2019-02-02 - TIMELINE 2: Garden of Time! A Daughter's Love!

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TIMELINE 2: Garden of Time! A Daughter's Love!

Reality is fracturing as the Jewel Seeds spiral out of control. Fate confronts Precia, but there's an unexpected interruption -- and it's Northa who forces everyone to confront themselves.


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


Garden of Time

OOC - IC Date:

2/2/2019 - 04-21-2014


<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--

--and are decimated, just decimated, by the newly arrived Eas and Fate Testarossa.

BGM Start! Don't be Long - Nana Mizuki - https:'www.dailymotion.comvideox2vo5vj?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.

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.


It will take a few moments for the electrified cloud of punched-up debris engulfing the group in every direction to clear.

For a precious moment, they can only see each other. Not the terrible archmage -- the grieving mother -- the cruel mistress up ahead; not the wholesale disintegrating of reality all around them.

They are alone together.

"I'm very glad to see you, Feito-chan," Lindy says gently, looking down at the little girl with a fierce compassion that cries out with every muscle to pick her up and hug her -- but she refrains. They've never met in person.

Nanoha Takamachi does not have this problem and all but bowls her over in a wave of white and blue. "Feito-chan!" she sniffles. "You saved us! You're here!" After she sheds a couple of tears out of those shining sapphire eyes, they calm a little, and darken with concern. "Here..."

Pressing her palm flat upon Raising Heart's orb, she closes her eyes. Her skinny little pigtails flutter in an invisible wind, but the pink mana pouring off of her is entirely visible and suffuses first Fate, then the entire group, with warmth and strength.

<< SHARE ENERGY! >> declares Raising Heart.

"Let's go together... ne?"

OOC: Please +heal/full after you pose! Also there may be other of the group poses you want to react to, to see what your other
friends did last round please reference

COMBAT: Niramo Umokeshi transforms into Sourisi!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

%r When Precia speaks Madoka is troubled, and Mikoto knows it before she screams because she feels it in her proprioception, the way her toe dips. But by the time the ball of her foot has come down an arrow is there, and Mikoto is unreserved in committing to the motion.

Each arrow a blessing and Madoka will not let her down, literally - or figuratively.

Because she is trying to talk to her. Madoka always has the words. Madoka is good at knowing what to say. Mikoto tries, but she isn't good at words. She's glad Madoka is here to try. Mikoto does not know how to convince Precia that Fate would have done anything for her, would still do anything for her, if only she were kind. She cannot think to communicate the cruelty of hating someone she has shaped so fully. Perhaps it's too frightening to try and put to words.

No, Mikoto is good at something else. She crashes down and cleaves into the arrow storm, and yes, the robots are destroyed.

There's just... one... problem.

There are more of them, past that targeted assault.

Mikoto is designed to engage single opponents. She is not a soldier; she cannot deal with wave after wave of circuitous cavalry. Miroku could, of course -- but as a pillar crashes from ceiling to floor perilously close to them, Mikoto knows she could never ask for its assistance here. It is too large, and in the asking she would place it in danger. Easier to defend a blade.

She can't even see her enemy any more, through the throng of them.

Even if she tore each one apart in an instant, at their rate of replenishment...

Mikoto grits her teeth and growls as her eyes dart from mechanism to mechanism, looking for some gap in their phalanx, anything she can exploit. Her heel shifts back as her stance tightens, because it is rapidly becoming clear that their only hope is to stand firm. She recognises, distantly, that there are too many enemies. Some of them will be forced into the morass of Imaginary Space. It's unacceptable.

She winnows her options automatically, and it is well no one can read her mind to be alarmed.

It is a process which is interrupted by the chime of a Device. Hope lances through grim instinct as Mikoto gasps, and her teeth do not clench together as her eyes flick back and forth to take in Fate and Bardiche, Eas's acrobatics. For a moment, her expression softens; perhaps it's a mercy the relief doesn't last long. There are still enemies to fight, and her eyes focus back to their usual battle intensity.

But just for a moment, they are alone together.

"Never stopped us before," Mikoto assures those two dark girls, as the debris settles, looking from Eas to Fate with a serious expression. "But we could use help for this one." She can hear Eas's reticence and Fate's uncertainty, and she remembers what she realised. She does not speak to overwhelm them. She tries to give them something they can actually use.

But her eyes cast over Fate again, and she frowns, her lip scrunching in concern. "... hurry," she offers, and though her words are gentled their content is direct. "Precia's hurt." Hurt in exactly the way they're not, as Raising Heart shares the warmth in Nanoha's heart. Mikoto breathes out in quiet relief, flexing her grip. It's not over, but they're all together, and it's easier this way.

Well - they're together for now.

She has a feeling she knows why Fate would want to fight through her mother's defences to see her.

And Mikoto will gladly fight Fate again if it means she gains the love of the one she serves.

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

There's just too many of these things. Who makes gold robots anyways? The gaudiest supervillain ever? The heroes keep trashing them but more and more show up, and they seem tougher than before.

Serpentina struggles with the realization that, at this rate, there was no way through. A parasol as a weapon? It was no match for them all. Even the actual weapons being used by her allies weren't enough. They would need some serious firepower that they have no way of getting. Worse still, was the ones they WERE defeating were making matters worse. Imaginary Space warps around her. She feels despair creeping in. She is in WAY over her head. "S-squeaks... h-how are you holding up? Getting bored yet?"

Even her jokes are getting forced. There looked to be very few paths to victory left. And then a new one comes in.

Fate, Eas, and hope all arrive. New life courses through Serpentina. "Hey there, welcome to the party! Not a lot of food left, but plenty of pinatas!"

COMBAT: Fumiko Inoue transforms into Serpentina Ruse!
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka's purple-clad partner has been here all along. Homura hopped along with the front door rush after tumbling free of that glorious arrow-steed of theirs; she ran black-veined paths alongside her fellow mahou, between terrifying hotspots of Imaginary Space. After stopping to catch her breath -- a periodic thing for her in any extended battle -- she pulled fireworks from her shield and shot them at the robots, only to watch them rebound from golden armor in lovely, ineffectual fountains of sparks.

She heard Precia's awful lullaby just like everyone else, and shuddered; she heard Nanoha's clarion call to arms, and rallied to it, and if she tripped a few times in the doing then that is just all the more effort Homura poured through her flailing limbs.

Now Homura beholds what feels like it should be impossible: the battle's tides turning against them. They can even see the Jewel Seeds in Precia's magical grasp, but even if she were not impossibly far away... the robots have them all surrounded.

They can't lose...! If they lose, then...

Homura isn't looking at the robots any more, nor at Precia and her power. Kind, beautiful, loving, endangered Madoka has the whole of her attention. The skinny girl shivers from something other than cold and steps close to her very first, very best friend with the half-formed notion of stopping time so they can escape to... to where? Where in the universe are they now, and how could they ever find their way back home to an Earth slated for destruction? Lindy's briefing comes back to her.

'...as well as everywhere else. Maybe even everywhen.' Pale fingers fall free of esoteric clockwork, attached to an arm gone limp and heavy with fear.

The robots move as one.

But Eas and Fate Testarossa move together, and that makes all the difference.

Fear exchanges for stunned awe on Homura's expressive face. They're saved. They're saved! By Fate and Eas together, which has her blinking off some bewilderment. Un-Contracted Homura wasn't there for things the first time around, in the timeline that no longer existed, but she heard enough to know this isn't how it went.

Then she gets caught up in the relieved elation and beams another smile Madoka's way through the billowing particulate. It's nothing to worry about, because everything is all right and everything will be all right. She just has to look at the way Nanoha embraces Fate to know it. Like anything could be fixed and forgiven by love. It's a comforting thought, somehow.

Pink washes through and she exhales, a long sigh of easing for wounds soothed. It feels different from the knitting a Soul Gem brings, to Homura. She looks to Mikoto and to Madoka, the girl who offered love and the girl who saved her heart, and the look on her face firms up: the purple magi gives them her bravery, her determination in the face of terrible odds. It's her testament to how they've changed her life.

"Together?" She's not quite confident enough to make it a statement instead of a question. But Eas is right, and Homura knows it in her bones: they can't let anything stop them.

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

The reverberations from Steven's shield seem to be duly effective against these drones, but how long can the group keep going?

In a bid for the Jewel Seeds, the intrepid party of magical girls has teamed up with Lindy to jump to a place between the stars, where Precia Testarossa lay, conceiving the fruits of her labor even as the warriors of Tokyo besiege her black and gold bastille.

Being among the youngest has had its share of pros and cons within this fight, as new and unknown sights can be terrifying. Yet with his particular abilities granted to him from his mother, he has fare probably the best out of the crowd as far as getting hurt goes. Being small helps for being less of a target, and a shield that is unassailable helps to defend.

But the boy behind it has his limits, as he grows more and more tired with each dodge and snap reaction. And eith the emergence of their target behind golden ramparts and black veins of energy, the drones begin to repopulate themselves twofold, forcing everyone slowly back, until the yare surrounded. "Wh... what do we do?!" the boy asks.

Their foes move to attack at once. He could possibly Bubble Shield them all, but would take everything, and buy a few seconds ad best. Not enough to do anything.

Sudden detonations of familiar energy come, and the boy has to roll to avoid the roiling aftermath. "Wha... No way?!" he says, gasping, sweat dripping off his brow, but nonetheless happy. It seems Fate has plans to let her mother know how she feels. "Eas?!" the boy says next. That is a real left field entry on this event. They were helping each other, so maybe it made sense? The boy just kinda... furrows his brow and makes and bites a cheek.

He's still a little suspicious.

More importantly, an opening has been made. And with Nanoha's outpouring of the heart, everyone is miraculously restored! It is beautiful and pink, much like her powers. The most comfortable color for the little Gem to be around. In but moments, life and vigor are restored to him. And while the inauble frequency humming from the center of what used to be thr structure intensifies by the moment, he knows he can tolerate the sound resonating deep within his Gem from the magics a little longer. He will just have to grit his teeth and deal with it until this is over.

If we work as one, there's nothing we can't do! Everyone at home is counting on us!" the boy says, heartfelt, and ready to march toward the unknown.

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

With every swing of her tonfa and another android defeated, Sourisi would think that progress would be made. But if it was the Imaginary Space that or the sheer amount of enemies around the magical defenders of Earth slowing them down, it feels more like they're taking steps backwards instead.

Reality bending in on itself is not helping matters in the slightest, and Sourisi has to use her tonfa to bat away a piece of shattered pillar before it can send her flying from the path. "Why does everything have to get even crazier? I rather not play Extreme Follow The Path With Dodgeball!"

These dodgeballs do more than knock you back a few steps if you get hit, and it's starting to show on Sourisi's uniform with several burns.

Precia can be seen, just briefly, before the magical drones become too many to see through. There must be...dozens? No, hundreds of the same glittering robot blocking the way to the crazed mother of Alicia Testarossa, gathering their strength. Sourisi braces her feet and cross her tonfa in front of her in a desperate defense, knowing this was going to hurt---

But then, the most unexpected allies arrive just when things seem the most desperate yet. Fate, swinging Bardiche with explosive results, and...Eas?! Yes, it was the aggrivating denizen of Labyrinth, delivering an devistating flurry of punches and kicks that leaves Sourisi a little envious of her strength. Together, these unexpected heroines of the hour manage to clear the way.

Looking back and forth between Fate and Eas, Sourisi gives a tenative smile towards the young form of Fate, so strong from the unexpected weight she carries. While not as involved in the hunt for the Jewel Seeds like some of the others, Sourisi has felt the might of Bardiche several times personally, but if she wants to stand against her mother...well, let sleeping wolves lie? "Together then, Fate-san! Glad to see you're here."

Eas gets a slightly colder look, but she wasn't expecting the denizen of Labyrinth of have a sudden change of heart. But Sourisi nods her head towards her all the same. She was here as an ally, and that was good enough for now. "Okay, Eas...and thank you."

Despite all the Imaginary Space and the fact that there doesn't seem to be an concept of indoors anymore from reality breaking apart, it would be impossible to ignore Nanoha's touching full speed hug with Fate. There needed to be more good news when the end of everything was at stake. "They...awww!" Ooh, if only she could use her phone right now. That was a moment for a camera if there ever was one!

The reserves of mana being given freely by Nanoha and Raising Heart does more than sooth Sourisi's bruises and wounds. It gives her hope that they can stop Precia Testarossa before it's too late, before everything they know disappears due to a mother's festering grief.

After all, if this isn't stopped, then countless numbers of families will know her pain as well. Perhaps this is why it has gone so far?

Despite the cruel words spoken about Fate earlier, Sourisi has to try to have Precia see reason, even if it's too late. "Please...stop this. I...I don't know your pain, no one can, but that's no reason to go this far. If you keep using the Jewel Seeds like this, there won't be an Al-Hazard, an Earth, or any other place to call home!" Even as she says this, Sourisi raises her tonfa upwards and tries hard to calm her nerves. Thankfully, Serpentina is way ahead of her. "And if not, well...I think we can bring in more snacks!"

COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Serious Steven!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

"Is that what it is?" Fate asks Eas, with a note of skepticism perhaps. Though it isn't teasing, precisely. However then...

"Ah." Fate's simple response to Lindy being glad to see her. The idea of anyone being glad to see her than Arf is a new sensation. She's not exactly certain how to handle it. Suddenly seeming even shyer for a moment. "... you are?"

However, this pales in comparison to Nanoha, as she sees... tears.

Yet the other girl looks so happy at the same time.

"I... well... you saved me..."

Perhaps she didn't expect her offer to be accepted so readily, for her to be accepted so readily after all she's done. Gripping Bardiche she needs to use him for support right now, she startles, her eyes blinking, "Oh you don't..."

How is it that she's able to share so readily? Give so freely? To someone who hurt her so many times. What does she see in Fate Testarossa?

Why did she save me? It's a question she'll have to ask aher later. Fate stands straighter afterwards.

Let's go together... ne?

She'd said it before, but perhaps she didn't know what it truly meant until right now. A little overwhelmed for a moment, she answers with a simple, "...Hai!"

Her eyes sweep over the crowd. Then Mikoto mentions...

"... hurt?" Fate says as if surprised by the very idea that her Mother can be hurt. Physically at least. That does snap her back onto topic though, focusing on Precia.

"There's something I have to say to my Mother."

That sounds like a gross understatement. Given all that Precia revealed.

"Don't worry. I understand that her wish can't be granted. That she has to be stopped. So... let's hurry."

There is one statement though that causes her to just look at Fumiko with an utterly perplexed expression. Like she was going to say something yet... she doesn't.

Instead she moves on forward with the group. As Sourisi tries to call out to her mother, Fate Testarossa does not do the same, at least now at least. Some things must be said face to face she believes, despite the fact that her mother did not offer her the same courtesy.

Instead she just dwells on a singular thing...

"... I never knew."

The girl whispers to herself, guiltily. Because she never knew that her mother was suffering like this, grieving. She blames herself for that. Because she must have been too self-absorbed, too selfish. Had she known... perhaps she could have done something.

Yet somewhere deep down, she knows that it doesn't matter. Because there's nothing someone like her could have done for her.

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

So many drones. So much danger. So little time.

Facing odds that would seem insurmountable is something of an occupational hazard for magical girls, in the Wind Knight's opinion - but her faith in her allies, that they can prevail against any odds when they work together, has been tested and proven time and time again. Even when the latest wave of drones seems too much for them to overcome, she doesn't relent - slashing, blocking, stabbing.

Some of her attacks suggest she's been paying attention, even a little bit, when she fights alongside her fellow magical swordswomen; other moves seem to have been cadged from one game or another, or even purely improvised. Her sword isn't a katana or rapier, though; it's closer to Mikoto's blade in its length, but she handles it far more lightly and easily than Mikoto swings that claymore.

