"I'll be back before you know it."
Those were the last words Miku heard Hibiki say to her before she once again left on a life-threatening mission. She had taken her hand in her own, and Miku did not want to let her go. But for the sake of those Hibiki would protect, she did.
Miku thought she was used to it by now. Used to Hibiki suddenly up and go at random times during the day, only to return late at night completely exhausted. She thought she was used to worry about her incessantly, only for Hibiki to answer back with a smile and a laugh. She really thought she was used to this.
But it never got easier, not for her. She saw her off again, like all those times before with a smile on her face. Usually, Miku would stay up for another hour or so, and then proceed to fall asleep, only to wake up to see Hibiki snoring loudly next to her and having to rouse so they won't be late. Those were the peaceful yet eventful daily lives they led.
But this time, Miku couldn't fall back asleep. Maybe it was just a weird gut feeling she had, but this time the pit in her stomach just refused to allow her to close her eyes again. It's not like she completely understood the enemies Hibiki had been facing recently. After all, everything she knew about Hibiki's missions came from Hibiki herself, and most of the time she spent comforting or encouraging her friend when she was feeling down. She had no reason or need to ask the others about this. She didn't know what sort of dangers Hibiki was facing on the battlefield. All she could do was simply see her off, and be there to welcome her back.
But she couldn't fall back asleep, so this time, she decided she'll personally welcome Hibiki back, no matter what hour she returned. She felt that if she did not do this, especially now, then Hibiki would not come back.
Miku stayed up all night, waiting. The strange feeling would not leave her at all during that time, but she shook it off as much as she could. She was sure that as soon as Hibiki walked in through that door, everything will be fine. It's okay, everything's fine, just like Hibiki always said.
Time passed, and Miku continued to sit in silence throughout the night. She waited, and waited, and waited, but the door to their shared room never opened. When the first rays of sunshine lit up the sky, the door still did not open. The pit in Miku's stomach only grew deeper as the sun rose, and she furrowed her brows in worry.
Maybe Hibiki was once again sent off to some god-knows-where in the world, which was why it was taking her so long. Hibiki's missions were almost always unpredictable, and it was only logical that at some point she might have to leave for a few days at a time, just like the time she left to the far off country of Val Verde.
Miku sighed, and despite getting only a few hours of sleep that night, fixed herself up and left for school.
The day passed by as a blur for her. Maybe it was exhaustion and sleepiness that muddled her mind, but she could barely remember any of it. She could partially recall making up some excuse for the teacher as to why Hibiki was absent, as well as giving some reassuring words to the trio that hung around them. At various times, Miku tried to call Hibiki on her cellphone, hoping for her to answer. Yet no matter how many times she rang, there was no answer on the other end.
The day passed, and Hibiki did not come home. Yet Miku reassured herself, telling herself that everything would be fine, and no matter how long it would take for Hibiki to get home, she would wait for her patiently.
The second night passed, and Hibiki did not come home.
Miku tried to stay focused, but she could not help but feel depressed. Usually, Hibiki would send her a text message or give her some sort of heads up and tell her not to worry. She would worry as always, but at least she would know Hibiki was okay.
Miku woke up on the second day, looked at the calendar, and realized it was Hibiki's birthday today. They had promised to celebrate it together, and Miku was eager to throw her dear friend a huge party for her seventeenth birthday. Yet, Hibiki did not come home. The thought of missing such an important date brought Miku's spirits further down, but she will be strong. It doesn't matter how long it takes for Hibiki to get home, they would celebrate her birthday even a month late.
The second day passed by, and night arrived, and Hibiki still did not come home.
Miku sat in their shared dorm, trying to distract herself by reading a magazine. She already ate dinner, and made sure to leave plenty of leftovers for Hibiki once she came back. Hibiki was a ravenous eater, and would probably finish everything in a single meal. It didn't help that the amount of exercise she was doing only enlarged her already massive appetite.
Miku never cared about that. Hibiki always enjoyed her meals, and she was always thankful to Miku for making them. The girl knew she would always make her friend's dinner, no matter how much time has passed.
So she would wait for her, and pray for her safety.
It was at that time, long into the night, that Miku finally got a call. She hurriedly picked up her cellphone, fumbling with it before holding it steady in her hands and looking at the screen.
Instantly the pit in her stomach grew. The commander of Hibiki's unit, S.O.N.G they were called, seldom contacted her specifically. Even though she worked with them on and off sometimes, she could hardly be called an actual member of their organization. Any affiliation she truly had with them was through Hibiki first thing first.
So, the only reason he would ever call her...was if it had something to do with Hibiki.
Miku swallowed, and answered the phone. "Hello?"
"Ah, Miku-kun. I apologize for calling you at this hour."
"It's fine, sir." She answered calmly. "How can I help you?"
