2019-04-27 - Witch Interrupted: Kyouko's Confession

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Witch Interrupted: Kyouko's Confession

Kyouko abandons survival for something she considers more important.


Kyouko Sakura, Eri Shimanouchi


Abandoned Church

OOC - IC Date:

4/27/2019 - Ambiguously late May to Early June 2015

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> No Lights on the Horizon - Metric - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvm3_oXZZtg

"Huh?" It's a groggy noise on the other end of the line as you can hear shifting. "... ... ..." You can almost feel her checking the clock. She must have noticed that it's two three-oh-eight PM. Which means there's no way she went to class.

"I'm up. I'm up." She echoes herself blearily. "I'll go to Nishitama today. Promise." That's odd, typically when Eri exhausts herself it was because she had been overhunting. 'Today' sounds like she hasn't been in some time.


It's nothing unusual, her not wearing that understated layer of foundation and gloss.

It's nothing unusual the way her clothes have that rumpled quality like she picked them straight up off the floor, like she hasn't done her laundry in weeks.

It's nothing unusual, the lack of those subdued floral scents clinging to her, like she hasn't tended - been in a garden in weeks.

It's nothing unusual, the way she walks around like she's in a waking daydream - despite the fact that all she seems to do lately is sleep.

It's nothing unusual, the way she stands still sometimes on the sidewalk as people flow around her.

It's nothing unusual, the way her phone pings and she never seems to hear it.

It's nothing unusual, how when her food is presented to her by the waiter, how she doesn't take a bite until Kyouko reminds her not to waste food.

It's nothing unusual, how in those quiet in-between moments, she lacks those little tells on her expression as to what she's thinking.

She's still Kyouko's angel of light. The one that saved her in Shinjuku on the rooftop. She's just dimmer, and there's nothing unusual about that everything that's happened.

It's nothing unusual, how one might swear she's more herself in a labyrinth than anywhere else.

It's nothing unusual, the shifts from complete detachment to fury to detachment as she smashes a witch into an existence that only fills a tiny seed.

It's nothing unusual, that moment where she almost forgets to press it against her soul gem to suck out the serpent's poison until it's pointed out she should.


Three rings. Voicemail. Hang up. Two rings- "... Hello?" There's the shallow sound of breathing. It's five-oh-three PM. "... I'm..." Like she was about to say 'up' then switches it to, "...homework. Doing homework."

She was in bed again. She had to be. Kyouko can't remember the last time she called her and she wasn't.

"... hunting? Oh. Not... not today. Mikoto has it today..."


It's two days after Oktavia Von Seckendorff was defeated. There are unread voice mails. That's strange, Kyouko doesn't notice any missed calls.

Maybe they came while she was in a labyrinth. That's nothing unusual.

The transcription function can't give her any preview of what the messages are, each one looking like garbled characters arranged in ways that are entirely incoherent.

First message.

The message is nothing but noises, crackling for a while, but before one would hang up.

"-just want you to know... I'm not mad... I'm not... that you.."

End of message.

Second message.

There's something lulling in the first few seconds of sound spewing into the receiver. Then all of a sudden it becomes an angry buzzing crescendo before speech can be made out.


End of Message.

Third message.

It's just a flat white noise, like a test pattern.

"-were doing it for us. I... I understand."

End of message.

Fourth message.

The white noise that was present before rising up to the peak of this sine wave, like someone was turning a knob on a radio that's out of focus, for the volume to peak out.


End of message.

Fifth message.

The message begins with the sound abruptly being amped down, until it was almost non-existent.

"-I shouldn't have... don't know what I was thinking. Sometimes I just get so... nevermind."

End of message.

Sixth message.

The rustling of leaves and static. The wind transmitting. It permeates the recording for a few seconds before it goes dead.

End of message.

Trying to call her phone gets a tinny message: We're sorry, you have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service.

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoK63Bk7pgw

Kyouko had never been the best phone friend. She doesn't reach out as often as she should, and she's often slow to respond. More than anything it thanks to the faithful efforts of her few friends that she keeps conversing. Over time she's gotten better, and will even start conversations of her own, or go off on tangents of thought. Over time, the interest shown by a few agents of humanity had helped to return this prodigal girl to its fold. Over time, she began to return that interest in kind.

First among them, naturally, has been Eri. Eri has not allowed those silences to go on for too long. Whenever the embers of friendly talk needed tending, Eri has been there to give them a stir. Not straight across the board, everybody has their ups and downs. But she's always been there. And now she is receding.

How subtle those first signs. Oh, a teenage girl is moping in bed and skipping school? Not the first, and hardly the last. But as Kyouko watches a stray bird arc about with a phone to her ear, she detects a shift. Ever the animal, she has always prided herself on a sensitivity to environmental change. Lately, the social void that Eri had so helped to fill has reclaimed some of its emptiness. The conversations they had shared had lately transformed into check ins, and Kyouko has assumed the mantle of reaching out.

She understands if Eri is troubled. She's troubled herself. They're living in troubling times..

"You don't have to promise me that. Just that you'll take care of yourself."


All the little things. One doesn't notice immediately. That's why they're little things. But for a familiar student of another being, sooner or later one notices that something is different, and in seeking the answer to the question one finds an answer. But that piqued feeling remains. It is true that Eri is not wearing her makeup as she usually does. Why, then, do I not think 'That must be it' but rather that 'it's something else?' The appetite of the question is unsated by the one answer, and further inquiry yields many more. All the little things. Not so little when they're all stacked up. For all her answers the question hangs with a newfound weight.

What has changed?

They talk as they've talked, but in those spaces in between, Kyouko is looking and listening with total focus. They fight together as they've fought, hunt as they've hunted, eat as they've ate, and Kyouko looks and listens.

Kyouko used to have little things too. She still does, but she used to have more. It meant something when they'd fallen away, and though at the time she'd been far more distracted by other things, they hadn't all come back. She wasn't the same person that she'd been before, when she had all the little things of her own. And now Eri's losing some of hers.

She's still Kyouko's angel of light. The one that saved her in Shinjuku on the rooftop. The one whose done so much besides. She just seems tired.

She understands if Eri is tired. She's tired herself. They're living in tiring times...


Kyouko won't be beaten that easily. Did Eri pick up on the second try to accept Kyouko's hand in friendship? Or because she knew Kyouko would keep calling for as long as it took her to arrive at Eri's residence in person?

It had been late before. It's getting later. Before she had wondered if Eri had been lying when she said she'd go hunting. Now she lies casually and transparently, though not about hunting.

