Homura narrowly escapes the monster’s attack, jumping to the side just in time to avoid its claws. She shoots at the monster as it passes by her side, but it’s too quick and avoids her shots. It hops back up into the trees for cover, allowing it to coordinate itself and at the same time, Homura takes the moment to prepare for its next strike. It hops around through the trees in the hope of throwing her off, but she easily keeps her sights on it. Realizing it couldn’t use the element of surprise anymore, it finally decides to strike with full force. With a second loud screech, it jumps down towards her, with claws ready to strike. She shoots her guns as it does and backs away at the same time. Soon, they are going toe to toe, flitting around on the ground and in the trees, like a well-coordinated dance routine. Satoru watches in awe at Homura as she fights, seeming to move so gracefully, despite the danger of the situation. He can see why those fanboys online had raved about her, calling her one of the best magical girls to live. Seeing her facing off almost effortlessly against this monster is quite an amazing sight to see.
Satoru is so engrossed in the fight; he doesn’t notice the presence coming up behind him. This monster, with a distorted, asymmetrical shape, approaches with an outstretched claw and swipes at his neck with an attack that surely would’ve knocked his head off, but in an instant, Homura is beside him and with her gun planted directly on its head, she pulls the trigger, causing the monster’s head to explode. “Woah!” Satoru falls to the side, shocked at the sudden occurrence.
Homura looks at him with a scowl. “Pay more attention to your surroundings or you’ll die!”
“I’m…I’m sorry! I didn’t even realize it was there! I’ll be more careful, but you should too.” Satoru points to the previous monster she’d been fighting, who is charging towards her.
“I’m aware, you don’t have to tell me.” She grips her guns with a frown. “It’s time to end this.” She charges the monster and just when it seems certain that they’re going to clash head on, she jumps up at the last moment and with a mid-air twist and flip, she ends up behind the monster and in one fluid motion, she places the gun against the back of its head and fires. With an extravagant explosion, the monster’s head is in pieces and its body follows closely behind, falling apart and to the ground. “There, it’s done. They really never learn. Let’s go now.”
She starts to walk away, not shaken in the slightest by what just happened, where Satoru is still trying to process it. “How can you be so calm? I get you’ve done it before, but those are scary!”
“Once you’ve seen them once, you’ve seen them all and they start to get boring. They’re only scary because your weak. Those were just the witches’ minions. If you thought those were scary, you’ll soil yourself if you see a lesser witch and even die when we see the witch herself.”
“Well I’m sorry I’m weak, but I don’t have magical powers and guns to fight with. This is the first time I’ve ever seen something scarier than a rabid dog, so cut me some slack would you?”
“Oh don’t get offended. I was simply stating a fact, not trying to burn you. Anyway, you don’t have to worry about facing these monsters, just leave that to me. All I want you to worry about is saving the lost souls here, so that we can weaken the witch enough for me to destroy her. Ok?”
“Right…I guess I’ll just do that then.” Satoru stands and walks closer to her. “So, where to?”
“I don’t know specifically, you tell me. Follow your butterfly or whatever, you said that always leads you where you need to go right?” She returns her guns to their holsters as she speaks.
“I don’t see it right now. I haven’t seen it since it lead me to you in the forest.”
She lets out a loud and audible sigh. “Seriously? You really are useless.” She fingers through her hair and then makes a decision. “Ok then, I suppose we should head to the main city and start there. Odds are, the people you need to save will be found there. Let’s head to the train.”
“The train? Won’t that take a long time? Can’t we just teleport there or something?”
“No, what do you think this is? I’m not a witch. I have the power to enter this realm freely, but once here, I have to traverse it just like any of the local inhabitants do. It may be between worlds, but it’s still its own world, with civilization and infrastructures such as trains and cars, I told you didn’t I, this is the place where lost souls reside after unresolved trauma, but to them, this is the same world as always. How do you think they can live here for years never realizing that they are trapped? Think of it like they have died and are stuck in limbo. The only difference is they have the opportunity to return to the land of the living if they are strong enough and so are only metaphorically dead. However, if they reside here too long, eventually they will lose that chance and really will die, forced to remain here forever and become the lesser witches or minions that you see. The people you have to save, are likely very close to this point, so we must hurry.”
Satoru never realized just how serious this all really was, but he wants to save them. “Ok, I understand. Please lead the way and I’ll give it my all to save anyone I can.” He follows her.
