2018-06-10 - What Lies Beneath 18

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What Lies Beneath 18

At the climax of What Lies Beneath, the World Tree blooms at last -- under the control of Dark Fall, who make an apocalyptic wish to unseal the multiverse's elemental axis of Destruction, Dark King. Michiru and Kaoru Kiryuu make the ultimate sacrifice for their friends -- and the Wolkenritter try to do good in order to do good, but wind up also doing very bad indeed, as the Book of Darkness awakens.


Mai Mishou, Mikoto Minagi, Inori Yamabuki, Shigure Shiratsuyu, Steven Universe, Setsuna Higashi, Saki Hyuuga, Endo Naoki, Nori Ankou, Nanoha Takamachi, Takeo Akamizu, Niramo Umokeshi, Setsuna Meioh, Fuu Hououji, Kasagami Araki, Mai Tokiha, Natsuki Kuga, Fate Testarossa, Lera Camry, Gohyaan, Michiru Kiryuu, Kaoru Kiryuu, Vita, Signum, Shamal, Zafira, Hayate Yagami


Tokyo Tower, and the World Tree

OOC - IC Date:

06-10-2018 - 04-24-2015


<Pose Tracker> Cure Egret [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

It feels like forever to Mai Mishou.

Each word, each twist and turn of phrase, is something she hangs on. She understands something about herself, now, and about Bloom: this is the best they have. They can't strike them down, the way that they have before to other enemies. If this doesn't work, she can honestly say that she did her very best. She can only hope that her senpais will understand.

Except, she finds, their very best is good enough.

She smiles at them, small and hesitant at first, and then it becomes bigger. And brighter. She looks at the two sisters, blinking her eyes -- they sting, a little. Then, she looks to the side, and to Cure Bloom. "Bloom!" she says. "We have to help them!" She looks back at the sisters. "Michiru-san, Kaoru-san... thank you! We will make it count and--and when this is all over, we'll talk about everything! I promise!"

She takes a running leap forward. Egret twists in midair -- and then comes crashing down for the Negatone that she lunged at, at the start. Her foot outstretched, she slams her foot for the side of the creature's head with a cry.

COMBAT: Cure Egret has used Sky Dancer's Kick on Negatone.
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto does not speak, but she is here, and she will help Takeo, though her mind roils and there are dark things underneath. It is enough to know that she must act. She bends at the knee - she leaps -

- and if she were being attacked in any measurable way, it might have saved her from the blast from behind.

But this is not a measurable strike. There is no weapon to it, though there is surely force enough to catch her like a leaf in the wind, to unbalance her and send her twisting in the air before she falls back down to the strut with a dull thud.

Her head dangles from the edge and she sees the too human musculature of the Negatone and it is exposed to open air like a blade tearing through skin. There are things that are not meant to be seen by the eye, and some are red like flesh and there are other colours too and in this moment they all seem reflected in its horrible, daimonic form.

And there's bile in her throat and the worms are too close to the air now.

And that is when Kasagami screams.

'Don't you dare die, Mikoto-chan!'


'So you do whatever it takes to hang on and live Mikoto Minagi. Don't die. Don't let anyone kill you. Never submit, and destroy anyone who tries to make you.'


'Why...why didn't you say something? Why did you let things escalate this far? Why did you get hurt?!'


'You must always protect Miroku, and you must survive for my sake. Do you understand?'

Beat, beat, beat, Mikoto's heartbeat in her ears for all the noise it makes as it slams against the confines of her chest in rapid fire.

Just like that, Kasagami's words open the floodgates, as she remembers every time her most important people have pushed the lesson of self-preservation onto her. The shift in her eyes is palpable, to Lancelot, as Kasagami's call cuts through the Negatone's horrible dirge. Despair, desperation. They make such convenient partners.

She meant to help him, but it is so clear she is the one who needs help.

"I --" She does not growl any more but chokes out a word, struggles against it as she pushes herself up. She sways as she grasps her sword.

Her heart hammers in her chest as she swallows, her throat dry, her tone thin.

"I can't --" Her eyes are wide like dinner-plates and she has come to save him but it is so clear she has spent her last shred of capability on it. She has come to his aid with her last logical thought and now she is gone.

Her nostrils flare with the memory of a scent and she denies it, she denies it, she denies it.

She does not finish her sentence. She leaps; she flees. She does not even strictly go upwards, any more, but only in the path the beams take her, thinking only as far forward as the next foothold. Up, down, about the side - it doesn't matter. Nothing matters but staying out of the path of these monsters. Nothing matters but survival.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Pine [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

As the bright flash of their attack clears - Pine is startled, as the sight of whatever triumph Passion and her had seized being stolended. "It's... it's not stopping..." As the alien existence holds it together, she seems thoroughly horrified. Severely injured from Kindabads and Acid both, she feels like she has so little left. She was hoping to take at least this thing - this thing to show them.

But - Egret and Bloom have an answer that doesn't involve fighting the two girls. And the two girls respond to that. Her breath seized by the Sorewatase - it's held in stasis in these few breaths where they seem to respond. Like she doesn't dare to hope.

And then... they say it.

And then they snap the wand.

The horrifying Daimonic power rushes away, guttering out. The Sorewatase passes unto mist. "Bloom... Egret..." Something shines in her eyes. Admiration perhaps, as she steals a glance at Passion - before looking at Michiru and Kaoru. "You two couldn't have chosen better friends." There's a light smile.

The battles not done though. From her high perch, Pine whips her legs out and grasps ahold of the tower, monkey-barring around the side of Tokyo Tower with titanic swings that bring her around to the other side. Once she's positioned to the side of the Negatone, she swings back and forth by her arms, kicking her legs out - and letting loose.

Turning into a flip in mid-air, she then descends into a - double tap crunch of her boots on top of the Negatone's skull visage - letting gravity do most of the work for her. Before leaping off to the side.

"I wonder if this means Siren is somewhere close by..."

Bad kitty or not - the thought still cheers her up some.

<Pose Tracker> Shigure Shiratsuyu [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

It was impossible to miss it. The blossoming of the World Tree... the lights that poured forth from each of the points towards Tokyo Tower -- and the army of Dark Fall that has gathered around it.

Shigure missed the first wave and got separated from anyone she might've wished to reconvene with; the end result isn't pretty, and the novice magical girl, who isn't certain of her own faith and power, finds herself lagging behind severely as she continues to fight her way up the Tower--


--Claiomh Solais' spiritual spike-end burst against a lesser youma as she lets out a haggard breath, finding the Symphogear Relic heavier and heavier yet. It doesn't feel like she can stick it through to the end... but she dispels such thoughts, not wanting to disappoint her friends at such a critical juncture.

"I can't give up here... I can't..."

She wipes her brow, and draws a slightly deeper breath. "Where are you...? Everyone..."

But something -- something happens, and her eyes widen as she stares up ahead as the monsters start to show vulnerability. There was still yet hope.

COMBAT: Takeo Akamizu transforms into Chevalier Knight Lancelot!
COMBAT: Cure Pine has used The Yellow Heart is the Emblem of- Always Seeking Cute Cat Pictures on Negatone.
COMBAT: Lancelot has loaded him saved combat state! He is now ready to take on 1 opponent!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.


"Wh-WHat was that?!" Little Steven Universe says, having his game of Lonely Blade: Tournament Edition match interrupted. A distinct 'pop' that kinda reminded him of a shield pop happened, and yet, nothing nearby could have emitted it. It was like something distant reached out to him. A sound expectant of a response.

The boy runs over to the Warp Pad, and with a thought and outstretching of arms, teleports outside onto the one remaining outstretched hand of the Gem Temple's stoic feminine figure. What he sees is baffling. Lights. Lights and a sense that he needs to be wherever that is, now. "Uh... Uh...!"

A portal opens on the hand, but different in nature, this one vertial and pink. "Lion!" Steven shouts, before the can can even appear fully. The feline quickly grabs a hold of Steven's shirt, and tries to pull him toward himself. "I get it! Don't worry, we are going! Something is wrong, huh?"

"Lead the way!"


A circular portal swirls into existence near Tokyo Tower. Out of it flies a pink blur going about the speed of a car as it tears down the road, closing quickly on the location. "Look at all the fighting! This must be it! The event we all have been fighting for! We gotta do something Lion!"

The animal barrels forward and ROARS a portal into existence, leaping through it. Portals begin to open on girders and pathways up Tokyo Tower. Lion continues running at full speed, roaring more and mroe as he runs, portal jockeying his way up the tower to join the fight in earnest, while Steven clings for life to his mane, half-phased into it with a soft glow.

Kindabads unfortunate ehough to be on these paths are met with a rampaging cat locomotive, whose sonic roars are both disorienting and painful.

"Go Lion, Go!" Steven cheers on, readying his shield as they begin to near the area where everyone is. To Lion, despite the changes in height and location, has been running one straight line this whole time, and only seems to be building up speed as he goes.

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Just Lion Things on Kindabads.
<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

When Passion has to shield her eyes, turn her head away and not look, she believes in her friends. ...When she looks up to see that the light is still going, that the Sorewatase does not fade, is still there. "Pine..." She lets out a ragged breath, and her shoulders sink in exhaustion. ....But that isn't the end of it, either. She can hear Michiru. She can hear what she's saying, in her red energy, of giving over her destiny to someone else, and it's too much; she can't look at her, remembering. But Kaoru...

Passion blinks, and looks up, as she hears the Kiryuu twins speak of what they want. Of what they will do.

"Amazing..." Passion is as surprised as Pine, as admiring--she looks to her friend for a moment and smiles back. "...You'll see," she says to them, almost certainly too quiet to hear. "They'll show you it's worth it." And at that, she does look to Egret and Bloom, and knows: they will need help. So she takes in a breath. "Right." With the Sorewatase gone, Passion coils up and springs upward again, catching metal and pulling herself along, a leap at a time, after Pine--and then sailing through the air, crashing forward.

...Passion does not suddenly hope for Siren's presence. They... didn't really get along very well. But--

"Hah--!" She strikes in after Pine. She's tired, but she can't let Egret and Bloom down until she's got nothing left at all.

COMBAT: Cure Passion has used Passion Punch on Negatone.
<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Saki's eyes widen, and she knows she'll be too slow to defend herself. She let her guard down too far to block if Michiru struck out against her again. She yields a step, reflexive, before Kaoru arrives. The smile that blooms across her face is immediate. She knows Kaoru has long been the less emotive of the two, and she can't suppress her own tears at seeing that quiet girl come to peace with her heart first. She watches Michiru's eyes as they dim, and the tears spring forth. She doesn't say anything. She just smiles, that smaller, tender smile she reserves for her friends, as Michiru leaps away.

Flappy murmurs, at Bloom's waist, as the twins grip that staff between them, "Created using the Power of Destruction-lapi..." And then he chuckles, teeth shining through his chubby face. "But even they see the power of Pretty Cure's hope-lapi!" he says, like some long-weak hope had rekindled at last.

Bloom's smile is even wider. "Michiru...Kaoru," she says, awed and happy, as that bright white light returns. Her hands gathers over the ribbon on her chest. "Before I am Pretty Cure, I am Saki Hyuuga," she murmurs, hoping they hear it even if the din and distance might make it hard. "And I will be there for you! We'll finish this up, and then we'll have a long talk, OK?"

And then she leaps off, feeling her heart and body both as light as ever. The light gathers under her feet as she angles up toward the Negatone - and as Egret soars for the negatone, a matching golden streak glides in beside her. Fist out. Screaming. They have a lot of people to protect right now, but for just a moment, Cure Bloom doesn't feel bad that she's only really thinking of two.

COMBAT: Cure Bloom has used Fistful of Flowers on Negatone.
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo's path to Tokyo Tower has been a slow and visible one. High above the lurid purples that light his path are no doubt lost amidst the sea of neon in Tokyo's evening, but to the monsters on Tokyo's streets the ugly light is nearly blinding for as long as they exist to witness it. Not long, if Endo has anything to say about it.

And when he does make it to the base of the tower, then he has the arduous task of going up. Which is not his strong suit on the best of days, the knight lacking the same flight many of his closest allies have. Still, he can jump. From one girder to the next, up the spine of the tower, toward where the battle rages most fierce.


The faux-Belkan enters fray with a heaving sweep of his sword toward the scattering terribads, aiming to cleave his way through the tiny horde and toward the larger targets in the battle. Contrails of black and purple flames follow in his wake, the huge sword her caries spinning in cleaving circles.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Meteor Absturz on Kindabads.
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

La Sirene feels her shoulders spasm a little as she looks at the two girls who confront Pretty Cure with their wand. She breathes out. Batiste, recovering from the mortal terror of imminent consumption, looks that way as well.

She... does not do anything, immediately. Whatever that was has left her feeling dizzy, like she's just drunk white wine that was left in a back closet for twenty years. It's a buzz, yes, but her mouth tastes funny. She sweeps her hair back with both hands.

Then the sick and poisoned feeling fades as a white light rises. It is a light of hope, of possibility, a potentia that is beyond understanding or beyond mere simplicities. She has often contrasted herself to the world of Earth and to others, usually to her own advantage, but in this warm moment, the cool seas of la Sirene's heart warm.

She smiles, a bit crookedly, and rises to her feet in a creak of jewel-studded leather.

-- "I am here, Cure Pine!" la Sirene calls, waving vigorously. Batiste starts waving too. "Just give us half a moment!"

-- Be that as it may, la Sirene's gathering energies lets her send glittering obsidian shards of light towards the massive skullfaced creature. She's still breathing with heavy difficulty.

"Even with all of this," she says wistfully, to her ally, "I am trying mostly not to be a burden, Batiste... do you think that I could ever be stronger? They are so gorgeous, all of them. And they combine so well. The ones who I am closest to do not have this power, or else I'm against them..." That flare of hope dims faintly.

"Stranger," Batiste says, absently.

La Sirene stops her projecting streaks of glittering unlight. "What?" she asks him.

"Later! Let's move closer," the otter declares, leaping onto la Sirene's shoulder as she gets it into first gear and vaults after Pine and Passion. ("Sweet Invisibles!" Batiste exclaims from his observatory perch. "Steven! I did not know you could do that?!")

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used The Black Kaleidoscope on Negatone.
<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

In the midst of the battle raging around them, Nanoha has been doing her best to assist Fuu as they have ascended up the tower. When the wand is broken and there is a moment of silence, Nanoha frowns. It's a silence that was unexpected and it's uncomfortable. When she focuses upwards though at the Negatone and the rest of the Kindabads, she knows it's not over.

With every pass up the tower, Nanoha continues doing her best to fight off the invading monsters. But once Fuu is nearly overtaken by them, she knows that her friend has used a lot of energy and so she shifts her focus to helping bolster her. With Raising Heart's help, she sends out a beam of restorative energy with a look of concern at Fuu. "Are you okay? Don't overdo it!"

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Divide Energy on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji accepts Nanoha Takamachi's Divide Energy, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Fuu Hououji is Reinforced
by Nanoha Takamachi!
<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

He had hit the observation deck with an explosion of breath. His left arm numb but the shoulder screaming at him. Now, to match the scremaing muscles in his shoulder, his back and lungs burned from the effort of trying to breath after the fore of that fall, the impact having knocked the wind clear out of Lancelot. He manages to roll over and spies Mikoto as she flees. "M - Mikoto -Mikoto-Chan." He manages to breath out. He'll have to find her. Make sure she's safe, unharmed. He's pretty sure if Dark Fall doesn't kill him tonight, Mai-chan will if just let Mikoto run off into the night.

One world ending catastrophie at a time Takeo.

Pushing himself to his feet wiht his one good arm he summons one of the Blades of Arondight with another crack of thunder and a captured lightning bolt. He sets himself as the now normal sized Kindabads continue their attack. He nods once and sweeps his blade unleashing a swath of lightning toward the Kindabads, shouting as he does so; "LIGHTNING BLAST!"

The sweep let's loose a ragged wave of lightning pulsing wiht blue and white energy and crackling with thunder. Once the blast hits something ther eis a blinding flash of lightning and a boom of thunder. The lightning arcing along the structure where it touches and sending up quite a light show.

COMBAT: Lancelot has used Lightning Blast on Kindabads.
COMBAT: Kindabads braces 9 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Just Lion Things, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Trap applied to
COMBAT: Kindabads perfectly dodges 50 Fatigue damage from Endo Naoki's Meteor Absturz, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!
Kindabads's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Kindabads braces 17 Fatigue damage from Lancelot's Lightning Blast, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Lancelot is
<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.


Quiet afternoon plans are shattered upon the beacons of light burst from the ground, harking the bloom of the Legendary World Tree on an otherwise ordinary day. Even if Niramo hadn't been paying attention to the sudden otherworldly lightshow lighting up the sky, Takk suddenly floating in front of your face and demanding investigation at once will do it. Pushing away her homework, Niramo was already half way to her bedroom window before she turns back around to retrieve an envelope. A minute later, Sourisi is starting to jump away from her empty suburban home, the envelope resting on a kitchen counter.

Being kidnapped by aliens has made one thing very clear for the Miraculous User, to always leave a note behind, even if it's never needed. Just in case.


Rooftop hopping can only get you so far when it seems like the streets of Tokyo has suddenly become a magical battleground. The odd shapes of the Kindabads look like nothing more than dark mannequins wearing tinted shades, but with so many of them and the feeling of wrongness as seeing such misshaped figures move about on their own made it obvious they were up to no good.

The change in tactics from heading towards the central beacon towards Sourisi is enough to make her draw her tonfa, and at first the battle seems easy enough. They certainly have numbers on their side, so it was more hit and run, striking a few rabid blows to give herself a little breathing room then charging for the next rooftop, always making progress forward. That is until the Kindabads suddenly change form from skinny minions into hulking brutes, ones that could easily dogpile the poor mouse girl, and an new plan of action is brought forward.

Run towards the light, because there will be allies there that could help her save herself.

Hit and run tactics are dropped as Sourisi desperately leaps from one rooftop to another, followed by a swarming mass of black bodies chasing after her. With each mighty leap across large gaps, hulking Kindabads would falter and fall down to the streets below, but many more remain to keep the chase ongoing. This repeated several times, with the blooming Tree becoming closer and closer and yet still so far, even with the base of the tower only being a light jog away.

An errant glance from Sourisi catches sight of a gleaming, massive claymore, and all thought of flight is dropped.

Suddendly changing directions from the tower to a friend, a mighty leap into the air brings the magical girl crashing down onto one hulking Kindabad, tonfa swung overhead to bash the minor youma through the rooftop and into the building below. Backflipping from the impact, Sourisi lands next to the Maiden of Solais, tonfa raised in defiance of the encroaching monsters upon her closest friend. A glance backwards is all Sourisi needs to tell that while Shigure isn't wounded, she's been fighting for quite a while. While breathing a little hard herself, Sourisi seems to be in better shape at the moment.

"Shigure-chan, you okay?! I don't think anyone was expecting the Tree to bloom tonight, but those that want it for themselves seems to be prepared, but that's why we're here! You, me, Sailor Pluto and many others that I met have to be here fighting, against all this darkness!"

The sudden appearance of reinforcement for the Symphogear seemed to have the Kindabads frozen in place, but the animal-suited girl was only speaking meaningless words to the other. The closed in upon the pair, but suddendly they screech in sudden pain and shrink in upon themselves, dark shades fleeing from their forms. "See? Now come on, we're not alone. I know you can do this, to be the sword that smites evil!"

COMBAT: Sourisi has used Heartfelt Pledge on Shigure Shiratsuyu.
COMBAT: Shigure Shiratsuyu accepts Sourisi's Heartfelt Pledge, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Shigure Shiratsuyu is
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

As it turns out, no amount of screaming can forestall despair. Perhaps her ragged howls only prime Sailor Pluto for the depths, like exhaling before a deep dive to ensure one's own drowning.

