2019-02-23 - TIMELINE 3: Ohtori Academy Invaded! Zero Time For The Golden Age!

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TIMELINE 3: Ohtori Academy Invaded! Zero Time For The Golden Age!

It's the gala finale of the 2014 Sister Schools Sports Festival, until it gets crashed by a giant robot. A desperate battle only leads to further disaster.


Kasagami Araki, Mami Tomoe, Mikoto Minagi, Kozue Kaoru, Takeo Akamizu, Steven Universe, Fuu Hououji, Nori Ankou, Mai Tokiha, Homura Akemi

GM: Hotaru Tomoe


Ohtori Academy, Zero Time

OOC - IC Date:

2/23/2019 - 09-13-14

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

Traditionally, Athletics Festivals conclude with a folkdance around a bonfire. It's mandatory -- all the students know the steps from gym class -- and usually more fun than awkward.

At Ohtori, the bonfire has been replaced with as many candles as there are stars in the sky, and instead of dancing on concrete, the marble floors of a massive ballroom, constructed as part of the event facilities, are in use. The school transforms from 'full Olympics mode' to 'full gala mode' in seconds, it seems, with aid from an army of attendants, decorators, caterers and fashionistas.

No student will go unscathed; white-tie tuxedos and ballgowns have been prepared for all and sundry, no matter how large or how small, unless -- with typical Ohtori exceptionalism -- you're on the Ohtori Student Council, in which case your uniform already looks like something a Victorian military officer might grace a ballroom with, anyway. Either way, tonight the Viennese Waltz is as inescapable as Turkey In The Straw might have been at Juuban.

That marvelous ballroom ceiling of glass and gold filigree has made a noble frame for the sky all evening. As the sun slipped over the horizon, it gradually painted a palette of oranges and lavenders and deepening, deepening blues, until black overwrote it entirely but for the silvery shimmer of the moon and the twinkle of distant stars.

All but one star, that is. One light in the night sky is a baleful red, a feature of Ohtori's constellations that those who haven't spent the evening here before may not recognize. It does not twinkle, it just... shines, like a bloodied, distant pinprick. After a while, its sheer constancy makes it easy to forget, the brain adjusting to its background presence the same way it might filter out a nearby, routinely passing train.

It helps that there's a lot to focus on. Well into the evening, the party is a riot of color and sound, of high spirits and fine dining. If it were a book it would be heavy and more than halfway through. Well into the thick of things.

A day like this is a collection of moments, dramatic and understated alike. How does your chapter read?

OOC: Montage time! Let's hear about your big day of sports, and your night at the ball so far.

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

~Athletics Fest Things!~

Kassie has been in her element in the Festival. Sans her usual coat, she's been switching between several events as appropriate in order to either participate or to cheer others on.

The Pole Vault event showed just how high the tall young woman get rise! And fall just as hard. So much as she chased new Ohtori records and competed with other hyper-competitive vaulters, the contest left her with a few bruises she pointedly ignores.

Cheering on some of the younger members of Ohtori! Particularly in the relay race, where she personally gave out gold stars to the winners. (Actually, they're more like trophies. Solid gold star trophies!).

General good showings in everything...though any swimming events are notably not attended.


She's taken up her coat, and a fresh Student Council Uniform. The Disciplinary Executive has absolutely melded into the thing, slipping between dance partner to dance partner. She keeps up the waltz, rarely staying with one person for long...and generally winding her way into the arms of girls whenever she can manage it. Yet, even as she enjoys herself and slips to gossip every now and then, Kasagami seems almost distracted.

This late at night, she occasionally finds herself to stare up at the stars and the moon with a smile. She swishes her flute every now and then. Just as the stars shine, so do her eyes.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.


Athletics are not, precisely, Mami Tomoe's milieu. Oh, sure, she'll put on the gym uniform and do a little jogging here and there, but she's at her happiest in these events when cheering others on. In the stands, watching Sayaka swing; giving a good shout from afar when Madoka runs; watching classmates and otherwise, and somehow managing when it's her turn to keep her hair perfect.

If she happens to have disappeared once or twice, well, that's fine, right?

...Or there's the time when someone meant to take a leg was missing, and Mami stepped in, rather than see the team forfeit. There's her work setting up refreshment stands--much more her strength--including bringing out the reserves when someone takes more than their share...


But this, this is Mami Tomoe's strength. Naturally, she is both here and very much dressed for the occasion... But the notable thing about her isn't her hair done up perfectly, off her shoulders rather than in drills; it is not the gold jewelry, or the shining fabric of yellow that makes up her dress, just a touch old-fashioned enough to evoke something mature, reserved--short cap sleeves, a bit of ruffle, smooth lines. It's not even the fact that she's graceful dancing.

No, it's because the often-reserved girl is here with someone, and there's a warmth practically exuding from her smile as she moves about the dancefloor. Her partner is shorter than she is, but well-matched; Mami of course spends more songs than she keeps track of dancing just with Madoka Kaname.

Madoka leads, of course--during an upbeat classical, they whirl about, Mami's steps backwards are one-two-three-four, right past a taller couple as Mami keeps a sort of knowing smile.

A slower waltz sees movements closer and gentler, and in this, the blonde keeps eyes just on her partner's, her hand in Madoka's.

Mami's chapter has had a lot of soft colors and lush descriptions... But perhaps unusually for her, she's apparently forgotten even to think about the lovely spread on display of food. Why would she look up for stars when she has them shining right here?

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Homestuck - Lilith in Starlight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZRH3pMAsEw

Mikoto was not seen to participate in any of the events, during the School Festival. It is a grand disappointment, for the people who remember those few events she trounced during Juuban's festival last year; when she competed, she won handily. But now - on home ground, no less! - it seems she is determined not to lift a finger for the reputation of their school.

It means that no one has noticed her, aside from those times when teachers called her name and received no reply. She hasn't stood out in her athleticism. She could move with the crowd. She could keep an eye on it. She could be ready.

Who watches the watchers?

But nothing has happened; even when she invited disaster, slipping away from the festival to stand alone in the gardens, no enemies struck. It gives her some small measure of confidence, as sports cedes to ball, and she reassures Mai with her assessment. She does not think they will not attack them, here, where there are so many witnesses. It is enough to let her relax, a little, to at least try to have fun and not think of bad things - though she tenses up for a different reason entirely as she tries to figure out her dress. She's been here for a year, and she's still not good at dresses.

(She manages, eventually, with help.)

It is a magenta gown which falls straight to the ankles, with delicate white-gold detailing, falling from one shoulder and fashioned there with a white rosebud; two white roses are tucked behind her ears, her braids pinned back by them in loops, and her short hair has been waved and curled as well as it can be. Sheer fabric forms a second layer in a tulle stole which falls over otherwise-bare arms, down to her knees; it is tied about her waist with a broad white sash, the ribbon pulled into a bow at her back. Underneath she wears pointed pale boots with broad - if low - heels, and she is plainly unused to them. Around her neck it is more evident than usual, now, that she is wearing some form of jewellery, but the red cord is tucked underneath her dress.

She doesn't like leaving Miroku's case with everyone's bags, but this is a proper dance, and for once she was strictly instructed that no, she could not carry around a golf bag almost as tall as she is. (The Sports Festival is over, Mikoto, they're not doing sports on the ballroom floor, it would knock over the candles.) She tugs lightly at her ribbon, feeling entirely out-of-place, but she is naturally distracted when Mai comes into view. Mikoto is not trained in dancing, though she attended the classes with everyone else - she certainly can't waltz well, like Matilda or otherwise. She still puts forward her best effort with Mai, because dancing is fun, and spending time with Mai is her very favourite thing now she has come to the city. Despite her small size, she tries to take the lead, twirling Mai about; she is strong enough, at least, to catch her with surety. It's easier for her to do it this way. The one time she tries spinning instead, she slips on her heels and ends up having to be caught by Mai entirely. She laughs it off, and makes sure to mind her footing after that.

And perhaps it is plainly evident, in the difference between her affection with Mai and those friends she might pass, that something has changed between them. Mikoto is not good at the subtleties Ohtori demands. Perhaps it is good, then, that she already has a reputation for flaunting social rules and personal space. Perhaps it is just Mikoto's way.

Certainly it is her way to absorb the feelings of those around her, and perhaps that is why she is striving so hard to get Mai to have fun now. She knows how deeply the past nights have lanced into them, even if it difficult to talk about - especially because it is difficult to talk about. She smiles so that Mai will smile, she laughs so that Mai will laugh. And when she sees pain in her eyes she slips in close, and she reassures her, quietly: "... it's okay. I'm here."

She told the White Queen that she would protect them, and Mikoto is not one to lie.

Perhaps that's why she sticks so close to Mai, even when friends draw one or both of them away from each other for dances of their own. As much as she is trying to salve Mai's wounds, she has her own; as much as she tries not to think of bad things, sometimes she can't help it. It's omnipresent, like the pale red star she was born under.

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

There was clapping as Kozue Kaoru emerged from the pool, dripping off sparkling water droplets, having just finished the final leg of the relay race. Accepting a towel from a glowering girl in her class who swam the first leg, she remarked, "You made the rest of us look bad..."

Drying herself off without a care, Kozue stated, "Well that's why you chose me to be anchor right? You know I don't play well with others." She said as she started to walk away, looking entirely disaffected.

The other girl smirks at her, "Is that so? Well hurry up and shower, you've been signed up for the egg-spoon race." Kozue stops, looking over her shoulder, a little annoyed as she keeps toweling off her hair. "... well someone will have to take my place. I don't have time for something like that."

The girl rejoined "Well you're going to have to make time. Your attendance record has put you on thin ice with the Disciplinary Executive. So you better show, our class needs someone there." Kozue Kaoru just glared at the other girl for a moment, before walking away, as the other girl called at her, "You've got fifteen minutes Kaoru-san! Our whole class is eager to see what kind of show you put on there."


"Kaoru-san? Kaoru, Kozue?" It must be a mistake that Kozue Kaoru isn't here for the egg-spoon race. The person bearing the clipboard and the whistle rubs their face. He didn't want to be responsible for reporting to the Student Council secretary that his little sister has forfeited by absence but-

"Kaoru-san for-" "A SWAN! A SWAN IS ON THE LOOSE!"

Came a shout, as an angry swan, bedecked with ribbons suddenly scattered the contestants in it's spread-winged rampage across the field causing a great deal of screaming and ruckus.

Not too far away, a shimmering light disappears from a girl's hand. There's a severed padlock on the ground, an open cage. "This is a much more entertaining kind of race." She remarks, as she watches the girl who defied her earlier tripping on the ground and almost getting trampled by her classmates. "Don't you think?"


A hand touches the railing, as Kozue Kaoru descends. It has an illusion of daintiness the way she walks, when truly it is boldness that she's trying to convey. She's wearing a strapless crepe gown of cobalt blue, eyes sweeping the ballroom. There's a thin-lipped smile as she makes it to the bottom of the stair, alit by candlelight. Giving Mikoto and Mai an approving look as she keeps descending.

She knows what she is. She's a shark, in a sea of other sharks and smaller fish besides. And right now she's spying all of Sayaka Miki's friends.

There's Mami and Madoka out on the dance floor... but they're not her target. In fact their presence on the dance floor makes this far more convenient. Cutting across the fringes of the ball, she ignores several offers to dance, all on the way to...

... her ambush.

Without warning her palm strikes the wall, right by a certain meek girl in twintail braids and glasses. "Akemi-chan right?"

Kozue is equal height to Homura Akemi, but she seems somehow more imposing, just from her posture and confidence. As she leans in and whispers, "All this trying to go unnoticed along the edges just makes you even more noticeable. Wanna try in plain sight?" She murmurs, and perhaps in the background, there's Mami and Madoka, "With me. On the dance floor."

She does not sound like the type of person who takes no for an answer.

"I'll be sure to make this a night you'll never forget."

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Figuring he has to show up after doing so well at the last Pole Vault event for the Sports Festival, Takeo started there. Pole aulting and performing pretty well. Though. He still has not figured out the landing yet, and despite his impressive height on the vault, his landings are .... Rough is a nice way to put it.

After the pole vaulting, he took some time to heal up, which meant finding copious amounts of the great nectar of the Gods and drinking it as much as he can (Which is a truly olympian amount ... ) and wathing the Relay.

He had one Kendo match, against a Juuban hotshot in his same grade. The two where in the same class when he went to Juuban before he got the scholarship, but now, he and the Juuban Kendo clud are rivals. Friendly, but rivals never the less. It was a hard match, but in the end, he slugged out a victory and then had to go get ready for the Dance ...

    • THE BALL**

Takeo cleans up very nicely. As a new member of the student council he wears a Black Tuxedo with three silver stripes at the cuffs, and a single stripe going down the outside of each leg. His hair is pulled back and neatly combed to the nape of his neck, where it becomes a tight and neat braid that falls just below his shoulders. When he arrives he makes his way quickly down the stairs, detesting being the center of attention for even a second. (Sporting events don't count.)

So far for the Ball he spent the time at the food table. Eating some food and in general being what most awkward teenage boys are. A wall flower. However, at some point his eyes spy his friends, Mikoto and Mai dancing. He smiles, but then he sees something he hadn't genuinly seen before. Mai smiling. A genuine, happy smile and he tilts his head. A voice (in french) tells him to g speak to her. He shakes his head. Then whispers when the voice is his, and says the same thing.

At the end of a song he approaches the pair, snagging a flower from a table as he passes. He stops near them and clears his throat. "Mikoto-chan, Mai-san, I was wondering if I flower could you dance me?" He blinks and blushes.

Luckily that was in French.

Clearing his throat, his voice only cracking through half the words. "Sorry. Mikoto-chan, Mai-san. I was wondering Mikoto, if I could have a dance with Mai?" He offers Mai the Flower, still slightly blushing. "I'll return her after one dance, I don't want to interrupt your evening. Though, Mikoto, if you'd let me, I'd go for a dance with you later in the evening." He smiles still blushing, but manages a wink to the girls.

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

It took a great deal of convincing, but there was a last-minute signup for the Athletic festival. Even with a full explanation of recent events, it was clear the saboteurs at the refinery bore elements of the school the festival was at. Worry and paranoia were at a high pitch.

But little Steven Universe prevailed.

In an athletic outfit and a smile, the boy attended all sorts of events, from shotput, to polevaulting, to tug-of-war. The small child didn't win any of his events, generally being outclassed by superior Ohtori representation, but at least he was having fun!

Or at least it looked like it.

In truth, his parents' worry has begun to affect him. The Gem Child still had small bags under his eyes, masked by a pair of aviators. Sleepless nights were becoming the norm, as verbal exchanges grew stronger.

As much as vampires and Orphans and Gem Monsters are a threat, stress too is its own obstacle. The occasional look over his shoulder as he converses with people and holding his hands together are yet more signs. But he puts on a brave face at least, hoping everything will blow over, and he can just be a normal kid as school.


Quite a few participation ribbons glint upon Steven's hamburger backpack as it is checked in at the ball. The events were over, but dancing remained! A chance to get better at such an activity should he need it one day with a lovely lass. The school was nice enough to prepare a tuxedo for him as well! A standard affair, he didn't have time to go out and find his own fashionable ensemble before in days prior.

The dances and mingling were in full swing as Steven came down the stairs to enter. At the bottom however, the boy just sortof... stood there.

Right here was fine. A good spot to enjoy the gala.


His brow furrows, as he looks down at his super shiny shoes. Even now? No, he needs to break out of this. Everything will be fine! This was a good chance to meet new people!

With a bit of hesitation, the boy heads out toward the dance floor. Though he can't help but look around cautiously from time to time.

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

The archery competition was easily the high point of Fuu's day: a chance to show off the strong point of her athletic repertoire, to immerse herself in the focus of aligning bow, arrow, and target. She didn't take to archery just because it's one of the least physically strenuous sports at Infinity, nor because of the role archers play in various fantasy works - she *likes* the discipline of it, inward and outward, and that kind of focus comes in handy when she's on the Ohtori campus.

She couldn't avoid all of the other sports, much as she might have wanted to. Fuu actually did a passably good job in short sprinting events and obstacle courses; she may not have won any medals for Infinity, but she didn't bring shame upon her school, either.

She's been more actively engaged in supporting her classmates and friends in their respective events; she *should* primarily be cheering for Infinity, of course, but she has a few friends at Juuban and Ohtori as well, and when she can get away with crossing school lines to support friends from the other Sister Schools, she does so.

But the day comes to an end, evening draws on, and the gala takes precedence. Fuu arrives attired in a gown provided not by the Ohtori Fashion Club, but courtesy of Fuu's mother: a flowing dress in shades of green - a very pale green bodice, almost white, with panels of the same fabric overlaying the left and right of her skirt. The bodice and side panels contrast with the rich emerald green of her waist sash, the skirt itself, and the cloak which flutters gently behind her; a 'plate' of some golden-looking material seems to function as a brooch, apparently holding the cloak's collar closed and in place against her bodice, but closer inspection of the dress might reveal that it's more decorative than structural. The dress's sleeves are of two parts: loops just a bit below her shoulders as though to help support the garment, and wrappings of dark green about her forearms, detached from the rest to all appearances.

Fuu is largely keeping her eyes out for a particular couple of people, but she doesn't turn down dances with other people she knows - and when Kasagami momentarily lays claim to her, Fuu simply smiles and goes along with it, keeping pace with the disciplinary chairwoman without, as the saying goes, missing a beat.

If she's worried at all about the recent secretive-but-demonstrated prevalence of monsters on Southern Cross Island, she's doing an excellent job of hiding her concern ... but still, when she has a moment away from the dance floor, whether to procure refreshments or simply take a break and cool off, her attention is somewhat noticeably divided.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.


Nori Ankou clasps the hand-rail of her wind-surfing board and tacks through the wind, out on the coastal side of Ohtori's scenic campus. The course is not long, but out here, with only her sail, Nori Ankou feels a certain comfort. And the distant sound of cheering coming over the water...

She doesn't feel alone.

To herself, she smiles, and leans into the turn around the signalling buoy...

But that was her big sport moment.

And it's rather heavy work, so she was glad to cheer, even if part of her wishes she'd gone for swimming instead. But then how could she enjoy the spray of the sea?


Nori has been Dressed as is fitting someone of her station. It is a little black dress highlighted by opera-length gloves (also black) and a gauzy, sparkly shawl mostly notable for the sparkle it holds rather than concealing her bare shoulders. She is also walking in heels but this, for her, isn't too unusual. She has had a vaguely bowler-shaped fascinator hat pinned to her hair, which she has combed and slicked down into a glossy black. It makes her eyes stand out, that is for certain.

Though her hair still has a memory of the sea in it.

"Araki," she says, to the lefthand side of Kasagami. "You seem a little distracted... Are you waiting for anyone? Or has it only been a very long day...?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The sports festival was, for Mai Tokiha, an event tainted by a shadow of melancholy.

