2019-06-28 - Ruthful Deontology! Mikoto Sends A Message

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Title: Ruthful Deontology! Mikoto Sends A Message

After a conspicious absence, Mikoto reappears. The ethics of duty will come down to a fight.


Mikoto Minagi, Kasagami Araki, Eri Shimanouchi, Fuu Hououji, Mai Tokiha, Nori Ankou, Steven Universe


Keiyou Industrial District

OOC - IC Date:

2019-06-28 - 2019-06-11

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

BGM: Yuki Kajiura - Beginning ~Invitation to Darkness~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKu4GQugsJ0

It pierces the sky.

The spire erupts from the shoreline - a gash from below, a stalagmite of darkness, glitter-smooth along its length and sharp at its jagged edges. It stands in mockery of a lighthouse, a black beacon rising stories tall.


This is Mikoto Minagi's magic, stretching out into the deep red sky as the sun finishes its sojourn, dark clouds painted in the promise of a better day. The black glass absorbs the dwindling light, a yawning void against the backdrop of the ocean. She disappeared before Walpurgisnacht. Now...

The spike stretches high enough to be seen by all comers; whence, then, does it come? Down, down, and find an island not far from the shore, made by man's hand to host yet more industry on the shores of Keiyou. One factory is completed, alongside a line of flat-topped offices; a third building has hardly taken shape. The floor plan is visible, flat concrete; metal struts have been placed which will one day host walls. It is a skeleton of a place, and its promise is torn in two where obsidian has split the ground. A crane lies still; a forklift has been left in place.

It feels like this place would hurt the most.



"We must send our enemies a message, Mikoto," her Lord Brother tells her, and his tone is gentle and grave all at once. She nods, even as thoughts of what message someone like her would send run through her mind, her lips tightening against the worst possible scenario.

There was a time, once, when she thought it was good. Then she remembered. Then she saw it happen.

Perhaps he sees her worries, because he assures her: "You don't have to kill them." The breath she was holding escapes her, in jagged relief. It's not like back then.

"No... I need you to make them suffer, Mikoto." He continues, golden eyes locked on gold. She can see the caring love within them, as he gently seeks her active complicity: "Can you do it?"

And she is so relieved at his generosity, she would have been happy to do anything, even if she cannot see why he would want such a thing. She doesn't have to understand why. "Yes, Lord Brother," Mikoto says, a warm pulse of light from the pendant at her chest; he has asked something of her, and there is one proper answer. She knows it is right, because he smiles.




A girl leans against the base of the obsidian spire, the tip of her black blade resting on the concrete. She is dressed all in black, magenta trim about the edges of her sleeves, her skirt, her socks. Her sleeves are long, and a red cape hangs from her shoulders, as if she is dressed for a colder place than Tokyo in the beginning of Summer. A single pink spaulder supports the cape on her left side, swept to several points and detailed with gold; that same arm is defended by a vambrace of similar design. Against the black of her shirt hangs a pendant, an obsidian bead decorated with gold, hanging from a fate-red cord which feathers at the end -- just like those same threads which wrap about Miroku's hilt.

Miroku's hilt, with Mikoto's fingers curled around it.

This is an invitation: obsidian does not only reach up towards those darkening clouds. Black glass has torn horizontal across the surface of the water, joining artificial isle to the concrete shoreline. Water laps at the edges, waves splashing over the smooth glass. It may be a little slippery. Don't fall off; those edges are still sharp.

Her lips set in a grim line, a chill to her golden gaze, Mikoto awaits her reunion. It's not the sort of expression she uses to greet her friends.

It's the sort of look she gives...

'The Pretty Cure are our enemies. Say it, Mikoto.'
And she did, back then. She repeated her Lord Brother's words over and over, condemning group after group, until she came to the truth herself:
'... magical girls are our enemies.'

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has fully healed herself. She is now ready to take on 6 opponents!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It would be hard to miss that giant obsidian tower. Kasagami Araki knows exactly whose magic would cause such spikes. Since spying it, the Duelist had taken the time to throw on her coat, and make a proper magical girl exuent from her dormitory via the window. Her blade rests on her shoulder as she speeds towards it.

She should be happy to see such a sign of Mikoto being alive. But somehow her heart feels wary. It's all too sudden!

Landing at the base of the spire, Kasagami blinks as she takes in the visage of her old friend. Mikoto's new clothes only make her even more wary. Since when did the girl dress like that? Still, she forces a smile to her face despite the cool look that's on the other girl's face. Her good eye spies Miroku.

One hand is gently reached towards Mikoto invitingly. "Miko-chan! You're alive! Where have you been all this time!? I've been worried sick about you!" She starts, voice loud, mixed anger and relief. Confusion and wariness, as she looks up and down that massive tower.

"...What is all of this? Why make this thing here, Miko?" Everything in Kassie's body is tense, things just feel off. Her sword is over her shoulder, out of the way, but the Duelist can't help but keep looking back to Miroku.

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

The death knell of the creature sends the world into a scintillating pixelated distortion - it's emotional miasma distorting. The Puella Magi simply picks up a cube of black in her hand, holding it up. As it passes her eye though, it crosses the jagged spire erupting in the distance. Her hand hesitates for a moment, then places it against the clip in her hair holding her soul gem. The corruption within is leeched out.

"Hi Miroku." The girl whispers, and she's not smiling. Instead there's simply a frown, that ends in a sigh. "The truth is a troublesome thing... that's what you said wasn't it?" Rolling her head at the neck, she stares at it out of one eye, with her hand up against her face. "Curse you old man - for choosing duty-" The word is nigh spat out, "-over her."

She's talking to herself, but she's used to talking to herself. She just usually makes an excuse - that the flowers are listening for example.

Tonight she's just talking to herself, and there is not even the pretense of an excuse. Even she understands the hypicrosy inherent in her judgement of a dead man.

"Well..." She takes a deep breath, and her frown changes into this rueful smile, "... guess it's a good thing I never left."


She's not a magical girl when she walks up. Keeping her wary distance. She's just a girl in the Ohtori High School uniform, stepping out of the sweeping shadows of this industrial district, not too far from where Kasagami is.

"Hey Mikoto..." She says as she lifts her fingers up, "... any chance I can convince you to cancel your Thursday night plans for a girl's night out instead? I'll cover everything."

There's a tautness in her humor, like even she doesn't find it particularly funny. Yet it melts away in just a moment, with a single word - a plea.

"Please? I didn't want things to change like this." There's this soft inhalation through her nostrils and her tone grows a little softer, "I never did."

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

After the recent too-heavy rains, Fuu has been glad of the chance to venture outside without getting soaked, whether for her normal comings and goings as a civilian or for the sake of patrolling as a magical girl. For the most part, those latter watchful sojourns have been closer to home territory - the neighborhood where her family lives, the shore district near Infinity Institute, and so forth ... but she'd been meaning to take another look around the Keiyou industrial district.

An obsidian spire, piercing into the twilight sky, provides more than ample reason to venture that way tonight.

The Wind Knight makes her approach cautiously: not hiding, but not charging down the length of that black, glassy bridge, either. White boots trimmed with gold and set with green click against the obsidian's surface as the Magic Knight of Wind, her hands devoid of weapons, makes her way to the tower's foot.

"Kasagami-san, Eri-san, it's good to see you both this evening," the Wind Knight greets the Duelist and the gardener politely, bowing in greeting as she nears them. And then, she bows to Mikoto as well, giving the swordwoman a friendly smile. "Mikoto-san, it's been quite some time. I'm glad to see that you're in good health, but ..."

She trails off, her smile ebbing as her gaze sweeps up the spire. Then, her emerald eyes shift back to Mikoto's golden gaze, glasses doing nothing at all to hide her troubled look.

"This seems an ill-suited monument to a joyful reunion," she finally says. "You're among friends here, aren't you, Mikoto-san?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Every day is different. Every day has promise to it, a hope of some accomplishment, a chance to change things for the better. Many disappear under the endless march of work and other routines, but some have an unexpected freedom to them.

