2018-04-17 - Conflicting Loyalties

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Title: Conflicting Loyalties

Setsuna and Mikoto both know a thing or two about duty and purpose, and they speak of it after Setsuna returns Miroku's case. But Mikoto is troubled, because she's trying to make three different people happy...


Setsuna Meioh, Mikoto Minagi


Mitakihara General Hospital

OOC - IC Date:

2018-04-17 - 2015-04-10

.***************************** Yamanote High City *****************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Mitakihara General Hospital +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 Recently completed to great fanfare, this 42-story hospital is the tallest
 in the world, with a glossy glass exterior that folds two great wings inward
 towards the main entrance. Equipped with over 1,200 beds, Mitakihara is
 known as a place of last resort for those with difficult illnesses (and,
 ideally, disposable income). Designed with typical criticisms of health care
 facilities in mind, this ultramodern building eschews the usual bland
 pastels and workmanlike right angles for elegant, understated earth tone
 patterns and dynamic diagonal windows and paneling. Its patient rooms have
 large windows wherever possible to let in natural light, and are decorated
 to suggest a hotel-like atmosphere.

 There is substance behind Mitakihara's style; the latest technology
 dominates its every facet, from the touchscreen controls on its room-sized
 glass elevators to the particle accelerator in its basement used for
 precision radiation treatment. For all of its amenities, however, Mitakihara
 can be a quiet, lonely place; not all of its rooms are in use yet, and those
 that get lost in it can find themselves wandering empty halls.

 Mitakihara leverages its sheer size by providing a small, French-style
 garden on the roof for patients. Low hedges of pink flowers seem to sprout
 directly from the tiles, in a radiating circular shape, and an ornamental
 iron fence around the rim of the building ensures safety.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto is in a suite of her own - a rich suite, most certainly Yumi's doing. When Setsuna comes to Mikoto's room, she'll find Miroku, buried in the tile near the window - the nurse who escorts her in doesn't seem to take any notice of it.

"Please try not to excite her," the nurse says, a thin smile on her face. "Minagi-san can become quite... agitated..." That trailing tone and weary expression, not quite impolite enough to say anything outright, tells Setsuna half of what she needs to know.

Here's the other half: there are leather straps, on the cot Mikoto's in, at the level of her ankles and wrists. Mikoto, at least, is currently freed from them, sitting up in a tilted bed. But there are faint bruises, around where they'd loop about her flesh. They've been used before.

And as Endo so clearly demonstrated with Kette Binden, cats do not like to be bound.

There's a textbook, on her lap, and she's been writing down the answers to some question or another in an exercise book. It's a stark reminder that Mikoto has missed the beginning of the school year. She puts the papers aside when she hears footsteps, and the door opening. (The handwriting on the exposed pages is surprisingly artful.) She glares at the intrusion. She expects it will be more hospital stuff. Yumi has assured her the nurses are not her enemies, but she still does not like them, nor does she trust them.

It's only when she sees the familiar imposing figure of Setsuna Meioh that her expression shifts. "Setsuna," she smiles in a warm greeting, but it's a wan thing, faded like nighttime monochrome. Despair lies heavy across those big, yellow eyes. And yet, under the weight of it, she's still happy to see a friend. She looks better than she did when she came in, a few days ago. She's been freed of the wires and tubes which hooked her up to IV lines and monitors. Her bandages are mostly white.

But there's another injury she hasn't been able to shake, deep within her heart. They can't heal it. They can't even touch it. How could they? Guilt is an insidious thing.

"I'll... leave you two alone," the nurse says, after a moment's hesitation. "Please, don't hesitate to call if you need me." Mikoto stares at her, silent and mistrustful, and follows her with her gaze, nostrils flaring against the scent of disinfectant as the suite door opens and then closes again. It's only once her footsteps fade that she's able to relax, and look up at her visitor. She tilts her head, uncertain.

"... Setsuna..." A worried statement, trailing off. She didn't see her in the battle, but then again, she was singularly focused on one knight and then another, right until the end. Is it possible Setsuna got hurt, when she wasn't looking? The thought brings concern to Mikoto's pained face. She has to know.

