2015-06-04 - Princess Seminar

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Title: Princess Seminar

Countess Rose has opened up her mansion to the general public, admitting all interested parties to the Princess Seminar - a training session for young ladies of nobility. But is there some ulterior motive?


Kunzite, Ami Mizuno, Usagi Tsukino, Rei Hino, Haruka Tenoh, Michiru Kaioh, Natsuki Kuga, Homura Akemi, Madoka Kaname, Fuu Hououji, Setsuna Higashi


Yamanote High City - Countess Rose's Mansion

OOC - IC Date:

17 July 2014 - 06/04/2015

<Pose Tracker> Kunzite [None] has posed.

Surrounded by beautiful gardens with few rivals in Tokyo, there stands a Western-style mansion. Home over the years to ambassadors and royalty, its halls boast only the finest of decor to provide a suitable residence to visitors of true prestige. The latest noble to call this palatial building 'home' is a relative of the British monarchy, known as Countess Rose.

Since her arrival, she has been seen from time to time - partaking in the finest of tea ceremonies, hosting high-class banquets for the rich and powerful, attending the Prime Minister's birthday party. She does not flaunt her wealth, but neither does she conceal it - gifts are rich but not ostentatious, dresses are formal but not ridiculous - a countess acting with wisdom and grace.

Some upper-class families had requested that she bestow this wisdom and grace upon the next generation, and so began the 'Princess Seminar' - a series of lessons for aspiring noblewomen to learn how to truly act with dignity. These lessons have been successful to the point of infamy, and whispers have reached all corners of these lessons. How accurate those whispers are may vary, but the latest rumour has proven to be truth. The public at large, for a precious few days, will be permitted to join in the Princess Seminar. A taste of high society awaits all who wish to partake of Countess Rose's lessons.

Attendance is, sadly, limited; only so many can be seated at even the grandest banquet table, and many of those spots are first-come, first-serve. Still, through luck or fortune, many have arrived to join - however briefly - the ranks of high society. Those who arrived early enough, or who were granted a ticket guaranteeing their position, were invited from the garden into one of a nearly absurd number of side chambers to change into the formal Princess Seminar uniform: black boots, white trousers, a crimson riding jacket, and a tie. Could equestrian training be part of the Seminar? Only the Countess knows for certain.

While the Countess prepares, the first lesson for aspiring nobility is one of patience. Upon changing, the Princesses (and a handful of Princes, kept off to the side for the formal dancing lessons later) are invited into a second garden, and given frisbees to occupy their time with. A passtime to be performed with dignity and grace, of course.

Kunzite/POT_SPOOF - Set.

<Pose Tracker> Natsuki Kuga [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Natsuki was NOT in a good mood. Bad enough she was forced to take this pointless seminar in order to make up for classes she had miss, but she wasn't even allowed to stay in her normal, and much more comfortable clothes. She had barely given a glance at the shocked expressions when she arrived at the front gates on her motorcycle. The butler looked like he was being greeted by a three headed dragon.

Part of Natsuki had secretly hoped it would be enough to scare them and ask for Natsuki to leave...but they didn't. To her annoyance, they even seemed more determine to make a 'proper lady' out of her and dragged her off to get properly change.

Natsuki scowled as she kicked the ground in her tight boots, not caring for the scuff marks she might leave on them. Yup, she REALLY hated this. All of the hate. Natsuki scowled as she entered the room the join the others, and gave a glare for anyone that might try to attempt idle chitchat. She was NOT in the mood to put up with it.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

While the Hououji family aren't exactly 'upper-class,' they're comfortably well off and they do have connections ... but Kuu had a prior commitment on the night of the seminar, and it would be horribly rude of the family to refuse the invitation that was passed their way by one of Mr. Hououji's clients, and so Fuu obtained the benefit of a chance to mingle and learn the ways of high society.

(In Kuu's favor, she's already very ladylike and probably doesn't need the seminar to start with ... or maybe she's been to a prior session?)

While Fuu had (with her mother's help) picked out a dress that should be more than suitable for the occasion, she took the instructions to change clothes in good stead; she's actually grateful that she didn't try to bring her 3DS (for once!), as she's certain it would look horribly out of place. She has other means of passing the time, such as running through program code in her mind, or sifting ideas for that game project she's been working on; the strangest you might see from her is to move her fingers as if she's typing on a keyboard that isn't really there.

Finally, the inner garden is opened, and she steps out to see who else is here, accepting a frisbee. That doesn't seem as ladylike as she expected ... but at the same time, it makes a certain degree of sense. Frisbee isn't as rough-and-tumble a sport as, say, rugby or polo or even softball.

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Ami is in the first-come, first-serve side of the crowd; the Princess Seminar came so quickly that she couldn't even hope to ask her mother to get her a ticket. Fortunately for her, she has, indeed, gotten to the event on time, even if it's meant skipping cram school proper; after all the gushing Usagi did yesterday, why /wouldn't/ she come?

Clad in the Princess Seminar uniform, Ami finds herself having no problems with the lesson of patience; she doesn't even need a frisbee. She's seated herself off to one side, watching someone else play frisbee rather than doing so herself. Her gaze briefly lands on Natsuki... but when she sees the expression on her face, she promptly diverts her gaze entirely.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka is mostly spared the extraordinary preparation of a wealthy maiden; her parents are much too New Money to care too much about this sort of thing. She looks on from afar, awed, as Hitomi Shizuki goes off to lessons galore.

But high-powered corporate exec mama Junko Kaname has correctly noticed that her daughter is wilting of late; something is going on with Madoka, something that has her coming home bedraggled and wan, anxious and tired and so very, very stressed.

Sending Madoka off to finishing school -- one where you're treated like a princess -- seems like just the kind of surprise to excite and engage her. To remind her of her dreams. Childlike and otherwise, she's always been a romantic, and princesses are very romantic, after all.

The girl's too tired to argue, and honestly, in her heart of hearts, is a little bit excited about it, too. Mama knows her so well. She's sure that she won't do anyone proud, but... maybe it will be a little bit fun. Maybe she can sneak her sketchbook in to doodle fashions inspired by all the hoi polloi around her.

...maybe not.

Left behind in her neatly folded pile of clothing, Madoka is nudged gently into the courtyard holding only a frisbee. She is nothing if not dutiful, though, and even though she's shaking from all nearly-five-feet of her pink puffy pigtails down to the tips of her black boots, she will carry out this exercise as best as she can.

She winds up across from Natsuki Kuga, who is so pretty that she cannot but blush from simple proximity. "U-um, uhh, sorry," she prefaces, before earning the necessity for the apology by throwing the frisbee really badly off-course in a sort of dying quail.

So she bows again. Twice. Rapidly. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

Then she runs towards the bushes to fetch her lost disc, not unlike a well-trained terrier.

It is doubtful whether Natsuki will ever have to actually /catch/ a frisbee today.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [None] has posed.

Technically, Setsuna Higashi lives in a mansion already.

/How/ precisely she managed to secure a spot at this seminar is a mystery she has kept to herself, but she did at least have the good sense to arrive early. ...It's not really her habit to arrive as early as she did this time, but it was important enough to do.

...But why /is/ she here? It's not as if she has to contend with finals like most girls her age.

Obviously that's not important and there is no reason to even worry about it. Quite the opposite, she has been quite well-mannered thus far... or at least quiet and obedient.

So now, standing here with the frisbee in hand, the purple-haired girl wears the uniform of the seminar and looks briefly to the others. Only briefly, howeer.

Steely-eyed and serious, Setsuna Higashi takes her frisbee in both hands, holding it carefully as if it might be something delicate. She listens to an instruction and turns to face the girl pointed out to her--

And promptly drops her frisbee, having to scramble to catch it, as she looks out to her assigned partner: Ami Mizuno.

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Of /course/ Michiru Kaioh was going to attend an event like this. And of course Michiru had a ticket rather than being amongst those who had to rush there quickly to obtain a ticket of their own. Perhaps Michiru had even done a painting or three for the countess?

