2017-04-02 - Stoke My Fire

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Title: Stoke My Fire

Student Council Member Kasagami Araki invites Eri Shimanouchi to dinner. She presses on goals, learns of Eri's past, and Eri's fire gets stoked to Kassie's delight.


Kasagami Araki, Eri Shimanouchi


<Crab Buffet>

OOC - IC Date:

<04-2-2017 - 01-09>

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

~A Few Hours Ago~

A letter arrives for Eri, in a dark red stationary on expensive paper. The letter within is crisp and neatly folded. It's contents might give away the sender long before Eri finds the signature. Flamboyant script and warm words with just a touch of the requisite Ohtori Council smugness offers a private dinner with Kasagami.

There's no hint of romance to it, perhaps thankfully for Eri's sanity. No, there's the air of friendship and even respect on display in carefully chosen words.


And so it is that Kasagami is already at the table near the back, clear of any other students. It's also slightly later than usual for dinner, what few crowd there is are too busy gossipping and eating to bother the pair. The young woman herself is swirling a glass of sort of fancy beverage, peering at it with a long stare. The stare of someone with something on her mind. A light frown sits on her face as she crosses her legs, leaned back in her seat decadently as one hand props up her chin. Silence reigns as Kasagami's eyes sparkle, a slow burn as her mind continues to turn and ponder the events of the past week.

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

~A few hours ago~

Eri finds a letter on her sleeping bag in the common room. Snatching it up before the other girls in the room see, she rushes off to the restroom. She'd been bullied before when someone suspected her of reading a love confession in public- for something that was really just an invitation.

Once safely in the stall, she sits atop the lid, and opens it.

For a moment her cheeks do flush bright red, before she puts a finger to her forehead, "No no it's not that sort of dinner. Get it together Shimanouchi."

After a few moments of breathing, she grimaces, "But ugh- why the crab buffet?"

Since it's business, and it's a member of the Student Council, she arrives in her winter uniform. Cream colored blouse, long sleeves, bright red ribboned bow. Plaid skirt and stockings. It's not the sort of thing anyone might think anything else is going on. But there are whispers anyhow, a subtle undercurrent in the room as Eri walks towards the table.

Was Eri in trouble? Was she sucking up to the Student Council?

The only thing most girls could agree upon is that she's nowhere near cool enough to be hanging with /anyone/ on the Student Council. Noone is going to bother them but...

Eri doesn't seem bothered. She has bigger concerns than worrying whether they're going to vandalize her shoes again.

She sits down at her place with a tray that's full of...

Vegetables. Vegetables. Vegetables. Some are fried tempura style. Others are side dishes. "Hey. Hope you don't mind if I go easy on the crab." A beat, "I'm a vegetarian."

There's only this small smile which says 'I don't mind if you don't.' as she waves it off. "So enjoying the trip? What did you want to talk about?"

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Perhaps Kasagami will help dispel at least /one/ rumor here, as when she finally peers past that drink that seems unusually interesting, an honest smile touches her lips. It's a bit muted, but the young woman honestly likes her 'Glorious Leader'.

"You came. I'm glad, Eri-chan. Please, sit down, sit down." The woman makes a show of looking Eri up and down. Kasagami is of course in her Student Council uniform, though the coat is on the back of her chair and slightly open at the chest for a bit of air. She finds the restaurant oddly stuffy given the time of year and the weather. It helps the look of imperial decadence she so fancies.

Forcing a slight bit of cheer to her tone, she's quick to respond even as she does pop a brow at the choice of edibles. Her own is very much crab, a light soup tonight. Her appetite has been a disaster as of late.

"Eat what you like. ...Honestly I shouldn't be surprised. It suits you." A light chuckle, and she straightens just a touch. She looks official for a moment.

"Let me clear up the doubts you are no doubt having. No, you are not in trouble, Eri. Your attendance has been acceptable. And I know your situation. I'd like to see some improvements. I'll find you a tutor, or do so myself if that's the best option for you. All Ohtori students, should be driven to succeed for the pride of our school."