Mai looks at her phone one last time as she makes her way to the train station, considering the unwelcome freedom she found today. Reading old messages while walking might not be the safest thing in the world, but she's a high schooler in a modern era - it's a skill she's mastered over time. Sidestepping out of the way of a courier bike, she frowns yet again.

no work today, takumi. can give you a lift to your appointment.

...appointment? Sis, I rescheduled those to Wednesdays last month.

what. it's still in my calendar.

You've been too busy with things lately. I didn't think it was worth bringing up.

I'm guessing something must have come up again. Don't worry about it.

Her footsteps stall for a moment, considering a reply - but it's been hours. The opportunity has passed - though in honesty, she pointedly found other things to do. Groceries to get, fresh vegetables especially given the recent return of welcome company, and other long-delayed errands to finally accomplish. A new rice cooker rests in one bag, ready to replace its dying predecessor. All she has to do is go home to-

-to no one.

There's a glint of light as the sun sets, reflecting off a shard of darkness off the shore. Mai's eyes find it, eclipsing a fragment of the sky, looming with unknown menace. "The Black Moon, again? Or some other..." A furtive glance at the waiting train, then with a sigh she sets her feet toward the menaced shore.

She doesn't think of her former companion in the moment. Menace wasn't associated there for her - and besides, she doesn't dare to hope.

It's not far. There's a burnt scar in the area that serves as a forboding shortcut she can take - not the first time she's stopped by that reminder, and not to be the last. It's with caution she steps forward, fire ready to thought but not yet incarnated in gold. Caution, and the hope of stealth, as she tries to get close enough to find what might be going on. A tower of obsidian, a newborn island already scarred by what feels like an invitation, and a figure waiting at its base-

There's a thud and a crunch as hard-earned bags drop from abruptly senseless fingers. Some of the ingredients might be ruined, but it's hard to care in the moment as hasty feet stumble forward. She can't be sure, she hadn't hoped, but as she gets closer and barely notices fellow friends she gasps out the first words to come to mind.

"Mikoto! You're...you're...where have you been?!"

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

La Sirene de Diamant has come here.

Really, it would be hard not to. When a spire of this sort appears it rarely augurs well.

Her approach was careful. Quiet. She did not know if she lacked the right, but it was the sort of thing that was impossible to ignore. Fortunately for her, she can move with discretion when the time is right.

What stands out to la Sirene from a distance, first, is that momentary and anomalous flash of pink on the shoulder of - is that... She's wearing something like that, though, la Sirene thinks, peering through the faintly hazy Tokyo air.

Closer she moves, nearer to the edge of the water. No: it's certainly Mikoto.

La Sirene's eyes turn towards the vast glass and then she looks towards Eri and Kasagami. Who seem wrought. They did not know this. They're suprised too. (Deep within Nori can feel the faint wisps of old news, old paths, like cobwebs tugging on her heart. But they're light. She has tighter things there; strings and otherwise.)

Then she looks towards Mikoto. To Mikoto... and then...



"This is really something, Minagi," la Sirene says, her hand going to her hip as she shifts for a moment, the glass sliver in the Brazen Pharos twinkling darkly as she does. "But I feel obliged, on behalf of this city, to ask why you've raised Luxor anew in the harbor..."

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

There it was.

Quite far down the shoreline. It stood as a strange monument to a familiar power. An obelish of unknown origin. "Oh... That isn't good." He had an idea who it belonged to, which means they might be in trouble!

The screen door of the beach house flew open, with Steven Universe and Lion both standing there, looking toward the spire. "Okay, I dunno what is going on, but we gotta go investigate Lion!" he says, hopping aboard his buddy. There is an ominous sense though. A feeling in his gut. What could it be about though? Besides the normal crazy magic stuff, that was.

The two barrel down the beach, kicking up sand with each paw-fall.

---The two look so tiny compared to this creation of heated stone. Two pink spots compared from far above. "H... Hello?" he shouts on arrival. No one seemed to be present A run around the spire's base where the strange rock met ground. As if it washed outward.

It is only when others arrive and call out that he looks up and sees who it is. "H-Heeeey!" he shouts upward. She has on a different outfit. And her sword. Was she fighting someone? Maybe she found Peridot first this time...

Hm, nah, doesn't look like anyone is in the obsidian. Not that he can see but about two inches inside. "Hey, come down here! I needa say sorry about last time! I can't really do that when you are all the way up there, you know!"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

One by one Mikoto's gaze falls on them, regards them. They came here for her, her thoughts scream, distantly. So many are worried. These are her friends. Were, she corrects herself, a beat later.

They were her friends, and she knows that's why this will work.

Doing this will hurt them, she thinks. She is unused to cruelty. This is the best she could come up with.

There are some people she wishes weren't here. "Mai," Mikoto says, the first word from her. Sorrow flickers over the set of her gaze. She remembers what Mai didn't want, distant horror in the back of her mind. She remembers how she felt, too.

Kasagami is here, too, nodachi in one hand, the other empty as it reaches out. There is a brief flicker of tension across her brow, as her eyes look to that palm.

They want to know where she's been.

"With my Lord Brother," she explains, a certain tenseness to the words. "He brought me home. Kept me safe by his side." Safe, and away from them. She didn't realise why. "Lord Brother protected me from Walpurgisnacht. Now it's my turn."

Eri has come, too. Something in her screams with that same distance, replaying the fears Eri shared with her. That's why this will work, she reminds herself. Her gaze flicks away, settling on some construction to her left. "... change?" She echoes the word, and her tone is distant, too. "I've always been like this." She's sure it's not what Eri means. She finds, here, now, it's hard to say it.

Steven wants to apologise, and Mikoto's lips tense against each other. "Don't need to," she says, the words clipped. In a different time, she might have tried to explain the turmoil which led her to snap. Now, it feels pointless to extract apologies.

Not with what she has to do.

And together, Kasagami, the Wind Knight, and la Sirene carve to the heart of the issue. Mikoto closes her eyes, takes a deep breath. "I can't be friends," she says, words measured, "with my Lord Brother's enemies." It's so unlike understanding in a snowdrift, or a darkened apartment. So unlike promises to help someone she said she loved.

There's a certain regret to the words. And then the pendant at her chest glows, and her eyes snap open, pupils slit like a demon in their golden nests. It is not a remorseful expression.

"That's why I called you here," she says, and the pronoun ought to be a signifier of closeness. Mikoto's have always been intimate, the sort used between family or the closest of friends. But in that imperious tone, it takes its other meaning: arrogantly self-assured, claiming higher status, showing an utter disregard for politeness or propriety.

She is not being welcoming or personal, the way she does when she uses names so often, in so many meanings. She is being rude.

"I'm here to fight." Those decisive words are delivered without regret or hesitation, laying her intentions plain. But perhaps there is still a little remorse inside her, enough to make clear: "It's an order... from my Lord Brother."

God help her, she found him.

And now she does not get to make friends with the people she hurt, because she finds herself in opposition again.

This time, there is no one beside her.

Her chin tilts up; she draws a hissing breath through closed teeth. "Arm yourselves or leave." It is what regard she can give her friends who came in peace, who did not bring artillery. Did they not know what was coming, Mikoto wonders - or did they just not want to believe? Which would be the greater betrayal?

She tells herself she's wondering because she needs them to be sad, and not because it's hard for her to stand here, in front of them, hearing their words.

But she promised to do it, even if it was hard. She can do this, because she believes in her Lord Brother.

She can do this.

And with another pulse of sick purple light from the pendant around her neck, she


Betraying everyone she came to love is like pulling off a band-aid: do it quickly and pray her skin stays in its proper place. One moment Mikoto is still, waiting for them to follow her instruction, lips pressed thin against some stray thought. The next her legs bend, and in an acrobatic flash she is airborne, faster than a bullet-crack. With her wordless roar, it's just as loud.