She's getting worse. That much is clear. Kyouko thinks of inviting Eri to stay with her, but her heart catches. Why would anybody want to stay in that grubby little sewer system, or in one of the broken down warehouses along her tarnished strand? Kyouko's house has many rooms but none are good enough for a girl who still lives in humanity's world, even if Eri has been cutting class lately. A dingy little cot in a dim little room without any doors surely wouldn't cheer her up or snap her out of her state, and that's what's called for.

Still, Kyouko wants to do something, and increasingly feels that something must be done.

She understands if Eri is depressed. She's depressed herself. They're living in depressing times...but this cannot continue. The demands of these demanding days deny much room for anything else, but as soon as the storm eases off just a bit, she's going to intervene.


It's two days after Sayaka was killed. Was it Sayaka, in the end? It was Sayaka in the start. Kyouko's good at containing her panic until she is able to suffer it, which usually means containing it until she is alone. Sayaka had changed, and they could not bring her back. Mikoto had dragged her from that arena and had eaten with her that night. Kyouko had affably parted with her and crawled down into the dark and screamed.

She thought of Sayaka, and Oktavia, and all the witches and all the familiars that she's ever killed..and cultivated. All of the grief seeds that she's ever drained, or accumulated, or weaponized. She thought of Walpurgisnacht, and how she found herself telling Mikoto that she didn't fear the thought of facing it so much, anymore. She thought of Mami, who had died before she could learn this truth. She thought of herself, and what might be in store for her. She thought of Eri, and despaired that what had happened to Sayaka might happen to her.



That what had happened, might...

Sayaka had been despondent too, hadn't she? In the days before...they were enemies in the end, and Kyouko was not in a position to observe the full slump of her decline. But in the end, when Sayaka had transformed, it was not like an alien bursting from her chest or an explosion or a gunshot or a car accident. It was like she had given up on herself, and had given herself over...like the poor people marked by the Witch's kiss, given over to despair.

In the days since the killing Kyouko had been preoccupied with her own thoughts, and had somewhat neglected her checkins with Eri. Now she holds her phone with a frightened urgency, her hands unsteadied. Before she can dial she sees the voicemails, and listens to each in succession. She's running by the last one, and a terrible sound spills out from her when her own phonecall falls on deaf ears, grasping at a connection that is no longer there. Climbing up the ladder that leads to the surface, she grasps a single rung, pulling on it with such force that she flies up, crashing through the manhole and ripping the rung free from its concrete wall.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> ibid

There is wind - but the crimson blossoms do not falter. Usually you would think of them as bending to avoid breaking, like a willow. Yet they do not rustle. They stand as guardians of the dead, frozen in time.

This side of the Church is thick with them, having multiplied to the point where they're nigh overgrown. Animals do not track through here, have learned of their poisonous nature and now know better. It creates a thick red carpet around the headstones with no clear path to them.

They've failed in their duty, as right now there are places where bootprints have flattened them without a care. A miasma thick within the center that makes the tongue tingle with a taste like acid rain. It's dead silent yet there's a spiritual wrongness with the feel like nails on a chalkboard, or a record scratch in the room - like the score for some movie that has only started to reveal its genre is in fact horror.

Twilight looms low in the burnt orange sky, and it has a foreboding quality, like it's sun-setting over some dark fairy tale wood. The stained-glass church windows cut slashes in the light that emerges from this side of the church sending the strange geometry into a dazzling array of macabre imagery.

A hole caused from a thrown rock makes a particularly sinister gaping hole, like a portal to hell included in images of the divine.

The girl stands closer to the makeshift headstone of Kyouko's father than she ever has, in a sense that's almost like desecration. Standing right on top of the bulge in the soil where he's come to rest.

She's stated that she comes here to talk to them sometimes. It has this sense of projection, like she uses it to work out her own issues with someone she can't tell off - misdirecting it onto a dead man that she'd never met.

Perhaps it is simply a place to whatever rational thought that is left - that is most strongly associated with Kyouko - or more importantly, Kyouko's survival instinct.

How long she's been standing there is unclear. Minutes perhaps. Hours maybe? All of a sudden she lifts a boot, decorated with leaves, and places it against his makeshift headstone. Her expression so stoic as to be unreadable.

Holding it there for a time, she's utterly still, one might swear she's not even breathing in her corpse body, like she's simply turned that function off.

Then her leg spasms violently as she gives it a push, and it does not budge. Whipping her leg back, her breath hisses through her teeth as she slams her toes into it again and again and again. Scuffing her magical boot as she puts an ever-widening dent in the stone only possible due to her being transformed.

And then with a sharp crack - loud enough that one might swear they heard bones break, it falls over, with a thud that crushes part of the outer ring of flowers.

Placing her foot back down in a way that feels almost - dainty, she finally says something,

"Don't get so full of yourself..."

The foot flattens down from toes to heel and there's another crack. The pain registers on her face - but not as much as it ought to.

"... just because you were right. So what if she's a witch? So /what/? All I have to do... all... I have... to do..."

The wind picks up and there's an ephemeral noise like wind chimes, glass scraping, construction paper being folded.

"... is break it..."

There's a weird shift in emotions on her expression. Like she's both happy and angry - and neither all at once.

"... then your daugh- no... no no... /my/ senpai..."

Near her forehead, her gem swirls with poison that feels like it's dripping out into the world. It is a living thing in how it twists and moves chaotically within it. Are there any slivers of light left? They may be present, but if so it feels like a trick of the eye.

"... she'll survive... forever..."

She's staring down at her hand, the fingers curled up, without making it all the way into her palm. It feels like a hand for squeezing something out of the world itself. Out of people. In the same way that she tears up weeds.

"This hell isn't worth saving, but if she wants it..."

Picking up her foot, she steps off the place where he rests to plant it on top of the now horizontal marker.

"... it's all hers. Every part of it. Because..."

Her foot twists like she wants to grind it into the dirt. There's a manic twitch of her lip like she's just thought of a joke that's funny only to her.

"... she, deserves, better..."

Inhaling once, her breath hitches into her chest like it's climbing down a scale until it arrives upon one final note - an awful conclusion.

"... this is all there is though."

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igITHmsGKw4

Kyouko's hair whips in the wind as she runs.

Cautious Kyouko makes no pretense of a low profile. When the manhole fell it fell on the roof of a nearby car, and the milling throng of pedestrians concluding their errands all had something to gawk at for a few minutes. Shoving past the nearest of them, she threads straight for the nearest building, scaling up its side as quickly as possible. She travels, as she typically does, by leaping along the lower skies.