Regardless of such things, Michiru strides out of the changing room, her aqua hair flowing free, her delighted eyes lighting upon all who were attending. To Fuu, her eyes travel first, the painter giving her a smallnod of the head.

To the rest, to the Ami and Madoka and Setsuna all, Michiru gives a brief gaze, and a secret smile for each one.

But Michiru had no frisbee.

What she had was a riding crop, held firmly in the grip of her left hand.

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Rei Hino brushes some dust from her jacket with the back of a white-gloved hand, shifting her weight between boots. She looks, and feels, comfortable in the outfit. Although she isn't a particularly experienced horse rider, it isn't the first time that she's donned an equestrian's stitches.

She's no stranger to high society nor a polite bearing, and she isn't besotted with the high perch of her father's place in the world. The parliamenterian's daughter enjoys some of its luxuries but never flaunts them, or lets them go to her head. It's nice to be able to dine on fugu or passably navigate a French menu, to hop on a horse now and again. Not many people, let alone people her age, have her freedom to enjoy these things, but she never thinks herself any better than anybody else for it.

The Princess Seminar, though, is different. Foreign and exotic, this manor seems to belong to an older and more classical high society than the modern flavor of her father's, and the historically interested Rei is always intrigued by those things with long roots. Where else in Japan, in this entire hemisphere, could match such an experience? And besides, Rei isn't so cool as to be unimpressed with /actual royalty!/

Her father's secretary had secured her a ticket, just the sort of thing he'd support, and just the sort of thing for which political connections come in handy. So now she stands, frisbee in hand. She smiles warmly, and waves to Ami-chan, and a classmate of hers named Madoka. Her bearing is a bit more graceful and dignified than typical, as she's slipping comfortably into the context. But that regal facade lightly cracks as she allows herself a half-grin at the girl standing opposite from her. Not even nobility could fully dampen her competitive spirit.

She doesn't try to bean Usagi with the frisbee, that wouldn't be dignified at all. But she doesn't hold back in her serve very much either.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Homura Akemi lifts the frisbee that she was given and stares down at it, with no small amount of confusion. She has never managed to figure out how frisbee-tossing is something that people in high society do. She is left staring at it, while her partner is left watching her with utter confusion. She isn't bothering to throw the frisbee. She is just looking at her glassy, dull reflection in the semi-reflected glass.

But, then she glances in the direction of the real reason that she is here: the short girl with pink hair. Homura looks at Madoka Kaname for a long moment. She debates walking over to her for a moment; then, though, she is off talking to Natsuki Kuga. The black-haired girl pauses.

Then she sees Michiru's riding crop. Her eyebrow raises and she stares for a moment longer. What on Earth could she...

Homura snaps out of her trance when her partner clears her throat. She turns to look at the girl and smiles, polite and small, at her. "Oh, I'm very sorry, Kageyama-san. I was lost in thought."

She wheels back -- and then tosses a perfect frisbee throw, with no wobble to it.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

"You're going!?" The shock was audible from the black cat that followed behind the odango topped girl. "Well of course! I've got to start taking my responsibilities as the princess more seriously!" For once, Luna's face lit up with delight, entirely impressed. Did this mean that Obon had wrought a completely turnaround to Usagi's behavior? "I'm glad you finally realized that!"

Closing her eyes as she ambulated, Usagi raised a finger to bring up the most important point of the conversation, "After all, if I don't, how am I ever going to dance with Tuxedo Kamen at the ball!" In one instant, all of that delight drained out of Luna, entirely unsurprised. "That's what you're worried about?"

For once in her life, that motivation had caused Usagi to somehow arrive early, thus preventing any disasters where she had to sneak in. Instead she finds herself hurrying off the sidewalk and flattening herself against the wall, with Luna held up in her arms like a shield when Natsuki abruptly stopped by the front gates on her motorcycle.

Scowling, she yells at the biker-suited figure while simultaneously dropping Luna, not quite getting the volume to drown off the motor, "Hey! You could have run over-" Which is the moment Natsuki takes off her helmet and all of that beautiful hair spills out of it. For just a moment, she might as well have had spinning rose frames around her, as she climbs off the motorcycle, the yell dying and instead becoming a quiet and awed, "-so cool~"

Once inside, and ushered into a room to change, she walks out, presenting herself still making adjustments to the knot of her rumpled tie and not so pristine jacket. Immediately she's beset by a butler who all but apparates beside her, whispering into her ear, "Go back and tie it again." Not long after, she's exiting again, trying to sneak by in the same straits, but already a butler, the same butler, is blocking her path, not even looking at her, and pointing back into the room, "Again." A few minutes later- "AGAIN!" And her breaking down with a loud wail, "THIS IS TOO HARD!"

Finally, someone apparently has mercy enough to fix her tie for her and she's out in the gardens, sidling up behind Madoka and Ami before folding her hands behind her in a calm, dignified parade rest across from Rei. Tilting her chin up just a little, she offers gently to Madoka, "Not to brag." Or entirely so, "But I'm really good at this sort of thing, Madoka-chan!" Spotting another two beautiful figure, who might as well be in rose frames to Usagi, she hatches a plan, and taking up a pose which may be all too familiar to those who know her alter ego, she sends the frisbee in her hands spinning around the courtyard in a feat of agility that most wouldn't think such a clumsy girl would be capable of.

It glides around the flowering bushes of the garden, striking stems as it goes, before moving back into hre hand. A moment later a marine hued rose, severed from its stem drops near Michiru, almost directly to her hand where it could be easily caught. One of passionate red, fiery red, falls towards Setsuna's. Then finally one of loveliest pink to Madoka's. Looking at each of the trio and pointing herself proudly to indicate she's responsible, she doesn't notice that Rei has thrown her frisbee.

A moment later, that proud expression fades, her features contorting in pain and shock the second Rei's frisbee strikes her to the side of her head. Then half a second later, her own frisbee on the return arc strikes her in the nose. Placing both hands over her nose, her eyes sparkle immediately with tears- "It hurts!"

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

The whole shape of the riding uniform looks different on Haruka Tenoh, the inverted triangle of his broad shoulders creating a more martial effect to the jockey's garb. He's too tall to be a jockey, after all, but he could be a sport hunter, and the insolence of his gold bangs says he'd be playing to win.

A helmet too small for his own head is under Haruka's arm as he follows at Michiru's side, just a half step behind. It's rare that they get a chance to clean up like this, in Japan.

"This brings you back, doesn't it?" Haruka asks Michiru. Their own preparation to be royalty occurred early and has now resolved into grown-up senpai careers as the cream of society.

An errant frisbee slings near, and Haruka lunges, effortless despite its depth, to beckon it back with a forefinger hooked into the rim. The disk wobbles wildly but resolves itself into a smooth, level rotation, the entropy of a top in reverse, and Haruka bends to place a hand on his knee in order to get closer to the eye level of the approaching terrier.

"Look at you," Haruka marvels at Madoka with a smile. "Such a tiny princess. You know, I've been trying to find someone who will fit into this glass slipper I have lying around." He offers the smoothly spinning frisbee on the tip of his finger.

<Pose Tracker> Kunzite [None] has posed.

"The frisbee is often seen as a children's toy," a refined voice calls out to interrupt the exercise. "However, this is a deception - you must act gracefully, that your disc is unwavering in its flight. You must act with purpose, that you find your mark. And you must maintain poise, so that the actions of others do not disturb you."

With not even a single movement wasted, Countess Rose makes her appearance. Rei's forceful throw, rebounding from her partner's head, rolls like a stray tire down the path. With only the slightest of pauses, she dips one hand to catch the rolling frisbee with one finger. "More than a mere game, this reveals your character - what qualities you might possess."

Her eyes wander around the field for a moment, taking note of those who did not participate, those who demonstrated surprising skill, and those who stumbled. "...but the Princess Seminar is, I assure you, about more than mere disc-throwing. Three more throws, from each of you, and we will head inside."

