2018-05-20 - Berserker Beatdown

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Title: Berserker Beatdown

Vita is worn-down and desperate. She needs pages for the Book of Darkness. Mikoto Minagi is wounded and weak... she ought to be an easy catch. But if you corner a wild thing, it bites - and Mikoto knows something of desperation, too. They both are ruthless, relentless, and there is no room for reason or reprieve in their struggle.


Mikoto Minagi, Vita, Lera Camry


Yamanote High City - Shibuya Shopping Ward

OOC - IC Date:

2018-05-20 - 2015-04-19

.***************************** Yamanote High City *****************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Shibuya Shopping Ward +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
 Any rural ingenue looking to come to the big city and get swept away at
 first sight would be well-advised to get off at Shibuya Station, where you
 could fill a high school yearbook with the people teeming over a single
 crosswalk, and a legion of ten-story department stores offer a choice so
 broad it resembles existential crisis. Shinjuku might administrate Tokyo,
 but Shibuya is its style capital. Its densest concentration of boutiques,
 retailers, and restaurants is bound together by Shibuya Crossing, a bustling
 pedestrian intersection resembling an even gaudier Times Square.

 Within walking distance to Harajuku, Shibuya is less whimsical, and far
 grander. Its most iconic symbol is the Shibuya 109 department store, a
 cylindrical grey monolith famous even outside of Japan. Each floor of 109
 has about a dozen shops, and with ten flights of escalator to ascend, it
 doesn't take a mathematician to realize that even this single store can be a
 lot to take in. But Shibuya too has its side streets and quirks, and it's
 not hard to find a chic little cafe to rest in. Those who find themselves
 energized instead have recourse to the night clubs that trade on Shibuya's
 stylish reptuation.

 Shibuya Station has a humbler landmark as well. It was here that the loyal
 dog Hachiko waited for his owner each day, even after the owner had long
 since died. A bronze statue of Hachiko waits here still, a reminder that
 love and loyalty never die.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It's not too late, in the bustling streets of Shibuya. The sun's hanging low in the sky, sure, but it hasn't set quite yet, and the sky is painted bloody red with the promise of a coming storm. It's starting to hit rush hour, though. What an inconvenient time to be out.

Mikoto was supposed to just go out for groceries. Mai couldn't walk well, right now, so Mikoto had readily volunteered to go get them. One side of her was fine; all she had to do was carry the bags one-handed, just as she had Steven's snacks this morning.

It would, at least, be easier than doing it with a walking stick.

But the convenience store in town didn't have the particular ingredients Mai had written down, and Mikoto knows how important getting the right food to Mai is so that she can cook the most delicious things! So she decided to just... go a little further into the city.

It's for dinner, so it's fine, right?

This is how she's found herself at Shibuya Station, an empty cold bag in one hand, sword-case (full of golf clubs) slung across that same shoulder. She holds her arm out to avoid people shoving into her injured side, and steps out into the streets of the city.

Off to the nearest grocery store, and she'll get the exact ingredients, and then Mai can make them something good for dinner...

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

The bunny ears on the ornaments on her hat ruffle. She feels her skirt rustle around her legs. She wonders if anyone would see her, standing up here on a rooftop - she's long ago stopped caring what the buildings are, here. She had, for a while. It had become a game, interesting, to see the street from above and below. What was a Don Quixote and what was a bank. What was a Dark Burger and what was a French cafe. They all looked similar from above, but you could get inklings from dimensions, or just learn the area.

No more. This stopped being her world a month ago. She holds up her hand, and obligingly the magic image projects itself from her palm. A young woman, her identity betrayed months ago by cruel men. Men Vita had helped. Her stomach had twisted in knots about that for months after. She remembered. She had been so tired of letting monsters make her their monster.

That pain had stopped, too.

This girl was injured. This girl was weak, tired, exhausted from a long ordeal. She was alone. Better: Vita didn't have to fish for her.

"Eisen," Vita says, her voice rough. Raw in her throat. She hasn't spoken in a while. The hollow chime of her Armed Device answers her. <<Ja. Gefängnis der Magie.>>

Even the Count's voice had grown less exuberant. It doesn't feel like the thought belongs to her; more like it emerges from some independent track, chugging past her consciousness before disappearing into the dark again.

A wave of magic races away from her - pyramidal in form. As it washes across people, they vanish to the eye. In actuality, the inside of the barrier is a slightly tuned dimensional space. Like a net, it captures whoever it has targeted, and silently ignores others. Normally the Wolkenritter tune it to a certain median of magic, above which active magical girls usually reside, and nonmagical humans mostly don't attain. It was imprecise. But tonight she knows her prey.

