Homura was back in her bed.
Her… hospital bed.
She couldn’t protect Kaname from Walpurgisnacht… in fact, she was the reason she was dead in the end.
Her wish to Gyuhey was to protect Kaname… to save her. And yet… it didn’t happen. She failed. Did that mean that she was to be sent back in time, to relive the same month over and over until she fulfilled it?
Had she trapped herself in an endless cycle, all just to save one girl? No– Not “one girl”, Kaname-san. She was worth saving.
Homura got out of bed and looked at herself in the mirror. She still wore her dorky red glasses, and still had her long, braided hair. This wasn’t who she was anymore. That Homura… died a long time ago.
Homura, short hair and glasses-free, stood in front of the class, bowed, and wrote her name on the board. “My name is… Akemi Homura,” she said with a stutter. She still didn’t like so many people staring at her. It made her so uncomfortable…
She turned around and, for one brief moment, met eye contact with Kaname. Then she looked away. Homura decided she was not going to make the same mistakes a third time. Kaname, to her, was as notable as any other student sitting in the classroom.
Just one that was also a magical girl.
And one that she… loved.
“Good job!” Mami shouted from across the girder. “You defeated that witch in one blow!” She jumped across the railing and up to Homura, her breasts jiggling a couple times. The construction site was big, but it nearly toppled to the ground during their fight. If it happened, though, it would have been an unavoidable consequence. It was better than the witch destroying the lives of countless humans.
Homura had decided that revealing the source of her magical powers was probably an unwise decision, going forward, so this was the first time anyone had seen her work on display. “Just one question: Who are you?” Mami asked.
Kaname, still in her magical girl costume, jumped down from a perch and joined the two. “Her name is Akemi Homura. She’s in my class at school.” The way she said her name, Akemi, reminded her once again of her advice to be cooler. Was it working? She couldn’t tell.
“Is that so? Then I hope you will join the two of us in helping rid the world of witches,” she said.
“But will Kyoko Sakura also be joining us, Tomoe-san?” Homura asked. If so, then–
Apparently, this question caught Mami completely off-guard, and struck some sort of nerve. She quickly lost her pleasant expression, and almost looked a little angry. “How do you…”
“Who is she?” Kaname asked, innocently.
Mami struggled for a few moments to regain her composure, and still failed to recoup herself. “She’s my…” Tears were beginning to form on her cheeks. “My Ex…”
“Oh my…” Kaname said. “I’m so sorry!”
Homura had never known that before.
The narrative of the life of all of the magical girls was beginning to fit together, like a puzzle set. It all made sense now, why Kyoko suddenly showed up, and why Kaname fell into her arms with such ease, and why Homura didn’t learn about it for weeks. All of this that seemed so strange and confusing before finally made sense on a larger scale, when viewed from an outside perspective like this. She finally understood, she thought.
Mami wiped her face and glared at Homura. “How do you know her? Tell me.”
Without saying anything, Homura pivoted with her high-heels, and walked away from the other two magical girls. She jumped off the partially-built skyscraper and landed gracefully on her feet.
Homura wanted to say sorry in advance to Kaname. But instead, she merely tilted her head, looked back at the pink-haired girl of her dreams, and walked off. To her, Homura was little more than a stranger. And she was determined to keep it that way, for her sake.
She knew exactly what she needed to do now to defeat Walpurgisnacht. She couldn’t simply rely on Mami or Kaname anymore. This time, she was going to get everyone ready, but it was going to be on her terms.
Sayaka swung her dual cutlasses at Homura, gritting her teeth as the black-haired girl sidestepped and swayed and swooshed away from every slash. Homura slapped at her hand, knocking one of the swords out of her grip and forcing her to switch to single-wielding.
No matter what she did, Sayaka couldn’t hit her. After letting the girl get a few more attacks in, Homura ducked, swept her legs, and knocked Sayaka to the ground.
“Damn…” Sayaka said, breathing heavily. She propped herself up using her sword, and stood up. “If I wasn’t covered in sweat, I’d give you a handshake right now.”