She heard him sigh heavily on the other end. "I'm afraid...Your presence is more than required at the moment. We need you to be here as soon as possible. A driver is already on his way to pick you up."
Miku grasped the phone tighter. "Something...happened to Hibiki, right?"
"I'm afraid so. I'll fill you in while you are on your way. This...is something only you can do." He said grimly.
"Very well. I'll be there as soon as possible."
"Thank you, Miku-kun. And once again, I'm sorry." He added, and finally hung up.
Miku sat in silence for a few minutes, only staring at her phone's screen absentmindedly. It was almost ironic, she had to admit. The one time she decides to welcome Hibiki home no matter at what hour was the one time she did not show up at all. Deep within herself, Miku felt as if she should blame herself for what has happened. Maybe if she had lightened up a bit more, and managed to go to sleep, then Hibiki would be back by now.
No, she can't think that way. Hibiki would be sad if she let such a mistaken feeling get her down. Slapping her cheeks once, Miku got up and got herself ready. She had something she needed to do. Hibiki needed her help.
And for Hibiki, Miku had no problem swimming through the Atlantic if she needed her.
"Hibiki is inside that thing, isn't she?" Miku asked first thing as she walked into the division's bridge and looking straight at the huge screen before her. "Is she alright?"
"Of course." Genjuro answered her. "Which is why I sent for you."
Miku took a good look at the...thing appearing on screen. From her perspective, it looked like some sort of demented cocoon. Purple and black all over, the cocoon was suspended in midair by tendrils connecting it to the nearby building. Its most distinguishable feature were the two glowing lines running through its mid section horizontally. Periodically, the two lines would pulsate with an ominous red light, and Miku shivered just from looking at it.
Genjuro's words hardly helped calm her down. He said Hibiki was alright inside that thing, but nothing about this thing felt natural or all right. If Miku knew anything about biology, whenever cocoons were involved, something was bound to hatch from it. And usually, not in its original form. That made Miku all the more frightened.
But Miku swallowed down her fear. These were good people. Whatever may happen, they will help Hibiki with all their power.
"Put us through to Maria-kun's team." He commanded. A moment later, a smaller screen appeared on the display, showing Maria, Kirika, and Shirabe listening attentively.
"We are ready over here." Maria said.
Genjuro nodded. However, Miku asked before he could speak. "How can we help Hibiki?"
In response, Elfnein, who had been sitting a little lower than the rest, turned to face them with a syringe filled with red liquid in hand. "With this."
"LiNKER?" Shirabe asked, noticing the familiar shape in the smaller girl's hand. "No, Anti-LiNKER?"
Elfnein looked towards the away team on the display. "That's right. LiNKER and Anti-LiNKER are two sides of the same coin. Now that I can synthesize LiNKER, I can also make Anti-LiNKER."
"But how is a drug that lowers sync rates going to help us now?" Maria found herself asking.
Pressing a few buttons on her console, Elfnein brought up images of Yohualtepoztli and the Divine Weapon, the two enemies related to divine power that they had faced until now. "Both Yohualtepoztli and the Divine Weapon needed a vessel in order to stably manifest their immense power. Doesn't that remind you of the Symphogear system?"
A sudden realization dawned on the Symphogear wielders. The explanation completely passed by Miku's head, even though she knew what those two drugs were. But it seemed like Elfnein reached a breakthrough, and had sounded confident enough.
"We can assume that the energy that engulfed Hibiki-kun is similar in nature to the energy of the relics that power the Symphogear." Genjuro added.
"Which means," Chris began, "That the Anti-LiNKER can pop that thing right off of her!"
Elfnein smiled. It was good to work with perceptive people. "That's right," She said. Reaching for her pocket, she pulled out the five pendants the wielders would need.
"Our converter units!" Tsubasa exclaimed.
Elfnein nodded. "I've finished cleaning off the barrier's aftereffects from them. You're good to go at any time."
Everyone seemed happy at the news. However Miku, who had been standing behind Genjuro the whole time, felt a bit out of place. "Um...Is there anything I can do?" she asked meekly.
Genjuro turned to her. "You're our ace in the hole. Our trump card."
"Eh? Me?" She said, surprised and pointing at herself. How was she going to be of use here?
"It'll be dangerous." Elfnein added.
Miku met the girl's gaze, and gathering her courage, nodded in acknowledgement. Hibiki put her own life at risk day after day. She could not turn her back on her now. "I understand!"
Genjuro turned back to the screen before him.
"Yes, you and one other…"
She was floating.
She wasn't sure exactly where she was or how she got there. Her memory was blurry, and everything around her felt empty. She was strangely warm, even though she was sure she was not wearing any clothes.
Hibiki floated in the nothingness, her mind muddled by a constant flow of colors. It was hard to focus on anything in particular, and right now letting her mind drift away felt like the best course of action.