Above, the obsidian spire splinters and fades to nothing, leaving nothing but fissures where she stood a moment prior. Behind, the obsidian bridge does the same. She has brought them to her arena. Here they will stay.

And what is up, smart men have said, must come down. As thunder seeks ground Mikoto crashes into the concrete, black blade burying in the foundations. Sigils alight on the blade, malevolent red things like eyes staring judgement; with an explosion of power, the ground trembles and breaks, crashing together and forcing apart. Imminently, the challenge is keeping one's footing, avoiding the shockwave and the debris which flies up to catch anyone taking aerial refuge. Skeletal steel beams tilt in their cracked foundations; some tumble and fall. Everyone in Tokyo surely knows something of earthquakes.

Know now the natural disaster called 'Mikoto Minagi'.

She was not this powerful, before. She was not fulfilling her true purpose, before. Some things, however, never change: she crouches in the epicentre of her destruction, drawing herself up to wrest her blade free, as she is forced to spend a moment pulling her sword from this artifice of stone.

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi transforms into Puella Magi Eri!
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha transforms into Mai-HiME!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Wind Knight!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Mai Tokiha.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha cleanly braces 23 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Mai Tokiha's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Mai Tokiha!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji dodges 12 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Fuu Hououji!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi cleanly braces 23 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Eri Shimanouchi's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Eri Shimanouchi!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki perfectly dodges 25 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Kasagami Araki's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Steven Universe braces 13 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Steven Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Steven Universe!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant perfectly dodges 25 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.


The Wind Knight's voice is quiet as she repeats that word. She's already in her armor as a Magic Knight; she doesn't need to transform - but she wasn't carrying either sword or bow as she approached, and her hands remain empty even at Mikoto's challenge. "What is your 'Lord Brother' doing that he needs to pit you against us, Mikoto-san? Is this what an older sibling forces on a beloved younger sister?"

Her hands may be empty, but her voice is not; neither does she make any move to withdraw from the fight. It's clear enough in her eyes that she doesn't want to do this - fighting another magical girl goes deeply against her sense of their calling, and Mikoto surely remembers *that* - but equally clear is the fact that she doesn't plan to leave without answers.

Even when it becomes just as clear, with Mikoto's opening assault, that the alternative may simply be that she *doesn't leave*.

The Magic Knight of Wind doesn't just stand there and take it, of course; when the ground crashes open beneath and around her, she scrambles to avoid the eruptions' force, and to dodge the larger and sharper pieces, even though that leaves her off-balance (and still battered, despite her efforts to escape worse injury). But then her voice lashes out as the rumble is still fading, trying to catch Mikoto in the middle of extracting Miroku from the paved ground:

"Winds of Admonishment!!"

Weapons she may own, but the Wind Knight doesn't rely on blade or arrow to go on the attack. The binding whirlwind which she calls forth is about as gentle as her offense gets, though: attempting to trap Mikoto and restrict her movements, but without hurting her too badly.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Admonishment on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.

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

The sound of Mai's voice causes her to slowly turn her head, "Oh Mai..." There's this soft exhalation of breath. She was going to tell Mai soon. To tell her everything. She just didn't want her to find out like this.

Not like this.

"... I should have told you sooner." It's such a muted whisper. It's not just for missing the chance to tell her in the past few days - but long before.

It is just one of many regrets she has.

Mikoto answers her though - and Eri in turn answers her back with that rueful smile, "You know that's not true. Things were different when he wasn't around. You changed - without his influence."

Slowly the girl slides a hand up to her glasses, and slips them behind the nose guard, and takes them off her face, folding them together. And sliding it down on the edge of her vest.

"That's not the change I'm talking about though. Me - Mai. We both made a lot of mistakes. Mine was that I lied to you for so long - about what I thought about what your way of doing things. The way you were brought up."

And those green eyes of her are piercing as she takes her first step on that Obsidian Spire, "What I think of your Lord Brother." She's treading on dangerous ground, and she knows it. Her ring becomes her soul's egg in her hand. In a glimmer of light.

"No more lies. If your Lord Brother sent you out here just to challenge all of us just because..."

And then she transforms - there's a smell like rain amidst the green flames which gird her for battle fabulously in clothes that are like armor, adorned by lace so sharp that it could cut.

"... then he can go stuff those orders. But to tell you the truth Mikoto..."

And with a quick motion, her scourge is pulled out of the gem on her hairclip, coiling it in her hand.

"... even though I've never really met him. I've hated his guts ever since the day you told me you're not allowed to yell at him."

Mikoto attacks, and Eri responds, sliding on slippery Obsidian into the shockwave. Using the motion to pivot her around, as her lash is flicked outwards. It's speed - tremendous as it intercepts the debris and shockwave on a collison course towards her.

It pulverizes the piece of malevolent debris sent her way, showering her in blackened glass. Yet it cannot stop the shockwave of that magnitude. Even with the force dulled fractionally it strikes her and sends her sliding back on that slick Obsidian glass, as she turns her heel to try to dig it in and brace herself against it.

Instead of coiling back her whip, she brings up her arm, sending it around her once in a circular motion. Again - and again.

Shifting her arm subtly every time so that it does not rotate - but the whip responds in time. The tip of the whip strikes out like a lashing serpent - again and again in the midair. Sliding here and there in an unpredictable ephemeral dance. Obsidian right near Mikoto might rupture abruptly as it's rent by the force of the strike. One crack after another that attempts to slip within Miroku's guard by its thorned lengths - and perhaps to latch onto her.

"Mikoto - don't you get it? This guy isn't actually looking out for your best interests! He never has! Think about it!? Why did he leave you in the first place if he was actually looking out for you? Why does he tell you that you shouldn't make any decisions for yourself!?"

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Moidon's Grasp on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Despite all the strange circumstances, despite how she knows deep inside of her hear that this will only end poorly, Kasagami can't help but give Mikoto a genuine look of happiness as she announces that she finally found her dear Lord Brother. The man she sought, her actual family!

One might expect some quip, some quick words, but instead she laughs. "You finally found him, huh? Miko-chan. I'm proud of you. You deserve to know your family. I'm so glad." She means every word.

And as she declares them all to be her enemy, that this Lord Brother wants her to fight them? That joy doesn't go away, even if she shakes her head.

Fuu already speaks to forcing Mikoto to fight. But the Duelist instead takes a far different tact. Her blade is held in both hands, gripped with iron fingers, and her gaze narrows. "I've been wanting to test my skills against your blade for a like time, Mikoto! I wouldn't turn down an opportunity to face you, no matter what! HOWEVER! Is this really the way we should be doing this? I'm glad for your reunion, but I do have several problems with someone that isn't going to show up and fight for himself! If your Lord Brother wants to destroy me so badly, tell him to do it himself! That is, if he has any shred of honor."

"Who is your Lord Brother, Mikoto? A warrior deserves to know her enemy's face, right?" Kasagami starts cutting, first with her tongue even before her sword.

But Mikoto is leaping, and forms the arena with a crack of blade to ground and those horrid sigils. The sheer power from Mikoto's landing has Kasagami skidding back. One of those steel beams tumbles, the ground shaking. It's Kasagami's turn to leap to the sky as debris falls! She carves two falling pieces of steel in two, only to kick off the remnants to avoid obsidian shards. A graceful backflip, and as the shaking intensifies, she tosses her sword back down to the fallen remains of part of the building that Mikoto had just wrecked. Her blade embeds into the steel, and she lands on the hilt of her overly long blade.

Standing atop it, hair and coat fluttering dramatically from the motions, she points straight at Mikoto! Eri's words only solidify her resolve to fight her dear friend! Anger sparks in her face, even as excitement lurks in her eyes.

