2017-07-17 - Death and Cocoa

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Title: Death and Cocoa

In which a weighty topic is discussed over delicious chocolate.


Mikoto Minagi, Eri Shimanouchi, and Setsuna Meioh


Ueno Park, Museum District

OOC - IC Date:

Mon July 17, 2017 / Tues Feb 3, 2015

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

Here's the thing about contacting Mikoto Minagi: if you don't know where she sleeps, it can be kind of hard. Sure, she /mostly/ attends her classes, and sure, she can often be found shadowing Mai Tokiha. But if she's not there, where is she? Certainly not anywhere a reasonable human would be. When she's not searching for her lord brother - which she's been doing often, recently - she's palling around with stray cats and catching naps on sunny rooftops.

But she has a curious habit of finding her friends, and habits she sticks to which ease the burden. Meeting with Eri is one of those habits, dropping down from an Ueno awning onto the street to meet her for a snack. It's during one of those meetings that Eri suggests meeting with someone, and Mikoto, ever easy-going when Miroku is in its sheath, has of course agreed. Eri doesn't want her to talk to Mai about it, so Mikoto intuits it's something to do with hunting; beyond that, she trusts Eri. Eri wouldn't lead her astray, because Eri is her friend.

So that's how the two girls end up walking to the park, Mikoto munching on a chocolate bar. The afternoon sun hides behind cloud-cover; all bundled up in gold-and-black scarf and mittens and coat, Mikoto doesn't seem that bothered beyond her rosy cheeks. She's too busy being curious to be cold! If she was the type to listen to weather forecasts, she'd know that it's not due to snow until the evening, but Mikoto has never been the type to turn on the television for that sort of thing. She can smell it in the air, the sharp-cool scent of cold enough.

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

Mikoto drops down, and almost immediately Eri turns around, "Mi-ko-to-chan!" And as if it was like some sort of ritual. She hands out a bag with fresh Taiyaki, wagging it a few times before handing it over. Fish shaped pastries full of bean paste. "Here you go! Just got it fresh."

Even if Mikoto is unpredictable to most people. The fact is that when you buy snacks- big eaters like her senpai and Mikoto just tend to have a sense for proper timing. "There's someone I'd like you to meet... and she definitely wants to meet you."


Rosey cheeked from the weather- the girl is in a grey peacoat that looks bleached on the sleeve as they stroll through the park. Devoid of color. From the splotches one can almost imagine where blood once existed there's now this void of color- a reminder from the touch of hydrogen peroxide. There's a dark skirt peeking out of it, going down to her knees, where stockings stretch the rest of the way unto winter boots. She blows into her gloved hands once then rubs them. The gloves look like gardener's gloves. "So! Remember that night with that witch at the hospital?" Eri of course figures that Mikoto wouldn't forget, but she had to say it anyhow. "On the way to the hospital- we encountered these familiars harassing a kitten. We didn't have really have any time to spare... but she saved her anyhow. Tucked her away into a safe place before we moved on."

She gives the girl beside her an affectionate look, "And later while I was clearing out my territory- I heard this little mewing- and there she was- huddled down in the same spot. All alone in the world. And so I picked her up and reunited her with her savior. She named her Sheratan- after a star in the Aries constellation because the little kitten is a survivor, and has taken care of her ever since."

She doesn't name names but- "She's very determined to do what it takes to save this world from everything that threatens it. And that little kitten just seemed to be representative that all the sacrifices she makes for that-" And Sailor Pluto definitely makes a lot of sacrifices. "-are worth it."

She's just finished telling this story as the two walk around the bend towards the meeting spot...

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

The young woman who put out the call waits nearby. She's been doing a lot of that lately, one of many ways in which Setsuna Meioh has stretched wings never before used, and each time it gets easier. This brisk February day she wears a long, heavy black coat over blouse and slacks, hands deep in pockets as she scans for coming company.

Ueno Park is one of her more favorite places in this too-busy, too-full city. Even when its paths teem with salarymen and schoolchildren, it has its quiet paths and oases. The beautiful Museum District is simply too large and complex for anything else to be true.

Setsuna's long legs carry her around a corner right after a familiar voice floats around it -- just enough warning for her to be looking for them, specifically. And so one of those hands, bared to the cold day, is up and waving as they come into view.

"Eri-chan? That sounded like you. Have you brought--"

And of course she has. It's been a while, but Setsuna recognizes the girl who saved her own tail. "You must be Mikoto-san." Though her garnet-colored eyes have a permanent sadness it doesn't remove, there's a small and genuine smile on the senshi's face. "You might know me as Sailor Pluto, but I am also called Setsuna. It is good to meet you finally."

