A/N: Well, this was a story that should have been finished by now, but life sucks and I'm only just starting out with it. Oh well. That's given me more time to plan and iron out details. I don't own WITCH, the SoulTaker, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Super Robot Wars, and Cave Story.

Julia wasn't sure why she had even bothered setting her alarm clock to go off today. Long before it had run she had gotten up, washed, dressed, and had breakfast, leaving her practically nothing to do except watch the sun rise over Heatherfield.

This was her first day at Sheffield. And not only that; her first day with them. And just thinking about them made Julia glance over to her cell phone as if that could summon the call from Aria or one of the others. It didn't, but she knew her new friend would be over to her house soon enough, and then she could finally meet them all the others: Ciel, Ruri, and Nena. She'd heard so much about them already, and she kept wondering what exactly they would be-

-And in that moment of harmless daydreaming, Julia's phone rang. She quickly snatched it up and answered it.

They were simply called the Guardians... five girls chosen to stand in defense of Kandrakar, the Center of Infinity. Gathering strength from the elements of Water, Fire, Earth, and Air along with the power of Quintessence, they had time and time again rose to defeat the challenges set against them and overcome incredible odds. There was no better term to call them; for the protected everyone all while risking their own lives.

… Which was exactly the reason why Julia was walking down to her home's front door; to meet Aria Nagask and accept a duty that had been thrust upon her.

Her mother had the classic lines about first days of school, ones she'd heard too many times to bother with counting. For her part, Julia admitted that depending on if she made any fast friends she might run the risk of being late for dinner, but she promised to get home as soon as possible or at least call. Of course, this wouldn't be a serious issue at all. There were Astral Drops for that sort of thing.

And with that, Julia said her goodbyes, headed right out the door, spotted a girl with semi-long, almost white-blonde hair -no doubt Aria- leaning against the fence. Julia couldn't wait another moment longer and enthusiastically ran towards her.

"Hi!" she said, sticking out her hand. "It's nice to finally meet you after hearing about all the great things you've done!"

Aria turned to face Julia, sizing her up very quickly: short brown hair, hazel eyes, enthusiastic spirit and a hair below the average height for girls. And with that she smiled and shook her hand. "Nice to meet you too. It's Julia, right? Julia Klein?" Getting a nod, Aria motioned towards the sidewalk and started to walk. "Well then... welcome to Heatherfield."

"You know... I couldn't have picked a better day for this."


The blonde woman at the table looked up at a nearby waiter. "The weather, for one." She raised her hand up slightly, palming facing the sky before using her other hand to sip her coffee once again. "I'd be willing to say this is one of the better days of London weather in the past year. And then there's the coffee..." She took another drink, this time indulging in the beverage for a few moments longer and smiling all the while.

"Would you believe it if I told you, right now," she started as she stood up, "That this wonderful little shop will never make a simple beverage of heated water, beans, and cream, quite as good as they did today ever again? Or even that today's brew is of a lesser quality than yesterday's?"

The man was looking at her in a confused way... she didn't blame him. "W-what? I'm sorry miss but there's things I have to do and-"

"Oh, I'm sorry if this is boring for you," she sighed. "I forgot; the British prefer tea. Very well then, I guess this is what I get for just picking this place out of convenience. Go about your day; we both have more important things to do."

And with that, Irui Ganeden watched the man walk back into the interior part of the cafe, shaking her head briefly before departing for the inner reaches of London. As much as she wished to sample another beverage -there was always the chance that this was the last day it was available- there was work to be done. Not only that, but associates to meet with and things to set in order

The sight of the Sheffield left Julia in awe. The institute had been the place of study of guardians, both past and present, and she was joining the ranks. There would be classes and making new friends and doing her best at keeping out of unneeded trouble...

… Which was exactly why she was sprinting down the halls as fast as her legs could carry her. Being late to the first class of her first day was something she had hoped she wouldn't have to experience. That sheer determination served her well, and Julia barreled through the door just before the final bell rang to signal the start of class.

The students and teacher looked at her for a moment, and she bowed her head in embarrassment. "First day..." she confessed before everyone's attention was turned away from her. Crisis averted, she quickly found the closest available desk and quietly moved to sit down in it.

The lesson itself was thankfully one she had already heard about at her previous school, giving her a much-appreciated opportunity to impress the teacher. All the while she looked at her schedule, which Aria had marked to let her know which ones she'd have with her fellow Guardians. Her third-period class was with Aria and a name marked down with just a "C", while her fifth-period class was with "R" and a "N", while her final class of the day had her with "R" again.

