"Hound! Execrable monster!...The misery of this one pierces me to the very marrow, and harrows my soul; thou art grinning calmly over the doom of thousands!"
~ Faust,
Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy


I drop to my knees the moment I witness your new form reach for the sky, the blackness of your transformation blocking out what little light exists. I see what you've become. I've failed again, and the consequences of my failure are even worse than before. All I feel is an icy numbness – there's no hope left. Truthfully, I couldn't care less about what becomes of this damned world. Nothing matters but you, after all.

"You're going to fight, aren't you?" the creature behind me asks as I stand up. Its soft, high-pitched voice almost seems concerned. But it's not. Why would it be? The only thing it's ever felt is mere curiosity.

"No," I reply. "There's no point. This fight is lost." Turning on my heel, the hourglass on my shield already flipped, I walk once more to my fate, a fate I swore to change. I can barely hear what the creature is asking as I step into the swirl of color and wind and allow the rush of time to swallow me.

Why do I continue to try? The question never ceases to cross my mind. The reason always escapes me; I have a feeling I won't like the answer anyway. I simply continue to reset time and try to find a new path, another way out of this inescapable labyrinth. All I can do is cling onto the hope that someday, somehow, I'll find a way to change my friend's fate.

Without fail, after each reversal in time, I wake up in Mitakihara Hospital. I'm no longer surprised that I still have clear eyesight. The heart problems I had before becoming a magical girl are also a thing of the past. It's just as well – I've no time for human problems such as these. Having repeated this scenario countless times, I'm able to convince the doctors that I can leave on my own without adult accompaniment.

With my first step out of the hospital, I steer myself automatically to my apartment to plan how I will handle this series of events differently this time. How can I change fate? Even if something changes and manages to surprise me, I simply take note and keep going, no matter how it may traumatize me deep down. No matter what changes occur, the circumstances remain —Sayaka Miki's inevitable despair; Mami Tomoe's distrust and refusal to see reason; Kyouko Sakura's recklessness—all three of them unknowingly hurting my cause to save them. It's often hard to recall the time when I thought of them as wonderful allies and great friends instead of cumbersome hindrances, but for some reason I still miss their companionship dearly, each and every one of them.

Let me start with you, Sayaka Miki: Madoka's closest friend and my greatest liability. I've seen what your emotions can do, how they bring out the worst in you. I try to spare you, to save you for Madoka's sake. The closest you've ever gotten to overcoming your emotions are those rare occasions when you befriend Kyouko… but even then you fall into despair. You always fall. You're simply a constant thorn in my side; there is no saving you.

You, Mami Tomoe: strong yet stubborn. I have never had any desire to harm you, and I've have even become your friend several times. You're there in the beginning, yet you always die before the end. You hate the idea of being alone. That's why when you're blinded by happiness from your new friendships, even smallest thing can break you. You're fragile, and there is nothing that can fix you.

Finally, you, Kyouko Sakura: the wild card. There is no predictable way to anticipate your behavior. Yes, you have proven before that you've capacity to express sisterly love, a love I hope I share with you in another world. Unfortunately, your pride often gets in the way of expressing that love, and despite your efforts to make amends you too fail to overcome your fate. Although there's a part of me that still hopes, perhaps foolishly, that you will be there with me once I defeat destiny… you too may be as disposable as the others.

Your deaths would still affect me, terribly, if I allowed them. But I must carry on. I don't have the leisure of indulging in my emotions. I am alone on this journey, just as I have always been. As long as my sacrifice is for her sake, I'm perfectly fine with enduring this path alone.

The suffering on Madoka's face, the sight of her motionless corpse, is burned vividly into my mind. Yet it gives me the resolve to keep my promise. I will make sure she never has to experience that heartbreaking pain ever again. Madoka must never become a magical girl. I promised to save her from her reckless compassion, her fatal flaw, her stupidity. She can never make that wish. The moment I fail to stop her from making a contract with Kyubey, I've no choice but to start all over.

Kyubey may have given me the ability to save Madoka, but he's the one who cursed her with this fate to begin with. All of this pain, all of this suffering is caused by that merciless monster's existence. He is my greatest adversary and obstacle. I don't know how many times I've killed him knowing he'll just come back to life. Even so, with every failure I'm forced to acknowledge that killing him is all that keeps me sane. I wish with all my soul that he would just stay dead. He thwarts all of my actions almost effortlessly, and mocks me with a dead-eyed stare that haunts my every dream. He makes my existence a living nightmare.

