2017-11-25 - What Lies Beneath 12

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What Lies Beneath 12

Total chaos erupts when the dimensional quake created by Mimete's EZ-Bake Daimon experimentation draws four groups of magical girls to the Tomoe mansion: the Wolkenritter, who believe that draining Hotaru will complete the Book of Darkness; the Shepherds, who believe that killing her will save the world; the Chevaliers, who want to save her; and others, who want to know what's going on with the quake. Ultimately the Wolkenritter succeed at initiating a drain, but lose everything; the Shepherds have their worst fears confirmed; and the Chevaliers are forced to confront the reality that whatever she is, Hotaru Tomoe is certainly not just an innocent little girl.


Hotaru Tomoe, Signum, Vita, Shamal, Zafira, Kyouko Sakura, Haruka Tenoh, Kasagami Araki, Anthy Himemiya, Mami Tomoe, Lera Camry, Nanoha Takamachi, Usagi Tsukino, Garnet, Makoto Kino, Fuu Hououji, Ami Mizuno, Chibi-Usa Tsukino, Kaolinite


Tomoe Mansion, near Infinity Institute

OOC - IC Date:

11-25-2017 - 03-07-2015

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.


Earthquakes are all too common in Japan, so it isn't a huge deal when everything starts to move. It's over after a few scary seconds, and there will be a note on the nightly news about the unexpectedly high-magnitude.

But everyone in the magical girl community feels it on a much more profound level. There's a terrible sense of wrongness -- of something being torn, something jaggedly ripped.

There is a wound in the world. And it's getting worse.


Pinpointing the epicenter of the quake is not trivial, especially since, oddly enough, it didn't show up on any seismic sensors, so the usual university websites are of no avail. Tech-savvy girls can use social media to sort through #FeltATremor vs. #KnockedOver to get a sense of it; mystics can douse towards the center through any manner of techniques.

And, really, all anyone has to do is follow their heart. It just takes time. Time and a certain willingness to get hurt, to feel, sharply, the instability somewhere in outer Tokyo...

...in Tama...

The houses get nicer; this isn't a neighborhood outside of Yamanote because the people are poor. The wide open spaces are made more luxurious by high walls, wrought-iron gates.

A lake glitters in the distance.

A shadow falls across it -- the impossibly high spire of Infinity Institute, close enough to walk to, far enough to not absolutely dominate the street.


At that point it becomes obvious to Chevaliers and Shepherds and Wolkenritter which house is probably at the center of all this. They all have their reasons for keeping tabs on Hotaru Tomoe; be it murder or power or the prevention of either, anyone who's done their research knows that she lives around here. Her house is close to Infinity because it's also close to Tomoe Laboratories -- right around the back, in fact.

It's quite lovely. White walls and shining glass and an elaborate, well-tended garden. There's shrubbery, even a fountain. It isn't really just a residence; it's a mansion.

Its front door is under a fine portico. The door itself is huge and mahogany, beautifully carved.

It is also the wound. It's almost painful to look out, not with the eyes but with deeper senses. By the time anyone has arrived the wrongness has built to a breaking point; the surrounding area is under nauseatingly high pressure, ears popping and stomachs clenching.

But just as it becomes unbearable -- it ends. Like fog burning off the world, the pain stops, whatever was in flux stabilizes, whatever was open, closes.

Except, that is, for the door. It was very closed, impenetrably so. But now it's opening silently on its buttery hinges. It feels like smoke should come pouring out of the place, but only hallway light does.

Hallway light, and three bedraggled and exhausted-looking Sailor Senshi: Sailors Moon, Mercury and Jupiter look like they've just had an extremely long day. Mercury is holding Chibi-Usa, while Jupiter is carrying Hotaru, who despite being older and taller than her best friend, seems smaller. Maybe it's the black clothing, or the profound exhaustion on her features. It doesn't look like a restful time she's having, but the sort of unconsciousness brought on by a terrible ordeal.

They all emerge into the lovely early spring afternoon, to see...

OOC: Basically, the Wolkenritter, Chevaliers, Shepherds, and anyone else who took an interest in the dimensional quake, are all
gonna converge on this place at once (the senshi had a head start, got here first, resolved the quake issue, and are now coming
out from it). So, please pose your experience of the quake and your arrival!

OOC: For order purposes, please let Signum and Vita pose in first!

Kasagami and Anthy: Fuu, Garnet
Signum: Lera
Vita: Nanoha, Makoto
Kyouko and Uranus: Usagi and Mami

This assumes that characters on the left want bad things to happen to Hotaru, and characters on the right want to prevent that. If
you feel I've assigned you in error or otherwise need something moved around, please page me!

COMBAT: Vita transforms into Crimson Iron Rider!
<Pose Tracker> Signum [None] has posed.

The ground quaked, but not just the ground. The world itself trembled, in all of its ethereal beauty and complexity. In particular, it triggers somewhere else.

"You are certain?" Signum said to a dear friend. Then she nods once. "Understood."

Flash. Flare! The armored coat of renown and proof appears around the general of burning flame; Laevatein is charged in a trice; looking towards the heavens, Signum permits herself a moment to say, "How pleasant, for it to end before the spring does."

Then there is a magenta streak into the sky.


As the Sailors emerge from the house, wearied and spent, that magenta streak crosses through the heavens and comes down with a billowing cushion of air, as Signum's spells halt her swift transit and leave her hovering a foot or so above the ground. The last few inches are closed by common descent.

Laevatein is held at her side, drawn but not pointed at anyone. Her eyes flick momentarily over the Senshi. They focus on Jupiter, or perhaps her burden. But it is Jupiter to whom she speaks, without pretense or adornment.

"Surrender her," she tells Jupiter. "All of this will end, and much will be revealed."

Signum extends her free hand, stepping forward one pace, as if in expectation that this will in fact come to pass. Her eyes stay locked on Sailor Jupiter. (Her positioning of her weapon shifts - it is not raised, but it is inclined forwards, no doubt prepared to strike at a tackler from the front.)

"Hurry," Signum adds, as an imperative.

COMBAT: Signum has used Surrender Your ~~Pain~~ Hotaru Unto Me on Sailor Jupiter.
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter narrowly dodges Signum's Surrender Your ~~Pain~~ Hotaru Unto Me, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Signum is
<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

For Vita - the magical warrior Vita, the Cloud Knight of the Hammer, the Crimson Iron Rider - the feeling of the Firmament shuddering is not entirely new. The powers in which her masters have long dealt strike blows against the fabric of Creation with more frequency than she dares to recall, and it happens from time to time even in this world of low magic and hungry monsters.

The context is new.

Vita has a bluetooth-enabled six inch stick in one hand, arms pulled back, and as she swings, a terrible thing runs through her. Her shot goes wide. The Wii Sports Golf crowd showers her with pity.

Rather than fume as she might normally, she listens to a voice in her head, and then looks over her shoulder to where the voice originated, unspoken. "I'm goin' out," she declares, appropos of apparently nothing, as she pauses the game and reaches for her jacket.


A streak of crimson light, like an angry shooting star, rises up some distance behind the magenta. Signum gets there first; issues the warning.

Vita, by contrast, doesn't slow down. A red light surges down, and mere seconds after the word 'Hurry' leaves Signum's lips, the timer expires, in the form of Vita suddenly PLOWING into Sailor Jupiter and attempting to just...carry her off like a hawk carrying away her prey.

Or at least, carrying away the person who is in turn carrying her prey.

COMBAT: Vita transforms into Crimson Iron Rider!
COMBAT: Vita has used Iron Tackle on Sailor Jupiter.
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi tries to cover Sailor Jupiter for Vita's attack, Iron Tackle, but cannot get there in time!
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter perfectly braces Vita's Iron Tackle, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Brace!  Sailor Jupiter's Block
ability activates!  Sailor Jupiter's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a91ptz1W7gg&list=PLeogPTA03KQ_vl0v9G04dexcCkBxfed_3&index=19

A marble breaks upon Kyouko's brow, scattering glassy shards of soiled water along the contours of her forehead, throwing her eyes open like igniting pilot lights. She'd fallen asleep in a mid afternoon nap with her arms tightly crossed, and awakens in the same posture, her muscles sore from hours spent straining against their simple knot.

The sewers rumble around her, clanging and shifting in deeply threaded echoes like the iron lung of the world wheezing with sharp, tight breaths. Above her rusted cot a pipe has shifted loose, dribbling condensation down upon her like the spittle of a hungry wolf.

Something is stirring. Something is amiss.

Shoving herself to her feet, her brow tightens as her limbs loosen, unfurling from her like petals parting from a blooming bud. Glaring up at the ceiling, at the pipe, at the world above the metal and the concrete and the filmy creases of grime and sewer sweat, she stretches her arms by smashing her fists into the pipe in one two succession, pounding it shut as flakes of rust fall down along what makes for her mattress and her knuckles open like acorns underfoot.

She climbs, and her red dress blows around her legs as she hurls the manhole aside, an updraft whipping her on from the depths. Squinting as her eyes adjust to the sunlight, she spits into the gravel and cracks her knuckles before a spear comes to her grip, carrying her skewer parallel to the ground and walking without an ounce of hospitality in her gait.

Picking out a slender soul from a sea of interchangable mundanity, there is no mistaking lanky Haruka Tenoh, alone for once, charting her own course against the chop. Sticking her fingers into her mouth, Kyouko blows as loud as a whistle, her gaze snapped to Haruka, her head cocking forward the moment the blonde spots her.

The beasts of the Tokyo jungle have taken note. Whether birds or bicyclists or pets or pedestrians, it seems most anything with ancestors has the instinct to recognize possible danger, and to shy away from it. It is simple enough for her to walk against their current. Most passers by have the sense to skirt around the spearmaiden stalking up against the grain. Those that fail to notice are cast aside with a shove of her shoulders or a stern shift from her shaft. She doesn't say anything, nor look at anyone. She only comes further.

Kyouko knows where she is heading before she lays eyes on it. She suspects as much when she gets a bead on the epicenter, and the closer she draws the less uncertain she feels. Her lip curls back in an unthinking snarl for a moment before her expression forswears all notable feature beyond its sheer neutrality. In a low voice meant for the Outer Senshi, her voice is wound and coiled.

"Maybe this one'll take."

Planting her feet along the world-killer's street, spears sprout along either side of her like bamboo shoots, ripe for plucking should she call for their aid. They don't have to wait long.

The otherworldly pressure recedes from her ears, electrical impulses flickering along her nervous system as she processes the change, and a door opens for three girls in sailor uniforms, looking like molting birds. Leaning forward a little, her expression a mask, she wrenches a lance free from the ground, winding her arm back and hurtling it forward. Her aim is low to the ground, and her spear strikes pavement at a sharply acute angle not far from the inner senshi's feet, but the impact is part of its journey. Rather than clattering to the ground, the multijointed length reveals a chainlinked seam, snapping up into the air to thread between Sailor Moon's legs. Reaching forward with an open palm, Kyouko shuts her hand into a fist, hauling back on her arm like a fisherman bringing in a catch. Following the motion, her spear whips back in a half circle, whistling quietly as it hurtles towards Sailor Moon's back.

COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura transforms into Puella Magi Kyouko!
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has used Masterstroke on Sailor Moon.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe covers Sailor Moon for Kyouko Sakura's attack, Masterstroke, taking it upon herself instead!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe fails to dodge Kyouko Sakura's Masterstroke, taking 36 Fatigue damage!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Uranus [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Tenoh Tower shudders. At its bottom floor, windows rattle, but do not crack; it's a new complex and very much up to earthquake code. At its penthouse, far up in the sky, cabinets clatter softly, and a sports watch drops from the counter, cracking on the marble floor. A bottle of Yamazaki whiskey clatters along a glass end table, its punt slowly extending over the edge as it begins to tilt.

As she walks by, Haruka Tenoh catches the whiskey bottle without a downward glance, snatching it with a dip of a knee as she makes her deliberate way over to the window. She wasn't planning on drinking right now, but the wind is nothing if not impulsive. Snagging a tumbler between two fingers as she goes, Haruka stops by the window and stares out towards Infinity Institute. Wearing one of her blue dress shirts over her shoulders, otherwise clad in jeans and a tank top, she is reflected back to herself, and behind that image the massive black building sways unnaturally. It is a subtle motion, in one sense, but nothing an entire building does can be truly subtle. Haruka's blue eyes narrow.

"Drop," she whispers, on a whim.

Infinity sways back the other way.

"Come on," she challenges.

Infinity grows still.

Haruka takes a sip of whiskey.

The earth shudders one last time, and is calm again.

Rolling one shoulder, Haruka turns, takes a pull from her tumbler, and drags the dress shirt from her muscular shoulders as she strides towards the door.

  • * *

The whistle cuts through street noise and inner thoughts alike, and Haruka snaps his gaze to follow it. Kyouko's long mane is instantly recognizable, and Haruka smiles ruefully when he sees it. As he walks to join her, he withdraws a transformation wand from his pocket. If she's going to walk there flag flying, so will he.

When they arrive at the Tomoe residence, Sailor Uranus stands a half pace behind on Kyouko's flank. "Of course," she says grimly, staring at the house. It is then that the last people she wanted to see right now show up.

"Sakura-san," Uranus says. "If the Shepherds are truly with us on this... now would be a good time."

Battle erupts, the Wolkenritter Vita slamming into the iron Sailor Jupiter, who stands firm. Signum's demand for surrender has Sailor Uranus as a frowning audience. "This is our chance," she tells Kyouko. "They may spit at us," the Wolkenritter, she means, "but so long as they turn their weapons on the girl..." The corner of her lip pulls up in dark satisfaction. "They are our allies all the same."

As Kyouko charges Sailor Moon, Mami Tomoe shows herself to take the blow, and grievous it is. With a savage shout, Uranus pours on speed and heaves herself into the air, leaping right over both Puella Magi. Sailor Moon's neckscarf is her first handhold, then her arm, and if she gets her leverage, Sailor Uranus will slam her to the side, into the doorframe.

"You were not given this power," she hisses, "to become a shield for apocalypse."

COMBAT: Sailor Uranus has used Elegant Throw on Sailor Moon.
COMBAT: Sailor Moon fails to dodge Sailor Uranus's Elegant Throw, taking 33 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Moon is Quipped!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Tears splatter to the wooden face of the Araki Estate Dojo. But before Kasagami Araki can truly offer everything else that she feels with the small miracle before her, the shaking starts. Her phone sounds before she feels it beneath her boots, and she stands up. A name she knows gets her to stand. That pure wrongness hits Kasagami straight in the chest, and she almost collapses as she answers the text. The beautiful sword in her hand is clenched in a certain hand, as her free arm hauls the Bride over her shoulder.

"Well timed, Anthy! Come my Servant, my Sheath! Your Liege goes to battle! Steel yourself!" Offers Kasagami, and then she leaps out from the door, sword slashing. There's a shattering of wood as she leaps to the sky with magical girl power. A coat of sable is upon her back, heraldry on it of a golden hawk and crossed longswords. On her ears, are a pair of dark red crowns. Her hair is struck through entirely of red. This is no mere streaks as before. Awake with pure mystical energy of the Engaged, she's a sight to behold as she rushes from rooftop to rooftop.

Somewhere during the rush, she puts the Sword of Dios in her teeth. She won't risk the Bride on her back, no matter what. Leaping over those high walls, she lands on a skid, right before the front doors. Her good arm gently buffets Anthy, pressing a shoulder, and generally acting like a cushion as she makes a dramatic entrance and skid onto the grounds.

She lets Anthy down like a Lady, and urges her behind her. A SWIPT of the Sword of Dios, and she eyes the situation.

She whispers back. "Support me, Anthy. But a King should die before her subjects. So don't hesitate to run away if I somehow fail here, mmm?" A smile, almost warm. Almost.

The Tomoe Estate. She's been around here, once. With Pluto. The thought has both eyes focusing. If they can just kill that girl! Then maybe Pluto will be free to...

Grin. It's utterly savage.

Most of the Senshi she doesn't know, but one amongst them she recognizes. Sailor Moon has her 'tch'ing heavily. She swallows, and steps just a little closer to Anthy. But she spies Hotaru, their long-desired burden on Jupiter. The duty of the Outer Senshi, and the reason her heart hangs so heavy. Signum beats the Engaged to the punch, however. That burning streak of a woman only seems to make this particular Engaged let out an angry sigh. She snaps her fingers, and her voice is the utmost reluctant.

"I'm going out on a limb here, and guessing you're all Sailor Senshi! How about doing what she says, and just surrending that kid over to us, huh?" One finger finds the hilt of the Sword of Dios, and spins it in place, a whirling blender before her. Not particularly a threat, but some part of Kasagami prays they will back off.

She knows the opposite. Particularly as she spies the red streak in the sky that falls down towards Jupiter and Hotaru. She waits until the impact, and then! She's suddenly gone.

The Engaged moves with a speed that leaves afterimages of Kasagami behind. She crosses an impossible distance, and her grand sword, lengthened as it is in her hand? is all but gently thrust towards the dark haired girl that would threaten the world, and of course, force one of her beloved Queens to such a horrible Duty.

"Nevermind. Nothing personal, but you won't be stealing my Kingdom, or causing agony to my Queen any longer!" Howls Kasagami!

She of course eyes Uranus as she arrives. Kyouko as well, and she knows her fellow Shepherds are here. Truly, the battle is joined.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Revolutionary Stab on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Garnet tries to cover Hotaru Tomoe for Kasagami Araki's attack, Revolutionary Stab, but cannot get there in time!
COMBAT: Garnet covers Hotaru Tomoe for Kasagami Araki's attack, Revolutionary Stab, taking it upon herself instead!
COMBAT: Garnet fails to brace Kasagami Araki's Revolutionary Stab, taking 17 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Voluminous swaths of skirt material bunch and gather as the Rose Bride crouches by her Engaged. Red pools beneath her, her gown and its reflection in the glossy finish of the dojo floor. Gold gleams in sharp metal points upon her purple curls.

The world blurs and tilts, rattling the Rose Bride. In its aftermath she shivers like the quake has taken root in her slight frame. "That was..." With eyes round and very green behind askew glasses lenses, she points her chin toward a window. Outside trees finish their swaying, but she still feels a tremble in the fabric of the world around them.

"This is," she corrects, "something big. Araki-sama..."

Her Engaged is welcome to see hope or fear or awe in the minute shifts of the Rose Bride's expression. It's like reading next week's weather in the stirring of bare branches overhead. Beneath her shifting mask, she feels a certain satisfaction with the afternoon's events and beneath that, a burrowing worry.