What was odd... however, was a letter, possibly an "N", was marked next to her second-period class. Or it seemed that way, but the letter was smeared by eraser marks and Julia couldn't be sure. She didn't mind though... if Nena Richards had dropped the class it wasn't the end of the world. She's meet her soon after that anyways.

"Shouldn't you be in London?"

The young man gave a weary sigh and turned away from the Sheffield Institute to look at his companion. "Consider this recon, Chrono. That school's where the Guardians are... where they act like normal people."

Chrono, a young adult barely older than the other, shook his head. "This is dangerous. We've already gotten word that our contact was found out and jumped. Cobray, you know what that means."

Cobray's expression immediately hardened. "Kandrakar knows what we're doing, don't they?"

"Well, someone does," Chrono said as he turned and began walking away, expecting Cobray to follow him. "We haven't even announced hostilities and we're already down one man... not a good way to start."

"I take it that we're bumping up everything in the schedule?" Cobray asked, swiftly falling into step beside Chrono.

"Of course. Irui's finishing up preparations in a short while. I was lucky when I found you... any longer and we might not have been able to get back in time." Chrono got no answer from Cobray, although it was abundantly clear to him that his superior understood the severity of the situation.

… And that was why he almost couldn't believe it when he cast a glance backwards back at Sheffield again.

Before Chrono could voice his concerns, Cobray was already silencing them with an upraised hand. "I know... it's just..."

"Just what?" Chrono looked back at the school as well, although he knew all to well that whatever Cobray was seeing was beyond his ability to perceive.

Cobray shook his head in confusion. "The Flow of Sheffield... there's just someone there who had a Flow I didn't really expect seeing. But... it's nothing."

"Good? So we can go?"

A glint of something caught Cobray's eyes. The area around Chrono and himself carried its own Flow, one that was swiftly becoming filled with loathing and hostility. "Not when we have company," Cobray swiftly said as he looked up to see the first assailant, a hooded man in a white cloak perched on the top of a lamppost and previously unnoticed.

The random inhabitants of Heatherfield were already screaming out in shock and disblief. "How long were they here?" Chrono exclaimed. A gray staff bearing an angular, light-blue head materialized in his hands in an instant as a black overcoat almost fluttered into being over his clothes. This was bad. If they'd found them, they probably had found Irui and the others... meaning there was going to be a battle even before the declaration of war.

"More importantly," Cobray answered, "How is it that they found us?" A cloak similar to Chrono's had materialized over his own clothes, and he sprang up at the closest attacker even as he summoned a menacing scythe into his grasp.

His scythe crashed against a bright blade of neon-green crystal, and Cobray hoped Irui and the others were having better luck.

Eventually the bell rang once again and with renewed enthusiasm and interest if she'd be meeting Nena early, Julia headed straight to her second class.

"So you're the new meat."

It then occurred to Julia that a girl with light-red hair was walking next to her in stride, one that looked just a hair younger than her. That didn't stop the girl from carrying herself as if she were Julia's elder at all.

Julia stopped, fishing out her schedule and running quickly through it. "Would you be..." Quickly spotting the smudged "N" she looked back up. "Nena Richards?"

The girl nodded slowly.

"Well, it's nice to meet you!" Julia reached out to offer a handshake, but Nena just continued to just stare at her. After a moment she let her hand drop back down to her sides. "Not the-"

"You do know the person you'll be replacing, right? The person who died." In one step, Nena halved the distance between her and Julia. "Do you even know her name?" She gave Julia all of five seconds, five seconds the girl spent desperately to try to recall the name of a girl that... for the life of her nobody had ever focused on. And at the end of those five seconds, Nena turned and began to walk away. "Figures."

"W-wait! I can explai-"

Nena turned around and glared at Julia, seeing the girl visibly recoil and shirk backwards under her gaze. "Explain what? That you're looking forward to this in spite of the fact you only got this position because someone was killed in the line of duty? How about you think about that and what it means about you and the people you could end up leaving behind because a duty gets forced on you."

The warning bell rang. Nena turned and started walking away again, pausing at the class for their next lesson before walking by it and continuing down the hall. Against her better judgment, Julia simply chose to get to her seat and leave the issue with Nena for later.

Nena did not show up in time for the roll call, nor afterwards. And nor was her name called either, compounding confusion on top of confusion for Julia.

It finally hit the breaking point when the P.A. System crackled to life not even five minutes later.