"A warrior should wield her blade, not be wielded by another! Which one are you Mikoto!?" Then she kicks off into a sideways flip, hands plucking up her weapon as though it were a mere feather. The red-and-black blurr of a Duelist lashes out, tip of her nodachi a whirling tornado of steel as she crashes upon Mikoto!

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

She's alive. Mikoto's name came from Mai as a gasp more than anything else, relief and worry both coming out all at once. The obsidian spire is a little strange, perhaps, but Mai is no stranger to bizarre elemental effects heralding miraculous appearances.

It's fine. Sure, there's some sadness in her tone, but - but after how they parted ways, what feels like a lifetime ago, maybe that's to be expected. It'll be fine. It's probably going to be fine.

There's a tension in the air as Mikoto answers, Mai blinking owlishly in astonishment. Sure, she knew that Mikoto had always been seeking her brother, but to hear that she found him at long last-

It should be a joyous occasion. There's a hint of a smile, congraulations on Mai's lips - but she hesitates, realizing that there's no reason for Mikoto to stay with her now. Things will be different - and then she catches sight of the tautness in Eri's words, the tension in her stance, that whispered apology, and Mai's words that follow are instead a tentative question. "You found...your brother?...."

Mikoto's safe. It's got to be fine, now. Things are supposed to be fine.

Mikoto's here to fight.

There's an ultimatum, and Mai is nearly ready to laugh. Fighting against Mikoto - not some mirror-copy or nightmare illusion, but to fight against her companion? It's absurd, it's impossible, and she opens her mouth to shout that defiance-

But instead, something in her soul sings, screams, screeches defiance at the violent obsidian and violet light. Something might remember - or something might seek her safety above all. Whatever the reason, Mikoto's order is obeyed without thought, Mai startling at the appearance of her own Element. Instinct drove her to summon them, but this can't really-

It should have been fine.

But it's not.

The island cracks, shudders with the force of that blade's first impact, and Mai's voice screeches panic in response. A flicker of fiery light surrounds her, bolsters against the shockwave and its debris, guards against the ghost of the building that was slain.

As the dust settles, as her vision clears, Mai's eyes are wide. "Mikoto, this - " To say 'this isn't you' would be a lie Mai can't bring herself to voice.

" - why are -" Another hope cut off. Mikoto said as much, that her brother's will compels this battle. Mai shakes her head frantically, searching for words, searching for something that might stop this before...

The battle begins in earnest, but ready as the fire is to dance at Mai's call...her arms instead droop, tears welling up to blur her sight. She steps forward a moment, hesitant, and calls out.

"...what you have to do. What you want to do. Please tell me they're different, at least - that the idea of just going home and having supper still means something!"

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has used can we go home again? on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Rose on the Wind on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peF2I1WPPUM

La Sirene de Diamant blinks slowly. This is, perhaps, the first time she's heard of Lord Brother.

Arm yourselves or leave, Mikoto says. La Sirene blinks again, and then says, "But--"

And then there is an enormous crack in the world, the pillar of obsidian breaching itself and falling apart into a sea of nothingness in the sky, sparing the reification of an ancient myth from Edo bay. The crack itself starts la Sirene, but the rumbling sequelae from Mikoto smashing into the ground with sufficient force to make the gently precarious terrain of Tokyo RUMBLE - to send debris flying, to make skeletons of metal tilt, to threaten to send shockwaves throughout the rippling manifolds that make this great and beautiful organism they call a city -

That freaks la Sirene out, even if her face remains rather impassive.

The stone and wreckage rise and crest around her from both sides and yet la Sirene feels a certain intensity; a focus here. Something pure is present, something that lacks the desperation of recent memory. She feels for a moment as if she can see in all directions - though in fact, perhaps, it is just the reflection of alien light from the collapsing girder coming for her.

She swerves left, then vaults upwards, kicking off a concrete fragment that rises as if to bodyblow her. She stands astride it as it topples, leaping back once to let it orbit beneath her on its complex motion vector. This moment of high posture lets her see others. She can see Mai Tokiha, see her seem to wither. She can see Kasagami close with a fierceness she knows is familiar. She can see Eri lash out with whips; she can hear anguish in her voice.

The stone of civilization beneath her yields to gravity. She crouches, and the impact does not dislodge her. The limning of purple-black around her intensifies, slightly, and she answers Mikoto:

"I refuse."

She raises her hands up to either side of her face, staring dead ahead. She enunciates what she says, her lips moving with emphasis.

"I will remain your friend. And I will not leave. You and I have crossed the waves of fate in a way I will not toss away on the say-so of some stranger, to whom I have not been properly introduced. You should brace yourself, even so, because -"

La Sirene claps her hands above her head. (In her heart she quails for a fraction of a second. What right do I have to step into this rite, to follow this road? Then she thinks of someone who disappeared and the doubt goes away.)

"- We are similar, but different, aren't we?"

"You're very sharp..."

La Sirene holds her peculiar pose. Then the cracks start to boil up with sea-foam unlight, toppling over itself - having poured out and followed the wave-guide of the diamonds on her boots' soles, into the cracks Mikoto herself just made!

"And I'm just the opposite!"

They twine and rise, aiming to bury her like the surf. CAN HER BLADE CUT A WAVE?

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Polyploia on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 14 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Winds of Admonishment, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji is Psyched!  Cripple and Trap applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi dodges 9 Fatigue damage from Eri Shimanouchi's Moidon's Grasp, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Tangle applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 7 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Rose on the Wind, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki is Psyched!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly braces 0 Fatigue damage from Mai Tokiha's can we go home again?, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Brace!

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Why does she seem so tense?

The boy puffs out his cheeks and sighs, sulking forward for a second. THe boy rights himself and speaks, having used the second of emoting to compose himself. "Okay, so you know you can just talk about this, right? Whatever uh," a look again to the spire. "That is about."

"Of course I need to apologize! I really upset you and you ran away! I can't live with that! I misunderstood you and cause you problems! I'm not a problem-cuasing guy!"


The world carried a dark weight to it, darker than the fabrication behind them all. About as pointed though. About as sharp. Steven's voice cracks when he starts to speak. A bit of sweat shows up on his brow. "I-I uh, don't suppose we can have a reason behind that, can we? I am pretty sure I haven't angered any great-and-powerful figures more than normal, but that doesn't sound--"

A beat.

"WAIT, you found him?!" he exclaims. "Where was he?" He remembered her search on the beach so long ago. Seems so much farther than a stone's throw down history.

Lion has merely pensively stared this whole time.

The request is given and the tremors start, and Steven has no choice but to defend himself with his shield. Debris is blocked, but the shaking is indescribable. Lion loses his footing and slips to the floor, hitting the ground roughly.

But from the dust springs Steven! The boy tries to close the distance and occupy the blade with his shield with a firm slam toward her. If it isn't swinging, it isn't hurting others! "You know I don't have a weapon! But I will hold you in place until you stop and we can talk this out!" If there was something Steven was, it was durable.

And stubborn. Pretty stubborn at times.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge La Sirene de Diamant's Polyploia, taking 22 Fatigue damage!  Tangle and Trap applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Shield Slam on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Steven Universe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to brace Steven Universe's Shield Slam, taking 20 Fatigue damage!  Steven Universe is Psyched!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Eri tells Mikoto just what she thinks of her Lord Brother, and just as she reports her hate, there's hate in the gold of her eyes. She held herself back, last time. She thinks she must have made a mistake.

At least Kasagami is happy for her. Briefly.

Kasagami wants to know who he is. Fuu asks why he's doing this. There are things Mikoto needs to know, and things she does not need to know. She knows her Lord Brother is looking to their future - their future, together. She knows he has enemies. She knows she has to disrupt them.

And she knows she must believe in him.

It is this belief which the magical girls attempt to disrupt. With word and with deed: wind buffets Mikoto in her landing, and she staggers as she wrests her blade free. It's hard to move, in the gust, gentle as it is. "I wouldn't tell you," she insists, of his plans. She doesn't say that she can't. But a lashing whip seeks through her defenses, and Mikoto has to move, has to get away from Eri's grasp and Eri's words, even as the edge of the whip catches at her cape and feathers it. Oh, there are so many words.

