2014-04-19 - Awkward Yet Auspicious! Tuxedo Mask Carries Groceries

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Title: Awkward Yet Auspicious! Tuxedo Mask Carries Groceries

A really, really, really, really long conversation between Mai and Tuxedo Mask. BUT IT IS FULL OF MEANING AND AWKWARDNESS AND STRANGE EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT. Blame the dragon. Or maybe the Jewel of Beginnings.


Mamoru Chiba, Mai Tokiha


Yamanote on the way to Ohtori

OOC - IC Date:

Late on Jan 1st, 2014 (omg what a long day) - 04/19/14

<Pose Tracker> Tuxedo Mask [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It's evening on New Year's Day; the streets are relatively empty, as not many places are open and the vast majority of citizens are at home with their families, or with their friends, celebrating and relaxing. Joy hangs in the air, quiet and alive; hope breathes its shining promises with every gust of wind and every slight breeze.

It could have been awful.

Instead, thanks to the determined efforts and the full hearts of the girls who believed with everything they had, the world is an even better place today than it would have been if the New Year had never been threatened. Beginnings are so much sweeter when they are earned.


In all the reverent and happy peace pervading the quiet and chilly streets, not everything can trusted to play along. Evil still creeps in the darkness, horror continues to exist, and life and love remain under threat-- even if the threats stay in the shadows to trap those who stray instead of boldly coming to take and take in the broad light of day.

That's the ostensible reason one boy is outside stalking the night. He tells himself it has nothing to do with the restlessness and unease in his own heart, with the fear and distress and anger that broke the spell of his overwhelming joy. He doesn't bother even acknowledging the other reason: that he has nothing better to do besides read by himself in his apartment, on this day of days.

Whatever the reasoning, whatever the circumstances, the result's the same. There's a shadow in motion in the alley next to one of the few grocery stores still open, and then the distinct 'tap tap tap' of feet taking off into the deeper shadows within.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

For Mai Tokiha, the year is already off to a dynamic start. A missed call from Linden Baum, but when she called back she found they'd already brought in a replacement waitress for the day. Which is...surprisingly unobjectionable. Offers to consider, and all that. This means that she's been able to focus on the holiday properly, which has involved cooking, catching up with her brother, a family trip to a shrine to ring in luck, getting started on setting up a proper party, and discovering that Mikoto ate all the sweet potato.

Thus, a last-minute grocery run, getting replacement supplies. The bag in her hand as she emerges from the grocery store is rather light - just the bare necessities for the replacement kurikinton. She still has time to work - Takumi surprised her by somehow getting the ozoni soup, which takes one thing off her cooking agenda - but Mai is determined to get home and enjoy a well-earned New Year's celebration.

Honestly, she is. She's done her part, she should just take the rest of the day off.

...but there was a noise from that alley, and there are children still running around at this hour. It shouldn't be her duty to deal with it, but there doesn't seem to be anyone else at the moment...

Mai approaches the mouth of the alley, hand gripping the bag tightly. It's just a bottle of candied chestnuts and a couple of sweet potatoes, but it's something...and if it's more than just some stalker, she can justify a bit more firepower. Her voice is a bit shaky, but accusing - "Is someone in there?"

<Pose Tracker> Tuxedo Mask [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

For a long moment, there's only silence and stillness from the alley-- the footsteps stopped, and it's so very dark in the recesses.

It's a moment in which the occupant of those shadows is squinting at the back-lit Mai, trying to determine her face and cursing his overexposure to silhouettes. Because she certainly sounds familiar--


--there's a relieved laugh (a relieved laugh, not a creepy or dark one, nothing menacing at all) from back there somewhere, and then the tapping of approaching steps. The first thing visible is the pointed outline of a mask, high enough to be on someone pretty damn tall; it reflects the faintly orange streetlights behind Mai, lit up before the rest of its wearer.

