2019-02-01 - TIMELINE 2: Garden of Time! A Mother's Cruelty!

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TIMELINE 2: Garden of Time! A Mother's Cruelty!

The magical girls, with assistance from the Arthra, travel to Precia Testarossa's fortress in order to seal the Jewel Seeds once and for all. Fate reckons with her mother's hatred.


Nanoha Takamachi, Fate Testarossa, Eas, Fumiko Inoue, Niramo Umokeshi, Steven Universe, Kasagami Araki, Fuu Hououji, Homura Akemi, Endo Naoki, Mikoto Minagi, Madoka Kaname


Dimensional Space

OOC - IC Date:

2/1/2019 - 04-21-2014

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Dimensional Space +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
  Where the vast wonders of outer space extend in all directions within         
  Earth's primary temporospatial dimension, many other 'magical worlds' occupy  
  another dimensional space entirely. There are as many theories as to their    
  origin, 'true' location relative to the Earth, geography and greater meaning  
  as there are visitors to these realms. None are conclusive.                   
  Unlike Earth, Magical Worlds often utilize magic publically and prolifically  
  to improve their societies, though many remain feudalistic, and others        
  outright barbaric. When magic itself ceases to be secret, the necessity for   
  a magical girls identity to be hidden diminishes as well, and recognition     
  inhibition is weak or absent in many such worlds.                             
  Methods of travel between and within dimensional spaces are manifold. The     
  simplest are permanent portals, often attached to sites such as standing      
  stones, which can create bridges through space or time. Dimensional           
  transport spells can be invoked by more powerful magi, and at the extreme of  
  fancy footwork are entire mobile fortresses, from starships to floating       
  towers, that whisk whole families or armies between, and beyond, the stars.   

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.


Nanoha Takamachi is even smaller than usual when she's in seiza. Facing the group, she bows until her nose touches the beautiful wood floor.

"I've met some people who say they can get us to Feito-chan's mother... and the Jewel Seeds. They're, um... a little strange..."

There is a rushing sound, a clap of displaced air so entirely vast that it sounds like something else. Low and strange and unknown, unprecedented. Utterly alien.

Everyone hurries outside, and the third-grader laughs weakly as she points at the alien spaceship, now hovering over Tokyo like the world's sleekest sportscar, only pointier. It is white and silver. "Y-yeah... that's our ride... Lindy-san, if you please!"

Just before they're all engulfed by a vast magical circle, she looks up at her bedroom window. Nanoha can't see the girl laid gently in her bed... but she can feel her -- her hand drifts over her heart.

"...I'm off on my way, Feito-chan..."

The light waxes blinding.


For lack of a better word the spaceship is sweet. It's able to warp everybody up to its bridge and in basically no time at all is providing a lovely view of -- wait, no, that's not Earth.

The viewscreens (which, let's get into aesthetic here, are clearly more magical than technological; their edges sparkle a bit with the same sort of radiance Bardiche or Raising Heart might emit; nevertheless there is a very steadycam feel to the shots right now, and a certain profound minimalism; everything is a gentle blue or gray, with more edges than curves; a little militaristic and sterile) are showing an undulating purple-red-blue surface that might as well be the cover of any sufficiently psychadelic album one's weird dad embarrasses one's daughter by playing among company. It isn't recognizable.

"This is dimensional space," the Captain -- she must be the Captain, as soon as she appeared on the bridge everyone else in uniform (and they are in uniform, also blue and gray) stood a little straighter -- explains. She's in uniform too, but there's a distinctly maternal feel to her as she looks over the group, which vastly outweighs that of her military rank. Tossing her teal ponytail over her shoulder, she explains with a smile, "It connects the multiverse -- the many many many worlds. Until very recently it was impossible to reach Earth this way. My name is Lindy Harlaown. Be welcome to the Arthra. We're all very glad you're here."

Her smile fades.

"Unfortunately, if Precia Testarossa is allowed to activate all the Jewel Seeds in her possession, the dimensional quake she'll cause will reach Earth too -- as well as everywhere else. Maybe even everywhen. It's a very serious threat. Nanoha-chan," So named, the third-grader gives her a shy smile, "Has gathered you to join our strike team. Thanks to another of Feito Testarossa's associates--"

Smash cut to Nanoha's bedroom, where Arf paces back and forth in front of her master in repose, tail lashing.

"--we have the coordinates, and we can teleport there directly. Precia is a powerful archmagus; we expect extreme resistance. Especially since we finally understand what she's attempting to achieve."

One of the viewscreens switches to a view of Earth's oceans. The rainbow bridge is in view, along with most of those currently on the bridge.

Precia's voice crackles onto the Arthra's bridge, with a little distortion, as they play the tape.


Lindy nods, seriously. "Al-Hazard is a legend of our world; the birthplace of incredibly powerful magicks destroyed by their own hubris. Most believe it never existed. Even if it did, it is long gone -- no amount of Jewel Seed energy is going to bring it back. But Precia doesn't care anymore, because bringing something back is what this is all about... infamously, the mages of Al-Hazard were able to raise the dead."

More images bleep onto the viewscreen, superimposed over the paused video. Precia, young and motherly and joyful. A younger Fate.

No -- it isn't quite, is it?

One of the women on the bridge, a studious person operating a control panel (she's been cueing up the images), clears her throat. "Alicia Testarossa was Precia's real daughter. She was killed during that illegal experiment, the one that destroyed Central Midchilda. The real purpose of Precia's experiments, was to try and create a brand new artificial life form, one that will surpass all other familiars. She wanted to revive her dead child. So she created a copy of Alicia. The name "Fate" was the code name she had given her experiment."

Precia's voice returns to the bridge and this time it is as though she's standing among the group, so good is the recording. Or -- no, again. This isn't a recording. This is live.


"I'm impressed you found out so much about me. Everything you say is true. Nothing when this planned, it was all total failure. An artificial being is nothing but a fake, isn't it? They can never take the place of something so special... Alicia would smile at me more kindly than you ever could! She could be selfish sometimes, but she always did what I told her to. She always listened to her mother."

Nanoha's eyes widen at 'you', as she realizes that this is being piped into her bedroom too, surely. Into Fate's ears.

"Stop it..." she pleads, in a tiny voice.

"She was kind," Precia continues, relentlessly. "Alicia was always so kind to me. Well, Fate. Do you understand now? You're just a fake Alicia. I went through all the trouble of giving you her memories -- but you weren't good enough for them."

"Stop it -- stop it!" shrieks Nanoha.

"You were just a doll I was using to comfort me, until I could bring my sweet Alicia back to life. But now I don't need you anymore." Precia's voice tightens into a vicious lash. "Would you like to know something? Ever since I made you -- I've always hated you."

"STOP SAYING SUCH THINGS!" Nanoha shouts, then turns to Lindy. "How long? How long until we get there?"

"There's no time at all," Precia laughs, and laughs, and laughs, until finally her presence fades away.

"Now," Lindy replies, quietly, grimly, her eyes slits of rage. All the viewscreens have switched to a red runic emergency sort of look and the whole ship is starting to shake; even from within its relative safety, everyone can feel the Jewel Seeds' power rising. "Amy, transfer us now. She's right about one thing: there's no time left."

"Right!" Amy agrees, then looks to the group. "Huddle back up -- and you might want to hold onto each other, this could be a rocky ride!"

COMBAT: Fumiko Inoue transforms into Serpentina Ruse!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Wind Knight!
COMBAT: Homura Akemi transforms into Puella Magi Homura!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Sorrow Without Solace - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOc-DSkkscc

Why did she save me?

Her mind was a broken record, fixated upon that question. A skip scratch everytime she considered asking it. There could be no possible answer, she felt mired in existential worthlessness.

Her mother would never smile at her again.

Did she ever smile at her in the first place?

Who am I?

All questions that kept her from asking...

Why did she save me?

Tucked into the fuzzy covers of the girl's own bed, Fate Testarossa feigned unconsciousness for a time, until she was certain she was gone. Then she curled up on her aching side.

The girl whispers something to herself - all but inaudible, "It doesn't matter."

All was quiet for a while other than Arf's pacing footsteps, which gave her time to simply focus on the pain. It's like her whole body had been transmuted into lightning, then back to flesh just in time to be electrocuted. It was remarkable that she was alive at all.

She wished it wasn't so.

And then...

There was her mother's voice. And surprised, the girl forced herself past the screaming pain onto her back. "Mother?" She croaked.

It continues. A shocking sort of cruelty even to one who had experienced Precia's many cruelties firsthand. To confirm something she'd begun to suspect.

Her mother had never really smiled at... her.







It didn't help that there were a few scattered plushes around the room, suddenly she had this striking feeling of being one of them.


The girl feels herself sinking into herself even as Arf frantically starts clutching her hands.

Feito! Feito! Don't listen! Shut that wretched woman out! Fei

...but even the sense that she was right beside her was already becoming distant.

Why did she save me?

There is no answer, in light of Precia's revelation. There can't be. You don't save things that ought to be thrown away.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki transforms into Crimson Rose Duelist!
<Pose Tracker> Eas [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

hrown away. Always a disappointment. Worthless all along. ...Lightning, thunder, over and over.

rAs the awful explanations come, the cruel mockery and viciousness towards the being they all know as Fate Testarossa--a pale fist curls in on itself, fingernails pressing hard into an unprotected palm. It would hurt a lot more if she focused on it, or cared.

The door to Nanoha's bedroom has started opening, just in time to hear Precia's voice fully, to hear what she said, how she felt...

"That... woman," the Executive of Labyrinth murmurs. Purple-haired and red-eyed, even without preparation for battle Eas--alias Setsuna Higashi--has anger threaded through every muscle in her body, it feels like, a complex knot of emotion all boiled down to the rage she can understand, to the wrong that lingers as worry for Fate that she has no language to describe.

