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Literature
Madoka Magica: A Last Drink with Mephistopheles
Maybe it's the alcohol, but Junko swears she just saw a white stuffed animal toy trot past the window.
She leans over the table of her corner booth, squinting out the street-side window of her favorite lounge. Junko normally parks herself at the bar when she needs to relieve her sorrows, but Kazuko has gone home for the night, and she has no desire to make small talk with the servers. There's nothing, not a single passerby under the city lights, so she slides herself back into the plush leather and releases a sigh.
Just what I need - hallucinations. As if she didn't already have enough on her plate. Preparing the disastrous quarterly report for the shareholders, the meetings with the finance committee, and on top of all those surmountable obstacles, life had seen fit to gift her daughter with unspeakable cruelty. Madoka's best friend, missing for almost a week, had been found dead in a downtown apartment.
Fourteen years old… Junko reflects. Death is cruel at any age
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Literature
HuniePop: Valentine's Rush
It's a small relief that the hallway is deserted, Beli decides. She's certain she'll die of shame if anyone catches her, the yoga and fitness specialist, struggling to push down a simple office stapler.
"Come on now," she pleads, bearing her full weight onto the little paper pincher. "Just one staple? Please?" Now is not the time for her office supplies to be growing a stubborn streak, not when that day is fast approaching.
February the fourteenth. Valentine's Day to the lucky few who have found someone worth sharing their lives with, a day of tender exchanges and romantic gestures. A day to reaffirm your feelings for that one important person who sets your heart ablaze.
To Beli's side of the population, it's a day of shame and oppression. A "what, you're still single?" day. A "honey, you can't be so picky" day. A "madhu, why haven't you called that nice Indian boy your auntie told you about?" day. Every exclamation makes her sink a little deeper into her de
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Literature
HuniePop: The Kitty Cat's New Master (preview)
“Nyaa~!  Those fishies look suuuper cute, Mister!”
Fishies!  Big fishies with silver scales and flappy tails, all taking their nappy times.  They must be hot, 'cause Mister is letting them rest on top’a ice cubes.  Do all fishies sleep with their eyes and mouthies open?  Momo isn’t sure, but it makes her giggle – they all look like such silly willies!  She presses her face against the glass and tries ta make that same face – big googly eyes and kissy lips. 
“Hey! Paws off the merchandise, ya dumb cat!”
Mrrow?  Mister’s carrying a broom, and he comes from behind the counter and – eep!  He swats at Momo! 
“Hey, Momo was just looking!” She tries t’explain, but Mister keeps on jabbing with his broom.
“Don’t hiss at me, ya stupid stray! Now get!”
Meanie!  Momo runs off, but she doesn’t get it.  There’s lotsa people loo
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Mature content
HuniePop: The Bounty Hunter's Escort (ch. 18) :iconcypher-ds:Cypher-DS 1 2
Literature
HuniePop: The Bounty Hunter's Escort (ch. 17)
Shoes paced restlessly down a metal deck. Mechanical arms clicked and whirred over their surgical work. A sharp gasp of pain, which Nikki hushed back with her hands and her voice. "Easy, it's okay. You'll be okay."
From behind her came a shaky murmur. "An alien … a real live, god-damn alien."
Audrey rotated on the spaceship's deck in slow, disbelieving circles, sucking on a cigarette the way a hospital patient might grab an oxygen mask for relief. She'd kept placid long enough to help drag Celeste up the ramp, but once inside her mind retreated in shellshock.
"Nik, this is all real, isn't it?"
Nikki didn't reply, didn't even notice the question. Her senses were focused entirely on her wounded Valkyrie; she wouldn't have noticed the diva if she were swearing and prying up the metal floorboards. She barely noticed Cogni's spare camera body peering over her shoulder at the raised medical stretcher, where segmented pincer arms worked over Celeste's inert form with needles and laser c
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Mature content
HuniePop: The Bounty Hunter's Escort (ch. 16) :iconcypher-ds:Cypher-DS 0 2
Literature
HuniePop: The Bounty Hunter's Escort (ch. 15)
Like a hurried white rabbit, the love fairy kept one step out of Nikki's reach, skipping gaily through the carnival wonderland while she huffed in hot pursuit. The winged girl seemed to know exactly how fast Nikki could run, pausing at certain corners so she could catch up or pulsing pink light from her body when Nikki lost track. She wants me to follow; she wants to tell me something!
Nikki moved on autopilot, intent on activating this NPC quest, never really concerning herself that she was leaving the colourful lights and music of the carnival behind her; that she was jogging further into the darkness of the night.
She'd never really read the cautionary tales about fairies luring children out into the woods.
The chase ended down one of the lamp-lit piers stretching into the ocean. This was one of the loading docks for the water taxis. Normally a haven for couples stealing off for a make-out session or carnival staff ducking off for a smoke break, now it was eerily deserted
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Mature content
HuniePop: The Bounty Hunter's Escort (ch. 14) :iconcypher-ds:Cypher-DS 1 0
Mature content
HuniePop: The Bounty Hunter's Escort (ch. 13) :iconcypher-ds:Cypher-DS 2 2
Mature content
HuniePop: The Bounty Hunter's Escort (ch. 12) :iconcypher-ds:Cypher-DS 2 2
Mature content
HuniePop: The Bounty Hunter's Escort (ch. 11) :iconcypher-ds:Cypher-DS 1 2
Mature content
HuniePop: The Bounty Hunter's Escort (ch. 10) :iconcypher-ds:Cypher-DS 0 3
Puella Captiva Madoka Magica - for Sailor Ptah by Cypher-DS Puella Captiva Madoka Magica - for Sailor Ptah :iconcypher-ds:Cypher-DS 7 21
Mature content
HuniePop: The Bounty Hunter's Escort (ch. 9) :iconcypher-ds:Cypher-DS 2 1
Mature content
HuniePop: The Bounty Hunter's Escort (ch. 8) :iconcypher-ds:Cypher-DS 1 9
Mature content
HuniePop: Braving the Plunge :iconcypher-ds:Cypher-DS 2 4

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AYC #52 - Overwatch yourself, Madoka!-ENG by AsFoxger AYC #52 - Overwatch yourself, Madoka!-ENG :iconasfoxger:AsFoxger 3 3 TEMP 147 celeste by Zorga13 TEMP 147 celeste :iconzorga13:Zorga13 9 3 AYC #39 - No refunds-ENG by AsFoxger AYC #39 - No refunds-ENG :iconasfoxger:AsFoxger 7 3 :SKETCH REQUEST BUNDLE: by CelestialTabris :SKETCH REQUEST BUNDLE: :iconcelestialtabris:CelestialTabris 30 14 Trisha, the ghost of a wingull. by EeveeLolipop Trisha, the ghost of a wingull. :iconeeveelolipop:EeveeLolipop 1 3 Cassandera by inuyeah Cassandera :iconinuyeah:inuyeah 1 2 Trisha the Sableye - 501 Pageviews Kiriban by CritexMind Trisha the Sableye - 501 Pageviews Kiriban :iconcritexmind:CritexMind 2 4 Megumi? Wake up! by Anonymous-Kuro Megumi? Wake up! :iconanonymous-kuro:Anonymous-Kuro 3 2 Robin the Combusken - Giftart for Cypher-DS by CritexMind Robin the Combusken - Giftart for Cypher-DS :iconcritexmind:CritexMind 1 2 That first touch by Leptocyon That first touch :iconleptocyon:Leptocyon 15 5 Virgil (for Cypher-DS) by WhiteLilySong Virgil (for Cypher-DS) :iconwhitelilysong:WhiteLilySong 1 2 the Nosepass Creature by AndrewMartinD the Nosepass Creature :iconandrewmartind:AndrewMartinD 7 4 Contest Prize 1: Headshot by Spiritoom Contest Prize 1: Headshot :iconspiritoom:Spiritoom 3 2 Hellfire (For Cypher-DS) by Wasserbienchen Hellfire (For Cypher-DS) :iconwasserbienchen:Wasserbienchen 33 5

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“Yeah, they like you, Tal,” Aiko mused as she and the amazon walked the hallways of UOG.

