Even though their revues for the giraffe have supposedly come to an end, the Stage Girls still find themselves at that underground theater more often than they might like to. Though now, they are here to fight for other reasons - to save their plays, act out ReLives themselves, and to fulfill Elle's wishes.
And only recently has it been made clear to them about Elle's true identity. Rather her true age.
But they'd all agreed to the same promise; that whenever she should need them, they would be readily waiting for her onstage.
And so they've come once more tonight to fend off the Korosu that threaten their beloved plays.
All nine of Seishou's main cast do battle here tonight, swinging and slicing and shooting their weapons left and right to slay the faceless shadows. Elle watches on with Andrew nodding in approval, while the giraffe is lying leisurely behind them with his neck raised tall to observe. He's been oddly quiet tonight in overseeing the proceedings, which is a little unusual, but no one has complained.
Only once Karen has driven her sword through the final Korosu and caused it to dissipate into thin air does the giraffe suddenly stand. But it isn't to commend their battle like usual. All nine Stage Girls, as well as Elle, now look up to him as he speaks.
"It is strange indeed, the stage tonight. I understand."
"Here we go again." Futaba rolls her eyes and twirls her halberd casually. "You and your cryptic crap."
"I must say, I'm about ready to go to bed," Kaoruko sighs. "Don't tell me there's more."
As the others all mutter their agreement, Maya takes a step forward apart from the pack to address the giraffe.
"What do you mean? Is something stranger than is normal down here?"
The giraffe stands, perfectly still, save for a slight swishing of his tail.
"The stage," he utters. "It is preparing to move."
"Move?" Junna yelps. "Move how?"
"Like a tea cup ride?" Karen guesses. "In that case we should find something to hold onto…"
"Karen-chan, I don't think that's what he meant…?" Mahiru looks up at the giraffe, hopeful that he'll deny it.
But he doesn't address that matter. Instead, he cranes his long neck to look down at Elle, and then swings it around to Nana.
"You two," he says.
Both Elle and Nana share a puzzled glance and tilt their heads.
The other girls are equally as lost.
"I'm not following…" Hikari is half crouched into a ready stance as if preparing for another fight with her dagger. But Claudine steps up beside her to rest a pacifying hand on her shoulder.
"Don't worry. I get the feeling he's just being vague for his own delight. We can probably head back now."
Claudine turns to begin heading offstage, but before she can take so much as a single step, the giraffe speaks again.
"This is very interesting indeed. Something I have never witnessed before. This stage will slowly bring it to fruition. I understand."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Junna demands. "Is the stage… creating something of its own volition? And what's it got to do with Nana?" She takes a step closer to her partner defensively, gripping her bow tighter.
"Wait," he says, flicking an ear. "Listen. Do you hear it? It has been set in motion."
"What has?" Futaba shouts. "I swear, if you're gonna make us fight each other in those damn revues again-"
"No way!" Karen wails. "I won't do it! I'm not taking anyone's radiance anymore!"
"Me either," Hikari agrees.
But the giraffe shakes his head slowly.
"That is not the case," he assures them. "However, the stage has certainly picked up on a certain... energy over all this time."
"Energy?" Maya repeats.
"Indeed." Once again, he swings his head to Elle first. "Elle-san's true form… She is but a young, bright-eyed child, is she not? Imaginative beyond her years, enough so to reel in so many talented Stage Girls and cast them as her own actresses in her plays."
Elle blinks, taking a step back from him. Her true nature shows itself as she nervously grips onto Andrew's soft plush fur.
Next, the giraffe brings himself back to Nana, who stiffens a little behind Junna.
"And you, Daiba Nana-san. It seems the stage has retained some residual energy from your wish after so many repeat performances. Even though time has ceased to rewind now and is steadily moving forward as it is meant to… The stage still remembers your wish. A wish to go back. To return to the past. I understand."
"But we don't!" Junna barks. "You still haven't told us anything clearly!"
By now, all of the girls have cautiously moved to stand beside their respective partners, fingers curling more tightly around their weapons in case they're made to fight. The giraffe looks over all of them in turn.
"There is no need for concern. To my knowledge, you will not need to do battle with what is about to occur. It is something Elle-san wanted to see, is it not?" He looks to Elle finally, and as the others follow his gaze, a collective gasp rises up from them all.
Elle is no longer a teenager like the rest of them, but her true younger self, clutching her little blue mole plushie in her hands. Her voice is hesitant and bashful.
"Only a little… I want to see it…"
"There you have it," the giraffe nods. "Elle-chan has made an unprecedented wish. Due to our Daiba Nana-san's repetitive performances, the stage has retained the energy for granting such wishes. And as such, let us go back in time once more. Only this time, a little further…"
Before the girls can even draw breath to ask any of the dozens of questions now swirling in their minds, the lights onstage begin to flicker, and the gears below their boots being to churn and thunder. The girls shriek and cling to one another, weapons clattering to the floor.
By now, the giraffe has lain down again to help nudge little Elle onto his back with his nose. Clutching her plushie of Andrew, she climbs onto his shoulders. The giraffe stands calmly with her in the audience as the curtains close on the nine startled girls.
"It is simple, Stage Girls," he proclaims. "Simply have fun. That is what Elle-chan wishes of you. Fulfill your duty, and you shall have returned before you know it."
Blinking, he glances back down to his little passenger.
"A very unique wish you've made," he says. "Certainly this will be a stage I have never before seen. I understand."
Elle keeps her plushie in her lap as she hugs the giraffe's neck and leans forward, eagerly waiting to glimpse the next stage she will be shown.
The nine Seishou students are blanketed by a sudden darkness, and all of the churning sounds of the stage suddenly stop. All at once, they drop to their knees and slump to the floor.
And it can't be said for certain if what happens next is just a dream, or some rewound form of reality brought upon by a wish.
But either way, it is certainly an experience new to each and every one of them.
A/N: This chapter was mostly an excuse not just to set things up, but to depict the giraffe being gentle and nudging a little baby Elle up onto his back. I just needed that to exist, okay...
A combination of Elle's new wish and the energy of Nana's old one? What could that mean...?
Please leave comments or kudos!!