"... is Setsuna okay?" Mikoto asks, and in her eminently battered form it might sound like a ridiculous question.

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

"Mikoto-san," replies her visitor with warmth and sadness in her voice that match it perfectly with her garnet eyes. Setsuna Meioh half turns to murmur a dismissal wrapped in politeness to the nurse. "Thank you for showing me to her room. My friend and I will be fine." Then she orients herself to the hospitalized Mikoto entirely, leaving the nurse in the wake of a swirl of shining evergreen hair. At least it was an elegant dismissal...

She seems so... small, so frail, it strikes the senshi. The room and the bed and the sword buried in the hospital tile (...!), all seem so much larger than Mikoto. Just a young, slight girl with big eyes and far too many bruises, so different from the battlefield berserker. We each of us have our vulnerabilities and our things we will kill for, she thinks.

Before Setsuna can take off her great black coat, she has to unburden herself. "If you will bear with me, Mikoto-san, my hands are full..." And they are, both dedicated to keeping a small blue vase upright with its complement of cheery flowers. She also has something familiar-looking slung across one shoulder by its strap...

The vase goes on a bedside table, with its multicolored array bringing a bit of the springtime into the room. Then Setsuna ducks and swings free of the great long round case she's brought, to present it lengthwise.

"I am okay," she says. "Others fared worse. Others like you. But I was able to retrieve this, once the dust settled. It doesn't seem like something you would want to be without."

Despite herself, Setsuna cannot quite resist looking back at Miroku and its current unorthodox sheath. It's a quick glance, at least.

"I am very glad you made it out." She saw the locations of the newer bruises, and it was not hard to put together both that they did not come from combat, and that they had everything to do with those unused cuffs. Yumi's involved, she knows, and is inclined to trust that.

But she cares, and she worries. "How are you? Yumi-chan told me you were here. Are they taking good care of you?"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

One of them, at least, is polite to the nurse. Mikoto doesn't seem inclined to talk to them at all.

Mikoto's eyes scan over Setsuna. Flowers, for some reason - but there's something more important on her person. It's Miroku's case, and Mikoto zeroes in on it as Setsuna puts the vase on the table. That container which keeps it out of the view of the common eye, and keeps Tokyo from asking too many questions...

She shakes her head, guilt and pain which isn't physical at all flooding her face as Setsuna tells her that she's fared so much worse. But then Setsuna tells her how she was able to retrieve the case, and Mikoto smiles a small smile which is all honest gratitude as she accepts it. "Thanks. It's important."

Mikoto frowns, as Setsuna keeps speaking. "... yeah. Got everyone out." And it's strange, so strange, because there's shame in her voice as she says it. She should have stayed. She should have fought. If she'd just defeated the enemies, they wouldn't be haunting Mikoto's thoughts now, with such horrible visions of Eri's suffering.

"I'm..." The words catch in her throat, and she takes a deep breath, shuddering and painful. a useless burden But she is so tired of pretending. "... been better."

She's silent, for a long, sullen moment. "... Yumi says they are," she concedes, of the nurses. "I don't like them."

Her eyes fall on Miroku, where it has bitten into the tile. "Can Setsuna... help me up? I need to return Miroku." The nurses would surely protest, but the way Mikoto says it, it's very important to her. Relying on someone else - even Yumi - to defend her sword from scrutiny is not something Mikoto does lightly. The sooner it's under her protection again...

... well, that's her job, after all.

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

Mikoto's face and voice are so open, windows to her heart left wide. There is something particularly keen about the pang Setsuna Meioh feels at watching emotions from Shinjuku wash through her with that innocent honesty and intensity. She's gentle, in passing the case over, mindful that Mikoto is abed in the hospital. Its full weight is not released until it's clear Mikoto is ready for it.

The shame... is strange, but not so strange. The Guardian of Time has some familiarity with the various expressions of survivor's guilt. "It was right where you left it. I rinsed it, just lightly, to get the dust free." That much pulverized concrete by volume makes for a thorough blanketing of particulate.

