2018-09-30 - Reckoning I

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Title: Reckoning I

A cost will be exacted for the death of a Golden Queen. The Chevaliers and Shepherds discover the danger in wanting the same thing for different reasons.


Endo Naoki, Kasagami Araki, Kozue Kaoru, Lera Camry, Mikoto Minagi, Nori Ankou, Sayaka Miki, Setsuna Meioh, Tsubasa Kazanari, Utena Tenjou, and Yumi Ohzora, with a cameo by Eri Shimanouchi and Michiru Kaioh


Haneda Airport

OOC - IC Date:

Sat Sept 2, 2018 - 05-19-2015

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The empty seat in the classroom has not yet been filled. Perhaps it will be empty until the end of the year. Eri had transferred to another homeroom, quietly and unexpectedly. In some ways, her solitary desk was more distracting than Eri herself would have been.

"Let's see. How about Miki-san?" Saotome-sensei whips her pointer to indicate the blue-haired girl a few rows from the front.

Sayaka stares at her textbook, then shifts her eyes to her homework. The only lines that are filled in are "Name" and "Date." What question are they even on? Sayaka slowly starts to hear seats creak around her, as students turn curiously to examine her silence.

Straightening her spine, Hitomi raises her hand resolutely. Saotome-sensei ignores her, prompting Sayaka with her name again.

"I don't know," Sayaka says.

Grasping the other end of her pointer, Saotome-sensei bends it gently a few times as she considers. "Shizuki-san?" she asks. Hitomi's chair scrapes the tile as she stands and starts to recite.

The bell interrupts her, only a minute too late to save Sayaka. As the students stand and gather their books, Saotome-sensei returns to her desk. The class starts to flow out the door, Sayaka among them, walking next to Madoka as usual. "Miki-sa," Saotome calls, but she has to stop to clear her throat. "Miki-san, could you stay after for a..."

Sayaka's shoulders and the back of her head do not react to the sound of her name, perhaps due to the chatter around her. She is carried out of the classroom by the flow of students around her.


A row of flowers in a long brick planter by the walkway has attracted two young admirers--middle school first-year girls, by their uniform. "Aren't they pretty?" one is saying. "The gardening club does a great job every spring."

Sayaka tugs her bag higher on her shoulder. Madoka and Hitomi are walking with her, chatting about their favorite restaurants, and she tries to focus on that.

"This campus is so huge, though," the other first-year says. "How can they keep track of it all? Which ones are watered, which ones need weeding..."

"They have to keep track," the other girl says airily. "Good gardening is all about routines and schedules."

"How would you know?" one is saying, and the other is boasting about her mother's garden, but Sayaka is no longer listening. She hears her heartbeat in her ears, blood rushing to her head. She falls behind Hitomi and Madoka a few paces, fully awake for the first time all day. Her two friends stop, turning to look back inquisitively at Sayaka. Together they are green and pink, like azaleas.

"Sayaka-chan?" Hitomi asks. Looking up, Sayaka strides forward quickly, snagging Madoka's hand as she goes.

"Sorry," she calls back to Hitomi. "I'm late for something." She's dragging Madoka along at her fastest power-walk, which forces Madoka's shorter legs to jog.

"Sayaka-chan?" Madoka asks breathlessly. "What's wrong?" Her eyes can't help but fall to the cold ring biting into her skin, checking Sayaka's soul gem for signs of a nearby Witch. The ring seems calm, however.

"Nothing," Sayaka answers. "I know how I can find Shimanouchi."

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

A smartphone slips out of an open pouch from a purse, hitting the ground with a clatter.

Ever the Japanese gentleman, the man in the uniform is already bending over, "Miss?" His fingers just lightly brush against more feminine ones, adorned with blue nail polish.

"Ara..." The girl's smile is coquettish as she allows the touch to linger for a moment, before scooping up her phone from her squatting position, "Thank you so much. I don't know what I would have done without it..."

The guard straightens up and clears his throat, "You're... welcome." She's only slightly older than his daughter, but she could be a model. "In a hurry?"

"I'm not if you're not." The middle aged man's throat feels dry, like that smile now means something. "You'll... miss your flight?"

Kozue gives this carefree shake of her head which seems to toss her short hair. "I'm not here for that. I'm doing research." A beat, "For school. Our occult club investigates events like - you know, seven mysteries, ghost stories... that kind of thing?"

Mentally he rehearses the official answer from the company e-mails.

He was about to give the official answer, but she's standing so close to him that her arm is brushing his jacket, her smile suggestive. "I'd be very grateful for any... assistance you could provide."

The official answer is now officially forgotten...

"I'm not sure what I can..."

"It's nothing... /improper/... maybe... maybe it'll even make your job easier. I'm just wondering... are there any days which are extra busy for you around here. You know - more missing person reports? Mysterious sightings... or passengers acting unusually..."

He could feel her breath on his ear. Was she standing on her tip toes? "...you know... days which are bad enough that you'd want to work your schedule around them?"

"Uh..." His eyes flickered up and down the aisle even as she laid an arm upon his forearm, "... miss... young lady... I'm... uh... married."

Kozue Kaoru doesn't miss a beat as she asks luridly, "What's that got to do with anything?"


"It's consistent. The guards with seniority have all worked their schedules in the same pattern every few weeks. The incidents get gradually worse every eleven days until they peak, then drop off abruptly. They all arrange their schedules for the new hires to deal with the worst of it."

Kozue says with the smart phone to her ear, reapplying her blue lipstick while facing a bathroom mirror. Popping her lips together once done.

"Her senpai is careful though. She's not a regular at the food stands or the arcade. Maybe it's like the old saying... you don't shit where you eat."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Another girl entirely thumbs a screen, then with a few deft movements eliminates the map pin. "I still don't see why you keep such careful track." Commented her senpai. Eri's reply felt almost automatic, "Good gardening is all about keeping a proper schedule."

If the terminal is a mecca for people that enjoyed kawaii culture, then this employee storage room is a horror show. It's strewn about with empty mascot suits and stuffed dogs with empty eyes. Kittens wearing kimonos with a smile that is just a little too wide for comfort overflow from boxes.

A giant capypara head that looked like a blob of plush flesh sat in the center of the dark room. A constant electric hum resounding from the low lighting, that every so often switched to a sound like static. A drawn blackout shade over a singular window.

A ring glimmers - causing a rune to appear, of a gyrating sphere with needle like protrusions. Soon it becomes a mother of pearl shade with ever shifting oil slick colors dancing within it.

About to step in, Eri Shimanouchi hesitates to look over her shoulder, "Something bloody..."


"I hope the flavor's still vivid," Michiru Kaioh says as she pours tea from the small pot. The steaming tea is momentarily hidden by the shift in light as rough clouds cross athwart the sun, like a sheet of half-carded wool. "You must forgive me - it's last year's crop."

The light becomes stable again. The tea is a vivid, clear red. If it were not so transparent, you could compare it to blood.

Michiru lifts her cup along with its saucer, takes a small sip, and gazes out from her high balcony, across the sea. Into its horizon infinity.

The girl across from Michiru feels like a dark reflection, in her hair, in her eyes. There's something about her which is missing. Her lack of response to the small talk first and foremost.

Her fingers slide around the teacup, taking it within a hand, and only then does she respond, "...your tea. I'll partake of it." Even that feels flat and out of sorts. Backwards. "Delicious." The girl says after she lowers the cup. Michiru speaks anew.

"I'm pleased the trellis is growing so well. A place like this... Where the sky and the sea touch... they're precious to me." The other girl's eyes are abstracted as she inspects the trellis, "Precious. Perhaps it those feelings - that agree with them. Even more than the sea air."

Michiru lets the wind rise, stirring her hair. Her eyes close.

"Hm," she says. "No," she continues. "This isn't it."

Her attention returns to her tea time guest. "I must confess, Eri, that I did not bring you here wholly for tea. Once in a while, I have a lingering vision... and I saw you, and the sky, and the sea. And I also saw blood."

"Be cautious, when you are near the sea. Something bloody is waiting for you."


Her hand touches the blackout shade's drawstring, as if speculating upon the view beyond...

She does not draw the shade. Instead she steps away, "... well... we have it covered either way."

The Puella Magi steps inside the portal, a moment after her senpai.


Eri Shimanouchi gives Michiru a look of wonder as she speaks on things beyond her understanding. And after her elegant hostess is finished...

"It's fitting though - isn't it?" Eri finally says, before she prompts again, as if it were a light joke that she had seen, "That my future is a red one."

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

A yellow wedge of light widens, stretching across the apartment, refracting in a triangular glass table, then shrinks more slowly, until the final strip of light seals with the click of a latch. A far more generous illumination floods the entire living room with the flick of a switch, and reveals Sayaka Miki, standing in the sunken area by the door reserved for shoes and coats.

"Tadaima," she calls softly. She reaches down to take off a shoe.

Dropping her bookbag on the couch, Sayaka starts to make her way to the guest bedroom. For once, she's willing to obey her body's demand for sleep. Tomorrow is the day. This time, she has to win. But on the way, she notices a dim spot, and looks up at the ceiling. One of the bulbs has gone dark.

Rerouting to the kitchen, Sayaka starts to look through cabinets. "Light bulb, light bulb," she repeats to herself softly. Kneeling by the sink, she opens the cabinet below and checks through the trash bags and cleaning fluids. Striking out again, she reaches her arm in deep to feel around at what's behind, trying to find the floppy cardboard of a typical light bulb container. Instead, she finds smooth hard glass. Curious, she pulls out the bottle.

Whiskey. A third of it is gone.

Sayaka sits down on the floor mat beneath the sink, and slowly shuffles herself around to lean against the cabinet. She stares at the bottle for a long while. Maybe it was for guests only. Maybe it was super-old, left over from when Mami's parents lived here.

Sayaka lets her head fall back against the cabinet. Maybe.

Reaching down, Sayaka rests her hand on the bottlecap, leaving it there indecisively. Then she twists it off, lifting her head again to look at the mouth of the bottle. It belonged to Mami. There is a lot left. Sayaka lifts it to her nose and takes a waft. It smells sweeter than she expected.

SOUNDTRACK - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTGuyRGdEK4

Standing, she upends it over the sink, and watches the golden liquid drain gurgle itself away.


The apartment has been quiet for a few hours now. All the lights are out, and moonlight lies faint on the furniture and lace. The guest room door creaks open quietly, and Sayaka, blearily sleepless, steps out in her blue pajamas. Turning to the room that used to be Mami's, she takes a breath.

Mami's bedroom has been left just as it was. The only difference is an indent in the covers from where Sayaka occasionally lay in the middle of the neatly made bed, but Sayaka hasn't been able to fix that without taking the comforter off and re-making it. She knows she can't do that properly, so that little impression has to remain.

Sayaka sits down on the bed, leans onto her side, and rolls into the that impression, closing her eyes. The memory of a bloodied rooftop is too close, tonight. If she's to sleep, she will have to pretend. Exhaling deeply, she tries to remember, so that she can forget.

She feels restless, this time.

Pushing herself up in frustration, Sayaka clambers off the bed, rubbing her eyes. Looking into Mami's open closet, she reminds herself for the thousandth time what Mami's school uniform looks like. The blouse and vest are hanging prominently, all prepared for the next school day. Swallowing, Sayaka steps into the closet. With a shamed glance to the side, she lifts the uniform off its hanger and holds it in her hands. Rationally she knows it is no different than any other, but to Sayaka, it feels as though this uniform is made out of silk--no, something better and more special. This is an artifact, to her. Priceless.

We all do strange things when we're alone. If that's true, are they so strange?

Sayaka hugs Mami's uniform tightly. She crushes it to her chest and presses her face into its limp shoulder. She isn't crying, but she's breathing like she is. If it's ever going to get better, it hasn't yet.

But even here she feels restless, and this time, she realizes why.

Unfolding herself from around the uniform, Sayaka inhales through her nose carefully. The cloth doesn't smell like Mami, anymore. Sayaka tries to open herself up, to connect her body closer to her soul gem. But either the scent has truly faded, or Sayaka is forgetting how to fully turn off the numbness she uses in combat. She isn't sure which it is or which would be worse, but the end result is the same. Mami's uniform is here, and so is her room. But Mami is gone from both.

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The runway lights pulse still, and glass and concrete are still underlit with floods. But the windows are dim, and the planes still. Even an airport can slumber, but only for a few hours a night. It makes for a perfect ambush spot, for that reason--Eri has only a small window in which to hunt, so Sayaka can know exactly when she will arrive.

When they will arrive.

"Why are there so many of them?" Sayaka wonders aloud. She, Tsubasa and Kozue are crouched behind some air-conditioning units on one of the more remote terminals, where they've been observing for hours now, just to be sure. The area around the airport is necessarily clear, so she's been able to witness the Shepherds arrive. She had only been expecting Eri, maybe Kyouko too. Sayaka frowns.

"Do they know we're coming somehow? Well, either way."

Sayaka turns to her two companions, her eyes hard. "The plan is the same. We're going to do to them what they tried to do to me. Shimanouchi's got to be in that Labyrinth by now, trying to get grief seeds. So we'll fight our way through the Shepherds, enter the Labyrinth, and lose them in there. If we're lucky, Akemi and that girl are in there too, so they won't have any Puella Magi with them to help navigate. If we're not lucky..."