“You think?  I could feel their eyes burning a hole in my shirt!” the redhead exclaimed.  "If that dean asks me to ‘see him’ in his office, he’s not going to have enough teeth to apologize!"

"Mmm, I don’t think he’ll do that, T, but if you wear that sexy tank top, I’m pretty sure he’ll think twice.”

“Eyes forward, Miss Yumi,” Tala mimicked in her best strict teacher voice.

“Yes, Mistress Stone,” Aiko purred.

"Keep up that attitude, and you just might be calling me that.”

The next installment of “A Woman’s Woman” is now available on fanfiction.net, so go check it out!

Tala signs up for a job that’ll bring her closer to Aiko, makes a proposition to Kyanna while shopping, and encounters the dreaded mega-bitch.  Can she stand her ground against Audrey, or end up under her heel?

Reviews are always awesome!  (FFN does accept anonymous ones.)  Let Typhoon Boom and I know what you’re enjoying, or what relationships you’d like Tala to pursue.

Maybe it's the alcohol, but Junko swears she just saw a white stuffed animal toy trot past the window.

She leans over the table of her corner booth, squinting out the street-side window of her favorite lounge. Junko normally parks herself at the bar when she needs to relieve her sorrows, but Kazuko has gone home for the night, and she has no desire to make small talk with the servers. There's nothing, not a single passerby under the city lights, so she slides herself back into the plush leather and releases a sigh.

Just what I need - hallucinations. As if she didn't already have enough on her plate. Preparing the disastrous quarterly report for the shareholders, the meetings with the finance committee, and on top of all those surmountable obstacles, life had seen fit to gift her daughter with unspeakable cruelty. Madoka's best friend, missing for almost a week, had been found dead in a downtown apartment.

Fourteen years old… Junko reflects. Death is cruel at any age, but for a girl - a child - so unspeakably young, the injustice strikes her to the very core. Sayaka would have been the same age as -

A second time, Junko senses motion in her periphery vision - a flash of ghostly white retracing its steps. She forces herself to ignore it. Ridiculous, she chides herself, a conjuration brought about by one too many whisky chasers and the unfamiliar burden of a locked-off daughter.

But then there's a thump on the glass like the touch of a tiny paw. This time she indulges a side-glance outside, and what she sees makes her leap back in fright.

Red eyes. Staring at her.

The creature - not quite a cat, not quite a lop-eared rabbit - sits at the window with its paws folded at perfect attention, the rhythmic swish of its bulbous, white tail the only sign of motion. The eerie, unblinking stare of its red eyes burns the alcohol fog from her brain. She's undoubtedly awake now.

"What the -?"

It moves. Bounding up on its hind legs and pressing its face and front paws to the glass, mashing its glowing eyes against the window pane to examine her closer. Junko's heart is racing, but she's rooted to her seat, both in open astonishment and cold practicality. She could leap away screaming, but what good would that do? Who would believe her?

The creature rears back its head like a battering ram. The window gives an audible thunk at the impact, but where a small bird would keel over dead, the creature is unaffected. To a passing bystander, this would have been the begging tactic of a hungry animal - pressing its nose against the glass and pleading for scraps. From Junko's vantage point, the movement is anything but primal or instinctive. Nostril vapor fogs the glass in rhythmic snorts. Prehensile ears spread their finger-like tips over the surface, like a stalker restless to seize her. Its cherry tomato eyes are planted directly against the glass, their jellies ready to burst under the pressure.

It still hasn't blinked.

If the server wandered up right now, he would have cried out, wondering why this diseased creature was trying to crush its skull against the pane. Only Junko understood the intention. It was vibrating its way through the transparent barrier.

Paws and face fall through the glass and onto the inner ledge. A fluffy body and swishing tail follow suit, as though phase-shifting through an inch of glass were as effortless as pushing through a swinging cat door.

Junko follows as it bounds atop her table and folds up its paws, once more assuming that perfect posture. The unholy glow of its red eyes quirks up to meet her wide, violet orbs.

So, you can see me.–

Junko doesn't hear the bright, boyish voice, per se. It's more of an echo rippling through her mind, bypassing the inefficiencies of soundwave-based communication to touch her very soul.

Junko raises a trembling hand across the table. She has to be sure. The creature observes her approach, but makes no move to stop her from stroking its head. It even leans into the caress, giving an appreciative purr. His fur is just as soft and inviting as she remembers.

"Kyubey…"

The name rushes off her lips, hesitant and uncertain. But then he lifts his hind leg for that telltale ear scratch and her doubts rush away.

"Kyubey!" Junko's laughter is bright and breezy. "You little sonofabitch, how've you been? C'mon, gimmie some paw, little guy!"

It takes him a moment to remember their signature greeting, but then he hops up to touch a foreleg against her palm. Haa… she could knead those squishy footpads for days and never get tired!

It's been a while, Junko Midorikawa.–

"Junko Kaname," she corrects, flashing the ring over her fourth finger. "Made a contract of my own since you last came by."

Ah, a ring of wedding. So you've selected a mate.–

"Let's just say I met a real charmer. Y'know, you could learn a few things from Tomo."

He certainly must have been convincing to sway you,– the creature agrees. Or perhaps you were the one to take the initiative?–

Junko laughs, reminiscing on her Tomo's startled face that first time she cornered the laidback arts major in the campus hallway, slamming a hand above his shoulder and pinning him against the wall like a fly in her spider's web. Oh, she'd certainly been … persuasive.

"You've got me all figured out, Kyu-chan."

Lord, it's like it was just yesterday! She still remembers Miwa's excited face, calling her to "c'mere, c'mere" and look at the amazingly cute animal she'd found behind the school. She thinks of their failed experiments to capture his photograph or reflection - "like a freakin' vampire," she'd exclaimed - and their uncharacteristically girlish screams when that spritely voice first bubbled into their heads. Not long after that, they'd been introduced to Nishimura-senpai and the secret world of the puella magi.

This is quite the abnormality,– Kyubey muses. –An ex-candidate such as yourself shouldn't be able to see or interact with me like this, especially considering your advanced age.–

"Callin' me old, fuzzball?"

Not at all, considering your species' average life expectancy.– Lord, dig past that cutie-pie face and he was as clinical as ever. –But I'm sure you're aware that you are well beyond the age range to form a contract.–

She remembers the almost pleading tone to his voice as her seventeenth birthday loomed closer –Junko, you still have time! You must make a wish and become a magical girl!–  How his body and voice seemed to blur and fade with every passing day. How she struggled, like an addict going cold turkey, to shut him out just a little while longer, a pillow smothered over her head and her teeth clamped down in a vice. Oh, he'd tempted her good and hard those final days.

Now, having lived sober for twenty years, Junko can smile wistfully, separating the rosy wheat from the nightmarish chaff of her memories. He can't harm her anymore.

"So, Kyu-chan, did I just divide the universe by zero? All of space and time gonna start crashing around us 'cause I can see you again?"

Merely a minor glitch, I expect. Given the anomalous events of the last month, I'm surprised I haven't encountered further such peculiarities.–

The last month, huh…? The conversation stalls as Junko digests that tidbit. Across the table, Kyubey continues to watch her, but she knows that's no indication of attention. She imagines the intelligence on the other end of that terrestrial puppet could be engaged in any number of side-tasks – scanning his roster of 'chosen ones' for status updates, monitoring the globe for flashes of witch activity; maybe typing a reminder into his alien iPhone to pick up blue milk on the way home from the office.

"So, you gonna join me for a drink?"

Kyubey tilts his head, a good approximation of human puzzlement. –No, my body is adequately hydrated at the moment, and I don't believe those nutrients would be beneficial to my system.– Lord, he really hasn't changed.

"Kyubey, Kyubey, Kyubey," she scolds. "Read the intent. This is one of those 'human social rituals' I kept explaining to you. When two old friends meet after a long time apart, they're supposed to sit down and shoot the breeze. Preferably over alcohol."

