2018-06-29 - What Lies Beneath 19

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What Lies Beneath 19

Having escaped the Land of the Lotus Eaters, our heroes confront the Book of Darkness over the corpse of the World Tree.


Hayate Yagami, Madoka Kaname, Chibi-Usa Tsukino Lera Camry, Setsuna Higashi, Endo Naoki, Nanoha Takamachi, Fate Testarossa, Steven Universe, Fuu Hououji, Amethyst, Kasagami Araki, Mikoto Minagi, Setsuna Meioh, Nori Ankou, Saki Hyuuga, Sayaka Miki


Tokyo: The Waking Nightmare

OOC - IC Date:

06-29-2018 - 04-25-2015

<Pose Tracker> Book of Darkness [None] has posed.


  • Through a combination of stealth, trickery, betrayal and overwhelming might, Dark Fall seized the overwhelming power of the World Tree for themselves!
  • They used it to wish for the release of Dark King, the pillar of all existence aligned with the power of Destruction.
  • But before he could be fully unleashed, ending everything, he was first slowed by the sacrifice of Michiru and Kaoru Kiryuu, agents of Dark Fall who regretted their origins and elected to try to save their friends.
  • And then, using this dearly bought time, The Wolkenritter, who had had their hard work nearly killing magical girls to fill the Book of Darkness undone by Hotaru Tomoe, drained the World Tree's power into the Book, closing the portal on Dark King -- who remains sealed -- for now.
  • Unfortunately, with almost all of its pages filled, the Book of Darkness activated. It first murdered The Wolkenritter in order to complete itself using their powers -- then absorbed its apparent Master, a hospitalized fifth-grader, almost catatonic with horror after witnessing the murder of her family.
  • Moments later, the Book -- who now looked like a strange silver-haired woman with wriggling snakes attached to one arm -- spoke: "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 then everyone was absorbed inside.


So many awakened dreamers -- it seems the Book of Darkness can no longer sustain their consciousnesses within. The world goes neither with a bang nor a whimper; it dissolves into a million million shards, taking everyone with it, like sands draining down an hourglass.

But there is somewhere to go: the World Tree, whose dead bulk sat at the heart of every dream, awaits. Its root system is vast and there are many dark crevices to duck within. And now -- at least in the world of dreams, or whatever otherworld this may be -- it is clearly alive, green and breathing like any other wick plant. A very faint patina of green, indeed, on leaves and branches... but so much more than nothing.

The path into the dream Tree turns out to be a tunnel, and it is a strange place, indeed. Shadowy but not dank, it is like walking through the shark exhibit at the aquarium at night. And, like the passage of massive beasts on the other side of the glass, it is just possible to sense -- but not quite make out -- something, or someone, or someones, even deeper within this mystical realm than the escapees.

The voices are distant, but, barely, audible.

"Master... please sleep. You have earned your rest. Think no more of what has come and what is to come... embrace your healthy body, your friends, your family. Your happiness..." That, unmistakably the mature alto of the Book of Darkness. She sounds desolately, intensely unhappy, even as she tries to soothe.

In contrast, the other voice is high and piping -- the voice of a small child. It is also sleepy. "...but..." she protests, for all the world like a waif up past her bedtime begging for ten more minutes -- or not. There's an urgency in her voice, even though she is so tired. "...something, there's... something that... I... have to do..."

"Shhh. There is nothing left to be done. Please rest, Master Hayate."

And then the tunnel ends -- and the nightmare begins.


<SoundTracker> Liminality https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9j8Y8jFQTM

It's impossible to know how much time has passed since the Book awakened, but Tokyo... barely even looks like Tokyo.

There's more than one reason for this; Midchildan mages, and their allies familiar with their ways, might recognize the very faint tingling feeling of being inside a Barrier, a sort of half-a-dimension-to-the-left shift of reality that is, one hopes, keeping the horrific landscape before them from actualizing within 'real' Tokyo. The buildings, the populace, the world itself -- is safe. For now.

(Why? There's only one being who could have possibly created such a mighty Barrier, and she's hardly friendly.)

But this place... it's real enough. And, at the very least, a promise of things to come.

Violet lightning crackles across a yellow and black sky that looks... scorched. All the scientists' warnings of climate change and pollution come true at once, or else the aftermath of some terrible meteor strike... it is a nauseating expanse to behold.

Tokyo's skyline is more or less intact, except for the skyscrapers that have fallen to -- is that magma coming out of the cracked ground, here and there, like a fiery spiderweb? Yes, yes it is, and they periodically disgorge gigantic pillars of flame, without any apparent rhyme or reason beyond horror, as though the planet itself is experiencing severe acid reflux and must release its pain.

There are pillars of stone, too, great jagged spikes that were surely not formed by anything so natural as seismic flux. Especially these seem to be rising out of Tokyo Bay, which is itself a queasy green. They're stories high.

There's one more thing stories high, and it is immediately nearby in the way that a million million tiny, tragic details of this empty shell of Tokyo are being skipped over both because of the scope and the distance involved, and because of the magnitude of the horror, such that not only can one who witnesses not possibly see everything with one look or a hundred, but their minds cannot COMPREHEND--

--the World Tree.

It may have been alive in dreams, but out here it's very dead. There is some congruence, though, since the former dreamers are emerging from between its roots, like little woodland creatures who took shelter from a forest fire only to discover that the ravaging natural disaster has spared nothing, nothing at all.

Perhaps there is more congruence still. When the last person has crawled out of the Tree, it begins to... crumble. Just like the dreamworld did, in a way. Only this -- this reduction to ash -- it's much more final.

It smells like endings.

And a huge, huge bough, city blocks long -- well, it may dust itself on impact, but not before IMPACTING -- a much-traveled strip mall at the edge of World Tree Plaza. Within the barrier, its signage has been reduced to little but gray and black surfaces, the place a shadow of its former happy self.

But it isn't -- it isn't empty.

There are people inside.

Just a double handful... who have, it seems, found each other in this wasteland and banded together for support.

They are a mix of ages and origins, like the graying, slightly weathered old man in his fifties, Saito, who has seated two Infinity Elementary School girls to either side and is quietly speaking to them -- only to be spoken back to, with authority and confidence, by the blond-haired Arisa, and then discovers that the softer-spoken Suzuka is really the one doing the comforting here, on all sides.

Another adult, Etsuko, is a whip-thin woman with short blonde hair and narrow eyes. She is the first to spot the tree falling towards them and shouts the alarm. Everyone gets moving -- there's another blonde, a high-school student, Kuu with her long, flowing hair, who helps up a middle-aged, hardy mother named Chiaki. There are more high-schoolers, too; a Juuban rugby player, Shinji, who barrels through some debris blocking the path of Ohtori girls Chie and Aoi and Madoka.

Madoka, tiny, pink-haired -- holding hands with another, even tinier, pink-haired individual. They both wear twintails but they wear them differently; Chibi-Usa has a lot more hair to work with, despite the fact that she also has a lot less height.

They're too far away to hear, but it isn't hard to imagine the screaming.

It becomes quickly obvious that there's no outrunning this, as the shadow of the falling Tree crashes towards them, far more than just one bough -- now it's the bulk of the trunk.

And they hold each other close -- spending their final moments protecting each other, and praying.

Some of them pray to god, or to gods, as religions go. Some of them pray mostly for forgiveness, for their many mistakes, and don't care who the prayer goes to.

But some of them have faith in something a little more specific.

It's in Chibi-Usa's eyes, and Madoka's too: everything is lost except for hope.

Because they believe in their friends.

COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Amethyst.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Nanoha Takamachi.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Amethyst transforms into Amethyst Plus Whips!
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Amethyst.
COMBAT: Cure Passion accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Cure Passion is Cheered!
COMBAT: Amethyst accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Amethyst is Cheered!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa is Cheered!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji is Cheered!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Cheered!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Nanoha Takamachi is Cheered!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Lera Camry accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Lera Camry is Cheered!
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Endo Naoki accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Endo Naoki is Cheered!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto is Cheered!
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Lera Camry's dark green boots slam into the flat, paved ground of the tunnel. They echo down the length of it, along with all of the others, but don't cover the voices. Lera's eyes widen, as she hears the two voices; she only heard both briefly, but she recognizes them. Her eyes narrow, a moment later. "That's... Hayate Yagami," she says, softly.

She glances sideways at Fate, as she runs, and then towards Setsuna and Endo on another side. Her teeth grit.

She looks much as she does when she came in. The long, flowing green jacket has been burnt to a crisp; she didn't bother reforming it. Instead, she has a charcoal shirt on, with highlights of green and silver on it, and the same two-toned pants as ever. Her lips curl back into a frown.

"We have to get out, but--we have to help her, y'know?"

Her pendant sways, as she runs. It has a green gem on it, gold leaf over it -- and, next to it, the other symbol of her father's love: Soaring Sky, in his pen form. The gem on the pen flashes, once, in acknowledgement. Gripped in Lera's hand is the clockwork hammer of Broken Ground.

<We're with you.> Ground chimes, once. Then, Sky adds: <To the end.>

Her eyes close, for a moment, and then she lets out a shaking breath before she emerges into a Tokyo that barely looks like Tokyo. Her feet skid over the ground, into the familiar tingle of a powerful Barrier, and she looks up -- at the sky that looks burnt black -- and then steps back, involuntarily, when a great pillar of flame shoots up to the sky in the distance. Her head turns, then, and looks at the dead form of the World Tree. Her lips part, a gasp in the back of her throat. Then, she closes her mouth. She sees the huge bough of the World Tree, dead and terrible, collapsing down towards that mini-mall -- and she spots two pink heads she knows, and Arisa and Suzuka. Her lips part, into a gasp.

Lera holds up Ground, and a swirling circle with runes flashes under her feet. "Ground!"


The hammerhead's split halves open -- and then a couple dozen shards of light shoot out, screaming up for the dead, blackened limb of the World Tree, and try to slam into it. "Come on...!"

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Bombadier Burst on Corpse of the World Tree.
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Steven Universe accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Steven Universe is Cheered!
Saki Hyuuga walks over from Tama Outer City.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Saki Hyuuga.
COMBAT: Saki Hyuuga accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Saki Hyuuga is Cheered!
COMBAT: Saki Hyuuga transforms into Cure Bloom!
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has used Collateral Motivation on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Sayaka Miki is Cheered!
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki transforms into Puella Magi Sayaka!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Walking, walking, and walking. It feels to Cure Passion like she's been walking since she left the mansion, and she hasn't looked back. She doesn't really know the way, but as the dream dissolves...

That's when she pulls her Linkrun, and transforms in a show of crimson light, the Pretty Cure she became and not the strange girl she once was. There is life in this tree, somehow. ...Somehow.

Her heels click as she walks alongside others; where Lera is charcoal and green, Passion is red, red and black and white and glorious, glorious pink. Her red eyes are piercing as she looks around the tunnel, listens to the voices, and nods. "...We won't leave anyone," Passion answers Lera, and then speeds up, moves faster. ...Running? Not an issue. She can move quickly, and the truth is... She'd rather keep moving, right now.

She looks at Fate, now and then, nearby. She's thoughtful. But she does not add, from the Devices. She remains otherwise quiet... until they reach the end. Until they come out into what passes for the light, the raw destruction on display staggering, even if she can recognize the tingle of a Barrier.

The horrors that come, the darkness that once would have been welcome, a way to get rid of this annoying world, and now threatens something so important. The landscape is alien even to an alien, an altogether too familiar... even as the Tree falls. The Tree that is so, so dead, and it is crumbling before them, right towards--

Passion sees them. They could be anyone, really; many she's met only in passing, if that. ...But whether she knows them or not, what they mean are friends not yet made, people of a precious world that adopted her as one of their own. What would Love do...?

Passion doesn't have to stop and ask. "Haah--" The Pretty Cure sprints ahead of the group, seeing that hope in Madoka's eyes, and moving to fulfill it as best she can. ...Maybe they could be anyone, but they are themselves, each one precious, individual. And Passion is a blur of crimson light as she leaps atop the roof of the strip mall and rockets upward, rearing back with her fist and starting to try to strike it apart outright; putting herself in the way of danger, the red Cure leaps and falls, kicking and punching, putting all her strength into it.

That hope burns brightly for her, too, a reminder of what she returned for.

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

Endo Naoki walks through the fading dream, following in Fate's footsteps. He carries Fallen Stern with him, the sword slung over a shoulder, the Device returned to him after its brief absence. Careful steps take him through the tunnels of the world tree, eyes and ears alert for quiet voices and the passing of things in the darkness. He doesn't stray from his path though, keeping protectively near the companions that he's gathered.

And when they emerge his eyes go wide at the destruction of the Tokyo skyline, and the disarray of reality that stretches across the horizon. Wider still when the world tree itself starts to crumble and fall, and his eyes catch the civilians caught in it's path. He recognizes several faces, one of which makes his breath catch.

"Mom!" Fingers grip tight around his device, and he spares no further words before he joins Lera in attempting to reduce the mass of the falling tree. The device in his hand shifts, sword reforming into a massive crossbow that's aimed up toward the falling trunk.


A burst of energy rips outward, not arrow but comets. Purple-black spheres of energy streak through the air, bending in flight and ripping a line into the trunk of the falling tree, exploding and tearing into it with desperate power.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Meteor Storm on Corpse of the World Tree.
<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

Choosing to leave the perfect world of Tokyo behind her to face what may be ahead wouldn't have been such an easy decision for Nanoha if not for Fate. They had been through so much together already and she couldn't face the idea of a lifetime without her, her magical indentity which had come to mean more to her than she realized and of course her other friends in it. The journey through the dream where different ideal worlds collided felt like a long one. She wasn't even sure where they were going or what was going to happen next.

The tunnel they find themselves facing is anything but welcoming. The menacing darkness feels like it's going to consume them whole in a sense. Pressing on though, Nanoha can feel the energy around her. Whether it's some kind of magical perception or just the sheer power of what lurks on the other side it weighs on her. "Feito-chan, I am glad we're together." The presence beyond the tunnel is almost overwhelming.

As they begin to run through the tunnel still hand in hand, Nanoha transforms at the same time as Fate so that by the time they reach the end, she is as ready as she'll ever be for what's on the other side.

Raising Heart beeps, <Welcome back Master!>

Nanoha smiles as they emerge from the roots of the tree into a broken Tokyo. Her smile quickly drops into one of shock. It's like the world is really ending and it's overwhelming for her senses to see the destruction around her. She is also immediately aware of the strong barrier around them.

The world tree is dead, it's corpse collapsing under the dead weight and Nanoha gasps as she looks out across the plaza. And then the familiar forms of her best friends catch her eyes, "Arisa! Suzuka!" She looks to Fate, "We have to go save them!" She holds up Raising Heart. "For my friends!" As she says this, small pink lasers shoot out from the tip of her weapon, aiming for the collapsing tree.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used For my friends! on Corpse of the World Tree.
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

The tunnel is long - the shadows shifting. And yet Fate Testarossa has become accustomed to these tunnels - even when they grow strange. Her hand is still tightly gripped around Nanoha's nevertheless, and is glad that the others are with her. Lera and Endo and Setsuna. All part of a chain reaction - one awakening the other to the reality of this place.

"It was so dead when I saw it the first time..." She thinks aloud in wonder. "... I think it wants to help us get out..." At least - it wants to help them get out - if that's what they want.

It's a strange kind of wish fulfillment. When the voices start though - her foot scrapes to a stop, and she cants her head to listen. "That's..." Her breath catches, then quickens in recognition of that sleepy voice, "...Hayate!" She echoes with Lera.

She sounds so relieved. "She's alive!"

And in that lay hope.

With Hayate alive. It means there's still a chance she can be saved - and perhaps with her - the Wolkenritter. "We're going to." She promises.

And then her feet pick up, as her own urgency grows. "Since she's close..." Her opposite hand produces a golden triangle, <Likewise.> "We won't let it end this way... let's get ready." <Get Set.>

She moves only forward now. Not looking back. Even though behind her lay where she met her Big Sister - truly met her for the first time. Where she met Lera's father - Steven's Mother. Where she witnessed a side of Endo she'd never seen before.

And yet for once in her life - she's not dwelling on what might have been.

She's moving forward hand in hand with her friends. "I'm glad too." Despite what they might face outside - she actually smiles. <Drive Ignition.> Bright yellow lightning appears alongside shining pink.

The tunnel ends so abruptly...

She flies out hand in hand too. Cape fluttering. "... It's..." The world looks so different outside of the dream. She knows that they're inside a barrier but... it looks like the prelude to a world that's doomed. Like that world they saw once rendered to a barren waste where nothing but horrors can live.

"... not over yet." Fate says with sudden resolution as she surveys the bough of the World Tree beginning to fall - crash. <Sir! There are non-combatants on the left at three hundred yards.>

Her gaze snaps in that direction - where the shadow of the falling tree is looming over them. <Confirmed. It will impact on their current position.> "Not if we have anything to say about it - Nanoha! I'm going on ahead! I'll try to buy you some extra time to shoot it!" The two have fought together long enough to know each other's advantages. And one of Fate's is her speed. Usually she'd be reluctant to release her hand - but there is need.

The sudden crosswind of her rush zips over her twintails and cape, as she flies faster and faster.

Flicking her wrist, Bardiche chimes. Runic rings forming upon Fate Testarossa's palm, wider and wider. The girl lands so abruptly that her metallic greaves shower sparks on the asphalt, sliding into the shadow of the falling tree.

And it's in that moment where she's making that wide turn - that she hears Nanoha's call of two names. Her eyes widening significantly as she finds herself in the sight line of two familiar girls and an older man directly beyond two sliding glass doors.

So surprised that her effort is almost spoiled -

Almost. Instead it becomes a small wish to save her two friend's lives. Fate raises her hand just in time even as her mana gathers into a small singularity of thunder within her hand.

<Plasma-> "-Smasher - FIRE!"

The spell erupts from her hand into a wide column of piercing light arcing with violet lightning. She aims to do her part in trying to reduce the thing to dust - before it can land.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used A Small Wish on Corpse of the World Tree.
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

It was time.

Time to find a way out of this world, this fake reality that even now undoes itself, having too may seen through its glamor.

Time to save their home.

"Amethyst, we gotta hurry!" Steven calls out, sitting atop Lion, and holding a hand out. He managed to find both of his buddies before this horrible collapse began. "The tree is the only thing left standing, it has to be our way out!" he says, pointing forward for Lion to go, once the purple Gem is aboard.

A few gallops is all it takes for the magical cat to make it over and in to a creaking hole in its boughs.

Yet, a voice can be heard, somewhere beyond the tunnel, in the tree itself, like a long lost memory that remains even in the tree's death. "Who is that? It sounds familiar. I hope they are okay..."

---Into ebon light Lion leaps, carrying his passengers into a nightmarish visage of Tokyo at the plaza. "What... Oh no." Is this what the book was gonna do?! "It is gonna destroy everything! AH!" the boy yells angrily. Others too, begin to emerge from inside this holiest of trees, emerge, and appear--

And then fall.

It gave what tiny fragment of energy it had left to provide an escape. What a being it is... was. Not all is lost, as nearby civilians huddle close for comfort, trapped in this hellscape. A few of them he recognizes. But it could be, as a titanic sized limb of this once glorious tree falls. Big enough to crush a city block, if not more. "Uh, uhhhhh!" the boy bumbles. "We gotta stop that thing!" Steven turns his gaze to Amethyst. "Remember your dream? This is where it starts! The first step to make it happen! The Crystal Gems have to be here for our new home! Are you with me?"

Take a moment to clear his thoughts, Steven looks down to Lion. "We need a big roar, buddy! Hit it with everything you got!

The pinkest cat steps forward, takes a deep, meditative breath, and out peals a reverberation noise that most likely everyone can hear and feel.

