A/N: It's done! Took me over a year, but it's finally here!
There's still one more chapter until this arc is concluded and this story goes on an official hiatus. That chapter might take even longer, since I've been focusing on my own original story and my schoolwork for the past few months or so. But like I said, I will get it done eventually! *pumps fist* After that, for this story at least, I'll probably be rewriting this arc to make it even better. I've grown as a writer since I first started, and I can definitely see a few parts of this story that could be done better umu
With that said, please enjoy! And thank you for sticking with me for this long!
"Whatever, pops. See ya." Kyoko lifted a hand and rushed off.
She gripped her spear tighter. She had to focus. This was not a fairytale. This was a battleground. Even a single moment of weakness could cost her.
She forced a sharp grin on her face and rounded the corner.
A hatchling unhinged its jaw and fired.
Panic lanced through her. She flattened herself to the ground.
The laser clipped her arm. Red splattered off her skin. The new cut throbbed. She clenched her teeth and hissed in pain. Her soul gem flickered.
Dull your pain, keep your guard up-
Three more hatchlings dropped from the ruined buildings. Two lunged at her, claws out.
She twisted around and speared one through the mouth. The other one rammed into her.
She grunted and tumbled with the force. The hatchling ripped open its mouth. She kicked it off her and crushed it with her spear. Once, twice, five times-
A laser shot through her side.
Her soul gem was dark.
"Hey, kitty. What the hell… are you doing here?"
"Fairy Tail always looks out for their family!"
The last thing she felt was the crack beneath her fingertips.
Kyoko blinked. Her mind reeled, and her gut twisted. She dropped.
The laser shot past her head and singed her hair.
She took the damaged hatchling and flung it towards the other. They crashed together in a heap.
She bounced back and eyed the last hatchling in her peripheral. A shudder ran down her spine. She couldn't be too hasty, too focused on eliminating the enemy. That's what happened in that weird memory flash, the one she knew had to be true because that laser had blasted through the exact same space. But since the memory flash was true, that meant…
The pile of hatchlings untangled themselves. The broken one creaked and eased upright, and the other one lunged towards her.
She dodged and slammed it upside the head. It snapped at her. She parried with her spear and stabbed it through the neck.
The broken hatchling charged a laser.
She reared back her arm and flung her spear. It drove into the hatchling's mouth. The hatchling fired, and a blue explosion erupted from its mouth. It crumpled to the ground, its head blown off.
She recalled her spear and turned.
Blue light brimmed from the last hatchling's mouth.
Ice froze her veins. Did she make a mistake?
A streak barrelled into the last hatchling and crashed into a broken building. Dust and pieces of stone clattered down. A blue cat stumbled out of the dust, clutching his head.
She exhaled, pressed a hand over her wound, and raised an eyebrow. "Kitty, what're you doing here?"
"I came back to help you!" The cat hesitated. "I did… right?"
She smiled. "Yeah, you did. I definitely would've died right then, if you didn't come." She hadn't made a mistake. The memory flash was right, she wasn't alone. They had their oath as magical girls, and yet, it was so easy to forget sometimes. It was real, not just a feeling, or some flowery reassurance.
The cat shifted. "Did… did you see that…?"
"The memory flash thing? Yeah, I saw it."
"Then… that means…"
She shrugged. "I died?" Her gut twisted again. She shrugged it off. "But that didn't happen this time. You saved me." She paused. Time?
"But that doesn't mean that all those things didn't happen! Like… Future Lucy. Just because she's from the future…"
"It's in the past. Or past-future?" She hesitated again. Time, time, why was it always time?
"Still. Fairy Tail always looks out for their family. You helped me. And you helped Romeo. That makes you family. And that means I care, because family is family."
She huffed, trying to ignore the warmth in her stomach, the spark that lit in her soul gem. "How nice. Say, kitty, what's your name? Kinda weird to be calling me family if I don't even know your name, y'know?"
She mulled over it, her thoughts drifting. Worry scratched at the back of her mind. Time was rewound. Or was it? She'd never seen anything like that memory flash before, but she couldn't get her mind off of it.
"Are you thinking about that vision?"
"Memory flash," she corrected absently.
"What makes you so sure it was a memory?"
She shook herself. "You said it yourself. All those things happened, or at least they were supposed to. If we remembered that…"
"But how? Unless…"
"Someone rewound time," she said, slowly, testing the words. It settled on her tongue. Yeah, that sounded about right.