"Tuxedo Kamen. Sorry to startle you, I'm not used to being seen when I don't want to be," he says wryly, quiet but not especially mysterious. "Don't let me interrupt your New Year; you deserve the very best of it."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

One hand clutches the grocery bag; the other is ready to summon an Element. Mai watches the alley closely, watching for a slinking shadow, or a hulking beast, or a creepy stalker. The tone of the laugh is unexpected, then comes the mask appearing in the dark-

...oh. The tall dark handsome -

Mai is startled for a moment, struck by the appearance - and then her expression turns to a glare, as light-hearted as her tone is. "More heard than seen. You were one of the other heroes last night, right? Don't you know it's suspicious, lurking in dark alleys - I was getting ready to bludgeon a predator." She hefts the back, and huffs.

<Pose Tracker> Tuxedo Mask [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"I wasn't lurking!" objects the tall dark handsome crimefighter hotly, and sounding just like an indignant high-schooler for some incredibly odd reason. "I was taking a shortcut up there," he points toward the rooftop, white-gloved hand just as contrastingly visible as his mask, "and I thought I saw something lurking!"

Crossing his arms, he sniffs in offended hauteur and looks away with a quick jerk of his head, casting his ever so noble face into starkly perfect profile. For like a second. Because then he reaches up to rub at the back of his neck and looks back down at Mai, sheepishly. "Yeah, I was there. It was fantastic. You were amazing. Everyone was."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

If ever there were a way to sabotage a purely physical crush, seeing Tuxedo Kamen acting like an indignant high-schooler would probably be it. Mai can't keep up the glare much longer, and in fact relaxes her death-grip on the back. "Well, you've earned some goodwill already, so I suppose I don't have to waste these chestnuts on hitting a lurker." A smirk is an improvement, right? She looks up to where the masked man points, then back to the man himself. "Do you do this often, lurking around sha-"

Oh dear heavens that profile is perfect.

It takes Mai a moment to collect herself, and she clears her throat. Change of subject, please. "Well, I'd be amenable to talking outside a dark alley, because lurking or not it's kind of suspicious. What's on the roof, anyway - are you off being a dashing hero, even after an exhausting night?"

<Pose Tracker> Tuxedo Mask [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

There's a second of silence at Mai's 'amenable' comment, as Tuxedo Kamen blinks in surprise behind that orange-lit white outline over his eyes. Then, "... you don't mind being-- I mean-- I'm not taking off my mask."

Awkward pause.

"The roof was a shortcut. I was on my way to the park and I didn't feel like walking or driving," he admits, finally, and his eyes fall to the bag in Mai's arms. The grocery bag.

He doesn't want to go home. He doesn't want to be a bother. He doesn't want to be alone with his thoughts. He doesn't want to be a burden. He goes to the same school as this girl. She's on her way home with groceries. Maybe she's cooking. There are probably people she's cooking for. He doesn't want to impose.

She said she'd be amenable to talking.

"Do you want me to carry that for you?" he offers, gesturing to her groceries.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

That was a rather awkward pause, yes. Mai unconsciously finds herself looking at the mask at that point, and- nope nope nope don't go there. He's probably got a...thing with someone. Probably.

Oh good, he's talking again, back to something else. "Well, I can't imagine walking along roofs being much better than walking on roads - unless that cape lets you fly or something." It's magic, she wouldn't put it past him. Because who even knows.

And then the tall handsome man makes an offer, and Mai looks down at the bag. It's not that heavy - a few pounds, at most - and her first impulse is to say no, that she doesn't need to be a burden. But...some small part of her, woken up by last night's not-a-dream (stop thinking about that moment it never happened), does like the idea...

Ground rules. Mai glances to one side. "Only if you're not busy, heroing or lurking it up around here. I need to get back to cooking for my brother and...roommate, but we could talk on the way." It's not a huge threat - at most, he'll learn that she goes to Ohtori and it's not like that's a surprise given her uniform. After hesitating a moment longer, she holds out the bag.

You know, assuming tall dark mysterious hasn't disappeared while she wasn't looking.

