2015-08-18 - Are You Stupid or Something?

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Title: Are You Stupid or Something?

Setsuna meets Lera at Midori-ya, to talk after the recent events and discoveries. Unfortunately, things aren't going well for either of them.


Lera Camry and Setsuna Higashi


Midori-ya Bakery

OOC - IC Date:

08-17-2014 - 08-18-2015

It took Lera a few days to get the nerve to text Setsuna Higashi.

At first, everything felt like too much. The recognition of who Eas really was made helping Eas that much more desperate of a problem. The loss of Soaring Sky made her feel like she couldn't do anything about it. The fear that Ren would be furious with her and that her mother would finally be done with her left her in a rough state. She had the resolve to find a way to help Eas, but...

It felt like a resolve she couldn't act on. It was, in its own way, worse than having no resolve. She no longer felt defeated. She felt helpless.

But two conversations helped with that. One was Fate Testarossa promising that she would support Lera, that she would even talk to her mother until she understood. It reinforced one simple thing: Lera wouldn't end up alone. The other was that her mother told her she was proud of her. Something changed in Lera after that; instead of a vice around her heart, she felt some warmth.

Even though Citadel has made a barrier around Tokyo Tower -- even though Jaren still has Sky -- she has a new feeling of hope. It is still tenuous. It still, in some small way, hurts to think how new it is. But, that hope is enough to make he realize she has to try to keep that promise. She expects it to hurt, somehow, at this point, but Lera told Setsuna she would be there.

And thus, earlier, she sent a text message:

>Hey Setsuna. Want to go to Midori-ya with me?

Despite the casualness of the message, it took her twenty minutes to decide on the wording and five to summon the nerve to hit send.

But now that Lera is here, she feels... happy. Something that she didn't quite expect sets in: she missed talking to Setsuna over the last few days. She knows that she shouldn't; she knows there was something she didn't know, which changed everything. The feeling, though, is there.

Lera sits at a table in the coffee house. It is in the back -- where conversations aren't likely to be overhead -- and she has a menu in front of her. The girl has her sunglasses up on her forehead and her pendant hangs from her neck. The green gem there has a new, soft glow for reasons unknown. And, strangely enough, she is smiling.

It doesn't seem forced.

Setsuna almost didn't even see the text message.

She's already had something of a full few days since their last conversation; she finally went back to the mansion after a night away, having given in to Inori's request to stay over... And having had the experience of seeing the other girl worrying over her as she woke up again, she went perhaps a little bit more quickly than she otherwise would have. She still didn't get enough rest, but...

That's normal, now.

So she hasn't actually paid any attention to Citadel, or the barrier, or really any of those things. She'd come to a decision, after all, and had to report her absence.

...It was spywork on the Pretty Cure, of course. Now she's been to another of their homes.

Now, however...

It was only 'almost' that she didn't see it, because she did take out her phone, coincidentally, just a few minutes after she missed the chime. She saw Lera's message, of all things, and stopped where she was walking to stare down at it. She looked again, closed it out, opened it again, and made sure. She double-checked Lera's sending information.

So, about twenty minutes further after Lera actually sent it, she'd get a reply:

>I'll be there soon.

And so she is; she's not the first here, of course. Not even a little bit. She's here in jeans and a light, long-sleeved shirt in white. Her necklace gleams in the light like always, but she's skipped the hat, today. And...

And so she can see Lera pretty easily at the table. Now, she's less awkward in dealing with stores like this. So, she walks in, glances around, and--

The first sound she makes is the noise of sitting down at the table across from Lera. She doesn't bother trying to move the menu. She just speaks.


"Are you stupid or something?"

She is a little surprised at the text. Lera expected to be berated over text, first. That makes her wonder. Did she want to? Or was it something else? Despite everything, knowing what she did, it was hard to imagine hanging out with Setsuna for fun now.

It was more reason, Lera thought, to try. She could classify that reply as something to be hopeful about.

Lera's smile actually fades a little when Setsuna appears, though. The nervousness comes back, then, because she isn't sure what to expect. Setsuna told her to get used to not seeing her as much anymore. She might be angry at her, after she had more time to think about what she did for Lera's sake. Would she come in here and start a fight? She doesn't think so, but then she realizes that tactical consideration came from hope instead of rational thought.

Her eyes still light up a bit, though. She has equal parts nervousness and happiness in her expression as she sits up, while the wooden chair legs scrape across the floor. She opens her mouth up, ready to say a greeting first, but...

Her expression becomes sheepish and she falls, immediately, into the defense she became accustomed to: "I'm pretty stupid sometimes, y'know?"

She says it cheerfully, but then that happiness fades as she realizes what she said -- and what she feels. It seems so wrong, now, thinking of what people told her to support her. It doesn't feel like something that her mother, Ren, Fate, or her other friends really think of her. She realizes, then, that it was a criticism she gave herself too readily.

