2021-05-30 - Christmas Lights! A Cardiax! A Child!

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Christmas Lights! A Cardiax! A Child!

It's a glorious evening for the firing up of a display of Christmas lights, until a Cardiax arrives and brings the storm with it. Can the magical girls save the day -- and the child at its core?


Nori Ankou, Mami Tomoe, Niramo Umokeshi, Mikoto Minagi, Fuu Hououji, Fumiko Inoue



OOC - IC Date:

5/30/2021 - 11/28/2015

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

It's the last Saturday in November, which means that no few of the Christmas Lights displays in Tokyo are being turned on for the first time. There are numerous good events to attend around twilight; Shinjuku Southern Terrace's is a popular choice because it's very near Shinjuku Station, the busiest train station in the world. Easy to get to, easy to leave after.

Shinjuku, of course, is always something of a Christmas Tree in city form, with the tall skyscrapers and neon lights. But like much of Tokyo, they get serious about their holiday illumination, and if that means they have to work even harder to stand out from their day-to-day setup, well, everyone wins in the end, right?

The evening is chilly, and puffs of hot breath are starting to stream above the crowd congested along the wide concrete terrace that abuts the park, with smaller tendrils of clumped humanity winding between its tree-lined paths like blood filling an arterial network. A lot of parents and kids, but also plenty of other ordinary folks who just like spectacle. There is a high density of salarymen and office ladies in their suits, who have presumably slipped out for a few minutes to watch the proceedings, and will then return to work for several more hours. Saturday may be a precious day off for students, but many adults are not so lucky, especially in the breakneck environment of Shinjuku's business district.

It's a little early for full-on holiday spirit, but the mood of the crowd is excited and cheerful, since they're about to get a show. The sheer density of unlit bulbs adorning every tree, pillar, fence and other city surface imaginable promises that it's going to be a good one.

COIN FLIP: Setsuna Higashi flips a coin. It lands on tails!
<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Shinjuku is a place where people work, and people play; and some of them, too, live.

Nori Ankou is one of them, and even has a choice apartment in the high towering reaches of the building 4-4-4; of course, it has some little issues, but what does not? She loves it, and she loves this place.

Such as when she emerges from an enclosed shopping arcade, alongside - "Oh! Mami, be careful," she says. "It is a little bit of a shift." She adjusts a cashmere scarf to sit a little higher round her throat, adjusting too her shoulder bags and the cup of hot rooibos tea sitting in her hand. Nori is wearing a quilted coat, with a rich outer textile that suggests plum blossoms and, perhaps improbably, small parrots; but she does not have a high collar on this AkaMira exclusive, and she is feeling it, just a little bit, right now.

"Phooh!" Nori breathes out, taking a sip of her tea. "At least this is a nice feeling, isn't it? Cold outside, warm within... Do you want to get anything else, or should we stop off and drop off the bags?" (Nori has only gotten small things, presumably in the shoulder bag. But there is only so much room for trinkets and small treasures, even so.)

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mami Tomoe has long made a habit of being around for the earliest turning-on of the lights. Oh, she'll be there for others, too--she knows when in the city each tends to go, when each is added to the pretty spectacle of holiday spirit. And she remembers them; she has gotten to know the faces of Tokyo in Christmastime, and it's long been one of the ways she can be part of the city rather than apart from it, even in harder years.

But it's all the easier to be part of it with someone, and right now that someone is one Nori Ankou. She has a cup of black tea herself, and a pale white-golden sweter over her dress in softer colors than Nori's plum and parrots.

"It is," Mami agrees with Nori. "But hmm... I think I'm content with what we have for the moment--but I think they'll be doing the lights shortly. Why don't we stay for it? If it's not too chilly for you."

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

During a moment of celebration such as turning on the lights for the Christmas display that will make Shinjuku an even brighter part of Tokyo, there are those that still have to work. Some by orders from a higher up, and some who have taken it upon themselves to provide services in time of need. On a chilly night such as tonight, those kinds of people, say like the person selling Niramo two large steaming cups of hot chocolate in a styrofoam cup right now, know their target market.

Niramo has taken advantage of the fact this wasn't right after school and changed into much warmer clothing. A worn pair of sneakers, denim jeans, a black shirt just barely visible underneath a green puffy winter jacket and a beige scarf is what's warding away the cold tonight! Mentally grumbling over the fact she had to pay nearly double the price at Starbooks, Niramo starts to weave her way through the crowd carefully. This is pretty difficult due to just how many people are here to see multicolored lights of hope spark to life tonight. Add in the fact that the hot chocolate cups didn't have lids...well, it was best to be on the side of caution.

Thankfully for Niramo, luck is on her side this evening! Reaching her friend near where she had waited for her, Niramo offers the steaming cup with it's precious cargo towards Fumiko. "These won't be made with milk like it should be, but...here you go, Fumiko-chan! Just...uh, I don't think I can give much more tonight, my allowance won't allow it."

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

It's late November, and Mikoto is all rugged up. A light grey coat, all fuzzy on the inside, covers up the exact details of the clothes she's selected beneath -- because it's all buckled up! What's clear is that she has a scarf wrapped around her neck, all burnished gold and gun-dark grey, and a cream skirt peeks out from the warm ensemble below. (She has leggings, of course. It's night! It's chilly!) All bundled up like this, it's a wonder she still has space to carry around that black, cylindrical pack on her back, but Mikoto has never been stymied from being accompanied by such trivialities as 'wardrobe'.

She starts the night up high, as she does; up on the tops of old buildings, not as hostile to scaling, her cat friends have shown her the perfect place to watch lights. But up here she looks down, and...

Shinjuku is a place with memory layered over memory, but these days when she decends from the city rooftops, there's not so much hanging overhead like a guillotine. Some things never change, though: Mikoto habitually runs into her friends, without any plans whatsoever, and so it is tonight. From her high perch she espies two particularly glamourous girls emerging from the arcade, and now, springing down via fire escape, she bounds over to:

"Mami! Mami, Mami! Nori Nori Nori Nori!"

Some things do change, huh.

She manages to see they have tea just in time, and pulls up in front of them instead of barreling into either one, and it's not hard to imagine the sound of tyres squealing as her braids arc out into the air in front of her before settling back on either side of her face. "They're gonna do lights! The Christmas lights! Right here!" Bouncing on her heels, it's clear that at least one stray girl has strong opinions on shiny things and the observation thereof.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Gundemonium OST: Recollection (remix/extended) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INrzenyO5go

"Christmas season already," Fuu muses as she wends her way out of Shinjuku Station, dodging locals and visitors alike with the practiced skill of one who's used to Tokyo's trains. She's bundled up in deference to the weather, with a pine-green coat buttoned up almost from knees to collar, and brown leather boots covering her feet and legs below the knees - maybe heavier than she needs at the moment, but the temperature might drop further before she gets home from the lighting of Shinjuku.

She's keeping an eye out for familiar faces, although she has yet to spot anyone; she's also taking in the various light fixtures that await only power to transform the cityscape from its normal dazzle to a truly festive display. The more analytical look is partly so she can gauge where she *might* want to stop and snap a few photos, maybe even switch her phone to video mode to take in the spectacle more fully. But there's no replacement for seeing the lights of Shinjuku in person, is there?

The sound of Mikoto's voice manages to catch Fuu's attention, and she turns, craning her neck as she tries to catch sight of the swordswoman - or of the two whom she's addressing - and then starts weaving her way through the crowd to see if she can locate them.

<Pose Tracker> Fumiko Inoue [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The season of beautiful lights is finally here! Fumiko shivers slightly in her big green coat, glad to have gotten it when she did. It was also the season of cold. But that didn't matter. The lights did! It was going to be beautiful, and no amount of chill can stop her from enjoying it!

Along with a whole swarm of people. Perhaps going on the first day was... no, it had to be today. Fumiko had to see the lights turn on. She dodges and shrinks away, pulling herself closer to herself and trying not to bump into anyone while looking for a certain friendly face. "There you are, Niramo!" She excitedly waves. Her savior, bringing a gift of hot chocolate! "Thanks... the crowd is starting to make me feel claustrophobic and the cold isn't doing me any favors." She eagerly accepts the hot chocolate, practically huddling around it. "I'm so glad you came tonight... I was worried that..." Luckily the cold had made her cheeks red already. "...nevermind, that silliness is behind us."

Fumiko sips the hot chocolate, and looks around. "I'll pay you back, I promise. Now... I thought I saw someone we know..." She hops up and down in place, looking over the heads of the crowd. Unfortunately, that spills a bit of her drink. Does hot chocolate stain too badly?

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Oh sweet heavens, is it really so late? I have lost all track of time," Nori says, looking at her wristwatch. (It's thin, cute, and has the face of the watch itself on the inside of her wrist.) "Yes, of course--!"

And then her eyes turn upwards towards the approaching M I K O T O to whom she beams, raising her cup in salute and acknowledgement before taking another long sip. "They are! I had forgotten completely, can you believe it? And lights, that is what Christmas is all about..."

among other things, yes

Nori drifts in the direction of the onlooking gathered, spotting some heads she recognizes in the distance as she asks Mikoto, "Do you ever get chilly up on the rooftops? Just out in the wind and everything?"

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

"Nope!" Mikoto beams, as she tugs on the lapels of her coat. "Not now I'm all dressed warm! Hayate even made me a special scarf!" She's been wearing that thing on all the cold days since, regardless of whether she needs particular supernatural protection or not.

(Also, she might get reminders of what days are supposed to actually be cold, because Mikoto is definitely not the sort of person to check the weather.)

