2017-07-08 - Consequences of Beauty II

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Title: Consequences of Beauty II

The massive Shibuya Hikarie building has been renamed, simply, 4-4-4. Its new headline tenant is chic fashion brand AoAka, and their designer Tsuru used its grand opening to declare the brand's opposition to the immoral SEARRS Corporation. With Tokyo Railway fighting to regain control over the former Hikarie building, and the rumors that AoAka is deeply in debt despite its success, AoAka's upcoming World Debut will make or break the smash hit brand.

This weekend, AoAka is hosting a party to raise money for this most important of shows. The haute couture line will be showed off, front row tickets will be raffled, and the Sister Schools students will once again have a chance to enjoy a luxurious party for free. This time, however, many forces have a vested interest in Tsuru's failure.


Tsuru, Nori Ankou, Kozue Kaoru, Shizuru Fujino, Yumi Ohzora, Rinji Sakurai, Sucy Manbavaran, and Setsuna Meioh with a special cameo performance by Kyouko Sakura as Kudo


The Shibuya Hikarie ballroom

OOC - IC Date:

Sat July 8, 2017 / Sat Jan 31, 2015.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Catching at the edges of a wooden crate with his fingers, Tetsu hikes it with a grunt and sets it on one shoulder. Exiting the delivery truck, he stops at the top of the ramp, takes his cigarette from his lips and blows smoke meditatively, looking at the black Toyota that has pulled up by the loading bay. The Shibuya Hikarie's normally blue glass exterior is pink from the horizon's sunset, but the windows of the car are bright orange from the sky directly above.

Electing to ignore the car, Tetsu clomps noisily down the metal ramp. His sharkskin suit doesn't seem to be stopping him from physical labor. Tsuru's money will belong to the Yamaguchi-gumi soon enough, and Tetsu has had the fortune to be the man in charge of Tsuru ever since she was a nobody working out of an unfinished hole in the side of this commercial acropolis. He has every intention of riding this right to the top, so he's all in, even if it means carrying a crate of wine bottles.

Orange light peels as the passenger window of the Toyota slides down, and Tetsu walks a few steps further pointedly, before turning one heel and raising an eyebrow.

"Tachibana." A flat-faced middle aged yakuza rests his elbow on the open window, weathered finger resting alongside a ragged scar on the side of his temple. "Go home."

Tetsu chuffs, dangerously casual. "Just who do you think is in charge on this block?" he inquires.

"Not you. Not today. Comes right from the kumicho."

"You do whatever yer here to do," Tetsu advises, unfazed. "And I'll do my job. Unless you want to get your ass out of that car and carry wine. Hah?" Tetsu walks back a few paces, and slaps the windshield of the car a few times, with a friendly smile but more force than is strictly necessary. "And use this car to pick up the models. Or do you not even know what my job is? Piss-head? Hah?"

With calculated indifference, the man in the Toyota rolls up his window. Tetsu, sneering, turns back towards the loading bay as the Toyota pulls away.

"Hey, hey, aniki." One of Tetsu's men wipes his forehead as he stands over a heavy crate. "That's Kudo-san--you sure it's okay to talk to him like that? All of Shibuya is his turf."

"And I'm in charge of the only block of it that matters," Tetsu calls back, climbing up the ramp to the loading dock.

  • * *

"You look wonderful, Nanami-sama!" Keiko enthuses.

"You'll be the most beautiful girl at the party for sure, Nanami-sama!" Aiko one-ups her.

"You should be the top model for Aohime AND Akamira, Nanami-sama!" Yuko one-ups Aiko in turn.

"Of course, ho ho" Nanami laughs into the side of her hand. Her cheeks are cozily ensconced in the high ruffled collar of a truly extravagant evening gown, aqua in color, and her neck glitters with diamond webbing. "They should be so lucky! Now... turn that off, I am busy."

Nanami's cell phone is ringing. Keiko removes it from her own purse and checks it. "But Nanami-sama, it's your honored brother..."

"What?!!" Nanami snatches the phone away violently enough to sting Keiko's hand and send Aiko and Yuko skittering a few steps away. A frantic expression on her face, Nanami desperately tries to answer the phone, but her lacy gloves prevent the screen from registering her fingers, so she shoves it out at Keiko again, grabs Keiko's wrist, and forces her hand onto the screen. After a moment of struggle where Keiko tries to answer the call and Nanami, in her desperation, mostly gets in the way, the green phone icon is activated. Suddenly Nanami is entirely placid, her eyes huge and lashes sparkling, as her panting frenzy of a moment ago disappears into innocent adorability. "Onii-sama~" she says. "No, of course, Nanami-chan is never too busy for you. Oh? ... Oh?"

The three vermin are leaning in surreptitiously to hear.

"But... I'm all dressed up. I wanted to go to the party..." Nanami's eyes are getting dewy.

Far away beneath the vaulted ceilings of the Kiryuu estate, Touga slumps regally in a sitting room, shirt opened wide, cell phone held to his ear. On the small table next to his antique red leather chair, three items lie: a torn envelope, a glittering letter opener akin to a real knife, and a handwritten letter creased in two places.

"The truth is, your big brother feels sad tonight," he says, in his usual rich and charming tone. There is no real hint of sadness. "I wish to see you very much. Will you indulge a silly big brother, Nanami-chan?"

Preemptively, Touga turns the phone entirely away from his ear, in order to avoid the shrill cries of glee.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Tous Les Memes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAMWdvo71ls

The exhibition room of the old Shibuya Hikarie has been converted, under new management, to a ballroom. Over the past few weeks, the flooring has been ripped out and replaced with brand new, expensive hardwood, at the cost of about twenty million yen. Tsuru's financial recklessness is well-known to her models, but Kozue and Nori may well understand the rationale this time. They'll recoup that and more if it helps sell the haute couture line.

This is a fundraiser, and thus the sense of luxury is amplified even over previous events. The dress code is more formal than ever (though Sister Schools members will be ushered in at a business casual level or greater), the hors d'oeuvers exotic and catered by well-dressed Europeans. The live band has a stage set up beneath the windows, through which streams a rich pink sunset.

"The pollution," Bauanne Baurollo says, his broad Mediterranean face unimpressed as he and his white cat hold court amidst androgynous European men and willowy models. "Such a crowded city."


The band strikes up their first song, deep slapping bass and dirty horns injecting a sudden energy into the crowd. Tsuru has never been the best with money, but she seems to have an inborn instinct for cool that makes it seem effortless. Shoulders and tongues loosen all across the ballroom floor. Eyes linger longer on other eyes. It promises to be a bold night. The flow of the attendees through and around the room is carefully but unobtrusively guided by glass cases, each containing a mannequin wearing either Aohime or Akamira, each underlit and posed dramatically.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"Who is that?" Tsuru points to the security monitor up in the tech booth. There is a tall, white-haired Japanese man in an expensive suit with a small posse of businessmen and bodyguards behind him.

"Uh." Yumi Ohzora leans over to look at the man on the small black and white screen. The Infinity Fashion Club has gotten considerably more professional since they began their association with Tsuru, and Yumi has been given the role of head stage technician. She lifts her walkie-talkie and radios the hostesses at the door. "Hey, whose invitation did you just accept? Over."

"That was a... Mr. Masafumi Yasutomi, I believe, over."

Tsuru blinks a few times.

"Should I have security stop him?" Yumi asks, confused.

"No, that is all right. Thank you." Tsuru takes a thoughtful step back.

"Who is he?"

"The chairman of the rail company."

Yumi starts. "The whole rail--what is he doing here?" Many of this man's subordinates have funnelled through this building in the past few months, harrassing Tsuru and her employees, seeking building code violations, farming up lawsuit material at every turn. The rail company holds the lease on this building, but thanks to the Kaoru family lawers, Tsuru is their landlord. The two factions have been battling over the building ever since.

"I do not know," Tsuru says. "I will ask him."

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

The world outside the tinted windows of Setsuna Meioh's black limosine stutters with light. In the quicksilver world of fashion and celebrity blogging, shutter speed matters more than any consideration -- except, perhaps, upload speed. The length and flawless gleam of her conveyance has its own gravity, pulling in flashbulbs and eyes.

"I'm ready, Etsuko." She doesn't feel quite ready, but trusts she will by the time her valet-slash-retainer rounds the car.

"Yes, ma'am." With a tip of her always-smart cap, the blonde woman steps out of the driver's seat. The door seals behind her without a click, nipping off the stacatto rapidfire of the amassed photogs. Setsuna unties and reties the leather sash of her coat, switching the knot's direction. She's not even walking tonight. The nerves make no sense.

She has enough time for a deep, calming breath before Etsuko places her hand on back door's handle, and takes full advantage. It helps, some. Then sounds and light invade her quiet sanctum, and she's taking Etsuko's hand and stepping out onto the pavement, one low slung, dark purple pump after another.

Then Setsuna walks like the model she sometimes is, and the mysterious, timeless beauty she always is. Heels clicking in perfect time, she strides the sidewalk into the Shibuya Hikarie ballroom's entranceway, letting the cameras catch the ponytailed chignon her evergreen tresses have been worked into and the supple gleam of her black leather trench. Just a hint of matching lace hem peeks beneath.

Then she is beyond their reach, retaining that striding poise while she sheds her coat at the check. Into the ballroom she goes, in a blazing fireworks display of a cocktail dress -- all shine and lace, the former a starburst spectrum of reds and violets, the latter a delicately sheer black trim round hem and sleeves and midriff.

She can't help but seek the throng gathered about that haute couture luminary himself, Bauanne Baurollo. Her height helps where the crowding does not, allowing her to see and hear, at least a bit, and that plus her bearing probably marks her to knowing eyes as a professional wearer of clothing. It also makes her easy to spot. Thus far she is quiet, content to observe, but keen to spot anyone she might know.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Shizuru Fujino looks boredly at the inside of the limousine carrying her, having until a moment ago been glancing out the window. The privacy screen is up; she is not particularly interested in speaking to a driver today. Her hands are in her sleeves, her drink emptied and placed down again in a holder. Her makeup is subtle; her hair is up, fastened with blood-red pins.

The flashbulbs attract to this as well. The car stops, and her driver, suited, steps around to her door and opens it for her. What steps out is a young woman in entirely formal dress, a black kimono with red and deep violet in its patterning, and a red obi. It's just bold enough to be a young woman's kimono while remaining serious and appropriate to the situation. She obviously knows how to wear it, moving with perfect grace, the model of an appropriate Japanese lady.

She waves once, and there are two rings now on her left ring finger, which gets a few gasps from those who recognize her. The rose crest... and a diamond.

She moves forward into the party, ignoring any reason she might have not to come. Her driver goes off. A bold night... Shizuru glances to the Akamira mannequins, tilting her head. For the moment, she has a repreive from anyone reaching her to talk to her. Anyone boring, that is.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"You got a line blown," the man half-shouts. "You gonna take responsibility if a fire starts? This transformer is rated for five hundred /thousand/ volts.

Standing in front of the door, a tiny Infinity Institute freshman girl shrinks. She's halfway to tears. "I-I'm not supposed... to let anyone in..."

The man is tall, stubbled, wearing an orange jumpsuit. "Then it's your fault. You're taking legal responsibility. You got that?"

"Just let me try again," the girl pleads. But when she activates her walkie talkie, useless static roars out again.

"Yes or no," the utility worker demands. There are five men with him, oddly taciturn. Their jumpsuit collars are zipped all the way up to hide their necks, but one of them has a pinky finger that is one joint too short. He keeps that hand behind his back. "Yes? Or no?!"

"All right," the girl yelps, and she offers the keys.

"Finally," the leader sighs in exasperation, but several of the others smile. Taking the keys, he starts unlocking the door.

Whistling tunelessy as he strides through the back halls of the 4-4-4 building, Tetsu suddenly ends up in a collision, as a middle schooler rams him from the side. The girl steps back nervously, wiping one eye, and Tetsu looks up past her to the six utility workers standing outside the restricted area. All six look back at him, in his sharkskin suit, slick leather shoes, and spiked hair, and a silent staring contest begins. After a few seconds, Tetsu takes another step forward, pretending not to see, and the leader starts unlocking the door again.

Once he's past the intersection, Tetsu pauses. "G'home, kid," he says gruffly.

The Infinity girl seems frozen.

"You deaf?!" Tetsu barks, and she startles, fleeing down the other way. Tetsu lights a fresh cigarette despite the NO SMOKING sign nearby, and flips his zippo back shut with a sigh. Looking back at the door the Infinity girl exited from, he considers. Rejecting the idea, he continues forward, deeper into the building.

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

Kozue has been initiated all too well into Tsuru's financial recklessness. Even now she can imagine the lawyers discussing her decisions behind closed door with a shake of their head and a tut-tut what do you expect of a child like her? What she was after though was not one you could place a value upon in modern currency, and yet she still understood the wisdom of keeping Tsuru's business solvent.

And that's why she's here. She had been here earlier, but she left earlier merely for the spectacle of arriving. It was part of the drama.

What's she wearing is the important quesion asked by the Paparrazi and their artillery of flashing lights. Let's discuss the answer. It's a mermaid dress with a flared floor-length hem, azure lightning licking upwards from the hem as if it were drawn to water. The color is otherwise black for the skirt, where a wide satin band demarcates a broad section of her bare midriff, save another crossing it diagonally to connect to another satin band to it's top.

The top of this dress has the effect of looking at azure white capped waves, yet the turbulent seas all blur together in stormy imagery of azure and white and black. It's a halter-neck, but right now that fact is hidden by the dark satin athletic jacket with slightly puffy sleeves, unzipped in the center. Aohime is never complete without layers after all. But there's also the iconic piece around her neck.

It's a scarf, one she's never seen without at any of her shows. It trails behind her as she walks, giving an effect like it's floating like some lingering cloud of smoke and an ever-shifting color that reminds one of an oil slick sheen. One might wonder if the model went on some carefree ride across by the sea in a convertible, uncaring that it was winter before coming to this party.

Her short hair is down tonight, giving it a windswept quality. Everything draws to her eyes and their mystique, so tonight there's another touch. A mark below her left eyelid that stretches to her cheek. Her lips are shaded in four gradients. Her jewelry is a tasteful turquoise ring and necklace. A matched set, she feels no need to be ostentatious with glittering diamonds when her dress can speak louder than the world's most expensive one.

At the door, she sheds a single layer, the jacket with the help of a helpful employee she doesn't even spare a look at. Simply trusting that it'll be there when she returns.