Why did she agree to an insult like that? Lera's eyes fall back down to the table. "Sorry," she says, quieter. "I just... I hadn't talked to you since--y'know. I thought I should."

Setsuna's texts tend to be fairly direct and utilitarian, for some reason. Particularly when she gets pictures of cute animals. ...She's accumulated a number of those, thanks to the people on her contact list.

Now, however...

Setsuna looks a little different from her usual self; it's not that she's angry, precisely. It's that as she sits down with Lera, there's a certain lack of artifice; her expression is blank, making it hard to tell her actual mood, save for a couple of little cues here and there; the slight twitch of her eyelid, the tweak of her lip into a frown. Lera almost greets her--

Setsuna frowns harder, in that moment, particularly as Lera actually seems to think better of what she'd said, or something.

"...It's weird how you just agree like that," she says, leaning back slightly in her chair and glancing to the side. "...And it's weird that you wanted to talk to me." Setsuna's red eyes settle back on Lera, and there are questions in them, questions that can be seen barely behind that glassy barrier.

"I don't see any reason you should. I thought I made clear the kind of person I am last time."

When Setsuna observes that it is strange that Lera agrees with her insult, it reinforces that it's something she should stop doing. It reinforces that it is strange -- or, perhaps, unfair that she defaults to agreeing with it. She doesn't think before she speaks. Her mind was already on the topic, so she simply voices it without thought:

"I... guess I always thought I was stupid," she says, quietly. Then she clarifies, with a hint of certainty that wasn't in her voice before on such a topic: "...Until recently."

She looks straight back at Lera. Something is, somehow, different about her. It isn't just that she has her composure back after a battle and a costly defeat. There is a firmness and resolution in her eyes that wasn't there even before Jaren seized Soaring Sky. She holds her chin a little higher; her eyes have a fierier look that stands in contrast to the emptier look in Setsuna's.

She knows what that empty look means, now.

It isn't a new look for Lera Camry, though. It's the way she held herself when she was confident -- when she forgot, for a moment, that she thought of herself as an idiot. This confidence seems more resilient, even if it is new enough that she wears it like it might not fit yet.

'I thought I made clear the kind of person I am last time.'

She swallows, then she nods. "I learned a lot about you, last time. Yeah," she agrees. "I don't... I don't think you should hurt those girls. But I didn't forget what you did. Or some of the other things you said. Besides."

She grins that wide, eager grin that she did more than once at Setsuna. "This place is really good! Have you had their cookies? Or their cakes? Oh my gosh. Just, oh my gosh, y'know?"

Setsuna just continues to look at Lera for the first moment, as if she'd just said something completely obvious--but surprise registers in her eyes after a second, after that clarification, the way Lera sounds saying it. "...I see," she answers.

That statement says a lot of things to her.

That tone, and the look in Lera's eyes, too. Setsuna looks at Lera appraisingly, casting her eyes over that fire, even as it seems in contrast to it that she might simply be burned up eventually by comparison.

Setsuna looks more together today, but if anything, even more fatigued than she has been. She's pale, and doesn't smile.

"...Not enough, I guess. If you actually got anything I'd told you, you wouldn't have asked me to join you." She prepares to speak again but--

But Lera just looks at her all cheerfully like that and immediately changes things over. And...

"...I don't like sweets," she answers, sounding, if anything, a little defensive. "I'm just here for the coffee." Beat, as she glances to the side. "...And I should. I have to. ...I know what I have to do, now." A pause, as she looks back at Lera, and frowns again.

This frown is almost more delicate however, a frown of something out of place. She shakes her head to dismiss it anyway, "Whatever. Anyway, I told you you'd be like this again in a few days. See?"

The fatigued look begins to catch Lera's eye. She had been distracted enough by everything else to not notice immediately. This was, after all, the first time that she spoke with Setsuna since Tuesday. It was the first full conversation that she had with her, knowing who the other girl really was. But, then she realized that she had that tired look -- and she was pale. The image of Setsuna fainting in the arcade comes to mind.

She glances down at the table, wondering if she should be worried. Then she wonders if voicing that worry would be wise.

"You can have coffee, then," she says, her smile and cheer remaining but dampening. "I'm gonna have some cookies." She looks back down at the table, the smile slipping off her face. "You did. That's part of it. You said I'll get back up again. I... I don't think you meant to make me feel better or encourage me, but it helped. I didn't have much faith in myself."

She hesitates.

"So you gave me a little. And you saved me," she finishes. "I heard what you said. About how you'll keep fooling that girl. About how I'm... not losing anything. But I--I remember how you looked. It was like you'd been hurt--or scared--or freaked out, y'know? After we... talked." She isn't about discuss betraying Mobius publicly; it feels beyond foolish. Lera sighs, and glances back down at the table. "I'm still not sure what to make of you. Maybe I should hate you, but I..."