The empowered young woman interrupts her servant's musings by tossing her over-shoulder. The city passes with violent speed, and the Bride squeezes her eyes shut for the transit. She shivers just a bit as she's set down, and obeys readily enough to scoot behind the tall and imposing Kasagami Araki. The battlefield is already terrifying with clashing power.

"Y-yes, Araki-sama." At first, the Rose Bride thinks she will stay close -- but then her Engaged moves with all speed away from her, leaving the girl in her bright red dress on the lawn of the girl they've come to kill. She watches with both fists over her mouth.

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

For an instant, Mami Tomoe is prepared to dismiss the quake. Just an instant, as she feels it normal, feels it like routine business... Before it becomes something else. Before the rest of it sinks into her senses, before the wrongness stops her where she stands in a dingy alley in Shibuya, Soul Gem in hand, eyes suddenly shifting towards a direction she couldn't have identified before she looked. ...Her drills shift in an unseen breeze, her uniform shifting in the same. ...She hasn't gone home to change yet, obviously, the golden gem in her palm all she needs for this afternoon. Or so she imagined. Because...

Something is wrong, and Mami knows better than to ignore that kind of feeling. She's learned, by painful experience. So she seeks that wound.


Mami is not especially tech-savvy, as girls her age go; adequate, but not enough. But searching for wrongness is the focal point of her life, it seems more often than not. She takes more of the mystic approach, in that respect, following her heart--no, following her soul. She can't seek it out like she can a Witch, but her time as a magical girl is enough...

Golden light and the scent of flowers are all that remains in that alley as Mami Tomoe transforms and takes to the rooftops. She will not stay transformed the entire trip; she has a train to catch in the right direction, after all, feeling and hunting at each stop.

-=-=-Here in Tama, it is lovely; wide, and open... and familiar to Mami from her younger years, the sort of environs that don't cram someone into the city quite so close. She does not often find reason to go to Infinity Institute, with how often she ducks out of Sister Schools programs, but its tower is easily familiar. She sees it. ...She sees the lack. And she recognizes a house she's gone by numerous times, over and over to check on the safety of its occupant, to check for the opportunity in case one of her counterparts was here.


Kyouko Sakura's devastating weaponry strikes pavement hard, and as it snaps towards Sailor Moon's legs, Kyouko on the assault, the metal glints--but not silver. Abrubtly there is a brilliant flash of gold, and from across the street, past a streetlamp, the spin of ribbon. Sailor Moon abrubtly spins in place, a pair of black-gloved hands--fingers exposed--placed about her arms, turning her out of the way as the whistling spear instead gashes against Mami Tomoe's side, right through black fabric. Regardless, her white sleeves billow with the movement, her honey eyes narrowing at her onetime partner.

"Sakura-san," she says, voice tight with something more than just the by-now habitual effort of concealing pain. ...A clear eye can see the way it affects her posture until she fixes her stance, the way it actually gets a sight of reaction from her, the way she holds a little too tightly to Sailor Moon's arms--but as she moves to let go, Sailor Uranus darts into action, and Mami watches her take hold of the other girl with her awful shout. She hears that hiss all right, and her eyes set between Uranus and Kyouko before she starts back, spinning already into action. Her fingerless gloves are a window, her perfect white sleeves billowy, the yellow of her attire crisp. Her hat is just so, her hatpin gleaming in the light with golden magic as a few sparkles trail off of the long-barreled rifle she's suddenly holding in one hand, finger near but not on the trigger. Its silver filigree makes it a beautiful weapon, the internal of it gently spiralled. There's an instant as it hangs on the air.

"Not today," she says, and fires on Kyouko, letting the recoil push her backwards where she whirls to draw another from the air, pirouette into the air, another appearing from her sleeve, two more whirling out--one from where the gash at her side rests, sparkling as she keeps firing.

Over the din, "Sailor Moon! Be careful!"

She doesn't have time, with these two before her, to fully process the things she sees on the battlefield, Kasagami with her red-dressed companion, the Wolkenritter operating as a vice on her heart. There is too much here.

She puts it aside, for the dance.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Flourish on Kyouko Sakura.
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The profound sense of wrongness was enough to get Lera airborne. The earthquake wasn't, though it unnerves her even still. Her home on Midchilda was in a tectonically quiet part of the planet. Japan was something else entirely.

And it took time to find out where it came from. Lera scanned social media; Soaring Sky did magical scams to try to get a sense of where it was. As they fly through the air, light trails after her, a zig-zag of red-orange, as she comes rushing down towards the quite lovely house from above. Her amber eyes narrow, slowly, and she clutches Soaring Sky tight in her hand.

"Any idea what could be causing it?" she asks Sky.

<A very good one. Look below.>

Amber eyes narrow. "I see them."

The Wolkenritter rush the Sailor Senshi -- with, Lera realizes with a start, allies. Her eyes widen at seeing Sailor Uranus, Kyouko Sakura, Kasagami Araki, and a violet-haired girl that she has never met before. She gasps, sharply. A cry of protest, however, isn't possible. Lera isn't coming from the side -- she isn't blitzing down the street, nor is she running in at an angle. She drops down from the air. She pierces through a low-lying cloud, her sword swinging back in two hands, and a trail of the cloud catches the edge of the blade and is dragged with it.

She comes crashing down towards the earth with a pinpoint precision honed over the last year. Her partner prepares the complex set of spells that channels her Barrier Jacket's protective energies to concentrate on her feet and legs, reinforcing those for an impact that is typically inadvisable.

True to form, Lera does it anyways. She comes crashing down in a blur of green, orange, and searing gold that clips the edge of the overhang, then lands right

in front

of Signum.

Lera screams, wordlessly, as she halts a meteoric drop to put herself between the Cloud Knight and the Sailor Senshi. Light flashes up brilliantly from her boots, as she slams into the concrete floor of Tomeoe household porch hard enough to leave a crater. And her sword comes down, as a few chips of wood fly away, with the momentum of that terrific drop behind her strike.


COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Inferno Slasher on Signum.
<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Earlier, even after the sailor guardians made their way through a river, forest, mountain and everything else imaginable they still managed to defeat a cheating daimon. Even if it seemed like a close fight, Sailor Mercury is glad to they all made it through, undeniably with the help of Hotaru and Chibi-Usa.

After some words of comfort and praise between the girls and the guardians, Chibi-Usa collapses. She is quickly scooped up by Mercury but the young girl is restless and it seems like she is uncomfortable. Mercury does her best to hold her close and cradle her, much like a parent would.

Emerging from Hotaru's house they are confronted by the other hostile magical girls and Mercury's immediate concern is for Hotaru and Chibi-Usa as she looks to the other Sailor Guardians, "We need to get Chibi-Usa away from here. I can take her but please be careful. I know you can handle this." Her eyes sparkle with love and concern for her friends and then she slips away with her charge.

~Elsewhere in Tokyo~

Nanoha is enjoying a day off from school this Saturday. She is in the back room of the Midori-ya sprawled out on a small, blue couch. In front of her are magazines, catalogs and recipe books. The reasons for this being that not only is her birthday in a week but also white day is coming up. She had something very special planned for her friends but wanted even more ideas to make it the best day ever.

As she turns page after page, she hums a tuneless song to herself. It's quiet back here, although she can hear the hustle from just outside the door of her family and their employees, as well as the low conversation of the patrons in the restaraunt.

And then... the world begins to shake.

Nanoha quickly braces herself. She has been in earthquakes before but it still was an uncomfortable experience. People outside the door are crying out in alarm and surprise and she hears a few dishes break just as a bookcase in the office falls over sraying books everywhere and narrowly missing the couch where she is laying.

Climbing over the books and broken bookcase with her heart racing, Nanoha peers outside the door. Everyone seems to be okay but she has a horrible feeling inside. One that she cannot explain and one that makes her realize that something was different about this earthquake and after checking on her family, Nanoha manages to slip away from the crowd.

Once outside she hears a familiar voice, <'Nanoha it's Yuuno. Did you feel that? There was a large magical disturbance near Infinity. I think you should head that way. I will meet you soon.'> After giving her the exact address, Yuuno's voice cuts out and Nanoha ducks out of sight of the still recovering civilians and transforms in to her barrier jacket, Raising Heart in hand. It's easier to cover ground when she is not actually on the ground so she takes to the air. The tiny wings on her shoes making it easy to move quickly.

It's not hard for her to find the address as Raising Heart chimes in, <Hostile entities detected. Caution Master!> Even as she is warned, Nanoha sees the Wolkenritter attacking Jupiter, specifically she immediately notices the smallest Knight and she quickly flies closer to try and intervene. Moving at an impressive speed for the white mage, she lands, only seconds too late.

Nanoha, nevertheless, stands defensively in front of Jupiter, her weapon at the ready as she notices Hotaru with the other guardians. "We are not going to let you take her!" From her words, it's clear Nanoha believes that she already knows why they are here there. She doesn't address the Sailor Guardians but at least recognized Sailor Moon. Her focus turns to Vita.

Raising Heart shines and changes and Nanoha lifts it up. <Ready Master!>

Nanoha calls out. "You cannot have her!" Then an aura of strong energy flows outward from her weapon towards Vita. For just a moment, Nanoha remembers their last battle and the outcome of that. The idea of it only fills her with more determination and she has promises to keep. She cares about Hotaru and wants to do her best to protect her even if that means willingly putting herself in harms way.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Listen...to...me! on Vita.
COMBAT: Signum narrowly dodges Lera Camry's Inferno Slasher, taking 33 Fatigue damage!  Lera Camry is Psyched!  Signum's Fade
ability activates!  Signum's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

It's a lovely Spring Afternoon. Birds are singing, flowers are blooming... on days like this you'd think they'd be having a fine time. Unfortunately she just emerged from a shifting dimensionscape capped off by duel against a cheating game Daimon.

Sailor Moon's trademark odangos are matted and covered by grit alternatively, her Fuku stained and and scarred like she'd just come off of an extreme survival hike.

A little breathless still - the light of the sun is more harsh than the sparkling lights of the otherworldly casino. It blinds for a few seconds, the girl shielding her eyes with the same hand holding the Spiral Moon Heart Rod.

And her vision gains definition to see well. Everyone. - "Um - so you all felt that huh?" Moon says to the crowd, then looks sidelong to the other Senshi, "A-Awkward."

Before her stance shifts, and she raises a finger like she's going to try some gambit - but then Signum announces the demand to surrender her to Jupiter. And as scared as she is of Signum, she still takes a step to Jupiter's flank, as if she were ringing in protectively around her fellow Senshi and the girl in her care.

"She's had a long day." Moon says in a sotto voce, "We're not about to let you - or anyone make it a worse one for her."

A red streak barrels down from the sky at that moment, and with a gasp, Sailor Moon twists as if she were reflexively bringing to bear some attack on the Wolkenritter.

The notice of several allies in the crowd lightens her spirits some - but the odds - the odds still aren't great. Even Sailor Moon's mind can easily grasp how desperate and terrible this fight will be if they want to keep Hotaru and all of her friends safe.

And then comes a second scarlet blur, surprising in it's force. And Moon stumbles backwards - to whatever small credit against the fighting savage flurry of Kyouko's spearwork, she at least has her rod brought to bear in the right direction in time.

But that would hardly be enough if not for hands spinning her out of the way. Caught breathless in the moment she only finds her voice a second later after she finds her footing back, "Mami-chan!"

It's both relief, and dismay. Her momentary succor coming at the expense of the veteran's pain as Moon is thrust out of the way, and held for a moment before being reliefed. Even knowing she can handle herself something quavers in her voice as she sees the gash at Mami's flank and says, "Be careful."

Which is the exact moment in which she feels the wind - that she still doesn't expect what happens next is telling. Her scarf by the leaping Senshi - then her arm. Even that grip is familiar but she has no time to even process that familiarity. And before she knows what's happening she's hefted up and over and slammed into the white door frame of the lovely white house. Causing even it's heavy wood to splinter with an audible crack.

Seeing stars immediately in her sprawl of limbs, an arm tries to grip the side of the house - tries, but she finds herself on her backside amidst the debris.

Seeing Uranus in double, the shock is still visible in the swimming vision of her eyes. But that fades away to something between pain and sorrow within moments. By now, she can't truly be shocked by Uranus' resolve.

Even if her eyes are wet from the pain, "Hotaru-chan..." It sounds feeble at first, but there's growing strength there, "... isn't the apocalypse! She's a good girl, who just gave so much to try to save us when we were in trouble!"

From her sprawled position, Sailor Moon puts her hands beneath her, gropes to get up but doesn't quite make it - "Whatever you think will happen - you'll never convince me she'd choose to destroy the world!"

Her eyes are a little wet, but her lips are drawn in a thin line. Even pained - the prospect of fighting her terrifying - she still finds the courage to say, "I won't let you hurt her - no matter what."

COMBAT: Sailor Moon has used Tearful Resolve on Sailor Uranus.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura narrowly braces Mami Tomoe's Tiro Flourish, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Kyouko Sakura's Block ability
activates!  Kyouko Sakura's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Sailor Uranus narrowly braces Sailor Moon's Tearful Resolve, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Vita perfectly dodges Nanoha Takamachi's Listen...to...me!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5zTNr11kk8&list=PLeogPTA03KQ_vl0v9G04dexcCkBxfed_3&index=4

Kyouko stares impassively as Mami Tomoe bursts onto the scene, catching a knife that wasn't meant for her..but she bleeds just as well all the same. Nodding to Uranus with a nearly imperceptible motion, she calmly fishes a flip phone from her pocket, snapping it open with a whip of her wrist, navigating its menus without glancing towards its incandescence. There isn't a word in the group text that she sends off. Only a pin on a map, and a pair of parenthetical numbers.

Shehrugging it back into her attire, Kyouko hauls another spear loose, and casually lopes towards the center of the action. She nods to Mami, too, a little more broadly so that her old teacher can see. It hurts her too, all of this. But the numbness in her heart billows in a thick fog, and amply smothers any sense of humane restraint.

"'lo, Mami-chan."

She doesn't blink when the long barreled rifle weeps a silvery tear for what's become of it all. Rallying the muscles of her arm like a field marshall deploying her troops, her spear snaps up to blunt the bullet's force. Her arm snaps back as metal rings upon metal, an ear-piercing screech pulsing out for just a moment. Pain shoots along her limb, but she succeeds in her aim to disrupt Mami's own.

The moment she feels the impact, she surges forward, bending low to the ground and grasping her lance so hard that her knuckles turn white. Mami's second shot grazes her ankle, leaving a mark of her bloody passing, but accomplishing little else, as her third misses her entirely. Her boots click against the ground like a typewriter clacks, but she doesn't move to her old friend.

Surging towards the crumpled Senshi with her speartip raised like a charging rhino, Kyouko flashes her arm out from stomach height, slinging her javelin from the hip to try to catch the flat footed girl further unawares. Juking left with the same motion, then zagging right, spears barely half formed in her hands zip towards Usagi like slung stones. In this moment, too, her voice is steady and dispassionate, waiting until she draws close to the crumpled guardian before she addresses her.

"You think it's about choice? You'll learn."

Sprinting towards Usagi now, Kyouko leaps up into a backflip, her feet climbing the mansion's outer wall for a step a piece as she follows through on her aerial inversion. For a moment, she's in the air, her backflip nearly completed, facing down towards Usagi, spreading her arms and billowing with dozens of tiny blades exploding out in a wave of shrapnel, a magical claymore detonated in the kindly girl's face.

COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has used Pincushion on Sailor Moon.
<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

A cry of pain erupts as Kasagami's sword strikes towards Hotaru Tomoe but the cry isn't hers. A large figure stands between the two now, and the sword slashes across the inside of a red bicep, as it catches the blade in its journey, but sustains a cut as her arm runs along the blade's edge.

It's a clumsy motion, if one was observing from the very beginning with a quick eye, the Gem tried to punch the blade away with her gauntlets and missed the opportunity, and now has to improvise.

Sword held in her arm, the Gem pulses with magic, sending electricity through the blade with intention to strike its wielder!

COMBAT: Garnet has used Geofeedback! on Kasagami Araki.
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Jupiter steps out the front door of the Tomoe mansion, Hotaru carried on one arm like a hip kitten, and pauses when she sees the assembled magical girls on the front lawn. In particular, her eyes rest on the Wolkenritter, which is hard not to do since they make themselves very obvious, on account of Signum pointing a sword at her and demanding she hand over Hotaru, and Kasagami following up with a dramatic entrance and a co-demand.

Jupiter's eyes narrow dangerously.

"No," she tells Signum, Kasagami, and all of their allies, short and sweet.

She glances over at Sailor Moon as she edges in closer to Jupiter to protect Hotaru, and then at Sailor Mercury when she whispers about taking Chibiusa somewhere safe. "Okay. We don't want Chibiusa-chan getting caught up in all this. We'll leave her to you, Mercury!" She'd book it with Hotaru in tow, but the new arrivals have legit gotten the drop on them; she doesn't think she'll be able to escape Signum with her right there.

Fend them off, though? That's another story.

Where's Vita, though? Jupiter usually doesn't see Signum without her. And, frankly, she owes the little girl a few punches in the face for the time Vita sapped her energy, leaving her unable to transform for a week. She doesn't have to wonder long, though. There's a red streak of light in the sky, and then Vita is ZOOMing towards her, aiming to snatch her and Hotaru up and drive her up into the sky. Nanoha attempts to get the jump on her, but she's not fast enough; however, her attempted interference does slow Vita down a tiny bit--just enough for Jupiter to brace herself.

So when Vita makes it to her and attempts to snatch her and Hotaru up, Jupiter outright *slaps* her hands away, as if chastising a naughty child out to sneak a slice of pie before dinner. Nanoha, meanwhile, lands in between her and Vita, providing a bit of extra defense. Kasagami straight-up attempts to stab Hotaru while she's still in Jupiter's arms, but Garnet straight-up takes the hit for Hotaru. "Thanks, Garnet!" Jupiter shouts.

Meanwhile Kyouko attacks Sailor Moon and Mami comes to her aid, while Uranus (URANUS!!!!) goes after Sailor Moon, slamming her into the doorway. Seeing it incenses Jupiter, but she keeps her cool enough to realize Hotaru is the priority--and that Sailor Moon's tougher, FAR tougher, than Uranus gives her credit. "You tell her, Sailor Moon!" she calls. "I'll take care of Hotaru-chan--you give her what for!" A beat. "...But let's get out on the lawn before Hotaru-chan's house gets wrecked!"