Her footsteps, indeed revealing that there must be heels beneath that hem take her by Baurollo as he holds court among Mannequins and models. What is a court though without one of its Princesses? There are so many here, but she stands out. She has this eternal look in her eyes like someone just said something dumb to her. A curve of her lips as Baurollo speaks just as she stepped up behind him. And her voice might draw his attention, but mayhaps not... one of the jaded fashion emperors might beyond even her ability to influence. "Crowded? To me that just says how alive this city is. And where there's life, there's waste. You can only gild a city and it's people so much to disguise that fact..."

She doesn't introduce herself. She's not one of the top international models of the fashion world, but he knows who she is, and she knows who he is. And she knows he knows who she is. A competitor who knows his competitors. Her policy of course was to keep the competition close, and one couldn't get any closer than this.

"But you knew that already- didn't you?" After all, Baurollo's business is gilding people. There's a tall figure in the crowd which she recognizes instantly, though she doesn't take a single step. "Ah Setsuna-chan." It's bold of her to call Setsuna Meioh that, but in the world of modelling it feels like there's this instant blanket permission to have such familiarity, "So good to see our most famous junior-senior." She teases lightly as she gets a good look at the cocktail dress she's wearing. "It's almost too much, at this rate you're going to show poor Nori-chan up."

She doesn't look or sound like she particularly disapproves of this. Which is the moment her eyes fall upon Shizuru checking out the mannequins. For a moment she merely tilts her head to the side, as if it was an unexpected surprise. She doesn't approach her quite yet. Instead, more than anything, her expression transcends into a form of amusement with a light head shake of something that isn't exactly disapproval.

<Pose Tracker> Sucy Manbavaran [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

Sucy Manbavaran creeps in through the crowds of Sister School students, unnoticed, as she's apt to be. To say she's not very well regarded by the non-magical students of her own school, much less students in the other Sister Schools would be to say that she's regarded at all. Even among her own school body, she's either a rumor, or someone best not mentioned.

She doesn't escape the notice of everyone, particularly her senpai, mentor, friend and beloved head stage technician Yumi Ohzora.

As soon as Sucy slipped that she was going to attend for the fre- she wasn't able to say "e food" before Yumi had suggested they go get her something to wear. As Sucy admitted she was planning to wear her uniform or something that could only be described as "grandmotherly" it was determined to be a fashion emergency, and Yumi took matters into her own hands!

A dizzying trip of stores and dressing rooms later, Sucy is dressed to ill in a modern cut olive green high quality fleece coat that covers her torso down to just past her hips. Its hem splits upward in a tulipped meeting a diagonal brass zipper running shoulder to navel, itself cut halfway by a seam going the opposite diagonal across the left of her chest. The coat is topped off by an attached oversized peaked cowl, less a hood, more evocative of a druid or mage from a storybook, closing out the look with black cotton pants and suede boots that reach just below her knee.

The gaunt, lanky witch feels a little out of place, but the hood gives her a feeling of concealment that helps ease the anxieties of being in the middle of such a high profile event with noteworthy people? She thinks this might be a low key ensemble, but she feels just a tinge of dread that perhaps she's wrong.This is her first brush with the world of fashion, after all (much less seeing it as it happens.)

Since she arrived in Japan she'd mostly worn her school uniform, and most of her personal clothes were inherited from her mother and quite... out of date. People didn't expect high fashion from people in their line of work. They expected tradition, the more ancient the better, and candles... masks hanging on the walls...

Sucy did like this though, and since fashion seemed so important to her Senpai. (so much so that she was working the event behind the scenes) There does seem to be a sort of magic to fashion. Sucy resolves to pay attention to all these models and designers, scouring them like ancient tomes for the secrets they can impart... right after she hits this buffet table...

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"((So what is it that made you want to remake a Hong Kong film? Why not a Japaense film))" a Japanese heiress asks in English. Her cluster of debutantes giggles at this, and the man they're surrounding raises his drink in good humor.

"((Well, my next film's is one you're gonna like a lot, if you want Japanese." The man is a older foreigner, of Italian-American descent based on the accent. His hair is white, but his thick eyebrows are vividly black. "((But I've always admired Hong Kong cinema. The Departing is... oh.))

The heiress tilts her head quizically.

"((Who's that?))" The foreigner points at Shizuru subtly.

A moment later, he's sidled up to her, two martinis in hand. "((That would look good on you,))" the director says. Offering one of the martinis, he grins the grin of a man with little left to prove. "((Of course, anything would look good on you.))"

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Baurollo is not unflappable, but he is at any rate flap-resistant. He turns a little to allow Kozue to enter the circle comfortable if she wishes. It's a grudging respect, but one he feels she's earned at this point. Besides, whatever resentment he has cannot but be filtered through a soul that very much appreciates clothes. Kozue's are jaw-dropping tonight, perhaps even more than usual.

"So this is one of yours as well, then." Baurollo gestures at Setsuna with his champagne. "Or rather, one of the Red Future's. Hard to keep track of." Doesn't seem so hard for Baurollo.

"You seem a little upset with me, no? A bit offended." Baurollo's dense continental accent drips with arrogance. "The truth is, I welcome your Tsuru onto the world stage. I love the Japanese people. I wish for them to have their own world brands. It must be humiliating, no? For all of Japanese's finest to go to Europe for the best of food, the best of style. Your AoAka may not be on the level of a runway in Paris or Rome, but I am certain the youth of Europe will appreciate it very much."

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Shizuru does not meet eyes with Kozue at the moment, though it's possible that she's seen her; it's terribly easy to see someone as notable here as KOZUE... and Baurollo. But she says nothing there, watching the clothes that her attention is so obviously meant to be drawn to. She's not entirely /looking/, though; she's thinking, considering, getting a feel by listening for the room as a whole while maintaining an appropriate level of quiet.

The way she must come off is a balance of many qualities; grace, propriety, and appropriate deference as needed.

A man approaches her with drinks. Nevermind that she's not of the drinking age in either of their countries. It's an occasion that differs for that. She ofers a slight bow of greeting, mostly a nod but just a little more, playing the part of impeccably polite. "((Ah, you flatter me))," Shizuru replies in English, dipping her head again and accepting the drink. He's grinning, and giving that compliment. Shizuru maintains her fake smile that looks real. "((You flatter me more than I deserve))," she continues politely, and offers her left hand--the one with the diamond engagement ring on it--towards him. It's an expensive, well-designed ring of course.

Shizuru, too, is a Japanese heiress.

"((...But there are worse things than flattery.))"

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Bright and savage, the bolt of blue lightning that is KOZUE forks her way through the crowd. Missing her would be impossible. That is of course the whole of the point, and Setsuna inclines her chin in a salute to that. She accepts the familiarity without a flicker of her eyes, surely a thing she's used to by now with a few shared backstages. Indeed, overall the senshi's approach to the Aohime model has been one of respectful remove. She is never anything but unfailingly polite, and never truly engages.

"Good evening, KOZUE. As always, you amaze. Tsuru-san can only be pleased." Tonight, though... she gives the blue-haired model a second look, measuring. It's a lengthy regard, held for an uncomfortable few seconds. Then she shrugs. "I feel like fireworks, of late." Cryptic, but that's in keeping with her reputation. "Nori-san embodies the Akamira ideal far more fully than I could ever aspire to. I've no doubt she will shine tonight."

Unfailingly polite. Also in keeping with her reputation.

The wickedly barbed exchange between model and fashion house patron does not go unnoticed, but Setsuna Meioh entirely misses the vicious undercurrents. It is too subtle for her rudimentary grasp of social dynamics. The tension and the ripple of wide eyes and delighted outraged through the crowd, she notes, but doesn't understand its source. Her brows knit with puzzlement.

At least that scanning look alights on another familiar face and -- this might shock some who lack context -- one she finds far less worrisome. Even beneath a cavernous hood, her sweep of long obscuring bangs is a dead giveaway. With a murmur of pardon, she excuses herself to head that way.

"Manbavaran-san? It is good to see you again so soon. What brings you to the gala? And--" She takes another look, it's obvious in how her head tilts and her eyes flick across Sucy's clothes. "The cut of that coat...! Which label is it?"

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Nori Ankou, on the other hand, is only barely aware of these financial disasters looming overhead. Like Pollyanna, or perhaps little Orphan Annie, she's confident it will all work out. Or at least, she is when she bothers to think about it at all.

But that does not change the actual crux of the matter, which is that success rests upon them tonight. They have to present something beautiful and something perfect - an avatar of an artistic vision. In a very literal sense it all rests upon them.

Aohime comes first, as it often does. Akamira arrives a few measures - perhaps half of a song - later.

This dress went the other way: Instead of red on black, the primary color is white. Silk, richly textured even if it's uncolored, glossy, reflective. It sinks down the hips, shoulders bare and without much of a dip down the decolletage. There is a single red thread - just one, exactly one, never more than a stitch thick - running up along the left leg, where there has been a slit, seemingly careless, almost as if the dress was just finished ten minutes ago. (Maybe it was.)

She wears opera-length gloves, though perhaps bridal gauntlets is more accurate. A single silver ring anchors them. The fabric shades like clouds on a horizon, white at the hands and a dark slate gray at the top.

Nori has rubies in her earrings and a slim leather choker. She is also wearing red shoes - a slight wedge heel in what are otherwise presented as slippers. The color is dark and rich. There is a single solitary sequin on the back of each.

Nori makes no noise as she walks. So it may surprise Sucy when Nori passes near her. "Psst," she says, without looking, and then keeps walking. (She is certainly 'on' tonight, but that projection of mystery may be her job.) Her destination is the opposing pole: KOZUE, near Baurollo.

Her lips quirk up at the last of Baurollo's remark. Her own lip color is simpler - two hues - like a black cherry. Her nails match.

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

Baurollo gets the same look as before. She's not unflappable either, but she's been coached by the daughter of his own top model. There's this almost delicate sniff, then she smiles, "Humiliating? Just because we don't have a Ja-pan yet to match France and it's French Bread?"

It's like she's using this pun and analogy to dismiss his insult, by using something as trivial as bread, "Ah Baurollo-san. I don't have time to feel humiliated by something like that. I'm far too busy making certain that one day we end up on those lofty runways."

She gives her head this light shake as she crosses her arms, "I guess your 'destroy' has changed to 'support'." As she cites the journalism from her debut show, "And I admire a man who can admit he was wrong." Even though he didn't- saying that he wishes for Japan to have its own brands is acquiescence in her mind, "After all, you wouldn't be here if you just thought you were going to sift through the ashes, hrm?"

It's only then that she takes her attention off of him to Setsuna, "Is that what you think?" She takes a few steps, approaching, then raises a hand up high since Setsuna is so much taller, shifting aside one of her green bangs with a fingertip, it's like she's doing this to get a better look at her eyes. "Those are eyes that look like they've seen a Red Future to me. Are you sure they can't outshine her on their own?" There's no deeper meaning in this exchange. She's simply flirting with her, lightly.

She still has her hand there when Nori walks up. "Hey Nori-chan. Looking good. Did you know your junior-senior was going to be here tonight? You told her you were coming right Setsuna-chan?" She says to Setsuna as her hand falls away from her hair, "Well now that we're here, the two of you should have a good time together."

She steps up to Nori, putting a hand on her bare shoulder as she leans in and whispers by her ear, "We're expected to mingle you know. If you're having an attack of confidence, then you you should stick by Setsuna-chan over there." This is cruel in it's own way, asking one to be confident while alongside Setsuna Meioh, "Let her be the senior-senior tonight and follow her lead."

Her hand glides away and she only takes a couple steps away to finally greet that familiar face, "Shizuru-chan!" She doesn't even seem to notice the Director exists, "Is that you? I didn't think you'd be here tonight after that terrible spill you took on the slopes. Did my offer of the finest kimono you'd ever own finally entice you?" She finally seems like she's noticing the man beside her and she looks between them in feigned innocence that doesn't look too innocent, "Oh am I interrupting something?"

<Pose Tracker> Rinji Sakurai [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Fashionably late, Rinji has found her way to the hosted event within the Shinjuku Capital Ward. She is familiar with the role of playing the wealthey financiers daughter, and she dresses the part with ease. Rinji is wearing a floor length black dress with a shimmering sheen to it, her arms bare save for a forearm length set of laced gloves. Around her neck is a silver necklace with a shimmering jade piece set into it. The Ohtori students makeup is spot on flawless, carefully administered to show off and accent the delicate features of her visage. Her lips painted a bright red, the only flash of color about her save for the stone in her necklace. Her long black hair is plaited and falls down her back, tied with a white bow to contrast her dress and the raven locks' own lustrous shine.

Clutched in one hand is a small leather bound notepad, with a smartphone tucked into an outside flap on the cover. As she walks she places her feet one before the other, an audible click sounding with every step from the heels that add to her already considerable height. All in all, she may be a bit of an eye-turner, even if her dress doesn't seem from a well known designer. She could well model!

Her hazel eyes scour the crowd as she slowly paces around the edge of the assembled, chin held high and proud. There is no nervous fidgeting from Rinji, only the gentle drum of her fingers along the notepad. She seems to potentially be looking for someone, though her eyes don't alight on their target.

<Pose Tracker> Sucy Manbavaran [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53NqvQoK1iA

Sucy the Hungery Witch finds in the buffet a delightful spread of both foreign and domestic delights for both the visitors and the locals! She loads up a plate, of appetizers, small sandwiches with exotic meats and olives, crackers with cheeses and fruits and spreads to eat them with, and what appear to be pork buns with a variety of fillings.

Sucy piles her plate high until she can pile no more, then, confident her cowl provides the cover to get away with it, puts a pork bun in her mouth to carry too.

Unfortunately, once she takes the bite and goes to turn around, a voice addresses her... by name?! She turns to address her addresser

It's Setsuna! The girl she had met recently under circumstances best not discussed in public, and she looks... radiant! Picture-esque, She looks like a model. Is... she a model?

Sucy just freezes at the thought, and when Setsuna starts asking her questions she stays frozen, only able to answer them reflexively in her own head...

"What brings you to the gala?" My plate... it's so full...

"The cut of that coat, what label is it?" I... don't recall... the tag is on the inside and it's one piece and... Sucy wants to reply, but she's not used to people recognizing her, and her mouth is full of pork bun and...

"Psst" a voice behind her makes itself heard, and though she can't see the person speaking for her cowl blocks her peripheral vision entirely, she backs up slowly from the friendly Inifinity student and in her embarrassment takes her chances with the slightly more mysterious stranger, in hopes that she'll lead /away/ from awkward situations.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"Yasutomi-san," Tsuru greets pleasantly. She stands alone at the edge of the party, like a feather caught in a chain like fence. She is a wan presence, with large dark eyes and small white sandals. Something about her placid narrowness feels unnatural, even dangerous. Instinctively, the railway bodyguards move forward protectively, but the elder businessman waves them off.

