2014-04-22 - Some Day Love Will Find You

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Title: Some Day Love Will Find You

Hot pot planning time! Mai wanders into the gardens to find Eri for fun scheming, and stumbles across her singing. Embarrassment, fun, and then everything goes awry.


Eri Shimanouchi, Mai Tokiha


Ohtori Gardens

OOC - IC Date:

3 January 2014 - 4/22/2014

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Ohtori campus was the equivalent of the ghost town during the holiday days. Sure a lot of students lived there, but most only hung about the dorms, and returned only at late hours. Which meant that the gardens were wide open to the gardener. Most of the fields of poppies were covered by sheets and tarps, as was the labyrinthine hedge maze, and the French formal gardens in response to the blustery and frigid weather.

So instead, she spent her time inside the birdcage like conservatory. Given that it was warm and comfortable inside she was only wearing a sailor V T-shirt, denim jeans, leather work gloves, and had a scarf lazily wrapped around her neck. The rest of her winter attire lay nearby...

However, it seemed like most of her gardening work was done for the day, for her watering can lay off to the side, discarded. She was not bent over any of the plants, or the pots. Instead, she had a trowel raised near her mouth. And even though it was muffled by the glass walls, as she twirled about lazily in place(Probably for fear of stepping on the flowers), one could hear muted singing from a distance through them. It was rather terrible, and performed in even worse 'Engrish'.

/o~ Some-day love find you..
/o~ Breaku those chains that binnnddddd you!
/o~ One night remind you~

Fortunately for the self-conscious adolescent girl, the campus was nearly abandoned, right!?

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

For some students, the lack of active class just means the rest of the routine takes over. With families more able to celebrate the holidays for the next week or so, Linden Baum has been doing booming business - and the waitstaff has been getting additional hours accordingly. Most days, Mai has been putting in long shifts, and her bank account has been filling up accordingly.

However, one cannot work at the restaurant every hour of every day. While Mai's able to put in more hours due to the lack of class, the simple fact of the matter is that there's only so much work to go around. So, although it's not yet nightfall, she's done work for the day. Rather than go straight home, though, Mai has ventured into the gardens. She has had an idea, become a quest, become a chance to catch up with a friend.

The greenhouse door creaks open, revealing the orange-haired girl - still in her waitress uniform, with a jacket and scarf in deference to the weather. She raises a hand, prepared to apologize for letting in a brief bit of winter's chill, but then sees the gardener. A greeting dies on her lips as she takes Eri's a capella.

There is, most likely, an awkward silence.

"...sorry for interrupting."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Eri was so caught up in her impromptu music that she didn't hear the door creak open. In fact the only sign that anything was amiss was that the air suddenly became just a touch chilly.

/o~ How we touch and go our seperate..

Turning reflexively from the sudden blast of frigid air, she caught sight of Mai, and the line died in her throat. There's one moment where she's just staring, mouth agape. Tick. Tock. Her mind starts to comprehend what happens, and her nose turns bright red first, which spreads outwards across to her cheeks. Tick. Tock. And then she's lowering the trowel, hastily waving her hands, the words came out as hasty, rambling things!

"OhnonononononyouwerentinterruptinganythingatallIwasjust!" The blush spread to her forehead, and then her cheeks. Another palpable pause, as she tried to find the words. Nothing came to her at first. Another ten seconds later, she smiled a little sheepishly and looked down before saying, "....being absolutely ridiculous." Somewhere in the back of her mind she was wishing some angry nature spirit would strike her dead with a bolt of lightning that somehow spared the flowers to spare her the embarrassment.

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

There is silence, as Mai looks for the words to say. And Eri's panicking and her first impulse is too coloured by recent exchanges with certain highschoolers. Besides, Eri's embarrassed enough as things are, and she doesn't deserve to have things made worse, right?

Besides which, there is an appealing option...

Nearby, an isolated pair of clippers. Mai steps towards them, and goes into a brief spin. Her scarf whirls around her, and when she's facing Eri again it's with the clippers held as a makeshift microphone. She's grinning, and continues -

/o~ If he ever hurtsu you~
/o~ True love wont desert you!
/o~ Though...

Mai lowers the clippers with a sheepish grin. "Sorry, I forget what line comes next. I do better with the lyrics in front of me."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Ever been so embarrassed you wish you could die? It happened a lot to Eri. Adolescent awkwardness just kind of exuded from her like an aura in a lot of social situations. The blush continues, but Eri's expression takes an inquisitive expression as Mai picks up the pair of clippers, and her mouth goes agape again as Mai starts to sing the next few lines of the song.

Nothing could have surprised her more, and like a breath of fresh air, it certainly cleared the room of the palpable embarrassment. Eri was quiet for a few moments, before she started to giggle, but it held none of the context of her making fun of Mai, it was more just.. surprise from the situation, "Ehehehe! Wow Mai-chan! I can't really sing at all, but you? You're amazing!"

