dreams without cost any more.

Even as La Sirene's magic shifts up around her, Mami bends at the knee and leaps upward, alighting onto a train and whipping out her wrist. With it she casts out a ribbon that grows and twists as it gets closer to her target, meant to ensnare her and hold her in place.

"Sailor Pluto!" she calls, chilled in a new way watching the tall senshi. "I'm sorry to be rude... But I have my own innocent to protect."

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Legare on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto fails to dodge Mami Tomoe's Legare, taking 15 Fatigue damage!

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3vP799NtvA&list=PLDGKllSOeRTYXKb9G8KHWYyDlnUZle2BN&index=1

Sayaka's sliver sprouts a red poppy from Kyouko's ankle, nicking through the material of her boot to draw a slender thread of blood that stains and steams against the endless colorlessness beneath their feet. Kyouko doesn't flinch, doesn't wince. She only smirks, as she carefully slips her harmonica into a pocket, eases her hat off into her hands with a theatrical flourish of her arm, and beats the snow off of it against her hip. Her voice is loud and meant for everybody.

"Invaders, drawing first blood. And you have the nerve to pretend you're heroes...I see six monsters trying to gobble up the city. We won't roll over for you. If it's blood you're after then we'll carry our weight!"

Kyouko tosses her hat off to her side like a frisbee, letting it rest peacefully upon its icy palanquin, and grasps her still buried spear. Instead of tearing it free though, its long shaft suddenly, dramatically, expands upwards, gaining dozens of meters in moments. Kyouko ascends to the heavens as though by a divine elevator, a twinkle of crimson and steel in the veiled air..

But soon enough she comes crashing down to earth, hurtling towards Sayaka like a comet, grasping a new spear in both hands, her boots resting on the fearfully honed fins of her spearhead. A new meteor to snuff out a new dinosaur.

COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has used Masterstroke on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki fails to counter Kyouko Sakura's Masterstroke, taking 45 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki's counterattack, Disjunct Chord, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Kyouko Sakura!

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

Homura stares, at first, at Sailor Pluto. Part of her fills with dread. She remembers when those eyes pierced through stopped time. When she /saw/ her, in a way that no one has seen her. It's enough to make her consider running; enough to make her debate turning tail and bolting away.

She doesn't. She told Eri that she would be here.

She watches when Sayaka approaches. Looks so surprised, she realizes. Homura's eyes widen -- then narrow, as Kyouko speaks so loudly. She speaks enough for both of them.

And Homura seems to vanish.

When she reappears, she is well to the left of Sayaka and Utena alike. Violet eyes dart, first to Sayaka, and then to Utena. A pistol is in her hands, swinging up -- and she aims at Sayaka. Her eyes narrow. "Do you think either of you has the right to decide whether this is just?"

She is speaking to Utena, too. It's only polite, after all.

Because a bullet from an entirely /wrong/ angle flies in, as if it was shot two seconds ago, and comes at Utena from the front -- and from above, threatening to shoot into her stomach if she doesn't move.

COMBAT: Homura Akemi has used Impossible Aim on Utena Tenjou.
COMBAT: Homura Akemi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou narrowly braces Homura Akemi's Impossible Aim, taking 3 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Homura Akemi is Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

At the distance Kyouko stands from her on her approach, she can't make out the train car until she gets close. But shen she sees it- she's surprised. Trying to translate some in her head and... it seemed fitting. She owed her too much. Far too much, but everything she did for Kyouko wasn't about repaying her. Perhaps she only knew a fraction of what she'd suffered. What her wish had cost her- but she was determined that the Chevaliers wouldn't add to that. But as her mentor says it's like out of a movie, Eri crosses her arms and looks up and around and- "It kind of is- isn't it senpai?" Her expression cracks for a moment from the humor of it. As if it relieved her tension. She nods at what she says, clearly touched.

Kasagami calls it a travesty and she kind of starts out of her pose, uncrossing her arms- "Kings? Uh- Don't you mean-" She clears her throat and- "Doesn't matter- you've got the right idea." Taking a few steps sideways, she gives Chitose this pat on her shivering back and- "You doing okay?" She says softly, so she doesn't look. "You look cold. Ah sorry that's obvious- and doesn't help. Glad you... made it." Unfortunately she doesn't know it's her /birthday/. "Don't suppose White Omen can turn up the heat for you?"

And Homura over there. Stoic as always but she knows better. She has no idea that Homura stopped time to express frustration. She walks over her way, then leans forward, and whispers something her way. "Didn't see Madoka-chan down there. They were still far off enough that I can't be sure, but I don't think they would have brought her in this." That's all she says- but she knows that'll be her concern. It doesn't rule out that she might be there, but there was no diminutive shadow trailing in the back and in this weather she'd hope they didn't bring her.

And then Pluto stands in their midst. And Eri's jaw all but drops until winter punishes it for keeping it slack for a few moments, "Whoa- a Sailor Senshi is on our side?" She shifts to look Kyouko's way, brow arched as if to ask if she did this? "I-"

But that's only for a moment before her eyes drift back to Pluto's timeless presence, "-wow." She's not usually this star struck meeting other Magical Girls, but right now her cheeks seem a bit more ruddy than they were a moment ago and she adjusts the scarf she added to cover her mouth and half her face.

But dark shapes float out of the snow- the wind billows and whips the snow into a frenzy before making a clearing into the fog. It parts like a veil- and there she is that face writ with shock. She wishes she could savor the look in her eyes. But she won't gloat at the knowledge that Sayaka Miki realizes that it won't be as simple a matter as she thought.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ma5JNbztoYE

"When are you going to stop burying your head in the sand? All of us put together couldn't even begin to make the world dance to your tune." Green light sparkles in the air like Christmas lights, but all that happens is that a whip appears in her hand, as she tensely coils it around her arm, "Didn't I tell you that all your good intentions put together would only blossom into blood shed? Guess you proved me right."

But Sayaka throws her blade as a challenge. She half-expects it to come her way, but instead its aimed at Kyouko's feet. She snorts, "Fine. Guess you all don't your value your lives as much as I thought. I get it." After all... there was a time when she didn't value her life all that much either. She remembers it all too clearly, the memory more numbing than the cold. "Take them down!"

It'll be a rapid descent into chaos. But among the girls they brought with her she picks out a bruiser with an Afro among the lines. Tall. Her shades look more familiar. How old was she? She takes a few steps forward. "Huh. Hey I remember you- you said 'bury your sword' right?"

She juts her gloved thumb over her shoulder, "Looks like your leader tried to bury her sword first-" But her tone grows a touch dark, "Right into my senpai." Her attack comes without warning from her, though Garnet sees her attacking as a certainty from her Future Vision. Spinning around, she snaps into a feint. The lashing whip sent wide to just miss the gem's chiseled jaw. "Let me show you just how pleased I am you all decided to come after my bottom line on /Christmas/!"

Spinning across the track she hops over the third rail just in case it's still active, before leaping up the side of the railway track to catch hold of a street light and spin around it once from the crossbar. The momentum is used so that once she makes a full revolution, her wrist spins a flick which whistles through the night before trying to slam into her like a horsewhip across her face no matter whether she's still on the ground or leaping after her. It's the stinging, numbing kind of blow intended to try to drive the fight out of her from the start.

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Natural Backlash on Garnet.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Garnet narrowly dodges Eri Shimanouchi's Natural Backlash, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Eri Shimanouchi is Psyched!  Garnet's Fade ability activates!  Garnet's Flash ability activates!  Cripple and Stun applied to Garnet!

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

The snow whips clear ahead of Fuu's directed winds, clearing the soon-to-be arena, and Pluto takes in the opposition. There are many faces she knows, or at least knows of, in that crowd; maybe more than she knows in her own. It's odd how these things go, she muses. It's a different thing, being tangled up in events. Immediate, messy.

One among that crowd she knows better than others, resplendent yellow ribbons and all. Sailor Pluto has ever preferred a known foe to an unknown, and this is as good a place as any to start. She whips the Garnet Orb up before her, its crystal spilling blood-red light across the fresh white snow, and places Mami Tomoe dead in her sights. She would know more, before beginning the battle in earnest.

Mami Tomoe has no hesitation, and the first view Pluto gets through her precious artifact is of the Puella Magi's customary harbingers, those treacherous ribbons. Before she can twist away with anything like the necessary agility, they snap against her wrists with bruising force. Her last-minute movement barely saves her from being handcuffed to her own weapon.

Sailor Pluto sets her mouth to a thin line and sets her gaze again through the Garnet Orb, speaking her reply in a low voice that nonetheless carries. "Mami Tomoe. I know you think what you do is protection, and I appreciate that intent. But intent is not enough.

"You are wrong, and we will stop you."

She looks deep into the Orb and seeks out Mami Tomoe's past, her present, her future; she looks for the key to the Puella Magi's defeat.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Golden Eternity Lens on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe narrowly braces Sailor Pluto's Golden Eternity Lens, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Analysis performed by Sailor Pluto!  Stun applied to Mami Tomoe!

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

The Wind Knight is still focused on trying to keep the blizzard at bay, and when Mikoto rushes her, screaming like a banshee, she's torn. If she lets the storm in then a lot of them could die, but if she doesn't move fast, *SHE* could die. At the last second, she leaps -

Only to discover that the 'last second' was one or two seconds faster than she thought; the massive sword crashes down, and while her armor somehow stops the cutting edge from carving her in twain, the shear impact of the massive blade still smashes her to the ground. And with that, the Winds of Protection are broken, and winter's wrath descends once more over the area.

"Mikoto-san - !" the Wind Knight gasps, her own sword materializing. "I didn't want this to become a battle!" If she has to leverage Mikoto's blade away from her, she does so; if the younger girl has already pulled the blade back instead of trying to pin her down with it, all the better - but the Wind Knight is trying to get back on her feet, and she's not above using her sword for support. Better that than threatening with it.

"Look around us, this weather will kill ALL of us if it gets the chance!" the Magic Knight of Wind continues, raising her voice to remain audible over the howling winds. "Any of us who are struck down will die here, meaninglessly! I agree with Sayaka-san that we shouldn't let the Witches spread and breed, but if we're doomed to do battle over it, that fight CANNOT take place tonight! Please understand - I *do not* wish to fight you, there are more important crises!"

She doesn't care if Sayaka overhears. She doesn't care *WHO* overhears. She's just trying to persuade Mikoto not to keep trying to filet her like slicing up a blowfish, extra-thin, to make tessa.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Gentle Chiding on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi narrowly braces Fuu Hououji's Gentle Chiding, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Quipped!
COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou transforms into Fire Knight!

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Sayaka, as always, makes Kasagami at once want to roll her eyes, and yet grin. This time, though, there's a bitter little smile on her face.

"Sayaka. Don't you see it yet? I mean, this entire system...isn't it a bit messed up?" There's no taunting, no egging on for a fight, but an honest question for the bluenette.

Mami of course is watched like a hawk. So many she doesn't know. And Utena. Noble, strong Utena. Kasagami finds herself worried. She knows the reputation of Eri. She'll just have to keep an eye out.

Thankfully, much of the snow is cleared by that wall of wind that Fuu puts up. She has to tug her coat tigher to avoid losing it. Unfortunately, it seems tonight is to be a night of blades rather than talks. But then, a certain Sirene gets her attention. Kasagami's eye goes wide, and she can't help but whistle. It's magic she's never seen, and despite the less than envious situation she's in, excitement fills her. Something about the Sirene calls to her, and then she's leaping into the air! "Heads up!" She calls out, before she comes down towards Nori with a spinning flourish! In the wake of her strike, roses seem to bloom where the snow has receded. But instead of a blade, it's the absurdly long sheath that she tries to take her opponent in the stomach with! A one-handed, almost casual looking strike even as she recovers elegantly! Testing her defenses, and more importantly, her resolve.

"She's got a point! Why don't you guys retreat? I can't speak for the others, but I don't stab people in the back while they're making off with wounded!"

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Rose Flash on La Sirene du Nord.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord fails to dodge Kasagami Araki's Rose Flash, taking 33 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki is Psyched!

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Utena's Still Listening To Hope On Fire https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3Ua5DBj6Hw

"Right!" barks Utena, to Sayaka's rallying cry, in the same way athletes break up their huddle.

As the train tracks descend into chaos, a few things penetrate Utena's awareness more strongly than others. Nori's words, first, and her magic -- it elicits a confident grin, the thumbs-up of a comrade. "You sure said it! There Are Times When Girls Must Fight!" She says that in mangled English; she doesn't have a prayer, not a single prayer, of knowing what Kyouko's graffiti is all about. Happily she's enough of a dense post that she doesn't think to care, either. The innocent ignorant cannot disappoint themselves.

                         gotta leave gotta bleed
                      you've gotta stop lying still
                      'cause this is no kind of life

Someone else who probably has no idea what he's sitting on top of looks down across the battlefield. His tail flicks across PRINCESS, before curling around his little rear. It's cold out here, and tonight his fur muff is only for himself.

                        you don't need guarantees
                     you just want something to build
                       before you turn to the knife

"Whoa!" yelps Utena, as Homura's words and her bullet shoot at her unexpectedly. She was scanning the battlefield, trying to decide who to help, what to protect, and the only thing she thinks to do is jam the snow shovel between her and harm's way. The bullet glances off of it, raising sparks, and she flinches.

The words, on the other hand, raise eyebrows. Blue eyes meet purple with just a hint of steel. "Hey, if you wanna tell the cops you executed Alyssa Searrs in cold blood and go on trial, be my guest." And the hairs on the back of her neck rise, too, when she sees the violence being perpetrated by Sayaka upon Kyouko. It's intolerable to her to see her brave leader struggling alone at at a time like this.

So, she backs up, away from Homura, and squares her gorgeously-adorned shoulders against the ones in a white cape. Her arms spread, ready to intercept Kyouko's next strike should it come more quickly than Sayaka can restore her own balance, and the gesture gives the illusion of a matching cape, even though all that's there is hair, lots of hair, and the scent of roses.

                 when the streets are aflood like a fever
                        it's a holiday of the new
                   we're coming closer now to the truth

She glares up at Kyouko, her righteous indignation broad enough to encompass Homura as well. "You show 'em, Sayaka. I know you... this isn't about /invasion/. It's not about territory. And it sure as heck isn't about playing /pretend/."

                        ooh you're gonna make your
                              mark this time
                        ooh you're gonna set your
                               hope on fire
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou has used Back to Back on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki accepts Utena Tenjou's Back to Back, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Sayaka Miki is Cheered!

<Pose Tracker> Chitose Shiratori [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Chitose starts to see magical girls arrive. She's not really listening to any form of bravado. She's not here for that, after all. She's out here to help someone not die. A person's life, after all, does outweigh having a warm and toasty birthday. Despite her criminal heritage, or the many many years she spent at Ohtori, she can't be that self-centered, not right now.

Eri's talk shakes her out of her reverie, as she looks at her. "Oh, ah, it's no problem." She smiles, despite herself. "I'll be fine." Only a beat passes before she continues. "We'll be fine." She adjusts her glasses and turns back towards the encroaching girls. "We have to do what we must, right?"

She doesn't move first, but the instant the first blows are drawn, she takes off into the air and flutters upwards, looking for targets.

Admittedly, she stops when Fuu talks about not wanting the fight.

<She has a point.> says the Device on her arm.

"Yeah, this really isn't the time." Chitose shrugs. "But you remember the last few times someone decided shooting each other was more important than fighting evil, right?"

White Omen is silent for a moment. <Yes.>

"Exactly. I'm not really wanting to turn my back, this time."

With that, Chitose dives a little bit into the battle. Fuu she kind of recognizes, from earlier escapades. Especially the fight on the bridge, a few months ago. So when Chitose sees the girl in red that's dressed in a similar fashion, Chitose points White Omen at her, and fires a few shots in her direction.

COMBAT: Chitose Shiratori has used Light Bolt on Hikaru Shidou.
COMBAT: Chitose Shiratori has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou narrowly dodges Chitose Shiratori's Light Bolt, taking 4 Fatigue damage!

<Pose Tracker> Hikaru Shidou [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Light is good... usually.

But not when it's being hurled in a bolt form at the Fire Knight. It's looking painful and might cause other complications as well. That's not something the Fire Knight wants to deal with in this battle, so she spins to avoid getting caught by it. Her timing is a little off, meaning she is grazed by it, but it's more of an annoyance than anything. She brushes it off as if nothing really happened to her before looking at Chitose.