Tsuru's lips spread subtly. "To what do we owe the pleasure of your company tonight?" she asks.

"I am visiting my own building," Yasutomi points out, aggression covering raw nerves. Yasutomi is a handsome old fellow, with big politican teeth and broad shoulders. He towers over most people, and certainly over Tsuru. "I like what you've done with the place. It's going to add a lot of property value."

"It pains me for our first impression to be one of disagreement," Tsuru gives a humble-half bow. "But this is no longer your building. Yet if there is anything I can do to help you accept this, any compromise I might be able to offer..."

"I didn't get this far by compromise," Yasutomi snaps.

Tsuru is unblinking. "How did you get this far, Yasutomi-san?"

Yasutomi throws back the rest of his drink, and hisses the pleasure of it through his teeth. She is a strange girl, this Tsuru. At once direct and inscrutable. "You'll see," he says simply.

As the most recent song fades, the singer raises his hand and loosely snaps his fingers a few times, the microphone amplifying the sound. "Taisez-vous, taisez-vous," he calls, in that disrespectful manner that nobility have always tolerated best from their artists. "((Yeah, yeah,))" he says in English. "((Shut up, see, good.))" A ripple of laughter at this affrontery goes through the crowd; even those who only speak Japanese understand such simple English. He continues in that lingua franca. "((I want to make thanks to Tsuru for having us down here tonight, to play for you.))" He holds out a hand, and the crowd parts to reveal Tsuru herself, who had entered the floor unnoticed save for those near her. She wears her usual plain white kimono, slim and simple, with the shocking red wedge of color on her lower lip, and the subtly ornate updo around her red comb. Yasutomi steps aside uncomfortably. Tsuru bows fondly to the singer, hands on her lap, and he returns more grandly, sweeping an arm out far to the side as applause rises again. "D'accord, d'accord," he tries to fight down the noise agreeably. "((Have a drink, have a kiss. Be beautiful. That's all god wants of you.))"

With a dramatic snap off to the side, the singer ignites his band like a matchstick.

SOUNDTRACK CHANGE Ta fete - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5IgCZ6LXWE

  • * *

Yumi lunges for her walkie-talkie, but a large hand catches her by the scruff and hauls her against the opposite wall of her tech panel. The orange-jumpsuited man unholsters a previously unseen pistol and presses it firmly to her forehead.

"Behave," he says in a measured tone, as his compatriot sits down at the console.

Yumi whimpers.

  • * *

"That's the direct line?" the leader asks. "Yeah. Looks right." His jumpsuit is unzipped to the waist, the arms tied like a belt. "It needs to keep sending a signal. Three seconds at most, that's all the interruption you get. Have everything ready before you switch it to the repeater."

The wall of this subbasement hallway is nothing but colored wires, and two of the other yakuza are working on stripping them, open toolboxes scattered on the floor.

"What then?" the man kneeling next to the security panel asks.

"Then?" The leader makes a scissor motion with his fingers. "/Everything/."

  • * *

As driving music pulses beneath his feet, a security guard wearily climbs corrugated metal stairs. Unlike the usual mall-cop security forces of the building, he's specially hired event security. Ex-police, with powerful forearms and an easy way with the revolver at his waist. Doesn't make these stairs easier.

As he reaches the top, he pushes open the door, and before him spreads the concrete roof. Immediately a powerful wind makes him shield his eyes. The whirling wings of an idling helicopter stand before him, and body-armored men in tactical masks are dropping from its doorway onto the ground.

With a muted curse, the security guard throws himself back into the stairwell, and several bullets crack into the doorframe a moment later. Tumbling down the stairs, he lands with a crunch on the thick side of his revolver. With a loud cry of pain, he stumbles to his feet, limping down the next flight. Depressing his walkie talkie's transmitter, he receives a blast of blank static. "Damn it," he says, as he hears the stairs above rattling with rushing boots. Drawing his revolver, he fires it one-handed above him. An answering rattle of autofire sends him to the ground, glassy-eyed.

  • * *

Shoving open the double-doors of the service entrance, Tetsu plunges onto the dance floor, momentarily blinded by the dim and sound. Pausing, he searches the crowd for blue, and when he finds it, he shoulders his way through an impromptu dance circle that has started near the stage. People are laughing, lights pulsing. From the massive windows behind the stage, a dimming twilight glimmers above the black teeth of Tokyo's skyline. In this light strings of pearls gleam like teeth, and vice versa.

Kozue sees Tetsu push through the opposite side of Baurollo's group from her, his lupine face grim. Walking right up to her, he seizes her wrist roughly, not yet pulling.

"We need to talk," he says zealously. "In private. /Right/ now."

<Pose Tracker> Rinji Sakurai [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Rinji continues her regal walk around the crowd. Her eyes light on Yasutomi and Tsuru. Much like a scavenger for gossip, the elegant young woman paces around instead of approaching directly, stealing the occasional surreptious glance in the direction of that heated discussion. Neither were familiar to her, which is not a terrible surprise. She was not the social butterfly her parents were, for obvious reasons. Her fingers tighten slightly on her notepad as she glances down at it, removing a fine golden cased pen from it to click once and examine the tip before clicking it again absently and tucking it back into her notepad. Her lifeline of communication, she can be a little protective of the book. The display of checking the tip also allowed her to amble closer to the heated discussion, hopefully avoiding drawing the attention of Tsuru and Yasutomi. But it does bring her nearer to the crowd of potentially also curious partygoers!

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Akamira arrives on wings of Nori. The muse cuts an awed wake through a sea of gala-goers, demanding notice with effortless-seeming poise. Her presence alone creates a buffer of shuffling patrons, so that her silent passage is followed by the sussurus of very expensive shoes. If she can manage it, Setsuna catches Nori's attention. In passing a conversation may not be possible, but she'll mouth a very easy-to-read 'beautiful' to the young woman, nodding deep and sustained respect.

Then KOZUE gets involved, as she so loves to do, and Setsuna Meioh braces herself internally. She holds perfectly still at that flick of her bangs, eyes wary before and after their unveiling. They narrow at the words 'Red Future'. KOZUE's stirred something, it's apparent, but exactly what is not. She doesn't shift her gaze back to Nori, even when the Aohime muse greets her, not until that hand falls. That's when it feels safe.

"Beautiful," she repeats so all can hear, looking to Akamira's premiere model with sincerity -- and no small measure of relief -- in eyes and voice. "Junior-senior is the only term for me tonight, by comparison, Nori-san." She turns to face Nori and makes a more formal gesture of recognition in how she dips her head.

It's deeper than what she gave KOZUE, though that's probably just that awkward sincere politeness she's known for. When the blue-haired girl is away, though, she gives Nori a /look/ that is pretty universal: 'Eesh.'

Sucy's reactions are another thing altogether. Setsuna is starkly reminded of the Christmas gala, when adorable little Madoka got similarly overwhelmed by questions, and the senshi kicks herself mentally. She makes note to seek out Yumi later so she can perhaps convey an apology. She can't help a little regretful sigh in the wake of that coat, though. Regretful, and covetous...

She notes the entrance of a black-clad young woman with the fashion acument and bearing that suggests similar experience, or at least potential, and files the face away for later. Perhaps Tsuru-san would appreciate being pointed the way of undiscovered talent.

Speak of the...

AoAka's headmistress, suffuse with her own queer elegance, appears, and Setsuna finds herself drawn. The Guardian of Time and lifelong observer of humanity wants her curiosity satisfied. She finds herself beside the dark-gowned girl from earlier, and gives her hair a second look. "Pardon if I'm intruding, but your braiding is exquisite. I noticed earlier. Do you walk for anyone?"

A disruption of a less elegant kind rattles through gowns and tuxedos, but her attention is on her new conversational partner, and her back is to the disturbance.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The American director's eyes widen. "((Oh, wow, I'm sorry. It'll look like I was hitting on a married woman. Not that I was.))" He winks. "((Unless you liked it.))"

Extending his hand, the American smiles at Shizuru. "Martin Scorseeza," he introduces himself. "((Maybe you've heard of me.))"

Baurollo's bushy white brows furrow at Kozue. "You know very well why I'm here," he tells Kozue. "My muse, my star, my Stella..." Fondness for Amanogawa and disdain for Kozue mix in his tone. "Your support... perhaps it is my destroy? These things live so closely. All I can tell you is that I wish for you and your Tsuru to find your rightful place."

When Kozue switches to Scorseeza and Shizuru, Baurollo is just as happy to let her go. Scorseeza's eyes widen. "((Whoa, gee. Japan really has some beauties, huh? We're just talkin', though.))" He jabs a thumb alongside his shoulder at Shizuru. "((She's, ah, married.))"

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Nori looks at Kozue and smiles a little. "Thank you," she tells Kozue, before a hand comes on her shoulder and then Nori's /own/ hand comes up to rest over Kozue's during that whisper.

What she whispers back is, "That sounds so ordinary, though. You're teasing me~." Her voice has a weirdly reverbatory quality at that level of intimacy, but afterwards her hand goes off and Kozue goes off to approach Shizuru. Nori looks after her momentarily, smiling a bit, perhaps curious to see if it's Kozue who's going to get hit with a naginata this time.

Hey, it could happen! Again.

To Sucy, she says with a conversational ease, "That was KOZUE. Isn't she gorgeous? Of course, the sun always bears you down, and she does love the sun... It's not for me, though. You seem to me as if you understand that." A smile to her, dark and red. "Do you know the court of Eve?"

What? Well, maybe she was misheard. The music rises, covering many things. Nori hums to herself for a moment, before she looks to Setsuna, looking up to her. She reaches out to press her hand on the back of Setsuna's. SHE might be surprised to find out that Nori feels cool and a little springy - Kozue has no doubt learned this years ago during casual high-fives and assorted Ohtori pattycake endurance festivals.

"I know, but she's dear to me too. You know, you remind me of someone -" But then she turns her head when Setsuna seems to notice someone, and Nori's eyes, the only touch of blue in her outfits for the last... how long has it been? ... light up.

<Pose Tracker> Rinji Sakurai [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Words! Rinjis lips turn upwards into a polite smile as she turns her head to look over to Setuna. Her hand splays fingers delicately across her breast at the compliments, and she inclines her head with a clearly thankful movement. Still silent, she holds up a single finger for Setsuna to indicate a moment. She delicately takes two fingers, and then taps her own throat twice before one painted nail indicates towards the notepad. With her little charade complete, she then withdraws her gold pen as the notepad is flicked open with a practiced ease.

The pens shining form dances along the page with alacrity that comes from practice, her kanji flawless with calligraphy so clearly practiced. Ever the model to be shown off, Rinji had spent countless hours of her youth perfecting both her image, and her way of communication.

With a click, the pen is slipped into its holster on the notepad and Rinji swivels with a casual grace to stand alongside Setsuna instead of facing her. This allows her to hold up the notepad instead of handing it over, and also gives their meeting just a slightly more informal air even if the black clad-Rinji keeps her posture formal.

Written on the notepad is her answer to Setsuna. 'You have my thanks, I learned from someone very talented. I do not walk for anyone, and you flatter me to suggest I'd be suited for the task.'

While Setsuna is given the chance to read her message, Rinjis eyes flick outwards and take the chance to read the crowd around them, especially the duo that had stolen her attention earlier.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Shizuru lowers her hand once the American's eyes widen and he responds to her, dipping her head in acknowledgement. Calmly, pleasantly, she replies, "((My, it would look that way, wouldn't it?))" She doesn't bother trying to sound surprised. "((Of course you weren't; it could've been terribly improper. Ah, how would I explain it to him...?))" She doesn't look to be taking offense, though she doesn't bother clarifying that she's only engaged.

Her fiance is useful for once. Perhaps she'll be pleasant to him.

Shizuru takes his hand with her right for a delicate handshake on her part, her hand given the softness of someone who's never done hard labor, someone more suited to tea ceremony than such pursuits.

"((Oh my!))" Shizuru answers, and smiles back. "((It's a pleasure to meet you, Scorseeza-san. And of course I have; your movies are known in Japan, as well.)"

She's very polite, very pleasant... But there's something always distant about her. Perhaps it's just some kind of mystique?

But Kozue is right there and she turns towards her with a faint laugh. "A bit of injury can't keep me away from fashion," Shizuru replies pleasantly. "But I'm certainly considering it. I can't just ignore the happenings of this brand with such an offer, hm?"

Scorceeza deems Shizuru off-limits and the high schooler--the apparently /married/ high schooler--bows slightly. "((Japan has many things to recommend us, Scorceeza-san. I do hope that you enjoy your time here.))"

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

The singer finishes and addresses the crowd. Kozue's expression looks mildly amused by the singer speaks to them in English that even her terrible skills can understand. "Where did she find that guy?" She wonders aloud her eyes searching for Tsuru and falling upon Tsuru in her white kimono- just as the band ignites into their next number.

At Baurollo's statement, Kozue sounds, amused, "How... faithful of you." Rightful place though? All she gives is this shake of her head and this one last look. "Our rightful place. And by that you mean... forever beneath you?" Like she can't accept their rightful place is beneath them. "Well, good luck with that. I never settle for being a bottom." It's a crass rejoinder but she hardly minds slinging it at him.

Nori on the other hand... the moment Nori's hand touches her shoulder, she stops, "Am I?" She says in a coy tone, her lips a wry smirk. "Don't get too full of yourself."

And then onwards to Shizuru as she takes a step up, to take her hand and look at her ring. "My such a pretty ring... is this the only barrier between you and her?" She looks over Shizuru's hand for a moment, as if seeing how the light catches upon the rock, "How shameful of you Shizuru-chan, not to tell him you're still in high school... what kind of example are you setting for our classmates by being so scandalous?" It's not really directed at Shizuru, however if she insulted the man outright, Shizuru certainly wouldn't thank her for it.

There's a shape coming. It's familiar... and yet she's too occupied to acknowledge him yet. Then there's a hand that latches onto her wrist. Tetsu might notice it, that moment when she tenses. That moment where she fights off reflex to do what she usually does when a man grabs her wrist. Even if she had, she knows well his prowess... on multiple levels. And so after a moment of collecting herself she gives him this look where her eyes say 'This had better be good', and yet by his grim expression she knows it must be. She gives this apologetic look to the guests. "If you'll excuse me. When he gets enthusiastic like this... well I find myself having trouble refusing."

And with that he lets him lead her wherever they need to go. Though her other hand flexes at her side. And once they're in private, and only then, does she say levelly. "Alright. What is it?" There's nothing in her other hand, but by the way her palm is curled up, it's like it could be gripping some phantom weapon at any moment. It's not like she suspects anything specific is wrong, but she knows the day could come where Tetsu learns of her betrayal and...