Setsuna listens to Mikoto's answers and shrugs out of the black coat, leaving her in dark jeans and a sober short-sleeved blouse in grey pinstriping, and hangs it up. When the girl says she's been better, Setsuna pauses in folding the coat and putting it over the back of her chair to share a solemn nod.

Then, the request. Setsuna does not hesitate. The need in Mikoto's voice is clear, the look in her eyes. She gives another nod. "Here, take my arm, and lean as much as you need. Let me know how I can help, and I will." She steps close to the hospital bed and proffers one forearm, level and steady; her other hand hovers palm up, ready as needed and a place another hand could grab for balance.

She's tall, Setsuna Meioh, and the slender length of her limbs disguises steadfast power -- as many of those who have fought her know. Here she employs it in a way better suited to her heart, though the need itself saddens her.

In a quiet voice, after casting a look over her shoulder to make sure no nurses hover, she says, "I'm glad you got them out. Everyone needed it. Eri-chan did. It was... maybe the most important thing you could have done, then. I am very grateful." Setsuna looks troubled, but then, she always has that air about her: the sorrowful set of those eyes, as timeless as she is.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Miroku's case is not light, but neither does it carry the terrible obsidian weight of Miroku, and so Mikoto is able to hold it in an arm without much trouble. She favours the one unbandaged. Mikoto nods, when Setsuna tells her what she's done. "That's okay." A little water won't hurt it. It's designed to withstand much more. After all, it was made to hold Miroku itself.

Setsuna is in sober darks and greys; Mikoto, on the other hand, is in a hospital gown, her clothes far too tattered to survive. It's revealed in full as she pushes the blanket off, and - pauses, for a moment, watching the door intently.

She's listening. And she's listening to Setsuna, too. She's right, but there's conflict, in Mikoto's eyes. "... but not what I'm... meant to do." Not a shield, but a blade... isn't that what Miroku said to her, back then?

It's only after that long moment, answering Setsuna's question, that she seems satisfied with what she hears, gingerly shifting to swing her legs to the ground. Mikoto hisses a quiet protest as her side is jostled, as she rises to her feet. She grasps Setsuna's arm, with a grip which seems so unlike her normal strength. Beside her, leaning on her, it is so obvious how different they are. Setsuna is so tall; Mikoto is so tiny. Seems so much tinier, the way breath shallows through her throat.

With Setsuna's help, she makes her way to the window. Unzipping Miroku's case is second nature. She transfers the bag to her injured arm, as she grips Miroku's hilt in her good hand and pulls. The weight of it is obvious, to Setsuna's sad, sharp eyes, and yet Mikoto yanks it from the ground one-handed, because she must.

"Kchhhhh..." A hissing protest, through tortured lungs, as the motion jerks painfully at her ribs. With panting breath, she guides it back into its sheath, blade-tip first. It takes so much longer than it ought to, for her to zip it up again. And suddenly, it seems so much easier to just dismiss it as a normal bag - if not a heavy one, whose weight she transfers back to her good arm as soon as possible.

She takes hold of that strap, and, with Setsuna's help, takes it back to her bedside. She lowers herself down to lay it beside her bed, and sits back down, heavily. "... hff... thanks, Setsuna."

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

The hospital gown: a garment fine-tuned to highlight and enhance frailty in a setting already filled with reasons to not look one's best. Setsuna's sad eyes are also kind, in how they do not linger on the flimsiness of the fabric or any additional wounds its cut reveals. Mikoto does not need the additional burden of Setsuna's sympathetic sorrow, and so the senshi keeps it within, as she does with so many other things.

Instead she expresses it in her physical support of the much-shorter, much-smaller high school girl, seeing her safely around the richly-appointed hospital room. This close she has a faint scent, like a ghost's memory of perfume but discernible to Mikoto's fine senses, subtle and floral.

Not what Mikoto was meant to do. The senshi thinks on that as they go, familiar with the idea of a purpose. They've spoken on close matters, before.