When the exercise is complete, butlers in crisp tuxedoes serve as escorts into the mansion proper. One stays particularly close to Natsuki, almost as if he's a guard to prevent her escape - a cane in his hand directing changes of posture as she walks. Another acts as a roving uniform check - commenting on loose bootlaces, making suggestions about how to better wear a jacket, and fixing Usagi's tie yet again.

The entry hall is truly grand, with sweeping banisters marking staircases curving up to a balcony. Instead of that higher level, however, the group is guided to a side hall. Within, chandeliers glitter overhead in the light softly breaking through grand picture windows, gentle illumination for what is set below - a long banquet table, set with fine gold-plated china and gleaming silverware.

Surprisingly, seating is arranged, with napkins already embroidered - a simple embroidery, but giving English initials for all in attendance. Conveniently - or not, as the case might be - those who participated in frisbee as partners might find themselves seated across from each other.

Countess Rose's seat is at the head of the table, and she sits elegantly. "Your next lesson is one of dining etiquette. A small meal has been prepared, but I expect you all to behave with grace befitting even the grandest of banquets." As the attendees are seated, soup is served...

...but there are five spoons, four forks, and three knives at each place setting. The first etiquette challenge, of many, awaits you...

<Pose Tracker> Natsuki Kuga [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Natsuki kept her glare as they were given frisbees....rather bizarre princess training. She could understand something like horse back riding or tea party etiquette, but what was so 'lady like' with throwing a disc back a forth? She sighed in annoyance as she got into position and the girl threw the disc to her, but missed her off the mile.

Natsuki had planned to not say a word as she fetched the disc, only to be beaten by it by the blushing girl. She seemed so timid as she frantically went to fetched it...Natsuki wondered if she over did it on the scowls without thinking. She wouldn't normally feel guilty, but she felt like she had unknowingly kicked a puppy. "Um...look, you can relax, it's not a big deal," Natsuki said to the girl. If she was going to be stuck here all day, she would at least like to spend it without her conscience nagging at her. "What's your name anyway?"

Then the blonde girl next to her, Usagi was her name wasn't it?, not only tossed the frisbee, but has it glide expertly through the air like it was some kind of weapon and catching it. Natsuki blinked a bit stunned. Wasn't this the girl what got sent back like twice for not getting a knot right? She narrowed her eyes slightly, that was rather suspicious...wait is she crying now? Natsuki shook her head. Sometimes, it really was a pain in the butt to be so paranoid.

However, upon seeing Haruka talk to Madoka she raised an eyebrow. Oh, wonderful, just what she needed, a giant flirter to deal with too. "Gee, must be nice to have so much extra time just to flirt. I didn't realize that was part of princess training," she said sarcastically.

The Countess appeared before Natsuki could make any more remakrs with the instruction of having to compelete three more throws. Natsuki sighed, but is careful not to show off a complete scowl so she wouldn't scare Madoka again. Natsuki gave three elegant throws, and then thankfully it was time to move on. However the butler appointed to her was staying uncomfortably close and she did not like that "You WILL become a lady" look he was giving. Natsuki had a feeling even if she tried to make a run for it, this guy would hunt her to the ends of the earth just to bring her back. He poked at her posture, which only caused her eye to twitch. "Watch it, pal," she grumbled, but somehow held her tongue.

The next lesson is taken to a very elegant room, in which Natsuki had to admit she was somewhat impressed. Judging by the chinaware, this was clearly a dining etiquette lesson, which made Natsuki slightly groan as she took a seat. She had a basic knowledge of how these things work, but it had always seemed more of an excuse of trying to look pointlessly regal for something as simple as eating. It wasn't like the food was going to taste any differently.

Natsuki lifted her soup into the soup and ate a mouthful. She stuck out her tongue in disgust and glanced around. "Hey, does anyone got any salt they could pass over?" She reached her hand out for a bread roll as she asked, not caring she had to sit up in her chair to do it. %% Began logging to file: /Users/stuartmacgillivray/Desktop/Various Text/BF-Kunzite June 2015

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Seeing that Usagi has /also/ made it gives Ami a big smile; she was really hoping the other girl would also get there, and not -- say -- oversleep drastically. She breathes a small sigh of relief as Usagi starts talking, saying, "I'm glad you got here, Usagi-chan," with a smile -- and then turns her attention back to the girl staring at her, who is -- apparently -- her assigned partner.

There's something familiar about her, isn't there? For a few moments, Ami finds herself staring transfixed at the other girl, totally heedless of the conversation going on around her. She /has/ to know her from somewhere, doesn't she? She stands up and walks toward the other girl shortly before they're waved in.

"Hello," she says, with a small nod. "My name is Ami Mizuno." As the pair are ushered in toward the banquet, she says, "It's nice to meet you, um..." She pauses, looking over toward the embroidery, "... S H? I'm sorry -- have we met...?"

When she sits down, she immediately starts identifying utensils, rather than move directly toward actually eating. The array of utensils is a little dizzying; Ami's first step, accordingly, is to identify the ones she's unlikely to actually use and almost imperceptibly tilt them to one side, giving herself a reminder that she won't need to use them.

... this all feels a little unnecessary when Natsuki just goes in. Ami does do her best to at least remind herself which spoon is for soup and start with that, though.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

While Fuu's skills with the frisbee are far behind her archery acumen, she can at least handle it pretty well - her throws go roughly where she wants them to, or close enough to manage. She's not quite as good at catching, though ... it's almost a relief when the group is escorted into the dining hall.

On the other hand, that sense of relief encounters a swift yet almost-merciful demise upon seeing the place settings; that's at LEAST three more spoons than she's ever been accustomed to seeing at any one place at a meal, even a formal one. The best of her recollection, though, is that the places SHOULD be set so that you start with the outermost utensils, and work your way inwards as the meal progresses ... so she takes the rightmost spoon up, keeping her left hand in her lap (with the napkin properly spread across her thighs), and spoons up a mouthful of soup, careful not to slurp.

The nearby request for salt prompts her to set the spoon down (resting the bowl of the spoon upside-down over her soup) so she can take up a nearby saltshaker, sprinkling a little into her own soup before passing the shaker to Natsuki-san. "Here you are, ma'am," she says with a smile.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

It's a busy few seconds for Madoka. Natsuki is kind to her, and she squeaks in a tiny voice, mid-scamper, "Thanks... I'm Madoka Kaname, K-Kuga-senpai." It seems the high schooler's reputation precedes her. Meanwhile Rei Hino, Class Celebrity, actually waves at her, and her eyes and blush brighten at the same time. She doesn't feel awkward around Rei, someone she sees every day, but she's definitely an admirer of Rei's sophistication and general mystique. She waves back, feeling herself starting to glow a little with pleasure. What a nice opportunity for them to maybe get to know each other better!

Then Usagi Tsukino, Adorable Same-Height Sister, delivers unto her a rose with astounding grace and panache. She manages to not stab herself upon the thorns, but it's a pretty near thing, what with her having to kind of toss it from one hand to the other, hot-potato style, to arrest its momentum. "A-amazing," she cheers, before her awe jokes in her throat at the subsequent beaning.

"Are you okay?!?" she shrieks, her whole body vibrating from her resistance to dash across the lawn to Usagi's side. She knows that would be improper. And for once she doesn't have her first aid kit on her; the class nurse was forced to surrender that in the dressing room as well. She totally misses Haruka's magnificent dive, and as for the flirtation...

She turns so red a beet as to put the lie to all previous expressions of the term. Redder than her hair ribbons, either.

Despite that her response is almost graceful; stammering and stumbling and bumbling, because she's been caught off-guard, but her mind is being pulled in at least two directions. "Ano, eto... please trade with me?" She does her best to gently press her rose into Haruka's hand while reclaiming the frisbee, and does the rest of her catches of Natsuki's graceful throws with steam coming out of her ears.

"Thank you very much!" she cries to her partner when it's over, bowing again. This doesn't sound forced at all; how can someone be so awkward and so grateful and so genuinely impressed, all at once?

