Thursday, May 21, 2020

Update for 2020: A Complete Site Reworking

Wow, my previous update post aged very poorly, didn't it? After all, I did none of those things I said I was going to do in 2019. As it is, my goals have shifted quite a bit. Everything I expressed in the 2019 update is something I intend to someday do, but currently, my focuses are elsewhere. As it is, I wouldn't consider anything on this site to be reliable canon. It all needs to be revised and reworked, so everything here is outdated. I will not be locking or deleting any posts, keeping them up for archive purposes, but this site will no longer be about those.

Instead, I am going to redesign the site, and keep it here as a hub location for my other works, as I do already have this url printed on all of my business cards. Again, to reiterate, this site can be considered a launching pad to find my other creative endeavors in other places. I'll actually update this same post with whatever my most current project is as time goes on, so it will remain at the top of the page. Thank you for your support!

Current Project- Entropic Float: This World Will Decay And Disappear.

Entropic Float is a visual novel regarding the experiences of fourteen people who've been trapped inside a magical construct known as the Anomalous Clocktower. Missing memories of how they came to be there, certain aspects of their past life, and of course, every loop but the current one, can those who awakened inside the anomaly find a way out?

Step into the shoes of Rashmi Jamil, Kanatsun, and Amelie Macon at different times of day as you seek a resolution. In each loop, you'll also be challenged to make the right decisions to overcome Entropy, in the hopes that the protagonists' memories might make it through to another version of themselves if the loop doesn't end in tragedy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Update for 2019: What To Expect

I've been a bit quiet here over the past few months I'm afraid, though at least I did make note that I'm on hiatus from regular updates.  In the time I've been gone, I've been working on all sorts of things, primarily a Danganronpa-themed work featuring many characters both familiar to readers of these stories (Sayaka, Yuuri, Kanoshi, just to name a few) and unfamiliar.  This work updates on archiveofourown near-daily, so if you're looking for more content with these characters but now in a Killing Game, you can check that out here.

Now, to get to the business of what's happening on this site currently.

I am actually in the process right now of editing and revamping Checkboxes.  I was unsatisfied with its current state and unable to continue the story.  So far I've completed editing on the first two chapters, and I'll soon be tackling the rest.  Unfortunately, it may take a while, given I do have a lot on my plate with other works and with school.  Similarly to Mahou Shonen, once the first arc of Checkboxes is thoroughly edited (the start through to the end of the school trip) it will be released as an ebook and paperback through amazon.

I hope to release throughout the coming year Arc Three: Kyoto X Morgue of Mahou Shonen: Just Say No.  Just like the first two arcs, it will be posted here first, then edited and adapted into an ebook/paperback available through amazon.  It's likely this is an event that will mostly take place during the summertime; I expect at least four of the eight chapters to an arc will be released in summer.  No particular update schedule, they'll arrive when I finish them.

I'm also interested in continuing both Bad Dreams and Evil Meet Justice.  The other stories featured on this site can sit on the backburner for the time being, but I am planning to improve the chapters of those I've already posted and continue work on them at some point.  I'll probably also edit Akuma No Imouto for amazon release at some point during the year, but I won't make promises on any statements from this paragraph.


Life On A String: Mercury has just released on kindle ebook and amazon paperback!

That's right, the third book in the Life On A String series is now available!  For those unfamiliar with Life On A String, here's the tea:

Life On A String: Mystery is the first book in the series, and it's a slow-burn enemies to lovers slice of life featuring Korekara's delinquent girl gang well before Box Hako ever got to the school.  There's only hints of a larger story and character foundation in this book, so if all you want to read is the plot, you only really need chapter 8 of this book to understand the later ones.  At the same time, it's called Mystery for a reason, and one eventual plot aspect will be less satisfying without the entire experience of a particular character.

Life On A String: Medic is the second book in the series.  The slow-burn romance comes to a point and the characters involved begin dating, which means it's time to open up their world a little more.  The main character starts to make real friends, the love interest works on coming out of her shell, and the groundwork is quietly being laid for the bigger story.

Life On A String: Mercury is the third and latest book in the series, in which the story finally finds itself on the 'other side of the world'.  The characters go from dealing with interpersonal conflicts to an actual antagonist, secret organizations, and people with powerful ESP abilities.  The main characters are adults now, and it's time to deal with adult problems.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Mahou Shonen Just Say No Chapter Sixteen