But all the determination in the cosmos doesn't mean she can keep going indefinitely; nor does it guide her swings any more accurately than her own arms and mind can contrive. A swing meant to cleave a drone through its optical lens only severs a grasping arm, leaving the Magic Knight of Wind overbalanced; she barely has a chance to recover -

And then, new arrivals. And the tide of battle is not merely turned, but flipped like a tea table.

The green-clad Magic Knight catches her breath while she can, eyeing Fate and Eas. The twintailed blonde is ostensibly an unknown quantity; the Labyrinth executive would normally be considered an enemy. But given the circumstances of their arrival, and their demonstrated intent?

"We can use all the help we can get right now, Fate-san, Eas-san," the Wind Knight says with a smile, standing up straighter before she bows politely to their newest allies - even if it turns out to be only temporary, she'll accept their presence on the friendly side of the field. And Nanoha's belief in Fate may yet be proven true.

Energy is shared; the Wind Knight breathes more deeply, feeling her reserves and strength replenished, and she bows in thanks to Nanoha. Then she focuses on the battle, bringing her sword up to a ready position once again. "I didn't know we had another wind user among us," she admits quietly to Serpentina, smiling at the parasol-wielder. "I'm known as the Magic Knight of Wind, and I'm glad to make your acquaintance."

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Wind Knight!
<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

As the electric cloud of debris clears out, the Siren of Opals - cracked and sparkling - is nearly on one knee. There is a little blood on her cheek and her raiment, all brass-band splendor and covered with the glittering but frail silicate that has stood for her, is dulled. Batiste is not greatly harmed, having stayed in the lee of la Sirene, but her floating jellyfish ally is clinging weakly to her belt. La Sirene puts a hand protectively on the soft-bodied creature, tensing -

"Was that really Eas?" squeeps Batiste.

"Are you serious?!" La Sirene blurts. "Here and now!? Oh, no--"

"I think she's helping," Batiste says.

Mme Meduse blurps skeptically.

"I know what you mean but -"

As the dust clears, Batiste's eyes widen. "Ah!"

La Sirene's eyes widen a moment later. Meduse perks up despite a lack of eyes.

Let's go together.

Energy flows outwards. Cracked opals seal them selves as la Sirene straightens up. Her cnidarian ally takes flight again, glowing purple as la Sirene calls out, "A-ke-miiiin! Sorry I'm laaate!" One hand comes up to waggle opaline tipped fingers. "Madokaaa~! Everybody~! Thank you for your help, Takamachi-saaaan!"

COMBAT: Nori Ankou transforms into La Sirene de Diamant!
<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Clementia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vC8sAFByQw

Madoka's eyes widen not with horror but with amazement -- with the knife-edge of the mirror -- when she sees...

"Setsuna," she gasps.

She reflects joy.

She takes one step forward, then another, and reaches for Eas' hand.

"Thank you," she murmurs in the tiny space left between them. "I wished you'd come. To help Feito-chan... and us. And now,"

Galaxies of happiness twinkle in her eyes as they gaze up at her fortune-telling friend.

"My wish came true..."

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

Kasagami's strikes might be working, but that doesn't mean it helps. The Duelist is in a position where cutting things doesn't help. Her first response, as that energy flows out and spreads more of the Imaginary Space, is of course to double down and slash even more.

It gets to the point where she's more concentrated at avoiding the projectiles and keeping on the increasingly tight spaces where she can fight. For a young woman with a long, unwielding weapon, her arc of attack is becoming more and more repetitive lines. Strong, swift, but constrained in a way that Kasagami knows is swiftly becoming a liability to her chances of not being filled with energy blasts.

At least their target is visible now, and that gives Kassie's burning arms that much more motivation to keep on carving away. Maybe if circumstances were different she'd show concern for the blood in the air. Right now? The potential health of her enemy is the last thing on her mind.

Hands grip her sword, and fingers sweat in her gloves. Kasagami looks back at the brave magical warriors gathered with a grim look as ranks of robots close. Madoka pleads for Precia to stop, to turn things around. Kasagami lashes out at one of the nearby robots. She can barely contain her feelings.

The sense of danger all around her is eclipsed by a belief that a wound that great can't be healed. Only patched over. The one her sympathy flares for is Fate.

The wayward Testarossa arrives, with the Labyrinth Executive, and Kasagami uses the moment to leap back clear. With a flick of her coat, she clears some debris threatening her from the explosions and mighty strikes of both girls.

Fate's here. As it should be, or so Kassie things. She grips her sword, and all of the ache in her body and the fatigue doesn't seem so bad.

"Sounds like a worthy challenge to me!" Comes the young woman, nodding with a winning grin. She's on board! Even moreso as Nanoha darn near tackles Fate, and that energy is shared among them all. Kassie rolls her shoulders, pops her neck, and lets out a relieved sigh.

"Let's do this. Fate-chan, Nanoha-chan, I think right now we all might just need a good friend to get through this."

For no reason at all, she tries to whack Mikoto on the shoulder.

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

"Yeah," Eas answers Fate, actually meeting her eyes with... it could almost, if it were anyone else, be something like affection under the obvious challenge--almost. "That's how it is."

Naturally, "You could," Eas agrees with Mikoto, as arrogant as always. Not without adding, "...But that's right. If you weren't at least strong enough to handle this, then you wouldn't be worth my time." Her er eyes slide for a moment then onto the embracing girls and away, to give them their moment, and then... to Lindy. She watches her for a moment, and glances away; she doesn't have as much arrogance to offer the gentle woman with how she looks at Fate, and so she says nothing to her at all.

Alone... together. it's easier to think about what she needs to do without the open path towards Precia. So long as nobody focuses too hard on her, then she doesn't have to deal with most of them. That's the theory, anyway. Steven's words get a look from her, a shrug. "Don't get me wrong," the Executive answers, nose lifted, chin high. "It's no big deal. My mission isn't to destroy everything."

Pink light washes over Eas, too, who glances away, adopting a strange expression as she mulls over the feeling of warmth in this power. She's given little time to dwell, however, before others start to speak up again, and their movement has to start. Homura looks at her, and Eas frowns at the girl in purple, looking over her large glasses and shy braids. "...Yeah, sure," she allows, as if offhanded, and then she turns to hear a particular voice--see a particular face, radiant in joy, and her eyes widen. "M--"

Madoka steps forward, and the change in the normally-aloof girl is obvious, her scowl melting to something uncertain but also softer. Even through the glove, of course, her hands are cold, chilly with dark power. The gray-haired girl glances down to her hand, up to Madoka's face again. "W-well, I..."

She wished? For her?

Eas's face flushes lightly, and she glances to the side. "I just... I just didn't think it was right." She hesitates, and glances--no, looks intentionally back down at her friend's face. "...I won't let you down, all right? But don't..." Obviously embarrassed she mutters, "Don't tell the others, they'll think I've gone soft." She squeezes Madoka's hand with both of hers, before moving to let go.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> The Seatbelts - On The Run https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUJVacmswM8

Reality makes another groan, and one dimension over, the endless lights of the towers of Midchilda flicker. A million million frightened eyes look at one another as the worst sort of prophecy of their kind begins to come to pass. One of the greatest of them, driving everything to destruction.

Everything old is new again.

Another buckling multiverse strut over, and Tokyo, for the briefest of moments, loses its gravity. Babies laugh, then cry. Silverwear tinkles on tables. More crucially, a number of trains throw their automated emergency brakes. Traffic will be hours cleaning itself up.

In the Garden of Time, however, things are weirder still.

The space has already opened up into a dome, but now it, too, is crumbling into something more complex -- it is not unlike being inside a bubble filled with mirrored shards. The ultimate funhouse maze, each reflection and refraction sends the girls down every conceivable perspective, all at once.

It is very red here, the light of emergency, of 'stop', of the blood of death and that of afterbirth.

It becomes rapidly difficult to tell what is real and what is not. Through one crystal mirror darkly comes a younger, sadder La Sirene -- through another, a Kasagami Araki so wrinkled and stooped with age that she's practically unrecognizable.

Time is a dimension, too.

But the chief vision repeated over and over throughout the journey is not one that features any invader. This tormented place has one primary inhabitant, embodies one soul.

Papers fall in waves, filled to the brim with complex equations. They drip with tears, tears that fill up a glass with a clock at the bottom, a clock that ticks inexorably towards midnight.

"We aren't ready!" protests a soft, fierce voice -- a woman's voice, momentarily unrecognizable due to its simple sanity, its health. She speaks with the absolute conviction of an expert. "There have to be more tests..."

Sand blows across the pathway. Each individual grain is a single, perfectly carved, impossibly tiny tooth. From another direction gush a wake of coins that are not quite Earth's quarters but close enough to be clearly recognizable as the equivalent.

The voice resounds again, gentler this time, and apologetic, mortified.

"I know -- I'm sorry I wasn't there. I'm so sorry. You're so mature... thank you for being such a good girl for Mommy."

The scent of cheap noodles fills the chamber, and, underlying, the sharp aroma of antiseptic cream. It tastes like flowers. The air feels yellow, yellow like the light from Fate's Bardiche, but also yellow like sick like ginger ale, yellow like the sparkles behind burning eyelids after they've stared at the sun for too long.

Precia is still here, somewhere, even if she can't be seen.

<< More... more... >> echoes her voice, merging with the voice of the vision. Of course they're one and the same.

Lindy's eyes flash, and a teal magic circle of astonishing complexity spreads out at her feet. The splintering of reality does not stop -- but it slows.

<< Precia Testarossa! This is the end. I'm slowing down the dimensional tremor you've created, and there's a team of Enforcers heading right for you to seal the Jewel Seeds. >>

She shakes her head in disbelief, which sends her ponytail shifting from one shoulderblade to the other.

<< You've caused so much pain. And for what? The lost capital of Al-Hazard and the secret spells that lie within are just a myth. And as the children say, you'll destroy it along with everything else, even if it were real. >>

<< Y-you're mistaken, >> Precia grits back. << The path to Al-Hazard lies in the very gap between dimensions... when time and space are shattered, when a rift is caused, the doorway will be revealed. This will take us straight to the hidden capital! >>

<< You've gambled an awful lot on some old legend, >> Lindy replies sternly -- and with deep sadness. << What do you expect to do once you get there, Precia? Do you think you'll get back what you've lost, or erase all the mistakes you've made? >>

<< Yes... >> Precia pants beneath the strain of the Jewel Seeds. Her voice rises and crackles, breaks, rises some more. << I'm going to get Alicia back! I'm going to change what was, and create a brand new future for me and Alicia! I'll bring everything back... this wasn't how it was supposed to be! Not like this.. not like this! >>

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki transforms into Crimson Rose Duelist!
<Pose Tracker> Fumiko Inoue [Juuban Public School (8)] has posed.

Serpentina glances at Fuu and nods. "Nice to meet you, Magic Knight of Wind. I'm Serpentina, and I am a bit of a wind user, yes. I hope that together we can all-"

her confidence at their teamwork fades as reality bends and warps and stretches. What is even happening? She steadies herself by using her umbrella like a cane, fear shining and red reflected in her eyes. "We can... all... do this? We'll.... stop her... I think...?"

The conversation that happens next hits hard. Serpentina sighs and sadly shakes her head. "This is all above my level. I... cannot begin to comprehend any of this, or know how I'm supposed to feel right now. All I know is I can't let the universe be hit by all of this. I... I'm standing by you all, that's all I can do."

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

Reality fractures into something completely unrecognizable to Sourisi, and it's only the presence of the others that acts as the only grounding force now. Even then, it's almost not enough with how red the world around them is, which makes the fractured shards of what makes the universe distorted. One tiny fragment of the fourth dimension seen in the corner of her eye shows a much younger Niramo, yelling at two adults - her parents. Sourisi hurriedly turns her head away, not wanting to focus on that memory.

It's too sharp to touch, even now.

The most dominating vision being shown is one person that doesn't look familiar in the slightest at first, with Sourisi only connecting the dots once a mother cheers up a worried daughter. "That's...Precia-san?"

The differences betwee the Precia of the past and the present is two major extremes, if this is true.

Lindy is able to create more time before reality collapses with the most complex magic circle Sourisi has ever seen, even if she's no expert. Being called an Enforcer does make Sourisi stand up straighter just a little, her shoulders a little broader. Morale can mean everything in a situation like this.

As Lindy tries to explain and Precia defends herself with half-crazed explinations, Sourisi just tries to stay calm. But one part stands out, and Sourisi can't help but comment on it. "Everything means Fate-san as well, and considering all that you said before...i'm worried we might have different definition of everything."

Fate is quiet, despite the fact that her mother can clearly hear and respond to them all...but after a second of introspection, Sourisi thinks she understands why. Be it through telepathy or a phone call, there are methods of communication that are just too impersonal for what has to be said in person. "Fate-san?" Even if Fate doesn't have the time to turn around, she will surely be listening. "Tell her how you truly feel. I...think that's all you can do."

Sourisi can't even try to imagine how Fate or Precia must feel in all of this. The thought of fighting a family member that you love yet can't let them continue down the path they walk is something she hopes she never feels. She can only be there to help the others and support them. It's all she's ever done, and she's happy for it.

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

Mikoto shifts forward a step as Kasagami slaps a hand on her shoulder, shooting her a skeptical look, as if to ask whether now is really the time. It almost entirely distracts her from Madoka and Eas. Almost.

What she isn't distracted from - no matter la Sirene des Opales bright announcement, or Homura's shaky determination, Sourisi's anger towards Precia or the meeting of two breezy girls - is the way Fate whispers. Mikoto walks a little closer to her; not too close.

"I don't think it's something Fate was supposed to know," she says, as if there are some things which are right to know and some things which are irrelevant to her mission. "Some stuff is too complicated..."

It is red like stop and blood and dawn, and shining through the crystal there is a little girl with braids and a bokken, and in an instant time crumples to the side a little further and she's gone.

Mikoto's nostrils flare as red shifts to yellow with coiling sand. It is all the more wrong to her, the way each sensation bleeds into each other with the way time cracks. Everything is becoming, and the becoming is too much.

There is a voice without lips to shape it and Mikoto casts her gaze from one mirror to the next in an effort to find her. All she sees are a hundred failures. Equations and medicine and sunlight.

That's fine.

"Without Fate, Precia wouldn't have gotten here," Mikoto says, to the ever-nothing in front of her. Her hands tighten around her blade, and her teeth grit. "Please. Don't... leave Fate alone." Because she means to, doesn't she? She means to leave Fate in this crumbling world, and will not take her to her shining future. "Even if Fate can't say it -- it hurts, Precia! It hurts to be left alone!"

At some point she has started yelling, at some point tears have stained the corners of her eyes. "At least listen to what Fate has to say! Do that much, Precia!" It is half a plea, half a demand.

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

Eas' response causes Steven to soften up slightly on that look. She hasn't really tried to destroy thing or murder people, has she? Its always been making people fall into despair. Well, it would stand to reason if everything was undone in the universe, she couldn't do that. "...Guess that makes sense, yeah..." he comments.

The respite lasts hardly any time, as the laws of physics begin to break down rapidly as its foundations crumble under the might of the Jewel Seeds. Everything is changing and staying the same. Moving and holding still, Being all and no colors. True chaos is its name, and what is being experienced is its calling card. It is impossible for Steven to fully comprehend even a small part of all this. And all the while that ache deep inside grows.

