Author's Notes: To my friends in the Philippines affected by the floods, stay strong and stay safe. The storm will come to pass and a new day will come.
I dedicate this chapter to all of you.
To my readers and editors, you have my most heartfelt thanks. I could not have come this far without your help and support urging me on. Without further ado, here is the final chapter of MPBT.
Act MMLXXXVIII – Mors Factus Sum
The grey skies moved so quickly that evening, her inclemency present in the howling winds and her fury rumbling in the crackles of thunder. She is there, watching me from her lofty throne with her eyes and ears shut off from the truth. She will not listen to reason, not after the cruel fate that had befallen her. Reality has been harsh for her, but she must return to truth.
Thus, I will pour out every ounce of strength I wield to bring her back.
I will break this vicious cycle.
I am the only one who can.
However, it will not be an easy feat. The odds are stacked against me, after all… and Elise de Lamarliere, the adamant knight of Lorelei Sankt still lives.
She is the last one standing between me and the Magni Domina, entrenched there at the banks of the Pasig River. Sworn by duty and unwavering faith, this knight will not leave her queen.
Together, they stand. Together, they will fall.
It makes no difference to me. Not anymore.
I arose from my perch of dead wood, watching over the Pasig River and the veil of fog that blanketed it. I floated up and rose over the towers of glass and steel and could see the entirety of Manila and the river that coursed through it. Was Manila always this big?
Did it matter?
From that altitude, I looked down upon that knight standing at the riverbanks. She glared back at me with the coldest of glares, cold knives that chilled my very soul.
It was at this time that a wisp of a memory surfaced in my mind.
I wasn't supposed to confront Elise de Lamarliere alone. Did I not have allies who would fight by my side?
Where were they?
Who were they?
Ever since that incident in Hokkaido, I had fought only for myself. I bore strength only for myself.
I only lived for myself.
All this time, I was my only ally.
It was all I needed.
The faint memory faded, replaced by voices that started to echo in my head.
"New York was beautiful then, with streamers hanging from the buildings to welcome the troops back home…"
"The fiestas were always amazing in Taysan, and the procession of the beasts was a sight to behold!"
"Ah, I remember the Romashka – her blue velvet curtains over the windows reminded me of home!"
The voices in my head spoke reminiscently. I couldn't tell whose voices they were or where they came from, but they seemed familiar somehow. They spoke of their homes, their fondest memories. Their words sank deep into my heart and came to life over the Pasig River before me.
Streamers sprung out from around me over the waters of the dark river. A strange procession of beasts, small and large, marched down the riverbanks through the thick fog. Then, blue velvet curtains parted to the side as if a play were about to start.
Had I gone mad?
An ethereal force then shook the city, its towers swaying from that force surging from the earth and sky. The towers were shaken so thoroughly that they were torn from their foundations and were severed from their earthly bonds, taking to the skies. It was the grandeur of the crushing darkness – a trampling symphony of destruction. This was a city under siege.
Then, I started to feel thirsty. My throat burned with a raging flame that seemed to course through my blood. This fire soon filled my mind as well – I recalled seeing my village burn. As I was lost in this vision, those towers that had taken flight were set ablaze. Consumed by the fires, the towers were gutted into blackened husks that took the shape of twisted hourglasses.
Was this of my doing?
As I pondered, the lone Puella Magi at the riverbank approached. She walked under the streamers and sauntered through the procession of beasts. She strode through the parted curtains and wrapped herself in the light of her Soul Gem.
She was prepared to do battle, and so was I.
Such a determined look was chiseled on Elise's face and her eyes were as steeled as her stance. Weapons then started to appear around her. They were not the great-swords she wielded, nor were they like the guns I have wielded in the past. They were strange, foreign weapons I had never seen in my life.
I glided over to the side to try and attack her flank before she could prepare these weapons. Without her great-swords, I could swoop in and kill her with one precise strike. My naginata's blade would sing the song of her demise.
However, time stood still for a brief moment.
Before I realized it, hundreds of fiery projectiles surrounded me from nowhere. The unwieldy weapons that Elise summoned were spent and were tossed aside. Elise fired them all in the blink of an eye!
The projectiles struck me and wrapped me in a ball of flame. Such painful, searing heat… It was an endless volley of fire where one blast was followed by another. Done with those weapons, Lorelei's knight ran down the riverbanks where she had produced another set of weapons – mortars.
The light bombs shot up into the dark heavens before coming down again, whistling a terrorizing tune. The shells fell upon me with great force and fire engulfed me yet again. This time, though, a new pain stung me as the bombs fell. My heart ached and a terrible loneliness nibbled at my soul.
I remembered someone supporting me with artillery-fire in the past.
I felt betrayed.
Loud blasts then resounded from below me as two metallic towers came crashing down onto me. It should have been a simple maneuver, but I couldn't seem to escape the falling towers. My movements felt so cumbersome and slow.
What happened to me? Why couldn't I move as fast as I wished?
A horn then blared out from the nearby bridge as I struggled to shove the toppled towers off me. I turned my eyes to the bridge and saw this vehicle – a gasoline tanker running up the trusses. Elise de Lamarliere rode atop this tanker, commanding it with her magic and aiming the tanker at me. Forced skyward by its momentum, the tanker flew off the trusses and Elise leapt away from it.
I watched fearfully as this tanker sailed through the sky straight towards me. A memory fluttered through my mind for but a moment. In that short, minute lapse, I could see a vast arsenal of tanks and aircraft that charged to the fray alongside me. I opened my eyes and saw one of these tanks – an M26 Pershing – flying straight towards me.
An innocent, hopeful smile had always accompanied these tanks. Where was she now?
The tanker soon closed the distance and exploded in my face. The heat charred me and the pain dug deep into my body. However, the bitterness I felt in my heart grew much stronger now. This bitterness stung more painfully now than the flames. Why did I feel so much pain?
Elise spared me no time to think.
From the waters of the river arose strange contraptions fixed atop a metal platform. At Elise's command, those contraptions launched missiles. From where I stood, though, they seemed like spears shooting out towards me.
I had to counter this.
I tried to summon my naginata, the weapon that had carved my fate since that fateful day. With that naginata in hand, I could end this treachery. I could finish what I had set out to do… I could find peace. However, no naginata appeared in my hand. That graceful blade would not lend me its strength.
How could this happen?
The spears struck me with blunt force, digging painfully into my chest as they forced me backwards. I was thrown down into the opposite riverbank, crashing hard into the cold pavement. Where was the strength I had kept for myself? Where was the skill I had honed all these forty years?
I was my only ally; that much was true. But I couldn't even rely on myself.
This battle was lost.
I'm a lumbering wreck, falling to the relentless assault of Elise de Lamarliere. The knight knew this, and would show me no mercy.
A sea of red lights appeared in the darkness, forming a concave of a crescent moon. Incessant beeping filled my ears as the sea of lights expanded. The red lights bathed me from all directions and my heart froze. They were bombs – bombs of Elise de Lamarliere.
A final act of trickery… a final act of deceit.
Please, take my life. I do not want it anymore.
Explosions rang out, one after another. Fire wrapped me again in its cruel embrace and the heat tore through me mercilessly. Excruciating pain would course through me, but it would not destroy me.
I wanted to die.
I wanted to die.
Please… I want to die.
End this pathetic misery of mine. Take this pointless life and cast it away.
Let me follow my mother and sister to their deaths.
My good mother and sweet sister…
Why did you have to die instead of me?
Why were you taken away from me?