After Sayaka left, and the buildings rebuilt themselves,  Rei turned back into her... Not human form, but out of her magica form, and returned to the basement.  Tsukune decided to follow her back down, trailing behind her as she returned to Apollo, who was waiting there, concerned, "How did it go?"
"Well," Tsukune said, "Akabane-chan's first monster was the second highest power level that has been encountered yet, though at least it wasn't one of the most intimidating types.  Yamaguchi-san almost died, so she's already leaving with Blade.  We defeated it, though."
"That's kind of terrifying," Apollo said, "But, everyone's okay?"
"Pretty much," Rei said, shrugging, "Yamaguchi-san can't transform for a few weeks, but otherwise, she's managing.  And going home, though.  Plus, there's this theory that the monster was specifically sent to target her, so you don't have to worry about me.  A monster that strong isn't about to just show up here again."
"Well, I guess that much is good," Apollo said, then sighed as he leaned against the wall where he sat on the floor, "I thought that it would be safer for you to actually be able to hold your own against those things, but..."
"It still is," Rei said, "If I wasn't involved in that fight, it might not have been defeated.  And if it's not defeated, the damage stays.  And since this one actually attacked the school, when it got teleported right on top of it, you and I could have ended up that damage that stayed."
"Oh," Apollo said, "I guess that's a good point.  But, you know, I don't want to lose you, Reicchi."
"I know," Rei said, looking away from him, "After all.  We're all each other has left."
"You..." Apollo said.
"Yeah, I remembered," Rei said, "The fact that Yamaguchi-san showed up here made it so I couldn't keep pretending.  Natsuki is dead.  Everyone from the science club is, except for us.  Almost everybody who attended Korekara... She killed them."
"She did," Apollo said, "And there's nothing we can do about it now.  Do you want to leave?"
"No," Rei said, "Somebody has to be here.  In case others come back.  Like Yamaguchi-san did.  Besides, my research isn't finished yet.  Now that I can actually fight the monsters, I can get much more information."
"Are you sure you can handle things here on your own?" Tsukune asked.
Rei turned and wrinkled her nose, "Are you... Flirting with me, Madara-kun?"
"Absolutely not!" Tsukune exclaimed, taking a step back but otherwise not seeming visibly flustered, "I promise you, that wasn't my intention at all.  I actually don't flirt with anyone, ever.  I'm just concerned that, as a new magica, you might not be able to handle this territory all on your own."
"Well," Rei said, "That's good to know.  But don't worry about me or anything.  I can handle it, and from what I've seen, you have other obligations.  You can't just take a break from a quest like that to help me protect a territory that nobody in the world even cares about."
"I care about it," Tsukune said, holding his hands behind his back as he glanced away, "Wang-kun, he's got his own goals.  He wants to find his little sister's body, and use magic to bring her back.  She was one of the students who died here, and she was also... My best friend.  Wang-kun is only thinking of this as the place where Mayu died, but I see it differently.  Mayu loved going to school here.  When she was here, she said, she suddenly didn't feel as useless.  She felt like if she really wanted to, then people would actually let her be their friend, in person and everything.  We became friends because we both felt useless, a lot of the time.  So if this place helped her not to feel that way, even for a little while, then it means something to me too."
"I don't think I ever met her," Rei said, "I mostly just kept to myself and the science club, though."
"Well, like I said, she didn't actually try to make friends," Tsukune said, "She just liked the possibility that she could, here.  She was still kind of a loner, like, everyone in that chatroom.  Except for Kyousuke-san, I guess.  Well.  He's not social either, but he used to be a teacher, which isn't exactly the chosen profession of a true loner, you know?"
"No," Rei said.
"I got it!" Apollo gave his two cents, "So, don't worry, Reicchi.  I can explain it to you later in a way that makes sense."
"Thanks," Rei said, then raised her eyebrows in Tsukune's direction, "But, even if you do care about this place, you've got more important things to do.  Come back after you've found the missing ones.  I'm sorry that I ended up giving you a red herring... And that's the worst I can do.  I can't steal you from your mission too."
"I understand," Tsukune said, "But if you ever need help, don't hesitate to ask.  Maybe I won't be able to make it in time, but somebody would, okay?  If you're up against something that's too strong for you... Retreat, or just stay alive until you can get backup, understand?  Don't try and be the hero."
"Why are you telling me all this?" Rei questioned, "You just met me.  Why do you care?"
"I haven't told anybody else this, not even my roommate," Tsukune said, holding a hand close to his chest, "But when I first became a magical boy, I lost a friend of mine.  My best friend, at the time, since Mayu was already gone.  He thought that we could handle it on our own.  He wouldn't retreat or let up, or even hide for a minute, he didn't want to risk the damage becoming permanent.  If he'd just gone into a defensive stance, he would have lived long enough to be rescued by the same magica who came for me.  And you kind of remind me of him, Akabane-san.  So I don't want the same thing to happen to you."
Rei blinked a few times, then ended up just whispering her response, "Okay, I understand.  What was his name?"
"His magical name, I don't even remember.  It never really mattered much.  But his real name was Sugawa.  Sugawa Nagata," Tsukune explained, then froze in confusion when he saw the look on Rei's face, "What?  Did you know him?"
"Not personally, but I know why he was so reckless," Rei answered, "And why I remind you of him.  We've mourned the same person.  Natsuki... Natsuki Nagata was the president of the science club.  And after her uncle went to prison, Sugawa basically raised her.  There's no way that it's a different person with that full name... And he was older than you, right?"
"Yeah, by a few years," Tsukune said, "I think he was twenty-eight.  I don't have romantic relationships or anything, so it wasn't weird... So, that would put him at ten years older than a Korekara third year at the time of the attack, assuming that she was a third year, being a club president?"
"Yeah," Rei said, "So chances are, you know, he probably didn't actually care if he got defeated when he did.  I was wondering what happened to the older ones after Natsuki died... I only heard that the other triplets ended up dying soon after the attack, themselves.  Even though most of her family were raised separately, they were still close.  Matsuda and Aikoi were really sick for a while after Natsuki lost two limbs... So I guess it makes sense that they wouldn't live long either, if she died.  I tried to deny that for a while, though.  I blocked it out, that I knew she was dead.  I wanted to believe she lived."
"I understand," Tsukune said, "Well, if that's the case, then aren't you the one who's left to carry on the memory of Natsuki?  That means, you need to be careful.  Don't do the same thing Sugawa did."
"I won't," Rei said, "Believe me.  I won't do anything dumb, not anymore.  I'll be okay."
"I trust you," Tsukune said, then turned around and walked away from Rei.
Could he consider her a friend?  They'd bonded quite quickly after they met, and he even prompted some degree of enthusiasm from her.  He wanted her to be safe, so much so that he even admitted what had happened to Sugawa, which he saw as one of his own biggest failures.  After all, shouldn't he have been able to prevent it?  Even with Sugawa being reckless, shouldn't Tsukune have been strong enough to protect him?  It was a disappointment.  Being turned down by Rei was a disappointment too.
The mission wasn't important to him.  He'd only been roped into it because he happened to be part of the team which others regarded as the 'Tokyo Magica'.  Unlike Yuuri and Sayaka who both seemed invested in the idea of hunting down this big, bad villain who was threatening magic-kind, and unlike Kanoshi who wanted to rescue Horace, Tsukune had no emotional investment in the overall mission, and neither did Zhou.  Zhou only played along because investigating this could also lead to information regarding Mayu, and Tsukune supposed that he wanted to help in that endeavor.  At the same time, though, he had something else to prove.
He was strong enough now that he could have protected Sugawa, and seeing in Rei a mirror of his friend in some ways, knew that he was strong enough to protect her.  He wanted to stay and help her, make sure that she'd survive.  Kanoshi and Zhou may have been his friends online, but they were stronger than him, both of them were, they didn't truly need his protection.  But Rei had turned him down, all because he was being dragged along on this mission that didn't matter to him at all.
Or maybe not because of the mission.  Maybe it was really because Rei was put off by him, that he considered her a friend while she still viewed him as a stranger with whom she had no form of connection.  Maybe he'd just freaked her out.  Either way, he'd been shot down in his offer to help her.  It wasn't that he thought Nagasaki even needed a magica to guard it; But he knew that Rei, of all people, would guard a place like this with her life.
Maybe he couldn't stay here and protect her, but maybe he could enlist somebody else, just to keep an eye on her.  It wasn't obsessive; She was just so much like Sugawa.  Sugawa, the big-brotherly figure who came and filled a role that Tsukune never knew he needed filled.  It was like they were family, for the time that they knew each other.  He felt like, where Sugawa had been an older brother to him, Rei could be a responsible younger sister.
How stupid was it, that he scraped for anything resembling family?  A family that would actually care about him, unlike his real one.  And he realized it was pathetic.  First it was Sugawa for legitimate reasons, now it was Rei just because she was the slightest bit similar to him.  He started to wonder if, maybe, that was what he and Kyoko really had in common.  Maybe she never raised a hand against him because she saw something else in him.  Someone else.
And he was definitely getting too much into his own head, if he was starting to think that he could be anything like her.  There were so many ways that they were different.  Kyoko was a shining star, who could turn at any second into an absolute black hole.  Tsukune was neither of those things.  He was moderate.  Basic.  Not necessarily emotionally balanced, but he wasn't in the garbage either, while nobody really thought that he excelled at anything.
