2019-05-09 - Walpurgisnacht: Prologue
The play stops on Walpurgisnacht,
Homura Akemi, Mai Tokiha, Inori Yamabuki, Lera Camry, Kasagami Araki, Marinette Dupain-Cheng, Steven Universe, Ren Aizawa, Setsuna Higashi, Fate Testarossa, Vita Yagami, Fuu Hououji, Nori Ankou, Shizuru Fujino, Takeo Akamizu, Gordon, Haruka Tenoh, Endo Naoki, Ye-jin Song, Michiru Kaioh, Usagi Tsukino, Georgia Jenks, Nagisa Misumi, Rei Hino, Utena Tenjou, Anthy Himemiya
GM: Pink Moon Stick
Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo
|OOC - IC Date:|
5/9/2019 - 06-05-2015
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Rainbow Bridge (#626) +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Despite its name, the Rainbow Bridge spends most of its time bone-white, like an angel's harp carved of driftwood in the dark water of the bay. Periodically it crosses beneath an island every bit as man-made and geometrical as the bridge itself, planting pillars to claim it and then traversing water again. It's visible from a wide variety of angles from the coastline, forming a hypoteneuse that crosses the bay via Odaiba and, with the aid of less iconic bridges, permits quick travel from Yamanote to Shitamachi. Foot traffic is possible across the bridge, and many visitors dare the long walk to get a good view of the city on one side, and the sea on the other. Walking atop a bridge is a poor way to see the bridge itself, of course, but that is what the Yurikamome elevated train line is for. Slung beneath the bridge for much of its journey, the fully automated, driverless train gives a great view of the Rainbow Bridge on its way to Odaiba. For a few hours every night, this expensive landmark truly lives up to its name, glowing with different hues depending on the season or holiday. Rarely, a combination of floodlights makes a genuine rainbow of the bridge, with deep reds at its foot and violet at its peak. Small, colorfully lit tugboats and civilian craft float beneath the gleaming bridge, buoyant on the liquid dream of a starry sky.
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed. <SoundTracker> Wind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wn2BHF73MeU
The only thing in motion is the air.
But so many things aren't, that should be.
The trains are dead on their tracks.
Bicycles sit abandoned on sidewalks; cars in the road.
Most of all, though... there should be people.
Nowhere in the whole wide world is like Tokyo, is it?
And it isn't the buildings, though they are many and massive, many with enough personality to truly have an identity all their own.
It isn't the roads or even the parks, though the latter are beautiful at this time of year, the last of spring's blooms faded to the unquenchable growth of summer.
It isn't the Bay, whose waters are disturbingly choppy beneath a whooshing wind that is coming from nowhere and everywhere. Everything it passes over feels small amid the vastness of the atmosphere.
It's the people, of course.
And the people are gone.
The stillness is shocking. It is as deeply and profoundly wrong as anything that has ever transpired in this city among cities, and moreso, even, because it was done by choice.
Without its people, the city is still beautiful, in a strange way. It's easier to see things all at once that are normally blocked by throngs of pedestrians, like an entire block of storefronts in Shibuya. Distance is distorted, strange. The spaces between are so much larger, now.
But its beauty is hollow.
Tokyo is still Tokyo as much as a person without blood is still a person.
The shelters are as noisy as the city is quiet, which is to say, in a troubling, awful way. Too noisy, too dense. Dense in people and therefore everything they bring with them, sounds and smells and most of all feelings.
There are as many shades of distress here as there are colors of the rainbow, but underlying all of them is a terrible, terrible fear.
Fear that could transform into despair with the slightest provocation. Hearts balance on a razor's edge.
The rain -- the very last thing in Tokyo that still provided something in motion, in the millions and billions, drops plummeting from heaven to die on the Earth -- stops.
And then the triumph of stillness is complete.
For one long, slow breath, nothing moves at all.
Then the puddles begin to tremble.
And the clouds, which loom like low-hanging wallpaper, a gray so oppressive that they're almost yellow, move more and more quickly across the sky.
They never, ever break. There are no gaps.
They're starting to rotate, a loop that should be a spiral.
The thunder starts.
The lightning is missing, though.
It's only suggested by the faintest shifts of shade of the clouds themselves.
Listen. Can you hear it?
A quiet voice, so distant that her babbles are nonsense, is murmuring between strikes.
The countdown has begun.
A second roll of empyrean timpani.
Motion again; mist springs up out of nowhere, providing an almost comforting claustrophobia to the streets. First it's ankle-height, then, like undertow, is abruptly to the waist. The shoulder. The neck.
Is it moving, or are you?
THAT'S not you.
The pitter patter of tiny feet.
The whole world is drowning, choking in fog; the little red-and-black-checkerboard moppet skittering down the road is almost SHOCKINGLY colorful, in the three seconds that it's visible before it is crushed to nothing beneath the massive foot of...
BGM: Mary's Theme https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz9bD_Dmqwc
Don't think of an elephant.
Don't blame the big guy. He's wearing a blindfold, and a giant doily on his head, and the tasseled blanket on his back is celebratory in the extreme. Attached to its front is a little hook, and streamers trail behind. Six pennants. Eight. Sixty-four and a half, disappearing upwards, into the sky.
Don't think of an elephant because he isn't an elephant. He isn't an elephant because he's green and because there's the eerie feeling that there's nothing under that wrap where his eyes should be, but mostly he isn't an elephant because he is something entirely different.
He's a familiar. And someday, if he's very, very lucky, and very, very good, he might grow up to be a witch.
Lifting his trunk, he bugels proudly, and countless other things that aren't elephants -- some of them don't even LOOK like them, but as yet they're too small and too distant to make out through the fog -- trumpet, or rattle, or hiss, or roar, in answer.
The circus is coming to town.
There's no better place to view the procession than from the bridge.
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed. <SoundTracker> Fink - Warm Shadow (Dactyl Remix) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJWemAUrdnc
At a grey railing overlooking grey river water, amid an empty expanse of pale grey walkway tiles and beneath the heavy roiling yellow-grey of Witchborn thunderheads, stands a girl.
Just a girl.
A girl in the orange vest and white shirt of Ohtori Academy; a slender girl whose skirt pleats ripple in the tempest winds, but not so expressively as her inky hair.
One girl, against a storm.
Homura Akemi would be the first to tell you that she would have it no other way.
"It's here." Words she has spoken so many times that they take on the solemnity of ceremony.
So is she.
She would be nowhere else. Her heels know this spot as well as her elbows know her homeroom desk; the hour is etched upon her heart. Before any others arrived she was here, standing alone and small and defiant below what gathers above. She stands that way still. Unmoved. Unmoving.
Her violet eyes are level and cool; the beat of her dead heart, steady and slow. These last hours have centered her via action and repetition. Expressive of practice beyond easy imagining, her hands moved through nearly the exact same steps they have so many times before to enact a battle plan she has honed over and over again.
Thus culminates her grand and iterative ritual, enacted in preparation for the Witch she considers her grandest opponent. To Homura they are old foes now, fateful partners in a destructive dance. The taste of latent electricity in the air, the way fey winds pull at her sable mane: all of these sensations, more familiar now than the warm grasp of a friend's hand, ground her in this moment. She stands with heels and shoulders square and faces into the storm.
The mists come like a tide, to swirl about her dark-clad calves.
Homura's chin rises, and she is cool as rising fog, fearsome as stormwinds, as she runs fingers through her long hair. She defies any darkling flutters nestled deep within her ribs' cage. Her time is before her. Whatever has gone before, her purpose is clear.
She shall always rise, shall always fight: for her promise, for her wish, for her love.
Sure of her way in the obscuring mists, Homura begins to walk. She puts one loafer-clad foot after another, just one girl striding amid and against a parade flow of fantastical Familiars. Her head does not turn and her gaze does not stray to the elephantine stamp of despair's perverse puppets.
She hunts greater prey, and her focus is absolute.
<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.
The rain is louder, now. Ohtori Academy in particular seems to be absolutely drenched by the deluge, and old dormitory buildings can only handle storms for so long.
There's a dripping to match. Maybe it's one of the holes that a careless sword accidentally made in a wall. Maybe it's a window, opened from the outside three times too many for the seal to hold. Maybe it's the rooftop, scorched by secret meal planning. Whatever the reason, there's a leak somewhere in the dorm room.
Mai doesn't care. She doesn't care about the damp, doesn't care about the cold, just cares about a promise made that might never have been heard. She's checked and checked and checked her phone, but her messages to Mikoto and to the dead still show as unread. There's no reason for anyone to expect her to be here.