Which is why, with a momentary queasiness flashing through her, Mikoto quite suddenly finds herself alone. The streets grow empty save for discarded detritus, vehicles...the street lights gutter out, deprived of electricity from a grid that in this space does not exist.

She has fifteen seconds to panic before a star of red in the sky resolves into a screaming girl with a hammer, bulleting at her on magic power, who lashes out with a hard kick, stronger than an adult man, into that injured side to send her sprawling.

COMBAT: Vita has used Sweeping Blow on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Vita has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi dodges 8 Fatigue damage from Vita's Sweeping Blow, taking 5 Fatigue damage! Vita is Psyched! Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Tomoyasu Hotei - Battle Without Honour Or Humanity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fQuEqwQ2I4

The nearest grocery store - it's just this way. If Mikoto cuts through the alleyway, she can get there faster. Because she is tired, after all. She is injured. After a long day, she just wants to get home to Mai, so they can have dinner, and rest. Besides, there aren't so many people in alleyways.

In fact - in this one - there's no one.

There's no one, and something about it sets her teeth on edge, because everything, suddenly, is silent. Too silent, even for the way brick blocks sound. She glances behind her, and -- there's no one in the street, either.

Her hand goes for the strap of Miroku's case -

- and that's when she hears the whistling sound of air being displaced by someone above her. Instinctively, Mikoto drops, Mikoto rolls. They're practiced motions. They save that kick from hitting her side - but she's not nearly fast enough to avoid it entirely. That bullet-train kick instead slams into her hip, as she tumbles away.

And her side, oh, her side protests the rough treatment of such a desperate evasive manoeuvre, especially as Mikoto springs up, hands against alleyway concrete. Her side protests - and her hip protests anew.

There's no time. There's no time to draw it and so Mikoto yells, a hint of desperation in her tone, hands outstretched to receive it: "MIROKU!"

Inside the sword-case, a claymore flickers out of existence.
Into her hands drops a heavy and familiar weight.
... it seems like short-range teleportation is much more accurate than long-range.

Bolstered by Miroku's presence, Mikoto turns to the sudden enemy. She clicks her tongue against her grit teeth with a puff of breath which can only be described as a hiss. She doesn't have the sort of lungs to sustain it - certainly not the way she is now. She draws in a deep breath, experimentally, feels the aching pain of her side. It sets her face in a more pained grimace.

But she has to fight. She doesn't have a choice. She is alone, she is being menaced by an enemy. There is only one path open to her.

With a sharp intake of breath, the deliberation taking only a single moment, Mikoto leaps. And Mikoto screams, a terrible, bloodcurdling sound which offers no conversation, no challenge to worldview or conviction. She is a different breed, to so many of the girls of Tokyo's streets. She doesn't want to know why. She doesn't want to know who. She doesn't tell her to stop, or that they can work things out.

When berserker meets berserker, there is only one possible end.

But Mikoto is wounded - tired - weak. Weak, and she has been marked by a powerful enemy - she felt it, in the kick, even the kick, where her weapon is so clearly held before her. This girl has done something to the world, and Mikoto knows she cannot run. Her only recourse, sword coming down in an overhead strike: overwhelming force.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Destruction on Vita.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Vita partially dodges 13 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Destruction, taking 51 Fatigue damage!

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

The bullet of a girl knocks Mikoto aside. She doesn't chase right away. The girl is short - truly a girl, probably not even ten - with an elegant, gothic lolita-styled dress in crimson. She has a big fancy hat adorned with very slightly creepy bunnies. But her fet are shod in heavy iron greaves, and in her elegantly gloved hand there is a polo hammer longer than she is tall, which looks like it was designed by someone who builds guns for a living.

She stares at Mikoto silently. Perhaps the more feral girl recognizes her; the Wolkenritter sided with Ends during that fateful battle for the island, long ago. She waits, blue eyes clear and riveted. She waits. She knows, roughly, what to expect, as that sword appears.

Mikoto exceeds her expectations anyway. Before Vita can do much more than shift her stance, Mikoto slams that sword into her. It should kill her on the spot. The ground under the strike explodes upward in one wave, two waves, three waves. The walls to either side shatter, bringing both adjacent buildings slumping down into the alley, bricks and stone sliding in in an avalanche. This wasn't the opening strike of a battle, it was the opening volley of nuclear war.

The shattered sewers don't run. The broken water mains do not rush. This place is outside of everything. People should be panicking after that ludicrous, monstrous assault.

Silence. The sound of settling mortar, as the buildings finish shuttering to the ground.

There is a single, thunderous KACHUNK.