Closing the door behind her, Eas steps up to the other side of the bed, opposite Arf, and what passes for a greeting is brusque and distant. "I'm not here to fight," is all the pale girl says, leaning over to look the blonde over with a frown. It's not like she's trained in medicine, or anything like that, but--

To all accounts, Setsuna looks like an entirely ordinary girl, if one with some grimmer fashion choices--dark jeans, sneakers, a black tanktop under gray overlayer. There's points of red on her palm where she pressed in too hard.

"Pointless," she mutters to herself, where she cannot say 'are you all right?' because she has seen enough already that this makes sense.

"Fate!" Eas says, reaching to hold Fate's shoulder with her other hand. "Wake up! You're strong, you're driven--are you going to let words beat you!?"

...Eas actually starts to shake her before she catches herself and stops, turning her head away so her expression can't be read. Quietly, "This isn't... This isn't what's supposed to happen..."

COMBAT: Niramo Umokeshi transforms into Sourisi!
COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Serious Steven!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!
<Pose Tracker> Fumiko Inoue [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Fumiko had long lost her amazement and curiosity in the technological and magical wonder of the Arthra. While it had stunned her at first arrival, it no longer held any interest to her. The situation was much to grim, much too serious.

Instead, Serpentina was a blank mask, hiding her nerves behind a cold stare at the recording. A dimensional quake reaching everything, everywhere, every point in time and space? She barely understands it, but comprehends enough to know that this could not come to pass. She knows little about the peson, but she does know one thing - Fate's mother had to be stopped.

And then the recording switches to live feed, and the words from that... witch... make Serpentina realize just how much she hated her. To reject your own daughter like that, regardless of the circumstances behind her 'birth', angers her even more than the potential for multiversal destruction. Her hands, jaw, and heart clench. "You... heartless... inhuman... thing," she hisses. "You filth..."

And she thought SHE had mom problems.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Arf perhaps heard the door open, but her attention is elsewhere. It's only when the transmission is over that Arf looks at one Setsuna Higashi and snarls. "That's right you're not. Because if I think for a moment you're here to finish what her mother started I'll rip open your jugular before you can say 'Switch Over'."

It's the kind of bluster that someone like Eas can expect from Arf. She knows she can't take Eas of Labyrinth in a fight, but right now... she's an easier target than Precia Testarossa for her anger.

Suspicious as she is though, she doesn't rise, instead clutching at the smaller child's hands.


Fate thinks she hears Eas' somewhere, someplace distant. That's absurd though. Why would Eas of Labyrinth ever think to encourage her? It feels like some fever dream.


Absurd. To be called strong after she was crushed by so many magical girls, discarded for reasons that went beyond simple weakness.


Driven by memories of love and affection that was never hers to begin with. Her mother was right, she was selfish. She just wanted her mother to pay attention to her, to spend time with her. It was never really about granting her mother's wish. It was never just that selfless joy of wanting to see her smile. Not really. It was the resolve of a child who desired praise rather than punishment.

She was right, she was never good enough.

words beat you

All along she'd insisted talking and understanding would change nothing. In the end she was the one beaten by the resolve of many girls who insisted it would.

However that tickles at the part of her subconscious which denies that it could be Eas. Because it actually sounds like her. What a thought... Eas of Labyrinth, trying to encourage her to get up and keep fighting after being declared a worthless failure by the one she sought to serve.

It's so funny that she could cry.


Arf had been too broken up about Fate's state to speak for a while.

"... It's not what's supposed to happen huh? The wolf woman glowers at Eas for a moment, "Why do you think I turned traitor?"

Arf puts a hand on the cloth covering up Fate's shoulder gently, and pulls it back, to show an old scar that has to be at least a few years old. An indentation which looks like a healed lash.

"What do you think happened to her the moment you left that throne room? Anyone who thinks that this wasn't supposed to happen... is just deluding themselves."

Arf places a larger hand into Fate's again, impressing warmth into it. Using her other to brush her cheek from stray hairs.

"Including me. I'm so sorry Feito... all those times I gave in to you telling me we just needed to hold out a little while longer..."

Perhaps she was just being the consummate familiar to her master, but that's not what the girl had needed.

<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

The interior of the Arthra is met with wonder, despite the fact it doesn't seem to be designed for those outside this group. A spaceship that runs off what must be a mixture of magic and technology will gather quite a lot of attention from Takk if he was capable of interacting with the world at the moment.

However, this wasn't time for a tour of amazing techology.

Precia Testarossa has all of the Jewel Seeds, and the threat they poses can shatter the very foundations of reality if used in an attempt to bring forth the mythical world of Al-Hazard. It feels wrong to learn about the history and motivations of Fate Testarossa, even when it explains just a little more about the young yet powerful girl. Created as a copy of a grieving mother's daughter to help her cope...this doesn't feel right in the slightest. It was if she was being told the darkest secret of someone at school, and that everyone knew about it except for Fate.

That is...until Precia tells them all, and Fate, precisely what she feels about her magically created daughter.

Sourisi isn't as quick on the realization as Nanoha is, but once she realizes that Fate is being forced to listen to these hateful words from her 'mother', it was hard not to have her hands clench her tonfa in frustration. "How...how dare she say that! Fate-san has done many things to gather the Jewel Seeds, and this is how she's treated? Precia is so focused on the fact that Fate is not like Alicia-san, she can't even see Fate as her own person..." How can there be people like this, who are treated with respect and unquestionable trust from their offspring, biological or magical, and treat them with such hate?!

Sourisi moves quickly to huddle back up with the others, standing as close as possible to the others as possible. She holds onto Serpentina with one hand, not sure what exactly to expect. But one thing is for certain. Precia Testarossa has much to answer for.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Considering what happened in the not-so-distant past, it made sense that little Steven Universe would be brought on the ride of his life. The boy, assembled among would-be magical warriors, seemed a little out of place amidst those ready to reclaim the Jewel Seeds. After the fight against Eas and Fate, then Multi-Fate, The boy had about a good of a grasp on the types of weaponry as anyone not directly using them.

Nanoha attempts to explain the Seeds, when their proverbial ride arrives. "Whoooaaahhh! Awesoooome..." Looking at that hovering cruiser felt so foreign, yet familiar in some distant way, like a small toy owned so long ago. Perhaps it was getting to see one whole and undamaged from time and erosion.

The command post is no less impressive to the little boy. It is hard for hom to contain his excitement. The boy just holds his hamburger backpack and squeezes it tightly in anticipation. As Lindy speaks, the boy gives a very serious salute.

Despite his most likely foreign way of expressing confirmation to ones superiors, Steven listens adamantly to her explanation. Of course, he flinches hearing that malevolent voice over ocmmunications. And then she explains about Alicia and Fate. A soft frown appears, "Thats not... right..." the boy mutters.

Is that any way for someone to cope?

A casual look down to his torso. The voice returns before he can say anything else. This time crystal clear. "Shut up!" the boy shouts, joining in with Nanoha. He doesn't care if Precia can't hear him. "You don't think everyone's lost someone? And you go to these lengths to try and get it back, and actually made someone new! She deserves to be happy too! You can't just discard her!"

The boy's fists are balled up tightly on that backpack. White knuckles are pronounced against the orange of the parachute orange bun. "No, she can't replace your other daughter, but what you are doing won't replace her either. Even if you succeed... she will be different. Things are always different." Eh, she probably can't, or won't listen, what does it matter? They are gonna have to stop her at this point with force of arms and hearts.

It seems like talking won't escalate this event any further.

The ship begins to have tremors, and the call for teleportation is made. The boy holds a fist high and a roseate shield clangs into place, pink sparkles radiating out for a brief moment. "Right! Let's show her what we can do!" A pause. "I'll be fine, I am so used to teleporting at this point!"

He didn't stop to think that methods of teleportation could vary drastically.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

There's a certain emotional boiling point when even large events and potential catastrophies simply cease to matter. Aboard the Artha, not long after coming to the Takamachi family's Dojo, Kasagami Araki finds herself at that exact state of mind.

Kassie's worry over her precious would-be Kingdom is a minor afterthought, much of her rational thought taking a deep back seat. Her usual smiles and confidence upon greeting those on the Artha itself, particularly it's sharp Captain Lindy, melted quickly to that of concern with a healthy mix of eagerness for a fight. A cloth did much of the work here in occupying said energy, polishing an inch or so of her sword out of reflex and a need to do something besides listen.

Said cloth goes fluttering to the ground without a word, however, as Lindy and the bridge tech lay out the scope-and horror-of Precia's designs.

To bring back a lost family member. Any and all sense of boisterousness and her more scrappy desires melt away. Eyes widen a fraction. Her hands start shaking, only to tighten on sword and scabbard alike. They click back closed with a little too much force. The athletic young woman has to lean on her sword to stay upright.

Equal amounts pity and jealousy cross her face. The Crimson Duelist finds herself settling into a cross-legged sit, sword in front of her on the ground. Her head tilts downwards. Her heart aches, and some small part of her prays that no one notices a streak of tears down one cheek.

What would she give to have her own beloved family back, after all?

Then Precia's words reach them all, neatly shattering whatever pity she was building for the woman. Her throat feels dry, raw as every syllable seems to suck out the moisture in her mouth. Nanoha's shrieks and pleadings and shouts keep her head from pounding too hard. No boasts, no shouts from the usually loud Araki girl.

"How DARE she..." Comes Kasagami's slightly hoarse snarl. In an act of self control, she shuts her mouth with grit teeth. One water bottle down her hatch, a third of it's contents used to fix a few strands of hair that worked their way out of place in her internal emotional turmoil.

She levers herself up, using her blade as a cane, and her boots cut a loud path over to the group of fellow magical girls.

Even now, her hands are still shaking and her right arm aches. Her blade is rested in it's customary position across her shoulders, while her free hand is offered to a girl she wholeheartedly calls a friend.

