2019-04-24 - A Brief History Of Time (Criminal)

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A Brief History Of Time (Criminal)

The Incubator pays Homura Akemi a visit.


Homura Akemi, Kyuubey, Madoka Kaname


Yamanote High City - Homura's apartment

OOC - IC Date:

4/24/2019 - 06-02-2015

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Yamanote High City +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
  Tokyo is so large that it has no real "downtown," as it sustains a great      
  number of such areas. Yamanote taken as a whole, however, has many of the     
  traits one associates with that term, with dense commercial zoning, prices    
  as steep as the skyscrapers, and a vibrant mix of subcultures. Yamanote       
  represents the most Westernized part of Tokyo, and its people are considered  
  fashionable, sophisticated, and worldly. Their educated dialect forms the     
  basis of standard Japanese, and their area contains Tokyo's municipal         
  government, as well as the lion's share of its corporate headquarters. This   
  area's frantic capitalism keeps Japan on the world stage, but in losing       
  touch with traditional culture, the people here have gained a reputation for  
  cynicism, arrogance, and lack of empathy. Yamanote is surely to blame for     
  Tokyo's reputation as a place where one can purchase a tube instead of a      
  motel room, or experience the joy of being gently compressed into a crowded   
  subway car by white-gloved attendants.                                        
  The Yamanote area is large enough that it is difficult to generalize its      
  visual appearance. Western influence is, of course, generally stronger than   
  anywhere else in Japan, and this is reflected in the architecture,            
  especially the many corporate towers. High-rise apartment buildings are       
  common in the residential areas, both the glossy expensive type and the       
  distinctively Asian raw grey tower blocks favored by lower income citizens.   
  Parks are less common here than elsewhere, but their greenery crops up        
  surprisingly often nonetheless, especially where Yamanote borders the bay.    
  Reclaimed land and the natural Southern Cross Island are considered part of   
  the district as well, and the Ohtori campus that dominates the latter is      
  strongly influenced by Yamanote culture.                                      
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

With nary a whisper, the front door to Homura Akemi's darkened apartment swings open; with hardly a click, it shuts again behind her. She is alone now, in the privacy of her sanctum. Someone suspicious of the girl's steely poise might watch, in the moments when she sheds her brown school shoes in the unadorned foyer, for signs of her demeanor shedding too: signs that her flatness is not just affect but affectation, some easing of face or slumping of shoulders.

If Homura's facade was only for the sake of others, perhaps such might occur. It does not.

Instead she holds her chin as consciously high as she did on the other side of the door, spiting the battle exhaustion which grits in her eyes, and lets her hair sail behind her in an obsidian wave as she proceeds to the kitchen. It, too, is cleanly unadorned, hardly lived in at all. There's a jumble of empty takeout containers in the trash can, which she glances at before rinsing her hands in the sink; there's a pretty gift-wrapped package atop the fridge, full of uneaten chocolates but without a speck of dust, which she studiously avoids looking at.

It's a bit like how she's tried to avoid looking at Madoka Kaname in the classes they share, recently, except that she's successful here. Homura hasn't tried talking to the grieving girl since the fall of the Mermaid Witch. She's afraid of what she might say; deep down, she's more afraid that Madoka won't stay and listen.

Instead she's been hunting, and for once, not alone. Tokyo's grief-fat Witches yielded their bounty to the prodigal violence of Kyouko and Homura like wheat yields its lustrous harvest to a thresher's blades. Now the time mage has a double pocketful of magic to leverage against the coming storm, and better yet, she's secured the pledge of the spearmaiden.

Homura should feel better, should feel more ready. The smart thing to do would be to head right to bed and get some rest. Instead she paces toward her unlit living room on restless stockinged feet.

It's a vast space, and in the dark its white walls and floor fall grey. So too its concentric furnishings, their colors rendered instead in different shades of shadow. Homura pauses with her fingers barely touching the light switch, and here -- here there is finally a sense of something bleeding through as the pause lengthens. Her shoulders still do not slump, her face remains impassive, but...

