2018-10-25 - The Road

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The Road

Madoka and Nori talk about wishes.


Nori Ankou, Madoka Kaname


Tokyo streets, on the way back from the Tokyo Hotaru Festival.

OOC - IC Date:

10/25/2018 - 05-24-15

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

A while ago, Madoka took Nori's hand.

And Nori has not let go until she absolutely had to, and even then, she had reached shyly back for that smaller hand again. Her skin is on the cool side, as it always is, and always has been: but over time it warms. The grip is childish, but reassuring. Nori did not speak much when they were around others, although she was in no great haste to leave - either the festival in general, or Madoka in specific.

But that was a little while ago. Now they are walking; walking along the streets of Tokyo, alone, more or less, in the city streets. It has been some time and there are still festival goers lingering, but not enough to crowd; just enough to provide the sense that they have not entered desolation.

Finally, Nori speaks - breaking the comfortable silence like a soap bubble. Her tone is shy, the back-side perhaps of the brave and comforting face that she wore at karaoke, in battle, even at the festival.

"Madoka... what did you wish for? It's alright, if it's secret, of course."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Madoka looks down at their kissing palms, their entwined fingers, then up at Nori's face. Her shy face, her sweet face, her caring face, her sad face. Madoka loves all sides of Nori Ankou, but this is the side she knew first.

She thinks back to the event they just left, and that moment when she was trying to make a wish and, as usual, failing.

"I think," she begins, with the slow, thoughtful way of someone who's choosing their words rather carefully, "That maybe I have thought more about wishes, that particular kind of miracle, than any other girl in Tokyo." This may in fact be true. Madoka Kaname has a future writing a thesis on the nature of fulfillment.

"Early on, I thought of the usual things when they were suggested... money, grades, a love letter. Really I didn't want anything at all, I just wanted to be a magical girl, like Mami and Sailor Moon, and La Sirene." Her eyes warm. Her voice never wasn't, even in the depths of her story, which feels like it's only begun.

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

Nori listens. It is hard, in its way - there is a certain silence you must maintain within yourself - but it is not so different from lifting up a heavy box... and Nori would do that for Madoka, and much more. This is, to her, a new face of Madoka as well... the thought that must have always been there, even if the passion and the heart and the smile were the more easily spotted facets of Madoka Kaname.

Nori takes a deep breath and lets it out.

"I can understand the feeling," she says, her interlaced fingers squeezing again with a vaguely tidal compression, then relaxation. Her cheeks color faintly, and she smiles, before lapsing back into quiet. Her eyes stay on Madoka; the path is not cluttered, especially if you stay away from the lamp posts.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"I know," Madoka replies, a dimple threatening on her cheek. She squeezes Nori back, the moon to her tides. And maybe she does know. The dogged pursuit of Nori Ankou to change herself is one she's followed closely, after all. And is not Akai Mirai very much like La Sirene in ways?

She looks forward for a moment, at the road ahead of them, then decides she'd rather keep looking at Nori's face. Akai Mirai's. La Sirene's. It will be up to all of them to keep her from bonking into any lampposts.

"But Mami set me straight, and Kyouko-chan and Eri-chan too." They've always been that, haven't they? Kyouko-chan. Eri-chan. She's never, not even at the height of the war, called them anything but her friends. Even knowing what they've done. Why? "They told me wishes were important, and that I should use it for something that meant everything to me, and I knew what that meant. It meant them."

She leans in, letting their shoulders knock gently, so that she can tell a secret.

"Mami once wished to not be a Puella Magi anymore. I offered, but... well, you know how she is." She swallows, considers correcting herself, then doesn't. Mami still lives in her heart, in all their hearts. Mami is.

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

Nori breathes in; Nori breathes out. She looks back at Madoka, her eyes still shy, and she smiles. The subtle dark rings beneath her eyes are still there, unveiled and uncontrasted. It gives her an almost sleepy look, in isolation.

And right now is rather isolated.

She doesn't wince at the mention of Eri. But her eyes do turn aside. "... I wonder sometimes... I thought Eri was cruel to me once. But I don't know if she meant it that way. I wonder, sometimes, if things would have been different, if I had just been a little more... or a little less..."

