269/Steel Horse

From Radiant Heart MUSH

Steel Horse
Date of Scene: 20 August 2023
Location: Train Station, Juuban Ward
Synopsis: Haruko Hara has a train to catch.
Cast of Characters: Haruki Hara, Madoka Kaname, Coco Kiumi, Amanda Faust, Lulu Adelstein

Haruki Hara has posed:
    The location that the Circus Witch appeared in was not far from the train station in Juuban Ward. Within walking distance, easily. There's no reason to think there would be another one so close by. Not unless one is looking for Witches deliberately, and follows the trail. Or notices the young person waiting at the platform while train after train passes by, until the safety barrier that is up while a train isn't at the station suddenly moves aside even though there's no train there. A mechanical malfunction? That's a disaster waiting to happen--
    Wait, isn't that Haruko Hara, from the club recruitment festival and also the one who got witch-kissed at the circus witch thing. There's no way she'd get nailed twice, right?
    She steps off the platform and falls towards the tracks. And disappears.
    A countdown has begun.

Madoka Kaname has posed:
    Madoka is here, more or less, because of the Circus Witch. She didn't really stick around long enough to see how it ended, so she just kinda had to quietly hope that everything went alright. After leaving things the way that she did, she didn't feel right, and now she's back here. For no other reason than just to check up on things.

    Naturally, since she doesn't live in the area, the train station is exactly the kind of place she'd need to go through in order to reach anything else.

    Kyubey leaps onto her shoulder, seemingly from nowhere. Madoka turns her head slightly to side eye him. "Kyubey... you're here."

    "Are you worried about what happened last time?" asks Kyubey out loud. No telepathy this time. "You know... Witches like that would be no problem for you if you simply became a magical girl."

    "I know, but..." she starts. Whatever she's about to say is forgotten when she sees Haruko. She calls out to her, waving her hands and saying, "Hey! How have y--"

    Suddenly, Haruko is gone.

    "Another Labyrinth," says Kyubey.

    Madoka is pale with horror. "What just happened? Did she get Witch Kissed again?"

    Kyubey responds with none of the tenseness or urgency in Madoka's voice. "Maybe! It's hard to know for sure from here. A Witch's Kiss can get anyone, but some are especially susceptible."

    Without thinking, Madoka rushes after Haruko, looking down at the tracks where she just vanished. "It has to be here... right?"

    "Actually, it's about half a meter to the right," corrects Kyubey.

    Madoka sweatdrops. "Are you sure?"

    "Why would I lie?"

    After a moment of silent deliberation, Madoka moves over to where the actual Labyrinth entrance is and jumps in.

Coco Kiumi has posed:
Coco had been notified by one of her otters Haruko had been going around the same area as the witch that almost drowned them, but the girl disappeared all of a sudden after falling to the rails, so logically the first thing she does is assume another witch has spawned there and take off to the scene. She immediately calls upon the power of her pearl, the jewel starting to shine as she yells "Yellow Pearl Voice!"

The usual kaleidoscope of colours transforms her clothes into her yellow gloves and boots with flowy extensions, as well as a yellow blouse with a yellow skirt, while her pearl expands into her trusty E-Pitch microphone, its blue shape settling comfily into her hand, the jewel nestled safely in the head's center. The White Stage immediately surrounds her, Coco urging the sphere of white light to go as fast as possible as she worries for Haruko's life. While she is hurrying there, she urgently calls Amy.

"Amy, do you remember that girl we managed to stop from entering the witch's labyrinth? My otters say she has been grabbed by another around the same area! I'm heading there right now, you start doing the same, I will send you the precise coordinates once I get there!" Coco rushes to the locations, and shares her position with Amy. Once the other magical girl is there, the two of them enter the labyrinth.

Amanda Faust has posed:
    A redheaded girl is sitting with a bowl of popcorn in front of a movie. Many other students brought laptops, but her? *She's* got a full-sized monitor. 22 and a half inches, bay-bee! Yeah!

    Her phone rings. It's Coco. "Yeah, I remember... uh, pink hair, right? What about--" Her otters say-- "Your what? No, nevermind. I'll be right there."

                                    AD 202X                                    

    ...okay okay we don't have to do the whole bit again. The red Puella Magi is soon at the station, and as soon as the train moves on again, she's dropping down from the roof that keeps rain off of waiting passengers. "It's... here?" She concentrates on her soul gem to confirm. Standing at the edge of the tracks, reaching out with her hand, but there's no shimmer in the air.

    Witches drive people to suicide...

    Amy looks down at the tracks. "Ah. Sou." She does have to push down something inside her shouting 'DANGER!' as she jumps down -- it'd be easy for her to jump back up, after all, so no real danger if she's wrong about the entrance -- and disappears right in front of Coco, who no doubt soon follows.

Lulu Adelstein has posed:
    A pig-tailed redhead is walking along with a little ornmanet in her hand. Kind of egg-shaped. It pulses with light periodically, more and more frequently as its bearer gets closer to something. When she looks up upon entering the train station, she sees people gathering near a train platform that seems to be malfunctioning. Oh, boy. And isn't that one of the ones from that one time? With the vampire? And Sailor V? She moves forwards, not announcing herself, and not sneaking exactly, but definitely planning to get involved.

    She just needs to wait until no normies are watching. Then she'll be quick to jump into the labyrinth herself.

    She appears behind everyone a few seconds later. She did not henshin first, like a FOOL. Maybe she just figures she can do it afterwards.

