Lily gasped as the Ascendancy girls turned their weapons on the dark magical girls, confused and upset by the sudden turn of events.”Yeah, what’s the big deal? Why are you doing this?”
She asked, joining in on Alex’ questions. She blurted out a giggle at his hypothesis, only to scrunch her face.Aah, he’s being cute again, but don’t be distracted! Focus, Lily!
She thought to herself, and puffed her cheeks as she attempted catching up with the tense conversation taking place.
The Ascendancy girls kept grim faces as they nodded at Su’s suggestion.
“An acute observation, but only half-right,” Kai spoke, her eyes sweeping over the crowd. “The Ascendancy is sworn to saving those lost to the darkness. We want to cleanse you of the black magic that has taken control of you, and purify you of your corruption. But if you refuse our gift, we have no choice but to put you down.”
They looked disinterested in Mika’s pleads, even as Lily joined her, though the green-haired girl did blush at the example the cat-eared girl gave of Tetrad.”A-And we just fought together! Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
She looked at Silhouette as she made her comment, looking concerned by the attitude the other girl showed, and continued attempting to defuse the conflict.”I mean, if they were actually bad people, they wouldn’t have helped, you know. They would have just looked on from a rooftop and gloated about how foolish we were for trying to save people, with an ominous pose and everything!”
One of the triplets shook her head. “They most likely fought to satisfy their twisted desires. But in the end, it matters not, ” she stated, looking at Silhouette in particular, and took a stance with her halberd. “They are witches,” Another triplet continued. “Having sold their souls for power. They won’t escape justice. And if you try to defend these sinners, neither will you.” She glared at Lily, causing her to gulp.
Lily then heard an older woman speak and turned her head, not having recognized the voice. However, she immediately knew who it was upon seeing her.”Tetrad! You’ve become old!”
She exclaimed, and ran to her, her hands held out as if prepared to catch her falling.”You look just like my grandma, except without the fishnet stockings...And everything else, actually.”
The third triplet squinted her eyes at Tetrad’s question, as if she was examining her. “That curse only lasts for an hour,” she answered. “We can wait for it to end.”
“Enough talk!” Kai lifted her rifle up at Su, followed by the triplets also brandishing their polearms. “Surrender by the count of three, or die! One...Two...”
Lily panicked, and summoned her bow.”It doesn’t have to end like this! Stop!”
At that moment, one of the triplets saw Tetrad make her move; without any hesitation, she threw her halberd at them, aiming right for her hands.”STOP!”
Lily yelled, and made a shot with her bow. An arrow hit the halberd, and the weapon was frozen in midair. A careful eye would see the projectile was colored gray, shaped like the hand of a clock, with a tiny cog spinning around it. Lily looked as surprised at the result as anybody else. Kai scoffed, and pulled the trigger, aiming at Su. However, Su didn’t feel a bullet piercing her, shifting at just the right moment with everybody else; Tetrad managed to shift the courtyard of the museum, excluding the piece of the road where the lich fell and where the Ascendancy was gathered.
The entire group had arrived at the Overcity. Like before, the ground they stood on was patterned like a checkerboard, and the air was pure and refreshing. However, unlike the last time Alex and Su had seen it, they were not on an open field, but instead in the small clearing of a forest. It was clearly daytime, as sunlight could be seen seeping in past the shade provided by the tall trees, casting everything into moderate shadow.”...Where am I?”
Lily looked flabbergasted as she looked around herself, and then at her bow. Her eyes lighted up in hesitant realization.”Did somebody shift everyone?”
Helga bit the bottom of her lip as Emily pleaded to the beastly Lupa, and decided to wait instead of joining; after all, there was a risk Lupa would feel intimidated by her arrival, ruining Emily’s chances. To her great relief, it seemed to work, as Lupa changed back to her usual self.