Yet voices call out from the madness. Attempting to follow them, or whatever could be called a transmogrifying path forward, seems to be the key, as flip flops click on a nonexistant floor. "Whats happening?!" the boy calls out, a little fearful. Lindy begins to speak out against Percia, and in so doing, buying the group some time with what magic she has on the path to nowhere and everywhere. "We have all felt loss!" Steven shouts above the rencor of coins and sand and storms. "But is it worth it to make millions and millions feel that loss instead?!"

"Even if you get her back, would you be able to live with yourself knowing you destroyed everyone else out there?" A deep breath. "Everyone makes mistakes! Trying to undo them is impossible! But we can all learn from them. You just have to try!"

A look and gesture toward Fate. "If she is what you consider a mistake, you should make them more often instead of trying to be perfect! She is a person with hopes and dreams, regardless of what you think! You're just being selfish!" the child yells, until he is nearly hoarse. The sand doesn't help catching his breath.

"I-I'm sorry," he says quietly. "I don't know if we can reach her... but you have to be strong, okay?" Steven musters what smile he can to offer Fate. "Because she may think you are worth throwing away, but I think you are perfect just the way you are. And I bet everyone else here thinks so, too."

Even after teverything she has done, attacking them, defeating them... he knew there had to be a reason behind it. She took no joy in her labors. No smiles for each fallen. She could be a good person, after all.

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

There's something in Fate's determination to face down her mother that drives Homura to shift where she stands, as she avoids old memories of her own. Poor Fate, she thinks instead, and nods when the girl says they must hurry.

She's all afluster as the lustrous beauty of les Opales glimmers her way, bestowing the warmth of familiarity with a fond nickname. "La Sirene," she calls back, because she's no good at familiarity herself, and, "Batiste-san, Meduse-san," because it's good to see all three of them and because Homura has great respect for fairies.

Fear flutters in Homura's stomach when Madoka steps up to Eas. Even though it seems as safe as it could be, a deep-rooted part of Homura wants to run up and jump between her friend and the frightening Labyrinth Executive. But she stays where she is, and everything is all right, better than even.

Time shifts -- reality groans -- Homura staggers in place, looking around so wildly that anyone nearby might suffer an unintentional braid-slap.

As everything goes strange and sideways around them she cups her hands, as if she could catch a palmful of tooth-grains before they slip away across the path. It's nothing like anything she has experienced before, but still, there's this feeling of deja vu...

After shaking her fingers as if to dry them she runs her thumb along the curved outer rim of her shield. Counterclockwise she traces, half of a perfect circle, and breathes shallowly as Lindy confronts Precia. Antiseptic cream smells too much like hospitals.

"Testarossa-san..." She means the elder, addresses the woman with a meager squeak of a voice. It's frightening to confront a fully-grown adult, someone's mother, which is a different fear from the one that such a powerful mage can inspire. But Homura is surrounded by friends... and Fate needs them.

Besides, it's not just frightening. It's also cathartic, and her voice grows stronger as she goes, although it takes on a plaintive tone, too.

"Testarossa-san, h-haven't you seen how hard she's tried for you? How... how could you... you can't abandon her, not after everything she's been through. You just can't." Sniff. "She needs you, don't you see? She still needs you!"

More softly, to herself: "She's... she's so young. Just a kid, still." Homura swallows; her mouth wobbles, then firms up. "It's not right." It's easier to be sure of that when she sees it happening to someone else, and she feels terribly for Fate -- Homura looks the girl's way, looks at her and Nanoha both, together.

"B-but... Fate-san won't be lonely, because... she won't be alone, no matter what you do. So... so it'll be all right. And we won't let you win, because you can't just... destroy everything to fix things the way you want!"

Because a lot of reasons, but in the end... because Madoka lives in that everything. In no way does Homura examine even superficially the similarities between what Precia is doing and the way she reset an entire timeline's worth of choices and hopes and dreams in favor of making her own wish.

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

Serpentina's introduction is met with a friendly-but-polite nod ... and that's about all the Wind Knight has time for before they reach the central chamber.

If you can still call it a chamber, given that by this point, it's hardly a defined (or definable) 'space'. There are a few glimpses and impressions that the Wind Knight can safely take in, and it's enough for her to realize what was mentioned before - that Precia Testarossa was, or is, a researcher - a scientist, even. But what does logic avail, in the face of a tragedy that rips your heart to shreds ... ?

Because Alicia's death was, she's sure, too deep a wound for Precia to think rationally about.

"Precia-san," the Wind Knight calls out, "I won't pretend I 'understand' what you went through, or what you're thinking. But if you keep pushing through - if you rip space-time apart to reach Al-Hazard - the damage will be incalculable! Countless families will lose their own children, parents, siblings, and more! And even if you somehow find a way to resurrect Alicia, if you destroy Midchilda in the effort, where will you go back to with her?"

The Wind Knight shakes her head, gripping her sword's hilt more tightly. "Fate-san ... what Precia-san has done, the way she's treated you ... no mother should ever do such a thing to any child, even a child who's disappointed her. You may not be the Alicia she wants back so desperately - but you're still *you*, precious and unique. If she still refuses to accept you, she doesn't deserve to still be called your mother."

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

Kasagami's brief side-eye at the crystal mirror strikes a very ugly, very cold spike into her heart. She does not want to think of herself as old and wrinkled. But thankfully getting distracted amidst the shifting progress of time is easy. The desperation of Precia is obvious through the glimpses. She has no doubt that going through so much would make any Mother go mad.

The blowing sand of teeth, the many scents, the young woman has to force herself to try to ignore the sights. So she closes her eyes as Lindy makes pronouncements, as Precia engages amidst the great spell being woven and counter-woven. Kasagami looks between Fate, and her Mother. Issues of cloning, memories, everything that Lindy and Precia informed them about are brushed aside. The Duelist glares angrily at the woman. She points her blade, one handed, at the archmagus.

"Precia, you are a disgrace to the name 'Testarossa'! The Jewel Seeds, people being attacked, even this bout of insanity...those are things that can be forgiven as the work of a grieving person."

She purses her lips, and squeezes a fist into a ball. "I know what it's like to relive the past again and again, every night. Waking up sweating, calling the names of people you'd give up anything to have in your arms again and hurt anyone to see again. All because you were too weak to stop it!" Her voice cracks a moment, but she holds firm.

"So I'm going to be the last person to criticize you for your violence. No, that's not why you're a disgrace. After everything you lost, don't you realize the MIRACLE you managed to bring about!? Against all semblances of reason or sanity, you lost one precious daughter, but managed to have another beautiful family member in the departed's stead!"

She turns, coat flicking out and fluttering as one hand motions grandly to Fate.

"This girl fought for you, did everything you wanted, all because she loved you! The love of a child to a Mother! Instead you treat this girl like garbage when you both should be mourning a daughter and a sister! You're lucky Mom isn't here to beat some sense into your skull, she'd be howling at how you spit on the family you could embrace! Rolling over in her grave right about now!"

Kassie's gaze snaps to Fate. "SO DON'T MIND ME IF I HOWL A BIT INSTEAD! FATE-CHAN!"

A deep breath, and the Crimson Rose Duelist lets out a long sigh that's mostly snarl. "Don't hold back! Nice and loud, that's how you make sure stubborn, idiot Mothers hear you when they won't listen!" Encourages the young woman, absolutely seething.

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

It's a surreal feeling. As time itself buckles and throws wide its gates. Fate passes by one crystalline mirror and looks like a preschool mirror of Precia's daughter, another and she's in her late teens. That's not why it feels surreal though. It's because she has the context to make sense of these images ahead of her mother. The context comes from memories she now knows weren't hers.

"I remember a blinding flash. And running towards the balcony to see... the place where Mother worked was so bright. And then... nothing."

Fate Testarossa relays to the others, with this distant, abstracted quality. "And then I woke up... and she was telling me everything was going to be okay." The girl looks haunted as she looks across the swimming images. "I think... that was the first time I ever really woke up. And everything before was... someone else."

The girl shakes her head. Like it's a thought she doesn't want to dwell on too long. Sights and scents, nostalgia so thick she wants to check her own teeth to make certain they're all there.

Lindy and Precia speak to each other in the back and forth. And the girl listens.

She seems hesitant to approach at first. However then there's Sourisi, telling her to say how she feels, and the girl grips Bardiche a little more tightly, looking a little lost. Like all the words are slipping out of her head. Before she eventually nods. "You're... right. I just wish it wasn't so difficult..."

And Mikoto makes her earnest plea. And the girl's eyelashes flutter at the idea of Precia being left alone. As if suddenly there's a certain connection she's making.

And then there's Steven. "... be strong..." The girl echoes, before taking a deep breath, by Steven saying she's perfect just the way she is. Fate's breath is interrupted to give him a look of wonder. "...but I..." She then swallows, and tries to nod. Tries to accept it. It's... not an easy thing to accept, mired in self-loathing as she's been.

Yet it feels good... doesn't it? The thought of it.

The meek girl she'd fought earlier, Fate finds herself looking at her in surprise. She hadn't thought of herself as young in some time... because of what was expected of her. Yet it's true isn't it?

"I do need her..." The girl repeats, but then says something differently, "... but more importantly... I want her in my life." There's something sad about the way she adds, "Even if she doesn't want me."

And then the Magic Knight of wind speaks to her. And Fate looks at her in surprise. "...it doesn't matter if she deserves it or not." The girl finally says, "She's still my Mother." As if that were simply an irrefutable fact of their relationship.

It's taken her some time to ready herself, right now. Yet she feels ready, like the others have helped her arrange the words in her head. Then she states to her Device. "Are you ready?" <Yes Sir. Get Set.>

It's a strange feeling to be checking Bardiche before approaching her Mother. Everything is so different. Yet she understands the difference now. The girl steps forward, pose unthreatening as she watches her Mother strain in her control over the Jewel Seeds.

"Mother. There's something I need to say to you..."

BGM Change: D91M(Piano) - Requiem - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xcq3MxLcPzU

The girl has to take a moment to calm herself, before levelling her eyes on her.

"I keep thinking over and over, what I could have done differently. For you not to hate me. I always used to wonder the same... when you were hurting me."

There's a lengthy sort of pause, as if she's really staring at Precia for the first time, seeing her suffering, hurting, in pain.

"There's nothing right? Nothing I could have said. Nothing I could have done. Because every time you looked at me, you saw some... thing... who wasn't Alicia."

That tone seems steeped in pain.

"It must have hurt so much... yet I didn't see it. Didn't know. I wanted things to go back to the way they'd been between us... without knowing things had never been different."

She quiets for a moment. "That it could never be. Because I'm not Alicia."

Something shimmers in her eyes, "These girls though. They've taught me that sometimes... when something ends. Something new can begin. And the fact that there's nothing I could have done then... doesn't mean there's nothing we can do differently now... together." She tremulously holds out a hand. "Mother I love you. You called me a failure and a fake... but that doesn't matter. Because those feelings of love are real. I loved you from the moment I woke up for the first time."

The girl presses her lip together as she gathers her thoughts, to say it again, "I love you. And that's the only thing that matters. Everything else... we'll get past it. We'll find a way. Together."

There's a brief pause, then she shakes her head, before making her final declaration in a sotto voce.

"You don't have to suffer alone any longer, Mother."

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene des Opales [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

La Sirene des Opales gazes into a red future and her eyes flick towards herself, towards someone else, papers falling - someone crying - la Sirene raises a hand to her forehead and takes a deep breath, breathing in the scent of color, the taste of teeth.

Magic snaps out. It does not stop the dissolution of reality but it slows it. Mme. Meduse huddles closer to la Sirene, brightness or no. Batiste leaps up to her jacketpocket, where he clasps on. She cradles Batiste.

She glances at herself again - no, she isn't there right now. How many me's are there? She tilts her head forward, hair fluttering, and calls out-- "Testarossa! We are here with you!" And then she speaks and then she -

aaaaagh, la Sirene des Opales thinks, she's -

No, la Sirene thinks with relief, she's catching up.

No, she's saying she loves her. Why does this have to be so complex, La Sirene thinks as she looks towards - Precia? The woman behind this?

La Sirene speaks with force. She tries to speak with authority.

"What is done cannot be un-done. It may be set right, but things will never be as they were. You cannot cross the same sea twice! You loved Alicia -- you LOVE Alicia -- would she have wished for you to do this?!"

Her allies shrink closer to her, their voices unable to carry.

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

Madoka beams at Eas' request which could be taken as a promise but could also be taken as no promise whatsoever because she loves soft Setsuna so so much and knows that everyone else will too.

And then the world falls down...

Madoka has a huge advantage in traversing a surreal otherworld that liberally mixes recognizable chunks of reality with weird lights and dimensional Wrongness: experience. Lots of it. She does not trip over the baby teeth or stumble into a clock, knocking over tears. She just walks steadily forward, the metronomic clonk of her wedge heels providing a source of constancy amid the chaos.

Madly, a thought flitters across her mind:

A witch... what is a witch, really...?

But just as it is in those kinds of labyrinths, to hesitate in such contemplations is terribly dangerous. She's been taught better than that. And so without so much as conscious dismissal of that line of thinking, it simply passes into her and out the other side again, as she focuses on what's actually important.

On Mikoto and the others, addressing Precia, addressing Fate.

Once again she reaches out to take Homura's hand. To hold it gently, carefully, like the most precious thing in the world.

But it isn't the only precious thing. And with her other hand she reaches out to touch Fate's shoulder -- and to squeeze her wordless but profound support. Fate can feel the nearness of her warmth.

Stung by the other girl's words, tears begin pouring silently down her face. Each one joins the strange reality in reflecting or refracting a face, a time, a place.

But here and now Madoka's face is stricken -- is overwrought -- is overcome. With sadness for Fate and for Precia, and with something more important, too.

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

Eas gives something that's the ghost of something pleasant, but is at least half a paler copy of that smile. Nevertheless there's something real in it. But ahead?

Even the chaos of an Earth city is strange to Eas--how much moreso the crumbling maze that is this place, full of strange reflections and a color that has deep meaning for her? The perspectives at hand are jarring--visions of life in Labyrinth, of a girl who looks like her somewhere different, of someone older... of something not there at all. But these are fragments--what Eas perceives above all... is the paper. The tears. The voice.

Eas does not find herself walking very far from Madoka, not at first anyway. "...?" she asks, blinking. "Tests?" she asks, confused, as she recognizes who it is. She looks down to sand, and coins, and... apologies. Fate said that she was kind. Is this what that looks like?

The scent is strange to her. The voice merges, and Eas looks up as if trying to fight the air itself before Lindy's magic spreads out, and she mentions the coming authorities. By instinct the Executive shifts on her feet... but she doesn't move away. She doesn't leave the group. Instead she listens to an exchange, and she knows desperation too well not to hear it and be unsettled to know that it rests in someone so powerful, so much older, an authority she helped once... who hurt Fate the way that she did.

And for an instant as Precia talks of her plans, the girl from labyrinth feels a deep, dark twinge of ugly jealousy of a dead girl, strifftens and shakes her head as if she can dismiss the uncomfortable comparison. "Gh," she says. "This--"

Her hands start to rise to her head, and she forces them down, straightening, remember her core. "I..." She murmurs, "I am Eas. Denizen of Labyrinth. Devoted..."

Her eyes flicker upward then, melancholy. Even Steven talks about feeling loss. Hearing that--hearing the words of mistakes, of misery, ironically seems more real to her in the moment than all the talk of working together. And yet...

"Is it worth it, Testarossa-sama?" Eas finds herself asking. "...Mobius-sama worked with you. Sent me to help, but what can we do in a reality that doesn't even exist?"

She stops, then, closes her mouth, and turns, looking down to Fate again. She stares evenly at her. 'I want her in my life. Even if she doesn't want me.' Those words linger, for the Executive. "...I never had even a fake parent," she says to her. "That's right. She's your Mother. It's... not my business, what you do. Not my business how you..." She doesn't quite say 'feel', she just shakes her head. "Go ahead."