The bricks Vita disappeared under explode away from a sudden beacon of red light. She is bloodied. She is dirtied.

Her hat is tattered. It slumps pathetically to the side and sloughs off. Her eyes slide to it as it drifts daintily to the dirt.

Blue eyes snap to Mikoto.

The hammer head pushes outward, revealing a curious mechanism that looks like nothing so much as the cylinder of a gun. And indeed - it SLAMS down, pistoning once, twice, three times before the hammerhead ignites.

"Sloppy," Vita rasps. She's talking about herself.

And then she lashes at Mikoto, a hammerblow she might normally save, trying to shatter the girl's every bone in a single move.

COMBAT: Vita transforms into Crimson Iron Rider!
COMBAT: Vita has used Flammeschlag on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Vita has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly dodges 53 Fatigue damage from Vita's Flammeschlag, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Dodge! Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

That sword comes down, and --

-- Mikoto Minagi, surefooted warrior, stumbles as she lands. Stumbles - almost falls, with a pained gasp. She's masked the injury well, around an unknown enemy, but...

... Vita struck her before she'd gathered her magic about her. Her body has been honed like a blade, but her power is magical above all else, and without it she is simply a practiced girl. She does not have the speed, the strength, the tenacity to endure attacks from such a powerful enemy.

She doesn't have any of those things as a normal girl, and it's clear when she leaves the ground, even clearer still when she hits it again. She draws a hungry breath, another. Sets her teeth in a line.

Mikoto will not let her see her in pain. Mikoto will not let her see her weak.

If she knows - if she realises - it's all over.

She doesn't realise it's already over. She can't accept that at all.

She catches her footing, she leaps away. It's not quite fast enough. She's not quite fast enough, and her own destruction betrays her. Because Mikoto Minagi is a perfect storm of destruction, designed to annihilate her enemies without a single care for the surrounding environment...

... or for herself.

But this hasn't happened for so long, the way Mikoto leaps away only for a slab of building to catch her when she can't twist out of the way fast enough. When was the last? The cruise liner, perhaps, when she was alone and desperate and -

- oh -

- it makes so much sense now, doesn't it?

Mikoto is buried under debris. Hears that word, distantly. Vita is familiar, vaguely - one enemy amongst many. One more ally of her enemies. One more person to fight.

She can't be older than ten. Can't be older than ten, and yet she fights as fiercely as Mikoto does now. But she is an enemy, and Mikoto cares little for her age. Ten year olds can be warriors; she certainly was. Perhaps an ally, she would sympathise with, even feel bad for -

- but enemies are enemies. You cannot feel bad for enemies.

And this enemy is strong, and ferocious, and coming for her, and Mikoto doesn't even know what she's done. Perhaps she forgot. It's so hard to remember the battles, when they're done. Maybe she did something...

... she can't think about that. She has to get out of here.

Miroku glows white, sigils blaring as red energy blasts out from the debris field. Mikoto struggles standing, and for a moment, perhaps, she looks weak, able to be struck even now she's struggled free - but she doesn't stop. She doesn't stop, and as soon as her feet are under her she leaps away.

It's that speed, that instant reaction, that full confidence that Vita was coming for her at full strength which saves her from instant obliteration.

But she staggers as she lands, again.

And her breath is ragged.

She tried to end it all in one blow - and she failed. She doesn't have the strength to do it again.

Mikoto turns back to Vita, her grip white-knuckled. She snarls, defiance in her eyes, but there is such pain there, pain even she cannot mask.

Can't run. Can't hide.


She leaps, again, sword coming down. It is direct, it is plain, it is utterly predictable.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Devastation on Vita.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Vita decisively counters 21 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Devastation, taking 7 Fatigue damage! Mikoto Minagi is Psyched! Vita's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate! Stagger and Stun applied to Vita!
COMBAT: Vita's counterattack, Tödlichschlag, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Indeed. You cannot feel bad for enemies.

When power clashes with power, battle begins. A cheap phrase, maybe, but truthful in its core. Two girls, brutes in their ways, blasting each other with their strongest because they fear what the other can do with their strongest.

Vita huffs. Her own grip is tight. She's furious, of course; furious at herself for lowering her guard so far that this girl, even weakened, could sheer through her magical shields like nothing. Furious at the girl, for fighting back. Furious at herself, for preying on a weak, tired girl.

That last one is fading, as Mikoto demonstrates herself an entirely able opponent. Vita's return of decisive power does not strike nearly so decisively, and she soon finds Mikoto rallying back at her. She sees that pain in the attacker.

She learned long ago you cannot assume a magical girl will stop moving because they are in pain.