<Pose Tracker> Tuxedo Mask [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

In all likelihood, in fact, even if he doesn't have a thing going, per se, he probably has a thing for at the very least. Either that or he has some kind of damage that makes him married to the night and justice or something.

Either way, there is one piece of extremely telling data on him: he's out alone in henshin on New Year's Day. In the evening. And he's offered to carry her groceries. Awkwardly. In henshin.

"Sometimes," he answers Mai's first statement: 'unless that cape lets you fly or something'. Crooked little grin. "At the very least, it's much faster."

Then as Mai's glancing sidelong and laying out the ground rules, he nods decisively.

He's still there when she looks back and holds out the bag, and he takes it with an absurd solemnity. Why the hell are his eyes visible behind the mask? Why in God's name are they so offensively blue and intense? Why is taking a bag of groceries a moment of stillness, reverence, and great import?

It is part of the ~mystery~ that is Tuxedo Kamen.

"I'm not," he answers, stepping out of the shadows with Mai's groceries in his classy white-gloved hands, "busy. Feel free to tell me to shove off before we get there if you don't want me knowing where you live."

Abruptly, a connection's made in the back of his head, even as they start walking. There's a strange wistfulness in the back of his voice, floating in the quiet. "Were you at the hotpot in Hokkaido?"


<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mai's not too used to reading other people like that - much of her life is lived with a narrow focus. Still, it's hard to deny that point - that this hero is out alone. At least if Mai's out Orphan-hunting, she has Mikoto with her...so sure, give him a chance. And if he's the type to cause trouble, well. Depending on desired damage, there's fire, Kagutsuchi, or Mikoto. "Faster? What, do you hop from roof to roof or something?" She moves to hand over the bag-

-Mai seems to have lost a few moments there. Because it's New Year's Day and evening and all the reverence and mystery and - focus! He makes a comment, and Mai gives him a wry smile without looking into that mask again. "Good to know you're not entirely clueless about appearances. I'll probably ditch you at the gates to the dorms, then."

...that voice really is a high-schooler's, isn't it - wait, the hotpot? "I...might have started the whole thing with a friend. How about you, then? Not a fan of endless crabcakes?" Was there someone this mysteriously handsome then?

<Pose Tracker> Tuxedo Mask [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"I do! Kind of like a combination of parkour and pole-vaulting without a pole," Tuxedo Kamen answers cheerfully. "I've gotten pretty good at making it clear across the city in under fifteen minutes."

It's hard not to get used to this, to get used to talking, all jarring incongruity aside. It's nice. The slow dawn of realization that he really can have friends, or even just people who get it, that he can talk to-- moreover, the realization that this kind of interaction is something that actually exists and happens on a regular basis, and that he didn't even know he was missing-- it's a gamechanger. It would be so much easier if he could just--

--but he can't. Just in case.

"Oh you're still in the dorms over break?" he asks, surprised, and then reddens slightly. It's easier to see in electric street lights than moonlight, certainly. "Sorry, that's personal. Nevermind. Yes. Hot pot. Good. Shimanouchi-san invited me, I really wanted to go, but I couldn't." He glances sidelong at Mai, keeping pace with her carefully -- long legs are long -- and then looks wry, himself. "Not at all a fan of endless crabcakes. Especially not Burgermeister-san's. They fight back."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

That sounds...rather athletic. And Mai's almost sorry she isn't getting a chance to see it. "I know one or two people who do the same kind of thing." Or possibly more, but... "I've got - well, you saw last night. I can fly around, but fiery rings are a bit...obvious for everyday use. To say nothing of..." She clears her throat. If there were a word to describe her Child, it would not be 'subtle'.

Mai's pace is a slow one. Even after sleeping in, she's still recovering from the previous night's exertions - and it's been a busy day until this point. There was time set aside to recover before the party began, but that's now being spent remaking one of the New Year's dishes. If she were to be honest, though...it's nice. Walking with someone who might be a classmate, acting like a normal student for once - even if their topics of conversation are a bit abnormal.