She took part, certainly. There were a few events that keen-eyed classmates had gone to her for help with, and when pushed by a social pressure like that...it was hard to say no. It was hard to unreservedly say yes, though, and she wasn't cheering loudly unless it was for really a close friend taking part in something.

Except for that one time she had a chance to cheer for Natsuki Kuga's opponent, because taunting her favourite conspiracy theorist never got old.

Eventually, after a stern-faced participation in the 'human cavalry' event - one where she managed to carry her partner to victory - Chie and Aoi had bugged her about what was up. The only answer she gave - that she could think to give - was the one with just enough honesty to go unchallenged.

"Sugiura-sensei was so bombastic at last year's festival. It's just not the same without her egging everyone on, you know?"

And that was that, and that was Mai's attitude for the sports festival.

The gala is somewhat a different story. Sure, it's an Ohtori extravaganza, but at this point Mai has become resigned to those. They aren't quite so frequent that she's become immune to the joy of dressing up and being elegant for the night...so here she is, dressed up and being elegant for the night.

She's in a golden dress to complement Mikoto's, sheer fabric flowing around her shoulders like warm flames. There's just a hint of sparkle to her ears, her arms almost conspicuously bereft of jewels to match -

- but then, if she really wanted to accessorize, she has her preference.

Occasional formal occasions have forced Mai into heels a little more often than Mikoto, but hers are still on the shorter side. It does, admittedly, make for better dancing - and dancing with her partner-in-many-things brings an honest smile to her face for the first time in the better part of a week. She's happy to let the shorter girl take the lead, spinning with a little reckless abandon - and when Mikoto does slip, she turns the catch into a spin of her own.

It's a bright evening, and joy rises up almost unreservedly - save for the moment when she catches Takumi's worried eye. How much of her guilt and rage he spied the other day, she's still not sure.

They haven't talked about it, like so many other things.

But there's a hand taking hers, and though dimmed, her relief might shine to the girl by her side. "Thanks, Mikoto. I just..." She shakes her head. "There's too much I can't tell my own brother, how sad is that?"

There's a faint squeeze of that hand, but...no more words on the matter, as another familiar guest steps towards the pair. Mai is...left blinking owlishly for a moment at Takeo's first attempt at a request. She seems to try to guess at a few of the French words before giving up and letting a smirk show. "Sorry, Takeo-kun, but I think your 'lake' is showing."

After the second attempt, she glances to Mikoto before answering. Whatever she sees in those eyes, she seems to trust. "It might have been a good idea to ask me too, you know..."

...but then she takes the flower, tucking it into one of her shoulder straps. "...I suppose I could make a little time. I'll be right back, Mikoto - though you're certainly welcome to the next turn." Making her way out to the dance floor, she turns to the bacon-loving boy and holds out a hand. "Of course, after all this I'm hoping you know at least a few steps?"

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

Homura Akemi is a late comer to the sports day, having avoided attendance until a certain Disciplinary Executive forced the issue. She just has trouble prioritizing things like that, these days, not that athletic events have ever really been her favorite thing; other concerns eat at her....

She shows, though, and participates as little as possible while staying near to Mami and Eri and most especially Madoka. They get her cheers when competing, and between, they get her very quiet and introspective presence.


Day gives way to night, athletics give way to socializing, and Homura's Ohtori-issue gym shorts and shirt give way to corresponding finery. Her silhouette bells at the hips thanks to lace-trimmed petticoats beneath a soft lavender dress; knees-down, pale legs shimmer through dark stockings, right into a pair of silver flats. With her long sleeves and frills and a bow tied round her waist, not to mention fair pale skin and thick braids, she looks even more doll-like than usual.

And she's orbiting.

The wall is this flower's natural environment, but she always finds an angle which allows her sight of Mami and Madoka. Sometimes she drifts closer, perhaps exchanges a few words, but mostly she orbits from outside the edge of the dance floor. Her shoulders are tight and high, but that's not unusual for the nervous girl. Mostly she's splitting the difference between deeply ingrained social discomfort and wanting to stay close to them.

So distracted and uneasy, Homura makes easy prey.

The hunter finds her on the other side of the punch bowls from the dance floor, and it's not hard to out-impose the girl in glasses. The strike lands and the prey is blooded -- just look at her cheeks.

"Ahh! I-I-I- wh-what? Yes?" That last is sort of an answer to the question Kozue made of her name, but it's an unfortunate time to be uttering delayed affirmatives. Homura tries to shrink as Kozue leans in but there is nowhere to shrink to, thanks to the wall she herself sought -- and the intensity of those eyes pins her even more surely.

"You- um, you want to... what? A-are you..." Homura doesn't finish: sure? crazy? A lot of things could fit there. By the size of her eyes, she's already likely to not forget this any time soon. But... she can't figure out a good way to say no, and just plain saying 'no' never crosses her mind.

"If... you insist, I guess..." Why would such a... a cool, scary, pretty person want to dance with her? The frightened bewilderment shows plain, by the hesitant way she lifts a white hand to be grasped. "You're... Kaoru-san, right?"

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

What happens next, no one will ever forget.

It's the kind of thing that you remember, the hour-minute-second it happened, exactly what it was you were doing before, the little details...

...because afterwards, nothing will ever be the same again.

The effect can briefly be mistaken for the sun rising far before its foretold hour, as a shimmer of light grows behind the blackness of night, which rises to blue; in combination, a sickly green flash.

But it's gold, gold, the gold of fairy tale treasure troves, of fevered, frenzied dreams, the stuff that riots are made of, that showers downwards -- not coins but light, purest golden radiance that puts the solar corona to shame, makes it seem butter yellow, pale and frothy in comparison.

Although beautiful, it's also horrible, otherworldly. Anyone who's ever been to the extreme north might find the trails in the sky faintly reminiscent of an aurora, but that comparison is also inadequate. If a kid with gold fingerpaints were to tear down the sky, this might be what results.

It is a silent phenomenon, until it isn't.

Until a pillar of golden light at least a quarter mile thick shatters the atmosphere, boiling the rare stray clouds in its path, and impacts Southern Cross Bridge, which connects this island to the main body of Tokyo. With a terrible tremble like the snapping strings of fate, it then explodes upwards in a spherical blast all too similar to a mushroom.

The air shakes, the ground shakes, the ocean roars; the steel and concrete of the bridge, as well as any unfortunates who might have been on it at the moment of impact, are absolutely and completely vaporized. Waters gush into a hemispherical chasm that had been instantly rendered to steam, which strains what's left of the bridge on either end -- which isn't much at all -- to collapse.

The bridge -- the only connection between Ohtori Academy and the rest of the world -- is just... gone.

More quickly than the stunned silence can be broken, the shockwave arrives, shattering windows, knocking people to the floor, tearing weaker trees up by their roots.

Now the screaming begins.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami will remember. Mami was on the dance floor when it happened, when everything became suddenly bright... but the wrong kind of bright. When gold appeared, when the sky changed, and Mami blinks as she turns to look, surprised--and the sudden explosion rocks the ground at her feet as it happens, forcing her backward, falling and slamming backward with the shockwave, dazed by the suddenness of it. "Mado--"

Lifting her head, the high schooler looks around suddenly, hearing the screams--and moves to stand before she finds that the heel of her shoe snaps beneath her, and she tumbles back down again. Avoiding being trampled on is necessary in the moment, and Mami scrambles towards a fallen table as she looks around. "Madoka!" she calls. "...Homura-chan! Sayaka-chan! Eri-chan?"

But there are people panicking, everywhere. Mami looks down at her left hand, and in a murmur of gold, her ring becomes the beautiful set Gem that holds her power. With all of this panic...

There is a flash of gold, but this is cleaner, brighter than the awfulness of moments ago--it's just at the corner of vision, right out of sight--

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

Kasagami tears her gaze away from the beautiful sky, to turn to Nori. A warm smile creeps up her face as she eyes the young woman, admiring her outfit. Setting down her drink, the Student Council member offers a hand palm up for Nori's. That twinkle in her eye doesn't go away.

"Do I? I was simply admiring the beautiful night. Although, I suppose it's easy to get distracted here..."

She's beaming, peering into Nori's own eyes. "When I suddenly find myself with such a lovely, immaculately dressed person beside me such as you, Nori-san. Really, I'm honored that you'd join me. For you, I am completely unoccupied. Or maybe I'm just fascinated. Stars look dull next to your eyes."

And then gold reigns, and Kasagami turns from her would-be date for the night. She moves, pulling Nori to her chest and using her height and body to shield the other young woman as that shockwave finally reaches them. It hits hard enough to knock her off of her feet and drive our her breath utterly. Her coat sways and flutters chaoticly along with her hair.

By the time she can breathe again, she's pushing herself up and trying to help up Nori as well.

"Nori!? Are you alright?" Her voice is a little hollow after the utter deletion of the bridge. Maybe she banged her head. She tries to shield the girl from panicked students as she turns to the screaming crowd.

"Exit ORDERLY! Help each other up! To the emergency exits, don't leave anyone at all behind!" Comes her voice as she tries to cut through the din.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe transforms into Puella Mami!
<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [None] has posed.

Kozue Kaoru doesn't respond to much as the girl stammers, simply raising an eyebrow at Homura's unfinished question. And then showing her insistence simply by sliding to her side, and putting her hand on her arm as if Homura were offering it to her. "Just Kozue. Kaoru sounds too unfamiliar for dance partners - don't you think?"

It is s the first response she gives, completely ignoring the fact that she referred to her as Akemi before, as she leads her out there onto the dance floor.Her gait is forceful, but not so pushy as to trip Homura up as she she brings her out there.

The girl is almost forcefully feminine, but she slips into the role of leading the unconfident girl by taking on the role of the boy. "And I always insist..."

The truth is she can't dance well, but confidence is seven tenths the battle. And so she slides her right hand to the other girl's waist, rather than her shoulder, putting her left hand in her right.

"... on a great many things." She offers flirtatiously as she takes the first few steps. "Would you like to try guessing what I'll insist on next?"

The gold that lights up the sky is mistaken at first for a lighting effect in the ballroom. An effect created to highlight Ohtori's luxurious decadence. To her eyes perhaps it is more red-gold at first. Yet it soon becomes too blindingly bright to ignore.

Kozue's dance steps abruptly stop, and her gaze wanders. And that's when the windows shatter, and the screaming begins, as Kozue stumbles against the other girl in her company.

"What in the-"


And Kozue Kaoru uses her grip to suddenly whirl the girl around, and shove her towards Mami Tomoe. "Take her!"

It's just a quick motion, like an afterthought, to send her in that direction, before she tries to wend her way off the dance floor, purposefully tearing her gown's skirt up to her thighs as she goes with one quick motion, and kicking off her heels, as she tries to thread a panicking crowd.

"Miki! Miki Kaoru!"

She shouts, and suddenly the people who were the most prominent fixtures of this ballroom felt so small in light of what was happening - like trying to pick out a person from one of those children's books. Where was that military uniform? Where was that blue hair? Where was the twin she grew up with her whole life? Feeling the panic well up in her, she shouts.


The crowd consumes her for a moment, and the next time she's in sight, she's brandishing a sickle with an odd fixture on the other end.

COMBAT: Kozue Kaoru transforms into HiME Kozue!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki transforms into Crimson Rose Duelist!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki transforms into Kasagami Araki!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Fuu's first thought, on seeing the golden light reflected across the dance hall, is that it's still too early in the night for fireworks, never mind sunrise.

Her second thought, as she turns to look towards the windows through which it shines, is that the beautiful, terrible golden light in the sky has nothing whatsoever to do with fireworks.

Her third thought doesn't even have time to fully form before the shockwave hits -

And her own cry of alarm mingles with other screams, even as she tries to throw herself flat on the floor so she can't get blown off her feet by her own dress, billowing from the pressure of that shockwave. She'd rather pay out of her own pocket to get dirt out of the dress than have to get blood washed out instead, or worse. And she does manage to go down, although less controlledly than she meant to - it's an ungainly sprawl rather than an efficient duck-and-cover maneuver.

Ducking and covering ... what WAS that? The blossoming fireball and the blast-wave seemed all too reminiscent of a nightmare several times Fuu's own age. But that pure gold color ... and the fact that the light shone down before the detonation ...

Fuu pushes those thoughts aside, carefully getting back to her feet, checking her eyes and her vision - okay, her contact lenses are still in place. (She dislikes using them, but sometimes they're more practical than her usual glasses. And sometimes it's just an aesthetic choice, like tonight.) Hearing Kasagami's voice over the chaos, she gets her bearings, and checks her immediate surroundings for anyone in need. "Ah ... Steven-san, are you all right?" she asks, moving to help the boy up. "I have no idea what that was, but we should probably focus on getting to safety first."

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

Steven will remember this moment. As he looms near a ballroom window as it happened. Just as the bridge was vaporised, he saw his days a school instantly vanish with it. This was it. There was no coming back from this event. How such dangers happened to poor schoolchildren.

His days getting to be a normal kid, to make so many new friends, participate in so many events... gone in a flash of golden light.

What kind of horrific person would do this? So many students are now in immediate danger? The boy almost doesn't come to his senses as the shockwave closes in. A flash of pink meets the blast.

Glass shards tink harmlessly off the suddenly appearing shield, though Steven suffers the blastback, tumbling backwards and into a table. There he rests, unmoving. Nut he isn't unconscious. Isn't harmed terribly. By the time Fuu gets to him, he holds up a hand sadly to accept aid.

He's sobbing. His face is puffy red and wet. "Why would someone do something like this?!" he says to her, gesturign weakly outside. "I can't, I don't... I won't b-b-be able to...!"

The boy nods sadly to the young lady's call to find shelter. He grabs his shield meekly, dragging it on the ground as he tries to find something-- anything to do. His eyes clouded, his heart ripped from his chest emotionally. Deep inside he almost could feel something like this was coming.

"Wuh-wuh-we gotta help people to rooms without windows!" he stutters out, soaking a suit sleeve as he wipes his face.

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

"It's hard," Mikoto agrees, squeezing Mai's hand, but anything she could have said to Mai opening up a little is eclipsed quickly by a new friend. And a foreign language! Mikoto cants her head in confusion, the corner of her mouth scrunching up, because she doesn't know the language at all. Is that English? No, it's probably not English, Mai seems just as confused when she looks up to her for guidance. Realisation dawns on her as Mai smirks.

Right, it's his... she doesn't know what, if only there were a convenient phrase to communicate that confusion... oh, right! French.

She's then confused for an entirely different reason, as Takeo asks Mikoto if Mai wants to dance. Mikoto is not familiar enough with this side of tradition to know why someone would ask her instead. But maybe he's asking Mai with... flowers? Is that how that works? Mikoto looks from the flower to Mai, and smiles encouragingly. Dancing is fun, and Mai should have fun.

It is an effort which succeeds as Mai agrees to dance, and Mikoto smiles to Takeo, too. "Yup!" She chirps, when he asks whether he can dance with her later as well. Mikoto doesn't mind taking time to dance; Mai's not far away, after all. And as Mai and Takeo take to the dancefloor, Mikoto steps in towards the snacks Takeo had been hovering by, instead.

Hour-minute-second: Mikoto turns to the snacks, reaches out, wide eyes bright and gold. Oh, they are such bright things, reflecting gold. And here in the bare instant, fingers bent, there is a sudden sick awareness, because the night is not dark any more.

As if by some crack in the seams - the fall of her lips over lower teeth as her mouth hangs ajar - all the joy drains from her face, and horror nestles there instead. Her fingers twitch and curl with her sharp inward breath. Ice clutches her heart as her mind processes what her eyes have seen, the light she has caught and the overwhelming noise: obliteration.

The Southern Cross Island Bridge is gone.

And then Mikoto does not have to reach for the snacks at all because in cruel twist of fate the snacks come to her, as one of the tables which have been set up to accommodate the hors d'oeuvres is sent flying by the shockwave. The broad surface catches her before she can spring away, and she cries out as she is sent sprawling to the ground.

Everything is light and noise and movement and Mikoto chokes on her breath, subsumed by the totality of the destruction. She hears a voice calling for them, for Madoka and Homura and everyone, above the keening and the roar of waves and crumbling stone and glass which crumbles from its setting.

A voice; words. That's right. She has them, surely.

It comes out in a whine as someone scrambles over the table she is pinned under, weight pressing down on her. Finally it shakes, and shudders, and she flings it off of herself and staggers to her feet. One braid has freed itself from behind a white rose; the bottom of her dress is torn. She draws breath past open lips, shoulders shaking with the rise and fall of her chest.

She has the words, and she reaches out, with an open palm: "MIROKU!"

And in the sky there is a glint closer than a gnarled and distant star, and it is a blade, sin-black and arcing through the air as it crashes down beside her, bisecting what was once a perfectly serviceable oak table in twain. She takes it in hand and does not mind the panic of the people around her, as she displays a deadly weapon so openly.

There is hot rage in her gaze but more dangerous, so much more dangerous, is the edge of fear around them, the way she roars her name in desperation: "MAI! MAI!" She whirls with wide eyes and all she sees is a blade which is an arm and an armored beast bisected with no effort at all.

'If you're so upset about it, maybe you should have did what I told you and gave up? Doesn't this sound like your fault?'

'I didn't have to do a thing to render you utterly terrified of what could happen. You know already how precarious your position is, how easily you could lose what you already have.'

'Next time, I shall make you an offer you can't refuse.'

"MAIII-!!!" Mikoto howls, and she does not care about the world.

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Taking the offered hand, Takeo takes Mai to the dance floor and bows his head to his dance partner. "I ... Do know. How to dance. I have memories, and I learned on my own. And what I don't know I can figure out. Martial Arts." He shrugs a shoulder and then, taking the lead, leads Mai onto the dance floor. Where the two of them dance.

He tries not to blush, but it happens, but he keeps looking at her eyes regardless. A slight roguish looking grin, different than the ones he gives when he's trouble, this one is more, happiness than mischief. "I know you're here with Mikoto. So, thank you for dancing with me. I should have asked you first, I just didn't want Mikoto-chan to get upset." he leans in and whispers, "She might be the only person who can beat me with a sword. It can be kind of scary. Also. Not comparing. But her sword is waaaaay bigger than mine." He winks at her and chuckles softly. He opens his mouth about to say something else, perhaps tell her she looks pretty in an awkward way, maybe ask for another dance later in the evening, or perhaps ask if she would enjoy a nice cliff side ride on Sparkles some evening or afternoon. Except that's when the sun rises.

Only. It's not the sun.

Glass shatters, and Takeo grabs Mai and holds her close, covering as much of her as he can the moment he hears the sonic boom. He closes his eyes, instincts telling warning him that glass shards in one's eyes would be a bad idea, then lets go of Mai after looking her over quickly to see if he notices anything Red beyond her hair.