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Again Setsuna holds still when contact with her is sought. She presses into Nori's touch with the back of her hand, a subtle thing but supportive, warm against cool. Nori leaves things half spoken, and the senshi wondering. She watches after the muse and her striking white attire, lingering on that red thread. Then she's gone to Tsuru's audience and her encounter with a fellow crowdgoer.

Setsuna Meioh is an attentive sort, which Rinji quickly discovers. She follows the gestures easily enough, and nods to that 'wait' finger, all polite curiosity. The line between her eyebrows clears, she's getting an idea, as Rinji begins to write, and waits with her customary patient watchfulness.

Calligraphic finery rewards her, and those evergreen eyebrows rise in appreciation. She adjust to meet the change of posture so reading is a shared thing between them, mirroring that formal stance. She takes her time with Rinji's side of the conversation. It's worth it to admire that hand of hers.

"It struck me the moment I saw you, your poise. And choice of garment." Both are worth mentioning. "Your kanji are as elegant as your hair." Setsuna smiles; it's a small thing, but not without friendliness. "Have you considered modeling professionally, then? I claim no special relationship, but I could see about introducing you to the evening's hostess." Her gaze flicks back to Tsuru, and the man she's... conversing with?

Facing off against. Setsuna can pick up on that. It's not hidden. She keeps an ear on things as she looks back to Rinji.

<Pose Tracker> Sucy Manbavaran [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

The green hooded figure follows Nori like the children of Hamelin followed their piper. Now that she's able to fully see Nori, the enchantment of her mysterious radiance is undeniable even to the stomach with legs that is Sucy Manbavaran.

Not used to casual conversation under the best of circumstances, and her mouth still equipped with its bun, Sucy nods along at Nori's assessment of Kozue. There did seem to be an underlying cruelty to her speech Sucy had heard in the lips of lesser evils like Hannah and Barbara, but given that her suggestion was to go and hang out with Setsuna, Sucy didn't give it much weight. But she's outside the cutthroat society of models, for all she knows this was a silky kiss of death? The witch is glad she seems to be beneath this person's notice.

The pork bun in her mouth has been receding slowly but surely for some time, and when she's finally reaching its is when Nori addresses her about something called the Court of Eve... It sounds... vaguely familiar, but there are so many magical locations with names like that, she'd have to research it before she can answer.

Sucy swallows the dumpling and the music starts, and Nori's attention flits over to Setsuna,

Sucy follows, still silent unable to answer the queries of both girls, and waits apprehensively at being brought back to the scene of her earlier escape.

Setsuna goes off to see Tsuru and Sucy feels a little lost in all the goings on, but stays nearby.

"I'm not one for sunlight." she says quietly, not sure if Nori is able to listen with the swell of music, she wonders if it's a question that needs an answer, or whether her swarthy, rakish features speak for themselves.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"Nori." Tsuru approaches her top model, but her eyes are elsewhere, casting over her shoulder at Yasutomi. "If you would," Tsuru says, and for a long few seconds ther is nothing else. Her voice trails off, her eyes unfocused. She is thinking.

"Please accompany me," she says, finally looking at Nori. "I have concerns on your behalf." After a moment, she adds, "Where is Kozue?"

At the sink in the men's room, a man is carefully replacing his second contact, when a long-fingered hand digs into his shoulder and spins him around. "Beat it, squinty," Tetsu growls, and the tuxedoed man lets a protest die to a squeak, rushing out of the bathroom. With his other hand, Tetsu drags Kozue past him so he is between her and the door and lets her go, though her wrist is now half-bruised from the trip.

"Somethin' real bad is happening, sweetness," Tetsu says. "And we both just ran out of time for me to hear some answers."

The same doors Tetsu entered from bursts open again, and beetle-like soldiers pour through. They wear no markings, their black kevlar and tactical vests making them all seem identical, their helmets and the facemasks beneath reducing their identities to a pair of eyes each.

At first only those closest notice, and they have no idea how to react. Then a single shot runs out, and the singer halts his song. The soldiers fan out professionally, shouting down the panicked cries of men and women who have never had so much as a finger pushed in their face. Glass shatters somewhere in the room as one of the display cases is struck with a baton for intimidation purposes.

"On your knees!" a soldier bellows at Sucy, submachinegun pointed at her. It's a female voice, though the armor gave no hint of that. Foreign, as well. "Hands behind your head! Now, now!"

One of the servers makes a bolt for it, and a passing soldier casually withdraws his sidearm and fires, dispatching the young man with a single shot. Immediately the celebrities and models nearby drop to their knees, many bending miserably and crying already.

All doors save the soldiers' entry point are bolted now, save the two bathrooms, which have none. One of the soldiers positions themself there, and two are guarding the entryway. Through that lone means of ingress walk a row of armed men in ski masks. Their guns are much more varied, mostly cheap shotguns and pistols. They wear normal streeth clothing and leather jackets, and there are about ten of them. They join in in pacifying the crowd, and start stalking around as if looking for something. The most confident of them is the only one with a red ski mask, and he strides into the middle of the room and fires another shot, demanding silence.

"This is a robbery," he says. "But it's already a murder too, and it will be a lot more if any of you pampered twits act up."

In the men's room, Kozue can hear most of what's being said, and the picture is remarkably clear just from that. "I don't know who the toy soldiers are," Tetsu says. "The rest are Yamaguchi, but even I don't know what they're here for. I do know that as soon as they see you, you get a bullet in the skull. So how about you tell me, right now, why you don't deserve it."

Stress has a vein pulsing on Tetsu's head, and he constantly shifts his weight, adrenaline burning up during his inaction. "Because from where I stand," he expels, "you said you were with us, and you threw us under a damn bus for that freaky weaver of yours."

Outside, Tsuru has fallen to her knees, hands behind her head. "Nori," she says softly. "Do not show them your gifts. Whatever happens... do you understand?" Her voice is calm. "Better to die here than have them understand how precious Nori Ankou could be to them."

<Pose Tracker> Rinji Sakurai [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Rinjis smile widens towards Setsuna at all the compliments, and she briefly play-fans herself with her notepad as she plays the part of blushing at the kind words, her first informal break from character.

The silent woman with Setsuna gives the words the weight they deserve, looking in the direction of Tsuru as well as she mirrors Setsunas interest in Tsuru and the man she is with. Rinjis golden pen comes up, and she taps it ever so slightly against her chin thoughtfully. The gesture is calculated, not just because she is actually thinking but also to provide that visual little hint of what is going on behind her painted features.

Her hazel eyes turn towards Setsuna as she smiles invitingly over towards the woman next to her before drawing her notepad back to herself. This time, she writes with her body turned enough that Setsuna can follow the 'conversation' as it appears on paper. 'An introduction would be lovely. I had not put thought into modeling; you have my interest.'

Rinji doesn't move right away, allowing Setsuna the time to read and digest her written word. While still formal as any good daughter should be at such a haute event, Rinji is warming to Setsuna in her posture, a subtle thing in how she stands.

Doors are bursted through, and men with guns enter. The gunfire brings an immediate gasp from Rinji and a startled jolt as her head shoots up. Her notepad is clamped shut reflexively by the hand holding the spine, and her pen gripped tightly in hand. She sees soldiers starting out through the crowd, she sees a server gunned down, display cases shattered, and... Is that Sucy, with a gun pointed at her?

Rinji doesn't waste a moment, the Ohtori student sinking down to her knees as she brings one hand up over her head holding her notepad. The other starts to rise, but pauses briefly as it passes the gemstone on her neck. Her fingers go to it, gripping it for just a moment, before that hand joins the first and extends over her head as she complies with the soldiers subduing the room.

Silence is something Rinji has plenty to give.

<Pose Tracker> Sucy Manbavaran [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

"A robbery..."

The cowled witch is glad for the simple illusion spells that allowed her to keep her accessories and personal satchel invisible, so it doesn't look like she's holding a small sack of valuable perfumes during a fashion show. Perhaps going from model to model selling them like a hooded orphan... At the command, in the face of a submachine gun, Sucy does as she's told without much reaction.

She puts another bun in her mouth "for the road" and drops the plate, letting the other food drop to the floor, which she laments sadly. She'd prepared for this party for not eating the rest of the day. Her stomach grumbles in sudden protest, and she flexes it in her crouch to try to quiet it down.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

She's nodding to Rinji's agreement when the doors to the ballroom slam open to admit terror. Even to her extraordinary perceptions, it happens quickly, so very quickly.

Setsuna whirls in place at the first bang -- that's just the doors.

Garnet eyes fly wide, irises tiny and lonely in all that white.

More bangs sound, one by one, but her eyes can't get any wider, they're already painful, straining. Her mouth drops open, nothing comes out but air, and then she sucks more in with great gasping need.

The ice in her limbs shatters when a soldier levels his killing implement at Sucy Manbavaran. Setsuna clenches her teeth around a desperate shout.

Instead she moves.

She falls, her impressive height toppling like an evergreen, directly toward the threatened girl. Bare arms wide, she catches at Sucy and wraps them tight, turning as she goes to catch the force of their mutual landing against a braced knee.

Furnaces shaped like eyes burn at the man. Setsuna presents as much of her body as she can, and hides Sucy's at the same time. She says nothing, just fills her face with the unforgiving fury of a Guardian awakened.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Shizuru watches Kozue for a moment and shakes her head. "My. How horrible of me." She immediately gets the message from Kozue though, and is not unappreciative, though there's little point in what the other girl tried to do. This is a useful friend to cultivate, a potentially helpful contact for the future, so despite her misgivings...

Well, Kozue is gone in short order, and Shizuru glances after her. "Of course," the proper young woman answers, considering the man with her. She has her doubts. However... Their conversation does not resume for the moment. Shizuru's attention flickers to the soldiers from those doors, with no markings, identical attire, identical weapon... And a shot rings out. In that moment, as th soldiers start pointing their gun...

As she downs her martini in one go and drops the glass, Shizuru contemplates uttering one word. One word that would lay utter waste to this entire party, would completely demolish the men and women coming here for... who knows what reason, would stain what was left of the floors with blood.

Shizuru sighs. She has to be /subtle/. Not even pulling her mask and her weapon would be enough right now. So, bored to the end even as one of those soldiers murders a server in front of them...

Shizuru Fujino kneels, looking to those strange men who are looking for something. A robbery. A murder. Pampered twits.

Hands behind her head, sitting straight and looking more bored than afraid, Shizuru sighs again. "How bothersome."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Nori doesn't have any lingering comebacks for Kozue as she drifts off to Shizuru, nor for the departing Setsuna. Sucy gets a little more, like a smile or an afterimage in the seaborne mist. She says to her, "People think it's wonderful. I suppose it's got its good sides, but..."

Her attention goes to the incoming Tsuru.

She speaks to her but doesn't look. A small part of Nori pouts at that. It isn't her lips. "Oh, certainly-" She takes a step towards Tsuru then, before pausing at the mention of Kozue.

"I don't... know?" Nori says, before



Nori is astonished, and for a moment she is beautiful in that surprise, but she jingles with that beauty as she ducks down low. Hands behind her head.

Her eyes turn towards Tsuru. "... I... understand," she answers her, with that same clear and easily-comprehensibly heard out echo; the floor making it colder, flatter than usual.

Nori's fingers curl in the back of her hair tightly. She thinks of Batiste, in so far as she thinks of anything but this present, tense moment.

<Pose Tracker> Sucy Manbavaran [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

Sucy Manbavaran is caught in Setsuna's sudden guardianship It all happened so quickly.

After a second of surprise... yes, she knows this person, and unlike last time, her arrival to save the day is entirely appropriate.

This time, Sucy /is/ grateful, and her muscles detense a bit as if relieved, but... she doesn't know what's going to happen next, so... she rolls with the roll and goes where Setsuna guides her, trying not to make any sudden movements of her own.

Sucy just hopes that Setsuna is as good at getting out these kinds of situations as she is at dealing with bloodsucking tree ghosts (whether anyone asked her to or not... all those branches gone... Focus. Now's not the time...) .

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

Despite her wrist feeling half-bruised and feeling like she only almost tripped over her hem three times, Kozue only winces, but she doesn't rub that wrist or an ankle. Her other hand simply just stays curled in the same motion. Her head sort of half tilts to the side, as if she's listening to Tetsu, and not listening to him, because she's trying to hear what's going on outside. Her head turns to look over her shoulder.

Immediately she understands the sounds of invasion. It reminds her of not so long ago. An island surrounded, no way out. How many people could she really take on if she had to? Within, a certain anxiety builds. But outwardly perhaps the only sign is her quickening breathing every time a soldier bellows, every time glass shatters. "SEARRS maybe." Kozue answers Tetsu on who he speculates the toy soldiers to be. As he lays out her certain fate, giving her a chance to exlain. "Why... why I don't deserve it?"

Her eyes level upon Tetsu and for just a moment he might get the impression he's not the most powerful person in the room. He's a guy who's probably been in hundreds of fights his whole life and this little model is staring through him like that doesn't matter.

"For starters, because I'm the best you've ever had... because I make your life more interesting. Otherwise you would have just left me there the moment you found out..." The wrist he was previously grabbing moves up, as she filters those fingers through her hair, "...but that's not enough for you is it? That's not going to be enough for you to betray your bosses, your brothers."

She doesn't know much about Yakuza structure, but she at least knows some things, as much as any teenager imagined them to be, "Tsuru's not someone who can be caged... or controlled the way you want her to be. You look at her and you see this freaky weaver in a kimono with no business sense. I see her and know that she has so much more to offer me... or you, than any amount of money, and power can and somehow this building fits into that. You wouldn't believe me if I told you the rest... the things I've seen. What she can do. Or even just..." She's quiet for a moment, "...what I see in her beyond what she can offer me."

She decides to take a gamble now, while they're in private. While noone else can see. Tsuru didn't have time to offer Kozue the same advice as Nori received.

She holds up a palm, "So let me just show you a magic trick so you can get some inkling of what you're dealing with." The temperature in the room drops a degree or two colder. The lighting flickers briefly. What materializes in her hand is a dark sickle with a wicked hook, chained to a weight which she doesn't let hit the floor, she grips that chain casually with her other hand before gravity takes it's toll.

She does nothing threatening with it, only display it in front of him. "You're probably wondering where I hid this in the gown I'm wearing. Don't bother. Now I know you're a smart guy Tetsu. Way smarter than you let on. Tsuru /knows/ how useful for you are to us. You help us out here, help /me/ out- noone needs to know you did, and I promise it'll be remembered."

COMBAT: Kozue transforms into HiME Kozue!