She doesn't. She leaves it unsaid; she leaves a lot unsaid for a moment, as she picks up on something else that Setsuna said. "...What do you have to do?"

If Setsuna is even aware of her own fatigue, she has not said anything about it. ...Setsuna being Setsuna, it's unlikely that she's going to regardless of the circumstances.

...But she did mention coffee.

The fact that she can see Lera's cheer fading so quickly makes her uncomfortable; Setsuna watches that smile dampen, and glances down at the table again, suddenly reaching her hand up and taking the menu on her side. "...Fine," she says. "I'll get something."

"..." She looks awkwardly down at the menu as Lera tells her about those things, what she'd said... what she'd done.

She stays quiet in those moments, too, only glancing to the side, away from the menu, again, and only eventually up to Lera, where it seems she's looking despite being pushed away like a magnet of the same pole. "It's..."

"So I was hurt," she says. "It's not like I can't take it. I know what you should be feeling. You should be calling in your friends to take me down. So I made you feel better. ...It was something you'd have figured out anyway. It's just true, that's all. You don't ever give up. ...It's one of your more annoying qualities."

Setsuna shifts somewhat awkwardly in her chair. "...I have to work harder," she says, still defensive. "Make sure I can complete my mission. No matter what. I have to make it up to him. I... have to prove myself."

Lera's smile comes back, for just a moment, when Setsuna says she will put an order in after all. The smile doesn't linger, though, and she looks down at the table at those words. She hears what she should be hearing -- and she can see the logic in it, the way that some other magical girl might agree -- but can't see herself doing it. She even hears the roundabout statement of her better (or more annoying) qualities.

Lera's eyes drift up, slowly, to look at her. It feels strange, she thinks, how Setsuna can say something that can lift her spirits without meaning to. She may not want to be called stupid, but...

...she doesn't mind being annoying, she thinks. Lera can accept that feeling. She can work with it. Maybe, even, she can like it. Setsuna didn't simply stand up and walk away. For a moment, the Midchildan girl feels a flicker of hope that she can make things better for Setsuna. Then, that flicker blows out.

'I have to make it up to him. I... have to prove myself.'

Lera looks down at the table, away from Setsuna, but it doesn't hide the way her eyes widen tensely. She realizes, then, that it wasn't how she thought. She made Setsuna compromise her principles by choosing to help her. She put her into a position where she had to prove herself. The actions and words that saved Lera's life and spirit carried a price.

She looks up and stares at Setsuna again, her expression more anguished this time. She sees the way she looks paler and more tired. She remembers the pain in Eas's voice -- and the panic that led to Lera's promise. She realizes who is paying that price.

She realizes how she got into the situation with Jaren, feeling she had to prove something to her mother. She realizes that other people could pay the price of her desperation -- the people that Setsuna hurts and the people who care for Setsuna. She realizes that she helped push her there, even if only a little. She feels her heart sink with the sheer unfairness of it.

"...no you don't," she answers quietly, after a long pause. "You've... you've gotta be proud of yourself, not win someone else's pride!"

Setsuna is at least sincere; she's wrong, maybe, about the details...

But the younger girl has faith in Lera.

Faith that she doesn't have in herself.

Lera's looking away doesn't have to hide anything; when Setsuna talks about Mobius, even without actually invoking his name, everything around her falls away; her vision almost blanks, to look at her, gazing inward as she does. There is something that she must do, something beyond anything else. ...But this fugue doesn't actually last long enough to prevent her from noticing the conflict Lera has over it.

Setsuna sets her jaw as she looks back up at Lera again, ready for her to think something, to say something, anything...


Red eyes gaze silently at Lera after that quiet answer after its long pause. They're solid, in their way, unblinking...

But it's not resolve in her eyes; it's resignation. There is no hope of something better, only the need to avoid something worse.

"...You don't understand," she says, shaking her head. She looks back to Lera again after she does, evenly. "I don't have a 'self'. This girl you think you know... She doesn't exist. It doesn't matter anymore what happens to me."

"...Either I can accomplish my mission, or my life wasn't worth anything to begin with. It's that simple."

Lera doesn't shout, but she starts to raise her voice in response to Setsuna's assertion.


Something catches in Lera's throat before she can finish. She remembers the warm feeling that came after her mother talked with her; the feeling of relief at knowing that she didn't have to push until there was nothing left to keep her love. All that she had to do was be herself. She can remember that feeling and hearing Setsuna talk doesn't push it away. It makes her realize something else, though, that twists in her painfully like a knife.

Setsuna doesn't have that. She can't give that feeling to Setsuna. She found a way out of feeling trapped, but she can't make it better.