I don't just hate you, Kyubey; I loathe you, you and your lack of emotional understanding. You may think what you are doing to us is for the good of the universe, but it is unforgivable because above all else, you try to take away my Madoka…

And I will never allow that.


A month comes and goes and here I stand once more, the site of the upcoming battle. My plan is as thoroughly calculated as always – I will prevail. All I can do now as I wait is look out into the dark waters, not allowing any emotion to cross my face as I stare into the early morning sky. The sun will not rise for quite some time.

What little light the street lamps emit slowly becomes obscured by fog drifting in from the motionless darkness. It doesn't bother me though; my powers allow me to see things as clear as day. I turn to my right, close my eyes, and flip my hair out of my face. Taking a deep breath, I step forward. It's time.

I'll admit déjà vu is a surreal experience, but it loses its effect after having déjà vu of my déjà vu multiple times. Something I'll never re-experience though is the time I first met you, and with each step I take, it makes its way back into my thoughts. I recall how I originally saw you in the frame of my glasses. Since then I've watched you fight this battle numerous times, but never as I did the first time, through human eyes. I still remember that time. You fought alone; Mami was dead and I, a powerless mortal. My diseased heart ached and the sorrow spread through my every nerve… I couldn't believe what was happening. You were my only friend, Madoka. My best friend. My parents had died what seemed like eons ago – you were all I had left. You shouldn't have left me.

Please, don't leave.

Don't leave me, Madoka!

But you had to. No matter how many times I try to rationalize, I can't accept it. You had to. You were willing to give up your life for the city, for the world, for me. You told me then that you'll always be proud of the fact that you were able to rescue me. Thankful, even.

I wasn't worthy of your sacrifice, and I couldn't let it be in vain. So I made my wish to Kyubey and chose to relive the events that led to your death. This time around, instead of you being the one to protect me, I would be the one to protect you.

My train of thought is broken by the familiar parade emerging from the fog, wearing a palette of neon colors that should never have existed. The animals make incomprehensible noises that threaten to blow out my eardrums as they stampede through the streets to make way for the incoming carnival. Tents appear in the mist, setting the stage for a circus in the midst of Mitakihara.

Then the curtains rise. I hear it before I see it, its haunting laughter echoing through the early morning sky. Whoever became the first Walpurgis must have also been loud and annoying, I think quickly. I bet it always puts on a show… As it breaks through the fog and comes into view,I can already see countless buildings breaking apart from their foundations and get set ablaze like bonfires.

Tonight, tomorrow, forever, the celebration. The night of Walpurgis.

There was a time when I used to care about the countless people who would be killed and left behind in the onslaught, unable to evacuate. Those days are long gone – only you need to be safe, Madoka. With a flash of dazzling light from my ring, my school uniform comes apart at the seam, the fine threads unraveling from my form. In their place, my magical girl outfit wraps itself around me, its magic warming me this freezing eve. The patterns of my leggings, the shape of my Soul Gem, my hourglass-encrusted shield, all come into shape as though they were always there.

You want a show, Walpurgis? As you wish. With a flick of my left wrist, time stops. Thousands upon thousands of rocket launchers, bazookas and mortars erupt from seemingly out of nowhere, the magic of my shield pulling them into precise locations. I carefully planned all this; losing is not an option.

One by one, I grab each launcher and bazooka and fire them off. Each rocket blasts off a few feet into the air before time halts their trajectory. I simply endure the recoil, toss it to the side, and pick up one after the other. This is heavy military grade weaponry – the most powerful in the world. If this didn't stop her, what would?

I wish this kind of firepower could shut Kyubey up for good as well. Kyubey had explained, time and again, that Madoka could become the most powerful magical girl in existence, and consequently the most powerful witch. Though I want to shoot him in the head with every word he's ever said, I've seen with my own eyes that he's right in this case. She would be able to kill Walpurgis with one shot, and after killing the most powerful witch, there'd be nothing left for her than to inevitably take its place.

He always spoke with a hint of inevitability, as if he knew everything. But he doesn't. I've experienced firsthand that nothing is inevitable. Things change with every iteration, with every rewinding of the clock. I know that Walpurgis can be defeated without Madoka's help. She'll never become a magical girl ever again.