Fate speaks. Fate says things and Eas finds a tiny hope inside her--that sometimes, maybe, when you learn something new you can share it; that something can change. She doesn't think it consciously, hasn't gone that far, but...

Eas does not offer reassuring touch; she does not offer kind words, or a gentle smile. She just nods, and steps up beside Fate, waiting. She will, if nothing else, risk herself to ensure Fate has the time to hear her mother's reply.

...She can give a doll that much.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> The Name Of Life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImPM5IDIYPs

An alarm blares, startling all the reflected girls, old and young, grieving and lonely, lost and found.

At the very tips of the crystalline shards comes just a hint of white light, like the shimmer off a wind-stirred summer lake.

"I'm worried we might have different definitions of everything."

<< You're right. Yes... everything changed... after that day... >>

The white is rapidly spreading across the shattered chamber, like an infection. It pools in the eyes as it approaches.

"I told you, it's not safe!"

"I told you to stop!"

"I have to go -- Alicia -- ALICIA!!"

When the explosion clears, there's next to nothing left; the city gouged out of the land as though an immense shovel had simply scooped it away. No longer red or yellow, the room is blue, then black, as the last of the stars fade.

There's a sticky sickly sweet aftertaste.

All the clocks have stopped.

Now the teeth are skulls.

"It hurts to be left alone!"

<< Yes... oh, it hurts... >>

It's the same voice that it has been all along, of course, albeit unrecognizably ragged with madness and grief. Choked with blood, her own and her enemies' and her children's. This one, however, lies in the present, not the past.

But the past's voice murmurs on, burbling on a tearful breeze.

"I won't rest. I won't stop. Not for anyone. No matter what! I -- will -- save -- you..."

"You just have to try!

<< ...I tried ... so hard... >>

Strange devices bleep and artifacts rattle. There's a second voice, an unrecognizable male one, who whispers a dark promise. "Lend me your resources, and together we will regain what you've lost. How could you not succeed? It's fate..."

"H-haven't you seen how hard she's tried for you?"

<< ...so hard... >>

A Lost Logia, unmistakable as anything else with the strange skewed angles of its form, casts a strong purple radiance across the mirrors, forking like lightning.

"Where will you go back to with her?"

<< There's no -- going back, is there? Only... on. >>

The chamber shakes with the rising whine of activated Jewel Seeds, and finally buckles, ejecting everyone down its black path as though cracking a dimensional whip. It's like falling down a tall park slide.

"You spit on the family you could embrace!"

<< I never asked for your forgiveness... >>

Another slide, in crystalline passing, shows a brown and white cat seated at the top, flicking its tail back and forth. It rises, turns a circle, and vanishes.

"Yes, I know that. My best wasn't good enough, again. But I won't waste any more time on such a failure."

"Would she have wished for you to do this?!"

<< She -- wished -- to -- LIVE!! >>

Now, as the vaulted ceiling, like a cracking egg, falls upwards and away, the girls find themselves facing a different sort of chasm. Floating obsidian glitters here and there in large chunks, relatively easy to leap between, though 'straight' isn't 'straight' and navigation is close to impossible, vertigo inevitable.

"Is it worth it, Testarossa-sama?"

<< ... >>

<< ... >>

<< ......YES. >>

And at the end of the broken black road -- the center of the maze -- the silhouette of Precia Testarossa is transformed to black against the blinding light of the Jewel Seeds, which has become so fierce that it is white, not blue at all.

"I love you. And that's the only thing that matters. Everything else... we'll get past it. We'll find a way. Together. You don't have to suffer alone anymore, Mother."

A few details can still be made out, at her edges. The way her hair is growing limp with exhaustion, losing its curl. The ridges of her fingers, overlapping as the grip on her staff grows sloppy and exhausted.

(No more telepathy: her response is tormented, distorted by whatever used to be 'air' in this bizarro spacetime but no longer needs be mind to mind, because she's over there.)

"What... did you come here for..."

And the thing

"...run away, you little fool..."




that explodes from behind her like a lance

and enters her back

and emerges from her chest


Northa is inviting you to teleport +join or +summon them.

Type: '+join Northa' or '+summon Northa'. Or type: '+port deny'.

<Pose Tracker> Northa [None] has posed.

"Everything for Lord Moebius," Northa says coldly. As she steps out from behind Precia, it's as though the black profile simply splits into two. Now there are two of them, tall and imperious, with long hair and sweeping robes.

One collapses.

The other extends her hand, and the Jewel Seeds fall into it in a neat stack of diamonds.

Like a flashlight held by a ghost storyteller in a dark forest, they illuminate Northa's face from below -- just as she looks across the intervening, shattered space, straight at the group. Reflected and refracted from every direction, her slit-golden eyes are almost as insane as her coldly widening smile. The shadows cast by her cheekbones are stark, but nothing about her is sunken.

More than anything else she defines the word vital. Precia was a dying star before she even arrived, but Northa is very much -- brilliantly, brutally -- alive.

"As if Labyrinth would let a maddened mother waste this power," she scoffs. "But -- Eas -- I didn't expect you to be here." Something contemptuous in her tone implies the opposite. There's a delicious pleasure there. "Join me at once, and we will exterminate Lord Moebius' enemies as easily as we did this most useless ally."

She extends her other hand, the empty one, without the Jewel Seeds, and it, too, seems to come from every direction. From every angle it's possible to appreciate how beautiful and pale it is, how slender and strong. How sharp her blue fingernails. The tiny flecks of soil beneath them, a sign of a gardener.

It's close enough for Eas to reach out and touch...

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

No going back--only on. Eas watches what must have happened; she watches the explosion, the tragic outcome. With the alarm blaring in her ears, the Executive regards the terrible explosion that ended a city, ended one important life, set perhaps all of this in motion.

The clocks have stopped.

What could the voice be? Eas wants to tell Precia that she could only rely on her ally, that Mobius could find a way, if anyone could, and yet... She has that answer. Is it worth it? Eas still regards her onetime commander with respect, speaks accordingly, though perhaps she's just polite to adults. She says yes, though. There is silence and then an absolute answer, utter certainty that makes Eas's eyes widen even before she understands what is happening before them. She's so close--she's changing...

"Fate," Eas breathes. "You need to go, you--"


"N-Northa," Eas breathes, utterly frozen as she stares at her superior, imperious and perfect. The Jewel Seeds fall into Northa's hands, and the woman Eas recognized is now visible to the rest. Unblinking, the young Executive stares. is it respect? ...Is it fear? It is hard to say.

"...Of course," Eas murmurs. "Moebius-sama would never allow this to happen..."

Contempt--yes, it's there. Eas hesitates, at that contradiction, understanding something strange in it. "Of--of course I'm here," she moves to defend herself. "I couldn't let the worlds Moebius-sama seeks to rule be destroyed. I couldn't leave that in the hands of these girls."

But she looks down at that hand, staring. 'Exterminate', she says, and Eas can see instead of a pale hand joyful, sparkling eyes first. Pink. ...No, not only pink... The face shifts, to one with eyes of golden-brown.

Eas starts to lift her hand, but not all the way. "...Northa," she says, and the word has the faintest note of pleading. "Of course, everything for Moebius-sama, but..." She can't quite get the word out for an instant, "Only, we already have the power of the Jewel Seeds--What purpose does destroying Moebius-sama's future subjects achieve? With this power we could bring them into our forces--gain--gain an advantage--"

<Pose Tracker> Northa [None] has posed.

"Great minds think alike," replies Northa in a hiss, her smile unwavering.

And with a knife toss the envy of any ninja, she jerks her wrist and sends the Jewel Seeds flying, fanning outwards, like two dozen shuriken.

They land -- two behind each girl -- pinning their shadow to the ground.

"Jewel Seeds," she concludes, almost sing-song, "I wish for loyal subordinates. Moebius' perfect army."

And the shadows rise up into perfect dopplegangers --

-- they are black, black as the broken, now vaguely crystalline road --

-- and their hair is white --

-- and their fuku are gray --

-- and their eyes, as they open, are circuitry.

Impossibly complex. Live wires pulsing.

Like data diamonds...

...or Jewel Seeds.

"Everything for Lord Moebius," they chant with a terrible simulteneity, in too-perfect unison.

The one behind Eas strikes first.

OOC: So! Everyone has a dark shadow version of themselves to fight. While I /could/ describe them for you I think you can do a
better job yourselves, so you're going to be NPCing tonight!

OOC: There is no single right way to define this inversion in terms of personality; they should be an opposite in some way, an
opposite of some defining trait of your character -- for example, Dark Eas strikes first because she is perfectly /certain/
instead of very uncertain. Go with whatever you find compelling, whatever story you want to tell about your character by having
them face their dark reflection. What is the most interesting evil they could embody, and force their true self to confront?

OOC: In terms of unifying traits of the doppelgangers, they serve 'Moebius-sama' with complete loyalty (and by extension Northa,
his chief executive), and that's pretty much it -- they can be as serious or as playful as you want. They're all 'evil' in the
sense that absolute loyalty to any cause is evil. And they're all trying to kill and replace their original.

OOC: We won't be using csys for this; we will spend a total of two rounds in combat, and you can pose as much back-and-forth
between yourself and your doppelganger (and each other) as you want.

OOC: If you want to switch targets, you can totally work that out OOCly, this could turn into a more complex grouping of
characters than just a bunch of separately posed one on ones.

OOC: If you really don't want to pose your own doppel let me know and I can do it for you, and you can just pose normally,
starting now. Still no csys though. :)

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

Serpentina cannot take all this weirdness. She cannot take all this reality warping. She cannot take this corrupting penetrating feeling of despair. But what she really cannot take is the pain, the drama, the utter destruction of any hope. Fate is hurt. Her friends are trying to help. Precia is unreasonable and focused only on her lost daughter, not the one she could have. And an echo of her is broken.

And just when she thinks nothing could make this worse, Serpentina is proven wrong. A spark of sanity in Precia just before her life is snuffed out. Her killer, in control of the Jewel Seeds. An ally, turning against the group, then trying to plead for them. Doppelgangers, created to defeat them all.

Serpentina falls to her knees, lowering her head. "This... this isn't fair," she mumbles. "W....why..." Tears well up in her eyes, as her grip on her parasol tightens. "I... I can't take this." With a sigh, she....

...quickly swings her umbrella behind her, barely missing her doppelganger who was just fast enough to jump back away from her. "Dang it, missed," the original Serpentina grumbles.

"Ha, nice try. I should've known you were faking it," the clone taunts. "You're sneaky and underhanded that way. Why else would you be given snake powers?"

"Which is why I knew you'd sneak up on me," she counters, blocking a sudden umbrella strike with her own parasol. As they both push like two samurai clashing blades, they simultaneously try to sweep each other's legs.

This... might take a while.

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

A klaxion sounds, and lights flare. A brilliant white, hard to see past. The voices speak, Precia can be heard aboive them, if just barely. When the light clears, death remains in its wake. The realm between reflects its own status in the fragments of itself. Halted time. Skulls. A missing city.

Outside a vision, stranger noises come. Steve ngrows wide-eyed as he gets an actual response from Precia. There is no time for a response, as the group is catapulted through nonexistence. Gravity pulls in vague directions as if it simulate some kind of skewed falling. Steven reaches for something to hold on to, as if reflexively looking for the side of a slide, but nothing is there for him.

The dizzying trip amongst parallels and scintillating obsidian comes to a halt in front of the very woman causing all this, nothing more than a silhouette against a white light backdrop. It takes the boy time to find footing, if it could even be called that in here. Some form of stability. As he does, he hears Fate. A smile cross his face. It almost sounded like it reached her. Almost. Sadly, it wasn't her clouded heart that stopped her.

It was what went through it.

Horror doesn't begin to describe the emotion a little child can feel in a moment such as this.

Terror comes close enough.

Who was this woman, so mighty to fell a woman in a single strike, and be unseen until the last moment? Perhaps the Jewel Seeds created the opening needed. Still, Northa must be powerful indeed to navigate this maelstrom of time and space alone. She claims the prize of the seeds without effort. And she seems to know Eas.

Eas seems to argue in some relative way, on keeping them safe for this Lord Moebius character. Northa has other plans. Steven visibly flinches as two Jewel seeds fly toward him at untrackable speeds, and 'tinktink' into the... what could pass for a floor behind him. He slowly turns, and he is face to face with someone familiar.

A similar height child. Same fluffy hair, but bone white. Haunting circuitlike eyes. Their shirt has a blazing meteor on it. Jeans are torn in places. Spiked, steel-toed boots are worn. A Gem pokes out from under their shirt. It is Jet Black.

"For Moebius-sama." THe voices is both alike, and a far departure, from Steven's. In a flash of angry almost ultraviolet light, the shadowy figure is armed. A round shield, but that is where similarities end. Etchings upon it look violent, a cascading bramble with a black blooming rose in the center. Spikes protrude from the outside ring facing outward, forming something akin to a saw, They look like gnarled thorns.

A a wicked smile forms as a malevolent echo follows their voice. #-1 INVALID ANSI DEFINITION: +ivroy4 "Who is this supposed to be? You look like a rainbow threw up! Heh." They gesture toward Steven. "H-Hey! Thats not nice!" Steven retorts, readying his own shield.

"What's wrong? Lost your funny bone? Don't worry, I'll help you find it!"

A flick of the wrist, and that wicked looking thorn shield is flying far faster than any one Steven has ever thrown. It aims for an arm. The boy is by utter millimeters able to dodge it-- his shirt is flayed open, a laceration cuts across his chest. Both straps on his backpack are cut off.

Several skulls in the distance are perfectly bisected with its passing. As if a hot knife through butter. The Shadow Steven is already re-armed, far faster than his normal counterpart. ansi+deeppink,"Ack!")] the boy calls, holding his chest. A bit of blood runs from that slice. It coats his fingers lightly. "Why are you doing this?! Can't we talk it out?! Have a heart to heart or something?!" he asks, panicked. "Sure! I'll start by taking yours!"

Another shield, right down the middle toward Steven. The boy brings his shield to meet theirs. Sparks of both colors fly as the thornlike blades of the attacker's screech upon the defender, causing the vicious looking implement to pop-fly in the air.

"On second thought, comes that mirror darkly voice behind the real Steven, the original child turning to see the clone, and eating an absolutely brutal boot to the gut from those spiked steel toed boots. Steven goes sprawling a good way away. "...Why don't you take a load off! Forever, preferrably! Hah!" A hand casually is held up to catch that wicked shield.

Steven's pink shield skitters to the ground near him from the flyback. "Ooorrgh..." Groans the child, struggling to get up.

The clone marches toward him, menasingly.

That smile grows wider.

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene des Opales [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

In a trice things change. The Jewel Seeds are seized by NORTHA, the general that la Sirene has heard only by reputation. But not good reputation. Eas steps forwards - Setsuna, perhaps, she should think - and pleads her case...

Though it is discouraging, la Sirene thinks, they could - but Fate - oh! What a twist! Her heart's pulsing -

Then all of them are bifuricated. Brave Kasagami, sweet Madoka, sweet-but-spicy Mikoto, bracingly minty Magic Knight, the unique forms of the Miraculous - her fingers tighten as if to gather herself, before Batiste squeaks, "Look out!" and then suddenly an open palm smashes into the side of her mouth!

La Sirene is struck hard enough to be lifted up, to do a full rotation in the air, and land on her backside in a drift of miniscule teeth, grasping her face and looking up at herself in astonishment. No, her photo-negative.