She hated how alone she felt at the moment, and wanted someone to be near her right now. She wasn't sure who she wanted, but someone nonetheless.
Everything was weird, and did not feel natural at any point in time.
How much time had passed, really? She wasn't sure. She wasn't sure of anything at the moment.
Yes, she should just drift off. It was much easier than trying to focus on one particular thing. Exerting so much effort just on thinking was tiring, and she wasn't much of the thinking type. Just do what felt natural. Just like always.
As she felt her consciousness fade away into nothingness, a voice called out from inside the darkness.
"It's not like you to do nothing, Tachibana Hibiki."
Her eyes shot open. In a mere instant the darkness, the weirdness, the colors, the fog in her mind, all of them evaporated away, and she found herself in a world of clouds.
Hibiki sat up, or at least performed the action of sitting up. She could feel her hands gripping solid ground, but a good look at the ground revealed it was not earth at all, merely another cloud. 'Are clouds supposed to be like this?' She asked herself. She never really listened in class, but even a baby could tell that clouds are not something you can sit on.
Unless you are God or something, but that was definitely not the case here.
She looked around her, taking in the strange scenery she found herself in. It was like she was inside the sky itself, with the shining blue and the white clouds all around her. But how can that be? How did she get to this place?
And who was that voice that called out her name?
'Try to focus. One thing at a time.' She told herself. First, the voice. Usually, voices can explain things. "Uh, hello?"
There was no answer from the mysterious voice. She waited a few moments, staring ahead. Her voice echoed in this weird plane, but other than that nothing happened. The sky continued to be blue and the clouds continued to hang in place.
Hibiki looked around her, trying to find well, anything. Well, maybe exploring a bit would do no harm. It was many times better than the darkness she was floating in earlier.
"Okay then," She said to herself, and put a foot in front of her slowly. "And I have my clothes, that's good."
She put her foot down, finding solid ground once again. She sighed in relief, and proceeded to take a full step forward.
And then an immensely bright light appeared in front of her, startling her and causing her to lose her footing. "Wha…!" She let out, and instantly lost her balance, falling on her butt back on the cloud. For a cloud, it sure did hurt. "Owwww," She murmured, rubbing her behind.
The light continued to grow, and Hibiki found it difficult to keep looking at it. She raised an arm to cover her eyes, trying not to be blinded by the radiance.
Yet within that radiance, she could make out some sort of shape. A shape that looked vaguely human.
"Sorry about that." The same voice from before said. "It took a while to finally establish this form."
Her arm still covering her eyes, Hibiki noticed that the bright glow proceeded to slowly but surely die down. She no longer had to narrow her eyes, which was good, but still could not bring her arm down just yet. Who knew if that light would be back again.
"Ah, it's fine now, you can look." The voice said, now much more stable and much more...feminine?
"Huh?" Hibiki let out. She lowered her arm, realizing the glow did indeed disappear, and in its place was…
Her eyes widened in complete shock, and her mouth hung open at the sight before her.
The red haired form before her raised a hand and smiled, waving in her direction. "Yo."
"Ka-" Hibiki said. "Kanade-san?!"
Two hours. That was the timeframe they were given to finish the operation.
For a reason beyond her understanding, Hibiki had been classified as a type 2 supernatural disaster. Miku had no idea what that meant, but she definitely could understand what the Kazanari patriarch meant by unlimited use of armed force, and the probably inevitable use of weapons of mass destruction.
Miku shuddered just from thinking about it. The UN would rather blow Hibiki up along with tens of thousands of civilians in order to eliminate a possible threat to the world. She couldn't stomach it. She couldn't believe that they would so quickly designate her as a threat and barely give them enough time to rescue her first. They would rather kill everyone right now than wait. She tried to talk back to him, but he ignored her as if she was a mere bug in his presence. Thankfully, Tsubasa stood up for her and let the man have a piece of her mind.
That was until Aoi informed them that assault forces were converging on the cocoon, which meant that they had even less time than that.
Miku bit her lip. This whole situation was absurd. But she couldn't let it get to her. They had a plan after all. A plan involving trucks loaded full with Anti-LiNKER, but a plan nonetheless. And her role in it was simple, yet undeniably important.
Call out to Hibiki when the time comes, that's all. She was surprised by the simple request Genjuro made to her, and she wasn't sure why her voice alone would work, but she decided to nod and do it. She had reliable allies to get Hibiki back, that's all that mattered. Every single one of them cared about her, in their own way. If the time they have is two hours, then they will get her back in one.
She was shaken from her thoughts when the sounds of explosions filled the air. Raising her head up, Miku stared in shock at the screen in front of her. She could see a line of tanks, their barrels aimed at the cocoon Hibiki was encased in, and smoke rising from their muzzles. They were...trying to destroy the cocoon?!
"No!" Miku yelled to the comm, shooting up in her seat. "Genjuro-san! You have to stop them!"
