2016-02-12 - Sifting Through The Charcoal

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Title: Sifting Through The Coals

The day after Mai's disappearance, Takeo and Mikoto attempt to find her.


Mikoto Minagi, Takeo Akamizu


Ohtori Academy

OOC - IC Date:

Morning of September 29th 2014 - February 12th 2016

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

The dormitories are a gigantic mess. From the soldiers tearing through their stuff, and students trying to snatch a few things up to help them survive, everything's tossed aside and all torn up. Who knows whether Eri's arrived yet to try and straighten up Mai and Mikoto's room -- Mikoto, for her part, has no stomach for cleaning.

She got in late last evening, and she slept fitfully, only to rise early. She's shovelling the last of the noodles she's tried to cook into her mouth. They're virtually tasteless and remind her of what she's lost, but she needs the strength. As soon as she's done here, after all, she's going out again.

If Mai's out there, she has to find her. Gnawing in the back of her mind is the fact that she last saw Mai burning herself out, eclipsed by her own light, but... But she can't give up, right?

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed. It felt REALLY odd to have one's arm restrained in a sling Takeo was learning. On top of that, the stitches where Miyu's blade had cut him not once, not twice but three times. He carried a bag, simple and brown, in it, a few tuna-fish sandwiches. He knew, roughly, where Mikoto and Mai's dorms were, so he headed there and eventually found the right door.

With a sigh, Takeo raises his unrestrained arm and knocks on the door carefully. He says to the door as he knocks, "Mi-Mikoto-chan?" There is a pause, before he speaks again. "It's me. Takeo Akamizu? I said I'd try to find Tokiha-san?" He sighs and leans against the door frame, cradling his injured arm as he does so. "I'm sorry I didn't come last night. I just got out of the hospital. I had a concussion on top of this whole mess." He then mutters under his breath, "Whatever that is.." Then he clears his throat. "Anyway. Mikoto-san, I'm here. And I brought fooooood ~"

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

Mikoto finishes the noodles, tosses the bowl in the sink. She hesitates after standing and turning away, and then goes back to rinse the bowl off, because Mai had always emphasised the importance of that after eating a meal. And even though Mai's not here...

Well, the fact remains that Mai's not here, and so Mikoto finds it difficult not to tear up as she shuts the water off. (You can cry later, Mikoto Minagi. For now, even though you've failed utterly at finding who you must find, you've got to go out there again and track down the person you love.)

The thought sticks to her like a burr, stubbornly latched and difficult to remove. She makes her way to the door and slings Miroku's case over her shoulder, only to stop dead and listen close as she hears footsteps --

But they're not /Mai's/ footsteps, and Mikoto's heart falls a moment after that brief glimmer of hope. She listens despondently as Takeo introduces himself, excuses his injuries, offers food. There's a moment's pause, and then the door clicks as it opens, and Mikoto steps out. She's shedded her shredded ball gown, replacing it with one of her normal school uniforms. She closes the door behind her, offering only a glimpse of the mess within.

"Takeo," she repeats his name, as if testing it in her throat and on her tongue. (She offers no honorific, but it's difficult to remember her ever using them.) She's silent, for a moment, looking more in the direction of his shoulder than his face, before she nods. "Okay."

With that, she turns and begins walking out of the dorms. She's evidently not much for conversation...

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed. Looking to the bag of food, then to the girl heading out of the dorms, Takeo nods once. "You're right. Tuna is a better lunch food than breakfast." He pushes off the wall to follow the younger girl. Like her, Takeo is in his normal school uniform, made a touch more fancy for his being a Student Council Enforcer.

He moves beside the Mikoto and looks her over carefully. "How are you doing?" He asks cautiously. He knows, more or less, that Mai is ... Well, Mai is probably not coming back. He holds out hope, but he's prepared, even if depressed about it, to face the reality. He takes a deep breath, "Mikoto-chan?"

He stops. He can't do it. He can't say the swords he knows and instead he smiles to the younger girl. "Come on. We'll check the Island. Have you ridden a horse?" He gestures and there, waiting for them is Sparkles. The big Warhorse looks over and dips her head in greeting to the pair.