She steals a moment before flicking the switch, a moment in which the frames shuffling along the wall like so many cards do not yet exist, a moment in which the intricate workings overhead are heard but not seen. But only a moment, and then she forces herself onward.

With a click light floods the room, illuminating the recessed white circular space. A thin blue arc of a minimalist couch faces a round violet table serving as the centerpiece, across from its mate in yellow, and other green seats radiate away at clockhand angles. Red semicircles encase those, and there are grey and aqua dots on the floor, among other colors. Nightmare imagery superimposes with otherworldly schematics in floating frames on one wall, their displays cycling through daisy-chained familiars and more deeply unsettling iconography.

Overhead, the grand apparatus works. From below it is impossible to say how the metal gears hang, so intricately and so consummately enmeshed with one other. Toothy wheels rotate, smooth as glass despite their obvious weight. They must be perfectly machined, perfectly timed. One can hardly make out the subtle clockwork whir. A shadow slices across the wall: a pendulum, or a scythe. Perhaps if the thing casting it was visible, its true nature could be known.

Homura strides to the center and sits at the blue couch, denying herself sleep, denying herself a moment's respite longer. No matter how many times she's planned the coming fight, she always attacks it anew each timeline. Always approaches it as if this will be the last time.

This time will be no different... Except that this time, she'll win. That's what Homura Akemi tells herself as she shuffles the maps and diagrams atop the table with their notes and their layered UTC timestamps. But if she doesn't, then the grand machinery overhead will reverse its flow again, and a weary soul will march on.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Puella in Somnio https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGgLSTOpTI4

The door is shut. The windows are locked. The vents are too small. The alarms, aren't.

Indifferent to the impossibility of its presence, the Incubator casts its shadow over the room, darkening the table from lavender to violet, and the pristine white of the floor to a more neutral gray.

It's sitting on one of the outer lounges, at position eleven of twelve. They are green, and so small that including its tail, the Incubator fills the front of it pretty nicely, like it's the world's least exciting piece of cat tree furniture.

It looks at the screens on the wall, filled with images, artwork, diagrams, poetry. If it has seen these things before, it gives no indication, other than a flick of its right ear.

It watches the immature witch with its usual expressionless affect. Many project emotion onto that fluffy white face with its pink-and-red eyes. Even Homura, more knowledgable than most, is perfectly guilty of this. To her the Incubator's mien is creepy -- objectively true -- but also menacing, malicious in its every curve and line.

The pink ring on its back is the brightest thing in the room by a wide margin. Against the white of the floor and the white of its back, it all but glows.

The Incubator waits.

If there's one thing it's convinced of, it's that Homura Akemi will talk to it, given the opportunity.

That is what humans do, when they share unbearable secrets with only one other soul.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Strangeling shadows are no novelty here. This strangeling shadow, however, falls unwelcome across the inner workings of Homura Akemi's more terrestrial private space -- it cannot be called her home. For Homura, home is not a place.

This in no way lessens her violent sense of intrusion when she realizes the shape of the darkness crossing her battle plans where they are so carefully laid upon her table.

Homura suffers this as she suffers most violence: silently. Only her eyes move at first, flicking sidelong to confirm the intruder's presence, its location. Her stillness would be less of a tell if it did not leave her arm extended, her fingers splayed across her maps.

After the span of a normal human breath (something Homura neglects to take until after, too) she straightens in her seat and folds her hands upon her skirt pleats. She wants the way she holds her chin firmly forward, not turning to face it, to come off as aloof.

All those timelines should have been sufficient tutelage in patience. Nothing could inoculate Homura against her great enemy's knowing silence, the way she feels its wide-set red eyes boring into her.

The quiet stretches. Homura's nostrils flare, and the unchanging cant of her chin turns stubborn.

To hell with it, she thinks, while consciously keeping her mouth from twisting. She is as ready as she can possibly be; there's nothing it can do. Still giving her unwelcome guest an angled profile, she breaks the silence and pretends as hard as she can that doing so is no concession.

"I'm not interested in your games, Incubator." She fires the designation off like a bullet from a timestop, quiet and cold. "There are more important things to do than listen to whatever it is you have to say. If your plan is to distract me from my work, then I have as many bullets as it will take to convince you otherwise."

