A/N: Well, here's the finale. And thanks to Nabolion, for reviewing the past chapter too.

The sword

As Akane had probably told you a number of chapters back, bandages are no instant fix. For her, getting enough food and nutrients was now, but for me, Asuka, and Nata- Hokuko, there was only so much Soma could do. Some aspirin was really the best he could do besides provide some blankets, which really didn't amount to much.

"… What time is it?" Asuka asked the white-haired boy, the only one of us with a watch on. Elpiz took a quick look before answering.

"Quarter after 6 a.m. It'll be sunrise soon." He looked hesitantly back the way we all had come from, unable to see anything beyond the tower that had once been the College of the Arts. We were in the dark in more than one way, and I was worried.

I'd hoped that we would have felt some kind of extradimensional tremor or something, so as to at least know something was going on between Brauner and Mizuki… but nothing was felt. All we could do was hope for the best.

A minute or two after our silence, Hokuko looked up down the hall before speaking.

"Someone's coming." Groaning, the Snow Woman rose back up to her feet as we all looked on anxiously. I was surprised she saw anything at all… I failed to see anything at all down the path, although maybe a demon's eyes were sharper or something.

Footfalls slowly began to reach us, the narrow hall's design helping the echoes go farther than they ought to. Eventually, the figure came into view. It wasn't Brauner, nor was it Rajoshin.

Instead it was Minako Yuki, smiling at all of us, and dragging a bloody and unconscious Mizuki over her shoulder. Below her auburn hair was headband similar to Mizuki's, but black rather than her old yellow one. Instead, that one was tied around her left forearm, to keep it safe.

She paused while looking at Hokuko, before smiling and bowed down her head. Whoever this new woman was to her, she'd worry about it some other time.

"Thanks… thanks for everything, all of you. I was, well… over my head, and I guess I had been for a long while. Although… I'm a bit surprised by your clothes and all…"

I laughed. "It was nothing. And besides, and self-respecting Magic Girl needs to be wearing something that shows the world she will stick up for her friends and family!"

"How is Rajoshin?" Hokuko asked nervously as Minako looked over to her. Seeing that Amaterasu's potential reincarnation seemed a little confused, the second Yuki put her hand on her upper chest. "Oh. I'm Hokuko… and I guess I'm supposed to be your sister."

Minako just kept looking at her for a moment before turning to Mizuki and answering. "She's weary. She's put herself through a lot for my sake, and I feel bad about that. But she'll live. There's no way someone like Fate could beat her in a fight.

"And incidentally. That robe you're wearing, Hokuko… I recall the Shiko named Genbu, who I believe was actually Natassia Kamiyu, was wearing it last I saw her."

The blue-haired woman blushed furiously, looking down at the ground when Asuka suddenly rose to her defense, literally. Mizuki's de-facto roommate stood up as well before pointing behind us. "Mere coincidence, Minako. After all, Yoko's rotting corpse is right there… and Natassia's isn't too far beyond that. Use your brain a little; the only possible way for Hokuko to be Natassia is if someone -like Yoko, for example- ripped her mind and soul out of her old, dying body and put it in the empty vessel of a Yuki-Onna. The only possible reason for that would be is if someone, like me, beat her half to death but decided to give her at least a few moments of peace before death.

"And even if all of that was the case, the only possible reason why we would let her be with us, alive and all, is if she decided to determine her own path in life as opposed to obeying the whims of Loretta Brauner. And all of that sounds pretty unlikely, doesn't it?"

She smiled. "You know… that's pretty crazy. I think the whole 'long-lost sister' idea is more plausible. Don't you agree, Hokuko?"

The demon nodded before looking over at Asuka. It was truly amazing the kinds of lies, or pseudo-lies, someone would be willing to spew out for the sake of friendship.