What is he doing?
Why did he leave in the first place?
Where was he?
Who is he?
He hasn't been introduced.

But there's one question which doesn't involve him at all.

Mikoto lands and stiffens, turned away, as Mai makes her plea.

'But some part of me always hoped I guess that I'd see you again - and then we'd go swing by the Linden Baum as Mai got off shift - and have dinner at her place.'
'I... ... if Lord Brother said it was okay...'

Her lips part.

Her pendant glows.

And these are the words she hears coming out of her mouth: "This is what I wanted."

Mikoto grits her teeth, and turns with a snarl to meet Kasagami's blade with hers, the interruption purely defensive. "He's my Lord Brother!" She insists, to her question of whom. "And me - I am his blade. I won't let you insult my Lord Brother's honour!" She lashes out, quickly, once their blades part; and Kasagami, who has studied the blade for so many years, will notice it immediately.

She's using the flat of her blade.

It still carries with it staggering force, enough to let her spring away again, gain more ground. But she cannot outrun the speed of unlight: it catches her as she lands, feet astride one of those vast cracks, and falls over her like a tsunami. Similar disasters - but different, just as she says. Caught by the light, she lashes out, and her blade finds Steven's shield. "Get out of my way!" She demands, as he catches Miroku on his rose-coloured defences.

He does not.

"I'm not telling you where my Lord Brother is!" Mikoto insists, as if that's what he meant.

The light of her pendant washes over her, challenging the unlight of La Sirene, centering her weight again. First she must deal with Steven, and, blade occupied, she does the only thing left to her: she kicks at him, with a sensible Ohtori flat. It is the one thing about her appearance which has not changed, incongruous of the rest.

Freeing herself, she whirls, blade plunging into the ground. Dark portals open, by La Sirene; spires of dark energy lance out, promising to lance through her like light, pinning spirit rather than flesh. "Yes! We're different! I've always been different! So we can't be friends!"

She lifts her blade, and springs forward, now. It's dangerous to get so close to Eri, with her lashing whip; her blade sails overhead to challenge their grasp. "I believe in my Lord Brother!" She yells, as her blade comes down - angled, somewhat, on the impact. "He had a reason! He always has a reason!"

And there's one more wound to inflict.

This is what she wanted, so she charges to meet Mai, this time, blade coming up diagonally. She sucks in a breath, through her teeth. "Just stay out of it," she says, and there's a more quiet cast to those words than the others, more of a request than a demand.

But she has to hurt her.

So Mikoto completes the thought: "... it's what Mai's good at."

Fuu, who does not bring a weapon to bear... is not, immediately, struck. Perhaps Mikoto remembers something from long ago.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Devastation on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Darkness on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium on Mai Tokiha.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Arts: Assault on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used The Obsidian Pendant's Purification on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi perfectly dodges 28 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Eri Shimanouchi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha fails to brace Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium, taking 60 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki braces 13 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Devastation, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Psyched!  Stun applied to Kasagami Araki!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts Mikoto Minagi's The Obsidian Pendant's Purification, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Accelerate applied to Mikoto Minagi!  Cleanse! All of Mikoto Minagi's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Steven Universe braces 7 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Arts: Assault, taking 3 Fatigue damage!  Steven Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant counters 10 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Darkness, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  La Sirene de Diamant's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant's counterattack, Les Mysteres, partially gets through, doing 17 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!

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

Hate is Mikoto's response - hate in her eyes. And Eri expected that reaction. The exact moment she let loose the floodgates of criticism against Mikoto's Lord Brother.

However, as she catches ahold of Mikoto's cape, and Mikoto states 'This is what I wanted.' Eri simply replies to her, "Don't listen to her Mai! She says that - but she didn't have any choice in what she wanted!"

As Mikoto leaps at her in challenge, Eri suddenly abruptly, brings back the lash. Making a motion with her arm as she wraps it around her wrist. It's a defensive move - as Mikoto angles her blade towards her. She angles in the opposite direction, the whip around her arm as a coiled shield just in case that blade gets too close.

She is not Sayaka Miki. She knows what will happen to her if that blade makes contact and Mikoto stops using its flat.

And yet it doesn't. She escapes cleanly in her sideways leap to land on the uneven surface of the spire.

Landing light-footedly behind Mikoto.

"You believe in him - do you?"

Eri has her head turn to eye this girl she loves so much. This girl who loved her so much as to do almost anything for her.

"Do you even know his name now?"

However she sees Mikoto's momentum taking her to... as her eyes widen in disbelief, "MAI!" And suddenly there's a desperation to that plea, "Mikoto - stop - don't do this to her!"

Eri abruptly unravels her whip and upends it so the tendrils are pointing down. The tips writhing as they begin to pry into the Obsidian Crystal.

And then she drops it. The lengths all slip into the ground, and there's a glittering flare of magic along the length of the spire en route to Mikoto.

They erupt out of the crystal itself. Fast moving loops of serrated plant life that streams out of the ground before burrowing back in. Down and back again - straight towards Mikoto. There's a chaotic quality to their movement - to how high the loops are each time. To the spacing from where they burrow down and back again.

All attempting to catch her off-guard within those rending circles.

"Tell me the truth Mikoto - would you ever choose to fight Mai if that guy hadn't ordered it!? In what world would you ever want this!?"

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Jubokko's Sanguine Roots on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Kassie tch's aloud as she bores into Mikoto's eyes. Her entire body goes rigid, and it's the Duelist's turn to snarl at her friend!

"So what you're telling me is, you're not only letting go of your pride as a warrior and letting yourself be used, but you're also doing the bidding of someone who doesn't even tell you his goals? Forget even honor, it sounds like your Lord Brother doesn't even trust you!"

The flat of the blade catches with Kasagami's own, and she leans into the meeting strike! Muscles press, but the hammer blow from the heavier blade sends Kasagami skidding backwards hard enough to leave rutts in the ground where her boots dig in! The edge of her blade smokes from the hard impact. With a heavy sigh, she whips her blade around, readying it level with Mikoto.

"Besides. For being your 'enemy', Mikoto, aren't you going a little easy? That annoys me. I finally get our fight, and you're NOT GIVING ME YOUR ALL!? Is this how you treat someone who loves you!?"

Kassie steps off her back heel, rushing towards Mikoto in a swift sliding motion, like some sort of extremely aggressive swan leap! Her blade held up high, both hands bring it down with a war cry that vents her rage and frustration.


She puts her whole body into it, swinging down and doubling over herself to slash with every muscle in her body.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Rose Flash on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

That's all Mai had to offer. Words of hope, of desperation, a plea that their life together wasn't being thrown away like so much garbage. It's a meager little thing, but maybe - just maybe -

Maybe all that life together meant nothing. All Mai can do is stare at the girl with the glowing pendant, that sharp answer echoing in her ears.

It's a melee, all of a sudden. Mikoto's other friends aren't hesitating as much, are engaging directly instead of keeping their distance, are properly answering that demand for a fight. Even Steven is meeting that blade directly, and yet Mai-

-for all her thoughts that Mikoto could be a danger, that she might have to take responsibility-

She can't act. She can't act, even as people are getting hurt. A hesitation, a thought of trying to cordon this important person, to raise a wall between Mikoto and those she seeks to harm. Mai is just raising her hands to find that fire when Mikoto charges at her directly.

Those Elements are made for defense, and blazing light is taking form to ward off that deadly blade - but before the weapon arrive those words. A curt statement, honed to hurt.

Mai's expression fades like she's just taken a knife to the back, and the fires meant to protect her gutter out entirely.