Ah.–

The table's ashtray has sat unused, but she polishes it off with her sleeve anyhow before drizzling a mouthful of her martini into the impromptu water dish. Kyubey sniffs the offering cautiously as he weighs his options.

Well, this hemisphere has entered its sleep cycle, and I don't anticipate being called by any of the active magical girls in this area. –

"That's the spirit," Junko cheers, raising her glass and swigging generously. Kyubey responds in kind, bending down and lapping up a mouthful. His cherry eyes bulge a little, and he returns to the well for another drink.

It's sweeter than I anticipated. My taste receptors are quite stimulated.–

Oh, she remembered Miwa uttering a similar, if simpler, exclamation when she'd first convinced her friend to sneak a bit of sake from her dad's stash. She doubted she could get the little fuzzball to parade with her in a drunken karaoke duet, though. Baby steps with this one. I'll make a booze hound of you yet, Kyu-chan.

Your appearance has changed drastically, Junko. You seem very respectable by your culture's standards.–

"Well, I found a classier look than leather jackets and rolled-up tartans. Don't think I've lost my edge, though. I’ve moved on up from terrorizing the back alleys.  Nowadays, I just terrorize the HR department."

A wave of nostalgia hits her. The dimly-lit lounge is a far contrast from the loud, plastic garishness of the old burger joint, but the booth is big enough to seat four. She'd always take the corner seat - easiest spot to hide her purse and the silver flask within; Miwa would cram in beside her, scarfing down fries and lamenting about her boy troubles in between mouthfuls. Kyubey always took the corner seat across the table, nakedly staring at her like an adolescent boy nursing a crush. Next to the little space rat, always cool and refined against their slouching punk aesthetic, always using a plastic knife and fork to disassemble her burger would be -

Junko Kaname, are you crying?–

"Just reminiscing," she lies. "We had some good times back then, didn't we? Sneaking around late at night, saving curse victims..."

Nishimura was quite the efficient hunter,– Kyubey agrees. –It was interesting to note how much more neatly and speedily she dispatched her opponents once she met you and Miss Miwa.–

"Could you blame her? Probably wanted to impress her trainees."

Hmm, you humans do put great emphasis on 'saving face' as you called it. At any rate, it would have been most interesting to observe the three of you in combat together.–

That's another social etiquette Kyubey never did pick up: how to keep the topic of conversation light and breezy.

"If you were so keen on having us work together," Junko mutters, a shadow crossing her eyes, "Maybe you shouldn't have let Miwa waste her one chance with that god-awful wish."

The wishes you make are yours alone to dictate. I can only facilitate the process; I can't adjust the parameters myself.–

"If you'd made a simple suggestion -"

The wish was Miwa's choice, Junko. If she'd considered the situation calmly, perhaps she would have added additional parameters to her wish. For example, 'I wish that Miss Nishimura would be resurrected outside the labyrinth?' Away from the witch that first mauled her?–

"Well she didn't, and you let her, and we both had to watch our friend die twice that day."

If I'd hesitated to grant Miwa's wish, both of you might have been devoured.–

"You mean I would have been devoured. Don't pretend you gave a rat's ass about Miwa."

Miwa had the potential to become a magical girl, and that made her my concern. But you are correct. Had my time or resources been limited, I would have prioritized you. I had never encountered someone with potential like yours, Junko.–

If he wasn't an unblinking little doll, Junko might have mistaken that for a flirty compliment.

Do you regret not making a wish, Junko?–

"Never." It's out her lips so quickly, an automatic reflex. "No, I may have yelled and screamed at my mother every night, but I'd never wish that awful look upon her face."

If she closes her eyes, she can still see herself at Nishimura's funeral, still see her senpai's father struggling to stand tall, her mother fighting back the tears of incomprehensible anguish. She can still see the funeral urn, remember thinking in a detached way that they could have bought a child-sized one, the kind used for premature babies and infants.

There'd only been half a body left to cremate, after all.

"No, no regrets," she repeats. She'd seen the dark side of their little fantasy world that day, and it had drained every ounce of youthful courage she had. "Besides, I had Miwa's wish to think about. She had a two-parter, remember?"

Kyubey gives a flawless recital: –That Nishimura-senpai were alive again,–

"-and that the three of us could be happy together." Junko shakes her head and nurses down another sip. "I've been living life for the three of us, Kyu-chan. I think Miwa wanted it that way."

It'll be easier if we share the load, Jun-chan. Miwa would go off to hunt in the shadows, while she would bear the scalding light of day. Copying out two sets of homework while her friend was off on her underground war; inventing excuses when Mrs. Takashi called asking about her daughter. Teaching herself first aid, working a needle and thread over Miwa's wounds in the lamplight, so she wouldn't have to waste her magic on repairs.

Remembering to smile, when she could offer nothing more. She'd done something right, hadn't she? In the end, Miwa had been smiling when the police found her, sprawled in the alleyway and -

Wait…

"Kyubey, I've gotta ask. There was this friend of my -" she fakes a cough, "- friend of mine who's a teacher. One of her students passed away this week. Sayaka Miki." No signs of physical trauma, no toxins or drugs reported in the autopsy. Like Miwa, it was as if she'd simply fallen asleep. "She was one of your girls, wasn't she?"

Sayaka Miki? Yes, she did contract with me. –

Junko nods. It's all making sense, now: the missing senior girl at the school, Kazuko's excited news about the Kamijo boy and his miraculous recovery, her Madoka's evasive advice-seeking about a 'friend of hers'. This is spiralling all too close for her liking. Distance. She needs distance.

"I'm probably keeping you. You've probably got places to go, far-off magical girls to visit."

No, my business will keep me within Mitakihara City.–

Junko reaches for her drink. Her throat is suddenly too dry to swallow. She needs to shift the conversation, but what has Kyubey ever been interested in besides contracts? An idea clicks. She spreads her hands in a 'ta-da!' pose.

"Hey, Kyu-chan, whaddya think?"

She swears that's a sigh she hears in her head. –You know how difficult it is for me to respond to those sorts of generalizations.–

"I mean about me," she scoffs. Let's pull the topic back to safer grounds. "Back then, you were practically begging me to contract. I kept saying I wasn't anything special, but you told me I had some … what was it? Destiny! Cosmic destiny!"

Karmic destiny,– he corrects. –The actions of your life were set to impact tens of thousands.–

"Yeah, that's it. So, how'd I do?"

A head tilt.

"Oh come on, now! I'm an executive for one of Japan's leading multinationals! I'm pulling a seven-figure salary. Gorgeous house, two fancy cars, a wonderful husband. I've got a beautiful … boy. So you tell me, Kyu-chan - has my destiny peaked, or are there greater things just beyond the horizon?"

Kyubey scratches disinterestedly at his neck. –I don't possess precognition. It was more of a general survey of your potential.–

"So, am I destined to make even bigger waves?"

Oh, your significance to the universe was never dependent on your personal accomplishments, Junko. Though, admittedly, I'm only able to say that through hindsight. Your successes, your achievements - none of it ever truly mattered. The potential I sensed from you was entirely to do with your ovaries. The truly significant one is your daughter!–

Junko's heart stop. All of time stops.

But twenty years of climbing the corporate ladder has left her poker face flawless.

"Pfft, my what now?" She slaps the table and gives a merry laugh. "Daughter? Have I gotta scrub the wax from those adorable little ears, Kyubey? I have a son. His name is -"

It's all right, Junko. There's no need to hide her existence from me. I've already become acquainted with Madoka, and I can confirm that her potential exceeds yours by a hundred - no, a thousand-fold! She could very well be the most powerful magical girl in all of existence!–

Underneath the table, Junko's fist clenches. "You've met Madoka?"

Yes! She's been quite accommodating and has invited me over to your house on many occasions. She's allowed me to sleep in her bed, and I've bathed with her in your shower!–

Junko takes a deep swig, to calm the tremors running through her body. Her soul gem, she reflects, would have flooded black by now.

"You're out of luck, then. My Madoka is far too clever to accept one of your contracts."