She slashes, her hammer cleaving the air like God's own hand, slamming that incoming blade aside. The force of the clash reverberates through Vita's entire skeleton, prevents her from following up properly. So she doesn't try for anything too mighty. She shifts her stance. Her hammer flashes once. She screams something that sounds wordless.

But it's not.


The first hit is merely an immensely powerful hammerblow. Then the hammerhead EXPLODES with power, a magic spell erupting into Mikoto's body and hopefully sending her pinwheeling across the street and into a bakery.

Vita liked that bakery. They had lemon bars. Lately everything tastes like dust.

COMBAT: Vita has used Tödlichschlag on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Vita has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi counters 20 Fatigue damage from Vita's Tödlichschlag, taking 20 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Mikoto Minagi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Distrust, partially gets through, doing 9 Fatigue damage to Vita! Critical Counterhit!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto is waning. She is waning, and it's so obvious in the way this strike hurts so much less than the last. Eisen meets Miroku; the two converse, in the only way weapons possibly can. Mikoto pushes forward, but she cannot force her blade into the child below her. She cannot kill her. She is forced away.

This close, those narrowed bright eyes reflect every inch of Mikoto's desperation, her hatred, her pain, and even her confusion.

She doesn't know what she's done. She doesn't know what she's done, and her eyes ask even as her lips stay stubbornly silent in the face of a hated enemy. What did I do to you? Why do I deserve this? Why have you attacked me so suddenly? What is the meaning of this?

The words may as well have been wordless - they mean nothing to her. Nothing but an announcement that there is more pain, coming. Mikoto brings her blade up just in time, though her bones quake with the impact. Miroku defends her from every bone shattering in an instant from Vita's terrible might.

Because she would. Mikoto knows she would, she can sense it in every swing. She is strong - perhaps stronger than Mikoto - definitely stronger than Mikoto, right now. She is strong, and she is implacable, and they each are mirrors of the other.

It's terrible, looking at yourself, when you're a monster.

It's Eisen's turn to explode in power, now, except it's not rescuing Vita from wreckage - it's going straight into Mikoto's flesh. She screams, again, but it is not a warrior's cry. It is agony, as she is flung backwards, slammed through window and into shelf. It topples, it falls onto her. Bread tumbles every-which-way.

Mikoto groans. It takes her a moment, to stand, to shove the shelf off of herself one-handed. It comes away in two pieces, shattered by Mikoto's weight, propelled by Vita like an unwilling bullet to Eisen's gun.

The other hand is still holding Miroku. She won't let go. She'll never let go.

She sways - she stumbles. Tears sting the corners of her eyes, unbidden, as she recalls one of the ingredients on her list. Bread rolls...

No. No! Mikoto won't die here! Not when she doesn't even understand why she's being beaten down!

She stalks out of the bakery - swings that claymore down, ripping the door from its hinges. Step over pained step, she advances towards Vita, and she is inexorable, too. She is inexorable and her breath is ragged and she limps as she moves, and that sword drags behind her.

And then, with a pained gasp, Mikoto drives herself forward in a sprint, that sword coming up in a diagonal arc to pierce Vita, to spill her blood and end this so she can return to Mai, so she can deliver her her bread rolls and her shiitake mushrooms and that particular brand of stock they were out of at the store.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disadvantage on Vita.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Vita braces 9 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disadvantage, taking 4 Fatigue damage! Vita's Block and Parry abilities activate!

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Vita's having to judge herself carefully. Despite it all, something still pulses in the back of her mind. An occasional shock through her senses, keeping her alert. Forcing her to move with care.

Don't kill her.

Vita trudges across the distance between her and Mikoto. There's a weakness of her own, there. An exhaustion. Every step is heavy, every thump of her greaves into the ground taking a silent toll in some invisible inertia, some internal momentum that should have long since depleted.

The question, in her eyes. Mikoto forces herself up. "You have something I need," Vita says. Normally she offers terms: Lay down your arms and you walk away none the worse.

This girl is too much unlike the others. There's something in her that tickles something in Vita, something long buried and much despised. The girl she was, once. Screaming, hating, because if you burnt out your emotions the beatings couldn't hurt what mattered.

Mikoto surges at her. Midway across the street, over a covered manhole, Vita throws up her hand and a magic shield appears, a triangle magic diagram etched with long-lost runes.

The sword smashes into it. And this time it's Mikoto's bones that rattle, like slamming a baseball bat into an iron bar. Those blue eyes hazed by rage are clearer, now.

"You won't die here," Vita says.

The next move is a flash. She swings the hammer up - and quarterway through the swing it transforms, flashing from double-headed polo-mallet to a rocket-propelled chisel.