Where to go? She does not know. In her heart she believes that Eri is not at her apartment. Nothing so mundane or regular as that. Her mind reels and gives her legs over to instinct, the pistons of her thoughts churning themselves into a fearsome pace.

If Eri is gone, she is gone. If she is not gone, then she is still going. Why else would she have disconnected her phone? What else could explain those broken little messages, a last testament of the Kouhai of Kyouko Sakura, to her Senpai. If Eri is to be a Witch, it would likely require allies to defeat her, as it had taken many to put down Sayaka. If Kyouko is at her side when she transforms, she will likely find herself pulled into a labyrinth in a compromised emotional state. What if she is unable to escape? What if she can't fight in the first place?

It was hard to fight Sayaka, but Sayaka was Sayaka. Eri...could Kyouko really steel herself to kill Eri?

It would be merciful, wouldn't it? Who would want to live like that...but it would be living, wouldn't it? Could Kyouko really make that decision for Eri, that it would be better for her to die than to live in pain? Others might have to die so that Eri might live, but isn't that how it's been? Isn't that true of any Puella Magi? Of any human being? Of Kyouko herself?...together they'd allowed the familiars to feed, so that they might live. Is it so unthinkable to allow a Witch to feed, so that they might live still? Eri wouldn't be the same Eri she'd known...but she'd still live...for Kyouko, for whom the act of living meant so much, is that enough?

Is living worth it, no matter the cost?

Kyouko does not debate over this for long. In fact, she does not particularly debate it at all. As her mind shakily erects its scaffolding of thought, her legs never waver in their course nor hesitate in their stride. And as soon as the question is unearthed, the answer comes to her cleanly, and without fanfare or doubt.

The answer, of course, is no.

Life is the engine, not the goal. One has to have something to live for..to exist alone in a labyrinth, a personal pocket of nightmarish strangeness, accompanied only by familiars which seem no cleverer than dumb beasts, devouring hapless humans and waiting to be hunted and killed..that is no life at all. And Kyouko...Kyouko has lost so much. She had lost her life when she was first cast to the streets, and lost it again along with her father, her mother...her sister...she lost all her friendships, and then lost them again to war and death. She had shared so much with Mami, and in the end, if it weren't for Eri, her former senpai and best friend would have shot her dead. Kyouko had tried to befriend Sayaka, to steer her towards a path she could survive on. When Kyouko helped lead a mission to save her, it ended with her death.

Kyouko had survived a great deal, but her losses only ever compound. Whenever she thinks she has gained back what she'd lost, she is doomed to lose it again, far worse than at first. But Eri...beneath her wordless, panicky fear, Kyouko finds another truth. She does not want to lose Eri. She does not want to survive Eri.

She cannot lose Eri.

At first she thinks that this is because she has lost so much already...that Eri is the fulcrum, the threshold beyond which she will have lost too much to endure, the straw that would ultimately break her back. But that thought rings hollow.

Eri is special. The others were special too, but Eri...none had gladdened her heart like Eri. None had filled her with pride like Eri. None had inspired such feelings of protectiveness and concern and joy and...and ease. A feeling of comfort, and security. A feeling of comradeship...no, companionship. A feeling of no longer being alone.

There had been times when Kyouko lived in comfort, and times when she had lived in squalor. The death her family had been a terrible blow, and to someone like Mami, who until then had only known Kyouko in comfort, it must have seemed utterly transformative. It's true, that when the church burned some piece of Kyouko had burned with it...but she had been a survivor before. From a young age she had always swung between the two states..and she could remember, when Mami had welcomed her back with all her hospitalities, the quiet tightness behind her eyes that understood it was surely temporary.

But Eri...Eri had changed that, hadn't she? Kyouko still lived a guarded life, but she was not lacking for friendship or joyful moments. She was still surviving, but she had been joined. The two disparate conditions that her life seemed to endlessly bounce between had been calmed and united into one. Eri has transformed her life...and as she takes some small stock of that life, she realizes that she cannot bear to consider it without her.

Kyouko realizes that she loves Eri Shimanouchi, that she loves her with all of her being, an that she has loved her for some time.

If running to her now means risking her life, so what? Her legs, her instinct, knew that all along. And they knew where to find her, too.

As the buildings start to thin out, Kyouko realizes where she is heading. It had touched her so deeply when she first learned that Eri had quietly been tending to it, never saying a word to Kyouko about it. Eri had disconnected her phone, but she had called out to Kyouko first...and if she is here, then she's calling out still.


She watches, and she waits. Her relief had been overwhelming when she laid eyes on her...and her terror flooded her blood when she saw the state of Eri's soul. Kyouko knows what she's looking at. She's seen it before.

Against her every earthly desire, she does not tackle Eri to force a grief seed to her gem, afraid that such a shock might trigger the metamorphosis. She does not stop her from pulverizing her father's headstone, either. He deserved what he got, and Eri deserved to be the one to give it to him. But she can only contain herself for so long...time is numbingly precious. Her voice quavers when she calls out, tears openly streaming down her cheeks. There is nothing guarded about her expression at all, no control to her poise.

"I don't want to live forever. Not without you. And I don't want this hell unless you're in it too. Wherever I am, wherever I go. I don't want it if I'm on my own...I don't want to live alone anymore...I don't want to live without you.

Eri...I love you...I think I always have...please don't go...please...please don't leave me..."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> And All That Could Have Been - Nine Inch Nails - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwc-amI7AmE

The girl states in that position for a time, her green eyes settled on her curled fingers. Her body language twitchy - erratic. Like she's a nail bomb set to explode and gouge the world with the shrapnel of bitter thorns. There's nothing to be done about the world's corruption. Cleanse it away it won't matter - it will dirty you sooner or later. Try to live with it and it infects you.

Kyuubey didn't choose them to be the the one that holds the mop. He chose them to be part of the squallor - to spread it. That is what she thinks at least. There is no way to ever know that for certain. The critter is dead.

The girl rubs her thumb and forefinger against each other.

She took Yaori's happiness away. She can give it to her sister.

She took a lot of people's happiness away. She can pass what she took from them onto Kyouko - refuse to take any more from her.

The best thing she can do for any of them is...

The girl stands in silence for five seconds - ten - after Kyouko speaks. Fifteen. One might swear she had not heard her - or that her gem had actually reached critical mass. There's a strange janky quality to how she finally moves, turning her head to regard her. "Senpai...?" And she just has this smile that feels a little off, "I knew you'd be here. I... knew."