Actually she's been very close to contracting on multiple occasions. There have been … outside interferences, but it's only a matter of time. A statistical inevitability, really.–

"You always were good with math," she nods, tight-lipped. She's watching Kyubey through the distortions of her glass, watching his head twist and bloat as she twirls the stem against the light. Kyubey laps up the remainder of his drink, oblivious to the dragon he's roused from slumber.

Well, that beverage was refreshing, Junko, and this meeting has given me much to consider on the topic of intergenerational candidate selection. Hmm, I believe I should say it was … good? Good to see you?–

"You learn quickly," she nods in a thin-lipped smile. "But you really shouldn't leave before a last toast."

Ah, yes. Your primitive superstition of blessing.– Junko wonders if she's imagining the wobble in his posture, whether the alcohol's dulled his motor reflexes any. –Then… hmm, a toast to Madoka!– he declares.

Junko raises her drink in reply -

"For Madoka,"

- and she smashes the martini glass against the creature's skull.

Kyubey doesn't cry out - oh no, that would be too satisfying - but his head gives a nice crack against the table, and for a beautiful moment, the slow-motion shards flipping through the air sparkle like elegant crystals. The diamond dust Nishimura would summon from her baton was never more beautiful than this, she reflects.

Then time resumes and she's on her feet, squeezing Kyubey's throat and pinning him against the table. The stem and base of her martini glass are no magical wand, but they'll do just fine. Junko flips the stem, angling its broken tip down like an ice pick and goes to town on his face.

It takes three of the servers to pull her away from her holy work: two to seize her arms, and another to keep her legs from kicking. A distant part of her mind realizes she looks crazy - hacking away at the wooden table with her self-made dagger, screaming bloody murder at the invisible demon only she can see:

"YOU - LEAVE - MY - MADOKA - ALONE!"

Then she's dumped unceremoniously into the parking lot, laughing and relishing the blood over her hands.

It's all too short a victory. The overhead lights flicker, and then he's standing on the hood of her car, a single red eye on a black shadow.

–You really haven't changed one bit, Junko.  Always so violent…–

Kyubey steps into the light, and Junko gasps at the work she's done on his face.  How is he still standing?

There's a piece of glass sticking out of one of those bulbous, red eyes, and long scars raked all the way down his face. Despite its injuries, the eye just carries on blinking and staring. It has to; the other is swollen shut and oozing blood. His lower lip is hanging by a thread, revealing the firmly clenched canines underneath. It looks good, Junko thinks, taking in his mottled fur and his sharp pants of air. It's like she finally got him angry.

Kyubey sighs into her head. –This is quite the inconvenience, Junko. It’s extremely difficult for me to request a respawn for non-critical injuries.–

"Stay the hell away from my Madoka!"

You have no power or authority to command me, Junko Kaname. Your daughter's wish is her choice alone, and I will attend to her every need.–

Quick as a whip, he leaps off the car towards her. Junko flinches, certain that he's going to claw and scrabble at her in return. Kyubey merely trots up to her sprawled form. She tries to reassure herself - look, his ear-tails are dragging, he's avoiding pressure on that front paw. The truth is she's terrified. Watching this monster walk forth so casually after twenty stab wounds to the head, she can't help but whimper and scoot back.

What've I got to do to kill you?

There's a storm approaching, Junko Kaname. When you arrive home, please take the necessary steps to prepare your family for evacuation. It would be terribly inconvenient if Madoka died from something as trivial as a hurricane.–

The warning is delivered in the usual cheerful tone, but the skeletal grin on his mangled face makes it sound like a threat.

The lights flicker again, and he's gone, a ghostly memory once more.

Junko drags herself into her car, and once the doors are locked and she's secure, she curls up and cries.


Kyubey never was one for lying. The storm hits hard the following morning, and when the evacuation orders race across the airwaves, she's already dressed and ready to go with emergency supplies packed for her family.

Madoka is silent the entire ride. To Tomohisa, it's a continued grief. Mourning the loss of her friend and retreating inward, but Junko sees it all so clearly now. Sees her daughter looking out - scanning the horizon with a terrible mix of dread and determination.

Nishimura had stories about storms like these, campfire tales of witches so dreadful they could twist the very elements to their will.

This isn't your fight, she thinks, willing their thoughts to connect. Someone else can take the burden! You don't know what it's like! What it'll cost you...

When Madoka mumbles an excuse about going to the washroom, Junko is close behind, a mother bear shadowing her cub. She can't see the little, white beast anymore - glitch corrected, she scowls - but Madoka certainly isn't mumbling and sobbing to herself as she takes in the fury of the storm. Her tiny fist clenches, and suddenly she's darting for the staircase, for the doors below.

Junko is on her in an instant, snatching at her arm.

"Where do you think you're going, huh?"

Madoka pleads her case, but all she can hear are the same lies and half-truths Kyubey pressed upon her all those years ago:

You have to become a magical girl. It's the only way to save your friend!

There's no time! You're the only one who can -

The slap echoes across the hallway. She's never once brought a hand against her child, and Junko immediately hates herself, that this is what she's been reduced to. She soldiers on, staring down her daughter in a last-ditch effort to tear the scales from her eyes.

You think you're being a hero? That this is some game? "You can't just go out doing whatever you want! Don't you know how much we'd worry about you if went out anywhere without saying any-"

"I know."

Her daughter's voice is clear and calm. Resolved.

There's none of Miwa's false cheer, none of Nishimura's forced confidence. Just a somber acknowledgement - of the burden that's been placed upon her, of the sacrifice demanded.

Junko wants to run after her, to hold her little girl, keep her safe and protected, but Madoka turns her away. "I need you to trust me that I'm doing the right thing."

The mother inside of her can't help but reach out one more time. If this is our last time …

"And you're sure you're not making a mistake?" Her eyes scan the room for the devil's red eyes. "That no one's lying to you or trying to trick you?"

"I'm sure."

Junko releases her breath, feeling like she's expelling twenty years of her life in that rush of air. So this is it, huh?

Then let's go with a smile.

A playful shove on the back - the kind she'd offer when her child was dithering over clothing, or fussing over a presentation at school - a firm, 'you've got this' push to remind her that this mountain was nothing but a molehill.

Madoka wobbles once, then regains her balance.

"Thank you, mom. I love you."

Head held high with purpose, her Madoka rushes off into the storm. Junko forces herself to stand tall, waiting to see if her child will stop or stumble, so she can smile and shove her onward the instant she falters.

Madoka doesn't look back.

Make it a good wish, she thinks. Make it flashy. Something that'll send that pompous flea-bag's head spinning!

Make it count, she prays. Something that'll bring a smile to the whole world. The same way that you brought a smile to mine… 

Madoka Magica: A Last Drink with Mephistopheles
I've been a long-time fan of Puella Magi Madoka Magica ever since it first came out in 2011, but when I finally saw the English dub, the phrasing of a key scene in episode 11 made my jaw drop:

"And you're sure you're not making a mistake?  That no one's lying to you or trying to trick you?"

Madoka's mother had some eerily appropriate warnings about liars and tricksters when they last spoke to one another, and it sent my inner fanfic speculator into overdrive.  Did she know what her daughter was about to do?  Did she have her own insight and experiences with the Incubators that would make her wary about wishes and good intentions?  This fanfic is the result.

What do you think?  Am I crazy?  Is there a kernel of truth to this speculation?  Let me know in the comments!

...

Also, now I really want to see fanart of young, punk Junko going all kabedon on her husband-to-be. :D  Make it happen, people!
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Homura Comic - Concept Sketches
I was recently asked about my drawing process, so I uploaded these sketches to demo my work in progress.

All of my initial drawings are done in a tablet program called "Paint Gallery". It's free to use, and the ads aren't terribly intrusive.  To minimize my drawing time, I try to re-use poses and paste on different faces.  In this case, I got away with only creating a single model for Homura and playing "Mrs. Potato Head" with her emotions.

After the drawings are done, I pop it all into Windows Paint, where I position the models over backgrounds, fill in the colours and add text panels.  