Her body tumbles and she has some dim awareness of impacts and a loss of control, but her eyes do not see; her ears do not hear. Kassie, she thinks, in a pained flash -- a realization that the swordswoman may be in grave danger from the Negatone and now she is helpless to assist, the anguish of a warrior ripped from her love's side.

Up on the frighteningly high scaffolding that form Tokyo Tower's red skeleton the Outer Senshi flies, a beautiful ragdoll, in a graceful midair arc before hitting the broad girder in an unchecked roll with bruising disjointedness. She slides up against a corner of two great metal bars and wedges there, a loose puddle of a young woman: slack limbs, staring eyes, a pool of shining evergreen hair spreading out beneath her.

Within, Sailor Pluto hears the music, and that is the second worst thing in the world: haunting claws of bitter sound that rip at her soul.

The worst part is the Silence.

Sailor Pluto has failed; of course she has. Of course she will. She came to the Tokyo of Here and Now with -- not hope, she would not term it thus. But a certain... determined clarity, that if she gave everything she had, that it would be enough. Since then, doubts have hammered their way into the senshi's consciousness, and so many things have gone so terribly wrong...

She is no longer certain if it will be enough. And Sailor Pluto turns the blame inward, carries the weight of that upon her heart. If she had not been so careless with those star maps, before their first strike against the girl... If she'd realized who Small Lady was befriending before it was too late... If she had found a way to confide in Neptune, in Uranus.

But no -- she keeps failing, and at each turn things get worse.

Sailor Pluto drops into the despair without a sound, and it is the easiest thing in the world after so long spent stoic. She leaks a quiet line of tears onto the cold metal with eyes closed, heedless of her surroundings.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The Kindabads which had hemmed the Wind Knight in are blasted away, to the Magic Knight's relief - but she still has to stop and catch her breath, surveying the battlefield and weighing where else she needs to contribute. The Sorewatase is blasted into splinters ...

Splinters which *stay* animated, held together by dark magic, and the Magic Knight of Wind feels her heart begin to sink. The Kindabads reorganizing just add weight to her distress, and her own memories aren't helping - protodaimons have been the stuff of nightmares at every encounter.

But then the tides of battle turn: Dark Fall's two warriors take their counterparts' words to heart, and make a new choice, rejecting their masters and their mission. And with the breaking of that wand, the odds shift - the Sorewatase allowed to perish entirely, the Kindabads shrinking back down to their normal size, even the Negatone becoming slightly less terrible. But the battle rages on, and the Wind Knight breathes in deeply, smiling in relief as Nanoha lends some extra power. "Thank you, Nanoha-san!" she calls out, one hand on the framework to steady herself as the extra mana buffers her own reserves. "I think we have a really good chance now; see if you can help stick a fork in that big spoon monster!"

She resumes climbing, gusts of wind propelling her a little further than her legs alone. Most of the battle is above her, and even with wind to speed her arrows, she'd rather get closer to the fray for practicality's sake.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Favorable Observation on Nanoha Takamachi.
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi accepts Fuu Hououji's Favorable Observation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Nanoha Takamachi is Cheered!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

That horrific sound that seeps despair into the mind and body ravages Kasagami, the her own frayed and exhausted heart wavering as she eyes Mikoto fleeing for survival. She winces inside, that terrible mutated Negatone stubbornly refusing to die no matter how hard they hit. She looks up as she lands on a beam from her attack, sucking in breath to try to keep her composure. Her head pounds like three migranes combined.

A glance upwards, and she's just in time to see the two sisters grasp the wind. They decide their own destiny with the words of those encouraging them, and with a snap breaks the wand.

"The only way to live is by bringing your dreams to reality for the sake of those you love!" Comes Kasagami, feeling her heart uplift just enough.

Steven, Sourisi, and Lancelot arrive on the battlefield. Without the protodaimon power? The odds feel doable.

Kasagami finds herself drawn to the form of her fallen love, Pluto hitting that gerder, bruised, battered, and deep into despair. She wants to lay down beside her, to leave the battle to the others, but something in her is stubborn. She reaches down, and one hand brushes the locks of the pained Soldier of Revolution.

"We will not lose tonight, my sweet. There's too much at stake! For my dreams. For our dreams!" Whispers the young woman, and then with one more ragged breath, leaps up higher, before starting a freefall from above that's more controlled fall that graceful leap down.

There's no grand strategy here. She just crashes down towards the Negatone in it's depowered state, remarkably quiet. She doesn't have the energy left for a warcry even. Instead, blade high above her head, she lashes out.

Dark crimson roses trail every two handed swing, and the world is a deep reflection as her blade blossoms six ways in the span of an instance as if mirrors make that long sword dance everywhere at once. She holds nothing back, it has to fall, and now! For the sake of Mikoto and Pluto alike. That, more than anything, helps her lift her blade no matter how much it hurts to do so right now.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Crimson Flurry on Negatone.
COMBAT: Negatone braces 7 Fatigue damage from Cure Pine's The Yellow Heart is the Emblem of- Always Seeking Cute Cat Pictures,
taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cure Pine is Psyched!  Negatone's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Negatone braces 9 Fatigue damage from Cure Passion's Passion Punch, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Negatone's Block and Parry
abilities activate!
COMBAT: Negatone cleanly braces 17 Fatigue damage from Cure Bloom's Fistful of Flowers, taking 3 Fatigue damage!  Cure Bloom is
Psyched!  Negatone's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Negatone braces 5 Fatigue damage from Cure Egret's Sky Dancer's Kick, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cure Egret
is Psyched!  Negatone's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Negatone fails to brace La Sirene de Diamant's The Black Kaleidoscope, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Negatone is unable to
keep fighting!  Negatone is Quipped!
COMBAT: Negatone fails to brace Kasagami Araki's Crimson Flurry, taking 33 Fatigue damage!  Negatone is unable to keep fighting!
<Pose Tracker> Shigure Shiratsuyu [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

For a moment, it feels as if everything was... over-- Shigure holds her arm up as a Kindabad attempts to impact upon her, but--


A fast-moving figure strikes her tonfa and smashes the youma across and off the garter that she's on. There's a haggard breath, as she glances to Sourisi with a quiet nod as she says, "Y-yes... thank you, Sou--" A pause, and she says, "Niramo-chan."

They were just here by themselves right now, she wants the chance to be a bit more personal. To thank her for helping her at a moment of danger.

She glances towards the Kindabads. She nods towards Sourisi, and expresses, "I know... I'm not alone. I have you with me -- and I believe in you, Niramo-chan!"

COMBAT: Shigure Shiratsuyu has used I Know You Can Do This! on Sourisi.
COMBAT: Sourisi accepts Shigure Shiratsuyu's I Know You Can Do This!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Sourisi is Cheered!  Empower
applied to Sourisi!
<Pose Tracker> The Kiryuu Sisters [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Ah," Michiru says, suddenly looking shy, when Bloom and Egret express their feelings, along with some of the others. "Everyone..." Kaoru kinda buries her head in her sister's shoulder. They're overwrought; they need a minute.

But a minute they have, as everyone lunges into the fray.

Everything starts falling into place. Even if it isn't literal in a battle with a Negatone, the metaphorical soundtrack, at least, is swelling.

The cavalry has arrived; Steven and Endo, Sourisi and Shigure, coming in to assist Lancelot, Fuu and Nanoha with the Kindabads. They cannot hope to endure the sword strikes, lightning blasts, and Lion swipes, and start falling off the Tower in droves.

Two Pretty Cure punches and two Pretty Cure kicks, straight to the head -- what youma could hope to endure? The vibration from the impact fizzles down the Negatone from crown to toe-bones. Its eyes pop out in a huge boggle; moments later, the combination La Sirene's obsidian shards of light and Kasagami's slashes finish it off.

It goes the way of the Sorewatase, with one minor difference; instead of popping out of existence, it just becomes a pink plastic dessert spoon, which clatters onto a rafter. And the little Note next to it has had the sorrow squarely beaten out of it; it bobbles away a pure expression of the joy of music. Hopefully Hummy will find it soon.


So why isn't Tokyo Tower's column of light turning from white to gold?

"What is it that you want to see, exactly?" wonders Gohyaan.

This is the first time he's been seen outside of the halls of Dark Fall, so let's dwell for a moment on the little guy; we're basically looking at Yoda in courtly samurai-era garb, only his toadlike face is singularly malicious in its smirk, and those red eyes are definitely worth taking warning over.

He is old in a way that dark warriors rarely appear; even the millennia-spanning Queen Beryl retained her beauty, but Gohyaan is wrinkled and squat and has some frizzy gray hair sprouting from the base of what might be an artichoke growing out of his head. It's just part of him. Yes, he is an old, cranky artichoke.

He carries a cane, and leans on it heavily in midair, behind Michiru and Kaoru; a contradiction he is comfortable existing within.

Michiru and Kaoru's expressions -- primal terror -- are perhaps the first indication that Gohyaan is, in fact, more than he seems.

"We meet at last, legendary warriors Pretty Cure. Pleased to make your acquaintance." He nods at the non-Precure in evidence as well; everyone present is at least a legendary warrior if not the second half. Then he turns to his wards.

"So then, Michiru-dono, Kaoru-dono." He addresses them with an odd sort of courtly respect, as though they were lords above him, and yet, and yet... alert, danger, danger. He's so polite and crisp. He's too too. "What is taking you so long? Akudaikaan-sama ordered you to defeat Pretty Cure, did he not? Now, hurry up and finish it. Why aren't you fighting? Surely you're not claiming, at this late stage, that you can't fight?"

"We can't fight our friends," Michiru explains fiercely, one of her hands reaching out to clasp Kaoru's. The other one is clenching into a fist.

"Please understand, Gohyaan," Kaoru softly implores.

The old man's enunciation is the carefully separated sort when someone doesn't quite believe what they're hearing and has to repeat back carefully in order to be sure they get it right.

"So what you're saying is the following: you started out pretending to be their friends, became friends for real, and that's why you can't fight Pretty Cure? That's truly unacceptable behavior for warriors of Dark Fall. Why, Michiru-dono, Kaoru-dono, you two are no less than traitors!"

Kaoru clutches at Michiru's hand. They have both turned several shades paler.

But they turn paler still... when Gohyaan smiles. It's a toothy little grin.

"Do not worry," he explains, in patient, grandfatherly tones. "You have performed your task perfectly!"

...That's when the white light all around them shifts totally and completely to the evil purple issuing, distantly, from Infinity Institute and Library Island.

And, off the top of Tokyo Tower, a group of dark warriors fizzle into being. Whatever magics had kept them invisible up until this point as they snuck up the tower through the battle are no longer required.

One of them is holding a roughly fist-sized piece of wood, not dissimilar to the one Fuu Hououji wears around her neck. She has a bunch of heavy red ponytails and her name is Eudial, first of the Witches 5. Accompanying her is a skinny younger boy in the same sort of awkwardly too-plain shirt and shorts of Michiru and Kaoru's ilk, and his grin is bright with glee. His name is Kiriya. There's also a vividly dark young woman in a tutu of raven's feathers, and her name is Princess Kraehe.

They leap into the air with varying degrees of grace, and vanish, this time not in the invisibility way, but in the teleporty way.

"All you needed to do was make our enemies distracted -- to make them hesitate. To make them take just a little longer than they might have otherwise. And you succeeded spectacularly! All eyes were on you, so that more trustworthy children could secure Tokyo Tower's heart... and, therefore..."

Michiru and Kaoru stare, in horror, as the tainted energies pour upwards into the sky -- and across the city. It is over before it could start, and the same is true of the other four places of power; their role is done.

"...the World Tree...and our victory."

The last hint of golden light is gone. The last of the white, too.

The World Tree is, unequivocally, under the control of Dark Fall...

...and its time has come. It is now comprised entirely of angrily humming dark energy. But then...


It is everything Grandma-slash-Director Kaoruko Hanasaki promised it would be. It is a blooming and it is an eruption. Even at this distance, it is painfully beautiful to behold, the way each and every blossom takes flight at once. The sky fills with scent; sweet, but... no, not fresh. Too sweet. Sickly. Rotting.

Each and every petal has become that same corrupted purple. And they fill the sky in a growing spiral... and then, all at once, they freeze, time itself seeming to stop at the hinge of a question.

The world holds its breath.


Eudial, Kiriya and Princess Kraehe reappear just below the center of the petalstorm.

They briefly exchange looks. Eudial's are extremely professional, appraising. Kiriya's are a bit cunning and thoughtful. Kraehe's eyes are almost slits as she considers whether or not she is about to be betrayed... or if she should be the one to betray first.

But they don't. They all have their orders. There are a host of great powers in Dark Fall, a whole court of separate emperors of darkness, as it were, each with their own agendas and path to becoming the ultimate power in the universe... but there was one wish they could all agree on, and now it is the trio's great honor to carry it out.

"GREAT WORLD TREE!" they yell in unison, having memorized the exact wording that they're supposed to execute. "PLEASE GRANT OUR WISH: OPEN A PATH TO THE END OF EVERYTHING! UNSEAL THE PILLAR OF DESTRUCTION -- THE DARK KING!"


High above their heads, the petals start to move again all at once. They pour towards the center of their spiral, directly above the Tree. Their density becomes impossibly great, too much for the space they occupy to withstand.

A remarkable number of people present have actually experienced a black hole, courtesy of Rubeus at Jindai Botanical Garden, so they can tell themselves, with conviction, that what happens here is actually worse.

Black holes crush, but at least it's without any particular malice. It's just what they are -- spatial distortions, concentrations of mass. It is possible to look upon them clinically, even with wonder (though terror is not inappropriate, close up).

What's happening now is not a closing, but... an opening. Ringed by the violently violet petals, something like a portal is growing. To say it is 'in' the sky is to grossly underestimate the disruption it causes even when it's only a ten yen piece wide, and in a heartbeat it has expanded to that of a classroom.

It is difficult to see into the portal, not because it is distant, or because it is somehow opaque, but in the same way that it is difficult to see the sun when you look directly at it... only the opposite.

But if you look long enough, enduring the pain that comes with it... you can tell that the abyss is most certainly gazing back. Deep within that place, that Dark Zone... something was sealed. Something was waiting.

And now, something will come.

Hearing is actually the first cue that provides any sort of recognition; there is a distant, awful scrape of metal on metal. It is almost unrecognizably LOW, indicative of the scales involved, but that... that was... a chain, clanking as the one bound by it must have... shifted.

The sense of presence is difficult to pin down in the same way that it's hard to see London when you're in Trafalgar Square -- the moment the portal opened, His essence spilled into the world and covered it totally. Its effects are easy to see, however, starting first and foremost with the withering of every single flower in Tokyo -- and then these millions of tiny deaths spread to the leaves. The air fills with a dry, crackling scent. It would be autumn, but this way, it's so wrong...

Even the World Tree is not immune; closest of all, as it's directly beneath the portal, its now-empty branches begin to turn brittle and gray, starting at the smallest twigs and creeping inwards towards the trunk. An infection of pure necrosis.

It is as Michiru and Kaoru said, and they look at each other in horror as the many living things of Tokyo begin to meet their inevitable ending.

The portal continues to expand, becoming the size of a city block...


But as life weakens...

Beneath Tokyo, waves of black energy cascade through the throne room on the edge of the Death Busters' laboratory, while the girl on the throne, her back and neck arcing uncontrollably, opens her mouth in a rictus, silent scream.

In Gold Crown Town, there are always ravens around, but now the sky is black with their wings.

At Ohtori, Nagi falls out of his tree, then rights himself in midair, looking out across the campus as a dozen Orphans engorge themselves, tripling in size, and howling.

In her forested hideout, Northa laughs, and laughs, and laughs, her arms outspread in welcome, her smile only for the one unsealing in the sky, as she grows alongside all of her patiently, beautifully tended plants, grows strong with sorrow and stronger with every passing breath.

Visible from Tokyo Tower, there's a bubbling, a churning of the waters of Tokyo Bay, and very deeply, very distantly, movement of something... someone... that must be very, very large indeed.

And right in front of the group, Gohyaan throws back his head, and laughs, and laughs, and laughs.

He is alone -- the Kindabads have kindabailed.

COMBAT: Negatone transforms into Gohyaan!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Egret [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

For a moment, it feels like they won.

Cure Egret looks up at the Negatone, as it is undone -- and she smiles, with a moment of self-satisfaction. Michiru and Kaoru were saved; all of her worries proved wrong, even if she was proven right. Cure Pine and Cure Passion are proud of her, and while it is the furthest thing from unexpected, it is also something to enjoy. And Bloom... Bloom is right there, standing next to her, just like she should be. Egret turns on a foot -- and then she smiles.

And then it all falls apart. She turns to look at Gohyaan the moment that she hears his voice. "Kaoru-san! Michiru-san! Please, you have to--"

What she gets out, though, is lost in the final blooming of the world tree and the opening of that terrible portal. Darkness flows freely, coloring everything, and it is the future she feared. She steps backward, her eyes wide, as the portal keeps expanding. She nods her head, quickly. "No..." She stammers out. Then, with more force behind it: "No!"

She can't take in everything; she can't really appreciate the full breadth and depth of the end of the world. She can, however, focus on the one thing that feels like it is in her control. "Michiru-san! Kaoru-san! Get--get away from him!"

<Pose Tracker> Cure Pine [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Ah! I meant - another Siren..." Pine trails off, "...the cat." For a moment it seems like everything is going to be alright. The Negatone dies. And Pine finds Passion's hands, putting them together with a quiet statement of - "We did it." She looks so relieved for just a moment.

But that's an illusion - dispelled by Akudaikaan's trusted Lieutenant. As he appears, and she has no idea who he is - but as he addresses Legendary Warriors Pretty Cure, she breaks contact from Passion - "W-Who are you?"

It's a question that seems doomed to go unanswered, because... his attention is on Michiru and Kaoru. And Pine is tense. She's in a fighting stance technically but she doesn't have much to give - doesn't even know if there's to be a fight.

The word traitors causes her hand to clench together extra hard.

It hurts because Passion is considered a traitor too - but given how she was treated within their ranks - how can one find betrayal to be negative.

BGM Change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3UR7nsTLlQ

And then the light draws her eyes to the top of the tower. "Oh no." Her words sound like less than nothing. The word she speaks - nothing at all - as Dark Fall's victory becomes complete. As they summon the being the Dark 5 claimed to serve. The shape of their plan - simple distraction becoming clear.

And then a sinister wish seals it.

She can feel it. She can feel it as petals gather and swirl overhead. As life gradually feels like it seeps away from their surrounds into the portal that embodies destruction. She blinks as she looks at it for a second. As that unsettling feeling of horror grows. It's like staring into the nightmare dark and being three years old again - with nary a nightlight to protect you.

A scrape assaults her ears. And that feeling. Like life is being leeched out of the world. As things start to lose color. Her mind can track this to its inevitable conclusion. First the plants - their youthful Kingdom of Acorns - then the smaller things... going all the way up the food chain. And when the last puppy - the last kitten - the last tiger - when they start to die. Then so will all of they.

How do you fight something that's just pure destruction.

She doesn't have an answer. She doesn't. And so she can't lash out in anger at Gohyaan. It feels like he's just a small piece of something too big for her to comprehend.

Tears overwhelm her eyes, as she looks sidelong at her teammate - her friend. She places a hand in her palm, then another over it. Those precious things in-between birth and death. Death may come soon for them... but she'll hold onto them for as long as she can and tell herself that they were worth it.

It feels like it's all she can do. There may not be time to say goodbye to everyone she would want to. She wishes more of her friends and loved ones were here. But she can at least say it to one one of them.

"I'm so gluh-glad... I got to... really know you."

That encompasses everything. Every part of her. As Eas. As Setsuna Higashi. As Cure Passion.

There were far worse ways to die - and noone better to die with.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The Wind Knight needn't have worried about the Negatone, apparently; it gets obliterated by Pretty Cure before she could have gotten into archery range, at the very least. And the Kindabads, while still a concern, are far less of one in these circumstances.