"Is lights what Christmas is about..?" Mikoto wonders, looking up at the buildings soaring upwards. "... I thought it was about ramen..."


mikoto, there was a noodle crisis ONE TIME, and that wasn't even AT CHRISTMAS, was it???

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Memory over memory over memory...

"Really!" Mami answers Nori pleasantly, apparently with a better eye for time... or maybe it's because this is something in particular. She likewise smiles at Mikoto as she approaches though--notices the bunlding up, thinks about the same question of whether Mikoto gets cold that way. But then, Mami is hardly a stranger to looming about rooftops herself...

But some things do change.

"Yes, I was looking forward to it. It's different here from elsewhere in the city, too--there's something unique about Shinjuku's lights..."

Christmas about--ramen?

"Are you hungry?" Mami wonders, with good reason.

Lights, though!!

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

There are isolated exceptions to the good cheer of the crowd, of course, like the man (gray suit, rumpled tie, medium-length haircut, five o'clock shadow stretching on towards seven o'clock) and woman (blue suit with a pencil skirt, defiantly high heels, sharp brown haircut, and... overstuffed duffel bag with a teddy bear leg poking out of the zipper) arguing in we're-in-public-so-we'll-keep-it-down voices that are, nevertheless, cutting.

"You said you'd watch her tonight," grits out the woman.

"I can't, I have to work," sighs the man, running his hand through his hair.

"I have to work!" the woman snaps back. "I have a presentation! Do you know how many chances I've missed because you..."

Off to one side, the subject of their conversation, elementary school-aged with one of those ubiquitous linen caps that preschoolers wear to keep off the sun -- small, a little plump, with dart-short brown pigtails and slightly glazed eyes, is all smiles. It's as though the adults' argument is sliding over her like she's made of glass. She stares at the nearest tree instead of at them, mouth moving silently, as though she's trying to count the lightbulbs.

<SoundTracker> Clair De Lune - Debussy - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvFH_6DNRCY

And then they turn on.

And on.

And on.

A great gasp goes up from crowd and girl alike. The layers of bushes and trees ignite, one after the next, even some of the skyscrapers in the background obviously in on the display like the largest trees of all. Some objects are all one color, some a blend, blues and whites and golds are all popular. The trees are particularly, painstakingly limned in bulbs, following what seems like every branch, no matter how forking and intricate. Pink is prominent, a sort of electronic out-of-season sakura that is spectacular because of, rather than despite of, its artificiality.

It casts every face in the perfection granted by soft illumination; no one can fail to be beautiful, looking at such a sight, and being lit by such a sight. Even the arguing pair pause to stare at the stunning display.

Suddenly, the first snowflake falls.

It drifts downward like a tiny piece of confetti released from the top of Tocho (the iconic, twin-towered Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, not far away). And it falls, fat and light and sparkling pink and blue and white and gold, until it lands upon the child's brow as though guided there by an anointing hand.

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Fumiko's statement brings a bit more pink to Niramo's cheeks, which she simply can't use the cold air to excuse. "Yeaaah...I don't know why I jumped to that conclusion, I swear! Just the way you phased asking for...y-yeah, it's in the past. Just have to pretend it never happened!" Flashing Fumiko a cheerful grin, Niramo takes a long sip of the remaining cup in her hand. It's certainly not the best, but just sipping it is enough to help thaw out Niramo.

Thankfully Niramo isn't the only one having trouble seeing over other people, and trying to find something to stand up on it just going to obstruct someone else's view. Niramo opens her mouth to say that perhaps they should try to find a better spot when the first Christmas lights start turning on one after another. Thankfully, where the duo is standing, they still have a clear view towards these breathtaking lights. "Whao..."

This is a far cry from the normal brightly-colored neon that usually decorates Tokyo's stores. These are not lights that are here to promote yet another sale or make a small store inside an office building known to the public. No, this is a display to all that makes the most wonderful time of the year special, lights being turned on only to push back the darkness with cheer. "...okay. This completely makes up for being out here in the cold. Thanks for getting me to come, Fumiko."

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

And there are the lights turning on. Fuu pauses briefly, pulling her phone out to try and get a few photos, but she's more focused on taking the sight in with her own bespectacled eyes, a look of wonder dawning on her face as the beauty of it strikes her anew. When she *does* produce her smartphone, she's too distracted - correction, enthralled - to focus on photography.

There are some wonders that never lose their luster, no matter how often you've seen them.

The bespectacled blonde resumes navigating through the crowd, as distracted as those around her; she does manage to snap a few photos - a meager sampling, but something she can send to her big sister and her parents, all too busy to come see Shinjuku's illumination for themselves. There's a brief double-take through the smartphone's camera, a familiar face spotted, larger than it should be -

"Oh, yes," Fuu chuckles softly, remembering Nori's work as a model. She does note which store that poster was on; she might need to deploy her AkaMira card during Christmas sales. Then she looks up again, and sees a face that's *not* enlarged to poster size, and two more in relative profile.

Familiar faces found, Fuu forges forwards.

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

"I ate dinner before, so I'm okay!" Mikoto chirps, to Mami, all smiles, and adds: "Mai made hamburger steak!!" This, while not ramen, is apparently still deeply exciting. Mikoto is the sort of girl who can be deeply enthused by hamburger steak.

Apparently, she just always has ramen on the mind. Is there a partition of Mikoto's mind devoted to noodles at all times? This is one of the great mysteries of Mikoto. (Or maybe she just doesn't have a great memory for things which happened almost an entire year back. Who knows!)

She looks up at the unlit lights, though, with those big, big golden eyes. "Unique..." Mikoto echoes Mami's phrasing, focusing in on one of those bauble-globes. All a sudden they're not unlit any more, and Mikoto gasps as the lights begin to light up, the backlight of her eyes a mirror for the dozen bright shades. As her head turns to take in the spectacle, there's Fuu -- and Mikoto greets her warmly in the cold, waving a hand in the air to catch her attention. "Fuu, Fuu! Look, Fuu, lights!"

Mikoto turns a full circle as she looks around, hands aeroplaning around herself, laughing to see the majesty of it all. It surrounds her, the keen light so much louder to her eyes, but it's not so overwhelming with friends who know it's supposed to be this way. Mikoto wanted to see the lights, and she's happier to be seeing them with everyone.

But there's one unlit thing her sharp eyes spy, twirling down... "Look!" Mikoto calls out, pointing up by Tocho. "Snow!" Down it goes --

Mikoto claps her hands together, to see it land on that girl. "You caught it!" She calls to her, encouragingly, because no one taught her not to talk to stranger's children.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Nori Ankou considers Mikoto's words.

She feels a craving for ramen. (This happens to Nori often, and is normal and healthy.)

Mami is raising the question... perhaps...?

But before there is this, she has something else to look at. The brief presence of people in front of her, people who are disputing each other, is something Nori registers but does not exactly *see*. This is life in the big city, and Nori has adapted to it quite well, which has its virtues and its vices. And one of those vices is -


The lights shine out. Beautiful in a thousand chromatic colors. Patterns. Shapes. Nori feels herself all but disappear for a moment in the beauty, in the gasps, in the breaths that are all shed at once. Wintry lights, but with the promise of the sun's surcease and the promise of the spring to come, in that artificial neon hue that has been part of what has made Tokyo a city of the world, a holographic vision in the soul of Earth.

And it sits here. Here in this place, this place that had once been somewhere different. A renewal in winter, Nori thinks, reaching over to squeeze Mami Tomoe's hand for a moment as -- "Ah! Is that...??"

Fuu!? Nori looks over a moment later, beaming, and points upwards while mouthing 'snow!' to Fuu rather than try to shout across the crowd. She takes another healthy sip of her tea, looking back down to -- ah! The child caught it! Wonderful~.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"All right!" Food is handled. Mami just had to be sure. SHe feeds people. It happens. As for the people there... How many of those little dramas has Mami witnessed in her time? The people who keep their voices down because it's in public--the people who don't, more rarely. Mami can't help but notice... but at first she doesn't dwell, either. It's just part of living in the city, seeing things like this. And parents arguing over who should be watching who isn't exactly something Mami has a lot of personal experience with.

...But Mami notices the girl anyway, and looks to her--just as the lights start to turn on, and on, and while Mami does not join in the gasping a smile dawns on her face as she sees them, lights reflecting on her near-white sweater in the moment, against blonde drills, reflecting in honey-gold eyes.

And ah--the snow!! Mami sees it even as Nori points it out to her, almost doesn't--but there. Her hand squeezes Nori's back and she smieles at her and nods along. There it is!

A wave to Fuu with a couple of fingers around her tea cup, and a smile for a girl's luck at something small and unrelated to whatever else might be there.

<Pose Tracker> Fumiko Inoue [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

"Y-yeah," Fumiko admits, "I was not exactly perfect with those words and can see how you thought I was asking... that..." She hides herself in her hot chocolate, sipping loudly and inelegantly. Suddenly the 'okay' hot chocolate was the best she has ever had.

Soon, the lights come to life like stationary rainbow fireflies or like stars fallen to Earth. "So... beautiful..." Fumiko stares with wonderment. The cold, the crowd, the awkwardness... suddenly it is all worth it. "You're welcome, Niramo. I... this... sometimes simple lights on trees is what the soul needs." She pries her eyes away from the light to give Niramo a mischievous grin. "And this is just a friendly get-together with a friend. It is NOT a date." It seems embarrassing her friend is a greater reward than her own embarrassment was a deterrant.