"I didn't want to have to fight, but it looks like I have no choice. So let's go!" With that, the Fire Knight calls forth the fiery magic she's accustomed to and shoots off a fiery arrow shaped projectile at Chitose.

COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou has used Fire Arrow on Chitose Shiratori.
COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Chitose Shiratori fails to brace Hikaru Shidou's Fire Arrow, taking 34 Fatigue damage!

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet hears Sayaka's cry, but falters. Wasn't combat supposed to be the last resort? The numbers of those opposing them were much higher than they'd predicted. Disappointingly so... Still. Garnet was here to fight monsters, and maybe she could reach Eri before the fires of conflict reached a peak past which they couldn't recede. The futures unfolding before her paint this as unlikely, but it must be tried... She thinks of the message that Kyouko had put together. "Their princesses are rebels..." Was that supposed to insult? Garnet has worn the red coat of rebellion for longer than these girls could imagine.

If Rebellion again means to protect those people of Earth from those who would prey on them for their own deluded avarice....

Garnet will be a Rebel again.

Now. And Forever.

The many rivers of the future coalesce into one, and Eri moves to strike first. Garnet indeed does see it in her Future Vision, and dodges, enough to avoid being struck in the face as intended, but grabs onto the whip and takes some of the attack as she does so, the whip being wrapped around one of her gauntleted arms.

"You can't keep sacrificing people to your monsters. How many mothers, fathers, children, you sacrifice will never know another Christmas? How many families will celebrate without those they love, because you won't find another way, because you won't even try?"

"Stop This. Now."

Garnet's hands turn black and grow to tremendous size, the arm wrapped in ivy streches against it, tightening the attached whip, trying to wrest it from Eri but also digging it deeper into Garnet. Her other arm grows in tandem, extending and rushing towards Eri, like that of an obsidian colossus, easily the size of a dumpster, to demoralize and press her away!

COMBAT: Garnet has used Ebon Nightmare Buster on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Garnet has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi narrowly dodges Garnet's Ebon Nightmare Buster, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Eri Shimanouchi is Quipped!  Eri Shimanouchi's Fade ability activates!  Eri Shimanouchi's Flash ability activates!

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

Mami can't afford to look away at Kyouko's challenge, not in the moment. She knows that, just as surely as she can't look to Eri... and as surely as she can't afford to give Sailor Pluto the initiative, whatever she might feel for the woman before her.

She'll have to trust the others. But that's its own kind of difficult, in a situation like this. She's certain she can already taste blood.

But here, Mami keeps her perch on the train, gauging Pluto's adept handling of her ribbons that were meant to hold her back. She'll have to accept hitting hard. Already she's starting to shift, to prepare for her next attack, when Pluto starese throuh the Orb at her. Mami can hear her voice in her bones, it feels like. She admires her... intent.

"And what am I wrong about?" Mami asks, infusing hr voice with a boldness that feels hollow against Sailor Pluto. "I've seen too many innocents suffer while I sat by and did nothing, or worse. Are you suggesting I go back to that?"

As Mami starts bringing rifles into existence before herself, Pluto can indeed see Mami's timeline. She can see a young girl bleeding in the back of a car; the same girl, whole and healthy, slouching in the face of smirking older girls, in her magical attire; the same girl, crouched over a body whispering apologies. Then fighting alone, relying on overwhelming force. Given how much of Mami's life is battle, there's plenty of material to draw on.

In the absolute present, she's employing the same strategy; she picks up another rifle and fires, then whirling to get the next and firing that, and again and again until she's hopping off of the train and still keeping her distance, some eight shots at Pluto's center.

"You won't stop me doing what has to be done."

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Flourish on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto narrowly braces Mami Tomoe's Tiro Flourish, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto's Block ability activates!  Sailor Pluto's Parry ability activates!

[OOC] Garnet says, "OST for that pose: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gaj-tPTQ-ng"

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

Sayaka tosses her cape aside with a lash of her arm, letting a fresh sword spin free and catching it lithely from the air. Garnet's off to take on Eri, as requested; she whispers a silent 'good luck' as she goes. Advancing towards the train car, she sets off into a running start as she sees Kyouko's spear drive her into the air, then leaps high to greet her midair, shouting a challenge. She never gets close.

The flat of the spear slams down into her chestplate with absolutely full momentum, hard enough that the shaft bows dramatically from the impact as it expends Sayaka's full momentum in instants. When that momentum runs out, it reverses, and Sayaka is snapped into the ground as if she were glued to the bar of a mousetrap, snow and shards of wood erupting around her as her back dents the metal tracks. For a moment her throat closes in the face of a full lungful of air, then she vomits that whole breath out at once, her legs still up in the air. Wheezing and red-faced, she slaps the spear off of her with her sword (somehow still gripped in her glove) and rolls away. Something stabs when she moves, but she can feel her healing powers knitting it.

Can she really stand toe to toe against Kyouko Sakura again?

Her back thumps against Utena's, and Sayaka slumps against the taller girl gratefully, her angry eyes softened for a moment. Utena is such a hero. She smells nice. Not at all like fried red bean.

She hears Fuu's desperate cry, and she calls out to meet it. "WHEN, Fuu-chan?" she demands. "None of this will ever stop! The snowstorms, the dark queens, the ancient artifacts! The world will always be in danger from evil. So unless you're willing to draw a line, right now... you will ALWAYS be willing to turn a blind eye to your allies. Magical girls will ALWAYS just be another mouth trying to gobble down all they can get. We're supposed to be better than that. We're GOING to be better than that. Fuu-chan!" she roars. "If you want peace, it's on the other side of that sword!" Mikoto's vast black sledge of a blade, of course.

Sayaka takes a deep slash to clear some space for herself from the approaching Kyouko, and puts pressure on Utena's back to reverse their positions, an elegant, lilting bit of swordplay belying her injured state as she carves around Homura's pistol, trying to keep it pointed away from her and score a slice of her own. "Transfer student," she growls. "I should have expected you to be here, but I really, really didn't. Do yourself a favor and don't talk to me about justice, not after what you did."

COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has used Caprice on Homura Akemi.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Homura Akemi perfectly counters Sayaka Miki's Caprice, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Homura Akemi's Reverse ability activates!  Homura Akemi's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Homura Akemi's counterattack, Suspend Time, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Sayaka Miki!

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene du Nord [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Eri's words ring out above the rising din. 'I guess you don't value your lives as much as I thought', Eri says, and la Sirene's lips thin to a slit. And then others speak out, and Kasagami leaps. She looks at her with her wide pale eyes, and she twists to try and put herself out of the way -

Maybe it would have, ironically, worked if she had not put her faith in that distortion of light. But sometimes two rights make a wrong, and three rights make a left; the blade comes down against her side, carving into her coat. An otter is forcibly discharged, unharmed, startled, and squealing in dismay; as Batiste flees behind her, la Sirene sinks to one knee, gritting her teeth.

I don't want to fight her, she thinks.

Maybe, she thinks further, I can frighten her. (That's a forlorn hope, part of her thinks, but there is no better choice.)

"... Will you extend the same offer to those their - their farming kills?" la Sirene says, her voice soft. But somehow luring.

She raises her head, and her eyes gleam in the reflected light from the snow, the thousand colors of distant Christmas lights and magical bursts shining in them. "Would you have extended it to the girl who used to watch over Shinjuku...? I know not of all the depths of the hearts of the others here... But I am here for murder is wrong!"

La Sirene sweeps an arm with a dramatic flourish as she comes to her feet. "And I shall not turn my back--!"

COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord has used Eyes in the Mist on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki narrowly braces La Sirene du Nord's Eyes in the Mist, taking 3 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki is Quipped!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The wind-bubble breaks, and the malevolent winds of winter come through again, bringing those bitter cold snowflakes with them. Mikoto shudders, involuntarily, as the chill whistles past her face.

Fuu materialises her sword, pleading with her. It's the blade, not the words, which Mikoto first responds to, springing backwards as her golden eyes glare. The words are just words. Just words, on the wind, meaningless things from someone she respected, but -

- shudder -

- people who attack you are enemies, Mikoto. There's the sword in her hand, there's the spell she cast. They couldn't see them to attack them before that. It was the first move. It led to the battle. She's enabled their destruction. She's at fault. She's trying to confuse you, Mikoto, with honey-words which burn.

Mikoto shudders, standing in the snow for a moment, still and taut as a spring. Underneath her gloves, her knuckles grip white against the one thing which has stood with her throughout her life. This shouldn't be difficult. She knows that people who attack her are enemies. She knows, in her bones, but she has spent so much time amongst friends that for a moment it's /hard./

Just for one... fleeting... second.

And then her face darkens, black shadows pinpricked with two gold lights, and all the months of progress Mai and all her friends have made dissipates. Purple slits of light glow along Miroku's length, like two eyes on the border of opening, and Mikoto bellows a wordless challenge as she barrels forward. Foot planting in the snow, she brings up her claymore for a two-handed slash, and presses the advantage given to her by her overwhelming force, pushing forward to attack, attack, attack.

One of them might have been easily evaded, with the delay she takes to swing the greatsword around and the snow spiralling through the air, kicked up from Miroku's tip and down from the clouds. But she just keeps going, chasing Fuu down, wearing her down. It seems that Mikoto is inexhaustible, and not listening.

Mikoto keeps screaming.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly braces Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's Block ability activates!  Fuu Hououji's Parry ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Each rifle that appears refracts through the Orb's mysterious lens to an image, a kaleidoscopic slideshow of struggle and pain and, ultimately, determination. There is iron beneath the silk and leather wrapped around Mami Tomoe. Sailor Pluto honors that, even as she faces off against the much younger girl. An outsider, based on their compared statures and ages, might assume this to be an unfairly one-sided fight. Pluto knows better.

So the Puella Magi's tactic is to be overwhelming force; well, Sailor Pluto has met many onslaughts in her unending stewardship over the Door. She has withstood them all, and trusts in herself. Trusts in the Garnet Rod, in its silvery gleam and irregular key-like edge, and in its deceptive strength.

If Mami Tomoe is iron, then Sailor Pluto will be titanium.

The Rod *whrrrrs* into a circular blur in her deft hands, the ache in slender wrists ignored. One by one, a hail of bullets *PING* off of the haft, leaving no dent or scratch in its illustrious surface. One stray projectile zings through to rip a red line along Sailor Pluto's ribs through clean white fabric.

When Mami's guns are spent, Pluto snaps the Rod to a sudden whapping halt in the palm of one hand, then slowly, deliberately, swings it around and down to take aim. Red eyes meet goldenrod ones down the length of the Garnet Rod.

"I am suggesting that there are larger battles that must be won at any cost. Any. The stakes are far, far too high for anything but surety. Even those with the best of intentions can work in service to evil, unknowing, if they stand in the way of necessity."

A crackling pulse of violet-red energy shoots forth from the center of the Garnet Orb, tearing a furrow in the snow beneath it with the sheer force of its passing, directly at Mami Tomoe. Sailor Pluto takes to her feet and chases after it, crunching through the disturbed chunks of snow in hopes of closing the distance between them.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Garnet Blast on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe narrowly dodges Sailor Pluto's Garnet Blast, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto is Psyched!  Mami Tomoe's Fade ability activates!  Mami Tomoe's Flash ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bi_Dnd2D01A&t=114s

And there goes Mikoto. Part of Eri had been relieved when she didn't show. Better that she be safe and warm and happy on Christmas Eve than dealing with this. But seeing her now, a dark blur. She feels foolish for having doubted she'd be here- after all, she promised she'd be there for her.

With her whip grabbed by Garnet and her tugging back- Eri isn't inclined to keep ahold. With those gauntlets she looks as strong as a Pretty Cure that the one armed tug of war isn't worth it. Letting go, the whip dissolves, with a smell grass caught in a wildfire hitting her nostrils- just as the gem rushes her down. Her fists growing to gigantic size.

Leaping backwards onto the snow covered path, the gem's heroic rush almost slams in her with the force of a truck, but at the last moment- she jukes forward, sliding in the snow. It kicks up a great quantity of the snow towards the gem, masking her position as she slides just under the titanic fist- the side of her head thumps the underside of it, feeling like she just struck solid Titanium.

Her ears ring, the air is full of gunshots and shouts and- it's like she's back in a frozen inverse of that burning forest. A negative image. Just like that Labyrinth. With a huff, she skips back up to her feet, and taps the side of her head. "Are you a Puella Magi? You kinda fight like one."

And only a Puella Magi can judge another Puella Magi. The light of the street lamp cuts a diagonal across her form, leaving the rest of her in shadow save her forehead, a green gem glowing with its own inner magical light. "I guess Miki and Tomoe didn't actually tell you all that much about me if you're seriously invoking families that won't get to be together on Christmas."

With a flick of her wrist, a thorned vine that looks like it belongs in the darkest bramble patch of a forest in this lighting. Both arms move simultaneously, crossing past each other in a diagonal. One swishes across the air to try to catch ahold of Garnet's forearm and wrap around with a snap as the tip catches. The opposite aims for a leg to do the same.

Yanking back on the leg one first, she tries to off-balance her, taking the leg out from under her- immediately with a vicious twist she sends her flying off the ground to try to slam her through a street light which twists and groans and its lighting gutters out with a smash of glass, but the drive continues, bouncing her across snow into a guard rail to hit post after post. With one final snarl she tries to send her into the opposite side of the platform to slam into the brick and mortar of a storefront, raining dust everywhere. "You stop first." She whispers into the air.

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Moidon's Grasp on Garnet.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Garnet narrowly counters Eri Shimanouchi's Moidon's Grasp, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Garnet's Tactician ability activates!  Tangle applied to Garnet!
COMBAT: Garnet's counterattack, Geofeedback!, partially gets through, doing 6 Fatigue damage to Eri Shimanouchi!

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a91ptz1W7gg&index=19&list=PLeogPTA03KQ_vl0v9G04dexcCkBxfed_3

~A few moments before..~

Kyouko's grin grows a slight as Eri's facade breaks out into a flash of relief. Like a petrifying tree she always has a tendency to tense up over time. Knocking some of the stiffness and momentousness out of her is an important plank in keeping her in fighting shape.

She catches her junior's amazed glance, and connected the dots to Sailor Pluto. Laughing good naturedly, she flashes a wink to Eri, and tips her hat to the Senshi of the night. As far as she knew not a soul in Tokyo was aware of the mutual defense pact she shares with the so called Outer Senshi, and she's content to keep things mysterious a little longer. Another incident or two will be enough for people to start piecing it together, and there's no sense in hurrying that along.


Sayaka, in her fashion, tried to meet her head on. Very foolish..matadors fight with sabers too, and they know better than to square off against the horns. But Sayaka is more of a doer than a thinker, and Kyouko's been doing for longer. A little stunned from the impact herself, she doesn't stop Sayaka from prudently rolling off as she shakes her wild mane beneath the moon.

The pink haired fencer of Ohtori Academy enters the fray..though Kyouko's unfamiliar with Utena Tenjou. All the same, her predatory red gaze drinks in her poise and her..weapon..and as this interloper preaches defiance, the spearfighter's lip curls up in a sneering grin.

"Ditch digger begs to differ, huh..you don't know what you're yammering about, girlie. If you had a clue you wouldn't have brought that oversized spoon."

Pounding the butt of her spear against the top of her boot, its upper third splits into twenty one splintered rays emitting out from their stem like a bouquet of flowers. Hoisting it like a harpooner she shoves the hellish arrangement of beyond-needles just below the chivalrous lady's heart shaped face.

COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has used Pincushion on Utena Tenjou.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou narrowly dodges Kyouko Sakura's Pincushion, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Utena Tenjou is Quipped!  Utena Tenjou's Fade ability activates!  Utena Tenjou's Flash ability activates!  Cripple, Exhausted, and Stagger applied to Utena Tenjou!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

One eye squints, blinks. That voice calls to her, drawing her in, making her want t be closer to the Sirene. It's only as she digs deep that she pushes away the call, and her good eye burns passionately!

Which is a bad idea, as eyes shine in hers as a million colors leaves her well and truly blinded. She screams, one arm going across her eye. She hunkers down defensively, blade held out. She's dropped her sheath for now.