Which is about to remain entirely, *completely* true, even as what seemed like a triumph turns into bleak and terrible disaster.

They were outmaneuvered. Completely. It feels to Fuu as though she should have been able to tell *something* was up; why would there be a barrier to prevent flight? Why such a specific effect in the middle of a general surge of magical power? But even realizing there was a grander scheme wouldn't have enabled them to thwart that scheme ...

The Magic Knight of Wind clings desperately to the framing nearest her perch, digging her heels into the girder beneath her feet, bracing against the gathering storm - the *perfect* storm - of darkness, of evil, of doom to all that is pure and good and bright. She's not prepared to give up; she's sure that neither Hikaru nor Umi are giving up, wherever they are, whatever they've been fighting. Giving up just isn't part of a Magic Knight's nature, which has worked against her and others before.

But for all her efforts to order her thoughts, to figure out what best she might be able to do, the Wind Knight can only think of how many people are helpless beneath Death's cruel blade - and of that handful who matter the most to her personally. She only has the breath or strength to whisper one name out of that short list.

"Ferio ..."

<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Elsewhere, a tall woman with deep red eyes and gray hair at odds with her vitality pauses where she is, and her cruel smirk turns to terrifying, horrible laughter. ...The shadowy figures near her rush to join in the mirth of their Queen.

Here, Cure Passion reaches out a hand to grab hold of the side of the Tower as she watches the Negatone disappear, watches the little Note appear, and lets herself breathe a sigh of relief. ...But... the light doesn't change. The light doesn't change, and Passion turns to look at the younger Cures and sees--Not just their friends. No, she sees something else, sees the figure behind them who is so old, and her eyes widen in sudden fear. ...Truth be told, her expression in that moment looks a great deal like Michiru's and Kaoru's.

The explanations come, but her heart is gripped by ice, her fear for Egret and Bloom's strange friends enough to make talking impossible for a moment. Traitors, he calls them, and then suddenly at the top there are more. What is happening registers quickly for the former Executive of Labyrinth. She, too, holds her breath. ...But not for long.

She feels that darkness before her eyes can make it out, and and the crackling, awful thing, that portal...

Pine's hand has found hers, and Passion turns to look at her, desolate. It is everything she feared. "Pine..."

She has seen terrible darkness before, stood in it, known that it could destroy her in an instant. And here it is; here it is, on this world that she came to, that she escaped to, and now...


Passion can't get out any words at all as she closes what distance there is and hugs her friend tightly, as if for life itself.

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

Nanoha sees Pluto and Kasagami and her heart falls a little bit. Even though she knew they were here, the battle has been so intense that she lost sight of what was happening with those around her. "..." No matter what their ultimate alliances were, in this battle they are fighting against the same thing and for a moment Nanoha feels a sense of sadness that she cannot explain.

But then Fuu's energy bolsters her own and Nanoha refocuses on a new target. This time it's not the Kindabads but rather the Negatone who seems to be the biggest obstacle still standing in their way. She feels more hopeful with the addition of other magical allies that they can change the direction of this battle.

It is all unnecessary though as the Negatone is bombarded by further attacks and falls... and only a spoon is left in the wake of the battle. For just a brief moment there is a look of relief in Nanoha's eyes but it's quickly replaced by horror as the events continue to unfold in front of her. She can only watch and listen to the words that are being said.

As the tree begins to darken and the petals begin to wither Nanoha finds herself trembling and there is a fear there that she has never felt before. Looking to her friends who have gathered here it takes her a minute to be able to speak. When she does her voice trembles, "I-s that it? We lost?"

Her thoughts turn to Fate and all the others that she has fought alongside. Everything that they have done to try and prevent what is now happening. To think that it was all for nothing is too hard to come to terms with and yet, she feels helpless to do anything now.

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

In a ship in Tokyo Bay - oh, you could call it a yacht if you wanted, but it's really more of a tramp steamer that's been kept up well - a man watches the chaos from the tinted windows of the bridge. He sips wine from a pint glass in one hand. His eyes stay on the distant horror.

Behind him are tanks, like an aquarium store. It is not a decorative set-up. Plants and live rock are filling tanks containing hardy blue damsels and something else. But the plants are starting to wither, despite the glow of metal-halide lamps.

"None of you? Really," Misery says, looking at his telephone. He stands up, considers, and then twists his wrist, throwing the telephone out through a crack in the window. It flies far, away from his sight. "This night of all nights and you can't answer your brother's phone calls. Useless."

He takes a swig from his glass. His now-freed hand runs through his hair. "You can thank me later," he says. "If we can't have nice things," and here the glass is pointed outwards, "neither can they."

He finishes his drink. It doesn't help; it never has. Behind him the live rock begins to gently go from a vibrant brown-green to a withered gray. In one tank, the embryonic Cardiax worm peeps out, tiny pincers searching.


And as for la Sirene de Diamant, she is not prone to argue.

The crushing wavelike force burning down against her, the massive force that weighs upon her like Rubeus's dark singularity, grinds her against the girder upon which she laid. It's crushing. It's agonizing. She can feel every bone in her body as if age is playing over her, seconds encompassing years.

Despair. It was always so close. Her eyes water.

no, she thinks.

i'm sorry, she thinks a moment more. Her eyes shut.

<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

An impossibly beautiful woman wiht long dark raven hair leans back in a chair holding a crystal goblet of wine. She sips it and looks out on Tokyo. "Oh my." She says, her voice a musical tone of power and terror and beauty somehow all rolled into one. "Oh my goodness. I do feel positively .... " She shudder. "Radiant!"

Morgana le Fey laughs as she holds out her free hand and dark energy coalesces there. Her power growing exponentially. "I think I should find a rabbit and a knight and enjoy some well deserved hessenfefer!" She laughs again, all the while the power in her free hand growing more and more ....

The world shakes, and the light goes evil. lancelot stands up straight out of a combat stnce and looks around him, his eyes sort of narrowed as he takes in the new color scheme. As Endo and Steven show up he nods. "Heya guys. Glad to have you here!" He clears his throat as he notices the Kindabads fleeing and leans in to whipser to Endo, "Just so we're clear. I'm claiming the Kindabads ran away from me. They definately were NOT kicking my ass."

He clears his throat and looks out at the bay, then to the little green guy. He storms up to the little guy wiht Arondight pointed at him. "What. Did. You. Do?" He doesn't attack, but the crackling lightning on Demon's Bane isn't exactly friendly. "What is that in the bay? How do we stop it? Talk little green man or so help me by all the bacon in the universe I will hurt you." His eyes are something between terror and anger. Anger at having been played, again, and terror becuase god only knows what's about to happen. Plus. Mika is in the city, in a coma, and he's here, during what is likely the end of the world.

And Mai and Mikoto are out there. And he's here and not with either of them. He almost snarls at Gohyaan as he points Arondight unwavering. His eyes flash once with a bright yellow color of power. There might be a tear there. A tear because God Damnit. The universe appears to really be against him taking mai to have some cake.

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

As Shigure stands up and clasps Solais once more, Sourisi readjusts her grip on her tonfa and smiles, the slightest tinge of pink forming on her cheeks and visible, despite being surrounded. She wants to say just how much Shigure overestimates her, that she only fights at her best when the Maiden is near, even when she knows that Kasagami is fighting alongside her in a fight. Feelings that not even she realizes herself, but knows deep down to be true. She says none of that, however, as she readies herself to go on the offensive with her dear friend. "And you're with me, Shigure-chan, and that makes all the difference in the world. I'm with you!"

The lightshow that descends upon the Negatone and Sorewatase that were climbing the tower is proof that their allies are there, and making short work of the foul creatures that threaten to take over the last point of the blooming World Tree. The sudden echoing voice of Gohyaan has Sourisi turning around and gasping, out of shock of just how odd this creature was. The Gems that had invaded still looked liked humans, but this...thing? It was like a single steamed vegetable staring up at her on an empty plate, the one thing preventing her from fleeing the dinner table.

Sourisi hates steamed vegetables.

The old artichoke man's words do not change her opinion on the matter as the balanced shade of light and dark is completely overtaken with taint, and with it the light of hope she had. Just how could they suddenly go from near victory to ultimate defeat in the matter of seconds?

Her hands tremble on her weapons as she stares upwards at the mass of dark petals, swirling around in a massive vortex that open into a void of complete darkness. Even not being truly magical like Akko, even she could feel the crushing despair and hopelessness that flows from that rift, devouring every hope she may have that they could still somehow save the day.

And that was only when the portal was still a pinpoint of starless void in the sky.

As the rift grew, grew outwards and covering everything above her, Sourisi stares down at her tonfa, the dark hardwood only reflecting the light of city around her. Just what could her weapons do against something like this?

A sudden clatter as wood falls to the rooftop, and the Miraculous Ninja stretches out a hand towards the Maiden. She couldn't say anything that could cheer up her friend now, nothing that wouldn't make her previous words ring hollow in her ears. She can only hope that whatever may come, she can be there to support her dear friend.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Steven, with great help from Lion, scale that mighty tower, the tower that will determine everything. Lion has to skid to a halt when he reaches near everyone else, but has to take a breath. Steven pats him on the head and quickly hops out of his interdimensional mane and readies to join the fight in earnest.

"Yeah! --Well, he can!" Steven yells back to Batiste, as the boy goes to attack some kingering Kindabads. THat frightening clawed creature he will leave to more experienced fighters. These guys he should be able to take!

Many people are here he knows, fighting for the sake of everything they hold dear. THe boy is determined to be no different. Though his assistance doesn't last long. As the giant Negatone is defeated, another fighure enters the fray. A small, gnarled little green man. "Who's that?" A feeling of dread fills him just looking at him somehow. A pair of girls seeming to orchestrate this event appear to be suffering from the deepest amount of fear just upon hearing his voice, before they even look upon him.

He listens, and they speak. All at once, the shy goes dark. THe other points of golden light seace, and nothing but dark voidlike purple suffuses the land. "What... No!" And like some sort of nightmare you can't ever wake up from, everything workd so hard for falls apart. Dark allies come together in a frightening epiphany of evil planning. THe world tree, and all plant life begins to wither and die, as a point of eternal black forms. The moment a pinpoint opening appears, true malice and hatred can be felt, rippling out as some sort of antithesis to everything sound and good in this world. Something impossibly great and malevolent.

Steven cant move. Lion managed to make it to him, but is likewise inable to muster anything. Tears are all that can form in this darkest moment for Steven. A look is cast to the side towards TOkyo Bay, his home. A great maelstrom forms in the bay, and he knows deep down who it is. THese waves of darkness, pulling at them, are granting those with dark hearts unparalleled power.

The boy can only hold his fluffy boy and wishing, praying he could see his mums again. And all his friends.

He failed, They failed. What could any of them possibly do against something of this magnitude? He was given a task, told what to do, that he would know what to do. But this msut have been what the lady at the garden prayed would not happen.

And yet, it has.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Cure Bloom touches down next to Cure Egret, drawing in a satified breath. Her lips are split in a wide, wild grin. She turns to her partner, her cheeks hurting but she can't care, not with this kind of happiness. "We did it," she says.

And then she sees Egret's face, twisted in fear. Her heart falls out. She turns, pivots on her foot to stare up. The World Tree...blooming in doom. Flappy screams, a wordless noise of utter horror and terror.

She trembles as Gohyaan elaborates on what he has done. She quakes at the oppressive, annihilating power that falls upon them. She HAS felt that black hole before. She does know what awful thing now looms before them.

She knows, somehow in her soul, that the power she has can't overcome this. She reaches out for Egret. She finds her shoulder instead of her hand, but her fingers squeeze all the same. Drawing something from her; the way the two of them always draw very literal strength from one another. She can't fight that portal. She can't fight the end of the world on her own.

But with everyone giving up...maybe....maybe there's something she can do. Something her mother always praised her for. Something her coach always taught her. She can take the first step. And her teachers taught her that when you're faced with many, overwhelming tasks: You make a list, and you go down.

She sucks in a sharp breath, ignoring the feeling that her aura is dim in this darkness. She sights up on that horrid, laughing artichoke ofa man.

And she launches at Gohyaan, screaming. "GET AWAY FROM THEM!"

COMBAT: FINISHER! Cure Bloom has used Bloom Petal Straight on Gohyaan.
COMBAT: Gohyaan accepts Cure Bloom's Finisher, Bloom Petal Straight, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Akira Yamaoka - The Darkness That Lurks In Our Minds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcsKgwzmUR0"

There is peril and there is rot and there is darkness.

R u n.

Mikoto does not advance with her fellows; Mikoto goes away from the fighting, does not see the Negatone is no longer flesh parted and does not recognise the lips and teeth have gone away. It is not a conscious decision; she does not have any reason or logic about her. Every time a Kindabad appears in her path, she simply goes in the opposite direction.

She does not see Gohyaan, with his artichoke and his impeccable mien and his danger in every cultured word.

The shift to purple light is distantly recognised, in that instinctual part of her mind which never silences. The scent of a too-ripe fruit blossoming in complete disregard of the proper order of how fruit ought to blossom. Distantly: wrong.

Mikoto does not stop.

Does not look up, to see the darkness which is a portal which scours like the sun.

There is something else hot.

Distantly, distantly...

There are rumours, in Ohtori. They all get mixed up. Some people talk about a girl wreathed in shadow, breathing smoke and fire. Others talk about a girl with flashing golden eyes in the twilight. How could they know how close they were?

Distantly, distantly...

Fear is a funny thing. Cleave it from the heart and it comes back through the jagged edges, seeping in through forgotten things. It expands and consumes until there is nothing left. But there's always, always, room to be a little more terrified. Even at the very limits of oblivion, there is always one... more... inch.

Distantly, distantly...

But this is such an achingly familiar feeling, isn't it? Balancing on tight-rope along the edge of a cliff which demands a tribute of blood. Fall, comes the order, and there is no recourse. There is naught but the momentary horror of the slip. Eyes wide - breath caught. And oh, in that moment, that one solitary moment, to see the torment of being swept away. And oh, it's a mercy, to be so insensate with fear in that moment. Oh,

to be unaware.

Distantly, distantly, far from the battle and Gohyaan and the despair he is wreathing, a dark shadow descends, and it is wreathed in shadow and it is entirely, entirely unrecognisable, because Mikoto isn't here, any more.

It is action and reaction and it is a dark blur as it tears from strut to strut, too fast and too terrible.

And it knows only one task: annihilation.

It is well that the Kindabads have fled the field of view.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo is amidst the kindabads, swinging, pivoting, moving to strike again. He's in mid-motion as the drama plays out between Gohyaan and his two former subordinates, but he can't ignore what's happening forever. When the light flares and turns, Endo stops, his eyes widening as the world tree blooms with dark energy, and then turns brittle and withered.

"Oh no-" His hands slacken, knees going weak. Combat and enemies are forgotten, as there's nothing to do but focus on the massive hole that's extending across the sky. The power rippling out of the void is terrifying, turning his limbs to mush, making his hands shake. The device in his hand crashes to the ground with a terrible clang as it slips free from his grip, and Endo nearly falls after it.

"Ah--this can't..." His thoughts flash to his friends, to Ren, to those aboard and then those that stand gathered around him. He glances across gathered allies, his face slackened and falling, and he can only murmur to those closest to him an apology, for his failure: "Nanoha-chan, Steven-san, I'm sorry..."

<Pose Tracker> Shigure Shiratsuyu [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Shigure wouldn't say she overestimates Sourisi at all. They were magical girls at about the same time, and she's learnt enough, at the very least, that the support of your friends and the feelings borne of the bonds are just as important as any skill or experience in fighting.


The Maiden of Solais' expression runs dry as she stares towards the shrivelled man's very words, Gohyaan exclaiming that this was all done according to plan. It was beyond her, what was planned...

She gazes towards the petals with Sourisi, feeling as if she could drop Claiomh Solais at any moment and let it plunge into the darkness. Every step she takes feels heavier than before.

Am I... going to die here... again... without knowing any better?

She grimaces as she tries to hold onto her greatsword, using it as a means of support- - Sourisi in the other.

Am I going to die... never understanding what I was meant to do...?

She clutches at her chest for a moment and -- and gaze towards the shadow as it surfaces against the creatures; as Cure Bloom tries to strike as hard as she can...

She grits her teeth. She mumbles to herself, "... I refuse, mother. Even if I am going to die here... at least I die knowing I stood on my feet facing the truth..."

The tears drip from her eyes.

"That... that will have to be good enough for me."

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Victory rips away oh so quickly, elation sent crashing back down to despair. Gohyaan's appearance and the flanking of so many Dark Generals arriving ends in the dark, rotting, sickly corruption that takes over the World Tree.

And then those gravity wells hit again, something old and horrible and beyond imagining coming out of that portal. Kasagami's heart finally gives in, her eyes widening at the sight of so much raw dark energy. Looking into that horrible thing sears her eye, and yet she feels compelled to look. Curousity grabs her unwisely even as she feels her heart skip a beat. She can't possibly know what that thing is, but her soul tells her that whatever is within is truly something to fear. Something to end the world she's fought for, fought to take, to rule for the sake of those around her.

She can feel the very fabric of her dreams starting to crumble before this thing. All she can think to do, is huddle closer to Pluto. With arms that tremble, tears down her face, all she can do is pull the other girl close as protectively as she can.

"I love you, Pluto. So much! I...hah. Is it really going to end like this, everything we've fought and suffered for!?" Anger, dark and bitter mixes with fear and despair.

"At least...at least I have you." Comes Kasagami's words, low only so the senshi can hear. She trembles, and holds close to that which she finds so precoius.

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

Even if Sourisi doesn't personally know the anquish that Shigure has with her mother, it does bring to mind her own parents. She had only reunited with them a week ago, after the fiasco with the invading Homeworld Gems. Despite knowing just how close the battle was while she was away, she never expected that without warning, they could be in danger along with all of Tokyo-- no, the world. Danger her parents knew nothing about, nothing about how their only child willingly threw herself into danger to confront these dangers they couldn't face.

Was it out of bliss that she keeps the truth hidden from them?

Fingers tighten onto Shigure's and she moves closer, just a little. "I...don't know your mom, but...I think she would be proud of that, regardless." She stands shoulder to shoulder with Shigure, heart hammering in her chest out of fear of what was, unexpectedly, her final moments alive. "Shigure-chan...I am glad I am your friend."

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

At the end, warmth pulls her back up again.

Up through the awful black, the nothingness and the Silence, she rises -- following a thread of warmth, a tendril as comforting as woodsmoke in the dead of winter. She follows it, and it becomes more enveloping, more familiar, and she goes through an aching revival like her soul is being held up to a hearthfire for thawing.

Sailor Pluto's mind reconnects to her body and the familiarity becomes arms she knows well, another body alongside hers, a beloved voice in ears that can hear again.

She resurfaces from nightmare into Kasagami Araki's arms and finds herself in... nightmare. Decay blooms in the sky and the air, and the black triumph overhead... Eudial. The other forces of darkness. Great evil, the outpouring, the awful wish and the portal yawning to heed it. The laughter of Gohyaan.

Oh Small Lady, she thinks. I am so sorry. It is a knife in her heart.

Pluto's eyes seek Kasagami, and she finds just enough strength in sapped arms to slide them around the other girl. All of that sorrow filling garnet wells up, the old and the fresh sorrows, the ancient and the yet to come. But... "I thought I would always be alone," she whispers back. "This is... a better end than I'd expected. With you."

A gloved thumb brushes along Kassie's cheekboke, just beneath her good eye, where an amaryllis petal once brushed so long ago. "I love you too, Kasagami Araki. You have changed my life." She curls close, then, wanting this contact to be her last worldly sensation.

<Pose Tracker> The Kiryuu Sisters [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Softly, Friendship https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE3XC1ujXoY

Michiru and Kaoru are poleaxed by their responsibility in these events. They quiver silently as Gohyaan lectures them, laughs at them, and brings about the exact goal Akudaikaan-sama had always wanted: to bring ruin to all worlds, and to obtain the power of ultimate destruction.