"There's only one person I know who can rewind time." But that meant-
Homura, what happened?
7 7 7
Static screeched in her head. Visions flashed before her eyes. The blinding curtain, the spell, the poison gushing through her veins and flooding her senses-
Ultear gasped and jerked her head up. The clock read 1:29.
One minute. Someone turned back time one minute. And it wasn't her.
She stumbled to her feet. Her fingers twitched. She clenched them. There was a faint echo of heat, of pinpricks, of not being fully in control of her body.
It couldn't have been the Eclipse Gate. It only sent people- and dragons, how fantastic- back in time. Surely, she wouldn't have remembered being about to cast Last Ages then. So that left another wizard with time magic.
She had an idea who it might have been. The only question was why. Why would she only turn back time one minute, instead of going back to at least before the gate was opened? Did she not have enough magic power? And if she really was the one who turned back time… then where was she?
She took a slow, steadying breath of air and stared at her palms. She didn't deserve to live. She was still a witch who didn't think twice about murdering people. She had wanted to kill Rogue- she had been prepared to kill Rogue. She had been about to snuff out the life of an innocent human being without even considering the consequences. So then, if she could give up her life, if she could use her life to save someone else, for once…
But she was denied. Why was she still denied?
It was like that moment seven years ago, all over again. On Tenroujima. When she tried to kill herself so Meredy could be free. But Meredy wouldn't let her. She saved her instead, and together, they broke out Jellal and formed Crime Sorciere.
And Gray. He pulled her back from the endless abyss, made her see that there was so much life and love in the world. She had wanted to do whatever it took to reverse the world, committed heinous acts just for the chance to have her mother love her again. Gray fought her with ice and blood, denied her that vision of a perfect world, a world she knew now would have been stained with sin should she have continued.
They had always been there for her, even after all that she did. Even now.
She didn't know why Homura had rewound time. She didn't know much of anything, really, about Homura. She didn't even know that Homura could rewind time. Only a vague hunch- a third-hand knowledge of the way Homura reacted to Future Lucy- guided her.
But Homura wasn't here. If she really did rewind time…
She rose to her feet. One last task. She'll do this one last task, and then… and then… she'll deal with everything else later. For now, she had a mission. After all, someone was always there for her. It was time for her to return the favor.
Time to find Homura.
7 7 7
Gray shoved Juvia and Meredy out of the way. A beam pierced the air and slammed into rubble, which clattered to the ground.
Lyon froze the hatchling. "Don't lose focus! This is a battleground!"
Gray hauled himself up, a retort on his tongue-
Lasers impaled him.
A sharp gasp escaped him. His hands clenched into fists. Acid bubbled in his stomach, and a vivid blue light blazed beneath his retinas. "I'm going to be killed?"
Meredy's gaze snapped up and darted around. "A dream?"
"Juvia saw it too." Her body was tense- they all were, even more than they had been before.
He blinked and shoved the image away. "Suddenly getting a vision of my death is just too creepy."
Meredy pointed. "The hatchlings came from over there."
Gray charged his magic in his hand. Like hell he was going to die, not with Lyon, Meredy, and Juvia right there.
One second. Two.
The hatchling popped over the ridge, blue swirling in its mouth.
A block of ice encased the hatchling, crystalline shards trapping it in. More hatchlings clambered next to it.
Lyon swept his hand, and ice crashed over them, locking them in a thick sheet of ice and unable to move. "They really did show up," he growled.
"Did someone warn us?" Gray asked. "Who could've done that?" There was a tingle in the back of his mind, almost vaguely familiar. He knew who it could've been. Yet, it didn't seem quite right.
He shook himself. He could think about it later. Right now, he had a battlefield to conquer.
7 7 7
Laxus jumped in front of her. The dragon's maw opened-
Wendy's eyes widened. She stepped back, took a large, gulping breath, and screamed. "Roar of the Sky Dragon!"
"Roar of the Lightning Dragon!"
The attacks smashed into the dragon's face. The dragon was blasted back, howling.
Her hands trembled. She balled them into fists, lowered herself into a stance, and glared. Her heart thudded painfully in her chest. Laxus had almost… because of her. She saw it, but she changed it. And now, all she could feel- all she could let herself feel- was a crackling, rattling whirlwind in her body.
7 7 7
Gajeel readied his arm, the beginnings of a solid iron pipe jutting from his hand. Which way would the dragon move? Right, or-?
