The crunch of snow under Amanda’s feet seemed deafening to Diana, echoing in her ears as her brain struggled to figure out what to do. She was unable to do anything but desperately hope that they were going to be able to find Akko in time. Every moment that passed seemed to drag on endlessly, thoughts bouncing around her head.
‘What if they couldn’t find her? What if Akko lost her spark after this?’ Her thoughts were muffled by the noises from outside, her mind registering the sound of other footsteps meeting up with Amanda, a voice pulling her out of her spiraling thoughts.
“Amanda!” Lotte’s voice pulled Diana out of her thoughts, sound flooding her senses again. The wind picking up twigs and scattering them around the ground, the footsteps and heavy breaths of the rest of the Red and Green teams as they ran towards Amanda, stopping just short of her.
“Where’s Akko?” Sucy asked, a slight crack in her usual deadpan tone. “Did you find her yet?”
“We don’t know,” Diana said, barely keeping her voice under control, “She ran off to nine knows where.” Frustration leaked out of her voice, the pounding starting in her head again.
“Uh- girls. You should see this.” Jasminka said, the group turning as Constanze held up a tablet. A video was playing on the screen, showing a scene from Blytonbury; two crowds stood opposing each other as they shouted back and forth, the yelling of the crowd crackling from the small speakers.
A bottle was thrown, seeming to launch the crowds into action, jostling each other as a few people from the side tried to step in. A fist was thrown as one of the bystanders went down, a loud roar from the crowd. The witches watched as small fights began to break out in in the streets of the town.
“Shit.” The witches all turned in shock to Lotte, the small witch pointing towards the town, shock on her face.
“Oh shit.” Amanda muttered. Tendrils of red energy surged upward from the small town, flowing into large ropes that stretched up into the sky. The witches could barely make out small hovering cubes that the magic seemed to flow into. “Is that?”
“Emotional energy.” The two teams turned around to see Chariot standing behind them, holding onto the shiny rod. She cradled it to her chest, a wistful expression on her face. “Croix’s magitech.” She muttered, her voice muffled in the wind.
“She wants to use the energy.” Diana said, shocked at the sight of so much energy in one place.
“Yes.” Chariot sighed, the other witches huddled around her as she looked around nervously. “She wants to break the seal on the Grand Triskellion, and unlock all the magic within.”
“But you need the Shiny Rod for that,” Lotte said, “And the words, and she doesn’t know them right?”
“She knows enough, and might have enough energy with all of this emotional energy to try to force her way through the last word.” Chariot sighed, looking up to the rest of the girls. “We have to try to find Akko.”
The witches turned to Diana, the witch hesitating for a moment before asking incredulously, “Me? How would I know?”
An awkward silence fell over the small group, Amanda clearing her throat with a large grin on her face. “Well,” she started, “You two do seem to be close, so close even-” she started.
“O’Niel if you finish that sentence I will find a way to hurt you.” Diana said harshly, a round of chuckles passing through the group. ‘Where would Akko go?’ the question echoed in Diana’s mind.
“I-” Diana started, trying to figure out any lead that she could. “She liked the blue moon tower.” Diana mumbled, the statement almost coming out as a question as the rest of the witches looked at each other.
“Your guess is as good as mine.” Amanda said shrugging, “At least that is something of a start.” She turned away from the sight of the machines pulling in emotional energy. “Lets go, we have an Akko to find.”
She was unable to feel her fingers. She knew that they were tapping against her thigh, she could feel the small pinpricks of cold against her skin.
“Akko! Where are you?”
Snow fell off of her shoulders as she stirred, adding to the small pile that grew on the bench. She shivered, some of the feeling returning to her arms as she clutched her arms to herself harder.
“She’s over here!” the two voices mingled together, slowly stirring Akko from her stupor. Hands shook her shoulders, peering up. Her eyelids cracked open, almost frosted over as she let out an unconscious shiver.