“Lupa!” She yelled, and dove to catch her, holding her in her arms. “It’s okay, Lupa...It seems to be over.” She looked over at the stage, having seen how the ghostly audience scattered after Endsinger’s head was removed from her shoulders. However, the lingering presence of the Feral clones distressed Helga as they chased after the head, and she hoisted Lupa over her shoulder, just like Emily before.
“Hey Emily, follow me. I’ll take you to my place.” She turned, only to grit her teeth in a flustered expression. “Not like that! To heal your wounds, I meant.” She hopped up to the roof of a nearby abandoned truck, followed by jumping up to a balcony and then the rooftop of a nearby building, occasionally looking back to make sure Emily would follow. “Hurry, before they come after us!”
If it looked like Emily wouldn’t be able to move fast enough, she would carry her on her other shoulder.
Leena released the grip on her swords as Endsinger’s headless body slumped over her, letting it drop down with a dull thud at her side; the sharp blades pointed upwards in the shape of an X out of the lich’s back. Then, the pain hit her; with a groan of agony, she dropped to one knee, holding her hand to her mouth as she coughed out her teeth, clutching them into a fist and looking down at them.
“Rghhh...It worked...Now I wish it didn’t. But it’s...done. The U-type’s...” She slightly lifted her face up to look at Viva, her face shrouded in shadow as her eyes glared at her. “You...”
Unlike FanFan, who was distracted by the wolves attacking her, Leena was aware of
Viva the entire time. Back then, she didn’t care about her participation, putting the mission before any distractions. But now, her focus was wholly on her, especially after she wiped her mouth in an attempt to present herself better.
“Heh...” She groaned a half-laugh, and lifted her face. Viva would see that not only was her nose smashed in and red from blood, her cheeks had nasty red wounds running across them, the corner of her lip dripping red. Though she kept her mouth shut, Viva would see a couple of teeth dropping from her hand, clacking on the ground. Yet, despite the great pain she was going through, the magical girl kept menacingly staring right at her, her lips curled into disturbing Joker-esque grin thanks to “makeup” she received; years of endless battle were reflected in those cold eyes.
Then, she flinched as she coughed blood. At that moment, her concentration lapsed, and the Nullification Field dropped.
“Leena!” FanFan screamed, and activated the adamantium spikes in the knuckles of her robot arms as she opened her hands and slapped the wolves before she punched them with the spikes, causing them to disappear. She then ran towards Leena, punching a wolf right in the back of the head as she rushed to protect her from the ravenous pack. Leena’s eyes shot wide, having realized her mistake. Then, she summoned a sword to her free hand as she moved by instinct to block the first wolf, her eyes having snapped to an innocuous item lying on the ground: the guitar.
“DAWN!” She screamed, hoping the rookie wouldn’t be too late.
Cindy laughed courteously as she witnessed Aurora being aggressively snuggled, before she clapped her hands together. “Now now, easy on the guest, girls~” she spoke in an amused voice. The monster girls snapped back to attention, and gave Aurora room to breathe, brustling Aurora’s hair. “Oh, excuse me! I was so caught up in the moment~” “I got a bit too excited there, hah~” The two apologised, while Cindy resumed her attention back to Eliza.
“Back to the matter at hand, may I request thine aid ona quest?” She asked, and realized she slipped into an older dialect. “Mm, excuse me. What I meant to ask was: could you help us? As you may have seen on Glimmr, Vi-chan is planning on holding a concert.” She then frowned. “However, not everyone has access to Glimmr, or are unsure if it is actually going to be held in the first place.” She gave a sealed letter to Eliza. “I need you to send this letter.”
Before Eliza could ask, Cindy was given a smartphone by a monster girl. She sent a beam of electricity from it to the projector using her magic. By creating a temporary link between the two machines, she made an image manifest on the projector: it was the front of the Golden Trove hotel. “Please go to this location, and give the invitation to the owner. I would do this myself, but my time is taken by managing the shelter. Also, since you were also gone from Penrose for a while, I believe you’ll have a better chance making there undetected compared to my other subjects.” She then clasped her fingers together. “Your queen would be very grateful.”