“You’re getting better,” Homura said. She wasn’t sure if that statement was a lie or not; she may very well have been improving, though their duels together always ended the same way.
“Maybe…” Sayaka rubbed the back of her neck and laughed. “You’re so fast, though… What kind of magic power do you have, anyway?” Homura laughed inside at the thought of telling Sayaka that she wasn’t using her magic in the first place. Time stopping was a cheap way to win battles against other magical girls, so she decided she wouldn’t even bother wasting her energy anymore. That power was reserved for witches.
Homura looked at Sayaka and her hair. It was a bit longer than Homura’s current haircut, but still very short. “Have you ever considered growing your hair out?” Homura asked.
“Huh-uh,” Sayaka answered. “Why do you ask?”
“I just think it would look cute.” Sayaka blushed when Homura said this. The blush sort of reminded her of herself, every time she saw Kaname. In this timeline, she was determined to keep away from Kaname as much as possible, but…Homura was never going to be able to get over Kaname. She didn’t think that would ever happen at this point.
As Sayaka grabbed a towel, Homura took a few guns out of her hammerspace storage and began going through them, reloading them and cleaning the ones that were most frequently used. Her battles with witches were usually short, on account of the time-stopping thing and her partners, but that didn’t mean her guns didn’t need to be maintained properly.
“Hey!” a voice shouted, suddenly. And from the roof of the warehouse came Kyoko, jumping onto the floor in an action pose. “I’m back!” In her hands, she held a plate of brownies that she was rapidly clearing off.
“You don’t have to yell, Kyoko,” Sayaka said. She had already reverted back into her normal clothes, while Homura and Kyoko remained in their magical girl outfits. Homura liked to stay in her outfit as often as she could, just in case she needed to pause time or, in dire circumstances, revert the timeline, on short notice, but Kyoko just wanted to look cool.
“There’s a witch out near Mitakihara Middle,” she said. “We gotta go fight!”
Homura looked up from her guns. “Kaname-san and Tomoe-san have that part of the city under their protection.”
Kyoko grimaced. “What, and let them take all the reward for themselves? Do you think we couldn’t win?”
And then Homura realized that this was where she could take advantage of the situation for her plan. This was how she was going to train everyone to be ready for Walpurgisnacht, starting right here. “We could win,” she said.
Sayaka threw her hands into the air. “Madoka is one of my best friends. We can’t just go in and–”
“It’s not about friendship or favors or territory,” Kyoko said. “Homura right there told us all about that monster we’re trying to train to beat, and we both know we need all the grief seeds we can get.”
“You…” Sayaka transformed back into her magical girl outfit and summoned her cutlasses. Kyoko raised her spear.
Before they came to blows, Homura stood up and walked between them. “Please stop…” she said. “We have to work together to defeat Walpurgisnacht. If we fight each other, that’s just a waste of magical energy.”
Neither of them lowered their weapons, so Homura turned to Sayaka and stared her in the eyes. Sayaka stared back for a moment, with anger in her eyes… But she quickly blinked and lost her composure. Homura walked up to her and embraced her. “Please…” Sayaka returned the hug and calmed down. It felt warm, but… it wasn’t quite…
Homura stepped away from Sayaka and turned to Kyoko. She had already lowered her weapon. “We need to go to the witch’s lair. Kyoko’s right about that. But we won’t harm the others.”
“Do you promise?” Sayaka asked.
“For now,” she said. “As long as they don’t get in the way.”
This witch’s name was Francesca. She fought with more vigor and more rapidly than any other witch Homura had ever fought, but her abilities still made her much, much faster.
She riddled the witch with bullets, just as the other two pelted her with blasts and slashes. However, none of it seemed to work. It was extremely strong, and she had no idea why.
Once Francesca zoomed past the girls a few times, it suddenly stopped… and revealed the rest of its body underneath what they had been attacking; its gaping maw now poised to consume Kyoko and Sayaka.
Kyoko jumped to avoid it– Sayaka… did not.
“Sayaka!” Kyoko shouted. She jumped at the witch and swung a mighty blow, but it only created a small cut.