I'll see to it.

That thought punctuates my assault and I command time to unfreeze, restoring color back to the world. Time resumes from the state it was left in, and my bombardment continues right where they left off, each exploding in what I can only assume is the face of that terrible monster and sends it flying back from the impact. I run ahead to the stretch of mortars I planted earlier and set them off one by one.

Why do I hurry? I have all the time in the world. Am I that impatient, that desperate? Madoka will still be there…

Even so, the sooner I beat this… monstrosity, the sooner Madoka will finally be safe. Huh. I guess that's what you'd call irony.

I witness the dozens of projectiles hit the top of the witch – or is the bottom? Whatever. Once they hit, I pull out a switch from the limitless space within my shield. The mortar projectiles successfully manage to push the witch in between a pair of radio towers, right where it needs to be. Without hesitation I press the switch's large red button with my thumb and set off the charges I planted at the towers' bases in advance. Both towers blow up and fall, threatening to ground the hovering witch and trap it beneath the wreckage. Now's my chance – I stop time and rush as quickly as I can to my next destination.

Time is such an interesting thing. The experience is unique, whether it's the rush of travelling back in time, the chill of being frozen in time, the sensation of touching or holding someone while time is still, or the odd mix of heat and cold I experience as I hurry through this colorless world. I'll never understand the logic behind time control, but I'm glad I have it on my side.

My destination is in sight, so it's safe to unfreeze time. Save my magic, limit myself. I hold my breath as I take a huge leap, time resuming, some color returning to the grey world. My feet barely touch the top of a petrol tanker before I hear the flames of Walpurgis effortlessly blow off my cheap distraction, the radio tower debris burning like pieces of paper.

Raising my hand in front of me, I attach my shield connectors to the tanker and ignite the engine with the twist of my wrist. When I clench my fist, the invisible attachments accelerate the tanker, and when I unclench, it lets off the gas. I've never driven before, but with the streets completely clear it shouldn't be too much trouble with a bit of magic.

The city blurs in the corner of my eye as I maintain my magic in order to keep the truck steady. One wrong move and it could be over before it even begins. The tires hit a bump – perhaps a rock or something – it jolts me but I keep my grip nonetheless. Thankfully, nothing goes wrong as I reach the bridge. Walpurgis is just hovering above the arches of the bridge, as planned. I lift both my arms up and the truck follows suit, the tires screeching slightly before the vehicle jumps onto the right arch.

Steady…

Steady…

I drive onward as Walpurgis turns towards me. I have a clear view of its "face" now, and of its ever-present smile. I'm going to wipe that smirk off its face.

I jump off the truck, almost taking flight just as the tanker rams into the witch's face, exploding and casting me faster towards the water's surface until I submerge.

My eyes see nothing but dark blue, but my feet touch something metallic while under water. Clenching my hands, I summon my hidden surprise above sea. Several missile launchers emerge, water dripping and splashing every which way. Walpurgis turns away from the bridge to face me. Its face is unharmed from my last attack. I hear laughter from behind its smile – was it mocking it?

Well fuck you, Walpurgis.

Almost in response to my thoughts, the witch hurtles itself towards me and draws closer and closer. But I'm prepared. There's no need to worry. The missiles launch just as it gets near enough to touch, and the force of the missiles – the several dozen there are – send the beast flying right to… the stadium! Just as I've planned.

I've been walking through this endless labyrinth long enough. This fight has occurred in my life more times than it should. To think that I'm this close to victory seems surreal. But I haven't won. Not yet. Thankfully though, I am one step closer to victory.

I watch as the harlequin's head crashes the edge of the stadium. Like the worst tragedies in history, the wall it crashed through falls as the witch stops in the middle of the stadium. A second passes and the motion-sensitive charges make the whole stadium glow in an eerie red light.

Here it comes…

Boom.

Like a fireworks show, flaming debris lights up the night. A loud scream pierces the heavens, drowning out even the loudest of explosions. Staring into the rainbow of flames, I start to reminisce. I can't help it – my mind escapes me sometimes. After a while, what happens in which reality all seems the same anyway when you're trapped in the cycle of time.