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Sonic Roar on Corpse of the World Tree.
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

At the Wind Knight's first glimpse of waking Tokyo, her first thought is that the world is already ending around them. The dead gray of the World Tree, the pillars of magma where certain buildings once stood tall, all signs of the catastrophe in progress across the once-beautiful city. There are lesser signs as well, in the form of the nearer ruins - a familiar mall, offering its meager shelter to familiar and unfamiliar figures.

"Kuu-neesan ... ?" the Magic Knight of Wind murmurs, spotting the familiar hairstyle of Fuu's big sister - and then noise and shadow draw her attention. As colossal as the World Tree was, even as powdered ash its corpse would still have ample mass, weight, and lethality when it landed on anything. And the shape which she sees falling is very, *very* solid.

The winds gust to life around the Wind Knight even as the blood drains from her face. There's no time to draw arrow or sword, barely enough to call on magic, and no time to rev up one of her big spells. But she revs anyway, terror spiking adrenaline into her blood, the world seeming to slow down as she summons up every spark of magic in her heart. Even the lurking shadow of failure is banished from her thoughts as she brings her hands up.

"WINDS --"

Belief ...

"-- OF --"

... becomes power.


Her first thought is not attack, but defense - whatever her barrier spell may do to slow or deflect that falling mass, one of the World Tree's mighty boughs, her first thought, if not her *only* thought, is to protect her big sister. The others around her are almost immaterial in the face of that - for a Fuu Hououji who just saw the dream of her family whipped apart to dust, the thought of seeing her sister destroyed *again* is unbearable.

The same wind which causes the leaves to rustle can also blow down trees ... and even though the Magic Knight of Wind knows she can't possibly hold that falling wood back all by herself, she can slow it down enough for those with greater attacks at the ready to finish blowing it apart and away.

... it would be a matter of hoping, but she's too terrified to *hope* right now. Only to *do*.

Either way, it's easy enough for an observer to realize that the Winds of Protection gust most strongly over one particular schoolgirl's head.

<Pose Tracker> Amethyst [None] has posed.

Amethyst awakens from her dream, but there was no 'five more minutes please' from her. She had definitely gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, or the tunnel, or the tree, or whatever! She does not care. A fake world was given to her while the real one suffered. She was given fake versions of those she cared about, whle the real ones struggled. Her flaws were removed, only for her to regain them and realize that it wasn't a blessing but a curse to lose them. Amethyst was not happy.

Amethyst was almost completely alone, both in the tunnel and in her thoughts. Did anyone she know survive? Is she the last one? The only one she had met who was real was Steven. But... that means she is not truly alone, physically or in spirit. As long as Steven's okay, there's hope. That kid IS hope! "Let's do this, Steven."

Amethyst grasps Steven's outstretched hand and climb upon the Lion with him. "Let's see if the world is how I remember it." The Lion bursts forth, and then Amethyst realizes that it was not how she remembered.

The Tokyo she had escaped from was a dream. The Tokyo she escaped to with Steven was a nightmare. "What... what happened," she asks in disbelief and disheartened pain. "This can't be right. This..." She hops off Lion, and growls. "This is not right." Her voice grows from sorrow to rage. "What did you do to MY EARTH!?"

Amethyst has little time as part of the tree falls to crush what was left. "You're right Steven. We are the Crystal Gems. This is our home. And we must protect it!" Amethyst spins into a ball, launching herself at the falling branch and glows. When the glow stops, Amethyst was nowhere to be found. Instead, a strong, powerful yet compact violet wrestler took her place. This figure unleashes a mighty shout and a powerful series of strikes.

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

Kasagami Araki is awake. Her boots crunch along the organic material of roots, twigs, and other detritus of the natural world, she follows the path laid before her. She's cast in shadows as she walks with other awakened dreamers almost on autopilot. Strands of hair hide half of her face, while the other is still streaked with a combination of dried tears and slightly red eyes. The departure from her dream was an emotional affair, and she still hasn't recovered entirely.

But the World Tree beckons, and the many seething emotions in Kasagami's heart pulls her to it. One hand grips her family sword tightly, possessively. She almost trips, even stumbles over one root in her way. A tiny thing. But distraction is writ upon her face. At least she shows unhindered balance enough that the large roots don't hinder her. This is someone lost in their own head.

Upon her back flutters a coat of crimson roses, swaying gently as she walks. A narrowed eye focuses, and then widens as she hears voices. Her body tenses, well trained, and her free hand is on her hilt.

The Would-Be-King is on her guard. She doesn't relax, but she falls into a neutral stance as voices fill her ears. A fresh tear stains her cheek.

Teeth grit for a second. And then she reaches for the hand of the girl beside her. She pauses, and laughs. It's a low, unhappy chuckle almost akin to a cough. "...I'm starting to really get tired of false dreams." Squeeze.

"I prefer the waking dream of ambition, not this!" Confesses the young woman. And then she's out into Tokyo itself within that Barrier.

To a world of sky-high spikes and gouts of flame. She pulls close to her love briefly, but not for long. Momentary fear is banished by reality. That tree they've fought for is a dead corpse, crumbling ash. It feels, and tastes like failure.

Her fingers slip from Pluto's, and as that massive bough breaks? She glances back. A strip mall. Keen eyes turn. In a fraction of a second, she spies two familiar figures. A man she's rarely gotten along with, and a woman she's come to care for. One family that has been cold and distant, another a stranger that has been dutiful and caring for the love of her life. She acts on pure instinct.

"Pluto! LET'S GO!" Her voice is clear and frightened. A nudge. And then she's simply gone.

It's a reckless, desperate leap that sends her flying for the form of one of the few blood relatives she has left. Figments of her parents still fresh as dream motes in her mind, she spares nothing.

Only for her boots to land upon the top of that strip mall. She glances down. And then, the disgrace of the Araki Family peers down and yells at the man without a hint of decorum.

"Saito-ojisan!" The rest of her words catch in her throat.

He's family. Precious, worthwhile family. And hasn't she abandoned him just as he's done the same? Apologies die, even as her heart aches in realization.

"...Don't you dare put yourself at risk, old man! I'm not burying a family member tonight! I swear it as the head of the Araki Family Sword Style!"

And then she leaps once again, high into the air. Her sword loosens from it's hilt.


Rose petals and flashing steel combine in a blurr, as that dark crimson-kissed blade swings, returns, lashes, Kasagami becoming a desperate, furious whirlwind as she strikes again and again. Her gloves rub raw, and her muscles scream as she works to lash out at the falling bough of the World Tree with all of her might. Every splinter, and every bit of ash is her enemy. The Duelist can do nothing but cut with all of her love, pride, and fury in the face of this disaster! She's a perfect ballerina of destruction in such a desperate moment.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used For My Family on Corpse of the World Tree.
COMBAT: Amethyst has used Purple Pummel on Corpse of the World Tree.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Kasagami Araki is
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Pruning The Bough For One's Own Bloodline on Corpse of the World Tree.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has cancelled their attack on Corpse of the World Tree. If there are more attacks that need to be
+cancelled, please hold all +attacks until the process is complete.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Pruning The Bough For One's Own Bloodline on Corpse of the World Tree.
COMBAT: Cure Passion has used Hope Burns on Corpse of the World Tree.
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

One amongst their number doesn't remember the Dark King's ascent at all - she must have been too frightened - but only the dwindling portal made thus by the Kiryuu sister's sacrifice. Only the Wolkenritter's efforts afterwards.

And then Mikoto Minagi dreamt.

And then she woke up - and set to waking her friends, with all the diplomacy and finesse one can expect from someone wielding a greatsword and a distaste for lies. Her friends, and...

... well, dreams are funny things. Sometimes the strangest things happen, in dreams. Sometimes even bitter enemies get through to each other. Sometimes there's nothing left to get through to.

'Just like it's going to do to you, if you ever get out of here.'

The dream thaws. And for the last time Mikoto picks a path through the trunk, and she grasps Miroku in a hand as she goes, Vita's warning fresh in her mind. Mai and Eri are not with her - they had to cover a lot of ground, to wake up everyone - but she's confident they'll find their way out, too.

And it's strange, because the closer she looks at the husk of the World Tree...

... the more she thinks she sees little slivers of green, here and there.

Perhaps it's just a trick of the dream. Perhaps - well, it's not the only strange thing in this place. Voices, too, echo out and around them. That name, again. 'Hayate.'

But they are deeper within the dream, and Mikoto is surfacing, in the way one does after long slumber. It is the way of dreams which lead into dreams to be myriad and complex; it can be difficult to know when one has arrived back at reality.

It can be. It isn't.

It's just as the shadow of Vita said - everything torn apart.

Her mind focuses on those great stone spires, so close and yet so far to anything familiar to her. This was not the result of an earthquake. This was not the result of anything natural.

"NachtWal," Mikoto repeats the word, disbelief in her voice and the wide horror of her eyes.

She's felt this feeling once before, the world a step out of sync. Then, a sudden assault in an alleyway - now, a sick pall about the city whole. The world is crumbling.

The World Tree is crumbling.

It all comes to head in a sharp sting of realisation, overwhelming and painful like unexpected wasabi. In snapshots she knows it: the decrepit husk of roots and trunk. The way bark crumbles to ash above her and falls into her hair and past eyes brought up by the movement to its ancient boughs. The creak of dead wood giving way. A towering branch falling down. The trunk creaking. The trunk crumbling. The trunk falling.

A mechanical voice from further along the World Tree's roots cries out about noncombatants.

Mikoto's gaze drops.


In the instant of a moment there is a revelation, and the revelation is grey and brown hair as two girls are thwarted in their escape by debris. Mikoto's heart hammers in her chest, throat dry. She has always held one thing as fact: Chie and Aoi are not involved in this. They're normal. They've always helped her in school, but they couldn't understand what goes on at night. And yet - and yet -

(And beside them - two girls so important to people she loves.)

And the trunk comes down, and carving it to pieces, Mikoto thinks, won't help at all. To be crushed by a piece of the trunk or the whole - both are death. Both are death, and she couldn't possibly reach it in time to attack it to do any good. By the time it was close enough for her to spring upwards, to reach, she could not obliterate it before it harmed them.

Chie and Aoi, who have always protected her... will they suffer because she is not a shield?

"No!" It is a refusal, raw and desperate and loud.

Mikoto Minagi is not, and has never been, alone.

She charges forward, blade flashing as she swings it in a broad circular arc, white light of a HiME's magic flashing as she plunges it into the earth. And she cries, impassioned: "MIROKU!"

There are great jagged stones, spread about the ruins of Tokyo. And here the strip mall finds itself surrounded by so many more - but these are obsidian, erupting from the tortured ground around the civilians, tilted inwards and converging up to tent them in a cage of black as the volcanic glass courses ever-upward -

- to pierce the World Tree at ten points, twenty, to lance through it and turn it to dust.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Darkness on Corpse of the World Tree.
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Like sands draining down an hourglass... The Guardian of Time finds no comfort in the fey familiarity of the greater dream's dissolution. She shivers -- or thinks she does, so difficult to say with the world in motes around her -- and shuts her eyes for a quicksilver span. When she opens them again, gnarled roots surround her. The senshi reaches out to run gloved fingers along the coarse bark, then draws them back again.

Her face is drawn beneath evergreen bangs, and it feels like the corners of her mouth have forgotten how to turn upward. After the heavy costs of emergence, the threatened world's gravity seems eager to resume its iron grip on her soul.

She tries not to think about warm beach sand and laughter like music. Instead her eyes go to the young woman she walks alongside. The shreds of Kasagami's dream are vivid to her, too, and that... does not much help. Pluto angles herself to walk more closely, almost but not quite bumping shoulders with the other girl. Staying near, allowing space.

The conversation they approach does not much help, either.

Sailor Pluto's hand meets Kasagami's halfway, and fingers lace, tight and fierce. Her other hand grips the Garnet Rod. To the talk of false dreams she nods, but slowly. "You're not the only one." There's a low simmer of anger in her eyes. "I am getting tired of being... toyed with. I do not care for how our dreams were used against us."

Their second emergence, from the unsettling shelter of the World Tree's roots, admits them all to nightmare. Pluto knew they left the world in a dire state, but it is another thing entirely to see it rent by catastrophe.

The Soldier of Revolution has some small experience with apocalypse, and her fingers' clasp spasms into a brief deathgrip on Kasagami's to mirror the clenching of her heart. There's a deep horror about her eyes, in the strained rounding of their edges.

"No..." she whispers. "No!" She cries. All this, while they were dreaming...

Then Sailor Pluto spies the falling bough and the vulnerable people beneath it and her eyes could hardly go wider, garnet irises tiny and horrified. "Right with you, Kassie!" Kasagami nudges a senshi who's midcrouch, and springing away.

"SMALL LADY! I'm coming!" As ever, she spots the terrified princess first and Chibi-Usa immediately becomes the senshi soldier's focal point. The world may be close to ending, but the immediate threat to her very best friend supercedes all. Saving the world can come after Small Lady is safe, however temporarily.

She is never singleminded on a battlefield, though -- and a sweep of the other civilians has her shocked. "Etsuko!!" Heedless of her senshi suit and circumstance she calls out for her majordomo and a woman she's come to know and respect as a person of deep loyalties. Streaking forth like an evergreen-tailed comet, the senshi interposes herself between the falling bough and the civilians, Garnet Rod planted atop the cracking blacktop of the strip mall parking lot before her.

The pink-haired girls behind her scream, and Sailor Pluto adds her scream to theirs, dredging up souls of dead past and present from beneath the blacktop, from the cold earth below, from the roots of this place and all of the times that have ever and will ever touch it.

"Dead... Scream...!"

She hurls dark energy through her straining throat at the falling bough, and if that is not enough, then at least the thing will hit her before it hits them.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used You'll Have To Get Through My Scream First on Corpse of the World Tree.
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPUzxMnmhkQ

La Sirene de Diamant walks down the tunnel. She almost struts. Her eyes are bright and pale, and some of her gems seem to gleam in a new and different way. Her eyes turn towards Lera as she identifies the voice, but to her this name lacks meaning.

She breathes in deeply as she crosses a boundary. Her hair trails behind her. She does not fully understand this place, but when her eyes turn up at the wreckage of Tokyo, imagined or actual, her first thought is, murmured aloud, "Then they did it."

She reaches to twine a lock of her hair around her hair, before she sees -- the tree. It's falling down. Falling





Never, la Sirene thinks. I will never let any ghost or devil hurt her. She is moving before she thinks about it. Her arms spread and she seems to skate across the ground as she closes the distance, as she twists herself up to rise into the air. She reaches blindly for that feeling she held before.

Love rises inside of her. A sick and scabrous bloom by some directions. Her eyes turn upwards and she calls out, "LES MYSTERES! Attend me! Please--"

What did she do before?

She can't remember. But she can remember the feeling... the touch, that hopeless and dizzy sense. Madoka believes in her.

Even if this world is destroyed, la Sirene thinks as she rises: We'll go dancing in the ruins, and I'll take her to a better one --

The magic erupts from her with both barrels, so to speak, the sign of Les Mysteres made with both hands, oriented upwards. The eruption is not the characteristic black and silver sphere it has been before; it is a more buttonhooked thing, a luminous eruption with no sound at all. The touch accelerates dissolution and comes with something like a hurricane wind compressed into a single cylinder, as well as the usual cool and alien touch of another world.

The leap complete, she aims her descent to try to land amongst the others. Perhaps, she thinks: if all else fails, if I can find that feeling again, I'll be able to--!!

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant accepts Madoka Kaname's Collateral Motivation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  La Sirene de Diamant is
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Dancing in the ruins on Corpse of the World Tree.
<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Cure Bloom's golden light blasts up and out, a spiritual radiance around her. She's become so used to flying, now; rushing in a straight path like this makes so much more sense to rocket along on the power of her magic, rather than her legs. As she blasts through that engulfing shadow, she finds her eyes drifting down to her hand. It trembles before she grips it tight.

The world they left behind is counting on her. The rest...it has to wait. Her fingers ball tight until she hears the material of her glove creak, and then she blasts onward, out into the open--


A shock and a shudder runs through her as her feet clap into the rooftop of what used to be a building. Her eyes scan around, roughly swallowing up the reduction of her home to fire and hell.

She looks down again, flexing her fingers and the invisible, sideways muscles that draw the power of the spirits out of her. Motes of gold float away from her, the power of Earth spirits eager to be put to use. Even here, in this wasteland of dust, they are here for Pretty Cure. Even here, with the World Tree - her World Tree, the place she loved most - rotted to the point of ash, the Spirits of Earth clamor for her to use them to save everything. Save the world they died for.

And then she hears it.

That horrible, literally world-shattering CRACK.

She half-turns and it feels like she's drowning again. "No," she whimpers. The conflict of it scatters the eager spirits. She must rise. She must go. Save the people in danger. Save the massive chunk of town about to be obliterated.

She sees the shrine in the boughs and her heart stops. The lights dance across the sky, mercilessly tearing down into the husk of the place she loves best.

Shredding it.

Cure Bloom's knees hit the rooftop and she stares, mute.

COMBAT: Cure Bloom has used Unable To Comply on Corpse of the World Tree.
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts Nanoha Takamachi's For my friends!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts Fate Testarossa's A Small Wish, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts Sailor Pluto's You'll Have To Get Through My Scream First, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts Fuu Hououji's For My Family, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts Steven Universe's Sonic Roar, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts Amethyst's Purple Pummel, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts Lera Camry's Bombadier Burst, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts La Sirene de Diamant's Dancing in the ruins, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Darkness, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts Endo Naoki's Meteor Storm, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts Cure Passion's Hope Burns, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts Cure Bloom's Unable To Comply, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts Kasagami Araki's Pruning The Bough For One's Own Bloodline, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Fields of Innocence - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7uZcexsPuw

The end was just an end. When Kozue told Sayaka enough that her dream fell apart, Other-Mami wasn't even there. There was no goodbye, no chance to even try to use that false Mami as an angelic confessional. It was for the best. There is no redemption to be found there.

Let it fade. Let gold fade to grey. Let the ground split and the city burn. If this is the truth then let it be plain. Sayaka is tired of watching Tokyo die of a thousand cuts. She's just tired.

Kozue had thumbed Sayaka's cheek, but her thumb came away dry. Did the Book of Darkness think its gift could save her soul? Sayaka dreamt Mami to life in every schoolroom windowpane, in the jet black mirror of her cell phone, in the kaleidoscope smears behind her eyelids. The Book was nothing but a better liar than Sayaka. And who isn't?

Sayaka's freshly summoned white cloak falls slowly, buouyed by the hot wind, to settle down on her shoulders. Once more, to fill her hand with steel, once more to clad her chest in knightly blue. Sayaka feels heavy, like an old machine animated by but one angry coal. She twists her sword until one of her cobalt eyes swings into sight in the silver. Then she flicks her face away, the blade pointing out to the side. Tiny among groundsplitting pillars, between tongues of belching lava, her white cloak and pale hair are nonetheless a vivid mark. She faces the distant tree, and the skin beneath her eyes creases slowly.

Her first words after waking are roughened by disuse. "Where's Madoka?"


Drizzling ash, a falling branch casts a deep shadow across Madoka and Chibi-Usa. Its motions are langourous and organic, wind resistance slowly twisting it as it descends, and its shadow widens. It is not dissolving fast enough.

A silver barb strikes it from a sharp diagonal, and suddenly that floating wobble is ripped into forceful motion. A second and third follow, accelerating and further redirecting the great branch, driving it down and pinning it sharply several yards behind the two pink-hairs.

Sayaka lands down atop it hard enough that it flattens with a crunch, expelling grey dust in all directions. Far above, a vast and ethereal swan is shoving against the side of the tree in a futile effort to redirect it. Sayaka can see there will be no salvation from that quarter. Leaving her swords in the ground, she takes a longjump over Madoka, twisting through her momentum to extend a kick into another piece of debris as she goes, sending it spinning away. When she hits ground again, it's right next to Madoka, and her cape falls down on them both. Madoka is dragged against Sayaka's breastplate, but Sayaka has no time to take her eyes from descending death. Her teeth are bare and hard. Her tired eyes are aflame. Sayaka was never very powerful, was she? Her shallow little cuts can't do much to a large object. Unlike Eri, Kyouko, Homura, Mami... she can't damage buildings.

