2018-04-21 - Despair and Warmth

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Title: Despair and Warmth

In which Kasagami is in great need, and Setsuna comes running.


Kasagami Araki and Setsuna Meioh


The Araki Estate

OOC - IC Date:

Sat, April 21, 2019 - A day or so after the duel between Kasagami and Utena

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The Estate is quiet, except for one room.

The staff gone for good, the lawyer away, and the phone already packed with messages dire for the young heiress. She'd stopped listening after ten of them. Her heart wasn't in it.

Click. Rewind. Play. Click. Rewind. Play. Static and fading vhs fight for the attention of the viewer. A single steel grey eye peers, bloodshot and raw. The images are burned into her memory. Her mother. Playing among the roses. And the petals flying away. More and more, all she sees is the petals. The laughter means as much as the static. Just something else she's lost. All amidst flying petals. Once struck from the ground. Then struck from her chest.

Really, the youma was far, far kinder. All around her are reminders. Of what she had. And what she has, tenuously, and stands to lose so very, very easily. She huddles closer into her robes. It's a cold night. With the staff gone, the heating is set to fail soon. It's off now. She has to save that much, at least.

Click. Rewind. Play. Kasagami Araki looks as pale as a ghost, almost sickly. Her eye is heavy with sleeplessness. And so, she keeps watching the ghosts of her past, haunting the mansion herself. Every now and then she rocks back and forth on the love seat she's claimed. But she can't get up. She has no strength, no will, nothing left.

Click. Rewind. Play.

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

Two messages sent, no replies received. Setsuna Meioh experiences a span of time balanced upon the edge of uncertainty. Maybe Kasagami is buried in the business of elections, occupied with her to all appearances full and successful life. Her full and successful life after she walked free of me, the thought has come more often to the senshi of late, as she has watched from afar.

This silence, though. This new silence, after a night full of terrors, it won't leave Setsuna alone. It drones loud and insistent, driving away all other thoughts. And there's that pang in her chest, the one that won't go away. Her feet find a familiar track in her carpet. She starts wearing it down again in a relentless circuit.

The bulletins come in to her phone, one by one, but they're not text messages -- they're just more notifications on the hyperactive and usually ignorable school news feeds. She isn't quick to check them, too focused on a message indicator that isn't lighting up.

When she does, in a fit of desperation, Setsuna stops in her tracks. A special news bulletin from Ohtori. And then the school election results. Only one features the name of Kasagami Araki.

Less than three minutes later she's departing the garage of Meioh Tower in her rarely-taken personal car at speeds that would do Haruka Tenoh proud.


There's no answer at the grand front door of the Araki Estate: not to knocking, not to ringing, not to two-fisted overhead banging.

Another silence.

There should be servants, someone, even if the mistress of the estate is herself not in. There haven't been many thoughts in Setsuna Meioh's head on the way here, itself a remarkable rarity for that busy head. Bits of the accusations float to mind and she shoves them away; Touga Kiryuu's name by the title of President, too. All give way to the primary, insistent directive of her heart:

Find Kassie.

No one's answering the door. Well, Setsuna Meioh has been here before, and she didn't enter by the door then, either.


The emptiness of an empty estate house makes its impression, through expensive large windows, as Setsuna Meioh makes her rounds. With so many dead black portals, it is easier to find the one still flickering with what life is left to the place.

She has to cup her hands close around her face, right up against the glass, to see clearly within. She makes a tall, slender silhouette against what light remains outside, with the telltale bun atop that long fall of hair.

Setsuna's bare palms squeak down the outside of the window, arms weak and nerveless and forgotten -- but only for a moment, a moment that spans an awful gutting spasm of that staunch and steadfast heart.

Then she needs them.

The window's up before she realizes she's opening it, it doesn't matter, she's already through it and doing this awkward and entirely un-senshi-like half-run, half-scramble to cross the space between window and girl. How Setsuna gets there is not important at all. Just how fast.

She pulls up at the very last moment, finding brakes for her haste so that gentleness can take over. It's not the ungainly tackle it might otherwise have become, therefore, as Setsuna curls down to her knees before the bundled ball of blanketed misery that is this dear beloved person. Garnet eyes seek steel, full of soft anguish.

"Oh, Kassie," she breathes. "Oh, love."

She reaches with fingers that tremble despite her, to brush at dark twists of unkempt bangs above that pale forehead.

"I'm so sorry. I'm here. I'm sorry, Kassie."

Setsuna is right between Kasagami and the television. She didn't have a view of it from the window, has no idea yet what has been playing on loop.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

In happier times, that scramble would've earned Setsuna loving, teasing ridicule. She would've caught her and pulled her close. Instead? Shaking fingers brush aside her bangs. Kasagami's skin feels paradoxically frigid and yet burning up. Her body quivers at the touch. Even as Setsuna kneels, the young woman stares blankly as if she isn't even there.