His head whips around searching, trying to see if anybody else is hurt. Voices come. Shouts. Of panic, and for people. One voice calling for order. Good luck on that one, Takeo thinks. He looks to Mai. "Are you okay?" He asks as he starts searching the room for thsoe he knows, to know that the others are okay.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

There was a moment there. Not the stuff of fairy-tale romances, maybe - an invitation to dance, sure, but it's a dance between friends bound only by bacon. Mai already has a date for the night, so this moment is just to make it a nice evening between friends.

Even if that nice dance between friends has some comments that are far too easy to quip about. "Are you sure you should be talking about that kind of thing in public?"

Mai was having a nice night, until that hour-minute-second.

Maybe that was the mistake.

Golden light, brighter than her own dress, fills the sky. Mid-quip, she turns to behold it. For that moment, she's left staring at the beauty, the danger - and then the skies split.

Then, the wonder ends and the terror begins.

The bridge vanishes in a terrific blast, the whole thing seeming like some impossible trick of the light - that is, until the shockwave of the blast arrives. With a scream of sudden fear, Mai throws her arms up to guard her face - before being caught off-guard by an unexpected shadow, standing between her and the shattered window. "Takeo-kun...a dashing knight, again? I'm fine, don't..." Whatever smile she had fades as she returns to the here and now. Whirling on the spot, a worried cry joins the cacophony. "Mikoto-"

A voice - Kozue's voice - rises above the crowd in its panic, and the words invoked make Mai's face pale like ashes. Her head whips back and forth, trying to find, trying to recall where she last saw the face she should have looked for first in the chaos. "Takumi?! Takumi, are you all right?!"

It's panic, utterly bereft of direction, that has her looking one way then another - and then Mikoto's familiar cries join the chaos, pulling at heartstrings. She can't - she has something important that she has to do, her brother could be hurt or worse and she promised -

And yet.

And yet.

Pulling away from Takeo without even a word of apology, Mai starts shoulder-checking her way through the crowd to get to the howling Mikoto. "Mikoto, I'm here! It's all right, I'm-"

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"Do they?" Nori answers Kasagami. She lets out a small laugh, her lips pressing together. Their parting makes a soft, infinitely soft noise, and she is about to reply -- when she sees that gold. She blinks once -


The next thing Nori knows, she is laying down on the ground. She feels dazed. Sore. Her ears are ringing. She focuses on Kasagami, blinking a few times. The world seems to flicker-flash a little. She looks at her hands, at her clothes. There is - a little blood? Mostly from the shoulder -

Am I alright?

Am I alright?

Kasagami shields her from a passing group. Kasagami shouts to them.

I need to disappear, la Sirene thinks.

Nori Ankou answers Kasagami, "Yes - yes, I'll get clear - I'll go to help them. Thank you," and she presses her lips to Kasagami's cheeks for a moment, "for everything," and then she is up and she is moving.

She sees broken glass in the distance. Oh no, she thinks, with dread. What happened - a meteor? A bomb? The fuel supply for a power plant? Nori moves towards the dormitories, one of her ears still ringing. It's a little bit of a relief because of *all the screams the other one hears*.

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

Homura's head sinks down further between her shoulders when her new dance partner requests familiarity. It's definitely not a nod, because 'just Kozue' isn't happening. She allows herself to be led, but with balky feet.

And Kozue's having none of that.

Homura Akemi has never in her life been come onto like this. Her sole exposure to similar situations is shoujo manga, and they reeeaaaally don't cover Kozue Kaoru.

Her dress lends some softer volume to her profile, all in violet silk and white petticoats, but it's laid atop bird bones. She tries to keep up and sort of succeeds, or at least manages to not stomp down on Kozue's feet. There's a visible gulp as Kozue presses her advantage, and Homura can't even clean her glasses to buy time to respond.

She glances over her shoulder, instead -- to twirling gold and pink. Her eyes angle down and away and so does her chin, and Kozue gets her flaming cheek, and anyone could see that Homura Akemi has no idea how to handle any of this.

"I couldn't... begin to guess, Kaoru-san-" Homura begins, and never gets to finish.

The not-sun rises -- falls -- and all that color washes over her until Homura is briefly as golden as everything else. It smashes into and through the linkage between island and mainland, and as the shockwave hits, some voice at the back of Homura's head goes, 'Ah, yes, that was a very large explosion' while all becomes screaming chaos around them.

Homura joins the chorus. "Eeeyaaahh! Kaname-saaaan!"

Thanks to Kozue's clinch she stays on her feet, and then it's time to forcibly change dance partners -- she's a lightweight ragdoll, easy to propel, and Homura stumbles across the marble floor and toward Mami Tomoe. Half-spun, she comes in shoulder-first with her small mouth and big eyes in o's.

"You're okay!" All the relief a voice can hold, in three syllables. Madoka's right there -- and their senpai is here, and the presence of Mami Tomoe is still a powerful force on Homura, even if it is no longer possible to make her kouhai feel truly safe again. Follow the leader: she feels exposed in all this human chaos, but takes advantage to shift to her own henshin in a flare of violet.

"Did you see Shimanouchi-san?" She looks around, but her eyes keep coming back to Madoka, drawn by the gravity of worry. Things can go wrong so quickly...

COMBAT: Homura Akemi transforms into Puella Magi Homura!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!
COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Serious Steven!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Mashup: Monochrome - https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2yttyl and It's Only The Fairy Tale https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFqKHgd0eB0

There's glass all over the ballroom floor, and innumerable minor injuries from the ceiling's shattered trip from point A to point B. Sniffles and sobs (and a few ongoing hysterical screams, and commanding shouts) have replaced the orchestra music.

The one who finally steps forward to organize is the Ohtori Vice-President, Shizuru Fujino. She sets what's left of her teacup down primly on a nearby table, then clears her throat. After all that, any people who've suddenly undergone dramatic costume changes honestly feel like an anticlimax, and she does not seem to be too concerned about them. Rather, she brings order to the chaos with a few words:

"Kiryuu, call emergency services. Hotori and Saionji, organize transport for those injured who can be safely moved to the infirmary. When they run out of space, take the rest to the chapel -- Kikukawa, arrange for triage there. Araki and Arisugawa, please organize a calm movement of the students and staff towards the main gymnasium. Once it is at fire limit capacity, please take the rest to the Fencing Hall. Maintain a mixed distribution of ages, so that older students can help younger ones."

Lifting her tea, she takes a long sip. Then, at something more like a battlefield roar (which somehow never goes above a refined bark):

"Everyone, if you are unharmed, please follow Araki and Arisugawa to safety. Thank you for your consideration. Would any Sister Schools staff please report to me for assign--"


In a room unseen by everyone, above and beyond, in shadow and chains, a girl sings. Though a crisp fall breeze has reached the island today, her voice is more felt than heard, the sweet caress of winter's loneliness, the sleeping earth yearning for renewal, for the touch of light.

And standing by the destroyed bridge, another girl sings, equally invisible from this distance, and equally audible even so. Her voice provides that touch of light -- so lovely and so lonely. Their voices intertwine, golden providing a sweet soprano descant to silver.

The dancing snowflakes are fragments of stars

Who are those little girls in pain

Reaching out towards the heavens

Trapped in the castle on the dark side of the moon?

And in still another place -- a cavern filled with creepily skewed, obliquely fashioned, gigantic, otherwordly mannequins -- a pair of strangely dressed people mount the steps up a tower crowned with twin metal chambers that look for all the world like coffins with wires sticking out of them.

They wear golden masks, elaborate and unique, some vintage distilled from a blend of the opera and the cat burglar. And as they descend into their Electric Biers, they tear them from their faces, faces that were at the ball earlier in the evening, and shout as one:


The coffins slam shut.

I can feel my wishes as they come and go

Twelve of them shining bright in vain

Everything is now in monochrome...

Like flowers that blossom just once in years

Light explodes from two of the mannequins, visible in this strange altered space even by those still in the ballroom. The light forms a golden pillar that twists and twines towards the unreachable heavens, sealed forever? beyond its touch. A false tree of life, it holds no salvation. In the ballroom, the confused, milling crowd slows, then stops entirely, frozen in space and time.

All the color in the world seems sapped out of existence... until, with a glittering shine, dozens of other golden masks illuminate their wearers, who seem to have surrounded the ball to prepare for this moment some time ago. Distance has no meaning now, and they can be seen all over the island, standing ready in their strange costumes, able to move in this space beyond time.

The white breath spilling softly from my lips

Is shaped like the words I want to convey.

It must be the warmth that's making the sky grow faintly lighter

Our wings are drenched in our shared sorrow

Turning pure white as they overlap

And becoming a gentle courage for the future

We passed to each other...

All of the mysterious mannequins -- the Cybodies -- have golden masks just like those of the humans, and two of them glow in response to all this, and then, alive with red and black lightning that wriggles like snakes, they seem to explode with flesh -- or is it armor? -- becoming far more than mere abandoned dolls. Within the electric biers, the Star Drivers scream, and their voices differentiate; one is a boy, and the other a girl.

The singers' voices have separated, too.

They're dancing in the shadows like whispers of love

Just dreaming of a place where they're free as doves

The Cybodies are different from one another. One is massive and red and already drawing a huge, sparkling crimson energy blade from its chest. The other is dark blue with pink highlights, and seems to have glowing green energy wheels instead of feet.

They are by any metric giant robots, but the most massively magical, sparkling ones imaginable.

The beating of my heart as I wait for the dawn of an unknown world...

A new tomorrow that begins as I depart with the first rays of light

We each follow a different path

Even if we never meet again

The scattering stars are like sand

Tenderly caressing my heart again

Inhuman eyes behind the Cybodies' golden masks flare with blood red light...

And suddenly there is no world left at all... only an infinitely finite galaxy. A rainbow of stars whirl, reflected in a ground that belies their truth, like a mirror that can only see itself. Mystical gears of every conceivable color interlock the corners of this nonreality, literal seals of a place that is figurative, figment, at best. The girls are adrift in a space that is no space at all.

The afterimage of a dream during quiet slumber

They've never been allowed to love in this cursed cage

All is still in a shade of monochrome...

It's only the fairy tale they believe...

Zero time.

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

There is a large audience in bubbles that float, glowing occasionally with translucent golden circuitry, through the zone. Not all of them wear masks, but nobody is close enough to be recognizable. Normal students from the ball are not witnesses here, though; presumably they cannot access this strange dimension, and remain frozen in place, left behind.

"Go on and transform, then," invites the voice of the girl who screamed, who is now inside the huge red robot. "We were told you'd at least put up a fight."

And, indeed, it is once again possible to move in this place, as magical people discover themselves surrounded by halos of light the same colors as their hearts, which banishes the terrible gray.

"Unless you want us to take this battle into the real world, that is," suggests the boy, from the lipless mask of the huge blue robot. "I'm sure all your buddies on the island would really enjoy that."

The explosion of light that follows, as dozens of transformations take place at once, is even brighter than the vision of the golden tree. The Cybodies are far enough from one another that they can't be engaged by the same people, and roughly half of the group is already leaping towards the red robot with a sword --

-- that leaves the blue one, the one with wheels for feet.


COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe transforms into Cybody Tetrioht!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Wind Knight!

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

Takeo stands in Zero time and he looks up at the Cybody who identified hismelf as "Speed Kid". He stands with his legs shoulder length apart and casually reaches up to remove the bow tie around his neck, which he does with one pull, and lets it fall to the "Floor" of Zero time. "Careful what you ask for pal!" He calls up at the Cybody.

Then he pulls out his medallion and holds it before him as he calls out: "I SWEAR TO DEFEND THE INNOCENT!!!"

From nowhere lighting strikes Takeo. Bolts of lighting slamming into the boy and where he is sturck, he glows a bright cyan. Still glowing he catches one of the bolts which glows a bright blinding white, and then cracks apart revealing the glowing and gleaming blade of Arondight, alive with crackling lightning.

The glowing form snaps the blade up in a salute, the blade vivisecting his head. The Cyan doesn't fade away, it breaks off in little motes of electicity that spark and crackle. As the motes break off, the glowing form is revealed to be a kngiht in shimmering silver armor, a blue cloak, and blue tabard. He snaps the blade to the side as it reaches his face and he opens his eyes. Which change with a flash of electricity from brown to a light blue.

Standing in Takeo's place is the Chevalier Lancelot. He doesn't say anything, instead charging the Cybody. He leaps at it, landing on the knee and after two steps leaps to the thing's waist. Catching a handhold, he crouches and then sprints UP the chest, using his incredible speed to somehow propel himself up the thing, and then leaps when he begins to loose forward momentum to land on the Cybody's shoulder. He twirls Arondight with a cry of, "LIGHTNING IMPACT!" and leaps from the shoulder to fly past the cybody's golden face, Arondight lashing at the face in sparking electrical defiance.

COMBAT: Takeo Akamizu transforms into Chevalier Knight Lancelot!
COMBAT: Lancelot has used Lightning Impact on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe perfectly dodges 20 Fatigue damage from Lancelot's Lightning Impact, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Dodge!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Homura-chan!" Mami calls, watching as Kozue goes--and helps steady her, looking her over to see if she's all right--and watch her transform. "No," she answers. "It's just the two of us right now--we'll have to find the others when we can. If we stay calm, then we can help the people in a panic--"

Naturally, Shizuru steps in. Mami feels clear relief--Homura can see it--when she does it, and turns to Homura, waiting for the older girl to finish, but saying softly, "This means we can go look into what happened--I'm sure that's where Madoka-chan and the others will head, too--"

They do not leave, to investigate. They do not sneak away from the crowd. For all the things that Mami Tomoe has seen in her years of protecting others as a magical girl, this is strange, unlike others--the music, yes, but the light, the un-place that this is...

Mami looks to the robot who speaks, setting her jaw. "...Homura-chan," she says, glowing gold. She has already transformed--But she will join these others. The boy's assertion gets a glare. "You'll regret asking," Mami boasts to him, and then to Homura more softly, "Stay with me. Between the two of us, we can do this!"

The Cybody before them is gigantic--larger even than most Witches Mami has faced, a daunting opponent. ...But she is a ranged combatant, so...

"I'll cover you while you get ready!" Mami directs her teammate, and in moments she is whirling in place like a dancer, conjuring an entire brace of rifles, a dozen gleaming weapons that burst into being in light and rise as one to angle towards center mass. Then she raises her voice, full of bravado for all of them.

"With the others facing the red one," she calls, "We'll have to be sure not to be outdone!"

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has started a combo targeting Hotaru Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Kasagami allows the lightest of blushes across her cheeks, smiling for a passing second. "Be safe." She replies to Nori. It's entirely sincere, the young woman letting the worry creep into her voice. Then she turns as the crowd and Nori's fleeing seperates them.

A sigh claims her and then it's time to focus. Kassie snaps to, walking and generally trying to get the students to exit in an orderly manner as Shizuru's voice fills the air.

"You heard the Vice President! Come on, line up, help anyone move who needs it! Don't pick up anyone wounded you'll just make it worse!" Putting her full overbaring personality on blast, she'll help up a student or two amidst working on said calm exit.

Until light and the tree and singing sweeps them to Zero Time with the strange area all around them. As her heart pulses, that dark crimson surrounding her, Kasagami spins about as her hand goes for her coat! Slashing about from black leather, she's drawn her nodachi from it's depths as though she's had it with her all along. Gripping the blade with both hands, she grins as she takes in a breath.

Time to do her job.

"Happy to give you a dance, I accept, Speed Kid!" Comes Kasagami against such a challenge. The thing is absolutely massive. Her heart pounds.

Inwardly she decides she loves it all, no matter how insane it all is. If anything, it eggs her on, staring up and up and up.

Then she's simply gone, blurring her way towards one of the wheel-feeted Cybody's lower limbs, aiming to carve into the thing with a single line of a slash. She wheels her torso back and twists as she passes by. The girl puts her whole back into it. If he's a Speed Kid, she'll need to watch wheels and motion here.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Nori Ankou has made her way separate from the others but it was not an urge to disappear into the night and be found seven years later, a skeleton. She had sought something out. She knew that it is possible that her soi-distant cousins are wounded in the dorm and she does not know if Ohtori Academy is now done. (She is not sure, further yet, what that means for her. If the school is blown up, did she... win? Is she done? What about going to high school with Madoka and Reika and everyone?)

(Are they even still alive?)

It is when she recovers her bag that the strange space appears. They are addressed. Nori, holding her bag, does not turn away. When they are given a threat, she dares to look over her shoulder.

Two of them, she thinks, sinkingly.

Her eyes shut.

No, she tells herself. Even if I'm alone here, right now, I am not alone in spirit. She opens the bag, draws out a simple cloth bracelet with a glittering quartz-crystal with a strange inclusion, straps it into place...

INSERT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oi3QmAmrG6M

"Shining in the night, the dreams of sorrow sleep... awaken, justice, and shine to the horizon! IMAGINOS!"

Nori turns clockwise a full thirteen hours, and as she does, the crystal-and-cloth harden, turn, and slide up her arm. Gloves and dress vanish into a sea of glittering luminous foam, rising up into a high-collared dress of gray, leggings, boots - her hair itself twists round, the style gaining bounce and flair. The Prism itself expands, shining as it grows, the crystalline inclusions breaking down into fifteen thousand subtle lenticular iridescences before they come together again like a living quasi-philosophical space - encased within adamant, a glowing streak of black, a connection to another place. To history, and its power.

But as she turns the rest of the way to face Speed Kid, la Sirene des Lentilles is, from the look on her face, not impressed. "Tchau!" she says. "Is this a golden age where you will still take orders, Ace of Filament Squad? What you have done to this place is unforgivable. Unforgettable. To turn things to dust before their time - sorrow and entropy do not need your help!"

She raises her left arm, fingers splayed outwards.

"By salamander, drake, and the power undone - can your speed elude darkness itself? BLACK TELESCOPE -"

A shadow seems to fall onto the world as the lenses within la Sirene's glorious flair shifts, and a shadow swings into existence itself, a swift polyploid shape that aims to rake across the front of the vast thing! Of course, la Sirene thinks to herself, grimly - if I have to spread it out, then the same force will fall all the more weakly...

Some relief fills her at the voice of Mami Tomoe. She will surely breach these demons' armor!

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

Why *would* anyone do this? Steven's question sticks in Fuu's mind as she focuses on following the directions to presumable safety. Kasagami's initial exhortation into movement is supplemented by Fujino's more specific instructions -

Not that she's allowed to finish them.

The world around them - the mundane world, the shattered and savaged gala hall on Southern Cross Island - simply goes away, replaced by the astral spectaclescape of Zero Time, two robots towering over Fuu, Steven, and everyone else who's been drawn into the parallel existence.

Fuu stands up straighter, breathing in slowly and deeply, and gives Steven's hand a brief, reassuring squeeze before she releases it and reaches into a fold of her skirt. She had hoped, even prayed, that she wouldn't need the object she'd secreted away in an improvised pocket ... but her hunch has been borne out. And having caught a glimpse of Steven's shield, she simply pulls the glove-jewel firmly onto her left hand, fingers closing into a fist. "'Speed Kid'-san, is it?" she calls out. "I'm quite certain that your 'golden age' could have waited until AFTER the ball was over ... but if it's a fight you want? So be it. Belief becomes power -"

Her left hand slashes across in front of her, then is lifted over her head as the green jewel flares brightly, magic surging within her, through her ...