Haruki Hara has posed:
    The arrival into the Witch's Labyrinth is very peculiar. There is nothing focused on them. Sure, everything is surreal and topsy-turvy, a long-looking hallway that is actually short and it's just an optical illusion, like that one Alice In Wonderland thing as Disney Land. Been there before? It's pretty trippy. Anyway, there's the sound of something clanging, like a bell or alarm, from further down the hall. After actually getting to the end, the wall that marks the end of the hall opens up. So far things have looked relatively 'real'. Wooden and fantasy-themed and Disney-ish (please don't sue), but real physical things like outside of the Labyrinth. The real weirdness is apparently saved for beyond the intro corridor.

    One might be expecting Alice In Wonderland, but instead, it's just... Madness. A huge open space, dark except for the red glow of train crossing warning lights floating in the black like the eyes of deepsea creatures reflected in an explorer's lantern.

    There are also trains. Trains tearing through the air, on tracks that don't connect to anything, careening from one set to the next, sending sparks flying as they go. There are shattered vases lying around, and intact ones too but in fewer number, and they continue to leak black ink onto the train platform around them.

    The screeching of metal on metal, the clamour of sirens going off in discordant patterns, and a storm of envelopes raining down on everything the whole time... It seems disconnected. Bizarre. No specific theme to it.

    And there's Haruko Hara, standing in a standard Radiant Heart girls' uniform, on the edge of the platform, while the wind of all those huge machines in motion whips her hair and clothes this way and that.

    Her back is to the rescuers.

Madoka Kaname has posed:
    Madoka's first thought upon entering the Labyrinth is that this, at least, isn't so bad. Then again, she's noticed that Witches and Familiars often ignore those who aren't attacking them, so this move might not be completely suicidal. If it was, Kyubey probably would have stopped her, she supposes. So trusting.

    The atmosphere of the first room is a little disorienting. She takes a few steps forward and notices that the hall isn't quite as long as she thinks. It reminds her a bit of something she's seen in a theme park before. Not seeing Haruko, she ventures deeper in, and goes into the darkness.

    She hasn't yet noticed the other magical girls coming in. Until one calls out to her, she might not.

    Madoka's eyes get a bit wider as she enters the next room. Suddenly there is darkness, noise, lights and chaos. She waits for her eyes to adjust, but they never do. When she spots Haruko, she calls out, "Wait! You shouldn't be here!" Glancing to the left, and then to the right, Madoka rushes forward once she thinks she has a chance to.

    Kyubey's tail swishes back and forth on Madoka's shoulder. "What is your plan, Madoka Kaname? You're just as vulnerable as she is. You couldn't hope to take on a Witch as you are now."

    "I know, but..."

Amanda Faust has posed:
    A disorienting hallway. Nothing is actually attacking them. As she walks towards the end of the hall, Amy experiments with narrating to see if that shortens the journey. "...And then the magical girls reached the end of the hall... is that the cloister bell?"

    And then


    Ink. Envelopes. Trains. With Amy's mind on where the entrance was located, and why... is tells a story. Someone killed herself because of something in a letter? The puella magi shakes her head. "That doesn't make sense. A fae wouldn't have those concepts..."

    And there's the bystander from before. Or, maybe it's a different pink-haired girl? That doesn't really matter.

    "Miss!" Amy calls, reaching out a hand. "Stay where you are, we'll come get you!" She looks left, looks right, for any sign of danger that might attack the rescuers crossing even that small distance. If the immediate area around the platform is too dark, she'll...

    Another pinkette is already running. The civilian from before! ...Well, at least she's a veteran of multiple Witch labyringhts.

    Amy materializes flare rockets in her hands and throws one to each side to provide some light. (Well, not really flares. They are fire-starting weapons, but hopefully the platform won't burn. Envelopes, though... hmm. Hopefully they weren't in the dark areas, too...

Coco Kiumi has posed:
As soon as Coco enters the labyrinths, she skips the whole 'getting used to your surroundings because witch labyrinths are weird', giving priority to the girl she sees in front of her. Getting used to things is a problem for future her. "Madoka, why are you even here?" she tells the pinkette. Next to her there is of course that odious white cat that was way too nonchalant about playing with Amy's life.

As she hears her response she looks, around noticing the familiar radiant heart uniform and the blue hair that makes her recognise Haruko. She is a little worried by how she is just standing there with her backs to them, almost as if she is going to turn around and show some grotesque face like they are in a cheap horror movie, but that's not the matter right now.

"Here, we will do it like usual, get onto my Live Stage", Coco tells Madoka. If the girl agrees, they are both flying off towards Haruko and once they are sufficiently close by, Yellow Pearl Voice declares: "Star Jewel: Pichi Pichi Voice, Live Start!"

The melodious voice sings of a sincere wish upon a shooting star, to find the seven lights, believing in the bond called fate, tears falling down in the cold waves. The magical notes talk a morning of rebirth, a determination to live through everything again, disrupting the dark energy in the area, reassuring everyone against the maddening environment of the witch's labyrinth. The music spreads through the air, affirming that something starts to shine once you open your heart, even if you got this far by playing it strong, moving to undo the brainwhashing on Haruko.

Coco keeps singing:
"When I realized what was important to me,
The season began to change.
Enveloped in a green rain,
I continue to sing this Song for You."

Lulu Adelstein has posed:
    There's a flare of magic energy from the back of the conga-line of Labyrinth-invaders. A redhead in a sleeveless athletic shirt, boxer's shorts, and a pair of boxing gloves (with sports boots, a champion's belt, and an AWESOME CAPE) is standing there. She does not hesitate to wall-and-ceiling run at full speed and cut in line to dart forward and try to rescue the civilian people are calling out for. Because a train falling on that poor girl while people are trying to get her attention would be just like one of these stupid barriers.

    "Hey, you." she says as she leaps over Amy. "Hey, Kyubey." she says in the half-second she passes by Madoka, and keeps on running, reaching out one hand. Her boxing glove on that hand explodes into a shower of red sparks, so that she actually has some gripping ability. Please don't let some tragic train fall on her or something right when she's so close!

