2019-01-12 - TIMELINE 1: Wish Upon A Star
|Title: TIMELINE 1: Wish Upon A Star|
The original Walpurgisnacht.
Lives are lost.
A wish is made.
| OOC - IC Date:|
Sat Jan 12, 2019 - The End of Timeline One
The following is a collaboration between Homura and Madoka's players.
OST: Terror Adhaerens https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ce7StFIoaOs
Nested puella magics hold Homura Akemi close and defy the violence all around, concentric dome-shaped wonders in green and gold and pink. To make out the strange shapes Walpurgisnacht has made of the city Homura must squint through an enveloping thicket of ivy, a gilded ribbon-lace latticework, the kindling rosy glow of guardian heat rising from a circle of tiny, fire-fletched arrows... and the fearful, tearful blurring of her glasses.
Though she huddles beneath the raging heart of what must surely be the unholiest of storms, Homura could be no safer. She huddles within the protection of her friends.
I'm distracting them, she thinks, and it's my fault... The grown litter of kittens which her friends left to her care, Homura in turn left with the Kaname family back at the stadium-turned-storm-shelter. The choice between staying in safety and following Madoka was, in the end, a simple one. She did the terrifying thing; she did the only thing, and snuck out into the storm to find her friend.
And Walpurgisnacht is no place for a girl to be.
She found Madoka. She found Eri Shimanouchi and Mami Tomoe and every still-standing, still-fighting mahou, plus more who were already gone -- empty places already guaranteed at the next Covenant of Style sleepover; she found herself in deep and mortal peril, and then she found herself saved, again.
But Walpurgisnacht is no place for a girl to be, even if she is magical.
The vines wither first. A broad leaf greys and shrinks on itself, only to rip free in the stormwinds. Its sisters crumple and rattle, the blight races, and Eri's lovely green magic goes black. Then, she is gone. "S-shimanouchi...san?" Quivering, plaintive. Homura doesn't want to believe what she knows must be true. She shakes her head, negating, and drenched black braids flop against her heaving chest with her vehemence.
Her eyes have just begun to sting in earnest when the second layer of protective magics shudders, a single golden ripple around a dark spot in the latticework dome. It's a stain. It darkens, spreads... It's a red stain. The color soaks through Mami's magic until the ribbons are no more than bloody bandages, and then they, too, drip apart and blow away before the fury of the storm.
"Oh no. Tomoe-san, no no no, please no... This can't be happening... It, it just..." Horror rips her voice apart, and Homura claps both hands over her shaking mouth. Walpurgisnacht thunders against the remaining pink dome overhead, attacking with a shelling of unnatural precipitate.
Madoka's magic stands strong. The flames atop those planted arrows burn a steady, friendly pink. They do not so much as flicker, however hard the Witch-wind howls. And they're warm... like a crackling fireplace in the dead of winter, or like the comfort of a snuggling arm as it pulls her over to a couch full of friends.
Homura sniffles and hugs herself, shivering in her wet school uniform. She picks an arrow -- that one, directly in front of her left foot -- and ignores the storm to stare into the heart of its pink flame, willing it to keep burning forever.
And then, suddenly, she isn't alone anymore.
Madoka is a creature of constant motion. Look at a bird in its cage; every few seconds it tilts its head left or points its beak right, rattles its feet or fluffs a wing. This teenage girl is normally no different, even if she has fewer nervous tics and more restless ones, which have mounted over the passing months and years of her unlikely occupation.
But now stillness dwells within her, deep and vast and strange. Serenity is the endless twinkling starscape above them, invisible behind the storm. Serenity is the secret place in the ocean beside them, where the churning chasm cannot hope to reach or move. Serenity is somewhere to go when there is nowhere else left.
Serenity is acceptance, and it's writ plainly on Madoka's face now, as with infinite care she folds an empty gold wire flower barrette and shattered, green-rimmed glasses into Homura's empty hands.
It was all of them that she could save, and it is not enough.
She straightens. "Time for me to go."
She closes her eyes against the agony in Homura's voice, which makes everything real. "But… they all… just died…"
"That's why," she says gently, so so gently. "Now I'm the only one who can finish off Walpurgisnacht."
"It's impossible!" Homura tells her, and the stillness she's woven herself into bends her lips into a smile. One more smile, just for her brave, scared friend. Everything is going to be all right. "You can't win alone against that! You'll die too, Kaname-san!"
Beneath their puffy raiment Madoka's shoulders tense, then shrug. "Even so, I'm still a Puella Magi. I must protect everyone." She doesn't even resent it. Where she goes next, the path has already been broken. And it's for the best reason. The only reason.
Immovable object meets unstoppable force in a terrible collision of simultaneous truths.
The storm rages around them, splitting another building in half. The top of the skyscraper sits topsy-turvy in a puddle of muck.
With mounting desperation, Homura tries to find another way out. "Hey… let's run away. There's nothing we can do. No one would blame you!"
