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My Sunshine

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"I'll be back before you know it."

Those were the last words Miku heard Hibiki say to her before she once again left on a life-threatening mission. She had taken her hand in her own, and Miku did not want to let her go. But for the sake of those Hibiki would protect, she did.

Miku thought she was used to it by now. Used to Hibiki suddenly up and go at random times during the day, only to return late at night completely exhausted. She thought she was used to worry about her incessantly, only for Hibiki to answer back with a smile and a laugh. She really thought she was used to this.

But it never got easier, not for her. She saw her off again, like all those times before with a smile on her face. Usually, Miku would stay up for another hour or so, and then proceed to fall asleep, only to wake up to see Hibiki snoring loudly next to her and having to rouse so they won't be late. Those were the peaceful yet eventful daily lives they led.

But this time, Miku couldn't fall back asleep. Maybe it was just a weird gut feeling she had, but this time the pit in her stomach just refused to allow her to close her eyes again. It's not like she completely understood the enemies Hibiki had been facing recently. After all, everything she knew about Hibiki's missions came from Hibiki herself, and most of the time she spent comforting or encouraging her friend when she was feeling down. She had no reason or need to ask the others about this. She didn't know what sort of dangers Hibiki was facing on the battlefield. All she could do was simply see her off, and be there to welcome her back.

But she couldn't fall back asleep, so this time, she decided she'll personally welcome Hibiki back, no matter what hour she returned. She felt that if she did not do this, especially now, then Hibiki would not come back.

Miku stayed up all night, waiting. The strange feeling would not leave her at all during that time, but she shook it off as much as she could. She was sure that as soon as Hibiki walked in through that door, everything will be fine. It's okay, everything's fine, just like Hibiki always said.

Time passed, and Miku continued to sit in silence throughout the night. She waited, and waited, and waited, but the door to their shared room never opened. When the first rays of sunshine lit up the sky, the door still did not open. The pit in Miku's stomach only grew deeper as the sun rose, and she furrowed her brows in worry.

Maybe Hibiki was once again sent off to some god-knows-where in the world, which was why it was taking her so long. Hibiki's missions were almost always unpredictable, and it was only logical that at some point she might have to leave for a few days at a time, just like the time she left to the far off country of Val Verde.

Miku sighed, and despite getting only a few hours of sleep that night, fixed herself up and left for school.

The day passed by as a blur for her. Maybe it was exhaustion and sleepiness that muddled her mind, but she could barely remember any of it. She could partially recall making up some excuse for the teacher as to why Hibiki was absent, as well as giving some reassuring words to the trio that hung around them. At various times, Miku tried to call Hibiki on her cellphone, hoping for her to answer. Yet no matter how many times she rang, there was no answer on the other end.

The day passed, and Hibiki did not come home. Yet Miku reassured herself, telling herself that everything would be fine, and no matter how long it would take for Hibiki to get home, she would wait for her patiently.

The second night passed, and Hibiki did not come home.

Miku tried to stay focused, but she could not help but feel depressed. Usually, Hibiki would send her a text message or give her some sort of heads up and tell her not to worry. She would worry as always, but at least she would know Hibiki was okay.

Miku woke up on the second day, looked at the calendar, and realized it was Hibiki's birthday today. They had promised to celebrate it together, and Miku was eager to throw her dear friend a huge party for her seventeenth birthday. Yet, Hibiki did not come home. The thought of missing such an important date brought Miku's spirits further down, but she will be strong. It doesn't matter how long it takes for Hibiki to get home, they would celebrate her birthday even a month late.

The second day passed by, and night arrived, and Hibiki still did not come home.

Miku sat in their shared dorm, trying to distract herself by reading a magazine. She already ate dinner, and made sure to leave plenty of leftovers for Hibiki once she came back. Hibiki was a ravenous eater, and would probably finish everything in a single meal. It didn't help that the amount of exercise she was doing only enlarged her already massive appetite.

Miku never cared about that. Hibiki always enjoyed her meals, and she was always thankful to Miku for making them. The girl knew she would always make her friend's dinner, no matter how much time has passed.

So she would wait for her, and pray for her safety.

It was at that time, long into the night, that Miku finally got a call. She hurriedly picked up her cellphone, fumbling with it before holding it steady in her hands and looking at the screen.

'Kazanari Genjuro'

Instantly the pit in her stomach grew. The commander of Hibiki's unit, S.O.N.G they were called, seldom contacted her specifically. Even though she worked with them on and off sometimes, she could hardly be called an actual member of their organization. Any affiliation she truly had with them was through Hibiki first thing first.

So, the only reason he would ever call her...was if it had something to do with Hibiki.

Miku swallowed, and answered the phone. "Hello?"

"Ah, Miku-kun. I apologize for calling you at this hour."

"It's fine, sir." She answered calmly. "How can I help you?"

She heard him sigh heavily on the other end. "I'm afraid...Your presence is more than required at the moment. We need you to be here as soon as possible. A driver is already on his way to pick you up."

Miku grasped the phone tighter. "Something...happened to Hibiki, right?"

"I'm afraid so. I'll fill you in while you are on your way. This...is something only you can do." He said grimly.

"Very well. I'll be there as soon as possible."

"Thank you, Miku-kun. And once again, I'm sorry." He added, and finally hung up.

Miku sat in silence for a few minutes, only staring at her phone's screen absentmindedly. It was almost ironic, she had to admit. The one time she decides to welcome Hibiki home no matter at what hour was the one time she did not show up at all. Deep within herself, Miku felt as if she should blame herself for what has happened. Maybe if she had lightened up a bit more, and managed to go to sleep, then Hibiki would be back by now.

No, she can't think that way. Hibiki would be sad if she let such a mistaken feeling get her down. Slapping her cheeks once, Miku got up and got herself ready. She had something she needed to do. Hibiki needed her help.

And for Hibiki, Miku had no problem swimming through the Atlantic if she needed her.


"Hibiki is inside that thing, isn't she?" Miku asked first thing as she walked into the division's bridge and looking straight at the huge screen before her. "Is she alright?"

"Of course." Genjuro answered her. "Which is why I sent for you."

Miku took a good look at the...thing appearing on screen. From her perspective, it looked like some sort of demented cocoon. Purple and black all over, the cocoon was suspended in midair by tendrils connecting it to the nearby building. Its most distinguishable feature were the two glowing lines running through its mid section horizontally. Periodically, the two lines would pulsate with an ominous red light, and Miku shivered just from looking at it.

Genjuro's words hardly helped calm her down. He said Hibiki was alright inside that thing, but nothing about this thing felt natural or all right. If Miku knew anything about biology, whenever cocoons were involved, something was bound to hatch from it. And usually, not in its original form. That made Miku all the more frightened.

But Miku swallowed down her fear. These were good people. Whatever may happen, they will help Hibiki with all their power.

"Put us through to Maria-kun's team." He commanded. A moment later, a smaller screen appeared on the display, showing Maria, Kirika, and Shirabe listening attentively.

"We are ready over here." Maria said.

Genjuro nodded. However, Miku asked before he could speak. "How can we help Hibiki?"

In response, Elfnein, who had been sitting a little lower than the rest, turned to face them with a syringe filled with red liquid in hand. "With this."

"LiNKER?" Shirabe asked, noticing the familiar shape in the smaller girl's hand. "No, Anti-LiNKER?"

Elfnein looked towards the away team on the display. "That's right. LiNKER and Anti-LiNKER are two sides of the same coin. Now that I can synthesize LiNKER, I can also make Anti-LiNKER."

"But how is a drug that lowers sync rates going to help us now?" Maria found herself asking.

Pressing a few buttons on her console, Elfnein brought up images of Yohualtepoztli and the Divine Weapon, the two enemies related to divine power that they had faced until now. "Both Yohualtepoztli and the Divine Weapon needed a vessel in order to stably manifest their immense power. Doesn't that remind you of the Symphogear system?"

A sudden realization dawned on the Symphogear wielders. The explanation completely passed by Miku's head, even though she knew what those two drugs were. But it seemed like Elfnein reached a breakthrough, and had sounded confident enough.

"We can assume that the energy that engulfed Hibiki-kun is similar in nature to the energy of the relics that power the Symphogear." Genjuro added.

"Which means," Chris began, "That the Anti-LiNKER can pop that thing right off of her!"

Elfnein smiled. It was good to work with perceptive people. "That's right," She said. Reaching for her pocket, she pulled out the five pendants the wielders would need.

"Our converter units!" Tsubasa exclaimed.

Elfnein nodded. "I've finished cleaning off the barrier's aftereffects from them. You're good to go at any time."

Everyone seemed happy at the news. However Miku, who had been standing behind Genjuro the whole time, felt a bit out of place. "Um...Is there anything I can do?" she asked meekly.

Genjuro turned to her. "You're our ace in the hole. Our trump card."

"Eh? Me?" She said, surprised and pointing at herself. How was she going to be of use here?

"It'll be dangerous." Elfnein added.

Miku met the girl's gaze, and gathering her courage, nodded in acknowledgement. Hibiki put her own life at risk day after day. She could not turn her back on her now. "I understand!"

Genjuro turned back to the screen before him.

"Yes, you and one other…"


She was floating.

She wasn't sure exactly where she was or how she got there. Her memory was blurry, and everything around her felt empty. She was strangely warm, even though she was sure she was not wearing any clothes.

Hibiki floated in the nothingness, her mind muddled by a constant flow of colors. It was hard to focus on anything in particular, and right now letting her mind drift away felt like the best course of action.

She hated how alone she felt at the moment, and wanted someone to be near her right now. She wasn't sure who she wanted, but someone nonetheless.

Everything was weird, and did not feel natural at any point in time.

How much time had passed, really? She wasn't sure. She wasn't sure of anything at the moment.

Yes, she should just drift off. It was much easier than trying to focus on one particular thing. Exerting so much effort just on thinking was tiring, and she wasn't much of the thinking type. Just do what felt natural. Just like always.

As she felt her consciousness fade away into nothingness, a voice called out from inside the darkness.

"It's not like you to do nothing, Tachibana Hibiki."

Her eyes shot open. In a mere instant the darkness, the weirdness, the colors, the fog in her mind, all of them evaporated away, and she found herself in a world of clouds.

Hibiki sat up, or at least performed the action of sitting up. She could feel her hands gripping solid ground, but a good look at the ground revealed it was not earth at all, merely another cloud. 'Are clouds supposed to be like this?' She asked herself. She never really listened in class, but even a baby could tell that clouds are not something you can sit on.

Unless you are God or something, but that was definitely not the case here.

She looked around her, taking in the strange scenery she found herself in. It was like she was inside the sky itself, with the shining blue and the white clouds all around her. But how can that be? How did she get to this place?

And who was that voice that called out her name?

'Try to focus. One thing at a time.' She told herself. First, the voice. Usually, voices can explain things. "Uh, hello?"

There was no answer from the mysterious voice. She waited a few moments, staring ahead. Her voice echoed in this weird plane, but other than that nothing happened. The sky continued to be blue and the clouds continued to hang in place.

Hibiki looked around her, trying to find well, anything. Well, maybe exploring a bit would do no harm. It was many times better than the darkness she was floating in earlier.

"Okay then," She said to herself, and put a foot in front of her slowly. "And I have my clothes, that's good."

She put her foot down, finding solid ground once again. She sighed in relief, and proceeded to take a full step forward.

And then an immensely bright light appeared in front of her, startling her and causing her to lose her footing. "Wha…!" She let out, and instantly lost her balance, falling on her butt back on the cloud. For a cloud, it sure did hurt. "Owwww," She murmured, rubbing her behind.

The light continued to grow, and Hibiki found it difficult to keep looking at it. She raised an arm to cover her eyes, trying not to be blinded by the radiance.

Yet within that radiance, she could make out some sort of shape. A shape that looked vaguely human.

"Sorry about that." The same voice from before said. "It took a while to finally establish this form."

Her arm still covering her eyes, Hibiki noticed that the bright glow proceeded to slowly but surely die down. She no longer had to narrow her eyes, which was good, but still could not bring her arm down just yet. Who knew if that light would be back again.

"Ah, it's fine now, you can look." The voice said, now much more stable and much more...feminine?

"Huh?" Hibiki let out. She lowered her arm, realizing the glow did indeed disappear, and in its place was…

Her eyes widened in complete shock, and her mouth hung open at the sight before her.

The red haired form before her raised a hand and smiled, waving in her direction. "Yo."

"Ka-" Hibiki said. "Kanade-san?!"


Two hours. That was the timeframe they were given to finish the operation.

For a reason beyond her understanding, Hibiki had been classified as a type 2 supernatural disaster. Miku had no idea what that meant, but she definitely could understand what the Kazanari patriarch meant by unlimited use of armed force, and the probably inevitable use of weapons of mass destruction.

Miku shuddered just from thinking about it. The UN would rather blow Hibiki up along with tens of thousands of civilians in order to eliminate a possible threat to the world. She couldn't stomach it. She couldn't believe that they would so quickly designate her as a threat and barely give them enough time to rescue her first. They would rather kill everyone right now than wait. She tried to talk back to him, but he ignored her as if she was a mere bug in his presence. Thankfully, Tsubasa stood up for her and let the man have a piece of her mind.

That was until Aoi informed them that assault forces were converging on the cocoon, which meant that they had even less time than that.

Miku bit her lip. This whole situation was absurd. But she couldn't let it get to her. They had a plan after all. A plan involving trucks loaded full with Anti-LiNKER, but a plan nonetheless. And her role in it was simple, yet undeniably important.

Call out to Hibiki when the time comes, that's all. She was surprised by the simple request Genjuro made to her, and she wasn't sure why her voice alone would work, but she decided to nod and do it. She had reliable allies to get Hibiki back, that's all that mattered. Every single one of them cared about her, in their own way. If the time they have is two hours, then they will get her back in one.

She was shaken from her thoughts when the sounds of explosions filled the air. Raising her head up, Miku stared in shock at the screen in front of her. She could see a line of tanks, their barrels aimed at the cocoon Hibiki was encased in, and smoke rising from their muzzles. They were...trying to destroy the cocoon?!

"No!" Miku yelled to the comm, shooting up in her seat. "Genjuro-san! You have to stop them!"

"I'm on it!" He answered. "All wielders, head out! Stop those tanks from firing anymore!"

Over the comms, Miku heard the various wielders acknowledge his order. However, in the meantime, the tanks fired another volley.

And this time, it seemed to be doing damage. Glowing golden fractures began to appear on it, and Miku's heart clenched. If they continued, they might hurt Hibiki!

"Please! Stop them!" She screamed again in despair.

The wielders were on their way, but they won't make it in time for the third volley!

Just as the tanks were about to fire, a massive amount of light erupted from the fractures on the cocoon. The fractures grew, encompassing the entire structure, and the tendrils that connected it to the buildings shattered, and the whole thing fell to the ground with a loud thud. The golden light enveloped the entire cocoon, its shape disappearing from within the light. All those watching were blinded by the glow, Miku included.

Something was finally happening.

And Miku could not help but feel that something was terribly, terribly wrong.


"Kanade-san?! How! What!" Hibiki exclaimed in total shock at the girl in front of her. Somehow, and out of nowhere, the supposedly dead member of Zwei Wing appeared in front of her! Then if she was here, and there were all these clouds, then that meant... "Wait, if you're here, does it mean I'm dead?!"

Kanade laughed. "No, you're not dead, I can promise you that." She said, chuckling at the relieved sigh Hibiki let out.

"Oh, that's great! Wait, but if I'm not dead, how are you here, Kanade-san? And where is well...here, exactly?" Hibiki asked her.

Kanade met her gaze and scratched her cheek in thought. "Hmmm, well I think I can answer your questions." She said, lowering her hand. "Well, the first thing I can tell you is that I'm not exactly this Kanade you speak of."

Hibiki tilted her head in question. "Huh? What do you mean."

"Hmm, how can I explain it…" 'Kanade' said. "Think of me as a...form I took in order for you to be able to communicate with me. Seeing as using any of your still living friends as a template would confuse you too much, I decided to go for the safe route."

Hibiki scratched her head. "I'm still really confused, so I don't know how much that helped really."

'Kanade' put a hand on her hip. "Hehehehe, well had I taken my real form you would be way more confused than that, I can assure you."

"I don't really get it, but okay." Hibiki answered. "So wait, if you are not Kanade-san, then who are you?"

'Kanade' lowered her hand from her hip, and looked down straight at the girl. "I am...the divine power, so to say."

Hibiki narrowed her eyes. "What? You mean the same thing that that Adam guy tried to-"

"Yes, the very same one." 'Kanade' interrupted her. "I am the representation of the divine power, and you, Tachibana Hibiki, have been chosen. This space you have been taken to is separate from the outside world. I chose to bring you to this place in order for us to talk."

Hibiki shot up to her feet, standing before the fake Kanade. She was shorter than the red haired imposter in front of her, but she could still fight back if necessary!

"I do not wish to fight, Hibiki, only to talk." 'Kanade' said calmly, ignoring the rising fighting spirit from the girl in front of her. "You always say that you wish to talk first, do you not? Is that invitation not extended to me as well?"

Hibiki grimaced. No matter who she was, she was right. She needed to see what she had to say first before anything else. If she could talk to her, then they could understand each other. If they could understand each other, then they could possibly work together, one way or another.

She relaxed her posture, and looked up at the taller girl. "Alright," she said. "You said I was...chosen? What do you mean by that?"

'Kanade' smiled, and gestured forward. "Walk with me."

Hibiki narrowed her eyes, but fell into step next to the imposter, and the two began stepping through the giant world of clouds.

As they walked Hibiki looked around her, taking in the sights. The place didn't seem to end or change in any way, which was odd since she was sure they were actually walking forward. Maybe this placed looped or something? She wasn't sure, but she was definitely sure of the fact that she should be wary.

"Now, where do I even begin?" 'Kanade' said. "Ah yes, that Adam Weishaupt. For a puppet he sure is tenacious, I'll give him that. The fact he managed to bring divine power down to Earth is astounding all on its own. To bind it to a vessel even more so. But alas, it didn't quite work out for him as he intended did it?"

Hibiki tilted her head, and looked up at 'Kanade'. "What do you mean?"

The representation merely looked forward at the passing clouds, and continued her explanation. "He thought he could control such a power by just binding it to a vessel. But that's not how divine power works you know? It has to be accepted, and only then can it truly be used to its full potential. Unfortunately, there is no one on Earth who is capable of harnessing it."

The imposter stopped walking, and looked Hibiki straight in the eye. "No one...except you."

"Eh?" Hibiki let out. "Me? I don't understand."

'Kanade' chuckled. "Of course you don't, so I'll explain it. This is what I meant by you being chosen, Hibiki. You, out of all the people of Earth, have the ability to truly harness the divine power, and use it as you see fit. And I want to give it to you."

Hibiki froze in place, and stared at the figure in front of her incredulously. "You want me to...have the divine power? What are you talking about?!"

It was insane. The divine power, that moments before was laying waste and destruction upon the city, the same one that so many people were sacrificed for. She wants her to use such a thing?!

"Yes, the very same one-"

"I refuse."

A sudden silence fell due to Hibiki's sudden declaration. The imposter's eyes widened at the abrupt denial. "There is no way I'm accepting something like that. Absolutely no way." Hibiki continued, eyes narrowed.

"Hibiki, you don't understand-" 'Kanade' tried to add, but was cut off.

"No, I understand. I may not be the smartest person, but I definitely know when something is good or not. And this divine power...thing, is not good. Too many people died for this. Too many people suffered for this. I won't accept something that was made by trampling on others." Hibiki said. "You can forget it. Take me back, I need to help everyone."

'Kanade' fell quiet, looking at the spirited girl before her. "I see...In that case, may I explain something?" She asked.

"What is it?"

In response to Hibiki's question, 'Kanade' turned around, and raised her hand above her head. Hibiki watched as a ball of golden light suddenly appeared in the red head's hand.

And as the light expanded, the world around them suddenly began shifting. The clouds suddenly accelerated to light speed, and Hibiki looked to and fro and saw how the entire world changed around her. It made her nauseous just looking at it.

Moments later, everything suddenly stabilized, and Hibiki found herself on an open grass field.

A light breeze blew through the plain, causing Hibiki to shiver, rubbing her arms at the sudden drop in temperature. 'Kanade' kept on standing before her, her arm still raised to the sky. "What are you doing?!" Hibiki asked her loudly.

"This is...a demonstration." Was the imposter's response.

"Wha-"

Before Hibiki could finish, the world suddenly shifted and accelerated again, warping ominously. She closed her eyes, unable to look. When she opened them again, she let out a horrified gasp. No longer were they in a vast open plain, but rather in a barren wasteland. Rain fell on the world, crashing amidst the ruins of the city Hibiki once called home. Wherever she looked, she could see familiar landmarks, all of them destroyed in one way or another. From the pier in which S.O.N.G's headquarters resided, to Lydian Academy, and even the concert hall in which everything had begun.

Hibiki fell to her knees, unable to stomach the sight. "What...is happening?" She asked desperately.

"This is what the divine power can do." 'Kanade' answered.

And then the world shifted again. Again, and again, and again. Before her eyes, Hibiki found herself transported between several locations, both real and unreal, in a matter of seconds. From the barren wasteland, to a field filled with nothing but swords, basking in a distant twilight. To a futuristic landscape, a place where human civilization reached unprecedented heights. To a hospital, watching those who died and were born. She was transported from place to place, and she could simply stay on her knees, completely immobile and paralyzed by what she was seeing.

And finally, they reached the stars, and watched the Earth from above.

Hibiki's heart raced as she looked down at the planet she called home, its brilliant blue glow lighting up the dark universe. "The divine power is simply a tool, Hibiki. It responds to whoever uses it. If that person wishes for destruction, then that is what it shall be used for." 'Kanade' said.

Hibiki found it difficult to tear her eyes away from the sight of the world before her. "But at its core, the divine power is a very simple thing." She added.

"It is the power to change the world."

The chestnut haired Symphogear user found it hard to breath, but forced herself to her feet uneasily. "What...are you-"

"Adam tried to use it to his own ends, yet he could not." 'Kanade began. "There was no way he could. No one on this blue planet could ever harness the divine power to its full potential. Do you know why that is?"

Hibiki merely looked at her, not giving her a response. She truly was clueless to the reason.

"It was because he was sinful. As they say, the heavens do not respond to those who harbor sins. That is why Finé could never remove the Curse of Balal. It is why John Wayne Vercingetorix could not become a hero. It is why Carol Malus Dienheim could never achieve her vengeance. Their delusional plans to control the world were destined to fail from the very beginning. They were sinful, and so they were rejected by the divine, by the gods. By destiny itself." She said. The red haired fake then turned to Hibiki, her form illuminated by the Earth's glow. "But you are not, Tachibana Hibiki. You are a human free of sin. Your body, your mind, and your soul do not bear even a tinge of sin within them. It is peculiar, it is an anomaly, but it is reality nonetheless. And that is why, out of all the beings in the universe, you alone deserve to hold this power."

"I...don't understand…" Hibiki let out weakly.

'Kanade' huffed. "Quite frankly, I don't either. It is impossible for a human to be completely free of sin, even if they were a saint their entire lives. For humans harbor the Original Sin from the day they are born, and as a result will always be ineligible to hold divine power. Yet, you are freed from it. I do not know the circumstances as to why that is, for I am merely a representation of divine power, and not a divine being myself. All I can tell you Hibiki, is that you are free to do with it as you wish."

'Kanade' turned back to the Earth, and raised her palm towards it. "As the righteous holder of it, you could do whatever your heart desires. Whether it is to create a brand new wonderful world, or…"

And then a golden radiance once again erupted from the imposter's hand.

Suddenly, the Earth shook, and Hibiki watched in horror as it violently exploded in a blinding flash of light. Fiery fragments of molten rock shot in all directions, the last remains of the planet dissipating into empty space, leaving behind nothing but dust.

In an instant, memories of her life until now flashed before her eyes. Her times with Miku, Tsubasa, Chris, and everyone else in S.O.N.G. Her peaceful days at school, the people she saved on her missions, everything that she had ever experienced showed itself before her in a mere instant.

All of that was gone along with the Earth.

She could no longer bear watching. She fell again to her knees, and her head met the nonexistent ground. Sweat trickled down her face, and she could feel her entire body burn up. She felt sick, as if she wanted to puke.

'Kanade' stared down at her, but said nothing. She merely raised her hand once again, and the world around them changed again, bringing them to a clearing. Evergreens circled them in all directions, and in the middle of the clearing was a small lake, filled to a brim with crystal clear water.

"That is the full extent of the might of divine power. And should you choose to accept it, it will be yours to command." 'Kanade' said.

At this point Hibiki could barely listen to the imposter. She heard what she said, but the sheer scope of her words overwhelmed her.

Power beyond measure, and the ability to create the world anew. Just thinking about it made her mind go into overdrive. She always had a simple mindset, and something as incredible as that was way beyond her, that was something she was sure of.

Had she been anyone else, or even if such an offer was made to her at any other time, then she might have considered it.

But now…

"I can't." She simply said.

'Kanade' looked down at her quietly. "I just...can't." The girl continued. "Something like this...even if it can be used for good...even if it can make the world a better place...I just can't accept something like that."

She let out a sniffle she didn't know she was holding. "I said this to St. Germain-san...Using a godlike power to get rid of a curse caused by God is wrong...People...have to change as people. You can't...force them to change as you like, just to fit your own justice. That is why...I can't accept something...that will do that."

Silence fell on the clearing. A light breeze once again blew, and the grass whistled lightly. The treetops were ruffled by the winds, and a few loose leaves fell to the ground softly.

'Kanade' looked down at the girl, her face still buried in the grass, and smiled. "You truly are kind, Hibiki."

The warm response caught Hibiki completely off guard. She raised her head, completely confused, and saw the imposter approach her. "You truly only think of others above yourself. That is a valuable quality, Hibiki. I am glad that out of all the people who could have been chosen, it was you."

Hibiki's eyes widened. "Wha-"

'Kanade' kneeled down and cupped Hibiki's face between her palms gently, smiling all the while. "You know, I kind of expected you to refuse, and I'm glad I was not wrong." She said. "But you know, I won't force you to do anything you wouldn't like. In fact, you don't have to use the divine power at all."

The Symphogear user was far too confused to try and even ask what the fake Kanade meant. "Honestly, I don't care what you do with it. I don't mind even if you keep it with you and forget about it completely. Heck, for all I know you can even send it back if you want."

"Send...it back?" Hibiki managed to let out.

"Yeah, you can do that with it too. All the divine power wants is a worthy vessel, otherwise it will go berserk just like you saw. As soon as you leave this place, you can simply will it to return from where it came. So long as you don't hand it over to Adam, but I'm sure that won't happen." The imposter added. "My entire purpose was to inform you that you were worthy, that is all. From here on, it is up to you."

Hibiki blinked a few times, finally able to follow the imposter's explanation. 'Kanade' let go of Hibiki face, and stood up again, the chestnut haired girl following suit. They stood before each other, their gaze meeting. "So uh...How...do I go back, exactly?" Hibiki asked.

'Kanade' simply pointed to the lake in the clearing, and Hibiki's vision followed her finger. "Simply enter this lake and allow yourself to fall into it. That is the way out I made for you. Once you are back to the real world, just do what I told you."

Hibiki however was a bit hesitant. "Are you sure that will work?"

"Positive. I have no reason to lie to you." 'Kanade' answered.

"Alright, I guess." Hibiki responded. She took a step forward hesitantly, walking slowly towards the crystal clear lake. 'Kanade' simply patiently watched from behind, looking at the girl who slowly dipped her foot into the water.

Hibiki shivered slightly at the unexpected temperature. "Whoa, it's cold."

"Ah, sorry about that. I figured water had to be a little chilly." 'Kanade' said, rubbing the back of her head sheepishly.

Hibiki stopped at the lake's edge, but gathered her courage and headed deeper in. With each step she took, the water rose accordingly, and soon enough she found herself completely covered except for her head. She turned in the water to look at the imposter. "So all I have to do now is to let myself fall in, right? I won't drown or anything right?"

"Nah, you won't drown. It's not real water anyway so you have no need to be afraid of that. Simply float and relax your muscles. Your body weight will eventually drag you down. It's a lot deeper than you will expect but you have no reason to worry." 'Kanade' replied.

"Okay, I guess." Hibiki said softly, and kicked in the water, raising her feet so they reached the surface of the water. She floated on her back, staring at the sky, not truly struggling to keep afloat.

"Oh, and before you go, Hibiki." 'Kanade' suddenly said loudly. "Don't forget, you can do anything with that power. Use it to change the world as you wish."

Hibiki merely smiled. "Yeah, as if that would happen." She relaxed her muscles, and let the water slowly envelop her. Before she completely disappeared beneath the surface, she spoke up again. "Thank you, Kanade-san."

And with those words, Hibiki closed her eyes and allowed herself to fall into the crystal clear abyss. Soon after that, she felt as her consciousness float away, signifying her return to the real world.

'Kanade' stared at the girl slowly falling deeper and deeper, and stood completely still. "Anytime, Hibiki. I'm glad you chose to accept the divine power after all."

The surface of the lake began to slightly bubble at the spot where Hibiki had descended.

And the imposter's gentle smile suddenly twisted, becoming a mad, savage grin. "ALONG WITH TWO THOUSANDS YEARS OF HUMANITY'S GRUDGES AND CURSES!"

It was an expression that would have been out of place on the real Amou Kanade. But within this illusionary space, within this fake reality constructed by the representation of divine power, anything was possible.

And from within the pendant of Gungnir that had been on Hibiki's person the entire time, a wave of bulbous black sludge rose, tainting the crystal clear water with its poison. It rose to the lake's surface and erupted like a volcano, spreading the sludge all over the fake world 'Kanade' had constructed.

The illusion began to break away like glass, and the sky itself shattered, its fragments falling down upon the once beautiful clearing as the black sludge continued to rise in droves from the bottom of the lake.

The fake Kanade simply stood and smiled, watching in glee as the world was consumed around her. "Yes...the grudges and curses that were stored within the divine spear Gungnir...have been brought to the surface due to the acceptance of the divine power."

She let out a soft chuckle. "The god slaying power of the Lance of Longinus, representing humanity's rage towards the heavens, and the symbol of their eternal lack of mutual understanding. Yessss...Now the human world will truly change. Divine power, combining with a god slaying one...will produce quite a spectacular result."

Her own body began to fragment, but her chuckling turned into a crazed, loud laugh that echoed through the shattering world. "YES! GO, TACHIBANA HIBIKI! GO AHEAD AND CREATE THE WORLD ANEW!"

The fake's body crumbled to pieces, and the darkness enveloped the world.

"AS A VESSEL OF TOTAL DESTRUCTION! THE HARBINGER OF ALL THE EVILS OF THIS WORLD!"


When the light finally died down, the Symphogear wielders were not sure what they were looking at.

The massive cocoon had disappeared, and all that remained in its place was a small crater at the location towards which it had plunged. Which was strange, considering that Elfnein's calculations had expected a completely different result. There was no massive beast on the scale of the Divine Weapon that had been previously destroyed. Only…

Only a human sized form that looked very familiar.

"Tachibana…" Tsubasa let out. She was...alright? How was that possible? The divine power had completely engulfed her. There was no way she could…

"Commander," Maria said over the comm. "We are going in to investigate."

"Copy that, Maria-kun. Proceed with caution. We have no way of knowing what exactly is going on now that our predictions proved to be wrong." Genjuro answered.

"Roger."

The silver Symphogear user looked towards her allies, and they all nodded in acknowledgement. As a unit, all five walked forward, intent on truly understanding what was happening.

Only Saint-Germain remained, rooted to the spot, her eyes narrowed on the human shaped form at the center of the rubble. She had deliberately allied herself with the Symphogears in order to combat Adam and the divine power, and with Adam having retreated following the cocoon's formation, she now had a focus.

But her centuries old intuition told her that something was awfully wrong here, and that she must watch closely to see how things will proceed. Her mind raced with endless possibilities, each one more absurd than the last.

Tsubasa led the way up the small incline, the others following behind her. She was wracked with nerves, not sure what to expect.

When the five finally reached the top, they caught sight of the human sized form and instantly their faces lightened with recognition. "Tachibana!" Tsubasa let out, running towards her wayward teammate in the center of the crater.

From her position inside one of the trucks, Miku shouted in delight. "Hibiki!"

Quickly, the black haired girl exited the truck, and ran at full speed towards her friend, passing by Saint-Germain on the way.

Only for a hand to suddenly lock around her shoulder, nearly throwing her off balance. "Eh?" She said, looking towards the one who had grabbed her, finding herself looking Saint-Germain dead in the eye.

"I would stay back if I were you." The alchemist clad in her Faust Robe said cautiously. "We do not know her true state just yet. Let your friends bring her here first."

"St. Germain-san, what are you-"

"There is something terribly wrong here." The alchemist merely said, still staring ahead at the group crowded in the crater, releasing her hold on Miku's shoulder.

Miku's eyes widened, but she said nothing in response. She grabbed her shirt near her heart and turned to face the location where her friend was located, hoping for the best.

Inside of the crater, the Symphogear wielders hurried to their friend's side. They quickly found her down on one knee, facing away from them, and her head cast downwards towards the ground, unmoving.

"Tachibana, are you alright?" Tsubasa asked the kneeling Symphogear user. She did notice that she was clad in Gungnir, albeit looking a little bit...different than what she remembered. It was a bit darker in color than she recalled. And did she always have these small wings protruding from her back? And were these purple glowing lines always running across the armor's form?

In response to Tsubasa's question, Hibiki suddenly rose to her feet, standing to her full, yet familiar short height. She still faced away from them, not turning around.

"Tsubasa-san…" She whispered, almost going unheard.

Chris trudged forward closer to her. "Oi, dumbass! We were worried sick about you!"

"Yukine, please calm down." Tsubasa commanded. They still had to be cautious, but seeing as Hibiki seemed to be physically fine, they could relax a bit more now. The Ame-no-Habakiri user raised her hand to the device in her ear. "Commander, we have confirmed Tachibana's wellbeing. We're bringing her back now."

"Copy that, Tsubasa. Please escort her to the medical room so we can have them take a look at her." He ordered.

"Roger."


Genjuro relaxed in his seat, letting out a sigh he didn't know he was holding. "Looks like we might have been overly concerned." He said, eliciting a small laugh from Fujitaka.

"Yeah, maybe." The bridge member replied. "Hopefully everything goes back to normal from here."

"Don't jinx it." Aoi replied quickly and seriously.

"Sorry." The man replied and looked back to his console.

The commander looked between the two of them with a small smile on his face, but his expression dropped when he saw Elfnein, staring hard at her console, completely paralyzed. "Elfnein-kun, what's wrong?"

The small alchemist could barely form the words she wanted to say, merely speaking to herself. "What...are these...readings?"

"What are you-"

All of a sudden the alarms blared loudly throughout the command center, catching the members of S.O.N.G completely by surprise.

Genjuro shot to his feet, and screamed over the alarm. "Status report! Now!"

"We are detecting extremely high levels of energy rising from Hibiki-chan!" Aoi screamed back, furiously tapping away at her console.

"What?!"

Elfnein, who had been working nonstop from the beginning, raised her voice as well. "This is...this is the same pattern as before! The same one that came from the Divine Weapon! But there is more here! Something we have never seen before!" She said, transferring the rapidly changing data to the bigger display so everyone could see. "This...it's imbued within the Aufwachen wavelength!"

"What?!"

Looking at the visual readings on the display, Genjuro could barely contain his shock at the twisted, yet familiar pattern that he could see on the screen. "That's…"

Aoi let out a gasp. And Genjuro could only speak the words in horror.

"THAT'S GUNGNIR?!"

Elfnein smashed her hand on the comm button, and screamed. "EVERYONE, GET OUT OF THERE NOW!"


The sudden panic and the background noise of the alarm from the comm caused the wielders to flinch suddenly, barely hearing the scream over the comm. "Elfnein?!" Tsubasa called out, but was met with only more noise.

Fortunately for her, there was someone on the battlefield that could deliver the message much more clearly.

Saint-Germain yelled. "GET AWAY FROM HER RIGHT NOW!"

Tsubasa turned around to stare at the alchemist, having barely caught her warning. "What are you-"

SQUELCH!

Tsubasa's step faltered. She looked at her teammates, and caught the look of complete shock and horror in their faces. Yet their eyes were not looking directly at her. No, they were staring at her stomach.

Or at least, what was left of it.

Tsubasa looked down, and caught sight of the far too familiar spear piercing through her midsection from behind. It looked quite strange in her eyes. Last time she saw it it was being wielded by Maria, but even then it did not look quite so strange.

It was a dark orange color, and glowing purple lines ran across its length like twisted veins. But the most surprising aspect...was the pulsating green core at its center.

"What-"

SHING!

And the spear was withdrawn from her with a nasty squelch. Tsubasa's mind, finally having caught up with reality, went into overdrive. She lost strength in her legs, and fell forward, her face meeting the ground in mere moments. Blood pooled beneath her, leaking from the gargantuan hole in her stomach.

Her vision was instantly darkening, and she could hear someone scream her name, but she was not sure what.

She turned as much as she could, desperate to catch sight of the one who had downed her, and froze.

"Yes," Hibiki said. "It is my time now."

The Gungnir user held her spear, Tsubasa's blood leaking from it in droves.

"I will change the world."

And the last thing Kazanari Tsubasa saw before her mind fell to darkness…

Was the eerie emerald glow of Tachibana Hibiki's eyes.

Chapter Text

Kirika thought she had seen everything. She truly, truly did.

But nothing could prepare her for a horrifying moment like this.

"TSUBASA!" Maria screamed upon seeing her comrade fall to the ground with a gaping injury in her stomach. The attack caught her, and everyone else completely unprepared. Not because it was an attack from behind, and not because it was sudden.

But because it came from a person who they considered a friend.

The silver Symphogear user was at Tsubasa's side instantly, begging her to stay awake. Shirabe immediately joined her, trying to somehow stop the massive of amount of blood leaking from Tsubasa's wound.

Kirika stood still, completely speechless, and her eyes wide with shock and horror at what she just witnessed. Even the sound of screaming coming from her headset was completely drowned out in the chaos.

Only Chris, the only other unoccupied Symphogear, reacted. She glared at Hibiki, who watched them silently and expressionlessly. "What...What the hell did you just do damn it?!" She screamed at the Gungnir user. "Why did you do that you idiot?!"

Hibiki's response was to meet Chris' gaze with her own, and the Ichaival user nearly took a step back in shock as she took in her form.

Gungnir's armor had changed almost completely. Its color had changed, becoming a dark orange all over, the white highlights having completely disappeared. Glowing purple lines ran over the armor erratically, and some of them even began covering parts of Hibiki's naked skin. Her previous plate armor vanished, having become a long cleavage window leading all the way down to her belly button. Her legs were covered up to her thighs in the same dark orange armor, and the whole thing gave Chris a feeling not unlike the Ignite Module style. However, all of that paled in comparison to the one glaring and obvious change that caused Chris to shiver.

It was her eyes. Her eyes, previously an energetic yet warm amber color, were now an otherworldly glowing emerald. However, it was not just her irises that had changed, as even her sclera had a light green shade in them that caused her to give off a very alien vibe.

All in all, a very evil feeling was coming off of the armor in droves.

"She had it coming, Chris-chan." Hibiki suddenly said, still holding the dripping bloody spear in her hand. It was another aspect that caught Chris completely by surprise. She only ever saw Hibiki use her fists in order to fight enemies. She never truly used an Armed Gear in battle, the only instance she remembered was during the final battle with Carol.

But this was different. Much more different.

"What the fuck are you talking about?!" Chris cursed.

Hibiki swung the spear to the side, splashing Tsubasa's blood onto the ground. "She was sinful, so she got what she deserved." The Gungnir user simply added.

"Sinful?! What the hell are you blabbering about?! Where the hell did this attitude come from?!" Chris shouted angrily. "WHY THE FUCK DID YOU KILL SENPAI YOU BITCH?!"

"Chris-kun, please calm down." Genjuro told her.

"Calm down?! You expect me to fucking calm down?! I will calm down when someone explains what the hell is happening damn it!" She yelled into the comm.

Genjuro went silent momentarily. "We don't know."

"You don't know?! What do you mean by you don't know?!" She asked in shock.

"We just don't know. All we know is that Tsubasa is still alive and breathing, if barely. Her life signs are faint, and I've instructed Shirabe-kun to bring her in for treatment immediately." He said. Chris glanced backwards, seeing the pink clad underclassmen riding away with Tsubasa in hand. "But other than that, nothing. We have no idea what happened to Hibiki-kun. Every single calculation we made proved to be completely worthless in the face of this development. Elfnein-kun is wracking her brain trying to even begin to understand what is going on, but even that is giving us very little results. We are completely blind here."

"Completely blind…" Chris whispered to herself, and then looked towards the Gungnir user. Hibiki stayed in the same spot as before, and raised her hand to study her armored arm, looking at it with wonder.

"So this is what she meant…" She said, catching Chris' rapt attention. "This power...is amazing. It really feels good and overwhelming," she added. A huge, disturbing smile suddenly lit up her face. "I can really make a better world with this!"

"Make a better world…" Chris repeated to herself. In her mind, flashbacks of one too many world-ending incidents rose to the surface, each one worse than the last. Memories of Fine filled her brain, and she clenched her teeth, baring them at Hibiki.

Her response was almost instantaneous. Materializing her crossbow in her hand, Chris aimed it at Hibiki, who tilted her head back in response, her smile fading. "You'll raise your weapon against me again, Chris-chan?" Hibiki simply asked.

Chris grit her teeth. "I'll consider lowering it if you explain what the hell you are talking about." She said threateningly.

"It's simple really," Hibiki began. "I am going to get rid of all the sinful people in the world, and then I am going to make it a paradise."

Chris' eyes widened. "Wha-"

"It is because of them that people can't understand each other. It is because of all those who refuse to listen and only care about themselves. It is those people who bring suffering to others." She said, looking away from Chris. "I've had enough of people like them. Time and time again we had to fight and suffer and cry because of people like that. And as long those sinful people exist, I am going to get rid of them. With this new power," she added, clenching her free hand. "I will enact justice."

Chris almost dropped her crossbow in her shock. Everything Hibiki just said sounded completely incomprehensible. Not because of her words, no those she understood perfectly. She heard many versions of the same thing in the past, and had always more or less brushed them off. All those grandiose plans that their enemies had that always fell apart at the seams.

No, it was incomprehensible because out of all the people in the world, Hibiki was the one saying them.

"You can't possibly be serious." Chris answered back.

Hibiki narrowed her eyes at the Ichaival user. "It seems that you don't believe me."

"Of course I don't! How the hell can you spout such nonsense you dumbass! How hard did you hit your head for you to go completely insane?!" Chris yelled back at her.

Hibiki sighed. "In that case…"

The Gungnir user turned to face Chris fully, and in one motion raised her spear, pointing its tip right to Chris' face. "I am going to have to convince you the hard way."

Chris stood motionless, staring at the spear's tip right in front of her. Sweat dripped down her brows as her heart began beating rapidly in her chest.

In an instant, Chris could imagine her own death at her hands. It would take less than a second for her to thrust the spear forward and pierce through her head completely and scatter her brain across the ground.

Hibiki was serious. Dead serious. And that scared Chris all the more.

Moments later, a ball of golden light coalesced at the spear's tip. "This will make you understand." Hibiki added coldly.

And a beam of light erupted from the spear. It streaked through the air, and Chris gasped as the light approached her and…

Missed her head by less than an inch. The Ichaival user could only stare in shock at the weapon raised at her.

BOOM!

A loud explosion tore through the area, sending rubble in all directions. Chris hurriedly looked behind her, her hair buffeted by the wind, and her eyes widened even further.

The row of tanks that had earlier tried to destroy the cocoon Hibiki had emerged from…

Were completely and utterly destroyed. Molten pieces of scrap metal flew in all directions, landing all over the battlefield. Everything about the battalion, including the people inside…

Were gone.

Chris could only turn around very slowly, a look of horror etched on her face. Her eyes met Hibiki's, who still had a cold expression on her face. The Gungnir user lowered her spear, and spoke softly. "I think that was proof enough, right?"

Chris could not answer her. Speechless, the incomprehensible act that just occurred shook her to the bone.

Hibiki just killed people. Hibiki, the overly kind and bubbly girl who always fought to understand and help others…

Just killed innocents.

"You…" The red Symphogear user murmured. "How could you?!"

"I already told you, Chris-chan," Hibiki answered. "I am going to get rid of all the sinful people in the world. They were a part of the problem, so I delivered justice."

"Justice?" Chris muttered shakily. "JUSTICE? What the hell is just about what you just did?! They were innocent damn it! They were only doing their jobs! What the hell is wrong with you?!"

"Then they should have thought about that before they tried to attack me." Hibiki simply responded. "Which reminds me…"

The Gungnir user turned to Chris fully, her eyes locked onto her. "You are also sinful, Chris-chan. So for the sake of the world I will create…" She took a step forward.

"You will have to disappear too."

"I've heard enough!"

Hibiki stopped walking, and the two girls turned to the sound of the sudden voice.

Maria walked forward, her short sword in hand, an expression of fury on her face. "I have no idea what happened to you, Hibiki-san, but you've gone way too far. I cannot stand back and watch you kill more innocents like this. You may be my friend, but I will not let this continue anymore. You crossed the line when you threatened Chris."

Maria brandished her sword, and took a stance before Hibiki, who simply stared at her.

"That's right," Kirika added, going to stand by Maria's side and taking her own stance. "We won't let you do this, Hibiki-san."

"Maria-san, Kirika-chan...You two will turn on me as well?" Hibiki asked.

"If this is what it takes to make you stop this nonsense," Maria responded resolutely. "Then yes, we will."

Her comrades' resolve shook Chris out of her stupor, and she too raised her crossbows at the Gungnir user. "Yes, that's right. We will beat that bullshit out of you real soon, and drag you back home kicking and screaming."

Hibiki looked between the three Symphogear users nonchalantly. "Do you really believe you can beat me?" She asked.

"We won't know…" Maria said, crouching down low. "UNTIL WE TRY!"

And she charged forward towards her once savior, hellbent on saving her this time.


S.O.N.G's headquarters were in pure chaos.

Genjuro tapped on his arm restlessly as they went over the rapidly increasing amounts of information. When Hibiki suddenly mortally wounded Tsubasa, as one they all went into shock at what they were seeing, Elfnein in particular. She was the one who had predicted exactly how their plan would go to the smallest possible detail.

And it all blew up in their faces. Trying to use the Anti-LiNKER trucks now would be nothing short of impossible. They saw and heard Hibiki's animosity, and now they were scurrying to find a solution, any solution that could possibly help them now.

Then everything changed when Hibiki destroyed the battalion of tanks with the soldiers still inside. That was the moment Genjuro knew that there was no going back from this.

Shirabe stood by him in her uniform, still breathing hard after having ridden faster than ever in order to deliver Tsubasa to the medical room as fast as possible. She barely made it in time for them to save her, as thankfully her Symphogear kept her alive just enough. She was still in critical condition, but nothing life-threatening. The last time Tsubasa was injured this badly, she had used her Superb Song and nearly blew up her organs.

The sound of rapid ticking of consoles droned on, and Genjuro found himself becoming even more restless than before. The only thing they knew for sure was that Hibiki had apparently taken in the divine power.

But that did not explain why she was suddenly declaring her intention to cleanse the world of the sinful and proceed to threaten her comrades, not to mention kill a whole battalion of innocent soldiers.

It went against everything they knew about Hibiki, and that is exactly why they were so terrified. What sort of influence changed her so quickly that she essentially became the second coming of Fine?

As they were going over any sort of information they could, a visual display suddenly appeared on the large screen before them, breaking their concentration.

"Gen," Yatsuhiro said somberly, catching Genjuro's attention. The commander stood up as he looked at his brother on-screen.

"Aniki," Genjuro responded. "What is it?"

"The UN council has decided to take attention." Yatsuhiro suddenly declared.

Elfnein raised her head from her console, still in shock from recent events. Yatsuhiro continued. "They have determined that Tachibana Hibiki has become enough of a threat for them to deploy weapons of mass destruction. It is only a matter of time before America takes the role into their own hands."

Genjuro grinded his teeth in frustration. "So they won't even give us the time to try and stop this ourselves?" He asked loudly.

"No, they will not," his brother answered calmly. "Not after seeing her kill their soldiers without a glance. They say that they will not allow this divine power cause the extinction of mankind."

"So they'd kill tens of thousands to eliminate just her?!"

"Yes, they will. It is what they call a 'necessary sacrifice'. They were looking for an excuse to finish this themselves, and unfortunately they got it now. I do not think there is anything we can do to change their minds now. It would be prudent for you to pull out of there as fast as possible, Gen." Yatsuhiro said.

Genjuro fell back to his seat, and Shirabe watched him worriedly. "Is there absolutely nothing we can do? Are we really so helpless?" He asked no one in particular.

"Commander!" Aoi suddenly yelled. "Maria, Kirika-chan, and Chris-chan have entered combat with Hibiki-chan!"

"What?!"

Next to the display showing his brother, a visual of the battlefield lit up, confirming what Aoi had said. They could see clearly the three remaining Symphogear users on the battlefield fighting against the rogue wielder.

And they could also clearly see that it was going south for them very quickly.

Genjuro's eyes widened. "How can she hold them all off on her own?"

"Commander, should I go back and join them?" Shirabe asked him.

He looked towards her. "No, I need you to stay here, just in case. Besides, from what it looks like...I don't think you can help them now."

Shirabe looked towards the ground helplessly, realizing that indeed there was nothing she could do to help. "We were not prepared for the worst case scenario, and now we are paying for it dearly." He added, bringing down the spirits of those on the bridge even further.

But Elfnein was determined to succeed. Not matter what, she will find out the truth behind this madness.

In any way possible.


(Play: GUN BULLET XXX)

Miku had a dream like this once. It was so vivid and scary that she remembered waking up covered in sweat, and taking a while to get a grasp of her surroundings. It was only when she saw Hibiki's sleeping face next to her that she calmed down, and realised it was only a nightmare.

But then her nightmare turned into reality, and she prayed that she would wake up soon.

And so far, her wish was being denied.

The girl could only stare at the fighting figures in despair. "Hibiki...why?" she murmured to herself.

Saint-Germain still stood next to her, her teeth clenched as she watched the battle. This was the last possible scenario she could have imagined taking place. When the cluster of divine power suddenly engulfed Hibiki she did not understand how someone who harbors the Original Sin could possibly become a vessel. Nothing about this situation made an ounce of sense, and it frustrated her to no end. When the girl suddenly declared she will cleanse the world of the sinful, she could only remember her centuries of struggle against oppression and suffering.

Who would have thought that the girl who held out her hand to her would suddenly become the very thing she swore to defeat?

Saint-Germain could somehow understand the plight of the black haired girl next to her. Her best friend has suddenly turned on them and was going on a rampage, and there was seemingly nothing she could do.

Not that there was much Saint-Germain herself could do to help as well. Just watching the battle between the four Symphogear users told her enough.

"HA!" Maria screamed as she swung her blade again. Hibiki merely stood in place and dodged the blow easily, reacting so fast it almost seemed inhuman. She took a step back and swung her spear at Maria's head again, and the Airgetlam user could barely react in time to move out of the way, locks of her hair being cut away due to the powerful swing. As she moved aside, Chris once again shot a volley of arrows at the Gungnir user, but Hibiki simply swung her spear and destroyed all of the projectiles in a single strike.

"In that case!" Chris yelled. The sides of of the armor on her legs opened, revealing loaded missile launchers.

'MEGADETH PARTY'

The launchers fired, and a barrage of twenty fours missiles converged on the rogue wielder's position. She looked up at the projectiles, and merely narrowed her eyes at them.

She twisted in place, and swung powerfully, creating a shockwave that caused the missiles to explode prematurely, leaving her completely unharmed from the blasts. Smoke filled the area, and Kirika capitalized on the opening.

She jumped into the air swung her scythe down, sending green crescent strikes into the veil of smoke.

'KILL JULIET'

There was a sound of something being slashed, and Kirika landed on her feet, a smirk growing on her face due to her assumed victory.

But when the smoke cleared, Hibiki stood completely unharmed and unmoving. "I told you," She said. "You can't beat me."

Chris clicked her tongue, and moved into position along with her teammates to cut off any possible retreat. The three Symphogear users stood around her, their weapons at the ready.

"Why is it we can't do any damage?!" Kirika yelled in frustration. "Everything we do is completely useless!"

None of her comrades could possibly answer her question.

But Hibiki could. "That's because, Kirika-chan, that I am justice, and you are sinful. You can't match me."

Maria snarled in response. "What is this arrogance you suddenly developed. You gain divine power and now you think you are all mighty? Then guess what, you are not! We have been through this a million times, Hibiki-san, and every time we were victorious, especially because you brought them down a peg. How can you possibly start to think like Fine?!"

Hibiki turned to face her fully. "Fine was the one who was arrogant. She thought she could reach God, and caused the Curse of Balal to affect humanity. I am simply fixing her mistakes."

"Are you even listening to yourself?! You always went on how people need to change as people!" Maria yelled back to her.

Hibiki cast her gaze downwards to the ground, and clenched her open hand. "I was wrong, Maria-san. My eyes are finally open. I thought that people could really change on their own, that we should help them make that change. But I realized that such a thing is impossible." She said. She raised her head, and met Maria's gaze. The silver Symphogear user took a step back in shock, still not used to the eerie green glow coming from her eyes. "People will never want to change. That is how it has been since a long time ago. It's about time someone came and finally solved this problem. I will create a world of understanding, where nobody will ever suffer again because of others. A world that will accept you for surviving, that won't declare you a killer just for living."

"Just for living…" Chris murmured. "So this is what this is all about, huh? You said you wouldn't let the past bother you anymore! You said that when you made up with your old man! Are you taking it all back now?!"

Hibiki grit her teeth in anger. "Yes, I am!" She shouted. "I will get my revenge on them! On everyone who ever looked down on me! On everyone who hurt me! They will be the first, and then everyone else! I will make sure no one suffers like I did!"

She remembered those days vividly. The times she suffered in school because she had the gull, in their words, to survive the massacre in the Zwei Wing concert. They called her a murderer, and all she did was ignore them because everything would be fine, right? But no, things were NOT fine, now that she looked back at it. Plenty of times she had to go to the nurse's office because some spiteful girl pushed her down the stairs, or threw a rock at her. Plenty of times she had to stay home because the outside was becoming too dangerous to face. Her mother even had to consider pulling her out of school just so the threats would stop. The government had to declare her legally dead so they would leave her alone.

And then her father left. Her world, at that time, shattered to pieces.

"And all of you are a part of the problem too." She declared. "I'll pay you back for what you did!"

She charged, making a beeline straight for Maria. She moved so fast the Airgetlam user could barely bring up her blade in time to block the crushing blow. Maria felt her bones shake from the force, and she dropped to one knee, the earth around her cracking at her feet. "Tch, what power!" She muttered to herself, struggling to stand back up.

"I won't let you-!" Kirika yelled, and she swung at Hibiki. But the rogue wielder simply brought up her free arm and stopped the blow with nothing but her forearm. The scythe clanged loudly against her gauntlet, and she glared at the Ig-Alima user.

"I just told you, you can't-" She began to say, but her eyes widened when the scythe spontaneously enlarged, and she was forced to jump away to avoid having her head cut off by the scythe's blade. Seeing their opponent now helpless in midair, Chris capitalized on the opportunity. Two giant missiles rose from her back, and she launched them at Hibiki a second later.

'MEGADETH FUGA'

The missiles soared towards the rogue wielder, who twisted in the air to avoid them. However, Maria, having regained her bearings, launched two knives at supersonic speeds, hitting the missiles just as they passed by Hibiki, causing them to explode right next to her.

A shockwave buffeted the area, and the wielders looked on nervously at the rising fireball. "Did...did we get her?" Kirika asked meekly.

Her question was answered with a loud whooshing sound, and out of nowhere Hibiki appeared right behind her. "No."

The blow came like lightning. Moving faster than any of them could possibly see, Hibiki's hand slammed with the force of an explosion into Kirika's back. The girl screamed in pain, and was promptly sent flying through the air, smashing into one of the still standing buildings in the battlefield.

"Kirika!" Maria yelled, and hurriedly turned around to face the rogue wielder, but Hibiki was already upon her again. Moving even faster than before Hibiki swung her spear at full force, intending on slicing Maria in half.

BAM!

Until something slammed into her spear just in time, and the attack's path diverted from its course, smashing hard into the ground. Maria quickly jumped back, and all those on the battlefield looked to see the source of the disturbance.

Saint-Germain walked up to them, her gun raised and its barrel smoking. "Perhaps I've stood aside long enough." She said, her gun pointed at the rogue wielder. "Tachibana Hibiki, I cannot believe one such as you would stray from her path so easily."

Hibiki pulled the spear from the ground, and glared at the alchemist. "You are one to talk, St. Germain-san. I thought you of all people would understand what it is I'm trying to do."

The alchemist smirked. "I indeed do. I very much understand it," She said. Then her expression turned into a frown. "However, in the end my objective was to rid the world of oppression. You cannot achieve that goal by becoming the oppressor yourself. You should also understand that, Tachibana Hibiki. You told me that yourself."

"As if I would listen to someone as sinful as you." Hibiki replied.

"You are still going on about that," Saint-Germain responded. "True, I am indeed sinful. I have claimed over seventy thousand lives over the centuries I have lived, and I regret every single one of them. But I lived until this moment to see a better world be created. I will not allow my ideal to be shattered by the selfish ramblings of a brat drunk on her own power!"

Hibiki's eyes widened in anger, and she walked towards the alchemist. "So that's your decision, isn't it? You will also turn your weapon on me? After everything I've done for you?!"

"Yes, I will. So long as you embody the oppression of the divine with that power you wield, I will stand against you with all my power." She simply said.

"Oi, you can't-"

Saint-Germain raised her hand, stopping Chris in the middle of her sentence. "Tell me one last thing, Tachibana Hibiki." She said. "Will you mark everyone as your enemy indiscriminately? Even your best friend?"

Hibiki stopped in her tracks, and went absolutely silent. Saint-Germain raised an eyebrow at the sudden calmness of the rogue wielder, but said nothing more.

And then a wave of bloodlust rose from the Gungnir user, and she cast her head downwards.

"Are you talking about Miku?" She asked quietly.

The earth around her feet cracked.

"ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT MIKU?!"

Saint-Germain did not even see her coming. One second she was almost fifty meters away from her, and the next she was right in front of her, having closed the distance in less than a second.

'What is this speed?!' The alchemist thought to herself, and tried to jump away from her.

Only for a fist to collide with her stomach, and in an instant her Faust Robe shattered into pieces, and she was launched across the field and slammed into one of the Anti-LiNKER trucks. The vehicle's entire frame caved into itself, and the large canister holding the red liquid cracked, spilling its contents all over the ground.

"Don't you dare talk about her without understanding anything!" Hibiki screamed to the downed alchemist. "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND A SINGLE THING, SAINT-GERMAIN!"

Chris and Maria could only look on in shock at her outburst. 'What is with this reaction? One moment she is eerily calm and the next she is exploding with rage.' Maria thought to herself.

The Gungnir user turned back to the remaining Symphogears, her expression teeming with fury. "I won't let anyone get in my way." She said. "Everyone will pay."

She trudged towards the two, and with each step the ground around her shattered, the very force around her causing the rubble to rise as she walked. Chris and Maria could only take a step back in fear, realising for the first time that they were truly, truly…

Completely outmatched. Nothing they could do would help them at this point. No unison, no phase of the Ignite Module, and certainly no miracle like the X-drive could possibly be enough to match the juggernaut Hibiki had become. They could only stare at her, and see for the first time the sheer weight of the divine power leaking off of the furious Hibiki.

Saint-Germain touched a nerve she shouldn't have touched, and now that will cost them their lives.

That is, until that very nerve came to help them.

"Hibiki," a soft voice said.

The rogue wielder stopped in her tracks, the flow of power instantly decreasing to nothingness. The two Symphogears looked behind the Gungnir user, and she as well turned around to see the source of the voice.

Miku stood behind her, and for the first time since the battle began their eyes met. The black haired girl was shaking, the disturbing sight of those emerald eyes seeping to her bones, but she stood strong before her best friend. "Hibiki, please stop." She pleaded.

"Miku." The rogue wielder murmured, turning around fully to face her friend. Her expression was one of surprise, not having realized Miku had been on the battlefield with the rest this entire time. "What are you doing here?"

The complete 180 that Hibiki did caught the wielders completely by surprise, but they stayed their hands and listened.

'Perhaps Elfnein's plan could bear fruit after all.' Maria thought hopefully.

"Hibiki, I beg you...please, stop this." Miku pleaded again. "You don't have to do this, please."

"Miku…" Hibiki muttered, and walked towards her best friend. As she walked, she noticed that Miku was reserved, almost withdrawing away from her. She approached her, stopping at arm's length from her. "Are you scared of me, Miku?" She simply asked.

The black haired girl looked up at her, Hibiki standing a bit taller than she remembered. Miku swallowed, but answered confidently. "No."

Her face lit up with a warm smile that caught Miku completely off guard. It almost resembled the smiles she usually had on her face. "That's good, I'm glad. You don't have anything to be scared of, Miku. You can leave everything to me."

The pit in Miku's stomach grew even deeper at her words. "But Hibiki, this isn't right. You can't...you can't hurt everyone like this. I don't want you to hurt our friends for this! Please, come back. You don't have to do this anymore."

"I have to," Hibiki answered, her smile dropping. "I will make things right. No one will have to suffer or be sad any longer. They are a part of the problem. They caused us to suffer again and again, and even used you against me. But you don't have to worry anymore Miku, I can do anything now."

She raised her hand, and very gently caressed Miku's cheek. "Miku, you are my sunshine. Sinless and pure. I will never do anything to hurt you. I'll make us a world where no one will ever bother us, and you could shine brightly like you always do. I only want to see you smile."

Miku touched the hand caressing her cheek. The armor on it felt strange and cold. Tears threatened to fall from her eyes. "Hibiki, happy birthday. Did you remember that it is today? I want to celebrate it with you, like we always did. So please, come home with me. I can't...I can't smile if you aren't there."

There was a tense, yet quiet moment between the two. Miku could see the storm in her best friend's eyes, the complete and utter chaos raging in her mind. She couldn't even begin to think how much Hibiki was suffering right now. How much the decisions she was making were burdening her.

Her body betrayed her, and tears dripped down from her eyes. Hibiki noticed them them, and raised a finger to wipe them away. "I'm sorry Miku. I can't come back just yet. When I am done, I will come back and we can celebrate as much as we want. But today," She said. "Today is the day I am reborn. Today I will fix everything."

Miku's heart shattered in her chest. The tears kept on falling without stopping.

Hibiki lowered her hand and took a step back from her. "You just wait Miku. Everything will be alright."

And just as she said those words, a loud alarm blared through the area. It rose above everything else, and those gathered looked around to try and understand the cause. Only Hibiki stayed unmoving, still looking at Miku.

"What's happening?!" Chris asked loudly into her earpiece.

Maria also raised her hand, listening in.

And in an instant, their eyes widened in horror.

"YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS!" Chris screamed. "It's on its way here, right now?! There is no way we will make it out in time!"

Miku, who has also been listening in, raised a hand to cover her mouth in shock. Hibiki tilted her head in question. "Miku, what's wrong?" She asked her.

The black haired girl gulped. "They...they are sending a...missile here, right now. It's...already on its way here. If it hits...it will kill everyone! We...we have to get away as fast as possible!" Miku told her, reciting what she heard Genjuro say to them over the comm. "Hibiki, we have to get away right now! Please, help me save everyone!"

Miku begged her, yet Hibiki remained strangely calm and collected. "So they are trying to destroy me, and they don't care about anyone else?" She said, her anger rising. "This is exactly why I have to do this Miku. It is because of their selfishness that people have to suffer. But you don't have to worry."

She took Miku's hand in her own, gripping it tightly momentarily. "I will save everyone."

And then she looked towards the sky. Miku followed her sight, and she could see a tiny blinking spot of light high above them. "That's-"

"Yeah, that's it. I'll take care of it, Miku. With this power, I can do anything." Hibiki added, and the girl looked back to her in awe. The rogue wielder turned to face the missile's path, and glared at it. "This symbol of sin...I will eliminate it along with their ambitions!"

She walked forward, and everyone on the battlefield looked to her. Still staring up at the sky, Hibiki spoke to Miku again. "Miku, you'll never turn on me, will you?"

The black haired girl gasped at the question. "Of course not! I'll never turn my back on you Hibiki! But please, you don't need to make a new world! I am fine with this one! The one you are in!"

The Gungnir user smiled. "Thank you Miku. Your kindness always warms my heart."

And she shot towards the sky. Miku watched as Hibiki soared through the air, carried on her wings, and headed straight for the missile that threatened to kill them all.

The projectile continued its path, and from where she was standing Maria could vaguely see its shape with her naked eye. She looked on in awe at Hibiki flying through the air completely unaided. "What is she trying to do?!"

"I don't know, but I don't like the look of this. We really should get out of here!" Chris responded nervously.

"But we can't leave everyone else here to fend for themselves!" Maria exclaimed.

"Then what the hell do you suggest we do, huh? There is no way we can grab absolutely everyone and get far enough to escape the blast radius!" The Ichaival user shouted back.

"We leave it to Hibiki." Miku said, catching the two Symphogears' attention. "I know she can do it. She promised she will."

Chris walked up to her, her brows furrowed. "Oi, Miku, I don't know if you've noticed, but the idiot hasn't exactly been normal for quite a while now. What makes you so sure she will save us after she kicked our asses and even killed people herself?"

Miku swallowed, and clasped her hands together. "I know it's hard to believe, but I know she will help everyone."

"I can never understand this blind faith of yours." Chris commented, and raised her head up to the sky.

Hibiki flew as high as possible, and upon reaching her desired altitude, floated in the air in the missile's path. She could see it closing in and fast. If she allowed it to hit the ground, the damage will be irreparable.

But right now, something as weak as this will never be able to match her.

She raised her spear, pointing at it the approaching death. The missile flew close, but she was calm. She knew what she had to do.

"Oi, is she gonna tank it with her own body?!" Chris exclaimed.

But Maria narrowed her eyes and looked closer, specifically at the spear's tip. "No, she's-"

The missile was less than ten meters from her now. Power gathered at the spear's tip as a golden orb of light appeared before it.

And Hibiki screamed for the world to hear. "THIS IS MY JUSTICE!"

The missile touched the golden orb of light.

And promptly stopped in its tracks.

"What…" Saint-Germain asked incredulously, having regained consciousness a moment earlier. She had missed the exchange, and could only look up to see Hibiki floating in the sky…

Right in front of a missile encased in a golden bubble.

It floated within the light, its path interrupted by the divine power Hibiki wielded. The rogue wielder glared at it, her teeth clenched in anger. Willing her power into the bubble, the golden orb shrunk around the missile.

Despite being suspended in the air, the projectile was still armed and dangerous. Its inner mechanisms activated, and the uranium atoms within its core rapidly fissioned, creating the desired chain reaction for which it was deployed.

The world filled with light as the nuclear bomb exploded within the bubble, and all those gathered at the battlefield were blinded by the radiance, shining like a second sun in the night. Chris groaned and covered her eyes, unable to look directly at it.

As the resident user of missiles, Chris knew that destroying a bomb like that before it hit would only stop the explosion from consuming everything. However, the real danger was the fallout that follows that could taint the land for decades, and as a result it was one of the few things that Symphogears could not possibly stop on their own.

But the one who had stopped the missile was not a regular Symphogear. No, she was a god-slayer imbued with divine power, and when the bright light died down slightly and she could finally lower her arm, Chris could only stare in shock.

The golden bubble remained completely unchanged, and within it the storms of nuclear reactions raged. The force of the blast tried to break through the barrier, but the power of the gods trumped humanity's technology, and Hibiki willed it to shrink even further. The sphere closed around the blast more, and more, and more, until it was only as big as a ping pong ball.

And finally, with a final burst of will, Hibiki crushed the bubble on itself, and the blast within fizzled out into nothingness, its power and radioactive fallout completely negated.

Golden light fell on the earth, and they could only look up at her in awe.

"What...is...she?"


If S.O.N.G's headquarters were in chaos before, now they were disturbingly quiet.

The members of the organization stopped every single one of their activities to simply stare at the screen before them and what had just occurred. Barely one minute ago they received the report that the Americans had launched one of the nuclear missiles from one of the submarines located in the bay, just as Yatsuhiro had said, and tried to come up with some sort of countermeasure, knowing that the Symphogears would not be able to stop it without causing its radioactive payload to spread all over the land.

But then they watched as Hibiki herself reacted, rising up to the sky and facing the missile head on.

And then she stopped it. LIke it was merely a bug in her way, Hibiki had single handedly erased the threat of total annihilation.

It was the scariest thing Genjuro had ever seen in his life.

"How...how was she able to…" Fujitaka murmured. No one could possibly answer him.

Almost immediately, the visual display lit up again, and Genjuro looked to see his brother's face again.

"Gen…"

"Aniki," Genjuro could only let out. "What do they say to this?"

Yatsuhiro went quiet, a very uncharacteristic thing for him to do at a time like this. It was if he was thinking how to verbalize his response, or more specifically the UN's. "To say they were shocked would be an understatement. The American President is outraged with this result, and he is quick to point fingers for this failure at us. I do not know if he will send out more missiles, now that he knows that his strongest weapon is useless before her."

Genjuro grumbled quietly, and then spoke up. "Do you think they'll deploy ground forces now? And try to kill her the hard way?"

"I don't know, Gen," Yatsuhiro responded. "The only thing I ask is this: What do you think of this?"

It was a question Genjuro did not expect from someone like his brother, but a desperate situation called for desperate questions and answers. His subordinates looked to him, as if his words would be the final nail in the coffin for what they would do.

It was a tough decision for him to make. To declare her an enemy still after she had single handedly saved them all would be hypocritical, and would give her an excuse to turn on them further.

However, their duty was first and foremost to protect the world from any and all supernatural threats, no matter their source. Tachibana Hibiki had made her intentions clear. If they allowed her to continue, she could hurt more people than a million nuclear bombs ever could.

Genjuro hardened his heart, and spoke with finality. "I am afraid we can't allow her to continue. As much as it hurts me to say this, Hibiki-kun still has to be treated as a threat. This is my decision as the commander of S.O.N.G, first and foremost. We will oppose her until we find a way to get her back, that I swear."


Hibiki floated down to the ground, her objective complete. She could feel everyone's eyes on her, but she could care less about that. She turned on the spot and stared at the still standing Symphogear users, who reeled back under her stare.

She advanced on them like a predator, her spear in hand. "No more interruptions. I'll finish this right now."

"Is that what you believe, god-slayer?" A deep voice said from out of nowhere.

Hibiki looked around, trying to find the source of the voice, then looked to the area between her and the Symphogears. It looked as if space itself shattered, and an all too familiar figure walked out from the crack in reality.

"You have taken from me what is rightfully mine, " Adam Weishaupt said. "I'll be taking that power back from you."

Hibiki glared at the Lodgemaster of the Pavarian Illuminati. "Adam Weishaupt. You are the cause of all of this. I'll make sure you pay for this a hundred fold!"

He held his severed arm in his hand like a sword. "Just because you have taken in the divine power does not mean you are all mighty, Tachibana Hibiki. You have no right to use it."

"No, you are the one who has no right to use it. You are a being filled with nothing but sin. Someone like you could never harness it to its full potential." Hibiki responded to him, her eyes narrowed.

"Is that what you believe, little girl?" He said. "In that case, I'll make you understand where you stand in the pecking order. You will rue the day you stood against me, GOD-SLAYER!"

Chapter Text

"Commander! Adam Weishaupt has reappeared on the battlefield!"

Genjuro narrowed his eyes at the display in front of him. The last thing they needed right now was for the mastermind behind this whole mess to show himself and create an even bigger mess that they would have to clean up.

However, he had to question his timing. For what reason did he decide to appear right now, after the battle was for the most part over and they could possibly start planning how to retrieve Hibiki. They knew Adam coveted the divine power she now wielded, and is now challenging her for its ownership.

The biggest question Genjuro had however was this: Would Adam be able to defeat her in her current state? They did not have enough information about his capabilities other than his destructive chrysopoeia.

However, would it be a good thing if he could? Genjuro was not sure. Regardless of who was left standing at the end of the fight, they will have a very difficult battle ahead of them.

There was not much left to do.

Genjuro got up from his seat and walked away from his console. His subordinates looked to him in wonder. "Tomosato, I leave bridge operations to you. Shirabe-kun," He commanded, looking towards the Symphogear wielder. "Let's go."

Fujitaka shot up from his seat. "Commander! Are you going out there as well?!"

"Yes, I am," Genjuro simply answered. "It is obvious that the wielders are not prepared to deal with this type of threat. We can't have them fight any longer in their state, nor can I can simply stand aside and watch them lose their lives against their own comrade. In that case, I will head out myself. I will bring back Hibiki-kun even if it kills me."

No more was needed to be said in his eyes. They could only watch his large back as he exited the bridge, Shirabe following right behind him.

-!-

Maria couldn't really call what she was witnessing a fight.

She knew that clashes were happening between the two obviously overpowered combatants, but what surprised her the most was the fact that she could barely follow their movements at all. She was seeing the shockwaves that were expelled from the force of their impacts, but the movements themselves were so fast that she was sure several laws of physics were being broken right in front of her.

This was a fight they could not even think about joining in. They couldn't match up to Hibiki alone, so both her and Adam Weishaupt were completely out of their league.

'Maria-kun,' Genjuro said over the comm, catching her attention. She raised her hand to the headset.

"Yes commander?"

'Listen, I need the two of you to take whoever you can and retreat as soon as possible. The battle has reached a level far beyond any of us can match. I am on my way there to try and reduce the damage, but anything more will only create more casualties. I have already instructed the drivers of the Anti-LiNKER trucks to run away, so it should lighten your load considerably. Grab Kirika-kun and Miku-kun and escape.' He instructed.

The two remaining Symphogear users looked to each other, pondering over the commands they were given. Chris nodded to her.

"Very well, we'll do so as soon as possible." She answered him.

Maria lowered her hand as the sound was cut, and briefly turned to look towards the two combatants. "Far beyond a level any of us can match, huh?" She said to herself.

She had to focus. Kirika came first. She was knocked into the building and has not come out since. It was possible she was unconscious, which could explain why it was taking her so long.

"Alright, let's go Chris." She said, and began running towards the wreckage.

"Yeah." Chris answered back, and went to follow her, throwing a brief glance towards the battlefield.

-!-

"Damn you, God-slayer!" Adam spit out as Hibiki blocked another vicious blow from his sword-arm. "You get in my way time and time again, and now you take what is rightfully mine as well! When will you just drop dead?!"

Hibiki chose to answer his curses with a mighty blow from her spear, but he once again parried it aside with the reinforced arm. She had to give it to him, he was able to keep up with her even with her increased power. Perhaps it was his status as a puppet made by unknown makers, but every single blow of his managed to force her to block or dodge his strikes, a very different situation from the Symphogears who were simply small fry.

She lunged forward, and he ducked under her thrust. He stabbed the hand forward, intent on piercing her heart, but Hibiki smashed her free arm against it, causing it to miss its target. Adam snarled and jumped back, having failed in his gambit.

But the rogue wielder was hot on his heels, and with a single bound closed the distance between them, catching him in midair. She slashed horizontally, intending on slicing him in half, and he was forced to raise the arm to block the swing. The sharp sound of metal grinding against metal filled the air, and Adam groaned from the force. Seeing that her killing blow was blocked, Hibiki pushed more power into her swing, and Adam was sent flying through the air even further back, landing on the far edge of the battlefield. He skid across the ground, his shoes picking up dirt and dust behind him, creating a gash in the pavement.

Adam raised his sight to glare at her. Hibiki landed further away from him, a hundred meters separating them. "That divine power is truly something else," He said. "All the more why I have to make it mine. It is the only piece missing to be able to match the power of the Custodians, and yet you are using it for your petty backyard squabbles. You really are a brat, Tachibana Hibiki."

She brandished her spear and walked towards him. "You are one to talk, throwing a temper tantrum just because things are not going as you planned." She said. "You are getting in my way. I won't have someone as weak as you stop me from doing what I have to!"

His face scrunched up in anger from her insult. "You dare call me weak, God-slayer?! You, who became twisted because of those curses and grudges you carry knows absolutely nothing!"

And he charged, closing the distance in an instant and slamming the arm against her spear with all his might. The blow was so powerful it caused the ground under Hibiki's feet to crack and crater. She placed her free hand against the spear's flat side, and with a mighty yell pushed against his blow, throwing him away. She charged towards him, but he responded by taking flight, causing her blow to miss. She landed on the ground under him and looked up.

"You have been blinded by the god-slayer's cursed power, seeing nothing but your own desires! Don't you dare speak to me as if you are above me!" He screamed, placing the severed arm under his still attached stump. Now with his still functional arm free, he raised it to the sky, and Hibiki watched as power gathered in his palm, and Adam's chrysopoeia returned with a mighty vengeance, the sunlike ball of energy lighting up the sky. Now that materializing the divine power was no longer draining his energy, he could allow himself to once again use that destructive power.

And there was no better target for it than the girl who had stolen what was his.

"Cower before me like the rat you are, TACHIBANA HIBIKI!"

And he threw the ball down. The gigantic sphere of nuclear energy, surpassing the missile from earlier, descended upon Hibiki like a meteor. Its very approach created shockwaves that flung rubble away from its target point, and Hibiki braced herself as much as she could.

The rogue wielder grit her teeth, and gripped her spear even tighter in her hand. She crouched as much as she could, and power gathered in her legs, cratering the ground beneath her once again. Electricity crackled around her wildly.

"NO!" She screamed. "You cower before ME!"

And she launched towards the sky. The ground exploded from the force as she streaked through the air at supersonic speeds, sending shockwaves all over the battlefield. She raised her spear upward, and roared loudly as its point met the sphere of destruction.

The two unstoppable forces clashed wildly, the gigantic ball bearing down on the rogue wielder with all its nuclear might. She struggled against the weight, and her spear slightly pierced the sphere's outer layer.

Adam, who had been sure of his victory at that moment, froze. He looked down as the sphere stopped its descent, and his eyes widened as he saw that it was slowly, but surely…

Rising instead.

And right under the sphere of nuclear power, once again the god's power triumphed against humanity's might, and the spear of Gungnir pierced through the sphere, carrying its wielder through its center unarmed. The sphere coiled around Hibiki and dispersed, catching the founder of the Illuminati completely off guard. He hurriedly grabbed the severed arm again and blocked the god-slayer's lunge, but now with her increased power the spear's tip pierced through the arm, stabbing him lightly in the chest.

"Tch!" He let out, and let go of the now useless arm and dove back down to the ground. "To think the divine power would defeat my chrysopoeia so easily-!'

And just as he landed, Hibiki appeared right in front of him, delivering a roundhouse kick to his midsection. Caught off guard, the leg slammed into his chest, and Adam was thrown backwards, and he groaned as he bounced off the ground painfully.

He stopped after a while, and quickly pulled himself to his feet, however Hibiki was already upon him, relentless in her pursuit. She brought down her spear, and now deprived of a weapon, Adam was forced to dodge her extremely mighty blows.

But even that felt like a fruitless effort. He hurriedly dodged one of her thrusts, and felt as the mere force of her lunge cut deeply into his skin.

It was a total disaster. She had grown so powerful since absorbing the divine power that even glancing blows injured him so badly. He couldn't afford to fight her head on like this any longer, not in his current form.

To think a mere human would force him to abandon his perfect form and return to his original one. Just the thought was infuriating. It was not part of the plan at all, yet despite his arrogance, Adam knew that desperate times called for desperate measures.

He had to take a risk in order to create some distance between them. As she sent another lightning speed attack at him, rather than dodge to the side, he stayed in place and channeled power into his outfit, the cloth shining for less than a moment before exploding with a flash of light in all directions.

Hibiki was momentarily blinded by the sudden glow, causing her attack to miss its target, or rather the target itself disappeared while she could not see him.

Adam reappeared a large distance behind her, now completely naked. He had to do this quickly, otherwise she'll regain her bearings before he could finish shedding his human form.

Hibiki regained her sight a second later, and quickly surveyed her surroundings, looking for her opponent. She found him behind her, a long distance from her, but she was not fazed at the slightest.

"Don't you think you can get away!" She yelled, and charged at lightning speeds in his direction, bringing up her spear to slice him apart in one blow.

She closed the distance in less than a second, and brought her spear down upon him.

Only for the strike to be deflected violently by a monstrous left arm and for the spear to be launched from her grip.

"What?"

She looked at him in shock, realizing that something grew out of the once mechanical arm of his that had been destroyed much earlier in the night. His entire body shook as his form was being shed, and Adam smiled gleefully.

"This is your end, god-slayer! I commend you for forcing me to discard this perfect form of mine, but in order to take you down, I will do what is necessary to-!"

"Adam you are so mean!"

Only for his speech to be cut off as something closed around his leg and he tripped.

"Wha-"

He had only a moment to look down to see Tiki, or at least what remained of her, locked around his shin with her everlasting annoying smile plastered on her face.

"You said you would give me a hug, so I came to have my hug Adam!" She chirped happily.

"You damn lovesick freak-"

His eyes hurriedly went back to his opponent. Caught completely off guard by Tiki's abrupt distraction, Adam was completely helpless in the face of the god-slayer's mighty blow. Hibiki, having taken the opportunity to strike while he was preoccupied, pulled back the pile bunker on her gauntlet as far as it could go, and in one swift motion punched the still transforming Adam right in the chest. And a second later, the pile bunker was released, and slammed into him full force.

The effect was immediate.

Struck as if he had been hit by a cannonball, everything below his neck violently exploded in all directions, sending electrical circuits and mechanical parts blasting away hundred of meters behind him. His body was instantly destroyed by the punch enhanced by divine power, leaving only his head to fly through the air, an expression of total shock etched onto it.

"Im...possible…"

-!-

Saint-Germain could only look on in awe as the battle was decided in an instant. It was almost ironic, she had to admit, that his downfall came from the very doll that hung around him incessantly. Saint-Germain never liked the Autoscorer, as her fascination with Adam and her annoyingly squeaky voice got on her nerves extremely quickly, but she forced it all down, knowing that that Tiki was important for their goals.

She was only mildly half-surprised that Adam held no actual love for the girlish doll, and discarded her as soon as she proved to be useless.

Not like he had anything resembling human emotions in the first place.

Adam was defeated by the power that he sought to control, but that did not make Saint-Germain happy at all.

She groaned as she tried to stand up again, the shattered glass from the Anti-LiNKER container cutting into her skin.

And then soft hands wrapped around her, slowly dragging her out of the truck's wreckage. The alchemist looked up, seeing Tachibana Hibiki's black haired friend struggling to carry her away.

"Why are you helping me?" She asked.

"Because," Miku began to say as she dragged her. "Because I know you can help Hibiki. And besides, I can't leave someone so injured to fend for themselves."

The alchemist's eyes widened slightly. "I see."

Now far enough from the wreckage, Miku placed Saint-Germain back on the ground. A moment later, the two remaining Symphogear users landed next to them, with the Airgetlam wielder carrying the unconscious Kirika on her back.

"Maria-san!" Miku exclaimed. "And Chris-chan and Kirika-chan! Are you three alright?"

"Somehow," the older Symphogear user answered. "The commander said we should get out of here as fast as we can, and I am inclined to agree with him. There is nothing more that we can do here."

Miku looked at her in shock. "But what about Hibiki?! We can't just run now! We have to get her back!"

Maria grit her teeth in response. "As much as I would like to do that, we don't know how. You heard them as well as we did. Neither the commander nor Elfnein know what caused this sudden change in her, and staying here trying to talk her out of it did not work at all. We should regroup and sit on what we know."

Miku wanted to argue. She really did, but she knew that Maria's point was sound. The logical part of her agreed with the wielder completely, but she just couldn't leave Hibiki. Not now and not like this.

She opened her mouth to speak, to say something, when Saint-Germain beat her to the punch.

"Wait," The alchemist groaned out from her position on the floor. "There might...be someone...who knows what...happened."

The girls around her quickly turned to look at her, listening. Saint-Germain swallowed, feeling bile rising up her throat just from thinking about it. "Adam...Weishaupt. He...he knows. He knows something about what happened to her...If...if we can stop her from killing him we might...we might be able to get some...answers."

She noticed it as the two were fighting. Despite the fact that she was injured, the alchemist's senses were keen enough to be able to listen in to what they were saying. And there was something he said, something very specific, that caused her to raise an eyebrow. If they could capitalize on that, then perhaps...perhaps they will be able to find a solution.

"Oi, what are you even suggesting? That we save the guy who tried to kill us all?" Chris asked incredulously.

"It's better than having Hibiki-kun do that instead." A gruff voice answered in Saint-Germain's stead.

They all turned at the sound of the voice, and were shocked to see Genjuro himself walk up to them with Shirabe clad in Shul-Shagana right behind him. She took one look at Kirika, and immediately slid over to her to check on her wellbeing, Maria giving her some soothing words to calm her down. Genjuro continued walking past them, only stopping once he had full view of the battlefield.

"Old man! What are you doing here?!" Chris asked him.

"I came here to help reduce as much of the damage as I could, however Saint-Germain made a very valid point that we should most definitely take into consideration. We cannot allow this chance at answers to slip by us. We have to make the most of what we got." He simply answered.

"But you are not really suggesting we actually help that guy?! He tried to kill us all!" Chris reminded him loudly.

"I know, Chris-kun, but that is our only option," He answered. "I will go and extract what remains of Adam Weishaupt. Once he is in our possession, you all go back to base and regroup, understood?"

Chris wanted to stop him, but swallowed down her complaints. "Alright. Do what you want old man, but promise us one thing."

Genjuro sighed. "What is it?"

Chris took a large breath, and stared at his broad back. "Don't die."

She could not see the expression on his face, but she was sure he was smiling. "Never planned to."

And he headed off into the battlefield.

-!-

Adam's head rolled on the ground after having been blown back by the mighty force of Hibiki's punch.

One second. That was all it took for him to lose his advantage and find himself on the losing side of the battle. His entire body was obliterated by the blow, and with it his chance at regaining his true form and turning the tables on the god-slayer. If that cursed sex-doll hadn't interfered, he would have been victorious!

"This can't be," He said. "I can't possibly lose like this. Not to someone like you. I will never admit defeat to a thief like you!"

Hibiki ignored his maddened prattling. She looked down on the ground, spotting Tiki still holding on to whatever was left of Adam's leg. "So in the end he was defeated by the very thing he threw away. How sadly ironic." She said, and approached the broken Autoscorer.

"aDaM i LOve YoU HuG me please AdAmm I love You HuG me pleaseeeee-"

Hibiki could only gaze at the broken lovesick doll pitifully. Such a tiny thing was meant to be the vessel of divine power, and upon her failure was tossed away like common trash. In the back of her mind, Hibiki thought about sparing her. She really did, however the doll had sinned, having been Adam's accomplice willingly and causing so much untold destruction.

And such a thing does not deserve her pity.

Tiki did not even notice the leg coming down on her in her trance. Continuously repeating Adam's name like a broken record, she was oblivious to her end as Hibiki crushed her underfoot, destroying the relic that powered her mechanisms. One moment the doll was active and moving about, and the next she fell silent, as dead as she could be.

Broken circuits and clockwork mechanisms flew about, signifying the end of the Autoscorer's artificial life. With her out of the equation, Hibiki continued her march towards the defeated leader of the Pavarian Illuminati. She did not even bother to retrieve her spear, and simply glared at the decapitated automaton.

She looked down on him from above, and a smirk lit up her face. "What do you have to say to yourself now, Adam Weishaupt? Not so great now that someone is standing above you is it?"

His face was turned to the sky, and the puppet moved his eyes to glare hatefully back at the rogue wielder. "You...You think you've won haven't you?! But you haven't! Nothing will stop those curses now! You, who lost her sanity to the grudges contained within her spear, will only know suffering from now on! That is what will happen! And when the Custodians come down to claim the world, they will undo all of your work, leaving you with absolutely nothing! That is what will happen to you, TACHIBANA HIBIKI!"

She silently listened to his rant, barely phased by his words. "I have no reason to listen to someone as sinful as you. And regardless, no matter what comes down to stand in my way, I will destroy them with my fists. The fists that enact justice."

He gnashed his teeth together, and Hibiki raised her leg above his head, intending to finish him off with one final blow. "Disappear into dust, Adam Weishaupt."

And brought her leg down in one swift motion.

That is, until something slammed into her side, something she did not see coming, and sent her flying through the air. She twisted mid flight, landing with her feet on the ground and skidding across it. Regaining her bearings, she looked up to see the one who had gotten in her way.

And froze.

"That is far enough, Hibiki-kun." Genjuro said with his fist extended, still smoking from the strike.

Adam could only look at the human with his eyes wide, his mind having difficulty processing the fact that he was not dead. "What are you-" He began to say, only to be cut off.

"Save your breath, Adam Weishaupt," Genjuro said. He went over to the fallen leader of the Pavarian Illuminati and picked the severed head off the ground, holding him by his hair and looking him straight in the eyes. "You are the one who got us into this mess. Now you will get us out of it."

He turned slightly, and threw the head towards the girls' direction. Adam crashed into the ground by their feet, and they looked at him with disgust on their faces. However, they knew the purpose of this plan, and as a result had to hold down their hatred.

Maria shifted Kirika's position on her back, holding her on one shoulder, and grabbed Adam's head and placed him under her free arm. With everything and everyone secure, the three still active Symphogear wielders looked towards each other and nodded, heading off with Saint-Germain and Miku in tow.

The black haired girl looked back once to her best friend on the battlefield. She gasped when she could have sworn their eyes met for an instant.

And all that remained for her now was to hope for a miracle.

Genjuro watched as the girls disappeared from his vision into the horizon. With everything they needed now in their possession, there was one last thing he had to take care off.

He turned back to Hibiki, who thundered towards him, an expression of fury etched on her face. "So you will also turn on me, Master? You would rather save the enemy than allow me to destroy him?"

He turned to face her fully, his face calm. "I am afraid that is indeed the case, Hibiki-kun. You have indeed gone too far, and this is the result of your actions. I do not know what caused this change in you, but I can assure you that nobody here approves of it, especially not Miku-kun."

Her scrunched up in anger. "Don't talk like you understand anything. You haven't been through hell like I did."

"I indeed don't understand how it feels to be through the hell you have suffered," He admitted. "But I do understand more than you believe about other things. And I know for a fact that what you are planning to do will not bring happiness to anyone, not even to yourself."

"You have no clue what brings me happiness. You only ever used me as a replacement for Kanade-san." She bit back to him.

He raised an eyebrow at her thoughtless response. "You know that is not true, Hibiki-kun. If I considered you a replacement, I would never have bothered to train you like you asked. I may not know everything that brings you happiness, but I know you shine the brightest when you are helping others, taking their hand in your own and telling them everything will be alright. That is the true you that I have learned about since the day you were brought into our headquarters over a year ago."

He cracked his knuckles and took his stance, his fighting spirit rising. "And that is the Hibiki-kun I will be taking back with me. The one that changed our lives."

She stopped in her tracks, finding herself shocked at his desire to fight her. "You really think you can match me, Master?"

He smiled. "Of course. No matter how ridiculous your Symphogear became, not once have you ever managed to take me down. Or have you fallen so deep you have forgotten even that?"

Her only response was to bare her teeth at him hatefully, and he kept his smile on his face. "In that case, I shall remind you the bitter taste of defeat, Hibiki-kun."

There was a ten meter distance between them. Hibiki entered her own stance, the very same one she learned from him. There was no need to use her spear here. No, she will take him down with the very style he taught her, and make sure he will never get in her way again. This insufferable, unbeatable man will once and for all feel what it's like to bite the dirt.

There was a tingling in the back of her mind, something that made this whole situation feel disturbingly wrong, but she bit it down and cast it away. She cannot allow herself to be distracted by old attachments. Her mission surpassed everything else, and she had to make sure it came to fruition.

No matter the cost.

A calm breeze wafted through the area, a stark difference from the destructive chaos that took place earlier. It was a warm breeze, one that you would feel when you sat under a large oak tree on a glistening meadow, enjoying the clean air and the sunny weather.

It was a breeze signifying peace.

And it passed over them, disappearing into nothingness.

The two combatants charged towards each other, their fists slamming.

-!-

The way back was excruciating, Shirabe had to admit. Not because of her passenger, but because of what it meant. They had been forced to retreat upon realizing their powers would not be enough to combat Hibiki's, and now they found themselves being the burden in this whole scenario.

They travelled back quietly. The wind brushed against their faces, drowning out all other sounds around them. However, Shirabe could hear another sound hidden just beneath it. It was a sound she knew all too well, having experienced it many times in her life.

And from where she was, it was easy to know where that sound came from.

Her spirits fell just by thinking about how painful this whole situation was for Miku. How she spent days worrying about her best friend's safety, only to hear that she was in peril. And when she came to help her, the worst case scenario took place as that very friend turned against them all for reasons they did not understand.

Nobody had answers to give, and that made it all the more painful.

So she could not blame her for crying. Had a similar thing happened to Kirika, Shirabe would have also been equally devastated.

"Maria," Shirabe yelled over the sound of the wind, catching her elder's attention. "Are you sure we should just leave him all by himself?"

The Airgetlam user bit her lip. "As much as I don't want to, we don't have a choice. There is nothing we can do there to help him."

"You are indeed correct, Symphogear," Adam interjected. "She is far too powerful for any of you to face, and I doubt your commander is strong enough for that as well."

"You should just shut your mouth, you asshole." Chris said to him. "You are the one who caused this problem in the first place! So now, you will tell us how to fix it! We are getting answers out of you whether you like it or not."

But Adam merely huffed in response. "Be my guest. In my condition it is not like I am very useful for anything other than that. As a result, my last resort would be to cooperate with you."

Chris was taken aback by his sudden agreement. "Wait, you'll actually help us? Are you serious?"

"Don't get the wrong idea, Symphogear. Everything I do is for my own sake. However, as long as Tachibana Hibiki holds the divine power, my own ambitions cannot be realized. At the moment, your goal is the same as mine: to remove the divine power from her. As a result, it would be counterproductive for us to oppose each other in this situation." He answered.

"And once again let you stab someone in the back?" Saint-Germain reminded him. "I don't think so. I'll be keeping a close eye on you, Lodgemaster. As soon as you make any move that will jeopardize our efforts, I'll erase you until there is nothing left."

"Feel free to do so, Saint-Germain, and let your comrades' deaths be in vain."

The alchemist bit her lip, and fell quiet. She glanced to the side, catching sight of the blacked haired girl who helped her.