The two remaining magical girls began attacking with all their might, but they could do nothing…
Until the witch suddenly stopped again… And then exploded. Where the witch previously stood, was Sayaka, covered in guts and goop of some sort. She nearly collapsed, but Kyoko caught her and stood her back up.
“I did it…” Sayaka said.
Homura looked at her and smiled. She rarely smiled anymore, but this time… it felt right She was so glad Sayaka was still alive…
The witch’s lair faded away, and the three magical girls found themselves back in the middle of an empty alleyway.
“That was intense,” Kyoko said, picking up the grief seed from the ground. She was already munching on a pack of crackers.
All three of them turned to see… Mami and Kaname.
“I’m not letting you get away this time,” Mami said. “Kyoko Sakura.”
“Wha– What did I–” Before Kyoko could finish her question, Mami dropkicked her and sent her flying into the brick wall.
“You three are impeding onto our territory,” she said, musket already drawn. Behind her, Kaname had her bow in her hands, though it was aimed at the ground and not at any of them. She had a dubious look on her face. “Gyuhey has made it clear that we are not to impede on each other’s territory, and you are grossly violating that.”
“You seemed to want us to join you a few weeks ago,” Homura said. “Do you hate Kyoko that much to enforce these arbitrary boundaries?”
Mami and Homura stared each other down. Homura tried as hard as she could to give away nothing from her eyes; Mami, on the other hand, looked extremely tepid, and overly emotional. She relented quickly, and lowered her weapon.
“I don’t want to see you around here again,” Mami said. “Madoka and I have this area under control. If we need you, we will make sure to contact you. Is that alright?”
“You act as if you hold all the cards in this game,” Homura began. “But your poker face is weak.”
Mami said nothing. Instead, she turned around to leave.
Kaname and Sayaka looked at each other with remorseful faces. Homura tried as hard as she could to pay no attention, but she was unable to notice. She knew she was tearing apart their friendship… But… if that was the cost of saving Kaname and defeating Walpurgisnacht, then she would gladly do it.
Homura and Sayaka sat against the wall in the empty warehouse, after another training session. In their sparring match, Sayaka had very nearly defeated Homura. It was a very rare occasion, and as such, Homura had decided to treat her and pay for her next meal. Kyoko was out getting that food at the moment, so that left them alone.
Sayaka’s smile was wide. She seemed extremely pleased with the world right now, almost bafflingly so. Homura felt confident that her current plan was going to end up succeeding, but even that was not going to get her to feel as happy as Sayaka.
“I think we are doing a great job,” Sayaka said.
“I agree,” Homura said. “We’re going to defeat Walpurgisnacht handily, I believe.” While she knew she was overestimating their chances at present, she didn’t want Sayaka to get discouraged by this or anything.
“Y’know…” Sayaka put her hands behind her head and leaned back on the wall. “I think I feel pretty confident right now. Life is… it’s going well.”
Homura kept silent. She didn’t think she could add anything beneficial to what Sayaka was saying right now. Her life was no longer marked by quality, but by how close to fulfilling her wish she was.
“I don’t think I made a mistake making my wish for Kyosuke, but… I think he’s happy without me.” Sayaka’s grin turned somewhat wistful. “And I guess Madoka and I are still friends. I think that will work out well.”
“Nothing, sorry.” Homura blushed. She hadn’t thought of Kaname in a while… Well, a while meant a few hours, for Homura.
Homura wondered where Kaname was right now, and what she was doing. Was she as happy as Sayaka? She hoped so, and yet at the same time… the thought of her happiness without Homura in her life seemed almost devastating. It was selfish, but she couldn’t pretend it wasn’t how she felt.
“Maybe we’ll all be friends again in the end. I really hope we can team up and fight witches together.” She scooted herself closer to Homura, and laid her head on her shoulder.
“I think Mami will team up with us soon. She told me something about a very powerful witch that she was tracking down.” Sayaka seemed to nestle herself on Homura’s shoulder. She must have been very tired after their training, she thought.
They stayed like this for a long time, until Kyoko returned with their food.