Haruki Hara has posed:
    The ink is flammable. Is ink usually flammable? This ink is flammable. Perhaps it's more like oil than ink. Maybe it's ink that burns because that's what the Witch thinks it does. It's her world, you're all just invading it. So now there's fire. The platform is well-lit enough. The envelopes that are falling from above are smeared, wet, on fire, crumpled, or torn in half. None of them appear to be opened.

    Most of them are sealed with a heart sticker.

    Love letters.

    There really is no guessing what sort of insane theme a Witch's labyrinth will have, but unread letters seems to be one of them. Also trains. And ink-oil.

    Whether it's Coco's singing, or the calls from people she knows, or the light provided by the flares, or the hand reaching out to her from the heroic Puella Magi, she turns around, looking tired, and out of it, and drained. But her empty eyes gaze upon the people who came after her, and she gives a sad little smile.

    Then a train pulls up at top speed, cleaving the little boarding bridge right off the concrete platform and sending sparks, and metal, and broken glass, and shattered concrete flying, as one carriage slams into the one in front of it, accordioning each in turn, in a terrible accident that would have dozens or hundreds of fataliites if it occurred 'out there'. The damaged train falls off into the void below, slamming into another train as it leaps its tracks. The two collide in the air and another horrific screeching symphony of things smashing and breaking and rupturing echoes up from below. At least they're falling away from the rescuers.

    The space where Haruko was standing is just a shredded half-crater with a train crossing warning light clicking on and off as it dangles precariously.

    But all hope is not lost.

    Another train pulls up to the station, actually stopping correctly this time, even if the connection is absolutely wrecked. Haruko appears to be onboard the train in one of the carriages, seen briefly as she flashes by. How did she get in there? It's a Witch's Labyrinth. Don't worry about it.

    The train comes to a complete stop. Time to board now, right?

    A bunch of creepy human-scale paper cutouts of children turn in their seats aboard the train carriage in front of them now. The giggles that emerge from the stop-motion paper dolls and their cheery if very simplistic smiling, drawn-on faces, are made even creepier by the addition of flames spreading inside the train. As the children start burning, some of them rise from their seats and start heading for the doors. Their forms, wavering back an forth while fire light glows from within and plays along the steel construct from without, are a prelude to the horror to come.

    The doors slide open.

    A procession of walking torches with cartoonish, smiling faces begins to march out to meet the invaders.

    They're still laughing.

Madoka Kaname has posed:
    'Why are you even here?' is a pretty good question. One that Madoka doesn't have a good answer to. "Yellow Pearl Voice? I... I didn't really have time to think." Then, as other magical girls charge into the area after her, Madoka starts to feel... at least somewhat relieved. She looks at the magical sphere that is the Live Stage as it forms, and considers for a moment. It would keep her safe, but the actual safe thing for her to do is run.

    "Hello, Lulu, Amy." calls out Kyubey to the invading Puella Magi. "Madoka Kaname, since these two are here for the Witch, and other magical girls are in the area, do you still need to be here?"

    Madoka shakes her head. "I can't just leave it like this. Not until I know that Haruko is safe."

    "Well, I wont stop you, but I don't see the logic in putting yourself at risk."

    Madoka sees nothing abnormal about Kyubey's concern, though others who have observed his behavior before might. Maybe in a 'why is she so special' kind of way. Then again, Kyubey hasn't really hidden the fact that Madoka could be a god if she wanted to.

    Madoka shrieks and hides behind Pearl as the platform is destroyed in a terrible train wreck. She looks around from behind the singing magical girl as Haruko is just suddenly gone. Madoka turns pale, and covers her mouth as if to stop herself from throwing up. Did Haruko just... die? Was that it? She can't believe it.

    "Look. She's in there now," comments Kyubey. Madoka looks, and sees Haruko onboard the train. Madoka looks, but doesn't find relief from her fear. The doors open, and she's tempted to board, but then the flaming children come out.

    Madoka freezes. She can't do anything against familiars. Not by her own power.

Amanda Faust has posed:
    Ink burns and letters don't. Really, expecting it to be otherwise is on Amy. She reaches so far to make sense of Labyrinths, and Witches, but she is, after all, a creature of reality, and it sets her expectations in countless ways she isn't even thinking about.

    She nods to Kyubey as she approaches him and Madoka. "You keep coming into Labyrinths... isn't it dangerous?" Then she looks to Kyubey. "Although, is it even possible to leave? I thought once you're in here you're trapped until the Witch dies. And then:

    Haruko turns around, and doesn't do anything foolish, but that look in her eyes chills Amy deeply.

    She was never good at reading others' faces when she was young. Maybe she wasn't really looking. Maybe her brain couldn't process them. Who can say? But lately she's been surrounded by people living life. The girl in the mirror smiles, and the people around her smile, or feel, or worry, or get mad, or sad, about this or that.

    But that look--

    Everything is destroyed. Amy can only stare, barely having time to process it, before another train pulls up. And Haruko is on it.

    Alarm bells scream in the back of her mind, but she has to try. This is what a hero does, and she knew she was risking everything when she became a magical girl. Any Witch could be her last, but...

    It's strange. When Mallory pictured his death, imagined final moments lying broken in front of a vehicle and a shocked driver, there was a mental rejection, a sense that no matter what, he had to live, so that... so that what? It was never clear what, but he suspects now that the chance Kyubey gave him, was what.

    And when she imagines final moments against a Witch, with or without others fighting at her side... the feeling is different. Of course she wants more life. And more time with Hannah. But at the same time she finally understands people who say they're grateful for what they got. If she doesn't make it out of here, she's grateful for what she got.

