“Take a good close look. This is what it means to be a magical girl.”
Those words from Homura, and the traumatic images that I now associate with them, have haunted me since I witnessed Mami's grisly and tragic death. They gave me very dark and violent nightmares last night. But unlike my other recent strange dreams, these were more random, horrific, troubling... scary
And yet, I now eat breakfast with my family. Everything seems peaceful, pleasant, pretty.
Mama makes amusing coos and grunts towards my little brother while she keeps his face clean and helps feed him. Papa seems relaxed and very content as he watches on from behind the counter. Mornings like this would typically make me feel happy and tranquil. But given what I have witnessed lately, it all seemed like a thin veneer hiding something very different and dark underneath...
I become lost in such thoughts, related to the more private memories of recent days, while I stare down at my eggs.
“Madoka.” mama stated, startling me back into the present, “Hurry up and eat, you're going to be late.”
I instinctively bowed my head in agreement, but still finding it hard to focus on the here and now. As I place a piece of my eggs into my mouth, I feel... I feel so overwhelmed by a debilitating sadness.
I can't stop thinking about her. I can't hold back my tears and whimpers from coming out. She was such a nice person. Such a caring, considerate, courageous person. I had looked up to her with such total admiration. It was so hard... so abysmally hard... to accept what has happened to her!
Why did that
have to happen to her?!
“What's wrong, sis?” my little brother asks me, as he and my parents notice my crying.
“You don't like it?” Papa asks, thinking that my crying is a result of the eggs tasting bad.
“No... it's really, really tasty...” I reply to him, while shaking my head back-and-forth, as I really don't want him to think that his cooking is bad when it's actually very good.
“Just being alive and able to taste your cooking...” I continue in thanks, while losing track of exactly what I want to say.
I can tell as I leave home that my parents are very worried about me. I hate worrying them like that, but it's really difficult to hide how disturbed and sad I feel right now. Maybe talking to Sayaka about it will make me feel better...
But as I meet up with Hitomi and Sayaka at our usual morning meeting place, I notice that Sayaka is talking to Hitomi about all sorts of school gossip. This continues as we make our way to school, with me walking between Hitomi and Sayaka.
“Can you believe Yuka?” Sayaka asks Hitomi, while the three of us walk on towards school, “She still hasn't picked up on it!”
Sayaka then re-enacts her conversation with our classmate Yuka, to more clearly convey what she is saying about her. But I can tell that Sayaka doesn't really care about what she's talking about right now. She just wants to fill the air with white noise in order to force out thoughts over Mami. I can understand why Sayaka is taking this approach, but I think it's just delaying the inevitable.
'Sayaka, about yesterday...' I say telepathically towards her, taking advantage of Kyubey walking closely behind us.
'Sorry, I don't want to talk about it right now.' she responds telepathically to me while continuing to talk to Hitomi, 'Maybe later.'
I sigh over Sayaka's response, but I guess not everybody deals with tragedy and grief the same way. In fact, I envy Sayaka's ability to act like everything is perfectly normal and fine. But while I envy that ability, it also makes me wonder how typical this might be of the world as a whole. How much death, sadness, and tragedy is lying just beneath the surface, hidden by people putting on a brave face and acting like everything is Ok when it really isn't.
With that in mind, the school morning progressed as though nothing was out of the ordinary at all. Saotome-Sensei gave a lecture on the ideal age for reproduction and marriage during Biology class. Normally I'd find it a bit funny how she was stressing how getting married at a late age is no big deal since Saotome-Sensei herself is a single woman over thirty. But neither Sayaka nor myself was able to find much amusement this morning, as our minds were in very dark and serious places...
Come lunch break, Sayaka and I went to our usual spot on the pure white rooftop of the school. Daytime weather has been exceptionally beautiful lately, with one bright sunny day after the next after the next. The irony of this was not lost on either of us, however.
“I almost feel like I'm in a strange land...” I utter uneasily, breaking the tense somber silence in the air, “Everyone here at school hasn't changed a bit from yesterday, but they're like total strangers now.”
“None of them know.” Sayaka replies, “About the witches, about Mami... We know, and they don't. So we live different lives, in a different world.”
