2019-05-20 - Walpurgisnacht: New Day
|Walpurgisnacht: New Day|
Fuu Hououji, Kasagami Araki, Steven Universe, Takeo Akamizu, Utena Tenjou, Sayaka Miki, Nori Ankou, Kimiko Akane, Eri Shimanouchi, Rei Hino, Mai Tokiha, Setsuna Meioh, Vita Yagami, Mami Tomoe, Ren Aizawa, Kyouko Sakura, Endo Naoki, Anthy Himemiya, Homura Akemi
Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo
|OOC - IC Date:|
5/20/2019 - 06-02-2015
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
It's like matter and antimatter where the infinite barrage of the fully realized power of hope collides with the infinite expanse of the ultimate, final witch. Again the reaction seems to consume... everything, creating the inescapable event horizon of a black hole, except -- it's a supermassive white hole, instead.
This time, it isn't a star that's born.
This time, it's the whole universe...
l e t t h e r e b e h o p e
<SoundTracker> You Are The New Day - The King's Singers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeuVBc76jas
This time, when your eyes clear, it's late afternoon, and you're right in the middle of something.
Maybe you're playing sports, and you've got the ball.
Maybe you're in club, playing your instrument or baking your cake.
Maybe you're in the middle of a date.
Maybe you're just taking a walk down by the river.
Maybe you're already home, doing your homework -- or procrastinating.
But you're living your life -- your ordinary life -- an ordinary life that should be impossible. You haven't had time. You've been too focused on other duties. You've been too miserable.
And, even if none of those things were true: it should be impossible because Tokyo was destroyed. You saw it happen. Blow by blow, the city wielded as a weapon to pulverize itself.
Only... it wasn't.
Check the date and it's the same: June 2, 2015.
But nothing is as it was left.
Tokyo is whole -- WHOLE -- whole in a way that makes your heart whole, too.
The city is tall and shining and lovely, except for the parts that are short and green and lovely. The streets are clean and clear... except for the part where they're full of throngs of people. Busy people. Busy, mostly happy people.
Just like you, people out and about, doing what they love.
It's like Walpurgisnacht never existed in the first place.
There was no evacuation; no superstorm, real or fake; no rain even, the last week has been nothing but sun, perfect for the switch to summer uniforms.
There was, you gradually realize, thanks to a variety of little clues, no war.
Your grades are better, for starters, whether you find a paper buried in your bookbag or pinned to your fridge by a proud parent. So too is your attendance at school, club, work, and every other obligation in your life. That part-time job you lost because you kept missing shifts? You've got a recent paycheck.
Maybe you're in a group chat on your phone with someone you thought was your enemy.
Maybe you have a selfie with them from a recent trip to the amusement park.
Maybe you have a recent voice mail from someone who should be dead.
Maybe YOU should be dead, and the last thing you remember, after dying, is being suffused in a warm pink light, before waking up, just like everyone else, inside your own bodies, inside your own lives.
There's also the easily-spotted matter of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, wholly intact, towering on the skyline; nor are large sections of Haneda Airport closed for repairs.
It's a beautiful day.
It's the first day of the rest of your life.
You could spend it scouring your belongings for more clues, or the internet, or the newspaper. You won't find many. There are no conveniently detailed secret diaries; there's little to glean from paging through personal planners in either direction, past or future, other than evidence of a life -- your life -- lived in a way consistent to who you are. Lived the way you would have if you'd had the chance.
Now you do have that chance -- what are you going to do with it?
It bothers you less than you might have expected, not knowing EXACTLY the sequence of events, in this world, precisely as they transpired, up until you blinked your eyes and suddenly remembered that just a second ago you were in the middle of the cosmos watching the universe be destroyed and recreated... by... someone. A girl. A wholly unremarkable girl, a sort of civilian hanger-on to the magical community, who was, somehow, involved in endless trouble. You can't quite recall her face. And what was her name again? This bothers you less than it might've, too.
It helps that most things are the same as they ever were.
Friends and family in your life still are perfectly and entirely themselves, and your relationships with them are the same. With seamlessness that is less remarkable than it is simply intuitive, both remember the same conversations, the same activities, that let you pick up pretty much where you left off.
Recent supernatural events are also essentially identical. The World Tree bloomed last month and left a blizzard of petals on everyone and everything for weeks. There have been a lot of UFO sightings lately. Right now, a monster of the day is menacing the grocery store in Clover Town Street, and magical girls are mobilizing to stop it.
Suicide rates are down, though, especially in hospitals, construction sites, derelict buildings and, collectively, on Southern Cross Island. It's obvious why, to those in the know. Walpurgisnacht never happened...
...because Witches never existed.
You could spend your new day investigating mysteries, but then your eyes catch on a rainbow.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ 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.
The sun is sunk deeply into Tokyo Bay --
-- and, across Tokyo, the lights are coming on.
And you realize: if anyone else knows what you know, if anyone else remembers what you remember...
...that's where they're going to go.
Because of course they are. Of course you are.
It's where it all began.
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.
Fuu blinks awake from her reverie, shaking her head. Debugging script isn't exactly a ball of excitement, even in her long-going pet project, but to actually doze off in the middle ... ? Not exactly a promising sign.
She pauses, glancing at the clock (and date) in the corner of the computer's screen. Wasn't there something else she'd been doing? Not fighting the vagaries of RPG Maker's coding language, but something ...
With a sigh, Fuu gets up from her desk to move around her room, slipping her glasses off to rub her eyes, and thinking - or trying to think, at least. Something nightmarish happened, something hopeless; she remembers hurting all over. Not that any of those memories are particularly unique to a specific fight for the Magic Knight of Wind. But it was dark and stormy, and it clearly *isn't* - the sun is shining, flowers are blooming, maybe she should be out and about instead of cooped up trying to finish her game that she's so close to *finished* with. Close enough to imagine copies on the Infinity Computer Club tables at Summer Comiket, even.
Which makes these last little bugs all the more annoying.
Fuu leans over her keyboard, typing in a comment at the start of the event, then saves the project. She's tempted to change clothes - her new AkaMira dress is hanging on the closet door, waiting for an excuse to be worn (such as a date or a dance) - but instead of taking the extra time, she heads out in her casual spring outfit, letting her mother know she'll be back for dinner.
- - - - -
At first, Fuu doesn't have anywhere more specific to go, but between scrolling through messages on her phone and her gaze wandering across particular landmarks, she sets her course towards the Rainbow Bridge. If she's not alone in this feeling of something out of place, it's as good a point to meet up as any. Besides, the weather is so beautiful, the view from the Bridge *has* to be worth going out of her way for, just on general principle. Not a cloud in the sky, and just enough of a breeze to balance out the sun's warmth into perfect comfort.
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
Slowly, Kasagami Araki opens her eyes and blinks out the sleep in them. She feels warm, safe, and most of all? Surrounded by love. Bare arms are wrapped around the familiar shape of a person. The scent in her nose too is one she knows perfectly, and as her cheek nestles against another she very reluctantly pulls away.
To stare into the face of one Setsuna Meioh. It's a quiet, cute little tree bank overlooking the Tama river. There's a blanket laid out, half forgotten basket with food mostly devoured. Kassie isn't roughed up from battle, or even in her Student Council uniform. Rather she's in track pants, a sleeveless shirt, a black windbreaker hung over the branch of a tree carelessly a few feet away.
She startles, and offers a little tug to help her love up, hands soon grasping the Senshi's own.
"Setsu-chan...isn't this Tama? What about Tokyo!?" She looks down, then to Pluto. It's sunny, warm. This can't be the aftermath of the disaster and collision of two universal powers!
Every search on phones, every triple check of texts and time confirms reality. That the world is in one piece. No sign of Walpurgisnacht. Kasagami can't wrap her mind around it, but there's just no denying the truth impossible though it might seem.
That's about when Kassie decided to lead Setsuna on a ten minute dance around the tree, and even tried to shove her beloved into the Tama for an impromptu swim out of sheer joy!
But intuition is a funny thing, and no matter how happy the Duelist is, she can't help but come to the same conclusion as so many magical girls will. A glance over to a rainbow, her eyes close, and then Kassie faces her love with a smile that's as at-ease as she's been in ages since the war, since her loss in the Duels, and the horrors of Walpurgisnacht.
"Let's go find out if this all isn't just some brilliant dream. I really, really hope it's real." She leans in, seeking warm lips. Suddenly it all feels that much more real, and Kassie lingers to ensure that her beloved knows that all is going to be alright.
Everything tastes like love and devotion, and the only pain is in parting for the moment.
The sun sinks, lights spark up, and Kasagami Araki finds herself on the Rainbow Bridge with coat and hair all aflutter. Her heart beats quickly, hope swimming in her chest and a thousand little pinpricks of worries running up her calves. She awaits to spy others, standing tall and poised even if her gaze is a little too alert.
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.
The light returned, a clash of ages unlikely to be seen for eons to come again. Despair bled from those around Steven, and he too knew something deeper and darker than even that.
But of course, of course! The universe would not leave it that way. The universe, that was a girl with pink hair.