The dragon swooped down. He jumped left. The dragon's wing curved up, the talon at the end pointed straight at him. Horror leaped in his chest. He'd dodged the wrong way-
He cursed and swerved right. The dragon's talon swung past him. He grinned and thrust his arm up.
The iron pipe drove into the dragon's neck. The dragon's head whipped back, a strangled gurgle from its mouth.
He heaved a breath. For just an instant, he let himself puzzle over the vision of the dragon's movements and recollect himself. Then he hurtled back into the fight, an iron determination to survive.
7 7 7
Before her was a crossroad, the paths lined with broken rubble and shrouded in shadow. She gritted her teeth and rounded the corner. After a few short steps, the hatchlings crawled out of the walls and loomed in front of her. She whipped around. More hatchlings trapped her in, their gleaming silver hides an impassable barrier.
Lucy stopped in her tracks. The crossroad stood before her, lined with broken rubble and shrouded in shadow, just like in that vision. She couldn't turn here.
With one hand, she pressed the leather-bound memo pad to her chest. Her other hand slid into her pouch of keys. Even if she was trying to avoid using magic, she couldn't let herself be surprised like that.
At the crossroad, she took a glance and then hurried straight past the corner. No dragons leaped in her path. She made it all the way back to the area where the Eclipse Gate was.
Her breath was starting to falter when she spotted the others- Yukino, Mirajane, Hisui, and Arcadios. She put one final burst in her sprint to reach them and then doubled over.
"Are you alright?" Hisui asked.
"Just a moment-" She sucked in a breath and straightened. "Here, look at this! It's a memo pad from the future me." She'd found it in the rubble, after she was separated from the others in the wake of a dragon's attack.
Yukino took the memo pad and opened it to the folded page. "'If by any chance the portal in this time period is destroyed, the Eclipse portal in the future will cease to exist. As part of a chain reaction, I'll also disappear from existence.' What does this mean?"
"It means that if we can destroy the portal in this time period, then there won't be a portal in the future for Rogue to return here!"
Hisui frowned. "But is it possible to stop what's already happened?"
"If everything works out, then both the dragons and Rogue will be gone!" They could save everyone. They could prevent anyone else from dying. They could stop the horrible tragedy that the future version of her had to face, before it would even come to fruition.
"There's one big problem." Arcadios turned and craned his neck up towards the Eclipse Gate. "How do we destroy a giant structure like that?"
Her hand tightened around her keys. "We'll just have to blast it with all our magical power." This was what she had been saving magic for. If this didn't work…
She met Yukino's eyes and nodded. They clasped hands. Golden light swelled around them in a circle, and the twelve golden keys swirled in the sky.
"Open! Gates of the twelve Zodiac!"
Twelve stars blazed and shot towards the gate. They wove together to form a single meteor, which streaked down towards the gate.
Blinding light overtook her vision. She squeezed her eyes shut. Her chest flared with pain, magic pouring out of her body, but her heart sang. This would work. It had to. It had to.
One last flare in her chest, one last wrench of magic, one last howl of wind. Then, static.
She opened her eyes. And recoiled.
The gate was completely unaffected. No cracks. No scratches. No marks. In fact, it seemed almost impenetrable, the harsh edges and cold steel casting a shadow even in the night.
Sweat dripped down her brow. She tilted back on her heels, almost shrinking away from the gate. Her ears rang. "No way," she whispered to herself. "We didn't even make a dent." And that was with all twelve of the Golden Gate keys. Their power was enough to close the gate… but that still wasn't enough. Then, what more could they do? The Dragon Slayers were busy fighting the dragons. Magia was fighting that strange, monstrous demon that manifested from the gate. Everyone else was scattered, fending off the hatchlings or escorting the residents to safety.
"It's made of Magnanium alloy," Arcadios said, "which is highly resistant to magic."
"Even so…" They couldn't just give up. Even if it was hopeless, even if it was impossible. Her future self had died for this. If they failed, even after her sacrifice… "We have to try again." She had enough for maybe one or two more attacks. She would have to employ some good old Natsu-style stubbornness.
Yukino pressed her lips together and nodded. They clasped hands again. A golden aura swelled around them, spiked with magic and stars.
She let herself fall back into her mind, into her magic. It was running dry- she could feel it- but she scooped up every last little droplet clinging to the edges, every fleck and speck of stardust.
A crash echoed from the distance. Arcadios snapped his gaze up. "We need to move!"