Tears were falling freely from Miku's eyes, unbearable sadness filling her heart. "Hibiki...why?"

The rest fell silent as well. However, Chris held her head up. There was still a flicker of hope, as small as it was, that they could grab onto.

And she truly hoped it would be enough.

-!-

It was like explosions were constantly going off. Every time the two clashed, they released a powerful shockwave that further scarred the land. By now, what was once an evacuated residential area was turned into a war zone.

Genjuro had expected the fight to be tough, but not this intense.

Hibiki charged, and he dodged out of the way just in time to avoid having his chest eviscerated just like Adam Weishaupt. Before she could pull back her fist for another attack, he grabbed onto her wrist with all his might.

"As if I would let you throw me again!" She yelled, and pushed all her weight into her legs, the ground beneath her shattering once more, and Genjuro found that she indeed wouldn't budge. With her free hand, she delivered an uppercut to his chin, and caught in his position, he had no choice but to let go of her so it wouldn't hit. He took a step back and she was upon him again, delivering a flurry of blows that created sonic booms in their wake.

Luckily for him however, he had no problem deflecting them away. Blocking them was out of the question right now considering her power, so he had to make due with the next best course of action. And with each strike she delivered, he could feel the very force of her punches grind into him bit by bit.

Genjuro grit his teeth. She really was as powerful as she claimed to be, there was no mistake about that. With insane speed to enhance that power, he was truly in a bind. His only advantage was in his technique, something he had honed for decades on countless battlefields, and that experience was that one thing that let him keep up with her.

'This divine power...such a thing should not be allowed to exist.' He thought to himself. But there was no use dwelling on such a what if. Their predictions were wrong, things went to hell, and now they had to deal with it as best they could.

Taking the opportunity, he let one of her strikes graze him and stepped into her guard, catching her by surprise. She tried to jump back in order to gain some distance, but he was faster this time. His fist slammed into her stomach, and she spit blood as it sent tremors through her whole body.

However, it did not have the intended effect of batting her away. Hibiki clenched her teeth, and grasped the arm planted in her stomach with both hands. His eyes widened, and before he could react in time she delivered a kick to the side of his head just as she released his hand, and the S.O.N.G commander was sent flying away instead.

He groaned as he skid across the ground on his side, his head miraculously still attached. He had no time to assess the damage before he had to jump away as Hibiki's strike barely missed him, hitting the ground and shattering it even further. Rubble exploded upward from the impact, and Hibiki's eyes swiftly found their target again. Genjuro landed back on the ground just as she charged. In response, the man released a flurry of kicks in her direction, stopping her charge and forcing her to dodge in between them.

Everything Genjuro was doing was simply to buy time in order to formulate a better battle plan. He had a pretty good estimate of her new strength, which was why he could not allow himself to be dealt a direct, full powered hit from her. Just the quick kick to the side of his head made the inside of his skull ring like crazy. It was an incredibly uncomfortable sensation, not unlike being on the receiving end of a flashbang grenade.

Luckily for him, he had already experienced that pain before.

Genjuro yelled, and slammed his foot down on the ground with full force. A huge chunk of the rubble lifted off the ground, hiding him from Hibiki's vision. She was taken aback by the surprise move, but continued on regardless. She slammed her fist into the impromptu barrier and smashed it to pieces, expecting to find Genjuro on the other side.

Only, he wasn't. Moving faster than the eye could see, Genjuro had seemingly teleported behind her, and his fist fired with a roaring boom that left no room for escape.

However, Hibiki was less than normal in her current state, and with inhuman reflexes dodged the blow meant for her head by taking a step back. Twisting on her rear leg, she delivered a roundhouse kick that Genjuro was forced to block with his knee. He could feel the bones in his legs shake from the blow, and he was once again forced back from her.

The commander let out a breath, taking a moment to reassess the situation. He shook his hands, releasing some of the tension built up within them. Surprisingly enough, Hibiki did not chase him this time, taking a moment to gather herself for another exchange. "I don't understand," She suddenly said. "How is it that you can stand up to me?" She asked with an incredulous look.

Genjuro rubbed the dust of his shoulder. "It's simple, Hibiki-kun. You may have overwhelming power, but don't forget I am the one who taught you how to fight. I know the way you move and the way you think, and that is something that will not change no matter what form you take."

She glared at him with teeth bared. "You dare look down on me!"

"It's quite the opposite, Hibiki-kun. I have never once looked down on you. Your resolve and relentless fighting spirit are something to be admired. It has been a long time since I was forced into an intense fight. Had we been in any other situation, I would have regarded you as a worthy opponent."

Suddenly, an aura of power built up around him, and he retook his fighting stance. "Unfortunately, I am a man on a mission. And you, of all people, should know what happens when a man is on a mission. Endless hours of action movies should give you the answer to that."

Hibiki blinked, the memories resurfacing in her mind from his words. "I see," She answered. Taking a deep breath, she reentered her own stance, facing him head on. "In that case, I will also go all out then. Once I take you down, there will be no one left to stop me."

Just as she finished saying those words, Genjuro charged at her, and she expertly blocked his powerful strike. "That is where you are wrong, Hibiki-kun!"

He released his own flurry of sonic boom releasing blows. "Even if I fall here, those girls will not stop for a second! They will give their own lives in order to bring you back, I can promise you that! That is the extent of their feelings for you! So no matter what you believe or do, there will always be someone to stand in your way!"

"Tch!"

His blows were annoyingly powerful, she had to give him that. But she was hardly surprised. There was no one stronger in the world than him, that much she knew.

But right now she was stronger, and there is no way she'll let a regular human surpass her!

She dodged to the side, escaping the flurry of blows he was delivering, and entered his range. The rogue wielder shot a fist forward, and he responded by kneeing her in the wrist, throwing her off balance.

Perhaps it was time to use that one style he saw in that one series.

In less than an instant, his stance changed completely. It was as if he spontaneously transformed, and he launched a blow that grazed the side of her head.

"You know that won't work-!"

Only for the fist to suddenly strike the back of her neck.

Excruciating pain travelled through her spine as she dropped her guard, caught completely by surprise. "Wha-!"

But he did not stop. The heavy strikes suddenly became whiplike, striking with such pinpoint accuracy that left her completely helpless in the face of his assault. She dodged desperately, yet it looked as if his arms were curving unnaturally, using the elbow as a fulcrum, and were somehow able to reach vital points on her body that she was sure were protected.

"What is this?!" She yelled, but was only answered by another flurry of curving blows. Even though Hibiki had the advantage of wearing armor, it was not enough to stop the force of the impacts from affecting her.

His fist struck her chest cleanly, and she let out a gasp at the intense pain that accompanied it. She grit her teeth and counterattacked, but Genjuro moved like the wind, flowing in between her desperate blows with frightening precision. He twisted as he entered her range, and struck the small of her back with a powerful chop. She tumbled forward, but quickly regained her footing and spun with a back-kick, yet found herself in shock as once again her blow missed completely, and once again Genjuro was behind her.

She tried to turn in time to face him, but instead was forced to move her head to the side to avoid a strike to the back of her head. She had no idea what he was doing, but given enough time she'll eventually-

And then his hand locked around her throat. She was lifted off the ground, gasping for air, her hands clamping down on his rocklike muscles. He could feel her armoured fingers dig into his skin, drawing blood, yet he did not release his hold on her neck. He squeezed his fingers even more.

"G-gah-" She let out weakly. How was he able to lock her down?! That was supposed to be impossible. The divine power was supposed to make her invincible! Then how was this human able to-

No, she would not allow it. There was no way she could allow herself to be defeated here. Not like this. Not before she could start changing the world!

She clamped down even harder on his arm, and with her swinging legs kicked his bicep with all the force she could muster.

It was only because of her shorter stature that she was able to secure her escape. The pain travelled up his arm, and he involuntarily released his hold on her, giving the rogue user plenty of time to get some distance from him.

Genjuro remained still and shook his arms again. "How was that, Hibiki-kun?"

Hibiki put a hand around her throat, making sure nothing important inside was bent out of shape. She gasped out her shock. "What...was that?"

He grinned. "That was a little thing I learned from this anime I saw. I thought it was cool, despite its intended purpose. Although it doesn't work once the opponent gets a grasp on it. But it did catch you by surprise, didn't it? How did that feel, Hibiki-kun?"

She stared at him in amazement. Even now, he was still talking about his shows? "You dare-?!"

"Yes, I dare," He said, cutting her off. "I told you, Hibiki-kun, I will take you back by any means necessary. I don't mind using dirty tactics to accomplish that."

Silence fell on the battlefield, and the warm breeze returned to once again waft between them. Hibiki cast her head downwards, a sudden calmness coming over her features, her hands limp by her sides. Genjuro furrowed his brows at the change, entering his signature stance once again. Now that she had experienced his new and unusual style, its effectiveness dropped considerably. But it did its job to rile her up, which was what he was aiming for. Anger clouds the mind, which would leave her defenseless to his more regular strikes.

At least, that's what he planned for. And he, more than anyone else, knew that plans never survived contact with the enemy.

Hibiki clenched her fists by her sides, and a violent and bloodthirsty aura leaked from her in droves. It was so pronounced Genjuro could physically see it as a crimson miasma that rose around her, tainting the very air around it. It made him sick just looking at it, especially because it was Hibiki it was rising from.

Genjuro braced himself.

And then her head snapped up in one disturbing jerk, and for a moment he caught sight of her shining emerald eyes.

Right before she teleported in front of him faster than he could blink, and smash her fist right into his chest.

Only his superhuman endurance managed to save him from having his body destroyed like Adam Weishaupt. He felt his ribs shatter from the blow, and he spit blood, the liquid splashing onto her face. He was thrown backwards, and worked through the pain to right himself on the ground. 'Teleportation? When did she learn how to do that? Everything up until now has been nothing more than high speed movement!' His eyes widened at the thought. 'Don't tell me...she is spontaneously developing new abilities as she gets more used to the divine power?!'

She was upon him before he could even finish dwelling on the thought. He jumped backwards, but the pain of his shattered ribs dulled his reactions, and he was grazed by the blow that he could have cleanly dodged. 'This is bad.'

He landed back on his feet and took a risky gamble. He punched forward, and just as he suspected Hibiki teleported in front of him, right into the path of his strike. It smashed straight into her face, and her head reeled back from the blow, stunning her momentarily. He followed it up with another fierce hook, intending to knock her out cold.

Only for her to suddenly vanish into thin air, catching him by surprise. His instincts screaming, he barely had to turn around to find her right behind him, and receive another blow from her divine power enhanced punches to his back.

The man groaned in pain as he was thrown forward through the air. Now helpless airborne, Hibiki followed up by teleporting in his path, kicking him in the chin towards the sky. He soared through the air high up, his vision disappearing in whiteness from the excruciating pain.

And at the apex of his climb, she teleported above him, and screamed. "THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS, MASTER!"

The following strike was one of the strongest she had ever delivered. Her punch smashed into his stomach, and he streaked through the air towards the ground, sonic booms being left in his wake.

A moment later, Genjuro crashed onto the ground, a gigantic crater forming from the impact point, and he lay unmoving at it center.

The match was decided.

Genjuro had lost.

The screams of despair coming from S.O.N.G's headquarters could not be heard on the battlefield, and Hibiki descended towards him, staring at her commander's battered body. To her surprise, he was still alive and conscious despite the blows he received. However, he will not be getting back up any time soon.

Which gave her the perfect opportunity to finish him off.

Genjuro regained his bearings and stared towards the sky. "I see...so I lost."

"Yes, you have." She answered him.

His only response was to laugh weakly, pain wracking every corner of his body. "I knew...that day would come eventually but...never expected it...to be so soon."

He lay there on his back, unable to move. Defeated by his own student, using the very techniques and abilities he taught her.

Truly ironic.

"Do you have any last words, Master?" She asked him quietly. She held out her hand to the side, and the spear that had been staked into the ground a distance away from them returned to her a moment later. She stood near his head and held the spear by the shaft with both hands, its tip aimed at his face.

There wasn't much left for him to say. "Just...remember, Hibiki-kun...Those girls...will not stop...until they get you back...Think about...this world you want to create and...think...if it will be worth...losing everything for it…"

"I have thought about it every day since I received Gungnir, Master." She answered. "And I'm done thinking."

"Is that...you speaking...or the divine power?" He asked. "Because I will not...be able to pass on quietly...if it's the latter…"

"It's my own will, Genjuro. A will that I held back for years ever since I survived that hell. Since the day I received Gungnir. Since the day I destroyed the moon fragment. Since the day Fine spoke to me and told me to believe in the song in my heart." She answered him. "I did not listen. I merely went on with my foolish justice, believing that I could help people understand each other. But you of all people know that can't happen. You know how in all of the battlefields you have been through that there are far too many people who simply refuse to listen. Who refuse to grab your hand when you offer it to them. I cannot allow such a thing to continue any longer." Her brows furrowed deeply. "And that is why, with this spear, I will disperse humanity's darkness. Whether they like it or not."

She raised the spear high above. "Goodbye, Master."

And just as she began to lower the spear onto his head...

"Is that...really what you believe?"

Her thrust stopped an inch from his nose. She did not want to listen to him any longer. She had absolutely no reason to. She was the victor, and as the victor she would now claim her prize.

But the tingling in the back of her head returned tenfold, hammering into her skull, telling her to wait.

"All the friends that you have made...thanks to you holding your hand out to them...all the lives you have saved...because you truly believed in that simple...yet unfettered justice. It...was what gave you strength...it was what helped you save the world...and it was what...shaped you to become who you are today..." He said weakly, staring up into her eyes.

The spear shook in her grip. Why was this happening now? Why was he saying such things now? And why was she listening?!

"I saw that...in your eyes that day...when you came into headquarters...all confused and lost yet...a fire burned in you that could not be extinguished. That was the moment I knew...you would be able to do great things...and you strove to make it work as much as you could...that boundless optimism that held great depth to it...was the reason I brought you in...not because I thought of you as a replacement to Kanade-kun but...a true, real and great person that could do...what she could not...what I could not…" He continued, still staring into her emerald eyes.

Her teeth grinded against each other. "Shut...up…"

"Your heart has...infinite place in it...for strangers...and for those you hold dear...everyone...is an irreplaceable friend for you...and as a result...you are irreplaceable for them...that is why...don't allow those regrets...to blind you from what you truly are…"

"Shut...up…!"

"And that is why...they will never stop trying...even if they fail...again...and again...those girls will do whatever it takes...to help you remember...that fire…"

"Shut...UP!"

"I want you to think on that...Hibiki-kun...Ryouko-kun was right...listen to the song in your heart...and think of those whom you hold dear…"

"Shut up!"

"Think about that...Hibiki-kun…"

The face of a certain black haired girl flashed before her eyes.

"SHUTTTTTTTTTTTTT UPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!"

And she brought the spear down.

Chapter Text

It was far too quiet when the trio arrived with their passengers. Dispelling their Symphogears right outside the submarine, Maria, Chris, Shirabe and Miku all ran as fast as they could into the sub proper. It all began when during their retreat, the deafening amount of noise coming from their headset instantly vanished, leaving nothing but an eerie silence that did not bode well.

They made their first stop in the medical room. The door slid open and they barged inside, the doctors within already prepared to receive their patients. They set Kirika and Saint-Germain down on the medical beds, careful as to not aggravate their injuries. Shirabe looked over Kirika once, making sure she was comfortable, and ran after the trio that hurried to the bridge ahead of her, having turned down the doctors' offers for treatment.

They sprinted through HQ's halls, having memorized them by heart the way back to the bridge a long time ago. It took them less than a minute to arrive, and the door slid open before them. They scurried inside, and froze.

They immediately understood the cause of the silence. All members on the bridge, Elfnein included, had stopped any and all work they were doing to stare in horror at the gigantic display above them. Maria looked them over, not quite understanding what was happening.

That was until Tomosato let out an anguished gasp, and she looked up to the screen too.

It showed Genjuro, the same unbeatable mountain of man who could take out Symphogears with his bare hands, sprawled out on the ground, lying defeated inside of a crater. His shirt and pants were torn in various locations, and blood poured out from open wounds he sustained during the intense fight.

And standing above him was Hibiki, looking none the worse for wear, holding her spear above his head.

They could see their mouths move, but no words were coming out. When the sound suddenly gave out during the fight, one of the engineers hurriedly tried to fix it, only to realize that the fault came from the outside, meaning that all of the audio devices on the battlefield had malfunctioned, headsets included.

But the lack of sound did not stop them from despairing. Because no matter what words were spoken, it did not hide the fact that the scene before them looked like an execution. The rogue Symphogear user was standing above him with her spear raised, yet his face remained calm, and he was speaking to her. And whatever he was saying, it seemed to be slightly working. They could see the spear shake, meaning that Hibiki's grip on it was loosening. For a moment they believed that perhaps he was successfully talking her out of it. It would be a miracle if he was, for it would instantly solve all of their problems. Hope blossomed up in their chests as they watched the scene.

Only for that hope to be summarily crushed when the cursed spear came down anyway.

And in that crucial, heart wrenching moment in which the spear was about to pierce through his head…

That visual suddenly gave out and the screen filled with static.

It was the greatest jumpscare they had ever experienced in their lives. Several of the crew members yelped in surprise by the change. "Quickly! Someone get us back some visual!" Aoi ordered, having been given temporary command of HQ, and the appropriate subordinates immediately worked to fix the problem. Without sound and visual, S.O.N.G HQ was completely cut off from the battlefield, unaware of what was going on.

And completely unaware of the fate of their beloved commander, who had been defeated by his own pupil.

The engineers worked tirelessly, and all those gathered on the bridge were wracked with anxiety, just waiting for the screen to come back to show Genjuro's brain splattered on the ground. It was the natural conclusion to reach after seeing something so horrifying.

But no matter what they did, the visuals would not return. The engineers could only give the response they gave last time: the malfunction was on the outside.

It was beyond frustrating. They had absolutely no clue what was going on, and did not even notice the wielders as they came in.

Shirabe looked to and fro, studied the situation, and came to a decision. "I'm going back to see what happened." She suddenly declared.

Maria turned to her with her eyes wide. "No! Shirabe, that's too dangerous! You don't know if HIbiki-san is still there or not!"

"The only thing I have done until now was bring people to and away from the battlefield. I have no intention of fighting her. I know I would lose if I tried. But at least I have to give us some closure. We can't continue like this." She answered, meeting her elder's gaze.

Maria was slightly taken aback by Shirabe's stubbornness. She glanced back to the bridge, looking at the crew members. Some began to tap away at their consoles again, others were holding their heads in despair, leaning forward, and some slumped in their chairs backwards limply. If she listened closely, she could hear sorrowful sniffles coming from more than one of the stations.

It went to show how much the uncertain fate of their commander was getting to them. And as a result, relented to the younger wielder's demands. "Be careful out there. Your headset should still work so keep us updated on anything, alright?"

Shirabe nodded. She looked between her comrades, who nodded to her. She walked towards the door, and on the way stopped by the quiet Miku, and spoke softly. "Miku-san."

The black haired girl raised her head, having been lost in thought, and looked towards her underclassman. In response, Shirabe grasped her hand…

And gave it a tight squeeze.

The action baffled Miku, but Shirabe said nothing more, leaving the bridge in a hurry.

-!-

Around ten minutes later, Shirabe arrived back to the battlefield. The only thing that remained there that belonged to them were the trucks loaded with Anti-LiNKER, having been abandoned during the initial fight. Other than that, it stayed exactly as it was when she left: Nothing but a scarred war zone filled with rubble and wreckage.

She slid forward, looking around trying to locate the specific crater they had seen Genjuro lying inside if. It would have been quick work had there been only one crater, but their fight was so intense that there were virtually dozens of them scattered all over the place, a reminder of the huge power that was thrown around almost casually throughout the night.

It was the wee hours of the morning by now, around five a.m if she recalled, and the very first rays of the sun were peering out of the horizon. It would be less than an hour until they would be bathed in its light, the first light since the disastrous night they suffered.

She passed by each crater she saw, briefly looking within and seeing no sign of anything. She was almost hesitant to continue looking in fear of coming upon a gory scene.

Hibiki was also similarly gone, having left the battlefield at some unknown point in time. No one had a clue as to where she went, but frankly Shirabe couldn't care less at the moment. Right now the priority was to find Genjuro. Whether she brought him home alive or as a headless corpse, she would give closure to S.O.N.G.

It was the one thing she could do for them.

And just as she thought that, she finally found what she was looking for.

It was the deepest crater of the bunch, probably over ten meters deep. It was surprisingly clear of any rubble, which gave her a clear view of the inside.

And boy was she glad she had a clear view.

He just laid there, unmoving. However, the biggest surprise she had was the fact that despite all of their worries, his head was miraculously still in one piece. She slid down the side of the crater as fast as she could and kneeled by him. She looked to the spot next to his head and found a small part of the ground that had been pierced through in the shape of a diamond, indicating that something had been embedded there.

The only assumption she had was that somehow Hibiki had missed her target and left before help arrived. It was a strange train of thought, one she couldn't really rationalize.

But it didn't matter at all right now. Quickly she looked him over, utilizing the basic first aid knowledge she had learned in the past, and saw no other injuries on him that indicated something fatal. She put two fingers against his neck and checked his pulse.

She smiled brightly when she got her desired response. It was faint, but it was there.

Genjuro was alive, and he could still be saved.

She swiftly put her hand against her headset. "I found him," She said. "He's alive. His pulse is weak but he's alive!"

The relieved gasps she received warmed her heart. She turned back to him, and began to slide her arms under him in order to carry him away.

Only to yelp as he suddenly opened his eyes. "Shirabe...kun…"

Her eyes widened. "Commander! Don't worry, I'll get you back as fast as possible-"

"She...spared me…" He began to say quietly, causing her to freeze. "She...spared...me...We can...still...bring her...back…"

The young wielder had a very hard time understanding what he was talking about. Perhaps he was delirious from blood loss, or perhaps he interpreted her leaving as sparing him, but that did not matter at all at the moment. He was alive, and she was determined to bring him back with her.

"Don't worry, I'll take you back." She said in response.

She slid her arms under him, and with one strong heave lifted him off the ground in her arms. He was heavy, despite her wearing a Symphogear. But she had experienced heavy before, and in comparison this was nothing.

She made it back to base in record time.

And the entire way, Genjuro continued to murmur softly.

-!-

About three hours later, the main bridge crew of S.O.N.G along with the wielders gathered within the medical room. The sun had risen, and the light poured into the room, illuminating every corner of it.

"If there is a god up there, then he sure just blessed us." The doctor said upon giving them a rundown on Genjuro's condition. "He still has a few open wounds aside from the broken ribs, but he will most definitely make it. We gave him stitches where necessary and he should make a full recovery very soon. His constitution and vitality are simply through the roof. I knew commander Kazanari was a tough nut to crack, but this is just insane. As for the other piece of good news, Tsubasa-san will also make a full recovery. Her Symphogear kept her alive for the majority of the time, giving us plenty of time to get her out of the critical phase. All in all, I must say we are quite fortunate, all things considered." He adjusted his glasses. "I do wish however we had full access to some hospital equipment at a time like this, although I did understand the need to evacuate the immediate area. It's a shame, as we could have given them a better treatment overall."

Aoi gave out a relieved sigh. "Thank you doctor. Your work is always appreciated."

The man smiled. "Only doing my job ma'am. Other than that, Kirika-san woke up a bit woozy when she was brought in, and Ms. Saint-Germain had received a couple of cuts and scratches that we have taken care of. All in all, the patients' conditions are phenomenal considering our circumstances."

"I agree doctor, and it's all thanks to you." Aoi added gratefully.

His smile grew. "Don't mention it, Tomosato-san." He said. He threw a glance to the side, catching sight of Shirabe checking Kirika over, who simply laughed softly at her worry. "I'm going to go take care of a few things. I shall leave you to your devices."

"Very well. Thank you again doctor."

He nodded, and approached the door leading out of the medical room. Just as he was about to exit, it suddenly opened much earlier than expected, and he was greeted by the sight of Elfnein hurrying inside, carrying something in her hands and nearly bumping into him.

"Ah!" She let out. "I'm sorry!"

The doctor smiled again. "Don't worry about it." He said, and moved to the side to allow her to pass. He threw a brief glance towards her direction, then left the room.

Elfnein ran to the others crowded around Genjuro's bed. "Sorry I took so long," She said. "I was just making some final adjustments."

Chris turned to her. "Final adjustments to wha-" And froze.

"To him!" She chirped, and lifted Adam's head in her hands high for all to see. The surreal sight of seeing Elfnein holding a decapitated head was engraved in their minds.

"I have to admit I'm surprised by the talent of Carol's homunculus. Making adjustments so I can work cleanly without any problems in my condition is no easy task." Adam said.

Chris clicked her tongue. "Tch, you again."

"Yes, me again." He retorted. "We'll be working closely now, Symphogear. You should get used to it."

"I have a name you know," She said angrily. "Start using it."

His only response was to huff dismissively. Elfnein disconnected the lamp on the stand next to Genjuro's bed and replaced it with Adam's head, giving everyone a clear view of the former leader of the Pavarian Illuminati. She immediately took a seat to Aoi's right, closing the impromptu circle of chairs they made next to Genjuro's beside.

The happy mood that had taken the group slightly fell as they proceeded to focus on the important topics. "Now that everyone is here," Aoi began. "Let's talk about the elephant in the room: the events of last night."

"I don't think there is much to say that we don't already know," Maria responded quickly. "We were easily and summarily defeated. All of our efforts were worthless and we only have more questions than answers at this point."

The group fell quiet at her blunt, yet accurate description of the night. It was true what Maria was saying. They were caught completely by surprise, and the shock of Hibiki turning on them and turning out to be stronger than any of them could handle only made things worse.

It also didn't help that the one person who could have possibly defeated her was lying in bed next to them, having been defeated himself.

"Not only that," Fujikata added. "We don't even know we she is right now. She has completely vanished off the radar. Scans did not find even a speck of any sort of power or signal, whether divine or Aufwachen."

Kirika rubbed the back of her head sheepishly. "I guess I missed quite a lot last night huh? She really got me good."

"That she did," Saint-Germain said from the bed across from them, sitting up. "Her power was far beyond anything we could have imagined. I too believed that the calculations and predictions you have made were correct, within a tolerable margin of error. However, it seems that an unexpected element caught us off guard," Her eyes narrowed and she looked towards the stand next to the commander's bed. "And I believe that he has exactly the explanation as to what that is."

The members of S.O.N.G looked towards Adam, who remained calm under their gaze. "I indeed do. It is not something that is widely known after all. However, I am not willing to divulge that information freely."

Chris glared at him hatefully. "Do you really think you are in a position to bargain?!"

"Are you?" He asked back, silencing her. "As I see it, it is a matter of survival now. If we don't cooperate, then you'll never know how to eliminate the factor that made her turn out this way. With me the only one in the world with that piece of information, I must say that without me you are helpless. As a result, I am indeed in the position to bargain. I will not divulge the information you want until you give me what want."

Chris jumped out of her chair, ready to pounce on him. "Why you little-" She began, only for Maria to shove her back down into her seat.

"In that case," The man on the bed suddenly said, shocking everyone around him. "What is it that you want?"

"Commander!" "Old man!" Everyone sans Adam exclaimed.

Genjuro sat up in his bed, his eyes locked onto Adam's. "Under my authority you'll be given whatever you desire for that information, I can assure you that."

"Ho, you would really give in so quickly to my demands? I did not expect you to be so faint-hearted after that display you showed out there." Adam responded to him.

"I will do what I must in order to bring Hibiki-kun back. As a result, I am open to negotiations." Genjuro simply answered.

Adam let out a chuckle.

"Commander," Aoi asked. "How are you feeling?"

He looked towards her with a soft expression. "I've been better, but at least I'm alive. How are all of you?" He asked instead.

She looked between those crowded around his bed. "For the most part fine, if a bit shaken up. Tsubasa is also recovering nicely from what the doctor said."

Genjuro grumbled. "I see," He said. However, there was one person on his mind that he did not see in the circle. "And how is Miku-kun?"

It was that question that caused them to fall silent. Aoi's expression fell, and she sent a brief glance to the far corner of the room. "She's...well…" She began to say, and Genjuro followed her gaze.

There, far away from the rest, Miku sat alone on a chair, slumped forward and her head downcast, her hands joined on her lap.

Her condition gave Genjuro all the answers he needed. The events of the night did not fully register in Miku's mind as they were happening, probably due to the shock. However, now that everything calmed down and she had the time to dwell on it, the brunt of the realization hit her full force. After the doctor checked her over, she had simply remained seated in the chair, looking almost catatonic.

"She hasn't moved from that spot for over two hours." Aoi said. "I wish I could do something for her to make it a bit easier to handle."

"I don't think there is anything that can help her at the moment except an explanation for what happened. In fact, it is the only thing that can help any of us right now. Hibiki-kun's sudden betrayal is not something you can easily cope with." Genjuro added. "And that is why I am willing to bargain. Anything that can ease this sorrow will be welcome, both for our morale and our spirits."

His point held merit. Not a single one of them, Chris included, had a sound argument to give to that.

He turned back to Adam. "State your terms."

Adam smirked, and opened his mouth to speak. However, just as he was about to make his demands, he was suddenly interrupted by a loud beeping coming from Fujikata's laptop. The man opened it up and pressed a few buttons...And spoke up hesitantly. "Commander...It's from Kamakura."

Several eyes widened at once at the timing. Adam, who was rudely interrupted, raised an eyebrow.

"Now of all times…" Genjuro said with a sigh. Bracing himself, he continued. "Put him through. Connect him to the medical room's projector."

Fujikata nodded, and tapped another few buttons on his laptop. Above them, the medical room projector lit up and displayed the face of the one man they did not want to talk to on the wall behind them.

Kazanari Fudou's face greeted them with his usual judgmental look. "Do you have an explanation for this humiliation?" He asked immediately.

Still in his bed, the only action physical action Genjuro could do was to lower his head slightly to the Kazanari patriarch. "Not at the moment," He answered. "We are still in the stage of organizing what we know and figuring out what we don't."

The Symphogears in the group glared at the man on the screen, who ignored them. "And how exactly do you intend to do that?"

In response, Genjuro pointed to Adam. "With him."

Fudou narrowed his eyes at the disembodied head, and their gazes locked momentarily. Adam's serious expression betrayed nothing. "So you have captured the enemy leader?"

"We have indeed. Under less than ideal circumstances, but we did. And he has agreed to provide us with the necessary information as that solve this crisis." Genjuro added.

"Make sure that he does," Fudou commanded. "I am expecting results, Genjuro. So far, you have done nothing but disappoint me. You have failed to protect the nation as your duty commands. Not only that, but your lack of foresight has allowed a monster to rampage freely as she wished. Do not make me regret granting you command of this division."

Chris had heard enough, her fuse already lit due to the situation. She shot up to her feet, her eyes still narrowed at the Kazanari head. "What the hell! We nearly died protecting the world far too many times until now, not to mention we beat the bad guys time and time again, and that's all you have to say?!"

"Chris!" Maria yelled, trying to calm her down in vain.

But Fudou kept his gaze levelled, barely regarding her. "Know your place, girl. You are nothing but a soldier under our command. You should not be commended for coming back defeated and empty-handed."

His dismissive tone pissed her off even more. "The fuck did you just say?!" She shouted. "I dare you to come here and say that to my face you son of a-"

"CHRIS!"

CRASH!

It was so sudden even Chris immediately shut her mouth. In the moment Maria was about to stand up as well to force the rowdy wielder back down into her seat, a glass beaker slammed against the wall displaying Fudou's face, exploding and shattering into a thousand pieces.

They looked towards the direction from which the beaker came, and froze.

Miku was standing, her stance betraying the fact that she had thrown it. Her eyes were glued to the man on the wall.

And an expression of fury was etched on her face. It was a look they had never seen on the girl before.

"HOW DARE YOU!" She screamed, grabbing another beaker from behind her. "HOW DARE YOU CALL HER A MONSTER!"

She chucked it at the wall and it exploded, causing Kirika to wince. "HIBIKI IS NOT A MONSTER!" She grabbed another object behind her, not caring for a moment what it was and threw it at him. "IT'S SO EASY FOR YOU TO JUST JUDGE FROM AFAR AS IF YOU UNDERSTAND ANYTHING! BUT YOU DON'T! YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND A SINGLE THING! YOU THINK YOU ARE SO ABOVE US WHEN ALL YOU DO IS COMPLAIN AND BERATE EVERYONE! DON'T YOU DARE SPEAK IF YOU AREN'T EVEN HERE TO WITNESS IT!"

Her explosive outburst caught everyone off guard, and even Fudou himself went quiet. Genjuro looked at her sadly, understanding where she was coming from. The Kazanari patriarch had called her best friend a monster, and that was something she would never stand for. It roused her from her trance, and her mind, already reeling from the events of the night could not hold together under the combined stress.

Had he been in her position, he doubted he wouldn't have reacted the same way.

"YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT WE ARE GOING THROUGH!" She continued, thundering towards the display. Hurriedly, Maria left Chris' side and grabbed Miku's arms from behind, stopping her from assaulting the wall in her blind rage. Miku struggled against her hold, still glaring at him hatefully. "IF YOU HAVE NOTHING GOOD TO SAY, THEN DON'T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL!"

"Miku-san…" Kirika said softly, her heart going out to her.

Her throat was becoming sore, unused to the elevated volume of the usually gentle girl's voice. "I WON'T LET YOU LOOK DOWN ON THEM! EVERYONE WHO WAS FIGHTING SO HARD TO SAVE OTHERS, SACRIFICING EVERYTHING JUST SO YOU CAN SIT THERE AND SAY WHATEVER YOU WANT! WITHOUT THEM, YOU WOULD BE NOTHING! SO DON'T THINK YOU CAN START ACTING ALMIGHTY AND DEMANDING WHATEVER YOU WANT THINKING YOU UNDERSTAND ANYTHING!"

Tears of combined rage and sorrow poured down her cheeks, staining her clothes. "IT'S JUST SO EASY FOR YOU TO CONTINUE USING THE EXCUSE OF PROTECTING THE COUNTRY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR PAIN AND USE IT FOR YOUR OWN GAIN!"

She kept on trying to escape Maria's hold, but the elder girl was far stronger than she was. "IT'S PEOPLE LIKE YOU WHO CAUSE PROBLEMS FOR EVERYONE! IT'S PEOPLE LIKE YOU THAT...THAT MAKE HIBIKI'S INTENTIONS ALL THE MORE LEGITIMATE!"

She began panting heavily, her whole body burning from the inside. "THIS IS NOT WHAT EVERYONE FOUGHT FOR! THIS IS NOT WHAT THEY NEARLY DIED FOR!"

Her legs lost strength and began shaking. Seeing that she was no longer trying to attack the man behind the screen, Maria released her hold on the tearful girl, letting her drops to her knees. "This is not what...Hibiki...nearly died for…" She cried softly, her energy expended. "So don't you dare...call her a monster...when you don't understand...anything…"

There were no words that could comfort the girl now. They merely looked at her sadly, and Chris bit her lip, desperate to say something to help out the friend that had saved her that long time ago.

Miku could barely speak now, becoming more exhausted by the second. "If that is all you have to say...then you can just shut up...shut up and...and…"

Gathering what remained of her rage, she swallowed, and screamed as loud as she could. "JUST SHUT UP AND FUCK OFF!"

Her abrupt cursing shocked them, not expecting such words to come out of her mouth. Chris was surprised, but inwardly smiled. Miku had pretty much vocalized what they were all thinking.

There was a quiet moment between all of them. Aoi ran to the fallen girl and kneeled by her side. "Miku-chan," she said softly. "Come on, let's get you back to your seat."

The girl with tears still running down her face reluctantly complied, allowing Aoi to pick her up by her arm and lead her back to the chair she sat on. Miku crumpled on the chair, holding her face in her hands, moaning sorrowfully all the while. Aoi stayed by her side, trying to comfort her.

Genjuro, whose eyes were glued to the girl during her outburst, turned back to his superior. "As you can see, morale is at an all time low at the moment. Once we get a grasp of our condition and situation I'll inform you of what we found."

"See that you do," Fudou answered calmly. "Do not disappoint me again, Genjuro. Such a threat to our country and to mankind cannot go unanswered."

Genjuro nodded. "I wholeheartedly agree. We'll do our best to minimize the damage it will cause, even if it costs us our lives."

"Very well then." Fudou replied. He took one final look at the gathered group, and then the display cut out, indicating the end of the call.

They all immediately released relieved sighs, and Genjuro grabbed his head. "This will never get any easier."

Chris sat back down, crossing her arms angrily. "How the hell can you handle working with him non-stop, old man? How come he doesn't get on your nerves?"

"At this point I'm just telling him what he wants to hear," Genjuro replied. "Especially now. He was impatient and only caused us more problems. After what happened just now, I'd rather cut the conversation short so we can get back to the important matters."

"The nerve of that man!" Maria exclaimed. "Miku-san is completely right. He barges in on us, making demands when he does not even know the full story! And he doesn't even seem to give a single damn about our well-being! Does he think we're machines?! What impudence!"

"He's been this way his entire life, Maria-kun. There is no point in trying to change that now." Genjuro simply said. "As I said, we should get back to the important matters. Just leave dealing with him to me. Now, where were we?"

He turned back to Adam, who had watched the conversation with mild interest. "State your terms, Adam Weishaupt, in exchange for the information about what happened to Hibiki-kun."

Adam remained silent, merely looking over the gathered group. He stared at them, eyes narrowed, deliberately keeping his gaze leveled at each one momentarily, as if he was studying them. His silence caused Genjuro to raise an eyebrow.

Finally, his eyes settled on the commander. "I have changed my mind." He simply said.

"Excuse me?" Genjuro asked.

"I said," Adam repeated. "That I changed my mind."

Chris once again shot out of her chair, and Maria sighed at being forced to shove her back down again. "What the hell do you mean you changed your mind?! You were all going on about cooperating with us and now you're taking it all back?! Make up your damn mind!" She yelled.

"Chris, please calm down." Maria begged her. "We can't have you explode at every little thing that happens."

"Well excuse me for giving a damn!" She shouted. "Sorry for being hurt at the fact that one of my friends tried to kill me and everyone else! Sorry for being sad about that! That's just how I cope! Is there a problem with that?!"

"Nobody said there was a problem, Chris. We just want you to sit quietly for a bit. Every delay only takes away important time we could have used to try and find a solution. If you are unable to sit still for a few minutes, then please go take a walk outside and I'll tell you everything that we found out, I promise." Maria answered, not at all fazed by her outburst.

Chris bared her teeth at her, but eventually her logical side won out. She shut her mouth and sat back down, grumbling quietly to herself.

Adam let out a chuckle at the exchange. "They sure are a lively bunch. How utterly repulsive."

"Well, that's just how they are. Get used to that. Now, what did you mean about changing your mind?" Genjuro asked him, getting back to the point.

"Hmph. Well, before your rowdy subordinate jumped to conclusions, I have said I changed my mind. What did I mean you ask? Simply that for now I'll drop my demands." He answered.

Several pair of eyes narrowed at him at his change of heart. "There is absolutely no way you are simply going to give that information freely, Lodgemaster." Saint-Germain said.

"Be surprised, Saint-Germain, but I will. After hearing your conversation with that fool you call a superior, I have decided that for the sake of humiliating him further, I will assist you. After all, Saint-Germain, isn't he the sort of oppressor you desperately craved to overcome?" He asked her, raising an eyebrow.

The alchemist would have jumped her former leader had she been in any other situation, so instead she chose to bite her lip and keep quiet. She did not know what his true intentions were, but one thing was certain: He was bound to stab them in the back when the time came.

But for now, she'll let him talk, and keep a close eye on him.

"As much as I would like to believe you, Adam Weishaupt, I do have to agree with her on that point. What do you hope to gain from this?" Genjuro asked him.

"Such lack of trust wounds me, but I assure you, right now I have no demands. If you insist I could bring them up again, but then again that's not something you personally want, is it?" Adam asked him.

Genjuro fell quiet. He was trying to play them, that was for sure. However, even if he was there was no point in not going along with it. They needed the information badly after all. He just hoped nothing he said would turn out to be false.

"Very well, then I will choose to believe you." Genjuro said.

"Oi-" Chris began to say, but caught herself before she yelled again and kept quiet. Maria smiled at her self-control.

"Why thank you," Adam mockingly said. "Now, where were we? Ah yes, the reason the god-slayer became an unstoppable force of nature. Truly it is a peculiar event to take place. Now, you probably believe it was the divine power that made her turn out this way." He said. They all looked at him curiously, having hit the mark.

He chuckled. "See, that is where you are wrong. The source of her turning did not come from that. After all, the divine power is simply a tool. Its purpose only depends on its wielder. Had it been any of you that had been engulfed, you would simply become as strong as she was, but with no effect on your minds or sanity. No, the source of that came from something much more personal…"

His cryptic explanation passed over several heads, who failed to comprehend his meaning.

Several except Elfnein's, whose eyes widened in shock. "Don't tell me...it came from…"

"Yes, homunculus, you think correctly," He answered her. "It came from the Symphogear itself."

Shocked gasps were heard from all over the room, and even Miku, who up until this point has been wallowing in sorrow, began to listen in closely. "You must already know that the spear known as Gungnir is in fact two spears in one." He continued.

"Yes," Elfnein answered him, getting several curious looks from those not in the know. "It is the spear of the god Odin as well as the Lance of Longinus, that pierced the side of the Son of God."

"Very good. For one reason or another, the two turned out to be the exact same spear. Regardless of the reason as to why that is, the problem starts when its concept as a slayer of gods starts to come into play. After all, the ancient Romans did believe that Christ was divine in one way or another, and that scared them. That fear was imbued within the spear that had pierced him, which caused it to gain its god-slaying abilities." He explained.

His expression then became grim, showing his distaste for that particular ability. "However, that power came at a price. It was born of fear, after all. Fear, and most of all grudges. The grudges of the people against the divine only grew from then on, and as a result the spear's power grew as well. Soon enough, those grudges and curses they bore against the gods were also imprinted within the spear itself."

His audience were engrossed in his story, realizing that there was something much deeper there than they ever understood. "From that moment on, the piercing spear Gungnir held the power of god-slaying, fueled by the grudges and curses of mankind against the gods that built up over two thousand years."

"That is a very interesting fact to know," Maria said. "However, how does that relate at all to Hibiki-san?"

"So impatient. How does it relate to her you ask? Well, initially, it was not related to her at all. I assume that the majority of the opponents you have fought and defeated up until now were not of divine origin, correct?" He asked, getting his answer from the several nods that followed. "When you first came into contact with Saint-Germain and her comrades, they unleashed the divine beast known as Yohualtepuztli which was summarily slain by her. It was strong, but its divine presence was not, and as such the reaction of the god-slaying power to it was minimal, only enough to destroy it without affecting anything other than that."

He raised an eyebrow as he asked the question. "However, what do you think happens when that power is exposed to an overwhelming amount of divine presence?"

A dawning realization came over the faces of several of them sans Kirika, who looked between them in confusion. Shirabe nudged her side, silently telling her to keep listening. Adam smiled at their response. "Yes, you seem to get it. Tachibana Hibiki was engulfed by massive amounts of divine power, and the god-slaying power reacted in kind. You could compare it to an overactive immune system that has discovered a pathogen that it must destroy. The god-slaying power within the spear went completely out of control, working tirelessly to eliminate the threat to its own existence."

Elfnein could only cover her mouth in shock. "Then...that unknown signature that was imbued within the Aufwachen signal was…"

"The god-slaying power itself," Adam answered for her. "It went out of control, and just like that overzealous immune system, began to affect the body that it inhabits. Tachibana Hibiki accepted the divine power for one reason or another, and the curses and grudges within the spear fought to deny that. Usually, the god-slaying power would act like a shell around its host, preventing the divine power from truly taking root while working to destroy it. But that is not what happened in our scenario. No, the two conflicting powers seem to have entered into some sort of chaotic harmony, always trying to one up the other, with Tachibana Hibiki caught in the middle."

Miku gasped in horror in the corner. "The grudges and curses overflowed from the spear and began to affect her mind and body, creating the...how should I call it?" He glanced briefly to the black haired girl in the corner and smirked. "The result, that you saw last night. Tachibana Hibiki was corrupted by the very power she wielded because she was not aware of its true nature. And how was that expressed? In exactly the way you experienced. She became something akin to a vengeful demon, living only to satisfy the grudges she had kept deeply buried within her, amongst other things. She became a being that holds both overwhelming divine power and the destructive urge to use it against the world."

Elfnein looked down to the ground, going over what she had seen and heard the night before in her mind. "She...she seemed so unstable," She said hesitantly. "Bipolar even, jumping between extreme moods from one moment to another. And paranoid. Whenever someone came to confront her, she always asked if they were 'turning against her'."

"That is correct," Adam responded. "She was, or should I say she is influenced by the grudges within the spear, causing her to act upon her own buried hatreds, resentments, and fears. I dare say that right now she is remembering every single thing that anyone had ever done to slight her, however insignificant, and is taking it to the radical extreme. It won't be long before she starts going on a killing spree. Kind of like religious fanatics, who have abandoned all sense of rhyme or reason in order to act out what they believe is 'right' or 'just'."

Chris shot up from her seat, completely forgetting the promise she had made earlier. "But that makes no sense!" She exclaimed. "There is no way that idiot holds those type of grudges!"

"That's right!" Kirika cried out as well, standing up. "I mean, she's always so bubbly and happy and-"

"And always keeps her feelings hidden so no one would worry about her, hiding her own pain behind a forced smile." Maria interjected, causing the two uproarious girls to fall silent.

Adam smirked once again. "Well, if she is supposed to be 'bubbly and happy' as you say, then it sure did not show itself last night. She was vicious, that was for sure. Not quite someone who 'does not hold any type of grudge'."

Kirika clenched her fist, determined to deny him. "Then...then it must have been Gungnir as you said! It was probably affecting her ever since she got it!"

"Unfortunately, that cannot be true, Kirika-kun." Genjuro answered. "If that was the case, then that influence would have disappeared when the original Gungnir fragment was vaporised in the Shenshoujing's light. Besides that, he said that the god-slaying power only reacts to the presence of divine power. It would not have any reason to respond if there was nothing to respond to. No...these grudges that she holds...have been deeply ingrained within her for a long time."

A somber silence fell upon them from his words. It was a fact too terrible to believe. Kirika knew that people did hold grudges, it was a fact of life. However, it was hard to believe that Hibiki was the one to hold them. Because if those grudges caused Hibiki to turn against them all…

Then it means that she holds grudges against each and every one of them.

In the corner of the doctor's office, next to his desk, Miku sat in silence. She had heard every single bit of Adam's explanation. Every little piece of information entered her mind and burned itself into her brain, and that only caused her horror and sadness to grow even more.

Alongside a resentment that she too, kept buried far below the surface.

She had kept her gaze on the floor, muttering one single phrase to herself that closed the circle in her mind.

"Everything...was because...of the Symphogear…"

Aoi was too busy paying attention to Adam to notice what the girl had said, but she did turn to look at her sympathetically once his explanation was finished. There was no possible way to describe it.

Kirika wracked her mind for an answer, something, anything that could serve as a counterargument. "I...I need proof!" She declared, looking to Shirabe for acknowledgement. "I won't believe something like that unless there is physical proof!"

"Well, good luck finding that proof, little girl." Adam said to her mockingly, causing her to glare at him. "Tachibana Hibiki will not just hand it to you at this point. Unless of course...there is someone else who can provide it." He said cryptically, moving his eyes to stare at the black haired girl in the corner of the room. The rest followed his gaze, and their eyes fell upon her as well.

It didn't take long for Miku to realize they were referring to her. She raised her head, her eyes bloodshot and wide and met their gazes. She shrunk, desperate to hide away from their curious looks, unwilling to divulge the information that she had kept hidden all this time. It was something even she was not meant to know about, having come across it completely by accident a long time ago.

Yet it seemed that now she had no choice. If she wanted to save Hibiki, then she would have to reveal her deepest, darkest secret. She swallowed hard and lowered her head again. "There...there is proof." She said weakly. "In...In Lydian. We have to go back to Lydian for it. Back to my room. Back in my…" She choked weakly on her name. "My and Hibiki's...room."

The hesitation with which she admitted it was heartbreaking. They turned their gazes away from her, giving her some space. In response, Genjuro spoke up. "Then my question is this," He said. "What do we need to do in order to get Hibiki-kun back?"

"It's either one of two things," Adam answered. "Either you remove the divine power from her, which will probably cause the grudges to recede. However, that is not guaranteed, and I doubt you will find a way to remove that divine presence from her either way. Humanity has no piece of technology advanced enough to be able to do so, and the only relic that you have that can is in her hands. How ironic."

"And what is the other option?" Genjuro asked.

"Remove the Symphogear from her. I assume that once it's removed, its influence upon her will cease. But it will have to be total and complete. Destroy it so thoroughly until nothing is left. That is surely more certain, although equally as difficult." Adam answered.

"Then we have a plan of action," Genjuro announced. "Maria-kun, you and-"

"Hold on a moment." Saint-Germain said, interrupting the commander. "There is one question I would like an answer to."

Adam narrowed his eyes at her. "What is it?"

She met his gaze with her own. "How is it possible that Tachibana Hibiki was able to become the vessel for the divine power in the first place? A human harboring the Original Sin cannot possibly contain such a thing. Why is she the exception?"

It was a question that went over the heads of the members of S.O.N.G. who were not aware of what the Original Sin was.

But Adam, who was aware, was caught by surprise. "To tell you the truth, Saint-Germain, I do not know. Such a thing baffles even myself. Something must have happened to her that possibly removed that taint from her, but other than that I have no explanation."

Genjuro was surprised. It was a question that Adam, who so far had given them nothing but answers, was completely clueless to. And it was impossible that it had no significance. It was another factor that they had to investigate.

Saint-Germain said nothing more, allowing the commander to continue his previous announcement. "As I said, we now have a plan of action." He said again. "Maria-kun, you will go with Miku-kun to Lydian to find this proof."

Maria nodded in acknowledgment, and looked towards the girl in the corner of the room, her head still downcast.

"Tomosato, Fujikata," He continued, and the two bridge members rose in response. "The two of your will investigate the dilemma Ms. Saint-Germain was referring to."

They nodded in acknowledgement.

"The rest of you," He said, looking towards Chris, Shirabe, and Kirika. "Go over our files and try to find anything you can about methods to remove divine power or Symphogears forcefully. I am granting you full access to the decrypted Val Verde files. Does anyone have any questions?"

Nobody said anything in response. "Then, dismissed."

And the gathering was broken up. The three younger Symphogear wielders left first, heading to the archives to begin their search. Maria approached the downcast Miku and kneeled in front of her. Seeing that she was in good hands, Aoi left the girl's side and along with Fujikata went back to the bridge. "Let's go, Miku-san. Let's get you home."

Miku nodded weakly, and allowed Maria to bring her to her feet. Holding the grief stricken girl by the hand, Maria dragged her outside, starting the long trek to the school.

Only Genjuro, Elfnein, Adam, and Saint-Germain remained. They sat in silence until the alchemist threw the covers off of herself, getting up from the bed. "I'll also go and investigate. I cannot just lie here uselessly." She said. She approached the stand next to Genjuro's bed and grabbed Adam by his hair. "You are coming with me."

The puppet could only respond with a smirk. "Suit yourself."

With him in hand, they left the medical room and followed after the bridge members, leaving the commander and the young homunculus alone.

Just as Genjuro wanted.

"Elfnein-kun," He said. "It seems that we no longer have a choice in the matter."

The girl looked at him sadly. "Genjuro-san…"

"Elfnein-kun, my mission to you is this: please start preparing it." He simply said, and she instantly caught his meaning, which shocked her.

"But," She began to say. "We don't know if she'll even accept it!"

"You're right...but it's the only choice we have. We'll have to make her accept it even if she doesn't want to. If what Adam Weishaupt said is true...then it might be our only hope."

"You'll really...use her like this? Especially after last time?" She asked hesitantly, not sure what sort of answer to expect.

"Yes, I will. I will do what I must. It is my duty to protect both the world and Hibiki-kun, and that is the only method I know how." He said whole-heartedly, causing Elfnein to lower her head.

She clenched her fist to her chest, and raised her head back, looking him straight in the eyes. "Then...I'll share that burden along with you. I won't let you go into this alone."

Genjuro smiled warmly and placed a hand on her head. "Thank you, Elfnein-kun. I truly appreciate your kindness."

She also smiled, and he removed his hand. "Then, I'll go take care of it." She said, and left the room, heading straight to her lab to begin her work.

And Genjuro remained alone in the medical room, along with the still unconscious Tsubasa. He looked towards the pod within she was encased, and was reminded of the day she had used her Superb Song all that time ago.

Barely a year passed since then, yet it felt so long ago to him. The day she had sung the ultimate song out of suicidal despair.

Yet he could only think back to the end of the battle, with Hibiki standing above him with her spear raised. When she lowered it, it instead struck the ground next to him. It baffled him at that moment as to why she did not kill him, but he could not vocalize his shock. She stood there silently, leaning on the spear, and then suddenly retracted it and disappeared into thin air.

He was not sure what happened at that moment, but there was one thing he was certain of.

Hibiki had spared him, despite all of the grudges she bore. And that was proof enough for him that she could still be saved.

And he would be damned if they failed to do that.

He swore it in his heart.

Chapter Text

AN: I highly recommend reading the doujin 'Wish On a Star' by Ogitouma. Parts of this chapter were inspired by it.

-!-

S.O.N.G. Archives.

A large collection of all the information the division has gathered over the years. Ranging from historical manuscripts to classified government documents, it is one of the most top-secret libraries currently existing in the world.

And it was exactly where three certain Symphogear wielders found themselves in, digging through both written documents and digital records in order to find anything they could about the mystery they were given.

Chris typed the question into the terminal, and was aggravated by the results it returned. Their task was to try and find any sort of methods to forcibly remove either divine power or a Symphogear from someone, and right now their search was completely fruitless. They had nothing, absolutely nothing. Not even Kirika and Shirabe, who were going over the printed records could find anything that could help them.

"Aaghhhhhhh!" Kirika exclaimed in frustration from within a pile of documents. "This is leading us nowhere!"

"We just have to keep looking, Kiri-chan." Shirabe informed her, also going over the various piles she had made during their search. They really haven't been able to find anything worthwhile, although Shirabe did manage to find some interesting reading material for herself about their relics.

She never read the Enuma Elish before, despite all of her knowledge about the goddess Zababa. It could be worth going over it later, so she placed the book aside and kept on looking through the relevant documents.

It wasn't as if they didn't know of a method to forcibly remove Symphogears. In fact, each and every one of them still remembered it vividly. The day they unearthed Frontier from the ocean floor by manipulating Miku to wield the Shenshoujing as a Symphogear, with its power turning out to be be the ability to erase relics. And it did so magnificently. Not only did it summon Frontier, it had also vaporized both itself and the Gungnir fragments within Hibiki that were threatening her life.

It was one of the more peculiar Symphogears to have ever existed. However, it was also gone, and with it the only surefire way to rescue Hibiki.

Although, even if they did have it, nothing promised that Miku would willingly wield it again, considering past circumstances.

It was a train of thought they had already considered, but there was no point dwelling on the past. They had to go over anything they possibly could, perhaps twice over, until they found the solution. They just had to believe it existed.

They continued their search in silence, with only the sound of Chris' tapping and the swooshing of pages to accompany them.

Kirika eventually came upon a document about Norse Mythology, detailing the life of the god Odin. She flipped through the pages sadly, an antique image of his spear greeting her eyes. "I still...can't believe this is happening." She said sadly.

Shirabe looked to her in sympathy, and held her hand. "I just...how could this have happened? Why to her? Why to us?" Tears started to form at the edge of her eyes, vividly recalling Hibiki's cold stare. "This wasn't supposed to happen. We were supposed to celebrate her birthday together. We should have been at school right now, eating chocolate cake and playing games and telling jokes and giving her presents and having fun...But instead...we have this!" She yelled, pointing at the mountain of documents piled in front of them. "Tsubasa-senpai was seriously injured, and so was the commander. We were forced to team up with our enemies just so we could survive, and nobody in the world knows where she is right now or what she's thinking! None of this is fair!"

Chris clenched her teeth as hard as she could, her furious typing stopping. "We know what she's thinking," She said, getting Kirika's attention. "You heard the bastard didn't you? She's remembering every single bad thing anyone has ever done to her. She is probably thinking about the days we tried to kill her and now she's going to come back and get her revenge on us. That's what she is thinking. Even with godlike power she stays an idiot."

Kirika could only grit her teeth in response, holding the tears back. "But...but why? Why would she feel that way? I just don't understand."

"Who knows? You heard what the old man said. It's probably something she kept hidden for a while. The only one who seems to know exactly is Miku, and you saw how well she was handling it." Chris reminded her.

Kirika looked even more downcast than before, still absentmindedly flipping through the pages. "And all that talk she had about ridding the world of the sinful. It was so scary. It was like looking at Dr. Ver and Carol all over again. And worse, she even started using an Armed Gear!"

"Just goes to show how much those curses have affected her." Shirabe told her. "And that's why we are here. We are here to find any way to get her back and take back our happy days. And we won't stop until we succeed, right?"

Kirika nodded quickly, rubbing the tears from her eyes. "Yeah, that's right. We won't stop until we succeed!" And raised her fist high up in the air.

Shirabe smiled, content she managed to cheer Kirika up, and followed suit. Their willpower reinvigorated, their continued their search.

Chris smiled briefly to herself, then went back to the console. They were right, no use being depressed about it. Just do whatever they can to find a solution.

-!-

S.O.N.G's bridge was likewise busy as the wielders as they researched everything they could about the situation. Aoi's and Fujikata's assignment proved to be no less difficult. There was a lot of information to go through, and even though they knew what to look for, they didn't know where to find it. They didn't even know what the Original Sin was. Was it the Curse of Balal, or Adam's sin of eating the Forbidden Fruit from the Tree of Knowledge? And if it was one of those things, what does it mean to be rid of it? How does one even rid oneself of it? And why is it a bad thing that it exists?

There were too many questions that needed to be answered, and not enough time to find answers. No, it was more like the allotted time they had was unknown, which made them all the more nervous. Nobody knew when Hibiki would suddenly appear again. Just the first battle proved to be too much, with her defeating ALL of their fighting force, allies and enemies both.

Fortunately, there was someone who was more knowledgeable about the subject than them, and she just walked through the door.

Saint-Germain entered the bridge and looked around at the consoles, Adam's head still clutched in one of her hands. Aoi, who noticed her entry, rose up from her seat and approached her. "St. Germain-san, welcome. Is there any way I can help you?" She asked.

"Yes, there is," The alchemist answered. "I could not simply sit and do nothing while my allies are doing whatever they can to solve this problem. As a result, I have decided to assist you in your search for answers. It was originally my question that caused you to go to such lengths after all."

Aoi's eyes widened in surprise, taken aback. Saint-Germain simply looked at her with her usual frown. "Is there something wrong?"

Aoi was broken from her trance and shook her head. "No, it's nothing. We'll be glad to have your assistance." She said, guiding Saint-Germain to one of the free consoles. "I'll log you in using my user, so you have access to the database. Feel free to do with it as you wish."

"Very well," Saint-Germain answered. "I thank you."

Aoi nodded with a smile, and together they approached one of the free consoles. She quickly logged into the database using her code and gestured Saint-Germain to it. "If you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask." Aoi told her, and the alchemist nodded in acknowledgment.

She sat down and placed Adam's head on the table, making sure to keep a good eye on him so he would not disappear while she was busy. It took her a few moments to get used to the awkward keyboard, but soon enough she was surfing through the database, looking for any answer she could find.

"You seem to be getting along quite well with them, Saint-Germain." Adam suddenly said, breaking her concentration. "Who knows, you might actually become friends."

Saint-Germain grumbled. "I don't want to hear that from you. And besides, I'm not becoming friends with them. We are merely allies until this incident is resolved, nothing more, nothing less." She simply answered.

He huffed in response. "If that is what you keep telling yourself, then sure."

She met his mocking gaze with a serious one of her own. "Perhaps I'll adopt the words the girl used before and apply them to you as well. If you have nothing good to say, then don't say anything at all."

"Quite contradictory aren't you?" He asked, and she held herself back from punching him in the face. He noticed her restraint and merely smirked. "Do you even know what it is you are looking for?"

"Somewhat," She answered. "The first step is to always look at the cause and then see where it leads from there. After we research it enough, there must be something that can explain what removed it in the first place. And we can only achieve that by going through all of Tachibana Hibiki's records. Something there will be the key to all of this."

"You say such obvious things, Saint-Germain." He said to her mockingly.

"Hmph, as if you are any help here at all. You've obviously outlived your usefulness, Lodgemaster." She said.

He instantly glared at her, and she smirked. After a moment, he regained his bearings and smiled again. "Perhaps right now I am indeed not so useful, having imparted all of the knowledge I had related to this subject." He said.

She didn't bother to give him a response. Anything he would say would only be a distraction from her main goal. She kept on looking through the database, researching the Original Sin as much as she could. Even over four hundred years of knowledge could end up not being enough when faced with a situation you had no experience in. She knew the details of the story behind the Original Sin in and out and how it became a sort of inheritance to humanity.

But nothing, absolutely NOTHING said anything about being able to remove it. It was supposed to be unremovable after all. In fact, sources have always been conflicted if it had existed at all. Through the years, Saint-Germain eventually discovered that it did, growing frustrated by the fact that in her pursuit of the perfect world, she'll never be able to shape it herself.

But that was fine with her. She saw what happened to those who wielded divine power, and quickly realized it was not what she wanted. Absolute power corrupts absolutely after all. She did wonder if Adam would have be able to wield it, being a puppet and all, but figured that she'd rather pass on that. It already became much more of a problem than it should have been.

And it was at that moment she came across the one folder that she was quite frankly, not looking towards researching: Tachibana Hibiki's personal records.

It was not that she had an aversion to them. In fact, it was the exact opposite. She knew that the answer lay somewhere within these files. However, it did not feel right to just look through them. Saint-Germain had never liked it when others questioned her about her past. As a result, she felt it would be a crime to do so to the person who held out her hand to her, despite the circumstances they found themselves in.

For a brief moment, Saint-Germain wondered. She wondered if in some other world, some other reality, if the two of them had met under much more positive terms…

Would they have been able to become friends?

The alchemist shook her head. There was no use thinking about what ifs. The now is the now. She had put aside her morals, and even her soul in order to create a better world. A few pixels on a screen would be the last thing that would stop her from doing so.

She adjusted herself in her seat, opened the folder, and began reading the chaotic story of the girl who wished for a world of understanding.

-!-

The ride to the academy was spent in silence. As soon as Maria dragged Miku outside, they discovered that to their surprise, a ride was already waiting for them. When Miku entered the car, she realized that the driver was the same one that took her to the battlefield just last night.

One night. That's all that passed. For the girl, it felt as if months had gone by since then and she still could not believe it. Her mind was in constant turmoil, and she could only think of how Hibiki had changed so radically because of the influence of the Symphogear.

The Symphogear. Everything always led back to the Symphogear. It became something akin to an excuse at this point. If anything happened that could not be explained with the knowledge they had, then it always had something to do with the relics they wielded. Some 'mystical' or 'hidden' part of the system that even they did not know about.

Only Sakurai Ryouko knew more than they did about the Symphogear, and look how it turned out for her.

Miku grit her teeth in frustration, an act that Maria noticed. However, the foreign idol chose to remain silent, thinking about recent events, particularly her own role in them.

'Remembering every little thing done to slight her, no matter how insignificant, huh?' She thought to herself. Hibiki had plenty of reasons to hate her, that's for sure. Everything that happened during her time posing as a fake Fine, to her ambitions, everything she had done went against her, sometimes almost personally.

She glanced briefly at the girl beside her, recalling the time she held her hostage, and how she did nothing as she watched Dr. Ver charm her with his sweet words, telling her she could save Hibiki from certain death by becoming 'like her'.

What a farce it was. In the end, it may have saved Hibiki the fate of being swallowed up by the Gungnir's fragment, but it in turn created a slew of other problems that they managed to resolve by the skin of their teeth. Yeah, Hibiki had plenty of reason to loathe her. Yet she accepted her, held out her hand to her, and became her friend. Maria, for a long time, did not believe she deserved such compassion. When she lost Mom after Ver betrayed her, she felt lost and helpless. And Hibiki just upped the ante by supporting the idea of going to the moon and reclaiming the matriarch's body, claiming that she had done everything with good intentions, and those with good intentions deserve to come back home. Even though the phrase went 'the road to hell is pathed with good intentions', Hibiki was the only one who could turn it on itself.

Now that their situations were reversed, and Hibiki was now the one claiming she will rebuild the world anew, Maria could definitely not stand aside. She knew better than anyone among them how fruitless such an effort was, and how the end result never matches the expectation.

Maria was in Hibiki's debt twenty times over, and she knew it. And it made this situation all the more painful for her as well. Which was why she resolved to do what she could to get her back. She will repay Hibiki's kindness tenfold.

And if supporting her grieving best friend was one of them, then she'll gladly do so a hundred times over.

About twenty minutes later, they arrived at Lydian. Despite the chaotic events of the previous night, watching the lively students going about their day was almost surreal. It would be the first time Maria ever set foot in this academy, and quite frankly she was excited, in her own way. To see a whole school dedicated to songs, and the place Hibiki called home.

They thanked the driver and left the car. Almost instantly, dozens of eyes turned to look at the elder girl, surprised at the appearance of the idol in the premises. Immediately the whispers began as Miku, still dressed as she was since last night, led Maria through the entryway.

Maria studied her surroundings, completely ignoring the people around her. She was used to this kind of treatment, so it was nothing special in her mind. The last thing they needed however was for paparazzi to arrive, which was something they wanted to desperately avoid.

"Hina?" A voice called out from the crowd. Miku stopped in her tracks, raising her head to the source of the voice. She caught sight of the familiar trio running up to them, looking quite confused.

"Girls…" She whispered hesitantly, not quite willing to face them yet.

"We've been looking all over for you," Kuriyo said in her usual happy-go-lucky manner. "I never would have imagined that you'd come to school with a celebrity! Ever since Kazanari-senpai graduated, we've been missing having someone famous to hang around with! Although I gotta wonder why you're not in your uniform." She turned to Maria, who smiled towards them. "I don't think we've ever really introduced ourselves or thanked you for saving us back then. I'm Kuriyo Ando. Nice to meet you, Maria-san!"

"And I'm Terashima Shiroi."

"And I'm Itaba Yumi!"

"It's nice to meet you," Maria responded. "My name is Maria Cadenzavna Eve. I am pleased to see you are doing well." She knew they didn't really have time for this, but she had to stay cordial with the masses after all, especially if they were Miku's friends. However, if friends from school were involved, it would naturally lead to...

Kuriyo flashed a toothy grin, and turned to Miku. "By the way Hina, do you know where Bikki is?"

To that.

Maria could see the exact moment that Miku stiffened, unable to respond to the question. There was absolutely no way she could answer to it honestly. Why would they believe her if she could barely believe it herself? No, she had to keep it hidden no matter what.

Kuriyo looked at her curiously, surprised by her silence. Miku tried to speak, but her voice could only come out as a garbled stutter, so Maria swooped in for the rescue. "Hibiki-san is currently unavailable. She won't be becoming to school for the foreseeable future." She lied, shocking the trio.

"Eh?! But why?! Is it one of those super secret missions you can't tell us about? Like in anime?" Yumi exclaimed.

Maria raised an eyebrow at the girl's strange assumption, but decided to go along with it. "That's right. She is on an important mission that we can't talk about and won't be back for quite a while. I'll tell her you're worried about her though. She seemed kind of lonely last time I spoke with her." She continued.

"Oh, that's too bad. So what brings you here, Maria-san?" Kuriyo asked her.

"That," Maria answered. "Is also a secret."

"Oh come on! Share with us at least a little bit! Please Hina?" Kuriyo begged, looking to Miku for sympathy.

The black haired girl decided to go along with Maria's fabrication. "Sorry girls...Lips are sealed."

The trio looked downcast for a moment, but brushed it aside quickly. "Oh well, so long as Bikki is safe then everything will be fine." She said, not noticing the frown that appeared on Maria and Miku's faces. "Want us to show you around, Maria-san?"

The elder smiled. "Thank you Kuriyo-san, but I have Miku-san to do that for me, although I appreciate it. You three should go to class by now, no?"

Kuriyo looked at her watch, and began to panic. "Crap! You're right! Come on girls, we gotta go!" She yelled, turning around. "Hina, you're not coming?"

Miku lifted her head and smiled forcefully. "Not today, sorry."

"Alright. I'll tell the teacher something I guess. See you later! And nice to finally meet you Maria-san!" Kuriyo yelled as she began running, the other two following after her. Shiori's gaze remained on the two momentarily as they waved to them, then turned back and joined the others.

Maria lowered her hand as other students began to scurry inside the building. "You have nice friends, Miku-san."

Miku looked back to the ground. "Yeah...I do." And began to walk forward as well, leading Maria to their destination.

The idol said nothing, and followed after her in silence. She looked around as Miku led her through the academy interior, inwardly commending them on the well done architecture. It seemed like a very luxurious school meant for the high class, yet even someone like Hibiki, who had a difficult family situation could attend it. She remembered Shirabe say something about 'cheap tuition that our salaries can pay for' or something like that.

But that was just an afterthought in order to alleviate her boredom somewhat. Even if they came here for an important reason, Miku was a quiet companion, even more than usual. She didn't have a whole lot of interactions with her even after the Frontier incident. Maria kind of regretted that. If Miku was able to reign in the carefree Hibiki, then perhaps they would get along well.

It took them a few minutes to navigate the academy's halls, but eventually reached their destination. They stood before the sleek mahogany door, and Miku fumbled with her keys, opening the door to the interior. Maria walked in first, and took a good look at the room Miku and Hibiki shared.

It was definitely spacious, she had to give them that. Two levels, one elevated a bit more than the other, and a large window to the outside, giving them a nice view of the city at large. A T.V, a private kitchen, and a bunk bed all pointed towards a nice use of space and resources.

Yet despite its accommodating space, it felt a little bit on the cold side. Perhaps it was the weather, or perhaps because a certain someone was not here to warm it up.

Miku entered after her, closing the door and heading straight towards the bunk bed. "It's here." She said, kneeling down.

Maria studied the bed, noticing the fact that the bottom part was used as storage for quite a number of cardboard boxes. She raised an eyebrow at that. "Do you two share the above bed?"

"Yes," Miku answered. "It was originally Hibiki's idea. She said we could use the bottom bunk as storage for all the boxes we didn't open. At first, I was kind of weirded out by the idea, but now I don't think I could ever change it. Only once did we ever sleep separately, when we had a fight back when I first discovered she was fighting. I was mad at her for that. " She said as she curiously look under the beds, searching somewhere on the floor. "It was because we promised not to keep secrets, even though I knew she couldn't tell me. I was so worried about her coming back so late at night, but I didn't want to question it. I was just happy that she came back."

Maria heard one of the floorboards give way, and Miku withdrew a small, blue box. It wasn't impressive in any shape or form, but Maria understood it held a great importance. Miku stood up again and led her to the table on the lower part of the room. "But this time she didn't. I stayed up all night waiting for her. But she didn't come back. I held on and on, hoping just to see her and make sure she was alright. But she didn't come back. Two days later I got the call from Genjuro-san, asking me to come and help."

She sat on one end of the table, and Maria took her seat on the opposite side. Nobody other than Hibiki and herself ever sat in those two chairs. In her heart, Miku almost felt like she was cheating, allowing someone who was not Hibiki into this room. She placed the box in the middle of the table. "I never would have believed that this is how things would turn out. That Hibiki...would suddenly go crazy. I never thought I'd see the day...that I would be afraid of her coming back."

Maria looked at her sadly, understanding her pain. She pointed to the box before them. "So this is…"

"The proof...that Kirika-chan desperately wanted," Miku answered, dragging the box closer to her. "I never knew this box existed until a year ago, around the time Hibiki first started fighting. It was so secret nobody had ever known about it other than her. Even her mother and grandmother don't know about this box. The first time I ever came across it was an accident too," She recounted. "It was around the time Hibiki first started fighting. One night as we were sleeping, I woke up suddenly after hearing a weird noise, and I saw that Hibiki was not in her bed. When I looked down, I saw her looking at this box. I never saw it before then, so I was wondering where she got it from. I stayed silent, not wanting to disturb her, and that's when I saw her put it somewhere under the bed and not together with the other boxes."

She stroked the top cover of it like it was a precious jewel. "My curiosity got the better of me, so one day while she was out I went looking for this box. After a short search I found it, and looked through the contents…" Her tone suddenly fell, becoming glum. "This is what Hibiki has been hiding. This is something she hasn't shared even with me. If she found out I knew about this...then she'd surely hate me too."

She began to take the cover off, when Maria suddenly reached over the table and put her hand over hers. "Are you sure you want to show this to me?" She asked. "This is something personal for her. Are you sure you are okay with this?"

"No," Miku answered quickly. "But I have to. If we can't help her face those grudges...then she'll never be free of them. If this is what it takes to get her back then...I don't mind if she hates me. As long as she goes back to being herself."

Miku's resolve surprised Maria, who believed she wouldn't even think about it. 'She's stronger than she believes herself to be.' She thought to herself. It was truly admirable, the lengths she would go for her dear friend.

"Very well then." Maria said, removing her hand and sitting back down.

Miku removed the cover from the box and placed it in the middle of the table, and Maria took a look inside.

It was a collection of a bunch of loose papers, that's the first thing she noticed. Newspaper clippings, folded up pages, and even pictures of people were all contained within the box. She reached over and grabbed the first clipping she saw, and read the headline.

'Horrible Noise attack during a concert claims the lives of hundreds.'

Maria's eyes widened in shock. This was…

She placed it aside and took another from the box.

'Idol dies during Noise attack.'

She took another.

'Father of Noise victim talks.'

And another.

'Survivor of Noise attack theorized to be responsible.'

Her eyes widened further. These were all newspaper headlines from over three years ago, detailing the massacre that occurred at the Zwei Wing concert. Maria obviously heard of it as soon as it happened, and at the time grieved for the deceased.

She reached into the box again, taking something else. This time it was a loose piece of paper, folded in two. She opened it up and her eyes widened even further.

'DIE'

She took another.

'MURDERER'

And another.

'KILL YOURSELF' 'BRING ME BACK MY CHILD' 'KILLER' 'DIE' 'DISAPPEAR' 'GO AWAY' 'DIE' 'DIE' 'DIE' 'DIE' 'DIE' 'DIE' 'DIE' 'DIE' 'DIE' 'DIE' 'DIE' 'DIE' 'DIE' 'DIE' 'DIE'

'MONSTER'

Maria was unsettled by the myriad collection of curses written. She now understood completely why Miku had exploded at hearing the Kazanari patriarch insult Hibiki. But these were…

"Are these all...from back then?" She asked.

Miku nodded. "Yes. After the rumors started, people from all over the neighborhood, even from other provinces, would come and put these on the walls outside the house. They would sometimes even throw rocks and other things and regularly break the windows. Every time I came to visit her I would find these taped to the house and I would remove them one by one and throw them in the trash. Sometimes I even caught some of those people, most of them kids and teenagers, redhanded. They had the nerve to put these when no one could see them, but once someone caught them they would run with their tails between their legs. A bunch of lowlifes, the lot of them."

The poison in her words shocked Maria, but she ignored it. She took more papers from the box, looking all of them over and studying them. Miku continued. "It was so bad the government had to declare her legally dead so the bullying would stop. But even with that, it didn't stop. At school, at the store, on the streets. Nowhere was safe for her to be. She was bullied so much at school that the principal even asked her mother to stop coming to school, saying that as long as she comes to her exams she won't be marked absent. More than once she was pushed down the stairs and sent home with a bloody head and with bruises. She couldn't go anywhere, so she locked herself in her room, going by with nothing more than Tsubasa-san's music to keep her company."

Maria had heard this story before in an abridged form, but never thought it was so bad. "All of her other friends abandoned her by the first week. When I didn't stop visiting her, I also became the target of their jeers and insults, asking how I dared to 'associate with a murderer' and 'you probably helped her do it.' This was the excuse our peers at school made up to explain the massacre. It didn't help if I tried to correct them, because they already made up their own version and would accept nothing but that."

The elder's heart just continued to break as she listened to the story and kept on looking through the papers. There were even yearbooks pictures in it, none of them containing the girl herself. However, what Maria found disturbing was the fact that some of them were scribbled over or marked in other manners. She studied them closely. "I tried to support her as much as I could. I visited every day, bringing her food and homework and music to listen to, anything just so she would cheer up. It was then the first time I noticed how she hid her feelings away, and she always forcefully laughed just so I wouldn't worry about her." She continued, looking at the papers settling on the table. "At times her mother told me that it would be dangerous to continue coming, but I persisted. I resolved to never abandon Hibiki when she needed me."

Maria, who was going over the photographs, narrowed her eyes at the collection.

'DEAD' 'DEAD' 'DEAD'.

There were countless photos with the scribbles, indicating the deceased, and others marked with some very disturbing words.

'HATE THIS PERSON' 'HATE' 'HATE' 'PUSHED ME DOWN THE STAIRS' 'HATE' 'HATE' 'PUNCHED MIKU'

Maria looked up at the girl before her, and her eyes widened once again. Miku instantly realized what she came upon. "Eventually, I suggested the idea of going to study in Lydian. I told her that it was far enough away and that we were the only two from our area that would apply, so we won't have to worry about the rumours following her here. It took a while to convince her and her mother, but eventually they relented. She studied hard, harder than ever in her life, and managed to pass the entrance exams. Once we finished middle school, we packed up our things and left for Lydian, where we could begin anew and leave everything behind."

Yet Maria continued to look through the papers, and understood what truly happened. "But it ended up not being the case."

"Yeah, it ended up not being the case." Miku repeated. "I never would have believed that she would go through the trash and take out these horrible papers out of it. I never would have thought she would steal newspapers and take clippings of the massacre from them. I never would have believed that she would take people's yearbook photos and write on them who was dead and who she hated. When I discovered this box, I thought that she brought as a way to deal with the incident."

Maria tilted her head in question, and Miku pointed back to the box. She searched through it, and found something even more unsettling at the very bottom.

It was a collection of pictures, recent pictures from what she could tell, and of very specific people.

It was pictures of them.

"But when I looked at it again around a few months ago, I noticed that she still kept putting things inside. She kept on piling up the clippings and papers and the pictures of things she hated, using the box as a way to vent her frustrations. I imagine the reason she can be so carefree is because she treats this box as the place to shut away all her dark emotions, leaving her as she is. But of course, it's not perfect." She said as Maria took out pictures of all five Symphogear wielders, Genjuro, Ver, Carol, Fine, and even her own father. "I never found anything related to me other than what you saw, but I figure once she realizes I've looked through this box, it will contain nothing but me."

Maria could only stare in shock at the picture of herself. It was surreal, looking at it now. It seemed to be one of her more common photo from the idol shoots, one that any regular person could find in a magazine. The one of Tsubasa was likewise the same, although she couldn't quite pinpoint exactly where she got the photos of Chris, Kirika, and Shirabe. No, it went ever further than that. When the hell did she manage to get these photographs? Especially of the commander and their enemies? Her father was a no-brainer...but the rest...

There was a hidden depth to the girl that was as understood as the the far reaches of space. An unknown that was beyond comprehension, and that conflicted with everything they knew and believed. It was amazing that she had managed to hide it for so long.

"You can't think like that, Miku-san," Maria told her, coming back from her thoughts. "You are the last person she'd ever hate. You are the one person she did not attack last night, and she treated you with the utmost care she could. You stood by her side when absolutely nobody else did, and I truly believe that she is remembering that every day and every second she lives, even now."

Despite the compliment, Miku remained downcast. "Hibiki is not normal, Maria-san. She hasn't been normal for a very long time. She hides her hatreds behind a forced smile, going on about how she wants to create a world of understanding," She said, looking through the window to the city outside. "But that's not possible. She says she wants people to understand each other, knowing she is doing it because nobody tried to do that for her. But she hates, Maria-san. She hates and fears all the time. How can you create a world like that when that is your default state? When every person you look at you believe will judge you on the spot, and that you are constantly afraid they will betray you, even if they have absolutely no reason to? She is a gentle person, one who is willing to envelop the entire world in her warmth. But at what point...will she instead crush it in her grip? Ever since she began fighting there was something unsettling about her. Hibiki fights to save a world she is terrified of. Kanade-san's will became her motivation, yet..."

Maria took a deep breath, the flowery picture of Hibiki slowly cracking in her mind, and hesitantly finished Miku's line of thought. "She is following an ideal she barely even believes in."

It was like a blow to the stomach, leaving her breathless. To think the real Hibiki would be so messed up did not even go through her mind. "How...do you know all of this?"

"Because I know her. Or at least, I thought I did, until I found this box. After I looked through it the first time, I finally understood her for who she really was," Miku said. "That is part of the reason why I hate she is fighting, and part of the reason why I accepted that man's proposal of wielding a Symphogear. I knew the risks, and I knew he would manipulate me for his own ends. But I had to do it. If I didn't, she would have killed herself in the process. I cannot allow that to happen, ever."

"Miku-san…" Maria let out, her respect for the girl before he only growing with each passing second. She looked at the box, then at the papers scattered around on the table. "We really...have been taking her for granted, haven't we? Her compatibility with her Symphogear is sky high, and her Armed Gear is her ability to connect with others. She could take on all the pain and strains we suffer and put it on herself. Even when deep down she resents us, she does everything she can to understand us. She accepted us when no one else did, purely because she knew exactly how hellish it is when no one does."

Maria held her head with her hand, the guilt bubbling up from within her. "We've been such fools this whole time. Such fools. She has every reason to hate us. It's not even surprising anymore. Of course the moment she is influenced by the grudges within Gungnir all of these feelings come out to the open. Of course she would paint us as her enemies, what reason does she have not to?" She said, mostly to herself. "I can't believe this. How have I been so blind this entire time?"

Miku listened to Maria's self-deprecation silently, offering nothing in response. This incident was shaping up to be far more than they thought. This was no longer just about the fate of the world. "Looks like I'm going to have to apologize to her the next time we meet."

Miku continued to say nothing. As much as she wanted to refute what Maria was saying about herself, she knew deep down that she was right. So she kept her silence, letting the elder come to these realizations on her own.

"Thank you, Miku-san," Maria suddenly said, looking straight into her eyes. "Thank you for showing me this."

Miku smiled warmly at her. "At least I hope that this...will help us bring her back."

Maria started putting the papers back in the box, careful to replace them the same way she took them out. Once she was done, she closed the cover and handed it back to Miku, who held it tightly in her hands. "Shall we go back?" Maria asked the girl.

Miku nodded. "Yes, let's."

The two headed back to the bed, and Miku placed back the box in its place. Maria took one last look at the room. "This box is the one piece of darkness that exists in this room. When you don't know it exists, this place is a warm home, welcoming anyone who wishes to stay in it. Yet beneath the surface hides a dark secret, one that may change the way you look at the room at large." She suddenly said, getting Miku's attention. It was a soliloquy, one that Maria used to summarize her recent discoveries. Miku found that it spoke the truth. "Yet," Maria continued. "Even though it does exist, this place can still be warm, and can still be home. You can live with the fact that this darkness exists and work to acknowledge it. If you cannot do so by yourself, then it is not a sin to ask for a helping hand."

Miku stared at the elder girl in awe. She spoke true words, heavy words that brought a new perspective to her mind. And how she wished Hibiki was here to hear them.

*KNOCK KNOCK*

Both girls turned to stare at the door, surprised by the fact that someone came all the way here to look for them. They looked to each other for a moment, and Miku went ahead to check out who it was. She turned the handle and opened it, surprised to see Kuriyo on the other side.

"Kuriyo, what's wrong?" She asked the girl who looked quite confused.

"Uh, Hina? You said Bikki was on a secret mission, right?" Kuriyo asked. Maria walked forward and joined Miku by the entrance. "Well, I think she just got back."

Miku and Maria's eyes widened as Kuriyo continued speaking. "I mean, she's right at the courtyard now and-"

And the two shot past her before she could even finish. "Oi!" She called out, racing after them.

Miku lead the way, her experience in the track team causing her legs to move faster than ever. Maria ran right behind her, keeping up with her pace as they weaved around people and obstacles on their way to their destination.

Miku abruptly stopped by one of the large windows and looked through it, gasping as she noticed who was in the courtyard. Maria stopped by her, and instantly realized what Kuriyo had meant.

Right there, in the very middle of the courtyard, and surrounded by very curious onlookers, was Hibiki. She was dressed in the same way she had been last night, still clad in the corrupted Gungnir. From what she could see, it had remained unchanged during the few hours they had not seen her. However, with an element as volatile as the god-slaying power, who knew what could could happen.

And what was she doing in Lydian, she did not know. But now that she is here...Perhaps they could try and talk to her. Perhaps, if they just say the right words...It will be enough.

Kuriyo caught up with them a moment later, and also looked out the window. "So uh...what's up with Bikki? Why does she look like that?" She asked.

Maria turned to Kuriyo quickly. "Kuriyo-san, what do you do in case of an emergency and you have to evacuate the entire school? Such as during a Noise attack?" She asked out of nowhere.

Kuriyo looked at her curiously, but answered regardless. "Oh," She exclaimed, pointing to a small emergency lever behind her on the wall. "What we do is pull that and-"

Almost immediately Maria activated the alarm, and the entire school blared and glowed with the blinking red light. Panic fell upon the premises as teachers and students alike filed out of classrooms en masse as they ran for their lives, not sure what the danger was. But someone pulled the lever, and even if it was a prank they had to resort to their instructions. Quickly volunteered students and teachers led the masses out of the building, intend on keeping them away from danger. As the entire school evacuated around them, Maria and Miku looked down through the glass to towards Hibiki.

And almost jumped in fright when they noticed she was looking right up at them.

Miku jumped when Kuriyo suddenly put a hand on her shoulder. "Hina, what's going on?" She asked over the sound of the alarm. "What's happening? Why did she pull the alarm?"

Miku wished she could answer her friend's questions, but any explanation she would give right now would pass over her head. There was no time to waste here. "I'm sorry, Kuriyo. I can't tell you. All I can tell you is that you should evacuate with the rest."

"But why Hina? There is no Noise. Does it have something to do with Bikki?"

Miku bit her lip. "Yes, it does." And said nothing more.

Kuriyo looked to her friends, desperate for answers, but knew she would get none. She removed her hand from her shoulder. "Alright, but you better tell me what's going on afterwards alright?"

The black haired girl gave no response, and kept her gaze locked onto Hibiki. Kuriyo hurriedly joined the crowd behind her, giving them much more freedom to work with. "We should get down there, Miku-san. HQ probably already found out she is here. We should do what we can before everyone else gets here."

Miku nodded in acknowledgement. "Right."

Maria turned back to the pane of glass before her. This was the fastest way. It's a shame she had to ruin a part of this beautiful school. She took out Airgetlam's pendant and chanted.

'Seilien coffin Airgetlám tron'

And in a flash of silver light, Maria was clad in her Symphogear. Signaling for Miku to take a step back, she kicked the glass, causing the entire pane to shatter into pieces, allowing them to get through. She grabbed Miku and jumped down to the ground, landing before Hibiki. She put Miku down on her feet, and the two approached the rogue wielder.

Miku went first. "Hibiki." She let out, and was only met by a cold stare.

"Miku," Hibiki responded, narrowing her eyes at the Symphogear user beside her. "What is she doing here?"

Maria walked up to her. "Hibiki-san," She said. "There is something important I need to tell you."

Hibiki furrowed her eyes, still glaring at Maria. But the elder wielder shrugged it off and…

Bowed.

"I'm sorry, Hibiki-san." She said. Maria knew she couldn't reveal the fact she saw the contents of the box, so she could only keep it vague, hoping that it would be enough.

Unfortunately, it wasn't.

"Why are you apologizing?" Hibiki asked simply. "What is it that you're hiding?"

Maria straightened herself, her eyes wide. "I'm not trying to-"

Hibiki looked between her and Miku. No, she could understand what was going on here. It was so, so obvious. She tried to do it before after all. She had no reason to not try again, especially with herself out of the picture.

"No, I can put two and two together," She said, baring her teeth at the older user. "You are trying to take Miku from me."

The outlandish assumption caught Maria and Miku completely off guard. Miku was the first to respond. "No, Hibiki, you've got it all wrong-"

"No, I can see what's going on here. Just once wasn't enough for you Maria-san, was it? You've tried it before, but I stopped you. But I leave for a bit, and you're all over her again. I knew it. I knew you had intentions toward Miku." Hibiki continued, interrupting her friend and laying the blame on Maria even further.

Maria could only take a step back in shock, reeling from Hibiki's completely wrong conclusions. "Hibiki-san, that's not true! That's not what I came here to talk about!"

"Then why are you wearing Airgetlam?" Hibiki asked in response. "Why are you in Lydian?" She advanced on the wielder, and Maria took another step back. "You forced Miku to bring you here didn't you?"

"Hibiki! Please!" Miku shouted. "You have it all wrong! That's not what's happening here at all! Please! You have to stop!"

Hibiki just stared at Miku, and the girl could see, behind those shining emerald eyes, that something completely wrong was going through her mind. This was worse than just taking any slight to the radical extreme. This is straight up Hibiki hearing what she wants to hear. It doesn't matter what the truth is. She is now, just like those peers from middle school, making up her own version of events in her mind and sticking to that version with an iron grip, and everyone else can go to hell.

They came down here to try and talk to her, trying to dissuade her from doing something she will regret.

And it seemed like the worst decision they could have made.

"Stop?" Hibiki asked almost curiously. "Miku, are you taking her side?"

'This is way worse than last night!' Maria thought to herself. 'She completely lost her mind! Her sanity is only further degenerating!'

She prayed that the others were on their way, because with the way things were escalating...words are not going to be the only thing exchanged here today. And the school will most definitely be in danger.

"No!" Miku screamed. "I am not taking sides! Please Hibiki, listen to me!"

But Hibiki ignored her, and turned to Maria in a split second. Her voice rose, almost sounding like a roar. "You want to turn her against me!"

The waves of bloodlust rose from her in droves, and Maria could only freeze in horror at the amount of sheer, physical death being directed at her. But she couldn't run away. If she did, who knows what Hibiki would do.

So Maria stood her ground, and faced the devil head on. "You're already doing that yourself! Look at you! Are you even listening to what you're saying?! Do you have even any idea what you're doing?! You're the one refusing to listen and pushing her away! I have done nothing of the sort!"

But her words never reached her. Hibiki, lost in her hatreds, fears and insecurities, continued to lash out at her. "YOU WILL NOT TAKE HER FROM ME!"

'She's lost herself completely. We will never be able to reach her at this rate.' Maria realized, and sweat began to pour down her brows, and her mind wracked for a solution. 'Delay her. Give time for the rest to arrive. If everything went well, they already found a solution.'

Miku ran to her, standing in front of her and taking her hands in her own. "Please Hibiki, please stop! Listen to me! You have to listen to me! You can't let these feelings control you! Please! This is not who you are!"

Hibiki stood in place, and Miku could see the storm of emotion raging in her mind once again. The rogue Symphogear clenched her teeth, torn between Miku's words and holding her bloodthirsty gaze at the wielder behind her.

She didn't think she'd have to reveal what happened today so early. But she'll have to tell her. She had to tell her about the fact that she found her box, that she knew what she was hiding. And that despite all of that, she was not going to leave her side. She stayed by her this whole time and supported her through her darkest of times. She was not going to stop now.

Maria could see what Miku was contemplating. She didn't know if it was a good idea or not, but it was worth a try. Because maybe...just maybe.

Miku took a deep breath. "Hibiki, please look at me." She begged.

Somehow, her words got through to her this time. Hibiki met Miku's gaze, and the girl almost instinctively reeled back from the glowing eyes. But she did not show it. She had to prove to Hibiki that she was not scared.

Her heart hammered wildly in her chest. "Hibiki," She began. "I...I know about it."

Hibiki's eyes widened.

And Miku delivered the blow. "I...know about...the box."

Almost immediately Hibiki stiffened in her hold, her eyes glued to Miku's own. Her mouth hung open slightly, and she went completely still, and Miku swallowed and kept on talking. "I...know what's inside. I...know what's been going through your mind this whole time."

Hibiki began shaking, an action Miku found to be extremely strange. But she couldn't stop. She started it, and now she'll finish it. "And I wanted to tell you that no matter what it is you're feeling…I'm going to be with you. I'm not going anywhere. No one is trying to take me from you. I'm here with you, right here, right now. I always helped you, didn't I? Please, let me help you. You don't have to do this, please…"

But only silence came from the corrupted user. Her hands went limp in Miku's own and…

Began to take steps back.

"No…" She muttered, and Miku looked at her in horror. "Nononono!"

"Hibiki, what's wrong! Please tell me-" Miku began to say, but she did not hear her. Hibiki kept on walking backwards, and eventually bumped into the decorative fountain at the very middle of the courtyard. Her lips quivered, and she began hyperventilating, her heart beating faster than should ever be allowed. "No...Why...nononononononononononononononononononononono!"

Miku realised something was most definitely wrong here. That reaction was completely unnatural, no matter the circumstance. She ran to her and yelled her name. "Hibiki!"

Something snapped.

And then came the bloodcurdling scream.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

It was a scream the likes of which Maria had never heard before in her life. Disturbing and primal, the mere sound of it tore the trees in the courtyard from the ground by their roots, as if a tornado had spontaneously spawned in it.

Miku shouted over the sound. "Hibiki! Please tell me what's wrong! PLEASE!"

But the raging wind only continued, and Miku could barely hold her ground any longer. Hurriedly, Maria ran to her and held her, withdrawing her sword and stabbing it into the ground like an anchor.

Hibiki fell to her knees inside of the storm. "YOU WEREN'T SUPPOSED TO KNOW ABOUT IT! I DIDN'T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT IT!"

Her heart burned in her chest as her mind exploded in sorrowful pain. She thought...she thought that if Miku ever found it then...then she'll abandon her.

Had Hibiki been in her right mind, Miku's reassuring words would have been enough to calm her down.

But right now, she was not. The insecurities from back then raced to the forefront of her mind, and visions of an impossible future flashed before her eyes.

Visions of Miku, the only friend she had left in the world, casting her aside just like everyone else.

And her corrupted mind, trying to find some sort of escape from this torment, decided to pin the blame on the closest target.

Her eyes locked onto Maria, who was still holding onto Miku.

"MARIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

The storm grew tenfold. And as soon as Maria heard her name being screamed over it…She knew that the situation had reached rock bottom.

Only one phrase could summarize her thoughts in that moment.

'Oh shit.'

And Lydian Private Music Academy vanished in a flash of blinding light.

Chapter Text

Another dead end. 