She promised herself, though. That promise is iron-clad, and binds her to stay in her - in their room until the very last minute.
The end of the world is approaching, and Mai can only wait for a message on her phone. Redemption through Mikoto answering her plea or absolution through her other friends calling for aid...
The rain stops, cut off like a scream. It's jarring enough that Mai sits up in confusion, peering at the window. The spark of life seems to return to her eyes long enough for her to check her phone - and then, ever so ponderously, she begins to type two more messages.
guessing that things are beginning
i have to go fight. i'll be home afterward, if you can make it
There's other conversations with messages for her to read - but as Mai swings her feet off the formerly shared bed, she elects to leave Takumi's worries unread.
<Pose Tracker> Inori Yamabuki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
"What about the strays?"
"Animals have a certain instinct for danger Inori. I'm certain they'll find their way to a safer place."
"But shouldn't we do something?"
"What's to be done? You understand how shy strays are around people. There's no good way to coordinate removing even a few from the city in time - much less all of them."
"Kaoru-chan - before you pack up your stand... can I please borrow that megaphone you use when you're advertising?"
"I don't know why you'd need to borrow it, but I guess it's a-loud! Ga-ha!"
Cure Pine has been in every ward of the city after the people have left it. A fey key floats overhead in the storm, as she holds up the megaphone to it.
The key makes squeaking noises into the megaphone, translating her message into the language of cats, the language of dogs, of rats and of birds through the pounding rain. "Emergency! A storm is coming like no other! It is no ordinary storm! A top predator is coming within it! Evacuate! Nowhere in the city will be safe!"
Street by street - ward by ward. The city begins to empty of animals that ordinarily only have themselves to rely upon.
While some animals are stubbornly independent, others recognize the urgency of the situation. And the mass migration begins. One particularly aged cat drifts by Cure Pine, and lifts her chin to look at her. "Thank you Cure-" It slides by her, rubbing against her legs as if on accident, "-Piper."
Despite the urgency of the situation, she can't help but smile a little. "I hope Nagisa-chan doesn't hear that one." Her eyes glide up to her fairy key, as she pleads, "Please don't tell her."
The tiny creature responds only with a kii~ that is in no way either affirms or denies what it will do.
Gradually the city becomes even more quiet - from the lack of life.
"I'm almost there Passion! I'm coming up on the Bay! I'm-" Cure Pine speaks rapidly in her linkrun. Her head abruptly swivels as she hears a bugeling green elephant in the distance, beyond her sight.
"... Did I miss a stray elephant?" Cure Pine comments, with this surreal sense that something is off.
Was the Circus in town?
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.
Lera feels a little sense of pride that the city evacuated. It took a lot of work, by a lot of people, to make it possible; it was really Lindy and Shamal tha made it happen, because Lera Camry did not have nearly the level of magic to fake a natural disaster (except, perhaps, a blown gas main).
But it is only a little sense of pride. Tokyo has been her adopted home for the last two years. Seeing it deserted, bikes laying in the ground and cars parked and forgotten, is unnerving. It's a pride tempered by what she sees. Lera adjusts her coat, idly, as she walks. She reaches her hands out, and cracks her knuckles. There is a loud pop when she does.
It's a little forced bravado in the face of the end of the world.
"Almost there," she says to Cure Passion. She didn't come alone; the person that she is walking side-by-side with, though, is the person that she would face that end with. The red-haired girl tilts her head, a ghost of a smile. "...This is pretty spooky, y'know?"
<There is definitely something strange here.> Soaring Sky's chime sounds concerned.
Broken Ground adds: <Be careful. No telling what surprises are in store.>
"Yeah..." Lera looks up, then she steps ahead of Passion, and holds a hand out towards her. "...Looks like we're almost to the bridge."
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
With one last check to ensure her Uncle was both safe and not realizing she'd slipped away, Kasagami Araki finds herself leaping across skyscraper to skyscraper in a blurr of motion towards the center of the party that's rolling into town on thunderous cracks, abyssal elephant, and a misty welcome matt.
The young woman pulls her coat a little tighter around her shoulders between the damp and the cold of so much storm and rain, black hair shocked through with red as the tails of her coat flutter in the air. All of the death, the agony, the loss and worry over those that yet live? Has it all really led up to this? Asks the Duelist in her own head as images of those closest to her lurk in her head. She knows many of them will be fighting the storm, to defend their friends and family and Tokyo, or more personal reasons. It doesn't help still her heart as a bit of nervousness creeps up one arm even as excitement and adrenaline too wraps up the other.
Cresting off of a water tower and a flashing flip into the air, Kasagami Araki draws her nodachi with an overly dramatic slash in the air, flicking off rain residue from slicked metal even as her boots catch a sliding stop atop one of the many pillars holding up the Rainbow Bridge in all it's harp-like beauty.
But two briefly fill up her thoughts with an uncharacteristic moment of doubt in victory. Homura both rejecting help and the possibility. A pink eyed alien calling it an absolute impossibility. Teeth grit and jaw set as she takes it all in from her perch as her coat is set to swaying across her back alongside her ponytail. Both hands take up her sword solidly, tip dipping towards the loud group of creatures obscured by fog and giant and streamers up to the sky.
"...Mom, Dad, Uncle...Puru-chan...Everyone...I don't care what those two think, I'll fight for this town no matter what the odds! A King will not retreat before an invasion! They'll be driven back for the sake of the innocent people here!" Comes Kasagami to herself lowly as she gets the lay of the battlefield that she readies herself for, gaze casting about for others.
<Pose Tracker> Marinette Dupain-Cheng [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to share a little kindness.
Like most of Tokyo, the Dupain-Cheng family had to evacuate on short notice. The windows of the little bakery shuttered, the doors locked, belongings left behind, bare essentials packed for an unknown journey. Unlike most families, though, they brought a tall stack of boxes - the bulk of the day's baking, breads and pastries that would have gone to waste.
A canny thing to do would have been to sell those goods. Marinette's parents chose instead to give them away, in the hopes that a little treat might bring some light to a dark and stormy day.
It helped in more ways than one. Seeing a towering French baker handing out buns brought a little normalcy to a tense situation, fresh food was a balm for uneasy stomachs, and the trio handing out their wares at least had something to busy hands and minds for a little while.
The boxes were beginning to run low when Marinette slipped away, a half dozen macarons stashed in her purse and an excuse about finding a washroom left in her wake. Through the crowds, towards the doors, to gaze into the storm, to look back towards the empty city in their wake, to muse upon the plans that were made.
"...I'm scared, Tikki. The Akuma, the Black Moon clan, those villains who were fighting over the World Tree - they all looked like people for the most part. They felt like enemies we could face directly. This feels...feels like something so much bigger, so much stranger, so much worse." Wind-torn rain dampens spirits and bodies alike, and Marinette hugs herself tightly as her jacket becomes heavy with spray. "...I've got cold feet. After seeing how well everyone else gets along, how much planning was going on...I don't know what I can even do here."
"Marinette..." They're alone, at this dampened fringe, and Tikki emerges from the purse to perch on Marinette's shoulder. "You've always done your duty admirably - going above and beyond the call! You've been a great partner, but one thing all my bearers have had to learn is that you don't have to jump into every fight..."
Marinette raises a hand to shelter the Kwami from the storm, shaking her head with a smile. "I know it isn't something I have to do. I know I could just...try to hide from all this. Curl up next to an empty box of croissants and pretend I'm just a normal girl. But the same goes for everyone at that planning meeting - and they're all trying to make the world a little better by doing what they can."
She brushes at her hair, black stud earring glinting for a moment. "We can have courage when we support each other. Even if it's too big for any of us to handle, I'll go do what I can - so that no one facing it thinks they're alone." A smile to the tiny being, one that's answered in kind.
And then the rain stops, like a switch has been thrown. Distantly, there's the faintest of babbling voices; distantly, the rumble of ominous thunder; distantly, the carnival arrives.
Marinette pales as the fog rolls in so unnaturally quickly, as the mere implication of arrival is known to Tokyo. Tikki lets out the tiniest gasp in the world, and Marinette somehow trips over her feet to collide with the wall - but the surprise seems to jolt her out of reverie, and she shakes her head.
"I meant what I said, Tikki. Just now, and at the strategy meeting - I said I'd help, and I won't be a liar." Her companion's expression is still filled with worry, but Marinette smiles with a confidence that she can hope to maybe almost feel. "So, Tikki - spots on!"