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Singularity - P5Scramble OST - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=remm-Bq19Pc

That snowflake was one in a million.


The storm goes from zero to ten with unnatural swiftness. It spreads outwards concentrically from the epicenter of its first flake like a whiteout eraser wielded by the merciless hand of God. Skyline: gone. Trees: gone. Bushes: gone. Hand in front of your face: pretty darn close to gone. Light show: forget about it.

Right before it happened, the little girl pitched forward, her knobbly knees barking against the terrace concrete. Her nose was running -- no, something was running out of her nose, a noodle? -- no, a worm. It was inching away from her when they were both lost to the blizzard.

It's excellent cover, though -- curiously -- half SALT, as anyone adventurous enough (or unfortunate enough) to taste it finds out quickly. Snowflakes and saltflakes alike sting eyes and noses and tongues, as though the ocean has helpfully separated itself into two components by virtue of a frozen alchemy.

The flip side of that cover is that it's a lonely place. Too lonely; there is no stampede, no crush of people anymore period, panicked or otherwise. What has become of them exactly is unclear; they could be mere feet away, but no bystanders are ever bumped into... an eerie storm, indeed.

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

"Mikoto-san, Nori-san, Mami-san!" Fuu greets the trio as she gets into conversational range - that is to say, close enough that she doesn't need to shout. "Good evening; did you come out for the lights, or ..."

The storm descends with terrifying abruptness, even for a girl who's used to Tokyo's occasionally erratic weather, unnatural variations included. In fact, it's just that familiarity with unnatural weather which has Fuu digging in a pocket for her glove-jewel, even as her phone is tucked safely away in another pocket. There's no clear indication of a specific enemy yet, but -

"Are the three of you still there?" Fuu calls out as she gets her glove-jewel on. If the sheer abruptness of the storm wasn't enough, the salt of it - and the isolating whiteout - suffice to put her deeply ill at ease. She gets an unplanned taste of the 'snow,' too, and nearly spits the salt back out. Tokyo's pollution is never THAT awful, which means there's some actively hostile force at work: enough of a reason to take a more proactive step.

"Belief becomes power ... Winds, guide me!!"

There's more focus and intention in the whirlwind of the Wind Knight's transformation than just the metamorphosis itself; it's a conscious experiment, making sure whether her wind magic can (and will) push the unnatural flakes away. Being able to carve out an open space like that might be an advantage in the fight ahead.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Wind Knight!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto, calling out to the girl, has her eyes on her to see it happen: the snowflake all but bowls her over, to the ground. "Something's--!!" The diminuitive swordswoman calls warning, but her voice catches up to the sharpness in her eyes too late.


It's consumed in short order by a storm which obeys no rules of weather politeness. Even sudden storms have some warning, a crackle in the sky, a prickle at the back of the neck -- something, anything, before this. A warbling cry erupts from Mikoto as she turns back to try and find Nori and Mami and Fuu, only for her face to all wrinkle up to taste the salt of the snow.

Snow, Mikoto thinks, is not salty.

This isn't supposed to happen.

It isn't supposed to happen, that she can't find her friends for the white. "Nori?" Mikoto calls, bone-chilled despite all her efforts to rug up; maybe her neck, at least, can stay a little warm. (It was a scarf made with such a desire to keep them safe, after all.) "Mami? Fuu..?" A lurching step to the side, and maybe the snow won't crush her quite as surely as the solitude. She sounds so small, against the white.

She can't see her hands in front of her, can't be sure of her proprioception in the swirling white, but there's one more name she hasn't cried out for help in the frigid loneliness. "... Miroku!" Mikoto reaches out a hand, and shimmer-shine it disappears from one place, comes into her grasp. It is like and unlike the invocation of the other Elements; certainly at least it comes to her.

Perhaps it's that flash of power which gives her voice the strength it needs to cut through the storm. "Something's wrong!" Mikoto calls out, as if it took her this long to finish those words she started such long moments ago.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Things Mami was expecting: a lot of noise, a lot of talking, a lot of lights. Things Mami wasn't expecting: a sudden storm. She certainly wasn't expecting salt. But that gets ahead of things a bit--Mami, after all, does not move to taste the snow. Instead she starts to step forward as the girl pitches forward, by instinct, before she recognizes the... worm.

She doesn't mean to taste snow but there's salt on her lips suddenly and Mami is definitely unfortunate in the moment. But it's--

It's quiet. It's too quiet. "What...?" Mami can't even see her friends at first, and the unnatural nature of this place means that, in moments, there is a golden light that shines from where Mami was, whether people can see it or not.

"Everyone!" Mami calls, to those who were near her and those who can hear her, and her voice is stronger for it. She doesn't have to call to Nori, though--her hand squeezes the other girl's too before she takes it back to get to her Soul Gem, an she has transformed shortly after that.

"Very wrong," Mami agrees. "This isn't just snow..."

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe transforms into Puella Mami!
<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhubxhxqNYw

"Oh, yes... Though I had almost lost track of time," Nori says to Fuu, when:

A child falls, and there is something... Within her...


A wave rips outwards. Not of water but of storm; the snow flies into Nori Ankou's face and makes her flinch, enough to raise up her hands and say, "What!" in astoundment, in astonishment. She has her mouth open enough to taste the salt, to feel it sting one lip despite the light-red waxen cosmetic upon it.

And that is what she needs. What tells her what this might be. Likely is.

Almost certainly is.

Nori's eyes close for a moment. Ah, she thinks. How painful. This beautiful moment, marred. For while there is beauty in the repair, in the scars left... they are not worth the wound itself. Someone there is hurt; and they made it all the way out here, tottering along innocently, to unleash this storm.

In the middle of Shinjuku.

Nori reaches into her purse. Hooking a thumb into the handle of the Brazen Pharos, she raises the object up - still in its battered bronze form, with the scars of Hokkaido upon it. But soon enough the metal irises away, the glazen crystal around the luminous black shard of tomb-glass within rising as Nori says, "Shine forth, O Pharos."

The storm twirls for a moment as Nori steps left, twists round - at the same time that she steps right, in more prismatic and chaotic form. The glowing shape turns to face her and she bows briefly at the waist, sliding off her purse and stepping forwards into the glow, into the light. No, not light - the absolute value of light - a glow from abyssal depths, secret and radiant. It washes over her like paint and like changing your clothes. It sinks into her; she can feel the cold recede, feel her hair shift, feel the touch of the paint upon her eyes. Her back is bare now but it is a feeling without cold, or without heat.

"Let the storm break against me - la Sirene de Diamant!" she concludes, twisting the Pharos round to where it ought to be, at her waist, the silver-rope belt snaking itself together and tying a perfect not in front. With this she tilts her head back, and then tosses out a snowflake-sparkle of silver and green and blue as the transformation is complete.

"Something is wrong," la Sirene de Diamant says. "We must find the center. It is good that we are all here. Keep an eye out - if there are others, they will come running - and there may be unfortunates as well, who have been seized by mischance."

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Niramo nods her head softly in agreement with Fumiko as she tries to take in all the sounds and lights all at once, to help memorize it for later. Niramo starts to take another long pull of the watery hot chocolate when Fumiko chose that exact moment to embarrase her, causing the raventte to spit out her mouthfull and nearly drop her precious drink. She points a finger at Fumiko, face nearly as bright as the lights on the trees. "I thought we agreed to pretend it didn't happen?!"

Niramo may not have seen the first snowflake fall down from the heavens, but it's very easy to see the snowflakes once the sky becomes immensely heavy with the frozen flakes. With how sudden and thick it is from this sudden downpour, Niramo loses sight of Fumiko almost instantly! "What th-pfft! Bleh!" Trying to call out happens to get a few salt-flakes in her mouth, with Niramo sputtering to get the taste out.

Besides not even being able to see the pavement she's standing on, the lack of any screams of panic or calling out to lost friends made it very clear that this storm isn't natural in the slightest. If that's the case...well, it looks like it's time to investigate. Finding Fumiko is going have to wait until after.

Crouching down to feel for her anklet, Niramo mentally thanks Takk for making sure to stay inside her jacket. "Tail, sprout!" A flash of brilliant light that is swallowed by the blizzard, and Sourisi raises a hand to shield her eyes to try to see her surroundings better. Walking forward, she can just barely hear someone call outward and raises her own voice to answer. "Coming! Lets be careful and stick close!"

COMBAT: Niramo Umokeshi transforms into Sourisi!
COMBAT: Nori Ankou transforms into La Sirene de Diamant!
<Pose Tracker> Fumiko Inoue [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

"Pretend what didn't happen-" Fumiko starts asking completely innocently, only to be interrupted by her eyes stinging. Salt right in the eyes will do that. She blinks tears out of them and wipes them away, confused. "Wha... where'd that come from?" When her vision cleared, she saw. And that was ALL she saw.

She was in a saltstorm? She sticks her tongue out experimentally, catching multiple salt flakes on her tongue and confirms it with a sputter. "Ew... ow... what the heck? Niramo? Are you th...aagh..." She quickly covers her eyes with her left arm, then lowers her voice. "There's a blizzard made of salt."

"You know what would sssure come in handy," her coat whispers back. "A magical parassol~" Of course! And nobody could see her! "Ressi, bare fangs!" A sudden transformation later, and Serpentina guards herself from the storm with her parasol. A shout of 'everyone!' gets her attention, and she heads towards the voice, salt buffeting her umbrella.