"I'm on it!" He answered. "All wielders, head out! Stop those tanks from firing anymore!"
Over the comms, Miku heard the various wielders acknowledge his order. However, in the meantime, the tanks fired another volley.
And this time, it seemed to be doing damage. Glowing golden fractures began to appear on it, and Miku's heart clenched. If they continued, they might hurt Hibiki!
"Please! Stop them!" She screamed again in despair.
The wielders were on their way, but they won't make it in time for the third volley!
Just as the tanks were about to fire, a massive amount of light erupted from the fractures on the cocoon. The fractures grew, encompassing the entire structure, and the tendrils that connected it to the buildings shattered, and the whole thing fell to the ground with a loud thud. The golden light enveloped the entire cocoon, its shape disappearing from within the light. All those watching were blinded by the glow, Miku included.
Something was finally happening.
And Miku could not help but feel that something was terribly, terribly wrong.
"Kanade-san?! How! What!" Hibiki exclaimed in total shock at the girl in front of her. Somehow, and out of nowhere, the supposedly dead member of Zwei Wing appeared in front of her! Then if she was here, and there were all these clouds, then that meant... "Wait, if you're here, does it mean I'm dead?!"
Kanade laughed. "No, you're not dead, I can promise you that." She said, chuckling at the relieved sigh Hibiki let out.
"Oh, that's great! Wait, but if I'm not dead, how are you here, Kanade-san? And where is well...here, exactly?" Hibiki asked her.
Kanade met her gaze and scratched her cheek in thought. "Hmmm, well I think I can answer your questions." She said, lowering her hand. "Well, the first thing I can tell you is that I'm not exactly this Kanade you speak of."
Hibiki tilted her head in question. "Huh? What do you mean."
"Hmm, how can I explain it…" 'Kanade' said. "Think of me as a...form I took in order for you to be able to communicate with me. Seeing as using any of your still living friends as a template would confuse you too much, I decided to go for the safe route."
Hibiki scratched her head. "I'm still really confused, so I don't know how much that helped really."
'Kanade' put a hand on her hip. "Hehehehe, well had I taken my real form you would be way more confused than that, I can assure you."
"I don't really get it, but okay." Hibiki answered. "So wait, if you are not Kanade-san, then who are you?"
'Kanade' lowered her hand from her hip, and looked down straight at the girl. "I am...the divine power, so to say."
Hibiki narrowed her eyes. "What? You mean the same thing that that Adam guy tried to-"
"Yes, the very same one." 'Kanade' interrupted her. "I am the representation of the divine power, and you, Tachibana Hibiki, have been chosen. This space you have been taken to is separate from the outside world. I chose to bring you to this place in order for us to talk."
Hibiki shot up to her feet, standing before the fake Kanade. She was shorter than the red haired imposter in front of her, but she could still fight back if necessary!
"I do not wish to fight, Hibiki, only to talk." 'Kanade' said calmly, ignoring the rising fighting spirit from the girl in front of her. "You always say that you wish to talk first, do you not? Is that invitation not extended to me as well?"
Hibiki grimaced. No matter who she was, she was right. She needed to see what she had to say first before anything else. If she could talk to her, then they could understand each other. If they could understand each other, then they could possibly work together, one way or another.
She relaxed her posture, and looked up at the taller girl. "Alright," she said. "You said I was...chosen? What do you mean by that?"
'Kanade' smiled, and gestured forward. "Walk with me."
Hibiki narrowed her eyes, but fell into step next to the imposter, and the two began stepping through the giant world of clouds.
As they walked Hibiki looked around her, taking in the sights. The place didn't seem to end or change in any way, which was odd since she was sure they were actually walking forward. Maybe this placed looped or something? She wasn't sure, but she was definitely sure of the fact that she should be wary.
"Now, where do I even begin?" 'Kanade' said. "Ah yes, that Adam Weishaupt. For a puppet he sure is tenacious, I'll give him that. The fact he managed to bring divine power down to Earth is astounding all on its own. To bind it to a vessel even more so. But alas, it didn't quite work out for him as he intended did it?"
Hibiki tilted her head, and looked up at 'Kanade'. "What do you mean?"
The representation merely looked forward at the passing clouds, and continued her explanation. "He thought he could control such a power by just binding it to a vessel. But that's not how divine power works you know? It has to be accepted, and only then can it truly be used to its full potential. Unfortunately, there is no one on Earth who is capable of harnessing it."
The imposter stopped walking, and looked Hibiki straight in the eye. "No one...except you."
"Eh?" Hibiki let out. "Me? I don't understand."
'Kanade' chuckled. "Of course you don't, so I'll explain it. This is what I meant by you being chosen, Hibiki. You, out of all the people of Earth, have the ability to truly harness the divine power, and use it as you see fit. And I want to give it to you."