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

It's dire straits indeed when Mikoto doesn't immediately jump on food.

She moves silently until Takeo speaks up again, and the question makes her slow, though she doesn't stop. To most people, it would be a simple question; to Mikoto, it's as if she was just asked a twenty-point question on an exam she was utterly unprepared for.

'How are you doing?' It encodes a mass of social cues Mikoto only mostly understands, and here, now, she's so poorly equipped to process them. How is she doing? She's searching. She has failed so terribly at searching and yet here, now, it is the only thing she can do! All she can hope for is to find some clue, some scrap of information, something to lead her to Mai. She searched all night, but she still hasn't...

She grips Miroku's strap in her hands, her shoulders shaking with poorly-suppressed tears as she steps outside the dorm. At least that strap reminds her there's one thing which will always be clear to her, even if it won't help here. Sniffing to keep the tears controlled introduces another smell to her, hair and sweat and hay, and her mind automatically takes note and catalogues it as part of her environment, even as her mind consciously ruminates on Mai, Mai, Mai.

Takeo asks by name. She hears his footsteps cease. Mikoto stops, then, and turns to look at him. He smiles, and points out a horse, and Mikoto is relieved, because she knows animals, she can understand animals.

In an instant, what goes through her head could perhaps be translated as so: It's large. Heavy, dangerous. Eyes set wide on the head, no bifocal vision, blind in the front and wise to a wide angle around it; probably a prey animal. Prey means startle reflex. Not kin. It's a horse. Horses live in herds. They follow their leader. Grazers. She's seen the children. They run with their parents.

Mikoto approaches Sparkle from the side, moving towards her front slowly. Hand where Sparkles can see it, she slowly reaches out to touch her neck. Gently. She doesn't bother talking to her; she's communicating her intentions without anything like that. She's not a threat; she won't hunt her. Hopefully, Sparkles has enough of a normal horse inside of her to understand such a gesture.

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed. The horse gives Takeo a look that says with out words, "See? This is how you first approach a horse. Dumbass." Then Sparkles nuzzles the hand, recognizing a kindred spirit in the young girl.

Takeo raises an eyebrow. "Huh. First time I met her she bit my hand." He rubs the back of his neck with his good arm. "Anyway. This is Sparkles. She's one of my best friends." He then gestures around him and says, "I figure we can cover more of the Island, and quicker, on horse back. I asked if she'd help, and she was down." He shakes a head. "I asked the Rabbit, but he ..."

He said Mai was likely dead. Despite the Phoenix aspect, he doubts she could do that twice, and if she didn't arrive with everybody else on the island, she burned herself out. Allowing the Fire Magic to consume her like kindling. Despite those words, Merlin had tried to say them gently. Rabbits are only mostly monsters.

Takeo clears his throat. "Well, the rabbit had things to do after the invasion."

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

Mikoto's hand is nuzzled, and she gives Sparkles a wan smile. The look she gave Takeo was puzzling, but it's nice when animals accept her; it's so much easier to understand animal thinking than the complexities of human thought.

(The fact that Takeo has an animal as his best friend, knowing that, earns him a few points.)

"Can't ride," she points out, concisely, after she hears about the opinions of his respective animal friends. But she steps back and looks over to him, expectantly, because even if Mikoto can't ride that doesn't mean she can't ride /with/ someone. It should be the same sort of principle as riding on Natsuki's motorcycle -- or Duran -- right? Hold onto the person steering, don't let go. Hopefully with less of her getting dragged about by the scruff of her neck, this time.

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed. Takeo Akamizu nods and smiles. "That's easy enough. Sparkles does most of the work." Using one hand he hoists himself up into the saddle and then offers a hand to Mikoto to help her up behind him.

He has a moment where he winces from one of those Miyu given wounds stretches, but it passes. "All you need to do is hold on. Sparkles will mostly do the rest. She's what's called a Warhorse. So I control her with my knees. You can use the rein, but, it's not needed right now."

