2019-04-06 - TIMELINE X: I Won't Rely On Anyone Anymore
|Title: TIMELINE X: I Won't Rely On Anyone Anymore|
Homura Akemi wakes up in her hospital bed after making a promise to Madoka Kaname and commits herself to fulfilling it, whatever it takes and whatever it makes of her.
| OOC - IC Date:|
2019-04-06 - The beginning of Timeline 4 and beyond
Her hospital bed sheets feel like they have the last three times she has woken in them: lightweight linens just this side of flimsy, more sterile than unscented.
Morning slants through expansive windows at precisely the angle it has thrice before to fall full and bright across her face.
And just like two times previous, there is a violet chip of soul embedded in the back of her left hand.
Everything is the same except Homura Akemi.
Sunbeams brighten cheeks blanched bone-white, reflect from eyes strained and glassy. Her whole face creases with grief like she has been sobbing her flawed heart out, without the tracks of tears to show for it.
Those were left in the timeline she just fled, left behind with the broken rescued city and the stormwater sea and the inert form of the girl she loves, the girl she...
Homura throws herself from the bed. Black braids flop, and her small pale toes smack the floor.
The girl she promised.
The fey familiarity of these motions she has gone through -- the scooping up of glasses to her face, the barefooted pad down the hall -- she could sleepwalk through them, now, and she does at first. Her mind is elsewhere, racing ahead, racing away from what is behind her at all speed.
It has taken years, taken timelines, for the lessons of an unfair world to sink in. Every lesson has been more cruel. Now Homura understands, finally. Now she knows.
"No one will believe me about the future."
The bathroom is not far. Homura faces the mirror and her eyes grow hard at what she sees there: the pathetic wreckage of a meek girl. See how she trembles still, traumatized and weak? That girl could never save Madoka.
She pulls the red glasses frames off, and the indistinct form she now faces is better than painful clarity into her unworthy self. This bone-pale blur, framed by darkness, with great violet holes for eyes: she could be someone else altogether. Someone capable of fulfilling that promise.
Homura lifts her soul gem. It flares purple, swims with magic -- so do her eyes, and a new world snaps into focus around her. There is a crackling deep in her ribcage, an unnatural shifting, and for a moment violet pulses through translucent-pale skin. Any flaws are unacceptable, those congenital to her most of all, and she addresses them with savage efficiency.
"No one will accept the truth about the future."
The hair ribbons pull loose as freely as a silver shield turns to her touch, and the rare full glory of her hair slips its bonds with a sibilance of silk. A sable swallowtail unfurls from girlish braids, transforming with a stark elegance which erases their shy soft rounded edges as if they had never been.
She will leave the worthless thing she was behind with all the rest. Homura never liked her much anyhow.
She, and she alone. Just like she told the treacherous Incubator when she sold her soul... Just like she promised. Madoka, precious dying Madoka herself said it: a thing only she could do.
Homura turns away from the mirror before she has to witness the way her eyes swim to remember that moment, before she can ruin the lie she is telling herself. If she's going to become strong enough to save Madoka and keep her promise, she should get started right away.
Nothing comes easy, but at least Homura has some experience with painful failure now.
An early attempt to leverage her new persona, aloof and cryptic, fails utterly: as it turns out, late night surprise visits to Madoka's window to emit vague spooky warnings aren't all that effective. Puella Homura disappears as mysteriously as she appeared, to let her cheeks burn unseen, in part because she feels ridiculous in the wake of Madoka's gentle confusion and in part because of the undeniable way simply sneaking up to her window at bedtime set a grey girl's heart to racing.
She doesn't try that again. But she does keep trying things, and redoing things, and each time the esoteric hourglass gets set on its end she can cross more possibilities from her mental list, each time she further hones her deadliness and further perfects the cool enigma of her facade.
<SoundTracker> Numquam vincar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBk7pV4G7f4
Her armory grows, theft by sneaking theft. What mundane military base can protect itself against the predation of a time mage? She strides between frozen soldiers and past them, into their weapons lockers without resistance, and takes from them that which she needs. An arsenal's worth; ten arsenals' worth. A hundred.
"I won't rely on anyone anymore!"
She is done with the golden wisdom of Mami Tomoe, now forever tarnished by an experience Homura refuses to think of as harrowing, even though it is. No more manga club and embarrassing secrets shared with Eri, the girl whose laugh was always with and never at her; no more rooftop lessons from their friend Mikoto, who frightened her but not as much as she should have -- rooftop warnings take their place. Kyouko Sakura she observes from afar when possible, and calls her admiration research: the grey girl is a thief of inspiration as well as guns.
And Sayaka... Sayaka she learns to resent nearly as much as she resents herself, and it is too personal to spring forth from anything less than former friendship. Madoka loves the doomed blunette too well, in Homura's bitterly biased estimation.
"I don't need anyone to understand me, either!"
They never have, not really. She knows that now. Only Madoka, who even so did not believe her until it was too late, and... and now Homura sacrifices what closeness remains there, too. Madoka doesn't need to understand her. Not to be saved. In her worst moments Homura believes the distance her punishment, and it is in its way a darkly romantic notion, a flagellate one.
And that helps drive her onward. All of her darkly romantic notions do.
She does not allow herself the mercy of tears any more than she allows herself the closeness of trust. Homura is done with all of that. Done with all of them. Her trust goes to an endless supply of Desert Eagles and grenades instead, to her soul-bought shield and to the private grey-static world she has come to think of as hers and hers alone. The slender adolescent wields machine guns nearly as large as she is with terrifying confidence against Witch after nightmarish Witch, against youma and world-ending apocalypses alike, and that cold hard look takes up permanent residence on her doll-fine face.
"I won't let Madoka fight any more. I'll finish every last Witch myself, end every threat if I must."
The timelines grind on against her soul and she winnows to a razor edge of a thing, no longer human at all or so she will say given any opportunity, with an insistence which is telling. Every repetition hones her as much as it harrows her, and together those twin forces twist Homura Akemi until she hardly recognizes herself...
<SoundTracker> nine inch nails - The Becoming, studio performance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKsqfT0IpLo
"I'll keep going, as many times as it takes... until I defeat Walpurgisnacht with my own hands!"
So that kind-souled, brave-hearted Madoka doesn't have to. Every relentless forward stride she takes through the timelines keeps her a step ahead of the despair at her heels, and takes her a step further from the girl she used to be. Homura made a promise, and she has a wish to grant in all defiance of the original wish-peddler and the rules of her cruel universe.