"If...it were me...the yeah. Somebody gives up a fight and they haven't hurt someone close to you? You take your winnings and leave. A King doesn't stab someone in the back or run them down from behind. If they give up? You spare them. I don't know the girl who used to hunt here, but I know the basics of how these girls live their lives. It's not murder if you didn't put steel into someone's chest. It's not murder if you don't go and hunt down the things you eat to live."

Then, she nudges her head towards Mami. "And I think both sides tonight are equally guilty of that? You're preaching to the choir, I don't like it either! In fact, it makes me angry...these poor girls..."

Tears of frustration fall. "I CAN'T STAND IT! WHEN I BEOMCE THIS WORLD'S KING I WILL CRUSH EVERY SINGLE 'TRAP' LIKE THIS! Now take your friends and GO! We're all wasting time out here!"

All around Kasagami, a strange wind blows as she yells out her frustrations, her anger, even her desire to see this pointless fight end! Her sheer force of will is an almost physical thing battering against the Sirene and her lantern, a storm of roses passing harmlessly by the other girl. But the threat of their cutting edge, ready at a moment's notice, would be hard to miss.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Crimson Ambition on La Sirene du Nord.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord narrowly braces Kasagami Araki's Crimson Ambition, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki is Psyched!  La Sirene du Nord's Block ability activates!  La Sirene du Nord's Parry ability activates!  Bind Break! All of Kasagami Araki's debuffs are cleared!

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

"What do you think we are?" Homura asks, directed at Utena at first. "Do you think we're still normal girls? Do you think any laws apply to us? Do you think they could be enforced? Do you think we'll grow up? Live out the lives we could have? Do you think--"

She hears Garnet's cries and commands to Eri. Her voice stops, as Sayaka speaks to her and the sword swings up into her pistol. Sparks fly as the weapon is knocked upward. Too far and high, however, and Homura is suddenly /not/ there.

The next thing one can see, Homura appears in midair, catching her pistol in one hand. She lands in a three-point stance,, swinging up her gun to aim at Sayaka.

"--Let me spell it out, Sayaka Miki, since you don't seem to understand," she finishes. "We left that life behind. We gave it up for a wish granted by that creature. You're ready to fight and kill for what you want. There isn't justice in that. There isn't justice in how we live. There isn't justice in how we die."

Then she fires. The bullet shoots over Sayaka's shoulder -- and slams into one of the signs over a government building, which comes crashing down towards her.

"Justice is for humans. You left that behind. You wished it away."

COMBAT: Homura Akemi has used Relativity on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Homura Akemi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki narrowly counters Homura Akemi's Relativity, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Sayaka Miki is Taunted!  Cripple and Trap applied to Sayaka Miki!
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki's counterattack, Disjunct Chord, partially gets through, doing 10 Fatigue damage to Homura Akemi!  Critical Counterhit!

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

Mami has fought carefully, up to this point, even more carefully than is her usual means of staying alive in a conflict like this. She has no illusions herself that this is a particularly even fight, regardless of the truth of the matter.

Mami has only a small sense of how much older Sailor Pluto is, but she knows the sense she got even speaking with her, even looking at her the first time. So Mami attempts to keep a lid on her fear, against the reminders of her own mortality.

Her fingers hurt with firing weapons in the cold, but Mami doesn't stop; she can handle this much. She notes one bullet make it through, starts calculating angles o attack to get around that Rod's shield. But she isn't the only one calculating, and Mami's eyes stay on Pluto's red for a moment, warily listening.

Before she can answer the pulse crashes towards her, and Mami eyes it, staring for a moment to find the best direction--and hurls herself to her left, the wake from the blast crashing against her feet as she rolls along the snow and hops back to her feet.

"And that cost includes becoming what you're trying to fight!?" Mami snaps back. "Necessity, necessity--I understand necessity, I've killed for it! But not here. Not now!"

Mami fans her hands before her and extends them sharply, a half-circle of rifles appearing between her and Sailor Pluto. Closing her hands into fists, they all fire at once in a deafening roar and a flash visible even amidst the snow.

"If /she/ needs it, I'll do it. But there are costs that aren't ours to play, Sailor Pluto, lives that aren't ours to spend!" Mami speaks as she hustles backwards, catching her breath and gathering back up her magic.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Circle on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto perfectly counters Mami Tomoe's Tiro Circle, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Sailor Pluto's Reverse ability activates!  Sailor Pluto's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto's counterattack, Garnet Ball, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mami Tomoe!

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

"Mikoto-san, I -"

*CLANG!!* Sword crashes against sword, and even the Wind Knight's attempt to merely *block* it leaves her staggering backwards, re-accumulating snow clutching at her feet.

"I do not want -"

*CLANG!!* Another crash, another stumble backwards.

"- to fight you!!"

*CLANG!!* Mikoto's onslaught is relentless, merciless, a monster ravening for the Wind Knight's blood, and for all her determination and willpower, the Magic Knight knows fear of a timbre she's only rarely encountered. Fighting actual monsters is nothing new to her; fighting humans who've chosen to ally against her, or against innocents, is also somewhat familiar although far less comfortable ground.

*CLANG!!* again, as steady and terrifying as the hammer of a god of the forge, shaping a new scytheblade for the Grim Reaper.

Fighting for her life against a girl who should be her friend and ally is not *entirely* unknown to the Magic Knight of Wind, but -


- the stakes are personal in a way that they never have been before. "I won't hurt you!!" the Wind Knight cries out over the repeated clash of swords. "Mikoto-san - !!"

Mikoto's relentless assault does come with one great flaw: it becomes *predictable*, and the Wind Knight takes her chances, trying to interrupt that dreadful drumbeat of blade against blade and to drive Miroku off the arc that Mikoto's been swinging in. It's a desperate gambit, one which risks sacrificing her own blade - or at least, it would risk that.

It would risk that if the Wind Knight, if Fuu Hououji, did not DELIBERATELY fling her own sword into a snowdrift in the wake of her attempted riposte, and hold her arms wide. "I WILL NOT HURT YOU! I will not fight you! I will not make Mai-san sad or angry at me for hurting a girl she cares so deeply about!!"

Please let that have FINALLY gotten through to Mikoto, she prays in the back of her mind, or my family is going to be so dreadfully unhappy in the morning ...

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used At Your Mercy on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi narrowly counters Fuu Hououji's At Your Mercy, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Distrust, partially gets through, doing 6 Fatigue damage to Fuu Hououji!

<Pose Tracker> Chitose Shiratori [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Chitose barely has time to react before an arrow made of fire strikes her on the shoulder, and in fact her jacket catches fire for just a brief moment before Chitose tries to pat it off. But other than that, she shrugs. "Yes, I agree. I mean, I'd be willing to leave if, well..." Chitose turns to the rest of the battle. "Everyone else does."

Chitose hasn't moved much, otherwise. But she watches Hikaru carefully, before she points White Omen at the redhead.

<Thunder Dove.>

White Omen launches lasers that looks like birds, as they fly towards Hikaru in hopes of exploding at her.

COMBAT: Chitose Shiratori has used Thunder Dove on Hikaru Shidou.
COMBAT: Chitose Shiratori has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou narrowly braces Chitose Shiratori's Thunder Dove, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Hikaru Shidou's Block ability activates!  Hikaru Shidou's Parry ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
                         gotta move gotta choose
                     you've got a difference to make
                       don't watch it happen again

Utena and Sayaka have never fought anything together, not even a familiar, but they move in easy unison. Sayaka's a better team player, but Utena's an ace very willing to follow her lead. And this is Sayaka's bullpen, for sure.

However, she quickly discovers there's a reason Kyouko nearly ended the night before it began -- that Puella Magi is /fierce/. There isn't a whole lot she can do; she leans back (putting her weight on Sayaka for a moment), away from the thousand needles, and they penetrate the shovelhead anyway, and very nearly make it to her nearly horizontal face and pretty little eyeballs.

She tries yanking her noble blade away, but it's just cut to pieces on the many blades of Kyouko's spear, and she is left holding nothing but a thick haft of handle with a couple of shards of metal attached to the end. It is not very impressive-looking.

                          gotta change rearrange
                       something's bending to break
                        it's just a matter of when

She is not particularly in the mood to explain to Kyouko that /her/ only magical weapon is on loan from her roommate, and that she would literally rather die than let Anthy get involved with this. Anthy, frankly, is why she is here. It's the Anthys of the world who get eaten by familiars while more popular girls are saved by their magical girl friends, the Anthys who die in an alley because they had no allies.

"Um," she says instead, "Sayaka, a little help here?"

Glancing over her shoulder, she catches the tail-end of Homura's rant (while brandishing her new spiked club in front of her, to keep Kyouko from gutting her on the spot maybe, hopefully), and frowns. "Don't listen to her! Justice isn't something you can just wish away! That's what /they/ want to believe! That's why we're here!"

BGM Change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xApn6r6Olu8

COMBAT: Utena Tenjou has used I Need A Hero on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki accepts Utena Tenjou's I Need A Hero, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Sayaka Miki is Cheered!

<Pose Tracker> Hikaru Shidou [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The birds are on the loose, and they're out for... the Fire Knight!

They aren't true birds of prey, but they are out to get her. The Fire Knight adopts a defensive stance, preparing herself for what's to come, and as the birds crash into her, they do explode. They hurt, but the Fire Knight simply grits her teeth and holds her position steadily. "Ungh... no..." She scowls a little as she regains composure following the impact. "No, that won't do!"

The Fire Knight rushes towards the general direction of Chitose, then leaps into the air. "I won't let you beat me that easily! We will triumph here!" Her words are marked with a strike of her sword, aimed not so much to try to cut Chitose in half, but rather like in the movies and whatnot, when you see the slashing motion almost like a beam, and use that to knock some sense into Chitose.

COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou has used Sword Slash on Chitose Shiratori.
COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Chitose Shiratori narrowly dodges Hikaru Shidou's Sword Slash, taking 2 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Hikaru Shidou is Psyched!  Chitose Shiratori's Fade ability activates!  Chitose Shiratori's Flash ability activates!  Stagger and Stun applied to Chitose Shiratori!

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

The roaring cacophony of two handfuls of rifles all firing at once sends visible shockwaves through the falling flakes. Pluto has only a split second to act.

Luckily, she's very practiced at splitting seconds.

The Garnet Orb flares into brilliant life, a sphere whooooshing outward to engulf the tall senshi in the warmth of its protection. Within its crimson confines Pluto feels nothing but safety and a blessed stillness; the battle sounds do not penetrate, and neither do Mami Tomoe's bullets. With blood-chilling *zings* they fly off at odd angles, some punching holes in the snow, others drilling through the air in terrifying proximity to the other magical girls.

Just as quickly as it bloomed, the brilliant flower of Sailor Pluto's magics folds in on itself and disappears with a tiny pop. She takes up the Garnet Rod with both hands and launches into a dead run at her foe as she backs away. Her advance is as inexorable as the advance of a second hand around a clock's face. As soon as she's in range, Pluto whips the length of the Rod around and down, applying it at the most precise spot she can find to toss the other girl off balance.

That quickly, Sailor Pluto shifts from defense to offense. "Nothing makes /here/ and /now/ any less urgent, any less necessary! Just because it is happening to your friends and not someone else's does not excuse what must be done. It just makes it harder. If you are not up to that I suggest you step aside, Tomoe-san."

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Aoristic Fulcrum on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe narrowly counters Sailor Pluto's Aoristic Fulcrum, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Mami Tomoe is Quipped!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe's counterattack, Tiro Retort, partially gets through, doing 31 Fatigue damage to Sailor Pluto!

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet is caught by the whips and goes flying, thumping into the lamp post, and the window. Curiously, they don't seem to offer a lot of resistance, Garnet seems to be just as solid as she looks, and she rips through them much faster and cleaner than might be expected, smashing through the brick wall at the end, with less a thump, and more a crumbling crash. Quick as this process is, quicker are two jolts of electricity, one traveling down the whips to Eri's hands as Garnet completes her sceneic tour of the Capital Ward and exits through the gift shop.

For a brief second or two there is silence, than the large moving of bricks and objects as Garnet stands before Eri, scuffed but defiant, still wearing the whips, and walks towards her.

"If you will stop now, and talk with me. I will." and Garnet makes no attack, though she speaks solemnly to Eri: "Even now it's not too late. If there's too much of a grudge between you all, talk to me instead. We can find a way for you to live a better life than you have now. Think carefully about the paths you could take at this moment. One path is compromise, to help you live as normal of a life as you can."

"The other path is war, conflict and murder for the rest of your days on Earth."

"It doesn't have to be your life or the lives of innocents. You can give them theirs, and give your own back."

COMBAT: Garnet has used A Choice of Paths on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Garnet has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi narrowly counters Garnet's A Choice of Paths, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Eri Shimanouchi's Reverse ability activates!  Eri Shimanouchi's Tactician ability activates!  Eri Shimanouchi is Taunted!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi's counterattack, Yamabiko's Answer, partially gets through, doing 19 Fatigue damage to Garnet!  Stagger applied to Garnet!

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaJTbhYTw4k

Kyouko spits into the snow, a little line of negative space tracing its landfall as its heat makes water of white. This girl really /is/ a piece of work..in spite of appearances Kyouko still presumed that there was surely some magical quality to that..gardening equipment. That a fighter would know better than to bring a toothpick to a gun fight.

But, no. A supernatural steel sharper and harder than anything naturally occuring on the entire planet met cheap pig iron and peeled it aside like a candy wrapper. She makes no attempt to retrief her many barbed bristles, and instead allows the hellish broom to melt away in its own right.

Another lance forms along her right arm, which curls around it like a vine around a trellis. The shaft presses against her back, its tip dragging a compass lined furrow along in the snow, her hand in her pocket and a marked casualness to her gait that's belied by the jungle cat grace and deliberation in her footfalls.

"You think I won't run you through, just 'cuz you wanna lean on yer girlfriend instead? Mm..yer not taking this seriously..and that pisses me off. Just being here's an act of--"

She makes no attempt to finish. Her loping stride lands on her heel instead of the balls of her feet, and on that pivot Kyouko whirls around like a dervish, her arms shifting fluidly to shred her portable guillotine in a wide sweeping arc up, again aiming for Utena's soft throat.

COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has used Masterstroke on Utena Tenjou.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou narrowly counters Kyouko Sakura's Masterstroke, taking 20 Fatigue damage!  Utena Tenjou's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou's counterattack, Flight of the Wingless Angel, partially gets through, doing 16 Fatigue damage to Kyouko Sakura!

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

One of Mami's many bullets sails past her head as she watches the sphere enveloping the Senshi in front of her, grits her teeth quietly as she takes another step back, and another. If anything that shows more in the snow than anything before for her, and now there's a matter of finding a new perch. She looks around, to the train that's now out of range, to other battles, and finds--


Sailor Pluto runs straight for her, and Mami finds herself still moving backwards. Her eyes widen, but before she's prepared for it to level off her fall, the right slams into the back of her knees and sends her crashing towards the ground. "Ugh--"

As she falls, Mami lifts her hand and a huge pistol bursts into being in golden light. It fires in golden light in the same instant, a blast bigger than Mami's head.

"That's--" They aren't the measured words Mami likes and she cuts off, leting Pluto's words sink in. She can feel, in that instant, the freezing snow at her back, get used to the world from on the ground for a moment. Her sleeves get wet, though not yet with blood. It's funny how many things can seem to bog her down right then.

"We agree. Here and now /is/ necessary. As for the rest..." Mami lets out a breath. "What must be done. No, I understand. You've given me something important to consider. However..."

Mami throws her hands out, and two long ribbons cast out behind Pluto, as Mami lowers her hands quickly and tosses two more, both elegantly trailing from her sleeves until they cut off, anchored to some unseen point behind her.

Mami rolls to the side and /yanks/ with both hands, and the ribbons slice towards Sailor Pluto's body--and slice is the right word, because these are not large and pillowy but razor-thin, razor-sharp lengths of gold.

Still pulling, Mami leaps back to her feet and finally lets go to handspring back. "I told you I understood necessity. You've convinced me of how far I might need to go."

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tagliare on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto perfectly counters Mami Tomoe's Tagliare, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Sailor Pluto's Reverse ability activates!  Sailor Pluto's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto's counterattack, Turn the Crimson Clock Back, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mami Tomoe!