He probably just needed to get some rest.  Though he'd technically been sleeping for weeks while locked into the vision that Future Style put him through, everyone knows that a sleep filled with nightmares could never even try to be a rejuvenating one.
Zhou decided to go off on his own to investigate the town.  Kanoshi and Yuuri were fine at investigating, from an objective standpoint, but as far as Zhou was concerned they didn't even know what they were looking for.  Finding any hint of where the magica who disappeared could be, that was the aim, and any hint was much too broad of an idea.  Zhou had something specific he was searching for.  He was looking for bodies, or logos, or paperwork.  He wasn't looking for information on the missing magica, but information on where the recovered bodies were sent after the massacre.  Even the families which would have wanted to have a proper funeral never received the bodies of their loved ones.
He knew it was important to find the missing magica, of course.  He was worried about them, as much as he could worry about people he'd never actually met, whose plight began after his own personal one.  Maybe it was selfish of him, but the thing was, they'd already determined that this location had nothing to do with that problem, but it still had everything to do with his.  This was where Mayu died.  This was where he could find his information, when the main investigation had nothing to be found.
Not to mention, Zhou could basically scan the entire town for the few specific things that he was looking out for, using his magic.  Such versatile magic as his was quite overpowered, but it did have its disadvantages.  It took heavy concentration, more than most other types, and it did take quite a bit of magical power too.  After all, he basically had to ignore small fry to even stand a chance at accumulation.  He probably could actually go down to level three and still break even, but with his overall goals in mind, it wasn't worth it.
He and Mayu both, had always been selfish, hadn't they?  He thought with their upbringing they might be humbled, but every time he stopped to think, neither of them had ever done a single truly self-sacrificing thing in their lives.  They wouldn't have ever turned on each other, sure, but they were always looking out for themselves.  Even now, the fake Mayu in that vision had emphasized it.  Zhou wanted her back for selfish reasons.  Knowing Mayu, she wouldn't want to be brought back to life if she'd already been killed.
But he was lost without her.  He needed her around, and he didn't even know exactly why.  She was always a reason for him.  A reason to succeed, a reason to survive, a reason to raid the fridge at midnight because if she didn't complain about how hungry she was, he wouldn't eat.  Without Mayu, he had no reason to do anything.  He didn't love what he did for a job.  He didn't care about protecting the world.  It was always to help her, and even now, it was to help Mayu.  To bring her back.  So that he could have direction again.
What a terrible cycle it was.
Yuuri sat on a chunk of rubble, holding a teacup in one hand.  Kanoshi didn't know when Yuuri had gotten that, but he knew it was from Rei's basement.  He sat down next to him with a heavy sigh, "Do you think that Yamaguchi-chan is going to be okay?"
"Yeah," Yuuri said, "I mean, come on.  She's Red.  Do you really think that she could die before we did?"
"That's fair," Kanoshi noted, "If any of us would end up being the sole survivor, it's her, but... I'm worried.  She always seemed like such a strong and perfect magical girl, but today..."
"Today you got to see her big human flaw bleed into her magical girl work," Yuuri said, shrugging, "She's got a temper.  A bad one, and we see it all the time, she's brash and aggressive, just like me.  And that monster pissed her off, so it clouded her judgment.  It's not like when humans piss her off and she has time to think, formulate a plan of revenge, set up her magic.  Her magic means nothing against monsters, and there's no time to think hard."
"I guess," Kanoshi said.
"We're similar in a lot of ways, me and Sayaka-chan.  That's why we were friends before you even became a magical boy," Yuuri said, "We have magic that works better on humans and magica than on the monsters we're meant to be fighting.  We've been through a hell of a lot of shit.  And we've got impulsive tempers."
"Yeah," Kanoshi said, "And that's what worries me about you, too, you know.  I don't want it to get you in trouble.  Though, I guess that I never thought about how Yamaguchi-chan had the same sort of issues.  She came out of nowhere and always just, really seemed like she completely knew what she was doing."
"She's just as much a disaster as I am, underneath it all," Yuuri said, "She just doesn't let it hinder her as much.  She was always more skilled at combat than me, even as a human, and she became a magical girl within a month of the distributors showing up to begin with.  She never told me exactly when, but it can't have been long after Horace did.  She's got all sorts of experience on her side.  But, at the same time..."
"She's still a kid," Kanoshi finished, "Well, she's nearly an adult now, chronologically.  But, I get it.  Acting like she's just so much better than us all of the time glosses over the fact that she's not an adult yet.  She's still growing up and she's still got so much to think about, but she got wrapped up in this stuff that's so much bigger than her.  I don't think... Anybody younger than you, Ruka-kun, should be a magica.  They've got enough to worry about."
"Of course you'd say that," Yuuri chuckled, "I think you're right, though.  And Sayaka-chan didn't even get to have a normal childhood before, either.  I just... You know, you ever wonder why she became a magical girl in the first place?"
"Of course I wonder," Kanoshi said, "Never asked, though."
Yuuri nodded, "Yeah, me neither.  But, with the way she was acting here, and with what Akabane-san said to her, just before she got beheaded during that last fight... And the timing of it all... I kind of have to wonder.  The way that she survived, that's what Akabane-san said.  The way she survived the massacre, I think, maybe... She was still in critical condition when she became a magical girl."
"Wait," Kanoshi said, "You mean..."
"If she hadn't become a magical girl," Yuuri said, "Sayaka-chan would be dead right now.  That's my theory, anyway."
"And she still came back here?" Kanoshi questioned, "She really shouldn't have..."
"Well, she determined that after the fact," Yuuri said, "And Akabane-san said it too, though, not in as many words.  Box Hako is still out there.  She didn't die.  She's somewhere."
"That..." Kanoshi trailed off, "Well, that doesn't really surprise me, to tell you the truth.  In the nightmare that Future Style gave me, I actually met her.  I know that was just a nightmare, sure, but I guess that in a way it prepared me to hear that news.  Do you think there could be some truth to those things?"
"Well," Yuuri said, "I certainly hope the fuck not!"
"Me too!  Obviously..." Kanoshi said, waving his hands in defense, "But it's possible, isn't it?  It's a bad thing, a really bad thing, but that doesn't mean that it's totally implausible that there could be a grain of truth.  It's not like the stuff will really happen like it did in the nightmares, they were way too surreal for that."
"Even so," Yuuri muttered, "I don't want any of the stuff from that nightmare to come true, except, I guess there's one bit I'd be okay with.  In the vision, the reason I thought it could be real for a little while, was because it confirmed my suspicion that Hikari didn't die, that she ran away."
"My vision said the same thing too," Kanoshi admitted, "It showed me Ayano and Hikari, but they were magical girls now.  And they taunted me for being a bad teacher, which... I guess isn't really like either of them, now that I think about it."
"It's probably just because Hikari's disappearance had a big impact on both of us," Yuuri said, "It was pulling from our brains, for what would fuck us up.  I want to believe that she's not dead, that she just got out, but at the same time I know that it's not likely.  Maybe the fact that I saw it in that nightmare makes it even less likely, not more likely."
"You never know," Kanoshi said.
"I really don't want to get my hopes up," Yuuri rebuked, "I'd rather think that it's nearly impossible.  Then I won't end up disappointed."
"That's true," Kanoshi said, with a heavy sigh as he looked up at the sky, "How did we get here?  I mean.  How was this one tragedy exactly horrible enough to send the world towards the apocalypse?  Everything's happened because of Box Hako's actions, right here, in this town."
"Maybe it was engineered this way," Yuuri said, "I mean, it wasn't really her.  It was the AI that got hacked.  Whoever made her do this knew exactly what they were doing, probably.  Nishimura was allowed to escape so that she'd open the portal and invite strong magic into the world.  It's kind of worse, to think that maybe somebody knew the full impact their actions would have on the world, that somebody wanted to see the world in this state, but at the same time..."
"It's too much to just be coincidence, I agree," Kanoshi said, "That group that took credit for the incident, I don't know a lot about them, but this doesn't seem like it goes against their ideals.  The real question isn't why they'd want the world to end up like this, but how they knew that this would happen."
"I can answer that," Tsukune said, and they turned to see him approaching from behind, "I couldn't help but overhear.  The thing is, I thought about this too.  And the reason they'd know this would happen, is, that they actually didn't.  Have you heard of espers?"
"Everyone who doesn't live under a rock has heard of espers, but are you saying they're real?" Yuuri questioned.
Tsukune groaned, "There are demons and monsters and magica in this world.  Espers are just people who are more in tune with a population's psychic energy than most, that's way more plausible than any of those things which are obviously real.  Anyway, my guess is that Box Hako is an esper, and that AI is aware of it.  It's done vastly different things in vastly different timelines, and this one is just the perfect storm.  The outcome that the hackers wanted, the worst possible timeline stretching out from Hako-sama's actions."
"Hako-sama?" Yuuri asked, giving Tsukune a hard stink-eye.