Helen stood in front of the five magical girls. It was a massive beast, but with all of them together, there was no way it stood a chance.
“Are we all ready?” Mami asked. She took the leadership role for this battle, and Homura gladly let her; it would have been unwise to take it from her and encourage her to continue antagonizing Homura, Sayaka, and Kyoko.
“I’m ready,” Sayaka said.
Homura nodded in agreement. She stepped behind Kaname, prepared to protect her at all costs.
“I ain’t here to be ready. I’m here to win it!” Before the others could realize what had happened, Kyoko jumped at the witch and began attacking it. The monster roared into action and began sending out its attacks immediately.
Mami shot off what must have been eight muskets within the first seconds of the assault, while Kaname continuously fired off shots from her bow. Homura was extremely impressed at their efficiency, even at such a dire time as this.
Homura couldn’t help but stop and admire them. Even while pushing for a competitive rivalry between two teams to work towards a common goal, she never thought that they would push themselves so hard as to–
Kyoko was ensnared by one of Helen’s massive tentacles, and was being swung around. Kaname and Homura fired shots at the tentacle, but they weren’t strong enough to pierce it. Sayaka tried boosting herself up into the air and slicing it in half, but was busy trying to hack away at all the other tentacles coming towards her.
Should Homura use her time stop? She wanted to, but… It was only for special circumstances. She needed to conserve as much magical energy as possible.
Luckily, Mami began firing at the tentacle. She missed several of the blasts, but a few finally hit, and–
“Oh my God.”
Kyoko’s body, a hole through her chest, plummeted to the ground. Mami jumped up to catch it while Sayaka and Kaname kept blasting away.
Homura rushed over to where Mami held Kyoko’s body, and saw it– she was gone; her soul gem had been shattered in the shot.
Mami tried to say something, but she seemed completely horrified.
Kyoko was dead. In a previous timeline, and with a less mature Homura, she would have been relieved. But this time, it was the worst thing to possibly happen.
And Mami had done it.
Homura didn’t have time to yell. She merely charged at Mami and began attacking her. As Helen disintegrated behind them, they began to fight. Kaname tried to jump in and save her, but Sayaka blocked her arrows with her cutlasses.
It didn’t matter anymore what Homura did. She dodged every blow Mami attempted to carry out, and dished a blow of her own in return. Mami used her hair magic to grab Homura’s foot and throw her to the ground, but Homura cut the strand before she could do it.
Kaname blasted a shot that hit Homura in the arm and made her drop her weapon that she still hadn’t fired. Kaname rushed to Homura and began attacking her herself.
Homura… took every single hit.
Sayaka saw this and tried to rush over to Homura’s aid, but Mami intercepted her, as if the four of them had traded dancing partners.
“Kaname-san…” Homura began before receiving a smack to the face. She plummeted to the ground, and saw as Kaname tried to kick her unconscious. Homura–
–stopped time. She… she had to this time. She stood up and looked at the look on Kaname’s face. It was legitimate anger. Nothing like Homura had ever seen from her before. They didn’t exchange words or banter. Nobody tried to explain themselves. It was just a silent fight, wherein all four of them knew exactly the reasons.
But Homura couldn’t fight like this. Not with Kaname. She–
–resumed time, and let Kaname kick the ground below her. But she backed away slowly, conceding herself in the fight.
Sayaka stopped attacking Mami, noticing what Homura was doing. She sped over to her side.
The last thing Homura could remember before running away was seeing Kyoko’s body spread out across the ground, and seeing Kaname’s bow drawn and pointed right at her face.
Homura sat on the floor, her arms around her knees. She buried her face in her thighs. The face that Kaname wanted to obliterate. The face that ended their chance at having a real magical girl team.
Of course Mami killing Kyoko was an accident. But she couldn’t help herself. Kyoko was a great ally… even… a friend. And now she was gone because of a misfire.
Everything went to shit.
“Homura…” It was Sayaka, who Homura hadn’t realized even entered the warehouse. She sat down next to her and put her arms around her. “I’m so sorry…”
“It’s fine, Sayaka,” Homura lied. “I just need some time to think for myself.”