He looks to the sky, where he last scene Mai was before he leapt at Miyu Greer up beyond the blue and in the black. He had asked her if he could fight Miyu. To try and protect her back while she dealt with Artemis. Instead HE had needed the protection. Even fighting the Black Knight he hadn't gotten his rear handed to him that handily. He closes his eyes and sends a silent prayer of hope to ... Whomever is listening. The Knights were Christian, Takeo was unclear what that made him.

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

Mikoto nods and takes Takeo's hand, hopping up onto Sparkles. She'd always suspected that horses made a lot of the decisions on their own, though... considering Takeo had been with them when they fell from space, Mikoto suspects there could be something more to Sparkles than she knows.

It's not a thought she spends much time on.

"Let's search island first," Mikoto suggests, "then caves." In the wake of that fire which had stirred Mikoto's fears for her brother's safety so terribly she had summoned those obsidian spires, there was little forest left. In the charred, blackened ruins, it should be easy to spy Mai, but if she's not there... Mikoto is sure she must be down below. Perhaps she retreated to one of their campsites, for some reason. Perhaps.

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed. Takeo Akamizu nods and pats Sparkle's neck. "You heard her. Let's check the Island, and then go back to the caves."

Sparkles nods and begins to ride off at a light trot. Not tiring, but certainly ground eating. Her own head swiveling as she goes to look for Mai.

Takeo also looks around as they ride. His eyes searching, even as he tries to ignore the pain form any one of his wounds. He says over his shoulder as they trot along, "Your swordsmanship is pretty amazing by the way. I practice Kendo, and do European Longsword." It's really just idle chatter because otherwise he dwells. He doesn't want to dwell. He does whenever he tries to sleep. He sees Mai as she was destroyed by Artemis every time he lays his head down. The only thing beyond Mai being possibly dead that scares him more is his Sister Mika loosing her own battle.

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

Mikoto searches, too, peering over the distance and trying to catch any sign of Mai's characteristic orange hair. But the wind carries no scent of her, only the characteristic powdery-smell of charcoal, and her eyes catch nothing in the dismal expanse.

Meanwhile, Takeo talks about her swordplay. Mikoto, hampered by Recognition Inhibition, frowns as she tries to put the pieces together. "You..." Are male, so there are only a few options, unless he became a girl when he fought. Are talking about swords, which leaves both of the masculine warriors open, but...

Nope, she's still baffled.

"... who were you?" She asks, finally.

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed. Closing his eyes as he hears the question, Takeo sighs. "Nobody." Is what he wants to say, should say. The Rabbit would be so angry at him if he didn't. "Never liked the rabbit much anyway." Takeo mutters then he takes a breath nd lets it out.

"I was - Or am, depending on how you want to look at it, Lancelot. A Knight of the Round Table." He nods with his toward the pack holding Mikoto's blade. "Your blade has a name? I heard it once, but I can't remember now. Mine. Also has a name. Arondight, Evil's Bane."

He shrugs his good shoulder. Not too surprised that even THAT hurts. "I am a Knight of the Round Table reborn. I have memories of that time, they come and go. I can speak French. Sometimes." Like when a pretty girl flirts with him or he's catching magical girls falling from the skies. Never when he wants to. "And I can summon armor and my blade, and my best friend here."

Sparkles looks over her shoulder and winks.

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

Mikoto listens patiently as Takeo mutters and then explains. With all her knowledge of Japanese history, she knows little of the wider world; the meaning of being a Knight of the Round Table escapes her, though she can infer its importance through context. Now he's spelled it out, she can see it; he does have the seeming of that boy all dressed in metal. It's obvious, but only in retrospect.

Magical girls and boys just always seem to have that sort of protection. It's a good thing for Mikoto, who doesn't even bother to hide herself with costumes.

"Miroku," she answers him, finally. "I must protect." It's her most sacred duty as a child of Minagi to guard her sword above all else, though she knows not why.

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed. Nodding, Takeo sighs and continues to look around as they trot along the wastes of Southern Cross Island. He is silent for a long moment as Sparkles clears a hill top. "I think ... I think if Mai were here. We'd have seen her Mikoto-chan." He looks over his shoulder and gestures with a chin. "Maybe we should try the caves?"