Inside, she does her very best impression of a pink marble statue. She must resist eating /anything/, not even reaching for a single utensil, because if she tries she's definitely going to screw up, and if she screws up in front of Usagi, Rei, Natsuki /and/ The Mystery Prince, she will immediately make a wish to disappear and Kyouko and Homura will get mad at her. And-- as quickly as the thought springs to her mind-- she notices another classmate on the scene.

Her shoulders slouch almost imperceptibly as she tries to make that wish a reality through less drastic means...

...and then her stomach rumbles. Loudly.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [None] has posed.

Right--the frisbee. Setsuna briefly forgets about those entirely, but only briefly; they're a little hard to ignore in the end. Particularly watching Usagi and Ami be all friendly like.

Setsuna opens her mouth to speak, and then glances down once. Have they met, huh?

"No," she answers, looking up. "I'm Setsuna Higashi. It's nice to meet you."

There, she remembers the frisbee, and there, she sees the rose cut down near her. It's brilliant red.

...But what's it for?

She leaves it.

It is very /inconvenient/ that she finds herself seated across from Ami once she's inside, though at least she has the grace to listen carefully to the Countess's words. Etiquette, grace...

Eas can tell that this princess training makes someone dangerous. More dangerous than she expected.

She stares despite herself at the sweeping banisters and the grand staircases; everything is so huge, and ostentatious, and when she's seated she finds herself staring at all of it in complete bafflement. Her expression looks neutral largely by habit. Behave with... grace?

Setsuna looks over at Ami, briefly, and then frowns at nothing in particular. She's obviously got to win this one, and so she takes the outermost soup to start. She eats silently, posture completely straight. "...You're hesitating," she finds herself pointing out to the blue-haired girl.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Frisbee is no problem for Homura. Her athleticism -- some might call it innate, but that's not really true -- sees her through that. She taught herself to walk with poise. She doesn't falter, even while she keeps a careful eye on Madoka. There isn't a scowl at Haruka, but just a look in her direction. Usagi Tsukino, though, gets a momentary scowl; almost like she is utterly displeased with her throwing a frisbee like that.

And, yet, grits her teeth ever-so-slightly when Madoka declares that Usagi's antics are "amazing." She looks away after that, when Madoka runs to Usagi. She has her calm demeanor to consider -- and the fact that she can do nothing about it here. Her eyes are on Setsuna Higashi's back. They return to the same, often cool look that they always have.

But they linger too long for it to be incidental.

Once she is inside, though, she is not in her element as much. She didn't eat in that many formal restaurants in the time before. She stares at the table setting with a careful intensity, as she approaches her chair. Her lips part, and she finds herself slipping for a moment. This situation isn't precisely new to her, and yet it isn't something she did often. And...

She hears Madoka's stomach rumble.

She takes a breath, then sits down at the chair next to her. Her eyes drift to her left and look at Madoka. She whispers; her stone is softer than it needs to be. "Use the outside utensils first, and work your way in."

Her inner voice is hardly so confident when she mentally adds: '...I think.'

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

And there was the arrival of the hostess.

Michiru stands beside the princely young man that she was near, her chin slightly lifted, eyes slightly narrowed as she glances over the demeanor of the Countess proper. A little smile dances at the edge of her lips, a ripple admist the calm of the sea. Michiru lets her eyes drift down towards Haruka and Madoka proper, her eyebrow curling skyward at the exchange of the rose.

A moment, a beat of silence.

The sea coldens just a degree or two, but the smile remains. "Ever the charmer, hmm?" says Michiru to Haruka, tilting her head just so to one side as she lets her eyes track across the features of the other. Natsuki chides Haruka upon flirting, and Michiru dips her head, "It might just be the most important part of Prince training, however," she says.

A handful of moments more, and Michiru steps into the elegant room beyond the portal. One used the utensils from the outside in, as Homura remarked - Michiru plucks the napkin from the table and sits it on her lap, turning her eyes to look towards Rei Hino. "Good evening," she tells her, letting a smile touch her lips.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Entirely too proud at first, especially at Adorable Same-Height Sister's awe at her frisbee skills, such feelings are deflated by the subsequent beaning, looking entirely embarrassed as she sniffles. "I-I'll be okay!"

In the midst of her tears, she turns to see Haruka Tenoh, /right there/, offering a frisbee to Madoka as if she were a proper princess. "Haruka-san!" She whispers in excitement, but not wanting him to see her like this, she turns away and feels at her nose with two fingers, while wiping away at her eyes with on her red sleeves, now even more determined to impress everyone present at her ability to be an elegant, cultured young lady, like it was some sort of princess exam. Disappointment lingers in her watery eyes as she notes that girl with the pretty red eyes isn't taking her rose from its place on the ground, "That one was for you!" She calls out, the statement a little nasally.

Countess Rose appears, the epitome of grace and poise, and after Usagi's fingers feel one last time to make certain her nose isn't broken, they slide away entirely. While she was a Countess, everything about her bespoke her elegance, right down to her cultured speech, and her poise at how she handled it. To Usagi, Countess Rose was a Princess in every way, making her feel so small and uncouth in comparison. It touched upon every insecurity she'd had ever since she found out she actually was a princess.

She only reinforced this by sticking out her tongue with a 'blehhhhh' at Rei the moment she thought the Countess was no longer looking. Three throws. Each of hers glided with complete perfection, and first two go without incident. The last one, "Watch this Ami-chan!" She send it in such an arc that it sails past Rei's head, purposefully missing, before it then would boomerang back on the /other/ side of Rei's head. If Rei doesn't catch it, she'd then catch it on a single finger, spinning it on one finger like a complete show off. It wasn't often that there was something she was /really/ good at, so she felt she was entitled to show off a bit.

On the way back in, after sticking her tongue out at Rei a second time with all the subterfuge of a rampaging bull; Usagi doesn't march in line, waylaid by a butler who fixed her tie, before she hopped on one foot to try to fix her bootlaces. "I'm going to be late for the banquet!" She complains, but the butler seems entirely unimpressed by that excuse, as he took the time to meticulously straighten a jacket so creased one would swear Usagi had gone fox hunting.

Finally however, behind everyone else, Usagi enters the banquet hall, not walking in a dignified manner but dashing to- then past her place, before coming back to it when she realizes the initials on the napkins marked their spot. Sitting down, she'd then shrink a bit, noting the unimpressed gazes of the butlers upon her.

She doesn't hesitate, she picks up the largest spoon of the bunch, taking it into her hand and leaning over the soup bowl to raise soup rapidly to her mouth. The slurping sounds of soup entering her mouth can be heard throughout the hall, so loud one might swear there's an echo. Again, a butler apparates to her side, "A proper princess must eat without making a sound." A beat, and then he adds, "And that is the wrong spoon for soup!"

Cheeks pinkening, Usagi puts the first on the side of her plate picks up another one on impulse, beginning anew with slurping only slightly quieter than before, "Quieter!" He whispers harshly. "And that is still the wrong one!" Panicked, she drops the spoon to the table with a reverberating clatter, leaving a soup stain on the table cloth. Groping for a new one, she grabs it firmly and begins again- but the slurp seems like something she can't quite do away with from her eating habits so easily, it continues the moment she brings it to her lips. "QUIETER!" "How am I supposed to do that!?" She wails, looking like she's on the verge of tears, /again/. "Eating shouldn't be this hard!"

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Haruka is able to distill the grace of a sweeping bow into a tilt of the chin. He can even distill /that/ into a magnanimous quirk of the eybrows, and it's that high-proof expression he offers Madoka as he makes the exchange, frisbee for pink rose. He lets the terrier scamper off as he stands straight again, flashing a happy smile at Michiru's silky gaze. "Maybe she just has a naturally ruddy complexion," he temporizes, not to avoid blame but to show humility. He lifts the rose between them. "Do you have a pin?" he asks, twisting smoothly under the flower's head to sever the stem. He decapitates the flower so callously, but there's a boyish earnestness to his smile as he places the bloom to his breast like a corsage.