“It’s been three days,” Sayaka said.
Homura raised her head and stared at Sayaka. Sayaka’s eyes were red and puffy, but they met Homura’s stare with a gentle gaze that Homura hadn’t seen since…
“Sayaka… Do you…”
Homura was unable to finish her sentence, because Sayaka leaned in and kissed her.
The kiss lasted longer than anything Homura had ever known.
Sayaka was the one who pushed away, when she noticed the tears forming on the edges of Homura’s eyes. She looked genuinely confused. “Homura?”
Homura once again was silent as she stood up and ran out of the warehouse towards… somewhere. Anywhere but here.
Homura found Sayaka sitting on a bench in the train station. She was alone, looking down at her lap. It was too dark to tell anything else.
“Sayaka… Where have you been?” she said, sitting down next to her. “We’ve been looking all over for you.” It was mostly Homura, but Mami and Kaname had begun looking for her as well starting yesterday.
“I killed him,” she said, simply. “I couldn’t stand it anymore. He was a witch in human form. He didn’t love me, and I… I couldn’t love him.” She didn’t sound sad. It was more… resigned.
“What?” It took a second for Homura to realize she was talking about Kyosuke, the boy Sayaka made her wish to save in the first place.
“And it’s the same thing with you. I can’t love anyone anymore, now.” Sayaka looked up at Homura, smiling. Her expression was more upsetting than anything that came out of her mouth.
“I know how you feel about Madoka,” she said. “I see it every time you look at her. You are really bad at hiding your feelings, Homura.” She laughed. “I can’t believe it. Two people, and they both turned out to be in love with my best friends. I’m such an idiot…”
In that instant, an explosion of black and blue knocked Homura ten feet into the air.
Kaname fired her last shot at Oktavia, and the Witch collapsed onto the stage, bellowing a dying screech. The lair faded away, and the magical girls were back in the real world.
“Sayaka…” Kaname couldn’t stop crying long enough to say anything but Sayaka’s name.
Homura tried to hold back her tears. She didn’t want the others to see. Not now. She stared at Kaname. This stare was without emotion; she was training to master the ability to look at people without giving away anything inside of her. It was better to hide her feelings, she realized. But… she didn’t think it was going to work.
Mami looked completely unhinged, sitting on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. “If magical girls become witches, then… What we kill are…” She didn’t finish the sentence, because they all knew what the answer was.
“It’s going to be okay,” Homura said. She wasn’t sure if that statement was a lie or not.
“We can’t be okay… We can only stop once we’re…”
“We can’t stop! We have to defeat Walpurgisnacht before it destroys the city.”
The whole room went silent.
Homura had forgotten about Walpurgisnacht once again, until just now. Sayaka took so much of her concern that she stopped thinking that far into the future. And yet… it was supposed to be summoned in less than a week.
It wasn’t enough time.
Mami had passed out, which was probably for the best; there was no reasoning with her at the moment about any of this.
Homura got on her knees and put her hands on Kaname’s shoulders. “Listen… We can fight Walpurgisnacht. We’re going to defeat it.” Kaname looked back at her and, silently, shook her head.
Within moments, Homura began crying as well.
Homura and Kaname laid on the ground, soaking in a pool of water. Walpurgisnacht was dead… just as they would be, soon enough.
“Mami’s dead, isn’t she…” Kaname asked, her voice weak and her body weaker.
Homura attempted to nod. “Yes…” She couldn’t move, but it was fine; neither could Kaname. “I’m glad…” Homura began. “I’m glad I met you… We finally defeated it together, Kaname-san… My wish was fulfilled…”
Kaname stared at the sky, still sprinkling with rain, but no longer storming. The sun was breaking through the formerly-fierce clouds. “What was your wish, Homura?” she asked with as weak a voice as Homura had ever heard.
“It was… to meet you again. And for me to be the one to defeat Walpurgisnacht… And I’m finally happy.” Homura cried, but she felt better than she had in what felt like years.