She didn't know that. Not really. Her logic is simply that part of Kyouko is always here - and that she must always come back to touch the hot stove again.

Though then her expression screws up in thought, like she's comprehending her words a few seconds later than she should be. "No. That's not right. It's better if you do. Live without me. That's what I came here to say. I need to break my promise before it's too late for you. It's better if you leave." She doesn't take a step towards her. "You can send that girl who took over Shinjuku after me. Yaori's sister. It's what she wants..."

She actually takes a step backwards, "... her wish. Her happiness..." And another. However, then she gets this confused look in her eyes.

And it's like she's actually hearing Kyouko - seeing her for the first time. It happens before she would take a step back that would trample more flowers, her foot hovering in the air over one. "Wait..."

And then there's something in her eyes sparkle like water droplets, like it's all caught back up to her. Like time has meaning again. Like she can focus in - yet is in disbelief over what she's hearing.

"... wait... what... what did you just say?" It's the faintest whisper, but it's a human one. "But I thought..." She trails off, tries again, "... I thought ..."

Her expression is spasming - like whatever manic confidence she had in her course is shattering under this revelation. And now instead of a step back, she takes a step forward. It's tentative, guarded almost. Like a skittish animal that's frightened of trusting what she heard to be true.

"Please... say... say that again."

The world shivers - her gem spewing off it's foul runoff - but whether the foul apotheosis has been arrested or is only moments away...

...well - to approach her right now is a leap of faith in and of itself.

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vf58TiGtIe4

Kyouko can feel her heart in her chest, tension in her throat..her brow feels taut, there's pressure in her teeth. Her lips are slightly downturned in a grimacing frown, but curled up at the corners in a tremulous smile. She's so afraid...absolutely sick with fear. How stupid she had been not to know it sooner...how much might have changed if it hadn't taken her this long.

There's not much of Eri left...her posture, her motions, her manner of speech. Kyouko recognizes distressingly little of it..but not none at all. Eri is still in there...and as Kyouko looks at her, too afraid to blink, she doesn't only think of Sayaka. She thinks of herself in the days after the fire..would she have stood here like this, kicked over the same stone...spoken in those halting tones...if she hadn't decided to live, instead?

Hearing that Eri knew she'd be here nearly breaks her. Her face screws up in reddened misery. "You should have told me...I would have been here sooner...like hell it's better. Like hell you need to break your promise!! Why the hell would I send anybody after..."

That's when she knows. She knew before then, but now, she knows. Eri came here to give herself over, to..."

Kyouko's entire body tenses. Moments from launching herself forward with all the desperation shuddering through her nerves and slamming the grief seed to Eri's soul gem whether she likes it or not, the look of confusion stops her. When Eri says wait, she listens..but her body remains bound with thrumming urgency.

"I love you..."

Lifting up her arms to the air in a sign of peaceful intent, she takes a step forward..another. She moves slowly, intuiting Eri's cautious posture, but steadily.

"I love you, Eri...I want to say so much to you but I want to say that most of all...again and again I want to say it...I want to hold you in my arms, and I want to kiss you...I..I haven't done that..before..but I would really like to kiss you now..if..if that's ok...I love you, Eri, and I am terrified of losing you...please stay with me...please don't leave me alone..."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Say Something - A Great Big World - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVgixOjGhVU

It didn't even occur to Eri to call Kyouko on the phone the further she plunged into despair. The phone is not how you connect to Kyouko Sakura. Even giant fools like her know that.

And so she has this surreal look on her expression like a teacher is chastising her for paying attention in class. It only makes sense to her - but the things that make sense to her would not make sense to anyone else.

Then Kyouko says it again - and her eyelids just lift. It has that certain quality of disbelief to it. The thing is she's wanted to hear it for so long. So long that she'd given up on it long ago.

She'd decided so long ago not to burden her with her feelings. To let them speak for themselves.

Those eyes shimmer as she says it again.

Like it's introducing long lost hope back into the dam she'd built up to armor away her despair.

It's like she doesn't know what to do. How to react to this. Twenty seconds ago it was a world where Kyouko Sakura could not fall in love with her. Now it's a world where Kyouko Sakura has. The two versions of the world collide - one made of rusted razors and the other of cleaner blades and it's like she's trying to dance between being dashed to pieces by the collision.

She takes a slow, tenuous step forward. "You..." There's this quality like she's caught between being overwhelmed- "You... do."


That thought throbs in her head, a bitterness that had been smothered, but could now start to metastasize.

The problem is that that bitterness was being strangled by a surging joy at the realization that this was happening.

"Oh..." The girl puts crosses the fingertips of both hands over her lips, at the thought of Kyouko kissing her. It's not her creating a barrier. The gesture feels self-conscious - bashful - vulnerable.

In a way that feels almost adorably prim. She's certainly kissed someone else before. It's not her first. The thought of Kyouko kissing her is overwhelming all the same. "...Oh."

I'm not going anywhere without you.

It was the promise she came here to break. To give up on. Whereas Kyouko came here to reaffirm it.

Kyouko's peace offering gesture is not met with a whip lash. It's met with her lowering her hands. It's met with wet eyes, as her lips crease into a smile.

"I'm happy."

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtXPFOkJz-g

Of course Eri didn't call...of course she hadn't wanted to burden Kyouko with this. That Eri is here meant that...she'd given up.

Had she? She's still here..here, not there..Eri says she knew Kyouko would be there...here, this place of death and life, where Kyouko has began and ended. Where nobody comes, not really, but them...of course. Where else could it have been?

So many cautious years...it's usually wiser, pragmatically speaking, not to commit. Not to do anything at all, really. Actions beget reactions, compounding ripples of causation that go on and on, creating such a stir..it's so much safer to be still, to carefully manage that chaos. So many cautious years...look where they've led.

Kyouko came so close to losing Eri...she could lose her still. It sickens her that it took so long to see what was, in retrospect, so obvious. That it took so long for her to act..so long to live, instead of just continuing on, alive.

Kyouko trembles in mid stride when Eri laces her fingers to her lips, smiling crookedly before continuing on. She understands the gesture well enough..it says she feels it too. It says she'd given up.

Kyouko knows that Eri has been on dates before, maybe even had girlfriends...as for Kyouko...well, she's never delved too deeply into such topics. A preacher's daughter, even now...and one who had never wanted to defy him. It's not that she doesn't know what sex is, or that she's never seen dirty pictures and all that...she's lived as she has for too long to have missed it. But she's always skirted around it, recoiling as if it were hot to touch.