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

Eri hands Mikoto a bag of taiyaki, and through the power of multiple snacks, Mikoto is able to avoid consuming it all on the spot. She carries the pastries in her other hand as she listens to Eri talk, head tilted slightly even as she looks ahead. Once she's done with her chocolate bar, she shoves the wrapper in her pocket.

Of course Mikoto remembers the hospital; she remembers every hunt they've been on, every stomach-churning detail which can help her refine her approach for the next round. She has to remember, because she's not a Puella Magi, and every time she helps Eri she's punching above her weight class.

That day, she'd come to meet them late. And that's the gap in experience which Eri explains to her now, weaving a tale of a girl who saved a kitten from a Witch's familiars even as the razor's edge of life and death loomed over them. It paints a picture of her priorities, as Eri points out that this girl had becomes pals with that pussy-cat.

It's strange that she would classify a star as a survivor, but Mikoto doesn't say that. "Sheratan," Mikoto echoes, looking up to Eri with a smile. "Good name." A good name, from someone Eri clearly holds in high esteem, who sounds like a good person.

And then a stranger rounds the corner, all clad in black with hair for miles. She says Eri's name, and Mikoto looks up at her, blinking big gold eyes as she speaks the smaller girl's name as well. Wasn't she supposed to be at the hospital? Did she, perhaps, stay back with the kitten...? Then she introduces herself, Sailor Pluto, and it clicks - this is the girl with the garnet rod, who smells like nostalgia and carries herself like a pillar.

Yes, Mikoto knows her. She knows her in the way she knows her battle-allies, people who Eri trusts and who she trusts through that bond. Like so many magical girls, she's fought beside her, but never shared a casual conversation, or...

Mikoto opens up the bag of taiyaki, takes one out, and then offers Setsuna a fish-shaped pastry too, because that's the plainest way she can express her acceptance. "Hi," she says, with a big smile. Setsuna has sad eyes, yes, but Mikoto doesn't sense anything untoward about her; she sees her smile as genuine, and so Mikoto's is, too.

(Once Setsuna has taken - or refused - a pastry, she'll give one to Eri just as soon as she's remembered that's how the social dance works.)

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

"Agreed." She rubs the back of her neck with a distant smile. "At first I thought it was kind of cutesy- until she explained it." She may blush a little to the tips of her ears at the memory.

"Of course I did Setsuna-chan. And yep. This is her." Taking the pastry from Mikoto, she doesn't comment that she already had a meal of a panini. Tomato and mozzarella. It's still a taste lingering in her mouth. But she accepts it all the same- because she knows Mikoto tries /really hard/ to fit in. "Thanks Mikoto-chan." She takes a nibble.

And then a hand moves over to rub the front of Mikoto's hair fondly- "She's the fiercest warrior you'll ever meet. One of the only people I let hunt with me. There are few people I'd trust my back to more." The hair ruffle makes an almost adorable contrast to her words. But that's sort of Mikoto Minagi in a nutshell.

Then she takes the hand away and coughs into her glove, "Now the only rule for you-" And then strangely instead of directing it at Mikoto, she points at Mikoto, while looking Setsuna Meioh straight in the eye. Wait Eri is setting /rules/ for Sailor Pluto?

"-no spicy food anywhere around her. That's a major responsibility, but it's one I think the two of you can handle together."

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

Her newest acquaintance's own introduction includes an offering of fish, made especially momentous somehow coming from this catlike girl. Setsuna cannot but accept, with her usual politeness undershot with warmth. The Guardian of Time has a special soft spot for the younger children, and while Mikoto may not technically be as young as some, she has a childlike quality to Setsuna's eyes that qualifies her.

"Thank you very much." A dipping almost-bow and she takes the taiyaki with her free hand. That hand is darker-skinned, speaking of ancestry off-island, and somehow has not pebbled or reddened from the cold despite Setsuna's lack of gloves.

She's brought a little something too, but it can wait until after she's eaten. It curls smoothly in her still-hidden palm. For now she enjoys sweet bean filling, letting it show on her face. "Just the thing. Thank you again." She does not eat nearly so quickly, taking polite bites to match her polite words.

Thus occupied she listens, another thing Setsuna is good at. A rule, unexpected. She pays close and bemused attention.

Then she looks back to Mikoto. The bemusement deepens, making little furrows between evergreen eyebrows.

Finally Setsuna swallows the last of her taiyaki and nods. "No spicy food. I will check restaurant menus before suggesting them." Eri has made a strange request, but Eri has earned it, too. "Done.

"After that I could use something to wet my throat. Surely there's a stand nearby that sells them. Do either of you know the closest one? And on the way there, Mikoto-san, perhaps you could tell me how you came to be such a fierce ally of ours. I've much more to thank you for than taiyaki."