Unlike Eri, Kyouko, Homura... Mami.

She cannot die.

Sayaka twists Madoka about violently, spinning her the opposite direction and driving her to her hands and knees. Ripping two blades free of her cloak with a ringing sound of steel, she swivels them hard and drives them into the ground. Bracing her two fists against her breastbone, Sayaka takes one knee and shoves her shoulders against the hilts of her swords, forming a sort of tripod between knee and swords, making a canopy of her body, and a wall of her fragile spine.

"Madoka," she whispers down into her own shadow. "I'm here."

COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has used I'm Here on Corpse of the World Tree.
COMBAT: Corpse of the World Tree accepts Sayaka Miki's I'm Here, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
<Pose Tracker> Book of Darkness [None] has posed.

The World Tree is a corpse.

It does not withstand.

It does not resist.

It only falls.

In the end, it is the only thing the ones on the ground can see -- its nearness, plus its massiveness, take up the entiresky -- until it is blown apart by the collective defiance of those who would see them saved.

The collision of energies, of powers, many and mighty, in combination with something that was incipient ash, creates snow in the aftermath. Real snow, and a sickly smell of ozone, and a horrifying nauseous knowledge of what might have been.

It falls lightly into the hair of everyone, in the hair and on the ground.

But through the cloud -- there they are. A double, triple phalanx of magical girls and their allies. Some are familiar and some are not. Some wear strange garb and some do not.

Along with the bright colors of their magicks, they bring hope, hope to shine in the eyes of these people, these people who had no recourse, no defense... no future.

Now they have more than a future -- they have their friends. Their family.

And they did have one other thing -- each other. Though they stop shielding each other to embrace their saviors, there are plenty of hugs between them, too.

Plus there's a refuge: though it wound up untested against the corpse of the World Tree, the power of Fuu's will to protect lingers, creating a shimmering greenish structure which, for all its ephemeral nature, looks mighty in the manner of a fortress.


Just as the last person slips inside the shield that the Wind Knight has wrought from the very air, there comes still another voice. An all-too-familiar voice.

"Haze Spear," she remarks, in the tones of someone reading a Book, which she is, it's floating above her palm and opened to a very specific page, "Omniforce."

One, two, a dozen, hundreds of shards of light crash down around the magical girls in the plaza. They both pierce and burn on contact, but none of them were aimed to /stab/. No, this very-familiar magic (for those who have fought along Ren Aizawa), wrought on a heretofore unimaginable scale, is used to create both a containment and a maze -- and a tiny bit of relief, insofar as a wall's worth of these two-story-high lances descended BETWEEN the group and their more-helpless friends, as though trying to cordon off the fight.

Where is she?

Oh. Up there. The winds of the eternal storm that has descended upon Tokyo toss the wire-fine silver hair of the Book's apparent embodiment. Her eyes are still both literally red and also crying, those steady saline tracks almost as fundamental a part of her grief-stricken face as the thin, warlike red tattoos. Her garb remains simple black, subtly ancient, and made for battle.

Her left forearm remains engulfed by a weird swarm of corrupt-looking, awful purple snakes, snakes made of light, though right now it's just like looking into a bucket of maggots; they are all Orouboros, endlessly consuming each other and maybe her, but not particularly offensive otherwise.

The book above her right hand abruptly flips, with an almost whirring sound of pages turning on their own, to a different page.

A very early one.

"Photon Lancer," she announces, and nobody who has ever fought, or fought alongside, Fate Testarossa, can fail to recognize the sparkling balls of plasma that appear behind her. There are, oh, a dozen or so. Like Fate's Multishot.

And then, with a terrible unfolding across the sky, in every direction, there are as many as the night has stars. Individually they pose little threat, but there aren't even hundreds of ball lightnings -- there are thousands.

With those Haze Spears everywhere, there is no easy escape. There are only painful choices.

"Genocide Shift," the Book concludes, sadly.

Before the thunder comes, and everything is drowned in an impossibly endless, thirty-seconds-that-feels-like-a-lifetime barrage of voltaic shock, a few more words drift down to the group, along with flakes of snow. The Book herself lands lightly, six black wings trembling at their tips, upon the top of one of the Haze Spears. The sole of her boot does not so much as crackle, though others who try to ascend upon the Spears will find themselves less hardy.

"You children should have stayed asleep. There is nothing you can do now to stop what is to come. But I will not allow you to keep my Master from resting in peace."

The snowflakes are joined by her tears as the spell detonates.

COMBAT: Book of Darkness transforms into The Book of Darkness!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on Cure Bloom.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on Amethyst.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on Nanoha Takamachi.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji braces 23 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Fuu
Hououji's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Steven Universe braces 13 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 20 Fatigue damage!
Steven Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto braces 18 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 15 Fatigue damage!
Sailor Pluto's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Cure Passion dodges 20 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 13 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!  Cure Passion's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Amethyst cleanly braces 23 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 4 Fatigue damage!
Amethyst's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi neatly dodges 40 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 10 Fatigue
damage!  Critical Hit!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Lera Camry braces 16 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Lera
Camry's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa perfectly counters 26 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 0
Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Fate Testarossa's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa's counterattack, Blitz Rush, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Book of Darkness!
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki braces 13 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 11 Fatigue damage!
Sayaka Miki's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki decisively counters 30 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 10 Fatigue
damage!  Critical Hit!  Endo Naoki's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki's counterattack, Machtiger Schild, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Book of Darkness!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi perfectly counters 35 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 0
Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Nanoha Takamachi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi's counterattack, Axel Shooter, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Book of Darkness!
COMBAT: Cure Bloom braces 16 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Cure
Bloom's Block ability activates!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant cleanly braces 23 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 4
Fatigue damage!  La Sirene de Diamant's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki braces 23 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Photon Lancer: Genocide Shift, taking 10 Fatigue damage!
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Lera swings her clockwork hammer down in the wake of it. Motes of light drift away from the hammerhead, as it slams back together with a click, surrounding the little green gem in its center. Her lips purse, for a moment, as she looks at the snow falling. She holds a hand out, snowflakes resting on the fingerless magenta gloves. Then, she looks to the side -- towards Endo. She flashes a grin at him, then glances back at the others.

She grins, at all of the rescued, and turns to look back at Fate and Setsuna. "Looks like we showed up just in time, y'know?" she remarks, as the last of them rush into the barrier. Lera's eyes drift over towards it, before turns -- and sees the rain of pure light, crashing down towards her. "That's--"

She hops forward, and one slams into the pavement behind her. "One of Ren-chan's spells! Where is she?"

She finds the answer: the human form of the Book of Darkness, with red eyes and a streaked face, and the twisting violet snakes that make her arm up. Lera's gut clenches, for a moment, in fear -- and she lets out a shout, holding a hand out as she finds herself in a familiar position: lances of golden light come raining down for her, not unlike fights that she fought a year ago.

She knows, however, what to do. She remembers -- and has new tools at her disposal.

<Protection!> Broken Ground chimes. A half-dome of interlocking hexagons appears, glowing a deep brown-green color, and the blasts slam into it. Lightning discharges over it, but the barrier holds until they fade. They whisk away; the hexagons wink out, one by one.

"I'm... I'm done sleeping! I'm done pretending! Even if we can't stop it, I'll die trying!" Lera shouts up at the Book. "I want this world, with all of its flaws, not the fake one you tried to give us!"

She swings Ground around -- and a magical circle erupts behind her. Then, a blast of light soars off. It shoots, twisting and turning through the air, before it comes crashing down at the Book from her side. When it does, it blasts apart into a dozen pieces of energy-rock, crystalline in form but not function.

<Geode Burst!>

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Geode Burst on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Kyuubey isn't here. He wasn't with Madoka, when the whole world seemed to shimmer, and then change, drawing her into a horrific otherworld. And either he hasn't been trying to find her, or he hasn't succeeded. Regardless, a more-than-powerful reminder of her own helplessness. She likes to pretend that her potential is the same thing as potency, but this is a lie.

And while, in her last moments, she was thinking very much of her dear friends -- it is, as her life tends to be, something of a 'be careful what you wish for' scenario.

Les Mysteres come all above her, a brilliant, flickering sword as shield, which means Nori is not far from here -- not far from all of this.

And Sayaka is closer still.

There's not a single thing she can do, when her oldest and best friend lays down her life for her, a too-easy sacrifice that makes the beautiful expression of love horrible too, but to accept it. She curls up in a tiny ball, arms around Sayaka's waist; she squeezes her eyes so tight that they feel like they're going to implode; she shakes within the tripod made of steel and shoulders and spine.

"Sayaka," she replies, and she means 'I know.'

And she means 'Thank god.'

And she means 'Oh no.'

Relief is naked in her eyes, after, when the last of the heavy ash breaks across Sayaka like a wave but leaves both of them unharmed, not just her. If Sayaka hadn't been there, and she'd had to take it by herself, that wouldn't have been the case. If the others hadn't been there, and Sayaka'd had to take it by herself, that wouldn't have been the case either.

Rising together, she does not break the hug, but beckons in La Sirene to join it, over Sayaka's shoulder. Then she hangs onto both of them with all she's worth... and dampens both of their cheeks considerably. A crybaby's nuzzling will have that effect.

"Please," she says at last, in the few moments she knows she has. "Please be safe."

If Kyuubey were here, that would be the end of this timeline, just like that, so strong and heartfelt her wish.

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

The even smaller of two tiny pink-haired girls holds tight to her older friend, her great twintailed odango offering at least some refuge against seeing much, blocking some of what comes. ...But not enough; she's so small. Small, and the falling Tree is so large. That faith is in her eyes, but she can be afraid, too.

But when Puu comes to them, Chibi-Usa stares with bright eyes at her. ...This place, this ruin, is all too familiar, and Sailor Pluto would know full well why; being here at all is awful. But once again, her oldest friend moves to help. ...And not only her. She's ripped free of Madoka in the span of a sudden rescue, falls back onto her behind and scrambles to hide near Sailor Pluto. "Aaah--"

The Tree. But a cloud favors them instead, and it doesn't fall on them. ...The rest of the way is quickly traversed--Small Lady gets to her feet, and rushes towards Pluto, hugging her tightly from her position much, much smaller. "Puu! ...It-s--It's here too, it... I--"

Overcome, she just hugs, tightly, at first.


Passion, in the meantime, falls back to the roof and then hops down from there, looking up towards the voice. The shards of light--the familiar magic--are too familiar. The contaiment, the maze--Passion looks around in surprise. But more surprising still is something that makes more sense--a much more familiar name, magic. And she opens her eyes widely. "Fate--"

The lightning crashes down, and Passion starts running along the ground to avoid it, and indeed a number of its blasts crash down behind her--

Just as a big one hits her dead on and she flies back towards a wall, hitting a spear along the way and crashing to the ground. "That's--"

...Do her best. That's what she has to do...

"...Some things are worth fighting for, Passion says as she rises back to her feet. "The things that we've done, right and wrong... They make up the world that matters today!"

Bending at the knee, Cure Passion weaves through spears to try to leap up at the Book, spinning in flurry of kicks.

COMBAT: Cure Passion has used Rising Passion on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

With the effort of over a dozen magical fighters, the combined effort reduces the gargantuan tree bough to nothing. Well, something a little more than nothing. Snow. Not a cloud of ash like expected on impact. "The poor thing..." Steven says quietly, reaching out to let one fall into his hand. It deserved much better than this.

A sigh of relief, though tinged with the bracing of a great burden. A thought of what has transpired, and what might yet still be. "Well, that is over," he remarks to everyone. "At least everyone is safe." He looks to the gathered crowd for anyone he may know more. Greg or Connie, Pearl or Garnet. They weren't there. The first thought is their evacuation plan for such a massive event, using Warp to get people they find to Mask Island.

But with this powerful event, he even wonders if they made it...

"We should try to figure out a plan! To--"

A rain of ember spears effectively silences him as he looks to the sky. "You!" the boy calls out. "I..." The boy thinks for a small time.

"You let me see what I always wanted to see. My dreams." He bites his lip. "...Which are impossible to happen otherwise. So to you I say..."

"Thank you."

BGM Change: Undertale - Don't Give Up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u4Kcay2Gjw

"...But I can't let you do this."

The boy pats his trusty mascot as he talks. Some small mustering of comfort to help him talk. "While my dream might never come true... everyone else here has dreams. As does everyone i nTokyo, and the world. I want to see them happen!"

"You have all that power in that book, and you use it to hurt, and destroy, and ruin Tokyo. You could easily do so much good with that power, but you choose not to. I think you have lost hope."

He looks to everyone else beginning to make moves against this terrible threat. "I may not be much, but I will stand against you until the very end! We all will! Because that's what we do!"

"And it's what my mom would have wanted to do."

The boy looks to Amethyst. "Let's get her." A switch to Lion. "Get us up high! Let's go!" And with that, Lion will begin to weave around these spears, gathering enough speed to roar a portal open.

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used AND STEVEN! on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Time resumes in the Wind Knight's eyes, her pulse thundering in her ears as her heart resumes its beat, and the falling World Tree is blasted by more than a dozen magical girls - some whose attacks strike many times over. The spikes called forth by Mikoto, the swords of Kasagami and Sayaka, the tidal strikes of Lion's roar and Fate's thunder, and so many more besides. And all that Fuu can think of is to shelter those innocents caught in the storm.

Her breath catches in her throat once more as the cloud settles ... and clad though she is in the armor of a Magic Knight, Fuu walks first, then runs as she sees her big sister standing. "Kuu-neesan!!!" she cries out in relief, all secrets of identity forgotten in terror turned to profound relief.

Kuu barely has time to turn to face the Wind Knight, catching her in a sisterly embrace. "This is you, isn't it, Fuu?" the elder sister whispers. "Mother said that it was up to you to tell me if .... *is* it you, Fuu-chan?"

Fuu, Magic Knight of Wind, lifts her head enough to nod. "Yes. I'm sorry ..."

"Sorry for what?" Kuu smiles, tousling her younger sister's hair. "You've been fighting all this time to protect people, to save people. And it's not over yet ... you've always hated to disappoint your family, little sister. Here." Kuu fishes in her pockets, and gently lifts the Wind Knight's glasses to dry her tears with a handkerchief that is, somehow, still clean. "We'll be all right now, I'm sure of it. Make us proud."

"Kuu-neesan ..." The Wind Knight smiles ruefully for a moment, then steps back, drawing herself up to her full (if unimpressive) height. "I'm sorry you got caught up in this. I'm sorry I never told you before. I'll explain the rest later - after I ... no, after *we* make sure there *is* a later."

Kuu smiles, nodding to the Magic Knight of Wind, and steps into the conjured protection of that shelter. Even in silence, the trust she conveys in her younger sister is unshakable.

That trust is still warm in the Wind Knight's stomach when calamity descends anew upon the combatants. She reflexively leaps away from the Haze Spear wall, waffling briefly between bow and sword as she gazes up at the embodied Book of Darkness; sword wins out in the nick of time, and her blade twirls almost weightlessly in her hands as she fends off as much as she can of the Photon Lancer onslaught.

"You've tasted of so much of our magic," she replies to the Book, "and yet you know *nothing* of our resolve! We stood against Metallia when she proclaimed the end of the world. We overthrew one who sought to dream his way into godhood, returning him to mortality and stripping him of his power. We have stood against enemies to whom the stars are scattered embers, and to whom Earth is just a muddy marble to be plundered and perhaps remade."

The lightning subsides, and the Magic Knight of Wind exchanges her blade for her bow, a quiver full of arrows materializing across her back. "The day may yet come when we can't protect the world we live in, the people whom we love," she admits, nocking an arrow to her bowstring and raising her aim to the Book of Darkness. "But until that day comes, nothing will stop us from fighting. Engrave that in your pages, and remember it well."

The air, which had fallen still around her, erupts into a powerfully swirling updraft, and with a shout of, "GALE ARROW!" the green-clad Magic Knight wraps it all around her fresh-loosed shaft, the backdraft blowing her hair and skirts straight back as the wind-wrapped arrow hurtles in search of the Book.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Gale Arrow on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Amethyst [None] has posed.

So many Magical Girls here to protect what little is left of this place... Amethyst has turned into one of those Crying Breakfast Friends from Steven's cartoon, hasn't she? "I'm not crying," she lies poorly, "just got sawdust in my eyes."

At least everyone was safe.

Amethyst almost agreed with Steven, but before she could, spears hail down upon the land. Relief and sadness once more boil back into anger, as they have been doing lately. All because of that Book. "Steven, you're a good kid. A great kid with a great heart. I wish I could be like you, but... I cannot thank this book! To make me dream and think everything is okay while my real home is destroyed and everything I fought for is ruined and others suffer? I may like to sleep, but I'm not lazy enough for THAT!"

% So many energy motes. So many energy balls. How is Amethyst going to block all of these? How can she dodge them? She cannot. However, she can block most of them and soak up the rest of the damage. She holds her whips out in front of her, pulling them tight and charging them with weird energy. She lets as many of the attacks aimed at her hit the energized whips, mitigating a lot of the damage. "Hrmf! I'm supposed to be scared of THAT? You've wrecked my home! You hurt my friends! You destroyed my Earth! I am not going to let you get away with this! Even if I have to be shattered in sacrifice, this world will survive you!"

The whips, now charged with energy, were ready to be put into use. That Book that is causing all these problems... maybe she could get it away from its keeper, or at least pull it and her down. One whip lashes out at the book, another after the woman, trying to wrap around them and yank them down.

COMBAT: Amethyst has used Get Over Here! on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

There's something sad in the cremation these girls bring about. They did it for their friends - and yet...

It's still sad that such a beautiful - wonderful monument is gone. As the dust of it falls all around them. Fate turns around to face the two girls who are running out hand in hand. There's hesitance even in that recognition. "Nanoha - Feito-chan?" Arisa says quietly. Their two friends are - some kind of Magical Girls?! It all comes out then all at once, "This is what you two have been doing all along!? All those things you couldn't say - those sudden disappearances?"

Fate's eyes close briefly, before she turns on them. "We'll explain later." Apologize later too. "Right now though you have to get to safety."

Arisa balls up her fists, "Hold on! Don't just - we can't just leave it at that!" Fate gives her a long look, then smiles, "Suzuka told me once that the three of you became friends when Nanoha broke up a fight you were having with Suzuka- right?"

Arisa looks startled, then nods as Fate continues, "Ever since... even when you worried about the things she couldn't say - you always trusted in her right?" Arisa nods almost mutely, "I mean... I... guess..." Fate's tone is sweet, gentle, firm, "I know it's asking a lot... but trust in both of us tonight."

Arisa looks stunned - but eventually catches her stride, "It's a promise then! That you'll be back - to explain everything later!"

Fate looks at Nanoha and after a moment smiles in agreement, "It's a promise."

The two girls rush off into the Wind Knight's shield of wind, hand in hand, Arisa still muttering, "What were those two thinking keeping us out of this for so long!?"

And then she hears it in the air that familiar voice. "Bardiche." There's a ka-chunk of a piston pounding noise. <Cartridge Load.>

And Fate spins around to raise a palm, <Defenser Plus>The spears fall like rain, glancing off of them, sliding off. And beyond her runic shield of light there she is standing like a resplendant angel of darkness her forearm entwined by corrupt serpents.

And then her eyes grow wide as her own spell is named. And improved upon so casually - with a variant name that makes her shudder. "It can't..." And then she remembers exactly what she's facing. <Blitz Rush.>

Fate becomes a zig-zagging blur within the night, corkscrewing within the confines of her own spell. It's a desperate glide to make it through the narrow gaps between each bolt as she zips between them. Until she's safe enough to stop - hovering in mid-air. "... those are our spells. Everyone be careful...! Who knows what else she can do?"