Merciful, that Mikoto was using the flat of the blade. If not-

As it is, the force sends Mai flying. Not a hint of resistance, not a ghost of resiliance - like a rag doll, she's flung out of Mikoto's path, coming to a stop only when she hits one of those in-progress walls with a crash. An echo of the crash sounds, as debris collapses toward her, prone to burying her.

Words meant to hurt, followed by an executioner's blade. She could heed the words, stay out of the fight. And yet...

"You...really do want this." Light ignites abruptly, Mai's rings finally burning properly, a stray tarp catching at her feet as she staggers upright. "Or maybe you can't think of anything but fighting, now. That....the difference matters, but still."

She glances to Eri, to her little sister, and there's a sad smile. "Part of me always wondered, Eri-chan. Wondered if this might happen in the end. I thought...what I thought really doesn't matter. Maybe you'll get me to talk about it later." One arm goes to her side, and she staggers for a moment thinking of 'later'. "But..."

Her gaze returns to Mikoto, something flinty and shaky there. The thought of Mikoto hurts almost as much as the betrayal, and fury has been broken by brutality. Still, she steps forward - fingers gripping her jacket, she lopes forward toward Mikoto in an awkward charge. "You're right - but I won't stay out of this, Mikoto. I won't let - I'll stand in the way of you hurting your friends like this."

Burning light flickers to life, a ward against the next blade, a fleeting wall between Mikoto and her next target. However briefly it might burn, Mai's words steadily begin to burn hotter than the flames. "You want to be a threat to them? I want you to back down!" There's a surge, a flare of blinding light against the dark swordswoman - a strengthening of will.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has used Devoted Scintillation on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has finished attacking.
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Reason is a hireling," la Sirene answers Mikoto - not that she was asked - but before this aphorism can be studied or developed further, la Sirene is struck with a maneuver which she finds not entirely alien, somehow. She turns her head and looks around, letting out a little grimace before she considers where to run --

And remembers the direction we often overlook.


So, she leaps. The rays of light follow her. They bite into that limning around her and la Sirene twists round, spiralling as she rises, her left hand coming to bear as her right swings cross and cross again -- "Les Mysteres, COME!"

The silver-black-threadball smashes outwards, struggling down, twisting towards Mikoto. One of the twining strikes of reddish light lances through la Sirene and she hisses, falling down - falling heavily, pancaked on the ground for a moment rather than landing with daint and aplomb.

She pushes herself up to her hands, her knees, then into a crouch.

"Being different... does not separate you. Many others are different, too... you said it yourself. We were different, but we were also similar--" She raises her right hand, now, fingers splaying out as if to reach towards Mikoto, pleadingly.

And indeed it is a pleading thing, but a sparkling scintillance comes from the diamonds on her fingerless glove, the light that never warms smashing forth with palpable, firehose pressure at her.

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Carbonado Kaleidoscope on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

For a moment, the Winds of Admonishment actually catch Mikoto - but not for long; Mikoto's pendant flares, and she breaks free. The Wind Knight keeps her guard up, watchful for blade - and for beam, as she sees the energy spears erupting from those portals around La Sirene de Diamant - but it's as though the eye of the storm has settled around the green-clad Magic Knight, leaving her unassailed, by design or by chance.

Either way, it's a precious opportunity ... and it's an opportunity she tries to capitalize on - not by violence, not by weapon or spell, but once again by words.

"Mikoto-san, I know your Lord Brother has been important to you for all this time - you've spoken so highly of him, you've continued searching for him. I won't say that he *shouldn't* be important to you; whether by blood or by choice, he's family, and I won't argue that he shouldn't be. But as valuable as *he* is to *you*, shouldn't you be no less precious to him? Shouldn't a good big brother cherish his little sister? Shouldn't he love and protect her, and not launch her at his enemies like a weapon?"

Even as she addresses Mikoto, Fuu is trying to imagine it - if her own big sister, Kuu, chose to order Fuu to attack some enemy of her own. Maybe a scholastic rival, maybe an athletic opponent, maybe something even crueler than an ordinary student's life ... but it's impossible for Fuu to imagine. Kuu may be a big sister, instead of a big brother, but it's still impossible - unimaginable, and incomprehensible - that Kuu would drag her younger sister into her own conflicts, whatever they might be.

Maybe it's just the Wind Knight's own blind spot, like the blind spot of Mikoto's that she's currently occupying ... but that blind spot is unlikely to last.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Gentle Chiding on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

"I don't care anything about that guy!" Steven insists, tussling with someone who is supposed to be his friend. Well, he likes to think so, though after recent meetings it could have been wavering. "I just care about where you are!" he says, heartfelt.

His emotional words are met with a foot. A vicious front kick with a great deal of snap. The hit sends the boy sprawling backward, tumbling over himself once. "Urgh..." It takes effort to stand back up, a hand on a knee provides a proper brace to do so. Scrapes and missing skin from the altered floor don't help any.

But he won't give up! He runs at her again, having to dodge attacks aimed at others, their effective areas sprawling out from the blade called Miroku, each an exercise in pain delivered.

"What about everything we have been through together?! How could you say we suddenly can't be friends after so much has happened?" He doesn't believe this, not in the slightest. That necklace, he remembers it well. It emits a strange light from time to time.

With each swing of the shield, a statement is made. His voice firm, chastising.

"What about our adventures on the beach?"

"The time we escaped the spaceship from Homeworld?"

"What about that cool attack we did together against whatever that giant blob-thing was called again?!"

He is just going to keep swinging at her to deflect that weapon! He can't out-strength her by far, and she is far faster and acrobatic than him. But if he can at least keep causing her to pay attention to him, others might be able to help.

At this point he would be glad to keep throwing himself at her. It was the least he could do after the incident.

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Shield Bash on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Steven Universe has finished attacking.
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Kasagami makes those accusations, and Mikoto's eyes narrow. "You just need to suffer," she answers, as she tells her she's not giving her all. She does not mention the way she does not want to go too far. "But --"

That blade crashes down like its own bolt of thunder, and Mikoto's carves up suddenly to meet it. "-- FINE!" She yells, as she meets force with force, lashing out at Kasagami in her own frustration.

Mikoto's head jerks, glaring behind her as Eri asks whether she knows his name. The last time Eri pointed it out, she was miserable. Maybe there's still a flicker of misery, hearing that again.

"I know enough," she shuts down the question.

And she charges in towards Mai, and Eri screams at her not to, and distantly she thinks it's strange to hear it out loud. Oh. But why would she think something like that? She does not stop. She does this to her.

For just a moment as Mai goes sailing there is a widening of her eyes, a breath hissed through grit teeth. She set out to hurt Mai, and Mai is being hurt. Other HiME are her enemies, she reminds herself, again, desperately. Other HiME are her enemies.

She squeezes her eyes shut, shakes her head, and steps forward to advance on the most important girl in the world. It is halted by plantlife, loops which threaten to catch and bind her. She is forced to move within them, to dance away from each loop of green as Mai staggers up and makes her realisations. Finally she springs towards Eri, blade crashing down diagonal --

-- only to crash into a wall of flame, as Mai interposes herself. Mikoto once said that no one loved Eri the way Mai and Mikoto did. Perhaps it was inevitable that they'd come here. Her eyes widen again, and she redirects the force of her blade down, into the ground, shuddering the earth beneath their feet. "His world!" She yells, defiant, to Eri's question. "Our world! THIS WORLD!" Eyes darting to Mai, again, she tells her, this time: "Can't protect everyone, Mai."

As if to demonstrate, her gaze falls on the one person she has not struck: the Wind Knight. Her shoulders tighten against her words, eyes narrowing; she makes too many assumptions about what her Lord Brother must feel, and Mikoto believes in her Lord Brother. Perhaps it cuts too close to home, on top of everything else. With a yell, she turns and charges towards her, flat of her blade coming up in revolution to strike at her for her efforts. "Lord Brother kept me safe!" She snaps, immediately. "Now I'm keeping him safe - from you!"