    Amanda Faust approaches the Doomtrain, intending to board. "Don't follow me."

    And then everything is on fire and the burning paper children are approaching. Amanda's not sure what to do with so many targets... to conserve magic, she tries making a... small rocket launcher? Like a pistol? Shooting them with little rockets if they approach her as she tries to board the train.

Coco Kiumi has posed:
Coco is really reluctant to let the little fiend onto her Live Stage, but she does her best to ignore that dissonant smile he always sports. 'I can't throw him off. Madoka wouldn't take it well.' She smiles and waves as soon as Haruko turns around, still continuing to sing. She shows an image as positive as possible despite the sad smile of the bluenette, getting ever closer to her.

The mermaid princess almost stops singing as the platform gets wrecked, her heart skipping a beat and her body almost freezing from the dread she feels if it wasn't for the fact she had been urging to keep herself going with the performance.

She emits a sigh of relief as soon as the girl appears safely in front of the train, only for the rescue mission to suddenly become harder as several familiars board too. "Ok, you two go rescue her. I will keep the familiars put with my usual methods and possibly also the train, if it runs on dark energy", she says, resuming to sing as if she has had no reason to stop.

Lulu Adelstein has posed:
    Lulu's heart leaps into her throat as she reaches the target a moment too slowly. The girl turns and looks at Lulu... And then a flying train comes in out of nowhere, side-swiping her, and destroying the platform, forcing the redhead to leap back or else get taken out too. Much like Madoka, she can only crouch, wide-eyed and staring, feeling sick over her failure. The catastrophic crashes as the train falls and hits another below sound very far away.

    'I have to get the other civilian out of here.' is the trained response that runs through her brain as her numb body moves automatically to carry it out. But then another train pulls up, and Kyubey points out the person the others came here for is aboard it. Somehow. Lulu Adelstein leaps up onto the train once it stops, and runs along it to the car she saw the blue-haired girl in, and attempts to punch through and tear it open like she's peeling a tin can.

    There's another Puella Magi and whatever that other thing is here. They can deal with Familiars. Right? If they let that pink-haired girl die, she SWEARS TO GOD.

Haruki Hara has posed:
    The burning child paper dolls with their squiggly little features disappearing into blackened curls as the edges becoming increasingly abbreviated by the flame fall to Amy's rocket pistol. But there's more of them spilling out, disembarking. Is she going to stand there and shoot until one car is empty? And the next? And the next? Until it's finally safe to go inside? There's a train in the distance following looping tracks that appears to have jumped its tracks. A hundred tanker carriages behind the engine. No prizes for guessing whether flammable ink is inside.

    It reaches the end of its arc.

    It's flying through the air towards what's left of the platform, as well as the stopped, flaming train with its cargo of Familiars.

    Coco's song just attracts them to her. These are much stronger Familiars than the usual rabble. They're reinforced and numerous. More doors open on other carriages, and more Familiars march out. Some of them bump into the burning dolls in the process of converging on the stage, Coco, and Madoka, and Amy, and they catch fire too.

    Stand and fight, and get overwhelmed? Run instead of waiting for the horrible accident about to happen in slow motion, that will certainly kill anyone still here when it hits? Risk being half-in-and-half-out like Lulu?

    Haruko looks up when she is called to, but not when the roof above the cabin is ripped open by a girl with boxing gloves. She stares, and doesn't react except to look up at her. The lights inside the cabin are going dark. One by one. Until the only pool of light remaining is the one directly over Haruko and her seat, with Lulu above her, reaching out.

    In a matter of seconds, there is going to be fire, and explosions, and crumpled steel, and if they're very lucky they'll die before they have to listen to their friends screaming while they burn.

Amanda Faust has posed:
    Amy is striding forward trying to get to the car, shooting familiars that accost her, when Lulu leaps onto the train. "Shit, that's a way better idea."

    Whether she's made it on through the doors, or ended up standing next to Lulu looking down the hole, there's only one thing to do now, isn't there?

    She tries to grab Haruko if Lulu isn't faster and then leap out the hole Lulu made, with the objective of all three of them getting back to Kyubey so he can explain how to get the civilians out of the Labyrinth.

Madoka Kaname has posed:
    "Well," says Kyubey to Amy. "If I may make one small note, it's possible for a Witch to flee a Puella Magi, which would eject us from the Labyrinth. I suppose if you could scare the Witch off, it'd be possible to leave that way, but we can't rely on that."

    Madoka tilts her head while floating in Coco's Live Stage. She didn't know that part. She also doesn't really have time to process it because so much other stuff is happening.

    There's a moment where Madoka thinks that, if she were to die here, Homura would never even know. Somehow, this thought is louder in her mind than the fact that she's probably about to die.

    "U-um... Oh no... they're really getting close."

    "We could also try to leave the way we came in," adds Kyubey, surprisingly calmly, "However, that's not guaranteed either. It's up to the Witch whether or not that would work."

Coco Kiumi has posed:
Coco is pushing the Live Stage forward, hurrying in the same direction the other magical girls are going. Below her it would be almost funny to see the familiars repeat a process of building a pile of themselves and then dismounting from each other as soon as they started because the Live Stage has already moved forward.

She doesn't really know what to change in the situation here since the other two are much better equipped to rescue Haruko (floating sphere of light nonwithstanding), so she just opts for reuniting with them and keep singing for the sake of keeping everything at bay.

Lulu Adelstein has posed:
    The hole is enough for a person to pass through. Lulu works on peeling the roof a bit after Amy jumps down into that darkness with Haruko. She doesn't know what kind of trap this is, because of course it's a trap, but if Puella Red is willing to risk it... Wait. Where is the Witch? This kind of assault so soon after entering is bizarre. It's not typically this fierce. Have they... Been in the Witch's lair this entire time??