Eneris-Al looms above her with her slappin' hand held up with her fingers slightly splayed out, her other hand on her hip. Her outfit is not exactly like la Sirene's - where la Sirene is wearing a splendid jacket and a skirt with striped leggings and tough boots, Eneris-Al has a fur boa and a cocktail-style dress. Where la Sirene's fingernails are opal, Eneris-Al's are obsidian. Where la Sirene's lips are coral-purple, Eneris-Al's are blood crimson.

"Everything for Lord Mobius! But does it really have to include YOU?" Eneris-Al says.

La Sirene's answer is incoherent. Mme. Meduse floats backwards, flashing a warning carmine even as Batiste tries to help la Sirene up, a thing which Batiste cannot do very well due to the size disparity.

"LOOK at you," Eneris-Al says. "You have vermin and sea-lice floating around you, you're hanging around with --" a flippant motion of her hand, "THAT, and you have HOW many servants, how many realms, how many ancient secrets? I think that's zero, zero, and maybe one-third, isn't that right?"

"Tch!" Eneris-Al says, lip curling. "Come on! Don't you have anything to say for yourself?!"

La Sirene's lip quivers and she stumbles and then she cries out, "SHUT UP!!"

"Excuse you? I do not intend to be silenced by the likes of you," Eneris-Al says, snapping her fingers and rolling her eyes. "Uuuuugh look at all this trash~! Mobius-Sama isn't going to have any room for THAT, I can tell you THAT much."

"They're not TRASH," la Sirene insists, her face tightening, her normal pallor turning into a less than pleasant redness.

"They look like trash. And they certainly smell like it, too. Phew~!" Eneris-Al says, making a production of pinching her nose.

"Now come on," Eneris-Al continues, "either give up, or get up and throw your hands, or call on your silly little CHARMS and"

"YOU SOUND JUST LIKE MOTHER!!" la Sirene shouts at the entity.

Eneris-Al is actually given pause by that. Her head tilts to the left, even as la Sirene, heavily, reaches her feet.

"Have you considered," Eneris-Al says, "that maybe YOU should try being like your mother, for once? Be realistic, little Siren, or else you'll be d"

Eneris-Al's trash talk is interrupted by a return stroke to the cheek from the Siren of Opals. Unlike la Sirene, the creature of Data Diamond does not recoil nearly as hard, but her jaw is thrown briefly out of alignment.

La Sirene, glowering with eyes gleaming a strange color, tightens her fists.

"Oooooooooo," Eneris-Al says. "SOMEone's gotten some spice in her stew, hasn't she? Did I touch a nerve?"

"I'm not going to abandon them if I can help it! I'm not alone any more!" la Sirene says hotly. "Every one of them is precious to me!"

"So you've filled your little rotten barrel of a heart with other people, have you?" Eneris-Al replies, before her jaw pops back into place. "Well, well. Maybe we should wait and see just how THAT works out for you -" She pauses, ostentantiously checking the little wrist watch that mirrors the one on la Sirene's left wrist.

Eneris-Al looks towards Steven, in particular, and tilts her head suggestively, hard enough that a strand of white hair falls loose, as if to say: eh? EH?

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

The Magic Knight of Wind *just barely* has time to give Northa a terribly withering look before -

"Winds of Admonishment!"

- a whirlwind wraps around the green-clad Wind Knight, binding her in place as she grimaces. The last time she was fighting a hostile duplicate of herself, she'd only learned a healing spell; fighting a version of herself with combat magic is clearly going to be a harder challenge.

Harder. But not insurmountable. The Wind Knight exerts her willpower, her glove-jewel flaring green on the back of her left hand, and she manages to unravel the spell enough to dodge the sword that was aimed at her chest, bringing her own blade up to parry.

"You really should just let me kill you, original-san," the duplicate observes, her lips curved in a twisted copy of the original's smile. "You spend too much time thinking about the right thing to do. Better to serve Lord Moebius and not waste time asking questions."

Swords clash once again, the green-clad Magic Knight straining harder than her copy does - or more accurately, harder than the copy *has to*. "Questions are how we learn, aren't they?" she ripostes. "You have to accept that you *don't* know something -"

She breaks the lock, spinning the other way and bringing her blade crashing down on her shadow's shoulder guard. "- in order to learn what you didn't know!" the Wind Knight finishes.

"FOR LORD MOEBIUS!!!" her copy howls, and the battle is joined in earnest. Where the original Wind Knight is a fairly cerebral fighter, her shadow runs on visceral, even feral emotions, trying to overwhelm the original by not giving her time to think.

It might even work.

The fact that some of her allies are getting brutalized far worse than she is distracts the Wind Knight further - she's worried about her friends, naturally enough, whereas the shadowy copy is concerned only with her own victory. But even as she struggles against her copy, the green-clad Magic Knight is trying to keep track of everything that's going on around her, looking for any possible advantage that can be brought to bear ...

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Mother, I'm here - Bastion - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlfUcnSbKDA

Eas stands in front of her. And Fate looks at her, not exactly surprised. Yet...

What did you come here for...?

Reality is breaking. And a child keeps her hand extended forward. Because the answer of what she came here for is...

"... Mother."

... and she won't run away. Even as the universe shatters around her.

Maybe that does make her stupid. Maybe that does make her a little fool.

It's hard to say what her Mother is thinking. Whether she got through to her. Whether she was truly rejected... or whether something new can blossom.

Northa makes certain that all that blossom is despair.

Because a root erupts from her Mother's chest as if she were fertile soil. "MOTHER!"

... and she falls.

Fate of course knows its doom to approach Northa. Top Executive of Labyrinth. Right now though, nothing else matters other than her dying mother. Even as Eas addresses Northa. Even as Northa makes her terrible wish.

Even as a shadowy Fate rises behind her. Fate ignores herself and flies forward in a flash.

Yet she's not on the attack. Instead she lands right beside Precia Testarossa. She knows no healing spells. And indeed there are none that could do the slightest thing, other than perhaps stave off the inevitable.

And so Fate grasps fretfully for the crumpled woman's hand, her other trying to turn her over just enough so that she's not face down, pushing against the resistance offered by Northa's root.

She does not know whether her Mother accepted her love. She doesn't know anything. Except one thing.

Her mother suffered for so long, alone.

And so squeezing the still warm hand, the child hiccups. Steadying her voice to say...

"I'm here..."

She gives her hand an extra hard squeeze, as if she wanted the sensation to reach her, no matter what state she's in. It feels like she's wringing warm tears out of her eyes.

"...Mother... I'm here."

BGM Change: A certain boss fight - Ocarina of Time - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6ALqAbffg4

There comes a playfully wicked voice from behind her though. "Oh! Thanks for making it easy for me!" Fate can feel the whoosh of air, as a shadow descends upon her. "Just keep paying attention to that corpse and I'll send you on a journey with her!"

Fate releases her grip at the last second, just as an off-color twin to Bardiche hits the floor with a clang. Sending the true Fate rolling before it scrapes terribly, as she turns the momentum against her, to scrape upward in a slash. "Hey - didn't you want to be with her? What a fickle daughter you are. What's it been, five seconds since you said it...?"

The other Fate shoulders her polearm, flashing a smile with her whitened eyes and silver hair. "So look. Let me level with you. I don't want to really waste my time fighting a brat like you. So how about you give up right now? You can pledge yourself to Mobius-sama, or just get back down on your hands and knees so I can sever your neck and send you right to her. It doesn't matter to me either way."

There's a cocksure sort of recklessness to her, as she takes a step forward. Fate looks at her with a sort of eerie disbelief, tears in her eyes, and shadow Fate takes her silence as a refusal, instead switching tact to a mocking tone. "Oh seriously? You should just look at yourself right now. What's the matter little baby? All boohoo because the woman who beat you up all the time didn't tell you that she loved you?"

Sweeping her dark reflection of Bardiche from side to side, it intones, <Shadow Lancer> And four icy looking globes of energy form. "THAT REALLY TICKS ME OFF! I don't need anyone's acknowledgement to know what I'm worth in Mobius-sama's world! Go ahead then! Cry more! Wail more!" The shadowy clone sweeps her polearm down, "... and die already!"

The four orbs swoop down at Fate Testarossa, who is still looking at her with a sort of bovine disbelief. And then makes a hiccuping gasp as the true Bardiche calls out. <Defenser>

The yellowed shields spring into being as the orbs crash into them, suffusing Fate with a lightning which feels downright cold rather than it burning. Like the electrical shock is giving her frostbite. The girl spasms. And then suddenly launches forward, Bardiche shifting in mid-air. <Scythe Form> <Reaper Form>

The two hooked devices clash, as the dark Fate leers at the crying one. "Well if you're going to be a pain and make me work for this..."

Suddenly with a burst of strength, she breaks the blade lock, and sends the other girl careening towards a crystalline wall, causing it to crack into shards as the girl has all the wind driven out of her with a agonized gasp.

"... then I'm just going to have to enjoy myself a little more."

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

A skull rolls in its path, to rest against a sensible Ohtori flat.

Mikoto puffs a breath through her teeth and kicks it out of her path.

Every single one of them has a different argument -- for Fate, or Precia, or the both of them. They all have different perspectives. Perhaps between them they can say something to help, except...

(Just a kid, Homura says, and Mikoto thinks to Fate's description of her memories and wonders if there is ever a time she hasn't fought the enemy.)

... Precia has an answer for everything they have to say, even if she doesn't deny it. It hurts. Mikoto feels a lance of hot anger and feels she might choke on it, because Precia had the power, and Precia chose to leave even though there was someone there for her. She draws in jagged breath and looks away, down to the bones in their path, cheeks colouring in shame almost as soon as her throat tightens.

No matter feelings which cut too close, obsidian keeps her. The chamber folds in and Mikoto falls, but a girl who has never been able to fly has adapted quite well to falling with purpose. She leaps from floating chunk to floating chunk, at times pressing off with her feet, at other times a hand lifting from her sword to grasp at some uneven handhold so she might right herself. She does not know where she is going, but only where she needs to land next. It does not faze her.

But it means she isn't there, when Fate lays down her treatise at Precia's door, even as she lands at the end of eternity.

She can still hear the agonising history laid out through those words. She can still hear the determination, and she can still hear Fate being so much more reasonable in her emotions.

And she can still look up and see disaster.

Run away, Precia bids Fate, and perhaps it would be sensible advice for them all to take, but Mikoto has long since hardened to fear. She is not given to flee. She has fought Fate and Eas to exhaustion so many times, after all.

No, as Northa steps out, Mikoto does not flee, though her muscles tighten and her breath shallows in recognition of a brutal force. She is not used to being wary of gardeners. It is not a pleasant shift in perspective.

"Eas," Mikoto murmurs, pained, because she can hear the pleading edge and she recognises it so well.

Perhaps she would have tried to speak, no matter her diplomatic deficiencies, if not for Northa's immediate assent. It is agreement at the end of a blade, and Mikoto whirls out of its path only to catch a glimpse behind her and find that it was not aimed for her flesh at all.

She turns, takes a step back, but that shadow remains in place - and rises - and forms.

BGM Change: Nine Inch Nails - Right Where It Belongs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jAyfGzSaz0

Mikoto's breath catches in her throat as she pales to see the darkness licking off of it, as if a veil of black mist, breaking up a silhouette just, just like hers. But the hair is wrong, the eyes are wrong... and that fuku is the wrong colour.

Pale sigils like grey eyes alight on the shadow's blade as she takes a step back, another. "You're..." Mikoto is not good at foreign languages; Mikoto does not know the word for deja-vu.

It does not reply.

It focuses on her, gears behind its eyes clicking into place, and springs forward in deadly silence to bring its blade down. Mikoto springs back, but she is not as fast as this reflection, and the blade cuts a long line down the edge of her skirt.

"No," Mikoto's eyes are wide and small all at the same time, lips tensed downwards. She speaks and does not know where she finds the words. "No, go away, leave me alone!" It does not. That shadow carves at her and it is all she can do to get out of the way, a scrambling melee where she is worn down, grindstone to knife. "Don't do this to me! I don't want this!"

But it doesn't matter what she wants, because everything is for Moebius-sama.

Those circuitous eyes are the only hint of expression on its shadowed form, and the only thing they hold is imperious rage. It does not parlay with her pleas; it only demands, with physical immediacy.

She doesn't need to hear the words.

She knows it's because she's inadequate for the task.

She can feel it in every glancing blow, every strike which rings out, obsidian against obsidian.

She is less than what she can be, and there are greater things woven about her, and her wishes are secondary to the task.

Facing up to it...

... there's a sickening sort of familiarity.

Mikoto is not good at speaking, but she is the only one who can. "I can do it myself, give me a chance, please!" Her cries fall on empty ears. Sounds are heard and disregarded. Miroku strains against itself in her grip, and it is all she can do to turn her shadow aside without being torn to shreds.

In the end, as Mikoto reveals so clearly the one thing which still moves her to terror, all the things she can never say in her defence are worthless noise.

Maybe that's why she never gets the chance to say them.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Nightmare Ballet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWqq_jsFOkg

Madoka was already crying so Precia's death is not particularly out of her way. But when Eas is offered a choice, the tears stop with a soft sniffle.

She looks at her friend, doe-eyed, and knows no fear.

Even after Eas' bargaining, which wasn't exactly the fierce refutation it could have been, it's obvious that her faith in Setsuna is absolute.

Until it's interrupted...

"A-ano, eto," stammers Madoka as she stares down her evil twin, her hands clammy on her staff, the rose at its top still tightly furled into its bud.

Her counterpart has no such clumsiness; her grace is almost robotic as she bends and 'strings' her bow with a twitch of her fingers. She stares down the length of her black arrow, resigned, and the ebon flame at the top of her staff casts the strangest shadows.

Don't look at them too closely. Something is dancing there.

"Just give up already," Dark Madoka (Darkadoka) suggests, in that helpful little voice that everyone knows so well. It -- she -- is earnest and gentle.

But something else, too. Something important.

Darkadoka is resigned.

She sights the arrow straight at Madoka, and Madoka stares back...



In that moment everyone knows the audacity that beats at Madoka's core. It sounds like, feels like, a thousand thousand flapping wings...

"It's okay," she says, yes, earnestly and gently, taking one step forward -- then another -- then another. Until the arrow is almost at her throat. "You don't have to do this."

And yes, something else, too. The most important thing.

Madoka dares to hope.

"We don't have to fight! You don't have to hurt anyone!"

Darkadoka pivots on her heel and shoots at Eas' back instead.


There's a flash of pink, and now Madoka is armed -- and the black arrow is shot out of midair. The already-weird shadows get steadily more bizarre now that they're being produced by both obsidian and roseate light. Sometimes they're checkerboards. Sometimes they're fields of roses. Sometimes there's giggling as they appear and disappear.

"You're wrong," Darkadoka replies with a friendly confidence. "I do have to fight. And I know how to win."

The air fills with black arrows aimed at person after person, always at distracted moments; no one is unscathed. And, in turn, it fills with pink arrows that intercept them.

Madoka, her face set with a grimace of fierce concentration, finds herself completely occupied fighting to protect her friends rather than destroy her enemy. But then, that's who she is, isn't it?

Darkadoka's smile knows it.

"Your hope is false... because you can't save everyone. You're just lying to yourself, and everyone else."

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

It's a coordinated effort between friends and allies, enemies and strangers.

Fate is able to speak her mind, but that deep seated hate builds up in Precia, and she still calls her only daughter a fool.

To the very end.

Northa claims the prize in the name of her 'Mobius-sama' and demands Eas joins her in the 'extermination' of his enemies. But...Eas is protestng? Despite the fear and nervousness Sourisi is feeling from the sudden appearence of Northa and Precia's brutal death, confusion still finds a place in her mind. 'She...doesn't want to kill us?' There's talk of future subjects...which Northa was expecting.