Maybe someone in the shelter catches a glimpse of crimson light just outside the doors. Maybe someone patrolling outside notices a figure in red leaping to a rooftop and beginning a sprint. Or maybe the girl's departure is unnoticed in light of the approaching carnival.
Whether or not she's noticed, Ladybug starts making her way toward the Rainbow Bridge as quickly as possible. The fog being what it is, it's surely the best vantage point to see just what rumbles in the mists.
The trumpet of the not-an-elephant surprises her, though, and she arrests her travel atop a convenient lamp post. It's the wrong instant to have any hope of seeing Homura Akemi, but perhaps the Familiars would have caught her interest first anyway.
"A circus? I wasn't exactly expecting anything, but I certainly didn't expect this..." The rain's stopped, but the fog if anything feels even worse. Ladybug's gaze darts from one mist-shrouded feature to another, but the Witch's advance guard holds only mysteries without a blatant weakness. To be sure, she'd have to get closer - but fear stalls her, holds her back.
A companion with bravado would be convenient, but in his absence she has to come up with her own quip. She tries to smile to herself, speaking confidence to try to make it real. "A show like this coming without much warning - aren't things like this supposed to all be under one tent?"
As she continues onward, she wonders. If someone overheard her worried little joke, would that count as a bit of kindness?
COMBAT: Marinette Dupain-Cheng transforms into Ladybug!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.
It was time to go.
Greg lay asleep on a prepared cot at the evacuation shelter. He had set up a small spot with a few instruments to help keep the spirits of the evacuees up-- a few guitars, a keyboard, a worn saxophone from earlier years. None being used yet as msot were settling in. THe drive was long and stormy. Most were too tired to consider music yet.
Steven couldn't tell him to his face he had to leave again. Yet the child had a feeling his father already knew. "I have to go," he says quietly, gathering his hamburger backpack, a few snacks, and every little safety thing Pearl made him pack. "Dunno why I need this stuff, I was meeting back up with them," he groans.
One last look back toward Greg as he tries to rest, and he disappears into the crwod.
A kind, slightly scared smile is given toward a friend whose family went to the same shelter. "Guess we gotta go, huh? C'mon, Lion can get you there faster!"
Lion looks back at the two and squints. That kid will owe him.
A boy and young lady sail on the median against traffic flow down the highway, riding upon a faithful friend. The rain pelts them all, but it was of little consequence to what may come. Even Lion, whom hates getting too wet, seemed to disregard this cat-related hazard this day. Sometimes he just seemed to know when the stakes were.
Other days he would be wedging himself in boxes. Steven can only guess that Lion knows there won't be any boxes to wedge himself into if today went badly.
There was an empty spot on the thoroughfare for a scant moment. "Hit it, lion!" Steven says, holding his pink hoodie close as the wind did its best to grab and tug it away. It was slogged with water. Taking it off may be a better solution.
Lion's speed increases, and with enough roaring power to vibrate windows on the opposite side of traffic, rips a portal open and speeds into it before any vehicles get close to it.
It was a stark difference to the dreariness outside. Bright pinks and blues and twinkling geometric patterns. It was like looking into a kaleidoscope constantly expanding. An unseen force whips at Steven's hair and Lion's mane as they navigate the path.
"Lion. Listen, if you see people who need help, go help them, okay? THis is a team effort, just like the book thing. We're gonna have to work hard, okay buddy?" He gives the giant cat a hug from his place, partially wedged between realities in the mane. The cat doesn't react, its eyes blazing white. He must need to concentrate to keep going. A look back to Fuu. "This may be the toughest fight yet. Are you ready?" he asks. They didn't have a choice, though. They HAD to be ready.
A portal blasts open at the Seaside Park. Back out into the stinging rain they went, giant claws skidding on pavement, then grass and soil. "Okay, we gotta find Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl! And everyone else!" A look toward the beach. The tip of the temple was visible from one of the cliffs. "Would they still be at home?" he muses to himself. "We're gonna start looking for them! Think you'll be okay here?" Steven asks the Wind Knight.
The pair ride off toward the Gem Temple to start. They need to meet up with everyone intending to do battle. It is going to take a herculean effort to push this being back.
As they reach the beach, the rain abruptly cuts. Only wind remains. "What...?" the boy says, looking up. Nothing. As they ride together, the boy pulls off his soaked hoodie and crams it into the mane. pink-infused light is the only sign of where it went. Then the wind stops.
"That isn't good..." Even Lion stops running for a moment. Enough to capture the feeling of something building. Water on the ground is moving on its own. Thunder and lightning pick back up, without a single droplet in the air. The boy has never seen weather act like this. And while the storm originally was surely a ploy to get people to evacuate...
This was different. This fog was worse than the worst morning in Beach City. They run down the water-drenched beach, when a sound blares out. A powerful sound.
The troupe has come.
"It's starting already?!" Steven yells as he grips a handful of pink hair. "We don't have much time!"
The pair hustle to the Gem Temple to look for the Crystal Gems. Steven figures after, it may be best to get to wherever the sound is coming from. It sounded like it came from somewhere near the big birdge!
<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.
The storm came as predicted. So much wind. So much rain. It seems impossible to imagine such a weather pattern forming on it's own.
Of course, that's because it didn't.
Ren takes a moment to take in the sight around her. The city is more or less empty -- devoid of all life. Even the animals seem to be getting out of dodge, a few strays seeming to head for the hills as they say. That's good. They really don't need to be here for this.
No one who is unprepared should be here for this.
Squeezing Endo's hand, she gives him a smile. It's a bit shaky, but it's a smile nonetheless. "You know, I used to sometimes wonder what the city would be like without all the people and noise. And now... Well, I don't really like it."
A shudder flows through her body as a gust of wind blows past the couple, Ren huddling against Endo for warmth as they continue to make their way to the bridge. "Ahh... I'm glad mom and dad got out. And Yuu-san. They're going to be so upset when they find out I gave them the slip."
The thought of having to face her concerned family after this causes her smile to perk up a bit more. Yeah. After this. That really sounds like a not so bad thing at all.
Then, as if someone decided to turn off the sky, the rain and wind stops. Everything is still. And silent. Ren blinks, looking up at the sky. "It's...?"
Heraut pings at that moment. <There's something-> He starts, but is abruptly cut off by the sound of an elephant's trunk ringing through the air. Ren's face falls.
Steeling herself, she looks to Endo, then straight ahead where the bridge lies in partially-obscured-by-mist (where did that come from?) view. "Let's go, Endo-kun."
<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.
It isn't Setsuna's favorite thing, having to deceive the family who took her in. She does what she has to; she will be here for this battle, and that is more important than any explanation of why. So, Setsuna Higashi is out in the city that isn't the city, and it is utterly strange to her to see it like this now. Strange, and yet...
Familiar, in its own way. There are cities that are silent, if one knows where to look.
So it is that Cure Passion has come to be walking the streets of the emptied city--because she isn't walking them alone. She walks beside Lera, turning her way--and inclining her head back, as simple an answer as she's ever given. It doesn't need words. But...
"It's strange," the shorter girl admits, looking around once again at all the action there isn't--and then listening to the call. "...I don't think there are stray elephants in Tokyo," Passion says dubiously to Cure Pine. "But we're approaching the bridge now. There's something out here."
Cure Passion lowers her Linkrun, and reaches forward, to take Lera's hand in hers, and nod once more--firmly, decisively. "All right."
But ah... the clouds. The storm. Passion recalls skies that could hardly be called skies, clouded over forever. But there is something so loud... A mist, that is there--
Her fingers squeeze Lera's more fervently for an instant, dismay showing in her expression as she looks out into the distance.
"...Please, be careful," she says into the Linkrun, and then looks back to Lera.
Her red eyes ask the same of her, but she doesn't feel like the words will come.
...It is a place they shouldn't be; a place no one belongs, now. But that hasn't stopped her before. For better or worse...
Passion looks into Lera's eyes for a few moments more, and then steps along.
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.
Fate Testarossa takes a deep breath. Then another. During her time with the Chevaliers she'd fought many familiars, and enough witches.
This was different. It was different on a scale she felt she could barely fathom. Closing her eyes for a moment, she swallows.
She didn't want to think of it as going into battle against something like Sayaka Miki had become. It was too sad, too cruel. Instead she had to see it as going into battle to carry out her final orders to them.
That - was something she can do without hesitation.
Nervously fidgeting, she adjusted a metal gauntlet on her hand, even though her barrier jacket fit her perfectly. It always did. The rain pounded overhead against a green energy field warding them.
The timpani drums are echoing. Faint against the rolling of thunder. Fate Testarossa loved storms. As a child the rhythm of the rain could put her to sleep faster than anything else.
