2016-02-09 - Empty Hearths, Empty Hearts

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Title: Empty Hearths, Empty Hearts

Eri and Mikoto mourn Mai and find common ground.


Eri Shimanouchi, Mikoto Minagi


Ohtori Academy, Dorms

OOC - IC Date:

Evening of September 29th 2014 - February 09th 2016

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The dormitories look like a hurricane's been through. Students have pilfered whatever they could use to help themselves hold out; at gunpoint, ownership suddenly becomes far less of a salient issue.

Mai and Mikoto's lodgings are especially trashed, because it's not like their home was a secret, and the paramilitary forces /were/ looking for them in particular. Perhaps it survived while Mai was in custody -- but there was no hope after she was broken out. The place you lay your head, after all, necessarily contains your secrets.

(Mikoto's phone is missing, something no one will likely notice for months. Unfortunately, as they surely found out, there was nothing to be learned from the cat demon's electronics aside from her lack of aptitude with text messaging.)

It's a mess which Mikoto hasn't bothered to contain. She's been out all day - searching for Mai with Takeo Akamizu - and even slipping back in, late at night, she feels no urge to putter around putting things in their proper places. Mai would. Mai would make sure the place looked amazing, like the soldiers had never been there, but...

Mikoto has heated up some water, dumped some noodles into it, drained them into a bowl, put some warmed-up frozen vegetables (the only things which had survived so long) on top. They taste like nothing at all, though she eats them anyway, and Mikoto finds herself crying again as she looks at the empty bowl.

"Mai... Mai..."

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Eri didn't feel like doing much other than laying in bed. She didn't feel like... much at all.

Nevertheless, she hasn't even been to her room. Hadn't even changed her clothes, or showered. She looked kind of ragged. After she saw the scorch marks on the lawn... well she'd done some searching, alone. Then when it seemed fruitless... she'd left the island until late morning the next day. She didn't tell anyone where she'd gone, not Mikoto, not Takumi.

When she returned though, she had so many cuts on her limbs that some classmates claimed she must have gotten into a fight with a rose bush during the invasion. They didn't even get a look. Instead she went to Mai's dorm, and started cleaning. Putting things back into place as best as she could remember where they went, restoring some semblance of order. The kitchen was wrecked, the rice cooked was on the fritz again. They were missing a lot of sheets and covers, the restroom looked like a disaster area.

She did it without complaint or comment, not asking Mikoto to join in. Even after her cleaning efforts it still looked like a Kirin had stormed in on through the window on thunderclouds and tap danced around the rooms. It was only at dinner time that she stopped. She moves out of the bathroom and into the kitchen, saw Mikoto crying into an empty bowl. For a while she just stands there, looking at her with eyes that have lost all sparkle and lusterin them.

A few moments later, Mikoto felt a hand on her shoulder, as Eri squatted down beside her, the hand slipped down her back, then around her side, and her other gauze-covered arm followed in a hug, as she leaned against her. "I'm sorry." She whispered. Words to fill spaces, to fill a void. They were so small, so meaningless, immediately fleeting. "I'll make you more dinner if you want, but it won't be as good as Mai's..." Her eyes stared forward, not at Mikoto, "...it won't ever be. It just..."

Her eyes blur, her arms slide away. "...damnit Mai. Guess you proved to yourself that you weren't just going through the motions. Didn't you?" She stands up fully, hands balling into fists, nails digging into her palms. Her breathing quickens.

Then out of nowhere, she turns, and with one final seething breath draws back a foot swiftly and kicks a wooden chair across the room so hard that it is sent sailing against the counter. The sharp wooden crack is loud enough to say that she probably shattered part of it. "Good for you! That's- that's great." One hand is unclenched, she puts a hand against her face, underneath her glasses, and sniffles, "Nuh-Now the rest of us have to luh-live with it."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mikoto, when she finally came in from her day and night of searching the scorched island for any trace of Mai, didn't volunteer help with Eri's cleaning quest; she made food, because she knows she needs food. It's the necessities she's thinking of, like searching for Mai, and eating. (Sleeping, eventually? But she's not tired. She just keeps seeing, over and again when she closes her eyes, Mai's rings blazing so brightly she can't even see. That very moment, when she couldn't see her any more...)