She trails off. Another shift, and her shoulder bumps Madoka, and she tilts her head in to listen.

Mami is.

"That was kind of you, even so," Nori says. Then her eyes turn back to Madoka's again. No lamp-posts interfere.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Madoka looks like a walking corpse, come to think, but more animated and less reanimated than she did at karaoke. Especially after what Nori just said.

Her other hand snakes out, across, and takes Nori's other hand -- and then she holds them both between them, at chest level, as she swivels on her toes to block the way. Now they're facing directly.

"No," she says firmly, with a gentle passion. "This is not your fault. None of this is. You can't, you just... if you take nothing else from all this, you have to understand. It was so easy, when everyone thought the other side was stupid, or blamed themselves for being too stupid to find a better way. Easy to hate them or hate yourself."

Sliding her palms up Nori's arms, she embraces her, whispers in her ear. A puff of pink tickles their cheeks, but it doesn't separate them enough to not be able to feel each other's warmth.

Madoka is sad and fierce and loves her friend very much.

Madoka is crying, again, and she doesn't know it. But even then, her eyes shimmer strangely, beautifully, with something more complicated than grief.

"The truth is so hard, that it's hard to accept. I-- I know, it's easier to blame yourself than to accept how bad things are, how bad they were all along... but it is not, your fault, Nori-chan."

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

Nori finds her other hand seized. A current of emotion rushes through her as Madoka holds them firmly and swivels in front of her. Nori's eyes, big and deep-blue and dark ringed, meet Madoka's. She finds that she has tears to shed, but -

Well, Nori knows better than the average how tears never seem to end.

Nori tilts her head forwards and oh: if listening was hard before, this was even worse. This is no box for a top shelf, it is a car stuck in a ditch. And yet, she thinks:

And yet, she was given this duty by that girl who they have to, somehow, save. And yet, Madoka is speaking from a place deep within, a place that smells of mystery and truth. And yet, she has to listen -- she has to do more than that; she has to listen and *accept*. At least conditionally, at least on trust. Madoka embraces her and Nori's hands slide forwards and wrap her up in the light-woolen embrace of her novel kimono and she holds and she sways a little.

She feels like kelp in a tide, but not perhaps in a bad way. She stares at the street, not seeing it, and she makes herself breathe in. She tries to speak, and what comes out is at first more like "uwwuuhhh" than words. She sucks in another breath - and she squeezes Madoka.

"A. Alright," she says. Some part of her offers another line - 'but it is my responsibility' - and Nori presses down the thought. She lets her grip slacken. She draws back, just a little, to see Madoka's face again, and she smiles - with effort, with tear-streaked eyes, but the smile comes, even so.

"It is hard," she says. "But... For you, Madoka, I will do it."

Nori opens her mouth to say more but it is just a choked sound again, and it is a few seconds longer before she has composed herself to dry her eyes against her sleeve adn speak again.

"B- but you were saying," she says. "About what everyone told you."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Ah, Madoka aches, her tears come faster when Nori's do, and for what feels like the thousandth time since Haneda, but is actually more like the dozenth, she rediscovers that 'pain shared is pain halved' is as much a lie as it is truth. It helps that they're all feeling, together, but it hurts so much, knowing that they're all feeling this.

Nori pulls away a bit, and Madoka lets her freed hand drift up to catch a missed one of her tears, down on her chin. She merges it with one of her own, and looks at the salty little sphere on her fingertip as though it were a ladybug. With effort, she pulls together her own, stricken expression.

"Make a wish," she says vaguely, and blows the moisture into the air, where it can become part of a puddle, or a stone, or a cloud. Miracles.

She starts walking backwards, not wanting to not be able to face her friend. This is more difficult for her than it may seem, insofar as she isn't exhibiting the classic Madokan behaviors of stammering and mumbling. She needs Nori, right now, and she needs this. It's in her face.

"Do you know why I went to Haneda airport?" she asks, rhetorically. She answers her own question before long.