She loosens up visibly. "Reprimand over. Do what you can, unlike others, I know you're trying. The Disciplinary Office is always open to any student in need."

"Mmm. Let's just say this trip has been a nice time to relax and work on a few side projects of mine free from the majority of my duties on the Council. I was actually thinking of forming a new club, if I can convince Juri-san. The noble, royal art of falconry."

A shake of her head. "But, I'm not here to twist your arm into joining another club. Actually, I wanted to ask you a few questions about yourself. We'll be depending on each other during tense and dangerous situations. So I wanted to know who I'm fighting beside."

Kasagami puts down her drink, and then leans in, studying Eri with a look that's intense without being necessarily threatening. She tries to capture all of Eri in her mind as she truly gets the measure of the gardening Puella.

"Eri-chan. Why do you fight? Why do you endure the hardship of the cruel fate given to you? A life of constant conflict for survival...I don't believe in simply scrounging like dogs in life. Eri Shimanouchi, for what goal and purpose do you wield a blade?" Words, softly spoken, are curious and imploring of her fellow Shepherd. Two fingers take the handle of a fork, only for her to hold it point down. Letting go, it balances perfectly on the table.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed. <SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSpUx9s0_KY

Eri arches an eyebrow, an amused gleam in her eyes behind her glasses as she says she's not int rouble. Her hair is highlighted green, and cut short. It only falls to the nape of her neck. Despite the amusement, she doesn't look smug. But she is quiet, allowing Kasagami to talk.

Kasagami might get the impression that she's a good listener. She bobs her head when she says reprimand over, not trying to get a word in edge wise yet. She does comment once Kasagami talks about her trip, "Falconry huh? Definitely sounds like it belongs at Ohtori. Heh. I bet Arisugawa-senpai would approve that one."

She doesn't say she wouldn't have time to join the club anyhow. She does pick up her glass of iced green tea, raising it, and taking a sip of the water while Kasagami asks that question. She takes it away from her mouth, holding it up, watching the way the light catches the tea.

"You mentioned just a moment ago about finding me a tutor Kasagami. I really don't think you should bother." Her head tilts a little, hair falling down over her ear as she looks at Kasagami in profile, "I fight to survive- so that I'm alive to fight for the people I care about the most."

The glass she puts down, finger tracing along the outer edge, "So that I can see the better moments of their lives until the day... they'll have to move on without me, because I'll be gone."

She turns to face her, "You don't have to believe in it. That's just the way it is for a Puella Magi- in the beautiful yet cruel world that needs us. If one doesn't have the power to change the world- then the only thing they can change is themselves. I can't expect to live past high school graduation. Even that is optimistic. The moment I made my contract, I was locked into a Destiny of Battle. I can't stop to dream of anything that comes after in a normal life- because there is none to be had."

She takes a breath, and exhales. Her breath causes the glass of the iced tea to fog up with condensation, "I fight, and I fight- until I die. And that's the way it is. The most I can hope for is savoring the small pleasures that come between one battle to the next... and leaving my mark on the world in the people I leave behind. Maybe helping out a few girls in similar situations. The world isn't kind to the people who fight after all."

Dipping her head down, she looks up at Kasagami through the top of her glasses, "You may not believe in it- but you don't have to. That's just the way it is for me. The only way I'll get anything out of life is by accepting that- and allowing myself to just keep moving, for as long as I can."

She flaps a hand, "Hey- it's okay. You don't have to pity me or anything. I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm just seizing what control I can over my situation."

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

For all the doubts and conflict swirling in her mind, Kasagami can't help but enjoy the company. Eri listens well, and unlike others, there's no excuses. Direct and honest. Her gaze softens finally as she has her answer.

Kasagami leans back once more. Slowly, she picks up the untouched spoon from her napkin. Dextrous fingers spin it through her grasp, finger by finger lazily. Her gaze is distant. It seems she has the manners to be quiet when necessary. Her left brow lowers in concentration and consideration.

And then she finally looks Eri in the eyes firmly. A look given to an equal, or at least one close enough to it. She simply can't dismiss Eri's reason so cruelly out of hand.

