2020-01-18 - No Girl Is An Island I

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Title: No Girl Is An Island I

Broadcasting at Tokyo Tower is disrupted. It is a message to the magical girls of Tokyo: Mikoto Minagi can't hold anything back.


Mikoto Minagi, Lera Camry, Eri Shimanouchi, Kasagami Araki, Yumi Ohzora, Fuu Hououji, Takeo Akamizu, Nori Ankou, Vita Yagami, Endo Naoki


Tokyo Tower

OOC - IC Date:

2020-01-18 - 2015-08-01

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Mesh - Needle In A Bruise https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofWg4MO2e_U

Through the winding caves below Ohtori - where depth fails to have such a straightforward meaning - the Obsidian Palace is dark, and it is cold. Mikoto stands attentive behind the Obsidian Lord, and she does not complain. She could not complain to him. If he is happy with his demesne, it is right, and good, and just.

Everyone else seems to be happy. Miroku is happy, too, in that obscure way Mikoto can nonetheless tell through their intrinsic connection. Down here, its usual pique is mollified. It has no complaints at all.

Even Miroku helps her figure it out, though Mikoto doubts it was intentional, unlike the work of so many girls. She can tell herself she's content, down here, but she knows she feels differently to Miroku; it's something which has caused her so much discomfort, in the past. She doesn't feel the same way, even when she's behind the man she loves more than anyone else in the world.

Maybe it's just her.

Maybe it's not normal.

Maybe, right now, it has something to do with the way he's just as armed.

The Obsidian Lord's blade is a steel katana, not long the way Miroku is long, and there is no reason for it to leave its black sheath when that obsidian claymore is held in her hands. It is just a reminder. Her Lord Brother taught her everything; he gave her the power she wields; he is stronger than she could ever hope to be.

Does he mean to send that message?

Certainly he does not look threatening, sweet in his smile as he turns to her, glad to see her at his side. He gives her no reason to feel small in the slightest...

... except for all those little things he does.

(They are always such little things, so easy to push aside in isolation. And she is so very isolated, down here where no one visits and no one sparks idle conversation.)

But Mikoto, though she looks to him with adoration, is not smiling; her devotion has been grim for some time, now. Still the horror of her suffering is distant from her, at his side, numbed by his affection. Distantly - distantly she is aware of all he has taken, to set her against her friends, the only one left fighting after peacetime, another weapon in his hands...

But isn't it right? Isn't it good? Isn't it just?

It is his will, she tells herself, dwarfed as she looks up to him, and finds when she blinks a tear creeps down her cheek.

Surely he sees that pain in her eyes, because once again he closes the space between them. One hand holds his blade at his side; he has the advantage over Mikoto, both of hers curled about Miroku's hilt as she stands sentinel. He has no fear of his own weapons. His free hand reaches up, thumb brushing at her cheek to catch the moisture and rub it away.

"My beloved little sister..." His voice is soft - soft the way his fingers are soft, immense might gentled by love and care. He could speak harshly, with sharp volume, just as she does out in Tokyo: he never, ever has. He has never raised his voice to her, not once. "Can you hold on a little longer, for me? It's all for our future," he repeats, he reassures: "our wonderful future." Theirs, together, because he might smile to hear the pain of Tokyo above but he is not smiling now, not to see his little sister hurting so badly. There is dampness in his golden eyes to mirror her own.

She looks up to him - as ever she cannot look away, when his eyes find hers, all secret things laid bare to him - and in his gaze she sees his recognition of her toil. Her heart aches to see his concern, even as she feels so valued to be precious to him. Her subjugation is a nuanced thing: not only the brutality of demonic possession, the domination of magenta light, the conditioning of rote training. The love she feels is real, and just as binding. Always she returns to his side. Always she chooses him.

He is her precious Lord Brother, the most important man in her world, the only family she has left. Even if things are hopeless, at least they have each other.

And here he tells her there is hope, their future coming for them, and her expression gentles doelike in its gratitude. "Yes," she swears, and through pain alleviated by his attention shines her pure devotion. "I'll do it for you, Lord Brother!" They are old words, drilled to perfection.

He looks so very proud, and in his warmth as he smiles again, she does not quite comprehend the glint of some unspeakable light in his eyes. "Good."

There are so few things which spark any ember of happiness in Mikoto's heart, given her unrelenting task; so few things which allow her any relief at all. His praise is the sole source of her comfort. Rather: the sole source authorised to her. His approval is her lifeline, and she needs it, and she needs him, love plunged to plague.

"You're doing such a good job." His hand cradling her cheek, his words gentle in their gravitas: "... I know you'll do whatever it takes." There are always conditions - there are always expectations.

'Homura taught me - whatever it takes! Right?!'

Trapped by her own twisted conviction, the comfort of magenta light pulsing from her pendant, there is only one thing she can say. "Yes, Lord Brother."

Whether he raises her hopes before crushing them, or devastates her spirits and rescues her in the aftermath... the result is always the same.


<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Yuki Kajiura - Feelings, That's The Girl's Sparkle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5HNET5PELo

Around a family's loungeroom, the funny game show playing on the television begins to flicker. It sets the entire lounge to black and white - they always turn the light off, collecting in here after dinner, because it's eco-conscious.

The girls' father gets up to bang on the set. "Come on, you - darn thing, work!"

"Dad," says the eldest girl, rolling her eyes in typical teenage fashion, "hitting the TV hasn't worked for like four sets now. We're not back in the eighties with a big bulky thing any more, come on."

"A dad can dream!" He bemoans his fate, theatrically, as the image of a water-slide is fully consumed by static.


"What?! No, that's not acceptable!" Chie insists, hands to Aoi's shoulders. "We're going to ring them up right now and complain!"

"E-to... should we really go that far..?" Aoi can't help but be a little nervous, looking to her grey-haired friend.

"I can't stand any so-called supermarket which would sell donuts past their expiry date! Don't they know that the movie night is a sacred institution?!" Chie whirls, grabbing her phone from her bag in a smooth and practiced motion. (Some people wield weapons. So does she, in her fashion.) Tap tap tap goes her thumb on the screen, she brings it up to her ear --

The bafflement on her face must be obvious, because the brunette beside her can't help but enquire. "Chie-chan..?"

Suddenly her senpei's overwrought Ohtorian concern is washed away by something more genuine, as she lowers her phone back down to look at the screen again. "It's just static... what's going on with the phone lines..?"

"This must be a sign," Aoi insists. "Let's go on a pilgrimage to Midori-ya and get some good pastries."


Sometimes, salarymen are known as office ladies, in that particular fashion of Japan. That is not the only frustration known to Tokyo's businesswomen, but one consolation is that at the end of the day they can get in their cars and drive home.

The road is crowded tonight, as it usually is, but the one comfort this businesswoman has on these long journeys is her music. The CD player in her car broke long ago - but her radio still works fine. She likes listening to it. The hosts have much better cheer than her co-workers.

But this song is much more staticy than it ought to be, even considering the trends of some new genres she doesn't like as much as the older tracks. She frowns, and when a stoplight halts her progress she reaches down to fiddle at the knobs.

That, if anything, makes things even worse. The half-audible love song is consumed by noise, and even switching to another station does little to aid matters.

The light switches green, and she mutters something uncharitable to herself, as she drives away surrounded by white noise.

"Can't believe everything always breaks down..."