She doesn't mind that Eri's more experienced than she is. Kyouko kind of likes it, now that it occurs to her. A place where she could be the kouhai..to be shy and uncertain again. All of a sudden, that vast world she had always avoided now terribly interested her..and the same must be true for the rest of the world, too.

She just needs to take a step towards it...and another, and another...

Kyouko smiles, so widely and bashfully. Her cheeks redden against the messy shapeliness of her hair, her teeth shining in the sweeping glow of the setting sun, that one pointy fang in particular catching a fleeting glint. They're quite close now, Kyouko and Eri and the rest of the Sakuras.

"I'm so glad...I'm happy too...Eri-chan...I'm going to hug you now...and then...I'm going to k...I'm going to kiss...you..." She swallows, and blushes.

"...and then...I'm going to give you a grief seed...every bone in my body wants to just...shove it to your soul gem...to be honest, I'm really, really scared right now, Eri...I think I'm more scared than I've ever been...but I think you have to...you have to take it from me, instead...you have to choose to stay with me...because if it's up to me..."

They're standing very close now. Kyouko gingerly steps onto her father's burial mound. Eri fills her vision...her milky skin and her delicate smile...the incandescent shine of her gorgeous green eyes...and every benighted undulation of her soul gem, still leaking despair into the world. Threading her arms around Eri's waist, Eri's shoulders, Kyouko gathers the girl up into her embrace, pulling her close..the verdant brush of her bushy hair presses gently against Eri's more well kept crown, scarlet strands passing into her kouhai's sight...Kyouko trembles ever so slightly as she holds Eri close, and the soft raggedness of her quietly fearful breath can be heard at this distance.

Pulling slightly back, Kyouko reaches up with her hands..tentatively, with the appropriate trepidation of one handling something sacred, she very, very gently, tenderly drags her soft little fingertip along Eri's cheek...and another to trace the line of her jaw, down from her ear..Kyouko's red gaze is lost in Eri's emerald pools, utterly enraptured, looking into this face she has seen so many times with eyes newly unveiled from an obstinate gauze. She can see her soul gem all too well...a beautiful treasure tarnished so distressingly...Kyouko understands..that gem, truly named, holds her love's soul.

Smiling again, Kyouko leans in...but not to Eri's lips. Heedless of its tainted tears, she brings her lips to that gold rimmed hair clip, and presses them to the blackstained soul gem. She tastes it...her lips buzz with a dully acrid sensation, as though smeared in some sort of venom...but her heart sings out with joy.

Her first kiss...

Emboldened by her exhilaration, Kyouko presses her forehead to Eri's own, their eyes very close now, gazing into them..cupping her kouhai's chin between her the flat of her forefinger and the press of her thumb, Kyouko leans in...and presses her lips to Eri's own.

Eri's taste...Eri's scent...the feel of Eri against her fingers, her arms, her body...the sound of Eri's breath, the pulse of Eri's heart...for a moment all the crisis is forgotten...Kyouko wants to stay like this for forever. Maybe, in a moment...maybe she'll get her wish...

But first...

Holding Eri closer with one arm, she fishes into her pocket with the other...and produces a dark star. She does not clap it to Eri's hair clip, for all her desperate desire to do just that...but instead she extends it towards it in an offering.

"...I'm not going anywhere without you..."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Our Hell - Emily Haines - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AfklbzSV9o

Eri's eyes have this almost dreamlike quality. Like she's in a haze - disconnected from reality by the possibility of receiving another wish. Another miracle.

There's a shyness of sorts to the way her eyes dip down just so as Kyouko lays it out - blood rushing to her pale cheeks. Her upper lip moistens the lower, like she's wished she's used balm, or put on lip gloss. Kyouko will have to forgive her - for making her first kiss against cracked and dry lips. It doesn't matter though. When she said she was happy. She meant it.

Does she consent? "Okay." It's a soft assent. To all of that. "Okay." Her lips turn up a little wider. Like Kyouko had successfully talked a jumper off the ledge - or someone with a gun to their head into dropping it and stepping away so they could take it. "I... I can't believe this is happening..."

Eri doesn't step closer, she lets Kyouko come to her. And there's that self-conscious quality about her right now. Yet she knows for whatever she lacks right now - Kyouko loves her anyway.

In spite of those failings and flaws. Her eyes lift to stare into the other girl's crimson ones. And as Kyouko slides her arm around her waist, there's a slightly nervous tension about her - in anticipation.

The miasmic flow from the gem hasn't stopped until now. It just remains constant. Like it isn't progressing any farther. Remaining the same.

Remaining the same is still gasping for air under the deep end of the pool. It's being thrown a life preserver by someone who loves her.

However just as she grasps it - just as Kyouko gathers her in close... a thought seizes hold.

Will you be happy tomorrow? What happens then?

There's a certain clarity of epiphany in there as the other girl holds her. Her life extended by this breath of fresh air of love and an untarnished gem - how long until she's gasping again? Eri's left arm drifts to the small of Kyouko's back.

When you go under again - will you drag her down with you?

Love perhaps then is the mercy of never allowing her to drown with her.

Love is the kindness of never allowing her to suffer for her love of her.

For Yaori - for Mami. Anyone could argue that killing any of them was a mercy given how Puella Magi live. She's never accepted that. She's never accepted the possibility of life ending as a mercy.

Until now.

As she grew up - she was often accused of thinking too much. Thinking on weird things other children didn't. Perhaps that is her curse. Her terrible flaw.

Only a few seconds past being confessed to - and she's already trying to wrap her head around all the angles - all the problems.

What a sickening twist. A world where Kyouko loves her is a world where she can't save her - and only because she can't save herself.

A world where Kyouko loves her is still a world where Rika is waiting in Shinjuku for her innocent revenge - and innocent sin thrust upon her.

The tears in her eyes have never abated - the smile upon the corners of her lips has only smoothed out just a touch, from trepidation as the two girls touch foreheads. Their skin touching - their bangs touching. There's a certain warmth to be found in the touch - in the arms - in the gaze of someone who loves you.

And Eri certainly feels warm - like she'd been wrested from the grip of hypothermia only to be all aflush with anticipation. Eri is patient - and let's Kyouko make that first move - as she said she would not long ago. Offers no resistance to her gripping her chin between her fingers.

Their lips touch, and her efforts to pre moisten her lips bring this slick wetness to the kiss, as Eri allows the herself to be consumed by the other girl's desire - need. Finding herself gripped with her own. Light-headed, and dizzy - she lays a hand upon Kyouko's chest suggestively, the base of her palm touching down right above her cleavage.