"I think, Miko-chan, that someone needs an education on the value and definition of family." She whispers to the HiME. The hand on her blade tightens hard enough that her gloves creak. Her mind wanders to her Mother, and just what she'd say to such a woman as Precia Testarossa. Her face is unreadable, aside from a very dark shade of 'mess'.

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

"I don't have any orders anymore about her mother," Eas says back to Arf, with only a moment's eye contact and a toneless voice. She doesn't even argue back, doesn't bother doing more than bristle. Something more important than a clash for dominance right now. ...As weird as that is, there's no need to think about it now. No room.


Setsuna is tense, to say the least--and when Arf answers her instead of Fate, her red eyes slide right up to the wolf woman, her expression strangely blank for all the emotion in her voice, filled with nothing but that scowl, with that irritation, strangely focused. "It's not," she snaps back, though she does look ddown at the scar. Then up to Fate's face again.

"I think she was hurt. That her mother hurt her. I could... tell, the way they interact, how emotional she was. The way she treated her." Even praise wasn't enough to outweigh that. "But that isn't what's supposed to happen.

"Fate... She worked hard. She gave all she could to fulfill her mother's goals, took on whole groups, proved herself powerful, accomplished the mission. ...You don't... throw away, someone who does that. It's inefficient--it doesn't make sense!"

There's an edge underneath her words, sure.

"...Come on," she says, more quietly, looking down at Fate again, before she drags a chair from close and sits down beside her, feeling the skin of her arm with the back of her hand. "...Whatever. We just need her to wake up. Then she can see."

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

While the Wind Knight hasn't been around to help deal with every Jewel Seed, she's made a point of staying in the loop - she's a fairly frequent customer at Midori-ya, and even without the magical girl connection, she'd at least know Nanoha in passing. Fighting side-by-side just means more of a reason to stay in contact.

So when Nanoha puts out a call for help, Fuu makes every effort to be there. She may have missed the battle at the bridge, but that just shores up Fuu's determination to come and help when she *is* able to. So she listens to Nanoha's explanation, and wonders quietly at the technomagical miracle of the Arthra, and being beamed aboard, and the brief view they have of the bridge.

Dimensional Space ... technically it's not the first time the Magic Knight of Wind has been 'here' - perhaps there's a way to get to Cephiro from here - but that's not why they're here. Lindy's explanation of what havoc the Jewel Seeds' power could wreak makes her worry all the more, though - Cephiro's existence is fragile enough as it is right now; if Precia has her way, Cephiro would almost certainly be destroyed in the process as well if it's anywhere 'near' this incident.

"I'll do everything in my power," the Wind Knight promises - to Nanoha, to Lindy, to Amy, and to all of her allies. Precia's words are still echoing in her ears as she makes her pledge; Fuu doesn't show her anger often, whether as schoolgirl or magical girl, but her usually-gentle eyes are clouded behind her glasses, and her typical smile is nowhere to be seen.

"Let's do this, everyone!" the green-clad Magic Knight calls out, bracing herself a little for the next displacement.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Homura's eyes never stop being big and round behind her red-framed glasses, not from the moment they first lay eyes on the spaceship which has come to pick them up.

They stay round as they look through a magical viewport at a planet which is not Earth, and as captain Lindy Harlaown says that they are in dimensional space. They open even further when she explains scope of the threat, and skitter sideways to Madoka Kaname -- the most important girl in the world, a world which is now imperiled. Talk of raising the dead keeps Homura's eyes shock-shaped... and they strain wide as Precia cuts in with unbelievable, unprecedented viciousness.

The rejection strikes a deep chord in the girl with the heart defect who was discarded for hospitals to take care of, and one hand covers her mouth -- the other shivers in Madoka's. She thinks of the young mage with the red eyes who laid everything on the battlefield just yesterday on the behalf of the woman she calls mother.

Suppressed and denied emotions she's never allowed herself to direct at her own parents find a target in Precia Testarossa. "She's... she's awful," comes out of Homura's mouth, and her eyebrows tilt from horror to outrage. "That's awful! How could she, after Fate-san fought so hard... how could she, at all..."

It's time to go. Homura gives an angry sniffle and renews her grip on her best friend's hand, lacing cool thin fingers with soft ones. Sayaka gets a resolute braid-flapping nod from her geeky classmate and fellow puella, very like the ones she gives during fighting practice. "Minagi-san..." Her rooftop tutor finds a pale hand outstretched, shy but offered -- something she might not have done a month ago, but their training sessions have paid off in ways other than martial.

She says, "We'll stop this," for Fate's sake -- and for the world's sake. Thus, for Madoka's.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Endo nods his head as Lindy explains the situation, the boy armored in his barrier jacket and with his Device resting in a hand. He's half-distracted by the fancy screens and sleek curves of the spaceship that they stand on its deck. He's aware of the dangers that the Jewel Seeds possess by now, having spent the past months attempting to prevent Fate Testarossa's mother from gathering them all in her possession.

His face is set in a frown as he listens to the recording of Precia, his fingers tightening on the device in his hand. "Fate's a real person too" He asserts, "And we'll stop Precia, no matter what." A firm nod with that.

When the ship starts to vibrate and signals it's about to actually go, he reaches to find something to hang on it. His gaze is determined, set upon the screens of the ship.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Maybe sitting in seiza is one of those things Mikoto has picked up from Kendo club.

... let's go with that.

What she is unfamiliar with is a spaceship, of all things -- but there's hardly time to acclimatise before she's swept up with the others. She blinks, head whipping about as she tries to take it all in, and eventually decides she wouldn't understand even if they spent all day explaining, and focuses on the woman who seems to be in charge instead.

Dimensional quakes, she decides, must be something like earthquakes, just dimensional. That's bad.

Her eyes narrow as the viewscreen brings Fate into view, as Lindy talks about resurrection. The confusion on her face is obvious, because Fate isn't dead. Except... Amy starts speaking, and Mikoto's attention snaps to her with a small gasp. She looks to the Puella Magi, as if to draw strength from them in that moment.

And then there is a voice amongst them and it's not being controlled by one of the people at the screens.

Mikoto takes a step back, fingers tightening around the strap of her case. She is tense; she is stricken, writ on the draw of her lips and the arc of her brow. "Fate did what Precia said," she struggles to defend her, and her voice is small. "Fate never hesitated..."

The horror in her words says something else entirely: how could she be so cruel?

It's not right. This isn't how devotion is rewarded. This isn't... how it's supposed to be.

Tools are precious things and their worth is known and celebrated.

How could she hate something she herself forged?

How could she?

Mikoto looks to the Puella again, and this time she is not just unsettled. She finds her rudderless pain answered, and her hand lowers from Miroku's strap to grasp at their protege's offered hand. "Homura's my friend --" she hesitates as she tries to find the words. She has always struggled with naming her own feelings, but she knows what Precia should have said. "I love Homura," she says, as the ship's shaking grows more dire. This is how it is supposed to be.

Her other hand finds Kasagami's palm where it is held out for her, and she grasps it tightly. "Family matters," she insists, and she cannot hide how the words are wounded.

"It isn't right," she murmurs, even more quiet now, and perhaps she is talking to them, or perhaps she is convincing herself. "Isn't..." ... right.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Eas has no words for it because she has no family. Madoka has no words for it for the opposite reason.

Madoka's eyes are glassy, distressed slits in a bone-white face further unflattered by the spaceship's cool lighting. Hers is the most idyllic family life, and she was, despite her months of fighting inscrutable Witches and other, more verbal monsters, wholly unprepared to witness... this.

She hasn't let go of either Homura or Sayaka's hands since they were beamed onto the ship. Her grip tightened sharply when Precia's voice joined them live, then softened to a less-painful firmness, one that gives her the mobility to stroke the back of Homura's quivering hand with her thumb, over and over.

Madoka has no words -- until Mikoto finds them.

Slowly her mouth moves. Nothing comes out... but she shaped something with tongue and lips and teeth. She shakes her head, clears her throat. Her dazed gaze comes back into focus, and looks at Homura, then Sayaka, then the others, around the widening arc of held hands.

I love you, she says again, only this time with her eyes. Tender. Piercing. Pink.

It's the best possible antidote. Offense, the best defense.

"Everything is going to be all right," she promises them all -- again more with eyes than voice insofar as her voice is cracked and wavering but her expression is beautifully and gently committed to the oath she's just made -- but especially the one waiting back on Earth, the one who can't even hear them.

Or can she?

COMBAT: Madoka Kaname transforms into Puella Magi Madoka!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki transforms into Barrier Jacket Aufprall!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Soukyuu, Tsuranuite Dual Mix https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nFbhp9zOd4

In the last seconds before the dimensional transfer initiates, the bridge erupts with reports from the crew.

And with fear.

"It's a big one! The magnitude of the dimensional tremor is growing!"

"If this gets any bigger we're going to have maybe half an hour before it tears a hole in this dimension! And if that happens, we're doomed!"

"This fortress is powered by Lost Logias the same type as the Jewel Seeds! That's what's causing the tremor! She knew they'd become unstable, but she activated them anyway -- she must know this is a one-way trip!"

Then silence as, again, everything changes.


The dimensional transfer is gut-wrenchingly strange, especially compared to the first one that got them onto the ship, but over in an instant that might have taken all of time in existence, or none of it at all, depending on the measurement. As the teal light clears, it reveals a strange landscape.

Undulating in all directions but one is more of that blue-violet panorama previously seen on screen. If infinity had a color, this might be it. There is a sense of intense space -- to stare at it for too long invites vertigo.

But there is ground, black and jagged, and up ahead: the fortress. It seems to be formed from this strange floating island's core: obsidian spikes, some crowned with spheres of blue light that hum at such a viciously high frequency that it can't be heard, only felt up and down the spine, collide and congeal into a massive tower.