She broke out of her trance with a gasp. The golden aura winked out. She looked up, and her eyes fixated on a glitched-out demon, with wings of bone and robes of withered white, one arm cracked and crumbling, the other charging a ball of bleached monochrome aura.
She staggered upright and yanked Yukino to her feet. Where were the Magia guild members? What happened to them? Why was the demon here? When did it get here?
She ripped out a key. It burned in her hand.
The demon fired.
She squeezed her eyes shut. "Open-!"
The wind howled, and glass shattered around her. She opened her eyes and saw Ultear surrounded by hundreds of lacrima shards.
Ultear held her hand out towards a cluster of shards and narrowed her eyes. "Restore."
The shards spiralled up and formed into a crystal ball. The cracks sealed up with a flash. Ultear grasped the ball and turned to them.
Yukino gasped. "You're…"
"It's alright!" Lucy said. "She's on our side."
Yukino swallowed. "Then… Thank you."
Hisui ran up to them, followed by Arcadios. "Are you all okay?" she asked.
"We're fine," Ultear said. Her grip on the ball was tight- too tight. "I need to find Homura Akemi, immediately."
"Why?" Lucy asked. "Is something wrong?"
Nagisa appeared from behind Ultear and tackled Lucy into a hug. "She's missing! She's missing and we don't know where she went-"
Sayaka came up next, her face grim. "She just saved us and then left- disappeared, really. It's not like her to… well, okay, it is like her to just drop everything and leave, but in this situation?"
"So you don't know where she is," Ultear said.
Nagisa scowled. "No. And it's not like we can even look for her right now!"
"Speaking of, we really need to get back." She glanced at Yukino. "Hopefully we'll meet again- in better circumstances this time." She rushed away.
"You should take cover," Nagisa said. "We'll try our best to get the demon away, but it's really intent on reaching Eclipse."
Lucy started. "Wait-!" Too late- Nagisa was already gone. She huffed and turned to Ultear. "The portal. If we can destroy it, then we might be able to make it so that the dragons and Rogue could never come back in the first place!"
"So that's why the demon's trying to get to Eclipse. It wants to stop you from destroying it. It was made out of the portal." Ultear frowned. "But…"
Lucy understood. There was still the matter with Homura. They weren't exactly close… but she understood worry all too well. If only there was a way to find her…
Find… Of course!
She drew out a silver key. It would leave her with less magic to attack the portal with, but this was important. "Open! Gate of the Compass! Pyxis!"
A bell-like chime, and the red bird-like spirit popped in front of her.
"Pyxis, I need you to find Homura Akemi. Can you do that?"
Pyxis chirped. The compass on its head spun, faster and faster, until it froze. Pyxis pointed its flippers off to the side, in the distance.
"She's in that direction."
Ultear nodded. "I'll leave Eclipse to you. Good luck." With that, she darted away.
7 7 7
Keep it together.
She drew her knees to her chest, breathing harshly. She couldn't afford to fall apart. Not now, not when there was still a battle raging on. Madoka needed her. Madoka was counting on her, damn it, to do her part, to be strong, to slay the demon…
So why did her hands keep shaking?
She forcibly uncurled herself and tried to stand. A chill shook her frame. She stumbled. Cursed. Braced an arm against the wall. She couldn't even keep herself upright. If she went now, she would be…
Her soul gem stung. She shook her head. No. She couldn't think about that. She just had to go back and help Madoka.
But how much help would you be?
She knew that the others were trying to contact her. That didn't mean she was listening, or responding. They had their own business to worry about. Slaying the demon. That was what they had to focus on. She couldn't distract them from that.
If she went now…
"So you were here."
She stiffened, but kept her eyes forward, away from who she knew had to be Ultear.
"I can fight," she bit out.
"I never said you couldn't."
She gritted her teeth. What was Ultear even doing here? She shouldn't be here. She couldn't. Not when she could feel the needles dig into her skin, not when she was like this.
"It was you, wasn't it? The one who turned back time."
She pulled herself to her feet. This was why Ultear was here. Well. She wasn't going to be sitting down for this- refused to. She wasn't going to back down. "And if it was?"
Ultear was silent.
She felt her chest tighten. This was it. This was when Ultear would strike. Magic sparked in her soul gem, ready to-
"I wanted to thank you."
She froze. The magic flickered and died.
"You probably… no, you definitely saved my life. What I don't understand is why."
"Do I need a reason?"