COMBAT: Fumiko Inoue transforms into Serpentina Ruse!
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> In The Presence of Another World - Blue Oyster Cult - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGmJaHsL62g

The snow undulates in veils behind veils; they are coccoons, they are labyrinth walls, they are a prison. The wind is not violent, but it is cold, so cold, and there is nothing peaceful about the steadily falling flakes -- only an increasing pressure. Perhaps it is not the snow that is falling but the world itself, slipping beneath the surface of an invisible sea, deeper, deeper, into the icy dark.

That feeling of isolation is far more chilling than the temperature. It is punishing. No, it is a punishment. A punishment for children who cannot comprehend why they are so totally alone, even when their parents are nearby. Or friends, in the case of THESE children, the magical children, as they navigate the storm. Adamant-forged bonds suddenly feel brittle and weak, in need of reinforcement, reassurance. It is not only clothes and noses that can be frozen by this storm.

"This is all your fault," a tendril of chilly air opines in the woman's voice. It booms from overhead, larger-than-life, or perhaps more accurately exactly-as-life if you were a six-year-old child. "If you just kept your promises..."

"What do you expect of me?" asks another wind as it slides past. "I make twice what you do. If I lost my job, you'd lose your house."

"Our house."

"It doesn't feel like our house."

This conversation dies away as the magical girls come across the girl. She is still in a swoon, and the blizzard is doing her safety no favors -- her skin, which had been more normal at the event, is rapidly outpacing the snow for paleness.

There is no sign of the worm.

No, that isn't true.

There is a trail... a tiny trail... leading off to the right. With visibility as poor as it is, every footstep of trail could be its beginning, or it could be its end, but it is there. And something else must be on the other side of it. Something La Sirene knows all too well.

Another round of voices. The woman sobbing softly, muffled by a door and by her own hands, because the last thing she wants is for the child to hear. Then the man's voice, rumbling, and the sound of another door slamming shut.

More snow falls.

COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick transforms into The Storm!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Alone Together on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Alone Together on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Alone Together on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Alone Together on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Alone Together on Sourisi.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Alone Together on Serpentina Ruse.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe cleanly braces 0 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's Alone Together, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Mami Tomoe's
Parry ability activates!  Mami Tomoe is Taunted!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 0 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's Alone Together, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Sourisi braces 0 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's Alone Together, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Sourisi is Taunted!  
COMBAT: Serpentina Ruse cleanly braces 0 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's Alone Together, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji braces 0 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's Alone Together, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's Block
and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant braces 0 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's Alone Together, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  La Sirene de
Diamant's Block and Parry abilities activate!  La Sirene de Diamant is Taunted!
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The cold--the temperature cold--is one thing. Mami Tomoe is used to that much, has trudged through Tokyo streets and alleys in summer and winter both, has experienced the chill that comes of lonely walks. ...But the loneliness--te punishment--that is worse. Mami is perhaps particularly sensitive to this particular form of cold, because she remembers it so well. She does not shiver... but she quiets.

She wonders, for a moment, of promises, and feels all the lonelier because she doesn't really understand this argument, not so well as she might. Pieces of it make sense, pieces of it come together, but her apartment has, in her time in it, never held the arguments of parents trying to keep their disagreements quiet.

"She's cold," Mami finds, kneeling down next to the girl in worry. She does not look immediately to the trail, but to the girl, magic shining in her hands as her ribbons weave into a blanket against the chill. She moves to wrap the girl in it, hoping to bring her with them rather than leave her here.

...She wouldn't want to be alone, in a storm like this.

"It's going to be all right," she murmurs to the unconscious(?) girl in her arms. Then, more loudly, to the others, "Does anyone see a source...?"

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

This feeling of separation... detachment. Being in a home that isn't a home, just a house. Somewhere where you aren't welcome, particularly. Perhaps it isn't hostile, but is that not its own form of pain? If you are thrown out; ejected; you know where you stand, even if it's wretched.

But this feeling...

The sensation is familiar to Nori Ankou.

Too familiar. Her first thought is: I have to guide them. This is my row to hoe; this is my family, however distant.

Her second thought is -- why do I -- have to, even --

The feeling is real, but there is one benefit to familarity: *coping mechanisms.* Nori Ankou, as such, does not quite have to deal with it. She is playing a role, a role of power and delight. Breathing out with curiously little mist, la Sirene de Diamant draws on that un-light round her to send out a brief shining pulsation, something to guide people together. To bring them with her.

Her eyes track the cold, sere ground that had been magical moments ago. And she can see...

"To the right," la Sirene states, pellucid clear and enunciated. That way is the way she walks. "Stay close," she advises. "There will be at least a little ways to go. You may see things. They are... not false; but they are not necessarily what they may seem..."

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

Fuu is not used to being alone like this. Granted, she's often content to focus on her own things, but she's still outgoing - and she's used to having someone to reach out *to*, in any case, even if it was just her big sister Kuu, back when Fuu herself was so much younger. So the isolation brought by the storm strikes her worse, even as she bears up against it as well as she can.

Fortunately, she is not as alone as she feels. Mami is there, La Sirene is close at hand, Mikoto is nearby as well; there are others as well, close enough to hear, if not quite yet close enough to see.

And there's the little girl, terrifyingly pale as if she'd been lying in the snow for an hour, not a minute. Mami is already wrapping her up and trying to restore warmth to her. La Sirene seems to be on familiar ground here, and the Magic Knight of Wind draws reassurance from that - even as thin and brittle as it seems.

"Was something taken from her, La Sirene-san?" inquires the Wind Knight, her left hand poised in front of her. She's tempted to draw sword or bow, but until there's something to draw them *against*, being ready with a spell is probably better than brandishing a weapon.

... or maybe she simply can't muster the will to be armed, just now.

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

Mikoto knows what it's like to fall.

She doesn't much like it.

The punishment of that girl finds fertile ground in this one, all the boundaries blurred together; but the light of the Pharos cuts through the cold to find her narrowed golden eyes, and Mikoto lurches forward into la Sirene's space, closer to her.

Nori said she didn't deserve it, and in this moment, cold to the bone, that's what she has to hold on to, as if the question is so worth asking.

"It crawled out," she tells her, lips set in a grim line when the hapless words leave, as if she could keep the cold out just by closing off. She looks up, at the voices, and it's only by the second line she puts it together.

It's not her punishment.

What was going on with that girl..? Mikoto was so occupied with her friends, she didn't notice... Shinjuku has so many of those little miseries, she wasn't... paying attention.

Mami finds the girl, and Mikoto finds Mami, following; Miroku drags a trail through the snow, soon filled by more of those impossible salty flakes. "Ah--!" It's not quite a word, the sound she makes to see the colour which isn't in that girl's cheeks, but it's halfway there - and all the way to dismay. The sword in her hands can't do anything for her, but a Puella Magi's magic can weave a blanket, at least, at least.

La Sirene says, stay close, and Mikoto takes a step closer to her. "Oh..." Is her eloquent summation, falling pitch and dulled by the cold, in the face of her warning; Mikoto does not like it, when her eyes deceive her. It never used to be a problem.

Maybe she's changed.

<Pose Tracker> Serpentina Ruse [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Something about this storm makes Serpentina feel alone. Perhaps it is that everything seemed to have vanished, or that some of the only things she can here are voices fighting sadly. Or was it something else?

Either way, it is not a feeling she is happy with, nor one she is unfamilliar with. She mostly had given it to herself.

But she wasn't alone any more. She had friends, now, and more importantly, she wasn't alone NOW. It just seems that way. She KNOWS there are others here. She heard them!

Serpentina slowly pushes her way through the blinding curtain of salt-snow, arriving to meet Puella Mami and the Wind Knight- and a hurt girl. She turns almost as white as that poor victim. "Is... is she..." she struggles to say. "...still alive? She's not... she's going to make it, right? I can... help shield her with my parasol?" She shakes her head clear of worry and doubt - or at least of some of it. "We'll make sure she's fine, right? Right." Right?

<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Striding forward against the snow and salt in the air, Sourisi shudders a little despite the magical protection given to her by her uniform. The light wind is enough that it makes it impossible to see any landmarks, and the lack of sound except the occasional sound of footsteps and distant voices makes what was a happy landscape suddendly void of joy. This is the cold that chills her heart and is almost painful to continue walking forward.

Then the echoing memory of voices can be heard, and that cold twists itself into knives that cut in deep. An argument...of a mother and father becoming distant with one another? Now the snow and salt storm makes a twisted kind of sense. It certainly isn't a normal storm. It is a storm of frozen tears lost to the wind.

There's at least one normal person caught up in this unnatural storm, and several magical ones. Letting out a sigh of relief upon realizing that she wasn't alone, Sourisi takes a careful look at the girl in Mami's arms. Wishing that her scarf could have stayed behind to try to warm up the girl, the Miraculous User starts to follow after La Sirene and the others. Her magic has no way of helping the girl, but La Sirene seems to have some idea on what exactly is going on. It's something that Sourisi hopes can help lead her to a problem that she can help solve.

It's very ineffective to raise your fist to a storm without knowing the source. "I hope so..."

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

Two things happen along the trail.

First, it gradually -- too gradually to notice right away -- is getting darker. The whiteout is a grayout now. Maybe the sun has set, or is too far above the surface of the Othersea to benefit from its rays. Or maybe something else is happening to the light.

And second, the trail widens.

And widens.

And widens.

Three things: more voices. Not from the little girl, who is quite unconscious in Mami's arms. She has a pulse. She will not wake. Not death, but sleep.

It's her parents again, or perhaps her memories of them, or perhaps her nightmares of them... all at once, nothing at once.