There is a second, dissonant vibration that makes bones ache. This is coming from much deeper within the Garden, and the wrongness it embodies is surely the dimension-shattering effect beginning to spin itself up like a massive generator or churning engine.

Lindy lands neatly in the middle of her circle. She no longer speaks aloud, but projects her voice directly into the minds of the team.

<< I will join you when I can, but to start I will scan for Precia's position and provide directions through the fortress, and support as I can. Find and seal those Jewel Seeds! Good luck! >>

Already, in front of the massive golden door at twelve-o-clock, equally golden robots are rising up out of the ground. They make the ones who attacked the fireworks festival look like the chumps they were. Armed to the teeth with energy projectors and nasty blades, their red eyes pulse into activation, then narrow at the intruders.

And then they charge.

OOC: Each round, you will have to defeat a wave of Precia's Drone Army in order to advance -- that is to say, reducing their
Fatigue from an unknown value to zero! If you fail to do so, you'll have to suffer the onslaught even longer -- if you succeed,
you'll break through to a new part of the fortress (in this round's case, blasting through the front door). Hotaru's Fatigue
points will be representing each wave, so please target her for that. Good luck!

COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe transforms into Precia's Drone Army!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Conquering Charge on Madoka Kaname.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Conquering Charge on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Conquering Charge on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Conquering Charge on Homura Akemi.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Conquering Charge on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Conquering Charge on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Conquering Charge on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Conquering Charge on Sourisi.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Conquering Charge on Fumiko Inoue.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji partially dodges 6 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Conquering Charge, taking 26 Fatigue damage!  Fuu
Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Trap applied to Fuu Hououji!
COMBAT: Sourisi dodges 20 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Conquering Charge, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Sourisi's Fade and
Flash abilities activate!  Trap applied to Sourisi!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki fails to counter Hotaru Tomoe's Conquering Charge, taking 37 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
COMBAT: Endo Naoki's counterattack, Asteroid Eilen, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!  
COMBAT: Fumiko Inoue fails to dodge Hotaru Tomoe's Conquering Charge, taking 43 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Trap applied to
Fumiko Inoue!
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname dodges 12 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Conquering Charge, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Madoka Kaname's
Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Steven Universe perfectly braces 40 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Conquering Charge, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!  Critical Brace!  Steven Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to counter Hotaru Tomoe's Conquering Charge, taking 35 Fatigue damage!  Trap applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!  
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki partially dodges 6 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Conquering Charge, taking 22 Fatigue damage!
Kasagami Araki's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Trap applied to Kasagami Araki!
<Pose Tracker> Fumiko Inoue [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Serpentina holds onto Sourisi- for safety reasons, don't want anything bad to happen because of stuff - and everything goes bluh. It was definitely a good idea to have held on. Time and space (and her stomach) seem to warp. Her balance is tested, and she barely passes. The surroundings don't help much, and neither does the... dimension quake? "Y-you okay, Squeaky?"

No time to worry, however, as everyone is attacked by big gold robots. Now that's something you don't see every - ow.

Dodging out of the way of one charging robot, Serpentina is instead struck by another. She quickly tumbles to her feet, pulling out her parasol. "Never thought I'd see this much gold and all of it be worthless," she quips, though her heart isn't in it. She rushes in a blind fury with parasol strikes, sweeps, and pokes. If she's taken out before she even gets to Prescia, who would whack her over the head with an umbrella?

COMBAT: Fumiko Inoue has used Umbrella-Fu on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Homura Akemi partially dodges 9 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Conquering Charge, taking 36 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Hit!  Homura Akemi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Trap applied to Homura Akemi!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

"That's right. And I had to listen to every single one of those sessions. Had to feel what she felt throughout them."

Arf confirms to Eas as if perhaps thinking she'll actually get through to her, but after a moment, just seems disappointed as she looks away. "... Feh. You're still just being willfully blind to the kind of people we're in service to. Whatever. It makes no difference to me if you think your Lord Mobius will be more 'efficient' than Precia Testarossa."

Lifting her hand away from Fate's cheek, she holds it up as she traces the lingering thread of magic. An orange runic circle appears in mid-air.

And suddenly there are voices in both of their heads. Of the same Magical Girls that were fighting Fate - who have fought Eas.

Arf finds herself listening to a time. About how they say it isn't right. How they'll stop her, denouncing the many cruelties of Precia.

A thought does occur to her though, listening to them, as she turns to Eas and asks her point blank.

"... why do you need her to wake up?"


Now there are subtler little things rippling into her head. The voices of magical girls. Of Nanoha Takamachi for that matter.

real person

fought so hard

worked hard

gave her all

isn't right

It's a strange reversal. Before she'd thought the resolve of any of those girls couldn't match up to hers. Now each of them feels more real than she does.

It shouldn't feel so touching, listening to them advocate for garbage. To fight not just for their world, but for her too.

That's just the kind of girls they are... some part of her mind tells her.

Why did she save me?

Because they're kind of girls that can champion the cause of a worthless doll.

It's perhaps half flippant at first, but it's so accurate that perhaps her mind clings to that answer within this sense of existential despair. It is a better answer than having none.

Yet within that lay a thread to something deeper.

If the love of Precia Testarossa gave her whatever small sense of worth she had before...

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

As soon as the group materializes on Precia Testarossa's front doorstep, the Wind Knight's sword materializes in her hand; maybe she won't be able to get into melee range right away, but the sword feels like a better choice for now than her archery skills. She nods an acknowledgement to Lindy, then turns her attention to the welcoming committee.

Because of course she expected some kind of guardians. What kind of sorceress would tweak the noses of a boatload of magical girls as sh eprepares for a threatening ritual and *not* have some defenses lined up to ward off this group of plucky nay-sayers?

And sure enough, the army of drones doesn't even give the Magic Knight of Wind time to launch even one arrow, if that had been her plan. The Wind Knight does her best to weave through the melee, but her best isn't good enough - she gets walloped pretty effectively for her trouble, even though she largely remains on her feet ... even when one drone manages to latch onto her leg, anchoring her to the spot when she needed to make her next move.

"This is a fast way not to get anywhere, isn't it," the Wind Knight mutters, focusing her will inwards. "Very well ... Liberating Gale!!"

The spell starts as a variation on her Winds of Healing - but rather than focusing its power purely inwards, she channels it *outwards*, away from herself and into the crush of drones. And as it goes, she takes the energy that she used to restore herself ... and turns it destructive, as if throwing her own injuries back at the constructs which caused them.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Liberating Gale on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

"Aaah-this feels-bad-" Endo is able to get that out as the spaceship vibrates its way to its destination, and the destination vibrates through his bones. His eyes remain on the screens, and the view of the jagged fortress.

Endo Naoki says, "Okay!" Says Endo, "Let's go!" No matter how imposing the fortress and its defenses are, there's too much at stake. The Jewel Seeds, Fate, they have to take them all back. There's only way to go now: forward."

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

"..." What is Eas supposed to say to something like that? To hearing that Arf listened, felt it? She doesn't think of anything, so she just shakes her head, and doesn't bother looking despite the note of disappointment. She doesn't seem to care much.

Maybe the weirdest part is that Eas doesn't even shout at Arf for talking about Lord Mobius. Instead she looks up as the sees the circle of runes, and Eas too has a full view of what they're up to--of where they are, of the reasons they're giving...

Eas knows them, each of them; has fought, watched, listened to... But her jaw sets, rather than allowing herself to show emotion. When Madoka says everything is going to be all right, she finds herself actually considering how it might.

Which is the perfect time for Arf's question and for Eas to snap back, "What?" Then the question registers for her, and Eas turns her head away, huffing imperiously. "Need? Whatever, don't be dramatic. I just think she's too good an asset to be thrown away. If her mother doesn't want her she can work with me." She glances back down at Fate, again, and her expression softens very slightly. "...It's not like I care, it's just... wrong. That's all."

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

"Aaah--this feels--bad--" Endo is able to get that out as the spaceship vibrates its way to its destination, and the destination vibrates through his bones. His eyes remain on the screens, and the view of the jagged fortress.

"Okay!" Says Endo, "Let's go!" No matter how imposing the fortress and its defenses are, there's too much at stake. The Jewel Seeds, Fate, they have to take them all back. There's only way to go now: forward.

And he goes that way very literally, right into the face of a dozen golden robots. Straight through without caution nor finesse, letting out a valorous cry that, within a few seconds, turns into something decidedly more painful. Beams of energy slash across his barrier jacket, burning through the protective dome that's briefly erected and scouring across Endo's figure.

The force of the blasts it along enough to stop him. He staggers mid-step, half-stumbling as he drags his oversized weapon along behind him. He gets there eventually though, worse for the wear...but not in bad enough shape to keep him from thrusting the point of his sword into one of the leading defenders, attempting to spear through the robot with the momentum gathered.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Blauverschiebung on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

As the Arthra prepares to send them to Precia's location, Sourisi tries her best to ignore the comments from the crew, to ignore the feeling in her gut saying that she might be in over her head. It's a little hard to do with all the outcries of approaching doom and destruction of perhaps all of reality, however.

It's a help when Serpentina is involved in this chaos as well, and returns her support. Sourisi didn't even want to imagine if she the only Miraculous User involved, and Serpentina has been a great friend since they met. "Y-yeah, but...I think I perfer running along rooftops over teleporation any day, Slithers."

That support is needed when the strike force is teleported into the Garden of Time, as Sourisi swallows dry air several times in order to keep her last meal down. Magical enhancements or no, disembarking from the Arthra was much harder than getting on board, and now is not the time to be sick! The landscape doesn't help in this matter, the alien obsidian ground combined with the colorful hue and the looming fortress ahead of them all makes it feel like a bizarre fever dream.

But what isn't a dream is the magically-forming robots flowing out of the ground to create an army of defenders, and Sourisi is grateful for the grounding effect her tonfa always seem to have when they're in her grip. While not normally the typical magical girl weapon of choice, it's their rather plain appearance that always helps Sourisi find reality in times of bizarre battles such as these. "Got it, Lindy-san. Thank you for your support in all of this!"