Lera says she's done sleeping and Fate agrees, "It was a lovely dream. Because of it I met someone really important..." She dares to look sidelong at Lera, and smile, "... a lot of important people really and I learned some wonderful things."

BGM Change: Eternal Blaze - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZFPVAOrdXQ

Gripping Bardiche, she says, "Now we're awake though - and it's time for you to stop being so selfish."

<Haken Form.>

As the others attack, so too does she, taking an arcing flight around the flanks, in an attempt to blindside her - a feat which might be impossible given her dominion over the battlefield. Bardiche shifts into hooked scythe of yellow mana. Pulling up abruptly, she does a quick turn in mid-air, as Bardiche intones, <Haken Saber>

And sends the blade whirling down at her as a circular missile to drive against her defenses. "Hayate can still be saved! Don't act like her it's over for her - help us save her!"

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Haken Saber on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

As her friends and others emerge beside her, Nanoha feels grateful that they are all together to face this. Fate moves quickly to assist and Nanoha gives her a quick thumbs up. "Right Feito-chan! Be careful!" She says something else but her words are drowned out by the collapsing tree. The tree limbs fall all around them and Nanoha moves to close in the distance between her and Arisa and Suzuka.

As she moves, Raising Heart chimes in, <Be careful, Master!> Nanoha smiles, "It's okay Raising Heart."

Once she makes it to her friends, Nanoha reaches out to embrace both of them, hugging them as tightly as she can. Suzuka looks worried though. "Nano-chan, we thought... we were done for. I'm so glad to see you! And Fate too!" She hugs them again. "What's happening? It's like the whole world is ending..." The small girl casts a glance over Nanoha's shoulder at the tree.

Nanoha glances at Fate for a second, "There is too much to explain right now. We have to get you to safety! I promise that we will explain later!" Her words echo those of Fate. Suzuka watches in amazement as Nanoha's shoes change and grow tiny wings. "The structure below should keep you safe. Please stay inside. Take care of the others okay!" The addition of the tiny wings help Nanoha as Suzuka holds her hand tightly and they move quickly inside and she gives her friends one more hug before she leaves. She notices Suzuka's eyes tearing up and she puts a hand on her shoulder, "Hey. Trust us. It's going to be okay." She gives a wave before flying outside of the structure and seeing Fuu nearby. "Thanks for the help Fuu-chan!"


As the last of the civilians get inside, the spears of light begin to crash down around them. The spell is familiar and Nanoha realizes with horror what is happening and she looks for the source of the voice. "What are you trying to do? You thought you could keep us trapped in a world we thought was ideal but this is what we fight for! This place is our home and the reality that we want." She smiles. "Even when things get hard. We always stick together and help each other!"

Raising Heart chimes, <Watch out Master!!>

Just as she hears the warning she can see Fate's familiar yellow spells coming towards her. This is not the first time she has seen these attacks and she swiftly moves to avoid them while Raising Heart's Axel Shooter is directed towards the figure above them aiming to take some of the heat from the others with a small barrage of pink beams.

Nanoha looks as Fate moves to attack again and she looks at her weapon, "Raising Heart. You know what to do!" Nanoha braces her feet on the ground, raising her weapon high. "If you won't stop and listen to us, we will have to stop you!" A bright orb of pink sparkling magic engulfs her weapon almost completely as it charges up and draws power into itself. <"Divine Buster!"> The orb swiftly breaks into a huge pink laser, aiming directly for the woman above them and the book.

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Divine Buster! on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness braces 18 Fatigue damage from Lera Camry's Geode Burst, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Book of Darkness's
Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness dodges 0 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's AND STEVEN!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Steven Universe is Psyched!  Book of Darkness's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness braces 3 Fatigue damage from Cure Passion's Rising Passion, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Cure Passion is
Psyched!  Book of Darkness's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness neatly dodges 32 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Gale Arrow, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Fuu Hououji is Psyched!  Book of Darkness's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness braces 0 Fatigue damage from Amethyst's Get Over Here!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Book of Darkness's
Block and Parry abilities activate!  Diversion and Trap applied to Book of Darkness!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness fails to dodge Fate Testarossa's Haken Saber, taking 41 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness perfectly braces 48 Fatigue damage from Nanoha Takamachi's Divine Buster!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Brace!  Book of Darkness's Block and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo watches as each of his allies-and some enemies-throw themselves against the falling weight of the tree. It shatters, breaking into a cloud of ash, and he lets out a gasp of relief. Soon his eyes turn back toward those that the magical girls have rallied to protect, friends and family, his own among them.

Endo and Chikai Naoki run to embrace, the former grabbing and clinging to his mother before she even realizes who's grabbing her. When she does her eyes begin to haze up, and the hardy, middle-aged woman pounds her fist against her son's armored shoulder.

"Endo? When are you doing?" She demands. "Is that you? What's this ridiculous look?"

"Mom," Endo, for his part, ignores most of her questions completely. "Are you okay? You have to go, it's dangerous-"

"Don't tell me what to do." Chikai interrupts. "You should be careful!"

"Aaaa, why are you like this. Mom! I need to go, we're the only ones who can fix this. You have to go be safe. Shinji!" Endo flags down one of the other civilians, the burly looking high schooler nearby. "Get mom somewhere safe."

"You better be careful, boy." Ms. Naoki scowls, but mother and son embrace one final time before they part again.

Just in time, considering the appearance of the Book's manifestation. When the lances of energy begin to rain down his eyes shoot up, Endo making a startled cry of, "That's Ren-chan's..." But it's not Ren that's the source.

As the spheres of light begin to form he takes a habitual step backward, recognizing those too. "Fate-chan..."

But there's something Endo associates his blonde ally with more than her crackling magic. Something far more important, words spoken when he was trapped inside of a dream world. Words that steel his resolve, that stoke the fires of hope in his heart. She'd said that his world, his dream, could be a reality someday for everyone if they all fought for it together. A world where everyone is safe.

BGM Change: Determination, Again - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ssS-UIKZh8

<MACHTIGER SHIELD.> A Belkan triangle whirls into existence, forming a barrier that the worst of the Book's attack explodes against. Endo's teeth are clenched tight, energy burning against him even through his defenses-but he stands firm.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Zerstorung Drang on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Endo Naoki accepts Endo Naoki's Zerstorung Drang, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Empower and Surge applied to Endo Naoki!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Saito Araki is a proud man. He's from an established, if recently tarnished family. He's worked all of his life to climb the social and company ladder. By now, his own name is perhaps even worth more than his family.

A dull, but proudly ambitious man with a knack for administration and numbers has lead him this far. Never loud, never too out of the ordinary, it was when Kasagami's Father married her Mother that everything seemed to fall apart for him. The Araki lineage has always been a swaying thing, attracted to cool administrators and wild sword-swingers alike.

Saito has always aligned himself with the calmer section of the family. So when he found himself out at a mall when disaster struck? He calmed the girls so easily.

The disgraced Kasagami rending the falling, impossible bough before her with the family blade has the Araki family member gently pushing the two girls behind him. His heart beats furiously. Inwardly, he's terrified. He wants to live, and to climb higher in the adult world.

But he truly believes that an Araki man faces the world with stoicism, strength, and loyalty. And as his eyes spy that wild disgrace of a daughter?

Risking her life, calling out, just like that woman his relative married.

He swallows his fear, backs up a step, and holds out arms in futile protection for the two tiny lives this adult has found himself near. Pure chance. But he's an Araki.

The bough shatters, and that dust winds up in her hair, to mix along crimson-tipped raven locks. Kasagami hangs in the air, and as she falls back to the ground to skid? Saito Araki, for the first time in his life since being granted guardianship of this troublesome child? Truly feels proud.

The screwup child that blew through her fortune seemed so reckless. But that same recklessness led her to care for the family name...and the bloodline, despite their mutual antipathy. She's shown, at least, that much.

Boots hit the ground, skid, and slow. Kasagmi for a moment feels like tilting over. And then the shorter man puts a hand to her back. Silence.

"You're still a young, wasteful fool, Kasagami-chan." He offers coldly. And then his voice thaws as he shoves her back towards the tips of her feet. His hands find the two girls he was comforting to usher them along.

"But just like your Mother, you love those in your family. I suppose that makes you worthwhile after all. At least, enough for your name."

He turns his back, off towards Fuu's fortress of safety. Only there does he finally fall amidst that refuge, tired, scared, and human. His gaze looks back to Kasagami for a moment. His breath falls fast, as his mind tries to treat it all like some kind of dream.

"...I'm..." He starts, only quiet enough to hear himself.

Kasagami Araki sucks in a breath. "...Sorry."

Their brief meeting and reconciliation!? is halted, though, as safety takes priority. An eye shoots high. And then familiar bolts of plasma smash down upon her, ending in her sides sizzling with voltaic aftermath, her coat shredded even as roses and her own blade is raised high defensively! Even against that spell of lightning she lashes out, form sublime, dancing about the ruined strip mall for both cover and room to strike at once. Her entire body is drowned by that painful fury, and she lets out an enraged howl of pan.

Her clothes smoulder, she coughs, and yet, the young woman still stands.

Kasagami glares at the winged being that is the Book of Darkness. "I'm perfectly awake right now. Right awake from a dream that you put me into! That showed me the ghosts of those I've longed to see again for years!"

Her blade is slowly drawn, almost acheingly from it's sheath, and the she leaps into the air once more, higher, higher, seeking that horrid manifestation of the Book. Dark red rose petals gather once again, and her blade lashes upwards, hard, and she glares at the creature above.

"I don't appreciate dreams like that. Because when you wake up, they hurt that much more! Nevermind all the people you're hurting out here in reality! A King won't tolerate that kind of torture and injustice!"

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Falling Petals Cut The Soul on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Above, Children wreck havoc on the corpse of the World Tree. There are those which take to wing, after all.

Below, the mark of another does its work, unseen.

The obsidian of Mikoto's dark magic fades - the shattered earth remains. A little more destruction for a world turned to ruin.

It is not enough to keep her from the strip mall, as she leaps over debris to meet the two girls who have walked with her to school so often. She is direct, she is worried - she doesn't think about the consequences of meeting them, and at the same time, it is so obvious to anyone else who might be worried that she's going to make sure they're okay.

(Sayaka earns a glance, sharp-eyed - and though she does not ignore her, she does not intercede at all. Chopsticks. Besides... Madoka's here. And so, crisis averted -)

"Chie!" Mikoto barks, as she comes to them. "Aoi!" They look at her in terror - this wild girl and her gigantic blade - and it lances through her as surely as black glass. In this moment she cannot think of lying to them at all, but only wants to make it better. "It's - it's me," she swallows, against a constricted throat, "Mikoto."

"Mikoto-chan?" Chie's face is drawn with horror, though she seems, at least, to be trying to keep it together - to support the people around her, an arm around the shaking Aoi. "Why is everyone - who are these people?!"

Mikoto looks away, resting the tip of Miroku's blade against the ground. "... complicated."

Aoi steps forward, hands clasped together. There is a desperate edge to her voice, a wavering like she's been crying. (And she has been. Her wailing has been terrible to behold.) "Mikoto-chan, please, just tell us what's going on!"

"I..." Mikoto frowns, humming discontent through thin lips. "... world's ending, Aoi. And - and people like me, we gotta stop it. Aoi was never supposed to get involved. Chie neither." Her grip tightens on Miroku's hilt; her teeth grit.

Chie frowns, stepping forward to put her hands on Mikoto's shoulders, fearless of the blade. "Mikoto-chan, you're wrapped up in some pretty heavy stuff, huh..?"

Mikoto nods, a sad noise in the back of her throat, and Chie crouches to wrap her in a hug.

"Hey. You can tell us all about it, okay?" Chie's trying to be strong.

An noise of negation - "I can't. It's too dangerous."

Aoi steps in, looking out at the destruction. "... she's right, Chie-chan. If it's stuff like this - there's magma out there! It's hot!" She talks like she's had a run-in with convection. "But Mikoto-chan, you'll be okay, right?!"

There's a noise like steel as Miroku shifts in Mikoto's one-handed grasp - the other around Chie's waist. "Yeah. I'm a warrior. Maybe Ohtori's hard... but I can handle this stuff."

Chie straightens, and Mikoto looks back to the fortress. "... Wind Knight's good at protection. Stay there. Don't try and help, okay?" Her tone is firm, and broaches no argument. It's so unlike her social uncertainty.

"Right," Chie nods, a hand on Aoi's shoulder. "We hear you, Mikoto-chan. Stay safe out there."

And they go inside, and Mikoto steps away -


Mikoto has fought against Ren before - has seen those lances in action before - and she leaps away on desperate instinct as they come crashing down, the memory of searing pain still so fresh in her mind. She snarls her confusion, looking around -

- up -

- at the Book of Darkness. Sparks join spears, and Mikoto leaps away - no easy task. She darts and weaves between spear and electricity, at one point forced into a one-handed backflip, hand pressing against the ground as she so barely avoids the ball lightning. The world seems to crackle.

And then the spell detonates entirely, and Mikoto rolls to avoid it and there is only so much she can do.

But there are people she's protecting.

She rises. She glares. The challenge she howls to the Book of Darkness as she leaps upwards is wordless and terrible and full of the pain of a thousand shattered dreams. Miroku swings overhead - comes down in an executioner's swing. There is no mercy, to her. Nothing but her fury.

COMBAT: Book of Darkness dodges 21 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Falling Petals Cut The Soul, taking 32 Fatigue damage!
Book of Darkness's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness braces 24 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness, taking 20 Fatigue damage!
Mikoto Minagi is Psyched!  Book of Darkness's Block and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Sailor Pluto howled death at the felling Tree to save those precious to her, and now its death drifts in ashen motes to dot her hair and adhere to her face. She straightens and rubs at her cheek, smearing a white flake. She inhales acridity, and wrinkles her nose.

She spins on booted heel, turns to see: and they are safe.

The stalwart senshi of the furthest reaches of the solar system clutches her fist over a thudding heart and sags where she stands in visible relief. It puts her in better position to be hugged, and she finds gratitude for the small things in this horrorscape they occupy.

It is awful and all too familiar, her return gaze acknowledges, but her arms are open for Small Lady and then they close around her, and for this moment at least all is right. She stoops down and breathes in the closeness of her dearest friend instead of ozone and ash.

"...Ah. Boss?" The mistress of Meioh Tower looks up and over Small Lady's shoulder -- and through a puffy pink odango -- at her goggling majordomo and, in the end, simply nods in acknowledgement. "Knew you were into something, but..." Etsuko coughs and tugs at the high-buttoned collar of her suit shirt, searching for her professional demeanor. Her still-wide eyes sweep the same hellscape, then return. "...Give them hell, ma'am." She doffs her cap.

There are still no smiles to be found in Sailor Pluto, but something in her face eases. She gives the precious girl in her arms one last squeeze and whispers, "Be safe, Small Lady. Maybe... maybe after all this is over, we can have a day at the beach. Hmm?"

She straightens, and pulls away. She redoubles her grip on the Garnet Rod, and looks for Kasagami and her uncle -- and watching them, her heart is in her throat once more. "My brave, proud sword," she murmurs. She watches Chibi-Usa and Etsuko and all the others rush to the safety of the Wind Knight's shield, and she readies herself to stand against darkness once again:

For them, and for the world, and for a fragile crystalline future that lives on in her heart, and in Small Lady's.


Light lances down and it's hard for Sailor Pluto to feel relief as it severs her view of loved ones, but -- they are away, and they are as safe as the moment can make them. Now it is her job to ensure that remains the case. She dances away from the dropping maze-pieces of light, and then she looks up.

Pluto spots the Book and the woman who is the Book, and she takes the Garnet Rod up in both hands, her painted lips pressed to grim flatness.

Oh yes, Sailor Pluto has fought Fate Testarossa before. Her battle reflexes remember those deadly plasmic fireflies, too. Rather than trying to dodge lightning, Pluto grits her teeth and raises the Rod -- and rides out the scorching shock with a swallowed shout of pain.

"You never should have used our dreams against us!" she cries back from within the maze of spears, and whirls the Rod overhead. "I will allow nothing, no one, to keep me from working to save this world," Pluto says, because she believes it to be true in her heart. "Now I am angry as well as determined to stop you!"

With a furious slingshotting that underscores her point, Sailor Pluto sends a shot of plutonic energy at the woman who is the Book, with her writhing-snake arm and her silvery hair. It coruscates as it goes, the violet-red energy at its heart as furious as the sailor senshi commanding it.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Garnet Blast on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRKJiM9Njr8

La Sirene lands near Madoka. Nori Ankou looks at her and smiles, weakly, almost gingerly. It is brief. Drawn forwards, she steps closer, seeing with an immense rising joy in her heart that SAYAKA is there. She survived, she lived...

I wonder if she slew Eri, already, la Sirene thinks as she presses both of the two precious people to her. (Perhaps she died in this horror. Few things are unalloyed evils, she thinks further.) As she's nuzzled against, she murmurs, "Madoka, Madoka." She kisses Madoka's forehead (and Sayaka's if not dodged). Her eyes close.

She shudders. Memories reach her. Memories and the memories of memories, memories of the memories of the memories... a reflection of dissionance, of sorrow.

But Madoka is here.

"I will return to you," she says. "I promise you. I will not be stayed or prevented. We will clasp our hands again, because you are precious to me."

Her eyes turn to Sayaka, then. She attempts a smile. She reaches over, to brush a little ash from Sayaka's shoulder. Her touch lingers for a moment, but then she turns her hand to reveal the brooch she was given. The enamelled and cartoonish knight is affixed to the collar of her suit, even as she says, "I will redeem your trust."


La Sirene de Diamant walks away from the fortress.

The spears come down and she has to hurl herself forwards to avoid bifurication. Twisting round, she faces behind her with a grimace - but her head snaps up as her nose twitches. She can smell the tears. The woman there.

Stylish, she thinks. She is bearing a book. Perhaps THE book. The book in which their deaths - no, la Sirene tells herself. I have made a promise. Several promises. Her eyes narrow.

Her heart is often soft. Even in her deepest battles she is often doubtful, hesitant, weighed down by a soul that sings with sorrow. Even now that heart has not changed its character, but the vision of the faces of her friends - of one in particular - in her dream. Her back straightens. Her posture raises upwards. She puts a hand on her hip. Her chin lifts a little more.

La Sirene sees the Photon Lancer storm with a widening of her eyes and opts to deal with it by doing nothing at all. Yes, sir, she takes it on her chin! No - even for her that is not so trivial. She crosses her arms before her, she dips her head forwards, and that shimmering aura that often is a sort of highlight around her silhouette brightens into something positive and affirmative. The storm comes.

The storm passes, and Diamond remains. Dusty, wearied faintly. But she relaxes her guard, and then her voice raises. "There is plenty that I can do," she calls up. "I can spoil your good time. I can gather your tears, if I want." Her eyes track Fate as she warns her. Sensible, la Sirene thinks, but her dudgeon is rising. She wants to try her French but even THAT would be a bridge too far.

"I know something she cannot do, Fate Testarossa," she calls to her.

La Sirene raises a hand.

She breathes in deep as she raises her right hand slowly. It is a deliberate and gradual motion. If the Book of Darkness (could it be this book ITSELF in living form? is such a thing possible? she cannot speculate; she is, herself, adherent to mystery and not to text) is occupied with all the rest, then she can take her time.

"Les Mysteres, come," la Sirene breathes again.

Down comes the right hand. The chord is enormous; the erupting sphere of ink and silver smashes upwards, threaded now with a new suggestion of a chromatic pale-violet. Something new. Something cool but real. It streaks ahead even as la Sirene crouches slightly, preparing herself, ready to leap like a great cat.

"The pain is what makes us beautiful!"

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Les Mysteres on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness fails to dodge La Sirene de Diamant's Les Mysteres, taking 54 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness braces 12 Fatigue damage from Sailor Pluto's Garnet Blast, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto is
Psyched!  Book of Darkness's Block and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

When Sayaka does things like this for Madoka, it isn't that she's faced down her own mortality and made her choice. It's like she told Kozue... she has no choice. Courage and fear have nothing to do with it.