Somewhere, he must be happy.

But it's clear, in the girls' eyes, that his is not their happiness, after all.

They swallow, hard, as these symbols of hope begin to despair. Michiru's eyes linger on Cure Passion, as she sweeps her friend into a hug. Kaoru's settles on Egret, as she begs them to get away... and her neck cranes as she looks up, thoughtfully, at the sky.

Even now, they are still shedding those awful black petals, violet-rimmed. If anything, the violet is deeper, richer, now that the end is near. They are still proud warriors of Dark Fall. They are still beings made out of the power of Destruction -- this same power, now unfurling up above, the opposite of every flower.

Michiru follows Kaoru's gaze, and then the two of them look at each other... and nod.

They want to see everything -- and they want to do everything.

But they're going to have to settle for just doing one thing.

Gohyaan, briefly distracted by Lancelot yelling at him and then catching Cure Bloom's fist with uncomfortable effortlessness in one palm, frowns slightly as a color other than the violet of destruction begins to shimmer around the girls nearby.

It starts very small... flecks in their eyes, nestled in their smiles. Saki, Mai, and the others... they've never seen them smile like this. Not so freely, so easily. It's beautiful.

And it spreads like a bonfire to engulf them, as they look to the girls and speak.

"Saki. Mai. It was so much fun making friends with you."

"Happiness... sadness... you gave us all sorts of feelings."

"So this... is our feeling of gratitude."

And then they launch into the sky.

It all happens so fast. Surely no one else could have done it -- and no one else composed of Destruction would have done it -- but they blast, an inverted golden lightning bolt, from the earth to the sky instead of the other way around.

And they fly, hand in hand, directly into the portal... no.

Onto the portal's surface, such as it is when nothing intersects air.

Their scream is short, as they take the full impact of the oncoming wave of destruction with both of their bodies and all of their spirits -- and then there is nothing of them to be seen but the bonfires they've become.


But the effect, isn't. The golden light has spread to the petals, still shooting around the edge of the portal, defining it... and previously, expanding it.

Now that expansion has stopped. With the portal merely as broad as a Tokyo ward, it is too small for Dark King to emerge through. At least, not without something else happening.

The World Tree's power continues to try to fulfill the wish, struggling against that which binds it... the power of friendship.

There isn't much time.

But there is time.


Wisps of golden light briefly enfold Bloom and Egret, and they feel the familiar, wonderful touch of pearl-like prisms floating carefully into their palms, three each.

Michiru and Kaoru's voices are an echo of an echo.

"We won't be able to see it, but please take care of the Fountain of Sky for us."

And then even their memory is gone.

Gohyaan, whose green skin has turned electric blue with horror, rage, and quite possibly humiliation, hurls Bloom (who he's still been holding all this time) at Egret with all of his might -- then vanishes.

OOC: Those of you who got morale KOed, the feeling of that golden light of friendship revitalizes you; feel free to +heal/full.
Everyone else who is staying in for the second half of the scene can also +heal/full. If you're switching alts, now is a good time
to start making your way towards the portal, ICly. If you're /not/ switching alts, same!

OOC: If you're staying in the scene and you can't fly, you should hitch a ride with someone who can.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket Assault!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Egret [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.


Cure Egret screams her partner's name out as she takes off like a rocket to attack Gohyaan. Her white gloved hand reaches out, fingers stretched, but there isn't a hand to clasp hers this time. Instead, Bloom soars away to strike at that terrible, wizened, laughing enemy. But Kaoru sweeps her up into a hug, and she hugs her back. Her eyes stare down at petals of dark light, rising up.

She looks up as Kaoru lets go. She takes a step backward, as she smiles. "Kaoru...?" she asks, and then her mouth opens. She stares -- as the sisters rise, as one, and slam into the oncoming wave of death before it can hit. "KAORU! MICHIRU!" she screams, running forward.

She can't see the golden light. She can only see the two friends she had -- as they wink away into nothing. Screamed names become just a choked scream. Their last words echo in her mind, if nowhere else, and her footsteps stop.

And, then, Saki slams into Mai. She goes tumbling away, eyes wide and lost in shock.

When she hits the ground, there is a shudder, and then a choked sob. And another, and another, and another.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Cure Bloom's fist stops cold. She's never been stopped so COMPLETELY before. The Spirits always try so hard to cushion her from harsh impacts that even stiff blasts into mountainsides often feel more like being shot into a pillow rather than a sheer rockface. This time, her entire body comes to an abrupt stop and she feels like her entire skeleton resonates from the impact. Only then does terror truly find time to process in her brain. Maybe he gets some glimmer of glee from that look of raw horror flashing across the seemingly unflinching Cure Bloom's face.

Maybe he doesn't, when her look only gets more alarmed at the same time as he finds something to fear. "What...Kaoru...Michiru!" she calls out, reaches out with a hand. "No! NO!"

They fly off like bullets; scream into that portal. Stop its expansion with the might of the very power Cure Bloom and Cure Egret kindld within them. Her eyes wide, her mouth open in horror, tears washing down her cheeks. "No.." she whimpers.

Gohyan roars and hurls her away. She collapses bonelessly atop Egret. The pain in her body is nothing.

"Michiru...Kaoru!" Bloom screams out in agony. Her arms gather around Cure Egret, more reflex than sense, gripping on to her partner and wailing in open sorrow.

Hope has been bought and paid for. But Splash Star Pretty Cure cannot feel such a thing right now.

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

An unexpected sacrifice, two redeemed souls crashing against a wave of pure nothingness seems pointless at first, a sacrifice in vain. What did they hope to accomplish, against the combined darkness of the entity beyond and the corrupted World Tree? But somehow, miraculously for the magical defenders of Tokyo, it was not in vain. Their bodies and souls may be gone, but the duo are somehow holding the doorway to their destruction from widening.

It seems that friendship is magic greater than Sourisi had realize.

The shining light rimming the rift is something to focus on beyond the absolute darkness that awaits them, and with it, hope starts to rekindle. Finally breaking her gaze from the sky, realizing just how far above it was, it was nothing they could jump to, even from the tip of the tower. There had to be something they could do, to stop this completely, but how?

Looking around wildly for something, anything she could do to make a plan out of, her gaze lands on two shades of pink. Sourisi's face brighten up so much, you could have thought that a lightbulb had gone off.

Letting go of Shigure's hand for a moment to retrieve her tonfa and put them in their clasps, she looks at her friend, not with a smile, but with a serious look filled with determination. "Shigure-chan, I have an idea, so follow me. I just hope he can get up there." Reaching out once more to take Shigure's hand, Sourisi would leap towards the tower and desperately hoping her memory wasn't lying to her.

Several jumps are needed before Sourisi can reach her intended target, but she's not here to greet an new friend. "Steven-san! Can Lion-san reach the portal? I think if we want to take this chance, we have to act now. Please!"

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

No hope for success. The world will fall into darkness.

But miracles are a thing in this world, a wondrous thing that show up in the darkest of hours. A pinprick of light in utter black is as the sun to the hopeful.

And a pair of girls Steven doesn't even know sacrifice themselves to save them all. Their lives given begin to fight against the wish once made, emitting golden light and trying to fight back the darkness. The wish has not yet been fulfilled. Maybe something remains that can be done...! "L-Lion!" says the boy quickly, coming around, though teary eyes remain. "We gotta go there!"

The boy looks toward Sourisi and Shigure, two of the closer warriors of good. "Yeah! C-Come on! We can carry us! We will be there faster than any way on foot!" The boy takes the front, barely poking out out his glowing mane. There is plenty of room for Lion to carry two young ladies.

And as soon as they are situated, Lion rips dimensions asunder, and is off once more. From rooftop to street to top of a bridge and beyond. It isn't long until they reach their intended destination now. "I-I don't know who those two were, but I will remember them for what they did." Determination crosses the boys face. If there was ever a moment to buckle down, now was it.

This is everything or nothing. Good versus evil.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

At least, at the end, she can offer Pluto that much comfort. She presses her face against Pluto's cheek for a moment before peering her in the eyes. That sorrow, the thing she wanted to destroy in this loyal soldier is heartbreaking to see when their doom is so close.

"I...wouldn't have it any other way either. Even if all of the light in this universe is snuffed out, that you'd be the last one I'll see is a comfort. My love. My light in the cruel darkness of this world."

But that doom never comes, as the Kiryuu Sisters sacrifice themselves for the sake of everyone. That golden light envelopes the world tree, and Kasagami feels her flagging heart uplifted even as she stares at the forms of Michiru and Kaoru as they face that destruction head on. They're gone so quickly. And yet?

The light of the world isn't quite done yet. Kasagami pauses, closes her eyes, and silently says a prayer for those brave souls that tore themselves away from darkness through their own wills and friendship. It hits her particularly hard, but the young woman pushes herself to her feet.

Then she takes up her sword, dusts off her pants, and offers a hand to Pluto.

"...It looks like our dreams aren't quite done yet. Come on, Pluto. Let's get going and do this!" A grin, that only falters as she wonders just how they're going to get there.

She looks to the wise Senshi for an answer, even as she starts towards the portal as best she can, leaping from her perch close to her love.

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

The feeling of helplessness grows as Nanoha watches Michiru and Kaoru make the ultimate sacrifice. Nanoha's breath gets caught in her throat as Egret falls and starts sobbing. Her own eyes begin to glisten in the light for a brief moment but then she looks at the portal and knows they are going to have to face this head on if there is going to be any hope of stopping the destruction of the world.

It's hard to imagine that this would be her destiny when she first answered the call of the tiny, hurt animal but she is determined to not let this be the end. Even as grim as things are, what they have to do is clear in her mind. It's also terrifying but as the healing light washes over her, she looks to her closest allies. "Fuu-chan, Endo-kun, don't give up yet! We need to get to the top of the tree..."

Without much hesitation she grabs both of their hands, "I can help you but hold on tight!" Nanoha's flier fins activate on her shoes and she moves towards the edge of where they stand as she moves upwards and heads towards the top of the World Tree. The closer they get to the portal, the slower she moves. It's horrible to be this close to the menacing darkness of the portal and while there is some distance still just thinking about what they are going to have to do makes her afraid. Even if they make it through, what terrible things await them on the other side...

<Pose Tracker> Shigure Shiratsuyu [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Shigure freezes, her expression dropping as both Michiru and Kaoru both sacrifice themselves against the darkness. The radiance of their feelings shines through, and it makes her wonder...

Could I do the same, if it came down to it?

Narumi shifts quietly as she expresses: "A soldier... should not hesitate to sacrifice herself for her country."

Her mother's words echo further as she grits her teeth and-- listens in on Sourisi's plan as she hurries along. "Yes..." she nods as she looks towards Lion and climbs onboard. She hunkers down and clings tighter, wincing for a moment as they rush towards what feels, once more, could be the end...

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo stares in horror at the voice, at the thing that's coming behind it. There's nothing to do. Nothing that can be done.

And then something is. The two figures that fly toward the portal draw his eyes, and then widen even further when they burn away against it. Further still when their sacrifice actually causes the expansion to stop.

<KNIGHT.> Fallen Stern's voice reverberates inside of Endo's head. <STAND. EVEN IF THE WORLD ENDS.>

And he does. For a moment he feels hope, that there's a chance to do something about this. To stop it. Endo's hand reaches to grasp his sword again, hauling the device up as both his wits and nerves behind to return to him.

He hears Nanoha call out, and his resolve firms. "Fuu! Nanoha-chan, okay!" If she's going to be brave, so will he. A hand stretches out to catch one of hers and hitch a ride, his eyes set to the shape of the world tree on the horizon.

<EVEN THIS CAN BE ENDED.> Fallen Stern warbles.

"Let's go!"

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

In the face of overwhelming darkness, there is a flash of light - but it's enough to stem the tide, even if only briefly.

It's the movement before that flash which really makes the Magic Knight of Wind look up. Movement, two small figures, the same figures (she thinks) who snapped that wand of dark power, who weakened the same monsters that had been hellishly strengthened. Something was familiar about them, she thinks again ... and then she realizes what they were flying towards.

There's a chance. It may be tiny, it may be fleeting, but it is a chance. The Wind Knight breathes in, mustering her strength, her will, her magic. She can't reach the portal alone, but - she doesn't have to. She swallows, makes sure her hands are free of weapons, then reaches for Nanoha's offered hand. "I'm depending on you, Nanoha-san!" She glances towards the portal and the darkness, then to Nanoha again as they link hands, and to Endo.

"Winds of Protection!!"

The windy barrier may not be much, but it should help keep Nanoha safe - and by extension, herself and Endo - long enough to reach the portal.

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

Tucked tight in the arms of her love, clinging to those precious words, Sailor Pluto awaits the world's end. It does not come.

When the golden light reaches them, gentler than any apocalypse, she lifts her head -- now cheek-to-tearstained-cheek with Kasagami and pressing close. The gold reflects across garnet irises in eyes wider than most ever see them.

The girls who were darkness are now light. A single tear, fresh and entirely different in origin, wells and slides down the side of her face. Pluto herself is not sure why, and does not examine its genesis closely, either.

She stares up to the sky and the portal that churns there, arrested. Then she turns those wide eyes to Kasagami. "We-" A wet breakage in her low voice. "We're alive." She feels that bright touch of friendship, of loving sacrifice, and something in those sorrowful garnet wells eases, ever so slightly. The strength comes back to her limbs. She squeezes close to the swordswoman, a hard embrace, fiercely glad for life. "Oh, Kassie."

Together they rise, the senshi taking the swordswoman's hand. And together they leap free of Tokyo Tower, now with the senshi leading. Not so far from the tower's base -- maybe three or four mighty magical girl leaps away -- there is a series of helicopter pads, and upon one of those awaits a sleek black bird, fueled and ready.

"After you, my love." With something close to a smile, Pluto opens the copilot door for Kasagami. She doesn't need a copilot for this flight -- she has the helicopter well in hand. But she wants Kassie close. It's with practiced movements that Sailor Pluto straps into the pilot's seat and slides a helmet on, then flips the switches and dials through a rapid preflight check.

They take off with alacrity, smoothness of ride sacrificed for speed, and Pluto breaks every flight regulation in the book to swing by the base of the Tower once more for any mahou that might still need a lift. Then they're up and away, headed straight into danger!

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

It is a dark shadow and there is no light to it at all, but for terrible glowing yellow eyes and a bright light beneath the shirt, a point of brightness small as a bead.

(It's a warm and comforting presence against that chest and as it pulses it draws from the love in that heart and there is no pain any more.)

It careens through the struts without instruction or guidance, for there are no enemies here to defeat and there is no word to follow. It is a null state, blank of thought and emotion and desire.

The portal is not observed. The portal is far.

A scream is heard. Brief.

It doesn't blink.

Now, there's a story here. A story of obsidian-purple and the gold of something changed forever, of darkness which remembers and light which has forgotten. There is a story of contradictions layered and unnoticed, of a heart which turned aside its purpose to love and love and love.

This is not that story, but it's close enough.

Close enough for golden flecks of Destruction turned to friendship to reach through and reach out and touch someone who may never recognise their similarities at all...

... close enough for warmth above her skin to fade and be replaced by warmth inside her heart.

The shadows fade in an instant, and Mikoto Minagi stands, blinking and utterly confused, midway up the tower. "What..." ... but no one's here to ask what happened. No one's here to ask why there are deep scores in the strut, as if Miroku had been dragged across them in blatant preparation for attack.

No one's here to ask why she feels so revitalised, mind and body.

It must be the light. That golden light which washes over her and pours out from that point of explosion, up - up. Those catlike golden eyes rise up to the portal, and Mikoto knows she must go, though she does not know why.

(Fear seeps through forgotten things and it leaves subtle prints which cannot be erased.)

There is something about it which promises the very worst of the world and Mikoto must defend the world, for there are people she cares about upon it.

She begins ascending the tower again, but...

... for some reason, she's a lot lower down than she remembers being. Will she really be able to catch up?

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Everything seems to take so long, these days. If everyone had all the time in the world, a little delay wouldn't be so bad - relaxing, even. As things stand, though, taking too long can mean you're too late to seize an opportunity - too late to intervene in a tragedy - too late to do anything.

Mai's been too late for a lot of things, lately.

When the World Tree bloomed with tremendous force, Mai had been checking in with her brother. She'd have preferred to say 'checking on', but for whatever reason Takumi had started paying as much attention to Mai's sprained ankle as she usually paid to his health. Maybe a little more, even, as if to make a point...and incredibly hard to argue against. The whole endeavour was kind of humiliating, kind of exasperating, kind of annoying...

...kind of nice...

But it all came to an end when Akira rushed in, flush with news of the strange event. As good an excuse as any to part ways, and Mai was quick to start hobbling out the door, a half-hearted excuse of wanting to get Mikoto to make sure she got to see it...

"Hey, sis? Be careful, okay?"

Mai's face, turned away from Takumi, screws up in frustration...but eventually settles with a silent sigh, and there's a faint smile as she turns back to her brother.

"You too. Enjoy the day, okay?"

It'll be fine. It has to.


Getting to the World Tree should have been terribly difficult, or at least required resorting to flagrant use of magic. Should have...but there were options. Not always palatable options, but options nonetheless. Even as a traffic jam stretches out along every major road, even as minor streets clog with onlookers, there are options.

Clinging to Natsuki Kuga as she races her motorcycle along the side of a canal, Mai regrets these options. "I know I said we had to hurry, but do you seriously need to - BRIDGE BRIDGE BRIDGE!"

"You wanted to get there fast, and this is fast, Tokiha! Now hold on or jump off!" The motorcycle runs along the underside of the bridge, twisting in mid-air, and the tree gets that much closer. That much...but will it be enough?


Swirling golden light fades into abyssal darkness as the motorcycle skids to a halt in the plaza amid fleeing Kindabads, and it's clear that it wasn't enough.

Mai dismounts the motorcycle, staring up at the swirling darkness. There's flashes of defiant light, but...not enough. Not enough to keep whatever's coming from coming. Would it have made a difference, if she'd been here? If she'd done more? ...maybe she'll never know.

"...you'll get more done without dead weight, Kuga. I'll try to find Mikoto, or Lancelot, or...someone. ...Thanks, for what it's worth."

"Guess you can fly, after all. Don't die, Tokiha. Seriously." Curt words from a sometimes curt woman - but Mai nods in response before the other girl drives off.

And then Mai is alone, before the darkness enveloping the World Tree. She had tried to save it, once. Maybye it's not too late - maybe there's friends she can help in that stormy battle. Taking a deep breath, thinking of the precious people she has to protect, Mai throws her hands out to her sides and summons whirling flames-

Then there is a terrible weight, one that would make her leg ache from the memory alone. Then the sky opens up into a darkness darker than pitch, deeper than night. Then all those warm memories of happier times turn to frigid quenching despair, and the HiME crumples to her knees with a cry.

Something awakens. The World Tree is dying, and something is awake, and Mai was too late to do anything.

Distantly, she can hear howling, as the campus she fled to get here is beset by terrible monsters - by Orphans, awake again after so much silence.

"What...what is this?..." Mai moves as if to push herself upright, but her hands are finding no purchase on the ground. Whatever meager will she might have right now, her body seems to recognize better that death incarnate is here.

Distantly, she can hear chains, as something ancient and evil is waking and moving and it's too late after all.

"No...Takumi...Eri, Takeo, Natsuki...Mikoto..." She left her brother behind. One friend is so distant, one is probably in that distant fray, one just raced off to be just as 'too late' as she was...and her companion is probably in peril somewhere. Or being peril. Head sinking to the ground, tears beginning to fall, Mai doesn't know any more.

Distantly, she can hear rushing water, as her failures come back to haunt her under the shadow of whatever approaches from that rift.

"...I'm sorry..." Curling up on the ground, Mai has to hug herself, because right now she's managed to make herself totally alone.



In an instant, it's less cold.

In an instant, it's less dark.

In an instant, there's hope.