"Not now!" snaps the woman, irritated at being interrupted. "Just go... watch TV or something!"

"Your birthday?" mumbles the man. "Of course I'll... oh. Yesterday?"

"I do all the work around here and you expect a bento?" the woman growls at the man. "Go buy something from the konbini like everyone else!"

"This isn't what I signed up for when we got married," the man growls back.

"Fatherhood? You sure as hell did, if not for your mother's expectations I would have waited!"

"I don't mean her. I mean you!"

It is very nearly a blackout now, though the snow falls as thickly and saltily as ever.

And the path is as wide as a train car.


Very suddenly--

--it gets brighter again.

Now it's more of a PINKout.

The pink from all those sakura-LEDs, mingled a little with some other familiar golds, whites and blues.

It's all coming from one direction. From up ahead. Getting brighter and brighter.

Larger and larger.

Faster and faster...


The snow isn't sticking, so it's concrete below and, apparently, layers and layers and layers of bulbs and wires above, as an immense sphere of somehow-powered Christmas lights plows straight through the group with terrible weight and speed, which is to say, terrible force.

'name' field set on Pink Moon Stick's henshin form 11.

COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick transforms into Cardiaxi Damacy!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used On The Rocks on Sourisi.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used On The Rocks on Serpentina Ruse.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used On The Rocks on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used On The Rocks on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used On The Rocks on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used On The Rocks on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe fails to dodge Pink Moon Stick's On The Rocks, taking 66 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly dodges 39 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's On The Rocks, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Dodge!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji perfectly dodges 50 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's On The Rocks, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Dodge!  Fuu Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant dodges 21 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's On The Rocks, taking 32 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Serpentina Ruse partially dodges 8 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's On The Rocks, taking 31 Fatigue damage!
Serpentina Ruse's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Sourisi partially dodges 10 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's On The Rocks, taking 42 Fatigue damage!  Sourisi's Fade
and Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It's darker. That's not ideal, but Mami can't exactly do much about it; shining brightly with magic only does so much to brighten a storm. But La Sirene is still close by, and she at least has an idea of where the trail goes. Stay close, she suggests, and Mami incliens her head despite the fact that the gesture may not be visible. "I will," she answers. She considers--what might they see?

Keeping track of each person, Mami starts to mvoe along with Nori, though Serpentina's question--"She's alive," Mami answers. "Asleep, it seems."

She winces at the voices. She has seen many things watching the city, and she can feel the tension in their voices. The blackout goes. Until suddenly--

Brilliance, and Mami with a shout turns away from the approaching whatever it is to shield the girl she's carrying, and SMOOSH there she goes. Bounce. Bounce.


Mami on the bright side will not be being left behind.

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

There are questions, and la Sirene answers them, as others come together.

"Not quite," she tells Fuu. "Something was given, instead." La Sirene makes a gesture, with her hand, as if to suggest moving water. "Sorrow flows through us all... some are little streams, others are thundering rivers, but all the sorrow comes to the sea in time and circulates anew. Makes sense so far?"

"If I am not wholly wrong," she explains to Fuu, "this is the work of the Cardiax worm. It is a creature from my home. The Brothers, cast out, use them to dam the flow of sorrow, so that they may draw from it instead."

To Serpentina, she says, "... She was small... we will need to keep her safe, but... we are fortunate. We were very close. She should bounce back. The hearts of the young are fragile, but they heal well, too. The life of the young shoot against that of the great old tree..."

Further. Further on.

La Sirene's jaw tightens for a moment at these sounds. Words of scorn. Tempestuous and strained. How long until I would understand the parents more than the child, la Sirene thinks to herself, head down as she looks at the trail as it widens outwards. They speak words and la Sirene knows from where they were taken.

And then she raises her gaze... as the trail widens. Before them is the luminous pink, the pink of a promised dawn, a dream of the city, a dream of the world, a dream of a spring that will surely come one day, will always be there, will always be surely coming. La Sirene's dark-ringed eyes widen as she says, "Ah. I understand n"



La Sirene is visible as a still-glowing patch against the pink-and-sundry-other hues, a sort of purplish/black-light patch as the great sphere of the Worm's true form rolls on ahead. It is almost as if she's making a snow angel...

La Sirene's first thought: ow

Her second thought is to dig her fingers into the nest of wires and snaking cabling beneath her so she doesn't topple off; she is rising near to the top as she gets up to her feet, and realizing how soon this will come, staggers upright, jogging in a contra-rotary manner. For a few steps. A few paces. Long enough to call down, "This is it! I HOPE this is it! I REALLY hope this is it!"

That's both certain and encouraging, RIGHT?? She is then confident enough to slide one luminous hand into the tangle and breathe out, letting the Pharos shine downwards with its eternal light down into the mass of the thing, into the intermingled shape. Is there a central core? she wonders, a moment before realizing --

My arm's in there up to the elbow.

La Sirene's lips thin to laser-tightness as she feels herself roll forwards. She keeps the dignity; she screams only on the inside.

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Carbonado Kaleidoscope on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mami of course has worked with Nori a long time now--has experienced such things as these creatures, kfought them before. She takes herr cues from her friend here though, which is perhaps its own vote of confidence now. And suddenly there is--

Oh right. Mami remembers that she's still conscious after all of this. "I... very hope this is it," Mami replies dazedly, and holds close to her cargo while she snakes out a hand to throw some ribbons to try to shield and soften the blow and... in the process perhaps make it slightly larger, but you do what you gotta do when you're stuck to a thing like this rolling along.

This is not really what Mami had in mind for tonight though.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Velare on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Following along with the other magical defenders of Tokyo is a lot harder than it should be, despite just how close everyone is to one another. The snow and salt flakes falling from the sky doesn't lighten up in the slightest, having Sourisi depending on listening more to everyone's voices and footsteps than her own eyes to keep up. "I heard of the term silent night before, but this is just silly!"

As if it was taking offense to her statement, the otherworldly voices pick up once more. From what Sourisi could puzzle out from this...memory? Dream? Well, whatever it is, it seems to be proving her theory. If this is what the small girl in Mami's arms heard, and at such a young age...no wonder the storm was so fierce.

"Whew...that's good. Just...keep her safe, okay? I can help carry her if you need a break." With full darkness steadily approaching, it's becoming even easier to lose track of the...wait. Was it getting lighter?

The trail is much more visible in the brightening light coming from up ahead, making it much easier to keep track of what had left the girl earlier. But it is getting really bright rather quickly...! With a start, Sourisi begins to run to her right to get out of the way, but...she only manages to get out the direct path and instead on one of the sides of the rolling ball.

Fingers cling onto wires in instinct and Sourisi is brought along for the ride. Seeing the world tumbling end over end is dizzing enough without being actually ran over, and Sourisi blindly reaches for one of her tonfa. "I don't think this is what it means to be on the ball, but...i'll make it work!" Pulling the rosewood weapon free, Sourisi starts to swing at anything in arms' reach, mainly the many lights of this knotted sphere. "What is it, anyways?!"

COMBAT: Sourisi has used Mouse Flurry on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick cleanly braces 28 Fatigue damage from La Sirene de Diamant's Carbonado Kaleidoscope, taking 5 Fatigue
damage!  Critical Hit!  Pink Moon Stick's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Pink Moon Stick!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick braces 6 Fatigue damage from Mami Tomoe's Velare, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Mami Tomoe is Psyched!  Pink
Moon Stick's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Blind applied to Pink Moon Stick!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick decisively counters 24 Fatigue damage from Sourisi's Mouse Flurry, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Sourisi is
Psyched!  Pink Moon Stick's Reverse ability activates!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick's counterattack, na naaaaa nanananananana, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Sourisi!  
<Pose Tracker> Serpentina Ruse [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The girl is alive! Serpentina breathes a heavy sigh of relief. "Thank goodness. Still, she needs to be protected... from whatever this is." She gestures with her parasol, forgetting for a moment to block the salt from getting in her face. "Bluh... so terrible."

% But not as terrible as those voices. Those disembodied...memories? They shock Serpentina. They were almost painful - and they weren't even hers. She tries to ignore them while following the group. Unfortunately, they were distracting enough for her to fail to dodge the BRIGHTLY COLORED SNOWBALL OF DOOM! Rather than crushing her painfully, however, it smooshes her into it - still somewhat painfully but she'll survive. The rapid spinning while stuck to a snowball is also survivable, but her stomach and head aren't too sure of it. "Okayokayokay.. um... okay... gotta... calm down... center myself... got it!" She waits until her umbrella is facing forward, and manages to open it, letting loose a burst of air in an attempt to slow the snowball down... at least a tiny bit in conjunction with what everyone else is doing.

COMBAT: Serpentina Ruse has used Wind Wall on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick fails to dodge Serpentina Ruse's Wind Wall, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Exhausted applied to
Pink Moon Stick!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Grey... well, Mikoto has dressed for the colour. Perhaps her coat is a little lighter than the night. She let the light in.

Voices cut through the cold, and is it any wonder, this storm of isolation, to hear the loneliness in those accusations? Mikoto wonders. She does not know the pain of being unimportant, brushed aside; she was always TOO important, too loved, too precious. Regardless there is something in the violence of the nightmares which plucks at her, that core of disregard for this girl's desires.

Mikoto looks to her, in Mami's arms. She sees her breath frosting in the air; alive, just as Mami says. Even so... "We better hurry," Mikoto says, the words a gravelly concern, after that Diamant explanation of her heart. "... she's really sad."