"That isn't true," Lera finishes, her voice quieter. "Your life is worth everything. There's so much you could do, so much that..." She hangs her head back down, trailing off.

She saw the resignation in Setsuna's eyes. It wasn't the same for them before. Lera had the hope that she could win -- and keep -- her mother's love. It is something far more basic for Setsuna.

"Don't... don't you think you deserve better than that?"

Setsuna is quite still as Lera begins to raise her voice, her eyes still focused on the older girl as her expression remains exactly the same as it did a moment ago. There is no joy, no pride, no hope in that expression. There's not even the kind of anger that Eas always seems to have wrapped around her. It's something... Different.

And maybe Lera gets a little bit of what it is.

It's only after Lera keeps talking that Setsuna begins to move at all, letting herself exhale in something like a sigh. It's not really the same, no.

"...No." The younger girl looks at Lera as she speaks, as she answers the question without even having to stop and think about it. The only wait is the fact that she's in no particular hurry to do or say anything, anymore. "I don't."

Finally, she turns her head, her mouth still closed as she finds herself looking at a couple of chatting high schoolers over at another table. She keeps talking to Lera, though, her voice low, "Everything... It's ridiculous, to say such a thing. What can I do? I can't even beat those girls. ...Everything he entrusted me with, and still, I can't win. Everything I've done... And if I can't do something now, it's been for nothing."

She doesn't cry. She barely seems living as she looks back to Lera. "...Are we going to order something or not? It's rude to sit here without buying anything."

Part of her wants to scream. Part of her wants to cry. Part of her wants to laugh. She doesn't do any of those things, in lieu of staring in dismay at the younger girl. Lera's shoulders slump when she hears that final statement -- when she realizes how desperate she must be. She was there, just a few days ago, feeling hopeless in the face of beating Jaren Zastava. But she had the solace that seemed small at the time.

She had smiles. She had happiness. She had friends and jokes. She even had tears and troubles. She had the very things that Mobius denies Setsuna and everyone in Labyrinth. Lera knows they saved her, too; she knows they nmight again, because she still has to get Sky back.

"Setsuna, I--"

'...Are we going to order or not?'

Lera's words are caught in her throat. She nods, looking dejected when she does. The protest dies and the words that she was about to blurt out fade away. She glances at a waiter, waving him over. It isn't until she is ordering that an idea occurs to her. She doesn't know how to explain how wrong it is.

But, maybe, she can try to make her smile. Or, failing that, laugh.

Lera looks up at the boy with a pad and smiles. "Hey," she says. "One extra tall glass of milk and your cookie sampler." A beat. "And get me two of those extra large-sized frosted cookies! One blue, one white please."

Setsuna doesn't ask what Lera was going to say. She just tries to dispel the whole thing, even as, now that they've stopped talking about it, it all sinks around her, like rain soaking through to her skin.

So instead, she waits while Lera gets the waiter's attention, waits for Lera to order first since she's already started and she got his attention and she's clearly the older one to begin with.

She doesn't feel like Lera is going to leave things at that, and her cool demeanor is beginning to crack again, inside. It hurts to think about such things. Why can't they just let this be easy?

"...A large house coffee. No sugar, no cream. That's it, thank you."

She doesn't comment mid-order, obviously. But she does look at Lera with some amount of consternation.

She can't see why those colors, though of course she's not going to ask.

When the waiter leaves, Lera opens her mouth and almost picks the topic back up where she left off. She doesn't, though. The moment slips away -- the heated, pleading response feels strange when she thinks about it. She looks at Setsuna, remaining quiet while she does, and her mind fills with doubt. What if she makes her cry again? What if she makes things worse?

She also sees that distant, resigned, and not quite living look in the younger girl's eyes. That worry keeps Lera quiet, and she clings to her plan. She has eaten at Midoriy-ya many times before. She knows Nanoha Takamachi, after all. She also knows their menu.

The silence is awkward, but brief. Nothing they ordered takes so long to make. The waiter comes and puts the platter down between them with a polite: "Here you go! Enjoy!" He takes off after that. Lera looks down at the plate, with half-a-dozen little cookies of different flavors, then two pale cookies with frosting across them.

She sips her milk.

Then she picks up the white cookie. She reaches over to a smaller cookie, with a pale green icing. She dabs some on her finger and puts two splotches on it. Lera glances around -- she spies the high school couple leaving. Then she looks back at Setsuna.

Lera's face splits into a wide, mischevious grin as she picks the cookie up. She holds it next to her head, and announces in a squeaky voice:

"Look at me, I'm Soular the cookie!" she says, wagging it back and forth. "I spend eight hours a day combing my hair, have stupid shoulder pads, and I'm smug for a living!"

What's that look about?

No answer is forthcoming. Setsuna spends that awkward moment completely quiet, setting down her menu neatly and taking the moment to fold her arms and look out the window. ...There are people passing by, as usual. Nothing is particularly unusual about it.