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Still 'I Need A Hero' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xApn6r6Olu8

Sayaka's brows are knit in grim satisfaction at disarming her opponent as Homura rearranges herself and reaquires the weapon. In Sayaka's next conscious instant, Homura is simply gone, and Sayaka's follow-through attack takes only air. She stares in confusion before Homura's motion catches her attention, and her eyes can slide all the way up in the air to reacquire her target, then down as she snaps into firing stance again. How is that girl so /fast/?

"/You/ left it behind," Sayaka snaps. "Mami-senpai never did! Think back! Did Kyuubey make us magical girls to protect the Witches? Tenjou-senpai!" Sayaka is interrupted by her alarm for her senior, whose blade-pummelling she can feel through mutual back contact. "Tenjou-senpai, hang in there!"

The bullet passing over her shoulder is such an obvious miss that Sayaka takes it for a warning shot, until she hears the groan. One of the floating neon signs is sputtering as it descends through the snowy black, sparks falling. Pushing away from Utena and diving as hard as she can, she thumps, unharmed but dazed, far from the impact of sizzling sparks.

If strength comes from the heart, the convictions of the Chevaliers are being sorely tested right now. As she rises, Sayaka can see Mami struggling to land a blow on a titanium Sailor Pluto--one of the fearsome Outers. Fuu is refusing to fight at all, and Sayaka has no ability to protect her from the consequences anymore. And Kyouko, who has already injured Sayaka so direly, tore into Utena the moment the older girl was exposed to her. Maybe Homura is right. The world has a target painted on the back of every do-gooder.

Shifting her head, still prone, she glances with glazed eyes at Utena, expecting her to be broken and in retreat. She blinks to find her looking for aid instead. Justice isn't something you can wish away.

Her lip curls a little.

A long, bright sword is slung into the air, suspended for a moment amidst the four combatants. Utena may recognize Miki Kaoru's duelling epee, but thicker, stronger, heavier. It's not an unfamiliar sort of weapon for her. But while Homura's eye is drawn by the glittering weapon, suddenly a support beam from that sign swings through the air with a whistle, turning Homura's warning attack on Sayaka into an actual attack on Homura, courtesy of a big metal pipe.

Now standing, Sayaka drops the pipe and nods to Utena. "Let me know if you want more," Sayaka grins roguishly. "I've got a lot more where that came from."

The situation remains desperate, but that only calls for desperate measures. "Do you really believe what you're telling me?" she demands, gathering speed and running at Homura. She expects, at this point, to swing at air a lot, but this time she's determined not to stop, regardless of what happens. Sheer quantity and ferocity of blows rapidly replaces skill as she chases this ghost-like girl. "Because I know you could have shot me!"

Sayaka slashes downward hard. "If this is really life or death, then why do you want to keep me alive? It's because you know in your heart this isn't right!"

COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has used Furioso on Homura Akemi.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Homura Akemi perfectly dodges Sayaka Miki's Furioso, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Critical Dodge!  Homura Akemi's Fade ability activates!  Homura Akemi's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene du Nord [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

La Sirene du Nord takes in a deep breath... Which she needs, even though when Kasagami's heart comes pouring out, she is taken slightly aback. (Batiste seems surprised too, even as he mounts the opposite side coat pocket - almost crafty.)

"Guilty of what?" la Sirene says, her arms folding with a faint clatter of her brassy lantern. "From what I have been told - the duty of 'Puella Magi' is 'to hunt Witches.' A Familiar will 'become a Witch,' if neglected. And a Witch will cause others to feel despair... to the point that they destroy themselves."

"But that is their life, and while it may be sad," la Sirene continues, "you could argue it. But, Araki-- That is not all. Shimanouchi murdered one of the others! For her territory!" Her head tilts back. "That is hardly what you would hope to see in the guardians of people, is it not? And I have seen not a single sign of that, in either Mami Tomoe, or Sayaka Miki...!"

And then she's interrupted by rose petals. She raises her Pharos up, and the shifting of the wind moves most of them past her. (Batiste, in her pocket, is momentarily entranced - but he does not reach for them, for he does not live purely by reflex.) The winds of will buffet her, but la Sirene does not yield her ground.

"I am sorry," she says: "I cannot command them, and I cannot run from those who I have pledged myself to. Please relax."


"Les Mysteres," la Sirene then says, raising her other hand upwards as if she's about to windmill an air guitar, "COME" and then she does, except that she hits SOMETHING, as if on the inside of her forearm, and there is a silvery chord. The lens of that lantern opens up and a burst of sheer unlight, almost ink-black, threaded with silver, erupts outwards, shining with dark and elusive luminosity. There are veves of light forming behind la Sirene, a sort of backblast to this charm, but the central ball of darkness and light is probably Kasagami's primary concern.

COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord has used Les Mysteres on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki perfectly dodges La Sirene du Nord's Les Mysteres, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Kasagami Araki's Fade ability activates!  Kasagami Araki's Flash ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

'I do not want to fight you! I won't hurt you!' Words. Words on the wind. Mikoto screams, surging forward, strike and strike again - utterly determined to turn Fuu Hououji into paste. Mikoto snarls, pressing Miroku into Fuu's own blade, never giving her enough space to breathe.

And yet, for all that single-mindedness, it's not impossible to find the pattern, the beat to Mikoto's screams. In one motion, Fuu flings her sword away, opens her arms.

It's too late. It's too late to stop herself. Mikoto crashes into her, sword only wavering to the side enough to catch her more with the flat of the blade than the edge. It's still painful, but it /could/ have been deadly.

But when Mikoto looks up at Fuu, close enough to her to see the details of her face even in her rage, there's tears in her eyes. She screams, forcing out the words: "THEN WHY ARE YOU HERE?!"

This close, it's possible to see a light, underneath her overcoat. Looking down through the layers, it's at about the height of a necklace, glinting sickly red.

It pulses, and Mikoto's lips curl upwards, showing her teeth in a feral snarl. It transforms the anguish which was on her face, turning it back to rage. "You... came here with /them/... enemy!" Mikoto's shoulders hunch as she screams, with terrifying determination: "I must destroy my enemies!"

It's aggressive, single-minded and telling. There are years of experience behind a line like that - context unseen, unrevealed by someone struggling not to gut Fuu where she stands. But it's an explanation, almost like an apology in its content if not its form, and Fuu has fought beside Mikoto enough times to know that she has never before spoken to her enemies like this.

But Fuu is her enemy. Fuu is her enemy. She's not attacking but she's an enemy. An enemy - enemy -

Mikoto plants her feet, swinging her sword around in a circle, to slam into Fuu with horrifying killing intent. Gone is the way she tried to turn her blade aside. Whatever war is going on inside her mind... it seems like Fuu's side is losing.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Destruction on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji perfectly dodges Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Destruction, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Fuu Hououji's Fade ability activates!  Fuu Hououji's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Twin jolts of electricity shoot up her whips. The plants she conjures of her livelihood- a double edged sword. Water is life and that life conducts current. There's a shriek as it reaches her mid-swing, causing her arms to spasm. Holding on with titanic force she clenches down to prevent from biting her tongue. And then with a shout she thrusts both her arms deep into the snow to make contact with the pavement.

While it's difficult to see them in all that white, they seem thoroughly tethered to Garnet, like she simply planted them through the concrete below. For a short while after she clenches and unclenches both her hands while both tremble. And in the silence, Garnet is talking to her.

Talking to her. And her mind remembers the cellular whine of a familiar as she tried to talk down another girl.

A girl who wouldn't be talked down. Even when she begged for her life back...

A girl who had no reason to believe a Puella Magi wouldn't hurt her.

She feels something in her chest.

She listens to a husk of a girl hit the ground.

Pinching shut her eyes for a moment, she waits for her hands to stop shaking and- a vine forms in her hand for an instant as she shrieks at her, "STOP TALKING!"

Magic thrums down her arm and she snaps down that whip hard enough that the echo is heard throughout the district. The concussive force of it shattering concrete from the sheer force of it. A block away, windows form spidery cracks and shatter. Here at ground zero- the concussive force is a tangible thing, slamming into Garnet and putting her through the wall, the wind howling as it breaks.

Her ears are still ringing, her chest is heaving, her hands are still shaking. "Jus-Just stop. You're the only one declaring war! Even coming onto my territory like this is a declaration of war! Tomoe and Miki both know that! Don't expect me to chat it out while your allies are trying to run mine through! Do you want to know what happened the last time I tried to plead with someone in the middle of a battle?" She barks at her.

There's a smell like rain in the air, sparkles forming just behind her, something moving parts her hair, sifting through the filaments, just above her shoulders. Four blurs dart through the air- long vines acting as prehensile appendages crossing the space between them in an instant. The thorns that line the tips are razor like barbs that attempt to run her through in four seperate parts. "She put a crossbow bolt in the center of my chest." There's a sort of calm, deadly finality to that statement.

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Harionago's Barbs on Garnet.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Someday, in the future, Utena may be accused of knowing only play fighting, but it will be by someone whose perspective is thoroughly warped by a one-way mirror centered at Ohtori Academy.

Because, as Kyouko's speartip comes to claim her jugular, Utena comes to know the brush of Death's wing more clearly than ever before*. Not at the North Pole; not at St. Ursula's; certainly not in the Dueling Forest. None of those are anything like this.

* Except for that one time, but she doesn't remember that.

She knows, down to the fiber of her being, that indeed Kyouko /will/ run her through. That this may be the end. If only she'd stopped for that bokken... would it really have made a difference, anyway?

It's at times like these that you find out who you are.

Utena and Kyouko, their eyes locked together, find out that she's a fighter, when her eyes narrow, her teeth grind, and she whips her wrist forward and /chucks/ her blunt instrument right at Kyouko's face, all while turning her bend-back into a back-handspring.

As her buff little middle schooler arms thrust her into the air, straight over Kyouko's spear (or close -- she loses an inch of hair from one of her luscious locks, which spills over the the Puella Magi's blade like pink blood), she sees it, passing under her -- sees her salvation, courtesy of Fearless Leader. It's familiar in a way that she finds unsurprising and somehow appropriate to the evening. It's also familiar in a way that she finds discomfiting. Unlike Sayaka, she's been on the other side of the original. Unlike Sayaka, she doesn't find Miki Kaoru unconditionally perfect.

Even so... as her hand slides around the grip, it may not fit /perfectly/, but its weight feels really good, really good indeed.

BGM Change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Xy54jahSec

Landing (her long hair bouncing an extra time behind her, on impact, pink strands everywhere), she knows now how it feels to be Sayaka Miki behind one of these swords.

She feels like a Hero. A Hero of Justice.

"I'll repay you!" she promises Sayaka with a rogueish grin of her own. "And now -- /you/ -- whatever your name is, I'll show you just how serious I am!"

Her offense is ferocious, fearless. It is unrestrained aggression. It lacks the fluid grace of Miki Kaoru or the technical perfection of Juri Arisugawa, but as her blade slashes back and forth, momentarily dominating the space between them, threatening every inch of space.

"My being here is an act of /heroism/! I fight for the victims of Shinjuku! I fight for the victims of your ruthlessness! I fight," a final, overextending slash, "Because it's not enough to just /pick/ and /choose/ the ones you want to save!"

Her naivete sparkles even more brightly than the winter storm. It cannot be outshone.

COMBAT: Utena Tenjou has used Take My Revolution on Kyouko Sakura.
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"That's not the half of it! Why does any animal hunt? Why would they fight each other for these territories? Let me clue you in. For them, this is a fight for survival. And you guys are getting in the way of that. You're corning rabid animals, and ones that have /friends/!"

Bitter laughter comes from the Duelist. "Miki's a good kid, true. But Mami Tomoe? I've seen her shoot people dead right in front of me. She's just as much a murderer." A slow frown. "It's not like she's a 'guardian' of anything, anyway." A shrug.

And the Siren refuses to flee. Refuses to abandon her comrades. Her gaze shines with new respect. Her mouth is about to open, but then she's told to...relax?

That horrible unlight, that ball of darkness, and a horrible feeling shudders down the young woman's spine. Whatever that is, if she's hit by it, she knows she's finished. And so instinct hits, and then she's flipping into the air. She's a spinning blurr of steel. A coat is tossed towards the Sirene, as she tries to get the other young woman tangled up in that black piece of cloth!

Just in time for her spinning body to try to lay the back of her blade right into the top of Nori's noggin with all of the force of an oncoming freight train. Even if she misses, there's going to be a lovely crater smashed into the ground thanks to the force of the impact!

The scent, this close, of Kasagami's magical roses is almost choking through her sheer ferocity and willingness to fight.

"I love a woman who fights hard for their allies. Could fall for somebody like that. Too bad I'm the same kind of person. I'm not running either."

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Falling Petals Cut The Soul on La Sirene du Nord.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura narrowly braces Utena Tenjou's Take My Revolution, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Kyouko Sakura's Block ability activates!  Kyouko Sakura's Parry ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Arms still extended in the follow-through of her swing against Mami, Pluto is entirely unready to react to the golden slug coming her way. The only thing that saves her is the momentum of her own attack, carrying her torso sideways so that the bullet punches through her shoulder and not her chest. The crack of bone is still sickening, the pain still incredible. "UNGH!"

Sailor Pluto's entire left arm goes limp, a terrible weight that pulls at screaming muscles every time it moves. Red runs down her scuffed fuku, rivulets that eventually steam holes in the trampled snow below.

She stumbles back a few steps, then steadies, teeth gritted and knees locked. This time, she is ready, and the Garnet Orb flares once more. She calls on its power and flings it out in four directions, sending beams of crimson to meet slices of amber ribbon. Not a single ray misses, and those wicked silken razors shred before they ever reach their target.

"I respect... you, Mami Tomoe." The Garnet Rod stands between them, untouched by the fray, gleaming and eternal. Its guardian, by comparison, is bloodied and bruised, but still stands as tall as she can with one arm dead at her side. The other lifts the Rod.

"But you are still wrong. And I will do whatever it takes."

There's a new wind picking up. It howls and murmurs and sussurates, worming its paper-thin whispers into the ears of anyone unfortunate enough to be near. The voices carried on that breeze are...

"Dead..." The syllable drops like lead to the bottom of a pond.

Japan is an old country, and Tokyo an old city. No one could count the number of battles that have taken place on this very spot, and they certainly could not count all the battles that EVER HAVE and EVER WILL take place here. All of the fallen of all of those battles answer the call of the Guardian of Time, and she directs the howling vortex at Mami Tomoe. The time-displaced souls of the dead...

"...Scream!" A whisper heavy as a shout, dark as the space between stars.

They unleash their furor on the Puella Magi, seeking to engulf and overwhelm her golden brightness.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Sailor Pluto has used Dead Scream on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe narrowly braces Sailor Pluto's Finisher, Dead Scream, taking 39 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Garnet narrowly dodges Eri Shimanouchi's Harionago's Barbs, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Garnet's Fade ability activates!  Garnet's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord fails to brace Kasagami Araki's Falling Petals Cut The Soul, taking 51 Fatigue damage!

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

"Because I need their help!!"

This time, the Wind Knight's full attention is on her attacker - and as Mikoto closes the gap once again to reap her life, the Magic Knight of Wind manages to dig her heels into the snow with just enough force and at just the right angle to escape unharmed, leaving her starting point in a spray of snow and landing with another such displacement of cold, white, and fluffy. "Haven't you felt it yourself, Mikoto-san?" the Wind Knight pleads, still unarmed, still KNOWING she's unarmed, and desperate to try and pierce through Mikoto's constant offensive with only her words. "This blizzard is too intense for Tokyo; it isn't natural weather. All the calamities we've faced before - this has to be the work of some outside force, something that will only be *helped* if we magical girls fight each other like this!"

The Wind Knight straightens up, her chest heaving underneath her breastplate. "I thought that if I came with Sayaka-san and the other Chevaliers, they'd help me search for the cause of this blizzard - and even if we didn't find it, we'd be safer as a group than any one of us would be on our own. If I'd known this would be the outcome - that instead of talking it out or a show of intimidation, we'd really wind up doing battle with magic and weapons - I would not have countenanced this visit to Shinjuku."

If the weather were less hostile, less innately lethal, MAYBE she couldn't say as much ... but right now?

