2015-06-02 - Then, Get Better

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Title: Then, Get Better

Lera and Setsuna meet up at Kaoru-chan's donut shop. They discuss Lera's secret identity, which Setsuna discovered, but some unfortunate turns of conversation leads to sadness. And awkwardness.


Lera Camry and Setsuna Higashi


Kaoru-chan's Donut Stand, Nikishama Park District

OOC - IC Date:

06-02-2015 - 07-17-2014

It's a cloudy day in the middle of finals, when good students ought to be going home to study more in preparation for the next day and business shouldn't be particularly good for donut stands in the park.

...But Eas isn't a student at all, and Kaoru-chan's stand stays open even on cloudy days!

She didn't exactly /mean/ to come out here; she didn't get or give any invitations. But here she is anyway, casually dressed outside any particular school uniform and wandering through the woods to find herself touching down on the asphalt of the parking lot where Kaoru-chan keeps his place. She's idly messing with a necklace she's wearing--a green, glass clover--and not really watching where she's going. Her expression? Fairly blank.

Donuts loom ahead.

Lera should be home studying, because she is a good student. The last couple of weeks have tested that, though; the struggle between living the secret life of a magical girl and the regular life of a school girl has been felt more keenly. She doesn't feel that she has her head above water, despite a couple of recent triumphs, and she has a certain listlessness about her as a result. A donut seems like a cure, especially because she can't quite bring herself to go to Linden Baum right now.

She doesn't know what she would say to a certain waitress.

Coming in search of donuts made her think of Setsuna Higashi; the girl who read her fortune and the one that she revealed the truth to, when those obon wishes went awry. She is looking in the general direction of the mansion that she operates out of, and looks away for a moment when she resolves to get a donut first. But then the strange coincidence catches her attention.

Her brown-gold eyes widen and she smiles, before she trots quickly over, and waves a hand in the air. "Higashi-san!" she calls out, before she hurries a little to get closer. Some real energy is there when she says a greeting: "Hi!"

It's difficult to balance all of that; this much Setsuna knows, even if she isn't really needing to do so herself. She /sees/ it, often enough, and wonders often what makes them bother--what makes them decide to put themselvse through that kind of difficulty.

But she doesn't have waitress issues.

She is thinking, but it's more like she's going in circles, which she was doing literally for a little while. She certainly wouldn't have noticed if Lera hadn't spoken up--but she does. Blinking, Setsuna lifts her head, and her dull red eyes have a strange tired quality to them.

It lingers when she puts on her usual smile. "Ah, Camry-san! How... unexpected!"

The eager, energetic greeting hides more than a few insecurities. She hasn't seen Setsuna since she found out; ordinarily, this would be normal. Lera and her don't see each other that often, after all. But she wonders -- not suddenly, but worries she hadn't dealt with in the last few days come to the fore quickly -- whether she scared her when she transformed in front of her. She doesn't know the truth in the slightest.

Her smile only falters a little. "Yeah, I thought I'd get some donuts," she says, glancing at the shack and the little tables out in front of it. "An award for doing good after finals, you know?"

She laughs, then she looks back at Setsuna. "What about you?"

Of course, for all her professed skill at observation, it simply never /occurred/ to Setsuna that she should be frightened by Lera's identity as a normal girl.

It doesn't really occur to her to try and use that insecurity, either.

"Ah--" Looking up, it's almost as if the younger girl is /surprised/ to see the donut stand, according to the little shifts in her eyes, the way she stands up a little straighter. "Are you already done?" she finds herself asking, and this time there's no 'almost' to the surprise.

Obviously, you wouldn't reward yourself partway through the mission.

"Oh, I was just..." What? "Taking a walk," she decides. That's a 'normal' thing to do... and Lera may recall that her 'home' isn't far from here.

"N-No," Lera admits with a sheepish smile. She shakes her head. "I still have a couple of tests left, actually. But I'm halfway through them and I thought could use the pick-me-up."

She scratches at the back of her head and glances, not even thinking to question the other girl's explanation. She lives nearby, after all, and everyone likes a nice long walk sometimes. (Nevermind that some people may not like nice long walks.) She tilts her head and considers.

