3444/On The Other Side Of Despair

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On The Other Side Of Despair
Date of Scene: 29 September 2018
Location: Plot Room #1
Synopsis: After many preparations made, it's time to confront the 30 year old Witch of Kana Ishii. Madoka, Homura, and Chisato all venture into the Labyrinth of Chisato's old high school friend, with one goal in mind: Redemption. What lies on the other side of despair?
Cast of Characters: Homura Akemi, Madoka Kaname


Homura Akemi has posed:
EARLIER

    It's been a couple of days since Chisato, Homura, and Madoka first paid a visit to Aokigahara. The two Puella Magi partners have returned a few times, hunting down and killing a few more familiar-born Witches. A couple of times they got a little too close to the real deal, and Kyubey would warn them away. After all, they couldn't redeem the Witch without Chisato there.

    Once they had hunted down the familiar-born Witches to the last, Homura decided that they had about as much information as they were going to get. So then she had set up a presentation in the dance room, hooking up a computer to the TV in order to do a powerpoint presentation.

    "We found three Witches in the area, not including Kana Ishii. The first, which Mom was here for, was here. The others were here, and here. According to Kyubey, Kana hides somewhere between them."

    "The second Witch was weak, so we can assume it was young. Despite its fame, official numbers claim that only 50 to 60 die here per year. Slim pickings for four Witches."

    "Now, about these symbols. All three Witches that we saw took the shape of the Masked Sun, but only the first and second of them had the... what I've come to call goo children. The third one instead was full of corpses covered in snow."

    Homura shows pictures of the corpses. They aren't doing anything, but the snow does not cover them entirely, and from what's visible one can see brightly colored costumes and splotches of red that resemble blood. All of it is rendered in the Witch's paper cutout style.

    "If Kana Ishii witnessed a potential apocalypse, then these images point towards D-point. The symbolism of the masked sun, and the darkness behind the mask, seems to represent Metallia, who was sealed inside the sun. While the sun itself could be a reference to the Seed of Sunrise, the snow found in the third Witch's labyrinth points towards D-point being the focus of Kana's despair."

    Chisato speaks up, "What happened at D-point?"

    "Well..." Homura hesitates. She doesn't want to say it, but she has to keep her mother informed, so she does. Her mother goes pale. They take a break. When they come back, Homura continues.

    "What's missing here is any reference to Hana Shiroi or Corvus. However, what we do see is these trees starting to float into the air. This may be a loose reference to Walpurgisnacht, which makes me think Kana has actually seen multiple apocalypses. Kana's Witch will be stronger than these, and might have more tricks. Be careful."

    "Potential damage vectors include trees being launched at us and the sun throwing fire at us. The goo children do not deal much damage by themselves, but they explode into goo which can hinder movement. Those are only the known factors, so don't get complacent."

NOW

    Homura, Chisato, Madoka and Kyubey all stand in the Labyrinth of Kana Ishii.

    They stand in a forest of dead trees, covered in snow. Corpses of magical girl-shaped familiars rest upon the ground, some leaning on trees while others are sprawled across the dirt. The hollow-eyed goo children are, this time, wearing masks. In the black sky, there is no sun. The Witch at first appears to be missing outright, but the Puella can feel it calling the two of them further into the paper cutout woods.

    Homura takes a step forward, and something very unusual happens. The goo children all turn to face the party, but that's to be expected. The strange part is that the magical girl familiars are reaching out of the ground, lurching to life, gazing upon the four of them with red glowing eyes as they rise to their feet.

    "So that's how it is," mutters Homura. "The Witch isn't here. We'll have to cut through these first."

    Homura shoves a sidearm into her mother's hands and then rushes forward with a pair of assault rifles, spreading her fire wide to mow down the encroaching false mahou. The ones hit keel over as if they are in pain before exploding into sparkles, but the survivors begin to fire multi-colored energy beams at Homura. For the moment, she seems to be drawing their fire.

    Chisato looks around, panic in her eyes. She catches a goo child sneaking up behind her and yelps while emptying a few wild, poorly aimed shots into it.
Madoka Kaname has posed:
EARLIER

    Madoka listens to Homura's presentation and nods, paying attention and feeling some amount of pride at how well put together it is. She expected as much given the preparations she had for Walpurgisnacht and all the work she'd done for Salamander Salvage and the Contractors, but seeing Homura acting brisk and professional made her happy. It was always amazing what Homura could do when she was focused.

    There are, however, a few times that she feels the need to interject. "The official numbers are 50 to 60, but those won't count anybody that dies inside a Labyrinth, since they'll never be found." Her pink eyes look to both Homura and Chisato, "There might be bodies in Kana's Labyrinth, so we should be ready for that." Then a small shake of her head. "I don't know enough about how Witches behave to know if the fact several bodies are found a month are found outside it's Labyrinth means all of the people it killed would be."

    When they reconvene after the inconvenient truth about D-Point Madoka considers the lack of The White Flower and Corvus. "Walpurgisnacht and Metallia were both ancient. I'm not sure how old Hana Shiori or Corvus are. I think you're probably right about her seeing many potential apocalypses, but probably not all of them."