The cookies arrive. Setsuna too looks down, and can't actually identify which cookie is which. ...But, it's not like it matters anyway.

She puts both hands around her coffee and brings it closer to her, taking a deep breath of the brewed drink's aroma.

And then...

'Look at me, I'm Soular the cookie!'

Setsuna blinks once, slowly, looking at Lera. Then she looks at the cookie. ...Then, slowly, back to Lera. Her expression remains completely blank the entire time, save for her eyebrows, which slowly lift, not in derision, but in... curiousity.

"I didn't know Soular had a cookie," she answers simply, completely guilelessly. "...It's just like him to have a dessert he's not even going to eat."

She is frowning. About Soular. And about the apparent fact that he has a cookie named after him somehow.

"Maybe I should give him one and see if he'll choke on it."

That's... That's almost a smile. It's not, quite. But it's not a frown. ...And she seems kind of into that idea. ...Really into that idea.


Lera sputters and drops the Soular cookie. It hits her plate with a clatter, her eyebrow raising, and she looks absolutely confused for a moment. Did she not understand the joke? Except she seems to be feeling... something besides that stark resignation from a moment before. Unfortunately, that appears to be a vengeful happiness over the idea of Soular choking.

Lera has to kick her conscience in the shin a few times before she is properly bothered by that.

"Oh, no, no, he doesn't have a dessert named after him!" she says. "I mean. You're right, he would. But it's called an impression, it's when you... um... talk like you're someone else? So I was pretending I was Soular."

She sighs. "It kinda loses something in the explanation, I think..."

It doesn't actually last, of course. Lera's not the only one with a conscience kicking in, though Setsuna's kicks her a little, instead. Thinking things like that towards the other Executives... It's not something she should be doing.

It's not like making fun of Westar, or stealing his food, or grumbling at them.

This means she's absorbed enough in her own little world that she's surprised when Lera drops the cookie and makes all that noise. She blinks at Lera once and then looks t her again, like she wasn't actually seeing something, and then--

"...Oh. I thought that was strange." Pause. ...Maybe, for some reason, she's a little more likely to take what Lera says about the world at face-value than she might some others. But this new thing...

"...Talk like Soular...?" Setsuna blinks again. "Why?"

'It kinda loses something in the explanation, I think...'

"Oh. ...I mean... Of course. He... definitely has a squeaky girl voice."

She sounds dubious about this but doesn't want to look like she doesn't get it or something.

Lera tilts her head to the side. She is, at once, a little touched that Setsuna would think to ask her and a little baffled. She knew there was more to her than the angry young woman she met as Eas, or the mysterious and matter-of-fact fortune teller that she befriended as Setsuna. She expected some combination of the two. This, however, isn't quite what she imagined.

After just a beat, she decides it fits in with the still incomplete picture, and that it is kind of cute. These thoughts can stay within her mind.

She lifts her finger up next to her head and leans just slightly over the table. Her eyelids lower, conspiratorially, and she nods once. "It's okay," she says, "I know he doesn't have a squeaky girl voice." She pauses. "Usually. But an impression is a joke. You exaggerate someone's voice and how they act, so it's funny. Like--oh! Let's go with someone else with both know. Here."

She sucks a breath in and closes her eyes. Then, she drops her sunglasses down over her face. "Hyaanh! Something really random!" she belts out in a much deeper voice than usual. "Have a donut! Gwah-hah!"

Not being very good at self-awareness as a whole, Setsuna doesn't stop to think that the difficulty Lera is having in explaining something might mean that she's missing out on something very basic, something an ordinary girl is supposed to know. Instead...

Since Lera doesn't actually talk about her, Setsuna continues to watch the older girl. "Oh."

So why the squeaky girl voice...?

"...Oh." It's a joke. Setsuna watches Lera as she explains and then goes for the next one, sunglasses dropping and the line beginning.


She looks at Lera again.

"...Kaoru-chan would probably say that," she finally accepts. "But I don't really see the point of jokes, then." Setsuna's grasp on humor is not the strongest. "If I wanted someone to tell me things in a loud voice, I'd ask..."

...Setsuna looks down, then, reminded.

"...I don't know why you're telling me these things. ...It's a waste of your time."

"It's not a waste of my time!" Lera answers immediately. She pushes the sunglasses back up her forehead, letting her amber-colored eyes be visible again. "It's... you seemed sad."

No, she thinks, it was more than sad. There is something deeper in what they discussed earlier. Something that ties back into the conversation on top of the dam, before, but broader. It isn't only her loyalty. That resignation in what she said, about her life...

Lera looks down and she bites her lip again. "I thought I could tell you a joke or say something funny," she says, "and maybe it would cheer you up. I--I guess where you're doesn't have jokes, either. We can try some more later, maybe, or--um--I'll... tell you... some more..."