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

Eri remembers to confirm that Mikoto is Mikoto, which is good, because Mikoto had taken it as self-evident that she was herself. She goes on to explain her to Pluto, and Mikoto grins around her taiyaki, hastily inhaled as if it might disappear if she eats too slowly. "Eri -" - talking around bean paste is hard, better swallow - "- is good fighter too! Taught me to fight Witches." Without her instruction, even Mikoto would have fallen prey long ago, and the esteem she holds Eri in is obvious, pride in her words.

(Mikoto's age is a funny thing; she's fifteen years old, now, in her first year of high school. But her exuberance, lack of care for social rules, and small height paints her younger, to those she knows well and strangers alike. Oh, how complicated!)

Her stalwart friend goes on to lay down the ground rules: no spicy food. Mikoto is at once grateful that Eri can tell whether she's accepted someone, and that she would be sure to look out for Mikoto's interests that way. Spicy food is an unpleasantness which Mikoto struggles to match in intensity, and she nods firmly as Eri speaks and again as Setsuna replies.

Setsuna asks for a stand, and Mikoto looks up to Eri, because this is Eri's territory and Eri knows best what lies in it. Her continuation catches Mikoto by surprise, looking back up (up, up) to Setsuna with big, blinking eyes, not unlike a surprised cat.

How, she asks, and Mikoto frowns. Thinking about the past has always been difficult to her, who lives in the moment and looks to the future. But she knows one thing, which she repeats dutifully: "Came here looking for Lord Brother." It's surprising, the outdated, courtly keigo she slips into for that man's name, especially compared to her normal casual speech.

She lets that hang for a moment as she thinks, scrunching up one corner of her mouth. "There was a ship, then I had a fight and there wasn't. It's okay, she wasn't really bad, I like her now. Got saved by Mai. Mai is good. There was school. Then I met Eri. Eri is good, too. Then Eri needed help, so I'm helping Eri, because I love Eri, and Eri's enemies are my enemies," and how strange it is, that she speaks so casually about drawing the lines. "That's it, yup."

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

Taiyaki is a favorite childhood snack of hers. After the initial nibble, she's still eating it with a greater pace. Who knows if she'll get to stop for dinner tonight while she's hunting? Who knows if she'll even remember...

Mikoto at least might have noticed that she's been more distant, intense lately when they're on the hunt. She says less than even Mikoto- but in contrast to the berserkergang's passionate wrath. She's more cold, detached. When she's injured she barely even seems to notice it. It doesn't change her demeanor at all And yet once the hunts are over she's back to 'normal' or whatever counts for it.

Fortunately Setsuna acquiesces to the ground rule, and Eri nods. The light reflecting in her glasses, blanking out the look of one who has known the DEMON CAT. "Good. It's very crucial."

Eri seems to regard her with a big sister's kind of protectiveness. Which is interesting because Mikoto is actually older. She knows Mikoto isn't to be underestimated in battle or by her intelligence, and yet she can't help but treat her a little younger too.

Setsuna asks for a good place to wet her whistle and upon Mikoto's expectant look, she waves a hand over her shoulder, "This way. There's a nice stand set up near the edge of the park. Coffee is average, tea is really good- and excellent cocoa." Not Kaname standard cocoa but she'd take it.

She starts leading them in that direction as Mikoto talks about Ani-Ue. She let's Mikoto tell the story though because it's Mikoto's story and she wasn't here. By now she knew it by heart but it was still second hand and how Mikoto expresses herself is important. She does have this big old grin on her face with how Mikoto says she loves her, she's sincerely touched. So she decides to put forth her own feelings. "Mikoto-chan and Mai-chan are both kind of like sisters to me." She explains, "They both came through for me when my family... ah..."

She falls quiet for a moment, trailing off as if she didn't really want to explain that before picking up on a dangling thread and grasping it instead, "But I met Mai-chan first... then Mikoto-chan not long after Mai-chan and her started living together. I really adore her. She's always been there for me. And I've been helping her look for her Lord Brother ever since- but it's kind of tough."

She rubs the back of her neck, "We don't really have many clues-" But so the subject doesn't weigh down too much on Mikoto, she turns around in front of both of them and walks backwards a few paces while giving Mikoto a determined look as she holds up a finger, "-but we can't let that stop us! And we won't!"

As she turns back right ways she almost runs into a lamppost and sort of laughingly sidesteps it, "W-Whoa... that was close." She nervously adjusts her glasses as they come up to the stand. It's busy for a winter day but the line isn't particularly long due to the chill- and only scattered occupants of the nearby benches. "Uh- and you already know how Setsuna-chan and I met. It was on Christmas in Shinjuku. We met in that battle. I didn't know her at all and she still came to my defense." She has this grin on her expression again, "Maybe she says it was just her duty but I dun-no~" She teases. "/I/ think it was just written in the stars that we'd become friends."