"Want to get some donuts?" she asks. "They're better when they're shared! Or something. I guess it doesn't actually change the taste. But--um." Oh, no, she thinks; that sounded weird. That won't do at all. Her face begins to redden. "You know! Something! N-Normal Earth traditions are great, Higashi-san!"

"Oh," Setsuna answers simply, in that way where you acknowledge something but don't really sound like you /get/ it.

...She doesn't follow up.

"Donuts?" Obviously she doesn't. Something delicious is the last thing she needs right now, it would be terrible. ...But they are right there, and it might be suspicious not to have some. And...

"...As long as I don't bring any back. ...My cousin's on a diet."

She smiles slightly. It is not at all apparent that this is a smile of spite for Soular.

Except--Ah? "Huh?" Well of course it doesn't actually change the taste, that's a metaphor, but--

Normal Earth traditions?? There's no way she /knows/ is there? The dark-haired girl blinks in alarm. "Is... something on your mind, Camry-san?"

"N-No, everything is normal and fine!" Lera laughs nervously and shakes her head quickly. "That's great, though! We don't have to bring any back! I've got cousins, too, and I bet they diet sometimes and--um--right! Walking!"

She starts walking towards the counter. Mercifully, the donut stand has no other customers right now, so no one else has to see this. The redness in her face dies down a little as she walks and her steps slow. She shouldn't make things up, she realizes. Setsuna already /knows/. Her eyes drift down at the ground for a moment.

"Actually, uh..." She keeps her voice down; she doesn't need Kaoru-chan hearing this. "I'm sorry if that whole thing with the statue, where I transformed in front of you, was..." She keeps her eyes down, too, now, at the ground in front of her.

"I'm sorry if I spooked you or anything."

"...?" Setsuna actually tilts her head slightly in her confusion at Lera's wall of words, and the quiet, restrained way the younger girl tends to hold herself probably only makes it /more/ awkward as she proceeds to look at Lera like she doesn't get what she just said at all... Though she catches herself after a moment. She can't let things like that slip. "Right!" she says brightly instead.

She also walks, but she slows to match Lera's pace. It seems there's /something/ after all, but...


There's a moment's silence before Setsuna shakes her head. "Don't worry about it. I don't see anything I need to worry about either."

...Well, except statues coming to life. ...Not that she's worried about that, either.

"Really?" the Midchildan asks, her tone becoming surprised. "I thought--I mean, I wasn't sure what you thought. I didn't think you'd dislike me over it or something, you seem nice, but--"

She has trouble with babbling when she gets nervous. She realizes it, though, and clamps her mouth shut to collect herself before she keeps talking. "It's not something most people know about here," she says, quieter than before. A smile sneaks onto her face, though, and the first bit of bubbling relief rises up. "I thought you might think I'm weird. Or be annoyed about almost being clobbered by a statue."

She skips a beat.

"Sorry about that," she adds. "I wanted to make sure you didn't get its attention, but that was kinda hard to do."

...Should she be more concerned? Setsuna doesn't really have much experience to prepare her for the idea that something outside her reality is likely to happen out of nowhere. People of Earth being bizarre is one thing--but things just happened...?

Setsuna looks at Lera's mouth when she clamps it shut, and then back up to her eyes. The explanation finally starts to make sense, but there's still just something /missing/ in it. "Oh."

"...It's not the first time I've seen stuff like that," she finds herself answering instead, "...I don't mind. You..."

She feels guilty talking about this, all of a sudden, and tries to suppress it, looking right back up to Lera. "You were doing your best. I..." She can't quite bring herself to say what she feels would be appropriate, so instead, "I don't think you're weird. I didn't know you had a talking weapon though."

Lera didn't stop to consider that she might have seen something like that before. She isn't that surprised -- it may explain why Setsuna didn't panic and flee in the face of the monster, at least in part -- but she does stare for a moment without speaking. Then she grins and nods, quickly, at Setsuna.

"I didn't realize!" she says. She wants to ask more, but that breaks the rules. She could learn someone's identity without meaning to. "That's--that's good, though. Um, that I'm not weird. My talking weapon is weird, though."

<Excuse me?> Soaring Sky asks.

Lera's smile turns into a mischevious grin. Then she gets close enough to the donut stand to think to be quiet about that. She beams at Kaoru-chan. "Two chocolate frosted with sprinkles, please!"

