It had been days since Madotsuki had left her room. She was so hungry, so thirsty, so tired. Her parents had begged her to come out and talk to them. She wanted to so desperately.

But Madotsuki couldn't leave. If she left, she'd use up her magic. And she was not going to let her family be eaten by her own witch. So she stayed in her room and slept.

Dreamland was the only place Madotsuki had any power. She had suffered from nightmares since she was a child, so she wished to travel to other people's dreams instead. She could help them deal with their demons, even if it was for only one night.

She didn't go to other people's dreams anymore. She simply wandered through her own crumbling psyche, admiring the scenery.

There were a lot of doors in Madotsuki's dreams. That made sense to her. Before, when she traveled in her sleep, she'd think up a door and walk through into someone else's head. But the doors here just led to other parts of her dream.

The first place each door lead was to a witch's labyrinth, but with no witches to produce them. She'd never seen these ones before, but they all seemed oddly familiar. They led into other areas, which led into others, and so on and so forth until Madotsuki was back where she started.

It took until her first encounter with one of the bird-girl familiars for her to understand. These were Madotsuki's possible barriers. Each different one represented some aspect of herself. The number and shape worlds displayed her love of mathematics and geometry. The snow and dark worlds were good metaphors for her loneliness.

And the silent girl with the blonde ponytail she found in the pink sea wasn't so much a hint about her past as it was a diagram of the last straw.

Sometimes Madotsuki found things she could use. She called them Effects, but really, they were the powers of other magical girls she'd met over the years. Some of them were fun, some were useful, and some were just… interesting.

The implications that the ability to turn one's hair into poo had on one's wish were staggering.

The knife was the only exception. For one reason or another, it had been the weapon she summoned when she fought witches and familiars.

One would think that a girl who wished about dreams would have a more interesting weapon.

But she'd found all the Effects. She'd discovered all the secrets. Hell, she'd sought out the room with the face five times at this point. And her soul gem still managed to be darker every time she opened her eyes.

There was no escaping her fate. She was going to die soon. There was only one thing left she could do to protect her family from herself.

God knows she had already failed to protect her friends.

Madotsuki slid open the balcony door and stepped out into the night. She reached behind the radiator and pulled out a step stool. She'd hidden it there after she'd learned what happened to magical girls when they lost all hope.

She'd run out of hope that she'd be able to avoid using it.

She set it against the railing, climbed the steps and looked down at the pavement that would be her demise. She didn't want to die. Tears still pooled in her eyes and her hands trembled at the thought of it. But she couldn't hurt her parents. They were the only people she had left.

Her soul gem was at its absolute limit. It was pitch black and swirling with corruption, sort of like motor oil in a puddle. She had to do this.

Madotsuki closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and-

"Please, stop."

The sudden, unfamiliar voice almost made Madotsuki fall from sheer shock. She didn't know how anyone could get to her from this height. Slowly, so she wouldn't upset herself, she turned around to face the voice.

It was a magical girl, like herself. A pink-haired girl in a petal-patterned costume with a serene smile on her face. Madotsuki figured she must have jumped up to the balcony when she saw Madotsuki's... ascent. The girl walked towards Madotsuki, probably to try and talk her down. Madotsuki held out her filthy soul gem to explain why she was beyond help.

But the girl's smile remained fixed on her face as she reached out and pulled every last drop of corruption out of Madotsuki's soul gem. It sat in her hands, as bright a maroon as she'd ever seen it, before vanishing in a flash of light.

Madotsuki could only stare in utter shock and gratitude as she realized what the girl had done. The girl smiled obligingly, as if she'd just lent Madotsuki a hairband or a pencil. Like she hadn't saved her from becoming a twisted monster beyond her worst nightmares.

"Don't worry. You won't have to hurt anyone, I promise." The girl didn't move her mouth, but Madotsuki heard her say it anyway. She began to cry, though she wasn't sure what emotion brought it on. The girl held out her hand. "You'll be with your friends very soon. Okay?"

Madotsuki nodded through her tears and reached for the girl's hand. Some part of her realized she was falling towards the girl, but she didn't mind.

And so she departed with the Law of Cycles.