That's a lot of words, unprompted, from Homura Akemi. And she can't help herself, can't keep herself from the question, despite everything she just said. It's like poking at a sore tooth until it bleeds.

"What do you want?"

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

No; that's not true.

It's sitting comfortably on the floor in front of the table, in a gap between two of the concentric blue couches. It was always there. It could never have cast such a shadow, from that angle.

<< I'm just curious what you're planning to do next... >>

It quirks its head to one side. Maybe it learned that gesture from cats. Of from birds. Or from humans. In any case it didn't learn it quite right. It goes just a centimeter too far, implying just a few hairs' too much elasticity to the neck.

Nothing with bones can move like that.

But then, Homura is intimately familiar with what Incubators are made of. It's turtles all the way down. And then all the way back in again. Waste not, want not. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

The pause between its words grows and grows, the distance to the end of its sentence asymptotic, more and more pregnant, engorged past the due date, until, finally -- finally --

<< ...Time Traveler Homura Akemi. >>

How cruel for it to say something so unthinkable in a way that makes it such a conversational relief.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Again she is too still. Homura may insist she is not human any more, but that is different altogether from the inhumanity of the thing perched upon her floor. Her eyes flick to the unshadowed papers before returning to the Incubator.

She's spent a long time indeed steeling herself to the unnerving ways of her alien adversary, never with complete success. Tonight it sparks resentment and anger in her. Her stillness becomes a stiffness as the seconds pass.

There's no relief or gratitude from the Puella Magi as it finally, finally reaches the end of its sentence, but she does react. Violet irises occlude somewhat between narrowed eyelids -- a consciously level look becomes a glare.

Hatred makes a convenient mask for her fear. She nearly convinces herself.

"So you know." A beat. "Then you also understand. It doesn't matter what you know about my plans. Even if you somehow manage to stop me now, it just gives me more data to work with." And she lifts one hand to flick fingertips through glossy black hair.

Her disdain is not feigned. It's the arrogance that keeps her talking.

"Next, I'm going to beat Walpurgisnacht, and deny you Madoka Kaname's soul once and for all. I'll use time itself to take it back from you if I have to, and I won't stop until you lose."

Has her chin risen? Ever so slightly, but yes. Enough so that she views the Incubator against the dainty curve of her nose. Just try me, she dares without saying the words.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The Incubator is frustratingly difficult to get a rise out of. Hate it; disdain it; underestimate it all you like; it does not defend itself. It does not hiss like a cat might, or fly away like a bird. It does not get its hackles up in the human way -- so ably demonstrated just now by Homura herself.

It just sits there and listens and looks, LOOKS, stares unblinkingly at Homura with those big round eyes. They have all the humanity of a camera lens. There is an Aboriginal belief that cameras steal souls, so perhaps this analogy is truly apt.

<< Yes... you have done this all before, haven't you, Homura Akemi? And not just once or twice. >>

It is the musing tone of the theorizing scientist. No judgement, only a dawning expanded awareness.

<< You repeated the time since you met Madoka Kaname countless times in countless worlds, changing the possibilities of the past and looking for the conclusion you wanted. >>

It tilts its head to the other side -- again too far.

<< In a way you are probably the oldest Puella Magi on record. But your bizarre existence answers an impossible question. >>

The silence is shorter this time and ten times more agonizing.

<< Why does Madoka Kaname have such immense potential as a Puella Magi? >>

This is the sound of curiosity becoming satisfied.

<< Now I can finally form a satisfactory hypothesis. >>

Stretching its front paws in the universal canine position for 'play' -- which may just be a stretch, given the source -- it jumps up on an opposite red couch and starts walking slowly across it, massive tail held high in the air like a victory flag.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Homura can pretend all she wants that it does not bother her to have her secrets bared to her enemy. It is as true, in the end, as her aggressively projected indifference to the thing's intrusion in her space. Even the knowledge that she can effectively erase this revelation with a touch of hand to shield doesn't allay the sense of violation.