All these voices, echoing on and on: is this the work of a dam, of tears not allowed to be shed and feelings processed as her own? This, Mikoto knows, is a terrible thing to do to anyone. Why are brothers like that? She might never understand.

Grey becomes black, eventually, and Mikoto's eyes catch the glow of the Pharos, shining in the dark. They are not so wide and innocent now, narrowed against the constant barrage of flakes like tiny frigid knives; hers are sharp things, too.

The path is wider, but la Sirene is a lantern, so she won't get lost.

The light of the Pharos guides them on.

The light of the --

another light --

Instincts wear Mikoto's muscles more than her mind; before she can think, oh, that is a rather large sphere, her legs have already bent, she has already leapt to the side of the path. Hers is a frightening speed, all blurred lines, and Mikoto realises a moment later that the others haven't been so lucky, and all a sudden the light of that Pharos is just another glimmering bauble in the ball.

The air rushes past her lips with a chuffing noise again not quite verbal, as Mikoto charges after the Christmas decoration, all strung up with her friends. She makes herself think: how CAN she stop something like that? She only has her blade, and it is going so terribly, terribly fast.

There's really only one trick Mikoto has, for something like this.

She spins as she's charging, a heel planting against the snow as she plunges her sword into dark portal, white light arcing from it. "Miroku," she speaks the invocation of her magic, because it's not just HER magic, tied intrinsically to the Child in her heart. Portals tear open on the road before that bouncing ball, and darkness, intangible but piercing as a needle to a butterfly, spikes outward to pin the ball.

Can something like her magic really slow it down...?

Mikoto can't really worry about that, because she's focusing too much on NOT skewering her friends with that ghostly ghastly darkness, who happen to be on the face of that sphere.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Darkness on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick perfectly counters 22 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Darkness, taking 0 Fatigue
damage!  Critical Counter!  Pink Moon Stick's Reverse ability activates!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick's counterattack, na naaaaa nanananananana, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!  
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

If those voices are the memories of the girl they've found, it's little wonder that beings who harvest sorrow latched onto her loneliness. At least, that's what the Wind Knight thinks as she listens to La Sirene de Diamant's explanation, taking in as much as she can while keeping alert to their surroundings.

That said, she's not looking up as much as she should have been. The darkness is one thing; the sudden cherry-pink brightness behind it is something else - and as the light's source resolves into what might as well be a falling star, the Wind Knight flings herself sideways, going fully on the evasive for a critical second. And it's enough to avoid getting squashed on the ball of lights, thankfully.

Now, they just need to catch the Cardiax, and stop it entirely. If sorrow is intrinsic to the human heart, then sorrow too is worth fighting to take back - and it's not the first time that the Wind Knight has fought to protect 'negative' emotions as well as more positive ones. Particularly to keep anything *more* hostile from taking advantage of such sorrow, when you get right down to it.

"Storm-Dance of Kamaitachi!!" shouts the Wind Knight as she regains her feet; her focus coalesces on the far side of the pink ball, and the winds lash out, trying to buffet the big pink 'ball' and keep it from rolling further away. The green-clad Magic Knight has to gauge where her allies will be, embedded on that surface, but she does what she can to direct her winds into the ball without hitting another magical girl.

And once her spell is in place, she starts running to catch up with the hopefully-slowed Cardiaz.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Storm-Dance of Kamaitachi on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick braces 20 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Storm-Dance of Kamaitachi, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  Pink
Moon Stick's Block and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

Things the giant rolling lightball adds to itself with a sort of passive inexorability:

  • Sourisi's tonfa
  • Mikoto's spikes

Sourisi can use the former as a handle to stay on the surface if she likes, but it won't detach from the sphere easily. (It might, however, be possible to move it further inward...)

Mikoto's spikes just kind of get knocked over instead of penetrating, and then they're stuck the long way at various angles. At least her friends are unscathed.

There isn't as much meaning to it consuming La Sirene's unlight or Mami's ribbons. The latter was protection and it works more or less as intended, if she wants to keep getting smooshed once per rotation; there are other, more complex options available to her (and everyone else) if she'd prefer to try to move along the sphere instead of staying in one place. Timing will be everything there.

The light... well, it's a very large sphere. And the worm, she knows from the tracks, was originally very small. They normally engorge upon emerging from their victim. So there ought to be a big worm in the middle of the giant sphere. But... she doesn't see it yet.

It doesn't help that the Pharos is competing with a LOT of ambient light. And more all the time. If people on the surface aren't careful, they're going to wind up beneath a layer of LED strings, lashed down into the world's most brilliant giant ball of twine.

It may also be the world's PRETTIEST, for what it's worth. That pink really is striking. Some of the golds and whites twinkle in deliberate or random patterns. It's pretty fabulous. Is it that the worm yearns for this beauty? Or is the motive force the girl's, who saw the beauty disarm her parents?

Serpentina Ruse's wind wall and the Wind Knight's Storm-Dance slow the sphere considerably -- enough that they can, indeed, catch up, before it begins to re-accelerate towards the next patch of lights. This magic also whips up the snow and salt something fierce, however, so they have that to deal with now...

COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Be-Ribbonned SMOOSH on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used SMOOSH on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used SMOOSH on Sourisi.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Stormsalt on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Stormsalt on Serpentina Ruse.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Stormsalt on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant braces 14 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's SMOOSH, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  La Sirene de
Diamant's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Stagger applied to La Sirene de Diamant!
COMBAT: Sourisi braces 9 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's SMOOSH, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Stagger applied
to Sourisi!
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe fails to brace Pink Moon Stick's Be-Ribbonned SMOOSH, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji cleanly braces 28 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's Stormsalt, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's
Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 21 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's Stormsalt, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Serpentina Ruse fails to brace Pink Moon Stick's Stormsalt, taking 37 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

'Unideal' is an understatement. Mami at least is shielded from pointy and crushy things by her own ribbons, but that doesn't stop her from being smooshed back into the big ball once it turns again, dizzying her all over again. The blonde is having trouble defending herself and her charge at the same time this time, but she isn't quite ready to give it up yet.

"Have you found anything!?" she calls to Nori wherever she is, La Sirene presumably the one who is best equipped to do so--but whether she hears an answer or not...

"I'm going to try to slow it down!"

Mami reaches out and an oversized hand cannon bursts into being, poking out of the mass of lights and string, to aim straight for the coming ground in an effort to act as braking thrusters if only to a small degree.

She also hears Miroku being called but she can't see those spikes all that terribly well at the moment...

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tiro RETORT on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Serpentina Ruse [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Things could be going a lot better. Being crushed by a giant snowball was not, and is still not, on Serpentina's list of things to do for Christmas. In fact, she's almost positive she can't withstand a third time. She breathes heavily, trying to fight through the pain, dizziness, and nausea. "Thank goodness... for supernatural... toughness," she remarks between breathes.

Fumiko yanks her parasol out of the snowball, and uses it as a combination pole vault pole-slash ice pick-slash walking stick. She works her way to a safe place on the ball - and maybe knock a few pieces off?

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

So the 'snow' is still salt, thinks the Wind Knight as the winds lash powder into her face again-; or at least, enough of it is salt to taste like it. Here she'd been hoping wind magic would be more of an advantage ... but then, that WAS before the Cardiax worm made itself so extremely visible.

Her bow appears, and her quiver, as she finishes closing on the big ball of pinkness - and as she comes to a stop, at least momentarily, the winds around her stop blowing 'against' her, curling instead around her armored figure while she nocks an arrow to her bow, the look on her face changing from a determined intensity to a relatively serene focus, the demeanor of an archer settling into what other athletes would call 'the zone.' One deep breath drawn in, to aid her focus, and the winds take a more distinct pattern around her, wrapped in her gathering magic. She lowers her bow to take aim, arrow and string drawn back together almost coincidentally; her eyes, briefly closed, re-open to focus on the Cardiax worm's balled up form, and the handful of shapes clung to its surface - shapes she needs to avoid, be they humans or spikes or tonfa. Ally or obstacle, she doesn't want her shaft to strike any of them.

"... Gale Arrow!!" she calls, at just the right moment - and her shaft is loosed, the wind wrapping around it, snowsalt scattering in a contrail behind its accelerating path.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Gale Arrow on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Serpentina Ruse has used Umbrella-Fu on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

La Sirene is rolled over... and finds herself in a depression; not, perhaps, for the first time, but this rotation is enough to make her also realize that what had been over her arm to the elbow is now halfway up her bicep. She pulls forwards, cheeks puffing out, her hand wiggling inside of the sphere as she says, ahead, "It's going SOMEWHERE... I think... ah! It's taking on a form from within the girl's heart, but at this point it's independent, it's on its own. Like that clay you put to the newspaper and make a copy with!"

To Mami, she calls back, "Is she safe?? - It must be in the center. Alright, I'm going to try to get through here... Ah! Be careful!" she calls towards Serpentina and Fuu, before within the creature her fingers curl upwards, and make a certain sign.

Her other hand comes up... and she realizes with dismay that she CAN'T ACTUALLY DO IT QUITE RIGHT. Setting her feet down, she pulls her arm up, enough to be able to make the 'down'(sideways, in a certain sense) stroke for Les Mysteres, saying sonorously as she does, "Les Mysteres..."

"Come!" The bloom comes within those strings; the usual spherical shape of glimmering force does not even have the chance to form before discharging!

"If we take too long, it's going to get collected," la Sirene calls to the others. "So, give it your all!" She does not immediately clarify on the nature of Collection.

