Written for the prompt i"Wherever fate demands me...I will go."/i - Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda y Arteaga (1814-1873), 19th-century Cuban author. For femgenficathon 2011.
"At twenty-five, I wonder how much longer you can keep up the life of a magical girl."
"Well, if by the 'magical girl life' you mean my demon hunting career as a girl, that's a poor question, because I've been a woman in anyone's estimation for years now." While Kyubey lacked a lot of the leverage he had possessed in the previous universe, Homura would never come to find his presence comforting, or even comradely. He was, at best, a tolerable alternative to solitude. Mami and Kyoko had lives of their own that she preferred not to interrupt. "How long do most of our careers last, anyway? You should know that better than I do." Homura rose from her perch on the flimsy scaffolding, looking back over the city, flashing bright under the glare of the afternoon, that she had finally come to admit was her permanent home. "I'm going to do this for the rest of my life. For as long as it takes. I'm not so pompous as to grant myself a respite. Only Madoka can do that for me."
"The thing that others call "God," you've always called 'Madoka.'"
"It stands to reason that God would have many names. ...I'm just the only one who knows her personally enough to call her Madoka."
"Humans call people like that 'mystics.' Or 'prophets.'"
"If you want to get closer to human ideas about God and religion, talk to Mami or Kyoko," Homura shrugged. If she hadn't known the divine on such a deep and, simultaneously, mundane basis, she would've probably been agnostic.
"But you really are something like those things, aren't you, Akemi Homura?" Kyubey continued. "I'm almost positive that you remain in intimate contact with your goddess."
"She comes down to earth from time to time. She speaks to me in dreams. It's Madoka who sends me out from Mitakihara. ...It's my own inclination toward her sacred ground that keeps bringing me back. ...Haven't we talked about this before?"
"I can see the tension in your body. ...I guess that means we're going now." Kyubey stood and stretched, cat-like.
"Try and keep up, Kyubey." Homura hopped off the weak railing, which bent under her weight, then sprang into the air, white wings gliding her safely toward the ground.
There were demons near enough, weak ones. If there had been a less powerful individual available to dispatch them, Homura would've let her (or him) handle the situation. It would've been good experience for someone just starting out. But demons sighted couldn't be left to roam for long, so Homura put her bow to the task of vanquishing them. Three arrows for five foes. There was nothing like the satisfying thunk of a target pierced properly.
"Between Tomoe Mami and you, Akemi Homura, Tomoe Asuna will be a military-level marksman by the time she turns seven," Kyubey commented.
"Then someday she'll be the star of her school's archery or tennis team. There's no way either of her mothers- or I, for that matter- would ever see her walk down this path." She fixed the deceptively cute creature with one of her many stern looks, perfected by the innumerable trying situations she had lived through in this timeline and others. "And I'd better never see you trying to convince her otherwise."
"At this point, Tomoe Asuna does not appear to possess the sort of potential you or her mothers did. Perhaps this is related to her current age. A three-year-old human is only just beyond the stage of complete helplessness. And those supporting her will make her strong. However, as they age, most humans go through some period of weakness... I am content to wait and reappraise her when the time comes. For now, staying by your side is most interesting to me, Akemi Homura."
One of the demons hadn't been finished by the initial blow she'd struck against it. It wriggled awkwardly along the ground, trying to slip off underneath a parked car. Homura tapped her way over to it as primly as if she were at the head of a parade, then put her heel down on its tail before it slunk into the shadow to regroup. She put the tip of an arrow to the back of the demon's body and drew back her bow for a pointblank shot. The demon exploded into a blast of neon pink light.
As much as she wanted to, Homura knew it was no use threatening Kyubey. The street had been swept clean. She picked up the fragments the demons had left behind. "I'm not just going to stand here and bicker with you over Asuna," Homura stretched and tossed her long hair back over her shoulder. "...And even if you claim you don't bicker, I know better than that." Motion gradually resumed around her on the streets of Mitakihara, and although Homura shed her heroic and youthful attire, she refrained from taking the smallest step toward lowering her guard.
Kyubey kept silent, but cocked his head to the side. She was listening, and whatever she heard was beyond his senses, as well as those of other humans.
"This way," Homura announced, the moment passing.
"There really is a higher power in this universe- one that only you commune with, isn't there, Akemi Homura?"