"Is Mizuki going to need medical attention?" Soma asked. We all knew the answer anyways. Technically, we all needed medical attention, Rajoshin just more than any of us. The silence that followed his question served to answer the question. "Well… I suggest we all get-"

"Wait a second." I knew I was interrupting him, but that didn't really matter all that much, and nobody seemed to care. Besides, I was raising a very important point. "What… what building is this supposed to be on campus?"

A moment passed, and then panicked expression went across all of our faces. I couldn't believe nobody had realized it early. We were in a building that did not have a counterpart in the human world… which meant…

Less than a second after our realization, as if the world had some twisted sense of humor, the entire building vanished, leaving all of us to plummet to the hard ground below.

The light

Shock and fear gripped me only for an instant as we fell. After that, instinct took over. I wasn't even sure if I could still transform, what with Brauner dead and left alone in her little world, but it didn't matter. Although that whole "Mythical Kirin" line seemed a little… lengthy. I decided on something shorter, and more fitting.


A flash of light, and my armor reappeared on me. Good to know, and I promptly deployed my outfit's wings. My first priority was putting Mizuki on the ground, followed by shooting back up and grabbing everyone else. One landing later, we were all on the ground, all seven of us, alive and we-… well, alive.

And the beautiful sight of the morning sunrise was, without a doubt, the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. And it was beautiful for one reason alone: because Mizuki, my 'Maiden of Dawn'… had made it one where everyone, humans, gods, and demons could finally declare on this day they could live their lives freely. Besides, before the sunrise, there is only darkness, a darkness that could find new strength and rest as light came into the world for that day.

And me? I was more like the 'Light of Evening', the exact opposite. A bright warmth that could find comfort and support in the darkness that followed. We made a good team, and as I looked down at the woman I loved with all my heart, I was overjoyed to see that nothing as inconsequential as a weary body and an unconscious mind would stop her from smiling.

"You did good, Mizuki. And for that, I am so very grateful."

The mirror

"Funny how things have ended up being turned around, eh?" I chuckled as I sat at to the side of Horoki's hospital bed, only for the woman to shoot a dirty look at me. Minako, Soma, Hokuko, and I were not too bad off, and in a way, I felt kinda guilty. Then again, I had already done my time in here, so said guilt was unnecessary.

Horoki unceremoniously threw a pillow at me, which I moved out of the way of. We stared at each other in silence before she suddenly let out an amused laugh. She certainly knew how to stay optimistic.

"So how are your eyes?" she asked as I sat down next to the bed. I turned on some generic drama, if only so that the background noise would deter any eavesdroppers.

Sighing, I shook my head. "Still a little screwy. Camilla gave them quite a bit of hell, and it doesn't seem I'm able to repair it."

"Guess there's only so much you can do when dealing with something as fragile as a human eye," Ayasato said, sounding downtrodden. I couldn't have that, I put my hand on her shoulder and smiled.

"Don't talk like that, Horoki," I told her. "It's nothing serious, and I can very easily just get a pair of glasses. Not like it's that hard to get a prescription."

That certainly brightened her up, and we continued talking for a while, occasional laughing at the trite and predictable plot-twists of the drama and adding snide remarks at the end of every line someone would say. I had to admit, the old fortune cookie gimmick of adding "in bed" to the end of everything took on a whole new level when you put your heart into it. It was a thorough relief to know the struggle was over. The past three weeks had been, in a world, hell.

Of course, all it would take for us is to change to a news channel to hear yet again of the tragedy that had befallen M-- yet again. Natassia Kamiyu, Isabelle Straffi, Camilla Renard, and Yoko Balnada had been found quite dead around M--, while there was no sign of Loretta Brauner. Another four deaths, and a potential fifth, truly tragic and more losses that the already wounded campus would be forced to take.

I wondered how long it would be before Mizuki would desecrate Yoko's gravestone.

Everyone else though, well, they woke up without a hitch, in roughly the same location as they had been when things went sour last Saturday. Missing students, those I had spent months in vain to try to locate, were welcomed back into a world that had thought them dead as well.

