The smile on Homura’s face had all of the honesty and sincerity of artificial crab meat. Her black hair was lying flat on her back, so different from the braids she had until recently kept them in. She did not know why she had gotten rid of them. Homura guessed it was a whim. The same whim that caused her to use her Soul Gem to cure her body and repair her vision the second she had contracted with Kyubey.
“I am sorry, I don’t have time to come over.”
Mami smiled at Homura’s reply. Whether or not it was genuine, the younger girl could never be sure. She had given off the air of an older sister since they had met not too long ago. Mami had been the fist magical girl Homura had encountered. The blonde had saved her on her first day of school. Homura should have been trying to make friends with her. The ebony haired girl was so lonely, yet, she felt like it would be wrong to even try to become friends. It would betray… something.
“You are going to leave me to deal with her,” Sayaka said.
The “her” in question was Kyouko. The red head was a magical girl that Mami had been previously acquainted with. She had returned to the city recently and was working with the three of them. She also made it a point to constantly pick at Sayaka. While it was sort of mean, there seemed to be a level of warmth underneath all of the harshness.
“Don’t worry about it Akemi. The offer is always open,” Mami said.
Homura watched the other two turn and walk away. She brought up her hand. Her mouth opened. Homura tried to lift her feet to follow them. No sound spilled from her mouth and her feet decided that they liked very much where they were located and no they would not follow Mami and Sayaka to the apartment filled with cake and tea.
No, it would be wrong. There was someone. She already had a friend. It was just that she could not remember said friend. Or maybe they had not yet met. Really, she only needed one friend.
Homura stopped staring at the shrinking backs. She turned herself around and started walking toward her own home. This was for the best, really it was.
There were so many people out. A sea of uniforms surrounded her as faceless crowds from so many schools were trying to go home, or shopping, or just spending time with loved ones. The sea of humanity was overwhelming. For a second the crowd parted. There, less then forty feet away from her was a pink haired girl. When before she could not follow Mami and Sayaka, Homura found her feet moving after this girl before she realized that she wanted to follow her.
She pushed through the crowd of people. Always, she kept that pink hair in sight. Her elbow hit an old man. A girl with bleached hair knocked her back a step. She swerved around a man carrying a pizza delivery. The girl turned a corner and Homura followed. There was relief that made no sense when she could still see her target.
There was a subtle glow from her ring as she used her magic. It was not much, just to make her a little stronger and faster. The thought of losing sight of the other girl was not something she could even comprehend. Yet, the pink haired girl was pulling away from her despite the magic. Finally, Homura pulled away from the crowds as the other girl entered a park. Now unimpeded, she let loose at full speed.
Two other girls in the park watched on in horror as the black haired girl plowed into their friend at almost unbelievable speeds.
“Ouch,” the pink haired girl said as she landed face down on the ground.
“Tsubomi, are you all right?” a short girl with wavy blue hair asked.
“S-Sorry,” Homura muttered as she got off the other girl. This was embarrassing. “I thought you were someone I knew.”
“It is alright, I’m Tsubomi.”
“Hey, aren’t you going to introduce me? I’m Erika, those two are my minions: Yuri and Itsuki.”
“I’m not your minion,” a girl with short golden hair said. She was the Itsuki that Erika refered to.
The older one with dark purple hair, that Homura had not noticed at first, was acting like she was ignoring the rest of them. They were supposed to be helping with setup, not playing around. She may have been slightly smiling.
“What is going on?”
“We are setting up for Erika’s fashion show,” Tsubomi said.
“Yes, this will be the beginning in my rise to fashion stardom.”
“Oh, well, I’m sorry about crashing into you. And good luck on the fashion show.” Homura shot up and beat a hasty retreat with a red face.
“That girl…” Yuri said as she glanced at Homura through her glasses. The feeling that came from Homura was unmistakable.
Homura ignored everything else as she tried to get home as quickly as possible. The only saving grace with the whole ordeal was that she did not think those girls had been local at all.
Outside the door there was a dark skinned girl standing there. She had long, wavy, purple hair and her clothing was mostly pink. Something small and too much like a mouse for Homura’s taste sat on her shoulder.
“Are you Homura Akemi?” she asked.
“Yes. What are you doing outside of my home?”