... and around her, in the form of a short-lived but intense jade-hued whirlwind. The dress she'd worn for the ball dissolves within the veiling winds, and clothes closer in cut to her Infinity school uniform materialize - as does armor: enameled white breastplate, backplate, and pauldrons, adorned with gold trim and green jewels; a bracer on her right forearm, short boots on both feet, and as the transformation abates, a quiver across her back and a bow in her left hand.

With the last gusts of the whirlwind still swirling about her, the Magic Knight of Wind plucks an arrow out of her quiver, nocking it to the string of her raised bow, and draws the string back as her bow is lowered before her. Those who saw Fuu in the archery competition might recognize her stance ... but then, it's a textbook kyuudou stance. The only thing *not* textbook is the breeze rising and swirling around her, as if held over from her metamorphosis; it ruffles her skirts and sleeves and hair, yet her focus seems utterly unperturbed, as if her bow, her arrow, and her target are the only things even in this altered universe.

"Gale Arrow!!"

Her arrow flies, with the wind wrapping around her shaft to speed it on its way and steady its path against turbulence, and the shaft streaks towards Tetrioht - not aimed for its face, but for one of its wheels.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Gale Arrow on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki transforms into Crimson Rose Duelist!
COMBAT: Nori Ankou transforms into La Sirene de Diamant!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Carbonado Kaleidoscope on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Rose Flash on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe braces 11 Fatigue damage from La Sirene de Diamant's Carbonado Kaleidoscope, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe partially dodges 6 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Gale Arrow, taking 24 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji is
Psyched!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe perfectly counters 33 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Rose Flash, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe's counterattack, Zero Time Roadkill, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Kasagami Araki!  
<Pose Tracker> Cassandra [None] has posed.

"What do you mean you haven't seen him?!" Kozue Kaoru shoves aside a familiar class representative, as if she were no longer worthy of her attention because she hadn't. And then it happens.

All of Kozue Kaoru's life, she'd known one simple fact. Music had power. Where in the creation, the execution - or the denial. And so it is an unsurpising fact that two voices entwined can be the advent to such wondrous events. If she wasn't so panicked trying to find her brother - she might have even stood in appreciation. Instead music and light streams into the ballroom. And reality changes.

And she's somewhere else. There's something intimidating about the idea of being drawn into this space, by two beings so colossal and powerful. The music beyond and the bubbles indicating there's more to this than even two.

The galaxy is finite but infinite upon this expanse, a rainbow of wonder. They are brought to this stage, this colisseum somewhere that feels like it's everywhere and nowhere.

"Golden Age... another one of you talking about a Golden Age..."

Even that thought was intimidating. Was Miyu Greer hiding somewhere? The girl that cut Gakutenou in half so quickly she couldn't even be followed?

What happens if she is?

And yet if she doesn't fight with everything she has will she even make it out of here? Will her brother - and Sayaka never see her again?

"Tokiha... Mikoto... I think we have no choice but to go all out." The girl who is Kozue Kaoru - who takes the name Cassandra - sets her jaw. "...even with what happened to Sugiura."

Give it there all - or die?

"Hey Speed Kid is it? Maybe you're some big shot Bosozoku... but..." The girl takes up an aggressive kind of stance, barefoot in her torn dress. "... you should have thought twice before cornering wild animals defending their homes."

There's a small pause and she utters a single word. "Cassandra."

A trippy pink curtain of light ripples around the same space as her, as her image doubles into psychadelic colors. And then her Child appears out of a sudden stream of green water that shifts to a reflection of starlight - from the solid floor. A massive metallic - yet also obviously magical swan. Not nearly as large as the cybody but...

The water picks up, drenching the ground around the Child's avian feet, as she seems to skim about in an ever-shifting watery stream, tributaries reaching out as if they were flowing around rocks to try to catch the Cybody mid-rush. Abruptly the water geysers into giant columns that reach almost as high as the Cybody, each forming an Avian talon on each side, before lancing down.

"Light him up Tokiha! No holding back tonight!"

It's an improvised plan, but apparently her plan is for Mai's child to evaporate all of the water attacking the cybody to form a prismatic curtain of steam - all for one singular purpose...

... both to obscure the advance of a certain someone. And...

... to make certain they can't make good on that threat. All of them had someone they cared about at stake tonight.

COMBAT: Cassandra transforms into Kozue and Cassandra!
COMBAT: Cassandra has started a combo targeting Hotaru Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

It is all little Steven can do to shuffle meekly toward safety with the help of Fuu and others. The crying doesn't stop. It just grows quieter to not bother others around him. "Muh-maybe I can..." the boy starts with, but never finishes his sentence as he walks along, holding one of Fuu's hands, and dragging his beautiful shield with the other. It remains unblemished from the glass and catastrophic event.

Steven's heart however, didn't come out unscathed.

As everything takes a sudden change into a foreign yet wondrous landscape, the bleary-eyed boy just looks upon the change, full of emotion, yet empty of it at the same time. He reacts not to it at all. For all the wide-eyed wonderment that could be accompanied by such colors and music are dead in this moment. Only the vaguest sense of confusion affect him as he watches to massive robots appear.

Fuu has to let go, she has to fight. "Bu... Be safe..." he says quietly.

Even as the battle is engaged, Steven grips his shield tightly, picking it up proper from the floor. He feels the edges of it carefully, as if memorizing something, then throwing it at Speed Kid without so much as a word.

He throws it so strongly that with his state, he stumbles some and slowly makes his way to his feet. "Uh-its their... fault...!" he says, voice cracking, and that emotion of sadness beginning to convert to another, rarely seen kind in the boy.

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Throw Shield on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe dodges 16 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Throw Shield, taking 24 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade
and Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Vice President-san takes the situation well in hand, and Homura starts feeling silly for transforming -- but another look at her golden senpai quells that. If Mami did it, it was the right move. Everything seems to be coming under control when--

The crowd slows, then stops. Color leaches away like water down a stormdrain.

There is a subtle *click*.

It's a small sound, easy to miss. Homura only hears it because her ears are so attuned to this particular sound, and it is so out of context that she cannot place it, not immediately... but a chill runs down her spine.

She puts it out of her mind. It's time to fight!

Instead she looks up, and up, and up... why do they have to be giant robots? she thinks. The surroundings, so strange, so drifting... they get her curiosity but only briefly, because her senpai has a plan, one that might take them back to Madoka. Homura focuses.

"Hai!" She's ready when Mami gives the word, but can't help looking over her shoulder at first just to see the breathtaking marksmanship at work. With those golden guns clearing her way, she'll have plenty of leeway. Homura runs toward the great blue robot amidst all the other charging mahou, braids and bow-ribbons flouncing.

She gets in range and it's time to set up her shot. Homura reaches for her shield, her thumb falling into the appointed place without her even needing to look, and--

the flywheel isn't in place.

Her thumb scuffs across that esoteric clockwork and nothing feels right, it isn't- she looks down, and blanches.

It's already locked into timestop position.

She can't- she can't-

She has to finish! Mami is depending on her. All the battle goes on around her and with trembling fingers Homura pulls the firework rocket from her shield, she emits a shrill scared sound as she fumbles to light it, and then grits her teeth as she pelts away from the sparking wick at full speed, her glasses nearly bouncing off her face.


And then the firework shrieks outscream her own as pyrotechnics blast upward at the Cybody. "Tomoe-senpai! I- I can't- my magic isn't working!" She sounds absolutely panicked.

COMBAT: Homura Akemi has joined the combo started by Mami Tomoe!
COMBAT: COMBO! Mami Tomoe and Homura Akemi have used Combo: Perfect Harm--!?, composed of Tiro Circle and Delayed Blast Fireballs,
on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe braces 26 Fatigue damage from Mami Tomoe and Homura Akemi's Combo: Perfect Harm--!?, taking 21 Fatigue
damage!  Critical Hit!  Mami Tomoe and Homura Akemi are Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Mai-HiME - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SO_Z4Y-3xuk

The student council is talking, but Mai finds it hard to care what they're saying. It's good, admittedly, that the Ohtori council is as prepared as they are for emergency. Were things less personal for Mai, she might have more appreciation for how quickly Shizuru delegates.

Things are personal, though. Her brother is somewhere, maybe in pain or danger, and she's busy taking care of Mikoto. Mikoto is ready to fight a bridge-annihilating explosion, and on the verge of panic, and Mai can't leave her alone. Her attention is split, and even though she's two steps from Mikoto's side she still doesn't have enough time-

Time stops.

In the quantum between moments, everything becomes monochrome, and towering, and swirling galaxies. In the timeless space, surrounded by swirling galaxies, Mai remains frozen mid-run - until a flickering light burns from her chest, engulfing her in an instant. From the ethereal flames, she stumbles the last few steps, colliding with Mikoto.

Tangled on the floor...ground...gravity-directed face of the cosmos... Mai looks up at the Cybodies' taunting comments. Her gaze whips around, taking in just how many and how few people are in this strange space, and for a fleeting moment there's relief that Takumi is at least out of the line of fire.

Then Speed Kid suggests moving the battle, and hot panic turns to ice.

"After everything you just did, you'd go that far? No." Mai's hand finds Mikoto's swiftly, squeezing in reassurance, and then she gets to her feet. "You're not putting my - anyone I care about in any more danger. Not today, not ever again."

Nagi had told her to stay out of these kinds of fights. She listened, once...and that was once too many.

Cassandra calls her name, and Mai can only nod solemnly. "...that rotten twerp told us what stepping up would cost, but that's fine by me. Mikoto, if something happens...stay safe." She steps forward - steps away from Mikoto, steps towards the towering Cybody.

One, two, three, and flames begin to dance. around her footsteps. Four, five, and they've become rings of flame around her wrists and ankles. Six, seven, and the flames have become jewels of gold and jade. Eight, and she intones a word.

No - screams it in defiance, in shame and in atonement. "KAGUTSUCHI!"

The flames around her erupt in a towering inferno, an awakening of flames to burn the cosmos themselves. From beneath nothingness, a form emerges, towering and terrific. White scales and orange fur and blazing feathers, the strangeness that is Mai's Child awakens. A dragon, a phoenix, something with vestiges of sky and sea and far too many eyes awakens.

Still shorter than Tetrioht, but a sight closer to a fair fight.

Atop its head stands the young lady who commands it - still wearing her ballgown, one hand on the sword thrust through the beast's terrible maw. It screeches - like the rage of a great white whale - and spreads its wings wide, rising slowly. One wingbeat, two - and then it surges forward, swinging wide and high as if to survey what lies below. Somehow, in spite of the inferno that is its being, Mai can hear Cassandra's suggestion, and lays a hand on her Child's head. The two sing around, closing in on the watery claws - and then Kagutsuchi spits once before winging away again.

Of course, the Child's 'spit' is a blazing fireball whose mere sight seems to scorch the air. It smashes into the water, through the water, steam blossoming in its wake as it surges forth to burn.

Such is what Kagutsuchi intends for those who threaten Mai Tokiha's loved ones.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha transforms into Mai and Kagutsuchi!
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has joined the combo started by Cassandra!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Lullacry - King of Pain https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ndyEwg5VNU

Yes, Takeo; Miroku is a very big sword. And it is right here, in the middle of everyone. It carves a thin line through the ballroom marble as Mikoto charges to meet Mai, because she can hear her, she can hear her.

And her mind processes the words and she hears them.

'Takumi?! Takumi, are you all right?!'

'What do you mean you haven't seen him?!'

And suddenly she has two things to worry about, because he is here.

It does little to help her panic, no matter Shizuru's attempts to rally them. Calling for him is pointless; she does not know who he is, only where. If she does not defend the land of Fuuka, he will be in danger.

That is, she thinks as raw terror knots her stomach, if he was not by the bridge.

Her throat is too dry to call out to Mai again and then it is too late.

Who are those little girls in pain..?

What a beautiful song - what a threatening voice.

What an obvious question, as she tries to reach Mai and she cannot quite.

And then she stops, because everything does. Mikoto has never spent long hours coaching Homura; she has had only brief brushes with the grey, as Homura tried to convince her of her words, or in her attempts to rescue Mikoto from harm in those times she responded to Homura's requests for battle assistance. In this unknowable monochrome world there is nothing and everything at all, as light shines in and the Cybodies rise.

They are so, so large, and Mikoto is so, so small.

'Unless you want us to take this battle into the real world, that is. I'm sure all your buddies on the island would really enjoy that.'

And for a moment they do not need to freeze time to seize her up.

It's Mai which breaks her from her shock, Mai stumbling into her, Mai falling with her into a tangle of limbs. It is only long experience which sees her able to avoid carving either of them on her blade, her arm jerking to the side as soon as it is able. Her free hand reaches for Mai, grasping at her as if she could reassure her that she is still here; her fingers find Mai's, and she squeezes in turn. "Mai," she says, and the word is strained.

This Golden Age...

... how far will they go?

Mikoto rights herself as Cassandra says what she is thinking, and then she says something else.

'I'll be okay.'

'I think we have no choice but to go all out.'

'It's not time yet.'

'...even with what happened to Sugiura.'

Mai is in here, and he is out there, and -- and she looks to Mai, stricken, as she speaks on the cost and the implications. Of course. Mai would never say it outright. She avoids feelings like this entirely. It's too much to say...

'If I die.'

But Mikoto's hearing is keen, and she hears it. It is not in the words. It is in their shape, their execution. Ah, now - is this their execution?

If this is to be an execution, they will need an executioner.

And Mikoto is so, so small.

"Mai," Mikoto says, again, and this time it is set in determination because it is a promise.

There are heartbeats, between Cassandra mirroring into existence; after Kagutsuchi. Mikoto brings her blade about in revolution, plunges it into dark portal, and light arcs from the void, casting her shadow in multiple angles. "MIROKU!" She calls, again, but the blade is in her hand.

She so rarely calls its powers to bear; perhaps Homura or Mai or Takeo has seen its spikes, once or twice. It is reasonable to assume she calls on them again. But what passes for the ground, here? Whatever it is, it trembles; a dark form tears itself from below, catching Mikoto in its breadth as it rises.

There are spikes, yes. Spikes and spikes and spikes, on the massive round-shell form of an oni, stories tall, a gigantic spiked club in one gauntlet-clad hand. Still not Cybody-sized - but towering above the girls and boys below, and jets alight underneath it and it rockets into the sky, and it feels so unfair that something so massive can fly.

And by the time they are manifest, steam is already clouding the field.

There is steam in a volcano, yes.

And from that obscuring mist, a massive great cudgel swings down, upon what would pass for the Cybody's skull were it anything close to human.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into Mikoto and Miroku!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has joined the combo started by Cassandra!
COMBAT: COMBO! Cassandra, Mai Tokiha, and Mikoto Minagi have used Combo: Sisterly Love, composed of Die erwachende Thetis,
Indignant Immolation, and Obsidian Spire: Enfeeble, on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe braces 119 Fatigue damage from Cassandra, Mai Tokiha, and Mikoto Minagi's Combo: Sisterly Love, taking 51
Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Trap applied to Hotaru Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Otherworld - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbLQhzsJG0A

It's hard to overstate how huge a Cybody is. Attacks from ordinary-sized girls are basically mosquito bites (which doesn't make them less effective, but means that one cannot target 'legs' or 'knees' so much as 'a spot on a leg or a knee'). Even by the standards of the giant monsters who routinely appear in Tokyo, these robots are just staggeringly immense.

So Tetrioht is unquestionably big, and furthermore its presence feels more real, more urgent, than anything else here, as though it tries to furiously impose itself upon the non-space it inhabits, demanding attention, recognition.

There's plenty of that to go around.

The Cybody's pilot may be named 'Speed Kid' but the reason for that becomes apparent as Tetrioht, massive or no, disappears out of the way of Lancelot's Lightning Impact.

"Hmmm. Sir Lancelot du Loc, electric powers, swordsmanship," mutters one of the gold-masked observers, typing notes on a tablet. The man proceeds to continue to name the names of anyone else who announces them, along with a brief summary of their apparent powerset. Folks who don't announce themselves are named things like 'Surveillance Subject #51'.

The Cybody reappears behind Lancelot, one wheel digging into the ground by the simple expedient of growing spikes, which allows it to spin into a massive, horrifying uppercut. The fist is quite a bit larger than the knight.

Cassandra and Kagutsuchi make the scene, along with their HiME, and suddenly the whole world is fire and water and something else great flying through it, something greater. Sparks fly everywhere as Miroku's cudgel collides with the armor of its helm, highlighting that this monstrous creation is not just huge, not just fast, but tough, tough, so tough.

"Hoooooooly moly," breathes the pilot, his drawling voice issuing through the Cybody's red-eyed mask, "You're the ones we're here for, huh? I'd heard about the dragon and the bird thing but uh that kaiju is kind of off the books??" ('Miroku, Oni-type Child, greatclub,' remarks the masked notetaker from his bubble, off to one side.) "Y'all sure don't fail to live up to reputa-ack!"

That 'ack' was Nori's shadow momentarily appearing right in front of his vision. There isn't anything really there, though, and somehow he seems to know that, because the panicked reaction Tetrioht gives is to launch (and instantly regrow) one of its green energy wheels straight at La Sirene, whereupon it explodes. Just for good measure, he sends two more, before throwing his elbows akimbo and counter-charging space whale, superswan and obsidian kaiju alike -- reappearing on their other side still vibrating from the impacts between them.

The Magic Knight of Wind sends her favored element at the robot, arrow-first and Tetrioht promptly outruns it -- faster than the wind itself.

"It was a nice dance," he agrees, thereupon outing himself as, presumably, a Sister Schools student (or an effective infiltrator). "But we're on a timetable or something, I don't know, it wasn't my call. Supposedly we've gotta save everyone from something really bad happening..."

He sounds rather guileless, actually, which is disarming in its own way. Still, he's a skilled and deadly fighter, that's for sure; once again he summons more energy wheels so that Fuu, like La Sirene, is facing three more of those wheel-blasts.

Once again the Cybody virtually teleports its way out of the path of someone -- this time, it's Kasagami Araki's slash. "Hey! Watch the paint job, lady!" He accelerates midswerve and nearly runs her over -- and when he misses, he hits reverse and tries again, backwards. This thing is not safe at any speed.

His eyes flash as Nori's words arrive a few moments after her attack.

"Dust? Yo, I didn't blow the bridge. You're lucky you're not fighting the ones who did, they are seriously fu--"

CLANG! go Mami's bullets, as they bury themselves into the Cybody's armor. Homura's firework, despite what it is, made less of a sound on impact. "--ed up. I'd do what they want if I were you." The robot once again whirls, detaching a wheel in order to transfer momentum from zooming in circles around the group to uppercutting the Puella Magi, though this time it's more of an axe-kick since they're by his foot.