A knock at the door caused us to look up, and Hokuko popped her head in. "I'm ready whenever you are," she told me before leaving. I checked my watch, and knew I had best get going as well.

"What's the occasion?" my best friend asked as I stood up.

"Nothing much," I answered. "We're going to break into Brauner's office and forge documents to establish Hokuko as Minako's sister and all. You know, get her in on that whole 'live on your own' deal Minako's had for a damn long time."

"Isn't that kinda… illegal?"

"Sure, if you get caught. Besides, compared to murder, I'll only get a slap on the wrist." I joked. A moment later, however, I was dead serious. "Way I figure, we gotta trust her. She goes with anyone else, loads of questions are going to be slung left and right, and there might be a slip-up. If she moves in with Minako, most of the problems are averted. You worried at all?"

"Of course not," Horoki beamed before throwing her second pillow at me. "Go on and get out, Kirishima. You still got work to do."

"If you insist…"

The hope

"So…" I sighed as Minako and I sat in the hospital cafeteria, sitting next to each other. "You and Mizuki." The thought of a girl I had viewed as one of my closest friends -and one I had dated for a short time- devoting herself to another of the same gender had been quite a shock. And all the while, the various doctors and physicians fraternizing all around us seemed distant. Maybe it was because for them, they were just trying to get back to "business as usual" after a worldwide blackout.

"I'm not really sure where it's going to go, honestly," Minako told me. "We've known each other for not even a month. And we did things, said things that could easily be chalked up to just being stressed. That being said… I want to see where this goes. No matter what, I love her enough to walk down that road with her, see the sights, and decide where we stand."

"Was it… was it anything I-"

Minako laughed. "Don't be silly. You're not to blame for this. It's not like my experience with you was so traumatic I was scared away from men in general. It's just… Mizuki and I have gone through a lot in the past few days especially, and I worried about her so much, and she worried about me equally. That kind of concern… it's hard to just ignore it when the dangers are gone."

"Well, that is one way to look at it," I admitted.

"Eh, don't let it drag you down. Besides, you still left an impression on Nata-" Minako blushed, looking around to see if anyone caught her minor slip. Sighing, she continued and corrected herself. "Sorry. You left an impression on Hokuko, what with that little speech of yours. True, she's a demon now. And in another time, that might've meant something.

"But it doesn't anymore. She can't do anything about the wrongs she's committed in the past, nor can she determine humanity's future. All she has left is the present, where she's free to live her life the way she chooses."

"So what does that translate to meaning?"

"Tragically little. However, of the people that witnessed this struggle, you're the one that had the least connection socially with the Shiko. It might be good for her, you know, to see someone who is essentially 'normal' trust her. Think you can do that?"

"Well, yeah." I looked over to Minako and smiled. "Akane said the Shiko probably all lost their parents when they were young, like you. She's probably gone through as much hell as you have. And you've got Mizuki to help you through… I'm sure Asuka and the rest and me, well, we can do the same for her too."

"Thanks, Soma. It really means a lot."

The north

There are some times when the weather fits one's mood. The colossal, damp downpour I stood in seemed trite and cliché'd, but damn me if it didn't seem appropriate.

I stood alone in cemetery, where seventeen gravestones had recently been erected. Ayame, Chinami, Kasumi, Seimei… the other Candidates, as well as Sylpherious and Scyirra, and four more for the Shiko.

Sure enough, even being confined to a hospital bed hadn't deterred Mizuki from breaking the gravestone in half.

The Candidates and Syn's stewards had suffered. They had been strung along by me and the others, and they had fallen to the wayside as pawns often did. I had lied to them and committed terrible acts, and I would never forget those acts.

But I would not let that sadness drag me down into a place I, or anyone else that was sticking up for me, wished for me to go. The gravestone labeled "Natassia Kamiyu" could not be more correct. After all, her body was buried there, leaving me, Hokuko Yuki, a Snow Woman, the right to do whatever I wished for my remaining years.