The brightest like and the greatest lack thereof meet, and the boy loses his sight and sense of self in it, as his heart rises in his chest...
Saltspray. Seagulls calling like laughing to each other. Sand crunching under large paws. A skittering, glinting lizard flees on the beach. A fluffy pink mane.
These are the first sensations to return to a waking Crystal Gem. Or was it really waking? Perhaps a return to self would be more apt. "What... the beach?!" A look around as wing caught his ruffly little head. Sure as sunshine, it was. About a half a kilometer down the beach from the Gem Temple. He can see the outstretched hand with the washer and dryer on it. A set of identical shirts dry splayed on a line, tied between two titanic fingers.
Even Lion has lost the bead on the lizard and has jsut been running, looking around too.
That is about the best way to spell the noise that Lion emits when he collids with a boulder on the beach and thus off of it. Steven gets launched off his back, tumbles head over heels a time or two, and faceplants into the sand. "BLUH!" he gags, spitting out some sand that wedged itself into his mouth on graceful landing.
Woobly for a few moments, Lion trundles his way over to Steven. "What's... going on?" he asks. "Lion! You're okay!" he exclaims, wrapping his arms the distance they can travel around the cat's meaty neck. "I'm... okay. Huh. We're home, but this doesn't even look the same!" A thought dawns on him. A hand thrusts into a pocket and pulls out a whole phone. Not broken and half-melted.
The date is the same. "Lion, we need to ride, buddy!" he says, hopping back atop his faithful steed. They head for the city proper.
The schools, the hospital, everything is just fine. Cities are full of people. No storms. No emptiness besides the usual amount felt! Lion keeps running, seemingly enjoying, or even understanding the events played out. As if given a second chance to run wild and free. Well, sorta-free. Free enough for him!
Steven begins to mess with his phone, see if he can make heads or tails of anything. Most of it is the same. Same friends on social media, same favorited videos on streaming sites. He checks his pictures and videos.
Theres a folder named 'Lion :)' responsible for roughly 37% of his phone's internal storage. The boy sighs. "I should clean that out sometime." Some things never change.
He checks others. Some pictures he recognizes. Some he doesn't. But they aren't unusual for the most part. Photos with friends and family he knows and hangs with. Perhaps a hangout unremembered, or a birthday party he apparently got to go to that he remembered missing.
One photo stands out.
It is one of the most recent pictures taken. or at least ones not moved to the Lion folder.
It was a picture of a trio under the blooming sakura trees. An elegant french style table and three seats were arranged among the falling petals. Tea and biscuits with jam were being srved. It looks like Steven is being taught proper etiquette among such fine things as a tea party!
It was him, Pearl of course, and...
There she was, holding a teacup, her golden hair portray beautifully in the falling petals. She looked like she was showing how to keep a teacup properly level by balancing a petal on a rim as she lifted it. It looks like a grand time.
He checks the date on the photo. "It's past her... uh." Did something happen that changed?
Every neighborhood passed through shows the same results. A pristine cityscape. Unbroken, unbent. Even as the sun goes down the city awakens with its myriad of lights. Shop signs, billboards, skyscrapers. All turn on. One set of lights always stands out in the city though. "..The bridge!" Steven gasps, eyes full of stars to welcome the sky's own as he looks up and out from the waterside. "Let's head there!"
Where the yinitially gathered. If that was whole, the place of true initial destruction, then everything should be okay! Or at least the child hopes.
Paws strike the ground as Lion picks up speed, to head back to where it all began to end.
<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.
Takeo blinks his eyes.
His vision comes to focus through the Mesh of his Kendo head guard.
He's in Kendo. Takeo slides neatly backward in a text book C-Step. His Shinai held between him and his opponant slides forward and swings.
Takeo moves his Shinai to deflect the attack, and automatically begins a rapid series of counter strikes aiming for any one of the upper body strike points. He drives the student back and slides back again in anotehr C-step. Wait. Tokyo ... Blew up.
From the bleachers he hears his Mother, "GET YER HEAD IN THE GAME TAKEO AND TAKE THAT LOOSER OUT!"
He blinks several more times. Maybe, in a round about way Mom was right, now is NOT the time to question. Now is the time to fight. He squares his shoulders and gives a roguish grin, not seen by anybody, through the mask. Even if he had found himself in some strange timeline, Mom was still the hyper competitive mother he knew and loved.
An hour or so later, Takeo went with his mother and father to visit Mika. He stood at the foot of the bed and watched both his parents whisper to her while she appeared to sleep. Takeo, however saw what he always saw. IV tubes. Monitors. And Mika's eyes looking sunken. He saw his failure as sure as he saw the Sheathe being torn assunder by the Black Knight.
Well. It was too much to hope for that maybe he hadn't been a screw up in whatever this was.
As his parents left the room, he moved to stand next to Mika and brushed a strand of hair aside. "I don't know what's going on sis. But I'm glad you're safe." He then took out his phone and quickly flipped through it. Pictures, a selfie or six with him and Sparkles and one with a disgruntled rabbit, one or two with mai, Eri and Mikoto ....
Not for the first time today, Takeo blinks, and looks out the Window of the Hospital. He sees the Rainbow and the Bridge. He nods to himself and flips to text messaging.
To: Puff The Fire Breathing Dragoness
Hey. Hope you are better? Just let me know if you need an Umbrella before the next rain storm okay?
He turns the screen on his phone off and heads downstairs to his Motorcycle, telling his parents he has homework. His mother blinks in surprise at the words being uttered by Takeo while his Father just gives him a nod. He gets on the blue bike and puts his helmet on and then screams through the remarkably intact streets of Tokyo. He rides through the city the way he always does, recklessly and sliding around corners, but this time there is a slight sense of urgency. He needs to see if others are having this problem or if it's just him.
It honestly isn't the first time he's had memories in his head that wasn't him. After all he has an entire life in Camelot that belongs to Lancelot. This one just feels .... He doesn't know, and he wants to find out, and not for the first itme a Rianbow Bridge might point him in the right direction.
<Pose Tracker> Utena Tenjou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
Utena is flying.
She soars to impossible heights -- reaches the top of her trajectory -- and seems to hang in the air for a minute, letting her hair catch up with her momentum and swirl around her.
But her eyes are strangely empty, all of a sudden, staring at nothing.
She catches a couple of fingers on the hoop, hangs off of it blankly for a second, then hits the concrete, hard.
The ball was nothing but net, but nobody noticed, let alone her.
The boys crowd around their unofficial chieftain, worry writ plain on their faces. She may be one of them, but when the chips are down, all of them would protect her from harm. She isn't their prince, not really...
Utena says nothing for too long, while the others mutter.
'Give her some air!' 'Anything broken, Tenjou?' 'It looks like she's in shock...'
Just as a consensus is building to take her to the infirmary, she shakes her head, and sucks in a long breath, one that fills her with something -- something like courage. Something like strength. Something like herself, again.
If she's blinking back sudden tears, the boys are collectively too polite to say anything. They'll discuss it behind her back later.
She jumps to her feet, looking around at the school, at all their faces, at the sky, like she's never even seen any of them before, gaping like a slack-jawed dope. And then she seems to come to a conclusion:
"Sorry guys, I have to go!"
A very confused basketball game proceeds without her.
<SoundTracker> CALLING https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3nzCr4kzDk
Just as well that she was in her workout clothes, because she came at a run. With occasional intersection-stops where she jogged in place to wait for her companion to catch up. With occasional nearly-tripping-over-her-own-feets because she wasn't looking where she was going.
Because she was looking everywhere else instead.
Lost in random, individual details of the living, breathing Tokyo that rises all around her. Things she knows as well as her own heartbeat and thought she'd never see again. Things she never noticed before and never would have had the chance to.
It all means so much more now.
All of it.
The only way she can possibly begin to process it all is to move her body.
So she runs, and runs...
Utena glistens a bit in the twilight as she finally arrives at the Rainbow Bridge.
"Beautiful..." she breathes.
But she wasn't looking out over the Bay when she did.
<Pose Tracker> Sayaka Miki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed. <SoundTracker> Eri Kitamura - Thank You Letter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcQouKZBkgs
Dishes clink softly in Mami's kitchen. Two girls stand side-by-side before the sink, working together. There is no haste in their motions, even as the task slowly nears its end, the pile of clean dishes vastly outweighing the ones that remain dirty. Their cooperation, even after all this time, flows beneath the surface of thought, and that bond draws them beneath as well, to someplace calm. Where every problem has an answer. Where happiness can last.
This should have been lost forever. The taller girl, the one with blue hair and a soft musical hum, the one who pulled her sleeves up to rub a cloth against clean dishes? How many times had she asked her bedroom ceiling if she could see Mami just one more time? But most people don't get even one miracle in their life, and Sayaka had used hers up already. What were the odds of two?
Well, Sayaka knew already that she was lucky. She got to meet Mami to begin with.
"I tried to hold on," Sayaka confides. She is grasping the lip of a freshly cleaned teacup, as Mami's fingers hold the handle on its other side. "To the time, to the people. I wanted to keep all of it." She takes the teacup, and starts polishing the dripping china, looking down at it, past it.