"If this is the only possible outcome when the Chevaliers to confront those who disagree with them ... my only choice may be to apologize to Sayaka-san and the others, and to turn my path apart from them once more." She bows to Mikoto - just briefly, torn between courtesy and caution as she wavers whether to lower her gaze from Mikoto or not; caution wins out, and she keeps at least part of her attention on the other sword-wielder. "This battle will cost us too much if we see it to the end. I shall be on my way ... alone if I must."

She follows that declaration with a quiet, "Winds of Protection," this time enshrouding only herself in the windy barrier - and then she begins moving off. Retrieving her sword first, but only to return it to her glove-jewel. The protective spell is probably her only real defense if Mikoto doesn't relent ...

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Protection on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Protection, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Accelerate and Withstand applied to Fuu Hououji!

<Pose Tracker> Chitose Shiratori [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

"Perhaps." Chiotse says just before Hikaru swings her sword. While the older girl tries to sweep just enough to avoid the sword, 'just enough' doesn't quite cut it and she gets a sword hit on her leg. The skirt of her jacket manages to take most of the blow, but it does cut, and Chitose does feel it. Biting back the pain with a grimace stops her for a moment, as she looks Hikaru directly in the eyes. "But have you thought about what you're going to do next? I mean, your friend is right. This is probably not the best thing to be fighting over right now. Maybe when it's warmer?"

She flies backward a little bit to get some distance, before she finally stops flying and lands on the ground, spreading her arms. "Besides, some of your friends have put their own personal interests above the lives of innocents before, and I've seen people die because of it." Her eyes flutter towards Mami Tomoe for a few moments, before returning to Hikaru.

Chitose continues spreading her arms, but one of them raises a bit and straightens out, pointing above Hikaru.

<Starling Shot.>

A burst of light shoots above Hikaru, but if she doesn't move out of the way quickly, they'll split into a number of tiny, lancelike bolts that will fall upon the Earth like rain.

COMBAT: Chitose Shiratori has used Starling Shot on Hikaru Shidou.
COMBAT: Chitose Shiratori has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou narrowly braces Chitose Shiratori's Starling Shot, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Hikaru Shidou's Block ability activates!  Hikaru Shidou's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"That creature--"

Homura's eyes widen sharply, as Sayaka's sword strikes at her, her running dash bringing her right into Homura's face. She steps to the side, moving left and then right, each fierce strike almost catching her. One clips her side -- but only her hair, sending a few raven strands flying free. As she moves away from that, she seems to teleport again.

She appears, standing a distance away, and turns a withering glower onto Sayaka, and then onto Utena. "Heroism? You don't understand what you're doing. Or what you've aligned yourself with. You... tch. I don't know why I'm wasting my breath."

She flicks a hand through her hair, snapping it out, and then looks at Sayaka with purple eyes that start to harden. Her face is a careful mask; cold and detached, in a way that might seem utterly uncaring, unless someone knew her well. But there is more to it. A cold, icy exterior to contain hot anger. There is a slight tremble, as she drops her pistol. It clatters uselessly to the ground.

"...You're right," she tells Sayaka. "Allowing you to contract was a mistake. You can't be saved. Sakura, I intend to make a mess."

Her hand snaps the shield in place. Homura appears to vanish--

--only to reappear, doing a backflip over Sayaka. As she does, she aims down with an AK-47 that came from wherever her firearms appear. The Kalashnikov's muzzle flashes, before she pours down a rain of bullets towards the top of the other Puella Magi's head.

COMBAT: Homura Akemi has used Full Auto Burst on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Homura Akemi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou covers Sayaka Miki for Homura Akemi's attack, Full Auto Burst, taking it upon themselves instead!
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou narrowly counters Homura Akemi's Full Auto Burst, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Utena Tenjou's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou's counterattack, Flight of the Wingless Angel, partially gets through, doing 21 Fatigue damage to Homura Akemi!

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

Mami sees red; red in the snow, red on Pluto's fuku running down her shoulder, red of crimson beams finishing her ribbons before her attack even has a chance to follow through on her counterattack. Pluto seems to have an answer for all of her magic.

Mami may not be bleeding, she may not be as wounded even, but she finds her breathing shallow as she looks to Sailor Pluto and the Garnet Rod. To her amber eyes, it really does look eternal for right now. She watches warily, listening to this note of respect. And... To the insistance. Maybe she is wrong. Maybe if this woman thinks so, then she's right.

The wind howls, and Mami is unfortunate enough to be near. The voices of the dead are particularly frightening to Mami Tomoe, with her past, both what she's done... and what she's failed to do. She freezes in an instant as the vortex hits her, seeking to overwhelm her and for a moment they almost do, forcing her down to her knees to try to block them out. She's visited by voices of her own dead often; it is a weakness that Pluto can exploit.

Mami screams and doesn't notice that she's doing it. It's so much that it lingers in her mind, even as it passes, and in passing it's taken a toll on her body as well as her mind. A half-gloved hand presses down into the snow, as Mami looks up heavily at Sailor Pluto.

"...So will I," Mami answers. "Though I respect you, too." It's like she can still hear those voices, and she closes her eyes a moment to try to block them out, drawing in a sharp breath. "With Sayaka-chan... And Madoka-chan... I can be better than I am. But if necessary, I'll do what has to be done."

Mami throws her hand out and twirls as she stands up, tossing another ribbon, and another, and another. This time she seeks to overwhelm Pluto's magic with the sheer amount of her own, as ribbons whip around seeking to entirely enclose the Senshi who scares Mami so much. Around, and around, Mami keeps moving, from toe to head, loosely at first, two ends of the combined ribbons in either of her hands.

"Concludere," Mami breathes, and tugs the ribbons taut, suffocating and crushing for as long as it takes so long as Mami's able. ...And able might not be that long, either.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Mami Tomoe has used Concludere on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto narrowly braces Mami Tomoe's Finisher, Concludere, taking 35 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Sailor Pluto's Block ability activates!  Sailor Pluto's Parry ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

She knew the risks when she lowered her guard, a future where Eri reacted with violence was the most likely option, but Garnet decided to wager on Eri's humanity, and takes the punishment for that decision, when the first vines come, Garnet is beaten and staggered, kneeling, but still standing. When Eri unleashes her barbs, both verbal and herbal ((I'm so sorry...)), Garnet attempts to dodge, but weighed down by the accumulating vines and lashes, while she manages to not be hit directly, still takes a vicious visible thorn scratching.

Whatever Garnet is as far as Eri knows, she seems to very pierce resistant, but the thorns dented and snagged, though there is no blood.

"You're the one throwing the barbs now, into someone asking for peace, trying to help you." "You can be better than you were made to be. You can be better than those who came before you, those who hurt you. But you have to choose to be. I believe you can."

Bruised, battered and recently pierced, Garnet doesn't break, and again, this time, doesn't raise a hand against Eri, but watches her carefully, thoughtfully.

COMBAT: Garnet has used Future Vision on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Garnet has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi fails to dodge Garnet's Future Vision, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Analysis performed by Garnet!  Cripple applied to Eri Shimanouchi!

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Utena's on a roll. She's starting to feel really good, even though Kyouko is reducing her best-struck attacks to all but naught. She's on the right side of history, she's standing up to a bully, on behalf of a wonderful girl. What could go wro--

Homura appears above and behind Sayaka, aiming a rifle right at her head.

Utena's not faster than a speeding bullet, but she's moving before the trigger is pulled -- leaping for a second time into the air, and shoulder-blocking her, hard. The bullets go everywhere but Sayaka with busy little pings, except for the one that grazes Utena's thigh.

Some would call that akin to defacing the Mona Lisa.

"THIS!" she yells, as they land. "THIS IS WHY WE'RE HERE, YOU MURDERER!"

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene du Nord [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Any question of tit for-tat comparison of the relative rap sheets of Mami "Tea-Face Killah" Tomoe versus Eri "Genocider Gro" Shimanouchi becomes moot to la Sirene du Nord quite quickly, for that blade comes in with a whiff of heartbreakingly summery perfume...

And a cold, then hot, pain on the side of her head.

La Sirene sinks to one knee, feeling her entire body go cold and limp, like a sack of gelatin. She does not fully collapse, not quite; that blow would have certainly felled (if perhaps still non-fatally) a mortal girl, but la Sirene is somewhat more than that. The otter that attends her squeaks in dismay, plucking at her free hand: "Cousin!" Batiste cries, giving Kasagami a baleful look. But he cannot resist her. (She has that sword, after all.)

La Sirene claws at the coat that had tangled her up and gotten into her face. She makes a ragged noise in the back of her throat as she does it. The Brazen Pharos dangles from the crook of her thumb. In this moment at least Kasagami has the advantage: Will she press it?

Batiste hopes not, but his pleading gaze may have little effect in this moment of tension.

COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord has used Stun Recovery Frames? on La Sirene du Nord.
COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord has finished attacking.
COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord accepts La Sirene du Nord's Stun Recovery Frames?, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  La Sirene du Nord is Reinforced by La Sirene du Nord!

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

The grey voices of the dead scrape over Mami Tomoe's mind... and sweep past, leaving her shivering but still vital, still alive. She breaks through the dark like rays of sun through rainclouds, and Pluto leans heavily on the Garnet Rod. Her shoulder throbs in time to her heart, a growing stain drenching her breast. There is no agility left to her, no quickness.

Only titanium.

Ribbons as countless as the screaming dead temporarily blot out all else, turning the world into streamers of yellow silk. Soon she is cocooned and strung taut, the crush of the constriction grinding the jagged ends of broken bone in her shoulder against each other. She might scream, if it was possible. As it is no one can know.

The ribbons bloom red near the top of the cocoon, staining with the blood Mami is squeezing from the Outer Senshi.

There are two forces plying against each other in a struggle much like that between a snake wrapped around mighty prey, and for long breath-denying moments there is no clear victor. Mami pulls with exhausted muscles, Pluto struggles to push back the rising tide of unconsciousness.

Slowly, the ribbons relax, slack. Sailor Pluto drops to all three remaining good limbs, still webbed in yellow. They slither half-off with her heaving attempts to regain control past the pain of a shoulder ground to raw hamburger.

One knee shifts, gathering her foot beneath her. She's beyond wise retorts or statements of understanding. Her world is as red as Mami's was not so long ago. Sailor Pluto slides a hand down the haft of the Garnet Rod and draws up all the grit in her soul, directs it into motion, letting the pain bloom in her vision and blind her. Just so long as it does not turn her blow.

The thin end of the Garnet Rod sweeps up, trailing pink snow, aimed to catch Mami Tomoe directly under the chin. Pluto puts what little of herself she has into the strike, knowing she can't withstand whatever Mami might return her way.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Silvery Sweep of Desperation on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe narrowly dodges Sailor Pluto's Silvery Sweep of Desperation, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Mami Tomoe's Fade ability activates!  Mami Tomoe's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Sayaka has never given herself to that furious style of combat without getting results before. All she did was tire herself out swinging so violently and repeatedly, and each timoe Homura just disappears from beneath the blade. It doesn't even feel like there's an enemy there, and shearing hairs (just once) doesn't even give any resistance to the blade.

Even in the blizzard Sayaka is sweating. "Are a ghost?" she demands, swinging one last fruitless swipe out of pure frustration. At least she can force Homura to move around; it's a sort of reaction, right?

Her eyes widen to moons as Homura gracefully flips above her. An inescapable hail of bullets rips down at her, and with Homura's speed, she has the luxury of positioning herself in a way that makes it nearly impossible for Sayaka to react. Sayaka's irises tremble for an instant.

A pink-haired angel sweeps in amidst a clangor of ricocheting lead. Not a bullet enters Sayaka's flesh as she stumbles forward. Nothing makes sense; Sayaka isn't sure who is where, if she just hasn't felt the impact yet, who is alive or dead, what's going on.

"Madoka?" she bleats in the tiniest little voice, as pink hairs brush her cheek. Homura probably hears it too.

She comes to quickly, and doesn't seem to even remember the moment of confusion, her mind snapping back into the flow of combat. "Tenjou-san, I can't lay a finger on that transfer student! Give it a try!" Facing Kyouko, Sayaka frowns, ice blue eyes meeting red once more. "I'll handle this one."

Advancing, Sayaka keeps her sword tip-out, offsetting the other girl's range advantage by at least a foot or so. It's still too long... she needs to handle that. "You," she says. Kyouko an still see the crunched indent on her blue breastplate. "This is over tonight. I'm taking your Soul Gem. Mami and I will take good care of it, and you... you can go back to your family." She advances low, lashing her sword as she goes, sword striking spear. She steps into Kyouko's range and tries to do some work there before the other girl can break off. Her swordplay is still so fresh and naive. All she has over Kyouko, perhaps, is zeal.

Is it enough?

COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has used Caprice on Kyouko Sakura.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura fails to dodge Sayaka Miki's Caprice, taking 23 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
<Pose Tracker> Hikaru Shidou [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

With her ally moving out of action, the Fire Knight decides to join her in aiding her escape. "We did what we could," She says to the Wind Knight as they get close enough. "Sometimes it's better to retreat when the time is right." She scowls a little. "We didn't win, but that's OK. There's always next time!"

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

Like striking serpents the tendrils seek flesh and blood and- find something more durable aside in the flesh of the gem. She's somewhat puzzled by that, but not overly concerned. After all to a Magical Girl, a Sailor Fuku can be tougher than steel. They remain there for a moment, suspended- before fading away with the same smell of a field caught in a wildfire. Leaving only the vine tethers still stuck in the snowswept pavement.

A hand touches her wiping cold sweat away, "Don't you understand anything? It's not about being better- or worse, or anything. How old are you? Twenty-three?"

Garnet isn't moving at her, but she keeps up a wary stance. "Well whatever you are, good for you. I'm fifteen hoping to see sixteen. You think I didn't want better than this? But it's not about-

Many paths take shape-

Eri finishes talking and dismisses Garnet, "If you're not going to fight back- I'm done talking to you. Going to put my efforts somewhere where they'll matter."

-and tries to take Mami down from behind.

-and joins her senpai Kyouko to try and take down Sayaka Miki once and for all.

One after another. The future flows before her eyes and shows Garnet a myriad of possibilities and all of them involve her going after one of the other Chevaliers, brave girls that Garnet has bonded with.

But one predominates more than the rest-

-and that is the girl in front of her pressing her attack against the leader of the Crystal Gems. There is not a single timeline that ends without violence.

"-what I wanted. It's about what life gave me. It's about doing the best I can with it. It's about-" That subtle raise of the foot. Garnet sees the attack the most prominent timeline predicted coming, so clearly. The foot will make contact with the ground. Roots blackened as if they'd arise from swampwater will burst out of the ground and will seek blood that isn't there.

It touches the ground, green ripples outward, pulsing through the ground. For a brief moment it's like the ground has been given a circulatory system and fluorescent dye was just run through it.

A moment later those blackened roots erupt through concrete, showering the area with mortar dust as they seek to pierce through Garnet. "-making sure you don't ever come back to threaten me or my senpai's bottom line again."

-but you saw that coming. Is it enough?

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Jubokko's Sanguine Roots on Garnet.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Garnet narrowly counters Eri Shimanouchi's Jubokko's Sanguine Roots, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Garnet's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Garnet's counterattack, War Never Changes, partially gets through, doing 16 Fatigue damage to Eri Shimanouchi!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Miroku bites through empty air, biting into the snowprints where Fuu was just a moment ago. Mikoto has to tug at it to pull it from the ground, such was the force with which she swung - it gives Fuu a few moments to talk.

She had a motivation unlike the rest of the Chevaliers. She was allying with them out of convenience. It would almost make sense. "But... before...!" Before, when Mikoto saw Fuu with the rest of them. Before, when they were on opposite sides. If this was just a matter of convenience, then - "Why?!"

Why did Fuu stand with them? It doesn't make sense. Mikoto can't piece it together, can't /think/. How long has it been this cold? Could she have been motivated just by that? No, no, it doesn't make sense, and she's the /enemy/, she'd lie, they're honey-words...