This may have happened in another timeline, but I remember you knocking at my apartment door only a few hours ago. I never expected you to visit – it was a surprise, to say the least. Ah yes, this was just hours ago, I'm sure of it now. You asked… no, begged me to let you help stop Walpurgis. You truly wanted to help me and protect the city. Your face is always full of determination, but I know you too well; I can see through your bravado. Deep down you're worried and scared, but despite your true feelings, you admirably rise to the challenge when people are in danger. Your unchanging, kind nature brings me comfort and hope through the taxing trials of time. You always want to be with me in the end. You treat me like a friend, despite my attempts to keep my distance.

It's moments like these that make me wonder why I'm really doing this. Is it really only because you sacrificed yourself for me? No. It's much more than that. I've imagined expressing a passion for you that is beyond the bounds of emotion. I find that it's no longer enough to express myself in words anymore, but I hate myself for allowing such crude passions to enter my mind… how dare I even consider such selfish thoughts! I don't deserve you, in fact no one does! You possess goodness too pure, too innocent to be corrupted by the likes of these ungrateful souls you so willingly protect. Your love for them rivals that of God. You're willing to throw your life away, but you're not to blame, Madoka! You don't have to save us! So why are you doing this for our sakes? Why?

It all just overwhelmed me, you expressing concern and desire to help me; I couldn't help but break down. You understand, don't you Madoka? After all, you've broken down so many times that my memories of them are indistinguishable from one another. I was harsh, but I knew that I needed to be, that I deserved to have you lash out at me and cast me away like the stranger I was. I couldn't deny my feelings any longer: it was all for you, it was always for you. I've gone back so many times I've lost count. I've seen death more times than any one person should. I've lost my friends, and something irreplaceable in myself, to this damned cycle… and I know I'm no longer sane. I know I've lost my way, and I know I'm more than just a bit selfish. But if there's a way out, a way to save you, I'll find it. For you, Madoka… for you, I'm willing to sacrifice anything.

So here I stand. The thunderous roar of the blast stops the circus-like music that orchestrated the battle. The stadium is no more, lost in the explosion. And through the smoke and flames, I don't sense the witch. There's no sound, only the flicker of the flames licking up the remains of the stadium. I… I won. I take a deep breath. I did it. The witch is gone… It's as if time is standing still in this perfect moment, my moment. My victory.

Without warning, a beam of energy suddenly breaks through the sheet of smoke and hits me square in the chest, knocking the air out of my lungs. The force pushes me off my perch and slams me into the concrete. I skid across the streets behind me, coughing up blood as I do so. The beam breaks up into a dozen or so familiars who form a line of dancers in starry-sky dresses. After coming to a stop and pulling myself together, I watch as Walpurgis, still in one piece, emerges from the flames. The nightmare continues, my personal Hell. The story didn't change after all, not one bit.

But that won't stop me.

I push myself off the ground and fly through the dawn, towards my greatest challenge. Now what, Homura? I ask myself. The Walpurgis Night then turns away from me and focuses back on its target: Mitakihara City. I can't let it reach the city. I can't!

More familiars start popping up, setting themselves on fire as I draw ever nearer to their mistress. They don't attack me – they only dance for their brief moment before the proverbial curtains close on their act. Despite my efforts to ignore them though, I can't help but notice that some of the dancers look impossibly familiar. Not just the ones that look like the girls I've researched, who I'd believed to have been absorbed into the witch, but also girls I swear I knew. Is it just me, or could I see my friends amongst the troupe of familiars, their haunted choreography taunting me?

It doesn't matter! I have to stop the Walpurgis Night!

As I leap further and further into the sky, passing several of these familiars, something suddenly grabs my arms and throws me into the pavement.

"Wha-?" I spit, my word half-obscured. I try to look up and see what it is, but something is pressing down hard on the back of my skull. Before I know what's going on, the perpetrator runs forward, dragging my face through the pavement. I can feel the flesh on my cheeks rip and burn as the blood paints the streets red.

As we painfully come to a halt, I feel something heavy step on the back of my head. That's when I notice two figures step forward from the shadows, both as dark as night. One held in its hands a spear, its blade a cross-shape upon the shaft. The other pointed a long sword, a cutlass I think, in my direction.

No… please, no.

I force my head to turn just enough and allow my eyes to catch a glimpse of who stood on top of me, the third familiar. My heart sinks in horror when I see Mami standing above me, grinding my face back into the ground with the heel of her boot.