"Maybe not," Ultear said. "But you don't know me. You don't care about me. There is no reason for you to save me. So why?"
Ice settled in her bones. She turned on Ultear. "Let me ask you something. Why did you think that throwing away your life would accomplish anything?" She fisted her hands in her skirt, ignoring the slight tremble.
"I wasn't throwing away my life."
"You cast that spell," she hissed. "You must have known that it would end it."
Ultear pressed her lips together and curved them up. It was too sharp to call it a smile. "It would've been worth it. With my life, all I had ever done was hurt and curse others. If my life could be used to save others instead… to revert this tragedy…"
"You can't be sure that your death would save others. The people who you tried to save might just die anyway."
It was a nice sentiment. But nice didn't always save people. Nice sometimes only made things worse. Like Mami, who helped lure others into buying the glamor of a magical girl. Like Sayaka, whose nice qualities turned a sharp point against her.
After all, kindness sometimes led to even greater tragedy.
"I can't deny that it's a possibility." Ultear paused. Took a breath. "But I believe in them. They survived Acnologia. They took down two of the three dark guilds in the Balam Alliance. If it's them, I'm sure they can save everyone."
She gritted her teeth. "You're putting a lot of faith in them." What if they let you down?
She never did forgive Mami. For making Madoka a magical girl and then dying on her. When Walpurgisnacht was coming. When Madoka needed her help. When they both did.
"I can't exactly put faith in myself," Ultear scoffed. "I have a lot to atone for."
She knew. Ultear was once part of Grimoire Heart, one of the dark guilds in the Balam Alliance. She once infiltrated the Magic Council and brought it to the ground. Clearly, a lot must have changed since those seven years. But even so- "You can't atone if you're dead."
"What if my death is atonement?"
"Then you're a fool. Dying doesn't solve anything."
"Neither does doing nothing."
She clenched her fists. "I-"
Ultear's voice gentled. "We need you. Your guildmates need you."
Still, she hesitated. She was… weak. She didn't even know why she was like this: why the black of the sky seemed suffocating, why the dull, flat colors of the around her made a part of her squirm.
"Or are you afraid of fighting?"
"No," she stated. Such a thought was… ridiculous. Magical girls faced death every day. But as she was right now… "I'm…" she forced the rest out, "a liability."
"Perhaps. Perhaps not. But tell me, does that matter?"
No. No… it didn't. She wished to protect Madoka. No matter what. It didn't matter if she was ready. Just like how it didn't matter how many times she failed, how many times she had to start over, how many times she had to rewind. She would do it.
She had to.
Her bow flashed into her hand. She gripped it with white, too pale knuckles. "Let's go."
"You said that Eclipse would end this mess."
"If we destroy the portal we can stop Future Rogue and the dragons from ever coming in the first place. Did you know?"
"No." Inwardly, she cursed. That made sense- she should've thought of it earlier. "I take it that it won't be easy."
"Of course not. On top of that, that demon is trying to reach the portal."
She shared a glance with Ultear. Her face was set, her expression firm. And if there was a glint of something in her eye… well. "I'll distract the demon."
"And I'll try to help Lucy and the others destroy the portal."
7 7 7
"We have to destroy the gate."
Nagisa's head snapped up. "Homura, where are you?"
"I'm heading your way. Keep the wraith-witch distracted."
Something was wrong. Actually, she already knew that, but now she was doubly sure. But she didn't have time to fix it.
She pointed her trumpet and blew. Bubbles sprayed towards the demon, crowding around its face.
The demon barrelled through them. On contact, the bubbles burst with a loud, obnoxious bang.
The demon shrieked and turned to her.
Yellow ribbons wrapped around its neck. It jerked.
"Nagisa! Blast it again!"
She raised her trumpet to her lips and blared. Bubbles swarmed the demon.
The ribbons unravelled. The demon lurched forward, headfirst into the bubbles. Multiple explosions shook the air.
Mami landed next to her, a musket in hand. "Do you know how-"
Nagisa hugged her.
Mami patted her head, a small smile on her lips. "We don't have time for this…"
She squeezed tighter. "I'm glad you're okay."
Mami sighed and pulled away. "As I was saying, do you know how to destroy the gate?"
She shook her head. "I can try using my Witch Soul."
"I think it'll take a lot more than that. Besides, you're low on magic."
She glanced at her soul gem. It was a dull white. She grimaced. Her Witch Soul wasn't dependent on how much magic she had. She could use it again… but should she? It was dangerous to keep using it. And not just for her.