She wouldn't be the first normal girl to get wrapped up in all this, though she does take it more calmly than is probably normal. ...Then again, she's a fortune-teller; is it so strange she'd see magic as normal?

...The stare makes her a little nervous anyway, though. "Ah..."

Is she going to have to--

Even the thought of it strikes her, /hurts/ to contemplate on a level she didn't think about or realize. The wind is briefly out of her slightly, for no apparent reason. "I... That's right," she answers, when lera says she hadn't realized. That she says she isn't weird.

The weapon talks, and Setsuna falters, stumbling back slightly.

Lera notices the way that Setsuna falters and stumbles. She pauses, though, with a thoughtful look on her face. Setsuna looks winded or surprised, she thinks; perhaps Sky speaking took her aback. Or something else? She wonders, for a moment.

Then she shakes her head. It doesn't matter. "Ah, hey, it's okay!" she says. She smiles again at her. "Sorry if he surprised you. Ah, make that four donuts, Kaoru-chan!"

She tosses some yen over. A moment later, she has her donuts. She holds the little box -- and their amazing, chocolate frosted goodness -- up for Setsuna to see. "Wanna share these?"

Otherwise, she can take hers home.

It's hard to say; she recovers herself after a moment, catching her balance on the wall of Kaoru-chan's vehicle. "No, I--I'm sorry, I was just feeling light-headed for a moment."

The image sticks with her, though obviously she can't share it. She turns to offer a nervous smile at Kaoru, and then notices that Lera already paid for the donuts. "...Sure," she answers.

She should probably eat something, even if she doesn't expect to taste them much.

"Let's sit down." She heads to a table far enough to talk more quietly, "Your weapon seems to have more personality than I'd expect," she adds to change the subject.

She tilts her head, then nods. Lera accepts the explanation -- mostly. She wonders, but that seed of wondering doesn't grow into anything else. She already thought that Setsuna was mysterious. She hesitates for a moment, though, and lifts a donut up. She bites half of it off, and grins, before she sits back. The taste of a delicious donut is enough to please her and set her at ease, if only temporarily.

"Yeah," she says. "He's called an Intelligent Device. He's... like us, you know? Sky can talk, feel things, think things. He's probably my best friend in the world."

<Yes. Best friends. She gets crumbs in my panel lines.>

"Sky," Lera says, her eyebrow twitching.

As long as it doesn't crop up right now, it's fine. Setsuna has already moved on from considering what she had a moment ago--for now. She can't quite get it out of her mind, but she's not going to act on it. It's not necessary.

...She takes the donut before her in both hands and bites into it thoughtfully, as if the mysteries of Earth itself are all within this one baked item.

"An Intelligent Device," she repeats. She doesn't smile, but she can't help but feel a twinge about 'like us', in that respect.

He probably feels more than she does.

"Does she? I would think you would be difficult to maintain that way." Pause. "...I've never heard of those being something on Earth." Pause. "...Here, I mean. ...The other girls I've seen weren't like that. Did you find him somewhere?"

<She doesn't appreciate my sophistication.>

"I--ah--" Lera hestiates, her words stumbling. She debates whether she should admit the full truth, but Setsuna is perceptive. While Endo and Ren have Devices, they also have true stories about how they received them and became Mages. She doesn't have that. She coughs and looks down.

"Devices are built on a world called Midchilda," she says. "People who can use Intelligent Devices the way I can are pretty rare--I mean, not really rare, it's not like I'm that special, or anything..." Her confidence, when one digs deep enough, has never been that great. Recent events have hit it hard; it isn't easy to see herself as a fantastic, larger than life mage adventurer right now. It isn't easy to see herself as truly special.

"But we can make Devices like Sky, and a bunch of Devices not nearly that smart or cool," she says. "And, um--I'm not from America, let's just say that's how I know about that."

/Setsuna/ would take great care of a sophisticated weapon like this. ...Maybe. ...

Okay, not really. Relying on a weapon with a personality seems like a big risk for her.

"Isn't it?" Setsuna replies. "If it's rare to be able to do something, and you can do it, that makes you special." She says it with a certain amount of insistence, in fact, as if it's simply obvious truth.

She, of course, is even more special, as an executive of Labyrinth. But that's not the point.