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"Nori," Tsuru says softly. But just then, one of the soldiers walks by and spies her. Striding up, he grabs a handful of her hair and comb and starts dragging her across the floor. Tsuru stumbles as she goes, losing a sandal a few yards from Nori. When they reach the area near the door where the soldiers are most dense, Tsuru is thrown roughly against one of her own glass cases, which rattles as she strikes it. Hair askew and kimono in disarray, Tsuru stays where she was thrown, making no effort at first to right herself.

The men in ski masks--all Japanese, in contrast to the foreign soldiers--seem to be patrolling for someone else. One of them stops by Nori and grabs her shoulder, pointing a pistol at her head. "Hey! I found Akamira!" he calls, then returns his attention to Nori. "Where's the other one? Huh? Where's Aohime?"

The ski masks are starting to circulate, demanding jewelry, wallets, and purses. One holds a sack out to Rinji. "You have any rings? Money? What you got?" When he receives no reply, he lifts his shotgun and aims it at her. "Hey! I'm talking to you!"

"Let's have it," another ski mask orders Shizuru. He's just gotten Martin Scorseesa's wallet. The director had blubbered quite a bit during that. If the thug was smarter, he'd have asked for a signature instead.

A passing soldier stops, noticing Shizuru, and does a double-take. Stepping forward, he puts a hand on the skimask's chest, only to have it promptly shoved away. "What's wrong with you?" the skimask demands.

"Leave her. We're taking this one." He makes meaningful eye contact with Shizuru, and nods a slight encouragement. "Come on."

<Pose Tracker> Rinji Sakurai [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The silent Rinjis hands are holding above her head her notepad, with her cellphone hidden into a front flap and the golden pen tucked into it. She hadn't budged an inch since the men started circulating. When the man with a sack and shotgun interrogates her, she shakes her head quickly, and holds her hands out to the side. When he aims the gun at her she holds her hands as level as she can and ever so carefully sets her things on the floor before she takes one hand and covers her mouth purposefully.

Her imploring hazel eyes look up to him, as Rinji reaches down and offers the golden pen to the man. The only other piece of jewellery on her is the pewter necklace around her neck with the small jade stone set into it... but Rinji is not offering that up. Her mind races, devising a plan if he tries to go for it. Too many men with guns, and too many innocent bystanders for a fight. She has never really even tried to take on anything like this before, and she is far too concerned with collateral damage... But no one is going to take Terpsichore from her. That necklace isn't going anywhere.

Not without a fight, at least.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

The brown-haired young woman remains on the floor in her fine kimono, not even particularly uncomfortable in this position. The reason she looks unafraid is that she /is/ unafraid. But it's not a particularly challenging demeanor; she doesn't seek to press her pride against these ski masks and soldiers.

She looks at the ski mask with an almost expressionless face, waiting for him to say whatever he's going to say, in the same way that she dispassionately watched Martin Scorseesa lose his wallet. In the end, people of varying nationalities are the same.

"How heartwarming," she murmurs tonelessly, not moving. Did she forget? Or is she fine with being shot? It could be either.

The soldier passes by and Shizuru glances at him next. "Hmmm?" she asks through their infighting. She meets his eyes with her red before his nod.

"Ah," Shizuru says, lowering her hands. "Whatever will happen to me?"

She looks almost pleasant as she goes along, as if resigned to whatever awful thing is to come. That's not resignation? Oh, well. She's eccentric. She gets to be, because she's rich.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

The tall senshi makes a protective cage of her body. Sucy is quite secure, snug, shielded by legs and arms and back. Quietly, into the fine fabric of that great hood, she murmurs, "I've got you, Sucy-chan. And I have only ever failed once. Never again."

Unyielding titanium wrapped in a gentle touch: that is Setsuna Meioh, in voice and body. Her eyes never leave the gun.

The gleaming knot at the back of her head hangs askew, the careful hairdo shaken half apart. Her Lip Rod slides in its hiding place there, but catches again and holds, so close.

Impossibly far.

Her arms stay right where they are.

All around, the men hunt the crowd, and their hands come up quite full. Setsuna follows the action with ears and peripheral vision, tallying their sins for later reckoning. Tsuru. Nori. The girl with the beautiful handwriting. Shizuru.

She watches the man with the gun.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Tsuru talks to her again and is then held, thrown over - dragged - shedding a sandal - and when Nori sees that sandal it all becomes real to her. Like when rain becomes a snowflake, jagged, unique, and doomed.

It's a crushing and leaden unfairness. The most Nori can think is: at least I won't end up like the Siren of the Grand Banks. Surely Batiste would tend to me that much. She's grabbed and a gun is pointed at her head ands he looks at the man who may well be about to kill her.

Her eyes tear up. Just a little.

-- and it strikes her; throwing the burning embers that her dream of a gorgeous future had already scorched down to, deep in a heart that struggles against emotional gravity.

Things snap into position: They don't know where Kozue is; Kozue, of course, has her own powers, her own potencies. Tsuru didn't want her to reveal herself. This says nothing about what Kozue may be up to.

Nori sniffs. It isn't a romantic sniff, it's a sniff of suppressed and swallowed tears. As the oysterlike moment passes, Nori answers, her voice thready but even. "I d, I didn't, I duh, I d-didn't see," A hitching breath -- Tsuru at least would know that Nori is putting it on.

Her fingers curl into little impotent fists as she stares at the man. "I didn't suh-see wh, where she wuh-went. D, do you want my e, ea," she reaches up as if to take off her earrings, trailing off. Her eyes are watery but she doesn't break the gaze.

If the answer is yes, taking them out will be a production. A delaying one.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Tetsu lets Kozue finger-comb his spikey hair, and something hungry appears in his eyes. The difference between normal, pretty Kozue and the almost inhumanly beautiful creation Tsuru makes of her is not to be discounted. The power differential shifts even separate of Kozue's confidence. But Tetsu's face does not soften. He isn't about to be eaten by any black widows.

"You'd be surprised what we can cage," he spits. "You have no idea the sorts of people my bosses have in their pocket. A fashion designer is nothing."

A chill runs down Tetsu's spine as something unnatural begins to occur. Stepping back, he stares wide-eyed at Kozue and her new weapon. "Goddamn," he breathes. He takes a step towards the door, which may be a nerve-wracking moment for Kozue, but he is just pacing; he turns around immediately, hand going to his forehead. "You're kickin' me. No way. No damn way."

Rounding on Kozue again, he glares at her. "There's a lot you need to tell me, but we don't have time for that, do we? So listen up. The guy running this is Kudo--at least on our side. If this screws up he gets blamed, and if it doesn't screw up you'll be dealing with him instead of me from now on, at least if he gets his way. I don't have a damn thing to say about this crap about working for Tsuru right now, but I don't mind watching this turn into a big mess. So tell me, miss magical, uh... girl. What do you need to make a mess?"

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The man standing over Rinji seems content to let her stay silent now that she's handing over items, but after she's finished, he notices the necklace. "This too," he says, and he reaches for it.

Nori's robber, on the other hand, does indeed ask for the earrings, but after the production stretches for a while, he jabs her with the gun barrel. "Ten seconds and /I/ take 'em out," he orders. "She says she doesn't know where Aohime is," he calls back to the red ski masked leader.

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

There is that nerve wracking moment when Tetsu takes a step towards the door and she briefly tenses until it becomes clear he's pacing. Kozue doesn't correct him on 'fashion designer.' She almost says coturier because she has her own struggle on quantifying what Tsuru is.

And even if he can't get on board with Tsuru, she can get on board with him spiting and getting Kudo blamed. Her shoulders rise once and then fall as she exhales the tension she didn't know she was holding in. "I'll take it." The look she gives him when he says Miss Magical Girl is somewhere between Kirara's advice and amusement.

For a moment she just considers that- what does she need to make a mess. "The power cut. That's the main thing I need. Even if it's just to the ballroom. Whole building is probably too much to ask for but that'd be convenient." They probably have night vision goggles she speculates, but even then you try fighting an unseen force in the dark? "And a lot of water. Even with that I can't take them all head on and if I flood this place there's no point, but I can cause enough chaos that they'd seriously reconsider if this is worth it."

Kozue cants her head to the urinals and stalls. "Fortunately you already supplied me with that one. Last..."

Kozue quietly stares at Tetsu, "...any ideas on their escape route? Way I figure it, once I start making some noise they'll take the hostages and go... and I can't let that happen. I prevent them from taking them and your Kudo's coup will be yesterday's news."

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Shizuru is led out of the room by the soldier. The apparent commander of that unit of beetle-like troopers notices only belatedly. "Hold things down in here," she snaps at the red ski mask. Then she tromps out after Shizuru and her trooper.

"What's this about?" the commander demands.

"((L.T.,))" he whispers. "((Do you recognize her?))"

The commander looks to Shizuru, and her eyes widen. "((Damn it. You idiot! Taking her out of there is just going to make her look suspicious to everyone in that room!))" Touching the bridge of her nose, the commander bows to Shizuru. "I'm sorry, Fujino-san," she says in Japanese. "This is inexcusable." Unbuckling the pistol at her side, she swivels it in her hand, then offers it grip-first to the high-schooler.

"Kill him if you want. When we get out of here, you can kill me too, but right now, I'm mission-critical." Shizuru can see the brown skin around the woman's eyes, tight with determination. The young man who brought Shizuru out here is trembling, but he does not flee. "After that," the commander continues, "And with your permission, I'll bring you back in there, roughly, so no one is the wiser."

<Pose Tracker> Kudo [None] has posed.

Kudo stares at Nori, a hard stare from a hard man. His gold teeth gleam for a fleeting moment as he spits on the ground before her, and in that evancescent glimpse it's hard to tell if he has an honest to God grill or simply a number of gold teeth. His voice is a low growl, a lawnmower engine mixed with the noise beef jerky makes when you rip a piece in two.

"Careful, girlie. I only love two things..."

Peeling off his gloves, he reveals two calloused sets of knuckles, hardened and weathered from years of elements both fleshy and formidable. Each is marked with tattooed characters, printed so that they are legible to the audience rather than the performer. On the left hand, seen first by this right to left Japanese audience, is "SUSHI." On the right hand, seen second, is "SAKE."

"...an' I don't see "shoujo" there at all."

Leering menacingly, feeling that he's made his point, he continues to stalk along in a plodding, heel to the ground jackbooty sort of way. If he had a riding crop he'd be fidgeting with it from the small of his back. He regards the small director with the white hair and the black framed glasses and the wild eyes and the twitchy countenance. "Scorseesa..we would kick your track suited Mafia asses..how dare you get your spaghetti stained Yankee fingers on a Hong Kong jewel like Sinfernal Airs..Your Boston is known only for baked beans..and baked beans are only known for farts..it is a shame you do not work with Rodney Dereelo any more though..don't be like Kurosawa-tenno, making up too late for more films. DeCarpeggio is no substitute. Also we will beat you. Give us your shit."

Further forward the professor strides across his stage to continue all his letures, coming to the star student herself, Tsuru. With her he affects a congenial attitude, winking bright. "It is good to see you, Lil' Sis..I am thinking what restaurant we will celebrate at after this nonsense is through with. I know your attitude towards Mongolian barbecue but I think tonight I might insist."

That woman barks at him, and he waves her off. "Yare yare. Yes yes. All this fuss." He grabs a shotgun from a ski-masked subordinate, and blasts the a chandelier. "But seriously folks. You know how we are about severed fingers. You're gonna know a whole lot better if you don't spit where this Kozue brat is, stat. We really don't need this many hostages, and they really don't need so many extremities. First canary to start singing gets a pocky on the house. Let's go."

<Pose Tracker> Sucy Manbavaran [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

Sucy Manbavaran holds tight to Setsuna, waiting for the fireworks! The magic! The posing! The heroic speeches!

...any second now. Any... second now.

There seems to be something wrong. It didn't take as long last time, did it? Though she didn't see her transform last time, just back. Maybe it takes a while? Like a car engine? Maybe she needs more space and time to get it going...

Sucy squirms against Setsuna slightly into her invisible satchel, and grabs a small vial, and palms it, she drips its contents onto the floor.

A small, unassuming mushroom pops up, not six inches tall.

Sucy covers Setsuna's mouth and nose with her palm and whispers into her ear "Give it a second to take effect.". before driving her own face into the older girl's shoulder

And the mushroom shudders slightly and starts emitting a very subtle cloud of nearly invisible mist between the two Infinity students and the closest group gunmen.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Shizuru walks through without trouble, glancing here and there at others as she goes. She is appropriately well-behaved, following instructions as to where to go behind the man leading her. A young man, maybe, from his voice, but Shizuru doesn't pay enough attention to the voices of men to tell them apart.

Just kidding. It would be nice if that were able to be true.

And here she is out of the room, glancing about to see where she is as she hears another soldier tromping up as well. They whisper, and whisper in not her language, for that matter, as if it means she doesn't hear.

Shizuru arches an eyebrow, turning to face both of them. She listens to the apologiy. She listens to the explanation. And she watches the bow. "Hmm." Inexcusable.

Shizuru takes the pistol, letting her hand curl around the grip. She glances down at the weapon, up to the commander again. "Hmm, yes, I see," Shizuru says with a nod. She tilts her head, considering, "You should strike me before you do. Don't worry; I can take some bruises. But first..."

Click. "((I agree. Inexcusable.))" Shizuru pulls the trigger regardless of the jump of recoil against her arm, straight against the trembling young man's head. She ignores the drop of his body as she turns the weapon grip-first back at the commander. "I'll consider it," the vice president of the Ohtori student council says pleasantly. "It will depend upon your performance. I trust I've illustrated that?"

Shizuru waits for the necessary preparations to go back into the room. "Let's say you had to teach me a lesson about... insolence."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

The barrel jabs Nori.

It comes to her with glittering thought.

Ten seconds. That's ten whole seconds! And maybe he means he's going to put down his gun and unfasten them himself, Nori thinks with sunny optimism as she continues to fiddle with the clasp.

"Th, thuh, they're hard to get," she half-whines.

And if he doesn't, Nori thinks, I'll survive.

Unlike some people, of course. Kudo warns her - she stops - she listens - she /stares/ -

Will those count? Nori wonders, feeling her shoulders tighten up already in anticipation.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"You can say all that," Tetsu sighs. "But it's gonna take me a while to get out of here, since they sure won't help. Maybe fifteen minutes. By then I bet they find you." The understated subtlety here is that Tetsu thinks he can get out on his own; either he's very competent or very overconfident. "So I don't know how I'm supposed to..."

A yakuza man in a ski mask rounds the corner in the bathroom, coming face to face with Tetsu as he turns around in surprise.

"Aniki?" the thug asks in surprise.