Communications in Tokyo, this fine Saturday night, are - suffice to say - completely haywire. All a sudden, over the course of ten minutes, no one can even make angry calls to tech support - no calls are going through.

This sort of widespread disruption... is not well-known, to the very prepared people of Tokyo. There could be a mundane explanation. Most likely, there is nothing normal or just about it.

Tokyo Tower, then. It is not simply a cornerstone of culture - it broadcasts, through that tower which looms over the surrounding districts. In the clear night air, its lights glitter through the darkness the city knows.

And it groans, as if the bolted steel girders could themselves scream pain.

No. This is no mundane disruption.

This - is obsidian.

Spires reach up like stalagmites from the steel of the tower, disrupting the sleek profile of the tower with a hundred gnarled and ugly teeth. The cheerful colours give way now to black, shining hateful and malevolent under the light of a full moon.

Always, always the moon is full, at Mikoto's worst moments.

And without doubt this is Mikoto - Mikoto's magic, Mikoto's malice. The blood of the earth now pierces the sky and at the base of the tower she stands, obsidian claymore in hand, cape and spaulder at her shoulder, black uniform all trimmed in magenta. Sickly magenta light pulses from the bead at her chest, that pendant which hangs from thread red as fate. Look closely, now: she trembles, just slightly, breath coming a little hungrier than it usually does. There are costs, to maintaining fell magics. Costs! Costs are all she has paid, since she learnt the truth. To add another is a small thing.

Another small thing, and another, and another...

There is a story, often told, that a frog boiled gradually will scarcely notice its oncoming demise. This is untrue. The frog knows very well what is happening.

In a perfect world, there is nothing stopping that amphibian from fleeing its untimely fate.

Mikoto's world has never been perfect.

Call this trap or invitation: she has laid it, impossible to ignore, and they will come.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has fully healed herself. She is now ready to take on 9 opponents!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used The Obsidian Pendant's Command on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts Mikoto Minagi's The Obsidian Pendant's Command, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Empower and Surge applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Wind Knight!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki transforms into Crimson Rose Duelist!

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

One moment, Lera had been sitting -- as if transfixed -- before a television, hands wringing together. The Tokyo Giants are playing, and she watches on the big screen in the sports bar. The image catches, with crystal clarity, the swing of the bat; the sound gets the grunt of the player making the swing. The air distorts, and there is the moment of expectation -- of bat hitting ball, the crack of a home run.

It never comes. The screen flickers, digital data turning to nonsense streams of color and pixels, and then turns the tell-tale solid blue of a technical difficulty.

"What?" Lera cries out. "Aw, c'mon!"

It's by chance, then, that she glances out the window. It isn't the normal sight of Tokyo Tower that she spies, but the grim sight of crystal, all black, reaching up about the Tower. Her breath catches. She steps outside, then, and manages a few texts.

Then there is a flash of light.

And, a little later, another and longer flash of light. Red-orange light, bleeding to gold, zig zags in ugly jerks across the sky -- and Lera Camry banks around tightly, before she looks down at the center of it. Mikoto, again.

Her jaw sets. She doesn't say anything as she flies in, the wind blowing her hair back. Her sword swings out to one side, and fiery light dances along the two-toned blade of Soaring Sky. Lera spins the Device down -- and that fire jumps off it, splitting apart into a half-dozen arcs. They shoot out into intricate patterns, breaking away from her--

--Then come together, criss-crossing before they come at Mikoto from several sides.

COMBAT: Lera Camry has fully healed herself.
COMBAT: Lera Camry transforms into Barrier Jacket Perihelion!
COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Plasma Arcs on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly dodges 20 Fatigue damage from Lera Camry's Plasma Arcs, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!

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

Balancing a small monochrome cube on the back of her hand, the girl sighed to herself. "Guess I should actually respond..."

With her other hand she began to tap out a phone message.

>Gomen. My club asked me to take care of the Garden over the break.
>I don't think I can do it.

The bar for sending each message appeared to be moving at the speed rivaling that of the tortoise from the fable, and so Eri started shifting her phone in the air to get reception. "Oh come on - this station usually gets such good reception."

Inevitably though... twin messages pop up.

Failed to Send. Touch to Retry.
Failed to Send. Touch to Retry.

Eri pops off the wi-fi with a swipe and click, and tries again with twin taps of the screen.

Failed to Send. Touch to Retry.
Failed to Send. Touch to Retry.

"Ugh." With a shimmer, a fluttering of green leaves that turn to brown before they hit the station rooftop, and a smell like rain, Eri simply drops off the side of the train station onto the next train line.

Upon landing on the locomotion in motion with a loud 'tap' of her boots, she immediately ducks beneath the electrical cable as it passes overhead.

Again she taps the screen.

Failed to Send. Touch to Retry.
Failed to Send. Touch to Retry.

"Oh come on - I don't want to deal with him thinking I'm ghosting him." So absorbed was she in the resolution of the scenario she didn't notice there was anything wrong with the city around her.

At least not until she gestured towards a familiar monument in the distance in frustration, "You stupid phone - I'm getting closer to the tower and now you're not even trying to-"

Looking at the Tower, she did a double take.

"Oh." And then realization strikes her, "Oh God no..."


Like ivy on a trellis, vines grow and entwine around the lattice structure of Tokyo Tower. All of a sudden they fly out towards the Obsidian General's current position, attempting to grasp limbs, then yank her upwards, to slam her into one of the crimson metallic bars if she's not careful, trying to both knock the wind out of her and yank her against it so tightly that she'll have trouble ignoring what comes next...

"Mikoto you have to stop! Sending out a challenge like this - it's going to draw everyone here!" Eri's voice cries out in what sounds like abject horror and more than a little panic. If you look closely, she's at one of the tower's corners at the base, her whip which she's holding the ultimate source of the vines that have attempted to grasp her. "Please! I'm begging you! If you do this here - then - then -"

Words fail her for a moment, and then she blurts out with a sudden desperation, "I DON'T WANT ANOTHER SHINJUKU! PLEASE-!"

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi transforms into Puella Magi Eri!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Dryad's Interdict on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Takeo Akamizu transforms into Chevalier Knight Lancelot!

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

Kasagami Araki has her boots off, feet up, toes wiggling on the edge of her desk. They scrunch in annoyance as she leans further and further back. The wooden chair protests at this treatment, a dangerous arch being created as her now angled body threatens Duelist and chair alike to fall. Heedless of such things and trusting on her own absurd balance, instead she's focused on the words spilling into her ear.

An outdated phone (a whole generation, how scandalous!) speaks of her impoverished state for someone from Ohtori, and a scowl on her face shows she isn't liking what she's hearing.

"Are you serious, Uncle!? Three days! Three days at the office, and you're still not coming home!?" Comes the growling voice of the Crimson Rose Duelist. Her entire body shudders in annoyance.

"Listen, I get it. You want to finish that project and take over your superior's position. I can respect the ambition! But have sense, Gigi! If you don't sleep and take care of yourself, you'll be defeated on the eave of your victory! I'm going to come down there and...eh? Hey. Gigi. Uncle, are you th..."

There's a sound like a dozen 56k modems going off in random intervals running through Kasagami's phone, causing her to finally tip over. With a muttered curse, she rolls to her feet. She shakes her phone, then eyes the tv. Static. Rubbing her now ringing ear (and head!), she pauses. Something feels wrong. This wasn't like Tokyo. And it wasn't just a phone, either. The Duelist grabs her coat, and with a leap, is a mirrored ghost past Ohtori, into Tokyo, tracing the horrible feeling until towering obsidian makes everything obvious.