    "RED, WATCH OUT!" she yells down, her heart once again in her throat, as the other Puella attempts to scoop up the blue-haired girl and leap out wth her. Lulu's hackles raise as she wonders if the thing they just rescued was actually the victim they're searching for or if she's...

    She's unaware that death is coming for them all in just a few seconds, because there's basically a series of bombs about to hit the platform. No one warned her. No telepathy. Not even a shout. Maybe they didn't notice either.

    It's behind her, so she didn't know...!

    And Amy might have just extracted the Witch herself. There's so much despair radiating from the carriage car. Pain, and loss, and rage, and jealousy. It's overwhelming. Or maybe it's coming from...

    They're all about to die.

    Lulu accepted that possibility when she made her contract with Kyuubey.

    She has followed Teresia's example in her two-year career as a Magical Girl. She has always aspired to be a hero like her, someone cool, who can save others.

    She grabs Amy by the other Puella's cape, spams a series of magic circles in the air to accelerate and empower her movements, and -- provided there's no resistance from Puella Red or Haruko -- the boxing magical girl tries to hurl them both towards the entrance corridor, not that far behind where Madoka, Kyubey, and Yellow Pearl Voice are located. It's an action taken in under three seconds, just barely. She hopes that Red will be able to land safely.

    <<Sorry, Kyubey. I think this is the end of the line for me.>> she telepathically transmits to everyone who can pick such things up.

    She smiles, like Haruko did. But hers is a smile of contentment.

Haruki Hara has posed:
    Haruko is not the Witch. But the car she was in was full of despair it's true. More than her own. The darkness was closing in on her, crushing her as surely as the train's walls would if it was smashed to pieces like that first one was. But she doesn't resist when Amy jumps down and scoops her up. She just leans against her rescuer tiredly, wondering if she's at least going to have company at the end. Being held by a strong girl who cares about her.

    It's not a bad way to die.

    But then she is lifted up out of that cage of loss just as the shadows finish swallowing up the inside of the carriage. And then someone is trying to grab Amy and throw both of them alllll the way back to where they started, that hallway that's still open, that leads to the outside.

    She is in no position to do anything but be held tight, and let Amy's reflexes and judgment decide her fate.

    The train, on the other hand? The one spitting out familiars? It has something printed on the side, just like many trains do.

    In this case, the writing is in an unfamiliar language. It burns into the minds of those present, whether they read it or not, as the Witch reveals herself. The train shrieks and bucks and dumps its many carriage of Familiars as the fuel-freighter slams into it. The explosion is too big to hear. Too big to see. Too bright. Too hot. It's like the sun just exploded.

    Everything is flames and light and the impact of the force of it rippling through the Labyrinth. But perhaps those who moved far enough away will not be killed. Hurt badly? Likely. But not killed.

    Those held and shielded by a Puella Magi?

    In very bad condition, depending on the Puella Magi, but maybe not dead.

    Lulu, who was standing on the Witch's back when she detached herself and flew off? Black limbs of shadow reach up out of the hole she tore and try to drag her inside, to replace the prey that was stolen.

    Hard to see this though, with everything being made of fire and pain now.

Amanda Faust has posed:
    Amy thinks that if there's any rules in here, they're probably narrative ones. And she was *sure* the train Haruko was on was a metaphor for a sort of train to the afterlife, until suddenly everything was burning and she had to grab Haruko and suddenly she's being thrown--

    Amy's a puella magi, not a cat. She twists in the air and positions herself so she'll take the impact for Haruko and not hit her head or anything, but still, she lands hard and the two of them roll over to the others before she lets go. Amy letting out a groan, and then realizing it didn't hurt *quite* as much as she expected it to. The soft first aid kit under her cloak helped take a little of the impact.

> Sorry, Kyubey. I think this is the end of the line for me.
    What, NO! Amy tries to sit up from under Haruko--

    And then everything is fire. The first aid kit, the cloak, everything burning away as she turns to shield Haruko, the puella magi's magic burning itself in defense as fire tries to get around and through her, but becoming a full-body burn victim directly against her Wish. New outfits form and burn and form and burn while Amy's brain scrambles to process what's happening and devise a counter.

    Narrative. Push through. 'But they survived.' You can't force that. 'I have a counter'? It's worth a shot.

    The red puella magi is suddenly wearing firefighter gear. It's pink, and a little oversized, but there is gap moe to be exploited in the cute little girl dressed like that. She's taking a clear facemask off herself and putting it on Haruko, wrapping the other girl in a cloak of material similar to her current clothes, and cautiously trying to carry her to the exit, if she can at all see or tell where the corridor was, now.

Lulu Adelstein has posed:
    What? Why are those idiots coming towa--EXPLOSION. Everything is white. Everything hurts. She feels herself reflexively trying to vomit blood due to the shockwaves rupturing her organs -- basically just tearing them free and sending them sloshing around inside of her like a bag of flesh and blood. Then hands grasp her all over and try to pull her into the place where there is nothing but despair. She was prepared to die. She didn't expect it to hurt so much, but she was ready for that. But she doesn't want to drown in a Witch's madness when she does so. She fights back. Despite her torn and tattered body, the fact that she's blind now, that she doesn't even realize she's almost completely bald now because most of her skin and face and scalp are covered in burns, and all the broken bones...

    She wanted to be a Hero.

    And there's still people to save. She can't rest until she sees that they made it.

    She fights back. She is already inside the train carriage mostly, except for her hands that have a deathgrip on the roof of the carriage. She can feel the darkness eating her, swirling around her Soul Gem on her belt. But she pulls herself up regardless. She might not have any skin left, her boxing gloves might be in tatters, she might still be burning but she's fighting the darkness and pulling herself up onto the Witch's back again, to her displeasure. She can't see. She can't hear. She can't feel really. She doesn't know where she is or what direction she's facing, but she needs to make sure the others get out safely. That's all that matters now. She can die after that.