And that's the story behind the stories.  I'm always looking to expand my repertoire, so if you have any suggestions for drawing programs or techniques, it would be a great help to hear new ideas.
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It's a small relief that the hallway is deserted, Beli decides. She's certain she'll die of shame if anyone catches her, the yoga and fitness specialist, struggling to push down a simple office stapler.

"Come on now," she pleads, bearing her full weight onto the little paper pincher. "Just one staple? Please?" Now is not the time for her office supplies to be growing a stubborn streak, not when that day is fast approaching.

February the fourteenth. Valentine's Day to the lucky few who have found someone worth sharing their lives with, a day of tender exchanges and romantic gestures. A day to reaffirm your feelings for that one important person who sets your heart ablaze.

To Beli's side of the population, it's a day of shame and oppression. A "what, you're still single?" day. A "honey, you can't be so picky" day. A "madhu, why haven't you called that nice Indian boy your auntie told you about?" day. Every exclamation makes her sink a little deeper into her den of insecurities.

Well Beli Lapran has had enough of living in the shadow of February's judgemental fourteenth day, thank you very much! This will be the year that everything changes. Grunting and giving a good push on her stapler, she steps back and admires the poster she's tacked onto the fitness center's bulletin board:

Single Women's Appreciation Retreat

February 14th - Hosted by Beli Lapran

A day of rejuvenation and female companionship.

$20 for activities. Lunch is provided.

Yes, she smiles firmly, this is exactly what she and her friends need to strike back against Valentine's oppression. A day all to themselves, no grumbling over cocktails about the lack of good men and the abundance of rotten luck. No, this year the focus would be on themselves – to celebrate the freedom and fulfillment of single living!

She has the day planned to a tee. They'll begin with a meditation at Dawnwood Park to imbue themselves with energy and positivity. To invigorate their bodies, a healthy picnic luncheon of finger sandwiches and sparkling lemonade will follow. Afterwards, they'll attend a group poetry reading at the Blue Note café, and they'll cap off the afternoon with a road trip to the local winery just outside of town for a special tasting session. As the sun sets over the vineyards, she and her friends will laugh gaily and sip from the finest cabernet sauvignon as they enjoy the delightful conversation and camaraderie that can only be found among the female sex.

It will be elegant, it will be refreshing; it will be everything wonderful and feminine!

It will be unattended.

Jessie is the first to bow out. "Sorry, hon, I've got a hot date booked that day; not to mention I'm hosting a very special cam show for all of my single fans."

"Oh, I see…" It stands to reason that February 14th would be a prime work day for people in Jessie's … profession, but – "Won't that be a problem? Will your date really be okay with you … um, camming?"

"He'd better," Jessie grins. "After all, he's co-starring!"

Aiko is next, and at first the math teacher is game. "Singles party, sounds fun. Hang on, lemmie check my schedule." Her Asian friend retrieves her phone from her bra and swipes at the screen. "Hmm… I'm good, I'm good, I'm –" Aiko's finger pauses. "Very good! Sorry Beli, but I'm spending the day with –" she consults her phone again, "AsianTrucker69."

The Tinder username doesn't actually read 'Trucker' but Beli can't even bring herself to say something so vulgar, never mind narrate it. Aiko is out.

That leaves Lola, and while the flight attendant will be in town that weekend, she'll be sequestering herself in training. "Big tennis tournament coming up and my coach is making me work all day," Lola explains, all the while cracking tennis balls tossed her way by an automated pitching machine. Beli is careful to keep her distance from the power shots but she's getting desperate at this point.

"Couldn't you at least join us for the winery?" she pleads.

"Wish I could." Lola levels her a sly grin, "but let's just say I'll be making my coach work all night long."

Like a stray tennis ball, disappointment hits Beli in the gut. Her friends – her pantheon of strong, single women – they all have dates.

But then Beli scolds herself for not wishing well of her friends. She admires them all dearly to the point of dreaming she could be more like them. In her mind, she imagines herself saddled up on a bar stool in a strapless cocktail dress, radiating Jessie's effortless poise, Aiko's lackadaisical charm and Lola's bubbly confidence as she sips a dirty martini and lets the men vie to light her cigarette. In her mind, she is the one commanding the attention and offering apologies to her friends. "Wish I could stay, ladies, but I have a long, hard meeting tonight," she purrs, gesturing to the two gorgeous specimens paying her bar tab and fetching her coat.

A shabbily dressed and sickly-looking Jessie fawns enviously before hacking up a lung. "You're an amazing woman, Beli! I thought my life of adult film-making would shower me in glamour, but all it brought me are venereal diseases and loneliness…"

"Oh Beli," a worn-down Lola sighs, "if only I could live the high life like you; instead, I'm constantly harassed by obnoxious airline passengers and uppity baristas. Even my many chintzy tennis trophies can't bring me satisfaction…"

Dream Aiko gives her a thumbs up. "A threesome - nice work, kiddo. I gotta go finish this cold can of Spaghetti-Os before AsianTrucker69 comes to plow me."

In her mind, everyone pauses to blink.

"What?" Dream Aiko shrugs as she flips through a worn copy of Jugs. "My real life's already in the shitter. I just don't give a damn."

Beli shakes herself back to reality, where she scolds herself for indulging such vindictive fantasies. She wishes each friend good luck and happiness on their Valentine activities, reminding herself what a privilege it is to be allowed into their social circle.

But it does sting, knowing she's been left behind.


When Judgement Day rolls around, Beli plods dutifully to the park, yoga mat and picnic basket in tow, reasoning that, even though no one's RSVP'd, she could still get some last-minute hits through her posters, and it would be terribly ungracious if she as a host didn't show up.

And so she waits, glancing at the passing couples, trying to play it cool as she checks her watch. Trying not to fidget nervously. One of her students will show up, right?

Five minutes past the meeting time – an eternity of torment – but just as Beli is preparing to give up and leave, the sound of sandals crunching through the grass perks her up like a sunflower.

"Hiya, Bels! We ready to get this party started?"

She immediately wilts. Oh truck, Beli moans. Truck, truck, truckity-truck!

It's Kyanna Delrio, the new student in her evening yoga class, and the last person Beli wants to spend an entire day alone with.

"Am I early?" Kyanna checks, palm to her brow as she scans the field. "I thought you were throwing a kick-ass party. Where's everyone else?"

"Oh, ah, I suppose they made other plans," Beli murmurs. Inside, she's frantically scrambling for an escape route. "I was just about to pack up –" but as soon as she rises to her feet, Kyanna scoops her arm around Beli's shoulders, squishing the taller woman tight with a forceful hug.

"Guess the two of us will just have to party it up for the whole group, huh? Aw, this is sweet - I get some one-on-one time with my favorite yoga buddy! Damn, I should've brought my workout gear, flash a little downward dog for all the passing studs, eh Bels?"

The younger woman claps her on the back like they're best bros at a football party, and Beli tries not to wince at the forceful hit. "Yes... How wonderful, Kyanna..."

God, Buddha, Allah - whoever's out there listening, what horrible, horrible past lives had she lived to earn a day with Kyanna Delrio?


It was a month ago when the Latina first barged into her yoga class – thrusting her crumpled application form into Beli's face and flashing a big, goofy grin. "Kyanna Delrio! I'm gonna be an actress someday, so I figured I should grab some yoga classes to stay flexible. You know, keep my body loose and limber for those action and chase scenes, right?"

"Umm… of course…" Beli nodded politely. Facing Kyanna's smile was like staring into a high-intensity sunlamp; she couldn't help but avert her eyes. Beli could already sense her hair curling with nervous stress. "Um, so you know, we start at five o'clock sharp, so … next time, could you…"

"Whoops, my bad! I'll totally set my timer," Kyanna smiles, offering a wave to the irritated students sitting through this exchange. Casually, she adds, "by the way, I'm a hairdresser, so if you ever wanna fix that cut you've got, I'll totally score you a discount!"

Wha-? Beli's locks burst like worn springs. She knew she'd cut it short, but... not oddly short, right? There wasn't something wrong with her hair … was there?

Beli quickly realized that Kyanna was the sort of person she would struggle to get along with. Too blunt, too outspoken, and completely lacking in any filters.