"You wield a blade for the sake of those you love. A bit cliche, don't you think?" Her lips turns to a smirk, and she winks. Her gaze is playful and teasing for just a moment before turning serious.

"But not in a bad way. Noble, some might say. You chose your path, and now you walk while accepting the consequences you have brought on for it."

Her mood darkens. 'Pity'. A laugh, bitter. "Please. Give me some credit. Things like that are just empty platitudes anyway. However..."

She finally takes a sip of her own drink. The knife in her hand stops. It's placed point down atop the fork. Away go her fingers, and it stands motionless.

"You're correct. I reject that sort of thinking entirely. As long as this world remains in the status quo, there will be more Puella Magi. Lives, civilian and magical girl, will continue to be cut brutally short. The wicked and the saintly alike will be devoured, and innocence so precious in this uncaring universe will burn to ash." Her mouth is a thin line. A conviction, bordering on obsession burns in her eye.

"To live is to dream, Eri-chan. Even if you can't avoid death, even if you must hunt and kill and act as a predator, why not burn as a light in the darkness? Aspire to great heights. Change yourself, for the sake of your friends, and defeat the stalking fate of Death through your own will and actions." Her arms widen, indicating the entire restaurant. Or perhaps, given it's Kasagami, the whole of the world.

"I, too, wish to leave a mark on this world. I desire power. Deep, unending, miraculous. The power to rule. The power to reject that which meets my displeasure, and to safeguard that which I find beautiful and worthwhile, Eri."

Her arms close back in, and a single finger finds the point where the fork and knife balance.

"Grand dreams are crushed every day in this country. But those that try for the impossible are remembered brilliantly. They become legends. Small minded dreams..."

Push. The silverware clatters to the table.

"Fall apart and are forgotten."

Finally, she takes up her spoon, and tries the soup. "Too much salt." That obsession and fire gives way to the mundane so very quickly for Kasagami.

"Have you been on the slopes yet? Course Three is almost a challenge."

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

There is a touch of laughter, this chuckle that becomes a giggle as Kasagami says it's a bit cliche. Maybe because she knows. She's not arrogant enough to believe her situation is rare at all. In fact, she'd say it was all too common. But again, she falls into a subdued silence, using chop sticks to pick up tempura and taking a few bites. Her eyes are on Kasagami as she says that she rejects that kind of thinking.

She swallows quietly and just meets Kasagami's eyes with this sort of quiet certainty, lifting a napkin to dab at her chin. She then folds her hands together anew. "Nah. I'm not a great skier. I can make it down the intermediate slopes from time to time without falling on my rear. To tackle course three I'd have to transform." A beat, "Not that I would."

A few moments pass and, "You talk a little bit like Tomoe's kouhai. All pumped up to change the world. Ready to make a difference. But she was the girl laying on the ground- minus a limb- ready to die if we hadn't traded thirteen people's lives for hers." Unlacing her fingers, she brushes back some hair over her ear, "Makes me wonder what you did to piss her off. Honestly other than the King talk you sound like you belong with her-"

She holds up her opposite hand, "-no offense. I'm not saying that as a negative. I'd have little problem with those girls if they weren't threatening my bottom line. As a Puella Magi, you just can't allow that. Otherwise tomorrow a half dozen more girls will be thinking they can."

There's a sort of rueful smile, "But I don't dream of burning brightly anymore. I don't think the world will change for me. If it will for you? Good for you. But it won't for me. I learned that lesson from this kid named Yaori Kumori..."

BGM Change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qx6KpdolfEY

She holds up a hand to her neck level while seated before it moves to the edge of the table after, still, "...about this tall? Kyouko is my senpai maybe... but this girl was too in her own way. Taught me some important lessons. Cheeky little thing... back when I thought I could burn brightly in my own way- she put a crossbow bolt in the center of my chest. Took my last grief seed. Left me to bleed out and die in an alleyway."

Her eyes lid a little, as she looks distant, "The girl was near feral you know? This life had ruined her. A wish to disappear- and other Puella magi hadn't treated her well. By the time I came along she just couldn't believe that little Eri Shimanouchi all bright eyed and ready to change the world actually was what she said she was... and you know... she was right. She taught me there was no justice in this world to be had... none to be believed in."