But Eri is a comfortable presence, and not one she's protested. And so, when she squats down to pull her into a hug, Mikoto wails, clutching at her shirt. When Eri stands, Mikoto's arms shift to curl around herself, and she leans in as if her core has been terribly injured.

(It has. She's come back with the emptiness of space inside of her, a deep, gnawing vacuum. It's consumed Mai's hearth. It's consumed her blood, her organs. It threatens to spill out and and suck the air and the warmth from the room. It hurts.)

"Mai is gone," she sobs, far less eloquently than Eri's pained words. "Can't find her."

If she were more eloquent, she might say that though Mai's proved she's a good person, she never needed such elaborate proof. She cared for them and shared her life with them and happily smiled when they were around, and that was enough. But Mikoto is not given to words, nor eloquent, and her keening cries are tasked with carrying the meaning of all those feelings.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Eri takes a few moments to just breath and let herself grieve. She wants to tell Mikoto that she isn't coming back, that miracles don't happen twice. But...

She doesn't. Not quite yet. And she always believed Mai was a good person too, that Mai never had to prove it to her. She'd asked her to stop risking her life with such grand gestures and sacrificing herself piece by piece, often for people she doesn't even know. That's what she's angry about deep down, that Mai kept feeling the need to do this, over and over and over.

She just lets herself sob and her shoulder shake until she finds herself sinking down to her knees, ashamed and upset and angry and...


It takes her some time to convince herself to pretend she's strong again. "At luh-least it was quick. No lingering. No hospital muh-monitors." She whispers to herself, not intending to let Mikoto hear, rubbing the side of her nose as she sniffles again. It's the small comfort and mercy, maybe for herself, maybe a little for Mai too. She rubs an arm covered in dried gauze across her eyes for lack of tissues, letting them take double duty. She blows her nose.

Then she walks on her knees over to Mikoto, "Hey... let's..."

She gropes for something to say, putting an arm around her back again, "...we've got to fill these gaps, or we're just going to keep making ourselves miserable. Would you like for me to help you get cleaned up? Or..." She debates, then finally says, "...I could take you hunting with me. If you're feeling up to a fight." It had been such a good way to vent earlier, after all.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Eri doesn't intend for Mikoto to hear, but Mikoto's hearing is sensitive, and so even if she doesn't catch the meaning in the whisper, she hears enough. Words have always been more than just their meaning to her - their tone, their delivery, the pauses between them. She meets Eri before the other girl has to crawl over to her, wrapping her arms around her midsection.

She doesn't say anything, she just hugs her, as if emptiness meeting emptiness could somehow make someone whole.

Mikoto looks up at Eri as she speaks, nodding. She's right, after all -- the hungry void feelings haven't left since she first ran off to search, and they've only grown louder now she's come home to this place where Mai lived. She decides in that moment that she doesn't want to be here, doesn't want to sleep in a bed without Mai, eat at a table without Mai, get ready for school without Mai.


"I can fight," she says, after a moment. Mai never wanted her to fight. Mai didn't understand that part of her. But Mai is gone, and what is she left with? A hollowed chest, and a ruined nest, and tears to flood them both. If Mikoto had fought harder, if she had been sharper, then maybe...

The thoughts lead to regrets and regrets catch in her throat. She squeezes Eri tighter, burying her face against her chest. If, if, if! It torments her, worse than Miyu's blade, sharper and faster!

If she had known!

If she hadn't learned so late!


"I love Eri," Mikoto sobs, quietly, and completely out of the blue.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Mikoto meets her half way. The other girl's arms are thrown around her, and after a moment all she can do is lean against her, hug her, rub her back for support and comfort. Eri doesn't realize how long Mikoto has been fighting, but that doesn't really matter to her.

Eri has only been fighting for a year, it had become such an inextricable part of her life that she could sense kindred feelings in Mikoto. "Alright. We'll do that soon. I'll teach you how to hunt the prey I need to live." She smiles weakly at her, "I have my own territory for it. They're places I protect, so I can live."

It's mostly light conversation, she thinks she's taking Mikoto's mind off of it... thinks that she's... Mikoto squeezes her tighter, and Eri looks down, a hand moves to stroking the back of her head. "We'll make it Mikoto-chan. We're survivors. We have to be... we..."