Safe as a group, didn't mean to fight, didn't want to fight. It's true - that's true - she's not fighting. Mikoto yanks Miroku from the ground, finally, but she hesitates as Fuu keeps talking. She narrows her eyes as Fuu bows without looking down, and she stiffens as the spell takes hold, crouching down, preparing to leap upon her lying hide. She even goes for her sword, and Mikoto snarls, grip shifting -

- only for Fuu to make the sword disappear. Mikoto frowns, watching her carefully as she leaves. She really does seem to be retreating, and... no one has told her to kill. If she wants to leave, there are other enemies here to fight.

(She doesn't want to hurt a friend. It's a little spark, muffled immediately by the darkness in her heart, but... she doesn't want to hurt someone who refused to fight.)

So Fuu Hououji leaves, and Mikoto casts her gaze over the battlefield, searching for another recipient of her blade.

The answer is painfully, blindingly obvious.

Mami Tomoe. She's done horrible damage to one of the other girls who came here, the tall one, the senshi - Mikoto likes Usagi, which means she likes the senshi, they're good people. Mami Tomoe is not a good person. Mami Tomoe hates Mai, and Mami Tomoe hates Eri. Mami Tomoe would hurt them if she got the chance.

Mami Tomoe needs to die.

"Hraaaah-!!" Mikoto yells, feet digging into the snowy earth with each loping step as she charges towards the two girls. She comes from the opposite direction of Pluto, leaping forward and swinging her sword down in an over-the-shoulder diagonal arc. There's no care given to defense; she's on the offensive, and not stopping anytime soon.

Fuu had one thing Mami distinctly doesn't have, after all - previous goodwill.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Demolition on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe perfectly dodges Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Demolition, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Mami Tomoe's Fade ability activates!  Mami Tomoe's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Kasagami Araki, it seems, isn't quite /that/ nice! She walks right up to to the flailing, fallen young woman, and flicks off that coat. Then, with one hand, she'll all but lift up the Sirene by the scruff of her outfit, then shove her back to her feet.

"Don't give your opponent an opening like that! Let's finish this properly!" Chides the duelist in typical fashion. A smile comes to her face.

"You've earned my respect tonight. So I won't hold anything back! Come!"

And then Kasagami takes up a thrusting stance. A single, straight line aimed for for the young woman, and the Duelist closes her eyes. The wind whipping around her, that almost tangible feeling of power mixed with a very simple desire to use her blade. To distract herself from her real problems, her actual wants instead of the maniacal wish she has in her heart...The Sirene has called, and Kasagami Araki answers.

All around her, her form seems to shimmer. Not quite the intangibility of Nori's own abilities, but something far more solid and real. Wherever one might spot a second, or even third blade, whispering rose petals now coated in ice hide Kasagami's limbs and blade from view. Purpose, ambition, it's a scent around her even stronger than flowers. And then, Kasagami strikes in a single motion. There's no rose to obscure, all flowing around the young Duelist's sword, as she passes by her opponent.

A shoulder, a leg, and then the lightest of blows aimed across the neck. Not one meant to kill, but simply to harm enough that she'll have no choice but to retreat. In one breath, there's three blades where there was but one, three different stances taken up as reality twists itself around Kasagami to create an impossible thrusting attack defying every law of physics at once.

The young woman stands as it ends, roses flicking off her blade as she sweeps it aside as if to toss aside blood from the blade.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Crimson Cage Lite on La Sirene du Nord.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: La Sirene du Nord fails to brace Kasagami Araki's Crimson Cage Lite, taking 34 Fatigue damage!  La Sirene du Nord is unable to keep fighting!

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cn_woPvjQI

A great broadcast of neat white teeth greets the newly resurgent Utena, a few dagger-tipped fangs among them. At last this prima donna shows some grit to her..Kyouko's no vulture. She prefers to a fight to carrion any day.

The fearless rapier scores a few cuts against Kyouko's arms and cheeks, but most of the blades are batted aside by that great flyswatter gripped between her well-practiced hands. Still, even a series of largely successful blocks take their toll on her energy..but then Kyouko Sakura, the red tigress of Tokyo, is far from finished.

"You don't even know my name..you know nothing about me..you fight because you've been told to..because you're a thug..and I know thugs. I got a lot in common with thugs..but I ain't one. Not quite."

Ducking suddenly, Kyouko lunges straight through Utena's zone of control. A thin little blade, more stiletto than spear, sprouts from her palm and stabs at Utena's side...but before she can follow through, her opponent disarms her strategy completely by retreating entirely.

Kyouko blinks for a moment before snarling, riding out what momentum hadn't stalled out by her hesitation and rekindling its flame entirely, darting low and quick to come up on Sayaka Miki..but the blue nuisance notices her too quickly and aims a blade right at her path, so she halts her charge, ruefully shaking her head with a smirk...that fades as soon as Sayaka speaks.

~MUSIC CHANGE - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mgq5r08Scm0 - MUSIC CHANGE~

A shiver tears through the vicious girl's little frame. She isn't cold, or afraid. Instead a glimpse of the overbearing, all consuming charge that animates her spirit leaks out of the surface, peeking out from beyond the mask of casual, nonchalant survivalism that she grasps like a shield. There is nothing entertained or pleasant of her now, her entire posture a rictus of agitation.

"I don't know what happens if I lose it. Neither do you. But that's your way. Charging ahead without knowing the consequences. Maybe you'll murder me. Maybe you'll take my fangs out, and leave me helpless. Meat for the wolves.."

Brandishing her spear in both hands, she stalks a slow arc around the duelist, her face etched hard with weathered, inescapable memory. "My father butchered my mother and my younger sister and then burned himself alive along with their corpses, and the church we called our home. We'd lived on the streets before, followed him when his elders cast him there. I wished people would open their hearts to his sermons, so that maybe our life could go back to how it used to be. For awhile, it was better than ever. Then he learned what happened. He went mad, called me a witch and tried to "save" them from me by delivering them to death."

She stops, and cants her head to the side, her cold gaze icy past half-slitted lids. Sayaka's drawing close now, blade at the ready..Kyouko tries to sidestep her strikes, but for some reason..emotion? Arrogance? She keeps on talking. Her split focus ends in her blood running down her sides in steaming pennants. But she does not wince, or pause, or flinch, even as she bleeds.

"I wouldn't let him claim me. Not even then. I won't let you either. And for me there is no alternative. For me this is all there is. I used to be like you. I wonder if someday you'll be like me too."

Kyouko jumps back, very quickly, and dashes in at a leftward diagonal, low and compact. Just before reaching the blueberry that's caused her so many aches, she explodes her legs off the ground to tackle into Sayaka's belly, a full-haft spear blazing her brutal trail.

COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has used Masterstroke on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has finished attacking.

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

They were talking about necessity; Mami sees it all the more in red staining her ribbons. It's a simple cue, just like the blood staining the snow not far off from this point. But it's enough; Mami knows this kind of battle, has learned it over the years since she was that young girl Sailor Pluo saw in her past.

There's nevertheless a stab of something unpleasant in her gut as she remembers this woman who helped her rescue Madoka Kaname.

Iron she might be thought of, but Mami would think of different materials for herself, softer things that wrap around. But right now she can't wrap so well as that; Mami's energy runs out, and she can't maintain the ribbon bind. She can only hope that it's enough... But it isn't.

They fade, as Pluto quickly advances on her, Mami reclaiming what little magic she can from the attack and more to the point trying to move... But she can't move quickly enough this time, only quickly enough to shove herself out of the way, so that the Rod hits against her shoulder with a dragging impact rather than a place that might've knocked her out completely. Mami immediately starts trying to advance bakward again, but summons no rifles. She's already thinking of her next move when--

There's a shout, or a snarl, or a growl, and Mami can't tell what it is but she turns to face it, golden eyes widening as she takes in the sight of a charging Mikoto, her sword finally unsheathed. "Oh, hell," Mami says, and somehow it sounds a little prim despite the lump in her throat.

The sword comes in and Mami ducks underneath its arc in an instant, bending at the knees and then shifting to the side--to Mikoto's side--with the motion. She can't afford this much magic here. But she can't just die here, either.

Mami reaches to her collar and pulls a ribbon, snapping it out towards Mikoto and letting it grow into one meant to bind her arms and sword in so many layers that she might have /time/ to start backwards and try to find some cover somewhere out here in the snow.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Parete on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki fails to brace Kyouko Sakura's Masterstroke, taking 38 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi narrowly dodges Mami Tomoe's Parete, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade ability activates!  Mikoto Minagi's Flash ability activates!  Exhausted applied to Mikoto Minagi!

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

"Gh--you!" Homura snaps, heatedly and angrily, at Utena. She didn't expect her to take the shots for Sayaka. She lands in front of her, looking at the duelist with a scowl on her face. The anger flickers back to something more measured, though, and more controlled. "If you insist, then I'll oblige you."

She slides the AK-47 back into her shield. It vanishes as it pushes over the lip of the shield, and then Homura quickly pulls out a homemade bomb. She tosses it, underhanded, between her and Utena. Her head turns--

--And then it flashes, exploding with a bright burst of light that may be blinding.

COMBAT: Homura Akemi has used Flashbang on Utena Tenjou.
COMBAT: Homura Akemi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou narrowly braces Homura Akemi's Flashbang, taking 3 Fatigue damage!  Blind applied to Utena Tenjou!

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Utena's not here because she's a thug -- she's here because she's a friend. Because she believes Sayaka about Kyouko, and believes in her cause. Or at least that's what she'd say, if she had time to retort. Unfortunately, time is not on her side. Not at all.

There's a bomb coming towards her. After the invasion of Ohtori by Searrs, Utena takes ordinance very seriously. She dives into the snow... then pokes her head up, confused, when the big boom she's expecting doesn't come.


"Gah" is really the only possible response, and she delivers it with pained surprise. Rubbing her eyes with her free hand to clear it, she's privy to Kyouko's impassioned explanation, and it seems like a good time to just stay quiet. Blood from her thigh graze drips down her leg, mingling with the sticking snow, but that isn't why she feels cold.

Which is not to say that she just drops her weapon. Homura tried to /put some bullets into Sayaka's freaking head/ not a minute ago, and Utena doesn't hesitate to try to keep her on the defense while she tries to regain her equilibrium (and her tear-streaming vision), waving her sword about. Maybe she'll even get lucky and get a hit.

If some of those tears are because, one orphan to another, Kyouko has affected her, she'll never tell.

COMBAT: Utena Tenjou has used The Cage Of My Memory on Homura Akemi.
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene du Nord [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

La Sirene struggles with her coat, or rather, with Kasagami's coat, until she's bared. Hoisted up, there is a keening sound from that otter. Pale eyes look at Kasagami, struggling for vision, and then



That scent of flowers in the air... Cold, cruel air. The blows all come at once and they are shuddering; la Sirene does not land in a crouch when she hits the ground, instead flopping as if she has just been pithed, like a frog on a laboratory table. Batiste produces a sound of despair, which fortunately cuts out abruptly when la Sirene rolls over and lets out a half-muffled shriek, clutching at her shoulder.

That kind of a reaction is a good sign. Pain and a reaction to it are /vital/ processes.

The response to Kasagami's words is incoherent, but there is a brief look of agony in those pale eyes as la Sirene struggles to get herself up into something resembling a seated position. The look is not just pained: there is also a woundedness there, a frustration, and a vulnerability, but it isn't there for long before it starts breaking up, becoming blurry.

Like an octopus might, la Sirene has opened her lantern again: the low-pressure flowing of un-light from within it distorts her image like a rippling sea, and then more so. By the time that lingering cluster of alien radiance has faded from that section of battered snow and track, she is not immediately present, nor is her compatriot.

Though there is a single perfect paw-print, impossible almost, in the wall of the snow-canyon.

As she staggers away, la Sirene forces back tears. Her heart is in free fall. She can't bring herself to even call out to the others... Maybe I should never talk to them again, she does think to herself, even as her free hand is fiercely held by the small animal within her pocket.

COMBAT: Homura Akemi perfectly dodges Utena Tenjou's The Cage Of My Memory, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Homura Akemi's Fade ability activates!  Homura Akemi's Flash ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Chitose Shiratori [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Chitose watches as the Magic Knights depart. She takes in a deep breath and then releases. "Hoo boy. I'm glad that's over.

And then... well, she pursues.

Not so much, admittedly. She goes off in the same direction, but she doesn't re-engage. Instead, she starts flying around the perimeter of the battle, mostly checking to see if the enemy has reinforcements incoming. But she doesn't do much else, and by the time the battle is over, she's gone.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

She lands the blow, but it is not enough. Even with her sight exploding in the encroaching white starbursts of oblivion, she can feel that it glances, does not land squarely. Sailor Pluto falls to her knees in a mirror of the pose she drove Mami to earlier, grunting as the impact jars her left arm. Silvery metal hangs loosely from the fingers of her other hand.

There is no way, as blasted and crushed and masticated as her poor body is, that she can hope to resist whatever punishment Mami replies with. Sailor Pluto offers up a grim but fervent thanks that it was her, and not Neptune, not Uranus.

Even expecting the final blow, she struggles to regain her feet. The Guardian of Time will not surrender. It is not in her.

To her great shock, Pluto's efforts to stand are not for nothing. She completes them, belabored as they are, without interference. The rush of blood in her ears kept her from hearing Mikoto Minagi's wild battlecry, but now that she can see again, can lift her head to peer through evergreen bangs slicked-down and dark with sweat, she spies her unlikely savior driving Mami away through the snow.

Somewhere deep-buried, in a tender place protected and secreted away, Setsuna Meioh sobs out her relief at still being alive. She leaves it to Sailor Pluto to drag up whatever dregs remain to continue the fight.

The Garnet Rod comes to life, its light not casting shadows quite as starkly as before, a flicker present in its otherwise regular pulsing. But it responds. A thready beam of glittering red, bright like heartsblood, crosses the space between Pluto and Mami.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used All I've Got Left on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe fails to dodge Sailor Pluto's All I've Got Left, taking 8 Fatigue damage!

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

Utena's sword swings in--

--and passes through thin air. There is nothing where Homura stood, a moment before. No flash of purple, no sparkles, no sign of magic like many a girl might leave. There is, simply, nothing. Nothing to look at or regard Utena's tears.

And Homura doesn't. She has seen too many people cry -- made too many people cry -- to let them dig under her skin, the way they used to. If she stopped to worry for each broken heart and each broken past, she could never focus. She turns that input off, as best as she is able.

The way she did with Alyssa Searrs. The way she did with a dozen some-odd Golden Age PMC soldiers. The way she did with other Puella Magi.

She reappears right in front of Utena. Three bullets fire, seemingly having been shot behind her, and shoot around Homura's limbs -- only to come flying down at Utena. Homura has a combat shotgun in hand. She pumps it once, firing a slug down for Utena's thigh, before she lands. Her feet skate across the ground, and Homura pivots.

Then she swings the butt of the shotgun, right for Utena's cheek.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Homura Akemi has used Bulletstorm on Utena Tenjou.
COMBAT: Homura Akemi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou narrowly dodges Homura Akemi's Finisher, Bulletstorm, taking 49 Fatigue damage!  Utena Tenjou's Fade ability activates!  Utena Tenjou's Flash ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoicX3RPf5Q

Kyouko has always felt both the most and least like Sayaka of all Puella Magi. Sword-to-spear they feel like natural rivals. Both have a sort of wildness inside, Sayaka's in chains, Kyouko's on a dollar store leash at best. Sayaka once looked up to Kyouko. It's hard to remember now.

Kyouko is a hellbeast but at least she's made of meat, unlike Homura Akemi. Sayaka grows more confident with her ability to actually find resistance when she swings, whether it's flesh or spear. She opens repeated cuts, but her eyebrows start to tremble a bit as Kyouko walks through them with killing intent undimmed.

And then the story.

Sayaka didn't know.

Her confidence, that inspiration from Utena's belief, finally runs out, and the horror written between the syllables of Kyouko's tale pours over Sayaka, quenching and tempering her. She will need it for the assault to come.

Kyouko launches herself with the spear, a vicious commitment to a single attack no fighter Sayaka's met can match. The full weight of the red tigress slams a speartip into Sayaka's stomach. It's full-on, with no defense other than Kyouko's inability to fully impale her due to bottoming out against her shoulder. The noise is brief, abstract, repulsive. The sensation? Agonizing.