Her fingertips have been still on the edge of it, "You know. Funny what her powers were too. Invisibility. She could move soundlessly. Type of girl like that... you have nightmares about what she can do to everyone you love and care about. I mean if she learned I survived- if she was capable of that in cold blood, what else was she capable of?" Her eyes turn upon Kasagami and she says in a low tone, without emotion or affect, "So I ambushed her on her own territory and murdered her."

A few seconds pass before she adds, "Horrible isn't it? I thought she was some monster- some demon- some dragon- only to find out she was just a scared little girl that had it a little rougher than I did. There's not a Puella Magi that lives as long as I have without doing something like that to get by. Tomoe has killed dozens- to her credit, most of them were probably in self-defense."

She takes this long breath in the stagnant air, the buzz of gossip behind her drowned out as she closes her eyes, "I owe you. If you want to try to change the world, I'll give you the help you're due. I'll continue to protect you from the Chevaliers. But-" Her eyes open anew, "-I'll believe that you can change /anything/ when I see it. I have no hope that the world that failed little Yaori Kumori, by putting me in her path- that failed so many other girls besides- can be changed."

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

There's a smirk, and then a light 'tut tut' to Eri. "You really aren't much of an athlete, are you? That's a shame. I was thinking of sparring with you. Most of the other club members just aren't good enough to satisfy, and I haven't been able to corner Saionji yet." The name of the green haired one is said like she's just come across a rotting fish in her bed.

More soup. She nearly chokes on it when Eri mentions Sayaka and their similarities. But there's no anger when she clears it with a gulp of her drink. She looks amused.

"I wonder what I did indeed~." Comes Kasagami. She smoothly continues. "Well, you're not wrong. Honestly, Eri, the life of a Puella Magi wouldn't suit me at all. You see, unlike our brave little bluenette, I recognize the world as it currently exists. What I have isn't something false like hope. I believe in my goals. There's even a place for cruelty or brutality in order for me to achieve them, as long as my actions are in keeping with my own honor. I very much want to make a difference. That's why I think Sayaka is more like me than she'd like to admit. When she looks at me, she sees a dark reflection of what she might become. I'll bet that's ripping her up inside right now."

A hand for a waiter, and another drink. Dismissed without even a glance. Arrogance, thy name is Ohtori StuCo.

"I believe in my own potential, to overcome even something you call impossible, along with those I find worthy to stand beside me. With a blade strong enough, there's no such thing as 'impossible'. That is the essence of power. Besides, I'm simply too greedy and power hungry. I want to be above everything and everyone. The justice our enemies believe in can't allow that by it's nature."

Silence falls on Kasagami's side, as she takes in the story. Her chin tilts down, her eye slowly widens during the telling. Anger, hot and raging, fills her. It takes her several moments for her to find enough calm to not hiss. With visible effort, her hot passions simmer to pure contempt for the subject of the story.

"Not just merely a traitor, but a cowardly liar of a traitor? You did well, Eri. The world is better without garbage."

Her head tilts back, and she stares at the ceiling. Her burns seem just a bit sharper along her skin with the troubled line on her face.

"But, at least, that's where you learned how worthless this world really is. Traumatic. But now you're awake. No longer completely innocent or naieve."

A moment, a breath. "I can't tell you what happened. But I think I've started to wake up myself. I thought I could gallantly become King so easily, without anything shattering in my hands, and keep my own innocence intact. I'm a bloody fool, Eri. I'm not yet strong enough, not close enough to my ideal of a ruler yet. My eyes are open a little wider. You, dear lion, will help me. Don't forget your armor while you walk my castle walls."

She too is back and focusing on Eri fully. Her dark mood vanishes. That passion returns. "Eri-chan. Did you really just say that to /me/!? Challenge accepted. I want to savor the look of amazement and horror on your face when you see what I'm going to create from this world. I, Kasagami Araki of the Ohtori Student Council, am telling you to absolutely not die before then. Understand?"