Charging ahead along with the others, Sourisi moves to seperate from the others as blasts of energy start to pepper the approaching swarm of magical warriors, and it's wise that she did so. Even with a little breathing room from the others, and it takes all of Sourisi's agility and dexterity to evade the majority of the blasts while still moving forward. There's no telling what these blasts of energy might do to her tonfa, upgraded robots as they were, and she's not wanting to find out!

Landing from a somersault over a trio of bolts, Sourisi throws both of her tonfa at the mob of robotic minions underhand, needing her hands free for the moment. Previous experience has shown that evading is best when your hands are free. Despite how serious the moment is, Serpentina's familiar joking manner can still be heard, and the mouse ninja shoots her friend a smile that she only hopes looks confident. A bit of the normal is needed right now. "I know! Surely these scrap androids could at least give us money as we fight for...well, everything!"

COMBAT: Sourisi has used Crashing Tooth on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

The ship shudders more violently. It was as if space itself was shuddering in pain as it is being flayed open and reworked, to the whims of a delusional soul. "We will do the best we can!" Steven calls out over the sound of rattling metal and items within the room.

The teleportation happens, and it feels both very similar and far different than Gem Warp. It is similar enough that the boy manages to land clean on his feet and not curl over in stomach distress. It is otherwise quite disorienting.

There is a sound, a frequency in the air, from such powerful magics vibrating the very fabric of reality. Steven less hears it, and more feels it. It is quite intense-- even moreso he feels it in his Gem far more than the rest of him, which causes him to clutch his belly as he winces.

It slowly becomes tolerable, at least enough to not cripple him. But it is like a constant, pervasive headache that wasn't in his head. And while he knows where the feeling comes from, it feels like it is coming from nowhere and everywhere.

"O... Okay!" the boy says, pointing forward, and trying his damned best to not look down. The fortress ahead looks so daunting. A bastion that has most likely never been breached, in such a place far between worlds. But they had no choice but to try. If they didn't succeed, then everything would be over anyway.

From outside the golden pallisade form equally lustrous foes, bent on stopping the would-be heroes from entering! "This is it, this is our chance! Let's make a show out of it, show her what those with heart can do!" the boy calls out. Flip flops click on an invisible ground, and the boy helps lead the charge, adrenaline fueling his bravery in this moment.

Try as the drones might, it is difficult to strike a boy with an impenetrable shield from the front as he moves to meet them. Energy blasts dissipate and reflect on contact with the shield.

And the little boy with poofy hair just keeps charging forward, bent on colliding with as many as he can.

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Shield Slam on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

One dimensional transfer later that took way too long for comfort in a certain Duelist's mind, and there she is. She can't help but pause to admire the landscape. The blue-violet makes her first squint, then rub one eye. Staring at it for too long starts to make her stomach quiver, and so Kasagami Araki smartly picks out where Lindy landed.

Time to trust the mage when it comes to mage business.

The Duelist's already foul mood is entirely not helped by the vibrations of those pillars, her spine starting to ache in ways that's entirely new and novel. She offers a swift nod to Lindy, before she swings her blade in a glorious arc up high in both hands. The castle that needs storming is before them. They have a general at their side.

Eyes close for a second. Mikoto's words echo in her head.

'Family matters'

And then Kasagami rushes forward to meet the charge alongside the magical girls gathered. Straight to the widest line of those Drones with swords, the Duelist seeks to use her overly long blade to it's fullest. She's a blurr of fluttering coat, hair, as the tip of her sword begins to dance in fluid strikes with just a bit of lingering bite to them.

The girl's heart feels like one massive scab already, half way ripped off. She puts her back into the first descending chop.

Both hands clench. Her grip turns her sword ninety degrees and she spins on her heels to lash out in a spin, bringing a lashing arc. It's more of a suggestion of a movement, arms, handle, and blade as sweeping as they are singular in the hands of the Araki family head.

The attacks come to her, of course. She stands her ground even as she never stops moving. Blades miss vital points by an inch, are deflected off a hilt, and her longcoat is peppered until it's naught but a jaunty shredded cape. Her right glove meets a well-torn end as well, and the long handle of her nodachi occasionally is forced to play shield as she dodges out of the way of the worst of the blows coming for her.

Faster, faster, cut and cutting in turn, Kasagami Araki lets out a war cry with every strike, trying to lay claim to her own personal battlefield ballroom as she presses on aggressively.

"A King nor her allies..." Teeth grit.

"Will not be denied those that break the ties of family!"

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Rose Flash on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

It isn't right -- but everything is going to be all right. Ever since Homura introduced Mikoto to the Puella Magi, in that strange way Homura had as if she'd already known her for years, Madoka has been a lighthouse of mercy to light Mikoto's path. There are people like that, in the world; not everyone, of course, but there are some people who simply model goodness, even if they don't have all the answers. People who are kind, and who can be followed in that kindness. There are so many people like that in Mikoto's life; people who have inspired her to blunt her edges and try to reach out in understanding instead of lashing out in anger. Mai was only the first.

If Madoka says everything will be all right, it's going to be okay.

Even if it feels like the ship is about to be torn apart.

And then, all a sudden, they're somewhere else.

Kasagami and Homura will feel Mikoto's grip slackening in each of their hands, until they slip away, to curl at her chest instead. She's not good at foreign language -- she doesn't know the word for deja-vu, as she looks up at those obsidian spikes. Something familiar, but so, so different.

It's unsettling to see the core of her magic in another context, in a terrible context.

She's not left to feel uncomfortable for long, before she feels as though she might be torn apart instead. Mikoto shakes her head in the wake of the vibration, swinging her case about and drawing her black blade. (She shoulders her case, again, when Miroku is freed. She has no intentions of leaving it in a place like this.)

Lindy tells them what to do, and Mikoto is happy to listen. She nods, firmly, grasping her blade. Endo charges and it should be no surprise that Mikoto thinks in precisely the same way; the two of them have always been alarmingly similar in their approach. So, too, is it unsurprising to see her knocked aside just as he is, a robot's golden blade locking in with her obsidian and throwing it aside as its wielder trails after like a banner in the wind.

She hits the ground and tumbles, but she comes up crouching and springs forward again, with a ferocious yell which does not bother with words. There are some enemies which Mikoto does not have to take care with, whom she can fight without reservation; Orphans and Familiars and, yes, robots too. She charges the line, and plants her feet at the last moment, sending her blade spiralling in a whirl of sparks to cleave a wide circle through their foes.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka says it will be all right, and her closeness warms up a chilly girl's hand and heart, as she always does; Homura tries to stand as tall as she can, wanting to make the other girl proud, to be braver for her.

Here is another reason for purple eyes to stay big and round: the open emotion her taciturn, funny-fierce braid-sister gifts her with. She starts replying before she has any idea what she's going to say -- what do you say to something like that?! Oh, Homura, the answer is not as complex as you think -- and ends up stuttering, "I- ah- um, ar-" as the bridge crew cries out, as the world turns strange and sideways and streeeetches...

"--igatou go- gozai..." And the awkward 'thank you' she was about to return Mikoto's heartfelt proclamation with dies on her lips as they arrive in a strange and infinite landscape. "Aaahh!"

They must gain the fortress... but through those terrifying, golden robots. Reluctantly her hands slip free from Mikoto's and Madoka's: the better to bring her shield to bear, the better to reach behind it. She doesn't anticipate the speed with which their foes bring the fight to them, though, and isn't ready when a blade sweeps down at her!

Homura tumbles back from her robot foe, loosing a pained shriek -- the blade caught up. Now she flies sideways, tumbling on the strange teal ground. She rolls to a stop at Madoka's pink-clad feet, looking battered and scraped already. But despite the pain-tears swimming in her eyes, she focuses on the girl above her and raises a scuffed hand.

"Kaname-san...! May we...?" Quick words, shorthand, but the plan is in those big purple eyes. They clasp hands...

and disappear.

And REAPPEAR that very same instant in a burst of brilliant color!

Pink explodes out of a purple flash of light as Madoka and Homura shoot back onto the battlefield, streaking across the sky astride -- is that a big pink fireworks-shooting broom? So fast they travel that even quick eyes need a moment to catch up: no, they're riding the most magical arrow in existence, propelled by pink hope.

A shriek accompanies their arrow's flight, and it may be taken for a sound effect of the magic but... no, it's Homura, overcome by the sheer velocity of their chosen attack vector.

Not too overcome to drop pipe bombs, though.

One by one homemade munitions drop, aimed for the biggest clusters of robots, and then red blooms: BOOM BOOM BOOM! She clings to Madoka's waist after, and their heads bump together a little from the flight. "It... it worked? It worked!"

COMBAT: Homura Akemi has started a combo targeting Hotaru Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.


Gorgeously pink light is the only color here, and it grows and grows and grows in Madoka's hands. One instant it's an arrow, and a few instants later it's more like an ACME missile.

Then it's launched, and everything is gray again once it gets about a meter away, hovering patiently as though it's waiting for them.

"Milady's chariot awaits," giggles Madoka -- this is a desperately serious situation but if love is the antidote to hatred then humor may be that to fear.

She had to have her hands free to draw the bow, so with a certain inspiration she had produced her ordinary red ribbons (not the wider magenta ones she wears while transformed) from in between some ruffles of her skirt, and tied one end around Homura's wrist and attached the other to her waist.

That means that, as she moves in to stirrup-boost Homura onto the gigantic arrow, it winds up getting a bit tangled around them. Even after they're settled atop it -- which takes timing, since the moment they touch it again, it starts to move -- it's still there, and inadvertantly wrapped around her like a belt (along with Homura's arms).