WHY HAVE YOU TAKEN THEM AWAY FROM ME?
I understand now.
The pains from the fire grew dull. Darkness spilled into the depths of my soul… but the darkness was home. The darkness was all I have left – It's all I ever really had. The darkness could give me the death I so long for… and it could end this cold, uncaring world.
The darkness can end the world, punish it for its cruelty… I just had to wield it! The darkness would destroy the world, and would also destroy myself… but I did not need my life. I need not protect it.
After all, I have nothing to live for.
The forty years I have traveled, cloudy and incoherent, faded away from my memory. They meant nothing to me now.
It never happened.
From beyond the fires, I could see Elise de Lamarliere watching me. I arose from the flames and cast out a blast of pure darkness that caught Elise by surprise. The blast slammed into her and drew blood. Streaks of crimson splattered out on the pavement, utter shock in Elise's eyes.
Why do you fear, Elise? Can you not feel the darkness wrapping around this entire town? Can you not feel the despair that will consume us whole?
Rejoice, Carissima, for sweet death has come to embrace us!
Sweet death has come to free us from this delusion called life!
This darkness will shatter us, and the world will be no more!
Magia, Pacem, Bellum Terarum
Empty grayness engulfed the entirety of Mitakihara City that fateful evening. Howling winds blew through the streets as somber drops fell from the heavens for the world's inevitable fate.
Madoka Kaname ran through this suffocating grayness, moving as fast as her tired feet would take her. Drenched by the sparse showers and the lakes that had formed on the pavement, Madoka's shoes squelched from the water that had seeped through the seams. Her uniform felt heavy, dragging her down with the weight of the water that had clung on and accumulated. Tense air filled her lungs as she struggled to catch her breath.
Still, she ran through that grayness. She ran through that path where darkness and light blurred. Somewhere beyond this all, there was somewhere she needed to be. There were those who needed her help, and she couldn't deny them.
Behind the din of the raging storm, blasts of a machinegun echoed in the distance. Suspended there in the grayness of Mitakihara, Homura Akemi fought the rising tide.
A multitude of specters chased after Homura, assaulting her relentlessly to sap her strength. They were strange beings made up of a tainted, cosmic turquoise blue. They wielded weapons and wore costumes eerily similar to Puella Magi.
A handful of the specters kept their distance from Homura, bombarding her with cannons. Another group of specters circled Homura, riding atop planes that strafed their target with gunfire of their own.
From where Madoka was, she could see these specters. The sight made her frown.
These specters were familiar, almost. She had seen them in her dreams. She had seen them as Puella Magi. She had seen them as the friends of Michi Hideyoshi who trusted the Japanese girl with their lives. She had seen them as the girls who fought alongside Michi until the bitter end.
Other kinds of specters then started to appear to fight Homura.
The first was a group of specters would disappear from sight then ambush Homura with flurries from their rapiers.
"That's…" Madoka thought, recognizing this combat style well. "It can't be…"
Then came specters clad in heavy armor and wielded large, menacing great-swords that threatened Homura with mighty swings.
Finally, a certain type of specter wielded a cosmic scepter and blasted Homura with waves of that tainted, cosmic turquoise blue.
"That's quite a repertoire of minions she wields, isn't it?" Kyuubey's airy voice echoed in Madoka's head, "There must be tens of thousands of variants of those specters!"
Madoka turned a corner then hid in an alleyway, hiding herself from the grand battle in the heavens. The Incubator was there, waiting for Madoka expectantly.
"You noticed this, did you not?" Kyuubey asked, wagging his tail as he appeared from the shadows. "You are aware of their identities, so you know their circumstances."
Madoka stayed silent for a moment, gathering her thoughts.
Madoka's eyes turned to that monstrosity, the Dreadnaughthexe in the sky, and pity flooded her heart.
She then turned to the Incubator with unusual resolve.
"The Taint of the Dreadnaught manipulated Elise de Lamarliere's wish." Madoka spoke accusingly, her words sharp and determined. "When Hideyoshi-san succeeded Lorelei as the Dreadnaughthexe, she not only inherited the taint… she inherited the souls of those bound to Lorelei Sankt as well – Serafina Larivenko, Elise de Lamarliere… and Lorelei Sankt herself."
For this Dreadnaughthexe to use these last two forms of specters against Homura, Madoka felt as if she began to see how Michi saw this world. Madoka realized what it was that Michi sought.
To Michi, Homura was Elise de Lamarliere while Madoka was Lorelei Sankt.
The true purpose of this Dreadnaughthexe was not to fight Homura, but to destroy Madoka Kaname. While a handful of the specters fought against Homura, the bulk of them swarmed through the grayness of Mitakihara City to search for Madoka.
Still, Homura stubbornly stood between Madoka and the rampaging Dreadnaughthexe.
The question, though, was how long can Homura last against this vicious assault?
"You are more perceptive than you look, Kaname-san." Kyuubey praised, "That is exactly correct."
He then turned up to the grey skies where Homura struggled against Walpurgisnacht.
"For this reason, "Kyuubey watched Homura with intent, "Akemi-san stands no chance in this battle."
"I cannot let things stay as they are." Madoka then declared, "This has got to come to an end."
"You say that, but what do you intend to do?" Kyuubey tested her, "If you should fight and succeed, the cycle would only begin anew with you at its helm. Should you choose to fight and lose, or if you do not fight at all, then nature will take its due course. No matter what happens, this grief will consume the world!"
Kyuubey's eyes met with Madoka's.
"To which fate do you choose to be bound?"
In the distance, a skyscraper flew straight towards an unprepared Homura Akemi. The black-haired girl watched numbly as the tower approached and slammed into her with unforgiving force, pummeling her into the husk of a building.
Madoka gasped, but soon gathered her strength.
"Come and see."Madoka's reply was simple but earnest. She turned towards the building that Homura had crashed into and ran again through the greyness. The Incubator skeptically followed her to the wrecked tower.
Through the dusty air and the heaps of debris, Madoka carried onwards through the tower. Scores of the specters of tainted turquoise blue would try to stop her, but Madoka ran past them and went straight for the stairs.
She couldn't stop for anything, not now. Her friend needed her to be at her side.
There was a promise she made that she just couldn't keep.
Homura Akemi grunted in pain as she felt her leg caught under debris. Blood trickled down from the back of her head and bruises covered her body. The gem at the back of her hand was losing its purple light. Darkness was starting to take hold of her, eating away the poor girl's resolve.
Tears formed in her eyes as she held back her cries of pain. Her hand was settled on the silver shield she wore but could not bring herself to activate it. She didn't have the heart to repeat this fateful month. All of the suffering and grief she had gathered to last a lifetime finally took their toll on her.
Her hope had been blind. Her efforts were for naught.
"Hideyoshi-san…" she croaked, extending a frail hand out to the phantasm that floated in the distance, "I understand it now…"
Homura sniffed bitterly as she struggled to keep her hand up,
"Neither of us could protect the ones we loved." Homura gritted her teeth in pain, "You and I share this cursed fate, sinking deeper and deeper into darkness… We will never find peace."
A tear then ran down Homura's cheek.
"We never should have even tried."
Homura's heavy eyes slowly closed, no matter how hard she tried to fight it. The world around her blurred to be replaced by a frightening darkness that pulled her deeper and deeper into despair. This darkness, though, soon started to captivate her and urged her onwards. The purple light of her Soul Gem had all but faded away.
One last strand of hope tied her to reality. All she had to do now was to let go.
Just forsake this life.
However, Homura felt a warm hand gently hold hers.