    She looks to Chisato and gives a nervous laugh, "They're actually more common than you think, but so are magical girls and boys. It's also true that the darker and more dire the situation, the brighter magical heroes shine to stop them. We can tell you more later if you want, but we should focus on Kana for now."

NOW

    "Destroy as many familiars as you can, Homura-chan. When we face Kana we won't be able to kill her to end the fight, and it'll be hard enough to protect your mother from the Witch itself!" Madoka shouts as she dashes, breaking away from Chisato in the opposite direction of Homura and drawing attention to herself by firing a few spreads of homing arrows into the crowds.

    Once they've noticed her she ups the ante, drawing her bow and empowering her arrows, firing a pair of exploding arrows off at angles in front of her so they explode one after another before firing a piercing arrow straight between them to clean the ones that had been forced to the center that were strong enough to withstand the blasts.

    She starts dodging immediately after, jumping, hopping, juking and rolling to avoid the magical energy blasts. A few of the false mahou close on her brandishing off-colored, jagged weapons but she notices in time, smacking two of them with her suddenly straightened bow before running the third one through as it tries to get her from behind with a quickly manifested magical arrow in her hand.

    The semiautomatic gunfire is recognized away from the staccato of Homura's twin assault rifles, and Madoka looks over her shoulder. She leaps backwards and does a half flip while drawing her bow, and landing on the goo child near Chisato with a one legged dropkick, crushing it to the ground and firing an arrow into it while standing on it.
Homura Akemi has posed:
    "Right!" says Homura. "We'll have a much safer time if we isolate the Witch herself."

    Despite having rushed on ahead, Homura is very much aware of the exact locations and situations of both her mother and fiance. Kyubey she is less worried about for various reasons, but as predicted the familiars seem to be ignoring him. While Madoka has drawn a fair amount of aggro for herself, Homura has managed to lure a large number of the magical girl familiars into chasing her... into a minefield that no one saw her lay. Familiars explode around her in waves as they charge the line, but Homura's minefield is seemingly endless.

    Chisato backs away from the goo child as Madoka puts it down, and starts to look around desperately for where to go. Unlike the two magical girls, she desperately wants to not be the center of the familiar's attention... but life is not that simple. The combative magical girls are ignoring her sure enough, but the goo children keep watching her with empty eyes. They call out ot her, in voices that are part cat-like and part child-like. They make repetitive, wordless sounds until suddenly the sounds become something recognizable.

    "Sa..."

    "Chi..."

    "Sa...."

    Homura frowns at the goo children, then turns to look at her mother. She shouts over the din of battle. "I think the Witch recognizes you, Mom."

    Chisato turns pale, and turns towards Homura. She wants to run towards her but... that minefield. Homura senses her intent, and timestops over to grab her before super jumping across. When the two of them land, they stand at the mouth of a dark tunnel leading away from the snowy woods, and what familiars have not yet died to mines have decided to stay behind... only to turn their attention onto Madoka.

    "Madoka-chan!" cries out Homura, as multiple colorful beams arc out towards her. While Homura's sure that her fiance could handle it, she takes another trip through timestop to grab her. "Come on, I'm pretty sure the Witch is over there, beyond that tunnel."
Madoka Kaname has posed:
    Madoka starts firing on the goo children as they advance towards Chisato, firing large numbers of arrows at them with each draw of her bowstring, spreading them out to try to take the mob down as quickly as she can. She's about to scoop Chisato up and jump away herself when Homura appears and Chisato is suddenly safe on the other side of the minefield.

    When Homura pulls her into a timestop she actually frowns a little, "It's dangerous to leave them, especially the ones that can attack from a distance." She isn't sure how much getting hit by a colorful beam would hurt, but the answer for Chisato would probably be 'far too much'. "I think it'd be a good idea to leave some bombs near them, just in case the minefield isn't enough."

    It's just a suggestion, but she'll follow quickly along whatever Homura decides.
Homura Akemi has posed:
    Ranged attacks, right. Homura considers that. "Fine. I think we'll be leaving them pretty far behind, but there's no telling if the Witch will just draw them closer or not." A few more grenades left at the feet of the magical girl familiars wouldn't hurt.

    When they make it to the tunnel, Homura lets time resume. She grabs Chisato by the hand but releases Madoka, and races further into the labyrinth as familiars explode behind her. Trees begin to float into the air and launch themselves at the mouth of the tunnel, but they don't attack the intruders. Instead, the pile of wooden debris piles upon the tunnel's entrance to seal them in. Enough focused firepower could probably break it, but it seems like the Witch is doing all she can to force them to not run away.

    Homura and Chisato move further down into the tunnel, and a massive windstorm picks up. Black feathers rush past them and around them, and Homura lifts her shield to protect herself while shoving Chisato behind her.

    At the end of the tunnel, there is a light. That light grows brighter and brighter, revealing itself to be the Masked Sun Witch... but this time it's a bit different.

    The mask falls off, the sun turns black, and from within the endless void underneath, a woman's arms and legs unfold. Before them stands a strange, almost human figure, wearing the rays of sun like a crown. In her right hand a long staff appears, with an amber-colored jewel at its tip that glows with brilliant radiance.