Sayaka shrugs. "At least Shimanouchi will be alone."

In the distance, one of the floodlights near the main terminal flickers. Maybe it's Witch activity, maybe not. But it's as good a time as any.

Standing, Sayaka offers a hand to help Kozue up. But when she takes it, Sayaka pulls her up a little too hard, on purpose, so she ends up in Sayaka's arms instead of merely on her feet.

"Stay close," she urges.

She kisses Kozue on the mouth, briefly.

"Tsubasa-senpai," she says, as she releases Kozue. "There's a lot more of them than we expected. I'm not sure two of us would have been enough. So... we're counting on you."

Reaching into her cape, Sayaka draws a sword from it, mana hissing like bubbles along the blade and then fading with a tinkle of piano keys. Will this be the one, she wonders, that avenges Mami?

"We're going right through them," she says.


[OOC] Sayaka Miki Shepherds - You are here because Michiru's divination predicted some sort of bloody danger for Eri that would occur near sky and water. Since Haneda is an airport right on the sea, Eri took the precaution of asking you to watch her back while she and Kyouko farm Witches, though she/you aren't sure anything will happen. You are thus going to be around the main terminal where the Labyrinth is, on lookout Blue Crue - You are here because Sayaka and Kozue figured out Eri's hunting schedule at the airport and know when she'll be here. You are trying to punch through the Shepherds and get into the Labyrinth, where the Shepherds can perhaps be evaded. Once there you want to kill Eri. Chevaliers - You are here because Nori has been able to tail Sayaka--she'll give more info but once Sayaka entered Kyouko's hunting grounds, Nori set off the Chev-signal. You believe (correctly) that it's the night Sayaka intends to kill Eri. The Chevalier party line here is to try to drive Sayaka off in order to spare her from becoming a murderer/uphold a moral stance against murder... the specifics vary person to person. So the Chevaliers are going to have the complicated job of opposing and protecting Sayaka at the same time.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBs-lPvk3Zk

A spectre drives across the late-night highways of the city of Tokyo. La Sirene de Diamant, changed, is oddly highlighted, seeming to glow all the brighter when the cross-cuts of street lighting do not fall across her. The group - five Knights sworn to aid this city as best they can - ride.

La Sirene is not explaining matters. She has to watch the road as they drive towards Haneda. The explanation comes from the figure in the middle of the back.

"I am not proud to admit this," Batiste says, "but I had taken the liberty of infiltrating a certain object into the personal effects of Shimanouchi... and, after our recent... recent discussions, into that of dear Sayaka, as well." Batiste wrings his paws, looking down at them, as if in guilt.

"For Shimanouchi it bore little fruit. I only knew because I had more than one. For Sayaka, more so. I am not certain if she has even noticed... But if you will look forward, cousin?"

La Sirene points a single manicured finger towards the smartphone sitting on the dashboard centerpoint of her Ohtori-won American-model automobile. The smartphone has a broad, wide screen, set movie-theater style. A blue dot is gleaming in the area around Haneda airport. It moves occasionally.

"When Sayaka made such a vile vow, to slay Shimanouchi... I... I had thought that she spoke in her agony," Batiste says. "That the pain spoke, not her. But she has been staunch in her resolve. I... I think she has been. But we cannot simply let her."

It is now that la Sirene de Diamant - Nori Ankou - speaks. She sounds wistful, in her tone, but there is an emphatic firmness here. "If we are fortunate," la Sirene says, "I think it will only be Shimanouchi and Sayaka. Perhaps also Kozue, but I do not think Kozue has the guts to interfere." After a beat, she says, "If we are unfortunate, then it will be something else. And if Sayaka is here, well away from the territories that we have held," not won, "then..."

Batiste seems pleased, at least, to not be talking about death. "Yes," Batiste says. "You see, she is still - she has not left the grounds of the airport since my cousin called you all. Hardly any motion! So she must be laying in wait! We can find her, speak to her..."

La Sirene de Diamant can think of other options, but she doesn't say them aloud.


A car is parked, quietly, on the side of a highway overlooking Haneda. La Sirene de Diamant had looked at the others with a momentary smile and a soft, "Thank you," before she had leapt the fence.

Now: Now, she is hard to see because she is circling round, avoiding the runway. Avoiding the room to be sighted. She is moving towards the terminal where the telephone tells her Sayaka is to be found. The brief moments of clear light when she confirms with a glance are the main points where she could be spotted.

La Sirene looks over her shoulder and points towards an emergency access ladder. It is more than enough, though, she knows, Lera may beat them all running.

<Pose Tracker> Tsubasa Kazanari [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Tsubasa held a firm grip around the hilt of the wooden sword, raising it above her head before striking down, which she did again and again, not stopping even as her muscles ached and sweat bounced off her body from the motion alone. She repeated these swings over and over in the middle of her room, ignoring the clothes and bedsheeths strewn all over the floor (and while it looked like a robbery had taken place, the truth was just that Tsubasa didn't clean up after herself).

The swordswoman had since long lost track of however many swings she had done - she had passed a hundred quite some time ago, but yet she kept going. This was mental training as much as it was physical, to sharpen her mind and focus for what lied ahead. Then, raising the sword above her head one more time, she made one final swing...

... Before unceremoniously dropping the wooden sword on the ground, letting it join the other trash on the ground as Tsubasa went away, mind and body prepared for what would come next.


The ride out to the airport on her bike was an uneventful one, and soon, she had joined forces with the two younger girls. After hours of reconnaissance, the time finally arrived.

Nodding to Sayaka, Tsubasa acknowledged her request. "I can handle it, Miki. You don't need to concern yourself with me."

Not one for subtlety, Tsubasa could finally stand up proper as she no longer needed to crouch behind the air conditioning. With a brief song, Tsubasa activated her Relic, materializing her sword and her Symphogear. Carrying her blade - no longer mere wood, but now cold, hard and lethal steel - in a single hand, Tsubasa's walking pace grew faster and faster until she was outright running towards the terminal window, the running start leading to a frontal flip (of debatable necessity, but again: subtlety wasn't Tsubasa's strong suit), straight towards the window, on the other side which she saw her chosen targets: Pluto and Kasagami, who were standing in close enough proximity to make them perfect targets for the Symphogear to materialize a rain of magical swords, which would soon rain down on them through the terminal window, the energy swords shattering the glass and joining the swords in a storm of blades as Tsubasa came loudly crashing through the window!

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

Lera doesn't feel too odd, sitting in the back of a car. She keeps her fingers drilling lightly on the plastic siding of the rear driver's side seat, a steady drumbeat born of nervousness as much as rising tension. It is a strange sense of nerves; it isn't the sort she had, when she was brand new to this. It is a deeper, but more subtle fear. She knows how this could go.

And she doesn't know all the ways it could play out, to lead to tragedy.

"Y-Yeah, I... I know," she says. "We can't let her do this, y'know? Trying to kill her is--it's not going to make anything better."

She nods along with the tactical assessment. The truth is that she doesn't know Sayaka or Kozue enough to have much of an opinion of her own. Kozue was an unknown to her; Sayaka was always seen through the memories of Mami. It was hard to understand her beyond the blue sword at her friend's side.

Lera's eyes shift to the side. She meets Endo, once -- and time and experience means she knows what he will do. Then, her eyes meet Utena Tenjou's blue. They have hung out recently -- time spent joking on the volleyball court and the basketball court. This feels--

"Not really the sort of match we planned to check out next, huh, Utena?"


BGM Change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBiQCZd8UII


In a moment, spiderweb cracks shoot up through the window as a dozen and a dozen again magically-made swords pierce through it. Shards of breaking, crystalline safety glass come down in a rain that is quickly overtaken by Tsubasa's blades. They come in, near-silent whispers in the airport, as they fly for Kasagami Araki and Sailor Pluto.

Which is when there is a crackle of golden light. The interlocked half-dome of hexagons flashes into existence, interposing itself in a moment between the Sailor Senshi, the Crimson Rose Duelist, and the spells. The shield stands -- sparks fly and explode, and the barrier holds.

Which is when Lera Camry drops from her flight, landing down on concrete. Her boots crunch into it; her black-and-silver shirt has her pendant swaying against it. The green jacket is gone, as it has been since the World Tree. And, gripped in one hand, she has a clockwork shield aglow with energy. It folds up, and then slides into place.

And a sword, two-toned, appears in her hand. Segments unfurl and lock into place -- with clicks and hisses -- until they appear. Lera's fingers are gripped around Soaring Sky's hilt. She doesn't, really, know much about Tsubasa -- but her amber eyes lock with hers, for a moment -- and then with Kassie's and Pluto's in turn.

She opens her mouth. Her brain searches, desperately, for the right thing to say. Instead, what comes out is:


<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Kozue's hand idly twitches at the chain in her hands, as she allows it to swing back and forth like a pendulum in it's slow circle from her crouched position. It was like a child twirling a Kendama to pass the time as she looked between Tsubasa and Sayaka.

"Maybe they're taking a page from the Chevaliers playbook?" Kozue says flippantly, as if unbothered. Her lack of tension a show meant to ease Sayaka's, as if she could prevent the coiled spring that she is from warping simply by being so relaxed. "They probably just don't want their precious leader ambushed inside of a labyrinth."

However Sayaka begins outlining the plan, and Kozue just nods her head, idly. She already knew her role in the plan. Her strength however was in her flexibility. She was a force of chaos. Homura Akemi and Mikoto Minagi set her on her heels before by catching her by surprise...

This time would be different.

Sayaka takes her hand, which is in itself wrapped around a sickle, drawn up by her fingertips - Kozue Kaoru's lips brush Sayaka Miki's.

She vows it will not be the last time.

"Alright... time to get stupid together."

BGM Change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4Q8Oi3-Kwo

Sporting a T-Shirt which has Water On The Thirsty Soul printed on it in English she slides out of cover - and breaks into a run, following Tsubasa through the shattering window. Glass showering around her like rain.

Giving Mikoto a vicious smile while she's aerial, she drawls, "Cass-an-dra~"

Nothing happens. There's no summoning, no doubling of her image. Her Child is not there at all.

What a tease!

Instead upon hitting the ground, she plants a feet and spins the chain of her Element out viciously, sending it in a wide arc. "Don't think that because we didn't sucker punch you we're trying to prove something-"

She says as she sends it outwards trying to capture Mikoto in it's links, the weight snapping around her. If she succeeds, she'll yank her off her feet - spinning her taut in one complete revolution horizontally in a loop. "-it's just more fun this way. Don't you agree-" -before her eyes flit up and she abruptly sends her vertical towards the long light fixtures suspended from the high ceiling. "-Mikoto?"

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Before la Sirene's plans can move fully into motion, someone moves. Swords? But the Symphogear is not Sayaka, despite some obvious similarities. "Oh no," la Sirene breathes. Lera is moving to intercept them yes, but la Sirene has to crouch slightly, to gather herself for a leap of faith. She vaults up after Lera -

And while in midair she sees Kozue leap in too. La Sirene, in fact, enters into the terminal directly behind Kozue, albeit moving at a very different angle. This may flummox Mikoto if she has entered that state of combatative hyper-awareness that slips upon all now and again, and perhaps upon her more than others.

She makes no noise as she tumbles a full somersault and pushes herself upwards, sparkling on the outer fringes of where Kozue's peripheral vision would reveal her darkling jeweled figure. So perhaps the first thing will be her voice. "KOZUE" la Sirene shouts, even as she swings a hand and sends a watery streak of that glimmering inverted light to try and smash into the chains Kozue has sent at Mikoto.

There is a half-beat where la Sirene parses the shirt Kozue is wearing.

She is in no mood to comment on it. For now. Mikoto is here, which means that there is at least one problem - at least one other Shepherd present, with Eri. Unless Sayaka was wrong, about which la Sirene is now hoping very much. "This is no fun outing! This is homicide!"

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The raucous sound of glass shattering under Tsubasa's blades provides both auditory cover and a very large distraction. Sayaka sprints along the ground, a fluttering pennant of a girl with eyes like shards of glass. The Shepherds had the advantage of forewarning, it seems, but Sayaka has the advantage of knowing where they all were hiding, having been here for hours. Her feet patter along the concrete directly for Yumi, who is sitting on a counter inside the terminal, but near the window to keep watch. The glass is likely reinforced; Sayaka cranks her senses way down in preparation. When she hits a dead sprint, she sails into a long jump, tucks her knees, and...

The glass window next to Yumi shatters forcefully. Shards spray Yumi as Sayaka's boots clomp down onto the counter next to her, one of them nimbly hooking under Yumi's broom and kicking it out into the darkened terminal. Sayaka's eyes burn like ice as she stomps that same foot down on Yumi's shoulder, pinning her prone against the counter. Sayaka knows this face.

"Are you the lookout?" she demands. Her white teeth alight in the dark, she slings her sword high above her head.

"Well. loOK oUt."

The silver sword drops like a guillotine.

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

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

When in an airport, act like an American tourist? In the dead of night, Kasagami Araki has a red-white-and-blue, suspiciously large golf bag she's gotten somewhere. A pair of overly cheesy aviators hide both good and bad eyes equally, flecks of steel grey and white peeking over them suspiciously.