"For the same reason I went with Mami, or Kyouko, or Eri. I went along with them, and later Sayaka-chan, because ever since the first time, when we found Eri in that alley bleeding out, and had to call Mami to heal her, I understood how dangerous things could be... even if I had no idea how bad things really were."

For the first time in a long while, she looks away, her clumsy reversed footsteps stumbling to a halt. And she loosens her grip on Nori's hand, makes it easy for her to let go. If she wants to.

"Don't be mad," she says forlornly, as though predicting it. It isn't quite a plea, just a wan nonapology. A pained truth. "But I would have wished Eri-chan back, if it had gone the other way. Like I tried to wish Sayaka-chan back, that night."

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

Nori looks downwards. For once the tears don't draw her eyes.

Make a wish, Nori hears. She walks forwards, then, even as Madoka moves backwards. She turns herself a little, as if to orbit round her, but it is gentle. There is nothing for fifty yards ahead but a canned-coffee vending machine and closed stores. They are safe here, quiet.

Madoka asks a question, and Nori knows it is not for her.

Madoka's grip slackens and she admits things.

Nori says, softly, "Then, you went there... all those times, when we put you in so much danger... so that if someone... died;" she can manage the word, with a run up, "you would wish them back. That is why... aaa... Ah, oh, heavens, Madoka, I don't know what to say..."

The tears come back, wetting her cheeks as she blinks them aside. "That would have - have - I -" She shakes her head once, a short snap hard enough to make her hair bounce and strike softly against the gray-snow back of her robe.


"If you had wished Eri back like that," Nori says, voice choking, "I - I -"

Her shoulders sag.

"... I do not know what I would have done," Nori confesses. "But I know now, if it happened... knowing, what we know..."

She squeezes Madoka's hand all the tighter.

"I would have thought you were so kind. And brave; braver than any of us. I could never do something as kind as that, I think. I do not want her, t-to - to suffer, or to..." become a witch "to do more than that... I was so hurt, but now I know what is there, and it is crueler than anything I could have imagined."

"I do not know if I can forgive her," Nori admits softly, "but I hope that you, and she, will be friends, for a long time."

Did I betray Mami to say that, Nori wonders: or Sayaka, in her quest. Her eyes shut. She listens, again.

She hears no inner answer, but her grip on Madoka's hand slackens slightly, turning around. She brings her other hand up to grasp Madoka's all the more firmly.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Even having prepared herself for it, Madoka looks ready to weep -- well, weep again, weep harder -- when Nori's grip slides. It is almost painful, her gladness, when she's able to interweave the fingers of their other hands. They lock into place like a puzzle.

"It was the only thing left," she says, looking down, the compliments rolling off her like water off a duck's back. Or an otter's. "I tried talking to Eri, and to Sayaka, and even to that girl."

The first time she hasn't used someone's name, the way she always did. That girl. Sayaka's phrasing, actually. It was the same, at karaoke. That girl, who kept her for wishing for Mami's revival by offering Sayaka what turned out to be a false salvation.

"And they all told me it was too late, and too much. They wouldn't be stopped."

She sways, she clings to Nori. She doesn't look away, but she looks ... the distance, the distance they all wrap themselves in sometimes, the only at-hand antidote to this agony ... it's rising around her. They're skin to skin but Madoka is starting to drift far away, across a misty ocean.

She keeps talking.

"But I still hoped," she admits, "That afterwards -- when the rage and the terror and the agony had drained from the survivor -- that they would, like, feel remorse. And then, when I returned the one... the one who didn't... maybe they would even feel... relief."

Madoka blinks, long and slow. She's close to Nori and looking right at her but not seeing her at all. Other visions torment her field of view.

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

Nori probes that inner answer with the tongue of her psyche, like she is feeling for a tooth that's gone. But it doesn't hurt or taste ill. It is strange, almost. As if she's been drained, but not in a bad way.

Perhaps the revelations, the psychic fatigue, did it. Nori has too much Madoka before her to think over long on her. She leans forwards then to bury her face against the crown of Madoka's head for a moment as she speaks, before wondering -- that girl --

But matters keep moving on. She takes a deep breath; her arms spread a little. She runs a hand behind Madoka's back, and rubs. It is absent, soft, and gentle.