    That glow grows more and more intense, becoming a large ball of fire that fills the width of the tunnel. There's no question. The Witch intends to attack.

    "This is her," says Homura. "This is Kana Ishii."

    Chisato peeks out from behind Homura. "Kana-chan? Kana-chan, is that you?" She starts to step forward. Homura blocks her.

    "Mom, stay behind me."

    "But... that's Kana-chan! Kana-chan, can you hear me?"

    The Witch hasn't attacked yet, but that fire is growing more intense, and the narrow tunnel doesn't give them much room to move.
Madoka Kaname has posed:
    Kyubey wasn't given the luxury of a timestop bypass to the minefield, and he doesn't make it to the tunnel before the opening is stuffed full of trees. He has other ways, though, and as the three near the end of the tunnel they find him waiting for them. Homura names the Witch as Kana and Kyubey stands, running forward and jumping up onto Madoka's shoulder again, though this time he's holding on a bit more closely. "That is correct, Homura Akemi. It is surprising she recognizes Chisato Akemi so quickly after thirty years. I wonder if she would without the presence of Madoka Kaname."

    Kyubey makes something akin to a sigh, "I suppose we'll never know the answer to that question."

    As Chisato starts to move forward Madoka is thankful for Homura's protectiveness. She stands behind Homura as well, a little off to her side and standing sideways to partially obscure herself from the demasked Sun Witch, "Homura-chan, I have an idea. I'll draw it's attention and get it to fire, so be prepared to timestop."

    Pink eyes find purple and then look back towards the fire atop the jeweled staff, "That looks powerful, so it might not be able to react quickly when attacking. Even if it adapts quickly I think we can start disabling it if we hit it from behind while it's focused on filling tunnel with fire."

    Madoka steps in front of Homura, making well sure to be within arms reach, and draws her bow, drawing it back and charging before letting loose a dozen or magical pink arrows that streak out before homing in on the Witch.
Homura Akemi has posed:
    "Who knows?" responds Homura to Kyubey. "I'm not willing to risk my mother to find out."

    Madoka has a plan, and Homura nods after hearing it. "Right. Timestop can carry us behind it." She glances towards Kyubey, "I'm not going to spend any effort trying to save you. Stick to Madoka-chan if you don't want to lose another body."

    Pink arrows find their way to Kana's Witch no problem. Despite its seemingly lithe frame, the monster is too heavy to simply move, and its feet are rooted firmly to the ground. Bright pink arrows pierce it and it staggers backwards with each blow. It lifts its fiery staff above its head, desperate to fire off its attack before Madoka can damage it further, but the impacts are throwing off its aim.

    It doesn't fire down the tunnel. It fires into the ceiling.

    Homura lets out a loud curse as her shield clicks and turns. By the time Homura pulls Madoka into the timestop, the tunnel is in the process of crumbling around them. The ceiling is bathed in fire that spreads out far in both directions. The walls of the tunnel are shattering under the strength of their own Witch, and the magical false-concrete hangs in the air within this frozen moment.

    "Come on. I cleared a path around to the back."

    Homura leads the party through an oddly rectangular gap in the flames, leading out into the white blizzard behind the Witch. Barely visible in the snow, there is a tank covered in scorch marks. Homura hides behind the tank from the Witch before time resumes, and hopes that the thick snow can keep them safe. "We don't want to kill her, but... I get the feeling that she can handle a lot more punishment than this."

    The Witch turns towards them, noticing the sudden T-14 Armata tank in her Labyrinth and raises her staff again. This time, there's no epic charge up, but instead just a steady stream of fire that washes over the armored tank and almost seems to... melt it?! How hot is that flame, anyways? "Metal conducts heat," warns Homura. "Don't touch it."

    All around them, the blizzard rages, and the only thing clearly visible is the horrific fire that melts through it. Homura glances behind her, at the swirling white abyss, and then back at the Witch. "I think I understand. She can take a lot of hits. Most Puella can't really interrupt or avoid an attack like that, and if it goes off once then it's all over. She probably killed a lot of her would-be attackers with that first attack alone."

    "Running into the blizzard is probably very unsafe, especially in a Labyrinth. Madoka-chan, can you use your homing arrows to arc around the tank? If you hit that gem on the tip of its staff, you might force it to change tactics."

    Chisato, meanwhile continues to call out. "Kana-chan! I'm sorry for leaving you here! I know you must be mad... but... We're here to save you! We can fix this! We can make it right!"

    As the Witch's fire rages on, the tunnel continues its collapse, cutting off their escape route even further.
Madoka Kaname has posed:
    "Expending some bodies to gather information is an acceptable use, but I have no intention of wasting them," Kyubey replies to Homura. The fact he's clinging to Madoka about as tight as he ever has suggests he already assumed Homura would never go out of the way to save him from annoyance.

    The Witch being unable to move very far... well, a lot of Witches are like that but it's a rather devastating flaw. If they wanted to kill it there's little doubt in Madoka's mind that they could pepper it from all directions out of a timestop and annihilate it easy enough, and it's not like they're low enough on magic to need to be more efficient.

    But they're not here to destroy the Sun Witch, they're here to redeem Kana Ishii. Tactics like that are out of the question, which is why this is going to be so hard.