A duo of Jewel Seeds sail over Sourisi's head, and she twists to watch them land directly onto her distorted and massive shadow, in this realm of lack of light and all. But Sourisi's mind, still reeling from the sudden change of events, hears Northa's wish all too well.

"I wish for loyal subordinates. Moebius' perfect army."

A shadow raises up and takes shape, form, presence, and is a mockery of everything Sourisi wishes to be. An ashen mouse stands tall, shoulder-length snow hair standing out harshly against obsidian skin. Coal black tonfa, the ends forming jagged claws, form in this mimicry of Sourisi's hands, but it was the eyes that has fear grip the real one's heart. Pulsing eyes staring back into forest green pair lack understanding, compassion, nervousness, humanity. This wasn't a girl that fights for the innocent, justice, or her friends.

"Everything for Moebius-sama."

This was a tool created to enforce iron will.

Rosewood lock with blackwood as Sourisi manages to block her doppleganger's charge just in the last moment, boots sliding a few inches before gaining traction. Her copy leans inward, a twisted reflection of a cheerful smile as the Miraculous Ninja tries to stand her ground, to hold back tears over the unfairness of it all.

"This is crazy! A mother drowning in grief, a daughter trying to come to terms with her origin, and now Labrynith has to ruin any possible chance of an happy ending? What's wrong with you people?!"

"Please. You act like you know everything when you have trouble keeping up five minutes ago. You want to be everyone's ally."

Dark Sourisi pushes upwards and away, breaking the lock and throwing the original off guard. Several lazy jabs of jagged tonfa are barely knocked away in time as Sourisi backs up, trying desperately to protect herself.

"Their friend. Their defender."

Sourisi manages to block another casual attack before the evil copy of herself suddendly shifts gears. Grinning ferociously, Dark Souisi swings a pair of obsidian weaponry as one at a half-formed guard. The sound of whirling wood fills the air as Sourisi's tonfa is sent flying away from their owner, four lines of cruel cuts showing on pale, bleeding skin.

"I'm not scared of being unwanted. Not being depended on. On not being -needed-! Why worry about it Sourisi-chan?"

That morbid grin only grows.

"The dead doesn't need friends!"

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

Kasagami Araki pauses in her tracks, whatever retort she might have had for Precia cut short as the insane magus is cut down. Shock has her staring at the spot where the woman falls, and Northa with her unearthly beauty, the horrific gardener's presence more than enough to send creeping chills up the Duelist's spine.

Yet even worse is the fact that some part of her is relieved that the woman who threw away Fate has gotten a punishment for the act. Judgement creeps back down her spine. Her stomach threatens to turn.

Still, Kasagami's attention shifts wholly to Eas and Northa. Is she trying...to negotiate for them!? A spark of distrust lurks in the young woman's eyes. Northa tosses the Jewel Seeds, and one amongst their number is almost casually walking up towards her second.

Long white hair is unbound, the exact opposite of the exquisite care that the original takes in her locks. The grey fuku shows off strong, long legs, casting a more feminine cut that most would never think of Kasagami Araki to wear...especially with that muted tone. The nodachi that's swung over one shoulder is a chipped, ragged thing. It's dull-looking, unpolished. There's no longcoat, but rather a kimono in muted blacks and greys.

The right side of her face, arm, and leg is a pulsing, glowing, sparking network of circuits. Unlike the original, this Kasagami doesn't shy away from her technomagical scars.

"Yeeeeesh, somebody has way too much energy. Can't you quiet down a bit, too? You'll disturb Mobius-sama..." Her mouth opens in a wide, slow yawn. Her eyes are half-lidded, and the fake has bags under her eyes.

Kasagami is already whirling around, bringing her blade towards the doppel's side in an effort to cut her in half. The girl's form might be blistering and the power behind it like an angry deity's, but the grey geta that rise up to catch it are as uncuttable as a mountain made of diamond. Sparks fly, and Kassie's 'sister' is raising that chipped and stricken mockery of the precious family blade.

"Shut up and get out of my way you NEET with a sword! You're an insult to the Araki name wielding a thing like that!"

The Doppelgami just shakes her head sadly and lets out a tired sigh. Without a word, a one-handed stab is made for Kasagami. If Kassie's motion is blistering, this one is acheingly slow...and yet it reaches before she can react all the same. It's like the Duelist is moving through molasses.

"Nnngh!" Kassie twists at the last second, but the gouge on her side is alarming. The jagged 'teeth' on that sword are new levels of excruciating. The sadistic reflection actually saws the thing backwards.

Kasagami Araki screams even as she swings her sword overhead. Twin nodachi meet one another. The Duelist's arms flex with raw muscle, magic infused, and grits her teeth as she bares down on her double with a vicious purpose.

"Stop struggling. You try too hard. After all, you won't reach your dreams. Mom and Dad are gone, the Estate's going to keep on rotting, and you'll eventually die broke, loveless, and miserable. You woke up crying this morning, didn't you? A little girl who can't let go of the past should just lay down and sleep. Stop thinking. Do as Mobius-sama tells you to."

Doppelgami is holding off her twin's all-in leverage, strength, and skill with a single hand. As if all those sweat, long hours training, ambitions and tears are nothing against the power of Labyrinth.

"I will...become a King!"

A lazy sneer. "You can't even defeat a Prince."

<Pose Tracker> Eas [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Leaving Tonight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDTp4GiiZdY

Great minds...? Eas for one, tiny instant, thinks that it's worked--that the things she'd told herself were right, that Northa agreed to her suggestion--request? That it would be fine. Her uncertainty starts to turn to relief...

Until that instant passes and Eas's eyes widen. "You--"

Her shadow is caught. Northa wishes for loyal subordinates... and then and there, Eas can no longer deny that it does not include her, not with the hesitation she made, not with the betrayal in her heart. She had the chance to act--

And she chose not to strike. That itself is a wound to the heart, as Eas looks to Northa. "Northa--"

BGM Change: Destroyer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJrtoz66pZ0

She isn't even looking when a pale heel cracks into her shoulder, sending Eas spinning through the air at bone-cracking speed. The other Eas steps forward, and doesn't so much as smirk. She simply turns up her nose, utterly dispassionate. A hand rises to flip her gray hair as her shock-blue Jewel Seed eyes find her counterpart again. "So focused on your emotions that you ignore reality around you. ...You expect me to tell you you've grown weak, don't you? That you've fallen from the lofty heights you achieved..."

Eas pushes herself up, uncertain still, adopting a fighting stance with wild eyes. "Of course! But I don't--I don't care what you have to say--"

"You do, because you know that resisting is itself a betrayal. Everything for Lord Moebius--you are an inferior agent, and thus the only correct action is to cede your role to me. I will ensure Moebius-sama's aims are achieved with complete efficiency." She doesn't bother adopting a defensive stance. She doesn't have to--without a single other answer, the original Eas shouts a battlecry and sprints, lunging down to drop and kick at her counterpart's knees; the two whirl into motion. Eas's rage makes sweeping attacks, powerful kicks down, but each is met by a knee, a forearm, a block, while Gray Eas's expression remains utterly placid.

"Yes--Use your anger as your shield. But you know, don't you? We've always been an aberration. Anger is as alien to Labyrinth as joy."

"Shut up!" Eas calls. "I don't--That's not--"

Gray Eas continues to block without counterattacking. "Again you serve by accident. We were always like that. But what will you do? Even if you win... You'll never be allowed back."

Eas stops short of another punch aimed for her counterpart's face, and sucks in a breath, frozen for an instant in fear, in realization... in despair.

Drip. Drip.

Gray Eas waits, arrogant. She does not so much as look at Darkadoka before she fires the arrow straight into a hesitating Eas's back. She waits--and frowns, as Madoka fires it out of the air. Eas turns in surprise, and Gray Eas shakes her head. "If you want something done right..."

She moves to strike again, and Eas--staring after Madoka--suddenly turns back around, meeting this strike with a block of her own. "She... She saved me. Here. After I showed I was on Northa's side, after I told her to do this."

Gray Eas's eyes narrow. "Pointless emotion. It is a weakness; to want is to invite vulnerability. To desire is to bring disorder and suffering both. The root of your ruin has always been this... wish. I lack that deficiency. I need no desires. Lord Moebius's will is absolute. Even my existence assured by defeating you..."

The Gray Eas suddenly crouches down, picking up a piece of broken pillar casually and hurling it straight for Madoka's back, "Is nothing before the mission!"

As soon as it's loosed Eas is broken from her hesitation, lunging forward to slam her heel down into her clone's shoulder. "Pay attention!" she snaps. In an instant, she realizes it finally; there is no going back. Whatever happens... This is probably it for her. And yet--

And yet...

"You talk too much," the black-and-red Eas says instead, and ducks down with a feint and swings straight for her counterpart's side, a red aura beginning to surround her. "But I don't have to want it anymore. ...I have it. I just never saw."

"So let's go!"

Virulent Jewel blue and bloody red spark, a collection of absolutely brutal blows marking their battle intensifying.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Ryuusei Dual Mix https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYiRhsu4PLY

Lindy (who at some point sprouted four translucent, fairy-like wings) is locked in combat with her opposite, a blindingly fast aerial dance.

"Lindy-san!" calls Nanoha desperately, as she tries to fight past her opponent in order to join Fate, without success. "What do we do?"

Lindy pauses, and therefore is immediately swatted to the ground. It is with a dazed mental voice that she replies to the group en masse.

<< They're powered by Jewel Seeds -- so they can be sealed with overwhelming force! >>


Nanoha contemplates this.


Nanoha comes to a conclusion.


<< LET'S SHOOT IT! >> Raising Heart's joy is almost infectious in its inappropriateness.

The magical chaos of the battlefield, and the chasmic void it's over, reflects in Nanoha's eyes as she surveys the ground. Magic, magic everywhere.

When all you have is Raising Heart, everything looks like a nail.


Another broadcast punctuates the battle.

<< Captain Harlaown, this is the Arthra! The Garden of Time is crumbling and you have to get out! That dimensional rift can't be closed anymore even if the Jewel Seeds are sealed! Get everyone out of there right now! The entire area's about to collapse! >>

This is around the time that one might notice that Northa is already gone. Her true wish was never the recruitment of more allies, after all. And her minions... they don't have to win win.

They just have to stall.

Lindy's reply is garbled a little by haste. << We aren't leaving without the Jewel Seeds or there'll be nothing to come back to! Believe in yourselves, everyone! We can do this -- we have to! >>

Nega-Lindy grins as she grinds her counterpart beneath her heel.

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

The fight between snakes rages on. Swipe, smash, hook, poke, kick, tumble, strike, dodge. And on it goes. Neither seems to be getting anywhere, before Evil Serpentina changes tactics. "We're at a stalemate," she admits. "We're too evenly matched. But what if I take out your girlfriend over there?" She points her parasol at the two Sourisis menacingly. "Just drop your weapon, hands behind your head, and submit to Moebius-sama, okay?" Serpentina acts as if complying, then hooks her feet and headbutts her, then hits her with the hook.

"Heheheh... you don't care about your girlfriend after all, do you?" The copy sneers. "I knew it. Your heart is as dead as the rest of you will be."

"Wrong," Serpentina says with a grin. "I knew she'd be tough enough to deal with you, and divided attention isn't a good ide- girlfriend? Wh-n-no, haha..." The green serpent gains a tint of red. "She's a friend. And uh... yeah. Where would you" - (an evil copy of herself) - "get such an idea? Of course you know nothing about friendship. None of you copies do. You're all a bunch of empty sock puppets for Moebius-Chan."

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

Each step the clone takes, Steven flinches. Each time it flicks a thumb over a wicked thorn, it imagines the ways of ruining this child's day. But it stops about three feet away. "Just couldn't keep yourself out of trouble, huh? Putting your nose so far into other people's troubles, you might as well be pinocchio! Heh." "Sh-Shut up!" Steven cries back.

"You know it is true. For all your little misadventures, did you ever bother to think those that can't resolve their own problems by themselves should have to deal with the consequences? Take your tomboyish friend over there," Shadow Steven gestures toward the clash between the two Kasagamis. "Can't even fall over properly! She just has to struggle. Might as well and that problem. Least she can see her parents! Hah!"

The thorny shield is spun on a finger, this is readied to be whipped toward Kasagami, looking to vivisect her at the hip while he blade is occupied! "NO!" shouts the young boy, reaching for his own shield. He makes it to a knee, and throws the pink bastion as hard as he can.

Kassie may see it, a black disc moves right for her midsection. To block it would leave herself open to her counterpart fully. Moving would provoke as well.

A similar disc comes in, tapping the other at the edge, cause it to spin into a vertical position just off course. She can feel the very wind of the shield passing on her backside.

"I won't... let you," says the wounded child. He can't seem to find the strength to fully stand. he is sitll winded from that kick. "Y'know, for being Rose's progeny, I should have guessed you would be a thorn in my side." Once again, moving blindingly fast, they are behind Steven, shield once again in hand, summoned effortlessly as a true Gem should be able to.

They grind those spikes in his back. Steven cries out in pain. In reflex, a Bubble Shield springs forth, repelling the clone away. "How long do you think you can hold out, huh?!" they call. Steven visibly sweats. He forcefully summons his own rose protector. Sweat drops from hos brow. A few drops of blood from his back do the same and hit what is taken for a floor in this strange place. "As long as... I have my friends... I can last as long as it takes!"

"Heh, this show is over. Let me help you..."

A mightly leap in the air above Steven, goes the clone. A fist aims down, the shield hovering in front of it. THey plung, and as they do, the thorn shield begins to spin and warp in shape. It elongates outward in the center, the spinning pattern producing the same imagery as a drill. "...DROP THE CURTAIN!"

Steven, from his kneeling position, raises his shield to block. The two collide spectacularly, sparks flying, and a high pitched noise begins to build. The boy concentrates, and causes the reverberations to start happening.

But so too, does the thorn shield have this ability. As such, the sound begins to build louder and louder, reflecting off one another.

"Why do you still cling to life?! Give up! Moebius-sama deserves his will be done! What could possibly be so important?!"

The reverberations and sound reach a high unhearable pitch. A boy shouts over it.

"Because my friends need me, and I need them! No one has to fight or suffer alone!"

A pulse rings out, and the waves of sonic energy have to give in one of the two directions. Steven kneeling and anchoring to the floor, has the one up. The cone's shield is not shaped to rebuffet such an attack. It a single not, it rings out, and passes right through the clone. They destabilize in a cry of anger more than pain, and in a flash of light and smoke, they are gone.

A black Gem falls the the floor. It tinks once, before its glamour dissipates-- into two Jewel Seeds.

The little boy is left to heave breaths in the attack's wake.

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

Sourisi is on the run now, trying to evade on her section of the black line while her doppleganger continues to attack her almost half-heartedly now. Not that Sourisi has a chance at the moment. It was just her mimicry was enjoying tormenting the real one.

Backflipping over a twin swipe of blackwood, Sourisi is able to spot a line of pink counteracting black. Even now, when she has her own evildoer out there, Madoka was still protecting them all. If they survive, one pinkette is getting the biggest cake she can possibly make!

"Run away little mouse. It doesn't change the end."First thing first, though...herself. Those words cut as deep as the wounds on her arms, but they were just a distraction. Pain her enemy was inflicting to keep her off balance. All she needed is an opening-wait. The whispering of wind could be heard over the roar of combat. A very familiar sound to Sourisi's ears.

"You're right, you know. It doesn't."

A backflip shows the pair of flung tonfa returning back to their owner. Sourisi reaches out with her hands...!