But if she didn't use it…
"It's not worth it," Mami insisted.
"It's the strongest magic I can use right now." Without ending her own life in the process, at least.
"It's not worth it. I won't let you get hurt."
She stared at the demon. It kept moving onward, towards Eclipse. "If I don't, then this world ends."
"Then I'll make sure it doesn't come to that." Mami rushed ahead.
Nagisa started after her. "Wait!"
Mami fired at the demon, summoned two more muskets, and fired again.
The demon swept out an arm. Three black orbs shot out.
Mami twisted and dove through them. She rolled to a stop and thrust out a hand. Magic pooled at her feet, forming into a cannon.
White aura swirled into a sphere in front of the demon.
The demon screeched. Yellow and white flashed.
White lasers cut through the night. They were aimed at Mami.
Nagisa surged forward and flung out a hand. Crystals burst from her fingertips. "Get down!" She wasn't going to make it. She wasn't-
A purple shield blazed in front of them. The lasers crashed off it.
Homura lowered her arm and whirled on Mami. "Don't be so reckless!"
Nagisa reached out and clutched her hand. Her whole body was tense, her muscles taut and her teeth gritted. Her soul gem was cool to the touch, tiny flecks of darkness glimmering inside.
Something was wrong. What was wrong?
Homura shook herself and visibly pulled back. "Are you trying to get yourself killed?"
Mami scanned her carefully. Then smiled. "You saved me again. Thank you."
Nagisa frowned. "Are-?"
Mami took her hand and shook her head. Not now.
She understood. She didn't like it, but she understood. They had to deal with this situation first. "Do you know how to destroy the gate?"
"An immense amount of power."
"That doesn't exactly help," Mami said.
Homura's eyes flashed. "Perhaps you'd like to assist, if you're going to showboat instead of fight."
Mami's eyes narrowed. "Don't-"
"I saw Lucy and Yukino try to destroy the gate!" Nagisa said, a smile plastered on her face. She gripped Mami's hand tightly, holding her back. "They used all twelve spirits… And that still didn't work. Should we help them?"
Homura shook her head. "We don't have the power. It would be best for us to distract the wraith-witch. How much magic do you have left?"
"Then stay back." Homura rushed off.
Nagisa turned to Mami. "Something's wrong with her," she muttered. "Something happened, and now…"
"I know," Mami sighed. "That doesn't make it easy to deal with her, when she's like this."
Nagisa only looked at her. Could she even hear herself? "Mami…"
Her smile was strained. "I'll leave it for now. Until after we deal with this."
She dredged up the remaining flecks of her magic and just… held it. Beneath the skin of her fingers, at the very back of her trumpet, she held it and locked it there. "Until after we deal with this," she repeated. There would be an after. They would deal with this. She refused to let it end otherwise.
7 7 7
Homura raced after the wraith-witch. In her hands, in her bow, another arrow sparked. She aimed it towards another one of the wraith-witch's arm shapes and fired.
The wraith-witch howled and turned to her. Its wings flared out, and a black orb shot at her.
She charged forward and dove under it. The orb skimmed over her. She rolled and cocked another arrow.
Red chains burst around the wraith-witch's hands. It snarled and yanked at them. The chains snapped.
She charged more magic into the arrow and released it.
The arrow cracked one of the shapes. The wraith-witch screeched.
"I hope I'm not too late to the party!"
She straightened and turned. And… there was Kyoko. Still with that same sharp-toothed grin. The same vibrant red eyes. A few unhealing cuts and scrapes, but…
"What's with that face? Happy to see me, aren't ya?"
She took whatever feeling she might have had and shoved it deep down. She was not relieved. She was not happy to see her. She was not… whatever. That was nonsense. "We don't have time for chatter."
"Yeah, yeah. Stop this thing from reaching the gate, right?"
She nodded and started forward.
Kyoko gripped her wrist. "Hey. You okay?"
She shook it off. "I'm fine." They didn't have time for this.
A blue blur rushed at the wraith-witch. Musical staffs lined its path. Sayaka.
The wraith-witch swiped at her. She ducked. It narrowly missed her head.
"Fall back, Sayaka!" Homura barked. She drew back the string of her bow. Her fingers stung. She fired.
The demon snarled and seemed to flicker. The arrow struck not its arm, but its body.
She swore and pulled out a rifle. Fired. Fired again. And again.