She remains quietly attendant while Mikoto wrangles the great obsidian blade free and returns its case to it. Even if she had not witnessed what became of Miroku at the end of the Shinjuku war, she would have a certain sense -- whether through the foreboding nature of the blade itself, or the determined struggle of the girl handling it -- that she should not just step in and lend an uncareful hand, here.

But she did witness it. And so Setsuna Meioh has ample reason to treat that slab of killing stone and magic with wary respect. She stands ready to steady Mikoto if the girl loses her balance, but she doesn't interfere, despite that struggle.

"You are more than welcome," she replies, chauffeuring girl with sword in case back to the hospital bed. "As for what you are meant to do... Hmm." Setsuna is still thinking on it, but this is how she considers things: slowly, deeply. "Maybe. But did it interfere with what you are meant to do?"

She takes her seat on a cushioned bedside chair, a practiced and unconscious gesture with one arm sliding her long fall of hair to the side as she does so. "Maybe there is more for us than just our purposes. So long as we see to our duties, perhaps we could also still have our loyalties to those we care for."

It's the sort of open musing that reveals this to be an unresolved topic for the one bringing it up, too. "Mmm, my apologies to you, Mikoto-san. Maybe you would rather not think on these things while you recover." A glance at the schoolwork.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It's good that Setsuna, subtly floral Setsuna, doesn't try to help. Miroku hates everyone who isn't Mikoto, deep and utter and complete and so very, very cold.

... it would hurt her before it let her handle it.

So Mikoto doesn't ask for help, even though she leans back against Setsuna as she works. She doesn't explain that it's something she has to do alone; that much seems so obvious to her.

"At least... Miroku's safe now." And it seems for all the world like she's talking with relief about her blade, not the massive beast which wrought such destruction on the towers of Shinjuku. When she gets back into bed - wincing, as she pulls the covers up before any nurses can pass by and spy her deception - Setsuna has more considerations, for her. The question makes her frown.

"... yeah," she replies, after a moment. "Meant to defeat enemies, Setsuna." There's something in her words - like it's a duty she carries, a purpose she is meant to fulfill. It's not unusual, for magical girls to feel they have to fight, but... there is such a terrible, firm certainty to the words Mikoto says.

Her frown deepens, as Setsuna muses about being more than just their purpose. Her heart, mind, soul - all roil against it. But she goes on to talk about meeting their duties, and that seems to calm Mikoto down, a little. She lets out a puff of a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding.

"It's... okay," she says, after a moment's pause. Emotions war on her face, as she struggles with her next question - overwhelming guilt, and uncertainty, and fear. "... but... what happens, when there's too many loyalties?"

One thing is true, in this uncertain world: Mikoto Minagi serves too many masters. A girl who needs her to fight - a girl who needs her normalcy - a family which demands her singular devotion. It hurts.

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

The idea that the blade, the beast, the entity that is Miroku would need protecting provokes the quirk of one dark green eyebrow upward. But: "Good," she agrees. And certainly all, including the hospital staff, will be happy to have the blade out of its spot of somewhat violent imposition... "I see why you needed the case back. That is very useful." Its visual mollification did not escape her notice.

Having shared her thoughts, the tall senshi pays her full attention to Mikoto's. Short words and expansive expressions are both part of the reply.

And Mikoto asks the question that must be asked, the true knot at the end of those threads of thought. Setsuna watches the war on the other girl's face from within her intent quiet, resting elbows on the chair's armrests and cradling her chin on a web of interlaced fingers.

Given a riddle, the sad-eyed sphinx considers, and finally admits: "I do not know." She does not release the heart-deep sigh in her chest, and it lodges there with a dull ache. There is too much poise in her to allow any defeated sag of limbs or dropping of gaze.

"I promise to let you know if I find the answer," she follows up, and it is both a gentle jest and meant truly, because the senshi does not use the word 'promise' without consideration.

