Your name is TOMOE MAMI, and you are fifteen years old.
This was your idea, and you are not quite as proud of that as you used to be.
It was all supposed to be for fun, of course—a nice way to celebrate Homura getting out of the hospital—and you were able to smooth over all the complaints by chiding Sayaka that this ought to be good English practice, and reassuring Madoka that it didn’t matter if she wasn’t any good at games, she could go last and have everyone’s help when the time came.
And everything was so much fun to begin with, wasn’t it? Laughing with Sayaka over her feeble attempts to deface your apartment room, taking a vote between the other girls about what, exactly, you ought to use to prototype the kernel the game gave you. Taking cellphone pictures of the elaborate rendering of the world the game assigned to you—the colorful glasses and candies that look hand-drawn and scrapbooked, almost, clipped out of magazine pages in a surreal cornucopia. Actually being able to put all of your old muskets and matchlocks to use.
Two hours later, you started getting worried messages from the others. You were able to ignore them and go on your way until Homura forwarded you that news page.
An entire city block destroyed by meteorites. You recognized the district your parents worked in, read their names among the list of confirmed victims.
And a few minutes later, confirmation from Madoka: This game, the one your father had gotten you five copies of especially from overseas, was causing similar incidents all across America and Europe.
Your apartment was hit half an hour later, as you frantically messaged the others back and forth. They sent you video—satellite, police—and you knew no one could have survived, yet you were certainly still breathing, still talking to your friends. This world wasn’t rendered; it was reality.
The game stopped being quite as much fun after that.
You are glad that none of the others have managed to catch up to you yet, because they still look to you as the leader. This was your idea, after all, and you were the first one in. As long as they aren’t with you, they can’t see you panic over the gauges that surround you, that literally measure out how close you are to death. They can’t see the way that your fingers shake on the keyboard of your laptop.
You’re holding them all together with those pretty goldenrod letters of yours spelling out the lies that it’s all going to be all right, and you don’t know what they’ll do if they discover what the truth of everything really is. How empty you really feel, how desperate, how your hands shake on your guns and how many times your sprite has had to rescue you from the grip of a panic attack.
You hate to be alone, but you would hate for them to be disillusioned even more. And so.
Maid of Light, the game calls you, but the deeper you wander into this insane labyrinth of candy and hospital medicine cabinets, the surer you are that there is no light left in the world at all.
Your name is MIKI SAYAKA, and you’re pretty sure that things could be much worse.
The world would be ending whether you’d started playing this silly Sburb game or not, and at least the game has handed you a chance to survive, and the power to fight back. And so you’ll use it. This whole Knight of Breath thing is something you can get used to, and you fritter away hours at your alchemiter trying to make just the right set of clothes and sword for the job. You want to look perfectly gallant, but your outfit still has to be cute.
It’s sad about your city, about your classmates. But all the people most important to you are going to cross over into the game with you, and so it’s not even a problem anymore. If the boy you’d once liked had chosen you in the end, then you could have brought him with you, but he hadn’t and so there’s not much you can do about it.
The world you’ve found yourself stranded in like Alice down the rabbit hole is like a giant concert hall, walls covered in dirty scrawls, the sky invisible except through glass-domed ceilings. Every now and then you can hear the faint sounds of an orchestra, and in those places you try to hurry away as quickly as you can. You don’t want to keep thinking of Kyousuke.
There’s nothing to be done.
Absolutely nothing to be done at all.
So you let Mami’s confidence and cheerful words buoy you up, and bicker with Kyouko over whatever ridiculous thing she’s done to your house this time, and play with all the shiny toys that the game has handed to you to enjoy.
Your name is SAKURA KYOUKO, and you’ve already accepted what this game is supposed to be.
The black and white, paper cut-out view of the world the game has given to you, the splashes of color like stained glass, like illuminated manuscripts—they just help you to solidify the determination inside your heart that this is a thing that was meant to happen.
If the world was going to end anyhow—the whole universe getting colder and colder in the backdrop—then doesn’t it just suit everything that God is giving you and your friends and humanity a way to escape? To survive—maybe to find a new place to live.
Sayaka and Mami don’t seem too keen on your idea, but it’s got to be true. You haven’t confessed to them what you did in the ectobiology lab (they’d think you’re even crazier than they already do!), but if anything is proof, then that’s it.