Homura's eyes shot open to find a young girl – the young girl she had fought had to protect – holding onto her hand. There was a warm and comforting smile on this girl's face, a smile that she had seen in the past.
Homura had already wished to let go of that strand of hope. This time, though, her hope would not let go of her.
"Homura-chan, I'm sorry." Madoka then said, a hint of bitterness hanging about her smile, "I will become a Puella Magi."
Homura gasped, unable to believe her ears. She tried to protest, but Madoka knelt over at her side and embraced her. Madoka's determination would not waver this time – she had already thought this through.
"This is the answer I have found." Madoka whispered, "Please, believe in me."
Homura returned the embrace tearfully. She could not argue with Madoka anymore.
As Madoka rose back up to her feet, Kyuubey faced her and spoke with great intrigue.
"You're shouldering the destinies of countless worlds, and you're the focal point of all of the timelines. No matter how impossible your wish is, it will probably be fulfilled."
"That's right…" Madoka replied, the gravity of her situation becoming clear to her.
"Now, Madoka Kaname." Kyuubey finally asked, "What is it that you desire so much that you would pay for it with your soul?"
Madoka took a moment to breathe.
"I want to erase every Witch before they manifest -every Witch from every world, in the past and in the future, with my own hands!"
The Incubator was shocked. It did not expect to hear such a wish.
"I know about them dearly – those girls I have seen in my dreams." Madoka added, "I know the hardships they have gone through and the tears they have shed to fight back for the lives they have lost."
Madoka's determination grew adamant.
"It's time that they won that battle."
A brilliant light then shone from Madoka's heart as her wish awakened her soul. It was a bright, dazzling light – brighter than any light of the soul the Incubator had seen before.
"T-that wish…" Kyuubey warned, almost fearfully, "If your wish is fulfilled, it would surpass even time-space interference! It's treason against the wish itself!"
The Incubator gasped.
"Do you intend to become a goddess?"
"I don't care what I become." Madoka's solemn voice brimmed with her resolve. "All of those Puella Magi who believed in their hope – I want them to live with smiles on their faces.
I will destroy the rules that prevent that – I will change them.
I will do everything and everything to bring those girls peace – lift the heavy burdens that have been levied onto them. Centuries of tears and suffering have passed as those poor girls lost sight of their dreams and lost their way.
I will bring them home."
Madoka then turned to Kyuubey and declared,
"This is my prayer – this is my wish. Now, fulfill it Incubator!"
Act MMLXXXIX – Paenitentia Absoluta
Waters of complete, utter darkness surrounded the Japanese girl as she stayed there in silence. Ever so slowly, she sank deeper and deeper into the silent, lifeless depths. How long had she been there in that darkness?
Hunched over in that cold, cold water, she had already lost count of the years.
In this water, she was naked – her despair laid out bare and unbridled, mixing with the darkness. In this darkness, she was cold and frail. She embraced her knees, but it would offer her no warmth. In this coldness, she was alone – abandoned by the world she had forsaken.
This was the end of the line for her. This was absolute misery – the price for the life she had lived surrounded by hatred. It was in the darkness of the waters of this misery in which she would drown.
This was her nightmare turned into harsh reality.
Further and further, she would sink into darkness. This darkness was her home now, for the world meant nothing to her and she meant nothing to the world.
She would spend eternity wallowing in this despair naked, cold and unloved.
This was what she deserved.
A bright ray of light then suddenly shone upon the water, its radiance flowing down through the hollow depths. The girl turned her eyes upwards and the light blinded her eyes and prickled her skin. Trapped for so long in that cold darkness, she had almost forgotten about the brilliance of light and the gentle sensation of warmth.
For the first time in a long while, the girl stirred in the darkness. Her heart beat frailly against her chest but grew stronger, awakened by that ray of light.
It was a glimpse of the world she once knew.
Threatened by the intruding light, the darkness strengthened its hold on the girl and dragged her down deeper, further away from the surface. Weak and tired, the girl could not fight the darkness and felt herself sinking once more. Just as the girl was about to surrender again, a voice called out to her.
"Come to me."
The girl raised her tired eyes up again and saw a radiant figure descend from the ray of light. The radiant figure extended her hand down to the girl.
"Hideyoshi-san." The figure called the girl by her name, "I'm here to take you back."
The girl, Michi Hideyoshi, was overcome by fear and shame and turned away from the figure.
"No." Michi shook her head, "I don't deserve to come back. I have nothing to return to in that world!"
However, the figure patiently floated down to the girl's side and took her hand.
"That's not true, Hideyoshi-san." The figure said with a smile, "You've touched the lives of so many people, how could you say you have nothing?"
"W-what do you mean?" Michi asked, confused by this figure's words.
"You have done great things, Hideyoshi-san." The figure continued, brushing aside the unkempt hair that covered Michi's face, "Not a lot of people could have the courage to do such things, but you were able to do them. You did them for those you cared for – those you treasure in your heart."
"I… don't remember anything." Michi grew somber, turning away from the figure pitifully, "All these years are nothing more than a blur to me."
"Then, shall I help you remember?" The figure suggested with her warm smile, "Just trust in me, and I can show you what you have forgotten."
The figure's warm smile eroded Michi's reluctance until the Japanese girl managed a small nod.
"Alright." Michi cautiously agreed.
The figure laid her free hand on Michi's cheek and asked the girl to close her eyes. Michi did as she was told and listened to the figure's voice. The wisps of Michi's memories that had been scattered by time and darkness slowly started to come together, weaving back the threads of those times she thought she had forgotten.
Slowly but surely, the memories came together into coherent chains, shepherded by the gentle voice of the figure and its power. Great scenes of pleasant serenity and scenes of terrible hardship formed in Michi's mind, becoming portions – Acts - that retold the steps of Michi's journey in detail.
These were the Acts of Michi's life – footprints marked in the sands of time.
She had walked through these sands alone, Michi thought. This had been a journey she had started and ended alone, after all. As the Acts were laid out before her, though, Michi would see that this wasn't true. For three fateful years, Michi did not walk alone – there were those who walked at her side.
"These are…" Michi gasped as familiar faces started to come to mind.
"Yes." The figure nodded happily, "These are the friends you have cherished in your heart – they are the beacons of light who have guided your heart through this darkness."
A tear formed in Michi's eye, water that did not mix with the darkness. It was water that bore fragile yet growing hope.
"Ligaya…" Michi muttered their names reminiscently yet fondly, "Audrey…"
Michi had not spoken or head these names for such a long time. They were sweet names that carved a small smile on Michi's face. The tears now flowed freely down her cheek.
"My friends…" Michi sniffed, "How could I have forgotten?"
"For their sake, you were able to gather the courage to do what so many would not dare to do." The figure wiped Michi's tears gently, "You were able to give your life to save the world."
"Save the world… how did I do that?"
"You fulfilled a promise you made to your friends." The figure replied warmly, "You granted them their final wish."
Act LIV – Manila Sunrise
Smoke and soot hung about the air as Michi Hideyoshi came to that day. The skies were grey and somber and dying flames illuminated the horizon, licking at the smoldering remains of the city of Manila. The once grand city was reduced to rubble in the heat of the battle and the streets were a horrifying mess of bodies, but none of that mattered that day. The flags of the Empire of Japan had been taken down from the flagpoles, replaced by the star-spangled banner of the United States of America.
The fighting was over. The US had won.