It's the kind of kiss where one can forget anything that came before.

She almost does.

When Kyouko separates from her, the girl's eyes are wet, tears streaming down her cheeks, her whole body trembling as she reaffirms it. While she does not clap it against her gem, the amount of grief overflowing that leaves only the most minute speck of green - when the offering of the seed approaches it, Kyouko can start seeing the rivulet of despair moving towards it. Like smoke.

To enlarge that spot of green until it's about the size of a fifty yen coin, an oasis within the gem's sea of despair. The despair ceases to have a life of its own. The world feeling more real - less affected by the nascent power of a witch's coming birth.

As Kyouko says that, the girl's lips quiver, like she was trying to hold in the sensation, her eyes tear-filled eyes meeting hers.

"Not... for long, at least..."

Because when Eri's fingers slid there in suggestive want - it was a sincere gesture. It was not meant for betrayal. The thought only occurred to her again after. Her fingers started to close around the other girl's soul gem the moment she said that. It's gentle at first - the way she caresses it.

She doesn't let go though.

"... I love you so much ..."

... so much that she'd send end her suffering and send her out of their shared hell ahead of her. The pressure of her grip increases so swiftly that it feels like something has to give before long.

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-pbKklwqzE

Kyouko has an uncanny thought of herself standing in a shallow bank of a great river. Tiny little firefly bursts of sensation wink in and out along her shoulders and her arms, gentle kisses of an unseen rain. The water around her is at her ankles, then her knees..she cannot tell if the river is flooding around her or if she is sinking down into its waters. Like a bucket of cold water upended over her head in reverse, such an insistent wave of feeling cascades up her body from her toes to the tip of her head.

Her body is shaking. It's a small one, as bodies go, but it's only from this distance and in this embrace that Eri might make out just how little Kyouko really is. The tears flow freely now, and as Kyouko makes out that little sliver of green in that little garden, her knees slightly tip, a strangled expulsion of relieved tension spilling out from her parted lips. She had been holding everything together with a vein-popping insistence of brute will, and now she knows that it will all be alright.

She's staying with her after all...

That one grief seed seemed to make so small an impression on the greater dark, speaking surely to the scope of its task. One alone cannot reverse fate all alone, but there's no need for such lonely lengths. Perhaps two will do.

Laughing quietly in semi-delirium, she murmurs for the both of them. "It's alright, I've got more.." It's difficult for Kyouko to look away from Eri's eyes, swirling with such enormity of sentiment and feeling. It's much more than Kyouko can parse, so much more...and she is far from clear-headed herself in this lovestruck state. When she does look down, it is only for a fumbling moment as another grief seed appears in her light touch.

When she looks back up, she realizes that she had missed, at first glance, something very significant in the myriad emotions in her darling's gaze. Parting her lips again, no sound manages an exit this time, and she allows herself a moment to doubt the streak of tragic determination that is staring at her so plainly.

That moment is short-lived. Eri's mouth and hands join with her eyes to make a chorus, and her meaning becomes that much more clear.

Kyouko's eyes well up again, her brow crinkling in confusion, betrayal and fear. Not Eri's betrayal, no...she'd never do that. The world's, maybe. Fate's. Perhaps God's. She is not sure who has betrayed her, but the girl who had hardened her heart so that her eyes would stay clear is quite certain that she has been cheated of something.

"No...please...p-please wait..."

Her stomach is trembling now, twisting itself into Gordian's knot. Kyouko is completely unmoored now, the full rush of first love's realization now supplemented by her every feeling about her own demise. Coherent thought is beyond her, just snatches of impressions of possibilities.

"We haven't...there's so much left..."

Her sister and her mother must have screamed so terribly when they died here. She screamed for her father when she watched him die here. Now she'll die here too, never having escaped her past. All that running and she never got anywhere.

"I want to...can't we be...for awhile, at all?...I'm not...I'm not ready..."

For somebody who had been so desperate to live for so long, to live at all costs, to scorn all other consideration beyond survival, her vision of her own future was...practically non-existent. Where did she see herself in five years, or ten or twenty? Kyouko's life was dictated less by positives than by negatives. She did not embrace life so much as she rejected death. She would say that she had never seen an adult Puella Magi before, and she was going to prove that they could be real. She might as well have been hunting for Big Foot. What, exactly, was a twenty something Kyouko Sakura going to get up to that she wasn't doing already? So she might have produced something that had been unseen. So what? What then?

Moments before, that all changed, and all of a sudden that string of black pearls of obscured abstraction of the future of her life had been clarified. Her life had been given a positive purpose, and her future had been given definition. And now it was about to be taken away. It unspools in her mind, the only existence it will be afforded within the realm of her own senses. Holding hands, eating cakes, riding rides, restaurants and onsens and amusement parks and beaches and mountains and forests, little gardens they could tend together and a home they could make in each other's light, a real home. An apartment, or maybe a house, or even a fort in the woods...an abandoned castle maybe, why not?

There was so much life they could live in each other's company. So many things they could do. To live life like people...to grow old together, and...and...

Kyouko smiles a little smile. It is a bitter smile for a bitter pill swallowed, not in the way of a squalling child but in the way of one who is old enough to embrace the benefits of something that does not sit well on the tongue.

The world is still the world. Kyouko learned that a long time ago, a lesson imprinted upon her from this place and from the streets of the city. Her life has radically changed before, more than once. In the flush of those times it felt like the world had changed with it...but every time, Kyouko was reminded that the world had actually not changed at all. Her perspective was the only thing that had.

Kyouko and Eri would not grow old together. Not in this world. That would require nothing less than a miracle, a wish that rewrote reality...and they had both used theirs up.

From there, it was simple to work backwards from the loftiest of her heart's ambitions. They would not have children. There would be no college, no jobs, no high school reunions or high school at all, ever again, in Kyouko's case. As for the rest...the restaurants and the amusement parks, the laughter and the tears, the heightened moments that summoned all attention and weight to their considerable gravity, the flattened moments of unspoken, unthinking recovery...they'd shared all that already, hadn't they? Kyouko and Eri...