It's true that she was terrible, even if she had lessons, she sounded like one of those people that would never be any good at it. "But I like to try, so I sometimes sing love songs when I'm alone, you know?" Some of that embarrassment crept back as she laid down the trowel entirely off to the side, "Kind of sappy I guess."

Clearing her throat, she was still grinning at least, so it seems like Mai had defused most of the 'I want to die' level of chagrin. "So what brings you out here? Not many people come out to the gardens when they're on break."

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

Mai sets down the clippers, looking at them longingly - and blushes a bit at Eri's praise. "It's just practice - when I do have free time, I really like karaoke. Other than Sugiura-sensei bringing the equipment to the hotpot, though, I haven't had a chance to sing in a while..." She flushes.

"You weren't bad, really! It's supposed to be about having fun, not about recording the next hit single." ...admittedly, Eri wasn't -great- but karaoke is the beacon to all who have more enthusiasm than skill. "I like doing upbeat songs, myself - cheerful, genki, anime openings tend to be good for that. Though foreign songs can be neat too, when I was at Juuban we-"

Mai clears her throat. Focus, it's not karaoke night (yet) and she did actually come here for a reason other than random Engrish singing. "Well, two things tied together, and one of them was hoping you'd be hanging around, actually. I wanted to ask something, and get caught up - sorry we didn't get to talk much during the New Year's party, but I got kind of tied up keeping Mikoto from eating everything..." She rubs the back of her head, and takes this chance to actually look around the greenhouse. "The plants look like they're doing really well - are you the only one taking care of them right now?"

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Eri had deftly avoided singing at the hot pot for reasons of complete dumb luck. Sugiura-sensei may be merciless, but at least she uses the WHEEL OF KARAOKE to decide who goes! "You were pretty amazing there too. And..." She shakes her head, "Oh I know, I already sang at Tuner Karaoke once. They have Karaoke nights you know! But I was the worst of the bunch really. Haven't.. been back in a while though." Her voice takes on a touch of nervousness, which belies that there might be a reason outside of singing. "I wouldn't mind hearing you do the openings to some of my favorite anime! Is Mikoto-chan any good at Karaoke? Do you two sing together?"

But then the subject changes, and Eri raises a hand, "Oh no! Don't worry about it! Mikoto-chan can be a handful, but she's really sweet and means well. Just..." Eri kind of grins sheepishly, "...ever get the feeling she was raised by crazy warrior cats or something?"

"It's a shame that Mamoru-kun and I keep missing your shift at the Linden Baum though, I kind of want the two of you to meet." For innocent, totally 'I don't have an ulterior motive.' reasons. Looking around the Greenhouse, she shrugs her shoulders in a sort of sheepish gesture, "Uh well Himemiya-san comes by here too all the time. More than me really. But we don't really talk much."

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

Other people missed out on singing? Mai didn't notice. She was just overwhelmed with glee that her own name came up three times, and so it was the best system ever. "You know, that's the first thing I've heard that makes me consider joining the Tuners." She sticks out her tongue, but Eri's nervousness has her quickly change the subject. Mai thinks things over, and looks rather wistful "You know, I'm actually not sure - outside our little hotpot, I honestly haven't had time for karaoke since, well, before I came to Ohtori. So I haven't had the opportunity...hey, maybe sometime that I'm free, we could all go together!"

Mai's smile is plain. "I just hope you enjoyed yourself - it was going to be a small thing but it kind of snowballed. One of these days, I might have to just leave curry soup out for her, that might teach her not to take random food lying around..." A smirk matches the amusing suggestion. "Crazy warrior cats? I can't think of anything that might disprove that."

Mai's ears perk up at the mention of a certain name - her expression flashing from recognition to exasperation to amusement. "Mamoru-kun...do you mean Mamoru Chiba? I ran into him before the party, as it happens. Nice guy, kind of a goofball. I said he was free to drop by, but he seemed the type to just slink into a shadowy corner and eat his mochi." She then taps her chin, uncertain. "And...Himemiya-san. Where have I heard that name...isn't she a friend of Tenjou-san's?"

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"A-Ah. Maybe you should um..." Awkward silence, it lingered in the air her voice took on a note of timidity, "...it's a good idea, but you should be aware of what you're getting into. Talk to a lot of them first." She sounded, genuinely frightened?

However, that evaporated, and she sounded cheerful when Mai talked about organizing another get together, "Ooo, really? When? I'll be sure to keep my schedule open for it! Well barring any other world changing power plays or.. you know. It seems like we get two a month now. What's up with that?"

Eri tilts her head, "Well I found my terrible dead cat signs were effective, she didn't go near the spicy peppers! I don't know what she's like though when she tries spicy food. You made it sound like she goes on a genuine rampage or something!"