She feared this one. It was like something of nightmare.
Turning around to Lindy Harlaown, who is maintaining these wards, she states quietly, "I should go." The girl takes a step before she's stopped by a voice, "Not quite yet."
Before Fate knows it, there's arms encircling her from behind, and she starts at first, before she relaxes within the embrace from her foster guardian.
"I know I could say this for any number of battles I've sent you away to - but this one worries me too." The grip relaxes after a few moments, and the girl turns around to the side. A hand brushes away a blonde twintail, and she feels a motherly kiss against her forehead. It's such a brief contact, before she adds, "Come back safely to me - Feito-chan."
She'd learned it before in a world of her own imagination, where she met someone very special, now she knows it again.
She knows without a doubt that she's wanted, and loved.
All those times that Lera, Ren, Endo and Setsuna tried to communicate that to her, it never stuck. Now - it's different.
Even if she's scared, she knows she has something precious to come back to.
"I will." She vows, and with it comes a smile for the person who is one part of why she has something so precious to return to.
<Pose Tracker> Vita Yagami [None] has posed.
Vita made a single request to her kin: Don't tell her where they take Hayate. She couldn't focus if she knew that. She couldn't do this if she knew that. If Hayate were in the shelters, her head would be spinning with need to be at her side in this moment of absolute desperation. If she were on the field - her heart seizes at the thought. The Book is gone. Can she even still? That is business for the Master, and Vita has not spoken with Hayate of it. Hayate has shown her power already, but...
Destroy what threatens the Master and her world. This is the seed of the Knight of Iron.
So Vita is unaccompanied on a rooftop over Tokyo as the stillness cracks. It reminds her still, cold nights, hunting. Now she hunts something she deos not have to fear to break. A witch of witches; the culmination of thousands of girls' screams. She actually never got pulled into the war on the Witches. She was after prey the Book could stomach more readily. So now, half-blind, she finds a question looming over her: Can she kill sorrowing ghosts?
Vita's fingers tighten on Eisen's handle, and the Armed Device chimes at her; a stoic, wordless exchange. "I know," she says, and sees the streaking lights of other fliers as they make for the bridge. The initial trumps of Somethings up there sets her skin crawling. She does one final check; fingers twisting in a familiar spell. Numbers that look nothing like Earth characters flick across her vision. "Shamal was working hard," she says quietly.
She stands up, gloved fingers releasing stone and armored feet tamping it. Red flares around her as she boosts skyward, Eisen failing to gleam in the muddy light, veering toward the bridge.
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.
Fuu made a promise to her fellow magical girls, and to Madoka in particular: she *would* be there to help fight the Witch of Witches. But she was also obligated to make sure her family would be safe, even if she herself wouldn't. And she was sure that if she told her parents and big sister that she had to stay, they would have been reluctant at best to leave, even after the Book of Darkness incident.
Steven's friendly interruption catches Fuu as she's preparing to leave on her own; the blonde teenager smiles, nodding to the young boy, then whispers a good-bye to her big sister, her mother, and her father - all three sleeping, or so it appears - before heading out with Steven, bundling up in her raincoat en route.
It's Fuu's first time riding on Lion's back, and she hunkers down, nearly burrowed into pink fur against the rain and the wind. She's definitely going to owe thanks of her own to Steven's leonine companion; she might have to ask Steven what Lion likes to eat, or something.
And then there's a portal, and two humans and one Lion are travelling through an alternate dimension. Fuu lifts her head, sucking in a deep breath. "I don't know," she admits, "but that won't stop me from doing my best."
Another portal, as they return to reality - and Fuu feels a familiarly-unfamiliar twist in her gut, her heartbeat 'stumbling' briefly as adrenaline pours through her. "I can make it the rest of the way from here," she replies to Steven, dismounting, and risking a moment to scritch Lion between the ears. "Thank you both for the ride here," she says sincerely, stepping back and bowing (mostly to Lion). "I'll see you where the action is, hopefully soon. Stay safe along the way; there's more than enough danger waiting to fight us."
She turns away, instinctively heading towards the bridge as she clenches her left fist; the glove-jewel gleams, not catching the external light so much as reflecting and refocusing Fuu's own determination, her will being made manifest. "Belief becomes power ..."
For a moment, the stormwinds are halted around Fuu Hououji, her raincoat settling only to billow upwards as a breeze rises around her, driving away the chill which encroaches on the city, on Tokyo Bay, on the bridge.
"Winds ... GUIDE ME!!!!"
The last words of her invocation are as much as a battlecry in their own right - an announcement, a challenge, a declaration, all wrapped up in one shout - and her magic responds, the winds of her own power wrapping around her both gently and strongly, raincoat and blouse and jeans replaced by an old middle-school uniform, dyed green and transformed, and overlaid with solid armor on top of the reinforcement bestowed by Clef's magic.
Her transformation has barely concluded before the Magic Knight of Wind explodes into movement, leaping and bounding towards Rainbow Bridge with not even an attempt at subtlety. Let her be seen coming; the only ones to witness her should be her allies - and their common enemy, the Witch of Witches itself.
<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed. <SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IcGfF0aAaI
Some time ago.
"Please... I want you to leave Tokyo."
Silence had reigned. A fork touched a plate. A knife cut a scallop.
"You're certain? I..."
Batiste waited. The wind hummed outside. Very gently, the building in Shibuya swayed.
"... I'm just... afraid. I don't want you to... to..."
"I will take shelter," Batiste said, as he reached out one small black paw to rest on the enormous pale hand of his so-distant cousin. "I imagine it won't be very pleasant, but --"
Nori Ankou gasped, just a little.
"-- don't fear for me. I'll be supporting you. Praying for you, for Madoka, for all of the others out there. This is how I will fight."
Nori Ankou's apartment has been prepared for the storm, such as it is. The furniture is covered, or moved away. The pond has been drained, for its inhabitant has taken shelter. It is empty now. It is like the rest of Tokyo. It is quiet and still. Emptied. Evacuated.
Nori Ankou is downstairs.
Nori Ankou thought perhaps she should return to Ohtori for this, to be with others, and yet something in her rebelled at the thought. Perhaps it is that Ohtori feels unsafe. Perhaps it is because this place is nearer to Kozue than Ohtori and some part of her feels as though Kozue may yet walk the halls. Perhaps some miracle will happen. If so it would happen here; or with the Kaoru family, which would be fine too, but not the sort of miracle she watches out for.
Nori has watched the street outside of the foyer of Shibuya 4-4-4. It has been relaxing in its way. If she doesn't think about how the only motion is from the rain, the only sound from the rain, then she can pretend she is far away. That she has gone home, to a place where she can rest. She feels dreadfully tired and hollow, if the truth must be said, but there is a tension there. A waiting. A counting down of the seconds. As she waits, Nori thinks of Mami Tomoe - Sayaka Miki - Kozue Kaoru - them most of all, but not them alone.
There are many threads and many people. Many people she has loved, and many of them will be out there. But for right now Nori Ankou has little to share, and feels a bit like the occasional scrap of paper that she sees sluicing down the pavement.
And then, like dreams,
Like a precious moment,
The rain ends.
Nori Ankou straightens up.
"Well then," she says, as she steps to the door, pressing it open. It creaks. Somewhere in the distance, there are drums... aren't there?
Nori looks up at the sky.
Then up and down the road on which Shibuya 4-4-4 faces.
Exhaling, she crosses her arms before her, the point of crossing at her navel. Her left hand grasps the battered brass knick-knack she has carried round. The thing that was broken in Hokkaido. The thing that bears a sliver of something beautiful within it.
For a moment Nori reflects without words on the strangeness in the air. And then she thinks of a knife going into the Devil; and finally, she thinks of a small pale face wreathed in pink, and the moment a smile peeked out.
In the middle of the empty street, Nori Ankou says, "Shine forth, O Pharos." The lantern creaks - the taped-together outer brass casing seems to turn itself round, yet somehow on the inside it is transparent, it was always transparent. The sliver of gorgeous obsidian within, the tomb-glass of another world, gleams in this bleak space -
"Let the storm break against me -" The light shines outwards, forming a cloud of ten thousand subtle hues, half of them unknown to Earth save in the deepest hadal zones where little walks, and that but slowly -
The cloud stops - contorts - and contracts. Pressed inwards as if by invisible hands. The light glows aurora-bright, shrinks further into something near palpable. There is a suggestion of something very like lightning, like thunder-snow.