Chris groaned, slumping back in her chair for the tenth time since they started. For all of their motivation to keep looking for answers, they were just irrevocably stuck. There was absolutely no information about what they were looking for.

No, it wasn’t that there was no information. It was that every single lead she got only drew her back to the Shenshoujing. Absolutely everything she had found, whether it was about relics, curses, grudges, ghosts, spirits, ogres, yetis, and whatever else that she looked up just all pointed in the direction of the lost Symphogear.

It was like the database was reminding her that it was the ‘optimal solution’ to their dilemma.

But what use was the solution if it was gone, vaporized into dust in the wind?

She looked back at her underclassmen, who were still going over the pile of documents they had sprawled out on the floor. She could see Kirika was as energetic as ever, her eyes darting between the pages rapidly.

Well, not like it would help anyone. After all, if she couldn’t find it in the database then Kirika will never-

“HA AH!”

Chris spun in the chair in surprise at the sudden noise. Kirika was standing, holding a piece of paper in her hand high in the air. “I think I found something!” She exclaimed.

Chris got up from the chair and went over to her, and Shirabe stood up as well. Kirika brought her hand down, letting the two read the paper from the sides.

“What is it?” Chris asked, still taken aback that the slightly dim underclassmen actually found a lead.

“Well, I was thinking,” Kirika said. “You probably noticed it too, Chris-senpai, that no matter what we do it always leads back to the Shenshoujing right?”

Chris nodded. “Yeah, I noticed. I tried to find something else but I always met dead ends. But what about it? We all know it’s gone. There is no point trying to look up more about that.”

“That’s what I thought too! But then I thought ‘wait, if it always leads us back to this, then why not research it a bit more?’ and that’s how it led me to this!” She added, tapping the paper with her hand several times. 

Chris grit her teeth in frustration. ‘Did I just get outsmarted by HER?’ She thought with disbelief. “Alright, let’s see what you found.” She said, and took the paper from her hand with a single motion.

“HEY!”

She ignored her. Chris went back to her chair and sat down, looking over the document. Kirika pouted, but Shirabe rubbed her back and they both sat on the floor before Chris, who began to read the paper out loud.

“The Shinju-kyo: A detailed history of relations between ancient China and the kingdom of Wa.” She recited, raising an eyebrow.

Kirika simply looked confused. “Eh? Wa? What’s that?” She asked.

“It’s the oldest recorded name of Japan. I think it was first found in old Chinese texts, right?” Shirabe answered, looking to Chris for confirmation. 

The upperclassmen nodded, and looked back to the paper, skimming over the parts she found irrelevant such as the first meeting between the two nations and other unimportant topics. She eventually came upon the first mention of the mirror, and continued reading aloud. “The Shinju-kyo, also known as the Shenshoujing, is an ancient type of bronze mirror decorated with images of gods and animals from mythology. They are all hand crafted, and the original mirror was said to originate in China and frequently produced during the 1st century until the 6th century CE. The first historical reference to the bronze mirror is in the collection known as ‘The Records of the Three Kingdoms’. It mentions the relations between the Emperor Cao Rui of Wei and Queen Himiko of Wa. It was said that the Emperor, along with the Wei court, frequently sent presents to the Queen, along with…”

Her eyes widened in shock as she read the next line. “One...hundred...bronze mirrors…”

Kirika’s face lit up, and she turned to Shirabe in happiness, who also smiled at the discovery. Chris continued reading, now engrossed in the text. “Eventually, with the spread of Chinese bronze casting technology, the Shinju-kyo also began to be produced in Japan and the Korean peninsula…” 

There was no point in reading any further. This, this was the critical piece. Chris leaned back in her chair and put the paper down, her mouth still hanging slightly open from shock.

“See! I told you! This is what we needed!” Kirika exclaimed again, shooting up to her feet. “There is more than one Shenshoujing! No, there are even hundreds of it! Even if the one we used is gone, we can still use another! They were all from the same place so we will definitely find another one!”

It was an amazing discovery for the trio, who did not know anything about the relic. Perhaps it was common knowledge for archeologists, but for them, stuck in a mind-numbing complication, it served as a ray of hope.

But of course, Chris was quick to question it. “But how are we gonna find another one? The last time one was found was when Fine was still around. We can’t just start digging up the ground and hope to strike gold. And even if we do...convincing Miku to use it again will be hard, if not impossible.” 

Instantly Kirika deflated, and Shirabe rubbed her shoulder in sympathy. “We’ll do what we can,” She said. “For now we should inform the commander of what we discovered.”

Chris closed her eyes for a moment, tension leaving her body. “Yeah, let’s do that…”

She got up from the chair.

And the alarm started blaring loudly.

Kirika jumped at the sudden noise, looking around quickly. The blinking red lights and the roaring sound drilling into their heads, but they knew exactly what they had to do. Dropping everything, the trio ran from the archives, making a beeline for the medical room.

‘Don’t bother coming to the briefing!’ Genjuro yelled over the comm. ‘Head straight to Lydian! Hibiki-kun has reappeared!”

They stopped in their tracks at the news, their eyes wide. The trio looked between each other, momentarily wondering what they should do.

No, it was obvious.

They turned around and headed to the exit. Once they were outside, they jumped down and chanted.

‘Kiliter Ichaival tron’

‘Fallian Shul Shagana tron’

‘Zeios Igalima raizen tron’

The three were surrounded by light, and just as they landed on the pier the light vanished, and the three were clad in their Symphogears. Without a delay, they shot forward, making their way to the academy, where the battle awaited.

-!-

Saint-Germain never believed she could find herself so transfixed.

She was leaning forward into the console, drinking in the details of Hibiki’s history. It was absolutely ridiculous, she found herself thinking, but it was just so engrossing. She never realised how similar they were from the few interactions she had. 

The first few details of where was born and what she did in her childhood were not so relevant in her eyes, however once she reached the section that detailed the Zwei Wing massacre, that was when she was starting to be interested. She read about how Hibiki nearly died after being pierced near the heart by fragments of Amou Kanade’s Gungnir, and how the idol had sacrificed her own life to save her by singing her Superb Song. She read about the operation that the girl had undergone, and the following rehab and therapy she went through as a result.

She read about a girl ostracized by society as soon as she left the hospital. She read about how her father was laid off from his job due to the fact that the President of his company lost his daughter in the massacre and as a result took it out on him. She read how despite Hibiki’s best efforts, her father had descended into alcoholism and began to verbally abuse her and her mother, and how he eventually left, abandoning them when they needed him.

She read how the girl was left essentially alone in the world and was only held up by the efforts of Kohinata Miku, her childhood friend from the same neighbourhood. She read how she tried her hardest to get accepted to Lydian Academy of Music, barely passing the entrance exam. And she read how upon her first day in the Academy, she was involved in an incident with the Noise, during which she wielded her Symphogear for the first time. 

Saint-Germain never liked the Noise. These ancient, human-slaying automatons from an era long gone, and their home inside of the Treasury of Babylon. They were just remnants of a bygone age, and quite frankly she was glad that the Symphogears had sealed the exit. Even though she regularly used her own alchemical Noise, they were always simply tools to be destroyed. She never allowed the Noise to take lives for her. All those sins she had committed over the centuries were done by her own hand.

But that was not an important thought to be having at the moment. She continued reading, going over Hibiki’s first encounter with S.O.N.G, the initial rift with Tsubasa, and her attempts at winning Chris over to their side.

She could not believe how optimistic the girl could be despite everything she had been through. She was looked down upon and viewed as a killer for two years. Two full years that she spent almost completely alone and the guilt of having been the only survivor on her shoulders. She just could not understand how the girl became the quintessential leader of the Symphogears, and how because of her they had managed to defeat Fine and achieve the miracle of the X-Drive.

And it just went on and on. Nothing but praises were sung in these records, and even when it was discovered she was due to die because of the spread of Gungnir through her body, that she still did everything she could, and managed to grasp life from the jaws of death. 

It was insane, Saint-Germain thought. This girl was supposed to be an impossible existence, yet here she was, existing, and having influence on the world and the people around her.

For a moment, the alchemist wondered what would have happened if she had the same approach to life as Hibiki did. For over four hundred years, Saint-Germain had felt no joy. She was forced from a young age to sell her body, pretend to be a man to fool others, and regularly kill in order to achieve her objectives.

And in the end, what did it lead to? Nothing. She spent centuries in her pursuit of a perfect world, and she had nothing to show for it. Yet, Tachibana Hibiki, in just a bit over a year, managed to turn the world over time and time again, cementing her place in the minds of her comrades. Of course they would try to get her back no matter what. Killing her was completely out of the question for them. She is the glue that holds them together, and the alchemist could see how the moment she was gone, the solidarity and the balance they held was beginning to wear away.

‘I’m not their friend.’ She told herself. There was no reason for her to care about whether they were united or not. She was their enemy, and now a temporary ally, in the fight to bring back Tachibana Hibiki. But until that moment, they had fought against each other and their ideals clashed head on. Tachibana Hibiki’s comrades had killed her own, and she had every reason to pay her back for that.

Yet, she could not. The girl had held her hand out to her, accepting her as she had all of her now comrades. She had this strange magic, as if she could instantly get along with anyone she desired. It was such a contradiction to what she found in her records, and yet it was reality. 

She could not pay back kindness with cruelty. She may not be a good person, but she was not despicable.

And that was the moment Saint-Germain decided. She will do what she can in order to bring the girl back. In order to know more...about that strange magic she held in her hands.

And maybe...just maybe…

Her train of thought was suddenly interrupted when she came upon a certain peculiar passage in the records.

It said that the original fragment of Gungnir was destroyed when the enhanced beam of the Shenshoujing struck the two of them. It later said that her compatibility with the Gungnir she stole from Maria Cadenzavna Eve became absolutely ridiculous upon inspection during the final battle on Frontier.

That made no sense to her. It was not possible that the original fragment had somehow altered or enhanced her body in order to be more compatible with relics. Every trace of it down to the smallest of atoms were completely erased by the gear wielded by Kohinata Miku. Even if it had fused with her body for a long time, that advantage in compatibility would not suddenly sprout up from the ground. Such a thing applies to Faust Robes as well after all.

So how was such a thing possible?

The Shenshoujing seemed to be the key, she realised. She quickly compared the two compatibility values, seeing that they were fairly similar, although the latter one was much higher. If only she had data on the other users, or on Kohinata Miku herself, then she’ll have a much better idea of what to look for. 

‘No, that’s not what is important.’ She thought. ‘The Shenshoujing did not have the ability to increase compatibility rates. That’s not how relics work. No, there was something else that happened. Something that removed some sort of burden that hindered the rates. I came upon this relic in the past, but its most obvious power was the ability to remove curses-’

Her mind seized upon realization.

But just before she could develop the thought further, the entire bridge was suddenly illuminated by the blaring red lights as the alarm thundered throughout the headquarters. Aoi stopped all of her research, opening up the command console and looking through the rapidly entering data. Once she had studied it as thoroughly as she could, she immediately opened a channel to Genjuro, who had received a laptop to work with in the medical room from a member she sent his way.

“Commander, this is-” 

“Yes, I see it too,” He said. “This twisted Aufwachen signal...there is no mistaking it. Hibiki-kun has reappeared. I sent the wielders her way already. Try to contact Maria-kun as soon as you can. Ask her for a status report.’

“Copy that,” Aoi answered. “But...why Lydian?” She asked, looking at the coordinates the screen was indicating. 

“There is no way to know. All we can do is respond and try to stop her.” Genjuro added.

“In that case, I will head out as well.” Saint-Germain declared. Adam, who had stayed quiet during her research, looked at her curiously. “There is something I need to confirm.”

Aoi met her determined gaze. “Are you sure, St.Germain-san?”

“Yes. The homunculus...no, Elfnein had already returned to me the repaired Lapis. I must give this endeavor another attempt. Last night was an embarrassment. I will not allow this to occur again.” She answered, getting up from her seat and readjusting the hospital robe she was wearing. It mattered little what clothes covered her at the moment, since it would be stored away either case. “Keep an eye on Adam Weishaupt. Do not let him out of your sight.” 

Aoi looked at her curiously, but relented. “Sure,” She said, watching the alchemist leave. Just before she went out the door, Aoi spoke up again. “Oh, and one more thing,” 

The alchemist stopped in the doorway and looked back to her. Aoi smiled. “Good luck.”

Saint-Germain’s eyes widened momentarily, and then turned back to the door. “Thank you.”

Aoi watched as the door closed, then turned back to her terminal. First, status report from those on the field.

“Maria-san, can you hear me?”

-!-

She was not dead. That was a good start. 

Dust and smoke filled the air around her, and she coughed as she regained her bearings on her surroundings. When Hibiki had suddenly exploded with rage, the entire courtyard had seemingly exploded violently as everything within it was instantly destroyed by the mere force of Hibiki’s yell. 

‘This is just too ridiculous.’ Maria thought to herself. She looked down to the person she was holding in her arms, seeing that Miku was also alive, if a bit shaken up and dusty. She had grabbed onto her as fast as she could and protected her with her own body when the force had launched them into one of the academy’s walls.

Maria groaned as she dislodged herself from the wall, rising to her feet unsteadily. “Are you alright, Miku-san?” She asked the shorter girl.

Miku let out a few uneasy coughs, the dust having gotten into her lungs as well. “Y-yes, I’m fine. What...what was that?”

Maria looked ahead from within the slowly settling cloud of dust. “I think...we’re about to find out.”

Visibility was returning to them, and the first thing Maria noticed that the once beautiful courtyard had been absolutely ravaged. Trees, benches, and even parts of the decorative fountain were lodged within the walls of the academy, and glass rained from the shattered windows. The walls themselves were smoking and deep cracks ran over them unevenly, looking like they might crumble at any moment. How did they hold up she did not know, but the only thing that remained alive in the courtyard was the two of them.

Along with the instigator of this damage.

It was hard to describe what she was looking at. Hibiki had remained in the very middle of the explosion, the ground around her having blown away from her in the blast. She was on her feet, slumped forward.

And an absolutely terrifying crimson aura rose from her. Maria could swear she could see it with the naked eye, and froze in place at the sight. But that was not the only thing she noticed that was different.

The small, orange wings that had appeared on Hibiki the night before had grown, spanning quite an impressive length behind her. They were much darker than she remembered, and it looked as if ash was raining from them nonstop, vanishing before it hit the ground. Was it because of the debris? She doubted it. She could also see that the glowing purple lines that ran over the armor had extended, growing thicker in length and far more of them covering parts of Hibiki’s body. The armor itself also grew far more spikes than there were before, a stark contrast to the streamlined look of the original Gungnir.

Years of hanging around Kirika and watching those silly superhero movies with her had alerted her to the fact that these changes were the exact opposite of what she wanted.

The two girls simply stared at the rogue wielder, who remained unmoving following her violent outburst. The aura continued to rise, and even grew as time passed.

Maria realized that staying here would be counter-productive. “Miku-san, you should run.”

Miku looked at the older girl is shock. “Run? But I can’t! I have to help Hibiki!”

“In her current state,” Maria stated, swallowing nervously. “I don’t think that is much of an option. This...is going to be very difficult.”

Miku gasped. “You...are going to fight her again?” 

Maria kept her gaze locked on the rogue wielder in the middle of the courtyard. “It seems...I’m not going to have a choice.” 

It was not a decision she made lightly. But she had to, because she was most definitely not going to be able to run away.

Hibiki slowly straightened herself, her whole upper body rising. When she reached her full height, she stood completely still, the aura still leaking off of her uncontrollably. Now that she could see her chest and her face, Maria realised that there were more changes that she did not notice before. The glowing purple lines that ran over the armor seemed to start to converge above her breasts, surrounding but not quite touching the scar she received over three years ago. What’s more, parts of the armor began to cover her jaw, rising all the way to her lower cheek, and from there smaller, thinner glowing lines streaked onto her face.

There was only one description Maria could give to the new look Hibiki had.

A fallen angel. As if she was a divine being, cast away from Heaven to the Earth, and how that heavenly aura began to morph into something much, much darker. 

Just like Lucifer.

And then she opened her eyes, and the emerald glow that came from them was much deeper than Maria could remember.

There was a strange, eerie silence in the courtyard that could not be explained. Maria took a step forward, and with her right hand lightly pushed Miku further behind her.

An act that Hibiki noticed.

The previous fury that her voice had contained seemed to have mysteriously vanished as she spoke. “Maria-san...Are you prepared?”

Maria’s heart beat rapidly in her chest, anticipating the grueling battle ahead. It was a rhetorical question, she knew that for sure, but she wanted to ask all the same. “For what?”

Hibiki’s fists clenched with an audible metallic sound. “Judgement.” 

Miku has never been more terrified in her life. Yet, she fought through that dread, and walked forward, passing by Maria and standing closer to her best friend. “Hibiki...please, don’t fight. Please.” She pleaded. 

Hibiki stared at her, and for the first time Miku took that reflexive step back in fear, something that Hibiki noticed. “Don’t worry Miku, I will get rid of anyone who stands in my way. No one is allowed to touch you.” 

And Hibiki began to walk, her very steps leaving behind a trail of ash that stained what remained of the courtyard’s paths. Miku could only stay in place, frozen in terror at Hibiki’s changed form. The rogue wielder approached, and just as she passed by her, whispered darkly. “Because you...and this entire world...now belong to me.” 

It was a declaration that sent cold shivers down Miku’s spine. She could not even turn around to try and stop her. So deep was her terror that she did not even dare look at her again, lest she sees something that will scar her forever. The fury Hibiki held before was not even close to be as scary as this.

Maria however stood strong as Hibiki approached her. It was pointless to be scared now. A fight was inevitable, Hibiki made sure of that. There was no choice but to face her and do what she can in order to take her down. Maria began to speak. “Hibiki-san, you-” 

“Shut your whore mouth.”

And was summarily interrupted by the poison Hibiki spewed. Her eyes widened at the blatant cursing, and the sheer lack of regard for using it. “You tried to take from me what was mine , Maria-san. Just like you did in the past.”

The silver Symphogear user said nothing more, and Hibiki continued. “I will never allow you to do that again. You tried to take my life. You tried to take Gungnir. And now again, you dare to try and take Miku from me . ” Her stare drilled into the older girl’s eyes, burning deep into her brain. “You will pay for everything you’ve done... dearly.”

Hibiki stopped only a meter from Maria, and glared up at the taller woman. Maria’s eyes narrowed in response. “I see words are useless here,” She said evenly. “Trying to convince you otherwise would be an exercise in futility. You are obviously stuck in your own little world.”

‘Is she far too gone now? There is no way to know until we check. Talking to her is no good anymore. Whatever change came upon her has only deranged her further.’ Maria noted inwardly.

“Maria-san, do you copy?” Aoi asked over the comm.

“I do, however it seems I will be preoccupied for the time being. Is everyone else on their way?”

“Yes,” Aoi confirmed. “Maria-san, we have detected this...change she has undergone...and the only thing I have to tell you is...god-speed.”

Maria chuckled. So even those at headquarters knew things were going to get ugly, and very out of their control. “Heh, as if that would help.” She answered, and focused back on the rogue wielder before her, the crimson aura growing even more every second. “Let’s not waste anymore time here, Hibiki-san.”

She grasped Airgetlam’s pendant and clicked twice on its sides. “I will drag you back kicking and screaming.”

Miku regained her bearings and turned around, and opened her mouth to speak.

Only to be interrupted by Maria’s furious yell. 

“IGNITE MODULE! DOUBLE UNSHEATHE!” 

The explosion of power that followed signaled the start of the battle.

-!-

The Symphogear trio arrived just in time to see the entire student body of Lydian evacuate out into the streets. They could hear the school alarm slightly over the noise the students were making, understanding that Maria probably used it in order to get them to safety. 

But how far away from the school was going to be safe? Chris wasn’t sure. “Oi, do you think we should get them farther away from here?” She asked, looking for a suggestion from the two girls with her.

Shirabe was the one to speak up first. “Yes. We don’t know what the extent of the fight is going to be, so it’s better that they escape as far as possible while we try to contain it as much as we can. We were lucky the battle didn’t spill into the city proper last night, but we might not be so lucky today.”

“And there’s more to it than that, Shirabe-chan.” Aoi said over the comm, having heard their conversation. “Hibiki-chan has undergone some kind of change that we have detected. It’s...not pretty. I don’t think I can even begin to describe to you what it looks like, but whatever happened has been twisting the Aufwachen signal in ways I have never thought possible. We can barely call it a Symphogear anymore. We are trying to do what we can to gather the details, but it will take time. We weren’t given much of a leeway in terms of time to work with the information from last night. You will have to make blind judgement there while we investigate.”  

“Blind judgments…” Chris murmured. Have things gone to hell already? Only four hours have passed since the gathering in the medical room, and they were still reeling from the night before.

Things were happening too fast. “Looks like we don’t have a choice. Let’s go.”

The two younger girls nodded, and followed after Chris. They jumped down from the roof they were standing on, landing in an alley next to the gathered crowd. They quickly dispelled their gears and ran in, catching strange looks from the various students as they approached the elderly principal, who was collecting the roll call cards from the various teachers. He noticed their approach and looked at them seriously. “Girls, you should go and join the others.” 

Chris walked up to him, staring up at the taller man. “Listen, old man, you gotta get everyone farther away from here.”

He tilted his head in question. “Miss, I’m not sure what you mean. We are doing a routine evacuation just as we have practiced many times before. Why do you suddenly believe that we must scatter and go further?” 

Chris was just about to answer him when something suddenly landed right next to her, sending up dust and debris into the air. The principal, along with the gathered crowd looked at the new arrival in shock.

Saint-Germain stared into the man’s eyes while clad in her Faust Robe. “Because if you don’t, you will die.”

The principal took a step back from her declaration. Saint-Germain merely took one forward. “If you don’t want everyone here to die, you will evacuate to the furthest shelter you find, and do not allow anyone to leave. There is a very dangerous being on the school grounds, and no one knows when it will start going on a rampage. If you do not want to become merely stains on the ground, then do as we say and run.”

The principal, along with the teachers around him were terrified by the alchemist’s warnings. It was difficult to reach a decision with such a threat hanging above their heads, and he knew for a fact that she was not joking. He had experienced stares like these far too many times than he would have liked. 

He adjusted his glasses, sweat gathering on his brows. “Teachers...please lead the students to the shelter on the outskirts. We should listen to this young lady’s warnings.”

“But principal-”

“I understand your concerns...but it’s better to not question it. I’d rather this whole situation prove to be an elaborate prank, but even with the Noise gone we cannot take any chances. Large areas of the city were evacuated just last night, and you saw those strange lights rising above the city center. It would be best for us all. I will not endanger the students’ well being.” He proclaimed.

His responsible attitude impressed Saint-Germain. The elderly man turned to her. “Thank you for the warnings, Miss. I’ll make sure everyone will be safe.”

She nodded to him, and he at once began to give instructions to the last teachers that gathered around him. The teachers then went over to the students, who began the trek towards the shelter. 

The three Symphogear wielders looked at the vanishing crowd, and noticed three familiar figures run up to them. “Chris-senpai!” Kuriyo yelled.

“You…”

Kuriyo’s expression was conflicted and nervous as she approached. “What is going on, Chris-senpai? Why are we evacuating even further?!”

Chris bit her lips, unsure how to answer her. Kuriyo caught her hesitation. “Come on! Why will no one tell us anything! Even Hina and Maria-san didn’t want to tell us what’s happening! It has something to do with Bikki, doesn’t it? I saw her in the courtyard! And she looked way different than I remember! Please, someone just tell us what’s going on!” 

Kuriyo panted as she finished her demands, desperate for some answers. Yumi and Shiori looked at her in concern, although they too wished to know what was happening.

However, Chris was silent. She merely looked to the side, not willing to meet Kuriyo’s gaze.

The highschooler slumped in despair, having been denied an explanation for the second time in a row. She was on the verge of tears, her whole body shaking. Shiori walked up to them and put a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “Please, Chris-senpai. If there is anything we can do to help, then just tell us. Just like last time.” Shiori said far more calmly. 

But Chris would not answer. Seeing the silver haired girl’s reluctance, Saint-Germain walked up to them. “The one thing you can do right now is to evacuate with the rest. It is better for you not to be aware of what is occurring at the moment. It will only tarnish your opinion of her in the long run. Do yourself a favor and save yourself that torment.”

Her cryptic answer did not alleviate their curiosity nor their worry, and Kuriyo desperately wanted to respond in some way. However, Shiori only squeezed her shoulder tighter, causing the girl to turn to her. “Kuriyo, it would be better to do as she says. Let’s go with everyone else, okay?”

“Shiori…” Kuriyo muttered sadly, and wiped her eyes with her sleeve. She nodded. “Yeah...we should.” She turned towards Chris, who looked at her with an expression filled with guilt. “Chris-senpai...good luck...To all of you.”

“Thanks…” She replied, and watched as Kuriyo and Shiori together went over to Yumi, and the trio ran to join the rest of the evacuating crowd.

“Chris-senpai…” Kirika muttered, reaching over to her…

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

A gigantic pillar of light suddenly erupted from within the school itself, catching the attention of every single person in the city. It rose all the way up to the sky, and the three wielders, along with the alchemist stared at it with wide eyes. 

This was the signal. This was the start of the fight.

“Everyone, let’s go!” Chris declared, and the three users quickly wielded their Symphogear again. They leapt over to the school with Saint-Germain hot on their heels.

-!-

(Play: Stand up! Ready!!)

The two rose towards the sky as their blades locked against each other. Fiery sparks erupted from the impact point.

Maria grit her teeth. There was no point in holding back this time. There was no longer the element of shock nor was there a need to try and talk her out of fighting. Hibiki had made it very clear she was not willing to listen, and would only stop once she was defeated.

So she went all out from the start, and it was proving to be fairly useless.

Hibiki’s divine strength was in more ways than one out of this world, a far cry from their own that was provided by their relics. Yet, not matter the difference in power, Maria vowed to keep on fighting until the bitter end.

The blades disconnected as she jumped back, landing on the school’s roof. Hibiki followed after her, and Maria dodged the strike that cleaved the brick under her cleanly in two. ‘Her speed and strength have definitely increased. No matter what I do, I’ll be at a disadvantage. The Ignite Module’s built in time limit only adds another layer of pressure here. However…’  

She struck, her swing aiming for Hibiki’s neck. The rogue wielder dodged as she entered her range and thrust her spear forward at lightning speeds, but Maria managed just in time to draw Airgetlam’s ignited blade back to deflect the lunge to the side.

‘It might be presumptuous to think so, but I have the advantage in intelligence and tactics. If I can outsmart her, I might be able to make some progress.’

However, Hibiki shifted her grip and grasped Gungnir’s handle with both hands and swung horizontally. Maria gasped and jumped back, the very tip of the spear grazing against the armor on breasts. It luckily did not pierce through the metal, and Maria was able to dodge the strike with much effort. 

Only for a crescent shockwave to be released following the swing, slicing through the air towards her. Maria landed with one foot on the roof and hurriedly jumped above the projectile, missing her by an inch. As she jumped in the air Hibiki went up to meet her, and the two weapons clanged again loudly. They hung in the air, and as they descended they exchanged a flurry of blows, the two blades slamming against each other with a mighty force.

They crashed back onto roof, and the bricks themselves shattered from the overwhelming power the two wielded. Maria was inwardly very surprised, not having expected to do so well against the vastly superior opponent. She was still losing very badly, she could see that from the start, but at least she was not getting absolutely destroyed just like last night.

It was a sign of the strength she had come to wield, and the unwavering strength of her own heart. She at least believed that her own reasons to fight far surpassed the current Hibiki’s, and as a result it pushed her to greater heights than she believed. 

But such strength was fleeting after all, as it would be gone along with her Symphogear once the time limit on the Ignite Module ran out. She entered the second phase straight away, severely cutting down her operating time. However, she needed the output, the intensity of the cursed sword Dainsleif. Fighting fire with fire, as they say. She did wonder what brought upon this dark change in the girl before her, but she had no time to dwell on the thought.

A powerful strike sent Maria skidding back across the roof, pushing her all the way to the edge, nearly causing her to fall off the building. “You can’t win, Maria-san!” Hibiki yelled as she charged. Maria did not have the time to dodge out of the way, and brought her blade up to block the blow. The force of the charge caused the two of them to be launched from the rooftop, creating an arc in the air as they fell back to the ground.

Maria groaned as she struggled against the blow. Hibiki’s face was once again contorted in rage, and the older girl could only inwardly shiver from the hateful glare being sent her way.

She met the gaze with a determined one of her own just as they landed onto the school’s running track, giving a much bigger space for their battle. With a yell, she parried the following strike, her blade grinding against Gungnir’s flat side. She used the momentum to try and slice her opponent’s arm apart, but Hibiki simply smashed her spiked gauntlet against it, causing it to go off course.

This happened every time, Maria noticed. No matter what attack she was trying to throw at her, Hibiki very easily took care of it with inhuman reflexes. Not even the Autoscorers would have been able to keep up with this pressure. It just went to show how much strength that divine power was granting her. Completely ridiculous and ridiculously unfair at the same time. 

Catching Maria off guard, Hibiki acted boldly and smashed her head against Maria’s own. The older girl reeled from the sudden blow, staggering back and seeing stars in her vision, interrupting her song momentarily. ‘This dirty little-!’  

Taking advantage of the opening, Hibiki slashed in a wide vertical arc. However, Maria predicted she would try to do so, and leaped to the side, rolling away as the blow destroyed the ground where it struck. Maria rose to one knee and let out the breath she was holding. “Looks like you have no problem fighting dirty, do you?” She said.

Hibiki withdrew the spear from the ground, and turned towards Maria. “Do you ever shut up?”

Maria glared at her. So that’s how she wanted to play this game, was it? Fine then!

She rose to her feet and charged. Hibiki looked at her curiously, thinking that the elder girl might have finally lost her mind. To stand against her is nothing but a waste of time, but to take the offensive?

It would be very simple. Once Maria was close enough, Hibiki swung her spear horizontally. It moved so fast Maria could barely see it.

But barely was more than enough.

It was a risky gamble she was taking, but it was worth a try. Her plan was simple: Cause Hibiki to underestimate her. At her current state, it was easy enough.

Everything that came afterwards was...well, not. 

But it proved its worth at that very moment.

Maria stopped her charge as soon as she entered the spear’s range. It approached at breakneck speeds, but Maria raised her arm just in time to block it.

However, her arm would not be enough to block the swing. Even enhanced by the Ignite Module, the blow was strong enough to swiftly slice through her arm like butter and proceed to decapitate her in an instant. 

Which was where the second phase began.

There was a loud clang that Hibiki did not expect to occur as the spear was repulsed, bouncing against the triangular shield of energy Maria spontaneously created over her gauntlet. Looking like a knight of yore, she pushed the Armed Gear away from her, catching her opponent completely by surprise. Not stopping for a moment, Maria used her momentum to shove her blade into the slit at the back of her gauntlet. It immediately transformed, the armor on her knuckles elongating into a cannon, and pure white wings of energy erupted from the blade’s hilt.

The entire exchange had occurred in less than a second, and indeed Maria’s plan bore fruit. She caused Hibiki to launch a half-assed attack at her, and caught her completely off guard by her own arrogance.

Energy gathered at the ion cannon’s tip. She didn’t have more than one second to charge it up, but she would take what she can get from it. Any advantage against the beast that Hibiki has become would only serve to help them in the long run.

And with a mighty yell, Maria extended her arm forward, the cannon ending up merely an inch from Hibiki’s shocked face.

And she fired.

‘HORIZON CANNON’

Pure light exploded forward, engulfing the rogue wielder completely. Maria, having no traction with the ground in that moment, was blown back by the powerful recoil of her own technique. The beam of light continued beyond her intended target, travelling straight through the air and eliminating everything in its path, only to smash against one of the academy’s walls and explode violently.

Maria skidded to a stop, her heels digging into the ground. She withdrew her sword from the slit, reverting the cannon back into its gauntlet form. She breathed, and looked at the aftermath of her insane gamble. Of course, she cannot drop her guard just yet. Hibiki could reappear at any moment-

“DID YOU THINK THAT WOULD WORK?!”

She didn’t even have time to turn around as Hibiki teleported behind her and smashed her leg against her side. Pain shot up Maria’s spine as she was launched to the side, bouncing off of the ground repeatedly. ‘Damn! I didn’t think she’d respond fast enough to get away!’.

Maria only had a single second to assess if she had managed to do any damage. She could see Hibiki’s armor smoking from the heat her attack unleashed, but there was no visible dent in any part of it. Hibiki was indeed struck by it, but it just did not have enough power. Hibiki was just far too resilient to defeat with their regular techniques.

Hibiki teleported behind her once again, smashing her foot against her back. Maria cried out in pain as she fell to the ground.

“Did you really think that something like that will take me down so easily?” Hibiki asked her mockingly. “I didn’t think you were that stupid, Maria-san.”

Maria coughed painfully, and twisted her head to look behind her, smirking. “Look who’s talking. Who was the fool who fell for it in the first place?”

Hibiki bared her teeth, and in response smashed her foot again on Maria’s back. She pushed downward, and the elder Symphogear used cried out as she was assaulted with more pain. Hibiki grinded her heel against the small of her back, further adding to the torment. “I told you time and time again that you just can’t beat me. How many times are you going to try? When will you finally understand that you are completely outmatched?”

Maria struggled to speak through the excruciating pain. “It’s...because…”

She was interrupted when Hibiki smashed her foot against her back again. Bored of simply kicking her when she was down, Hibiki walked around her, and lifted her off the ground by her hair to eye level. She glared at her when their eyes met. 

Now no longer being tormented, Maria kept on talking. “We...will not stop...until we get you back. Even if it results in our deaths...it is the only thing...we can offer you...for all you’ve done for us.”

Hibiki’s scowl did not leave her face, and she clicked her tongue. She threw Maria down to the ground and brandished her spear. “You really are an idiot, Maria-san.”

She thrust the spear towards the downed wielder, intent on ending her life right at that moment. 

Only for something to once again strike against the side of her weapon, sending it off course and causing it to smash into the ground.

Hibiki turned her head, and saw Chris standing ten meters away from her, her crossbow raised. To her sides were Kirika, Shirabe, and Saint-Germain, all leveling their weapons at her. The three Symphogear wielders were also in their Ignite configurations, having entered it as soon as Aoi informed them of Maria’s situation. 

“She’s right you know,” Chris added. “So don’t think you can get rid of us so easily.”

The newcomers took in the girl’s new form, studying the changes to it. They were sure headquarters also managed to get footage of it, but to see it up close was unsettling. It just hammered it in hard just how low Hibiki fell since taking in the divine power. They have to remove it from her before it becomes impossible.

Hibiki withdrew her spear from the ground and turned her attention to them. “Then I’ll just have to erase you all.”

She swung her spear, and a crescent shockwave immediately made its way to them. The four as one jumped away, avoiding the simple projectile as it exploded against the ground. While enroute, Genjuro quickly debriefed them on the new teleportation ability Hibiki had developed during their fight during the night.

It only served to make them more cautious. Who knew what could happen between this moment and the next. 

Chris immediately fired, a volley of bolts soaring through the air towards the rogue wielder. She simply stood in place as the vast majority of them missed her completely, while the rest she easily deflected with a swat from her arm. The Symphogears of Zababa landed and circled around her, launching their own projectiles at her at breakneck speeds. With a quick flash of her spear, Hibiki crushed them.

Kirika and Shirabe closed on in her as they circled, launching more and more projectiles she deflected while standing still. The top priority was to get Maria away and regroup while she was held down by their volleys. With three ranged attackers anyone would find themselves locked down. Of course, she could simply teleport away, and that would be the perfect window to get Maria away from her.

The two synchronized perfectly, and with Chris adding on to the barrage with her own arrows, Saint-Germain realized there was no point in holding back at all. Loading a larger cartridge into her gun, the alchemist fired, and a shining blue dragon of light erupted from the barrel, roaring as it made its way to Hibiki. 

It was that which finally forced her to move. Her form warped as she disappeared, and all of the incoming projectiles crashed against the ground where she stood a moment before. Dust flew in all directions, and Maria struggled to cover her eyes due to her proximity to ground zero. 

Shirabe took the opportunity and sped towards Maria, making a beeline for her location. However, just as she held her hand out to her, Hibiki suddenly reappeared in the space between them and swung her spear down on the surprised Shirabe. 

Kirika leapt forward just in time to block the strike with her scythe. Shirabe’s mechanical twintails then opened, launching a barrage of buzzsaws at Hibiki. Unfortunately, her aim was way off, and only a single one even got close to striking her, only to grind against her reinforced armor and fly off in another direction.

Shirabe clicked her tongue and sped away, understanding she won’t be able to get to Maria at the moment. 

“BEHIND YOU!”

And Shirabe instinctively ducked due to the warning, and Hibiki’s spear barely missed her head by an inch as she teleported behind her. From her vantage point, Saint-Germain fired, and each bullet was simply deflected away, striking the ground instead. And from where they struck, crystalline formations of gold rose, creating obstacles on the track field. 

Shirabe jumped away, using the formations as stepping stones to create further distance. Hibiki thankfully did not follow her this time, but instead turned her attention to Kirika instead. She charged towards the Igalima user, and Kirika struck the ground with her scythe. Veins of light were carved into it, making their way to the rogue user. Once they reached her, many more scythes erupted from the ground to impale her from below. Hibiki twisted around them, and lost just a bit of momentum, giving Kirika enough time to dodge the blow.

Immediately afterwards, a barrage of rockets crashed into Hibiki’s new position, creating a fireball as they exploded violently. 

“That should do it-”

And Chris was brutally pulled to the side by Saint-Germain just as Hibiki’s thrust passed through the spot she stood in a second before. She let go of the Symphogear user, aimed her gun and fired. The bullet struck Hibiki’s jaw, but the armor that had grown on her face protected her from its impact. Hibiki slashed to the side, and the alchemist narrowly avoided the blow. 

They were four on one, essentially five, and they were still having a lot of trouble with her. Her teleportation allowed her to escape certain defeat, and she could come upon anyone she wanted in an instant. They were lucky they had the instincts to know how to avoid the blows in time, but they had so much time until the boost provided by the Ignite Module as well as their own stamina would give out.

They have to finish this in one strike, in one final unavoidable blow.

“Do not get cocky!” Saint-Germain yelled as she continued to fire. “Until the moment she falls to the ground unconscious you cannot presume she is defeated! Do not hold back for anything!”

She thrust her hand forward and instantly created a magic circle in the air in front of her. From within it, blasts of the four elements exploded towards the rogue user. However, Hibiki merely stood in place as they passed over her, only managing to ruffle her hair.

Maria struggled to her feet while Hibiki was preoccupied. “That’s right! We must work together to take her down no matter what the cost! EVEN IF WE HAVE TO PUT OUR LIVES ON THE LINE!”

Chris grit her teeth in frustration. “That was our intention all along!”

And a multitude of launchers erupted from all over her armor. Missiles, arrows, and laser beams, all of them at once were fired towards the corrupted Gungnir user.

‘MEGADETH SYMPHONY’

Following up with their senior, Kirika and Shirabe charged. Kirika’s shoulder armor opened up, launching the grappling hooks stored within them. She held her breath as they travelled through the air, and smiled as she struck gold, the chains wrapping around the rogue wielder in an instant, binding her arms and anchoring themselves to the ground while she stood within the storm Saint-Germain was throwing at her.

Chris’s barrage struck, and a gigantic fireball rose from the impact point. However, following up on the alchemist’s advice, they continued their assault. Shirabe leaped over the fireball, landing on its other side. Summoning her large buzzsaws, they transformed into her Sigma Style Lunar Eclipse, and riding upon her wheel she headed into the fire. Seeing her intent, Saint-Germain stopped her own attack, letting her charge in uninterrupted.

Maria, who had regained her bearings, unsheathed her sword once again and followed up on the attack, and ran headfirst into the blaze. She could hear Shirabe coming from the other side, and as one their Armed Gears crashed against the bound Hibiki.

Only to gasp in shock when the fireball was dispersed in an instant, and they watched in horror as Hibiki, now completely free, simply blocked their blows with her bare hands. Shirabe’s Lunar Wheel grinded against her armored palm, and she poured of all her power into the charge, but could not gain any ground. Maria as well, pushed as much power as she could into her arms, desperate to try and inflict some sort of damage on their opponent. 

“You just never learn, do you?” Hibiki simply said, and with a light push forced the two wielders away from her. Shirabe’s wheel disappeared as she fell to the ground, while Maria landed nimbly on her feet.

Saint-Germain assessed their situation. What they just performed was a haphazard surekill combination, and it completely failed to put even a dent on the rogue wielder.

Hibiki alternated looking between them as they tried to come up with another solution. Shirabe rose back to her feet and entered her fighting stance, waiting for someone to make a move. There had to be something they could do, something that will change the flow of the battle-

“I think I have an idea.” Hibiki suddenly said, catching them by surprise. Their kept their guard up, prepared to respond to anything she would do. She stretched her arm to its full length and opened up her palm. “Five on one isn’t very fair, don’t you agree?”

Chris narrowed her eyes at her, confused by her question. Hibiki turned her hand over, and raised a single finger with her free hand. “So to make it a bit more fair, I think I’m going to add another friend to the mix.”

And in a single, downward motion, sliced into her open palm with her armored digit. The girls gasped in shock from the masochistic act. Red blood dripped down from the cut, falling to the ground beneath her.

It was at that moment that Miku, who had been looking for a way out into the track field, finally arrived on the battlefield. She arrived just in time to see Hibiki slice her own palm open, and raised her hands to cover her mouth in horror.

And then the most surreal and disturbing action occurred right in front of their eyes.

The miniscule amount of blood that fell to the floor suddenly began to bubble, increasing in size as it spread even more across the track. It turned over in on itself several times, and then began to bulge. It rose grotesquely from the ground up, becoming much larger than the original amount spilled could possibly allow. The growing mess gained height until it stood at the same stature as the person it spilled from, and began to morph. Slowly but surely, it started to gain a vaguely human shape, and the girls’ eyes simply widened in disgust, Kirika raising her hand to cover her mouth as she felt her stomach begin to churn.

The mess of a human form became streamlined, shrinking and growing according to the wishes of its mistress, and all that was left in its wake was another person, right in front of them.  

‘Is she...creating life?!’ Saint-Germain asked herself in absolute amazement. 

But it did not stop there. The human shaped red form began to crust and crumble, and the crimson blood that had made it flaked off of it in droves.

And once every bit of the red covering had fallen to the ground and disappeared, what remained in its wake was a living black mass.  

No, it was not just any black mass. It was a form Chris and Miku had seen far too many times before in their lives. Memories of an uncontrollable berserk rage welled up within them, and had Tsubasa been in good shape and with them on the battlefield, she would have recognized it too.

For the being that had been born before them was shaped like none other than Tachibana Hibiki, taking the form of the darkness that had overtaken her many times during the time she was fused with Gungnir.

“What...the fuck...is this?” Chris could only mouth as she stared into the glowing red eyes of the beast before her. 

And from behind her creation, the original Hibiki flashed a disturbing smile. The black fake Hibiki breathed out savagely as its eyes locked onto its opponents.

“Now, this should be a bit more fair. Come at me, everyone...AND FEEL MY JUDGMENT!”  

Responding to its mistress’ call, the black beast roared.

Chapter Text

Never has S.O.N.G HQ been in an uproar so many times in a single week.

The moment that Hibiki reappeared at Lydian, evacuation plans have already been established and were about to be deployed right up until Maria took the initiative and forced an evacuation of the school anyway. Aoi was relieved by her foresight, but it still did not fix the underlying problem: the rogue wielder herself.

Thankfully enough, visual and audio were working perfectly when they began their surveillance.

However, in hindsight, Aoi wished they hadn't.

There was just no way to describe the pure evil that was radiating off of Hibiki at that moment. It was such a sudden change from before that it was almost unbelievable, and it was so pronounced that they could feel it all the way from the safety of the headquarters. The night before, she seemed to be more unhinged than anything else, and according to Adam that's all that should have been; just a teenage girl venting out her feelings explosively. Aoi really thought that would be the full extent of it.

Never could she have imagined that it would evolve, and become this...abomination that shook her to the core. To see Hibiki, standing in the middle of the crater that used to be Lydian's courtyard was beyond mind boggling. To see her looking like a fallen angel, like a divine being that lost its place in Heaven.

And when she spoke, chills went down her spine at the absolute animosity she showed towards Maria. She knew that at that moment, a fight was inevitable. There was nothing they could do from their end, so Aoi simply said to her a few simple words.

"God-speed."

It was such a useless gesture, she knew that. They weren't even all that encouraging, and their meaning was simply was "do your best", since other than investigate the cause of this change, there was absolutely nothing they could do to help her.

"Sorry I'm late!" Elfnein exclaimed as she ran into the bridge, panting. "I just finished up some final adjustments! Sorry it took so long!"

She quickly ran to her console, sitting down and hurriedly being updated about recent events.

At that moment, the fight erupted with a bright flash of light, and the indicator for Maria's Ignite Module time showed up on the big screen before them.

They were already on a time limit from the get go, and that increased the pressure all the more.

Adam looked up from where he was left at the screen displaying a visual of the fight. 'What a useless effort,' He thought to himself. 'Just once wasn't enough for them to understand that they are outmatched by the divine power? What absolute arrogance. But still…'

Despite being what he was, Adam still managed to find himself surprised quite a few times over the last few hours. The fact that the god-slayer had apparently seamlessly taken in the divine power was one thing.

The fact that Gungnir's curses corrupted her did not.

Her having incredible power was definitely not a surprise.

The fact that it could change further was.

The former head of the Illuminati narrowed his eyes at the figure on screen. There was no use trying to follow the fight, since it was a foregone conclusion as to how it would end. No, it was more use studying the problematic person herself, and trying to understand exactly what it is that happened to her.

Not a single bit of his knowledge about the divine power had indicated that it could change. It was suppose to be absolute and unyielding, and the way she had appeared the previous night should have been her at her strongest. Defeating it would be simply a matter of either overcoming her with sheer force or cleverly attempting to remove it from her.

So why was she even stronger now? No, it wasn't the divine power itself that evolved.

It was the curses, the very thing that corrupted her mind was what had evolved. She seemed to also spontaneously develop abilities as well, if the teleportation was any indication. That made absolutely no sense to him. Absolutely none. He was the one who was most knowledgeable about the subject, and he had no idea what was happening.

It was frustrating, confusing, and more than anything infuriating. To think it would go so out of control without any method of restoring it. How could he allow himself to fall so low? How could he allow himself to become so careless and lose everything he had worked so hard to achieve? To have his ambitions stolen from him right under his nose?

Not a single one of them knew what was the true purpose behind his grand design. They would rather waste their time on this petty squabbling rather than confront the actual problem. The Custodians will be becoming, and they will be ruthless.

But to dwell on this frustration was an exercise in futility. First, he has to reach an understanding. He has to figure out exactly what are the changing variables here in this formula, and looking at the visuals would not help him in any significant way. Unfortunately, he did not have the capability to actually move.

So in that case...

"You," He said, calling toward the nearest employee who had been absorbed in his work. The man raised his head and looked toward Adam, his eyes wide. He looked around him, and pointed to himself, silently asking if he was the one being called. "Yes, you." Adam continued. "Bring me over to the homunculus. She seems to be the only one with a brain amongst all of you."

The employee narrowed his eyes at the blatant insult, but said nothing. He got up from his seat and went over to Adam, picking him up carefully with both hands. Making his way around the various protruding consoles, he eventually arrived at the one Elfnein worked at, finding her engrossed in her work.

"Um, Ms. Elfnein?" The employee quietly said, catching her attention. She lifted her head up and her eyes widened. "He...wanted me to bring him to you so...I'll just put him right here." He said, and gently placed Adam's head on the free space on the console.

"Ah, thank you." Elfnein answered. The employee nodded in response and went back to his seat. The homunculus looked at the disembodied head curiously. "Um...is there anything I can help you with?"

He stared at her with narrowed eyes. "You seem to be the only one doing any actual work. Only through you will I be able to solve this mystery."

She tilted her head in question. "What do you mean?"

"I mean the strange change that has come over Tachibana Hibiki," He responded, and he could see the exact moment her expression fell. "Something does not sit right with me in this scenario. There is an element at work here that I could not foresee."

"Something you could...not foresee…"

"Yes. And you will help me find out what that is. Only then will everything will become clear. Do not worry, I will not disturb you during your work, I will only-"

"HOLY SHIT!"

The sudden shout from one of the employees at the lower part of the bridge tore everyone's attention away from their consoles, promptly bringing their attention to the large screen displaying the fight.

It was at that moment they realized that his cursing was not that out of place.

Elfnein cupped her hands over her mouth in horror as they stared at the black mass that had grown from Hibiki's spilled blood, and reeled back from the sheer insanity of the act. The fact that it took on her own shape, that one that had she had fallen to many times in the past only worked to increase their absolute shock.

Adam narrowed his eyes at the screen. She had developed another ability? Preposterous. Absolutely preposterous.

He will not allow this to stand.

"It seems we have much work ahead of us, homunculus," He said. "And we do not have the luxury of time. Let us make haste in this investigation."

His words worked to bring Elfnein back to focus. He was right, she could not allow herself to stay horrified by what she was seeing. That wouldn't help them at all. She worked quickly as she went over the information that was being rapidly provided, and Adam studied it as well from his place on the console.

There was much to go through, and very little time to do so. They could only work as hard as they could, and pray that the wielders will be able to survive.

-!-

There was something that Saint-Germain was familiar with that she could use to summarize their situation.

It was a law that she, as an alchemist, was intimately aware of: the law of equivalent exchange.

This law, among many others, is the most basic law that governs the art of alchemy to its core. It simply states that in order to obtain something, something of equal value must be lost; It stands in parallel to Newton's third law of motion.

Something cannot be gained without sacrificing something else. For every action that occurs, an equal and opposite reaction occurs from the other side.

And for every good deed done, an equally evil deed is also done, and vice versa. The real fear is not knowing when that deed will finally take place.

And after going through countless documents that vividly detailed Tachibana Hibiki's heroic exploits, Saint-Germain realized that the evil that stands in opposite to all the good that she had done…

Was right in front of them.

The beast's roar was unlike anything she had ever heard. It was primal, and it was wild, but most of all was also terribly human. It boggled her mind that Tachibana Hibiki, who was more often than not described as not being the brightest person of the bunch, could come up something like this.

No, this was not a display of intelligence, she corrected herself. This was a display of cleverness, and due to her current state, also a show of dominance.

Tachibana Hibiki had just created life from completely out of nowhere, ultimately defying the very laws that governed the universe.

It just went to show just how otherworldly the divine power was, and just how scary she could be.

The beast hunched over, steam escaping its gaping maw of a mouth. "How do you like it?" Hibiki asked deviously. "Came up with it just now, and I gotta say I'm surprised by how good it came out." She placed a hand on the beast's shoulder, and it growled at the Symphogear users. "How about you try to take it on? I think it will be a real challenge!"

"You…" Chris began to say, Her teeth grinding. "Do you think this is funny?!"

"Of course it is, Chris-chan. It's just so funny how you always try to beat me, and you just fail every single time! I kind of feel bad for you now. You throw everything you have at me and in the end nothing works. You just keep on trying again and again, and in the end you get nothing. So I made this thing just for you," Hibiki responded, chuckling. She tapped the beast's shoulder. "To give you a bit of hope, so to say. A gift from me to you, for everything you've done for me."

'Never thought her to be the sadistic type,' Saint-Germain wondered. 'I guess it is just another buried aspect that is being violently expressed.'

It also confirmed the homunculus' observation: she was prone to jumping between moods almost spontaneously. If before she presented herself as a calm yet vengeful being, now she was almost comical, almost wallowing in the misery she was inflicting upon them.

"Hibiki-san…" Kirika let out sadly. "Why...why are you doing this?"

"Why, Kirika-chan? I already told you. I'm simply giving back to you for everything you've done." Hibiki answered simply.

"But...But I thought we were friends! I thought that you cared about us!"

HIbiki narrowed her eyes at her. "That's not enough to make me forget or forgiveKirika-chan. You turned my help away. You involved innocents in your plans. You involved Miku in your plans and used her against me. I can never, ever forgive you for that. No matter how much time passes, and no matter how much we get along; you should know something very simply: I am done forgiving. I am done turning a blind eye. I am done sweeping everything under the rug. I will make sure that all of you will pay for what you've done to me. Everyone who turned against me will know exactly what I truly feel about it."

The cold response nearly drove Kirika to tears. She could feel the lump in her throat, struggling to hold back the tears from falling. She choked back a sob, and quickly Shirabe rolled over to her, holding her by the shoulders and trying to comfort her.

"Nobody is safe from me," She continued. "All those who looked down on me, all those who took advantage of me, and all those who denied me will understand what I went through!"

The beast shuffled in place, and growled once again. It was chained only by its mistress' will, and those chains were slowly loosening as her temper rose.

But Chris held no fear in her, standing to her full height. "Get real, dumbass!" She yelled at her. "You think all of us didn't go through hell as well? What makes you think you are so goddamn special?! I know it was hard for you and all, but just because of that does not give you the right to fuck everyone over!"

Chris could feel her own face burn up from anger, but she held her tongue from saying anything more. Hibiki went deathly quiet, and merely stared at the Ichaival user with her narrowed emerald eyes. "Because, Chris-chan. I have divine power,"

She gave the beast a gentle tap on the back.

"And you don't."

And the black mass charged, moving faster than the eye could see. Crossing the distance between them in a mere second, Chris barely had time to gasp as it brought down its claw on her. She hurriedly raised her crossbows barely in time for the beast to smash through them in a single strike and for its claws to cut deep into her arm.

"G-gah!" Chris let out as pain shot up into her brain in an instant. Seeing its surprise attack failed, the beast jumped back just in time to avoid a retaliatory strike from Kirika. Landing back onto the ground, the fake Hibiki laid on all fours like an animal, predatory growls escaping its mouth once again.

"Chris-senpai!" The Ig-Alima user exclaimed. "Are you alright?!"

"Y-yeah," The senior replied, her arms hanging loose by her sides. "That piece of shit got me good. It...will take awhile to get back into fighting shape."

Shirabe took position next to Kirika as they faced the beast. "Fall back then until you can. We'll handle this."

Chris grit her teeth. "Yeah...thanks guys." And took a few cautious steps backwards.

Kirika raised her scythe as she entered her battle stance. "Hibiki-san...this is just too much. Way, way too much. We can't let you go on like this. This isn't right, and this isn't you."

"Now now Kirika-chan, we just talked about this. You can't match me, so you girls play nice with this child. I'm sure she'll prove her worth in just a moment." Hibiki responded. "If you can beat her then maybe...I dunno, we'll see then."

Such a casual remark thrown without thinking of the circumstance. If there was anything that made them understand that it was Hibiki speaking, then it was the completely lack of regard and responsibility.

It just made the hole in their hearts that much bigger.

"It seems we have no choice then," Maria announced. "Everyone...let's cut down this beast."

There was no need to even acknowledge her.

Responding to their fighting spirit, the beast reared its head back and roared. It once again charged, stampeding towards Maria at incredible speeds like a sprinting cheetah. The silver Symphogear user raised her sword just as the beast leaped at her, blocking its powerful strike with her sword. The mere force pushed her back, and she felt her heels dig into the pavement beneath her. She grit her teeth, and with a yell pushed the beast back. It leapt away from her, spinning in the air.

But just as it was about to land, Shirabe was ready for it. Materializing her two giant buzzsaws, she positioned right where the beast was about to land, completely ready to slice it to pieces. However, it proved to be far more agile and flexible than they imagined, and just as it fell it twisted its body to barely avoid the spinning disks, landing right in front of Shirabe. As soon as its feeth touched the ground it lunged at her with its claws, and Shirabe quickly pulled back her saws to block the strike. Its claw clanged off the metal, and forcing herself away from it, Shirabe slid backwards, launching a barrage of saws at the fake Hibiki.

It seemed to however not be fast enough to avoid them as they cut into its mass, and the blood that made up its form splashed onto the ground behind it. It snarled at the small Symphogear user and, ignoring its own injuries, charged through the rain of saws towards her. Taken completely by surprise by the blatant disregard to its own well-being, Shirabe could barely avoid the sure-kill strike from it and jumped away in time for it to graze the side of her hip. She reeled momentarily from the pain, and spun just in time to avoid the second, more savage strike.

It was fast and dangerous, that was an unmistakable fact. It was also durable, seeing that her attack had done little to arrest its movements. She glanced briefly to its mistress, seeing Hibiki simply standing in the same place, her arms crossed and with a smile on her face.

'She's looking down on us.' Shirabe commented to herself. 'She thinks that this thing can defeat us. In that case-!'

Kirika came in just in time to deflect the third strike. The claws clanged against her scythe, and the beast instantly switched its focus to her. It attempted to slash at her again, but she nimbly avoided the simple strike and entered its range. With a shout, she swung towards the beast, and the very inside of her scythe struck it in the stomach. She was momentarily surprised when it wasn't sliced in half by her blow, but that was not the first time she had seen something like that happen. Planting another foot forward, she swung with all her might and swatted the beast away, causing it to fly through the air once again.

It would definitely charge at her again once it landed, she realized. In that case, she will meet it with all her power!

Holding her free hand to the side, Kirika summoned another copy of her scythe, dual wielding them. The beast then landed back to the ground and indeed rushed at her with a burst of speed. It roared again, raising both hands and struck against the scythe she raised to defend herself. Immediately she raised the other one to slice at the beast, but it used its arm to smash it away. Claws met scythes in a wild exchange of slashing blows, tearing up the ground beneath them and cutting huge gushes into the pavement.

Maria came up behind it while it was occupied and brought down her sword on its back. The beast was far too busy with the enemy in front of its face that it could not possibly dodge her strike in time, and the ignited sword sliced deeply into its back. It let out a pained growl as it faltered, it strikes against Kirika stopping momentarily.

But that was just the opening she needed.

She quickly combined the two scythes into one, turning them into a double headed halberd, and brought it down on the defenseless beast.

'REVERSE RAPUNZEL'

The black mass that had taken on Hibiki's form realized its impending demise and dodged to the side. It barely escaped with its life, however not without injury. Having attacked with all her might, Kirika's halberd sliced through the beast's right arm, and the severed black appendage flew through the air to land at the other side of the field.

A smirk lit up Kirika's face. "Alright, we got it-!"

"NO! IT'S NOT ENOUGH!"

Kirika was taken completely by surprise by Chris' sudden shout, turning around instinctively. "Wha-!"

It was something that she couldn't have possibly known about. All of the FIS Symphogear wielders were sorely lacking in information regarding everything that occurred before their first confrontation with S.O.N.G. Not a single one of them had any experience dealing with Hibiki's fusion with Gungnir, and as a result did not know exactly what had been happening to her during that time.

There was a flash of movement in the corner of her eye that she barely managed to catch. She turned back just in time to see the beast lunge at her, its arm having morphed into a huge spear head. Kirika's eyes widened in shock and she could only brace herself as it pierced into her shoulder.

"Ah-AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

She screamed at the excruciating pain that accompanied the blow. It happened so fast not a single one of them could even process it in time to react to its assault.

Its arm, the very same one that she had sliced off a mere moment before had instantly regenerated, and promptly used its restored limb to attack her while she was unaware.

The beast raised the arm and flung Kirika away. She streaked through the air and smashed into the track field's toolshed. It's arm then promptly morphed back into its regular shape.

"Kirika!" Maria yelled in her direction, but was forced to turn back to the beast as it turned its attention back to her and clawed at her face. She deflected the attack away with her sword, but its assault was relentless. It kept on attacking her with a wild flurry of primal slashes, each accompanied by a savage growl, and Maria groaned at the intensity. The beast slashed downwards, and Maria jumped back to gain some distance. She brandished her sword, and the once smooth blade fragmented and elongated, its entire length connected by a series of metal interlocking links. Locking her eyes onto the beast, she rushed towards it and struck with the full might of her whip-sword.

'EMPRESS†REBELLION'

The sword's entire length trapped the beast, and the serrated links sliced into its mass from all directions. The beast roared in pain as its blood was shed once more in large amounts. However, it was not down yet. Throwing its arms forward, the beast caught the sword in its hands, the links still grinding into its frame. Ignoring the pain, it pulled. Maria yelped as she was suddenly thrown forward, her feet leaving the ground.

The beast threw the sword aside and charged towards the airborne Maria. The elder idol narrowed her eyes, and in a split second decision pulled a handful of knives from her gauntlet and threw them in the beast's direction. The small blades pierced into it, throwing off its momentum, allowing Maria to use its head as a springboard and leap off in the other direction.

Just in time for Saint-Germain to shoot a barrage of bullets at its back. The bullets' impact blew holes into the beast's frame, and more blood erupted from the fresh wounds on its body. It hung in the air momentarily and then crashed into the ground face first with a loud thud, throwing up dirt into the air.

Maria landed back on her feet and turned to face the downed beast. The alchemist reloaded her gun and raised it in its direction as well, staring at it in deep concentration.

There was a tense moment on the battlefield. Miku could only look on in shock and worry at the battle, desperate to do something to help the Symphogear users. She furrowed her brows and took a step forward, but Maria already caught her intention and shouted to her. "Stay back, Miku-san!"

"But-"

"No buts! There is nothing you can do here! Words are completely lost on her! It's meaningless to try and talk her out of a fight! Get out of here as fast as you can!"

Miku's eyes widened. Why was she- She just wanted to help! She couldn't just stay back and let them fight alone!

"She's right, Miku." Hibiki said calmly, looking up at her over her shoulder. "There is nothing for you to do here. Sit quietly and wait for me to pick you up. I'll make sure you don't have to wait too long."

Complete and utter denial. Her lips quivered at their words, and her head hung low, her resolve depleted in a mere instant.

She was useless here. She couldn't fight like they could, so she had no way to assist them in the battle. Her words also had lost their effectiveness, seeing as Hibiki simply refused to listen to her pleas.

There was absolutely nothing she could do except stare and watch, and hope that they come out okay.

But that did not stave off the frustration. The sheer agony of not being able to do anything. The hopelessness of the situation, and the despair that accompanied it. Miku never felt like this before in her life...and it tore deeply into her heart, wishing...hoping...that there will be a ray of light in this all consuming darkness.

Kirika in the meantime picked herself up from the wreckage of the tool shed, untangling herself from the ropes of the tennis net that had been stored there. She groaned at the sharp pain from her shoulder, but brushed it off as much as she could and made her way towards the others.

Shirabe went over to her while the two older women kept their eyes on the currently unmoving beast, waiting for it to make any sort of move. This was their opportunity to regroup.

"Are you okay, Kiri-chan?" Shirabe asked her significant other.

Kirika flashed a weak smile, holding down a hand on the wound in her shoulder. "I'm okay Shirabe, it…" She winced. "Doesn't hurt too much."

Shirabe looked at her with worry, checking out her injury. How could a mindless beast give them so much trouble? It was incredibly disheartening, to think that this was their best. In the end, it only proved Hibiki's point: if they could barely beat this monster she created, then how the hell could they surpass her? What could possibly beat her at this point?

Chris, who had been hanging in the back due to her injuries, kept her gaze locked onto the real Hibiki. She could see Miku standing further away from her on the incline, her arms by her sides and her fists clenched. She wanted to go and comfort her, but if what Aoi told them was true, it was a bad idea to show any sort of closeness to Miku while Hibiki was around.

And besides that, to ignore Hibiki while they were fighting was tantamount to suicide. Her arms still hurt from the beast's initial strike, and it was difficult to raise them. Thankfully, the Symphogear stopped the beast from doing too much damage to her arms, and she was sure that in a few minutes she would be able to fight again, albeit a bit weakened.

But minutes in a fight were eternal. A single second could decide the outcome of a battle, which could decide the conclusion of a war...and decide the fate of the world.

To that end, Chris knew that despite his insufferable attitude, Kazanari Fudou was not wrong in his assessment. They are soldiers, in the end. They trained, they fought, and they put their lives on the lines for the many. They were the frontline and the backline in a war against beings that humanity could not handle by themselves, and they carried the fate of the entire world on their shoulders thrice already.

And as she painstakingly learned, there is no battle that cannot be won. There is only a missing element that needed to be used at the appropriate time.

But when that element was completely unknown...it was hard to develop any sort of hope.

The beast stayed down on the ground. Maria raised an eyebrow at its inactivity. "Do you think it's dead?" She asked the alchemist.

The response came from the beast itself as it raised itself off the ground. It turned on all fours towards them again, extending its limbs behind itself and growling all the while.

"Does that answer your question?" Saint-Germain retorted back.

It roared once more and stampeded towards them, tearing up the ground with its clawed hands and feet. It leaped towards Saint-Germain first, and the alchemist materialized a blade at the end of her gun, using it to shield herself from the incoming strike. The beast crashed into her, and with a strong heave she lifted the fake Hibiki above her head and threw it into the air. She aimed her gun at the airborne beast and fired multiple rounds, each one hitting its mark and splashing more blood onto the ground beneath it.

Taking the opportunity while it's defenseless, Maria took out a handful of knives from her gauntlet and raised them above her head. They spun rapidly, creating a whirlwind around the Airgetlam user, which she proceeded to throw right at the black beast.

'TORNADO†IMPACT'

The storm engulfed the beast and slammed it into the ground, pinning it to the pavement under the force of the mighty wind. Maria kept on the effort, not letting the snarling beast move even an inch.

"Now! Finish it off!" She yelled.

Before Saint-Germain could respond however, she heard the strong shuffling of metal as Chris materialized her two giant rockets behind her.

"No problem!"

'MEGADETH FUGA'

And they fired. They flew through the air, the backdraft creating a dust storm in their vicinity due their proximity. Just before they struck, Maria cancelled the storm, allowing the rockets to reach their destination unabated.

A huge explosion occurred in the wake of their impact, and the girls had to raise their arms to protect their eyes from the wind that followed.

"Now it should be dead." Chris commented with a smirk. Even without her crossbows she could help after all, and took the opportunity to blast the beast into pieces. If its regeneration did not allow them to chip at it slowly, then the obvious solution was to destroy it so thoroughly it had nothing to regenerate from.

And true to her thought, when the fireball had dissipated and they looked into the small crater that formed from the impact, there was indeed nothing inside of it.

It had taken much effort, but they were in the end successful. They had successfully taken down the beast.

A small smile began to form on the edges of Maria's mouth, but was promptly dropped when Hibiki started clapping. "Wow! Good job everyone! That sure was a great show!"

Saint-Germain raised her gun at the rogue wielder, frowning all the while. "You really have lost your mind."

Hibiki tilted her head sheepishly to the side. "Lost my mind? Now that's just rude Saint-Germain-san! I'm very much sane I'll have you know."

She clapped one more time, and then a savage smile lit up her face. "As a reward for your success...How about I increase the difficulty?"

"Wha-"

And they looked over the battlefield, looking at two of the puddles that had formed after they spilled the beast's blood. They too, like their predecessor, began to bubble and grow and morph. Following the same trend, the two puddles quickly grew as well.

And at the end of the nasty process, two black beasts remained in their wake.

They stood at opposite ends of the area, boxing the Symphogear wielders and Saint-Germain between them. They two beasts growled loudly at them, and Maria looked between them hurriedly, trying to formulate some sort of plan of action. They essentially had three fighters at relatively top form, while Chris couldn't use her arms at the moment, limiting her to just her strong blasts. Kirika on the other hand was probably still able to fight, but at a much lower efficiency.

This is all without taking into consideration their Ignite limit. Maria at some point lost track of the timer and now was absolutely clueless as to much of it remained.

"Everyone, stick together. Huddle as close as possible!" She commanded, and they proceeded to obey her orders. The four wielders as well as Saint-Germain stood in a circle, their backs towards each other. Kirika painfully materialized a scythe again and held it aloft in her uninjured hand. It was much more difficult to lift now, but they had to make due with what they had.

Saint-Germain contemplated on their next move. 'Just one gave us an endless source of trouble. It was strong, fast, but essentially just a wild animal. We were able to outsmart it and overwhelm it, but...how much longer can the Symphogears hold? And how much longer can I hold?'

-!-

Elfnein bit her lip, looking at the disadvantageous position the girls found themselves in. The Ignite timers kept on ticking down on the big screen in front of her, and they indeed did not have much time left on it. Just the fight against the one beast significantly reduced it, and now two of them at the same time looked to be bleak.

She was still completely perplexed at how Hibiki could create them out of nowhere. It was an act that defied various rules she was aware of intimately as both a scientist and an alchemist. Creating life was a goal many alchemists in the past fought and died to accomplish, and not even one of them managed to do so as successfully as she had. Not even Carol, with all of her knowledge had been able to do so. The Autoscorers were in the end simply pre-programmed dolls, and her spare bodies were degraded versions of her own.

But what could they do now?

"You worry about your own comrades, homunculus," Adam suddenly said, catching her attention. "In the end, even the divine power has its limits in what it could do. To spawn a being like that was nothing short of a violation of the natural law. Leave discovering the reason for that to me. It's your job to keep them alive, is it not?"

Elfnein blinked a few times, surprised at his out-place-generosity. "I see. Thank you."

Adam smirked. "There is no need to thank me, homunculus. Just make sure that our goals are attained at the end of this road, no matter what you have to do."

She looked at him, taking in the meaning of his words. This was indeed an exceptional situation that called for creative solutions.

Well, it was a good thing she did indeed do something creative. It was a surprise it worked at all, but even though it was a shadow of the real thing, it could still be useful and help them turn the tide.

Now to just inform her that she could use it.

Elfnein pressed the comm button. "Saint-Germain-san!"

-!-

The last person the alchemist expected to specifically open a channel to her was Elfnein. It took a while for the homunculus to convince her to take the earpiece from her, but in the end the tactical needs outweighed her own reluctance.

And it seemed now it would prove useful. "Saint-Germain-san!"

"What is it?" She responded back evenly.

"Listen, I'm sorry for not telling you about this earlier, but there is something you can do to help you in the battle." Elfnein told her. Saint-Germain furrowed her brows skeptically while still having her gun raised at the beast in front of her.

"What are you talking about?"

"I installed the Ignite Module on your Faust Robe."

It was such a bombshell announcement that the alchemist almost dropped her gun in response. The Symphogear wielders turned around to stare at her in shock, not believing that such a thing was even possible.

"That's impossible," The alchemist responded. "The Faust Robe is not a true relic. It does not have the same abilities as the Symphogear does, regardless of their similarity."

It was an undeniable fact. The entire reason the Ignite Module worked at all was because the Symphogears innately had the 'Berserk' mechanic built into them. It was only through overcoming the pain that it invokes in one's mind that it could be subdued and used as a power source rather than becoming a raging beast like the black mass before them. From her research, Saint-Germain realized that the Ignite Module could only be conceived because of Tachibana Hibiki's experience as a relic-human fusion. Faust Robes were the alchemical equivalent of the Symphogear, requiring no song to activate and were in the end not true relics.

And due to that fact, they did not have the berserk mechanic to abuse, so why…?

"I know it sounds unbelievable, but I made it work. It's not exactly the same as the one the Symphogears have, so its power is degraded, but I managed to install it all the same. I used the last piece of the Fool's Stone that I had as a conductor. Even if the Philosopher's Stone is not a true relic like the Symphogears, it was enough for it to interface successfully with the Ignite Module. I do not know what to tell you in terms of what your real output would be, but it will have the same advantages and disadvantages just like the real one." Elfnein explained.

So that was why she succeeded. She had in fact abused the status of the Philosopher's Stone as a pseudo relic to force the Module to work with it. Since her Robe was derived from it, it could still somehow work.

It was a still however a long shot, she understood that much. The Philosopher's Stone was not a historical relic that contained massive amounts of power due to its relation to legends. It was more akin to an ideal taking form, passing on through the generations of alchemists as they strived to obtain it. It was considered the ultimate form of alchemy, the final form of the perfection they sought. In the end, the stone itself did not actually exist, up until Saint-Germain managed to synthesize one alongside Prelati and Cagliostro. It was not a 'true' Philosopher's Stone like the one sought, but it still glowed with an almost divine radiance. It was due to this aspect that it was the natural enemy of the Ignite Module, as its purity washed away the curse that it embodied.

As a result, something like the Ignite Module will never work with a Faust Robe derived from the Philosopher's Stone, so how did she do it?

No, even if it was unlikely, the confidence in her voice convinced the alchemist that it would work. She had to trust her, even if they were temporary allies. They had no reason to deceive her on the battlefield, and in the end they had the exact same goals.

So the only thing she had remaining...was to put her trust into this reckless plan.

It was completely out of character for her, she knew that much. But as they say, war makes for strange bedfellows.

"Very well." She responded, and with a finger and a thumb grabbed the sides of the Faust Robe's unit at the very middle of her collarbone. She could feel the two very distinct additions to it that were not part of the original model, confirming that indeed, the homunculus had added a component to it.

Activating it was almost instinctual for her at this point, having witnessed the Symphogear users do it so many times in their battles against her.

So she will make it theatrical, just like they did.

She gave it two clicks.

"IGNITE MODULE,"

Tearing away the unit, she held it aloft with one hand in the air before her.

"UNSHEATHE!"

The red crystal glowed, and a mechanical voice rang out from within it.

'DAINSLEIF'

And she released it, letting it float on its own. The unit spun, turning over as it faced her directly. Then, the butterfly-like wings that were part of its design elongated, and right in the middle of it all, where the unit itself rested, a glowing crimson blade erupted. It sparked with an intense amount of electricity, and Saint-Germain braced herself.

There was a sharp pain in her chest as the crimson blade pierced her, and instantly she was engulfed in the black smoke that came with the first use of the Module.

She groaned painfully as the curse of Dainsleif washed over her and the light of the Philosopher's Stone was violently repressed by its sheer intensity. "G-gahh!"

The Symphogear wielders, who up until now were stupefied by what had just occurred were torn from their daze at the sight of the alchemist's form being surrounded by the curse. "Fight it, Saint-Germain!" Maria yelled to her.

Her words did not reach the struggling alchemist, as she was lost amongst the shadows as she fought against the blade. Dainsleif was after all, a legendary sword of bloodshed and murder, said to never to return to its sheath until its wielder had taken a life. It is a sword that amplifies the darkness within the user's heart and could cause an artificially induced rampage. It is only through overcoming that darkness that the curse could be subdued and mastered, which required a great deal of strength of will.

It was like in a single, eternal moment, Saint-Germain could see all of the sins she had committed side by side. She could hear the screams of pain and rage echoing within her mind, and all the failures and frustrations that have built up over the years bubbling up within her, tearing apart her body from the inside. It was an intense mental pain accompanied by an excruciating physical one, and she lurched forward as she attempted to hold onto her reason through the thick clouds forming in her consciousness.

'I know this already," She told herself in the chaos. 'I know that eventually I will face retribution for everything I've done. I know that time will come to me. I deserve every single bit of it; every curse, every sorrow, every unimaginable and abominable death that can be brought upon another. That is the only end awaiting someone like me.'

The painful memories of her childhood, of trying to survive in a broken society and trying in vain to save her dying mother came up to the surface. 'I know that my efforts in the end yielded absolutely nothing, that my path of bloodshed was for naught. That the perfect world I envisioned was nothing but an illusion.'

The centuries that passed, the sacrifices she had to make, and the eventual hardening of her own heart. 'But even so, I wanted to believe in it. I wanted to believe in this ideal to the very end. I lived for far too long to throw it aside on a mere whim.' The faces of her comrades, her friends, flashed before her eyes. Their smiling faces and their loyalty had filled her with joy. 'I did it for them, for Mother, and for the world in which I lived. And yet, I lost them all in a single, fleeting moment. And at the end of it all, I became lost as well. I followed a man who betrayed me and my dream, and I was left clawing desperately for some sort of salvation.'

And among all of that, a single, extended hand had washed the sorrow away. 'Yet I was offered a chance that I was not given for hundreds of years. I was offered a solution, and I grabbed the hand that beheld it. I lost my own dream, so I could do nothing but try and help her achieve her own. Yet, now she stands against that dream as well. Will I once again stand aside and do nothing? Will I once again let a dream be destroyed, for countless efforts to be cast aside like I was?!'

She grit her teeth as her anger rose. 'No! I refuse to submit! I will not stand for this blasphemy! I will rise above any curse, against any god, and I will end the cause of humanity's sorrow! I will stand against the oppression that you now embody, Tachibana Hibiki! I will remind you of your own dream, and I will extend my hand to you…'

She threw her head back and screamed towards the sky. "JUST AS YOU HAVE DONE FOR ME!"

And the darkness that engulfed her, now fully tamed, coalesced in its entirety into the unit that had spread it.

A rush of energy erupted from Saint-Germain's form as the wielders looked on in awe and wonder. Hibiki, who had been standing to the side with her arms crossed narrowed her eyes at the interesting development.

And right before their eyes, Saint-Germain's Faust Robe transformed, the sleek silver shine that had been signature to its having become a deep black. Her entire frame glowed with the aura the Module provided, and as the light faded, the Ignited Faust Robe of the Philosopher's Stone stood before them.

Saint-Germain opened her eyes, her mind finally clear of the raging black storm that it drowned in a moment before. She raised her arm and studied the changes to her appearance, feeling the power welling up within her. There was a feeling of something grinding against something else, like two cogs in a machine trying to spin in alternate directions. She figured it was the two natures conflicting with one another, the Philosopher's Stone struggling against the Dainsleif's curse. How ironic that she should be subjugated to the same contradiction as Tachibana Hibiki was.

But there was no point wasting time on it. She had to make use of it to its fullest. She had to make this apparent miracle worthwhile.

"So this is what it's like," She said. "This is what you have all gone through, isn't it?"

Maria looked at her with wide eyes, and her expression relaxed somewhat. "Yes...that's how it was for us as well."

"I see."

She looked up at the snarling beast that had remained stationary the entire time and narrowed her eyes at it. Her Faust Robe, she noticed, had evolved to become something more like a Symphogear than a Faust Robe in its current state. 'To think the homunculus would be able to do something like this in such a short period of time, and almost completely negate the contradiction from the two existing at the same time...she truly is talented.'

It was fitting to someone like her, whose entire life was nothing but a contradiction in on itself. "Then let us purge those regrets we harbor...upon these vile abominations of life!"

The beast in response to her declaration charged at her in a single bound. Before Maria could act to stop it, Saint-Germain walked forward and stepped into the beast's path. "Hey, what are you-"

Before she could even finish her sentence, Maria's eyes widened when the alchemist avoided the blow at the very last possible moment. Her body moved so quickly the beast could not adjust in time, and the two came extremely close face to face. Saint-Germain stared into the pure crimson eyes of the beast.

'Did my eyes glow like that?' She thought to herself. It was a fleeting thought, one she used as a way to entertain herself momentarily, and then she stabbed the blade protruding from her gun into the beast's stomach. The beast growled in pain and attempted to dislodged itself from the impaling blade, but it was far too late.

Saint-Germain pressed the trigger, and the entire middle of the beast's body exploded outwards in a shower of blood. Its face contorted into an expression of primal shock, thrown backwards by the blast.

But it was not done yet. The bullet that had broken the speed of sound and continued onwards in its path suddenly changed direction in midair. Arcing widely, it turned all the way around back to the battlefield and blew through the defenseless beast again from behind, its entire lower body being erased in a shower of blood as well. And before it could even hit the ground, the bullet curved back once again and destroyed what remained of the beast's upper body, culminating in lodging itself into the pavement.

And all that remained of the beast was a puddle of blood on the ground, having been defeated in a mere instant.

"Holy shit." Chris exclaimed at the sight of the brutal yet swift destruction of the second beast.

Hibiki's face contorted in fury as she witnessed another of her creations be destroyed. "So even Elfnein-chan is turning on me," She growled out. "But good job, Saint-Germain-san."

"I don't want to hear that from you, Tachibana Hibiki," The alchemist responded, turning her weapon on the rogue wielder. "This may not be as powerful as your own, but I am not afraid to take a life if necessary. That is the core difference between you Symphogears and I. The battlefield is no place for hesitations or holding back. If you truly wish to erase me...Then come face me head on!"

Hibiki let her arms fall to her sides. "So that's how you want it then," She said angrily. "Fine with me. But before that…"

She swept her arm forward before anyone could ask what she meant. Then, all at once, all the puddles of blood that had formed due to the destruction of the beasts bubbled and transformed.

And, instead of one, single beast...there were now a dozen, all looking towards the wielders and snarling savagely.

"That will keep everyone occupied. Now, let's get this show on the road, Saint-Germain-san. You wanted a fight...then you got one!"

Chapter Text

AN: A cookie for anyone who knows what St. Germain's attack references.


"That is quite an interesting development," Adam Weishaupt said upon seeing Saint-Germain's new form. "I did not expect you to be able to incorporate the Ignite Module into a Faust Robe, homunculus."

Elfnein continued tapping away on her console, only partially listening to him. "It took a bit of tinkering, but I'm glad it worked as well as it did, even if its output is lower than the usual." She replied, going over the data on the Faust Robe. There was a clear difference between it and the Symphogears, despite all of her effort to maximize its potential as much as possible. The Philosopher's Stone proved to be a stubborn opponent, and only by adding the Fool's Stone into the equation did it actually succeed.

It was like a strange game of rock-paper-scissors. The Philosopher's Stone had an advantage over the Ignite Module, but the Fool's Stone had an advantage over it. It was their solution when they'd originally fought the alchemists, as the Philosopher's Stone's light had completely negated the Module's curse. Without it, they were just not strong enough to compete with them on even ground, as the Philosopher's Stone siphoned away the Module's strength.

But when the Fool's Stone came into the equation, it made things much more balanced. Working like destructive interference, the Fool's Stone's power was expressed as a barrier that protected them from its light, cancelling its effects and evening their odds.

It worked quite the same way when she had installed the Module onto the Faust Robe. The Fool's Stone she had added worked to seal away the cancelling light of the Philosopher's Stone, allowing the Module to work as intended even if it was not a Symphogear. Due to the fact that the Philosopher's Stone still counted as a relic despite its dubious origins, it therefore had a Berserk state that the Module could use.

Of course, when Elfnein first made these adjustments, everything was just a theory. A huge, risky, and dangerous theory that could have possibly backfired had she not quadruple checked it for any errors.

The results were as they saw: A fully functional Ignite Module on a Faust Robe, something that was indeed supposed to be impossible. However, it did not come without a price. Due to the fact that much of the Faust Robe's power was derived from its relic, and due to the fact that that relic was now partially sealed away within it, the base output of the Faust Robe was reduced as a result. While the Ignite Module increased it beyond its previous limits, it was still bound by the Module's weaknesses such as the time limit. It would have been nice if the two components could work in harmony and increase the output even more, but Elfnein would not look a gift horse in the mouth. They had to work with that they got.

"I will give you credit for this as you have worked out quite an ingenious solution in such a limited amount of time. However, do you truly believe it will be enough?" Adam asked her after acknowledging her efforts. Credit had to be given where credit was due, even if they were supposed to be enemies.

"It isn't," She answered honestly. "There is no way it can be enough, especially after the adjustments I had to make to it. But even if it isn't...just a bit...even just a little bit...could make all the difference…"

Adam knew that her words were spoken out of desperation. There just wasn't anything their command center could do to assist the Symphogear users, especially now that Hibiki spawned a dozen of those copies.

They, like the rest of the world, were helpless in her wake, so Elfnein tried to do as much as she could in order to slightly improve their chances. Giving Saint-Germain an Ignite Module won't magically turn the tables for them, but it can improve their chances even a bit.

However, that depended on how clever Saint-Germain could be. The biggest advantage the alchemist had over the users, and even over Hibiki herself, was her sheer experience. She had lived for hundreds of years after all, and one does not survive that long by being stupid. In that regard, she could possibly come up with some sort of plan.

But that was a big maybe. This was a situation not even Fine would know how to handle safely and without several setbacks, and she was thousands of years old by the time she was defeated. Hibiki was after all known for her illogicality; experience, will, and fate itself were bent out of shape due to her efforts, and she managed to time and time again surpass their wildest expectations.

It was incredibly distressing to think the qualities that they appreciated about her and what made her special were all being wielded against them. They were on the receiving end of that illogicality, and just like their enemies they were completely stupefied as to what to do. And to add on to that, Hibiki also knew everything about their capabilities including what the command center itself could do, but most importantly what the Symphogears could do. It was the reason she could allow herself to be so arrogant; what reason does she have to worry if she knows everything about her opponents and has realized they don't pose enough of a threat?

That's why Saint-Germain was a key player in this scenario. Not only were their meetings fairly short, the alchemist had never revealed her full abilities. Now, reinforced by the Ignite Module, it only made her a bigger unknown in the rogue wielder's mind. She would have to play it much safer than before despite all of her power. Even the reckless Hibiki knows that pure force alone cannot solve all problems, a fact that she painstakingly learned after more than a year of fighting. So even if it did not grant them victory, it could give them time to discover a solution.

'No...it's not that we don't have a solution...it's that attempting to apply it might backfire on us...I hope Genjuro-san won't regret it. I know it was a difficult decision to make...but if we want to survive...we have to make sure it works.'

"How ironic," Adam added while watching the ongoings. "What an interesting case of role reversal we have here."

Elfnein looked to him and tilted her head, and he continued. "It's almost laughable. Saint-Germain, who up until now has been zealously pursuing the divine power, is now using a power that belonged to her enemies. On the other hand, the god-slayer is now wielding the very same divine power that Saint-Germain had always wanted. Tachibana Hibiki with divine power, and Saint-Germain with an Ignite Module. How amusing."

Oh, so that's what he meant. That was indeed an ironic situation, Elfnein had to admit. The two opponents using the powers that were signature to each other, but on opposite sides. In some ways, it was indeed amusing.

But that did nothing to make her feel any better, nor would it make any difference in the outcome.

-!-

Being confined to a hospital bed was one of the few things Genjuro hated with a passion.

He had a lot of experience in the field, and he had seen enough disturbing actions on the battlefield to scar a man forever. It was only due to his resilience and experience that he managed to find himself in this position, leading a government secret group of soldiers equipped with armor created from ancient relics.

Yes, soldiers. It was one of the many regrets Genjuro had in his life. He had led countless soldiers on the battlefield to their deaths and had to watch good people die for the sake of peace. Far too many familiar smiling faces passed by his vision time and time again, and he could never consider any of them expendable, especially the Symphogear wielders.

Yes, the Symphogear wielders. One of Genjuro's secret wishes was that they would eventually shed that title away, that armor and burden away, and have the time and freedom to live their lives as just simple girls. He wanted them to grow, get married, have a family, and most of all be happy. To be a Symphogear wielder, an Adaptor, was not a right or a privilege. It was a burden and a responsibility that cut into your life regardless of your wishes; Tachibana Hibiki was proof of that more than anyone. She had come into this world completely by accident, and in the end she was the one who had given them the most hope. She was not 'trained' or made to be one like the others, she was simply someone who got caught up in circumstances that warranted her involvement. And she had happily smiled and agreed, eager to help anybody she could.

To see her in this current state, to see her use her ideals and wishes against the world and her own comrades tore at his heart. He never wanted this for her. He never wanted this for any one of them. Many times he had just thought that he should just...let them go. To just tell the girls that they were free to leave, to give up this tumultuous life and to finally find their own path without fighting. But of course, as he knew them, these girls would take one step forward and immediately turn back and tell him they'll never leave him alone.

He smiled at the thought. He didn't know them for very long, yet they were family. They saw each other all the time, and went through so much together they had become inseparable. And that just made it all the more painful.

"Damn it." Genjuro let out involuntarily as he watched the battle through his small laptop screen. He wanted to go out there again, to provide them with some sort of support; But nothing he could do would help their odds. In the end, he also knew that Elfnein's insane tactic was nothing but an attempt to buy some time for...anything, really.

Genjuro thought back to his battle with her. Despite his best efforts, he had been defeated, and was sure he would die that night...yet, he didn't. Hibiki did not kill him. She could have had she wanted to, and she had every intention to. Yet, she didn't. He knew it was crazy and delusional, but just that single action proved to him that she was not lost completely, that they could still get her back. However, the method to getting her back was very far away, and it was a method that depended on one single person. A person who should not have been involved in these affairs in the first place...And if Hibiki knew he intended to involve them, she would absolutely never forgive him. Yet, he had hardened his heart and gave the go ahead to make that method available, and now he was using this incident as a way to make them want to be involved.

'This makes me no better than them…' He thought to himself. What a goddamned irony. But he was used to making these kind of cruel decisions. A commander cannot command if he does not do all in his power to make the mission a success...even if the cost is his own heart.

Genjuro tore his eyes away from the screen to once again look at the pod Tsubasa lay in. She was doing much, much better according to the doctors even though barely a day had passed since she was injured. He had to give it to her, Tsubasa was one hell of a fighter, in more than one regard. She was far, far stronger than him in various way. All of the girls were, and that made him extremely proud. He just hoped that she would get well soon and that she could be reunited with her comrades, her sisters. Although...maybe that wasn't quite the correct title to call them. After all, as commander, he also usually knew more about their inter-personal relationships than they'd believe, and indeed he was quite surprised yet pleased by what he had discovered.

'They are different from me.' He reminded himself. He had long since locked his heart away for his duty so they would not have to, and he was happy that they were indeed getting along. He was happy that despite all that she had done, Ryoko's efforts had managed to bring them together. That Nasstassja's girls managed to find a place to belong without her. So much happened to bring this whole group together. So much was sacrificed and lost so they could obtain their happiness.

And he would be damned if he let anything happen to them. He could not just sit and allow such a blasphemy to occur right before his eyes. He would do whatever it takes to get that happiness back, even if he had to sell his soul to the devil. And if to do required him to involve the one person he didn't wish to involve...then he would do so, and accept the consequences once he fell down to Hell, where he believed he belonged.

His eyes went back to the screen, continuing to watch the battle.

-!-

Saint-Germain had no song to sing. She had no melody, no words that could pour from her heart to stir her soul in the face of an enemy. No, the only thing she had was an iron will, and the experience behind it to put it to good use.

She had brazenly challenged Hibiki to a fight despite all of the odds. Yet, there was no regret to be had, no taking backs in the middle of the battlefield. She had told the girls that she was different from them, that she had no such hesitation in her heart like they did.

And that made all the difference.

The moment Hibiki had said the words, the alchemist was already in action. There was no time to help the others defeat the beast clones that had spawned, as it would just give their maddened mistress the time to either make more or hit them where they least expect it. So she had to believe in their prowess and leave those beasts to them while she was occupied with the main culprit.

Her charge was swift and brutal. The blade at the end of her gun crashed against Hibiki's spear, and blazing sparks erupted from the impact point. To her surprise, Hibiki found herself slightly pushed back from the force as Saint-Germain glared down at her with her teeth bared.

Hibiki's free hand wheezed through the air to smash against the alchemist's side, but to her surprise Saint-Germain maneuvered around it, ending the blade lock abruptly and sending the rogue Adaptor off balance. Twisting in midair, Saint-Germain took aim and fired, the bullet whistling loudly on its path. Hibiki glared at it momentarily and then immediately teleported behind the airborne alchemist, and instantly brought her spear down on her defenseless back.

Only for her senses to scream loudly in her mind, and she raised her spear to instead block an impact she had narrowly missed. Somehow, Saint-Germain had managed to launch an attack from behind her back, a fact that Hibiki had a very hard time believing.

And she would be right. It was not that the alchemist had suddenly grown a gun on her back and fired again. No, it was a much crazier fact than that. The round she had fired earlier, the one that Hibiki had dodged upon teleporting, had almost instantly curved its path, turning around in ways a bullet should never be able to and make its way to her.

It was a technique she had developed almost spontaneously upon the activation of the Ignite Module. It was a simple thing really: so long as she knows where her target is, she can direct the bullet fired to change its trajectory and seek her again. It was insane and it broke several ironclad laws of physics, but at this moment it was an incredible tool. The only true defense against it was to be impervious to bullets, as once it impacted it would no longer continue.

However, it gave her an almost immediate counter to a most irritating problem: Hibiki's teleportation ability. Even if she didn't exactly know where the rogue Adaptor would teleport to next, she could very well figure it out on her own. Despite her overwhelming power, Hibiki was still incredibly predictable in her fighting. She always fought on the frontline, going front and center in their formation, and going right into the enemy's face.

Against the Noise, or even against an amateur opponent, such a tactic would quickly overwhelm them.

But not Saint-Germain. No, she had faced these kind of tactics before, and by now she was more than prepared for them.

However, that still did not solve the problem of their humongous difference in power, nor would it magically increase the timer on her Ignite Module. She had gone into the second phase like the others, which helped increase her output but limited the activation time to almost half of its original duration.

So she would make the most of it.

Twisting in midair once again, Saint-Germain's barrel was once again aimed at Hibiki's face. She fired a volley of shots that crashed against the spear's flat side, putting pressure on the rogue Adaptor. Another interesting observation that the alchemist made was also a great source of mystery: why was Hibiki adamantly using her spear?

Her skill with it was, in simple words, extremely lacking. She had never in her life received training in the use of polearms in any shape or form, so that made her attacks very simple to predict and overcome. Well, overcome was a strong word, as merely a grazing blow from a swing was liable to blow her head apart. But that still made it far easier to deal with, and she was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Had she been using her fists like always, the fight would have become much more difficult. She figured it was the main reason the seemingly invincible commander was defeated in the first place. He fought her with the very same style he taught her, and in the end it backfired on him when he realized that she was way stronger than him.

But Saint-Germain had to give herself some credit, her bullets were not something one could simply ignore. They were special, crafted by her own power, and provided her with a bottomless magazine she could use at any given moment. Even an insanely powerful being like Hibiki would be fazed if they hit their mark.

Hibiki pushed forward through the hail of bullets, using the spear as a shield as she charged towards the alchemist. Predicting her approach, Saint-Germain dove back to the ground, allowing the rogue wielder to pass over her harmlessly. Keeping up the pressure, she continued firing, and Hibiki once again teleported behind her in an attempt to cut her down.

Only for the volley to once again change directions in midair, flying right towards her and forcing her to stop her swing in order to defend herself. Taking the chance, Saint-Germain jumped away to create as much distance as she could

"Tch! That's so annoying!" Hibiki exclaimed in frustration as the bullets impacted against her spear. With a powerful swing, she slashed apart the bullets coming her way and charged once again towards the alchemist. Saint-Germain kept on firing, forcing Hibiki to smash them away and delaying her long enough for the alchemist to create more distance.

By this point they weren't even on the ruined track field anymore, having slowly made their way back to the main school building. Tired of the relentless assault, Hibiki planted her feet and threw the spear towards the alchemist. The spear tore through the air, and the mere force of its passing smashed away any bullets that were making their way towards its mistress.