Dazedly, Michi reached her hairpin and watched the turquoise blue gem that encrusted it. Tendrils of darkness dominated the gem, hungrily attacking whatever pockets of turquoise blue light remained within. Her battle with Lorelei Sankt flashed in her mind and she remembered dealing the killing blow, but her memory of the whole affair was starting to grow cloudy.
This was the Taint of the Dreadnaught taking root in her gem.
She had won her battle, and this curse was her reward.
Michi gathered her wavering strength and picked herself up from the rubble. She found her bearings then hobbled forward through the decimated streets. Sharp, burning pains stung at her from her countless bruises and wounds and her legs threatened to collapse under her own weight. She stopped for a moment, leaning against the empty husk of a building to catch her breath – but even breathing seemed painful.
"Not yet…" Michi whispered to herself, urging herself on. "There's still something… I must do…"
She braced her aching sides and carried on blindly through the smoke and haze. Before long, she finally found herself at the banks of the Pasig River. There, Michi found two girls lying down in the grass by the water – a young Filipina girl and a young American lady.
Their clothes were tattered and torn and blood spilled out onto the grass beneath them, flowing from the many wounds they had sustained. Their sides were blackened and burned from the blasts of explosives and bullet wounds dotted their bodies. They winced in pain and groaned in agony. The gems that adorned the pendant of the American girl and the metal bracelet of the young Filipina were already dark as night.
Dozens of spent Grief Seeds were scattered around them, but the girls have already given up on cleansing their gems. The Grief Seeds would cleanse them no longer.
The both of them knew that their battle was over. The both of them knew the end had come.
Michi walked on over to them and the two girls heard her approach. They looked up from where they lay and found the battered Japanese girl hobbling down the riverbank toward them.
"Michi!" The Filipina cried. She was absolutely glad to be able to see her friend.
She tried to stand up, but was held down by excruciating pain.
"Please... you don't have to get up, Ligaya." Michi said reassuringly, finally reaching her friends lying there on the grass, "It's alright now – we've won."
"Glad to see you're still in good... argh..." The American tried to greet Michi with a snide remark but coughed blood, "Heh... damn."
Michi, though, understood the American's gesture.
"I'm glad to see you too, Audrey."
She then reached for the hands of her two dying friends and held onto them tightly. Tears trickled down her cheek as she spoke, "I'm glad to be able to see the two of you again."
The three girls stayed silent for a while as Michi held her friends' hands. They all looked very much worse for wear but savored that pleasant, serene silence. In that moment, they could ask for nothing more.
"Y-your hands are warm, Michi." Ligaya croaked weakly, a peaceful smile on her face, "T-they... feel nice."
Ligaya's hands, however, felt terribly cold to Michi. Audrey's hands weren't any warmer either.
"It's a damn shame it has to end like this, huh?" Audrey turned to Michi, eyeing the Soul Gem that crowned her hairpin. "In the end, we're just a bunch of fools. We tried to break that cycle, and this is our reward..."
"But at least we tried, right?" Ligaya countered, her voice still bearing hope, "We fought the odds till the very end – we would die fighting."
The Filipina then pointed out to the distance. "Plus, it seems we were able to make good on our promise."
Audrey and Michi turned to where Ligaya pointed and saw a most heartening sight. The grey clouds were starting to dissipate in the heavens and a brilliant tint of orange started to spread in the horizon. Over the distant mountains in the east, the sun started to peek out.
"It's the sunrise..." Michi held her breath, "A new day."
"Indeed it is a new day." An airy voice then reached their ears, "A new Dreadnaughthexe succeeds the throne today, after all. The cycle finally begins anew."
"Incubator..." Michi growled. The creature just gave a slight nod and sat before the three of them.
"The tenure of Frau Lorelei Sankt as the Dreadnaughthexe was quite remarkable, spanning thirty-one years and two world wars. This was the era in which she reigned." The creature explained, eyeing Michi with keen interest, "It makes me wonder what kind of era you, Dreadnaughthexe, will usher in."
"My friends and I will be responsible for no such thing." Michi glared at the creature, "I will abdicate this throne."
"Abdication? That is absurd." The Incubator tilted its head, "There is no such thing as the abdication of a Dreadnaughthexe. From now on until you manifest and are defeated, you are the Dreadnaughthexe of the world, Michi Hideyoshi!"
Michi's face darkened as she pondered her next move. Audrey and Ligaya felt the tension of their friend – they could tell what Michi was planning to do.
"It's alright, Michi." Ligaya whispered, "Do what you have to do."
Audrey too gave her support with a slight yet resolute nod.
Michi returned the gesture then let go of her friends' hands. She transformed her hairpin into its Soul Gem form, producing a gem nearly devoid of all of its turquoise blue light. She then summoned her naginata and held onto it firmly. With a deep breath, she pointed the curved blade at her tainted gem and prepared herself to strike.
"Suicide, then. I figured as much." The Incubator coolly replied, not particularly moved. "However, I do not believe this move to be in your best interest."
"Why not?" Michi asked, her naginata's place still trained at her own gem. "If I destroy my gem, my friends and I will die but we will finally destroy the taint. We are willing to pay that price."
"Oh, but the Taint cannot be destroyed – not by you or any human in existence." The creature seemed rather amused, "This Taint was perfected by my kind after all! Do you even have the faintest idea of how it works?"
Michi's grip on her naginata faltered for a moment.
"There is darkness that lingers in humans – darkness rooted in their very nature. As far as we know, it is this darkness that the Taint seeks and feeds upon to sustain itself." The Incubator explained calmly, "Should you decide to go on and destroy yourself now, the Taint will surely find another Puella Magi to house it."
"As things stand, the three of you are the most powerful Puella Magi in the world! With the manifestation of Lorelei Sankt, the organized force of the girls of Salvae, Terrae Magicae was destroyed completely. The strength of the gems the three of you hold were already leagues away from the girls of Salvae, but what of the Puella Magi that remain in this world? They are nothing now but rabble compared to the old order, spread throughout the land without anyone to lead them."
"The powerful gems you hold with you now will not last for more than an hour. How much better do you think those other girls will fare? The manifestation will be instantaneous! Those girls that remain would be faced with a Dreadnaughthexe they couldn't hope to defeat now. It would be nothing short of a massacre!"
Michi was speechless, robbed of the resolve she had just mustered up. Audrey and Ligaya, already without strength, could only barely hold back their despair.
"Puella Magi all live on borrowed time, expending their magic to live until there is none left." The Incubator then said, "Those destined to become the Dreadnaughthexe and the Grand Witches who stand by her side are no different."
The creature then turned to the three of them and wagged its tail,
"Why don't you just let nature take its due course?"
The three girls stayed silent, not knowing how to respond. Then, the American and Filipina were assaulted again by waves of scathing pain. Their grave injuries were already taking their toll. Their Soul Gems might still have had an hour to stay intact, but their bodies would not hold out for more than a quarter of that. Death would take them before their gems would shatter.
It was at this time that Michi found her answer.
"If that is the case," Michi then said, facing the Incubator determinedly, "then I do not need to live."
"Do you still intend to commit suicide?" Kyuubey tilted its head. "Did I not tell you that breaking your gem is pointless?"
"I didn't say I was going to break my gem." Michi countered. She held onto her Soul Gem tightly then took a deep breath. With every ounce of strength she had left, she tossed her gem away and into the flowing waters of the Pasig River.
"What are you doing?" Kyuubey asked, "If your gem is taken away from you, your body will perish! Your gem will still deteriorate!"
"But without a body to sustain, the Soul Gem will preserve its strength." Michi said, watching her gem be carried off by the river's flow. "Thus, the Taint would be held stagnant in that gem. A Dreadnaught Witch may manifest someday, but I can delay that."