Following her own advice, Jupiter charges out of the mansion, not wanting to invite collateral damage inside, because these people will absolutely pursue her and Hotaru no matter where they are, and while Nanoha and Garnet were good enough to help defend the two of them, Jupiter doesn't want Hotaru's home getting destroyed in the process. As Sailor Moon said: Hotaru's had a bad enough day already so far. As she does, she calls down a lightning bolt from the heavens into the rod in her tiara. While there's plenty of enemies to choose from, she's got a bone to pick with Vita in particular. ...like, in *particular* in particular. She has a bone to pick with lots of people here!

"HaaaaAAAA!" she roars, skidding to a halt, one arm still cradling Hotaru like she's her own child, the other arm gripping a thunderbolt like the ancient god Zeus himself. It crackles with might and resolve, reflecting these same things in Sailor Jupiter's green eyes, for an instant. One can see easily why she's known as the Soldier of Protection, witnessing this dichotomy.

Then: "JUPITER THUNDERBOLT!!" she roars, and hurls her attack like a javelin right for Vita's center mass.

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

By this point in her life, Fuu Hououji is used to earthquakes and hardly needs to think about how to react to them. She checks her surroundings, makes herself safer if she needs to (getting away from something that could fall over or off of a shelf), rides it out if it's nothing major. This felt rather noticeable, though, and as the tremor subsides, she's already checking her phone. Partly the Infinity earthquake notification site, partly Twitter, partly news ...

She's posted her own status (@phoenixwind: "Well, that was a little exciting. #FeltATremor") before she realizes what she ISN'T seeing on her Twitter feed, or anywhere else: normally, the government would put something up about where the epicenter was and how strong the quake was. There's no denying that an earthquake just happened; she felt it, so did hundreds - or more likely, thousands, probably tens or hundreds of thousands - across the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area, and she can see where some of her books and game cases have slid around on their shelves from the jostling. But the computers which are tasked with monitoring and reporting earthquakes ignored it?

... And that's when she realizes that her stomach hasn't quite settled back down from the instant when the room started quivering. Which is the moment when she makes sure her glove-jewel is in her pocket, puts her computer into Sleep mode, and heads out. A moment's delay to make sure her family and the rest of the house are all right, and then she's out the door ...

She's already headed in the general direction of Infinity Institute when Garnet texts her with the details of where they're headed - whoever 'they' boils down to in total. But it's as the Magic Knight of Wind approaches the Tomoe house that she realizes that not everyone converging on the residence is doing so out of concern for the inhabitants - or if they are, then it's not all *friendly* concern by a long shot. Signum and Vita launching an assault, Sailor Uranus *manhandling* Sailor Moon, the red-haired Puella Magi with the spear ... and others, rallying to protect the other Sailors and the two helpless girls.

And Kasagami Araki, whose sword is aimed to impale Hotaru Tomoe herself.

Garnet is there faster than the Wind Knight can reach either of them - but even if the Wind Knight had been closer or faster, there would still be a single heartbeat's hesitation. She promised to somebody that she would not raise blade, bow, or spell against a fellow magical girl, and while that promise hasn't gone unbesmirched, she remembers it. The person she made that promise *to* hasn't been seen in Tokyo for a long time, but that doesn't free her from it.

But if she hides behind that promise now, then innocents are all too likely to die. With that thought, she stops hesitating.

"I'm truly sorry, Kasagami-san," the Wind Knight says quietly as she lands from her last leap and approaches on foot, currently empty-handed. "I would give much to avoid this ... but I will not give an innocent life into your hands, that your sword may take her life. We magical girls are called to protect - that is the core of what I believe. If I can dissuade you without force, I would deeply prefer to send you on your way without additional unnecessary injury. If you will not be persuaded by words ..."

She really, *really* doesn't want to finish that sentence.

COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter has used Jupiter Thunderbolt on Vita.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Gentle Chiding on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Sailor Moon narrowly counters Kyouko Sakura's Pincushion, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Moon is Quipped!  Sailor Moon's
Reverse ability activates!  Sailor Moon's Tactician ability activates!  Cripple, Exhausted, and Stagger applied to Sailor Moon!
COMBAT: Sailor Moon's counterattack, Spiralling Heart Rod, partially gets through, doing 18 Fatigue damage to Kyouko Sakura!
COMBAT: Vita fails to brace Sailor Jupiter's Jupiter Thunderbolt, taking 24 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki narrowly braces Garnet's Geofeedback!, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Kasagami Araki's Parry
ability activates!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki narrowly braces Fuu Hououji's Gentle Chiding, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki is Quipped!
Kasagami Araki's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Vita races in seconds ahead of Nanoha, but the momentary distraction of calculating her reaction to it gives time for Jupiter to get herself ready, and the Sailor Senshi smacks Vita's hands aside, sending the rocket girl smashing into the dirt. She probably skids on her face, which would be satisfying if she didn't whip back up with no apparent ill effect, swinging her hammer with obvious intent. "Fine. A fight it is," Vita spits. Her eyes cut to the side as the blast from Nanoha erupts, and Vita--


--is suddenly lit by twisting green wind magic before suddenly juking entirely to the side, faster than the eye can quite track. "It's you!" Vita spits out. She opens her mouth again, stammers, "Na...no?..." And then sputters out, "Nintendo Takoyaki!"

Maybe it's a strange bit of consideration that Vita does absolutely nothing to stop Jupiter from moving the venue, though her kindness is greeted by Jupiter blasting her directly in the core with a lightning blast, and the girl skids backward across the grass as her armored feet kick up dirt. But despite that solid hit - she doesn't, in fact, lose her center, and when she looks up, there's something dark in those clear eyes. "Eisen. We're going." <<Explosion!>>

The KACHUNK, KACHUNK of Cartridges firing off into Vita's soul resound, and then Vita's other hand already contains the shining balls of her swallow flyers. Except: <<KOMETFLIEGEN!>>

When she releases them they grow in size to more like softballs; but when she hits them with her hammer, they BURST INTO FLAMES, exploding steel balls racing down the lane, relentlessly tracking Jupiter and Nanoha both. She calls out, as they jump and flee: "We can stop this, y'know! It can all end right here! Just...step her down and step aside! Don't even have to go that far!"

COMBAT: Vita has used Kometfliegen Ausbreitung on Nanoha Takamachi.
COMBAT: Vita has used Kometfliegen Ausbreitung on Sailor Jupiter.
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi narrowly braces Vita's Kometfliegen Ausbreitung, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Nanoha Takamachi's Block
ability activates!  Stagger applied to Nanoha Takamachi!
<Pose Tracker> Signum [None] has posed.

Signum's eyes turn to Sailor Moon for a moment. "Your heart is strong," she tells her, even as other lights start to move. Signum knows one by heart and the others do not astonish her. Her sword arm tenses but the weapon does not come up. She breathes in.

Jupiter's words don't come as a surprise to her.

Something here is bothering her.

It's not Vita swooping in. It's not the familiar voices and the unfamiliar blurring forms. No, none of that is what bothers the general of flame. Jupiter throws herself forwards. Lightning is crashing towards Vita.

What is bothering me? Signum thinks, and the clouds part above her. Ah, she thinks -

Laevatein swings upwards -

That was it.

The screaming sword comes down and is caught by the sweeping, almost leisurely upraising motion of the Armed Device. A moment of shock passes through Signum's face as her arm jerks back nearly four inches underneath the bow shock of the screaming sorcerous blow, backed by terminal velocity (quite respectable on Earth). A star screams into life between the two weapons, the hypercompressed layers of barrier magicks sending a vast shrieking wave of light out between them.

As the magnetic lines of interference between the polarities of the Devices erupt and howl like vapor-hot steel forced to condense against the chilling coils of some titan refrigerator, sparks fly everywhere. They are short-lived, but the Tomoe lawn is likely to suffer.

Signum's head tilts upwards twenty degrees to look at Lera. She doesn't answer her cry, because there is a howling clash between blades that seems to go on and on and on and ON. A spark lands on her cheek, another near enough to her right eye that she closes it for a moment.

Signum can feel her arm scream. She reaches out with her other hand, pushing past those interference lines of magic. They distort and they shift, and Signum wins past them, enough to almost put her hand against Lera's hip, as if she were engaging her in dance.

There is a starburst of green and Lera is abruptly launched with decisive force down the street.

Her thoughts ring out to the other Wolkenritter. -I will keep Camry clear and return as soon as I can.- Signum streaks after the still-flying Lera a moment later.

She is able to catch up swiftly, swinging Laevatein with crushing force and fiery bursts to add to the impetus against the other redhead. The wind in her passage rattles trees, stirs up street dust. Soon enough they'll be leaving this residential street.

And behind Lera...

DON QUIJOTE!! The ever-lovin' bargain-hunter's semi-open paradise, having a special now on paper towels and open-air grilling accessories!!

COMBAT: Signum has used Shiden Issen! on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter narrowly braces Vita's Kometfliegen Ausbreitung, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Jupiter's Block ability
activates!  Sailor Jupiter's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Nanoha...Sailor Moon...Even Mami Tomoe. The battles around her make Kasagami's body feel that much more alive. The results of the Sword of Dios resting in her hand has her feeling that much more willing to reach for her goals, so much easier to strive! And in this case, as so many powerful magical girls fight around them? To let out a smile. To wield the sheer strength of the blade she's claimed is a joy to her, and she offers Anthy a grin in spite of so much chaos.

"A King shall face many enemies! And Her Servants must be ready to observe!" Offers the Engaged to her Bride. There's a hint of laughter to her words. Or perhaps an order.

She stabs. But it's not Hotaru. Both eyes, oddly enough, narrow. She knows the great Garnet before her. Even, in some ways, respects the woman. Her blade slashes into the woman's arm, and for a moment, they struggle. Despite the other woman's greater height, she doesn't budge.

"Garnet-san...for your sake, for Steve's sake, maybe you shouldn't...AHHHRGH!"

And then electricity pulses through her, and she only briefly falls still. Both eyes blink, and then her arms tighten.

She doesn't give up. Kasagami breathes out, and as the electricity ends, she lets out a plume of smoke. Both eyes turn to Fuu. The Wind Knight has been both enemy and ally at times, and the grin she greets her with is somehow both full of a combat-loving warrior's gaze, and yet somehow utterly sad at the pure circumstances.

She too doesn't want to see a young girl die. But between a single girl, the World, and her Lover? It's an all-too-easy choice.

"In other words, Wind Knight? You're willing to fight, and possibly kill, your fellow magical girls for this young child's life? You are absolutely correct that I won't be backed down!" Her sword hand then twists the blade she holds, and aims a flat-bladed strike towards Garnet! She tries to pitch the Crystal Gem away from her, and then her free hand reaches high. She clenches that fist in the air!

Somehow, reality seems to break in her fist.

Her heart hammers, Fuu's words striking deep. That innocent girl is exactly who she'd protect. But the thing inside of her? Well. She just has to believe in Pluto and the Outer Senshi.

"I won't stop for my own dreams. I won't stop for the dreams of those I love!" She offers, and then pitches those shards of glass down towards the pair!

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Shards of Ambition on Garnet.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Shards of Ambition on Fuu Hououji.
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Uranus [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

She had resolved herself to not underestimate Sailor Moon, but Uranus's physical instincts have a hard time agreeing with her mental resolution. Sailor Moon is so small and light. It is painfully easy to smash her into the doorframe and keep her there. She doesn't even resist, really. Uranus halts her efforts to rise by seizing her neckscarf again and holding her fast.

"Don't tell me what she did today," Uranus growls. "She made a far greater sacrifice than an afternoon's labor. We, the Outer Senshi, will honor that. After she is gone."

Tearful eyes turn up to Uranus. Tears from a soft heart are the hardest, but Uranus gazes back impassively. The only mercy she shows is to release Sailor Moon with a short little shove and turn her back to face what seems to be the actual threat here. Briefly, she makes eye contact with Kyouko, and realizes where the wild-haired spearwoman is going. It seems cruel, to set a consummate warrior upon one with no will to fight. And it would be easy to stop; Kyouko would probably listen. 'Not her,' Uranus could say, and that would be that.

She doesn't. Indeed, she feels subtly chastened for relenting. If they are able to kill Hotaru here, today, it will be a close thing, she is sure. If Sailor Moon stands again, she has made her decision. May she prosper in it as she may.

Instead, Uranus drives a boot out to the side just as Kyouko passes her, as though her whole body were a door slamming behind Kyouko, protecting her back. "Sakura," she calls. "Can you get through?" Kyouko's spear gives her impressive mobility in three dimensions, and Sailor Uranus does not particularly mind who it is that kills Hotaru.

"Tomoe!" she shouts, her time for conversation already elapsed after that brief moment. Darting into close range, Sailor Uranus strikes aside a musket barrel with her forearm, then engages the elegant Puella Magi where she is weakest; within the distance of a rifle. Unfortunately, where Mami Tomoe is weakest is a terrifyingly dangerous place regardless. With quick, close combinations, Uranus keeps moving, trying to stay glued to the agile yellow-skirted girl, striking with elbow to the side, with palm to the stomach, with backfist to the jaw. The final, hardest strike is an explosive rising knee.

"Sakura, while I've got you here," she calls back in between blows. "How about you tell me how to take down Mami Tomoe?"

COMBAT: Sailor Uranus has used Karate: Eight Limbs on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe narrowly dodges Sailor Uranus's Karate: Eight Limbs, taking 27 Fatigue damage!  Mami Tomoe's Fade ability
activates!  Mami Tomoe's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Lera Camry narrowly dodges Signum's Shiden Issen!, taking 33 Fatigue damage!  Signum is Psyched!  Lera Camry's Fade
ability activates!  Lera Camry's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Garnet narrowly dodges Kasagami Araki's Shards of Ambition, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Garnet's Fade ability activates!
Garnet's Flash ability activates!  Blind applied to Garnet!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly dodges Kasagami Araki's Shards of Ambition, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's Fade ability
activates!  Fuu Hououji's Flash ability activates!  Blind applied to Fuu Hououji!
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera doesn't really have a chance to breathe and take stock of the situation until she lands. She can see who is here, then, and make the calculations she has to -- Nanoha, Mami, Fuu, Garnet, and the Sailor Senshi. Chevaliers, mostly. That doesn't shock her. She doesn't have time to offer a warm greeting, though -- just a glance over her shoulder, to Sailor Moon, and a nod. "Get her out of here, we can hold them off!"

Her sword meets Laevatein, and it's only by virtue of Soaring Sky's Belkan origin that the Device isn't seriously damaged in that pary. She grits her teeth, standing her ground -- even as the Device redistributes her Barrier Jacket more evenly across her body. Her eyes meet Signum's, an intense and serious look in them, as lightning dances across the two blades.

No, Lera couldn't afford more of a voice to Sailor Moon. Her attention is quite occupied. She yelps when the hand reaches out, and she tries to move.

She is a second too late. A blast of force punctuates the clash of blades, and Lera goes flying like a hurled stone. A hurled stone that Signum catches up to. She turns, just ducking underneath the swing of Laevatein and the flash of flame that whips off it--

--and smashes through the window of the convenience store. Paper towels fly out behind her in a wave of debris. Lera kicks off it, turns, and looks at her.

"Why--why are you working with them? Is it to drain one of them, or--" Lera asks, yes, but she also rushes in close for Signum. She leaps, feet slamming down onto a grill. She kicks off it -- and smashes the grill casing to the floor, while the legs fly off, and she comes in stabbing.


"Go!" Lera cries. As she stabs, a half-dozen floating plasma blades appear with her -- and all strike at once, with her fleché aimed right at Signum's center of mass.

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Regenschauer on Signum.
<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

A great woman made of metal intercedes herself between the Engaged and her intended target, and Anthy's eyes follow the Sword of Dios as the strike is made. Electricity arcs along Garnet to sink its teeth into Kasagami, and the Bride shrinks a bit where she stands.

"Araki-sama!" High and clear like a songbird's flight on a spring morning, her voice reaches the Engaged. The Rose Bride comes running, her gait made awkward whenever she crosses grass instead of pavement. With her heart thundering in her ears at the nearness of the melee, she makes a quick, sharp inhalation through her nose. She tucks low when jagged blades of glass begin to fly, and hides in Kasagami's long shadow.

One hand creeps up with its red cuffed wrist; the sea-green tassel at the Bride's shoulder floats into the air, drawn on the same currents that pull motes of light to spiral in gathering streams. "Take the protection of your Bride upon your blade!"

She kneels to give her blessing to the would-be King and the growing light flares, leaving a glaring afterimage of obeisance. Her fingertips trail away from the Sword of Dios, having dared to flirt with its keen edge in the middle of combat.

Then she steps away and quickly loses some of her aura of mystery in the way she huddles up against an exterior wall. She keeps a wary eye on the green-garbed Wind Knight nearby.

COMBAT: Anthy Himemiya has used The Rose Bride's Protection on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Signum narrowly counters Lera Camry's Regenschauer, taking 31 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Signum's Reverse ability
activates!  Signum's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Signum's counterattack, Panzergeist, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Lera Camry!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki accepts Anthy Himemiya's The Rose Bride's Protection, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Accelerate,
Empower, Surge, and Withstand applied to Kasagami Araki!
<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

The familiar faces of the Wolkenritter aren't the only ones there. Nanoha is not in the least bit surprised that Kasagami is there but her focus on the the girl who drained her. The one who made her and Fate and other magical girls hurt so much. The one who, if given the chance, would complete her mission without so much as a second though and then...well... she doesn't really know what would happen then but everything in her is saying that it would not turn out like they expected.

In her mind, Nanoha knows that they have to stop that. But even more urgently, they need to protect Hotaru. She knows that the other magical girls would easily take the life of the girl and she cannot allow that. Even Fate believed that there had to be a different way and so that reinforced her own beliefs.

After Jupiter attacks while somehow still safely holding Hotaru, Nanoha nods to her. "Thank you." Even if she isn't terribly familiar with the senshi, the fact that they seem to be fighting for the same thing made her an ally in this fight.

When Vita calls out to her, Nanoha frowns and actually crosses her arms over her chest like an angry child. "It is NA-NO-HA!" She speaks her name firmly but slowly. Maybe one day Vita will get it right. For now she doesn't bother with her last name because they are moving away from the house and the white mage follows closely behind.

As they come to a stop, Nanoha sees the balls of flames coming towards both her and Jupiter. The steel balls pursue her but she holds her position doing her best to stay in front of Hotaru and the others. The downside of her position is that she avoids dodging and instead tries to protect herself against the fireballs. As one of them hits her, Nanoha is conveniently knocked away from the others. Her barrier jacket holds against the power and even though the attack takes her breath away from the raw power.