Steven is also by his foot and in danger of being briefly squashed, courtesy of "--nice shield," he remarks, even as he scrambles to keep his balance when the projectile hits him just so. He fails. That's the bad news, at least for Speed Kid. It would be that he'd withstand the elements, the Childs, and then this little bit of pink is what tips the scale.

The good news is that apparently he has more options -- because in mid-air, as the immense robot is toppling towards the starry ground -- it begins to transform. Which is immensely unfair. A few spectacular moments of interlocking technology and magic later, and it has gone from being a humanoid robot to, more or less, a gigantic motorcycle. (The pilot is still inside it, though, not riding it.)

"LET'S SEE IF YOU CAN KEEP UP!" he roars gleefully, before taking his speed to the next level. Now he's a barely-visible green blur as he circles the kids and their monsters alike, round and round and round...

OOC: Visual aid - https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/stardriver/images/8/89/STAR_DRIVER_Kagayaki_no_Takuto_-_02_-_Large_35.jpg

COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Drive-By Uppercut on Lancelot.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Energy Wheel Barrage on La Sirene des Lentilles.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Sideswipe on Cassandra.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Sideswipe on Mai Tokiha.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Sideswipe on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Energy Wheel Barrage on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Roadkill on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Drive-By Uppercut on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Drive-By Uppercut on Homura Akemi.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Roadkill on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Cybodycyle Transformation on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe accepts Hotaru Tomoe's Cybodycyle Transformation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Accelerate and
Empower applied to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: La Sirene des Lentilles dodges 25 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Energy Wheel Barrage, taking 38 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji partially dodges 10 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Energy Wheel Barrage, taking 40 Fatigue damage!  Fuu
Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Cassandra decisively counters 18 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Sideswipe, taking 6 Fatigue damage!
Cassandra is Quipped!  Cassandra's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!  Tangle applied to Cassandra!
COMBAT: Cassandra's counterattack, Toccata, partially gets through, doing 18 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!  
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha partially dodges 5 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Sideswipe, taking 21 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Hit!  Mai Tokiha is Quipped!  Tangle and Trap applied to Mai Tokiha!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe perfectly dodges 29 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Drive-By Uppercut, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Dodge!  Mami Tomoe's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Steven Universe braces 26 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Roadkill, taking 21 Fatigue damage!  Steven
Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Trap applied to Steven Universe!
COMBAT: Lancelot dodges 13 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Drive-By Uppercut, taking 20 Fatigue damage!  Diversion and Stun
applied to Lancelot!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe tries to cover Homura Akemi for Hotaru Tomoe's attack, Drive-By Uppercut, but cannot get there in time!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki fails to dodge Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Roadkill, taking 39 Fatigue damage!  Trap applied to Kasagami
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi dodges 10 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Sideswipe, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi
is Quipped!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Tangle applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe tries to cover Homura Akemi for Hotaru Tomoe's attack, Drive-By Uppercut, but cannot get there in time!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe tries to cover Homura Akemi for Hotaru Tomoe's attack, Drive-By Uppercut, but cannot get there in time!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe covers Homura Akemi for Hotaru Tomoe's attack, Drive-By Uppercut, taking it upon herself instead!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe fails to dodge Hotaru Tomoe's Drive-By Uppercut, taking 48 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Lancelot blinks when he 'misses' the large boddy. Like. The only thing that goes briefly through his mind is, How does one miss something larger than a freaking barn??! He twists in the air, and has to blink 'again' when the Cybody appears behind him and swings an uppercut at the now falling Knight.

He twists in the air again, but Lancelot is not a flier, he gets sort of out of the way, but catches the fist regardless with the whole of his body and he feels his breath leave him in a whoosh of air. He blacks out for half a second, the last thing he sees is Kagasutchi, Cassandra's Swan (No idea who that is), and a large freaking Demon with a spiked club come for the Cybody.

Vission quickly returns, and he's falling through the fire and water and sparks and bullets that are beign tosses at the giant robot. He then remembers that he's sort of ... Falling ... He lets out a squeek of surprise and then notices the Cybody's leg is fast approaching. Well. It's leg and spinning spiked wheels of death.

That ... sort of wouldn't be a good thing to fall on. He twists in the air for a third time, and then stabs Arondight toward the Cybody leg, "LIGHTNING SLASH!" is called out as he tries to drive Arondight into the leg and slow his rather rapid descent and inevitable meeting with the ground.

One of these days he's going to have to get the Rabbit to teach him a fly spell or something. Because Gravity is such a harsh mistress ...

COMBAT: Lancelot has used Lightning Slash on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe counters 12 Fatigue damage from Lancelot's Lightning Slash, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Lancelot is Psyched!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe's counterattack, Energy Wheel Explosion, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Lancelot!  

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami doesn't even look down at Homura in the moment; she's fought with her long enough that, her penchant for strange stories aside, she can rely on her. The older Puella Magi just focuses on trying to keep the Cybody's attention... Except, there's no sudden explosion. There's no moment when she's taken out of time because Homura took her hand; there's just the faint sound of panic--

Mami blinks, looks down in wide-eyed surprised. "Homura-chan--"

The fear the younger girl is feeling is obvious--and more to the point, that fear means something terrible could happen. All it takes is one wrong move, one bad moment, and the images of what it could be flash across Mami's mind.

"Homura-chan!" she calls, and she is already moving. The terrible power of Kagutsuchi, the return of Cassandra--the unprecedented appearance of the great Oni that Mami doesn't even recognize herself--These she can't stop to focus on, and indeed, is daunted by but not inclined to stop. She can't know that her bravado has helped La Sirene--Because...

'The ones they're here for.' 'I'd do what they say.'

The gigantic kick comes just as Mami shoves Homura bodily out of the way, pushing her with both hands off into this dark void and out of the way, but this leaves her no time to defend for herself. The gigantic foot hits dead-on, and it is larger even than Mami is... which is perhaps the only mercy, that something smaller might have gone through instead of this that is so broad.

There's a noise as the golden Puella Magi is hit, and then sails through the strange colors and the starry air, such as it is, too fast to properly see. When whatever passes for gravity in this place asserts itself, Mami hits an unseen surface, crumpling and then starting to roll away until the momentum is spent. She ends up face-down, floating in nothing in particular. Nothing human could be expected to have survived that; it was clearly bone-shattering force. ...But as the gigantic robot transforms, Mami stirs, rising again, albeit with obvious difficulty. One eye is half-closed, the strain makig it impossible for her to stand up straight again yet. "I... won't allow... this," she forces out, not quite reaching her full height, which would by tiny regardless with the thing now racing around them. She can't even see to aim--so instead...

Mami puts her hands together, and pulls them apart--suddenly there's a whole set of ribbons between them, a cat's cradle that she twists and pulls, making grander, larger, before she throws it out over the circle--

And drags it down, suddenly razor-sharp ribbons of grand scale set to tear off whatever she can manage. It is not a move even Homura has seen her use... and yet here it is.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tagliare on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Mami Tomoe's Tagliare, taking 31 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cripple and Trap applied to
Hotaru Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Things have gotten far too interesting indeed. The arrival of Kagutsuchi sends her heart screaming in her chest. Kasagami keeps her gaze away from that massive dragon, to which the obscene size and shadow that Miroku casts with its club is in fact a comfort to the young woman.

She needs to focus. No matter what she must do, she can't afford to be defeated here.

Which nearly happens as the great Cybody wheels by. The mere passage of that energy wheel so close by sends the comparatively miniscule Kassie flying back from sheer force and speed of the great robot. She slams to the rainbow non-space, skidding back and ending on her knees. Head still spinning, part of her body a mess of deep bruises now, it's through sheer willpower that she can still even think right.

Pushing herself up, she lets out a breath.

Leaning onto her blade, she hauls up. Forcing her legs to stop shaking, casting an eye to the now-motorcycle robot free from it's fall. The sheer speed the thing spins at has her hair fluttering, going free as her ties can't keep it all down.

"I will not be crushed by some over-wrought piece of cavalry! A King will stand firm and cut down any wretched monster in her way that dares threaten her subjects!"

With that slightly punch-drunk growl, her eyes half lid. It doesn't take much playing up at all in her tone.

Legs spread, one knee bends, and she holds her blade high up above her head. Concentration is deep in her features as she watches the cybody rotate and rotate and rotate. Her entire body is a coiled spring.

She leaps, and though her sword might be a toothpick in comparison, it's slashes are obscenely accurate and her arms iron bars as she carves towards her robotic enemy in a savage fury. The slashes turn in on themselves, repeated again and again as light caught within mirrors from curious angles.

When her feet touch the ground again, her fierce warcry finally catches up.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Dance in the Petals on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe perfectly dodges 32 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Dance in the Petals, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Dodge!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

She's so incredibly exposed out here.

The physical reality of being mid-combat hasn't changed -- the swinging swords and the flying arrows and the livewire danger buzzing all around -- but Homura can't pause all that action any more. It's terrifying, and she doesn't know what to do. She freezes in place, a huddled white-and-grey wisp beneath the vast wheeling robot and its conversational jockey.

Mai Tokiha's scream of defiance reaches her, even through that paralytic fear. Complex and powerful syllables singe the air and true flame follows, all a herald for the beast thus named: Kagutsuchi is called, and comes.

Homura watches, transfixed. How could she look away? Her chest tightens in sympathetic, awed recognition of a guardian aroused, and she thinks of pink eyes shaped like friendship. She makes a trembly fist, even as Miroku's obsidian extrusion shakes the earth anew beneath her feet.

But she's still rooted in place when the Cybody's wheel crashes down toward her dark-braided head. In the shadow of a down-slicing doom she has two cascading thoughts:

'I'm never going to move in time,'


'But Madoka--'

Once upon a timeline, a terrified girl in glasses faced her own terrifying death, only to be saved by a rosegold aurora of hope, and she feels an echo of that fluttery feeling in her chest again as Mami Tomoe intervenes between Homura and being pasted, except...

Even as she's shoved to safety she screams and the bottom drops out of her stomach. "TOMOE-SAAAN! Noooo!" She tumbles away, and Homura paws at her own face in horror, and the smudges on her glasses from hands outside and tears inside make a visual mess of the already surreal surroundings. She sees only gold-and-white, flying, crumpling, falling -- she can't look, she can't look away.

Mami moves.

"Oh," Homura sobs out, pitifully grateful.

Mami manifests ribbons, so many, in such a pattern as Homura has never seen -- she holds her breath as they slash down, in guilty awe of her senpai who would get up and return a volley after taking such a terrible hit for her sake.

She has to do something. She can't- she can't just be useless! It's a thought so sharp and so painful she'd swear it draws blood.

"Tomoe-san!! I'm with you!" she cries, all that pain and determination in her voice.

Homura reaches behind her locked-up shield and grasps a cold metal tube, and amidst the psychedelic tumult of terrifying combat all around her, she hauls a skinny arm back and throws through the chaos. It's a HUGE blue robot -- even if it's zooming around on those wheels, how much bigger and easier a target could Homura ask for?

As fast as she can, she repeats the motion twice more, and by the time the second pipe bomb is in the air the first is detonating. A staggered crackPOOMF! -- crackPOOMF! -- crackPOOMF! sounds in time to the white-red-black blooms of a triple fireball.

She did her level best to eyeball Speed Kid's tremendous motion to lead her throws, but she didn't anticipate the movement of her allies. Homura's never really needed to worry about people running directly into her explosions, not when she was lobbing them in the greyscale leisure of her own timestop, but...

For a certain innocent, Gem-bellied boy -- and a certain azure HiME and her swan -- Homura's haste and panic threaten terrible consequences.

COMBAT: Homura Akemi has used Bombs Away on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Homura Akemi has used Bombs Away on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Homura Akemi has used Bombs Away on Cassandra.
COMBAT: Cassandra braces 15 Fatigue damage from Homura Akemi's Bombs Away, taking 22 Fatigue damage!  Cassandra's Block and Parry
abilities activate!
COMBAT: Steven Universe braces 13 Fatigue damage from Homura Akemi's Bombs Away, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Steven Universe's
Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe braces 28 Fatigue damage from Homura Akemi's Bombs Away, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  
<Pose Tracker> Cassandra [None] has posed.

Things go as planned, at least for a time. There's Kagutsuchi, and Kozue and Cassandra catch the outskirts of the steam. Not enough to be painful, but just enough heat to marvel at Kagutsuchi's power again. Shielding her eyes. "Heh - nice one Tokiha-" And then there's the silhouette of something massive in the steam. A shadow reaching up - to come down. "What in the-?"

She'd never witnessed Mikoto's child, she just assumed it existed - somewhere. Is that it? She has no idea. She could barely even make it out. And Speed Kid's reaction.

Tetrioht charges though at that moment, giving her no time to think about it further. "CASS-!" And suddenly the Child squawks in alarm, before trying to lean to one side, the water carrying it around shifting to try to bring it away. However it's too massive.

It's not something you can play Chicken with unless you want to get stomped on. And an Elbow is thrown out. Cassandra in turn suddenly pivots into a turn - it's wings extended like gleaming razors. The Cybody and Child spark as they make contact, before the Child is thrown away in an alarming slosh of fluid.

"Nngh-" There's a moment of recovery, and the girl grimaces as her Child tries to shake it off. "-so what are you saying, that Greer and SEARRS blew up the bridge? What good is that going to do when you have us..." Something dies in her throat. "... here."

It's a horrible thought isn't it. If they could bring them here - why did they need to do that? She can't figure it out, but it certainly has grim implications.

That contemplation is cut short by Tetrioht going aerial - "What the hell..." -and when it lands it's a...

"You have gotta be kidding me."

Suddenly Cassandra is skimming in a death-defying race to try to get it to stay just away from the speedy motorcycle bot. "Is that a challenge?"

She says as she tries to distract him, making a motion with her arm to try to get her into position, hoping to lead it right to her. Which is when - she sees multiple shapes sailing through the air small little tubes. "Oh what the-" Cassandra banks suddenly but in the end all it can do is raise it's wings up and she's caught up it.

Pipe bombs blossom into fire and smoke, and the Child is momentarily bowled over by the sheer force of it. The girl shrieks, her ears ringing, and after shaking her head she's shouting extra loud due to that- "SERIOUSLY!? WHO THREW THOSE!?" As her eyes follow the path of where she thinks they came from - straight to that a girl wearing glasses.

Homura Akemi.

Shaking off in recovery, Cassandra's whole flank singed black, she regathers the water beneath her to keep zipping forward, "AS IF IT WEREN'T ENOUGH THAT WE ARE FIGHTING A ROBOT-MOTORCYCLE IN SPACE I HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT ONE OF YOU NITWITS BLOWING US UP TOO?!"

Growling in frustration, her Child zips forward again, leaving a long stream of water in it's wake, she tries to cut off Speed Kid far ahead of him so that he'll hopefully run over the stream she's left behind.

As he approaches though, suddenly Cassandra's eyes gleam and that water rises into a hundred whip thin cords of water whose surface tension has been significantly increased, trying to clothesline the vehicle like this were a checkpoint on a freeway. "MIKOTO - TAKE HIS WHEELS AWAY!"

COMBAT: Cassandra has started a combo targeting Hotaru Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

"And you propose to 'save everyone' by fighting *us*?!" the Wind Knight retorts - not that she has time to retaliate with more than words at the moment, because Speed Kid and his Cybody are launching their counterattack. Did the wheels actually fly off from where they were attached and become energy, or are those projections - ?

She quickly decides tha she would vastly prefer not to find out, and flings herself to the side, trying to get out of the energy wheels' path. She actually succeeds ... for one of them.

The second and third, not so much - and the impact is so vicious that she *still* isn't sure whether they were still matter of some kind, or actual coherent energy of some kind. Not that her brain is working well enough to try and sort that queston out, mind you; there's too much pain racking her body to try and figure out an abstract matter of mass vs. energy.

The important part, she concludes as her body hits the 'floor' once again, is that Tetrioht and its pilot are giving them an extremely tough fight - and if she doesn't step up her game, so to speak, she may not be stepping anywhere else after the dust settles.

The Magic Knight of Wind does her best to ignore most of the pain as she gets back to her feet; she'd love to take a moment to cast a healing spell on herself, but it doesn't feel like anything is actually broken or sprained - no specific injuries that are actively hampering her mobility, just that she's probably a mass of bruises. She can worry about those later; for now, she has to make sure there *IS* a later in which to worry about them.

And speaking of hampering mobility ...

She may be on the same page with Kozue and Cassandra, but they're too far away to coordinate an effort - and the Wind Knight's not sure she could call out loudly enough to be heard anyway. The best she can do, for now, is to exert her will and weave her magic, calling out, "Winds of Admonishment!" as she unleashes a binding whirlwind. Rather than try to fix it on the racing Cybody's position, she just makes her best guess as to where it'll be by the time her spell can fully take shape - just like planting a trap in front of its intended prey.

If her whirlwind doesn't do the trick, maybe the HiMEs' gambit will bear fruit. Maybe their efforts will play off of each ther. As long as *somebody* succeeds at slowing Tetrioht down, the Magic Knight isn't inclined to bicker about who should get credit for doing so. It's all a joint effort anyway - the magical girls have a common enemy, which should mean a common goal.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Admonishment on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

There's a look of indignation, irritation on the near-alien face of Kagutsuchi. It's not human, it has far too many eyes and teeth for that moniker to apply, and expressions don't necessarily translate cleanly.

Even so, it's hard to shake the feeling that the Child is extremely irritated that Tetrioht is still talking instead of being on fire.

Atop Kagutsuchi's head, Mai seems to share the feeling. "So you've heard of us. Wonderful. Not something I can put on a resume, but great to hear that we've got a reputation - hey!" That last is said as, unbidden by the HiME, Kagutsuchi lunges abruptly. It's almost enough, but the motorcycle-mech still clips the beast, sending the dragon into an uncontrolled spin to crash into stars and galaxies.

Mai gradually gets to her feet, dazed from the sudden spin as Kagutsuchi's claws dig into space. The conversation continues without her for a minute, and it's not until the motorcycle is circling that she's able to get her own words back in. "Frankly, Speedy Whatever, I don't really care that you personally didn't break the bridge. You're telling us to just get along with whoever did, and you're fighting us here instead of trying to help. As far as I'm concerned, you can stay lumped in with that group until you feel like proving otherwise."

A breath, two as she watches the bike race round and round and round, explosions gradually filling the air. Louder still, however, is Cassandra's yell. Taking a breath, Mai digs her hand into the ruff by Kagutsuchi's neck. "All right. They're trying to slow him down - let's go make sure he stops. Ready, Kagutsuchi?"

There's a quiet croon in response, before the Child moves. But move it does, flames wreathing its form as it seems to dive into the strange floor. Mai leaps from the Child's head as it seems to vanish entirely, her rings blazing bright as she flies in the opposite direction of the Cybody's circuit. Taking a deep breath, taking a moment's hesitation -

- Mai flies out into that ring of danger, to where Tetrioht is sure to run.