Eri giggles again, flushing a little at her description of Mamoru Chiba as a goofball, "He is definitely a huge goofball! Especially now. Before he seemed like he was just wound up too tight, but now he's all smiles and kookiness. It's kind of a nice change! And don't worry, he /does/ drop by, sometimes when you least expect it, to be terrible, but I think it's all a front with him."

Nodding, "Yeah, the two live together in that dorm on the other side of campus. They're the /only/ ones who live in that dorm. They say the student council set them up. I.. feel kind of bad for Himemiya-san, most of my classmates mistreat her like she's some boy-stealing witch or something! But she doesn't like to talk about her situation."

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

Eri's fear is met with stubborn determination. "Well, from what I'd heard before - and what I'm hearing now - not worth it. I'll keep steering clear of them." The promise of karaoke, however, has her smiling again in an instant - "Great! Maybe we can-" - and then down again, just as quickly. "-find a time. Between school, work, and those world-changing power plays schedules are kind of tight. I'm starting to wonder if I should take Rune-chan up on that offer..." She shakes her head. "I promise, though, we'll find some good time. You, me, Mikoto, and anyone else we want to try roping in."

Mai giggles. "That part did work, which is good for all our sakes. And, um...she kind of does. It was the day after we met for the first time - she'd been starving, and grabbed someone's extra-spicy curry bun. She went rampaging around like a wild animal, causing no end of trouble, desperate for water - I managed to give her some, and made her some ramen." Mai shakes her head, a fond smile on her face. "She's been attached to my cooking ever since."

Oh, Chiba-san the goofball. Mai looks up, a smirk on her face. "I swear, that guy's just a pile of social awkwardness and bad jokes. He wound up dragging me out after work yesterday, only to declare that the best thing to do was have ice cream mochi on a rooftop. Which reminds me, I need to drag a straight answer out of him regarding that comment about some perfect moment or other." Mai folds her arms and huffs.

And then raises an eyebrow. "I don't have time for many rumors myself...though honestly I wouldn't put that past the student council. I guess there's not much we can do if she's not talking - just trust Tenjou-san to keep an eye on her or something." Very weird. Very very weird. Also very not her business.

Suddenly remembering something, Mai claps her hands together. "Oh, before I forget, the other reason I came here. I was thinking that before school starts again and everyone starts crowding campus again, we could try having another hotpot party. Though with actual equipment instead of cheating with magic. Do the gardens have any good vegetables this time of year?"

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"Oh I'm sure we'll find time. My equivalent of a job doesn't exactly have set hours, even if making all the 'shifts' are important." After all, she needed to hunt witches to keep on living. That alone was like having a full time job, especially when she had no territory of her own. Crossing her arms, she asks, "Oh? What did Rune-chan offer you?" It sounded like Eri was familiar with Rune's offers, but didn't exactly consider them either a positive, or a negative thing.

Eri blinks, holds up a finger like she's about to say something at Mai's description of how Mikoto and her became friends. The finger lowers. She stands there thinking about it for a while, the finger is held up again. It lowers again. And then eventually she murmurs, "Okay, chalk one more point towards the crazy warrior cats theory." She holds out a hand to ward off comments, "Don't get me wrong though, it's endearing! You won her over with /cooking/! Her devotion to you is really really sweet!"

And then suddenly.. Eri's mind tries to put two and two together, even if its the wrong two and two. Mochi on a rooftop? Perfect moment!? "It sounds like the two of you are getting along famously..." Without her interference, her voice unintentionally took on a sing-songy quality, as if she were already imagining some Shoujo romance between Mai and Mamoru in her head, "...what do you thinkkkk he meant by some perfect moment?"

"Yeah, you can trust Tenjou-san, like I said, she's /really good/ at taking care of herself in a pinch. And I'd love that!" Eri considers the dilemma for a while, "Hrmm. Well! The problem is that most of the conservatory space is reserved for exotic flowers and plants or special projects. And without magic we'd be hard pressed to grow enough for a hot pot in a timely manner. But there are winter vegetables we could try growing with proper care. Broccoli, beets, cabbage, leeks and radishes for example. Cabbage even tastes sweeter if its frost kissed."

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

"I wish my hours were set. Unfortunately, Linden Baum's manager sets the schedule every week, and plays favourites. I don't think he's blamed me outright for the battle that happened a while back, but I wonder sometimes if he's just throwing the unwanted shifts at me." Mai sighs. "But it's a steady paycheck. Rune-chan, uh..." Mai rubs the back of her head, and actually blushes. "...she suggested I could be her personal cook."