"Yes," Tsukune said, "If my theory is correct, then in some sense, she's like a God, isn't she?  Her actions irreparably altered the course of history for this version of the world.  And since we're trapped here in this version, she's to blame for everything that's happened to us since then.  And, if Akabane-chan and Yamaguchi-san's conversation is correct and we're interpreting it right, Hako-sama isn't even finished yet.  She's become a magical girl and continued taking action to modify our destinies."
"Do you think she could be responsible for the kidnapping?" Kanoshi asked.
Tsukune shook his head, "No... I mean, from the thinking I've done, from what little I know about her, there's no reason she would want to do something like that.  I'd imagine it's more likely that she can command others to do as she wants, it would suit her personality more than the power that seems to be behind the disappearances.  It wouldn't shock me if she was working together, in some capacity, with whoever is responsible.  So from where we stand, we have four main enemies."
"Four?" Yuuri asked.
"Yeah.  Monsters, Magica Killers, The Kidnapper, and Box Hako," Tsukune explained, "Assuming I'm correct.  Again, I could be very wrong.  I know it wasn't until recently that I ever bothered to exhibit the fact that I'm good at making deductions, and when even I doubt me, other people certainly should.  Even so, I'd say that I'm probably correct at least on the matter of these four enemies.  Magica Killers being the bottom twenty-nine in the rankings, of course.  Any of those who don't fit into the rankings are bound to be quite ineffective.  Which also means that the Kidnapper and Hako-sama are not killing magica, or not doing it at a high enough rate to outdo the horribleness even of Future Style, who is not a killer.  They're acting in different ways, since we already know that those two have to be both unranked and under the purview of a less famous distributor than any of the ones we're personally familiar with.  The sort who only have one or two in the entire rankings."
"God, Madara-kun," Yuuri said, "Why didn't you pull out any of these theories before?"
"Because I didn't trust in them enough before," Tsukune said, "This trip wasn't a bum lead at all, from where I'm standing.  We did get additional information.  In fact, if not for Future Style's interference, I probably couldn't have come up with this.  But now that we know, thanks to her, and thanks to that monster, that the kidnapper's ability is to teleport things undetected... We can also assume that the kidnapped magica are indeed somewhere.  If not for that information, I couldn't have determined that we have multiple enemies here, or most of what I just told you, to be even potentially true."
"Still," Kanoshi said, "At least we have some idea of what we're up against now, right?"
"Yeah," Yuuri agreed, "It's good to know, at least a little bit... So, basically.  We have to be prepared at any time for an unexpected, high level monster to be dropped directly onto our location?"
"As far as I can tell, yes," Tsukune said, "Except for the time it takes for the magica responsible to replenish that power.  Though I guess if they saved it up, they could do it several times in a row..."
Sayaka Yamaguchi sat on the train, returning to Tokyo.  Tokyo was her home now.  More a home than Kobe, more a home than Nagasaki.  Both of those places had been ruined for her after the massacre.  One for obvious reasons.  The other... For reasons that she would prefer not to think about.
Sayaka had no idea how Yuuri had managed to go a full week with a self-inflicted cut in his question mark.  Admittedly, it didn't hurt anywhere near as badly now as it had in the moment she received her injury, but at the same time, the burning sensation that persisted across her chest was so bad that if she failed to distract herself for even a moment, she felt like she was going to throw up.  And it wasn't as if she had a low pain tolerance.  Blade did admit to her that the burn she had across the entire thing was less life-threatening but more painful than the cut Yuuuri had, but even so, she couldn't imagine he had any comfort during his recovery.
Sitting on the train for hours on end, Sayaka didn't even care about hiding her tattoos at all.  She'd shed the black undershirt and let the ones on her arms be fully visible, just because she wanted to let the burn breathe.  She didn't have the right sort of outfit to actually let the mark see sunlight unless she was actively holding her shirt away from it, a button-up would have been a better idea, she knew.  At the first transfer, she wasn't able to buy any clothes, but at least a few snap-activated ice packs to keep it from hurting quite so horribly as her trip continued.
Blade made no qualms about being visible either, sitting right next to her on the train.  Others gave them a wide berth, as usual, when they traveled like this.  Sayaka was glad for that.  She didn't want anybody to see her in pain, more vulnerable than she could actually ever remember being before.  Well, once or twice.  Still, this was the most vulnerable she'd been since becoming a magical girl, and that somehow seemed worse.  She didn't become a magical girl for the same reason as Yuuri, to be able to keep herself from ever getting hurt by anybody again.  That wasn't why she did it.
She did it because she didn't want to die.
She'd been with Blade since the very beginning.  She was its first magica in this world.  That was why they were so close.  Why Blade spent so much time with her.  Why she was its favorite.  It had nearly burnt itself out giving her that opportunity, taking an extra long time to recharge after turning her.  She couldn't speak at the time.  She wasn't awake.  Blade had gone to great lengths to communicate with her in spite of it, in her mind, to give her the opportunity to come back to life.  Box had nearly killed her.  Sayaka was skilled, she was capable, and still she didn't stand a chance.  It was like Box had practiced over and over again.  She knew exactly what to do to get past Sayaka's defenses.
She couldn't protect anybody.  She couldn't even protect herself.
Maybe that was why she didn't care about Blade's lie.  Some part of her already knew it.  Her question mark avoided placing itself anywhere that she was already injured by Box, and she made a miraculous recovery.  She survived the single most tragic event in the history of Korekara Academy, not because she'd spent her entire life in combat, not because she'd trained and trained to stay alive, but because Blade thought she was worth it to save.
After something like that, though...
After she had practically gotten killed by a classmate of hers, of course her family wanted nothing to do with her.  She was a disgrace.  She'd failed.  Failed so badly she would have had each of her fingers cut off for it if they even thought for a moment about letting her stick around.  She didn't take her chances.  She ran away.  Like Kaiba did.  As if she couldn't tell, that Kaiba was operating on her own now.  They were the same, in that respect.  They'd run from the mob and become magical girls instead, from one dangerous lifestyle into another.
"Red..." Blade started, about halfway through the trip, the first words that it tried to speak from where it sat, right next to Sayaka the whole time, "I really am sorry, you know.  About lying.  And about what happened..."
"It doesn't bother me," Sayaka said, her voice shaking in spite of her best efforts.  It just hurt too much, "The lie, I mean.  I sort of thought that this was the case all along.  I knew it in my subconscious, at least, enough.  My nightmare showed Kyousuke with a bullet through his eye.  Rukkun with his right arm cut off.  As for what happened, this was my own fault.  I was an idiot.  I didn't think that her magic would hurt me the way it did.  And I thought that... If this happened to me, I'd still be able to fight.  That I'd be strong enough to weather the pain."
"Nobody is, though," Blade said, "That's the point of making the pain so terrible.  So you can't do it to yourself.  Though, I guess somebody with enough adrenaline could still manage.  It'd basically be a death sentence.  I'm glad you didn't.  I'm glad that you let yourself be incapacitated."
"Blade," Sayaka said, "Why me?  Why save me?  Of everybody who they were trying to rescue..."
"You were the one who wanted to live the most," Blade said, "It doesn't have to do with thinking you would be the best magica, of those girls.  I wish I could have saved all five of you.  But the other four girls who ended up dying in the hospital, who were in a condition just as critical as yours, they weren't fighting to survive.  As you were making your contract with me, Sayaka, two of those other girls died, because they simply weren't trying to live.  They didn't have the willpower to go on, after such a traumatic event.  You did.  So I saved you.  I didn't want to save somebody who would resent me for it."
She took a deep breath before speaking again, "The version of you that was in my nightmare asked me why I wanted to become a magical girl.  Why I'd take the chance to extend my lifespan like this, frozen at this physical age, when I'd always be a victim my whole life.  When being in this position would just give me more time to suffer."
"That's not what life is about," Blade said, shaking its head, "I don't think so.  It's not at all about the time you spend suffering.  It's about the friends you can make, and the good you can do.  It's about what you want, not about what is forced upon you.  You and I are a lot alike.  That's why I wanted somebody like you.  We both want to live a while longer.  We both want to do more before we die.  We both want to tip the scales in the direction of our own happiness, no matter how long it takes."
"I understand," Sayaka said, "This too will pass..."
"It will," Blade agreed, relaxing against her side.
When they both woke up, it was to a horrific crunching sound.  They startled, and looked up to see that the ceiling of the train was collapsing inward.  Sayaka rushed to the door and forced it open, conjuring up all of the strength she could muster in her current physical state.  She and Blade left the car just in time, because before their eyes it was crumpled the rest of the way under the weight of what looked like an elephant's foot, but was somehow wrong.  The coloration looked sickly, especially the toes, which were yellow and infected.  It was immediately clear that this was a monster.
"Are you kidding me!?" Sayaka shouted at the foot, though she didn't stop moving, running along the path at the side of the subway tunnel to find a way out of here.  Clearly, this was a dangerous place to be at this moment.  With her mark incapacitated, she even lacked her usual benefit of having magical-level endurance without transforming, and she was never more grateful for the fact that she was an athletic person in general.  She was also grateful that the train hadn't gone far since the previous stop, and she soon reached one.  Upon arriving to the station, she found that this was, in fact, Tokyo.  She didn't hesitate to climb the stairs aboveground, and found that the monster who held ownership of that foot was an absolute unit.
