The world is lost.

Homura gives her usual warnings, Kyousuke doesn't throw a tantrum and Sayaka doesn't make a contract, Madoka chances upon a witch and dies before Homura can-, before anyone can come to save her.

There had been worlds like this before, and Homura no longer despairs. It's better when it happens early, long before Walpurgisnacht and before Homura becomes too invested in a particular world.

She stays to see if Mami and Kyouko stand a chance against Walpurgisnacht alone, but only reconfirms that the redhead tends not to show up at all as long as Mami doesn't die. There is nothing of interest left for Homura here.

"You're not going to fight?"

The white thing asks her the same question it always does.

"No. This is not the battlefield for me."

Kyuubey does not question her further – the golden light below them marks the beginning of the end.

Walpurgisnacht has many forms, and one of them is perfectly suited to killing Tomoe Mami. The familiars of the strongest witch are too sturdy for Mami to take out with her standard shots and too numerous for her to bring out the bigger guns. It becomes a battle of attrition.

Walpurgisnacht cannot be defeated in a battle of attrition. Akemi Homura knows this with a ninety-seven failures out of ninety-seven attempts certainty.

She has seen this scene in her original timeline already, right before she lost Madoka for the first time. She doesn't want the only memories that still hurt resurfacing, so she never stays to watch Mami fight alone.

Now she has stopped caring, and thinks the data might prove useful. She may try killing Mami instead of Kyuubey in the next timeline. She may also use Kyouko to do the job for her and avoid losing Madoka's trust. The idea gives her inspiration for nine different iterations.

Mami takes out seven familiars in the time it takes them to force her into close quarters. Walpurgisnacht spits out twenty-nine more in the same time.

Tiro Finale!

Tomoe Mami can clean the way ahead of her with her ultimate move and guard her back with her ribbons. This means only the attacks coming from the sides tear into her flesh, dislocate her left arm, rip off chunks of the pristine yellow dress and turn them into crimson-stained rags.

Mami survives the first wave, seventeen familiars total, and Homura feels a droplet of respect mix with the sea of contempt for the girl who helped contract Madoka sixty-three times. The second wave of twenty-nine familiars comes to finish things off. Walpurgisnacht has no concept of conserving firepower – it gives birth to forty more.

Tomoe Mami can heal minor injuries mid-battle. Minor injuries do not include crushed lungs and missing appendages. She can also use her final attack four times without recharging her Soul Gem.

Tiro Finale!

Tiro Finale!

Tiro Finale!

There is no teamwork between the witch's familiars, but when one of them lacerates Mami's thigh and pins her down to the ground, it makes it easier for another to sink its claws in Mami's face and climb up to the cherry on top, the murky Soul Gem in her golden-crimson hair.

Tiro Finale!

Homura stifles a pang of annoyance as the beast's jaws are torn open by a flash of brilliant light. Tomoe Mami overcomes her limits in a futile struggle to survive a few seconds longer. What if she had done that the very first time around and at least wounded the damn witch so that Madoka... But that's a what if, and Homura has seen and will see enough what ifs to make her want to take out a gun, release the safety and fire, fire, fire until both she and the accursed crystal on her hand are nothing more than an awful memory.

It takes Homura less than a second to purge the unnecessary thoughts form her system. Her face shows nothing anyway, too rusted to accommodate emotion. She goes back to watching the spectacle.

But Mami's Soul Gem is already obsidian black and it is doubtful if she even realizes she is about to die. It's a stroke of luck she can move on without becoming a witch and save her dignity, if nothing else. Tentacles of darkness claim the girl's neck and snap-

Tiro Finale

Light from darkness – preposterous. But there are new shadows to replace the fallen ones and one of them gouges out the girl's right eye, penetrates deeper into the skull and-

Tiro Finale

Something from nothing – unthinkable. But the rows of teeth hardly thin out and now they chomp down on her feet

Tiro Finale

her breasts

Tiro Finale

her wrists

Tiro Finale

her face

Tiro Finale

Life in death – contradictory.

Tiro Finale!

Tiro Finale!

Tiro Finale!

"This is sick," Homura finally comments, dry tone not matching her words. But she must feel at least this much, she must still feel because eventually she will succeed and she will still have to love Madoka or it was all pointless "Kyuubey."

The white thing wags its tail.

"I merely facilitate the contract. I can't stop it or change its contents. Even if I don't like them," it answers wistfully "And the wish always, always comes true."

Tomoe Mami takes a step forward, the bones in her leg clearly visible and blood still trickling happily from the ruptured flesh. There is nothing ahead but a sea of monsters. And yet the girl struggles forward, step after step.

Homura remains silent until the very end. She observes as Tomoe Mami, a Tomoe Mami who knows neither hope nor friendship, crushes Walpurgisnacht on her own.

I don't want to die alone.