She's leaning over the table. A hand reaches out, and she'll try to run a finger along some of Eri's hair gently. "After all, you're one of the beautiful and precious things that may just be worthy. Let's make memories together, Eri."

And then she's sitting back again, eating her soup. There's no slurping, but Kasagami finally seems to have her appetite back. Renewed confidence, and greater obsession lurk in her eye. She downs her drink.

"You have homework, Eri Shimanouchi. Let's see if we can't at least stoke your fire a little bit. Even a Puella Magi can afford that much of a burn. Do something that impresses me. Mystical, or mundane, I don't care. Brutal, kind, loving, hateful. Anything you'd like. Then come back to me. Tell me what you did. And most importantly, how you felt while doing it."

She sets aside her soup. A waiter is over with her glass of wine for the night. She raises it in a toast.

"Do that, and you'll earn the right to a much more enjoyable and pleasurable dinner with me. If, of course, you'd like that kind of thing."

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

Again Eri is an active listener, commenting mildly. "Used to swim. Butterfly. Couldn't keep up with a Sports and Cultural club at the same time." Allowing herself a smirk when Kasagami plays coy about what she did. She knows it wouldn't take much to get on Sayaka's bad side. After all- if Sayaka can be harsh at all about Mai then...

The waiter comes by and only tops off her drink of tea. Surprisingly she actually offers a- "Thank you very much." And seems like she'd be the picture of politeness to the waitstaff.

But when Kasagami says not merely a traitor, but a cowardly liar of a traitor, Eri falls silent, still- her fingers gripping the edge of the table. Her eyes bore into her as she says challenge accepted. That she's one of the beautiful things that might be worthy, as there's homework to stoke her fire. "You want to stoke my fire... is that it? I can afford that much of a burn?"

Eri leans forward over the table marginally, voice sibilant "Don't /ever/ talk that way about her again. She was just a scared kid who felt guilty about an accident that put her little sister in a burn ward. A desperate kid who got bullied every day by Puella Magi who beat her up for her grief seeds like it was her /lunch money/ rather than her life's blood. It's easy to pass judgement while you're living with Ohtori privilege instead of as a rat on the street with noone to rely on but your paranoia to keep you warm. Easy. Simple."

She takes one deep breath, her fingers flexing hard enough that it feels like she might indent the table- and then she let's go, relaxes, breathes easier, "I'll let it go this time." She holds up a hand, "Won't even hold it against you. Lots of people say things like that every day without thinking about it. Next time we'll be taking it outside though- and I'll give you the kind of workout you'd probably only dream of."

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Eri leans in. At first, Kasagami stands firm, composed, almost challenging to the other girl. But that smug arrogance melts away. Her eye widens slowly. By the time the threat is made, and Eri sits down, Kasagami is gripping her right hand. A single bead of sweat drips down her brow. She stares through Eri. Her body is hot, painfully so, and she can see and feel the flames crackling all around her. The lancing pain as it creeps up her leg, consuming her slowly.

A gasp, low, and she blinks. Her face hardens for a moment. Subtle breaths as she wills away the waking nightmare. Her eye lids half way. A small smile.

"I see. Well, if you feel that strongly, you can have my apology Eri. Not a ghost on my lips." A hand to her chest, and a bow. Some of that arrogance returns.

And then Kasagami is all but beaming. "There's at least a few cinders left in you. Passion, wrath, love, confidence in your own skills. If you keep on acting that way, Eri-chan, I'm not sure I could help myself. I'm greedy, after all. Hah! You can give me that workout for any reason or no reason at all. I'd like it. You pass. Top marks."

Still, her pride is wounded, and she's a member of Ohtori's Student Council. Arms cross. Her voice rises, just enough to be heard.

"Be sure to wear something nice. Flattering, elegant, classic. I'll make reservations for when we're back in Tokyo. Vegetarian only." Then, she stands, passing by Eri. A single finger, a boop to the forehead, and when it's only her that can see, Kasagami gives a playful stick of the ton. Then she's walking away, all confident and proud, the almost childish moment finished.

Her smile is one that screams 'I'm a fabulous jerk, and I know it'.