It towered above the city, and kept its weight on nine other legs as it wiggled that foot free.  Its legs were incredibly long, each one matching the height of most high-rises in the area.  The main body of the thing was amorphous, looking quite like a snake as it weaved around the roofs it wasn't quite tall enough to clear.  At either end of the slinky torso was a mouth, wide open and with rows upon rows of teeth like leeches.
And, fighting against it alone, was Fukushima.  Kaiba.  Armed with her massive sword, and utilizing water from every fire hydrant around, that she'd popped open with her blade for her own purposes.  She used both of these factors for a combination, attacking the monster with both and simultaneously utilizing both for mobility.  It didn't seem like Kaiba had any trouble avoiding its attacks and striking back against it, but she had to keep moving, she couldn't stay still.  And Sayaka could see in Kaiba's face the toll that this strategy was taking on her, heavy breaths breaking through the mask.
At first glance, she seemed unscathed other than this exhaustion, and Sayaka let out a rough breath, tipped with her concern, "Where's her backup?  This thing's level six, she needs at least one person helping her..."
"They're in Kobe," Blade assumed, "Where this monster was supposed to show up."
"Another one got teleported!?" Sayaka questioned, "Are you serious?"
"I thought this might happen," Blade said, "Not that it would be here, per say, but I thought when you defeated the level seven in Korekara, another one could be sent immediately.  After this, we'll probably be in the clear for at least a month, but... Someone who sent two things after you already, probably wouldn't have stopped preparing at two."
"Then, I have to help her!" Sayaka exclaimed, then found an unprompted and awful sound fall from her mouth as her attempt to transform fell flat, shooting pains throughout her body.
"Red, no!" Blade exclaimed.
She tried again, and fell onto the ground.
"Sayaka!" Blade yelled, leaping towards her, and in that moment restraints wrapped around her body, fully immobilizing her.  Blade landed on her arm, leaning toward her face with the closest thing to a distraught expression its face seemed capable of, "You can't do that!  You can't possibly transform when you're injured like that, all you'll do is hurt yourself even more..."
"But... Kaiba-nee..." Sayaka said, and Blade was struck by how pathetic she sounded.
"No, she's holding her own just fine!" Blade assured her, "She might even beat it before the backup gets here!"
"Her hands..." Sayaka said, "Look at her hands, Blade!  Her mark is in her palm!"
Blade turned to look, and spotted what Sayaka was referring to.  Kaiba looked unharmed, but her hands were bleeding.  There was dark red blood on the hilt of her sword, and Blade realized why.  While Kaiba had in fact done a spectacular job at avoiding any attacks from the monster, she was paying a price for that.  Too much friction on her sword, with the extent she was using it.  Even with the endurance monster, she could at least pace herself, not to mention the fact that with it being a slime type she was mostly just using her magic.  That clearly wouldn't fly with this creature.
"Blade!" Sayaka interrupted its train of thought, "You have to let me go!"
"No!  I don't have to do anything!" Blade said, "You can't do anything.  You can't transform.  There's nothing that you can do right now."
"Just because you've never seen anybody transform while their mark is injured doesn't mean it's impossible!  You told me that somebody could fight through the pain if they had enough adrenaline and I'm pretty goddamn sure I'm in that state," Sayaka protested.
"No, she's in that state," Blade said, flicking its tail in Kaiba's direction, "And even if you could transform, what would you do?  It's probably too late, if she's already bleeding that much."
"Then you have to tell her," Sayaka sobbed out, "Just tell her what's going to happen to her if she keeps this up!  If she's still standing then there's still time, right?"
Blade almost tried to protest.  Give its excuse about how dangerous it was to be spreading this information, but it knew that if it refused Sayaka's request, no matter what happened after, then she would hate it.  And Kaiba would probably die either way.  Blade knew that Sayaka needed it.  Especially once Kaiba died.  Especially then.  If she pushed it away, then she wouldn't have anyone left to take care of her.  Everyone else in her life thought that she was just too strong, too capable to ever need anybody taking care of her.  Kaiba always looked out for her, though.  Blade did too.  Sayaka needed at least one of them in her life.  So it bit its tongue, and instead, leapt away to jump between buildings until it got close enough to Kaiba, "You need to stop.  If you put much more friction on your hands, then you'll die!  Your question mark is what keeps you alive and if the connection is entirely severed, then you're going to die!"
"You think I couldn't have figured that out the minute that it started hurting more than anything in my life!?" Kaiba questioned, not slowing down even for a second, "What are you doing back here, anyway?"
"I came back with Sayaka," Blade explained, "She got injured though, and she can't transform right now.  She's down on the ground right now and she begged me to come and tell you this.  She doesn't want to see you die."
"There's nobody else here," Kaiba said through heavy pants, "And just look around, Blade.  I can't just let this damage to the city fly.  I can't let it become permanent.  This place is Sayaka's home, Kotomi's home... And it's Tokyo.  It's too important to let a monster like this wreak havoc.  Destroy the subway system like this... this is bigger than me."
"There's nobody else here because this monster was supposed to show up in Kobe," Blade said, "So your backup from the surrounding cities went there instead, because a level six is still a pretty good catch, for a group.  For one person, though... Fukushima, this monster was sent here knowing you'd be facing it alone.  If you let yourself get killed by it, that's exactly what the one who sent it here wants!"
"It doesn't matter if it's what the person who sent it here wants.  I can't turn my back on this city," Kaiba said, "I have to defeat it, even if it does kill me.  And if that happens, I'll give my magic over to Sayaka.  She may as well get something out of needing to see this."
"...I really can't convince you?" Blade asked.
"Nah," Kaiba said, then slipped her mask from her face and grinned in its direction, "I never thought I'd have a heroic death."
Blade jumped back down to where Sayaka was lying on the ground, tied up.  It stared at her for a moment, and she looked so weak.  Exactly as weak as she'd looked in the hospital when it first made her into a magical girl.  For all of her posturing, she was scared, and small, and had no idea what to do.  And Blade had to make it worse.
"Sayaka..." Blade said, quiet, worried, "I told her.  But, she didn't want to listen.  She refused to stop fighting."
"No," Sayaka breathed, staring wide-eyed at Blade, "You told her the truth?"
"I told her more than the truth," Blade said, "I told her it would kill her.  I told her you begged me to tell her that.  I told her that if she dies here, then she's giving in to the one who sent that monster here.  But she's a righteous person and a good magical girl, Sayaka.  She said that she'd go down fighting.  That she'd die a heroic death.  Even if this was what the person who sent that thing here wants, she can't just let it destroy the city."
Sayaka could have chosen not to believe Blade.  To think that it didn't say anything at all like that to Kaiba, to keep its own secret.  But she did believe it.  Blade listened to her request, and even that hadn't been enough.
She took a deep breath, then whispered, "Can you please untie me?"
"Promise you won't transform?" Blade asked.
"It wouldn't do any good now," Sayaka said, squeezing her eyes nearly shut, closing them just in time to not see the final moment of Kaiba's last endeavor.  The monster was defeated, Sayaka saw that much, but she didn't see Kaiba drop to the ground.  Blade undid the restraints, and Sayaka sat up, eyes still closed.  She felt a strange surge of energy, as if she'd actually been involved in the fight against that monster, but stronger.  She opened her eyes, and Kaiba's body was right there.  A few feet away from her.
Her eyes were shut, and there was a smile left behind on her face.  She'd been transformed back to her usual attire, but for some reason, the mask she normally wore was just as absent as the one for her magical outfit had been.  The sword was gone, and her hands were open.  In her palm, Sayaka saw the abrasions which had worked their way through the mark, severing its line and her life along with it.  Out from the mark, a black goo seemed to be oozing out.  Sayaka crawled over, reached out, and touched it.  It burned to touch, like acid, and she withdrew her finger quickly.  She noted that it was starting to eat away at Kaiba's hand.
"It won't destroy her body," Blade assured her, "Just her hand.  It'll take a while.  Until that's done, she's technically still alive.  But, she can't control any of her own muscles, or anything like that.  She can just feel the pain of her hand being eaten away slowly by the acid.  That's what makes dying as a magica so utterly painful.  But you knew that already, more or less."
"She's still in there...?" Sayaka questioned, then reached out and grabbed Kaiba's other hand in both of hers, "Can she hear me?"
"I don't know," Blade said, "That's not something we ever considered.  We barely know how our own magic works... The only reason we even know that the melting pain is still felt is because we've taken a visit to a magica's mind during that period before.  Nobody was trying to talk to that one, though."
"Kaiba-nee..." Sayaka whined, leaning against the body, "I'm sorry... I'm so sorry... This is all my fucking fault, if I'd just stayed here, or if I hadn't got myself hurt in Korekara... There's so many little things that would have fixed everything if they were different but instead I had to be selfish and run off with those guys back to Korekara because, fuck, I needed to prove myself?  Prove that I could go back there in spite of everything?  But I couldn't.  I really couldn't.  And now you're gone, because of me."
"Sayaka..." Blade said.
"I'm done," Sayaka said, voice flat as she turned to look at it again, "I'm done trying to deal with this bullshit.  Who cares about Stripe.  Who cares about Horace.  I'm staying here.  Right here.  I'm never going on one of those fucking investigations again.  I'm done."