Each strike leaves a mark, a shape. Carbonado jewels. Clothing of formality, of uniform, almost armor. A streak of black across the nose, in the eyes, under the ears. A part in the hair. Nori Ankou closes her eyes.
"La Sirene de Diamant!"
And it is la Sirene who opens her eyes.
The lingering scent of a different sort of sea does not last. La Sirene puts her hands on her shoulders, looks at herself, glances for a moment back and up to the great building, and walks to where she had parked her car.
La Sirene de Diamant did not have much trouble driving here. She parked at the rest stop just off the toll road, not far from the Rainbow Bridge.
She walks towards that bridge -- her coat tails trailing behind her, grandly, in the only air motion that comes from her passage. She pauses, though, as she hears the trumpet of an elephant. Her eyes turn upwards, focusing clearly.
No. It isn't an elephant, is it?
<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (U)] has posed.
Shizuru Fujino is not here.
Advisor to Ohtori High School's Student Council; noted graduate of Ohtori Academy, student at its university program. Rising star on so many levels, poised and seemingly always comfortable in her adopted home of Tokyo. One would expect her to be a pillar of the community in the shelters, too, for the students that were under her care as Vice President, to whom even now she feels clear responsibility.
...One might expect her to be a figure among the business community, taking her work and continuing her ledgers and plottings and plannings in the mobile office that is anywhere one might hope to go, a young woman already preparing for success.
...One might expect even a Woman in Black prepared to capitalize upon the silence, to carry out some vital mission under cover of danger for her own shadowy purposes. Or, if one is truly informed... the presence of Shizuru Fujino, to protect the city that she seems to have worked so hard to remain in. And yet...
No, Shizuru Fujino is not here. But where she is, far away, she looks out into the distance, out to the horizon, in the direction of Tokyo, from where she stands. Her expression is blank, without pity or worry or kindness or anything at all, actually. Out there, in the distance...
Out there, the battle that claimed the life of a true friend is finally here. And she is not. Her brown hair flutters in a wind even out here, as her red eyes continue to stare outward even now.
"...Miss?" someone starts to say.
"It's nothing important," Shizuru answers him with a small smile, inclining her head and continuing her walk, heels clicking against hard ground.
There is nothing she can do, to prevent those who will fight from fighting this hopeless battle. But for her...?
The place and time that took Shizuru Fujino's friend, one of precious, precious few--the place and time that took Eri Shimanouchi...
The secretive young woman finds that she cannot muster any amount of feeling for that place at all.
<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.
He had sent the message to his parents. It was a simple one, that read very simply; "Take care of Mika, the school ahs shelters here. I love you all." Then Takeo stared at his phone. He stood in the wind and the rain with no umbrella, his student council jacket open and his hair snapping in the wind like some sort of knight's pennet. He had one more message to send, one that might never be read because he had failed so many times over the last few years.
It was a good thing the rain was coming down. It hid his tears.
He typed the message quickly, his fingers flying across the little digital keyboard as if they knew the messag ehe wanted to send before he did. As he hit send, the rain stopped and he lifted his head to the heavens. He looked to the Rabbit. To Merlin. He still couldn't talk, whatever Morgana had done to him had taken that form him, but the bunny looked frightened. "Thank you Merlin." He says softly and then walked to the edge of the building. His view, here on Southern Cross Island was .... Frightening as well as spectacular. He held his hand out and concentrated.
"Mika .... "
Takeo was suddenly a lightning storm. Adding lightning to a storm that was bereft of the flashing striking forks.
"I'm sorry little sister. I hadn't meant for things to go like this and I've been an absolutely terrible brother."
Bolts slammed into him, one after another. Two, three, a dozen, a hundred, more. Each bolt causing the boy to glow with a bright cerulean light.
"No matter what happens Mika, I want you to know that I love you. I should have been there for you. I should have been there everyday."
The bright blue light surrounding him and taking his form grows slightly. Filling out and taking the shape of armor. One bolt strikes downward, forking at the last instant into two twin forks. Each of thsoe are snatched by Takeo, and they solidy. Forming twin Bright White shining longswords that glow a blinding white.
"I'm off to fight something terrible. I don't even know if you'll ever read this, but I needed to say it. I'm sorry Mika. I failed to protect you. I failed to protect Merlin. I failed to preotect Eri. I failed to protect ... so many people. But mostly, I failed you. The sheathe was shattered, your one hope. I did ... Bad things ... To keep you alive, and in that respect I failed to protect your brother."
The bright blue light begins to peel away in little pixelated squares that snap and crack as each leaves Takeo. Beneath, shining plate armor and a blue half tabard with matching blue cloak.
"But. I need you to know. Your brother will try, one more time to be the Hero you believe him to be. That he tried to do what was right one more time, and not jsut because he loves you, but because it's the right thing to do. Because I'm a Knight of the Round Table."
As the last mote of energy floats away and crackles into nothingness and the storm ends, Takeo opens his eyes as Lancelot. He looks out once more onto the city and grips both blades of Arondight tightly. He leaps off the Building and there she is, Sparkles, riding to catch him. He lands on the horse's back and leans in to whisper. "Let's do it girl. One helluva a ride agains the darkness. And this time, we'll win."
At this Sparkles rears and paws the air wiht her lightning shod hooves. She whinnies in triumph like it's a war cry and then the pair are racing toward the menagerie of strangeness, with it's not a people and not elephants. The pair ride to meet the rest of the Magical Population to do battle with the Doom foretold by the Incubator, and he was damned well determined to show that thing they could win. No matter the cost.
Merlin hops onto the ledge of the building and watches them go. In his head, since he can't speak, he whispers; "Good luck boy. May the Lady guide your sword and see you and all the others safe."
<Pose Tracker> Gordon [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.
"¿Crees que estarán bien, chef?"
The question distracted Gordon. The rabbit looked up from the little screen, in one of the shelters built underneath Infinity that a few of the faculty in the know were in. Rafael wasn't faculty in the know; he was so much more. He was Gordon's sous chef, back when he worked in America.
The huge, towering man wears a sleeveless undershirt. The haze from the three cigarettes in the room makes the television hard to see -- one of the closed-circuit cameras, which the blue-haired French teacher knew how to make see the bridge. Rafael's hand moves busily, sketching that weird elephant -- his full sleeve tattoos shifting.
Ursula Callistis follows the both of them with red eyes, her cigarette hanging halfway out of her mouth. She looks sick, Gordon thinks. She must not smoke much, but she didn't turn down the offer. Gordon doesn't smoke much either, anymore...
But if a day made it a good excuse, it's today. Gordon shrugs, once, ears folding back. He takes a long drag on his cigarette, the end turning to ember, then ash.
"No lo sé," he answers Rafael.
<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed. <SoundTracker> Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child (Charlie Haden) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGPNdsVvWhM
The rain is light, still, but it comes in irregular, wind-tossed sheets. It's these mountains in the distance; the way their bluegreen bulk beckons the coming storm up, wreaks chaos on its currents. Dark specks of damp mottle one arm of Haruka's pea coat as she stands, back to the wind, an umbrella in her other hand. The umbrella drizzles, eight-pointed, into the moss-rich dirt.
It's a formal occasion. Haruka wears slacks, a dress shirt, a tie. Probably a jacket, though the coat hides its shoulders. She's been standing still for a time, Michiru sheltered beneath her umbrella, arm about her bicep. She's gazing blankly at a stone that has been set into the ground, rougher and more improvised than the carven markers that lay all about. Something like a crude knife has ground the words SAKURA KYOUKO into the stone. Even hacked into rock, there's something about the characters that speaks of a young girl's handwriting.
Rippling downward from its featureless nose, the tip of an earthworm starts to laboriously hike itself from the soaked dirt. Tapping about blindly, it selects a direction and starts to crawl. Maybe a quarter of it has climbed out so far, maybe only a tenth. You never know how much is left, with worms.
"You were supposed to outlast all of us," Haruka accuses the stone softly. The corner of her lip is lifted.
"That's why we picked you, you know. Because you kept your head down and held on with both hands. With your teeth, if you had to. Because you'd been all the way to the bottom, and didn't find anything worth dying for on the way down."
Haruka closes her eyes, smiling sadly. Somehow with her lids closed, the distant cross that marks a steeple in the fog seems closer, heavier.
"You really disappointed us, you know. You and that little flower girl of yours."
Transferring the umbrella to Michiru's hand, Haruka steps out of its shelter, letting the rain start to tap at her short blond hair. Reaching into her coat pocket, she rifles it for a moment, unhurried, kneeling as she does so. The hand in her pocket withdraws, palming something, and she places it atop the improvised gravestone.