Booted feet are kicked up onto horrible airport quality seats, and crossed over casually. Only the wisps of roses and scent of Ohtori that gathers around her might give truth that she's not just some lost tourist in the dead of the night. That, and the massive grin as her barely disguised gaze flits in paranoia to every entrance she can spy before her.

For all that she is putting off the visage of relaxation and confidence, her heart is hammering in her chest. That furious loving heart for a certain Puella Magi feels her veins filled with horrible ice.

Licking her lips, and sipping on a milkshake, the young woman crosses her legs and lets her coat of roses flick back behind the seats. Her lanky body takes up quite a bit of space.

"...I never thought I'd relish waiting around, Pluto-chan. Why does it have to be Eri-chan?" She whispers over to her beloved. Fingers brush against her bag even as a brief, worried look catches her stoic warrioress. Her legs are coiled like springs, despite how she seeks to play the unalert tourist.

Kasagami Araki is /awful/ at faking things. Every now and then, she peeks back to the Labyrinth where Eri hunts. One of her toes twitches involuntarily, phantom pains helping keep her awake. Every now and then, Kassie's fingers brush where she knows a hilt lay within that bag.

Kassie is jostling her straw to get out the last vestiges of milkshake when suddenly the glass of the terminal window shatters utterly as magic energy swords courtesy of Tsubasa rain down. Her aviators go sideways, Kasagami drops her milkshake, and is already backflipping as both hands find her precious family sword. That bag goes high in the air, sword held back even as she growls out her words to her love.

"No backing down for those we love!" Clikt! That long nodachi loosens, as the Ohtori Kendo Club Captain prepares to unleash steel before the onslaught of blades! Yet, she's just a little too slow!

Hexagons flash into being, and only further cause Kassie to hunker down like a proper samurai about to unleash that iai strike she'd been making for earlier. Those glasses finally fall off and she gazes to Lera with a severe glare. Her good eye flits between Tsubasa and Lera in equal measure. And yet

"...If this is some kind of feint, Miss Flamethrower Swordswoman, I will cut you first." She /did/ just shield them. And Kasagami remembers that fiery strike hard enough to trigger bad times. The chaos is just starting. Her blade flashes through the air, towards any of those swords that might dare remain from Lera's shielding.

"If you want my friend, then come at /US/ first!" A brief wink to Setsuna, Kasagami full ready to play the guardian. Her coat flutters behind her as her gaze primarily falls on Tsubasa.

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.


Utena stares at the tiny shadows cast upon the drywall by its more prominent nubs, as illuminated by the 'End of Call' screen on her cell phone.

She is out of bed and changed from pajamas to uniform so quickly that it might as well be magic even if it's just flannel and cotton and tight tight rayon.

She doesn't sneak out the window or even out the door. "Ne, Himemiya," she calls into the dullness of the midnight bedroom, seeking to gently awaken her roommate rather than wordlessly abandon her. "It's finally happening. I'm gonna go do what I promised I would. I'll be back as soon as I can."

Over the threshhold of the dorm room, she whisper-calls a jaunty "I'm off!"

"See you in the morning, Utena-sama," comes a sleepy mumble in reply.

Chu-Chu's snores remain unchanged in magnitude and frequency, throughout.

And then she shuts the door behind her with a strange gentleness -- easing the latch carefully with the doorknob. It closes like a lullabye.

Utena is gone in a swirl of pink hair, but her tenderness lingers.


Utena slides the shoulder strap behind her back but dutifully keeps the lap band buckled. Utena wonders if Nori is really old enough to drive a car but if their eyes meet in her rear-view mirror there is no accusation there, only uneasiness.

Utena twists her fingers in her hair; Utena drums the fingers of her other hand on the car seat, intermittently realizing that she's forming a percussion band with Lera, getting self-conscious, stopping, and then mindlessly starting up again.

"/So/ not," she concurs with her fellow jock.

She is both impressed and discomfited by the revelation of Batiste's spymastery, and looks between him and Nori's reflection a few times.

"I promised," she repeats.


The silver sword drops like a guillotine...

...and embeds itself into the remnants of another silver sword.

It is jaggedly short -- as is the distance above the chest of Sayaka's would-be victim. But both are there, there and vital and present.

"Sayaka," Utena pants from Yumi's other side, winded from the haste with which she was forced to interpose.


Sayaka sniffs, an abrupt, unsentimental motion to fend off a bout of crying. "So I hope you're okay with a sword like that, a sword for people who fight the..."


She is very pink in the darkness, as usual, but where their swords intersect, so do their gazes. How can two reflected blues seem like opposite ends of the color wheel? Utena is not flame to Sayaka's ice, though -- that kind of comparison would devalue their differences /and/ their sameness.

Utena twists their blades apart -- forces herself to look at Sayaka not just through mirror-brightness but directly -- forces herself to /see/.

The tenderness with which she closed her bedroom door is evident now in her voice. Perhaps that is the way in which they are opposites.

"Guess we're going to fight the wrong battle for the right reason."

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

Sailor Pluto takes a great many things seriously in this life; this is her nature. Even so, some things take precedence. An omen from the lips of Michiru Kaioh has her undivided attention.

Fear for one friend interweaves with a homesick pang for another. She attends to the defense of Eri Shimanouchi with grave alarm and a wistful sorrow, and with all of the considerable focus a sentinel of eons can bring to bear.

The fear expresses itself via a taut and limber quality of her limbs: it hones her and readies her. The sorrow shines in garnet eyes, where it always is.

Pluto trusts her back to the single fiercest woman she knows. She angles a glance over her shoulder... and down, because her love lounges in an airport chair. "You have an extraordinary gift for looking good in anything, including that awful yellow bucket seat."

Watchfulness resumes, and the senshi searches the empty terminal for any telltale movement. Pluto wears her full senshi regalia, and the Garnet Rod gleams in gloved hands. "I've known different kinds of waiting, in my time. This is the kind I am best at." Blood, Michiru had said.

"We'll defend her," she says. "From whatever comes."

There's no missing the attack -- Tsubasa announces her arrival with destruction, the glint of blades bristling within the wicked sparkle of shattered glass. Evergreen hair twirls as the senshi it belongs to does, a beautiful corkscrew around a girl who's about to be skewered... "Kassie!" she shouts, the name emerging as quickly as the motion, but both not happening fast enough.

Good thing Lera Camry's here, isn't it?

Narrow garnet eyes contemplate the girl -- her enemy, one of many -- and the shield she conjured, the shield which protected senshi and swordswoman both. She's a stoic one, Pluto, so it's hard to say whether she's surprised... but there's a beat, a delay, between Lera's question and her reply. It's to Kasagami, rather than Lera.

"This just got complicated."

More complications arise nearby, where she knows Mikoto Minagi and Yumi Ohzora to be stationed. Her hands slide on the Garnet Rod, broadening her grip as she levels it before her, between herself and Tsubasa. Kasagami's declaration pulls a nod from the senshi, who moves to stand as near shoulder-to-shoulder with her as their respective weapons will allow.

"Come, try us! The loyalty Eri Shimanouchi inspired won't fall so easily." The Guardian of Time plants her boots, and she looks as unmoving as mountains.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Murray Gold - Blink https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbJpNkTmsK4

"It's good. Really..."

Mikoto trails off, looking down at the sundae in front of her. It is her favourite flavour: vanilla and strawberry with sprinkles and extra cream. She's hardly touched it. Golden eyes rise back up to Yumi, lids creasing as her brow knits.

"Yumi promised," she says, and her voice is thin as razor-wire and for a long moment she does not explain at all. "... Neptune saw red. Eri. I couldn't stop it. Sayaka's coming."

She bows her head; her shoulders shudder.

"Help me, Yumi."


Schedules have never sat well, with Mikoto. She comes and she goes on her own time; it has little to do with the clocks around her. She learns the habits of her friends, intrudes on occasion. But...

... there are things she's learnt, hunting with Eri for so long.

Puella Magi are creatures of regularity.

Kyouko's night arrives, and it is important enough to remember.

Mai is not home yet. She left to see to Takumi - he was sent to hospital that afternoon, something about recent stress, Mai says he'll be fine and it's just a precaution, Mai is lying about it being fine but probably not the other thing - and she has yet to return. The nurses will probably kick her out soon. Not soon enough.

Mai has a priority list, too, and Takumi is at the top. And Mikoto, in her hesitation...


She can't ask Mai for help any more.

She leaves a note, in artful hand: 'Eri needs help.'

A pause, a stain on the page. 'Don't worry. I won't let Sayaka hurt Eri. We'll drag Eri in for more pudding. We'll'

The ink seeps through the paper as her hand hovers there at the edge of that last kana, unmoving. The sentence never gets finished; after a few moments, the characters are scrawled through with a thin line. Dark splotches of liquid mar the settling ink as Mikoto's eyes rim with tears.

She draws shaky breath, and rubs her face with the back of her hand. She tosses the pen down on the page - a brief unintentional scratch of ink upon paper, which goes long and stains the table underneath - and disappears out the window.

There's a picture hanging beside it, sketched in pencil: Mikoto, surrounded by peonies and zinnias.

She never told Mai where it came from, but the frame is very nice.


It's a nice spring night. Mikoto's still in her sunday clothes: black bike-shorts, a t-shirt with a cat emblazoned on it, light denim jacket. She could be a perfectly normal girl waiting for her plane, except...

... the bag on her shoulder hangs empty, zipper loose.

Because the contents of her luggage were never clothes, or electronics, or souvenirs - all those little things a girl needs to survive.

The thing in her hands is an obsidian greatsword, black as her hair, held in plow stance as those golden eyes scan the distance.

As much as she likes hunting with Eri - she wanted to stay outside, tonight. She wanted to make sure no one could follow them. She knows Eri will not be brought down by a Witch, but a Witch is not the only enemy which might be faced in a Labyrinth.

Even people they see...


She'll just make sure no one enters the Labyrinth.

Then there will be no other enemies in the Labyrinth.

It's simple. That doesn't make it easy.

That small, dark form stays close to something, rather than being on the front lines for once - and it's notable. It truly is notable, for anyone who knows anything about Mikoto Minagi. Unfortunately...

... Mikoto isn't the only HiME on the battlefield tonight.

A chain lashes out as if to catch her, and her eyes widen in the instant before she is



Because Mikoto leaps away, and that chain is interceded before it can follow. Darkness - la Sirene. A presence which began friendly, until the war, and now -

- and now -

- it doesn't make sense.

Mikoto's gaze snaps to la Sirene, eyes narrowing as she tries to reason with the unreasonable. Until - until -

'Don't think that because we didn't sucker punch you we're trying to prove something--it's just more fun this way.' 'This is no fun outing! This is homicide!'

Of course.

The Chevaliers are divided.

She should have known.

'I'd do anything for Eri. Eri's what's important. Won't hurt people keeping Sayaka away from Eri. Not if Eri's in trouble.'

And she is no liar.

"La Sirene," howls Mikoto, in her fury, "with me!" Her word is her bond, though there are scant few to interpret, to know: in this, they are not divided. In this, they find common ground. In this, she will not destroy her.

Theirs is obsidian darkness.

Together, then.

She does not immediately answer Kozue's question - with words. Rather, she springs forward to take advantage of the confusion la Sirene has offered that tangling chain, sword swinging down in threatening arc towards a HiME so much more fashionable and worldly.

"Fun?" She snarls, as blade comes down. "/No./"

Fighting has never been fun.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Yumi Ohzora /left/ the Shepherds. She spoke with Eri, dear Eri--and even her feelings for her friend couldn't make her support feeding people to monsters. The horror of the creatures that she's seen; the knowledge of what it does to people, when they lose family... The /way/ those Witch-kissed die. She won't condone it. But...

A vision of blood. Mikoto's pleading. ...She can't support what Eri's doing, but can she just let her be /killed/? Yumi has to make that decision, and the one she makes sees her flying away from the Infinity dorms towards an airport, her black clothing fluttering in the night wind.

But that's earlier. Now:


"...Yeah," Yumi answers, from her perch seated on a counter in the terminal, feet swinging lightly to and fro individually, back and forth. Of course she'll sit down for guard duty, though she has staff in hand, broom still nearby. She's by the window--

Yumi's watching, but she isn't expecting a shattered window. When the glass beside her explodes, Yumi shrieks in surprise, her high voice carrying easily--but her effort to throw up her hands to shield he face is painfully quashed with the stomp to her shoulder, which hits hard enough on its own to nauseate the gray-haired witch. "Ah--"

Clatter goes her broom; her hand loses touch of her staff. She finds herself, vision blanked for a second, staring up at Sayaka. The demand is surprising; Sayaka's /gaze/ is absolutely blood-chilling. Even if she were fast enough to evade--Yumi can't even reply in the moment, though she knows the sword is about to come down, let alone /move/--

At least she wouldn't die in the hospital. Except--

When the moment comes, the blade doesn't drop into /her/, it's cut short, and Yumi turns pink eyes to a princely heroine, could /swear/ for just a moment that she smells nothing but roses. "T-tenj--"

The two twist blades apart, and there is something strange between them, something that takes Yumi a moment to realize--

And before her mind catches up her voice calls out, "You're CRAZY!" straight at Sayaka. It's half-shouts, mostly-shriek, all disbelief with her heart still pumping hard enough to /hurt/ in her chest now--and Sayaka's boot still pins her shoulder. But that's when it sinks in. She stares up at both of them, but--

"But--But you're a Chevalier--" she says to Utena.