As Kyouko stands there, crying and shaking and thinking and knowing that she is about to die by her lover's hand, she realizes that she is not being denied that life at all. She is being denied more of it, more of the good and more of the bad. They could find a castle right now, if they wanted. In fact...what is this place where they stand, if not that? They could ride ferris wheels together and snuggle in movie theaters and on park benches and watch fireworks. But they would have to fight, and they would have to kill. Would they be able to go on as they have gone, now knowing what they know about the nature of their prey? Would they be able to continue cultivating the Witches that safeguard their survival, knowing what they once were, remembering how Sayaka was then, and how Eri is now. The conditions of survival that they must adhere to have not changed, but the consistent pursuit of those aims had taken a toll. Kyouko was not personally familiar with the concept of entropy at this time, but she would have grasped it if she were to learn. The road they had walked had led them here. Who was to say that it wouldn't again? And even if it didn't...to farm Witches...were Eri and Kyouko capable of becoming vampires, immortal beings of terribly power of inured hearts who live on the lifeblood of human cattle?

Maybe, her heart whispered. Maybe so...but the choice was not hers alone to make, and it seems that Eri has made her decision.

So there will not be more. Looking back, she takes solace in how much there has been. Their hearts had grown together in what they had had. If only there had been more time to hold each other, to touch each other...more time to live like this. If only, if only, if only...they hadn't even held hands.

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.

Kyouko's face crinkles into a tremulous smile, as shaky as an infant fawn but just as sure of its desire to stand. She speaks gently, very quietly, an intimate voice meant only for somebody as close as could be.

"I wish you'd have asked me...we're supposed to be partners, you know. But I understand. I probably would have said no, and I think you think you wouldn't have been able to deal with that. I don't want you to follow me, but I know you will anyways..I don't know if there's anything after but I'll wait for then to chide you about it."

Kyouko closes her eyes, slightly afraid that she won't have the chance to open them again, and takes a deep and calming breath, embracing serenity. She opens her eyes.

"...just a few moments ago I realized that as much as I wanted to live, I was never really living for anything until I was living for you. If this is what you need...then I understand. I spent so much time thinking about how I would die and I was sure it would be so...terrible...I was sure I would die violently, or in suicidal despair. In recent days I imagined I'd become a demon...but I never believed I would die happy. I didn't think I even could..."

Leaning forward, she kisses Eri very sweetly on the lips. She'd meant just the one, but at that distance...her eyes, her visage, the scent of her skin and her hair, the electricity radiating between them...she kisses her again, and again, not just on the lips but on Eri's forehead, the tip of her nose, her cheeks, her neck, her jawline and her chin, a flurry of little desperate kisses falling like rain.

"...so even though I'm a little cross with you for this, and I mean it when I say you're gonna get an earful... I'm not gonna let it matter right now. I'm so happy right now...I'm happier than I ever thought I could be. For you to take what I feared most and replace it with this...I can't put it into words. So I can accept it."

Kyouko steps a little closer now, the toes of her boots pressing up against Eri's own shoes, her knees drifting forward to grace Eri's own. To be nearer to her...as near as they can be right now.

"If you see Homura, please tell her I'm sorry, and that it was a surprise to me too." Kyouko smiles a little, and gives no more thought to anybody but the radiant angel before her. "Take whatever you need from me. I love you with all of my soul, Eri Shimanouchi..."

Reaching down, Kyouko takes Eri's hands in her own. With her left hand, Kyouko laces her fingers into Eri's, squeezing the palm of her hand so tightly...with her right hand, she lays her touch upon Eri's own, gently, so as not to alarm her. Kyouko smiles, and lifts up Eri's left hand to her lips, kissing its back very tenderly. So this is what it's like...she got to hold her hand after all.

"You always try to carry it all on your own..I guess I'm partially to blame. It's how I taught you..but you taught me different. You're the one who brought me out from the sewer. I think we were so busy learning from each other that maybe we've swung to the other side. So this time I get to teach you, Eri..."

Kyouko grins a wide grin, flashing her fang in the setting sun.

"I'm here for you. You don't have to handle it all on your own."

Kyouko moves as quickly as she has ever moved. Her right hand presses down upon Eri's own, as hard as can be. There is a cracking sound.

Kyouko sags.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> ibid

Within Eri's eyes there is a certain commitment, within her wet eyes. A certain commitment driven by her single statement.

She loves her so much.

And so, she will do this. It is a commitment that swims in despair of the cruelty of the world. Her fingers crease with a slow, but inexorable pressure.

If you looked on her face, you might think she was ignoring Kyouko Sakura's plea. Anything but - she's taking it in. And going forward with it anyway.

There's so much time left. She's not ready. Time. More time.

The first sign that Kyouko Sakura might get that she is in fact listening, is this simple, small, helpless shake of her head.

There's no time left for Eri Shimanouchi.

Kyouko smiles her little smile. She cries and shakes. And the other girl squeezes fractionally harder.

They are partners- "I'm the worst kouhai ever." The girl finally offers at that, without interrupting her words - or even contradicting that they're partners. It's all true. Kyouko doesn't want her to follow her. She knows it. That doesn't change the fact she will.

It's inevitable. Maybe Kyouko would buy them that ferris wheel ride - or that apartment they could share together. Then she'd come home one day sometime soon to find Eri Shimanouchi gone. A vanished husk within a labyrinth.

She's certain it would be even sooner than that.

The other girl kisses her on the lips, and Eri slides her lips against Kyouko's during another kiss shared between them.

Her toes slide against Kyouko's, her whole form pressing against her. There's only the faintest hint of surprise as the other girl takes her hand. Her fingers slide into hers, and she squeezes even harder than she does the gem.

To offer her what she can. She may be the worst kouhai ever, but she loves her, and she'll hold her hand as she dies. She knows she must be scared - despite her brave face.

She's terrified too.

Her eyelashes flutter faintly as Kyouko kisses her hand. All of her body feeling light suddenly - save her hand.

Kyouko faces the setting sun, and Eri just faces her, the shadows of wicked trees extending far beyond the treeline over her.

A final lesson is imparted to her with that grin. That grin that's always a comfort. It always told her that everything. /Everything/ would be alright.

That image causes her to doubt herself for one - singular - beautiful moment.

And then the gem cracks - spilling through her fingers like light - unable to truly keep hold of the precious being that is inside, and the other girl sags against her like a tired - wounded soldier.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> In Memories - Kotowari - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8FFQ5T-LuU

Eri's hand leaves hers to slide up to her shoulderblade, as she shifts her weight against her, holding her up. Staring off into that distance.

The wind picks up - sifting through crimson blossoms and fiery hair and her own besides.

Kyouko is not cold. She could not fail to ever be warm. And the two are here together. On the same spot that she remembers from not so long ago.

I saw my family again. I maybe saw God too, again. I didn't realize how much I needed it until you gave it to me.

Giving Kyouko a reprieve from running away from those memories. It was perhaps the crowning achievement of her wretched, sad life.