La Sirene remembers another little incongruity, the words she once said. Another one of those reaching hands. Mikoto cannot help but think of them as horrible attempts to grasp her and pull her away from her Lord Brother's side; she can't even see the honest invitation held in that gloved palm. Instead she sees the cold light which crashes out, and she leaps with terrible speed to clear it entirely, landing beside her. Down comes her obsidian blade, with stubborn insistence: "I didn't know the truth. I didn't know you were Lord Brother's enemies!"

That first swing might have met with another - but there is Steven, scrambling in to match her before she can assault the ranged attacker. Suddenly she is occupied with him, again, unable to press her assault on any of the others. Blade clashes with shield; she tries to move past him, and he is a bulwark. "Temporary," Mikoto spits the word, as he asks and asks and asks. "I came here to find my Lord Brother, and I did! All that stuff is over now! It's done!" It's just another way for her to say: she can't go back.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Mai Tokiha.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dynamo on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Devastation on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Defence on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji fails to brace Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, taking 47 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki perfectly dodges 31 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Kasagami Araki's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha counters 13 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Mai Tokiha's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Mai Tokiha!
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha's counterattack, Sanctum Blaze, partially gets through, doing 16 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi counters 7 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 22 Fatigue damage!  Eri Shimanouchi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi's counterattack, Yamabiko's Answer, partially gets through, doing 12 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!  Critical Counterhit!  Stagger applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant partially dodges 6 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Devastation, taking 25 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Maybe Mai being hurt would be enough to shake Mikoto out of...whatever this is that drives her. It's not a berserk rage - she's arguing, conversing with all of them even as she fights.

It's strange.

It's not like any of the battles Mai can think of in the past year. She'd gotten so used to Mikoto being curt or even berserk that it's an odd feeling, one that would be uplifting if not for the fact that Mikoto was turning her newfound razor tongue on her friends.

(Maybe Mikoto's former friends, if Mai were ever willing to accept that thought.)

Interspersing herself between Mikoto and Eri is all Mai can manage - and even that much seems to be for naught, as the ground itself lashes out at the two of them. That wall of flame roars in response, burns all the brighter, but Mai falls to one knee as that same flame obscures the other HiME from sight.

"...did you think I wanted to, Mikoto?" Her right arm is still gripping her side, her breaths shorter as she tries to find her companion by the sounds of swords and pain. "I wanted to protect the people important to me. The people important to you, if I could. I thought everyone here was your friend, but you..."

Mikoto's declared everyone to be her brother's enemies, to be her enemies, and that hurts even more than Miroku.

"...you'll regret it. You're better than this, right? You'll look back at attacking everyone, and you'll ask yourself why, and there won't be an answer..." Mai takes a deep breath, and flings out her arms.

Fire spreads out, arcing wide to form a longer burning wall. It's like a serpent, the way it slips rapidly through the battle, hunting down Mikoto - but rather than striking with a bite, the fire circles around her. A wall between her and the world, a burning cage for the unruly cat.

"...I don't want that to happen. If you're mad at me, I...I probably deserve that. The rest of your friends, though - they don't. So just..."

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has used Infernal Embrace on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to brace Mai Tokiha's Infernal Embrace, taking 36 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Diversion, Exhausted, and Trap applied to Mikoto Minagi!

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto's blade lashes once again, the two briefly warring as blades strike! But Kasagami loses this engagement, the heavier claymore Miroku forcing her to quickly roll out of the way as it threatens to topple her to the ground with such power beneath the other girl's blade!

When she pops back up onto one knee, there's a gash down one arm, and there's a massive cut through her coat. Sweat drips off her brow, and the young woman grins humorlessly at her friend-slash-opponent.

"That's the Mikoto I know! You hit better when you're angry, Mikoto! You're not tapping into that berserker wrath. Not fighting like the powerful, brave Miko-chan that's always been my friend and sister!" She's not helping here.

"Are you really happy being beside someone who just wants your friends to be hurt? To be in agony? Your Lord Brother sounds like a real sadist to me!" She pushes.

She glances to Mai, frowning. She's trying to protect them. But even now, Kassie believes that Mikoto isn't the sort to just stop when she has her mind on something. The girl's stubborn that way.

And so with a step forward, she draws her blade to the side. One, two, three perfectly paced out movements, and then her sword swings.

Like light refracted into a hall of mirrors, Kasagami's sword becomes four as she aims to slam the flat of her blade into her dear friend and would-be surrogate family member. Her hands tremble, praying that one of them might beat or talk some sense into the lost HiME!

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Falling Petals Cut The Soul on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 33 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Falling Petals Cut The Soul, taking 27 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!

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

"What you thought kind of does matter Mai." Eri says with this soft contradiction, "That's the whole point. The two of you..." And it's said with an affection that in no way feels like she's in a battle against either of them. "... are more similar than you think sometimes."

And then she corrects herself. "The three of us." With a kind of self-awareness that comes only after a major change to one's life.

Mikoto shuts down the question, and Eri's remark is, "Mikoto - you're the one who told me to stop lying." As she calls her out on her hypocrisy. And at once it's like they're back in a fight. The foliage retracts, and Eri's whip grows back out of the ground unto her hand.

Mikoto yells her defiance just as the whip enters her hand. Mikoto's shattering blow is striking the ground - just as Eri's lash flicks out. It looks wide, however with a flick she changes its direction. It's tip far to Mikoto's flank then she runs the fingers of her opposite hand along the whip's length close to her, missing every thorn as that hand points towards Mikoto. And it's like she's calling her target.

Her whip's while trajectory is suddenly determined by that point as it's momentum becomes pinpoint, striking Mikoto with a stunning crack at the same moment her blade's impact begins to cause the ground's shockwave to cause her to lose her footing.

It sends her sprawling with a shriek - as she rolls backwards on Jagged Obsidian, coming to a rest thankfully before she gets near of any of those impaling spikes.

As she pulls herself back up, there's a single rivulet of blood down her face, just over her eye.

Her lips are taut and pained as she says. "You're keeping him safe from us? We're his enemies? We're not trying to conquer the world. What's he really scared of - from a bunch of girls who just want to go to school and protect people from monsters?"

Eri though hears Mai's plea to Mikoto - and suddenly her eyelids lull just a little, "Mai. It's not just how you and I hurt her - I wish it were. It would make this... easier."

And this time when she brings herself to a standing position, there's this almost sad look, "This has been going on since... long before either you and I met her. She's... unfortunately she's more than capable of doing this to all of us. Even you."

The movement from Mai to Mikoto is almost painful. It's like her head is swimming in this concussed molasses. And her eyes slowly land upon Mikoto Minagi knowing she's going to hurt her more, right now.

"Mikoto - why did you really leave your mountain shrine? Are you sure it was because you had to search for your Lord Brother?" In contrast, her heart feels like it's pounding a mile a minute. "Or... was it because there was noone left?"

She doesn't say it outright though. Even now. It is simply the implication. For Mikoto herself to work through.

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used The Truth is a Troublesome Thing on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts Eri Shimanouchi's The Truth is a Troublesome Thing, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

From Mikoto's reaction, the Wind Knight can tell that her words did *something* - they held an impact that Mai's earlier plea didn't, for better or for worse. Although judging by *how* Mikoto reacts beyond that seeming cringe, it may indeed be 'for worse' - even the flat of that menacing sword is devastating, and the Magic Knight barely gets her arm up in time: specifically, her right arm, the one which sports a good sturdy bracer covering her forearm.

That armor, and the willpower-derived magic which infuses it, are the only things which convert Miroku's impact from an immediately crippling blow into anything even a little bit milder. The Wind Knight is still knocked flying by the impact. Taking a blow is one thing; bracing properly against it is something else, something she didn't have time for, and her body slides to a halt right at the edge of the artificial land, the breath knocked out of her.