This is about faith, about believing so hard you can create entire universes where there was nothing, about fighting for what you believe in. You think the game’s exactly right about this whole Rogue of Void thing (maybe not the rogue thing, but definitely the void thing!), and so you know to keep believing. If your faith dies, your resolve will too, and things will wind up just like your father again.
Besides, as long as you’ve got an alchemizer you can make all the food you want. You’ve put together a cookbook and your consorts are helping you learn how to use it. You aren’t stealing anymore. It really is creation from nothing, and so you’re pretty sure you’re on to something here.
It’s a game, and so even if the stakes are high, it’s supposed to be fun, right? And you intend to have fun as you fight, because you’ve never felt so alive before, and because if you can’t even keep this from meaning nothing you’ll never be able to fulfill the role that surely must be awaiting you.
So when you catch up with Sayaka, you make sure to act as silly as you possibly can.
This isn’t an ending. This is a beginning. You know it’s true. And you’re going to make damn sure that it lives up to everything that beginnings ought to be.
Your name is AKEMI HOMURA, the shoes you have to fill are the biggest of all of them, and if you ever stopped to complain to someone, you would definitely be sighing over how hard it is and that no one understands.
But you wouldn’t want the others to understand how it feels to have to bury yourself over and over and over and over.
Sometimes you hate whatever fate it was that assigned you the role of Witch of Time, but in the end—isn’t this your fault? Didn’t the others all decide to do this for you, and thus open the door for these disasters to visit Japan in your name?
If that’s the case, then in repentance—you suppose all there is left to do is defeat the great waves of destiny with mile-high levees built of the corpses of Homuras from countless offshoot timelines.
Kyouko continues to look at this for all the world like it’s some silly game, despite the dark world you travel to together in your dreams. Mami and Sayaka must constantly be watched, be protected from the sidelines, because there is a madness in the former and a darkness in the latter that must be pruned before they spin out of control, both causes of more offshoots than you can bear to count.
You will not let this place do to her what it’s already done to the rest of your friends.
And so you borrow guns from Mami’s home, alchemize entire artilleries, and take your hair down from its braids to show Skaia that you mean business, damn it, because you are the time kid, you are the stopgap measure and you are the only one that knows what this place really is at its heart, crouching behind the rubble of your world’s shattered city in preparation for the great battle you can sense ticking closer and closer.
Your name is KANAME MADOKA, and some part of you has been waiting for this day to come for all of your life.
In your dreams, the white queen told you—in your waking hours Kyubey told you—that this is what you were born for, that this is what you are Meant To Do, and that yours is the vital role that will change everything.
And yet once you finally arrive—once you are set down upon the paradise that is your world with your house and family and an orchard’s worth of alchemized arrows—everything quickly becomes no don’t worry about it Madoka everything is perfectly fine just worry about hunting your little frogs, there’s no need to ever leave your world.
You listen to what Homura says—you know she’s worried, and it is important to breed the Genesis Frog—but you know that everything isn’t okay and you’re sure that you could help if the others would just give you the tiniest gap in the silk cocoon they’ve wrapped you neatly into.
But after all you do have your mother and father and Tatsuya to protect (a burden that the others didn’t have to bring along), and managing that and the frog sidequest is a pretty much full-time job because this is Sburb, and Sburb plays for keeps.
Still, there’s a time that comes when you’ve done everything you can on your world and on Prospit and you just need to be able to get out and help the others already.
You know—you know from the consorts, from the queen, and from Kyubey, who is wiser than ever now as a Sprite—that there is one way for you to do this.
It’s not that you aren’t afraid when you draw close to the end of your search for your Quest Bed. It’s just that there are some things that are worth this, and that your true powers as the Heir of Space are going to be necessary for the next part of what you need to do.
This is your destiny. This is your choice.
Everyone needs to get together and work as a team, and when you wake up on the Battlefield, you will go to gather them. Even with all the powers of Space—enough power to rewrite an entire world—at your command, you cannot give birth to an entire universe all by yourself.
So when you lie down to sleep, it is with a smile and the certainty that there is still a future waiting on the other side of all this fear and loneliness and doubt.
This game is a test, and you’re going to give it all you have.