The Duelist's voice is heard long before she herself flash-steps onto the rooftop of a building next to Tokyo Tower. "Miiiiiikooootooooo-chaaaaannn!"

That overly-long sword about her shoulder, worried gaze traces Mikoto's form. "It's pretty rude to interrupt someone when they're having a conversation with the only blood relative they have left. You're putting me in a bad mood." Complains Kasagami, before clearing her throat. These things should be done properly!

The annoyance doesn't really enter her voice. The concern sure does. "Mikoto Minagi! To disrupt the beautiful broadcasts of kith and kin on a Saturday night, to disturb the Tv...transmission wave things is a crime most foul! I, Kasagami Araki, She Who Shall Be King, won't permit it!" A flourish, and she points her blade at the girl!

Tapt. Her boot presses against concrete, and then she's gone. Faster than lightning, she's above Mikoto, turning gracefully in the air. Like a thousand shards of broken mirrors, her sword descends again and again. Her arms and hands grip hard enough that muscle flexes to creaking beneath glove and Student Council Uniform as her flurry strikes out at her friend...and desperately, deep down, Kassie hopes might one day be truly family.

"Are you really satisfied with the way things are? Because I'm done with you being so miserable Mikoto!" She whispers to her fellow sword wielder, even as she hears others with love in their hears strike and speak in desperation. The Crimson Rose Duelist is the same.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Dance in the Petals on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

With summer vacation on, Yumi can make up the sleep she wasn't getting at night during the day for a little while, at least to a degree. The dorms haven't closed down, and that finds her.... well, awake, and watching TV just at the moment, lounging on the couch with Tama on the other armrest. She has a blanket on, despite it being summer, because whatever, it's inside and she gets cold, and... her TV goes out. "Hey--"

She slouches, sighing. "Just when it was getting good..." It is strange. But Tama peers up, then. Yumi getgs out her phone, planning to just hit up the website to keep going, and...

Nope. She happens to glance to the window, then. But it isn't even facing the Tower. No, it's not sight that convinces her something is happening, but a prickling along the back of her neck, and Tama suddenly making a low growl.

"You feel it, don't you, Yumi? Something is wrong. ...Get your broom."


The Witch of Lost Ivy sails into view and lowers herself down, down towards the base of the tower where she can see Mikoto, see Lera for that matter. "Mikoto!" she calls.

But something feels... different. She frowns, and loosk her over--and the fire comes.

"You knew we'd come," she says, and it's not a question. "That I'd come."

"Well, we have. We--" She looks to Eri, shouting, and bites her lip--before shaking her head.

"It will," Yumi says, "But we'll protect her from herself, too, if we have to. We won't let it happen again, Eri!"

"I promised her. And I'll promise you." She looks to Mikoto. "...No matter what you feel like you have to do... We're not leaving."

COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora transforms into Witch Ivy!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has used Ivy Certainty on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi dodges 5 Fatigue damage from Eri Shimanouchi's Dryad's Interdict, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Quipped!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Diversion applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Kasagami Araki's Dance in the Petals, taking 24 Fatigue damage!  Cripple applied to Mikoto Minagi!

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

Fuu looks up from her 3DS as she hears her father Akira grumbling - and then her gaze follows his irritation to the radio. They gave up on the TV already, but for the radio to be out as well ...

"Maybe it's sunspots," Kuu suggests from where she's reviewing notes for a research paper. She doesn't sound terribly confident in her guess, admittedly.

"Hate to have to wait for the morning paper to find out how the Giants did," Akira grumbles, setting the radio back down. "Maybe it'll clear up by the time I finish a walk ... Dear, do you need anything at the corner store?" he asks the mother of the household.

"We could use a few extra eggs for tomorrow morning," Tsubasa observes. "Flour and sugar as well - why not take Fuu with you?"

Fuu glances up, then saves her game and closes the system's lid. "Let me get my purse."

A few minutes later, rather than Fuu accompanying her father to the store, the Magic Knight of Wind is bounding across the cityscape. The sight of Tokyo Tower, progressively clad in obsidian, was the only cue either Fuu or Akira needed to be utterly certain that *something* was wrong above and beyond a rare widespread case of technical difficulties, and that was enough for Akira to send his daughter on her way. It's not like she has to hide her identity as a magical girl from her family, and she's still grateful that they've accepted this part of her; however, that doesn't make it any less pleasant when those duties pull her away from an evening together.

The Wind Knight can't ignore the concentrating chill in her heart as she closes in on the Tower. Above and beyond its role as a signature landmark, Tokyo Tower is *still* a critically important place for her - very nearly sacred ground - and to see it defiled like this ...


The Magic Knight of Wind practically hovers at the peak of her last leap, wresting the winds into her binding spell and turning them loose to entrap Mikoto. A few stray currents give the Wind Knight an extra boost as she closes in personally, although for the moment, she doesn't summon either sword or bow to her hands.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Admonishment on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 16 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Winds of Admonishment, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Fuu Hououji is Psyched!  Trap applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Nori Ankou transforms into La Sirene de Diamant!

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

"I got him!" The voice comes over the mic. Automatic fire ripples through the soundspace and a man screams near the objective. Booted feet thud on concrete as a group advances, sending their own forms of hello across the space between them and their enemies taking cover from their deadly advance.

"Nice shot! Watch the sniper!"

"Has. that newb can't hit squat."

Takeo sits cross legged in front of his extreemely large TV, his Game Station Four sits in front of him and the controller in his hand. He has his tongue sticing out as he concentrates on the manual dexterity fo manuevering the thumbsticks just right to -

Takeo taps the headset. "Hello?" He taps it again. "Ikaru? Tagachi?" He peers at the TV as it also emits a wave of static and removes his headset. "Awww man. I bet the stupid thing - " He stops as he peers out the window.

"Or it's evil magic. There is always the possibility of evil magic." He says deadpan as he looks out the window at his home at Tokyo Tower. He pinches the bridge of his nose and removes the headsetm turning the Game Station off with his other hand. "Whelp. Time to be a hero I guess."

Minutes later, and now in the form of Lancelot, he and Sparkles race through the city, leaping from rooftop to rooftop toward the Tower and the source of the evil malicific source that simply burns in the night sky. The pair slide to a stop as he spies the source of the problem and all the other attacks coming her way.

For once. For jsut this once, Lancelot calls out, "WAIT! We don't need to attack her!" He grunts and thrusts a hand toward Mikoto calling out; "FLASH BANG!" a ball of lightning flies form his outstretched hand and explodes like a beacon in the sky between the people already attacking Mikoto and Mikoto herself. His blast IS aimed at Mikoto, but it sends a message regardless.

While Mikoto is hopefully wiping tears form that blast from her eyes, he leaps from Sparkles and lands not far from his Sword Sister, Arondight gleaming in his hands. "Mikoto-Chan. Stop. Please. Just .... Stop. It's me. Takeo, just .... I know you don't want to hear this, and I don't blame you. But you can't keep doing this. Come home. Please Mikoto-chan. Come home, I'll take you to Mai, we can have some Curry, or stop at a Sundae place, or a Raman shop. Anything." He dismisses one of his blades and extends a hand toward her. "It's me. Taks. Come home, I miss you, and I love you." He offers a real smile.