It's coming now. Sayaka hears her name, and smiles a little. When the air is hollowing out under the great bulk of the tree and she can feel its proximity in her inner ear, Sayaka gives Madoka an inscrutable wink.

The rush of grey and the tumble of weight is a bitter torrent. Sayaka has bent her back preemptively in order to keep it from arching and forming a sort of bowl that puts all the pressure on her lower back, and she has to fight to keep it that way. She hadn't anticipated how hard it would be to breathe, however; Madoka has a little dusty bubble inside the cape, but Sayaka is choking and retching on ash. The weight piling up on Sayaka's back is crushing her shoulders hard against the swordhilts, and her knee trembles with the effort of supporting herself, even braced. Whenever it slips off her cape, a solid chunk tends to fall down and strike Sayaka, in an irregular drumming beating. The edges of her cape are getting sealed down, which is good, but Sayaka is getting pushed down too, the swords sinking deeper into the ground, her body quaking. She can't even shout her defiance, with her throat clogged. Then her head is driven down as she is at last fully buried.

The last boulders of ash thump into the ruins of the World Tree. As the sound of impact fades away, and the dust literally begins to settle, there is no motion to indicate life.

Long seconds pass.

The dust shifts, and pale blue cracks open up in it rapidly, before a perfect circle of ash erupts upward, driven up into the sky in a great puffy cloud. In the center of one of her music-rings, Sayaka still kneels, her posture awkward and hunched, her limbs weak. She and Madoka rise together, embracing, Sayaka leaning on her shorter friend a bit as she coughs wretchedly over her shoulder. Rudely spitting, she clears her throat one last time with an abashed look.

Looking over at La Sirene, she gives her a calm nod. She doesn't hesitate to include her in the hug. Whatever they are right now, it is not exactly enemies. It's pretty obvious who Sayaka's going to be nuzzling, though, and it isn't Akai Mirai.

"Look who's talking," Sayaka chides Madoka back, fondly. Taking one cheek in her gloved palm, Sayaka presses a kiss into the other. It's the first time that the tomboyish cosmetic-novice has left a visible kiss-mark on someone, and it's a Lentan grey.

"I'll be fine," she promises as they part. Her eyes meet La Sirene's.

"The Chevaliers are here."

As Madoka flees, Sayaka unsheathes one of her tripod-swords from the ground and slings it in a lasso-like circle at her side a few times, clearing it of dirt. With her other hand, she offers her knuckles to La Sirene, yellow light reflected in her eyes. Looks like Fate-chan squared.

"It's this again," she tells La Sirene, laconic. The lassoing sword ends its spin, clinking down into both of Sayaka's hands as she holds it in front of her, a most inadequate barrier.

Just one blast splits on the sword, and the rest pummel Sayaka, ash erupting around her and blocking her from sight. But an instant later, the ash is blasted away as Sayaka launches into the air, the burns on her shoulders and arms healing visibly. Bicycling her legs as she falls, she hits the ground and is sprinting instantly, her cape plastered to her form as she whips along the ground towards the dark magus. A musical circle in front of the haze spear indicates her intention, and when she hits it, she bounds up into the air for a hit-and-run slash, swiping with her sword as she passes.

COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has used Caprice on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness dodges 7 Fatigue damage from Sayaka Miki's Caprice, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Book of Darkness's Fade
and Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Cure Bloom's whole body seizes. She didn't move. That sacred place, reduced to...dust. Annihilated.

The facts of it - that it was destroyed days ago, that it was fit to kill dozens of people - mean less than dust, particularly as the dust of her sacred space fills her lungs. Her lips peel back in a poisoned grimace. She shakes and shivers, crumpling further still, fist slamming down. While the others rally up around friends and loved ones, Saki Hyuuga marinates in loss - utter. Total.

The wind carries with it a tiny whimper.

A different jolt runs through her, and suddenly her arrested soul flares. She slams her foot down and surges up, jumping off the building she's landed on and throwing herself, arms pinwheeling, across a city block before she finds the source, the small girl with the brown hair huddled and crying. Two footfalls bring her up before the frightened young girl. Cure Bloom's instincts act for her more than her scattered thoughts as she takes a knee. The little girl barely looks up with shy, frightened eyes. Bloom shaking hand gently reaches out to gather the girl. "You were out looking for someone," she murmurs, pulling her close.

Minori Hyuuga nods, tearful. "Someone...really important," she whimpers.

Cure Bloom sucks in a shaking, involuntary breath and remembers two lights rising into the sky.

"Let's get you safe," she croaks, and stands, and turns. A cat, of all things - far from home but curled up as if all this were but a momentary disturbance - unfurls from Minori's feet and pads after them.


"Keep an eye on her, Corone," Cure Bloom says as she leaves Minori in the trustworthy protection of a cat nearly as old as she is. She trembles again, but the disruption has gotten her strength back. In that grim way people have, the sorrow can come later. For now, she has to act. She puts one foot down -

And then has to hurl herself further aside as the spears slam down, ripping the square apart, trapping her in an impossible maze of light. Isolated again. But this time she forces herself back up faster, quivers less. Her misting eyes look up at the sea of lights gathering above.

"They gave everything to save a world that wasn't theirs," Saki Hyuuga breathes. "I have a lot of things they never got to see...things I still have to do! For them...for this world they learned how to love...!"

The light crashes down on her. She throws her arms up in a cross-arm brace and an explosion of light rages away from her, and the Genocide Shift batters against it, crashing like a wave against a hillside, smashing, tearing, but never quite breaking. Finally, against the last wave it erupts away and Cure Bloom surges out. She sweeps out with her fists, PUNCHING past the last several waves of Genocide Shifted lights. A Haze Spear stands in the way and she hits it with her feet, switches up, throws herself across the distance to the opposite wall, flips to hit that, and then light explodes under her feet and drives a bullet of Cure Bloom skyward, ripping through all boundaries with her might.


A haymaker sweeps in, exploding with pulsating light toward the Book of Darkness.

COMBAT: Cure Bloom has used Fistful of Flowers on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness braces 11 Fatigue damage from Cure Bloom's Fistful of Flowers, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Cure Bloom is
Psyched!  Book of Darkness's Block and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"They are," la Sirene answers Sayaka. Her lips quirk forth. Her eyes track one of those tripod swords - and she extends her own hand to bump her fist against Sayaka's. "Did we ever leave...?"

Of course, her warm moment of heart-swelling strength must pass because there are giant crystal spears from the sky! A leading cause of problems indeed. La Sirene's head snaps up to see the Book itself (herself?) - stylish, she thinks at the dress and the red highlights, but there is not time for much more than that before the storm falls. Where Sayaka goes high, la Sirene does not go anywhere.

Her arms cross and the un-light around her rises as her chin tilts backwards. The storm comes upon her and it bursts and she is staggered to the side when it passes, a hellacious hurricano of hours and seconds later. The luminous glow around her fades as she exhales. I lived, she thinks.

With new brass she calls up at the Book. "There is plenty that I can do," she calls up. "I can spoil your good time. I can gather your tears, if I want." Her eyes track Fate as she warns her. Sensible, la Sirene thinks, but sensible only goes so far.

"I know something she cannot do, Fate Testarossa," she calls to her.

La Sirene raises a hand.

She breathes in deep as she raises her right hand slowly. It is a deliberate and gradual motion. If the Book of Darkness (could it be this book ITSELF in living form? is such a thing possible? she cannot speculate; she is, herself, adherent to mystery and not to text) is occupied with all the rest, then she can take her time.

"Les Mysteres, come," la Sirene breathes again.

Down comes the right hand. The chord is enormous; the erupting sphere of ink and silver smashes upwards, threaded now with a new suggestion of a chromatic pale-violet. Something new. Something cool but real. It streaks ahead even as la Sirene crouches slightly, preparing herself, ready to leap like a great cat.

"The pain is what makes us beautiful!"

<Pose Tracker> Book of Darkness [None] has posed.

The Book of Darkness is quickly surrounded on all sides by speakers. Some shout and some say softly. It is, all in all, a cacophony of defiance, of resolve.

But, deep within, things are very still and very small.

Though not as still as she would like.

A hairline crack runs through the darkness where she's kneeling in front of the little girl in the wheelchair. It sets the chair at a very subtle angle, and sets her teeth to clenching.

Hayate's eyes, three-quarter-lidded, flicker to more like half-. "Huh-whuhh?"

The kneeling Book leans forward, steading the chair, and the girl, by wrapping her arms around her frail little cotton-sweatered shoulders.

"Please, master. Do not pay it any mind."


Outside, the Book of Darkness consecutively draws up a shield to take on Lera's shards of crystalline energy-rock, uses the backblast of that impact force to drive her safely away from Fuu's Gale Arrow, crosses her arms in front of her, summoning a purple-black triangular shield upon which Cure Passion kicks mightily but mostly fruitlessly, which is then ripped away by Amethyst's whips -- just in time for Fate's Haken Saber to explode in her face.

There comes into being a smoke cloud; then Nanoha's Divine Buster vaporizes it. It might well have vaporized the Book, too, had she not summoned another shield, and three more for good measure, in a sort of kaleidoscopic defense that sprung in and out like a slinky, managing the vibrations between each force field.

A strand of silver hair has fallen out of place, directly between her eyes. She blows it away with an irritated purse of her lips.

She leaves the remnants of those Belkan shields in place long enough to arrest the momentum of Mikoto's blade, then again lets that transfer of force propel her away from Kasagami's many cuts. A less-formed shield, more like a shimmering in the air, an untechnical barrier, disperses most of Pluto's blast and is chiseled away by Sayaka's blade, ultimately finished off by Cure Bloom's haymaker; once again she is left open, fighting this small army by herself -- she really is a small figure, not a Godzilla at all -- and Les Mysteres comes for her.

A second cloud; a second emergence, this one a bit more controlled, by the fact that she was the one to disperse it, with a shouting-pitch invocation of "Pretty Cure Hopelessness Hurricane!" and an immense blast of red energy petals. All of them are split in half -- tiny broken hearts.

Out the other side, her impression is solemn. Morose.

"You're right -- it is sad, to have all this power, and be totally unable to stop what is inevitable. I would do anything, if it would bring surcease to my Master's world from the sorrow my Curse is bound to inflict, but there is nothing to be done. I cannot stop it -- you cannot stop it."

Through her tears, she smiles very faintly.

It is not a hopeful expression.

It is, in fact, almost a desecration of the word 'smile'.

"Torture, trickery, these were not my intent. I had hoped," a little strain in her inflection, the exasperation of the weary mother, "To allow you to escape the end of your world -- to not be forced to bear witness to its demise, the latest in the line of so many worlds consumed by the Curse I bear... but it sounds like most of you would prefer to die in honorable combat."

The Book hovering over the palm of the Book is open again.

"I can respect that."

She can also provide it.

She closes her fist.

"Obsidian Blade, Miroku."

A portal erupts in the sky; out of it glides an unsettlingly immense reproduction of Miroku, if the stone in which this sword were laid to rest was Tokyo Tower. It takes a solid fifteen seconds to even fully emerge.

The Book doesn't spend that time idle; she's up along its length, already casting a second spell: "Meteor Absturz Brecher."

Her hand closes upon the hilt; Mir-faux-ku is so sharp that it is raising sparks from the sky as she swings it, instead of the ground.

And then, accelerated by Endo's iconic violent violet, it begins to spin.

At the last moment, as she releases it, she voices a final word, not a spell per se, rather a command: "SUNDER!"

The monumental ubersword SPLITS, in a moment of technological marvel more familiar to Belkan technology than highly-advanced materializing equipment, though it could be either, into a good double handful facsimiles of itself...

...all that power, now further compressed, until it might burst. The difference between this obsidian and the surface of a black hole is difficult to distinguish. Maybe impossible.

And now it comes, everyone with their own personal hell to confront, as defined in blade form. Death by the sword; what could possibly be more Belkan?

"This fighting isn't at all futile," the Book lies, unconvincingly. She's a book, not a salesman. She looks like she's really trying to sell it, though. Outstretched pointing finger and all. Let the kids die proudly, if that, rather than dreams, is what will get their happiness.

COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on Cure Bloom.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on Nanoha Takamachi.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on Amethyst.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness has used Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji neatly dodges 48 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz
Brecher, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi partially dodges 11 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz
Brecher, taking 45 Fatigue damage!  Nanoha Takamachi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Steven Universe partially dodges 12 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz
Brecher, taking 46 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant dodges 33 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz
Brecher, taking 22 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa partially dodges 10 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz
Brecher, taking 42 Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Cure Passion cleanly braces 62 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz
Brecher, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cure Passion's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto perfectly dodges 56 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz
Brecher, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!
COMBAT: Lera Camry partially dodges 12 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz
Brecher, taking 47 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki perfectly dodges 51 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz
Brecher, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Kasagami Araki's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Cure Bloom neatly dodges 48 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher,
taking 12 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki braces 28 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz Brecher, taking
23 Fatigue damage!  Endo Naoki's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Amethyst decisively counters 42 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz
Brecher, taking 14 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Amethyst's counterattack, Spinball, partially gets through, doing 27 Fatigue damage to Book of Darkness!  Critical
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly counters 56 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz
Brecher, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Mikoto Minagi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Destruction, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Book of
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

That, thinks the Magic Knight of Wind, is *entirely too much sword*. The sheer size of Miroku unleashed, divided (or is it multiplied?) by Endo's spell-technique. It seems that there is nothing the Book of Darkness cannot cut.

She scrambles to prove the silver-haired incarnation wrong - and escapes a lot of injury in the process; she doesn't dodge all of it, but when she has a chance to stop dodging quite so frantically, all four of her legs plus her head are still attached to her body. Good enough. She hasn't broken her most important promise to her mother - the one about coming home alive.

Of course, home has to still be there for her to keep that promise in full.

"The Curse," echoes the Wind Knight, panting for breath (perhaps somewhat ironically). "You mean NachtWal?" She's heard that name, in a dream within a dream, and repeated in this waking nightmare by Mikoto when they saw the desolation of Tokyo. "If you would save anyone, Book-san -" It, *she*, was called something other than the Book of Darkness, right? But that was almost a lifetime ago, it feels like, and she was so badly battered and drained just before being plunged into that dreamy prison ...

"If you would save anyone - can't you help us fight the Curse itself?"

It's little more than a desperate idea, and the Book of Darkness, or at least its human-seeming avatar, is *still* trying to wipe them out, whether the killing would be framed as 'mercy' or otherwise. They have to shift the odds, get some kind of advantage. She knows something that could, possibly, help procure that advantage. Amethyst's whips managed to wrap around her ...

"Winds of Admonishment!!"

Hopefully the Wind Knight's binding whirlwind can do as much, perhaps a little more. Everything counts in a fight like this, any tiny margin or feeble advantage can be built upon by the total group. And with the stakes this high, the Wind Knight won't turn down *any* advantage she can make for her allies.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Admonishment on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Bolts of energy come in quick and hard, and Steven brings up his shield, his mother's shield, to block them as they come in. Though they cover such a wide swatch of area perfectly that blocking them all is impossible. The boy and his cat get electrocuted rather badly as they run, though as one approaches straight at them, Lion roars a portal open, and jumps through it just before impact.

A small distance away upon a balcony, the portal opens, as Lion begins to jockey his way up what buildings and rubble he can reach to get Steven closer to the target.

"You choose to go with the curse!" He shouts over the call of battle. "If we all worked together I am sure we could find a way to absolve it! Why resign yourself to it?!"

Another jump, and the duo crests the spine of a fallen multi-story building. The book-holder summons what looks like Mikoto's sword and Endo's purple energy-- oh no. She is combining abilities the Book of Darkness took. "Lion, look out!" he calls quickly, though too late. The resulting blast of blade and obsidian shrapnel catches the both of them, and Lion comes screeching to a halt as he hits the building and skids. Steven is forced to dismount to keep from getting hurt any more from a tumbling impact.

"Take a moment," the boy says toward Lion, as the cat struggles to get up. The boy readies his roesate shield, and with all his might, throws it toward the book that woman holds. Maybe he can knock it away from her. The odds are rather low since it is kinda floating and it is projecting shields of its own, but at the least he can force it to block the throw, possibly leaving an opening for others!

"It has to stop somewhere!" he yells. Why is he reasoning with her?

Because he feels like he owes her that much at the very least. To try.

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Throw Shield on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eq0voaDn3mc

Lights, swords, and more light the sky up as Lera looks up at the Book of Darkness, her fingers tightening on the hilt of Broken Ground. She looks to the side -- peering at Endo for a moment, then back to Cure Passion. "It's--" She watches, as the Book so perfectly intercepts the Divine Buster with a barrier, and withstand all of the attacks hurled up for it. For her.

She sounds...

She sounds sad. Lera didn't expect that, in all of this. Even with the mounting horror of seeing the Book hurl their own attacks, with more than mere mimicry. She takes a step backward, as a clone of Miroku comes out -- disturbing, especially after seeing Passion's attack aimed at them. "How...?"

She stumbles, though, as the blade splits and shows its Belkan origins -- and glows with Endo's familiar power. The blade comes crashing in for her, as it does everyone else, and Broken Ground chimes: <I can't stop that!>

"MOVE!" Lera screams, at her friends, at her fellow Chevaliers, at herself. She shoots up into the sky, like a rocket. A blast of light explodes underneath her feet, as she goes up faster and further, wind plastering bangs against her forehead, and the sword aimed at her and chaing after. It cleaves light itself, and the trail after her is split in two. It divides into twin tails of light, like a comet threatening to be split down the middle -- and the clone of Miroku comes closer and closer.

<Let me take over!> Soaring Sky chimes.

<Fits your name!> Ground answers. <Jacket purge!>

There is a brilliant flash of light around Lera, a corona of red-orange light exploding high into the sky, and Lera's clothing flickers and shudders. Broken Ground's hammerhead splits open -- and the handle telescopes inward. At the same time, the pen on her neckace flashes... and falls free, tumbling down for a moment, as light runs across it.

Ground's segments collapse in, one after another, until they form a bracelet. It wraps around Lera's hand, just as Miroku comes up. At the last minute, though, before it splits Lera down the middle, there is a surge of golden light. The girl does a tight backflip just around the blade, only narrowly twisting around its edge just as it threatens to strike true.

And then she drops down straight, hand outstretched. She grabs the golden hilt that formed from her dropped pen. The cross guard telescopes outward, segments locking into place with a flash, and her left hand grabs the weapon too. Two silver plates, for the edges of the weapon, slide upward. A golden centerpiece shoots up the length of the sword, then snaps around those two, before a final silver point appears in a flash and caps it off.

"We're trying to help you, too! It's because--"

Gold and green light trail after, in a tight upside down V-shape, before Lera comes crashing down in a diving slash at the Book of Darkness. Plasma and magma ignite afterward, shooting into the air in her wake, as she flies past her in a blur.

"--Chevaliers don't give up on ANYBODY!"

COMBAT: Lera Camry transforms into Barrier Jacket Perihelion!
COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Cut-Back Drop-Turn on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki partially dodges 14 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Obsidian Blade: Deduplication / Meteor Absturz
Brecher, taking 57 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness counters 5 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Winds of Admonishment, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Fuu
Hououji is Psyched!  Book of Darkness's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!  Cripple and Trap applied to Book of Darkness!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness's counterattack, Chain Bind, partially gets through, doing 13 Fatigue damage to Fuu Hououji!  Tangle and
Trap applied to Fuu Hououji!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness partially dodges 10 Fatigue damage from Lera Camry's Cut-Back Drop-Turn, taking 42 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!  Book of Darkness's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Book of Darkness!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness cleanly braces 40 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Throw Shield, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Hit!  Book of Darkness's Block and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

Sayaka certainly says it. The Chevaliers are here. And in light of the dream - she can enjoy that statement more than ever. That solidarity and sisterhood of fighting against this disaster at their side. 'I know something she cannot do.' The Book is Crying - it has tears to gather.