Saint-Germain's eyes widened and she dodged to the side, the spear barely missing her and lodging itself deeply into the school's brick wall. Now no longer holding her weapon, Hibiki teleported right in front of the alchemist, rearing her fist back to cave her skull in. Responding quickly, Saint-Germain raised her gun and smashed away the fist with its blade. Hibiki was taken aback that her blow was deflected, but narrowed her eyes and launched another strike, only for it to be deflected once again. Their eyes met, and Hibiki grit her teeth. "If that's how you want it-!"

A rapid barrage of punches made their way to Saint-Germain, but with her increased output she barely managed to deflect them all away; each strike that her blade met only caused the alchemical steel to chip away more and more. The speed at which Hibiki was launching her punches was absolutely insane, and if it wasn't for her intuition the alchemist was sure that at least over a dozen of them should have already met their mark. Her fists were less like actual fists at this point and more akin to rays of light, moving so fast that every time she blinked another five dozen were already on their way to her.

She couldn't keep on a direct confrontation with the powerful Symphogear user. While she would have liked to keep her on her toes at range, her teleportation threw that option out of the window. It was only the curving bullets that managed to stop any of her advances, but she could not fire while she was busy deflecting the death-dealing blows. If only she had some sort of opening…

Hibiki reared her fist back and fired it at the alchemist, who once again moved her gun to block it. However, at the very last possible second, Hibiki's stance shifted and her blow stopped in its tracks. Saint-Germain's eyes widened in panic as the rogue wielder reared back her other arm and fired it instead, a huge grin etched on her face.

'A feint!' Saint-Germain exclaimed in her mind. There was no time to deflect, the previous attempt to block leaving her wide open. Who would have thought the Hibiki would be able to come up with such a tactic on the fly.

There was no choice. Moving as fast as she could, Saint-Germain brought her arms back, and raised the gun itself in the last second to block the furious strike. The punch smashed against the weapon and it shattered into pieces, the very force of the strike sending Saint-Germain flying through the air.

"G-Guh."

A pained voice escaped her mouth as she landed, rolling on the ground. She eventually rolled herself to one knee, looking up at the god-slayer who immediately charged in her direction. The alchemist clicked her tongue and formed a magic circle on the ground, the huge gold seal growing rapidly beneath her feet.

Just as Hibiki was about to strike, a cloud of smoke rose from the seal in huge amounts, obscuring her field of vision.

"Tch. You have far too many tricks." Hibiki commented as she looked to and fro inside the cloud, having lost Saint-Germain's location. She figured that she was no longer in front of her, and was probably trying to regroup somewhere or even trying to launch an attack from an exposed flank. "That is not going to work!"

And she began to punch the air itself. Using the shockwaves from her fists, the smoke was gradually being dispersed. More and more of it was lifted away as she struck, yet it did not seem to be disappearing completely. The magic circle must still be active, she thought, but from her limited knowledge of how alchemists used magic, didn't it require for them to constantly be feeding the seal in order for its effects to continue working? She never really listened to the explanations or the lectures about these topics while they were being briefed about them.

So trying to think cleverly with it won't work.

Fine, then she would go with her original idea.

Hibiki jumped, rising above the magically created cloud of smoke.

Only for her eyes to meet the barrel of Saint-Germain's gun, who stared at her with an even expression.

"Got you."

And fired.

'BLACK BARREL REPLICA'

A gigantic beam of pure blinding light erupted from the gun's barrel, engulfing the rogue Adaptor in her entirety. The cloud of smoke was instantly blown away by the shockwaves left in the blast's wake, and the light carried the rogue Adaptor, who groaned in pain and unable to escape, through the air and then promptly smash into the higher floors of the school building. The light pierced through the soft brick and glass unabated, burying Hibiki in the rubble that ensued.

Saint-Germain hung in the air, the barrel of her gun smoking. It opened on its own, the special canister ejecting on its on with a trail of steam. The alchemist lowered her gun and studied her handiwork, not at all fazed by the destruction she caused to the school. She momentarily glanced back to the others still fighting on the track field, and then turned her head back to her missing opponent.

It was extremely unlikely that Hibiki was defeated by this one strike. This attack, while powerful in its own right, was most definitely not enough to take her down. Her spear was still embedded in the relatively undamaged part of the wall on the lower floors, and she mentally noted that she would have to be prepared for it at any time.

Recovering her focus, Saint-Germain charged into the building.

-!-

It was pure chaos.

A dozen beasts, each with a twisted will of its own, bore down on the four Symphogear wielders. They decided to stick together while Saint-Germain went on to fight Hibiki on her own. Maria did not want to leave an ally to deal with her alone, but right now they had much, much bigger problems to deal with.

Mainly, these twisted caricatures of the rogue Adaptor. Had the four of them decided to split up, they would definitely would have gotten massacred. But this formation also limited their options as they were forced to watch each other's back while the beasts slowly whittled them down.

"Elfnein! How much longer do we have on the timer?!" Maria screamed into the comm while using her knives to hold off a charging beast. Its advance stopped, but another passed over its downed comrade and slashed at the silver Adaptor. Hurriedly, Maria deflected the blow away with her sword, and she could feel her bones rattle from the force. Had she been in better shape, dealing with these beasts would be a much more manageable effort.

But they were all far, far from better shape. Maria was still reeling from her earlier fight with Hibiki, while Chris' arms were still useless and she was reduced to just firing her rockets in an attempt to hold them off. Both Kirika and Shirabe had sustained various degrees of injuries, and all four of them were being dealt more and more as the beasts struck at them with reckless abandon.

Luckily enough, they were not smart enough to not get in each other's way, so it sometimes turned out that one beast would trip over or crash into its own comrade. Of course, that would definitely not bring them down, but it did make the endeavor a little bit easier.

But only a tiny bit.

"Maria-san, you personally have around four minutes while the others have around six! St. Germain-san has the most time left, but I don't know how long she can last!"

"Only four minutes, huh?" Maria said to herself. That is no time at all and the same instant a lot of time as well.

They would have to come up with something fast before they are overwhelmed.

A barrage of rockets from Chris exploded against the ground, sending three of the beasts flying in different directions. They landed on the ground, snarled, and charged towards the one that attacked them. Intent on stopping their advance, Chris fired a second volley. The rockets tore through the air, and just as it was about to hit, the beast in the lead sweeped its arm, slicing the projectile in half before it could explode. Chris' eyes widened at the clever tactic, but simply responded with an even larger volley that the beasts would have a much harder time getting by.

With explosions going off in every direction, Kirika worked earnestly to block off the beasts that managed to bypass Chris' barrage. One of them slipped through their guard, coming awfully close to the red Symphogear user, who had to stop her assault in order to avoid the blow by taking a step back. Before the beast could slash at her, Kirika brought her scythe down on it in midair. The blade grabbed the surprised beast and with all the might she could gather into her one good arm Kirika slammed the black monster into the ground.

But that distraction proved to be their undoing, as having switched their focus to just one, the other five on their side charged towards them, taking advantage of the momentary slip in their guard. Putting herself between them and her comrades, Shirabe summoned her giant buzzsaws again, using them as impromptu shields in order to defend from their strikes. The beasts smashed their fists and claws into the saws, and Shirabe groaned as she felt herself give ground under their relentless assault. "This...is too much!"

And on the other side, Maria poured all of her energy into holding off the other six. Knives of all shapes and sizes hailed down on the beasts, arresting their movements as much as possible. However, they were more resilient than she would have liked, and like before they eventually began to disregard their own wounds in order to slash and claw at her, interrupting her barrages time and time again. Of course they would do so, why wouldn't they? They saw just before how the beasts can easily regenerate lost limbs like nothing, and they would have to completely obliterate them to defeat them. Anything less than that was just a waste of time.

But what could they do?

Chris also realized their predicament, and grit her teeth as hard as she could. She had one technique that would maybe give them some time to formulate a plan, but using it would require use of her crossbows.

'This is going to hurt like a bitch.' She told herself. Materializing her crossbows in her hands, she painstakingly raised them to the sky, all the while silently counting on the others to defend her. Her arms shook as she could barely continue holding them up.

At the very least, it's not a technique that required aim. "Everyone! Stay close to me!" She yelled above all the noise.

The others surprisingly heard her loud and clear, and as one they jumped back, using their Armed Gears to push away the beasts' assault. "Maria! Put up a shield after I fire!"

Maria nodded to her.

The beasts charged, claws brandished. Chris stared at them with hatred in her eyes; the crossbows in her hands enlarged and shifted, twin crystalline spikes loaded in each of them. Barely a second later, she fired, and the two projectiles rose above the battlefield. As they soared, each crystal broke into smaller fragments, and each of those fragments broke also into smaller shards. And at the apex of their climb, the original two crystals had fragmented into thousands of smaller shards, covering the sky. Maria at that moment raised the shield and braced for impact.

The shards glowed, and then descended upon the beasts like a destructive rain. Striking both flesh and dirt, the shards exploded, engulfing the beasts in a massive inferno.

'GIGA ZEPPELIN'

The four Adaptors were huddled together under the shield Maria made, protected from the total destruction created from Chris' attack. The Ichaival user briefly felt regret at causing incredible damage to the school ground, but knew it was a necessary sacrifice. The shards exploded against the shield, and Maria focused all of her energy into maintaining it, allowing them a moment to catch their breath.

"Do you think this will be enough!?" Kirika yelled, trying to be heard above the noise.

"Hell if I know!" Chris yelled back, her arms giving way from the weight and the pain. The crossbows clattered to the ground, having served their purpose. "Maybe we'll get lucky and it will blow them away, but we can't count on that!"

"Not only that, but we have less than five minutes until our Gears give out! We have to finish this now!" Maria yelled as well.

As they talked, the last of the crystal shards struck, causing the final explosion that signaled the end of Chris' attack. It was a devastating technique, but its potency relied on its ability to essentially cause an instant carpet bomb of the area. All of the shards fell pretty much simultaneously, so it ended barely ten seconds after the first impact.

Copious amounts of smoke rose from the explosions, blanketing the entire track field and hiding everything from their sight. It would be a while until it dispersed and they could see the aftermath, but for now they had to come up with a plan.

A plan that Shirabe made up on the spot. "Unison!"

The other three users looked to her incredulously, not being sure they heard her correctly. "We could do it. Each of us did it with at least one other person here! If we combine them into one and use all the remaining energy we have, we will definitely be able to destroy them all in one big attack!"

It was the most reckless plan Shirabe had ever come up with. She was usually on the more cautious side, preferring to act only when she had enough information in order to formulate the most the most efficient course of action.

But this time, they just didn't have enough. All they knew about the beasts was that they were strong, crazy, and could regenerate unless they were utterly destroyed. Seeing as the first beast they destroyed was an incredible challenge all on its own, they couldn't just try and do the same thing when twelve of them were itching to tear them apart.

Maria narrowed her eyes in determination as the smoke began to clear. While it was not gone completely, she could already begin to see dark silhouettes within it. She looked around, seeing exactly twelve shadows from within the cloud of smoke, confirming the fact that Chris' attack failed to kill any of them.

However, it gave them some time, which was all they needed.

"Let's do it," She said resolutely. "It's the only option we have left. Either we kill them or they kill us. I will go with the plan that keeps us all alive."

She looked to Kirika and Chris, who were the only one who did not say anything yet. Kirika met her gaze. "Alright, let's do it!" She exclaimed.

Maria and Shirabe smiled, and the Airgetlam user looked to Chris, who was usually the more critical of the wielders. The former rogue also met her gaze with narrowed eyes, clearly having some sort of argument to make.

But, as she learned from last night, sometimes it was better to just sit still and not complain. "Alright."

With that final confirmation, they now were ready to act. The veil of smoke lifted, the shining sun piercing through the last remains of it. Maria dropped her shield, and now she could see the glowing red eyes of the beasts as they locked onto the Symphogear wielders.

"LET'S GO!"

And a song rose above the battlefield.

-!-

Saint-Germain landed inside of the school building, far from the location Hibiki had crashed into on the other wing. It seems that her attack was far more effective than she had expected if it managed to tear through several brick walls while carrying Hibiki the entire time. However, she already knew it was not enough to defeat her.

But now that they were inside a closed location, it would mean their battle will do a lot more damage than before. The alchemist could still feel her arms shake from the desperate deflections she made against the rogue wielder's strikes. Some of them she did not manage to avoid completely, and indeed several shallow cuts had marred her skin despite the protection the Faust Robe provided.

The sounds of explosions filled her ears, realizing that the Symphogear users still on the track field had acted. She could not be bothered to look back and check as she had her own target to focus on, however there was a strange silence inside of the school building. Hibiki should have picked herself up by now, but she was not charging at her like a mad berserker.

Well, whatever the reason was, Saint-Germain took the time to breath. She studied her surroundings, taking in the sight of the elegant architecture of the school. It was completely empty from what she could see, confirming the fact that the entire student body as well as the faculty had evacuated earlier. It made things a lot easier on them after all, although now that it was so quiet it was a bit on the eerie side.

She walked through the quiet halls. Only the sounds of her steps reached her ears, the lack of response from Hibiki putting her on edge. Perhaps she couldn't find her now? If that was the case, she was lucky Hibiki did not develop the ability to sense the location of her enemies. She would have to look for her on foot, putting them in a demented game of hide and seek.

However, such a thing was detrimental to the alchemist. The Ignite Module was still on a running timer, and every second she was not using it was another second she would not have it in battle. But that did not mean she could not take a moment to catch her breath and come up with another plan in the meantime. Despite not being the smartest of the Symphogear users, Hibiki was far from stupid. She did learn, she did understand, and she did know how to react accordingly to new developments. It would take her very little time to come up with something that will one hundred percent counter her curving bullets, or even her ability to recreate her gun.

As she walked through the halls, going nowhere in particular, Saint-Germain realized she in fact landed in a curious section of the school grounds: the dorms. She was aware of the fact that Hibiki, along with her best friend Kohinata Miku lived together in this dorm. She never bothered to figure out exactly which room was it, but reading through the records on the rogue Adaptor gave her a bit of insight about the place, as well as a bit of history.

To think such that every single student was a viable candidate for a Symphogear was almost absurd in her eyes.

She walked slowly, reading the name plaques next to each door. Nobody of importance came up in her mind, although it wasn't as if she was looking for an exact room or anything like that. She was just...taking advantage of the calm that had mysteriously fallen upon her.

That was all.

And just as she thought that, she somehow reached it. As if fate itself led her to it, Saint-Germain found herself stopping in front of a single, sleek mahogany door. It was an exact copy of the rest, yet the plaque on its left revealed something else entirely.

'Kohinata Miku'

'Tachibana Hibiki'

The alchemist huffed to herself. Who would have thought that her absent-minded wandering would lead her here of all places. She wasn't even actively looking for it, yet here she was, in front of the room her savior and now enemy called her home. She was definitely curious, but figured it would be rude to enter it without their consent. She began to turn around and continue walking, but her leg, for some mysterious reason, would not move.

'Maybe I should investigate further.' She told herself, as if trying to convince herself to enter anyway. If she did, not only would it make it easier for Hibiki to find her, but also would give her an even bigger reason to hate her. 'Hmph, as if it would be any different from now.'

Realizing her curiosity was getting the better of her, Saint-Germain turned back to the door anyway, deciding to follow that feeling. She placed her hand against the handle gently, applying just a tiny bit of magic. With a soft click, the door unlocked, and she headed inside, closing the door behind her quietly.

Immediately she understood why this place could be considered home. Minimal yet full of life, she could see exactly the effort the two girls put in order to make it the warmest place in the world, and it showed. Saint-Germain could feel it, despite not having set foot in this place even once in her life. How the very atmosphere itself shifted upon entry, only to be enhanced with the help of the colorful furniture and the small touches that truly made it stand out from the rest.

The alchemist, for once, found herself feeling slightly envious. To think such a place could exist in a world like this was almost criminal. 'How can she give up something like this?' She asked herself.

A minute passed in silence as the alchemist stood in the very middle of the room, looking out of the large window into the city at large. From this height, and from this angle, and with the sun shining brightly above it almost seemed like nothing was wrong with the world. That everything was fine, and that inside this place she could find herself thinking optimistically about the future.

Until that serenity was violently broken when the door slammed open behind her.

Saint-Germain did not need to turn around to know who was the one who had entered, so she merely stood in place, staring at the sky. The heavy, metallic sound of the steps contrasted the warm atmosphere drastically, yet did nothing to truly dispel it. Like a spell that had fallen on them, there was no blood lust to be had in this place.

"What...do you think you are doing here?" Hibiki asked from behind the taller woman.

Saint-Germain took a moment to speak, not allowing the peace to completely break just yet.

"I won't ask you again, St. Germain-san. Tell me what do you think you are doing, stepping into my home!"

"You know...I'm kind of jealous of you." The alchemist suddenly said, stopping any further attempts from Hibiki to question her. The cursed Symphogear user narrowed her eyes at her back.

Saint-Germain looked over her shoulder to her. "Look at what you have here," She said. "This enviable home, filled with a warmth and comfort that I would have died to have in the past. This place represents everything I never had, and is a symbol of the good that exists in the hearts of Man, despite their flaws."

She turned to her fully, glaring at her. "And you want to throw it all away. You would abandon something millions of people dearly desire...all for a single, worthless ideal?!"

How ironic it was, to be speaking that way. She knew it was pretentious of her, to criticize another person for such a mindset when she herself had followed it for centuries. Yet, it was because of that...that she knew exactly how little it was truly worth.

Hibiki met her glare with one of her own. "As if you are one to talk."

Saint-Germain grinned, internally chuckling at the coincidence of their shared thoughts. "Indeed, I really am one to talk...but that also means I know exactly where your path will lead. And let me tell you this now, Tachibana Hibiki: it is not worth the sacrifices you will have to make."

Yet Hibiki was unfazed. "I will take my chances."

The alchemist huffed again. "So you will so readily throw it all away…"

There was no nothing else that could be done, then.

Saint-Germain raised her gun, and pointed it right at the rogue wielder's head. "Then I will protect them...in your place!"

Her declaration stunned Hibiki, and her eyes widened.

"This enviable warmth...those gentle every days...all of those are things I oh so desperately wanted. I cannot allow you to throw them away. I cannot allow you to give up on this happiness!"

To stand before her like this and admit these hidden desires...as a guardian, and not as a killer. She bore the weight of countless lives on her shoulders. She was the perpetrator of countless evils in her pursuit of a perfect world.

But a world that contains evil cannot ever be perfect.

And that was a lesson she learned the hard way.

"You should know what it feels like, Tachibana Hibiki! To have survived through hell, to carry on with the burden and guilt of life! To walk through the world, and be reminded of everything that was lost! And that is why, all the more, you must not throw away this enveloping warmth! For the sake of those who are gone, and for the sake of those who will follow, I will protect that happiness! So long as I live I will stand against you and the ideal that you represent!"

That's right. This place made her realize it. A perfect world cannot exist. Not even divine power can bring about that sort of paradise.

But even so...you can make a beautiful world...so long as you never lose sight of yourself…

And…

"AND I WILL NEVER GIVE UP ON LIFE!"

Something moved inside of Hibiki.

A memory of three years ago, something she could never possibly forget.

The gallant figure standing before death itself, and the ultimate sacrifice she made.

The sight of her despair, begging her to live.

And the words that were imprinted in her heart for the years to come.

"Never give up on life!"

Hibiki clenched her teeth in fury.

"SAINT-GERMAIN!"

-!-

(Play: Senritsu Sorority [Ignited Arrangement])

A song of unity between three figures filled with regret echoed throughout the battlefield. It provided them with near endless power, allowing them to surpass their limits beyond what they'd ever be able to on their own.

Chris felt slightly out of place, not sure she had a true part in the singing. So she stayed quiet as the former FIS Symphogears sang and fought, their phonic gain rising steadily. The beasts continued to charge at them mindlessly, but the three girls worked in tandem, in unity that they did not have until the song began.

But even songs come to an end at some point, and no one knew if it truly would be enough with just the three of them.

Maria grit her teeth as she held off three beasts simultaneously. It was an insanely difficult endeavor, but the song filled her with confidence. Ducking under a slash, she uppercutted the beast in the jaw, sending it flying. It its place another charged at her, and she threw a volley of daggers at it. It was impaled by more than a dozen projectiles, yet it did not stop its charge at all. It tried to claw at her, only for a glowing green crescent to slice into its arm. Maria took the opportunity to jump back, landing next to Chris, who had been firing rockets nonstop at the charging beasts.

Only for one of them to pass through the inferno her explosions created, and bore down on her in an instant. She tried to jump back to avoid the blow, but her injury dulled her movement, and she was not able to avoid it completely. She reeled back and fell on her on butt just as the beast approached.

And mere moments before it was about to strike her, a blade deflected the beast's arm away. Chris grit her teeth, and launched a rocket that struck the beast and carried it through the air, then slamming into the ground with a loud boom.

Chris took a breath and looked up at her savior, and saw Maria smiling down at her. "You should join in." She simply said.

Chris looked away in embarrassment. "I don't think I…"

"Don't worry about it. You are more than welcome to join us. Besides...we need you for this unison after all." Maria responded.

The Ichaival user stared at the extended hand in awe.

Well, if she was offering then...it couldn't be that bad.

Chris tried to raise her arm to grab Maria's hand, but the pain stopped her from doing so. She gave the elder user a sheepish grin, and Maria smiled even more widely, walking around to stand behind the fallen Adaptor. Then, she placed her hands under her arms, and gently lifted Chris to her feet.

The red Symphogear user flushed slightly at the contact, but the sight of Maria's warm smile calmed her down.

She grinned, and the two stared into each other's eyes...

And then joined in the song.

Chapter Text

(Play: Senritsu Sorority [Ignited Arrangement])  

Their voices soared.

A song, meant to be only for three now grew as a fourth joined in.

The three former FIS Symphogear users had always felt inferior to their S.O.N.G comrades. All three of them were natural Adaptor, needing no LiNKER to operate at full capacity. Yet, the three FIS girls were dependent on the synthetic liquid, and have in the past been left completely powerless once the concoction ran out. Only a risky and heart-wrenching journey into the elder’s heart finally helped them discover the missing component of the LiNKER formula.

The component whose name is love.

Despite the weakness and helplessness they had often felt, they always learned from it, always grew and accepted it in their hearts, and then finally have been able to truly grow strong.

And now, with Yukine Chris joining on their song, their strength had increased tenfold.

The difference in their battle prowess was evident almost instantly. Weaving through the beasts like the wind, the Symphogears of Zababa sliced into the black monsters without them being able to respond in time to their assault. Neither of the two girls had the ability to completely destroy them, but they could injure them.

They could anger them.

And more importantly, lure them exactly where they wanted to.

The thrusters on Kirika’s lower back roared to life, and holding her scythe in her hand horizontally, she began to spin. Faster, faster, and faster she gained speed, becoming a storm that smashed the beasts away.

‘TINKERBELL TORNADO’

In order to be able to destroy all of the beasts in one shot, they would have to first herd them all together. However, they proved to be difficult to distract as still only half of them chased after the two younger girls while the others ganged up on Maria and Chris. The two older user were more than able to hold them off now that their phonic gain levels soared, filling them to the brim with power. It would have been far easier had they been in better condition, but that never stopped them before.

Their songs, if sung with the right note in the heart, were unbeatable.

Their Symphogears however, were not.

The seconds ticked away as they fought, and sweat began to form on their brows. Following Kirika’s lead, Shirabe rode forward, the beasts following up behind her. Just as one leaped forward to gain on her, the girl made a sharp U-Turn and charged towards the beast as well.

It would have seemed like a suicidal move...if she hadn’t had a counterattack in mind.

She crossed her arms, and her skirt lifted and begin to spin in insanely high speeds, becoming a buzzsaw that exceeded the range of the beast’s strike.

And in one motion, struck.

‘DELTA STYLE CHARMING ACCELKILLER”

The beast was sliced in half, and Shirabe landed back on the ground gracefully. Two of the beasts instantly turned to her and gave chase after her. The one bisected beast was reformed a moment later as the two sliced halves were drawn towards each other and reconnected, and the beast landed back on its feet and snarled.

Only to be hit in the back and flung forward as the tornado that was Kirika changed direction and followed after Shirabe, realizing her intention from the get go. The beast twisted in the air and landed on the ground, extending its arms forward to try and stop Kirika’s momentum, but it was unable to get a grip on the rapidly spinning scythe and was struck, flying all the way towards the school building and crashing into the wall. 

Shirabe and Kirika regrouped with the two elder Adaptors. The Ig-Alima user stopped her spin just in time to deflect a beast’s strike, throwing it back. The song soared as the four touched backs, and looking over each other’s shoulders, nodded with a smile.

The beasts jumped at them all at once. Time slowed as they hung in the air, and with amazing reflexes all four wielders jumped, and the beasts crashed into each in a pile, right underneath them.

“LET’S FINISH THIS!”

Their voices grew louder.

One minute. 

Knives spun above Maria’s head, and once again she launched a tornado. It enveloped the downed beasts in its entirety, and with a flick of her arm she raised the storm towards the air, carrying the beasts along with it. Helpless in the air and still stuck in a clump, the beasts flailed wildly, unable to pierce through the twister to reach their targets.

Kirika and Shirabe followed up and charged towards the airborne beasts, their weapons raised. The beasts noticed their approach, and one tried to meet their attack, but their speed and angle of attack caused its strike to miss completely and the two younger Symphogear users launched a volley of crescent slashes and buzzsaws at the black masses. The projectiles cut into them repeatedly, and the powerful twisting wind caused them to slice into the mass again and again, constantly causing injuries that were inflicted faster than they were regenerated, leaving them with open wounds.

And at the very top of the storm, Chris hung in the air, a multitude of rockets hanging by her sides. Grinning as she sang, she launched the entire volley into the funnel. Kirika and Shirabe jumped out of the sides to avoid being caught up in the blast.

The only free beast had only a second to roar loudly, and the entire volley struck them at the same time, engulfing all the the beasts in a massive inferno of fire and wind. The entire tornado caught fire from the blast, the wind feeding the flames.

And the beasts within roared as they were vaporized, leaving nothing but dust in their wake.

Their song ended, and all four Adaptor landed back on the ground as the storm dispersed, and sigh in relief when nothing came out of it alive.

“Wow, we actually did it!” Kirika exclaimed in delight.

“Yeah, we did,” Maria answered with a smile. “Good job everyone.”

The four wielders smiled to each other, and Chris let her hands fall loosely to her sides. “Good, now we just need to-”

Only to be interrupted as all four Gears exploded in a shower of shards, leaving them back in their civilian outfits.

“Crap.” Chris said as she looked herself over. She quickly looked over her pendant, checking to see if it was damaged in any way.

“So we are out of the fight now?” Shirabe asked.

Maria looked to the top of the school building, where she could see signs of battle. “Yes...it seems we are. There is nothing more we can do here. We can only hope Saint-Germain will be able to get some results.”

However, unbeknownst to them, one single beast had managed to survive the combination attack due to not being in it in the first place.

It was the beast that was flung away from Kirika’s spin and had smashed into the wall, and it did not have enough time to return back to its comrades.

However, the place it had crashed into was almost too unreal to be a coincidence.

Miku stared with wide eyes at the beast stuck in the wall, too afraid to approach it further. She had earlier taken refuge by entering the school building itself, which seemed to have began rocking and swaying due to the intense battle between Saint-Germain and Hibiki. Once she noticed that the fighting on the track field had ended, she exited the building in order to check up on them, only to run into the black mass that resembled Hibiki, getting a good look at its features, or lack thereof, for the first time from up close.

It dislodged itself, and landed on the ground with both feet and hunched over. It growled in rage, and raised its head to glare at the wielders on the track field, who had somehow completely missed it presence. 

It was just about to lunge at them when it heard a sound to its left and quickly turned its head to the source.

Miku looked at it in fright, having taken a step back in order to try and escape from it, but it had unfortunately heard her. The beast stared at her with its glowing red eyes, and she took another step back in an attempt to gain some distance. Unfortunately, the beast was too fast and too strong for her to escape.

It lunged at her with a single leap, and the girl hurriedly raised her hands to protect her head, falling to the ground as she lost her balance. Her breathing stopped as she waited for the painful blow.

Which never came. 

It took her a moment to realize she was not in excruciating pain or missing any limbs. She lowered her hands and opened her eyes reluctantly. 

And her gaze met the beast’s own. 

Miku held her breath as the beast stared at her. It did not move or do anything else, simply stared at her very very closely. She couldn’t bring herself to move even an inch lest it might decide to attack again.

And then it sniffed her. The suddenly calm beast went down to all fours like an animal, and circled around her, taking whiffs of her arms, legs, hair, and clothes. It did not touch her at any point in time, and only continued to study her curiously.

It was such a surreal sight she was left speechless. It was so strange, seeing this... thing that looked like Hibiki acting like a wild animal, and for some reason not trying to tear her apart like it tried with the others.

Was it because in some way, it recognized her? But that made no sense. It wouldn’t have attacked the others if it had any sort of memory, so why?

Any musings she had were cut off when a piece of the upper floors above her exploded. A huge chunk of the brick that made up the wall was dislodged, and gravity worked its forces on it.

Bringing it down right on top of the stunned girl.

There was no time to run. There was no time to escape. The huge piece of brick was falling too fast, and even all the track and field experience in the world would not be enough to help her to run away in time. Hell, there wasn’t even any time to scream for help.

She let out a horrified gasp.

And then the beast leaped up at the falling debris, and with a single powerful strike destroyed it completely. The loose, tinier rocks fell around Miku, who raised her arms up to protect her face again. She could only hear the sound of stone crashing against the pavement and shattering, but not a single piece touched touched even a hair on her head.

When the noise died down, Miku lowered her arms and just stared at the beast that landed right next to her, which growled at the remaining rocks. 

Miku could barely contain her shock. Not only the beast did not attack her or harm her in any way, it had also actively protected her!

It was so unbelievable and so out of nowhere that the quiet that followed was the most intense she had felt in a while. She opened her mouth to speak, but was unsure of what to say, what to do, what to think.  

A monster, shaped like Hibiki, had saved her.

Just like Hibiki.

And in a single moment, suddenly something came out of her heart.

“Hibiki?” 

She wasn’t sure if there was any point in calling it that name. She let it out almost instinctually at this point, her mind too muddled to form anything more coherent. It was just a beast shaped after her, was it not? 

However, it seemed that calling it her name had an effect. The beast, which up until now continued to growl at the remaining debris, suddenly turned to Miku. It went down to all fours again and approached her.

And then gave her nudge in the shoulder.

Caught completely off guard and left speechless once again, Miku had absolutely no response to give. This situation was far too surreal for her to believe, and she was sure that if adrenaline wasn’t pumping in her veins in droves, she would have blacked out from the shock.

The beast raised its head again, and its eyes locked on the defenseless Adaptors lower on the field. Without their Symphogears to protect them, they would not be able to defend themselves against its attacks. Fortunately enough, the four of them finally noticed its presence after the piece of the building fell, and had caught the entire exchange between it and Miku.

It was one hell of a scene to witness in their eyes, and for a moment they thought that maybe the girl had somehow tamed the beast.

But that was not to be.

The beast leaped above Miku, and landed in front of the four Adaptors. It growled, steam escaping the sides of its mouth, hunched low as it was prepared to strike.

Chris shook her head to regain her bearings and focus on what was in front of them. “How the hell did we miss one?!” She asked in shock, taking a step back. “I thought we got all of them!” 

“I don’t know, but we have no choice but to try and run.” Maria responded, her eyes narrowed and her mind racing. 

No, even if they tried to run it would be useless. Without their Gears, they are now sitting ducks for the beast. In less than a second, they turned from fearsome predators that overcame their opponents to nothing but simple prey, and it was unlikely the beast had any mercy to spare for them. It had tried to kill them before, so why would it not try to now. 

It stalked towards them menacingly, and the only thing they could do was take steps back, attempting to retreat. Narrowing her eyes, Maria placed herself between it and the rest, spreading her arms to the side to cover as much of its vision as possible. 

“Maria!” Shirabe yelled to her elder. 

“Just run!” The pink haired Adaptor shouted back. “I’ll try to hold it off! All of you get out of here right now!”

“Maria-san! You can’t! You have to run away with them!” Aoi yelled to her to her over the comm.

“I can’t. If I don’t stop it, then it will chase after them too,” She responded, meeting the beast’s glare with one of her own. “I will stay here and catch its attention. Whatever happens, do not turn back, you hear me?!” 

The elevated urgency in her voice caused the beast to respond. It roared loudly again, throwing its head back, and lunged towards Maria. The elder grit her teeth as she prepared for the blow.

Until a black haired figure stepped between her and the beast, and it instantly stopped its attack.

“Miku-san?!”

The former track and field member did not respond to Maria’s calling of her name, and simply stood in the spot between the two, her arms spread to the side just like Maria’s, and her brows furrowed as she stared the beast down.

The claw that was meant to gouge out the Airgetlam user’s heart stopped right in front of Miku’s face, merely an inch from her nose. For some reason, she felt no fear as she met the beast’s gaze, merely unwavering resolve as she did her best to protect the others behind her. She didn’t know if it would be enough and she did not understand the reason behind it, but the beast had avoided harming her.

So she decided to make use of it.

The beast was completely still, its arm extended and growling lowly.

“Please, stop.” Miku simply said.

The beast’s growls increased in volume, as if demanding that she step aside. Miku swallowed, deciding to try one more thing.

“Hibiki...please stop.” 

And the beast went quiet. Its red glowing eyes widened at the name, as if it was acknowledging it as its own. The extended black hand shook, its reaction incomprehensible to all those watching.

“Please, I-”

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

Something suddenly exploded at the very top of the school’s rooftop. The girls looked up, and saw an absolutely gigantic beam of light erupt from the roof, streaking across the sky. Shockwaves of incredible power buffeted the area, and the sun itself seemed to be outshined by the radiance of the blast, and the school’s rooftop was practically vaporized just from the force left in its wake.

But something else was there as well. A black, smoking figure careened towards the ground at high speeds. Before the girls could react, it crashed close to them, cratering the earth beneath it from the sheer force of the impact. 

The light on the roof died down, and finally the girls could see exactly what the figure that fell was.

“Saint-Germain?!” Maria exclaimed, running towards the downed alchemist. She reached her in no time, and took in her mangled form. 

Smoke rose from her body, indicating that she was the one who had been on the receiving end of the powerful blast. Her Ignited Faust Robe was in tatters, various parts of it completely missing and showing the skin underneath. Speaking of her skin, she could see it was burned in various location, particularly the parts usually uncovered by the armor. And to add to that, she was bleeding profusely from many locations on her body, her head being the worst off. Her hair was matted with fresh blood, flowing down her face and neck without any sign of stopping.

Her gun, which she had used during the fight, clanged to the ground next to Miku. Still face to face with the one remaining beast, Miku could only move her eyes to take note of the fallen weapon.

It didn’t take Maria long to understand what had happened.

The alchemist was brutally defeated, and that light from the roof was the finisher. Hell, smashing into the ground at high speeds was probably the smallest amount of damage she had taken throughout the fight.

Several gasps were heard, and Maria kneeled down to try to help raise the defeated Saint-Germain. 

Hibiki did not even bother teleporting back to the ground. She looked down from the ruins of the roof and merely glided down on her wings, landing gracefully before Saint-Germain and Maria. She gazed down at them, her eyes focused on the alchemist specifically. Her spear shone in her hand, the green gem in its core radiating an otherworldly aura.

“Hibiki-san…” Maria let out, staring at the rogue Adaptor. This was not good. This was not good at all. They were completely defenseless, none of them having a Symphogear to wield, and were completely at her mercy. Or lack thereof.

Hibiki said nothing, and raised her head to survey the others. Her eyes moved over the other Adaptors, who took a step back under her gaze.

And then her eyes landed on Miku, and the beast that had raised its hand against her. 

The shift in her demeanor was almost instantaneous. An expression of fury lit up her face. “What do you think you are doing?!? She screamed at her own creation, which recoiled under her anger like a cornered animal. It backed away from Miku and away from its creator, taking frightened steps back.

Miku could only stare at the exchange in horror and shock. The beast continued to back away, but there was no escape for it. Hibiki swung her arm, and the beast’s form crumpled and fell to the ground, then blew away in the wind. 

“You knew NOT to touch Miku! You break my rules and you don’t get to live to regret it!” She screamed at the blowing wind. Then, she turned back to the downed alchemist, looking down at her with disgust. “Which brings me back to you.”

Maria stood up to stand in her way, but Hibiki would have none of it. With a quick backslap she struck Maria across her face, throwing her away from the two of them. Immediately Kirika and Shirabe ran to her as she cradled her cheek, helping her up. 

Still staring down at the alchemist, Hibiki spoke up. “Did you know Miku, that this bitch entered our home without an invitation?!” She yelled, causing Miku to freeze up. “She walked in as if she owned the place and went through our stuff as if they belonged to her!” She continued, and gave Saint-Germain a nasty kick in the stomach, causing her to hurl blood from her mouth. “Who the hell gave you permission to do what you want, huh?! What the hell did you hope to accomplish from breaking and entering?!” 

Hibiki’s deranged line of thought continued, and Miku already understood to what direction she was taking it. Words could no longer reach her, and just as she thought, Hibiki would rather jump to her own conclusions. “No, I think I get it,” Hibiki said. “You’re just another person who wants to take Miku from me, aren’t you?! Just another person who wants to turn her against me just like everyone else!” She yelled, and gave the alchemist another kick in the stomach. “Then guess what, I’m not going to let you do what you want! I make the rules now, not anyone else! And the first rule is:”

She kicked again. “YOU”

Again. “DON’T”

Again. “TOUCH”

And again. “MIKU!”

By this point the alchemist’s stomach was a bloody mess. Held together by nothing more than the magic she used to retain her youth throughout the ages. However, that constitution was tested due to the severe torture Hibiki was inflicting on her. Not only had she summarily defeated her despite her best efforts, she was kicking her while she was down too; any semblance of reason or honor were lost due to the severe corruption caused by the curses, and Hibiki flailed wildly against anyone who dared earn her ire.

Such savagery and lack of remorse sent shivers down the girls’ spines. Done with torturing the alchemist, Hibiki sent her gaze towards the defenseless Symphogear users. “And you four are next!”

There was absolutely no way they could escape. Even if they had their Symphogears they would be helpless against her. There was no Genjuro to distract her or villains to occupy her. She had her eyes set on them, and she was furious.

She walked towards them, the ground underneath her cracking with every one of her steps. There was no use trying to run; even if they tried she’d just cut them down while their backs were turned.

This was the end. This was certain death.

“Stop, Hibiki!”

The rogue Adaptor froze in place, and her head turned towards the source of the voice she recognized.

And her eyes widened. 

Miku, having shaken off the shock and horror of what has occurred, faced her.

With Saint-Germain’s gun in hand, pointed right at her. 

“I can’t let this go on, Hibiki!” Miku yelled, the gun in her hand shaking. It was heavier than she expected, and she had never used a gun before, but at this close range maybe it would do something.

But there was more to it than that. Having seen the demise of the final beast from up close, Miku found herself somewhat sympathizing with it. It had protected her despite its animalistic instincts, and had stopped its charge when she asked it to stop. 

And then Hibiki destroyed it with nothing more than a swipe of her arm, and that was what broke the camel’s back. For far too long Miku stood aside completely helpless, letting everyone else save her time and time again. For far too long she merely stood on the side, praying for their success and hoping that they will be able to bring Hibiki back. 

But they couldn’t. Just two skirmishes against her were enough for Miku to understand that the Symphogear wielders could not get her back on their own. Her mind was breaking down with every second the curses were in her body, and Miku knew that it won’t be long until even her words won’t reach Hibiki anymore. The entire exchange took place in less than twenty four hours, but that was more than enough time to understand that in this situation, she just could not stand aside.

So, seeing that there was a weapon closeby that she could maybe use, she decided to bear arms.

“Miku…” Hibiki let out sadly. “Why?”

“Because!” Miku answered with a yell. “Because I can’t watch this anymore! I can’t let you just kill everyone! They’re our friends! We don’t hurt our friends, Hibiki!”

“Well you should tell that to them!” Hibiki screamed back. “They’re the ones who stabbed me in the back first! I’m only giving them what they deserve!”

“Nobody ever stabbed you in the back! Hibiki, this is not right! No world you want to make will ever be worth it!”

“Why are you taking their side?! Are you turning on me as well, Miku?!?!?!” 

That final question was delivered with such anguish the black haired girl could not possibly ignore it. The look on Hibiki’s face as she asked it, her gaze pleading and astounded, almost as if trying to deny reality. 

“I promised you I’d never turn on you, remember?! But that does not mean I will just stand aside and do nothing! You’re my best friend, and it is my job to set you straight if I see you are losing your way! This is you losing your way Hibiki! Stop doing this!”

Miku was no longer asking her. A combination of nerves, exhaustion, sorrow, and anger fused together to make her lose her cool, a very rare occasion in the girl.

She was now demanding her to stop, and she would be damned if Hibiki did not stop right now!

“I’m trying to make a better world for us Miku! A world like that doesn’t need people like them!” Hibiki answered back.

“TO HELL WITH YOUR WORLD!”

Miku’s scream was so unexpected everyone immediately went quiet, even the members of S.O.N.G that had tried to give the Adaptors instructions as to what to do. The general chaos of the situation however caused them to be completely ignored, and even now the background noise they had provided was gone like the wind. 

It was strange, she noticed, how last time their positions were reversed. Of how last time she was the one babbling about some perfect world and how she would protect her. Last time, Hibiki reacted calmly and resolutely, taking the fight to her despite her reluctance to do so.

And it was only thanks to that resolve that she managed to save her. 

Then, she will be the one to do it this time, for Hibiki’s sake. 

“I don’t care about some paradise or perfect world! I’m just fine with this one! I don’t care if sinful people exist! I don’t care about any of that! The only world that I want...the only one that I dream of...is one where you are next to me, where we can be happy together again, and everyone, and I mean everyone, is there as well! Anything less than that doesn’t interest me in the slightest!”

She was panting so hard she was sure she was hyperventilating. Adrenaline rushed through her nonstop, and she started seeing red in her vision from the sheer anger in her voice. The gun was shaking in her hands madly, and she was struggling to keep it up and aimed at her best friend.

“So stop this nonsense right now, HIBIKI!”

Her voice echoed in the track field, and four pairs of eyes went from being locked onto her to gaze at Hibiki and awaiting some sort of response from her. 

The rogue wielder clenched her free hand and her teeth gritted against each other. She stared down at the ground, and Chris could swear she could see some sort of aura emanating from her. She didn’t know what it was and she really couldn’t care less, however it was an observation made on the spur of a tense moment. 

Hibiki let out a breath after a brief contemplation, and raised her head to meet Miku’s gaze. “I see what this is,” She suddenly said, and Miku’s eyes narrowed in astonishment. No, she was- “They’ve been influencing you, haven’t they? Just like back then. Who is it this time? Master? I’ll make sure he pays for this. There is no way you wouldn’t support me. That is the only explanation. I’ll make sure to fix this as soon as I can.”

Miku nearly dropped the gun from the absolutely appalling response Hibiki gave her. And then, she remembered: of course, Hibiki as she is will always, without fail, jump to her own conclusions. Her mind was set on something and she would not budge from it no matter what. Her annoying yet heroic stubbornness had turned into nothing short of madness.

Hibiki turned to the reeling Symphogear wielders and advanced on them. “But first I’ll get them out of the way, so nobody can try and stop me.”

There was no way she was going to listen.

So Miku, in a bout of her own madness born of days of nothing but stress and exhaustion, decided to act in extreme.

“Hibiki, in that case…” She began to say. Hibiki looked to her with narrowed her, waiting for her to finish.

And promptly stopped everything she was doing.

Another tense silence fell on them, and the four wielders let out horrified gasps at Miku’s action. 

The gun was no longer pointed at Hibiki. It was not pointed to the ground nor was it pointed at any of them.

No, in that small window…

Miku turned the gun on herself, placing it right under her chin.

It was such an insane course of action to take that the girl couldn’t believe she was going through with it.

But extreme conditions called for extreme responses, and this was the only way she knew Hibiki would definitely stop everything. If she made her such a huge part of her crusade...then if she was gone, Hibiki would lose the drive to continue.

“OI! MIKU! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!” Chris screamed to her. “DROP IT RIGHT NOW!”

Saint-Germain, having regained consciousness, weakly turned around in the crater to see Miku turn the gun on herself. She found it hard to focus through the pain, and she was not sure what exactly were the circumstances behind that action were, but she could definitely understand why the girl would make such a decision, all things considered. Had she been in better form, Saint-Germain doubted she would have stopped her.

“I will not!” Miku answered, still staring at Hibiki. “Hibiki, let them go!”

“Miku, what are you-”

“I am done asking!” Miku interrupted her. “Let them go now! If the world you want demands that you kill them, then I do not wish to be a part of it! I’d rather shoot myself right now than see you spiral down a path of insanity, evil and regret! If this is what it takes to make you stop, then I will do so every single time!”

The gun was still shaking in her hands, and she could feel as the end of the barrel dug into her chin. But she couldn’t back down now. She had to see this through to the end.

And luckily enough for her, it seemed that Hibiki did not suddenly develop telekinetic abilities that would have allowed her to take the gun from her hands. If she made any moves to try and stop her, then she might accidentally press the trigger anyway. 

For the first time since she had fused with the divine power, Hibiki found herself on the defensive.

“Miku...why are you doing this? Why would you go this far for them? Why...won’t you do it for me?” Hibiki asked her.

“I am doing it for you, Hibiki, and that is why I’m am not backing down. I don’t want to see you lose yourself. I wouldn’t be able to bear it. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing that you would have to live with this burden for the rest of your life.” Miku answered, the tension rising. “Just...let go of that divine power. You don’t need it. You never needed it. Just...cast it away and come back.”

‘To me.’ She wanted to add, but out of all the things she had the courage to do, this was not one of them.

She could hear her heartbeat in her ears, and all sounds seemed to be muffled as she tried to concentrate on Hibiki’s gaze. The emerald glowing eyes were disconcerting as always, but she did not fear them as she did in the courtyard. Now that they have entered this situation, she had to keep her composure as much as she could.

And it seemed that for once, something finally got through to Hibiki. The rogue wielder, in compliance with Miku’s demands, took several steps backwards from the injured and defenseless Symphogear users, keeping her eyes on Miku at all times.

“Are you satisfied now, Miku?” She asked. 

“No,” The black haired girl responded honestly. “Please Hibiki, let go of that power and let’s go back to our happy days.” 

It was such a dirty tactic to use to get what she wanted, but Miku knew that she had absolutely nothing left to do otherwise. To use her own life in order to pacify Hibiki was nothing short of despicable.

She knew she would regret it in the future, but right now she couldn’t care less.

There was a long and tense moment as the two stared at each other. Miku’s arms started to ache and burn from the continuous grip on the huge and heavy gun, and she could feel that she might drop it at any moment. 

But a tiny bubble of hope welled up within her. If she managed to get this far, then maybe... 

“I refuse.” 

And the bubble popped as fast as it was formed. Miku’s eyes widened in shock.

“Just like you have something that you can’t turn away from, I also have such a thing. I won’t stop until I get exactly what I want. I’m done doing what other people want. I’m living for my own beliefs now, no one else’s. I tolerated everything that has happened because of my promise to Kanade-san...but now, I’m not so sure just how much I care about that. So from here on out, I’m doing exactly what I wish to do, and get the results that I want, with my own strength.”

Miku was utterly and summarily denied.

Hibiki turned around, facing away from them all. Raising her spear, she swiped it through the air.

And just as she finished her swing, space itself shattered like glass, and from beyond the tear in reality there lay a dark void that not a single one of them could ever dream of.

An ability that is exclusive to those who hold divine strength. Adam Weishaupt had used it to return to the battlefield upon seeing what Hibiki had become, and now she was capable of the very same feat. 

She walked towards the void, looking back over her shoulder to the Symphogear users. “This is not over, Maria-san,” She said, looking straight into the elder user’s eyes. “I’ll will make you all pay for this. Nobody turns Miku against me. No one.”

But Maria simply narrowed her eyes, steeling her resolve. “You fool, you have done that yourself, just like I told you.”

Hibiki did not grace her with a response. Leaving Maria with the last words, Hibiki walked into the void, vanishing in the darkness. Reality then reasserted itself as the tear in the air reformed and folded in on itself, and all that remained was thin air. 

A second later, Miku crumpled to her knees. The gun fell from her hands and clattered to the ground heavily by her side. At that moment, Saint-Germain’s Ignite Module finally ran out, and the Faust Rone shattered, leaving her in her casual clothes. The gun, which had been a part of the Robe, followed suit and disappeared.

Miku breathed heavily, sweat dripping down on the ground from her face. The tension that had threatened to choke her was released all at once, and trying to catch her breath felt like an impossible effort. 

But that paled in comparison to her heart-breaking realization. 

Now no longer fearing for their lives, Chris allowed herself to let out a sigh of relief. She looked around, grimacing at the untold amount of destruction wrought upon the school. The track field might as well be non existent, having been completely and utterly destroyed in the chaos. The school building itself was torn down and broken in various places, and shards of glass littered the ground beneath it. Smoke rose from within some of the more faraway windows, indicating that a fire might have started as a result of the fighting.

It wouldn’t take a genius to understand that as it was now, classes could not be held until the damage was repaired, and who knew how long that would take. But Chris’ thoughts wandered to something else: what will she tell the three girls? Kuriyo had pretty much demanded an explanation, and nothing would stop her from coming to the school and see the destruction personally, and then she would run to her and demands answers. Keeping secrets was already hard enough, but to tell them that Hibiki, along with themselves were the ones responsible? 

No way. No way she could tell them that. The entire world just went to shit in less than a day, and there was nothing she could do about it. She had never felt so helpless since the time she was under Fine’s thumb.

The Ichaival user briefly looked to her three teammates. The sound of helicopters filled the air, drowning out everything else around her. She couldn’t hear what the three were talking about, but right now it didn’t matter in the least.

Instead, she looked towards the fallen Miku, who was on her hands and knees on the ground. Working through the pain in her arms, Chris walked slowly to her. A whole squadron of helicopters began to land on the ruined grounds, but Chris ignored them. She continued her stride, and once she reached her friend she kneeled down, putting a hand on her shoulder in sympathy.

“Miku…” 

“I...couldn’t get her back,” She said in anguish. Once more, fresh tears began to fall from her eyes. “She...she’s not listening to me anymore. It hasn’t even been a day and...and I already can’t do anything. I couldn’t do anything! Even betting my life...was not enough to get her back…”

There were no words she could give her.

Her best friend refused to take her extended hand, even after she begged her to take it. 

And Chris knew that it was just the beginning.

That before long…

Hibiki would turn her blade against Miku as well. 

-!- 

“Young lady, I suggest that this time you don’t turn down my offer,” The doctor said with a stern expression as he stared at the black haired girl sitting on the chair before him. “Maybe last time you got off easy, but now is not the same. Let me take a look at you, for your own sake.”

Miku couldn’t bring herself to argue, so she let the doctor do as he pleased, taking her vitals and looking her over for any wounds or lacerations that were urgent to take care of.

Seven hours have passed since they were brought back from the ruined school grounds. With all of them sporting several kinds of injuries, some more grave than the others, it took an extremely long time to look over all of the girls. Saint-Germain was essentially rushed to the medical room, having received the worst of the injuries and going through over four hours of surgery in order to stitch up and repair her stomach. They didn’t know if her alchemical knowledge could make the recovery faster, but in the situation she was in, barely holding herself together, then they had to rely on the traditional methods. In the end she was saved and was left to rest in the medical room, in the very same bed she occupied earlier in the day.

After that, the four Symphogear users were treated as well, the seniors and Kirika in particular. Maria had been the most resilient of them all, having taken on Hibiki initially, was summarily defeated and tortured, had to fight of the beasts at the same time, and even have enough energy left in her to perform a last ditch killer combo to destroy them. Due to this fact, she was the next one to be treated, as they figured that the adrenaline that was pumping through her systems was numbing the pain to such an extent that she was just not feeling it. But once that effect passes, it all comes back in full swing, so they had to prepare for the eventual break down that would occur. Naturally, it did, but in the end they managed to treat the worst of her injuries before she could suffer too much.

Next was Kirika, who had a huge hole in her shoulder. That was a cakewalk in regards to treatment since it was all focused on a single spot. They patched up the hole and then treated her for anything else.

After her was Chris. She had suffered considerable damage to her arms, rendering her hands numb for quite some time. At first, the doctors didn’t quite understand how the girl still managed to hold anything, but they gave the Symphogear credit where credit was due. The Ichaival took the brunt of the strike and had protected all major tendons and nerves in her arms. Given time, she will get back full motor control of them. At the moment they will be numb and have her grip strength considerably weakened, but it was better than nothing.

Then came Shirabe, who had a grazed hip that bled slightly which they patched up quite quickly. Other than that, she turned out to be the most well off out of the Symphogear users just from looking at the small amount of injuries she had sustained. She had several more cuts and bruises all over her that required disinfection, but otherwise was fine.

And then came Miku’s turn, who despite being at ground zero the entire time, had managed to avoid being significantly injured. The doctor noticed she too had sustained a few cuts and bruises here and there, but from what he could tell none of it came from direct fighting, just from debris.

It didn’t take him more than twenty minutes to give her the all clear. Genjuro, who had stayed on his hospital bed during the commotion, had personally taken care to make sure every single one of the girls was okay, and not just from a physical perspective.

From the answers they gave him, they were not.

Morale had dropped to an all time low. Never before had the girls ever suffered a defeat as grave as this one. Left completely helpless in the hands of an enemy, who was their friend, and were only saved when the one person who should not have been involved threatened to kill herself in order to make her back off.

Nobody in S.O.N.G took that threat lightly. Even if it was in order to get Hibiki to spare the Adaptors, such threats to one’s own life could not be ignored. He had to make sure that he would not be getting any repeat events like these. The last thing he needed was for her to start wallowing in despair, despite how difficult that seemed.

Because her presence was still needed, contrary to what she may believe.

Much more than she could possibly believe..

Fujikata, Aoi, and Elfnein all came to the medical room as soon as the Adaptors had been brought back. Elfnein had also left Adam behind, more so because he seemed to be deep in thought when the fighting ended, so she didn’t want to disturb him. 

“Very well, you are free to go.” The doctor said to Miku, who nodded in response. She got up from her seat to Aoi’s surprise, who half-expected her to remain catatonic just like last time. However, everyone deals with the stages of grief differently, and if her outburst in the field was any indication, she was sure that at this point she was at the anger stage.

The Symphogear wielders waited by the door for her. She walked over to them, her head downcast, her expression unreadable.

“You should go eat something,” Genjuro suddenly said. “None of you have eaten anything since yesterday, and you are likewise exhausted and lack energy. I suggest you try to get something to eat, even a little bit.”

Maria looked to him sadly, understanding where he was coming from. He was worried about their well being, especially their mental health. In that regard, Maria decided to take command. As their teammate and the eldest of the group, she took it upon herself to direct them in these troubled times.

“He’s right, everyone,” She said. “Let’s go to the cafeteria. Hopefully the others left us something.” 

None of the girls answered her. Rather, they gave her some weak nods with their heads, and even Kirika found herself at a lost for words. Dragging their feet, Chris, Kirika, and Shirabe exited the medical room. 

Maria was about to follow after them, when she noticed that Miku was once again unresponsive. Looking to her in sympathy, she took her hand gently and took her outside to follow the others.

The door closed behind the girls, and only the doctor and the bridge members of S.O.N.G remained. “Thank you for your help as always, doctor.” Aoi said.

“Again, it’s no problem Ms. Tomosato. However,” He said grimly, adjusting his glasses. “I doubt we can allow a repeat. Out of the two battles that were fought I was brought two almost fatally injured patients. I truly do not want anymore here, for all of our sakes.”

“I wholeheartedly agree with you.” Aoi responded. “We really are doing all we can.”

“I know you are, which is why I’m worried. Never before had we been so thoroughly challenged in all of our fields. Perhaps this is just a sign that we were not ready.” 

It was a grim message to give, but one that had basis in reality. Aoi fell silent, saying nothing more.

Realizing the conversation had come to an end, the doctor went towards the door. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.” He said, then left.

The door closed, and Genjuro immediately spoke up. “Fujitaka, Tomosato. Please go back to the bridge and continue your research.” 

“But commander-” 

“I understand your concerns, but right now we need all the information we can get. There were far too many changes that took place that we just do not understand, and I want to make sure we are not caught off-guard again.” He answered. 

“But commander,” Fujitaka interjected. “Just how much will that really help us?”

“I don’t know. For now, we can only hope it will serve its purpose. Please, go back to the bridge and do what you can.” He simply said. 

Seeing that their commander was not relenting, the two bridge members sighed as one, and headed for the door. “Alright,” Aoi said. “We’ll do our best.” 

And the two left as well, leaving Genjuro alone with Elfnein.

Just as he wanted. 

“Genjuro-san…” The homunculus began to say, not able to find her words.

Genjuro rubbed his forehead in contemplation. “The situation is deteriorating faster than we can we can follow. It’s imperative you have it ready as soon as possible.” 

“Yes, it’s almost ready. I just need to make the final adjustments, and then it can finally be ready. But...do you really think she’ll accept it? That she’ll use it again?” She asked him.

“I’d be surprised if she won’t. Today she has reached a sort of breaking point. After what happened today, and from seeing her actions, I doubt she’ll be opposed to the idea if we present it correctly. I just hope Hibiki-kun doesn’t come knocking at our door before we are ready.” 

Elfnein put a hand on her chin in thought. “I see...so in that case-” 

And she was cut off by a voice from the bed opposite to them. 

“So this is what you have been hiding.” Saint-Germain said, raising herself sitting position. How laughable she’d find herself in the exact same bed twice in a row. But that’s far from what’s important right now. She just heard something very interesting, and if her guess was correct, she was also going to demands some explanations. “I had a hunch there was something amiss here, considering the information you sent the Symphogears to collect and what I have recently discovered. Everything came together far too conveniently for this to be a coincidence.”

“Saint-Germain,” Genjuro said evenly. “I thought you were asleep.”

“I was, until a moment ago.” She answered. “Despite my injuries, my body is not so fragile. I did not live for hundreds of year by remaining unmarred after all. Imagine my surprise when I heard your discussion, and I could no longer turn a blind eye to it. From your expressions, you seem to have realized that I may have very well come to the correct conclusion, in which case I’ll simply ask upfront.” 

Genjuro narrowed his eyes at her. He briefly glanced to Elfnein, who looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He knew she felt terrible about this secret colluding they were having, but it was a necessity in this case. He knew he could not avoid telling her the truth, knowing that she was smart enough to know if he was lying or not. “Very well, ask.” 

The alchemist let out a huff, and took a moment to collect her thoughts. She closed her eyes briefly, then met the commander’s gaze with a strong one of her own.

“Then tell me, Kazanari Genjuro,” She began. “Just how long…”

The sound of a heartbeat monitor pulsing lightly filled the air.

A figure stirred within its enclosure, its senses returning slowly.

“Just how long have you been planning to have Kohinata Miku wield the Shenshoujing?”

Chapter Text

There was a tense moment of silence between the two of them. It completely contrasted the surreal atmosphere, of the two of them both being bound to their hospital beds, staring at each other from different sides of the medical room. The full weight of Saint-Germain's question had hit full force, and now she was waiting for the S.O.N.G commander to provide an explanation.

Genjuro, on his part, remained quiet as he contemplated the best way to answer the alchemist. He was only mildly surprised that she had correctly guessed his intentions, seeing as she had managed to piece it together all on her own just from a short piece of his conversation with Elfnein.

But there was something more she said that caught his interest.

She said that she had discovered something, and that something helped her come to this conclusion. He was curious to know what it was, but any attempts to divert the conversation would be futile. He didn't have to know her for long to know that she was hard-headed and would not allow him to steer the conversation to a direction that would allow him to avoid answering her question.

After all, what he had talked about with Elfnein was top-secret, known only to the two of them.

And if this conversation went the way he was predicting, another person might join that circle soon.

Saint-Germain began growing slightly impatient, and spoke up. "Well? Will you answer?"

He blinked once, and gave her an even stare. "That depends. How did you come to this conclusion?"

"Easily enough," She responded quickly. "As I said, what you said and what I discovered helped me make an educated guess."

She was about to let him speak when she realized his intention. "Ah, I see. You are interested in this information I have."

Genjuro let out a small huff. Elfnein looked between the two of them worriedly. "Hmph, you can see right through me, can't you? Yes, I am indeed curious. I want to know what it is you have to offer."

"Then what are you going to do about it?"

He met her piercing gaze with a calm one of his own. "We exchange information, of course. An equivalent exchange, as you are familiar with. I do indeed extend the courtesies I have offered to Adam Weishaupt to you as well. Any information that can resolve this crisis is welcome and I will attempt to meet your demands to the best of my abilities."

Saint-Germain raised an eyebrow, surprised by his swift yielding. "Why are you so quick to comply to my demands?"

"Because what you have to offer will probably change the way we approach this incident, as well as bring us closer to bringing Hibiki-kun back. For that goal, I will do what I must, no matter what it entails." He answered.

The alchemist closed her eyes momentarily, a bit touched by his loyalty. "You care for your subordinates that much, I see."

"Of course I do. Without them I would not be half the man I am today. I owe them a lot, especially to the girls...and especially to Hibiki-kun. I will not allow my pride to cloud my judgement and prevent me from doing all I can to pay back my debts to her, and to them." He said.

She could see his answer was honest and resolute. She briefly found herself staring deep into his eyes, seeing herself in his position. She had indeed been in similar situations in the past, but not with nearly as much regard to others' well-being. She killed and deceived her way through life, and here he was, simply forcing his way through everything.

It became very clear to her now why Tachibana Hibiki turned out the way she did.

"Is that so…" She said. "Very well, I will accept your proposal. Besides, we are allies in this endeavor. It would be unbecoming of me to deny you important assets for our combined success. In that case, my only demand would be your explanation."

He let out a small laugh at her response. "And here I thought I succeeded in diverting your attention away. Too bad I guess."

And in an instant, his goofy expression changed, becoming far more serious and deep. "Then, I ask that you present your question again, Count Saint-Germain."

His usage of her age-old title caught her slightly off guard, and she raised an eyebrow, but let it slide. "Then, I shall repeat myself: Do explain just how long have you been planning to have Kohinata Miku use the Shenshoujing."

She did as he asked, and said nothing more. She instantly began to come to her own conclusions, trying to find the one that seemed to be more realistic in her eyes. There were many answers he could give, but only one was of them was the truth.

His voice was calm as he answered. "Since the day the Frontier was unearthed."

Saint-Germain narrowed her eyes at his response. Of course she remembered Frontier, seeing as she was one of the parties that invested in FIS, allowing them to begin their plans. As a member of the Illuminati, she was aware of many, many secret dealings that occurred in the underground part of the world, and what that entailed.

"I assume you have gone over Hibiki-kun's personal records, haven't you?" He asked, and she nodded quietly, letting him speak. "Then you probably know that during the incident, Miku-kun was persuaded by Dr. Ver to wield a Symphogear in order to save Hibiki-kun from her inevitable death. That Symphogear obviously being the Shenshoujing; legends said that it had the property of driving away curses and purifying bad luck, and as a Symphogear it can destroy relics. That power was only amplified by Miku-kun's desires, making it extremely powerful despite her lack of experience in combat. While Ver's mind control was potent, it did not however allow her to match up to the more experienced users in terms of skill."

She continued listening attentively. In the corner of her eye, she saw how Elfnein fidgeted nervously. "The rest is history, as they say. Hibiki-kun and Miku-kun fought, and as a result both the fragment of Gungnir, along with the Shenshoujing, were destroyed in the light that unearthed the Frontier."

The alchemist kept quiet in this part of his explanation. Amusingly enough, her own discovery was related to that incident as well.

"From then on, we thought that the Shenshoujing, as well as everything related to it, were no longer relevant. But that was not true. I, at the time, could not turn a blind eye to it. One cannot simply ignore the existence, or the possibility of existence, of another Symphogear. The one that Ver had used was originally excavated by Ryoko-kun, or as you probably know her, Fine. But that was not the only one we had in our possession, as the Shenshoujing is in fact a collection of identical relics rather than a unique one like the ones the girls have. We always had another one, but we never gave any real thought to its abilities."

She was seeing where he was going with this. "But that changed."

"Yes," He said while nodding. "That changed when it made its appearance as a Symphogear. Once the incident was resolved, you can bet we gave it far more attention than ever before. We had it transferred from Matsushiro, which turned out to be a very smart move considering Adam Weishaupt destroyed the entire facility not long ago. Then we began to finally understand its potential and how we could use it to defend mankind."

The last sentence he said was rife with disgust, she noticed. As if he didn't completely believe it himself. "As a Symphogear, it could be used to combat the Noise as well as swell our forces. Until Nastassja's girls joined us, we were operating with only three Adaptors. Before that, only with two, and before that, just one. It was increasingly difficult for the girls to protect the population with such limited numbers, so using Ryoko-kun's theory, we brought the Shenshoujing to headquarters and turned it into a Symphogear. Or at least, we tried. Unfortunately, not one of us had the skills to correctly make the conversion. Only Ryoko-kun and Dr. Ver had that ability, and at the time Ryoko-kun was dead and Ver was imprisoned, and we were not in a hurry to ask for his help. I indeed thought about approaching Miku-kun and asking her to join us as the seventh Adaptor, however several factors became known to me that threw that idea out of the window."

His expression changed into one of hidden fury. "The first was bad enough: Kazanari Fudou showed interest in the Shenshoujing and Miku-kun. I do not exactly know the reason as to why that is, but I can make a very good guess due to my familiarity with him; first was the objective point of just having more Symphogear wielders. That was a point I could get behind, as it never hurt to have more. It was the second however that called off the deal, and that was his desire to...have her as a spy."

Saint-Germain's eyes widened at the revelation, not expecting his explanation to go in this direction. She wanted to ask what he meant, but he beat her to the chase.

"He even ordered me to hand her over. Had I done as he asked and he managed to get his hands on her, he would have employed the same methods Ver used to control her or worse, and have her not only spy on us and the wielders, but also use her to...police them, so to say. That if any one of them turned rogue or went against his wishes, she could be sent to subdue them, to put it lightly. That is the reason why he was so angry when he bore witness to Hibiki-kun's...transformation. From his point of view, the entire incident could have been avoided had I just obeyed him from the start, as the Shenshoujing's power would have been able to remove Gungnir before everything deteriorated."

She put a hand on her chin in thought. "But wouldn't that have been counterproductive? What would be the point in increasing the amount of wielders if her primary usage was to decrease them if they went out of line?"

"It would be a means to bind me to his will further," He answered. "Which led me to the second factor why I overturned my decision to approach her: the simple reason that she is supposed to remain uninvolved and that she is a civilian, from a legal standpoint. Miku-kun was not even meant to know who the wielders were, but after Hibiki-kun had inadvertently revealed it to her, she had become a sort of honorary member in our Section in order to curb the spread of the information. And she held onto that secret very faithfully, nothing if for her loyalty to Hibiki-kun. That was the case I presented to him. Despite everything, it wasn't easy to convince him to relent. He just didn't care that she was just a civilian who was involved through extenuating circumstances. It didn't matter to him that she was essentially coerced into wielding it. In fact, he claimed that since she was already involved simply through her connection to Hibiki-kun."

He grabbed his head, thinking back to all those political conflicts in the past. "It was one hell of a tough period and one I'm glad ended in our favor. In order to call him off, we assembled a meeting with various ministers from all over the country, something I knew he wouldn't like. We discussed this matter, amongst other things, for over ten hours before finally reaching a decision, which as you can tell ended with him relenting. Since then, he hasn't held me in a very favorable light, although not without reason. I'm not exactly trying to get on his good side after all. I'm only trying to fulfill my duty so he would shut up and leave us alone."

Saint-Germain blinked a few times at the manner he delivered his story. "You seem to hold no love for your father." She said.

How oddly familiar.

"Of course I don't," He responded matter-of-factly. "I never loved him, even as a child. I respected him for his unwavering duty and loyalty to the country, but as a father and a person he is far too ambitious and manipulative for me to get along with, and not forgetting overly traditional. Any semblance of respect I had for him was summarily thrown out the window once I found out what he did to our family, and since then I've only worked with him because I know he can pull strings in our favor when it actually matters."

He shook his head. "Ah, it seems I'm getting off track. Back to Miku-kun. The reason that I wanted Miku-kun to remain a civilian was because I didn't want to involve her in more fighting, especially since the last time she did, she raised her weapon against the ones she loved. But...there was one other reason that was far more important than that."

He closed his eyes for a moment, recalling exactly the line of thought he had in the past that led to this decision. "In my opinion at least, it was far more important that Miku-kun serve as an anchor for Hibiki-kun to her normal life."

This was the part Saint-Germain realized he would be getting to the heart of his explanation, his reasons, and overall the true answer to her question.

Elfnein looked very uncomfortable. She was twitching nervously, and cowered under Saint-Germain's curious stare. The alchemist was not sure why was so fidgety, but she put it aside for now, more interested in what he had to say.

"You see, Saint-Germain...the girls were never meant to be Adaptors in the first place. With the exception of Tsubasa, who was raised from a very young age to be the wielder of the Ame-no-Habakiri, not a single one of the girls, including Kanade, were supposed to be wielding Symphogears. Chris-kun, Maria-kun, Kirika-kun, and Shirabe-kun in particular were forced into this world against their will, taken hostage and used to further their captors' ambitions. Chris-kun was kidnapped by human traffickers after the death of her parents, only to be saved and then kidnapped again by Fine. The others you already know that they were taken in by FIS after being orphaned and were experimented on to be her successors, with the result being the deaths of countless children. However, you could argue that since they had entered this world at a young age that they were already involved and thus their fate was sealed."

He took another breath and leaned back on the wall, looking down at his hands. He clenched them into tight fists. "But Hibiki-kun is the exception here. Her becoming an Adaptor not only happened when she was already a teenager, but it was also completely an accident. She was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, and as a result inherited Kanade's position after her death. And she accepted that position with a smile on her face, vowing to uphold Kanade's heroic ideals and create a world of happiness, as you have noticed. She jumped at the call to save the world, knowing she was not going to be rewarded for it."

He released his fists and looked back up at the alchemist. "It was entirely a coincidence, but her particular coincidence left particularly deep scars. I originally thought it was part of her personality, but after a talk with Miku-kun I finally got the full picture: that Hibiki-kun is a distorted individual. Her entire way of thinking is flawed and she is aware of that. She is more often than not disturbingly cheery, but with her history I know that a lot more lies under the surface than she lets on. I assume that whatever is kept hidden in Lydian expands on that more. In essence, Hibiki-kun is a complicated person masquerading as a simple one. Under those circumstances, I could not just allow such an individual to serve as a protector of mankind without something that will keep her grounded. I believe that if Miku-kun did not exist, or for one reason or another did not serve as support for her, Hibiki-kun would be a very, very different person than what we know today."

It didn't take long for Saint-Germain to think up the scenario in her head. After reading Hibiki's records, she was more than aware of how vital Kohinata Miku was to her sanity during the most difficult part of her life. Without her influence, it was not hard for Saint-Germain to imagine that Hibiki would have become bitter, aggressive, and overall a loner who would have eventually destroyed herself.

"I could not allow her to suffer more than she already had. I could not suddenly take her one link to a normal life, the one thing more dear to her than anything else, and put that thing in danger. Hibiki-kun has achieved far too much for me allow such a thing to happen. She means far too much to all of us to just take advantage of. As a result, I didn't do anything, and well, here we are now. Before you say anything else, I do not regret making that decision, not even in hindsight. I made it fully aware of what it would mean. The fact that last night happened does not change that, as we had no possible way of knowing that would be the result. We had specific calculations, made carefully over those tense couple of days, yet in an instant everything we did turned out to be worthless."

And here it was, the change in circumstances.

"Just so you know, when Elfnein-kun originally came to join us and I saw that she had the ability to to not only make the conversion from relic to Symphogear, but also alter and modify existing ones, I made her aware of the fact that the Shenshoujing was a thing that exists and that we would do nothing with it. However, during the events of last night as we were trying desperately formulate some sort of plan of action was when the thought came to me. I confided in Elfnein-kun in secret during the two day wait, and when the worst case scenario came to pass, I realized I could not deny it any longer. Today just sealed the deal for my course of action, as much as I did not want to do it, so after our debriefing last night I instructed Elfnein-kun to start the conversion and have her install absolutely everything on it."

Saint-Germain kept her gaze even, but could sympathize with his plight. "I understand that decision did not come easily."

"Of course not. It meant going back on my promise to Hibiki-kun. Not many know this, but she did indeed approach me at one point and made me promise that I don't involve Miku-kun in what we do. But we just don't have a choice in the matter now. Not only is the Shenshoujing the only Symphogear, no, the only thing that we have that can remove the Gungnir...I also know that Hibiki-kun would hold back against her. Hibiki-kun could never bring herself to harm or endanger the one thing she cares about more than anything else. So what I am essentially planning to do is use her own weakness against her. I plan to have Miku-kun wield the Shenshoujing willingly and use it to bring Hibiki-kun back. That is the plan I've come up with. Elfnein-kun has only been following my orders in the matter." He answered.

"Genjuro-san…" Elfnein let out, saddened by the burden he was forcing himself to bear.

The alchemist however narrowed her eyes, a piece of the puzzle still missing in her mind. "But that does not explain how are you going to make her use it. It is very likely she holds the Symphogears themselves in disdain. It is doubtful she will agree to use it even if faced with such circumstances."

"That is correct, and that is something I have taken into consideration. However, today's events brought to light an interesting fact: that Miku-kun is on the verge of a breaking point. She is about to reach the threshold of her patience, and so I've used the day's events as a method to fester her feelings of helplessness, knowing that the eventual result would be her desire for power. That is when I will approach her and offer her the Shenshoujing. Even if she hates it, she knows it is the only thing that will give her the ability to confront Hibiki-kun directly." He said, looking to the side. "Of course, I never imagined she would go so far, and I must admit her threatening to take her own life made me nervous, but I am glad it did not come to that."

For the first time in a long while, Saint-Germain found herself absolutely perplexed. The fact that this commander, this man that had an air of honesty, an in-your-face attitude and a boisterous personality would use such underhanded and despicable tactics in order to ensure the world's survival.

He pretty much admitted it. He was using Kohinata Miku for his own ends.

"You would go that far to do so? You know what this means, I assume." She told him, blatant in her accusation.

"Of course. It means being no better than Dr. Ver or my father. It means taking advantage of her love for Hibiki-kun to bring about a result that I want under the veil of telling her it's what she wants. Of course, I don't know how much of a veil it can be if our goals pretty much exactly align unlike Ver and my father, but it's still deception and manipulation no matter what way you look at it." He answered firmly, and neither his voice or frame shook as he spoke.

He let out another breath. "You are probably wondering why I would go this far. Why, under these circumstances, I would induct Miku-kun into this world and go against a long-standing belief and a promise. The reason? Simply because I know Hibiki-kun can be saved. I know we can save her. Don't misunderstand, more than once last night I have considered that we might have to kill her, but after my fight against her and her subsequent sparing of my life, I know more than anyone that she is not gone yet, no matter how bleak it seems. I owe her...no, the world owes her far too much for me to forsake her to this torture. That is why I will go this far. I will do whatever it takes, even if it means she will hate me, to bring her back. After everything is finished, I don't mind being sentenced to Hell for my crimes. It is the only thing I have to offer the two of them in recompense."

In the end, that is what he was. A criminal who had forsaken good people time and time again, who had sacrificed others for the sake of a greater goal. A man who had lived in the shadows and paid evil unto evil...and then finally stepped into the light, having finally found something that he would not dare forsake, in the form of six valkyries who sing to the save the world.

And then he sighed, taking a deep breath. "I suppose that is everything from my end. I do believe that answered your question and more, and I even added a bit more in as a show of good faith. Will that be enough?"

She closed her eyes briefly and spoke softly. "Yes, that will be enough. I am satisfied."

She realized she would need to give this new information some time to sink in. It was indeed a lot to take in at once, and it was far more than she had expected when she originally asked him that question.

But then she wondered, why does she care? They are only her allies. They are not her friends or comrades like Cagliostro and Prelati were. They were just...accomplices to achieve a similar goal. Yet, she was becoming more involved with them every passing hour. She was finding herself caring about their circumstances, and about how they are responding to current events.

Maybe it was because the Ignite Module shed some light on their experiences. It is after all made of a cursed blade that draws out the evils in one's heart, feeding on primal instincts. Perhaps it is because she had gone through what they have, that she understood where they were coming from.

And that even if the amount of life experience they have is different...She found that they were far more similar than ever.

"I thank you for sharing this with me," She said humbly. "I understand it's not something that is easy to talk about."

Genjuro let out a huff. "And I thank you for your understanding. It is indeed difficult to talk about, but I know you more than anyone can relate to it."

She let out her own huff in response. "Indeed, I can relate. Far more than I would have liked."

Yes, living a life of deception and manipulation, all for the sake of the greater good. No, this man's goals were far purer than hers. To him, saving the world was a side effect of saving Tachibana Hibiki, and as a result it kept him focused, kept him from losing himself looking at the bigger picture.

But it was different for her. Throughout the centuries she had done so many despicable and savage acts that she knew Hell was the only place she would end up. Nobody could truly understand this burden of hers except her comrades, yet here she was, conversing with the one she once considered the enemy, and realizing that once again, they are far more similar than she ever knew.

Perhaps it would have been better to ally with them from the start than with a delusional doll like Adam Weishaupt.

"Then, I believe it is time I hold my end of the bargain." She said. "You have given me your piece, and now I will give you mine."

There was no reason for him to stop her, so he nodded and let her speak. She thought for a second, contemplating on how to present it.

"Very well then. Interestingly enough, my discovery also takes place during the Frontier incident, and even more coincidentally, focusing on the Shenshoujing. It is strange, how all the answers we seek somehow bring us back to it." She said.

He answered with a laugh. "Yes, that is indeed very strange. But do tell me, what is it that you have discovered?"

Her gaze became sharp and mysterious, and he arched his eyebrows.

"The reason why Tachibana Hibiki could harness the divine power, and…"

The heart monitor in the corner of the room beeped once again.

The encased figure one more stirred within its confinement.

"And how she is not the only one capable of doing so."

That announcement caused Elfnein to shoot up from her chair, and Genjuro to straighten himself on the bed.

"What?!"

Saint-Germain narrowed her eyes. "Since you gave me a long introduction to your answer, I believe it is my duty to do so as well. But first, let me explain something very simple that you must know about before anything else: The Original Sin."

The commander and homunculus listened attentively.

And Saint-Germain began recounting her story.

-!-

The cafeteria was as empty as usual when the girls entered it. It was around six in the evening, and it was the first time they realized they really haven't eaten anything in nearly a day. Not only that, they were all collectively exhausted, having gotten zero sleep the night before and having been fighting essentially non-stop since then.

This sudden peace was surreal, almost out of place in the current circumstances.

They were silent as they went through the usual procedure of taking cutlery and trays and filling their plates up with food. The three FIS girls never really admitted it, but this generic cafeteria food, which turned out to be far more nutritious and delicious than what they had back then, was some of their favorites.

It invoked a sense of belonging, of a fresh start.

And also because of the fact it was what they ate while jailed, and that left them with a deep impression.

Today's meal was a simple spaghetti with meatballs. As usual, the amount each put on their plate accentuated their personalities, with Chris and Kirika piling on the food without end while Maria, Shirabe, and Miku took a far more humble portion for themselves.

Thanking the kindly, elderly chef, the group went over to their usual table and sat down. Almost instantly, and without the usual ritual, the two ravenous pit known as Chris and Kirika began to chow down mercilessly. Shirabe sent her usual stare Kirika's way, but ignored it and began eating slowly, taking the time to enjoy every bite. Maria, who wanted to make sure everyone was getting their fill, began nibbling on the food as she watched them.

Which was then she noticed that Miku, who sat across from her, was not touching her food at all. Her gaze was downcast, and her knife and fork remained exactly where she had placed them earlier.

'Did...she fall asleep?' Maria wondered, but that thought proved false when she saw her stir slightly, although did not move an inch more than that.

That wouldn't do at all. "Miku-san, you need to eat." She said softly to her.

Initially, Miku made no motion to acknowledge the fact she was being spoken to. She remained silent for a moment, lost in her own thoughts. "I'm not hungry." She said.

Maria studied her for a moment. She figured that Miku wouldn't eat, considering the events of the day. Many times in the past she herself felt this way, the most egregious one was after she was forced to kill in order to rescue Mom from the Tokyo Tower, and her subsequent spiraling down to almost full blown villainy. She looked back at that moment with absolute disgust, as right now she couldn't understand how she could allow herself to fall so low.

Chris, who up until now had been eating quietly, looked to Miku in sympathy. Her kind stare was slightly ruined by the endless amount of bolognese stuck around her mouth, and she seemed to have no idea it was even there. Sticking her fork into a meatball from her own plate, she raised it and placed it before Miku's face. "Here."

"I just said that I'm not-"

"I heard what you said," Chris interrupted her. "But eat anyway. The last thing we need is for the idiot to come after us if she ever saw that you collapsed because of hunger and we did nothing about it."

"Chris!" Maria exclaimed, shocked at Chris' lack of tact.

"What? I'm only trying to take care of her. It won't do good for any of us to collapse because our bodies betrayed us first." She simply answered, still dangling the fork in front of Miku.

Maria narrowed her eyes at her. Then, taking a napkin, reached over the table to the Ichaival user. "Well, if you want to take care of anyone first take care of yourself." She said, and then wiped away the sauce on Chris' face. Chris flushed slightly at the unexpected contact, but kept her grip on the fork. Once finished, Maria sat back down in her seat and stared worriedly at Miku. "And she's right, Miku-san. It wouldn't do if you don't eat anything. You need some energy. You've been through a lot in the past few days."

"I can't focus on eating." The girl said shakily. "I just...can't…"

In response, Chris tapped the meatball against Miku's lips. "Open your mouth."

Realizing that they won't leave her alone until she complied, Miku reluctantly opened her mouth and allowed Chris to feed her the meatball. She chewed on it slowly, and Chris continued speaking. "If you can't feed yourself then I'll help you," She said, her face once again slightly flushing as she stabbed her fork into another meatball. "As thanks...for back then."

It took a moment for Miku to understand what she was talking about, but then remembered the incident. Way back then, when they first met, Miku found the injured Chris in an alleyway and nursed her back to health. The Ichaival user had never forgotten that kindness, so she would do all she can to help her in return.

Chris really wished that Hibiki was here to cheer the girl up...But that was kind of ironic seeing as Hibiki was the reason Miku was depressed in the first place.

Maria smiled, and went back to her own food. Chris continued feeding Miku, taking her own bites in between from her own plate and Miku's plate. They fell into a serene silence, simply enjoying each other's company and eating their meals.

About ten minutes later, the group of girls finished their food despite everything, and even Miku who had been constantly fed by Chris managed to finish her plate. Their plates now empty, the Symphogear users got up from the table, with Maria taking Miku's tray with her, seeing as upon finishing her meal she remained downcast.

The elder sighed. She didn't expect Miku to get over it quickly, and she knew it would take some time for her to go back to herself.

But she just wasn't sure if they had the luxury to wind down. Hibiki could reappear at ANY moment anywhere in the world, and once she did they would have to go face her again…

Or at least, that's what she thought. The battle today had turned out worse than the one before, and now all of them were injured in such a manner that even thinking of confronting her was suicidal. It took Miku threatening to kill herself to force her to back off, and Maria just wasn't sure such a tactic would work again.

And even if it did come to that...Maria wasn't sure Miku wouldn't pull the trigger anyway. Perhaps it was just her being overly concerned, but she could see that Miku's mental strength was sapping away with every second she had to dwell on the subject.

It wasn't like she couldn't understand her plight. Her best friend became their worst enemy, and one they couldn't just defeat with brute force. Smacking her upside the head won't bring her back, and now they regretfully realized that neither could they talk her out of it. The only way would be to overpower her, but good luck with that. If Genjuro and Saint-Germain failed, if Adam failed, and if they, the Symphogear wielders failed...then just who remained in the world that could possibly challenge her?

There was a point in the past, Maria remembered, that she had a strange thought. She wondered what would have happened if out of nowhere Serena would suddenly rise from the grave and declare her intention to destroy the world. It came to her after she watched a silly movie with Kirika and Shirabe, and that night she had sort of dwelled on it for a bit.

Never before had she shuddered so fearfully from just her imagination, but she figured that if that had happened...she would have reacted the same way Miku did. It just made her sympathize more with the gentle girl. Something that was supposed to be just a nightmare became reality, and they had absolutely no way to dispel it.

Just as Maria placed the tray back, she could hear the sounds of soft whimpering from behind her. She looked back, and the others turned around with her. She saw Miku still in her seat, and her frame slightly shuddering every so often. From her angle it was hard to catch, but the glistening shine of something falling from her eyes told Maria everything she needed.

'This is going to be a frequent occurrence.' She realized, and slowly made her way to the black haired girl. Miku once again made no motion to acknowledge her approach, or any of the others as they congregated around her silently.

Her breakdown intensified, and she raised her arms and buried her face in her hands. The tears continued to fall without end, and the whimpering became a sorrowful cry as the full brunt of everything that happened in the last few days crashed down on her all at once.

The girls just watched her sadly, having no words to offer her. Even the kindly elderly chef who had given them the food earlier stopped everything to just watch silently. She was not exactly aware of what had occurred, but she noticed the overly bubbly girl with the chestnut colored hair was nowhere to be found. And that...told her more than anything else.

There was only the sound of Miku's cries filling the cafeteria. Her grief was oh so great that Chris and Kirika's eyes started to shine as well, their emotions slowly overwhelming them.

As her cries continued to intensify, Maria came to a decision. Having served as Kirika and Shirabe's caretaker for many years and having comforted them whenever their spirits fell, she knew what she had to do.

So silently as to not disturb her, Maria walked behind Miku, and very gently hugged her from behind. She said nothing as her arms wrapped around her, and she could feel as Miku almost instinctively used her enveloping presence as a lifeline. Maria closed her eyes, simply listening to her moans and sniffles. She knew that if Hibiki saw them like this, she would have a much bigger incentive to kill her than ever before.

Well, she was already on her hit list, so what she does now won't change that. And besides, she vowed to take care of the girl in her stead, as penance for the crimes she committed against them both in the past.

No one was sure how much time had passed since Maria embraced the girl. Was it five minutes? Was it an hour? No one knew, and no one cared. A dear friend of theirs was grieving in a manner they have never seen her in before. Only Chris, who had been around her since the conflict with Fine, could compare it. After all, following the destruction of the moon fragment and their subsequent disappearance from the public, Miku came to believe that Hibiki was dead. She could not even fathom what sort of hardship and sorrow plagued her during that time, but if today was any indication...it probably looked something like this.

No, it was even worse than that. The present situation was akin to being a parent whose child had gone missing on the battlefield and their fate was uncertain. No one knew if they were alive or dead, and that uncertainty only made everything far more difficult.

At least previously, Miku would eventually heal in time had Hibiki actually been dead. Now, she was right in the middle of it all, and the object of her sorrow was not only very much alive, but also oh so very out of reach.

Finally, after what seemed like eternity, Miku began speaking. "I-I couldn't...I couldn't do anything." She wept. "She-she was right there...and I couldn't bring her back! She-she...my voice...my voice can't reach her anymore!"

Maria remained quiet. Sometimes, a person just needed a shoulder to lean on.

"Why...why did this have to happen? Why to her? What-what did she do wrong to deserve this?! We-we just wanted to live happily...and now I have to watch as she...as she-"

Her cry was interrupted by another bout of uncontrollable weeping, and Maria just hugged her tighter.

She knew Miku could not be comforted. Logic, sense, none of these could offer her what she needed, what she desired.

So Maria presented her one question.

"You love her a lot, don't you?"

It was a question Maria already knew the answer to. It was like asking the grass if it was green or the Sun if it was hot. The answer was obvious...but the depth of it was what truly mattered.

It seemed that just thinking about it gave Miku pause, and she began to breath in and out in an attempt to calm herself.

And gathering up the rest of her strength, she gave Maria her answer.

"With all of my heart."

As the words left her mouth, Miku's emotions once again swelled and the tears returned in full force. And Maria held her tighter, unwilling to leave her alone for even a moment. It was ironic, but despite the sadness, despite the overwhelming grief...Maria could find some beauty in it.

It was the beauty of a broken heart, and the desire to mend it and give it back its luster.

And Maria whispered softly in her ear. "Never let that feeling go," She said. "Keep it close and hold it tight. Make it your strength...because I know that eventually, no matter what happens...it is that feeling that will bring back the light."

It only served to make Miku's cries deeper and louder, her voice becoming coarse as time dragged on. It may have had an intense effect, but at least Maria knew she had heard her and took it to heart.

"Never lose hope, Miku-san. I know everything seems hopeless, but the moment you give up is the moment you'll truly lose her forever. So don't give up," She said, hugging her even tighter, so tight she would crush her if she kept it on. "Because we will get her back...no, it is you who will, I know it."

"B-but I can't do anything! I'm powerless! I-I can't save her!"

"You're not powerless," Maria responded. "You are not. Don't think you are for even a second. You can do a lot...much more than we can. Some problems can't be solved just by fighting...so I know that as long as you never lose hope...I know that eventually your feelings will reach her."

It was a lesson they had all learned the hard way, and one that Hibiki had the most difficult time accepting. As the one who used her fists to fight and was used to holding her hand out to others, she just never knew what to do when they refused to take her hand. It most prominently happened with Carol, who had preferred death and revenge over siding with them.

But one failure does not erase the records of countless successes. The very fact that the four Symphogear users currently trying to comfort Miku were here and now was proof of that. Proof of the infinite good that Hibiki did and could do, and was the one thing she excelled at more than anyone.

"So please, Miku-san, do not lose hope. We will save her, together. She is a very important friend to us, someone who we cannot turn our backs on. So, please, do not lose heart."

Miku's cries echoed in the cafeteria.

"Because we will bring her back," Maria said with a small smile.

"To the place she belongs, by your side."

-!-

By the time Saint-Germain finished her explanation, Elfnein was out of her seat, gaping at her with her eyes as wide as saucers. Genjuro too, had straightened out in the bed as much as he could, absolutely dumbfounded by what Saint-Germain had just told them.

"That's everything from my end," She said calmly. "I do hope that assists us in the troubled times to come."

It took a moment for any of them to respond to her. Elfnein crashed back into her seat, looking to the ground, her eyes still wide as she processed the information. "This...this changes everything! Genjuro-san, we-"

"I know, Elfnein-kun," He interrupted her. "It changes a lot, especially our approach to this incident, just like I thought. Unfortunately, it has the unintended side effect of just increasing her burden even more."

"I don't understand why you are so surprised," Saint-Germain commented. "You were prepared to have her shoulder it, so why does this suddenly change your intentions?"

"It doesn't, but it makes me feel all the more guilty. This is becoming less of her assisting us and more of us being reliant on her. Without her, there is absolutely nothing we can do. Your information just turned my lack of choice into an absolute requirement. Now it doesn't matter if she wants to or not...it's more like she has to, lest we lose absolutely everything." Genjuro answered. "And that doesn't make it any easier to bear."

The alchemist closed her eyes for a moment. "I understand that, so as thanks for the information and your assistance, I am willing to lend you my own."

She opened her eyes to meet his own narrowed ones. "What do you mean?" He asked.

"It means I will put all the resources I have to spare into helping you. I had a heavy hand in causing this incident so it is only right I help you fix it. You have so far given me care and support without asking for anything back, and I cannot stand for it. I will not abuse the hospitality I have been given, so I will do all in my power to pay that debt back." She said resolutely.

Genjuro let out an amused chuckle, and she raised an eyebrow. "You sure are an honorable one."

"Of course," She replied. "Anything less will tarnish my name and all the sacrifices I had to make to reach this point."

The commander crossed his arms over his chest. "So it's a matter of pride, then?"

"Only partially," She answered. "Pride, and the weight of the sins on my shoulders. If you say you deserve to be sent to Hell for your crimes, then I too deserve the very same fate. I have claimed 73,808 lives over the centuries, and I remember each and every one of them. I could not allow myself to forget. Each person that I killed is a person who would not live to see the perfect world I was trying to create."

She let out a heavy sigh, and her shoulders slumped forward. "And to think that at the end of the road, all of my efforts have been for naught. All of the lives I have taken...All of the crimes I have committed...Were all for nothing. I have lost my goal and my comrades. I have nothing left to lose now, so it's only fitting I fix a costly mistake that I made."

Genjuro studied her for a moment, his eyes still narrowed. Then suddenly he threw the blanket off of him, eliciting a yelp from Elfnein, and stood up to his feet. He walked towards the alchemist's bed, appearing as if he hadn't been injured at all. He stood by her side, and she opened her eyes and looked up at him.

"You seem to believe that we blame you for what has happened." He said.

"How could I not? Was it not my actions that spurred the descent of the divine power? Was it not through me that Adam Weishaupt nearly achieved his objective?" She asked honestly.

He crossed his arms over his chest again. "That may be, but that's different from what we are going through right now. There is a reason why I told you that we never saw this coming, simply because I did not want you to blame yourself. It could have ended any other way, and it could have not happened at all, but in the end you are not responsible for what happened to Hibiki-kun, not even a little bit. Do not dwell on it without due cause. We do not blame you, so I ask that you also do not blame yourself. That will be the first step in our true alliance, Ms. Saint-Germain."

And he extended his hand to her. She simply stared at the big, burly hand hanging in the air in front of her, contemplating on how she should respond.

She turned her gaze away, looking to the pod at the other end of the room. The pod in which Kazanari Tsubasa was still encased in. "You are far too kind for your own good." She said, turning back to look at him.

"I've been told that before. You have no idea how long it took for me to get to that point." He answered with a wide grin.

Her eyes widened at the casual response he gave her.

And then she sighed. "You really are a group of strange people."

Then, in a single motion, raised her hand and took his in her own, giving it a firm shake.

His grin only widened further. "Welcome aboard, Saint-Germain."

Their handshake lasted for a mere three seconds, but it was more than enough to get the point across. Both their hands lowered back to their original positions, and they continued staring at each other. "There are still some things I need to get from the villa we lived in, so for now I don't have much to offer except information," She said. "I will also require my own living quarters and somewhere I can quietly research and develop."

"Deal," He said quickly. "But for now, rest. You are still injured after all. Can't have my new ally expire on me just after I obtained her."

She let out a sarcastic huff. "As if I would die that quickly. I've had worse in the past."

"I don't doubt it."

He turned around and headed towards the door of the medical room, ready to leave. He stopped right in front of it, and it slid open to let him through. However, he did not exit just yet. "One more thing, Saint-Germain, in case you think I may be too kind." He said.

She looked to him, saying nothing. "We do not require your apologies. Do not act out of pity or remorse or anything like that. The only thing we need is your invaluable assistance. That is all. Please keep that in mind."