Hibiki froze in place, and stared at the figure in front of her incredulously. "You want me to...have the divine power? What are you talking about?!"
It was insane. The divine power, that moments before was laying waste and destruction upon the city, the same one that so many people were sacrificed for. She wants her to use such a thing?!
"Yes, the very same one-"
A sudden silence fell due to Hibiki's sudden declaration. The imposter's eyes widened at the abrupt denial. "There is no way I'm accepting something like that. Absolutely no way." Hibiki continued, eyes narrowed.
"Hibiki, you don't understand-" 'Kanade' tried to add, but was cut off.
"No, I understand. I may not be the smartest person, but I definitely know when something is good or not. And this divine power...thing, is not good. Too many people died for this. Too many people suffered for this. I won't accept something that was made by trampling on others." Hibiki said. "You can forget it. Take me back, I need to help everyone."
'Kanade' fell quiet, looking at the spirited girl before her. "I see...In that case, may I explain something?" She asked.
"What is it?"
In response to Hibiki's question, 'Kanade' turned around, and raised her hand above her head. Hibiki watched as a ball of golden light suddenly appeared in the red head's hand.
And as the light expanded, the world around them suddenly began shifting. The clouds suddenly accelerated to light speed, and Hibiki looked to and fro and saw how the entire world changed around her. It made her nauseous just looking at it.
Moments later, everything suddenly stabilized, and Hibiki found herself on an open grass field.
A light breeze blew through the plain, causing Hibiki to shiver, rubbing her arms at the sudden drop in temperature. 'Kanade' kept on standing before her, her arm still raised to the sky. "What are you doing?!" Hibiki asked her loudly.
"This is...a demonstration." Was the imposter's response.
Before Hibiki could finish, the world suddenly shifted and accelerated again, warping ominously. She closed her eyes, unable to look. When she opened them again, she let out a horrified gasp. No longer were they in a vast open plain, but rather in a barren wasteland. Rain fell on the world, crashing amidst the ruins of the city Hibiki once called home. Wherever she looked, she could see familiar landmarks, all of them destroyed in one way or another. From the pier in which S.O.N.G's headquarters resided, to Lydian Academy, and even the concert hall in which everything had begun.
Hibiki fell to her knees, unable to stomach the sight. "What...is happening?" She asked desperately.
"This is what the divine power can do." 'Kanade' answered.
And then the world shifted again. Again, and again, and again. Before her eyes, Hibiki found herself transported between several locations, both real and unreal, in a matter of seconds. From the barren wasteland, to a field filled with nothing but swords, basking in a distant twilight. To a futuristic landscape, a place where human civilization reached unprecedented heights. To a hospital, watching those who died and were born. She was transported from place to place, and she could simply stay on her knees, completely immobile and paralyzed by what she was seeing.
And finally, they reached the stars, and watched the Earth from above.
Hibiki's heart raced as she looked down at the planet she called home, its brilliant blue glow lighting up the dark universe. "The divine power is simply a tool, Hibiki. It responds to whoever uses it. If that person wishes for destruction, then that is what it shall be used for." 'Kanade' said.
Hibiki found it difficult to tear her eyes away from the sight of the world before her. "But at its core, the divine power is a very simple thing." She added.
"It is the power to change the world."
The chestnut haired Symphogear user found it hard to breath, but forced herself to her feet uneasily. "What...are you-"
"Adam tried to use it to his own ends, yet he could not." 'Kanade began. "There was no way he could. No one on this blue planet could ever harness the divine power to its full potential. Do you know why that is?"
Hibiki merely looked at her, not giving her a response. She truly was clueless to the reason.
"It was because he was sinful. As they say, the heavens do not respond to those who harbor sins. That is why Finé could never remove the Curse of Balal. It is why John Wayne Vercingetorix could not become a hero. It is why Carol Malus Dienheim could never achieve her vengeance. Their delusional plans to control the world were destined to fail from the very beginning. They were sinful, and so they were rejected by the divine, by the gods. By destiny itself." She said. The red haired fake then turned to Hibiki, her form illuminated by the Earth's glow. "But you are not, Tachibana Hibiki. You are a human free of sin. Your body, your mind, and your soul do not bear even a tinge of sin within them. It is peculiar, it is an anomaly, but it is reality nonetheless. And that is why, out of all the beings in the universe, you alone deserve to hold this power."
"I...don't understand…" Hibiki let out weakly.
'Kanade' huffed. "Quite frankly, I don't either. It is impossible for a human to be completely free of sin, even if they were a saint their entire lives. For humans harbor the Original Sin from the day they are born, and as a result will always be ineligible to hold divine power. Yet, you are freed from it. I do not know the circumstances as to why that is, for I am merely a representation of divine power, and not a divine being myself. All I can tell you Hibiki, is that you are free to do with it as you wish."