“But Homura… I’m not happy,” Kaname said. Kaname, the girl she loved, but also the girl who considered her barely more than a stranger in this timeline. Of course she wasn’t happy. “I don’t want it to end like this. I don’t want us to become witches…”
Homura’s eyes opened wide. “But we… We defeated Walpurgisnacht!” With the last of her strength, she stood up from where she laid. “You can’t…”
“Please… Homura…” Kaname said. She was unable to move anymore. “I want you to do something I couldn’t do. You can change everything… So that we don’t end up like this… Can you please go back in time before Gyuhey tricked me? I know you can do that.”
“You want to save me, right? Then you have to do this… please…”
Homura stood up with what little energy she had left. “I’ll… I’ll do it! I swear I’ll save you! I’ll do whatever it takes to keep you safe!”
She held up her hand, holding her Soul Gem. It was tainted and black. “Save… me…”
“You finally called me by my first name. I’m so happy…” Madoka let out several pained giggles.
Homura pulled a gun out hammerspace, and raised it. She stared at Madoka’s soul gem, and she continued to stare as it as it shattered into a million pieces. She couldn’t hear the gunshot over the sound of her sobs.
A grief seed plopped onto the wet ground next to Homura. As soon as she realized what it was, Gyuhey, that blue-and-green demon, was standing in front of her. “You’ll need to use that so that you too don’t become a witch. Your Soul Gem is still very tainted.”
“Time travel, eh?” he asked rhetorically. “I never would have guessed. Your wish is a beautiful one, Homura Akemi. I believe you will make an excellent witch one day.”
“You… Why do you do this?!” Homura screamed. “You destroyed our lives!”
“But you were also granted whatever wish you desired. Isn’t that worth the consequences?”
“Of becoming a monster?”
“Oh, no, you won’t become a monster. Only special witches like Walpurgisnacht get that distinction.”
“What?” Homura stared at Gyuhey, who stared back at her with as little emotion as possible with those shimmering emeralds of his.
“The magical girl that would become Walpurgisnacht was even more successful than any of you; she made her double-wish and destroyed over fifty witches before she succumbed to her own injuries. A very valuable energy source indeed.”
Gyuhey hopped up onto a higher ledge to get on eye-level with Homura. Gyuhey’s permanently-pleasant face was disgusting to look at. “It’s a second wish. You get to do it all again, and gain an even greater power. But once your Soul Gem expires, you become a monster; a being that is as powerful as what you defeated here today.”
“You’ve never said anything about this before.”
“You never asked. You magical girls never think to ask.”
Homura thought about slapping Gyuhey off the ledge, but decided otherwise. “So you want me to make a double-wish, is that it? You want me to become a monster?”
“Absolutely; your despair is great enough that we could collect a vast amount of energy from you. And you’d be a powerful enough monster to challenge a dozen magical girls at once. It would certainly be a sight to see!”
She hesitated for a moment. A monster as powerful as Walpurgisnacht? She… she couldn’t bring that on the world…
“I swear I’ll save you! I’ll do whatever it takes to keep you safe!”
But she had to.
Homura pressed her hands against her chest. “I’ll do it. And I won’t turn into a monster. I won’t let it happen.”
“I highly doubt that,” Gyuhey said. “But if you want to make your double-wish, then I am willing to let you become a monster. It’s your choice.”
“Then my second wish is…” Homura paused to gather her thoughts for the correct wording. “To go back one more time, and to save Madoka, so that we can live together, happily ever after!”
“Happily ever…” But before Gyuhey could understand the magnitude of the wish, Homura blasted forth with magical energy. She saw herself spiraling back in time, past events circling her, just like the last two times she went back.
Everything became blurry. This was… This was a very different travelling-back sequence than usual.
The shield on her wrist broke apart. It reformed, but it became something new– a holographic computer screen. And her eyes burst forth with pain, and then flashed for just a second. Text began appearing in front of her eyes, scrolling too fast for her to read. A red visor formed in front of her right eye with searing heat.
Finally, as the spiraling began to slow, one phrase popped up in front of her face:
“Welcome to the Cybernet, Neoakemi.”