Haruka spent good money to be as spoiled as he is, and he doesn't like to waste that by noticing butlers. He holds the helmet out to his side and drops it without looking, letting one of the butlers take charge of it lest it be soiled at the table. Countess Rose knows how to throw a proper soiree, and Haruka follows along, seating himself across from Michiru at the table.

His napkin swirling into place like the robes of a dervish, Haruka plucks up the soup spoon with the ease of one who has had enough multi-course formal dinners to be dreadfully bored of them. He makes sure to sit close enough to the table that his long legs would be capable of reaching a foot to Michiru's ankle, and to gaze at her often enough that people might wonder if that is indeed what his foot is up to, but not often enough for them to be sure.

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Rei's eyes widen and she starts to reach out on pure instinct. "I'm sorry! I thought you were paying attention!" She felt a little bad about pegging Usagi in the head. It wouldn't have happened if the moon rabbit hadn't been mugging at the girls surrounding like she was on camera or something, but one can be friends with Usagi for only so long before it becomes their fault for treating her like a normal, aware person, not hers. Her next tosses are more controlled, letting the wind do more of the work than her muscles. She doesn't make an attempt to snatch Usagi's third throw, and simply allows it to complete its journey. Letting her friend show off a little seems pretty just after whacking her with a missle.

As the party makes its way indoors, Rei doesn't glide with as much graceful self possession as the incomparable Michiru, but she manages to carry herself fairly well. She can't help but look around at the palatial hall, but remembers herself well enough to look with her eyes alone, just barely tilting her head. A ghost of a smile flickers across her face as Usagi sticks her tongue out at her, but she ignores it..for now. The dining table places her across from Usagi, and next to Madoka Kaname, opposite of Homura Akemi.

She calmly scans the placing before her. There are more spoons than she's used to, but she mostly recognizes the logic in the setting. Rei appreciates such things for their ritualistic character. Her hand drifts to the outermost spoon, with a head more circular than its peers. As she dips it into her bowl of soup, the utensil is held slightly tilted away from her. Absorbing the flavor's profile, she reaches for a salt shaker and lightly spritzes the broth. With both hands, she tears the bread on the small plate above the forks into bite sized pieces, buttering each one with the small knife upon the same plate before eating any.

Rei turns and smiles warmly to Madoka. "It's wonderful to see you outside of class, Madoka-san. The uniform suits you well." She couldn't hear Homura's advice, of course, but she wouldn't have disagreed with it if she had. Catching Michiru's smile, Rei matches it in kind, gently bowing her head and managing not to blush. "Good evening, Michiru-sama. It is a delightful surprise to see such a master at such a training."

She smiles across the table to Usagi in turn. If the Princess of the Moon has her wits about her then maybe she'll know to imitate Rei, and the miko is more than happy to let her cheat on this particular test. She only hopes that she doesn't do something completely uncouth, like salt something before tasting it or using the dessert fork for anything but dessert! Woefully, Usagi acts as Usagi is wont, and charges out of the gate like she's riding a wild horse escaping a burning barn. She doesn't whisper, but she doesn't speak at her normal volume either. More of a murmur, with a comforting smile. "Usagi-chan. Start from the outside and work your way in. Watch me if you're not sure."

<Pose Tracker> Kunzite [None] has posed.

The soup is served, and the servants stay to observe. This is, after all, something approaching the first test for would-be Princesses - and one's instincts must be observed before the education can begin. At egregious offenses, the Countess clears her throat loudly - but no more. Not until after everyone has had a chance to succeed, or fail.

Natsuki, in short order, finds a shadow looming over her - an elderly butler, seeming to loom larger than should be possible, echoing the countess's polite throat-clearing before murmuring something to her - though annoyance ensures that it is not entirely inaudible to those close at hand. "Madame Kuga. I would recommend that you at least make an attempt to behave like a proper lady; I believe a certain Lady Fujino would be interested to hear how you fare today." He takes a step back, but Natsuki seems to have a guard for the near future.

As Ami makes her decision at last - logically ruling out utensils not to be used - she finds an appropriately broad spoon for the soup. It's a good way to start...up until another servant, ever-helpful, steps in to straighten out every crooked utensil. There's a faint mockery in his smile as he steps back with a bow, leaving her place setting nearly pristine.

Fuu's relief is short-lived indeed; however embarrassing the frisbee catches might have been, the formal dinner is another hurdle. Still, it seems to be going well; she can see, at the end of the table, the Countess's behaviour a template she's managed to match fairly closely. There is, however, a polite clearing of the throat when she passes the salt - a nearby maid indicating the pepper shaker with a stern nod.

The seating arrangements, coincidental or just inconvenient, ensure that Setsuna is surrounded by those more cheerful than she. Her neighbours on either side seem delighted to be here, not taking things as seriously - but where they receive a murmured mild comment or two, she finds herself receiving the odd approving nod. Up until, that is, the moment when a discarded red rose, laid on a handkerchief, is set next to her setting.

Madoka's skills at frisbee throwing aside, there was at least a hint of grace in how she handled the rest of the disaster. The Countess's eyes meet hers more than once as the meal progresses, and at last she nods to one of the butlers. On his way past, he delivers a glass of water, with a cube of ice perfectly suspended within.

He's just in time to hear Homura's comment, and for once the professional servant hesitates. Standing a moment longer than necessary - but uncertainty is not a sin, when a lesson is to be given, and even the hostess can pick up on the panic. "That's correct," he whispers to the pair before moving on.

Usagi, like Natsuki, has earned herself a personal watchdog in short order. For all the polite applause earned during the frisbee-throwing - and the watchful eye of the Countess resting on that arc a little longer than most - the meal is going well. Only the lack of obvious disrespect keeps the butler from completely snapping - though it's a very near thing. Finally, he hisses out loudly enough for half the table to hear, "Then try watching those around you, and do what they do!"

The butlers, following orders, have seen the like of Haruka Tenoh before. One is close at hand to deal with whatever callous discards the young man might make, and keep them at hand should they be needed. One hand held out, and that helmet will be returned; until then, there's just a watchful, wary gaze. The young butler doesn't comment on what Haruka might be up to, but he certainly seems to have an idea.

Michiru's mild frost is also a reason for concern from the servants, and at least one seems to watch her at all times. It might be that her drink gets refilled a little more quickly than her partner's, her soup served a little earlier; little things that might be completely innocent, or might be placating one scorned.

There as a brief admonishing look given to Rei after that one errant throw - but calm grace followed it. The plate setting is as ritual as any - perfect spacing of each utensil, with the layout as hoped. The outermost spoon to be used for the first course, the innermost utensils to be saved for the end. There's an approving nod from Usagi's frustrated watcher, and he seems relieved to see someone who knows their manners.

The soup is finished, a tiny salad served, and subsequent courses brought out - miniscule portions, just enough to justify all the utensils laid out. As the 'dessert' - a morsel of sorbet - serves as a resting place for the smallest spoon, the Countess speaks up. "You are not expected, of course, to come here knowing all of etiquette. This was a lesson - some of you knew what to do by knowledge or instinct." Her eyes, flicking about the table, meet the gazes of Fuu, Michiru, and Rei. "Others waited, and acted gracefully once they had seen their peers at work." Another round of glances - to Madoka and Haruka, to Ami and Setsuna.

She doesn't look at Natsuki, or at Usagi. Haruka, seated as a prince, gets a glance from the corner of the Countess's eye - but then she moves on. "This is, in the end, a learning experience. A fine dinner, to see what you already know of etiquette - and to teach you more. Those morsels of knowledge, like the ordering of the utensils, or the appropriate way to pass a shared dish. Before our final lesson for today, however, I would ask something of you."

She looks across the table - with the meal done, all are invited to speak in turn. "What, to you, does it mean to be a Princess?"

