Homura Akemi could do nothing but stare. She couldn’t act, because she was too weak. She couldn’t run, because she wouldn’t let herself. She cried, and cried, and that was all she did.
She kept staring, and stared at Mami Tomoe’s bloodied, headless body. “This thing… it killed her…” she said, mostly to herself. She couldn’t bring herself to believe this was all really happening.
Mado–no, Kaname-san–touched her back and rubbed it gently. Homura felt warm… but only for a second. She realized that Kaname was walking away from her, and towards that giant witch in the sky. “No! You can’t beat it by yourself!” she cried to the girl who saved her, the girl she loved. “It’s too strong! It’ll kill you, Kaname-san!”
And there it was, Kaname’s steadfast moral principles, holding to the very end. It was the thing Homura loved most about her, and the thing she knew Kaname could never control. “Even so, I have to protect everyone. It’s my job; I’m a magical girl.”
Homura burst into tears again. “Please… You can run away! This… It’s all hopeless! No one would blame you if you did, Kaname-san. I wouldn’t.”
Kaname gave her biggest smile. “Homura…” she began. “It’s okay. I’m glad I got to become friends with you. You know, saving you from that witch, way back when, was my best accomplishment, and I’m always going to be proud of it. That’s why, in the end, I’m glad I became a magical girl.” She looked up at the witch in the sky. “I really am.”
“Kaname-san…I…” Even now, she couldn’t blurt out those three small words… I love you…
“Goodbye, Homura. Take care.” She drew her bow, leapt into the air, and attacked the monster head-on.
Once again, Homura couldn’t help but stare. This time, it was at Kaname’s dead body, lying half-submerged in an anonymous pool of water among the wreckage of what used to be Mitakihara City. “Why… You know you were going to be killed all along…Why did you save me, if you were just going to be killed yourself… I should have taken your place!”
Beside her, Gyuhey, the blue-furred magical being, was there. She didn’t notice him there before. His expressionless face stared at her, just like she was staring at Kaname. “Is that really your wish, Homura Akemi?” he asked. “Is that something you want so badly you would trade your soul for it?”
“If I make a contract with you, would you really grant any wish?” It was irresistible. For all the pain and trouble being a magical girl would cause, she knew she couldn’t give this up. Not this time.
“Absolutely,” Gyuhey said. “You have more than enough potential.”
Homura stood up and pressed her hands against her chest. She nodded. She would do it. She had no other choice than to do it. If she had been one earlier, maybe, Mami and Kaname-san would still be…
“So then tell me, what is the wish that will make your Soul Gem shine?”
She breathed deep, and then made her wish: “I wish… I wish to meet Kaname-san again. But this time, I’ll be the one that defeats Walpurgisnacht, and I’ll be the one to save her!”
Kybuey’s green eyes glowed, and his ears raised themselves up– Homura felt immense pain from… somewhere. She saw a purple orb of light floating out of her, and forming into a Soul Gem. “The contract is complete,” Gyuhey said. “Your wish has overcome entropy.”
Homura saw a disc flying in the air, spinning around her, and then everything went dark.
“Ah!” Homura looked around… “Where am I?” Wait… “I… I’m still in the hospital?” She stood up, and looked at the calendar. It was five days before she was supposed to go back to school. “It wasn’t a dream, after all!”
She.. she was a magical girl, then. After all this time, she finally made a contract. She could finally fight.
And this time, she was going to save Kaname.
Mami, Kaname, and Homura stood in a circle. “So you can stop time?” Mami asked.
“Yes, that’s exactly it. It’s such a cool power, isn’t it, Kaname-san?” Homura was eager to the point that Kaname was blushing almost every time she spoke.
“Ah…” Kaname said. “Yeah, I think so.” Homura never felt more in love in her life… but this timeline’s Kaname was definitely not in love with her yet. It was… a little awkward. She tried to control herself, though sometimes it got out of hand.