To those that know him, Takeo is always smiling, but it's fake. It's charming and more than one person has swooned over it, but it's never real. He fakes them because it's what is expected. It's what he has to do to get over the memories and nightmares he suffers. Smile. Just. Smile.

But the smile he offers Mikoto, this girl he loves like family. That ... somebody else with red hair he also cares deeply for, loves. This is what shows a real smile on TakeoLancelot's features. It's genuine and warm, and sad with longing. It reaches his eyes for the first time since a certain dance, and he says softly once more. "Please .... "

COMBAT: Lancelot has used Flash Bang on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Lancelot has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 0 Fatigue damage from Lancelot's Flash Bang, taking 0 Fatigue damage!

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOOi9y-1c0g

Nori Ankou had been watching something soppy and romantic in her room.

Batiste had been watching a nature documentary while reclining in his pool.

They emerge from each other's spaces and meet in the liminal space of a hallway.

There is silence for a moment as the otter and the young woman look at each other.

"I'll go."

"I wish I could go with you."

"I'm glad you don't."

"Am I that much of a burden to you...?"

"No, I mean -"

"Oh, cousin, I am kidding. I know you are growing. I'll be here, cheering you on. You know that."

Nori Ankou's eyes brim with tears.


Nori Ankou is gone.

Batiste, in his fashion, is praying without words. This is his way. He lays on his back, his limbs slack. This is genuflection for one of the animal families.


"there won't be," La Sirene de Diamant says to Eri Shimanouchi, having come from the direction, ironically enough, of Shinjuku. "Thank you for the trellis," she adds, before leaping down along the vines that Eri Shimanouchi has grown, landing in the street with a rustle of coat tails.

She lands in a dazzling sparkle of inverse light, rises up, and turns to face towards Mikoto - leading with herr right shoulder. "Mikoto Minagi," la Sirene intones, as if it were the opening to a spell. "We have pled with you. Our pleas are still true. Even now, everyone cries out to you. But I will not shed my breath to repeat that which is already said." La Sirene's head tilts forwards, eyes turning towards the pavement.

"Some things can we give... companionship... closeness... that shared experience, the intertwining mysteries of sisterhood. We can be in your heart, and you can be in our hearts, and together we shall live across the stars," la Sirene says, before falling silent in the face of what Takeo is saying. These pleas.

(La Sirene's cheeks puff out slightly. In her heart she thinks: Oh, Mikoto, you sweet and precious person, won't you listen? Won't you listen to all of them? And then she remembers something from her dramas. From the flow of cheap dreams which Mikoto has strangled. She remembers the idea of the bad cop.)

(I'm scared, la Sirene thinks. She sucks in a deep breath. They may hate me. But, it's okay if they're upset.)

And as her back straightens la Sirene's eyes, wet though they are, turn to Mikoto. "But instead you keep fighting them!! You keep baiting them into fighting YOU! Do you hear them all, even now?! Do you smell their tears? I do! They aren't crocodile weeping, they are the sweat of their hearts, agonized for you! They will do this over and over until your luck runs out and you break that impossible boundary but I will not let that happen!"

La Sirene's right hand raises. The diamonds sparkle and a twinkling of inverse light flies up, ricochets off the obsidian spikes, and spews downwards like a scattering of spectral light-hail towards Mikoto. La Sirene then slides one foot forwards, presenting her right shoulder anew, and lowering her hand to rest over her Pharos, still clad at her hip.

(I just have to make sure it's all not for nothing.)

(She can hate me... as long as *she* hates me!)

"So if you think you are strong enough, have the courage to face me direct, no more of this tormenting the innocent! Of tormenting those who would die to save you! Enough torment! In the name of everyone's happy life, I will take your fury!"

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Shine On Through The Night on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly counters 25 Fatigue damage from La Sirene de Diamant's Shine On Through The Night, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Mikoto Minagi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, bursts all the way through, doing 49 Fatigue damage to La Sirene de Diamant!

<Pose Tracker> Vita Yagami [None] has posed.

The Yagami household is full of laughter, tonight; it often is, these days, the days of haunted silences and mumbled excuses long banished. Tonight, it is because Vita and Zafira have discovered the Earth toy called 'frisbee' and are busily demonstrating the frankly prodigious extents of the Yagami family back yard with it.

Zafira looks up as Shamal's voice calls, "Oh what is this cursed thing doing...! Signum, can you--"

Vita doesn't hear the rest, because she is toppling over the boundary hedge in hot pursuit, because somehow in a game she is playing with a dog it is Vita doing the fetching. She tumbles to a landing on her backside, staring up at Tokyo Tower on the skyline with eyes initially wide. Then, slowly, they narrow. She growls low, deep in her throat. "...Shamal!" She calls up. "I found our problem! Uhm. Save dinner for me!"

Roughly ten seconds later, a crimson spear pierces the night, blasting across the distance toward the Tower.

Vita doesn't try to mask her approach. The Crimson Iron Rider is not the Knight of Lakes or Fangs, no cunning sorceress or skulking beast. No, the Knight of the Iron Hammer announces herself in the usual way: with the resounding, metallic WONGGG of several steel balls being struck with a hammer, Vita's Swallow Fliers starting their jagged approach to Mikoto's position.

"Mikoto!" she calls, because she has seized that right. The others speak in purest desperation, but Vita's fingers just tighten on her hammer, and she finds herself almost more muttering than calling out. "He sent you again. Right?"

The Swallow Fliers, softball-sized metal orbs charged with magic and speed, crash down in the arpeggio of resonating steel beams, do re mi fa -- "Did you even get a bed to sleep in since last time?"

COMBAT: Vita Yagami transforms into Crimson Iron Rider!
COMBAT: Vita Yagami has used Schwalbefliegen on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Vita Yagami has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo Naoki noticed the disturbance on the way home. The gigantic televisions and displays embedded in the steel giants that line Tokyo's streets all tend to fade into the background over time, but they're impossible to ignore on this particular evening. It's a small crowd on the sidewalk that breaks Endo's pace, his gaze rising to gawk at what one of the bystanders is pointing out with a long and wagging finger: a line of static stretching across the skyline.

From there it's not long before he's discovered the source of the problem. The obsidian spires that surround Tokyo tower are a good indicator that there is one, and what it might be, after all.

Soaring leaps take Endo to his target, a streak of dark purple light that arches between rooftops. One final leap takes him to one of the lower beams above its base, feet touching down on a steel beam mercifully clear of spikes.

He joins the shapes emerging from the darkness, and his voice rises with a plea of his own: "Mikoto," Endo calls, "It's time to stop." It's not a very long request, but equally as earnest. It is not spoken like a demand, but a plea.

One that, regardless, will be enforced. One hand rises high, extending toward the girl with the obsidian sword. A familiar triangle of energy forms, a glowing symbol writ into the sky. More appear in the air surrounding her, whirling into existence and pulsing one before disgorging their magic. Lengths of chain spiral outward, sending to grasp and restrain.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki transforms into Barrier Jacket Aufprall!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Kette Gefangnis on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Endo Naoki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Vita Yagami's Schwalbefliegen, taking 38 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Vita Yagami is Psyched!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Endo Naoki's Kette Gefangnis, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Cripple and Trap applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi accepts Yumi Ohzora's Ivy Certainty, taking 0 Fatigue damage!

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

And they have come.