Finally, after a minute of stretching silence, she finally blinks. Her voice, when it comes, is hoarse as if she hasn't had anything to drink in a day. She might well not have. Another long quiver, though really she's never stopped. This close, Setsuna might spot the empty pill bottle beside her.

Her glassy eye finally focuses. It barely helps. Her side burns, and the only sign is how Kasagami lets out the smallest of cries. Her left hand still has the remote. Rewind. Play.

Behind Setsuna, the scene plays again. Younger Kasagami and her mother frolicking in the fields. They're happy. Beautiful. Whole and loving. It pours off the tape without even needing to be seen. It's in their voices.

Her right arm twitches, almost curled up as the nerves burn. Without the touch of the Rose Bride, no amount of medical succor is enough. All she can do is suffer amongst the things she's lost.


She rocks back and forth, looking to Setsuna as if just realizing she's there.

"Everything is always ripped away from me."

A tear drips down her face, and she looks at Setsuna with a dazed, shocked look.

"...You're...you're going to be torn away from me too. I'm weak. I'm worthless. All I do is...all my dreams do is burn everything to cinders."

Terror enters her gaze. Naked, utter fear.

"You'll burn too. Please...please, I don't want..."

She curls up tighter, shivering.

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

It is a lot to take in. A lot for the eyes and the ears: to absorb the ways the proud Kasagami Araki has fallen and shrunken in on herself; to hear recorded giggles re-cued over and over. Setsuna imagines how long this bright soul has been languishing, how long she's been sitting here watching this tape, and it /hurts/, it stabs a hitch into her breath. It's a deep, breath-stealing physical ache, all wrapped up in guilt and love and a sorrow edged with desperation.

It is a lot for a heart to bear: the unfocused dull look in Kassie's eye; and then, terrible in a different sort of way, the look when she woke and saw. That cry of pain, the tremble.

None of it is as hard as hearing those words, and seeing that retreat. Setsuna watches the tear track down and feels her own eyes sting at their corners. She swallows, twice, against the rising tide, shoves it back, barely.

No matter how much there is to bear, she knows, it is nothing to what Kasagami herself is feeling. And Setsuna knows, with a sudden and fierce surety, that she will bear up under anything for Kasagami, move the world if it will shift this sorrow even an inch.

There is an initial fierceness in her voice, from vehemence, from an overload of emotion. The fear in that gaze haunts her. "I won't burn. I refuse. Even when I'm far, I've never left you, Kassie, and I never will. I promise."

She relents, but only with her tone of voice. Those fingers lean in as Kasagami curls more tightly, unwilling to allow even the slightest renewed distance between them now that they are close. Setsuna puts all of her love into warm fingertips that brush along Kasagami's left temple, then brush down the side of her cheek to gently cradle her jaw.

"I'm here, Kassie." With every word she's moving. "I'm here for you. You're not alone, and you never will be." Setsuna's free arm is gentle but firm as it encircles Kasagami's right side, sensitive to the pains wracking her. "Never."

With one arm curling around Kasagami's back and the other cradling her dear, beautiful face, Setsuna guides them together into a curled embrace. She tucks that dark head of hair beneath her chin, into warmth and nurturing love. Setsuna swallows again, hard, but her voice still comes out thick:

"You are the most beautiful... your dreams, are beautiful, too. You're beautiful, Kassie. You're-" The low voice cracks and disappears. She whispers to finish, stroking a soothing hand down Kassie's back. "You're so beautiful."

Setsuna Meioh makes no promises she will not keep, and says nothing she does not know to be true.

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Arms wrap around her, fingers brush her hair, and that curled embrace finaly brings real warmth into her body. Words repeated. She's beautiful. Beautiful? Her? Kasagami's hand trembles and finally drops the remote. Static flickers all across the room, casting the two lovers in ghoulish shadows. Everything seems so empty to Kasagami. The cocktail of medicines and depression eat at her heart. The only thing keeping her together are those warm arms of the senshi with the beautiful, wise voice.

Her own arms drape around Setsuna bonelessly. There's no strength in them. She feels so weak. Weaker than when she felt scorching fire run down her body. Weaker than when she first looked in the mirror and saw her scarred body.

And just like that day, she lets out a moan of terror and fear, then cries.

"Setsuna! Please. Please please please! I'll hurt you! Don't...don't say that! I've hurt you so much already...I'm ugly! On the outside and inside! She was right. She was /right/, Setsuna!" The tears come swiftly, her heart in tatters.

"I love you so much, Setsuna-chan! Please...leave me. I don't deserve you. I don't deserve any of you." A bawling, bitter little laugh.

"How could I ever think to be a King when I'm /this/. Maybe...maybe this is right. What I deserve." Her words are whispers, filled with unbridled shame, guilt, fear, and utter loathing for herself. So far from the proud young woman, her inner demons crawl into her voice and about her body. She looks to Setsuna, at once begging for her to stay, and begging for her to leave in that eye of hers.