"I wanted you to know that part. That as bad as it got..."
She looks to the side, to Mami's face. She has that same loyal canine smile as ever. "I was happy."
The teacup rests atop the dried dishes, and Sayaka offers her hand for another. When she accepts it, she glances down at Mami's side of the sink. Empty, at last. Sayaka's smile tightens for a moment, and she blinks a few times preemptively. But she takes the cup, and dries it dutifully, and places it up with all the others. She pats her hands on the towel, back and forth as she folds it, resting it against the edge of the sink as she turns to face Mami. She exhales, shoulders dropping. She regards her senior, content. After a moment, she shakes her head ruefully.
"I don't know how to say goodbye to you, Mami-senpai. Every time I try it just comes out... thank you, thank you."
Stepping forward, Sayaka gently places her arm behind Mami's back, and draws her into a delicate hug.
"Thank you," she repeats softly. There's a momentum to it, like something's come undammed, but its flow is calm, not fierce. "Thank you," she tells her partner. "Thank you, thank you... thank you."
She holds Mami a bit longer. But only a bit.
"You have to go, senpai," Sayaka whispers. Motes of dust drift through the sunlight streaming through the windows. All the old beloved details of Mami's home surround them. Sayaka knows which drawer the silverware is in, which cabinet the spices. She knows which cup is Mami's favorite.
Her voice is warm, reassuring. It's the trust in it, perhaps. In Mami, and in the future too.
"You have to go," she says, one last time.
And then Mami is there, really there. Back in her own kitchen, in a world filled with friends. The dishes are all sparkling clean, arranged on the drying rack just as Mami remembers Sayaka placing them. But every one of them is still wet, dripping slowly.
The rest is up to her.
<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed. <SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czn1ysoOHVM
Nori Ankou drowses on the train.
She's coming back from school. She wants to stop at home, to shower and change.
There's an event tonight, isn't there? Or something, at least.
But this pleasant pastel drowse ends when her phone buzzes insistently. Like an indignant bee, she is driven to full awareness. Fishing the phone out, she looks at it, everything coming back into focus.
Nori brings out the phone.
> KOZUE - 4:19 pm
> You left your hat again
> If you do it once more, I'm keeping it.
There is an attached photo.
The photo is of...
The train conductor ends up getting involved, and since it is not quite rush hour, the worst that comes to pass is a couple of the grumpier sorts giving Nori Ankou a cross look for carrying on. Because as she gazed on that figure, that hand, the half-wry face, the dusty-blue hair, the clear skin--
"By everything in heaven, Batiste," Nori Ankou says, "it was a photograph from life."
Batiste sips his coffee.
Nori blinks at him, slowly.
Nori Ankou leans against the wall space that used to be a sensible portion of an office. The former windowsill is an excellent place to rest a third cup of coffee. She has been speaking for a while. Batiste has listened without judgment or skepticism. The story is strange, but there are many strange stories in this city.
"... this place shouldn't even be here."
"Was it wrecked, in the storm?"
"It was beyond wrecked," Nori says. "The entire building... it..."
Nori is silent long enough that Batiste prompts her, but gently. "Did it fall, cousin?"
The memory comes to her. h-h-h.
"It was... It was descending like it was thrown... I think I nearly died, trying to turn it away just a little bit, but the others..."
"It seems courage is there, even in such a nightmare," Batiste muses. "That's nice to think about, isn't it?"
"... I think I have to go," Nori says. "For a walk, I mean. Just... to see everything. To feel that everything really... or really didn't..."
Nori doesn't finish the sentence. She gazes out at the water as it begins to sparkle, the silver-time starting, soon to be the gold-time, the ruby-time, then-- nothing. A beauty the Sea of Tears never sees save in times of greatest disaster.
"Ah," Batiste says. He hesitates - and then says; "Well, then; enjoy yourself. Shall I make a little something for when you get b-"
Batiste is suddenly gathered up and clutched to Nori's chest fiercely. Her chin rests against the otter's head. He squeeps once in surprise, but his forelimbs come round, hugging Nori around her neck.
Seven seconds later, she relents. "I'd like that," Nori says.
Nori pauses in the public garage. She is standing in front of an empty parking space. Nori raises one hand and her index finger extends... and she shakes it at the empty air.
Here, she thinks. It was here. This was the last step I took before the world...
She closes her eyes for four seconds. Then she opens them again.
The next minute, she is walking across the Rainbow Bridge as the lights come on at Tokyo. She is wearing a light cloth jacket, more of a second shirt, of richly textured linen resting over a red shirt with a clouds-and-moon motif in black print. Below that are some plain slacks in slowly gradiented black-at-the-waist to twilight-of-dawn purple at the cuffs, and a pair of boring athletic trainers (some things aren't fashion - not many, but some) on her feet.
<Pose Tracker> Kimiko Akane [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
There is a brief rustling behind the bushes of the park. "Shhhh... don't let them hear you." Kimiko whispers to something small and fluffy in her hands. She doesn't even care right now that her Ohtori uniform is getting dirty on the ground and she seems oblivious to anything happening around her in that moment. "I wish you guys could come with me to the dorms but..." She sighs and pulls a tiny, black kitten back up to her chin, nuzzling it as it lets out another tiny 'mew' and bats at a few errant hairs dangling around her face.
As the girl gets up to wipe off the dirt from her skirt, she suddenly freezes. Kimiko turns from the kittens and is suddenly looking for her phone in her bag. There is almost a franctic speed at which she pushes buttons once she finds it. Nothing at a glance stands out to her at all. The few pictures she cherished most are still in the memory of the phone, Tokyo is still in one piece and everything seems as it should be. All of this is the most unusual thing of all because it shouldn't be 'normal' right?
Carefully tucking the kittens out of sight, Kimiko knows where she needs to be and soon she is running with a spark of energy she hasn't felt in a long time. There is a lingering feeling though as she runs that she shouldn't be here...period. Nothing should be like this but the more she tries to remember more details of what happened, the more she just feels the fuzzy pink light and warmth in her heart...along with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
It takes her awhile to reach the bridge but as she gets closer, Kimiko slows her pace. It feels like this is just another dream and like none of this should be real. Worried that at any moment she could wake up, Kimiko lingers behind the rest...nervously glancing over the bridge to the waters below.
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
Blinking owlishly behind her glasses, a girl looks around the classroom. Looking as dazed and confused as if she'd woken up from a nap on her desk. There's no drool though, her glasses aren't crooked, her face doesn't feel smooshed in. There's no signs she was asleep at all. Right in front of her are meticulously written notes from her classes. An assignment handed back with a grade of 89 with an encouraging note beside it - 'Keep up the good work!' Kazuko Saotome was in front of the classroom wielding her pointer. The clock showed it was near the end of the class day - so not in homeroom.
And there's a vase of white blossomes on a single desk in the classroom. That give a sense of familiarity as if she'd done it herself..
There's a certain confusion about her as she bends over to slide a hand into her bag, fishing about for her phone. Strangely enough it's off - when before she always just silenced it.
Pressing her thumb to the on switch, she waits, and waits, and waits as it illuminates. And loads.
Initially she intended to browse the web, but the number of unread text messages catches her eye.
Instead her thumb clicks down on it.
my daffodils aren't coming in as well as i hoped.
would you mind seeing what you could do for them? we can have tea after of course.
Her fingers jolt suddenly and she nearly drops the phone, hunching over in the chair of her desk as she keeps scrolling.
you forgot your lunch again.
both of them. I made one extra for you know who~
just swing by my dorm after school if you don't have time during lunch.
I think the soil lacks the proper tilth.
Surely it couldn't be the wind that disagrees with them.
id tell you to be more discrete about sneaking out at night but
who am i kidding? put that passion on display erichan~
so tell me about her. whats she like?
Drop by next week? She must miss you.
Or perhaps it is simply the taste of your toes she misses. The little carnivore...
hang out after school? u know where
Link: Rumiko Takahashi Will Be at Mandarake This Weekend for a Signing.
There was a faint pause, before suddenly there was the dull noise of chair legs scraping, and her chair was pushed on backwards and she was standing upright. A reflexive, "Hai!" - came out of her lips. Several in the class snickered as they noted the phone in her hands. Moreso when she hastily tried to hide it behind her back.
"Since you are proving yourself to be an expert on this subject. Why don't you weigh in on this dispute for us? Is texting back a 'good night' after a second date a sign of someone desperate for a relationship or does it simply mean one is wishing them a good night?"
The girl has this look on her expression where her eyes are dots for a moment, like she's experiencing some strange emotional whiplash. "I... I think..."
There's a lengthy pause as if she were attempting to frame her answer. Then slowly, this smile appears on her face, as predictably as the image of a certain bridge. "... I think it doesn't matter."
The teacher takes on a tone of a certain patience, "Would you mind... explaining what you mean by that?"
There's this shake of her head, and it's unclear if she was saying she won't, or if it's... "I think a lot of things I thought mattered just... don't anymore. If someone really matters to you then... little things like that? Shouldn't be a problem at all."