Plasma lights the night one-two-three-four-five-six, like a half-dozen of those fireworks Mikoto did not care to stop and watch. She does not ignore these the same way she did, back then: as Lera flies in and spins fire into the world, her acrobatic legs bend and she springs back. Back, and back, and back: one-two-three bury themselves up the strut of the tower. She turns; she springs past another cross-girder. Four-five-six sear into it, and they do not strike her.

Where Mikoto lands there are vines, and she hops back to avoid their grasp - but this time she is not quite able to miss all of the volume thrown at her, and one of those vines coils around her upper arm, slams her in against the side of that steel beam.

Another Shinjuku...

Mikoto expected anger but here she hears panic, remembers Eri's warning - or, perhaps, Eri's fear - that there was one end often found by Dark Generals, on a long enough timeline. She pleads, she pleads, and this is all the apology Mikoto can offer: "Eri... there's nothing I can do."

There's something around her arms and more to the point there is something in her eyes, and Kasagami's sword flies true against her. It is all Mikoto can do to turn her armored side to her. It cuts - but there are vines to cut, too, and Mikoto springs to freedom before Yumi can follow up on Eri's example. (Too late does thought catch up to intuition, and she realises Yumi is not yet attacking.) "You won't permit it," she echoes, and again: "I knew you'd come." There is sharpness to her movements, resignation in her voice. "... I'll do whatever it takes. It's an order... from my Lord Brother."

She plants her feet, as the wind threatens to buffet her from her perch, teeth grit in long line. "That's right!" She yells, over the gale, as she closes her stance to keep herself steady. "I'm always causing trouble! It's time --"

What it is time for is abruptly cut off as everything explodes to light, and Mikoto holds fast as she scrunches her face up, lips twisting in displeasure as her sensitive eyes scream their protest. They are slit things as she glares up to him, no eyes for a girl but a perfect fit for something darker. He misses her - he loves her --

She shakes her head; she takes a step back. No, her eyes are not dry.

She does not have to think of what to say, as her stricken expression turns to the unlight of la Sirene. For a moment that pain is unvarnished, as Nori tells her theirs is real: then her gaze hardens, lips lifting over teeth. "I know!" She snaps, in anger: "I know what I'm doing, la Sirene!"

The other girl issues challenge and Mikoto does not flinch: she charges forward, through the light, and her feet find the shadows in every inch as she closes that space too rapidly and slams her blade in towards la Sirene's midsection.

The flat of her blade, still. It is hardly a comfort; she is not unlike a freight train.

Whirling, whirling, and she does not stop there, she turns in revolution and this time her blade comes up to strike in against la Sirene's shoulder. It is targeted violence, honed to a point, the behaviour of a predator separating out a deer from the herd: she will decimate Nori, right here, right now, striking and striking again.

Or, perhaps, she would.

Before the swallows came.

In her relentless assault Mikoto does not look to her side, does not see the metal orbs whistling in towards her. They knock her away, before she can make two strikes three: she crashes down to a lower rung, and there the Belkan magic of Fallen Stern finds her, too quickly for her to recover. Chains, to her wrists, to her ankles, and for a moment she twists and cannot rise.

"I can't," she issues strained reply, as she tugs on her wrists. "I can't stop now. We must be close... to our future. My Lord Brother needs me to do this. If I just go a little further, I know..."

She lowers her head, as she can't quite finish her thought. She knows what she knows.

"... no," she looks up to Vita, instead.

It is a sad, sad thing, when she thinks of naps on stone or on that long throne. Light blooms from her pendant, reminds her of what is important - and with renewed vigour she twists in her chains, carving them from their anchors with a one-handed swing. If things were different - if she could stop - maybe she could have let them catch her.

It's not like that.

"I'll make you suffer," she says, grasping her blade anew, "and I'll make my Lord Brother happy."

First: Eri and Yumi.

Mikoto leaps, springing to meet the girls who love plants so much. She whirls between them - and even if they get out of the way, the shockwave will be something to deal with.

She does not pause. She crashes in to meet Kasagami, blade to blade, in a horizontal crash which threatens to rattle her bones.

She springs now to meet Vita, in the air, with an overhead swing - and when she lands, she turns in revolution to bring the flat of her blade against Endo's side. She crashes past Lancelot, with a blow angled towards his hip; the Wind Knight will find her twirling to bring her blade down aimed at her shoulder.

She plunges her blade into a dark portal of the earth, "Miroku!", and lances of darkness - intangible but painful to the spirit - open from dark portals around Lera, lancing up through the air to pin her in the sky.

... she does not strike la Sirene again, for some reason.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Decimation on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Decimation on Yumi Ohzora.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Destruction on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dynamo on Vita Yagami.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Devastation on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Darkness on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Devastation on Lancelot.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used The Obsidian Pendant's Purification on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Lera Camry counters 11 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Darkness, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Lera Camry's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!  Trap applied to Lera Camry!
COMBAT: Lera Camry's counterattack, Guardian Burst, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora perfectly counters 48 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Decimation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Yumi Ohzora's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora's counterattack, Witch's Mirror, bursts all the way through, doing 29 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji dodges 17 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium, taking 26 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Exhausted applied to Fuu Hououji!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant counters 18 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Psyched!  La Sirene de Diamant's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!  Diversion applied to La Sirene de Diamant!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant's counterattack, Les Mysteres, partially gets through, doing 25 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!  Critical Counterhit!
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: Kasagami Araki perfectly dodges 57 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Destruction, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Kasagami Araki's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi dodges 16 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Decimation, taking 24 Fatigue damage!  Eri Shimanouchi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Vita Yagami braces 21 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, taking 17 Fatigue damage!  Vita Yagami's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki counters 14 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Devastation, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Endo Naoki's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki's counterattack, Asteroid Eilen, partially gets through, doing 19 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Lancelot partially dodges 6 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Devastation, taking 25 Fatigue damage!  Stagger applied to Lancelot!

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

the attack isn't THAT much of a surprise. The last time the two clashed they were nearly equal but Mikoto is, indeed stronger with her Obsidian Blade. She's also better at fighting multiple opponents apparently, which is something that Lancelot notes for future refence. You know. For birthday parties.

Or Midnight releases.

He gets out of most of the attacks way but it still connect, slamming him into a girder of the Tower. He lets out his breath in an explosion of air that sounds like "WOOF" from him and he staggers for half a step before he catches his balance. Shaking his head he looks at Mikoto. "Damn it Mikoto-chan." He says softly, that genuine smile fading from his features. From his eyes. He takes a deep breath. He steadies himself. Then he leaps.

Mid air, his hand that was once offered to Mikoto snatches a lightning bolt form nowhere, forming the second blade of Arondight as he calls out, "BLAZING ZEPHYR!" attacking half a dozen times as he soars past Mikoto, Arondight exploding with that terribly deadly speed of his, He lands behind her, twisting slashing as he does, the series of attacks continuing in a rapid series of strikes punctuated by lightning exploding with each swing, each strike of his twin blades. The electricity dances along the girders of the Tower, they arc in the air. They illuminate the area between Obsidian Blade and Shining white blades with a blue tint. "Your Brother doesn't what he wants Mikoto-chan! Or worse, he DOES, and it looks like he wants to make you suffer!" He doesn't let up, as he tries to drive her back, but he continues to talk while swings. "I'm your friend. Remember? We ate togeher. When we thought Mai died, we held each other in that underground lake and I told you of Excalibur. Your cats chase Merlin. You've. Chased Merlin. We drive Mai NUTS together, and we 'both love her.'" He finishes with a flourish as he locks his eyes, pure cobalt blue eyes locking onto Mikoto's. "And I love you Mikoto."