“For nine’s sake Amanda she needs to be warm.” That was Diana’s voice, Akko sluggishly registered. Warmth started to flood her senses; slowly blinking as she noticed the a warm blanket around her shoulders.
“Diana?” Akko croaked out, her voice was sore, having cried until no more tears could come. She had not paid attention to where she was going, the snow coming down around her as she eventually stumbled into a bench and sat down. She had been trapped in her thoughts since then.
“I’m here Akko,” Diana’s voice made her smile, looking around as shapes came more into focus, “We all are here.”
Jasminka and Sucy had their hands raised at the edge of the group, both of them concentrating with their wands out; a a shimmering dome extended from them to above the small group, blocking the weather from entering. Snow melted, streaming down the dome in small rivulets of water. Warmth pulsed from the inner sides of the dome, making Akko relax as feeling returned to her body.
“Wh- you all are here.” Akko sputtered out, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. All of her friends, Diana, and… She blinked, caught in confusion. There, standing on the outskirts of the group of young witches, was Chariot. She shuffled in the background, her hands behind her back as she tried to give a nervous smile.
“You think we were just going to let you sit out here and freeze yourself half to death?” Amanda wiped the snow from the bench, plopping down next to Akko. She set Diana’s journal on her lap, open to the mirror and Diana looked up at Akko with a worried expression.
“We were worried about you.” Lotte sat down on the other side, the rest of the group crowding around her as Akko smiled.
A rumbling came from the ground, everyone turning as they saw the ground in the distance start to crack, red light shining from below. Akko clutched Diana to her, all of them watching open mouthed as the ground slid away, opening up to reveal a cavernous hole in the ground. The red streams of energy from overhead arced down, flowing into hole in the ground. Red jagged bursts of energy came from inside, like lighting flashes as Chariot’s face paled.
“Oh no.” She muttered, her mouth going dry as she watched the emotional energy flow into the ground. She turned back to the younger witches, sighing as she pulled the Shiny Rod out from behind her back.
“We have to hurry.” She said, the group turning to look at Akko. Akko looked at the Shiny Rod, her mouth twisted into a small frown. Part of her felt an itch to grab it, to take the Shiny Rod and finish the words. Her eyes looked to the side, biting her lip.
“You can do it.” Akko muttered, refusing to look up. “I don’t have magic remember.” She said bitterly, trying to look away from the Shiny Rod. All of the words that she had unlocked, all of the time she had spent practicing, the scrapes and bruises from trying so desperately to fly; was that just luck, or fate cruelly mocking her.
All that she had ever wanted to do was make people smile through magic, meet her idol and maybe have the chance to tell her how much it meant to watch her preform magic, to have ignited that spark that drove her forward. She found her eyes pulled up, looking at Chariot. She still had on Professor Ursula’s robe, the purple contrasting with the bright red of her hair, the sight creating a strange rift in her mind.
Her teacher was Chariot, Chariot taught her about the words, Chariot told her… Her gut flipped, looking down as her eyes stared vacantly at the snow.
“Was it pity?” Her words cut through still air of the bubble that they were in, causing Chariot to flinch and turn her head. “You had to know from the beginning. Is that why you taught me?”
Chariot tried to form words, all of them dying on her lips as the rest of the witches gathered around Akko. Amanda and Lotte looked at each other over Akko, both of them frowning slightly.
“Atsuko.” Diana’s voice broke the silence, Akko looking down at her as Diana stared from the mirror. Diana’s eyes shone with determination, staring directly into her own. “Your magic is different from anything else I have ever seen. It isn’t in flight, or in casting spells, or potions; its your heart.” The world seemed to fade from Akko’s perception, her eyes locked on Diana as she felt her eyes shine with tears.