"At least it looks charming," she tells Mami, "given everything." But what did it seek? Was the detachment from the wonder or from the feeling of escape? That sense of getting outside of yourself? la Sirene wonders. Perhaps the two are not ultimately that different.

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Les Mysteres on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick perfectly dodges 45 Fatigue damage from Mami Tomoe's Tiro RETORT, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Dodge!  Pink Moon Stick's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick braces 12 Fatigue damage from Serpentina Ruse's Umbrella-Fu, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Pink Moon Stick's
Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick perfectly counters 26 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Gale Arrow, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Counter!  Pink Moon Stick's Reverse ability activates!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick's counterattack, na naaaaa nanananananana, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Fuu Hououji!  
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick cleanly braces 28 Fatigue damage from La Sirene de Diamant's Les Mysteres, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Pink
Moon Stick's Block and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Sourisi's smashing may have shattered a lightbulb here and there, but the massive amount of wires acts like a cushy spring that pushes back with every swing. That is, until the tonfa manages to get completely caught under several wires and refuses to budge. Now she's either have to go along for the ride or let it go...and Sourisi is rather attached to her weapons. "Oh, come on!"

Trying to stay on is having its own problem as the ball continues to swallow more lights in it, and Sourisi pulling herself in close to protect herself from the pavement gets a few more lights wrapped on top of her. There's no getting off this crazy ride now! It's hard to see if Serpentina, Mami or anyone else is caught up in the ball, but she did remember hearing Mami and La Sirene trying to reach inside. Maybe...she needs to force herself in deeper? Well, it was either that or be string'd along in this bright ball of pain.

Trying to yank her tonfa free isn't doing any good, but pushing it inwards towards the core starts to make a tiny tunnel for her to squeeze into. "Wish me luck, i'm going in!" Pushing herself in isn't going to be smooth, considering just how much everything was spinning, but she had to try!

COMBAT: Sourisi has used Digging A Tunnel on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick braces 13 Fatigue damage from Sourisi's Digging A Tunnel, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Pink Moon Stick's
Block and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Darkness sticks to light, huh..?

Mikoto makes the most impressively irate face to see her efforts bowled over completely, but really, Mikoto isn't a distance fighter, so she should have seen that coming.

Mikoto is, at least, very fast, and didn't stop for long at all to invoke her magic; she's still hurtling after the ball. Lucky for her, Serpentina Ruse and the Wind Knight's gales together have more luck than she does, and those two factors together -- the slowed ball, and the oncoming freight train running after it -- mean that Mikoto can catch up.

Unfortunately, Mikoto is also running into a snowstorm. The salty flakes are an unwelcome invader into her snarling maw, and her face wrinkles as she shakes her head vigorously.

It's not like snow. It's like --

"The sky's crying," Mikoto realises, all a sudden. "But it's cold." La Sirene always spoke of tears; is that why she thinks of it that way?

Blink blink, blink blink, she tries to get the bitter snow out of her eyes, and too late does she recover well enough from the storm to realise that, in fact, she has caught up to the bauble.

And it's shifting right into her path.

La Sirene said it was in the centre; in that snap moment, Mikoto makes a decision, and hefts her blade more like a lance, driving it in even as the bouncing ball descends on her. She'll carve through!

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Devastation on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick counters 15 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Devastation, taking 15 Fatigue damage!
Mikoto Minagi is Psyched!  Pink Moon Stick's Reverse ability activates!  Stun applied to Pink Moon Stick!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick's counterattack, na naaaaa nanananananana, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!  
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Girl of the Empty Forest - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVKH5MgQuuU

Now a part of the rolling sphere:

  • Fuu's arrow

Too small. The monstrous ball has been getting bigger all the time... there is probably an upper limit to this, but -- everything tilts for everyone on the sphere, as -- it hits an illuminated skyscraper (invisible in the storm until the very last second) and just starts rolling UP its LEDs, a ninety-degrees adjustment.

This coincidentally ruins the braking Mami attempted with her cannon; it happened just at the same moment, so her angle was off. Now, of course, if she tries to detach the sphere from its surface, there are potentially some other, more dire consequences.

Also part of the sphere:

  • Mikoto's Miroku

At least it was, more or less, on purpose. And at least it's pointing towards the middle, jabbed as it is straight in by its wielder.

A middle that, separately, Serpentina Ruse (with her umbrella), Sourisi (clawing her way in) and La Sirene (with, of course, Les Mysteres) try to approach. It's slow going. Progress is made, but not enough and not fast enough. If they take too long at this, the tunnel will fill in behind them too thickly to know which way is in or out, at which point things could get really confusing, and maybe even dangerous, depending on how violently they try their approaches.

Better hurry.

There's one sign of advancement at least: the voices are getting closer. Louder. They were carried on the wind, but their source is, surely, inside the ball.

"I love you," says the man, but he doesn't mean it.

"I love you," says the woman, but she doesn't mean it.

Was that at one another? Or was that at the tiny burden strapped to Mami Tomoe's chest?

One thing's for certain -- this is a terrifically dangerous situation for her. Despite the Puella Magi's heroic efforts at shielding her, she seems cooler to the touch by the moment. This needs to end, immediately. Otherwise it's just a matter of time before either her body or her heart gives out.

"I'm so tired," whispers the woman.

"All I want is a break," groans the man.

The chilling isolation hasn't let up, this whole time, but now that the worm is somewhat closer, it's being mixed-in with a second feeling: guilt...

COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Weight on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Weight on Sourisi.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Weight on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Weight on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Weight on Serpentina Ruse.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Weight on Mami Tomoe.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe fails to dodge Pink Moon Stick's Weight, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Mami Tomoe is Quipped!  
COMBAT: Sourisi braces 0 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's Weight, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Sourisi is Quipped!  
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji partially dodges 0 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's Weight, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji is
Quipped!  Fuu Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi counters 0 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's Weight, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Quipped!
Mikoto Minagi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, partially gets through, doing 16 Fatigue damage to Pink Moon Stick!
Critical Counterhit!
COMBAT: Serpentina Ruse braces 0 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's Weight, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Serpentina Ruse is
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant partially dodges 0 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's Weight, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  La Sirene
de Diamant is Quipped!
<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mami indeed doesn't like the sound of 'collected' in this case. ...Any more than she likes the rest of this. Despite the fact that indeed... in other circumstances, she would describe all the lights as charming, as La Sirene says. But which feeling is it here? What is it after?

Mami finds that her blast didn't work but that it's just as well that it didn't, considering the new consequnces for it. Mami is... not approaching. Not yet. She is instead hearing these voices, and worrying over the girl she's been trying to protect. Moment by moment, it's worse and worse...

Guilt. Ah, yes. Mami understands guilt. It's a familiar feeling, and it's one that gives her clarity in the moment, as well as an understanding with the girl here. "...All right," she says. "I'll get us out of this. Everyone else is fighting hard for you, too. Just hang on a little longer, all right?"

There is abrubtly a movement that may well shake the ball of Stuff as Mami throws out her hands and, stuck facing the inside all of a sudden is (most of) a very large cannon. There is no cup of tea this time, but the ribbons that whirl about one another and let loose the silver firearm whirl to stabilize it, even as the whole thing tumbles.

Muffled, Mami's voice might still be heard, shouting: "TIRO...!"

Not her most dignified finisher, but if it works, that's what counts--



COMBAT: FINISHER! Mami Tomoe has used Tiro FINALE on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Sourisi's progress is very slow and painfully won. Each shove of her tonfa against the brightly colored lights shoves back just as fiercely, and with the orb constantly spinning around, it's very easy to get dizzy while everything is standing still. Then there's a loud roar of a cannon and suddendly a massive sharp turn, and only the pull of gravity is the only hint that they're now going skyward. "Ugh...worst. Ride. Ever."

The only sign that she's making any progress at all is how everything seems to be spinning slightly less at first. Then the voices start to pick up again, softly at first. Hollow words of affection ring out clearly, then saying that they're exhausted? And with that comes intense guilt. Not guilt for something Sourisi failed to do...no, it's the guilt being spread out by a young girl blaming herself for her family wanting to spend time apart from one another. Guilt that has no reason to exist yet forms because things do not go as planned. This is an invisible weight that is crushing someone's heart, during what is suppost to be one of the happiest times of the year.

And all of this created a monster that is crushing everyone now.

Struggling to stand up straight, Sourisi pushes above her with the entangled tonfa to she can make enough room for her to move. Pulling free her remaining tonfa from its' clasp, Sourisi starts to twirl the weapon rapidly around in her hand. Despite how tight everything is, the howling of winds starts to be heard...and above that roar, the sound of someone familiar getting closer.

Sourisi raises her voice to be heard over the sounds of her whining tonfa, hoping it's Serpentina nearing her. If it's not, this might not work as well as she hopes. "Follow where the tonfa goes, Slithery! I just hope no one gets mad about cut wires...!" With a loud yell, the Mouse that Roars throws the howling weapon forward, hoping the intense speed of the weapon make the blunt insturment cuts forward what she hopes is the core.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Sourisi has started a combo targeting Pink Moon Stick!
<Pose Tracker> Serpentina Ruse [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The voices are getting worse. Crushing despair more painful than getting run over by the giant sphere. More tearful than getting the salt-snow in one's eyes. Heavier than everything being picked up.

It had to stop.