An instant later, though, there's more than her in the way - there's a great ring of fire, a blazing inferno, and Kagutsuchi rising up from it once more to join her. The Child burns ever brighter, and its cry seems to reverberate through the surrounding space-stuff.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has used Pompeiic Portent on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe dodges 8 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Winds of Admonishment, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji is
Psyched!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Cripple and Trap applied to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe braces 7 Fatigue damage from Mai Tokiha's Pompeiic Portent, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Cripple applied to
Hotaru Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Even with helping topple the robot, there is little sign of hope or positivity in Steven's eyes. Just a small nod. It even helps topple the robot! Though most of the effort was surely having to do with... whatever Mikoto and her friends are riding. He knows what they are, but none of them seem alike in any fashion.

Perhaps they represent something about their partner?

The Cybody falls, and shapeshifts. A crashing weel nearly puts Steven into traction, a summoned shield forces Steven to glance away and crash backward painfully. Better than what could be. Even so, the boy is still yet slow to stand. Each time falling, he just... doesnt wan't to stand up. Even though he knows he must. As though a kid forced to do something against their will.

Which is appropriate.

And most children would want to go home right now. Steven only wants the opposite, yet doesn't want to be here, either. He wants to run away and hide, and just go to school every day and go back to his secret hiding place, so the Crystal Gems will never hear about this.

An impossible thought. They probably already know.

The boy bites a lip as another tear wells up.

Before he can react though, explosions ring out, and a bombing line scours right down his path as it heads for the Cybody. The boy can only raise his shield up to help block the explosive force, but gets thrown to the non-ground, hard. He sturggles to make it to his feet. He struggles to find a reason to make it to his feet, is more appropriate.

He looks up sadly from whence the explosions came from.

"I ju-just wanna... I wan... I..."

He doesn't know what he wants to do right now.

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

Cudgel collides, and though Miroku pushes in there is no give to the helm; even against the strength of a titan, it does not bend. They are unstoppable force and immovable object.

And he did not know. "I'm," Mikoto grinds out in low growl, "protecting someone important." In her anger and her desperation she is driven to extreme measures, and they cannot know the cost of revelation; of ruin. She can hear Mai, hear her frustration, and she wonders if she will ever know how a reputation is weighed, what she has done for --

She is so, so small, atop its back, and perhaps it is easy to miss her, the way her mouth twists in rictal rage, the wire-thread tension of her muscles, eyes wide and sharp as knives. Perhaps from below it is impossible to see the way she pants breath from between teeth grit like a steel trap, the way her nostrils flare like a bloodhound on the trail.

'I'd do what they want if I were you.'

'I'd really do what she says if I were you guys!'

Is size an obstacle to a blade? Are they large enough to abjure the light of oblivion? Miroku, at least, is fast as it is huge; it has to be, to stand a chance of getting out of the way of the Cybody's charge. Even with that speed, the elbow clips in on a vast, broad arm, and the Child is turned with the force of the motion. It rights itself, with a deep mechanical whine, the obscure workings of some ancient furnace.

(Why, indeed, are they here, while Miyu and Alyssa are out there --)

"NO!" Mikoto screams to it all, fury running roughshod over the fear, just as Tetrioht runs roughshod over Takeo and Homura-- no-- Mami, good, she thinks in grim satisfaction, better it be her.

As if in direct noncompliance, it turns into a -- her lips twist up in a sneer and it is the closest she has gotten to expressing anything but anger since she said the words. She does not express confusion or aggravation; she has Kozue to announce her grievances.

Kozue, the second friend she ever made on her own, the only person who has never once talked down to her.

In Mikoto's life there are people who are important, and people who are not important, and it is no mistake Mikoto listened when Kozue said it was time to fight. They are two of a kind, and they understand each other too well.

There are few people here who could reach her, now, though the veil of anger which pounds her heart like a taiko drum.

Kozue can.

Take his wheels away, Kozue says, and Mikoto snarls. "Miroku," she says, and it knows, because Mikoto is Miroku and Miroku is Mikoto and perhaps Kozue understood the connection before any of them could; it dips from where it has soared high to avoid the spiralling course of the motorcycle, and the ground in front of Tetrioht erupts.

It is not one spike - or two - but a field, directly in his path, sharp stalagmites to catch at his wheels and tear into him as he passes. It is the most awful sort of roadblock; the sort used to stop cars entirely.

Whether it will stop a Cybody...

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has joined the combo started by Cassandra!
COMBAT: COMBO! Cassandra and Mikoto Minagi have used Combo: Zero Time Highway Checkpoint, composed of Ebbe und Fluth and Obsidian
Spire: Exhaustion, on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe perfectly dodges 74 Fatigue damage from Cassandra and Mikoto Minagi's Combo: Zero Time Highway Checkpoint,
taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Critical Dodge!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene des Lentilles [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

La Sirene des Lentilles sees the first wheel of death coming towards her, a riot blade of death and destruction! That one she leaps over, turning her head to watch it go, which is why she is struck plain dead on by the third one (the higher one). It bursts in shards of light and she flies back, letting out a peculiar resonant "Kyiieeeee!" of dismay.

She lands heavily.

Ugh, she thinks. Shaking her head, she pushes herself back upwards. Curse me for a novice, she thinks, I've lost whatever momentum I had... I have to start over from ground one!

Just as the Cybody moves so fast it seems to be folding space itself. La Sirene exhales with force, her right hand going onto her hip in annoyance. Her left arm extends outwards, fingers curling loosely even as she calls towards Speed Kid, "No complaining!" But... It's moving so fast.

Kasagami speaks of kings as is her wont. Mami Tomoe's ribbons descend. The Speed Kid lives up to his name. Some sort of a bomb is going off--Steven is there, afraid, and for good reason.

He does not seem, quite, as if he belongs in this cosmic-futurism chaos.

La Sirene can feel the near occasion of tears. Stepping nearer to him, she sinks to one knee - staying alert, watching the circling thing, she says to him in her quiet but penetrant voice, "This is awful, isn't it? I'm no fan of this scenario either. But we have to press through. Take a breath, darling, and bring yourself up. The pain will not go away, but we will get free. I'm sure of it."

"My comrades are likely already on their way... we just have to do our best!"

And then she offers Steven one slim, cold hand, and a slim, warm smile.

COMBAT: La Sirene des Lentilles has used An Encouraging Squeak on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Steven Universe accepts La Sirene des Lentilles's An Encouraging Squeak, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Withstand applied to
Steven Universe!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

"Nah, Dragon Lady," Speed Kid corrects Mai casually, the levelness of his voice implying that he isn't feeling the speed at all, "You and your friends have the right idea, we're all in it to win it together. But like, I didn't blow up the bridge, or decide to blow it up, or schedule its blowery-uppery for, y'know, the ball. If I were in charge I would have done it way earlier to spare us all the Athletics Festival crap, just end it before it started. Three-legged races... what a pain in the ass."

Lancelot's attempt to use the robot to slow his descent is a really good idea, a good enough idea that once again, at the push of a button, its wheels of green energy launch upwards to intercept it (while instantly replacing themselves). It does make for a softer landing than the Rainbow Road would have. Kasagami gets to eat it when her wild and savage attack just doesn't quite connect and she whiffs through the air instead, and it does not look tasty.

After that there's a wild maze for Speed Kid to navigate, razor ribbons and whirlwinds and fire traps and water traps and he loves it, popping up and leaping and swerving and swirling wildly. (There's a glorious moment where he soars RIGHT OVER the field of obsidian spikes and it's in slow motion.) Bits and pieces are carved off, but overall he remains intact, and is alarmingly willing to drive right through the flame, particularly, both Homura's bombs and straight into Kagutsuchi (rude).

And the whole time he just KEEPS TALKING.

"You've been swimming in the little leagues until now. You see what happened to that bridge? That's just the beginning. The power that you have... that I have... that we all have... it's gotta be used for the right reasons, and in the right way. There's just too much on the line. That's why--"

"--WOULD YOU SHUT UP AND RUN THEM OVER ALREADY?" shouts Scarlet Kiss from offscreen, as she fights another, separate army of magical girls from inside her crimson Cybody.

"Yeah, a'ight."

With an ominous, rising 'vroom' of acceleration, the gigantic bike bears down on its enemies, ready to run them over, just pancake them straight between its wheels and the floor. Mai's grimly volunteered to be up first, and it roars straight through her flame (not without some sizzle on the armor, though) before bearing down on the rest of the group. It crosses them again and again, going just absolutely unreasonably quickly, turning on a dime, never losing acceleration.

Being momentarily under those wheels feels like being crushed and burnt all at once. At least the 'ground' is pretty, all those stars.

COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Roadkill on Lancelot.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Roadkill on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Roadkill on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Roadkill on Homura Akemi.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Roadkill on Cassandra.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Roadkill on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Roadkill on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Roadkill on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Roadkill on La Sirene des Lentilles.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe braces 42 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Roadkill, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Trap
applied to Mami Tomoe!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji braces 23 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Roadkill, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's
Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Cassandra fails to brace Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Roadkill, taking 40 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Lancelot perfectly braces 56 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Roadkill, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Hit!  Critical Brace!  Lancelot's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki braces 24 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Roadkill, taking 20 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Steven Universe neatly dodges 40 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Roadkill, taking 10 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!  Trap applied to Steven Universe!
COMBAT: Homura Akemi braces 30 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Roadkill, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Trap applied to
Homura Akemi!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to counter Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Roadkill, taking 47 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Spire: Embankment, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!  
COMBAT: La Sirene des Lentilles fails to counter Hotaru Tomoe's Zero Time Roadkill, taking 45 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: La Sirene des Lentilles's counterattack, Les Mysteres, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!  
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Kasagami's night has very much turned superbly sour. The cursed oversized robot is a devil to hit, and worse still? Has the kind of mobility and turning radius that is sheerly unfair to someone so darn tiny by comparison.

This is what gives her enough spit and vinegar to keep going when the infernal thing speeds up and bares down on them all at absolutely unsafe speeds.

Kasagami knows she can't get out of the way, and she does the only thing she can think of doing. Shoving herself to the side, both of her hands grip the spine of her weapon as well as the hilt as she uses the thing like a shield as the giant thing rushes past and through her.

The Duelist howls, in pain, in fury, and absolute agony. Where screaming energy wheels crush and seer a line down her uniform and body, her body feels like it's set aflame. Her right arm goes into an utter convulsion and her vision goes sheer white.

She can't hear the Speed Kid's incessant chatter, or the other robot-user's yelling. All she can do is try to destroy this thing that's burning her, hurting her again.

She feels helpless against this thing. And she hates it.

Kassie's left arm rises once, slashing upwards, in a vindictive and wild thing far removed from her usual skill. Her blade is singed from the heat of that energy wheel, it's shine dulled until she'll have to maintain it. Her cheek burns from errant sparks from energy and sword meeting.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"I'm all right!" Mami lies to Homura easily; she does it with the practiced grace of someone used to teaching others. She does it because she hears that determination, and she wants Homura to believe that it's the right way, to be confident. But... she does not expect what comes, an accident in training writ all the larger in times like this. Mami looks up, after she sets her snare, in time--


Of course Kozue shouts at her; why wouldn't she? Mami winces to see it, imagining all the consequences to come, but it is Steven's quiet that is perhaps worse; a wound, one that is deeper than just the near-miss of explosions.

"Come here--"

It is all so bright, and so loud, and the sounds of the wheels moving set Mami's teeth on edge. At least La Sirene has Steven in hand, so Mami starts to move back towards Homura again... as the Speed Kid keeps talking. He goes through, and through, and through, and their traps are not enough. The 'little leagues' he calls it. After all this time?

"And what 'right reasons' are these!?" Mami cries out in turn, still standing slouches, still moving with difficulty. "What 'right way' involves the deaths of innocents and terror brought to so many!?"

But her argument is punctuated by a different kind of retort. The wheels come, and Mami seeing them like on a road, like on any highway, lets out a strangled shriek and can only curl herself into as small a target as possible as the wheels hit again, and again; her stronger body takes less damage from this than it should, but that only makes the sensation of crushing and burning worse, Mami's eyes squeezed shut as she desperately keeps covered the gem at her hat, and her face--and it feels like forever before she has an opening to stand. It's too fast, too big. So it seems endless, until--

"No!" Mami calls, and there's a burst of light all around her as she is suddenly covered in ribbons, all of which blast apart all at once and force an opening to see Mami shoot upward into the air, a blur of gold finally out of the way--for the moment.

But she'll have to do something before she hits the ground--or else.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Evadere on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Crimson Flurry on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe braces 28 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Crimson Flurry, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

His fall stopped Lancelot brings his legs up and presses his feet on the side of the Cybody's leg and or knee plate. He's not certain where he is. He pulls Arondight free in a shower of lightning and sparks from metal on metal. He pushes off, performing a backflip. He notices the incoming green spiked wheel of death and pushes the flat of the blade and using his free hand to push on the flat of that blade.

Arondight sparks and and there is a grinding noise as the blade is pushed into the wheel coming to grind him to dust. "FLASH!" He pushes off and moves past the wheel, the wheel sailing past. As he spins and throws the gathered lightning in ball form up toward the head of the Cybody. As it approaches around eye level he calls out "BANG!"

There is a flash of lightning that is bright and white and blinding followed by a crack of thunder. The thunder rolls over him as he lands in a crouch with Arondight held to the side. His eyes start searching where to go and attack next.

COMBAT: Lancelot has used Flash Bang on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe partially dodges 2 Fatigue damage from Mami Tomoe's Evadere, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade
and Flash abilities activate!  Bind Break! All of Mami Tomoe's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe perfectly counters 0 Fatigue damage from Lancelot's Flash Bang, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe's counterattack, Energy Wheel Explosion, bursts all the way through, doing 24 Fatigue damage to Lancelot!  
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Everything has gone arye. The feeling of when one's world has shattered is indescribable until one goes through it themselves. Steven's friends are fighting a MAGICAL ROBOT in RAINBOW SPACE and yet the boy can only sob. In any other circumstance the boy would relish this kind of extremely odd fight in a silly little boy way.

And yet...

Watery eyes look up to see the lovely outfitted La Sirene maiden. "I-I... It's so hard, I know I won't be able to go to school after this... but." He bites a lip, and takes her hand gingerly. "I should worry about everyone else first. People are in danger. Thank you," he says. The boy starts to smile for once this night. "I just needed someone to tell me I need to keep going. We--"

An angry, giant motorcycle decides to interrupt their moment. The boy rolls on a shoulder to the side to get out of the way! "Careful!" he calls, wiping his face to clear his vision. The boy watches its path as it speeds around. One one of those passes, the boy erects the largest section of a Bubble Shield he can to create an obstacle, possibly even a speed bump, to slow it down so the bigger fighters can stop it!

"I... I won't let you get away with this!" he shouts angrily. But why would the Magi attack him? It was surely an accident... right?

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Repelling Shield on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe braces 10 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Repelling Shield, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

For a moment, it seemed to the Wind Knight like her attempt worked - but the Cybody just keeps going, not even noticeably decelerated by the whirlwind with which she sought to restrain it. And even though the magical girls (and occasional boys) are scattered all over, it seems like Tetrioht is still more than capable of trying to run all of them over.

Certainly it's not something that her archery is going to avail much against. So as the big blue Cybody bears down on her, the Magic Knight of Wind dismisses her bow and wills her sword to manifest in its place, quiver similarly disappearing back into her glove-jewel.

But the actual defense - a conjured barrier of wind coupled with the flat of her sword - is something she'd never be able to duplicate no matter how much conscious thought she was able to put into it. Her defense is as much instinct and reflex as deliberate act, and while the impact is jarring enough to make her bones rattle inside of her body, she's pushed back in a standing slide rather than driven over.

Proof, perhaps, that some vestige of good fortune is still on the magical girls' and boys' side.

Maybe she can help with that, since her attacks haven't been doing much good. Her gaze skims across the 'battlefield,' taking in the status of her allies - some familiar, some less so, but again, all focused on fighting the same enemy at this point. The green-clad Magic Knight gathers her focus, her sword clutched tightly in her right hand - but it's her left arm that she raises, as she calls out, "Winds of Healing!" and unleashes her restorative magic.

That soothing breeze winds around Steven, Lancelot, and Kozue - gentle, slightly warm, and tingling with recuperative power: not enough to fully mend their injuries, but healing enough to bolster their strength and restore their accustomed mobility. If she can't personally hinder their enemy, the Wind Knight can at least make sure her allies are better equipped to keep dodging for a little longer, and able to hit as hard as they need to.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Lancelot.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Cassandra.
COMBAT: Cassandra accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Cleanse! All of Cassandra's debuffs are
COMBAT: Steven Universe accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Cleanse! All of Steven Universe's
debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Lancelot accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Cleanse! All of Lancelot's debuffs are cleared!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> The Protomen - Vengeance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AD6V9GNvVhc

Dragon Lady...

... do they not know...

oh, Mikoto thinks, and her eyes widen another fraction as she takes a sharp breath and tastes bitter realisation. Of course. They do not all speak to each other. It makes sense.

The dread is replaced with imperious indignation as he soars over their spires, over Cassandra's water, and deigns to lecture her on how his power ought be used. She knows the weight of her vows. She is already intended.

Before she can point any of this out, of course, Scarlet Kiss interjects.

'A'ight' does not really feel like an appropriate response for what follows.

"MAI!" Mikoto screams - she can't help it - as Kagutsuchi is the first to the wheel. Swiftly Mikoto cannot worry about her because he is bearing down, and they do not have time to get out of the way any more. Obsidian erupts in front of Miroku, broad black sheets of earth's blood designed to keep them in and the Cybody out - but the Cybody is large, and it dwarfs even Miroku.

Let alone Mikoto.

Her eyes widen and she does not quite track the way her Child sweeps a hand up to grasp her and bring her below it where she will not be crushed first; for a moment everything is noise and heat, and her body is spared the pressure but Miroku's is not.

"Miroku," she gasps, "Miroku --" do something, anything, destroy them, destroy them all, everyone who would threaten my happiness, everyone who would threaten my people.

And Miroku loves Mikoto, in its fashion, and it sees to her prayer.

The ground rumbles, an ancient roar from deep below what passes for foothold in this place; perhaps it is magic, because there can be no earthly sense to Zero Space. Broad stalagmites erupt from the earth, around it, threatening Tetrioht --

-- and Takeo --

-- and Homura.

And at first she does not see - tucked away against its underbelly.

It is only when it lifts its broad palm, and she leaps onto its back again, that she realises how ugly anger is. She puffs a breath through grit teeth in a hiss and her lips draw long across her face. "Homura - Lancelot --"

The worst part is the satisfaction which hit before the horror, that instinctual inclination to eradicate her enemies. But they are her friends, her friends --

There is nothing she can do about it now.

But as Miroku flies up, taking the chance to free itself from ground level, she sees someone else hurtling down, and thinks perhaps she can make it up to one of them.