At halfway, it ignites, exploding the weapon into Mikoto's chest - or more accurately, into the magical power protecting that chest from being pulverized by blows that could shatter this entire block. It's quick - it's not the annihilating drill strike that Vita uses to crack magical girls like lobsters.

But in this case it may just tear her last strength to ribbons just the same.

COMBAT: Vita has used Raketenfangen on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Vita has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 15 Fatigue damage from Vita's Raketenfangen, taking 22 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Mikoto Minagi is unable to keep fighting!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto once told her enemies that she'll never yield, and no more evident is it than right here. She is battered, she is broken - was broken from the start. She cannot possibly win this battle, when the strength has left her limbs.

But she won't give up. She can't give up. She'll never give up.

Those bright golden eyes are terrible.

Vita speaks, and Mikoto snarls a wordless warning. Vita speaks, and Mikoto offers nothing back. She does not speak, to enemies. She does not parley or plead.

She is a wounded animal - and they are most dangerous, wounded.

Mikoto's strike is not overwhelming, now. It is not a strike to level buildings. It bites into the shield and the shield bites back, vibrating through her. Vita claims she won't die, and Mikoto glares at her, mistrustful and defiant.

She is her enemy. She attacked her out of nowhere. She won't let her lower her guard with lies.

But perhaps that claim shakes her more than she'd like to admit, with thoughts of the girl she left behind, because that hammer comes up and it's all Mikoto can do to steel herself against it, to bring her sword up to defend her and lock her muscles. It's the last thing she'd choose to do, normally.

And then the hammer - no, the chisel, it's a chisel now, rocket-powered, though how she couldn't say - ignites. Mikoto sees the danger presented by that rocket in a moment and she lowers Miroku, brings it out of the way of Vita's arc, takes the strike on her flesh. Miroku does not defend Mikoto, in the end; Mikoto defends Miroku.

Obsidian is sharp; it cuts deep and true. And yet it is brittle, so brittle, so easily carved away.

Vita carves at her with her chisel, and Mikoto is helpless against it. All those sharp pieces flint away.

Mikoto goes flying back, and she hits the bakery again but this time it's the wall, brick over brick, and her body disrupts particles from it, kicking up dust as she slides so bonelessly down.

As she falls to the ground, a list flutters from her pocket, landing kanji-up on the ground. It reads:

- Bread rolls
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Vegetable stock
- Pork mince
- Carrots

... it's a shopping list.

Mikoto was out shopping for dinner ingredients...

But she doesn't notice that something has fallen from her pockets yet again. Miroku is still clutched, in one hand. The other pushes at the ground, as she tries to push herself up. Her muscles shake, fail her. She slumps, her breath shallow and pained.

Her vision is swimming. She can't force herself to move any more.

"Stay away," she snarls, now, desperately, barking because she can no longer bite. "Stay away!"

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Vita knows how powerful her strikes are. She's a long-time veteran of her powers, after all. She knows that that rocket-powered hammerblow would send even powerful enemies reeling; Mikoto, in this weakened state, has little hope.

And indeed, Vita can nearly feel the power starting to fade from her. She sends that girl careening into brick, knocks free the list betraying her purpose here.

Vita's eyes linger on it for a long few seconds.

Then they shift up to Mikoto's, no expression visible on her face. She tries to spark herself off. This girl hurt her. This girl hurt her hat. This girl is--

She thrusts her spare arm up, eyes flat, dulled, as she stares at Mikoto. There's a flash of dire purple light, motes of power floating away and dissipating into the world's magic as an object appears. It's a book - normal enough, leather-bound. The symbol on the front is an unfamiliar cruciform. "Book of Darkness," Vita breathes. "Absorb."

It swings open with a horrible speed.


The pages rustle, one after another, until...not terribly far into the book at all, it stops. The page is half-filled.

Vita's eyes finally trace their way to Mikoto's. "This will hurt," she says.

Something is pulled from Mikoto, a sparking mote of animating light flickering from her chest, pulled out of her soul, slowly dimming in its exposure. Its power taken.

And oh, does it hurt.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

... things are always falling out of Mikoto's pockets, but it wasn't her little cat-faced purse she should have been worried about all this time.

It says so much more than Mikoto does, so much more than Mikoto will allow herself to say. It paints a picture of a girl with a life, with loved ones, a girl who smiles and laughs instead of baring her teeth in a feral snarl. It gives context to the way she struggles to keep her eyes on Vita, the way she lowers her chin to cover her neck.