“I came to ask for your help.”
“Why would I be able to help you?”
“You are a puella magi, are you not?”
Homura looked for a ring or a mark on the fingernail of this person. While there was a mark on her forehead, there was nothing on her hands.
“I’m not like you. If anything I am more like a witch. But please, I need your help.”
“Why?” Homura would not deny the shiver that ran down her back when the girl said she was more like a witch. She had no clue why the word brought such a reaction from her.
“I need your help to get to someone. She gave me the courage to change my world.”
Something about what she said rang in Homura. She did not know why it did, but the description reminded her of the friend she did not know.
“I’ll help you.”
“Thank you. My name is Anthy, Anthy Himemiya. Please meet me at Hikawa Park after sunset.” Anthy left with no more explanation then that.
At night Homura and Anthy met at a park. In fact, it was the same park that Homura had been in earlier during the day. The wind was strong, but other then that it was a beautiful night to be out.
“So what do you need me to do?”
“I just need you to fight anything that looks like you should.”
“Is that all you needed? Anyone of us could have helped you.”
“I felt that we had something in common. Kindred spirits if you will. We both are looking for the only person that matters.”
Homura had nothing to say to that. So she said nothing. Instead, she transformed and held her bow in front of her. It was best not to waste time.
Anthy knelt in a seemingly random spot. She clasped her hands in front of her and closed her eyes. Achingly slow, a glow began to come from her. It enveloped her in a gentle mist that smelt like tea and roses.
Monstrous screams rang out. Mist, like what surrounded Anthy, but smelling of fear, rotting, and other things Homura did not want to name, began to form. The mists began to gather into clumps, becoming darker and more opaque. The shapes resolved themselves into what looked like creatures from an anime.
Homura let an arrow of energy fly, piercing one in the head. More became solid. She fired at them as quickly as they appeared. If she fired too slowly then her arrow would pass through and hit the platform and decorations for the upcoming fashion show. As the light around Anthy glowed brighter, and she seemed to become more transparent, the monsters came faster and faster.
In a nearby hotel there was a room with a lovely view of the park. One of the models from the fashion show had moved to her window. She looked out the window and witness the battle between the dark magical girl and the monsters. Silently, she walked away. Grasping a small ornament , she kissed it as she left her room.
Claws rushed across the ground toward Homura. She began to turn. An arrow was released. It flew wild and missed the mark completely. All she could do was stare at her oncoming death.
Pink flower petals consumed the monster and painfully disassembled it with hundreds of small cuts. Homura was not paying attention to that. She turned her head in the direction that they had come from.
Standing there was a girl in clothing that could only belong to a magical girl. It was white and pink with a bow on her chest. Her candy colored hair was gathered into a ponytail with another bow.
"The flower spreading throughout the land, Cure Blossom!"
Cure Blossom gave a look of recognition to Homura before her attention was diverted by a monster with three feet and no head. Homura could not pay very much attention to her new ally, other then to note that the other girl used more hand to hand combat and seemed to have no weapons.
As Cure Blossom used acrobatics and hand to hand, Homura used her bow and magic. The two found themselves back to back at one point. Blossom produced a wand and began using that as well. She would use it for magical attacks and would parry with it. It looks like Mami wasn’t the only girl with a tendency to name her magical attacks.
The monsters kept on coming. It seemed they were more interested in attacking Anthy. Most made a beeline for her until the other two intercepted the creatures. One of the beasts had no limbs, it only had wheels and fangs. The second it appeared, it began to spin its wheels and rush toward Anthy with the fury of a train.
A purple whip of light encircled its body and held it in place. Homura took advantage of the situation, using a single arrow, put it down. She looked over her shoulder to see who had held it down.
Without any fanfare or introduction, a third girl had joined them. This one wore a purple outfit that completely bared her stomach. The weird thing about her was that she seemed to have wolf ears and a tail.
The three of them worked together in fighting the monsters. As far as Homura was aware, none of them knew each other and none of them had any reason to be helping her. Yet, here these two were. Homura was here because she was asked to. The other two weren’t asked. They weren’t her friends. She only needed one friend. Her one true friend. The only one that mattered in the world.