<Pose Tracker> Natsuki Kuga [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Thanks," Natsuki replied as she took the salt from Fuu and sprinkled it into the soup...it made it taste tolerable now. At least, it didn't feel she was eating over cooked paste now. She glanced over to Madoka and noticed the girl wasn't eating, and seemed to be doing her best imitation of a statue. She probably would have succeeded if her stomach hadn't decided to growl then. It wasn't any of Natsuki's business...but she didn't exactly give the girl the best start of did she?

"Hey, Madoka...want some bread?" she offered holding out the bread basket. The girl should at least have something in her stomach.

Hearing the sudden slurping makes her jump, and she glances over to see it was not from a whole group, but from Usagi alone. She rolled her eyes as the butler seem to to be on her case as much as the one assigned to her was. "I never knew butlers could be so demanding," she muttered.

She freezes as the butler mentions Shizuru's name. Right, she did go to this thing too didn't she? Got top marks, and wouldn't let Natsuki hear the end of it if she failed. That did not stop Natsuki from giving the butler a very heated glare that could melt iceberg. "Fine," she said with a deep growl, and went to take out her frustration by chewing quietly, while she put the butler on her "people she should eventually shot" list.

Throughout the rest of her meal, Natsuki keeps her manners in check, while still shooting glares at the old geezer butler. The Countess then surprises her with the question. So, she was taking it that far was she?

When it came to Natsuki's turn to answer, she cleared her throat. "A princess is someone society expects to be prime and proper due to the one in the million chance she got to be born one, but others will look down at her for even trying to act like a normal person." She gave a fake sweet smile to keep up with her 'manners.' "Course, that is only my simple opinion, and thank you for asking." She then sat straight in her chair as she listened to the other answers the girls around her gave, and ignored any glares she might have been receiving.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Beneath Michiru's cool disapproval and Haruka's overwhelming expression, Madoka can do little but squirm; she is extremely relieved that the nature of the changing locale, from outdoors to indoors, gets her well away from them, and surrounded by somewhat safer dinner companions.


With Homura and Rei around her, she bends her head to the former's advice with a whispered "Thank you" that carries far too far, and greets the latter. "I, I," she stammers, "I think red looks better on you."

It does clash with pink somewhat unfortunately.

Even with Homura's advice, however, and Natsuki's bread, accepted with a second expression of too-quiet gratitude, she finds herself unable to eat, made so acutely uncomfortable by Usagi's distress. Shifting her weight in her seat, she kicks her little legs against the chair, not quite reaching the floor.

And then, blushing even more furiously than before, she leans forward and takes a deliberately loud slurp of her water, in that glass delivered as a symbol of the Countess' approval.

Some things are worth failing for... and in this moment she wants to be the opposite of invisible.

Hunching her shoulders, she prepares to take on the disapproval of Usagi's nearby butler... but gives her friend the tiniest, most trembling smile.

Same-height sisters show solidarity in slurping.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Homura turns and gives Usagi a long, long look as she ends up stumbling through her soup. It is a very long look. Her expression may be flat and her eyes cool as always, but there are volumes written in that look. Much like Queen Victoria, she is not amused.

But then Madoka also slurps from the glass that was offered to her. Thus far, Homura's expression has been carefully controlled. Her scowls are slight, like the ones that she gave Usagi. Her wary looks, too, are only cool glances -- like the ones she directed at Setsuna. But when Madoka shows solidarity with Usagi, it actually catches her offguard. Her eyes widen and she gasps sharply.

Did she really just...?

She gives Madoka a confused stare. She feels a clash of emotions, because it must be over that girl. Except, it was kind and thoughtful on Madoka's part. Even when it frustrates her to no end, even when it makes Homura want to scream, she can't dislike it. She looks down, bangs covering her eyes and her face hidden. One might think it is to hide her disapproving frown or embarrassed glower.

But they're actually missing her smile.

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"I do indeed have a pin," says Michiru, her eyelashes shading her gaze, eyes half open as they fix upon those of Haruka's rather intently. Taking the rose - she lifts it up to her own nose to take a sniff of the thing, eyelashes hiding her coy gaze - before she slides it down and slips it into one of the pockets of her riding jacket. From Michiru's other pocket, her right hand dips into it and she pulls out a different rose.

Aquamarine coloured, it had fallen into her hand when cut by a certain blonde bun-headed young woman, and that is what Michiru lifts, placing the rose petal against the young man's breast, Michiru lifting her chin as she works the pin through the petals, and just... lightly, lightly, nicks the skin over Haruka's chest.

Oops? Perhaps, if the chiding eyes of the violinist don't lift to Haruka then, a little bit of laughter in them.

But time passes, and they were in the dining hall now.

Blissfully ignoring the perfect service of the servants, Michiru lets her eyes track towards Rei Hino, as the other young woman addresses her. "Just as it is pleasant to see others with an interest in... well," Michiru pauses a moment, smiling so wide her nose crinkles at the other woman. And perhaps pauses a little too overlong, a bit of a glance shot across the table at Haruka briefly. "...an interest in becoming a little more educated, prim, and elegant," she says. "And in spite of the stumbling some of you are having along the way..." she says, glancing towards Madoka. "A stumble is the first portion of a step. I'd imagine the rest will come along quickly enough," she says.

What does it mean to be a princess?

Michiru pauses a moment, her eyes settling directly upon the countess before she answers. "It means to give everything of yourself for the right cause," she states, simply, her eyes tracking to level upon Haruka after.

<Pose Tracker> Ami Mizuno [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Ami glances away from the utensils for a moment... and when she looks back, her classificaiton system has been totally thrown in the garbage. She takes a long, deep breath through her nose, sighing it out as she finishes her soup out; it takes her a few moments to remind herself which utensil is which. She doesn't have this stuff internalized, and having to work through it intellectually every time -- even for Ami -- isn't real great.

She slowly finishes the rest of her meal, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible; she does explain to Setsuna, "I'm not used to eating like this," at one point, before the meal ends. She /is/ hesitating... and that doesn't feel great, even if she's comporting herself better than certain people at the table.

When she's asked what it means to be a princess to her, she locks up. Public speaking isn't her forte -- it's not that she totally lacks a showy side, but she's never really fostered it or paid it any mind. Accordingly, she takes a long breath, turning her gaze first to Usagi, then to Setsuna -- and nods once, the answer now clear in her head.

For an instant, Ami looks like she's going to launch into a book report; there's a look she gets, a certain passion in her eyes, that -- when she /does/ have to speak -- often comes with more words than strictly necessary. ... not here, though. Here, her answer is simple.

"To be a princess is..." Ami takes a breath. Does her answer really match Michiru's? The other girl seemed so sure, so elegant -- so comfortable in the mode of princess. Can something as simple as what she's about to say really hold up in comparison? Putting the thoughts out of her mind for now, she finishes, "... to be someone who can love -- who can forgive -- and who can hope." She stumbles over the words, but it's a stumble of passion as opposed to sheer nervousness.

She sits back down, giving Usagi a big, warm smile before looking to Setsuna in curiosity about what /she'll/ say.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Fuu inclines her head politely to the Countess when her gaze is directed at Fuu, and otherwise sits and listens, content with her meal. Then, the question ... and it's not as easy to answer as it sounds like, is it? Fortunately, she has a little time to consider her answer - and tries to frame it without letting the answers of others color her own reply.

When her turn to answer comes, Fuu rises to her feet, taking a breath - partly to steady herself, partly so she'll have wind to answer with - before speaking, "To be a princess, for me, means to accept and uphold one's duty to her people. More than a king or queen, a princess is a symbol to her people, able to embody and represent the best of her nation at peace, and to strengthen their hearts in times of difficulty."

She bows her head politely to the Countess before taking her seat again.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [None] has posed.

For her?


Usagi got that question, and Setsuna is still in the hall without a flower. In the hall, and...

And apparently she's doing well. The approving nods don't actually have any obvious effect on her--she can't sit up any straighter--but she very certainly approves. Approves, right until--

...The flower's put down. She was lucky enough that her orderly habits pass for manners rathr easily, but /this/ particular failure makes her frown down at the rose. Why is /that/ here?