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

"Strange as it may be, Eri and I have had only a few opportunities to fight together. I don't doubt you, though. Someday, surely, I'll see more of her prowess."

For her part, Setsuna Meioh is both just north of eighteen and simultaneously ageless. They aren't often overlapping qualities, more poles she shifts between as situation and emotion move her. Right now she's on the university student end of that scale, with only those eyes to hint otherwise. For all that, she is an oddly innocent eighteen, which tends to show in more complex social situations than this one.

So very feline Mikoto is, a first impression that holds as true as any Setsuna's had. Then the words begin, unstoppered by her question and still unexpected, if only for their sheer quantity. During, she follows with owlish blinks. After she looks for her own words. The name 'Mai' rings bells for her; 'Lord Brother' does not, but he also seems to fall a little outside the scope of their shared connections, so she just notes it and speaks to other things.

"The winds of war." Familiar and shared ground, easy enough to touch on. "Eri-chan's enemies are mine as well. That I understand." So many young ones in this war, so many facets to their youth. She bites back a sigh; it is not for Setsuna to gainsay their bravery, however personally troubling she finds it. "Maybe soon we will all get the chance to know each other better through the field of combat." She knows there's no 'maybe' about it.

Eri knows where to go, of course, and they're strolling as the Puella Magi picks up the tale. She may not be very cold, but Setsuna likes cocoa just as much as the next girl. Even so, she tugs that big black coat around herself, a gesture for internal comfort rather than external, as she listens. Their interplay charms her, despite the weighty-seeming topics.

"Christmas in Shinjuku." A shake of her head, bangs whispering with the motion. "How can that be? Time flows strangely here, I know, but we must have known each other longer. You may be right, Eri. The stars know more than they ever say, even to those who listen close." She has a smile, but her eyes are faraway and thoughtful. "At the very least I have learned to look for the bright points between the dark spaces, and our friendship is one of those."

Another tug, dark fabric bunching around Setsuna's waist with how tightly she draws it. When she exhales, her breath is visible -- so she is not cold through and through, then. "You are both warriors. Something bothers me. Would you mind a more serious topic, once we have drinks?"

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

It's normal to be different when fighting, but Mikoto has certainly noticed, because Eri didn't start out so cold in battle. But it's okay, because ice complements fire, and Eri's style suits distance just fine. It's just a testament to their different approaches that they would wear - or shed - such masks in battle.

All this to say that Mikoto hasn't asked Eri about it, hasn't brought it up, because that is how battle works for her, and she takes it as Eri becoming more accustomed to a fight. After all, Eri wasn't raised for this. She's learning on the job. It makes her all the more impressive, in Mikoto's eyes.

Setsuna confirms that Eri's enemies are her enemies as well, and Mikoto nods with a grunt of affirmation. "Yup! It's good Setsuna's fighting for Eri, too." It means that Eri has more people watching her back, more people helping her now that so many have turned against them. Mikoto is used to fighting alone, but she can still appreciate the value of having more allies.

She frowns when Eri talks about her family, only to start to brighten when Eri talks about how much she means to her, segueing back into a frown when she mentions how hard it is to find her Lord Brother. The emotions flash over her face unguarded, plainly honest in their form and intensity. When Eri almost runs into a light pole, Mikoto laughs, grinning at her friend. "Stay alert!" In another context, it might have been barked as a dire warning; here, it's thrown out with a joking tone. Context, it seems, is vital when understanding Mikoto Minagi.

And metaphors seem vital to understanding Setsuna, too. There's more talk about stars, and between this and her cat, Mikoto is getting the sense that she's astrologically-inclined. "Good," she remarks, after, because even though she has to mentally pause and process the words to make sure she hasn't missed anything, she's pretty sure Setsuna has said something very nice about Eri.

She's left feeling like Setsuna has said less than she's thinking, much like Mikoto does, as the older girl asks to discuss something serious. "That's okay," she assures Setsuna, sounding a little puzzled as she tries to figure out what's bothering her.

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

"I will~I will~" She flaps a hand at Mikoto flightily. "Are you sure that isn't how the Outer Senshi meet everyone?" It's another light tease, because at first she doesn't sense the undercurrent. "Uranus met my senpai that way, in battle." She shrugs, and puts her hands up, "I guess that's more- senpai and Uranus than the Outer Senshi though."

As they stroll around into line, she stops referring to it directly. And seems to start noticing that undercurrent.

BGM Change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tBiuzjPb-8

It's in Setsuna's sudden distance. The Outer Senshi may see her gaze lingering on her face a little long. "It's... I've found in Tokyo in the community we run with- a month can be a very long time."