And purposely only snags one of her weapons.

Dark Sourisi's eyes widen slightly before she twists to evade the unexpected attack, and Sourisi takes in a deep breath when she sees exactly where it's going.

"Slithery! DUCK!"

Focusing back on her own fight, Sourisi is suddendly on the offensive with her one remaining tonfa for the first time of the battle, taking advantage of her opponent's shock. "We're going to win. All of us, and we'll go on home!"

Fustrated snarls as Dark Sourisi bats away the assault from the half-armed Miraculous Ninja could be heard. What do you hope to accomplish? You gave up your only chance to wi-" The predictable assaults and blocks is suddendly halted as Sourisi kicks high into the arm of her copy, the air howling as jagged blackwood goes upward. Despite the tears still trying to form in her eyes, Sourisi smiles.

"Serpentina isn't the only one who can be wily!"

A free hand reaches up to catch a weapon forged of her own shadow, and now the tables are reversed! Blackwood and rosewood work in a traitorous relationship against a doubleganger, and Dark Sourisi can barely handle the change in tactics. This is a vicious, brutal version of Sourisi that isn't used to be on the defensive.

You dare defy Moebius-sama's will?!"

The response comes in two parts. Copying their opening encounter, Sourisi charges and knocks aside her doppleganger's remaining defenses before she brings her arms back and starts to twirl her tonfa in her hands. The air whistles and howls as her weapons gather speed before being thrust forward, and Sourisi screams to be heard above this final battle cry.

"I dare! And next time, leave my -friends- out of it!"

An ashen mouse is unable to recover from this onslaught from the original and screams her frustrations even as she fades away. It echoes on even as the light of two Jewel Seeds are revealed once more.

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

The fight between snakes rages on. Swipe, smash, hook, poke, kick, tumble, strike, dodge. And on it goes. Neither seems to be getting anywhere, before Evil Serpentina changes tactics. "We're at a stalemate," she admits. "We're too evenly matched. But what if I take out your girlfriend over there?" She points her parasol at the two Sourisis menacingly. "Just drop your weapon, hands behind your head, and submit to Moebius-sama, okay?" Serpentina acts as if complying, then hooks her feet and headbutts her, then hits her with the hook.

"Heheheh... you don't care about your girlfriend after all, do you?" The copy sneers. "I knew it. Your heart is as dead as the rest of you will be."

"Wrong," Serpentina says with a grin. "I knew she'd be tough enough to deal with you, and divided attention isn't a good ide- girlfriend? Wh-n-no, haha..." The green serpent gains a tint of red. "She's a friend. And uh... yeah. Where would you" - (an evil copy of herself) - "get such an idea? Of course you know nothing about friendship. None of you copies do. You're all a bunch of empty sock puppets for your master."

Unfortunately, Serpentina was almost as distracted as fake-Serpentina, giving her a chance to roll away and get back on her feet. The fight continues, and despite that sudden edge, Serpentina is getting exhausted. A couple strikes make it past her defenses. "Insults to me mean nothing before Moebius-sama's will. You should have submitted" Fake Serpentina gets ready for a massive strike, when Sourisi calls out to the real one. 'Slithers' ducks, and the flying tonfa strikes true, knocking the copy off balance as Serpentina finishes the copy off with a full power umbrella lunge. "Told you she's tough enough to deal with you."

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

Lindy helpfully lets them know they're running out of time. Kasagami's gaze narrows at her double, who is infuriatingly continuing to fend off her efforts to cut her circuit-laden clone in half with a single hand. No effort at all.

To say it further angers the young woman would be an understatement. She's so focused on defeating her newfound rival, that Kassie doesn't notice arrows being shot out where they would've taken her spine or the back of her skull. Her life is saved and she doesn't even have the opportunity to appreciate it during the din of battle. The Duelist obsesses and wears her blinders as Doppelgami only sets them on harder.

Her side is a burning, leaking fire. Her hands feel like rocks as they grip and she pushes with everything she's got. The dark reflection seems bored and uncaring for everything that happens around her.

"It's a real shame. We could just beat out some of that fire, and you'd be a perfect footsoldier for Mobius-sama. Why do you keep on struggling? Give up, like me." Shrug.

"All the attention you keep trying to get, all the fighting, strings of lovers without any real meaning to it, declaring that you'll become some fancy monarch...face it, Kasagami Araki." The clone leans in, the duo's blades scraping against one another. An ungloved, circuit-lined hand touches Kassie's cheek, fond and far too personal in the caress.

"You just want to distract yourself from how bad you hurt in body and heart."

Steven's twin is as vicious as Darkadoka, and this time, she has full reason to see it. For as Evil Steven flings that spiked shield, Doppelgami lazily shoves the real Kassie towards the arc of the shield. She goes skidding back a foot against all reason and laws of physics from such a weak tap, as if this clone can shift earth and gravity as her lazy whims dictate.

Then the pink shield of Steven's mother sends it off course, coat and hem of her uniform's shirt fluttering.

"I'm not here for lectures!" The second near-death in as many seconds galvanizes Kassie beyond even the tense situation with the collapsing Garden of Time. Her gaze follows to Steven, the first smile of quite some time, and a nod. The boy gets a moment of utter thanks for his quick thinking.

"....Aw man, would've been cute for you to have been taken out by a kid. ...Eh?"

TAK. Kassie's boot steps down. The clone's eyes widen by a fraction, circuits flaring up. She turns to look behind herself. She hadn't seen the Duelist move, much less even find a hint of blurred speed to follow the swordswoman's motions.

Kasagami's coat sways along with her hair, one leg before the other bent. Her sword is sideways, both hands tightly gripped. The image of the young woman seems slightly out of focused in the eyes of her clone, whose own sword is held high for another limp-wristed attack of death. They finally focus.

Kasagami Araki is still sheathed in reflective images, as if her blade and strikes had been bounced among a world a mirrors. The shimmering things trace four distinct lines even as light plays tricks to make them seem infinite.

"A swordsman that can't keep up with the technique of the Araki household isn't one that gets to talk to me about the why's and worth of swinging my blade!"

Glass shatters when Kasagami straightens and flicks her blade clean of whatever constitutes the magic of the clone. That jagged blade slides slowly in thirds, even as four more lines divide across neck, chest, and arms.

"Overachieving jock...Forgive me, Mobius-sama." Down she falls.

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene des Opales [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

And so La Sirene clashed with her inverse self several times. Each one did not work out well for her. Never mind that she tried physical means first. A radiant rising of play-of-color light did not do it. Nor did her usual go to - to shine down and reflect from an unexpected angle.

She is faded and cracked again at the point where she is reeling. Then she hears the words of Lindy, and echoes them - "Overwhelming force--?"

And there is one thing that this horrid thing, Eneris-Al, has over la Sirene. Nori Ankou is a dreamy girl at the best of time. Often she does not pay attention and prefers to live in a splendid fantasy. This may bear fruit at times - for when you see someone at their best (and have the wisdom - hard-won - to realize that it is not an illusion), they may become that best-self.

But Eneris-Al listens. And when she hears Overwhelming Force, she speaks an inside out sound and smacks la Sirene in an atemi strike in the throat. Light, really - la Sirene staggers back and says, "What?"

Before twisting over in agony. "H-huh!?" she says, before bending backwards again, floored as if the blow redoubled itself.

Eneris-Al breathes out - and explains, with another of those fingernail-splaying sweeps of her hand, "Whewww - you almost had me going there - are you getting some kind of message? You aren't going to blame me for not wanting to let you reveal your trump card?"

La Sirene makes some whining noises, clutching at her throat.

"That's right," Eneris-Al says. "Your voice is turned in on itself... even a single syllable will wrack your stupid mouth with agony! When you blubbered in confusion, it must have hurt tremendously! Call out to your friends, call to your precious Mysteres instead of Mobius-Sama if you want - by the time you finish the spell you'll have turned your own head inside out, and we'll all be happier for it!!"

La Sirene's eyes, wet with tears, turn up towards Eneris-Al - and then harden. She tilts her head back as she pivots around, raising her left hand.

"Oh, yes! Going to go out with some STYLE! I'll remember you -- grudgingly, I admit -- but I'll remember the pain on your face when your charm fades, la Sirene! UuuuooooOHOHOHOHOHOHOOHO!!" Eneris-Al cackles, even as Mme. Meduse sweeps over the data-diamond doppleganger's shoulder and clings to la Sirene's bruised throat. Eneris-Al looks, but she does not see.


"Leth Mytheteres, Come," la Sirene intones.

It's close enough. There is the power-chord of the silvery vaults and an opaline blast of force, smashing the devil-sirene off her feet and onto her hind quarters, smoking with silver threads that form mystic cross-and-cross again shapes as they rise from her.

"H... how...?" says Eneris-Al from the ground.

"I'm thick of doing this," la Sirene says, getting up from the ground for what feels like the nineteenth time. She sweeps her hair back with a breath, Mme. Meduse pulsing a soothing pastel hue, as she turns her star-flecked eyes at the creature before her. "Bleah! It's like I went to the denthist!"

Eneris-Al stares, bug-eyed, incomprehending.

La Sirene smacks her lips once, and puts a hand on her hip as if in mirror of the creature. "You don't know much, I think," she tells her. "A poor imitation of a Siren, I think! Did you think Medusen here was just some piece of garbage that floats around? She's as smart as you and I, she's just got a gelatin body. And when she grows to her full size, her tentacles will catch her prey by numbing them! Now it's just a tingling thing - it goes away almost as soon as she loses contact..."

"But if you can't feel your throat or your mouth," Eneris-Al says, her voice sinking...

"Then it doesn't matter how much pain they're in," la Sirene concludes with a nod.

"A trick... it's a trick!! Using your minion to poison yourself is clever but--"

"SHE ISN'T A MINION, YOU MISERABLE WOMAN," La Sirene shouts, hard enough to make the jellyfish burble vigorously. ("Sorry, sorry.") And then she crouches down to unbuckle one of her boots.

Eneris-Al watches this in confusion. "What are you - hah - ugh, why does this hurt -"

"I don't know," says la Sirene, "why don't you ask Mobius-sama, you love him so much." After this she tosses the boot, whose sole is made out of opal and glitters lushly, past the stunned creature.

"Hnghh-- you cannot overcome this power - what are you trying to even accomplish... The poison of your little... FRIEND... must be wearing off, with something that small..."

"Yeah," la Sirene says, as she takes a deep breath and lets it out.

Eneris-Al pushes herself to her elbow, in a motion that echoes the one la Sirene has done. "Heh. Then all you've done is buy time."

La Sirene considers, nods once, and claps her hands together for a moment.

"Time you don't have!"

La Sirene nods again while the cracked opals on her costume shine...

"Then all you've done is fail! Mobius-sama will triumph again. OoooOOOOHHOHOHOH--"

A titan snap of pastel energy arcs between la Sirene and her boot, resonant with the gemstone embedded there. It passes right between the eyes of Eneris-Al, whose data diamond eyes turn up as she reaches up one hand gingerly to feel at -

She splits gracefully, like a cut cake. Naturally, the interior is a uniform pale material. No bones at all. "Well, heck," Eneris-Al says - and as final lines, it may not be the worst.

Batiste returns with the boot shortly thereafter, because there isn't much time to waste.

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

Fate slumps down, stunned momentarily. Face still awash in tears. For a while she considers not getting up. However she hears something... in Nanoha's voice. And in it, an echo of so many other voices of encouragement. Slowly she climbs back up to her feet.

"I know what I'm worth."

"Huh?" The Dark Fate actually looks confused, before recovering with a roll of her eyes. "Oh is this where you tell me how you're really worth nothing. Or less than nothing? It'd be just like you - Mama's girl." The shadow Fate suddenly darts at her. "Except you're not even a girl! You're just a thing!"

BGM Change: Invisible Heat - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WV-nHOZsHr8

Fate flies by it, the two clashing with a swing of their scythes like two Samurai in a blade draw contest.

For a moment each is still, before the shadow Fate notices a wound on her shoulder. "What the?"

"... I know what I'm worth because she saved me." Fate says as she sweeps Bardiche down to her side. Then she corrects herself, "Because they saved me. They kept calling out to me again and again - and I just wouldn't listen." Fate looks over her shoulder, eyes still wet. "And they saved me anyway." Twin pistons slide out of Bardiche's head, wafting an exhaust puff of steam. "Even Eas. She wouldn't waste her time on someone worthless."

However from her current angle, she can see broken pillar in Shadow Eas hands, and the throw, as it becomes a massive looming shadow in the air. Fate has a pretty intuitive grasp of physics, so she understands it will land right on...

... Madoka Kaname. With a gasp, the girl, takes off - but she won't be fast enough. <Blitz Move.> And it's like - she warps straight ahead, the movement spell empowering her to push past her limits, as she grabs Madoka mid-flight.

Just as the pillar shatters into the ground with awful force, splintering into shards of stone. Showered by the stone, her auto-protection spells are tested to their ultimate limit as the smaller girl tries to shield the older one from the battering storm.

And once it's done, breathing hard. She stumbles down to a knee, looking at the girl with a sort of wonder. "... I... saw you trying to save everyone."

There's a sort of shyness to it. Like she's seen Madoka doing it before in other battles too. "...and... I thought... I wanted to do the same." Is it any wonder that a girl who just saw her mother die would be inspired to try to save others?

However then she grows quiet. "I'm sorry for all the times I hurt you and your friends."

Shadow Fate watches, looking utterly sickened within Fate's field of vision. "Tck. What a pointless gesture. Tell me just how much you're worth..."

Spinning into a turn, the shadow Fate waves her scythed Device towards the real Fate.

<Massacre Blade>

Only to plant her foot and turn at the last second, to launch the spinning grey blade at... Eas. The executive who is now wide open from trying to cover Mikoto from her coming execution.

"...after I score a two for one!"


The blade continues it's relentless drive towards the Executive in an attempt to score an easy kill on her - and hopefully catch Mikoto in the blast too.

"Hey Eas! Ready for your severance package!?"

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

If it were only one on one - the green-clad Magic Knight of Wind against her monochrome duplicate - then it would be a pure battle of attrition, one which the original couldn't be certain of emerging from victorious. But there are many magical champions, and just as many doppelgangers - and while the copied Wind Knight is driven by a vicious streak, she's no idiot.

"Winds of Protection!" the copied Wind Knight calls out at one point - but not to defend herself. The original hears the shout as she's coming in with another slash, and checks herself in anticipation of a wind barrier that *doesn't* manifest between her blade and her clone. It's just enough of a distraction from where the Copy Knight actually cast the barrier ...

Namely, interposing it in the path of one of Madoka's arrows ... so that Darkadoka's own arrow could keep going without being shot down. And as such, it pierces into the real Wind Knight's shoulder, punching through her armor and driving into her trapezius muscle. "Ahhh - !!!" she cries out, staggering, her sword falling and vanishing.

"YOU'RE MINE!!" screams the Magic Knight's doppelganger, driving in for the kill -


- only to get blown away as a desperate surge fuels the original's most powerful spell, tearing into the doppelganger's armor and flesh alike, her own sword crashing to the floor ahead of her body.

The green-clad Knight remains on her knees, gasping in pain, but she doesn't let up on her attack spell. "Maybe I analyze too much," she pants. "Maybe I'm not a good fighter. But I am who I am - and I'm still growing. Every day ... every battle ... where a copy like you, would never grow, from what you were to start with."