Gunfire joined her, streaks of yellow lighting the dark. A few scarce bubbles drifted near the demon, half-faded. One sneaky bubble drifted near its arm.
Her fingers throbbed now. She took out her bow and drew back the string. Held it. Fired.
The arrow struck the bubble and burst. The demon howled. Cracks snaked through the shape, and a part of it was chipped off.
If they could do something like that again…
Its wings flared out. The air shimmered around it.
Her soul gem jerked. She glanced down. It pulsed weakly but quickly, like a heart's fluttering beat.
She looked past the demon. Her stomach sank. The gate was still a few ways away, but the demon was charging up for something-
Sayaka raced past it. "Everyone get away, right now!" she yelled. "The wraith-witch is heading this way!"
In the distance, Ultear tensed. "But-"
Lucy and Yukino dragged her away.
The wraith-witch barrelled towards the gate. Its power tore up chunks of the ground beneath and smashed other pieces to dust. Even the gate shuddered as it drew near.
The wraith-witch slowed to a stop just before it and drew itself up, taking up guard. Its wings stretched out to the sides, twice as wide as the gate and hauntingly stark against the night.
Homura raced towards it, her heart pounding in her chest. Ultear. And Lucy and Yukino. They had to have made it out.
They did. They came out of the rubble a few seconds later, dust clinging to their bodies. Ultear wrenched herself away from Lucy and Yukino and turned to Homura. "You let it take the gate. When we haven't destroyed it."
"We couldn't stop it," she said lowly. They didn't have the magic to stop it.
Ultear cursed and clenched her fists. "We have to fight. Even now."
They did. But they were all low on magic. If this kept up, then they'd run out, and then they'd die, and there wasn't anything they could do when they were dead-
But she promised. She would fight for this world. And… she was happy here. Here she could be with Madoka. Here, she- she could be friends with Madoka, and not worry about the fate of the city, or the other magical girls in this city, or the impending death of her best friend- at the time, her only friend.
She was together with Madoka. And even the other magical girls, Nagisa, Kyoko, Sayaka, Mami. She would protect them. She would protect this world. She would protect Madoka. She had to- had to-
"Don't worry. It's okay now."
Madoka floated down in front of them, the flower at the top of her bow in full bloom.
"Madoka," she whispered. She hadn't had the time to dwell on it- could only focus on fighting, on protecting her- but… after she rewound time, Madoka had disappeared. And she was only reappearing now? "Where were you?"
For what? And why? Why now? But she didn't dare ask. The air was too still, her tone of voice too flat, too final-
She wouldn't like the answer to those questions. She knew.
Madoka stared at the wraith-witch. Her eyes blazed gold. Her white dress billowed out behind her, the silky frills almost transparent and glowing in the night.
She looked ethereal. This wasn't a human. This wasn't even a normal magical girl. This was the most powerful magical girl to exist.
This being was more goddess than human.
"Madoka." Her voice shook. This wasn't happening. This couldn't be happening. "Madoka."
"I want to protect the future of this world. If it takes the power of a goddess to make that happen, well then, I guess I'll have to use it."
But if she used that power, she would return to the Law of Cycles. She would return to being a goddess. A physical body- even a magical girl's body- could only contain so much power. If she forcibly used more than her body was capable of…
Madoka pointed her bow at the wraith-witch. A sigil swirled behind her, pink lines and circles etched in the dark. Pink fires swelled around her.
Ultear yanked Homura back. Homura stumbled. For a moment, the body of the wraith-witch seemed almost blue. A deep, dark blue, shaped like an hourglass. For a moment, Walpurgisnacht's laughter echoed in her ears.
Madoka smiled. Her drawing arm tightened. "As of this moment-"
Her voice crashed into Homura. She reached out.
"I am disbanding Magia!"
A shrill note bled into her voice. "Madoka, don't-!"
"VOTA IN FUGAM!"
The world exploded in pink light. Shining arrows burst forth, like a storm of holy magic cleansing the world. The arrows pierced through the demon's body and slammed into the gate. With each strike, the gate shuddered. Pieces began to chip and snap off.
The wraith-witch screeched. Chunks of its body were torn to shreds. Its wings and arms fractured and then shattered.
A final flash, and the arrows stopped.
The gate groaned and collapsed. The remains of the wraith-witch slowly faded away.
Silence hung over her. She stepped forward. Once. Twice. And stopped.
Madoka was on the ground.