She rubs the back of her neck, uneasy. She's lived a year and a half in this life. Mami has lived five. Fifteen going on sixteen. How long will she make it?

Bright points in dark spaces? Her glasses glint as this starts to hit a little close to home. The line drifts up, and it's her turn next and she doesn't move.

Her eyes lid behind the shine. "Of course Setsuna-chan." She turns around, ignoring the throat clearing in the line between them- as she makes her order for a cocoa with whipped cream. Counts out the yen.

She steps to the side, waits for her drink. Her gaze moves low, a hand touching Mikoto's shoulder as she waits for her drink alongside the shorter girl. She doesn't say anything. It may be a confusing moment for the girl, but she may understand what she's seeking too... Mikoto had a good instinct for that.

She doesn't say anything at all- definitely not how below that glove is her. What's truly her. She inhales once through her nostrils breathily. Steadies herself, allows a curve to form upon her lips, and then the hand drifts away as she takes cup of hot chocolate, small wisps steaming out of the hole in the lid.

It's only once they're at the bench and she's adjusted her keister enough that she's comfortable. that she asks- "What's on your mind?"

She hasn't taken a sip of her cocoa yet.

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

It's a pleasant stroll on a winter's day, and even as the conversation buoys and sinks from topic to topic Setsuna enjoys the journey. She lets Mikoto handle that lamppost incident, observing Eri's near collision with what might be a twinkle in her eyes.

The stars and Time: some of Sailor Pluto's most constant companions throughout a very long life indeed. She speaks on their terms more than any others.

Both of her strolling companions accept the proposed topic, and Setsuna does her best to keep her relief subtle. First, though, drinks! She's in line behind Eri and allows for that pause without comment. On her turn she also orders cocoa, eventually slipping both hands free of deep pockets to curl around the warm paper cup.

"Ah. Here we are." A satisfied sigh accompanies Setsuna's seat-taking. "First..." She's gotten some practice at dithering, too, this senshi, and puts it into use here. One hand goes back into her pocket and emerges with something small and roundish and green. Setsuna holds it out to Mikoto.

It's a little carven cat, sleeping in a ball, a bit of soft-looking stone. "Jade, a small thing, but I thought you deserved some formal thanks for rescuing me from the golden guns of Mami Tomoe." She shares a rueful soldier's grimace. "They hurt. I was in a bad way, there, and I owe you, Mikoto-san. Thank you."

If the girl takes the gift, she smiles and sips from cocoa. One last pause. Then she moves forward, unable to do anything but seek toward honesty, not really. "I am one of many Sailor Scouts, the planetary senshi who have all made various pledges to our Princess." She doesn't say who that is, just goes on. "Our Princess is a person of... surpassing beauty, and the most gentle innocence. We all admire her. Each of us work to protect her in our own ways.

"To my knowledge I have recently become the first of all the senshi to- choose to take a life and then do so. I did so to protect someone, but..." An apologetic look to Eri, but it's overshadowed by Setsuna's own sorrow. "How does one deal with this? I do not think any of us know."

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

Mikoto orders her drink with Eri - she's just used to doing things with her important people, and it's easy to group the two of them together when she stands so close. After a moment, she remembers that money is exchanged for good and services, pulls out more yen than the drink asked for out of a cat-shaped purse previously hidden in her pocket, and hands it to Eri. Secretly, it's on purpose, instead of another little aspect of society Mikoto is bad at.

When Eri puts a hand on her shoulder, Mikoto looks up at her. Something is wrong, she knows, because Eri's eyes are hooded and in people that doesn't mean she's comfortable, it means she's sad. She reaches up and pats Eri's hand, feeling the gem which holds Eri's powers beneath her glove. Then the drinks are ready, and the moment passes, and Mikoto reaches up to take her cup of cocoa in both hands.

She takes a seat between Setsuna and Eri both, hopping up onto the bench and sipping at her cocoa without reservation. Setsuna had said she wanted to talk after their drinks, after all, and Mikoto takes her at her word. It's during a long sip that Setsuna searches around her pockets, pulling out something else cat-related, and Mikoto stares as Setsuna reveals it.

"Oooh," she gasps, a grin crossing her face as she realises it's for her. One hand reaches out to take it, cradling it in her mitten as she brings it close. "It's so pretty!" Setsuna explains the purpose of the gift, and Mikoto cants her head to the side, looking over to her - though, strangely, not directly at her eyes. "Mami's a bad person. No one deserves that. I'm glad I helped."

She sips her cocoa as she looks at the little figurine, and in time, Setsuna surges forward to the new topic. She speaks with reverence of her Princess, and Mikoto understands, because it's the same way she regards her Lord Brother. She has to protect her, and...