(Also, he's good-looking.)

"My brother and I both are, yeah. It's pretty quiet, all things considered, so we're having a bit of a get-together with our fellow 'nowhere to go' dormmates. No telling who's actually going to show, but it's the New Year and we should celebrate in style." She glances to the masked man. "...blowing up a troll doesn't count as style, for the record."

She makes a sound of sympathy at the man's plight - though making note of the fact that Eri seems to know him - and then whirls and boggles at the bombshell. "Wait, whose food does what?!"

<Pose Tracker> Tuxedo Mask [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"To be honest," the tall boy says with a certain amount of self-deprecation, "I've only started cheating recently. I mean, things like that and everyday use. I mostly feel like I shouldn't, that it's irresponsible. It's just sometimes..."

Sometimes the level of 'gives a fuck' goes past critical into KO territory.

His steps keep slowing; he has to make them shorter, and doesn't always remember. It's all right, though; it's an automatic correction. It's just that sometimes he's a little ahead of her, and then there's briefly black silk in the way. Not enough to step on, but.

"I don't know about blowing up a troll not being celebrating in style," he observes, a grin in his voice-- but he's looking ahead of them, up the sidewalk. "Especially not considering how thoroughly he got trounced. That was my party, right there. That fight, with all of you, together. Winning that in time-- that made everything worth it."

When Mai spins to stare at him, his eyebrows go up for a second. "Ugh, just the guy who took over the crab buffet for a while. In Hokkaido. He got kicked out-- a member of the Blue Ribbon thing from Infinity beat him with style and grace, so I doubt it'll be an issue," Tuxedo Kamen says dismissively, shrugging one shoulder and giving her a crooked smile.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mai looks down at the mention of the word 'cheating'. This means that she actually bumps into the suddenly-halted Tuxedo mask, and has to backpedal a step or two - she hadn't slowed down at quite the same rate, it seems. Maybe he didn't notice her bumping into his back? (Ha.) "You know, I feel like I've had a conversation about that battle already today. ...yeah. I'll admit that was worth doing - worth having accomplished. It's just...there's times I want to go back to when things were normal, before I got told 'hey, you have fire powers, go unseal a dragon and fight monsters'." The bitterness in her voice is plain. "So for Ta- for my brother's sake, I'm trying to have a normal, traditional New Year's party."

Mai looks up - not at the tall dark tuxedo-clad upperclassman(?), but to where the moon has risen, where she can just see a red glint appearing. "It might be cheating, but...there's more to life than battle. I want there to be more to my powers than battle - not the least of reasons being I'd like to get practice that isn't in a pitched life-or-death battle. So, if I can save on the gas bill or pull off a secret hot pot party by using magical flame for cooking..." She turns to Tuxedo Mask, and grins. "I'd say it's worth being a little 'irresponsible'."

A bit more of the story of Hokkaido's crab buffet, eh? "Thus solving the problem forever, we hope."

<Pose Tracker> Tuxedo Mask [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

He 'didn't notice'. It's something he's very good at, all things considered.

Shifting around so he's facing Mai with her bag of groceries, Tuxedo Mask listens. And he really does listen, all of the body language tells are there, and there are a number of different reactions, emotions, that play across his face-- but Mai's not looking at him. At least his shoes are pointed in her direction and he's not fidgeting or interrupting.

When the girl looks up at the moon, his face automatically turns up toward it, too. In the moonlight, the mask shimmers a glowing white. Also god damned profile. And perfect god damned hair. But there's such an expression, briefly, of something so very like longing, and it only intensifies as Mai speaks--

Suddenly he's looking back down at Mai, and smiling. Smiling for real, with no reservations and no irony or self-consciousness, and with some gentle kind of affection. "You're very right." Another glance up at the moon, and the smile goes a little lopsided again when he looks sidelong at the girl, then tilts his head in the direction of Ohtori and starts walking again.