“Sayaka-chan...” I say, while shifting to look at her, as what she's saying so painfully resonates with me.
“We'd already changed even before what happened yesterday.” she continued, “We should have realized sooner.”
I swallowed hard over those words. Sayaka is right. We now know of a hidden world, of unimaginable horrors, and of the magical root causes of problems and tragedies that are complete mysteries to most people.
Now that we know of that hidden world, can we truly turn away from it? Can we truly go back to normal? It occurs to me that what I should do, if I was strong and courageous, was to wish for Mami to be brought back to life, and to then fight as a magical girl.
But... I'm scared. I think that I'm too scared to do that. I'm afraid that what happened to Mami will happen to me.
“Madoka, do you still want to become a magical girl?” Sayaka asked of me, while looking towards me.
I could tell that Kyubey perked up at that question, as he was carefully listening in on the conversation between Sayaka and I.
But I was very uncertain over what my answer should be. I knew, or at least I think I know, what would be the most useful choice I could make. The choice that would help other people the most. But I also knew that the safest choice for me personally was something different...
And so I sighed a bit over Sayaka's question, and was unable to answer it. From that, though, Sayaka correctly perceived an implicit answer.
“You're right.” she said, while placing a hand on my shoulder to comfort me, “Of course not.”
My eyes started to water up, and I became a bit choked up, due to feeling deep shame over my inability to overcome my fears.
“I know it's no fair, but I'm just too afraid” I replied, “I just can't...”
“Just remembering it makes me too scared to even breathe...” I continued, “I'm scared! I don't want to!”
Sayaka then wrapped her arms around my neck and shoulders to comfort me while I started to cry and emotionally break down a bit. I cried into the sleeve of her uniform.
“Mami was so kind.” Sayaka said, “Showing us what we must be prepared for if we're to fight.”
After continuing to comfort me a bit, Sayaka turned her attention to someone else and a different concern.
If you chose to explain the full situation to Sayaka in response to Opportunity Choice 4
then now read Section “Homura becomes Batman to Sayaka's Commissioner Gordon”. Otherwise, read Section “Kyubey breaks the bad news”.
“Sorry, Kyubey.” I say towards him, as I still felt some shame over my decision here.
“I'm sorry I involved you in it.” he responds, “We only knew each other for a short time, but thanks, Madoka. I enjoyed it.”
And with that, Kyubey slowly walked away.
After school, I decided to go over to Mami's place, to see if anybody was there in the wake of her death and not coming home. I rang the doorbell for her home, but there was no response. So I took the handle, and was a bit surprised to find it unlocked. I then walked into Mami's home.
I could tell that Mami's home had been left untouched over the previous 24 hours. It seemed dustier and more unkempt than when I had been in it before. Unwashed dishes and utensils were in the sink. A half-drank cup of coffee was situated on the transparent glass table in her room.
On that table, I placed the notebook that I had made my magical girl doodles in. I felt that this would be a good way for me to make a clean break from my previous desire to become a magical girl.
But in the stillness and emptiness of the moment, a wretched melancholy overcame me. I started to weep bitterly over the current circumstances. It occurred to me that not only had Mami died, but her dream for Sayaka and I had died with her. If Mami was still here, I think she'd be disappointed in the decisions that Sayaka and I have made.
“I'm sorry!” I exclaimed, as though Mami was in the room with me, “I'm sorry I'm so weak!”
After drying off reddened cheeks, but with some tears still in my eyes, I slowly left Mami's place. I was hanging my head low as I carried a heavy guilt on my shoulders. But my somber stillness was interrupted at the startling sight of Homura now standing near to me!
“Huh?” I said, startled by her appearance, “Homura?!”
I then quickly wiped my eyes so I wouldn't look like a mess in front of her.
Homura then started walking towards me.
“Madoka Kaname.” she said towards me, “You're being too hard on yourself. Nobody can blame you for what you've done. I won't forgive anyone who does.”
Homura's words sounded so strong and reassuring. But amidst my confusion over why Homura was being so nice to me, I was left more perplexed than comforted.
“I'm glad you heeded my warning.” Homura continued.
I nodded to that, indicating agreement with her.