Mikoto bites at her lip, transferring the little jade cat to her pocket so she can grasp her cocoa with both hands. There's something about the statement which brings to mind a coppery smell, a smell she puts out of her mind as she considers the question. She's long known that she must take lives if it is ordered of her, that she must kill enemies, but there's something about that knowledge...

She shakes her head, puffing out a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding in. "Keep going," she says, and her voice sounds distant and curious to her ears. "If that's what Setsuna has to be to protect Setsuna's Princess, Setsuna has to keep going. Devotion... is hard, means doing bad things." She grips Miroku's strap with one hand, unconsciously stiffening up. "But, someone has to. Just don't think about it, don't..."

Her breath hitches in her throat, and Mikoto takes a deliberate breath inwards. "... if Setsuna smiles, and remembers Setsuna had to do it to protect Princess, then Setsuna will be happy again someday."

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

Eri's used to Mikoto's little troubles with society by now, so she pays out the proper amount, and hands Mikoto back the change. The moment may make her smile... but only for a moment.

Eri's eyes fall upon the jade cat that Setsuna is offering Mikoto. On the green. Her fingers flex.

She doesn't say anything.

Setsuna Meioh talks and she doesn't say anything. Princess. There's only one person that can be. She remembers her at D-Point from across the battlefield against the all-consuming monster that was Metallia. She doesn't say anything.

How does one deal with this?

Her eyes lid anew, and then she winces, as she's the one who taught Mikoto that Mami was a bad person, maybe she didn't mean to- but making Mami her enemy, who became her girlfriend that Mikoto was hostile to- to becoming her enemy again. She can see why Mikoto sees it that way.

She doesn't feel she has the right to correct her. And what would be the point anyhow? Confuse her more? Confuse her for when the moment comes, she hesitates? She can't do that to her.

Keep going.

It's what she does. Keep going. Keep going as long as she can. Keep the world turning. Her fingers dig into the sides of her cup when Mikoto says not to think about it. How devotion is hard. How one does bad things. "I agree with Mikoto-chan... but I think... I think if I told you a story it might help. You've heard some of it before. A little bit, but not the whole thing."

Rolling her neck, she sighs once, "Once upon a time there was a girl named Yaori Kumori." She starts so softly- "She was a girl who loved her little sister- Rika- very much. Her first, and only friend. She taught her things- like how to make fire glow from a matchstick if you strike it just right."

She closes her eyes, "There was an accident. Rika got put in a burn ward and Yaori felt really guilty about that. And the day her sister came home... there was a thing in her room that granted her wish. To disappear. And so started her destiny of battle against witches."

Her exhalations are so soft right now, one would swear they didn't see her chest move. Even the thinnest wisp of breath from her mouth dissipates so suddenly it's like it wasn't there. Her eyes drift along the ground, "But witches weren't the greatest monsters in her life. Instead they were other Puella Magi- who beat, and bullied her for her grief seeds. They pushed her, and pushed her to the edge. And finally she couldn't take it anymore. She set traps and killed them all. One by one."

The cup shifts this way and that within her hands, "And then along came another Puella Magi. She was new and bright eyed and innocent of the sort of things Puella Magi need to know to survive. She saw a familiar and just saw how it might kill people. She didn't see another girl's livelihood. She didn't see how she'd be seen as a bully. She killed that familiar. And Yaori Kumori decided she didn't want any more bullies in her life."

Her eyes fall upon the cobbles, "So she shot that girl in the center of her chest and left her to die. And that was that. Either she'd die- or if she didn't. She'd never come back. Right? I mean..." There's a sort of unhinged laugh, "...why would anyone come back after that?"

Her other hand she rakes through the side of her head, trembling, "But that girl had nightmares of an invisible stalker- killing her and everyone that she loved. And that girl didn't know who she was or why she did it. She just saw little Yaori as some demon that needed to be defeated. Some tyrant. She needed grief seeds anyhow if she was going to live. So she got help... she made plans."

Her gaze drifts sidelong- she doesn't look at either of them, "And then she killed her. And that didn't stop the nightmares. It just changed them... because she learned that to little Yaori Kumori- she was the greatest monster of all."

In the silence and the chill, she finally looks back forward- and is quiet for a while, "And I guess she was right too." Her shoulders raise, and then fall. There's a shift, as she gets off the story to answer what it taught her, "It was a mistake- but it was a mistake that's let me survive. Senpai says if I forgive myself it'll get better. It'll get easier. Dealing with it. Not thinking about it. Taking lives if I need to... living with the fact that every day I let monsters eat people so I can live. Because what we do- the sacrifices we make. The choices we make- who lives- who dies. Even when we make mistakes- it's worth it if the end result is the world can keep turning for the people we love, and care about."

The final comment sounds so detached, like she's asking for confirmation on her own, "Isn't it?"