Madoka pauses. Really pauses, and really looks at the other girl. It's hard to stop, even within her own stillness. It's the hardest thing in the world, because she knows how easy it would be to fail to start once again. She gazes at Homura's tears and the red-rimmed eyes from whence they came, those lovely purple eyes. At the way one is gathering on the tip of her nose, ready to succumb to gravity at any moment and join the rest of the water in the sky, on its inexorable path from heaven to earth. At the trembles coursing through her skinny little body.
At the love in her heart, bared not just on her sleeve but on her face. All over.
Madoka's smile, Madoka's accepting smile, warms. Hotter than all of her candles it glows, and she isn't an incipient corpse about to walk down Death Row anymore. Homura's a girl, and she is too. They're two girls together, in the storm.
Madoka takes a knee. Grime gathers in the fluffy ruffles beneath her skirt, but it's far less than what's already been done to her today. She reaches out and lays her palm on Homura's cheek. Lets the tears there sink into her, like rocks into that lake.
"Homura-chan, I'm glad we became friends." Her smile widens, deepens. Vast. Galaxies and oceans shine in her eyes. Resonate in her sweet little soprano. "When we rescued you from that witch… I'm still proud of that."
She leans forward until their foreheads kiss. "Saving you, and getting to know you, was the nicest thing that happened to me because I became a Puella Magi."
They're so close that she can feel the misery in Homura's expression, and knows that Homura can in turn feel her lips spread even further, waxing into a grin, bright as high noon. "So I really think it was all worthwhile!"
She knew it would be harder if she stopped, and it is, it's so so hard. But she starts anyway. She stands. She pulls away. She's waved goodbye so many times, at the train tracks or on the street corner. She's waved see you tomorrow. This time is different, even though the gesture is the same -- her fingers splay, her forearm works, her smile forces itself to not become even a little sad.
Homura says her name one last time. Her surname. How stubborn. Even after all this, she couldn't convince her to just call her Madoka.
"Goodbye, Homura-chan!" Madoka chirps as she does not fall into the storm but leaps into it, willfully, heedlessly, sadly and gladly. It's the right thing to do, and that makes it easy. But leaving everyone she's doing it for, that makes it hard. "Take care!"
And then she's gone.
It doesn't grow quiet outside, but it does grow quiet/er/ as the answering cacophony of valiant mahou battle thins. Homura stares into burning pink until all she hears is Walpurgisnacht's muffled roar.
Then overhead, Witch-thunder growls its last and abates. The terrifying stuff falling from the sky gives way to rain, only rain, good and clean and natural.
And just when Homura thinks, Is it over? and that it might be safe to look up from that pink flame...
The beautiful hope fletching each and every arrow gutters in concert. An involuntary gasp knifes into Homura and she makes a desperate little sound --
-- the flames go out, as one.
A broken city fades into focus around Homura; she does not see it.
Raindrops pitter-patter onto her head and swim down her cheeks; she does not feel them.
Walpurgisnacht is gone, vanquished, and the city of Tokyo is safe.
She does not care.
Instead of allowing the unthinkable thought to form, she shies away from thought altogether. Homura takes off into rain and the ruins.
The frail girl runs. She's bent over double. Her breaths sound out of her open mouth in panic-edged gasps. Skinny legs pelt, long braids toss behind her, and stumbling footfalls echo off the exposed metal bones of shattered buildings.
The scattered fallen mahou she runs past do not matter. The salvation of the city they died for doesn't matter, the promise of another day dawning... none of it matters.
Only Madoka matters. She has to find Madoka. She has to find Madoka!
Madoka's body was still warm when she found her, though the shallow sea of stormwater she lies in slowly leeches away that vestige of a departed soul. Her soft, torn hand is already degrees cooler in Homura's.
The breathing girl's wide, wild purple eyes stare up into a pair of small red ones, shiny and round like impassive buttons on the face of a stuffed animal.
Though the puella magi have all died, their fairy mascot lives. They called him Kyuubey, and he likes being fed takoyaki and scritches behind his long double-ears and making contracts with girls in exchange for wishes.
He has in fact just offered such a contract to the grieving, vulnerable girl on her knees before him. Homura Akemi can have any wish her desperate heart desires.
Any wish her heart desires.
However sure the heart, there is nothing so complex as desire.
"I..." she begins, then falters.
The only piece of this world that matters to Homura lies in the water before her. The sun could fail to rise tomorrow and its abandonment would not leave her as cold and alone and in the dark as she is right now. She looks down at Madoka and a fresh knot twists up her throat: the pain of a new kind of hope. Her very best friend's parting words come back to her.
'When we rescued you from that witch... I'm still proud of that.'
Madoka was always saving her. It all began when she rescued Homura from the questions of curious classmates, and it now feels like her life began in earnest when Madoka saved Homura from despair itself with those beautiful pink arrows... She would not be alive today if it was not for Madoka. She might not /want/ to be alive today if it was not for Madoka. And now, now she's...
'Saving you, and getting to know you, was the nicest thing that happened to me because I became a Puella Magi. So I really think it was worth it!'