"So, Midchilda must be very advanced," she adds thoughtfully. "And..."

Wait. Wait. Lera isn't--

Setsuna blinks, eyes wide. "You're... not from Earth?"

"I'm... not so sure," Lera says with a moment of hesitation. Sky is notably quiet during that claim. She doesn't meet Setsuna's eyes, empty or no. "I guess maybe a little. But it's... more complicated than having a weapon or not."

She swallows, then she looks up. She nods at the assertion about Midchilda's advanced state. There isn't any reason to deny it; the world is light years ahead of Earth's level of advancement.

"Yeah," she says, finally. "I'm from there originally. I've only been on Earth for about a year. I guess I am a little weird, if you think about it, huh?"

"How is it complicated?" the purple-haired girl asks bluntly. "...I'm sure it makes things complicated," she allows, even if her meaning might be unclear, "But I don't see what you mean about yourself."

Setsuna doesn't bother dwelling on Midchilda's advacement; that part isn't a surprise it all. Labyrinth, too, is far more advanced than Earth.

But this... Not only from elsewhere, but here for about as long as Setsuna herself. "I... see." It's strange. "...Yes," she agrees, "That is unusual."

'Blunt' may have been redefined in the moment.

"I..." Wouldn't have guessed? Think it's fine? ...She has too much in common with Lera; it's dangerous, Lera could figure her out. ...But...

"...I don't see a problem," she lies. "It's really flattering to think that you would come and live in our world."


There is quite a bit of bluntness in the span of a couple of seconds. Lera's eyes widen and she flinches; being called out on not feeling that she is special and that it might be unusual is a one-two punch, and she looks away fro a moment. She lets out a breath through her teeth, which is tight enough that it comes out as a hiss. But, then, she chances to look back over at Setsuna.

She sees the smile, and her expression softens. She nods, slowly. She could tell her the full truth -- that she came here to chase after someone -- but that is a worry that she can't inflict on a friend who can't fight.

"Thanks," she says, quietly. Her smile is slow, but warm when it comes to her face. "It's just complicated because... there's more people with Devices here than me. Some of them are a lot better than me. I just don't stack up."

A hint of bitterness enters her voice. "I guess that doesn't make sense."

There's no malice in Setsuna's expression, at least, and in truth she wasn't actually trying to hurt Lera's feelings. ...At first she didn't see the point, and then...

Well, it would be an even more egregious lie than usual to pretend it was fine and normal for someone from another world to come here.

"I see," she says about Lera's worries. These...

"Then, get better," she advises... The same thing she tells herself. "Stopping to worry about it is energy you're not putting towards your goal."

Doesn't make sense? It shouldn't, should it? "...I don't see what's so strange about it," she says instead, glancing away. "It's what I do when I'm not doing well enough."

'Then, get better.'

She knows words like those well. She can remember hearing them before. When she was twelve and trying to build her first Device, and stared down at a barely-working staff-shaped Storage Device that couldn't even activate. When her mother appeared in the doorframe at ten in the evening, after she tried all day to just make the thing come online, that was what she told her.

Get better.

The last Storage Device that she ever tried to build was a personal hover system. She tested it out all night, pouring over every engineering book in her mother's collection that she could understand. At age fourteen, she had floated inches off the floor at three in the morning. Soaring Sky cheered her on the entire time. Finally, finally, she made something that worked.

At the school's fair the next day, when Lera tried to make the Device shift from its bracelet-shaped Standby Form to its disc-shaped Hover Form, she discovered that she botched the transformation. The Device stayed as a bracelet. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes, just as they do now. The teacher told her the same thing.

Get better.

The first time she fought Jaren Zastava, and he handily beat her and Yukimi Amane back, she remembered talking to her mother. She saw the worry in her face -- and then the frustration, when she said she wasn't strong enough to stop the man who stole another Intelligent Device from them. Her mother said the same thing then.

Get better.

Lera hangs her head, to look away from Setsuna, and quickly tries to obscure that it was the very last thing she wanted to hear. She can't get better, she thinks dismally. She wants to scream that she tried. That she isn't good enough, but shouldn't she be good enough for her no matter what? She wants to stand up and walk away. She doesn't say any of those things.

She says the same thing she did every time, in the same apologetic tone: "Yeah. I will. I promise."