There is a long moment as he considers. "What did the Head Mistress call them? The ... Black Caves of Mordor or something?" He really is having a tough time with remembering names today. Sparkles hsi lets out a horsey sigh.

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

Higher up, there's a better chance of seeing her. Higher up, there's still no sign.

Mikoto frowns when Takeo says it, and nods against his back. She doesn't want to admit that Mai isn't here, but... she isn't. "Caves," Mikoto answers his question, simply; from the tone, it's easy to tell she still doesn't like Mashiro.

There's just something about her which sets the hairs at the back of Mikoto's neck up, and she never ignores that feeling.

Internally, Mikoto tries to retrace their steps through the caves. They were wet, and dark, and dismal; it was incredibly easy to get lost. She wants to split up, to cover more ground, but she knows it's a poor idea down there, so she just shakes her head and huffs out a sigh.

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed. The caves are indeed damp and dark and more or less miserable. Takeo, now on foot in the caves, due to height, leads Sparkles with one hand on the rein. He watches carefully and listens as he moves. He catches that Mikoto doesn't like the headmistress. He can's really blame her.

She almost always is the one to hand him his detentions. Who doesn't sleep in class anyway?

His eyes scan the cave, and once it becomes very dark, he moves to Sparkle's saddlebags and produces two small LED flashlights. He hands one to Mikoto and then turns his on. Shining as he walks.

Finally, he speaks again and asks softly, "Tokiha-san is special to you huh?" He asks softly.

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

Mikoto is no stranger to navigating in the night-time, but the darkness in caves is even more pitch, all sources of light removed. Her eyes adjust, but that only goes so far as the light from the entrance fades. The lights are a welcome assistance, and she takes one with a nod.

The light lets her move more confidently, instead of the cautious, exploratory steps she'd adopted when the light was dim. Still, she matches Takeo's pace. He's a good person, and he shouldn't be left alone in here.

She slows for a moment when Takeo asks his next question, though. It's a question which has burned through her mind in a thousand iterations, and yet...

"I love Mai," Mikoto says, out loud for the second time. It's all she can say.

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed. Giving a nod, Takeo shines his light through the inky blackness. He hears the words and he looks over to Mikoto briefly, and then he just smiles over at her. It is a warm, friendly smile that has no hidden meaning. Just a smile that says, "I get it. I understand."

He shines the light down a side tunnel and shakes his head slightly. "I'm fond of her myself." He says almost in a whisper. "You know. Despite the fact that I completely screwed up the first time I talked with her, she still talked to me. Gave me a chance." He hangs his head and has to wipe away a tear. It wouldn't do for Mikoto to see HIM cry right now. "You know. When she found I was Lancelot. She's the first person to NOT take a step backward. All the other girls who learn just assumes I'm some sort of creep or pervert. because I did something in a previous life." He takes a deep breath. "And then. Then she danced with me." He looks over to Mikoto. "She is the first girl I ever wanted to dance with, and I can't even explain why. I was eating, and only there because I had to be, and she just walked by, said there was more to a Dance than the food, and that was it." He smiles, almost guiltily at Mikoto and has to wipe away another tear. "I just.... I wanted to hear her talk more. So I asked her to dance."

Takeo hangs his head. "I'm sorry Mikoto. I'm useless. I couldn't... I couldn't even watch her back. She didn't need my protection, she's stronger than me by far, but I... I couldn't..."

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

Takeo pours out his feelings, and Mikoto listens without interruption. He's a relatively unknown person, so perhaps he doesn't understand the impact of her meeting his eyes, watching his face for so long. She's trying to figure out what to do, how to receive all this information in a helpful way.

But she doesn't know him. She doesn't know how to make him smile. She doesn't know what to do.

After a moment's deliberation, she moves closer and puts a hand on his less-injured arm. She could focus on his feelings of uselessness in battle, but words hold more meaning than their definitions to Mikoto, and she sees the way he has to wipe away his tears. And so...