"But tell me, what is the very first thing you want to do once you get free of this place? Do you know if it will be soon?" Setsuna puts some effort into the topic pivot, and it is also an attempt at lightness and genuine. "Have you made a list of the things you want to eat that doesn't come from the hospital cafeteria?"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It's such a strange turn of phrase. A sword, after all, normally protects its wielder. But Mikoto turns all that on its head, so effortlessly. Perhaps it's one of those artifacts which are so popular, in the magical girl world. Mikoto nods, smiling faintly, to the case's use. "Mm-hmm."

Setsuna doesn't know, and Mikoto's head bows. "... oh." She is not dignified; her disappointment is obvious, even as Setsuna promises to let her know if she figures it out. But perhaps more surprising is the way she adds after her words, so quietly: "Three. I'd do anything for just three people. But, they all... want really different things, Setsuna."

They all want really different things, and Mikoto cannot reconcile them. not smart enough

Despair swims in her eyes, and Setsuna redirects her, so effortlessly. Mikoto glances up, blinking, and smiles. "I want Mai's ramen!" She says, immediately, and as she keeps talking, her smile grows wider. "And Mai's teriyaki, and Mai's katsu, and Mai's tempura, and -"

- she just keeps listing off food which this 'Mai' can apparently make. It's a long list. It would normally occupy her so utterly, so... why is her smile still sad?

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

Mikoto describes having three loyalties, three masters for her choices and her heart. "I see why you ask. That is an awful place to be in." From the sound of Setsuna's voice, she has an understanding, though she does not volunteer her own. It feels too close, too precious. She again feels sorry for asking, for stirring this up in the already-hurting girl.

It is a bit of a guilty relief when the redirection works. Maybe it's for the best, to steer away from these topics, thinks Setsuna. A palliative for the heart. She hopes so, at least.

"Mai sounds like an excellent cook." And she really does. The list inspires hunger. That sadness is still there, though. "I've heard a little about her.

"From you and Eri-chan, mostly." She has a flicker of quiet there, gets drawn back to Shinjuku again so easily. Setsuna inhales, deep and long, and continues. "It is one of those names that comes up enough that I know she must be important."

She wonders if this might be one of Mikoto's three people. One of them, she's been told before. Setsuna settles back in her chair and shares a smile with Mikoto, small bit friendly. "What is she like?" It is a friendly curiosity, primarily. Setsuna has grown to care for Mikoto.

But she cannot deny that there is that level of... call it professional curiosity, as well. Her mind catalogs details meticulously, and Sailor Pluto has every reason to treat all information as possibly critical to her purpose. Which, like Mikoto's, is everything.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Yup!" Mikoto nods, enthusiastically. Despite her pain, it's clear she has a lot of affection for... well... Mai's food, at least. That affection is expanded on, momentarily, as Setsuna tells her how her name has come up.

"Mai's most important girl in the world." Mikoto says it so simple and automatically, as if the truth were as easy as breathing. The descriptor is, naturally, vital: her Lord Brother comes first, but her Lord Brother isn't a girl. "I love Mai! So does Eri! We all do!" As if they were a group.

And how plainly she says such things, in clear opposition to every Japanese law of politeness and propriety. Mikoto has never cared about social norms.

Her smile is broad. "Mai's amazing! Mai is such good cook! And Mai works, all the time, all different things! Mai's so talented! It's because Mai's a big sister, Setsuna. Big siblings are good at stuff. And Mai's great singer, and Mai's so warm, and Mai has the best smile, and laugh! And Mai always makes me bento, and Mai's really strong -"

Mikoto pauses, cold glass through her heart, and looks away. "... but... even though Mai's strong, Mai doesn't like to fight. Mai wants a normal life. Mai... was really upset I'd been fighting, because Mai wanted me to be normal, too. But... but I can't be normal, Setsuna," grief and guilt settle over her again like a blanket. "I'm meant to fight."

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

There is an awful lot to Mai, as it turns out. Setsuna Meioh makes a good listener, intent and still, only moving to nod a little from time to time. She is not herself Japanese, though her courtesies and attention to social graces help her integrate. In either case, she displays no objection to such plainspoken affection.