And with that said, he left the medical room, heading back to his quarters to change. Only Elfnein remained with her, and she watched quietly as the homunculus approached and bowed to her. "I look forward to working with you, St. Germain-san."

The alchemist's expression softened. "Likewise."

Elfnein gave her a big, sunny smile, then also headed towards the door. "Then, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to work. I'll see you later then, St. Germain-san. Please sleep well."

Saint-Germain gave her an acknowledging nod, and then Elfnein left the medical room.

And the alchemist was left alone with her thoughts.

Chapter Text

For the first time in a while, it was fairly quiet in S.O.N.G's bridge. The various members worked slowly and silently, and only the sound of tapping keyboards echoed in the small space.

Or, it should have been. But there was one person there, or in this case a head, that would not keep quiet.

"Play it again." He said, instructing the member he was paired up with.

For the last few hours, Adam Weishaupt has been engrossed in exactly one thing: watching clips of Tachibana Hibiki on repeat. The confused male member had seen this particular one dozens of times by now, and he could by heart recite every single action and word those on it had said.

However, he could not understand what exactly the defeated leader of the Illuminati could possibly be gaining from watching this video so many times. What was he trying to understand? What sort of information was he trying to gleam from it?

The man had asked him a few times, but Adam simply ignored him and kept on watching the clip. Every so often, Adam would instruct him to stop the video at a certain point, and he could see as the head's eyes narrowed at several particular instances.

A few minutes later, the clip ended. The man let out a sigh, finally hoping to get his rest.

"Play it again." Adam simply said. The man's eyes widened, but he let out another sigh, this one defeated, and went on to play the clip again.

Adam for his part, found every viewing of the video slightly more enlightening. He was rewatching the clip of the battle in the school, and every time he made another interesting observation, whether it was about the Symphogears themselves, their dynamics with each other, or even Saint-Germain's sudden power up and abilities.

But there was one thing that constantly stumped him: Tachibana Hibiki herself. It seemed that no matter how many times he rewatched, he could just not come to an understanding as to what she was.

He knew exactly what happened to her: she fused with the divine power, prompting the god-slaying one from Gungnir to burst out and bring out the curses with it, which corrupted her mind. But that did not explain why she was transforming. It did not explain why she was suddenly becoming stronger by the minute, and why she seemingly started developing abilities out of nowhere. Teleportation, creation of life, and tearing holes in reality are all natural abilities of the divine power, as it uses the logic of the universe that is not understood by humans.

But that did not explain how she was learning out to use it so quickly. He himself was a creation of divine beings, and all the knowledge of their power took him decades to understand, and he was made to be an absolute genius. Yet, Tachibana Hibiki managed to use and understand them in less than twenty four hours! And not just any abilities, but some of the most difficult ones as well.

That was the part that made no sense to him. It was just not possible she was talented or smart enough to so fully control it. He knew about the extent of her cleverness and her ability to seemingly destroy logic or reason with her fists, but such a thing cannot be applied to divine power. She can only react to things she understands, something that is on the level of humanity as a whole.

In essence, humanity has the ability to observe the entire universe down to its most basic particles. In time, they will freely roam the stars and the galaxies and be able to reach the innermost secret of the atom. However, all of that lies on the physical plane of the universe, the one that is governed by physics and logic. No matter how advanced they become, that will be their limit.

The divine, along with its power, lie on a plane far too out of reach for humanity to understand. It is an existence that predates the universe, and is in fact part of what gave birth to it in the first place. After all, the Big Bang could not have possibly occurred if there hadn't been something to cause it in the first place. And that something was the divine power, the power wielded by the gods themselves. Only something as potent as that could cause a reaction so tremendous it would form a universe.

It is something so beyond human understanding that simply observing it should render them speechless due to its otherworldliness.

Yet here was Tachibana Hibiki, wielding it like it was a playground toy!

It was blasphemy! Something like this should have destroyed her in an instant! Even if she was somehow free of sin and had the ability to harness it, that does not mean she should have done so!

So why, why was she so strong?! Why was she stronger than himself?! And why is she becoming even stronger?!

That was the only conclusion he could reach from watching the same clip on repeat for the past few hours. But he could not obtain any answers from it. It did however give him a focus.

He just needed more evidence. He needed more clips, he needed more readings. He needed her to appear again and he needed to study her as thoroughly as he could. The strange mutation the Aufwachen wavelength went through was the first hint to his answer. He had also gone over the records from last night, and he had to admit it truly was something to look at. He had compared it to the usual one, and there were so many difference it was hard to believe it was the same relic.

But at its core, it was. As if the divine power, along with the curses were interposing themselves on top of it. Yet, because of the sheer contradiction between the two powers, it caused the signal itself to warp under the stress.

And that brought him to the second, unexplainable phenomena he witnessed: he had earlier told the commander, as well as the Adaptors, that the two powers were in a chaotic harmony within her being.

But when he looked at the patterns again...it seemed like the black veins, which indicated the god-slaying power, were expanding. They were covering more and more of the limited area on the screen, and in contrast, the blue veins that indicated the divine power were...slowly disappearing?

And that was just another aspect that left him confused. If the divine power is vanishing...then why is she not becoming weaker? Just what is going on here? And why is it happening so soon?

So many questions, so little answers, and so little time. It's been awhile since Adam ever found himself being challenged like this. In some ways it is refreshing, yet in others disconcerting. But he could not allow that to keep him down. Even in a situation as dire as this, he knew that in the end, he's the one that's going to win.

So for now, cooperate. Use them to find the answers he required, and when Tachibana Hibiki is stripped of the divine power, snatch it when their guard is down. But first, he had to make sure they actually succeeded in doing so...which proved to be the hard part.

As Adam continued contemplating and formulating plans in his head, the door to the bridge slid open. Aoi turned her head around, her eyes heavy from fatigue and constantly looking at the screen.

And then they lit up in surprise. "Commander?!"

Then as one all of the bridge members turned around to look at the door, and they smiled as they saw Genjuro, seemingly none the worse for wear, walking in wearing a new set of his red collared shirt and khaki pants.

They cheered as he sat down on his chair, and he smiled widely. "Yo, looks like I've worried you."

"Nah," One of the members yelled. "We knew you'll be okay after a few hours of rest. Nothing can keep you down."

"Heh, I appreciate the concern." Genjuro responded. He looked back to the screen before him, going over the displayed readings. "Now get back to work you fools, the celebrations can come later."

They nodded with a grin on their faces, and then turned back to their consoles, their spirits renewed. Adam raised an eyebrow as even the man he was stuck to somehow became more energetic than before, and typed away rapidly in his console as he went between assisting the severed head and doing his own work.

Adam stopped his work to speak up for a moment. "You sure are an appreciated commander." He said.

"Hmph, if I wasn't I'd already be dead," Genjuro responded. "But enough about that. What did you find so far?"

Adam looked momentarily back to the screen he had been studying for the past few hours. "Plenty and nothing at all at the same time, I have to say."

Genjuro raised an eyebrow at the strange response. "Meaning?"

"Meaning that even though I might have obtained some answers, it only raised more questions. More questions that can be answered if we had a bit more data, which unfortunately you don't. Quite a shame." Adam answered.

Genjuro narrowed his eyes. Ah, so he was trying to take a dig at them. Well, whatever. "It is indeed quite a shame," He responded. "Maybe next time we'll get some more. Who knows? That largely depends on you and what you share."

The leader of the Illuminati huffed and looked back to his screen. "Well, then let me tell you what I have discovered so far, oh great venerated commander," He said mockingly. "First, it seems there is a lot more going on here than we initially believed. There is a contradiction between what should be happening to the god-slayer and what actually is happening."

"What do you mean?" Genjuro asked. The other bridge members stopped their typing to listen to Adam as well.

Adam nodded to the man he worked with, and he promptly transferred the Aufwachen data to the giant display on the front of the bridge. Gungnir's original signal flashed orange as it spun in place. "As you know, this is the original Aufwachen signal belonging to Tachibana Hibiki's Gungnir." He said. He nodded again to the man, who tapped away on his keyboard. A second screen appeared next to the first. "And this is the same signal that you detected when she first hatched from the cocoon. As you can see, there are major changes to it, although the original is still coherent underneath."

Genjuro studied the two signals before him, successfully following Adam's explanation. The original signal was an orange colored flower with spearlike formations protruding from it. It was nothing special to look at, about as exceptional as the others. It was the new one that gave him pause. He had seen it that night, but did not give it too much thought as they were far too busy being shocked to study it right away.

In the new signal, he could see the original within. However, from the very inside of the flower shape were now glowing blue colored vein running along it, and they were even leaking from the formation itself, growing over the empty space on the small screen it was displayed it. That was, he reckoned, an indication that the Gungnir itself is housing the divine power, but it cannot hold it in its entirety.

But that would have been fine...if it wasn't for the pitch black hole sitting right at the center of the flower.

Genjuro didn't need to be a genius to understand what that was. That dark abyss was none other than the god-slaying power...the very same one that twisted Hibiki's mind. He could see how black veins leaked out from the black hole to the flower at large, and how some of them were touching the blue veins signifying the divine power. All in all, it looked like the flower was diseased and being eaten alive by two different yet potent pathogens at once.

"How did we always miss this?" He asked, his eyes narrowed. Since Val Verde where they first fought against a divine presence, they have never, ever bothered to look at the Aufwachen signal. If they had, they might have been able to isolate it before this incident ever took place.

"Because as I told you, the god-slaying power reacts proportionally to the amount of divine presence that it discovers. It only makes sense that when confronted by such a huge concentration of divine power, it will react far more viciously and violently. And what's more, it will not regress until the divine power disappears first." Adam explained, throwing Genjuro's assumption out of the window. "But here is where things become interesting."

He nodded to the man again, who brought up another recorded signal.

And this time, Genjuro noticed with wide eyes, that it was not nearly as pretty.

The first thing he noticed was the black hole in the center had become bigger than before, having taken over the entire middle section of the flower. But even worse than that, the entire structure of it, particularly the spearlike protrusions were being warped inwardly towards the darkness itself. But even more interestingly, the blue veins of the divine power were far fewer in number, and there were many more of the black veins in their stead, and now they too were leaking out of the flower itself and began to fill in the empty space on the screen.

"This is the signal recorded after her first outburst in the courtyard of the school. In almost an instant, the area of effect of the curses had dramatically increased and began to take over more of the original signal, not to mention that it is now also breaking its shape as well." Adam continued. Now the three iterations of Gungnir's Aufwachen wavelengths were displayed side by side on the screen, accentuating the radical changes it had undergone in the past twenty four hours.

It was incredibly disturbing to look at.

"This is messed up." Fujitaka commented.

"Messed up is putting it lightly," Genjuro added. "This is a very important and curious find, but what exactly does it mean and what can we do about it?"

Adam smirked. "For starters, there's nothing you can do about it. At least, not you yourself mind you." He said. Genjuro glared at him in response, causing Aoi to look at him curiously. "What does it mean exactly? Several things, in fact. The first is the fairly obvious one: the influence of the curses is spreading further every time you fight her. I assume it happened because she experienced an emotional trauma when the little lady confronted her. As the curses are primarily composed of raw emotion, it is only logical they would react when their user enters the same wavelength as them. This is however when it becomes dangerous."

The three signals swirled slowly on the screen, their hypnotizing movements adding more to the mysterious atmosphere that had fallen on the bridge. "It becomes a vicious cycle. Every time she has a strong emotional reaction, the curses spread more, twisting her mind further. That makes her susceptible to more breakdowns, which then cause the curses to spread more. You can understand where that leads from here." Adam said.

Genjuro indeed understood where it leads. Eventually, Hibiki will get swallowed up by the curses themselves as she will eventually lose control over them. If the Aufwachen signal is any indication, Gungnir itself is also slowly losing cohesion as a Symphogear. The curses will eventually become so powerful that Hibiki will be reduced to nothing short of a raging berserker, just like during the time she was fused with the fragment from Kanade.

But it won't be the same as before. No, it will be much, much worse, as it might become a state that she will never return from.

However...something seemed to be missing.

"Hold on," Genjuro said. "Where does the divine power factor into all of this?"

That was the moment Adam's expression hardened, and he glared at the display above him. "That is a good question, and one that has trumped me until now. As you can see on the third display, there are more of the black veins and fewer of the blue ones. What I can infer from that is that the divine power is...disappearing, so to say. That the curses, the god-slaying power, is finally doing what it's supposed to and eradicating it as it should."

The commander however realized that something was amiss in his explanation. "You don't seem very convinced."

"No," Adam replied. "And that is because of the fact that if it's supposed to be erasing the divine power...why is she not getting any weaker? No, she's actually getting stronger as the curses spread, and that is the reason why she spontaneously started developing abilities that she should not have for centuries. That is the exact part of it that confuses me, and that is why I require another observation. I need her to reappear so I can see the signal again. I am sure that once I have that final piece, I will be able to formulate an answer."

Genjuro put a hand on his chin in contemplation. "I'm afraid that if she reappears now, it will be over for us. We just do not have the manpower to confront her now that the wielders are all injured and cannot fight with their full potential. We have to hope that she does not appear until they recover, at the very least."

The commander crossed his arms over his chest. Adam just smiled at what he said.

"Do you now?" Adam asked completely unconvinced, but decided to say nothing more. If Genjuro thought he could hide his intentions from him then he is sadly mistaken. Adam knew exactly what Genjuro's plan was from the very beginning. But he figured it did not matter if he publicly revealed it or not, since once the time comes he'll know when to apply it.

Genjuro did not respond to him, indicating the end of their conversation. "Tomosato, Fujitaka, have a full scan of the city active at all times. We are looking for everything, especially Aufwachen. If she decides to reappear now we have to be able to know instantly where she is and how we will respond. Assign everyone a section that they must watch over with real-time visuals. It's entirely possible we might miss it somehow, so don't lose focus." He commanded.

His two direct subordinates acknowledged his orders, and immediately went to fulfilling them. He continued. "Furthermore, we must-"

And then the sound of a hail rose his Fujitaka's terminal. "Commander…" He said reluctantly. "It's...from Kamakura."

There was a collective groan from pretty much everyone on the bridge. Genjuro sighed in defeat. "What timing," He said, mentally preparing himself. "Put him through."

Fujitaka nodded.

A few button presses later, the video call display lit up.

Showing the face of a very angry Kazanari Fudou.

"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS, GENJURO?!" He screamed, slamming his fist onto his table on the other end. Several bridge members flinched at the sudden noise. "How will you explain this humiliation?! You have done nothing but fail constantly!"

The mentioned commander steeled himself, keeping calm in the face of his father's outburst. "We are facing more difficulties than we could have expected. This is a field we are not familiar with, so we can't just-"

"You said that the moment you have information you will pass it on to me. I did not receive an update even after your battle in the school grounds ended. It is your duty to keep me informed, Genjuro! Do not think that you are allowed to overstep your boundaries!"

"Sir, with all due respect, I did not-"

"Furthermore, your subordinates have failed in taking down the enemy as they should have, and they have returned empty handed and injured as well! Are they so incompetent that they cannot take down a single opponent despite the power they were constantly granted?!" Fudou yelled, making sure his complaints and superiority were on full display here.

Genjuro narrowed his eyes. If there was one thing that Fudou could have done to cause his anger to rise, it was insulting the girls. But he couldn't allow it to show on his face or in his speech in any manner. It would be the exact reaction that Fudou was trying to get out of him.

"The problem lies not in their own abilities, but with the enemy's," Genjuro said, biting back his frustration at having to refer to Hibiki as such. "The problem is that she is just too strong. I was not lying when I said we are dealing with something we have absolutely no experience in. She has abilities that defy reason and as a result makes it very difficult to form an effective plan of action against her."

Fudou slammed his fist onto his table again. "That is nothing but an excuse! Do you really believe those foreigners will accept such a thing?! They've already attempted to drop their bomb once, what makes you believe they won't try to do so again?! Do you want the country to burn, Genjuro?!"

"Of course I don't!" Genjuro answered, his tone slightly more elevated. He rose from his chair and stared the head of the Kazanari agency straight in the eyes. "But everyone saw how that bomb had absolutely no effect. Even if they drop thousands of them and erase the country from the face of the map, that does not guarantee it will succeed in taking her down! She cannot be defeated by conventional means, and that includes nuclear bombs AND Symphogear!"

Fudou grit his teeth in fury. "And that is why you should have handed over the girl when I ordered you to! Had you simply done as you were told, we wouldn't be in this crisis! This entire incident is on your shoulders, Genjuro! How do you plan to answer for that?"

Ah, of course. The regular 'This is your fault' routine. How many times has he heard that in the past? It was easy for Fudou to blame him for everything, although not without good reason. Despite his unlikability, the Kazanari head was no fool. If Fudou said that you messed up, you really messed up. And Genjuro already knew this whole thing was on his shoulders.

But that was the one thing he wouldn't budge on, no matter what his father says. "I already told you why I couldn't hand her over and I will not change my mind on the subject."

"Do not think you can fool me, Genjuro! I can read you like an open book. You plan on using her anyway now that you have run out of options, don't you?" Fudou said in a surprising moment of calmness.

Genjuro grit his teeth in frustration, working hard to make sure his shock was not shown.

'Shit, he figured that out already?' Genjuro thought through his clenched teeth. This was bad. He wanted to hide this fact from him. Even if tried to deny it, Fudou will see right through him.

"In that case, Genjuro, do as you will...for now," Fudou suddenly announced, forcing the entire bridge to stare at him in shock. What was this sudden change of heart? No, he couldn't. He was planning to- "But make no mistake, once this incident is resolved, you will hand them both over to me. That is an order. Should you fail to obey, I cannot guarantee the safety of your subordinates...or their families."

A sudden rush of fear and anxiety swept through every single person on the bridge, their horror openly expressed. Several shivered in place at his threat, and refused to look at his face any further. "Take that into consideration. Until then, you will provide me with the information I desire. Is that understood?"

Genjuro put his hands to his sides and bowed formally. "Yes."

Fudou humphed one last time, and then the connection cut, restoring the screen. Genjuro raised himself back to normal position, stared hard at the display, and let out the one word fitting to convey his thoughts.

"Shit."

A very uncomfortable silence fell on the bridge as the crew members wondered about Fudou's warning. Despite their lack of formal contact with him, they knew he was not playing around. His influence in the country and the cabinet was well known to them, and they knew that if he desired he could have them all charged with treason, then arrested, and then finally executed. And after that, their families would follow. That was the old traditional method of discipline that Fudou favoured, despite the fact that modern laws prohibited much of that.

It just didn't matter with him. He could just have them all assassinated and declare it as a work accident, and nobody in the court would believe them if they tried to persecute him. His pull in the government was far too strong and far too deep to just ignore.

And that made the situation all the more difficult.

Not only that, Fudou made Genjuro's plan clear as day to all of his subordinates, so any element of surprise he had was now lost. With more people in on the secret, it would be harder to keep it from the one person who should not know about it: Hibiki. If she ever found out what he was planning before they were ready, nothing would stop her from coming to HQ personally and blowing them all up to smithereens.

As the commander was contemplating his next move, something caught his hearing. It was a rising sound, as if someone was breathing out of their nose and huffing constantly.

Then, the sound rose, and he could start hearing chuckling. That sound caught the attention of everyone else on the bridge, and they looked around to find the source.

It wasn't very difficult to locate.

Adam, having remained exactly where he was the entire time, was desperately trying to hold back his laughter. The crew members looked at him with eyes wide and stared at him hard, yet he ignored their appalled gazes and simply continued chuckling to himself.

And then he just let it all go, and let out a full blown laughter that echoed throughout the bridge. He laughed and laughed and laughed, and nobody seemed to dare to try and stop him. So shocked were they by the fact that he found their situation so amusing that they were frozen in place, unable to move.

He laughed. And laughed. And laughed.

An eternity seemed to pass by the time his maddened cackling lowered, and he finally began to form coherent words. "This is far too priceless! To think...To think such a man could exist in the present world! I have not seen or heard something so amusing in centuries!"

Genjuro sent him a piercing glare, but Adam simply ignored it. "A true oppressor in the modern age! And to think you fools are actually terrified! What an absolute farce! I cannot believe that Fine and Carol Dienheim lost to the likes of you!"

His derisive laughter continued, and the bridge members cringed at the stinging words.

But Genjuro was far, far from amused. "So I see you think this is funny."

"Of course it is!" The head of the Illuminati answered. "You have the power of the old world at the palm of your hand, and yet you cower in fear before this nobody. Please, even a school child would know to not take him seriously. His empty threats are only to be ignored, nothing more than that."

"You don't seem to be very knowledge about what kind of influence he holds in this country. He was not making his threats lightly. He can and will have us all killed if we dare cross him, as much as I loathe to admit it."

"And what of it?" Adam asked. "Need I remind you that you are the one who holds the reigns for those girls, not him? It would be quite easy for you to just let them loose on him and his supporters and get rid of what you declare is a problem."

"That is not something I can do," Genjuro responded. "Don't get me wrong, I did think about it in the past-"

"Good."

"-but that would only backfire on us. I can't brute force my way through this problem, not this time. I do appreciate your concern but I'll have to pass on that. Right now, we have a much bigger problem we have to deal with. There would be no point plotting his downfall if Hibiki-kun wipes us all out before that." Genjuro said with a slight smirk. A moment later his expression changed to one of deep thought, contemplating on his next course of action.

"Well then, it would be prudent to thoroughly investigate that arm we managed to obtain, is it not? As I told you, it holds the key to holding her back, or at the very least, her quite fascinating creations. I am quite sure it will extend the Symphogears' lifespan by a significant margin." Adam commented, reminding Genjuro of the very interesting find they had.

Yes, that arm. Following the battle in the school, all of the Adaptors along with Saint-Germain and Miku were airlifted back to headquarters for treatment. Several teams however remained behind to secure the area, making sure that no one had accidentally been caught in the fighting. As they were making their rounds, they found something extremely peculiar: a severed arm from one of the beasts. For some reason, that arm did not disappear along with its owner, and had somehow survived the intense fighting and had been overlooked by Hibiki completely.

Almost immediately they placed it into a safe container and shipped it off to headquarters, and it was currently residing in Elfnein's lab. To Genjuro's surprise, when the arm was delivered to her lab she had declared that she had finished ALL of the necessary adjustments and upgrades for the Shenshoujing, a fact that he appreciated. With this, they could focus on studying the arm. However, the reason to do so eluded him for the first few hours, but then Adam Weishaupt claimed something incredibly ridiculous:

That the arm could be used for their benefit. How? They had no idea, but that was exactly what Elfnein was investigating.

Genjuro had to commend the homunculus for her hard and invaluable work. From the day she had joined them, she has done nothing but benefit them and help them as much as she could, and she would work day and night while forgoing sleep and hunger in order to give them the best possible results. She had delivered the Ignite Module and the Fool's Stone upgrades, both of which helped the wielders gain the upper hand against their opponents.

She was also the one who had come up with the original calculations and predictions as to how Hibiki would turn out once the cocoon would hatch, and how exactly they would tackle it and get her back. The very fact that not only did her predictions fail, but the eventual result was way beyond what any of them could have imagined. It was a hard blow to her pride both as a scientist and an alchemist, and since then she had done nothing but try her hardest to give true, undeniably real results.

She is a genius stuck in the body of a small, insecure child, yet when push comes to shove she has the courage to pull off anything. She did not flinch at all when Chris grabbed her by the collar the first time she introduced the Ignite Module and announced they would be tapping into the berserk state. She stood against Carol even finding out she was an unwitting mole, and had continued to help them without any expected rewards.

And Genjuro knew that the very reason she joined them in the first place was because of the girls. 'I just can't measure up.' He told himself. They may gather under him, but in the end these girls were the ones who are the pride and joy of the section, and the entire reason for its existence. Without them, the country and the world would no longer exist.

He had taken them completely for granted, especially Hibiki-kun.

And now he found himself in an inescapable dilemma and that for the first time in a very long time, he was at his wits' end. His only use now was to serve as command for them...and hope they could do what he could not.

"Why do you think that arm will be useful?" Genjuro asked Adam, who continued watching the earlier clip he had paused.

"The god-slaying power, if nothing else." Adam answered nonchalantly.

That answer was enough for Genjuro to slam his hands on his console, jolting everyone from their deep concentration and fear. They all turned to look at him in surprise, as his reaction came completely out of left-field.

"The god-slaying power?! Are you mad?!"

"I am not," Adam said calmly. "What do you think those beasts were made of?" He asked Genjuro, waiting to see if he knew the correct answer.

"From what we gathered, a combination of her blood and those curses. Our reading on them showed a deep concentration of them at their core and branching out to the form of a human." Genjuro answered from memory.

"You are correct, but not completely. Those beasts are indeed composed of her blood, and are indeed essentially the curses given form...but that is not all. For you see, in their core lies an abundance of divine power. It is through that from which they are formed, and that power does not reside in the arm any longer." Adam explained, motioning for the man helping him to bring up the initial scans and images of the arm. "Meaning it is just a cluster of curses right now. Nothing but pure god-slaying power given form. That could be very useful, don't you think?"

But Genjuro merely narrowed his eyes, not completely convinced. "You want to expose the wielders to this thing without the proper means to control it? We don't know what kind of effect it will have now that it's out in the open. Trying to incorporate it into the gears might have them all give into madness, and then our hope will be lost. And nothing says Hibiki-kun won't just be able to take it from them the moment she sees them."

"See, that's where you are wrong," Adam corrected him. "Those curses seek only to destroy one thing: any and all semblances of divine power. With their intended opponents pretty much composed of it, its effectiveness will be unmatched. Of course, with the divine power apparently disappearing from Tachibana Hibiki, it is safe to assume that her beasts will eventually be rid of it as well. But I believe as a start it will be enough. Enough to put your special plan into action."

The special plan...Genjuro grimaced. How many times did he feel that he lacked control over the situation? Way too many, that's for sure. It really came down to just her, didn't it. "We'll think it over and see what we can do. Right now, with all of the wielders injured they are not going to be fighting anything."

"Well then, I guess you should hurry," Adam said. "Never know when she'll show up again. I do hope quite soon. It will be boring otherwise."

-!-

Maria wiped her brow with her sleeve after putting Miku down on the bed in their shared quarters. The girl had cried herself to sleep, and the four of them had watched her and stayed with her the entire time. So exhausted was she that she did not stir at all the entire time Maria carried her. The elder was mildly surprised by how light she was.

She covered Miku up with the blanket and switched off the lamp, basking the room in comfortable darkness. Maria could feel the exhaustion creeping up on her as well, but she couldn't allow herself to sleep just yet. She first had to make sure that Chris, Kirika, and Shirabe went getting tucked in and resting as well. It wouldn't do if she fell asleep and then discovered that one of them did not.

She looked at Miku's sleeping face, watching her breath out and in slowly now that she calmed down a bit. The scene in the cafeteria was one of the more heartbreaking moments she had ever seen in her life, and being a significant part of it only made her all the more emotional. It took all of her willpower to not start crying as well, something that both Chris and Kirika failed in doing.

There was no blaming them. It wasn't just Miku who felt helpless and powerless in the face of such overwhelming despair. It was also time for them to finally understand what kind of situation they found themselves in, and it didn't surprise Maria that they got emotional and distressed quickly.

That was why she was adamant about getting some sleep. Sleep helps a muddled mind relax and restart, and upon waking up they'll be feeling much better and have a far clearer outlook on current events.

At least, that's what she hoped. The users might be able to regain their bearings, but Miku was most definitely not, not any time soon. Her love ran deep, and as such she was the one most affected by this change.

Yet Maria knew...she just knew...that Miku would be the one to bring salvation. How she didn't know, but she just had a feeling. Like it was a primal, animalistic instinct that screamed at her that she must do all she can to support her, and that's how everything will work out in the end.

Realizing she had wondered off, Maria shook her head and turned back to the door, leaving the quarters behind. The door closed behind her, and she leaned on the nearest wall and sighed.

No, she had to stay strong. Every moment that she was worried about herself she could be worried about the others.

"Maria?" She heard a soft, reluctant voice ask.

She lifted her head up, and spotted Kirika, in her pajamas, peering around the corner. "Kirika? What's wrong? You should be sleeping."

The Ig-Alima user turned her her to the side sheepishly. "I...couldn't fall asleep. Maybe it's because it's...not really bedtime yet? But I dunno. Shirabe was sleeping and it was kind of cold and.."

Maria blinked a few times, and let out an amused sigh. She walked up to Kirika and held her hand. "Come on, let's go back to bed."

Blushing lightly, Kirika nodded and went quiet, following after her elder.

A few moments later, the two of them entered Kirika and Shirabe's shared quarters. Leading the girl to her bed, Maria took over and tucked her in, covering her up all the way to her neck. "I'll stay with you until you fall asleep, okay?" She said, listening with one ear to Shirabe's soft breaths. Good, she was in a deep sleep right now. She didn't want to wake her up by accident.

Kirika nodded, which Maria found very cute while she was covered up by the blanket. But then, a small slender hand peeked from under it. Maria noticed it, gave Kirika a small smile, then took the offered hand in her own.

"It's been a while since I've done this for you, hasn't it?" She said softly. "You've always slept with Shirabe, but whenever you were feeling sad and distressed you always came to me. I guess old habits die hard, right?"

"Yes…" Kirika responded. "I just...couldn't stop thinking about Hibiki-san...and Miku-san. I still can't believe everything that happened. It just...doesn't feel real, y'know? I wish I could go to sleep, wake up, and everything will be fine."

Maria gripped her hand tightly as she kept on speaking. "But I know that's not how it works. I know I'm naive, but I'm not delusional. I just...want everything to go back to normal. Why can't we just have that?"

The elder rubbed the back of her Kirika's hand, and she could see tear begin to swell up in her eyes again. 'She really is too emotional sometimes.' She told herself, but figured such a thing will never change. That's just how Kirika was; she got emotionally invested in the things she cared about, which leads to these sort of episodes.

Maria wouldn't exchange it for anything in the world.

"I agree, Kirika. But things won't go back to normal just because we wish for it," Maria said solemnly. "The only way to do so will be to take it back with our own hands."

"But we couldn't do anything! Everything we tried to do ended up in failu-"

"Shhhhh…." Maria whispered, putting a finger on her lips to quiet her down. Her voice rose a bit too much and it might wake Shirabe up. She looked behind her, seeing the mentioned girl stir slightly, but otherwise remain unaffected.

Kirika put her free hand on her mouth to stop any more noise escaping, and Maria smiled. "It's just like I told Miku-san. Please, don't lose hope. I know things look bleak and dark, but we can't allow ourselves to fall into despair. So long as we stay strong, I know we can overcome any obstacle. Even one as great as this."

The blonde petite girl thought for a moment. "Do you really believe Miku-san will be the one to bring her back?" She asked, curious.

"I don't believe so," Maria answered confidently. "I know so. She knows her better than any of us do, and she is the only one among us Hibiki is not willing to risk losing. I am more than certain that Miku-san's feelings are reciprocated. It's up to us to give her the opportunity to confess them."

Kirika gave her a wide grin. "And the power of love trumps all evil!" She exclaimed, but quietly this time.

The elder couldn't help but let out a small laugh. "Yes, the power of love does indeed defeat all evils, so I know someone like Miku-san will be able to it. Love like hers is hard to come by."

"Hey! Shirabe and I love each other a lot too! We won't be outdone!" Kirika said excitedly, her previous downed mood all but forgotten.

"Fufu," Maria let out involuntarily at Kirika's adorable boast. "I don't doubt that. But right now it's our duty and responsibility to help a friend that is hurting. It will be best to just focus on that."

"Hmm...I guess you're right." Kirika agreed, and fell silent. Maria was like a mom all the time, making sure they were alright as if they were her own children. She is not that much older than them, yet she still acts while considering the two of them before anything else. She held unyielding and a forever strong motherly love towards them.

Which then brought an interesting question to her mind, one which she felt she had to ask. "Hey Maria, I have a question."

Maria tilted her held. "Yes?"

"I have to ask…"

"Hm?"

"Do you...also have someone you love like that?"

Maria's eyes widened in response to the strange and surprising question. It came so out of nowhere that it took her a moment to process the fact that Kirika asked it.

And then a flash of blue passed through her mind, and instantly her face reddened to the point she had to hide her blush with her free hand. She tilted her head down at the intrusive thoughts.

Kirika grinned triumphantly, happy she managed to catch the usually calm Maria off guard. "Maria," She prodded on. "Your face is as red as the tomatoes the nice old lady gave us."

The elder removed her hand and pouted, her face still flush. Then, she grabbed the blanket with both hands and pulled it over Kirika's grinning face, making sure she couldn't see her face anymore.

She couldn't believe she fell for that. It was such a dirty move, asking something like that of her. Especially since it garnered the reaction Kirika had been hoping for.

It wasn't like Maria hadn't thought about such things. She was a person as much as the rest of them, and she was prone to her own fantasizing and imagination as well. But love? As in the feeling of desiring someone else and all of its implications? No way. No way she could allow herself to-

Silky blue hair fluttering in the wind.

She shook her head at the scandalous thought. She could never admit it. Never ever ever ever ever ever ever. It was bad enough to have these thoughts run through her head, but to actually try and act on them? No way. She couldn't be like Kirika and Shirabe, or Miku and Hibiki. No way. She had to think about other things. There were more important things to worry about.

Her grip on the blanket loosened, and her blush receded somewhat. Kirika looked up at her with a curious smile. "Did...did I say something wrong?"

"No, you just...caught me by surprise is all. As to answer your question...hmm…"

She tapped her lips with her finger.

"That's a secret."

Kirika pouted in response. "Hey, that's not fair! I want to know about Maria's love too!"

"Well, maybe one day, but right now we have more important things to worry about, like you getting some rest." Maria responded, slightly chiding her junior.

Kirika pursed her lips. "Alright alright, fine." She said while smiling.

Maria sent her a smile back, and tucked her in once again. "Good night Kirika, sleep well." She said, and reached over and gave her a peck on the forehead. Kirika giggled in response.

"Yes, good night Maria. You sleep well too."

And with that said, Maria left the girl's room.

Making a beeline for one exact location.

It took her about a minute of walking, but eventually she reached her destination: the medical room. She entered, treading quietly as she noticed that Saint-Germain was fast asleep in the bed closest to the door.

But it was not her she was here for.

She passed by the alchemist's bed, silently grabbing the one chair that still remained by Genjuro's former bed, and placed it beside the encased pod shaped bed at the far corner of the room. She sat down, and took a good look at the figure resting within it.

The figure of Kazanari Tsubasa, who has remained in stasis since the previous night.

Maria, for her part, could not believe how lonely she felt without the sentinel's constant presence around her. She knew for a fact that the blue flash she had seen in her mind after Kirika's question undoubtedly belonged to her. She was no fool, she knew exactly what that meant.

But she knew that nothing would come out of it. She was content as she was, simply being able to be together with everyone. Ever since Mom died, Maria had felt like a fish out of water, being forced to act as an idol to keep up a charade while also having her duties as a Symphogear user. Yet eventually she found that she was starting to enjoy it, being able to take up Kanade's place next to Tsubasa.

Yes, take up. Maria knew that that everything she has...initially belonged to someone else. Airgetlam belonged to Serena. Her job as Tsubasa's partner belonged to Kanade. A vast majority of her techniques and abilities...were simply copied from others. So many of the things that she held dear to her, that she felt were precious, were simply leftovers from other people. She knew it was a very pessimistic way of looking at it, but she couldn't help it. Her life as an incessant worry-wart only strengthened these kind of feelings without her consent, and she found it difficult to steer away from them.

Except one thing. She knew the feeling she has, directed at the blue haired girl that declared herself a blade, was her own. It was the one thing that was truly hers, belonged to her, and would remain hers forever.

And that is why she would do nothing. She was content in having, in relishing in that feeling. She knew that if anything in that dynamic change, that feeling might also change. That what she holds precious might once again...slip through her fingers.

She couldn't allow that. There was no way she could allow that.

Maria leaned her head against the pod, appreciating the cool feeling coming off the glass. She closed her eyes and let her mind wander. She had a few things to say to the girl. It was best to keep her updated on what's been going on.

"Hey Tsubasa," She said, her eyes still closed. "I don't know if you can hear me, but a lot has been going on lately. I thought you'd want to know."

No response came from the unconscious blue haired figure within.

She didn't expect any. Well, as they say, the best way to confront your problems is to talk about them.

"Well, after you blacked out, things went south very quickly…"

-!-

Elfnein had completely lost track of time, and for good reason. Doing maintenance on six Symphogear pendants was always a long process, even if it was a simple one. The four users had handed them over to her for the checkup after the battle, and now even the Lapis that belonged to Saint-Germain rested next to the rest, its heart shape a sharp contrast from the cylinders that were the Symphogear pendants.

It almost made her forget that one of these pendants was not like the others. Her face fell as she realized that in place of the Gungnir, now rested the Shenshoujing. A Gear that should not have seen the light of day was now going to become a part, and if she was not wrong, the very center of their force.

The divine spear was gone, replaced by a simple ancient mirror.

Yet that mirror did not reflect despair and evil like the last time it was used. No, this time it reflected hope, and strength, and camaraderie. This time, it would be truly used for the sake of the world.

At least, that's what she hoped.

She had finished her work on the Gears and the Lapis earlier in the day, freeing up her time to study the pitch black arm that rested within the glass container before her. It was a nasty thing to look at, but Elfnein knew exactly what she expected of it. The minds of alchemists work very similarly in their approach to the world, so it was no surprise she came to the same hypothesis Adam did.

He just didn't have the skills...or the limbs to do anything about it.

Various readings popped up on her terminal as she prodded, turned over, and chipped away at the arm. She was slightly afraid it might come to life all of a sudden and jump out at her from the container, but so far it seemed dormant.

Well, might as well take advantage of that.

She took out a very small piece of the darkness with her tweezers, somehow surprised it was not breaking apart or turning into smoke by the slightest touch. She placed it carefully onto the scale, measuring its weight. To her surprise, it was heavier than expected for such a tiny piece. Over 500 grams for a piece as small as a diamond on a ring. That was quite peculiar.

Several bleeps came from her terminal as the computer scanned the piece. The homunculus went over to it to see the results.

And her face beamed as she read them.

"This...this is it!"

It seemed fate shone a light on them after all.

She pressed the comm button, connecting her to Genjuro's terminal.

"Genjuro-san!" She exclaimed in happiness. "Great success!"

Chapter Text

The full moon shone above, its light illuminating the room.

It was a quiet, mysterious night, one that gave Miku goosebumps for reasons she could not understand. Today, just like many days before, she was alone in her bed, seeking the warmth that she had so gotten used to. But the source of it was missing, gone to whatever place it had been sent to. A place she did not know, and did not know if it would come back from.

Those were the feelings she had kept secret, hidden underneath layers of confidence and trust. She couldn't help it. It was natural of her to worry, to wonder when and if that warmth would ever return again.

But she was used to it by now. Today, just like many days before, she would fall asleep, and wake up to see the warmth beside her, then rouse it, telling it they are going to be late if they don't wake up.

That was the usual yet unnatural routine that had been introduced into their lives.

Seeing that nothing was going to change this time, MIku closed her eyes, trying to fall asleep.

Until the door clicked open, and a familiar sound of footsteps began to ring through the room.

Miku's heart raced, facing the wall. It was an infrequent occurrence that she would still be awake when the warmth came back, and now she was excited. Ecstatic even. There was no way she was going to sleep now.

She could hear her heartbeat in her ears as the steps walked into the room proper, only to stop by the ladder that led to the upper bunk. Then, the sound changed as it began to climb, and Miku had to fight her desire to turn around and greet it. It wouldn't do to make the warmth worry, so she had to pretend she was asleep until it too succumbed to Morpheus' embrace.

Eventually she heard the sound of climbing stop...and then she could feel the gaze on her back. She swallowed, half nervous half excited now, waiting to see if it noticed she was awake-

"Miku."

Instantly all of her thought processes seized at hearing the warmth call her name. She could feel her body burn up and her cheeks flush just from hearing it call her name in such a soft, gentle manner. Like a warm embrace that held her tight, like she was being carried by a shining knight.

"You're awake, right Miku?" it asked.

Ah, it seems she was noticed after all. She turned around, and her eyes fell upon those warm, gentle orbs.  Not an alien, shining emerald,  but a deep amber that she found herself drowning in every time she laid her own eyes upon them. Oh just looking at those eyes entranced her completely, her body paralyzed just by their presence.

"Yes." She answered, her mind floating.

The warmth smiled. It rose all the way up into the bed and lay on its side, one arm supporting its head as it looked at her fondly.

"I'm sorry I made you worry, Miku. But it's alright now. I'm here. I'm not leaving your side again." It said, and Miku could feel her heart skip a beat at its declaration. Oh why was it able to capture her heart so, to make it soar just with its words? It was not fair. How could it make her love it so much she couldn't stand it.

But the warmth had a name. A name she could never bring herself to forget.

"Hibiki…" She uttered, still fixated on those amber orbs.

Hibiki's smile grew, and in a single, swift motion, placed her arms around Miku and drew her into a tight embrace.

The black haired girl felt as if she could die on the spot, not believing her fantasies were coming true. To be held like this by the one she loved was happiness beyond description, one that could not be conveyed with simple words. Her body felt like it was on fire, and she was sure Hibiki would notice. It was as if they were affected by a magic spell, falling into a trance of serene quiet and affection.

An eternity passed, and Miku could feel her mind swim in clear, warm waters that engulfed her completely. Her head was pressed to Hibiki's chest, and with her ear against her ribcage, she could hear her warmth's heart beat as one with her own. Half excited, half nervous.

And then she drew a sharp intake of breath as a warm hand slithered underneath her clothes, tenderly rising and lowering over her bare back. Her mind was filled with colors and warmth she could not explain, and as the hand continued going back and forth, she rubbed her legs together, feeling a very undignified hotness gathering between them.

No, that was naughty. She couldn't let that happen now. She had dreamt and imagined such a scenario in the past, but to experience it in reality was simply out of this world.

"Oh Hibiki…" She sighed, her voice coming out in a manner she only heard whenever she was on her own. A voice unheard by anyone else, and one she wanted only one person to hear.

Hibiki's hand continued exploring her, causing her back to arch involuntarily as she felt herself succumbing to the colors. Her eyes closed, letting her desires drive her forward. "Take me…"

Her face was now up against Hibiki's own, and she could feel it coming closer with every moment. First she felt their foreheads press together, and her own breathing quickened in anticipation and impatience.

Slowly, Hibiki moved her head down, and Miku felt a hot breath on her nose.

It was so close. Was she teasing her? That was just mean. She couldn't take it a second more.

Then, finally, she could feel their breaths mingle, their lips barely an inch from each other. Hibiki came in closer, their bottom lips touchin-

A black hole erupted in the very center of the room, bringing with it a storm of chaos and ruin. Instantly Miku was jolted awake, watching in horror as the contents of their shared home were tossed about in every direction in the raging winds that it had brought with it.

Hibiki was with her back to the tear in reality, and Miku stared her straight in the eyes, fear creeping up into her being every second. The chestnut haired girl did not turn around to face the storm, and only kept on gazing back at her with a smile on her face, as if she was disregarding the destruction happening behind her back.

Miku's confused and worried look did not phase her in the slightest, and her smile only widened.

And then a horrified scream got caught in her throat as she watched with wide and horrified eyes Hibiki being torn apart by the severe gravitational forces of the black hole behind her.

First her skin was peeled off of her frame, revealing the muscles beneath.

Her smile did not waver.

Then, the muscles were ripped apart, and a sea of blood followed after them, leaving behind nothing but a shining white skeleton.

Her smile did not waver.

And finally, the last vestiges of Hibiki were drawn into the black hole, disappearing into an endless abyss. It grew in size and strength, and the entire world around her shook and quaked.

There was nowhere for her to run. There was only staying exactly where she was and await the end that comes.

The black hole grew and intensified with each second that passed, until its sheer size began to consume even the bed she still lay in. She backed up against the wall as much as she could, but there was no escaping it. She tried to close her eyes, but found that they wouldn't, refusing to obey her commands in order to avoid seeing her own violent end.

She could not move. She could not blink.  She could not escape.

Only one word left her lips before she was consumed.

"Hibiki…"

And then, darkness.

-!-

Miku woke up panting, staring at an unfamiliar ceiling.

She threw the blanket off of herself, tilted her head towards the ground and…

Proceeded to empty the entire contents of her stomach.

The digested remains of yesterday's dinner gushed out of her mouth in a waterfall. Tears and snot joined in on the flow, and both her throat and stomach burned as she continued to puke uncontrollably. Her mind and body felt as heavy as iron, and just trying to breath felt like an impossible task.

She didn't know just how long she had been vomiting, but eventually to her relief it stopped, leaving a nasty mess on the floor next to her bed. Was blood mixed in there as well? She didn't know. Her mind was so muddled and swirling she didn't know the difference between it and the tomato sauce. She took hackneyed breaths, letting out painful coughs in between. Her mouth tasted like bile and ground beef, a combination only worse than the smell of blue cheese in her opinion.

'When was the last time this happened?' She asked herself, unable to recall if there was ever a such a circumstance. Maybe when she started getting her periods and she was unused to it, and the pain was so overwhelming she couldn't handle it. But that was a long time ago, and by now it almost went unnoticed.

She recalled the dream that led to this in vivid detail. The first part of it, the part she usually liked, was nothing new to her. Those dreams came to her sometimes, and at first they embarrassed her so greatly she couldn't look at Hibiki's face the entire morning after, eliciting a confused reaction from her roommate. In time she got used to it, and realized she should just let it happen.

The second part however was new. Never before had a black hole suddenly appeared in her dreams and swallowed everything up in its darkness. Just the sight of seeing Hibiki like that was enough to-

She quickly put a hand over her mouth as she felt bile rise again, desperately trying to push it back. Realizing she couldn't hold it in, she removed her hand and once again puked, emptying all the little that remained in her stomach.

Once it was over, she took deep breaths, trying to calm her rapidly beating heart. Everything hurt and everything was not okay, and that terrified her.

KNOCK KNOCK

"Miku-san? It's Shirabe. Is everything okay?"

Miku slowly turned her head towards the door upon hearing Shirabe's voice. "I came to see if everything is alright. Can I come in?" The underclassmen asked, her voice muffled slightly by the steel door.

Miku didn't want to let her in. She didn't want her to see her in such a miserable state, barely five minutes after it happened. The nasty stench of stomach acid creeped up her nose, and she realized the entire room probably stank of it as well. But she couldn't bring herself to talk. Just breathing was difficult, so forming words was nothing short of impossible.

A silent minute passed, and Shirabe once again spoke up. "Miku-san, I'm coming in."

There was a sound of a click, and the door slid open.

"Please pardon me for my intrusio- Miku-san?!"

The twin-tailed girl immediately ran to Miku upon seeing the vomit on the floor, carefully avoiding the mess. "Miku-san, are you alright?! Are you feeling sick?!" Shirabe asked worriedly.

'Damn.' Miku thought. So much for not letting her in. "I'm...fine," She said weakly. "I just...sorry for the mess. I'll get right on cleaning it up."

Shirabe shook her head forcefully. She wanted to ask a few more questions, but knew that Miku would not appreciate it right now. "No, don't worry about it. I'll take care of it. You should go clean yourself up, okay? Maybe take a shower. It might make you feel better."

Miku opened her mouth to argue, but realized there was no argument to make. She sighed in defeat. "Okay...I will. But I don't have a change of clothes here."

"Don't worry, I'll take care of that too. You just take care of yourself, alright?" Shirabe said, almost begging. "Please."

Miku's eyes widened for a moment. She hung her head, and carefully left the bed as to not step on any of the mess. She reached the door and looked behind her to Shirabe, who already went to the closest closet to retrieve some cleaning equipment.

There was no reason for her to stay any longer. She should just do as her underclassman said. She has been unwell for a few days now, both physically and mentally. The first step towards cleaning your mind was first cleaning your body, she recalled.

With a click, the door slid open and Miku stepped outside, leaving Shirabe alone in the room. She felt her stomach still churn painfully because of earlier, and it was making walking a bit more difficult. She looked left and right, vaguely recalling where the showers were. She's only ever used them once before, so her memory was kind of blurry.

And so, she began the trek that felt endless. Completely alone in the early morning hallways, the cool atmosphere of the submarine's steel felt suffocating. It did not help her already feeling weak and tired, and halfway through her walk she had to put a hand on the wall for support. A simple, less than a minute walk became akin to climbing a mountain, especially for her. She was supposed to be the epitome of endurance and stamina, having had track and field experience for years. She used to be independent, caring nothing but for her own victory, seeing everyone else as rivals for her glory. Others did not matter in the least, and neither did their feelings.

And then Hibiki showed her that despite the fact that she, who had more reason to be angry, bitter, and sad than anyone else still worked tirelessly to help others. Nothing Miku ever went through could compare to what Hibiki had suffered, and yet she could somehow still keep her head up and could still care about others. From then on, Miku changed her mindset. How ironic that Hibiki, the one who needed more support than anyone else, would end up the one who would cause the previously fiercely competitive Miku to start caring for others.

Such a change in herself would have never have happened had Hibiki not changed herself. The aftermath of the disastrous Zwei Wing concert was something she could never forget. She vividly remembered hearing about it while on the road to visit her aunt, and how her heart sank when Hibiki did not answer her phone. How they turned back and headed to Hibiki's home, and together with her family went to the hospital. She could never forget her own grief and horrified expression upon seeing the barely-alive Hibiki lying on the hospital bed unconscious, her chest still bandaged from the surgery to remove the metal pieces lodged in it, and how the doctors said they could not remove the ones in her heart because of how dangerous it was.

Yes, that was the moment everything changed. Their lives as they led them were over, and were taken over by a bleak reality they did not want to face. People they once called friends turned their backs on her, society itself ostracized her, and even her own father abandoned her.

After all that, it was only logical that Hibiki would be the one that was weak.

Yet, she wasn't. In fact, she grew even stronger than ever, and Miku had never seen so much life in her eyes. Ever since Hibiki had taken up the Symphogear, she smiled and laughed like never before.

And no matter how much Miku hated the Symphogear for taking her away, she could not deny her the happiness that had been stolen from her for two long years.

'Why am I thinking about this now?' She wondered to herself. Was she so weak she was becoming delirious? Did she throw up her sanity along with the food? No, she had to stay focus on what's ahead. Hibiki wouldn't let such a thing stop her, so she shouldn't either.

MIku swallowed and pushed as much strength as she could to her legs. She's just going to take a shower, nothing more than that. It's a very simple thing to do.

Somehow her legs had taken her all the way while she was lost in thought, and soon enough the black haired girl found herself right where she wanted to be. She entered the girl's showers and threw her clothes off, not even bothering to put them in the basket. She entered the showers proper and turned on the water, shivering slightly as the cold stream washed over her. She coughed a bit more, allowing the last chunks of the puke to trinkle down to the floor and be washed away, along with the dirt and dust and blood that coated her whole being.

Shirabe wasn't kidding when she said she'll feel better once she cleaned herself up. Just watching the swirling mix of foreign materials disappear into the drain was soothing in more ways than one. Her body felt lighter already, and she could finally stand up straight, raising her head towards the shower head above. She closed her eyes and allowed the water to flow over her, letting her mind wander once more. She needed to be focused, and not become a crumbling mess again. She didn't like being pitied, even if she knew that the others were doing their best to support and comfort her during these trying times.

But no matter what she did, her mind always led back to one thing: Hibiki. It was difficult not to think about her. It was difficult to not feel the pain she must be going through at the moment, even if she didn't know to what extent. She imagined it was as if Hibiki was held down by thousands of shadowy figures, all screaming and begging and cursing for salvation, for vengeance, for death. To have their grudges fulfilled, and to lay waste to the world by the hand of their hatred.

And she imagined how their endless cursing started affecting Hibiki herself, slowly becoming part of that faceless shadowy mass. Just thinking about it made her heart clench tightly, and she leaned forward, putting her hands on the wall and her head downcast.

Miku began to reminisce of past times. Of the days before the concert, and everything leading up to it. But more particularly, everything that had happened right after it.

And the time the secret feeling in her heart blossomed, and how she had dealt with it. In retrospect, she realized that even before the concert, something was bubbling underneath the surface. A glance here and a glance there in Hibiki's direction, thinking about her more than usual.

Yeah, the foundation was already there. She wasn't even sure of when it started. It just...began to happen. A slow, unexplainable process that picked up gas soon after the concert, and from then on bloomed completely. When she was taking care of Hibiki, she began to realize something was happening there. It wasn't because she looked pitiful, and it wasn't because she looked like she was about to cry and break.

It was because the moment she started to pick herself up and regain her confidence, she became incredibly beautiful. Like a shining diamond that had withstood the pressure of the earth to finally gain its shape and luster. It was brittle, yet it was so dazzling, and in that moment Miku knew exactly what had occured.

She had fallen in love with Hibiki.

And it was the biggest challenge she ever faced in her life.

Be it from her frustrating stubbornness and forgetfulness, or her initial attempts to hide her new occupation, Miku became an existence that was so wracked with worry she was sure she would go bald by the time she was thirty, just like her grandfather.

But she did not regret even a single minute of it. Every day was such a dream, and the warmth Hibiki brought with her was so addicting she could never have enough of it. She felt privileged to be the person who knows Hibiki the most, and the one she went to sleep with every night. She was there for her always, through thick and thin. Hibiki had always spoke so warmly about how she loved saving and helping others, and Miku had always cracked a smile at her enthusiasm,

And then out of nowhere she suddenly declares her intention to cleanse the world of the sinful, and go on and on about how she will get revenge on everyone who has ever harmed her. And what was the reason for that change? A bunch of hatreds and curses of people from a long time ago. Curses and grudges that are no longer relevant in the present world.

That was what took Hibiki from her? A whole bunch of restless spirits who just cannot let go of the past?

'What a load of bull.' She said to herself, clenching her hands and her teeth tightly. There was absolutely no way she could let this continue.

But what could she do? She was powerless. Her words no longer held any weight, and Hibiki was not just going to stop everything and come back. She made that abundantly clear yesterday.

She was going to have to bring her back by force, but how?

Miku suddenly jumped and she lost her focus when she heard the sound of rushing water start to her right. She raised her head to see long, cascading silver hair fluttering down, water rushing through it. A tall, lithe figure stood with her head raised upwards, her eyes closed, appreciating the warm water.

"St. Germain-san?" Miku said, baffled by the alchemist's sudden appearance.

The former enemy opened her eyes and looked to her. "Kohinata Miku. I apologize for surprising you." She said, having noticed Miku shock.

Miku's cheeks reddened slightly in response, and she waved her hands in front of her. "N-no, it's fine! I was just...lost in thought. I didn't expect anyone else to come in this early. And you can call me Miku if you want. It's easier, I think."

"I see. I shall do so," She replied. "I do not mean to pry, but I would like to ask what is it that so enraptured your mind?"

The question caught Miku off guard, leaving her momentarily silent. The girl studied the woman's body with her eyes, catching sight of several faded scars running along her sides and her back. She was curious as to what caused them, but brushed it off when she realized she was staring. She turned back to the wall, thinking about what Saint-Germain asked. "It's just...everything that happened recently. It's all so...overwhelming."

"I can understand," The alchemist said. "From what I gathered, you are the one who is closest to her, are you not?"

MIku answered her with a simple nod of her head. "In that case, let me ask you one thing," She added, making Miku turn back to her. "What do you intend to do now?"

The alchemist presented another question that left speechless and cause the gears in her head to whirl once again. "I think...I think I need to go back home first and...get some of my things. I...don't think I can stay there now that the school is in ruins."

"I see. And after that?"

"After that...I don't know. I don't know what it is I should do, or what it is I can do. Everything seems to be so...so much bigger than me, and even though I want to do something, I can't. It's frustrating." Miku said, grabbing her own arm tightly.

"I see," The alchemist said. "In that case, let me just say one thing that you should always remember:"

Miku looked up at her curiously, and she continued. "Always remember that you are fighting for the sake of reclaiming your happiness, not out of hatred. Do not fight out of vengeance. Fight in order to take back what is rightfully yours. It would be prudent of you to remember that."

The girl narrowed her eyes at the alchemist, not understanding where that came from. But, she knew that there was truth to her words, as little relevancy they had to her. "Alright...I'll remember."

"Good," Saint-Germain answered. "Now I have another question for you: when do you plan to head back home?"

And Miku was once again taken aback. 'I should really get a grip.'

"Ah, I was thinking maybe after the shower. I figured I should go there as soon as possible." She answered.

"I see. In that case, would you mind if I joined you?" The alchemist asked in an even voice. It was a simple question, nothing more than that. "There is something that interests me that I would like to see."

"A-Ah," Miku mumbled. "I guess...that would be okay."

"If it bothers you then I-"

"No, it's fine," Miku said quickly. "It's fine. You can come. I think it will be better if I have an escort, I guess. In case...something happens."

She let the rest of the sentence go unsaid. No need for more heartache and suffering this morning.

The two of them then finally went back to what they came here to do in the first place: shower. Miku rinsed herself off, having let the water soak her for a little too long. There was only generic shampoo to use, but it will have to do she figured.

Five minutes later, Miku finished her shower. It was the fastest she had ever done so, maybe because she had spent much longer than she planned in the shower thinking and speaking with Saint-Germain. The alchemist, interestingly, finished her own showering right after her despite her waterfall of a hair. Miku could never understand how people with long hair had the patience to deal with it every time in the shower and making sure it stayed clean every day. That was the reason she kept it short, and probably why Hibiki also. The two of them were just too impatient to spend hours on just cleaning hair.

Heading back to the clothes room, Miku was surprised to see that her discarded clothes were no longer on the floor, but rather folded up neatly in the laundry basket next to the door. What's more, there was now a basket with a pile of fresh clothes she had not seen before. She reached out and took it, and she tilted her head in confusion when she noticed it was a S.O.N.G uniform. Why would anyone give her such a thing?

It was then she noticed the small folded paper resting on top of the pile. She took it and unfolded it and began reading.

'These were the only clean clothes I could find for you. These belong to Hibiki-san. I'm sorry, Miku-san, if it was not my place to give these to you. Shirabe."

Oh.

'That explains a lot.' Miku realized. These belonged to her. And it was the only thing Shirabe had to give her. She didn't like the way she had presented it, as if it was a sort of memento. Hibiki was not dying, so why present it like that. It almost made her no want to wear it.

But still...It was the only clothes she could give her, and Miku wasn't going to walk around naked if she could help it.

She sighed, and Saint-Germain raised an eyebrow yet said nothing.

Miku then worked to dress herself in the uniform, and getting exactly what she expected from it: it was too big for her. While she and Hibiki were similar heights, the exact same if she remembered correctly, Hibiki was still the bustier of the two. She never held any real envy for those with a bigger bust, so it didn't bother her. She knew it was because Hibiki just ate more and so more went there, and she always loved her flustered expressions when she teased her about it. She was also more muscular than her, and all in all was more in shape due to all of the training and fighting she did, while Miku stopped running in track and field, focusing more on piano lately.

When she finally put on the uniform, she had to tighten the accompanying belt more so neither the pants or the shirt would be too loose and just fall off. She looked in the mirror once she was done, and she had to admit it was strange, seeing herself dressed like this. She almost felt like she was really a part of S.O.N.G in this, but knew she wasn't. This was Hibiki's, not hers.

'It also smells like her.' She noticed. It was the scent of a generic brand detergent, yet for some reason she associated it with Hibiki since she sometimes came home smelling like it.

It was maddening. She was surrounded by things that Hibiki was more used to, yet now she was the one neck deep in all this business.

"Are you ready now?" Saint-Germain asked, waking her from her stupor. Miku looked to her in surprise, then her face flushed again in embarrassment at having been caught daydreaming.

"Ah, yes, sorry. We can go now." Miku answered. Looking down at the uniform she was wearing one last time, Miku and Saint-Germain both headed out.

-!-

After informing the appropriate parties of their departure and taking anything else she needed for now, both Miku and Saint-Germain left the submarine, and Miku was surprised to find that the very same driver that had brought her to and from the school twice now was once again at the ready. She thanked him for his help, learned his name was Motoyasu, and she also formally introduced herself, Saint-Germain following suit.

The drive back to the school was...strange, to say the least. Miku was in company of someone who was originally an enemy, and a strange one to boot. Saint-Germain was a silent presence, always strictly business. Miku could appreciate that, having been used to the liveliness and antics that being with Hibiki always brought. Someone with a level head was always nice to hang around in case things became too hectic. At school, Tsubasa had served that role until she graduated, and as much Chris wanted to serve it as well, it didn't quite pan out with Hibiki glomping her at every opportunity.

There was something however that interested her. "Um, St. Germain-san, may I ask a question?"

"You may." The alchemist answered swiftly.

Miku rubbed her neck. "Um, I was wondering, how did you heal so fast after what happened yesterday? I remember you were in really bad shape and had to be rushed to get treatment. I kind of wanted to know how you are up and about so quickly."

The silver haired woman looked out the window as she answered, watching the moving scenery. "Healing alchemy. It's a bit too complicated to explain, but it has been what has been allowing me to live for so long, as well as allow me to survive such debilitating injuries. When you get hurt and injured so often and suffer wounds regular people immediately expire from, you realize some way to regenerate and heal your broken body quickly is a valuable asset. The only drawback is that it requires absolute focus, something you don't usually have on the battlefield, so I took the opportunity to treat myself while in the medical room."

Miku nodded in understanding, kind of fascinated by her explanation. "In case you were wondering, I unfortunately cannot teach it to you. It would take too long to perfect and under our current circumstances it would be counterproductive."

Her eyes widened and her cheeks reddened again. "Ah! That wasn't...that's not what I meant. I was just...curious." Miku responded, looking out her own window. She was just a bit interested to see if such a thing was possible, but if Saint-Germain said it wouldn't be a good idea, then it probably wasn't. She was the one with experience after all.

The rest of the ride continued in silence, and before long the duo reached the school ground. It was almost strange, Miku noticed. She was here just yesterday, but the difference was astounding. Rather than a multitude of students walking and talking and smiling, it was now filled to the brim with suit wearing agents and construction workers, all surveying the damage and making calls and whatnot.

Just that fact confirmed to Miku that yesterday was not a dream, or a figment of her imagination. The battle yesterday really did happen, and the biggest casualty in it was the building, rather than any living person.

She thanked the driver once more, and the two exited the vehicle.

Only to have a familiar person walk up to them.

"Miku-san," Ogawa Shinji said. "It's nice to see you again."

"Ogawa-san! It's nice to see you too. I thought you were in London." She answered, truly happy to see him. He had saved her once in the past, and he tended to serve as a fairly reasonable figure from what she understood. She never really had any long interaction with him, but Hibiki always shared what was going on so she knew more or less the state of affairs.

"Yes, I just got back yesterday. The commander called me over after explaining what happened," He said. His expression became solemn, and he bowed slightly to her. "I offer you my condolences, Miku-san."

Miku found herself flustered by his words. It seemed that anyone who heard of the incident came straight to her first. She doubted even Hibiki's family knew what happened, even if her father had been involved in the incident with Carol. From what Hibiki had told her, S.O.N.G explained everything to him and he accepted it with a proud smile.

Her heart clenched again. How could she ever face Hibiki's family and tell them what has happened? It would be far too heartbreaking. No, she had to get her back before that. There is no way she could let them know.

"Thank you, Ogawa-san." She simply said.

The man rose back again and smiled. "I assume you are here to get some of your things? Correct? Then allow me to escort you. Even with the uniform you are wearing right now," He said, having noticed what Miku had on. He was quite curious as to what was the reason, but figured it was because she had nothing else. "They might not let you in without proper clearance. No one is sure yet as to the stability of the building, so we have to be careful."

Miku looked to Saint-Germain for a moment, who had remained quiet. "I see, thank you Ogawa-san. Please lead the way."

Ogawa smiled. "Well then, follow me."

-!-

The trek through the building didn't take very long. Miku was surprised to see so many parts of the building so ruined, owing to the fact that she didn't see it happen with her own eyes. Only Saint-Germain really knew what had occurred inside the building, and so far she had remained silent, simply studying her surroundings and possibly recalling certain events or locations from her final fight with Hibiki. She hasn't talked about it once since yesterday, but Miku figured no one really wanted to remember how badly they were beaten by an opponent despite their best efforts.

'I wonder if I ever made anyone else feel this way.'

Soon enough, the trio reached the door to her room. Surprisingly enough, it wasn't bashed in or broken into pieces like the other doors along the hallway. When she peered through one, she could see just how much damage the room itself had incurred, and she was slightly afraid that her own had suffered the same fate. She took out the keys from her pocket and unlocked the door, leading the other two inside.

Only to freeze in place at the doorway when she noticed that the room, including everything in it…

Was completely untouched and in one piece.

"She pushed me out of here almost instantly," Saint-Germain suddenly said, walking around Miku to enter the room proper. "Didn't even give me time to respond or do anything else. She grabbed me by my head and threw me out. That's why the wall has opposite to here has an indentation in it."

Ah, so that was the reason. Miku noticed that, but figured it was just another random broken piece of a wall. "I do not understand the reason as to why she did that," The alchemist continued. Ogawa also walked around Miku to enter the room, heading to the kitchen. "Every moment we fought she gave the impression that she couldn't care less about this place anymore, so why…?"

She walked further into the room, leaving Miku alone stunned in the doorway. Hibiki had...actively protected the room? "No, I guess the answer is obvious." The alchemist added, and said nothing more.

Miku walked in as well, truly confirming with her eyes that absolutely nothing was out of place. The room had stayed exactly as she left it the last time she was here. It was so surreal compared to the other rooms she saw that were wrecked and broken. This room had truly remained the only undamaged part of the school.

"Miku-san," Ogawa said. "I see you have some ingredients left in the fridge, so if you'd like I'll make us some lunch. Is that alright with you?"

"Ah, yes, that is fine. Thank you."

He smiled. "You're welcome. Please take your time."

And so she did.

The entire room went quiet for hours as Miku packed up her belongings into a large, cyan suitcase. Maria was the one who recommended she prepare for an extended stay in S.O.N.G headquarters, partially because going back to the school every time could be dangerous.

And partially because nobody wanted Hibiki to once again appear and involve bystanders in her rampage. Miku found it a bit odd that despite all of the hate she harbored, Hibiki really...didn't do much. She had kept on facing the same opponents every time, and thankfully did not involve anyone else in her vendetta. Other than the poor soldiers who were killed in her initial appearance, no one else was hurt.

But Miku knew it was only a matter of time. Just a matter of time until Hibiki would lose herself completely and go on a killing spree, just like Adam said.

She had to prevent that from happening. There was no way she was going to let Hibiki become a murderer. She would not let her sins continue to pile on and for her regrets to tear away at her further.

Lunch had come and gone in a flash. Ogawa's food turned out to be delicious, and the three of them ate in a strange yet comfortable silence. Miku never could have imagined that she would ever find herself eating with these two, especially in the room she shared with Hibiki.

A pang of guilt ran through her. Once again she had brought someone who was not her into the home without her knowledge. Once again, the feeling that she was betraying her gnawed at her heart, but she forced it down as soon as they finished eating. Ogawa had then cleaned up the kitchenware and informed them he would be back later to pick them up and return to headquarters. Once he left, only the two women remained, and Saint-Germain went back to standing in front of the large window and stare outside to the city, watching as the sun slowly lowered on the horizon.

For a moment, Miku didn't really know what was Saint-Germain's true purpose in joining her. She said there was something that interested her, but never elaborated on what it was. She was curious, but did not want to pry into the alchemist's personal affairs, so she continued packing up her things in silence.

That was when she looked to the bunk bed, or more specifically, the floor under it. Thoughts of the box and Hibiki's reaction to her knowing about it raced back into her mind. It was the first major extreme reaction she had seen from Hibiki in recent times, and she was determined to find out why that happened. It was so personal for Hibiki she kept it a secret from absolutely everyone, even herself.

Maria's words about the room and the box's role in it also surfaced, and despite her earlier agreement with the elder's thoughts, she now began to question them. In her eyes, now at least, the box was nothing but a burden. It was because of it that Hibiki had a harder time letting go of the past, making it much easier for the curses to affect her, just like those restless spirits she had imagined.

Miku wasn't sure what she should do with the box, but anything was better than to leave it in the room. She was almost afraid it would start staining it as well. Resolved, the girl reached below the beds and took the box out from its hiding place, putting it inside her almost completely full suitcase.

"Why is she so contradictory?" Saint-Germain said completely out of nowhere, still staring out the window at the city bathed into the light afternoon glow. Miku rose from the floor to stare at her back, listening to her. "She said she will give all of this up, yet still fiercely protected it when she felt it was being invaded. No, the bigger question is how could she even consider giving this up in the first place?"

The alchemist turned to Miku, who had her eyes wide at the sudden liveliness the woman was showing. "I will repeat what I said to her to you, as her significant other. This place, this room, stands more as just a place for you and her to call a home. No, this room stands as a beacon, as a wish, and as a desire that humanity shares. Such warmth can only be found in truly unique circumstances, and even I am not exempt from understanding that. It is something I truly wish I had, and had I had it in life, I would not be the person I am today. I would be someone much different and perhaps...much happier. Only a place like this can make you feel so welcome and free of any burden. Yet, she claimed that she would throw it all away, that she would sacrifice it as another stepping stone in her path to creating a better world...a better humanity."

She turned back to the window, watching as evening began to set slowly. Had they really spent so much time here? How peculiar. The alchemist let out a sigh. "Humanity, huh? That's a big word. A far bigger word than any of us can possibly comprehend. Just like the sea of stars above, it is far too large for a single person to grasp. I suppose that is why my path was always meant to end in failure, for I too am much too small to be able to save everything. And she too will not be able to, no matter what kind of power she obtains or what kind of wish she has. A single person…cannot save everything and everyone. I suppose that is why I am envious of you. You do not look to the stars, nor do you look to the world at large. No, the only thing you look for…is the simple and small share of happiness…that belongs to you. And that is why I know you, above all others…will be able to grant your wish."

Miku's mouth gaped at Saint-Germain's confession. That's right, she had believed so as well. One person cannot be there to make everyone happy, which is why they should focus on what's close and important to them.

But…"I don't understand," Miku said. "Why you also...think I'll be able to do something. I don't have any power, or anything I can give to make things right, so why?"

"You'll know in time," Saint-Germain answered. "I won't say anything more for now, just that when the time comes...be ready."

Miku stared at her back incredulously, confused at what she meant.

And then the door opened of its own accord, and Ogawa walked into the room, a serious expression etched on his face. "Sorry to barge in like this Miku-san, but we have to go."

Both alchemist and student turned to him with narrowed eyes. "Ogawa-san, what happened?"

He closed his eyes momentarily. "Hibiki-san has reappeared."

A sense of dread and foreboding fell upon the room, and Miku could feel her pulse quicken with every second she thought about it. She swallowed hard. "W-where?"

Ogawa let out a heavy breath as he answered. "The ruins of Kadingir."

Miku's breath got caught in her throat, and she turned her head to stare at the now concerned face the alchemist was wearing.

And briefly wondered...if this was what she meant.

-!-

"Someone shut off this alarm!" Fujitaka yelled over the noise and blaring red lights in the bridge of S.O.N.G headquarters.

A crew member worked earnestly to fulfill his superior's orders. Genjuro sat with his arms crossed and his brows furrowed, looking ahead at the data pouring in on the main screen. "I want everything! Record and archive all data you find! Abarai! Take note of the Aufwachen signal! Tomosato! Bring me some visual, any visual! I want to see what she's doing at all times! We won't let her catch us off guard if we can help it!"

Throwing orders around like a madman, the commander was restless. The worst case scenario took place once again, and Hibiki has shown up while their fighting force was more or less completely incapacitated. However, this time something was odd, as she appeared in a place that nobody had expected.

Adam narrowed his eyes as he stared at the crew member next to him, apparently called Abarai, bring up all the data he could record about the Aufwachen signal, letting Adam study it in depth as much as possible. Now having obtained the last piece of the puzzle, Adam began to draw his conclusions.

Aoi worked tirelessly, sweat dripping down her brows as she tried to connect to the mostly inoperational security cameras installed within the ruins. "Any time now, Tomosato!" Genjuro bellowed.

"I'm trying!" She answered. "But it's giving me a-"

A sudden ting from her console confirmed she had in fact succeeded. "Alright, got it!"

"On screen, now!"

Doing as she was told, Aoi hurriedly brought the visuals to the main screen so everyone could see just as the four still conscious Symphogear wielders ran into the bridge.

"You're just in time," Genjuro said over his shoulder. "Be ready for anything."

They nodded as one, and Chris swallowed. The screen before them lit up, showing a black and white image of the insides of the corridor that led to the main tower that made up the bulk of Kadingir, indicating there was a complete lack of light inside.

But that did not bother Hibiki, who walked through the halls of the abandoned relic tower without a care in the world. She could see everything clearly with her enhanced eyes, as if a light was permanently cast on wherever she looked. Had she been her normal self, she would be completely blind in this darkness.

Everyone on the bridge followed her slow movements carefully, waiting for any sign of a change in attitude or action. Every signal she gave out was closely monitored, the numbers crunching up and appearing automatically on their consoles. They all held their breath, as if afraid she'd notice their presence through the cameras.

Luckily, it seemed she didn't.

They watched as Hibiki continued her stride, stopping for absolutely nothing. A wall of rubble stood in her way, but just with her approach it was blown away like leaves on the wind, leaving nothing behind. Aoi gulped, and once Hibiki disappeared from the current camera's view, she switched to the next one and they continued to watch closely.

Unbeknownst to them however, Hibiki did in fact know they were watching. The cameras weren't exactly subtle in the way the lens within expanded and contracted as it focused on her as she walked, but she paid it no heed. It's not like they could stop her if they tried. She knew that the wielders were injured and in no way could possibly challenge her.

As she was right now, she was invincible. Absolutely no one on the planet could match her, meaning she had free reign wherever she wanted to go.

Finally, she reached the main chamber. A small amount of light flooded through its broken ceiling, giving her a nice view of the sky. The high tower that had made up the elevator of the original S.O.N.G headquarters somehow remained standing to this day after Fine was defeated, but it was left as nothing more than an abandoned wreckage whose purpose was lost along with its creator. Still, she had thought that she could find what she was looking for here, but it looked like she was mistaken.

"Hmm, I guess it was a longshot to think it was here." She said, looking up at the darkening sky. "I guess there is only one other place it could be. Oh well."

And the entirety of the the bridge watched as she launched herself upwards, her dark wings flapping behind her. She streaked across the air, rising and rising more with each second, going as fast as a rocket.

"Hurry! Get us some visual on the outside! Use the satellite if you have to!" Genjuro ordered. Aoi worked quickly, doing all she can to make sure they could still follow Hibiki's movements.

The screen flashed for a moment, and they watched from above the Earth through the eyes of their satellite as Hibiki broke through the stratosphere, heading higher than any human should possibly be able to on their own. The temperature dropped rapidly as she ascended, but in her current form she did not feel it even a little bit. Hibiki rose, and slowly the shine of the blue sky disappeared from her vision, leaving nothing but the vast expanse of space and the twinkling of the stars.

After about a minute of ascending, Hibiki finally stopped, floating above the blue marble known as the Earth for the third time in her life. She looked down at the planet with a small smile on her face, then began to look around, left and right, seeking something that remained unseen for the members on the bridge.

"What...is she doing?" Chris asked with her eyes wide. "What...what is she looking for?"

Genjuro grumbled. "We don't know," He answered. "Fujitaka! Link up to the rest of our satellites! Scan the entirety of Earth's orbit and try to see if you can locate whatever it is she is looking for!"

"Roger!" The man answered, and began to work in earnest to accomplish his mission.

Instantly numbers began to flow in from every corner, the feedback from the command he gave to the satellites already in motion. They continued to watch as Hibiki slowly hovered, her head turning to all directions.

"Hmmm...where was it again? It was above an ocean...I think?" She said to herself, going unheard by headquarters. Even with the naked eye, they tried to see through the camera's lens anything that could look like an object that might catch her attention.

Unluckily for them however, what she was looking for...was not as corporeal as that.

After about ten minutes of seemingly aimless searching, Hibiki finally stopped at a certain spot above the world. She looked down and smiled, having finally found what she was looking for. Instantly Genjuro was already giving out orders to everyone to scan everything in her vision, wanting to make sure they did not miss anything in their initial scans.

And then everything stopped when Hibiki thrust both of her hands forward into thin air and…

Began to pull something apart.

There was a collective gasps from the Symphogear wielders as Hibiki's face scrunched up in effort as she continued her earlier action. It seemed like she was trying to tear through an invisible screen with her bare hands. They watched in shock and awe as the space her hands touched began to shimmer and expand, a translucent barrier appearing before her. She poured more power into her arms, and the hole continued to expand under her power.

The alarms began to blare again, and instantly Aoi was upon it.

But then her breath got caught in her throat as she saw a signal...that they haven't seen in a very long time.

"What is it, Tomosato?!" Genjuro asked loudly.

"Commander! It's...no, that's not possible! This is a Noise signal!" She answered.

He raised an eyebrow in question. "But this is nothing new to us."

"This is not Alca-Noise!" She said in horror. "This...belongs to the regular ones!"

"What?!"

Maria looked up stupefied. "No...there is no way." She began to say, causing everyone else to turn to look at her. "There is absolutely no way. The Noise can't reach this world anymore without Solomon's Cane. Not only that, there should be none left! When the Nephilim exploded it should have taken every other Noise down with it! If any survived then…"

She gasped audibly. "She's breaking into the Treasury of Babylon!"

Many, many more gasps rose from the various crew members on the bridge at her insinuation. If what she was saying was true, then it presented a much bigger problem than they could ever hope to solve.

Hibiki was intent...on bringing back the Noise!

"We have to stop her!" Genjuro bellowed. "Fujitaka! Arm the satellite and turn it on her! We have to stop her at all costs!"

"It can't be done Commander! She's too far out of range for a clear shot!"

Genjuro slammed his hand onto his console. "Is there nothing we can do?!"

There was indeed nothing they could do.

They were forced to continue watching as Hibiki tore open the entrance to the Treasury with her bare hands, a feat that should have been impossible. Ever so slowly the hole enlarged enough until she could pass through it, and she smiled at her handiwork. Throwing one final glance towards the camera on the satellite, Hibiki charged into the hole, and immediately the entrance sealed behind her, dissipating into nothingness.

And the members of S.O.N.G were left gaping at the sight, contemplating their fate.

Chapter Text

AN: This chapter marks the beginning of the second part of the story. This is the last big infodump we'll have. Everything after this will be a wild ride.

-!-

Miku opened her eyes, staring at the silver ceiling she thought she was used to by now.

A whole week had passed since Hibiki disappeared into the Treasury of Babylon. She did not appear once since then, keeping the entirety of S.O.N.G, as well as the rest of the world on edge. She wasn't sure how much other countries knew, but Maria did tell her that sometimes Genjuro disappeared for hours at a time, only to come out exhausted and sighing. Probably meetings without end he had to deal with and trying to explain exactly what was going on.

Yes, a full week. A week full of nothing but worry and tension that bore down on everyone. There were some rumors that Hibiki might have locked herself inside the Treasury with no way out, but Chris was quick to remind them that if she managed to force her way in, she could most definitely force her way out. And that it could happen anywhere and at any time.

It didn't help to make the situation any better, but it's always better to be safe than sorry.

She rose, putting her feet down on the metallic floor. Shirabe had indeed cleaned the mess just like she promised, and Miku spent no small amount of time thanking her for her help. Shirabe just responded with a smile, and said: 'We are all friends here. We need to look out for each other, especially now.'

That sat well with Miku, who really began to appreciate the helping hands from everyone, including the sub's staff. Rising to her feet, Miku headed to the closet, taking out some clothes to wear and dressed herself. Unlike in her room, she couldn't walk around in her pajamas here freely. It wasn't a written rule, but seeing as it was a co-ed base, it might be a better idea to dress a little more normally.

She took the keycard she was provided from her nightstand and left the room, heading to the cafeteria to have breakfast. Seeing as she could not cook for herself here, she made due with eating the food they were providing.

It was a shame she couldn't enjoy the first meal she had here a week ago due to her depression, but since the week passed and she made her resolution, she managed to avoid anymore sorrowful episodes, to Maria's surprise. The elder confessed that she thought that Miku would be having a much harder time, and felt a bit remorseful for doubting her so. Miku simply responded with a heartfelt thanks for her worry, which cheered up the Airgetlam user.

It was amazing how much they all connected due to the circumstances. Other than Kirika, Shirabe, and Chris, who she went to school with, Miku did not have too much of a relationship with Maria, and now with Tsubasa now that she graduated.

All in all, despite everything, Miku managed to find a grasp on a measure of happiness. She had allies, friends, and comrades who shared her desires and vowed to help her in all of her endeavors. But she doubted her role in the bigger picture here. A week had passed and nothing of note had happened except the wielders finally having recovered enough. They had used this downtime to train as much as they could in the simulator, to varying degrees of success.

The one thing they had to wait for was for the briefing that was scheduled for later today, at Elfnein's insistence. She had claimed that she had something important to announce, and required all of the wielders, including Saint-Germain to attend. Strangely enough, Miku had also been invited to this briefing even though she was not a wielder. She initially wanted to remind them of that, but knew that if Elfnein of all people asked for her to come, then it was better to see what it was all about with her own eyes.

Other than that, the days have been fairly peaceful. A sort of halcyon days in tumultuous times, something that everyone agreed was appreciated. An opportunity to unwind slightly, to finally catch their breath and to be able to sit quietly and comfortably on what they know and what they should do.

A minute later, Miku reached the cafeteria, finding it as lively as the days before. Various staff members sat in their usual group, chatting about inane things that Miku never bothered to listen to. She headed to the empty line, grabbing a tray and cutlery. Once in line, she met the head chef's smile with one of her own. "Good morning, Ma'am." She said.

"Oh my, good morning Miku-chan. How are you today?" The lady asked in her usual amiable tone.

"I'm better, thank you. It's all thanks to your help." Miku answered humbly, bowing her head slightly.

The lady laughed. "You are always so polite Miku-chan," she said, causing the girl's cheek to redden slightly in embarrassment. "You can be a little more relaxed here. We are all friends here as you know."

Miku rubbed the back of her head sheepishly. "Yes, I know. It's a force of habit."

"Oh, I understand. Anyway, make sure to eat well, okay?" The lady said, placing a very humble portion of this morning's meal, scrambled eggs, into Miku's plate. "I know things have been tense lately, but do try to keep your spirits up. Everything will get better, I promise."

Miku nodded her head, giving one last smile to the chef. From what she understood, by now everyone on board knew exactly what sort of situation they found themselves in. Of how one of their own was now the enemy, sending waves of shock through the regular staff. It was then that Miku discovered that Hibiki made herself quite popular with them, especially the kitchen staff because of her appreciation for food and almost insatiable appetite. For them to find out that she became an enemy that wanted to destroy the world was nothing less than a blow in the heart, for all of them.

It was then that Miku also discovered that somehow she herself had somewhat of a reputation among them, as the 'sunshine that Tachibana-san would go on about for hours at a time'. It was a very embarrassing moment for the girl, considering she didn't know them all that well. It was weird seeing as all of them had been exposed and knew of her actions during the whole Frontier incident, yet none of them judged her for it, or even brought it up. They all simply gave her their own words of sympathy and motivation.

She found it extremely heartwarming, and thanked them for their kindness.

It surprised her to find out that the Section, despite its government connections, ended up being something akin to a small community, with all the regular drama and gossip that goes around in one. Seeing as the entire Section was pretty much built around the six Symphogear users, they ended up being extremely popular with the general staff.

It warmed her heart to know that Hibiki was so appreciated by so many people, especially after what she went through. That fact only ignited Miku's resolve further, as she truly wanted to remind her that there were many, many people who liked her and wanted to be friends with her. It was entirely possible she didn't notice, didn't know, or simply didn't care, but Miku wanted her to know nonetheless.

Now just to find a way to hammer it into her skull. That was the real challenge.

Miku looked around the cafeteria, hoping to find somewhere to sit. It was then her eyes fell upon a familiar figure, one whose back she had seen plenty of times already.

"Motoyasu-san," She said, walking up to him. The older man smiled up at her from his seat. "May I join you?"

"Ah, yes of course Kohinata-san." He answered. She smiled, and placed her tray down across from him and took a seat. "I see you are alone this morning."

Miku took a bite of the eggs. "Yes. They said they had some training to do, and right after that there is a briefing that we all must attend. I still don't really understand where I fit into this equation."

Motoyasu took his own bite of his food, chewing slowly. "Well, you said it yourself two days ago that it would be better to find out for yourself rather than just not attend. They have been keeping it under wraps for a while now, so not one of us really knows exactly what is going on. I guess once the briefing ends, they'll let us in on it as well, as usual."

Miku poked a cherry tomato with her fork. "I know, but still…"

"I wouldn't worry about it too much right now. It's definitely important, but there is no use wracking your brain over it. Jumping to wild conclusions won't do you any good." He said.

Miku cringed internally. Yeah, jumping to wild conclusions. How she wished Hibiki would understand that already.

"Yeah...I know…"

The man smiled again, realizing that it would be better to drop the subject for now. He should strike up a conversation about something that she would appreciate far more. And he had the perfect idea.

"Oh by the way, Kohinata-san," He said, causing Miku to look at him. "We've all been wondering, but how exactly did you meet Tachibana-san?"

Her eyes widened, surprised by his sudden question. Memories of her childhood surfaced, and she found herself smiling and blushing lightly. "Well," She began. "It's kind of a long story…"

-!-

"Ow ow ow ow ow!" Kirika exclaimed as the hot shower stream washed over her and her newly acquired bruises.

"Kiri-chan, please settle down." Shirabe told her, joining her in the showers. The four Symphogear wielders as well as Saint-Germain had just finished a very intense training exercise, one that caught them all by surprise. They managed to defeat all of the spawned enemies, but that did not make it really any better.

"But it hurts Shirabe! He could have at least told us it was coming!" Kirika complained, nursing her wounds. There wasn't anything life threatening or even anything that was bleeding, but the blue patches over her skin were really, really annoying.

"It was part of the surprise," Maria said upon walking into the showers as well. Once their training had finished, they realized all of them reeked from sweat. It wouldn't do to go to the briefing smelling like a rotten sock, so they all agreed to go take a shower first. "I have to admit it was quite a challenge for a simulation. If we want to get better, we need to make sure we complete it without being hurt in the process."

"After all, that's what training is for." Chris added as she walked in as well. Four of the six of the available shower heads were now occupied by the Symphogear wielders as they washed away the grime, sweat and dirt off their bodies.

"All this dirt is annoying too! Can't Elfnein add something to the Gears that can get rid of that as well?!" Kirika said loudly. Shirabe facepalmed at her childish suggestion.

But Chris grinned. "Of course, why doesn't she make them so they can make us some coffee too?"

Apparently Maria found Chris' answer hilarious, and she involuntarily let out an amused chuckle. As the four of them chatted amongst themselves, the door to the showers slid open again, and Saint-Germain quietly joined in as well, taking the spot to Chris' left.

The first to acknowledge her entry was Kirika. "Let's see what St. Germain-san has to say!" She said. The alchemist remained unmoving as she cleaned herself off. "What did you think about the training?" Kirika asked her.

"It was challenging," She answered. "But not all that unpleasant."

Kirika found her response surprising somehow. "Wha-!"

"See Kirika, even she agrees." Maria said to her younger, causing the blonde haired girl to pout to herself, eliciting a laugh from Chris and Maria. Shirabe patted her back gently.

As the girls continued talking, Saint-Germain at some point drowned them out as her mind wandered. She remembered the girl as the one who had teamed up with Hibiki to defeat her that fateful night, pulling off a Unison combination that knocked her to the ground. She remembered her courage as she stood against Adam's blast all on her own, pumping herself full of LiNKER and tanking the blast by using her Superb Song. She remembered that the girl very nearly died from the endeavor as well.

It was strange to suddenly have her be friendly with her. No, it was strange to be friendly with all of them. A week ago she had agreed to work with S.O.N.G in order to rescue Hibiki, but she never quite imagined it looking like this, taking showers with them and cracking jokes.

Saint-Germain was never one for jokes. She led her life from peril to peril, risking everything to make sure she could accomplish her goals. Nothing about that path was amusing or funny in her eyes.

Well, she wasn't one to judge. She hasn't smiled or laughed in centuries.

But there was something else that occupied her mind. When she went back to the mansion which they used as their base to gather everything she needed, she made a very startling discovery...

-!-

Four days ago, September 18th.

Saint-Germain reappeared in the mansion's courtyard, having set it as the waypoint for her teleportation crystals. She made sure to make one that will bring her back to her room in S.O.N.G headquarters, giving her leeway in the time it would take to gather her things.

The mansion was quiet. Dead quiet. No one other than the five of them lived in it, and considering three were dead and the other was a decapitated head in her now-allies headquarters, it made sense that no one would come by this place again.

She made the way back to her room on the eastern wing, checking to see if anything along the way had been touched while she was gone. She wasn't surprised to find out nothing was different, considering that following Prelati's death, they had already began the ceremony to bring down the divine power and as a result never returned to the mansion. She was glad the two circular wounds she suffered on her back were already gone. She did not want the Symphogear wielders to see them.

After the few minute walk, she finally reached her room and headed inside. As expected, untouched. She briefly compared it to Kohinata Miku's room in her mind, and found it to be extremely lacking. Maybe it was because she never spent that much time in here, but in the end it felt like a hotel room rather than a home.

Well, last time she had a home her mother died in it, so she'd rather not experience that again.

Saint-Germain never had that much to begin with. She could synthesize clothes for herself almost instantly, only using this place to sleep and to research. All of her notes regarding their Faust Robes were here and including other projects she had worked on over the centuries, along with classified documents from various governments. Those she should probably burn, seeing as it wouldn't be a good idea to hand them over to S.O.N.G.

However, that reminded her of something else. Prelati had stated she was working on a new Lapis, and the last time she had seen it was before Cagliostro's death.

Perhaps she should investigate that as well.

She quickly packed up everything she needed into her satchel, and headed towards the underground, where Prelati had worked on the Lapis. It was a secret that only the three of them shared, and it was something even Adam Weishaupt was not allowed to know. She entered Prelati's room, briefly glancing to the glasses of milk and wine on the small table sitting in the middle of the room. She made her way around and touched a very specific book on the shelf, causing a section of the wall before her to shimmer and disappear.

She headed down towards the darkness, and the stairway lit up on its own as she descended. Prelati made sure to line the entryway with various traps if anyone other than the three of them attempted to breach this place, so of course once she entered none of them would activate.

She eventually reached the bottom and headed into the research room…

And froze.

The Lapis, the red gem that should have been brimming with power in the very heart of the room…

Was gone.

Automatically various scenarios ran in the alchemist's head, each one more unlikely than the last. Adam could not have possibly found it, as the rest of the traps that lined this room would have triggered as well. Seeing as the mansion was still standing, no one other than the three of them could have possibly taken it.

But that was impossible. Prelati and Cagliostro were dead. Maybe Hibiki somehow found it? Ridiculous, she didn't even know this mansion existed.

Then who could possibly…?

She studied the stand where the Lapis had been, seeing absolutely nothing wrong with it. No, it was as if someone simply took it and left, and she had no idea how to tell who it was.

She spent over an hour checking out the room carefully, and nothing about it seemed to indicate anything was room. This was far too peculiar to her liking. Everything lately was, which put her on edge. She hated being in the dark about things, considering she was used to being behind the scenes many times before in various nations and as such knew even more than some of their leaders, many of which she toppled. Even now she knew more than the wielders knew about the situation.

So why was there a mystery she couldn't solve right in front of her eyes?

No, it wouldn't do to dwell on it now. In fact, Saint-Germain decided to take a much more extreme approach. Seeing as no one would ever use this mansion again, and seeing as there were far too many things in it that shouldn't be known in the world…

Then it was better to erase it from existence and bury everything inside it forever.

With a newfound resolve, the alchemist chanted a spell, and instantly the entire room caught on fire. She stood in the middle, unphased by the flames, and headed back up to the surface. Once in Prelati's room, she chanted the same spell again, and it too began to burn bright. She repeated the process in several of the rooms, making sure enough of the mansion was burning. She would let the flames take care of the rest on their own.

She went back to her room and stood on the balcony. She took a final glance at the room, making sure she did not forget anything important behind, and then lit it on fire as well. This was the point of no return.

Her eyes narrowed, Saint-Germain smashed her teleportation crystal against the floor and was whisked back to S.O.N.G headquarters.

And the mansion once used by the Pavarian Illuminati burned to the ground, leaving nothing behind.

-!-

"Sa...Main!" A voice called.

The alchemist blinked.

"St. Germain-san!" Kirika called out to her.

The older woman looked down to the Ig-Alima user. "Yes?"

"Are you alright?"

She blinked once more, surprised by Kirika's worry. "Yes, I am. Why do you ask?"

"You seemed to be a bit sad just now," the younger girl said. The alchemist raised her head and realized the other three were staring at her as well with varying degrees of concerned expressions on their faces. "Are you okay?"

Saint-Germain sighed, raising her head back to the showerhead, letting the water flow down her figure. "It's nothing," She answered. "Nothing you need to worry about. Just a few things on my mind, that is all."

She could tell the girl wouldn't buy it, but she truly did not want her to pry.

It seemed Kirika understood her intentions, to her surprise. "Okay...if you say so. I'll trust that you're fine."

The alchemist turned off the water, having had enough of the shower for now. "I'll be heading out first," She said. "Make sure you aren't late for the briefing."

Kirika saluted her comically, making the silver haired woman huff as she left the showers, the door closing behind her.

Kirika lowered her hand and looked back to her comrades. "Do you think she's okay?" She asked.

Maria stared at the door evenly. "I don't know, but at least she answered us. It took a while to get her to open up to us even a bit. I'd say now was a step in the right direction."

"I still can't believe we're working with the people who were our enemies." Chris commented, crossing her arms.

"You could say that applies to all of us," Shirabe said. "Hibiki-san gave us all a chance, so I want to give St. Germain-san one as well. If she took Hibiki-san's stretched hand, then I know she will be a great ally. Hibiki-san hasn't been wrong about that yet."

"She really does know how to win people over," Chris said as she washed her hair with shampoo. "That's why we can't stop. We have to bring her back no matter what. I can't sit still knowing the person who saved me is suffering."

"I agree, and we can start by getting to the briefing on time." Maria said as she turned off the water in her own shower. "We have maybe ten minutes. We should hurry."

"Right."

-!-

"St. Germain-san," Miku said upon seeing the alchemist next by the door to the bridge. For some reason, it had an A4 paper taped to it that said 'No entry', puzzling the woman. "Good morning. How was your training?"

"Kohinata Miku," Saint-Germain said, acknowledging her. "It was satisfactory. It provided a challenge that we were required to improvise to surpass."