As the Kiryuu Sisters sacrifice themselves to hold back the fall of the world, Mai's eyes open again. With one hand, she wipes at her tears, trying to see just what's happened - what those echoing voices bought with their lives. The tide not turned, but holding. The world not saved, but suspended in a moment.

She rises to her knees. Plants one trembling foot on the ground, trying to steady it. There's darkness before her, enough to extinguish any life worth living, and in spite of herself she's not sure whose life she's worried about the most. It has to be...that one, right?

"...it doesn't matter. I've..." The words 'faced worse' die on her lips like the lies they are, and even talking to herself she quickly changes the subject. "...thank you, whoever you are...were... I'll get back to those precious to me." She has to protect them after all...

...whatever the cost.

Flames blossom. Fires whirl. An inferno, borne of nothing, rises around Mai Tokiha as she cries out. A cry of fear, a cry of desperation, a cry as if to say 'I can't do this alone'. But those aren't the words.


A white head with a half dozen jade eyes rises from the flames, a gleaming blade thrust through its jaw, and cries out - in pain more than triumph. That great and terrific head shakes almost frantically, as even the ferocity of fiery devotion seems to see something in that darkness to fear. Standing before it, reaching out on unsteady feet in desperation, Mai pleads. "...I'm sorry, Kagutsuchi. I need to find her...find them. Please..."

She doesn't...can't understand why her Child is in pain already, what horror has dawned to fill even Kagutsuchi with fear. But in this moment, she desperately needs its help...and so with another cry, the phoenix spreads wings of flame, beginning to rise with great and terrible flaps.

One wing-beat, and Mai swings onto the dragon's head. Two, and its body has risen from fire into existence. Three - and a backblast of wind shatters flagstones as HiME and Child rush towards Tokyo Tower. The tower looms close, the distant portal looms larger...but they approach.

Mai is trembling, but she blinks away tears of fear because she has to keep a watch. She can't risk missing one of her loved ones in this chaos, in this horror...she should have been here. She can't fail again. She has to...

Kagutsuchi slams its claws into Tokyo Tower, heedless of what rents it might cause, because the HiME on its head can spot a shard of obsidian in a twilight of darkness. Holding on to her Child with one hand, she reaches out, shouting in fear and relief all at once. "MIKOTO!"

She's not alone. Lights are shining in the darkness around her, but in this moment all Mai can think is that she's not alone, that she hasn't failed yet, that there's still time.

With her companion in hand, she rises. Stops long enough to call to Lancelot, to anyone else struggling to climb, and then Kagutsuchi rises. Rises to whatever that is, lurking up there.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha transforms into Mai and Kagutsuchi!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

She wants to cry for them to stop - but she doesn't even know what they're doing - she can just tell somehow that if they continue... her crying eyes go wide. Cure Pine bears witness to something tragic - and wonderful. The course of destruction - not stopped - but delayed. "You two... thank you." She whispers while wiping her eyes. After a moment her hand keeps clamping down on Passion's so tightly that it feels like she might never let go.

She's thankful for their sacrifice. However she knows how she felt when Setsuna died. "I can't leave them like this... you go on ahead." Reluctantly she unlaces from Passion's hand. Like she might know she's letting go for the last time. "I'll catch up if I can."

She promises before limping over to Egret and Bloom. She's not certain what to say - because unlike her - they probably won't get that miracle. That miracle of their friends returning to them. It was such an unexpected thing after all that Akarun chose her... instead she laces her arms around them. "They were so brave. I wish... I wish the two of you could have had more time with them..."

Back then when Setsuna Higashi died - she needed a moment. She was too overwhelmed. She had to have Cure Berry step in for her... and now. Now... she'll do the same for them.


"Arisa... are you- Suzuka is with you? I'm glad. There's been... an incident. You should both head indoors. Ah... I was just..."

She closes her eyes. "... worried. I wanted to hear your voices. Me?" Fate Testarossa opens to look out the window, a dark cell phone she bought with them pressed to an ear as she looks at the terror in the sky before tipping her head back to look at Lindy Harlaown - who's saying things that seem so distant to her right now. Like the whole world is moving in slow motion. "I'm going to find Nanoha. Please stay safe. I'll see you both soon." She hits end - and whispers to nobody in particular, "I hope..."


<Get Set. Drive Ignition.>

Fate Testarossa can be said to be a calm individual. Right now though she's in a dead panic. It feels like the life is leeching away from the Tokyo she knew around her. And she knows what this means.

Dark Fall has won.

She doesn't know how they've won specifically. Dark Fall has so many myriad facets and shapes and plots and sinister undercurrents - but she knows they must have won Tokyo Tower - and the world tree. She's a shimmering lightning bolt making landfall right now - inverse to the two headed skywards - then they're gone.

It's a wonder of wonders - it's like seeing a shooting star. Something so beautiful and brief that makes her feel sad on the inside.

As hope returns - it's the same moment that she sees. "Nanoha!" There's little time - given how everyone is quickly organizing to gather to fly others up there - but as Nanoha gathers up her precious cargo. "Lera! Endo! Se-Passion!... I was worried... that I wouldn't get to call all of your names one last time..."

She flies alongside them - towards the portal. She doesn't know exactly how we'll pull this off - but she's bound and determined to make certain that this wouldn't be the last time.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

She can't make herself look. Setsuna can feel what's going to happen, and there's nothing that she can do, now. ...After everything...

After everything it turns out that something is changing. She blinks, and looks as she hears the two. "W-what...?" Her eyes widen, her vision still blurring with tears, and it's over before she can understand what's happening. The light goes, and the two of them, those girls of whom she was so suspicious before--

Her breath catches, and it's like a punch in the stomach. "..." Pine whispers her thanks, and Passion can't say anything at first. Not until she says--

Passion leans back, too, looks into Pine's eyes. "...All right," she says. "...I'll do my best."

The red Cure looks to Egret and Bloom in their grief, and nods, once, looking up the tower again. It might seem like she's doing what she used to do--going on her own. ...But she doesn't see it that way. She can't if she did, she would never be able to keep climbing.

She starts to try to climb further, and only pauses when she sees Fate come by. "Fate!" she calls in return, and bites her lip. "...We can't let this happen. Not after..." Not after Michiru and Kaoru sacrificed themselves. Maybe it's already happened, and there's nothing they can do, but--

She just has to keep climbing. She has to try to make it in time. Except--Fate said, "Lera? ...Is she here...?" She blinks, and pauses for a moment.

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

Lera Camry can see, plainly, that she got here too late.

It isn't some sort of unstoppable drive that keeps her moving; it is a gut reaction to fear and grief, a fight or flight response that comes from instinct and chooses, today, to lash out instead. She rushes up the alleyway leading to Tokyo Tower, a few motes of darkened energy trailing away from Soaring Sky's chipped and notched silver edge.

She is a sight. Blood runs down her face, in a rivulet that runs over one eye and drips down on the ground. Her large green coat is gone -- left behind after she took enough hits and needed to dispel it -- and she looks like she fought her way through an army only recently. Her lips purse, as she looks up at that portal. "That's... it's really too late..."

<...I'm sorry.>

She stands too far away from Tokyo Tower to see the sacrifice of those two girls clearly. She, however, does find herself suddenly bathed in golden light, radiating down impossibly. It lights up her amber-brown eyes, and they widen for a moment, and then she grits her teeth. She tries against odds -- and blasts into the air, shooting up towards the portal.

But arching back down, too. "I'm here, Fate," she says. "Endo-san! Claiomh! Nanoha! We better hurry, y'know?"

She slams into the ground next to Cure Passion, and looks at Cure Pine as she hurries after the two fallen Cures. Lera's brow furrows, before she looks back at Passion. Then, a ghost of the usual smile is on her lips, as she looks back at the red Cure. "She's running a little late, but she made it."

The taller girl leans leans forward, kisses Passion on the forehead, and then slings an arm around her waist. Then, she takes off, towards the portal. "...C'mon. We've got a home to save."

COMBAT: Lera Camry transforms into Barrier Jacket Perihelion!
<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

"Mai-Chan!" Lancelot says, his eyes brightening despite the end of the world and possbly the universe and possibly everything. He runs and leaps off the tower to land on the back of Kagutsuchi not to far from Mai. He knows he needs to give the two girls their space of happy reunion.

He's just happy to be there, with the two of them.

It's the little things.

He shakes out his arm and grins despite the terror building in him. "Mai-Chan. I'm glad to see you. Wanna save the world with me?" He winks. "Well. Me and Mikotot. And like every other Magical person in Tokyo?" He shrugs a shoulder. "Can I ride your dragon to the apocalypse?" He holds out his now more or less healed arm and catches a lightning bolt with a crack of thunder.

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeX0O9bdkto - Ash to Ash

"I see you've been treated well," the man says. He's never come to them in person before. Vita can't help but feel like asking them to meet at the house - the house where she's barely set foot in weeks, the house of a young girl whose light and life are being stripped away - was an insult. The way he slits his eyes at her doesn't help, setting a chill down her spine. "But I think you've been reminded of something important, yes?"

Vita bites off a sound and glares at the side. "What do you want?" she spits. "You Ends of the World types have given us everything we could ask, right? Is it time for the other shoe to drop? I don't have time for your games!"

Their benefactor - the man who sends their letters - the man whom they know is not Ends of the World, but who has the power to sign that name - laughs. "Oh! Ho ho! No, dear. No. Rest assured: What I am about to ask of you will benefit me as much as you. You see...we are all about to have a problem."

His lips split in a grin that sets Vita's teeth grinding. "It is a problem you can solve." He tips his head just a little, and she feels his eyes pierce through to her soul. "With that brilliant new resolve of yours."

"Mission accepted," Signum says, eventually. She sips her tea cup, long since gone tepid.

"I do not wish to deceive you," the General of the Raging Fire says. "I do not trust you. But there is no alternative, and success is likely though it is not the battle that I would wage."

Signum did not taste the tea. A terrible yearning is in her heart; the yearning of someone who had felt hope die, and now feels it stirring again.

Their benefactor grins, too wide. "Well then," he chuckles. He looks outside, the World Tree's petals flying off in a poisoned bloom. "You'd best get going. Time is not on your side."

With the chaos blooming around them - as the engine of the world's end rips a hole in the sky to declare its return, and as two girls give everything they have and are to resist that good night - it is easy to miss four lights in the sky. They dart in from some direction out toward Yamanote and speed onward. They're late, of course. Too late to stop this. Too late to do anything of use.

Yet the Wolkenritter still rally up, a flying cruciform above the World Tree, each in their Knight Armor, each fresh and ready. Blocking the path to the portal for any who would dare approach it.

"Did you think we'd stand by!?" the blue Guardian Beast thunders upwards, with seemingly ill-timed defiance.

"This world is the home of the Master of the Book of Darkness!" the Knight in Green declares, threading her rings like looms.

"Anyone wants to smash it, you GO THROUGH US!" the red Knight of Iron roars, swinging her hammer like she were just ACHING for someone to challenge them.

The Knight of the Clouds has her eyes closed for a moment. "Autumn falls, six months too soon. Blossoming, frozen; the fruit plucked before its time." Then she opens her eyes, and says "Cartridge Load."

Vita's and Signum's Armed Devices both thunder with readiness, kaCHUNK kaCHUNK kaCHUNK. The Knights are ready, but to fight what? A Dark King, that surely even they can feel is too mighty?

Vita's eyes hang low, on the Magical Girls and servants of Dark Fall below. The moment lingers strangely long before Shamal shouts, "Found it!" and reweaves her loom of rings, widening it out into a portal as large as she, a shimmering horrid darkness glimpsed through the other side.

"Then move swiftly!" Zafira calls, tense. Above them - above all of them - the portal looms titanic. It has stopped expanding; stabilized. The other side is so tremendous that the eye has trouble telling whether it is drawing nearer to Earth, or the Earth is flying up to greet it.

"Funny thing about spells this big," Vita can't resist saying, her smile wide with a manic kind of excitement. Strangely timed in this moment of doom. "With this much power, when it stabilizes, the magic itself has to hold a kind of core!"

Shamal murmurs, "Which means..."

She steps back, slightly - and with an awful, eye-watering shroud of its own darkness, the Book of Darkness ripples into being between her and the portal. A single point of non-light, flickering and strange, glimmers inside.

They say it as one. One final time. One time, it doesn't have to be a sin.

"Book of Darkness! Absorb!"

The world hangs on potential. And then, the words come cold. Calm. Clinical. Yet, somehow...


<<Absorption. Maximaler Durchsatz. Anfang.>>

<Pose Tracker> Gohyaan [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

One of the many expressions of the enormity of scale of the situation is how going towards ground zero doesn't really change the feeling in the air -- the oppressive, looming sense of impending destruction. It isn't worse as one approaches the World Tree, because it is already the worst, everywhere. It has filled the world to the brim. Soon, all will overflow.

But, getting close to the World Tree -- seeing how the legendary, towering tree is, even now, shuddering beneath its own weight, as it approaches death -- how all the greens have become browns, and the browns are fast becoming grays -- brings a terrible immediacy to the end of everything.

Rarely has there been a greater symbol of life itself, than a tree so massive that it comprises its own plaza, its own park. It has pathways carved into it; it has shrines. Some of its branches have railings, and some of the ones that don't are hundreds of feet in the air.

Its shed blossoms continue to whirl in the air at the edge of the portal, which provides an unnatural ceiling to the sky -- but it is shedding more than that. Twigs. Some larger branches, too, are crashing downwards, here and there, as once-lush foilage accelerates its return from dust to dust.

The portal, though...

Closer up, its surface isn't flat, but writhing, reality itself wracked with agony due to having to suffer its invasion. That makes it particularly difficult to see through to the other side, a challenge further intensified by the way that it is simultaneously very dark, and routinely shot through with forks of violet lightning that leaves brilliant afterimages on the eyelid.

There's another distant clank of massive chains... and, in a rumble almost below the edge of human perception... an awful groan.

It is a desolate sound. The groan of a hinge of a forgotten gate. The groan of a continental plate as it grinds against another. The groan of a star as it is snuffed in the sky. Or -- perhaps the groan of a star as it sputters at the edge of oblivion. Unable to shine. Unable even to die.

Sealed, in the in between.

...until now...


The swirling petals of the World Tree pull off of the edge of the portal, sucked into the hungry vortex called the opened Book of Darkness.

IMMEDIATELY the portal contracts by half, revealing the dark skies of oncoming night behind it -- then, a heartbeat later, by half again. Even the night sky is far brighter than the Dark Zone, and so the ambient starlight is something of a relief -- though there will be no relief from that apparently infinite spigot of destructive power until the portal is closed completely.


Page after page of the mostly-empty -- the, let us recall, forcibly emptied -- Book fill. It's hard to see, much less comprehend, the text within, but it looks less like print and more like lots and lots and lots of pressed flowers, with occasional annotations in a spidery hand.

They fill, and flip. Fill, and flip. One, five, a dozen. Dozens.

Soon it will be hundreds...

...and a second, distinct feeling of darkness is beginning to rise.

COMBAT: Signum transforms into General of the Raging Fire!
COMBAT: Vita transforms into Crimson Iron Rider!
<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

As they ascend the top of the World Tree, Nanoha hears a familar voice and her heart flutters in her chest and beats just a little faster. "Feito-chan!" There is a mixture of emotions. She's glad not to be alone in this but as she holds on tightly to her friends. "I don't know how we are going to do this but...I am glad you guys are with me."

Looking up at the portal, Nanoha takes a deep breath and in her mind she can see the dead world around her still. A world devoid of color, of life and of anything that brings any kind of joy or makes the world what it is. It's not the end. It cannot be the end. They have fought too long and too hard for them to let this to happen. The sacrifice that the sisters made, Mami... and all the others that have been lost. Their peril cannot mean nothing.

"Feito...please be careful." Her eyes twinkle as they face the obstacle ahead of them and then she looks to Lera and the others as well, "We should stay together. I-" Her words are cut off by the appearance of the Wolkenritter, between them and the portal. "Vita, Signum... what are you guys..." Her expression immediately drops when she sees the appearance of the Book of Darkness. "You can't do this!!!" There is sheer panic in her voice but it's too late.

Watching in horror, Nanoha sees the book begin to fill up once again. Pages and pages that once were full of the magical cores from herself and so many of her friends, now filling with the power being drained from the portal and the girl is torn. Two of her worst fears are coming together in a horrible way and she feels powerless to stop either things from happening.

In the moment of panic, Nanoha does the only thing that feels right to her. After making sure Endo and Fuu have a safe place to stand, she fights back. "Raising Heart, please..." The white mage aims her weapon for Vita, "I am sorry but we cannot let you do this!" There is clear regret in her voice, even as she calls out, "Divine Buster!!!"

The beam that the weapon emits is aimed carefully, her plan is to knock the Book of Darkness away from Vita. She is not feeling optimistic about her chances but takes it head on regardless of what may happen. They were already facing certain death... what happens next can't be much worse right?

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Divine Buster! on Vita.
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

The World Tree grows larger - and larger. It's petals dead. Like it's rotting from the inside out - it's such a sad sight. Fate Testarossa flies towards the end of - not the world she was born upon - but it was her world now. Just about the last thing she expects right now is that their salvation would be - "What!?" The resolve of the four Guardian Knights - the Wolkenritter is so admirable. She'd borne witness to their loyalty before.

In even such simple things as Vita leaping to protect the hat given to them by her precious master.

And the Book of Darkness - it absorbs - and it's pages fill - and fill - and fill.

And the portal contracts - and the sky is so beautiful but...

"Vita! Signum!" She pulls up fast in front of the General of Raging Fire. It's not exactly a showdown yet. She doesn't come in swinging as Nanoha does. "Thank you."

She stays at a reasonable distance. A cautious distance. "If not for what all of you are doing then..." She sucks in a breath. "... thank you." She repeats. Closing her eyes for a moment. This was understandably difficult. "I wish I could just let that be that. I wish that I could just let you stop this and that would be it. We could part ways as friends and... you could live a happy life with your master."

She looks away from the tip of Signum's blade. "If I thought that's what would happen too... that the world would be saved and she'd be well again... I'd be helping you..."

She looks forward to them, it's like her teeth are grinding together. "But what if it isn't! What if something terrible happens again when it's completed?" Even if it hadn't every other time - what if its different just because of the magnitude of power they're absorbing.

"I had hoped for so long that... once we found out what you were fighting for... things would change... that understanding you would be enough... it's so cruel that it isn't."

Suddenly she flies forward, off like a thunderclap, clashing against Signum again and again and again with spinning polearm strikes that flash with golden energy each time. "... but I should know better than anyone - sometimes someone understanding you isn't enough to change things!"

And when those times come - the only choice left - is to fight.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Thunderous Clash on Signum.
COMBAT: Signum fails to brace Fate Testarossa's Thunderous Clash, taking 29 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Fate Testarossa is
Psyched!  Stun applied to Signum!
COMBAT: Vita perfectly counters 56 Fatigue damage from Nanoha Takamachi's Divine Buster!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Counter!  Vita's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Vita's counterattack, Panzerhindernis, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Nanoha Takamachi!
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

"Fate! Lera!" Endo calls out to his other allies as they appear, his voice becoming more hopeful. "You're here!" The fact that they are means that there's a chance. Every time they've worked together they've come through in the end, this time can't be any different.

Endo's gazes is set on the portal-until he spies something that might be just as bad. The book of darkness floating in the air makes him catch his breath, and even as one apocalypse is averted he knows that this solution will only lead to another.

He had to make a decision, as Nanoha drops him onto a spell circle. The platform catches his weight, and he hesitates for only a second. Then, as Nanoha blasts Vita with her spell and Fate charges forward, he shouts a defiant cry of his own: "I won't let you do it!"

Unlike Nanoha and Fate, he doesn't apologize. He knows, in some respects, why the Wolkenritter do what they do. But he also knows they can't be allowed to. No more worlds can end. No more people can die. "I won't..." Endo's hand stretches out, and a Belkan seal burns to life in front of him. "ALLOW IT!"