The audience of Beacon girls were dazzled as Alicia transformed in the courtroom, taking on a new, more brilliant path in her life as a magical girl. Even the Ascendancy members showed signs of respect, if not even slight awe, upon seeing the display of the White Coin’s power. Isthar kept smiling, her arms having slowly opened to address the crowd.”What you see is the truth of the White Coin, only possible thanks to Alicia Hayden’s courage to save her friend. Alicia Hayden, I declare you innocent of your charges.” She smiled, and waited for the reactions of joy from Kimble and the others. “Seraph of Penrose, you have now received my blessing. May it serve you well in the trials to come.”
At that moment, Serenity spoke up, and delivered a shocking speech, delivered straight from the heart. As expected, there were some in the audience who were appalled by the reveal of her former existence, including Rachel. But the rest were moved by the story’s conclusion and the brilliance of her Soul Gem. This included Tsuki of the Ascendancy, who now wept tears for the very first time in the trial, while Hudie kept her head turned away, and Elora kept typing, as if purposefully distracting herself. Isthar herself kept smiling gently.”Yes, it is friendship that transcends the borders between us. It allows us to reach out to another, gives us strength and purpose, but most of all, is the gift that keeps giving. For ages untold, you have been one with the void, without passion or purpose. An existence that begets nothing. But now, as you have reached this epiphany, you have gained a priceless treasure that can never be lost.”
She first looked upon Serenity, and then turned her eyes to the Ascendancy after Serenity’s request. ”Serenity Gates, your prayer has been heard. I hereby sentence you to embracing the White Coin, and letting it guide you to the true path. And to honor your prayer, you may be granted one as well, Aurelio.”
Juliana unlocked the white cuffs from Serenity’s wrists, letting them hit the marble floor of the courtroom with a rumble of stone.
Then, like Alicia, she was also granted a White Coin, as was Aurelio.
“Um...” A hesitant voice next to Serenity made its presence known; it belonged to Sylvia.
“Cardinal Isthar, I...” She lowered herself down to a kneeling position, hands clasped together. “I...It’s been a long time since I’ve begged like this, but...Please, allow me to have a White Coin as well.” Tears went down her cheeks, softly hitting the podium. “I...I know I messed up, lying to everyone, trying to take responsibility in such a selfish way...But, I want another chance, another shot at making things right again.” She lowered her head, and Sally, with trembling lips, nodded rapidly; she attempted to speak, but only indistinct blubbering came about. However, the intent was clear as day.
Kimble pleaded, having raised her hands up like a kitten that wanted to be picked up, her eyes also teary. Up until this point, she had kept quiet, keeping close to Alicia. But as she took the White Coin, Kimble took solace in Sally, looking on in wonder as the White Coin blessed Alicia.
“I...It’s scary, but...I want to be purified,” she slowly stated, every word weighted with conviction. “I want to be...A nyaw me. A stronger me...One that can stand by Mistress’ side.” Sally and Sylvia looked at her with shock, but Kimble smiled back. “It’s okay, nya. This is my choice. For the sake of Mistress, my friends, everyonnyah...I’ll do it.”
Isthar once again nodded. ”Sally Shamrock, Kimble. Both of you have faced great hardship in the past. Betrayed and used by others, you were abandoned in the night that is cruelty. Nonetheless, you never abandoned the hope that one day you may find yourselves on a new road that leads to dawn. Kimble, you especially have had to fight against your corruption, your fangs always at risk of finding blood. But now, your love has given you new light. May you cherish it.”
The two were freed from their shackles while Isthar addressed Sylvia.“Sylvia Starshine...For five years, you have served as the branch leader of the Beacon of Penrose. During those years, you have dedicated yourself to upholding the tenets of our order, and working towards peace. However,”
she spoke with neutral tone of voice, her smile now gone.“You have been unable to let go of the weakness in your heart. And unlike Alicia, you have accepted the natural order of this world, having lacked the will to truly change it for the better. Such qualities do not befit one with the duty of giving example to those under them, one whose destiny is to guide others.”