It took so much to break the wall for Fate to relearn how to cry. That she is...

It feels so surreal to see Cure Passion's spell - the culmination of her triumph of transitioning from Eas to Pretty Cure - twisted around in the defense of that.

"It's not inevitable." Fate grips Bardiche. "No matter how terrible things might seem. Sad destinies can be changed." Her eyes behold so many that changed, and touched her life, fighting at her side. Even as her elder sister helped drive home their lessons into her - that she's not a worthless doll...

... that instead she was worth more than she ever knew. "So many fighting you right now taught me that."

And yet - the word honorable combat chills her soul. Even moreso when she calls upon two-fold death from copies of Miroku and Stern. "No!"

It is often said that someone who lives by the sword - dies by it.

The blades split the air. Her vision fills with black. Fate twists like a demon - just fractionally missing being sliced in twain. The blade splits apart her cape, sending it fluttering to the ground - even as the concussive force of it's passing sends her streaking towards the mini-mall like a small comet.

Mortar crumbles as she impacts.

And it's like she's been put down for the count.

'The fighting isn't at all futile.'

She knows a lie when she can hear ones. It's trying to be merciful even now.

Fate trembles as she rises up out of the rubble her voice shaking, "Don't... patronize us. Even if you don't believe..." Something in her eyes harden, "Tonight... we'll make you one."

A stillness surrounds her for a few long seconds before Bardiche chimes.

<Full Drive Mode - Zanber Form.>

The sound of three telltale cartridges taking the plunge to fuel the transformation. Bardiche's axe head shifts backwards into a triforked guard, as a greatsword of mana forms plasma dancing at the center of the blade, lightning arcing along the edges of the brighter yellow edge.

To replace her missing cape is a pristine white one that rests upon her otherwise mauled barrier jacket. Lera's clarion call that Chevaliers don't give up on anyone... causes her to murmur, "It's the least I can do to repay everyone who made me one."

She absolutely answers Lera's call. As she starts to fly towards the Book with the titanic blade held downward at an angle behind her - flying full speed - like air resistance does not even exist for something so massive.

"God of Thunder - become the storm!"

Thunder flashes in the air, striking the blade, as it elongates, growing stronger. With a swing of it in position, the air shakes with concussive force.

<Sprite Zanber.>

And that's before the blade descends with incredible weight. Like gravity itself is on it's side - crashing as becomes a maelstrom of lightning meant to shatter magic...

... and perhaps even sad destinies.

And through the midst of that thunderclap din she shouts.

"Nanoha! Now!"

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket Blaze - Full Drive Mode!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Sprite Zanber on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Amethyst [None] has posed.

So many attacks head once more towards Amethyst. Everyone seems to be handling it, but she can't block these again, and there's no way she can dodge all those. So she goes through. She curls up, revs up, then cannonballs through them, right at the Book. It seems... reasonably effective.

Once Amethyst lands, she looks around. "Everyone okay? I don't know who all you are, but... don't listen to her words! Nothing is inevitable! I've seen true destruction - heck, I was born from it. That's why I cannot let it happen again! And we can break the curse. Together." Was she talking to the group or the enemy? Either way, it was no time to stand idly by. She lashes out her whips, attempting to strike the Book and slice through it. "You don't seem terrible. You seem like you care. And yet you think you are stuck in this destiny. Well.. y-you're wrong!" Not the best finish to her speech.

COMBAT: Amethyst has used Whiplash on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness partially dodges 18 Fatigue damage from Fate Testarossa's Sprite Zanber, taking 71 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!  Book of Darkness's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness braces 20 Fatigue damage from Amethyst's Whiplash, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Book of
Darkness's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Book of Darkness!
<Pose Tracker> Nanoha Takamachi [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

Nanoha can hear the sadness in the Book's voice and it makes her feel sad for it in a way. It's like somehow it wants to fight against what it's doing. While the others may just feel like it needs to be destroyed, she can't help but hope that there is another way that they can end this without more destruction. "Book of Darkness. Everything you have said... you want there to be a different way for this to happen. Those tears... they can't mean nothing!"

The book continues explaining why it put them inside, to help them avoid seeing the inevitable destruction of their world. Nanoha cannot accept this and even as the book starts attacking again, she is determined to get through. "Stop! It doesn't have to be this way! We have to save Hayate. To save this world." Nanoha looks down at Raising Heart before looking back up. "Even to save you..."

None of her words seem to matter as the book aims another attack at the group of fighters. Nanoha flies up, trying to avoid the brunt of Miroku's attack but she is hit squarely in the chest. Her barrier jacket can only absorb so much and she cries out in pain as she falls towards the ground, skidding and rolling to a stop.

It's not over yet though and when she is able to stand, she looks pretty beaten down and looks to Raising Heart. "We don't have that many cartridges left." Nanoha looks back to the book of darkness. "I wonder..." <Master!> The white mage is startled a little by the sudden call of her weapon. "Yes?" <I have another way.> Realization dawns on Nanoha, "We can't Raising Heart... it's too much." <Trust me, my Master!> She hesitates and finally nods as Fate calls out to her. "Okay! We have to get through the barrier!"

"Exelion Mode, Activate!!" Raising Heart shifts, into a golden spearhead with pink wings sprouting from either side. <ACS, Standby> Nanoha again braces herself, aiming the tip towards the book. "For Hayate!" A Pause. "Divine Shooter. Shoooooooot!"

COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi transforms into Nanoha Takamachi!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi transforms into Barrier Jacket Exelion!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi has used Divine Shooter on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo is very familiar with the shape of Miroku. He's faced Mikoto's weapon multiple times now, and even it's namesake once. Each time has been a harrowing experience, and when the Book of Darkness produces an immense version of Mikoto's weapon it's something like a nightmare come to life.

<PROBLEMATIC.> Fallen Stern notes.

It only gets worse when the weapon is empowered by one of his own spells, the garish purple light something he's also intimately familiar with. "Everyone," He calls, voice rising in alarm, "Watch out!" He doesn't have time to do anything more than call those words of caution before the swords fall.

His own weapon is raised as the nearest sword falls, held up as a shield even as he attempts to curve aside from the massive, descending blade. Obsidian strikes against the black metal that makes up Fallen Stern, the ancient device holding-though the impact itself is enough to send Endo crashing backward in a shower of sparks.

"Uwaa." His arms ache, but he stumbles to his feet, dragging himself up once again. The words being spoken by both Book and allies are hazy, but still he defies: "You're wrong." He contests, "Nobody is going to die!"

The massive sword embedded in the ground nearby makes a useful launching point, and Endo's feet launch him from the flat of the blade, to the pommel, and into the air. Purple light burns, and his own weapon mimics in reverse the path that the horrible, spinning Miroku's had just taken. Belkan symbols whirl at his feet, adding momentum, whirling him in a circle and sending him crashing toward the Book's manifestation.


At the apex of his arc, Endo swings that massive, burning blade as hard as he can.

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

"We are!" Cure Passion calls after la Sirene, including herself as one of the Chevaliers even if she is new. "...And we'll do our best!"

It's a good feeling, to see Cure Bloom back in the fight; she does not know about pain and beauty, precisely, but she does know pain and beauty separately now. ...Pain especially with all of this; she looks to the Book as she shields, feels the impact of the purple-black shield that she impacts, bounces off of. She leaps out of the way even as her attack fails, looks to try to see what she can do next--and is surprised as she hears the name of her own attack, her own energy absorbed by the Book because of course it was. It disperses much...

The broken hearts are not lost on Cure Passion, who notes the same as some others. "...She is," she agrees, seeing her sadness. She looks up, and--

"...I know what it is, to do what you can for someone important. ...To feel like something is inevitable. But I would rather see the truth, even if if hurts. And we--"

That gigantic sword--Passion's eyes widen. The way it splits, the way the obsidian crashes down, a blade set to destroy her completely. "Aah--" Passion raises her hands to try to catch the blade, and she succeeds in stopping it just before it would otherwise have sliced clean through her--but the force of its impact is enough that after an instant's tension, she's rocketed backwards in a flash of red, hitting the ground hard and landing again amidst the spear maze. "Ah--"

'It's not futile.' ...The Book is so sad. That hopelessness...

Passion starts to rise, her hands badly hurt by even coming near touching that awful sword. She hears Lera's declaration...

"You'll do what you have to. ...But so will we." Then she sprints forward, arms pumping, hands out, and moves so quickly that her shape becomes hazy and indistinct as she crashes forward in a series of whirling kicks that only seem to register after she is already behind her foe--

...Striking in time with Lera's magic.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Meteor Absturz on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Cure Passion has used Passion Flash on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness fails to dodge Cure Passion's Passion Flash, taking 39 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness braces 23 Fatigue damage from Endo Naoki's Meteor Absturz, taking 35 Fatigue damage!  Book of Darkness's
Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness dodges 13 Fatigue damage from Nanoha Takamachi's Divine Shooter, taking 20 Fatigue damage!  Book of
Darkness's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The shield knocks back Miroku's strike, and Mikoto whirls as she lands. Her lips curl in a snarl as the Book speaks. She didn't intend torture - didn't intend trickery -

That expression shifts as the book opens.

As she speaks words she has not earned.

"No," Mikoto murmurs, eyes pin-prick small, and the sound is tiny and trapped in her throat. It is not so strange to see the blade so large. It is not so different to the one with which she cleaved the cruise liner in twain. It is a thing her magic can do.

It is a thing Miroku can do.

And along it, she casts -

"Don't!" Mikoto screams, outraged and desperate. It is profane, it is forbidden, it is wrong. Not only to touch Miroku's hilt - though certainly, overwhelming this - but to invoke her most bitter enemy's magic over it. And those terrible golden eyes, for just a moment, find Endo Naoki, the boy she is sworn to destroy.

He must know how wrong this is, too.

It is his horrible influence which splits the ancient, terrible blade of Miroku, to make it a thing which can strike the lot of them. Which brings one of those copies down on Mikoto, the true wielder of that blade.

Along its length, malevolent sigils open on Miroku, a second before impact - a second before Mikoto cleaves sword into sword, glass-sharp as sparks fly between them. There is a moment of struggle, as the Book of Darkness's overwhelming force threatens to consume them like the black hole darkness of that pretender-claymore.

And then there is a flash of white, and red spider-cracks run along the length of what wishes to be Miroku, and it explodes in a rush of malevolent energy.

The true blade cleaves through, utterly unharmed.

And Mikoto snarls.

"Miroku," her voice is not understanding or kind but furious, "is MY WEAPON!" Acrobatic legs bend, and she leaps, tearing towards the Book of Darkness.

She does not recognise its sadness or its regret; she does not offer reconciliation, she does not reach out in understanding.

There are things in this world which are sacred to dark and transcendent things.

There are things in this world she is sworn to protect.

Endo has met the business end of Miroku before, blade and spire. And Endo knows that a Mikoto who talks is hardly a Mikoto more reasonable, more able to be swayed.


COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Destruction on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness counters 42 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Destruction, taking 42 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!  Book of Darkness's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness's counterattack, Aurora Burst Ray: Eclipse Totality, partially gets through, doing 35 Fatigue damage to
Mikoto Minagi!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Kasagami Araki frowns. For a brief second, she almost sounds sorry for the Book of Darkness. Was that...devotion to this master?

Teeth grind, and her eyes flare.

"...If you call that 'escape', then you don't know anything about this world! It's full of unfair situations that bring people into suffering and strife that isn't...that isn't anything like honorable! All full of pain, and people losing those closest through random acts of violence. That is the kind of world we live in." Kasagami snarls.

But then the Book deigns them die, and that massive Miroku descends even after she's flung away by the Belkan shield! Spinning, sundering, it splits the air and Kasagami can only push herself to leap far, far away from the impact. Even so, as she sends herself tumbling boots over heels she impacts past first one, the three walls from the impact! The Duelist howls as she lands, and pushes herself up. A swift shake, and she breathes hard. Far, far too close.

She rips her blade out of the impact, and dusts off her hair. This thing, no matter it's feelings, will hurt her Uncle if she fails her. If they all fail here.

"...I have a question for you." Starts Kasagami, suddenly focused from her worry for Pluto, Mikoto, and all of those she loves here. "What is the relationship between a Master and Servant? A King and an underling? ...Because I'm not hearing proper deference here, if you ask me." Her knees bend until they are on fire once again, and her ankles creak for just a moment. So many magical girls gather their powers, and assault the Book. Her head falls briefly, for just a second.

"For the sake of the people I love, and for this world I'll change, I will not die here! And neither will anyone else! Because as much as this world is wretched...it's the people that you're trying to destroy that makes this world worth trying to save!"

Kasagami is a blurr of movement, her sword's sheath tossed away long ago. Her slash is one of pride and love for the people that make up the world.

That make up her little world, larger than she thought it was. Her glove is left in scraps. She aims to be a falling star, if she can help it as she strikes for that compassionate Book, good eye glaring wildly. She looks, hoping to catch her love's eyes in turn.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Rose Flash on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Sayaka ducks La Sirene's kiss with a little yelp. She has enough AoAka models bestirring her fragile heart, thank you.

It's becoming quite clear to Sayaka what's going on with these attacks, and she curses the Wolkenritter silently, as well as her failure to stop them. Pretty Cure what Hurricane? Grim.

Maybe she's right. Maybe her innocent mistress cannot be saved without an awful crime. Maybe choices like Hotaru's really have no third option. The Chevaliers don't believe so, and Sayaka aches to hear Lera heroic cry. But Sayaka's crisis of faith need find no resolution on this blasted field. Madoka is behind her and death is before her. She has no choice. She almost never does.

Sayaka skips in rapid, side-to-side jumps as she flees the pursuing sword. It's quite a familiar blade, and hers is too thin to defy it. She lacks the time to summon circles under her feet, and if she summoned one well ahead to jump straight up, she might be left helpless when it pursued just as easily. As she hears the sword whistling behind her, Sayaka winces, and draws her consciousness far from her body. It has to happen, but Sayaka doesn't need to be there when it does.

Mid-leap, Sayaka's lower torso is slashed deep. It's such a solid blow that it twists her in the air, and she comes down hard, without the coordination to catch her fall. Returning enough of herself to her body that she can get some sense of the injury, Sayaka hisses, pushing herself up on her hands, and draws her cape close against her side, trembling. It will heal. Her soul gem is already seething.

The obsidian blade, the false Miroku, is backflipping for another run. Sayaka grits her teeth, feeling around for her sword. Where is it, where is that damn thing... the air is whistling again. This one's going in the chest. Sayaka's hands find her hilt, and she has no time to assume a stance. Drawing and striking is one motion, a powerful overhead whip.

Sayaka slams down onto the top of the obsidian blade with both hands and a screeching silver sword, sparks splitting between the blades. By brute force she drives the tip of the obsidian blade into the ground, where it ploughs hard, driving Sayaka back with skittering boots. As the blade sticks and starts to thrash to free itself, to seek blood, Sayaka matches it in ferocity, slamming her sword down into the Belkan weapon over and over. When it snaps, she keeps going with the shortened hilt, bashing it, bludgeoning into the ground, wheezing with exertion, the wound in her side nerveless as she forces those muscles to work anyway, frenzy in her eyes.

"Die," she orders, as she snaps her current sword again and drops it. "Die," she repeats, as she draws another and slams it down anew. "Die, die!"

Whatever is animating the weapon is fizzing. The next blow drives it unresisting into the ground. Sayaka keeps pounding on it until the noise stops, until dust surrounds her again.

There's a creaking noise.

Then, spinning like a boomerang, sundering the air with low-pitched whoops, the blade is hurled out of the dustcloud, right back at its mistress.

COMBAT: Sayaka Miki has used Furioso on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness braces 18 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Rose Flash, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki is
Psyched!  Book of Darkness's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness fails to dodge Sayaka Miki's Furioso, taking 23 Fatigue damage!  Sayaka Miki drains 9 fatigue from Book
of Darkness!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Saki's exploding fist crashes into the Book of Darkness's shields. Cure Bloom can feel something trying to surge in her but what little resolve she's cobbled together amid all this is still terribly burdened by what she's seen and done.

The explosion of her punch pushes Saki back, sending Bloom pinwheeling through the air until she slams into the edge of that maze with a horrible CRASH followed by a subsequent one when she falls to the ground. She groans, but forces herself up, staring up at that light, at the clashing powers above. She sees Passion leap in, light against light. She draws in a small breath. She saw that look in Mai's eyes when Egret fled from here. Her fist balls tighter. "I won't...let you burn this away!" she seethes, and then the Miroku clones appear, blotting out the sky. Saki grits her teeth and RUNS. She charges, dashing through the maze, cutting left and then right and then bulleting up into the sky as the gathered together apocalypse blade crashes down toward her. She whirls about, feet down, and--!

SLAMS her feet into that surface, then explodes away like a jet engine, her bones vibrating like struck bells from the impact but still giving her the power to surge toward the Book of Darkness, try to clap her once with a fist, then tumble past, find a fallen Haze Spear, and jet back in, leaping up at her time and again like a jet plane buzzing about.

Except with punches.

COMBAT: Cure Bloom has used Bloom Pursuing Strikes on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness braces 10 Fatigue damage from Cure Bloom's Bloom Pursuing Strikes, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Book of
Darkness's Block and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

"Just because you say it is unstoppable does not make it so!" Sailor Pluto is not in the business of just accepting the impending end of the world, not on the say-so of the Book of Darkness and not on anyone else's.

"You've given up." It's clear, in the Book's words, in her attitude. Pluto lets her condemnation show, on her face, in her voice. "So you gave us escapes thinking them mercies, because you think we should give up, too."

Chibi-Usa and Etsuko are out of sight now; Uranus and Neptune are somewhere out there, and so is Sailor Moon. She doesn't need to see them to know, to feel a fierce and protective love. She doesn't need to be close to them to protect them.

"But I do not give up so easily!" Indeed, any gazing into the furious depths of garnet eyes would tell the beholder: there is no surrender to be found in Sailor Pluto's soul.

It is well that the Guardian of Time is made of such stern stuff. It keeps her knees locked when an obsidian blade the size of a building slices into the sky above them like an enemy spaceship wrought of menace; it maintains tension in fingers that might otherwise go nerveless and drop her sacred weapon, in the face of such incipient destruction.

Still, her mouth drops open before closing again, and the steady beat of her heart skips uptempo. Mikoto, she thinks on hearing the girl's scream, and looks for her in a single frenzied moment of worry for her friend and ally, but then there is black movement overhead, like the edge of a thunderstorm barreling in...

The impossibly vast blade, violet-empowered, descends -- it spins -- it splits and becomes a multitude, and Sailor Pluto needs to worry about herself and not Mikoto.

Her own personal death comes for her and the senshi dances back one-two-three quick steps on light heels. She shouts, and as the blade comes for her again she crouches and springs! It is left to strike at only the spot of earth she abandoned, and Pluto herself somersaults overhead with the Rod spinning, heartrate higher yet for the close call.

Grace, crimson and beautiful in its violent expression, and her heart sings in the surrounding dark to fight alongside Kasagami once more. The efforts of mahou all around light up the sky, a brilliant cohort, and though Pluto may love some deeply and have her differences with others, in this moment they share a goal. And a defiance.

"YOU!" she calls to the Book, to the woman, as Pluto rises and falls again -- directly toward her, whirring titanium leading. "Pay attention, and pay it well! This is what it means to stand until the very end, to defy it, to REFUSE it!"

She does her best to drive her point home with the blunt end of the Garnet Rod, as many times as is necessary.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Pendulum Blitz on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Having expressed her heart, however petulantly, la Sirene is able to focus her attention harder. There is a thrill to this, she thinks, but this creature, this person, this machine... Perhaps this is the greatest thing she has ever faced.