"You know that we cannot do that! What you guys want is not right! Don't you see what that means?" Her eyes sparkle in the light. "What if you don't get the outcome you desire?" Even Nanoha doesn't know what that would mean.

Raising Heart chimes, <Load Cartridge!>. Nanoha nods and pushes small pieces of metal into her weapon, raising it in the air before calling out, "Divine Shooter!" Small pink spheres aim directly for the small knight, seemingly growing in size and power as they reach their intended target. Nanoha stays at a distance, expertly guiding them.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Divine Shooter on Vita.
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

It tugs at Mami's heart even now, being in opposition to Kyouko. But that's an old, scarred-over wound, and she has become very good at refusing that particular tug. She lets the physical bleeding sub in for the emotional, watches Kyouko in that instant with her phone and guesses as to its meaning. ...Her guess might be accurate, given the way the Shepherds have taken to hunting her as well. That she can't forget.

So between them, numbness and stone refusal, there is an instant, a moment before the battle moves back into open violence. Kyouko says hello, and Mami says nothing at all for an instant, feeling the way the wound is dragging at her arm, seeing the way Kyouko who knows her style knows well knows just where to snap up to blunt her assault. ...But Kyouko doesn't go for her. Kyouko goes for Sailor Moon instead, and Mami grits her teeth. "K--" She cuts herself off using that familiar name, but has no time to join in, to move to defend Sailor Moon in the instant... Because she has another person from her past and present to deal with.

Uranus shouts for her, and Mami, already moving to shield Sailor Moon, stops mid-movement to look towards Uranus and start to shift her stance. The weapon she'd drawn to press her assualt is knocked to the side, just enough to ruin her shot; here Mami is weakest, it's true. What her experience affords her is the knowledge not to panic. Quick and close combinations prevent Mami from bringing more weapons to bear; Uranus hits her wounded flank hard with that elbow, impacting with dull force and jerking the PUella Magi to the side. The palm to her stomach hits too, though Mami is able to lunge out of the way of the backfist to her jaw, the gloved hand passing less than a centimeter from her mouth. But the knee comes next, and that hits, for certain, slamming into Mami hard enough that she grimaces despite her elgance, has the wind knocked out of her and is knocked firmly out of the way, crashing backwards through the air, her ankle twisting lightly as she tries to land herself and instead spins where she was. It could easily be the end, just for losing her balance.

The battery she's already suffered is enough to make her stiff, pain radiating through her body from the forces of too-strong impact from the powerful Soldier. ...But she keeps shifting for a moment, falling to the ground. ...Or seeming to fall; she takes a knee.

...Kyouko is the only one likely to recognize the movement before a glint of dull, dull silver and black appears in her hand, an entire Grief Seed pointed and misshapen. She jerks her hand up and presses it against her Soul Gem, golden light washing over her in an instant as if she can no longer contain the light now that the darkness is drawn away.

BGM SHIFT: Credens Justitiam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HA1vhF87D7g

Her eyes dart up. "You'll have to work harder than that for starters," she says, through pain that she tries to ignore. Remember the dance; another step, and fear doesn't matter.

She leaps upward abrubtly, glowing painfully gold at her hands as she conjures another rifle and fires straight at Uranus's chest. The recoil knocks her back, where she hits the ground standing, and starts rushing forward, twirling to drop two more from her skirt, another from her sleeve, juggling them and firing relentlessly, too quickly, to the point that they hover around her rather than requiring such dull, crass motions as her fingers.

"Uranus!" she shouts back, full of fury. She is still in motion.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe transforms into Puella Magi Mami!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Advance on Sailor Uranus.
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

The Wind Knight shakes her head slowly, sadness visible on her face. "Kasagami-san, you know us --"

It's not so much that she doesn't want to finish *that* sentence as she just doesn't get the chance - whatever Kasagami just shattered, the shards are *painfully* real, and she doesn't move fast enough to avoid getting peppered with them, some of them slicing past her face ... or not quite 'past,' really. And while she's trying to recover, she hears Anthy's voice - and sees just enough of what happens next to realize that Kasagami is not fighting alone.

"Winds of Healing!!" the green-clad Magic Knight calls out, conjuring the balmy breezes to attend to her injuries - closing the cuts and clearing her vision - and then administering the same care to Garnet. The Crystal Gem is a better fighter in direct combat than the Wind Knight considers herself; supporting her means the Wind Knight might not have to join the fray directly.


At the very least, she can be a counterweight to Kasagami's own supporter; with that in mind, Anthy's attention on her is returned, at least in part.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Garnet.
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

If it *is* consideration, it's strange indeed. Jupiter doesn't read into it that far, having assumed that she was waiting for a better shot and got interrupted by a Jupiter Thunderbolt, or something, she neither knows nor cares so long as Vita's out to kill her charge. To Nanoha, she smiles and nods at her gratitude, replying, "Same to you!" Then, while the exchange between Vita and Nanoha makes Jupiter squint ("Nintendo Takoyaki"? really?), it does give her a moment's breathing time to check in on her charge. "Hotaru-chan, hang in there," she murmurs, whether Hotaru can hear her or not. "I've got you."

Vita unleashes her steel balls, which burst into flames as they sail down. Jupiter twists in place to clutch Hotaru close, bracing herself against the strike that inevitably comes. She snarls in pain at the assault that lands on her back, but she doesn't get knocked down.

And then Vita makes that would-be offer.

"Would YOU do it?" Jupiter challenges Vita, fury in her eyes and voice. "If it were *your* friend--a sickly little girl, someone you know is sweet and kind and gentle, someone you *know* would never want to hurt anyone, but a tiny group of self-righteous jerks insisted she was going to destroy the world--would YOU step aside? Would YOU just turn your back and let them murder her?"

She clenches her fist, which crackles with the lightning she continues to call down through her rod, and stores it in her fist. "Sure. Fine. Maybe YOU'D step aside. I'd believe that." Jupiter then throws several punches--literally throws them, sending out orbs of lightning to smash into those steel balls that won't leave her be. "But I'M not a monster!!"

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Cleanse! All of Fuu Hououji's debuffs are
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter has used Ball Lightning on Vita.
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Jupiter's words cheer her up in her daze - she was certain enough that protecting Hotaru was the right thing to do. But even if it means fighting another Senshi is a seperate leap which is hard for her to overcome.

She absolutely doesn't want to fight Uranus. Even now she's hoping she can talk her down. But she's drawn half-way up and held fast by Uranus - her swimming vision suddenly locked into place.

The growl statement though - "No! No! You can't!" She blurts out quickly as if she was going to try to argue it again - when Uranus' ally seems to dash all hopes away.

The gleaming wave of shrapnel is barely seen - more in focus than the back flipping Puella Magi. Dropped back to her knees she flourishes her heart rod in a sparkling spiral that is more reflex from experience than actual thought in motion. Gasping as a half dozen spear points pierce her Fuku - gashing at her ribbons, the motion nevertheless deflects more.

A dozen - two dozen perhaps are struck back by the sparkling rod, deflected as they rocket back at the Puellla Magi in a wave of crimson stained shrapnel.

The pain gags her though - in a wave of nausea which stops her rise full. Swallowing back bile and choking back tears she cries out, "Y-You're with Uranus right? One life against the world - you'll tell me it's no choice at all. But - it is."

It was easy for her to say because it was. The image of Hotaru playing cards for all their lives was so recent, "It's her choice not to do it. And it's your choice to trust she won't."

Uranus advances on Mami Tomoe - and suddenly she has this image in her head of Mami Tomoe pierced by a dozen spears - battered by Uranus' fist and foot. The elegant Puella Magi - dead.

The sweet little girl Hotaru next.

If not by one of them - then by any of the others here.

Her breath hitches at the image - and as her eyes tear up she realizes it's not just them that have a choice.

It's her that has one too.

Her rod raises up fractionally like she's going to point it at Uranus, but she can't bring herself too. Her eyes flinch shut at the thought - between the warring emotions within her.

But if she did nothing. People would die.

Not might - but would.

She had evidence enough of that.

Even when she did everything she could - five corpses were still left behind.

And nothing she could do could fix that.

And so when tearful eyes open the rod shifts over to the crimson Puella Magi and she whispers - "Moon Twilight-"

Power gathers within moments. There's a flash of light - like a celestial event upon some distant horizon in all the myriad colors of nightfall. "-FLASH!"

Gathering into multiple auroral orbs, it erupts forth in a bright burst to try to launch the crimson Puella Magi clear across the lawn in it's sudden detonation.

And all the while she tries to hold back further tears. She fails at that of course.

COMBAT: Sailor Moon has used Moon Twilight Flash on Kyouko Sakura.
COMBAT: Vita narrowly braces Nanoha Takamachi's Divine Shooter, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Vita's Block ability activates!  Vita's
Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Vita perfectly counters Sailor Jupiter's Ball Lightning, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Vita's Reverse
ability activates!  Vita's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Vita's counterattack, Panzerhindernis, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Sailor Jupiter!
COMBAT: Sailor Uranus narrowly braces Mami Tomoe's Tiro Advance, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Mami Tomoe is Psyched!
COMBAT: Garnet accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Cleanse! All of Garnet's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura narrowly dodges Sailor Moon's Moon Twilight Flash, taking 40 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
<Pose Tracker> Signum [None] has posed.

Signum approaches not far behind Lera; she lands on the outside of the store and stalks forward, Laevatein still glowing. (The clerk has skedaddled serenely. There were no shoppers at this hour.)

Signum answers Lera. "I work only with the Wolkenritter," she tells her, with a luminous intensity. "If my decision were my own, I would stand with you. I wish it were still possible. Think kindly of them, when we are done. It was my plan."

Then her head tilts back and she intones, "Geist!" A short and sharp invocation, the elongated Platonic solid of crystalline magenta light shining in front of her for long moments, triangles of light and force intercepting Lera's own flaming plasma - two burst, but the others hold, and the spell fades a moment after regardless.

Signum's hair sways behind her as she tells Lera, her tone still low and intense, "This is nearly over. Think you that we have enjoyed this? At any moment now I will hear word that my labor is complete. Do you wish the defeat of Sailor Uranus? You have but to sit there and count to one hundred, and I will be your ally."

Despite this offer, Signum yields a step and twists round her Armed Device, the sword changing its shape in a fabulous flow of purple and red light, the grip of the hilt becoming the strong center of a bow. A laser-thin streak of green becomes the string; up it comes, and a spell lashes forwards with an audible "Hyah!" from Signum.

The spell resembles an arrow for a moment before it bursts into a cloud of plasmic shards, aiming to force Lera back into the store.

"If you refuse -- then I shall prevent your interference!"

COMBAT: Signum has used Youganyajirushi on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Lera Camry narrowly counters Signum's Youganyajirushi, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Lera Camry's Reverse ability activates!
Lera Camry's Tactician ability activates!  Blind and Cripple applied to Lera Camry!
COMBAT: Lera Camry's counterattack, Guardian Burst, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Signum!
<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet is thrown by Kasagami's flatblade strike, and as she stumbles backwards, the shards of "glass" rain down upon her painfully, an unfortunate shard hitting her square in the visor the glass carrying with it the rays of the sun and the Gem is blinded as her visor shatters, and she stumbles back, the ground shaking beneath her steps as she struggles for footing.

A very local seismic event, unlike the quakes that drew her here... events of foreboding that promised dire Futures.

She had only gotten to the Futures of the very near, the attack by Kasagami to Hotaru, and not looked beyond, as time was of the essence. That blend of impatience and discretion was rewarded and punished, with her imperfect last minute interception of what might have been Kasagami's killing blow.

Through the pain and confusion she reflects at least on Jupiter's heartfelt thanks, and the knowledge that a child has not (yet?) met their end today. It's in this moment that Fuu's winds of healing wash over her and restore her sight taken by the light. The drive to remove the uncertainty of Hotaru's fate drives her back forward into the fray, and towards Kasagami with a leap and a decisive strike!

COMBAT: Garnet has used Decisive Punch on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki perfectly dodges Garnet's Decisive Punch, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Critical Dodge!
Kasagami Araki's Fade ability activates!  Kasagami Araki's Flash ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

<< We're in position. >>

Shamal doesn't tell Vita to keep clear; they've been doing this for an eternity. Their teamwork doesn't require such niceties. And both the Knights of the Raging Fire and Iron Hammer can tell, by the serene levelness of their green counterpart's voice, that she's in deadly earnest. They've served their purpose; now it's her turn to act.

<< I'm ready. >> confirms Zafira gruffly.

Without further to do, they interject.

Green chains materialize out of nowhere around Sailor Jupiter, soaring upwards from the Belkan triangle on the ground to grasp at, not the Soldier of Protection, but her burden, of course. It's just too fast to react to, with the element of surprise on the Wolkenritter's side. In no time at all the energy bonds have made contact with Hotaru's wrists, her ankles, her waist and her neck.

With an imperious gesture, Shamal yanks Hotaru upwards -- Jupiter knows immediately and instinctively that to defy this is to kill her ward herself. That frail little body is not in any position to survive a tug-of-war. And in any event it's over almost before it starts; Hotaru is now suspended in midair, at roof level, where the Knight of the Lake awaits her.

An instant later, a blue barrier, interlocking hexagons, springs up around Shamal and Hotaru. It was surely summoned by the giant spikey wolf-like creature who has a matching magical triangle beneath him. He's also on the roof, but unlike Shamal, keeps moving, circling steadily.

<< I'll keep them off you, Shamal, as long as Vita and Signum keep them off me. >>

Shamal nods from inside the barrier, and extends her hand.

The Book of Darkness warps into place above her palm, and flips open, pages fluttering until they get to the blank part. This part is relatively close to the end, though they still have quite a ways to go.

<< This is it, >> Shamal says, mostly to herself. << After this, we'll be done. And she'll have helped save her friend. I'm sure she'll understand. >>

Hotaru seems unlikely to understand anything in her current state. She's been completely oblivious to the war that has erupted all around her, in the name of her life, dead weight in Sailor Jupiter's arms and a gigantic target to Uranus and the others. Suspended upright by the magical bonds, her head lolls low. Her soft, heavy, fine black hair brushes her cheeks, pulled down by gravity into a privacy curtain.

The depth of her unconsciousness is a mercy, but it's also a little disturbing. This is no mere sleep, but a more profound swoon. A girl like that should be in a hospital bed.

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

"YOUR PLANET HAS DUMB NAMES!" Vita declares in petulant child spacism, and then takes a step forward while Nanoha and Jupiter both scatter to avoid her assault. She tracks them both, eyes cutting from one to the other. Always aware of both. She's no rookie.

"...how can it not be right," Vita breathes, shuddering suddenly, at Nanoha's rebuke. "What if we don't--"

She stands there, stricken by the thought. Flickering magic barriers rise in response to Nanoha's assault, Eisen on the mark while Vita remains stunned. "...I won't let that happen," she says, with a sudden, gutteral fear. It is like asking a man about his own death; the mere shadow of the possibility cutting to the core. That's...not usually how Dark Generals feel about failure...?

Whatever about that hit Vita so deeply, Jupiter capitalizes well, and fires those bolts of lightning at her. But while the master is distracted, the Device... <<Panzerhindernis!>> ...is prepared.

A vague floating cloud of light forms around Vita, rapidly condensing into sharp, faceted planes - a crystal shell for the girl, against which Sailor Jupiter's strikes glance off harmlessly. Vita looks up at her. She always looks so easily upset, but there's something raw in her eyes now. "I don't know anything about that," she says, simply. "She has power that we need. That's all I know. These...people just showed up at the same time! Whatever these other people are here for..."

Magic rips out of her again as Eisen, unbidden, blasts her with another Cartridge. The shield explodes apart around her, and she flips in a heartbeat from vulnerable to furious. "You know me by now!" she screams. "I've never let someone get really hurt! And I won't this time, either! Think what you will about me! Hate me! Hate me forever if you want!"

Another blast of magic rushes through her, her skirt and hat flapping wildly in the aura of her own power. "BUT DON'T YOU DARE CALL ME A MURDERER!"

<<We're in position.>>


The chains lash downward. In that heartbeat while Jupiter has to decide how to handle Hotaru, Vita speeds her decisions along by rocketing right at her, and: "TÖDLICH!!"

She sweeps the hammer toward Jupiter's midsection. "SCHLAG!!"

A blast of magic erupts from the hammerhead - impelling Jupiter clear across the yard. Vita sweeps around to glare at Nanoha. She holds up a hand, and does...nothing?

Which is when another pair of the Comet Flyers suddenly make their presence known, crashing down toward Nanoha and exploding on impact.

COMBAT: Vita has used Tödlichschlag on Sailor Jupiter.
COMBAT: Vita has used Comet Flyer on Nanoha Takamachi.
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"You don't--you don't agree with what you're doing?" Lera asks, staring at her for a moment. "Why, though? Does something make you do this? I don't--" Does she want the defeat of Sailor Uranus?

A little, actually. There has been bad blood on her side ever since they spoke at Lindy's apartment.

She shakes her head, though. "If someone's making you do this, we could help you! And if not, then... you can decide to do it yourself! We'd be your allies, if you asked! I've already told them that they shouldn't try to kill you."

Lera stands her ground, taking a deep breath, and then the arrow bursts apart into so many plasma shards. <Guardian Burst!> A bright flash of light erupts between them, and the shards of plasma slam into it, then get thrown out with a bright pulse of light. Lera isn't pushed back further into the store...

...but neither is she able to advance.

She grits her teeth, then she swings her sword up, two-handed, by her head. She focuses, eyes locked onto her opponent. She glances out a window, though, and sees something. A flash of blue -- and Hotaru Tomoe in it. She says a particularly harsh word that is lost in the explosive report of Vita's hammerhead strike. Then, she looks back at Signum.

She doesn't have much time.

She concentrates for a moment, and a Belkan triangle of red light explodes underneath her feet, then blitzes up around her, infusing her with light, as she prepares a flight spell.

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Force Charge on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Lera Camry accepts Lera Camry's Force Charge, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi narrowly dodges Vita's Comet Flyer, taking 22 Fatigue damage!  Nanoha Takamachi's Fade ability activates!
Nanoha Takamachi's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Even amidst the swirling battle, Kasagami spares an eye towards the Bride. How she rushes to her side, and even ducks low upon those shards she rips away. She lets her blade dip low towards Anthy, and sucks in a breath. Those motes of light draw upon her, and cover hre in turn. Kasagami's coat flutters as Anthy offers her blessing upon her sword. Slowly, it begins to glow in a dark red flare. Hands grip over one another. And she once again steps protectively over her Bride.