'Help me, Yumi.' Mikoto had said.

Green light crackles at Yumi's hand, but there's no time yet to turn it into something meaningful, not as Sayaka's weight starts to wrench her shoulder /worse/ every moment--

<Pose Tracker> Tsubasa Kazanari [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

The sound of her magical blades, the shattering of the terminal window, the sound of glass breaking: it was all very loud and noisy, and while still circling through the air, Tsubasa had to swiftly plan her next move. While Tsubasa might seem cool and collected on the outside, she rarely thought things ahead. Landing on the floor, her armoured boots cracked the glass shards underneath her.

Looking up, her eyes meet Lera's - friend or foe? Tsubasa wasn't yet sure, but she recalled seeing that girl among the Chevaliers. Tsubasa honestly couldn't say much about her (Tsubasa didn't exactly have the most intimate relationship with anyone from that group), but if that barrier had been in placed to protect Tsubasa's two targets, then it seemed Tsubasa had three foes rather than two. Letting out a frustrated "Tch.", Tsubasa certainly seemed 'surprised', but rather clearly not in a pleasant manner. Her one consolation was that this vaguely familiar girl seemed to be treated like a foe by Kasagami, so perhaps things weren't as clear-cut as they first seemed.

Standing upright, Tsubasa readied her sword, facing Kasagami. They had fought once before, and it had been an unpleasant experience for them both. But that didn't mean that Tsubasa wouldn't smirk in response to Kasagami's words. "Do not worry - that is very much my intention."

With distance still between them, Tsubasa sheathed her blade, her hand resting on the hilt. Despite the loud crash with which she had announced her presence, there came a momentary silence as Tsubasa's sword entered its sheath. However, this silence would be broken as Tsubasa opened her mouth again but this time to sing.

A Beautiful Blade in the Moonlight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkgTaarrbDg

A Symphogear's power is her song - and when Tsubasa sang, it was a declaration of war! Accompanied with her song, she made her charge, bolting towards both Pluto and Kasagami! Hand on her hilt, she unsheathed her sword in a blaze of blue - though it might be too much to ask for it to succeed, the swordswoman's intention was clear: she aimed to cut down both Kasagami and Pluto with a single strike as they stood shoulder-to-shoulder!

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Sayaka can feel her shoulders jar; she hadn't expected her blade to stop that short or that hard. She's lucky she can't feel things like that.

No. Lucky isn't the word.

Sayaka grimaces with the effort of holding her blade locked against Utena's. Her eyes shift down to the weapon the Engaged is using, which is identical to her own, albeit broken. Some of her fury is gone when she looks back up to Utena's eyes, replaced by grief.

"Tenjou-san," she greets softly.

Her sword disengages with a ringing sound as Sayaka tucks into a flip, using the height advantage of the counter to easily get behind Utena. Sayaka and Utena thus both have to spin around quickly; Utena is faster than the numbed Sayaka, but Sayaka knew she'd have to do so first. As she comes around she engages Utena, trying to keep her against the counter as they fence slashes back and forth.

"Just let me have this," she pants. "This one... wrong reason."

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

"Miss /what/?" Lera asks, incredulously. The seventeen year-old gives Kasagami quite the look, if fleeting; one does not take one's eyes off Tsubasa Kazanari for long. "The name's Lera Camry. And this isn't a feint. We're Chevaliers! We've fought, bled, cried, and /died/ this long for one thing--" Which is when she looks away from Kassie, and back towards Tsubasa.

"To make sure that everyone gets their chance to come back from the brink!" she calls out. "No matter who they are or what they've done!"

Those words, however, aren't enough to stop Tsubasa's approach.

Her amber eyes turn back on her, as Lera turns to face her. Lera wasn't a full-time member of the Chevaliers for a time. She had hesitated in the face of fighting friends. It changed, with time and knowledge. She did not, particularly, know much about Tsubasa beyond her skill.

It is ample reason to be on guard.

Her jaw clenches, as she approaches. Her eyes dart to meet Pluto's eye and Kasagami's good. She nods, quickly. Then, her eyes are back on Tsubasa. She flies at her -- literally flies, lifting off the ground, and /blasting/ for Tsubasa with a corona of red-orange light in her wake. Her sword swings back, over her shoulder, and then flame and plasma dance up over it.

"Like I'd let you!" she snaps out.

And then Soaring Sky swings in -- and there is a brilliant /flash/, as the flame darts off the edge of the sword, balloons outward, and forms a concussive blast aimed at hurtling Tsubasa into the nearest bank of seats in the terminal.

<Inferno Slasher!> Sky chimes. <Araki! I will try to keep the flames clear of you!>

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Kozue's chain is swept back up into her hand. It is a movement as natural as the tides. Like a wave that has crashed returning to the ocean. "And-?" She asks it expectantly, like she thinks Nori would have something more - or something better to say. "What's your point? Are you trying to the consummate Chevalier right now? Fine. That's what she needs you to be."

Mikoto comes swinging though. There's nothing in that warrior's blade that isn't Homicide. Kozue knows.

Kozue knows too well.

Rather than try to move away, Kozue suddenly lurches inside - hooking her sickle up against Miroku's guard.

Spark fly in this position of superior strength versus tenuous leverage in this blade lock that drops her to her knee.

"Suit yourself." The HiME replies to Mikoto through gritted teeth as Kozue's opposite hand abruptly flings the weight upon the chain of her Element towards the HiME's face at point blank range, using the sudden opening to dive to the side - unhooking herself from the parry at the same moment. The throw doesn't have much strength behind it - but she suspects the blades attached to it will lend gravity to the gesture.

It's not just La Sirene though, the Chevaliers are here. "Of all the... Tenjou!?" They're there in Utena's mirror sword. Where she fights the wrong battle for the right reason. "Sayaka don't listen to her! Who needs a reason other than Tomoe?" In the glare of Lera's protective shield.

The odds against them just grew even more terrible. Even with Tsubasa's strength behind them.

Up on a knee, she darts up to her feet, charging after La Sirene, the chain bouncing along the airport floor, "What /I/ need of you right now Sirene-chan..."

Suddenly she stops, the momentum of the chain keeps carrying as she hooks her foot up under the chain, before she spins around - roundhouse kicking the side of the vicious looking weight towards La Sirene with all the power of a fastball. "... is to go down without me wrecking your face so much that Tsuru would be mad at me."

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

All girls are princesses; Utena gladly surrenders first blood to Sayaka -- a fine scratch up her left arm, her black sleeve splitting, white ruffles leaking outwards through the gap -- as the wholly acceptable price to briefly, so briefly, split her attention away to Yumi and make sure she's in one piece.

"Lost Ivy," she gasps out through the spike of pain, "Run!"

She does not see the light in her palm, nor understand what it might mean. Green is for plants, and for eyes that gaze lovingly at plants. Green is for the gemstone at her throat, which isn't a Soul Gem but could have been. Green is good.

And then once again her whole world is blue.

"You know I can't," she replies, her voice a near-whisper, outsung and outshone by their interplay of blades. Utena is taller but Sayaka's sword is longer, having not been felled like a tree by the Sword of Dios in another time, another place.

The swords clash, come apart again, and there's another nick in the metal. Another scar.

Utena, falling back, happens upon an abandoned ropeline post (no ropes, just the stand, its brass ring ready to be hooked upon to define a queue) with her hip and, in a graceful motion, hooks it up into the air with the tip of her toe, then sends it flying towards Sayaka with a swift kick.

"I can't let you get hurt like that."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

As the other Shepherds present themselves, la Sirene is astonished. She bares her teeth then even as Mikoto speaks to her. Her luminous aura shimmers and flickers because she does not answer right away.

What is it that bothers her?

Nori Ankou has never prided herself on her academics but something is now tickling that intellectual side of her brain.

It isn't the part that's trying to keep half a moment on where Utena is (pink contesting blue! how ironic!) or where Lera is or where Kasagami and Sailor Pluto are moving to intercept. It isn't the part that wonders if Sayaka has found other confederates.

It is hard. This is not how la Sirene wants to live. She is a creature, a creation, of feeling and aesthetics. I wish Batiste were here (but I couldn't endanger him in this sort of place), or even Fuu Hououji (pusillanimous as she was). Either of them would have seen this already, la Sirene is sure.

"No!" she tells Mikoto. "Not WITH you. I am not here to aid you! I am here for Sayaka - but -" She falters as the sword swings. Ugh, she thinks. Battle is so uncivilized, even if it can be elegant. Her eyes flick towards Kozue.

She remembers the shame and the agony of the park. Her eyes close for a moment. She tightens her fist as the chain drags towards her. She opens her eyes to look straight ahead at Kozue. The huge weight is swung towards her.

The light around la Sirene tightens down - brightening even as it collapses, a sort of eye-stinging flash -- but the weight is an undeniable thing. It hits la Sirene in the front with a sound like a cracking tree branch, and la Sirene staggers two steps back. The weight falls down as la Sirene grinds her teeth even as she clutches at her chest.

she won't SCREAM

She rocks forwards, eyes watering as she struggles to breathe. She might not have been able to scream even if she'd wanted to!

But she finds her voice again. It is weaker, but it is still clear. "Then you - must try harder - Ko zu e."

La Sirene's eyes turn towards Mikoto again. Why is she here, la Sirene wonders through the red pain that is, for once, NOT metaphorically engulfing her chest. She makes herself lurch forwards a step, which at least pushes her into a more active 'my upper body hurts' situation, breath coming back into her lungs.

Why is Mikoto here, la Sirene thinks.

That's not what's bothering me. But it's part of it. Why...

She puts her eyes back on Kozue. "You cannot - blame us." La Sirene attempts to grin, and it comes off a lot more skeletal than her lips usually do. "Did she not - tell me as such? Perhaps - six or seven times?"

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Sayaka moves to duel Utena, and Yumi /rolls/ immediately, shifting over her other side and slipping back down off of the counter, rolling her shoulder quickly but not managing to do much for the pain. As soon as her boots hit the ground she drops to a crouch and snaps back up her staff, still ducked down at first as she turns. She feels a pang as she looks back to Utena.

"...I'm sorry," she murmurs, probably inaudible, "But I can't."

She wishes she could. Her blood is still ice, her heart still pounding, and it /hurts/. She can't really get rid of her fear. She can only watch them fight for a moment, before she rises from her knees. She can see the similarities of the two knightly weapons--it's obvious, really. She knows there is more here The way their voices change; the way the terrifying girl before her seems so /different/ as she starts fighting Utena. ...But there are things that don't.

"Okay," she says to herself. Quickly she traces the air with her green-gloved hand, tracing a complex rune in an instant with spectral trails of green where her hand passes. "As terror robs the warrior of his hard-won strength--"

Yumi shoves the rune and finishes her incantation, "Know weakness!" There's only instants here; she does not need to /aim/ much now, as what was air becomes a black projectile shooting straight for Sayaka's back. ...What could it do?

Nothing good, looking like that.

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

Twitch. Kassie knows her love is behind her as Tsubasa's destruction rains down, and those sharp eyes may as well be a shield to the Crimson Rose Duelist. Teeth grit harder, and she nods to her love.

"Complicated." She agrees in a way that's almost deadpan, if she weren't smirking so very, very hard.

"The kind of complicated that can only be swept aside by a blade filled with the love of a dear friend and the fury of a King! With the very wrath of the stars and a baleful Planet glaring down upon its enemies!" Rages Kassie. Commotion rains around them, and she catches flashes in her eye. Grey-black, pink, /blue/, so many more colors of friend and foe and foe-friend alike. Yet Kasagami can concentrate upon a singular enemy right now. Hands clench her sword.

Tsubasa's sword comes crashing towards her as that song beautifully exits her mouth. Kasagami is on guard, and only has barely enough time to once again draw forth some of her blade. A full fourth of it is tugged just in time, and she leans back just enough that whatever counterattack she was thinking of ends in a mild slice through part of her collar and across her sleeve. The dark blouse and jacket that had been quickly subsumed by a rose coat are carved up, and Kassie is sent back a good length of two men past annoyingly ugly yellow airport seats. She huffs from the force of the strike, only to eye Lera rocketing forward!

"You know, I /really/ do love women that know exactly what they want in life! Too bad for you that it involves hurting someone I love! What's your game? What are you getting out of this!?" Offers Kassie, voice stuffed part with worry and part with excitement over facing this peerless swordswoman again! She can't help but try to dig up just /why/ she's with Sayaka.

And then Kasagami Araki leaps upwards to the sky, only to kick off one of the many panels that announce landings up above. Her sword clicks back to it's sheath.

"Reasons, exactly, why you'll forgive me if I'm a bit wary of you! ...Not that I'm against all of those exactly, but most Chevaliers I've noticed have a taste for the blood running through the veins in my neck! And more importantly, Eri-chan's" Reminds Kasagami to their flame-touched heroine Lera. Still, she whistles as she watches the young woman go to work. Her body trembles up on high, far away. Definitely not part of why she's using this technique. Nope.