"You did it!!" Madoka squeals joyfully, brushing her cheek up against Homura's nose without turning all the way around. She wants to celebrate more but that arrow is about to hit the front wall. "You-- uh, JUMP!"

(They jump.)

COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has joined the combo started by Homura Akemi!
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka affirms: they did it, SHE did it. All that joy on her face...

Homura smiles, big and bright and happy--

--"eeek!" And then she jumps.

COMBAT: COMBO! Homura Akemi and Madoka Kaname have used Stolen Ordinance and Twinkle Burst on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe braces 9 Fatigue damage from Fumiko Inoue's Umbrella-Fu, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Block and
Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe dodges 9 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Liberating Gale, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade
and Flash abilities activate!  Bind Break! All of Fuu Hououji's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe braces 21 Fatigue damage from Endo Naoki's Blauverschiebung, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Endo Naoki is Psyched!
Hotaru Tomoe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Sourisi's Crashing Tooth, taking 31 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe braces 9 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Shield Slam, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Steven Universe is
Psyched!  Hotaru Tomoe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe partially dodges 9 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Rose Flash, taking 36 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Kasagami Araki is Psyched!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe braces 30 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness, taking 13 Fatigue damage!
Mikoto Minagi is Psyched!  Hotaru Tomoe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
+heal: Fatigue set to 1.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Homura Akemi and Madoka Kaname's Combo: Stolen Ordinance, taking 68 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru
Tomoe is unable to keep fighting!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Chaos at the gate. The porch. The landing.

Fumiko lays about with her parasol; Fuu sends blasts of wind into the lines alongside Niramo's tonfa, just as Mikoto and Endo and Steven arrive with swords and shield respectively and start knocking drones about like ninepins. Kasagami joins in and by then it's just a big debris cloud with the occasional slash line of a blade, or any of the other weapons, with a golden arm or leg, trailing sparks and glittering wiring, emerging from the fray now and again. The debris cloud roughly triples in size after Madoka and Homura's bomb strafing run (though some of those explosions might be a little close)!

They're winning, but this delay is coming at a cost. The entire fortress shakes as the already inaudible squeal of the dimensions ratchets up another notch, the vibrations pouring down from the floors above twisting and contorting the universe itself, creating weird, rainbow streaks in the air.

Earth is in danger--!

The initial fracas ends when the sheer momentum of the group slams into the front doors, and they shatter into nothing, revealing an immense atrium.

Despite the bleakness of the fortress' exterior, the interior shines gold and glorious, with spiraling staircases and glowing pillars. The floor, however, is very odd indeed -- the blue-purple of Dimensional Space is running hotter in here, sliding up the spectrum towards crimson. Black veins pour across it in a spiderweb.

Before anyone enters, Lindy hastily transmits:

<< Stay on the black path! Those glowing spots... they're Imaginary Space, and it's terribly dangerous! The Jewel Seed activation must have created it... it will absorb all of your magic, no matter what it is or where it comes from. So if you fall in, you'll never fly out! >>

As though summoned by this observation, more drones pour into the area, sending a barrage of blasts across the gaps. These ones can fly, and they're painfully mobile, though they do (effortlessly) stay above the black lines.

A voice drifts through the space, distorted by magic -- and madness. It's sing-song, like a lullabye.

<< Not much longer now, Alicia. Not much further, my darling. I know... we've waited so long... >>

A lullabye sung by someone with half a lung, maybe. Precia sounds cracked. Raw.

And if they can hear her... maybe she can hear them.

But there's still the matter of the drones. There are so many. And are they getting larger?

"Break through!" calls Nanoha, then follows her own advice, summoning a massive pink beam in an instant.

<< DIVINE! >> chimes Raising Heart, enthusiastically.


Huh? (Type "help" for help.)

Huh? (Type "help" for help.)

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Perhaps it's because Arf knows what it's like to bury your feelings and not really say what you're thinking that she doesn't snap immediately at the idea of Eas trading one master for another. There's something cutting in her gaze, like Eas doesn't fool her even for a moment. "Fine. Whatever. We both know why we're really here."


too good asset

work with me.

why really here

It's simply really. The simplest kind of math is substitution. If she can't find worth in the feelings of her mother, then perhaps she could find it in the feelings of those girls who were trying to talk to her all along.

In the people who actually care about her.

It's unfathomable to her why anyone should care about her after she hurt them in the worst kind of ways.

Yet, she can't deny that against all odds, some of them must.

Why did she save me?

She wants to hear the answer with her own ears, some part of her decides. The fact of the matter is that these girls thought she was worth saving.


It happens gradually. First it's just the rhythm of her breathing changing subtly. A twitch of her fingers and toes. And her eyes just opening just slightly.

"Why is that?" The girl murmurs almost inaudibly. A question perhaps, that some part of her knew the answer to, yet it feels distant. To a sudden answering cry of... "FEITO!" As Arf suddenly clutches at her in sudden surprise over her recovery. "Duh-Don't you ever scare me like that again-" Lifting her hand off the bed, she rubs Arf behind the ears. "I'm sorry that I worried you..." She murmurs, "... I'm sorry that I thought you left me."

Arf tries to hold it back in for a moment, before she breaks into sobbing openly over her. "You're such a good girl Arf..." She says with a sort of sickbed fondness, before her eyes drift over to Eas. "... I think I heard you while I..." She mumbles, then corrects herself, "...no I'm sure of it..."

There are a few seconds of silence, perhaps it is simply the girl now looking at Eas in wonder. The sounds of battle are being piped in her mind, the joyful squeals of Madoka and Homura, the small triumphs, the cries of pain. The voice of her mother saying it won't be much longer. The call of Nanoha and the spell she's witnessed so many times now.

"... This isn't where I need to be right now."

She decides, despite not looking like she's in any state to go anywhere.

"There's an answer to a question I want... no... it's more that I need to hear it..." She closes her eyes, "...from someone who called my name."

Huh? (Type "help" for help.)

<Pose Tracker> Fumiko Inoue [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Together, the magical warriors trash the gilded garbage heaps. However, it was far from effortless for some. "Yeah... would it hurt... them to give out... a little change," quips Serpentina as she bounces between them with umbrella strikes, while trying to catch her breath. She is clearly hurting a bit, but doing her best to shake it off.

Inside the fortress is... exactly what she was expecting. "Tacky, false elegance combined with cliche evil demon decor," she remarks. "Classy." One foot above a glowing spot and-

"Whoa! Thanks for the head's up!" She pivots and hops back to safety, luckily without touching that Imaginary Space. Her sigh of relief doesn't last long as more drones are summoned.


COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Pretty Deadly Lights on Fumiko Inoue.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Pretty Deadly Lights on Homura Akemi.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Pretty Deadly Lights on Madoka Kaname.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Pretty Deadly Lights on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Pretty Deadly Lights on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Pretty Deadly Lights on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Pretty Deadly Lights on Sourisi.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Pretty Deadly Lights on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Pretty Deadly Lights on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly dodges 20 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Pretty Deadly Lights, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Dodge!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
+heal: Fatigue set to 300.
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname perfectly counters 20 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Pretty Deadly Lights, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Counter!
COMBAT: Madoka Kaname's counterattack, Like A Bolt Out of the Blue, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Sourisi partially dodges 4 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Pretty Deadly Lights, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Sourisi's
Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji counters 6 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Pretty Deadly Lights, taking 17 Fatigue damage!  Diversion
applied to Fuu Hououji!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji's counterattack, Storm-Dance of Kamaitachi, partially gets through, doing 12 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!
Critical Counterhit!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki braces 12 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Pretty Deadly Lights, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Fumiko Inoue perfectly counters 22 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Pretty Deadly Lights, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Counter!  Fumiko Inoue's Reverse ability activates!
COMBAT: Fumiko Inoue's counterattack, Cobra's Hood, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!  
COMBAT: Steven Universe perfectly dodges 21 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Pretty Deadly Lights, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Dodge!
<Pose Tracker> Fumiko Inoue [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

With the 'bots firing upon her and her leg still hurt, there was little chance of dodging. Thus, she opens her parasol in front of her as the beams hit, parrying them, then when the shots towards her have a break in them, opens it even further to invert it, sending a powerful gust of wind at them while sliding her back. Thank goodness she remembered there was no Imaginary Space behind her, or that would have been reckless.

COMBAT: Fumiko Inoue has used Wind Wall on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Endo Naoki braces 8 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Pretty Deadly Lights, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Endo Naoki's Block
and Parry abilities activate!  Cripple and Diversion applied to Endo Naoki!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

"I have to wonder what else she could possibly have used these resources for instead of automated magical robot guards," the Wind Knight observse mildly as she takes a look at the second wave of drones - an even larger wave than the group that met them out front. They don't really have time for a stand-up fight, either - the Jewel Seeds, and Precia herself, aren't going to give them time for a nice leisurely slugfest, be it physical or magical.

So the Wind Knight plays dirty, unleashing one of her strongest spells with a shout of, "Storm-Dance of Kamaitachi!!" even as the drones fire off a massive barrage at the charging magical girls. The tempest is witheringly effective, throwing some of the drones' aim off - and buying the Magic Knight of Wind enough of an opening to make sure of where she's placing her feet with each running step forward, dodging the pitfalls of Imaginary Space and staying on the black line ahead.

A handful of heartbeats later, and she's plowing into the drones much like Kasagami and Mikoto did outside. Not that the Wind Knight can match either of them for practiced skill - but hopefully she doesn't really have to; the size and sharpness and weight of her sword will hopefully make up for a lack of finesse. It doesn't matter how cleanly the drones are cut ...

The problem, and objective, is simply to *cut* them.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Sword Strike on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Eas [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

All this effort, put forth for a girl who doesn't even seem to want it. Eas glances again to the magical view before her, to the heated conflict and use of power she's accustomed to seeing on the opposite side of a battlefield.

...But there's something so terribly unsettling about Precia's voice.