Shoving at Kyouko as hard as she can with three randomly selected limbs, Sayaka stumbles back, most of the momentum going to her unprepared form rather than Kyouko's. She almost trips a good three times as she careens back over tracks, and when she finally comes to a stop, she doubles over and howls something wordless through her teeth, an arm plastered over the wound. That first hit already had her fighting stiff and injured. She's not healing fast enough... and that was uncomfortably close to her Soul Gem.

"Nnkh," she grunts, pushing herself straight with her sword, though it takes a brief stumble backwards, then a shoulder-heavy sway forwards. "I'm sorry," she says. At first it sounds like begging for mercy, but she lifts gritted teeth. "I'm sorry that happened to you. I wish I knew before..." She swallows. "Before all this. But if I let you and Eri keep on like this, there will be more families that suffer. Anko..." She shakes her head, and makes a quiet, one-time exception.

"Kyouko. You're unbelievably strong. Tragedy just gets passed down, doesn't it? Someone has to stop, and hold it all up on their back, and say... no. No one else. If anybody could do it, it's you."

A pale blue mystic ring spreads around Sayaka's feet, a quick light rhythm of music floating almost inaudibly from it. It's beneath the snow and tracks, and the snow thus becomes a sort neon light itself, flooded with a slowly rotating blue light. "But you never will, will you?" Sayaka says grimly, and not without regret. "I'm done trying to have us understand one another. I'm done with doing things halfway with you. We can only agree on one thing. You didn't come here to lose." A sudden brace of mystic circles appears above and around Kyouko, all pointed at her, so suddenly that bubbles erupt and dissolve from each.

"Neither did I."

Sayaka erupts from the ground like a conductor's baton striking the first note... a shockingly quick up, and then down just as fast, as she leaps from circle to circle. There's a music to it too; if Kyouko can find it she can predict it, but she doesn't have long. Side to side Sayaka creates a cage, soaring past Kyouko to block off attempts at escape, slashing from unpredictable directions, her sword trailing a clear, quickly frosting line of bubbling water as she goes. Arc-shaped pieces of frost drop to the ground or shatter in the air as she forces a climax to this battle between fated rivals.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Sayaka Miki has used Wassermusik on Kyouko Sakura.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has finished attacking.

[OOC] Utena Tenjou says, "Just kiss you two"
[OOC] Sailor Pluto says, "seriously"
[OOC] Garnet says, "Or fall into each other. Magic can happen."
[OOC] Eri Shimanouchi says, "God, fine- I'll ship it so long as you warn me first so I can cover my eyes."
[OOC] Mami Tomoe says, "That's really great Sayaka"
[OOC] Mikoto Minagi says, "that's amazing it's true <3"
[OOC] Mami Tomoe says, "Mami does not ship it"
[OOC] Utena Tenjou says, "Yeah, super good, I did not mean to undercut that"
[OOC] Utena Tenjou says, "You two are faboo"
[OOC] Eri Shimanouchi says, "Yeah it was super great."
[OOC] Sailor Pluto says, "Truly."
[OOC] Homura Akemi says, "Yeeeeeesssss"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami flows like water underneath Mikoto's blade, and the HiME has only a moment to spring backwards and evade her counterattack. It doesn't quite work - Mami's ribbons are relentless, and the ends catch at her even as she puts distance between them. It ties her arms and her sword together, binding them in a stiff sleeve up to her forearms. She lands and skids in the snow, scarf trailing behind her as she digs in her heels.

There's only one problem with tangling up Mikoto and Miroku -

They were never intended to be apart in the first place.

Mikoto bares her teeth at the ribbons, snarling at them, but after a moment's struggle it's clear she's stuck. If she had better command of her thoughts, she might reflect on how bitterly amusing it was, binding her to her sword. But Mikoto doesn't think, not this deep in her berserkergang. It is not her place to think. No - she acts, and reacts.

She lands, and after a moment to growl at her predicament, she simply charges Mami /again/, bending her elbows to control her blade instead of relying on the deft movements of her wrists. It's a bit of a dilemma, and she's not quite able to deliver the same quality of strike as she opened with - but it's clear that something as trivial as this isn't going to keep Mikoto off the warpath.

Somewhere, in the back of her mind, she's aware of the exhaustion which has begun to dull her reactions. But in her current state, she's not willing to back off or retreat. There are enemies, and she must destroy them.

What happens to her is immaterial.

Mikoto Minagi is a blade.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dilemma on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe narrowly braces Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dilemma, taking 6 Fatigue damage!

[OOC] Sayaka Miki <3 all (except Kyouko)
[OOC] Mikoto Minagi says, "it's ok homestuck has an icon for that: <3<"
[OOC] Utena Tenjou <3 Mikoto
[OOC] Eri Shimanouchi says, "Mikotooo <3"

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Someone like Homura or Mami would go in for the kill as Nori goes down. Kasagami pauses as the Sirene seems to no longer be able to rise. That blade lowers just a bit as Kasagami anxious watches just what Nori will do. She's breathing hard. Though she took little physical damage, something about that odd lantern has her heart pounding. Something /wrong/ about that thing!

And thus, as she opens it again, the Duelist looks away. When she turns once more, the young woman is gone. The Disciplinary Executive sighs in relief. A single red rose is in her hand, and she frowns at it.

"...A shame. I wanted to give her something to remember the fight by." Kasagami sounds frustrated, just a bit. Then, she falls to a knee. Taking out that girl took a bit out of her, and she needs a moment's rest. She scans the battlefield, eyeing up those in need of her help.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Holding The Rose on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki accepts Kasagami Araki's Holding The Rose, taking 0 Fatigue damage!

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet follows the flow of time, seeing the possibilities become an unfortunate actuality. The roots erupt out and stab at her, and this time, though they still connect, Garnet glows briefly, and then seems more even more solid than before. The roots, though stronger, make as much headway as the barbs.

Garnet's wrists contort, and seem to "break" 90 degrees until her gauntlets are pointed directly at Eri. With a boom and the sound of burning "fuel" they propel like rockets towards the Puella, taking less-than-secured vine and root with them. Instead of hitting her directly, they veer down to the ground, and explode at Eri's feet, with a wave of concussive force and smoke that kicks up in the Puella's eyes and obscures Garnet for a moment.

The smoke ripples.

And seperates as a stream of multicolored globe lightning burns it away in an instant, and globe after globe hurtle at Eri!

Those who might be able to see (and read) Garnet's expression might notice that despite Eri's callous and mercenary threats, Square Mom doesn't look angry.

Just... disappointed.

( OST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ep5O3r7K1jg )

COMBAT: FINISHER! Garnet has used Cool Electro on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Garnet has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi fails to brace Garnet's Finisher, Cool Electro, taking 70 Fatigue damage!  Eri Shimanouchi is unable to keep fighting!

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

Mami tries to keep her attention split, but the girl with the giant sword is just more pressing to her right then; she makes a calculation, and hopes Pluto might take the time to recover. So that bright red beam slams right into her shoulder, blackens it with its power and shoving her almost into a spin. The cap of her sleeve is gone where the beam passed. Mami hisses with pain and doesn't bother berating herself for it; she doesn't have the energy for that kind of thing.

Mami hoped at least to slow her down, and for a few moments it seems like she does; the blonde backs up that much more until she nearly runs her back into the train behind her that she'd perched on before. She knows already her own exhaustion, but here there's a different kind of clarity, a dance of its own.

So through her own exhaustion she watches Mikoto's strike, and throws her hands out with coiling ribbons, catching the blow between her forearms and shoving to the side; the deep gash she gets on her arm is just a necessary price of keeping herself alive. "I know you hate me," Mami breathes, and darts to the side before sprinting across the snow, across blood, to try to get herself some breathing room.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used The Classic Strategy on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Again she strikes, again it is not enough. Sailor Pluto feels bone-weary. The battlefield swims in her vision, and she slides her fingers up the Rod to find a metal edge to hook her finger on.

Tired. So tired.

Queen Serenity did not pick a quitter.

Brows drawn down and creasing lines between them, she focuses on Mikoto, the ferocious and somehow feline warrior rescuing her. There must be something she can... Ah. Yes. It's a small thing, but small things turn the tide of battle all the time.

A gauzy red haze, delicate and almost lacy in the intricacy of the threads of power weaving it together, unspools from the embers still glowing deep in the Garnet Orb. It settles over the attacking Mikoto and ever-so-gently, ever-so-slightly alters her perception of time. The seconds draw out a bit, her own motions speed.

Pluto hopes that the vicious fighter will know how best to take advantage of whatever small edge she can provide. She slumps against the Garnet Rod, trying to pretend her left arm doesn't exist.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Quiet Support of a Distant Planet on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts Sailor Pluto's Quiet Support of a Distant Planet, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Virtual Star Embryology https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=May1YfRRFTs

If Homura disappears and Utena is too blind to notice, does it make a sound? It's what happens; it's hard to tell if she's even aware that Homura's gone. But, though shot through with violent red, her baby blues are starting to blink less rapidly, to clear, and that's the only thing that saves her from, if not summary execution, a severely violent subdual at the hands (and guns, mostly the guns) of her opponent.

The reappearance, she sees, and feels, too, the hairs on the back of her neckio once again giving her a warning she wouldn't later be able to explain. The bullets she dives away from, rolling through the snow, getting nasty shards of ice driving into her bare legs for her trouble. To evade the shotgun slug, she's forced to make an abrupt turn -- so abrupt that the only way to do it is to jam her sword into the frozen ground and use it as a handle.

It slides into the earth like a child diving into a welcoming bed at the end of a long night, but as she swings her whole body around it at great, great speed, it cannot handle the torque, and snaps.

Utena goes tumbling out of the way of the shotgun's butt, wildly out of control, and crashes into the side of the abandoned, vandalized train. She glances up at the graffiti dizzily. PRINCESS is the only word she understands.

Then she glances down, at the broken sword in her hand, and everything seems to come into focus. It's like the whole world is cool, not like the blizzard but like a deep mountain lake, and clear, not like the ice but like a timeless, ageless crystal.

It's at moments like these that she knows exactly what she has to do.

Utena /loves/ moments like these. Even when she aches and bleeds, when she still weeps, without noticing the fast-freezing tears, for what she distantly hears passing between Kyouko and Sayaka.

Even then she cannot deny the simple pleasure of having a duty, and fulfilling it.

She staggers to her feet, knees shaking. She reverses the grip of the former sword in her hand, the hilt now her instrument, instead of the blade.

She has no time magic to aid her, but she has other magic. Calling it older or deeper is unfair; what is older than time? What is deeper than Homura's feelings? Nonetheless, 'the old magic' is the sort of phrasing used at times like these -- an ancient mantle settles around her shoulders, pink rose petals unfurl behind her track like the afterburners of a jet or perhaps a pair of windstreamed wings, and there's nothing of her to see but a pink flash.

And then she's on Homura's other side, panting, gasping, waiting to see if that knockout blow to her temple was enough.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Utena Tenjou has used Absolute Destiny Apocalypse on Homura Akemi.
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi narrowly braces Mami Tomoe's The Classic Strategy, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Homura Akemi narrowly dodges Utena Tenjou's Finisher, Absolute Destiny Apocalypse, taking 62 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Homura Akemi's Fade ability activates!  Homura Akemi's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Utena Tenjou has called for a +check. Comparing Homura Akemi versus Utena Tenjou, Homura Akemi is victorious!

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Utena waits in vain. Her chest heaves, and her breath swims in front of her eyes. And then, finally, a little bit too much is enough -- having pushed beyond her limits, she collapses facefirst into the snow.

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8HgIbUBR18

It isn't hard for Kyouko to remember. Her memory's a bear trap, and she has no appetite for fantasy or denialism. It was Kyouko who first encouraged Sayaka to fight, first encouraged her to embrace the world she lived in, because it was better to die with a sword in her hand. Or back then..a baseball bat. When the sword came it was much too late. She'd never wanted Sayaka to contract..if she'd known her better, if she'd focused more on her stubbornness with a watchful and critical eye.

If she hadn't been bewildered by affection's hue.

The shocks run through her little arms with every parry, every stab. Every meaty grunt of flesh rending to give way to her well-honed will. There's no hesitation in her actions. She's contorted herself to disgusting proportions to try to stave Sayaka off. Gone further than she'd ever allowed herself before. Broken every promise of non involvement and stoicism and survival, for reasons that elude her still. And here they are.

In Sayaka, Kyouko sees a confirmation of her every philosophy. In Sayaka, Kyouko sees all the reasons why her heart must remained closed. In Sayaka, Kyouko sees the warped progeny of a fleeting moment of her own personal weakness, a repugnancy to be stamped out like any other cancer.

And now she says she's sorry. Kyouko spits again, her mouthjuice more red than crystal on this go around. Her voice is ragged, more from anger than abuse, but there's a bit of both in that particular saucepan.

"Nothing "happened" to me. I contracted. I welcomed the bloody angel into my soul and fate played out the string. She's one of the only ones who ever earned her wish.." She jerks her head towards Mami Tomoe. "..because it was her only choice. Anybody Puella Magi who chooses this fate is cursed. If you gave a damn you'd learn that quickly. But you're cursed, so you'll learn it slowly. Bloodily. I've lived my life for necessity ever since I learned. You're still just a child with doom written on your forehead that you can't even see."

She shakes her head, red whipping back and forth like dancing firelight. "If you want it to stop then kill yourself. You do not know what it means to be a Puella Magi. You ask me to die. I won't die for you or for anybody else. If you'd have my life then take it yourself, Sayaka. This isn't about losing. You've never tried to understand me. You're incapable of understanding anything beyond yourself."

Multijointed spears erupt from Kyouko's spine like spider legs..or a metallic angel's wings. The bottom-most of them plant into the buried soil, lifting her up in the center of Sayaka's watery web. She's too weak to wield this magic in its full force, a nightmarish swarm of a thousand enraged spears, ripping and tearing all around her. Each tentacled limb of metal and wood is reedy and narrow as though malnourished..each sprouting a jagged little blossom at the end. Closing her eyes, the air all around her becomes a frenzied hurricane of flechette and shrapnel, a claymore golem spraying ball bearings every which way. If she pushed further she could wipe out a city block in this way.

Sayaka Miki's heart and head will do for now.

COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura counters Sayaka Miki's Wassermusik with A Rain of Razors, initiating a BEAMWAR! Please see +help beamwar for further information.
BEAMWAR! Kyouko Sakura and Sayaka Miki's attacks collide. Sayaka Miki 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> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Homura expected that to take Utena down.

It doesn't.

She hisses softly, not quite shouting or otherwise making a noise -- and then Utena is back on her. She leaps quickly to the side, hand not coming down to her shield in time to be sure of it. Pink petals swirl behind Homura, and then around Utena, as she shoots by her in a pink flash of light. Homura turns on a heel, staggering--

No. Not staggering. She turns, the force of her dodge to only /just/ get away from the crack of the hilt at her temple sending her hair flying out. She half-turns, but only half.

The sound of Utena collapsing into snow tells her what she needs to know.

She staggers as much as she walks, towards the side of the nearby building -- the same one she shot a sign off -- and then slumps back against it, drawing in deep and ragged breaths.

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

The mortar dust mixed with erupting snow obfuscates everything. It's a haze thicker than the most wild blizzard she's ever known. But even as that shroud covers over everything. There's a blur and a sound like one of those videos they show on the news of a space rocket taking off. It gives her the worst feeling, but she's committed- overcommitted actually.

She reacts accordingly though, kicking off the ground with her ankles just it strikes. It perhaps saves her from the worst of it, relatively speaking, as it blasts her backwards and into the flurries of snow.

Shaking her head like some dog that just ate a faceful of it, she sucks in desperately needed air and coughs from the smoke that burns her eyes and her nostrils. "One more time..." Shakily she tries to stand. "... come on just one more time..." Plant matter shimmers into her hands. And she whirls it into position. "...high school graduation..."

It slices through the air as the girl tries to find out if she can cut ball lightning. "... Mai's wedding... Mikoto finding brother... Senpai..." She gets ready, one last breath, "...seeing..." She slices it forward with all the strength her arms can muster, "SPR-

The whip makes contact and as before it conducts through it and she has the worst, frizziest hair day of her life as her whole body spasms and suffers as electricity arcs through her. She drops to the knees. Like a devil she fights her fading consciousness. Pathetically she utters sounds as if they were part of a mantra. "... Hoo.. murr... 'do.. kuh... ...ikuh... ... chee."