She stammers. She didn't, really, answer Setsuna's question. Lera trails off, her voice going quiet. She looks down at her plate, finger pushing a cookie awkwardly. She bites her lip. "...I was trying to take your mind off things. You said your life is meaningless, and that's--that's not right!" She looks back up, her eyes shining with that fiery look from before. "You're my friend and I... I didn't want you to feel like that!"

Not even the sudden rebuttal actually throws Setsuna at this point; she doesn't even seem to react except belatedly, looking up on a delay of a couple of seconds as Lera comments that she seemed sad.

In her red eyes, however, there is no fire, there is no anger; she has nothing to hurl back at Lera now. It's something like sadness, certainly, but it's also a dull, hollow quality.

"...Cheer me up, huh." Turning her head, Setsuna lets her hair block her line of sight to Lera, in the moment.

Jokes. Of course they don't have jokes in Labyrinth.

She's silent for another moment, and then two. Only after that does Setsuna sigh, like she's letting the conversation turn to dust that seems to just blow away.

"...Sad... I don't bother to think about things like that. It's a waste of time. ...And it's a waste of your time, whether you like it or not. You say it's not right, and you don't like it, but..."

"What you want... doesn't change anything. Wanting something never gets you any closer to it. You can want something all your life, but..."

The younger girl lifts her face again. "It's waste of your time because... Knowing these things doesn't do anything for me. It's not going to change anything. I'm... I'm probably going to..."

Setuna lets her hands curl again around her coffee, pulling it closer to her on the table, though she doesn't lift it yet. Instead, she stares downward into the cup.

"It's pointless."

When they talked, Meria told her daughter that she always punched outside of her weight class, and that was why she would lose sometimes. It didn't matter, because she kept standing back up despite all of that. She said that she cared about people. She said that she was a hero. Lera can believe it, too, because she wants to. She finds her answer there, but she doesn't find any comfort.

This situation is far beyond her weight class. She realizes it would be easier if she hadn't become friends with this girl. If she had continued to seen her as that cruel Executive of Labyrinth who hurt and mocked Fate, her life would be easier. Her life would have ended, too.

But now, she is left with this: a younger friend who is convinced that--

'I'm... I'm probably going to...'

--and it's because she helped Lera. Lera bites her lip, her eyes turning down at the table, and she takes a steady breath. She wants to cry at the idea, but she doesn't want to cry in front of Setsuna more than that. "That... that isn't true," she says, quietly. "What you want is really important. It seems small and insignificant, but..."

She looks into those red eyes. "I talked to my mom," she says quietly. "It's what I wanted. I didn't know it back then. I thought I had to... to succeed to make her happy, but I just wanted to talk to her. To know she loved me and understood me, and--and when I had it, I..."

Her fingers tighten, slightly, into a ball. "...that's what I want for you. I want you to feel that. I want you to find something you want, that makes you happy, that makes everything better, so it doesn't seem insignificant, so your life is meaningful and long and wonderful, and--and--"

She doesn't raise her voice, but it's still hot with emotion. "--and that's because you deserve that!"

It would have been easier for Setsuna, too, if Lera had left her alone all that time ago as she'd asked. But she has so much more trouble these days in just shutting herself away entirely, not like she was when she first became Eas. And now, it's beyond just Love.

...It's this girl who she trusts despite making a policy of not trusting anyone. But even that isn't enough to overcome what she knows must be true.

Lera talking about her mother is a hard shake, though.


She doesn't say what she was thinking at first. Instead, she silently waits, looking back at Lera with a firmness that she didn't think she had in her anymore. She waits, and watches, and...

'You deserve that!'

"...Heh," Eas answers, looking away again. "No. ...If that's really what you want... Then you just have to stop getting in my way. You say it, she says it... You like to talk about how I'm special," and the word, though it's said softly, is twisted with a bitterness that's nearly like this girl in combat again, "But I'm not. What I have... I have because I've worked hard. Because since I was young, I knew that I had to be the best. Nothing less would get me what I wanted. ...And then I got this mission. My first real mission."

Setsuna looks back again, and narrows her eyes. "I guess you found out something better about having a mother after all. ...But I don't have that. I'll never have that. And my only chance at anything is to put away all of these distractions and stop thinking about things that were never for me in the first place."

Lera doesn't stop looking at Eas while she talks. The good thing to come of it is that she sees the expression (or the lack of, as the case may be) on the younger girl's face. It sounds familiar to her, too. The idea that happiness wasn't something was for Eas and that firmness in her are familiar. Lera doesn't wither, but she pulls back slightly at hearing.

But she still gets back up.

"Why... why is it so hard to believe?" Lera asks, her voice shaking. Her silent promise to not get emotional may be a hard one to keep. She watches the red-eyed girl look away and bites her lip. "You are special. Everyone is, but that doesn't change it. You're..."