...That reaction--Setsuna sees it, the way Lera looks away, the way her advice seemed to deflate the other girl rather than embolden her. ...She should be pleased; if Lera doesn't believe in herself, she's less likely to get in Labyrinth's way. If she doesn't think she can do it, why will she try? ...It's safer for her, it's less interference. But...

Sitting alone on her bare-bones bed back in the dormitory, staring up at the ceiling in exhaustion after a hard day's competition, that was her thought. She would get better.

Every time she tried, and failed, and it just wasn't good enough yet for Mobius to notice her, that was what she knew she had to do. To get better.

Even now, facing again and again against Cure Peach and Berry and Pine...

All she has to do is get better. /Be/ better. If she just works hard enough, then there's no maybe. It's going to happen. It's...

It's /wrong/ to give up that way. It goes against everything she stands for. Setsuna won't tolerate it. Even before she even had her name, she knew. So she looks right back up at Lera.

"You will," she says, resolute and firm, her eyes iron--not gleaming, but /strong/.

...But is this helping the enemy...? No. No, Lera is only incidental to begin with. It's not like it matters. It just enhances her disguise.

...But she's so bad at cheering someone up that it doesn't even occur to her consciously as something to /consider/. So, she doesn't.

"I'll keep an eye out for you next time it happens," she says instead.

Her focus goes almost entirely into not crying in front of her. If she can hide how it hurts, then maybe Setsuna won't realize. Maybe she won't think less of her and decide that she can't get better. If she lets them see how it feels, when she knows she has to become better and doesn't know how, they might give up on her. They might walk away from her. They can't know.

And, so, she can't cry.

She swallows, before she looks back up. Her eyes are still misty; the only person at this table who thinks that she isn't visibly upset is Lera. But her composure doesn't slip further, and she looks back at Setsuna's steely gaze. How, she thinks, can she have faith in her?

She can't find an answer.

"I..." She looks down again, fingers lingering on a donut. "Okay. I'll just... just try harder." She says it again, but it doesn't ring true in heart. She has someone else she might let down. "Thanks, Higashi-san."

Really, it's Lera who is hurting here--Eas is familiar with keeping this together, with laser-focus on this /one/ necessity... And with deliberately blocking out sympathy, or caring, as best she can.

...But for Setsuna it's still awkward. She doesn't have a /word/ for it.


She'll just try harder. "...It's fine," she answers, brushing off the thanks since she can tell they're only words, to her mind. "...Don't worry too much about it, anyway. Here on Earth, being strong just isn't that important to people."

Lera can see the comfort that, perhaps, Setsuna intended. She can't know that finding the right thing was so hard to say; she doesn't know much of the truth about this situation. One day, perhaps, this conversation will look different in retrospect. In the moment, though, she only has those words to consider. Her eyes grow distant again and her fingers fall away from the donut.

"It's true," she says. A sad smile comes across her face. "They don't care if you're strong or not. This world... it's really nice, Setsuna." She doesn't adopt a new familiarity; she merely drops the suffixes that she already struggles with, locked too deep in her thoughts to really say otherwise. "There's a sense of wonder here. There's so many kind people here. I wanna keep them safe, you know?"

She puts her hand over her mouth. If she can't become better, she will have to return home. She won't have saved Fate before then. She won't have graduated from Infinity. The days with her friends will be cut short -- and, beyond that, her mother could be in trouble with the TSAB for letting a Device escape.

"Earth's so great." Her voice cracks, finally, and her eyes grow mistier. "I... I really love it here, you know?"

One day, this conversation might look /very/ different indeed. Once inevitably Lera learns the truth, maybe. It's going to happen sooner or later. But for now...

For now, Setsuna sees Lera smile at least, and doesn't really understand what she's looking at. This level of emotion just isn't something she's good at dealing with. "I..."

This time it's her turn to look away. Lera thinks all that about tis world, huh? All that about kind people?

"...Sorry, Camry-san," she says, and doesn't even bother to correct Lera's--to her ears--familiarity. But then, she doesn't bother to give the real reason she's apologizing, either.

But she has to do what she has to do.

"...I think you should try and relax. Enjoy what you have while you can. If you worry too much about the future, then you'll look up and find the present's passed you by."

"...Like your donuts."