“That’s a pretty amazing power,” Mami said. “But you’ll still have to figure out how to use it in battle, without wasting all your magical energy in just one or two battles.”
Homura made a cute “hmph.” “I know,” she said. She’d figure out a way.
Homura and Kaname stood in front of the opening to a witch’s lair. They transformed into magical girls, and were about ready to hop in and fight the beast. It was the fourth witch this week, and Homura was exhausted. “How about after this…” Homura said. “We go play video games or something…” She really hoped that Kaname thought that was cute. A giggle from the girl confirmed that.
“You promise?” Kaname asked. Homura nodded fiercely, which made Kaname giggle again.
Before they entered the lair, though, a lance stabbed into the ground in front of them, and a lanky girl in a red dress hopped on top of the lance’s blunt end. She blew a bubble with her gum, and then stepped down from the lance. “And where were you guys going?” she asked.
“Kyoko…” Kaname said. Wait, what?
“Wait, what?” Homura asked. “Do you know her?”
“Yeah,” Kaname told Homura. “She’s Kyoko Sakura. She used to be one of Mami’s friends, apparently. She’s going to help us while Mami is sick.” Kyoko nodded at all of this, obviously impatient that they weren’t already jumping into the action.
Kyoko put her arm around Kaname’s shoulder. “Oh, come on Madoka,” she said. “You aren’t going to tell her?” Kaname blushed redder than the time Homura accidentally outed them as magical girls in front of the whole class and she had to explain it away as a big joke. “We’re girlfriends. Been that way for a while, too. No idea why she ain’t telling you that. Anyway, nice to finally meet you, Akemi! Madoka talks about you all the time.” Kyoko threw a candy bar into the air. Homura didn’t bother catching it, and it hit the ground. Kyoko’s smirk faded into a frown.
Homura stared at Kyoko, but it wasn’t like any of her stares from before. This was an angry one. She wasn’t sure who she was more angry at– Kyoko, Kaname, or herself. But she was definitely angry.
Kaname whispered something into Kyoko’s ear, and Kyoko let go of Kaname’s shoulder. Kyoko walked over and put her hand on Homura’s shoulder. “Hey,” she said, in a much softer and less abrasive tone. “I really do hope we become friends, Akemi. You seem really cool. Now let’s go fight that witch.”
Homura remembered Kaname’s words to her, on her first day of school, in the old timeline.
“If you have such a cool name like Homura, you should become cool to match it!” she said, clasping her hands together with a strangely charming enthusiasm.
That was exactly what Homura was going to do.
“Nice haircut, Akemi,” Kyoko said as Homura walked into Mami’s house. Her house had become something of a magical girl HQ ever since she disappeared; it started as a meeting place for the three of them to look for her, but once that ended, they kept hanging around there anyway. It was a little sad, but it kept her in their thoughts, wherever she might be.
“Thanks,” Homura said, with almost no sincerity whatsoever. Her new pixie haircut really suited her, she thought, but it was obvious Kyoko was just trying to antagonize her. Kaname laid her head in Kyoko’s lap, asleep. Homura tried not to think about her much anymore, about the constant heartbreak every time she saw her, but she still tried to be friends with her. Hopefully Kaname would never know how she used to feel.
“Glad you made it in before the storm. It’s looking bad out there.” Kyoko was right; the sun hadn’t shone for days now, but it still hadn’t rained yet.
Homura sat down at the small table and poured herself some tea. “Thanks for making this,” Homura told Kyoko, purely to spite her.
“You’re welcome,” Kyoko said, munching on some strange brand of potato chips.
Homura poured the tea, and then she pushed up where her glasses used to be once she looked back up. It was force of habit, even after several weeks. It was the first time in her life she hadn’t worn glasses since she could remember. She regretted not doing it sooner.
The tea was lukewarm. It must have been made a while ago, which meant Kyoko and Kaname skipped classes again. She really wished Kyoko would attend school. Her poor habits were rubbing off on Kaname, too, who used to have good grades. Homura had half a mind to tell Kaname’s mom and dad about all this… but that would only keep fragmenting their team, anyway.