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

Setsuna thought she knew what hard meant, here in this dark room full of sorrow. Then Kassie starts begging.

She can't breathe, the desperation and the fear in that voice she loves is just too painful, the things she's begging for are too awful. Too shocking. It's not that Setsuna had no windows into Kasagami's pain, no ideas of the doubts lurking beneath that bold demeanor. Her love had shown her some, both intentionally and through their very shared closeness, in moments of vulnerability.

But the depths, as they often do, went hidden. Buried. Now... Setsuna feels like she's outside the window again, numb palms sliding down the glass as she looks in on Kasagami's depression. The light pull of Kassie's head against her cradling hand and she leans back to meet the gaze, her eyes standing pools of liquid garnet.

"I refuse," Setsuna whispers, and it is the gentlest of refusals, and the firmest. "No. Never. You already have my promise, Kassie. You already have my heart." She shakes her head with a swish of evergreen bangs, to emphasize her refusal, to deny the things Kasagami is saying about herself. Tears spill loose at the movement to track wet down her cheeks. "Both freely given."

Setsuna brushes at Kassie's cheek again, then leans in so their foreheads touch, cool and pale to warm and dark. No matter how Kasagami tries for distance, Setsuna only comes closer, gaze to gaze now. With her other hand, the one keeping them close, she brushes her thumb against Kasagami's shoulder through the blanket.

"You are beautiful, Kasagami Araki. Inside and out. /Beautiful/." It is said with surety, with vehemence, without a waver in whisper or gaze. "No matter what anyone says. And your future is as bright as your heart is brave.

"So I refuse. Because I know you, and I love you."

<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Eyes meet. Garnet and steel peer, and within those inky blacks? Kasagami Araki finds the wisdom and strength of the ages. And more importantly, the love of a dear soul. The darkness around them, the burning problems around her? They loom like jackals ready to tear apart a corpse.

But that little spark of light returns to her gaze. Still tetering on the edge of despair and hopelessness. So filled with fear and loss and anguish.

But as foreheads touch and fingers brush her shoulder, she knows she isn't alone. That even if it hurts, someone is here for her. That thinks she's beautiful, no matter what. That loves her, no matter what.

Arms finally push themselves to find the strength to hold Setsuna. Her arms are weak, touch light. She's exhausted, and only now feeling the extent of her own suffering. Tears redouble. Her heart pounds. Hands grip at the back of Setsuna's shirt.

"Setsuna...." She whispers, the other woman's name a prayer. She breaks down, burying her face in her love's neck. Someone is here. Setsuna has always been here. And won't abandon her.

"I love you. I love you so much. It hurts! All of it! I..."

Without a hint of pride, she finally sobs. Her words come out slowly, quietly, wracked with pain. She's lost so much.

"I love you...please don't leave me! To hell with this world, I need /YOU/! It hurts Setsuna..." Her words devolve into little moans of suffering. She clings, and rides out the pain.

She clings to Setsuna as hard as she can, until she finally passes out in her arms.

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

She's so relieved and grateful, when Kasagami finally relents, finally leans into the hug instead of away, when Setsuna feels the clutching of her shirt fabric.

Her name, whispered in that tone... Setsuna has never heard anything so rare and precious, did not know her heart could swell and break at the same time. The look on Kasagami's face stays with her, even as she feels her love's tears on her neck.

The anguish, the fear, the despair. That brave spark, surrounded by so much dark.

And now, surrounded by the arms of the most steadfast of senshi, the young and eternal woman defined by her unwavering devotion and the lengths she will go to for her love. Her embrace is strong enough to support every last sob. Her hands are soft with affection, always finding a new spot that has not yet felt the warmth of their reunion and soothing away the distance with a touch.

"Kassie," she returns, a murmur in an ear. "Kassie..."

All of that raw pain coming from the woman she loves is worse than any blade in the gut. "I'm here," she tells her, as many times as she needs to hear it, over and over. "I love you, Kassie. I'm here, I'm here."

Because Kasagami needs her, Setsuna holds her own sobs back, though they burn in her chest. Silent tears stream down, dripping from the fine angle of her chin down onto Kassie's hair. From time to time she simply presses her face down into those dark strands, her cheek or her eye or her mouth, unsure whether it is Kasagami or her who needs the closeness more.

All of that pain and Setsuna holds fast against it, holds tight to the sagging sobbing woman in her arms, and does not let go. "Ah, Kassie." When exhaustion steals in after the storm she stays where she is, her arms a support and a comfort and a safe place.

Setsuna Meioh has stood many cold, lonely, unmoving posts in her long existence. She settles in for this intimate vigil of love and pain, kneeling before the couch, her body a bulwark of warmth. Setsuna smooths her hands over and through long black hair.

When morning comes any care-worn tangles are long gone, combed through with all the gentle patience in her fingers. Setsuna and her supportive arms are right there. She has not left Kassie, has not even moved from the spot.