She simply leans back in, balances the fine symmetry of her features upon those long laced fingers, and listens. The change of mood in Mikoto is as clear and swift, when it comes, as a shift from helpful breeze to stormfront squall can be asea.

Mai wants to be normal. She thinks of Eri, again, at that. She looks at this too-small girl with her too-big sword and her even bigger heart and finds that her own is, as ever, capable of holding a measure more of sorrow.

Because Mikoto is meant to fight. And so are they all, it seems. It would not be fair to say that Setsuna feels her years -- that would be a trick, indeed. But she does feel an ancient weariness.

"Mai sounds wonderful, Mikoto-san." She does, and it's not even about the words, it's about the way talking about her lit Mikoto up from within. One of her three people, it seems sure, with one of their three desires for the girl in the hospital bed. "She sounds..." and Setsuna finds a word that feels like it sums up the effect Mai has on Mikoto, "...caring. But perhaps that comes with being a big sister, like you said. She must have had practice, growing up.

"So it makes sense that she doesn't want you to fight, if she cares. She doesn't want you to get hurt." Setsuna has some experience with all-consuming life purposes and the dangers they can pose. She has never known normal. "I am... meant to fight too. We talked about that some, back in the winter. Over cocoa." It's a warm memory in some ways, but the mood keeps away any accompanying smiles.

There are any number of nice and comforting lies she could tell, but Setsuna does not truck with those.

"Sometimes we are meant to do things, and those things are more important than whether or not it is fair to us, the ones who must do them. I think that is one of the hardest things, on those who care for us. It's hard for them to see us take these things on. But that does not change that we must."

Finally she leans away, unlacing her fingers, into the back of her chair. Her back encounters the bulk of the jacket there and she reaches behind to pull it into her lap instead, folding it over her hands there.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Yup," Mikoto smiles. "Mai cares a lot..." She pauses, shakes her head, sadness creeping into her tone. "... unless it's Mai. But that's why I've gotta take care of Mai, too!" Mai needs someone to remind her to do things for herself, that it's okay to just live every now and then. And... Mai needs...

'A normal life...that doesn't matter right now.'

'It matters... matters to Mai.'

she hasn't been there

Mikoto shakes her head, again, fiercely. Despair leaks into her voice, over syllables laced with guilt. "... Mai doesn't... understand me at all..." Doesn't understand the need to fight, in the same way Setsuna and Mikoto do, the way she acknowledges with a yellow-eyed look of understanding.

She studies Setsuna's face, as she explains, as if searching for some hidden answer. She can see no lie to her words; they seem as factual as the bed she lies in, or the sword by its side.

"... yeah. Setsuna's right. And it's what I can do," Mikoto says, finally. "It's how I can help. But Mai... Mai doesn't need my strength at all. Mai doesn't want me to act at all. Mai wants to pretend... but I can't pretend, Setsuna. I... I can try, but..."

But Mikoto has always been so simple, so honest, so bad at lies. If Mai had asked, she would have had no chance against her. ... if Mai had asked.

She swallows, at a lump in her throat. Another piece of information slips into place, entirely accidentally. "... Eri's next most important girl. Eri's like me. Eri understands. And Eri needs me to fight. I'd... I'd fight for Mai, if Mai asked... but not fighting, when Eri needs... how can I?" so she'll make mai cry again is that it

Mikoto shakes her head, despondant. "... I wish, my Lord Brother were here..." Such an archaic turn of words, for someone whose Japanese is so simple.

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

"Ah, Mikoto-san. My sympathy. That is hard. When the fight gets between you and them, it is..." A look back from garnet eyes allows that this is something Setsuna understands. "They may never understand, but that is part of the task. Part of the burden. At least, that is how I understand it.

"And the pretending is hard." A slow nod, with a gentle swish of bangs. "Pretending things are okay when they are not. Pretending it does not hurt, so it does not hurt them, either." She doesn't quite follow that it's about lying, per se, through Mikoto's plain way of relaying things.