As he continues, he sounds faintly apologetic, but not bitter at all. "I didn't mean to imply anything about your party. I'm a little jealous, honestly. I've never been normal that I know of, but I only found out other people weren't like me less than a year ago."

And yes, that's the perspective he has on it: not that he's not like other people, but that other people aren't like him.

"I guess I figured since no one else was doing things where I could see, I shouldn't either? I don't know. But no one told me anything like that-- so I forget that it really is a thing, a big life-changing thing. I'm sorry." Another glance to his side, down at Mai, and he grins. "So really, yes-- what you're doing, and what you plan-- they're things to be proud of. It's important to make sure you don't forget the things you've always loved, and it's important to find ways to love what's changed."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

For a minute there, Mai was free to speak without embarrassment. Caught up in the moment, thinking about those important to her, even someone as gorgeous as Tuxedo Mask can be briefly forgotten. Briefly. Because with those first three words, he gets her attention just as he give the moon that longing glance.

Mai remembers to follow. Eventually.

The apology - as Mai's steps catch up, and dangit this guy's legs are long - has Mai huffing for a moment - though the jealousy comment gets a glance. For the time being, she can just listen to his own perspective on things - oh he glanced back and grinned. Mai turns to look straight ahead, trying to stay as stern and serious as she can. Focus on the conversation.

"Don't worry about it. Last night's worth celebrating - I've just been focused all day on making this a good New Year's for my little brother." Lucky foods and everything, homemade so she can make sure there aren't any attack-provoking spices... "So what, exactly, do you mean by 'not normal'? Because the tuxedo thing looks good, so not a bad choice there." Mai looks away, face red, why did she say that?

Mai clears her throat again and moves the conversation on as quickly as possible. "If there's rules about the whole business, I haven't gotten to hear many of them. There's common sense things - I don't intend to let any more of the staff or students know I could fly to class, for instance - but not a whole lot of guidance." Bitterness. "Transferring to Ohtori has changed...a lot of things. Changes I never would have expected, or thought were a longer way off. So it's like you said - I'm trying to hold on to what I can."

...take pride in what she plans, eh? After a minute, Mai looks up to the tuxedo-clad man. Well, glances up, disarming smile is disarming. "...you know, before the school year starts up again, I might try to hold another hotpot party."

<Pose Tracker> Tuxedo Mask [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Either Tuxedo Mask is completely oblivious, or he's very very good at graciously failing to notice the difficulties Mai is having. He's certainly capable of self-consciousness and a lack of composure, even in henshin, but this is a very philosophical discussion for him, and that totally takes priority. The mask helps him so much, sometimes.

Case in point: he'll be forever grateful Mai looked away after the tuxedo compliment, because she's not the only one red over it.

He clears his own throat there, and by the time Mai's finished, he's regained his dignity and his ability to gloss over... things.

Starting with the very last thing the tenth-grader says -- because it changes his base reaction set significantly -- the masked teenager tries very hard not to look too eager. "Another hotpot party would be-- really-- good. If you do-- and if I'm invited--"

Ugh he didn't have to add that part; he steamrolls on.

"--and if I decide wearing a mask to a non-masquerade party is stupid-- will you promise not to tell anyone? I mean-- about. That I'm Tuxedo Kamen. Because it is supposed to be secret."

There will never be a need to mention the fact that Eri's invitation to the first hot pot was the very first he's ever been extended to something like that, from someone he actually knows as more than a passing acquaintence. The closest he needs to come is answering the actual question. "'Not normal' ties in to what I meant by saying no one told me anything. You got told about fighting monsters and having a dragon and fire, and it changed a lot of things about your life. Most of what I can do that other people can't--"

He shrugs a little uncomfortably. "--doesn't have anything to do with fighting monsters in a tuxedo. But I guess we're in the same boat regarding guidance. I know what I'm looking for, but that's about it. Everything else is either just my life, or--"