As for Yoko and the others… well, if we ever met again, I hoped they too would see the error of their ways.

"I knew you'd show up, eventually."

A hand fell on my shoulder, and I turned to see a woman a little taller than me standing there while holding an umbrella. She looked to be in her thirties at least, with auburn hair slightly longer and curlier than Minako's, and wore a black raincoat. I had a hunch who she was, but felt addressing her would seem disrespectful, considering our history.

Turning back to the graves, I nodded in appreciation as she moved the umbrella so we'd both stay out of the rain. "I didn't want to come here when the others were still in the hospital. Right now, everyone but Mizuki's out… and she's doing fine anyways."

"Fine enough to disrespect the dead, anyways," the woman laughed. I had to admit, I was surprised she was being so affable after everything that happened.

"… So you crossed over then?"

"Oh, no problem there. Without Brauner in the way and your 'sister' free from her clutches, it was smooth sailing. I must say, it's nice to catch up with old friends after a very long time."

"That's nice."

"Sure is. And in case you need any help some time, since… well, you're physically not like other people, here…" she handed me a scrap of paper with a phone number on it. "Call me and I'll do what I can to help."

I looked down at the number for a moment, amused to see almost childish scribbles underneath it like two kids had squabbled while writing it. "Thanks. It means a lot, what with-"

I looked up, seeing the figure gone, leaving me alone in the rain again. Oh well.

"Thank you, Amaterasu."

The jewel

"Asuka, look who's home!"

I looked up from my schoolwork -after two weeks, normalcy was finally starting to return to the university- to see Kouji Rajoshin and his bitter and hateful daughter step through the doorway to our home. The old man seemed in a good mood, like usual, and even Rajoshin seemed a little brighter than often.

The Candidate had more than a few bandages on, the remnants of injuries she had sworn she had no recollection of, headband already fastened on her head once again.

Smiling, I waved at the two as they entered the shrine and closing up my books.

It was good to see Mizuki back on her feet after so very long. True, she deserved the rest and all, but there were only so many days you could stay down before atrophy caught up to you. I felt no real shame and horror when she unceremoniously gave me a hug; that aura of malevolence still clung to her enough to let me know it was still the Usurper Empress.

"How's it going?" she asked as we heard Kouji mention something about leaving us to catch up, understanding that in spite of our opinions of each other, we truly did share a strong friendship.

I waited for Kouji to get out of earshot before continuing. "Things are getting back to normal… I'm quite thankful for that," I answered as we each sat down. "Horoki, Akane, and I even tried to transform… and nothing happened." I couldn't help but laugh. "You should've seen the look on Ayasato's face. She was bawling like a total baby!"

That certainly did elicit more than a few chuckles from Rajoshin. "I can imagine that. Any idea, why, though?"

"Dunno," I answered. "Maybe it was just a one-time change. You have to admit, it is possible. What about you? Able to manifest- MRPH!" Dai Makai immediately gagged me, but only for a moment before eroding away into nothing.

"Oh yeah. I've still got it. As for Minako's armor and the Imperial Regalia, it's off in whatever Hammerspace-esque land it usually goes off to when she doesn't need it. Speaking of her… how's Minako doing?"

"She almost never left your side," I answered honestly. "If it's okay with you, I think it might be nice for us to pay her and Hokuko a visit afterwards too."

"Hokuko's… living with-"

"Well, duh. You were the moron that decided to establish she was Minako's sister, after all. Use your brain a little: where else would she go to?"

"Are things working out?"

"Well enough. Hokuko's getting used to things, and Akane helped her hack through the bureaucracy."

"You saying that as Minako's friend… or Natassia's?"

"Please…" I said as I leaned back, "Natassia Kamiyu, bless her heart, is dead and buried. I say that as Hokuko and Minako Yuki's friend, and as yours as well. Come on; let's get going."