The three girls were starting to become exhausted from the constant fighting. The reinforcements for the monsters showed no signs of stopping. Homura struggled to stay in her feet. Her Soul Gem was growing dangerously dim.
“Anthy…” Homura looked at the almost gone girl. Swinging from a garland of flowers was a monster. “ANTHY!”
Homura dropped her bow and jumped. She reached to push Anthy out of the way. She expected her hand to pass through her. A small gasp escaped when she felt warm skin under her touch. Then everything went black.
There was darkness all around her. The only thing greater then the darkness was the silence. She felt a hard floor under her feet. One foot lifted and stomped down. It sounded like a wooden floor.
A bright light illuminated her from above. It was a spotlight. It made an island of light in the darkness.
A second one switched on. This one illuminated a ballerina with a small crown on her head and a beautiful necklace around her neck. She held her hands up, circling them, and then brought them down. She held out one hand in an invitation.
“Hello, Homura, will you come dance with me?”
Homura hesitated before she took the hand. She found herself pulled into a dance. Homura had never taken a dancing lesson in her life, yet she knew every step. It was simple but peaceful.
“What is going on?”
“Anthy is trying to return to a world with a prince and a castle in the sky?”
“To find her friend.”
“Yes. She cares deeply for Utena and can’t find her in the outside world.”
“I…have someone I care deeply for... someone.”
“I know you do. She has a message she wanted me to give you.”
Homura held her breath, slightly tripping over her own two feet.
“She will always be your friend, but she wants you to live for more then just her.”
“You will remember her when the time is right and you will see each other again. Right now, she wants you to live the life she can not. Laugh. Love. Cry. Just don’t push away other friendships, it isn’t what she gave her existence up for.”
“… Who are you?”
“I’m just a little bird, dreaming that I am a princess.”
Homura felt herself being shoke. She opened her eyes and looked up. Looking down at her was Cure Blossom and the wolf girl.
“You are alright. I thought you were going to die,” Cure Blossom said.
“Good. This means I can go,” the wolf said as she began to walk away.
“What happened to Anthy?”
“Anthy?” Cure Blossom asked. The wolf stopped to look back at the two.
“The girl I was protecting.”
“I only saw you here. Did you see anyone…” Cure Blossom hesitated for a name.
“Mew Zakuro. I didn’t see anyone but the two of you.”
“Nevermind,” Homura said as she forced herself up. “Thank you. I have school tomorrow. I need to go home.” She walked away from the scene of the fight.
That night she slept peacefully. After school she saw Sayaka and Mami together at the entrance. Kyouko had joined them.
“Hi,” Homura said as she approached them, “are the three of you doing anything after school?”
The other three could not contain the surprise on their faces. One and all they had all thought that Homura was not interested in being friends.
“We were going to go see a fashion show in the park,” Mami said.
“Mami is in love with one of the models,” Kyouko teased.
“I am not! I just happen to be a fan of Zakuro!” Mami’s face was red in embarrassment.
“Oh, sounds like Mami is in love,” Sayaka joined in. For once the two girls were united in teasing.
“I would like to come,” Homura said almost shyly.
“Great. We can all try and reunite Mami with her long, lost love,” Kyouko said as she grabbed Homura’s hand and started to pull her along.
Laughter rang out as Sayaka and Kyouko fled from the irate Mami, pulling along Homura. The four arrived in the park minutes later. The damage from the battle had been concealed with flowers.
“Homura,” a familiar voice called out.
Homura turned and saw the pink haired girl from yesterday. “Hello, Tsubomi. These are my friends.”
“Did you come to see Erika’s fashion show?”
Homura nodded in reply. “Yes, she is a big fan of one of the models.” She indicated Mami when she spoke.
“Do you want to come backstage and meet her?”
“YES!” The uncharacteristic outburst came from Mami. The redhead snickered at it.
“Come on,” Tsubomi led them around the crowd and backstage.
From a treeline three figures watched.
“Your friends are cute, Madoka.”
“When are you going to let them remember you?”
“When I come to collect them.”
“I feel bad for Anthy. She is misses you so much, Utena.”
“We’ll be together again, Duck. Come on, let’s go.”
The phantoms of Utena and Duck disappeared. The last one turned and looked at her four friends.
“I don’t want any of you to be lonely.”