Mahou Shonen Just Say No Chapter Fifteen

Rei blinked, staring at the distributor who had just made her that offer.  Before she could say anything, Kanoshi spoke up.
"Hey now!  She's obviously in a pretty vulnerable state right now, you'd be taking advantage of her by getting her to make such a big life decision like this!" He protested.
Blade sighed, "Normally, I would agree with you, Kanoshi Kyousuke.  However, these are special circumstances.  She can remember monster attacks, living in an area without any active magica.  It's a matter of time until she'd end up getting seriously hurt, or killed, and with no magica here she'd just stay dead no matter what.  She's got loads of potential, though.  Her type of demon magic is exactly the right sort to be amplified through becoming a magical girl... Her raw power levels are nearly to the level of yours!"
"Will she end up outranking me?" Kanoshi asked.
"No, of course not, I just said that she's nearly to your level, not at or exceeding it.  And she won't really rank up unless she starts traveling, the monsters that do pop here won't be nearly enough to really climb her.  But, they will be enough to make having her defeat them worth it.  She's practically already living the life of a magical girl, but not reaping any of the rewards.  It's only fair she gets the opportunity," Blade said, "Right, Rei Akabane?"
"I'd like the chance to actually defeat those things, rather than just incapacitating them," Rei said, "And I know that I'm emotionally vulnerable right now, but those monsters have nothing to do with it... Honestly, I can't imagine any reason that I shouldn't go ahead and do it.  It's not like it will even matter very much if I died.  I'm only even studying these things because I'm interested in them... I'm not exactly the sort of person to want to keep holding on at the end of the world."
"It's not the end of the world, though," Tsukune said, "We're already adapting to the new and frightening way of the world with monsters and magic in it.  That's not the end at all."
"Actually, she's kind of right," Blade said, looking up at Sayaka, "I make sure all of my magica know that, so clearly my comrades are just as bad at their jobs as I thought!  Of course, I always knew I was the superior distributor.  I have consistency, unlike Oh One lucking out with his immediately high-ranking magica... No offense to you Kanoshi Kyousuke.  In any case, yes.  The arrival of monsters to a world almost always signifies that it's beyond all hope, it's beyond saving.  Monsters are a bastard product of magic and negativity given form.  Worlds with enough magic to create monsters, but not enough to create magica, are almost always doomed.  Sometimes, light finds its way back to those worlds and they recover, but not often.  Magica are the only means of defense against these things.  In some worlds, magica are able to bring enough hope to rescue the world.  In most cases, all we can do is extend the lifespan of a doomed world."
"Extend the lifespan of a doomed world?" Yuuri questioned, "That's bullshit!  There's no way that this world is doomed, we're getting stronger faster than the monsters are!"
"Of course you are," Blade said, "The death of a universe is not a sudden thing.  This world would be declared dead at the time when monsters have wiped all major industrial areas off the map and eradicated at least ninety percent of sapient life.  Without magica, that would happen about one hundred years after the arrival of monsters, because humans are pretty tough!  With magica, though, that number can be extended to about one thousand, if not more.  By the time that the phrase 'it's the end-times' can kick in, everyone you care about will either be a magica too, or be dead.  It's not something to really be concerned about.  Of course, this is just what I've heard, and observed in less-interesting universes.  For all I know, none of this could be relevant to your particular universe at all."
"Would have been nice to know that we were in the actual apocalypse," Zhou mumbled.
"Jesus Christ, suck it up," Sayaka hissed at them, "It's not a big deal!  I mean, it's a thousand years off at this rate.  Would you really think you were living in the endtimes in the year 1000, if somebody told you about the idea of y2k then?  No, it doesn't fucking matter yet.  That's really not something you need to worry about."
"I don't think that I'll live to see that," Rei said, "Regardless of if I became a magical girl or not.  If becoming one can help postpone the end of the world, then I may as well do that.  Make something useful of myself while I have the chance."
"In that case," Blade said, "I need your direct verbal consent, Rei Akabane.  Will you become a magical girl?"
"Yes," Rei said, "I will."
"Very well then," Blade said.  Its ears and its tail flicked about, then there was a bright flash of light.  None of the magica present had ever actually witnessed the christening of another magica before, but as it turned out, there wasn't really much to see.  When the blinding flash dissipated, Rei was simply standing there.  Well, not quite Rei now.  Blade revealed her name, "Welcome to the world of magic... Pretty Fighter Ribbon Wire."
Pretty Fighter Ribbon Wire
"Ah, I see," Rei observed, looking down at her hands.  Her weapon took the form of long talons at the end of her fingers, reaching out from the oversized sleeves.  Her outfit resembled a kimono, but pulled up short, puffed out, ruffled.  The red irises overtook her whole eyes, and there were curly, draconic horns sprouting from her head, "I'm an electric dragon themed magical girl, I guess.  But why is my name Pretty Fighter Ribbon Wire?  Couldn't there be something more fitting?"
"That's just how Blade names its magica," Sayaka explained, "For example, I'm Pretty Fighter Ribbon Red.  Its kidnapped magica is Pretty Fighter Ribbon Stripe."
"Oh, I see," Rei said, "If I'd known that, maybe I would have waited for some other distributor to come along..."
"Rude!" Blade exclaimed, "I'll have you know I'm a wonderful distributor and all of my magica are very happy to have me!"
"...I'll admit it, yeah," Sayaka said, shrugging one shoulder as she twirled a tuft of hair in her other hand, "Blade is pretty great."
"You'll admit that you like the alien creature that made you into a magical girl, but you won't even admit that you like us, your actual friends?" Kanoshi questioned.
Sayaka just turned and glared at him.
"Akabane," Tsukune said, having transformed into his own magical boy form, "Look?  We've both got horns."
"We do!" Rei exclaimed, showing some amount of excitement, however subtle, for the first time since the magica had arrived, "I think that's pretty cool..."
"Yeah me too," Tsukune agreed, slightly shuffling in place, "And you have electric powers right?  I have fire powers.  That makes us kind of the same!  Right?  Cause, my magical boy name, it's Infernal."
"You're right," Rei agreed, also making the same, strange shuffling motion where she stood.  Kanoshi decided this just had to be a special form of communication between emotionally cagey people, or something along those lines.  He wasn't going to question it.
"And it's a good thing we got that sorted out, too," Blade said, looking up at the ceiling, "Because I think that a certain sort of creature that starts with an M and ends with onster has decided to pay this fine ghost town a visit!"
"Oh, shit," Zhou said, and transformed immediately, then turned back to Rei, "What's the quickest way out of the building?"
"We don't need to be quick," Rei said, then glanced over to Apollo, "I'll tell you the whole story when we're done, okay?  I know you won't remember any of it."
"Thanks, Reicchi," Apollo said, giving her a salute.
"Anyway," Rei said, starting to stroll leisurely back towards the ladder up into the school.  In the meantime, everybody else had also transformed, "Does being quick matter?  As long as we defeat it, the damage is undone, yes?  That's how it works?"
"It is," Yuuri said, falling in right behind her, "And I guess you're right, that we don't need to be quick about it, but we kind of do try to get things sorted out sooner rather than later."
"Well," Rei said, "It isn't like there are any consequences left, if you fail in a place like this.  The monsters don't bother the school.  Outside of it, there's not even anybody left."
"There's nothing here," Sayaka said simply from the back of the line, "Everything's already been destroyed and everybody's gone.  Except for you and Apollo... This town does make it seem like the apocalypse after all."
"Yeah," Rei agreed, "I mean, this is where it all started..."
"Akabane," Sayaka said, "You know, with what happened here..."
"I know," Rei said, grabbing the ladder and turning to look at Sayaka, past the magical boys, "It's hard for you to be here.  It's hard for me too, but with you showing up, I need to face it now.  Natsuki is dead.  She's not MIA.  The list says she's MIA, but I saw her die in front of my eyes.  I don't know why they didn't find her body.  But she's dead.  The person I cared about most... And hiding out here, I could ignore it, without anybody from the outside world.  But you're here.  And I know how you survived, now.  Nobody she got to could live under normal circumstances.  Natsuki's gone."
"Ah-" Sayaka made a sort of surprised, strangled sound.  The others thought for a second that it was because of something Rei said to her, but the look of utter shock on Rei's face said differently.  They turned around.
There was something very wrong, seeing Pretty Fighter Ribbon Red without a head, without the ribbons around her twintails that really emphasized her magical name.  It didn't take long for them to locate it, hanging glassy-eyed in the talon of the monster who had just broken through the roof.  The monster which had just attacked the school, where Rei had claimed they never attacked.  The monster which was level seven, and had attacked Red.  Killed Red-
But, Kanoshi realized, her body was still moving.  Not twitching, not having final spasms, but drawing her weapon.  Turning, and adeptly but blindly, cutting into the talon of the beast.  Slicing through one, but also cutting into the cheek of her own head.  She pulled the weapon back, and let her head fall to roll across the floor.  Kanoshi scrambled to scoop it off the ground on a sudden, impulsive hunch, to place it back on her neck.  He still had some healing power from the last fight, so he siphoned it into her, and watched as the wound healed over, tying her head to her body once more and bringing the light back into her eyes.
"Jesus Christ, Red!" Yuuri exclaimed, firing smoke in the monster's direction before it decided to retaliate again, "What the fuck was that!?"
"How should I know?" Sayaka questioned, positioning herself to leap into the air, "This thing's level seven and there's just the six of us, we have to get to work!  We can figure this shit out later..."
"Maybe you should sit out?" Zhou questioned, "Since you were just beheaded and all?"