The blush persists at the next declaration of what Mai's cooking skills have wrought. But...it's nice to be appreciated and get that loving praise every meal, especially with Takumi not nearby to comment as much any more. Still red, Mai mutters. "Oh, she's devoted all right." Abruptly, she remembers something and bursts out giggling. "You know, there are times I come home late and find her collapsed - because she'd rather starve than eat something that wasn't my cooking? No, seriously."

Two plus two equals ten! In base four. It's valid math, especially given what's been said, and Mai's offhand comments are thrown out as she's trying to remember if she left Mikoto a meal. "Oh, things got interrupted before he could say. Someone we knew showed up to ask something, and then he dashed off mid-conversation. I don't know what that goof thinks of me - but he's friendly enough, and looks danged good in the right light." Tick tick tick ding - Mai realizes what she just blurted out, and looks back to Eri in a blushing panic. "I - sorry, ignore that last bit."

As for Tenjou-san... Mai just nods and does not think about New Year's Eve. "She does seem the heroic type." And now, active planning - "You mentioned that magic tires you out, so I'd rather avoid that if possible. That seems like a great selection, though - our Hokkaido Hot Pot was more colorful, but honestly those go together pretty well on their own." She thinks. "I might do two pots, and have one with meat - would that be okay with you?"

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"As if you can help it if the newest variety of monster, or scenery chewing villain of the week wants to attack! He should be grateful he's got servers who can fend them off!" Eri rolls her eyes, "Should be giving you a raise." As Mai outlines Rune's offer, Eri puts a hand to her forehead, rubbing it gently. She knows that Rune didn't /mean/ it like that, but it sounds very much like the Princess trying to buy more servants. "Well she pays well, but honestly Mai-chan, I think you'd be better off just getting a job showing off your cooking talents. I mean, you're more than good enough to be working 'behind' the counter, and it'd probably pay better. Possibly with better hours too!"

"Whatttttt, really?" Eri tries to imagine 'starving' herself if she can't get someone's cooking, and just.. can't, imagine that. "Now I wish she was in my class, so I'd be better equipped to watch out for her. Do you need someone to drop by every now and then to look after her while you're working?" Eri didn't mean to imply it's babysitting an upperclassman, but Mikoto, despite being older just had a sort of air about her that made Eri think of her as younger, like some sort of endearing little sister.

Gotta love Shoujo math. Eri was grinning from ear to ear, even blushing a little herself, because she knows what Mai means about Mamoru-kun looking good in the right light, "There's no need to be embarrassed! He's got the dreamiest eyes too! But if you want, then it's already forgotten~"

"Ah." That was sort of a half-explanation of how her magic works, but Eri still didn't want to worry Mai with the full details. Mai had enough on her plate without always checking to make sure Eri had enough magic to keep on going. "Yeah, I understand what you mean. So here's what we'll do!" Eri holds up a finger, "We'll start up a window garden in your dorm room. Indoors. Then adapt a little cage around it with signs so Mikoto-chan doesn't get into it! A single row might be enough to get all we need for one hot pot!"

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

...that's a good point! "And if it were really a problem caused by me, you'd think there'd have been a second attack by now! But no, same old pay, same old problem. It's not like I'm breaking dishes like Sugiura-sensei was, and I don't waste time chatting with the cook..." Eri gives her two cents, and outright ranting turns more solemn. "I kind of got that feeling. Which, well, it's not that much different than the food service industry, but I'm kind of uncertain about the whole thing. And, well. I'm a good home cook - or at least I like to think so - but I don't match up to what Linden Baum's existing cooks do." She folds her arms, and ponders.

Mai does look up at the offer, and seems to actually consider it - but she shakes her head. "I make sure to have emergency onigiri stashed away for her - it hasn't been a problem since before the Hokkaido trip. Thanks, though." No offense taken, Mikoto is a person in need of a little care.

Mai turns away, arms still folded, face turning pink again at the Mamoru comments. "Don't remind me. The worst thing is I don't think he even knows, he's just distractingly hot by accident. I'm going to have to remember not to look directly at his eyes when dragging details out of him next time..."

Finally, Mai unfolds her arms, and faces Eri again. "Right, the windowbox idea - I do like that plan. How quickly do you think we could get things grown? I was kind of hoping to hold something before classes started up again." A pensive look crosses her face. "I'll probably have to get some ingredients anyway - we can't exactly grow konbu. So I can always pick up a few things to fill out the menu a bit..."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"Wait, Sugiura-sensei was a server there too?" Eri tries to wrap her mind around her Labrys wielding history teacher serving at the Linden Baum in the frilly pink and white uniform. Suddenly she's seeing Chibi-Midori running wield that Labrys breaking every shelf of dishes in the kitchen, laughing like a pirate all the while. And then in the aftermath, standing there, still brandishing the axe, hands on hips, continuing to laugh maniacally. There's a sudden anime sweatdrop on her head. "And I dunno Mai-chan, I think you've got a real talent! What track do you want to do once you get to the University anyhow?"