So too does her own eye gaze between Garnet and Fuu. One hand unclenches, and she swishes her sable coat from her body towards Anthy. Something to hide behind, just in case. Some small amount of that burning red that reeks from the Sword of Dios in her hands makes it to the cape she's tossed to Anthy.

"You're not Mami, Wind Knight. Honestly? I like you. Both of you. I'd much prefer you be my knights rather than languish in that blind fool's court! If your leader can't bring herself to take in all of the sin and anguish of a proper Kingdom, then she'll gather nothing but enemies! There's no such thing as fairness in this corrupted, rotten world!"

Her formerly bad eye peers up as Hotaru is yanked up. She shudders. On the one hand, there's the Wolkenritter acquiring their goal. On the other? Wouldn't it be easy to kill Hotaru and free Pluto and her fellow Outers from their duty with her dead? Kasagami comes to a singular decision.

One threat before the other. She trusts her fellow Shepherds to deal with it, and mentally jots down the Wolkenritter here twice in her book.

Also there's a leaping Garnet towards her. Both hands grip her blade, and thanks to the blessing of the Rose Bride, she howls out as she swings it towards Garnet..and by proxy, Fuu! There's a massive explosion as the red magical energy erupts, propelled onwards with her enhanced physical strength! The motes of magic shatter only at the end, a wave breaking into slicing shards of glass should the two other magical warriors be on the very edge of her blast!

The Sword of Dios, in particular, meets Garnet's fist only for the young woman's legs to kick off and up into the sky. Between the resulting force, and a twist into the air, she manages to stay clear of Garnet's blow, even if it sends her skidding closer towards her purple-haired cooperator!

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Falling Blade of Light on Garnet.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Rose Shrapnel on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly counters Kasagami Araki's Rose Shrapnel, taking 13 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji's counterattack, Gale Arrow, partially gets through, doing 20 Fatigue damage to Kasagami Araki!  Critical
COMBAT: Garnet fails to counter Kasagami Araki's Falling Blade of Light, taking 59 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Garnet's counterattack, The Unstoppable, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Kasagami Araki!
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter fails to dodge Vita's Tödlichschlag, taking 39 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAs8weim90M&list=PLeogPTA03KQ_vl0v9G04dexcCkBxfed_3&index=1

Kyouko audibly growls. She doesn't care for splitting her focus, particularly for a sudden question whose answer could be turned against her on a dime. But Uranus is her ally, and she deserves something, at least. Her voice is a bark, snapping off of her like a breaking branch.

"Take her lunch money. Go for the gold."

A spray of razors stud into her skin like whitewater foam spat up from the riverrun. Kyouko's wild mane tosses and shudders as she shakes her head in enraged disorientation. She isn't accustomed to tasting her own medicine, let alone so much of it. That this crumpled, mewling girl whining about giving peace a chance managed it..traditionally a single-minded combatant, if Kyouko were not firmly fixated before Sailor Moon stuck her own needles in her then she is well into that range now.

But Haruka wants to know if she can reach Hotaru, and that needs an answer too. Spitting out a narrow string of blood, her grip tightens on her latest spear, staring down Sailor Moon with murderous intent writ large across her blood-hued eyes. "In a--"

A blindingly luminous explosion of energy shears into her body with the force of a long haul truck. Her reflexes tap into every drop of their speed so that she can bend down and to the side, and plant her spear into the ground, sprouting a blade from the pommel to anchor her in place, only narrowly maintaining her ground. The right side of her body catches the brunt of the assault. Her clothing shreds into bloody furrows, blood vessels in her cheek and neck rupturing into purple pockets all along her face.

She can hear the commotion. Can tell that something is afoot. That a development has taken place. There will be time enough to explore it. Right now her attentions lay directly before her. Ripping her spear up and taking chunks of concrete with it, she whirls it in the air, dragging the flat side of the head against her brow to collect a thick smear of her own blood.

"You don't know me at all."

Holding her weapon parallel to the ground, she lobs it forward, just a little..it floats there for a moment, drifting slowly towards Usagi but without nearly enough force to do her much damage beyond a paper cut. But Kyouko charges forward, throwing her body back so that it, too, is parallel to the ground, her feet forward. Both soles dig into the pommel of the blade as she kicks off of it, rocketing it forward towards Sailor Moon's chest, hoping to pin her in place at the very least. Exploiting the backwards momentum of her thrust, she rolls back in the air, catching herself on her feet and pushing further back still to land on her feet, another spear already in hand.

COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura has used Masterstroke on Sailor Moon.
COMBAT: Sailor Moon fails to dodge Kyouko Sakura's Masterstroke, taking 52 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COIN FLIP: Signum flips a coin. It lands on tails!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Jupiter unleashes those balls of lightning, and they crash against Vita's crystal shell with a deafening crash but with no particular damage. Jupiter shields herself with a raised arm against the backblow--but even so, she can see, she can hear. Vita, somehow, takes her earlier shout personally, insists that she's never let anyone die from a draining, that she's always been careful, that Hotaru just has power they need and they don't actually want her dead. Not to mention that strange reaction to the prospect of failure when Nanoha shouts at her--and that rawness in her eyes...

It's enough to make Jupiter hesitate, even as Vita swaps from upset to angry. And that hesitation costs her dearly. In that instant, magical chains burst into existence, wrapping around Hotaru. Jupiter cries out wordlessly in alarm, but it's too sudden, too fast, and she can tell that if she tried to hold onto her, she'd probably end up snapping the poor girl's neck. She's already too weak, too still; tonight has already been enough of a burden on her.

"STOP!!" she screams, raw and full of real fear for Hotaru's safety and well-being. "Stop stop stop stop STOOOOOP!!"

But Shamal and Zefira of course don't stop; the former pulls Hotaru up like a firefly caught in a spider's web, and the latter erects a barrier to shield them from pursuit. Shamal brings out that book, and Jupiter recognizes it immediately; she's seen enough girls be drained to understand what it represents. And then Vita is in her face, swinging that hammer, impacting with her midsection, and sending her flying across the Tomoe mansion grounds. When she lands, she craters the ground beneath her, and she sags with a groan. For a second, it might seem like she's out for the count. But--

"Y-you don't..."

Her fingers curl, and through sheer effort of will, she pulls herself, teeth grit with pain, upright. "You d-don't... understand. That girl--she's sickly... frail... her body is weak. And she's weaker still today... If you drain her now... y-you can't guarantee you won't end up killing her anyway!" She looks up, eyes bright with terror and agony. "So please!! If you really meant what you said--let her go! Leave her alone!! If you need power--" She staggers forward, resting a hand on her chest. "Then drain me again!! I don't care! I can handle it! But Hotaru-chan's... Hotaru-chan's..." Tears streak down her cheeks, hot and fresh and real, and her stagger gains forward moment--then turns into a run, right for Vita's personal space. If Jupiter can reach her in time, she'll throw an action's film of kicks and punches, all charged with lightning, in an attempt to pin her in place and make it easier to keep up the fight if that's what's needed. However, that doesn't in any way change the emotion in her eyes, or the rawness in her own voice:

"PLEASE! I'm begging you! LEAVE HER ALONE!!"

COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter has used Full Charge on Vita.
<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Momentous events occur overhead and while there's a part of her mind that keeps tabs on it, most of the attention of the girl in the red dress is consumed by what is immediately in front of her. Kasagami's cape floats back into the waiting hands of the Rose Bride, cast there in a protective gesture -- and indeed it lays across the red bell of her skirt, like a black tarp protecting a rosebed. She clutches it in one tight fist, drawn up to her chest, wide eyes fixed on the raging battle.

The force of Garnet's counterblows ruffle the trim of her dress, it's happening so close. One of the Wind Knight's return volley arrows splits the air near enough that the Bride lets out a little reflexive shriek, high and panicked!

She turns to the Engaged with eyes full of fear. The Bride has no weapons or armor, nothing to protect herself with aside from the desperate plea on her face. The petals of a rose scatter so easily; Kasagami should know.

"Araki-sama!! Help, please!"

COMBAT: Anthy Himemiya has used Damsel In Distress on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki accepts Anthy Himemiya's Damsel In Distress, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki is Cheered!
Withstand applied to Kasagami Araki!
COMBAT: Vita perfectly counters Sailor Jupiter's Full Charge, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Vita's Reverse ability
activates!  Vita's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Vita's counterattack, Tödlichschlag, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Sailor Jupiter!
<Pose Tracker> Signum [None] has posed.

"It has been necessary," Signum tells Lera. "Understand me: This was my plan, from the beginning. The others were led by me to this goal. They are not responsible for what I decided to do." This has an odd urgency to it, like Signum is giving Lera instructions rather than confessing something.

On the up side: She might be able to hit Sailor Uranus with a sword.

Red and green scream against each other, inconclusively.

But then Lera could see an expression cross Signum's face, even as she leaps back into the street, even as Laevatein changes from bogenform to a sword again. It is a look of dawning, astonished joy. Signum looks over her shoulder - the rooftop barrier is a small blue dot from here, like someone put up a collapsible tent on their deck. Signum can, just, see the Book appear.

Then she looks back to Lera.

Lera is gone.

Signum flies after her, the return voyage even briefer than the first one. She hears the heartfelt plea of the greatest of planets' guardian, and even as she moves into Lera's rear vector, she answers.

"I do not doubt you, Sailor Jupiter!" Signum shouts, her voice carrying over mayhem and violence. (She learned this trick long ago.) "But it is not a matter of energy alone. You have given all that you could - and we owe you thanks we cannot easily express! But that girl..."

"The potential within her dwarfs any of you! ALL of you! With this we shall be finished --"

Signum shifts herself downwards, a cartridge cycling with a rising electronic chord in her own Belkan weapon as her attention turns to Lera. The blade twists round, raises upwards, and she shifts to a battle cry without missing a step.

"Kouga!" A screaming, sunbright streak of magenta aimed at the small of Lera's back to try to drive her to the street surface! With this Signum dives, spiralling round to strike her with a vigorous "horararararara" in a baker's dozen of telling, spiralling-inward strikes, concluding with a sheathing of the blade --


And a single slash at the girl's side, a mere instant before the possibility of contact with Tokyo's finest paved road!

COMBAT: FINISHER! Signum has used Kouga Shiden Issen on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Lera Camry narrowly dodges Signum's Finisher, Kouga Shiden Issen, taking 79 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Lera Camry is
unable to keep fighting!  Lera Camry's Fade ability activates!  Lera Camry's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Nanoha can only looks at Jupiter in surprise with her words. She silently agrees with the questions, looking at Hotaru with concern. The tiny girl seems so frail, so innocent. How can someone like her be at the center of this conflict? It's a question she may never truly understand but for now she knows what is important.

The pause in Vita's actions is not missed by Nanoha. "You see? How can you be so sure of your actions?" She questions the knight. "Everything you're doing is just wrong. Even if you have never killed anyone. You are hurting people for your own purposes. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"

For a moment, Nanoha pauses to catch her breath, adrenaline, frustration and everything else feel overwhelming to the girl. And that's when she sees the green chains come out of nowhere and her immediate thought it Hotaru. Nanoha closes the distance between them, moving as quickly as she can.

The chains engulfed the frail girl and Nanoha fights back the urge to reach for Hotaru, worried about hurting her further. She is momentarily frozen with indecision and then the blue barrier materializes and she has a sinking feeling and she calls out to Jupiter, "We need to break through the barrier!"

In the few seconds where Nanoha was distracted with barrier and chains, her attention has turned from Vita until she rockets forward to Jupiter. Seeing it at the last second, Nanoha tries to warn Jupiter but it is too late for that.

In defense, Nanoha prepares to attack Vita again when the girl just stares at her. "Wh-" And then the pair of comets rain down from the sky. Nanoha cannot move quick enough to avoid both of them. Her barrier jacket takes the brunt of the first one but it still knocks her to the ground. She falls and the second one explodes near her right shoulder, leaving a mark that makes the girl cry out in pain.

Through her haze of pain, Nanoha hears Jupiter's pleas and she moves towards the senshi. "That goes for me as well! I would do anything to protect her life! If you kill her with this then you all will be murderers. Please tell me that you understand that!!!"

Nanoha reaches for Raising Heart as Jupiter barrels her own attacks towards Vita. She comes up behind her, "Please, don't make us fight you anymore." Her eyes sparkle even as Nanoha aims the tip of her weapon at Vita. "I am tired of fighting you but I have no choice." There is deep regret in her words. "Divine Busteeeeeer!"

From the weapon, a pink aura of energy pulls into the weapon and after seconds, the laser pulses towards Vita with all the power she can muster.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Divine Buster! on Vita.
COMBAT: Vita narrowly braces Nanoha Takamachi's Divine Buster!, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Vita is Quipped!  Vita's Block ability
activates!  Vita's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

"Gale Arrow!!"

The wave of crimson shards flying towards the Wind Knight force her to act, bow and quiver materializing at a thought, the wind rising around her in the time it takes to nock an arrow and draw it back; the wind which wraps around the shaft as it's loosed creates enough turbulence to punch a hole through that wave of burning-sharp sparks, and while quite a lot of the magical 'shrapnel' still peppers the Magic Knight, her arrow punches through and keeps going for Kasagami ...

And flies rather closer than it was meant to with regards to Anthy.

That might, Fuu thinks abstractly, be for some form of 'the best. She's used to Garnet being strong, tough, even implacable, but Kasagami's sword carries with it a force that the Crystal Gem seems to be having some trouble with. Still, the Wind Knight isn't about to leave Garnet fending for herself; she splits her attention briefly, calling out, "Winds of Protection!" as she waves a defensive barrier for Garnet. Hopefully that'll help keep her going, at *least* for a little longer ...

Not that they have much time to spare. Hotaru's been taken already, and the barrier is visible, as is the magical beast who cast it. Turning her attention to Zafira or Shamal would leave the Wind Knight wide open for Kasagami to do even worse damage ... to her, or to Garnet, or to both of them.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Protection on Garnet.
COMBAT: Garnet accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Protection, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Accelerate and Withstand applied to Garnet!
<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Vita's look grows increasingly hollow as Jupiter wails - pleads with her. But the desperation makes the Sailor Senshi of Fight sloppy, and Vita is able to see through her attacks. Yields one step, two, jukes to one side and then - slams her in the gut with the butt of Graf Eisen's handle, then yields a step while Jupiter's staggering to buy range to swing the whole thing into her. That seems like she guarded it, but it doesn't stop Vita from shaking her head as Signum cries out. "Like the General says," Vita replies, crooked. "This ain't blood donation. You can only give once."

And so saying she swings her hammer back, barks, "EISEN!" and the hammerhead promptly turns into a rocket drill with nearly no fanfare - and then a blast of jet engine is the only warning Jupiter gets before the hammer is slamming into her midsection, sending her pinwheeling away once more.

Vita has trouble getting mad while Jupiter's looking at her so pitiously but fortunately, Nanoha Takamachi, a person who excels at torquing Vita's entire personality, is here, and a Divine Buster comes screaming at her. She immediately rounds, throws up her hammer in defensive pose while Eisen pours out a magic shield to defend. The blast of light breaks around her into particulate bands, the girl gritting her teeth and glaring through it. At the last she swings her hammer one last time, dispelling the last of Nanoha. "Oh boy I WISH I could stop fighting you!" she yells back, frustrated again. She's shaken, though; that blast is always startlingly strong, even for someone like Vita. "But don't worry. Soon we'll be out of each others' hair for good, Nanowhatever Takamaki!"

Vita replies by producing yet another swallow flyer, hurling it skyward, and--


--this time it gets big. Bigger than before, bigger than a bag of softballs, and Vita leaps up behind it like the world's shortest volleyball hero.


It catches fire as Vita hits it. It does not track, but it is the size of a small car, as it roars in on Nanoha's position and explodes.

COMBAT: Vita has used Raketenfangen on Sailor Jupiter.
COMBAT: Vita has used Kometfliegen Claymore on Nanoha Takamachi.
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter narrowly counters Vita's Raketenfangen, taking 20 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Jupiter's Reverse ability
activates!  Sailor Jupiter's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter's counterattack, Jupiter Thunderbolt, partially gets through, doing 7 Fatigue damage to Vita!  Critical
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera had hoped that the flght spell might throw Signum off her, and let her get close. She doesn't get that moment. She looks back over her shoulder, and hears the cartridge cycling -- the ka-chik is particularly loud. Her amber eyes widen, as she sees the streak of magenta light that comes flying at her. She tries to snap to the side -- and it still catches her in the flank, with an explosion of light. She yelps as she dives.

And the strikes come in, and the last blade cuts into her side. Her Barrier Jacket flickers -- and she slams into the pavement. A crack is left in the street. Lera bounces, then rolls, and comes to a stop.

She groans, as her Barrier Jacket flickers around her. Soaring Sky, having been dropped earlier, shimmers; the gem in the center of the Device-sword flickers, before it fades to a duller color.

"Nnh... damn..." Lera grunts, weakly forcing herself to her knees -- now scraped -- and looks up, at the bubble containing Hotaru.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi perfectly counters Vita's Kometfliegen Claymore, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Nanoha
Takamachi's Reverse ability activates!  Nanoha Takamachi's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi's counterattack, Axel Shooter, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Vita!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Uranus [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Mami is, historically, pretty hard to land a solid blow on, the occasional manhole cover aside. The danger of being constantly a moment away from getting shot point-blank with a musket wars with the thrill of successful combat; repeatedly Uranus strikes hard blows, blows that tell, blows that briefly ruin Mami's balletic grace. But she can't read Mami's magic like Kyouko can, even after her many run-ins with the righteous Puella Magi. When Mami drops to a knee, Uranus pursues close, ready to finish her. She is soon forced to repurpose that momentum and charge right past Mami. Rotating on her heel she leaps, twisting to face Mami, arms crossed to receive the first blast.

The sting is awful, but the extra momentum carries Uranus a little further away, and gives her a little longer to catch feet beneath herself. The gloves that armor her wrists and forearms take bullet after bullet as she keeps moving, ending scored and pockmarked by the time the Wolkenritter's hidden gambit interrupts.

Lucky. Uranus never likes being lucky. But that situation was unlikely to get better on its own. Shielding her eyes from the radiance of Sailor Moon's attack on her ally, Uranus squints at Mami directly, letting those two battle it out. The shield that has arisen seems to spell the end of this attempt. Uranus's teeth clench.