Chains burst from the sigil, purple-black manacles that go racing toward Vita and the Book of Darkness. There are more sigils forming in the air, spinning to life and shooting out more manacles, each burning with energy as they rush to restrain the cloud knight.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Kette Gefangnis on Vita.
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"What are they--"

Lera asks Setsuna, staring up over the withering, dying World Tree to where the Cloud Knights appear. Her eyes lock on the familiar form of the Book of Darkness. She remembers that terrible thing. She remembers how it drained her magic, and there is no comfort to be found as it begins to drain the power from this terrifying spell. Her eyes widen sharply and she looks sideways to Setsuna.

A magical circle appears, swirling up and spinning under their feet, until it becomes solid -- and Pretty Cure and mage alike set down on it, clothing shifting slightly, as Lera looks between Signum and Vita, and then towards the rest of them. She hesitates a moment--and then the pink light of a Divine Buster screams through the skies, and her question is answered.

She looks sideways to Passion, then nods. "If you fall, I'll catch you."

Then, she takes off into the air. The Divine Buster's afterglow is cut through by orange, gold, and silver. Soaring Sky swings up and chops hard for Vita's side -- the Knight of Iron finding blade and then burning plasma shoot off, even as Endo's chains rush around her.

"Vita!" she calls out. "Stop that thing! That--that can't be a good thing! Whatever that spell is... it's really dangerous!"

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Inferno Slasher on Vita.
<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

The Knights are there. Lancelot looks at the Wolkenritter assembled there and rolls his shoulders. He blinks when the book starts absorbing the giant apocalyptic portal. That was .... Good? Bad? Something in between? He really has no idea. He loks his eyes on Signum and then looks to Vita. That damn bunny lover and that damned Knight. He wonders where the others are.

However he is uncertian what to do, and he shuffles form foot to foot in anticipation of a fight. These guys are not, in his mind, exactly known for showing up and saving the day. Really quite the opposite when they show up there is ascreaming, fires, and sometimes people die. It's jsut not really a good sign. So when Nanoha, Fate and Endo all launch magical attacks at the two Wolkenritter, Lancelot nods oncce. "Mikoto." He looks at the other sword wielder and he grins. "Let's show Pompus Knight Maximus over there how to wield a sword the proper way eh?" He doesn't waut for Mai to tell him no. To wait. He just goes. He rusn and leaps from teh tail of that mighty fire dragon to the world tree, trailing lighting in his wake.

From branch to branch he leaps he clals out as he does, "He BUNNY LOVER! CATCH!" He leaps and spins in the air, forming lightning between is blades. As he spins and he brings the blades to face Signum he cries: "LIGHTNING BLAST!!" Sending a stream of lightning toward Vita. The tendrals of lightning whip and crackle and boom with thunder.

Lancelot lands on a large branch of the tree, crouched and ready to move.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

It takes very little time for Lion to bridge the spacial gap between the locations, and a few jumps later, is upon the dying boughs of the great vessel. Its granted wish torn and twisted, bringing forth something unspeakable.

Lion has to stop and rest, while Steven hops off, looking up at this momentarily halted nightmare. "What do we do..." As a plan is pondered, four figures appear, and announce their own plan. Some of them look familiar from a breakout fight near Midori-ya. "What are the ydoing..."

The question is quickly answered, and in not the best way. They summon a book, a book with dark intent much like what they face, but different in its own right. One begins to devour the other in some sort of malign rite. THe portal far above, that portal that would be their undoing begins to shrink. "They are stopping it...!" Steven says with optimism dripping from his voice.

The void above grows smaller and smaller, but that different sense of darkness begins to grow in turn. It comes from that book. The boy looks down to their footing. THe larger boush might be able to support them, but the tree is falling apart. They can't stay too long. "Where do we go? What do we do?!"

Nanoha makes that decision for them. She pulls out that artifact of hers, points it at the red.... knight? Is that what they are? And fires a ray of energy. Likewise, Fate shows up and certainly appears to know more about them than him. She too engages in fighting, as does Endo and Lera. "I don't understand! They are stopping the portal, right?"

The Gem child seems conflicted. As well, they are flying. Steven doesn't have many combat options in this scenario. He could throw his shield, but only so many times. It would be batter to wait for a moment that will count.

For now, Steven bides his time, looking up at the event, hoping what comes, they can all handle. "We better find somewhere more stable to stand..."

<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

"You came," Passion says, and pauses just long enough to put arms arond her in turn, as much for the hug as to hang on for heading up into the air. "Right. We can do this."

Up, up, and up they go... and without having to fly herself, Passion ends up with a great viewpoint of the cavalry as it approaches. Her eyes widen in surprise, as they come to help. She hears the cartridges--

A core...?

As they fly up, Passion sees more than the Wolkenritter, of course; she sees the incredible Tree that is a fixture of this place in death, remembers the day she's spent here with many she knew. It was such a sign of life that she never expected to see it gone.

And now... with the Book Filling... Lera asks what they're doing, and Passion looks sharply back to her. "It's not over," she says, and when the magic circle becomes solid, Passion shifts forward, standing on her own. "I know," she answers the promise of catching her.

"..." She looks to Fate, at her words, in silent agreement, and shakes her head. There is so much that she can't express, right now, so many feelings that she can't put into words, at the terrifying portal and what lay beyond it and the arrival of the desperate few that may yet destroy the world another way. Fate and Lera both already know what they need to do. So...

Passion bends at the knee and leaps suddenly through the air, a red blur aimed straight at Vita. Words were never her talent anyway, but she strikes out too fast for most eyes to track.

COMBAT: Cure Passion has used Passion Flash on Vita.
<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Holding onto Lion for dear life and being careful not to pull on his majestic mane, Sourisi is certain this is not how she expected to ride to stop the destruction of the world. She had been glad her memory was right, that Lion could somehow create portals for them to ride though without much trouble, for it was certainly coming into use tonight. From rooftop to portal, to portal to the sky they rode, and dark green eyes are always cast heavensward and up at the abyss waiting for them. The sacrifice of two souls holding the end of the world at bay...it doesn't seem right that they should disappear and be no more because of their heroics.

One hand rests on Steven's shoulders, just for a moment. "I don't know either, but...they given us this chance, the world this chance. We won't let this moment pass, Steven-san. Just trust in yourself, and make sure that you come back home to your family tonight!" There's no puns now, the shell of cheerfulness tucked away for the seriousness of the current moment. She just wants to support a young boy, a few years younger than herself and yet so much braver.

Thinking back on it, Shigure is quiet and drawn into herself, and Niramo tears her eyes away to look at the Symphogear in concern. Sourisi really does feel that have a chance now to succeed, to do what no others can do in this moment, even if it's small. But Shigure doesn't seem to feel those same emotions, so the mouse girl rests her free hand on one of Shigure's and gives a quick squeeze. "Don't worry, Solais-san. Things seem darkest before the dawn, at least that is what they say in books. We just have to hope that we can break the dawn, and i'll be there to help you, like you helped me."

The Book of Darkness is not something that sounds like the salvation of the world, and while she can't see exactly what the Book was doing, the feeling it was beginning to emit has her spine tingling. It was doom-flavored, yes, but a different kind of doom than the great portal in the sky. She wants to spring to action, to strike at these unknown individuals and stop...whatever they were doing, but she have to admit, they seem to know what they were doing. "I don't think there's anywhere higher than this, Steven-san. Let's just hope we don't have to make our own platforms soon..."

But were they trading one end of the world for another?

Against what her instincts were telling her, Sourisi waits, one hand tapping on her tonfa and her eyes narrowing upon the Book. This is likely going to be insanely risky, but...if she was lucky, she might be able to do something.

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

Mikoto is left with confusion and warmth and lingering dread, and it's an utterly baffling mix. She doesn't like being alone with it. She's able to move quickly to catch up - but Tokyo Tower is a huge thing, difficult to climb.

She cannot hope to meet up with her fellows in time.

She... must have been running away from the Negatone all this time.

That must be why she's down here.

That must be why she's alone.

But that golden light which washed over her like a sunbeam means she doesn't feel as bad about it as she could. The dread and confusion, perhaps, would be terrible together - but there's a warmth, too, like love and friendship and hope and dreams. A warmth which keeps the despair from overwhelming her.

And there is a voice, calling her name. "MAI!" Mikoto screams, in return, as the strut shudders under Kagutsuchi's weight. She springs forward, leaping with ease from claw to nose to bury herself against Mai's side, one hand about her waist as the other holds Miroku.

The word is relief, and there is uncertainty to her as she presses in, gravity in those catlike eyes as she looks up. "Trouble, Mai."

The midriff of her shirt appears to have been bitten clean off, though there's no wounds underneath it, and it tells a story of there indeed having been quite a lot of trouble here. They must have tried so hard to stop that portal opening.

Lancelot, when he arrives, tells the story with more words: it is the apocalypse come, and the world itself is in peril. Mikoto nods, with an affirmative grunt. "Mai, I gotta fight."

She looks to him, once she's agreed. "... glad Lancelot's okay." There's a note of apology, in those words, because the last thing she remembers is coming to his aid only to flee in terror.

The World Tree, on a dragon's approach, reveals itself as dying and grey and there is a pit in Mikoto's stomach as she realises it. The tree is a sacred thing, gigantic and powerful, and it shouldn't just die like this. It's wrong.

The breath Mikoto takes is sharp, a gasp of horror which expresses her feelings where her words fail her.

And then - there's someone in front of it. Four someones.

They say the words, the book opens, and against Mai's side, Mikoto stiffens in anger and fear. "Her!" She hisses the word, teeth clenched, staring daggers into the Knight of Iron. "She's the one who attacked me!"

The little girls talk to them - they can't let them do this, they hoped things would change. Her most hated enemy is an enemy of these people, as well. So, too, does a more complicated enemy protest. Mikoto says nothing, atop the coiling draconic phoenix known as Kagutsuchi, but her eyes burn with a terrible hatred as she stares down Vita and Vita alone. She growls, low and terrible.

They are closing the portal - yes. This much is true. That portal will destroy the world if it is opened, and even if they are using that book to do it - that horrible, soul-tearing book - perhaps it's necessary. It's certainly true that the people opposing them are no friends of Mikoto Minagi.


... Vita hurt her. Vita made her weak and vulnerable. Vita made her suffer.

And that book is pouring out a darkness all its own, which promises destruction and ruin.

In the end, the HiME operates on a much more personal level than the impersonal threat represented by the utter dread of the chains which clink against each other, the horror of something great and terrible stirring.

Those sharp yellow eyes dart to Lancelot, for just a moment. How to wield a sword? He must mean the other woman, there. And so, Mikoto replies: "No. She's my target."

She fully fails to explain her pronouns, but it turns out she doesn't have to, because Mikoto leaps from dragon to branch with practiced ease. She pushes up from the crumbling perch, Miroku cleaving upwards in a terrible, bone-shattering strike which, to Vita, may be agonisingly familiar.

There is no alleyway to collapse, here.

Perhaps it's a mercy.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Destruction on Vita.
COMBAT: Vita fails to dodge Lancelot's Lightning Blast, taking 21 Fatigue damage!  Lancelot is Psyched!
COMBAT: Vita counters 10 Fatigue damage from Endo Naoki's Kette Gefangnis, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Vita's Reverse and Tactician
abilities activate!  Cripple applied to Vita!
COMBAT: Vita's counterattack, Kometfliegen Claymore, partially gets through, doing 23 Fatigue damage to Endo Naoki!  Stun applied
to Endo Naoki!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

At first glance, the Wind Knight wonders if the Wolkenritter are here for the same purpose that she and Nanoha and the others are - to prevent the world's destruction. But as she sees them begin draining power from the portal - the power of raw destruction - she knows that even if they *do* share a goal for once, that draining has to be stopped. The power coming through the portal is too terrible to be harnessed by anything wholesome ... and that's assuming the Book of Darkness *is* somehow wholesome in any way, shape, or form.

"One of these days," the Magic Knight of Wind calls out wryly, "we *have* to find a chance to talk - I still know nothing worth knowing about you. But for now ... Winds of Admonishment!"

The binding whirlwind forms, attempting to wrap around the Iron Hammer Knight and hold her, to make her more vulnerable to the other magical girls' (and boys') attacks, to blunt whatever force Vita might unleash against them in turn.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Admonishment on Vita.
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"We are, Pluto! We really are!" Her own hug is just as fierce, pulling Pluto close, and utterly rejoicing in the fact that it's not over, that they're going to be okay...at least for now. Then they're in the air, and Pluto takes the lead.

And they land at....helipads? Kasagami Araki pauses, looks over that sleek black beauty of a machine. Then she's grinning. Really, really hard. And laughing. Up she hops into the co pilot's seat, slaps on a helmet with a quick comms check, and is still giggling as she crosses her legs and watches her love at work.

"...You have got to teach me to fly this thing!" Comes Kassie to Pluto with unbridled excitement, elation, and relief as they lift off.

The arrival of the Wolkenritter adds another problem on top of a day of problems. Kasagami's gaze narrows, and yet the group is already trying to devour the magic of that horrible portal into yet another unholy thing, this time the Book of Darkness. She remembers of how it heralds an apocalypse, if what they were told is to be believed. And yet, it seems the lesser of the two. Inside of the helicopter, she eyes the Mages amongst them take to the offense against the assembled knights. Her hand grips the hilt of her sword, but good sense takes over to her. She taps her comms, gaze locked onto the battle below.

"As much as I want to show them the touch of Araki steel...the Book. If we can get it away from them while they're busy with the others...what do you say, Pluto? Feeling up to a bit of banditry? Not very noble for a King, so maybe we'll have to be Bandit Royalty for tonight." Kasagami is coiled spring in her seat, ready to toss herself out of the chopper at a moment's notice. Her attention in particular lays with Shamal, and the Book of Darkness.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

It's the little things, isn't it?

Soon, Kagutsuchi has passengers, trilling at the looming darkness overhead. For a moment, Mai just revels in the comfort that Mikoto is here, by her side, and that she hasn't lost everything. A moment, in which she just holds on, and wonders just what she missed...though from what she could see in the distance on the way here, there are a few guesses.

"...sorry I'm late. To both of you, I...sorry." She holds Mikoto close, because how can she not? "...yeah. We can't not fight this."

A brief glance to Lancelot, an expression that seems torn between resignation to a doomed fate and a smug smirk. "I'm going to be honest, what I want to do is find somewhere far enough from here that I can get away with hiding. But...there's too much at stake for what I might want. So hang on tight - Kagutsuchi!"

A command in a single word, and the dragon pushes off, flapping great wings of flame to rise towards the top of the World Tree. Holding on to Kagutsuchi with one hand and Mikoto with the other, Mai has enough stability that she can just stare at the sight before her. Battles against dark spirits, against hordes of sword-wielding phantoms, against the machinations of Alyssa Searrs...she fought for the World Tree's sake on multiple occasions. To see that towering symbol of life in this state, in its dying days...

"...I'm sorry." She whispers, knowing it can never be apology enough. It never is.

The Wolkenritter appear, lending a...hand? While she's been adjacent to the suffering, Mai has managed to avoid seeing the Book of Darkness herself. Its effects on the hole in the world are obvious, and she would nearly cheer...but victory couldn't be that easy.

The tension at her side tells her the rest of the story. "She's the one who-" Mai turns to look at Mikoto, so recently recovered from her draining, and when next her eyes turn to the distant Vita all gratitude has been replaced with steely anger. "...okay. We'll try to get there."

Kagutsuchi cries out, beating wings of flame to rush to the outskirts of the tree's branches. Mai doesn't get more than a "YOU-" out when Lancelot dismounts, and she's left to watch his wild leaps for a moment. She takes a breath, looks down at Mikoto, and nods. "...all right. Don't-"

And then Mikoto is gone, too, before Mai can warn her to be careful. Mai clenches her teeth, clenches her fist, trembling for the moment in more than fear. She came here, and yet... "Kagutsuchi? Get to where we can help. However you have to."

Between Child and rift, a large limb extends from the World Tree. An ancient branch, with countless leaves and flowers filled with promises of better days. But those days are gone; the flowers' petals stolen, the leaves crumbling to dust, the wood withering and cracking to pieces. It remains, in spite of the death that seeps through it, as an obstacle, as a memento.

Kagutsuchi flies through it, crumbling wood little obstacle to wings of flame.

Above the world tree, the Child hovers, lazy flaps holding it in place as Mai looks between a dwindling rift to the world's death and the group that attacked her closest companion. Attacking either could ruin what might be the only hope of preventing that evil from emerging, Mikoto has declared Vita to be her enemy..she's torn.

The personal vendetta, the safety of the world... She could choose one. Someone she hated might have chosen one. Which decision is the right one? Her gaze flickers back and forth, but settles on watching the knight and cat who have chosen to attack Vita. If they need her...

"Get ready, Kagutsuchi. ...but hold on. It's...not a clear shot."

Maybe it'd be easier if she didn't have loved ones in the line of fire. But she does, and so it isn't.

COMBAT: Vita cleanly braces 34 Fatigue damage from Lera Camry's Inferno Slasher, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Lera Camry is Psyched!
Vita's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Vita dodges 15 Fatigue damage from Cure Passion's Passion Flash, taking 22 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Vita cleanly braces 17 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Winds of Admonishment, taking 3 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Fuu Hououji is Psyched!  Vita's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Cripple applied to Vita!
COMBAT: Vita counters 16 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Destruction, taking 47 Fatigue damage!  Vita's
Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Vita's counterattack, Flammeschlag, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

The skies roil beneath that portal, and every particle of air with them. It is hardly ideal flying weather.

Between the slicing of rotors overhead, the roar of the engine, and the strange winds that buffet them, there is no holding normal spoken conversation in the helicopter's cockpit. Everything has to be said over the helmet-nested headsets, and voices get piped directly into ears with an electric tinniness. Sailor Pluto's gloved hands dance, one always gripping the cyclic, the other flying from place to place as she fights to keep them in the sky.

It's a bit like balancing a full teacup while atop a charging elephant's back.

What can be seen of Pluto's face in the window of her helmet reveals the pure calm of concentration. Without looking away from the view through the windshield she says over the comms: "This isn't anything like the first flight I imagined taking you on, you know. It was going to be into a sunrise, out over the ocean... And we certainly weren't going to cap it by flying toward an evil portal." Her voice is maybe a little thin, but there's a teasing note too, just barely audible through the stripped-down transmission. "Next time will be much nicer, Kassie. Maybe it'll even include a flying lesson or two..."

They draw near, and they can tell because everything that was already large looms massive -- portal, World Tree, swirling magic -- eating up all visible space beyond the windows. The helicopter is a chip of black metal in a great churning worldender of a gathering storm. It is easy to miss the streaking arrival of the Wolkenritter, and Sailor Pluto, preoccupied pilot, does so until their presence is unmissable.

This happens by way of the Book of Darkness -- that awful ripple catches the corner of Pluto's eye, she knows it a little too well at this point and has a sinking feeling before she even spots Vita and the rest of the Wolkenritter. And what they are about. But...

...it is working. The portal shrinks. The Book... fills, page by page.

Kasagami suggests skullduggery, and the Outer Senshi considers, maintaining a hover. "Tempting," she replies, and she is. The end of the world comes from that portal -- she feels it in her bones. It is only by comparison that the Wolkenritter and their Book represent a lesser threat, and here they are, taking it on. But in the end, she shakes her helmeted head.

"The last time they got close to filling their Book, that girl," and she can only mean Hotaru Tomoe, "feasted on what they gathered. If she feasts on that... No. I cannot risk it."

The chopper swings low over the World Tree. "Setting autopilot," the senshi reports, and frees herself from harness and helmet. A sidelong glance to Kasagami across the center of the helicopter, a small smile shared, and then Pluto kicks her door wide and lets in the wind. She hops free with the Garnet Rod to hand, down onto a crumbling bough, and hops free again after before her footing goes completely. The helicopter lifts away and clear, seeking a holding pattern a temporarily safer half-mile away.