She pressed her palms together.”You lied to the courtroom, attempting to claim responsibility for all sins presented. Though it was an act of deceit, breaking the vow of honesty you made here, I can forgive it; it was made with a noble intention of sacrificing yourself for the sake of your friends. Regardless, I can not overlook the grave sin you have committed; that of not trusting in your friends. You did not believe in them, and selfishly attempted to take justice in your own hands. By doing so, you attempted to rob them of choice.”
Sylvia’s legs shook, afraid of what comes next.
“It’s all over...Please, make it quick and painless...” Sylvia quietly mumbled, as despair slowly crept on her face.”Sylvia Starshine, I shall hereby sentence you...To be demoted to the rank Ophanim, stripped of the title of branch leader of Penrose, and to embrace the White Coin on your path of redemption.”
Sylvia’s eyes widened, and she took in a deep breath of relief, having collapsed to sitting on the floor from sheer catharsis. “O-Oh...Th-Thank you for you mercy, Cardinal.” She lowered her head, showing respect to Isthar. “I shall do my best to make up for my faults.”
Isthar nodded. ”Juliana, release her, and give them all the White Coin.”
Juliana did as ordered, and soon enough the rest were also granted their White Coins.
Sylvia, Sally, and Kimble concentrated, and let the power of the Coin wash over them.
Like Alicia, they were swept up in a great, brilliant warmth as the magic enveloped them, like bathed in a river of starlight. Their very essence was bolstered, the ShineSpark coursing through them like magma running underground, spreading life to the earth.
Once it was over, Sylvia and Sally had transformed back to magical girls, their uniforms looking slightly cleaner than before. But the biggest change was with Kimble, as was apparent from but a glance at her; she reached up to touch the top of her head, confirming that her cat ears were gone. She then looked behind her; sure enough, the tails had disappeared as well.
“They’re gone, nyah...Wait, NYAH?!” She put her hands to her mouth, looking surprised, while Sally and Sylvia lightly laughed. “Some things never change, huh?” Sally joked, and hugged Kimble. “Ahh, but I’m gonna miss those adorable ears, and how they tickled me~”
Sylvia scratched her cheek. “Well, I could always make a cat-ear hairband and cat-tailed belt...You know, just to make the transition easier.”
Kimble giggled, looking happy. “That sounds like fun, Sylvia. But more importantly, now I can start all new, with no regrets, nyah!”
Isthar once again smiled, and clasped her hands together. Alicia saw that her bright eyes seemed to glimmer a bit.“Yes...I am now sure, without any doubt.”
Rachel looked at the Cardinal with a lifted eyebrow. “Um, Cardinal Isthar, what do you mean?”
Isthar’s eyes looked upon Alicia.“To replace Sylvia Starshine, I hereby grant Alicia Hayden the rank of Seraph Paladin, as well as the title of branch leader of Penrose. Sylvia may assist you in an advisory role, but from now on you will take responsibility for the branch’ operation and well-being.”
Everyone, including the Ascendancy, gasped. “Objection!” Rachel lifted her hand, looking upset. “Alicia Hayden is inexperienced! She is not worthy-””She has proven her worth,”
Isthar spoke back with a neutral, strict tone, and looked at Rachel. ”I honor her prayer of becoming an example to all. I believe in her, as should you, Inquisitor.”
Rachel sighed, and adjusted her glasses. “Very well. I have no further objections. But I would like to remind you that it is by the Grand Ecclesiarch’s degree that the Ascendancy pacifies Penrose, using any means necessary. We will be continuing our operation as planned.”
Isthar sighed, looking saddened. “I have not forgotten, Inquisitor Rachel. Now, I shall resume my prayers.”
With that, she closed her eyes, and returned back to being as quiet as when the trial started. Rachel nodded, and then addressed the audience.