The principal's was all but hysterical, a weak mask of authority failing to hide the fact that there was something wrong. Julia faintly heard the sounds of talking in the background... almost as if there was a news report or a radio on.

The principal continued, putting more effort into sounding composed with mixed results. "Something has happened in Heatherfield. All students are to stay in their classrooms and all those in the halls are to go to the nearest one at once and stay there. No student, under any circumstances, is to leave the school."

Off in the distance, Julia heard a faint roaring... no doubt an explosion. A better incentive could not have been asked for.

Truancy, Mai Landale mused as she walked out a side door of the Sheffield Institute, was turning into a crippling vice for her. And today was an almost picturesque example. Wake up, go to school, claim to be Nena Richards, give a replacement Guardian a cold dose of reality, and then leave before second period started. And she'd actually turned in her homework for once too.

A part of her knew she'd only doomed herself in the long run. She'd talk and ask the others and they'd figure it all out. And at that point Mai wasn't sure what would happen to her. They'd probably figure out how much Mai knew -Ruri did have telepathy, after all- and they'd probably realize that no amount of sweet words would make her see things their way.

Frankly, she didn't care. There were things that needed to get out in the open and the Guardians were the only people that would understand. Of course, that was because they were the cause of it all in the first place.


- And, judging by the principle's announcement about something happening in Heatherfield. Maybe some nut in the IRA wanted to try to cause some tragic event that would earn a place in history books. Alternatively it could be anything between a gas leak or maybe just a one of those American drivers deciding to give in to baser desires.

Whatever it was, it didn't matter to her.

Irui hated bad news. Bad news always meant more bad news later on and it meant plans that would have to be scrapped and deadlines pushed back.

But if it was there, it was only appropriate that she be clued into it.

/Cobray and Chrono are tied up in Sheffield?/ This was very, very bad. /If it was the Guardians then alone they'd-/

/No,/ answered the quiet voice in her head. /They appear to be Separatists using mass-produced weapons we'd find the Meridian Royal Guard using. They're holding their own, for now./

Irui's pace as she walked the streets of London redoubled. One member of Baral already killed and another two in danger and nobody able to get to them. They were not due for pickup for another thirty minutes, but at this rate they could all be dead by then.

/One thing at a time though. Kyosuke, what's your status?/

/Currently following you on the rooftops. The Flow, or what I can make of it around us, is what you'd expect./

Irui breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps Chrono and Cobray had unknowingly drawn attention away from London... away from her. Provided they didn't get themselves killed, it would mean this stumble block was doubling as a stepping stone. /And Subaru?/

/Everything's clear on my end!/ chirped a much more enthusiastic voice, one that did its own part in putting Irui at ease. /If we're being followed, they're so far back they won't be able to do anything./

Yes. They could do this. They were in the perfect position, and they were in the center of the country. And soon enough the Kandrakar, the Oracle, and the Hearts in general would all be a thing of the past. Then it's now or never. /It's time-/ Almost as if on a whim, Irui turned, stepping off of the sidewalk and into an intersection just as one lane's stoplights turned green.

All too quickly, random passer-byes realized what had happened, and as if in a cosmic sense of irony, the blonde woman found herself staring down an industrial van. And yet not a single automobile moved, the presence of the strange blonde woman and the slightest hint of her power being all it took to silence everyone and everything around her.

/Kyosuke, Subaru... if anything happens.../ Irui took a deep breath and gradually let it out. /I'm counting on you to protect me until this address ends./

/It's no problem./

/Like we'd let someone hurt you!/

/Very well then./

And with that... Irui Ganeden declared war.

"Hello... world..." She spoke with no more volume than one would use in casual indoor conversation.

"Very few of you know me. I suppose I should apologize for taking time out of your busy schedules, but there are some things that simply must be done. For the truth is... something very wrong has been happening right before your eyes for years know and none of you have ever noticed."

And yet it was carried. Not on the wind, but through the fleeting accomplishments of man. Through radiosand music players and emergency broadcast systems, people around the world her her speak. Through digital displays and televisions and movie screens, people around the world saw her face.

"It's a gradual process... don't get me wrong. But it is getting worse and worse every day... and your memories are changing to accommodate these changes. Someone has to put a stop to it, after all.

"And that is what I will do. I... I and those that choose to follow me... we will see a stop to this degradation. This Decay."