Between leaps she swings the Rod upward, slinging a dark energy of her own at an all too familiar target in red, with an all too familiar hammer that Sailor Pluto still well-remembers via impact alone. Her plutonic blast joins streaming attacks and surging mahou, small and dark against bright things like Divine Busters and Lightning Blasts.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Garnet Blast on Vita.
COMBAT: Vita partially dodges 4 Fatigue damage from Sailor Pluto's Garnet Blast, taking 17 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto is
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Oh, I don't know...surviving certain death in each other's arms and hurrying to stop the end of the world? I can barely imagine anything more romantic. So our next flight will just have to be something worth more than the world itself, don't you think?" Grin, and a wink at her beloved.

She looks way too happy at the prospect of those lessons.

Still, her gaze becomes serious as that book fills and Pluto offers her wisdom.

"We've had a bad track record with the direct approach today. But if it's a chance to give steel to those knights, why not!? You're right, we can't let that thing end up eating all that power twice!"

And then in tandem with Sailor Pluto, Kasagami kicks open the door and plummets out of the helicopter, nodachi falling like a shimmering comet towards the hat-toting hammer-wielding young girl clad in red.

No words. Just merciless falling steel.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Falling Petals Cut The Soul on Vita.
COMBAT: Vita decisively counters 36 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Falling Petals Cut The Soul, taking 12 Fatigue damage!
Vita's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Vita's counterattack, Flammeschlag, partially gets through, doing 41 Fatigue damage to Kasagami Araki!
<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Vita watches the portal contract with delight in her eyes, her mouth open in a pure smile. That light from before, on the way here...did it stabilize the portal? It's all coming together, she thinks. It's all--

<<Passt auf!>>

Pay attention. Vita tears her eyes down to the glimmering mote of pink gathering below. "Oh of COURSE you would!" she yells. "EISEN!" <<PANZERHINDERNIS!>>

A crystalline wall of solid magic constructs itself around Vita, spreading wider than usual to catch the other Wolkenritter in its wings.

"VANTABLACK TOKOYAMI!" Vita yells, furiously; as the glory of the Divine Buster fades, Vita rips through her own shield, eyes transitioning instantly from amusement to fury. "Or...WHATEVER your dang name is! Once! ONE TIME I get to do something GOOD for your ABSURDLY DOOMED PLANET and what are my thanks! DIVINE BUSTERS AT TWILIGHT! WELL!"

She accelerates rapidly downward. She jukes aside of Lancelot's lightning blast but that gets her nowhere. But in the middle of her aileron roll away she volleys a Swallow Flyer into the air, except instead of the size of a softball it explodes up to the size of a car, and then fires THAT down at Endo. It doesn't entirely stop his chains, but it does shatter a number of them on the way down to turning him into a pancake. "I GOT IRON FOR EVERY ONE OF YOU THUGS!" Vita screams.

She's shaking, quivering. "I finally have something I can do FOR you and you STILL COME AT ME!" Lera calls out to her and Vita parries the blow with her hammer's shaft, glaring at the woman. Her eyes are wild - more wild than usual, even. "If we stopped you'd all ALREADY BE DEAD! But even if that weren't true...no! If this fails, Hayate DIES! And you, and them, and this whole city, this whole BALL OF DOOMED DUST doesn't compare to that!"

Pasion lunges at her. Vita swerves narrowly away, though the miss is whisper thin. Vita snarls, but makes no reply, too besieged. "Fine," she spits. "FINE! I've been STUCK as the bad guy for THOUSANDS OF YEARS!"

Fuu's whistling winds finally catch her - long enough for Pluto to blast her across the chest, but more pressingly, for Mikoto to leap at her from the ground. Vita knows that sword now. "EISEN!" Vita shrieks, and the hammerhead bursts into flames as she whirls it at Mikoto in a megaton parry.

Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work out; Vita gets blasted into the World Tree's husk, pulverizing branches before she finally gets caught in one with a whisper of life left in it.

Kasagami comes at her. There's another flash of screaming steel - and this time, the blazing hammer batters aside that strike and its attacker. She shoves herself up. Undaunted. Her power at its apex. Glowing with glories. "I can keep it up for another hour. Even this much pain...is NOTHING COMPARED TO HERS!"

She flings her arm up, and a dozen iron balls leap from her hand, which she lashes at with her hammer. They zoom and careen, chasing Endo, Lancelot, and Fuu.

"Eisen," she spits. "We're going to break them." <<Ja. Raketenform. Flammeschlag.>>

The entire hammer suddenly ignites. It transitions into its rocket form, and then Vita's charging. She moves like a bullet. The destruction is immediate and horrifying - Vita weaves between the attackers, seeming to charge each one individually, slamming them in turn: Lera, Kasagami, Sailor Pluto, Mikoto, Cure Passion...


And finally she blurs into position to drive at Nanoha, shrieking, her raw voice unbelievably hoarse, "AND YOU ARE IN MY WAY, NANOHA TAKAMACHI!!"

The hammer's rocket end ignites, and a blazing comet falls on the girl in white.

COMBAT: Vita has used Kometfliegen Ausbreitung on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Vita has used Kometfliegen Ausbreitung on Lancelot.
COMBAT: Vita has used Kometfliegen Ausbreitung on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Vita has used Raketenfangen on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Vita has used Flammeschlag on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Vita has used Raketenfangen on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Vita has used Raketenfangen on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Vita has used Raketenfangen on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Vita has used Flammeschlag on Nanoha Takamachi.
COMBAT: Lera Camry neatly dodges 32 Fatigue damage from Vita's Raketenfangen, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Lera
Camry's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Cure Passion dodges 22 Fatigue damage from Vita's Raketenfangen, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cure Passion's
Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Lancelot cleanly braces 23 Fatigue damage from Vita's Kometfliegen Ausbreitung, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Lancelot's Block
and Parry abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Lancelot!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki fails to dodge Vita's Raketenfangen, taking 37 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji braces 9 Fatigue damage from Vita's Kometfliegen Ausbreitung, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's Block
and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto dodges 13 Fatigue damage from Vita's Raketenfangen, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi decisively counters 45 Fatigue damage from Vita's Flammeschlag, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Nanoha
Takamachi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi's counterattack, Flash Move, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Vita!
<Pose Tracker> Gohyaan [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

No one hears the roar of rage from Dark King, as his escape from eternity is drained out from under him into the Book of Darkness, but -- just after the portal closes completely -- even the separation of dimensions isn't enough to stop the air from vibrating with huge, discrete waves that ought to have carried sound. They crash against the city, breaking windows...

...breaking the corpse of the World Tree. A great, terrible crack forks upwards from its root, and it begins to split, gaping open at a roughly twenty-degree angle.

There is no pot of golden hidden within, only dead wood and sad memories of something, once beautiful, now gone.

The World Tree is dead.

And its power... is lost.

The Book of Darkness slams shut, and it sounds like the door of a tomb.


In Gold Crown Town, the ravens take flight, cawwing their disgust, only feathers left behind.

Beneath Infinity Institute, the waves of black energy pouring out of their dark mistress finally subside, along with the seismic event it had been starting to induce.

In her lair, Northa pauses, midstretch, to discover that her impossibly unlimited growth is slowing... and stopping.

The Orphans rampaging across Southern Cross Island shrink from boar-scale down to rabbit-.

And the ominous bubbles popping their way up to the surface of Tokyo Bay finally cease.

...but, a tiny form in a hospital bed quivers, clutching her chest...


"It isn't full," Shamal exhales with a sigh. Sweat coats her brow, sticks to her hatband; managing the intake of the Book through all that has been a real strain. "...not quite. It only needs..." She leafs through it with a librarian's expertise, "...thirteen more pages...eh??"

That last, startled sound, came from the Book lifting itself up from her grasp and soaring even higher into the air, looking down at the chaos. Or at least, it would be looking, if it had eyes.

And then it does.

It has lots of them. They activate almost robotically, glittering like jewels in the sky, but the slithering, slurping sound of the many-headed snake that emerges to tangle around the Book so totally that the cover is lost from sight is very organic, and also really icky.

The Book's voice rings out from the crawling mass. Some of the snakes flicker their tongues. They are all over violet -- all too similar to that which had been powering the portal, moments ago. Though they have their own peculiar flavor as well.

<< Automatic defense system, NachtWal, activated. >>

Its dead, artificial voice is in Belkan, which sounds a lot like German, but magically its meaning is perfectly clear.

The many heads of the snake quirk to one side or another, fixing their gazes upon the Wolkenritter. Their attention is intent, their eyes piercing.

<< Shutting down the guardian knight system. Prioritizing life of the Book. Eliminating the guardian knight system. >>

The snakes' jaws gape wide, revealing bright red mouths which, instead of striking, summon vast, drippingly nasty balls of energy -- how very Midchildan!

But then, as a further point of confusion -- and in retrospect that may be part of the point of the spell -- instead of launching the blasts at the Wolkenritter, black energy bindings materialize out of nowhere, lashing them into immobility in midair. Hands, feet, chests. Nothing is spared.

Nothing -- and no one. In an eyeblink, the sorcerous artifact has rendered the entire army of magical girls helpless to stop what's about to happen.

And there's one other, too, who has to see this.

It's necessary.

The Master is required for the completion of the Book, and so it is that, in a dull violet tracery of a Belkan cross squaring a Belkan spell triangle, none other than little Hayate Yagami, cosplayer and invalid, mother and sister and child and friend -- is brought to hover in midair at the feet of her bound knights.

Her Mitakihara General Hospital gown is easily recognizable to anyone who's ever had family or friend checked in (or has checked in themselves). Moreso, though, is the slender curve of her spine, the hollowness of her chest. The pallor of her skin.

This is not a little girl with long to live.

Still -- she's certainly lively now, in an immensely overwhelmed and horrified sort of way. Her bright blue eyes are wild with fear and quickly filling with tears.

<< It's time to rise, Master. >> The Book hovers near her, as though trying to urge her to her feet. Hayate doesn't move, staring at what's before her.

The Book rustles its pages impatiently.

"Who are you? What's -- what's going on, I don't -- I don't understand, please... please stop..."

<< Initiating. >>

As the four cores -- pink, red, green and blue -- emerge from the chests of her Knights, her family -- something she's never seen before -- she can still instinctively understand what's about to happen.


<< Collecting. >>

Shamal and Zafira finish first. Their reserves have always been smaller than the other two, since they're not the front line.

First they scream, as green and blue sparkles drift from their sparkling cores into the reopened Book --

-- and then there's no more core --

-- and then they themselves dissolve into mana, like bodies made out of pollen, or like a World Tree branch nudged and becoming dust.

This, too, disappears, claimed by the Book's imperative.

"No! What have you done with them? Give them back!!" Hayate slams an emaciated fist upon the magical platform supporting her. But she doesn't look away -- she can't look away, from Vita, and Signum, and the white coat that used to be Shamal, still supported by those black bindings, and Zafira's doggy collar, too.


It doesn't.

OOC: Feel free to struggle in your bindings (if you get tetchy enough, they electrocute some with snappy purple lightning), but
there's no stopping what's about to happen. Also, please hold poses for Signum.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to counter Vita's Flammeschlag, taking 69 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Destruction, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Vita!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki fails to counter Vita's Kometfliegen Ausbreitung, taking 24 Fatigue damage!  Stagger applied to Endo Naoki!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki's counterattack, Asteroid Eilen, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Vita!
<Pose Tracker> Signum [None] has posed.

Signum looks to Nanoha with a moment of confusion. Of course they can, her expression seems to think. "Do not interfere," she tells her. Her voice raises. "Fool! You are not thinking, Nanoha Takamachi!"

Her eyes turn towards Fate. "Then you will have purchased time," Signum replies to her. "Fate!!!" Because she's coming. Coming strong and coming fast. Signum swings Laevatein around, clashing her blade against Fate's and setting her own teeth. As sparks fly, gold and magenta, Signum speaks to her with heat and urgency. More than she has had before.

"None of you could act against this; or you would. At worst you reach the same outcome. You will NOT reach that same outcome. Even if Harlaown's theories held validity - it would be years before Hayate would present you with difficulties. If you bid us we will leave!" These are desperate words. But hopeful ones. "And at best you have no problems. Why do you fight us!?"

Signum's attention skates towards Lancelot. "... What??" she says to him in incredulity. This has at least spared Fate further recitations of her desperate sutra of despair. Steven is on their side! Signum, perhaps desperate for allies, calls to the leonine young man, "Yes!"

Shamal reports. Thirteen pages, Signum thinks. Any one of them here would do it. Who is novel? Who has not given yet? Her eyes turn towards the dying tree, searching, searching. The boy? Where? It's so close. It's so -

Hayate is here! She's upright! Warmth fills Signum. Oh, all of it was not in vain. Joy fills her eyes. But - why - ?

-- Signum feels it as a sudden cold shock that suddenly burns hot. The feeling makes no sense to her. A surprise attack? she thinks as the cold ringing fills her ears, struggling against it. "Z, zuhf," she tries to get out, seeing it seize him. His core flies, Shamal's a moment later.

The pain fills her. It's like she's been set on fire but the fire is cold. Signum's vision grays and reddens at the same time as she looks down. Her lips purse as she struggles to speak. Her legs are numb, her ears are ringing. Everything's coming - no, it's going -


Signum sags forwards, her grasp on Laevatein loosening. Her eyes struggle to focus but it is a losing battle; at most she wins another second or two. She looks at Fate and her face crumples, mouth opening once more. As if to speak. Or plead. She seems to be trying to say something -


Beneath the radiant armor, it seems that Signum was, in truth, wearing a pair of training pants and a comfortable blue knitted sweater. It has a certain irregularity to it, as if hand made. A ribbon, that tied her ponytail into place, whips into the wind of the skies of Tokyo.

The pink core flies towards the others.

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

The hammer comes close to slamming into Lera, and her Barrier Jacket is already weakened -- case in point, she doesn't have a long green coat fluttering after her -- but she dodges t just the last second. The hammer slams just by her midsection, the wind rushing by and the sheer force of it sending her flying. The girl flies backward at a tree limb. She kicks off it, and her bicycle kick causes ash and dust to fly away from the greyed, decaying tree branch.

"You're not a bad person!" she shouts back at her. "I'm telling you that whatever they're summoning might not be--"

<I'm not sure she's listening,> Soaring Sky chimes.

<I didn't. Let's keep trying,> Broken Ground chimes. <Let's--something's wrong!>

It is a tremendous understatement. The Book floats up, and then bindings of dark light snap out. It catches Lera's wrist as she starts to swing Sky to cleave the one around her ankle, and then another around her midsection, and another about her chest, snapping tight. She screams, and yanks forward against the chain when Zafira, then Shamal vanish. "No!" she yells. "No, no, stop it!"

A pink core floats by, in a brilliant flash. Lera's mouth hangs open, tears forming in the corner, and she shakes her head, before she screams. "Signum!" She yanks against the chains, her head snapping to look at Vita. "Vita, try to break out!"

She strains against her bindings again -- and then a surge of purple lightning explodes through her. Her body thrashes in a terrifyingly involuntarily way, before it hangs limp in the chains.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

"I don't care what you're doing, stop it!" Endo leaps toward the huge sphere that Vita sends his way, his weapon flashing out, making to cut right through and failing completely. If anything, it only manages to deflect enough of the massive projective to keep it from flattening him completely. Barrier jacket absorbs some of the impact, but the blow still sends him into a crumbling world tree branch. And then a second, and third, before he has a chance to bring a platform under himself.

He's about to launch back toward the fray when the Book of Darkness breaks loose. Endo stops mid-leap, both him and his weapon bound by dark strands.

<IT IS CHANGING.> Fallen Stern informs. <IT IS--DANGER!> An understatement, perhaps.

"What did you do!?" Endo demands, to little avail. There's only horror as the core is torn free from Signum, rendering his question mostly moot. Then he screams, electricity burning through him as he struggles in vain.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Cure Passion keeps advancing despite Vita's anger, despite her shaking. It makes sense to her, but she trusts what Lindy told her, what she learned about the book. ...And when Vita puts one life over that of the whole world...

She won't insult that resolve by assuming Vita will back down. The red blur flashe apast Vita, and she comes to a stop,k hanging in the air as she begins to fall. ...It makes her an easy target to pick, at least, and Vita's countrattack finds her quickly. That hammer, that familiar hammer, slams towards her, and Cure Passion reaches out and pushes against the side of it to make herself move, wrenching her arm terribly as the shockwave of the attack is still enough to send her flying even without a direct hit. Off-balance, she tumbles through the air. "Ah--"

She can hear... the sad, sad memory of the tree, gaping open. The Book... isn't full? Before it can all make sense, the Book rises... and Passion begins to fall, seeing the strangeness before her and hearing that voice. Her fall, however, is arrested quite abrubtly. Her arms are forced out and each limb is shackled, giving her a perfect view of what's to come. Blinking in disbelief, the red Cure starts to struggle against the restraints.

She recognizes well the look of that hospital gown; how can someone who's volunteered so often at Mitakihara not? But the horror that comes is something that she never would have expected to see. The Book... is finishing. What they were afraid of is coming, from one utter ruin to another. And the ones fighting so hard for that girl--


Setsuna strains against her bindings, pulling her arm so hard that she feels like she's going to dislocate her shoulder, but she can't move so much as an inch. "No, we won't--"

Her teeth grit as the magic shocks through her, lips pressing together to avoid crying out. ...She keeps struggling. After they've come so far...

After that girl cries out, and the remnants of what were their enemies fall, she doesn't want to think that there's nothing she can do, even as that doubt prickles in her heart, exhaustion from this long nightmare catching up again.

<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

Hearing Fate's words, Nanoha nods in agreement, but even as they attack the Wolkenritter her mind remains conflicted. She knows now what they are fighting for and she wanted, more than anything to help. How many times had she tried to reason with Vita in combat, only to see that the knights goal was one of the kind of conviction that she could not be pursuaded against. They both had their goals and did what they thought was best and that's exactly what is happening now.

There is an aching deep within the girl, a feeling of loss and failure that actually hurts. "Vita... Signum.... please don't do this! I know how much you care for your Master to go through these lengths to finish the book but if it doesn't happen the way you expect it to, then what are you going to do?!" Nanoha tries very hard to make her voice carry over the battle in front of her.

Vita's anger doesn't surprise her, nor does her making up her name yet again. "I know you're trying to help us but you cannot do it this way! Please... just... listen! You don't understand...you're blinded by what you think will happen and what you want to happen. Please... just..." The young girl pauses to catch her breath.

Then Vita is upon her again, from her platform, Nanoha tries to put up a barrier against Vita as the blazing orb aims directly for her. She barely moves in time to avoid the brunt of the attack. The power of the energy it emits though knocks her backwards as she falls against the floor of the magical circle. The girls come face to face and Nanoha's eyes plead with the girl, "You... have to stop... before it's too late."

The book in front of them slams shut and Nanoha cries out. "Nooooo....!" Everything is wrong though as the book rises in the air and the serpent emerges, taking a place around the book. The purple beings overtake the book and then before she can say or do anything else, she finds herself completely bound. She cannot move and when she tries to fight against the bindings they pulse electricity through her body. The pain, unlike anything she has felt before, makes her scream out and then the white mage is silent, her eyes taking in everything that happens afterwards as Signum's core is ripped from her and she is suddenly not there anymore.

While she is very much still conscious, the young girl is overcome and she quietly sobs unable to hold back her emotions anymore. "F-Feito...it's too much..."

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The Wind Knight's sword flashes into existence, and she brings it up, flat side braced against her arms, trying to withstand the flying metal balls that Vita is smashing at her and others; she's able to withstand the impacts, one ball missing her blade and smashing into her breastplate, but even the hits on her sword are enough to rattle her bones themselves. But if something hurts worse than the physical impacts, it's Vita's words.