"I'm alive, so I'll fight," Sayaka snapped in his direction, then jumped, using the end of her axe to dig into the monster's skin, swinging around to land on its back.  Kanoshi flew up to follow her, and got a good look at the beast.  It was as large as the entire school, its claw now holding onto the ledge of the hole it had punctured into the basement.  It was a gigantic, leathery mass, its skin a putrid shade of purple.  It had a multitude of eyes on one side, and that was the only indicator of a front or backside to the thing.  Three pairs of arms, or legs, they looked the same, all long and spindly and ending in those awful claws which had somehow not killed Sayaka.
Kanoshi immediately set to work, blocking swipes from the creature as much as he could.  Its claws could reach all the way around, stretching to easily reach Sayaka at full force, even when she was stood on its back, hacking away.  Kanoshi did his best to protect her while he could, and it wasn't long until the others joined the fight.  Tsukune from a distance, targeting the eyes with his artillery.  Zhou started using his songs to gather and hurl debris from the down at the thing, and Yuuri provided cover with his smoke while also firing at the eyes with his own weapon.
Rei, meanwhile, started in with the same method as Sayaka, slicing at the beast, though from a different location.
"Hey, Wire!" Sayaka called out after Kanoshi narrowly protected her from another slice.  The monster really seemed to be focusing on her, "Why don't you use some of that 'extra strong' magic of yours instead of just doing the same sort of shit I'm already trying and failing at?  Roast this fucker!  The skin's too thick!"
"I don't know if-" Rei protested, but she was interrupted.
"Just fucking do it!" Sayaka shrieked, and it suddenly showed through that she was actually shaken by her near-death experience, and afraid that this same monster could get to her again.  She wasn't thinking straight.  She was terrified.  But she was the veteran, so Rei thought maybe she'd know something that she didn't.  So Rei used her magic.  The monster roared out in pain, but didn't yet fall.  Sayaka screamed, and fell over sideways, then rolled off of the monster's back.
"She's fine, just keep fighting!" Blade spoke, and though it wasn't shouting, its voice was heard by all of the magica who needed it.  Kanoshi hesitated, but he could only afford to for a second before he needed to block another attack.  He started funneling the healing power he was gathering from the strikes into Sayaka, trying to undo the damage that had been done by Rei's electric attack.  He, too, thought that it would be a bad idea to use that magic, but assumed that Sayaka knew what she was doing, or maybe that she planned to jump away at the last minute.
And with that, now that the way was clear anyway, Rei was continuing to use her magic.  It was making an impact, albeit, not an especially huge one.  The monster was slowly roasting, but that didn't impede its combat ability.  It made an odd and somewhat disgusting noise, then hurled something from its eyes.  Kanoshi swooped about to block the one globule that was flying straight in Tsukune's direction, but he couldn't get the other bits.  Yuuri dodged easily, though, and Zhou blocked the bit flying at him with a chunk of building.  Where the glob  collided with Zhou's debris, the concrete and metal seemed to simply disappear, dissolving away entirely on impact.
Kanoshi doubted it would have such an immediate effect on a magica, they were made of tougher stuff than that, but it would certainly hurt and would definitely scar.  Even with Kanoshi's magic, he could only occasionally heal somebody well enough that the injury wouldn't even leave some sort of scar behind.  That was the thing, with being magical.  Pain was only reduced a bit, and scarring would still happen, the big difference was just that they could recover from much more severe injuries.
Even more severe than Kanoshi originally believed, now that he'd witnessed Sayaka live through being thoroughly beheaded.  The strange thing about it was that her head certainly was dead for as long as it was detached.  He saw it in her eyes.  What could the explanation for that be?  He couldn't think too hard about that right now.  Tsukune, with his large weaponry, was the least mobile or able to defend himself of the present magica, so Kanoshi shifted his focus to protecting him over any of the others.  Even Rei could at least move around.
Kanoshi was blocking enough high-power attacks from the monster that although his teammates continued to be injured, he could fix them up with ease.  Occasionally Yuuri or Rei would fail to dodge, but they'd hardly have time to wince before Kanoshi had their injuries healed.  As he got the hang of his powers, they'd evolved, giving him the ability to tell even without looking when people around him were in need of healing magic.  Though it took a while, much longer than any of the fights that Kanoshi had actually yet been involved in since he wasn't steady in his abilities at the time of the level 8 endurance monster's appearance, the beast was eventually felled.
As soon as the thing fell over dead, Kanoshi and Yuuri rushed to Sayaka's side, while the others gathered the orbs that the monster dropped and made sure that they were out of the way of the repairs that needed to be made to the buildings.  Magica could in fact get trapped inside the auto-repairs, and while escape wasn't difficult, it did cause some damage that wouldn't be resolved.  Most magica who actually cared made sure not to let that happen.
Blade was sitting next to Sayaka when the others arrived to check on her, and she was back in her civilian attire, sitting up but clearly disoriented.
"Are you okay?" Yuuri asked, holding a hand out only partially in her direction, not sure what to do about this, "Why did you do that?"
"I dunno," Sayaka said, coughed once, then shook her head, "To both questions, I dunno.  I guess I just wanted to get rid of the monster that almost killed me as quick as possible, so I didn't even think that Wire's magic could backfire like that."
"Yeah, about that," Kanoshi said, "How, did you survive that...?"
"I'll explain it," Blade said, then turned and glanced at Sayaka, "And, why you can't transform again right now, either.  I'm sorry, Red.  This is... The single lie by omission that I've told you.  The lie we've all told all of you."
"A lie...?" Sayaka questioned, eyes widening as she inched, still seated, away from Blade, "What?  What the fuck did you lie about?"
"We never explained anything about the way that you, as a magica, would die," Blade said, "We were open with the fact that it could easily happen, and the fact that it could be seriously painful for you, and all of that.  Everything about how awful dying would be after entering the world of magic.  But we never told you the one thing that would probably make you refuse to become magica.  Magic isn't meant for happy people.  And the thing is, once you're magical, there isn't actually any way to willfully die."
"Huh?" Sayaka asked.
"You felt it, right?" Blade prodded, then glanced at Yuuri too, "And you too, Yuuri-kun.  The question mark.  When you hurt it, it's an overwhelming pain.  Worse than anything you've ever felt.  That's a defense mechanism, actually.  That's the thing.  The only way for you to die is for that mark to be completely severed apart.  Cut in half.  Or, not in half, but you know.  The line of the mark, if broken, will kill you.  And because of the pain, you can't do that to yourself.  It's not possible.  Even the toughest person in the world couldn't actually, physically continue causing themselves harm when in that much pain."
"That's..." Kanoshi was nearly speechless to hear it.
"Any other injury," Blade said, "You can recover from.  The location of your question mark has one other function, besides the matter of what ability you retain in human form.  It's what animates your body, not your brain, anymore.  So any part of your body that's still physically connected to it can move.  Red has the advantage of having a midsection mark in that she can generally continue with any severed limb or, even her head.  Smokescreen, with an arm mark, has the disadvantage where losing that arm would leave, basically, only his hand functional.  So, yes.  We didn't tell you.  Becoming a magica gives you an Achilles Heel.  One weakness, and you can't exploit it yourself.  And it's also why dying as a magica is such a painful thing.  I'm sorry.  We don't generally mention this fact, because..."
"So many magica never would have done it if they realized that they could only die if somebody, or something else killed them," Sayaka clarified, "But, why didn't you tell me?"
"Well," Blade said, "Technically, for explaining this fact to you guys, I'm going to get in trouble.  It's not allowed, not one of our rules, it comes straight from the ones who sent us here.  I know it wouldn't have changed your mind.  Probably the opposite.  But, I mean, Yuuri-kun..."
"I probably wouldn't have done it if you told me before, you're right," Yuuri said, turning away and glaring at the ground, "Can't do anything about it now, and I mean, I'm more willing to stick around now that there's a purpose to my violence and all.  At the same time, though, lying like that.  How do I know it really is the single lie you things have told us?  You act like you care and like we're your friends, like we're partners, but you can't even be upfront about the impact it has on our actual lives?  That you're not just pulling us into the world of magic, but in doing so, chaining us to the world of the living like that?"
"I wouldn't say it's chaining," Blade said, "Monsters attack indiscriminately, so they can still kill you.  And Skorgles doesn't actually care about the rules, so you can bet that almost any magica killer knows exactly what they're doing.  Obviously we'd rather you knew, both because we do want your informed consent in becoming magica, and because not knowing your own weak point, and your invincibility otherwise, is quite the strong disadvantage, you know?"
"I understand," Sayaka said, "But... I'm also your magical girl.  You can't expect these others, who don't even have a reason to care about you, to trust you after this."
"I'm not about to trust SC or Oh One either," Yuuri said, "None of them.  I don't care if they were ordered not to tell us, they could have broken the rules.  Skorgles did.  I'm not saying I want any of you to be more like it, cause I know that it's a fucking awful distributor, but.  What's the worst that can happen to you for breaking the rules, if that one's still around and active?"
"Skorgles..." Blade sighed, looking down, "Never acted like this before.  As soon as we got to this universe, though, you humans started rubbing off on it.  It's been convinced into a final act of hedonism.  After this universe is finished, it won't be coming with us to the next one.  During our performance evaluations, it will be erased from existence, just the same as the universe that it made its mistakes in.  I... Probably won't be erased for telling you, but if you spread the information too far, or I tell too many others..."
"Rukkun," Sayaka said, "No matter how upset you are, you wouldn't want them to be erased, would you?"