    Homura curses but Madoka isn't worried. Homura is fast enough and even if the tunnel is being destroyed they'll make it out. Exactly how they make it out surprises Madoka, and she blinks in surprise at the scorched tank as they find their way into the blizzard. The fire is hot but the air is suddenly very cold. She reaches over and sets a hand on Chisato's shoulder and the woman's jacket shifts and flutters, popping into something much cuter and frillier. And, perhaps oddly considering it's make, much warmer and even somewhat armored. 'Somewhat' in this case probably equaling the melting armor on that tank considering it's now infused with magic. "Here you go, Akemi-san, that should help with the cold."

    Changing her dress might have helped more, but something about causing her magic to change the clothes touching the skin of her fiance's mother seemed improper to Madoka.

    As time resumes Madoka winces as the Witch notices them immediately, wishing she'd taken her shots on the run. She nods to Homura, however, focusing on senses other than sight and firing her bow over the top of the tank, sending a myriad of homing arrows towards the Witch's staff, trying to both snap the shaft as well as shatter the crystal as Homura suggested.

    "It isn't bad that she's focused on us, but we need to get her to listen to your mother, Homura-chan!" She looks to Chisato, "Akemi-san, I know it's going to be hard, but try to let her know that she can have another chance at life- and make sure to tell her that both Metallia and Walpurgisnacht were destroyed!" She looks to Homura, "Stick with your mother and keep her safe and try to focus on defense. I'll try to wear Kana-chan down and force her to focus on me." A slightly sympathetic looks, "And remember, I'll be fine if I get hurt a little, but I trust you if you think it's getting too risky and I need protection too."
Homura Akemi has posed:
    It's true that going all in on a single strategy can mean big trouble if your strategy fails, and under normal circumstances this would probably be the part where Homura and Madoka walk away from the Witch as it explodes behind them, but these circumstances are hardly normal.

    Madoka's magic alters Chisato's coat, and she gasps for a moment before pulling it closer around her. "Ah! You can do something like that? Th-thanks." Without waiting for a response, Chisato steps further back, seeking to hide behind her daughter.

    Kana's fire continues to burn, melting the tank into slag, ruining it forever as a tank but not as a metal barrier. The arrows are undeterred by her flames and find their mark, shattering the staff into a million pieces. The Witch screeches in wordless anger at the destruction of its weapon. Chisato recoils in fear, body hesitating when her mind is screaming to be strong and call out. The fires die, leaving both hunters and Witch out in the freezing cold.

    The scenery shifts around them. The black background stretches into infinity, and the collapsed tunnel vanishes entirely... and the snowy ground beneath their feet shatters into huge boulders. Kana's Witch floats away from them and grows, becoming impossibly huge within the boundaries of its labyrinth, and the specks of snow scatter and spread out, dispelling the blizzard to becoming like stars in the endless black sky.

    At first it seems that there is no gravity here, because even without the ground beneath them they are suddenly floating. However, it's clear that gravity exists, it's just pulling them in a different direction, forcing them into orbit along with the loose pieces of what used to be the ground, forming something akin to Saturn's rings.

    Homura grabs onto Chisato with one arm, then reaches out for the now-cooling tank, but it starts to float away from her. A quick boost of her magic helps to close the distance, and once she's grasping the tank she calls out. "Madoka-chan, if you're worried, you could let me hold onto your Soul Gem. Just... you know... don't stray too far. Either way, I'll keep an eye on you."

    Chisato also grasps for the tank, and 'climbs' it so that her head can peek out at the massive Witch that they are orbiting around. "Kana-chan! The things you're afraid of have already been defeated! Metallia is gone! Walpurgisnacht has been destroyed! It's okay! Just listen to us... we can give you a second chance at life! I'll take care of you, just please come back!"

    It's hard to tell if the Witch is actually listening. It's not attacking right away. No, in fact, it seems to be entirely on the defensive, hoping to use the widening distance to protect herself.

    Yet the growing darkness centered on it's 'chest' seems a little too ominous..
Madoka Kaname has posed:
    Madoka gives Chisato another smile as the woman offers her thanks.

    The staff shatters and as it does it's almost as if the entire Labyrinth shatters with it. There's no doubting the strength of this Witch given the considerable ability with which it manipulates it's Labyrinth, not just altering it to bring them nearer or father but treating the entire area as weapon and tool.

    As the remains of what was once ground orbit the seemingly insanely large Witch, Kyubey hops from debris to debris, having finally hopped away from Madoka. Now it seems being near any Puella Magi is likely more dangerous than not. "This is most interesting. Do you truly intend to try to fight it while holding back? I think if you didn't stop it now it wouldn't need it's Labyrinth for very much longer."

    Meanwhile Madoka is clinging to a rapidly rotating chunk of rock, trying to maintain her sense of direction and not to get too dizzy. "No, it's okay, Homura-chan! I don't think I'd be able to keep in range!"

    The growing darkness is worrying, and Madoka decides she's going to have to get a little more aggressive. She doesn't want to risk destroying the Witch, but she's certain it's going to need weakened further. She jumps upwards of the spinning rock and miscalculates due to the odd gravity, moving very quickly but arcing up and over the Witch and accidentally landing herself somewhere on the opposite side from it Homura and Chisato.