She still struggles back to her feet as quickly as she can manage. "Mikoto-san, *think about it!*" she calls out. "You've spoken to us about your Lord Brother, how precious he is to you, how important he is to you ... but when you've been our friend and our ally all this time, when we've fought side-by-side against so many monsters, so many threats and dangers ... *why* are we *his enemy*? What drives him, what is he trying to accomplish, that automatically makes him a target for us magical girls? What kind of big brother makes his sister choose between himself and her sisters-in-arms - and why is it so important that he has to do so?!"

Continuing to assail Mikoto with words alone is an awful gamble, and the Wind Knight knows it; a corner of her mind is screaming at her to finally take up a weapon, to protect herself *physically* rather than relying on language, and not even harsh language at that. But even now - even with Mikoto pledging her enmity to the girls (and Steven) who came to the erstwhile spire's base - the same memories that she's trying to prod awake in Mikoto are chewing at the Wind Knight's mind. It's not like raising her sword against an unknown magical girl, or one whom she's only a little bit familiar with; Mikoto has been an ally through so much, so many fights ... she's somebody that Fuu counted as a friend, and still wants to view as such.

So her hands remain empty, even with the ocean at her back and no margin of safety between herself and the deep, dark waters.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Piercing Inquiry on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

La Sirene gazes at Mikoto. And she thinks -

- she wants to protect this man -

- and it makes sense, she supposes, to want to protect your brother, doesn't it? perhaps I'm the weird one here -

- but I don't really mean it -

- but we didn't even know about him until -

And then Mikoto swings her blade.

But what was averted at Haneda airport does not come to pass now. Even so la Sirene rolls to her side and has to cross her arms before her. There is a huge scouring SCRAPE and a shower of unnaturally colorful sparks from her gloves as one of the diamonds catches the edge; deflected, it slices a thin bloody gash in her hand, but does not take off anything deeper. La Sirene looks at Steven with relief.

Then up to Mikoto.

She struggles inwardly. Not just with fear - not just with surprise - nor even with anger, though she does not have a great deal of that for Mikoto at this moment. She struggles to figure out what to say here, even as she pushes herself up and leaps to her feet.

"Why are you doing this!? Is Lord Brother the - the pillar or something!? I don't understand!" la Sirene cries. "But you are going to wreck up Tokyo and by every invisible one in this or any other world I am not going to let you do that! At the very least,"

Up comes her left hand: "Stop thrashing!!"

And then her right comes down with the cry, Les Mysteres! Because, la Sirene thinks, they're really much cleverer than I -- and I cannot stand here and brace myself against a sword of obsidian!

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Les Mysteres on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to brace Fuu Hououji's Piercing Inquiry, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to brace La Sirene de Diamant's Les Mysteres, taking 35 Fatigue damage!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Les Friction - I Remember https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peam4iIkQ40&feature=youtu.be

"I'm not your sister!" Mikoto roars, as Kasagami makes that declaration. "We're not family! I've told you over and over!" Family would know how she felt. Wouldn't he?

Eri says the three of them are alike; maybe that's why she tells her to stop lying. It must be, she tells herself. She strikes them anyway, just as she is struck: the whip staggers her, the flame makes it difficult to see. Would she have hit them true if the smoke weren't in her eyes? Mikoto isn't telling, as she makes her escape.

Mai says she'll regret it. She remembers what Eri said, the last time they parted. "Wrong," she insists, an edge of desperation to the words. "Wrong!"

The fire rises around her, and here is the truth: Mikoto has always been defenceless against those flames. She turns and finds herself pinned in by heat, a wall to consume her.

A wall to trap her in.

Even as the flames fade, the memory of heat remains, and Mikoto finds herself rooted in place as Kasagami bears down. She whirls, lifting Miroku to meet the nodachi - one nodachi; in a flash of mirror-trickery, it moves fast enough to strike her thrice, no matter her defence. "This doesn't hurt!" She says, she screams: "It doesn't hurt at all!"

Maybe Eri isn't entirely wrong, she thinks, but she can't let her enemies know that.

The look she gives to Steven is silent and complex.

Fuu does not bring her weapon to bear, no matter what transgression Mikoto has done, no matter the way she sends her flying. Her shoulders tighten with her jaw as the Wind Knight struggles to stand, and brings words rather than weapons to bear. "I don't know," she admits, finally, painfully. She shakes her head, and insists: "I don't need to know! I believe in my Lord Brother!"

Eri asks a question, too. Mikoto turns her cheek to look at her, from behind a single black braid. "No one left," she answers, tone flat, taking that one accusation into herself without complaint. "I think you know why... Eri." And her name from her lips is a curse.

Les Mysteres come on the heel of her acceptance, batter into her in that still moment. The strangeness of it catches her, sends her staggering, a hand pressing against the ground to stop herself from falling totally. "That pillar," she answers, stubborn, "is the power my Lord Brother gave me. I am strong... 'cause he gave me strength."

Slowly, Mikoto rights herself, concrete dust in her hair. It would be easy to say she can hardly stand - so typical to how she operates. Easy - and wrong. She is battered yet unbroken, standing straight even as her clothing shows the telling signs of damage. Why, then, is she given this strength - only now she fights for him?

That's not a question Mikoto Minagi asks.

But perhaps there's more damage which can be inflicted than on the body; words have power, too. Mikoto has heard so many, and it's starting to feel dangerous. She needs to get back to him, before they can say anything more. She needs to believe in him.

So her words, when she speaks, are calmer. (And how strange, just as Mai noticed - that she is speaking.) "I won't go back," she insists, fingers tight around her blade. "What we had is over. I'll keep fighting... for my Lord Brother."

She takes a deep, shuddering breath, and looks aside, to the Wind Knight and la Sirene. "... I did what I came here to do. I'm leaving, now." She will not rampage through and destroy the city. She can give them that much of an assurance.

Her eyes fall on Kasagami and Steven, then, and finally to Mai and Eri. Part of her wants to say something. She takes a breath, opens her mouth. And that pendant pulses with light, and she looks away, her tone grown cold. "From now on, I'm your enemy. End of story." And perhaps that is why she is doing this, just as la Sirene asked. It's a message effectively sent.

Legs bending, she springs up onto the top of that towering crane; from there, she clears the remarkable distance to shore, and runs into the city. Her route is circuitous, and difficult to follow.


Down, down a wending path few could take, a hundred little dead-ends and narrow twisty passages, stalagmites rising from the ground which must be edged about with utmost care. She comes to the Obsidian Palace.

Nagi was just leaving. "Don't look so grim, Mikoto-chan," he calls to her, sing-song, gesturing casually. "Girls should enjoy dancing!" She glares at him; he chortles as he passes her.

But her Lord Brother is smiling, and relief releases the tension in her shoulders, a sigh from her lips. She approaches, and he places a hand on her unadorned shoulder, easily. "Mikoto," he says, approval in his eyes as they catch hers. "My precious little sister... you did well, fighting for me. I know you'll do even better, next time." Next time, next time, of course there is a next time. He pulls her in, embraces her, and quietly speaks: "I love you."

She knows, bone-deep, her violence has earned her the joy of hearing those words, not her presence or her affection. Her breath hitches in her chest as she sinks into him. A fragile smile lights her face, cheek buried in against his jacket. But there's still just that little tension at her brow, a wavering at her lips - betraying the complexity of her joy.

She tells herself she's happy, really. It's just...

'No, Mikoto, no - you don't have to fight. You help in lots of ways!'

... it reminds her...

'Mikoto you don't always need to fight for me you know? I love that you're willing to - but that's not why I love you. Okay?'

... what they said...

'That's--that's not going to make your friends happy. No one would want their friends to hurt and kill for their happiness.'

... it was...

'You can do more than fight for her. You can help her hang on. You can give her something to keep fighting for.'

... something different...

'I don't think you're only good at one thing. It sounds to me like you're also good at caring for someone. At expressing love. That's... a valuable thing, too.'

... wasn't it..?