“I almost gave up,” Diana smiled sadly, “Sitting in a dusty library, years between anything happening to me. But you, you found me.” Diana’s lips turned up in a smile, Akko’s heart pounding in her chest. “You talked to me, treated me like a person, found ways for me to try to interact with the world. You gave me friends. You gave me hope, you gave me l-.” Diana blushed, clearing her throat awkwardly.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your magic yet, because I believe that the magic you have right now is stronger than any magic a witch could ever cast. You feel and believe, and that is your magic.” Diana placed a hand over her heart, a smile on her face. Amanda put one hand on Akko’s shoulder a grin on her face.
“Takes a lot of guts to try to tame an ancient broom just to try to beat me in a race. Which I still say you cheated.” She bumped into Akko’s shoulders, a small laugh escaping both of them. “But I think if there was anyone who could pull some ancient magic out of no where, its you.”
“You always were there,” Lotte chimed up from the other side, “You gave me confidence. When I felt that I couldn’t do it you dragged me forward with your pure force of will. You never gave up, and you have never let any of us down.” Akko’s eyes swam with tears, the rest of the witches stepping forward.
“I guess you aren’t all bad as a test subject.” Sucy let the spell protecting them fade, the cold snow falling around them again as she stepped forward. “And you maybe have some redeeming qualities.” Her lips quirked up for a moment to an approximation of a smile. “But only some, and you have to look hard to find them.” She hurriedly tried to cover up any sign of emotions as Akko gave a watery laugh.
Constanze patter her leg, giving a small nod and a thumbs up, Akko feeling her heart lifted as Jasminka put a hand on her shoulder, giving her a supportive smile. “Your kindness seems to never end,” Jasminka said, “And you always have something surprising to win the day.”
“You are not alone Akko.” Diana said, Akko feeling her lips move into a large grin. “You have all of us, and we are not going anywhere.”
Chariot stepped forward, her movements hesitant as she stopped in front of Akko. The Shiny Rod felt cold in her grip, not only from the temperature, but from the memories that she had with it. She let it consumer her life, she let it tear her away from her life. Chasing after the stars had left her stranded, no more Chariot, and no more Croix.
She awkwardly cleared her throat. “I’m sorry.” Akko opened her mouth, closing it as she sat there, waiting for Chariot to keep talking.
“There were many witches who thought they could open the Grand Triskellion. Many before me tried, and none of them succeeded. I thought,” Chariot looked up, watching Croix magitech fly overhead, “I thought that we could do it, Croix and I. But I was wrong, I was oh so wrong.”
“I pushed magic too hard, and it pushed back.” Chariot held up her wand, the barest hint of a spark coming from it. “When Croix gave me a way to try to solve the puzzle I took it, and I lead us both here.” Chariot held out the Shiny Rod, resting it on her palms in front of Akko.
“The magic was never within the Shiny Rod, it was never in how many words you could learn, or in how flashy your spells are. Your magic is your heart.” Akko reached out, hesitating with her hand hovering over the Shiny Rod.
“I chose to train you because I saw that spark in you, I saw the strength of your believing heart.” Akko’s hand closed around the Shiny Rod with Chariot’s words. “You Atsuko, are a greater witch than anyone that I have ever known.” The Shiny Rod sparkled, the gems lighting up as Akko lifted it over her head.
A wind picked up, swirling the snow around them as Akko stood up. She looked around, a determined spark in her eyes; all of her friends were here with her. There was only one word left to go.
A roaring sound came from the ground, the witches watching as the shiny black metallic Noir Rod rose from the earth. Small bright red cubes of energy floated around it as the rod shimmered, the heat from the machine melting the ice around it. Croix stood on top of the Noir Rod as it floated above the ground, her cape flapping behind her.
Red light flashed, causing everyone to turn their eyes. When the light faded from the edge of their vision the witches looked up; the Noir Rod had disappeared, the faintest bit of red energy shimmering in the air where it had been.
Akko turned to the rest of them, feeling the Shiny Rod pulse with power in her hand, she could do this, she knew she could. And she wouldn’t be alone.
“Come on guys, let’s go save the world!”