COMBAT: Lancelot has used Blazing Zephyr on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Lancelot has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to counter Lancelot's Blazing Zephyr, taking 33 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Lancelot!

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"Vita! Endo-san!" Lera cries out to her teammates. "We've gotta stop her, y'know? Before she brings down the--"


The sky tears all around her, and lances of darkness come firing towards her. Lera's eyes widen sharply, in a tense moment of panic, but it's her Device that cuts through it: <Guardian Burst!> the Device chimes, and cross-shaped bursts of light appear across the space around her.

Light intercepts dark, bouncing each away, though one comes narrowly close to slashing along Lera's cheek. Her amber eyes follow the spear of darkness, widened, and then turn to Mikoto. They narrow again. She swings Soaring Sky back in her hands, held before her, and light surges up the blade.

"Mikoto!" she yells. "This isn't going to be like last time, y'know? I know it hurts, but when this is done... you're gonna be safe... and warm... in your own bed..."

She glances at Endo, then at Vita, and communicates by telepathy: <C'mon! Together!>

The same light stays on her sword. Flashing red to gold, and all the colors between, it crackles and snaps like a flame. And then Lera is off, like a rocket. She surges in, dives between two struts, and then comes at Mikoto from the left.

In a triangle formation with Endo and Vita.

Soaring Sky slashes, and plasma-fire explodes off it when she strikes -- and keeps soaring past. <Raid CROSS!> the Device chimes.

And Lera shouts, to cap it off: "...and a full belly, because I'll make sure you remember to eat, Mikoto!"

COMBAT: Lera Camry has started a combo targeting Mikoto Minagi!

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

"Li-AR!" Eri Shimanouchi calls out at Mikoto's statement there's nothing she can do, her voice cracking mid-word. "Why this!? Anything but this! How is it fair for him to order you into a fight like this!? I don't want to lose you like this!"

Even if she's terrified of the idea of Mikoto fighting a whole city of Magical Girls at Tokyo Tower - there are positives too. Like Yumi being here. 'It will.' The Puella Magi suddenly yanks her whip free from the tower with all that panicked energy, yet the vines remain. Once a part of it, now growing separate. Yet what she says next causes her to pause for a few seconds.

Suddenly her grip on her whip goes a little lax within her fingers, as if she was swallowing something like a bitter pill. "I believe you." She says quietly to witch Ivy. It's not easy to shed her cynicism in moments like this.

If someone tells me it's wrong to hope, I will tell them they're wrong every time. I could tell them countless times.

... but it's easier than it used to be.

"Let's protect her then." She can't quite smile at Ivy. Not right now - but it's something. Before she then says to Nori, "I'll hold you to that one - La Sirene."

Mikoto gives them all so little time though. Mikoto leaps her way, and Eri suddenly twists out of the way, using the tower as cover as her quick reflexes put its lattice barrier between her and Mikoto's shockwave.

The force dents a whole side of the struts, but a goodly amount still seeps through the holes, striking Eri as the force skids her away from her cover.

"And what about your suffering!? Don't tell me it doesn't matter!"

Suddenly leaping, she catches hold of her Ivy from the lattice and hangs down from it from one arm, and another leg twisting up within it to brace her position. Her other arm, begins swiping through the air overhead like lion tamer at a circus, and Mikoto's space is suddenly filled with sharp cracks and rending tears.

Phantom blurs of motion that dance all over her space as she strikes out again. And again. And again. With each strike her whip strands unravel a little more - from one twisted braid, into three separate ones pummeling her repeatedly in an increasingly chaotic pattern.

"It matters to us-! We've been there with you - fought alongside you during the worst moments of your life! What does he know about your suffering anyway - when he's made you fight alone over and over! He gets happier - and you get more miserable-!? You know that's not right! You know it!"

Suddenly letting go of her perch, she twists about in mid-air, her whip re-braiding back into one thicker tendril, as she puts the force of the revolution into one last hellishly fast crack that smashes the ground into a small crater, sending up a cloud of pulverized concrete dust simply from just the force alone.

"You can't even get him to take you to a festival-! Even though you've always wanted that!"

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Ephemeral Dance on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly dodges 18 Fatigue damage from Eri Shimanouchi's Ephemeral Dance, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!

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

Kasagami indeed feels the oncoming wrath of Mikoto Minagi down to her very sinew and tendons. The only reason she isn't sent flying into, and no doubt through the nearest skyscraper wall is that she knows very well how hard Mikoto hits. The other girl has the weight advantage with that claymore over her much thinner blade. So the Duelist makes an acrobatic flip at just the last moment. Body spinning wildly, sword meets sword as she holds onto her blade with white-knuckle grip, her hair a black-and-crimson blurr that flutters beautifully the pure physical impact of the other girl's sword strike causes sparks to fly. This sends Kassie spinning even harder as she twists herself and her own blade aside, nose nearly touching the back of her nodachi as Miroku's edge slides off of it.

Lungs full of air and entire body tense, she's a dizzying ball of coat, tall Duelist, and steel to match. Her right boot slams into the side of a Tokyo building, and she finally lets out all of that oxygen she sucked in. Aside from a cut to her longcoat, her gambit worked, even if her legs and wrists are feeling it. Ignoring the pain and breathing in once again, she crouches down on one leg as she tries to preserve what force was just hammered into her body.

Her resulting leap sends cracks into steel and concrete, and it's time for her to spin blade first towards Mikoto. She speaks as she does, always one to use her words even as she uses her sword! Somehow despite her aerial gyrations her voice comes through crystal clear. It's one part magic, one part volume, and the most part desperation to finally get through Mikoto's Lord Brother's influence to the girl herself!

"That is correct, Mikoto-chan! I won't allow such a thing! And neither will Eri-chan, or Ivy-chan or Lance-kun! Look around! Do you actually think we're fighting to stop OUR suffering!? Let me fill you in on a little secret."

That whirling, spinning length of her sword comes down harshly towards Mikoto once again. But everything's a little off. Just a touch too slow, though it's still blazing fast. The angle is all wrong, a slice towards the shoulder but easily intercepted. A parry or a dodge could ward off the blow easily enough for someone so skilled with a sword.

"Suffering only breaks a person when they don't have anyone to lean on. When they're alone! I'm not alone right now, so pile on all the suffering on me that you like!"

That's exactly when Kasagami lashes out with a boot instead of a sword, aiming for the chin. She doesn't really think it'll knock sense into or that pendant off of Mikoto, but it really does feel good. She's a bit irritated, scared for Mikoto. And maybe channeling a bit of spite for Lord Brother into that kick.

A lot of spite, actually. "Eri-chan is right! Each and every time he sends you out, you're worse off than before! You're not alone Mikoto. Lean on us! If you really want to make us suffer, then at least give us some of your own so we can take on some of that burden that he's cursed you with! This doesn't have to continue!"

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Kassie Kick on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.

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

Mikoto comes like a freight train and Nori Ankou, within the mask that is la Sirene de Diamant, has a moment of shivering regret of her decisions that have led her thus far.

La Sirene is then struck halfway through saying something. She is thrown back a good three meters, and one to the side - if traffic had not been in effect stopped by the horror that engulfs Tokyo Tower, she might be in some peril. She throws sparks from her boots as she skids to a halt. She struggles, on her knees.