The magic gives way, and she's just a girl in winter clothes. Knit cap, heavy grey coat that looks bleached on one side, discolored mittens, winter pants and boots. The scarf remains. She slides forward into a pile of snow, her glasses fall out of her pocket, to slide into the snow. And in her now limp hand- is what Garnet sought from her. A glowing, green gem, set in gold- stylized and arcane images of suns and twined ivy in it.

BEAMWAR! Kyouko Sakura has placed her bid! Sayaka Miki still needs to bid!
BEAMWAR! Sayaka Miki has placed her bid!
BEAMWAR! Kyouko Sakura rallies, fiercely pushing back Sayaka Miki! Kyouko Sakura has the advantage!
BEAMWAR! Sayaka Miki takes 12 damage! Kyouko Sakura takes 4 Fatigue damage!
BEAMWAR! Now accepting mana bids for the second of three rounds! No longer accepting any more BEAMWAR entrants!
BEAMWAR! Kyouko Sakura has placed her bid! Sayaka Miki still needs to bid!
BEAMWAR! Sayaka Miki has placed her bid!
BEAMWAR! Sayaka Miki rallies, overwhelmingly driving back Kyouko Sakura! Sayaka Miki has the advantage!
BEAMWAR! Kyouko Sakura takes 21 damage! Sayaka Miki takes 0 Fatigue damage!
BEAMWAR! Now accepting mana bids for the third of three rounds! No longer accepting any more BEAMWAR entrants!
BEAMWAR! Sayaka Miki has placed her bid! Kyouko Sakura still needs to bid!
BEAMWAR! Kyouko Sakura has placed her bid!
BEAMWAR! Sayaka Miki presses her advantage, her Wassermusik exploding through Kyouko Sakura's A Rain of Razors for a total of 65 Fatigue damage! Sayaka Miki is victorious!
BEAMWAR! Kyouko Sakura is unable to keep fighting!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami is pinned by the train, but she still manages to catch Miroku with her ribbons, deflecting its strike and cutting herself up in the process. Mikoto snarls at Mami's words, and her golden eyes are a demon's.

She knows? Good. She is the enemy. Crush her under blade. Decimate her. Cut her body in twain like so much twisting steel. Mikoto presses Miroku in, but Mami darts to the side, escapes her clumsy tangled grasp to run.

Mikoto bellows, twisting around to follow. From behind comes a gentle red haze, settling about her shoulders with her striped scarf. It's kind, and soft, and it makes Mikoto's strides hit the ground that much faster, counteracting the weariness in her muscles to help her catch up to the fleeing Mami.

The Senshi is good. Mami is not. It's so agonisingly simple to Mikoto's mind. One is an ally; one is an enemy. One should be protected, one must die.

Mikoto charges Mami, her sword held out to the side in her stiff, ribboned grip. Where Mami is elegant, Mikoto is brutal; she runs towards her, sweeps her blade to the side, seeking to cut her down at the knees. She will triumph. She will spill her blood and kill. That's what you do to enemies, that's the truth of the world.

It feels so much better than the conflict and uncertainty she felt with Fuu.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dyspathy on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe fails to dodge Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dyspathy, taking 20 Fatigue damage!

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet waits for a moment, then drops her outstretched fists.

She takes a single leap, landing with a snowy-thump near Eri's body, and quickly takes the glowing green gem in her red, armored hand, the egg so very precious and delicate in her cupped grip. Its light reflects in her shades, and Garnet looks down at Eri's body, at her clothes, again, as all those nights ago, seeming like a normal girl. Her attention is diverted by the flash of Kyouko and Sayaka's battle, and her hand closes over the soul gem, but she stays where she is, not absconding with it, but seeing who stands from an highly emotionally charged conflict between Red and Blue Puella. Is there a familiar feeling in their collision? Maybe. She'll check later...

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Eri falls, and Kasagami notices. The young woman notes that Utena too has fallen! But she doesn't see too much blood, and she thinks there's bleeding. As much as she'd like, she can't exactly go rushing for the pinkette.

Worst still, Garnet is reaching over for something of Eri's! Kasagami is still new to 'Puella Magi Are A Thing', and so a soul gem is an unknown quantity. But she sees an enemy kneeling over an ally. And so, with the last few bits of her flagging strength, she leaps over towards Garnet! She's basically trying to tackle Garnet to the ground, though more with pure speed and that burst of flying rose petals behind her than any kind of weight given Garnet's bulk.

Both the back of her blade and it's sheath are aimed for Garnet's neck as she tries to tackle the bigger Gem to the ground!

"BACK OFF!" She howls, trying to pin down the Gem!

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Student Council Approved Tackle on Garnet.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Garnet narrowly braces Kasagami Araki's Student Council Approved Tackle, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!

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

So many things race at the back of Mami Tomoe's thoughts at the moment, from the feeling of that awful attack earlier to the certainty that if she missteps here, she could join the dead herself.

Even in this frigid, awful version of Shinjuku, that's a very motivating certainty for Mami.

The cold has seeped right into Mami's bones, like her skin is getting frigid temperatures from either side by now. The icy wind stings her face, her fingers, that were already stiff when warmed by the action of her rifles and now have none of that going for them. Frost still clings to golden curls, but Mami's eyes are anything but frozen; dull, dull like the flower pin on her hat, but not frozen. She turns her head and sees Mikoto charging at her, Sailor Pluto no longer in sight. Mami takes in a sharp breath and starts readying to move--

She slips, and Mikoto's sword is all too eager to meet her on her way down. "Aaah--" Mami starts to scream again, cuts it off tumbling to the side and to the ground, rolling with her momentum and leaving fresh blood on the snow, deep gashes in both of her legs that combined with the snow getting into them are debilitatingly painful. There's a hiss as she tries to stand and can only sit up in the moment.

It would be nice to make a speech, or some good final words, but none of them come to mind she could say fast enough. Mami lets action speak for her; she conjures one rifle, fires with both hands, throws it away, conjures another, fires, throws it away, teeth gritted and eyes wide as she spends magic she already decided she didn't /have/ to try to drive Mikoto back. The shots are for her arms, her legs, and her center, trying to shoot around the gigantic sword to slow Mikoto down.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Flourish on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

It's not the first time that Garnet has been... bemused by Kasagami's behavior, but tonight there's no time for that. Kasagami hurls herself at Garnet and hits her with a satisfying thump, but after Eri's vine attack especially, Garnet has a significant size and bulk difference, being perhaps, several, several weight classes above the disciplinarian. Garnet moves just enough to keep Kasagami's blade away from her neck and use the momentum to the tackle to bump her off with her shoulder.

She looks down at Kasa, and quickly, before the duelist can redouble attack, speaks: "Look around you, everyone, at the reality of war."

Garnet opens her hand and the green light of Eri's soul gem becomes visible, its light refracting in the fog and falling snow.

"A ceasefire. We all withdraw, and I return this gem to Eri."

"Everyone goes home, thinks carefully about tonight, and RE-thinks." "I have known war that has lasted for longer than you can imagine."

She pauses. "There are no good wars, no one wins." "Tonight we can." "Gather your wounded, and return home."

"When only I and one of you remain to witness, I will return the gem to Eri's body, and leave.

Let both her and Kyokou know the mercy shown to them, and may they, and everyone here, take the path that leads away from war, and for they especially, a path that enables them to live without killing the innocent. "

She pauses. "Those are the terms. Merry Christmas."

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

Sayaka has trapped Kyouko in with herself, but she didn't anticipate what else she'd be trapping herself in with. The hail of razors is not avoidable this time, as it was the last; they chip at her skin everywhere she goes. This hell-angel of rusty-looking red metal takes her toll over and over. Sayaka takes her as well, reaping as she goes, sometimes coming away with sparks and a slash of water, sometimes with blood.

The endless hacking combat between them is red with more than wet blade. This feels like a gate closing, a furious refusal on both sides to take one more step further towards one another, save in violence. Sayaka is groggy with it. She cannot stand it much longer.

"Hrrragh!" Sayaka plants her feet hard on one of the circles and drives herself into Kyouko, smashing both of them out of the hailstorm. As they collide with the ground she viciously drags her sword along Kyouko's back, tumbling free and losing her grip on the weapon. She pants raggedly, pushing up with her arms, then feeling one drop out from beneath her.

"Ahh... haaah," she wheezes, bringing out a grief seed. The one Eri let her take, out of a lingering sense of right and wrong. If Eri had fully converted to Kyouko's way of thinking already, she would have none.

She stares at Kyouko as some of the overflowing grief drains down, then lets out a gasp as her chest loosens. Pushing herself up, faintly wild eyed, she only half-understands Garnet's words. But she looks at her and she simply trusts, leaving it to her, willing to accept her solution because she's past those of her own. "Let's go," she croaks quietly. "Let's go!" she calls hoarsely. And she starts backing off into the drifts, eyes on Kyouko.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Garnet is like...well, a living bit of gemstone. A /lot/ of gemstone. She's shoved off, but the girl lands near Eri's body, sword at the ready once more. Petals float around it, ready to thrust forward at the slightest moment. Her mouth is a line.

"War...will only end when men don't have any more reason to fight. Or when someone strong enough stops it." One guess who she thinks that'll be. Still, a glance to the battle field. Kasagami doesn't budge. No, she's taking it on herself to care for Eri. Sweat drips down her brow, even as Sayaka's signaling a retreat.

"No objections here. Now drop the stone. I'll get her to safety. I think this has gone on long enough."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Blood spills on the snow, and Mikoto hollers, planting her foot in the ground to bring Miroku about for another swing. But Mami is quick, fighting for her life, and she brings a rifle up and fires.

Mikoto feels the pain first, as it catches her just off of her centre of mass, bullet biting through her overcoat and into her side. More blood spills on the snow. Mikoto staggers back.

Another bullet catches her, and blood spills from her outer thigh. They're expert shots even in their desperation, and Mikoto screams in pain. It's too late to leap away - she was too sluggish.

In that moment, the truth is clear: No way out. Gotta go through.

Mikoto charges.

A third shot catches at Mikoto's ribbons as she barrels towards Mami, the hot current as it skims across burning away her bindings. It's a little irony which Mikoto is too deep in berserkergang to appreciate.

Miroku comes down, crashing towards Mami's position in the snow. She's tired, she's slow, the remnants of the ribbons are still making it difficult. But she won't stop. She can't.

In the edge of her hearing, she hears words, but she's not registering them. Her world is Mami Tomoe.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dyspathy on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe fails to dodge Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dyspathy, taking 31 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Mami Tomoe is unable to keep fighting!
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5I0kn_SuaHI

In all the sturm and drang there really wasn't much to see. Not from her angle, at least.

A million little lights and glittering around her. The grand war of the fireflies and the fairies spraying sparks against each other's charges. Blue and silver tinsel surrounds her like seafoam.

Time seems to slow down, her every faculty poised on pressing out, pressing further. It seems to go well at first, to go as she feels that it should. She's fought and bled for years to scratch out everything she's got. Of course this..pretender..this dilettante.. should fall before her steel and her sinew.

Shouldn't she?

But then she never does. Sayaka has all of her endurance and maybe more. A part of her resents it. It feels unearned..and when Kyouko forsook her wish she inadvertently forsook her own comparable asset. She's had to fight to eke things out. As Sayaka herself observed, Kyouko bleeds..

The first vicious rush had been meant to end it all there, but that isn't what happened. The bloodwolf found herself in the rare circumstance of being out aggressed..when Sayaka crashes into her, slicing ribbons in strips flanking her spine, she feels a glimpse of the other steps of her own particular dance. Knives sprout from her hands, stabbing in weak and perfunctory thrusts. But she's demoralized. More and more it seems she's damned to this cycle with this girl.

Fallen in a heap, she reaches out both hands, fingers laced..a spear materializes between their empty space, her grip carrying her up to clumsy feet. Fishing a shaky hand into her raiment, she withdraws a pristine black crystal..a Grief Seed, cast over the gem resting at her breast bone. Her skin gets more color, her flesh hanging less gauntly off of her bones..

And she hears the ultimatum, recognizing it for what it was. And she flicks her head to Sayaka, staring hate into her soul.

"You called Eri a demon when she took a hostage to save me. Now here you are. Unlike her you won't have the..." A pause. Blood fills her lunchs for a moment, a thick gob of it retched out before she can continue. "..too shameless to care. You'll think it's...justified. Like all the rest. You could cut my head off..and believe it was my fault...you'll drown on all this red, sooner or later..Blueberry.."

Lastly, she stares at Garnet, imprinting the she-goliath into her memory. Her ragged demeanor and jagged voice carry no euphemisms nor softened angles. "If you try to leave with that I'll rip your limbs off one by one."

Pink Moon Stick has arrived.
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Wo Ist Die Kase https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6CS1nKFXCo

A flash of red polka dots on a black background. The sound of shattering storefront glass. The smell of hastily liberated cheese, borne away from the scene of the crime by tiny skittering legs.

Nobody notices any of this, because Shinjuku's a big place, and Pizzeria Uno is about ten blocks down and five blocks over.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

The snow... it finally bites. Sailor Pluto, cosmic guardian and eternal sentinel, keeper of the Keys of Time and of endless accumulated sorrows, feels vividly mortal.

The danger is no longer immediate, Mami Tomoe is thoroughly occupied. The bleeding senshi takes a moment to sweep her blurred vision across the battlefield. Many have fallen, some have fled, and a key few remain.

At the heart of all the action...

It's a watercolor of a magical girl battle, as altogether dreadful and lovely as one of Michiru's paintings. Light flares, clashes, explodes and dies.

A verdant glow that promises spring.

Bursts of pure azure, clean like light through glacial ice.

Sullen flares of rust that radiate and then jolt and fade.

It's just like fireworks, and it is /nothing at all/ like fireworks. Sailor Pluto does not close her eyes. She bears witness, as best she can through ragged vision.


She steels her throat against the awful queasiness of blood loss. Any pretense of forgetting the shattered hunk of unusable flesh that is her shoulder is gone, long gone. Knees quivering with the effort, Sailor Pluto places one boot in front of the other, dragging the tips through the snow. With her she carries a few fresh sorrows, but at least she carries them home. To her dear comrades.

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

Mami watches her second opponent stagger, scream, but there's a certainty in the pit of her stomach that tells her it won't be enough. She keeps firing for as long as she can anyway, still desperate, still hot with the fear of it and cold with the fatigue that's settled deep inside of her.

She thinks she hears words calling out from the rest of them as it happens. She thinks she hears Sayaka's voice. But maybe that's just imagination.

Mami tries to hurl herself out of the way as Mikoto crashes towards her, but can't make her injured legs go as quickly as she has to; it props her up for a brief moment, the effort, and Miroko comes down.

Mami's eyes go wider still for a moment, as red blossoms down her front. She tries to say something, her lips work, but then her eyes roll up and she falls to the side, legs crumpled beneath her in a manner that would be painful, if she were conscious.

She isn't. But she thought she heard Sayaka's voice. She doesn't know where Sailor Pluto ended up.

Mami just stays crumpled in the snow, eyes closed, heedless of the chill... and no longer much of a threat.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Miroku slices. Mami tries to get away - but she's too slow, too little, too late - blood drips down from the slice, and as Mami crumples, Mikoto's lips curl in a snarl. She watches her, for a moment, to make sure she doesn't get up again.

Her arms shake, slightly, from the exertion and the new pain. Exhaustion threatens to overwhelm her, even as the ribbons finish falling off of her arms. She sways.

Mami stays down.

Good. One enemy felled.

Mikoto doesn't want to raise her head, doesn't want to scan for her next target, but she must. She must, she must, there are enemies to fight, they'll kill her if she doesn't kill them, they'll...

... one is talking. Demanding they leave. The words make sense, retroactively - Sayaka calling the retreat, Garnet issuing terms. Kasagami standing vigil.

Her enemies are leaving.

Mikoto sways in the wind, lightheadedness overtaking her for a moment before she fiercely shakes her head. Even now, she knows what Garnet is holding - Eri's magical powers, the tools she needs to hunt Witches. If they're taken away... Eri will starve, won't she?

She can't endanger Eri like that. She loves Eri.

Mikoto screams in frustration, wordless and pained. She turns and runs through the snow, away from the battlefield.

There's nothing else she can do.