'Kanade' turned back to the Earth, and raised her palm towards it. "As the righteous holder of it, you could do whatever your heart desires. Whether it is to create a brand new wonderful world, or…"
And then a golden radiance once again erupted from the imposter's hand.
Suddenly, the Earth shook, and Hibiki watched in horror as it violently exploded in a blinding flash of light. Fiery fragments of molten rock shot in all directions, the last remains of the planet dissipating into empty space, leaving behind nothing but dust.
In an instant, memories of her life until now flashed before her eyes. Her times with Miku, Tsubasa, Chris, and everyone else in S.O.N.G. Her peaceful days at school, the people she saved on her missions, everything that she had ever experienced showed itself before her in a mere instant.
All of that was gone along with the Earth.
She could no longer bear watching. She fell again to her knees, and her head met the nonexistent ground. Sweat trickled down her face, and she could feel her entire body burn up. She felt sick, as if she wanted to puke.
'Kanade' stared down at her, but said nothing. She merely raised her hand once again, and the world around them changed again, bringing them to a clearing. Evergreens circled them in all directions, and in the middle of the clearing was a small lake, filled to a brim with crystal clear water.
"That is the full extent of the might of divine power. And should you choose to accept it, it will be yours to command." 'Kanade' said.
At this point Hibiki could barely listen to the imposter. She heard what she said, but the sheer scope of her words overwhelmed her.
Power beyond measure, and the ability to create the world anew. Just thinking about it made her mind go into overdrive. She always had a simple mindset, and something as incredible as that was way beyond her, that was something she was sure of.
Had she been anyone else, or even if such an offer was made to her at any other time, then she might have considered it.
"I can't." She simply said.
'Kanade' looked down at her quietly. "I just...can't." The girl continued. "Something like this...even if it can be used for good...even if it can make the world a better place...I just can't accept something like that."
She let out a sniffle she didn't know she was holding. "I said this to St. Germain-san...Using a godlike power to get rid of a curse caused by God is wrong...People...have to change as people. You can't...force them to change as you like, just to fit your own justice. That is why...I can't accept something...that will do that."
Silence fell on the clearing. A light breeze once again blew, and the grass whistled lightly. The treetops were ruffled by the winds, and a few loose leaves fell to the ground softly.
'Kanade' looked down at the girl, her face still buried in the grass, and smiled. "You truly are kind, Hibiki."
The warm response caught Hibiki completely off guard. She raised her head, completely confused, and saw the imposter approach her. "You truly only think of others above yourself. That is a valuable quality, Hibiki. I am glad that out of all the people who could have been chosen, it was you."
Hibiki's eyes widened. "Wha-"
'Kanade' kneeled down and cupped Hibiki's face between her palms gently, smiling all the while. "You know, I kind of expected you to refuse, and I'm glad I was not wrong." She said. "But you know, I won't force you to do anything you wouldn't like. In fact, you don't have to use the divine power at all."
The Symphogear user was far too confused to try and even ask what the fake Kanade meant. "Honestly, I don't care what you do with it. I don't mind even if you keep it with you and forget about it completely. Heck, for all I know you can even send it back if you want."
"Send...it back?" Hibiki managed to let out.
"Yeah, you can do that with it too. All the divine power wants is a worthy vessel, otherwise it will go berserk just like you saw. As soon as you leave this place, you can simply will it to return from where it came. So long as you don't hand it over to Adam, but I'm sure that won't happen." The imposter added. "My entire purpose was to inform you that you were worthy, that is all. From here on, it is up to you."
Hibiki blinked a few times, finally able to follow the imposter's explanation. 'Kanade' let go of Hibiki face, and stood up again, the chestnut haired girl following suit. They stood before each other, their gaze meeting. "So uh...How...do I go back, exactly?" Hibiki asked.
'Kanade' simply pointed to the lake in the clearing, and Hibiki's vision followed her finger. "Simply enter this lake and allow yourself to fall into it. That is the way out I made for you. Once you are back to the real world, just do what I told you."
Hibiki however was a bit hesitant. "Are you sure that will work?"
"Positive. I have no reason to lie to you." 'Kanade' answered.
"Alright, I guess." Hibiki responded. She took a step forward hesitantly, walking slowly towards the crystal clear lake. 'Kanade' simply patiently watched from behind, looking at the girl who slowly dipped her foot into the water.
Hibiki shivered slightly at the unexpected temperature. "Whoa, it's cold."
"Ah, sorry about that. I figured water had to be a little chilly." 'Kanade' said, rubbing the back of her head sheepishly.
Hibiki stopped at the lake's edge, but gathered her courage and headed deeper in. With each step she took, the water rose accordingly, and soon enough she found herself completely covered except for her head. She turned in the water to look at the imposter. "So all I have to do now is to let myself fall in, right? I won't drown or anything right?"