Unlacing her hands from her phone behind her back, the girl reaches down to grab her bag. "I'm going to go do meet some people who matter a lot to me right now."
Kazuko Saotome looked like she didn't even know where to begin discussing this one. However as the other girl turned to walk up the rows of her classmates, she at least settled on, "Shimanouchi-kun! You are not excused from class right now!"
The girl actually stops for a moment, to look over her shoulder, that smile still there. "Life is just too short to worry about what I'm excused for." And then without saying anything else. Her slow steps turn into a fast paced walk as she hits the door. Turns the knob, and as soon as that portal is thrown open. She starts to jog down the steps, her bag jostling back and forth the whole way.
BGM Change: Sora Wo Miagete - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOnXWk-Bwno
Picking up the pace, she only stops long enough to hit up the shoe lockers. Bouncing on one foot as she slides one on - then the others.
Then she hits the door of the high school academic building, the Ohtori floral scents strong within her nostrils. She keeps running, pounding the pavement at a speed that would make any hall monitor's head spin if they tried to catch up to her. Down the path - through the gate.
It was a beautiful day, and for once in her life - she wanted to take it at a full tilt sprint. Uncaring about breathlessness, stitches in her sides, she runs straight all the way off Southern Cross Island.
The girl is panting by the time she catches sight of the Rainbow bridge, on the pedestrian paths overlooking the bay, her summer uniform a little drenched in sweat. The rest on the train helped, though she spoiled that some by being so fidgety...
For a moment, her hand touches the back of a bench, as she struggles to just breathe. Normally that sensation would be torturous. Today it feels... the opposite. It feels wonderful.
Gripping her glasses, she takes a moment to wipe them with a little cloth. Then holding them up in front of her, she looks into the sun upon the sparkling bay and the bridge beyond, squinting in the sunglare.
There's... just something wrong with me...
I'm here for you. You don't have to handle it all on your own.
Sucking in a deeper breath, she takes in the scent of the area, and with a smile says to noone in particular, "The only thing that's wrong with me is that I didn't figure out something so important sooner."
<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
That's the sound a bow makes when surprise loosens the fingers a fraction too soon, when the arrowhead is tilted down with the weapon in a gesture learned as soon as Rei Hino was tall enough to wield it. It plants, with a muffled TONK, in sun-warmed earth, the grass risen high in good conditions.
Rei watches it with a dumbfounded sort of expression for a moment, before her gaze rises to the sun, hair black as crow's feathers fluttering in a gentle breeze. One hand lifts from the bow to shield her eyes, because there are no clouds. No hint of rain at all.
"Ah... Hino-san?" Ventures a fellow archer, as she looks from the misplaced arrow to the girl who fired it. "Are you all right?"
"Yes -- of course," Rei realises how she must look and looks back to them, fixing on a smile. "The sun must have just been in my eyes."
"That makes sense," says another member of Ohtori's Archery Club, in the sort of tone which suggests it makes no sense to him at all, but it's acceptable to let it slide.
Which is strange in itself, considering how frustrated the club was getting with her before this. They're still a little frustrated, perhaps. Frustrated enough to make it known they're accepting her faults, but not enough to point them out openly. It's the sort of subtle social barometer which is as alarming as the sun, really.
Rei laughs, holding a palm flat before her. "Forgive me for leaving before you, but would you excuse me? I just remembered something I have to take care of."
"Okay," says the first girl, a frown of concern flickering over her face. "Thanks for your hard work today. We'll see you again tomorrow, right?"
"I'll be here!" Rei says, as she hurries to put her things away.
It's only when she gets out of the school -- out of her archery gear, out of sight of her classmates -- that Rei can really look up at the city and try to absorb it. Tokyo Tower is still piercing the sky. Everyone is still going about their normal, daily lives. The sun is shining.
Her phone has no answers. There's nothing there she recognises. A lot she doesn't. It's like something which describes a life in parallel to hers; a life where the world was not screaming dissolution too quickly.
"How is this possible?" She asks, out loud, as she looks up at the city.
"Anything's possible when you're young!" An old woman replies as she passes, in perfect cheer, as if the world hadn't been torn to shreds. Rei wonders if she was in the shelter as 4-4-4 careened towards it. It happened, she insists, to herself; she knows it happened. She saw it happen.
But even so, there's the distant silhouette of 4-4-4, standing proud and firm and whole.
It's so much. It's so much, so much her heart is full to bursting, and she scrubs at her face when she realises just how damp it is.
And if anyone knows how something like this could be possible, she knows just where they'd be.
Rei rushes to the Rainbow Bridge, hope in her eyes.
<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.
There's an infinite darkness, and an even greater light, because now there is hope-
The clink of glass jolts Mai Tokiha out of her reverie. It's far too bright for a moment, harsh fluorescent bulbs blinding her with unexpected reflections, and she goes to shield her eyes - but there's an unexpected weight in her hands, shifting uneasily as she starts to move.
Hesitation. Caution. Care. Muscle memory is as strong of that in the mind, and she holds her hand steady as she tries to blink away the daze. What was she doing?...
Cookie crumbs smile up at her, cheerfully decorating whipped cream. It's neat, and tidy, and lacks a certain spark that she can't quite place, but it's still a cheerful touch to a surely delicious parfait. One of two, the companion having just been placed on the table moments ago, with just this one left on the tray.
For a moment, Mai stops breathing, her eyes wide. The magenta booths, the confused unfamiliar faces seated before her, the sounds of cutlery and coffee and countless conversations coalescing in the background. She's not in her school uniform, she's not in casual wear - a poofy shirt and lopsided magenta apron she could swear she'd had to return the better part of a year ago.
This must be some kind of terrible dream, and that mantra is all that keeps her from screaming on the spot. With shaky hands, she sets down the second parfait; with a shaky smile, she asks if the customers before her would like anything else off of Linden Baum's menu.
For better or for worse, that was her last table of the hour. She can take her break - or even, as her manager laughs, head home early if she doesn't mind forfeiting the rest of the shift's pay. It's not an offer necessarily born of kindness, but it's one worth considering as she sits down.
"...is this a dream? Or was that nightmare..." It was all ashes. Everything that surrounds her, down to the very chair she's sitting on, was sundered and shattered and scorched to oblivion. The city was as good as gone, turned to pyres of witchfire by an unstoppable force, before...
It's hazy, and she tries to steady her breath with her hands on her head. Everything seems fine, if not some perfect illusion, and yet to get from there to here seems utterly...
Her phone. Tentatively, she reaches to her purse to retrieve it, to see what it might say. Are there clues there?
An email about picking up another short shift - apparently she's got no fixed schedule, just being offered a few hours whenever there's an opening. It's just stressful and self-destructive enough to be believable.
The current date. The same as when everything happened, if she remembers correctly - admittedly during the worst of the storm she was beginning to lose track of days.
A note from Takumi, beginning to prod with increasing impatience. Not as terse or tense as she remembers it being, but maybe she'd read too much into it before.
A short conversation with - Mai chokes on air, staring unblinking at the exchanged words, heartbeat flooding her ears.
- supper probably late tonight, sorry. got an offer last-minute
- You say that like it's a date, instead of getting called in to cover a shift at work.
- covering a date, i'll have you know. it counts if it's not my romance, right?
- Whatever helps you endure all those lovey-dovey couples~
Her phone starts to fall from a numb hand. She absolutely scrambles when it hits her knee, double-checking the sender, double-checking the time, verifying that the words exist and that it's not a dream and it turns out her screen is incredibly hard to read through tears -
The Rainbow Bridge, something in her soul suggests, and she stuffs the device in her purse even as another message comes in. It's not important, nothing's important, she just has to -
"Manager? I changed my mind. I'm out for the day - " There's a crash, and the smell of pineapple, and Mai bullies through it. " - and someone else can clean that up. I suddenly have somewhere to be."
The shoes Mai always had for work are fairly comfortable - being on one's feet for hours at a time is good motivation to have that particular garment have some quality. The sun-dried pavement is fantastic for running on, and her footfalls barely slip at all.
The city is beautiful.
It's a statement that could be said at any time, and yet it's possible to forget it so easily. Day after day, ever the same - unless contrasted against the memory of storm-wracked destruction, of the streets rendered to nothing. Here and now, as the sun sets on a perfect day, it's all so beautiful.
The scent of the sea is on the wind.
It's a breeze Mai can feel keenly. Linden Baum's uniform was never meant for warmth, sporting a somewhat short skirt. She'd normally change out of it barring extreme circumstances, and her everyday clothes were right there in a bag - but it's a bag that thumps against her side with every step. However appropriate her attire might be just doesn't matter right now, because she has somewhere to be.
The Rainbow Bridge.
The sun has fully set by the time Mai arrives at a dead run, but seeing the bridge intact once more is a sight to bring tears to her eyes. Maybe everything she's seen was some terrible nightmare - but that nightmare was the apex of so much gone wrong, so many piled tragedies. So much had gone wrong, too much for a single dream, but now-
Her hands rest on her knees for a moment as she catches her breath, catches great gasps to make up from the long run. Her heart in her throat, she slowly rises, slowly looks to see who else is here. Who might have remembered.