And soon Serpentina hears a friendly voice that will help her make it stop. "Got it Squeaks! Thanks for doing the hard part of the tunnel for me!" She approaches the tunnel, kicks off of the ball, and times it so that she's twirling into the tunnel at faster and faster speeds. Parasol forward, she turns into a heat-seeking drill missile, tracing the tunnel and following Sourisi's attack. She approaches the core, ready to drill into the monster at the center, and...

COMBAT: FINISHER! Serpentina Ruse has joined the combo started by Sourisi!
COMBAT: COMBO! FINISHER! Sourisi and Serpentina Ruse have used Wild Claw Barrage and Final Fang on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Maybe this was always bound to happen here, Mikoto thinks, of all places. She knows about heavy things; she carries hers all the time. She growls, "no more harvest," and she's denying the Collection on la Sirene's lips, but small balls are made large from many things gathering together.

Like the blade she thrusts deeper in the face of that deepening darkness. It is a motion which begins with her forcing her forefront off of the sphere, freeing her arms so that she can generate force; her elbows bend and then straighten, thrusting herself and her Element further into the round, round sphere.

Fate said she should stop, and she should think, but Mikoto is afraid that if she stops and thinks too much that girl will be all hollowed out, empty and lost. So she goes with her first instinct, and she does not stop to flinch again.

She attacks.

But she can at least remember enough of that practice to think, after her instinctual reaction.

"You caught it," Mikoto says, again, and perhaps it's as much for her benefit; she saw how unconscious the girl was, after all. "They should've seen! It's not your fault they didn't! It's not!"

You're gonna carry that weight.

"It's not," Mikoto says, again, and her arms for a moment sag against the cold, in against cheerful golden lights. "It's not... your fault." If she cries, will that just make more snow? That's no good. That's no good at all.

But, Mikoto thinks, even if everyone pushed that girl aside, she is still here, and she can still fight for her. She is here, they are here, and they are not YET lost. A roar builds deep in her chest, as Mikoto draws her muscles tight again, and forces her blade deeper, deeper in. It is a motion now which requires the aid of her legs as much as her torso; she is still a small girl, especially in the face of such a large bauble.

She twists her blade, screaming out for strength; red sigils alight along its length, and explode in a violent blast of white light, blinding as the snow. If the heart of this sphere is what is bleeding that girl, she will pierce it.

It's not fair that such happy lights were such an unhappy time for her.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Deontology on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The fact that her arrow thunked into the ball to basically no effect is, abruptly, less of a concern to the Wind Knight than the twin weights which are descending in tandem - the ball's own mass about to crush her allies physically, and the emotional plummet of that wave of guilt mixing with the terrible isolation.

It crashes against her determination, breaks over her, nearly breaks *her* in the process. But the memory of that little girl, someone who should have been innocently and happily watching the lighting of Shinjuku, comes clearly to the Magic Knight's memory - and for her sake, more than anyone else's, the Wind Knight steels herself, her legs bracing beneath her, bearing her up.

"Emerald ... !

It's tempting to just blast the entire ball, but the Magic Knight already knows that's the worst option. So while she gathers the tempest's wrath, snowflakes and saltflakes whirling around her upraised hands, she focuses it as well, using Miroku's hilt and blade as her target and angle.

She can do this. *They all* can do this. Because they have to.

"... CYCLONE!!!"

And she unleashes the tempest's fury, not in a wild storm but in a focused blast, ensuring that all the power of her spell goes into only one place.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Fuu Hououji has used Emerald Cyclone: Focused on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mikoto's presence here is a comfort for Nori Ankou; both because of the simple fact that Mikoto has a very powerful sword, knows how to use it, and has a secret weapon in her back pocket-- and because she is a living reminder that things can in fact improve, get better. And she's insightful, to boot.

"It is," la Sirene answers Mikoto, with a huff of effort, as...

It keeps on growing. It keeps swelling. The entire thing SHAKES as it strikes a skyscraper and la Sirene finds one of her legs is trapped. She grimaces for a moment, closes her eyes, and hears--

I love you.

I love you.

But it's false. Who did they speak to? Why is it so painful to think things like that? To know, or suspect, that love is a lie? To not be able to trust such simple things, to begin to suspect them? Critical thinking, all well and good in making your choices in life, but what happens when you begin to criticize such important things? When you rot out the timbers of the house with the acid gaze of analysis? what is left?

Mami has clarity. T H O O M comes the burst of the Tiro Finale, which la Sirene knows; and it is... goodness, she thinks, how distant is it. La Sirene opens her eyes and finds a stout, thin lash of cables over her, a single pink-sakura LED flashing over her right eye, which she closes in wincing discomfort.

But if she's trapped... then... That means it's trapped with her.

"Don't worry," she calls towards the bearers of the Miraculous, and then she chooses to push herself, not outward, but IN. Paradoxical, but if she is able to wade in deeper, to embed herself-- foolish perhaps-- but there is something in the center, or near the center at least, there simply must be.

"Love... it has many shapes. Sometimes it changes. Sometimes one face should fade, or be dimmed, like clouds before a star. But this does not change the others; it does not change that love was there."

Her eyes close. "It's real; even if it's in the past."

Perhaps it is a thought that cannot ease a child's heart, exactly. But sometimes you share things that don't get understood until later.

This deep in, la Sirene doesn't even need to do anything all too fancy. The light that pours through the glittering and sacred item in the Pharos; echoes out and flows across the black gems that stud her suit; it all radiates outwards. Inverted light still has pressure. Enough to spread out wires, to gently expand things.

And expand them. Even as Mikoto strikes. La Sirene turns round, as if looking for the blade itself. She said to Mikoto once, they had that in common, even if it wasn't quite the same.

"The Christmas lights are there; even when they have all been packed away. And they will come again, as sure as the sky will brighten and the rain will fall. It isn't your fault."

La Sirene breathes in; the light dims, and so does the expanded little space of stretched-out wires. (I certainly do hope I find it here, or this is going to look quite foolish, la Sirene thinks. At least Mami has her, if all else fails.) But the moment of thought fades as she looks up, as she holds her breath.

"Awake!" she cries out, both hands thrusting forwards towards that subtle feeling, towards the center. That light-pressure, formerly a press, comes out with sledgehammer, firehose force!

COMBAT: FINISHER! La Sirene de Diamant has used The Light That Never Warms on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick fails to brace Mami Tomoe's Finisher, Tiro FINALE, taking 161 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick braces 88 Fatigue damage from Sourisi and Serpentina Ruse's Finisher, Combo: Wild Claw Barrage, taking 59
Fatigue damage!  Pink Moon Stick's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick fails to brace Mikoto Minagi's Finisher, Obsidian Blade: Deontology, taking 120 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick fails to brace Fuu Hououji's Finisher, Emerald Cyclone: Focused, taking 45 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick fails to brace La Sirene de Diamant's Finisher, The Light That Never Warms, taking 230 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!  Pink Moon Stick is unable to keep fighting!
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> The Middle - Jimmy Eat World - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FV-HPOHu8mY

'If it works'.

There's not much out there that Tiro Finale fails to work against. It's much more a matter of what its wielder is willing to USE it against.

Mami gets a ringside seat to watching that immense golden beam inject itself into the sphere like a drillshaft boring towards the center of the Earth.

On another side, Sourisi and Serpentina Ruse combine forces to finish carving a path towards that same destination.

From still another, Mikoto, who also wields some very important words -- words that La Sirene might tell her, later, were more important than Miroku. But, in fairness, Miroku did a whole lot, with an assist from the Wind Knight's oldest and best signature move.

And finally, La Sirene herself also uses her words. The two of them said the same thing, really.

'It isn't your fault.'

Is it the beams, the tonfa and parasol, the blades and winds and light, that really exposed the sphere for what it is?

Or was it the words?

Either way, it's coming apart...

Where strands of LEDs are incinerated, slashed, and chopped, whole patches of light go out correspodningly, as though they're inducing power outages on a planetary scale.

By the time any of them would have reached the middle, the sphere has lost all coherence, which means that Christmas lights are falling... and so are seven children, down the side of the skyscraper.

And so is something else.

By the time they save one another into a suitably soft and impressive landing, all that's left is the matter of the worm.

"I hate you," it squeaks from the snowy sidewalk, in the father's voice. It's beginning to GROW of all things -- perhaps now because all the considerable emotional power it drained out of its victim is no longer being diverted to run the lights. So now everyone can get a decent look at how disgustingly veiny it is.

"I hate you," it repeats in the woman's, then back and forth, "hate HATE haTe hAtE..."

The light of the Pharos falls upon it.

And the words have already landed.

'It isn't your fault.'

The worm ceases its engorgement before it's much larger than a sea cucumber -- then withers -- then dies.


The storm vanished as quickly as it arrived, and whatever rules of reality it was playing by seem to indicate that the park visitors never realized that it happened. It isn't snowing anymore; it had never snowed, but for the Cardiax; the first snow of the season has yet to come, and hopefully will be a less-tainted thing than this was.

And the lights, rescued from this calamity, are beautiful. More beautiful shaped along the buildings and trees and bushes and pillars than it ever was in the sphere, no matter how perfect a shape round is.

Safely on the ground, the little girl stirs. She smiles again, and this time it's a real one, not just the result of the inhibition of her sadness by the parasite. Real, and wet. Her parents approach, nonplussed by her momentary disappearance, and collect her with real fear in their eyes.

Nothing is solved; that relationship may well finish self-destructing.

But it isn't her fault.

It's not.



Atop the skyscraper that the sphere never quite cleared, a man turns away from glaring down at La Sirene from the rooftop's edge. Three strides across the top of the building and he has vanished as completely as his Cardiax did.