/She's doing the broadcast already?/ Chrono asked Chrono through the privacy of mental communication. The battle was proving too problematic for energy to be wasted on shouting. /Isn't that dangerous... with us stuck here?/

A crystalline lance plunged down at him and Chrono swung his pole up, swatting it away before loosing a series of energy blasts from his weapon at his current target. Unfortunately the assailant fell back, warding off Chrono's attack with his own weapon. Any attempts at following up the attack were swiftly quashed when another two lance-users charged at Chrono from his flanks and forced him to backpedal to safety.

/She might not have a choice!/ Cobray answered back. /The longer we stay here, the more we risk getting ourselves killed!/

For his part, Cobray was fairing better, his scythe keeping his three attackers at bay. Superior numbers and the ability to cover for each other meant any window of opportunity to land a decisive blow was small, too small for Cobray's liking. And the fact they were fighting in the city, filled with people running and screaming for their lives and not having a blonde woman talking to them through their electronics didn't help.

A sweeping blow from a lance was deflected off of Cobray's scythe and with a shout he pushed off, swinging his scythe furiously left and right to get precious breathing room.

/We're running out of time,/ Cobray mentally noted. The Flow around them was changing... people were coming closer. Probably Earth civilian authorities. /If the police get here things are going to get even more complicated./

/Policies of Baral, right?/ Chrono asked before ducking under a thrusting lance. /Figures. We're going to need a plan, aren't we?/

/Nobody said this would be easy./

Julia was... at a loss.

"-To be honest, there isn't much many of you can do-"

Who was this woman? Why was she-

"Julia Klein?"

She looked up, seeing her teacher standing at the head of the class, "You're needed in the office."

"-but I'm talking to you all because this is a threat to you all-"

Everyone was looking at her, confusion in their eyes.

"Please, Miss Klein."

"R-right." Grabbing her books and keeping them close, she quietly slid out of her desk and marched out, only to find herself looking at Aria and three other girls. The red-haired girl from before was, however, suspiciously absent. "Where's Ne-"

Before she knew it, two of the girls looped their arms through Julia's, almost dragging her down the hallway. She looked desperately at Aria, who didn't seem moved by the visible plea for explanations.

"I'm Nena Richards," said the girl on her right, one with short, wavy blonde hair style to hide half of her left eye. "You were duped before... though I have to apologize. That was all Aria's fault."


"Oh can't you just shut her up, Oswald?" Aria half-groaned, half-snapped in the general direction of the closest speaker.

"Sorry, Aria," suddenly chirped out a tinny, digital voice as the five girls continued walking, Julia finally moving under her own power again. "But she appears to be everywhere."

"Everywhere?" Aria repeated as she glanced at the others.

"I'm afraid so," the speaker continued. "I just got told from my brother in the principal's office that it's the same there too... and in fact all over the news!"

"And to think we just got around to saving the world only a few weeks ago..." muttered the fourth girl, one with cold, narrow eyes and brown hair that went down to her shoulder.

"But it can't be them again," said the last, a girl a darker shade of red than the impostor from before. "Because we completely smoked them! There's no way that-"

"It just comes with the territory, really," Aria admitted as the quintet reached the front doors of Sheffield... just in time for a teacher to round the bend and open her mouth to speak to them... and then promptly close it and turn around and go the other way from before.

"Gets easier every time I do it," Nena said with a smile. She glanced over Julia, gesturing towards herself. "Limited ability to influence the minds of others. One of the perks of being the Water Guardian. That's how I got you out of class."

"W-well... thanks, I guess..." Julia said, not sure what to make of all of this. Things were happening ridiculously fast, after all. "But... what are we really gonna-"

"We're going to stop this, obviously!" Aria said as the doors of Sheffield sprung open, letting the five out into the world again. "It's what we do, as Guardians!" A moment later, a small, shimmering jewel materialized in her hand and, after a quick glance left and right, she raised it up into the air.


/So... how do you think you think Irui and the others are faring?/ Chrono asked, his back pressed up against Cobray's as their six attackers circled around them.

Cobray didn't answer, instead just scowling. Judging by the weak crackles of a female voice from the wreckage of a nearby car, the others weren't beat yet. And neither were he and Chrono.

We have only a few minutes before the police get here. When they do our timing's going to have to be perfect.

Chrono smiled. Are you implying it could possibly be anything but?

The six lunged forward, thrusting out with their lances at odd angles, their weapons sending up a shower of sparks as Cobray and Chrono smacked the lot of them away before springing back onto the offensive.