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

A fully pleased expression shows when Mikoto takes that little cat. Setsuna watches with a smile, enjoying the girl's enjoyment for the fullness of the moment before moving on the more shadowy places.

Her question asked, she listens. Answers are what she seeks. At least, she hopes they are. For the first time Setsuna Meioh finds herself asking questions, at least in her own busy head, whose very existence make her uneasy. Still. She listens.

Mikoto answers first, and is a much more unknown quantity. Her short simple statements somehow hit harder for those qualities, punching right in without frill or artifice. Hesitation, perhaps, but not of an evasive sort. It's a hard question, she did not expect easy words in return.

"Keep going," she echoes, softer, and again. "Keep going. That has been my answer, to this point, for every question and problem I am faced with. You are right. Someone has to. I'd already decided it would be me..." Setsuna trails off, then decides to be a bit less consciously sphinx-like. "With- the girl. The one who brings the Silence. To spare my friends the burden. But it is simpler to make such a decision than to execut--"

Bad word choice. "The reality of ending a life, even one less young and innocent, weighs even more heavily than I'd expected. But that will not stop me moving forward. You are right, Mikoto-san. Thank you." Again that formality.

It is Eri's turn. Setsuna's friend once again receives the full of her attention, still and deep and utterly receptive. Her words drop into those deep garnet pools, each one, captured and stored in one of the Guardian's innermost vaults.

Her reply to the tale of Yaori Kumori is longer in coming. She has more to absorb. More to turn over in her head, more horrified sympathy to force herself through. More... everything. Cocoa chills in its cup, forgotten even though her eyes have dropped to it. They don't see the plastic lid or cheerily-patterned paper.

That final question, the one Eri asks in return, repeats in her head like an awful mantra. Isn't it? Isn't it worth it?

Is it her place to force that sort of a mortal trade upon the world? The man with the gun, Setsuna reminds herself with some savagery -- it rises up with surpassing swiftness and ferocity, and she snarls without even realizing it -- forced the trade first when he pointed his killing implement at Sucy Manbavaran.

After a small forever the tall woman nods. "You make a gift of your darkest moments to me, Eri. Thanks are not enough. The nightmares..." That's all she says about them; even those two words convey enough, convey more than she'd like. "It /is/ a selfish thing we do, is it not? To permanently sever the shining thread of a human life, to take what cannot be given back, just to protect the thread of another who means more to me."

She sighs and finally looks to Mikoto for a moment, then to Eri for longer, regardless of if the Puella Magi returns her regard. "But thank you nonetheless. I... do not feel better. But I do not know if I want to, truthfully. Not yet. And you are both right.

"No matter what I feel, I must move on, do what needs doing." A hard swallow, unexpected even to Setsuna, and she shakes her head again. "As ever. We get no choice. And I have the very best of allies, at least, in doing what we must."

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

Setsuna is formal, while Mikoto doesn't even honour her honorifics. But the meaning is clear - and Mikoto is understood. "Deciding's easy, doing's hard," she says, her voice barely a whisper, "that's why I practiced."

Days and nights of drills, form and belief both, shaped to serve her sword and her brother. She doesn't remember them all, but her body does. Her body knows what to do. It's tensed as if she's about to be launched into that sort of battle, even though the only battle right now is in her mind.

As she struggles to get a hold of herself, Eri speaks painful words about her experience, with a remove that Mikoto can absolutely understand. It's hard. It's hard, especially your first time, because - - record scratch - - Eri is in pain and Mikoto hates it.

She releases the strap which leads to Miroku's pack, breathes in, breathes out, and pats Eri's arm with that hand once it's fully uncurled. Isn't it worth it, Eri asks, and Mikoto nods. It's worth it. It must be worth it, because if it isn't, then everything Mikoto /is/ is based on falsehoods, and she can't accept that. Her Lord Brother would not mislead her. Eri would not mislead her. In turn, she must not mislead Eri. It's simple.

Mikoto shakes her head. "Enemies must be defeated, Setsuna. It's important. So smile, okay?" She does, too, though it's a fragile and delicate thing on her face. "We protect."

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

There's a look in her eyes that seems a little cracked when Setsuna says she makes a gift of her darkest moments and nightmares. It doesn't feel like a gift, what she offers feels poisoned. But what else does she have? "I'm sorry. I wish I had some advice to make it all better. How I wish I did... but I don't. We just..."

When Mikoto starts patting her arm- she glances her way. Tries to smile for her. But Mikoto will see it's not a genuine smile. Mikoto confirms it's worth it. That enemies must be defeated. So smile. How she's trying to smile right now. Trying for Setsuna, trying for Mikoto. She nod's simply, "We keep moving... and we protect."

But is it selfish?