Miku pouted cutely. "I told you that you can call me just Miku. You don't need to use my full name everytime," She said, then smiled. "Really? What was the challenge?"

Saint-Germain saw no point in hiding this fact from her, considering from what she knew...the girl might have to undertake it as well at some point, if the situation proceeded the way they planned. "The simulation first pitted us against the Noise as usual, but then to our surprise it also included several of those black beasts that we faced in the school."

Miku's eyes narrowed slightly, then widened to as wide as dinner plates when she realized what the alchemist was referring to.

They had to...fight the copies of Hibiki? In the simulation? Have they already gotten to that point? It wasn't like she hadn't thought about it. Hibiki did tell her sometimes about the training she underwent and how the commander tended to surprise them with a few missions during them to spice things up. With the way things were going, it was just logical that they would have to gain some experience fighting against them.

But it didn't sit well with Miku. She didn't like how it only further demonized Hibiki in their eyes. She knew they'd never actually look at her that way, but Miku knew one thing for sure that she wouldn't budge from.

Hibiki is not the enemy.

So they shouldn't treat her like one.

"Ah...I see…" She let out, then went quiet.

The two stood by each other in an awkward silence, not really willing to say anything more. Saint-Germain did not quite understand why, but figured she might have said something out of place. To her credit, she wasn't one for socializing. Friends came and went as the years passed, and quite frankly she never cared about having them. She did however find the girl to be a reasonable person to speak with, figuring as she was the one most used to the others' antics and had a fairly level head on her shoulders.

People like that are hard to come by, especially when it comes to anything dealing with relics and world ending catastrophes.

A pitter patter of footsteps signaled the arrival of the Adaptors. The two raised their heads as they watched them come down the hallway in their casual clothes. Miku smiled in their direction. "Good morning everyone. How was training?"

Chris was the first to approach. "Hey, morning. And it was fine I guess? Kind of hard but we managed to beat it in the end."

"Yeah, we were really surprised! But we are the strongest after all! There is no challenge we can't beat!" Kirika added happily.

Miku kept smiling. She could see in their expressions that they weren't talking specifics, probably trying to hide exactly what the challenge was. She knew that they were doing so for her sake...but still.

It seemed however that Saint-Germain noticed their reluctance to speak as well, and decided to comment on it. "I have already told her the specifics," She said, causing Kirika's face to fall and Maria shoot her a glare. "There is no point in hiding that now. Awareness is a key factor in forming strategy and claiming victory. Withholding information because of sentimentality is a meaningless effort."

Chris wanted to argue, but she glanced to Maria, remembering what she told her a week ago and held her tongue. "The briefing is about to start," The alchemist added. "Mentally prepare yourselves for what you are about to hear."

Shirabe tilted her head in confusion. "Why? Do you know what it's going to be about?"

"I know enough. The reason I'm not telling you now is because you will be given all of this information in an orderly fashion in just a few minutes." The alchemist answered, leaving no place to argue with her. They had to admit...she was methodical.

Maria mumbled something about lack of delicacy under her breath. Right then, the door to the bridge opened. "Ah, good morning everyone," Elfnein said from the doorway. "Please come inside."

They nodded and followed after her silently. The bridge looked the same as always, except this time there was a table and chairs for everyone to sit on and get comfortable, something that was quite unusual in their eyes. There was even a pitcher of water and some glasses for them.

"Hey old man, what's with all the secrecy?" Chris asked as Genjuro got up from his seat to greet them. "You're making us all nervous."

"I know, sorry about that Chris-kun," He said. "But we had to make sure there were no information leaks. We can't have you all jump to conclusions without hearing the whole story."

Miku cringed again. How many times has she heard that this morning?

Chris didn't really buy his explanation, but didn't say anything more. "Alright, if you say so I guess."

He smiled, and gestured to the chairs. "Take a seat, we have a lot to go over."

Heeding his words, the four Symphogear wielders, Miku, and Saint-Germain sat down and looked ahead to the large screen on the bridge. Genjuro stood at the head of the table, his arms crossed. The door to the bridge closed, locking them in.

A mysteriously heavy atmosphere fell on them as they caught his serious expression. Elfnein came to stand by his side, placing Adam's head on the table in front of them. He was strangely quiet, something that made Saint-Germain curious. It was as if he was lost in thought.

"First, I'd like to say good morning to all of you," Genjuro began. "I know I caught you by surprise with the exercise today, but it had a purpose as you all know. I will go over this purpose today with you, so please sit tight. If you have any questions don't be afraid to ask."

Shirabe noticed that the bridge was surprisingly empty today. None of the usual crew members were down by their consoles save for Aoi and Fujitaka.

"The first thing we'll do today is recap. We will go over what we know so far." Genjuro stated. Images of over a week ago appeared on the screen, displaying the cocoon that Hibiki had originally been trapped in.

"As you all know, in the late night hours of September 11th at around 11:30 PM, Hibiki-kun was engulfed by the divine power that was brought down to Earth by Adam Weishaupt's efforts," He said, making sure to lay the blame on the one truly responsible. Adam did not heed him. "After Hibiki-kun destroyed the original vessel meant to hold it, the divine power then went to her and formed this cocoon around her, trapping her inside."

Miku remembered that night vividly. She felt no joy at the fact that her prediction came true. Whenever cocoons were involved, whatever was inside would not be in its original form when it came out. "She remained in this state for roughly two days until 11 PM of September 13th."

The screen flashed again, this time showing a model of something they have not seen before. It had a feminine human shape, its whole body grey and red. For those who had seen Tiki's form as the divine weapon noticed the similarities between them. "Our original calculations stated that Hibiki-kun would emerge from the cocoon in this form. We predicted she would have no control over her actions and would be essentially asleep within this giant you see on the screen; we originally believed that the god-slaying power of Gungnir would prevent the divine power from fusing with her directly. Our original plan involved arresting her movements and then injecting her with large amounts of Anti-LiNKER in order to separate the divine power from her. Once she was vulnerable, Miku-kun would call out to her, freeing her once and for all from it."

The mentioned girl would have blushed if there was a place and time for it, but right now she knew it was not. The screen changed again, showing the very first images they got of what Hibiki truly looked like when she emerged. "However, an unknown factor changed the outcome in a way we could not have foreseen. Rather than forming a shape around her, the divine power had indeed fused with her, eliciting a reaction from the god-slaying power of the Gear. What we did not know at the time was that that power found its origin in curses from two millennia ago; these curses overflowed from the Gear and influenced Hibiki-kun herself, bringing her to the state you are now familiar with. In this state, she manifested an Armed Gear as well as incredible amounts of power, bearing them down on all of us."

More images from that night appeared on the screen, showing exactly what he was talking about. "At around 5 AM of September 14th, after defeating me, Hibiki-kun disappeared for around four hours. She reappeared in the courtyard of Lydian Academy of Music where her form changed further and engaged Maria-kun in battle."

The relevant slides appeared on screen. "Even when Maria-kun eventually received reinforcements, Hibiki-kun was shown to be capable of holding back four Ignited Symphogears as well as a Faust Robe all by herself. Later, she showed the ability to create shadow copies of herself, codenamed 'black beasts'. After a battle that lasted roughly two hours, Hibiki-kun once again emerged victorious, only to retreat when Miku-kun presented her with an ultimatum. The next day, September 15th at around 7 PM Hibiki-kun reappeared in the ruins of Kadingir, only then to ascend to low Earth orbit and to tear her way into the Treasury of Babylon, where she supposedly remains until today, September 22nd. Does anyone have any questions about the timeline of events?"

Not one of them offered a response, and Genjuro nodded. "Good. Now, we will go over what we know of her power and abilities."

A scanned image of Hibiki from before and after the change appeared on screen. "The Symphogear itself showed many signs of change to its shape and function, becoming far more durable and powerful than ever before. It seems that also due to this change, Hibiki-kun is not able to remove the Symphogear, or is not willing to."

A list appeared next to the scans. "In regards to what she can do, she has so far displayed the ability of: unaided flight, short range teleportation, tearing through space, creation of black beasts, and access to sealed off dimensions. We can predict that all of these abilities can and will evolve further and that she will be able to develop even more."

The scans disappeared to show more images of Hibiki from various angles, specifically from the fight in Lydian. "In terms of her mental state, she has displayed extreme amounts of paranoia and has been shown to change moods erratically, bordering on bipolarism. She has also shown great animosity towards the world and to her allies, having no restraint in using her newfound power, bordering on sadism. We can assume that the reason she acts this way is due to the influence of the curses, twisting her mind to have her act on whatever grudges and resentments she had kept hidden under the surface."

Miku did not like where the explanation was going. Everything he described felt wrong on so many levels it began to make her physically uncomfortable. Talking about Hibiki's mental state was also a sore spot for her. If he noticed, he didn't comment on it.

"As a result, she is extremely volatile and prone to bouts of emotional outburst. The only person she has not raised her hand against so far is Miku-kun; whether or not this is temporary is anyone's guess at this point. These outbursts also further cause a deterioration of her mental state, creating a vicious cycle of her becoming more and more unhinged. As to what her goal is, she claimed that she wishes to cleanse the world of the sinful and bring about the world of understanding she desires by force, rather than benevolently as we are used to her doing. Again, whether or not the Lunar Ruins are a part of this scenario is also unknown."

He waited for the information to settle in their minds before continuing. Unbeknownst to Miku, he had notice her discomfort with this topic, and his heart went out to her. However, she would have to deal with it for now. The wielders needed to know everything they can before they can engage her in battle again.

"Her usage of the Treasury of Babylon can be inferred to be for one of two scenarios: either she is going to simply open it up and let the Noise pour out again, or establish it as her main base. Either of these two scenarios are detrimental to us, considering we do not have Solomon's Cane to seal back the holes. We must be vigilant and see where this leads. Does anyone have questions so far?"

No hands were raised and no voices cut in. He nodded. "Good, that is all for now about Hibiki-kun herself. Next we will talk about the divine power and Gungnir. Adam Weishaupt, you're up."

Genjuro moved aside, forcing the girls' attention to the head on the table.

Adam began speaking, a serious expression on his face.

"As you all were fighting against your dear comrade out on the battlefield, I made the effort to take a very close look into something that puzzled me for a while now. See, these Aufwachen signals that your Gears have say quite a lot about their power and the current state of your abilities. As the Symphogear evolves and changes, so does the Aufwachen signal. Of course, in the usual circumstances, these changes are almost purely cosmetic and do not actually embody anything about the Gear itself." He said, then his tone became grim. "At least, that's in the usual circumstances."

Behind him on the large screen Gungnir's Aufwachen signal appeared. "As you can see, this is Gungnir's regular signal. You Adaptors are quite familiar with it by now I assume. Make sure to remember it well."

Right then, another signal appeared right next to the first, causing the wielders to gasp in shock. Miku put her hands over her mouth and Saint-Germain narrowed her eyes, all of them responding to the twisted shape they were seeing. "And this is the same signal right after she emerged from the cocoon. As you can clearly see, it is quite different from the normal one. For your understanding, the black hole represents the god-slaying power, the black veins the curses, and the blue veins the divine power. Make sure to note their number."

Another signal appeared next to it, showing more of the radical changes. Shirabe couldn't believe what she was seeing. "And this is the signal after her emotional outburst in the school's courtyard. The black hole grew in size, the black veins grew in number, and the blue veins decreased in number. Beneath all of that, the original signal is beginning to warp."

And finally, the final signal and the answer to Adam's original dilemma appeared on screen. "And this is the signal from when she appeared in Kadingir's ruins. While the changes are not as extreme, they still occurred, showing the same patterns as the rest. Now, if you remember what I said, the blue veins are representations of divine power within the Symphogear. Now, you might be asking yourselves why exactly the divine power is disappearing?"

They wouldn't phrase his question like that, but now that he said it they noticed the difference. There was barely half of the original amount of blue veins in the final signal while the black veins had spread out like a disease. "The divine power, according to these signals, is disappearing from Tachibana Hibiki. Following that logic, what should have happened is that her power would decrease, eventually putting all of you back on an even playing level with her. However, the exact opposite occurred; she became stronger and displayed far more abilities than usual, something that makes very little sense in the long run."

With the four signal flashing behind him on the screen, Adam finally revealed what he found out. "This final signal sheds light exactly on what is occurring: the curses are not eliminating the divine power. They are corrupting it. The god-slaying power is making use of the divine power to increase its own strength. Abilities that she should not have been able to use became available to her because she became able to understand them in an instant. It brought the divinity down to Earth and used it to become more powerful."

The grimness of his explanation dawned on them, and he could see the nervousness in the younger girls' eyes. Saint-Germain merely eyed her former leader carefully, attentively listening. He smirked at the irony of her finally obeying his words. "How is this possible, you may ask? To put things into perspective, imagine the divine power as a kitchen knife. In the hands of a chef, that knife can be used to create magnificent feasts that can satisfy the greatest of kings, and could also be used to feed the hungry. However, in the hands of a killer, it becomes nothing more than a murder weapon. It is important to remember that the divine power is nothing more than a tool and has no will of its own. It will become whatever its user wishes it to become. For Tachibana Hibiki, who had her mind twisted by the curses, it became a source of ever increasing strength, dyed in the hellish emotions that were imprinted on the spear."

Maria cradled her head with her hand, and she could see a headache starting to develop. "To think such a thing was possible…"

"It is not only possible, it is also getting worse. It is another factor of that vicious cycle your commander mentioned. Her emotional outbursts cause the curses to react, corrupting more of the divine power every moment. No, even without that it is happening. Make no mistake, the divine power she wields is mighty, and she has plenty of it to spare. If left unchecked, she will become so powerful that even destroying the planet will not be enough to kill her. In fact, it would be easier to say that should such a situation arise, she'll even do so herself. Everything will be gone and we'll have a godlike entity with endless hatred prowling the universe. Not a very pretty picture to imagine I'm quite sure. Although I guess by that point she'll lose her human form and become something akin to a cosmic horror."

Not a very pretty picture to imagine, he said? What an understatement. Miku imagined it, and was incredibly horrified by just the thought. She could see it in her mind: Hibiki becoming a swirling cloud of black chaos floating through the stars, devouring everything in its path. A truly living black hole.

Just like in the dream.

The girl shuddered, hugging herself in an attempt to keep calm. Just listening to these grim explanations was taking a toll on her mind. As if noticing her distress, Kirika put her hand on her leg, sympathizing with her plight. She raised her head to look at her underclassman, and noticed that she too seemed to be fearful of the possibility. Kirika nodded to her and turned back to Adam.

Adam seemed to be taking joy in causing them pain, even if it's just a mental one. "Of course, that is only the very worst case scenario, and I quite imagine that you will not allow such an outcome. Now you might be wondering what exactly you can do in order to combat this monstrous transformation she is undergoing? Well, no one other than your friend the homunculus will be able to provide you with that answer. Although I can't gauge how much you'll like it."

On cue, Elfnein took her spot in front of the table and gulped. This was beginning to look a lot like what happened during the conflict with Carol. They are definitely not going to like what she has to say.

But there was no choice. It was do or die time.

"As Adam said, we have devised a method to bring you up to level and possibly counter Hibiki-san's divine power. We came up with it after we found a severed arm of a black beast in the school's track field, and analyzed it."

Behind her, a detailed image of one of the beasts lit up the screen. "The beasts are, at their core, made of three things: divine power, the curses, and blood. As you can see on the screen, the pulsing dark blue core in the center of their chests is essentially their heart: a cluster of divine power that allows them to move. Their outer layer, or what essentially would be the skin, was found to have the remains of red blood cells, possibly due to some remaining after their original layer molted away. Everything else, from their limbs and head, are composed of nothing more than god-slaying power, or curses as we identified them. While they seem to have no mind of their own, it does look like they retain some of Hibiki-san's memories, if what happened with Miku-san is any indication."

Everyone looked to Miku, and she shrunk under their gaze. "Y-yes. The one that I met responded when I called it by Hibiki's name, and it also saved me when part of the school came down right above me. It kind of felt like it...recognized me, in some way." She explained.

Elfnein nodded. "Yes, and that confirms one of our theories. But in the long run it doesn't matter nor does it help us. That information doesn't explain how we are supposed to stand against them if she can make them in such large number, or how we can face Hibiki-san without losing outright."

The homunculus took a deep breath and prepared herself mentally. "This is my answer."

And the screen behind her flashed, displaying three words in a huge, stylized font.

'SUPER IGNITE PROJECT'

"Super…" Chris began.

"Ignite?" Kirika finished for her.

"Yes," Elfnein responded. "I picked this name to emphasized that it is essentially an upgrade to the existing Module in every aspect. This will be what will help us level the playing field against Hibiki-san."

A large, detailed scan of the black arm that they had recovered appeared on screen, and Elfnein clarified what she meant. "The process is simple: we will be inserting bits and pieces of the god-slaying power that makes up this arm directly into your Gears, giving you the upper hand against the divine power that both Hibiki-san and the beasts have in their core."

She looked to Chris, who last time had responded in fury to such an announcement. The white haired girl noticed her gaze and narrowed her eyes, not at all pleased by what she was suggesting. "This will work by binding that power to Dainsleif, so it will not be active until you release the Module. When you do, your power will increase and you'll find that your strikes will be much more effective against anything with divinity in it."

And then came Chris' complaint. "What's the catch?"

Everyone looked to her, but she brushed it off. "Last time there was a very, very big catch. What is it this time?"

This was the part that Elfnein was not looking forward to explaining, but they had the right to know. "The Module's timer stays the same, so that downside doesn't change...but everything else does. You will be subjected to a very watered down version of the curses Hibiki-san is experiencing. If you think that what Dainsleif originally did to you was bad enough...this time I can only describe it as nothing but pure hell. It will be very, very bad, but the payoff if you succeed will give you a huge boost in power. Conquer it, and you'll be stronger than ever. Fail...and you will truly become raging berserkers."

Elfnein's heart was beating a mile a minute. She finished her explanation, and now she was nervous by the fact that not one of them seemed to respond. They were all thinking, dwelling on the fact, trying to determine if it was worth it.

Kirika was the first to raise her voice. "Can we...can we really handle it?" She asked. "The way you described it makes it look really scary. Can we really use something like that?"

Despite herself, Elfnein smiled. "I think you can," She said honestly. "I might have over exaggerated a little bit, but I truly believe that if all of you managed to conquer Dainsleif then you'll be able to beat this as well. I have faith in all of you that you'll succeed. Not just because you already did in the past, but because I know your will is strong and that's you'll never let something like that take you over, not when there is so much at stake."

There was a short moment of silence after she finished speaking, the girls taking the time to think over the new information. Chris continued to glare, which unnerved the homunculus. However, instead of lashing out, she sighed. "Do we really have a choice?"

Elfnein was taken aback, not expecting such a calm response. "Ah...kind of, but not really."

"Yeah, as I expected," Chris said. "Alright, I guess we'll just have to do it, right?"

She sent looks over to her comrades, and all of them sported the same, half-defeated half-resolved expression.

"If this assists us in our endeavors, then I suppose there is no place to argue." Saint-Germain said.

Elfnein beamed, and continued on. "Before that, we are going to do some controlled tests in the simulator. I don't want to send you out to battle with it before you are ready. What we will do is we will release the new Module and have you conquer it there. If you succeed, you'll know how to do it every time. If you fail, we'll have enough firepower to knock you out and try again some other time. We'll do it one by one, not all at once. Is that okay with everyone?"

Everyone nodded sans Miku, who felt more out of place than before. She did pray for their success, but the fact that she was not part of it did not help her sympathize with what they are feeling. She never used the first Ignite Module; she only ever watched when Hibiki did it and was unnerved by what it was doing.

She had faith back then when Hibiki succeeded, so she'll have faith now.

"Very well then," Genjuro said as Elfnein moved aside to give him space. "We know our plan of action. We'll begin the first test tomorrow at noon. Is there anyone here...that would like to volunteer to go first?"

Before they could even begin thinking about it, Maria raised her arm. "I will."

The commander nodded. "Good. Remember everyone, tomorrow at noon sharp we start. Don't be late." He said. "Dismissed. Be sure to sleep well tonight."

And with that, the meeting was adjourned. The Symphogear wielders, tried from the difficult training and the loaded briefing, went out first; Maria needed every bit of rest she could take if she wanted to retain her sanity during the tests. She was expecting it to be extremely tough, and she was already wracked with nerves, but held her head high.

There was a goal to be achieved, and she would definitely not falter on the path to reaching it.

Following after them was Saint-Germain. She had nothing more to say, deciding to keep quiet as she thought about what had been revealed.

And what was not. Genjuro had deliberately kept a very crucial detail out of his explanation. He had said nothing about Miku's involvement in the bigger picture, choosing to keep it a secret from pretty much everyone. She briefly questioned the wisdom of doing so, but remembered what his intention was: to approach her at the right time so the impact will be much greater.

It was a tactic she was more than familiar with: by deceiving your allies you deceive your enemies. The commander's seemingly cold hearted tactics did not feel as heartless to her anymore; she could sympathize with him, understanding his own internal turmoil at having to resort to such tactics. This situation was hard on everyone, and someone had to keep a calm mind during it.

And Saint-Germain knew that out of everyone...that was not him.

She left the bridge, leaving Miku the only one remaining of the group. The girl had remained seated, her mind swirling with the new information they received. Everything looked so bleak and hopeless, and she felt so powerless. What was she supposed to-

"We'll save her, Miku-kun. You can count on that."

Instantly the fog in her mind cleared, and she looked up at the commander as he met her gaze. His expression was warm, yet as firm as a mountain. He looked filled with resolve, and she could see the fires burn in his eyes.

He had faith. Just like she did.

The girl answered him with a nod.

She wanted to ask more. She wanted to know what he thought about all of this. What he believed the outcome would be. She had so many things to say, things to ask, and had many words she wanted to hear from him.

And he answered all of that with a single sentence.

Hope blossomed in her chest, and for the first time in awhile, a genuine smile crept up to her face. "Thank you." She simply said, and followed the others out of the bridge.

'Hibiki...please, wait for me. I'll do everything I can to bring you home. I'll do everything I can...to get back our happy days.'

And that day, she made an oath. An oath she would stand by until the day she died.

Chapter Text

Being the resident scientist of the Section was a job Elfnein absolutely adored doing. Ever since she joined them during the Carol Incident, the homunculus had received countless amounts of support and motivation from her friends and coworkers. Even though she loathed herself for inadvertently being Carol’s mole, they still wanted her help. Locking her away or chasing her out was completely out of the question for them. And so, ever thankful for their faith in her, she vowed to assist them with all her power. 

And never before had she been so challenged by an ordeal. She sat in her lab, wearing protective clothes as she made the necessary additions to each of the girl’s Symphogears. Usually she would handle everything with her bare hands, but this time she decided to go the extra mile in safety, at Tomosato’s insistence. The curses that made up the arm in front of her were no laughing matter; it was entirely possible they were volatile as well, so she took extra care as she slowly chipped away at it bit by bit, taking powder sized fragments from it until she was satisfied by the results.

The last time she had made such radical and major alterations to the Gears was when she added the Ignite Module to them, and even then it was not nearly as nerve wracking. It was a simple matter of grinding up the fragments of Dainsleif, do some simple alterations to the units, and then just add it in. 

Now, she had to very, VERY carefully insert the powder she had obtained into the Gears, little by little. She had so many theories about what could happen if something went wrong; from the entire submarine exploding to the curses overflowing all over the place. She knew she was being paranoid, but when dealing with something so unknown and so ancient it was impossible not to worry. The work was also stifling inside of the suit, and sweat poured down her brows without end as she continued making the adjustments.

As usual, the first time was the hardest. With delicate movements she inserted the curse dust she collected into a tube, leaving the opening just large enough so miniscule amounts would be able to escape at any time. She then carefully picked up Airgetlam’s pendant with tweezers rather than her own hand and placed it on the stand, briefly admiring the crimson glow it radiated due to the desklamp.

Now came the scary part. 

She picked up the tube, hovering it closely to the pendant. Using a magnifying glass, she looked closely as she gave the tube one shake, causing a tiny bit of the powder to fall upon the pendant. The curse dust touched the gem, and she watched as it began to be absorbed into it, disappearing as if it wasn’t there at all.

She swallowed. Ok, that was just a tiny bit. It was not enough to give the desired result; she already knew what it was she needed to happen. Only once the crystal glowed does it mean that the addition was a success. Any other result would mean it was not.

So far so good.

She gave the tube another shake, and more dust fell. She repeated the process each time, careful as to give measured additions to the crystal so she could see if there was some sort of limit. She continued, surprised by the amount it could contain. Shouldn’t it have glowed by now? This was leaving her very nervous. Everyone was depending on her to succeed.

After a gut-wrenching five minutes of repeating the process, the crystal finally glowed, and she let out a sigh of relief. Now just to see how much she added. She placed the tube, along with whatever was left inside on a scale and wrote down the new weight. She had already measured the starting weight, and the difference was exactly what she added. 

It was an impressive 150 grams, something she did not expect. She removed the pendant from its stand, this time with her hand, and relaxed when it gave no strange reaction to her touch. It did feel a bit heavier, but in the lab it was more noticeable than when the wielders are wearing the pendants around their necks.

She put the completed Gear to the side and moved on to the next one: Ig-Alima.

An hour later, Elfnein leaned back in her seat from exhaustion, having finally finished the additions to all the Gears, Saint-Germain’s Lapis and Shenshoujing included. She looked to the collection of gems on the table next to her and smiled briefly, however her smile turned upside down when her vision focused on the Gear containing the Mirror.

Genjuro still had not approached Miku about this, and she was beginning to think he might be taking too long. Now that another factor had been added to the Gears, it was more than imperative that Miku also get some experience with it. She had only ever used it once, and the entire time her mind had not exactly been her own. No one knows how much she actually retained in terms of battle tactics or even the Gear’s abilities, and not to mention that she had never used the Ignite Module before. Such a shock could overwhelm her if they did not allow her to prepare for it. She knew that Genjuro was going for maximum impact with the reveal, but this impact could not only affect Hibiki, but their own comrades and even Miku herself.

At what point will it finally become too much?

However, she trusted him. She had to believe that everything he was doing was carefully planned, despite the fact that everything seemed bleak. His tone and seriousness during the briefing was almost completely out of character for him, and when that happens she knows that he is taking something very, very seriously. There was no way he wouldn’t when essentially the lives of the entire world were on the line.

But this marked the moment where he had a very personal investment in the crisis. She did not know how involved he was during the conflict with Fine, but this time his own student was the threat. He had faced her and lost, and had crafted a seemingly cold-hearted plan in order to get her back.  

But using Miku was just not the right way. ‘Miku-san is not a tool, Genjuro-san. Please, don’t lose yourself.’

She was worried for him. Ever since this incident began he was sleeping less, he did not allow himself to rest like he should, and she could see he was starting to become fatigued. He thought nobody would notice, but she did. He was running himself ragged with worry and care, completely forgetting to be human in the process. His decisions were becoming colder and more reckless, a sure sign that he was not himself throughout this whole ordeal. The very fact that he approved something as dangerous as the Super Ignite Project was already proof enough; he was going for the methods that had the highest chance of success regardless of what the cost was, all for the sake of taking Hibiki back.

She had spoken with Aoi about this during this week-long period of peace, and she told her the one thing that caused her heart to sink: that it was possible that Genjuro might be remembering his failure with Kanade, and now was hellbent on not having a repeat. It was a heartbreaking realization, and she wished she could do something to help him alleviate his sorrow.

But there was really nothing she could do except help out as best she can and do everything possible to finally get her back.

For everyone’s sake.

She pressed the comm button and hailed the bridge. “Genjuro-san...it’s done. We can finally get started.”

He hummed approvingly. “Good, thank you Elfnein-kun. I’ll tell them to come to the simulator right way.”  

“Okay, I’ll be right there.” She answered, and hung up.

Elfnein let out a sigh.

There was no stopping this now.

She quickly checked the lab over, making sure that nothing was out of place and that everything was secure. It wouldn’t do for the arm to be out in the open without any sort of quarantine.

She then took off the protective suit, putting it back in its place. Eyeing the pendants on the table momentarily, she took them one by one and placed them in the protective case she always had with her. She then gave the lab one final look over and headed out, going straight to the simulator room.

-!-

“Good, I see that everyone is here,” Genjuro said inside of the simulator. They did not begin just yet as he first had to brief them on what they’ll do. “We still have ten minutes so I’ll be going over how this is going to be happening.” 

The four wielders as well as Miku and Saint-Germain stood before him in a line. The alchemist had her arms crossed as she listened. “As we agreed yesterday, Maria-kun will be the first to initiate the test. What will happen is that we’ll start a simulation of the city, the one you’re used to. Once inside, I’ll give you the signal when to activate the Module. From then on, the real test will begin. We’ll be analyzing everything about what is going on in the control room, making sure to isolate anything that might help overcome the curses much easier. In case of failure, the rest of the wielders will be on standby to knock you out so we can see what the problem was. Does anyone have any questions?”

No one spoke, but he could see there was uncertainty on Kirika’s face. He decided not to comment on it, but rather give them some motivation. “I know you’re all scared of what could happen, but make no mistake: I have faith you all can overcome this. Remember what it is we’re fighting for and don’t let your past regrets consume you. As long as you stay true to your hearts, you will be victorious. Always remember that.”

They gave him an acknowledging nod. “Good, then let’s begin. Maria-kun, you stay here. Everyone else, with me.”

He led them out of the room while Maria stayed put. The door opened behind her, and she could hear the others walk out one by one. Maria closed her eyes, trying to empty her mind. ‘Focus. You can do this. Focus.’

“Maria-san,” A soft, gentle voice said behind her, one that she recognized belonged to Miku.

“Good luck.”

And the door closed, leaving her alone in the simulator. She stood in silence for a minute or so, breathing in and out, preparing herself for what was to come.

No, she had already prepared herself last night. The reason she had volunteered was simple: she was the only one out of the wielders to fail the first activation of the Ignite Module, causing her to go berserk. Strangely enough, she could remember exactly how her mind clouded over and her vision turned completely red, not able to see anything other than her own rage. It was a disturbing feeling, one she had loathed feeling. She was weak, drowning in self-doubt, and it took everyone’s help to take her out of that slump. The mountains of guilt and regret of her actions with FIS only added onto that feeling of powerless.

But that was in the past. Now, she was their comrade, someone they relied on and a dear friend to them. And she loved them for it. Even despite all of her mistakes and sins they accepted her and allowed her to feel true happiness again.

“Maria-kun, we are turning on the simulator.” She heard Genjuro say, and she responded with a nod.

At that moment, the walls around her warped, and the cold steel walls of the room suddenly turned into a vast cityscape, one she already recognized. They had used this exact simulated location many times before, and like every other time it began in this little square next to a decorated office building. She wasn’t sure which city it was emulating, but that did not matter in the least.

They would start with no enemies first, just as they planned.

“Don your Gear, Maria-kun.”

Now, first step.

She took a deep breath and grasped the pendant around her neck tightly, and chanted.

‘Seilin coffin Airgetlam tron’

And with a flash of silver light, Maria wielded her Symphogear. She stood still for a moment, waiting for the next signal.

“Okay, everything seems to be in order,” She heard Elfnein say. She was probably checking to see if the curses would affect the normal activation in any way, but it seemed like they didn’t as per her hypothesis.

But now comes the hard part.

Elfnein seemed to hesitate momentarily, but then continued. “Maria-san...it’s time.”

And that was it.

Maria started becoming nervous, her heart beating wildly in her chest. The first time with the normal Module was nothing short of excruciating pain; it was hell to experience and go through, her mind drowning in darkness. Yet Elfnein said this time will be much worse.

She didn’t want to know just how much...But she was about to find out.

Slowly, she raised her hand to grasp the pendant on her collarbone. “Start on the lowest setting. Once we pass the hard part we can think about increasing the output.” Genjuro instructed.

Okay, that made her life a tiny bit easier. Just the lowest setting, nothing more than that. The very base, Phase Nigredo it was called. The setting that offers the lowest output but the highest operating time.

She shook her head. Her mind was wandering too much. ‘Focus...Focus. This time, you get it on the first try. Show them you can. Prove that you have overcome your weakness.’

Maria took a deep breath. ‘Serena...please, watch me. Lend me your strength.’

And began with a single click.

“IGNITE MODULE! UNSHEATHE!”

She tore the pendant away and held it aloft in one hand.

And just like the first time, it let out a mechanical voice. However, this time it was unsettling. It was much lower in pitch, and sounded glitchy and broken.

 

 

"D̶̛̰̜̤̬̺͎͙͍̍̏̐̎͐̔̉͑͐̏̕͜͜͠a̶͓̘̠̲̘̺͇̣̮͗̌̈̊I̵̪̖̟̱̼̱͎̥̭̼̮̤̺̪̾̐̓̍̆͑̈̔̈́̚̚͜͝͝n̵̨̨̡͖̗̩̙̱͉͇͔̦̐͜ͅS̷̛̘̬̺̘̩̯̻̞̉́́̐̊̍̃͑̈́̍̓̚͝ͅL̸̝̒̌̌͋̒̕͜e̷̥͈̭̪͊̇̀̊̽̂̆͊̌̚͜͝ĭ̸͍̎͊̉̔̋̉̎̚̕F̸͇̖̦̏͛̄́̆̎̒̂̽͌̍͜͝͝͝F̵̮̟̺̯̺̬̥̳͇͉͖̼͔̾̈F̶̨̢̛̟̘͍̜̲͙̃̂͆̓̅̀͌̆̂̽̄̄F̸̡̲̱͚̘̓̃̐͛̃͛̔͊̓͒̓͊̆͘͠ͅF̷̦̦̤̝͓̠͇̘̺͚̝̣̓̓͆̑̿͆̚ͅ"

 

 

The pendant hovered before her in the air, and like every time its sides extended and the crimson blade protruded from it. Maria stood before it and braced herself.

Here we go.

And in a single motion, the blade buried itself in her chest.

The effect was immediate.

“AAGGRHRHGRHHHHHHGHHH---ARRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! KU-KUWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”

PAIN.

PAIN PAIN PAIN PAIN PAIN PAIN pAiN pain PaIn PAINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!

Maria let out a bloodcurdling scream, feeling as if she was being stabbed with a million searing hot knives all over her body. She could physically feel the sensation of her each and every part of her body melting…

And reforming.

And melting.

And breaking and crying and her organs erupting and her brain exploding and her heart vaporizing and her lungs collapsing and her bones shattering HER MIND FRAGMENTING HER SOUL CORRODING HER CONSCIOUSNESS BURNING EVERYTHING WAS NOTHING BUT TORTURE AND HELL AND FIRE.

AND SCREAMING. A MILLION VOICES SCREAMING IN TANDEM. SUFFERING BEYOND NORMAL CONCEPTION.

She could hear something beyond everything. Was someone calling to her? Where even was she? Why was she SUFFERING TO THE BRINK OF MADNESS? Her memory was fragmented, gone. Her entire being seemed to be in such complete agony she was sure she was losing her mind.

She fell to the floor, any strength she had in her legs drained in an instant. She squirmed in agony, clawing at her chest, desperate to be rid of this unbearable sensation.

Her mind had pretty much collapsed in an instant, her very existence in her own consciousness coming into question.

‘Who am I?’

‘Where am I?’

‘What am I?’

‘When am I?’

‘How am I?’

A lack of reason A lack of understanding A lack of Will A lack of Resolve EXISTENCE ITSELF BECOMES MEANINGLESS.

Nothing is left except THE SCREAMS. ALL OF THEM TOGETHER DIRECTED AT HER.

“DIE!” “DISAPPEAR!” “HATEEE HATEEE” “FUCK YOU PIECE OF SHIT YOU BITCH!”

Her blood was boiling, her heart beating faster than should ever be allowed for a human being.

And the others watched from the safety of the control room. Kirika and Shirabe huddled together in fear and worry as they watched Maria sprawl out on the ground, her limbs lashing wildly in all directions and her chilling screams that made them cover their ears.

It was such a horrible sight to watch that even Saint-Germain found herself wincing and grumbling to herself. ‘This might be too much.’

She shot a glance to Genjuro, who had his arms crossed. His vision was glued to Maria, and she could see, just slightly, his teeth clenching and his grip on his own arms tightening all the more.

He hated seeing this as much as they were. But there was no stopping the process now. Either she failed and they beat her down or she succeeded. To interrupt now might truly cause her mind to collapse, running a risk of permanent psychological damage.

Well, not that this process was any better. This was by far worse than they could have possibly imagined. Two thousand years of grudges and curses from an untold amounts of people was just too much for any one person to handle. Just this tiny bit was causing such an extreme reaction.

How the hell was Hibiki handling the full brunt of it?

The alchemist stole a glance at Miku, who was standing next to her. She had covered her mouth with her hand as she watched, absolutely horrified.

“She can do it,” Elfnein bit out from under her fear, biting her lip so hard she was bleeding. “She can do it. She can do it. She will do it. I believe she will. She can do it.”

Her hands were clenched tightly on top of the console, and she repeated this one phrase endlessly, as if to reassure herself rather than them. But what did it matter if they helped themselves? Maria was the one who needed help. The darkness had flooded over her in an instant, a blackness much deeper than they have ever seen the Module producing. Right after that Maria began screaming and thrashing about, eventually hitting the floor with such force the fake concrete beneath her was starting to crack.

There was nothing left for them to do but to watch their own comrade be ripped to shreds from the inside out, begging, hoping, that she’ll make it intact.

-!-

This is hell.

THIS IS HELL.

There was no hell greater than this.

Within the confines of her own mind, Maria was in agony beyond any she had ever felt before. Everything was simply fire, burning and scorching her skin repeatedly. She was pierced, and every single one of the blades dug deeply into her organs, inflaming the pain receptors to beyond their limits. This was beyond what a human could ever possibly experience in their life.

And she was falling. No, it was more accurate to see she was dragged, pulled down further into the hell by thousands upon thousands of shadowy hands, each one grabbing her more tightly, pulling her further and further down into the horror of fire and brimstone. They grabbed at her hair and limbs and chest and places she did not want to think about, and their touch was blazing hot, melting into her skin. She could not even scream due to the sheer agony, her brain overloaded by the sensations that she was starting to beg for death.

But death would not come, not here.

And then the fire disappeared, replaced by a cold she had never felt before in her life. She was dragged to what seemed to be underwater, freezing cold water that might be reaching absolute zero in terms of temperature. Her fingers froze over and instantly shattered. Then her arms. Then her legs. Then her stomach. Each and every part of her becoming nothing more than a block of ice, yet she was still dragged down. SHE WAS STILL ALIVE THROUGH IT ALL, EXPERIENCING THE MANY CIRCLES HELL HAD TO OFFER.

Was there even a point in keep her mind together? Just having consciousness and being aware of what was happening was far too much for her. Going insane was far preferable to this.

It felt like an eternity since the process repeated. From fire to ice, back and forth, to and fro, her body freezing and burning instantly and simultaneously as she was continuously dragged down down to wherever the hands were taking her.

Her eyes rolled into her head, her ability to breath taken along with the rest of her being.

And then, all at once, everything just seized.

She was dropped down, crashing against a metallic floor. She squirmed on the ground, gasping as she tried to get a hold of her senses, of her very self. Somehow she had retained her sanity through the whole ordeal, which she had to commend herself for. Not many would be able to do so. Remembering exactly why she had gone through this hell was difficult, but that will come later. First, get a grasp of her surroundings.

Maria rose to her feet uneasily, her vision blurry and broken. She leaned against a...wall? A wall yes, from what she could feel, and took deep breaths. The air was painful and prickled at her lungs, but it was welcome. She coughed many times to try and stabilize her breathing, and as she felt her body calm, her sight began to return.

And then she promptly froze again when she noticed where she was.

‘I was here not long ago.’ She realized. She had come here when she along with Elfnein dove into the depths of her mind in order to find the missing link for the LiNKER.

A facility that was long gone. A place that she, along with Serena, had once called home.

She looked around her, seeing that it was devoid of any living soul. She wasn’t even sure if this was reality or not, her fractured mind having trouble grasping hold of itself. She rose to her full height and limped towards the center of the room. It looked exactly like she remembered it, down to the very brightness of the light coming from the ceiling.

“How...is this…”

“Maria-nessan.”

Anything the idol was about to say got caught in her throat as she heard a familiar gentle voice ring behind her.

She turned around.

A bright smile met her eyes, and her mouth hung open in shock.

“Serena…”

Her long gone sister stood before her, wearing her Symphogear. Airgetlam’s original owner smiled even more brightly, and approached her older sister, standing right in front of her, looking up at her.

Maria’s guard dropped completely.

“Serena-”

THUNK!

Which proved to be a mistake.

There was a sharp, piercing pain in her chest. Her eyes only looked at Serena, who continued to smile, her hand extended towards her. Blood leaked from Maria’s mouth, and the elder looked down to see exactly what had occured.

And was met with the sight of Serena’s hand, embedded in her chest.

“S-Serena…”

The younger girl’s only response was to smile, and force her hand slightly deeper into her older sister’s chest. Maria could feel as the gloved hand closed around her heart, squeezing it gently. The elder could not even bring herself to move, and she coughed up blood, splattering it over Serena’s face.

But that wasn’t the end yet.

And from behind, she felt two similar sharp pains, and two more hands gripped at her heart. She did her best to look behind her, twisting her head as much as she could to see who had done it.

She saw a woman, aging but not quite elderly yet with dark blue hair and an eyepatch over her right eye. Her expression was serious, almost emotionless.

The other was a man, with bright white hair and a labcoat, a maniac grin plastered on his face.

‘Mom...Dr.Ver…”

Three people from her past, two she loved and one she hated, all worked in tandem to tighten their hold on the heart inside her chest. They remained unmoving as the entire facility melted away, bringing her back to the fiery hell she fell through just before. The dark shadowy hands returned and grabbed her legs, their searing touch just adding more pain to her senses. And slowly, ever so slowly, she was once again dragged down, and the three souls who had departed the world of the living lowered down with her.

There would be no return if she did not escape.

But how?

And then, Serena spoke. But her voice was no longer gentle or warm. No, now it was laced with the horrors of the damned, and her once gentle face contorted into a nightmarish caricature that sent chills down her very core.

“WORTHLESS.”

“WEAK.”

“GREEDY.”

“SELFISH.”

“HATEFUL.”

Serena cursed her older sister’s existence with every word she muttered.

“IT’S ALL BECAUSE OF YOU.”

“HOW DO YOU DARE LIVE.”

There was nothing the elder could do. Frozen in terror at the sight before her, her mind reeled completely.

‘This...is the shape of my sin. This is my punishment. This is what I deserve.’

That was all Maria could think. The very existence of Maria Cadenzavna Eve was a mistake, a bug in reality, an error that had to be corrected.

The foundation of her own self was crumbling. Her body was disintegrating, starting with the bottom of her feet and rising up. She could not longer feel her legs, the hands wrapping around them tightly with no intention of letting go.

‘This...is what I can here for. To be punished. To receive judgment for my sins. There is no other reason why I would be here.’

Despite the pain, despite the horror, there was a calm acceptance in her mind. As if everything would finally end after so long of her burdens bearing down on her. She had wished she could go much more peacefully than this, but her wishes were denied, just as usual.

‘That’s right...That is all there is for me at the end of the road. This is retribution. This is where I-’

‘STOP’

Her thoughts instantly seized. What was-

‘REMEMBER WHAT YOU ARE TRULY HERE FOR.’

Something was talking to her. But what was it? What was the source of that voice?

YOU CANNOT ALLOW YOUR PAST TO DRAG YOU DOWN.’

‘You want me to forget?’

‘DO NOT FORGET. BUT DO NOT DWELL. DON’T LET THE PAST DETERMINE WHO YOU ARE,’

She gasped.

BUT LET IT BE A PART OF WHO YOU WILL BECOME.’

Her eyes shot open. A rush of memories filled her mind to the brim, and she could see as it play out from beginning to end. Everything...from the moment Serena died...To facing S.O.N.G on the stage...Everything...Everything...was flowing.

And somehow, in this hell of fire and pain, she cried real tears. The heart, grasped by three hands of people who were no longer in this world, filled with nothing but sorrow and joy alike. And along with it...purpose. The reason. Her reason for being, for being here, returned to her all at once.

She stared down at the demon wearing Serena’s face. The demon that was her shackles. She had for too long let it stain her mind and soul, dwelling on something that she cannot possibly change.

So in order to cast away that burden, to finally accept the part of herself that was sinful...She must do away with this evil that encroached on her heart.

Retribution may not ever come…

But she did not need it.

And in a move mirroring Serena’s own, Maria thrust her hand forward and pierced through her sister’s chest in one blow.

The demon’s grip on her own heart faltered, and it looked down at the hand piercing it with an expression of shock. But Maria was not done yet. With a heave and a yell that was absolutely primal, she pulled her hand back with all the force she could muster and tore the demon’s heart from its chest. Serena’s hand left her sister’s, and fell backwards as its illusionary life fled it, disappearing into the fire.

And in Maria’s hand was not her sister’s heart just like she expected, but a shining bright blade, the Armed Gear of her Symphogear, Airgetlam!

The idol clenched her teeth, and even though her heart was still pierced, she swung behind her with all her might, decapitating both Mom and Ver with a single stroke. Their own grips on her heart loosened and they disappeared, leaving her alone in the flames.

But it was not over yet.

She hacked. She slashed. Swinging the blade wildly at her feet, she sliced away the arms grabbing her. They tried to gnaw at her again, but with every swipe she slashed away dozens upon dozens of the hands. Soon enough, she was able to liberate her legs, and stand right on top of the layers upon layers of hands, desperate to drag her down. The fire around her still burned her skin, and she could feel pain in every part of her body, but there was something within her that burned much more brightly.

‘That’s right. My hands are covered in blood, and my intentions yielded nothing. But I’m alive. I’m here. I’M HERE . I can still make a difference. For all the sins I’ve committed, and for the sake of everything that was lost, I will accept it. I will not forget it. I will pierce through it!’

A flash of blue in her mind filled her body with strength, and she chuckled to herself. To think now out of all times she would think about her. But she figured it was fitting. Up until now, the memory of her dear sister carried her forward, giving her untold amount of power and motivation.

But a strength relying on the past was fleeting, and would eventually run out. She only ever managed to look back, never seeing what was right in front of her. Always hoping she could see her again.

But such a wish would never come true.

So the only thing left to do...was to look forward, into the future.

“Isn’t that right, Tsubasa?”

She slashed down with all her might.

And the fire, the hands, and the darkness in her heart all vanished in a flash of light.

-!-

When Maria finally came to, she gasped and coughed up blood right onto the concrete.

‘Wait, concrete?’

She opened her eyes and found herself staring up at the sky, or at least a simulated one. Her everything hurt, but it was not a searing unbearable one she had experienced in her mind. It was more akin to an annoying, dull ache that numbed her limbs, forcing her to remain on her back on the ground.

‘Did...did I do it?’

She asked herself that, but she wasn’t sure if she was back to the real world yet. Her mind was swimming, somehow still keeping her sanity intact. She was feeling a bit annoyed that she couldn’t move, but that was fine with her. She just needed to rest after what she just experienced.

She closed her eyes, feeling herself drifting off…

“MARIA!!!”

Someone screamed her name. She couldn’t move, but she could hear many footsteps suddenly run up to her side, looking down on her from above. When her vision finally focused, she could see her friends staring at her in worry.

“K...Kirika?” She asked, her voice hoarse and her throat burning. “What...what happened?”

Her younger had tears in her eyes. “It...it was so bad! I thought you were going to die!”

“Kirika…”

“You did it, Maria-kun,” Genjuro said, and she turned her head to him. “You did it. You overcame it.”

She blinked several times. “I...I did it? On the first try? Are you sure?”

“Yes,” He answered. “Take a look at yourself.”

Maria blinked several times, and with all the strength she could muster lifted her upper body up, her legs still sprawled on the floor and studied her own form.

She blinked again. “Why...why is it all black?” She asked in confusion.

It was indeed a very major change. If the regular Ignite Module darkens the Gear somewhat, now the entirety of it was covered in blackness. No sections that were slightly a darker gray, no gems with a darker shade than the usual. No, the entire Gear, from top to bottom was completely dark. “This is kind of unnerving to look at.” She commented.

“I understand what you mean, Maria-kun.” Genjuro said, also noticing her concern. “How do you feel?”

She looked up at him as Kirika and Shirabe held her, the others having stayed in the control room. Maria looked herself over again, attempting to understand exactly what it was she was feeling. She raised her arms and looked over the gauntlets, turning them over to see just how much was changed. “A bit...shaken up, so to say.”

Genjuro smiled. “We knew you could do it. You have really grown strong, Maria-kun.”

It was said with such warmth that she found herself blushing at the comment. Geez, what is he thinking? Hurriedly turning her head away, her gaze fell upon Kirika and Shirabe. “Can you two...please help me up?”

The duo nodded, and each took one side of their elder and carefully lifted her up to her feet. She stumbled a bit on the first step, but soon enough stabilized her footing, standing on both legs. The duo released her and stepped back, letting her walk on her own.

Maria looked herself over again, trying to get a feel for this... weird strength she was feeling. It was definitely much more intense than before, and she could actually feel stronger...but it was such a strange feeling that she could not describe it. “This is surreal,” She commented. “I’m not sure what it is what I’m feeling. There’s this power welling inside, but it feels like it’s not settled completely, if you understand what I mean.”

“That is probably a symptom of the first release,” Elfnein answered over the comm. She could hear the relief in her voice. “You probably remember it was the same with the normal Module, correct? Once we get several uses of it off, then I believe it will settle down and fully integrate itself into the Gear.”

Maria nodded in acknowledgment. “I see…”

There was a pregnant silence in the air as they tried to formulate some questions for her. Genjuro was the first to speak. “What did you see?”

Ah, of course that will be the first thing. Maria raised her arm, looking at her hand closely. She clenched it into a fist as she recounted the experience. “It...it was pain unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. It was so consuming I thought I was going mad from just that. I could feel every part of my body burning from the searing heat, feeling my entire being just melt away into total darkness and regret that were so deep I thought I could never climb out of it.” She said absentmindedly as she recalled her experience.

But it was then she realized her juniors were listening, and that behind the wall stood Miku, Chris, and Saint-Germain. Maybe she should tone down the scary stuff. “But...even in this darkness that I was sure I was going to drown in, I held on. I understood...what were my regrets. What shackled me...what held me back, and that was what was trying to drown me. I let it control me for far too long, even when I thought it did not. So, in the depths of my heart...I cut it away with my bare hands. I struggled against it, lashing wildly so it would release me, and my strength came from thinking about something else entirely: the future...and what awaited in it. I understood...that I’m sinful, that I’m not perfect...and that I can never be perfect. But, as long as I’m alive...I can strive for a better tomorrow.”

Shirabe and Kirika looked up at her in wonder, and she crouched slightly to reach their height, hugging them both. “And don’t forget...to fill your heart with love. Surely, with that...you’ll overcome any obstacle.”

The two weren’t sure where that came from, but regardless they smiled and hugged her back, the three of them sharing a touching moment.

From within the control room Chris sighed and leaned back in the chair she was sitting on. “That was one hell of a ride I gotta say.”

Miku looked to her, still worried. “But...she’s just the first one. You’ll also need to do it, Chris.”

The Ichaival user slumped back in the chair and stared at the ceiling. “Yeah...I know.”

Maria released her two juniors from the hug and stood back to her full height. She looked to Genjuro for instructions. “What now?” She asked.

“First we take a break and analyze what we found out. Now that at least one person has done it successfully, we can make it much easier for the others. I’m sorry you had to take this burden all by yourself, Maria-kun.” Genjuro added sincerely.

She turned to him, a smile on her face. “It’s alright. I’m glad...that I was able to help everyone, even through my own suffering. It is a small price to pay...for everything you have all done for me.”

Genjuro answered with a smile of his own. “You’re very welcome,” He then turned to Kirika and Shirabe, along the way addressing Chris and Saint-Germain. “We’ll be taking a short break now as we go over what we have learned. Once we have isolated all the variables, we’ll continue with the next test. Kirika-kun...you’ll be the next one up.”

Shirabe looked to her significant other, who was sweating bullets. The energetic blonde nodded once, a worried expression on her face. After witnessing Maria go through it and come back in one piece and with her sanity intact, she was sure she could do it too. “No problem,” She said, still slightly uncertain. “It’ll be a piece of cake!”

Maria looked to her seriously. “It won’t be Kirika, sorry to burst your bubble. But even if it isn’t you can do it.” She told her wisely.

Kirika met her gaze, and once more nodded, acknowledging Maria’s words.

“Maria-kun, can you dispel the Gear?” Genjuro asked, still curious. It would be bad if she couldn’t remove it.

“Let me try.” She answered. She closed her eyes and willed the Gear to disappear, and to their relief it vanished into golden sparkles like usual, leaving her in her regular clothes. She let out a sigh, happy to be out of that pitch black armor. She’s going to have to get used to it until Elfnein can remove the curses from it once and for all, but that will only be after they get Hibiki back, and who knows how long that would take.

Genjuro clapped his hands, bringing all attention back to him. “Alright, as I said it’s break time. We’ll meet back here in an hour. Elfnein-kun and I are going to go over everything and we’ll tell you what we found,” He turned to Maria. “Make sure you rest and clear your head, alright? You’re going to have to be strong for the two of them.”

Maria eyed her juniors. “Yes, I know. Thank you.”

Yes, things were only just beginning. From here on out, it will only get harder.

And she hoped everyone would make it out of it, just like she did.

-!-

S.O.N.G’s bridge was busy as usual ten hours later. Genjuro sat at the helm, looking towards the screen as he went over the information they gathered from the Symphogears’ test in the simulator.

He let out a sigh. What a mess that was. Seeing the girls squirming on the floor like crazy was bad enough the first time, but to see it an additional three times plus Saint-Germain managed to take a toll on his mind.

Luckily, he had time to calm himself once he had sent the nearly broken girls to bed to get some rest. They were all equally tired and fatigued, having just won a battle in the very center of their own minds. Just seeing the usually calm Shirabe break down in hysterics and cry out to Kirika briefly made him reconsider the wisdom of using this new ability they got their hands on. It was such...a goddamn mess, all of it. This whole incident, from Hibiki-kun to this was just handled so poorly and with too many variables that he wasn’t sure how they managed to hold up till now. He was so used to being in control of the situation, and he usually was. Even Adam was not able to outsmart him completely.

But a single girl did.

“You keep telling us to calm down and you are not calm yourself,” A voice said behind him. He could hear the door to the bridge open, and instantly recognized the deep yet feminine tone. “It won’t do for my new ally to expire so early.”

Ah, she was sending his words right back at him. He swiveled his chair and met the alchemist’s gaze as she walked in. “Hmph, as if there is time for that.”

“We don’t know how much time we have,” She told him plainly. “Which is why we must take each of these pauses seriously. However, to deny ourselves rest when we need it is counterproductive.”

“I’ve been through worse,” He said, turning back to his console. “And you’re one to talk, you’re not resting yourself. Did you even go to sleep since the test?”

She walked to stand up next to him, staring down at his console. “No, I did not. I couldn’t fall asleep like I wanted to.”

He took a moment to answer. “It was that bad, huh?”

“Yes,” She said calmly, even though he could hear there was pain in her voice. “To experience both levels of the Ignite Module in the span of a single week is exhausting to say the least. I am still surprised it still works as well as it does, despite the contradiction that still exists within it.”

Genjuro nodded to himself. “I see...Then, Saint-Germain, will you tell me what it is you saw?”

The alchemist moved her head to stare at the large display at the very front of the bridge. She closed her eyes, recounting her own personal hell. “I saw...my mother.” She answered.

Genjuro looked up at her with eyes wide, taken aback by the fact that she was talking about her family. “I saw...my mother’s death once again,” She saw with a tinge of melancholy. “She died a long time ago, from malnutrition. I had tried in vain to feed her with the little scraps I managed to find, but it was all for naught. I had even begged my father for help, but he merely threw me aside and was appalled by how a slave girl like me dared to ask him for assistance. After all, for him my mother was nothing more than property to be used at his leisure. He refused to help us, and my mother passed away right before my eyes. Ten years after that day, I met that man again...and slew him in his sleep.”

The commander took a deep breath as he listened, having no words to give. “From then on, I desired a world free of oppression. So no one like myself and my mother would have to go through such suffering at the hands of another. I saw him, in that hell, lying amongst the countless other lives I have taken through the centuries. All of them looked up at me and cursed my existence, asking how someone like me dared to live in this world. How I dared to continue following such a optimistic ideal regardless of the cost. A great burden then fell on my shoulders, and I felt my knees and legs shatter from the weight. I thought that it was finally the place where I’ll be judged for my sins.”

She opened her eyes, looking ahead. He could see from the angle where he looked the depth in her blue eyes. The sheer agony of living for so long, and the wariness she has built up over the years. “Yet I knew that it was not my time yet, for my dream had been lost. But another took its place, one just as beautiful, just as strong. It gave me strength to keep moving on, to see it all through to the end. So I trudged forward through the plain filled with nothing but corpses, a single, selfish desire spurning me forward. I do not have any of this love that Maria Cadenzavna Eve had claimed that I should have, for I have none left to give. But even if someone like me can overcome this hell...then perhaps the world is not as bleak a place as I thought it to be.”

Saint-Germain’s gaze then softened slightly. “Because I know that as long as I’m alive...I can still bring about the change I desire.”

Genjuro smirked and chuckled lightly. “That’s right...As long as one is alive, you can still make a difference.”

His mind went back to when he visited Maria’s room earlier in the day. It was right after they had all tucked in and rested after the difficult tests, and he made sure to check on each of them. To his surprise, when he finally entered he saw her not alone, but rather with the two younger duo that have been with her for years. On the small, uncomfortable bed that HQ provided, three figures huddled together, basking in each other’s warmth. They were all comfortably asleep, not one of them moving an inch as they rested.

Those were the faces he vowed to protect.

“That’s why I must bring back Hibiki-kun. I will not allow even one of these girls to die, no matter what; I don’t mind hardening my heart for that purpose.” He turned to the alchemist. “And that goes for you as well. We must all make it through this alive, are we clear? You are not allowed to sacrifice yourself for any reason.”

She met his gaze and huffed. “Hmph, as if you are one to give me orders...But I’ll keep it in mind.”

Saint-Germain found herself internally conflicted. Someone was...actually worried about her. It has been a while since anyone has ever done that. It was...welcome.

‘I wonder what you’d say if you could see me now, Cagliostro, Prelati…’

But of course, Adam Weishaupt had to interject, speaking up from Elfnein’s console. “I don’t mean to interrupt your sweet moments, but there’s something that I believe should have been done already that you have not taken into consideration.”

Genjuro stared at him. “And what is that?”

“You should have taken the time to make a list of targets Tachibana Hibiki would possibly aim for,” He responded bluntly. “We already know that she is targeting specific people by now. She has been going for your Symphogears almost constantly; but nothing says she has to. There must be others that she might decide to take revenge on. Someone she holds a particular grudge against.”

The commander’s eyes narrowed, disturbed by the implications. “What do you mean-”

And in that exact moment, the alarm blared loudly throughout HQ, shocking everyone on the bridge. Genjuro was quick to start looking for answers.

“Find the cause! Hurry!” He yelled. “Tomosato, report!”

The sound of Aoi’s frantic typing filled the air, and she gasped as she noticed the signatures that the computer was identifying. “We are detecting black beasts, commander! But not only that! There’s also…” She double checked, making sure what she was seeing was not a mistake.

Every result gave the same answer.

“There’s also Noise! In very large number! And right here, in the city!”

“What?!”

Noise?! That’s...not impossible! After all, Hibiki had invaded the Treasury just a week ago.

“No way...she really did bring back the Noise…” Fujitaka said in a horrified tone. “But why here?!”

Genjuro clenched his teeth. “Noise now of all times, this late at night; Tomosato, where are the wielders? Have they all woken up?!”

“Yes sir! They’re on their way here right now!”

“Good,” He answered.

But then realized something was terribly wrong. True, the appearance of black beasts and the Noise together was unsettling, especially now. The Noise were more surprising than anything at the moment, considering they really did seal the entrance and were sure that the entire Treasury had been completely destroyed. While they were an easy opponent for the Gears to defeat, they always appeared in countless amounts. It won’t be long before they start massacring the citizens. Luckily enough, they had evacuation plans in place for that, plans that had been in effect even after the Noise disappeared.

But that paled next to the confusion that filled his mind when he noticed a very critical factor was missing!

“Wait...where’s Hibiki-kun?!”

Collective gasps were heard from the bridge. Realizing no one had answers to give him at the moment, he bellowed. “Find her, now! Sweep over the entire city if you have to!”

Adam simply smirked. “See, what did I tell you?”

Nobody responded to his sarcastic remark. At that moment, all four wielders along with Miku ran into the bridge in hurry and alarm. “Old man! What’s going on?!” Chris asked.

“Looks like these new Gears of yours will be put to the test sooner than expected,” He answered grimly. “We’ve got both black beasts and Noise on the loose in the city.”

Her eyes widened. “Black beasts and Noise…” She repeated to herself, taking the information in. “Seriously? But where’s the idiot?”

“That’s what we are trying to find out now.” He answered.

The crew on the bridge worked tirelessly to locate the rogue wielder’s position. With this many people working on it, they were bound to find her in less than a second. In fact it should have happened by now.

Something that seriously alarmed Genjuro. “What is going on?! Why is no one reporting?!”

“Sir! We can’t find her anywhere! There are no Aufwachen signals coming from within Tokyo prefecture!”

“What?!”

She’s not in Tokyo?! But where could she be?! “Increase the range of the satellite by 100 kilometers! We can’t let her go unfound!”

Responding to his orders, the sensor range of the S.O.N.G satellite in orbit increased, the lens expanding as it took in more of the layout of the land beneath it. Unfortunately, a cloud cover over the southeastern area of the country blocked its visual.

But they didn’t need visual, only the signals exclusive to Symphogears.

They worked tirelessly, sweeping the area increased by the satellite’s range.

Until one member finally had an answer. “Sir, Aufwachen has been detected!”

The twisted signal of Gungnir appeared on screen, and it proved to them Adam’s words: it had indeed changed further, and the encroaching black lines covered even more of it than before. The black hole had similarly increased in size, almost completely covering the original beneath, which they could barely see anymore.

“Where is she?!” Genjuro asked loudly.

The crew member typed away, ascertaining her location on the map according to the signal. “She’s in...Chiba, sir!”

“Chiba?!”

She’s in...her hometown?! Why?!

The answer came to him in the form of Miku’s horrified gasp. He looked behind him in a hurry to see her cover her mouth and her eyes widen. “Miku-kun, what’s wrong?!”

The girl’s voice shook as she spoke. “Her...her family lives in Chiba! They’re still there!”

“Her family?!”

Genjuro’s brain went into overdrive. In Chiba...her parents were there. He knew that in that city she had gone through those two years of hell. Was she going after all of the people that vandalized her house and hurt her in school? No, that’s too unlikely. There are just too many of those she could not possibly target all of them right away.

Wait...target? Adam had said she might look for someone she holds a particular grudge against…

If her aim was not the students, then the only other possible option, from what he knew was…

“Oh no,” He said frantically. “PREPARE A HELICOPTER RIGHT NOW! Maria-kun, you’ll go to intercept her as fast as you can!”

“Roger!” She answered, and swiftly left the bridge to head to the helicopter pad outside.

“Whoa, Old man! What is going on?! What does her family have to do with it?!” Chris asked him again, even more on edge than before.

“Adam was right,” He muttered. “We have completely forgotten what she’s been doing until now. She holds grudges against people; we already know we are also part of that. But nothing says she has to go after us all the time!”

Chris gasped. “Wait, you don’t mean-”

“She used the Noise and the black beasts as a diversion while she goes and takes care of it far enough from us! And the only possible target in Chiba that she can go after, the one person she holds a very deep grudge against that could possibly live there…”

The realization hit Miku like a truck. She fell to her knees as her strength left her.

“HER FATHER!”

Chapter Text

AN: Hibiki's mother and grandmother go unnamed in the series, so I based their names off of their seiyuus.

-!-

"Oh man oh man oh man why am I so unlucky?"

Those were the words Tachibana Akira muttered to himself as he ran as fast as he could towards his destination. Somehow, just yesterday Harumi had invited him over for dinner, despite their rocky relationship. Ever since he ran out on the family two years ago, he had kept almost zero contact with his wife through that period, too ashamed to face her again. He had swallowed down the regret and shame, continuing to live on the bare minimum as he avoided seeing or contacting any of them. He didn't talk to her, to her mother, or even to Hibiki. Only a chance encounter and a meeting orchestrated by Miku had brought him back into contact with his daughter.

He knew he could have handled that much better. He knew he could have been a much better father, a much better person in general, to all of them; yet the shame and fear were just so overwhelming that he couldn't handle it. Talking to Hibiki again was by far one of the most difficult things he has ever done in his life, and after they had...somewhat made up, meeting his wife felt almost impossible.

He wanted to run away...but he was tired of running away.

That was how, somehow, he found himself in his current position. Following Hibiki's insistence that they start getting along again, the two parents made the utmost effort to meet the girl's expectations; they sat, they talked, and they even managed to laugh at times.

Akira had missed these moments. Just looking at his wife's beautiful face as she laughed at a terrible joke he said made all the effort worth it. He had looked back at himself, and just could not understand how he had ran out on such wonderful people. His cowardice and his fear blinded him to what was most important.

He did not deserve them one bit.

Yet they welcomed him back, even if a bit reluctantly, and he vowed to do all he can to make up for everything he had done. All of the sins he had committed against them he vowed to rectify. He knew that his previous warm and sunny relationship with his wife will take ages to repair, and he knew it won't be the same as it was before. Yet he wanted to try, he wanted to be brave, so he borrowed some strength from Hibiki and made his move, and that put him where he is today.

Unfortunately, his leisurely walk to the house was short lived when it suddenly began to rain. He had bought a bouquet of flowers, specifically picked to cater to Harumi's taste as he remembered it, to give to her. Yet now it was certainly going to be ruined due to all the rain and wind that were buffeting him. Arriving at the house wet and dirty was the absolute worst impression he could give.

Well, not like he had a choice in the matter; the forecast didn't say anything about rain, and he had bothered to check it before he left too.

That was just his luck, crappy as usual.

"I must be cursed." He mumbled as he continued running. Thankfully enough he was already fairly close when the downpour began, so he might be able to escape being absolutely drenched. He could hear the sound of distant thunder in the sky, making him run all that much faster.

It took him about two minutes to finally reach the house. He passed by the concrete wall bordering it, catching a glimpse of paper remains on the floor and on the wall. 'Right, those things.' He said to himself, forcing down the horrible memories. He finally stopped in front of the door, panting heavily. Luckily enough for him, the entrance had a small roof, shielding him from the rain. He was still dripping constantly, but it could have been much worse.

He swallowed, calming down his breaths and rang the doorbell. He quickly hid the still somehow complete bouquet behind his back.

"Coming!" He heard a feminine voice call out. A moment later, the door opened, and he was met with the face of his wife, Tachibana Harumi.

He smiled awkwardly at her, conscious of his current state. "H-hey. I'm on time, right?"

She looked at him evenly, her expression betraying nothing. He knew she wasn't all that glad to see him, but she was doing her best to be civil, for Hibiki's sake. "Yes," She said. "I guess the rain caught you by surprise? Just like always."

He let out a nervous chuckle. "Yeah, like always," He replied. He swallowed again, and still meeting her gaze, thrust the bouquet forward. "T-this is for you."

She was taken by surprise by the collection of flowers that suddenly appeared. She stayed silent, and he swallowed once again nervously as he waited for her response. His heart beat rapidly, and he found himself going back in time to the day he first asked her out, with exactly the same method.

Harumi slowly took the wet bouquet from his hands and gave a small smile. "These are...beautiful," She murmured, unsure of what more to say right now. She knew him well enough by now to know that even though the flowers were dripping wet, he had done his best to pick out her favorites. "Oh um, come in. I think you should take a shower before dinner." She added, moving aside.

"Thanks." He said gratefully as he entered. "Sorry about the mess."

"It's fine. You remember how to use the shower, right? The knob for the hot water is still a bit broken."

He chuckled to himself. "Still? Thought you'd have it fixed by now," He said, taking off his wet shoes by the entrance. "But yeah, I remember."

It wasn't the first time he's been to the house since Hibiki caused them to meet again. He and Harumi had a lot to talk about, so he came a few times during the past two months. Heck, during the Obon Festival Hibiki came home and everyone sat together for the first time in two years; it was then he suggested having a hot pot together for old times sake, greatly bewildering both Harumi and her mother. That was just one of the first meetings they had, and since then even without Hibiki the two parents sat for dinner on some occasions. Usually they'd grab something outside, but this time Harumi was the one who took the initiative and invited him.

It was a step in the right direction, as he liked to believe. He still didn't exactly know everything that was going through her mind, but he hoped that things were improving. The very fact she invited him already showed something.

"Well, I guess I'll go take that shower now."

One step at a time, just like Hibiki told him.

A flash of light illuminated the sky as lightning struck.

And in that flash, just as Harumi closed the door and unbeknownst to Akira, a dark figure appeared under the light at the end of the street, staring at the house from afar.

-!-

"Phew, that was refreshing." The man let out as he walked down the stairs in clean, dry clothes. It seemed that Harumi had kept some of his wardrobe, despite everything that has happened. Maybe she just couldn't bring herself to get rid of them or something, but he decided not to worry about it. He was thankful enough for her inviting him here.

He walked into the living room, and was greeted by the sight of fresh food on the table. Looking ahead he spotted the two women, Harumi and her mother, in the kitchen. He walked up to them, staring at the counter. "Need help?"

Harumi looked to him. "No, we're okay, you can go sit down." She answered.

'Yikes, I guess she's still kinda cold to me.' He thought, but didn't let it bother him. 'Stay brave. Don't run away.'

Oh, he forgot something important. "Good evening Kiyoko-san." He said to the elderly woman next to his wife.

Kiyoko, Hibiki's grandmother and Harumi's mother, looked to him with a small smile. "Oh, hello there Akira-kun. I heard the rain caught you by surprise and you ran to take a shower. That is quite unlucky I must say, the forecast didn't say anything about that."

He chuckled. "Yeah, I know, I checked before I left home and they said it was only supposed to be cloudy. I guess even the weather forecasters sometimes get that wrong."

In that moment, the lights flickered momentarily, causing the three to look up at the bulbs. "Oh my," Kiyoko added. "It looks like the storm is causing problems. I hope we won't have a power outage."

"In that case I still have that emergency lamp under the sink, mom," Harumi reassured her. "Had to keep it on hand in case those nasties knock out our power again."

Ah, he remembered that story. Harumi told it to him the last time they met: at some point after Hibiki left for Lydian, some neighbourhood boys just came and somehow cut the power cables to their home, leaving them without electricity for a few days until someone fixed it.

He remembered it all too well, how the family were treated as outcasts because of what happened to Hibiki. It was so bad that his former boss fired him just due to being related to her, all because his daughter was one of the victims in the incident. He hated that man until today for laying him off out of spite, but it was that action that caused Akira to spiral down to depression and alcoholism. 'I was so freaking pathetic.'

"Alright, it's all ready now," Harumi said, putting the knife down and picking up the salad bowl. "Let's go eat."

He smiled, "Yes, let's. I'm so hungry I could eat a horse!"

Harumi smiled, and he found his heart fluttering at the beauty of it. He replied with his own goofy grin, and together the three sat down to finally have their dinner.

-!-

Dinner was a fairly quiet affair, and they only exchanged a few words, focusing on enjoying the meal. They didn't talk about anything special, just life and work and whatnot. Soon enough, their plates were empty and the table was cleared, and together they sat down to drink tea. Rain continued to pour outside, and the occasional flash of light signaled the lightning in the sky.

Akira took a sip and sighed contently. "Ahhh, this is the life," He said. "Dinner was amazing, Harumi. You got really good at it!"

"It's only because I had to," She answered with a sad smile. "You were always better than me at that. And besides, mom helped me."

'Oh crap, please no depressing stuff.' "Well I dunno, but it was delicious." He replied with a smile.

She smiled back. 'Yes!' "I'm glad you liked it." She said, taking a sip of her own tea.

They fell into an awkward silence then, neither one having the courage to speak up again. Kiyoko looked at them sadly and sighed. She herself wasn't all too fond of Akira because of what he did, but she was more than willing to give him a second chance despite everything.

These two were acting like lovestruck teenagers, she noticed. It was refreshing and infuriating at the same time; she knew they had their issues and that they managed to talk about them here and there, but they didn't have to be like this all the time.

The lights in the house flickered again, shaking the two parents out of their stupor. "Sheesh, this is one heck of a storm," Akira commented. "Should I check the electric box?"

"It would be better if you didn't. You wouldn't want to get wet again with all this rain, right?" Harumi asked.

He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Yeah, I guess I don't."

They fell quiet again, sipping on their tea. Akira's gaze darted around, and eventually fell upon Kiyoko, who he noticed was looking at him, drilling into his head that he should speak up.

'Be brave, don't run away.' "So, Harumi, have you been keeping contact with Hibiki lately?" Akira asked. If they have nothing to talk about, Hibiki was always a good subject.

"I have, although I couldn't catch her for the past week. I was really worried when I heard that something happened at their school, so I called Miku-chan too, and she said that Hibiki was fine, if a bit shaken up and that she'll contact me when she can," his wife answered. "She's been working really hard, hasn't she? I'm glad she got to go to school like she wanted."

Akira blinked several times, finding himself slightly confused. He didn't know how much Harumi knew about exactly what Hibiki was doing, but decided not to bring it up. It came as a huge shock to him that Hibiki had somehow become a hero in the time they didn't talk, wielding some kind of super armor. The people at the place she worked at explained the situation to him, and it was so incredible he didn't know how to take it. However, they asked him to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so he couldn't talk about it with anyone. He figured that Hibiki would eventually reveal it to her mother and grandmother, but from her reaction he realized she didn't, at least not yet.

"Yeah, she's been working really hard. She's been through so much yet she can keep her spirits up through it all," He said. "I'm really proud of her. She's...way stronger than me." 'In more ways than one.'

Harumi held her teacup with both hands, appreciating the warmth of the liquid. She looked out the window to the outside, listening to the sound of the rain. "Yeah...she's stronger than me too," She said. "Our little girl...isn't so little anymore huh?"

Akira laughed. "Yeah, she really isn't. Soon enough I'll have to walk her down the aisle too," He said gleefully. "That would be a dream come true."

And Harumi found herself laughing as well just thinking of the scenario. "Yes, it would be!" She exclaimed. "Although that girl hadn't brought anyone like that home. Well, she did say that she wasn't all that popular in school."

Kiyoko looked to the side, muttering to herself quietly. "Not with the boys anyway…"

"Hmmmm? Mom did you say something?"

"Oh no dear, just talking to myself." The elder answered with a smile. There might be a little secret that she knew that she didn't quite share with her daughter yet. After they enjoyed the hotpot during the Obon and the two parents went to talk alone, Kiyoko was left with Hibiki. She hadn't seen her granddaughter in so long she was dying to know how she was doing.

It came as a shock to her when Hibiki confessed something she said she'd been keeping a secret, and that she was scared to tell her parents about it. Ever since she was a little girl, Hibiki had always come to her when there was something she wanted to say that she didn't want her parents to know about. And to think, what she wanted to share was something like this.

Well, somehow despite everything it didn't come as a total surprise to Kiyoko. Looking back, the signs were all over the place and she just failed to notice any of them. But she wasn't one to judge; the smile on Hibiki's face as she spoke told her everything she needed to know.

And that was enough for her.

"Well, with Miku-chan taking care of her, will she even need to get married?" He said jokingly, making his wife laugh again.

"You're right. Miku-chan...has really been a big help to her and to us, hasn't she?"

"Yeah...she has…"

Honestly he couldn't even begin to voice how grateful he was. It was only through her intervention that he managed to get the chance to talk to Hibiki again, which in turn led to where he was now. She presented him with an opportunity, and he decided to take it. Not only that, the support she has shown Hibiki over the long two year period was something he will always be in her debt for.

Hmmm, maybe he should invite her over again at some point, so they could all have dinner like they used to back then-

Lightning struck outside, the sound of rumbling thunder drowning out his thoughts. The lights flickered again in response.

"KYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

He was shocked out of his wits by Harumi's sudden screaming. The woman dropped her teacup on the floor and had shot out of her chair in an instant, reeling backwards from the window, her eyes wide.

Both he and Kiyoko immediately stood up. "Harumi, what's wrong?! What happened?!"

The woman was breathing hard, staring at the window. "T-there was something outside! I-I saw something standing just outside the window! It looked like a person!"

Akira's own eyes widened, and he followed her gaze. He looked outside the window too, but only the rain pouring outside greeted him. "Harumi, there is nothing there."

"I swear! There was someone outside!"

"You might be imagining things, honey," Her mother said. "Maybe you're just tired."

Kiyoko's logical answer calmed her mind down slightly. "R-right...Yeah, you're right," She replied, her breathing easing up. It was then she noticed what happened to the cup she was holding. "Oh geez, I should clean this up."

Akira looked at her as she picked up the broken shards of the teacup off the floor. He needed to reassure her somehow that everything was fine. "I'll take a quick look outside alright?"

She looked up at him with a pleading gaze, giving him all the answers he needed. "Okay, just...be careful."

He nodded, and headed straight to the door while Harumi and her mother cleaned up. She was probably just seeing things was truly the logical conclusion, but he would check anyway.

He opened the door and peeked outside, looking left and right. He couldn't see anything out of the ordinary, only the rain beating down everywhere. 'I guess she got scared by the lightning. That reminds me, it always unsettled her in high school. I see she didn't get over it yet.'

Seeing that nothing was wrong, Akira closed the door and headed back inside…

Completely missing the figure that appeared in front of it just as he left.

"I didn't see anything, Harumi." He called out as he entered the living room.

"I see...thank you, Akira." She said with a small smile. He was glad he was able to do this much for her at least. "I think I'll go to bed early today."

"You really should, honey." Kiyoko said, putting a comforting hand on her daughter's shoulder.

And then the lights flickered several times in rapid succession, then shut off completely.

The sudden darkness in the house unnerved the two women, and Akira found himself slightly on edge. "Well, it was only a matter of time I guess." He said jokingly, trying to lighten the mood.

The two women had stayed in the kitchen, huddling together. Realizing they were afraid, Akira swallowed and spoke up again. "Hey Harumi, can you take out the portable lamp? It should still work, right?"

She blinked, regaining her composure. "R-right."

As she got right on it, Akira then noticed something very, very strange, other than the fact that the lights were off.

He could barely hear the rain outside anymore. If before it was a constant beating, now it was a very muffled sound, almost completely non existent. The entire house was, for a lack of a better word, deathly quiet.

And then everything stopped and he turned around in a hurry when he heard the front door creak open. The two women, who had also heard the sound, were immediately struck with fear.

"S-someone's entering the house!" Harumi whispered in her terror. The two retreated as much as they could, their backs hitting the wall behind them. However, Akira remained frozen on the spot, his eyes wide.

'No! Be brave. Be brave! No running away! You have to protect them!'

Who would have thought a burglar would come now of all times.

It was then that they heard heavy, metallic steps strike the wooden floor, closing in on them slowly behind the wall.

'What kind of burglar wears metal shoes?'

Akira swallowed nervously, and took steps back in order to cover the two women behind him. He looked to and fro, trying to find something he could use to defend himself and them.

He laid his eyes on the kitchen knife Harumi had used just before, still not washed from cutting the salad. He hurriedly took it and held it in his hand, pointing it forward.

Lightning flashed again, illuminating the house briefly.

And that's when they saw a short figure standing in the doorway of the living room staring right at them.

Akira stepped back even more, attempting to shield the two women. He whispered quietly so only they would hear. "H-Harumi, the lamp."

So frozen in terror was the woman that she almost completely forgot she was holding it. He reached out with his hand behind him and she uneasily handed it over, his eyes still locked on the darkness that returned to the house. 'Where is he? Where is he?!'

He turned on the lamp.

And all three of them promptly screamed when they saw the figure appear right in front of them!

The two women put their hands over their heads in an attempt to defend themselves from any possible attack, while Akira simply remained paralyzed as he looked at the sudden intruder dead in the eye.

Lightning struck again, and together with the light provided by the lamp he was holding, revealed to Akira everything he needed to know. The shape of the hair, the height, and the weird looking armor gave it all away.

Everything except the emerald glow coming from her eyes.

He could only mutter one name in response.

"H-Hibiki?"

Lightning struck again.

Harumi and Kiyoko, not having expected to hear that name now, opened their eyes.

And then promptly widened in shock when they saw who it was.

The girl said only one thing in response.

"Hello, father."

-!-

"What is Maria-kun's position?!" Genjuro yelled across the bridge, waiting for someone to give him answers.

"Sir! The helicopter is five minutes away from its destination!"

'Shit! That's too slow!' Genjuro grumbled to himself. Chiba was at about a 50 kilometer distance from Tokyo, from city center to city center. Seeing as Hibiki's house was slightly south of that area, it would take more time to reach it. However who knew what the situation there was right now, and they had launched the helicopter as soon as Hibiki was located. Not much time passed since then, but with the helicopter going full speed they were bound to reach it faster than usual.

But would that be fast enough?

'Please make it in time. We can't have Hibiki-kun make a mistake she'll regret for the rest of her life.'

Just the thought of it was horrifying. If they failed to stop her and Hibiki killed her own father, it wouldn't matter if they managed to save her or not; she would discover what she had done eventually and would never be the same again.

They have to prevent that no matter what.

'I just have to believe Maria-kun will make it in time. With the new Gears, it should be a bit more even...but we don't know that yet. The only training they've done was in the simulator, and that was just earlier today. They are definitely not used to it yet.'

But there was no time to waste. The situation in Chiba was not the only thing they had to worry about.

Scans of the city were shown on the big display on the bridge, showing the absolutely huge congregation of Noise. Luckily enough, evacuation had started almost instantly, giving enough time for the majority of the civilians to seek shelter.

But of course, that was not fool-proof. There have always been casualties when the Noise appeared, no matter how fast they responded.

This time however was very different, for not only did they have to deal with the return of the Noise, which at the moment seemed to be absurdly large in number, but also with the black beasts that Hibiki created, which were also way bigger in number than before. Their scans indicated at the least a hundred of them spread out all over the city.

They had exactly four people able to deal with the threat at the moment.

To say they were outnumbered would be an understatement, even if one wielder equalled to at the least one thousand Noise.

All four of them were already outside and waiting for orders. Now he just had to maximize the use of their abilities. He stared at the map indicating their position, seeing them standing at the end of the pier that led into S.O.N.G HQ. It is from there that they will deploy.

He opened the comm and spoke. "Chris-kun! You stand guard in the harbor and take out anything that even tries to look at you funny! Don't hold back! Make sure absolutely nothing gets past you!"

Her role in the battle would be mainly the defense of headquarters. With so many Noise, a large number of them would definitely start making their way towards the harbor, and probably accompanied by some of the black beasts as well. To that end, placing Chris, who was the area of effect specialist of the wielders was the optimal choice; not only do her abilities focus on eliminating a large number of enemies at once, but because of the harbor's large open space she didn't have to worry about as much collateral damage in the process. Nowhere in the city is there such a location where she can let completely loose.

"Roger that!" She answered, her amusement obvious in her voice. The marker indicating her location moved back slightly, taking position at the very foot of the pier. It is there that Chris will bottleneck the approaching enemies.

That took care of that. Next. "Kirika-kun! Shirabe-kun! You two take point in the Skytree! Lure the enemy to your position and eliminate them!"

Placing the duo wielders in charge of the city's defense served two purposes: one, the two were incredibly mobile, Shirabe especially, allowing them to reach their intended location in an instant. Also, because there were two of them, they could cover each other's backs as they fought off waves upon waves of Noise and beasts that would come from all directions directly at them.

The second purpose was that the underground of the Skytree housed the largest shelter in the city, a prime target for the human-slaying Noise and the only one in a two kilometer radius. Not only will the two wielders fight off any of the enemies attempting to breach it, but they would also be able to lure any nearby Noise to their location because of the large amount of humans they were directly protecting.

"You got it!" Kirika answered for the two.

He could see the markers representing the girls on the map begin to move. The Skytree was an easy landmark to find so they wouldn't have any problem reaching it quickly. They would also catch the attention of any Noise and beast they encountered along the way, which was extremely helpful.

However, one problem remained: mainly, the rest of the city. Any area not covered by the Zababa duo's or Chris' sphere of influence will be absolutely ravaged by the Noise attacks, not to mention any shelters that they will not be able to directly protect. They are essentially defending only the key points, leaving everything else vulnerable.

Luckily enough, they had a powerful ally who was willing to assist.

"Saint-Germain," He said more quietly. "I will ask that you lure the enemy to either one of the two positions. The beasts are far more formidable than the Noise, so if you encounter any, eliminate them on the spot. The Noise are far too numerous for us to chase after; we must bring them all to one of the two designated points in order to make our job easier. Is that alright with you?"

The rush of static alerted him to the fact that his request had indeed reached its recipient. However, for one reason or another she remained quiet longer than he had expected, causing him to become slightly restless as he saw that the marker indicating her Faust Robe did not move from the harbor. He couldn't order her around, so everything he said could be denied or refuted completely.

It was only twenty second later that she finally responded.

"I acknowledge your orders," She answered. "And it is a fine plan considering our limited forces."

Only then did she move, jumping over obstacles in order to reach a certain location. He could see her marker rapidly change positions, indicating how fast she was moving through the city; however, her lack of complete answer perplexed him.

She resumed talking as she took position on one of the taller buildings overlooking the city on the western side. "However, due to the number of enemies, it will be extremely difficult to successfully divert their attention to our two cut off points. I do not doubt that many of them will indeed be missed and will proceed to breach the shelters,"

Unbeknownst to anyone on the bridge, Saint-Germain unpocketed several very interestingly shaped crystals. "In order to be able to cover every possible corner of the city and ascertain that we successfully eliminated the entire enemy force, I believe that it will be necessary to bolster our own."

Genjuro furrowed his brows. Bolster their own? Tokyo was after all an absolutely gigantic city, so it was obvious that the wielders, especially in their current numbers will not be able to cover it in its entirety, which was why he asked her to essentially act as bait so they would be herded towards the area where they could eliminate them in an orderly fashion. But how was she going to resolve this dilemma if she wasn't going to act as bait?

"As such, I have come up with a solution to this problem." She said.

Genjuro furrowed his brows. "What do you mean by that? What do you have planned?" He asked. He had an inkling of an idea, considering who she was, but he set it aside as too ridiculous.

Until it wasn't.

"I believe you are well acquainted with them by now," She added. "After all, the Symphogears were broken by them during Carol Malus Dienheim's revenge, were they not? An enemy that you did not expect to see again."

Genjuro's eyes widened. "Wait, you can't possibly mean-!"

Something that broke the Symphogears...an enemy they did not expect to see again…

Fujitaka finished that line of thought for him. "No way...you are going to use the Alca-Noise?!"

-!-

"That is correct," Saint-Germain answered as she looked down on the city. She could already see the massive amounts of Noise prowling the city streets, and the green and pink blurs that were the Gears of Zababa, heading towards the Skytree. She had chosen this particular building to stand on because of the large open plaza that stood right beneath it.

"I have synthesized plenty more using the research papers I have retrieved from my previous base. It was the only thing I have been doing for the past few days; at this point, the amount I can deploy at once numbers in the very high thousands. I believe that will be sufficient, is it not?"

"Wait just a damn minute!" She heard Chris yell over the comm. "You are going to summon Noise too? How the hell does that even make sense?! What makes you so sure they won't turn on us?!"

"They have been programmed to be bound to my will. They will only target what I order them to and nothing else; they will serve as the rank-and-file soldiers for this battle." She explained evenly, now holding several dozen of the Alca-Noise crystals in her hand.

"To pit the Alca-Noise against the ancient ones...who would have thought such a scenario would become reality?" Genjuro said in disbelief.

The alchemist huffed. "You said it yourself, that desperate times call for desperate measures. It is unprecedented, but I believe they will prove their effectiveness."

"Can the Noise even kill each other?" Chris asked. If there was one thing Chris never expected to happen, it was to team up with the Noise to fight other Noise! Even when she was using Solomon's Cane she never really considered them soldiers or even alive, just things to throw at her enemies!

"Theoretically yes," Elfnein interjected. "But we won't know until we see it for ourselves."

"Then let me serve as the proof of your hypothesis, Elfnein," Saint-Germain said proudly. "So for the first time in human history, the Noise shall act as the shield of mankind!"

Then she threw the crystals down. A second later they shattered against the ground, and where they broke dozens upon dozens of magic circles appeared, covering the plaza in its entirety.

And from within the seals the Alca-Noise rose by the hundreds, in all shapes and sizes. Humanoid, Crawler, Flying, Cell, Millipede, and even several Giant Noise were summoned out of the crystals, filling the plaza to its absolute limit. Once they had all appeared, the army of Alca-Noise remained immobile, awaiting the orders of the one who had brought them forth.

Saint-Germain stood on the edge of the building's roof, overlooking her summoned pawns. She materialized her gun and raised it high into the air, her voice echoing across the plaza. "Your targets are the Babylonian Noise! Hunt them down and leave none alive! Any human you find is to be spared! Am I clear?!"

The only response she received was the insect-like shuffling of her constructs.

That was all she needed to hear.

She swung the gun down.

'Let this act be the first step in making amends for my sins!'

"FORWARD!"

And the the army of Alca-Noise charged into the streets, seeking their targets.

-!-

"Hibiki? Is that really you?" Harumi spoke up from behind her husband as she rose to her feet. Her mother followed suit, and the two looked with wide eyes at the child of the family.

The girl said nothing, and merely continued staring at her father, her emerald gaze piercing into him, gluing him to the spot. Harumi and Kiyoko went to stand next to him, looking her over. "You scared us half to death, honey. If you planned on coming to visit you should have called first; we were really worried about you when you weren't answering your phone this whole week. Is everything okay?" Harumi continued, strangely oblivious to the eerie atmosphere that accompanied her daughter's arrival.

Hibiki's only response was to stay silent and keep on glaring at her father, who also did not utter a word since she arrived out of nowhere. Akira knew, he just knew, that what he should be feeling at the moment was relief and joy at seeing his daughter again, and that he should be spending the time catching up with her about everything that has been going on.

But the only emotion that filled his being was fear as those absolutely wrong shining eyes bore into him. That was just the first alarm that rang in his mind, seeing this alien color in his daughter's eyes. What's more, this...armor she was wearing was very unlike what he saw the last time: back then it was a sleek white with yellow and orange highlights, a color scheme that very much fit her and her personality.

There was something terribly wrong here. Hibiki's homecoming in a while should not be this unsettling.

Concerned at her daughter's lack of reaction, Harumi took a step forward. "Hibiki? Is everything alright?" She asked. It was then, now that she was no longer obscured by the darkness or by Akira's back that Harumi finally noticed that Hibiki looked very, very different. "What...is that thing you're wearing?"

Narrowing emerald eyes was the only response. Harumi tried to continue digging further. "Hibiki, what is going on?"

"Shut up."

Her daughter's vehement denial took Harumi by surprise. Kiyoko's own expression hardened as she also took a step forward. "Hibiki, that is not a manner to talk to your mother!" She chided. "Tell us what is going on-"

"I SAID SHUT UP!" Hibiki yelled, shutting down any further attempts from the two women to understand what is happening. "I'm not here for you."

She didn't even bother to spare them a glance as she spoke, and they could hear her words laced with fury and poison, greatly unnerving the two women. They haven't seen her for a while, and this sudden change in her demeanor was absolutely mind-boggling.

"Hibiki, please, what is happening? Please talk to us!" Harumi pleaded.

Hibiki once again did not respond to her mother, so in a moment of slight bravery, Akira finally managed to open his mouth to speak too. "Hibiki, you should listen to your mothe-"

He didn't even see her move. Once second he was standing in front of her, and the next he found himself grabbed by the collar of his shirt and his back slammed against the wall. He howled at the sudden pain, and the two women screamed at the violence. The lamp and the knife clattered to the ground at his feet.

"G-g-guhhh…"

"HIBIKI! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"

Once again Hibiki ignored her mother and sent her father a derisive look. His legs flailed and he grabbed her arm, trying to free himself from her grip, but he found that she would not budge even an inch. Lightning flashed again, and with its help he could finally make out all the intricate details of this new armor she was wearing, particularly the nasty looking spikes and the glowing purple veins that he had somehow missed earlier.

Thunder rumbled in the distance, and Hibiki raised her arm to lift her father up even more against the wall. He began to choke as he felt the side of his collar push against his windpipe. "H-Hibiki...I c-can't b-breath-"

"Does it hurt?"

Anything else he wanted to say got caught in his throat as she spoke.

"I asked you," She repeated herself, her emerald eyes still gazing up at him. Then, in a single fast motion unpinned him from the wall and smashed his back against the wooden dining table. It shattered under the force, and Akira screamed in pain, spittle flying out of his mouth.

Harumi and Kiyoko screamed too, and somewhere along the line started begging her to stop, but she ignored them completely. She only had eyes for her father, now filled with nothing but fury and hatred.

"IF IT HURTS!" She yelled, picking him up by the neck and slamming him again against the debris of the table. He screamed again as splinters dug into his back.

Realizing he should most definitely answer her, he gathered all the strength he could muster and choked out a response. "I-it hurts…"

"Is that right?"

She raised him into the air with a single hand, and his arms fell to his side, paralyzed from the pain bombarding his brain. Her grip slightly tightened and he squirmed as less air entered his lungs, and his legs dangled uselessly beneath him. He was taller than she was, but somehow she managed to lift him so high his feet couldn't find purchase on anything. Harumi and Kiyoko continued screaming in the background, unable to stomach the sight but afraid to try and intervene.

"How do you think it compares?" She said harshly. "How do you think I felt when I suffered through hell for two years? How do you think I felt when I looked to you for help, and the only thing you did was scream and yell?"

She squeezed his throat even harder, choking the life out of him. She snarled savagely, her teeth clenching in pure anger. "How do you think I felt when you abandoned me when I needed you the most, YOU DAMN COWARD!"

And then she threw him. He flew across the living room and smashed through the window connecting to the front yard, the glass shattering into a million pieces. Akira fell to the ground and rolled, only stopping when his back hit the outer wall, releasing another painful cry as the cold air rushed into his lungs. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled above him, the rain beating down on him with all its fury.

Hibiki trudged through the house, and through the aura of her anger the furniture in her way was blasted from her path, smashing against the walls. Harumi and Kiyoko's screams were drowned out from the noise. Her eyes still locked on her injured father outside, she reached the broken window and jumped over it easily, joining him in the front yard.

Akira rose to his hands and knees, coughing harshly as Hibiki advanced on him. The downpour only strengthened as she walked, thunder and lightning joining in on the chaotic chorus in the sky.