Sky chimes in.

"/SHUT UP/!"

The young Duelist might be a bit touchy here.

The tv she'd laid boots upon evaporates as she kicks off, aiming to be a shooting star as well, flinging herself bodily at Tsubasa.

"Araki Family Technique" She's gone.

And crosses distance in a speeding blur as she puts all of her skill into one single, pure strike. Her blade slides out in a flash.

"Rose Flash!" She yells, as dark red rose petals fall her every movement. She doesn't look back.

After all, the most stalwart senshi in this star system or the next is with her!

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

Kozue is all tricks. Pretending to summon Cassandra - feinting with blade and chain. For someone with such a knack for honesty where others fail, she is a consummate liar.

La Sirene is all tricks, too, but they are tricks of the unlight which do not wend towards Mikoto now. There is no visible reaction from Mikoto as her offer is rebuffed; she notes down the possibility in some distant corner of her mind and sets it aside.

Mikoto has no tricks at all. All she has is a blade and her killing intent. Kozue knows - and Mikoto knows - and perhaps la Sirene knows, too.

She would kill Kozue in an instant...

... to save Eri Shimanouchi.

Why is Mikoto here - a question unspoken and unanswered.

Here, again, her momentum fails her: Kozue moves /with/ her, in /closer,/ hooking sickle against the black-bar quillon and ornate gold patterning. She presses down; it is not enough. Because now there is movement, and Mikoto jerks back on instinct, wrenching herself away from the chain which comes towards her. It is a motion she follows through, sensible Ohtori flats pressing against the ground, springing away. Ribbons of the edge of her shirt scatter to the winds in the wake of Kozue's blades.

And Kozue is talking.

Kozue is talking to Sayaka.

Sayaka, who - "YUMI!" Mikoto cries, her brain seeing Utena (who saved Sayaka) dueling Sayaka to save the girl she brought here and not comprehending it at all. But Yumi gets up, and Mikoto can breathe again.

(Kasagami is yelling, somewhere, offended and imperious, and that tells her she and Sailor Pluto are probably okay.)

Talking is not the only thing Kozue is doing. Kozue attacks La Sirene. It is not a thing Mikoto stops. La Sirene has abjured her. She does not look out for her, now. She is freed from that necessity. She is more concerned with Yumi than her enemy - even if she is now a neutral party.

Perhaps, then, it is entirely luck which sees Mikoto descending on Kozue before she can press the opening she has made by attacking la Sirene's core. She charges with a howl, and her blade sends up sparks as she swings it in wide diagonal arc towards Kozue's legs.

Or, perhaps...

There is song on the battlefield, and then there is the battle-cry of Mikoto Minagi, bestial and wordless.

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

There's another thing the two duellists agree on. "Yes," she tells Yumi, and though her voice is not quite so awful as it was before, there is still something unhinged in it. "Run."

Sayaka is not the fencer Utena is, particular with her nerves sluggish; she brings herself closer to her body to compensate, to quicken her hands. But she is savage, and Utena ceded reach to her. Kozue's reach is of a different type, and it carries as far as her voice can. Sayaka sets her shoulders strongly.

"She's right, Tenjou-san," Sayaka says, advancing fearlessly. The post is an unwieldy object, slow in the air; Sayaka hacks it in half, base on one side, post on the other. She stomps her heel on the post half, sending it spinning into the air, and snatches it in her free hand as she advances on Utena.

"I don't want to fight you. I don't want to fight anyone," she snarls, as she carves violent slashes towards Utena, forcing her to respond to them. "Except HER." With her other hand, Sayaka is swinging the post at Utena's flank and side, forcing her to commit attention there or else suffer a slow, continuous bruising.

"If Shimanouchi had taken Himemiya instead," she says coldly, "would you be fighting me right now?"

Sayaka had seen the fear in Yumi's eyes, and underestimated her. She does not notice what is happening behind her. She just takes this moment to swing the post up through a gap in their swordplay, aiming for Utena's cheek.

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

Something about Kasagami Araki's smirk promises Pluto, as ever, that the complications will be made worth it. Despite all that seriousness within her, the lifelong guardian offers a softening of regard that speaks of amusement. Then: back to the situation at hand, with narrow eyes once more.

The one responsible for all the broken glass and swords -- not Kasagami this time, at least not yet -- sheaths her weapon, earning a wary look from the dark senshi. Tsubasa, she thinks, connecting name to description, and then Pluto thinks: do they /all/ have blue hair? It's the only rogue thought she's allowed.

An orchestral challenge issues from Tsubasa Kazanari's throat, and a declarative sweep of her unleashed blade follows! Its edge seeks swordswoman and senshi alike as its mistress seeks to make a vulnerability of their closeness. Pluto registers agile movement to her side -- Kasagami and her reflexes -- and the flutter of parted air, the flutter of parted cloth.

With a hard shouted syllable, the senshi crouches beneath the upwardly-deflecting angle of a planted Garnet Rod. It takes the bracing of long, strong legs and the summoning-up of a will that has not bent in a thousand years and more, but with the ringing of a loud white note against the symphony, the Rod and its bearer hold their ground against Tsubasa's strike.

The Orb atop her sacred weapon is an uncanny match for Sailor Pluto's eyes, in lustre and unplumbable depth of hue. Though her arm muscles still scream from the effort of deflecting Tsubasa's blow, she calls upon them again: to shift the Rod upright so that the Orb is between herself and her foe.

Through it, through Time's hallowed archives, she calls upon a thing that is like memory and like experience, although neither belongs precisely to Sailor Pluto herself. They belong to the Gate she protected all those long years. Overhead Kasagami arcs, and Soaring Sky speaks of fire. She allows these external stimuli to wash over her and focuses on the depths of the Orb.

"Golden Eternity Lens! Gate of Time, share your wisdom with me!"

She seeks for a clue to Tsubasa Kazanari within the past: some kernel of wisdom or glimpse of insight, anything that will grant an advantage against this terrifying mixture of music and blade that has come so close already to shaking their defenses.

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


Endo, when called, had come. He's a chevalier, and his loyalty is to Nori and his friends. But when it becomes more clear exactly why he was called he remains silent, dark eyes staring out the window as Tokyo passes by. Clasped inside of his fingers is a ring, the purple gemstone atop it pulsing slowly in the darkness.

'When Sayaka made such a vile vow, to slay Shimanouchi...'

Eri Shimanouchi will only hurt more people if she's alive.

'"We can't let her do this, y'know? Trying to kill her is--'

Sayaka Miki shouldn't have to bear the burden of her death.

How do you make war half-way?

Endo doesn't speak. Doesn't say anything. Not when the car stops, not when the rest of the Chevaliers depart to give protection to their enemies. Not until he's alone, just briefly, and he says:

"Sorry, Sayaka-chan."


Endo's entrance to preceded by the shattering of glass-just a little, there's not much left to actually go through. There's a streak of purple, a crash of metal into concrete, and he crashes into the ground between Sayaka and Yumi. Dark violet flares as a barrier comes to life, a magical shell that cracks and flickers as Yumi's curse slams into it. He sinks under the weight of the spell, grits his teeth, but he holds.

"Back off." The words are a snarl, sharp and loud. "And get out."

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

"It's her choice to make!" Kozue shouts towards Utena. Knowing that sometimes...

Letting someone get hurt is the only way to save them.

What will be left of her though?

What will be left?

Kozue tries not to think about it.

The chain zips back into her hand, as she meets La Sirene's eyes. "Try harder? /That's/ what you have to say? Do you have any idea how soft I've been on you? Oh Sirene-chan the things I could tell you-"

Canting her head towards Mikoto even as the HiME attacks her.

One step and one cut. It was always amusing when Takeo tried to lecture her on swordsmanship during the duels. One doesn't need to be a kendo master to know such things. Kozue finds herself leaping backwards, even as the sword flashes by. Neatly shaving off the denim of the skinny jeans she's wearing. Adrenaline fueled - she's not certain if Mikoto got any flesh or blood or meat beneath it.

She doesn't dare look, instead she presses her opposite foot up against the counter she's up against, reversing the momentum as she launches herself at Mikoto. Her sickle flashing in the air as she tries to slice her during the gap between her attack - and recovery.

It's an astoundingly small gap.

"-this girl tried to help Homura Akemi assassinate your good friend over there with a sniper rifle!"

Hitting the ground in a shoulder roll, she's up on her feet and breaks into a run only just now noticing the limp in the leg Mikoto had cut. "Araki over there wants to act so noble when she laughs at torture victims - ha! Do you want to know what kinds of acts Sailor Pluto's loyalty really inspires?"

That isn't even detailing her own sins, her own deep sins which make her as bad or worse than any of them, "Deep down you already want these people dead and gone and you know it. Don't make me /really/ test that Chevalier resolve of yours Sirene-chan. Get out of our way before you /really/ get hurt."

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Nero - Into The Past https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ndv9ecwOpjk

Yumi fires her shot and Endo arrives and Utena dares not spare him a glance the way she did the witch; a quick, sharp bark of his name is both acknowledgement and gratitude but she is simply too busy being brutalized to give more.

Utena blocks the slashes and suffers bruises for it until it occurs to her to bring her own hand out to catch the blunt end of the post just as it's about to reach her face. Now they're connected by it, if briefly -- it's already beginning to splinter under the strain.

She cannot block the words, and bows her head.

But her response is, perhaps, not what might be initially expected by the sharp sucking gasp, the abrupt bloodlessness of her skin. Her ribs may be bruised but they show up in her eyes instead.

For a moment she seems far away, looking at another place entirely. Lighting strikes behind a cathedral's stained glass fresco. It can't reach her, in her coffin.

"I'd be hiding somewhere, wondering what the point is in living on," she says, quietly, with the honest ring of experience. And the tenderness still isn't gone, it lingers on, without defiance, only a sort of terrible, piercing presence. "You know, you aren't the only one who's ever had someone they love die."

Opposites. Equals.

"I waited for death. You're seeking it out. But -- Sayaka --"

The post shatters. Wood fills the air and is joined by a few shimmering drops of water, and a few more of blood, from her abused palm. Undeterred, Utena closes in for a shoulder-block, trying to slam them both to the floor, trying to grab, to restrain -- to hold.

Last time she held Sayaka, it was Sayaka's blood on her hands. Now it's only her own.

She's shouting through her tears, a little nasal from a rapidly stuffing nose.

"--They're not coming back! You can't kill for her and you can't die for her either! Because she's gone!"

<Pose Tracker> Tsubasa Kazanari [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

How ironic; had Tsubasa bothered to learn to know the Chevaliers, she would now have been in a better situation to fight them. It was contradictory, to say the least. But now, Tsubasa instead found her attack interrupted by the girl who had not too long ago been her ally. She had very little time to dodge, throwing herself to the side rather inelegantly to dodge the fireball: to a certain degree, she succeeded in dodging the brunt of the attack, but the blast that followed her still launched her to the seats, the swordswoman crashing through them. Dirt and debris were kicked up from the impact, but Tsubasa was mostly unharmed from the crash - a bit singed from the fireball, but plowing through the seats hadn't damaged her too much.

Tsubasa was, on the other hand, frustrated that her attack had failed to give her the decisive victory she had hoped for. Getting back to her feet with an unneccessarily flashy, acrobatic move, Tsubasa soon stood upright once more, facing her opponents.

"I do not mind a woman who don't hold back; somebody who holds true to their desires." Tsubasa spoke, the words and slight smirk the closest thing the blue-haired swordswoman would come to paying respects -- but it was clear that said respect would not hold her back from continuing her battle. Raising her sword, she greets Kasagami's blade with her own as the other woman throws herself at Tsubasa, the two of them once again locking swords! "But I am a weapon!" Tsubasa shouted, replying to Kasagami even as they fought. "I have no desires; I live merely by my duties as a living sword!" Tsubasa shouted out, almost as if she was convincing herself as much as the women she faced.

With her attention entirely on Kasagami for the moment, Tsubasa fails to notice the spell cast by Sailor Pluto; not that it would have made much difference for Tsubasa, as the swordswoman could hardly be expected to understand that her deepest secrets were being revealed in prophetic visions.

"Tsubasa, live--" The last words of Tsubasa's most procious person, as she turned to dust in Tsubasa's arms. And, after that, how guilt made Tsubasa totally ignore those words.

Sailor Pluto could see Tsubasa, hospitilized and broken, again and again, from bringing beyond her limit. How eagerly she threw herself in combat; how she had used her Swan Song to fight, even when blood poured from the mouth. She could see Tsubasa, sitting on the hospital bed, with her uncle and commander next to her, scolding her for her recklessness -- and how Tsubasa used the same excuse that she had just yelled to Kasagami, that a sword needed no emotions, that her life wouldn't have any meaning but battle -- to justify her own death wish.

All the events, pieced together, made it clear that Tsubasa's bravery in battle came from a total disregard for her own well-being. A disregard that one no doubt easily could exploit...

Though, as all these insights were gleamed, Tsubasa herself was focused entirely on the fellow swordswoman in front of her, Tsubasa's song growing louder as she applied more and more strength, aiming to push Kasagami back!