"...I'm not either," she answers Ami at length, after she finally speaks up about her hesitation. "But you shouldn't hold yourself back."

Why so full of advice for someone she doesn't know? Well, maybe she's just rude.

...But either way she can't help but notice Madoka so loudly /slurping/ out of nowhere, giving her just enough context to be surprised and then--well then there's the questions.

She does passably at the others; it's frankly luck that she picks the right order for utensils, having simply chosen what she thought was the most efficient. She can't help but smirk to herself slightly at Natsuki's opinion, and record that girl's face to talk to later.

But... Sacrifice? Is that what a princess is? Maybe they really /are/ the warriors of this planet. Love, forgiveness...

Setsuna looks away when Ami speaks, and doesn't look up--especially not after that curious look. What is a princess...?

A useless distinction because it doesn't have anything to do with--

"...A princess is someone who's noticed," Setsuna says eventually, in her usual distant tone. Her red eyes focus on a spot on the wall. "Someone the right people see, and acknowledge, who they can't ignore."

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [None] has posed.

For her?


Usagi got that question, and Setsuna is still in the hall without a flower. In the hall, and...

And apparently she's doing well. The approving nods don't actually have any obvious effect on her--she can't sit up any straighter--but she very certainly approves. Approves, right until--

...The flower's put down. She was lucky enough that her orderly habits pass for manners rathr easily, but /this/ particular failure makes her frown down at the rose. Why is /that/ here?

"...I'm not either," she answers Ami at length, after she finally speaks up about her hesitation. "But you shouldn't hold yourself back."

Why so full of advice for someone she doesn't know? Well, maybe she's just rude.

...But either way she can't help but notice Madoka so loudly /slurping/ out of nowhere, giving her just enough context to be surprised and then--well then there's the questions.

She does passably at the others; it's frankly luck that she picks the right order for utensils, having simply chosen what she thought was the most efficient. She can't help but smirk to herself slightly at Natsuki's opinion, and record that girl's face to talk to later.

But... Sacrifice? Is that what a princess is? Maybe they really /are/ the warriors of this planet. Love, forgiveness...

Setsuna looks away when Ami speaks, and doesn't look up--especially not after that curious look. What is a princess...?

A useless distinction because it doesn't have anything to do with--

"...A princess is someone who's noticed," Setsuna says eventually, in her usual distant tone. Her red eyes focus on a spot on the wall. "Someone the right people see, and acknowledge, who they can't ignore."

As she speaks, her hand curls over the stem of the rose provided to her.

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Haruka bites his tongue in shared mischief, another boyish expression at odds and yet entirely congruent with his sophisticated aplomb. He places a wrist in palm behind his back as if receiving a medal. The pain reaction from the needle scraping him makes one knee twitch, and he bows his head a little, his bangs chastened but his lips charmed.

Haruka watches Michiru converse with the luxuriously-coiffed Rei. Calling Michiru '-sama' always scores points with Haruka, and he'd approved of her ferocity during the Ohtori Cultural Festival, too. He turns his gaze away discreetly after catching Michiru's glance. Admiring Michiru is a slippery slope, because she only gets more admirable the closer you look. Poor Rei Hino.

Haruka is not here as a princess, and so he doesn't mind that Countess Rose seems only mildly impressed by his performance as one. He knows Michiru's doing it well enough for the both of them. The question, though, gets his attention a lot more thoroughly than might be expected.

"It means loving something so much that you can never be a part of it," he says. It isn't sad, but it floats from him strangely. And then he closes his eyes for a faint, foppish smile. "...that's what they say."

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The butler's final admonishment causes her to shrink again in her seat like she'd failed some critical exam. Which is when- the slurp. And it wasn't from her! Looking across the table to her Adorable Same-Height Sister, Usagi's eyes glimmered in gratitude, before she mouths, 'Thank you.' in a way that was meant to be clandestine, but surely everyone would see it.

Looking forward at Rei as she offers Usagi further succor from the situation, she nods at her offer, still feeling very small, she tries to remember the arrangement of her spoons. Cupping a hand over her mouth, she leans forward and whispers. "Which one was on the outside first, Rei-chan?"

With her pointer finger, she points towards one, then another, before finally deciding that she hadn't picked up the spoon that was furthest to the outside. Picking it up with a triumphant grin, it fades the moment she realizes she shouldn't seem so proud of herself after so many failures.

Straightening her back, she then scans the table, looking for Michiru, trying to see how she handled this task. And then back at Rei. And then back at Michiru- then Rei. Both well-versed in etiquette, they'd serve as the best examples she could think of. She brightens a little as she notices Michiru still had the rose, even adding a secret smile as she watches how Michiru and Haruka interact, as if taking it as a prime example of how a high class lady ought to treat a gentleman of Haruka's caliber not noticing the prick of the rose at her angle.

Her cheeks pinken a little as Michiru speaks to Rei on those who have an interest in becoming more educated, prim, and elegant, and she shrinks again into her seat. That fades, turning into a weak and tiny smile as she indicates that stumbles were a 'first step' indicating in her mind at least that there was hope.

Between observing the two of them, she seems to at least have managed to work out how she thinks one 'ought' to wrangle soup. The spoon is dipped slowly. It enters the soup bowl, and then is slowly brought back to her mouth. The butler watchdog nods in approval- which vanishes like dew in late morning the moment he hears another slurp.

The rest of the meal goes more smoothly, Usagi sometimes grabbing the wrong utensil but correcting herself as she remembers Rei's statement to work from the outside in. And everything is, "Delicious!" She says cheerfully at every course. Just before dessert however, she leans over and asks her watchdog, "What about seconds?" "If a proper lady wants seconds, she must communicate it silently."

Usagi thinks about this for a moment, before raising a hand high with two fingers. "No." Is all he that he states, enough for her hand to shrink down to side. Usagi makes a few more postural attempts, which are met with a shaken head, not having learned the high society language of how to arrange cutlery properly on dirty plates to communicate their thoughts and desires. "That wasn't enough." She complains softly, sounding like the whole experience of trying to act proper was making her miserable as she looks down at her lap.

Usagi nods around with Countess Rose, not noticing that she's not even looking at her. But that question, what opinions she's soliciting - immediately she freezes, her lip quivering, skin paling. A spectre of a majestic Queen on Obon asked her, 'And just what have you done to live up to my memory?' And Usagi finds that she has no answers whatsoever. She was an actual Princess, but she hadn't had much time to even consider what it means. That ghost, so harsh and judgemental, yet so full of light had criticized and ridiculed her, and hit upon every insecurity she had. It didn't help that she had memories of herself, as a different person, one who had called her, 'Mama.'

Despite her efforts, her eyes sparkle with tears, for a time, uncertain where Princess Serenity ends and Usagi Tsukino ends. Michiru's answer sounds so wise, like something that 'Mama' might have said, but she can't think through the pea soup fog that seperates divides the two. Is that really what it meant? Her chin lifts, as she looks at her out of the periphery, trying to figure out if she should simply repeat it. It'd be easier wouldn't it? But something doesn't resonate completely with her. Then comes Ami's- and Usagi manages to crack a weak smile, memories of a recent conversation flooding back.

Then comes Setsuna, deciding her answer applied to her, as she wants to be noticed. A girl good at nothing, amongst so many beautiful and lovely friends who were good at everything. Then Haruka's the romance, or perhaps the romantic ideal of the answer causing a swelling in her chest, vague memories of heavenly blue and a handsome prince who cut almost as striking a figure from long ago.