"You piece of trash," She spit out. "You're nothing but a damned insect who cares only about himself. All you ever think about is how YOU benefit from everything, don't you?!"

And then she kicked him in the stomach just as he began to try and rise to his feet. The wind got knocked out of him and he fell on his side, covering him in mud. "You only pretended to care the entire time! But you actually don't; you never did, I know that now," She continued.

At that moment Harumi dashed outside as well, with Kiyoko right behind her. They ran into the rain and went to Hibiki's side, trying to dissuade her from continuing. "HIBIKI! YOU HAVE TO STOP! PLEASE!"

But she was ignored, and Hibiki simply kept on going with a vile tone. "You went on and on about how things are always so fucking fine, right?! 'It's all right, everything is just fine', HUH?!"

She kicked him again, the tip of her boot slamming into him. This time, he coughed up blood into the mud, and Harumi and Kiyoko stood horrified at what she was doing. "HIBIKI I'M BEGGING YOU! PLEASE STOP!"

"You spouted that garbage every single day, but when it suddenly turns south for you, you just got up and RAN! And you didn't care! You screamed and yelled how you were having it so hard, and then abandoned us when it got too tough for you, leaving us to deal with everything on our own while you hid like a piece of shit!"

She kicked him again, and this time Harumi grabbed her arm, trying to shake her, anything to just make her stop what she was doing, to free her from this nightmare. "HIBIKI! PLEASE LISTEN TO ME!"

But her daughter's only response was to swat her away, and Harumi fell to the ground with a yelp. Kiyoko ran to her side, and the two looked to Hibiki with tears in their eyes as she kept on screaming.

"That's all we were to you, some house for you to crash in while you lived in your own little world, pretending that everything is happy! And we ate it up like a bunch of idiots. How did it feel, knowing you knocked up a woman only to abandon her when she needed you?!"

And she kicked again.

"You think YOU had it so fucking hard?! I was accused of being a murderer! I was pushed down flights of stairs, was punched and kicked and bullied every single day! I stopped going outside after someone tried to kill me when all I wanted was to buy something to eat! So how do you think I felt when not only did the entire world paint me as a killer, but my own father too?!"

And again. Harumi gasped, having not heard that particular part before.

"You don't have the right to complain about being in pain, especially when you don't even know what it is! I didn't put my life on the line so trash like you can keep on bitching about how hard their life is when you don't even know what a hard life really is!"

She delivered one final hard kick that caused him to squirm and writhe from the excruciating pain. Akira's mind reeled, and he could barely make out his wife's cries over the sound of the rain…

But not over what Hibiki was saying.

She was cursing his existence, breaking him down bit by bit. The whole world seemed to go into slow motion as his eyes moved between his daughter and his wife. One was crying, and one was screaming at the top of her lungs. Everything seemed to be mixing and churning together.

He wanted to deny her. He wanted to get up on his feet and tell her she was wrong, that he never looked at them in such a deplorable way.

But his strength had been sapped, and once more fear and cowardice filled him, just like in the past.

'So this how I pay...for what I did?' He managed to realize. Those eyes piercing into him were hellbent on making him suffer, hellbent on making him realize just how much of an insect he was before her. 'In the end, no matter how much I want to make things right...I will never be able to.'

For some reason he could see those scenes from two years ago replay in his mind: the moment he burst into the hospital room Hibiki was in, the moment he was fired from his job, and all those terrible nights he lashed out at his family after excessively drinking due to his despair.

'She's right...all I ever thought about was myself. I never considered what they felt...what she felt. I saw only my own sorrow, completely forgetting that there was someone here who had it much worse than I did. My own daughter nearly lost her life, and the only thing I did was make it much worse for her.'

'It's alright, everything is fine.' That was his life motto, the phrase of optimistic outlooks that he had cursed her with. A phrase that embodies running away from things that are difficult, of turning a blind eye to the truth. And yet even that motto could not help him rise from the depths that he had fallen into, for it very quickly lost all meaning exactly when it was needed the most.

A phrase that forces you to hide what you are truly feeling in order to put up a facade of cheeriness just so others wouldn't worry about you. 'She's right...I really am trash. I had to rely on her, who I had not seen in over two years, begging her to give me another chance. I ran away from all responsibility, blaming everything and everyone else over my own self.'

"It's all YOUR fault!"

'Yeah, it really is. If I had been just a bit braver...if I had not run away, everything would really have turned out fine in the end. I ruined everything, and she has every right to hate me for it.'

He looked up at her weakly, the full brunt of her glare crushing him, accusing him, judging him.

'I'm sorry, Hibiki, for being such a coward. I'm sorry...I couldn't be there for you. I'm sorry...for ruining our family.'

He struggled to move, to try to get back up on his feet somehow. He was in so much pain he didn't understand why he hasn't blacked out yet. Noticing his attempts, Hibiki thrust her arm to the side, and from thin air her spear appeared in her hand. Harumi and Kiyoko gasped in horror again, fearful of the weapon that had materialized out of nowhere.

The rogue wielder raised the spear into the air. "I'm not going to let you use me for your selfishness anymore!"

"NO! HIBIKI! STOP!"

All pleas for mercy were denied.

She swung the spear down, fully intent on killing him here.

Only to stop mid swing and jump away onto the wall itself when something passed through the spot she stood on a moment before.

A silver blade gleamed in the light of a cackling lightning, illuminating the face of the one who had stopped her from delivering the final blow.

"Tch-!"

Maria dislodged her blade from the ground and looked up at Hibiki. "Looks like I made it just in time," She said. Following her arrival, the sound of helicopter blades spinning wildly above them joined in on the cacophony of noise, blowing away rain and dirt in all directions.

A man in a suit landed next to the Airgetlam user and immediately went over to check on the wounded Akira. "Ogawa-san, will he be okay?"

"I believe he will," he answered. "But we should get him to a hospital as quickly as we can."

"Then do so, and take her mother and grandmother with you as well," Maria added, her gaze lingering on the rogue Adaptor. "We can't have them stay here any longer."

"Roger that." He answered, and lifted Akira off the ground. Just as he began to make his way to the two women, Hibiki suddenly appeared in front of him and swung her spear. Reacting quickly, Ogawa jumped away just in time.

"I'm not letting him get away!" Hibiki screamed. "Get the hell out of my way, Maria!"

'Hoh, no -san?' "I'm afraid I can't do that," She said as she turned around to face her. "I'm not about to let you make a mistake you are most definitely going to regret."

"There is nothing to regret about getting rid of a piece of trash like him." Hibiki snapped back.

"I don't know anything about that, but regardless of what he is, he is still your father. The father that you said you would do your best to get along with again. I'm not going to stand aside and let you ruin all the effort you made to win back your happiness."

"His very existence brings me suffering; it's only fair I get rid of the one who caused this problem in the first place."

Maria chuckled. "You really have lost yourself completely, haven't you? But there's nothing to do about this now. Talking to you is like trying to speak to a wall; I'd rather we finish this, just like you wanted. You've got some gripes with me too don't you? Then bring it. I bet kicking around an unarmed person wasn't very fun or liberating, was it?"

Her blatant provocation seemed to have worked as Hibiki's face scrunched up in fury at her words. Maria's mind briefly wandered back to what Genjuro told her to do while she was enroute.

"Maria-kun, when you arrive, do everything you can to provoke her into chasing you. You HAVE to lure her back to Tokyo. We can't have her stay out of the combat zone where we can't monitor her movements completely!"

The air itself shook as Hibiki's anger took on a visible, physical form as a fierce crimson aura. While she was occupied, Ogawa hurriedly took the two catatonic women with him as well. With all of the passengers tucked in, he jumped into the air, grabbing hold of the ladder that hung from the helicopter which soon began to make its way to the nearest hospital, leaving only the two Symphogear wielders in the perimeter of Hibiki's home.

The aura continued growing as the phonic gain levels coming off of Hibiki reached an unprecedented high, but Maria did not falter in the least. No, after going through the hell that was the Super Ignite Module activation, her mind felt much clearer. Much sharper. Much stronger. There was no fear or hesitation in her form as she stood before the devil incarnate that Hibiki had become, merely staring at her with a focused gaze.

'That's right, Hibiki-san. Hate me, be angry at me. Look only at me. Your opponent is right in front of you.'

"MARIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

Even the bestial screaming of her own name did not faze her in the slightest. She closed her eyes, listening to the sound of the rain falling around her. It was so serene, and so melancholic at the same time.

But of course, this was not any normal rain. This was a thunderstorm, and lightning struck and thunder clapped loudly in the background as the Heavens themselves shook and roared.

Maria's response was swift.

"IGNITE MODULE! UNSHEATHE!"

Forgoing the standard ritual of the Module's activation, the mere words caused a furious black flame to erupt from her, evaporating the rain that dared to even touch it. Hibiki was confused the sudden spike of power coming from her opponent, but then instantly realized what its source was. Her eyes widened in shock.

"YOU-!"

The flames did not disperse, and within them Maria stood with a glare of tranquil fury in her eyes. The pitch black Airgetlam covering her form sucked in light from all directions; she raised her now dark blade to face Hibiki head on.

"You dare use my own power against me?!" Hibiki howled.

"Yes, we dare!" Maria roared back. "Do you think you can leave us in the dust for long?! I don't think so! We will puke blood if we have to and go through every unimaginable hell in order to catch up to you! All for the sake of one goal: BRINGING YOU BACK HOME!"

More power exploded from Maria as the sheer size of the flames increased, nearly matching Hibiki's own. "Now then, bring it, Hibiki-san!"

"MARIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

The clash of blades and fire that blew away the rain signalled the start of the battle.

Chapter Text

There was so much noise around her that Harumi was convinced she was going to be deaf for days after this.

The sounds of the helicopter's blades spinning, thunder crashing and the rain pouring down only added to the feeling of foreboding and concern that filled both her and her mother the moment they were raised into the helicopter proper. Akira was strapped in, laying on his back on a makeshift bed, groaning all the while. The man in the suit sat next to him, checking him over a few times.

"Is he going to be okay?!" Harumi asked in utmost worry. The man turned to her and smiled.

"Yes, he will. I thought it would be much worse but I guess she couldn't stop herself from holding back, even unconsciously." He answered.

"Then please tell me, what is going on?! Why did Hibiki act like this?!" She pressed on, her bewilderment obvious on her face.

Shinji's expression evened as he responded. "It's a very long story, and one I'll answer fully and truthfully once we arrive at the hospital. For now, I'll tell you this: My name is Ogawa Shinji, and I work for the a division within the government known as the Special Disaster Response Team, or S.O.N.G, for short. Your daughter has been a member of our division for over a year now."

Harumi's and Kiyoko's eyes widened in shock, having been completely oblivious to what Hibiki has been doing. "I understand that you are confused, and that is to be expected. I assume you have heard of the existence of what is known as the Symphogears, correct?" He asked. The two of them nodded; they heard something about this on the news a few months ago, but never knew about the specifics. "Long story short, your daughter is a member of those Symphogears, and has been assisting us in eliminating supernatural threats to humankind."

Harumi's eyes shook at his answer. "W-wha-"

"I know it all sounds very confusing and complicated, but you can rest assured I will explain everything that has happened once we settle down and get your husband the medical care he needs," Shinji explained. "Once we have that done, we can start talking about-"

"But at least, at least! Please tell me what happened to my daughter!" Harumi begged, cutting into Shinji's words.

"Something that shouldn't have happened," Was his straightforward and blunt answer, interrupting all attempts by Harumi to keep pleading. "This entire situation should have been over by now without anyone being none the wiser, but an unknown element has changed the outcome to something we could not have foreseen. As much as I want to tell you everything right now, before that there are certain procedures I have to follow in order to make sure you do not spread this information without authorization. Everything you will hear is top secret and classified, so you will have to sign a non-disclosure agreement like your husband did."

Harumi blinked a few times, and looked towards Akira's unconscious form. "Like Akira did?"

"Yes. Due to various circumstances your husband was involved in an incident a few months ago when he assisted Hibiki-san against an enemy, and from then on was aware of what has occured. He couldn't talk about it because he signed the papers, so do not be alarmed," Shinji explained. "I promise you will get the full story, but for now let's get your husband the help he needs."

It wasn't the first time he had to act as a calm mediator, and he understood why they were bewildered. Harumi took a deep breath and sighed. "Okay...okay, I understand."

Shinji gave her a bright smile. "Don't worry, we will get your daughter back. You can count on that."

For some reason his comforting words reassured her, despite the storm in her mind. She had absolutely no idea just how complicated the situation was, but his word was all she had going for her. To have some measure of calm and comfort.

She looked to the outside, and realized that if she focused just enough, she could hear the sound of clashing steel echoing in the background. She did not know what it meant, but she hoped that by the time the storm passes...that the worry will too.

-!-

They were a swarm. Countless amounts of Noise of all shapes and sizes made their way to the harbor, their programming alerting them to the fact that a large amount of humans were gathered somewhere in its vicinity. They cared for little else, and simply marched towards their destination with that single goal in mind.

They came by the thousands, accompanied by shadowy beasts that they cared not about. They were a swarm, united by a common cause, and nothing would stand in their way.

Or at least, that's what they would have believed if they had the ability to do so. They were mindless, simply automatons that sought out their targets and eliminated them without regard to themselves. Recently they could not accomplish their objective because the gate to the world of humans was sealed away, trapping them in their dimension forever. Their numbers had been cut down by the millions, yet there were millions more to be had within it.

They were a swarm, and they were nearly infinite.

Now was their chance to return and complete their objective: the destruction of all that is human in the world. That was their only cause and their only purpose, and is something that nothing could ever change about them. The only way to stop their advance is to eliminate them before they had a chance to do anything about it.

And very unluckily for them, something of that sort existed in this world.

When they arrived in the heart of the harbor, they stopped suddenly, their entire force standing in place as they looked forward. Right there, placing themselves in between the Noise and their target was a single girl clad in red, staring ahead.

Chris was, for a lack of a better word, unusually calm. Having let off steam earlier through the comm, she now had to focus on her own objective: defending headquarters from any and all attempts by the Noise to breach it. She could see, intermingled between the ranks of the automatons she had unleashed many years ago were several of the black beasts that blindsided them in the school. They too remained in place, as if waiting for the opportune moment to strike.

But even something as mindless as them could not ignore the fact that the Ichaival user had absolutely zero holes in her guard, her strange serenity betraying absolutely nothing about her.

It seemed to be a strange symptom of post-Super Ignite Module, Elfnein had noticed. That for some reason the girls were...eerily focused and calm. Like their very mindset had changed between then and now.

She would not be wrong in her assessment. To witness your own hell in the depths of your mind was eye opening to say the least, and Chris figured that the others at least had seen something that made them have to change the very way they think to overcome it.

But not Chris. No, Chris, to their surprise, was the one who conquered that hell the fastest out of all of them. Merely a minute after the darkness covered her it was tamed, something that shocked them to no end. They asked her what she saw, and she gave them a vague answer, not really willing to divulge that information just yet.

She couldn't tell them that life was hellish enough for her that nothing inside her own mind could possibly compare. What she saw was a mere recreation of stuff she had already experienced before: the death of her parents by the hands of the ones they had tried to save, the moment she was kidnapped by human traffickers and abused to no end, the lecherous stares of some of the more insidious crime lords as they laid their eyes upon her, her eventual rescue by Section Two and her subsequent kidnapping by Fine, her torture at her hands, and more.

What could possibly compare to that? She wasn't proud of being able to overcome that hell so quickly. In fact, it depressed her even more, the fact that everything in real life was worse than that. She had heard the screams and the cursing from the shadows, yet they didn't matter to her in the least. Her biggest fears had already been realized in the past, and her current ones were paltry by comparison.

But still, she came to a very important conclusion from all of that, from seeing her own life replaying before her eyes: that she will never, never, allow such suffering to occur again. Nobody deserved to have that happen to them no matter who they were, and she vowed to make that a reality.

And most of all, she will never forgive herself if she let the idiot, no...Hibiki go through with what she wanted to do. Hibiki was her savior, the one who held out her hand to her and trusted her even when they were enemies, doing her best to get along with her.

So she would repay the kindness and the opportunities she showed her no matter what.

For that was the least she could do the person she considered a dear friend.

Chris stared ahead, taking a good look at the herd that embodied her sins:

The Noise, the sin of believing in a person who had used her for her own ends.

The black beasts, the sin of failing the person who had saved her.

So to answer for those sins, she had no problem casting her life away.

Her stare turned into a fierce glare, and she grasped the pendant of Ichaival tightly with her hand and waited.

The seconds ticked, and no one moved.

And then she finally got the go ahead as Genjuro spoke. "Everyone...give them hell."

That was all she needed to hear.

And along with her own, three other voices rose above the city that had become a battlefield.

"IGNITE MODULE, UNSHEATHE!"

The usual ritual was once again bypassed, and four black flames erupted in several locations around the city. Blazing towards the sky, the usual red and white Ichaival was now cloaked in complete blackness, the god-slaying power taking center stage.

And Chris' serene expression was replaced by one that gave even the Noise pause: a deeply contained fury that was about to be unleashed upon them.

"BRING IT ON, MOTHERFUCKERS!"

(Play: Dynasty Warriors 7 OST - Male Roar)

The swarm charged. The insanely huge amount of Noise made their way towards Chris as a symbol of unstoppable force, and the black beasts followed suit. In any other situation, they would have been able to overwhelm her with sheer force and numbers.

But this time was very, very different.

Chris counted in her head three seconds to total mayhem.

She materialized her miniguns in her hands, but did not open fire. No, she instead did something completely unexpected: she threw them in the air.

And as the Noise charged, she continued to materialize more weapons in her hands at blinding speeds. Rocket launchers, miniguns, bows, crossbows, bazookas, pistols, shotguns. Every single projectile weapon she could think of, be they modern or ancient, were thrown into the air by her side. At first, one would think she had gone nuts, discarding such a vast amount of weaponry for absolutely no reason.

They would be very wrong.

Rather than be tossed aside like trash, the weapons instead hung in the air, their muzzles and barrels aimed at the veritable tidal wave that was the Noise and black beasts.

One.

The weapons spread out, covering as much space as possible. And right there, hanging in the air by nothing more than her will, was a wall. A wall made of nothing but pitch black weapons that she had brought forth.

Two.

But of course, she could not leave her own hands completely empty. Willing a weapon to materialize, it appeared in her hand. It was something unlike anything she had ever used before.

And she gave it an appropriate name: The Devastator.

A double barreled launcher that fired miniature rockets at the rate of an automatic machine gun, it is a weapon that promises to deliver absolute hell upon anything that dared to be caught in its line of fire.

And Chris stood in place, her new weapon in hand and flanked by her many others.

Three.

'MEGADETH ORCHESTRA'

And then: obliteration.

All weapons opened fire simultaneously. The Noise didn't even have time to try and think about dodging as total hellfire descended upon them. Rockets, bullets, arrows, cannonballs, and whatever else came down in numbers almost rivaling their own, bringing destruction to the harbor in less than a second. Pillars of flame erupted in countless locations throughout the wide open area, the ground beneath might as well be made of glass as it shattered to pieces.

The Noise continued charging blindly into the hail of death and were cut down almost immediately, their mindless programming forcing them forward regardless of their own fate. Even the flying Noise attempting to bypass her hundreds of feet in the air were unable to make it a single inch past the wall she had created, the weapons at the very top automatically aiming for them and shooting them down like they were mere flies. Hell, even the gigantic Noise that endlessly spawned their own brethren were unable to make it past.

Nothing could make it past her. Her bellow echoed throughout the harbor.

"IS THAT ALL YOU'VE GOT?!"

The ground itself shook from her roar, causing even the black beasts that weaved their way between the Noise to falter in their step.

For the person before them was no longer Chris Yukine. No, at this moment, she was Zhang Fei, defending the bridge at Changban!

But a veritable few brave fools forged ahead regardless, and a black beast managed to close the distance despite its injuries and make its way all the way to the mistress who commanded the weapons. It lunged at her with claws outstretched, intending on finishing her off with one strike.

Only to miss completely as she sidestepped it easily. She briefly let go of the Devastator and smashed her fist into the back of the beast's head. It stumbled forward from the blow, but she did not stop there. She followed it up with a punch to its chin, throwing it into the air and back into the ranks of its comrades.

And it was summarily blown to bits by a volley launched by the Devastator that she grabbed just as it was falling.

The god-slaying power was really showing its worth here. If before just one black beast gave all of them a run for their money, now even dozens of them couldn't stop themselves from being mowed down by her barrage. And ones that managed to get through it? Easily dodged and blasted to pieces in seconds.

"YOU WILL NEVER GET PAST ME!"

Baited by her yell, the beasts roared and charged towards her in blinding speeds. Only two managed to make it to her alive, and she readied herself to counter their attacks again.

Only for them to leap above her at the last second and strike at the weapons hanging in the air, smashing to pieces a rocket launcher that was just about to fire.

Her eyes widened in surprise, and then a smirk lit up her face. "Ho, so you do know what you're doing!"

How surprising, to think the mindless beasts would aim for her support.

Well, too bad that ain't going to work for them.

Immediately several other weapons aimed at the offending beast and blew it apart, scattering black dust all over her. However, the remaining one landed on the pier, and bypassing Chris, it began its charge towards the submarine.

Only to be struck down by an arrow fired from the bow that was now in her hand, the Devastator taking the place of the destroyed launcher above her head. The arrow pierced through the beast's core, striking the bundle of divine power that made up its fake heart. The cluster was immediately destroyed by the projectile enhanced by god-slaying power, and the beast burst into dust instantly.

"I told you, you ain't getting past me."

She then spun on her heel and aimed her bow at the incoming wave, her shout drowning out even the sound of the explosions her barrage was creating. She notched a grotesquely oversized arrow in her bow and planted her legs, the ground beneath her feet shattering from the force.

"LET THIS DRAGON CONSUME YOU!"

And fired.

'ARTHEMIS EIDOLON'

The arrow was released, and a moment later exploded in a flash to reveal a dragon of light. It roared, tearing through the Noise ranks. However, this one was a bit more special; she gave it a very interesting property she was definitely going to enjoy seeing put to good use.

The dragon continued its path of destruction, weaving through explosions and Noise and chase its real targets: the beasts. The dozens of beasts in the back of the Noise's clustered formation did not even have time to notice it coming upon them before its gaping maw swallowed them whole, devouring their cores in an instant and blowing them apart. It continued its charge, its form held together by Chris' will. She smirked and threw the bow above her to join the rest of the weapons, and the Devastator returned to her awaiting hands.

None could get past her. Noise, beasts, nothing could match up to her in her current state.

A gigantic fireball engulfed the harbor as something detonated. Gales of wind and fire blew in all directions, and the earth shook from the shockwaves. The Noise and the beasts were blown away, the dragon still tearing through their backlines.

Yet Chris stood strong, for now she was the hunter, and they were the hunted. They were beasts, and she was a warrior who cut them down where they stand.

For she was the embodiment of the hunt, the successor of the God of the Bow, Ullr!

Her eyes shone with a purple light, her frame surrounded by the blazing black flame.

The world trembled in awe of her might.

And in a certain location on the submarine behind her, dark blue eyes shot open.

-!-

The submarine shook violently as the shockwaves from the explosions Chris was causing rocked it to no end.

The doctor, making his way back to the medical room, leaned against the wall as he tried to find his balance again for the third time. "This...is ridiculous." He murmured to himself. He was aware, just like the rest of the crew members of exactly what was happening and what the wielders were doing.

He did not like it one bit, but it was not his place to object. He knew the reason why they were doing it too, and he could not argue with that, he realized. He's just going to have to do his best to support them whatever way he can.

Finally, after what felt like an eternal journey, he arrived at the medical room.

And froze in the doorway when he noticed something out of place.

For the glass tube in which the injured wielder was resting…

Was empty.

-!-

(Play: Dynasty Warriors 7 OST - Large Feather)

Lightning crashed, illuminating the sky as two figures clashed with reckless abandon in the streets of Chiba's residential district. Concrete walls crumbled from the very force of their swings, Gungnir and Airgetlam smashing against each other with unbelievable strength. Countless upon countless of strikes were exchanged between the two opponents, both wielding dark versions of their original Symphogears and blazing auras surrounding their frames.

"Mommy, what is happening outside?" One child asked his mother.

The woman had no answers to give him as she huddled him close, desperate to protect him. She had no idea what was happening, but it was sounding like the world was ending. She had peeked outside the window for just a moment, and then it promptly shattered into pieces when a powerful gale of wind sliced through it like paper. Luckily enough for her, the curtain over it took the brunt of the force so she was uninjured, but it was still incredibly scary to experience. The only thing she could see was two figures apparently fighting in the streets, but she had no idea what they were.

And at this point, she was too afraid to know.

Maria roared as another one of her swings was blocked by the spear Hibiki was holding. The rogue wielder groaned at the full force strike, skidding across the ground. But Maria was relentless, charging into the fray and closing the distance in an instant. Letting out all her power she struck and struck, and Hibiki actually found herself on the defensive.

"Don't you think…" She snarled, stopping another lightning fast blow. "THAT THIS WILL STOP ME!"

She responded with her own wild swing, the spear screaming through the air. Maria brought up her sword and hurriedly blocked it, her feet digging into the ground as she poured all her energy into defense. She grit her teeth and pushed the spear away, her eyes briefly wandering to the house they were fighting next to. 'I can't keep duelling her here. I have to lead her away from a populated area.'

Hibiki responded with a space-tearing lunge, but Maria took the opportunity to jump into the air, reaching heights she never she have been able to under normal circumstances. The god-slaying power was boosting her strength to unparalleled levels, ones she'd never be able to reach on her own.

And despite all of the advantages it gives, it was still not enough to match Hibiki head on.

Her power was just completely on a whole other plane, figuratively and literally. Maria knew from the get go that an exchange of force would end in the rogue Adaptor's favor, which is why at this point they needed something that won't give them additional strength, but rather a concept that can counter her immense power.

But as Adam said, the only one who possessed that concept was Hibiki herself. She was, essentially, her own counter.

And that was why it was going far better for the idol than before. Now using that very power against her, the results were much, much more equal. Every time their weapons clashed the Airgetlam user could feel Hibiki's spear groan as the divine power that lined it gave way, forcing her back.

But even this was fleeting, for eventually the divine power will be entirely consumed, leaving nothing but evil and demonic power flowing through her.

That will be the moment they'll truly be tested.

Hibiki took off into the air as well, her tunnel-vision on Maria blinding her to anything else. She struck wildly, and Maria parried the blow with all her might. The flat of the spear passed by her, and she took the opportunity to plant her feet against it and took off in the direction of Tokyo.

She can't allow herself to forget what Genjuro instructed her to do for even a second.

A perfect straight aerial line between Chiba and Tokyo passed over the Tokyo Bay, a place that Maria immediately found herself in. She soared through rain and lightning, but she couldn't say she was actually flying. She was more akin to gliding at high speeds, surpassing Mach 2, letting her keep herself in roughly the same height all the time as the thrusters on her back roared to life.

But Hibiki was hot on her heels, completely forgetting to use her own teleportation. Unlike Maria, Hibiki had true flight, allowing her to catch up to the Airgetlam user in absolutely no time. Maria looked back and grit her teeth, quickly turning in the air to block another blow from Hibiki's raised spear.

Only to be blinded when lightning struck the corrupted wielder. Spots filled her vision as the light dissipated, and for a moment she thought that maybe she lucked out and Hibiki was knocked out by the billion joules contained in the bolt.

And then Maria raised her sword in surprise when she saw Hibiki charge on regardless, completely disregarding the fact she was struck at all and slamming her spear against the blade.

Instantly Maria felt her arms shake as the leftover charge travelled from Hibiki to herself, and she bit down the searing heat that threatened to tear her apart from the inside. The rogue wielder did not stop there, and with her full force struck the sword Maria was holding. The sheer power behind the blow threw Maria further in Tokyo's direction, this time her flight out of her control.

She streaked through the air, and it was at this point that Hibiki apparently remembered how to use her teleportation, appearing right in the middle of her path, giving Maria barely a second to respond.

But that proved to be more than enough.

She twisted herself mid flight and raised her arm up to block the incoming overhead blow. The spear tore through the rain, intent on slicing her in half.

Only to be once again be violently repulsed by a triangular shield that appeared over Maria's arm. With nothing impeding her path, she slammed her free fist into Hibiki's stomach with all of her strength.

The rogue wielder's stomach heaved under the blow, and she clenched her teeth from the pain. She tried to move away, but a stinging pain from her stomach arrested her movements completely, paralyzing her in place. She looked down to see Maria's arm still planted in her stomach, but even more than that, several pitch black daggers were impaled into her in a circle around Maria's fist.

Hibiki's gaze drifted to Maria's face, and her eyes widened when she noticed that her cyan eyes were shining, her expression a mask of resolve and unbridled power. With Hibiki unable to move even an inch with the blade piercing through her, Maria began the next phase.

She brought back her sword into her free hand and smashed its flat side against her forearm. A clicking noise was heard as the blade was locked in place, and then it began to rotate around her arm. It picked up speed in an instant, creating a circle of light outshining everything around them, blinding the rogue wielder.

Maria clenched her fist.

In that instant, the blackness that was the Airgetlam's arm flaked away to reveal a brilliant silver limb, shining in all its ancient glory.

"THIS IS THE POWER OF AIRGETLAM!"

And the might of Nuada, the first king of Tuatha de Danann, was unleashed upon the girl claimed by darkness.

'KING'S†JUDGMENT'

Hibiki was blown away. She was launched across the sky at breakneck speeds, surpassing anything that she could achieve on her own. Silver light filled the world as the beam carried the corrupted wielder onwards, the blades in her stomach not allowing her to move even an inch.

Maria stared ahead at her, and she groaned as the god-slaying power once again took hold, its blackness flowing over the silver arm once again. It was a painful process, but one she could not deny. The explosion she unleashed was mighty, but it was probably not going to be enough to take Hibiki down, she knew that much.

There was no time to waste.

The thrusters on her lower back roared to life, and she took off in the direction of Tokyo, hot on Hibiki's heels.

-!-

(Play: Dynasty Warriors 7 OST - Hide Emotion)

Buildings shattered and exploded as the Noise closed in on Kirika and Shirabe by the thousands. They came in from all directions; the air, the ground, and even tearing through structures just to make their way towards the two wielders in order to strike them down and carbonize them.

And they were wholly unsuccessful.

It was pretty much impossible to catch either of the two by surprise. They covered for each other's blind spots and weaknesses, while at the same time enhancing each other's strengths.

And now, fueled by the power of the Super Ignite Module, they were completely unmatched.

Rains of saws and crescent projectiles sliced through the ranks of the Noise, cutting them down by the hundreds with each swipe. One lucky humanoid Noise that managed to make it through unscathed lunged at Kirika, who could not swing in time to block it.

She had no need to.

It struck her straight on, intending on fulfilling its objective.

Only for her to tank the hit, none the worse for wear. She did not even need to move to try and intercept it or do anything about it. The mindless Noise was caught completely off guard by the fact that its full force blow did not even dent the Symphogear wielder.

The girl stared at the offending Noise with a deadly glare, and in a vicious move smashed her head against it with all her might. The crude act proved to be highly effective as the Noise stumbled back and disintegrated into dust.

More Noise closed in on her, but she remained calm. Re-equipping her scythe, she held it low behind her and forced her will into it, causing it to double in size.

And then it tripled.

And then quadrupled.

The absolutely massive scythe was six times her own size in length, yet in her hands it was as light as a feather. She jumped into the air, the ground beneath breaking apart, and in a single powerful swing threw the scythe in a spin so quick it became a roaring black disc that tore apart the Noise for five city blocks. Rubble and debris were flung in all directions as the scythe tore through concrete like it was made of paper, stopping with no regard to what was in its way.

And she repeated the action, again and again in all directions, filling the city streets with gigantic spinning scythes that destroyed thousands upon thousands of Noise with each pass. And yet they still trudged forward, trying to kill the ones that were tearing them down.

But it was impossible for the Noise. No matter how much times passes and how numerous they are, one thing will always remain certain: the Symphogear wielders will never be defeated by them.

As Kirika worked on cutting apart the Noise, Shirabe was busy taking care of a few unwanted guests that decided to join in. The black beasts chased her, but their attack missed every time as she slid past them faster than they could register, and with each pass she sliced more and more of them apart through the chest, terminating them instantly.

Another beast tried to lunge at her, but she moved out of the way easily and appeared behind it. She raised her leg in the air, and razor sharp saws roared to life on her calf, spinning wildly. Then, in a single downward motion sliced through the beast vertically through the middle, cutting the divine core in half. Her foot smashed against the concrete, and she watched with half-interest as the now two halves of the beast turned into dust.

Then she spun and decapitated another beast that tried to sneak up behind her. Its head flew off in the distance, but that was still not enough to finish it off, so she made another pass, cutting through the core. More and more beasts came upon her in endless numbers, but she weaved through their attacks with the elegance of a ballerina, all the while using her razor sharp yo-yos to cut them to pieces. Black dust was carried on the wind from the sheer number of beasts she was slaying in such short order, her power surpassing theirs by a very significant margin.

All those who looked upon the two would see auras of black flame rising from their frame towards the sky, dwarfing even the tallest skyscrapers of the city. They closed the distance between each other just as a beast lunged at Shirabe and a battalion of Noise closed in on Kirika. Their backs touched, and catching their opponents by surprise, they wordlessly exchanged targets. The black beast was swiftly cut down by Kirika's scythe while the Noise were torn to shreds by the giant saws that Shirabe materialized.

Unmatched teamwork. Like two parts of the same whole, Kirika and Shirabe represented true duality; the furthest twins yet the closest strangers, their mismatched Gears filling in for what the other lacked: Kirika's insurmountable and overwhelming strength backed by Shirabe's lightning fast mobility and tactics, they were truly a match made by the heavens themselves.

For that was the truth, for they were the duo that the Goddess Zababa chose to serve as her blades in the world of man!

Their eyes met as they turned, shining green and pink.

"Shirabe."

"Kiri-chan."

They nodded.

"Let's blow them away!"

Their auras flared even higher, and any and all opponents that tried to close the distance on them stepped back in fear of their power. The two glared at the approaching enemies and charged deep into their formation.

Immediately after, Noise were flung by the thousands into the air, holding together for barely a second before they disintegrated, the very shockwaves of the two's advance wrecking the Noise formation. And the automatons attempted to retaliate, bearing down everything they have on the two wielders.

But nothing they could do even managed to get past the sphere of absolute death that they created around them. Any enemy that even attempted to get within striking range of the two was simply blown to bits, and even the beasts were not exempt. They put up a much better fight, diving in on them from all sides, but their reckless charge made them easy targets for the two.

Double scythes were swung in all directions as Kirika made her first pass through the block. A multitude of flying Noise tried to divebomb her, but they were mercilessly cut apart. She eyed a Giant Noise at the end of the street and threw one of her scythes in a spin, tearing it in half; but the rotating polearm was not done yet. It spun in the air only to automatically curve in its path like a boomerang. A black beast tried to capitalize on the miniscule opening that she left in her throw, but was instantly cut down by the returning disk.

Another beast tried to jump her from behind, but without even looking back Kirika smashed her fist into its face, causing it to tumble backwards and right into the awaiting hands of Shirabe's saws, eviscerating it as soon as they touched it. The Shul Shagana user moved like the wind between the Noise, slicing and dicing in all directions, her spinning saws serving two purposes at once: cutting down the targets in close range and serving as launchers for smaller saws that were flung to the distance, downing even the biggest of flying Noise in the sky.

Their sphere of influence only increased as they made their passes through the streets, never for a moment forgetting their objective of defending the Skytree. Some opportunistic beasts and Noise attempted to approach the entrance of the shelter, hearing the cries of the humans within.

Only to be blown apart by the traps Shirabe had installed as enormous sawblades erupted from the ground up to bisect the advancing line. Realizing that her traps were triggered, the two partners looked to each other simultaneously and nodded, swiftly making their way to the base of the tower.

"Shall we go, Kiri-chan?" Shirabe said, earning a grin from the blonde wielder.

"Yeah, let's show them what we got!" Kirika responded, combining her two scythes into one.

They arrived back in less than ten seconds to meet the forward line of the Noise head on, but this time they did something different. Kirika raised her scythe towards the sky with her right hand, and a moment later Shirabe grabbed the weapon's shaft with her left. Soon enough, power flowed from both as the scythe morphed, and the bladed end transformed into a giant pink and green saw that manifested a razor sharp wind, blowing any enemy that attempted to approach their position.

"RETURN TO THE BEGINNING AND BE WASHED AWAY!"

The combined weapon glowed like a second sun in the night, casting shadows all over the battlefield.

A million columns of light erupted from it towards the sky, illuminating the area like the morning sunrise. The columns climbed higher and higher, passing over even the veil of clouds that began to arrive from the southeast.

A second ticked.

And then the lights came down on the Noise like a tidal wave, consuming them in their entirety in the bombardment.

'FLOOD OF UTNAPISHTIM'

It was a massacre.

Of the countless Noise that had made their attack on the Skytree, none survived, the lights piercing through them like the wrath of god himself.

And the beasts? Only served to become clouds of black dust, mixing into the night as they were blown away by the hurricane winds left over the destructive force.

The two wielders kept on holding the weapon aloft like a banner of victory, the lights still pouring out from it in all directions. Any person who would look upon the two would gape in awe, for even the curses that had blackened their gears could not fully mask their divine radiance.

Finally, after what seemed like eons, the shining saw stopped its frenzied spin, the light dying down and allowing the darkness of the night to reclaim its territory.

Shirabe released her hold on the scythe and Kirika brought it down to wield it like normal. A momentary silence descended on the area as it seemed that the two wielders grasped a perfect victory.

Only to hear the rumbling charge of thousands more, a new wave of Noise and beasts making their way towards them at lightning speeds.

"No breaks huh? Fine by me," Kirika declared boldly. "BRING IT ON!"

And the blades of Zababa charged back into the fray, their work still not done.

-!-

"This...is incredible!" Elfnein exclaimed, her mouth gaping open at the sight of the Symphogear wielders' staunch defense of the city. Her eyes darted to the numbers flying in. "This amount of phonic gain is amazing!"

"This is really something else." Genjuro noted. Such power was being thrown around almost casually, and it was wrecking total havok upon the city. But at this point, even the city itself was an acceptable loss, as failure would mark the end of humanity as they know it, rendering any future use of the land moot. 'But will it be enough?' He wondered, gritting his teeth at the sight before him.

Something in the way they were fighting rubbed him the wrong way. No, it was as if there was something more than just god-slaying power there, enhancing their abilities. It couldn't be the curses themselves, no those he figured was the reason the wielders seemed to have an uncharacteristic focus on their objective, and a ferocity that they usually did not exhibit. Chris punching beasts in the face or Kirika smashing her head against a Noise target were just some of the strange changes in their demeanor.

As if he was reading his mind, Adam spoke up. "Ho, that's an interesting development. I did not think the god-slaying power would stir open a connection to the primal origin."

Genjuro narrowed his eyes, the words Adam was using sounds downright alien. "What are you talking about?"

"Ho, you don't know what that is? How sad," Adam said derisively. "It's simple, the god-slaying power has awoken a certain part of the Symphogears that was closed off even from you."

At this incredulous statement even Elfnein stared at him in shock, and he continued. "No, awoken is a big word to use here. It's more like it nudged open a tiny speck of the true nature of the relics the Symphogears find their origin in. After all, you must know that the Gears are derived from weapons that were wielded by gods, do you not? But those abilities were sealed away when they made their conversion into Symphogears. Well, not like any human in existence could possibly use the relics to their full potential, at least ones of divine origin."

Genjuro was taken aback. Of course he knew what the origin of the relics was, there was no question about that. However, accessing their divine abilities? What? "That's impossible. Are you saying that they have divine power now?"

"Of course not, are you daft? All I'm saying is that they might start exhibiting abilities derived from the gods that wielded the relics as weapons, nothing more. While it's an interesting development, even such a thing will be meaningless when used by ones who are not fully compatible with them. I wouldn't put my faith in such thing if I were you, although that depends on how cleverly your subordinates can use these abilities," Adam explained. "Poor, poor Saint-Germain. She doesn't get a nice little bonus from all these curses she chose to take into herself. How tragic." He continued with mock sadness, earning a cringe from the bridge crew.

Genjuro looked back to the screen. Well, regardless of how...ridiculous, Adam's explanation sounded, it was still something. 'Powers derived from gods, huh?' He wondered. It made sense to him, in a way. Considering the god-slaying power was not derived from divinity, it was only logical it would not be sealed away.

However, that did not make things anymore simple. They are starting to delve into something that might be way out of their league. Noise were easy to deal with. Ancient relics? Piece of cake. Delusional reincarnating priestesses? A walk in the park.

But gods? And divine power? And primal origin? And awoken abilities? At this point Genjuro was finding himself overwhelmed by all these new developments, and it frustrated him to no end. He needed to be on top of the situation so he can direct the course of events as seamlessly as possible, but as they continued more and more unknown elements made themselves known, throwing him for a loop.

He can't allow this to go on. If he lost control of the situation, they might end up with in an inescapable situation that will render all of their efforts worthless. He cannot allow Hibiki to drift further and further from their realm of understanding, for the minute she did they will no longer be able to reach her.

Behind him, Miku looked on with her eyes narrowed. Her teeth grinding against each other in frustration, she clenched the hem of her skirt with all her strength, attempting to calm down.

Everyone was fighting so hard while she just stood here and did nothing. She merely stood and looked as Hibiki targeted her own family in her quest for vengeance, and she could do nothing but scream and look horrified.

Her whole frame shook as anger filled her to the brim, yet she could not allow herself to rage here. The only thing she had...the only thing that held her together...was the hope that the others with their new powers will be able to do something.

She thought nobody noticed her, but Genjuro did. He peeked at her from the corner of his eye, realizing she was keeping her fury in check.

'Just a little bit more.'

At that moment, the door to the bridge flew open, and both Miku and Genjuro turned around to stare at the newcomer.

And promptly froze in place. Their eyes widened at the blue haired figure, still wearing her medical robes and standing tall in the doorway.

"Tell me everything."

-!-

(Play: Dynasty Warriors 7 OST - Ambition to Take Over)

The army of Alca-Noise spread into the city, seeking out the targets their mistress had decreed that must be destroyed. From the plaza in which they appeared they began to cover every inch of the city that was not guarded by the duo or by Chris.

Almost instantly Elfnein's theory proved true when the first casualty in the Babylonian Noise ranks occurred when one of the humanoid Alca-Noise thrust its glowing stinger forward, piercing through the enemy Noise's head and causing it to explode into dust a moment later.

"There was no reason such an outcome would not come to pass," Saint-Germain said. "Both the Noise and Alca-Noise exhibit the Phase Contrast Barrier. Even if they do not nullify it like the Symphogears do, their dimensional phasing changes billions of times every millisecond; in the moment the two match for even a fraction of a second, the damage done will already be enough to destroy the target."

This proof showed itself in the results. The Babylonian Noise did not even know what hit them as the Alca-Noise tore through their ranks.

"Saint-Germain! The Shinjuku shelter is being targeted!" Fujitaka yelled over the comm to her. She was curious for a moment as to why he of all people was informing her of developments, but she put that thought aside.

With her will alone, the alchemist directed a section of her army to the designated location. Thankfully they were already fairly close, so the only thing she had to do was call their attention to it.

In order to make them easier to pinpoint and locate, Saint-Germain divided the Alca-Noise army into seven different regiments, each of them going in a different direction in the city. She also linked up a Giant Noise to each division, each one color-coded to serve as the pseudo-bannerman of its own regiment.

There were red, green, orange, yellow, pink, blue, and black, and each one had an equal amount of Alca-Noise of all types. This way she could control them much more easily and direct them as necessary according to which regiment was closer to its designated target.

In this particular scenario, the red regiment was the closest. The huge group of Alca-Noise smashed through buildings in a straight line towards their destination, eradicating any clueless Babylonian Noise that dared to stand in their way.

It was almost too easy. Due to the fact that the ancient Noise were essentially leaderless, they had no direction and no strategy, only acting upon the instincts and programming installed in them in ages past.

Apparently, those in the past did not account for the fact that the Noise will ever target each other, so when the Alca-Noise tore through their ranks, they were met with absolutely zero resistance as the Babylonian Noise did not even try and think of retaliating. They simply stood in place and allowed themselves to be destroyed.

"What a total waste." Saint-Germain commented as she witnessed the destruction. Behind her, a group of six black beasts jumped onto the building she was standing on and attempted to ambush her.

She did not ever bother to glance back at them. The alchemist aimed her gun behind her back and fired, and the bullet pierced through the first easily. Then through the second, and then the third. Back and forth the bullet curved wildly as it obliterated each of the beasts' core, leaving nothing but black dust in their wake. "This power is far too surprising," She continued as she glanced at her own form, studying the pitch black form of her Faust Robe. "To think even these spawned abominations stand no chance when previously they had given us so much trouble."

The red regiment reached the entrance of the Shinjuku shelter in due time and worked their way through the enemy Noise prowling in its area. Again, absolutely zero resistance. They took point in less than a minute, striking out against their Babylonian counterparts that attempted to bypass them and reach the shelter. However, due to the fact that they ignored the Alca-Noise, it was all too easy to destroy them.

"Itabashi shelter is under attack!"

That's all the mindless Noise knew how to do; attack attack attack. No strategy, no will, no anything that would make them even worth her time. Whoever created these things were total fools. Damn lucky fools, but fools nonetheless. "Yellow regiment, turn back and head towards the designated location! Do not allow the shelter to fall!"

Her voice telepathically echoed to the appropriate Alca-Noise, and they immediately went to follow her directions.

The alchemist huffed to herself; it was almost as if she was acting as a general on a battlefield, directing massive amounts of troops to capture certain targets. But this was not a siege, nor was it an invasion. This was a defense, an attempt at repelling enemy forces from taking over the entire area.

If this battle would ever receive a name in history, it would probably be called the Defense of Tokyo, or something along those lines. In the past she had indeed stood among many officials and generals and witnessed the naming of cities, of declarations of war, of instruments of surrender, or even corrupt dealings that fell beneath the radar.

She picked up on some of those skills along the way, giving her some measure of confidence in acting as a warlord.

"Saint-Germain! It's a disaster! Part of the black division sent to Ota has been destroyed by beasts! They're located at Shinagawa!"

The alchemist raised an eyebrow. The black beasts are targeting the Alca-Noise? How surprising, she thought they too did not have the capacity for strategy, but it seems she was proven wrong. Well, if they were smart enough to try an ambush her from behind, then something as simple as targeting the unfriendly Noise was also easy enough. Their ambush failed, but it said more about their ability than they had initially believed.

It was her turn to move, it seems.

She had originally placed herself in Nakano ward, while the Zababa duo and Chris were located on the more eastern side of the city. She turned south and leaped, covering huge distances between far away buildings with each jump. At her current speed, she should reach her designated location within a minute or so.

Along the way she spotted several groups of giant flying Noise, the ones the were shaped like airplanes, all deploying massive amounts of their own brethren down onto the city.

Well that just won't do, will it? Pushing more power into her legs, Saint-Germain jumped, soaring above the altitude the flying Noise were gliding at. She aimed her gun, lining up all five of the airplane Noise in her sights, then fired. The bullet tore through the air with destructive sonic booms, and pierced through them all with incredible ease. The Noise detonated into gigantic fireballs that rained down on the city, engulfing and consuming anything that was unlucky enough to be where they landed.

She landed back on a building on the other side of the block and surveyed her handiwork momentarily before making her way back to her destination: Shinagawa. She looked up at the sky briefly, noticing the thick black clouds flowing in from the southeast. 'A storm is coming.'

There, far into the distance, she could see a line of silver light streak through the sky, descending towards the city proper. Following it was a black flame, making her realize that Maria was successful in her own objective, being bringing Hibiki back to Tokyo in any way possible.

A tremendous explosion occurred as the beam struck a building in the Chiyoda ward, and the black flame landed just a small distance before it.

'Chaos is about to descend upon us. Perhaps the time for Kohinata Miku to make her entrance is approaching.'

-!-

Maria breathed heavily as she landed, a little bit tired from the long journey she made from Chiba while hot on Hibiki's heels. Her new attack was incredibly powerful, even if she did not know where exactly she got the idea to use it from. But it proved its effectiveness by cannonballing Hibiki all the way to Tokyo, which was her goal all along.

So...now what? What are they supposed to do about this now? As she looked, the rogue wielder was already removing herself from the wreckage of the building she crashed into, and that made everything all the more complicated. Is he going to order them to gang up on her now? Would that work? There was no way to know until they tried, but such a thing was impossible at the moment. Everyone else was just too busy fighting off the Noise and the beasts to help her; she was not going to get any reinforcements any time soon.

Well, she did hear that Saint-Germain had apparently summoned a huge army of Alca-Noise into the city as reinforcements, a fact that she confirmed with her own eyes as she saw several huge battalions of them move past without even acknowledging her existence.

But that did not change her circumstances.

There was an explosion of rubble as Hibiki freed herself, and a moment later she landed in front of Maria at the other end of the street, and the army of Alca-Noise marched past, blocking her vision of the rogue wielder.

'She's going to-'

Just as she thought that, Hibiki sliced her way through the Noise to charge at her, and she quickly brought up her sword to block the crushing blow. But Hibiki poured more power into her swing, far more than ever before, launching Maria backwards through several skyscrapers. She groaned in pain as she smashed through solid concrete, her modified Gear protecting her from the brunt of the damage.

But it was still painful as hell, crashing through solid structures. Recomposing herself, Maria twisted in the air and slid across the ground, eyes up to to re-engage Hibiki the moment she showed herself.

"Maria, hold on! Reinforcements are on their way!" She heard Aoi declare over the comm, but she did not have time to dwell on the thought.

Hibiki showed herself right there and then as she chased Maria through the holes she left behind, widening them further and weakening the structural integrity of the buildings in her wake. The elder's eyes widened and she once again blocked the insanely powerful swing, the ground beneath her exploding into pieces of concrete and rubble. Maria grit her teeth and slammed the spear away, and the two began a wild exchange of blows that tore apart the street they found themselves in.

Through it all, Maria could not help but notice she was pushed back more and more with each blow she blocked. Blows that caused her bones to shake and her muscles ache; she immediately realized their fears were becoming true, just through this battle: Hibiki was growing more powerful by the minute.

She could not allow herself to be the cause of their defeat.

A lunge by Hibiki was parried to the side by Airgetlam's blade, and she responded by sliding it across the spear until she was nearly face to face with the rogue wielder. Cyan eyes met green, and Maria clenched her teeth as she released one hand from the blade's handle and launched a full force punch to Hibiki's face. Sonic booms were left in the wake of her strike, which she hoped would strike true.

It didn't, for in that moment Hibiki raised her free hand to catch Maria's fist. The corrupted Adaptor bared her teeth at the elder, and then released her hold on her spear completely, catching Maria off guard.

And the idol was blown away in retaliation as Hibiki's own fist struck her in the chest, sending her flying again through several buildings, this time the pain being even more unbearable than before. Her vision blanked out for a moment, but the moment she regained it she found herself not above solid concrete, but rather water.

Her back slammed into the sail of S.O.N.G HQ's sail, denting the metal beneath it. Using what remained of her strength, Maria dislodged herself, falling onto the hull and breathing heavily, Hibiki's punch having knocked the wind out of her in an instant.

A moment later Hibiki appeared in front of her on the other side, her spear at her side. "Is that all you've got, Maria?" She asked her, not taking a single step forward. "All that talk and you still failed to do anything. How not surprising."

The new development did not go unnoticed by Chris, who turned around in the middle of her barrage, eyeing the two combatants on top of the submarine. "Maria! I'll be right ther-"

"There's no need, Chris-kun," Genjuro suddenly said to her. "Just focus on the Noise in front of you. Someone else is on their way to help her."

"Someone else? But everyone else is busy! Who the heck is left to-"

And then it hit her.

She smiled. "It's about damn time."

Meanwhile on top of HQ, Maria grit her teeth, forcing herself to her feet, only managing to rise to one knee. "This much...is nothing!"

"Give me a break, you know you can't do anything," Hibiki said. "After all, you're nothing but a living breathing failure. Everything you tried to do was meaningless; you couldn't even be a bad guy properly. It's time you faced the truth, Maria: you are worthless!"

"I will not be swayed by your twisted words!"

"Then maybe you'll be swayed by my actions," Hibiki declared. So focused was she on Maria that she completely disregarded the loud thumping sound that rose up behind her, followed up by the violent folding of metal. The green core in her spear shone brightly, and she raised the polearm up in the direction of the elder. "This is where it ends, Maria."

She stared into the Airgetlam user's eyes, hoping to catch some sort of despair in her gaze, only to find her...looking at something else entirely? Maria's eyes instead widened in shock as she looked behind and above Hibiki, catching sight of something she definitely did not expect to see now.

In response, Hibiki turned around, lowering her spear, only to come face to face with…

"A wall?"

"How rude," A deep yet feminine voice declared from above. Hibiki raised her gaze, and in that moments spotlights shone, blinding her momentarily. "This is not a wall. This is a sword! I thought you knew better than that, Tachibana!"

The figure was illuminated by the light, hiding her features behind a silhouette of darkness. Then, she leaped over the rogue wielder to land between her and Maria, brandishing a blue and white sword in her hand.

It was at that moment that both Hibiki and Maria finally realized who that was.

After all, only one person ever called Hibiki purely by her last name.

"You!"

"Tsubasa!"

The Ame-no-Habakiri wielder turned to Maria, who had called her name and smiled. "It looks like I've made you worry, Maria."

The Airgetlam user gazed up at her, awed by her sudden entrance from nowhere. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she forced her head downwards as a few droplets fell down on the steel hull. "Of course you did, idiot. You kept us waiting for far too long."

Tsubasa let out a chuckle, then her face became serious, her head turning back to Hibiki. "The commander told me everything that has occurred until now," She said. "You've done well to hold on until now, Maria. Let me take things from here; you should go and help the others."

Maria raised her head up again, taken aback by Tsubasa's bold declaration. "No! That's too dangerous!"

"You should listen to her, Tsubasa," Hibiki said, interrupting them. "If you really know everything then you know you can't beat me."

"Hoh, what happened to Tsubasa-san, Tachibana? I thought even in your maddened state you'd behave with some sense of decorum," The blue haired wielder said. "But that matters very little to me. I will not allow this to continue any longer; I hereby declare that I will defeat you here and now, Tachibana."

Hibiki huffed. "Looks like nearly dying also made you insane."

"Fool, the only insane one here is you. However, I do not blame you in the least for your quest for vengeance, for I also found myself in dark depths in the past. The only thing I will blame are our own failures, which I will proceed to correct." Tsubasa said defiantly, raising her blade. She held it parallel to the ground at shoulder level, both hands gripping its handle and its sharp edge facing the sky.

In response to her new opponent taking a stance, Hibiki brandished her spear. "I won't let you get in the way of what I have to do. I don't care how many times I have to cut you down; eventually, you will pay for what you did to me."

"What I did to you, huh? That sure takes me back," Tsubasa said with a tinge of melancholy. "That is true. Back then I have certainly not been in my right mind, and I bared my hatred against you for no justifiable reason. While I had believed we let the matter rest, I see that you did not...and that is fine with me. After all, it seems I owe you a duel, do I not? Even though I no longer bear any ill will towards the real you, I do have several problems with the current you...and one of them is far more frustrating than the rest."

It was at that moment that her eyes filled with a fiery will and resolve, her element shining through just her stance. The air around her twisted, and an aura of brilliant orange flame covered her being. "Then let us have our duel here and now, Tachibana, just like we should have back then! And let me make something very clear to you..."

And then her voice echoed throughout the harbor. "I will not allow Kanade's legacy be tainted by such a contemptible thing! For the sake of what she left behind, I will liberate you from the grasp of mankind's curses!"

"Hmph, fine then. You probably won't believe me if I told you she's the one who gave them to me." Hibiki said plainly.

"I will not heed your ridiculousness! Let us do away with words now, Tachibana, and let us settle this by the edge of our blades!" Tsubasa declared. "Kazanari Tsubasa, advancing! HERE I COME, TACHIBANA!"

"BRING IT ON, TSUBASA!"

And the sound of steel clashing against steel once against resonated throughout.

Marking the start of the battle, the thunderstorm that had began its journey in Chiba made landfall in Tokyo.

Chapter Text

~Long ago, in the far eastern reaches of the world, there lived a god by the name of Izanagi. He, together with his wife Izanami, gave birth to the land that would come to be known as the land of the rising sun.~

"Can...Tsubasa-san really handle Hibiki-san all on her own?" Fujitaka asked uneasily, glancing to his superior. Genjuro had his arms crossed, his expression even.

"We can only wait and see, Fujitaka. She's going to be fighting her just after waking up, and I'm also concerned for her well-being. But we have to trust what she's doing; it's the only hope we have left at this point." He said. It was not a completely truthful statement, but the remaining option was not one he wanted to put into effect, for far too many reasons.

He glanced back, his eyes once again falling on Miku, who held a worried yet confident expression on her face, looking up at the display. It seemed her anger abated somewhat, but he could still see it in her spirit. She was extremely on edge, still clutching her skirt tightly, and he figured she was also praying in the depths of her heart.

'Tsubasa...Please put an end to this right now.'

There were so many things to worry about at the same time. Not only that, it seems that Hibiki had indeed used the Treasury of Babylon as a base of operations, if the huge number of beasts she spawned was any indication. They would also have to locate any possible holes so they could maybe find a way to seal them without the staff.

So much was going on at once, and things have really began to take their toll.

The entire submarine rocked as the battle began between Hibiki and Tsubasa, and he saw how the two of them leaped off the hull and back into the streets, disappearing behind buildings.

'For the alternatives will only makes everything more difficult.'

He glanced to Elfnein, and to his surprise she met his gaze, her own concern obvious on her face.

That was it. Tsubasa was the only thing that could allow them avoid using their last resort. If she failed...no, he didn't want to think about it.

All they had left...was to count on the final gambit that Tsubasa had in store.

-!-

~However, life was not kind to the god, for he faced many trials and tribulations, including the death of his wife at the hands of the newly born fire god, Kagutsuchi. To retrieve her, he ventured into the depths of the underworld, Yomi.~

(Play: Dynasty Warriors 7 Xtreme Legends OST - Over the Limit)

Apparently the Ame-no-Habakiri user had been doing some training while being unconscious, because her power was nothing like Hibiki had expected. Even without the Ignite Module active, she was something else.

As expected of the most experienced Symphogear user of them all.

Almost immediately when she issued her challenge, Tsubasa had charged at supersonic speeds towards the rogue wielder, catching her by surprise and launching her back towards the city. Hibiki had then quickly swallowed down her shock and managed to duck under a second swing that the blue haired idol had delivered, landing in one of the many streets populated by Noise.

She didn't even the time to think about which type of Noise it was before she had to dodge an overhead strike cloaked with flames, and then immediately block with her spear the follow up.

"What's wrong, Tachibana?! Is that all the strength you have to bear?!" Tsubasa called out, causing her opponent to clench her teeth in fury. Hibiki responded by meeting the next blow with her own attack, going on the offensive. The Noise were not even an afterthought as they were blown away like leaves on the wind, the two combatants being too much for them to even consider facing. They held no loyalty to anyone, so no one cared by how much their numbers were reduced.

The following exchange of blows was some of the most intense Hibiki ever had to deal with. Lightning fast strikes came from all directions as Tsubasa's sword blurred before her eyes, making it incredibly hard to catch or respond to.

And it shocked her to no end. How exactly can a non-Ignited Symphogear match up to her?!

No, this had to be a trick, just like with Genjuro. He based his whole strategy on using a style that was meant to catch her off guard, but in the end it failed and she had surpassed him the moment she used her teleportation.

Sparks flew everywhere as metal crashed against metal repeatedly. "You haven't seen anything yet!" Hibiki responded, jumping back and landing a distance away from the blue haired Symphogear user. Tsubasa took her stance and charged, the thrusters on her back roaring loudly, her speed increasing dramatically in but a second.

And Hibiki came to meet her with her own charge, her spear at the ready. "HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

They closed the distance in less than a second.

And just as their blades were about to clash, Hibiki suddenly vanished from her sight, her sword passing through thin air.

Her eyes widened.

'Teleportation!'

Indeed, in the final moment before the weapons met, Hibiki had teleported right behind Tsubasa, still carrying the momentum of her charge.

"It's over!" She yelled, her swing coming down on the idol's back in a flash.

Unfortunately for Hibiki however, Tsubasa saw it coming from a mile away.

She slammed her heel into the asphalt, cratering the ground beneath her. In an instant, the blades protruding from the side of her foot elongated, creating an impromptu barrier between Hibiki and her target. The rogue wielder did not have time to express her surprise as her spear slammed into the blade, harshly repulsing her backwards. Taking advantage of the opening, Tsubasa spun on her heel and raised her other leg up, now perpendicular to the ground in a fast spin towards Hibiki.

The corrupted wielder grit her teeth and retreated just in time to avoid being sliced by the blades, and Tsubasa took the time to right her footing. Hibiki skidded across the ground, and swung her spear to launch a crescent shaped projectile right towards her.

Tsubasa decided to answer with one of her own. The edge of her sword shone and she swung with all her might.

'AZURE FLASH'

The two projectiles met in the middle, exploding in a rush of smoke and wind. The two wielders glared at each other from opposite ends of the streets, their very gazes sending sparks flying.

"I'm disappointed, Tachibana," Tsubasa suddenly said, causing Hibiki to raise an eyebrow. "I don't see you for a while and you start resorting to using a different Armed Gear. I thought you only used it to stab me in the back, but it seems it became your main weapon while I was away. What's wrong? Have your hands lost their ability to grasp anything else?"

Hibiki smirked in response. "It's more than enough for someone like you. You were too busy hanging on the edge of death, but I'll say it to you regardless: with this spear, I will enact justice and bring true peace to everyone. That is the only way the world I want will be born."

Tsubasa blinked several times in surprise, then let out an amused huff. "Is that all? How droll, Tachibana. It seems that those curses that fill you to the brim now did nothing more than turn you into a cheap villain. I've seen much more compelling reasons to end the world in the shows I've watched as a child," Her gaze then became dangerous, and Hibiki could see the fire burning just behind her eyes. "Fine then. In that case, I'll make you drop that spear by any means necessary."

Apparently her answer did not sit well with Hibiki, who clenched her teeth in anger and teleported right in front of Tsubasa, swinging her spear down at her. The idol blocked the strike with her sword, putting the two in much closer quarters.

"What the hell do you know?!" Hibiki screamed, pouring more power into her attack, causing Tsubasa to skid back across the street. Not stopping for an instant, she charged again, the two weapons once again crashing in a shower of sparks. Hibiki was relentless, pushing Tsubasa back more and more, and every Noise unfortunate enough to be caught in their exchange was obliterated immediately. Concrete was like paper before their might as more buildings were sliced apart with nothing more than the razor winds they left in their wake. "You haven't been through hell like I did!"

Tired of being pushed around, Tsubasa dug her heels into the ground, surprising Hibiki. The two weapons crashed again, and using her momentum Tsubasa heaved Hibiki aboved her in the other direction. The rogue wielder flipped in mid air and landed back on the asphalt.

Yet this time, Tsubasa was the one who charged. A second sword was released from the compartment on her thigh mid charge, and she quickly grabbed it, joining the two blades at the hilt. Then, she spun them in her hand, producing a magnificent ring of fire in the middle of her rush. Not having expected the technique now, Hibiki braced herself, and just as Tsubasa was upon her, dodged wildly in between the flames.

'WIND RING'S FIERY BLADES'

Tsubasa smirked at the fact that her attack was evaded, and did not let it get her down.

After all, she had plenty more where that came from. Even if Hibiki knew all about her techniques, she never knew when and how she was going to use them!

'Tachibana, despite her overwhelming power, always had the same weaknesses. Even if her mind has been corrupted it does not mean her basic instincts were as well. She was, and always will be prone to being caught off guard, so as long as I can keep her on her toes, I'll have the advantage! I have to be clever and creative, just like her!'

The two turned to each other as Tsubasa replied. "Of course I haven't, nor would I ever wish anyone else to experience what you have," She said. "But I've been through hells of my own, and I am all too familiar with the pain of loss. I know all too well what it means to wallow in despair and sorrow, and see nothing but my pain as if it was the most important thing in the world."

Memories of Kanade welled up in her mind, and she brought up her blade above her shoulder with two hands, taking an unusual stance. "However!"

She rushed at Hibiki with blinding speed and slashed with all her might.

'SUDDEN FLASH'

The blade crashed against the spear once again, and Tsubasa found herself behind her opponent a distance away, their backs to each other. "I have learned to move on beyond that, and ironically enough, it was all thanks to you; it seems that you have forgotten the incredible influence you have on the world around you. You have helped many find their happiness simply by extending an open hand to them, and for that I'll always be grateful."

They both turned to face each other at the same time, and rushed to meet in combat once again. The area was torn to smithereens once more from the force of their clash. "Yet the biggest tragedy of all is that you of all people have not found the happiness of being released from her past!" Tsubasa yelled in between the swings. Hibiki met hers with some heavy ones of her own, and Tsubasa weaved around a blind thrust. "You chase this world of understanding of yours while carrying nothing but fear in your heart, clouding your judgment and reason!"

Hibiki grit her teeth and slammed her spear on the ground, cratering it instantly. Tsubasa was forced to jump away to avoid being caught in the aftershocks, landing in the other end of the street. "SHUT UP!"

"And I dearly want your wish to come true!" Tsubasa continued. "I wish to see this world you envision just as much as you do, but not under these circumstances! Not while you dwell on the past, seeing only your own pain and how you have been affected by it! That is exactly what allowed these curses to take a hold on you so easily!"

"I SAID SHUT UP!" Hibiki screamed, chasing after her. Tsubasa didn't have time to dodge as the spear slammed against her sword, and together the two combatants smashed through rows and rows of buildings, rubble and debris scattering in their wake.

They finally disengaged at one of the many open squares in the city, and Tsubasa jumped back to avoid another blow. "I will not! Not while the world you wish for will be built upon nothing but lies! That is why I will not stop for even a moment! I will tear your Gungnir apart with my bare hands if that will make you understand how mistaken you are!"

"TSUBASAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

Thunder rumbled in the distance as the storm raged above them, the first flashes of lightning lighting up the sky.

-!-

~But alas, for Izanagi's wishes would not come true. For those who eat from the hearth of Yomi shall not be allowed to return to the world of the living, and Izanami was one of those many. Fearful of her own appearance, the goddess made him swear that he would not look upon her.~

"I-incredible! Tsubasa-san is actually holding her own! Even without the Ignite Module!" Elfnein exclaimed in awe. She pumped her fists in excitement, not noticing she had an audience. "And this amount of phonic gain too! She's almost matching Hibiki-san's with nothing but her normal Gear!"

Several of the crew members joined in her laughter, hope building in their hearts. From what it looked like, Tsubasa was going toe to toe with the divine power enhanced Hibiki, and at times it seemed like she was gaining the advantage.

Miku however was not nearly as mirthful as them. No, in fact she was outright enraged by their cheers, of the fact that Hibiki looked to them like an enemy to be defeated.

Time and time again she'll repeat it: Hibiki is NOT the enemy. Something else entirely has that title, and Hibiki was just a victim of that enemy. Even if the grudges that the curses were feeding upon were her own, everyone and their mother knew that Hibiki would never act upon them in such a manner in any other circumstance.

And apparently her anger was palpable enough, for one crew member had laid his eyes on her and noticed her glare, immediately shutting up. The others followed suit, quieting down, and Elfnein bit down the ramifications of her shameful act, quickly going back to her work.

Genjuro let out a sigh. "I do hope that it will be enough, but we just don't know. Hibiki-kun could come up with something new any second now that might turn the tables on Tsubasa in an instant. We can't say we are out of the woods yet."

"For once I agree with you," Adam added in. "As impressive as her performance seems, one cannot underestimate the might of the divine power. It's not a matter of if she will turn the tables, but rather a matter of when. Remember that every time Tachibana Hibiki loses herself to her rage the curses spread further, so she must be taken down before that spread engulfs the divinity completely."

And they could see what he meant. The process was slow, but they could see the changes coming upon Gungnir's Aufwachen signal live. It was not as abrupt or sudden as the first time, but a change it was nonetheless. The black hole was enlarging and the black veins were spreading further, consuming more of the blue ones as they grew.

"See, it's already starting to happen," Adam commented, focusing their attention back to the screen. The violent fight continued, and they watched as Tsubasa once again had to jump away from a destructive blow that Hibiki delivered, causing the building she was standing in front of to topple. "She is already beginning to lose her advantage. I would suggest she stop holding back."

"Eh?" Miku let out. "Tsubasa-san is...holding back?"

Genjuro answered her while his eyes remained glued to the screen. "Yes, she is. After all, she hasn't even used the Super Ignite Module yet."

'At least, not in front of others.' He thought to himself. When she had abruptly showed herself on the bridge, he wasted no time going over what has happened as fast as he could, all the while Maria and the others were still fighting outside.

Once she was up to date, she immediately requested the chance to go through her own test with the new Module, something he recommended not doing in her injured state. However, her answer was glaringly obvious.

"I have rested long enough," She had said. "I will not stand aside and let my comrades be slain while I watch helplessly."

There was no talking her down, so reluctantly he agreed to let her proceed.

And what he had seen in that simulator...was absolutely mind-boggling.

"Will she be okay?" the black haired girl asked, remembering the hellish side effects of its first time use.

Genjuro smiled. "She will, don't worry. This is Tsubasa after all."

Yes, she'll be alright, he figured. But still it did not sit well with him. There was just this pit in his stomach he could not explain, something that prevented him for looking at this optimistically. 'Damn it. Damn it all to hell.'

There was nothing he could do.

'Our fates are in your hands, Tsubasa.'

"Commander!" Fujitaka suddenly called out. "I know this might not be the time, but I figured you'd want to know that storm clouds have began to cover the city from the southeast! Our visual might be compromised!"

Genjuro sent him an incredulous look. It was a strange thing to report now, but considering they wouldn't see anything otherwise, these storm clouds-

'Wait...storm clouds?'

His thoughts stopped as he dwelled on the fact. This...this was important. No, this was more than important! Why? Why was it like that? Why did the knowledge of storm clouds give him such a scare-

"Await the coming of our storm."

There! He remembered! Of course! When Tsubasa was testing out the Super Ignite Module, he had expected the usual procedure of her falling over in pain as she began to experience her inner hell.

It was no surprise when that is what exactly happened. She fell, squirmed on the ground for a few minutes...and then abruptly stopped. That was the first difference he noticed between her and the rest.

Right after that, he was caught completely off guard as her entire body shone brightly, blinding him. Then gale winds erupted from her, throwing him off his feet and causing him to collide with the far wall even though he was in a completely different room!

Once everything had died down and he looked up again, he heard a voice. He wasn't sure where it came from, but the voice had spoken and said to him that single sentence, followed by an incredibly loud crash of thunder.

Right after that everything stopped and Tsubasa emerged from the simulator, apparently none the worse for wear. She then undid her transformation and ran out to aid her comrades, not giving him even the time to try and ask any questions.

That was what had bothered him. Something happened at that moment in the simulator with Tsubasa, and he couldn't put his finger on it. Or he could? He wasn't sure of it. He wasn't sure of anything, in fact. Had the voice simply come from Tsubasa, he might have been able to rationalize it.

But why did it feel like the voice came from inside of his own head?

The gears ran in his mind as he watched the battle, trying to figure out exactly what had occurred. This was some sort of sign, he could feel it; he wasn't much for superstition, but it could not be a coincidence that he heard a voice talk about a storm when one just arrived.

Something was going on here. But whether or not it was happening was not the question. No, the biggest concern...was whether or not it was going to be in their favor.

All that was left for him to do now was to wait and see.

-!-

~Yet Izanagi broke his promise, and he lit a fire in the presence of his deceased wife, allowing him to see the rotten and maggot ridden state of her being. Izanagi was struck with fear, and Izanami was both angered and ashamed he had gone back on his word.~

Saint-Germain grumbled to herself.

'It seems Noise are rapidly being destroyed in their vicinity. I must withdraw my forces if I want to be able to sweep across the entire city successfully.'

When half of the green regiment had been summarily destroyed as collateral during the confrontation between Tsubasa and Hibiki, Saint-Germain knew she needed to have them immediately pulled back from the area.

No, it might be a better idea to clear the entire ward and stick to the periphery areas, making sure to keep the Alca-Noise safe from being destroyed. She knew they'll have to be purged once the battle ends anyway, so she couldn't bring herself to care about them all that much.

But while the battles were raging at the heart of the city, the rest were still being assaulted by Babylonian Noise forces, a problem that she had to take care of quickly. Chris was still eliminating the ones sieging the harbor, and the Zababa duo were still acting in defense of the Skytree shelter. That left Saint-Germain in charge of everything else, and frankly it was tiring work.

A beast tried to lunge straight at her, but she merely sidestepped its swipe and easily blew out its core, turning into dust. The Noise weren't what was giving her a headache; it was the black beasts suddenly turning their attention from prowling the streets like hyenas to ambushing her forces, severely limiting her ability to defend the shelters.

At some point Fujitaka switched roles with Tomosato Aoi, which she found to be slightly more acceptable. She seemed to get along with the bridge woman far better than with the man, for she had an air of confidence around her that the alchemist could definitely respect.

"Nerima!"

Also, she was much more thorough. She didn't panic over the comm like Fujitaka did; she simply said the name of the ward and Saint-Germain automatically knew what to do.

"Orange! Cut through Suginami!"

"Katsushika!"

"Pink! Blue! Take half of your forces and ambush them from the eastern and northern sides!"

Aoi was updating her on shelters currently under attack, and the alchemist quickly responded by ordering the appropriate forces in order to alleviate them. Simple, quick, and easy.

"BBs at Minato!"

But right, the black beasts. Had they not been part of the battle, Saint-Germain could have easily stayed on top of one of the city's skyscrapers and have a much easier time commanding her troops. Unfortunately, that was not to be, and every time the black beasts turned their attention on her Alca-Noise she had to respond before the entire regiment was eliminated. And seeing as they couldn't do it themselves, it was up to her to go all the way to the designated ward and take them down.

It was back-breaking work, but at this moment she knew it would be foolhardy to try and join in on the fighting against Hibiki; she would only get in the way after all. Despite all of the power that the Super Ignite Module provided, Saint-Germain knew from the get-go that she was outclassed. She had always endeavored to fight only when she knew she could win, and any time she lost it was due to circumstances far beyond her control.

Interestingly enough, Hibiki was the one who brought her the most recent and longest streak of defeats to date.

The alchemist began to make her way towards her target location. She leaped and jumped over buildings, soaring through the cloudy skies. As she landed on the roof of an office building in order to make her next jump, lightning suddenly struck the lone tree in the nearby plaza, causing it to catch fire. Saint-Germain stared at the burning tree with an inquisitive gaze, confused by the probability of such a thing happening right in front of her.

Centuries of instincts screamed at her that this storm was much more than it seemed. For all intents and purposes it should have been just a regular occurrence, especially during this time of the year, but this particular one...it felt like there was something more than meets the eye.

She glanced at the gathering clouds, and their only response was the rumbling thunder that accompanied the lightning that had just struck. Due to her proximity it was incredibly loud, and she felt as the windows of the building she stood on shook from the force of the soundwaves it released.

'Am I on edge for no reason?' She asked herself. 'No, no use dwelling on it. Whatever comes, those girls will be able to deal with it. I must do my part in order to safeguard humanity's future.'

That's right, each one of them had a role to fill. Whether it was to fight off the Noise, command armies, give regular updates, face the strongest enemy head on...or serve as the secret trump card that will only be used as a last resort.

She briefly found herself wondering again why she cared at all. But this time, the answer came much more quickly: they had all gone through the same exact experience with the new Module, so they could all sympathize with each other. They were on a very similar wavelength at the moment, and they all worked together to reach the same goal.

They could hardly be called allies now. They were in essence her comrades-in-arms, fighting on the frontlines in a war against a common and daunting enemy. But regardless of what anyone else believed, Tachibana Hibiki was not that enemy. That she knew for sure.

So she would do her best to match up to their expectations, and grasp victory from the jaws of defeat.

-!-

~Thus, Izanagi was chased out of Yomi, hounded by the shrills of his former wife. Finally making his escape, he sealed the entrance at Yomotsu Hirasaka as Izanami declared vengeance upon him. Covered by soot and the blood of the dead, Izanagi washed away the grime at a river at Izumo, giving birth to many gods as result. Yet, only three became known as some of the most important gods of Shinto:~

(Play: Nier Automata OST - Alien Manifestation)

The lightning strikes seemed to be getting far more frequent as time passed, and honestly Tsubasa found it very fitting. For every time they clashed, more and more power was released from the blows, sending hurricane winds that created such devastation around them that she knew it would take a very long time to rebuild it all.

It broke her heart to damage the city so, but she pretty much had no choice in the matter. Neither the Noise nor Hibiki gave even half a damn about it either, and trying to hold back for the sake of the structural integrity of the buildings would be like asking for death.

Hibiki struck wildly again, and the Ame-no-Habakiri user dodged out of the way just in time. The very force of it continued on, creating a shockwave that sliced a whole building in half. The entire structure began to crumble as Tsubasa stared at Hibiki, meeting her hateful glare head on. She brandished her sword and sliced at her, and the Gungnir user pulled the spear back to smash the sword in the concrete.

She grinned savagely and brought the spear down in an overhead swing. The idol however found it all too easy to respond, twisting the sword so the edge faced upwards. Shifting her grip, she struck in an upward slice, and Hibiki was forced to abandon her swing to avoid being cut in half. She jumped back, gaining some distance.

Tsubasa raised her sword in response, and out of nowhere a shower of blades of light rained down on the rogue wielder.

'THOUSAND TEARS'

Hibiki did not even bother dodging, staring at the barrage with a bored expression. The swords struck her, but merely clanged off her frame, doing absolutely zero damage. Every blade that did not crash against her armor was simply impaled into the ground erratically.

"Was that supposed to tickle?!" She yelled just as Tsubasa rushed her wordlessly. She brought up her spear to defend herself from the easily telegraphed attack.

Or at least, she tried to.

But in that moment, her entire body froze completely, rendering her unable to move.

"Wha-?"

She glanced behind her, and then made the connection. Right there, stuck in her shadow that was cast by a still working street light, was a small dagger.

'When did she-?!'

'SHADOW WEAVING'

Hibiki quickly turned her gaze back to her opponent, who was mere inches from her face. 'She hid it in between the light blades! But when did she have to time to throw it?! I would have noticed!'

And then it hit her as her eyes widened. 'In that swing, when she released her sword from the ground!'

Damn it, she was caught off guard again!

No, she was not going to fall to such a cheap trick!

Time slowed as Tsubasa's sword came down on her. The rogue wielder grit her teeth, and power welled from within her in an instant. The ground shook and rubble began to levitate around them in a circle, and it was the idol's turn to be shocked as the dagger nailed into Hibiki's shadow shattered to pieces.

Tsubasa did not have the time to stop her swing, and the Gungnir wielder evaded the blow by a hair's breadth, and the blade struck her gauntlet just as she pulled herself back but failed to slice through it.

Hibiki took a single step back and responded with a powerful thrust, a tornado of power erupting from the spear's tip. The swordswoman's eyes widened and she sidestepped the rush, but it still managed to graze against her back. She felt the razor wind cut into her slightly, and she grit her teeth at the sharp pain, swallowing it down.

The twister continued on its path of destruction, obliterating anything that was in its area of effect. The ground and the nearby buildings were ripped to shreds by the winds, and it continued onward before naturally arching towards the sky and right into the clouds...yet for some reason, it did not part them.

Neither of them however noticed this fact as Tsubasa spun in place and sliced at Hibiki's neck, forcing the rogue wielder back. "Nice reactions, Tachibana. Far better than expected." The idol said, smirking.

Hibiki however was not as amused. "Wipe that stupid grin off your face," She spit out. "You think cheap tricks will work on me?"

Tsubasa however kept the smile on her face, letting out a chuckle. "To be perfectly honest I did. You've always been a simple one after all. Overwhelming force but no planning ahead, simply seeing what's in front of your eyes and nothing else. I suggest you get that fixed if you want to take over the world, or someone else might beat you to the punch."

The glower Hibiki sent her was one for the history books, if majorly disturbing. Hibiki's face contorted into such an ugly and twisted expression that Tsubasa could swear the street was boiling from the sheer magnitude of her rage.

"Is that so?" Was the Gungnir wielder's reply, her voice laced with venom. Her fury took on a physical form once again as a crimson aura, levitating the debris in a large radius around her feet.

And Tsubasa could see how the glowing purple lines on her armor spread even further, twisting and bulging in various directions. Like eerie tendrils, they shifted and grew larger in number, and the previously thin line on her face thickened and ran right over her cheek and eye, ending right above her eyebrow. Her emerald eyes shone in the dark as the curses grew stronger, manifesting their increasing strength right on their host's body.

Tsubasa's eyes widened in horror, staring at the transformation occurring right in front of her eyes. 'Shit, I went too far; I have forgotten that she is prone to outbursts of rage. I have accidentally aggravated the curses further!'

And then the corrupted wielder took a heavy step forward, and the ground beneath her feet gave up instantly as it exploded, clouds of dust being launched hundreds of feet in the air. Gale force winds burst in all directions, and Tsubasa had to plant her feet in order to not be flung away like a ragdoll.

'Something… is coming!'

She couldn't see a single thing beyond the tower of dust that sprouted around Hibiki, and it immediately put her on edge. The winds died down, and Tsubasa readied herself for anything that might pop out of the cloud, whether it was Hibiki herself or something else. She spread her senses around her, working to cover all of her blind spots. She half expected Hibiki to teleport behind her again, so she kept a great focus on her back, her stance ready to dodge any strike that came from that direction.

~The first was the goddess of the Sun and the ruler of Takama no Hara: Amaterasu, who came into being when Izanagi washed his left eye.~

Her heart beat rapidly in her chest as the dust slowly began to settle and fall, a bead of sweat trickling down her brow. She could feel something happening behind the cloud, but just could not pinpoint what.

She raised her sword in front of her in a defensive stance, pretending to counter whatever Hibiki had in store.

And then she saw it. Right in the middle of the cloud, hidden behind layers upon layers of rubble and dust, was a small glowing orb. She could see it pulsate in place, not moving in any direction. It stayed within its cover, and she watched as it grew slowly but surely, starting from being as small as a marble to as big as a basketball.

'I see, she's going to try some sort of energy blast. I best be prepared to dodge it and counterattack.' Tsubasa told herself. She had dealt with those many times in the past, so her strategy was fairly set in stone.

Only to be be shredded to pieces when the cloud of dust was blown away by hurricane winds, clearing up the street they were in completely. Her hair buffeted around in the currents, and any sort of plan she had in mind was vaporized as her eyes lay upon what was uncovered.

A raging golden aura of power surrounded Hibiki in an imitation of the blazing fire of the Super Ignite Module. She held her spear forward with a single hand, the growing golden orb hanging before its tip. The winds around the orb seemed to be drawn into it at supersonic speeds, energy cackling madly around it, carving up the street and the adjacents buildings.

Hibiki's brows were furrowed in a scowl, completely unperturbed by the hurricane casually being formed around her.

And it was at that moment Tsubasa knew that whatever Hibiki was going to do...was not going to be easily dealt with.

"LET'S SEE YOU SURVIVE THIS ONE!"

The rogue wielder took a single step back, the spear still in line with the raging ball of golden light hanging in the air. Her gaze met Tsubasa's momentarily, and it was in that fraction of a second that the idol's mind, instincts, soul, and body all screamed at her in tandem one single thing.

'RUN!'

She didn't ignore their warning. Swiftly turning on her heel to the other side of the street, the thrusters on her ankles and back roared to life with fire, and immediately the Ame-no-Habakiri wielder was propelled forward in an attempt to escape.

And then Hibiki thrust the spear into the orb of light with all her might.

At that moment, everything ceased to exist.

'TWILIGHT OF THE GODS'

An absolutely gigantic beam of purely destructive energy surged out from the seemingly tiny ball of light. At least one hundred feet in height alone, it razed everything in its path, exploding outwards with such force all of the structures that had been by the street were uprooted like tree sprouts, crumbling to pieces just from the force of the blast. Akin to a condensed atomic bomb, it exploded forward towards the direction of the blue haired Symphogear user. Tsubasa very briefly glanced behind her and caught side of the tidal wave on her heels, the searing heat it unleashed already scorching her skin just from proximity alone.

She knew that if that thing caught up to her, she would die instantly. Nothing would be left of her corpse, not even atoms.

She had to escape it, no matter what.

It was too late to do anything about whatever was caught in its path of destruction. Unluckily for Tsubasa, the street they had been fighting in was a long one, with no alleyways or intersections she could use to try and escape its path. Clenching her teeth, she poured all the power she could muster into her thrusters, but it seemed to do no good in helping her outrun the certain death approaching rapidly behind her. Only the head start she had thanks to her instincts gave her the few precious seconds to try and think of a way out, lest her fight and her life ended on the spot by her own comrade.

The sunlike beam vaporized everything it touched, not leaving even charred remains of the inorganic and organic that it consumed.

Tsubasa raced forward at high speeds, trying to think of anything that might help her evade it. Trying to plant her huge swords in its path won't work as that failed even against the smaller and less potent light of the Shenshoujing. Even if its ability was to destroy relics, she imagined that it would pale in force against what was hot on her heels. This explosion Hibiki unleashed didn't need any special properties to annihilate everything; it was just that powerful, formed by the overwhelming divine power that she possessed.

'Think think think think think!' Her mind raced, trying to find a solution. As she looked forward, her eyes widened in shock as she noticed that she was quickly coming upon a dead end as a skyscraper of an office building stood right in the middle of her path. Thinking she was doomed, she clenched her teeth even harder, causing hairlines fractures on one of her molars.

Until her mind once again went back to the Shenshoujing incident and she recalled what she did to avoid the beam of light it had produced.

'It's now or never!'

Pouring even more power into her thrusters as her sync ratio flared, she rushed forward like lightning. With her will alone she summoned forth a Heaven's Wrath sword, placing it in her path like a ramp, driving its sharp point into the building. She raced up the impromptu slope, the angle allowing her to conserve more momentum as she rose. Finally, her feet planted against the side of the building, and she ascended towards the sky, the windows she zoomed over in her path shattering to pieces.

Sweat poured down her brow as she cleared the building's height in an instant, and right on the edge she poured power into her legs and jumped, rising in the air.

And just in time as well, as the supernova passed under her right at that moment, consuming the entire building in its wake. It continued onwards for over a kilometer, gouging a long trench into the city's landscape.

Soaring through the sky, Tsubasa finally allowed herself to let out the breath she was holding as the beam slowly but surely began to decrease in size.

~The second was the god of the moon: Tsukuyomi, born when Izanagi washed out his right eye.~

'That was far too close!' She thought to herself as she looked below her, studying the destruction the blast left behind.

Only for her instincts to scream once again in her mind, and she twisted in midair to bring up her sword behind her to block the powerful swing from the corrupted wielder's spear, who had teleported into her path right in that moment. Her defense was successful, but now helpless in mid air she was swatted away like a fly, streaking through the air. She grit her teeth once more as she began to descend, flipping over to place her feet below her for the landing.

And just as her feet touched the ground of another wide open plaza, Hibiki's spear came crashing down on her with the force of an explosion. Reacting in a split second, Tsubasa brought up her sword to defend herself once again, pouring her will into it at the last second to reinforce its frame and size, and its transformation finished just as the weapons crashed.

The sword was promptly destroyed by the force and the ground cratered beneath them, but luckily Tsubasa retained her life and jumped back from the follow up swing, putting some distance between herself and her opponent, withdrawing another sword.

Fortunately, Hibiki did not pursue her, merely standing in place where she had appeared, glaring at the Ame-no-Habakiri user. Tsubasa panted heavily and wiped her brow, glad to have managed to escape death three times in a row.

"You're like an annoying fly that doesn't know when to quit," Hibiki suddenly said, her voice heavier than Tsubasa could remember. "You should just drop and die where you stand and stop interfering!"

The blue haired idol did not grace her with a response as her mind raced again. However, before she could formulate any plans, Genjuro's voice rose up from the comm, his voice urgent and panicked. "Tsubasa! You can't afford to hold back anymore! You have to use the Ignite Module! She's grown way too powerful for you to face with the normal configuration! That blast of hers almost cut the Chiyoda ward in half!"

~But the third was a little bit different. Having come into being when Izanagi cleaned his nose, the younger sibling of Amaterasu was a mischievous fellow: he razed rice fields, defiled her chambers, and even tossed a flayed horse into her weaving hall, causing the indignant goddess to place herself into exile due to his behavior.~

"I know," She answered. "I wanted to see how far I could get without it, but it seems I have no choice in the matter anymore."

Rising to her full height, Tsubasa stood in opposition to her comrade, her face even. "I don't know if it will be enough, but I sure hope it is."

Lightning struck the trees in the plaza around them, the crashing thunder emphasizing the intensity of their confrontation.

Meeting Hibiki's gaze head on, Tsubasa began speaking, her voice unusually calm. There were a few things she wanted to say, a few things she wanted Hibiki to know despite everything.

"Tachibana...no, Hibiki," She said, catching a glimpse of the chestnut haired girl's eyes slightly widen at Tsubasa's use of her first name. "I reckon you found plenty of reasons to loathe me, yet I wish for you to know that no matter how much time passes, and no matter how much you change...I will never hold any resentment towards you. Never again. In fact, I'd like to say it's quite the opposite."

She grasped Ame-no-Habakiri's pendant tightly in her hand. "Over the time we've shared in each other's company, I've come to view you in a very different light," She said, her voice gentle and graceful. "Your outlook on life clashed wildly with my own, and yet I could not help but be swept along with your antics and enthusiasm. You have granted me strength beyond measure simply by your presence, and it is thanks to you that I've finally found the place I believe I belong."

"What's your point?" Hibiki bit out, confused at her sudden out of nowhere confession.

Tsubasa chuckled. "That's right, I tend to ramble on don't I?" She said. Then, her expression changed from the gentle and warm one that had come over her to a fierce and determined one, the fires of her resolve ragin brightly. Lightning struck the ground around them wildly, the windows of nearby buildings shattering into pieces.

"You are an irreplaceable part of my life, and through the bonds we have formed over the past year that run deeper than blood, I will admit that I am proud to call you my sister!" She declared loudly, her voice echoing. "And as an important member of my family, I will do all it takes to bring you back home! That is the will of Kazanari Tsubasa! And for the day that will dies is the day that my life shall expire! Carve it into your heart and mind as our blades clash once more, HIBIKI!"

And Kazanari Tsubasa's voice joined in with the thunder as she pressed the activation switch.

"IGNITE MODULE!"

"UNSHEATHE!"

Her entire body was engulfed by the blazing black flame of the Super Ignite Module, rising up to unprecedented heights.

And right in that moment, a bolt of lightning struck her, blinding all those watching.

-!-

~But alas, for the treatment of his sister the god was banished from the Heavens by his father and sentenced to walk the Earth. Yet despite all of that, legends are sung of his deeds and might, and his name rings out in the heart of all those who revere the gods.~

"We've lost all visual on Tsubasa-san!"

"We can't get our satellites to work!"

"What about the others?! Is it still working?"

"Yes! But I can't see anything about Tsubasa-san! All of the sensors are completely blinded!"

As urgent updates poured out from various crew members on the bridge, Elfnein's eyes widened as Ame-no-Habakiri's Aufwachen signal suddenly began changing, in ways like Gungnir's yet having a clear difference in them.

"W-what is happening?!" She asked in a panic, her eyes darting around, trying to look to someone for answers. Adam, who had been watching the fight, narrowed his eyes at the completely white screen.

Her gaze finally fell upon Genjuro, who had apparently stood up from his chair at some point during their exchange. "Genjuro-san, what is going on?!"

Yet, the commander did not answer her. He simply stared at the screen, his eyes distant.

And stared.

And stared.

And stared.

And stared.

And then...everything clicked. Everything that has happened until now regarding Tsubasa, everything that had to do about the storm...finally fell into place.

All operation on the bridge stopped in an instant as Genjuro threw his head back and began to laugh uproariously, causing absolutely everyone to stare at him in shock and confusion. There was no sound in the bridge except for his laughter, unnerving his subordinates.

After a few seconds, the screen slowly began to clear as the image began to return, and Genjuro gazed back at it, a huge grin on his face. "Well, Adam Weishaupt, I have to admit that you were right!" He said. The former head of the Illuminati simply looked at him with his narrowed eyes, not at all amused.

"Let me ask all of you a question," He said, turning his attention to absolutely everyone else. "Why do you think Tsubasa is the only one of the wielders who has a relic based on her heritage?"

~For he is the god of the sea and storms, an existence that holds a special place in the heart of the Japanese people!~

His question garnered no response as they looked at him, and he continued with a mirthful voice. "That is because she was made for it. Tsubasa's very existence, since the day she was born, was to be the wielder of Ame-no-Habakiri. Adam Weishaupt spoke of compatibility, and you'll find that Tsubasa is the only person in the world, past, present, and future, that will have an absolute 100% compatibility with her relic. The others, while fully synchronized, do not even come close."

The image began to clear even more, and they could start seeing parts of the plaza again slightly. Hibiki came into view, but Tsubasa was still obscured by the light.

"Kazanari Fudou is a mean bastard, but he is also very loyal to the country. So loyal, in fact, that he wanted to do absolutely everything he could to preserve his legacy. For the Kazanaris are a family that has existed for generations, finding its roots in a tiny little province in the west known as Izumo. And their first known ancestor was a simple yet brave man that went by the name of Okuninushi."

Yes, just thinking about it filled him with glee. Of course he would hear the voice from inside his own head! Of course Tsubasa would wake up when the storm arrives! Of course that is what would happen when she uses the Super Ignite Module! The appearance of the storm now of all times only signified his attempts at assisting his own descendents! And out of all of them who exist in the world, none are as compatible with him as Kazanari Tsubasa!

And just as Tsubasa was a part of that lineage, Genjuro was too!

Aoi's eyes widened. "No way...Izumo...Okuninushi…"

She gasped. "You can't possibly mean-!"

"The Super Ignite Module nudges open an access to the abilities of the gods that wielded the relics. But in her case? It smashes it wide open, letting it all flow right into her!"

~The ruler of Neno-Katsu-Kuni, and the wielder of one of the legendary swords that were granted the name Totsuka-no-Tsurugi!~

"For she is the one and only heir to the legend of the god of storms! Learn and believe! Witness and be amazed!"

-!-

From his office in Kamakura, Kazanari Fudou watched impassively yet with a measure of pride as the screen on his computer cleared away, revealing what had happened on the battlefield.

He stared at the figure of his own granddaughter and narrowed his eyes.