So much is not understood. So much that should be known - some things that should not - but most importantly, what the Wolkenritter were fighting for at such a grave cost to their prey. And finally, the Magic Knight of Wind has a sense of what was at stake for the Wolkenritter. She almost wishes she could have helped them - but the dreadful, destructive power spilling through that portal could only have tainted the outcome; of *that* the Wind Knight is relatively certain.

But then it stops. The portal close. The World Tree itself is sundered, its power perhaps never to shine again. And the book closes with an awful, terrifying finality ... only to open, not its pages, but its eyes, and its mouths. Or something's mouths.

The Magic Knight of Wind barely has time to pivot her sword from defense to offense; she has no time to *use* it, save to just barely jab one chain away from wrapping around her arm. Other chains make up the difference, and more; tangled into helplessness, the green-clad Magic Knight struggles, is shocked, and her sword finally disappears one last time as the Wind Knight's cry of pain peters out into agonized, terrified gasping.

Maybe, with the portal's closing, the world is safe. That thought brings her scant comfort, though; whatever the portal's power has nourished, whatever the Wolkenritter are being re-purposed for, it might be less apocalyptic but it feels far more immediately perilous.

Move, Fuu urges herself. Fight. Find *something.* Find *anything*.

But she can't move. She can't fight. And there is nothing to find, save an inevitability that stares implacably upon all of them, as merciless as the chains that entangle every magical warrior present, friend and erstwhile foe alike.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Steven's footing suddenly becomes unstable, as the World Tree splits in twain. "Ah!" the boy lets out, scrambling to find somewhere else to find footing. That dark book finally consumes the last of the dark portal above, and no longer exists. All of the energies, the undoing of others evil planning spanning for who knows how long, compolete with the shutting of a tome.

"It's gone! We can--" That book starts moving on its own, and its operators are even perplexed. Eyes and coils appear, surrounding the book and speaking in a foreign tongue.

In moments quicker than measurable, Steven is taken by ebon energy. Him and Lion and everyone else around, friend or supposed foe. Sides are not taken by this entity. Steven falls onto the gray dusty matter of the tree, unable to move. Struggling reveals no give. Lion appears to have some luck, but gets electrocuted for his trouble and the bindings snatch tighter.

"Can't... move...!" Steven calls out. Another person appears, on that sounds like they are there not of their choice. The knights that stood and defended against the arrayed's attacks get it the worst. That dark bound tome causes something to appear-- no, retch is more accurate-- from their chests.

With each one plucked, they cease to be. As if they never were. What a horrible destination.

Is this what lay in store for them all? This couldn't be it, could it...?

<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.


Lancelot slaps the incoming doom beam the size of a car aside with both of Arondight's gleaming white blades. They may not be Magical Devices like Signum's or Endo's blades, or Nanoha's and Fate's weapons, but they ARE ancient and powerful magical artifacts.

The beams flies to the side and Lancelot leaps to another tree branch as that swatted attack explodes. He stands tall and proud, shrouded in the lght form that blast and points one of the baldes to Vita. He opens his mouth to speak when that roar hits him. He looks down. His eyes wide and filled with a touch, just a teeny tiny touch of terror.

Which, to add to that terror come those bindings. Lancelot leaps and slashes trying to avoid and or drive back the things. But he is eventually overwhelmed. One finally snagging a leg and flipping him over in the air to wrap him up. He summons lightning to him, striking the things but finds himself instead ZAPPED by blasts of purple lightning from the very same hideous and evil bindings that have him wrapped up.

Huh. So THAT'S What being hit with lightning felt like. Good to know.

He blinks a few times going slack and then coming too his senses agian. He begins struggling again. He has to get out. He has to get out and blow up that bloody book. "Mikoto!" he calls out, hopeful his partner in sword crime is still out there. Still okay.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

Sparks fly as they clash. And Signum's case is persuasive. If all that happens is Hayate becomes powerful - she's a good girl. She knows it herself. What if she chooses not to? But Lindy's words have taken root within her. It's enough that her resolve won't be beaten back. "I want Hayate to live! Just like you-"

Her teeth grind as she tries to answer her, "-but is it really so simple as that if you finish it she lives - if you don't she dies!? What if it isn't! Don't finish the book-! We'll find another way to save her..."

The others are fighting just as hard as she is. Harder still. Vita is near berserk and if they don't end this quickly she's going to put them to the ground. "Nanoha!" She shouts - worried as Vita slams into her - it's such a relief when she blurs away.

Forcing herself out of the bladelock, she swoops down and away. The book is saying something - and over the din of battle she can't hear it.

She does however - see the snakes. A fraction of a second too late. "The Book! It's-!" The magical snakes fire energy - and in just a moment she's locked into place as one catches around her leg like a bola and then around her entire torso and arms.

She struggles for just a moment - before surveying her surroundings - her eyes fall upon a little girl in a hospital gown. "H-Hayate..."

Her words mark her as completely innocent. It seems so cruel that she's brought here. To witness this. Like this.

Then a shine draws her eyes - as they start to vanish. "Signum-! Vita-! No! No! They're trying so hard for her! Please- Please don't do this to them!"

The book has no mercy. It's time to rise.

There's only clothing left. Fate struggles anew - until the violet lightning crawls across her form and zaps her into submission.

Nanoha cries that it's too much - and she wishes she could break her bindings to hold her hand. Her name being called by Nanoha is like a prayer after all. A sacred thing. But she can't. Instead she just quietly looks at her with dull eyes to say quietly, "Nanoha..."

She has no idea what's coming next.

The only comfort she has to offer her is...

"... I'm here..."

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

Sourisi continues to watch upwards, binding her time yet hating herself for not jumping into action. Lightning flash, the winds howl, obsidian cleaves, and garnet flashes in the darkening sky, all the while a rift to the end of the world shrinks and closes. Even as the others attack the one armed with a hammer, Sourisi stays where she was. The words that she spoke about how she was being attacked while saving them all was indeed true, but...anything that is absorbing all that concentrated evil, the power of the corrupted World Tree is not something that will save the world.

But before she could make any movements, any attempts to focus her power upon the Book itself, the Book lifts upward and devoles into a many-headed serpent that turns the stomach, reminding Sourisi all too much of the Proto-Daimons. Sourisi raises her tonfa in preparation of the upcoming battle as the defense system opens its' jaws and forms balls of energy. But it is only a distraction, a feint that catches her completely off guard. Bindings of darkness forms around her, preventing her from moving even an inch and proving all too effective to keep her in place.

Sourisi could only stare in shock as one after another of these 'guardian knights' become nothing more than motes of dust, being drawn into the Book beneath the slithering coils. There was already enough death tonight, and now this thing made out of the darkness from another realm is absorbing those knights? Wait...

Sudden realization strikes hard, and the bound Miraculous Ninja struggles against her bindings all the more, trying desperately to break free. Her bonds are all too kind to pay her struggles with electric torture, rippling up and down her body and causing her to clench her mouth closed and eyes shut to prevent herself from screaming from the agony. Her attempts at freedom do not stop, even as her body begs her to stop from the agony it's enduring.

It's this or...it's being absorbed into that book.

"Steven-san...Kasagami-san!" One eye opens, focusing despeately upon the bound Maiden of Solais, tears forming from agony and despair. "SOLAIS-SAN...!"

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

Pluto falls free of the helicopter and launches herself toward the battle above with Kasagami's wink and grin on her mind, the greatest comfort she can cling to in the circumstances. Next flight, they'd bantered about, with Armageddon overhead and nigh. Well, these are the things one must contend with, dating in the end times.

She watches her slung Garnet Blast score a hit against Vita with grim satisfaction that rapidly shifts to horror, because Kasagami flashes in with all her brilliant grace and takes a full-force counterhammer for her bravery. "Kassie! No!" she screams out, far too far away to do anything about it. Still, Pluto hits the next World Tree branch and kicks off in the direction of the swordswoman, and the dying wood gives way and crumbles into nothingness behind her.

Before Pluto can reach Kasagami, though -- there's an incoming hammer-wielding Knight to contend with, slamming between mahou like a mad crimson pinball of utter destruction. Sailor Pluto, Vita-proclaimed obstacle, suffers the promised smashing. There's no dodging it midair, no matter how desperately the senshi twists. She suffers a crushing upward trajectory, battered into a great arc, and it's going to be a long way down from the apex...

But things are still happening, horrible things that Pluto catches from the corner of her eye as she tumbles, and then she's not tumbling at all because black energy materializes around her wrists and her ankles and every other joint she could imagine bending. She is held fast in the sky, transfixed both by her bindings and the unfolding tragedies. Her head can't move, so Pluto rolls her eyes in the last direction she saw Kasagami, desperate to find her gaze.

The world is ending, after all, it seems. And now they're so far apart... All around Pluto, dotting the sky, other mahou splay in identical bindings, all audience to this horrorshow. She strains and then sags, and finds that there are no tears left to her: just a hollow, defeated feeling. How many times can she bid farewell to the world in a day? In a month?

She looks up to the sky and wishes the moon were visible beyond everything else that transpires, all the awful magics and roiling darkness. Sailor Pluto imagines it instead, with her heart.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Steel and blazing hammer strike, and Kasagami is sent flying into the world tree, hammering into it bodily as surely as Vita used her massive weapon. For a moment, the impact has her blacking out, the sheer force of the tiny girl's strike outsized and shocking even to someone as physically strong as Kasagami. It's enough that she can feel it into her very bones, the power of hte Iron Tyrant and her great weapon. Letting out a sound of rage, she forces herself back up, and at the girl.

Hammered into once again, Kassie feels her sleeves and most of her pants leg torn aside, darkened skin exposed and the young woman visibly battered and gasping for air. This knight is strong, and it puts a grim but enthused smile to her face even as she struggles to grip her sword.

"You want...to talk to me...about PAIN!?"

But whatever rant Kasagami was trying to use to keep herself from falling into a pile of battered Duelist is cut short by the cracking of the world tree and the shutting of the Book of Darkness. The serpentine spell arises, and that black mass of energy suddenly binds the wounded and exhausted Duelist. The words of the Book finally come through her ringing head, clear as day. And despite how much she hates the Wolkenritter right now, horror dawns on her face as the very thing that they've worked for betrays them. Her eyes go wide, and her body and heart burns with pure indignation at the mere thought. All of that devotion, turned aside without a thought.

For someone so invested in becoming a King, someone to whom the bonds of family are so important, the horror of Hayate Yagami strikes her all the more. And as she so often does, the young woman leans into passion and anger, fruitless though it may be.

"Stop this! This isn't RIGHT! Knights betrayed by their liege is..." She feels for this girl, and so she struggles. The electric pain that the bindings course through her has Kasagami screaming. Yet she struggles in vain, again and again until her gaze is struck through with black spots and her entire body feels like one living lightning rod.

Enemies or not, there's appropriate punishments. This has no hint of nobility at all. And all she can do is thrash, occasionally catching the glimpse of a poor, sick young girl begging for it all to stop. The world's pain and misery made manifest in one girl. Kasagami hates it even as her mind swims. She finds her gaze breaking from the fate of the assembled knights, and to her friends. Steven, Fuu, Niramo.

She looks each with a brief, fond, agonized look. Only to slide over to her lover. Hollowed and defeated. And this time? She can't even reach out to try to touch her. All she can do is struggle, and suffer for it.

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

Vita howls her frustrations, speaks her peace, finally explains. They are words torn from a berserker's mouth and even Mikoto Minagi must listen.

They meet for just a moment, hammer into blade, eyes on each other. And she is like her, after all, and in that moment Mikoto wrests words from her roiling mind.

"People who attack me are enemies! Enemies must be destroyed!" Mikoto snarls in reply, and there is no more time to speak as she forces herself past Vita's attack, slams her away.

For all Vita is trying to be a good person... for all Vita is trying to help...

... Vita has made so many enemies. Vita has made an enemy of Mikoto Minagi. And enemies must be destroyed. Even enemies like her, even enemies so terribly familiar in form and function.

She lands on a branch, and immediately launches into another attack, tearing towards the tiny form of Vita. The rocket is a threat - but in this moment she is so taken by battle-rage that she hardly thinks of it. It is so easy, to feel the boiling blood and submit.

It isn't strange at all.

But they are titans in all their diminutive size, and this time when they come together it is Vita's strength which prevails. Miroku does not cleave through, this time. Sigils open along its length as the weapons connect and it glows white and there is an explosion - entirely defensive - which blasts Mikoto's form back with the massive strength of Vita's strike, away from her, through a crumbling branch and into one still in the process of withering.

(Because an Element cannot be shattered, one way or another.)

... there's a difference, to the last time Vita sent her flying.

This time, Mai believes in her.

So Mikoto is winded, staggered by the blow, and it does not destroy her. She is not broken.

She is not broken, but it takes her long moments to rise, from where she's fallen. And, in the end, those moments are too long - too many. She staggers upright, grasping her claymore in her hands. She is able to keep her footing, as the World Tree cracks like an egg.

There is a horrible sense of rage and fury which Mikoto cannot place at all, in the memory of the Kiryuu Sister's golden light.

It's a strange and foreign thing, but she is not unused to intrusions, and she pushes it aside in an instant. Miroku is angry, perhaps. It makes sense. The enemy is not yet destroyed.

She will fix it -

- but -

- legs bent, muscles taut, Mikoto pauses in her continued assault of Vita as the Book of Darkness changes. She snarls her confusion, grasping her claymore with a tight grip. It is a snarl which turns into a yelp, as Mikoto finds herself bound, finds movement suddenly and horrifically impossible.

"No!" Mikoto snarls, twisting uselessly in her bonds. "No!"

Cats do not like to be tied up. Movement is so vital, to Mikoto Minagi. She needs to be able to move. Her sword, bound by her side, cannot be employed; she cannot attack her bindings. She is not electrocuted. A small mercy.

And yet, she cannot move.

She can only watch, as the Guardian Knights are sapped, drained away just as she was. She growls, lips curling from the violence of it. They are taken, they - disappear. Why?

The Guardian Knight system is being shut down... those people are the Guardian Knights...

... Mikoto cannot help but think that Vita deserves to feel the pain of the Book herself, and yet she cannot deny that there is danger, here, terrible threat, and that there are some things she does not wish on anyone. She would kill Vita. But even if Vita deserves it - she does not want Vita to go like this. Not like this.

And there is a girl. A weak and suffering girl. Mikoto can do nothing for her.

"Lancelot!!" Mikoto calls, in reply to her name, and the name is strained and angry and desperate.

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Vita's collision with Nanoha is meteoric; cosmic. At the end of it, Vita is standing in the crater she's made, glaring at Nanoha. "Then what's it matter!?" she screams at Nanoha, teary-eyed. "You're all so LUCKY! You've only known this pretty little world with your pretty little families!"

The hammerhead of Graf Eisen thumps to the ground. "I have to save her. I have to save my Master. The only Master who was kind to me. The only Master who told me I didn't have to HATE EVERYONE! I have to save the ONE GOOD THING that I've ever known! I will wear the mud! I will bear the weight! I will rot in whatever hole you decide I deserve! But HAYATE YAGAMI MUST LIVE!"

<<Shutting down the Guardian Knight System.>>

Vita's throat constricts. "what," she whispers, that roaring rage disappearing. She starts to turn, eyes swiveling in horror toward the book. Chiming quietly before them. "Y...you..." she breathes.

And that's all she has time for before the ribbons come. Wrapping her up, binding her against herself; it would be cartoonish if it weren't so total. "YOU!" Vita shrieks, screams. "WHY NOW?! WE HAVE THIS! WHY! WE CAN--"

<<Eliminating the Guardian Knight System.>>


Vita screams in agony as it's pulled from her. The shining red-on-white core of her magic. But Vita is not a person in the traditional sense. Her body does not exist apart from its magic supply, cannot heal it or restore it if severed. The core is pulled from her, millimeter by horrid centimeter. Vita stares down at it, eyes wide, teeth grit, struggling to say anything, DO anything, produce any kind of final moment that isn't screaming in mortal fear and sorrow. It is Herculean, that final effort; defiant to her last glimmer, Vita the Knight of Iron produces a single, dying scream, thick with terror.


In a way, it makes a terrible sense. The Wolkenritter never seemed to take the threat of the Book of Darkness' activation that seriously. They got defensive when it was brought up, in the way they always did when people questioned their Master; they always acted like the Book was solely at the discretion of the Master. It didn't, quite, line up with the facts. The survivors of the last attack knew that the Book had gone wild, maybe even killed its Master long before the Book itself was stopped. Did the Wolkenritter know something that Lindy Harlaown and the other survivors of the previous, phenomenally under-titled Book of Darkness Incident simply didn't? Some secret truth that had never come up across the various horrible times the Book had come and gone?

Vita's Linker Core is pulled free.

Her Knight Armor puffs away to light, and then those squeezing binds crush against themselves, as the girl herself vanishes too. All that remains is a short check-pattern skirt and a white shirt with a cartoon silhouette of a skull, drifting to the ground at Nanoha's feet.

Suddenly, as that little wisp dashes to join the others, another, more horrible possibility seems obvious.

Maybe they had never lived to see what happens.

<Pose Tracker> Hayate Yagami [None] has posed.

The last page -- the six-hundred and sixty-sixth page -- of the Book of Darkness fills with a bright runic scrawl that, in some way, comprises the rage and the joy and the ferocity of the Knight of the Iron Hammer.

But not really. It is not an even trade at all, is it?

The Book continues its PSAs remorselessly.

<< Terminated the guardian knight system. Page collection, complete. >>

Hayate has no tears left to shed, it seems. Her eyes are empty, hollow with horror -- her cheeks slack with shock. As the last pink and red lights fade into the Book... she screams.

Apparently in response, the Book explodes into a vast pillar of toxic-purple light, leaving the group hanging in their bindings, surrounding it. Nothing can be seen within -- but the voice of the Lost Logia can be heard.

<< Control unit, fusion. >>

There's a flash, eye-searingly blight... and then the raging storm of mana is gone almost as quickly as it appeared.

Hayate Yagami is gone as well.

In her place is an unrecognizable, fully grown woman, tall and proud, on her feet instead of on her knees. Her long, silver hair ruffles in the wind; blood-red ribbons that may in fact be tattoos crawl up and down her arms and legs, criss-crossing in places, parallel in others, seeming to terminate in bars that join her cheekbones to her eyes.

She wears black knights' clothing, trimmed in gold. There isn't really time to think about the details right now, but there's something vaguely familiar about the style.

More importantly, there are wings of pure black energy both behind her ears like a sort of Valkyrie tiara, and more pointedly four of them swooshing out of her back. She exudes power.

Her eyes are red -- literally red -- but also, she is crying.

Tears pour in a silent, continuous stream down her cheeks, drip off her chin.

"Again..." she murmurs in an ageless voice, filled with a vast ocean of grief. "Everything is over once again. Sleep within me, Master... and I, the Tome of the Night Sky... will grant that mercy to your friends as well. Master, I will fulfill your greatest wish."

The Book of Darkness is still present (the weird violet snakes it had sprouted seem to have disappeared for the time being), though there's a distinct sense that this woman is the tome, in a very literal way, and not just because she named herself. There is something ancient about her. Terrible knowledge glistens in her eyes -- knowledge of what is still to come.

Still, the physical Book hovers over her open palm -- then gapes open.

All at once, the group is pulled towards the pages; as they make contact, they shimmer and vanish.

"Sleep -- sleep as my Master sleeps, lie in an endless dream between life and death. Dream peacefully. Dream beautifully. This is my final gift to you, children of a doomed world."

And the Book slams shut, sealing the world's defenders inside.


OOC: More information about your upcoming adventures inside the pages of the Book of Darkness will be posted tomorrow evening! As
with SPACE JAIL, alts are welcome and encouraged to be assumed present and participate! Please look forward to the next chapter in

OOC: If you have time while you wait for more information, please ponder the following thought experiment: who (or what) is
missing from the real world, that your character would need, to be in an ideal world?