"It is- selfish- but that's life." Eri says lightly, "How often do you hear about a shooting overseas? How many people were killed. We always think- 'Oh that's so sad, someone should do something about it.' - but never us. Not unless it personal to us. A doctor chooses to go to the rich part of town and see only rich patients rather than moving to the poorest country and getting by on a fraction of what they make elsewhere. Does anyone judge them for what's doing best for their family? A politician passes a bill which might condemn some people to die- but it's not their problem if it saves tax dollars. They're even praised for it. Even when I garden it's selfish. All the lives I pick and choose to nurture- instead of ones in the wild struggling and competing to survive. Every day people pick and choose which lives to care about, and which not to. It's a selfish choice. Sayaka Miki told me I wouldn't care about my first friend if she hadn't joined the Gardening Club."

Her eyes drift over to Setsuna Meioh, and she looks her straight in the eyes, "And I told her- what's wrong with that? We make choices like that every day. Who our friends, our loved ones, our family are. It's all circumstance- a twist of fate. A whim of fate. Where you were born, who you meet, and when... that determines our own brand of personal selfishness. The lives we pick and choose. The lives we protect, and how many-"

And now she's patting Mikoto's arm back, as if to say she's one of those lives. She's looking at Setsuna too as if to say she's one of the same.

She tears her eyes away, and looks forward, "When you think about it like that, you realize you can't change the world. Noone really can. Noone has that kind of power. And if you can't change the world-" She let's herself breathe again, exhale the breath she was holding. She let's herself lift her cup. But only half-way, "-the only thing you can do is change yourself."

And then she takes a sip. By now it can't be described as hot cocoa anymore. It's lukewarm. What a shame. Her last comment is whisper thin, as she pinches her eyes shut and repeats it to herself, "That's life."

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> The Way Out Is Through https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwAqByZw_Iw

Mikoto's smile breaks her heart a little even as it buoys her. This is a dichotomy she has learned much of, just in the past few short days. Cocoa resting between her knees, Setsuna rests one of her own hands atop the other, facing up, and rubs one thumb across another palm. She nods, and gives a smile back to the girl. "We protect." All three of them say it, a shared mantra, better than the one from earlier. "May it always be so plain."

Eri speaks broadly of a world in which such things are never, ever plain. It's a world Sailor Pluto, Guardian of Time, knows well. She has had little to do -- besides repel would-be invaders from her loneliest of outposts -- besides watch it throughout its development. People have always been the most interesting of its offerings, with their audacious soaring heights and screaming, gutting lows.

Never a dull moment, with humans.

"A country defends its rich neighbor whose coffers flow the correct direction, leaving the hapless serfs beyond its other borders to be a flesh-and-blood buffer for invading forces.

"A baron sells his daughter to an old, cruel man for the most advantageous bride price, heedless of the bruises on her after. He is too busy counting his coins.

"Soldiers choose targets, even in firefights, even in chaos, and each and every one has always and ever done so by their own inner lights in the end. Orders do not- orders do not remove choice.

"Kingdoms and Kings and normal everyday people, deciding who lives and who dies.

"Why not us?"

She thinks of a King she knows.

"I've long thought certain things cannot be changed. Now, perhaps, I know better. About many things. What if the world could change?

"That, too, could be life. If we reach for it."

Her hands fist around each other, and then suddenly relax. She finishes the cold cocoa, and just as earlier it heated her, now it chills her inside and out. It's in her eyes, that frost, making the surface of garnet wells somewhat reflective and opaque. Unseen beneath, deep below, down where things are still warm with protected life and fragile emotion, something pulses and bleeds out onto the floor of Setsuna's soul.

"Thank you, both. I needed this." And then Setsuna smiles again, back with Mikoto and Eri. She crumples the paper cup, first into a ball, and then neatens it to better carry it the surely long distance to the nearest bin.*

  • You would be AMAZED how rare trash cans are in Tokyo. You would then be even more amazed at the utter lack of litter.

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

"That's what the Chevaliers think. That it could."

There's a haunted look in her eyes. It's more than just darkest moments and nightmares. It's the knowledge that she once was a girl trying to do the same thing before those dark moments and nightmares. It's the knowledge that she once would have joined them. It's the knowledge that she still would have if only that girl would be willing to accept reality... It's the knowledge she wants it but is unwilling to try for it any longer.

How all the ambition and dreams have been beaten out of her until her fondest dream is just making it to high school graduation. How it's wanting to see the girl beside her find her Lord Brother and happiness- to see Mai's wedding when she finds the one. To make sure Setsuna Meioh has a long and happy life without duty being the only thing to keep her warm. Small things like that.

"Don't wreck yourself trying. Please."

That's what she offers to her thanks. And once she goes. A hand curls about Mikoto's palm. She doesn't want to move for a while.