No, no, no, this can't be happening! Walpurgis is a fusion of witches – I knew that much already. But for its familiars to take their form specifically… I don't recall this ever happening in any previous timeline; the possibility never even occurred to me! Gritting my teeth in frustration, I roll to the side and scramble to my feet. I have to get out of here, I must defeat Walpurgis, I can't allow myself to get caught up in this!

A pair of swords graze my left shoulder, thankfully not doing any real harm. Sayaka's aim was never that good, thank God! I run to my right and leap away, flying further from their reach. Maybe if I freeze time, I could…

Before I can reach my shield, several pieces of wood wrap tightly around my leg and yank me forcibly back down to the ground. Damn it all! How could I forget the power of Kyouko's spear?

Sayaka and Kyouko pull me up to my feet, holding my arms tightly. Try as I might, I can't break free of their grasp.

"Damn you, let go of me!" I yell. They simply cackle and giggle in response, echoing their master and creator.

Kyouko… Sayaka… Mami… Why? Why is this happening? I look at them pleadingly, my voice trembling as I try to talk sense into them. Nothing coherent comes out – it would have been in vain anyway. They wouldn't listen. How could they? Why should they?

I'm terrified. I'm going to die. It's been so long since I felt fear that I'd almost forgotten what it feels like.

As the one resembling Mami aims her rifle at my head (winking even), I look towards the city. I see the gap between Mitakihara and Walpurgis get smaller and smaller as it hovered closer and closer. It won't be long now until it destroys the city, killing hundreds of thousands of people instantly. And among the casualties would be…

Madoka…!

I will not allow it to reach Madoka.

Take the city, damn you, take the world! But don't take Madoka!

Don't even touch a hair on her head!

I'll kill you before you even try!

Images of Madoka cloud my thoughts, as well as images of the witch she would become. The pain of seeing her magical girl dress unravel to form countless strings tying her to the Earth, her angelic face becoming a mask that could terrify even Death, her pink pigtails sprouting horns that could have belonged to Satan himself.

Kyubey insisted that it was entirely my fault. Even if that is the case, I'll never allow that happen.

Exerting my strength, my arms break free from my captors. I immediately pull a machine gun out of my bottomless shield and start shooting at the familiars around me. The spray of bullets turns them into vapor, and now that they're gone I dance my way higher and higher towards the witch and its troupe of familiars. Seething with determination, I break free of my emotional limits as I plow through the line of familiars one after another, leaving the ghosts of my friends behind. Burst after burst, they disappear until there's nothing left but me and an empty gun.

With them out of the way, I leap in front of Walpurgis's path. I toss my gun to the side and spin in mid-air to face the mighty witch once more, ready to pull out another weapon at a moment's notice. But just as Mami did when she faced Charlotte, I freeze up. No, it's not because a broken chunk of building is hurtling down at me from above at sixty-odd kilometers per hour. Even worse… I can't stop the building. My Soul Gem was dim. My hourglass is completely out of sand.

I never look back up in time. Two collisions happen nearly simultaneously: first, the careening building hits me, and before I have a chance to react, the building slams me into a building that is still intact on the ground. As the glass and metal tear each other apart along with my own body, the two buildings create a deafening scraping noise.

Through the dust and the wreckage I fall back into the oblivion, tumbling head over feet. The world was spinning and nothing could stop it. I was helpless. Oh God, please make it stop.

I break through several stories under the force of the building until I land with a mighty thud on one of the building's floors. In all the confusion, I didn't notice that part of the previous buildings' debris fell on my leg, trapping it. When the pain suddenly hits me, I let out a scream and reach for my leg, broken and twisted under the cold metal. I could heal it, but I probably shouldn't anytime soon because I've used up more magic than I thought I would. Oh great, I even used up all of my grief seeds—how careless of me!

The grey sky beyond the huge opening in the building seems to mock me as I lay in this pitiful state. I'm pretty much out of magic, and this body has been made useless. I've doomed the entire city. I've doomed Madoka. I've… lost. Though my mouth twists from the pain, I struggle not to frown. Still, the failure hits me hard, harder than I thought it would. I try to gasp but painfully realize that the air was knocked out of my lungs.