"Not again," she says. "No." She slides a boot out along the ground, taking a strong wide stance that will be familiar to Mami by now.

Jupiter's voice peals out her heart's loyal courage. The purity of heroism brings a twinge to the inside of Uranus's chest. The Inners are the real heroes, it's always been obvious. They were meant to be, from the moment the Queen chose them.

Uranus was meant to be something else.

"Mami Tomoe!" A loose, undirected breeze is disturbing the dust and gravel around Uranus's feet. "I am breaking through that shield. It could be ten--no, it could be a hundred times as thick and I would break it." Suddenly, the winds about Uranus's feet resolve and twist decisively, forming a neat circle of clear ground surrounded by the spinning dust. Her hands lift, held up like a surgeon receiving gloves, as small spheres of air start to churn around her shoulders and elbows.

"You need it open too. If you do not believe in my resolve, you should let me strike, and aid you. If you do believe, then you know you'll be ripped apart too if you stand in my way. So believe..."

Uranus's fingers slip past one another before her eyes as the churning projectiles around her resolve to a more visible and deadly form.

"Or do not..."

Sailor Moon, off to the side, has fallen victim to Kyouko's spear, and the Puella Magi clearly wasn't holding back. Uranus does not look. Cannot look.

"But stay out of my way!"

With a flash of light in her eyes, Uranus forces her hands forward hard, and with them the dozens of wind spheres, churning their way choppily through the air amidst their own heaven-yellow mist, towards the shield. Where they impact they will drill down with pummelling force, and some certainly hit the shield that way, skittering in place as they stretch into the ether-material of the field. Whether most of them land there, however, is up to the eldest of Tokyo's Puella Magi.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Uranus [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> This Day and Never Again https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K541z9qsS3Y
COMBAT: Sailor Uranus has used Gaze Turbulent on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe covers Hotaru Tomoe for Sailor Uranus's attack, Gaze Turbulent, taking it upon herself instead!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe perfectly counters Sailor Uranus's Gaze Turbulent, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Mami Tomoe's
Reverse ability activates!  Mami Tomoe's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe's counterattack, Tiro Retort, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Sailor Uranus!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

There's nothing Sailor Jupiter can say when Signum and Vita both tell her that it doesn't work that way, that a given person can only be drained once, that she cannot trade herself for Hotaru--and even if it *were* possible, Hotaru has such potential that draining her will finish... whatever it is they're trying to do. What's more, Jupiter *does* get sloppy, unable to connect even a single punch or kick and ultimately leaving herself open to Vita's counter-hammerslam. This one hits hard, too, though at least the Sailor Senshi is able to leave a parting gift of a blast of lightning before she's sent skidding across the grounds again.

And Lera's down too, Jupiter realizes as Signum addresses her. She gets up slowly, looking at the other combatants, looking up at Hotaru behind that barrier, looking at Nanoha as she declares they need to get through it-- "Right," she croaks. "You're right." She needs to collect herself. She's getting beaten to a pulp here, and if she falls, who's that going to help? She gets to her feet again, taking a deep, ragged breath. Then she shoots Signum and Vita both a harsh glare.

"Then we really do have no choice but to fight," she growls, tightening her hands into fists, muscles bunching in her thighs and upper arms. "I knew it anyway, but for a second there, I had to hope..." She shakes her head. "I don't know what you Wolkenritter are trying to accomplish with all this draining you're doing--but if you don't care about the consequences, then I don't care about your goals. All you need to know is that if you don't stop--" She turns and poses, motions and expression fierce, building up the strength she needs to resume the attack-- "then I'll fill you with so much regret, it'll leave you numb!!"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

And in the midst of this - Zafira and Shamal act, and she can only see through blurred eyes as Hotaru is lifted out of Jupiter's care - "HOTARU-CHAN!" She cries. Even thinking the Wolkenritter won't kill her is little comfort - even with what Vita says, as much as she believes it. What if in this case - they decide she's too much risk to let go? What if someone manages to capitalize on her being out of their care to do the deed? "PLEASE YOU HAVE TO LET HER-"

A thousand thousand scenarios and fates for Hotaru run through her head and all she can think about is getting her safe again.

The line of her ignorance reaches her ears - just as her eyes follow back to the red Puella Magi. "-go." She'd backpeddle but she has nowhere to go against Hotaru's house. So instead she starts trying to dive towards the flank.

The spear skewers her Fuku near the bottom of her ribs, grazing along the flank, to erupt part of the way through it's back. It's barbs caught upon the fabric like the Puella Magi had speared a fish.

Her mouth certainly opens like one - gaping like she's either trying to refute it - but not having the breath to. Trying to scream, but suddenly finding it difficult to through the wound at her side.

Trembling and quivering and caught - one tremorous hand touches the haft like she's trying to pull it out. She wants to focus on Hotaru's peril but all she can do is look at the Puella Magi through wet - pained eyes - seeing the second spear already in hand to finish her off. The declaration of her ignorance - and the tip of that second spear making it clear that any further words would be wasted.

Several thoughts occur to her.

She doesn't want to die.

She doesn't want Hotaru to die.

She doesn't want to keep hurting this girl she doesn't know.

But this time - all of those things can't be true just because she wants them to be.

And so her hand pushes against the spear this time with a desperate force, tearing through the side of her Fuku with the long sound of fabric shredding. The sounds of Uranus' resolve like a distant ringing within her ears behind the pulse pounding within them.

But as she falls - the rod is whipped up yet again as her lips moves in three syllables almost inaudibly, even as the gathering incandescence is telling. But upon impact, even through the all-consuming haze of pain. She speaks the third through the jolt of her landing upon the porch - "-flash."

This time it's set alight by desperation and fear - an eruption at point blank range that shrieks across the yard like the scream she was unable to give voice to.

COMBAT: Sailor Moon has used Moon Twilight Flash on Kyouko Sakura.
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter has used In The Name Of Jupiter on Vita.
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter has used In The Name Of Jupiter on Signum.
COMBAT: Vita narrowly dodges Sailor Jupiter's In The Name Of Jupiter, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Jupiter is Psyched!
Diversion and Stagger applied to Vita!
COMBAT: Signum narrowly braces Sailor Jupiter's In The Name Of Jupiter, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Signum's Block ability
activates!  Signum's Parry ability activates!  Diversion applied to Signum!
<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

A clash of red energies, armored fist versus Sword of Legend, and the Sword prevails. The overwhelming tide of magical force sends Garnet flying back as though hit by a force many, many, many times The Engaged's mass would suggest is possible and the sound of her impact echoes like thunder, almost echoing unto itself like the toll of a bell,

She stays still, and a wave of beneficient magic drapes its energy over the limp body of the Gem like a shroud.

Garnet feels faster, stronger. But is it too little, too late? It energizes her... just enough, to go in for one last blow. While she's able to move, she won't allow Kasagami to murder a child for her own selfish ends.

She can't.

Garnet, a veteran of wars long forgotten, knows a fight of attrition when she sees it. With how the conflict has gone, with this mysterious, and nigh-overwhelming new power that Kasagami wields against them, she has no illusions that her fists alone can defeat Kasagami, or that even doing so will result in Hotaru's salvation.

All she can do is try to keep Kasagami as far away from Hotaru for as long as she can, so that this wicked blade that the "Shepherd" wields with such despotic glee may not be the instrument that cuts short the girl's breath. Garnet rushes and pummels Kasagami with a flurry of blows, blurs of motion accentuated with glittering light.

A final, desperate diversion.

COMBAT: Garnet has used Adamantine Barrage on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura fails to counter Sailor Moon's Moon Twilight Flash, taking 51 Fatigue damage!  Kyouko Sakura is unable to
keep fighting!
COMBAT: Kyouko Sakura's counterattack, Latticework, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Sailor Moon!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki narrowly braces Garnet's Adamantine Barrage, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki's Parry ability
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Battlefield awareness is what stops Mami from being blindsided in a crowded environment. ...Battlefield awareness on the bright side lets her see what's going on around her... But some things are hard to see, and Hotaru Tomoe, who Mami is trying to protect, being yanked out of Sailor Jupiter's arms practically to pull upward, to suspend vulnerable, so frail and fragile--

It is not the first time she's seen a girl in danger while she was in a battle, seen the danger worsen while she focused on the enemies before her out of necessity. Will it be another time, that she dies before Mami can reach her? The Puella Magi can't even bring herself to call out in the moment.

...She doesn't have time. She is focused on Sailor Uranus, who again and again moves; she could not move in to finish her, but she deflects Mami's bullets even if it comes at cost to her. Already Mami has to prepare her next move, has to be one step ahead of her deadly opponent. Maybe it's not her life on the line. Maybe Sailor Uranus wouldn't finish her rather than going for Hotaru, past her.

It doesn't matter. It can't matter. Just like Mami can't wonder whether Kyouko must feel pain from Sailor Moon's attack, wonder what can happen... But the battle continues, and this shield matters. Uranu's teeth clench, but Mami has her hands out, as if balancing, still aglow, still preparing her next move. She does not show the stiffness of her muscles, the blood at her side affecting her. Not again, Uranus says. ...But that stance--

Mami is already in motion. She starts to double back, to prepare anothr rifle--but the breeze disturbs the dust about Uranus's feet, and she delivers her challenge, speaks her resolve. The air churns around her, and Mami's eyes widen, almost imperceptibly. ...Then, they narrow. What Uranus says is true, every word of it, and it burns Mami to hear it. Because... She knows what she has to do. The projectiles turn. Uranus prepares her assault, and Mami has only an instant of window, only an instant to be prepared to act. Mami Tomoe does not look to Moon, to Kyouko, no matter her feelings for them; she does not look to her allies, or her other opponents.

Uranus forces her hands up and in that instant Mami leaps into the air, pressing herself as hard as she can, through searing pain in her muscles from the wounds she already has. She hovers between Sailor Uranus and the shield, hanging for just an instant--

Because an instant is all she needs. Mami waves her hands and her rifles burst into being around her, but these are shorter, squatter, wider. With thundering retorts, deafening gunfire, each fires a golden blast towards a sphere of wind, towards more; her guns get smaller, but she fires at each and every single one of them, missing not an instant. Not one of those spheres hits the barrier. Not one makes it past, despite Mami's battered form, despite the sheer amount of magic she has to exert here.

Mami starts to fall; she is no flier, has no way of hanging up in the air; hre breath is heavy. But her golden eyes stare down at Sailor Uranus, powerful, knowing what could happen.

"I believe," Mami calls down, heavy with exertion. "...And you should believe mine."

Painfully, brilliantly, light erupts in front of Mami; she puts out both of her hands and calls up all she can muster, the gold blinding to look upon, the brilliance of colorful bursts making gun after gun after gun, a wall of rifles far wider than Mami's armspan, taller than the girl herself. Ragged, she stares down. One thing. One.

Another girl, set to die because she didn't act.

"Not again," she swears. Her rifles all fire at once, an obliterating show of force for less than what is here.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Fusillade on Sailor Uranus.
<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Even as she attacks Vita, Nanoha's emotions run high. She is worried for Hotaru and the others and worried that she would not be strong enough to defend them. Was it too much for her? It's a thought that makes her pause and look at the battle around her. While there is not a certain person she focuses on, Nanoha is sure that whatever the outcome she cannot stop now.

Vita's and Signum's remarks make her etes grow wide with concern. Does that mean that the book is almost done? Even though they said she has the potential, it's hard for Nanoha to see it.

Whatever the case, Nanoha has to keep moving, knowing that if she hesitates she would be unable to help Jupiter and the others and if something happened to Hotaru she would feel completely responsible for it.

Refocusing on her target, Nanoha is prepared for the next attack. The claymore is huge but Raising Heart chimes in, <Defense Mode active!> And with that, a pink shield covers her as the fiery blast aims for her. Nanoha holds her hands up firmly, both hands on Raising Heart, and she digs her feet into the ground as the impact moves her across the field a number of feet. She remains that way until the impact fizzles out and allows her to counter with Axel Shooter.

The speed of the attack makes it less direct and even as Jupiter fights back against Signum and Vita, Nanoha looks at the barrier before calling out to them. "It doesn't matter anymore. We won't stop." She is tired of trying to convince them to do what she believes in her heart is the right thing.

Nanoha glances at Jupiter. "I will back you up Sailor Jupiter!" And she flies into the air and aims Raising Heart at Vita again. The same pink sphere circle above her while they draw energy and Nanoha guides them to her target, each one hitting in rapid fire succession.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Shooter Swarm on Vita.
COMBAT: Sailor Uranus narrowly dodges Mami Tomoe's Finisher, Tiro Fusillade, taking 31 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Uranus's Flash
ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Kasagami's gaze doesn't turn to the pleading Bride. No, rather, it's the sound of her voice that draws her in. She knows well that the pair of Fuu and Garnet aren't to be underestimated no matter what blade she holds in her hand. Both hands clench.

And she seems to slide towards the purple haired girl. One leg is in front of the other, and even as Fuu's magic flows over her counterpart, leaving that arrow to fly for her. Her shoulder ducks, and a vast majority of the green-arrowed strike meets Kasagami's left shoulder despite. She lets out a huff, spins about, and her boots squeel to keep her in one spot. Really, the young woman's shoulder smokes.

Even as Kasagami lets out heavy breaths, she peeks on Anthy, and grins.

She stands up, brushing off the wound, even as her shoulder still smokes. Never let it be said that the Wind Knight is weak. "Not bad! But if you're going to aim for anyone, then aim for me!" She thumps her chest. Only for her hand to fall backwards.

And vaguely reach for her Bride's shoulder. She whispers.

"Don't act like a coward. If we're going to change the world, we'll both need to be braver than anyone! Uphold yourself like a proper servant, Anthy! Combat is natural for a King!"

Kasagami doesn't budge, despite all of the power lashing about. Her allies and enemies war. But she knows her own opponents!

Especially as Garnet comes for her! Sucking in a breath, she plants one foot forward. One hand presses against the other. She knows she doesn't have the shield of her nodachi, but the power of the Sword of Dios is something else entirely!

The flurry of fists comes for her, and Kasagami doesn't back down! Sparks fly as she meets every punch with another flat of her blade! She parries, blocks, and even spins as she takes on the pure fury of Garnet's strikes! Yet with every single block, she turns it aside. One strike sneaks in, and blasts her to the side. But she doesn't draw back with the power of the Sword in her hand. Even as she lets out a growl of fury, she continues to meet Garnet head on, never once backing off.

Both for her Bride, and for her Dream.

Their clash ends in one final strike, and there's a rip of her uniform down the right side of her chest. Just enough to show the scarred, burnt flesh of her body and nothing else. Yet, her arm doesn't move with the slowness of someone burdened with such pain. No, her next strike towards the pair of warriors is without hesitation.

"Don't you dare give up that strength, Garnet, Wind Knight. But I won't let you two stop me here! For all the Innocent souls in this world, I will become a brilliant King!" And then she's gone in an instant. Keen eyes might pick up afterimages, but her blade is offered first to Fuu, and then to Garnet. This time, her blade only pulls back at the last second towards Fuu, and then a sharp kick is aimed for Garnet right in the chest. A last, desperate measure to save a few lives, perhaps.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Forward To My Dreams! on Fuu Hououji.

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYjB-DKDrbs&list=PLeogPTA03KQ_vl0v9G04dexcCkBxfed_3&index=16

In her rushing exultation, Kyouko forgot herself. Towering over this girl with her back to a wall, hurtling blade after blade and finding good purchase. She'd thought she was in her element, and for a time, she was. She'd felt secure, confident. Like she couldn't be touched. She might take a few hits, but she'd keep throwing them back in kind. She was a survivor. She'd stay on her feet. Her pride could not be touched. She would stand tall, too tall to touch. Too tall to hurt.

She was mistaken, and she is to suffer for her illusions.

For, in truth, Kyouko is a small and ragged thing. A meager creature devoid of prospects or hopes. No tigress at all, nor wolf nor even coyote. A stray and mangy dog at best, so accustomed to its alleys and rubbish that its world shrunk in on itself, and she came to mistake herself for a master of that world.

But in truth, Kyouko is a small and ragged thing, at best a fraction of her self-estimation. Defiance and aggression are all that sustain her, and all their fury only speaks to how quickly they'll burn out, and how little she'll have when they're gone.

Sailor Moon can barely speak. The fear in her springs out into the open air like water from a leaky pipe. But she has more heart than the filthy animal so recently crawled up from sanitation infrastructure not fit for higher life. Perhaps it is the lunar guardian's last line of defense, her inner core, the smallest irreducible component of her spirit. But it possesses a diamond's solidity. Kyouko's in contrast, is a hollow, barren thing. Like an amoeba she only seeks to exist. Not much of an animal at all, let alone a human being.

Was it really so surprising that she'd lose out to one of stronger heart?

The glowing portcullis springs up to catch the explosive light in its net. It is utterly worthless, parting like beaded curtains. The rest of her body is stained black and blue all over, now. her blood leaking from her nose, her eyes. She still stands, when that white fades. But it is all she can do, and it isn't much.

Her spear falls to the ground, shaft bouncing and quivering before it falls still, and fades into nothing at all. Kyouko nods to Usagi. There is still anger, still rage. But mostly there is exhaustion, and defeat.

"You win."

Her voice picks up louder, though the greater volume only accentuates its halting scraggle. "Up to you, Uranus."

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Shamal looks straight at Hotaru, and even through the barrier anyone who happens to be glancing at her at that moment sees the softness in her eyes. It's almost motherly. It's also possessive. This is not how you look at your child, or any child. This is how you look at the treasure in a pharaoh's tomb. The light at the end of the long, dark tunnel.

Tomorrow's circled calendar date, when you get out of the hospital.

Or when she does...

She squares her shoulders.

"BOOK OF DARKNESS," she commands, and her voice is a knife through the ribs and a thousand lightning strikes, all at once -- electric steel.

Sounds grow quiet around her, as though the world is listening in, the countless small noises of Tokyo silenced to concentrate on what's about to happen. Larger noises, too; a muting field seems to fall across the myriad explosions and clashes of battle.


<< ANFANG... >> confirms the Book in a voice of its own, harshly soulless, almost mechanical.

It's the last word many people here have heard before slipping into semiconsciousness, then waking up at the hospital: Lera, Nanoha, Usagi and Makoto all know it, and so do so many of their friends.

And the massive tome begins to glow with a horrible violet light as it swivels towards Hotaru's prone, dangling form. Her skinny chest is yanked forward, between the bonds at her waist at her neck, towards the Book.

Seconds pass.