Tetsu rocks his head three times with deep, shoulder-twisting punches, then grabs the back of his head and slams his head down into the sink with a resonant clank. Panting lightly, he then squats and lifts the man by his armpits to drag him further in.

"Never mind," he says, pulling off the ski mask. "Power, got it."

<Pose Tracker> Kudo [None] has posed.

Whatever internal egg timer Kudo is operating on goes off. It didn't seem like a particularly long one to anybody who might have been counting. A burly man possesed of a general air of physical imposition, he moves with an accentuated light-footedness, as if skipping along the surface of a pond, to come up in front of Nori Ankou.

Without leering or gesticulating or any sort of theatrical touch, the broad fingers of a meaty hand swish out like a net, extended as if swatting a mosquito, and snatch at Nori's earring. There's no struggle, no tug. He simply rips the jewelry out as though pulling a weed from the roots.

For a moment he brandishes the bloody bauble, a slight moment, and then tosses it over his shoulder like common rubble. His voice raises the eyebrow that his face doesn't bother with.

"I promise that's the least of it."

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Her split attention divides further as Sucy begins to move, and Setsuna drops everything but the girl and the gun from her mind and waits. Not a muscle moves as Sucy's hand covers her mouth.

She remembers those spores, but keeps her eyes open. To the whisper she gives the slightest of nods, palpable through contact but minute and hard to see. Setsuna hopes. And places her trust in the person she protects.

A second. The easiest of things for the Guardian of Time to measure. She lets the cloud reach the men first, breath shallow against Sucy's hand. No thought, just that single and ultimately artificial measurement, and then it will be time to go.

Setsuna's arm shifts, eyes still unmoving, and she reaches behind her back, tilting her head. The Lip Rod slides free and smacks home in her palm. Evergreen locks unfurl, hiding her arm for a critical moment.

<Pose Tracker> Rinji Sakurai [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Rinjis heart jumps into her chest when the man does not accept the offering of her only reliably method of communication. Instead, he seeks to take from her that which she holds most precious. Her Muse. Her hand beats his to the necklace, holding it tightly in hand before she slowly reaches to the back of her neck, drawing on time as she starts to unclasp it from herself.

Its clearly old, probably the clasp is a bit weak. She looks up at the man with welling eyes, clearly worried. And unlike Nori, its not just acting going on over here... Guns are a very real and scary thing, and these men have clearly no qualms about using them. As one hand fumbles at her neck, the other begins to make apology motions, trying to by time with elegant, if frantic, sign language.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.


Nori winces but she /grinds her teeth/ and squeezes her eyes shut. She trembles but she doesn't cry out. She can feel blood dripping, the hot wires of pain crawling up steadily, steadily...

At least if she's going to get shot she won't see it.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Yasutomi is one of the tallest men kneeling, just as he is while standing. His face has been hard but calm during this affair, and he only flinched mildly during the shotgun blast to the chandelier. As Kudo rips out Nori's earring, however, he slowly unlaces his hands and stands up to his full, impressive height.

Tsuru still rests crumpled against the glass box, but her eyes follow Yasutomi. The ski masks and soldiers train guns on the chairman, and the one closest to him orders him down, but he continues walking until he is facing off with Kudo, about five yards away. His hands are up, but his face is calm.

"That's enough," Yasutomi says. "This building belongs to the loyal workers of the Japan Rail company. Everyone here is their guest. And as their chairman, I will not allow you to harm any more of them. So permit me to explain something to you."

His voice is level, manful. "Whatever ties you have to Tsuru have no power over me. No one gets into the Diet without passing through my office. I have shared sake with every police chief in Tokyo. If you harm another person in this building, there will be no place to hide. I swear that you--you personally--will be found out. Hunted down. It will be the end of the line for you, and you will spend every remaining day of your life wondering if this morning, this hour, is the one you will be dragged to the chair and executed."

Through a sheaf of her fallen hair, Tsuru watches. "For you to be here," she observes distantly. It is almost wistful. "Today of all days."

At Tsuru's words, Yasutomi stiffens, and shows his first sign of nerves, swallowing visibly.

Yet still, the railman stands. He is grim in his authority, his weathered face challenging Kudo.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Distracted by the confrontation in the center of the room, one of the soldiers near Sucy and Setsuna almost misses a skimask walking towards the door. "Hey," he hisses. "Where are you go--"

And suddenly the skimasked man is not there anymore. Come to think of it, the soldier realizes, the room itself has about half as many people as it ought to. Closing his eyes tightly to clear them, he opens them again, only to see that a few more have disappeared in the meanwhile. His heart starts racing. His tongue feels dry.

A mushroom continues to seep near his feet.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

With an apologetic dip of her head, the commander places a hand on Setsuna's shoulder, pressing her back against the closed door. Jaw clenched, she draws her other fist back, and backhands Shizuru violently with it, aiming for the mouth so as to get visible blood. She propels Shizuru out the other, open half of the double doors by this momentum, and stalks after her with long strides. Catching Shizuru up again by a fistful of her dark kimono, the commander draws a baton from her belt and lashes it neatly across Shizuru's cheek, the clack of wood on bone wince-inducing even across the room. She lets Shizuru drop after that, though she takes a single fast step and kicks her in the stomach as a parting gift. "Anybody else want to--" she starts, but her voice dies down as she looks to the confrontation in the center of the room.

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

Kozue considers that for a while. Then longer. Fifteen minutes. "I only need five once the power is out. Ten at most." And then a thug rounds the corner in a ski mask. Kozue's arm tenses up and it's like she's about to show Tetsu she can use that weapon.

But she doesn't need to. She doesn't even flinch from the display of violence. "I'll take care of the rest. You more than most people should know I do my best work in the dark." She scythes at her skirt with the sickle, scything it to mini-skirt length and ripping it the rest of the way, letting the fabric drop to the ground. Then slips off her heels, going shoeless for this. It's only then that she winks at him. "See you soon hot stuff."


Kozue doesn't crack open the men's room door. All she does is hold the handle with a hand to keep it shut, and put her sickle to it. And then she starts to bore a small hole at eye level while she's standing up. Her blade is sharp enough to carve the door in half with one swipe. But all she's doing is quietly working it back and forth, back and forth, this quiet twisting motion- trying at worst to keep it down to the smallest scrape.

Peering into the room from her new peephole, she gets herself a better look at the situation. Instead she gets a brief glimpse of Nori in her agony. Her expression does flinch then somewhat, before moving on to see that Tsuru is still alive. Then there's that man standing up to them. She doesn't recognize him on sight, but what he says makes her a little suspicious.

"Cas-san-dra..." She elongates in a whisper.

The lights flicker again in the restroom. There's not someone, but some/thing/ in there with her. If anyone is looking at the men's room door directly, they'd see an eerie red light for a moment, before that too vanishes from the hole. And then she waits. Waits for the lights to go out.

COMBAT: Kozue Kaoru transforms into Kozue and Cassandra!

<Pose Tracker> Rinji Sakurai [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Rinji can only prolong the struggle for so long. Finally exasperated, the man waiting for the necklace reverses his shotgun and buttstrokes the startled Rinji across the forehead with it, sending her to the floor on her side heavily. "NOW!" He demands.

Her eyes are shut tight in a wince of pain as the throbbing sets in, a heavy pounding in time with her hearts frantic beating. Rinji finally manages to get the necklace off, still laying on her side as she grips the jade stone tightly in hand, curling her fingers protectively around it. Her eyes unlid, squinting as she looks up into the barrel of the shotgun trained on her, and the ski-mask covered face behind it. She lurches back to her knees with a shove of her free hand to the floor, taking a breath. Time was running out on her gambit, as she extends a shaky hand containing the necklace... slowly.

She hadn't seen a chance, so she was going to have to risk it.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Shizuru's eyes almost spark at the dip of the commander's head, at the hand on her shoulder. Shizuru is pressed back against the door, and waits calmly, inclining her head until she watches this woman--obviously doing something she doesn't want to do--draw back and suddenly Shizuru isn't watching her at all, because te strike sends stars through her vision and launches her backward. Anyone looking at the door can see her her tumble out, see blood fall from her mouth and stay on her cheek, a less than ladylike spit that she can't really help. She's dazed; she couldn't summon right now if she wanted to.

Picked up again, Shizuru's head is whipped hard to the other side by the awful clack of wood on bone, the bruise already beginning and that much more blood appear. She tumbles to the ground at that, coughing once before there's a kick to her stomach that doubles her over. "A-aaah--" She can't quite help the noise. She's nauseous, she can't open her eyes at all, and she scrabbles for a grip on the floor.

The commander quieted. Why...?

Shizuru coughs again, with more blood. Her hair is disheveled, her sandal is missing...

"M-my..." It's fun after all. What should she do with the commander later...?

<Pose Tracker> Kudo [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k71Nw2H4UY

As Yasutomi approaches, Kudo actually does fold his hands at the small of his back, his head canted to the side as he affects an exaggerated air of a receptive audience, like a dog somewhat puzzled by the human of its focus. And as the stately man makes his speech, Kudo clutches at his chest, gasping and wheezing with so much melodrama that the most guileless of spectators couldn't help but look askance, even if they were experiencing that emotion for the first time in their lives.

He sinks further down to the ground with every sentence, and by the end of it, Kudo is pounding the ground with his fists, flailing his legs in the air, his every word tinged with comic anguish. "Oh no! I am your guest! You are the chairman! It's true! All true! A God is upon me! The wind rises, I must try to live! How woeful my benighted life, to leave me to this squalid corner of misery and obsolescence!"

He struggles to his feet, and falls down, wailing and moaning as his legs fail him, unable to support the terrible weight of sin that has been heaped upon his shoulders by a lifetime of wrong doing. Tears stain his ski mask as his warbling wail carries him, at long last, upright.

"Do you..do you think...do you think that..that if I..if I turn myself in..right...right now...oh great Rail-Sama..that maybe..maybe..my family might...MIGHT...might..be spared the stain of my wrong-doing?"

He straightens, suddenly, and flashes a theatrical wink at a seemingly random corner of the ceiling, the sort of thing that leads even an innocent observer to wonder if there might be a camera. And nobody would have expected a camera more than Yasutomi-san. His audience isn't anybody in the room. The old fart thinks that he's performing the clip that will be played on every airwave in the country when he plants it for the final time. He thinks he's in on this, that he's a shark among sharks instead of just another minnow. That he's got an in with the in crowd and this is him getting his end of the deal, national prominence, a hero moment straight out of central casting. He thinks he's hired Kudo like he's bought so many other spineless bureaucrats. But there is no camera and there is no clip, no wage and no salaryman. Yasutomi plays to a nation that will never see his performance. Kudo plays for the people he can see, right here in this room.

That sly and winking moment aside, entirely for his own sadistic benefit towards the man who thinks it's all for show, he immediately slips back into his weeps and his wails, so quickly that, while an observer might find the in and out transition jarring and odd, the momentum is still with going along with things. Clasping his wrists together, as though preparing for the handcuffs, the sobbing gangster stumbles closer to the erect and square jawed icon of conservative patriarchal Japanese worth, desperation for mercy writ large on the features visible from beyond the mask.

"Puh-puh please, Blue Blood-senpai..Duh-duh-don't do me so wrong..I won't run..I promise.."

Suddenly, his arm flashes forward. Within his long sleeve, along a concealed rail strapped tight along his limb, a tiny handgun slides along his forearm, snapping into his hand. Executing a flawless doubletap, Kudo shoots a bullet into Yasutomi's chest, and, riding the upward recoil of the gun, blasts a second into his skull.

Immediately he turns to Scorceesa, crowing in full fanboyish exultation, whooping like a Texan from horseback, waving a Stetson in the dusty sun. "YEAHHH! DID YOU SEE THAT! I DID THAT FOR YOU, MARTY! CABBIE RIDER! THAT'S MY SHIT MARTY! WHOOOOO!"

Kudo drags his shoe along dead Yasutomi's face, smearing the scum off of it as if upon a welcoming mat. And, with more subtlety than he has shown all night, with the first gesture he has thus far made that is not meant for all to see, he glances to the commander with the sort of glance that is meant to be seen, and then ignored the moment that recognition is established. He wants to see her seeing that he's done his job.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"Everything cool up here?" Tetsu asks, stepping into the tech booth casually.

The two yakuza in orange utility suits spin their chairs at the same time, but relax a bit when they see a compatriot. "Yeah, we're good," one says cautiously.

Yumi says nothing, because she is duct taped to her own office chair, and her mouth is duct taped too.

"She's getting loose, though," Tetsu says, jerking his shotgun towards Yumi, who starts making urgent noises of protest at this bald lie. When the man nearest him looks, Tetsu jacks the butt of the shotgun violently across his face, then points the business end at the remaining "utility worker." As the second man pushes his chair back slowly, hands above his head, to get a little distance, Tetsu plants a foot on Yumi's thigh and rests the shotgun barrel on his knee, so he can free up a hand while keeping it trained. With that spare hand, he rips the tape off Yumi's mouth way too hard.

"You know how to use this panel?" he asks.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Scorceesa looks between his Japanese crush Shizuru, currently bleeding from a brutal beating like one from his own mobster movies, over to the corpse that Kudo created especially for him, perhaps inspired by those movies. His glasses fogging, he faints, toppling over.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Yumi Ohzora has said a /lot/ of nothing since she's been duct-taped to a chair, which she still is after. Her pink eyes are wide as she watches the violence, has /another/ gun pointed at her for more times tonight than she even wants to think about because they're more than 'zero'.

Her eyes are red from crying. "OW!" she cries when the tape is removed way too hard, tearing up again. "That hu--" Right. Man with gun.

She nods quickly. "U-Uh huh. I'm the head tech for this event, s-so... I um, I know!" She hesitates. "Are you here to hurt everyone too...?"

<Pose Tracker> Rinji Sakurai [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

No, not today. Not here.

She thrusts her hand into the air, and brings it down in a sharp gesture in front of herself. The earsplitting howl of an electric guitar fills the room as a flash of green light and stage smoke conceals the area around where Rinji had been.

In her place stands The Muse Terpsichore, clad in a stylish outfit quite unfitting the hijacked regal event. One metal clad leather boot is lashing out to kick away the shotgun from the man that had tried to steal Rinjis necklace, before a second follows up with a firm kick into the nethers that hoists the ski-mask glad man off the ground a half foot, leaving him to crumple after into a heap on the floor, clutching his The Muse tosses her head to clear her sight as she gets a firm grip on her Axe.

The gleaming black guitar sheens in the light as she plies a pick the same color as her hair, holding it in hand readily as she surveys the room... her tongue darting out to wet her now black-painted lips as she scans the guard with their guns.