She looks back down, trailing off weakly. She feels just enough doubt, just enough self-consciousness of her role in putting Eas in this position, that she doesn't add what she thinks: 'You're special to me.'

She looks back up and her head tilts to the side. She wanted to be the best. Lera can empathize with that; it was what Broken Ground had always said, before he was stolen -- or, no, before he decided to go with Jaren Zastava. Her eyes turn back down at the table. "You're right," she says. "I can't... give you that. I can't change history, y'know? But--but is that all you ever wanted?"

She looks back up. "A mission of your own?"

Of course she gets back up. Setsuna doesn't expect anything else out of Lera.

But the younger girl just shakes her head at Lera's question, at her insistence. She doesn't say anything else about it at first, either, prepared to leave things there entirely. Lifting her cup, she takes a long sip of her coffee, letting herself inhale the aroma and wallow a bit in the bitterness.

"No... You can't."

But is that all she ever wanted?

Of course not. Setsuna looks away again, but forces herself to return to watching Lera's face before she speaks again. She has to harden her expression slightly, set her jaw.

"...If I'm not Eas... Then I'm no one," she says. "The mission isn't what I want. The mission is my chance to earn what I want. ...But of course. I could hardly believe it when I got the message. He'd chosen me. I was going to go to Earth."

"...But it's all messed up. Nothing's going like it's supposed to go." Setsuna finally reaches out and takes one of the cookies--a pink one--and bites down on it.

She sort of glares at Lera as she's chewing, though if anything it's more hurt than anger.

Lera picks her own cookie up and bites into it; this one is a fluffy red velvet cookie. She bites into it, while she feels the glare on her, and she tenses up. It reminds her of the panicked, frightened look on Eas's face after she saved her life; it brings the guilt back to the forefront of Lera's mind.

'Nothing's going like it's supposed to go.'

Those words hit home. Lera looks down, visibly hurt by them. She doesn't want this to be a mistake for Setsuna, but she thinks of what she just said. She can't change history. She can't make it somehow okay; she can't make it so Mobius isn't angry. It isn't like the old weight on her, but it feels heavy just the same.

She can't make things go right. They both know that, she thinks: in the end, if Eas tries to pursue Labyrinth's goals, Lera will have to oppose her. She wants to believe that will help her -- and after the talk with Fate, she thinks it might -- but the anticipated pain from that is sharp enough that she doesn't want to dwell on it long. She can't change that through words.

So Lera fixes on something else. The question comes automatically, but as she says it, she realizes she never gave it enough thought in the past. "What do you really want, Setsuna?"

Setsuna's had peach frosting, but otherwise was mostly sugar. It's a fairly soft cookie, which on the bright side means the younger girl has to chew a little longer. ...This is obviously good, because it means she doesn't have to talk as much.

...All she does, talking to Lera, is hurt her, and Lera doesn't even have the decency to make it satisfying. She knows it, too, that in the end... They'll just have to fight again. Just like things won't last forever with...

"...Mm," she answers at first, taking another sip of her coffee and looking out towards the coffee shop proper, rather than at the girl near her. What does she really want...?

"...I want too much," Setsuna quietly replies. "Too many things that I'm never going to have. Things so many of you just take for granted. ...Watching you..."

Setsuna pushes her chair backward, and rests her arms on the table to speak more closely and lowly to Lera. "I want..." The words die off before she can speak them. It feels like even saying it is too wrong. Like...

"Do--do you have any idea what it's like? To.. to be no one. Nothing. Nothing at all, I--" The words cut off as the emotion rises in her voice, feelings she can't handle now, feelings that feel suffocating. "This mission... It's my chance. I waited my whole life for a chance like this. I can't fail. I can't!"

Lera picks up a second cookie. This one is a sugar cookie, yellow-colored, with red sprinkles all over it. The girl bites into it heartily. Even during a conversation like this, she can work up quite an appetite. She keeps her eyes on Setsuna, while she looks away at the coffee house and everything else.

'...I want too much.' Lera's eyes drift down at the table, at those words, and she listens to Setsuna try to explain and fail. She can only guess how hard it is. But she looks back up when she hears the chair scrape against the floor -- and then she sees Setsuna lean in closer.

Lera reciprocates that, to move closer so she listen better and speak more quietly. "Hey, it's okay--" She starts to say, softly, but her gentle encouragement doesn't quite get out.

'Do--do you have any idea what it's like? To.. to be no one. Nothing at all, I--'

Then Lera's eyes widen again. The look on her face becomes pained. It feels wrong to think of her as nothing -- to realize that she might Setsuna as more of a person than she sees herself. She bites her lip, nodding to the end of her statement loosely. She can only imagine what it would have felt like if she wanted a chance to show that she was someone at all, rather than the daughter she thought her mother deserved.