At her insistence, Eri just nods. "I understand." But she moves on more quickly to one of her favorite subjects, romance. Eri giggles again, her cheeks still pinkish herself, "Distractingly hot is probably the best description I've heard about it. Even when he's doing Kendo. I swear, I think it's kind of silly watching two men beat each other with Shinai, but when him and Takeo-kun have a match..." The flush on her cheeks picks up, as she considers. "...uh, yeah. Just ignore me too. I read way more Shoujo manga than is healthy."

Pondering the dilemma of the windowbox idea in her head, Eri considers, "Usually a few weeks, under the most ideal conditions. We don't have the most ideal conditions, but there are a few things we can do. Proper soil, with the right acidity, some organic fertilizer...." She glances towards Mai, "...I'll think of ways to minimize the smell. Organic fertilizer kind of kills the atmosphere of a dorm room. Then lighting. There's a girl who I know named Kaname Kurosu from Juuban whose family runs a Green House. I'll see if she has any tips for window gardening."

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

Mai thinks back, and what she remembers isn't far off from Eri's imagination. "Yup. Every other shift she'd drop at least one tray. Then one day she said she was quitting, that she'd gotten a better job...and then history class the next day, there she was." Mai rubs the back of her head - oh, a sudden question. "I haven't given it much thought yet - I've still got a couple of years before graduation comes. Priority's what's going on now, anyway."

Mai blinks. "Takeo, Takeo...Akamizu, right? I think he's in my class, actually. He and Chiba-san do kendo?" Mai tries to picture this.

...ahem. Mai looks for a distraction from these thoughts, spies Eri's own blush, and laughs. "I think you're fine. It's a good thing for a girl your age to enjoy!"

Hm. That is a dilemma. "There's not long before term starts - maybe I should just declare it to be potluck and have everyone bring whatever ingredient they want. Hotpotluck, maybe?" She grins. "I still want to give the windowbox a try - stick with good soil, and I might be able to find some trick for temperature control at least. Maybe do another one after the term starts?" Mai arches her back a moment. "Ah, and finding times people can make...right now it's easy without class in the way, but once that starts up again...ugh."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"Wow. From server, to the most draconic history professor we have here! Takeo-kun told me how she does her make up exams." Gloom. There is SO MUCH GLOOM on her expression. "Fortunately I passed, just barely, so I won't have to go through that." Before offering her a sharp nod, "Oh yeah, no rush at all. I'm kind of in the same situation of, the here and now taking precedence."

And then at that line, Eri leans in just slightly, "Oh yeah, they both are in the Kendo club, and they're both really good at it. Probably even better than Saionji-san." Which probably revealed a lot about Eri's opinion on him, given that she didn't use -senpai for the highly popular high school boy, which many girls around campus referred to as -sama. "But yeah, he's in your class, and really cute too, in the same goofy way as Mamoru-kun. He's um, the guy that sleeps a lot through classes!"

But when Mai insists its a good thing for a girl her age to enjoy, she crosses her arms, "Sheesh Mai-chan. 'A girl your age', as if you were so much older!" It's mostly feigned indignance, revealed by the fact that she's grinning, "Acting like you're too mature to enjoy it too!" Prod. Soooo much prodding.

Contemplating the dilemma of Mai's full schedule, Eri leans against one of the shelves, making certain that none of the plants were wobbling under her weight, "Best thing to do I guess is just to find a Saturday or Sunday night. People are usually free then. Then ask off a few weeks in advance to give the vegetables time to grow. Even your boss can't be that unreasonable if you ask off before he even does the schedule!"

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

Mai winces. "I still need to look at my grades, I've been avoiding the issue as long as I could. But yeah - the next time you see her in class, just imagine her in...well, this." Mai sweeps both hands down her figure, displaying the Linden Baum waitress uniform. "...actually, I think she might have kept her uniform." Regarding a focus on what's immediate, Mai just nods - whatever Eri's family issues are, they take priority, right?

Oh good, it's gossip time. "I'm usually trying to not lose track in class, but I think I know who you mean. Seems a bit lazy, though. Wouldn't have expected him to be in any sports." Mai's knowledge of the famed Kendo Club is...not great. "Maybe I should get to know him. Or maybe Watanabe-san - she was a bit odd, but nicer than I'd expected."

Mai looks sheepish at the manga comment, and almost staggers from the verbal prods. "I've been busy! And I don't have a big entertainment budget, or time to read it in!" Which doesn't exactly address the root issue and she's a little pink.

Mai looks for somewhere to lean - but the shelves near her are fairly full. It's fine, she can stand, waitressing requires a lot of standing. "I do get saddled with morning shifts more often on the weekends - so that should be doable. A few weeks, right?" She folds her arms, and nods. "I might like to do something else in the next couple of days - invite everyone I know who was involved in the whole New Year's Eve business, along with you and Mikoto."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"What? Why would she keep it? Is Sugiura-sensei into cosplay?" Eri's eyes widen at the possibilities. Given Midori, it would not be the strangest thing she's heard.