A single chord resonates from her guitar, an anticpatory beat to the mayhem she shortly expects to fall. That chord brings with it a swirl of green around The Muse like a visible wave of music, and Terpsichore sinks down into a more ready stance as she starts to mark targets and plot her course of action before gunfire can erupt.

COMBAT: Rinji Sakurai transforms into Muse Terpsichore!

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Rose https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnDQSTKt96I

Hair tosses as Setsuna sweeps her arm, green swirling one way in a great flowing tail while a crackling purple energy arcs behind the Lip Rod. She spares a flicker of a thought to acknowledge that this action may reveal her, accepts that as the cost of keeping a vow that has held for a thousand years and more. Another flicker, this of her eyes -- their only break since that submachine gun first trained on her -- to Sucy Manbavaran before she leaves her crouch. She squeezes her.

The soldier screws his eyes shut, reopens them. Kudo's passionate tribute to filmmaking barks twice, dropping Yasutomi. Guitar howls.

Second's up.

"Pluto Power, Make Up!"

Something like and unlike lightning, acrid and harrowing and an utterly indescribable shade of fervid violet, flashes. A violet-and-red storm wrought of time, hailing from the darkest of places, erupts over them both and when it passes Sailor Pluto stands tall, between Sucy Manbavaran and the men with their guns. The Garnet Rod gleams in both hands.


Winds howl where there should be none, carrying (or perhaps carried by) awful whispers, and they whip at her freed hair and senshi skirt -- localized violence that cannot hope to match what roils in her eyes. The sorrow is hard to see, beneath it all.

Sailor Pluto, Soldier of Revolution and Keeper of the Garnet Rod, eternal sentinel at the secret Time Gate, delivers unholy spectacle and wrath upon these offensive insects that have dared to threaten her new friend. Her acquaintances. Those whose voices she has heard day in, day out, in this busy city with its busy streets, those whose cumulative presence has burrowed its way into her mind and heart without her even noticing.

It happened slowly. It happened quickly. It /happened/, and she will defend them.

She makes one HELL of a distraction, and attempts to reap each tallied sin.

COMBAT: Setsuna Meioh transforms into Sailor Pluto!

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

All the guns in the room swing to Muse Terpsichore at the same time, and some start to go off. But with an electric thump, something goes wrong with the wiring. The lights snap off all at once, and when eyes adjust, all the light anyone will have is the light of the moon.

Until then, there is darkness, gunfire, and the swirling magic of Sailor Pluto. The soldiers and yakuza have found themselves trapped by their own hand in a room with a wrathful demigod of time, and equally bad as emotion channels into raw magic, a teenage girl named Rinji.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Shizuru can still hear, even if trying to look out at anything is nauseous. She hears an unfamiliar voice speaking with great drama--intimidation? All for the benefit of... Ah, Rail-sama. Shizuru knows who that must be. The sobs get on her nerves until--Suddenly...

Bang. Bang. It's a familiar sound, one that rang in her ears moments ago. But this one didn't have cheering going for it. Marty. Ah, Marty. Shizuru wonders how much this man communicates with the woman who led her back inside. She manages to get her eyes open and sees--Scorceesa tumbling. But more to the point, she sees Muse Terpsichore, and Sailor Pluto, and then sees nothing at all. The lights are out.

Shizuru coughs a few more times. "I think I may as well stay down here," she says unsteadily.

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

"Not yet.." Kozue curses to herself as suddenly a Muse and a Senshi stands in the room.

The moment the lights go out- "Time to play girl." And then there's a pleased rumble. Everyone in the ballroom would start to feel something seeping around their feet or perhaps their face if they have it pressed to the floor. It's the thin layer of water that one gets when a bathroom is flooded, as it flows along the ballroom floor like it has a mind of its own. There's a glowing red eye at the peephole in the bathroom door again. A singular light.

And that's when a tendril of water creeps around the first man's leg, gliding up like the caress of a lover trying to take off his boots. It snaps taut, possessing more surface tension than any water ought to. And then it flings him at the ceiling with a shout of alarm as he strikes it and is sent back to the floor.

BGM Change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TR3v_eT8aCA

Another man trying to take Pluto out is gripped, and slammed to the ground repeatedly until he lays still.

Even with any night vision, it'll be difficult to see what's happening. An unseen force of chaos is taking apart their ranks.

Another Yakuza is washed over and smashed against a display case of jagged glass as he learns new meanings of agony in its shards.

There's something in the dark. There's something in the dark.

It's marking each of its targets by standing silhouettes and panicked muzzle flash

It knows no mercy.

It simply knows that it's Mistress is angry and wants this to be resolved swiftly.

And it's pleased to oblige.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Kudo grovels.

Nori Ankou is in her heart an optimistic person. Despite the storms and squalls of morbid depression she has had faith that there is good in the world, and mystery, and wonder, and many other things. Even she does not buy Kudo's act.

But she expected him to break out in a blow, not to shoot Yasutomi in cold blood. Nori's eyes widen as she sees that act because in that gun's casual discharge comes a distant memory of something seen, not by her eyes, perhaps twelve thousand years ago.

I'm sorry, but I have to, Nori thinks. She raises her left hand, pointing it towards nothing in particular. Her fingers crook. There is a very small and distant metallic clank, somewhere in a dressing room, and then -

- the lights go out -

And in the chaos much of what happens next is hidden. The light is strange and chaotic, and presumably Nori Ankou ran when she thought she could get away with it.

The light gets even stranger for Kudo because something has appeared in the direction he was looking. It is a ghostly glow - you could call it a "black light," but that suggests a certain vibrant purple which is absent in its strange colors. It is light that hurts to look at in fine detail. It flows like water in ink as a hand with black diamonds on its back reaches out to rest a hand over the derringer that Kudo holds.

"It's warm," la Sirene de Diamant says, staring dead ahead. Her face is pale like a corpse. Her eyes are white on white with a single staring pinprick in each.

The light rises above her, jerking. It curls forwards, like an anemone's tentacles. "There are four doors you can take from here, but two are barred," la Sirene says, as the light - aura - whatever it is spreads outwards, curling in fractal coils forwards. "Because you have spit on a dream, and you have stolen a treasure... And -"

La Sirene perfectly echoes "WHOOOO!" back at the yakuza's face. "I do not think that you acted from mercy... So, will you plead self defense?"

La Sirene's eyes lower for a moment. This is cruelty, but it is her cruelty. "Oh - he had no gun - this is very bad, isn't it..."

The light comes down like coral spikes. Fortunately(?) for Kudo, the grand guignol instincts of la Sirene de Diamant means he has an opportunity to run, for she is not holding his hand very closely. It might be a good plan, but, of course, there are other things out there.

"But," la Sirene concludes, "You did seem to know how to beg."

COMBAT: Nori Ankou transforms into La Sirene de Diamant!

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The yakuza lose discipline immediately, firing wildly. The civilians are mostly flat on the ground at this point, and none are initially injured, though it is certainly no safe situation for them. The soldiers, however, are rigidly disciplined, backing off together towards the door, collapsing back into a unit expertly. They switch on night-vision quickly and start tracking targets, and one by one their submachineguns start sputtering, chasing magical girls through the dark.

Up in the tech booth, Tetsu gently places his hand on the glass, horrified to the point of fascination by the monster that is reaping its way through his comrades gruesomely. He saw what door it came from. He knows who its mother is.

Trembling, he seeks the fleeting calm of a cigarette, but the lighter won't seem to strike.

<Pose Tracker> Muse Terpsichore [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFjNz56PsTQ&feature=youtu.be&t=24

Bullets. Terpsichore had the tenacity to dart to one side as the first gun went off, but she is blessed with the fortune of lights shutting off and reducing her as a target to a silhuette.

Darkness. What better place for some music. A faint green flash can be seen every so often as Terpsichore revs up her guitar, her bright hair illuminated by the lights from the street outside as the eyes of those in the room begin to adjust. Her electric guitar chatters out riffs into the dark room, invoking in those hearts turned against the gunmen inspiration, and likely inspiring a semblance of dread from the gunmen that had just watched the Muse deny one of their own a future family lineage.

Her almost glowing green eyes alight on Sailor Pluto, quite clearly impressed by the sudden display and showing of the Senshi. The gleam of her white teeth can be seen between black painted lips, as she realizes that she isn't alone in the room for those opposing the gunmen.

And she isn't done, as she starts to run through the crowd towards a target. The song is briefly interrupted as the emphasis of a bass beat is made with the 'axe' being swung like... an... axe. Thud. That has some heft to it, and the gunmen goes down like a sack of potatoes. And while its definitely not dancing on his grave, The Muse has no qualms stamping on his chest once or twice while her fingers ply through the chords of her song.

Her eyes note the... thing... slamming people into the ground, creeping from the bathroom. Feeling that wetness underneath her boots, Rinji would feel alarmed more if it seemed like it was malevolen- Okay, malovelent towards /her/. At the moment, its alright in her books, cause its on her side! (it seems)

And La Sirene! Another joins the ranks, as Terpsichore notes her persence, and seeming alignment against Kudo. She can't quite hear the words across the room over her own music, but she can see her engaging with Kudo with... light? Its a bit of a melee at the moment, and she doesn't want to mistake a potential friend for a foe.

Chink. The Muse flinches as a shot pings against her guitar, and she starts to move again swiftly, heading away from the crowd as best she can to avoid drawing fire towards them as the soldiers regroup and attempt an exit en masse.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

With Tetsu in the tech booth, Yumi--now free--still has her hands over the controls for a moment, seeing whether there are any lights she forgot that weren't tied to the master switch. It's a good reason to set them off.

Her arms are still really sore, still marked red on pale skin. Her black clothes show a bit of the reside from the duct tape.

But she looks up at Tetsu as he trembles at the glass. She... Doesn't go to look at what's happening down there. Maybe she could help but...

"Hey, um..." Yumi hesitates. "Could you not smoke in here? I don't breathe so good."

She hesitates, and finally comes around to watch at the window with him. She sets a trembling hand on the window too, though trembling for a different reason.

<Pose Tracker> Kudo [None] has posed.

It all goes so wrong, and so quickly.

Shooting the old man was supposed to be Kudo's time of triumph, the mic drop moment that would seal his dominance over the situation. And all of a sudden all these hostages are sprouting henshins like blooming fields in spring. It's all too much too quickly.

And then the lights go out. A ghostly glow, a black light, a certain vibrant purple which is absent in its strange colors appears before him. And then it takes his gun.

The ghost tells him it's warm, and his blood runs cold. The specter speaks of doors in four directions, but things are far more binary in his mind. There are only two directions. Towards, and away, and there is not need to deliberate that decision.

La Sirene seeks to haunt him. So Kudo seeks to flee. And flee he attempts, abandoning his brothers, abandoning the soldiers of sorts that he has found apparent agreement with, abandoning his prisoners and his prizes and his prospects. Kudo flees his immediate fate in favor of the midterm consequences of his actions. If any seek to stop him, their window is narrow and further narrowing.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Heavy boots stop in front of Tsuru, and suddenly she's being dragged up the slick glass case, then slammed against it hard enough for it to rattle. The soldier has her by the throat, and he presses the barrel of his pistol hard enough against her long white neck that it buries itself in the vulnerable skin.

"Call them off," he snarls. "Call off your paranormals."

Tsuru just stares at him, her eyes so dark and strange in the muzzleflash and moonlight that he suddenly feels as though he's dragged some pale nocturnal creature from under his childhood bed. "D-do it!" he shouts wildly. "Stop them!"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Sailor Pluto's clarion call of retribution rings out right before everything goes dark. The plutonic puissance she's unleashed luminesces across the black, casting violent violet shadows across faces anonymized by the strobing, before spending itself against the men. With their guns. And their threats. And their entirely insufficient body armor.

She does not hold back.

Some of them fall. Some of them break. Some of them scream into their keyed headsets, breaking the eardrums or speakers of their fellows.

The man who trained his submachine gun on Sucy Manbavaran takes the longest to hit the ground, once the storm subsides. There is nothing good or healthy about the *thud* his body makes against the hard floor.

The Garnet Rod clanks against the same surface, once, at rest. Its job done, for the moment. Fireworks flare in other corners of the great ballroom. Sailor Pluto sweeps her gaze across it, takes in the orchestral theatrics of Muse Terpsichore and that vivid green approval in her answering look. She watches La Sirene de Diamant confront the murderer, center stage, her own shadows roiling with a pelagic horror that reminds her of another mysterious woman of the deep.

Battle lines in magical girl wars be damned. She feels a kinship with these young women, and she clutches the Rod in both fists.

Deep breath in.

A very brave soldier tries for her, and a sinister /something/ intervenes.

Deep breath out.

Sailor Pluto casts a glance behind her, to Sucy.

"Are you all right?"

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Nori's display--La Sirene's display--catches Shizuru's eye, beautiful in the dark in particular. It's hard to hear her in the dark over all the gunfire and sounds of battle, but she sees the way she advances on the man.

She also sees soldiers stepping in front of the easy-to-spot Tsuru, even as her eyes flutter closed again with the effort of holding them open too much. If she stays still, the pain is more manageable.

The commander did well, thouh she may not keep doing well. Shizuru considers, vaguely, standing up and cutting off Kudo as he moves. She might be able to manage it. It would be fun.

...But they're on the same side. So there's a better approach. A simpler approach.

"...Get... him, ...Nori-chan," Shizuru murmurs to herself with a smile.

Maybe she'll murder him. Wouldn't /that/ be interesting. Shizuru, despite the pain, starts sitting up enough to get a better view.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The commander dumps an empty magazine and slams in a new one, racking it even as she realigns the scope with her eyes. The worst happened. /They/ happened, just like /they/ were at Ohtori when the Golden Fleet held it under siege. Well, it was not for nothing that they came here without identification, without personal effects. None of them existed in official records. Their bodies would be of no use to anyone.

But while they were alive? They could yet be of use.

One of the magical girls has stopped moving. The commander lines up a shot on Pluto, braces the weapon on her shoulder in preparation for full auto, and lets rip with powerful stream of bullets near center mass.

The pistol rounds of a submachinegun are no match for the supernatural resilience of a sailor senshi. But nor are they harmless; indeed, each one is like a blow from a powerful foe, and they drum into Sailor Pluto rapidfire, and follow her to her knees, to either side, wherever she might go unless it is swift. In a few more seconds they will start puncturing her uniform, and that will be that.