Who might be alive.
Her searching gaze catches glinting glasses, and her voice comes out breathily, unbelieving. "You're all right..."
<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.
Ah, to wake up in the arms of love.
Setsuna stirs to the stirring of the girl she's entangled with, and her first sensations are wholly Kasagami. She feels the smooth-and-rough texture of Kassie's skin and the movement of honed muscles beneath, and rubs her cheek against one she knows so very well, and cherishes even better.
A sense of peace enfolds her, even as the swordswoman's strong embrace does. Of... belonging. She's right where she should be, where she must be... isn't she?
Without knowing how she knows... she knows. And so it goes for so many things, in the senshi's busy head. The deaths. The grieving. The war. She knows they are done with, as if... they never were? The Guardian of Time is a woman accustomed, in certain ways, to accepting the impossible. She eases into this new understanding of the world and it assimilates thusly, and there is an extra modicum of that peace in the smile she shares with Kasagami as they rise together -- Kasagami in her casually rakish clothes, Setsuna in her darkly floral sundress.
They dance beneath the sun, and it is beautiful and impetuous and joyful, romantic and dramatic and perfectly imperfect, and it is so much more than either of the two of them could achieve singly.
But she is not so affected by her lover's enthusiasm that she'll countenance an unplanned dip in the river, and she grabs that pushing hand and whirls them both away from the riverbank with a severe look that her low laughter ruins. Mirth still shapes her lips as Kassie takes them with her own.
"Let's do, dear heart. Let's go and see." Her fingers clutch Kassie's like a promise, unspoken.
Who leads? Who could tell? They go to the Rainbow Bridge together, to see, and that is what matters.
<Pose Tracker> Vita Yagami [None] has posed.
Vita comes awake to the sound of hammer and ball, the sharp CLACK that is like her whole life compressed into waveform.
She jerks up, like she'd been dreaming of falling, her whole body having gone from rest, to seized, to rest again. She slaps her hand to her chest, taking sudden, deep, near-panicked breaths. The woman nearby, Kozakura-san, gives her a concerned look, the wrinkles that have conquered her papery face doing nothing to sour the kind, but concerned, smile. "Vita-chan?" she prompts. "Was it a bad dream...?"
Vita gives her a brief, unseeing look. Buildings flying, an inverse titan tearing the city she'd dared call hers to protect apart like a child. Everything breaking, inside and out.
Birds chirp above. Mishima-san turns from his chair, closer to the field, the long-bald man giving her the concerned look of a man who knows the place another is in. The player with the mallet now is Takahata-san, swinging the mallet up in the same casual hoist Vita has infected the whole senior center with.
"....y, yeah," she says, half feeling like she's still falling. Light. Light. Someone -- her thoughts scrabble at it, instinctively questing for something she knew was important, but they fall away like the gentle, proper falling of leaves, and as her breathing calms her need to fill in a blank she can't quite remember the size of calms with it. "I--" she says, slowly, and then hops up. "Sorry, I think --uhm, I mean, I have to do something!"
And then she scampers off, yanking out the phone Hayate had got her, not bothering to go out the sign-out desk -- she'd catch hell for that later -- and entirely hopping the fence around the garden, thumb sliding across the device. Names she remembers more from stalking them across Tokyo than any actual conversations coming up right there in her hand, culminating with a big happy "DID IT!!" and fireworks flanking a picture of herself and an older and only somewhat more feral girl holding aloft a golden trophy at an arcade Vita doesn't entirely remember ever even going inside. Vita is standing on a box. That sounds right.
Vita very carefully hand-constructs the recipient list of the group text that she fires off to the Midchildan and Belkan contingent. The contents are rather less refined: "!??!!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!!?!?"
She hits send on it and only then realizes she has wound her way to the Rainbow Bridge, her little heart pounding in her chest, and slumps against a lamp, wide blue eyes casting out across the scene of clear water and entirely intact colored metalwork.
Mami Tomoe (Mami) pages Pink Moon Stick and Eri Shimanouchi: Yeah, package + signed receipt with Kozue's name on it
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
Light. Perfect light. And then... Like always. Always, in dreams, things just are as they are, and when they aren't, that's fine, too. Little things, little things that could be nothing at all, turn out to be everything. A tiny touch, a little miracle in every night, the unseen seen once again.
That face; that face, that was gone, far away...
There is light again as Mami opens her eyes, slowly, light tracking past golden irises as she stands back up from where she must have been leaning, might have fallen asleep on her feet for all she knows. It is warm--it is...
Mami tilts her head, thoughtfully, as she sees the dishes; her hands are clean, naturally, gloves hung to dry naturally. The feeling of arms about her is absent--there's a face, in her dreams, that she can't recall... a fading light, and...
"...Sayaka," the blonde murmurs with deep feeling, looking up into nothing at all... and knowing, then. She looks down--looks to the drying dishes, looks around her apartment, thoughtfully. "...?" she begins to ask, undoing her apron, hanging it carefully, stepping back into the kitchen for now. She looks to the living room--space for many, and photographs still. Three seats currently set, though with nothing at them.
She can't recall it--the someone. There naturally isn't anyone here right now, the one person who might be out and about for the moment... and Mami finds...
She steps to the window, pulls aside the curtain, and looks across the cityscape to the setting sun. How many times, has she looked out at this view? How many times, alone, and then with others? And yet...
She sniffs once, despite herself, blinking, and shakes her head, composing herself. Yet--
Has it ever been so beautiful as it is today?
The details of her dream are already fading, now, but the knowledge remains. When was it, that it had happened? "...I know," she says softly, as softly as a snowflake on the window at a ski lodge, soft enough not to wake a sleeping girl on the Hokkaido train. Just then, she isn't sure exactly who she's saying it to, why she's saying it at all. Except it felt... necessary, somehow.
"...I have to go," she agrees, closing her curtain, and returning to the counter to gather her things where they remain next to a box on the counter. She glances at the box with a tilt of her head before it clicks--a delivery, brown paper... labelled 'KOZUE KAORU', with a signed receipt. She pauses--and then nods, gathering keys, purse, phone... One last turn, over the apartment. There is no one there sipping tea in a circle with other girls. There is no one at the dishes; there is no one at her tiny triangular table.
...But, there are daffodils, in the window box. ...They could be healthier. ...Regardless--Mami turns, to go.
Alive - Gimme Sympathy - Metric: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqldwoDXHKg
The train is just like always. Mami Tomoe, in a yellow dress and black overblouse with a little ruffle, travels just along with everyone else, the people of Tokyo, from Shibuya. Her hand rests on one of the handles--she certainly didn't get a seat.
...All these people, with all their lives. What must they be feeling, now...?
Her light boots--for the summer--pad along the walkway as she steps through the city, hand on the strap of her purse and by her shoulder for the moment as she walks through the city and lights turn from sun to electric. Up, up, there is the place...
The lights of the Rainbow Bridge are brilliant, reflect nicely on Mami's light dress, pale skin, as she steps along the sidewalk, walking around pedestrians, up up up the bridge...
As Mami Tomoe arrives.
<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.
Raising her head from her desk and blinking slowly, Ren comes back into conciousness, turning to look at her mother. Mrs. Aizawa stands in the doorway of her daughter's room, dressed in her usual work uniform. "I'm heading to the lab to meet your father. We'll be there all night. Big deadline coming up. I left you some dinner on the counter."
Ren blinks some more, then smiles, nodding. "Ahh! Ok mom! Don't work too hard!"
Mrs. Aizawa smiles back, chuckling softly. "Shouldn't I be saying that to you? Make sure you get to bed at a reasonable hour, alright?"
"Mmmhmm!" Ren nods again, waving goodbye as her mother steps back and shuts the door. Now alone, she sighs, turning around to look at the homework she apparently fell asleep in the middle of. Rubbing her eyes she stares down at it for a few moments, before deciding that a break is definitely in order.
Downstairs in the kitchen she finds the food left out for her and begins to gingerly eat away at it. She's not particularly hungry... and her thoughts keep drifting elsewhere. It's in the middle of her seventh bite that she comes to a realization. Dropping the set of chopsticks onto the floor, she turns sharply on her heel and runs back upstairs -- into her room and over to her phone. She begins pouring through it, seeing texts between her, Endo, Lera, Setsuna, and...
"Eri-chan..." She whispers, clutching her phone. She checks the date for confirmation, feeling tears begin to prickle at her eyes. She wipes them away before they fall, shutting her eyes temporarily.
When she reopens them, she has a destination in mind. The Rainbow Bridge. In her next breath Ren is running downstairs and out the door, exiting the front yard, feet pounding against the pavement as she heads for it.
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
There's a clicking clacking sound that, in isolation, sounds a little like the cocking of a pistol, but as further elements of light and noise bloom around it, the sound is given further definition. A 100 yen coin pushed through a slot and tumbling through concealed machinery. Kyouko's arm is still touching the shining red maw that just swallowed her coin, though she does not recall reaching towards it. Her eyes affixed to a question, a challenge, a prompt.