Yay gossip time! "Watanabe-san is.. kind of strange, but I'm not one to talk, I'm kind of strange too. I encountered her once in Akihabara, and she was just sitting there like she was on an alien planet. Did you know she keeps a crocodile as a pet on that cruise ship? She named her Baroness Juanita!" Grinning like a sap though, she prods Mai a little more verbally, "But yeah, you really should meet Takeo-kun. Like I said, he's kind of a goofy dork, but his heart is in the right place." And he needs help getting over his 'In my past life my love affair caused the fall of a Kingdom so I can't possibly date anyone else I might cause something equally catastrophic.' complex, but Eri doesn't allude to that.

"That's okay, if you can't afford manga or games or something like that. There was once this girl at a sleepover who told me that 'imagination' is the best DLC." A girl who was styling Nori's hair into odangos! But Eri hadn't caught her name.

"Oh, you were there for that? I umm.. I couldn't make it." There's a note of guilt in her voice, but Eri had been dangerously low on grief seeds and magic that night, something which precluded her from heeding the call to arms. "How'd that go?"

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

"She didn't say, I didn't ask. It's Sugiura-sensei and your guess is as good as mine." Midori is Midori, and Mai's exasperation at the history teacher is plain. As for her classmates - all she can do is shrug. "I've basically been going straight from class to the hospital or to work, there's a lot of people I don't know well. Maybe this term will be different. Though I did talk with Watanabe-san on the trip - did you know she's married? Not engaged, but actually married." ...okay, Mai can gossip a bit.

Takeo hasn't been perfectly framed by moonlight while wearing a tuxedo, so it's hard for him to be as big a mental derail as Mamoru is. Mai smirks in response. "It'll take a lot of work to convince me he's as much of a goofball as Chiba-san. Reliable in a pinch, but the ultimate goofball all the same." A pause. "Well, maybe Sugiura-sensei could give him a run for his money, but that's about it." Another romantic interest might be mandated, here!

The 'DLC' comment just baffles Mai, and she moves on to the topic of New Year's Eve. "Neither could Mikoto - I just happened to be in the area, and Linden Baum was closing early. It was..." Mai reflects on the night. "It was rough. Powerful foes, raised stakes, and a couple of fairies not mentioning that our eleven hour deadline was getting shrunk to about two. Still, we managed to pull off saving that stolen gem." She looks to one side. "Even if I did have to bring out Kagutsuchi."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"To the hospital? Is.. Takumi-san alright?" Eri's voice has a note of concern, as her hands slide away from their crossed posture. She didn't mean to switch it to a serious subject, but she couldn't think of any other reason why Mai would be there. "Oh! Um yeah, well she may be married, but she's kind of.. flirtatious I guess? I heard that she started the trend of kissing through the glass. You know, to someone you like, but that it doesn't mean as much as a real kiss and doesn't count as cheating. I'm.. not sure how that works out!" Eri shifts a little uncomfortably. A lot of girls in her class had experienced this already. She had not. She was a little self-conscious about that even if she didn't talk about it.

Maybe not by moonlight, but Eri had seen him in valiantly charge a witch in full armor, while riding on a flying horse named Sparkles. That left an impression on /her/ at least. "Yeah umm, question..." Eri leans in a little, and whispers comically, which is unintentional, but perhaps she was was afraid of someone else overhearing this. "...Is Sugiura-sensei really seventeen? I mean, she says she is but! She doesn't.. look it? But she got really upset the one time someone questioned her on it.."

Eri considers it for a while, and breathes a mental sigh of relief that they managed it without her, until she mentions Kagutsuchi, which causes a small sound sort of like 'hurk' to rise up in her throat. "Wow. You had to.. summon Kagutsuchi?" Eri looks wide eyed, "You told me how dangerous that can be..." She seems to be slightly at a loss for what to say. She hasn't seen Kagutsuchi, she can only imagine its destructive power from what Mai has told her.

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

Mai's own face flashes with worry - but she shows an upbeat smile. "Just routine checkups, don't worry about it! It just eats up one day a week or so on average." It really is something to worry about, but it's something for Mai to worry about.

And then she shifts to outright boggling and beginning to blush. "The what trend now?! I- I hadn't heard of anything like that!" She's rather flustered, though that's shifting quickly to disapproval. "That seems - I mean - I might have to ask her about that myself, because honestly I can't believe that. How does that even..."

Mai has seen Lancelot, and seen Takeo, but is unaware of the link and so judges each on their own. Alas. When Eri leans in, Mai does so as well - and giggles. "To be perfectly honest...well, she was saying that at Linden Baum. At the time, I didn't question it because it actually made sense there, but...if you like, I could try calling her out on it."