“The trial has now ended. Spectators, leave the courtroom in an orderly fashion.” The Ascendnacy began leaving their posts, following after the audience who left with murmurs and whispers ranging from awed to tearful. However, before they could leave, Rachel stepped u to the podium. “Alicia, Serenity, Aurelio, come to the Hall of Luminous Valor. We have matters to discuss.”
The shopkeeper seemed pleased by Deni’s positive answer, and waved goodbye to her and Valkyire as they left the Bazaar District. Following the outlandish merchant’s directions and turning two times, the two found themselves in the Entertainment District; a more colorful locale than elsewhere, with casinos, bars, cafes, and even arcades, advertised by signs reminiscent of the type seen in Las Vegas. There were plenty of advertisers on the streets; for example, there was a large, fluffy creature with a spherical body and tall ears spinning a sign for a “Smorple Cafe” on a street corner among others. However, it was also a seedier district; a place for the more unscrupulous type who did “business” to make their lair. This was apparent as they saw magical boys in fancy suits giving out fliers before some shop entrances, advertising to passing magical girls with smooth voices and dreamy looks. There was even a side alley marked by red lights, leading to a shadowed part of the district.
It is also here where Amanda happened to wander to after her visit to one of many libraries in the Overcity. However, as she was searching for an exit, she happened to see Ronin and Valkyrie; they turned into a quieter street where game parlors set up shop, the customers absorbed by the newest fad of Magical Reality helmets.
“Oh, hi there!” A young girl’s voice called out to the two.
Amanda, on the other side of the street, saw as a suspicious-looking monster girl
approached the girls holding the wooden box, an easy smile on her lips. She was accompanied by a stoic-looking dark magical girl
. “Thanks for delivering the package. We’ll take it from here,” she then said, reaching out with her beastly clawed arm while the other girl nodded; Amanda saw her casting a spell of some kind with a hand behind her back. Ronin knew that they haven’t fully followed the shopkeep’s directions yet...
Penny continued on the offensive with new limbs, battering Sirkkeli with not only her arms, now completely covered by the metal-eating mold, but also by her additional appendages. Sirkkeli’s armor deflected the blows to her sides and back, while the alien gynoid pressed on, having managed a couple of slices to Penny’s midsection, coating her further with the acidic compound and speeding up her mana consumption: she was now at 60% mana capacity, nearing 50%.
In return, Sirkkeli received more heavy blows as she further failed to match Penny’s punches with her sword, her own armor now showing cracks that revealed grey tubes.
“Rrrgh! You’re blind to Laat’s great plan, Penny! You know nothing!!” She screamed, and cut off one of the spider limbs in a whirling slash, coating the stump’s tip with the mold and preventing it from being reattached without serious consequences. She continued the spinning slashes, aiming to cut the rest.
She was hit by the lightning beam that Valerie shot out; her metallic body easily conducted the powerful blast, and caused internal damage of some kind to the foe while also stunning her. She was then subsequently hit by Penny’s fearsome gauss shot, knocking her back against a wall, cracking it; she held her stomach, the armor of it pierced and bleeding blue blood, clearly pained by the combination of attacks. “Urgh! You…”
She saw as Penny rushed in for the finishing blow, as the Beacon girl planned.
”...You really are blind!”
Penny’s vision suddenly darkened; she was hit by a blast of sticky saliva that covered her eyes, revealing that Sirkkeli also had the Bile ability. The liquid was not corrosive like the mold compound on her blades, but instead acted like incredibly elastic glue as it hardened upon exposure to cool air, sticking Penny’s hands to her face as she attempted removing it by instinct. While it could be ripped away by sheer strength, she lacked the necessary agility to avoid entangling herself further into the mess unless she calmed herself down.
“See what I mean? Hahahahaaa!”
Sirkkeli cackled as she lifted herself up, holding one hand to the wall to prevent herself from falling. “You fool...I’ll tear you, piece by piece.”
She then drew a blade, intending to attack Penny while she couldn’t fully defend herself.