Something's missing, isn't it? Where's Hotaru's Linker Core, the sweet little sphere of light that ought to dwell in her heart? Why isn't it coming out?

The temperature plunges and goosebumps rise. Ear-popping pressure is mounting again, an echo of the wrongness of earlier when the dimensions were all in flux, and there is a keen sense that an unstoppable force is meeting an immovable object.

Black lightning crackles inside the barrier, pouring against it in all directions. Zafira's hackles rise, and he looks over to Shamal, his eyes red and round with alarm.

<< What's happening? >>

Beneath her cute beret Shamal's hair is starting to frizz. She narrows her eyes to slits, but keeps her hands outthrust beneath the Book, driving it onwards. This will work. This always works.

This has to work.

<< I don't know! Just... a little... more... come-- >>

BGM Swap: Sailor Saturn's Theme https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tq5_kdcDv0k

Even telepathy is interrupted in that moment when Hotaru's eyes fly open with such abruptness that one can almost hear her lashes tear air molecules in twain.

There's no sign of her violet pupils, to gaze adoringly upon Chibi-Usa, admiringly upon her saviors, or fearfully upon her predators. There's only blinding red light that even Zafira's barrier can't turn purple. It leaves spotty afterburns in the eyes of anyone who looks at them directly, like looking at the sun.

And fiercer still shines the mark upon her brow, which burns like a brand. Even at a distance it's easy to make out the crossed h, because of the totality of the symbol's existence, as though it's engraved not just upon Hotaru's forehead but reality itself.

The symbol of Saturn.

The silence is total as well. It transpires that the world wasn't falling silent to listen to the Book. Shouting, screaming, exploding, clashing -- even thinking -- nothing can get through. Not footsteps. Not heartbeats.

It blankets the area like impossibly heavy snow, if impossibly heavy snow were the first sign of the apocalypse.

Shamal swallows, and keeps the Book between them, the Lake Knight and the still-bound child. Why does it suddenly feel more like a shield than a sword?

OOC: No sound this round, or dialogue of any kind! No exceptions! (If you want to say something and have nothing come out, that's
totally fine and even desirable, but please do not include your literal words in the pose. Certainly expression and context can
help clarify things a little of what you meant.)

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Kassie Kick! on Garnet.
COMBAT: Garnet fails to dodge Kasagami Araki's Kassie Kick!, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Garnet is unable to keep
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly braces Kasagami Araki's Forward To My Dreams!, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki is Psyched!
Fuu Hououji's Block ability activates!  Fuu Hououji's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Vita narrowly braces Nanoha Takamachi's Shooter Swarm, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Vita's Block ability activates!  Vita's
Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

"If you're going to claim to fight for innoce"

Silence falls before she can finish her statement, or question - whatever the Wind Knight was going to say in reply to Kasagami, she's interrupted in mid-word and the rest of it goes unheard, even if spoken. Similarly, when her sword replaces her bow and she raises it to block Kasagami's own sword, metal clashes with metal in absolute silence.

Did something strike them all deaf? It seems unlikely, but there's little time to investigate; still, the Wind Knight glances around, sees Hotaru awake, sees the Book of Darkness .... remembers when she couldn't stop the Wolkenritter from putting it to use ... shakes off the memory, even as her willpower wavers dangerously in the wake of it. She can still feel the magic in her heart, no matter that the world around them has been muted as thoroughly as though the world were on a TV with the volume reduced to zero.

The Wind Knight raises her left hand, fingers splayed, and focuses her will upon Kasagami; the air stirs around them, then whips into an equally silent whirlwind, trying to bind the self-proclaimed King in place, to restrict her movements. Her mouth still forms the words - Kasagami's surely heard 'Winds of Admonishment' often enough to recognize the shape of the words, even without sound to carry them - but the Magic Knight keeps speaking, even as her will leans in to lend what extra strength she can to her magic.

What King gives up one innocent life to save anyone?

Maybe Kasagami will never know, or never care, what the Wind Knight tried to say in the middle of the world's silence. But whether or not that question is ever answered to the Magic Knight's satisfaction, she'd like to think Kasagami will have to wrestle with it anyway, sooner or later, if she's to keep calling herself a King.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Admonishment on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki narrowly dodges Fuu Hououji's Winds of Admonishment, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji is Psyched!
Kasagami Araki's Fade ability activates!  Kasagami Araki's Flash ability activates!  Trap applied to Kasagami Araki!
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera's knees burn when they hit the ground. She just manages to force herself to her feet, not knowing what she could do. Broken Ground hangs from her wrist, the gem in the center of the bracelet gleaming, and she knows she couldn't transform again. She doesn't have the magical reserves for it -- as using her Barrier Jacket to break her fall took a lot out of her. She looks up, fearfully, at the bubble.

She recognizes Shamal, too, in that instant. She always seemed so nice, she thinks, her thoughts feeling hollow. And the Book... the Book of Darkness looks as terrifying as the day it was used to drain her magic. She tenses, then looks away at first.

She didn't get there in time. She doesn't know Hotaru Tomoe, but she is about to suffer because she couldn't move fast enough.

But it becomes clear, quickly, that something is wrong. She looks back up at the bubble and stares, her amber eyes going wide. She starts to take a fearful step backward, but stops herself. Her eyes settle on the emblem of Saturn, alight on Hotaru's forehead. Then she takes a step forward, and screams something.

Except, of course, whatever sound there could have been is simply gone.

<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

A dashing rescue buys the girl a bit of breathing room, and the gratitude is still on her face when Kasagami pulls her in by the shoulder. By the widening of her eyes, the Engaged has her full attention with that whisper. She swallows and nods, quick to agree.

Released in favor of the battle that awaits, the Rose Bride shrinks back against the wall once more, seeming smaller still. As she watches, the knife-like quality of Shamal's command to the Book of Darkness demands her attention.

She's seen a draining like this before. The black-and-red cape slides to the Bride's feet, released as her fingers lie flat and nerveless against her skirt. She can't look away, and so sees when it begins to go horribly wrong.

Her lips part to cry out -- a thing that is lost, a voiceless utterance. Fingers rise to flutter across that open mouth like startled butterflies. As wide as those green irises are, the white around them grows larger still.

In the face of this unlooked-for and ancient doom, even the First Witch knows and shows fear.

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

Kasagami isn't one to back down from Fuu's wind! Nor is it something to be taken lightly. In the middle of combat, the sudden lack of her hearing is enough that she's struck with the first billow of Admonishing Wind that slashes through her! Her mouth opens, and her uniform is struck twice along her arms. Both sleeves are opened up, and she's sent to the air. Both arms flex, as do her legs, as she flips in place to once again land. Her sword acts as one superb wind breaker before Fuu's blessed air, and she smashes most of it aside, all for the sake of her Bride. She silently breathes heavy. Yet somehow, she grins to the woman for just a moment.

And just a moment it is, as both hands cling tight to her sword, and stare past the Knightess to the girl with the emblem of Saturn upon her. She can't speak. But in the face of such power? She peers back to Anthy for just a single moment, and spies that voiceless utterance. Unable to offer any kind of response herself in turn, she does the only thing she can.

A soundless breath, even as her legs burn and she herself can't help but fear the awakening of the very thing that's made one so closer to her fight against.

And so the Engaged steels herself, and steps before her Bride. Hands clench the Sword of Dios before her almost as if she would a nodachi, one foot before the other.

Both eyes narrow. She barely manages to calm her trembling arms, as she prays that her dream will be enough for what is before her. If nothing else, she'll defend her Bride that she's fought so hard for!

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

There's no telling how loud the impact of Kasagami's boot is against the unusually solid body of the Gem known as Garnet. Kasagami may have viewed it as a last desperate measure of her own, but so empowered by the forces she wields now, on top of the waves of assault that preceded it, it is more than enough, and Garnet is knocked back, skids to a stop and simply...can't muster a counterattack. And so she perhaps finds in the sudden silence, briefly, a relief from the cacophony of the battle that coincides with her fall.

But it is brief indeed, the oppressive nature of the magics at play is clear to all, but especially to one with her unique magical funky flow.

But unable to lift her fists in protest to any of the forces here, or to utter words to do so in their stead, she can only watch this unfold.

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Signum lands, in a low stance, with Lera behind her. A glance at her reveals she is alive. Signum nods once to her, tells her "Rest" in a rather imperative way, and turns her gaze forwards.

Sailor Uranus is attacking the sphere. "Fool!" Signum shouts at her, although it may not be clear who she is addressing. Sailor Jupiter's words cut inwards, and Signum's gaze returns to the tall soldier. "... Do you think that you can add to the regret that I feel? Give your full measure to me," she says to Jupiter. "I take it gladly."

"I --"

The Book speaks. Signum thrills. It's almost done. I hope she survives, Signum thinks. But if she dies -

Sailor Jupiter and Nanoha say their final pieces. It was always going to come to this. Vita is a little grateful that they've hardened their hearts. After this....after this, they never have to darken each others' doors again. Hayate will be happy, and everyone will be....fine. Jupiter's final quip earns her a dark look from Vita. "I haven't had something worth regetting in a long time," she says, coldly. "Might be nice."

Her eyes turn up to the rooftop. It should've started, she thinks distantly. "Where's--" she starts to say, before Nanoha's final defiance swings at her, a series of attacks prompting Vita to parry with her defensive shield. Balls of magic explode against her Belkan field, before she turns her eyes on Nanoha with some burgeoning intent. " " she says, and--

Stops, hand coming to her throat. She felt the vibration, but nothing happened. She's been under magical silence before - for all sorts of strange and mostly horrible adventures - but she's never felt...this. Something strange is happening. The others all panic in various degrees. Vita...

Vita's lips split in a smile. That power is showing itself. The energy they wanted! All they have to do is fend off the last wave of attacks and this will all be over! She turns her eyes on Signum. Even the telepathy is silenced. But these two have been the vanguard of the Wolkenritter for a very long time. They don't need to speak.

Signum's actions flash in the sparkling silence. The world seems greyer in the face of that darkling light, but all is not yet lost. Laevatein, the trusty blade, seems to break apart; the long bladed chain becomes impossibly long, snaking low round the ground, doubling back into impossible whorls before glowing a vivid red... And rising upwards, without warning or preamble, to grasp at hips, ankles, legs!

Vita, for her part, fires up into the sky, looming over the battle. There should be noises; dull sounds from Graf Eisen, Vita screaming her defiance and power, the KACHUNK of cartridge after cartridge, and faint world-scrape of Graf Eisen expanding as the great hammer turns from polo hammer to a titanic homesmasher. None of it; only the silence, as the body struggles to understand its totality. Vita opens her mouth. " " she cannot scream, as the massive hammer descends on Nanoha and Jupiter both - catching them between hammer and ground.

COMBAT: Vita has started a combo targeting Nanoha Takamachi and Sailor Jupiter!
COMBAT: Signum has joined the combo started by Vita!
COMBAT: COMBO! Vita and Signum have used Knights of Iron and Fire on Nanoha Takamachi.
COMBAT: COMBO! Vita and Signum have used Knights of Iron and Fire on Sailor Jupiter.
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

As the light and smoke clears - Sailor Moon is on the ground on her left side. There's a crimson stain running along the right side of her Fuku torn and angry like she'd been marked irrevocably by her combatant.

Dully she looks forward at her opponent over puddling saline. Over the roar of bullets - she sees the angry nod. She hears the words. They don't seem to register.

She won?

It certainly doesn't feel like it.

Staring at her - she doesn't seem to think it's true. Like any second now the Puella Magi is going to create another spear and gut her with it.

A few seconds pass - and it doesn't come.

And that horrible violet light appears in the sky as the totality of that light consumes all sound. Even that of her breathing. Her eyes lock up in horror - as they drift up towards Hotaru in this situation.

Then return back to the red Puella Magi - as if still surprised she's alive.

Pressing down a palm, she locks eyes which are still misting and fearful, as she speaks four syllables soundlessly.

Dragging herself up a little further to her knees - she speaks three more - tearful, hazy eyes locked with her.

She feels no sense of triumph in surviving this and wouldn't in light of what's happening. Not as she brings herself up to her feet. Not as she staggers past - holding her side.

Not as she looks back all the same - once more. Before continuing forward. The world is still chaos and pain - draped in a veil of silence. And Sailor Moon has no idea what to do.

COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter narrowly counters Vita and Signum's Combo: Knights of Iron and Fire, taking 25 Fatigue damage!  Sailor
Jupiter's Reverse ability activates!  Sailor Jupiter's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Sailor Jupiter's counterattack, Jupiter Thunderbolt, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Vita!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi narrowly counters Vita and Signum's Combo: Knights of Iron and Fire, taking 72 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Hit!  Nanoha Takamachi's Reverse ability activates!  Nanoha Takamachi's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi's counterattack, Flash Move, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Vita!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Jupiter [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

A lot of things happen very quickly. Nanoha flies towards Vita, saying she'll back Jupiter up; Jupiter flashes her a smile of gratitude, but then Signum encourages her to make her feet regret, while Vita all but scowls about having anything worth regretting at all. Shamal attempts to drain Hotaru, and Jupiter shivers to hear that word, that voice--but then Hotaru opens eyes that blaze vermilion, and a certain symbol blazes purple on her forehead as a great silence overtakes everything...

" " she shouts, then grabs her throat, because nothing... happened. There's no sound of battle, no sound of life, no voices, no anything. Just total and absolute... silence.

Signum and Vita combine their might. Signum's blade parts into wire-like things that clutch at Jupiter and Nanoha both, while Vita descends upon them with a massive hammer. Jupiter attempts to hurl a lightning bolt back, to attempt to part the hammer somehow, to no avail; it crushes down, on her, on both of them, with nary a whisper.

But. Jupiter is not fallen by the end. Once the attack fades, once Vita pulls back her hammer, Sailor Jupiter is there, battered, bloody... but not beaten.

She trembles on all fours. She is truly at the very last of her strength. There is no way she'll manage to get through another attack.

But Sailor Jupiter has fought losing odds before, and she always goes down fighting.

She lifts dangerously narrow green eyes, lightning sparking off her tiara. Her lips move, invoking her guardian planet, and stormclouds form above her. Many bolts shear down, sparkling all around her without the accompanying thunder... and then then converge together. They take form. They grow scales. They become a long, powerful dragon.

And that dragon sails forth towards Vita, maw wide and white, aiming to swallow her whole.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Sailor Jupiter has used Supreme Thunder Dragon on Vita.
<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Nanoha looks back to the barrier and at Shamal. Her first thought is that she really wants to break through the barrier to save Hotaru. For a moment, the look in Shamal's eyes is confusing and Nanoha's heart beings to fill with a sense of dread that she cannot explain.

And then it's like the air was taken from her lungs as she hears those words. The words that caused her and so many others so much pain. Nanoha wants to call out. She wants to scream but she can't. No words come as the book begins to glow and she runs for the barrier.

With Raising Heart ready, she powers up the strongest attack she is able to. The name is lost but the beam itself is quick and bright. Before she can even think it's a bad idea the beam hits the barrier and...nothing happens. She tries again with the same result. The power she uses drains her energy and for a moment and she collapses on the ground from the effort, tears streaming down her face as she looks to Hotaru and bangs her fists on the ground.

The thought in her mind was if this meant anything. If her power meant anything if she can't prevent things like this from happening. It is the thought of a girl who is overwhelmed and exhausted.

Nanoha's efforts only take seconds but it seems like hours. Even with the absence of sound, her attackers are still in pursuit and she turns in time to see Signum's chains directed at her. Her reaction through her own emotional haze is not quick enough to gain ground and Signum's chains pull her down, leaving her vulnerable to Vita's hammer.

Nanoha's mouth opens in a scream as the hammer makes its mark. A scream that is completely soundless. The hammer impact knocks her back away from Shamal's barrier and she falls hard leaving a small imprint in the ground. Her barrier jacket is torn and blood oozes from underneath it and while she is still conscious, Nanoha has no energy left to keep going.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Barrier Bounce on Nanoha Takamachi.
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi accepts Nanoha Takamachi's Barrier Bounce, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Uranus [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

There is a moment of silence that precedes the Silence, that anticipates it. Every mote of turbulence met its own bullet. Sailor Uranus's hands slowly drop to her sides, and swing a little, tired. Her eyes show no fatigue, however. They do not ask mercy. They do not flinch, though she knows what is coming.

It is a courtesy to one's opponents, to give them that. It is an honor to one's allies.

As Kyouko is assailed, so too is Uranus. But where Kyouko endured it at a range no longer than her own spear, Sailor Uranus has distance to work with, and distance grants time. A shred, a scrap. More than Kyouko gets.

Uranus darts to the side explosively. Gunfire pelts her, battering her arms and legs, tossing her off-balance as she tries to force through whatever shallow layers of bullet she can find. Right at the edge of the field of fire she is battered down to the ground and then...

It's over.

Uranus wheezes as she stands up, and her teeth make it obvious it was supposed to be a laugh. "You know," she says to Mami, almost fondly. "Sometimes I'm glad... you're the queen of muskets, and not the queen of automati****"

This. This is the Silence.

But it too anticipates one still greater.

Uranus knows that if Hotaru had wanted to end it, she would already be dead. They would all already be dead. That means that once more, she has that gift of time. Not much. Perhaps enough.

"****" she yells at Kyouko, instinctively. But quicker than most she realizes the folly. She wants to run to her ally... but this may well be it. She turns her eyes from the wounded Puella and undertakes the responsibility left to her. She turns to the field.

When Sailor Uranus bounds past Mami, it feels familiar... like Tsubasa perhaps. Nothing is forgiven between them. But what just happened has pushed everything to the edge. When Uranus runs past Mami... it is to rescue her. Kyouko. Neptune, Kasagami, Jupiter. Everyone.

She hits the field fist first. The crack feels like she punched stone but she bears down on it hard, her Oympian form bending into it, twisting her torso. Without sound somehow the blows seem even harder as she swings over and over. Pulses of reciprocal force ripple the air like the skin of a bass drum. Little pebbles bounce at her feet. Driving both hands into the field together she manages to get a grip on it, to get it to resist the tips of her fingers, and by that she drags at it, her muscles straining.

When it does not yield she digs in her heels and forces her weight forward, and her shoulderblades quake. Teeth clenched, Uranus trembles, her muscles tearing faster than the field. She leaves her back open to Mami. The odds of that girl failing to take advantage are small, but much greater than the odds that Uranus could get through the field and her at the same time.

So she labors, so she claws, so she tortures herself on the barrier. Eyes fixed on the pale silent horseman beyond.