Back to the description of New Year's - and at Eri's evident worry, Mai's expression falls. "...yeah. I didn't have any other choice, though. We were fighting a giant troll on his bridge while the fairies tried to retrieve the gem. When he realized the trickery, the troll destroyed the bridge, and everyone started falling..." Whether it jostles the plants or not, Mai leans heavily on the table behind her.

"...I consider it a chain of good luck. That Kagutsuchi came, even in that other world. That he caught everyone and didn't attack them. That when we wound up back in Tokyo, he didn't rampage. That his fire was aimed out over the water." Mai shivers, in spite of the greenhouse's warmth.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"Ah. Alright." Eri shifts in place, she knew how touchy the subject of sick family could be, so she restricts her concern to just.. taking Mai's word for it. "I know! I don't see how it could even work! And then, it totally seems like cheating to me and could get a lot of people in trouble with whoever they're seeing. Not that I'm seeing anyone or have issues with anyone... kissing me through the glass." She seems like she's a little grumpy, maybe touchy at that fact, before she realizes how that sounds and quickly redirects, her voice in hurried tones even as her cheeks pinken, "Uh, but it's something you might have problems with in the future, so just be careful!"

Eri seems pretty afraid at the idea of calling her out, "Uh.. uh! Do you really think we should!? Takeo-kun says she can be really scary!"

Eri pictures that chain of events(While keeping an eye on Mai to make sure none of the plants are sliding!), one event at a time, and gulps, "Well I'm glad noone got hurt except the troll.." Another uncomfortable shift, as she asks, "Where does Kagutsuchi even go, when you don't have it summoned? I mean, is it asleep? Do you ever try.. summoning it to train? Like maybe obedience exercises somewhere secluded?"

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

Mai is perfectly content leaving family medical issues alone for now. Glass kisses are easier to discuss, by comparison. "There's enough things already that are like kissing but don't count, we didn't really need another one. But - don't worry, Eri-chan. I'm sure you'll find someone!" Mai's smile is cheerful and encouraging. As for the future: "Personally, it's stressful enough for me to get through class without having to think about glass kisses. Besides which, I'm not even near the window, so I'm just going to try to ignore it."

Mai grins back at the idea of challenging Midori...but that soon fades. "...she's impressive in a fight and she can assign us more essays. Maybe skip that."

Kagutsuchi is a difficult topic, and Mai sighs. "I'm...not sure. That obnoxious brat didn't explain anything...my best guess is that it's kind of asleep inside me." She looks down at her chest. The idea of obedience exercises does get a laugh - albeit a bitter one. "Secluded. The question is, where in the world could be secluded enough?" She points out a greenhouse window - the gardens have a view of the hills out back, which are snow-covered to the point that one can hardly see the landscaping work. "I'd rather not give the school another inferno to discuss if things go wrong."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

The pink becomes beet red as Mai assures her she'll find someone. She's quiet for a while, recomposing herself before.. "Not likely." She mumbles, even a little darkly, the two words punctuating the air. Anger mixed with sorrow and depression, even if none of it was directed at Mai. She was happy to move on though. "Ah! Alright. But it's amusing to imagine what some of the girls who sit by the windows are having to go through!" Eri was one of them. She picked that seat for the view of the campus gardens so she could ignore history lectures.

Nervousness enters into her voice again, "A-Ah yeah! Please don't make me get assigned anymore history homework! I hate history! Also I've seen Sugiura-sensei tear apart this video game demon like it was nothing!"

"Oh, the same one that calls you Mai-Hime?" And Eri's gaze trails down to Mai's chest too as she thinks of Kagutsuchi being asleep inside of her, "Wow, that's kind of.. awesome, but surreal too." Mulling over the idea of what place would be 'safe enough' Eri frowns. She knew of a place, but should she tell Mai? And then what about everything else associated with it in the future? As she couldn't just stop at telling her what witch's labyrinths are. She'd have to tell her what a witch is, how her magic works, how she recharges. What happens if she runs out... No, she was trying not to put that burden on anyone else, "I'll think on it. Maybe scout out a few ideas."

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

'Not likely'. The words of someone who's given up on romance for now. Isn't that a familiar echo? Mai stops leaning on the table, heads over to where Eri is standing. "Sorry for teasing about that. I...there are times when there's too much to be done, and no chance to think about romance, right?" Mai's trying to be as comforting as she can, offering sympathy. The comment of the window seats' suffering does get a giggle out of her. "And it's up to them what to do about it. Indulge, refuse, make a mockery of the whole thing..."

As for Sugiura-sensei... "Right, right. I'll leave our insane teacher's age alone." The topic moves on to a certain jerk. "Yeah, that's the one. Silver hair, red eyes, fond of little bits of mockery. And terrible at giving a straight answer - pretty much all he said was that I'd be putting my life on the line, which I was fine with." Or something precious, at any rate.