    Oops.

    What are orbital mechanics? How do they work?

    Spreading out isn't an entirely terrible thing though, and the entire time she's moving she's firing arrows at the Witch. The first few are simple homing arrows and test shots, seeing how big an impact they have and trying to gauge how much she can hurt it without killing it, never mind how resilient it is against her arrows in the first place in this new form. The next ones are powerful however, a single one aimed dead center while others spread out, including strong arrows aimed for each if the 'limbs'.

    Worst comes to worst Madoka is fairly certain she could completely remove those without destroying the Witch, but dismembering it like that might make Kana harder to reach.
Homura Akemi has posed:
    Homura turns towards Kyubey. "You never know. Maybe it likes its hiding spot. My own Witch was neither logical or efficient."

    Homura notices Madoka's trouble with the orbital mechanics and suddenly realizes that not everyone is a huge physics nerd like she is. Well, it's too late to explain it to her fiance right now and it's not like it's an immediate threat. Not unless Madoka starts cancelling out her orbital velocity, which she isn't going to do by firing directly at the Witch. It does prove what Madoka said earlier to be true, however: She would never be able to stay in range if Homura had her Soul Gem.

    The Witch is, as previously speculated, pretty tough, but it has been taking hits for a while. A lot of those hits have been from a Madoka who is holding back but is still, frankly, Literally Madoka Kaname. It braves the first few test hits well enough, but once Madoka gets more serious the Witch starts to wince with each strike. She slows down, and the impossible large creature seems to be cradling its stomach with what it calls arms. The darkness it was gathering dissipates, and it doesn't seem to be attacking at all.

    It just floats there, in the endless void, curled up into a fetal position. It whines, and its whining is as loud as it is pitiful.

    "Kana-chan?!" Chisato is still calling out. "Kana-chan... please! I know you're hurting! I know your pain is deep! We're reaching out to help you! Please, answer me!"

    The Witch's head turns. It has no eyes under it's Sun Crown, but it certainly has a face, and that face is pointed at Chisato. It whines again. It's not attacking anymore.

    "It's gonna be okay, Kana-chan! It's..." Chisato turns towards Madoka. "Um... Madoka-chan? What now?"
Madoka Kaname has posed:
    "Just because it could doesn't mean it would be a good idea. Given it's proximity to Tokyo I wouldn't blame it for not wanting to draw unwanted attention." Tokyo, with it's myriad of magical heroes- creatures that prey on humans there don't tend to last long without either hiding or teleporting away upon defeat.

    Madoka's grasp of orbital mechanics is something close to zero. Luckily she has something on her side that most rockets and astronauts don't: magic. The Sun Witch takes her blows much more harshly than she was expecting, which is honestly a blessing. So far away from Homura she'd have to deal with anything that came her way, which isn't something she was looking forward to when she could hardly figure out how to move where she wanted without expending magic to do it.

    Chisato calls out to Kana and despite the seemingly insane distances her voice reaches Madoka as well. Hearing her Madoka looks ahead and sees something... unexpected but not unwanted. It's the rock she jumped off of, spinning directly at from an exact opposite orbit. She readies herself and crashes into it, improbably bouncing directly towards Kana Ishii's Witch while the debris flies directly away.

    See? Magic.

    As she flies in she starts to shimmer and glow, pink magic flaring around her. Rather than one giant flash she changes slowly, her hair elongating and almost seeming to hold still as it lengthens, like fishing line off a reel or the string of a kite. Her dress bleaches and lengthens as well, ethereal but opaque as it streams and flows out behind her. Somewhere along the way she stops getting smaller and starts getting larger, mirroring the growth of the Witch itself until she's nearly as large as it is- nearly, because Madoka is still a short girl.

    Then in a burst of magical pink glitter her transformation completes as her wings sprout and unfurl from her back pulling her to a stop directly beside the Witch, a gentle and loving smile on her face. Throughout the entire Labyrinth the feeling of psychic despair ends, the pain, mortal terror and regret ceasing the moment Madokami fully manifests.

    So too does it for the Witch once known as Kana Ishii, the terrible suffering and unending grief of the last thirty years suddenly shunted aside.

    "It's okay, Kana-chan. You don't have to hurt anymore. You don't have to suffer alone ever again. You don't have to hurt anyone else." Madokami holds her arms wide, radiant and tender, but not yet reaching out.

    She slowly, gently circles around the Witch, extending her arm to motion towards Chisato to once more return it's attention to her. "It isn't just me. Your friend Chisato-chan is here for you too, and she has something very important she wants to tell you."
Homura Akemi has posed:
    The Witch pulls its attention away from Chisato as something far brighter and more brilliant than any of her earlier flames comes into being. It notices Madokami, it's blank eyeless stare betraying neither scorn nor awe. Its aura of despair is obliterated by the overwhelming aura of Hope, and its overall demeanor changes imperceptibly.

    At first, there's no indication that Kana hears Madokami's words, but if she remembers her mindlink with Homulilly then it would be fair to assume that, in this state, it does. It eventually proves its understanding when it turns to face Chisato at Madokami's suggestion, turning that eyeless stare towards the most vulnerable person in the room.