Mikoto has something to fight for, too. But Mikoto has been fighting for a long, long time. And a HiME's body is so terribly mortal, after all. Even with her magic making her so much stronger, so much tougher, her body can still be cut; it can still bleed. It is not repaired on the fly with sacrificial magic, it is not encapsulated in a Barrier Jacket, it is not protected by fairies which will not allow her to come to harm. If she had time, if she just had time, she would be a menace again. She would be indomitable again. She doesn't even need much time, compared to everyone else - but she must let her body fix itself. She must, and yet the enemies keep coming, and coming, and they don't give her a chance.

Even predators are vulnerable, wounded. Even the strongest can end up prey.

Her magical tenacity saves her from every bone breaking from the impact. It does not save her from the exhaustion. It does not save her from the way her muscles refuse to move, the way she cannot even try to stand. Her breath draws ragged from her lungs, through teeth clenched like a steel trap. Her eyes are hateful and cold and unkind. They are not the eyes of a girl sent out to fetch ingredients, not at all.

Her grip on Miroku is white-knuckled and so utterly, utterly useless.

Those panting breaths come in a gasp as the book appears, and those terrible eyes dart from Vita to it, back again. She tries, once more, to right herself, struggles to stand, to do something, anything -

- collapses back against the wall, with another gasp, more pained. Desperate, tiny breaths. Hyperventilation. It's a method, Vita must know. A way to increase adrenaline, to be ready for threats, to respond.

Or just a way to drive her heartrate up further, when she cannot do anything at all.

She is doing something. Opening the book without touching it at all. And - and it speaks, a word she doesn't know. A command to...

Those terrible bright eyes widen to pin-pricks as Mikoto presses herself back against the brick wall of the bakery. It is the first hint of fear Vita has seen.

"No," Mikoto gasps, and the sound is small and desperate now. "No!"

She cannot - she cannot allow herself to - she cannot allow this girl to -

- there is nothing she can do.

And the noise first drawn from Mikoto is high and keening, a whimper as she tries, tries not to betray her pain. A whimper - then a moan of pain - then a scream, and it is bloodcurdling in an entirely different way, now. Mikoto's throat runs ragged with the sound, agonised and desperate and helpless against this most intimate assault on her soul.

From her chest comes a light, dark and purple-black, and it is terrible and it is full of malevolent promise but it is power, the power of a HiME. Because Mikoto is, after all - she had to be. That base was essential for them to work from, to create the tool they have. And the power of the battle-maidens of Fuuka...

... even darkened, they're still so pure.

And that darkness dims, and any of her sisters in the fight against Orphans would be left weaponless, but Miroku is not made of the same energy as magatama or kusarigama. It is an earthly vessel; it remains.

It remains in that tight grip, even as she slumps against the wall.

And how strange it must seem, that its case is still held on her back, completely unopened.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

At first, there is nothing in the sky.

Then, there is a four-point star that is distant -- a brilliant red-gold against a blue sky -- that, in the face of terrible desperation and terrible pain, could easily go unnoticed.

Except that star grows closer, and it becomes a bright blur against the sky, cresting over a building and dropping down. Lera Camry had seen from a distant, and she closed that distant in the blink of an eye; hard experience taught her to look out for the Cloud Knights, and thus here she is. She slams over the edge of a building, leaving a trail of debris and dust that explode out past her -- and a few rocks come slamming downward, where they strike the alleyway and break.

Lera's voice comes out over that, almost belatedly as she bellows down at Vita: "Get BAAAAACK!"

And then she flies right for her. It is her or the Book, and she doesn't understand the Book; she doesn't understand what to hurl herself at. She is a blur of green and red, orange and gold, with Broken Ground gripped firmly in her hand. Light explodes across the front of her, interlocking hexes of golden translucent light, that make a dome-shaped barrier.

She slams that barrier for Vita, bodily, and her feet slam into the pavement. She skids over it, debris raining out. Broken Ground chimes, once. <She's being drained. We need to hurry.>

To say that Lera is conflicted is an understatement. Her voice comes out strained. "I know!"

COMBAT: Lera Camry has fully healed herself.
COMBAT: Lera Camry transforms into Barrier Jacket Aphelion!
COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Barrier Ram on Vita.
COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Vita fails to dodge Lera Camry's Barrier Ram, taking 10 Fatigue damage! Lera Camry is Psyched!

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Vita watches as it begins for Mikoto. She doesn't know precisely how it feels but she knows it hurts. She knows they scream.

She watches. Once this scalded her heart, turned her stomach, mixed her up like a knife.

The Master is dying. Barely kept alive. Mikoto's screams barely move her, now.