COMBAT: Vita narrowly dodges Sailor Jupiter's Finisher, Supreme Thunder Dragon, taking 35 Fatigue damage!
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Awareness, again. Amidst the glare of her rifles' shot she can see Kyouko again, with Sailor Moon. Her injuries, severe, her weapon falling. ...She can't hear her voice. Not amidst the din here, from where she is. But she can see that end, and it tries to reach her heart like seeing Kyouko always does, and finds the barrier Mami has put there, the one of the elegant, untouchable Queen of Shibuya as she stares down her opponent. ...It stings at her throat more than her heart, somehow. But it's necessary.

Still, Mami waits for her magic to be spent, for her shots to reach the bottom. She can see some of Uranus's wounds, see her pelted, see her battered, but see her still moving. She is good, at looking through the glare. Uranus is on the ground but...

But it's over. It's over, and Mami is still falling the rest of the way to the ground, touching down lightly, gracefully, like a dancer... just before she slips the rest of the way to one knee, panting. Where she shone with so much gold it is turning to wisps now, fading out. The gem at her hat is no longer shining, brilliant, painful to look upon, but darkening quickly, shot with black in too many places. Mami cannot erase the image of five girls' faces, of another before that. Her eyes sting as she imagines Hotaru's face, too.

But Uranus almost laughs. She can't. ...Almost fondly. Mami looks up at Uranus, exhausted, defiant, and hears that gladness. She prepares to answer--

No answer comes. The Silence comes, and it is so swift and utter that it swallows up Mami's own heartbeat. For an instant she wonders if she died after all, in this too-quiet world. For an instant she fears it. ...But then she turns her head, nervous, sees blinding red light that makes her squint against it, turn half away... But that symbol. It imprints onto her eyes and she does not know what it is.

It is so, so Silence. There is no sound. She starts to waver, where she is, tries to stand, but it's as if the sound is ruining her balance. Her heart relies ont he music, the dance, and in this--

Uranus moves past her, and it is all too familiar, a resolve that she thinks in her heart may be greater than hers, just like that other. What has happened... It almost feels respect, an instant of bond that she never asks for and never wanted from Sailor Uranus. She knows what she's going to try to do.

Mami turns, to stare at her trying to tear into the field. She sees her exposed back. ...She watches, that opening. That opening, thanks to Uranus's labor.

Mami's hand curls closed, and she winces, in silent pain. She does not call up a gun. She does not fire.

...Gold wavers, and ripples about her.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe transforms into Mami Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Control -- Halsey https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so8V5dAli-Q

The silence is drowning the world as surely as sand drowns the bottom of an hourglass. As surely as night drowns the sunset.


--a scream!--

All the sound comes flooding back at once and now the problem inverts.

The scream isn't indescribable, because it is feminine, and piercing, and furious, and alien, and hungry. But it is a scream entirely unlike anything anyone has ever heard before.

For a moment it's impossible to connect it with the frail little throat confined beneath Shamal's binding... no longer.

No -- the green magic sinks into her flesh, though it does not sever her hands and feet and torso and neck. It's more like she absorbed it.

Hotaru licks her lips, as though savoring a sweet little hors d'oeuvre.

And then she opens her mouth more widely, shockingly so, letting her jaw gape almost beneath her collarbone like an unhinged swami. Like something that cares little for the limitations of flesh...

...and a hand ERUPTS from her mouth. A hand composed of brilliant red energy, the same magic that burns in her eyes. It never loses connection with its source, its 'arm' snaking down her gullet even as the hand itself clutches its fingers before slamming into the open Book of Darkness.

--two screams!

A howl has been emitting from Hotaru all this time, but now the Book screams with her, in jangling dissonance, contralto to her soprano. And a new color appears in this world that, for a terrible moment, was cast only in shades of red and black and violet...

It is unmistakably the pink of Nanoha's magic, of Raising Heart's. It infects the hand... no. It's absorbed by the hand, and goes pouring down towards Hotaru's mouth, along the arm, inside the arm, inside the girl. Little Midchildan symbols wink in and out, the sparkling sigils of everything she's ever cast, from Flier Fin to Starlight Breaker.

Pages flip backwards. Blank pages.

The symbols start becoming Belkan, and purple. Fallen Stern. Then gold -- Souverain Heraut.

Abruptly the energy changes composition, losing a runic signature entirely -- lightning explodes out of the book and into Hotaru. Jupiter's lightning. When it goes to silver, that of the Silver Crystal that has, itself, both ended worlds and brought about new ones, it is again too bright to look at directly.


Hearts, bright red hearts, happily red hearts, are next. Cure Passion. In midstream they start to become rose petals, enough to drown Hotaru's face for a moment before they, too, are lost.

The beginning is drawing near, now. There are many other intervening colors, little single-page memories of the hard labors of Vita and Signum and Shamal and Zafira, and then -- more lightning, this time golden, Fate's own... and plasma, the star in Lera's heart, the heart of Lera's star.


The book, emptied, slams shut, and falls into Shamal's palm, silenced at last. It has nothing left with which to scream.

The Knight of the Lake could do nothing throughout this -- when she tried to move she found that some strange paralysis had come over her, like a devouring snake's stunning, hypnotic gaze. The immovable force, infectious.

And Zafira's barrier was too good at its work; he, too, found himself unable to move to drop it. It was also unnaturally, impossibly strong... threaded through, here and there, with veins of that now too-familiar red magic.

Veins which pulse, now, with renewed strength, and shatter the field. Shard of released energy fly in all directions, dangerous beyond belief, until in a sort of anti-entropic effect they all reverse course and, like everything else, disappears into the little girl.

There is still no approaching her, though. Power pours off of her, now, everyone's power and more besides, as though that -- all of that, all of the mostly-full Book of Darkness -- was the mere ignition on a nuclear bomb about to go off. It flattens anyone who gets too close, and blasts continuously outwards, separating battles, spreading everyone across the yard like so much paper debris.

And Hotaru smiles.

It is nothing like Hotaru's smile. It is like someone else's expression on her face. Someone cruel. Someone vicious. Someone terrifying beyond belief.

But it is Hotaru. Those are her lips and her teeth and they're on her cute little face, her body, which is now stretching in midair, spread-eagled, in something akin to a vast yawn.

"More..." she demands (do not mistake this for a plea), her voice distorted and strange. Older. Worse. "...give me...your hearts..."

But each of those words was quieter, more somnolent. She yawns again, and the energy arm sleepily retracts until it's nothing but a horrible memory. She licks her lips again.

The little girl -- the monster -- the Goddess of Death -- whatever she is, she reverses her stretch, curling inward until she's in a fetal position, floating in the air.

Someone teleports beside her, someone inured to the waves of power she's giving off. Or on the same wavelength, at least. The Sailor Senshi know her, and some others do as well: Grand Magus Kaolinite, she calls herself, she of red hair and a sneering smile and a dramatic black robe that befits her title. A golden staff, too.

A Death Buster. A high ranking one -- the leader of the notorious Witches 5.

The one behind the daimons and protodaimons, one expects.

The one behind another, different harvesting of souls. Of Pure Hearts.

She smirks down at the sinking girl (sinking slowly downwards, also sinking into unconsciousness) in an eerie echo of Shamal's prior expression; motherliness, tainted by possessiveness.

"Tsk." Her tongue clucks against her teeth. Her inflection addresses an infant. "Did you get all worn out, pwaying with the neighbors?"

Gathering Hotaru into her arms, Kaolinite zaps back out of existence, back to wherever she came, pausing only to waggle her fingers at the girls on the ground below -- goodbye.

The air was not prepared for the sudden absence of Hotaru and the massive energies surging within her, erupting from her. There's a massive thunderclap, and then an explosion of dust. It smells like ozone, metallic, searing.

It feels like being lifted bodily upwards and slammed backwards, even further away from the mansion. Further away from each other. Alone...

A new breed of silence settles onto the emptied battlefield. The world no longer holds its breath. It has no breath left to hold. This silence curls around the area like a cat settling in for a nap. It feels fresh, the calm after a storm. But it does not feel like hope.

It feels like the worst kind of beginning.

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

An ordinary girl in an Ohtori High School uniform is there, admist the devastation that is that presence, that is that scream. Mami is on the ground, eyes squeezed together by turns and open by others, unable to keep herself fully under control at the moment. The ring at her left hand is so, so tarnished, visible as that hand rests hard against the ground asphalt, visible as Mami Tomoe forces her eyes back open to stare up at what's happening. Magic sinks into Hotaru's flesh, and there is something utterly wrong in that scream, something that takes the pain in her throat from watching Kyouko and tugs at it, twists at it, settles onto her heart and shoulders and then fades entirely into something like acceptance, something calmer.

There is a fear that is no longer warm, that is a companion. Mami finds it, unable to look away from Hotaru, the girl she is trying to save, drawing in so much magic. ...With that awful, horrible hand, with that screaming. The demand comes, and that fear still holds onto Mami's hand, gentle, the oldest friend she really has now.

Her heart. She shudders, revulsed, but her instinct is not to draw away. Her instinct, for no seeming reason at all, is to place her other hand atop her ring. Already she has internalized it, already she has learned what it is, what it means... Where her heart really is. Even if a fair hand can do nothing against this.

But the Grand Magus appears. Mami has not dealt much with her, does not know her like some does, but in all her years as a magical girl, she has learned to recognize power when she sees it. She knows the protodaimons. ...She knows them too, too well. And still, despite that horror, she does not miss the Silence, would rather hear that infant-facing inflection that seems to dig under her skin and tear than that Nothing again. She can't look away to her friends, to her enemies. She looks up. Hotaru. "N..." Her throat isn't ready for words but she forces it, "No--"

The explosion comes. An ordinary girl is hit hard by it, slammed backwards, sailing through the air to crumple some long distance away, utterly alone with the despair of that sight and the despair that threatens her. This is what she is protecting. ...No, the girl. No...

It only matters that that face, Hotaru's face, wavers in her mind, between those expressions, and Mami gathers her legs beneath herself to hide against a wall and catch her breath. Still she's bruised, under her jacket; her side is wet. She can't heal, not as she is, not yet.

But she can see it, still, and she doesn't know how long she stays there before her mind recovers enough to move again beyond staring open-eyed into nothing.

...There will be time to think. There hasn't been yet. But as she waits Mami's ring--her Soul Gem--is pressed over her chest, cradled under her other hand.

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

Kyouko tenses like a cornered alley cat as Usagi stands to approach. With so much activity churning around her her focus is diffused, but all the same she can't smell a whiff of hostility from her foe. She doesn't completely relax, but her guard eases just a slight as the blonde girl says something to her. Staring at her, Kyouko has an idea of what was said, but she knows can't be sure unless she asks. Instead she simply holds their gaze for a good long moment. Nodding, curtly, she walks away, her back to the woman who's set fire to her pain receptors.

So much is happening around her, and on a deep level, Kyouko feels fear, and urgency. But deeper still, she is tired. Uranus makes her approach, pulling away from her own battle with a blonde warrior. Kyouko's ponderous walk carries her on to plant her feet between Mami and Uranus, but she doesn't lift her arms, doesn't make a threatening gesture. She just doesn't have it in her, not now.

Mami doesn't reach for a gun, and Kyouko smiles softly, smally, sadly. Maybe the world is ending behind her. It doesn't mean she has to see it. If she is to die, then there are far crueler ends than being able to see Mami as she goes.

She can hear their failure. Hear the absence of victory. But still she doesn't turn. Touching her shoulders, her head, her chest, she makes the sign of the cross with subconscious familiarity, the first time in some time that her hand has practiced the ritual. She doesn't believe in it, not really. But it seems like the time for it.

Her little ragged body is flung down the street, Lucifer flung in the form of a discus. And she tumbles, pebbles and pavement grinding against her body as her skirts wrap around her ankles. She breathes, deeply, slowly, and lies there for a time longer than she needs to.

And then she stands, and limps for a manhole, and slips into the sewers with the rest of the vermin who survive, if nothing else.

<Pose Tracker> Signum [None] has posed.

What wakes Signum up is her cell phone blowing up.

Not literally, of course. The ringing didn't rouse her the first two times. The third time she sits bolt upright on the gray shore, still largely abandoned this time of year. She looks at herself, even as Laevatein makes a faintly annoyed buzz of its own at her.

Signum finds her feet in the course of one ring. During the second's beginning she pulls her blade from the sand, staring out at the gray depth of the ocean and struggling to remember.

She moves with brisk reflex. By the end of the second ring she has pulled her inexpensive but flexible StandardPhone out of her pocket and answered.

"Speak," Signum says to it, holding it to her ear.

She is silent for six seconds.

"I understand. Thank you. I or Shamal-san will arrive shortly. Yes. Please thank the train worker on our behalf. Yes. Good bye."

Signum hangs up the phone.

Staring out at the sea, for a moment her face crumples and contorts like a piece of scrap paper scrunched into a tight wad out of the boredom of an office worker. Tears run down the few gentle crevaces of her eyes, down her cheeks.

all of it and it




Signum lets herself have one breath, which comes out half a strangle.

But then there is a center. It feels like lead, but it is there. They had resolved to do what they could, for as long as they could, did they not? Can she abandon that now? She cannot.

Even if it was all for nothing, there is still that responsibility. Pain and sorrow matter not.

Signum speaks within her mind to the other Wolkenritter. <<Hayate collapsed. Admission at emergency north, Mitakihara. Acknowledge when possible. ...>>

The lingering futile non-word trails off. A moment later Signum, without joy, flies into the sky.

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Sailor Jupiter's desperate final strike shines in Vita's eyes. She opens her mouth to scream defiance, but Graf Eisen is faster yet; and again those green winds carry Vita away, flashing just to the side of the Supreme Thunder Dragon as it roars to devour the heavens. She gives Jupiter one final grin, before turning to face--

Vita's memory will never contain any great detail on the next minute and a half. She remembers the feeling of all hope dying in her chest. Watching - helpless, her body restrained by some foreign impulse - as that power they had strove so hard to claim was taken from them. The final blasts send her sailing away powerlessly, bonelessly, screaming and crying.

She remembers hitting a wall, and landing in a heap.

Apoplexy - noun (dated)

1) unconsciousness or incapacity resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke.

2) Informal: Incapacity or speechlessness caused by extreme anger.

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

Lera stares in shocked, terrified confusion as the Book of Darkness has energy pulled away from it -- very familiar energy, and some of it hers. She gasps, stumbling forward, and her hand is outstretched. "Wait! No! That's--"

She doesn't even begin to comprehend, though, as she sees the terrifying change that overtakes Hotaru. Fate warned her, once, that something was happening with her. Something that scared Fate -- but she never had details. Lera opens her mouth, and then her eyes widen, pupils shrinking into pinpricks at the terrible energies roiling in the air.

"What--what are--"

She takes frightened steps backward, her head darting around, looking for Sky -- and finding the Device looking ragged, but sticking straight out of the concrete where he landed. She only barely looks up, staring at Kaolinite uncomprehendingly. Without a Barrier Jacket, she has no defense whatsoever against the shockwave that follows. It picks her up and throws her easily. She slams into the convenience store's shattered storefront, bowling over a cash register, and knocking a shelf over atop her.

She lays there for a long few moments. Blood dribbles, though, and it's pitter-patter on the ground near her head brings her out of that torpor. She reaches shaking fingers up, and smears blood from the cut on her scalp across her forehead. "Nnh!" she hisses. "It stings..."

It takes a moment to think clearly enough to realize that something is missing. When it occurs to her, it hits as hard as Kaolinite's spell. "Sky!"

She stands up, then grabs a shelf and hurls it to the side. Broken merchandise flies every which way. It lands in heaps, as she starts ripping the store apart with her bare hands. "Sky! Buddy, talk to me! Where are you!? Did she get you!? Did--" The shouting turns into a smaller, more choked noise. "Sky? C-C'mon... don't... don't you leave me."

Her lip quivers, as she feels the tears burning in her eyes. The girl takes another couple of steps forward -- and then sinks down to her knees. "C'mon, Sky. Not again. I can't... I can't do it all over again. I..."

Then, she notices the little glimmer of red behind a broken piece of shelving on the floor. Lera blinks down at it, before she grabs the shelf and rips it away. She throws it to the side, hurling anything in her way to the side, until her fingers are raw and bloodied. The Device sits there, its little red gem blinking. Cracks run up and down the blade, but... the gem flashes up at her, as tears, sweat, and blood run down her cheeks.

<...It's all right. I'm here.>

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Moon [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

It should be that Sailor Moon knows what to do. But here she finds she doesn't. Whatever is happening it's coming from Hotaru. From within, from without. Caught in the silence she can't reach out to her with words - she doesn't know how to reach her with action.

All she wants to do is be there for her and she can't.

And that's maddening.

She can't even be there for Jupiter right now, locked in her death struggle.

Or Uranus - as she pounds upon the barrier.

Or the girl in red - who proclaimed she doesn't know her.

All she wants right now is a hand to hold. Whether it had the comfort of familiarity or not... here in the sensory deprivation - there's an unsettling sense of seperation and loneliness.

And it grows no less so from the horror. Her head swims as she sees a horrific hand erupt from the mouth of a girl she wants to be there for, wants to protect - and can't.

Trembling, a hand moves over her mouth - pages spinning as she watches the hand absorb the light away like it was sucking away one beam of a rainbow after another.

Horrible red light and power shine - and something twists on Usagi's expression as she watches Chibi-Usa's friend smile like that. She runs through every memory she has of Hotaru in those moments. Finds no safety, no succor from that smile.

Kaolinite takes her, and Sailor Moon staggers a step further - as if even now she doesn't want Hotaru to be taken away. Even now, after what she's witnessed.

And then in their absence - she feels herself being lifted away. She feels light - even.


When Sailor Moon wakes up. It might have been seconds - or minutes, or maybe longer. She's somewhere she doesn't know. She catches a glimpse of a fence though. And a sky.

It's through a hazy filter of water in her eyes.

She lays like that for a while.

And then gradually she lifts her opposite hand up and over to her wrist - and touches a button. A voice instantly is patched through. "Sailor Moon! What happened?"

"Are Jupiter and the others alright?" She says distantly, as if abstracted, shell-shocked.

"I'm... pretty sure. I'll contact her and some of the others in a minute! Our sensors went crazy though - what-"

"Luna." She says quietly. "Sailor Moon?"

"Do you mind just talking to me for a while?" Sailor Moon says quietly as she rolls on her side, "About anything other than... what happened?" "I- okay. How are you feeling?"

"Not great." And after a moment she adds, "... I just really don't want to be alone right now."