That's the moment that Mikoto sobs and says she loves her, and Eri's whole nose pinkens, before she turns bright red, and she sputters, "W-What!?" That's just reflex though, the part of her that's a teenager suddenly making contact with those words. For a moment Eri stares down at Mikoto, then...

Alright, well there's something beyond just liking someone. It's called love.

... I love only Lord Brother.

Well of course you love your brother.

Her arms tighten around Mikoto, the flush of her cheeks fading, "I love you too Mikoto. I promise I'll do my very best to be there for you. I'll try not to leave you for as long as I can." Her smile wavers for a moment, "I'm not Mai. I can't be Mai. But..." She doesn't say that she'll try to think of her like a big sister. Like Mai. She can't yet, the pain is too much.

It's too fresh.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Eri startles, and Mikoto looks up at her, concerned she's done something wrong. But Eri doesn't scold her; she hugs her tighter and reassures her instead. She won't leave for as long as she can...? Of course. She's a warrior too. She'll die someday, just like Mikoto will. But she knows she's important, now, so it's okay.

And then...


Mikoto's breath hitches, and she sniffles, turning her face back to Eri's chest again. "Mai- Mai too. I didn't know," her words waver as she speaks, "but then Mai died and it hurt lots. My heart was... cold. Mai came back and I was happy, was warm fire again. I..." She doesn't know how to say it. She's trying, but the words are like dry sand in her hands, refusing to take the form she gives them, falling back to the ground.

She takes a breath, tries to ground herself. "If someone-- dies, and, you want to die too, it's love, right?"

What an awful thing to say to a Puella Magi.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Eri stares straight forward, no longer at Mikoto, but at a wall torn up by what she imagined to be combat knives and bayonets, searching the walls for forbidden ramen caches. That was all they were likely to find at least. Mikoto speaks, and keeps talking, about her own concept of love. Eri's paying attention but she's also thinking of things too.

Blood pouring out of a husk where a girl once lived. A film reel counting down.

Silhouettes, implaed and twitching.

	"Yes. That's exactly it."

She puts her chin against the side of Mikoto's head, leaning a cheek.

"I've done a lot of bad things. Terrible things. So I could make it easier to hang on longer, for her sake. For the sake of everyone and everything I care about. And now that she's gone..." Her arms spasm, and soon enough there are droplets spattering down the side of Mikoto's neck, down her shoulder. "...they all feel so pointless."

She trembles and shakes and cries for a few more moments, "No... I... I can't say for her sake. It's all on me. That's just the kind of person I am. It's just... I'm not..."

She bites down on her lip so hard that she thinks she feels a blood taste, and then draws back just a little to look at Mikoto again through blurred eyes and finally releases her teeth from the inside of it, putting her hands on Mikoto's shoulders, "Please tell me that I'm worth it! That my life was worth it! That all the things I did were worth it! That t-there's things I can still look forward to... p-please... I need someone to tell me that. Pluh-please...!"

And then she slumps, like a marionette that just had her strings cut, her legs sideways out from under her on the floor, her hands slipping away, and adds one last pathetic. "...please."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mikoto, who was so isolated and raised in such a specific way, has such strange preconceptions about so many things. Hearing Eri confirm her hypothesis about feelings is reassuring, because what if she was wrong?

Eri keeps talking about the bad things she's done. Mikoto hugs her tighter, listening to her words and to her heartbeat, a duet which seems to bring out the truth in what anyone has to say. She doesn't interrupt with questions or objections; she just listens to all of her sins.

She's done such horrible things. She tried to hold on for the sake of everyone, and it just feels pointless. And those things are just who she is as a person...

When Eri's hands come down on her shoulders, Mikoto looks up at her, expression serious. She supports her when she slumps, with the strength Eri must know is there despite her appearance. "Yes," she says, not only a confirmation but a promise that she'll speak as she finds the words in her head and forces them to obey. "Eri held on and saw Mai smile. Eri held on and saw flowers Eri made bloom. Eri held on and saw ginger kittens."

She rubs Eri's back, in a way which might remind her, terribly, of Mai. "If Eri lets go, forest won't come back for years. If Eri lets go, we'll never have ice cream. If Eri lets go, pictures are unfinished." Wait, when did Mikoto ever..? She keeps talking: "If Eri lets go, I'll have more ice in heart."