"Yes, Tsubasa, that is your purpose. That is the reason I have allowed you to come to this world. Now go, and bring glory to our nation, and to the legacy of our name!"

-!-

~Worship and sing! Praise and pray! For he is the mighty god that shaped the future of the land of the rising sun!~

When Hibiki could finally see again, she noticed that very major changes had come over the plaza.

For one, the air itself seemed electrified, and tree-like fractures ran over the ground in a very large circle around Tsubasa.

And that is what shocked her the most. Rather than receive the same sight as what had come over the other relic users, Tsubasa's Symphogear was strangely enough was not completely pitch black. While the several plates had darkened considerably, it managed to retain its blue shine as several glowing sapphire lines ran over the area where the several plates would connect. The comb that had been holding her hair in place had apparently disintegrated in the heat, letting her now electric blue and shining hair flutter behind her in the wind.

But that was not it just yet. No, as Hibiki studied her, she noticed more and more changes that shocked her to the core. The previously black flame that surrounded her form was now also blue in color with electricity cackling madly around her. And her sword too was now engulfed by a flame so hot it also glowed blue, and like her aura an electric current ran through it.

Yet all that paled when she looked into her eyes and froze.

They had become an incredibly light blue, but just like her own they too glowed with an otherworldly light, and from them wisps of electricity escaped from their sides. And as she looked deeper and deeper into her orbs, she found that she was looking at a raging storm, threatening to engulf her in its entirety.

After what seemed like an eternity, Tsubasa spoke, and Hibiki found herself paralyzed from the sound of her voice.

"For you to garner our attention is no easy feat, child of Man," She said, confusing Hibiki more and more.

The rogue wielder grit her teeth and her brows furrowed. "Who are you?" She asked incredulously. "What are you? What did you do to Tsubasa?"

But her opponent merely smiled. "Even with thine eyes shrouded in chaos, you still find it in your heart to care for my well-being. I am truly grateful for that, for that is all I required," The changed Ame-no-Habakiri user continued. "Although your inquiry astounds me, Hibiki. I am Kazanari Tsubasa, and always have been."

"Bullshit," Hibiki replied. "You are not Tsubasa. Who the hell are you?"

Tsubasa chuckled, and met the rogue wielder's gaze head on. Shining blue met shining green in the plaza. "Hmph, you still remain unconvinced. We can only speak the truth, but you are not completely mistaken, corrupted friend of mine,"

"I thank you, Hibiki, for the kindness you have presented to me despite our differences. Were it not for your intervention, I would have found myself in the depths of Yomi at the company of Mother, far before my time. But since you have asked for our name, We must comply with thine request, dear sister."

It was as if her words were accompanied by the roar of the Heavens, and lightning struck around them with reckless abandon. Yet Tsubasa stood in the middle of it all, taller and grander than ever before.

"We are the child of He-Who-Invites, and we are the first and the last of the line of the Kazanari. We beheld the great sword Ame-no-Habakiri as a gift from the Heavens, and legends of our deeds have been sung in the land of your home. We are the embodiment of the storm and the sea."

There was no response Hibiki could even think of that would suffice for this. She may have not listened too much in lessons about the history of Japan, but this was one legend that even a baby was aware of.

For he was the one of the most revered. For he was an existence that transcended everything she had ever seen!

"Tremble and fear! Be awed and beg at the sound of our name, Hibiki!"

-!-

~For his name is:~ "For our name is:" "For his name is:"

AND THE LIGHTNING STRUCK

"SUSANO'O!"

Chapter Text

More and more Noise of various shapes and sizes were continuously blown away by Chris' barrage. Despite everything that had happened in the last few minutes including Tsubasa's triumphant return did not allow Chris the luxury of forgetting what exactly she was supposed to be doing.

Another beast somehow survived through the still ongoing rain of death and lunged towards the Ichaival user with its claws outstretched. Chris prepared to respond to its attack, and was about to drop her Devastator once again when suddenly the beast was sliced in half, the two sides disappearing into dust a moment later.

She looked to see where the slash came from, and right in that moment Maria landed next to her, her Super Ignite Module still burning strong. "Thought you could use a hand." She said, holding her sword before her.

Chris smirked, focusing her attention back to the next wave of Noise. "Much appreciated!" She screamed over the noise of the beginning of the second volley. "Just don't get yourself caught in the crossfire ya hear!"

Maria responded with her own smirk, and crouched low to the ground as she prepared to charge into the fray.

Only for Saint-Germain's voice to come through the comm. "Maria Cadenzavna Eve," The alchemist said, catching the idol's attention. She rose back to her full height and looked to Chris inquisitively, but the white haired user just shook her head in response, equally as confused.

"I understand you wish to assist your comrade in eliminating the forces attacking the harbor, however I would like to request your assistance in my own endeavors." She continued, further confusing both Maria and Chris, as the communication was on their shared connection, and not a personal one.

Relaxing her guard, Maria raised one hand up over the headpiece, trying to hear the alchemist better over the sounds of the explosions happening in the harbor. "You want my help?" She asked. It was then she noticed a single beast that somehow again survived the barrage and charged right at her, but with a quick sidestep moved out of the way and slashed down on it, slicing through its core nonchalantly, causing it too to disappear to dust.

"Yes," The alchemist replied, and Maria could hear gunshots from her end of the comm. "As you may have heard, I have called upon an army of Alca-Noise to assist in our defense of the city. While they are capable of eliminating their counterparts, it seems that the black beasts have turned their attention on my forces, greatly inhibiting my ability to defend the outlying shelters from being breached. While I have been doing my best to eliminate all of the beasts encroaching on them, they are far too numerous for me to destroy all on my own." She explained.

Maria's eyes narrowed. "So you need someone to cover some of the area?"

"Yes. I am currently in the western part of the city, and I would request you take the east under your jurisdiction; Tomosato Aoi will update you on which wards require reinforcements when they are being attacked."

"I see…" Maria mumbled. That was a fairly solid plan, she had to admit. She looked to Chris who had her eyes forward, her Devastator launching barrage upon barrage of rockets towards the Noise. "Chris, will you be okay on your own?!" She shouted.

"No problem! I got this! You go help out where you can!" Her junior responded in her own shout.

"Okay!"

With that said, Maria leapt away from the combat zone, making sure to avoid the area of destruction. She jumped over the various storehouses lining the harbor, eventually making her way into the city proper. She landed and slashed apart the small contingent of Noise in her way, then leaped up to the rooftops of the buildings.

The Airgetlam user raised her hand again to the comm. "Alright Saint-Germain, what do you need me to-"

And then the entire city shook, and she looked in shock and horror at the massive beam of light at the distance. The light traveled on, eventually carving a path straight through the buildings even further in the distance, and only dissipating a whole minute later. "Wha-"

"It seems their battle has reached a new level of intensity," The alchemist said in her ear calmly. "It would be best if we do not attempt to intervene."

"What are you talking about?! If Tsubasa is in trouble I have to help her!"

"And do what?" Saint-Germain asked bluntly, causing Maria to freeze. "You have not been able to defeat Tachibana Hibiki despite your best efforts. Need I remind you that even when we joined forces against her she held us all off at once? She has gotten even more powerful since then, and she is now at a level that even the Super Ignite Module cannot compare. If Kazanari Tsubasa has not requested assistance yet, then it stands to reason she has no need for it yet."

Or she was dead, Saint-Germain left unsaid. However she figured Maria knew that already.

The idol grit her teeth in frustration, still staring ahead at the location where the beam of light had been.

She desperately wanted to go over there and help Tsubasa. She wanted to fight alongside her and just make sure she really was there, that she was awake and moving about. That feeling in her chest had blossomed even more when she had paid her visits in the medical room, and now she just had to go there and see if it was real...if she was real.

But Maria still had her logical side, and that side won in this battle of wills. She turned her back to the sounds, missing a particularly strong bolt of lightning striking something in the distance. "Aoi-san...what's the first target?"

It took a moment for the crew member to respond. "Adachi."

"Roger."

No use overthinking things now. Saint-Germain asked for her help, which was a very rare thing indeed. It would not do to betray her expectations in this matter.

Her resolve strengthened, Maria leaped away towards her goal.

-!-

Susano'o.

If there was one name in Japanese Mythology that was recognized by absolutely everyone in the country, it was his.

The god of the storms and the sea, and one that is said to be so mighty he was almost unmatched.

And somehow, that god had appeared right in front of Hibiki, and out of all places, in the body of her friend and comrade Kazanari Tsubasa.

She may have divine power on her side, but even someone as ridiculously strong as Hibiki could not allow herself to underestimate him, no matter what sort of form he took.

And anything he said otherwise was pure bullshit.

The air continued to cackle with electricity, power radiating off of Tsubasa in such amounts Hibiki could physically feel it.

"What is the matter, Hibiki? Where has thy fighting spirit gone? Has our presence caused the flower of fear to bloom in your heart? Or perhaps is it the worry for my well-being?" Tsubasa asked with that thunderous voice. It was still entirely feminine, and carried that deep tone that Tsubasa always had that made her songs so much more impactful.

"Shut up," She spit out in response. "I know you're not Tsubasa, so stop trying to pretend to be her."

"And you choose to remain ignorant of what is in front of thine eyes," Tsubasa said almost sadly. "How very unfortunate, my friend. However, it matters very little what you choose to believe, for have made an oath, and we shall do all in our power to uphold it."

Hibiki brandished her spear, pointing it straight at her. "You don't scare me, Susano'o. I don't care who comes to try and stop me, because you like everyone else will fail. You also forgot that I can kill you very easily with the god-slaying power, so in fact you should be the one that is scared!"

Her bold declaration however only served to make the Ame-no-Habakiri user sigh in disapproval. "And you choose to discredit my efforts as well. How very disappointing indeed, Hibiki,"

She then stared at Hibiki with her shining eyes, causing the rogue wielder to take a step back in caution. "Let us make something very clear to you, dear sister: that divine-slaying curse that has blackened thy mind shalt not be able to defeat usWe suggest you cease relying on that power, for it will only bring you further torment."

She then let out a slightly amused huff. "We wonder how Odin would react to discovering his precious spear has been reduced to housing the grudges of humanity. It is a shame, to see a wondrous relic in such a state. But alas, there is nothing to be done about it now; the beliefs of mankind are very potent indeed."

"If it's a fight you want, then you got one. I'll make sure you bite the dust, and then when you're gone I'll send Tsubasa to join you."

"Ho, so you will face us in combat? Very well, then shall respond with my full might to your challenge."

The electric blazing aura around Tsubasa flared to the Heavens, dwarfing Hibiki's own. Raising her shining sword and taking her stance, Tsubasa said the final words before the battle resumed. "Come, Hibiki. shall cleanse and purge thy mind and body of the curses that bind them, and return thee to the place where you rightfully belong!"

Lightning struck around them again wildly.

And Tsubasa made the first move.

Hibiki blinked.

In that moment, lightning struck again and Tsubasa appeared right in front of her without even moving a muscle. Her swing was like light, moving so fast the rogue wielder could barely catch it, managing in the last possible second to raise her spear to block the blow.

Only for the sword to slice through the spear like it was made of butter, and Hibiki was forced to jump back in order to avoid sharing the same fate. The spear's severed half fell to the floor with a clang, and she stared at what remained of it in her hand in shock.

The sword hadn't just cut through the spear; it melted it in an instant, the full heat of lightning focused exactly on the point it was cutting, leaving the spear in two complete yet useless halves, both seared at where they previously connected.

She looked up at the idol and grit her teeth, tossing the remains of her spear aside. Tsubasa smirked mischievously. "Have you forgotten, Hibiki, that pledged to make you drop that spear by any means necessary? Consider that proof of our sincerity."

"So that's how you want to play it…"

Susano'o wanted to face her fists? Fine then, she can work with that.

Hibiki entered her stance, the one stance she had painstakingly learned for a long time and polished over many battles. The one that she came to Genjuro to learn…

And the one she had used to defeat him a little over a week ago.

In response, Tsubasa entered her own stance. Their auras exploded upwards, cracking the ground and causing rubble to float in the air as if gravity itself had surrendered to their power.

"LET'S GO!"

(Play: Warriors Orochi 3 OST - Susanoo Theme - Legend Mix)

The very definitions of speed and power were shattered as the two combatants charged towards each other. Fist met sword in an atomic explosion, and the entire plaza was razed from just the shockwave of their clash. Thunder rumbled loudly in the background as the two struggled against each other, neither one giving ground for the other for even a moment.

And then came the exchange of blows. Hibiki's fists and Tsubasa's sword simply disappeared from sight as a hurricane of strikes cleaved the ground even further, and any and all foundations beneath their feet simply collapsed. The tiled floor ceased to exist, a gigantic crater being carved into the ground beneath their feet.

Yet even with that, it did not stop either of them. Tsubasa's sword, laced with fire, electricity, and the will of a god was truly the embodiment of a storm, and the sheer futility of standing against one. It crashed, roared, and rained down hundreds of swings and slashes in a mere second, a sight that a regular human...no, even the most powerful humans would not be able to come close to understand.

But Hibiki did. She understood, and she faced that storm head one with all her power. The chaotic harmony of good and evil within her powered her to the extreme, and her fists blurred, phasing in and out of sight. One punch became a thousand, and two became ten thousand. So many blows that defied reality surged forward, and nothing in the world of Man could stand up against them.

The battle between the two was a contradiction in on itself, a true representation of the age old question that baffled humanity to this day:

What would be the result when an unstoppable force met an immovable object?

There was no answer to be gleaned from this exchange except one:

Destruction.

What was once a beautiful plaza filled with greenery and life was reduced to its bare elements, unveiling the raw ground beneath it as anything that existed around them simply ceased to be, the heat and power of their blows reducing everything to their tiniest bare particles.

Divinity against a god.

Curses against a storm.

The two shot towards the sky in an instant, stopping their mad clash for less than a second before it resumed in the air. Tsubasa slashed forward, and a veritable wall of fire erupted from the edge of her blade, searing and igniting the air. The oxygen detonated due to the sheer heat, and a fireball roared to life right in between the two.

And all that force came upon Hibiki instantly, rendering her almost unable to respond.

But only almost.

She teleported, evading the wave of death by a moment and struck at Tsubasa with a supersonic punch. But the descendant of Susano'o spun around and struck the fist with her blade, once again creating a shockwave that sheared the top of the buildings beneath them.

Tokyo would be a shadow of its former self once they are done, Tsubasa realized. It would not matter who won in the end...for it will be the people who will have to pick up the pieces. Her heart broke at the thought of their misery, but she could not allow herself to despair for their sake.

For the alternative was death, and a city devoid of life might as well be destroyed anyway.

She deflected Hibiki's punch only for the rogue wielder to send another hundred with her other fist, and the idol blocked them all with the edge of her blade. The very fact that despite all of her power her blade was still not injuring Hibiki all that badly was incredible, and showcased the immense power she wielded.

But the invincible girl laced with divine power finally met her match by the hand of the very first comrade she gained since she had taken up the Symphogear, and the two were reading each other perfectly.

Neither could gain ground, and that was detrimental for Tsubasa.

For Susano'o's might was fleeting, while the power granted by the divine power was not. That was why she had to give it her all, regardless of the destruction she causes. So long as the shelters are left untouched and the people still live, they will be able to rebuild.

Tsubasa swiftly flipped backwards, the blades on her legs stopping Hibiki's barrage and causing her to retreat, putting distance between the two opponents.

Hibiki prepared to charge, and Tsubasa raised her blade to the sky and towards the storm. When the rogue wielder finally began her rush, dozens upon dozens of lightning bolts struck the sword, and all of the massive amounts of electricity contained within them flowed through it and right into Tsubasa.

And stopping the corrupted Adaptor mid charge, for an impassable ring of lightning sprung to life between her and her opponent. Hibiki realized that even if she tried to teleport past them, not only would she fail, but in the event that she succeeded Tsubasa would undoubtedly cut her down in the process.

So she decided to try something else.

She reared her fist back, and power gathered inside her hand. The air around her shone with golden light as she poured more and more energy into her attack, her eyes narrowed on her opponent.

In response, Tsubasa aimed her sword forward, and the ring of lightning coalesced into the blade itself, causing it to cackle wildly and uncontrollably as millions upon millions of joules ran through it. And all at the command of the descendant of the god of storms.

The light in Hibiki's hand reached its peak, and she thrust her fist forward with a mighty yell.

"GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!"

An explosion of golden light surged forward towards Tsubasa, rending the air and reality as it passed through.

Yet the shining haired idol answered by thrusting her sword forward, and the collection of lightning fused into a giant bolt that roared across the sky, making its way to Hibiki.

The two attacks clashed in the middle, and raw power imploded at their point of impact. They struggled against each other, pushing each other back momentarily yet neither gaining any ground. Divine power once again clashed against the storm, and several loose bolts rent the ground asunder, destroying more and more of it with each pass.

With neither one gaining the advantage, the two of them called their attacks off and charged. However, just this time Tsubasa was faster, and Hibiki was forced to instead of matching her blow for blow to instead block or dodge her barrage of attacks, not giving her even an instant to try and switch to the offensive. The flaming and electrified blade was simply death incarnate, and she had to do her best to not be killed on the spot. She didn't know what Tsubasa's intention was nor did she care, but this was far more than she had expected any of the wielders to be able to do.

And just for a moment...just for a singular, tiny moment, Hibiki found herself awed. 'As expected of Tsubasa-san.'

The strange thought that had intruded upon her mind caused her to miss a swing from the right. Gritting her teeth, Hibiki teleported backwards, trying to gain some distance and regroup.

But Tsubasa wouldn't let her. Lightning crashed and thunder rumbled, and the idol simply tore through space forward, using the crashing lightning as her footsteps towards the rogue wielder. Teleporting between the bolts, she closed the distance to Hibiki so quickly she barely had time to respond, and brought her hands up to block the overhead swing.

Only to be caught completely and utterly off guard when Tsubasa instead let go of her sword at the last moment, letting her close the small distance she needed to enact her trap.

And before Hibiki could respond, Tsubasa's free hand was clenched into a fist and smashed with all the might of a hurricane behind it right into the rogue wielder's stomach. Lightning traveled from the descendant of storms to her opponent, and the Gungnir user was paralyzed as her muscles spasmed from the sheer intensity of the current.

But that was the result had Tsubasa simply cherry-tapped her. No, what she had done was push all of her might into the strike, and even though hand-to-hand combat was not her speciality, there was no denying her power.

Hibiki was launched across the sky to the other side of the city, crashing through the very top of the Skytree in her path. Steel and debris rained down on the ground, and Kirika and Shirabe, who had been fighting right beneath it, heard the rumblings and looked towards the sky to the streak of lightning that had engulfed the rogue wielder...

And at Tsubasa's form that was quick to follow.

"Eh?! What's going on?!"

-!-

No one in S.O.N.G's bridge worked. No one typed, no one gave any updates on any situations. The numbers kept flowing in, but all they could do was simply stare in awe and amazement at the spectacle displayed on the screen and marvel.

"This...is Susano'o-sama's power!"

"Amazing! This is way too amazing!"

"I can't believe it! She can actually win! Tsubasa-san can do it!"

"She can bring Tachibana-san back! This is incredible!"

This was indeed incredible, Genjuro noted in his mind. There was no denying what was going on here. The sheer might that Tsubasa was displaying was something for the history books, even if the city was reduced to smithereens as a result.

This was what it meant to be a descendant of one of the oldest families in the entirety of Japan. And this was the entire reason Kazanari Fudou kept her, and by extension them on a tight leash: He had bred her specifically because he wanted her to inherit the blood of Susano'o, and to display the might of the country to the world at large. To make them tremble in fear and awe as the avatar of the storm brought ruin upon them for daring put the country in their sights.

But in the end, it was instead used to rend the land asunder as the wielder of that power clashed against her own comrade in a desperate bid to rescue her from the grasp of the curses.

It was truly an irony that did not pass over Genjuro, and he found himself slightly amused by the prospect. Anything that can be done to break Fudou's expectations was a blessing in disguise.

And even Adam found himself impressed. "What an intriguing thing to witness, the legacy of Susano'o," He said. "It has truly not disappointed so far. I'm almost curious to see how it proceeds from her and what more she has to bare. This is just the beginning after all."

"You're right about that." Genjuro responded to him, for once surprised that Adam was not quick to judge or retort.

Unfortunately, his surprise was quickly shattered.

"But that is not truly Susano'o, is it?"

Genjuro widened his eyes, and even several of the crew members with a more active attention span turned their heads to look at him in shock. He smirked at their surprise. "Anyone would be able to tell just by looking at the Aufwachen signal. That god contained within him divine power after all, and Kazanari Tsubasa does not. It's only the matter of putting two and two together...but that makes her even more intriguing to say the least. To think she held just that much power all on her own."

Many eyes were quick to look towards Genjuro for an answer. Realizing they were waiting for his response, he sighed. He wanted them to stay marveled, but it seems he'll have to spill the beans. "It's true," He said. "Everything you see here is Tsubasa's power, not Susano'o's. She may have declared herself as such, but that is in fact not the whole truth."

He gazed at the display showcasing the battle evenly, his concentration on his niece. "The will of Susano'o that you saw? It is nothing but an illusion. It is merely a symptom of the massive power released due to the Super Ignite Module and his blood that runs through her; a sort of split personality, if you were. It rose to the surface due to Ame-no-Habakiri's connection to her, and all those factors combined allowed that will to spring forth and letting her get a true grasp on its full scope."

The mad clashes, the casual throwing around of lightning and fire, were all part of it. "In order for that will to manifest, certain conditions must first be met: Tsubasa must be using Ame-no-Habakiri, a sufficient amount of power must be channelled at once, and a storm must be raging overhead. Without these three factors combined, Susano'o will not manifest. It is more correct to place it on the level of a miracle like the X-Drive rather than anything else. In fact, the only reason it manifested at all is to work as an intermediate between her and that massive power. Without it, she does not have full access to what it can do."

"But how do you know this, sir?" One crew member asked.

Genjuro huffed. "Who do you think I am? I am Kazanari Genjuro, and his blood runs through me just like it runs through her. Of course I would know the intricacies behind manifesting the strength of our ancestor. However, unlike her I was not raised to be its receptacle, and therefore will never be able to use it."

Not that he gave a damn about that.

"Gaze at it and marvel everyone, for this may be the only chance you'll ever get to see this power in action in your lifetime. I just wished that it would be under different circumstances."

And that it would be enough, he left unsaid. No matter what, Tsubasa MUST defeat Hibiki before the storm passes. If she does not, all that power will be rendered virtually unusable and she'll be defeated in an instant.

-!-

Hibiki crashed into a building, her entire body wracking with pain due to the electricity running through her. She had only a second to groan in pain before she had to dislodge herself and dodge as Tsubasa's sword sliced through the structure, searing through it like it was thin air.

"Why...isn't it working?!" Hibiki growled out as she dodged another blow. Her god-slaying power was not doing anything! She remembered how it felt when she punched through that divine snake and the Divine Weapon, but now it wasn't doing a single thing!

"You assumed we were bluffing, and are now paying for your arrogance, Hibiki," Tsubasa said as she trudged towards her. "have informed you that your cursed power will not be able to defeat us, yet you chose to ignore my warning. Now come, we are not finished yet."

And Tsubasa charged like lightning again. Hibiki clicked her tongue, and reluctantly realized her opponent was correct. She thought she'll be able to depend on the god-slaying power to get rid of Susano'o quickly, but it seems that her gamble was thrown out the window.

Fine then, if that was the case then she'll just meet him head on with her own full power.

She knocked her knuckles together, and planted her feet. This time, she won't catch her off guard.

And once more fists and sword met in a clash, and one of the few untouched parts of the city was reduced to rubble almost instantaneously. The closest Noise were over a hundred meters away, yet they too were flung aside like paper and disintegrated due to the explosive force that sent waves upon waves of destruction through the ward. The searing heat of Tsubasa's sword was causing the asphalt to melt beneath their feet, and even Hibiki was not safe from it. She felt as if she was being toasted alive just due to her proximity to the sword, and her fists felt like they were the ones on fire every time she blocked a powerful swing.

Looking for a way out of this deadlock, Hibiki copied Genjuro and suddenly slammed her foot into the ground, causing a huge chunk of it to rise right between her and the blue haired idol, forcing them to disengage. Tsubasa however did not retreat and swung, slicing through the wall that sprouted before her.

Only to not find Hibiki on the other side, and her eyes narrowed, expecting her to appear behind her again. However, it was then that the bottom part of the wall she had sliced exploded outwards towards her, pelting her with hot asphalt chunks.

And Hibiki's fist followed, and for the first time in their battle, finally managed to find purchase. Her punch slammed into Tsubasa's stomach, causing spittle to fly out of her mouth. The pile bunker on her gauntlet, having been cocked back during her desperate tactic, then slammed into Tsubasa at full force.

The mere shockwave of the release collapsed the structures in their vicinity, and a moment later the blue haired idol was propelled at supersonic speeds backwards, crashing through rows upon rows of buildings without stopping.

The entire way she made Hibiki take she was now experiencing herself, except now her back seared in pain every time it slammed against a solid concrete wall that a human should never have been able to crash through.

Finding herself in Shibuya crossing infested with Noise, Tsubasa flipped and skidded across the ground. The Noise around her noticed her presence, and immediately stopped everything they were doing and turned on her, charging recklessly towards the opponent that vastly outclassed them.

She rose up to her full height, and Hibiki appeared on top of one of the buildings surrounding the landmark she landed in, watching from afar.

The idol did not even bother responding to the Noise, and did not feel anything when a humanoid one slammed into her and failed to make her budge. Instead, an electric current ran from her to it, and the offending Noise was vaporized without any real input from her.

They were pests, nothing more. But just like real bugs, too many of them at once can prove bothersome.

"Know your place!" She declared, and swept her arm.

Lightning struck around her in a circle, eliminating the Noise close to her. Then, the circle expanded as lightning continued to strike, and more and more of the charging Noise were wiped out without a glance, going beyond even the crossing and covering a huge two hundred meter area. Feeling merciful for the buildings, the lightning only struck the Noise and nothing else, and each individual bolt found its own target, thousands upon thousands coming down all at once.

Nothing was left of the Noise except burning piles of ash.

Hibiki narrowed her eyes and jumped down, meeting Tsubasa's gaze. "assume you did not believe these automatons will be able to defeat us."

"Obviously not," Hibiki responded. "But these might."

And then over a hundred beasts leaped from the shadows of the buildings to converge on Tsubasa all at once, all of them growling and snarling like wild animals.

"Fool."

The beasts, so sure of their victory were caught completely off guard when Tsubasa grabbed the first one that closed the distance by the face. She held it in the air, staring at it with narrowed eyes for less than a second before slamming it into the ground, cratering the famous crossing and sending fractures into the streets around them for dozens of meters.

The beast growled in pain, but she was not done yet. Wordlessly, she plunged her sword into its core, and it shrieked as its life ended and turned to dust. But then, from where the sword had been stabbed into the ground light ran through the cracks previously created, and a moment later exploded upwards, sending chunks of earth into the air that struck the army of beasts, stopping their wild rush in its tracks.

All of the beasts screamed in tandem, but Tsubasa was not done yet.

"Wretched abominations," She uttered sternly.

And rain fell. It was so out of place that even Hibiki was shocked to see it.

It rained, yet it was such a strange rain it could hardly be called that. Falling in a circle around the idol, not a single drop touched her, and the sudden downpour did not extend past the crossing itself.

Having summoned a small localized rainstorm, the beasts were helpless as they suddenly found themselves hanging in midair, as if they were floating. They tried to claw at her wildly, but the lack of friction removed their ability to move as they liked.

"BEGONE!"

She swept her arm once more.

And the beasts were washed away, the rain becoming a deluge of death as each individual drop became as sharp as a sword, slicing into them. None survived as they were diced, the black dust left in their wake draining away through the street and into the storm drains, leaving not even a remnant of their existence.

The rain then stopped in but a second, leaving the remains of the crossing wet except the circle the idol stood in. Lowering her arm, Tsubasa stared at the corrupted Adaptor with a disappointed expression. "I am insulted, Hibiki, that you believed these beasts of yours will be able to overcome us." She said. "Is this all I am to you?"

"You are nothing to me, Susano'o. I don't give a damn about you," Hibiki answered harshly. "But you are getting in my way, so I'll do whatever it takes to make sure you disappear so I can deal with Tsubasa myself."

Tsubasa stared at Hibiki with her eyes wide, taking in what she just said and…

Proceeded to laugh loudly, something Hibiki had never seen her do before.

"We see now! We understand your predicament, Hibiki! In that case, if you want to get at me, we shall respond accordingly. As you have summoned your own beasts against us, so shall we respond with one of our own."

"What?"

To answer her question, Tsubasa pointed her sword towards the ground, holding its handle with one hand. Its tip barely touched the ruined earth beneath, and right in that small space between them flames began to churn out without limit, rising to partially obscure the shining haired idol from the rogue wielder's sight.

And her voice once again became roaring thunder, echoing throughout the area.

"We are Susano'oWe are the storm, we are the sea! We bring forth the thunder, and we churn the waters! By the name of our Father Izanagi-no-Mikoto, we call upon the one that fell to our blade! By the name of Totsuka-no-Tsurugi, by the name of Ame-no-Habakiri, we summon thee forth, beast of calamity!"

And she released her hold on the blade. Hibiki watched with narrowed eyes filled with confusion as the sword fell towards the flames, slowly descending into them and disappearing within, melting away until nothing remained.

"Thou art the one who ravaged the land in the name of greed, and thou art one who took and indulged upon the sorrow of the people! For every one of your heads thou feasted upon the weak, and for your crimes thou have fallen to our blade! Now, by the name of Takehaya Susano'o-no-Mikoto and Kumano-Ketsumiko-no-kami, thou shalt rise to do our bidding in the land anew, and unleash thine wrath upon our foe!"

The ground shook, and Hibiki planted her feet to avoid being knocked over by the earthquake Tsubasa...no, Susano'o summoned, and she watched as the sea of flames that poured out of where the sword had been began to morph, and change, and rise.

~Susano'o was banished from the heavens by the word of his father Izanagi, and descended to the Earth at the province of Izumo. It was there he heard the cries of an elderly couple, who told him that seven of their eight daughters were devoured by an eight-headed dragon, and it was nearly the time for the eighth.~

"We are Susano'o! And thou shalt rise as our servant in this day and age!"

And the flames began to take form, ascending higher and higher, and Tsubasa rode upon them, taller and grander than ever before; she rose into the air with the flames as her mount.

~In exchange for being allowed to marry the eighth daughter Kushinada-hime, Susano'o agreed to slay the dragon for them. He then on the spot transformed Kushinada-hime into a many toothed comb which he stuck in his hair, and proceeded to make eight tubs of sake, one for each head of the dragon.~

And then the flames began to separate, morph and change as if they were simple clay, yet their ferocity and heat were unmatched by anything on this earth.

Hibiki watched. She watched and took steps back, her mouth gaping, as the tower of flames grew taller than the highest skyscrapers in the crossing, and she had to tilt her head up just to be able to take in the sheer size of the thing.

The separated flames, divided into eight long and massive wisps, finally began to take their real form.

And from where she could see, the eight wisps became heads, growing fangs and ears, gaining true beast-like and snake-like appearances. And through all of that incredible transformation, Tsubasa stayed standing upon the flames, looking down on her comrade with an even expression.

"Thine eyes shalt be only for one, and no more than one! Heed our order, and bring forth thine might! Eight-headed dragon of Koshi, for this day you shall work to purge the land of the taint that plagues it!"

On that day, the world watched.

On that day, the world saw.

And in that moment, Hibiki was once more taken aback, caught completely by surprise by the beast that surpassed all beasts!

Fiery tails struck wildly as the eight heads rose, and eight pairs of flaming eyes locked upon the rogue wielder.

~That night, the dragon truly appeared before Susano'o. The dragon that would forever be known for being slain by the god, heralding him as one of the greatest in the land of the rising sun! And its name was:~

"We are Susano'o-no-Mikoto! And thine name, Eight-headed-snake of Koshi, is:"

AND THE BEAST ROARED

"YAMATA-NO-OROCHI!"

-!-

Black light sliced through the Noise as Kirika's scythe once again bisected over a hundred of them with a single slash. They continued charging recklessly, but none could get past her guard at all. Even after using that incredible technique, she had enough juice in her veins to run on for the rest of the night if she had to.

That is of course unless the Ignite Module gave out first.

"Kiri-chan…" Shirabe hesitantly called out, causing the Ig-Alima wielder to turn around in a hurry at her concerned tone of voice. Shirabe, still slicing through her own contingent of the Noise, pointed towards another part of the city that seemed...strangely illuminated. "What is that?"

Following her partner's sight, Kirika looked to where she was pointing, and true enough she saw the strange illumination as well.

And right before their eyes it rose even higher, and they watched as even from their distance that whatever it was gained a form as it seemed to be made entirely out of flames.

There wasn't any question as to who was the one that summoned it, and their surprise could only be vocalized with a single name.

"Tsubasa-san?!"

-!-

Maria looked from afar from atop of one of the buildings on the east side at the strange lights that were like a second sun in the night, bathing the city's horizon with an orange and yellow glow.

Her eyes widened as the flames in the distance took upon a shape of monster that she did not recognize, and she could plainly see as eight long and fiery heads slithered back and forth as they stared down at something she couldn't see.

There was only one answer as to what had caused it to appear, and Maria's worry grew tenfold.

"Tsubasa?!"

-!-

"Commander, isn't this...a bit of an overkill?"

"No, it isn't," Genjuro answered. "In order to surpass the divine power, we must use everything in our disposal to purge Hibiki-kun of the curses. If summoning forth the great beast of legend brings us closer to our goal, then that's what we shall do."

"But the city, sir…"

"Nothing we can do about the city now. Either Hibiki-kun destroys it herself or we consider it collateral in the fight. We must stop her before it's too late. If that goal can only be reached by burning Tokyo to the ground, then we will accept that as an unavoidable fact."

And he hoped that it would be enough.

-!-

It was massive!

The gigantic monster, now identified as Yamata-no-Orochi, was composed of nothing but flames, towering over absolutely everything in the square. The eight heads of the serpent rose even higher, and all of them stared down at Hibiki, awaiting their mistress' command. The gargantuan eight tails flailed around behind it, and everything they touched simply melted and caught on fire instantly, as if a sun had suddenly been birthed in the middle of the crossing. Everything not directly touched by the monster was slowly but surely heating up, and even solid concrete was lit ablaze in defiance of physics.

And standing atop the beast's mighty back was Tsubasa. How the hell was she standing on top of fire Hibiki didn't know, but at this point she knew it would be pointless to ask. Her arms were crossed as she too looked down on the rogue wielder, and Hibiki could feel the intense heat bore into her, a bead of sweat rolling down her cheek as even the empowered Gungnir's protection was not enough to eliminate the heat from affecting her entirely.

"This is our answer, Hibiki. As have you unleashed thine creations upon us, so have responded to your challenge with my full might. Thou shalt face our servant as thine opponent." Tsubasa declared, her voice once again echoing throughout like thunder. The Orochi heads slithered and hissed, wisps of fire escaping their mouths as they prepared to pounce on their target.

But the rogue wielder steeled herself. Cracking her knuckles loudly, she stared back at the monster with her eyes narrowed, power building up within her. "Fine then," She let out dangerously. "Let's see what this thing of yours can do."

The idol smirked, and extended her hand forward. "Go, Yamata-no-Orochi! Burn away the curse of All the Evils of this World!"

Her command was met with a monstrous roar.

(Play: Warriors Orochi 3 OST - Theme of Orochi Rebirth Mix)

The eight heads surged forward, tearing through the air as they made their way to Hibiki at lightning speeds. Gaping flaming maws reared open, and just as they were about to strike she jumped into the air, floating above them and hopefully out of range.

But they were quick to follow. The main body not moving an inch, Orochi struck, the eight heads elongating in an instant as much as necessary in order to reach their target. The very air burned as they moved through it, and Hibiki teleported a distance away to avoid them, clicking her tongue.

Only for her eyes to widen when they responded much quicker than she expected, already closing the distance to her as she finished her jump. She dove towards the ground just as one of the heads passed by over her, and the asphalt cracked under feet.

However, another one of the heads somehow foresaw her move and charged towards her, its fanged mouth open wide to swallow her whole. Left with no choice but to counterattack, Hibiki thrust her hands forward just as the gaping maw closed in on her.

She planted her feet, and just as it approached she grabbed it by the fangs, stopping its jaw from closing. Her palms burned as the sheer heat of the fiery teeth seared into her, bypassing her armored gauntlets almost completely; she wasn't sure how she was able to grab something made entirely out of fire, but at this point she didn't care to know the specifics. The Orochi head tried to snap its mouth shut, but Hibiki refused to allow it, pouring more power into her arms.

It was then she sensed another head close in on her from behind, and reacting quickly she heaved upwards, throwing the head she was facing towards the sky. She took off after it and slammed her fist into its chin, and the mighty serpent head exploded into a shower of flames that fell with what seemed like actual weight to the ground, melting through the asphalt.

She didn't have even a moment to continue her offensive as another head closed in on her, and twisting in mid air she punched it away, throwing it off course.

Only for another to come in its place and try the same thing, giving her no time to rest. She punched it away as well, only for another to follow.

Upon punching away the fifth head, her eyes once again widened as the head she thought she destroyed suddenly regenerated. Coming back with a mighty vengeance, its mouth opened and it spewed a jet of flames right in her direction. Caught off guard again, she pulled back her fist and teleported away, skidding across one of the building rooftops.

But Yamata-no-Orochi was relentless. Having retained its greedy appetite from the ages past, it was quick to follow after her. More and more buildings caught on fire in its wake, and the eight heads all opened simultaneously to rain hellfire upon her from all directions. She evaded the flames by charging low, smashing her fist into one of the heads, causing it too to explode.

Before its remains even managed to touch the ground she switched targets, and weaving through the bundle of fiery necks she punched another, raining down even more fire.

She's going to have to work quickly, she realized. If the Orochi can regenerate its heads, then she'll never be able to defeat it. If she can take down all the heads before they come back, then maybe it will extinguish by having no brains left to work with.

"That will not work, Hibiki!"

Taken by surprise by Tsubasa's sudden shout, she turned around to see the first head she punched already back and roaring towards her faster than she could register it. Once again caught in a pincer move, she was forced to grab the fiery teeth again in order to avoid being devoured, only for three more heads to surround her, charging flames in their mouths. She grit her teeth and jumped away, the maw snapping shut just as she left its range.

Three jets of fire exploded towards her, and in the last second she teleported high above. Joining her fists together, the corrupted wielder charged downwards with a mighty yell, bringing her full might down on one of the heads. It immediately exploded, the very shockwaves of her strike causing the rest to reel back with a loud shriek, thrown about by the gale winds. The head, along with the neck, crumbled to nothing all the way to the base, raining even more heavy flames down onto the street below.

But that did not stop the Orochi. The seven heads charged all at once, and she shot higher towards the sky to avoid them. They answered by continuing their chase, roaring along their path, climbing upwards like missiles. One of them reached her first, and she answered by smashing it aside.

And then another replaced it.

And then another.

The Orochi heads attacked non-stop, moving in for the kill at supersonic speeds. 'Shit, I can't get past them like this!'

How can she take this thing down? How does it work? How does it live?

Her wondering was interrupted as the eighth head that she destroyed earlier closed in on her from behind, its mouth was once open to let out a stream of fire at her.

They were like waves. Nearly unstoppable, they crashed against her with all their might, and when she thought she'd finally held them off, another appeared in its place. A vicious cycle of constantly destroying the same heads over and over, it did nothing to stop the onslaught that this beast was.

She dodged backwards, evading the flames once again. Dashing through the air, she darted between the many buildings in Shibuya in an attempt to shake them off. The Orochi heads were hot on her heels, slithering rapidly through the streets from all directions as they tried to close in on her. The city burned as Orochi passed through like the angel of death, searing anything that was even remotely close to it. She took a hard right, barely avoiding a wall of flame one of the heads unleashed just as she passed by the intersection.

'This makes no sense. It's like they know where I'm going to be!'

That was the strangest thing out of everything here. She noticed it the first time she clashed with it: somehow the Orochi heads foresaw her moves and where she was going to be, letting them catch her by surprise despite her best efforts. Had they not been so prophetic she wouldn't have nearly as trouble with them.

She shot forward, and another two heads followed after her, spewing even more hellfire right on her heels. Rather than keep on running away, she dove to the ground and braked hard, her feet throwing up rubble into the air. The sea of flames passed over her head just in that moment, and she took the opportunity to jump back.

Only for her back to slam against a blazing wall that was another one of the heads. Having predicted her gambit, it had weaved through the streets and waited for her to maneuver herself into this position, taking advantage of her attempt to shake them off.

Hibiki cried out as her back burned, and she turned in a hurry to see the head's gaping maw open up to swallow her once more. Clenching her teeth hard through the pain, she smashed her fist into its upper mouth, blowing off its nose and eyes in another downpour of fire.

'I have to do something about this prediction of theirs!' She said to herself, darting away from the destroyed head and jumping upwards towards the rooftops. Trying to outrun them is more or less impossible at this point; she needed them where she could see them and make her plan from there.

The destroyed head regenerated, and along with its brethren the eight heads of Yamata-no-Orochi towered over her, their blazing gaze boring into her her. She grit her teeth, the gears running on full speed in her head as she tried to come up with a solution.

The eight heads surrounded her, and all at once charged massive amounts of flames in their maws. Each one shone brightly, drowning out the night as the storm raged overhead, coloring the black clouds in a radiant orange, basking the area in what almost seemed like an afternoon glow, as if they had turned back time.

Hibiki planted her feet and prepared to meet the barrage head on, realizing that all they've been doing is going on a wild goose chase. Their battle could go on forever at this rate, with neither one gaining the advantage. And through it all, Tsubasa would be standing by leisurely on its body, waiting for the beast to do its work for her-

'Tsubasa!'

Of course! Her mind suddenly lit up, finally realizing what was the source of their frustrating ability. Tsubasa must be the one doing the predictions here and giving the results to the Orochi heads! Since she knew how Hibiki's mind works, she would definitely know how she would act in any given situation!

And if the eight heads are here…

It means that Tsubasa is vulnerable!

Her plan set, Hibiki took off into the air. Nearly reaching the clouds, her eyes locked onto the distant main body of the Orochi in the heart of the Shibuya crossing.

She'll finish it in one, powerful blow.

The eight heads quickly followed after her into the air, but she did not spare them even a glance as she immediately charged with such speeds towards her target that the heads we veered off course just from the shockwaves. Her body was engulfed in an aura of golden light, sonic booms being left in her wake. She roared, rearing her fist back, the pile bunker pulled back as far as it could go, making a beeline for the blue haired idol.

She closed the massive distance in less than ten seconds, and Tsubasa raised her head to stare at the charging Hibiki. Locked in place on the beast's back due to having summoned it, Tsubasa did not have the option to dodge out of the way of Hibiki's punch.

And as it turned out, she had no need to.

The shock on Hibiki's face could not be described as she smashed her fist right into Tsubasa's face, only for it to be summarily caught in the idol's palm. All of the buildings in the crossing were blown to pieces from the sheer force of the strike, the flaming rubble raining down on the ward like a meteor shower. Yet Tsubasa stood undeterred, a single hand extended forward with Hibiki's punch struggling in her hold.

"Wha-how?!"

"As expected of you, Hibiki, to see through their clairvoyance. However, have also expected you to respond in this manner. To aim for me was not mistaken of you, however it was meaningless. For you stand before the might of the storm, the force of nature that humanity has never been able to conquer!"

"You sure like run your mouth, don't you Susano'o?!" The rogue wielder growled out, still hanging in the air with her fist caught in her opponent's hand.

Tsubasa however only sighed in response, once again disappointed by her friend's vehement denial. "So you still refuse to call me by my name?"

"How many times do I have to tell you? You...are NOT Tsubasa!"

Suddenly, the eight super elongated necks of the Orochi were reeled back, shortening quickly at blinding speeds as the eight heads re-appeared right by their master's side. They moved not, waving in the air as they waited for the next command.

And Hibiki found herself flanked on all side.

"In that case, dear sister, I shall remind you of my name," Tsubasa said. Putting a tiny bit of power into her arm, Hibiki had only a moment to glance downwards at something strange in the Orochi's body before she was flung away. She twisted in mid air and landed back on the ground before the great beast, putting them back at square one. "With my endless song! The song of a sentinel and of a blade, the song that binds together the Heavens and the Earth! For I am Kazanari Tsubasa, and I shall remind you of what lies...beyond the blade!"

The eight heads roared in tandem once more.

And accompanied by the sound of thunder, Tsubasa's voice rose to the Heavens as a familiar song rang out.

(Play: Beyond the BLADE [IGNITED ARRANGEMENT])

The eight heads charged with renewed vigor, faster and stronger than before. Hibiki barely had a moment to dodge out of the way as they all slammed into the ground, diving into it like it was water. She watched incredulously, jumping back as the heads bobbed in and out of solid ground, swimming through it. Realizing she won't be able to outrun them now and that she won't be able to get rid of Tsubasa's ability to assist them, she planted her feet into the ground, prepared to take them head on.

Two heads rushed towards her at lightning speeds, but right before they could slam into her she raised her hands and opened her palms, and the two heads smashed against them with a mighty force. The ground under Hibiki's feet cracked further the pressure, fire racing over her. Orochi struggled against her, and pain ran up her hands as her palms burned at the touch of their flaming form. Her gaze focused, she spread her arms apart, and the two heads smashed into the buildings by her sides, melting through them in an instant.

An additional four surrounded her, and deciding to hold her ground, met them ahead on. Her fists blurred as she smashed away the snake's heads, and each time one fell another came to take its place in their assault.

That's right, she realized. No point in trying to think cleverly against these things. She was after all not much for planning, just like Tsubasa said.

So she won't plan. She won't strategize. She will smash through the mythical beast with nothing but the might of her fists, and take down anything that gets in her way!

One of the heads charged flames in its mouth, and a second later a fireball of massive proportions descended on her with a blazing roar. Clenching her fists, she took a step forward and smashed the ball of death away, sending it soaring through the air to pierce the storm clouds and into the hidden night sky.

Another head then unleashed a blast of flames, and she decided to counter it with her own blast. Taking another step forward, she thrust a closed fist forward, a golden beam of light smashing against the flames, dispersing them and striking the head, blasting it away.

And then came the third. It circled around her, forming a ring of fire with its own neck. Towering right above her head, it clamped down on her with its gaping maw. She caught its teeth once more before they closed, and she could feel as flames leaked out of its open mouth to wash over her. The heat was barely bearable, and she clenched her fists even harder, her hold on the fiery fangs tightening.

"UWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

Letting out a guttural shout, she spun the head above her head. A twister of fire began to form as the head was thrown about, and at the apex of her spin released her hold, throwing it all the way back to the main body.

She spun on her heel to slam her fist into another head that tried to ambush her from behind, and it too was thrown back into another building at the end of the street, melting through it.

It seemed like holding her ground was proving far more advantageous for her. However, she didn't lose her mind enough to realize that just beating the Orochi about won't bring it down. She had to take care of Tsubasa, who was controlling it.

Or she didn't have to focus on Tsubasa at all.

She saw something inside the main body right under Tsubasa, as if she was standing on top of it, guarding it with her own body. Hibiki didn't know what it was, but she had a gut feeling that it was incredibly important for the Orochi's existence.

Then it would make sense to aim for that, whatever it was, instead.

But how will she get to it?

She got her her answer when the head she had thrown back began to bob in and out of the street once more, swimming through it as it made its way to her once again. It closed the distance in a second and charged at her, attempting once more to bite down on her.

So she decided to go with a different route this time.

Hibiki gathered power into her arm and punched the ground with all her might. It instantly cratered and shattered to pieces, the asphalt street breaking down into pieces right under her. Shockwaves ran through the ground, shaking the buildings next to her like an earthquake. The eight heads were thrown back by the force, and Hibiki took the opportunity to jump down in the hole she made and out of their sight.

Hovering above the nasty sewers in the Tokyo underground, Hibiki charged forward, her eyes locked on the direction where the beast sat right above ground. Charging with a blazing aura, she crashed through solid walls, not stopping for anything as the Orochi heads charged in after her, following her into the sewers. They melted through the various steel reinforced walls, and the ground above began collapsing as both powerful beings rampaged through the underground.

Eventually, Hibiki reached her destination, marked by the ceiling that burned red hot, signifying the place where the Orochi's main body sat. It was then that its heads burst through the walls from all directions, intent on stopping her from enacting her plan.

But it was too late. Her power exploded and the heads were thrown aside like ragdolls, and with her full might crashed through the ceiling with all the power she could muster.

Right under the belly of the Orochi's main body.

She smirked as she smashed through its flame-made stomach. The fire immolated her all over, but she pushed through it, groaning all the while as she extended her fist upwards, trying to reach her target. She closed one eye to protect her eyesight, and her vision blurred through the flames.

And her efforts were rewarded. Staring ahead, she looked to see what she was looking for: a sword, black and blue, floating in place right under where Tsubasa was standing. Pouring more power into her charge, she crashed through the fire and her fist struck the blade serving as the Orochi's core.

Causing it to promptly shatter under the force.

Yamata-no-Orochi was lifted off the ground as Hibiki pierced through it. Tsubasa, having noticed Hibiki's strategy a mile away, jumped off the Orochi's body just as Hibiki passed through. The heads, having erupted from the ground in an attempt to give chase, shrieking loudly as their core was destroyed. Hibiki took the opportunity to jump away and land onto the street, grinning widely at her handiwork with Tsubasa watching.

The Orochi flailed, its steps faltering. The heads writhed in agony and crashed against buildings as their life was snuffed out of them, falling silent as they lay to rest.

"How was that, Susano'o?!" Hibiki yelled, causing Tsubasa to turn to her.

But rather than stop singing in shock by the fact that her beast was destroyed, the idol simply stared at the rogue wielder with a fiery gaze, their shining eyes meeting. The thrusters on Tsubasa's back and on her feet roared to life with an inferno, and she charged forward towards Hibiki, her hands empty of any weapon.

The corrupted wielder looked with confusion at her desperate charge, and with a full sense of victory decided to stand her ground and meet her head on.

And it was the worst mistake she could have made.

One head of the Orochi, still able to respond to its mistress' will, crashed over the length of the street the two Symphogear wielders were in. In response to its final act of loyalty, Tsubasa thrust her hand into the fiery snake's neck as she charged towards her opponent. Her arm was buried to the elbow, yet her speed did not drop even a bit nor did she lose sight of her target.

For she had one final surprise in store for her dear sister.

Everything up until now, from the summoning of Yamata-no-Orochi to Hibiki destroying it, was all part of Tsubasa's grand plan. The great snake was in fact just a means to an end.

And that end being delivering her final and true weapon into her hands.

~The greedy Yamata-no-Orochi drank from the tubs of sake, one for each of its heads. Soon enough, it lost consciousness as drunkenness overtook it. Having taken advantage of the dragon's love of drink, Susano'o enacted the perfect plan to kill it. Now, with Orochi at his mercy, Susano'o cut off the dragon's eight heads, slaying it once and for all.~

Her song reached its climax just as she reached the end of the Orochi's head, and from within its flaming carapace she withdrew a sword. A sword so hot it glowed white, and she raised it above her head, lighting up the street and blinding the rogue wielder.

But her strategy was not done yet. All of the flames that had made up the Orochi, as well as all of the flames that burned through the city were drawn into the sword from all directions like a black hole, and with each flame it consumed its size and radiance increased tenfold. Only Tsubasa was able to hold it her hands, for it was the final and greatest sword that the storm god Susano'o has ever held in his life!

~However, Susano'o was surprised to find something strange in the tail of the dragon: a sword. A sword so magnificent that it shone like the sun, and thinking it would appease his indignant sister, gave it to her as a gift, finally settling their grievances. That sword then passed down her lineage, finally becoming one of the Three Imperial Regalia of Japan!~

There was nothing Hibiki could do to dodge in time. Blinded by the radiance and having decided to hold her ground, there was nothing she could do to avoid the coming strike.

Tsubasa's face lit up with resolution.

And with a single, powerful swing, brought its full might down on Hibiki.

~A sword of valor and honor, a blade that gathers the heavenly clouds!~

"Sing, Sword of Virtue That Brings Forth the Dawn!"

AND THE BLADE SHONE

"AME-NO-MURAKUMO!"

And thus, Western Tokyo was consumed in a sea of flame.

-!-

The entire world lit up right in front of their eyes.

S.O.N.G HQ rocked as if an earthquake had hit it, the full power of Tsubasa's attack blinding them completely. Hot white light erased everything from their display, and the various crew members cringed and groaned and covered their eyes from the sun that was suddenly born in the middle of the city.

Everyone held on for dear life except for Genjuro, who look straight ahead at the light with an even expression. The shouts and cries of his crew members were understandable, but he held no fear or worry for their well-being, since he knew they would be okay and that the violent shaking will cease soon enough.

No, he was more worried about the city, and the combatants within. Having unleashed Susano'o's most powerful relic, he was worried that this time Tsubasa had completely overdone it, even if he knew about the special properties it contained.

Only the Kazanaris were aware of the true qualities it had, for the original sword, more commonly known as Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, is in fact stored and enshrined at the Kazanari's original stronghold at Izumo, now known as Chugoku Province.

And he knew a lot about it. So much in fact, that he could guess exactly the extent of the damage that this final attack had dealt.

They were gonna be in one hell of a surprise if he was right.

Behind him, Miku groaned as she covered her eyes, attempting to hide away from the light. He glanced back to her for a moment, then turned his eyes back to the screen, which was already beginning to clear away.

'Please, be enough.'

-!-

Saint-Germain had never believed in luck or in fortune in her life. She had always gone by her own strength and her own will, forcing fate to bend to her whim as she moved forward, not stopping for anything.

But if there was one time she could consider herself lucky, it was this exact moment. Having made her way into Itabashi ward during her attempts to defend the shelter, she was miraculously saved when ALL of Western Tokyo between Nerima and Ota wards and everything in them, including buildings, Noise, Alca-Noise, and even the black beasts were all engulfed by a tsunami of fire that erupted from the heart of Shibuya ward outwards in a gargantuan cone that razed to the ground absolutely everything it touched without exception or reservation.

Her eyes widened at the total destruction caused by the flames, and she could easily tell who was the one that had caused it. 'Has she completely lost her mind as well?' She wondered. Raising her hand to the comm, she called for headquarters. "This is Saint-Germain. Please give a status report."

She was met with static momentarily before Aoi spoke up weakly. "Give...me...a moment…"

Waiting for an answer, she studied the massive difference between where she was now and the charred areas. It was like the heat didn't even touch anything beyond the line of Western Tokyo, leaving a very disturbing difference, like a separation between Heaven and Hell.

"St. Germain-san, do you copy?" Aoi asked her.

"Yes. What's our status? What was the extent of the damage?"

"Only the aboveground was razed," Aoi answered her, causing the alchemist to narrow her eyes. "All of the shelters have been left completely untouched, and all hostile signatures have been absolutely erased without a trace. The only Noise and black beast signals are now coming from the Eastern half of the city."

"I see," She answered. So this was a calculated effort on Kazanari Tsubasa's part? Take down all of the enemies in the area while still dealing the maximum amount of damage she could?

That was fairly smart, she had to admit. Even though nothing remained of the western wards except ash, all of the people were still alive while everything else in them was eliminated. A bit tad excessive in her opinion, but still effective.

Now to see if it gave them the result they wanted.

-!-

Smoke and steam rose from everywhere as Tsubasa's attack ended. Rising back to her feet slowly, the light covering her sword died down and shattered in her hand, leaving her once again unarmed.

Ame-no-Murakumo was the final and most powerful attack that she held in store. While she still had others she could use, none were as nearly as potent as it was. The mere setup that required it was more than a massive undertaking, but in the end bore fruit. She had contained the full damage to just the western part of the city, aiming for the rogue wielder and all of the enemy units that were still prowling the streets. While she realized she could have held it back a bit more, she knew she couldn't allow it.

And besides, the entire area was already burning to the ground anyway, and it would have turned out this way whether or not she used that attack. It was better to put an end to the battle as fast as possible, as her time was running short. The storm overhead was already beginning to pass over as she could see the tiniest bit of the night sky far on the horizon. While that wasn't any indication of time in any regard, she still had to watch out lest she be left in Hibiki's mercy.

But it seems she has achieved results today anyway, for in the very middle of what remained of the street, and surrounded by burning and smouldering wreckage, was Hibiki. She was laying sprawled out on the ground, her face downwards.

"It seems this is our victory, Hibiki." Tsubasa announced.

With this, this entire incident is finally over. All that's left to do is remove Gungnir and the divine power and they could finally have her back. While she hadn't had the slightest clue how they would do so, they achieved the first step in getting to that goal: stopping her rampage.

Hibiki ended up a short distance from her due to the power of the attack, so Tsubasa took slow steps forward. "It's time to come home, dear sister."

She stood over her, looking down on her with a sad smile. 'I will have a lot to answer for, but as long as we get Hibiki back, I have no regrets.'

And she reached down.

Only for her instincts, both ingrained in her blood and in her training to scream loudly all at once, and she immediately summoned a new blade to block the surprise blow. Having been caught off guard, she was launched across the ruined street back all the way to where Shibuya crossing used to be, and looked at where Hibiki had laid just a moment before.

The rogue wielder rose on unsteady feet, trembling slightly. "This...isn't over yet!" She panted, her breaths coming in deeply.

And Tsubasa watched in shock and horror as space tore open, and to each side of Hibiki parallel dimensions suddenly erupted to all sides, all displaying the rogue wielder in her entirety. They spread out for a dozen meters, hanging in the air for a moment before rapidly collapsing right into her.

'Oh no, this is just like-!'

The light died down, and there Hibiki stood, apparently none the worse for wear yet still panting as all of the damage she incurred was erased in but a second!

"Impossible!"

-!-

This time, Genjuro could not help but contain his horror.

"How...unfortunate," Adam said evenly. "It seems our luck...has finally run out."

That line was delivered with such finality no one could argue with it.

They had worked painstakingly hard to get this far. Whether it be surviving Hibiki's initial onslaughts, to creating the Super Ignite Module, to surpassing the hells it brought, to holding back the army of Noise and beasts, and finally to go so far as to summon a facet of Susano'o to the Earth, all in order to finally bring Hibiki back.

They had cried blood, sweat, and tears in order to make that possible. Tokyo was reduced to rubble in the battles as they fought their hardest to save her.

And in the end…

It was just not enough.

The ability Hibiki had displayed was the one ability they'd hoped she wouldn't develop. The same power as the Divine Weapon: the ability to open up holes to alternate dimensions, and exchange the damage incurred with another undamaged copy. While it left her exhausted from the unexpected use, all of Tsubasa's efforts...essentially boiled down to nothing. It was only a matter of time before Hibiki catches her breath and renews the fight, leaving Tsubasa without her strongest attacks. While he didn't doubt that she'd be able to keep fighting, sooner than later the storm will pass and Susano'o will be gone.

And then everything they'd done would have been for naught.

Genjuro wracked his brain. He tried to think of anything, anything, that might turn this situation around.

But...there just wasn't.

All that was left...was the last resort he hoped he'd never use.

He leaned forward, and spoke up with pain in his heart. "Elfnein-kun,"

The homunculus, who had her eyes glued to the screen, looked to him. He met her gaze, and he could see her eyes glistening with unshed tears as he realized she too...had reached the same conclusion.

Her gaze was begging him not to say it. To not say the words he was going to say. That he was going to have a different solution that didn't have to end up like this.

But in the end...her wish was not granted.

"We...have no other choice now."

He could see the moment her heart broke in her chest, and she glanced behind him...to the person who's going to have to bear the burden.

Genjuro rose up to his full height. "Tomosato, you have the bridge. Please keep Saint-Germain updated about any endangered shelters on the eastern side."

She nodded, and went to work as command was transferred to her.

That left one thing.

He turned around fully, his gaze falling upon Miku, who had her hands covering her mouth in shock at what she saw on the screen. "Miku-kun...please come with me," He said. The girl dropped her arms to her sides as she looked at him in bewilderment. "There is something...that we must discuss."

He headed over to the door of the bridge, and Elfnein was quick to rise up from her console to follow him. Miku looked to the commander of S.O.N.G and the homunculus in confusion, but did as he asked and followed them out.

-!-

Genjuro walked ahead, and the two girls had to run slightly in order to catch up to him. Elfnein knew what his destination was, and so she walked beside him as he led the way, Miku right on their heels.

After weaving around several hallways of the submarine, the three of them finally reached their destination: Elfnein's lab.

"Miku-kun, please come with us inside." He said, gesturing her forward. She looked up to him, still puzzled at what he was referring to, and her heart beat rapidly in her chest, not sure what to expect. The door closed behind her and locked, separating them from the rest of the submarine. Behind him, Elfnein tinkered with something Miku could not see, and a moment later Genjuro turned around to take something from the small homunculus, then turned back to the black haired girl.

His golden eyes met her innocent green ones, and his heart shattered at the thought of what he was about to do. His expression fell, and she tilted her head in worry. "Genjuro-san?" She asked with concern.

He took a deep breath, steeling himself for what was to come. "First thing I'd like to do Miku-kun...is apologize."

She narrowed her eyes, having not a clue what he was talking about. He continued. "I'd like to say I'm sorry...for seeing you as nothing more than an extension of Hibiki-kun. Everything I've done until now has been with the utmost intention of making sure she lived happily, that she would be able to achieve her dream and that she'll never lose sight of herself. As a result, I ended up seeing you as nothing as a means for an end, and for that I'd like to say I'm truly sorry."

She blinked her eyes several times at him, taken aback by his sudden and out of place confession. "Genjuro-san, I-"

"But there's more than that, Miku-kun," He added, cutting her off. "I promised her a lot of things. A lot of things that unfortunately I have to break, because...we just don't have a choice anymore. We did our best to get her back...for our sake, your sake...and her sake. But our power was just...not enough. You've been with us this entire time, and I'm sure that as you watched you felt severely out of place, haven't you?"

Her eyes widened, making him realize he was correct. Of course he knew he was correct, it was after all a part of his plan.

But that didn't make this any easier.

"I'd like to thank you, Miku-kun, for standing by our side throughout this whole ordeal," He said, clenching his one closed fist a bit harder. He extended it to her, and she stared at his large hand with uncertainty.

"Genjuro-san?"

"I...don't have the right to ask this of you, especially after what you've been through. It's going against everything that I believe, and it only hammers deeper in the fact that I've failed to do as I promised. And I cannot even imagine the sorrow and pain you've been going through, praying and hoping that we'll finally succeed."

Her heart beat even more rapidly, and she clenched her shirt tightly with her hand. A certain part of her mind, a part that she'd thought was long gone, spoke to her in that moment...and whispered to her something she never thought she'd hear again.

"But we didn't. We failed, Miku-kun. All of our efforts were for naught, and we have been left with no choice…but to come to you for help."

She gasped.

'No...he wouldn't…'

Behind him, Elfnein held her hands together, looking to Miku with tears in her eyes.

And that told the black haired girl more than enough.

In that moment, his giant fist opened.

And both her mind and her heart ceased to function as she took in the sight of what was in his hand.

For what lay in his open palm…

Was a tiny red pendant.

Her gaze moved up slowly to look at him straight in the eyes.

And look upon his defeated and sorrowful expression.

"Miku-kun...there's something I'd like to ask of you…"

Chapter Text

AN: Well everyone, thank you for your patience! The much anticipated 19th chapter of My Sunshine is finally here! I want to take this moment to thank everyone for reading my story until now, and I truly hoped you enjoyed what I had to offer!
Now, as you can see, this chapter is extra long, serving as a milestone chapter for the story! Sit tight and enjoy the ride, cos it's a bumpy one!

On another note ladies and gentlemen, this story now has a cover image! Drawn by the talented Langou of the Symphogear Discord Server, it is now the official cover photo for this story from this point on! A round of applause for the artist for that one!

However, for you AO3 readers, I don't have any way to show it here...so, if you want a glimpse at the new cover photo, you'll need to head to the story's pages on FFnet. Sorry peeps!

Also, I would like to thank zeroblackdragon15 for betaing this chapter for me, cos it was one hell of a tough one! Make sure to check out his story "Song of the Heart Redux" too!

On that final note, I would like to thank everyone who gave their feedback and made this story possible. For all you silent lurkers...make your voice known! I want to know what you think, especially about this chapter! Don't worry, I won't bite, and I will take all reviews kindly, even if you loathe this story! (Pretty much saying write comments like seriously where the hell are you people.)

So, let's not get too sidetracked.

Here is the chapter! Enjoy!

-!-

"Wait, what?!"

That was the first thing Chris said upon hearing from Aoi exactly what caused that incredibly bright light in the western area of the city. With more than half of the invading Noise army suddenly obliterated, the Ichaival wielder found that the force attacking the harbor had also decreased significantly. So much in fact that she didn't even need to keep Megadeth Orchestra active anymore, nor did she have to keep on using her Devastator. Simply switching to her standard firearms seemed to be getting the job done much more easily and cleanly.

Not that there was much left to save of the harbor either way.

It was during that apparent period of grace that Aoi took the time to inform everyone of exactly what Tsubasa had accomplished, with expected results.

"As I said, Tsubasa-san was the cause of that. It was her attempt to subdue Hibiki-chan, and it reduced Western Tokyo to ashes."

"Wait, ATTEMPT? You mean she failed?!"

Aoi's face fell at Chris' blunt and completely accurate summation. "Yes. We believed she had succeeded, but Hibiki-chan suddenly developed the ability to rapidly regenerate, just like we saw with the Divine Weapon."

"The Divine Weapon…" Chris repeated to herself. "Wait, you mean that huge thing she blew to pieces that wouldn't go down no matter what we did to it? And she can do the same thing now too?!"

"Yes, that's what I'm referring to." Aoi confirmed.

"Shit," Chris bit out in between firing her weapon. "What the hell are we supposed to do now?! I thought you said Senpai had this in the bag!"

Aoi sighed in defeat. "I don't know what to tell you. I just...don't. I don't know what we're supposed to do."

And their time was running short too. The storm above was already beginning to drift away, and the moment it disappears completely Tsubasa will surely lose, no matter how well she holds her own against her. If she can't do any damage, what's the point of all that overwhelming power?

Aoi could see it on screen too. The battle had summarily resumed, and it has been at the least ten minutes since Genjuro disappeared from the bridge with Elfnein and Miku in tow.

"The commander stepped out for a bit, and once he comes back he'll tell us what we are going to do. For now, focus on eliminating the Noise. Now that their numbers have reduced it will be much easier to handle. With all of you on the Eastern side you should be able to take them down without too much effort."

That was true as well. Currently, the only two combatants on the Western side were Hibiki and Tsubasa. Even after doing major sweeps over the immediate area, not a single hostile enemy signature could be found anywhere in their vicinity. Aside from the still miraculously standing shelters, the ruins of Western Tokyo were essentially deserted, giving the Ame-no-Habakiri wielder plenty of room to maneuver in without being interrupted by anyone else.

But that still brought them back to the problem that once the storm passes and Tsubasa loses access to her Susano'o persona, she'll be defeated instantly.

And then what are they going to do?

That was the question that went through absolutely everyone's mind. Once Tsubasa falls, who exactly will be able to stop Hibiki in her tracks?

Even the Super Ignite Module turned out to not be enough. It may have allowed Maria to hold her own for a certain period of time, but in the end she was defeated and they were forced to rely on an incredibly coincidental power that will go away in due time.

Chris and the others acknowledged her orders, and the bridge was once again filled with the sounds of explosions, slashes, and fire. The crew member kept her eyes glued to the screen displaying the fight between Hibiki and Tsubasa, making sure to note exactly everything she could, and if there was anything she could do to assist Tsubasa from afar.

It was right at that moment, about two minutes later, that the door to the bridge opened. Aoi looked back and watched as Genjuro and Elfnein walked back in, one right after the other. The small homunculus went back to her seat wordlessly, intensely focused on the numbers running over her console's display.

That was the first red flag in Aoi's mind. Her gaze then fell upon Genjuro, and she realized that his expression was almost completely unreadable. His face was hard, his posture stiff, and he stood at the commander's console with his arms crossed, his eyes narrowed.

"Chris-kun," He commanded. "Your task is to clear the skies above headquarters. A helicopter will be launched from there in a moment, and it must reach its destination as fast as possible. Its path must not be hampered no matter what."

It took a second for the Ichaival wielder to respond, slightly confused by the strange order. "Alright, got it."

There wasn't much for her to do. With the entirety of the Noise army solely focused on the one human in front of them, Chris simply blasted them away from her in a moment and then turned her attention to the few flying Noise above the submarine, reducing them to harmless dust in an instant.

And indeed, a second later large whooshing sounds were heard in the sky as one of S.O.N.G's emergency helicopters lifted off from the top of the submarine and took off, its destination unknown to anyone save for three people.

Genjuro watched the helicopter's marker on the screen intently as it made its way to its target location, and Aoi could not help but speak up again in question. "A helicopter, sir? What exactly are you sending over there?" She asked, noticing that it was going in a straight line directly to the combat zone in Shibuya.

"Our last resort." He simply answered and said nothing more.

Aoi looked at him with a puzzled expression, trying to somehow read or understand anything from his own.

The gears spun in her head, and her mind wandered back to something she heard not too long ago...Something that Kazanari Fudou said, perhaps?

Her concern became visible on her face as she looked behind her commander.

And saw that a person that had been standing there the entire time…

Was no longer there.

It took her exactly one second to put two and two together, and her mouth gaped as her gaze fell back on Genjuro.

"Commander...you can't possibly be referring to-"

"So the time come, I see." Saint-Germain said from out of nowhere, forcing Aoi's head back to the screen.

"Yes." Genjuro answered her, forcing Aoi's head back to him as she realized the two of them were in on what was going on.

Her gaze then fell on Elfnein. The homunculus noticed her stare and immediately turned her head away in shame, making Aoi understand that she too was more than aware of what was happening.

Not a single one of them was trying to deny it or hide it at this point.

For they knew that it was going to be revealed to everyone here as well as the wielders in very short order, and that at this point it was impossible to stop.

"That's...unfortunate. I too wished that this outcome would not come to pass, but we have truly ran out of options. We can only hope that now we shall obtain the desired results."

"Out of options…" Aoi repeated to herself. Her stare flew back to her commander in a hurry, and he did not meet her gaze nor move his eyes even a bit to acknowledge her.

For Kazanari Genjuro had hardened his heart, and set himself on a path he will surely come to regret.

"Commander! That's-that's just too much! We can't make Miku-chan do-"

"We have to, Tomosato," He cut her off before she could continue. "There is absolutely nothing else that we can depend on at this point. If we do not act, then the world is forfeit. In order to save us from certain ruin...I had no choice but to go against my very principles. I do not mind being judged for this, so long as we get Hibiki-kun back."

He clenched his fists hard and his voice became brittle as he finished. "No matter what I have to do."

A heavy atmosphere fell upon the bridge at his words, and silence descended upon them.

Until it was broken by Chris once more a moment later.

"Wait, what is this about Miku?"

-!-

(Play: Fate/Grand Order OST - Epic of Remnant Fatal Battle)

The wind picked up as the clouds began to fly by, the supercharged storm passing over their heads slowly. More and more of the night sky became visible above them, bringing Susano'o's time to a close faster than Tsubasa would have liked.

Fists and sword met once again in a violent clash, and the shockwaves of their impact crushed down any remaining rubble or building that managed to remain standing in their immediate area. The aftermath of Ame-no-Murakumo was absolutely devastating, leaving nothing but charred structures that would blow away in the wind from the most delicate touch. Plenty of the area was also burning as well, left behind by the enhanced fire of the cloud-gathering sword.

It could only be described as hell. A hell brought about by the attempt of a person to reclaim someone they considered family, casting aside any sort of regard to what was around them. Tsubasa knew that going down this path would be nothing short of burdening, but she did not regret it.

Regret was something she could not allow herself to have, for secretly in her heart she harbored a deep sense of guilt. A guilt born of nothing but her own misplaced sorrow and anger directed at the girl she was now fighting.

She had pointed her sword at her due to her own anguish, and in the end the idol believed that this result was something she had a heavy hand in bringing about. Sadness she had not experienced in a very long time filled her to the brim, and that emotion was brought to the forefront by the force of her strikes. Even though her attacks were ferocious, all those watching aside from her own opponent would notice that her sword was crying, lamenting the fact that it had to be pointed at someone so dear to its wielder.

"Tch-!" She let out, parrying aside a hard blow from the corrupted wielder. Not only did she suddenly develop that incredibly frustrating regeneration ability, but it seemed that she got even stronger in that moment as well, a tell-tale sign that the influence of the curses was spreading even further and corroding even more of the divine power by the minute.

This was the only result that her actions here brought about. Caught off guard by something she could not have expected, her reducing half of her home city to ash in the end yielded nothing but more difficulty.

And she knew that at this moment she was the very last line of defense against the menace that Hibiki has become, and that before long she will become a destroyer with nothing left to stand in her way.

With nothing left to lose, Tsubasa fought even harder than before. Her meticulous planning had failed, and her strongest attacks and techniques were now useless against an opponent that knew all about them.

All that was left to beheld was pure force, an attempt to surpass her opponent with nothing but her own strength, born from years of experience and a bloodline connection that went back generations upon generations. The will of Susano'o flared, drawing out Ame-no-Habakiri's full power as it clashed against the spear of Odin and the curses it housed.

"What's wrong, Susano'o?! Ran out of juice?!" Hibiki yelled as her fist once again smashed against the shining haired idol's blade. Forced back by the punch, Tsubasa skidded across the ground, her armored boots throwing up the melted pieces of asphalt into the air. The Gungnir user charged forward with both arms reared back, and blasted her way towards the blue Symphogear wielder.

Tsubasa's response was simple: grasping the handle of her blade with two hands, she pulled, a second blade being recreated in her free hand. Now dual wielding her swords, two fists met two blades in an even more violent clash, cratering the ground below them even more. The Ame-no-Habakiri wielder struggled against the charge, groaning all the while. She let out a yell, and pouring power into her arms forced Hibiki back, causing the rogue wielder to jump back a distance.

And she took the opportunity to strike. Taking a heavy step forward that sent rubble into the air, she slashed the two blades in a cross, launching a X shaped shockwave forward.

'AZURE DIVIDER'

Hibiki's foot touched the ground just as the shockwave was about to strike. However, with her improved reactions she teleported out of the way just in time, the attack continuing onwards and into another burning structure, smashing into it and causing it to crumble as its foundations were slashed apart.

She reappeared right in front of Tsubasa and struck. However, before her fist could land she was once again forced to disengage as lightning almost crashed right on top of her, striking the ground in front of the blue haired wielder. It continued crashing in Hibiki's directions, the bolts following her across the ruined street.

Neither of them noticed through the noise and battle the sound of a helicopter landing a small distance away.

Planting her feet, Hibiki thrust her fist upwards and struck the bolt that came down on her. The lightning attempted to find purchase, but the very force of her strike veered it off course, and it crashed against a pile of rubble at her side.

The skirmish ended, and the two stood on opposite sides of the street. Of the two combatants, Hibiki was the one heaving, her breaths coming up short as exhaustion set in.

It was something that Tsubasa had found to be extremely strange. Ever since the regeneration ability had manifested, the rogue wielder was panting far more than before. Even though she did not have a single scratch on her, she still seemed to be having trouble breathing, acting like she had just run a marathon across the entire world.

It seemed that the regeneration ability acts on its own without her will, and in exchange for healing her wounds it drains her stamina every time it occurs. And that was something Tsubasa believed she could use: by inflicting as much damage as she could on Hibiki, she could perhaps cause that very regeneration to drain her so completely that she truly wouldn't be able to move an inch afterwards.

But Hibiki was not one to give in when tired, and that essentially brought them to a stalemate. Tsubasa could match Hibiki blow for blow, but could not injure her in any significant way, nor would she be able to fell her through abusing that new regeneration she has obtained. Meanwhile, Hibiki had yet to inflict a strong blow against her in any shape or form after that one punch she landed, meaning that Tsubasa was still going very strong and without any sort of impediment to her performance.

So a stalemate. Neither one of them could get the upper hand on the other, and they could end up fighting forever at this rate.

Or until the storm passes completely, automatically resulting in a loss for Tsubasa as Susano'o disappears and leaves her without access to the vast majority of her power.

She knew this.

The crew members in headquarters knew this.

So she had to give this absolutely her all, and go wild without restraint. Fanciful gambits are thrown out the window, and any attempts at subterfuge had to be discarded.

The only thing that remains is nothing but pure force that would clash head on, and only one will come out on top in the battle that follows.

Hibiki wiped her brow with her arm. Meanwhile, Tsubasa threw aside the blade in her left hand, making it disappear into azure sparkles in the wind.

With her remaining blade, she acted out the action of sheathing her sword in a scabbard, lowering her body to take on an Iajitsu stance that was unfamiliar to Hibiki. An electrified aura rose around her, carving up the ground beneath her feet even further.

"Here come, Hibiki!"

Hibiki braced herself.

The shining haired idol slashed the air in front of her in a wide arc.

And Hibiki looked on in confusion as absolutely nothing happened.

No impressive powerful shockwave exploded out of her opponent's sword, nor did her blade suddenly elongate to close the vast distance between them in an instant. Tsubasa had simply swung her sword, drawing it from its 'sheath'.

"What are you trying to-"

And in that moment, blood spilled from her chest as she was sliced from shoulder to shoulder, a deep and angry cut being etched into her from out of nowhere. Hibiki let out a growl at the sharp pain that accompanied it, looking down at her injury with wide eyes.

"Wha-?!"

Her eyes glanced back to the Ame-no-Habakiri user, who still stood on the other side of the street unmoving.

'How...how did she do that?!'

And then right in front of her eyes, space shattered as everything in her vision crumbled down like glass, the very fabric of reality being torn asunder. Then right in the middle of it all, a cut appeared in the shattered pane; and as the shards fell down to the ground, reality seemed to reassert itself right in that moment.

And Tsubasa was just there, standing right in front of her, her sword at the position where she would've finished her swing as if she had been there the entire time.

'PHANTOM HURRICANE BLADE'

Hibiki grit her teeth and jumped back, putting distance between her and her opponent. Tsubasa rose back to her full height just as she landed, and a second later the regeneration ability kicked in once more as dimensions tore open at the rogue wielder's sides. They collapsed back into her a moment later, leaving her once more without a scratch.

Tsubasa narrowed her eyes, staring at her comrade with a thoughtful gaze. Hibiki's arms fell to her sides as fatigue overtook her once more, and her back hunched forward as she took in short breaths.

"We are surprised, Hibiki, that you have reached such unprecedented levels. It worries me, but my spirit is not yet broken, for have made a vow that have sworn to uphold." The sword wielder said with that thunderous voice.

"Keep on talking, Susano'o," Hibiki responded with a huff, straightening her back. "I'll make sure to seal that mouth shut when I kick your ass."

Tsubasa smirked. "Hmph, even as exhausted as you are you can still keep on going. Very well, then it seems we cannot allow strength to be preserved, for this clash will settle everything."

She entered her stance once more, power rising from her from the upteenth time in the battle. In response, Hibiki retook her own stance, as tired as she was from the unexpected use of that instant regeneration.

Lightning crashed once more between them.

"Let us bring this to an end, Hibiki!"

"Fine by me!"

The two of them were already tired of this endless battle. They were far too evenly matched to be able to one up the other.

All that remained was to meet each other head on with their full power, and the consequences be damned.

The street was once again blown apart by the sheer power radiating off of the two of them.

They took a single step forward.

And just as they were about to begin their final charge…

"That's enough, Tsubasa-san."

That a familiar and a completely out of place voice rose up from behind Tsubasa, causing the incredible tension in the air to disperse into nothingness.

It was as if the voice alone managed to instantly dispel the aura of bloodlust. Their fighting spirits dwindled, and the two combatants nearly faltered by the sudden intrusion to their battle.

"What?"

Tsubasa's head turned to the source behind her faster than ever before.

And she froze when she realized exactly who it was.

Standing there behind her, with something she did not recognize under her left arm, was a gentle sunshine. Wearing a simple white skirt and a purple jacket, the black haired girl met the idol's gaze with an even yet determined expression.

"Kohinata?! What are you doing here?!" Tsubasa asked in shock, completely taken aback by the appearance of Hibiki's best friend.

Speaking of Hibiki…

The sword wielder twisted her head to her opponent, and saw exactly what she expected: The Gungnir user was frozen in place, her mouth agape. Not a single sound escaped her mouth as she just stared, her eyes locked on Miku.

Her head turned back to the intruder, concern filling her thunderous voice. "Kohinata, I don't know what possessed you to come here, but you must withdraw. It's not safe here, even for you."

Tsubasa's warning was not one she said lightly. She knew exactly what Hibiki was capable of, and she could not allow Miku to be caught in the crossfire.

Yet the girl did not move, and continued to meet the blue Symphogear user's gaze.

"Please, Tsubasa-san," She pleaded. "Leave this to me."

And once again the idol narrowed her eyes, puzzled by Miku's insistence. "Kohinata?"

Silence fell on the ruined street. The only sound that could be heard was the sizzling fires in the charred remains of the various buildings that surrounded them, and the now very, very distant rumblings of thunder.

That was until Genjuro's voice came in through the comm. "Tsubasa, let her do as she pleases."

Her hand shot up to her earpiece, trying to understand if she heard him right. "What? What is thine meaning?"

"You heard me, Tsubasa. Go and help the others and leave this to Miku-kun." Was his straightforward and commanding answer.

Her hand fell to her side, and her eyes returned to peer at the black haired school girl, studying her thoroughly. With her enhanced perceptions, she tried to comprehend the meaning behind the two's words. There was clearly something here she was not seeing, but what?

The entire time, Hibiki remained silent, as if Miku's appearance had caused her mind to shut down completely. It was a response no one expected out of her, especially now and especially after how she reacted to her presence previously.

What was the change now? What was it she was seeing?

And then she saw it.

It was all Tsubasa needed to make the connection. With 'Susano'o' allowing her to decipher those deep green eyes, she realized in that moment exactly what was in store.

And the crestfallen expression that followed was one that would be forever engraved into Miku's mind.

"Kohinata…" Tsubasa let out sadly. She heaved out a sorrowful sigh. "So...this is what we have been led to."

She glanced back to Hibiki once again, and the rogue wielder remained still. Tsubasa briefly wondered what was going through her mind right now.

And once again sighed as she figured that whatever she was thinking about would pale in comparison to what was to come.

"Then...I shall leave her in your capable hands, Kohinata." She added. And then she walked forward, facing away from Hibiki, who made no motion to try and stop her. The sword wielder passed by Miku, whose own eyes were too locked onto her best friend on the other side of the street.

She stopped by her side, looking towards the ruined crossing, their backs to each other. "And...I'm sorry."

Miku blinked once. "Thank you...Tsubasa-san, Susano'o-sama."

The sword wielder huffed. "So you will refer to us both...you truly are a kind one," She said with a small smile. "Then know that the Heavens stand at your side. May they bless and guide your path in the trials ahead, my friend,"

She took a few steps forward, putting enough of a distance between herself and Miku.

"And may your heart never falter in the face of despair."

And lightning struck her in that moment. The air remained electrified for a fraction of a second, then settled down.

Revealing that Tsubasa had disappeared, leaving only Miku and Hibiki in the ruins of Western Tokyo.

-!-

Airgetlam sliced through the air as Maria cut down more and more of the beasts that were assaulting the Edogawa shelter. Evading the lunge of another opportunistic fake Hibiki, she jumped up onto the rooftop of one of the buildings.

At least a dozen of the beasts followed her up, climbing the side of the structure by digging their claws into the solid concrete, scaling it at breakneck speeds. Their charge was animalistic and wild, and as they reached the top they once again lunged at her from all sides.

Maria brought up her sword, prepared to meet them head on.

And then lightning crashed right next to her, throwing the beasts off of the rooftop.

The pink haired idol yelped in surprise by the sudden bolt of electricity, and backpedaled to gain some distance.

Only for her eyes to widen when the air cleared and she saw Tsubasa appear as it dissipated.

"My apologies for surprising you, Maria. The commander requested that come reinforce your position."

Maria however barely heard her. Taken aback by her sudden appearance, she was caught off guard by her idol partner's dazzling new form, leaving her gaping at the sight. "Tsu-Tsubasa?!"

The Ame-no-Habakiri user turned to her, tilting her head in confusion. "Yes? It is I, Maria. Is there something amiss?"

"Wh-what? You-I mean...how?" The Airgetlam user stuttered out, her mind still in overdrive, her eyes still staring in awe at the amazing beauty that she was looking at. The shining hair, the glowing eyes, and the incredible aura that she was releasing all worked to make the older idol gulp nervously.

'So this...is what they were talking about when they were referring to Susano'o out of nowhere?'

Tsubasa seemed to catch her meaning, and smiled. "Ah, you seem to be in awe due to my current form. Fear not, Maria, for it is still I."

"Th-that's not what I'm worried about! I-I mean, what…"

Everything she wanted to say was immediately cut off when Tsubasa giggled, and Maria could not help but blush at the sweet yet...impactful sound that escaped the Ame-no-Habakiri user's lips. "It is amusing to see you react this way, Maria," She said with a smile. "It is a sight for sore eyes. You remind us of Kushinada-hime in that regard. She too was one that was easily surprised."

"Wh-wha-"

"Ah, but fear not Maria, we shall endeavor not to transform you into a comb. You are much more dazzling as you are now; and besides, we are certain the situation will not call for it."

Tsubasa's playful teasing worked to make Maria blush fiercely despite the circumstances.

It seemed that Susano'o's mischievous nature was coming up to the forefront due to Maria, and stirred a certain desire within Tsubasa to keep up the pressure.

"Ah, forgive us. It is rude to compare wives, for each one is a magnificent flower in her own right. Although, Kushinada-hime was a goddess of rice; for you to match her in that regard, you must first learn to cook rice yourself."

Maria's stammer was so adorable Tsubasa could not help but laugh.

"Wha-Wha-Wha-Wha-Wha-! That's-that's not funny!" She exclaimed, throwing her head aside to hide the obvious blush on her face. "Geez! What's come over you? The Tsubasa I know would never t-tease me like that!"

"Our apologies. We were simply bedazzled by you on this night, and wished to convey our sincerity before the storm passes and we vanish into the wind along with it." Tsubasa explained, a smile still plastered on her face.

Maria raised her voice in response, her cheeks still many shades of red. "There is a time and place for everything!" She said, crossing her arms. "I thought you were busy dealing with Hibiki-san! What brings you all the way here now?!"

It was then that the beaming expression on Tsubasa's face fell, and she looked in the direction from where she came, far into the horizon. "As said, the commander requested come and assist you in your endeavors. And besides, we believe there is now someone much more suitable...for taking on that role than us."

Yes, that was the only description she could use to describe Miku at that moment. 'Someone more suitable' was a severe understatement of what her role was.

And she knew she will never be able to bring herself to forget the fire that was in her eyes. A fire that made Tsubasa wonder whether or not…

It was simply a reflection of the outward flames.

Maria narrowed her eyes. "Someone...more suitable?"

Tsubasa's cryptic words served only to make Maria nervous.

And then Chris' booming voice exploded out of the comm, directed at Genjuro's recent revelation that shook them to the core.

"WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU JUST SAY?!"

-!-

(Play: Fate/Stay Night OST - THIS ILLUSION {piano ver.})

What would one say should they look upon this scene? How would they explain what their eyes lay upon, looking at the ruins of Shibuya?

And how far would their lament reach as they see these two souls, connected by something deeper than blood, facing each other under such terrible circumstances?

Miku stood in her spot, her eyes gazing upon only one other. She stood, a certain precious wrapped object cradled under her left arm, letting out not a single word out of her mouth.

Hibiki's mind had apparently decided on that moment to restart, and she could only stutter out the following words. "M-Miku?! Wh-why? Why are you here now?! Why...Why are you getting in my way now?!"

The sound of the sizzling fires filled the air once more as Miku formulated her answer. "Hibiki...I have to apologize too."

"H-huh?"

Miku took in a deep breath. "I broke a promise I made to you...and I'm sorry," She said painfully. "I promised you...that I would never turn against you...I meant that with every fiber of my being. But now...I have to break that promise."

The miserable expression on Hibiki's face served to break Miku's heart. "M-Miku? What...what are you saying?!"

"I can't watch any longer, Hibiki," She answered, taking small steps forward. Her very presence in this hell was a dissonance, a clash of right and wrong. For the battlefield was not a place for someone like her, who shone like the sun. "I just can't. I can't stand aside anymore and watch you do so much wrong."

Hibiki gasped. Throwing her arms around, her voice rose as she became frantic. "No! You're just saying that because it's just like back then! It's Genjuro this time isn't it?! He did something to you to make you say that! I won't let that happen again!"

Her vehement refusal to accept reality caused Miku's face to fall.

000

"Genjuro-san...what-"

"It's exactly what you think," He said, holding out the pendant to her. "I didn't want to get to this point...but nothing we have will work now. This...is the only thing that we have that will be able to bring her back."

Miku's eyes widened in astonishment.

"I suppose...that it was always meant to lead to this outcome. That maybe everything we have done only served to delay the inevitable," He continued. "I didn't want to burden you with this role...of having to face her like this...but we have completely run out of options. I'm sorry Miku-kun...There is no one we can depend on now except you."

000

"Even now...even now you won't believe that I stand here by my own free will?" The black haired girl asked her friend, stopping her march only a few single meters away, causing the rogue wielder to freeze once more.

"There is no way I will believe it!" Hibiki screamed. "You said you would always support me! You said that you will always stand by my side!"

In contrast to Hibiki's brash and loud responses, Miku was...eerily calm, but melancholic. As if she was holding herself back from reacting similarly. The entire way she made here she had spent deep in thought, and her emotions became a swirling torrent of colors that she could not describe.

Her heart was being pulled in many different directions at once, and it was oh so very slowly starting to tear. "Then please tell me, Hibiki...when did you start believing…"

She swallowed down her own uneasiness, and her voice shook as she spoke. "When did you start believing...that I would ever support something like this?"

Hibiki went rigid, speechless from Miku's question.

"A-ah-"

A gentle breeze picked up, blowing throughout the ruined city.

000

Miku's head tilted downwards, and she clutched the hems of her skirt tightly. "How...how dare you...ask something like this of me...how…"

Genjuro's stare remained hard, his arm still extended forward. "I don't have the right to, I know that," He said. "But there is no one else we can turn to. I tried, Miku-kun...We all tried, to avoid having to come to you for this. We wanted to be able to bring her back to you without you having to be involved...which is what I promised her as well."

Her entire body trembled as tears threatened to fall from her eyes. The combined anger and sorrow were raging within her, nearly causing her to lash out at the man in front of her. "Then...then why...how can you ask this of me...knowing I won't be able to refuse?"

He clenched his other fist tight by his side, his eyes turning away from her as he spoke. "Because...you are the only one who can bring her back. From the very beginning...there was no one else who was destined to do so."

She gulped, forcing everything down. "This is exactly...this is exactly like before. You...you are acting exactly like him…"

"I know," He answered. "I know. And I also know that you have absolutely every right to hate me. That you have absolutely every right to be angry at me. For this, and for many other things."

The man sighed somberly. "I wanted...to keep my promise to Hibiki-kun. I wanted...to help you keep the happy days that you cherish so...but I was not strong enough. No, we as a whole were not strong enough. We were not ready, and now it came back to bite us. And the only thing left for me to do...is to break the vows I made for the sake of those days."

They went silent.

And Miku lost the battle against her sadness, the tears beginning to drip down to the metallic floor of Elfnein's lab.

000

"Hibiki...there is no one else in this world...that knows me better than you do," Miku said softly. "So you of all people should know...that I would never support or stand by such a path. You of all people should know...that I will never be able to accept it."

Hibiki's response came out as a garbled mess, her heart in tatters.

And Miku kept on speaking, laying her own heart out. "Hibiki...you've always, ever since that day, chased after the beautiful ideal of making a happy world for everyone. And I stood by your side, watching as you wholeheartedly believed in it, and entrusted your everything to it. And how ever since you gained the power to fight, you became much happier and you shone much more beautifully."

She tightened her grip on the item held by her left arm. "And I only wanted to support you in your path...even if I didn't believe in it as much as you did."

Hibiki could not voice her shock, Miku's sudden confession coming completely out of left field for her.

It was surreal to all those watching. Before, Hibiki was like an uncaged beast, held down by absolutely nothing.

But now, she was simply a deer in the headlights, stopped in her tracks by the one thing she dared not bare her fangs against.

"I'm sorry, Hibiki, for pretending to understand, and that I can only tell you now," She said regretfully. "I...can't be a hero like you. I can't...bring myself to care about those that I can't see. I can't...try and take the entire world and embrace it."

That's right. In the end, that's just who Miku was.

She was not a hero. She did not wield a weapon and fight in the defense of the many. She could not extend her hand out to others in the same way that Hibiki did.

Kohinata Miku was not a hero.

She was simply a girl, who cared about the things that were important to her.

"I can't...bring myself to care about the world, just like you do,"

It was just like Saint-Germain said:

That the only thing Kohinata Miku looks for…

Is the small share of happiness that belongs to her.

"And that is why...I can never support what you wish for. I cannot stand aside as you twist your own wish, and bring it about in such a horrible manner. I can no longer pretend that I understand your ideal completely...but I know more than anyone that this is not what you wished for."

"Ah-Mi-Miku…"

Hibiki looked at her.

And finally understood who it was she was looking at.

Even with her mind tainted by the many grudges and curses...she could no longer deny it. She could no longer deny and try to delude herself.

For the person in front of her was truly, and undoubtedly Kohinata Miku. The girl who was her gentle sunshine, her warm place to come back to.

And that this was her own will, held down by no other.

It began to rain. Hibiki could feel it, as something washed down her face beyond her control. Her vision began to blur from the sudden wetness, but a single simple question suddenly rang in her mind.

'Why...is Miku not getting wet too?'

"Yes...I can only care about the things that are important to me. The things that I hold close to my heart. And that is why...I will allow it no longer."

And she finally raised the thing she had held all this time, allowing Hibiki to see it.

"What I'm doing...is nothing more than following my own desire. My own selfish desire to get back what is important to me, to finally take back those shining and happy days."

She tugged on the wrapping.

And the cloth fell away, flowing down to the ground like a waterfall, revealing what was hidden.

In that moment, Hibiki's entire being froze. Her heart, her soul, her mind, her absolutely everything became as still as a mountain, and she could only stare ahead, her eyes wide, at what Miku was holding in her hand.

000

"I can't force you to do anything, Miku-kun. I can't order you around and force you to head out there and face her," Genjuro let out sorely. "I can only come to you like this and ask you...no, beg you to do so."

The tears ke