I shake my head, struggling to regain my bearings. There is always a way out. It doesn't matter that I may be inches away from death, I haven't lost hope yet! With what strength I have left, I reach for my shield. If I can flip the hourglass, I can redo all of this. I can still prepare, I can still plan, I can still fight…

"I thank you, Homura. Because of you, Madoka will become the most powerful witch ever."

I stop myself. I… I can't bring myself to do it, not when Kyubey's words ring in my head. My cuts continue bleeding, staining my face and my clothes. Suddenly, I feel broken. Weak. I let go of my shield, the hourglass left unturned.

I can't do it. Not if Madoka's fate continues to worsen.

I sob softly to myself, the remains of my body shaking weakly. Why do I shed tears? Why do I complain? Me, me, me; I shouldn't be so selfish. I'm just kidding myself; no matter how many times I try, I can't seem to stop Madoka from making her wish. I can't defeat Walpurgis Night. Fate refuses to change.

And it's all my fault. There's no one to blame except me.

The swelling in my chest reaches my heart and years upon years of torment press down hard. All of this was supposed to help Madoka. I swore that I'd protect her. Even before I promised never to let her become a magical girl, it was all for her. I wanted her friendship, her companionship… her everything. I'd seen what being near me could do to her, and yet even after I swore to protect her from afar… oh God, I didn't want to hurt her again. I never meant to get so close to her this time, not after all I've done.

How much time has passed? Honestly, I stopped keeping track ever since I made my wish. Time isn't relevant to me, not anymore. If I had to make a guess though, I bet it's been somewhere around a thousand years.

A thousand years, Madoka. I've loved you for a thousand years. And I know that as many times as I've relived this brief stretch of time, if I were forced to keep going, I'd love you for a thousand more.

Wait, what am I saying? I can't give up. Not now. Even though it's entirely my fault, even though my soul gem is almost completely black with corruption, even though chances are I'm going to die… Madoka. Madoka must live. I know she's alive, and I have to make sure she stays that way.

I try to think quickly, desperate to come up with something, anything, to finish this fight, to come out victorious. What is there left that I can do?

I look down at my Soul Gem. A hint of light shines from within, but it's muddied up by black gunk. I barely have any magic left. All I have left is my soul.

And then it hits me. I tear my Soul Gem from its holster and kiss it as inspiration, beautiful inspiration, strikes.

Even though it hurts like hell, with the strength my hope provides I'm somehow able to pull my leg out. The slab, without a solid object to crush beneath it, slams back down loudly. I sigh out a breath of relief and examine my leg closely. It's uselessly mangled, crushed beyond recognition. But now it's free. That's a start.

I don't pay attention to anything except for what I must do. With much effort, I'm able to crawl to the wall and lift myself to my feet. From there, I slowly limp my way along the wall towards the grey light. One… Two… One… Two… I make my way across the room, trying my best to maneuver around the debris. Must…. hurry. Please… make it in time…

At last I make it to the edge of the building and stand before the gap created by the buildings' collision. I steady myself against the wall and survey the current circumstances. In the distance, the city is still unharmed. I look to my left and see that Walpurgis is about to pass the building I'm in. It's not too far off. That's good – I still have time.

Time? I start to think as the wind blows my hair in my face. My survival instinct dares bring up my other option, which is to journey back to some place that isn't here and now. But I can't back down. I refuse to make Madoka's fate any worse. I have to do this.

"The last time," I tell myself lamely as I brush the hair from my eyes.

I take my hand off the wall and reach into my shield, struggling with my own magic. Two opposing thoughts cross my mind: don't overdo it, I tell myself. But I have to – this is all I have left. I finally feel something cold and pull my hand out as quickly as I can. It comes out gripping a simple handgun. My mind doesn't quite comprehend or remember what model or type it is. Were I in a better state I might have instinctively recalled it from the moment I touched it, but right now that's not important. I have to focus, at least for a few more moments.

Just as Kyouko did, I fill my Soul Gem with what remains of my magic. I then throw it towards Walpurgis; it probably won't even notice such a small object given its size. But I don't expect it to hit. Not just yet. The witch continues along its path, its course of action inevitable.

I take aim and with the every ounce of strength I have, I pull the trigger. The recoil shakes my foundation. I lose my footing and begin to plummet to the earth, my cries never leaving my lips. I don't give a damn anymore. I twist as best I can in mid-air to see if my last action was any use. Though it's far away and only getting farther, I see them – two miniscule objects colliding in the air, the bullet smashing into the gem.