"Will you really forsake your life like this?" The Incubator was unprepared for this outcome. "Are you really throwing away this new day?"
"Once we made those contracts to become Puella Magi, we were already dead." Michi turned back to the creature, "With this, our deaths can be of some use – we can buy the world some time to prepare. This new day is not ours."
"The three of you..." Kyuubey watched the trio intently, "The three of you will be forgotten – buried underneath the sands of time!"
"We didn't become Puella Magi to be remembered." Michi then finally said, "We only sought an answer to our prayers. We only sought peace."
The Japanese girl then turned to her friends and gave them a smile,
"Right now, all I need is to stay here with the two of you. We can watch this last sunrise here, together."
Michi let go of her naginata then lied down in the spot between Audrey and Ligaya. She held her friends' hands fondly and turned her eyes up to the sunrise. The three of them were dying, but the happy smiles on their faces would have never given that away.
In those last fifteen minutes, the three of them were full of life. Their final breaths were lifted away by the gentle breeze.
Act MMXC – Sagitta Luminis
"Do you remember now, Hideyoshi-san?" The figure then kindly asked as she let go of Michi's cheek.
The Japanese girl could not speak, silenced by her awe of what she had seen. The journey she had long since forgotten was now clear once again in her mind. For a hundred and forty three years, these memories had been locked away in her mind. Now, the cloudy veil that had hidden them was lifted. These memories were Michi's once again.
"Hideyoshi-san, it must have been lonely here in this darkness." The figure spoke with sympathy, "It must have felt terrible thinking you were alone."
"But know this, Hideyoshi-san - those friends who fought with you to the very end and all of those people whose lives you have touched, they have never left your side. Your beacons of light have always guided you. You were never alone!"
"The cycle caused by the rules that govern this universe prevented Puella Magi from realizing this. The cycle prevented Puella Magi from experiencing true happiness."
"I'm here to change that, you see! I will break this cycle with my own hands and finally give Puella Magi a chance to find their peace."
All around Michi and the figure, the darkness in the water started to fade away. The water slowly became clear and the light illuminated the depths more intensely. The grip of the darkness on the Japanese girl loosened then soon disappeared. The darkness had no power over her any more.
Free of her chains, Michi's emotions swelled in her heart as she relived those moments once again, flashing through every tearful ache and every heartfelt smile. Overcome by her emotions, she leapt through the dark water and embraced the figure.
"Thank you..." Michi earnestly spoke as the flowing white dress of the figure wrapped around her. However, she did not know this figure's name.
The figure felt this thought flutter through Michi's mind and the figure smiled.
"I am Madoka Kaname, but my name does not matter." The figure said, returning Michi's embrace, "Everyone's waiting for you, Hideyoshi-san. Will you come with me now?"
"Everyone?" Michi asked, not sure what this girl named Madoka was trying to say
"Yes, everyone." Madoka smiled brightly, "You want to see them again too, right?"
Michi's heart skipped a beat but she managed a small nod.
"Then hold on to me." Madoka said, taking Michi's hand. "Trust in me."
Michi then suddenly felt herself rising up through the water with Madoka. Together, they reached the surface and Michi breathed for the first time in a long while. Above the water was a world of pure, endless and brilliant white that stretched out as far as the eye could see. Madoka brought Michi over to the white shore and let the Japanese girl sit down.
"Before we go, I have a little something for you." Madoka said, extending her hands over Michi's bare shoulders. Soft silk cloth of turquoise blue formed there and covered Michi's naked body. It was her blue kimono, pattered with morning glories. Then, a new layer of cloth appeared on top of the kimono, starting from just below her breasts. It was a hakama, held in place by a red ribbon.
Madoka looked at Michi's attire and seemed pleased.
"I knew a hakama would look good on you!" Madoka chuckled, a hint of pride in her voice. "It was only a sketch, but I knew it'd turn out nice!"
A sketch? Michi was a little confused, but she liked this new attire too. This made Madoka glad.
The figure clad in white then handed a small trinket over to Michi – the hairpin that had always adorned the Japanese girl's hair. This time, though, the gem of turquoise blue was nowhere to be found. In its stead was a flawless sapphire that shone in the brightness of the white expanse.
"My Soul Gem…" Michi asked the figure worriedly, "Where did it go?"
"You don't need it anymore, Hideyoshi-san." Madoka reassured, "You have done enough fighting for more than one lifetime. Your fight is my fight now - it's time for you to find peace."
"Well then, Hideyoshi-san," Madoka offered her hand to Michi, "shall we go and meet them?"
Michi seemed a lot more eager now and took Madoka's hand without hesitation. The vast, brilliant whiteness then started to shift as they started moving forward.
Large windows started to appear at the sides and Michi and Madoka passed by them. Through those windows, Michi saw a glimpse of the reconciliation of those closest to her.
In the first window, she saw an American girl in her early twenties facing her parents in the living room of their home in midtown New York. Michi could not hear the words she spoke, but intense emotion was painted on the American's face. Audrey's parents listened to their daughter then replied with earnest apology.
The American's expressions were guarded and she kept an air of cool and calm. A lone tear of happiness, however, slid down her cheek and a smile soon broke out on her face. She took out a tin of cigars and offered it to her parents. Michi then read the words off Audrey's smiling lips,
"Ma, pops. D'ya guys fancy a smoke?"
In the second window, a young Filipina girl was weeping in shame. She sat in between her parents on a hammock at the front yard of their home in rural Taysan, Batangas. Ligaya hid her face from her parents, ashamed as she told them her story.
Her parents then spoke to Ligaya in their native Filipino what Michi could only assume were kind and gentle words. Ligaya looked up to her parents, surprised to see them still smiling at her. Her mother and father then embraced her from both sides. Like a child, the young girl was overcome with happiness and started to shed tears of joy.
"Inay, Itay. Salamat. (Mom, dad. Thank you.)"
In the third window, a tall, Ukrainian girl walked through the snowy streets of Stalingrad and stopped to see the ruins of Salvae's Romashka building. Four Russian girls accompanied Serafina there and the five of them faced the ruins in solemn silence. They all brought flowers with them to the ruins, laid them where the entryway would have been then gave sharp salutes to their fallen comrades.
A second group of girls approached them. Serafina and her Zealots heard the approaching footsteps and turned around. They found three girls there – the three Carissimas of North America. A moment of tense silence would pass before Serafina started to speak.
The Ukrainian then extended her hand to the Carissimas and gave them an approving nod. The tension was lifted and the girls all merrily shook hands.
Then, in the fourth window, Michi could see a French girl sitting by herself before a chess table at a park of Strasbourg. Her eyes were concentrated on the game she played with herself but the subtle, disappointed frown on her lips gave away her loneliness.
A second person, a cheerful German girl, then appeared in that park and sat at the other end of the chess board. Elise looked up to her new opponent and was pleasantly surprised, but she willingly started the game anew.
Neither of them spoke, for no words had to be spoken. They were just happy to be in each other's presence once again.
Michi was amazed by what she had seen in the windows. Was this Madoka person the one who did all of this? Could this Madoka person be a goddess?
At the end of that hallway of wide windows was a small Japanese house built atop a hill. Standing there at the entryway were two figures – the beloved mother and sister that Michi had lost in the fire. Michi couldn't believe her eyes.
"O… Okaa-san! Matsuri-chan!" Michi called out in a heavy but delighted voice. She then waved to them vigorously like a child.