The girl from Labyrinth doesn't look back at Arf; maybe on some level she knows the kind of look that would be waiting for her. Maybe she's just focused on Fate. After all...

"Yeah," she says distantly. "We know why."


She can't read thoughts; she can't always read faces, why would something deeper be any easier? But inevitably Setsuna finds herself watching Fate again, waiting; she doesn't know what else to say. She doesn't know what she can say, or do, or... Anything. It's wrong--everything about this just presses against something inside her that she cannot accept. And yet...

'Why is that?'

"W-what?" Setsuna answers, blinking, unsure for an instant that she heard her right. "Fate--"

Setsuna leans towards her, a hand down on the bed before she abrubtly stops, seeing the way Fate is looking at her, and at this point Eas glances away, hesitant. "I mean... I just... don't have anywhere else I need to be, so..."

Of course Fate heard her. How much had she said? The questions come quickly, before Fate abrubtly makes a decision. Setsuna turns to Fate again, and looks--if anything--surprised, before she frowns. It is not in anger this time, or derision, it's just... Thought.

"Then what are you going to do?" she asks the younger girl.

She makes no move; she's still sitting down beside the bed, watching Fate, as the sounds of battle ring out nearby and not nearby at all. Her fingers curl, not quite into a fist. "Where are you going to go, during all... this?"

<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Winds howl, blades and shield clash against drones and...an comically oversized arrow acting like a bomber jet? A few short months of her magic evil fighting career can't help Sourisi to just ignore that last part, which makes a small part of her glad that she's away from those explosions as she stares upward before collecting herself. "...that actually looks like fun."

The vibrations coming from the upper reaches of the fortress intensify and break Sourisi free from her musings. Hopefully there will be time to ponder about rocket rides later, Earth and so many other planets is in trouble. One mother's mad grief threatens to destroy everything they hold dear.

Serpentina gets a worried look from Sourisi as they ascend the stairs towards the front gate. The opening barrage has hit hard, after all...

The grand golden doors simply shatter when they are reached, but the interior of the hall beyond gives a hint as to why, as well as showing just how dire everything is already becoming. Lindy is quick to give advice through her mind, and Sourisi is glad she didn't just try to run across the floor. That would have been a disaster. "That's...good to know!"

Sourisi doesn't have the time to comment on the waste of gold plating around them as more drones appear, though the look of annoyance is clear, eyemask or not. "Seriously? Just the robots outside should have been enough!"

Sadly, it seems that evil will always have hundreds of disposeable minions to slow down the warriors of good and justice.

With the black lines acting like the only safe path to traverse forward through the Imaginary Space, Sourisi's room to safely leap to and fro for safely is limited. Several burns form along the Miraculous User's outfit from near misses, and it takes a moment for Sourisi to collect her breath and attempt to push the pain aside for the moment. "Why can't there be robots that shoot blasts of energy that heal people?!" Not that she expected an answer, it was just her fustration finding an outlet.

The castle has only been breached so far, after all.

Serpentina is quick to knock the nearest robots off balance with a burst of air, and Sourisi takes the time to act while she can. Leaping over Serpentina to the other side of the black line, a pair of tonfa comes crashing down in a overhead blow at the nearest defender. "This is a no blasting zone, glitter bots!"

COMBAT: Sourisi has used Forest Down on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Steve keeps charging and charging and does not stop, even as Mikoto, Kasagami and Endo swirl around him. Now he does veer some to the left or right as he goes due to explosives dropped from above, but hey, sometimes ya gotta move! Or else you might go missing a foot.

A vicious combination of attacks rend the door into less than pieces, and inside is quite the sight. "It's so..." the correct word is beautiful, but the floor takes the word away before it can be spoken. It is both awe-inspiring and stirs a primal fear inside of him at the same time.

The boy has to stop and grit his teeth for a moment. the resonant effect from the central point of the castle is ratcheting up, and that feeling in his Gem hurts, radiating out to the rest of him. He shakes it off and keeps going, however! Which is all good and well, as Lindy sends a transmission warning on the floor.

"Okay, should be fine, just travrse this carefully and--" As if on queue, the drones come in, and they are flying, of course. Making this part impossibly difficult.

But somehow, he manages! Perhaps all the dodging, rolling and learning to be a quick thinker in Gem ruins is really paying off! He goes unscathed on the initial volley. Attempting to find a safe path to move forward without the ability to fly. As he moves, he raises his shield, and it almost sings as it moves through the air.

The boy just waits for the next drone to take a shot before he tries proceeding forward, being in a defensible position. The nearby attackers will be met with a high frequency effect of their own.

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Reverb Shield on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

With one final slash to the air as the door guards are collectively sliced, pounded, winded, parosol'd, and pink carpetbomb'd, Kasagami flicks her blade clean of any gold bits that dare stick around. She politely baff-baff's part of her shredded longcoat, slightly smoldering from a too-close pipe bomb. Thankfully there's no ill will given Homura's way!

She didn't know the girl had it in her, really.

But those thoughts are for later. Right now, they need to move. Lindy's caution gives Kasagami context. She tries not to think too hard about this Imaginary Space, focusing on the lines of black that act as their safe passage.

There are also flying robots to contend with. With blasts raining down on her, Kassie takes a moment to duck the first few blows tossed her way. She doesn't have optimal room to move here, and she's no flying mage. Thankfully there's a certain brown haired mage bringing a Divine Busting to bear, and even here Kasagami can't help but admire the young woman's pure talent for power and long ranged fury. Her hair flutters in the backblast. Even with old memories lurking in her head and her heart still beating painfully at the reminders, it brings something of that spark back to her. A grin seeks to crawl up her face.

And with the Wind Knight leaping into the fray, she won't be outdone either! Rushing forward in an errating pattern, she's leaning and pushing on the tips of her toes as she charges. Stray shots hammer her shoulders and sides, but this time she barrels past them until she can get just below one of the larger of the shooting robots.

Only to lift her leg up, knee nearly to her chest, slamming her back heel down as she instantly arrests her movement in a thigh and calve straining maneuver that makes mockery of the conventional notion of athleticism.

Like a swan diving in reverse, up Kasagami goes as one hand guides up, while the other holds the middle of her nodachi's grip. It's no spear, but she's leaping for the big golden drone with a stabbing fury aimed for whatever might pass for a robot heart!

Should she even stab it a little? Kasagami takes the reigns of her sword once more with both hands, tearing it out in a violent, slashing arc mid-air!

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Through the doors and into the fortress, Endo keeps running. There's a short glance paid toward his sides as he goes, a fist briefly raised toward fellow charging companions. There's a brief moment to take a breath after, to survey the golden halls of the fortress and the black lines moving across the floor.

Imaginary space is also concerning, Endo scooting far away from the glowing points. "That sounds dangerous." The fact that there are more robots arriving makes avoiding said dangerous places a bit harder, as the space becomes increasingly crowded with enemies.

"Aaah...how many of these did she make?" Endo has only a second to complain before one of the golden drones smashes into him, driving him backward. He teeters for a moment at the edge of not-imaginary space, and then he rights himself once more.

Again he cuts at the robots, blade sweeping out to catch any that draw too near. He stays mostly in place, keeping within in the dark lines and herding anything he misses toward nearby allies.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Blauverschiebung on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Riding My Coattails on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

When the floor is lava, what happens to all the people who can't fly?

The doors reveal a world of glittering gold, and the perilous lacework within. "It... absorbs?" Mikoto echoes, hesitation in her voice for the first time. There are so few things in life which give her pause, especially on the battlefield, but there are things she must protect, and her hands tighten around it.

But that woman sings a rasping lullaby.

"... damaged," Mikoto murmurs, as the words reach her delicate ears. "Chest, or throat..." Her eyes widen as she comprehends the truth behind the one-way trip. It's not just a matter of leaving Earth.

It means Precia has nothing to lose.

It means they have everything to lose.

Nanoha directs them forward and it is the most natural thing in the world. Mikoto gathers her courage and springs into the atrium, and in the end, it's not an unfamiliar sort of path to her. How many rooftops has she scaled, walking tightrope over signage with a drop which would surely destroy her without her vestments about her? They're all high-stakes balancing acts.

Knowing the stakes, it is as natural as breathing to weave and leap and duck around the energy blasts which threaten to knock them off-balance. She stops to offer Endo a hand as he teeter-totters at the edge of safety. "Endo ever heard of getting out of the way?" She remarks, frowning, but she can't hide the fact that she's relieved he didn't fall.

But Mikoto is spending so much time moving that she doesn't have time to set down her blade in these things, and it is rapidly, rapidly reaching frustration. They attack at range, and she is restricted to where she may tread. The horrible fact of the matter is that Mikoto still cannot fly. She couldn't fly last time this was a problem, and she won't be able to fly next time it comes up, either.

That's okay, though.

Because even though Mikoto can't fly, Mikoto has friends.

"Madoka!" Mikoto cries, as she springs back from one vein to another. "Let's do it!" 'It' is not something she bothers to explain -- they've done it enough times. Madoka is an adept ranged attacker. She's skilled at delivering arrows, and other things besides.

Like Mikoto.

And so Mikoto springs forward, and she trusts entirely that she will find purchase on an arrow when she lands. Madoka wouldn't leave her to fall into oblivion; this is something she can be entirely certain of. She charges along a pathway of them - one, another, a third, a fifth, eleventh. Each time those sensible Ohtori flats slam down, there is a shaft there to meet them, a path which hails down in the wake of them.

She springs just before impact, swinging blade overhead to cleave into the robots which have been herded in at the precise moment those arrows land.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has started a combo targeting Hotaru Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Every arrow that leaves Madoka's fingertips is a step for Mikoto -- a staircase, an escalator, an accelerating walkway like the ones in the airport.