When did she grow so much? Nori thinks.

Perhaps it is sprouting wisdom that has her answer her own question: the same time I did, I imagine.

I hate it, Nori thinks, and THAT has a taste and a pang. But it doesn't leave her soul other than perhaps a slightly sharper breath as Madoka explains.

"... That they would see how silly they have been," Nori says. "And how ridiculous it was to fight. And you would be one of them, too, wouldn't you?"

Nori thinks back to a movie theater and a great gelatinous creature that did die because of her - mindless though it may have been. Her eyes close.

And so she does not look where Madoka looks, because she cannot see where Madoka's eyes are searching.

"It is," Nori says: "a beautiful wish. It would have suited you well, Madoka." The past tense, of course, because unlike Mami, *now* they know the price.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Madoka shakes her head, and fresh tears drip down her cheeks.

"I did wish," she corrects, and it isn't with pride for her knowing sacrifice -- she'd never feel that, this wish was as easy as breathing -- it's with misery for its obvious failure to accomplish its only goal. "Later that night, when Kyuubey and I were alone. I wished for Sayaka-chan."

She doesn't leave Nori in suspense.

"And then... before I could finish the words... she shot him. She killed him. And now... and now he's gone."

This is the second time she's told this story. It is not easier with repetition, she discovers. She can smell the cordite; her little nostrils flare, and she presses more closely into Nori, that her trembles can be stilled by another body, instead of allowed to issue into the air.

"I keep," she gulps into Nori's shoulder, "I keep telling myself it's a good thing. No more..." No more wishes. No more witches, after this final generation, which maybe they can even save. No more trickery.

No more little pink and white creature with the soft, soft toesies on his paws.

"B-but he's dead," she sobs, "He's dead because of me..."

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

'I /did/ wish/.'

Madoka explains the rest and Nori does not loosen her hold, but the brief rub of the back freezes. Calms.

Something inside of Nori does the exact opposite. The languid relief of shedding and mingling her tears with Madoka ends with an interior screech of protest. She shot him - Nori, if she had any doubts about who THAT GIRL was, does not now - and she killed him, and now he is gone.

Nori remembers Kyuubey, abruptly. He was strange and fey, and monomaniacal in his way, but Nori thinks: Perhaps he simply had strange cares, as any creature might. Someone from another star far away - but it doesn't matter now, does it, Nori thinks, because he's dead.

Nori breathes in.

Her face is a tight mask again but it is a different kind of mask than it was before. As she gazes at the empty window of a store that hasn't yet been re-rented, the outline of her features can be seen by her alone and it is not someone who Nori truly likes. She has too many teeth, and her eyes are too bright.

Nori breathes out.

"No," Nori says quietly. "Not because of you. You pulled no trigger, you aimed no gun. 'That girl...' She did this."

Her embrace of Madoka tightens. It is more protective now. Stronger perhaps, but also brittle, perhaps. "That girl," Nori says in a low murmur. "What is her game. She must have some grudge, some goal. I'll fix her wagon. I -"

Nori tapers off.

"I am sorry," Nori says, straining to relax again (paradoxically enough.) "Madoka - I w, was just upset... That must have been horrid, beyond words... She must have followed you when you went to meet him..."

Kyuubey, Nori vows in her heart. I suppose I will never ask you for the truth. But I can avenge you. I can prove that not all scales must balance. I can--

She squeezes Madoka again.

-- put some meaning to all of this, make it hold meaning.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Madoka shakes her head again, shakes it into Nori's hug.

"Sh-she... she loves me, Nori-chan."

She sniffs. Her tears don't still, but they do slow.

"I don't... know why... or how, or when it started. It almost feels like, it's always been, as long as I've known her..."

She sighs, into Nori's squeeze.

"I don't understand her at all... but I think I do, finally, understand why she does... such things. In a way, she's more of a Shepherd than any of them..."

Homura chooses. Homura chose.

It's her turn to tighten her embrace, around the other girl, as though she senses her vow -- her brittleness -- her strain.