It elaborates on its understanding and she hates every second of the experience with such vehemence that it cannot help but tilt her brows and burn in her gaze. This detestable beast wouldn't even know Madoka's name if she could help it; Homura cannot bear it gaining any window, however slim, into all of her painful and best-forgotten failures.

Nevermind how much it rankles to be called bizarre by a freakish alien creature...

The heat of affrontery gives way quickly enough, though, once ice starts washing through Homura's veins.

Why does Madoka Kaname have such immense potential as a Puella Magi?

As soon as it asks the question in that terrifying, knowing tone, Homura realizes that she has never once wondered.

Her second realization comes immediately, so fast she can't escape it:

No: she has never once allowed herself to wonder.

She desperately wants the Incubator to stop speaking. There's nothing she can do to stop it. Sure, she could transform, could draw a gun, could punch as many holes as she wants through that repulsive white wormsbody and its too-pink core -- and that would scarcely be better at this juncture than shouting a tearful 'Oh no, please, don't!'

Instead she clings to control -- tells herself she has it still. By all rights her knuckles should be white. She refolds her hands in her lap, but a calm that careful can never seem natural.

She clings to control... and she listens, helpless.

Her resumed stillness is not stiff any more. Homura tells herself she chooses not to move as she sits, frozen.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Does the Incubator sense Homura's discomfort?

Does it know what it's doing by telling her this?

The eyes have it, don't they. They're really a tell if you look closely enough. The creature isn't bothering to remember to blink. Does it ever? Maybe not. Definitely not right now, though, and there is something unsettling and alien to those huge irises, filled with knowledge -- and with interest -- fixed on the immature witch as a whole.

In any case, it doesn't keep her in suspense. Its explanation is as friendly and straightforward as any it has ever provided. The role of a mascot is to teach and guide, after all. And what is an Incubator but a tiny cute fairy who helps girls become magical?

<< One's potential as a Puella Magi depends on the misfortune she's destined to carry. It was incomprensible to me why Madoka Kaname, who lived a normal life, not that of a queen of a country, or a legendary savior, had such an amount of misfortune concentrated around her. >>

The Incubator politely pauses just long enough to let this new information be absorbed by its pupil, before continuing relentlessly on.

<< But Homura... >> It claims a rare intimacy there. Once upon a time they were on a truly first name basis, but it wasn't this time or any remotely recent one. And yet there's something very correct about that dynamic now, isn't it? They are partners in crime. Homura the criminal.

Kyuubey, the beneficiary.

<< ...isn't that she became such a powerful Puella Magi thanks to your repeating time over and over again? >>

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Signum malum https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eLlZZsNENg

Of course Madoka Kaname is special.

Homura Akemi knows that. She's the most special girl in the world. Initially, inwardly, and in spite of how trepidation creeps through her, she resents the swindler its claim that she is not. What are queens and saviors to the hopelessly devoted Puella Magi, in comparison?

But it speaks of misfortune. Of its accumulation, around one girl who is extraordinary by standards which do not match those understood by such a dispassionate mind.

Her small lips press together at the familiarity. Resentful. Unsettled.

They part, after.

Naught emerges but a hiss of escaping breath. Her affect, flat no more, evinces ripples as understated as they are profound. There is somewhat in the widening of habitually cool violet eyes which may fulfill her intent adversary's interest.

She has no denials to voice, feels mounting fear without yet fully understanding it, and in this merciless moment lies are beyond the liar, even desperate and half-blind ones. Above, something unseen casts its sweeping shadow, inexorable.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Fiona Apple - Criminal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFOzayDpWoI

The Incubator runs out of red couch, having made almost a third of a circle across from the time traveler, and nimbly leaps to the next couch.

This one is blue. The Incubator is in Homura's inner circle, now.

Its lips always form that same little vaguely feline shape...

...but it may not be projecting to say that they are smirking.

<< I thought so. You were the reason. Or rather, the repeated use of your magic was. >>

Its fluffy tail briefly obscures its entire form as it flips around and begins padding back the other direction, from the top of the C towards its bottom.

It isn't even looking at Homura and her distress. It must be too focused on its theory. It's certainly excited... its voice is rarely so intense, its typical brightness burnished to blinding revelation.