"Nah, you won't drown. It's not real water anyway so you have no need to be afraid of that. Simply float and relax your muscles. Your body weight will eventually drag you down. It's a lot deeper than you will expect but you have no reason to worry." 'Kanade' replied.
"Okay, I guess." Hibiki said softly, and kicked in the water, raising her feet so they reached the surface of the water. She floated on her back, staring at the sky, not truly struggling to keep afloat.
"Oh, and before you go, Hibiki." 'Kanade' suddenly said loudly. "Don't forget, you can do anything with that power. Use it to change the world as you wish."
Hibiki merely smiled. "Yeah, as if that would happen." She relaxed her muscles, and let the water slowly envelop her. Before she completely disappeared beneath the surface, she spoke up again. "Thank you, Kanade-san."
And with those words, Hibiki closed her eyes and allowed herself to fall into the crystal clear abyss. Soon after that, she felt as her consciousness float away, signifying her return to the real world.
'Kanade' stared at the girl slowly falling deeper and deeper, and stood completely still. "Anytime, Hibiki. I'm glad you chose to accept the divine power after all."
The surface of the lake began to slightly bubble at the spot where Hibiki had descended.
And the imposter's gentle smile suddenly twisted, becoming a mad, savage grin. "ALONG WITH TWO THOUSANDS YEARS OF HUMANITY'S GRUDGES AND CURSES!"
It was an expression that would have been out of place on the real Amou Kanade. But within this illusionary space, within this fake reality constructed by the representation of divine power, anything was possible.
And from within the pendant of Gungnir that had been on Hibiki's person the entire time, a wave of bulbous black sludge rose, tainting the crystal clear water with its poison. It rose to the lake's surface and erupted like a volcano, spreading the sludge all over the fake world 'Kanade' had constructed.
The illusion began to break away like glass, and the sky itself shattered, its fragments falling down upon the once beautiful clearing as the black sludge continued to rise in droves from the bottom of the lake.
The fake Kanade simply stood and smiled, watching in glee as the world was consumed around her. "Yes...the grudges and curses that were stored within the divine spear Gungnir...have been brought to the surface due to the acceptance of the divine power."
She let out a soft chuckle. "The god slaying power of the Lance of Longinus, representing humanity's rage towards the heavens, and the symbol of their eternal lack of mutual understanding. Yessss...Now the human world will truly change. Divine power, combining with a god slaying one...will produce quite a spectacular result."
Her own body began to fragment, but her chuckling turned into a crazed, loud laugh that echoed through the shattering world. "YES! GO, TACHIBANA HIBIKI! GO AHEAD AND CREATE THE WORLD ANEW!"
The fake's body crumbled to pieces, and the darkness enveloped the world.
"AS A VESSEL OF TOTAL DESTRUCTION! THE HARBINGER OF ALL THE EVILS OF THIS WORLD!"
When the light finally died down, the Symphogear wielders were not sure what they were looking at.
The massive cocoon had disappeared, and all that remained in its place was a small crater at the location towards which it had plunged. Which was strange, considering that Elfnein's calculations had expected a completely different result. There was no massive beast on the scale of the Divine Weapon that had been previously destroyed. Only…
Only a human sized form that looked very familiar.
"Tachibana…" Tsubasa let out. She was...alright? How was that possible? The divine power had completely engulfed her. There was no way she could…
"Commander," Maria said over the comm. "We are going in to investigate."
"Copy that, Maria-kun. Proceed with caution. We have no way of knowing what exactly is going on now that our predictions proved to be wrong." Genjuro answered.
The silver Symphogear user looked towards her allies, and they all nodded in acknowledgement. As a unit, all five walked forward, intent on truly understanding what was happening.
Only Saint-Germain remained, rooted to the spot, her eyes narrowed on the human shaped form at the center of the rubble. She had deliberately allied herself with the Symphogears in order to combat Adam and the divine power, and with Adam having retreated following the cocoon's formation, she now had a focus.
But her centuries old intuition told her that something was awfully wrong here, and that she must watch closely to see how things will proceed. Her mind raced with endless possibilities, each one more absurd than the last.
Tsubasa led the way up the small incline, the others following behind her. She was wracked with nerves, not sure what to expect.
When the five finally reached the top, they caught sight of the human sized form and instantly their faces lightened with recognition. "Tachibana!" Tsubasa let out, running towards her wayward teammate in the center of the crater.
From her position inside one of the trucks, Miku shouted in delight. "Hibiki!"
Quickly, the black haired girl exited the truck, and ran at full speed towards her friend, passing by Saint-Germain on the way.
Only for a hand to suddenly lock around her shoulder, nearly throwing her off balance. "Eh?" She said, looking towards the one who had grabbed her, finding herself looking Saint-Germain dead in the eye.
"I would stay back if I were you." The alchemist clad in her Faust Robe said cautiously. "We do not know her true state just yet. Let your friends bring her here first."
