The breathing of Homura Akemi echoed at the entrance of the barrier, becoming heavier and heavier as the minutes passed. The empty smell of clinical sterilizers hung about that world of cakes and sweetness, filling Homura's lungs against her will.
She lay there immobile, constricted by the red ribbons of Mami Tomoe – the golden haired girl who had declared her ultimatum earlier on. This girl, though, was nothing but a fool who knew nothing – a fool who could not handle the truth. Homura knew that fact all too well.
Mami Tomoe was gone now. The golden-haired girl had already led Madoka Kaname deeper into the barrier. Minutes had already passed since they left Homura there, restrained by those ribbons. Muffled sounds of gun and cannon fire reached Homura's ear – the battle had already begun.
No matter how much she struggled, the ribbons wrapped around her tightly and refused to let her go. It was a hopeless endeavor.
"Mami Tomoe's magic is pretty strong, Akemi-san. She is a very talented Puella Magi, after all."
These words caught Homura's attention, along with the sound of small footsteps that grew louder as it approached. Its source was an unwelcome sight to Homura – the Incubator.
"What are you doing here?" Homura grunted, barely able to speak. "W-weren't you with… Miki-san?"
"I am with Miki-san and Kaname-san right now." The creature replied, "But I am here with you as well. You do remember that there are many of my kind that exist in this world… yet we are all one and the same... save for a few deviants. Does this disturb you?"
Deviants? What did he mean by that?
Homura chose to stay silent. She had no time for this creature's games.
"What… do you want with… me?" Homura asked, her words broken by winces of pain.
"It was not you I intended to talk to here in this place." Kyuubey replied, walking past the restrained Homura.
"Not me…? Then who?"
Another step of footsteps sounded in the barrier – the footsteps of a human being. Homura turned to the steps and was puzzled.
It was Kyouskuke Kamijou, clad in his hospital clothes. His injured hand was still bandaged, but he walked straight now, albeit sluggishly. His eyes also seemed unfocused and blank.
Was it a Witch's kiss? There was no mark on his neck or anywhere on his body. What was he doing here? How could he wander into the Witch's barrier so nonchalantly?
"No… I am not this 'Kamijou-kun', you speak of." Kyousuke replied, his blank eyes turning to Homura for a brief moment. Homura's brow crumpled.
"What is the meaning of this, Heartseed?" Kyuubey intervened, stepping between this strange Kyousuke and the suspended Homura.
"You are aware of my intentions, brother." Kyousuke replied to the Incubator. "There is only one thing I seek."
"That's…" Kyuubey sounded amazed, "You still aren't satisfied after all those years?"
"While we live, we will never be satisfied… that is if you have even a shred of emotion." Kyousuke challenged, "Our kind has forsaken emotion as a disease… I find it interesting… and entertaining."
Homura listened to this incomprehensible exchange between the two. Just what was going on here?
"Mami Tomoe, Sayaka Miki, Kyouko Sakura, Madoka Kaname…" Kyousuke then turned to Homura with his eerie, blank stare, "And Homura Akemi… the five of you are very interesting people."
Why did this Kyousuke mention them all? Why did he look at her with those blank eyes?
"I will help you fulfill your quota, brother." Kyousuke then told Kyuubey, "However… allow me to have some fun."
Fun? What did he mean by fun?
Homura then felt the tightness of Mami's ribbons constricting her again. It was becoming painful. She wincer in pain and gritted her teeth, doing what she can to brave it. She closed her eyes to focus herself and gather her strength.
Then, her body felt light. Her heart was beating fast, but she did not know why.
When she opened her eyes, she could move again – her body was free. However, she was in an entirely new place – in the middle of the deepest part of the barrier of the Witch Charlotte.
"Mami-san!" Madoka's voice cried out from behind. "Look out!"
'Mami-san'? Why was she being called 'Mami-san'?
Homura turned around to find Madoka and Sayaka crouched behind some cover, watching the scene with absolute horror. It was at this time that Homura realized what had happened. The odd weight of her chest… the locks of curled golden hair that dangled down to her shoulders… the beret that sat atop her head.
She had become Mami Tomoe… and behind her… the hideous worm-like beast with jaws of the sharpest, most vicious teeth and candied eyes that belied primal, bestial hunger.
This was the part where Mami Tomoe dies…
Homura ducked and rolled to the side. The head of the beast barely missed her and slammed into the floor, causing sugary debris to shoot out into the air. Homura found her bearings and tried to produce a pipe-bomb, but she could not. The silver shield she had grown accustomed to was nowhere to be found as well.
She had been stripped of her arsenal and denied her control over time. All she had were the abilities of Mami Tomoe. A flintlock rifle appeared in her hands instead.
"This will have to do."