<< You rolled back time for one reason: to save Madoka Kaname. While you relived the same timeframe with the same purpose again and again, you wound together numerous parallel universes... ALL centered around the existence of Madoka Kaname. As a result of that, the destinies of all those worlds, that were never supposed to interact, are now focused on Madoka. >>

Is it Homura's imagination that conjures what's next, drawn there by the Incubator's suggestion? Is it a direct implantation of vision in her mind?

Does it really make a difference?

For the image is plain.

At first it focuses on smaller pieces of the larger puzzle.

Sensible brown loafer, pulled tight against a dainty foot by some kind of... cord?

A hand, both immobilized and limp within its restraint, reveals the truth. This is wire, thin and sharp.

Destiny has a cutting edge.

The cuff is white and red, the terminal point of the Ohtori Middle School girls' uniform sleeve. It's Madoka of course, but Madoka exactly as Homura first saw her, preserved in her mind as perfectly as if she were frozen in time. Shrimpy and pink, not so much a girl on the cusp of womanhood as one whose aspirations on that front might rather badly outpace the hormonal reality.

Even unconscious, there is a faint sheen of pain painting her face like the makeup her mother wears so well.

She is strung up so tightly.

Behind her, gears. Intricate, massive gears.

Familiar gears.

It is a place Homura has never seen, one of the only that she could never go, except, perhaps, here and now and in this way: within her own mind.

The inside of her shield, and its fateful clock.

The Incubator voice continues, typically indifferent to the bondage, the suffering, and as inexorable as the gears themselves on its path to revealing the full truth to its creator.

With every tick, the wires entangling Homura draw just a little bit tighter.

<< By accepting THAT, we discover the origin of her immense magical potential. All the fate lines from the timelines you lived through are now wound tightly around Madoka Kaname. That is the current situation. >>

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

She was the reason. A sick feeling spreads from her gut, like she's been run through but is only now beginning to feel the burning-dull margins of the wound.

"What do you mean?"

All Homura has in her is a whisper. The question leaks from her parted lips like blood.

Transfixed, she cannot but pay attention; cannot but feel every twist of her enemy's blade. Her eyes roll in her too-still face as she follows the thing's pacing, so rarely expressive. Madoka... Madoka, Madoka. Her name batters Homura. The truth buries her.

She can't breathe.

When a vision of the girl she loves more than anything replaces her view of the circling predator -- what else to call something which has placed itself so firmly above you on the food chain -- it is no balm, no refuge. Nothing like stealing those glances of Madoka during class, the ones that keep Homura going. The wires digging into those soft hands... The girl deep inside the Puella Magi shrieks in horror.

The Puella Magi sits where she is, frozen.

Timeloop-driven dissociation numbs a great many things for Homura, but it never gets any easier to see Madoka hurt. Every time pink eyes swim with tears, and contract with pain, and widen with horror, Homura feels it as another stain upon her forsworn soul. Another sin. Sometimes the girl she loves hurts because Homura fails to protect her from the terrible world with its cruel ways; sometimes, the girl she loves hurts because Homura is terrible and cruel to her.

There has always been a reason, a purpose. An end which makes these unforgivable means worthwhile. Absolution is not a thing Homura expects for herself. Keeping her promise, whatever the cost, is enough for her.

And critically, underneath all of that, Homura Akemi tells herself it is okay because she is the sacrifice. The sins rest only upon her soul. Madoka suffers repeatedly across timelines but is not stained; she hurts, but will be freed in the end: saved by Homura.


Everything she has done, to Madoka, to others, to herself... it was for worse than nothing. She was never saving the girl she promised, never freeing her. Homura thought she was the one trapped, but Madoka has ground between the gears of her shield every time Homura set it to spinning.

She reset time so many times.

Bile etches fire up her throat. Finally a breath wrenches its entirely autonomic way into burning lungs and she hardly notices. A soft sound, beneath that agonal gasp: grey skirt pleats caught in twitching fingers. There is no physical wound for them to clutch.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

At some point the Incubator must have nimbly hopped from the couch to the table in order to cross over to Homura. It sits there now, at the center of everything, even more the axis around which the chamber revolves than the Puella Magi who constructed it.