"I won't tell you not to be mad. But... it's sad... she was so sad. Everything is so sad, Nori-chan."

And then -- like a lightning bolt -- it's there. Right there, in the corner of her mouth. In the glitter of her eyes.



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

'she loves me, Nori-chan'

Nori's face is, for a moment, utterly thunderstruck.

She has a funny way of showing it, Nori thinks (the closest thing to a clear thought in the outrageous flash-bomb of utter astonishment): but manages not to say. Madoka keeps speaking though and the residual glacial fury inside of her melts again, returns to the temperate flow of salty water. She slides a hand up to touch the back of Madoka's hair.

More of a Shepherd than any of them, Nori thinks. Because she is willing to kill? Because she will farm the Familiars - will *have* to? Or...

Her eyes turn downwards even as the hug tightens. Nori lets herself relax, lets the tension flow from her into Madoka as she is held. To hold and to be held is the essence of love. She relaxes, though not to where she had been.

'Everything is so sad, Nori-chan' -

The words ring with truth.

Nori looks into Madoka's eyes - and there is something there. Perhaps she can see it more than others could, for to her eyes tears always gleam with a subtle luminance that isn't quite light. Perhaps it is long fondness. Perhaps it is wishful thinking (so to speak). But her lips purse as she leans her head down, to let her forehead rest against Madoka's.

"... did she speak to you...?" Nori guesses.

If she was thinking of herself as 'Nori Ankou, the leader of the Chevaliers' she might imagine this as intelligence seeking about an enemy of peace. If she was thinking of herself as 'la Sirene de Diamant' then she would be seeking to guide things, to strive and overcome this unsought foe that stands before her, another dark figure to stand against, before, opposite to her.

But those people are not, quite, the people here now: and it is Nori Ankou, 'the girl whose first real friend is in her arms,' who asks with a limpid wonder, "Do you know why...?"

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

For a third time, Madoka shakes her head -- their foreheads scrape together, and she shifts her weight so that it's their cheeks, instead, the edges of their noses. A soft nuzzle.

And that look is still there -- like a secret, nestled inside her.

"What I know... is that wishes really can come true."

Their hands, never fully disconnected, come together at their sides.

"I stood there, at the river... and I was about to just give my prayer star back to the vendor, to let someone else make better use of it... and then... there you were. And I was holding Usagi's hand... and my other hand was full. And suddenly I knew what I wanted... I knew what was important."

She bobs, leaning back and then forward, the motion of throwing without any arm movement.

"I wished to hold your hand," she says, quietly but without any bashfulness at all. There are ways that Madoka is cripplingly self-conscious, but loving her friends is not often one of them. "So I threw the star into the river."

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

Nori's mouth opens slightly.

There is a dam inside of her, made of wattle and daub. Often and regularly she reinforces it, rebuilds it when it has cracked. Madoka speaks and the entire thing collapses. Her face tightens up, her teeth biting into her lower lip for a moment as her eyes spill over and she sobs.

Madoka is squeezed once again, gathered up tight as Nori sobs out, "Oh - Oh -" and "Madoka-" for long moments. The storm does not abate quickly, although it is a warm fond crush and nothing painful. She coughs once during it, past Madoka's shoulder. Things settle, and she sniffs, and her hand seeks Madoka's back out again, fingers splaying to interleave again.

"Do you want to know suh-something funny?" she says, sounding terribly, desperately, miserably happy as she does. "I had the same thing happen! Almost exactly the same thing. I wished I would never be alone any more and a-a-aahh--"

Was it a selfish wish, faced with such things? Perhaps. From the way the tears run down her cheeks, the way her eyes are getting slightly swollen and bloodshot, from the emotive contortions that cross her face even when no real sound escapes, it was a *heartfelt* wish, and a long time coming.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Madoka embraces Nori as she sobs, and is embraced.

That little flame inside her burns brightly into the night.

Tears do not lessen it. Darkness only emboldens it.

And the profundity of Nori's feelings only intensifies it.

Two girls whose wishes came true stand together on the street.

They're holding hands.