"Go ahead." Madoka sent Michi off with a happy nod. "This is your place, after all, the sanctuary I have made for you and your family. Feel free to do as you please."
This was her place, Michi thought. This was the place she could call home. That was all that Michi needed to know. The Japanese girl ran straight for her family and caught them in a tight embrace.
"Okaerinasai, Michi-chan." Her mother greeted warmly, stroking her daughter's hair fondly as she returned the embrace, "It's good to see you again!"
"Onee-chan! Onee-chan!" The little sister, Matsuri, greeted excitedly, burying herself in Michi's arms "We've missed you!"
Michi's heart leapt joyously as she spent that moment with her family. A hundred and eighty-three years may have passed, but this was still the family she loved and loved her back. Nothing would ever change that – nothing would ever take that away.
"Come in for some lunch, Michi." The mother then invited, "Some of your friends came over and are waiting inside."
"They're here?" Michi gasped.
"Yeah!" Matsuri nodded cheerfully, "They're all nice people, and they're fun to be around!"
The mother and sister took Michi's hands then led her into the house to meet her friends. Audrey, Ligaya and Serafina were there in the living room, clad in everyday clothing. Smiles were painted on their faces as they went over to Michi at the threshold.
"This is a nice place you got here." Audrey complimented with a grin, "Peaceful, simple and quiet – I like it here!"
"You have such a nice family too!" Ligaya added merrily, "Gng. Hideyoshi is really kind and your sister Matsuri's so cute!"
"That's right, comrade Hideyoshi!" Serafina then said appreciatively, "Thanks for letting us stay for a bit."
"D-don't mention it…" Michi said rather shyly. This was the first time she was being complimented like this after all – she wasn't used to such kind words. She was also filled with great joy to see her friends together with her again in this world. Just like her, their Soul Gems were nowhere to be found. None of them needed to fight. Madoka had already taken up their causes as well.
Just as they were about to come inside for a meal, two more faces approached from afar.
"Hello!" A bright and chipper German girl greeted, "Are we late for lunch?"
"Lorelei Sankt…" Michi was awestruck as the Magni Domina appeared at her doorstep. Then her eyes fell on the second guest. "And… Elise de Lamarliere."
"We're not here to cause trouble." Elise then hastily said as Michi's brow crumpled, "Quite frankly, we wouldn't really be able to fight without our Soul Gems."
Indeed, the two of them did not have their Soul Gems with them. Neither of them would transform and try to attack Michi and her friends. However, Michi and Elise still glared at each other – the two of them remembered their battle in the Edificio Gumamela well. They both looked as if they still had a score to settle, but Elise soon conceded with a smile.
"We're just here to talk today, Mademoiselle Hideyoshi." Elise spoke with clear diction, "We even brought wine."
"It's 1918 Bordeaux!" Lorelei then cheerfully added. Her bright eagerness dispelled whatever remained of the earlier tension. Audrey, Ligaya and Serafina all sighed in relief.
"I already know your story, Elise." Michi then said in a much calmer and friendlier voice than before, "I don't hold a grudge against you or Lorelei… or anyone, really. We were all just trying to protect those we loved and to find an answer to our prayers."
Michi then looked around at the wonderful company of people that had gathered around her and smiled.
"So, come on inside, you two! Let's see why you like this wine of yours so much."
Michi let both Lorelei and Elise into her home and ushered all of the guests into the dining room to eat. The conversation at the table was lively as everyone chatted merrily. Delicious food in traditional Japanese-style was served and old foes became friends over cups of wine. The sights and sounds warmed Michi's heart.
After a long while, Michi gave off a sigh of relief then walked out to the front porch to breathe in the fresh air. This truly was her place – her little plot of heaven.
From where she stood, Michi saw Madoka linger around the large garden. The figure clad in white peacefully hummed as she walked amongst the flowers with a happy smile.
"Kaname-san!" Michi then called out to her. She then joined Madoka in the garden. "I don't know how I can repay you, Kaname-san."
"You don't have to." Madoka shook her head, "As long as you are happy, then what I have done would be worthwhile."
"I see." Michi's tone was peaceful now as the burdens were lifted from her heart and soul. "Will you not come and join us for lunch as well, Kaname-san?"
"I will have to decline, Hideyoshi-san." Madoka shook her head, "There is still much to be done – battles to be fought. There are a lot of souls to be saved, after all – a lot of souls I have to defend."
"Every single girl who has ever made a contract and became a Puella Magi… They're calling out to me – asking for salvation. They want me to bring them home, just like how I have brought you home, Hideyoshi-san. There is a place in heaven reserved for all of them, but I must take them there. I must still fight the despair that holds them back."
"What about your place, Kaname-san?" Michi then asked, "Don't you have a place of your own to return to?"
"Well, I…" Madoka hesitated for a moment, "There are dear friends of mine I hope to return to once I can finally make a true miracle happen. The road ahead of me, however, is tough and the battles are many. I think it may be a while before I can return."
Madoka spoke with great resolution, but wisps of troubled concern could be seen on her face. This figure clad in white sensed a great disturbance and she grew rather uneasy.
"Then let me come and fight beside you." Michi then said without second thought, "I have already caused you a whole lot of trouble, Kaname-san. I can still remember losing myself as a Dreadnaughthexe. Let me at least make it up for you – this is the least I could do."
"But Hideyoshi-san, you don't have to fight anymore." Madoka shook her head, "You just need to stay here and be happy."
"I have already found my happiness, Kaname-san." Michi replied, her tone more adamant than before. "My friends and my family have never left my side. They will be with me in my heart wherever I go. Let me fight for you so that I can help you find your happiness too."
"We'll be with you, alright." Audrey then said, leaning against the threshold of the house. "If you're going to fight for Ms. Kaname then take me with you too! You weren't planning on doing this by yourself, were you, Michi?"
"That's right!" Ligaya added, appearing at Audrey's side, "Like we said before, wherever you go, we would happily follow!"
"The same goes for us." Elise then said, speaking on behalf of Lorelei and Serafina who gave willing nods. "We started off on the wrong foot, but we're all sisters-in-magic, aren't we?"
"You guys…" Michi grew heartened. She turned to Madoka and affirmed her decision, "Will you let us fight by your side, Kaname-san?"
Madoka pondered for a moment before replying with a smile, "Thank you."
"Onee-chan?" Matsuri looked sad as she and her mother came to Michi's side, "Are you leaving again?"
"Yes, but only for a little while." Michi patted her sister's head and kissed her mother's cheek. "Will you wait for me again?"
"These doors will always be open for you." said the mother kindly, "You and your friends will always welcome here, Michi."
Michi shared one more embrace with her family and bid them farewell. She then faced Madoka determinedly.
Madoka nodded then extended her hand forward. A flash of turquoise-blue light illuminated her hand and a beautiful naginata pole-arm appeared. In Madoka's hands, she cradled the weapon made of the sturdiest of wood and the strongest of tempered steel. The weapon glowed with turquoise blue light and smelled faintly of cherry blossoms. The figure then offered this naginata to Michi.
"This magic I offer to you does not come from a Soul Gem like the magic of Puella Magi." Madoka then explained, "Instead, this magic comes from the hope you bear in your hearts. This hope will be the source of your strength."
Michi opened her hands and Madoka gently handed the naginata over to her. Michi's hands were still accustomed to the texture and weight of the weapon, but she could feel power flow from the naginata. The naginata was radiant, imbued with Michi's hope.
One by one, the rest of the girls came forward to Madoka to receive their magic as well.