"Miroku," she says, and more insistently a heartbeat later: "Miroku!" As if it is a negotiation. Her argument in thought and feeling is convincing enough, and it jets forward to catch the falling Mami roughly in a palm, depositing her on the broad armour of its back.

From below, perhaps it is too difficult to see who is astride the vast, malevolent oni which has taken to field as a mysterious third Child.

Here, on its back, it is clear to see that its HiME is Mikoto Minagi, staring Mami down more like a wild beast than a girl.

Mikoto is the one in control. Isn't that right?

"Hold on," she growls, and her hands are tight around her blade but it is held lax before her. She does not worry about delivering Mami to the Cybody; Mami attacks at range. She bids Miroku to keep itself stable, instead. That is as well as she could possibly work with a sharpshooter.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Spire: Earthquake on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Spire: Earthquake on Lancelot.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Spire: Earthquake on Homura Akemi.
COMBAT: Lancelot partially dodges 6 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Spire: Earthquake, taking 23 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!  Diversion applied to Lancelot!
COMBAT: Homura Akemi fails to brace Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Spire: Earthquake, taking 25 Fatigue damage!  Diversion applied to
Homura Akemi!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe dodges 14 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Spire: Earthquake, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru
Tomoe's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Diversion applied to Hotaru Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

She hears the shout of 'WHO THREW THOSE!?' but doesn't make the connection. The smoke clears and Homura squints through smudged-up lenses to see if she scored a decent hit.

Boy, did she ever.

The first thing she sees isn't any visible damage she scored on Tetrioht, it's the burn of blue eyes, sharper than stilettos, from a girl whose swan is decidedly blown-up looking, a girl who was fighting on her own side. Across the battlefield Cassandra can see her mouth make round shapes: "Oh, no..." Then she spots Steven.

The boy with the lovely pink shield struggles and then stills in a way that makes Homura feel pointedly, self-consciously uncomfortable, and... it's her fault.

She feels horrible, and then she feels worried because she's already gotten so many people irritated with her, and she's trying to get them on her side, and this is SO not gonna help. Next she feels even more horrible for worrying about that when she just bombed two allies, but Homura Akemi finds she can't take the selfish sentiment back.

Mami's voice touches her and she shrinks visibly, like a puppy caught with a shoe in mouth. "I'm... I'm sorry!" she yells after finding her voice again. More quietly, she repeats, "I really am," but the words get swallowed up by the coming roar of Tetrioht's charge -- no one can hear her try to convince herself of her own sincerity.

One thing Homura is convinced of right now is her own inability to get out of the way without her magic. She hunkers in place with her hands over her head like she's doing an earthquake drill. It... kinda helps, in that her arms feel more burned and broken than the rest of her. After, she whimpers and calls on that purple chip of diamond-shaped soul to restore their function. She needs those.

Then she reaches into her stuck shield again for the one weapon she can rely on right now to not betray her. It gleams as she draws its precision-crafted length, a relic from timestreams abandoned:

Her trusty five iron.

After the massive deadly robot she runs, right into terribly dangerous melee range because she just feels like she has no other options at this point. Homura flails at a tiny percentage of its wheeled heel with braids flying and heart pounding.

It's hard to imagine how long it might take a girl like her to chip away at a foe like that with a weapon like this. Years? Decades? She sure seems determined.

She's up close and personal, just like Cassandra and Steven were moments before, and before the grand racing robot itself can threaten her Miroku attacks -- Mikoto attacks. They neither of them discriminate in the swath of destruction sown. Homura suffers an acute case of karma, and its black-glass brutality sends her flying.

Homura skids across a starscape and lands in a dizzy, disoriented heap, and her crumpled five iron clangs down next to her a moment later. "A-aow..." she shivers and starts levering herself up again, wheezing and hangdog. She doesn't feel justified in sending any angry complaint glances Mikoto's way, not... not really.

COMBAT: Homura Akemi has used Five Iron on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe counters 5 Fatigue damage from Homura Akemi's Five Iron, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe's counterattack, Energy Wheel Explosion, partially gets through, doing 13 Fatigue damage to Homura Akemi!  
<Pose Tracker> Cassandra [None] has posed.

Homura's 'I'm sorry' just causes her jaw to set in tense anger. "That isn't something you can just apologize for!" She has not the attention to spare though for everything she'd want to say.

Kozue never thought she'd agree with someone named Speed Kid on Athletics Festivals being a pain in the ass. "People over you just wanted us to suffer more." She mutters, over her ringing ears. However he jumps the spikes in slow motion and Kozue gawks. "Seriously!?"

However, he keeps talking. "I'm sorry - but are you trying to claim some moral high ground on how our powers should be used after you people killed freaking Love and Justice - Sugiura and attacked a school? Is that what you're doing!? HOW DELUDED ARE YOU?" Her words just drip with disdain. "Just own that whatever this Golden Age is to you - that you'll go to any length - pay any cost. Run over anyone that gets in your way! At least then you'd be honest about what you're doing!" She could at least respect that.

However there's a Vroom of acceleration and- "CASS-!" The Child banks into a sudden stop, raising up a wave of water in front of it like a shield. Speed Kid rushes it down - and its titanic size overtakes her instantly. The two are turned into literal roadkill as they're nearly crushed on the spot, only escaping by being squeezed out from underneath it before she's more seriously crushed.

Almost thrown off Cassandra outright, Kozue has to hang on for dear life getting a dizzying glimpse of Mai's desperate plight. "Goddamnit..." She takes a breath, as she assesses her child. "...you're really getting worked over tonight Cass..." There's a certain affection in her voice, as if she were genuinely distraught by her state, "... just look at you."

And just look at her. A side singed, a wing almost crushed outright. Another with it's sharp edges bent upwards outright. "Sorry girl..." She whispers, and pats her side. "...gotta go a little longer."

There's suddenly a soothing breeze - around Kozue Kaoru, making her wounds feel better. And the girl just smirks a little at the irony. Like the universe were punishing her by healing her when it's not her she's concerned about right now. "Heh, if only she knew."

After what happened to Midori... and what a HiME must put on the line. "Ah well." She decides not to bite her head off for meaning well. Who knows if she could even heal whatever a Child is? "Let's get back out there girl." She takes a breath, and catches a glimpse amidst the Obsidian spikes - a better look at what she assumes is... "Mikoto is still going... and Tokiha is hurting..." There's something quietly wry in the admission of using them as an excuse. Because they couldn't stop if they wanted to right now. They wouldn't let them leave. "...and Miki is out there. So we gotta just suck it up and do this."

The Child draws itself up, and now it seems to be trying to play it more safe. Trying to stay away from the Cybody. Instead it draws up some of the water it already summoned, turning it into a roiling mass of water that stays in front of it's open beak, before it points its head at the creature. It becomes a massive column of water that's rapidly gushing in a pressurized stream in an attempt to rake the Cybody from the side.

COMBAT: Cassandra has used Ondine's Curse on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Cassandra's Ondine's Curse, taking 49 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene des Lentilles [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"You don't have to get through everything right now," la Sirene tells Steven. "Our lives are long roads, even if they seem too-too short. You just have to get through this one little patch." She smiles - and then turns to raise her left hand again, aiming dead on at the Cybody.

"Les Mysteres," la Sirene says, her prism sparkling with growing lenticular force. "C-"





G R I N D against the galaxy itself, la Sirene des Lentilles feels momentarily as if she is road-rashed across the cosmos itself, her cheek hitting the 'ground' and the rest of her following a moment later as she skids out, spins out, spirals, tumbles, rolls once onto her back, lands, and stays there.

She's good for a second or two.

Another dazing blow in the course of a few minutes... that can't be good for you, although here, at least, the passionate storms of the Sea of Tears are there to buoy her. As she gazes upwards she wonders which of these stars is 'that' star and which star is this and if they're anywhere at all, right now. They're in an interstellar void, beautiful and twisted, and perhaps she doesn't have to get up at all. Maybe if she can just reach out, fold the space between herself and...


It doesn't work. La Sirene pushes herself up to her elbows, breathing heavily.

I have to stop this before it grinds us all into bloody mash, la Sirene thinks, or before the Mad Bomber over there kills us all. She rises up heavily, tossing her hair back and grits her teeth. Perhaps against this contention of kaiju and mecha she should just focus on staying alive, avoiding harm. Protecting the others.

And yet...

Her left arm's prism sparkles and she casts one hand forwards as if to try and burst a single stunning blue-yellow burst of pastel directly towards the top part of the Cybody - the best she can do. She hears the words coming from Cassandra and quietly wishes *she* could manage such eloquence at this moment.

COMBAT: La Sirene des Lentilles has used Abyssal Vision on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe partially dodges 5 Fatigue damage from La Sirene des Lentilles's Abyssal Vision, taking 19 Fatigue damage!
Hotaru Tomoe's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Blind applied to Hotaru Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

One can essentially summarize the next few heartbeats of battle in a few broadly outlined images. They could be marked with steps, simple diagrams, cautionary warning signs on the road.

Step 1: 'People get in close with the motorcybody' -- imagine a yellow field, upon which a simple black silhouette (with pigtails, just to clearly establish it as a magical girl) dives at the symbol of a bike.

Step 2: 'They get run over' -- the silhouette is now on the ground with the bike zooming past it.

With a few, alternative versions involving its nigh-teleporting speed as it gets out of the way of swords and pink energy shields, which slice or explode just where it used to be a second ago.

It is as annoying to fight as it sounds. And it's even worse that he's keeping up a steady stream of banter -- way more talkative than the average youma, this guy is so very, very human.

"You think that you can defeat evil as it comes, and comes, and comes," he explains patiently, as he's questioned about the why. "But has it ever occurred to you that things are the way they are for a reason? There's a system, man. And every time there's a fight, you may win, but there are always casualties. Just like this ball. Yeah, Golden Girl, Blue Swan, let's talk about innocents! How many friends do you have who have been possesed or turned into a monster or gone to the hospital because they got caught in the crossfire? Just because you win, is it really enough?"

There's a pause filled by the sound of him running someone over (it's Lancelot), as he gathers his words carefully.

(Kasagami and Homura and Lancelot, collectively, try to hit one of the wheels -- a fine tactic, but that bike is fiendishly difficult to target when it's moving this quickly, and also it doesn't have 'tires' so much as it has 'green energy'. Puncturing is not really a problem it faces, they discover the hard way. That energy burns things on contact, and is probably solid all the way through, and also it can be ejected like a point-blank grenade.)

(Sufficiently determined efforts can wear away a little bit of the energy, though, forcing the bike to swerve. It does so right at the same moment that Lance blinds its sensors, an effect that doesn't last but does cause it to spiral outwards along a much broader, banking turn than it might have otherwise.)

"There's -- a -- system," he repeats, while regaining control, "And like it or not you're a part of it, part of what makes it go round and round and round. What if there's a better way? What if we could finally bring real peaaaaaoww!"

The light at the end of the tunnel, which starts to change the momentum of the battle, is Cassandra's pressurized water column. It crashes into the Cybodycyle from the side, and a crack forms there (while, unseen inside, Speed Kid miserably blinks away the blurry afterglow of what was experienced more like a flashbang). A moment later, he sees La Sirene's burst a little too late because of it, and while he gets Tetrioht out of the way, it sends him into a only marginally controlled drift which screams across the battlefield. Nails on a chalkboard have nothing on energy tires on Zero Time's floor, it's an unspeakable vibration.

And when it ends -- accompanied by a flash of green light -- the Cybody is once again a giant humanoid rather than a giant motorcycle.

He's still fast, but not as fast. It is probably the single best time to counterstrike. And Speed Kid knows that, he knows that with all his heart, and that's why he leads with his best defense: a good offense. Explosions light up the battlefield, green wheels exploding on impact as he launches a dozen, all at once, and then a second volley, too, trying to mow them all down.

Succeed or fail, he keeps going. The speed doesn't stop. It won't stop.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Mega Drift on La Sirene des Lentilles.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Mega Drift on Cassandra.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Hotaru Tomoe has used Zero Time Mega Drift on Lancelot.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Energy Wheel Barrage on Homura Akemi.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Energy Wheel Barrage on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Energy Wheel Barrage on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Energy Wheel Barrage on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Energy Wheel Barrage on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Energy Wheel Barrage on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Motorcybody's Got Legs Again on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe accepts Hotaru Tomoe's Motorcybody's Got Legs Again, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Withstand applied to Hotaru
Tomoe!  Cleanse! All of Hotaru Tomoe's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Cassandra partially dodges 7 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Finisher, Zero Time Mega Drift, taking 28 Fatigue damage!
Cassandra's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Homura Akemi fails to brace Hotaru Tomoe's Energy Wheel Barrage, taking 45 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe counters 22 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Energy Wheel Barrage, taking 22 Fatigue damage!  Mami Tomoe's
Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe's counterattack, Tiro Retort, partially gets through, doing 28 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!  
COMBAT: La Sirene des Lentilles partially dodges 4 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Finisher, Zero Time Mega Drift, taking 16
Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Lancelot neatly dodges 92 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Finisher, Zero Time Mega Drift, taking 23 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi dodges 21 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Energy Wheel Barrage, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto
Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Steven Universe decisively counters 33 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Energy Wheel Barrage, taking 11 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Steven Universe's counterattack, Reverb Shield, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!  
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji decisively counters 39 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Energy Wheel Barrage, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji's counterattack, Storm-Dance of Kamaitachi, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!  
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki cleanly braces 28 Fatigue damage from Hotaru Tomoe's Energy Wheel Barrage, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Now's not the time!" Mami snaps to Cassandra. "Be angry at her later, keep fighting now!"

Of course Mami tries to defend Homura, even in the face of all this--but she can't shield her from the quaking that comes of such huge comabatants, falling into Miroku's hand roughly but safely as she watches down. "Please!" Mami says to Mikoto, staring her down, "Be careful! She's already at her limit!"

Mami regrets it, in that instant--maybe she put too much on Homura's shoulders. Maybe she expected too much of her, when she had so much difficulty early on. Was it the wrong choice? Will she have to explain it to Madoka, later, what happened?

These thoughts don't sit well with the Speed Kid's response, and Mami glares towards the blurs. "And THIS is your better way!? This is your peace!? Of course I've seen innocents fall--over, and over, whether we can get them to the hospital or not! Of course I'd love to find a way to keep them safer!"

"But how can you act like you care anything for them with this!? If you're so sure you have a better approach, maybe you could MENTION it before you start destroying things!"

Mami is angry--angry and hurt, and getting sloppier than she would like to be. This is a desperate situation; as she falls to the ground, once again, jostled by the earth quaking... She sees it. She knows it. Explosions line the battlefield as, tumbling from Miroku's hand, Mami falls down, down, down--

She doesn't even try to dodge this time, She just puts out her hands, weaves ribbons, and is holding a light cannon in both hands that rips its retort through the air, sending a column of golden light straight for the Cybody before she hits the ground, and disappears in the explosions. She can't see the others; she can't hear them. Everything is so loud, and awful...

So she doesn't reappear, not so quickly. Instead, there is noise; noise, and then the sight of a spread of dozens of rifles rising into the air, rising from the mass of explosions and dust to face straight towards the giant Cybody--Mami Tomoe finally visible beneath, stuck on one knee, battered, but with her hands up directing her symphony.

Her ears are ringing; the song that would come of her efforts seems so distant, right now. And yet...

She lifts her head, thugh only one eye stays fully open, sticks out her chin. "Don't tell me about a system," she brings out like a knife, and closes her fist.

All of herns go off at once with a deafening roar.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Salvo on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

He had landed in crouch, and had felt Fuu's healing magic wash over him. It wasn't the first time she had healed him, and he gave a slight smile. "Thank you Wind Knight!" He calls out to her, giving her a quick nod of appreciation. He twirled Arondight, and stood up from his crouch, ready to take on the Cybody some more.

What Lancelot had not expected wwas for that wheel he managed to flip off to come back around and grind into him. From feeling the coolness of a spring breeze as he was healed by Fuu, to the seering hot pain of the wheel smashing into him, spikes tearing through armor and slashing him was enough to steal his breath. He couldn't scream. His eyes shot wide open and then he staggered forward to fall on his hands and knees blinking in surprise.

To which another surprise assailed him. Obsidian shards ripping from the ground coming for him with an anguished cry of "MAI!" from Mikoto. He stumbles to his feet, blood dripping down on of his arms as he tries one more time to dodge, but instead is impacted by those Obsidian shards. They finish what the wheel started, ripping off his left pouldron and sending obsidian fragments ripping into his arm, his ribs, and his shoulder, and cutting up the left side of his face with four neat slashes. He spins and falls on his back panting for breath, the hot blood he feels running along his wounds, and under his armor.

He spies Mai leaving on the back of Kagutsuchi. Likely injured much like him given Mikoto's outburst. He hears the pilot ranting and he weakly reaches up and pinches the bridge of his nose. "God. This what it's like? This is what being on the other side of banter is like? Somebody shut me up next time please." But then he sees the Cybody-cycle comign for him and he does a kip up, gritting his teeth.

He drips blood on the left side of his body, he has his teeth gritted but he manages to 'move'. The cybody closes and he leaps to the side, getting clipped, which sends him spinning and he hits the ground hard and rolls to a stop. He shakes his head and pushes himself to his feet. "HEY! BUDDY!" He calls out and spits a glop of blood to the side. "I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR CRAP!" And then he starts walking forward.

One foot in front of the other until he's running. He draws in all the lightning he can as he goes, his body swirling with motes of lightning. "ANIMA!" He's runnign full speed now, and he leaps, running up the length of the Cybody, fast as a lightning bolt until he's at the neck level and leaps backward and up. He twists his body, his eyes literally dripping lighting, a trail of lightning in his wake. He gives the pilot a bloodied wink, "Dodge this ya jerk, TEMPESTAS!!!"

He unleashes a full blast of Animas Tempestas at near point blank range. The lightning bolt explodes from Lancelot with a thunderous roar that would shatter windows if there were any here in Zero Space. The blue and white blast of lightning strikes forward, tendrils of the lighting whipping and curling. Lancelot keeps throwing the blast, pouring every ounce of energy he can into the stream of lightning. He lands on the ground, many, many feet below him and he goes down on one knee, his hands outstretched simply pouring on the juice.

When he finishes he pants heavily and resummons Arondight, snatching a lightning bolt of the air. He stands up, his breathing ragged as he looks up at the thing, hoping against hope that it will just bloody fall.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Lancelot has used Anima Tempestas on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Even moreso than the sound of the infernal Cybody turning, even moreso that the din of battle around her, Kasagami Araki increasingly finds the Speed Kid's words to be more and more irritating. He talks of systems and a plan and the inevitability of it all. About real power.

Even as her body aches, blasted again and again by exploding wheels, it's those words that rally her to action. She knows she has a part to play, but this only fuels it in a strange way. The thought that someone piloting a thing so large and obscene and lacking in any sort of noble aspirations infuriates her.