Kyouko doesn't remember coming to the arcade, nor what song she had apparently failed to dance along with. That's surprising, as she thought herself more than a match for this game and not prone to misstep, but they don't ask the question unless something went wrong along the way. Nevertheless, the question is before her, and she has her answer. The price has been paid, the rest is a matter of will.
Pressing a button as red as she is, Kyouko glances behind her before selecting a new dance. There's a kid watching her, as there often is given her reputation in these parts. Kyouko jerks a thumb back to the screen, flashing a toothy little grin.
SOUNDTRACK CHANGE - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kX6G4gQ1Rg
At first she simply walks, threading her way through the sidewalkers and sidewatchers going about their business like on just about any other day. A dreamlike harmony of familiarity and novelty permeate her sentiments. She remembers much about much but not all about all, but among the things she can recall is that she had died by her own hand and another's, and yet here she is. A gentle warmth of thrill and anointed comfort beat out from her heart and she does not, for the moment, get caught up in the wondering as much as the wonderment.
She's alive. The girl who lived now lives again.
Surely she's not alone. She has to find the others.
Now Kyouko understands where she's off to. Off to find her friends, of course. Off to find Eri. Off to find if Mami and Sayaka came back too. Off to find them all, all of them that share color and import with her life. Her heart knows where to go, and bids her legs to lead and her mind to follow.
She finds them. It's astonishing how many there are...from face to face, some more familiar than others, Kyouko cannot find a stony expression among them. The joy that had been budding within her reverberates with the unbridled happiness and relief bubbling up all around her, growing into a greater harmony of feeling than she could manage alone. Were they all like her? Returned? There were so many...
What happened after she died?
Time, time, her heart soothes at her head. Time for that, and time for this. This comes first. Her eyes dew over in successive stripes. She sees Mami...Mami, who she'd given up on ever seeing again. Mami, who had last looked at her with such hard eyes. Mami's alive again...Mami Tomoe is alive! And Homura, Homura Akemi...it's no surprise at all that Homura lives, but Kyouko had been so sure that she'd let her down. Does she still have her chance, then, to stand with Homura in her hour of need?
Kyouko does not see Sayaka, and her heart sinks a little. There's someone else she doesn't see, but she doesn't realize it.
Kyouko sees her comrades, girls she'd fought shoulder to shoulder with, and more than once. Some of the girls they'd fought against are here too, but there aren't any sides now. Just everybody, all together together. She sees the Outer Senshi, some of her longest standing allies. In hours of need, they had been there to help because of their pact, and Kyouko can't help feeling a little responsible for their being here now, too, though she wouldn't be able to say why. But the sight of them often signified that things would be alright, so of course they must be here at the moment when that feels truer than ever.
Kyouko sees Eri Shimanouchi.
For a heartbeat she panics, her eyes snapping to the gem in Eri's hair. When she sees green gleaming back at her her relief is a thunderclap. There were people to see, to share smiles and embraces and words with. But Eri comes first. From the moment Kyouko sees her she doesn't look to anybody else, a broad smile fully unfurled from cheek to cheek as she politely but insistently presses through the crowd to reach her.
Seizing Eri up in her arms, Kyouko fiercely pulls their frames together, burying her face in her green crown of hair. She doesn't quite let go, but she does lean back far enough to steal a fleeting kiss, grinning a pirate's grin and taking her hands in her own.
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.
The cash register closes with a mechanic ca-chink as another customer leaves the konbini when Endo Naoki works. The ritual is the same as ever, repeated seemingly infinitely throughout the day. The shelves are the same too, the polished tiles, the fluorescent lights, humming refrigerators, the quiet jingle that plays as Tokyo's citizen's enter purchase their daily snacks, magazines, and other needs.
Endo is the same too, but the life he remembers is suddenly very different. For a moment his eyes lose focus, his gaze transfixed by a row of potato chips. It's only a moment later that the hang wagging in front of his face brings him back to reality.
"Hey Naoki-san," Asks his fellow clerk with concern. "What's the matter?"
The words go, for a minute, ignored. Endo's hands fish out his phone, fingers unsteady as he presses keys. He doesn't get very far before he's confronted with a sea of photographs, text messages, and line chats. They go by in a blur of swipes, some-like tearing into a crab buffet in Hokkaido with a dark-haired enemy-more confusing than others.
"Naoki-" Comes the insistent, now indignant, voice of the boy next to him.
"Ahhh...sorry." The words are almost apologetic, but more distracted than anything.
BGM Change: Lift Every Voice - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiwuPvYJ_WI
"I have to go."
He doesn't wait for an answer. He also doesn't apologize for tipping over a stack of umbrellas on the way out. The streets outside are bright, and the sun shines down on Tokyo's concrete jungle once again. There are no broken skyscrapers, no ruined storefronts, no empty streets. There's people, and sound, and LIFE.
He's not sure where to first, but he's sure he needs to go. Somewhere, and fast. He's at a fast walk first, a jog after. The path becomes instinctive somewhere along the way, though he's can't say where. Down a flight of stairs, past the subway gates with a hurried slam of his card against the electronic sensor. Onto a train, just before the doors synch shut.
He's the first off at his stop, weaving around commuters and up stairs. The boy breathes in the smell of the sea as he jogs toward the Rainbow Bridge, the place where they'd all gathered before the storm.
He is not hard to see coming. Or to hear. "Ren-chan!" He calls out, desperately hoping for an answer. There are a dozen more names he could add-and will get around to-but settles on: "Everyone!"
It's the first person he calls out to that he finds first, though. When his eyes find Ren across the bridge he goes there first, seizing the girl in his arms and hugging her tight against him. He doesn't let go, not for a long time.
Eventually he will. There are other faces he's been desperate to see, and all will get their turn. But for now, he's happy.
<Pose Tracker> Anthy Himemiya [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
Anthy is doodling.
It's not so strange for her eyes to be suddenly empty. Possibly no one notices but her. The person most likely to notice is busy gathering herself on the basketball court, and Ohtori's resident weird girl sits quietly adjacent to the bustle of sports, up on an otherwise unoccupied bleacher.
Her eyes do empty, though.
It's still summer, but...
The season changes.
Soundtrack: Tool - Intension https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIFrAMgWdSs
Anthy goes, too. Goes where she does.
A pad of school paper with flowers and cakes filling the margins remains on the bleachers.
She's out of breath when she gets there, but she makes it.
Her steps were more sure, but it is easier to know where to place your feet when they follow in someone else's, however scattered. Easier when you're looking at one person, instead of all around you.
Anthy doesn't say anything, but looks, gives Utena a winded sort of smile -- agreeing, agreeable.
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed. <SoundTracker> Aphex Twin - Hy a Scullyas Lyf A Dhagrow https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo9CFF2QDjU
The last little bundle of motes that were Madoka fade away into nothing but a memory of light.
She's been here a while, now.
Not unmoved. Never that, any more.
Oh, some of her shifts as the saltwater wind wills: the looping bows upon her coat; the ruffles of her skirt; her long fine hair, so glossy and inky black. It's just the girl herself, within all of these motile flourishes, who occupies the apex of Rainbow Bridge's sweeping arch as if she is its newest marble sculpture.
Homura Akemi has no idea how long she's been standing here.
She usually has such a good sense of time, but... there is no shield upon her arm any more, and her mind, her heart, have both been elsewhere since the soles of her black stockinged feet touched the bridge's pedestrian sidewalk.
Her soul is exactly where she left it, upon the back of her hand, though maybe not exactly how: pure and clean and violet. She does not see its state, though on some deeper level she feels it, and ignores the feeling. She is looking down at her joined palms, instead.
There is treasure cupped in them, priceless beyond imagining.
No one else would know it, to lean in and look with her. At least not at first. They are beautiful ribbons, brightly red and fiercely cute. They'd look amazing in the hair of the right girl.
They even feel like the right girl. At least they do to Homura, whose palms host their satiny softness.
What syllables are these she speaks, into the open air with the broken longing of a dying soul saying her final amen?
It's a name, a girl's name. Some girl's name.
A name that symbolizes everything for Homura.
A name for a girl who is gone.
She's not sobbing openly, not any more. Maybe the sobs subsided as she stood here; Homura does not know that, either. She was crying so hard... Now, a lonely tear makes its slow way across the perfect plane of her cheek, as if forging a new path.
Homura stands very still, shoulders hunched, head down. She might be waiting for everyone to arrive. Or maybe she waits for someone who never will.
But what she's really doing is remembering.
As hard as she can, as vividly as she can, as longingly as she can. She's etching every last iota of her last embrace with the last Madoka into her heart, into her mind -- running it over and over like a movie reel taped end to end. Living in the memory, as long as she is allowed.
It's all she has left, or so she believes. She's a very stubbornly lonely girl, is Homura Akemi. Very stubbornly alone.
And it's on her face, as plain as all the emotions she never shares.