"Hey Teach - you're Indian, right? How come you don't have one of those red dots on your head?"

"Okay, heads up, girls – I totally chowed down a bean burrito for lunch. You ladies might wanna grab the front rows today, just sayin'."

"Yo Bels, you ever get porn stars in your classes? I could totally see this yoga stuff helping in the bedroom!"

When she's not talking, Kyanna is scanning her phone for text messages in-between poses. Every session she plops her phone next to her yoga mat, breaking the meditative stillness to giggle or give a cute 'aww' – probably over some cat picture on her Facebook feed. Beli figures she's a shopaholic signed up for real-time sale updates, because sometimes after glancing at that screen, Kyanna's face will go dead serious and she'll drop everything and leave. "Sorry, gotta go," is all the explanation she ever offers.

Not only that, but when she does manage to stay until the very end of class, Kyanna is always prodding at her to take things faster. "Can we speed it up a bit, Teach?" It's practically Kyanna's motto at this point. She's always rushing through the poses, always insisting that Beli show her something more challenging when she's barely mastered the basics. Yoga is about finding peace and stillness – the perfect tranquility of a pond of water – and Kyanna is the five year old giggling as she stomps her boots through the mud.

She's constantly late for class and misses every other session, she's forever blurting whatever nonsense pops into her head, and her concept of personal space is non-existent. This is the person she's expected to spend her Valentine's Day with?

"Hey Bels, isn't it a total relief to know you're not the only dateless chick on V-Day?"

In just five minutes, her hair has sprouted more curls than Lola's ringlets. Please, Beli begs mentally, please don't lump us together…


With every activity, Beli learns a little more about her student. For starters, Kyanna has no sense of etiquette.

When Beli serves the finger sandwiches, the Latina snatches them three at a time, layering them into a triple-decker sandwich and stuffing them in her mouth all at once. Then she tries talking with the crusts still in her mouth, spitting out bits of bread and cucumber while gossiping about her flamboyant salon customers.

"And I'm like, cholo, don't yammer to me about how you're getting your hair done for your chica. We all know you're queer as three dollar bill! … Hey, you gonna finish that, Bels?"

Beli gladly surrenders her sandwich. Her stomach is far too knotted to eat at this point.

Kyanna's excited for the poetry reading but she's under the delusion that it's an open mic audience participation event. The first reader dances on stage like a kite in the breeze - a pale-faced free-spirit decorated with frizzy red hair and tye-dyed scarves and shawls. She tip-toes up to the microphone and, in a silvery voice, whispers her ode to the female sex:

"A wind of refreshment, a wall impregnable and strong. I am woman – hear my roar."

Kyanna pumps both fists in the air. "WHOO, preach it, sister!"

Beli cups a hand over her face and offers apologetic smiles to the neighbouring tables.


Kyanna is intrusive.

To keep the car ride soothing and peaceful, Beli has brought a CD collection full of pan-flute music and Kenny G smooth jazz. Kyanna piles in shotgun and assumes the role of road trip DJ. "Hope you don't mind, but I mixed a pretty sweet playlist last night. You ready to jam to my girl, Beyoncé?"

The iPod is jacked in before Beli can offer a word in edgewise, and now Kyanna is bouncing in her seat, hands beat-boxing on the dash in accompaniment to her shrill karaoke. "WHOO! ALL THE SINGLE LADIES, ALL THE SINGLE LADIES! C'mon, Bels – sing it with me, girl!"

And that's another thing – where did that nickname come from? Bels? It makes her sound like a cheap, musical souvenir, a colourful charm to be swatted about for the amusement of a high-strung kitten. The way Kyanna keeps laughing and slapping her on the shoulder, she wonders if the Latina really is trying to coax a jingle out of her.

When they finally arrive at the winery, Beli realizes there's been a grave misunderstanding. Tasting etiquette dictates that one sip their wine – absorb the flavor, take note of the subtle palette, and then spit. Kyanna is swallowing the sampler glasses left and right, tipping her head back and chugging like a college girl on spring break!

"No way, all this shit is free? Par-tay, Bels!"

The other guests are outfitted in well-pressed polo shirts and elegant summer dresses. Kyanna has come in cut-off jean shorts and a striped tank top that keeps flashing her bra straps. She looks like a pool cleaner who stumbled out of the servant's quarters. Everyone is whispering and making faces at Kyanna's antics and, by proxy, her thoroughly embarrassed host.

And Beli has had enough.

She strides up to Kyanna with her features scrunched up in a death glare and throws her drink in Kyanna's face. "How dare you," she bellows, emphasizing every word like a slap across the cheek. "I have never been so humiliated in all my life!"

At least that's how it plays out in her mind's eye. In reality, Kyanna is having a marvelous time mingling with the other guests, deflating the stuffy air with her crude jokes and celebrity gossip. She gets the women talking about their hair or their manicures and suddenly they're long-lost friends, enjoying a glass of wine and reminiscing about the good old days.

Beli, as she's come to expect of herself, hovers on the sidelines. She wants to join in - add a story, recommend a local shop - but her tongue freezes up where Kyanna's flows so freely. No one wants me here, she realizes. Everyone's far too excited to speak with the fun and boisterous Kyanna; what would they ever want from a poor, pathetic mouse like herself?

Slowly, quietly, Beli falls back to the corner, wondering how her perfect day slipped away so quickly.


"-and she has no filter! She just says whatever nonsense pops into her head!"

The facilities inside the winery include a restaurant bar with dark, oak counters and dim lighting, and it's here that Beli retreats to, spilling her woes to a fellow patron at the bar, who nods understandingly.

"Señorita, you've got the patience of a saint to put up with someone like that."

Her companion – she never did get his name – is such a good listener, and he's easy to look at too. A dark, Latin tan with impeccably trimmed hair and a smart business-casual suit that emphasizes his broad shoulders and tall build. The top buttons of his shirt are popped, and Beli can't help but dream about what that exposed skin would feel like under her hands. What his hands would feel like all over her body…

"I'm so sorry for unloading on you like this," she stammers. How Kyanna-like of her, barging in on this man's time and making a spectacle of herself. Like a gentleman, he shrugs off the apology.

"Don't say another word. We all need a chance to unwind." Thoughtful as ever, he motions for the bartender to refill Beli's glass.

"Thank you, but I really shouldn't have any more." As if to prove her point, her body pops up in a little hiccup, and they laugh together at her drunken tic. She's being so silly but he continues to smile and keep her company.

"If you're worried about driving home, you should come back to my place. I have a wonderful Australian merlot, aged twelve years. I could use a pretty woman to share it with."

"Mm, that does sound nice," she agrees, but a glance at her watch makes her wince. "It is getting late though, and I don't want to impose."

"It's not like I'm going to throw you out," he laughs. Growling into her ear, he adds, "I'd insist you stay for breakfast."

As if to make sure there's no misunderstanding, he scoops an arm around her shoulders, bringing them side by side. His remaining hand slips below the bar to squeeze her thigh.

Beli goes stiff with fright.

"Oh… I mean, I don't know …"

"C'mon, you don't want to be all alone on Valentine's Day, do you?" Closer still, his breath is burning against her ear. "Look, I'm clean as a whistle, I've got protection. I like you, and you like this, don't you?" Beli gasps in fright when his fingers slide up her leg, and he takes it as a sign to continue.

"Feels good, doesn't it? I want you, Bella. I want to make you feel so good. Your first time should be special, shouldn't it?"

Amid her panic, Beli manages a small, mental wince. Is it something about her traditional clothes - her sari - that gives the impression of being sheltered? Or is it some general assumption that a women who's nervous and introverted must be a virgin? Despite the teasing of her friends, Beli has dated, and she has shared her bed with a man before, but she can't say she's ever truly enjoyed herself…

"I'm not … I mean …"

But his hand is worming up her thigh and she can only whimper. Not again. She's played through this scenario before; she recognizes the subtle pressures seeping through her paper-thin defenses. Familiar doubts re-surface in her mind. Maybe I am just being a prude… Jessie and Aiko seem so much happier with casual flings, and he does seem considerate. Maybe I am just worrying too much… Maybe this one will be sensitive to her needs, realize when she's crying out in pain instead of pleasure.