"St. Germain-san, what are you-"
"There is something terribly wrong here." The alchemist merely said, still staring ahead at the group crowded in the crater, releasing her hold on Miku's shoulder.
Miku's eyes widened, but she said nothing in response. She grabbed her shirt near her heart and turned to face the location where her friend was located, hoping for the best.
Inside of the crater, the Symphogear wielders hurried to their friend's side. They quickly found her down on one knee, facing away from them, and her head cast downwards towards the ground, unmoving.
"Tachibana, are you alright?" Tsubasa asked the kneeling Symphogear user. She did notice that she was clad in Gungnir, albeit looking a little bit...different than what she remembered. It was a bit darker in color than she recalled. And did she always have these small wings protruding from her back? And were these purple glowing lines always running across the armor's form?
In response to Tsubasa's question, Hibiki suddenly rose to her feet, standing to her full, yet familiar short height. She still faced away from them, not turning around.
"Tsubasa-san…" She whispered, almost going unheard.
Chris trudged forward closer to her. "Oi, dumbass! We were worried sick about you!"
"Yukine, please calm down." Tsubasa commanded. They still had to be cautious, but seeing as Hibiki seemed to be physically fine, they could relax a bit more now. The Ame-no-Habakiri user raised her hand to the device in her ear. "Commander, we have confirmed Tachibana's wellbeing. We're bringing her back now."
"Copy that, Tsubasa. Please escort her to the medical room so we can have them take a look at her." He ordered.
Genjuro relaxed in his seat, letting out a sigh he didn't know he was holding. "Looks like we might have been overly concerned." He said, eliciting a small laugh from Fujitaka.
"Yeah, maybe." The bridge member replied. "Hopefully everything goes back to normal from here."
"Don't jinx it." Aoi replied quickly and seriously.
"Sorry." The man replied and looked back to his console.
The commander looked between the two of them with a small smile on his face, but his expression dropped when he saw Elfnein, staring hard at her console, completely paralyzed. "Elfnein-kun, what's wrong?"
The small alchemist could barely form the words she wanted to say, merely speaking to herself. "What...are these...readings?"
"What are you-"
All of a sudden the alarms blared loudly throughout the command center, catching the members of S.O.N.G completely by surprise.
Genjuro shot to his feet, and screamed over the alarm. "Status report! Now!"
"We are detecting extremely high levels of energy rising from Hibiki-chan!" Aoi screamed back, furiously tapping away at her console.
Elfnein, who had been working nonstop from the beginning, raised her voice as well. "This is...this is the same pattern as before! The same one that came from the Divine Weapon! But there is more here! Something we have never seen before!" She said, transferring the rapidly changing data to the bigger display so everyone could see. "This...it's imbued within the Aufwachen wavelength!"
Looking at the visual readings on the display, Genjuro could barely contain his shock at the twisted, yet familiar pattern that he could see on the screen. "That's…"
Aoi let out a gasp. And Genjuro could only speak the words in horror.
Elfnein smashed her hand on the comm button, and screamed. "EVERYONE, GET OUT OF THERE NOW!"
The sudden panic and the background noise of the alarm from the comm caused the wielders to flinch suddenly, barely hearing the scream over the comm. "Elfnein?!" Tsubasa called out, but was met with only more noise.
Fortunately for her, there was someone on the battlefield that could deliver the message much more clearly.
Saint-Germain yelled. "GET AWAY FROM HER RIGHT NOW!"
Tsubasa turned around to stare at the alchemist, having barely caught her warning. "What are you-"
Tsubasa's step faltered. She looked at her teammates, and caught the look of complete shock and horror in their faces. Yet their eyes were not looking directly at her. No, they were staring at her stomach.
Or at least, what was left of it.
Tsubasa looked down, and caught sight of the far too familiar spear piercing through her midsection from behind. It looked quite strange in her eyes. Last time she saw it it was being wielded by Maria, but even then it did not look quite so strange.
It was a dark orange color, and glowing purple lines ran across its length like twisted veins. But the most surprising aspect...was the pulsating green core at its center.
And the spear was withdrawn from her with a nasty squelch. Tsubasa's mind, finally having caught up with reality, went into overdrive. She lost strength in her legs, and fell forward, her face meeting the ground in mere moments. Blood pooled beneath her, leaking from the gargantuan hole in her stomach.
Her vision was instantly darkening, and she could hear someone scream her name, but she was not sure what.
She turned as much as she could, desperate to catch sight of the one who had downed her, and froze.
"Yes," Hibiki said. "It is my time now."
The Gungnir user held her spear, Tsubasa's blood leaking from it in droves.
"I will change the world."
And the last thing Kazanari Tsubasa saw before her mind fell to darkness…
Was the eerie emerald glow of Tachibana Hibiki's eyes.