"The road that lies ahead will be long and winding." Madoka then said as she faced the volunteers, "I am asking you for more than I should, but stay by my side and we will make it through someday. No matter what happens, these homes will still be waiting for you – I'll make sure of it."
"We understand, and thank you." Michi said graciously, "So where shall we head first, goddess?"
"First, a good friend of mine – a certain Hero of Justice – needs our help. I have a feeling she will want to lend a hand and join us too. She's quite a competitive one, after all." Madoka spoke fondly as she remembered her friend's antics. "After that, we will go wherever and whenever there is a Puella Magi succumbing to grief."
"Their prayers have gone unanswered for too long. Let us show them that hope still exists."
"Where am I…?"
Homura Akemi stirred in a vast plane of white sand, surrounded by the splendor of the endless universe. The time-traveler arose from where she lay, her eyes still struggling to get used to the bright cosmic lights. She could still see what happened at Mitakihara in her mind – when Madoka became a Puella Magi and defeated Walpurgisnacht.
The phantasm that Homura couldn't defeat succumbed easily to Madoka's attack. Homura couldn't tell exactly what happened, but she remembered seeing bright light fill the earth as the Dreadnaughthexe and the taint it carried was purged for eternity.
What would happen now? The battle was over, right?
An intrigued, airy voice then filled Homura's mind.
"The new laws that Madoka Kaname has created is reorganizing the universe as we speak." The Incubator's voice was filled with fascination, "It seems her magic has gone beyond time."
Homura, overwhelmed by her unfamiliar surroundings, grew apprehensive.
"Akemi-san." The voice then called out to Homura, "Shall we look together for what's at the end of the being called Madoka Kaname?"
A distant yet tremendous rumble reached Homura's ears, causing her to turn around. She was terrified by what she saw.
Hurtling through the brilliant cosmos was a haunting mass of distorted colors and howling darkness, leaving behind a trail of violent black miasma as it headed straight for the Earth.
"This is the Soul Gem that Madoka Kaname's wish created." The Incubator then said, "Such energy! This must be the embodiment of all the grief, hatred and suffering that Madoka has chosen to carry on her shoulders!"
"Madoka Kaname created hope for every Puella Magi that ever existed - hope strong enough to create a new universe if she wished! However, would that not also create despair powerful enough to destroy a universe? It would only be natural!"
The mass of darkness rapidly expanded and started to tear through the universe itself, shattering it with sheer ethereal force. This mass then shot through the seams and took the form of an unfathomable horror that wrapped itself around the Earth. Absolutely defenseless, the Earth was enveloped by the horror.
Homura could only watch as the horror started to ravage the earth. The horror roared wildly as its miasma sank into the earth, draining the earth of its color and feeding on the souls of the humans who inhabited it. Maniacal laughter and desperate cries echoed out from the earth, piercing the already terrified Homura.
The helpless girl had no weapons left with here there on that plane of sand. Even if she did, she couldn't hope to even hurt such a terrible monstrosity. Homura could only weep.
"It's alright." A new voice then filled the cosmos – a voice that Homura knew well, "My wish was to erase every Witch. If that can be fulfilled, then I have no reason to feel despair!"
Homura turned to where the voice came from and saw her friend, Madoka Kaname, clad in her flowing white dress with a magnificent, shimmering bow in her hands. Madoka then drew power from the hope she had created for the universe as she pulled back the bow. The countless wishes she had fulfilled were then fashioned into arrows of light and shot into the horror that terrorized the earth in a blistering volley.
An explosion of brilliant light consumed the terror, forcing Homura to shield her eyes. Homura lowered her arms as the blinding light faded away, but her heart skipped a beat. The volley of arrows was not as powerful as she hoped it would be.
"It is just as I hypothesized." The Incubator spoke as it watched the silhouette of the horror grow visible in the dying light, "Madoka Kaname may have created tremendous hope, but it still will not measure up to the Grief she has created!"
Madoka's attack ousted the horror from the Earth, but the mass of darkness still stood strong. The terror then roared again and reciprocated Madoka's attack with a volley of its own – beams of howling darkness trained at Madoka.
"Can this be truly possible?" Kyuubey grew curious, "Could a goddess be forsaken – destroyed - by her own wish?"
"Madoka!" Homura panicked at Kyuubey's words. She cried out to the goddess at the top of her lungs, "Look out!"
"Don't worry, Homura-chan." Madoka then reassured as she calmly faced the incoming beams, "I'm not the only one who shares this wish now."
A wide veil of dark storm clouds then appeared before Madoka, expanding rapidly to shield the goddess. The storm clouds crackled with lightning as the beams slammed into it. Sparks flew wildly in the heavens, but the beams could not penetrate the celestial shield. Instead, the beams were deflected away from the goddess.
"Trying to go for the queen directly, huh?" An energetic voice taunted the horror. "There's more than one piece on the board, you know!"
A young German girl with golden hair and sky blue eyes appeared at Madoka's side. The grand crown that rested on her head was radiant and the royal scepter she held in her hand bristled with power.
The sound of cannon fire then rumbled in the distance as a hail of shells shot through space and slammed into the rampaging horror. Homura turned around to the sound of the cannons and saw an astounding battery of M107 heavy artillery pieces and a formation of M1A3 Abrams tanks fitted with 120mm Rheinmetall guns. These large guns and tanks disappeared in flashes of light to reveal a tall American and a young Filipina girl watch the horror be stunned by their assault.
"Gotcha, you little bugger." The American clenched her fist that held her golden neckerchief as she cheered, "There's plenty more where that came from!"
"We can't celebrate yet, Audrey." The Filipina advised with a chuckle, "This battle is far from over."
The two girls then summoned their weapons again and unleashed another barrage towards the horror before it could recover.
"These guys are…" Homura couldn't believe her eyes. "Madoka, don't tell me they're…"
"That we're what?" A lively voice tauntingly asked, "Jeez, transfer student. You're always so uptight!"
Homura recognized that voice. She looked around for the source but couldn't see it anywhere.
A magical veil was then lifted and a girl with short, blue hair and a majestic white cape that hung from her shoulders appeared. The girl grinned at Homura and gave her a peace sign.
"Sayaka…" Homura was amazed.
"Ah, so you're the 'transfer student' that comrade Miki has been talking about." A second girl, a Ukrainian with a rapier that hung by her side added, "Comrade Miki says she always thought you were so cool – almost as cool as this other 'Kyouko' girl, was it?"
"H-hey, Serafina!" Sayaka blushed, embarrassed by the Ukrainian's words. The Ukrainian then gave a hearty laugh. Homura was touched that Sayaka admired her somewhat and was rather amused, but there were more pressing matters at hand.
"What's going on here, Sayaka?" Homura asked, "Why are all of you here?"
"We're here to help Madoka erase the grief that exists in the universe, I think…" Sayaka wasn't sure if she remembered correctly. The caped swordswoman then grew resolute, "But basically, since Madoka brought me out of my grief, I couldn't just stand still now could I? So we chose to fight for her."
Sayaka then showed her back to Homura and grinned.
"Hey, transfer student. D'ya know what an archangel is?"
Spreading out behind Sayaka was a pair of transparent, celestial wings of pure, brilliant white. Lorelei, Audrey, Ligaya and Serafina all wore similar wings and certain radiance emanated from all of them. It was a heartening sight.
However, the horror too had cards to play.
The horror growled and fragments of its trail of miasma descended down towards it. These fragments took the shape of small, sickly creatures that moaned in agony. The creatures gravitated towards the horror and formed broad, menacing tendrils that reached for the goddess and the girls who fought at her side.