A piteous sound escapes that knot in her throat. She agonizes, and miserable new tears well up. It isn't fair! It isn't fair that she should live while Madoka, Madoka... Her heart treasures those words; her wounded psyche, though, cannot understand. It makes no sense, no sense to her at all.
'I'm glad we became friends.'
She never got to tell the girl with the soft pink cheeks and soft pink hair how much that friendship really means to her, because she was so afraid of admitting how marginal her existence was before they met. How that friendship means /everything/ to her, how it introduced light to her shadowed life.
Homura Akemi can think of only one way to make things right. The notion arrives unsummoned. It bubbles up from her secret daydreams, the ones that drown out the teachers most reliably in the classes she shares with Madoka -- the ones in which their roles reverse, and Homura does everything right instead of doing everything wrong, and she finally gets to be Madoka's hero instead.
Homura swallows an ungainly lump of tears. She sits up and carefully folds the cooling hand she was holding onto Madoka's chest, right atop her ripped Ohtori uniform bow. Then she takes off her glasses to scrub a messy face with the inside of her sleeve. Her hands have stopped shaking, comes a thought, but it feels small and distant, like it originates from outside of herself. The glasses go back on.
She knows what wish her heart desires.
Homura stands to face the wish-granter where he perches atop a spire of rubble. Her knock-knees hold. Her quiet voice flutters but does not break, and as she offers her prayer it builds in resolve and desperation both.
"I want to redo my meeting with Kaname-san. But this time, instead of her saving me..."
Now she's shouting, though only a white set of double-ears remains to hear. She's shouting her wish at a world that would let someone like her live and allow a girl as wonderful Madoka to die.
"I want to be the one to save her!"
A silent moment passes between girl and fairy. It is precisely the amount of time needed for a human heart to beat once, and then stop.
An invisible fist grips the inside of Homura's chest and /squeezes/ and she can't scream, she can't breathe, and for a terrible terrifying instant she is sure the fatally flawed muscle hiding within her ribcage has finally failed, just like she always knew it would--
--the pain sharpens, and it localizes beneath the very center of her heaving sternum, and as it rises within her it becomes a distinct sensation from her heart which is beating so fast it promises to any moment burst instead of simply stop--
Homura Akemi throws her head back, and emerging purple light washes the pale underside of her chin. The twinkling mote of her soul passes through bone and muscle and skin.
It leaves her, to float among the raindrops above, and it shines on the faces of girl and creature both: a coin upon a table between them. She hears Kyuubey's voice in her head, as unemotional as always.
"The contract has been made. Your wish has prevailed over entropy. So, go now... unleash your new power!"
Homura does not feel the racing of her pulse any more, but she doesn't feel the pain, either. Both recede so that purple might flow in. With both hands she reaches up, mesmerized, to catch the growing spark between them like a child would a firefly, and the light heats her palms and bleeds through her fingers...
Her eyes close, and she does not stop seeing.
OST: DJ Shadow - What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoQVugpEEVg
'But this time...'
Amethystine energy bathes her, but Homura sees silver: a gleaming perfection of circles within circles. Magicwrought metal flashes and she hears a rising whisper, as if of secrets spilling.
'But this time...'
What she hears is sand flooding the channels prepared for it. It courses, red and sinuous, down the face of a shining clockwork shield, and as the uncountable grains filter past they set those finely-meshed gears to spinning. The precision of movement transcends the mortal, its design so complex and so lovely it would steal her breath had she any left to give.
Interlocking teeth speed and blur until they become smooth and shining circles too, instead of jagged-edged gears. The whole round shield spins, then, spiraling away, except Homura's perception suffers a vertiginous twist and instead she is the one spinning, round and around and away into the ticking black...
As Homura loses consciousness her very last sensation is of hope, and it feels pink and warm like Madoka Kaname's hand holding hers.
When she wakes, her eyelashes feel thick and gummy. Her eyes open slowly, until they don't and snap the rest of the way wide. Hospital curtains float in a breeze, gauzy and light for their length. She sits bolt upright in bed, turmoil mounting in the apparent peace surrounding her.
"Wh-what, this is--" Where did the broken city go, where did the broken sky go? "I'm..." Where is Kyuubey? Instead she sees a calendar on her bedside tray with an old but familiar back-to-school date circled in red, right next to a handbook for new Ohtori students. "I'm still in the hospital?"
Where is Madoka?
"Did I..." Did she dream everything up? She can't finish that one out loud, it's too...
There's something in her hand.
Near-terminally confused -- her poor strained heart stumbles to find its rhythm -- she pulls her glasses on and takes a look. Something delicate and lovely and unspeakably precious rests in her palm, lending hue to her parchment skin.
"So it's not a dream..."
Homura is going to save her first and very best friend. The purple Soul Gem she holds is her proof. She traded her soul for a dream of a wish, and now she just has to see it come true. She's going to save Madoka!
The first day of school cannot come soon enough. She can't wait to get started.