She began to walk down the sidewalk toward the nearest train station, propelled by the same self-assured determination that she always tried to display to the outside world. There was plenty of weakness within her, but that was a private matter. "Do your kind even believe in something like a god? Here," she turned away from the heavy subject and tossed the compact remains to her diminutive companion, "Take that little blow against entropy. Eat up."
Kyubey sucked in the blood-hued cubes. "We believe in just those things which we can prove. However, that isn't to say there is nothing remaining in the entire universe beyond our power to recognize it. Lots of humans believe in a higher power. It is possible there's something to it more than the purely sociological or psychological."
Homura nodded. Sometimes she thought Kyubey was just pretending he didn't remember Madoka to torture her, but over the years she had been forced to admit to herself that he was probably sincere in that respect. "That seems like a reasonable view."
"But it isn't yours."
"It probably would be if I were in your position."
"But you talk to your god."
"Goddess." She didn't bat an eye. "And I wasn't talking to her then. It's not nearly so frequent as that." ...It was only frequently enough to keep her going, she thought. Madoka knew how much she could take. Madoka knew when Homura needed her the most.
She passed through the station, swiping her pass at the gate and standing beside the posted schedule to wait for the express train to Setagawa.
Kyubey kept near her feet, out of the way of the other people milling about the platform. He was nimble enough to keep from becoming an invisible hazard for the unsuspecting masses. If Homura kept her voice as she addressed him, in outdoor areas like this no one even noticed her interaction with an unseen entity. "Don't most humans who have an experience like yours try and spread the story to others- to inspire and help them, or for some kind of tangible benefit to themselves?"
"I'm not going to become an evangelist spreading Madoka-ism, Kyubey. He might not intend it, but Kyubey could be funny at times. If she had been the more openly joyous type, she might have laughed. As it was, Homura settled for a smile. "If she had wanted everyone to know about her, she could have remade things that way. Even if she just wanted magical girls to know about her, she could have done that. I'm not her prophet, Kyubey, just her follower."
They didn't chat during the twelve-minute train ride to Setagawa Station. Even if Kyubey had continued the conversation, Homura wouldn't have responded to him in the confines of the train car where it would be more obvious that she was talking to "herself."
"Next stop is Setagawa. Setagawa. Exit will be through the doors on the right."
At this hour it wasn't a popular stop. Homura and Kyubey exited the train with a pair of old women, but quickly parted ways with them, heading into the most foreboding, industrial part of the town. "I wonder if it's possible for them to feed off the energy created by the generators and somehow supplement the negativity that fuels them." It seemed a logical enough explanation for why the creatures would mass at such a sparsely populated location.
She'd met other demon hunters who claimed to experience all sorts of strange almost hallucinatory effects, both auditory and visual, when doing battle with the demons, but such things never troubled Homura. Unlike the nearly overwhelming quality of the witches' worlds, the demesne of demons was almost peacefully clear of distraction.
Homura was aware of the demons first, firing an arrow to clear a path straight down the middle of the group before they turned to converge on her.
Kyubey picked a spot to watch and sat down. The demons never seemed to pay any heed to him. He was so still it wasn't obvious whether he was actually following the action or not.
Caught in such close quarters, Homura's arrows were no longer the best form of offense. She adjusted her grip on her bow and swung it like a scythe, sending a blast of fuchsia light slicing through the midsection of the nearest demon. A slinky white limb (or was it a tail?) stretched out behind her, and she tripped slightly, moving backward, but didn't fall. Tiny white wings propelled her up and away from the hard ground. Homura slashed with her bow again and this time it reacted like a whip. She was steady on her feet in a flash. The mass of demons had been cut down to three already.
"Who is that lady? She's amazing."
"What you say is true, Shibusawa Chiemi. None of the others are like her. Spread across this world are a large number of demon hunters, but only Akemi Homura is an apostle."
"Kyubey? What do you mean by that?" the pint-size high school student inquired, bending down and hugging her knees to her chest.
"Akemi Homura is hardly one to require help, but surely if you lend her a hand, she will kindly share something of herself with you."
"The last time you told me another demon hunter would be nice to me I was nearly pushed off a train platform," Chiemi pouted.
"Perhaps I was not entirely clear."
"Fine," Chiemi transformed in a flash of orange light and rushed to Homura's side, naginata ready. She yelled out a shrill battle cry as she ran. Homura glanced back with a bitter smile for her impromptu ally.
"What sort of apostle ventures forth with no intent to share the message she has learned?" Kyubey mused. "Akemi Homura, surely you wish to reach out to someone."