Vita is still in the middle of raising her guard again when Lera comes bulleting in at her. Vita's boots begin to flash, a rapid-movement spell, but it's just not fast enough. The shield slams into the small, scuffed girl, sending her bouncing down the street. She doesn't tumble to a stop, though. She slams her boots into the ground, eyes flashing, tearing up ruined asphalt under her. She stops, boots smoldering. "You," she spits.

It's the first time Lera's seen her in - weeks? Months? She looks like hell, as much as a magical girl can particularly deteriorate. Mikoto hasn't had time to get a good look and wouldn't recognize what's wrong with the outfit, anyway. The skirt is ripped, the bodice clawed open to expose raw skin beneath. Her vest and hate is threadbare. The hat was ejected at the start of the fight, lying silent on the ground.

One of its bunnies has fallen off entirely.

Vita herself is scuffed and scraped. She has an actual band-aid one of her elbows, sports tape across her cheek. Like she's trying to barely hold herself together. Her eyes are glassy, her stance less firm and monumental than it's been before. Like she hasn't slept in days. Like she hasn't stopped fighting in weeks.

But she still lets Eisen's head thump to the ground in challenge, as Lera takes up position near the book. Which...stops draining Mikoto, and starts to swivel toward Lera. "NO!" Vita screams. "Continue absorbing!" <<Anerkannt.>>

It swivels back, while Vita throws her arm up, fingers spread, a single Swallow Flyer flashing into being and floating into the air. "This is already over!" Vita shrieks. Graf Eisen thunders: <<Kometfliegen!>>

Then the Comet Flyer explodes in size, growing and growing and growing again, beyond its normal baseball size, to softball, basketball, gym bag, child.


Truck. House.

Then it bursts into flames, and Vita whirls her hammer up, SLAMMING it into the massive orb, at which point it catches on fire and barrels toward Lera like the comet the spell is named for.


COMBAT: FINISHER! Vita has used Kometfliegen Riese on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Vita has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Lera Camry dodges 37 Fatigue damage from Vita's Finisher, Kometfliegen Riese, taking 55 Fatigue damage!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto screams, where she has slumped so bonelessly. Mikoto screams, and screams, and screams. And then her voice cracks and she can't scream any more - she tries, and the sound comes out in a pained groan. She has yelled herself hoarse. What an impossible situation, for a berserker who only ever roars. How much further her voice must have pushed itself, in her agony. Tears stream down cheeks dirtied by debris-dust, and the background of Mikoto's misery is more quiet, now. It is not ferocious; it is broken, it is scared.

Desperate golden eyes lift to the book, and they plead with it. Mikoto's voice is cracked and broken and they are words she thought were cleaved from her long ago. Because it hurts, it hurts, it hurts deeper than flesh and it horrifies her in deep and primal ways. "No - please no - no more -"

Her breath hitches, as the book turns, as if perhaps for once in her life those pleas were answered. And the noise she makes as it returns its attentions to her is flatly terrified, all hopes dashed in an instant. "No - please -"

Lidded eyes stare at the dark spark in front of her, as if disbelieving. As if she cannot comprehend what has been drawn from her, what is being taken. As if she doesn't understand how it hurts so much. There is so much, so much she does not understand.

They lift further, to where that girl is fighting someone whose barriers are so familiar, if only she could think, if only she could place them...

"No more," Mikoto whimpers, unfocused, senseless, "please - no more..."

But the book is implacable. It takes, and takes, and takes. To those she loves Mikoto's spirit is so generous; she has so much to give, such impossible depths of love and compassion. Fighting for them gives her such terrible strength - strength drawn away by inches, pulled into the waiting jaws of the Book of Darkness. It's such a struggle even to stay conscious. It seems so impossible, that she hasn't yet fainted.

Soon, even she may not have a choice.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"Me," Lera answers, her voice full of fire and anger and something more. Boots slam into the ground and she looks up, with the same fire in her amber-colored eyes. She looks across the battlefield at Vita, and she sees a girl who looks very different than the last time she saw her. A girl who, clearly, has gone through hell. It makes a note of concern ring true inside of her, even as she is forced to keep it quiet.

She is forced to focus on the fight, and not at the hat that is torn and ripped at their feet. She can only spare a glance at Mikoto; at the terrible draining, which has not stopped, and that Lera wants nothing more than to finish.

She can't.

<MANTLE HEART!> comes a chime that turns into a tinny roar, as Broken Ground rejects Vita's assertion. A veritable meteor of fiery destruction descends -- and slams into the trademarked interlocking hexes of the Device's barrier. Fire and devastation spread out as they flash; they crackle, as if interference were running through them, and then they shatter like glass. But, when the shockwave passes, Lera is not there. She floats in the air, having soared out from under her own barrier. The clockwork hammer in her hands is held, firmly, pointed down at Vita. The hammerhead splits in two, around the square yellow gem there.