"Takeo is sad," she says, almost as if to confirm it. A moment later: "I'm sad too."

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed. Takeo blinks a bit and looks to Mikoto. He doesn't really know her. He's seen her, talked to her briefly in battle as Lancelot, but never as Takeo Akamizu. And here he is trying not to blubber like a two year old who didn't get his yum yums.

He takes a deep and steadying breath. "Thanks Mikoto-chan." He says with a nod to the younger girl. He shines the flashlight and looks around. "Come on. I don't know if we'll be able to get across that lake, but we should at least get to it's shores. See what we can see huh?"

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

Mikoto backs off when he seems to have more composure, though there's still concern on her face. She doesn't know why he has feelings about Mai; there are a million what-ifs there and her brain circumvents them all by focusing on the fact that Mai's absence made him cry. For that reason, she feels kinship with him, because she does the same.

In fact, if she were to lift her hand to her eyes, she'd find they're wet just from listening to someone else's feelings about Mai.

She nods to Takeo as he tries to change the subject, sniffling a little as she gets a hold of her own feelings. She starts walking, using her flashlight to make sure she doesn't trip over any stray rocks. If she were on her own, she'd happily try and swim into the lake and go further down that path, but... Takeo is sad, and it would be wrong to leave a sad person alone, wouldn't it? So she makes her way to the edge and just looks as far out over it as the light will shine.

Unbidden, the tears overwhelm her, and those little sniffs aren't nearly enough to keep her composed. The dark waters only remind her of the fire which has been extinguished, of the path they took to get there, of what they lost in the battle. Quietly, and waveringly, she says: "Mai..."

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed. Takeo Akamizu shines the light out on that lake beneath the school. He tries to shine it toward the other shore, trying to catch a glimpse of something. Anything. Anything that could show a glimpse of a yellow school vest, or anything else that would hint at Mai.

He tells himself he's not surprised. The Rabbit is a pain, and he was definitely far too blunt, likely BECAUSE of that he had done in Camelot. Maybe because of that he wasn't allowed to BE happy. That's why Mika is so sick, and why Mai is .... Gone.

He almost says that out loud. Mai is .... Gone. God only knows what happened to her as they all fell form orbit. He certainly doesn't. He had been too weak, and had to be rescued, passed out and so didn't SEE what happened.

He pinches the bridge of his nose. He had to hold it together. Maybe it was the pain talking, and not his real thoughts. He takes a deep breath. He's been doing that a lot lately. "Lancelot." He says as he looks out at the lake. "His full name, was Lancelot du Lac. Or, Lancelot of the Lake. He grew up beside a lake, and was there when Excalibur was returned to those same waters to Niniane." He can see it. He HATES looking into the past, into those memories. But, he's compelled for reasons he doesn't know. "They were like this, in England. She stepped from the water and held her arms out as Arthur was floated out. The Sword was placed in her arms, and she turned, guiding Arthur with one hand, and holding Excalibur with the other." He gestures, "The waves ... They never stirred. She just walked and sank beneath them with Arthur to his eternal rest, and Excalibur to return when it was needed the most." He is now silent, as he contemplates all of this.

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

Mai isn't here. Mikoto doesn't immediately think as far forward as 'Mai is dead', not yet; she's preoccupied with the fact that Mai isn't with them, that she can't see her, can't run to her and hug her. She doesn't want to jump to the inevitable conclusion-- And yet, as soon as the thought enters her mind, she can't shake it. Mai is dead. Mai is dead, Mai is dead, Mai is dead. Mikoto sinks down at the edge of the lake, hugging her legs to her chest as she cries.

If Takeo had told her it would be all right, it wouldn't have helped. But Takeo doesn't say anything of the sort; instead, he tells her the story of Excalibur's return. Mikoto sniffs and rubs at her face and listens as he speaks about something which isn't about Mai at all. It's a little respite from what's plaguing them both, and it helps her to regain what composure she has.

Perhaps, after such a story, they'll be able to finish their time in the caves without sobbing again, even though there's no sign of Mai.