"Good for you," she whispers. She leaves her hand there for a few seconds. When she takes it off at last, to stand, a gleaming coin is left behind.
Turning away, Haruka lets Michiru pay her respects, gazing now instead towards the horizon, down the layers of hill and farmland, past the towns of the foothills and into the mists where a city lies. Her eyes, which had had a greenish cast when she faced the moss, take on their usual flinty blue tone as her brows draw together slowly. The turbulence is growing quickly, and Haruka can sense in her ancient soul the unnatural agony of the winds. Haruka's blood quickens to its music.
The storm will not wait.
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed. <SoundTracker> The Sole Regret - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKf5Cc2EGv0
An umbrella tumbles across the Rainbow Bridge. The cheap plastic dome is dented, partway inverted by earlier wind. Once meager shelter from the pouring rain, the now useless lump that comes to rest amidst the wet concrete trail that runs along the side of the bridge.
Endo Naoki's hand tucks back against his body, now having to trust the heavy raincoat to do it's job without help. The hand that once was devoted to holding the umbrella is spared for Ren in the meantime, clasping tight as he huddles together this his companion. The pace is slow, funerary almost, but they make it to near the edge of the bridge just in time.
"They'll be okay." Endo assures the girl at his side, at mention of her family. His own mother waits anxiously in a shelter, their earlier goodbye a quiet but fierce one. She couldn't stop Endo from being here any more than anyone else could.
The umbrella soon no longer matters as both the rain and the rest of Tokyo become deathly still. Endo too pauses, his legs coming to a stop as dark eyes rise to take in the wall of clouds and the shapes that move between and out of them.
"That's it, huh?" There's a muted sense of awe-and terror-at the sight. Yet when Ren asks, he nods. "They're probably waiting for us, right?" The boy's lips split into a thin smile, offering some tiny warmth in wet emptiness. He begins to walk, hand-in-hand, toward the rest of the assembling magical girls
His other hand reaches into his pocket to curl around the jagged, purple stone that lies within. It feels as cold and lifeless as the plastic dome that litters the street behind them.
But Endo is here, because the people that he loves are here.
That's all that matters.
<Pose Tracker> Ye-jin Song [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
Far above the Rainbow Bridge, in a towering skyscraper that stretches into the dark above, a girl in red and white watches the sky ahead.
The lights of the Ginsu Group's corporate headquarters are out, the windows below all black and empty. Only the Chariman's room, the highest floor, glows in the haze. Not a lighthouse in the dark, not a grand and shining beacon, just a dim and smoldering ember.
For Ye-jin and Sang-min Song, this enough. Both grandfather and granddaughter stand in their gilded tower, awaiting the true force of the storm to come. Though they are not part of the community of girls that stand at the bridge, they are part of others. They are aware something of magnitude is coming. Something that cannot be ignored.
When the shapes begin to drift out the distance, elephants and not-elephants and other terrible things, Ye-jin's voice breaks the room's stilted silence.
"I'm going up." A motion is made to the roof.
The old man's hand clasps her shoulder briefly. Long enough to pull her into a tight hug. A quiet word, and then they part again.
This is their world. No one--and no thing--will take it away from her.
<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.
Michiru Kaioh wore her best. It was thus elegant and in some ways understated: a black dress, immaculately Italian, with a charcoal gray blazer over and a long hat with a black lace veil. Her earrings were small, with white stones.
The one apology to necessity was flats. It's raining, after all.
Michiru stands, and she holds the umbrella in one gloved hand, and she looks at the stone. Her eyes feel heavy. She can hear the sounds but the silence feels close, too. She has veiled it well, but she has not slept in comfort in the last several nights. Haruka speaks and the cold feeling, like the ringing of a bell made of lead, spreads in her guts.
It sits there.
Haruka returns, and Michiru returns the umbrella to her. Silk gloves brush fingertips over the last joint of Haruka's fingers.
Stepping forth, Michiru sinks to one knee. Despite the rain. Despite any stains.
She opens her purse. It is not big enough to hold much. It has, in fact, only one thing: a six-petalled orange lily. Michiru brings it out, cradles it gently, and sets it down atop the stone.
She remains there for long seconds.
Then she rises, and steps away from the grave, into the shelter of the umbrella. Michiru reaches up to draw back the draping veil, looking to Haruka with an unreadable light in her sea-green eyes.
She wraps her hand, now, around Haruka's, with the umbrella beneath their fingers.
"You can hear the wind crying, can't you?" Michiru asks, over the sounds of the grave.
<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.
Sailor Moon is currently having cell phone trouble. "No bars." The girl's fingers had been slick, wet from the rain and the storm, until she took out a disguise pen, and popped out an umbrella.
One wouldn't know she's any different from a girl walking home from school if she wasn't transformed to be a Pretty Guardian of Love and Justice.
Holding up the phone this way, and that way, she tries to get a signal. Crossing the street away from the fog. No change.
Making a sound of frustrating, the girl speaks into her communicator watch: "Luna - can you forward a text message for me?" The face of Luna in her arcade lair appears on the communicator, "How am I supposed to do that?"
"There's nothing within... cat science - that can help?"
There's something strangely gentle in Luna's voice today, more patient than usual. "... No. Sailor Moon - please - you need to focus on what's coming."
Sailor Moon's shoulders slump a little. Her eyes drifting to the box with the unsent messages that are hanging currently.
BGM Change: Promise - Music Box Reprise(Thank you to Madoka Kaname's player) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSZ4hEk8_Dw
To Adorbs Same-Height Sister:
>i just wanted to say the same thing u said to me once
when i was scared
when i thought i thought lost everything
when i was scared about
who else i could lose too
and thought it was my fault
i love madoka-chan
just madoka-chan by herself is enough
we all love madoka-chan
it's ok for u to love her too
>and no matter what happens
i regret nothing
im not here as sailor moon
or the princess you drew in flowers
im here as madoka-chans friend
and that means so much more to me
than i can say in a text
There's a few unread messages from Naru at the shelter. Another from her mother. Right now though, it matters more than anything else that these feelings get out.
And they can't.
And so there is a singular lie in the message.
Usagi Tsukino now has one regret.
Wiping her forearm across her eyes, she holds out hope, and hits send one final time, before putting her cell phone away.
"You're right... you're right, Luna." She'd prefer to keep brandishing the cell phone, but instead she has to take up the Spiral Moon Heart Rod. She'd never told anyone she was proud of how it was forged. Created in a moment between her and Madoka Kaname. It allowed her to protect her.
And that takes away the sting of any sorrow from those memories might bring.
"You should catch up to the other Sailor Senshi. It's... Something crackles with a mystical static as Luna's image starts to give out. "...Itzzt here." And the watch winks out. "Luna?" The girl swallows, then closes her eyes, "I'll be okay Luna."
The fog rolls in, the timpani drum rhythm as she sees the circus procession in the distance. Sailor Moon crosses the bridge, gripping the Spiral Moon Heart Rod.
Even if she's dressed up like Sailor Moon today though, she knows in her heart who she's really here as.
All those times that Homura Akemi bullied her for Madoka Kaname's sake. It causes this small little sigh which is something between exasperation and affection and fear.
"Maybe you think you're here alone tonight..." The girl allows herself a smile. She can't see Homura Akemi out here yet, but she knows she's here. For some reason the thought of contradicting her brings fond thoughts of Mami Tomoe too in the moment. "...there's no way I'm going to ever let that be true."
COMBAT: Usagi Tsukino transforms into Sailor Moon! COMBAT: Takeo Akamizu transforms into Chevalier Knight Lancelot!
<Pose Tracker> Georgia Jenks [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
It would probably be an odd sight to see a high school girl perched on top of a bus in Tokyo. People would likely point and gawk and wonder just what she's up to. Thankfully, Georgia doesn't have to worry about that. The city is mostly abandoned, save for those who decided to stay behind and fight.
Including her, of course. As a Tuner, how could she not? Clad in a bright yellow rain jacket with the hood pulled over her head, she squints at the Rainbow Bridge through a pair of waterproof bincoulars she "borrowed" from a nearby store. She was totally planning on returning it afterwards, so it's no big deal, yeah? Yeah. No big deal at all.
The rain and wind continues to whip about... until it's not whipping about. "Huh. Well isn't that nice." Georgia says to herself, although immediately after comes a strange fog, followed by...
"A circus." She mutters, shaking her head with a sigh as she tucks the binoculars away and hops off the bus onto the rain-splattered ground.