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Nori Ankou - la Sirene de Diamant - is not exactly thankful that Mikoto is attacking Kozue, but it does give her a certain bit of room to maneuver. She has never been the swiftest of the maidens of magic, while Kozue is, according to leading authorities, /very/ fast. She struggles to breathe a little more.

I wonder if she'd have staved in my chest if I hadn't had the Pharos shining, la Sirene thinks. Then: If I"m thinking things like that I can't be that badly hurt. Rolling her shoulders, she takes a deep breath to say something -

La Sirene stops at the statement.

Her head turns to look at Sayaka. Back to Mikoto. Back to Sayaka - ah, she's striving with Utena, I'm woolgathering, she curses herself -

"Never do that again!" she tells Mikoto, in a tone of Authority. Then to Kozue, she says, "Yes, they have been vicious and cruel, Kozue. I --" She falters for a moment, sucks breath in through her teeth -- her face starts to crumple up as if to open up her tears -

Will alone seizes it. I cannot, she thinks. I can later. I will sob my eyes out until I drown in my own tears... LATER!

Her voice gains a little pitch. "Their viciousness does not justify this, Kozue. I do not do this for them. I would shed few tears, but I cannot let Sayaka slay her in cold blood like this. Look at what you are doing! The survivors would come for you! Then the other survivors will come for THEM! Can you not see!? Do you want to create a feudal war -- more than we have already?!"

La Sirene sweeps a hand through her hair as she steps forwards. "And you speak of protecting me so much and you will not even protect the girl you act as though you love from murder?! I am a cruel ghost from a stormy sea, and it is ME you protect, not that so-sweet girl whose dreams you have already toyed with!?"

Her eyes then widen.

"Minagi," she says, as if thunderstruck. This question comes during the middle of a vicious clash of blades but la Sirene is pretty loud and good at projecting. "You are here. All of you are out here. Why are you not in the Labyrinth fighting the Witch??"

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

'Run', Sayaka had said too. That voice will be in Yumi's nightmares if she lives to have any. It would be easier to leave. It would be /safer/. ...She should think of her condition; think of how people would feel if something happened to her.

...But she would know, if she did. She would always know.

"I'm fine!" Yumi calls back out to Mikoto as she hears her, and works her magic. But--

The glass shatters again and Yumi flinches, before she sees the barrier erupt before her, sees /Endo/ and his great weapon. She blinks in surprise, looks him up and down--He grits his teeth at her. He /snarls/.

"Yeah, of course there's another one," Yumi says, but what might sound dismissive is belied by the way her eyes don't so much as /shift/ from Endo. She looks ill, frankly. In her black dress, with her pointed hat, she cuts a figure that seems suited to the Shepherds' stories. ...Except for her eyes. There is no malice there.

"No," she answers. "I don't like what she does. But I won't leave Eri to die."

Yumi breathes in, sets her staff before herself. "That's not the kind of witch I want to be. So if you're here to help that girl kill her..."

Yumi thrusts her white staff forward, the gem at its top gleaming /brilliantly/ green, "Then YOU GET OUT!"

A green beam crashes straight for Endo from Yumi's implement, black-edged and glowing with power.

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

"If us being here to stop them from killing you and her--for Sayaka's sake--isn't enough to convince you, then... I dunno what will, y'know!" Lera calls out to Kassie, but there isn't much else to be said. She still moves, well enough, to keep from getting in Kasagami's and Pluto's way.

<Why--I will not! I am a Device of established pedigree, repaired and refined by a well-renowned Device Meister, /and/ here to help you! The least I could ask for is some gratitude!>

Tsubasa is quickly back on her feet, and already barreling in on Kasagami. She spares a quick glance at Sailor Pluto; she has to hope that there is /some/ trick up her sleeves. Then, she looks back at Tsubasa. Her teeth grit, and she swings Soaring Sky around. The blade shines, glinting in what rare light a midnight airport can offer.

She launches forward, then, and comes at Tsubasa from the side. "A weapon?! You're more than that!"

<I literally /am/ a weapon -- and even I know...>

Lera swings around. She flies up -- shooting up about six feet over Tsubasa's head -- and then she comes down with a terrific axe kick dropped down on her. Sky speaks, the whole while:

<A weapon is more than how they strike and who they cut down!>

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

Blades clash, and Kasagami is pushed back! Tsubasa's blade and Kassie's nodachi kiss steel upon steel, and sharp sparks fly from both as they press their strength into each other! Teeth grit.

"Don't be ridiculous!" Starts Kassie. Once again, Tsubasa only makes Kasagami that much more angry, and her words grate against her heart! Bootheels dig, and she finds herself being pushed back! She can feel rubber and metal streak across the floor thanks to the strength of the Symphogear wielder!

And yet, the Duelist presses just as hard, putting her whole shoulder into the back of her single edged long blade! One wrist finds the back, and she /shoves/!

"Living weapon!? I swear! How can you be so ridiculous!?" Starts off Kassie, before her attention turns to Lera. "...Okay fine. You win! See? She's right, as much as I hate to admit it! How can you call yourself a weapon!? If you were a lifeless piece of metal, then you would be swung about by the hand of another! Can you really say that you're not here to end us, to end /Eri-chan/!? Quit making excuses for your own actions! The only weapon is the blade in your hands! One that you wield with your own willpower and AMBITION!"

Kasagami suddenly takes another step back, and lets the pressure from her blade lesson as a hand reaches into that rose-coat of hers! She tries to sneak in a quick knee to Tsubasa...a feint! The real attack is the throwing knife she tries to toss towards the woman's right arm!

Nori's words echo in her ears! "She wouldn't get herself killed like that, La Sirene! She entrusted us in ensuring no Puella Magi like Sayaka goes and kills her! So that's what we're doing! I believe in Eri Shimanouchi! And I won't hesitate to fight for my friend!" Offers the Duelist with complete conviction. She turns her gaze behind, ever keeping ready to move /with/ Setsuna.

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

Miroku bites, and Mikoto smells the truth of it; she does not have to see the wound to know. It is not severe. It is enough. Her planted feet take her in wide arc, even as Kozue leaps away; if she does not do this she will cut la Sirene as well. Perhaps it is a kindness.

But there is a breath between swing and stagger and Kozue fits neatly through its edges. And the breath becomes sharp, through flared nostrils, as she leans forward in her weight and just /keeps/ spinning with her blade. In that moment, she does not have the capacity to leap away; but sickle-blade will meet obsidian, the clash not nearly loud enough to cover Kozue's words.

She is an assassin; Kasagami laughs at so much; Sailor Pluto's hands are stained red.

Mikoto does not speak in their defence. But those terrible golden eyes catch la Sirene's blue for a moment as she makes her final revolution before she stills, and she echoes the word: "Never?" There is a sense of distant wonder to it, as if she cannot believe an enemy is giving her an order.

A huffing sound, from the back of her throat, not unlike a tiger's chuff.

'...I don't believe you, y'know? You look too angry for me to believe you. ...And I don't think your friends would believe you, either, if you told them why you'll do this.' 'It's what I am. I'm not good, Lera.'

Those terrible golden eyes are back on Kozue by the time she says: "Never pretended to be anything else."

It is layered indictment.

Mikoto takes a step towards her foe. Another. Gains speed.

La Sirene says so many pretty words about how they cannot kill, and so many wash over her like waves, immaterial things from someone who does not know better. But there is something - something in protecting -

- and Mikoto staggers as she draws breath through clenched teeth. Despair - /despair/ washes over those hateful features, for just a moment.

Enough for la Sirene to ask, at least. Enough for Mikoto to be still as she inclines her chin towards her - not quite taking her eyes off of Kozue. "Everyone's enemy in a Labyrinth," she explains, a terse edge as if she is spelling out something obvious. "More than just the Witch. Others can come in, too."

She snorts, a short and frustrated noise. "Get distracted fighting Witch - and it's easier to kill. We knew Sayaka was coming. Easy to figure out. So I'm out here so Sayaka doesn't go in there. Two enemies, two fronts. Understand?"

She does not mention Neptune's prediction - not to an enemy.

Mikoto puffs air over parted lips and returns to her charge, snarling as she brings her sword up to swing horizontal at the beleagured form of Kozue Kaoru. She strikes from her injured side. Vicious - yes, that is a word.

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Sayaka's eyes shift for a moment from Utena's blade to her face--a luxury granted by both arms of both duellists being occupied in struggle instead of swordplay. Her lip curls back, and she seems about to say something. Then the post breaks, spraying splinters, and Utena surges into Sayaka, her weight bearing Sayaka to the ground most ungently.

Sayaka is caught with her sword on the outside; a disadvantage. Another disadvantage is that Utena knows Sayaka can be stabbed nonfatally. If the Engaged is ruthless enough, she could simply cut Sayaka until she was disabled, then cart her off. To fend this off, Sayaka brings her sword in instantly to slash Utena's side, clinking instead into Utena's sword. Sayaka's sword is chipped and notched, too, particularly near the hilt. The sword she gave Utena not so long ago is yet more damaged, and they lock together easily due to their scarred edges. Sayaka pushes in on Utena, trying to force her to cut herself, but neither of them have good leverage. Now there is an impasse again; Utena's free to stab Sayaka any time she likes... if she's willing to get stabbed herself.

Utena's grabbed around Sayaka's other arm, pinning it. She tries to squirm free of that, but Utena is latched on tight. Sayaka has not a limb to block what Utena says right at her face. Not that it would have helped if she did.

"Because she's gone!"

It's an animal hatred. The hatred one has for something that hurts, regardless of its reason. Sayaka's mouth curls with it, her eyes filling with hot tears. Her lips tremble more and more until it's so violent that words spit from them.

"What CAN I do?!" She inhales hard, and Utena is so close atop her that it lifts the other girl. "Huh?" she presses.

The exhale shakes Utena too.

"Just this. This is all there is."

A little more love has gone out of Sayaka, and the night air feels colder. If she had known at the start how many times she'd lose a little more of Mami Tomoe, she might not have been able to make it this far. Sayaka's sword actually retreats a little, but it twists, too, subtly.

"Move," she whispers. "Please."

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

The Guardian of Time sought. Insight finds her, occurring to her sideways in the manner of a dream suddenly recalled halfway through a schoolday. The Time Gate grants a memory not hers, and she watches: memories about pain, a glimpse inside Tsubasa's soul. Pluto learns somewhat of the reckless nihilism that drives her through battles. Her too-kind heart clenches with empathy for the girl in the hotel bed, though the Outer Senshi won't let empathy slow her step. Eri Shimanouchi's safety is at stake.

She faces a girl with no regard for herself, a girl who will gladly spend blood to draw blood.

The senshi knows... a few of those. She has an idea how they might outmaneuver Tsubasa.

Sailor Pluto's ability to focus surpasses most mortal ken. Kingdoms have risen and crumbled and risen and crumbled again, during her tenure as sworn guardian of the Time Gate. Some of them had crystalline spires... She never wavered from solitary duty, never lost focus. But the Tokyo of Here and Now has complicated things for the stoic senshi -- there are those complications again.

The voice of Kozue Kaoru slithers into Sailor Pluto's concentration, water seeping through the fracture lines in a cracked mug. It crosses a battlefield and demands her attention, and her words freeze in the gaps and shatter the vision of Tsubasa; it's like so much airport window glass, now.

It's not the most graceful mental exit from the mysterious depths of her sacred weapon, and Pluto reaps one hell of a headache. She has no retort for Kozue -- the girl she once tried to kill isn't even speaking to her, isn't even looking her way. But the Aohime muse has ever found ways to strike with words. Pluto grimaces openly and reminds herself that she is, as ever, doing what needs to be done.

Right now that's a meaningful look sent to one Kasagami Araki, communication made possible by so many shared battlefields between them. In a way, they have the date-interrupting youma to thank for the practice that enables this moment...

It's a look that says, "Be ready."

She saves her voice for thundering "TSUBASA!" at their foe with a toss of her head -- impossibly long evergreen locks fly with the motion. "Maybe Kassie and Camry-san are right, and you're no weapon." A pause. "But if you cannot get through us, then you certainly are not one."

Once Pluto's sure she has Tsubasa's attention she winds up her attack. This involves holding the Garnet Rod on high and amassing a violet-strobing cloud of plutonic energy at its apex, drawing on motes of power from the very air around the senshi in strange spirals... It looks like she's winding up an incredible amount of magic. But it's taking a while...

Sailor Pluto's eyes are on the overhead storm she gathers, and not on Tsubasa Kazanari. An opening, if a risky one.

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

The first blast from Yumi shook Endo's barrier, but the second breaks it. The barrier dissipates as green energy slams into it, sending the knight behind it sprawling backward into a nearby pillar. Cracks spiderweb up around him, marking his place of impact, and his teeth grit tight from the impact.

But he's still there when the green light fades, still standing and pushing himself back upright. "That's selfish--" His voice is pained, but audible. "If you want to help a killer-you're not any better than her!" There's something raw in Endo's voice, pained, as if he understands just how hypocritical that accusation is. Maybe he does. Maybe that's why it hurts so much.

It's easier not to think about. It's easier to just put one foot in front of the other, to handle the things he has the most control over. Yumi is dangerous, if left unchecked. So, then, Yumi should be stopped.