The maiden


A single glass filled with champagne rose up into the air, poor Horoki Ayasato blushing profusely when she realized none of us were going to indulge in the action with her. Thankfully, our table was off to the side, and hence nobody really seemed to notice her over the festivities of a Christmas party.

Christmas in Japan is, well… weird. Christian influences have been part of the country for a long while, but December 25th amounts more to being a couple's celebration. New Years Day -known as "Double Finger"- moreso fulfilled the role of the "family holiday".

Nevertheless, my parents were home for the break, my first year at M-- had ended nice and normally after the initial three, hellish weeks, and I arguably came out for the better through it all. Well, save for two marks that had been left on me, one by Yoko, one by Brauner.

My heart problems were regrettably ones I couldn't just tell the doctors. I mean, what could I really say. "Hi there. My heart is held together with nothing more than string… care to help?" I'd just have to be careful and not overstress myself, and I hadn't run into any problems in the months following my injury.

The latter was a mark far more visible, one I would do my best to hide no matter what.

My parents, home for the break, had received a number of invites to some family's extravagant Christmas celebration. Things had checked out, and had a few left over for my and the others. I had initially been hesitant to go, but between Asuka and Minako's urgings and also the family's last name, I decided to go anyways.

I can honestly say I was happy I had gone. Just seeing Minako in that dress… it was hard to keep my eyes off her. In contrast to the colors she had normally worn, my dear Yuki opted for a beautiful black dress.

Nothing terrible had happened in the months that had followed, and for that, I was grateful. Just worrying about school was quite the breath of fresh air, and the others had gotten to coping as well.

With the vast majority of the missing students discovered and that mystery finally laid to rest, Akane could take a break from the amateur sleuthing business. Her eyesight, as she had suspected, had yet to return to normal, but one trip to the eye doctor later managed to get her a pair of small, yet sufficient lenses. In the meantime, she had decided to sign up for the upcoming track season, and had spent much of her free time conditioning with Minako and Soma. It was nice to see old friends get back together.

Horoki, well, Horoki was Horoki. Goofy and the most optimistic of our bitter lot, and heartbroken she lacked even the faintest of memorabilia from her brief stint as the holder of the Kusanagi. That being said, she had been letting her hair down much more frequently, both literally and metaphysically, and I hadn't seen that goddamn fuku of hers in months.

Now if only she could find it within herself to punch out any of the few people that still called her "Sailor Dunce" regularly, and her conversion to the Dark Side would be complete. Until then, well, she'd certainly be good for a laugh, and a nice foil for Akane whenever they would hang out.

And in regards to foils, I guess this led me to Minako's housemate and my own. Naturally, Asuka was like the ultimate boon for my parents… outgoing and intelligent to boot, much better from their actual daughter in more than a few ways. Not that I cared, however. We antagonized each other the way honorable rivals were meant to, and forcing each other to constantly improve our dancing and archery skills as mikos. Kabuto was a good friend, I had to admit, one who had suffered greatly at the hands of the Shiko and still managed to do a damn good job at school as well.

Hokuko was also getting back to living her life. Minako, Asuka, and Soma helped quite a bit in regards to that. She had to be careful when it snowed, but that's a different story all together. Being a "New Girl" while really not being one gave her a certain amount of advantage in gaining back some popularity in regards to how quickly she caught on to everything. And that said nothing about the popularity she leeched off of Minako's reputation. That being said, Hokuko Yuki was a changed woman from when I had met her. Besides, Minako trusted her with her life, and I was not one to argue with her.

It was… nice… to be out, at least this once. The concept that I would become some kind of friendly and sociable woman was implausible and totally went against my character. That being said, a change of pace never hurt anyone too badly, after all-

"Excuse me. Miss Rajoshin?"

I turned, seeing one of the servants standing there. We all looked before I finally stood up.

"What is it?"

"Well, you have a call for you."