Is he blushing again? Hard to say; he's looked away very quickly. "--helping people who know more about what they're doing." Given who he was fighting hand-in-hand with for pretty much the whole battle, 'people' is probably an overstatement involving a surplus of plurality. EVER ONWARDS. "Ohtori's rough," he agrees. "But some people there are very much worth knowing. I don't know what it did to you-- it's not any of my business-- but for what it's worth, I'm sorry it's making it hard for you."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Tuxedo Mask doesn't look insanely eager to Mai - but at the same time, it's incredibly helpful that he's uncertain and actually reacting like a human. Instead of, well, tuxedoed handsomeness incarnate. In fairness, the mention of the hotpot party was an off-the-cuff idea - but at the same time, it worked well last time and there's time before the more elite students return from their high-society parties. So why not try it again?

The request - Mai's tempted to make a snarky comment, but he's being earnest. In return... "Fair's fair. If you can hold off telling anyone who doesn't know about me and my...'guardian' from last night, I can keep your secret." She holds out a hand to shake.

Tuxedo Mask tells more about his past, and Mai's heart is writ on her face - sympathy. "I hadn't realized there were heroes who get less guidance than the HiME - all we get is a creepy kid who makes the odd cryptic comment, like 'oh, you might want to do something about the monster about to eat your brother'. But if all you got was something to look for...my sympathies."

The mention of Ohtori has Mai slump just a bit, and look down. "It...wouldn't have been my first choice, honestly. Though you're right about some of the people - I've made a few good friends there, as isolating as it can be. So I do what I can to give them the family New Year's experience." Impulse strikes, and Mai's previous smirk returns. "Happen to know anyone else stuck at Ohtori over the holidays who might like to drop by?"

<Pose Tracker> Tuxedo Mask [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It's kind of a reminder about the silliness of his current self-imposed situation; Tuxedo Kamen has to shift the bag of groceries in order to shake Mai's hand, and his expression is doubly sheepish for it. "I wouldn't," he says firmly, though, "don't worry."

He is fucking wearing kid gloves. His magic is pure class.

First, the sympathy earns Mai a brief, lopsided smile. "It's all right." HiME plural. This is noted down in the back of Mamoru's head. "I'm used to it."

Then, it's Mai who's getting sympathy: over Ohtori. "It was only my first choice because of the resources available there. They were far and away the best, academically, when I first enrolled-- and by the time Infinity's resources started surpassing Ohtori's, it would have been annoying to transfer. Now I'm only a year and a half away from getting out of there."

He takes a deep breath, then lets it out in a quick upward sigh that blows his hair out of his face. He eyes Mai sidelong. "Maybe." He pauses. And then he asks a question that either proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that certain social cues are ingrained in some people and definitely not in him, or that he's a teenaged boy. "Wait, are you trying to give me an out so I can show up and be like, 'Tuxedo Mask sent me, hi!' or is that a real question? Because if it's the latter, I don't-- really know a lot about a lot of people. Maybe Tomoe-san?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mai's returning smile is just as sheepish - though she doesn't hide her amusement at the gloves. "Then a pleasure to meet you - Mai Tokiha." Tuxedo Mask just trying to smile away the frustration is far too familiar to Mai, but she holds off commenting - instead, she just nods. And tries to ignore the mismatch between goofy smile and noble tuxedo-mask-combo.

The topic of Ohtori is a frustrating one, and Mai grumbles. "You don't have to tell me twice about the annoyance of transferring - then double it because I had to handle my brother's paperwork, too. I've probably got a year longer than you - but good luck, all the same."

...okay, Tuxedo Mask is a dork, and Mai doesn't even try to hide the laugh. She covers her mouth after a moment, but needs a moment longer to recover her composure. "It's the 'giving you an out' option, definitely. Though if you know anyone else, by all means send them along too." She pulls away her hands to grin - and then starts giggling all over again.

<Pose Tracker> Tuxedo Mask [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The longer this conversation goes on in henshin, the more Tuxedo Kamen can feel his ~mystery~ slipping through his fingers.