Their attacks were wild, seemingly ill-timed and their defenses were full of holes. The six figures could smell the blood in the water, and pressed their attacks even more forcefully. An awkward block left Cobray open to a stab that knocked his scythe away, the weapon crashing into the pavement in the distance.

… And just then the sounds of police sirens came screeching into earshot. The eight men froze for all of a second... Right before the lance-wielders leveled their emerald-green weapons at Chrono and Cobray and charged.

/Cobray,/ Chrono thought as he slammed his staff into the ground underneath him, /I leave this in your capable hands./

And with that, Cobray Gordon's cloak suddenly billowed and ripped itself apart into six equal-sized, flapping imitations of bats, each swiftly twisting into the shape of a miniature drill aimed at a different attacker. The cloaked figures moved in synch to swat them out of the air, only for the lot of them to suddenly realize massive lengths of chains to burst from the ground and bind their arms and legs. A moment later and their lives were over, their chests or heads ripped apart.

The threat was over; Chrono and Cobray were alive and would shortly rendezvous. For Irui... it was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Now all that was left was to end this little declaration.

"I suppose all of you, after today, will go back to business as usual. You may not even remember me seizing control of your electronics, let alone how I did it.

"But to the others out there..." Her eyes narrowed. That's right. It wasn't just ordinary people listening and watching. "I, nor the men and women who serve underneath me, will no longer tolerate what you do to this world or any other for that matter. And to those others out there... you will be seeing more of me and experience what I and my followers are capable of.

"We are the Garden of Baral.

"We will destroy Kandrakar, murder its Oracle, and destroy every single Heart in existence. It's time time for us all to escape their gravity."

Irui turned and began walking away, only to vanish in a burst of with that, the die was cast.

Cobray sighed. "That was cutting it close..."

"That was the point," Cobray corrected him as he glanced around to try to locate his scythe. "Their Flows were growing more panicked as they realized that the police would be here soon." And still were, actually...

"So they'd panic and leave themselves open to our counterattack."

Cobray smiled. "Exactly. It was just a matter of..." He scowled. There was that Flow again. It was closer, no less. In fact-

"Are you with them?"

Cobray turned, seeing a girl with short red hair glaring at him furiously, clutching his scythe in her hands.


"Don't lie to me!" she snapped, clumsily raising the scythe and leveling it at Cobray and Chrono. "Is this some kind of world-wide invasion or something? Like taking down every city out there?"

/Cobray, this is-/

/Just wait, Chrono./ Cobray took a step towards the girl, raising up his hands so this girl could see them. It was her... she was the source of that hateful Flow. In fact-

"You want to come with us, don't you... Mai?" Cobray asked.

Mai was left speechless, Cobray's scythe clattering to the ground in front of her. "How did you-"

Chrono was just as confused as Mai about all of this. /Yes. How do you know? Reading Flows doesn't let you know peoples names./

/It's complicated,/ Chrono admitted.

/But she's-/

/She's been involved in this all for quite a while now, Chrono./ If this bothers you so much, take it up with Irui when we get back.

"You... you have to be joking!" Mai managed to force out.

"Well, you came here, didn't you?" Cobray pointed out. "So why else? You hate the Guardians and Kandrakar, don't you? And you were probably hoping that you could beg and plead your way into winning us over." He smiled. "Is that really what you want, Mai?"

This was all wrong. Or at least that's what Mai kept trying to tell herself. And then another point would ask her what she exactly expected these people... hopefully members of the Garden of Baral to be like. And she couldn't come up with a straight answer for that.

"That said... thanks for helping me find Werkbau." She realized Cobray was in front of her now, picking up his scythe and pointing at it. "I mean... that's Werkbau. Sorry if I confused you."

"Are you seriously...?"

Cobray raised an eyebrow in confusion. "About what? You joining the Garden of Baral? I'd be lying if I said this wasn't because you're a special case, but yes. I am serious." He offered Mai a handshake and a smile.

It was stupid.

It was selfish.

It was infantile.

She would be taking this good looking man's words at face value.

… But...

... It would be avenging Lynn. That was all the justification Mai needed.

She grabbed tight hold of Cobray's hand and in doing so, Mai Landale added her strength to the Garden of Baral.

A/N: And bam! This story is, as you could probably tell, not just another fairly vanilla "new generation" story. I'm trying to do something different, not only with my own writing style but also with WITCH in general. Maybe it'll work, maybe it won't. But here's hoping it's a winner.

For those interested in beta-testing, send me a PM and we can possibly discuss something.