Even beyond the way HiME rankle her, this Cybody and its pilot are beyond the pale. When it's once more a humanoid rather than a motorcycle, Kassie achingly grips her sword.

"Only someone holding a blade and wearing a crown can defend this world from the Darkness that keeps trying to swallow it! Someone like you doesn't have the requirements, wielding something ignoble such as that! Keep your system and your gargants, you'll be cut down by the purity of a keen blade!"

In her mind, she's looking up to where stars should be. Equally in them there's a Castle in the Sky, shining and hopeful, with a throne and it's crown awaiting her.

The seat of World Revolution.

She brings her sword to bare for a single cut as she sweeps by, with massive leaps again and again to try to keep up with the horrifically swift Cybody.

Her sword's tip is a million tiny petals, little flecks and motes of light that are as uncountable even as they're singular. The light of hope and ambition and oversized dreams yet to be smashed by adult expectations, unreasonable and unyielding as they simply are reflected everywhere at her opponent for one single fleeting moment of pure righteous fury against something that makes her bones ache in rage.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Kasagami Araki has used Bloody Rose Storm on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Oh look, more energy wheels flying at her, thinks the Wind Knight - in pain, and exhausted, and tired of Speed Kid. Not that she's stopped listening to him yet, but she has better things to do. Things like 'not get killed' - which is an active concept, not a passive one. Dodging didn't work very well the last time, and the taste she got of their impact tells her that trying to tank through them is not her best option.


So she counterattacks, invoking the infamous sickle-wielding wind weasels of Japanese folklore. Speed against speed, spin against spin: the whirlwind forms at her bidding and tears into the flying wheels of green-tinted energy (much as the Magic Knight's own wind magic bears a distinctly verdant hue ... not a parallel she wants to think about).

And it actually *works* - not perfectly, maybe, but the Wind Knight doesn't take nearly as much of a battering as she could have, for a change. Her own whirlwind doesn't get near Tetrioht ... but she has other spells.

"If you or your masters sought our help in dismantling this 'system,'" the Magic Knight of Wind states, "you should have found a peaceful way to approach us about it instead of *ambushing us on what should have been one of the happiest nights of our school lives!*" The breeze is building up around her again, tousling her hair, ruffling her skirts. "Whatever credibility you might have had, you squandered it with this attack. I won't wish death upon you ..."

The wind escalates, nearly a physically embodied force as her magic builds up.

"... but get *out* of *our way*! EMERALD -- !!"

Her arms come up and back, the gale already howling.


Her left hand swings forward, then her right, and the wrath of the tempest is unleashed, howling almost loudly enough to drown out the last word of her attack call. She doesn't care *what* Tetrioht is made of, she still intends to rend the Cybody into *dust*.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Fuu Hououji has used Emerald Cyclone: Full on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Run over; wheel-blasted; just plain scorched and battered: that's Homura Akemi after the she's done with her attack, or maybe more accurately when the results of her attack are done with her. The bike bites back, it seems, even when she flails at it.

She's in pretty terrible shape before Miroku's advent sent her sailing, and after...

Violet crackles over a heap of girl whose greys are scorched to blacks, whose whites dinge dark with blast marks. She swallows against dizziness as her soul gem darkens to match the rest of her, then pulls a spindle of grief from her sleeve and huddles over it.

Then she stands slowly, and with dull eyes scoops the twisted once-club and shield-stows its remains. Just as dully she hears Speed Kid talk about systems, inescapable systems and things going round and round, and Homura shivers without fully understanding why.

Around her the mahou fight. Mami defends her and Homura doesn't really feel worthy of that, so as grateful as she is to her senpai, she only feels like more of a burden for it. She wants to help, to make it up to them all so badly...

Her hand goes to her shield: her locked shield, full of bombs.

Her hand falls again.

The slender girl drops down again and instead hugs that perfect silvery circle for dear life, thinking of Madoka, perhaps in the very same instant Mami is. Homura feels useless, utterly viciously useless, worse than useless even, and the old black thoughts ache like broken bones that never set properly.

Beneath drawn-down brows and behind smudged rectangular lenses her eyes narrow, and she shakes her head at herself. She stays as small as she can while her allies carry the fight to Tetrioht all around her, determined to at least survive this. That core of resilience which has already seen her through so much will not let her rest, and she is not ready to give up yet -- it's not for her sake, after all.

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

In zero time the great machine comes for her.

In zero time la Sirene raises her arm, despite that thing they call "repeating the same thing and expecting a different result." It has a shorter name...

In zero-minus-a-tiny-fraction time, la Sirene leaps back.

And when zero time has drifted past, la Sirene is not visible any more. This is perhaps easily overlooked in the onslaught of sword and storm.

"Filament Ace," la Sirene says, in her penetrant voice.

"Perhaps you're right."

"There is sorrow and suffering in the world. Perhaps life is a series of tears... and perhaps, by placing ourselves to the near occasion of others... those who dislike our opposition, will use them as targets. Perhaps that is true. I cannot say... I am just a girl from far away, at my heart..."

"But what I see before me... is that my school may lay in ruins... perhaps destroyed. As we speak my cousins might be bleeding, unmourned and unseen. My friends... my precious people... they could be hurt, or worse. And I cannot reach them because of 'Filament Ace'..."

"Perhaps this is part of a grander design... but then, you see, once again, we are cogs. Turning... rotating..."

La Sirene des Lentilles comes back into view. Standing in an askew position, clutching her right arm closely to her body, her left arm's prism glowing like an industrial light box, she has been veiled in part by the complexity of the background itself.

"And how is that different... except that you or your friends will be the ones who turn the gears? If I will suffer in either case, why should I not keep the system that I know? The one that tells me that I must overcome you to save the people who are precious to me? There is no such thing as perfection..."

The glowing at her arm freezes abruptly, its evolution concluded.

"But if I stop turning... I will perish, Filament Ace. Perhaps you consider that to be alright..."

La Sirene's left hand curls, tightening.

"... But I have a different feeling..."

"I won't let you make anyone else cry!!" la Sirene snaps abruptly, and her left hand sweeps outwards, hissing at the pain in her arm even as the space of Zero Time glitters. What rises upwards are lenses telescoping from the ground themselves, mere illusions; light interfering with light itself, shining in unnatural hues, as la Sirene's back tilts backwards.

"Focus... Tune up... I gather it all... This is my Workshop of the Telescopes!!"

Don't telescopes usually have the big lens sticking outwards, with the little one on the inside for the guy with the big head and the glasses to squint into? Ah, but this is not the case... the big lenses glow, the littler ones grow all the brighter, seven in all of them. La Sirene twists around and cries out, "Fly away!! I don't want to -See- you ever again!!"

The final lenses look damnably like eyes, glaring accusingly at the Cybody and its master. Then they look like shimmering purple-black galactic pencil-rays of stunning force, like water-hoses trying to spray the mighty machine down and away - back and into intergalactic gulfs, to be left with all light and life repelling away from it at the speed of light in all directions... well; certainly the sprays of intent, passionate force, at least!

COMBAT: FINISHER! La Sirene des Lentilles has used The Light That Never Warms on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

"Miss Sirene!" Steven calls toward the lady who came to his aid. "A-Are you okay?!" he asks. Thankfully, she is back to moving soon. Moving from the tumbles of earlier become easier thanks to a convalescent wind passing around him. He knows where it came from, and would have to thank the Knight of Wind later.

An apology is heard over the din of battle, and thinks who it may be from. Maybe they can talk later.

For now, there is a person hauling all over the battlefield, attempting to hurt everyone!

The mech turns back into its original form, and then unleashes detonating wheels all over! And while Steven has nothing in his arsenal that can deal real damage to the robot, he does have an idea! After all, they are spinning wheels, right?

Thus, Steven will attempt to get in the way of one of these high speed wheels, and conjures a vertical hemisphere of a marge Bubble Shield, curved in such a way to catch the wheel at the bottom. Its high speed and spinning nature may just cause it to spin along the interior surface and project itself back at its owner!

It was the best shot he had! "M-Maybe!" he shouts back, emotion still clinging to his voice. "But all sorts of badguys don't think of the well being of civilians! And if everyone wasn't there to stop them, there would be a whole lot more people in trouble!"

"And if we can save anyone, we gotta try!"

COMBAT: FINISHER! Steven Universe has used Lionheart on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Icon for Hire - Call Me Alive https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPjo9X0RN1U

Homura is knocked about like a leaf on the breeze and Lancelot is true to his name as the obsidian pierces him, and give Mikoto credit, she is horrified when she remembers herself.

Lancelot's estimation, however, is incorrect.

None of the spires got close to Mai or her Child.

Mai Tokiha is the most important girl in the world.

Whatever her wrath might wreak, she cannot forget someone so close to her heart.

But - please, Mami says, and Mikoto's jaw is set in sharp definition, brow creasing as she turns her gaze past Mami, though she does not look away from Speed Kid's Cybody. "So am I," she says, and it shudders past her lips, the breath halting in her chest. "I'm -- trying."

Because they are one in the same and it is so easy to give herself over to the destruction, to make them suffer, to do too much.

It's the sort of thing which would almost be comforting - not having to think about this at all.

But black and white isn't good at capturing shades of grey, like the ones Homura hides in, and Homura is Mikoto's friend, and Takeo is Mikoto's friend, and if she lets herself go she might hurt them - again - or even worse.

Looking to the Cybody, she sees the way Homura charges it. Mikoto has never tutored Homura in the art of battle; Mikoto never did give Homura the golf club certain enthusiasts pressed onto her in order to get her to join their association. There is no meaning associated with it at all, no recognition. She does not know why it is bent back into shape, why it has been repaired so many times. She does not know just how important it is to her.

She does not know just how important she is to her.

But she is important enough.

There's a system. Mikoto snarls as he says it, narrowing her eyes. "I'll fight anyone who gets in my way," she says, and perhaps they could damn her with its literality, but it is true enough. If a threat involves her directly, she will defeat it. (Her friends asking her for help is direct enough involvement, as far as she is concerned.) All the other threats - well. Mikoto has not been in many of the fights the other girls here have known. "Not worried about 'why.'"

She is a warrior, and she's not concerned with plans. She was not designed for that purpose. It is a different skillset entirely.

The Cybody leads with offence and Miroku darts aside, jets blasting as the energy wheels clip underneath it instead of hitting it head-on; its spikes are damaged in the impact. It is a sharp motion, and Miroku does not care for its passenger; Mami falls, and Mikoto's attention, for those few crucial seconds, is focused purely on Tetrioht.

Her head hurts.

She needs to defeat him.

She has to protect --

"Mai," Mikoto whispers.

All at once she realises she cannot see Mai close to hand, and anger clutches at her heart as she realises that perhaps he has already run her down. The hot rage tastes like bile in her throat as she grasps tightly at her blade and snaps: "MIROKU!" And now, yes, perhaps she calls for his suffering.

The obsidian needles as they lance up at the flash of the Cybody are thin, compared to him; each one of them would do nothing more than scratch at something so sturdy. But they worry at him with a scientist's precision; to pin him to the board like a butterfly's wings, even for an instant.

She is not hurting him to save the world.

She is not even hurting him to save herself.

She is hurting him because he hurt Mai.

And it is rarely a good idea to embrace ideas given in anger.

Her head hurts.

It is not long before the spires slow, just as her breath draws quick and shallow. She fills her lungs, she shouts, "CASSANDRA!" Help me, says the desperation in the anger, but the words sound like this: "DESTROY -- THE ENEMY!"

The words hitch in her chest around a heart too worn by black-filled fissures and she gasps, and she gasps, and her lips shape a word, and there is no volume behind it, and they are falling --

-- there is a final jet of air before they hit what passes for ground --

-- and obsidian erupts around them and cracks and shatters and she is falling, but she is not falling so far, thanks to her Child's efforts.

She hits the ground once, twice; bounces with the impact.

She draws breath through grit teeth and she cannot make herself rise again.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Spire: Entomology on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Cassandra [None] has posed.

"I don't care if it's enough. And you think I don't know I'm part of some awful system?" 'Blue Swan' finally retorts to the talkative guy in the robot. "You sure haven't convinced me that any of you know a way to change it though."

However, she's cut off not by his talk of the system.

More like his sudden stop, skidding from her attack, the HiME's eyes go wide. "CASS DODGE!"

How do you dodge something like that? The Child tries, it slides in a pivot, starting to try to outrun the horrible green light and screaming vibrating energy chasing them down.

She's skimming along the floor - almost clear - when sudden the energy glances into the metallic pinion tailfeathers. The two are caught in what looks like a rollover accident for a moment. The girl screaming as she tries to hold on for dear life, the Child being lifted off the ground, before heading to impact down...

...and just barely being caught by a puddle of water rising up like a shock absorbing airbag. The girl is hyperventilating for a moment, arms shaky, and Cassandra she tries to look over like she's trying to see how totaled she is. Surprisingly, besides part of her rear being severely mooshed, the two are shockingly alright. Shaking water droplets off herself, she looks up at the giant Tetrioht. Mikoto is calling for the impossible. Right now. Like asking her to play a technically difficult piece she's only glanced at one flawlessly from memory. That's how tall an order it is. "Seriously? You think I can..." Mikoto is always serious about these things though.

All the same given what she's seeing of the power of Mikoto's child right now - it's like she's thinking compared to that - what can she do?

However... they have no choice, and instead of finishing that statement she assesses it. "It's big Cass... tougher than we've ever fought... and we're having a bad day. Think you can do it?" The Child raises it's head, and makes this small noise. It's pained, but as affirmative a response as you can get from a Child. "Alright Mikoto - we'll take care of it."

The Child breaks off from all defense, all movement. Raising a wing - she calls for a howling storm. "Anyhow - Speed Kid? Let me just level with you." All the water it has brought into the arena starts gathering up in what looks like a giant funnel, like it's all being sucked up to a singular spot. Around Tetrioht itself, like she's preparing herself - even as all the other Mahou Shoujo attack, she's readying herself to fulfill Mikoto's command. The swirling currents start forming an enormous globe bit by bit - as it warps - distorts - and tries its best to encase part of the enormous Cybody. "I really don't care about what you're saying. I do things my way. I don't fight for some higher cause or greater good. I fight for myself."

She pats Cassandra's neck once, and the Child makes out a trumpeting call that sounds more Avian than mechanical. The pressure inside the sphere abruptly rises, as it tries to contract more and more around its chassis in an attempt to overwhelm in with crushing force, akin to the fury of many ocean demigoddesses.

"Deal with it."

COMBAT: FINISHER! Cassandra has used The Oceanides on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Steven Universe's Finisher, Lionheart, taking 96 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe dodges 37 Fatigue damage from Mami Tomoe's Finisher, Tiro Salvo, taking 56 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's
Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Fuu Hououji's Finisher, Emerald Cyclone: Full, taking 103 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Lancelot's Finisher, Anima Tempestas, taking 160 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Spire: Entomology, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Stun applied to Hotaru
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Cassandra's Finisher, The Oceanides, taking 198 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe is unable to
keep fighting!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge La Sirene des Lentilles's Finisher, The Light That Never Warms, taking 153 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!  Hotaru Tomoe is unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Kasagami Araki's Finisher, Bloody Rose Storm, taking 71 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe is
unable to keep fighting!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Speed Kid looks down, and the massive, masked head of the Cybody looks down with him. He's stopped talking, and his silence is a desperate one. It's not that he's run out of things to say -- it's just that he's been gripped by a stronger power than that of his need to get these girls to understand his side of things: fear. Fear that he's about to lose it all. Fear that he'll be stripped of his rank as a Star Driver. Fear that he'll just become some nobody.

Their eyes widen as one as they see the impact of Mami's salvo of rifle fire, puckering the chest. Lower down, there are a multitude of lacerations from Kasagami's blade, a spiderweb of damage. It doesn't seep red, or seep at all, but it has the torn-out look that comes when a rat bursts through weak wooden molding, all shards and splinters.

He hadn't recognized, at the time, that the sound of a thousand strange metallic flutes had been the Magic Knight of Wind's cyclone whooshing through the gash, widening it, sending cracks further upwards, through the girl-sized dimple towards the robot's neck. All the while, in dissonant aharmonics, la Sirene des Lentilles' blasts gush downwards, trickling and streaming purple-black out of chips and cracks -- collecting in Steven's inverted shield, along with one wheeled foot. There's no easy escape to be had.

And the idea that a hundred obsidian blades, not a one of them thick enough to pierce the Cybody, were tolling the bell of doom one twing-a-ling-snap at a time, hadn't occurred to him at all. Cassandra's stream becomes a globe, ripped from the heavens of her heart to engulf Tetrioht's chest, are conducted through the wound and ultimately explode upwards to the sky, or what passes for the sky in Zero Time. On their way up, they slice straight through that golden mask, which splits in half--

--creating a massive explosion of light.

Speed Kid's scream merges with that of Scarlet Kiss, as, in the same moment, her Cybody erupts in a similar conflagration, the natural consequence of the equally desperate beating it received at the hands of the other magical girls.

Afterwards, far underground, they'll have their Star Driver pins ripped from their lapels. They'll be in disgrace with their organization, at least for a while. They took their Cybodies into battle... and failed.

But the girls won't know -- and even if they did -- they have other things to think about.

Tetrioht crashes to the ground, hard, and when he hits it, the surface of Zero Time shatters.


With the defeat of the Cybodies, one might expect the golden-masked crowd to be more upset. One turns to another, and mutters, "Well, that went about as planned," to which there is a murmur of agreement.

Which can't be a good sign.

But things are shattering all the way across the battlefield now, from one end to the other, big chunks of the 'ground' sparkling like cosmic diamonds. From beyond is a white light that shines between dimensions, which gradually becomes infected with the same familiar gold that blew up the bridge...

...And then the world is back, everyone is once again in the ballroom, untransformed. That's the only part of the battle that's hidden, however -- the exhaustion and injuries remain.

"--ment," finishes Shizuru Fujino coolly, apparently totally unaware of the massive battle that just took place. She sips her tea again. Her eyes flicker across a crowd that is a little bit more wounded than before, a few more students injured by the falling glass or laid out unconscious by the shockwave than she'd realized.

And then the air is abruptly filled with yet another new and unexpected sound; the sound of massive engines. They roar in a veritable chorus of combustion, punctuated here and there by the staccato of chopper blades. Searchlights beam down from sleek chrome helicopters that shimmered into view from nowhere, active stealth or something, and there are actual tanks, treads and cannons and all, rapidly surrounding the crowd.

There are also soldiers, of course. Their uniforms bear no insignia save for a golden circle on one shoulder, which could be interpreted as an eye, or a sun. The most military-knowledgable might recognize that they comport themselves as a paramilitary organization of some kind; militaries that answer to civilian authorites generally don't level guns at student bodies.


They wait for a measure of acquiescence, which they largely receive, before continuing in blaring, strident tones:


The soldiers -- there are an appalling number of them, many hundreds -- begin flanking groups of students and jogging them towards Ohtori Academy proper.

It seems that something much larger than a giant robot fight has just begun...