But-- secret identity.

But she also promised.

But secret identity.

But Usagi knows and that was sort of the really important part.

But still! Secrets!

If he wants to have any hope of salvaging his battlefield image, and yet still continue to make friends, he needs to stop being social in a mask. He needs to stop hiding, at least sometimes. He needs to compromise.

The decision's made. Despite Mai's recurring gigglefit-- or perhaps exaggeratedly so, in order to prolong it-- the boy is very, very serious! when he acknowledges her explanation. "I appreciate the gesture, Tokiha-san. But I don't think anyone will ask."

He shifts the bag again, and when Mai looks back uoward him, he's just Chiba Mamoru, the aloof second-year high-schooler that nobody except total douches actively dislikes, that practically has a fan club of underclassmen, that gets some of the best grades in the school, that's rumored to be rich as Midas, and that nobody really knows.

And he doesn't think anyone will ask how Mai knows him.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The mystique is crumbling, yes. Though Tuxedo Mask is still very, very dashing and if Mai's completely honest it's hard to deny that his appearance and heroism can set hearts fluttering.

Just...kind of a dork, yes.

Mai manages to get control of her giggling, and looks up again - and there's a handsome black-haired upperclassman standing before her. Mamoru Chiba. Even someone as busy with work as Mai has heard of him, yes - though only in passing. Even with the transformation so blatantly done, Recognition Inhibition makes one last attempt at clouding Mai's judgment -

- but he's still holding her groceries. Mai works her jaw a moment, thinks over her response, and settles on one small jab. "Chiba-san, was it? From what I've heard, you're certainly solitary enough to qualify." She grins, looking him over - dang, even without the tuxedo he looks good, but Mai doesn't have time for romance at this point in life - and her gaze locks onto his hair.

A momentary frown. "...though one thought. Off-chance, you aren't searching for some long-lost little sister, are you?"

<Pose Tracker> Tuxedo Mask [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It is in general a very good thing for Mamoru that he is kind of a dork, or true story, it'd be even harder to make friends. He certainly seems to be more comfortable with her laughing at him than the unrelenting blushing he was so assiduously avoiding seeing, earlier.

For a half-second, while her jaw works, he looks expectant. Like, you can do it Mai, you have evidence, you will prevail-- and then she places him, and

certainly solitary enough to qualify

his smile's briefly a little tight. The end of the walk is in sight; there's the bridge, and over it, Ohtori. "I guess I am, huh?" he finally asks with a laugh. Another glance in her direction as they walk, and his expression is a little conflicted. "Not searching, no. But for all I know, I might have a long-lost little sister. I do have a picture of my parents, I can text it to you if it would help at all."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

There is, indeed, the bridge. Fully intact, shining with lights, a gorgeous piece of architecture. Only the best for Ohtori students, after all.

There are days Mai's tempted to just -fly- to Tokyo out of spite.

That last comment might have cut a bit deeply, and guilt flashes - sadly, while Mamoru's looking away. "Well, tonight's party is basically for all those with little to no family - it was going to be just me and Takumi, but I couldn't leave Mikoto out, and Takumi wanted to bring his roommate, and things have kind of snowballed." She glances to the bag of groceries - hopefully it'll be enough, but the food budget only goes so far. "So at this point, I figure anyone stuck without another option today is welcome."

It's a fairly long bridge, so there's still a bit more time to chat. "Well, my roommate - Mikoto - is here looking for her brother. No picture, though, so basically all I have to go on is 'probably has black hair'. I figure it's a long shot, but it's an excuse for dropping by if you still need one." Mai gives Mamoru another evaluating look.

...for family resemblance. Hoooonest.

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Perhaps the family resemblance is 'probably black hair and possibly kind of a dork'. Or perhaps Mai's roommate will be able to tell right away that Mamoru is so not her brother because her brother's not dorky at all. Time will tell.