"Le," la Sirene tries to say.

"Les Mys," she gets out, twice, before the blows silence her.

"Les myster," she gets to, and no doubt Mikoto knows exactly and comprehensively what that means as she moves on, away from the battered form - diamond may not break but it can crash into flesh - to assail the others.

La Sirene struggles for breath and she barely pulls in enough to keep the sparkling lights out of the corners of her vision. Her eyes water. She almost feels her nose run. It hurts, and there is shame, and futility, and the vague memory of Kasagami in a time that there wasn't, and the storm surge feeling rises, implacably, and she pushes out through her teeth, "les mysteres aidez -"

Her right hand had stayed over the Pharos. She was not protecting it. The same sign of Les Mysteres - index and pinky finger raised, thumb curled over the other two fingers - but not the charm seen so many times.

"moi," la Sirene says, and she pulls her hand slowly out as if miming for the stage. Her arm trembles but there isn't anything there. She raises her right arm slowly as if in salute. The space between her fingers is empty but there is a strange shadow on the streets now, and clothing in the area shows unusual highlights. The ivy wreath called by Eri Shimanouchi - wreath? more like a verdant paradise, however brief - rejoices, for a green leaf knows ultraviolet light when it tastes it.

"miiiiinaaaaaaagiiiiii," La Sirene forces out, with a momentary 'guh' and a sucking in of breath. Her head tilts back.

BGM INSERT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDY0dmbnMRg (Editor's note: Video footage contains spoilers for post-main story FFXIV Shadowbringers. Music has no lyrics.)

"People are not toys for others. Not even if we love them. I will wipe away these tears--!!"

Then she runs straight at Mikoto, making that peculiar sign as she goes. Her lips draw back from her teeth. Her eyes widen. She closes the gap even as Mikoto is assailed and that is when she strikes! Strikes! Strikes again: and Mikoto may realize something very unfortunate, which is that *this is a blade that cannot be directly seen* - though it is pouring out unthinkable amounts of power, enough to be FELT like a sunny lamp, like stabbing a shaken-up soda bottle and orienting it forwards, that does not make it easy to see. And contact with it is like striking a wedge of lightning!

In La Sirene's view, it is a thin plane of barely-visible faint intensely-deep blue, an electric color that can only be barely seen. It is enough to guide fencer's lunges. And La Sirene does not strike at Mikoto, exactly: she aims at *Miroku* -- to knock it aside. Sweat pours down her back, her face even paler than usual (somehow) but the thrusting onslaught comes nonetheless, an all-out attack!

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Polyploia on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi dodges 21 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Kassie Kick, taking 32 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge La Sirene de Diamant's Polyploia, taking 26 Fatigue damage!  Tangle and Trap applied to Mikoto Minagi!

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"I know," Yumi answers, when Mikoto says resignedly that she'll do whatever it takes. "I just want you to remember: so will I."

She looks to Eri, then--and nods sharply. "We will," she says, and it's the promise she mentioned. She smiles briefly at La Sirene--but only briefly.

Violence comes up in short order, as Mikoto does what she must. She approaches Yumi, and the witch turns towards her on her broom. In the span of a heartbeat, Yumi traces a rune in the air and each stroke blazes with light like living calligraphy. The blade hits an invisible barrier that abrubtly becomes visible, light fading in the reverse of a shockwave as indeed it reverses Mikoto's--the energy gathers into a single point, and slams back towards her mid-air as a scintillating beam of green light. Its intensity burns into the eye hard enough to leave afterimages for a few moments still.

The brim of her hat tilts down as she soars up on her broom suddenly, up and back. "I know you," the witch tells the girl who would be a weapon. "I do. Like Eri. ...But maybe I saw a different side, too. You already know what I think of your Lord Brother. You know that I think you deserve better."

"But they're right! You're suffering more like this, not less! And maybe he's fine with that, but we're not!"

She makes it much further up, and begins to weave a spell, tracing runes in the air. "I'm with La Sirene! I'll take your anger, too! Your frustration--I'll make it mine! If what you want is being used, I'll use you because you're warm when everything hurts! If what you want is something to hit, I can take it! If what you want is selfishness--then I'll selfishly claim you over anyone, because you're my friend!"

She puts down her hand, and the runes spin and whirl down like discs, slamming from all directions towards Mikoto as another curse follows. "Strong, or weak, it doesn't matter to me! You never had to be anything but Mikoto!"

COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has used Weakness Hex on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo's weapon rises to meet Miroku, dark blades crashing together with a great clang of impact. The force of the collision is enough to jar him from the beam he's alighted on, the boy separating from his perch and tumbling down several rungs. Dangerously close to a cluster of obsidian spikes, but he catches himself before meeting their points.

<Okay!> Comes Endo's response to Lera, sending that thought out once he's balanced himself again.

"Mikoto!" Endo calls, "It doesn't have to be like this--" Feet launch him forward, hurtling off steel beams as he joins Lera and Vita. He makes the next point of the triangle, sweeping past in a streak of purple-black energy.

"--Remember what I showed you!"

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has joined the combo started by Lera Camry!

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

The Wind Knight's sword doesn't materialize *quite* quickly enough, even at the speed of thought; the green-clad swordswoman flings herself away, twisting, but the realization is cut too close - and so too does Miroku, not cleaving directly, but the force of the swing carrying its own impact to send the bespectacled blonde flying. She fetches up against an obsidian-sheathed stretch of girders - preferable to the far more distant payment, but for a moment, she has to wonder by how much.

"After everything we've been through, Mikoto-san ... why are you still so sure that your Lord Brother cares about your happiness?" The Wind Knight hefts her sword, and leaps towards her opponent once again, bounding from one girder to the next, circling not unlike a hunting falcon. Just spiraling upwards, ascending towards Mikoto, instead of looking down at her.

And really - she *can't* look down on Mikoto, not in the normal sense of the phrase. She respects Mikoto, at least normally; even now, when they're enemies, she wants to lift the other girl up - not to crush her, but to *free* her.

"Time after time," the Magic Knight of Wind continues, "your brother sends you out, with orders to make us suffer - and in the process, *you* suffer. We fight each other, we hurt each other ... but more than that, you still remember that we've been friends, don't you? It's something you *can't* forget, any more than *we* can forget it, no matter how stubbornly you've told us that's all a thing of the past!"

She lands from her last jump, sword vanishing in a streak of light, disappearing into her glove-jewel, and her bow and quiver materializing in their stead. She doesn't ready an arrow, though, instead following Mikoto's movements - a dance of survival amongst the attacks and spells launched by the gathered protectors of Tokyo.

"I don't know where your brother lives, Mikoto-san, but that place, wherever it is ... wherever *he* is ... is that really the place your heart calls home?"

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

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 6 Fatigue damage from Yumi Ohzora's Weakness Hex, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Yumi Ohzora is Psyched!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly counters 0 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Gentle Chiding, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Mikoto Minagi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Fuu Hououji!

<Pose Tracker> Vita Yagami [None] has posed.

"Didn't expect as much. Bath?" Vita says, but this isn't a conversation; every question is a knife. "Decent meal? They let you stay off for longer than you're out here, evne!? Not even I can regenerate my energy if I'm running all the time, and I'm made of it!"

Vita spits a curse as Mikoto sheers herself free of her chains and shifts her posture, ready to defend, Eizen firm in one hand, her other free for shields.