After walking into the center of the town, they arrive at a train station. It’s a small, rustic station as you’d expect to find in a town such as that and the trains run on a limited schedule. However, they are in luck, as the next train to the main city will arrive in ten minutes, the last one of the day. They sit on the platform silently and once the train arrives, they board it, finding a seat in the last car, in order to avoid engaging with others, not that there were many people in the first place. Satoru sits across from her and they look out the window quietly, as the train starts to move. Satoru glances at her now and then, looking for an opening to speak, but she doesn’t look his way even once. Feeling the awkwardness of the silence, he finally tries to start a conversation. “So…is it a long ride into the city?” He sits patiently, waiting for a response.
“It’ll be about an hour.” She’s to the point and says nothing to carry the conversation on.
“Right….” Satoru can’t help but think that she’s a difficult person to deal with. He could tell she’s probably been a lone wolf for quite a while and doesn’t seem to have many friends, but he wishes she’d be a little more receptive to socialization. He decides he’ll try again. “So, you said you’ve been fighting against the witch for a long time now, how’d you get started in this?”
She’s quiet and doesn’t respond right away, making Satoru think it was a lost cause, but then she finally speaks. “It all started when an evil little runt named Kubey showed up and recruited me, saying he’d grant any wish I wanted if I helped him fight the monsters known as the lesser witches. I was a loner and had no friends and I can’t say my life was very interesting, so I figured why not? I’d fight against the monsters and if I died then I died. If I happened to survive…well, then maybe I could really have my one and only wish granted. I was skeptical at first to be honest, but I figured I had nothing to lose, so I just went with it. I found it all pretty easy to get used to actually, but then Kubey did the worst thing he could have…he recruited the one person I never wanted to be involved. He somehow knew that they meant more than anything to me and that they were the motivation behind why I even started doing that in the first place. He recruited them and they agreed with no reservations. I had planned to talk them out of it, but after joining the cause, they noticed me for the first time. I’d always admired them and had wanted to get closer to them, but didn’t have the courage or confidence to do so. However, this brought us together and for the first time I was able to get closer to them. We were a two-person team and we were powerful. We fought those witches together and it became something special between us. We became special to each other and we thought it’d last forever, but we were wrong.”
Satoru gulps, having a bad feeling about what happened next. “What happened after that?”
Although he expected her to get emotional, she remains very calm and gives nothing away as she says very matter of factly, “Oh, they died. They died and then SHE showed up, killing me too.”
“By she…do you mean the witch?” Satoru doesn’t really need to ask, but he does anyway.
“Of course. Once my partner died, she suddenly showed up took over this realm, where we’d always been fighting, and killed me too. I didn’t really care at that point, but the problem was that she didn’t just kill me. No, she chose to curse me instead and so once I died, I woke up back in the past, before we’d started it all. I was still a loner and my partner had nothing to do with me. I’d gone back in time, but things weren’t exactly the same because now, rather than the witches simply being the corrupted souls of magical girls before me, they were the pawn of the witch and she took over the whole show, even having Kubey follow her will. I remembered everything that had happened, but my partner did not. I decided it might have been for the best and made it my mission to stop her and Kubey, who’d started to approach my partner again in the hope of recruiting her. I feared things would happen just as before and so I joined up again, in an attempt to stop it from coming to the same end. I tried my best to keep them from joining and from suffering the same fate, but I couldn’t stop it and once again, they died and once again, I was sent back to the past. As I said, the witch didn’t just kill me, she cursed me, forcing me to repeat the same events over and over again, powerless to stop them no matter what I did.”
“Wow, that sounds terrible. Actually, that sounds a lot like what I experienced with Revival and what Natsuki-san seemed have gone through as well. It seems the witch likes to do that.”
“Well yes, it’s her curse after all, so it would be the same more or less. It’ll continue on endlessly until you figure out the loophole. In your case, successfully saving Kayo ended it, though perhaps there was more to it than simply that considering you are here now, but regardless, there’s always a way to break the chain, but you must find it. In Subaru’s case, he had to let go of the other people of that world and accept their deaths to finally be free of it. In my case, I was able to break the loop because my partner made the ultimate sacrifice for me and the others who’d joined us along the way.” Satoru looks at her, having finally understood and she confirms. “Yes, my partner, my most precious person, Madoka, she saved us all and freed me from that hell. We could finally leave that cursed world, but I couldn’t accept it, so I stayed to fight on.”