    If only one of her friends was here. She's have the faith to just leap out into space. If Teresia was here, she'd trust that Teresia would catch her without fail.

    There are neither.

    Well, as the French say, 'I guess I'll just fucking do it.'

    She jumps, as powerfully as she can with her Physical Augmentation Magic, with her arms reached out.

    Heh. If no one catches her she'll look pretty stupid.

Madoka Kaname has posed:
    Madoka hears Lulu's telepathy, as does Kyubey. She honestly forgot that was a thing. Once she remembers, she finally decides that she has a role here. Madoka is, after all, in an elevated position so that she can see the full battlefield a bit better than the two Puella Magi.

    If only she had thought of that a few moments earlier, things might have gone differently. That's something that's going to stick with her for a while.

    <<Wait...>> What did Kyubey say her name was? <<Lulu! Jump to us! I'll catch you!>>

    Everything is happening so fast. Everything burns. Black is turning to White. Her ears are ringing. Is this what it's like to die? Something about it feels oddly familiar. She opens her mouth to make a Wish, drawing upon her innermost desires, trying to find the one thing she wants more than anything else. She starts to glow bright pink, and then something horrible grips her mind and she stops. The brief flash of pink fades quickly.

    'No, don't.' says some hidden inner voice. Funny. It doesn't sound like Homura's. It sounds like her own.

    Kyubey, at some point, gets knocked off of Madoka's shoulder. Did he get incinerated? Did he die? It's too bright to tell. No, clearly he lived, because he's right there by the entrance, completely unscathed. <<This way!>> He calls out to the other Puella Magi, trying to draw them to safety.

    Madoka watches as Lulu leaps out of the Train Witch, and from Yellow Pearl Voice's Live Stage she reaches out to try and catch her. Of all the things she's been horrified today, the sight of burn wounds doesn't phase her. At least, not as much as the possibility of losing someone brave enough to fight Witches is.

    There's a brief moment, one single instant, in which it's possible to grab Lulu and pull her in. Madoka seizes it, drawing her into the Live Stage, and immediately curls up behind Coco.

    Madoka probably has her own wounds, but... that's the fun thing about adrenaline and shock. You don't necessarily have to deal with pain right away.

Coco Kiumi has posed:
'Good job, Red And Lulu!' is what Coco would say if she weren't busy trying to get to the latter as fast as she can. The explosion has left her with some nasty burns, and never before has she tried singing and moving the Live Stage, and all three things are frankly messing with her concentration a lot. The only thing that keeps her going is the very real consequence failing would have, that and the fact her singing provided some measure of solace against the pain, even if it isn't anywhere close to actually being able to heal them completely, with the adrenaline definitely adding to the mix as she ignores the burns on the fingers holding her microphone and on the dancing limbs.

Then there is the fact she is about to decide to swap singing for something even harder to do while the Live Stage is moving: transforming again. 'That was the witch!?' Coco thinks as the train lifts itself off, the familiars plunging down from the witch. 'I can get her', Coco thinks as she fixates on the figure of Lulu clinging to the witch's back. The witch's many hands make her change her mind quite fast. 'I will need something better here', she thinks, glancing at the bracelet on her wrist.

She activates the power latent within it, the bracelet emitting white light as a yellow halo descends onto her, giving her clothes and accessories more decorations. The new transformation infuses a greater power into her songs, exactly what she is counting on to deal with the witch's hands. "Madoka, I will keep singing and moving the Live Stage, you try helping the other red magical girl onto here when we get close enough." She doesn't know Lulu is about to jump, but that's all the better for them.

She turns back to the witch without checking if Madoka has heard her plan, confiding in her and not wasting any more time. "Bonds: Pichi Pichi Voice, Live Start!" The idol begins to sing with renewed intensity: tears that hurt overflow into the depths of sea, light shining upon then, renewed determination that comes from one's own splendor, realising the force of invincible bonds after being hurt.

It's this light that Coco is tapping into as the magic fights directly with the witch's hands, as the magical notes bring more relief to everyone from the pain of the burns, as Coco sings that "the things we share and the things we surpass by ourselves bind with our bonds to the seven seas that we believe in!"

Haruki Hara has posed:
    The engine part of the train and the first car behind it fly of into the void, burning and screaming mechanical rage as she goes. The burning bodies of the Familiars continue to rain down through the blackness, like snow made of fire. All those paper children, turning to ash. At least they aren't still laughing.

    As Amy gets Haruko back into the entrance hall, the Labyrinth begins to fly away from them, expanding out into infinity while shrinking the space that they occupy to a much narrower strip, until that strip becomes the actual train platform in reality. They all made it out alive. Barely.

    There was no one who was extranneous to this mission. Without every part contributing, this could have been a tragedy none of them would ever forgive themselves for. Someone right there in their reach... Who they still couldn't save.

    Haruko is burned, though not as badly as Amy, and definitely not as badly as Lulu. She seems unconsious, but she turns her head to look up at Puella Red, presumably still in the other's arms.

    There are two Witch's Kisses still on her neck. Two. Neither is the Circus Witch's mark. They seem to be overlapping.

    She just starts sobbing. Not hard. Not loudly. There's no wailing. She just lies there, looking up at the ceiling. Tears leak from her vacant eyes as she periodically convulses in the pain of her despair. Then she says words that make this whole situation even more painful. "A girl asked me out." She swallows as she convulses again. "She thought I was a boy. Wh-when she f-found out..." Haruko turns her face away, and just cries silently.