A good thing. Mikoto is on her in a heartbeat, from far away to right atop her near as fast as Vita can get the thought together. She thrusts her hand forward rather than counter with Eisen, she curls her fingers and the triangular magic diagram of Belkan magic swirls into being in counterpoint to the rotation of Mikoto's own swing, the sword SLAMMING into it like a wall harder than iron. The force propels Vita downward, and a distant POFF of cement and dirt signal her impact below.

<<Sword? Ow. Yeah, buy me a sec, I'm comin'.>>

In the distance, the ka CHUNK of a Device arming itself echoes across the surrounding blocks, though perhaps it is too quiet, so close to the fray. That won't last long, though, as a trail of fire shoots up the distance, a trailing behind a whirling, twirling hammerhead....!

"MiiiiKOOO TOOOOO!" Vita hollers, gripping Eisen in Raketenform the way one might grip some terrifying flying segway.

"I know that you know--"

She swerves hard, slipping into her position in the formation between Endo and Lera, cruising in to drive Eisen into Mikoto's side and send her flying. Eisen cries out in Vita's stead: <<Schlachtzugskreuz!>>

"That you are worth MORE THAN THIS!"

COMBAT: Vita Yagami has joined the combo started by Lera Camry!
COMBAT: COMBO! Lera Camry, Endo Naoki, and Vita Yagami have used Raid Cross on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Endo Naoki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Vita Yagami has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to counter Lera Camry, Endo Naoki, and Vita Yagami's Combo: Raid Cross, taking 142 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Lera Camry, Endo Naoki, and Vita Yagami are Psyched!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Decimation, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Lera Camry!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Les Friction - Firewall https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxQ2IKct2Bg

Mikoto lays la Sirene low, and pushes from her mind the fact that she is trying, failing to speak, to struggle, to stand.

But guilt is a funny thing, and does not leave when it is asked.

She strikes; she leaves. Arondight comes in. Miroku lifts to meet it. Arondight is faster, but is it any wonder? Lightning grounds to earth. Strike and strike and strike again and she is knocked from her perch, to a lower strut.

She bounces; a hand to the steel, and the next time she lands it is on her feet. On her feet and still moving: above, Eri's whip lashes down, leads a dance Mikoto knows too well now. But she is a dancer - she dances; every place where that whip could be, every lash from every grasping thorn, she is somewhere else. She will not let Eri grasp her again. She knows too well the pain of it. "The world isn't fair," she shoots back up in verbal protest.

It is that same sensibility which guides her away from Kasagami's sword - but it was not her sword she ought to have looked to. Kasagami is not unlike Mikoto, in many ways, including this: she is perfectly willing to lash out with her body as well as her blade. It's that kick which lands, sends her cheek turning aside.

Her teeth, hearing those words, were already grit. It is little enough comfort.

Yumi offers a strange sort of solace and there is yearning in her eyes to match the pain, for a moment, as she twists to brace against the curse which drags her down into the depths. Perhaps it does not matter if her body abjures the attempt to weaken it - when her heart wilts.

Is it home, the place Mikoto goes back to..? She screams anger, as she launches herself at the Wind Knight: "IT HAS TO BE!" Down she comes --

But she does not get a chance to repeat what she did to la Sirene de Diamant.

Because la Sirene charges for her, and Mikoto turns and finds - it is not the unlight, not as she knows it. Her hand is empty but it hurts just the same as any strike, and her eyes widen to slits again as she tries to deal with an attack she cannot comprehend.

To her credit, Miroku stays in her hands. Little can separate them.

And each time she has to blindly try and evade the unseen edge, a thing she does not want to expose Miroku to without defence because she can feel the power coming from it.

"What is that?!" She demands, shifting back. "What is that?!"

She doesn't have much time to wonder about it, though, because forced to the middle of a strut she now finds herself with three new problems. Mikoto's gaze snaps to them and she whirls in revolution, they are coming from all three sides --

Spinning does not save her. (For once.)

She crashes through her own obsidian spire as she goes flying, thuds against the steel of a far strut. "I have... to keep going," she explains, through grit teeth. "It's what my Lord Brother wants. Fighting you... it's what he wants. It can't be like last time... 'cause I need to do more..."

But that's not all everyone has been saying - is it?

Dazed by the might of three mages in concert, Mikoto's gaze lowers back down to her blade.

'Or worse, he DOES, and it looks like he wants to make you suffer!'
'What does he know about your suffering anyway - when he's made you fight alone over and over!'
'Suffering only breaks a person when they don't have anyone to lean on. When they're alone!'
'You're suffering more like this, not less! And maybe he's fine with that, but we're not!'
'Time after time, your brother sends you out, with orders to make us suffer - and in the process, *you* suffer.'

"My Lord Brother... knows more about my suffering than anyone else," Mikoto says, and the words taste numb. "Even back home, on the mountain... it was very hard. I learned... and I came here... and now it's hard again. 'Cause even if everyone else gets better, I'm still..."


"There's got to be a reason," she insists, shaking her head. "I believe in my Lord Brother. I have to believe in my Lord Brother. All we need is each other... so I can't need anyone else," she adds, with a glance to Yumi and Kasagami.

"And all I need," she looks to Endo and Lera and Vita as she explains, "is what my Lord Brother gives me."

She pushes herself standing, painfully. She draws a breath through grit teeth, as she looks to them.

And this is where his words echo through her mind: whatever it takes.

Helplessness enters her gaze as she looks over her destruction and sees them standing still, defiant and fierce and true. Perhaps she has wounded them but she has not laid them low, no matter her efforts. "It's an order," she repeats, softly, and it is not just regret. It is fear.

She is a girl who can defeat any enemy, and it is not a matter of strength: it is a matter of transgression. She is a girl who cannot hesitate, no matter her thoughts.

She can do it.

She will do it.

She has no time to plead to dark and transcendent things for another chance to lay them low, in this moment, as she realises her failure. She has no time to pray for mercy, to cry out for forgiveness, that she can do better and she does not want to go --

No: she scarcely has that one moment of quiet dread, those few murmured words, before she has nothing at all.

A dark shadow descends.

And it is consumption. With a flare of light from that pendant, darkness falls over the girl who was Mikoto in an instant, cloying at her upper half until it is something barely recognisable as any girl. Red light at its edges suggest the limitations to its shape. Solid gold, where its eyes ought to be, is the only detail on its face - but for the white of its teeth. No, the only thing clearly defined here is the pendant, gold setting and obsidian bead, glowing magenta at its chest.

It is void and absence, coiled over the flesh it was given, once more, once more.

Six times now it is come, three in succession, and the scaffolding will hold - must hold.

The command --

'I know you'll do whatever it takes.'

-- is known. The command is understood.

What Mikoto could not bring herself to do is as nothing, now.

Obsidian. This is the magic that Lord's minions bring to bear, cruel and unyielding. Spikes flare out about the epicentre of the Shadow, and these do not creep up Tokyo Tower, in hope of causing inconvenience.

These are the spikes of bower birds, each an executioner's lance, and they tear through the ground levels of the Tower. Through, and out - wave after wave and they will carve through the late-night cafe, the lively bar, through streets and office buildings full of salarymen who could not make their way home at a reasonable hour.

It does not look to the spires which tear from the earth, not with that gold light, not with the blazing red sigils along its malevolent blade.


It looks to you.