"You've killed people for less," Yuuri snipped back, "Why shouldn't I spread the information, make sure everybody knows?  If you're telling the truth that it'll be a millennium before the world ends, I'd say that's still a pretty good lifespan for you."
"A millennium is just a fraction of my intended lifespan," Blade said, "This is my first true universe.  The only one I've been to with humans who have free will and complex emotional thought.  Killing me now would be like killing a baby.  There's so much more I have to do!  So many more friends I have to make!"
"Friends to make and to lie to," Yuuri said.
"Ruka-kun!" Kanoshi admonished him, "You'd really kill a baby?"
"Blade is not a baby!  It's probably even lying about its natural lifespan," Yuuri protested, "And I wouldn't even kill it directly, that's not even possible!  But don't you think that magica deserve to be aware of something like this?  Isn't that worth letting one shitty cat get killed when all this is over?"
"I don't want to lay down my life for magica who aren't even mine," Blade said, its ears twitching, "I'm not a monster.  I'm not so cruel that I'd value myself over other lives.  But at the same time, you're all doomed anyway.  More doomed than I am.  And I'd still sacrifice myself for those I actually care about, if it came to that.  But right now?  It's not imperative.  And you wouldn't be saving anybody who really matters."
"And how are you going to stop me?" Yuuri questioned.
Blade sat there in silence for a moment, but it wasn't long before it spoke up again, "I want to convince you that it wouldn't do enough good to be worth snuffing my life out when it's barely begun.  But if you really insist on spreading this information, then I'm afraid I would have to physically restrain you.  I am capable of that, you know.  We have abilities that can only be used in the effort of preventing our own magica from going rogue."
"I'm not yours, though," Yuuri said, "I doubt those abilities would even work on me."
"They would," Blade said, "I have permission, specifically for the four of you, because Red works with you so often.  I need to have the authorization to supervise this entire group.  So, why not just do things peacefully?"
"You're bluffing," Yuuri said.
"I don't think it is, Ruka-kun," Kanoshi said, frowning in Yuuri's direction, "It's... Not a big deal.  Eventually, enough magica will figure it out on their own anyway."
"By the time that happens..." Yuuri trailed off.
"It would be too late, right?  But the thing is, you don't have any way of spreading the word to non-magica anyway," Kanoshi said, "You wouldn't prevent anybody, anyway.  And don't try to act like it was the fact it's a disadvantage to people who are already magica that made you want to spread it.  I know you better than that."
Yuuri didn't answer, and Kanoshi knew that he was correct.  He didn't necessarily want to be correct; After all, it was depressing that Yuuri's thought process was that others shouldn't get trapped, as he did, in a situation where a suicide attempt was basically impossible.  Kanoshi hated that one of his students had a mindset like that, hated that he was so well aware of that mindset.  Yuuri was a self-destructive young man, the type who honestly would be seriously disappointed at the idea that if he decided to die, he couldn't.  Like he hadn't been through, made it through one of the worst childhoods Kanoshi had ever seen.
What, Kanoshi wondered, could possibly be worse?  Be awful enough to prompt somebody who soldiered through so much to commit suicide?  What could Yuuri be anticipating would do that to him?
"I don't want..." Yuuri mumbled, "To be like you, Blade.  I don't want anyone to find out that I knew about this and didn't tell them.  I don't want to betray my friends.  I don't have a lot of those.  They're important to me.  Too important to risk it by keeping this shitty, dangerous secret for you."
"I know," Blade said, "I understand.  Because I feel the same way.  I don't want to keep the secret either, and I do consider my magica to be my friends.  But I was ordered to.  Hopefully, others can understand that, like me, you were ordered to keep the secret."
"What if I tell people I figured it out on my own?" Yuuri asked, "What if I say that I realized it, that time when I cut my own arm, and then now, when the only part of Yamaguchi-chan that still has fresh burn marks is her question?  That nobody had to explain it to me?"
"Most people won't really realize you're smart enough to do that," Blade said, "I think you would have, if I didn't say it.  But, come on.  You know who you are.  Will other people believe you?"
"Okay, so, maybe not!" Yuuri exclaimed, "But Yamaguchi-chan is smart, I can say it came from her, or she can tell people instead!  They'll believe her!"
"But then it traces back to me even closer," Blade said, "Then it's one of my own magica saying it.  And even if it makes sense, it's still a lie.  You'd have to be able to lie really convincingly.  And I wouldn't even know if I was in trouble, until everything was already done.  We can't even push the boundaries then pull back if it doesn't work.  If the folks in charge find out, at all, then I'm done for.  And I can't even know if that's the case ahead of time.  So, please.  Help me."
"...Okay," Sayaka said, then turned and locked eyes with Yuuri, "Don't worry about it, Rukkun.  The information will get out on its own soon enough.  You won't need to lie for Blade."
Yuuri understood the meaning in that look, and he nodded in understanding.
"Anyway," Blade said, moving on and brushing against the side of Sayaka's arm, "Red, you can't transform until that burn's healed up.  It won't leave a scar on the mark, so it will get better, it'll just take a few weeks.  You'll also notice that Kyousuke-san's healing had no effect on that bit.  Usually, it just takes a certain amount of magic to heal an injury.  But to heal something like that... Well, he would need to absorb an attack with double the intent of the one that caused the injury.  If the intention was to kill for the sake of killing, then to heal it, he would need to absorb an attack that was meant to kill out of a burning hatred, or something with similarly strong emotional motivation."
"Jesus," Sayaka scoffed, wrinkling her nose, "And what if the original attack did have strong emotional motivation?"
"Then," Blade said, "You just have to wait.  It's not like it's that important.  A healer still couldn't save you if an attack was going to kill you, no matter what the intent.  The only real reason to heal an injury like that would be to let you get back in the fight sooner. and if you got hurt in that way to begin with, it's probably for the better that you take some time off of fighting."
"What I want to know," Rei said, having approached the scene after retrieving the orbs intended for her and Sayaka, since having the same distributor meant they didn't both need to reap the rewards, "Is why this thing attacked the school, when none of them have before."
"It didn't know how things work around here," Blade said, "Because it didn't form here.  While you were fighting, I checked the site.  This particular monster... A level seven leather-skin power type was meant to appear in Moscow today.  This monster isn't from here.  It was sent here, somehow."
"How can you tell?" Tsukune asked, also having arrived.
"No, it's right," Zhou answered before Blade got the chance to, "If it formed here, we would have noticed it sooner.  And when it broke through the roof, there was a wave of magic that came off of it.  A wave of... Magica energy."
"Why would a magica do something like that?" Blade questioned, not to anybody in particular, "Even the magica employed by Skorgles, the worst of the worst, the truly evil who kill anyone and anything... They still work to kill monsters.  They still help.  They still need orbs!  And magic power!"
"A magica is doing it because the monsters just don't have any way to combat the website themselves," Tsukune concluded, "Somebody will always play Devil's Advocate.  I can't say that this means the website will always be inaccurate.  It probably takes a good chunk of power to do something like this, and if the magica responsible was anywhere in the rankings, they'd already be caught doing this.  That must mean they don't have a ton of access to magic, so they can only port these monsters occasionally."
"Teleporting one here of all places, though..." Rei mumbled, "Why?  And why now?  Could this person have possibly known that you were going to be here?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Tsukune asked, changing back to his human form and crossing his arms with a heavy sigh, "Future Style also showed up here, undetected.  That's the same sort of magic.  Whoever transported Future Style, also transported that monster.  They confirmed our presence and our destination through her.  And the time we spent in Future Style's vision was also an excuse for that person to build up enough power by the time we got here, to actually send that unexpected monster."
"I see..." Sayaka mumbled, staring at her own knees now, "It wanted to kill me.  It targeted me immediately, and afterward, too.  I was obviously the target.  Whoever this person is..."
"Maybe it's two people," Zhou said, "Another magica could have some sort of undeniable command magic.  That would be a kind of horrifying team-up, and also explain how everything that happened here... did."
"I'd say that's likely," Tsukune said, "And there's one positive thing to be gained from this information here, though.  Blade, it was kind of you to let us all be privy to the top secret information.  And the fact that the monster used the element of surprise to behead Red, instead of attack her mark, means that these conspirators don't actually know how to kill magica, even though they wanted at least one of us dead."
"I shouldn't have come here," Sayaka said, standing up with her fists clenched, "I should have known better... Now I've nearly died in this place twice," She was shaking as she spoke, her voice for once in her life betraying a quiet sort of fear over her usual, loud demeanor, "Why did I come back here?  Why did I think I should come with you?"
"I don't know, Sayaka," Yuuri said, sincere as he addressed her so directly, using only her first name to try and show that it was all he could think to say, "But maybe, if you hadn't come, you really would have died.  That monster would have been sent to Tokyo, while all the rest of us were down here.  It would have just been you and Rokujo-nee."
"Maybe," Sayaka admitted, "But part of me thinks that monster was sent to me, in a place like this, to send a message."
"What message?" Kanoshi asked.
Rei decided to give an answer, "The message that Box is still alive, and she's not finished with her classmates yet.  Right?"
Sayaka didn't confirm or deny it, but it was obvious that she agreed anyway as she finally got to her feet and started to walk away, "You guys can wrap things up here.  Make sure that it really was a bum lead.  I'm going back home.  To Tokyo, to Kaiba-nee.  Away from here."