The enormous sword that Endo carries shifts, clicks and slides to rearrange itself into an equally oversized crossbow.


It's not an arrow that erupts from the tip of the weapon, but a fist-sized ball of urgy light. Then another, and another, purple-black streaks that tear through the air to crash around the green-tinted witch. They all explode when they come close enough, curving and detonating as they seek out their target.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Kozue actually stops running for a moment. "You'd be a horrible actor if you tried. Don't worry Mikoto-chan." Kozue says in confirmation, "I know you're the most honest murderer here." It is her own way of telling Mikoto perhaps that this was never about indicting her.

Mikoto starts running towards her, and Kozue takes up as strong a stance as she can right now, - before seeing her stagger. And Kozue takes this time to inch backwards, subtly trying to change the distance she is from Mikoto - while answering La Sirene.

It's almost disarming, her smile, as if she wasn't alarmed by La Sirene's statements. "You just don't get it. You're so out of the loop you don't even understand that it doesn't matter what enemies we make at this point - her and I? We're living on borrowed time. You think maybe that means I should wrap her in cotton and just enjoy the comfort of each other's embrace until the day enough of them come for us? Get real. Sayaka and I? We're wild animals. You want to try to talk her down or hold her back when she's howling for Shimanouchi's blood? Be my guest!"

There are some things you just can't tell a person when they're feeling like this. Sometimes you have to simply let them work through the anger and the hurt in their own way. To not be afraid to let them be hurt.

And then Mikoto is coming, with a sword as black as the Sword of Dios seems white and gleaming. Kozue begins whirling her chain in a loop, knowing this time she isn't going to be able to get out of her way. As Mikoto starts her swing - she casts it outwards a short distance to wrap around the opposite arm from the direction she's swinging, throwing her arm out with a taut tug and arching her back simultaneously.

The swing nearly disembowels her. Nearly.

Nearly is enough fortunately. She's juked Mikoto's swing just off-center enough that it only slices through the word soul and sends T-shirt fabric fluttering. Using the chain to guide her away like a tethered cat before the chain slides loose from her arm.

She tries to use that moment to slam the pommel, right where the chain is linked against the back of Mikoto's shoulderblade before back-peddling away.

"All of you Chevaliers should count yourself fortunate that you don't feel the same way she does!"

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Utena isn't ruthless enough -- the tip of her blade sinks into the floor beside Sayaka's shoulder like the period of a sentence, and its short length quivers as it continues to take in strain from Sayaka's sword.

Worse still, she recoils from the intensity of Sayaka's hatred, a moment of shocked empathy that leads to disaster, as her opponent is able to get her other arm free and begin to get up.

Having given up all her advantages, all that remains is disadvantage, the flip side of the coin: she only has one body while Sayaka has many, many, many. And her one body is already bruised -- is already stabbed, from that very first moment of the fight.

All this time, her wound has been quietly leaking, and now the ruffles that were torn loose from her jacket are red instead of white.

She only has her own answer, but the way she says it, she knows it won't be enough. Not for Sayaka. Not anymore. Certainly not here and not now.

"Other people," she pants, as her broken lock becomes a scramble for purchase and she's slipping in her own sweat and blood. "/That/ is all there is."

Living for them. Dying for them. Killing for them.

In reclaiming her little bit of blade from its tiled sheath, an opening is created.

Sayaka's sword twists as it enters her side and Utena's eyes narrow to slits, her voice tightens to a hiss.

"Not gonna move... until you figure out... that the world is so much bigger... than gosh darn /Eri Shimanouchi/. Y'should," she's starting to slur, "Find better people... to care about... than /her/."

But she has one last gasp in her, it seems: desperate, she lunges forward and down, heedless of the damage being done to her side -- and reversing her too-slick grip on the weapon to try to bring its hilt to Sayaka's temple, the only way she can think of to end this in one blow.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Yumi is almost surprised when her beam breaks through the barrier--or rather, almost lets the surprise /catch/ her. Endo goes sprawling, and Yumi--still unused to fighting people but having /done/ it now--so she starts to shift to the side immediately, moving past a fallen line barrier towards her broom again, but only a few steps--because Endo is still standing, and he answers.

Selfish, he says.

"Who's talking about being better than anyone!?" Yumi snaps back. "Maybe it is selfish!" She /hears/ it, in Endo's voice, can't help but hear it and wonder, imagine the sort of pain he's feeling. Fighting people who just want to help isn't what her power is /for/. ...Nevertheless...

It's true that she's dangerous. But so is Endo--

Yumi blinks, and stares as the Device changes. "Oh /no fair/," Yumi answers with a sense of dread chilling the back of her heart. Nevertheless she acts quickly; the trace of a rune before herself erects a barrier, brilliant green and traced in strange runes, reminiscient of a Device's power only in the very broadest sense. The first few streaks impact the shield, then a second she throws up as they curve around the first, but the explosion surges around her barriers and sends her flying backwards, hitting the ground and rolling a few times before she throws out her hand and drags herself to a stop.

It hurts. Everything hurts, really. But she lifts her head.

"You say it's selfish. But I know..."

"My mother wouldn't abandon someone she cared about. Even if Eri's wrong... Does her punishment need to be murder? Is the whole world just kill, or be killed!?"

Yumi gets to her feet. "I don't believe that. And if that means that I have to be selfish... Then I'll do it. I don't know what the 'right thing' is, but I don't think it's just destruction."

What's she saying? How can she stand up against someone she's /seen/ fight Mikoto head-on? She knows she isn't as strong as the others. She feels dizzy. But even so--

Yumi traces another set of runes, and whirls this time as she seems to trace a whole sentence in the air--and from beneath Endo start to rise vines, living spectral plants that seek to drag him down, to hold him in place.

"And an Ohzora witch can't be a coward!"

<Pose Tracker> Tsubasa Kazanari [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Three opponents were rough, even for a warrior like Tsubasa. Clashing with Kasagami, while Lera simultaneously attacked her - all she could do was try and bear the attacks, to not lose her grip of her sword...

"Ugh!" A crude noise interrupted Tsubasa's song as Lera delivered a dropkick to her head: even her armoured, reinforced body as a Symphogear struggled to keep up with that blow! Stumbling a bit, she needed a second to regain her mental state, her vision blurry and body trembling, but the grip on her sword remained as hard as ever, even as Tsubasa herself stumbled forward and lost balance.

Already off balance, Kasagami's shove sends Tsubasa stumbling backwards, losing whatever advantage she may have had earlier. In a moment of desperation - priotizing her sword-arm above her own well-being - Tsubasa lunges forward, to let the knife hit her body instead.

While the action makes Tsubasa grunt in pain, it wasn't as suicidal as it might seem: the Symphogear offered her a protective armor, preventing the knife from digging in too deep. But with this - between the kick, the attack from Kasagami, and Sailor Pluto's actions, it was obvious for Tsubasa that she was in a dire situation.

And yet, despite being cornered, despite being in pain, Tsubasa still does not back away from Pluto's challenge. With that utter disregard of her own wellbeing, Pluto's visions were proven accurate.

Charging forward, she tries shoving herself past Kasagami - baring her back to both Kasagami and Lera, Tsubasa readies her blade, blue energy enveloping the edge of it, and while she exposes her unguarded back to both women behind her, Tsubasa simultaneously swings her blade in the air, launching a slash of energy straight towards Pluto!

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

La Sirene's brow furrows for a moment as Mikoto explains the rudiments of the Shepherd's tactics. "But if you slay the Witch, you can leave! Shimanouchi would have to use less magic to do it, too! A guard is sensible but are you all OUT here? Is she ALONE?!"

Somehow - and here la Sirene herself feels wounded, as if some assumption she had made is being challenged, one she had not expected to come under debate - somehow, she sounds /upset/ at this. "She is your comrade!! Are those beautiful ones in with her at least!?"

La Sirene does not have time to realize that she has to narrow it down, because Mikoto keeps attacking. Her hand tightens into the gesture of Les Mysteres but she does not call the charm forth. Her head swivels to look there, and she sees in the distance that Utena is there.

Utena, she thinks, I'm sorry to put this on you. Please -- help Sayaka if you can --

La Sirene's eyes are wet as she looks back towards Kozue, and her faux-pretentious, quasi-mystical patterns of speech vanish. It is Nori Ankou who answers her. "STOP IT!!!"

"You act like you're a wild animal but you were sending me texts trying to get me to come fight with you! You did not run from a foe or turn your coat when the aliens attacked! I did not come only because I was their prisoner! You came back to join us and I do not know what you think that a wild animal is but -" Mikoto is going to kill her, la Sirene thinks, and so she lowers her head and wishes silently and charges.

She moves to get directly in between them, though her back is more towards Mikoto. Faith? Charity? Idiocy? Perhaps something between all of them. But Mikoto is not the root of her ire, not right now.

"Are there not enough sorrows in the world, that you have to try to make some more!?" she practically shrieks into Kozue's face. Then her hands snap outwards, that double-barreled sign. She breathes in, though it seems that she is struggling for her breath after all of this. There is a tang of blood in the air.

La Sirene hates that she recognizes it, quite clearly.

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

Indeed, Pluto and Kassie share that look, and the many, many interrupted dates flash through her mind. Kasagami grows calms, almost serene for a moment even as blades become unlocked. That lasts for all of one second as she notices just /how/ her strike gains purchase.

A scowl marks Kasagami's face.

"Tsubasa...you really do depress me! How can someone act without ambition like that!?"

Kasagami Araki hates this plan with a burning passion, but she yet trusts her beloved. Tsubasa pushes past, and readies herself. Pluto's spell awakens, and...

Even if Pluto hadn't invited it, Kasagami would have struck with fury. Having an inkling of this idea beforehand? Both hands clench her blade, and then she's leaping at Tsubasa's back. A breath, and she draws back her blade. Her gaze is on Tsubasa's knees.

Everything is stained glass for a brief moment, as she readies her strike. A single length of steel longs to become two in Kasagami's extensive reach and space-altering motions. The pure belief in her heart, of those she loves, herself and her ambitions, becomes power...

"Pluto-chan!" It's an angry, searing howl of love and concern as she tries to cut Tsubasa out at the knees. Yet that may be quite the warning, no matter the Duelist's skill and power!

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

Ah, good, Pluto thinks. The trap is sprung.

Tsubasa takes the bait, blade-first: the senshi's open side, stretched and raised by her arms-high stance. Time-tinged darkness blooms overhead, pulls at the air like a birthing void -- and shrieks, once, in violent dissipation. Pluto kneels on airport tile, clutching one hand close to her struck side and the lowered Garnet Rod with the other.

Worth it, she thinks, even as she suffers for contact with that blue energy as much as the sword itself. It's a terrible wound but she will endure it and go on. In return...

In return, Tsubasa will get to suffer the aroused wrath of her beloved. Grim satisfaction feels fitting, and Pluto will take what she can get, considering the situation. She bites the painted curve of her lower lip and lifts her head, the better to watch the results of ruthlessly exploiting the self-destructive weakness of a girl who reminds her of others she cares for to an uncomfortable degree.

Stained glass refracts the light and catches at Pluto's heart, pulls her from a treacherous sway -- she stays upright, if on her knees. Her name is a battle cry, and she trusts in the combination of time-gleaned wisdom and ambition-honed ferocity to finish the task.

If they're lucky, Lera Camry will see the opening too.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Akira Yamaoka - Theme of Laura (Reprise) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JozVfR-XavQ

Mikoto is charging. Mikoto is charging, too fast for a blade so heavy and strong, and is there any hope to --

-- but '<METEOR STRUM>', rings a mechanical voice, finally noticed in the din of battle as separate to Lera's own Devices from that awful declaration, and Mikoto's eyes snap there and widen just in time to see Yumi go rolling. "No--" comes a choked word, as if the constriction of her throat is its own little premonition. Because it is distraction enough to see Kozue's chain snap in turn about her arm, with an instinctual sort of precision.

Of course - animals have good instincts. As much as la Sirene would like to pretend they're not so bestial.

Mikoto is too tangled to reach Yumi, and she roars wordless frustration as Kozue presses the advantage of her momentary distraction to slam her back and scuttle away. Unintentionally, perhaps, she reminds Mikoto that she is her foe. Fine - fine. She will kill Kozue, and then she will see to Endo and Sayaka.

After all, it's just as Kozue said.

Mikoto Minagi is the most honest murderer here.

But as she raises her blade in overhead executioner's arc, someone charges in through the middle, crying earnest hurting words which are not aimed at her at all. La Sirene is not aimed for her at all. Her back is exposed; she could carve right through.

Miroku is large enough that she could catch them both in its swing. It is horribly, devastatingly possible.

It's the logical solution. Even if she is not a target right now, she is an enemy. She ought to take the opportunity - kill them both.

Carve through!

'You saved the lives that you could, Mikoto-san. That's all any of us can ever do.'

'... Don't let Eri die. You can protect her, I know. But... I hope... I hope that no one else will have to die, either.'

'You just wanted to fight Orphans.'

'It's...I don't like that you keep getting dragged into fights, but it feels like that's something harder and harder to stop.'

-- and la Sirene will feel the rush of air of a blade passing millimetres from the protection she carries about herself, as Mikoto interrupts the momentum of her swing to jerk aside. Miroku buries deeply in the ground beside her.