After that, Homura accompanied me for a walk. We walked over a long bridge, with a massive industrial area including an oil refinery, just off to the side of us. The sun was beginning to set, so everything was covered in a misty golden hue.
“If I had only listened to you earlier...” I said to Homura.
“That would not have changed Mami Tomoe's fate.” Homura responded, “But it changed yours. I'm happy I was able to save at least one person.”
Was this... was this why Homura had shown such concern for me? Has she witnessed many magical girls fail? Magical girls that were ill-suited for the role?
Maybe Homura knew that Kyubey was choosing both Sayaka and I simply due to magical potential alone, when neither of us had the right personality for the magical girl role. Perhaps Kyubey and Mami didn't recognize those weaknesses in Sayaka and I, but Homura did. This was giving me a new appreciation for Homura-san!
“Homura, you...” I began, while smiling over this observation, “You seem like an old pro in a different way than Mami.”
“Perhaps.” Homura responded, “I can't argue with that.”
But upon thinking more deeply on what I was observing here, I became a bit saddened.
“You must have seen so many people die like Mami did yesterday...” I said.
“Yes.” Homura quickly confirmed, with an almost troubling ease.
“How many?” I asked.
“I no longer keep count.” Homura answered.
With that answer disturbing me, I started to think more on Mami.
“I wonder if her room will just stay like that.” I expressed.
“Only distant relatives survive Mami Tomoe.” Homura replied, “They won't receive notice of her disappearance for quite some time.”
“No one realizes she's gone?” I asked.
“Of course.” Homura answered, “If you die over there, you don't leave a corpse. In this world, she'll eternally be “missing”. That's how magical girls die.”
The way Homura explained it made it all seem so horribly sad to me. It caused me to start tearing up again, and become a bit choked up.
I then came to a complete stop, as tears came falling down off of my cheeks. Thankfully, Homura noticed I had stopped and so she stopped walking as well.
“That's terrible!” I expressed, “She fought alone for our sakes for so long. No one realizing she's gone is so lonely!”
“That contract is what gives us our power.” Homura replied, trying to explain why the situation was what it is, “It's not for anyone else. We fight for our own wish. Even if we're ignored, even if we're forgotten... That's part of the contract.”
With these words, I felt a certain moral indignation rise up from within me. I didn't have the strength to be a magical girl, but I could do something here!
“I'll remember her.” I said, referring to Mami, “I'll never forget Mami. Ever!”
“I see.” Homura said, turning shyly away from me, “I'm sure that would make her happy. I'm jealous.”
I don't know if I was meant to hear that last line, but even so, I felt compelled to address it! I wanted to let Homura know that I would also always remember her! But I wasn't sure if I felt up to saying that to her.
“You too, Homura! I'll never forget you! I'll never forget how you saved me yesterday!”
Pretend that I didn't hear Homura express jealousy.
With that, Homura began to walk away from me, in a different direction.
She had left me with a lot to think about. Homura seemed like a very nice and caring person once you get to know her. I could only hope that she alone would be enough to protect my city, as I no longer had any intention of becoming a magical girl, and nor did I want to see Sayaka suffer the same fate as Mami did...
The above Chapter is continuing off of the main "Mami Dies" route, and hence ties tightly in with the canon anime narrative.
After this chapter, though, both the "Mami Lives" chapter route and the "Main" Route will split into two sections each.
This results in four basic "chains" overall. Those chains are...
1) Mami Lives, Madoka enters into a romance with Mami
2) Mami Lives, Madoka does not
enter into a romance with Mami.
3) Mami Dies, Sayaka becomes a magical girl (i.e. the same as the anime)
4) Mami Dies, Sayaka relies on Homura
There will be some variations within each of these four chains, but I'm pretty sure they can be taken care of by spoiler space sections (different romances will arise in each, but they'll probably start late enough to avoid issues). However, the difference between each of the four chains is so substantive that they will each necessitate their own separate section.
So starting with "Mami Lives Chapter 2" and "Chapter 8", each chapter will be split in half, with each half devoted to a narrative chain.
This may become tricky to follow, so I will soon put up an index in the first post of this thread to keep everything clear. I thank both Kanon and Coldlight for the welcomed advice there.
I'll also keep your feedback on Kyubey in mind, Coldlight.