A final gust, and two Jewel Seeds clatter to the floor where the doppelganger's remains would have come to settle. The remaining Magic Knight of Wind quickly collects them, to hand off to somebody better equipped for their long-term storage, and looks around for allies whom she can aid - in spite of her own injuries.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Darren Korb - Paper Boats https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFrjMq4aL-g

Arrow crashes against arrow, and a moment later Mikoto is there, where the first would have fallen, springing away from the shadow she has always cast. It follows in a flash, leaving a shield to scatter to the floor uncontested. Mikoto cannot help Steven; she cannot help anyone.

She can't even help herself.

The other copies mock their counterparts, declare their singular loyalty and their various cruelties. The only mockery Mikoto knows is the way that false Miroku catches her back, sends her tumbling to the floor as she shrieks, saved from a spine split in two only by the way she twists at the last moment. Her muscles tremble as she struggles to rise, tears blurring golden eyes as she looks up at the dark shadow which draws inexorably closer.

"I'm begging you," she murmurs, hand tightening to impotent fist, "no more, please. I'll do it, I'll do what you want, just don't take me away, please, I don't wanna go away. It's dark there, it's scary, I'm always falling and I hate it, I hate it, please..."

It does not hurry to Mikoto's struggling form. Neither is it slow. It is deliberate.

If it hears Mikoto - there is no indication at all.

There is no recognition in its eyes, no mercy, as it comes to Mikoto, as it raises its blade overhead.

It is an executioner's swing.

And here, perhaps, is the greatest reflection of her inadequacy. How many times has she turned Miroku aside, blunted her force? Hers is a killing-blade and blood and bone are such simple things to cleave through, yet she has blinkered herself. Perhaps this was inevitable, from the moment Mai convinced her Natsuki was not an enemy to be fought.

"I hate you," Mikoto says, voice hitching, as she looks up at everything she is supposed to be. Anger breaks through the terror on her face, lips curling to show grit teeth as she glares through her tears. "I hate being you!" It is honest, and in its honesty it is more painful than any of the titanic blows she has taken.

And the shadow she casts says nothing at all.

It is self-evident that her feelings make her an inadequate vessel for Moebius-sama's wishes.

Miroku reaches its highest point, held high overhead with muscles which do not quaver from the effort, its sigils flaring with Moebius-sama's chill power.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Credens Justitiam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqQ3hP_q7Ns

"Don't say that!" Madoka protests, loosing arrows between words with unerring precision. "You mustn't. It's just--"

"--so sad?" Darkadoka finishes in unison with her. "Nnn," she disagrees, in her wordless way. Madoka dares not look over but doesn't have to to know the exact way that her doppelganger is shaking her head. The way it makes her twintails wobble. "Are you crying yet?" She sighs. "I bet you are."

Darkadoka's right; Madoka is tearful. She shakes her head again, this time with mild exasperation. It's the sort of expression with which she might address a naughty Tatsuya.

"You're not going to be able to keep up if you can't see. It isn't just that you can't save everyone -- it's that you're going to fail because you care so much. Because you care about me, a construct that's existed for like, two minutes, summoned into being by magic."

It's right about then that Fate absolutely obliterates the pillar that Eas' doppelganger sent her way. Madoka hadn't even seen it coming, but she sure sees it now, as obsidian debris rains down on her.

She should be terrified, now that the truth is out: not only is she totally unable to defeat her own clone -- but just keeping her from hurting her friends is leaving her wide open. Anyone could destroy her in an eyeblink.

At least, if things were as they seemed.

Again -- instead -- Madoka regains her smile. She beams at her savior like a thousand-watt light bulb. Her gratitude is no less intense for its wordlessness. Thank you, say her eyes. Say the dimples in her cheeks. Say her eyebrows, leaping skyward.

Darkadoka looks perplexed. She can hear Madoka's calming, steadying breathing.


"You're wrong," Madoka sighs happily. "My hope is real -- because I don't have to save everyone!"

Steven saves Kassie. Sourisi saves Serpentina.

Madoka takes her fingers off her string. All this time, they've been right next to each other, shooting in near-unison. They're practically puffy shoulder to shoulder.

So her hand doesn't have far to go.

"Because we're all saving each other."

Now they're nose to nose -- Madoka has ducked beneath Darkadoka's arm, where her bow in one hand and arrow in the other do her little good.

Madoka's hand rests on her counterpart's chest.

"You too."

She stares straight into those Jewel Seed eyes, and tears threaten again. Darkadoka's don't. That circuitry has no ability to cry, and even if it did -- she can't be disappointed, because she never had any hope to begin with.

'Iiii gotcha!' cries Tatsuya, coming in across the lawn awkwardly for a tag-you're-it victory that looks more like a hug.

'I got you!' shrieks Sayaka, swinging her around and around until they both collapse like a top.

'I got you,' promises Papa, holding the back of her little bicycle, newly without training wheels.

"I gotchu," whimpers Madoka. "Everything is going to be all right."

She opens her hand. Black dust is all that's left of Darkadoka's facsimile Soul Gem.

And then Jewel Seeds are all that's left of Darkadoka.

Madoka looks over at Fate, then up at Dark Fate. "I gotchu," she repeats, resummoning her bow and her smile, and though it's very watery it isn't fake, just complicated. The shadows are normal again, without the black flame; that cheerful pink. "We got this. Together. EVERYONE, TOGETHER!!"

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

"O-overwhelming force?" The familiar Eas suddenly asks, with a blink. "That's not a plan!" But isn't it? For all her work, all her assertion of rationality... True rationality is staring her right in the face. True rationality would be to set this all aside. After all, the rift can't be closed--the whole area is going to collapse, and Northa is gone, set to do whatever it was she intended. So--

'Believe in yourselves, everyone!'

Eas is already sure this could be the end. But if she can help them...

"Absurd. You only make the end more difficult for yourselves."

"No," Eas answers her. "...It's more than that." There's a brief lull, amidst debris, as the two of them have been trading blows, almost all of them blocked by the other--it would appear that Gray Eas is content to let the real thing tire herself out--but so far, that hasn't happened. Steven says it--they don't have to suffer alone. Madoka shows it, focusing on each of them. And Fate--Fate gives the answer. The only answer there can be. "...Humans act based on what they value. Maybe their logic doesn't always make sense, but there's an honesty in it. There's--"

Eas's eyes snap for an instant towards soft sounds--a hitch in a voice, and she sees Mikoto so close where they've ended up now, with that sword bearing down. But it isn't only that. Because in the instant she moves to strike her opponent--

'Hey Eas! Ready for your severance package!?'

Eas turns to see the incoming attack, just as Gray Eas leaps backward without hesitation to avoid the strike. Eas, instead, does something different. She doesn't move out of the way at all--she just moves away. She springs from a standing position, twirling in place to get her bearings, and with a blur of black she appears over Dark Mikoto--and with a terrible clank her heels snap together on either side of the great and terrible blade. "Haaaah--!"

She forces herself down with power as much as gravity, rotating on that new axis even as the copy Miroku is falling towards Mikoto, bringing herself ever closer to the blade she faces, staring it dead on. But instead of reaching to catch the blade, the Executive's hands snap out away from it--towards the copy's wrists. "Mikoto--"

Finally she yanks, twisting mid-fall to turn the copy Mikoto away from the real, to shift her right around to place her between the dark saber of Dark Fate's magic and the two of them. "You don't get to give up yet--" Eas's voice hisses, and it's an even bigger hiss as that giant blade starts to sink into her shoulder, a noise of pain. Except--

Except that the dark magic hits fake Mikoto dead-on, and her Jewel Seed eyes flash in the same silence she's shown all along. She and false Miroku both crackle out of existence, leaving the Jewel Seeds behind. Overwhelming force.

"You're right," Eas says to her copy as she lands, wincing and dropping to a crouch. "That was real stupid of me. Now your ally gets the credit."

Emotionless, Gray Eas is already in motion, whirling with dark power, and Eas starts to stand. All this time, she's used her anger as a way to avoid being hurt. And what did it get her?

"...I know an even dumber girl," Eas says as her copy gets closer, "Who'd probably try to hug you or something."

Eas stands stock-still--and her copy's fist slams into her gut, doubling her over involuntarily. The Executive doesn't even try to dodge. Instead...

She snakes out her hand, abrubtly holding a Data Diamond, just like she has for countless monsters in the past. "But I'm a different kind of dumb!"

She slams it towards the girl's chest, the energy of it crackling as she does not summon forth the Nakewameke at all. The two opposite polarities of the same technology crackle and hiss and bubble, blue--and then pale red.

A girl in ordinary dark clothes and white hair hits the ground at her knees... just as a pair of Jewel Seeds does the same right in front of her as she pants for breath. "Hah--Haah--"

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

A smile. A thank you within it.

It's more than she's ever received from her Mother. It feels like she's being lavished with a reward far beyond her station. There's a moment of quiet awe before she has to force herself back to the battle.

However... she watches Eas grapple it, and turn it to her advantage, and the clone looks at Eas with hatred in her eyes. Stamping a foot brattily. "Hey no fair! You can't use my own attack to save one of Mobius-sama's enemies! As a former executive you should know better!"

All along she'd been following what her mother told her. When she should have been following the example of these girls.

So when Madoka calls out to inspire their efforts to work together, Fate takes a deep breath, and holds up a hand to join the rally. "Arcus Cultus Aegeas." And the shadow Fate has a wicked gleam in her eye as she looks back at her mirrors the gesture, "Mors! Umbra! Noctis!"

And the two form spells in their hands, titanic crackling lances which appear to be photonegatives of each other. Each about three times as long as each girl is tall. "Spark End!" "Flash Termination!" Flinging them at each other, the tips of each lance collide in mid-air, forming twin coronas as they both tremble in a clash. "You think I don't see right through you? You're not starting anything new! You're just substituting the validation and worth you craved from your mother with theirs! You're just setting yourself up for a life of pain - brat!"

Holding out a hand, shadow Fate redoubles her concentration over the spell, and the dark silhouette of a lance sudden flares with a burst of magic. "Fighting endlessly for them. It's not worth the effort! They're not worth the effort! Just like your worthless mother wasn't! Just give it up while you still can!"

Sweat beading upon the child's brow, she spins Bardiche suddenly, as a runic circle reforms at her feet. "Don't call my mother worthless." She says with a sudden cold anger, "And don't tell me what's worth my effort! It's what I want... and that's something else they taught me..." Golden mana boils off the runic circle like flames.


Fate's lance suddenly becomes blindingly bright, and the shadow Fate grimaces, as circuitry lining her sparks. "What you think you want..." just like that the oppositional force to it collapses, as her lance pierces through it. It's momentum inexorable now with all the built up force.

"... can always be taken away from you in an instant."

Perhaps there's a sad sort of resignation within that tone, knowing she's failed her purpose. The shadow Fate closes her eyes just a moment before she's smothered in an explosion that detonates into a massive explosion, lightning arcs flashing everywhere in an effect not unlike a plasma globe.

And then she's gone, as if she'd never been.

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


They're supposed to be together.

Mikoto and the shadow she casts.

It needs flesh to hold a blade.

Hers is the sacrifice.

Everyone, together...

But it feels so distant.

Every hand taken, fingers slipped in between fingers, braids brushing against ribbons.

Every bento shared before a difficult exercise, every hug in the aftermath.

Every tense meeting in lonely places, without any orators to smooth their greeting.

Every battle which does not end half-way, two mirrors of determination.

Every contest which feels so important, each an attempt to match and excel.

Every note shared and misunderstood, only to be explained with care and conscience.

A massacre hurtles towards her, and she cannot even think to get out of the way, because she can see nothing in those clockwork eyes. A massacre hurtles towards it, and it does not flinch from its path, because it commits to each motion without thought or hesitation.

It is all the noise of battle and it is not worth acknowledging.

Until, suddenly, something is.

A girl, feet to either side of the flat of the blade. There is no surprise on the shadow's face. It reacts in an instant, forcing the facsimile of Miroku down. It is inexorable. Like a steel press, it will crush all opposition. It will bite down.

And it does not think of the girl on the ground, because it does not think of anything at all.

But Mikoto is still Mikoto, and Mikoto is thinking a great many things, as the distant becomes close enough to touch. Her breath comes through in sharp gasp, as she looks up to Eas, twisting her shadow about even as the blade finally lowers too much. "I --" the words catch in her throat; she swallows, and nods.

She doesn't get to give up.

Somehow, it's so much more effective than the way Steven or Madoka or Fuu might say it.

Fate's shadow brings to bear overwhelming force; Eas directs it, putting the dark shadow in harm's way. No, it does not scream.

All at once Mikoto realises the paucity of her breath, and gasps, filling her lungs with air as she pushes herself standing. It is a slow thing; she trembles. "Eas," she says, and there is no volume to the word, no way to warn her, though Mikoto felt the way that power shook them, knows Eas must be hurting.

But even hurting...

"EAS!" Mikoto finds her voice, cries out, as Eas refuses to give up.

It's dumb.

It's brave.

It's left her open, and the world is crumbling.

Mikoto springs forward and perhaps she heard Madoka, in the end, in the way she crouches with one hand free. "Eas, I've got you," she says, as she grasps her, brings her over a shoulder, holding her with one hand and Miroku with the other. She springs away as a pillar crumbles under its own weight.

"I don't," and perhaps the answer seems out of place, so long after the demand. "... I won't."

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Gather, Starlight Breaker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sa816Y8c2iw

<< STARLIGHT! >> announces Raising Heart with the painfully intense brightness of a Brazilian football commentator.

Though it's Nanoha's response that gets the length so key to that analogy.


The rest, shall we say, is history. Dark Nanoha does not survive and neither does Nega-Lindy.

The real Lindy looks around at the Jewel Seeds all over the ground -- where there were 'corpses', they break apart into motes of light, black and white and, inevitably, blue, the blue of these Lost Logia's power. The diamonds are quiescent now, and with it that terrible tension has stopped.

All that remains is for the abused rubber band of all reality to slacken back into something similar to its original shape. (Let's not kid ourselves about it getting all the way back to normal. Things will never be normal again from the metaphysical standpoint of Dimensional Space.)

But that isn't going to save this place, as their allies warned them. It's collapsing into -- not nothing. Nothing would be more.

The rock Precia was laid out on collapses with it. Was she still conscious, as she fell? Did she look at Fate, or at Alicia, in the tube beside her? Did she make a final wish?

Or is she getting her wish now?

"DIMENSIONAL TRANSFER!" yells Lindy. No one has to see what happens next.


They reappear on the bridge of the Arthra, which erupts into cheers and into tears, depending on the personality of the crewman. There are magical medics on standby and they rush in to tend wounds.

Tender words are spoken. We'll give people their privacy for that.

There is a beautiful, quiet moment when those technomagical viewscreens clear of the (somewhat redder) undulating blue-violet vision of Dimensional Space, and show Earth instead, that beautiful blue-green jewel, dangling in its very own space instead.

It gets larger and larger as the Arthra approaches.




ALART say the viewscreens now. ALART

Space is cold and vacuum is loud, in the sense that all the air in the ship is howling as it escapes, and << EMERGENCY TRANSFER >> chimes Raising Heart.

<< --EEE! >> chimes something else, even more bell-like than the Device.

Pink and red sparkles suffuse everything.

And then they're all -- all, crew and all -- safe on the ground, in the Takamachis' back yard. The hydrangeas are jarring for their normalcy and soon the whole family will be out to greet their guests.

But first, there's quite a show in the bright blue sky.

BGM Start! Danger Lurks - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJd2QJQM7sI

The Arthra was still high enough up to be little more than a brilliant star at the middle of what's quickly becoming a meteor shower.

No, what's impressive is the gigantic pillar of black energy still giving off a contrail of itself as the blast fades. The cannon -- the spell, whatever -- must have been as wide as a sports field. More, even. And as long as -- well, as long as the distance between Earth and Moon.

A crucial distance, indeed.

...It came from the North.