“So ever since then you’ve been locked in this endless battle with the witch? Is she so strong that even you cannot defeat her, or is it that you two have some other connection you can’t break?”
“What are you even saying? I’m not connected to that woman in anyway other than being cursed by her. It’s her fault that I had to lose Madoka and so I simply can’t rest until I’ve stopped her. As I’ve already said, the only reason I can’t is because her tether to the lost souls is too strong. Once they are free, she’ll lose her power and that’s when I can strike. Then I can finally rest in peace and be with Madoka again. That’s the only thing that I’m still going for. The only thing.”
Satoru can tell just how much Madoka must have meant to her. “You loved her didn’t you?”
“Did you love your wife? How about your daughter?” She asks this in a serious tone.
“Of course! I love them both, even in this moment. I love them, not loved. More than anything.”
“Well then, why’d you ask me such a stupid question? Of course I loved her, but as with you, I haven’t stopped loving her. I love her now and I always will, more than anything. I will be with her again, no matter what I have to do, no matter how long it takes. I swear on my life.”
It gets silent again, both reflecting on their loves, but then Satoru asks something he’s been wondering about. “So, are you not in contact anymore with the other girls you worked with?”
“After Madoka saved us, they didn’t remember her at all and even our time as magical girls were nothing more than a dream to them. They moved on with their lives together, but I couldn’t forget, so we naturally drifted apart. Our other member, well she wasn’t lucky enough to survive that long. I haven’t seen anyone else in years. I don’t talk to anyone either. In fact, I think you were the first person I talked to in about ten years. I’ve kept to myself all this time, never interacting with other people. Honestly, I rarely leave this realm, but you were lucky enough to catch me on a rare day where I’d entered reality. I’ve grown accustomed to being alone.”
“You haven’t spoken to another living person in like ten years?! That’s so sad Homura-san!”
“Are you one to talk? Who were you talking to during your time in isolation?”
“Well I….” He realizes she kind of has him there. He never really talked to anyone other than his mother and Kayo when she happened to stop by, but it was always very brief and lifeless.”
“Yea, that’s what I thought. Worry about yourself before you judge me. I’m just fine thanks.”
It gets quiet once again and this time it stays quiet, neither saying anything more until they’ve arrived to the city. They get off the train and Satoru sees a city that is much more active than the town they’d been in previously. It’s not like his city, but for a realm between worlds, it’s still fairly active with people going about their days as though their lives are normal. They look like normal people, living normal existences, except they actually aren’t. They have no idea that they are living in a fake world, trapped by a trauma they may not even remember having. Each and every person here is living that type of life and it seems it’s up to Satoru to help them overcome them. He looks around for his butterfly, hoping that it’ll lead him to the appropriate targets, but sees nothing. He realizes that he may just have to free everyone here and he can’t imagine how long that may take, but if it’s what he has to do, he will if it’ll get him back to Airi and Saori.”
“So I’m guessing by that clueless expression on your face, you still don’t see your butterfly?”
“No, unfortunately I don’t. It looks like I’m going to have to do this the hard way.”
“Well isn’t that great.” The sarcasm is heavy in her voice. “Well whatever, not like I’ve got anything else to do anyway. We should get a move on then. As you can see, there’s a lot of people here. I suspect if we send them off one by one, at some point the witch will come.”
Satoru nods. “Right, I guess we should get started then, though I’m not exactly sure what to do.” Just as he says this, he swings his arm and his hand makes contact with someone else’s. “Oh I’m so….” Before he can finish his sentence, he sees snapshots of various images in his head, as though he watching a movie on hyper speed. Within seconds it’s over and when his vision returns to normal, a man is looking at him strangely and Satoru realizes that this man was the very same person he saw in the visions he just had. The man snatches his hand away and gives Satoru a dirty look before walking away. He calls out an apology. “I’m sorry!” He feels embarrassed and looks up, but as he does, he catches sight of his butterfly. “Ah, there it is!” He follows its path and sees its following behind the man. Satoru follows its path and notices it flutters around the man’s head. “Could it be I’m supposed to….” He touches the man’s shoulder and this time rather than a vision, he feels as though he’s been sucked into a vortex. When he comes to, he’s in another city and sees the same man, his hand still on his shoulder. He frowns and snatches himself away. “Oh, I’m sorry Sir, but are you-.”
The orange haired man says, “I’m Yuzuru Otanashi, who’re you and why are you touching me?”