Setsuna reaches out and takes another of Lera's and takes a bite.

"No, it's okay, it's just..."

She tries to find an excuse, but it dies in Lera's throat. She doesn't have a good excuse for why she became upset. Most of it was clear and the rest is hard enough that she doesn't want to admit it. It could let Setsuna down. She tried to protect her in the past. She can't do that, now. She wipes at her eyes, but to little avail.

"You're right," she says, while she sees another of her donuts vanish. She picks up one of them, biting into it; it's gone in two bites. Delicate eating was never her strong suit. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have gotten so upset. I'll..."

She licks the frosting off her finger. The words come automatically; they're equal parts frightened, desperate, and resigned. They're what she always says, when she fears she might fail someone and drive them away. "I'll try. I promise."

It's frustrating, is what it is. Lera's upsetness is so... /deep/, it's so present. This feeling she has isn't something Setsuna can force aside, can batter down like she does every other obstacle that presents itself. It's not the first time she's experienced such a thing, of course.

But she still doesn't like it.

"...I just say what I think," she lies when she's told she's right. "Don't worry about getting upset."

She'll try. She promises.

Setsuna doesn't answer the promise. Instead, she follows up, " ...I deal with upset people all the time. Nobody goes to look into their future because they're fine where they are. They want to change, or they worry they're going to change in a way they don't like."

It doesn't occur to Lera to question whether Setsuna would lie about that or find it frustrating. For all that she fears letting her -- or everyone, really -- down, it doesn't occur to her that this could be far too awkward to deal with. The conclusion she leaps to is that it seems pathetic. Her hand wipes at her eyes again, but it remains futile.

"I guess a fortune teller sees people at their worst," she says, her voice becoming quiet. "People don't ask about the future unless they're worried about it, somehow." She doesn't see, from where she sits, that everyone worries about the future. "When you read mine before, it was about this. Someone that I'm still trying to help."

Another person, she thinks, that she might fail.

Setsuna certainly doesn't volunteer her feelings. Even acknowledging she /has/ them would be a failure.

...And if she weren't trying to disguise herself, she'd openly call it pathetic herself.

"Exactly," she answers. Then, she looks thoughtful.

"...Was it? Do you mind telling me about it?"


She starts to explain, but her voice quiets after that. Lera's connection to Fate is tied deeply to the issues with her mother. That relationship is terribly complex and difficult to share. Not only are emotions complicated, but she doesn't know how to describe it accurately. She never has. If she shares too much about Fate, she could find herself in that situation. She doubts that Setsuna will be the shoulder to cry on that she would need, when she finishes.

"She's a girl who is doing terrible things to help someone else," she says. "She's pursuing some very dangerous artifacts from... not from Midchilda, but we know about them back there. I think she's being used. I want to help her."

There is a brief pause, then. The 'but...' isn't voiced, but it is there.

"I'm not sure how," she says. Her eyes grow heavy again; admitting failure makes her emotions spike again. "I keep trying, but I can never find the right words to say."

No, Setsuna doesn't make such a great shoulder on that front. Though she does tend to encourage people to cry.

Terrible things, to...?

Setsuna specifically keeps her expression neutral. She wants to challenge it immediately, but instead, "So she's one of your opponents."

The 'but' is apparent.

The right words...?

"...I see. So you want to bring her around to your way of thinking, but you don't know how. ...It's difficult to communicate with others. A lot gets lost trying. ...People just aren't very good at understanding one another most of the time."

"Yeah," Lera agrees softly, "I know."

It isn't a pleasant thing to consider. She knows that reaching out to someone is hard. Words don't communicate things well. She experienced that many times in life; with her mother, with her friends, and with Fate Testarossa. But it doesn't dig into her heart the way that other topics they discussed tonight did. She still has tears in her eyes -- if she looks closely, Setsuna can see the tremble in her upper lip hasn't gone away.

She didn't stop crying, but this doesn't make her want to cry the same way. She doesn't have doubts about this. She doubts whether she can help her.

"But even if you don't agree with someone, even if you think they're making a terrible mistake. Even if--" Her voice wavers. "--even if you don't know if you can help them. You can see they're a good person despite that." She smiles again, sadly, and closes her eyes. "And want to help them, no matter what."