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed. <SoundTracker> The Sixth Station https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHOYeXezhQI
Night has fallen by the time everyone's on the bridge.
But it feels more like night has risen, instead.
The world turned upside down.
Or is it that the world turned right-side up?
The rainbow on the bridge is at full glow, painting everyone in their color, and then in someone else's color. It shifts lazily through the spectrum, back and forth.
But it's Tokyo itself, Tokyo shining into the sky and its neon glory reflected out over the water, that creates the greater rainbow.
It's all so magical. Lights in the darkness. The many millions of people, each one of them, too, casting their own distinct shine. In Tokyo, everyone is so intensely surrounded by the presence of life and yet -- just now, on the bridge, they're the only ones around, both deeply within this beautiful world and somehow within one all their own. Magical.
The air is still warm with the promise of summer long after the sun has gone.
Maybe it's warm with something else, too.
<< Who? >> Kyuubey asks Homura curiously, looking over at her from his perch a couple of railing posts down. He is fluffy and soft and guileless. His eyes may fail to contain much emotion, but there's something deeply human about the puzzlement that fills them as they become surrounded by new arrivals. It makes his upper ears perk and his lower ears droop. Being confused is the worst! And humans are so confusing! << What's going on? Why is everyone here? >>
<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed. <SoundTracker> https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1920hx
They aren't alone, are they?
Nori watches people come up - familiar people. Even in the fading light they stand out.
Takeo, Endo, Ren.
Steven, Fuu, Vita.
Kasagami, Setsuna, Eri. (Eri! Nori's eyes widen.)
Kyouko, Utena, Anthy, Kimiko, Rei-- and--
Nori can sense a single tear nearby but - shining before all of them, flooding ahead of all of that awareness - someone else. Someone who she saw...
It was moving already for the sight of Kozue, however second-hand. There is wonder in seeing Kyouko too, as well as Eri. But they were rumor to Nori, news heard secondhand. Nori's eyes water as she thinks back for a moment to that time when the film of the world seemed to jerk and shudder and- and it couldn't be so, could it? And now it isn't.
So the first thing that Nori Ankou does is that she turns on her heel and walks towards Mami. She is close enough that she does not have time to get up to a run, but it is still a forceful and determined walk that turns into a sudden tight and almost-crushing hug, an embrace that reveals a depth of feeling as well as the trailing of long black hair.
Nori's breath hitches for a moment as she buries her face in Mami's shoulder. She lets go after two seconds, with a shuddering gasp of breath. This close, Mami gets an excellent view of the smile-through-tears, deep blue eyes sparkling with joy.
Then she coughs for a moment and steps a half-pace away. "Oh, excuse me, I didn't mean to... well; I suppose for moments like this, you can forgive me, can't you, Tomoe-san?"
Nori's head turns then. Towards Homura. And Homura isn't alone. She looks past him. Nori feels her back stiffen at that guileless question. She can see his ears, those soft and precious and adorable and delightful and deceitful ears droop and wiggle.
Nori's lips part -
And then they close...
And she smiles at Kyubey for a moment, before her eyes turn towards the single figure.
"Homura," Nori says. Not Homura-chan but not Akemi either.
"Do you still want," Nori asks, "to go on that trip?"
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
If there's a lead? It's in the heart, for Kasagami's only thoughts are for the curiousity of the day and the sheer warmth that's made hers far freer of despair that it has any right to be. More and more as she finds her way with her love to the Rainbow Bridge, that feeling of hope only intensifies.
And amidst the lights of Tokyo and the rainbow on the bridge, Kasagami spies so many familiar faces. Ones she long thought lost, gone forever. Mami, Eri, Kyouko, Kimiko, they're all there, plain as day. The Duelist looks upon each one. Amazement for Endo. Conflict and surprise at Mami. Eri, Kyouko, and Kimiko all share a look of utter joy in particular, gaze dotting to each one.
"All of you! You're alive!" Her breath is short. A hand goes to Kasagami's heart as she wills it into beating once more. Grinning at the others that all made it through to this day on the backs of a miracle?
Boots thud repeatedly as she starts stalking up to the group of those utterly alive when they by all rights shouldn't. Her gaze is the softest on the Shepherds, and a hand is reaching out to Eri and Kyouko first. The swell in her chest is overwhelming, however, and she falls to her knees just short of the pair.
"Eri-chan, Kyou-chan...I'm not dreaming! Come on, tell me this isn't some cruel dream!" Here, she manages one glare to the Incubator for the briefest of moments.
Her eyes are misty, and it's a wonder she doesn't break out in sobs. She reaches for the hem of Eri and Kyouko's uniforms, just to confirm they aren't ghosts.
"Mami, Endo, Kimi-chan..." She can't hold on for too long. Already, she's crying.
The Shepherds, that motley group of friends, her little delinquent family, lives.
<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.
He gets off the bike so fast barely remembers to put the kickstand down. He's moving quickly, his vision blurring as his eyes fill with tears, which spill like silent rain when the helmet is taken form his head, his hair, messy and spilling out of the helmet down his back. With a clatter the helmet hits the bridge and is forgotten as Takeo Akamizu rushes Eri Shimanouchi and drags her into the biggest and tightest big brother embrace he has ever given.
His tears fall into her green hair and he tries to speak but it comes out as a laughing sob as he falls to his knees, dragging her with him. "Eri-chan. I'm so sorry." He finally manages to get out between sobs. "I wasn't there. I was a terirble friend and I wasn't there. You and Sparkles are my best friends I wasn't there when you needed me." He squeezes her even harder and sobs again into her hair, his eyes squeezed shut to try and stop the flow of tears falling down. He whispers, "Please forgive me Eri. Please."
He suddenly realizes, he might be in other people's way, and releases Eri, getitng up and stepping back. He wipes the tears away with the back of a hand uselessly as they just come back in a mix of pure elation and sadness.
As otehrs approach Eri, he spies Steven and Endo. Endo whom he last saw fall in battle. He laughs and shakes his head and then scoops both his arms around Steven and Endo putting his head down as he hugs the two fo them tightly. "I don't have many friends, I tend to hide and run around like an idiot, but I consider both of you friends and brothers in arms." He sniffles a little, overjoyed at seeing TWO of his dead friends alive again. He shakes his ehad agian. "No more guys. My Dorm Friday's after School. Dungeons and Dragons and Video Games and loads of Bacon and chips and a freaking barrel of Mt Dew." He closes his eyes and jsut grins as he laughs in happiness.
He steps back and goes to the railing of the bridge. He folds his arms over his chest and puts his back agaisnt the railing to watch everybody. An honest grin is spread on his face, the first in a very long time, and he doesn't even care about the tears. As he watches the happy reuninions, and just seeing others be ... Happy, his eyes stop on one girl with red hair. He catches her eye and bows his head to her with a little wave. His own smile is wider because she's actually smiling. He's seen her be nothing but miserable lately and there she was, with a real smile on her face. He gives her a wink, but doesn't approach her, remaining where he is to just .... Take it all in.
Hope. Somewhere out there the Black Knight hid and made ready to do Morgana's bidding, and there were plenty of other baddies out there. Right now though? Right now Takeo Akamizu felt nothing but elated joy and untainted hope.
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
Eri has almost put her glasses back on her face when suddenly she hears...
There's a moment's pause, and then she shoves them back on. Turning to face Mai. "Mai-chan..." For a moment, that's all there is, before she gets this silly little look on her face, the corner of her lip tugging a little at her word choice, "Yeah, I guess I am. Miss me?"
She doesn't wait for an answer. Suddenly her arms are around her, and she's murmuring into Mai's shoulder.
"I missed you."
Anything else she could possibly say, feels less important than the fact that she missed her surrogate big sister. That all the little things and big things that came between them just all matter less to her than that fact. Parting after a few moments...
However as she does, in the crowd of girls showing up - there's... someone familiar.
"Ah... Mai-chan." And Eri cants her head towards Mami Tomoe. As if indicating... she's here. And there's this furtive smile on there. "Wish me luck?"
There's a moment of approach, and... Eri clears her throat from the side. "Mmm... I..."
Eri is standing there to the side of Mami and she's just... standing there. And it's hard to say what she's thinking by her expression, like she's a little abstracted. Her hands clasped together in front of her. "...wow you know what?" The girl steps up to Mami and hugs her, tightly. Instantly murmuring something into her ear, "Screw it."
It's a whisper that can be heard by noone else, as if she didn't want anyone else to hear her say something like that to Mami Tomoe - yet it's something she knows she can say to her, "Remember what I said about 'nothing gets better - it just gets worse until it's over'?"
There's a slow blink of her eyes, like she was trying to prevent herself from crying, "I was wrong. I'm so glad I was wrong." There's a light pause, before she adds in this light tone, "And I'm even more glad you're back here... with us."
And for a moment she just doesn't care about what anyone thinks of her hugging Mami Tomoe. A girl she didn't kill. The only one whose reaction she cares about right then is Mami's herself. Which is why perhaps she doesn't linger overlong in that hug, before parting - in case it's awkward for her.