Yes.

A huge explosion of purple fills the grey sky, and I hear the witch roar in agony. What was once a mighty behemoth turns to nothing but a sphere of violet fire. In the flames, the witch's body rips and shreds to pieces, leaving nothing but the gears. Was that its true form? Those haunting gears still turn, perhaps wishing they too had the power to turn back the clock. But they begin to decompose in the deafening blast of my Soul Gem.

It shrieks, it crumbles, and finally it disappears. The sight burns its way into my mind. A smile creeps its way onto my face as I fall. I merely close my eyes and accept my fate.


I must have blacked out as I fell, because I don't remember ever hitting the ground. All I remember is waking up, lying in a large crater, cracks in the pavement beneath me. When did it start raining? I'm not hurt at all – I'm more numb than I am anything else. How am I still breathing? I shouldn't be conscious, much less alive.

As my hand twitches, I feel something brittle stir in my palm though I'm unsure as to what it is. I look over to see my soul gem sitting in my right hand. Not unharmed but still whole, cracked into thousands of puzzle pieces, with the lone bullet, my last hope, lodged deeply in its cracks. Unprecedented – is this even possible? I sacrificed my soul, and yet here it lies in my hand, still in one piece if only barely.

The pitter-patter of rain drowns out my triumphant laughter. I'm too weak to laugh any louder than a whisper anyway. But I was right: nothing was inevitable. This… it all came down to this? I… I should have done this forever ago!

Forever…

I stare incredulously at my Soul Gem after my bout of laughter. Even though it's so cracked that it can't shine, I still see a light hiding deep, deep down. A light filled with something resembling hope. I've won.

So why does it feel like a hollow victory now?

I understand. I do, though I don't want to. All of my friends, everyone I have come to know and respect, are dead. Above all, Kyubey will continue to exist. I know he'll continue to deceive and tempt Madoka into making the wish. She'll still be easily convinced, I fear. She'll try to save me. But I don't want her to; this is the way it's supposed to end.

I start to realize that I'm actually in a tremendous amount of pain. I don't know if I can try blocking it, but having witnessed firsthand what it can do I choose not to try either way. It's weird – I don't really care what happens to me anymore, so I don't mind when I feel my gem crackle a little more in my already fragile grasp.

I blink slowly as I come to terms with the truth. I'm going to die alone, on this battlefield. I let my head rest on the right side and sigh with a breath of finality as a single flower catches my sight. I'm not even sure that it's real, because what are the chances of seeing a lone flower in a crater of concrete? But there it is. A red flower, a… what do you call them? A spider lily. How pretty. How… fitting.

Tears and blood and rain mix freely on my face and I allow it wash away what remains of my despair until after what could have been, should have been, an eternity, the rain stops and the sun breaks its way through the clouds.

In a few moments, my Soul Gem will break. I'm going to die, and I'm going to die alone. Oh well. It's what I've always said: such is the fate of a magical girl.

Footsteps echo in the distance, disrupting my labored breathing. No, no, she can't have come. It can't be true; I know it just can't be true. I won't open my eyes to see if it is, I won't. But I hear her sobs echo in my ears. It really is her; I'd recognize that sound anywhere. I open my eyes and roll my head to the left.

"Homura! Homura, no!" She cries out my name in between gasps. "Homura, I'm sorry!"

Madoka. My heart pangs at the sight of her running towards me, and even more so when I see Kyubey following closely at her heel.

"Madoka… no. Why… why is he…?"

She comes to a halt and kneels beside me, a helpless look on her face. "I came as quickly as I could. I wanted to help, and don't tell me I shouldn't have come!"

I bite my tongue, tears coming to my eyes. "Fine. I won't. But why is he here?" I whisper bitterly, my eyes locked on the white cat-like creature behind her.

"I followed her here, Homura," he says, sounding pleased. I narrow my eyes.

"Madoka… Madoka, please don't. I've won. There's nothing you can do."

"I'm sorry. I've already decided."

"Please, no!" I sob. "I… can't allow that to happen!"

"Homura, I won't let you die!" She lifts my head to her lap. "I can make it better, I know I can! Kyubey said I had the power to change it all!"