The beams of darkness that Lorelei had deflected earlier now took the form of winged giants possessed with maddened fury. The giants flew at breakneck speed and loomed over the battlefield, blocking out the light of the stars with their sheer number. Then, the horror too was already preparing to unleash yet another volley, one more powerful than the last.
"Mademoiselle Akemi, this place is not safe." a new voice said, her approach heralded by the clink of heavy armor, "Please stand back and leave the fighting to us."
Homura turned around and saw a French girl clad in knight's armor appeared, carrying a heavy great-sword in her hand. She moved in the heavy suit of armor easily and held the heavy great-sword as if it were weightless. Also, a pair of those celestial wings grew from her back as well.
Homura turned to the girl, wishing to speak. However, Elise stopped her halfway. The French girl could see it in Homura's eyes. Homura wanted to fight, but this fight was not for her.
"Your eagerness is admirable, but we are more than prepared to fight this horde." Elise assured Homura, "The goddess has inspired many more than one might think."
Behind Elise de Lamarliere was an army of Puella Magi who marched bravely through the sand. Thousands of girls came to the fore, ready to fight for Madoka Kaname. Homura was speechless, but she still wanted to fight.
Madoka was her only reason for living, after all. Homura couldn't live without her greatest friend at her side.
It was at this time that a gentle hand rested on Homura's shoulder.
"Akemi-san, I understand how you feel." One final voice spoke with sympathy, "For those you treasure the most, you would be willing to give up everything."
Homura turned her head to find Michi Hideyoshi with a warm smile. She wore that blue kimono that Homura knew so well. However, a hakama tied with red ribbon adorned her kimono and those white, majestic wings spread out behind her as well.
Homura, though, turned away.
"If you understand me, then why don't you let me fight too?"
"You treasure Kaname-san; that is true. But know that Kaname-san treasures you as well." Michi then said, "She doesn't want you to throw your life away. Don't give up on life as I have done, Akemi-san. After all, the light that guides Kaname-san's path is you."
"I… I am her light?" Homura turned to Madoka as the goddess meditated and gathered her strength. The goddess drew from the hope she had created and weaved them into divine strands of the purest energy, fashioning them into arrows of hope.
Could it be that Madoka could do all of this because of her?
"So live on, Akemi-san. Unlike us, you still have a life to live – don't waste it." Michi spoke solemnly as her faithful naginata appeared in her hand, "Live it to the fullest, and enjoy every moment of it. Protect the light that Kaname-san wields!"
The forces of the horror then rallied and charged through the cosmos, consuming everything they come across in the grief they carried. Madoka and her allies, though, stood firm.
"I'm in good hands, Homura-chan." Madoka said as her bow was ignited with mystical flame, "With everyone's help, I know I can make a miracle happen. Once that happens, I'll come back for you and for everyone else."
Madoka prepared herself to fire and the girls readied the weapons imbued with their hope.
Michi's wings spread out before her and cherry blossoms appeared around her, fluttering down from the heavens. The Japanese girl swung her naginata with a graceful stroke and the cherry blossoms shot forth towards the horror. These blossoms joined the hail of tank and artillery shells that raced through the horizon and flew alongside a fearsome wave of lightning. All of these came together around the radiant arrows of Madoka Kaname, crafted from the hopes of the entire universe. Under the cover this blistering barrage, the girls charged to face the incoming horde, ready to fight for their hopes and dreams.
Homura watched as Michi swung her naginata. She always remembered seeing this girl fight with furious eyes and a burdened soul. There was none of those that day. In Michi's eyes, Homura could only see peace.
A gentle breeze blew through Mitakihara City one pleasant afternoon. Clear blue skies wrapped the city skyline and the bright sun smiled kindly. It was a very peaceful scene.
At the riverside graveyard, Homura Akemi faced the great cherry blossom tree and observed it from its roots to its crown. It was a magnificent old tree that stood the test of time and weathered countless storms throughout its life. Homura laid a hand on its rough bark and felt as if she could see glimpses of Michi's journey like she had done in the past.
Homura then turned to the Mitakihara River and watched the bright sun sparkle in its clear, flowing waters. Beyond these waters, she could see the Mitakihara General Hospital and the room from where she first saw this cherry blossom tree. This tree was dead when Homura looked out to it, but it had come back to life somehow. It had come back to life and was able to blossom once more.
The sound of footsteps reached Homura's ears. Homura turned to the source of the sound and found a girl with curled golden hair and a pleasant smile on her face.
"I had a feeling I would find you here, Akemi-san." The girl said, joining Homura under the shade of the tree, "You're quite fascinated with this one, huh? You visit this tree every day."
"I have my reasons." Homura's replied plainly, "It's a long story..."
"I see..." Mami took Homura's reply in stride as she stood beside the time-traveler. A moment of pleasant silence would pass before Homura would speak again.
"Why were you looking for me?" Homura asked the girl standing at her side, "Are the demons attacking again?"
"No, everything's fine for now." Mami reassured, "The attacks have come more often recently, but you, Kyouko and I will manage."
"Hmm..." Homura hummed, losing interest in them matter quickly.
"Akemi-san, I've actually been meaning to ask you about those ribbons you wear." Mami then said, turning to the time-traveler with a smile, "Where'd you get them? They're really pretty."
Homura opened her mouth, but could not find words to speak. She didn't know how to explain her circumstances to Mami. She didn't know if Mami or anyone else would be able to understand, so Homura hesitated.
"Someone gave them to me." Homura said guardedly, avoiding Mami's searching gaze.
"That someone would be an old friend of ours, right?" Mami then asked. Homura was startled. The golden-haired girl then smiled and showed Homura her wrist where a thin red ribbon was tied like a bracelet. "I guess I was given one too."
Homura was at a loss for words.
"If you have that..." Homura started slowly, "If you have that, then you know about Madoka..."
"A little bit, yeah." Mami nodded, a small frown growing on her face, "There's still a lot of things I don't understand, but it's coming together bit by bit."
The smile then returned to Mami's face.
"But I do know this, Akemi-san. You, Kaname-san and I were great friends once. I think that's what matters."
"Now that I've said that..." Mami then turned away from Homura and towards the tree, "I guess it's time for me to thank a certain someone for protecting me even if I was foolish and stubborn. It's also time for me to apologize to this certain someone for not trusting in her enough – she's a much better person than I can ever hope to be, after all."
"No, don't think like that." Homura shook her head, drawing Mami's eyes from the tree. "I'm the one who treated you harshly. I looked up to you, Mami-san, and I still do... for me to be so cold towards you was insensitive of me."
"I see." Mami gave off a sigh of relief, "I guess this makes us even now."
She then turned to Homura with a bright smile and asked,
"So, Akemi-san, can we finally start over? Can we become friends again?"
Homura turned to Mami's eyes and saw an earnest clarity in them. These were words coming straight from her heart. Hearing these words, Homura was overcome with emotion and wrapped her arms around Mami.
"Of course." Homura said, sniffing as she fought to hold her happy tears, "Of course we can become friends again!"
Mami gently returned the embrace and patted Homura's head fondly. The ribbon tied on Mami's wrist brushed against the ribbon in Homura's hair.
"Is this what you wanted, Madoka?"
As Homura thought this, a gentle breeze blew by them and cherry blossoms then started to flutter down from the tree. As the petals fell weightlessly onto her shoulders, Homura knew things wouldn't be so bad.
"We'll be waiting for you, Madoka. Do your best."