Maybe I can make something out of this... Maybe this one will actually return her calls.

At the same time her heart is jackhammering, tight with unbearable tension. "I, I mean, my car is here and-"

"Well why didn't you say so?" Suddenly his hand is cuffed over her wrist; he's rising to his feet, slapping down bills for the bartender and pulling her along. "C'mon, we can grab a quick one in the back seat if that's your thing."

And as her leads her to the door, she sees her future oh so clearly. She doesn't want this. She wants him to let go, to let her breathe. She wants to wake up tomorrow without feeling dirty with shame. 'No!' Such a simple word, and it races through her mind like a caged animal, desperate for an outlet. Why does it always end like this? Why can't she muster the nerve to part her lips and speak?

The doors to the parking lot are so close now. Someone … please, anyone…

"¡Oye, cabrón! ¿Qué haces con mi amiga?"

The Spanish bark makes them both stop and swivel their heads at the interloper. Beli flushes red with embarrassment. It's Kyanna, and she's marching across the bar like a soldier on the warpath. The anger in her eyes is downright unsettling.

The man rolls his eyes wearily. Unlike Beli, he seems to understand Spanish, and dismisses Kyanna with a quick snap of the foreign language. "Quédate al margen, borracha," he snorts, but with a sly grin he adds, "¿a menos que quieres unirtenos?"

Kyanna recoils like she's about to vomit, but she doesn't back down. "¿Eres un puto pervetido, lo sabías?"

They trade Spanish barbs back and forth, and Beli can only stammer politely and wonder what they're saying. It all comes to a head when the man steps into Kyanna's face and swaps back to English.

"You think she even wants you here? I've been listening to her bellyache for the past hour about this bitch from her yoga class – a loud-mouthed lout who's been ruining her day and who can't take a hint about how much she wants her gone!"

Kyanna is rendered silent, eyes wide and astonished as she glances to her host. The light is gone from her violet eyes, but Beli still can't bear to meet them. She ducks her face in shame. Kyanna … I'm so sorry…

"So what if I'm loud?" Kyanna's voice startles Beli back to attention. The Latina is gritting her teeth and clenching her fist. "So what if I'm irritating and troublesome and just get in the way? She's still my friend, and I don't let my friends get carried off by some smooth-talking douche-bag who thinks he's king of the pump-'n-dump!"

Beli isn't the only one startled by Kyanna's intensity. She feels the vice-like hand around her wrist slip away, nervous from all the stares and attention Kyanna's shrill voice is attracting. The Latina makes her move – Beli gasps as a new arm sweeps around her shoulders and yanks her into Kyanna's side. The move is so quick and forceful that Beli loses her balance, catching a hand on Kyanna's chest to keep herself from falling.

"Ella es mi chica," she declares. "¡Así que lárgate!"

The man's eyes go wide like he's been shot in the gut. He scans Kyanna, then the gathering staff, then snorts and turns away, muttering a curse – "Malditas lesbianas," – as he storms off into the night.

Beli finally remembers to exhale.

"Fucking assholes…" Kyanna fumes, "think they can just strut around, take what they want and waltz off the next morning. God damn, I hate shitheads like that."

Kyanna holds her, powerful and secure, and though she's younger than Beli, this woman is suddenly radiating with ancient strength, a violet-eyed sun goddess. Her eyes burn with anger, but Beli doesn't feel afraid. Her heart beats rapidly, but securely, when Kyanna looks down on her and whispers,

"We should probably go."

Beli nods quickly, shivering from a sudden chill when she steps apart from Kyanna.


The car ride into town is long and filled with awkward silence. They leave the radio off, and it's so dark and still that Beli swears she's all alone on one of her driving trips to the suburban gyms. But every time the glow of a highway light sweeps through the car, she catches Kyanna - chin in her hand, a morose reflection on her face as she gazes off through the window.

"I'm sorry I messed up your day," she finally mumbles. "You had this big, fancy-pants gala planned and I came and wrecked your shit." Kyanna's eyes are puffy and ready to cry; Beli immediately jumps on damage control.

"No! No, not at all. It was umm, nice … nice to have the company."

"You don't have to lie," Kyanna sighs, "and you don't have to feel bad about not liking me. I get it, y'know. I'm not the easiest person to get along with. When I see shit I don't like, I call people out. When I get excited… well, I'm not exactly great at knowing when to shut my big, fat mouth."

Excited? "People don't exactly get excited about my yoga classes," Beli replies.

"Oh, the classes are fun and all, but you're the one I like hanging out with," Kyanna explains.

"Me?" Beli nearly swerves out of her lane, she's so startled. Kyanna doesn't seem to notice.

"Hells yeah," she continues, "I mean, you're always so chill and helpful, not to mention you're a single woman running her own business. That's pretty damn cool in my book."

Beli is flabbergasted. Her? Cool? "I guess I'm doing all right on my own," she stammers. She's never really thought of herself as a businesswoman. That's a title for doctors or pharmacists, or the lawyer her parents always insisted she become. Teaching yoga isn't a business, just a coward's way of disappointing her family, but … a businesswoman. It's got a certain ring to it.

"You're really too kind, Kyanna."

Her passenger chuckles in reply. "Glad I did one thing right today. Look, I won't come back to your classes anymore. Keep my cheque, I don't need a refund."

"No!" Beli blurts. "No, Kyanna, I'm sorry. I … I should have said something. I mean, I have trouble saying things. I mean –" Her head is pounding so she gets right to the point. "I… I'm glad you came today, because otherwise I'd be alone and miserable, and I don't know what kind of trouble I would have gone home with." A quick swallow. "And the classes, I want you to stay."

Her passenger nods her head, slowly and gratefully. "Thanks, Beli. I'd … like that a lot. It's just… I don't get a lot of chances to hang out with girls my age. I'm kind of the spring chicken at work, and all the daycare moms are in their forties."

Beli's ear pricks. "Daycare?"

"Yeah," Kyanna confirms after a long exhale. "I've got a little man at home. Name's Phillip. He'll be … six months, this week."

At the next red light, Kyanna takes out her phone and shows her the pictures of her red-cheeked cherub. Beli smiles. "He's adorable." Inside, her mind is performing mental backflips trying to calculate this woman's age. Kyanna, she's … twenty-one, twenty-two? And a mother?

"Got myself knocked up last year," she explains, as if sensing Beli's thoughts. "My bae, he said he'd promise me the moon, never let me go, but the minute he sees that line on the test stick, it's vamoose. 'Have fun taking care of my kid while I live the good life'."

Wait a second … "Six months? But you look amazing! How'd you lose that baby fat so fast?"

"Hey, the gym is pretty much my second home. Having to slow down my routine in that last trimester was a killer, but as soon as I could, I was back running and pumping irons. I just get to run my cardio with a carriage now."

Beli nods. "What's it like?"

Kyanna's eyes glaze over. "It's … strange, you know? He takes up so much of my time, day and night. You can't just do whatever you want anymore. Sometimes it's scary, having this little guy depend on you for everything. Makes me realize how much growing up I have to do. Of course, my mother's been a god-send, looking after my little man while I'm at work. She's the one who pushed me to come to your little party. Said I needed to do something for myself today."

She was never looking at shopping ads, or social media posts, Beli realizes. Kyanna was a vigilant mother hawk, even on her downtime.

Perhaps realizing how pessimistic she sounds, Kyanna quickly adds, "I'm not saying I'm regretting anything. I mean Philly, he's a total sweetheart but, if I'd been able to say 'no' back then… well, my life would've been a different story."

That tone stings at Beli. Kyanna speaks as though her story has already ended.

"Well, this is my stop."

Beli pulls the car over. Kyanna's neighbourhood is a cramped street with dingy, high-rise apartments, and she's hard pressed to find a patch of grass that isn't dry or overgrown with weeds. Even at this later hour, the neighbours are blasting loud music and yelling at one another. Beli doesn't mean to judge, but it's not the sort of neighbourhood she'd be comfortable spending too much time in. Kyanna steps out the door with sombre resignation before waving.