Every arrow that leaves Madoka's fingertips is a blessing. The same blessing, but it doesn't get old.

be safe

be safe

be safe

And she has enough of them to go around. When she isn't shooting a path for Mikoto she is somehow finding time -- then again, she has the greatest possible advantage in that respect -- to shoot not to kill but to save. Out of the blue, an arrow intercepts a sizzling blast coming for her own face; another gets a descending blade headed towards the meleeists; the next disrupts a charge, midflight.

Her eyes narrow with remembered pain when she hears Precia's voice, and she nibbles her lip; it's the closest Mikoto gets to a misstep, but before she can so much as stumble an arrow has caught up with her foot. Her own feet worry back and forth as she shifts her weight, debating.

Well, it can't hurt to try.


COMBAT: Madoka Kaname has joined the combo started by Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: COMBO! Mikoto Minagi and Madoka Kaname have used Combo: Rainbow Road, composed of Obsidian Blade: Destruction and
Starlight, Starbright, on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe braces 7 Fatigue damage from Fumiko Inoue's Wind Wall, taking 3 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Hotaru
Tomoe's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Exhausted and Stagger applied to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe dodges 3 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Sword Strike, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade and
Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe cleanly braces 23 Fatigue damage from Sourisi's Forest Down, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Hotaru
Tomoe's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe dodges 15 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Reverb Shield, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Hotaru Tomoe's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Stagger and Stun applied to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe cleanly braces 23 Fatigue damage from Endo Naoki's Blauverschiebung, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Endo Naoki is
Psyched!  Hotaru Tomoe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe dodges 17 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Riding My Coattails, taking 25 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Kasagami Araki is Psyched!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to brace Mikoto Minagi and Madoka Kaname's Combo: Rainbow Road, taking 89 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto
Minagi and Madoka Kaname are Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Sakamaku Arashi https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b-Q2hvh7xA

Things aren't going well.

It isn't that the magical girls are any less impressive. Quite to the contrary -- be it Fuu and Serpentina switching who's in melee and who's wielding the winds, or Steven switching to an entirely different way to warp space (sonically), or Sourisi, Kasagami and Endo wading through drones like farmers threshing wheat, or Mikoto and Madoka's death from above -- they're strong and fierce and bold, and more importantly than any of that, they have something to fight for, and it matters.

But there are two problems.

First: the largest drones seem to be resonating with the Jewel Seeds, and every time they get sliced, diced, julienned or outright exploded, they send new veins of Imaginary Space flowing away from them in all direction. Like a horrible game of 'the carpet is lava', this part of the fortress is rapidly becoming unsafe to stand on, or even fly over.

And it isn't even the floor anymore. It's spreading upwards. Pillars, halfway adsorbed into the fluorescent void, are crashing to the side, then breaking in half from the sucking force off the black paths and disappearing.

Inside and outside are losing meaning. The space that they're fighting in is, with every passing breath, becoming more egg-shaped. Or pear-shaped, maybe (literally and figuratively). Projectiles are starting to fly really strangely, harbinger of worse things to come if it progresses to the point that it's at the scale of the human body.

There is one benefit to this, however; without walls, it is possible to see someone in the distance.

Someone with long, wavy violet hair, a black robe, and a staff. Someone with twenty two piercingly bright points of blue light spinning around her head.

Someone with a large piece of equipment next to her, a... tube?... glowing brightly green.

She clutches her staff and coughs, forced to put her whole weight upon it lest she fall down on the spot. There's a tiny spatter of red among the weird, blooming lights of red, orbs of blood affected strangely by Imaginary Gravity.

They drift upwards to rotate around her head along with the Jewel Seeds, turning the azure blur of a halo faintly violet in combination.

<< Do you hear that? They are coming now. It doesn't matter though, because they're too late. Ne, Alicia? Oh Alicia... my sweet child... >>

And second: they aren't keeping up with the drones. For every two they destroy another four appear.

In fact -- they're -- surrounded. Precia (though she wasn't nearby, whatever meaning distance truly has anymore) disappears behind closing ranks of magical robots a half dozen drones deep.

They rear back to strike as one--!

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

"Is that right?" Fate says, without actually probing, seeming to at least understand Eas' intent. "Well... thank you for thinking of me during your time off..."

The girl says as she slides out of bed and Arf has to catch her from falling. Feito seriously!? I know you can handle a lot but this is too much! You need to take it easy!" Fate gives her head a little shake and steadies herself. "There's no time for taking it easy Arf... there's... no time at all if I don't do this now. Please..."

Arf tends to cave to Fate almost instantly when she's like this, and this time is no different, as she hesitantly outstretches a hand holding Bardiche. "Don't overdo it too much."

The state of Bardiche was shocking. All the cracks around the tortured sleek triangle. Fate hesitantly takes it from Arf and speaks quietly, "Bardiche...? Status Report." There was a delay, before a voice sputters. <Y... Seh>

Bardiche transforms into a polearm that's been halved, barely enough handle for her to put a hand hold on. Cracks line the yellow gem around the spidery webbed structural damage he's suffered. "Just look at you. You shouldn't even be functional right now..." However then in wonder she notes, "... you hate the idea of it ending like this too don't you?"

It's become too much, all the people she's hurt, all the people on her side who got hurt because of her. Several tear drops fall, and the girl looks surprised, like she's hasn't in some time.

She gives herself no time to ruminate on it though. Instead she feels golden mana flare up, limming her in an aura. As Bardiche chimes, <Res... shun>

Bardiche shimmers, and in seconds he is new, sleek, as if he'd simply been crafted yesterday by Linith to be placed in the hands of the proud child. He makes a triumphant metallic chime. <Condition: All Green. Barrier Jacket Set Up.>

Lightning flashes within the Takamachi Dojo as the girl is girded in her barrier jacket piece by piece.

"Where else?" The girl answers Eas of Labyrinth. "We're going home... one last time."

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Youma Form Fate Testarossa: Classic!
<Pose Tracker> Eas [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

"...Yeah," Eas says in answer to Fate. "It's not a problem." Maybe Fate gets it--but as long as she doesn't say it, Eas is going to act like it's casual, nothing major, avoid having to actually think too hard about its implications.

Instead she lifts an eyebrow as she sees Fate getting out of bed. Surprise, but--unlike Arf--no insistence otherwise. She still doesn't know what Fate intends enough for her to object. "...You sure?" she asks, instead.

Eas is the last girl who's going to stop someone pushing themselves. Working with Fate as she had... she can respect her enough for that much.

She looks in silence where Fate meets with Bardiche--broken. Nearly destroyed. It shouldn't be functional, and yet... He appears to be. The taller girl looks over both of them; she doesn't even comment on the tears. "..."

But something happens; a shimmering light, the flare of mana, and Setsuna shifts back, standing up to look over the lightning and the chime.

"You..." She stops, and nods, slowly, straightening her shoulders. "Yeah," Setsuna agrees, her hands sliding into her pockets in apparently perfect disaffection. "That wouldn't have been any good for an ending at all."

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Don't be Long - Nana Mizuki - https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2vo5vj?start=20

Fate Testarossa's arrival home is typically a quiet affair within the Garden of Time. She knows better than to make a fuss or a spectacle under normal circumstances. Drawing attention from her mother when her mood is uncertain is typically the worst kind of idea.

<Arc Saber>

Today perhaps is different in that her homecoming is a louder affair.

Because she announces herself with a twisting scythe blade that slams into one of the drones, as she attempts to force it to lose footing and crash into the next drone, and the one beside that. The momentum of the blade perhaps cannot ultimately win against the mass of it.

However... that's when someone else starts her own pincer attack from the opposite direction, as if both sides were now caught in a vice.

"Get clear!" She says as she sweeps Bardiche to point in the direction of its missing Scythe Blade, and announcing, "Saber Explode."

The scythe blade detonates in the gambit intended to give the other Mahou Shoujo some breathing room.

"Breaking through all of my mother's defenses will be tough..."

The girl says without looking as if she wasn't even acknowledging the others Magical Girls.

"... but... together."

There's something almost shy about the admission. An acknowledgement that she wants things to change.

... If they'll have her.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has started a combo targeting Hotaru Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Eas [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

From nowhere at all comes a sharp feminine voice, a wordless battlecry following on the heels of Fate's arrival.


Fate Testarossa's arrival home is typically a quiet affair. But today is different indeed. As Fate's magic impacts a set of drones, something from the shadows shifts, a blurring motion that quickly resolves itself as a pale girl in black.

"Not good enough!"

A wall crashes down behind, fading into the darkness. She swings towards them and whirls into a spinning kick that flows naturally into a set of punches, each given the force of the monsters she has brought to bear on any of them. With each, she lands on impossible footing, jumping up again as the floor starts to break beneath her in places.

'Get clear!'

As quickly as the figure came, she shifts back, handspringing off of cracking pillar and landing before the rest of the group, staring down the explosion as it comes. ...Now that she's not in motion, it's clear who she is--the shiny black, the pale red, the white hair...

Eas, denizen of Labyrinth, turns her head to look over the assembled magical girls, imperious. "It'll be tough," she agrees, "But you'd better not let that stop you."

She turns the rest of the way, "...Don't get me wrong. I'm just here with my ally."

Eas doesn't ask permission--she just looks ahead, to the shape beyond... and maybe the most terrifying woman she's ever met, in the distance.

COMBAT: Eas transforms into Eas!
COMBAT: Eas has joined the combo started by Fate Testarossa!
COMBAT: COMBO! Fate Testarossa and Eas have used Combo: Dark Magical Girl Recruitment Drive, composed of Arc Saber and Ill
Fortune, on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to counter Fate Testarossa and Eas's Combo: Dark Magical Girl Recruitment Drive, taking 123 Fatigue
damage!  Critical Hit!  Hotaru Tomoe is unable to keep fighting!  Hotaru Tomoe is Quipped!  Stagger applied to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe's counterattack, Safety In Numbers, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Fate Testarossa!  
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.