BGM Change: Infinity Guitars - Sleigh Bells - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8zhMyrwb8g
Well, this is potentially the end of the world. Apparently it comes with a bit of fanfare. Who knew?
The raincoat-clad girl smirks as she starts to make her way to the scene, inclining her head and looking over her shoulder. There she greets the invisible presence of her Child, who seems eager to be let out.
"Well buddy, it's time to save the damn world."
If she had sunglasses, she'd probably slide them on right about now.
COMBAT: Nori Ankou transforms into La Sirene de Diamant! COMBAT: Kasagami Araki transforms into Crimson Rose Duelist! COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Serious Steven! COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Wind Knight! COMBAT: Vita Yagami transforms into Crimson Iron Rider! COMBAT: Ren Aizawa transforms into Barrier Jacket Lustre! COMBAT: Setsuna Higashi transforms into Cure Passion!
<Pose Tracker> Nagisa Misumi [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.
Ryouta listlessly pushes down the arm of his Ultraman figure, over and over. Each time, it pops up forcefully, a tiny plastic uppercut. The click noise is nearly lost amid the bustle of worried voices and the clatter of dishes. This is a big shelter, and Ryouta is a small boy.
Papa has been making bad jokes, and pretending to be delighted with his day off--they're so rare. Mama has been coddling him. But it only makes it all the clearer that something's scary. He can see the worried looks on the housewives, the policemen, the older students. It's worse somehow that it's all in Juuban elementary's gym.
"Hey." Nagisa's poking his shoulder. "Scoot over already, my butt's half on the linoleum."
Ryouta's eyebrow twitches, but he just pushes Ultraman's arm down again. "Get a smaller butt," he advises her. It's practically instinct.
"WHAT WAS THAT?" Nagisa lunges, but Ryouta doesn't flinch, and his big sister hesitates. "...you okay?"
Ryouta nods. Nagisa thinks a moment, then turns around, to face the same direction as Ryouta is, sitting side-by-side. "You wanna play Ultraman?"
Ryouta releases his action figure's arm. It snaps up righteously, driving its chipped fist towards the ceiling. "I wish Ultraman was real," he says. "Sometimes." He pushes the fist down again, then rests his chin on his well-scuffed little-kid knee. "Monsters are better than a dumb tsunami." He had intended it to be disdainful, but his voice trembles. When Nagisa doesn't respond, he looks over.
Nagisa's eyes are filled with tears, her lip quavering with comedic intensity. As soon as he lays eyes on her, she tackles a hug around him. "Ultraman IS real!" she cries loudly. "He's gonna protect you with all his strength!"
"Gitoff gitoff gitoff!" Ryouta squeals, struggling as his toy accidentally releases one last Ultra-punch. "Look at Nagisa! She's CRY-ING!" he proclaims victoriously as he strives for freedom. "What a BAY-BY! Ow!"
"NAGI-SA'S A BAY BY~! NAGI-SA'S A BAY-BY!"
"I'M NOT CRYING YOU TURD!"
<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
The nice thing about this shelter is - priests know a thing or two about salving worries and soothing concerns. Rei hands a little girl a protection charm, as Yuuichiro chants blessings behind them. "Everything's gonna be just fine, okay?" She smiles, as she presses it into her tiny hands. "You just stay with your mom, and soon you'll be back in school again. What's your favourite class?"
The girl thinks, for a moment, before she brightens and says: "Art!"
"That's great!" Rei models brightness for her. "Soon you'll be drawing all sorts of pictures, okay?"
"Okie-dokie," the girl nods, before she flees back to her mother's side. Rei gives her an encouraging smile, too, but she's older and wiser, and not so easily reassured.
Rei almost thinks she can slip away, under the excuse of handing out more charms.
Mysteriously, her Grandpa is right there by the entryway.
They each open their mouths and draw in a breath, but Rei hurries to speak first: "Don't worry, okay? I'm just making sure no one --" She sees the look he's giving her, and she sighs. What has he seen, she wonders, as he looked into the flames. "Okay, okay, I won't tell you not to worry, but just... you need to trust me, okay?"
"Oh, boy," he shakes his head, reaching up to clap a hand on her shoulder. "You know, you could do a lot of good here, Rei. ... but I've never been able to stop you, I suppose."
"Neither of us are very stoppable," Rei points out, and presses the charms into his hands. "Can you make sure these get around?"
He takes one and pushes it back at her. "You'll need this."
"I guess I will," she tucks it away.
"You're sure the city's empty?" Sailor Mars asks of the birds, as she runs along a barren street.
'Caw,' comes Phobos's voice behind her, and she knows it means they haven't seen a living soul.
"Good." She slows, briefly, looking behind her. "I need you two to go to the arcade, now. The others are bound to be waiting."
'Ca-caw!' Replies Deimos, as the two of them wheel off. That one means: 'be safe.'
"Yeah," Mars smiles, faintly. "You, too."
The fog's rolling in.
Luckily, Sailor Mars could find her way to the Rainbow Bridge blindfolded. Any girl could. It's a glittering jewel at the centre of the river.
Any girl could, and she's counting on it.
<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
Moonlight spills through the windowsill.
There's a magic to empty dormitories wholly different to that of empty cities. More spooky than horrific, they contain the promise of being filled once more with the turning of the seasons.
That is, if they ever get a chance to turn again.
"You weren't at the shelter," breathes a relieved Utena, spilling through the window also, or at least her wave of hair does, blown inward by that furious but unseen wind more like cloud than curtain. "I thought... I know how much you hate crowds..."
The door was padlocked.
She had to climb the trellis, outside.
Her hands -- a little scratched up -- remain at the edge, holding her weight.
"I have to go," she says, needlessly.
She heaves a hip to balance on, which frees up a hand. It extends most of the distance between them.
And then, she asks a question, very carefully. She struggles to keep her voice neutral, her eyes empty of anything but their native empyrean blue. Nevertheless, a certain tentativeness shines through -- the care itself which she's taking.
The exact question, in itself, doesn't really matter that much.
It's the question itself that's important.
"Do you want to go with me?"
<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
She wasn't at the packed shelter, of course -- and never thought to be found here. Thought to ride out the nightmare curled around Chu-Chu, atop her comforter in the darkened dorm room.
She knew her roommate had to go.
She does not expect her roommate to come for her, first.
It is still a delicate thing between them, a fragile bud. Not all rosebuds bloom. Anthy Himemiya knows this better than most.
But Utena Tenjou does, and the girl on the bed unfolds limb by feminine limb with eyes as big and round and green as fresh summer apples.
Questions are important, and Anthy holds many answers within her.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," she tells Chu-Chu, and moonlight spills onto her hand as she reaches to place it in Utena's.
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
It isn't normal, seeing familiars simply walking the streets of the city like that. It happened once before in remotely recent memory -- that time, that bad time, that a Witch was left alone too long, and began to kind of colonize an entire city block. But even then, the unreality that accompanied it was... as expected. It was simply difficult to tell where Labyrinth ended and Shinjuku began, like a funhouse mirror filter spread across the ward.
This is not like that.
There is a hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neckio goosebumps factor to the juxtaposition of these creatures filling up Tokyo, not Tokyo through a mirror darkly, but Tokyo itself. Crossing streets. Passing landmarks. They could be tourists.
But they aren't.
Alongside the thing that is not an elephant is another not-elephant. It is cheerfully red, and its decorative barding is in different, complimentary, festive colors. Like its -- hers, this one feels vaguely female -- like her brother, she has a string of pennants attached to her harness which disappear up into the sky like the tail of a kite.
And behind them both are two columns, parade-marching.
There are floats, pulled by nothing in particular, all cheerfully red and gold and with strange riders. Like the -- it could be a fawn, with that stubby little nose and soft round ears, but it's purple, and covered in gouged-out crosses, and has bandages over its eyes. There's a pole coming out of its back like it belongs on a carousel, but instead of being attached to an awning, it ends in a polka-dot umbrella...
There are giraffes wearing sleep-masks that are nothing but neck, which make them more like snakes. Except that they exist to drive people to suicide, which makes them not very much like giraffes at all. The sleep-masks' eyes blink occasionally. Each is polychromatic, and no two pairs are the same.
It transpires that this something of a theme. Be they
moustachio'd puffballs catching a ride in a stroller
cheese-seeking eyeballs with spindly legs and nurse's hats ducking in and out between the feet of the not-elephants
misshapen, animated snowmen pulling a freakshow cage that is too dark to see anything within but a set of pearly whites,
the wheels of a gay carriage, plated in gold, their chivalrous blue spoke crisscrossed with grey chains to bind them to unfamiliar axles,
not a one of them isn't, in some way, forbidden from sight. They wear veils, they wear shrouds, they wear eyeless masks, they wear bandanas. There are nominally bipedal chicken-men with screwheads where their eyes should be.