    Chisato, intimidated by how large her friend is, gulps. Homura pats her back and says, "Go. This is your chance." Chisato nods, and then crawls along the molten slag that used to be a tank. In the strange gravity, she stands up, footing as sure as if she were on Terra Firma.

    "Kana-chan... I... I read your journal. I'm sorry about that, but I had to know... I had to know what you were thinking... why you fell into despair. Now, I think I do."

    "You saw the future right? You saw it, and you were terrified, because it was so awful that you couldn't see how it could ever get better. ... but you didn't look far enough! That future is now the past, and we've survived it. We survived, and even thrived. On the other side of that darkness, on the other side of that despair, there was hope!"

    Chisato steps forward, foot on the edge of the tank. With her magically-enhanced coat, she doesn't look quite as out of place here as she feels. "Please! If you still have your magic, if you still have the power to see the truth, you must know that what I'm saying is true! You must! Kana-chan, our world has a bright future ahead of it still, and so do you! All I'm asking is for you to co--"

    Chisato hiccups. Tears form at the edges of her eyes, "Come back. Please, Kana-chan, come back. We'll make it work. We'll find a way. It'll be okay. Just trust me! Trust us!"

    Chisato doesn't know if her words have reached Kana, but the Witch still isn't attacking. After a moment, it weakly reaches out, extending an impossibly large hand towards Chisato. It shrinks, and gravity seems to right itself. The Labyrinth changes. They're now back in the snow-covered forest, and the Witch has returned to a far more sane size.

    The Witch is waiting. Chisato steps down from the molten slag, and towards her friend. She takes one glance back at Homura, and then turns back towards Kana.

    "Kana-chan? Can you... really hear me?"
Madoka Kaname has posed:
    Kyubey has remained very quiet ever since the Witch stopped attacking, tilting his head and watching intently with beady red eyes. So far none of this is entirely unexpected given what happened with Homulilly... but even that is relevant. What should have been the result of a single wish, a once in a lifetime miracle appears to be happening all over again.

    But nothing is sure yet. You can't claim something is true until you've seen it through to the very end, and an Incubator's work is done on geologic timescales. Waiting a few more minutes means nothing to him.

    As Chisato speaks to the Witch and calls out to her friend there are tears in Madoka's eyes. Chisato might not have any magic aside from what was put in her jacket but she has the heart of a Magical Girl. It's no surprise at all that this woman is Homura's mother.

    The Witch reaches towards Chisato and Madokami nods, "Kana-chan can hear you. I'm sure of it."

    She floats a little further, putting herself more into it's view, "It's time, Kana-chan, but you're going to have to do something for me that might be difficult. I'm going to need you to give me your pain, your suffering, and your despair. You've had it with you for so many years now and it might be most of what you can remember-- but I won't be taking your memories, only the grief that comes with them."

    Kyubey is no watching as intently as he ever does, focused on Madokami and the Sun Witch both, observing their interaction after Chisato's words seemed to have gotten through to the Witch.

    She holds her hand out, palm up and open towards the Witch, "If you understand and are ready please take my hand. You've hurt for so long, Kana-chan. It's time for you to have the chance to be happy again."

    Reflected in beady red eyes the hand of the Witch lifts and sets into Madokami's. Immediately there's an immensely bright flash, the form of the Witch vanishing in an instant. It destabilizes and vanishes so fast one might question if it was ever there at all, the familiar if disturbing feeling of a Labyrinth collapsing washing over everyone as a massive surge of power implodes in Madokami's palm as Despair gives way to Hope, focused into a single small area that solidifies into the egg of a Soul Gem, glowing from within the exact teal hue of Kana Ishi's soul, a little magnifying glass sitting atop it.

    In chaos Kyubey sits, entirely unruffled but seemingly surprised, "That's... not what I thought. The laws of the universe remain unchanged, so how can you create more than one miracle with a single wish? What have you become, Madoka Kaname?"

    They're not in a Witch's Labyrinth anymore, but Aokigahara. When they had left it was sunny but now the landscape has been swept by wind and several inches of snow have fallen. Laying on her back in the center of a small grove of dead, scorched trees, lies a girl that only Chisato Akemi and Kyubey would recognize.

    Even so her identity is known to everyone, Kana Ishii. Madokami hovers above her reaching down to ever so gingerly set the Soul Gem back into the hands of the Puella Magi, connecting soul to body for the first time in over a quarter century.

    A rustle and a stir as gravity takes it's course, an old rope falling from the branches of a tree as a new bud opens in an old, withered branch.
Homura Akemi has posed:
    Kana Ishii, the girl who has been a Witch for over two thirds of her life, entrusts her soul to the gentle angel who is offering her salvation, and her trust proves to be well-placed. Her despair, her hurts, her fears, even her shame... she gives it all away, and in doing so she is reborn.

    When Kana Ishii awakes, Chisato is hovering over her, and so is Homura. She startles for a moment, then immediately starts talking. "Wait... wait... If you're Chisato-chan..." Kana points towards Chisato, then points to Homura. "... then who the heck are you?"