But she is not alone. Her eyes prick at Lera, at Fate, reaffirming the bonds between them. "Ahhh-h-h-- Both of you--! And Cure Passion--!!" Because even now they are not alone. There are others, yes, but for this moment la Sirene cares not for them. What is the point of fighting over Shinjuku in a situation like this?

She blinks back the tears.

Not least because a giant stabbing blade of obsidian gravitation is smashing towards her. Throwing herself to her left, la Sirene feels the blade bite into the back of her left glove - twisting her around, throwing her to the ground and leaving her stunned momentarily.

get up, she tells herself, you can't be down like this

She is bleeding nonetheless. But perhaps that suits her a little; after all, blood is notorious for being red.

Clutching her hand to her chest, nursing it a bit, la Sirene looks to the book - and speaks to it. Her. Whichever: "You speak so certainly," she says, "and I want to tell you that to be so certain, this is a trap. Things are always the same forever until they aren't. Breaking them -- but for you, you would have to break yourself, wouldn't you," la Sirene murmurs, brow knitting slightly. "Can you not? Could you not lessen yourself, to break this cycle, O great tome?!"

("Ah - Sayaka -" But la Sirene can't really debate her tactics.)

"There is life after loss," she calls up, spreading her hands. "What is put together can be stronger - warmer - more beautiful!" The light rises along her - others are providing raw force. She cannot, not right here and now. What she can do though is to send that glittering abyssal inverse light forwards and try to bobble the Book's head with it. To veil her. To blind her.

And, of course, to touch her tears.

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Weavery of the Abyss on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness perfectly dodges 29 Fatigue damage from Sailor Pluto's Pendulum Blitz, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Dodge!  Book of Darkness's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness braces 16 Fatigue damage from La Sirene de Diamant's Weavery of the Abyss, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Book
of Darkness's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Blind and Tangle applied to Book of Darkness!
<Pose Tracker> Book of Darkness [None] has posed.

The Book of Darkness steadily watches the battlefield as her many swords descend. If she is relieved by her failure to kill anyone, it's hard to tell. She doesn't seem disappointed by the outcome, at any rate.

"I choose nothing," she explains, readily enough, to those who accuse her of self-determination, as she summons Nanoha Takamachi's favorite binding spell to counter the Magic Knight of Wind's. Glowing pink chains merge with the whirlwind, leaving both of them bound, and yet both relatively free to move. She shatters her own binding with a fingertip. "I cannot fight NachtWal. A thousand lifetimes, a thousand worlds." It may not be hyperbole. The dullness in her voice, in her eyes... Steven's shield bounces off of her forearm. It leaves a bruise behind. "Every time, I try to stop it. And every time it is I who bear witness to the consequences of my own impotence."

She glances past the group for a long, lonely moment, gazing at this strange facsimile of Tokyo -- a place that, even now, she is keeping safe for a few moments longer, through an expression of her power.

"You are not the only ones who seek dignity in battle," she explains, wearily. "But even killing me will not stop NachtWal."

Something in her voice makes it crystalline that she's already tried.

A moment later, Lera and Passion, Fate and Nanoha, all of them strike her at once.


In her wheelchair, in the arms of her Book, in the deepest darkest part of herself, Hayate gasps awake as -- with a world-shaking impact -- the first white crack in the darkness widens, and others spiderweb throughout the space.

"I remember now!" she exclaims, her eyes flying open fully. Her body stiffens in the Book's grasp, though not with revulsion -- just the shock of comprehension. "I remember why all this happened!"


Frustration hardens the Book's expression as she glares at the Midchildans and their allies. Lightning crashes behind her, crackling through the poisoned sky. The purple snakes on her arm writhe and wriggle.

Her throat flexes with strain and they seem to subside; she brings her unencumbered arm up to deflect the solid majority of Meteor Absturz, sending its trailing energy into Amethyst's whip.

Mikoto rises behind her, and she does not avoid the girl's wrath.

Neither, however, does she accept it. She, too, has something to protect. Something becoming more fragile by the moment.

The Book opens above her palm -- and Miroku is intercepted by an enormous torrent of brilliant, plasmic light, spilling forth from spell circles in the style of Lera Camry. "Aurora Burst Ray." They strain back and forth, before the Book ends the conflict by, somehow, inverting all of the light inside Lera's spell to darkness, at which point the resultant sort of metaphysical matter/antimatter collision's blast separates the lock. "Eclipse Totality."


The Book is crying inside as well as out. Where Hayate has become firm, she is now quivering, frantically smoothing her Master's hair, less kneeling than sprawling into her lap. "I'm begging you... please go back to sleep, Master! In a few more minutes, with my own curse, I will kill you. So I at least wanted you to find peace within your dream."


Swords come for her outside; Kasagami's from above and Sayaka's from below. The Book avoids the former, their momentary collision sending her spinning directly into the latter.

It would drink deeply of her blood if she had any, but she is a Book.

She looks down at the scratch across her torso.

It, too, weeps.

Rage enters the Book's eyes for the first time. Not just despair. Not just grief.



Heedless of the pain being inflicted upon her transmogrified body, Hayate sits up straight and leans forward -- cups the Book's chin in her palm. "I know you're only thinking about me, but I can't accept that," she announces, matching the Book's former gravitas with her own, grave for grave, as it were. But then she smiles -- a true smile, not the sickly expression the Book tried on her metamorphosed lips outside.

"We're alike, you and I. We were all so lonely... so sad. Powerless as individuals."

Leaning forward, she kisses the Book on the brow. Gently, so gently.

When she sits back, resolve has enflamed her eyes. "I mustn't forget any of that history. For I am your current master... and you are my dear child."

Beneath them, a new Belkan triangle has begun to slowly rotate. This one is as white as the cracks in their shared darkness. Whiter. It is painful to behold, in the way that it is painful to behold an angel.

"But Nacht won't stop! It's beyond control!"


With and without words, Cure Bloom and Sailor Pluto surround the Book; she gives no sign of her inner conflict. Her outer anger is further heightened by the lecturing and the stinging, back and forth punches and staff blows. She ducks some and intercepts others with point-area shields, clever little spotty triangles.

La Sirene has something clever for her too, and she is blinded by it -- but moreso by the way Nori's words absolutely stoke her rage.

"There is no life on world after world, because of NachtWal. Do not," she grinds her teeth, "Call genocide beautiful."

The Book above her palm snaps open, and returns from Lera's page to Nanoha's.

She glances down at it, then out, once again, at the battlefield. Invisibly, in the air, residue of the many mighty magics invoked here remain.

Not every spell that she absorbs she bothers to write to permanent memory... but this is one.

The pink light of the distant cosmos begins to rise around her. Around the book. Around the others. Everywhere.

Those who have witnessed this final invocation before are well aware that the little wind fortress on the ground cannot possibly withstand it. It will take far more than that to defend the civilians within.

The Book breathes in, breathes out. The anger settles on her like a cloak. LISTEN TO ME, the spell says to her, a memory of a memory.

It will do.

"Starlight Breaker," she says simply, so simply, the whole world seeming to hold its breath in anticipation of each singular syllable dripping from her lips.

And then the whole world explodes in pink.


"You're wrong," says Hayate, in steadfast agreement with everyone outside. And then she takes a deep breath, too.


Through the endless torrents of roseate energy cascading across the hollow Tokyo like an encroaching tsunami, the sacred force sparkling, shining in a very grim counterpoint to the Book's assertion that genocide cannot be beautiful -- there comes another voice.

Hayate's voice.

No one can see if the Book's lips moved, not through all of this. But they can hear her.

"Whoever's fighting out there, please help!" A worried child, but not a panicked one. A child who knows what she wants, at the very least. "That black thing coiling around her... please blast it away! Don't hold back! Go all-out at maximum power!"

When the pink recedes, everyone sees what she means: the snakes on the Book's arm have plunged in huge from purple to black, and expanded greatly; down one leg, around her waist, up her neck. There are so many of them, and each one seems like the writhing vein of a rotten world.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on Nanoha Takamachi.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on Sayaka Miki.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on Cure Bloom.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on Amethyst.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Book of Darkness has used Starlight Breaker on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Cure Passion dodges 106 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 71 Fatigue damage!
Cure Passion's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Lera Camry dodges 64 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 43 Fatigue damage!  Lera
Camry's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa cleanly braces 187 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 33 Fatigue
damage!  Fate Testarossa's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi dodges 75 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 50 Fatigue damage!
Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Sayaka Miki braces 59 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 48 Fatigue damage!
Sayaka Miki's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant braces 86 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 70 Fatigue
damage!  La Sirene de Diamant's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Cure Bloom cleanly braces 164 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 29 Fatigue
damage!  Cure Bloom's Block ability activates!
COMBAT: Nanoha Takamachi partially dodges 13 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 53 Fatigue
damage!  Nanoha Takamachi's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji fails to dodge Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 204 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji is
unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki cleanly braces 164 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 29 Fatigue
damage!  Endo Naoki's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Amethyst braces 109 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 89 Fatigue damage!
Amethyst is unable to keep fighting!  Amethyst's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto dodges 129 Fatigue damage from Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 86 Fatigue damage!
Sailor Pluto is unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki fails to brace Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 214 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki
is unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Steven Universe fails to brace Book of Darkness's Finisher, Starlight Breaker, taking 209 Fatigue damage!  Steven Universe
is unable to keep fighting!
<Pose Tracker> Amethyst [None] has posed.

They were doing it! They could win! There was even a weak spot pointed out to them! Amethyst just has to hold on against the onslaught of energy. She had to survive for the fate of her planet. She could do this. She could do this. She...

She cannot do this. "I'm... sorry. I'm not a pork chop or a hotdog Steven. I... I'm not strong enough. If Pearl and Garnet were here... if Rose were here... but... I'm sorry. Guess I'm a flawed Gem after all."

With that, Amethyst is no more. Yet her gem remains. Perhaps someone will see it and protect it while she contemplates her complete failure. But why should they? The world was over, wasn't it?

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

Starlight Breaker.

It's not entirely unfamiliar to the Wind Knight, but usually, it's being aimed at a shared enemy. This time, the shared enemy is aiming it at *them*.

And, somewhat more heart-stoppingly, the Magic Knight of Wind realizes that even if it misses *her*, that shelter of verdant magic - the fruit of her desperate defense - is far too close to its path for comfort.

For the second time since emerging out of the dream and back through the ruins of the World Tree, she calls on the Winds of Protection, her desperation even greater than when she staked everything in her heart to safeguard her precious big sister Kuu - but this time, the starlight breaks clean through the barrier of wind.

Maybe, Fuu thinks dimly as the ruins of Tokyo streak and blur around her, she shouldn't be surprised. Then she slams into something that feels extremely, terribly solid against her back, and nothing surprises her any more.

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

Steven can only scowl as his shield has little effect, though at least buys a second of time for others to inflict damage. Looks like her arm might have gotten hurt though. "Fight against it! No one dictates your destiny but you!"

And then it happens. A pink tinted halo of light begins to form around the wielder of the book. It was a familiar color. If it copied other's attacks, then...

Uh oh. "Lion, duck for cover!" the boy says, seeing that energy begin to ripple out and affect everyone in an omnidirectional wave of power. Steven attempts to erect a bubble shield to protect himself and his mascot, but it lasts little amount of time before it effectively pops and they are struck squarely.

The last thing he sees and feels is the jagged edges of the crushed platform he was on, and what he thought might be Lion, tumbling, tumbling down.

There is an impact--

And there is black.

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

Kasagami Araki is hammered into the Book all at once, sent bouncing off and towards the ground! She's sent back towards the strip mall, rolling, crashing, and ending up rightside up with a deep breath as she slams her end of her nodachi into the ground as she skids. Her right shoulder's uniform is obliterated, the young woman gasping as she brushes off charred skin.

The Duelist digs her boot heels in, and then twice again as she hears those words.

'Starlight Breaker'.

She's heard them once. And once only. But it's been enough that they've left an impression. She leaps back, abandoning her boots from the leap, and...

Her blade lifts, and she's right in front of her Uncle. She pauses only once.

"This is...for my Father, Uncle!"

And then she slams down that blade with all of her might. Her eyes close, and slice! Everything, to hold out for those she loves!

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

The internal anguish that the book of darkness continues to show is unexpected and Nanoha sighs. "Do you really have to do this? To continue fighting only for the destruction of everyone, including your Master?" She can see Hayate, so weak and yet so happy at the same time. Every time she saw her with Vita and the others she seemed so happy just being in their presence and doing things for them. It's hard to think that all of that was gone now with the Wolkenritter not around anymore and now the book trying to destroy them.

Nanoha watches as the books pages turn and she sees her own energy and power pulled from within it. Nanoha's eyes grow wide, "Noooooo Book of Darkness stop! Please!" Her voice breaks and she knows what's coming even before the words are spoken. Everything goes pink around her and even her attempts at shielding the blast of her own energy does little as the force knocks her back towards Fate.

And then... a small voice calls out. The familiar voice of Hayate. "Hayate-chan!" Nanoha listens to her words and focuses on the black coil. Even if she is unsure if she can be heard, Nanoha calls out. "We can handle this!" Her confidence waivers though as she sees her friends and allies in this fall in succession against the power of her own Starlight Breaker.

Soon though, the confidence returns in the form of her own anger. Nanoha looks around at the destruction, "Fuu, Steven... Pluto..." She closes her eyes briefly before raising her weapon, "You hurt my friends. You tried to destroy everything I have ever loved and cared about...." She looks at Fate, "We have to help Hayate!"

Nanoha flies beside Fate. "Together we can help them. We can help her! It's not over yet!" Nanoha raises her weapon, <I am ready Master!> Raising Heart begins to channel pink energy into itself, absorbing all the spent mana and energy in the field of battle as the girls join forces into something greater than they could ever be alone. Raising Heart takes direct aim for the coils.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Nanoha Takamachi has started a combo targeting Book of Darkness!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

"Noone is dying today." Fate speaks as a consummate Chevalier. "Not Hayate - not your knights..." She was about to say 'Not even you.' but she was cut off completely by the Book's frustration - as she begins to vent her wrath.

The shockwaves of it cast her away, she's unable to answer the statement of how life will be gone after Nachtwahl. And then - it rises around her. Fate recognizes it so readily. After all, she's one of the few beings who's been on the receiving end of it.

It's a memory of a memory. It's light - and power - and feeling.

It's every memory of being called Alicia all at once.


"Bardiche. Put everything behind it. EVERYTHING!" Several Cartridges pound in. He ejects the empty ones, Fate pounds in another. More are pushed in. <MULTIPLE DEFENSER PLUS!>

Shield after shield after shield forms in front of Fate Testarossa. A half-dozen layers in all. It has to be enough. It has to be.

And then the Book says it so simply. Fate screams out - but what was desperation in the past is grim resolve now. She's not remembering another lifetime with her mother.

She's not remembering happiness that was never hers.

She's remembering Alicia tying those ribbons into her hair.

The pink light shatters the first - the second - the third. It's like before. Fate raises her blade before it overwhelms the fourth shield - crashing into it like a mirror. As it demolishes the fifth and sixth. Bardiche crashes down. She puts everything behind it - all of her newfound happiness - her acceptance - her resolve. The pink energy doesn't divide cleanly. One can only do so much against pure expression.

Battered to the ground, she smashes down... but she does so on one knee rather than on her back.

When things have never been more grim - in that moment there's hope. "Hayate?" Weary and dazed - she looks at Nanoha - as if surprised she can even lift her head. And then she turns to look at the Book - at the serpents coiling and writhing uncontrollably."

Flying into the air, she holds Bardiche at the ready, "Can we give Hayate a little more?" There's a little note of static - but Bardiche tones back, <Always Sir.>

Coming up alongside Nanoha the two stand side by side in mid-air. "Then... we'll do it. Everything we have left." And Bardiche answers both her and Raising Heart. <Get Set.>

Midchildan circles form at their feet in increasingly complex patterns and merge becoming greater in combination than each could ever individually. Fate's blade held at the ready parallel to the ground as she stares down the Book. Nanoha gripping Raising Heart pointed straight at the arm of writhing serpents.

"N and F - Mid-range exterminating combination!" Nanoha pronounces as the power swells. Fate raises Bardiche high, "Blast Calamity!" And swings him down at her call, even as the glare at the tip of Raising Heart reaches critical mass.

The two shout in unision, "FIIIIIRRRRRRRREE!"

The sky becomes yellow and pink, burning the horizon into a bright glow that makes the Tokyo skyline brighter than daylight. It a fireworks festival in the summer and noon sun all at once. It is destruction personified - a pure expression of power and feeling.

And that's before the hundred-fold, thousand-fold blinking orbs of power behind them all erupt in twinkling stars of pink and yellow. The sky is awash with energy like rain drops streaming sideways screaming as they join together in an inexorable tidal wave of force.

It consumes, and consumes, and consumes seemingly without ceasing.

In short:



COMBAT: FINISHER! Fate Testarossa has joined the combo started by Nanoha Takamachi!
COMBAT: COMBO! FINISHER! Nanoha Takamachi and Fate Testarossa have used Blast Calamity on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Lera crashes back down to the ground, but she landds on her feet, to look up at the Book of Darkness and stare. Her eyes widen, more, when she sees her and Sky's attack deployed against--

"MIKOTO!" she cries, "MOVE!"

But, then, there is a rose-colored devastation coming right for her. She makes a small noise in the back of her throat, as it slams into Kasagami to one side and Fuu into another. Lera leaps, and turns -- and the side of the beam clips her. She goes spinning, her shirt and side charred. She slams into the ground, skidding over it, landing in a three-point stance. She skids over the ground, and then her head snaps up. She looks up at the Book of Darkness.

She hears Hayate's voice; she hears Nanoha cry out; she remembers Fate's words. "Hayate!" she calls out. "We won't let you down!"

<...Camry. Let me at it.> Broken Ground's chime is thoughtful. <I... I can do this. The same thing Jaren used against you. It'll work. And we can get those two in there.>

Lera hesitates, then she nods, and she glances to one side, where she sees blue. "Sayaka!" Then, she glances to the other, where she sees pink. "Passion! I'll get you up there--try to get those things! I'll buy you time!"

Before Sayaka and Cure Passion both, glowing, spinning circles of dark green light appear. Each is filled with Midchildan runes; each is quite solid. They appear by the dozen, forming a network of platforms to leap up, leading straight towards the floating figure of the Book. Lera stands up, then, and her sword shrinks down -- pieces telescoping and folding in, until it's a pen in hand -- while her bracelet expands back out, telescoping outward, pieces popping out, to form a clockwork hammer.

She clutches it with both hands. "Ground! NOW!"


Motes of light surge and trail through the air, swirling in a spiral pattern into the gem at the center of the hammerhead. It splits apart -- and then explodes, shooting out dozens upon dozens of beads of light. They swarm and sweep out, dancing about the glowing blasts and surge of power from Nanoha and Fate.

Then, they all surge in at once for those black tendrils across the Book's body, and explode with bright green and pale yellow bursts of light.


The brightness of it distracts, as two final magical circles appear -- high over Tokyo, but right next to the Book of Darkness.

COMBAT: Lera Camry transforms into Barrier Jacket Aphelion!
COMBAT: FINISHER! Lera Camry has started a combo targeting Book of Darkness!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

The world turns pink, like a sunrise -- but aglow with power.

It brightens the lenses of Sailor Pluto's eyes, and then it sears her corneas with arcwelder intensity.

Can she endure this? The eternal senshi has endured much, has endured things unbearable and survived many dooms. ...She is not sure.

Can the civilians behind them endure this? Can Etsuko, can Saito Araki? ...Can Small Lady? Those answers come quickly, and she knows that whether or not she can endure this, she must try.

And Sailor Pluto does not give up.

She races beautiful sunrise death and beats the surging pink, just barely, planting feet wide and Garnet Rod deep. Sailor Pluto makes her stand alongside her beloved Kasagami, stands tall between Starlight Breaker and the civilians, and has just enough time to set her shoulders and her teeth.