Madoka Kaname has posed:
    Madoka is covered in burns and soot. How is she going to explain this? She frets about this for a moment before realizing that the unaware folk will make up whatever excuse that they need to and that it's not her job to lie to them. Covered in pain and burns, clinging to Lulu, the only thing allowing her to still move is adrenaline and the healing spell from Coco. She manages to fish out her smartphone from her purse, see that it is somehow still functioning, and calls for an ambulance. "Hello, yes? There's an emergency at the Juuban train station." Her voice is hollow. All facts, very straight forward. "There's been an explosion, several of us have burn wounds. Please come quickly."

    She stays on the line, as requested. They ask her another question. "Yes, I'm hurt too. I can't verify the wounds on anyone else, but there are at least three other people hurt besides me. Understood, I'll stay put."

    A moment after speaking, her mind registers Haruko's statement. She hasn't quite caught on to the idea that Haruko could ever be anything but a girl. In her mind, this is simply a matter of rejection. She calls out to her. "H-hey... it's okay... things like that don't always work out. There are a lot of girls out there who wouldn't mind dating another girl." Because that's what she thinks the issue is.

    She'd rest a hand on Haruko's shoulder, but doing such a thing would be incredibly painful for both of them.

Amanda Faust has posed:
    Space (unspace? notspace?) warps, and-- they're back on the platform. She looks at Haruko in her arms, remembers that when she checked the first aid kid while packing it, it had things for burns, and reaches behind her back for the-- ah.

    Haruko cries, and she hugs her, and winces as that kinda hurts. She suddenly wonders if *Haruko's* situation affected the Labyrinth and Lair's appearance, or if, perhaps, it attracted a Witch with some sort of affinity for such things. She's not sure what to say, though. "Um. It's okay to be a lesbian, I mean, it's 2023... I like girls... and so does my girlfriend... I'm sure lots of girls at school do! ...Can you stand?" If Haruko can't, she'll lay the girl on a bench for a moment as she takes stock of herself, wincing as she moves now that the adrenaline is wearing off.

    It helped that explosions are *literally her thing*, and her wish wouldn't allow this damage type as long as she has magic to burn, but her soul gem is significantly darkened now, and she is sore and tender all over. She turns to approach Kyubey, winces, the firefighter clothes go back to her default outfit, she takes another step, winces, and then her magical girl clothes become cute pajamas. Very pink with little dots on it, and very soft. So soft.

    "Kyubey... that girl has two witch's marks on her. What do we do about that? How do we... help her, until the witches can be found and defeated?"

Lulu Adelstein has posed:
    Lulu has no way of knowing if or when she's safe. She just has to trust in the girl who called out to her and has now caught her. However, once everything stops moving, she sits up slowly, charcoal skin peeling in places where it fused to other skin, and making her reconsider that action. <<Are there yet?>> she asks telepathically instead. Assuming she gets an affirmative regarding her safety, she turns off her pain the way that Teresia taught her, and lets the numbness swallow her up, while spending magic like water to start healing herself.

    Hopefully, she'll look less like Sarah Connor in T2 during that nightmare where she's on the playground and watching kids play and holding onto a fence and then the nukes hit, and--Look, anyway, it's not a good look for her, and she wants to be more presentable by the time EMS show up. The station is strangely abandoned at this time of day (night?). Maybe because the Witch planted herself on the tracks practically and people just had bad vibes from it.

    It's slow going, but magic circles are popping up all over and around Lulu, replacing her wounds and restoring her body. Her hair is even growing back before their eyes.

    <<Am I correct in assuming there's no witnesses hanging around?>> she sends to those with telepathy and also Kyubey. <<Oh and can someone translate for the idol girl, I don't think I can talk yet without my face falling off.>>

Amanda Faust has posed:
    Amy just STARES as Lulu heals herself before her eyes. "How are you DOING that?!"

Lulu Adelstein has posed:
    <<Expensively.>> Lulu responds dryly. How telepathy can be dry is not a question that will be answered in this scene.

Madoka Kaname has posed:
    Madoka isn't responding to anything right now. Otherwise she'd probably recount the story of how she used to think she was straight but then this mysterious transfer student did a hairflip and well...

    Kyubey, who totally didn't just die a few moments ago, looks up at Amy with his usual unchanging smile and says, "Well, having two Witch's marks is an irregularity. There's no way of knowing for sure how two competing Witches would act over their prey, but chances are they'll fight each other. It's not unlike two or more Puella Magi fighting over a Grief Seed."

    "If you want to keep her safe, you might have to keep an eye on her and make sure she doesn't get near anything sharp or dangerous."

    With a tilt of his head, he scratches himself behind the ears. "I suppose you humans would refer to that as 'suicide watch'. It's too bad that the Witch got away, but considering how this could have gone this is probably the best we could hope for. Even if you killed this Witch, there'd still be the other one to contend with."

    Kyubey, ever helpful, turns towards Yellow Pearl Voice and says, "Lulu can't talk right now, for obvious reasons, but she's asked me telepathically to help her speak to you if necessary. So far she's asking if there are any witnesses around, though I don't really see any aside from us."

    Madoka mutters, her voice weak. "How can there be witnesses? People will just forget anyways. If we tell them a monster blew us up, they won't understand."

Amanda Faust has posed:
    Expensively? ...*Oh*. "Umm, yeah... there's not a lot of people around." <<Hold out your soul gem. Or, uh... well, when you feel able to move.>>

    She nearly finished off the first grief seed after dealing with the Circus Witch, so she still has the circus witch's seed now. She pulls it from her-- wait, where do her pouches go when the outfit changes? She tries all the pockets on the PJs until she finds the grief seeds in one. The first grief seed has its last bit of magic expended, and she starts to recharge herself with the circus witch's seed before stopping, thinking she'd better save it for Lulu. She pockets it, but is left holding her first grief seed, now dark and filled with ominous energy. She looks to Kyubey, "Hey, uh, what do we do with these when they're used up, anyway?"