When Mai more-or-less actually invites him to come to the party tonight, his eyes widen a little, and the hastily-erected guard he'd spikily put up at her last comment blows away like so much chaff. "Is it pot-luck? I can bring something," he suggests, blue eyes very, very bright.

Sadly, the eleventh-grader's too used to the bridge and the grandeur of Ohtori in general to be at all affected by it. And in his stupid tailored clothes he even looks like he casually belongs there, like any number of the other snobs that call the place their alma mater-- his response to Mai's last doesn't help in that context, either. "Eh, I never need an excuse for anything."

It's fixed a little bit by his clarification, though. "I mean, except to myself. But what you said earlier-- when we were talking about 'irresponsibility' and there being more to life than battle and your wish to keep hold of the normal and good things..."

Mamoru shakes his head, smiling, eyes half-closed from the strength of it. "I should just enjoy things, not convince myself I shouldn't, then come up with excuses. I'm really glad you said it. I'm glad you told me. Thank you."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Who knows, it's an excuse, roll with it. Maybe Mikoto has some magic necklace of brother-detection. As for the snowballing New Year's party: "Mostly trying to have the traditional New Year's foods. Unfortunately, Mikoto ate all the kurikinton I'd made, so..." She gestures to the bag Mamoru is carrying. "I hadn't planned on potluck - if you have anything appropriate for the holiday you're welcome to bring it, but if not don't worry. I don't mind cooking."

Not needing an excuse gets a side-glance - but the clarification helps quite a bit, and by the end of Mamoru's thanks Mai's blushing all over again. "That's...glad I could help!" She hadn't quite realized that's what she was saying, but what's said is said. And it's not bad advice.

If only she listened to it herself.

Ohtori Academy is here, but there's little point leaving Mamoru at the gates - not now that Mai knows he's a student too. Though it bears asking - "Are you also staying in the dorms, or do you have an off-campus apartment like some of the other students?"

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Um," Mamoru says, and this time he's the one looking a little embarrassed. "Both."

Awkward pause.

"For now. I'm probably giving up on the dorms this coming semester. If I'm really desperate to make it to class on time after a night of fighting evil by moonlight, I can sleep on one of the roofs or something. It's just not--"

For once, he seems to realize he's not especially helping his case; he reddens slightly. "Anyway what time is the party? I can at least bring a lot of anko mochi. Because I have a lot. Because I really like it."

No point in leaving him at the gates, but, he's offering her the bag of groceries anyway. "I cleared out my room before we went to Hokkaido, so none of my stuff's in there right now, everything's at my flat..."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

...this guy's actually real. Well. Uh. Mai has nothing to fill the awkward pause with.

"...all things considered, being on campus doesn't help that much. I know that after some Orphan battles I've missed first period. Though honestly I have to blame certain things preventing me from getting out of bed on time." Clingy Mikoto is clingy and she is not mentioning that part to him. Ahem. Where were we?

"Right, the party! It'll be a bit of a late start - Takumi's supposed to show up around seven but he insisted on bringing the soup...I figure eight's a good time to start, but everyone's free to show up whenever." Mai bites back a giggle, but can't hide the smile. "Well, if you're willing to part with your treasured stash, Chiba-san, more mochi would be appreciated." A pause - and her face becomes stricken. "Speaking of which, I'd better make sure Mikoto hasn't eaten all of what I prepared."

Mai gratefully takes the bag, and gives Mamoru the contact details. "I'd better let you get going - hopefully it's not too far. And while you dash, I'll check on Mikoto." She bows - and then runs for the gates.

For a moment, she's heading for the doors - but there's no one else around. A quick grin back to Mamoru if he's still there, and Mai summons rings of fire. They don't stay long - just long enough for her to fly to the upper window, and enter directly to save time. After all, Mikoto does it too, turnabout is fair play...and there's a point to be made about 'appropriate' uses of power.

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

He's still there.

And Mamoru's grinning right back.

And he flashes Mai two thumbs up. This guy's actually real.