Awesome is a word for Kagutsuchi, as is terrific. Begetting of awe and terror. "It's...strange. Comforting and terrifying all at once. I can't leave him behind, but he kind of..." Mai clenches her jaw. That one worry, lingering. Something that's happened at least twice so far. "...I should warn you. There have been a couple of times that I think he's just unleashed his power through me. Times that I've been overwhelmed by whatever I was facing, and blanked out for a moment..."

Mai backs off a step. "...just be careful. You don't need to put yourself in danger for my sake - I'm supposed to be the 'big sister' of us, I get to take care of the younger ones." There's a faint smile there, but one that doesn't reach the eyes.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Eri listens for a while, quiet until the end. Mai might notice that in the silence. Dealing with all those turbulent emotions that surround Mai's statements.

"That's not it." Eri shakes her head, her voice turning absolutely frigid. "It would be terribly selfish of me to consider a relationship with someone because of my messed up life and how busy it is, yeah." For reasons that even Eri wouldn't divulge, in particular the fact that she didn't expect to survive long. So how much worse would it be if she found true love only to die for the person she left behind? "...but, it's something I think about all the time. And I want that some day. And I want that with the right person. But..."

She holds up a finger, "...but I know that my standards are impossibly high. I want someone who understands me. I want someone who truly loves me for who I am. And guess what? I know I'm just not, that.. that pretty! Or funny, or interesting enough that anyone would care enough to even try!"

Which is when her eyes well up, "I mean, I thought I had that already. Someone who understood me. With my Dad. And that gave me just a little bit of hope that someone else in this messed up world would care enough about me some day. I thought I'd eventually find the right person. Maybe raise a family. Become a Doctor, or a Botanist.. or something! I actually had dreams. Things I wanted to achieve.. and then guess what happened?"

She lifts her chin a little, her eyes glistening now with little saline streams. "Training accident. Left him a vegetable. A brain dead lump on a hospital bed. Told I should 'make peace'. What does that even mean, Mai? What does that even mean!? How can anyone make peace with that? And then this little creature showed up. Told me I could have anything in the world that I wanted, so long as I'd take on this destiny where I'd have to hunt monsters for the rest of my life. And so I did. I made the bargain, and thought I'd never regret it, because I could bear any burden so long as I had my Dad back." Her voice now takes on a broken quality, maybe even a little unhinged, "And then. He does. That. Kicks me out. Even slaps me."

Putting a trembling hand up to her face, she tries to wipe it away frantically. "So yeah. 'Not likely' means I have no hope whatsoever for my chances of finding a special someone, and a happy end, not after that. My life is now this. Congratulations Eri Shimanouchi, you made your choice, now live with it!" 'For as long as you can.' lingers in her thoughts.

And then she blinks once, and then twice, realizing she'd done exactly what she didn't want to do, burden Mai more, in a suitably dramatic fashion. "I really suck at this." She whispers in a muted voice, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have... I should go..."

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

Mai has poured out a few of her worries - revealed that doubt that she might not be safe enough to be around. And so she backs away, and waits for Eri to accept or reject the monster that she might be. But, instead of such a clear binary, she gets told the truth.

As Eri talks about her romantic hopes, Mai considers interjecting. That that's a reasonable standard, that every one of the people she knows with power shares the worry about a screwed up life. But she doesn't interject - in honour of Eri's own silence, Mai just nods, and waits for her to go on.

'Had that already'. Not a mother, but a father, and Mai already begins to wince, she knows where this story goes - an accident, the hospital, making peace with the inevitable. Sympathy crosses Mai's face, because she knows how this story ends - tragedy, a legacy to be carried on...

...except it didn't. Absolute shock on Mai's face, that such a bargain was possible. Her mouth opens, but no words can come out - just shock, awe, and just the slightest, barest hint of envy. At that moment, a few words finally manage to escape Mai's mouth. "You...got that chance? To get him back?..." A hint of envy, colouring a body of longing...but Eri isn't done.

Mai's hands come up to her mouth in horror upon hearing of Eri's father's actions. A long, horrified stare at Eri's fury and sorrow. Up until Eri begins to apologize. That's the breaking point.

Almost too fast to see - Mai's taken two swift steps forward, and pulled Eri into a tight hug. A soft, warm embrace, one that refuses to let the younger girl go, that holds her tight to Mai's chest. When the HiME speaks, it's with determination, affection, a tight voice of love for the person and anger at the circumstance. "No. Never apologize for that. Never apologize for suffering. What happened is not. Your. Fault. Do you understand me, Eri? You deserve a happy ending."

...something wet might drip to the top of Eri's head, but there's only two witnesses here.