"Well… see you in class, I guess."

She turns away, into the night. Quickly, impulsively, Beli snaps off her seatbelt and bolts out the driver's side door.

"Kyanna, I …"

A list of farewells race through her mind: Thank you for watching out for me. Chin up, you're stronger than you think! I'm looking forward to our next lesson together.

But all of those carry a weight of finality.

"Are you hungry?"

The Latina blinks.

"I mean, those sandwiches, they weren't very big, were they? And we probably shouldn't go home on an empty stomach after all those drinks and –" She swallows. "Do you know any good restaurants?"

Kyanna's smile begins to build up again. "Bels, I know just the place."


The Taco Shack isn't exactly Beli's kind of dining establishment. It's ginchy as all get-out with silly road signs over the walls, brown butcher's paper rolled out as tablecloths, and because Kyanna lied about it being her birthday, now she's stuck wearing a tacky paper sombrero with an elastic string digging into her chin.

Then there's the food - the tortilla shell entrees fall apart faster than you can eat them; the grease and sauces drip down her fingers and smear all over her cheeks. It's sloppy, it's messy and it's completely undignified!

It's the most fun she's had in ages!

"Seriously, you've never had tacos before?" Kyanna asks through a mouthful of nachos.

"Do the grocery store kits count?"

"Ha! Not by a long shot, amiga. Okay – fish taco with guacamole, you gotta try this one with the hot sauce!"

There's so much more to Kyanna than what she originally saw, Beli realizes. Kyanna is courageous, marching through life with the odds stacked against her, and always coming out smiling. Kyanna is compassionate, always looking out for her family and for those around her.

Most of all, Kyanna is so enthusiastic! There's an infectious excitement in her laugh and in her smile that makes it okay to step out and try something weird and new. Even when her meal slips from her hands and leaves an obvious stain on her lap, she can laugh it off and toast to a day well spent.

"Hey, Beli? Thanks. This is the best Valentine's Day I've had in ages."

Beli nods and raises her glass. In her mind, she can't help but think forward – to the next time she'll see Kyanna, to the next activity they'll plan, and to all the wonderful ways her friend will fill the days with laughter and wonder.

A toast, but not to Valentine's. "Here's to us!" Beli declares. To the start of something wonderful.

Kyanna flashes a thrilling smile as she clinks her glass. "Chica, you know I'll drink to that!"

HuniePop: Valentine's Rush

Part II of Beli and Kyanna's Story

I've been sitting on this story for a while, having originally drafted it for a holiday contest, but I finally found a way to fit it in with my previous one-shot. This is now the official start to Beli and Kyanna's story, which continues in 'Braving the Plunge'. Enjoy!

Special thanks to Azumarill Tank and :iconasfoxger: for helping me with Kyanna's Spanish phrases!  Be sure to check out Foxger's comics, including A Yurist's Closet, of which I've done some collaborations.

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An awesome fan started a TV Tropes page for my HuniePop fanfics! 

Did you know that Celeste exemplifies the Action Girl archetype and gets Drunk on Milk?  Or that Kyu is a Trickster Mentor who specializes in Lampshade Hanging?  Check out the page, and maybe add an entry or two while you’re at it!

This is such a treat, and I’m blown away by just how accurately this reader was able to interpret my intentions for the characters.  Big thanks to Dark Abomination for creating this page!

“Yeah, they like you, Tal,” Aiko mused as she and the amazon walked the hallways of UOG.

“You think?  I could feel their eyes burning a hole in my shirt!” the redhead exclaimed.  "If that dean asks me to ‘see him’ in his office, he’s not going to have enough teeth to apologize!"

"Mmm, I don’t think he’ll do that, T, but if you wear that sexy tank top, I’m pretty sure he’ll think twice.”

“Eyes forward, Miss Yumi,” Tala mimicked in her best strict teacher voice.

“Yes, Mistress Stone,” Aiko purred.

"Keep up that attitude, and you just might be calling me that.”

The next installment of “A Woman’s Woman” is now available on fanfiction.net, so go check it out!

Tala signs up for a job that’ll bring her closer to Aiko, makes a proposition to Kyanna while shopping, and encounters the dreaded mega-bitch.  Can she stand her ground against Audrey, or end up under her heel?

Reviews are always awesome!  (FFN does accept anonymous ones.)  Let Typhoon Boom and I know what you’re enjoying, or what relationships you’d like Tala to pursue.

deviantID

Cypher-DS
Cypher DS
Canada
Hello, and thank you for stopping by!

This profile will host, "Redemption's Fall", the written adaptation of my Pokemon Emerald Nuzlocke.

The story can be enjoyed on its own merits, but for those of you who follow Nuzlocke Challenges, below is the modified ruleset governing my challenge:


1. Catch only the first non-ghost Pokemon encountered on each route, town or cave.
a. Excluding ghosts, you may own only one (1) Pokemon of each type.
b. Nrm/Fly = Flying Type. Otherwise, Pokemon are categorized by their Type 1.
c. The "first non-ghost Pokemon" encountered on a route is defined as "first of a type you do not yet own". If a pokemon whose type you already own appears, you must ignore it and catch the next permitted pokemon.

2. Nickname all Pokemon.

3. Create four storage boxes titled as follows: Earth, Purgatory, The Inferno and Paradise.

4. If a Pokemon faints then its mortal life has ended and its soul must await judgement. Perma-box it in "Purgatory".

5. For each soul in Purgatory you may catch one (1) ghost Pokemon. The gender and nickname of this ghost must correspond to one of the souls lost in limbo.

6. Ghost Pokemon are creatures from beyond this world. Consequently, they are unaffected by Earthly tokens. Ghosts may be healed at Pokemon centers but they cannot hold, use or benefit from any items in or out of battle.

7. If a Ghost Pokemon faints then its connection to this mortal world is severed. Perma-box it - along with its mortal equivalent - in "The Inferno", where it will live out an eternity of torment.

8. It is said that the energies of a Legendary Pokemon are capable of cleansing the sins of any lost soul. In exchange for condemning a Regi, Kyogre, Groudon, Rayquaza or Lati_s to the Inferno (i.e. catch it and box it in Hell), you may transfer one lost Pokemon from "Purgatory" to "Earth".
a. If the rescued Pokemon had a Ghost equivalent then release that ghost, as its body and soul have been reconnected.
b. Mark all resurrected Pokemon. If it faints a second time, Perma-box it in "The Inferno".

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:icondotta-natural:
Dotta-Natural Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
You have interesting stuff here.
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:iconpetersfay:
PeterSFay Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Merry Christmas, friend!

Merry christmas everybody Christmas- Pikachu Santa Sansta Christmas Icon Merry Christmas - fella (Universe) Candy Cane Christmas ver. Christmas Holly medium emoticon 
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:iconcypher-ds:
Cypher-DS Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2017
Thanks, Peter.  I hope you're enjoying the new year so far.
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:iconpetersfay:
PeterSFay Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Hey, thanks for the watch! I am really digging your Hunie Pop fan fiction.
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:iconcypher-ds:
Cypher-DS Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2016
No problem.  I'd like to keep in touch and see what sort of projects you're up to.
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:iconumbreongal:
UmbreonGal Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2016  Student Digital Artist
Thanks for the :+devwatch:
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:iconminasongoose:
minasongoose Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2016  Student Digital Artist
Thanks for the watch! Real nice talking with you! :D
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:iconfantasylover64:
Fantasylover64 Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2014  Student General Artist
HIOahsdoiheiohaoishdioeha thank you sosososososososo much for the watch!!! It means so much to me >w< :iconbrohugplz:
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:iconkitsyarts:
KitsyArts Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2013  Student
hey thanks for commenting on my nuzlocke, pg 2 is up if you want to read it.
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:iconmr-bangala:
Mr-Bangala Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for the watch; I'll be sure to try to not disappoint. Also I can help you with your egg hunt I'll just have to go home first to pick up the friend code. =)
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