Coco Kiumi has posed:
Coco is aching everywhere as the labyrinth of the witch dissipates around then. "I would ask how everyone feels, but... You know..." she says waving her free hand, before regretting it with a wince of pain. Her face has mostly been spared from the burns, which is a good thing when your magic depends on your ability to vocalise. "I can offer you a passage on my Live Stage, it's better than walking in this condition" she offers instead, looking at the rest of the group.

Explaining this to everyone is going to be troublesome, she realises. They are full of burns that would make you presume a fire, and yet there is no sign of anything like that. As for Cho... Her roommate is probably going to worry around her for an eternity, and she can't fault other girl: the thought of using desks or anything other than the softest beds is torture in her mind. 'Good think we are during summer break currently.'

She looks around at the other three, who really look like they are communicating with each other, like when she is communicating with her otters. "Uhm, can I be let in in this conversation you are having without me?" she asks, a bit unsure as to why she is being left out. "Huh, thanks", she says reluctantly when Kyubey tells her what she is going on. She agrees with him, there is probably noone around.

She realises what Haruko is talking about when she says it since she has familiarity with the concept already, but all she can do is sing her Legend of Mermaid and hope the magical properties of her song help allievate her distress. There would be a more useful solution, but all the danger has made it slip from her mind.

Haruki Hara has posed:
    Haruko is not answering. Her eyes are still vacant. She's in her own, small, sad little world inside her head right now. She has her I.D. on her if Amy searches her pockets for it. Which... Would reveal Haruko's secret. She also has her phone, but beep-boop robutt password locked.

    I.D. though? 'Haruki Hara', age '13', street address, other details that Japanese I.D.s have. And 'Sex: Male.' The same for her Student I.D.

    Though there's also a second Student I.D. with the details changed to Haruko Hara, Female, and the photo has Haruko's face with light make-up and girl's uniform on it... Too much to hope for that she's just a twin. The second one is hand-made. Enough to pass at a glance but not when compared to the real thing.


Madoka Kaname has posed:
    Kyubey starts plodding towards Amy. "You'll have to give that to me. Otherwise, when it's full like that, it can rehatch into a Witch. Here..."

    The red ring on Kyubey's back opens like a hatch. You thought that 3 on his face was his only mouth? Haha, silly. That mouth is only for snacks and dead Kyubey bodies. The back is for Grief Seeds. "Toss it in. I'll take care of it from here."

    Madoka just stares at him. She's too hurt to really think too much about what she's seeing.

    Madoka turns to Coco and says, "No... I think it's better if we wait here. I've already told the EMS where they are. They should be coming shortly. Thank you, though, for that and for earlier."

Lulu Adelstein has posed:
    When it's confirmed that there are no witnesses, Lulu makes sure her most grievous injuries are healed, and then reverts to her civilian form. It still hurts to talk but she says scratchily, "They'll remember if you transform in front of them." Oh. That's kind of important to know, huh? "I'll be fine." she gasps like an old crone. "Have a friend... At the hospital... Who can fix us all up." She gives up on speaking out loud for now. She's just a half-barbecued girl in a school uniform sitting there now, one leg on the ground, the other up, arm resting on her knee. <<Lulu Adelstein. Nice to meet you. I'm glad Kyubey was here. He has helped us out of trouble many times before.>>

    Also, hey wait, couldn't she not speak Japanese the first time she met Amy? It's very smooth now. Fast learner, I guess!

Madoka Kaname has posed:
    "O-oh," says Madoka. She forgot about henshins. "No, you're right. I wasn't even thinking about that. Sorry..."

    Telepathically, because moving even her mouth is hard right now, <<Madoka Kaname. It's nice to meet you, too. Wish it was under better circumstances.>>

Amanda Faust has posed:
    Amy stares at Kyubey a moment. "...What *are* you?" But it's mild astonishment and half-rhetorical -- she leans over, wincing, and carefully drops the grief seed into Kyubey. "Rehatch? Do Witches... lay eggs like this, and then turn back into eggs when defeated...?"

    Haruko is asked about her friends but doesn't answer. And digging through her stuff wouldn't answer that, that's for nosey authority figures to do.

    Amy looks to Coco and Madoka. "I'm not sure what to tell emergency services. They won't remember magic, but there's no evidence of an explosion."


    "...I could *make* there be evidence of an explosion, but that's needless destruction if there's *any* other way..."

    She looks to Lulu. "Oh, you're good enough to move already? Here, soul gem." She prompts, holding out the circus witch's seed to refill Lulu's gem. Depending on how much energy Lulu used, she can then top off herself. "Amy Faust, by the way. Umm... so yeah I dunno if we lie to emergency services, or leave fast, or what... and what about Haruko? We need to contact her friends and family... like Kyubey said, I guess with the witch's kisses she's on, uh... basically suicide watch."

Coco Kiumi has posed:
With everyone except Kyubey, Haruko and Lulu knowing her civilian identity, Coco is tempted to let Lulu knows who she is, but leaving the relative comfort of her Live Stage is something she isn't really keen on doing at the moment. So she just floats next to Lulu to talk to her. "Nice to officially meet you, Lulu. My real name is Coco", she says, realising that she is going to have to untrasform anyway for the emergency services. Not now, though.

The thought of getting onto the ground makes her shudder. "I will have my otters stalk Haruko and report to me, Lulu and Amy", she says in response to the problem about Haruko's condition.

She mentally calls out to the group that warned her and three of them reach the girls, registering the smell of Haruko, Lulu and Amy. After saying that, she resumes singing for Haruko, the magical notes lulling her to sleep.