    Homura gives her a wry smile. "I don't look that much like my mother, do I?"

    Kana blinks. Mother?! This is Chisato's daughter? She glances between the two of them, and the resemblance is so uncanny that it's impossible to assume that they were anything but related. "Nah, trust me, kid. You do."

    Homura blinks, then turns her head towards Madokami with a smile. "Madoka-chan. We win." She then turns back towards Kana, and offers a slight bow. "Homura Akemi. 9th year at Infinity University."

    Kana gets up, with Chisato's help, and smirks at her friend's daughter. "So formal! Kana Ishii, and I'm pretty sure I'm considered a dropout by now."

    Chisato interjects, throwing her arms around her still very teenage-looking friend. "Kana-chan... I'm not sure how we're going to explain this to people, but... I'm glad to have you back."

    Kana smiles and hugs Chisato back. "You always were a softy." After a pause, she says a little more quietly, "I don't mean that. I'm glad to be back."

    As Chisato and Kana hug for a moment, Homura steps back to get closer to her angelic looking fiance. If asked, she would say that all forms and henshins of Madoka were her favorite, and that's the truth because it's Madoka herself that she loves, but there's something about the more maternal Madokami that brings out Homura's neediness just a little bit more. Purple eyes glance in Madokami's direction, but she doesn't reach out to embrace her. Not yet.

    Kana releases Chisato after a moment, then turns to look at Madokami. "I... I don't know what to say. I never thought I would meet someone like you, who could do this for me, who could bring me back to... being a magical girl. I guess Chisato was right... I didn't look far enough ahead."

    "I..." she starts to speak, but it seems even she has tears in her newly-reformed eyes. "... Thank you... I can't tell you how much it hurt me, how much I suffered... with all of that despair. I don't... I don't know how to... I don't know if I can make up for all the people I..."

    She cuts off. She doesn't want to finish that sentence, but everyone here knows how it ends.
Madoka Kaname has posed:
    Madokami floats gingerly out of the way as the shine returns to Kana's eyes, giving her room to sit or stand as she wishes. She lifts a hand to her mouth and giggles as the girl jokes with Homura about her family resemblance to Chisato.

    "We did this time," she agrees with Homura, soft pink eyes turning towards purple and gazing into them. "I'll take my victories one Puella at a time if I have to. Every single one of them is precious, no matter what Kyubey thinks."

    As introductions are given Madoka smiles and gives as best a bow she can while floating in the air, "Madoka Kaname, also 9th year at Infinity University." With a radiantly bright smile she adds, "And fiance of Homura Akemi."

    It might be the time to embrace each other just yet, but there's a somewhat more mature look in her eyes as Madokami as she sends a loving gaze to her beloved. The sweet, precious Homura who she cares more for than any other, she'll take care of her forevermore.

    Her attention is needed elsewhere, however, and she turns that soft pink eyed gaze to Kana. "I couldn't do it alone, not without all the people who believe in me and have protected me. Even so... if this is something only I can do, then it's something I will do." She gives a tiny shake of her head, "Don't worry about not being able to see past the darkness. Everybody has moments of weakness and trials they can't make it through alone. Being a Puella Magi means our falls are so much farther, but together now even we can climb out from the greatest depths of despair."

    As Kana's eyes tear up and her words cut off Madokami goes to her, floating down to hug her about the shoulders, "Didn't I tell you? You've already suffered enough. You can think about them, remember them, even honor them if you want to. But you know as well as anyone that you've already suffered and paid for any crimes you might feel are on your head. I meant what I said. You never have to hurt anyone again, and now that you know what a Witch is you know what it means to keep them from having to hurt others as well."

    She releases her hug but rests her hands on Kana's shoulders, giving them a small squeeze. "But... if you're intent on making it up to them, if you really want to give their lives and their deaths meaning and purpose? Then I want you to live, Kana Ishii. I want you to live as long and as happily as you can. Live a happy life for every one of them and bring hope and joy to the world wherever you go. Because even in a place like this, in this cursed forest, hope can always be found."
Homura Akemi has posed:
    Homura gets to have and hold Madoka forever and ever, so she can afford to let someone else have her attention for a bit. The black-haired veteran actually isn't good at these types of situations, or at least she doesn't think she is, so she's standing off to the side and being quiet. She'd look around for Witches or other youma but... they've hunted this place out pretty hard already, and anything crazy enough to stick around must surely be fleeing from the sight of multiple Puella Magi.

    Kana Ishii, meanwhile, stutters at what Madoka just said. "Fiance? To her?" she points at Homura. She glances between the two of them, and Homura blushes. "Ahaha, you made the tough girl blush." Homura blushes further and breaks eye contact. "Yeah, you two are a cute couple."

    As tears well up, Kana considers Madoka's words. Never have to hurt anyone again... The freshly-redeemed Puella lifts up one hand to wipe away her eyes. Her voice cracks, "Aha, sorry, I'm not usually this much of a crybaby. I just..." She leans forward to give Madokami a brief hug, then pulls back to smile at her. "I understand. I'll live. I'm not sure what direction my life will go after this, but I'll find a way to make it, and if I see someone suffering the same way I was... I'll try to help them, too."