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

My goodness, was that La Sirene standing up to whooping Yakuza? They're all so enthusiastic and she's glad the timing of her gambit paid off. "Stay here girl." Cracking the door, Kozue leaves her Child to continue her work as it flops back. She stalks around the perimeter of the room, as her Child creates continued chaos. Step. Step. Step. She causes ripples in the wake of every step in the dark. Geysers of water erupt and people vanish. This time through holes in the floor. And yet the water doesn't drain. It doesn't drain at all. It just thrusts more and more into the yawning abyss of the building basement where new horrors await them. The HiME herself doesn't act, she simply walks. These men are her Child's prey. She's after the ones who are fleeing. The leaders...

For a while she's just walking as she marks the silhouettes which are less fighting and more running. But then she hears something in the room. A distinct call of a certain commander.

Her head turns, and in the muzzle flash and the moonlight, she sees Tsuru's expression as she's held at gunpoint. For a few moments she stares at his flank from a distance, and then her arm loops- round, and round, and round in a vertical circle as it picks up speed, and momentum in that short loop.

And then she casts it straight forward with an accuracy that someone who wields this weapon shouldn't have. The only tell that it's coming is a metallic SCHWING sound that occurs mid-flight.

Tsuru can probably see this in the dark, but the others couldn't clearly. Suddenly her lovely face and white kimono are sprayed with red as half the man's neck is guillotined sideways, severing the spine instantly at the back while the bludgeon simultaneously caves through the helmet, into the skull and the brainstem. Hanging on by a thread of neck tissue, gravity tries to claim the head first, but it doesn't quite make it. It lolls over to the side from this half-decapitation. Even in what vestiges of nerve connection his finger has left, it won't flex upon the trigger. The body topples over from the force of the blow a moment later.

It wasn't a beautiful execution, but it was done so artistically at the same time...

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

The ghost seems surprised when Kudo runs - its mouth opening when he reaches Tsuru and seizes her -

In the shadow the nether light of la Sirene's abyssal lantern is all the clearer. It has probably never been this clear. It rises above her, the outer wisps of it expanding as if to fill the ballroom with towering range. Did it always reach this far? The edges shiver and wobble as la Sirene shouts with a voice laden in judgment,

"FIEND! What will you do when one day there is no monstrosity to sink to? When at last you reach the bottom with only the weight of your cruelties above you?!"

He's fleeing - running away -

"Do you think you can escape your sins so simply?"

For the light that la Sirene had called and speared the space around Kudo with - that light has not gone away. As he flees it seems to come to life, rolling forwards like the shadow-play of a sea urchin or some unknowable creature from the dark ages of the Proterozoic, when the sun wasn't quite so bright and life lives in strange and easy ways in a thousand forms that failed.

Failed on Earth, at least, but in their sorrows... well...

La Sirene stalks forwards as the light flattens out, pancaking around and moving towards Kudo to flank him and to box him in for though it is only mildly cool to the touch, for fleeting moments it folds upon itself a thousand times like a sword of renown /and that is long enough/ -

- for -

- la Sirene is briefly dismayed by the abrupt decapitation of the person who had come so close to Tsuru, all while she was focused on that man. The light around Kudo becomes at most slightly unpleasant, like seaspray, not like whatever horrible thing the Siren was intending to do.

He has his chance. And of course, his memories!

<Pose Tracker> Muse Terpsichore [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The Muse is moving, poetry in motion and grace as the battle-bard continues her quest to avoid catching small pieces of lead being fired her way. And... is she grinning? Laughing even, it can be heard in the lulls between chords as her vibrant eyes shimmer in the darkness, taking in how swiftly the night has swung away from the favor of the men with guns. There is no small amount of joy in their suffering.

When the heady swell of the heat of the moment has passed, Rinji may linger on what could have been or might have been. Rinji will dwell on those that died this night. The Muse has better things to do.

Her grin is turned onto the room, watching Plutos storm wreak mayhem, Kudo's attempt to fleet from Nori, Kozue stalking through the room while her child wreaks its mayhem... And a stream of bullets inflicted on the Sailor Senshi, from the commander with the automatic weapon.

The Muse' grin dies, transforming into a scowl as she changes her stance and reaches down to twist all the dials on her guitar to 11. Yes, they actually go to 11! She rakes her pick violently over the strings as a godawful squeal sounds through the room.

To most, it is an audible nuisance. To the commander opening fire on the Sailor Senshi however, it is a staggering explosion of sound that has no mercy for eardrums, and a nearly physical weight to how it bowls into her.

With that to disrupt the shooting, The Muse starts to stalk across the room directly towards the woman, who now has red seeping out from her ears as the shattered drums ooze blood. And by the look on the Muse' face, it won't be the only thing bleeding if she closes the gap.

<Pose Tracker> Kudo [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmuYSU0ghKU

All around Kudo, things are going utterly bananas.

I mean, really. This seems beyond the pale. Even for a hardened gangster. Even in a town that, /even though nobody says it/, is frankly dangling over the cliff more than any town should reasonably tolerate. Even among a thriving nest of ghosts and goblins and ghouls and all the mundane insanity of life in the 21st century.

It all just seems to be a little much.

One of Kudo's comrades is turned into a Pez dispenser, and from the response to that arterial spray he can only imagine that meant that fate for him. The stocky stalwart, already agile beyond appreciable appearance, finds further reserves to speed him along.

Kudo is down the door and down the stairs and out the door with a cartoonish hustle. There is little dignity in the escape. But he is down, and he is down, and he is out. And he lives. His heart richochets so violently in his throat that there is scarce room for air to clumsily, politely navigate down into his lungs. But he lives, and he is safe, for now.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> If Only For A Night https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5NHMC78gIU

Sucy is safe. Sailor Pluto nods to the girl, satisfied, thunder still in her eyes.

Someone punches her from behind -- that's not fair, is it? she thinks -- hard, painful blows, over and over, until her back is a wall of pain. Shreds of white senshi silk bloom with each one, little flutters of material following her fall to knees that don't even feel the floor.

The eternal senshi has borne a great many terrible wounds, has taken a solid hit from Mami Tomoe's brilliant golden attacks. She has never before been shot by a mundane firearm.

It /hurts/. She can't catch her breath, it's like a mule kicked her in the chest. Dazed, she looks to the windows. A stray bullet shattered one, the pane directly between Pluto and the waxing moon broken like the men lay unmoving on the elegant new flooring.

The hardest-won of instincts, born of standing alone versus alien menace up against the very loneliest reaches of the Solar System, SCREAM at her to MOVE. She tries, legs jerk, marionette strings loose and unresponsive.

No more bullets come. Sailor Pluto keeps her eyes locked on the moon, and that glorious heavenly body reflects twice in garnet, swimming with moisture. She doesn't feel the wetness on her face, propelled by the force of the blows, just folds where she kneels, the tiniest remainder of momentum finishing her fall. Her last thought is a wish.

If only the moon was fuller, perhaps she could see Mare Serenitatis. Perhaps she could see that dear crook along its shore, as familiar as the lines on her own palms. Perhaps she could catch a gleam of gold...

But no, there is only dark.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The sudden, violent spray of blood blinds Tsuru, and for a moment perhaps she thinks it is her own. The eye that is spattered only lightly blinks clear, and against her the heavy weight of the soldier slumps. With a push to his shoulder, Tsuru causes him to fall away rather than simply smear all the way down her kimono. She wipes her eyelid with a thumb, back and forth, and then both eyes fall upon Kozue.

Very slowly, she blinks at Kozue, just once.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The commander has emptied over half of her sixty round magazine when she goes deaf. The pain makes her wish she had already been deaf. Covering one ear with a grimace, she feels something wet on her upper lip and isn't sure if her nose is running or bleeding. Her balance in ruins from the physical pummelling of sound she just took, she pushes herself up unsteadily, fires a few shots, and then sets off at a run, heading up the stairs to the waiting chopper.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

When La Sirene's magic shifts, Shizuru too spots the near-decapitation of that man. She expects little less of Kozue, though she doesn't linger on it. Insead, Kudo runs, and begins to get away, and Shizuru herself...

Well, she falls back to the ground on her side, unable to maintain being up at the moment. Transformed, this would be nothing, but her head is ringing badly the more she goes on. Being hit in the head twice...

"Mm... That's..." She murmurs to herself.

She can't hear it; being this close to the commander who emptied her weapon that much. She can't hear, though she can see Sailor Pluto is gone. Her ears ring just like her head throbs. And the commander starts to run away...

She laughs faintly, but that hurts too, and curls more in on herself. There's no reason to bother with people anymore for a while. Maybe...


<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Outside, near where Setsuna Meioh's limo waits patiently, a service door bursts open, a man in an orange jumpsuit bracing it while urging three others on with his other hand. They run out in a messy rush, their toolboxes clanking, and make straight for their box truck, two of them loading into the front, the other two into the back.

<Pose Tracker> Tsuru [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Since one of them has unzipped his overalls to the waist, the driver can see the full sleeve tattoos on his arms.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Inside that waiting limo -- the mistress of Meioh Tower has certain qualities she values above all others, including patience and discretion -- Etsuko watches, that smart cap pulled low over grey eyes that suddenly seem made of ocean ice.

She scratches at the tight cuff of one long sleeve of her uniform. The collar is just as snugly buttoned.

When the tattooed men are past, she follows, ghosting along the shadowed halls, following the sounds of violence. Etsuko seeks her mistress.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Where she lies, Sailor Pluto shimmers. A moment later Setsuna Meioh lies there, bold fireworks in tatters that hang from her shoulders. Her long mane of hair covers her back.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto transforms into Setsuna Meioh!

<Pose Tracker> Sucy Manbavaran [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

Sucy Manbavaran meant to tell Sailor Pluto before the bullets started firing that she was okay and thank you. But that moment has passed, along with *thump* the Senshi's consciousness, but she proceeds. "I'm fine. Thank you." and with a few gestures of her hands the ground glows in a circle of purple light beneath the Senshi and rises up off the ground, suspending the warrior on a magical disc of light that levitates a few feet off of the ground.

Sucy takes a container of powder from her satchel and tosses it over Pluto to help stabilize any surface wounds and turns to walk slowly down the hall towards where she recalls there being an exit. An errant gunman steps between Sucy and the door and she doesn't even wait to see what he does, she pulls out a vial and throws it at him.

The liquid inside grabs ahold of him and begins to creep up as he struggles at it, Sucy walks forward with Puu behind her, leaving the man to scream and writhe as there's a sound of cracking and twisting of bone and finally the unique sound of crystallization then... sublimation.

Sucy meets Etsuko in the hallway, she might not recognize the witch, but certainly she'd recognize her "charge".

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

Kozue winks back. Though it doesn't have her usually flirtatiousness, not with Tsuru at least. Where others fought, she took nary a wound. She was an opportunist more than a warrior, not that she minded getting her hands dirty.

That was evidenced by the blood and gore that's on her element a few moments longer after she yanks it back.

She let's it drag upon the floor, letting the water cleanse it, a trail of blood in it's rippling wake as if she were chumming for sharks.

There were sharks in the water after all.

But she lost any chance of chasing after the stragglers She discovers this as she pushes open the door Kudo fled through- seeing there's no longer any sight of him. That's fine by her. She already knows from Tetsu that /someone/ is going to be scapegoated and likely many of the people between them.

Walking back- the water of the room is starting to drain already. Anyone who checks the bathroom will find no horrors waiting for them any longer. Whatever caused this is no longer present in the material world- like some spectre.

Stepping by La Sirene, she puts a hand to her injured earlobe. "Your poor ear." Leaning forward- she brushes her lips briefly against it, perhaps sending a tingle down the other girl's spine before she walks onward- saying nothing else about it. Her eyes fall briefly upon Shizuru on the floor, as if suspicious but unable to prove anything.


It takes her a while to find an unmanned receptionist's desk- due to the disaster. It's only once she's alone that she let's her Element fade away to the immaterial Picking up one of the dinosaur's of this new age, an actual landline phone, she starts dialing a familiar number. Pressing a receiver to her ear, the moment she hears a tired voice on the other end of the line she calmly yet assertively says, "No time for chit chat. The gala was attacked-"

The voice on the other end of the line was surprised instantly saying something reflexive, "No. No- I don't need the police. I don't want to file a report- plenty of people will be doing that alr-" She starts to pace behind the desk and gesticulates with a hand as if he could see her, from the other end of the line, "Look- the head of the railway company is dead. Tried to stand up to our attackers and-"

A name is called out on the other end of the line, "Yeah that's him. Yasutomi. And I doubt it was an accident. The point is I need you to put some pressure on the railway company. See if you can't encourage them to send their debt to some third party collections before a big name can buy it off- that way we can pay peanuts. It's gotta be a PR nightmare right now- see if you can't get them to wash their hands of this and Tsuru-san before his replacement can settle in. So act fast before they can spin it in a favorable direction."

This must be a surreal experience on the other end of the phone for a fourteen year old to order him around this way. And so after a moment he mumbles something about if she's alright on the other end. "I'm fine. Perfectly fine. Do your job, and do it fast."

She slams down the receiver, then after a few moments slumps down into the empty chair.

[OOC] Tsuru says, "As a summary of the villain side of this: Yakuza infiltrated, cut off alarms and all forms of communication, plus stuff like elevators etc. They let the SEARRS troopers in along with Kudo (the guy Tetsu backtalked outside in a Toyota) and his men.

Sealing off the ballroom, the soldiers and yakuza took everyone hostage, ostensibly for robbery. Both Kudo and Chairman Yasutomi implied this was all Tsuru's fault for her yakuza assocation. Yasutomi stood up, all brave, and tried to use soft power to make Kudo back down. Tsuru cast some suspicion on this courage. Kudo shot the Chairman, thus leaving the railway company without a leader. He gave visible sign of having done this on SEARRS's say-so."

[OOC] Tsuru says, "For the benefit of the players here rather than the characters, I don't mind just explaining--the yakuza interest here is in preventing Tsuru from fundraising enough money to be free of them, as they see Tsuru as a golden goose and are determined to own AoAka themselves."

[OOC] Tsuru says, "The SEARRS interest is in destroying Tsuru, who has avowed herself a foe of SEARRS. Why they have an interest in killing the Chairman of a rail company is not obvious."

[OOC] Tsuru says, "Tetsu is a very lucky street-level sub-boss of the yakuza who happened to be in charge of Tsuru's business when it was tiny, and has ended up getting way more influential in the yakuza because of how Tsuru's star has risen. He is also very lucky because he is the limo driver for supermodels since Tsuru leans on the yakuza for a lot of tasks like that"

[OOC] Tsuru says, "As my final cliff's note: The concern going forward from here for Tsuru is that she won't have enough money to put on her big show. No big show = no money. Railroad company will own her building and yakuza will own her business. She'll just be their weaving slave."

[OOC] Tsuru says, "But you foiled whatever the endgame of this hostage situation was so at least there is a chance"