And then her world explodes in pink.

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

Mikoto catches Sayaka, out of the corner of her eye, as she orders the pretender-blade's death.

They're not so different, after all.

It's a moment's realisation which can earn no more than a moment, because her foe, now, is before her -

- but even striking from behind, the Book of Darkness is not helpless.

Perhaps it's fitting, that she strikes a Shepherd with a Chevalier's magic. Perhaps it's fitting, that Lera's attack is made manifest. She has wounded her with words so often - perhaps it's fitting that her might finally wounds Mikoto true.

Perhaps it's fitting, that Lera screams at her to escape her own light.

But it is light, and it floods everything. She cannot escape light itself; light-speed is not a metaphor. She does not want to escape, either. That light is between Mikoto and the woman whose death her blade demands. The only thing in those terrible golden eyes is destruction.

Miroku bites through. It will cleave light.

And yet for each inch it earns, the plasmic light burns brighter, blinding and brilliant. There is no edge to it to cut, and yet it hurts. How like Lera.

How like the Book of Darkness, to reverse the polarity and create something dark from it.

Mikoto is blown away, her scream of rage turning alarmed as she sails back. She lands three-point, hand against uneven ground, looks up -

- as Kasagami makes her declarations, Sailor Pluto screams defiance.

They are her allies and her friends, and Mikoto cannot leave them alone.

She straightens, she growls. The Book of Darkness says one word - another. Mikoto's eyes widen.


The next moment is nothing but movement, desperate and constant as the rapids. And there is one thing to know, about rapids and their river-foam: they are formed by dashing against rocks.

'Dashing' is the correct verb to use, here. Firstly, in the speed warranted its escape: secondly, the force with which it clips even a girl which manages to make it aside of the worst of the blow. It is to the side that Mikoto moves away - but Starlight Breaker paints with such broad strokes.

She does not land three-point, this time. She tumbles, hits the ground once, twice, three times. She groans, still for a moment as she gathers wits about her. Hands grasp; Miroku is still held there, within one. Good.

And yet, when she raises her head - she sees fallen forms of Kasagami, of Sailor Pluto.

Her muscles scream their limits. She is alone as she rises - alone amongst enemies. The Chevaliers band together. Mikoto stands alone.

She stands alone, and she will not fall.

The Book of Darkness hurt her friends.

The Book of Darkness touched Miroku.

The Book of Darkness tried to replace her Lord Brother.

The scream which rips from her lungs is terrible and bestial and furious and entirely, entirely wordless. There is barely enough wits about her to hear Hayate's impassioned plea, and yet the girl's voice, miraculously, reaches in even through the midst of deep berserkergang.

Cleave through the darkness.

Those terrible golden eyes narrow as Mikoto leaps again, and she screams her rage as Miroku's sigils blaze, coming overhead again, but not to cleave through her skull, this time.

No - this time it aims to score right through the arm from which that whole infection started.

She will strike with steel-rending force and she will not care an inch for her destruction. It is a horrible act of violence. It is so clear she does not understand mercy, does not understand reaching out to her enemies. It is so clear she cannot comprehend kindness on this battlefield.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Death on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo and Fallen Stern impact against the Book, and bounce off. It's a long tumble back to ground, and Endo's landing is imperfect, rattled from the impact as he is. But he finds his feet again, determined to launch himself back at his enemy as soon as he's able.

The Book puts a stop to that though, as she begins to collect the energy for the next spell.

<DANGER.> Fallen Stern warbles, and Endo soon finds that he agrees. He wants to be anywhere but in this general area, but the realization quickly dawns that the remaining civilians also happen to be in the path of the terrible Starlight Breaker. As much as he'd like to be somewhere else, there's no other place to be then between the Book's magic and the people that need protection from it.

The faux-Belkan throws himself in that direction, taking a desperate leap to plant himself in front of the beam, bracing himself and raising his weapon. <BARRIER.> An ugly purple shield is formed, another line of defense to join the rest of the brave magical girls trying to protect friends and loved ones.

When the spell meets his shield, he grits his teeth. He screams. There's no way he alone can hold all that energy back, the best he can do is hope to withstand, to add another plate to the armor. And he does, shaking, breathing heavy, every part of him aching in pain when the beam finally passes.

"Nanoha! Fate! Lera!" Endo's voice is horse, but there. "Let's do it!" For Hayate, and everyone else, friends fallen or still standing.

As Nanoha and Fate combine to rain destruction down in return, as Lera paves the way for Sayaka and Passion, as Mikoto charges, Endo prepares to assist in his own way. Fallen Stern is raised high, pointed skyward, and light blazes around it. It's not a sword anymore, but a pillar. Not a blade, but a streak of light that ascends skyward, burning away hateful storm clouds as it stretches toward its celestial home.

And it must fall, as stars do. Crashing down in one massive swing, brought down to meet the Book of Darkness and the black tendrils enfolding it.


COMBAT: FINISHER! Endo Naoki has used Stern Brecher on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Cure Bloom melees with a near-goddess for some time before finally pinging away and slamming into the walls of the maze, falling back down to the earth below soon after. And soon after she stumbles back up again, slamming her foot down. Mai...

Mai's crying. She knows that. She needs to stay up. She needs to go to her, when this is done. But she has another task, first, something she can use to force herself up.

>Protect the Fountain of the Sky for us...

"If we fall here...the things they left for us will be wasted," Saki whispers, tears streaming down her own cheeks. Her agony is different from the Book's. Yet, perhaps it is kindred in its way.

At least, until the Book's fury appears in all its terror. Saki doesn't know this spell, but Flappy is a reliable man who reads newspapers. "Bloom-lapi! You...you can't take that head-on-lapi! That power's too much-lapi! It's using the power you've all spent to fuel it-lapi!!"

Cure Bloom squares her stance. She sucks in a breath, too fast, nearly hyperventilating herself to gather her powers up.

And then she throws her arms up in a cross-arm block and screams as the pink hits her, washes across her like an annihilating, exterminating wave. It crashes against the barrier that forms. Her feet slide back against the ripped stone. She shifts the block forward to a palms-out block, pouring more and more magic into the shield as the outside world turns pink-white. Her jaw hurts from clenching her teeth, her throat hurts from growling, her soul hurts from pulling out too much power. She needs Egret to hold her hand, give her that power. But today she's fighting Egret's share, too. She's fighting for her, and for Michiru, and for Kaoru, and for Minori, and...

Her lips split and she doesn't hear herself start to scream over the roar of the Starlight Breaker pushing through the last of her shield. It may be the end, until that voice calls out. Guiding.

A goal. She can work with that.

The shield cracks and crinkles, but now Cure Bloom draws her power down instead of forward, and as the last of the annihilating Breaker comes at her, Cure Bloom eats it headon, BLASTING upward on a contrail of light toward the Book of Darkness. She can't do precision. It's not really a power she has.

"I won't....GIVE UP!" she screams, a mantra, as her fist explodes with a blooming sunflower of light that she drives directly into the Book of Darkness's stomach, just before it explodes to sear away those horrid snakes.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Cure Bloom has used Bloom Petal Straight on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

The sheer scale is something Setsuna can almost start to comprehend. Her own Labyrinth sought many worlds to pull under Mobius's sway; she has travelled through many herself. But a thousand... Seeing this sheer power before her, the former Executive can believe exactly what the Book says. The hopelessness she displayed before, inversion of Passion's own joyful power--it shows in her voice, in her eyes, and Cure Passion cannot help but be moved by that weariness. ...She believes the Book has tried.

But how can any of them give up, even so?

The sheer sight of Lera's inverted magic should not be shocking; intellectually, Setsuna Higashi knows full well it's possible. Nevertheless, its dark sight carves a path, a wound, in her. ...And she can see the scratch. No--she can see the fury. "Everyone--"

But a magic she has seen before begins to gather. ...She felt it, that day. She remembers; the black lightning that came after, the incredible might of the duel... the way she broke off to fight Lera after, in a need to do something, to believe that there had been a plan.

The world explodes, and Cure Passion starts to dance among torrents of energy, moving amidst terrible blasts as she makes it towards the barrier to try to block it--and indeed she can get away from much of its power, but it is so omnipresent and the barrier so small and fragile that she could not--would not avoid it entirely. Finally, pink power (pink--again, pink, like another day, long ago) slams into her and Passion crosses her arms before herself, before her guard shatters and her hurt hands hit the ground before the rest of her, leaving her half-breathing, staring upward.

She thinks of a father who never was. ...She thinks of two who may still be out here, somewhere. Would they have returned to Labyrinth already amidst all of this? Could they have?

Her eyes widen and her reverie shatters from the long second she found herself dazed, as Hayate's words call out instructions. Lera confirms it. So of course, the warrior from Labyrinth brings herself to her feet, curls her battered hands into fists, and looks to Sayaka for an instant. "Miki-san! ...I'll fight with you. I still mean that." Her words are simple, but the look in her eyes backs them up. ...That, and then she's off. She doesn't need to talk with Lera to trust her magic, and she knows Ground. She runs onto the first one, springs towards the next, leaping from one to another as if taking steps three at a time, crossing paths with Sayaka on the way up in a flash of red by blue. Where the Puella Magi is direct, relentless, the Cure is alight with each moment. Each step clicks against green magic, and soon Passion is rushing towards the center of the blasts lighting the mirage Tokyo sky. "Haaaaaaaaaah--!"

Up, up, far beyond the ground, Cure Passion rears back her fist, brilliant crimson light starting to shine all around her in a brilliant aura of power. Flashes of memory run by; racing up the Tree. ...Fighting, far away.

But the present and the future loom closer, and Passion feels this single moment utterly. The pain flowing through her body; the near-numb sting of her fists, the searing pain in her arms, the brilliant light and heat and cold this high up. It's only when she's almost there that she looks down to Lera. She meets eyes--and then opposite the girl in blue, the red Cure swings her fist with all the force she can muster--

Every ounce of that power, everything that's holding her up, targets that darkness, a barrier travelling with her that erupts into a great wave on all sides from her mighty fist.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Cure Passion has joined the combo started by Lera Camry!
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

That reaction. La Sirene feels a squirt of guilt.

She's bound too! Ugh, she thinks momentarily. Now I feel like an ass. But I suppose I cannot be blamed for frustration. The thought is glittering and lightning-quick in the face of the dawning implication. This NachtWal, she thinks. She thought it destroyed civilizations - perhaps the dominant species -

But entire worlds?!?! Wiped clean of life?!?!! La Sirene's eyes widen. This is a pretty big problem indeed, thinks the model.

"I... Who could make such a thing... why... Oh-h--!"

But there is not time to think further. That pink light is gathering, gathering with damnable intensity. La Sirene stares at it and feels fear inside of her, cold and clammy. She wants to run, to scream, to weep, to surrender.

But there is a brooch at her neck and something behind her. Something more precious than her. The glimmering light around her flares up before the pink storm comes.

La Sirene's resolve is stern but takes many forms. The first thing that comes out, and she knows not from where, but only that it happens, is a spiralling cyclonic cloud in front of her, perpendicular to the ground, its eye crackling with some strange cousin of lightning. The cloud, the shroud, that which protects against a cruel and uncaring star, does not last. It vaporizes, but the vaporization buys moments, perhaps. Precious instants.

Les Mysteres, save me, she prays.

They try. Perhaps they try. Is effort a thing that they do? It's not clear. Whether hallucination or truth, that glittering sphere of glorious glass rises outwards and away from her and strikes the front of the Starlight Breaker. The glass rattles; the metal frame contracts, crumples. Panes break, and the storm leaks in; as the pressure tightens, more shatters, the chain reaction closing inwards as the beautiful dream withers.

For la Sirene there is then a loud BANG and she can feel every drop of water in her body jerk and then

it passes.

Her ears are surprisingly un-traumatized. She opens her eyes, slowly.

Her outfit is tattered now. Only the lack of trailing elements has spared her having had it ripped apart, potentially taking her with it. The panes of glass on her Brazen Pharos are shattered. The ammolite chasing is cracked. The glass itself, the shard of the Black Mirror, is bare to the strange colored sky. Her outfit seems to fade in, and out, like a mirage for a moment. Beneath it is a tall girl, somewhat bloodied.

But... someone's pleading with her. Destroy the snakes, she says. Maximum power.

What is my 'maximum power'? la Sirene thinks bleakly. I cast shadows. I have strange lights. Compared to the storm of those, I don't... I...

Her heart screams at her. They're all behind her, now. The other Chevaliers - her Chevaliers, though can you be given such a thing, or is it only freely earned? - are combining their forces. It is efficient, but something about it. The pain screams at her again. Her entire body is slowly protesting. She strokes the wrecked frame of her Brazen Pharos.

Her ring finger slides down and touches the flat slick surface of the shard of the Black Mirror and sinks inside. La Sirene feels the iron-liquid pressure of...

... "Space is an illusion," la Sirene mumbles. "Across a thousand worlds... across the countless aeons... our hearts beat in syncopation..."

My ring finger, she thinks, is in another world. I am here. In this moment I transcend an ineffable boundary. Her other hand comes up to orient itself, shakily, towards the Book of Darkness. She raises her eyes, struggles to focus - the leaping form of Mikoto Minagi, a figure who often crosses Nori's field of vision at the worst of times, throws her for half of a heart beat.

A vast and glittering shape flies up from her hand. A curved hockey stick, in broad shape; a twisted and elongated cone in others. The outline can be seen clearly, like it's been touched with a dotted line. This hand, la Sirene thinks. A moment ago it touched Sayaka. A few before that, Madoka. Some before that, others. A while - longer every moment - Mami.

She can't move. Her arm's seized up. La Sirene breathes out -

And she falls to her knees and as she does the far end of that cone curls in on itself and assumes an impossible shape for a moment. One who watched it from the right angle in the right state of mind, dead on, might see a Mystery: as it is, the collapsing hyper-spatial tube comes at the strange veins of corruption from, so to speak, the wrong angle.

To pull them forwards, and perhaps to lay them open.

COMBAT: FINISHER! La Sirene de Diamant has used The Light That Never Warms on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: COMBO! FINISHER! Lera Camry and Cure Passion have used Bombadier Cascade and Passion Drive on Book of Darkness.
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The air itself is suffused with pink energy as power gathers itself unto the Book. Sayaka, in the middle of drawing herself a fresh sword, glances around rapidly. Suddenly, her breath catches, and she looks behind her, at the building that protects Madoka. Her eyes widen at those awful words... Starlight Breaker.

There's nothing she can do. If it was merely futile she would sprint towards the building to try to get Madoka out first, but there is futile and there is impossibility so profound that it's not even related to your goal anymore. At least Kozue is safe far above. At least there are others here who might save Madoka. Sayaka turns back to face Book of Darkness. If she can just stop it, then...

But it's already here. The sky is ablaze with beams, each one of them as monstrously powerful as Sayaka has come to expect of Midchildan magic. There is nowhere to run, no use in holding a toothpick in front of her. Sayaka lets her sword drop from her hand as it approaches. She falls to one knee, as if before a queen. She lowers her head, presses her fist to the ground, and braces her shoulders. A whine leaves her teeth, but as she withdraws to her soul gem, it all begins to feel distant.

"Senpai," she whispers.

Sayaka becomes a black outline in a blinding pink plasma. Behind her kneeling form, her cloak is visible as a whipping shadow, disintegrating moment by moment until it rips off her back entirely. In the next moment, the beam flashes so bright that Sayaka can't be seen at all.

It all hurts. Just peeking at her senses hurts. It's like trying to get her toe into a hot tub of magma. Sayaka can't even thicken her connection to herself enough to let her open her eyes at first, because every little crack she lets in hurts. Is this penance? At the end will there be forgiveness?

No. It has no meaning.

Sayaka opens her eyes as if peeling off a bandage, and shouts with it. Madoka. Where is she? Sayaka deadlifts herself, groaning. The weight of her arms is heavy enough that when she stands, they sink back and nearly topple her. Her soul gem churns. Every inch of her is pummelled, bruised. Steam rises from her skin. Her cape is just a collar now, her armlets torn, her breastplate dented, her aiguillettes hanging as useless strings. If she had to feel all this, she'd be out cold. If she had a real person's body, she'd be worse than that.

SOUNDTRACK - SLOW CHEMICAL - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TY6h5d_-TJE

"Lera," she rasps in surprise. Her eyes feel damp as she looks to her ex-comrade, who helps her without hesitation still. Who still, perhaps, considers her a Chevalier. Passion looks at her too... two ramps. These two... Sayaka has to laugh, a little cough of air. They think she can walk. They think she can fight.

Passion looks so innocent when she promises her continued loyalty as a comrade. Her continued belief. Sayaka stares at her, stricken.

Maybe they even still think of her as a hero.

Sayaka shifts her blank gaze up the path Lera forged, at the writhing black tendrils. Of course they'll be after Madoka. Everything awful seems to be. Maybe that's even why she fired on that building, with Madoka helpless inside. Maybe that's why she locked Sayaka away in a dream where she couldn't protect her best friend. Madoka must have been terrifed. Again.

Without noticing, Sayaka has started to clench her teeth hard.

Maybe hurting Madoka is why that disgusting smear of malice up there decided to create a fake Mami, to dredge up her very body, to profane all Sayaka has left of her sunlight.

And maybe Sayaka can walk after all.

Sayaka throws the channel between her soul and body wide for a moment, blasting herself with white-hot pain just so she can scream. Her bloodshot irises quiver as they seek her foe, her sword clattering in her hand. Then she slams the channel almost shut, so she feels next to nothing. Her swordgrip hardens to steel, heedless of torn muscle. Her legs plant solidly. Her lungs heave in their first full breath, no longer tense from agony. A needle-thin lance of all that pain is buried in her as she heaves herself forward, clumsy with injury, her reflexes nearly a second delayed. But her every motion is violent now, each bound a threat. She catches up to Passion, partly through Passion's forebearance, and as they crisscross each other's paths, it is clear that today, rage is blue, and calm is red. Every step is faster, every shove harder.

It's not raining now, Mami-senpai.

Sayaka slams right into the tentacles intentionally. She wants to be grasped. She wants to trapped close. Let this demon see just what it is trapped with. Let it rend her immortal limbs and feel terror as she does not slow. If a knight cannot stand between it and Madoka, then it will have to be a beast instead.

Frenzy is the name of Sayaka's sword. It rips, it thrashes, as Sayaka seeks to surround herself, so that every swing shreds, so that reflexes mean nothing and butchery can flow straight from her pounding heart to her blade. Her soul gem clouds. Her arms are bare now, gloves and armlets torn all away, her muscles straining against the resistance of her foe. She shoves with her shoulders, her knees. She laughs a song with the joy of it.

"It really works, senpai. I'm sorry I didn't do it like this earlier. When you do it right...

The light of beams ignites behind her, and for a moment, Sayaka is nothing but a black shadow, two red trickles of blood, and a huge white grin. She lifts her sword high, high, and exults:

COMBAT: FINISHER! Sayaka Miki has used It Doesn't Hurt At All on Book of Darkness.
COMBAT: Book of Darkness fails to dodge La Sirene de Diamant's Finisher, The Light That Never Warms, taking 215 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness fails to dodge Cure Bloom's Finisher, Bloom Petal Straight, taking 77 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness fails to dodge Mikoto Minagi's Finisher, Obsidian Blade: Death, taking 149 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness fails to dodge Sayaka Miki's Finisher, It Doesn't Hurt At All, taking 128 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness fails to dodge Lera Camry and Cure Passion's Finisher, Combo: Bombadier Cascade, taking 258 Fatigue
damage!  Book of Darkness is unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness fails to dodge Endo Naoki's Finisher, Stern Brecher, taking 190 Fatigue damage!  Book of Darkness is
unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Book of Darkness fails to dodge Nanoha Takamachi and Fate Testarossa's Finisher, Combo: Blast Calamity, taking 392 Fatigue
damage!  Book of Darkness is unable to keep fighting!