    She gives Madokami another hug, then pulls away again, turning to Chisato with a smile. "So, Chisa-chan. What now? Are we going to hang out in these dreary woods all day?"

    Chisato shakes her head. "No, let's all go home."

    Kana chuckles, "Do you think my parents would take me back?"

    Chisato hesitates for a moment before answering, "Maaaaybe it'd be best if you spent the night at a friend's house. At least until we figure out what to tell them."

    Chisato, now feeling more brave and much, much happier, starts to lead the way back to the car. Kana follows suit, looking back at Homura and Madokami. Homura looks to Madoka with a soft smile, and takes her fiance's hand as she starts to follow the others.
Madoka Kaname has posed:
    The reaction Kana gives to Madoka revealing her relationship status gets another bright smile. She doesn't laugh at Homura's blush but does set sparkly pink eyes upon her as she looks away, thinking she's just about the cutest thing ever. "Ehehe, I sure think so."

    As Kana wipes at her eyes and explains Madokami simply smiles to her patiently, letting her work through her feelings without judgment. "I'm sure it'll take you some time to decide your new path in life, but I'll be happy to support you in whatever you find for yourself." Her smile widens and softens when Kana says she'll help others who suffer, "Whatever else you do you'll make a wonderful magical girl."

    She returns Kana's hugs, all of them, and tries not to giggle as she hears a nickname for Chisato. She then floats over to Homura as the old friends talk, taking her hand and drawing herself down lower as she nears, hugging onto Homura from behind and then ever so slowly swirling around her, floating backwards towards the care while facing upwards towards Homura, wrapping arms around her neck with her wings nearly touching the ground. "Thank you for supporting me and believing in me, Homura-chan. I could never have come this far without you, and could never have saved Kana-chan without your help. You really are my guardian angel."
Homura Akemi has posed:
    Chisato and Kana are going ahead, and after a casual glance backwards Chisato decides that it's probably safe to leave her daughter alone with her fiance for a bit. They chatter about this and that as Kana asks about old friends and Chisato shares what happened to them.

    Homura's cheeks, meanwhile, are exploring new shades of red as her darling fiance holds her from behind, then in front, and then she's her little angel is floating towards the car and Homura is following her like she's a carrot on a stick. She stands on her tiptoes to kiss her beloved, and lifts her arms to wrap them around Madokami's shoulders.

    "Madoka-chan," responds Homura softly, blushing and smiling as she looks deep into her favorite person's eyes. "How could I not support you? How could I not have faith? You're my little angel. You're my hero. I became a magical girl because I wanted to be cool and strong like you."

    After a pause, Homura adds, "Well, for that reason and also... I never want to let you go."

    Homura's soft smile rests upon her lips as her purple eyes are locked upon her sweetheart. "How wonderful it is, to have everything you need already in your arms..." Then her blush reddens further, and she stutters, "D-did I just say that out loud?!"
Madoka Kaname has posed:
    The red of Homura's cheeks goes well with her black hair. With Homura moving towards her like a carrot Madokami smiles and slows a little to let herself be more easily caught. She kisses Homura back and then lowers a little further to be eye to eye with Homura, if at an improbable angle if she weren't able to float.

    "I am your little angel. I'm all yours, and look how sweet you are to share me." She smiles and shakes her head, "I never want you to let go, and I'm never letting go of you either." To say she's in a happy mood is a bit of an understatement, and her eyes sparkle even more than usual as she gazes into pretty purple.

    When Homura blushes and stutters she giggles, "You did! Just like you say sweet romantic things to me all the time." She leans her head in to nuzzle Homura's cheek before closing her eyes and kissing her fiance, letting it linger.

    When it breaks several moments later she lets out a happy sigh, wrapping her arms around Homura's neck and curling against her. "I'm not exhausted like I was before... but could you carry me to the car, Homura-chan? I think it'd be best if your mom and Kana-chan sat in the front seats, to get to know each other better."

    Madoka isn't sure if the rear seats being a bench seat was intentional, but it's sure seems like it'd be smart if it was.
Homura Akemi has posed:
    "I'd be lying if I said I didn't want every moment of your attention, but more than that I want you to be happy," is Homura's frank reply. "You're at your best when you're helping others, and it's one of the things I admire most about you."

    Homura really didn't mean to say such a thing. It just slipped out of her lips without thinking... still, she doesn't particularly regret it. Homura goes out of her way to make sure that Madoka Kaname knows exactly how loved she is, so that little slip only further reinforces that.

    Being held, kissed and romantically loved by someone not unlike a goddess is an experience that Homura finds overwhelming in a good way, and when that goddess turns back into her little angel Homura can't help but smile. This time she lets her thoughts slip out on purpose. "How lucky I am, to have someone who is both so wonderful and so cute."

    The guardian angel, of course, hooks her arms beneath Madoka's legs and lifts her up, carrying her like the princess she is. Unlike last time, Chisato is more than happy to drive, and of course 'Auntie' Kana wants to sit shotgun next to her old friend. Homura and Madoka have plenty of room to get comfy and close on the way back home, and for the rest of the day Homura will be floating on the bliss of a happy ending. So will Chisato and Kana, really.