She reaches a hand out, tentatively, on the table. The motion isn't unlike the time she put her hand between the two. "Setsuna," she says, quietly. "You're not nobody. You have things you want, things that scare you, things that hurt you. You can't be no one, with feelings like that."

She leans forward, smiling.

"I believe that. I think you can too." And then, innocently, she asks: "What's so dangerous about being who you really are?"

The rest of Setsuna's cookie sits on the plate, half a circle of pink-frosted sugar abandoned. The crumbs on the side that was bitten lie wherever they happen to have fallen.

It'll stay forgotten, probably. That's how it goes.

This whole thing is frustrating. Setsuna's glad that Lera doesn't keep saying it's okay in that moment; speaking these things aloud at all to begin with is shameful. There's nothing 'okay' here.

Slowly, Setsuna glances down at the hand on the table, as if it might be some creature that could reach up and bite her. 'Setsuna'...

"Setsuna's not a real person," the girl from Labyrinth says. "It's a name made up to help me pretend like I belong here. But that girl doesn't exist. ...I can be nobody and still feel things. I've done it for a long time already."

She almost managed to avoid the question about danger. ...Only almost.

"If I try to live the way you do... Then I lose everything. Everything, Lera. You're... You're asking me to betray everything I know. I... I can't."

"I..." She wants to say she didn't mean it like that, but she can't bring herself to say that either. She was telling her to abandon her life in Labyrinth. It feels like far too much to ask for, now that she has a moment to step back and consider it from that vantage point. The fingers of her hand curl in and she pulls her hand back, just slightly.

She wishes that Soaring Sky was here. She wishes she knew what he would say in this situation. She wishes he could say something snobbish, that would make them both roll their eyes. Or, maybe, he would say something that could get through to her.

Her eyes sink down to her hand, resting there alone on the table. She pulls it back slowly.

"I know you can't," she says quietly. "I wish... I wish it was different. That--that you wouldn't lose everything, or--" Or die, but she can't voice that aloud. Even thinking it hits her like a blow. "I wish you could see yourself as something besides Mobius's tool. I still think you are. But I don't..."

Her outstretched hand curls up into a fist. It's tense, but not defiant; it comes out of being frightened instead of determined. "...I don't want to see you get hurt, either."

Setsuna still doesn't reach out to that hand; instead, she curls her fingers, as if hanging onto something. To abandon her life in Labyrinth...

Sky isn't here, regardless. It's just the two of them, now. And slowly, Lera pulls back her hand, and Setsuna withdraws her own, sitting up again as she picks back up her drink.


She knows that 'or.' She doesn't like it, either.

"It's not like that," she protests about tool, but it's almost more like she's asking Lera to believe it than demanding. "But... There's no other place for me. And I..."

Setsuna warms her hands on the coffee cup, though she doesn't drink it now. "I... should get hurt. I deserve it. And I can handle whatever it is. I can."

Somehow, though, she seems small, rather than particularly impressive. "I'll--I'll win, and... And then Mobius-sama will..." Setsuna stops. "I... shouldn't be talking about this. I shouldn't be talking about anything. Soular wouldn't let himself look stupid like this. I should... go."

She stands, having already pushed her chair back, and avoids looking at the older girl. "You shouldn't get involved, anymore. If you get in my way like you are now, then... I can't say whether you'll be safe."

"...Goodbye." She turns, and starts to walk out as quickly as she can with her things.

Lera's expression sinks more. She tries to form a protest that she could find a place for Setsuna, or at least that she could make one for her. She tries to say that she could find a way to make things change. But, she realizes, she doesn't have Soaring Sky.

Without him, she can't protect someone. She can't fight for them. She can't even reach them with her words. She bites her lip and looks down again, pulling her hand back until it's in her lap. She clasps that wrist tightly with her right hand -- now healed, such that she doesn't have to worry about the broken bones. She still feels a tiny ache in the bones.

'I... should get hurt. I deserve it. And I can handle whatever it is. I can.'

That makes her eyes open wide. She looks up, startled, while Setsuna stops the train of thought -- and then she stands up without looking at her. She shakes her head, but the younger girl may not see it. She starts to stand up. "Wait--wait, don't say that--" But by the time she stands up, Setsuna is already hurrying out the door. She watches her walk away. "You don't."

She looks back down at the table. Her words end up spoken down at the table, instead of to the other girl. "You don't deserve to be hurt like that. Even if you can handle it."

She lifts her left hand; the one she had laying on the table between them. Her eyes grow foggy, as she feels the tears coming on. She doesn't have Soaring Sky, though, and until she does, she doesn't know what she can really do. But one thing comes to her. She puts her left hand to her chest, balled up in her fist.

She shouldn't have pulled her hand back.