Inori quickly sprawled to her belly as another barrage of cannon fire exploded somewhere overhead. The young girl had only spent a short time with her magical power, and this was by far the most hectic maze she had bravely entered yet. She grunted softly and crawled forward as the isolated world around her seemingly went to war with itself. The ground around her formed a dirt valley that somewhat resembled the World War I trenches she had seen photos of in history books. When she escaped this battlefield in a slow crawl, she carefully rose back to her feet and shook her head to rid herself of the ringing sound in her ears. She then brushed the dust off the yellow petticoats of her Magical Girl costume, causing the dress's matching fabric bracelets to rattle on her wrists.
While walking through a short tunnel leading out of the war zone, Inori thought back to the events that had brought her to this strange location. It had only been a few weeks since an odd talking creature had visited her. He had promised to make her wishes come true and give her the power to protect the people around her at a price, and Inori had accepted his offer after careful consideration. The odd being reminded her somewhat of a ferret, an animal she normally had an inexplicable fear of, but this peculiar specimen had helped her overcome her phobia. He always provided the best advice for dealing with the evil Witches she had sworn to fight. He was also very kind and supportive to her, and never failed to inform her where the next monster had appeared.
When the tunnel ended, Inori was standing in a new location. A single path remained in front of her, and on either side were rows of glass display cases containing various dishware. It didn't take long before she realized every piece of china here was a teacup. They all had slightly different shapes and sizes, but most were painted with soft ivory colors. As Inori continued forward, the elevated heels of her yellow and orange boots clicked softly against the marble floor of this regal place. The serenity and cleanliness of the hallway reminded Inori of the church she often visited at the end of each school day.
When Inori passed the last cabinet of teacups, an oddly-shaped door stood in front of her. She knew passing through it would leave her in the heart of this Witch's maze, and she readied herself by summoning her weapon into her hand. It was a white flute decorated on one end with a yellow crown, and it allowed Inori to use the full extent of her powers in combat. After taking a deep breath, Inori opened the door and took a leap of faith into the abyss in front of her.
Inori inspected the darkened arena that now surrounded her. Her eyes widened with horror after they adjusted to the difference in light and saw various forms attached to the ceiling of the chamber, each held in place with webs of black fabric. When her pupils finished dilating, she could see these figures were human remains in varying stages of decomposition. The missing persons she had been hoping to rescue were a lost cause, but she could still stop the monster that had killed them from causing more grief. She quickly regained her confidence and positioned herself for combat when she heard a single set of footsteps approaching her.
The Witch who owned this maze had a simple form: A human figure a few inches taller than Inori, made purely of an indistinct dark matter. She had a clearly feminine figure, with her most defining characteristic being her chest. Her sudden approach made Inori growl quietly, and the determined Magical Girl quickly brought her flute to her lips to play a short melody. The crown on the flute began to shine with a yellow light that brightened the entire chamber, and Inori soon pointed the end of the weapon toward the Witch so it would fire its magical payload.
The glowing projectile was a wasted effort. Just before she was struck, the Witch dissolved into scraps of black cloth and "ducked" under the flying ball of light, allowing it to safely strike the opposite side of the pit. Her own body was made of the same dark ribbons that imprisoned her victims, and Inori clenched her teeth upon seeing the attack had failed. The brightly-dressed heroine then heard the ground under her boots began to rustle, and she hopped a few feet to the side after sensing what this sound meant. A nest of black ropes emerged from the ground where she had been standing, viciously grabbing at the air where her ankles had been only a second earlier. Inori frantically continued to play this game of leapfrog each time another pool of darkness formed under her feet. Her ability to dodge deadly attacks made the Witch of this place feel slightly jealous.
Inori was caught off guard when another barrage of gunfire exploded from some invisible cannon in the room. Although she was not struck by the violent projectile, the jarring sound was enough to interrupt her pattern and break her concentration. As she paused to shake her head of another ringing sensation, the Witch's webbing emerged from the ground she was standing on and finally found their weakened mark.
Inori was overwhelmed with shock as the ribbons around her ankles suddenly spread in all directions, quickly tangling around her limbs and keeping her trapped an inch or two off the ground. When the bindings tightly wrapped around her right wrist, she was forced to drop her weapon to the ground. With the threat taken care of, the Witch finally took physical form in front of her again. The diabolical female said nothing as she tilted her head curiously, then reached to the single braid on the right side of Inori's head with claw-like digits.
The Witch was interested in the fact that Inori wore her Soul Gem as a hair decoration. This was a fairly unique trait that sparked a few happy memories in the monster's broken mind. Even in her time, it was more customary for Magical Girls to wear these as brooches, and her thoughts always returned to herself when she tried to think of other warriors who adorned themselves the say way Inori did. Her fingers soon wrapped around the glowing yellow heart attached to Inori's braid before removing it from the squirming girl's head.
Inori suddenly shivered as if a giant cold hand was wrapping around her entire body. When she saw the Witch was now holding her Soul Gem in her dark palm, she gasped in terror. To Inori, the Soul Gem was an item of unspeakable power; the thing that granted her all of her magical abilities. While in possession of the Witch, however, it was a delicate bargaining chip that left Inori pleading for her very life. Small tears began collecting in the corners of her golden eyes as she spoke to her enemy.
"Gi-... give that back! That's really important!"
The Witch only grinned at her opponent's suffering. The girl's sudden change in attitude could only mean one thing: This one already knew what the tiny gem really was. The Witch ignored her begging and only began tracing the gem's heart-shaped perimeter with the index figure of her opposite hand. This caused Inori to shiver even more as she was overcome by some unseen icy touch. When the Witch was finished with this taunting exercise, she finally replied in a dark, wispy voice. Her ghostly eyes never left the jewel in her hand.
"You're very pretty, Inori..."
Inori's frightened eyes widened further. It knew her name. This added to the poor girl's current horror, and it would only get worse as the Witch continued her ominous words.
"...but nothing can stay pretty forever."
Inori now gasped with fright when her enemy finished speaking. Her pleas became more frantic as she dug for more strength to struggle against her silky trap.
"Please, don't! I won't bother you any more if you give it back!"
The Witch finally looked directly toward her and grinned. The razor sharp teeth that armed her mouth became visible as she spoke forward.
"Don't be so scared, little one. You're better off in Hell than where this thing will lead you."
Inori tried to fight back her tears before making her final desperate objection.
The captured Magical Girl couldn't even finish her one-word response before it was over. In a single instant, the Witch ruthlessly closed her fist and crushed the precious Soul Gem she was holding. As the sound of shattered glass echoed across the walls of the maze, Inori's energetic eyes suddenly became blank yellow discs and slowly closed. Her head then lifelessly slumped downward, as if she were a puppet that had just had its strings cut, and her flute disappeared from the ground. The Witch motioned for her ropey minions to release their hopeless prisoner as Inori's vibrant Magical Girl costume flickered in yellow light and reverted back to a brown and tan school uniform. The deceased Magical Girl's corpse toppled to the ground with an expression of merciful sleep frozen on her face, and her opponent felt this was an appropriate end for her.
The wicked Witch opened her fist and stared at the fine golden glitter in her palm for a few seconds. She contemplated over whether or not it would mix well into tea, as she had never tried flavoring the drink with pineapple before. After a while, she silently shook her head and casually rotated her palm so the ashes would scatter to the floor. Another foolish Magical Girl being defeated by her hand was all that mattered.