In this procession of the damned and damning, it is the blind that lead.
After that early explosion of sound, that fanfare on arrival, they've been quiet, more like a funeral than a carnival. The chief sound, in fact, has been that rushing wind... flapping those pennants, with crackles and pops, as they vanish upwards.
They aren't the only thing vanishing upwards, though.
Once upon a time Fusa Nagamine wished that her family wouldn't have to move away.
Once upon a time Kohana Ubukata wished for her parents to stay together.
Once upon a time Iki Umeki wished that she could finally get the grades expected of her.
Once upon a time Haruna Matsuno wished for popularity.
Once upon a time Eiko Otani wished to win an audition.
Once upon a time Taya Gamo wished to win a girlfriend.
Once upon a time Rika Kumori wished to find the person who killed her sister.
Once upon a time...
All over Tokyo, its remaining Puella Magi -- total strangers to the last, yet each one's story close enough to taste -- each look up, alone, and see...
And they know despair.
First it's one column, then two, then three... a dozen.
Each has its own unique spectrum of tortured light, which is drawn upwards -- to converge -- towards --
She will turn all of fate's misfortune to nothing.
She will flood the earth with magic,
and take all of humankind into her play.
A moving stage construction.
If everything is a play, no unhappy things will exist.
It may be a tragedy, but it'll all be part of the script.
The play stops on Walpurgisnacht,
and the earth does not turn even once more.
The story will not change.
Tomorrow, and the day after, is the night of Walpurgis.
Let the curtain rise.
<SoundTracker> Surgam Identidem https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wy5MDYr4at8
.----------. / / / ______.' / /_ / --. '___ `. `'. | ) | ......-' / | _..'` '------
High, high in the sky, distant and yet at the center of everything -- every line in the city suddenly seems to lead to her. Pennants and souls most of all.
_ _ | | | | | |__| |_ |____ _| _| |_ |_____|
Her first impression is vaguely cylindrical.
No, that's not true.
Her FIRST impression is the way that easily ten skyscrapers rip in half to join her in the sky.
_______ | | |___ | ___| | |___ | ___| | |_______|
There's a terrible realness to the way the buildings shed concrete and steel, even as they continue to float, impossibly, bobbing up and down at roughly her level like apples in a bucket.
But she, herself, defies that reality, not least in the way that a mandala emanates from her -- this, at last, a taste, the only taste, of the familiar surreality of labyrinths, except that instead of drawing people IN, she is bringing it to THEM. It whorls and swirls. Looking at it directly is unwise.
.--. .' .-. ) / .' / / (_/ / / / / / / . ' / / _.-') .' ' _.'.- / /.-'_.' / _.' ( _.-'
She's a princess. A lady. She has a romantic blue and white gown. Her sleeves have ruffles and her hat has two points.
Or maybe it's the rest of the world that is.
Or will be.
She has a paint-bright smile, but from this angle it looks like a blood-red Black Moon.
__ ...-' |`. | | | .... | | -| | | | | | ...' `--' | |`. ` --------| | `---------'
Her skirt contains a simply gigantic set of interlocking gears, where her legs would be. With a low rumble, they shift -- up, down, clank -- and the many buildings she's chosen to adorn the sky erupt into flames.
Beautiful flames. Red and gold and blue and violet and pink.
Except for one. One particularly large building remains intact, or at least the top thirty or so floors of it do.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Mitakihara General Hospital +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Recently completed to great fanfare, this 42-story hospital is the tallest in the world, with a glossy glass exterior that folds two great wings inward towards the main entrance. Equipped with over 1,200 beds, Mitakihara is known as a place of last resort for those with difficult illnesses (and, ideally, disposable income). Designed with typical criticisms of health care facilities in mind, this ultramodern building eschews the usual bland pastels and workmanlike right angles for elegant, understated earth tone patterns and dynamic diagonal windows and paneling. Its patient rooms have large windows wherever possible to let in natural light, and are decorated to suggest a hotel-like atmosphere. There is substance behind Mitakihara's style; the latest technology dominates its every facet, from the touchscreen controls on its room-sized glass elevators to the particle accelerator in its basement used for precision radiation treatment. For all of its amenities, however, Mitakihara can be a quiet, lonely place; not all of its rooms are in use yet, and those that get lost in it can find themselves wandering empty halls. Mitakihara leverages its sheer size by providing a small, French-style garden on the roof for patients. Low hedges of pink flowers seem to sprout directly from the tiles, in a radiating circular shape, and an ornamental iron fence around the rim of the building ensures safety. *+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
Mitakihara General Hospital soars towards the bridge and the magical girls assembling there. It's so huge that it can't help but be both clumsy and graceful in the air, like an ungainly, inexpert, beautiful glass-and-steel-swan. It's fascinating to watch, really.
Empty beds pour out of its broken windows. It leaks fluids; better not to think which.
And its rooftop garden -- now sideways -- is suddenly close.
The tip of the spear that's about to obliterate the Rainbow Bridge utterly, along with anyone or anything in its way.
That ornamental iron fence on it really is pretty.
And all the pink flowers are in bloom.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick transforms into WALPURGISNACHT!
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
The familiarity of the Familiars, so sharp of sorrow, marching in all their resonant horror... they stir little from the girl as she walks. The corner of her eye -- the corner of her heart -- registers them, but she does not miss a step. One by one by far too many the wishes of girls who trusted a white-bodied fairy unfurl dying, their souls now so many colors in a Witchward wind.
The lights are up; the stage is set. The curtain rises.
One more step and the girl stops on her mark, her eyes lifting. There. Above. Unveiling, unfurling, the lady of the hour takes center stage -- she sets the sky afire with the shattered corpses of Tokyo's first fallen, skyscrapers broken and then burning like so much steel-and-concrete kindling in her maelstrom of manifestation:
Soundtrack change: Aphex Twin - Jynweythek https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrzVLU74itM
She shuts her eyes against the storm and listens to the resolute song of her soul. The trappings of civilian life fall away, discarded. With bare white toes a meter above the grey, she becomes.
Widdershins she spins, and all the luminous purple hidden behind lowered eyelids flares about her rotating form. Dusky violet and trim black and clean white express in angles and layers and with dainty grace. She feels the featherweight of her shield as it coalesces upon her arm, and its steely still which conceals so much destructive potential.
Diamonds trace the lengths of her legs; a diamond adorns the back of her hand. The grey girl alights again upon the earth, and her eyes open.
The only Puella Magi left to face Walpurgisnacht stands before the Stage-setting Witch and her coterie, and she knows herself to be ready. It is the only choice available to her. She pulls out a spindly bulb of dull lead and gleaming black, handling it without looking. Her fingers know the feel of the thing well, this artifact of blue grief condensated:
The Grief Seed Sayaka Miki owed her, reclaimed from a pool of glass and blood and moonlight not so long ago.
Unbidden, a thought rises: would the Mermaid Knight appreciate her contribution to this final defense of the girl they both cherish? Odd, how absent it is of the usual acrimony. She presses the Seed to the chip of soul upon her hand; shadows shift within, then recede, and she lets the spent spindle fall to her feet like she would an empty pistol.
Still... perhaps somewhat of her history with the fallen mermaid lingers, for she notes the assembled and assembling puella -- those who have come despite her warning, who bid to deepen by every present soul the stain of sins upon her own -- and voices her disapproval of their presence with a single, hollow proclamation.
The word rings out just before the uprooted body of Mitakihara General thunders toward the Rainbow Bridge. She turns away long before impact.
Hair as black as a moonless night swirls as she turns to address her foe.
Her thumb rests upon a silvery flywheel, comfortable within its esoteric grooves; comforted.
"...I'll finish you!"
Whatever it takes.
Homura made a promise to her best friend, and she will always fight to keep it...
The gears within her shield launch into perfect clockwork motion, and Puella Magi Homura blinks out of existence as if she never was--
--except that the sudden, instant rumble of a staccato thunder independent of the betraying heavens sounds in the distance, from the far side of the grand Witch, and this is lit by lightning tinged a different sort of unnatural. Homura Akemi's continued if distant presence announces itself with a brilliance reminiscent of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building's tactical demolition, in the whites and yellows and roiling reds of an active warzone.
She leaves the building-threatened mahou to their own devices, intent on waging her own private battle with Walpurgisnacht.
COMBAT: Homura Akemi transforms into One Woman Army!