Setsuna does look closely, and the look of unhappiness is something she knows well. Misery, despair, fear...

She's supposed to revel in them. Obviously this is a good thing. It means it'll be that much faster to accomplish her mission.

"...Maybe," she allows at Lera's wavering voice and smile. "Just be careful, Camry-san. ...Not everyone sees it the same. Some people don't want to be helped."

And some things couldn't be forgiven even if they did.

She opens her eyes again, blinking away her tears. Lera's smile still wavers, but it stays. "Yeah," she says. Some people don't want to be helped. She knows that, now. She doesn't know, yet, how to overcome that; she wonders if she can really find a way to. The doubt in herself hasn't gone away. She only has the hope that making a difference is important to cling to.

She couldn't say whether she is affirming Setsuna's claim or promising to try, anyways, one more time. It may be both. "I know. I will."

It may be both.

She sighs after that, and looks away from the younger girl. She feels embarrassment from having gotten upset creeping back into her mind, in addition to everything else. She can't say that Setsuna helped. But she stayed, listened, and tried. And, maybe, she helped a little in a way that Lera can't even describe.

"...thanks, Higashi-san."

It can't be overcome; reconciling those kinds of differences is simply impossible. Eas knows; there's only winning and losing. Nothing between the two matters.

And doubt is just another way to lose.

Maybe it doesn't matter which promise it is.

She certainly doesn't act like she's younger than Lera, though. Instead, Setsuna pauses, and...


"You're... welcome." The words feel strange. She /knows/ she didn't help. She made things /worse/, that much was clear, didn't allay her concerns at all. Not that Setsuna enjoys it--she doesn't enjoy much. But still.

"...You can call me some other time to talk if you want," she finds herself saying. "...Even if I'm not very good at it. You helped me already."

She knows this conversation only happened because Setsuna brought up things Lera couldn't handle. She doesn't know where the gratitude comes from or why it's there, at first. She looks down aand nods at her, without meeting her eyes again. Her fingers reaches up, wiping again at her eyes. "Sure," she answers. "I'll do that. Maybe it'll be less heavy next time. Maybe I can ask about--"

She laughs weakly. "--maybe about whether I'll be rich or get a cat or something silly."

She shuffles in her seat, trying and failing to get comfortable. Lera looks back up at Setsuna, half-forcing a smile onto her face. Maybe she's grateful because Setsuna didn't walk away when she could have. When she should have, if she wanted to avoid an awkward moment.

It's worth thanking her for, Lera decides.

A cat, or money. The usual things, at least.

"I could look into the cards for that," she answers, and she may have missed the part where it's a joke. ...But it's fine.

She was already /having/ an awkward moment, so what's the change? ...No, there's a lot of change.

"...Anyway I should probably... go," she says, looking through the words as she does. "I... should get back to studying."

Did she miss the joke? Lera wonders for a moment. Maybe she was replying in a more deadpan way as part of the joke. She still smiles, though, and nods in reply. She had forgotten, for a moment, that it's finals. "Me too," she says. "I've got to get some studying in for my test tomorrow."

She sighs and stands up, dusting herself off. She also picks up the emptied box of donuts. She can throw it out on her way out of here. She smiles, though it's brier this time. She wants to get back to her dorm and try to forget everything for a little while.

"I'll talk to you later, okay?"

Setsuna totally missed the joke. She almost always misses the joke.

She, too, stands up after Lera though, even if she doesn't say anything else about the finals. She even smiles back. "Sure," she answers, "I'll talk to you then."

...She starts the other way, not towards her home. She was supposed to get her mind off of things...

But now it's just worse than it was. And she doesn't feel like being at the mansion today.

Lera watches her leave. She stays put for a few seconds longer than she has to, wondering about that -- and the direction she heads into, before she decides to start back towards the train station. The girl turns, dropping the little cardboard container for their donuts into a trash can as she walks. The walk back, she thinks, feels lonelier and longer than the walk here.

It's after she walked a good few yards away from Kaoru-chan's shop that Sky speaks. Intelligent Devices can only emote so much; their tone can carry their feelings, but not with the range of a human's voice. They are, after all, computerized. <Are you okay?>

Her shoulders sag and she stops on the forest path. The temptation to lie is strong, but Sky would see right through it. Her voice is small when she answers. "...not really, no."