"Release!" she cries out. "Broken Ground! Now!"

Motes of light begin to fly out of the split-open hammerhead, and swirl about. They twist past broken street lamps; they whip through the remains of a broken bakery; they slip between the cracks of shattered concrete and shorn rebar. They all swirl, and twist, and come in for Vita.

They hover like a hundred little points of light around her. Then, they soar inward, and each explodes in a series of titanic eruptions all centered around her.

<Bombadier Cascade!>

COMBAT: FINISHER! Lera Camry has used Bombadier Cascade on Vita.
COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Vita staggers after she fires that blast. She sways in her stance, huffing exhaustedly. She rasps. She wheezes. "Stay down," she spits. "Stay down."

Lera doesn't. Her eyes scan up to the looming interloper. She sways, trying to generate enough power to follow up. But she can't do it before Lera's pinpoints block the path. She has no escape. "EISEN!" Vita shrieks. <<PANZERHINDERNIS!>> the Armed Device roars, and a crystalline barrier grows around Vita, raw magic nearly solidified with density. She vanishes in the ensuing explosion.

The light fades, and Vita remains. Sort of. The girl stands on her two armored feet, Eisen's head driven into the ground, her whole weight supported on her polo mallet of a Device. Her uniform is a ruin - blasted, scuffed and torn, threads ripped and shredded. Her face is blackened, her normally fire-engine red hair frizzed, one of her braids blown free of its binds, hanging long scorched. But the eyes are open. Staring at Lera. "This doesn't matter," she rasps. "I've already got what I need. I'll come again...and again..."

She sways, but with visible effort shocks herself to alertness, teeth grit, lip curled back, nose flaring. "This pain....this pain doesn't mean anything," she croaks. "Compared to her pain...this is NOTHING!" she shrieks, and throws her legs apart like she were ready to fight again.

And then the book hanging over Mikoto slams shut. Before her she has watched as the power taken from her fills page after page. Two, three, five pages, words and arcane diagrams appearing on parchment as if by foul magic. She is perhaps in too much pain to exactly count. But now it is over; the book slams itself shut with the finality of a tomb, and simply drops, limply...into a waiting, white-gloved hand, extending from some strange, shimmering portal.

It retreats back into the portal promptly. Vita huffs two, three, four ragged breaths, and then does the same. Weakly she releases from the ground, and hobbles through the air into the night - flying low, slow, and shaky.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Mikoto's mind is utterly insensate and it beats out that one, desperate instruction, the one thing she knows above all else.

And she is holding on. Her grip is painfully tight.

Her lungs breathe shallow and she doesn't plead, any more, only whimpers so wordlessly, shattered sounds caught on jagged breath. Her quiet pain is perhaps most damning of all, her face still twisted in fear and agony, eyes looking at the book without seeing it at all. She doesn't see the light, as it darts by. Doesn't see the comet. The explosions, the damage. They pass into her mind, certainly - and her mind is blanking by the moment. She's here. She's not here at all.

Hold on...

A shuddering gasp, as the Book of Darkness completes its terrible task - the first breath of a girl laid low, a girl brought to normalcy again.

Distantly, she realises it's over.

Distantly, she's finally able to rest.

And Mikoto falls, against the debris she and Vita have made this battlefield into with their berserker's strength. Mikoto falls, and unconsciousness finally, mercifully takes her, so long after it would have been a kindness.

... she's still holding on to Miroku. She cannot let go.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Lera comes down, slowly. She looks down at Vita, and sees the girl who still stands -- and realizes that, even if she won the battle, she also lost. She wasn't able to do enough to stop Mikoto from being drained. Her expression shifts at that, as she looks towards Mikoto -- and then she looks back at Vita.

Her eyes widen, a little. "Her pain...? Who--who do you mean?"

The book slams shut. She stares at it, with that grim familiarity of when she was drained herself. She stares at the book, for a moment, with widened eyes, and then she watches as Vita flees. No answer is given.

She looks, instead, to Mikoto. She sees her fall back against the case -- unconscious, rung out, and exhausted. Lera hesitates, before she steps up towards her. More questions are given.

She closes her eyes. She fights a tide of emotions; a tide of complications, and then she kneels down, and scoops Mikoto up. Miroku is held with her. "...c'mon," she says. "Let's get you outta here, y'know?"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto is easily carried - she is small, she is light, and in this moment she is fragile - but Lera might get the terrible sense that, even drained, she really shouldn't touch Miroku.

... it's fine, because Mikoto's still holding it. She'll carry it with them even though she's unconscious, it seems.