The conviction in her eyes is hypnotizing. I almost believe her.

But I see Kyubey beside her. I curse at him silently, hoping he'll hear it in my mind.

"But… I've won, Madoka. Everything I've worked for… it's come to this. I've finally saved you." I force a smile, a weak smile as brittle as my Soul. "I… I've come this far. It's… it's over."

My right hand shakes weakly and I see her eyes glance over. She gasps, tears coming to her eyes.

My left hand shakes weakly as I reach out to stroke her hair reassuringly. She begins to weep for me as she takes my hand in hers and brings them to her face. Tears stream down my face as well – tears of joy. Don't cry Madoka, I think. This is supposed to be a happy occasion… I've finally found a way to keep my promise. I've finally repaid you for saving me all those years ago.

"Homura! I can't let you die!"

"Please," I beg. "You have to let me die. There's no other way."

Despite my words, or maybe because of them, she cries even harder. I wish there were some way I could comfort her, but I can't move anymore. I can only let her cry.

"I did this for you," I explained weakly. She lifts her head and looks at me, confused. "All of it. It's always been for you. I promised you… so many timelines ago..." I hazily look into her eyes. "Now that I've kept my promise, promise me, Madoka. Promise me you'll never become a magical girl. Kyubey can find others to fight the battle. Please… just don't let all of this… all that I've ever done… be for nothing."

She sniffled, tears streaming down her cheeks. "I… I promise."

"Don't forget," I breathe, wishing I didn't sound as hoarse as I do. "I beg you… please don't…"

"I won't forget!" she cries. "I'll never forget… I won't forget you, I promise!" She embraces my tattered figure and sobs into my shoulder. Her warmth soothes the pain in my body, her words erasing my immense fear that she may become a magical girl. I… can rest in peace.

I glance at Kyubey. He merely shakes his tail – I can't tell if he's disappointed or intrigued. He simply remains silent as he slowly walks away from us.

The pang in my heart flares up again, this time with more intensity. As I clench the hand, the one that contains my Soul Gem, Madoka gasps and sits up with a panicked look in her eye. I try my best to smile and reassure her, and in return she strokes my hair and tries her best to comfort me. I know it's only a matter of time now, but there's one more thing I need to say.

"And… Madoka?"

"Yes?"

"I must confess something to you." I try to steady my own breathing and gather what remains of my thoughts. They're all centered on Madoka, as they always have been. "I have to tell you that I…" I start crying, softly at first, but my words turn to gibberish as my sobs get louder and louder. Why can't this ever be easy? Why can't this be easy now? Everything that came before, in comparison, doesn't seem difficult at all.

I guess it's because after all of this, even after every death I've seen and every wrong I've done, I'm no closer to Madoka than I ever was before. My heart rips in two at this realization. Was it all just a waste? No, I tell myself. Of course not. After all, wasn't I trying to keep my distance? It's good then that she wasn't as close to me as I thought she was. Even so, as my tears threaten to drown me, I wish that things had turned out differently…

Madoka looks at me with that sad smile of hers, that angelic smile that I don't deserve. "I know," she says as she wraps her arms around my shoulders and cradles my limp body in her arms. "I know, Homura. You don't have to say anything else." She leans in closely. "Just know that I'll stay with you until the end. I'll always be here for you Homura, just like you've always been there for me."

I gasp as her lips softly brush against my cheek. I look at her wide-eyed; those pink roses, those loving eyes gazing into mine. "P-Promise?" I muster up.

A single tear falls from her eyes. "I promise."

Those two words fill my heart with such joy that it may burst at any second. I don't think I've ever been this happy before. There is nothing weighing me down anymore – no worry, no regret, as my beloved holds me in her arms. Here at the end, I know that the one I lived for will always be here for me.

I realize now that I'm not alone. I never was.

Her tear hits the gem in my limp hand and I feel my soul shatter into thousands of tiny crystal specks.

Ting.


A/N: There's a song I paraphrase/title drop called "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri. Listen to it and WEEP, for it is truly Homura's song.

Sorry about the liberties I took with this story. I threw in as much canon and fanon as I could. I did it out of love, I promise. Thanks to Danny Barefoot and RPPuzzle for not only seeing the potential in this story, but also helping me until it was as close to perfect as I'd let it be.