Homura raised her hand and a myriad of rifles appeared, protruding out of the ground in a straight line. She fired her gun at the downed Charlotte, tossed it and picked up the next gun. Rinse and repeat. Unlike Mami's flashy suppression-fire, Homura made sure that every shot connected and hit hard. She shot at Charlotte's wings, her eyes, her nose and her mouth, crippling the maddened Witch with clean hits.
"Madoka…" Sayaka whispered, "Mami-san seems… different now."
Madoka could only nod weakly as she watched this new 'Mami' with amazement. There was such intensity about her that she had not seen from Mami before. She had seen this kind of furor before… but from who?
Slowly but surely, Homura whittled down the Witch. Rifle after rifle cracked and pierced its body and Homura felt as if she had it under control. It was at that point, that she started to feel weak. The Soul Gem in her hair, Mami's Soul Gem, was turning black – she had expended more of Mami's magic than she had thought. Homura fell to her knees.
"Madoka…" Homura thought. Her desperation rose as she watched the wounded Witch prepare to pounce on her once more. "I have to protect… Madoka…"
Her face darkened as she clenched her fists, shaking as she desperately tried to gather her strength. She was at her limits, but she could not lose this battle here. With great effort, Homura stood up and faced the Witch Charlotte. She took a deep breath then cried,
A powerful beam tore through the body of the Witch and ripped the being apart into a mass of black blood that splattered onto the floor.
The Witch was dead now, and the barrier was returning to normal. Homura in Mami's body, though, collapsed. The yellow Soul Gem that appeared in her hands was now almost completely consumed in darkness. Madoka and Sayaka froze in shock – their 'mentor' lay there thrashing in great pain.
A voice suddenly cried out. It was Homura's voice.
Madoka turned to the voice and saw Homura running to where they were. There was an earnestly worried look on her face and was fighting to catch her breath. A Grief Seed sat firmly in her hands.
"Homura…chan?" Madoka muttered out the girl's name, but 'Homura' did not respond at all.
Instead, she went straight towards the ailing 'Mami'.
"Akemi-san! Akemi-san, get a hold of yourself!"
She took the yellow Soul Gem in the ailing Mami's hands and ran the Grief Seed through it. Most of the darkness was cleansed from it and this 'Mami' stopped thrashing about.
Homura came to and opened her eyes. Kneeling beside her was her own body, looking at her with genuine concern. It was like she was looking at some sort of mirror – a twisted, unbelievable mirror.
Homura croaked. The voice that came out, though, was Mami's voice and not her own. She wasn't surprised.
"Yes, I am Mami Tomoe."
This person beside her, Mami, confirmed.
"And you are Homura Akemi, right?"
All of the sudden, Homura found herself wrapped in Mami Tomoe's embrace. To be embraced by one's own body was strange, but she could feel Mami's emotion overflowing towards her. Mami may be in Homura's body, but her emotions were still her own. Just like how she was in Mami's body, her feelings and sentiments were completely hers.
She and Mami had switched bodies… but why? And who was that person… or being that possessed Kyousuke and unleashed that cruel trick on them?
"That was very reckless of you, Heartseed." Kyuubey said, wagging his tail with interest, "To switch Akemi-san and Tomoe-san at the very moment that Tomoe-san was supposed to die…"
"This 'Akemi-san' you talk about is the troublesome variable in your plan, is it not, brother?" The possessed Kyousuke asked, "If you can eliminate her personality, then would that not make your plan seamless? Your quota would be reached… and Madoka Kaname would make her contract."
"That is true… but I still do not know the true nature of Homura Akemi." Kyuubey replied, "To just snuff it out without studying it would be a waste."
"But… it was entertaining." Kyousuke said monotonously.
"This is the reason why our kind purged emotion from our beings." Kyuubey argued, "You and those who chose to retain fragments of emotion employ methods are irrational."
"But are not the beings you deal with quite irrational as well?" Kyousuke countered, "I am just playing by their game, while making them play mine. Let me play this out – I will get you the results you want."
"The same results you got with Himeko-san, Nagase-san and Kiriyama-san?"
"Were those bad results, brother? I think not."
A moment of silence fell between the two.
"Well…" Kyuubey sighed, "If you insist… do what you have to do."
"With pleasure, brother."
Author's Notes: This is just a little experimental idea I've had in my head for the longest time. It probably won't flourish into a big project, but I wanted to see what other people thought of it - an idea bunny so to speak. It's pretty much a cross-over of Madoka Magica and Kokoro Connect, with Heartseed being a 'deviant' breed of Incubator who are able to unleash certain consequences upon human beings as it pleases for pure entertainment.
The first arc of Kokoro Connect dealt with switching bodies, and Mami and Homura are my favorite characters (and pairing, as you may find in A Request and Magia, Pacem, Bellum, Terrarum), so it just made sense for me to do something interesting with that train of thought! This is the product of that!