She may not know Mai, but... "Eri-chan is special," Setsuna agrees, perhaps the most ready and easy answer she has had all night. "She does understand." Her hands close beneath the heavy folds of the jacket in her lap. Where are you, Eri?

Mai, Eri, and Mikoto's missing Lord Brother. Each with their own purposes for the sweet, big-hearted berserker. From beneath the chains of her own hefty destiny Sailor Pluto gains a distant sense of the immensity of that which weighs down the diminutive girl recovering from war's wounds in the hospital bed.

"For your sake, I wish that too," she says, out of a pure and genuine desire for a lost-sounding girl to see her big brother again. It sounds like a lovely and understandable thing to want, when things are so dark and terrible. The comfort of family. "I am sure he would make things better," she says, and she means that, too.

Setsuna is about to say that Mikoto can rely upon her friendship, but the hard truth stops her there, as well. They are Shepherds together. And Setsuna Meioh has her purpose. Her affection for Mikoto is true; it is just as true that there is something she wants from Mikoto, if the girl will give it. A thing she would ask, a thing she cannot afford not to ask from her allies.

So it feels... insincere. And she does not. Instead, she says, "Perhaps I cannot solve these problems, but... is there any way I could help with your class work? Bad enough that you have to spend so much time here, but to miss the beginning of school too..." Setsuna expresses some genuine regret there. Sounds like she's into this whole school thing.

"I am not a bad tutor, if you would like some help. Or even some company to keep it from being lonely work."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto frowns, trouble writ alongside the pain on her face. "Pretending hurt Mai. Even though Mai pretends all the time... Mai blamed Mai." Mai always blames herself. And Mikoto should have known, but she wanted to protect Mai, and in the end she only made her sad and angry. "I... I should've just told Mai..."

But Eri had said Mai was her own worst enemy, and Mikoto didn't want Mai to make an enemy of herself. And then, as the war grew long, Mikoto didn't want to -

'I...found out what Shimanouchi was doing. Found out why, and I understand, but...you're right. I would have had to be a monster to help her. I'm not sure I could have done that...I'm surprised I was able to stand aside.'

- utter horror washes over her face, in response to the memory, and she shakes her head fiercely, breath coming in short little puffs as she realises the meaning she hadn't when they had first plunged her into such a panic.

Mai agreed that she would have had to be a monster to help Eri.

... so what does that make Mikoto, in Mai's eyes, when Mikoto helped Eri..?

of course mai thinks she's a monster

"... yeah," Mikoto gasps, after a moment, and completely fails to explain what upset her. She clings to Setsuna's words, instead, about the desperate, precious girl called Eri Shimanouchi. "I love Eri. I'm, scared for Eri too. Right now I'm so - useless - if Eri's hurt..." hurt, no, eri's going to die

Her eyes are wide, lips parted for hungry breath. Her heart hammers in her chest. She feels like she is drowning, but there's no water around her at all -

- and then Setsuna mentions her Lord Brother, and Mikoto holds onto the thought like a lighthouse in the dark. She swallows, nodding silently, for a moment. "My - my Lord Brother'd know what to do." but she can't find him can she do nothing right "Lord Brother's really smart," Mikoto insists, squeezing her eyes shut. "And, good at everything..."

Such is her consternation that she completely misses Setsuna's inner battle, the silence which reigns for a long and uncomfortable moment. She focuses on her Lord Brother, her love for him. She can do nothing else. And after a moment, she's able to breathe a little more deeply again.

Mikoto thinks that Setsuna is just trying to distract her, when she starts talking about her classwork. She doesn't mind. Mikoto wants, desperately, to be distracted. "Yeah!" She says, and the word is a little too sharp, a little too desperate. "Don't really care about school, but, makes Mai happy..."

And Mikoto so badly needs to make Mai happy, right now.

She smiles, a little too fragile. "I... I'm not very smart," not smart enough to solve this to make everyone smile, "but, I'd like it if Setsuna helped!"

Despite her words, Setsuna will find her a sharp student, with excellent penmanship. Who is, tragically, completely hopeless at mathematics, though she seems to have an unusual knowledge of old Japanese history.