Someone giving me a phone call? That was odd. Nevertheless, I looked back at the others and nodded before walking with the man out of the dinner room. Upon entering the next chamber, he took a left through another door, but I didn't follow him. After all, I wasn't supposed to.

"I see you're wearing my color," the dark-haired woman in gold before me stated, noting I had chosen a red dress for this party.

"And you're wearing mine too, Syn."

The Demon Empress gave a smirk, but remained where she was. "You know…" she said amidst faint chuckles. "I don't think you should be calling me that anyways. 'Syn' was a name meant to paint a malevolent, albeit two-dimensional, aura around me."

"I see," I responded. "Then by all means, what's the proper name?"

"Well, the one my mother gave me, Mizuki. Jun."

"Jun?" I repeated incredulously. "Well… I guess the pseudonym was necessary then. Although I'm surprised to see you standing in front of me, kinda. I mean, your body-"

"Well, my first body was. But I've crossed over… got a new one to go with it." She walked up to me, the older woman peering at my forehead, which was covered up by a great deal of hair. "I see you're not wearing your headband. Think it's too casual for the party?"

"Sorta…" I muttered, looking away.

"Come on, show it to me! It can't be that bad."

She had to be joking. There was no way she'd actually want to see it. Yet that almost childish enthusiasm in her eyes had quite the disturbing effect on me, and I finally succumbed. Jun's Dai Makai would probably have forced my had if I resisted anyways.

I reached and held my hair up, displaying Brauner's last laugh on me to her: a disgusting, fleshy scar across my brow. I could see Jun's expression darken a bit when she saw it, but I wasn't expecting an apology, and nor did I get one. Instead, I just let my hair down again, and Candidate and Matei returned to the matters at hand.

"So… what are you going to do now, Jun?"

The woman smiled. "Catch up on old times, help out Ammy and her siblings… stuff I haven't been able to do for a long time. It'll be nice, to just have simple times with her. What about you and Minako?"

"The same, in spirit," I answered. "Although I figure my 'stuff' will differ from yours in a number of ways." I chuckled. "She's thinking of coming over on New Years Eve since Hokuko will be spending the day with Soma and his family. I'm working on making enough Dai Makai to soundproof my walls."

"Now why would you-" Jun finally realized what I was talking about. "Oh… you are a dark and twisted woman, Mizuki. Remember to change the sheets when you and her are done with the deed. Anyways…" she sighed, as if she had finally reached a subject where everything preceding it had been nothing but pleasantries.

"Enjoy the time you have here, Mizuki. I'm a little worried, to be honest…"

"About what?"

"About a girl… a girl neither of us know, and yet in death she raises countless questions. Someone that went by Kimatura. Kei Kimatura."

It was my turn to be slow on the uptake, but Jun was patient with me before I finally recalled the name.

"She's a mystery to me, alright. I had figured she was just another lie of Loretta Brauner… but then I looked around. And found something. It's nothing concrete, but it was suspicious. Whatever Kei was… she wasn't one of mine. She was something different. If push comes to shove…"

"I'll be ready for it, if it comes to that," I staunchly answered.

"Good. And what about the rest of your little cl-"

"No," I snapped. "Hell no. We are no club, or group, or team, or bunch of girl scouts. Our names will not be used to form an acronym. And under no circumstances are you to name us after an alcoholic brand or some random noun… got it?"

Jun could only laugh. Lousy, ungrateful witch. I'd kill her if it weren't a holiday. Nevertheless, she knew I had meant what I had said earlier; if the need arose, I would stand up against anything and everyone that endangered Minako. That was just how I was.

"That…" Jun said as she got the bitter dregs of the giggles out. "That was… was, an answer I'll accept."

"Will that be all then?"

"Of course. Enjoy your life, Mizuki Rajoshin."

Giving Jun a relaxed smile, I turned around. It was time to get back to the festivities. "Thank you. And I intend to."

"See you around… Senshutei Mizuki."

Matei Mizuki: End.