There was a part of Kyouko before that day that she felt like she could never touch. Never get close to. Never reach it. You could see it in everything she did. The way she separated everyone from that side of herself. Put up a barrier. A wall. And now at the end she understands.

It isn't there anymore - not between them The only barrier between them is the one she herself raised right now.

The girl keeps a hand to her shoulderblade, as she sinks to Kyouko's knees, bringing her with her.

I wonder if you'd treat me like an angel too, if you found me full of holes.

The hand that took her soul - reaches up and closes her eyes slowly. "I'm happy too - happier than I've ever been." She echoes now that she's gone. Because that wasn't a lie for as happy is she is right now, she's also never been sadder, despaired more in her entire life.

It is perhaps - perfectly fitting for a girl who knows without a doubt she is meant to be a witch.


The rough stone with a thorn chiseled character is put into place at the head of the mound of dirt. The girl levels her eyes on the higanbana bouquet she'd left on them.

The guardian flowers ringing the quartet of graves, with a singular defiled headstone on the one furthest to the left.

We're all just girls. And some families are better off without. Mine would have been. But there's no taking it back.

There's a slow, pained blink of her eyes tearful eyes. It feels like she should give a eulogy. However, if she can't take Kyouko's final words to heart to her immediately - then she shouldn't be allowed.

She truly is the worst kouhai ever.

There's one thing she has left to do, before she can.

"I'm going now." She whispers, quietly - her regret, her shame, "I understand if you're even more cross with me - you should be." As she sucks in a noisy, nasally breath, and repeats quietly, "You should be."

The cicadas begin to sing as she steps towards the edge of the grave ring, then takes a short hop to avoid stepping on any of the spider lilies ringing the site. She does not look back, she starts her slow trek away from the church. There's a smell like wrong-smelling rain as her transformation dissolves into green motes fleeing her.

Leaving just a girl in an unlaundered uniform, unclipping her glasses from the edge of her uniform jacket, she unfolds them, raising them up to her eyes.

Would you want to go back to being just an ordinary...

...ordinary seems wrong... but a girl again? Like you were? Is that what you'd want?

So I wish I could be innocent again. But you can't get it back. And even if you could, the world won't all change for you. I wish the world weren't what it is. But that's such a childish thing to wish for. I don't really think about things, as much as I should. I'm always so caught up by what's right in front of me. Like I've been running from something and still haven't felt like I can stop to take a breath. Would you go back if you could?

I think it'd be wonderful in a lot of ways. I could dream about having a future again. Right now I have trouble even dreaming of having a high school graduation some days. On worse days I can't even think of reaching high school. I guess I'd want to be normal if I had a choice... but I almost think we'd be better off a Sailor Senshi or a Pretty Cure...

... p-please don't tell Setsuna-chan or Haruka-kun I said that. They'd never let me hear the end of it.

I won't say a word of it, and I know friends tease... but they should understand what it is to be us and why we would wish for something else. But we are what we are. It is what it is and it's not what it's not.

The girl hesitates as she regards them, turning them over in her hand.

I'm so glad you're in my life Eri-chan.

And slowly folds them back up, putting them into her bag. Where she's going, she has no need for them on her face. The dilapidated Cathedral fades away into shadow behind the trees of the forest as she turns.

The world has a soft blur to it past a certain distance, and it's fitting. It feels more real to her. The path to the train station is filled with the soft orbs of multi-colored light that bob faintly with every step, things coming more into contrast with every footstep.

You've done enough. It's time to go home.


The turnstile accepts the tap of her card, as she slides through to the line that will ultimately take her there.

Sounds nice.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> ibid

The train shifting jolts her, and she does not so much settle in for the long ride, so much as allows it to take her on its necessary journey. Her gaze everywhere and nowhere as she keeps standing, fingertips resting on the bar.

... heaven without the people you care about doesn't feel like heaven to me. It feels like the worst kind of hell.

... maybe this is hell.. but you're here. So maybe it's not..or maybe it's not all that bad.

The distance earthy watercolor transforms before her eyes to the city of grey towers and yellow lighting.

The train forcibly screeches to a halt, causing her to stumble forward then back in a whiplash like rhythm. It had done this many stops before. However this time she is unravelling her fingertips from the bar before she even hears the words announced. "Shinjuku. Shinjuku Station."

Leaving the vessel that brought her home, she passes through the turnstile that demarcates her entrance without reflecting upon it. The colorful lights of its numerous stores were a glossy veneer that she ignored, on her way out from the station down to street level, hugging the rail the whole way.

Let her go, Eri-chan. She shouldn't end like one of us, not when she's got one last chance to end up where she ought to.

Shuffling down the streets, she had a brief flash of Madoka and her walking home, the three of them smiling on that day. She remembers herself bringing up Saotome-sensei's latest beau. Sayaka teasing her back. It feels like decades ago that she went in this direction.

For as much as she felt like she belonged there - this is the first time she'd ever truly gone back.

Do you ever think you'd consider giving school another try?

I never much thought about it.. but.. maybe someday. You and me. Once this is all over...

There is another figure there for a moment in her vision. Hair aflame, and the girl's eyes blur, soon enough the sidewalk is damp in several spots, as she hiccups wretchedly and starts to walk onward quickly.

I don't..I don't know if in that head of yours you're flaying yourself..in that heart you're hardening yourself..but you are an angel of light and you have saved my life and I will never forget what you have done for me.

She has so little time left. She knows it. She knows it. It's a mercy that Kyouko does not see her prove she is anything but her angel of light.

She knows now she loves her. So at least she can spare her this much.

And maybe..I've gotten soft. Softer than I'd like to admit. You've helped me remember how hard you have to be, to be what we are.

Kyouko won't have to harden herself to survive - again - to prevent the world from crushing her anew. Eri had hardened herself so that Kyouko had the right to be soft in a world that will punish her for it. Kyouko blamed herself for it in her final moments. However she has never once regretted crystallizing her heart further and further for Kyouko Sakura's right to be soft. The world owed her so much. If it wouldn't give her that - then /she/ would.

Now she can die a girl in love - rather than as a witch.

To a heart that has become as twisted as a tenacious mass of roots, it was perhaps the greatest gift she felt she could offer her.

It's funny how some places can etch themselves in her head. She's never been back to the alley after that day. Not once. Yet she recognizes it immediately. The edge of that filthy place might as well still be fouled with the scent of her blood.

She does not hesitate to walk towards the angular shadows that slice across Shinjuku walls.

You're okay now.

What a strange moment to know that is true - without any doubt.