Spotting Homura by herself, perhaps she was going to wave her over to the two of them. Or instead walk over to her herself. However then Takeo seizes her up in a hug, and she's suddenly caught up in his arms. And for a moment she seems a little swept up in Takeo's emotional display, but she's hugging back, "Hey, Takeo-kun. It's alright. It's alright. It's not your fault. None of what happened is on you. In any way. Promise." A hand from her hug, rubs his back soothingly, "But if you want me to say it? To say 'I forgive you'. If it would make you feel better?" There's this light pause, before she murmurs quietly, "I forgive you."
Slowly she unravels her arms from around him, and takes a step back, "It's all okay now. Everything is going to be okay." And perhaps she presents her smile as evidence of that.
However she has almost no warning between Takeo before that face - that hair she knows too well enters her field of vision. Of Kyouko Sakura walking up to her. And in that moment she seizes up just a little. Perhaps her mind had settled on the one thing she needs to say right now. However, now that she sees her again, that one thing becomes so difficult.
And then Kyouko is suddenly pressed against her, cheek to cheek. There's something a little wide in her eyes, something a little startled in her posture.
She remembers all of Kyouko's final words, her acceptance. Yet perhaps she wondered if things had changed anyhow. And she was ready for that.
God she thought she was ready. For anything.
The moment Kyouko seizes her up and buries her face in her hair. The girl's lip quivers just perceptibly, as her nose twitches from being caught flat-footed emotionally by this. When Kyouko leans back to steal a kiss, she might notice the tears that are rolling down her cheeks.
And a smile so hard that they're dimpled. It feels like it's been so long since these smiles came so easily for her.
"Hey." Is her response to her hello. There's this sense of teenage shyness in that word choice, that's perhaps in part due to the slight pinkening in her cheeks.
Though that shyness fades in a moment, "You know. I was just thinking of something really important you said to me."
A hand reaches up, and her fingertips brush back her own hair just over her ear. "And there you were - right here..." Her lips push together for a moment, as she maintains that smile amidst her tear-stained cheeks. "...with me."
And it feels like anything else she could say to her just doesn't matter compared to that.
The hand drops, and she lets Kyouko take both of her hands in hers.
And there's a certain gravity in her tone as Kasagami approaches, and hugs them both on her knees. "Well. Easy way to know for sure..."
Eri Shimanouchi then with a completely serious expression, takes back one hand from Kyouko, intent on giving it back to her before long. Then reaches for Kasagami's wrist. And clamps two fingers on the skin, with a light twist as she pinches her. "... still here?" That somberness turns into a teasing lightness, "Guess we're both really here then."
<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.
Ren makes it to the bridge. And everyone is there.
She blinks, chest heaving from the effort of running the whole way. Then, her eyes begin to prickle with tears again, though this time she doesn't wipe them away. "Everyone!" Ren shouts, smiling brightly, body beginning to shake. Her eyes roam around the assembled faces, finally landing on Eri's. She's about to move forward and embrace the girl when a familiar voice shouts her name from behind. Whirling around, she's just in time to be scooped up into a tight hug by Endo.
"Endo-kun!" She shouts happily, hugging him back. He's alive! Alive alive alive! She laughs, burying her face against his chest, closing her eyes and just basking in this... miracle.
<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.
The night rises, and none of them are alone.
The bridge lights up with colour and voices both, and every familiar face that Mai sees brings back just a little more of her smile. It's hard to believe, it's hard to imagine that this place still exists, that these people are here - but the disbelief seems to be common, and Mai laughs with just a hitch.
There's something about Homura that jars Mai out of her joy for a moment. Something about the girl is a reminder, a fleeting dream of a thought that something or someone is missing. Mai's eyes dart around, trying to place it, trying to find what's missing.
There is someone missing. Someone with dark hair, and a badly disguised case on her back, and a laugh whose absence leaves a hole in Mai's heart. Someone was told to leave...
Someone's still missing. But someone else is here.
Mai can't even think of an answer to Eri's question - can't even properly hear the question - before there's arms around her, and her arms hold on to Eri in return. Her surrogate little sister is here, and she's alive, and the hug needs to last for all the moments that were lost for that half year.
"Always. I always did, I..."
What might interrupt the hug is the hiccup. Mai jolts back suddenly, hands rushing to her mouth as she hiccups again. There's tears in her eyes, and suddenly there's laughter in her voice, interrupted periodically as more hiccups burst out, and between the tears and the giggles it just seems like too much. "...I'm a bit of a mess, but what else is new?"
She joins Eri in turning to behold the auspicious arrival, and yet somehow her smile doesn't fade. "...always. Good luck, Eri-chan."
She needs a moment to breathe. A moment to just step back, and see how that reunion goes, and see how everyone else seems to be alive. The sight of Endo has her blinking, blinking and then laughing because somehow it's right and wrong all at once, that that someone's nemesis is alive and well after all.
Her smile freezes in place at the sight of the little figure next to Homura, a sharp gasp finally quelling those helpless hiccups. Kyubey is here, is confused about the whole situation...
...let him be. One little paw out of line, and old promises might be revived - but the crime that warranted punishment seems to have been corrected.
Takeo waves, and Mai sobs a little giggle as she waves back. "You're as ridiculous as ever, Akamizu-kun!" Maybe she should have read that message that arrived, but nothing but getting here seemed to matter. For now, she can just laugh at his open affection, as if she isn't in the middle of the exact same thing.
And then, as Eri moves away from Mami Tomoe, Mai approaches. Tentative footsteps, conscious of the waitress outfit she's wearing that feels right and wrong and misplaced all at once. Mai steps forward, stands before the girl she'd once called enemy, swallows heavily. "...Tomoe."
Another step forward, to join the cascade of those giving her a hug. Arms firm, heart pounding, cheeks still wet. A few moments of silence, before she murmurs quietly in privacy.
"Believe it or not, I am so wonderfully happy you aren't dead."
She takes a step back after that, smile turning from sheer joy to something more comfortable, something more confident, something maybe even a little more smug - even though the tears still running down her cheeks undermine it. "I guess whatever I might have wanted to say to you isn't meaningless after all. There's a lot - some too late, some too early - but for now let me just say that I think things are better with you around."
It's a beautiful night, and things just seem to be better. Finally.
<Pose Tracker> Vita Yagami [None] has posed.
Vita trots up amid a sea of heartful, weeping reunions. It takes her a little bit to really process what all is happening here. She first identifies that it looks like the others of her own crew haven't descended; the rest of the Yagami clan is fine and all is well on that front, she's not offhand sure where the Midchildan crew got off to, or Lera's girlfriend...she doesn't see Steven yet, or that cat girl (spacing important) Mikoto, or that Chibi-Usa girl she's met outside of considering how many pages she'd be worth something like twice--
But the weeping of joy and high laughters of victory mean that Vita feels alright just settling back against the post she's found and listening. The calls of delight at friends thought lost catch her ear, and she slips her phone up, flipping through apps. Wondering....
.....but no, she sees, the day and date of that immutable final loss marked and accounted. Well. Worth checking, she thinks, and tries to ignore her heart twisting as she stuffs the phone back in its solid black bag, little cartoon skull on the zipper. Fire-engine red pigtails bob ass he sweeps around and sees Mami arriving. Now there's some mixed emotions. She decides to think about muffins, instead of bullets in the night.
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed. <SoundTracker> Joe Satriani - If I Could Fly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RJmiMq1pOA
The bridge loomed fast. It cut the sky open with glorious color as evening rolled into nightfall. Pattering of paws signaled Steven's arrival onto the scene. "Heeeeey!" he called, still a ways away, flailing his arms happily.
Lion skids to a halt and the boy disembarks to meet his friends. "Everyone's okay!" he exclaims, full of overflowing joy. No one is hurt, people are all okay! Including Mami, who is standing right there now.
Even reunions are being had! "Whoop!" the boy lets out as he suddenly finds himself in a cool guy hug! "H-Hey Takeo! Endo!" he says, turning to face them fully. "I would love to hang out with you guys! It sounds like it'll be a blast."
There are so many people he wants to talk to here!
Yet it feels like the one person he wants to say something to isn't here for some reason. But who is it? Maybe he jsut wants to see all his magical fighting friends in one spot. Yeah, that is probably it.
Funny, too, because it makes him think of a song for some reason. A shame he has no instruments!
Kasagami and Setsuna too, made it out alive! "Hey you two! You did great out there, Kasagami," he tells the older magical role model. He isn't sure what Setsuna might have done, but it is good to see her regardless!
Homura and Kyubeay were present too. The later actually doesn't seem to know what is going on-- a strange first. "Guys, we should... celebrate or something! Like, I dunno, something!"
He wants to hang out with everyone for all the hard work they have done! Nori catches his eye next. She worked hard and has surely felt pain and sadness this day. "Hiii..." he coos nicely toward her. "...Doing okay? How's mister otter?"
Her home was thrown like a casual javelin. What surprise she must have felt to see it whole now.
His sweeping eyes land on Mami next, but he will give her a moment. Surely she is going to bombarded by friends. And they have all night to talk.