Homura rarely made eye contact with either of them anymore, and really felt like kind of an outsider… She sighed audibly at–
“Do you have a problem?” Kyoko asked. She stood up, which jolted Kaname awake, and walked over to Homura. Homura stood up to match her.
“No, do you?” Homura asked in rebuttal, though she didn’t know why she was so aggressive about it.
“All you ever do is sit in that spot and wallow in your self-pity,” Kyoko said. “If you want to say something to me, by all means, don’t just keep it to yourself!”
Homura transformed into her magical girl outfit almost immediately, and pulled out a glock. Kaname rushed in between them. “Stop!” she yelled. “What is this all about?”
“You know exactly what it’s about, Madoka,” Kyoko said. “Akemi is being herself, again. And I can’t take it anymore.” Kyoko pulled her lance out in a flash.
“Not in here! Not until Mami–” Kaname began crying. She had been doing that more and more lately, ever since they gave up on the search. Homura’s actions probably weren’t helping, either. “Just please…”
Kyoko lowered her weapon. “Let’s do this outside,” she said.
As they left, Gyuhey appeared, and began to look at Homura. She wasn’t sure what he was thinking, and he didn’t say anything to any of them.
With Kaname looking on in worry, Kyoko and Homura stared each other down. Now, this was the kind of staring that Homura enjoyed. It wasn’t fear, and it wasn’t anger. It was both of those combined.
A fierce storm was brewing. They needed to finish this match quick, or someone could get seriously hurt. Moreso than they were about to do to each other, that is.
“Kyoko, you’re… finally going to understand!” Homura said, realizing eloquence in speech was never her strongest suit.
Kyoko said nothing. Instead, she jumped into the air and slashed down at Homura. Homura dodged with a short burst of time-freeze, and began shooting at her. Kyoko blocked the bullets with her lance and hit the ground with a large thud. She was much closer than Homura realized she would be, and it caught her off-guard; Kyoko punched Homura in the face, and knocked her to the ground.
Homura quickly rebounded. The ground started to shake from the thunder in the sky, but Homura continued to fire at Kyoko. She dodged every hit, but not the one from when Homura threw her empty pistol and bashed her in the head. It was at that second of surprise that she was able to overpower her, and begin pummeling her with her own fists. Could she have just done this with time freezing? Yes, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying.
She whacked Kyoko in the stomach and roundhouse kicked her into the wall. She crashed down onto the concrete ground, and looked to be barely conscious. It began to rain in an instant, a downpour falling and soaking them both. Kaname rushed in between them and held Kyoko up on her shoulders.
“Please, Homura, can you stop this?” Kaname pleaded.
“Kaname-san…” Homura tried to ignore her and continue to fight, even in the middle of this terrible storm… but she saw the look in Kaname’s water-washed eyes, and everything came flooding back to her. Everything she loved so much, but had forsaken in her quest for… whatever her quest was about. She collapsed onto her knees and began to cry.
Kaname held out her free hand to Homura. “Let’s go in,” she said.
And then the ground shook again.
Homura realized that today was exactly the same day that Walpurgisnacht had arrived in the previous timeline. And she had failed to say a single thing about it to anyone else.
Homura once again stared. And this time, she stared down at Kaname’s dead body. It was like a television re-run; her body was strewn in almost exactly the same way, in yet another puddle on yet another destroyed road. The rain had stopped, but Homura never felt it; her tears more than made up for it.
Gyuhey appeared above Kaname’s body. Homura noticed, wiped her face, and stared at the white creature right in its beady green eyes.
“What will you do now, Homura Akemi?” he asked.
“I’m going to… try again,” she said. “I’m going to save Kaname-san. That was my wish.”
As she said this, Gyuhey’s eyes seemed to widen a little. But before he could say or do anything, Homura had already turned the dial, and was travelling back.
Back to the beginning, again.