Clutching at the fabric of her pants between her thumbnails as she sinks deeper and deeper into herself, she wouldn't have noticed it was her turn, except for a Butler who nudges her even so slightly. Startled, she sniffles once, before looking up at Ami and her smile, then turning stare at Countess Rose and through neither courage nor conviction, but perhaps merely Ami's smile. That simple belief that Ami Mizuno has in Usagi Tsukino manages to the maelstrom of emotions within her, "I think every Princess has to figure out what it means to them by whether they decide to live up to someone else's legacy or not. I guess for a lot of girls that can mean acting like a proper and cultured lady all the time, wearing pretty gowns, mingling with other really high class people, and gliding across the dance floor like they were floating on air. And that's entirely okay if it does. But I think to me it means..."

There's a pause, as she chews upon the inside of her lip, put on the spot by something she hadn't really thought about and having to hastily weigh a question of utmost import, her eyes meeting Countess' Rose with perhaps more conviction than expected given how she began, how she deliberated. "...a responsibility to protect everyone." They glide out of her lips before she has a chance to second guess herself. The wording perhaps not carefully thought through and entirely so at the same time in her choice of, 'everyone', instead of 'their people' and 'their friends.' She quiets immediately, thinking that she's some sort of giant, inelegant elephant in the room.

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Madoka's blushing deflection doesn't perturb Rei's smile. There's nothing wrong with being shy, and nothing surprising about this place being a little much for shy girls. If they were at an arcade or a mall then she might have gently told her that there's nothing wrong with taking a compliment, but this is hardly the time of the place to give a nudge. She nods to Michiru's response. "There is always room to better ourselves, in mind and body and spirit. One should never let any of the fields of one's character to go fallow for too long."

Her eyebrows raise with the slurp heard round the room, especially when it's joined and made a duet. Grinning brightly, Rei's delighted at the red-cheeked girl's display of solidarity. She lifts her glass, halfway between her mouth and where it would seem she's proposing a toast, and then brings it to her lips and pointedly slurps with them, a single clarion suck.

She smiles at each and every response to the question, finding delight in each of their wisdoms. Ami-chan in particular moves her with her spontaneous passion, and she wishes that she could reach out and squeeze her hand. When her time comes she pauses for just a moment to gather her thoughts. "A princess is somebody who is dignified and generous. An example for others to aspire to, a source of strength for others to rally around, and to lend their strength to her in turn, because no creature of flesh cannot be bruised. A princess is a pillar who takes on many forms, whether her temper is hot or cold, whether she's rich or poor, clumsy or graceful, or confident or shy. That her strength doesn't shatter, even if it bends or falters..that's what being a princess is."

She sits. Usagi, unlike Ami, is close enough to reach. Leaning forward, she grabs Usagi's hand in her own and gives it a pump of encouragement and solidarity, smiling softly as she does.

<Pose Tracker> Kunzite [None] has posed.

The Countess sits, and listens. She's not alone in doing so; her question seems to have caught even the staff off-guard. As they remove lavish dishes in silence, they linger longer than politeness would dictate, curious to hear just what kind of answers this question will receive.

Natsuki Kuga speaks of entitlement and expectations - of those born to privilege and authority, of preordained destiny. The Countess taps her finger once, twice in response, and answers her. "Quite informative - then if you have little interest in that fate..." It's not quite an invitation to leave, but the door is less blocked than it was before.

Madoka answers not through words, but through deeds. Solidarity in slurping, volunteering for embarrassment at her own expense - non-verbal, and yet speaking of courage in its own little way. Homura, too, foregoes giving an answer through words. Her actions are quieter yet, controlling her emotions. Whether fury or joy, she keeps her peace - and in so doing, serves as a reminder of diplomatic silence. ...maybe. In the end, though, it's enough that the Countess gives the infuriated butler a short, stern nod - and fuming, he storms off, leaving those unaccustomed to grace in peace.

Michiru gives more than one lesson, and the Countess invites silence as she speaks. Words of grace, words of sacrifice for the right cause, and there's an answering nod from the head of the table. "Well said. Grace is not about constant perfection - it is about turning those failures into successes. And nobility does come with obligation - which is, itself, why elegance is desired."

Ami, discomforted through the meal, is better prepared for a quiz. The full report - tangible to anyone - is summarized with optimism and cheer. The Countess purses her lips, thoughtful. "An interesting answer. Love, forgiveness, and hope - you would leave it to the princes to be ruthless and suspecting?"

Fuu, too, speaks of duty - endeavouring to give her own, true answer. "Figureheads and symbols - or leading by example. A question, to be sure, and one with no single answer. One, perhaps, might be more readily accepted by some - a leader chooses, a figurehead is herself trapped." Her gaze meets Fuu's for a moment, before moving on.

Setsuna, looking somewhere far from here, speaks of pride and acknowledgement. This answer, again, brings a nod from the Countess before she turns to the table at large. "This is true. Whether or not a princess holds power, the world watches - another reason for these lessons. If the world will watch, you would do well not to embarrass yourself."

Haruka, one of the princes of the room, has a melancholic and yet romantic answer. The butler at his back, not quite glaring, seems taken aback; the Countess raises one eyebrow a fraction, folding her hands as she listens to his answer. "Another point to consider. Above society, separate from it, never able to truly be a part."

In spite of etiquette problems, in spite of her attendant's increasing frustration - at least, until his dismissal - and in spite of the meal being but a taste of fine cuisine, Usagi puts great thought into her answer. In the end - spurred on by helpful waitstaff - she gives it, and the Countess summarizes after a moment's pause to think it over. "Responsibility - noblesse oblige. A princess is of a ruling class, and has a duty to her people."

Rei joins in the solidarity well begun...and i is, in the end, the last to speak. Several answers all in one are her response - dignity, generosity, being an example, being strength, being everything at once...there's a silence following her answer. Quietly, politely, the countess applauds - not for her alone, but for all the answers brought together.

"I wonder, sometimes, what would change if I asked that question of those who have power - but your opinions are all the more valuable. You speak of responsibility, and of gracefulness. Of courage, and of kindness. And above all - that a princess must be an example that others should wish to live up to. That is, in the end, the purpose of this seminar." Sliding her chair gently back, the Countess stands. "Some of these facets cannot be taught - or must be carefully instilled through weeks, months of effort. Etiquette is far easier to learn than duty, calligraphy easier than courage. Still, I myself have an obligation to try."

At some unseen signal, the doors open once more; soft music can be heard from nearby, wafting through the manor, somehow unheard until this instant. "There are, however, some lessons that can be taught more easily. If you wish to follow these guides, there is a formal dance lesson. And after hearing all your answers...I believe that many of you have promise. In several days' time, there will be a 'final exam' for today's lesson - a grand ball, to celebrate what you have learned today."

She does not follow, instead staying to discuss something with the staff. Butlers, however, are happy to lead princes and princesses up to the ballroom - a grand chamber, lined with art, with musicians playing a gentle waltz. Instructors are prepared to teach those who wish to learn, while the courageous can advance on the dance floor directly. Hopefully, there will be enough partners...

<Pose Tracker> Kunzite [None] has posed.

The dance lesson is elegant, refined, and in places disastrous. Some of the partners have taught new ballroom dancers before; others did not think to wear steel-toed dancing shoes. In the end, though, the lesson stretches on with a few basic steps, and there's elegant classical music to be enjoyed throughout - concluding with gilded invitations to the formal ball in a few days' time.

Elsewhere, however...

On one of the mansion's balconies, far from where the dancers are concluding today's entry into the Princess Seminar, Countess Rose reads over a list of participants. Several names have already been crossed off the list, or circled for inclusion in the 'final exam'. Still, as she pores over it, there's an almost unladylike scowl on her face.

"Most of it makes sense, but the frisbees..."

A deep male voice answers her - a man, leaning on the balcony railing, gazing up at the skies above. "It's similar enough to one of her techniques. The real one might be clumsy, but that skill she should have."

The Countess circles one name, and taps another with her pen. "Failing that, the answers to that little quiz...I've made notes on how each of them answered. You're sure I should rule out the ones who said a princess should be kind?" Rather than answering, the man is quiet for a long time...and then there's a groan of metal as wrought iron crumples in his grip.

"Ask Zoisite how 'kind' the Moon Princess is."