She takes a shuddering breath, shock writ plain on her face, and for a moment she is still.

<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Idiot Prayer - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onjPvRCCDs0

Utena's grip fails, but Sayaka does not want liberty anymore, and the only advantage she takes is to grapple onto Utena instead of being grappled. The stasis cannot be fully regained, however, and both girls exert themselves in a struggle.

Other, better people. She /has/ better people. Kozue. Madoka. Sayaka feels her arm weaken. She loves both so much, in different ways. This endangers the one and hurts the other badly. The tears sting a little more for a moment.

But Kozue has never said it back, when Sayaka says it. And Sayaka said things to Madoka she wishes she could take back. Most of all, Mami is something Kozue and Madoka cannot be, something that makes her loom so much larger.

Mami is dead.

Utena thinks her sword has come loose of the tile, and she seizes on a sudden freedom of motion to bring it up and knock Sayaka out. Maybe it could even work; Sayaka hasn't been made unconscious that way before, and she isn't sure if healing would wake her up. Sayaka closes her eyes to take the impact. Her head twists sharply to the side beneath it.

Utena's knuckles impact Sayaka's temple directly, without the interposing sword hilt--and awkwardly, since her punch is a few inches shorter than she expected. From her palm, a few ghostly bubbles dissolve away to mist. It had been a precious gift of friendship from Sayaka and Kozue. It had been scarred in a battle too foolish for Utena to win, but too romantic for her to lose. Perhaps it would have been a keepsake forever, to hang on the mantle decades from now. But it is revoked, now. Just another thing in this filthy world that's gone for good.

It was already gone when she felt it 'come loose' from the tile. If Utena looks at Sayaka's eyes in this moment, she will see misery.

Sayaka drives her elbow down, and her unopposed blade sinks deep into Utena's side. Sayaka's face spasms, her teeth clenched, and she halts far short of the hilt. Slowly, she releases Utena's arm, and hugs her around the neck. She presses her face into Utena's shoulder, her shoulders wracked with something that doesn't escape her mouth.

"She loved me," Sayaka begs Utena, so quiet it almost can't be heard.

With a sharp yank, Sayaka pulls the sword out of Utena. She wants to revoke this one, too. It disgusts her to hold it. But some things can't be revoked.

Roughly, Sayaka shoves Utena off of her.

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

"I don't think people plan on dying to Witches!" Lera yells towards Kasagami. She is distracted, though, for a moment. Her eyes dart towards Endo and--Yumi? She frowns, for a moment, but then calls out: "Endo-kun! We're here to stop Sayaka from killing her! Just try to get Ohzora out of here, we don't want to kill any of them!"

That momentary distraction proved a mistake.

Tsubasa hurtles by; the Symphogear rushes past, and sends Lera into a sharp spin. Her feet stumble -- they scrape over the ground, boots digging into the tiles, and her head snaps upward, as she is in a three-point stance. She hears Kozue's words; she doesn't have time to muster a reaction.

Lera sees the opening, but it is hard to say whether Sailor Pluto and Kasagami are lucky.

She sees the way that Sailor Pluto's void pulls at Kasagami; she sees the twinkle of stained glass. Her eyes widen, and she realizes -- Tsubasa is open. Tsubasa is /too/ open, and she meant what she said. They don't want to kill any of them.

"Kazanari," the orange-haired girl calls out, "Move!"

She helps her move. She flies, ramming into the Symphogear at the last moment. There is a clatter, armor on skin and shirt -- and then a loud 'hrk!' from Lera when Kasagami's artful blade strikes true.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> No Tomorrow - Piano - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh-CWoAXV8g

It's perhaps something of a shock when La Sirene da Diamant yells to STOP IT. Her belligerent posture doesn't fall lax right away. Instead she nearly lurches forward as Mikoto swings Miroku at her anyway. However it passes by and it's done.

For a few long seconds, she perhaps expects La Sirene's head to topple off, decapitated. However it doesn't...

Instead La Sirene is still- talking. Kozue's expression is blank, even as she just allows herself to breathe... oxygen is what she needs after a sight like that.

Even as her eyes momentarily drift to the side at the planted Miroku.

Those blue eyes lift back upon La Sirene then Kozue steps forward, one footstep, after another, after another. Perhaps for one moment she is the girl Nori Ankou used to admire. Perhaps for one moment she is the girl that Nori wanted to impress.

Aohime looks to her with hazy eyes. Before stepping inside of her guard, and leaning forward far too close for it just to be saying something, as a hand comes to rest on the fabric of La Sirene's shoulder.

Instead she presses a kiss to La Sirene da Diamant's cheek, just below where her mask meets. The sound is a soft - wet - pop. As she breaks contact, she whispers right beside her ear. "No."

It's that same moment that her fingers clench the fabric, and she tugs forcefully to pull La Sirene forward - where her waiting knee meets La Sirene's chest. Impacting into bruised ribs.

"Be grateful for the job security." That same hand then shoves her away against the HiME beyond her that is disarmed right now. Even as Kozue turns and breaks into as fast as a sprint as she can manage right now towards Sayaka Miki.

She's made her choice and won't be dissuaded.

Unfortunately... that includes the sight of the staggered pink-haired prince she jogs on by.

<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Never Look At The Sun https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLYAWayNX9w

Utena can't breathe.

Utena's lips tremble.

Utena tries to mouth a word.

It might be 'rough'. It might be 'love'.

Utena didn't move -- but she was moved.

Utena falls into an instinctive curl around her wound.

Utena does not rise again.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The blade swirls a beautiful subtle pattern as it nearly but doesn't quite touch la Sirene. It's hard to tell due to how uniformly that never-was light is poured over la Sirene but it is in fact a layer of light that behaves like liquid - and when the tip of the obsidian blade passes through it, it stirs like the clouds of a distant gas giant, like ink poured gently into a clear glass.

Perhaps it will be a beautiful thing for Mikoto to examine for a moment.

Before her -

Before her, something is melting in Kozue's eyes. La Sirene's eyes are a pale ice blue seen this close up, and when she steps forwards, as she puts a hand on her shoulder, la Sirene's arms spread out as if to embrace her.

She's reached her. It will be alright. Sayaka will listen to Kozue, Nori thinks in a glittering hope. She will be quiet for a moment. Perhaps all of this is because they did not have something occur to them. Oh! How many problems, she thinks, have grown to such tragedies from a lack of

La Sirene's train of thought was not derailed by the kiss to her cheek - if anything that helped, perhaps more than Nori would admit in a vacuum - but rather, by that pull forwards. Kozue's knee reaches la Sirene and /it is a damnable thing/, but the breezed disruption that Mikoto put in her aura means that there is much less around her midsection.

And Kozue hits three little diamonds - not so little, actually, the ones Nao Yuuki (probably accurately) assessed could buy a small country and feed every child in it. Her knee hits three of these imperishable carbonados and drives them into the soft flesh of her rib cage and abdomen, where she had already been bruised.

Something in her goes snap and la Sirene folds forwards, letting out a huge gasp of breath with no words. The world swims before her. The agony inside of her rises and does not seem to stop as she falls to her knees, one hand going forwards to brace herself. She shakes, violently.

no, she thinks: no no /no/, not to /this/, not to - hhgh - to -

Come on, she tells herself, curling her fingers, view of her own hand drizzling as her eyes well up. Come on - push past it - come on...!!

Externally nothing much is visible here except if you were looking right square at la Sirene's eyes, which are turning interesting colors.

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

"Ask Shiamanuchi if that's what the world's supposed to be like--she's killed enough people to know." Endo's response is biting, and just as angry as the last one. This is the probably the longest exchange he's had with a Shepard-or likely anyone he's ever been in a fight with. There's less to say, when you know you're right.

The crossbow becomes a sword again, just as ugly and imposing as it was before. Endo is focused on Yumi more than what's going on around him, keeping his attention on things that he can-sort of-control.

That sense of control doesn't last too long, though. Not when vines sprout out to snag at his arms, his legs, even the dark metal of the weapon he carries. He struggles, sinking to a knee, one hand pressing to concrete and the other keeping a death-grip on his weapon.

He's cognizant of Lera's voice, and he's got enough movement to turn toward her and shout, unhappily: "I trying--" And, he is almost immediately regretful when he sees Kasagami's blade sink into his friend. "Lera!"

But he doesn't move. He stays, wrapped in vines, sinking down and down.

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

"La Sirene," Mikoto growls low warning as she lets the enemy close into her space, and it is pointless.

It's always pointless to talk to an enemy.

Because Mikoto knows what is coming. They are, both of them, more beast than girl.

Kozue slams in her knee, shoves la Sirene, and it is no surprise at all. But la Sirene does not stumble back - she folds in, forwards, and something inside her has been wounded terribly. Something to do with the galaxy which surrounds her? Mikoto does not dwell to think on the way her unlight spreads like ink on a page as a hand hesitates above it.

Those terrible golden eyes are unsympathetic, as Mikoto wrenches her black blade from the ground. Perhaps la Sirene is close enough to hear the subtle puff of effort from between her teeth as she pulls it free, some dark mockery of Arthurian legend.

Unsympathetic - but.

She does not stalk past la Sirene.

She comes astride her, grasps an arm - not the one which supports herself - with one hand. "Get up," she demands, and the cold tone belies the way she stands still as she lifts la Sirene to her feet again - the way she supports her if she cannot quite find her footing. "Bleed later. We're not /done./"

Of course - what Mikoto is in the process of doing, and what la Sirene is trying to do -

- well.

One of them has never pretended to be anything they're not.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"I know!" Yumi shouts back at Endo--it's biting, and it's biting because she doesn't /have/ a retort to it. He's right about that much, outright. "But is killing her going to make it better!?"

Honestly? It might. Yumi /knows/ it might. ...But it might /not/. And it would mean Eri--

"Two wrongs don't make something right!"

Yumi draws in a breath quickly, watches her spell start to take effect in the wake of the transformation of Endo's weapon. A sword. A very... large sword. Yumi doesn't even have to stop and think about Sayaka's sword with Endo's right in front of her. But the magic works--It /works/, and she fins her eyes widening for a moment. Did she do it? Did she hold him off-

Lera's voice calls out to Endo--here to stop Sayaka from--

"Wait, you all--" Utena first, and then Endo, and Lera--

She turns to look at her and finds with shock that Kasagami's blade has struck her. "Kasagami, NO!"

As she turns--she turns, and she sees /Utena/ fallen too, and she looks in horror at the violence all around her. "Tenj..." All around. Not just them.

"It wasn't--" Her heart is seizing up. Pink eyes travel over Mikoto--

The vines about Endo start to decay in an instant. Yumi, for her part, skids as she half-trips on her way running over to plant herself half-over Lera. "She's down! You don't have to do any more!"

<Pose Tracker> Tsubasa Kazanari [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPEgT6X1AbA

While she took no pleasure in it, there was a *satisfaction* you felt when besting your enemy - seeing her blow connect with Pluto, and sinking the woman to her knees. Stumbling forward, Tsubasa was ready, bracing herself for the slash to her back she was ready to endure...

But nothing happened. Turning around, Tsubasa looked behind her back, and her eyes widened in shock, seeing Lera take the strike meant for her. "Why --- " Tsubasa's voice trails off, unable to form a proper sentence to signal her shock. She saw Lera, stumbling to the ground, blood splattering onto Tsubasa's face --

Why would she sacrifice herself for me -- ?

The wound where Kasagami's dagger was embedded in Tsubasa's body suddenly convulsed, the sudden ache taking Tsubasa by surprise; was it her guilt that made the wound open wider, or was that just her imagination?

Gritting her teeth in pained frustration, Tsubasa seperates herself from the battle: Pluto and Lera were already down, and with Kozue and Sayaka running down the terminal, Tsubasa realized there was an important task still left for her to do, rather than engaging Kasagami in a grudge-match.

Grabbing the dagger, she pulled it out and threw it to the floor, her suit repairing itself but not closing the wound, marking her blue uniform with a dark stain.

"Miki!" She shouted, after the running girls. "You two go on ahead!" Stepping forward towards the terminal despite her limp, Tsubasa positioned herself between the terminal where Sayaka and Kozue had run off to, as they ran towards the Labyrinth and towards their target.

But, instead of accompanying her two allies, Tsubasa raised her sword and threw it in the air!

"I will block the path!"

As Tsubasa shouted that, the sword changed shape: mechanical parts unfolded, and piece by piece, the sword grew bigger, and bigger...

And bigger, and bigger...

"Heaven's Wrath!" Tsubasa shouted, and as she did, the sword thrust downwards! It was large enough to cleave the terminal in two, creating a massive steel wall between Sayaka, Kozue and the Chevaliers and Shepherds that pursued them!

"Heh." Tsubasa smirked in satisfaction, her massive sword now blocking the only path to everyone's destination. Turning around to face the crowd, Tsubasa unsheathed her second sword, entering a stance.

"Whoever still wishes to pursue Sayaka Miki... Step forward! You will be granted the honour of being cut down by Kazanari Tsubasa!"

TO BE CONTINUED: Sayaka and Kozue's Path

TO BE CONTINUED: Everyone Else