Open enthusiasm raises its voice by half an octave, and its tail poofs up in a celebratory manner.

<< You've done great, Homura. You've raised Madoka to become the most powerful witch ever! >>

Now it's watching her -- watching her intently -- curiosity blooming in its wide, wide eyes.

Like the creator of some grand experiment.

But like many scientists, the Incubator can't resist influencing that which it observes. Overplaying its hand, with Homura, is almost as predictable an outcome as Homura's own. If it holds the magnifying glass just so, if the sunlight strikes the lens in just the right way...

No one watches the watchman; no one prevents its mistake.

It just chirps on and on, on and on and on like a tick tick tick tick of those gears, laying the consequences -- the inevitability -- the destiny that Homura has wrought -- all of it plain for her to see.

<< Very soon, you'll be the only Puella Magi left to face Walpurgisnacht... a Walpurgisnacht that has been doing what it does naturally, and engorging upon the witches drawn near it across worlds by these fate lines... growing as surely as Madoka Kaname's own potential. Even if you bring other allies, you still won't have a chance. Yes, to protect this city, Madoka must become a Puella Magi... >>

All of it.

Very soon...

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> nine inch nails - Pinion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNiCnEZD8i0

Folly hollows her.

What it leaves behind is not the sort of emptiness which lies unmoving.

Isn't it fitting, that she made the most important girl in her world into the most important girl in the whole world? The most special -- the very greatest Witch? What a gift she has given Madoka: the unbearable karmic weight of obsessive love.

Something flutters against the inside of her ribs, something with wings in the shape of long-petaled flowers, something which is as black as Homura Akemi's devotion is consuming.

Her worse than worthless love. The one thing Homura dared think worthy in her worse than worthless self: what she felt for Madoka. She should have known better. She should not have dared.

Madoka would be better off if they had never met.

The thought hurts. Homura continues to lash herself with it.

She was already doomed, then, her soul given to the devil's bargain, but at least... at least it was the normal sort of terrible Puella Magi doom she faced. Not this, not...

The Incubator's keen red eyes may note how Homura's unmoving posture betrays the rigidity of her pain. Its prey is helpless. The thing closes, moves to savage her and she listens, she lets it. Its words slide her brain and lodge there, claw by wicked claw.


Soon. Very soon...

Her allies.

She isn't the only Puella Magi left yet -- news of Kimiko's death has spread, but Homura and Kyouko Sakura just parted ways, their joint hunt as successful a thing as such a pairing would suggest. The spearmaiden had that piquant spark yet in her eyes when they parted. Eri... she has not seen the green girl in too many days, but she would have word. She would know.

Very soon... that satisfaction. That certainty.

She does not name the thing that has kept her moving forward all these long years 'hope,' because she is careful about words like that. Homura would insist that rational methods perfectly explain her extraordinary feat of devotion, but there is nothing rational about love.

It would be rational to give up, but...

However hard she is on herself, Homura Akemi has never truly been weak. However cold a thing she has tried to forge herself into, the ice has always been a shell over passion.

Wide and staring eyes flicker. They'd been going glassy, had begun to dry. She blinks, and liquid life returns to them; she shivers, and tone returns to slackening muscles. She revives, incrementally, impossibly, as her adversary watches.

It would be rational, inevitable, for her to give up. But love ever fuels the impossible.

Kyouko and Eri are still alive, but... very soon, the Incubator is sure they will not be. Alarm ignites her nerves, a fear which galvanizes rather than arrests.

And one thing is still true, whatever terrible costs Homura has had to pay -- whatever terrible costs Madoka has had to pay -- to ensure it.

She doesn't whisper, but the first syllables must break through rust: "She hasn't wished yet, Incubator."

She cages the thing within her bones, locks it away. Traps it.

Like Homura has trapped Madoka.



"No! It's not over." She tells it, she tells herself. She insists, as she stands, as weirdling violet magic casts brief sharp shadows and her silhouette sharpens, too. That sable swallowtail swirls, and from amid a furious storm of black strands Puella Magi Homura glares at her opponent.

"Not yet."

And she's gone.