But that's not all you have to say, is it, Mikoto Minagi? Feelings and memories you can't quite touch, sadness and shock and realisation. And do you deny destroying your enemies for the sake of those you love? "... I'm 'that kind of person', too," she adds, finally.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

It's Eri's eyes that move first, as Mikoto supports her with the strength that belies her frame. She's not surprised by it. Even without drawing upon power from Miroku she carries around that claymore all the time in a golf bag. Of course she's strong. But verdure depths search for Mikoto's eyes, as Mikoto holds her and tries to comfort her.

It's not that her words are simple, even though there is beauty in their simplicity, it's just that they carry such meaning in even the small things. And as Mikoto speaks, she finds a curve of a smile touch her lips... there's a stillness that takes her off when Mikoto mentions her pictures. Art was very private for her. Sharing it was... but you know, she finds she doesn't mind much.

The forest, so important, with all its flower fairies and tree spirits, and nature guardians. All things that Alyssa thoughtlessly destroyed. Nary a thought to their place in her Golden Age. She does so dearly want to see it again, to look out her dorm while studying and... smile a little.

Most importantly of all, she'd be making Mikoto feel horrible. There'd be someone that'd miss her. Someone who was relying on her, and that she cares about too. And that causes her not to feel so empty. In fact it makes her feel warm. "Thank you." She utters with a softness to it. A sense of relief that no amount of crying could ever bring.

And then Mikoto says that she's that kind of person too, that they're alike. For as many ways as the two might be called unlike each other, that part of them is the same. A hand drifts up to the side of Mikoto's head, right by her short hair, it drifts down one of her braids, and comes to a rest on her cheek. "I'm glad." She whispers, "I'm glad. It may be selfish but... if you weren't. If you hadn't done those things. Then maybe you'd be gone too. You'd have left me too. Then my heart... I don't know what would be left of it."

There's no hardness in her eyes, only a kind of sisterly affection, "Someone told me once that the only standard worth having is living. Maybe they were right."

She murmurs, "So you do whatever it takes to hang on and live Mikoto Minagi. Don't die. Don't let anyone kill you. Never submit, and destroy anyone who tries to make you. Just always hold onto the thought that if you make it through one more fight that we'll get to see each other again, and that's worth it. It's always worth it for the people you care about."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mikoto doesn't know why her mention of Eri's art gives her pause, of course. She went to Eri's room to find Eri, but Eri wasn't there, and she happened to disturb a sketchbook, so she looked inside because she was curious. The concept of privacy is patchy for her, at best.

The important thing is that the things Mikoto mentions make Eri smile, even just a little bit. Eri smiles, and Mikoto smiles, because Mikoto feels what her important people feel. It's a dangerous line to blur, and Mikoto does so without reservation.

She listens to Eri, nodding along to her advice - until it turns to destroying anyone who would make her submit. This, for some reason, makes her hesitate; but it's only for a moment, and then she's back to affirming what Eri is saying in her nonverbal way.

(More than anything, after all, she's devoted to one man...)

"I'll fight," she says, nodding firmly. "I'll live. Because I want to see Eri smile, not make Eri sad." Mikoto looks up at her, completely earnest. "What will make Eri smile?"

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Eri's hands slide over to Mikoto's. She grips them both, still looking in her eyes. She's smiling already, her relief palpable that Mikoto is so willing to say that. To make Eri think it'll be hard for Mikoto to leave her too. She tries not to think about how easy it could be. Mikoto is a strong warrior, a good fighter, utterly fearless and fierce. She won't hesitate, she won't be paralyzed.

There's no reason to keep her out of a fight, she more than anyone will do whatever it takes.

After a moment, Eri gives her answer, "I think I'd like to visit the family of kittens you take care of. Then I'd like to get you ice cream, or a parfait. Watch you eat it. I think that'll keep me smiling."

She squeezes down a little more firmly on both of her hands, "Tomorrow we'll look at the remains of the forest, maybe start planning efforts to replant it. I'll draw you something nice. And between all of that we'll fight. I think having someone on occasion there, backing me up, someone that I can count on, someone that I don't have to worry about much... I think that'd be nice. I'll move over to this room for as long as the RAs let me. Then longer still because I'll start sneaking in. I'll try to start learning how to cook you something better."

She'd never be up to snuff with Mai but... "...we'll make it Mikoto-chan. Because we're survivors. We'll smile too, because we have things to look forward to together."