2018-04-21 - Overdoing It?! Ramen, War, and a Child's Feelings!

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Title: Overdoing It?! Ramen, War, and a Child's Feelings!

Mai cajoles Natsuki into helping her drag home a huge load of shopping with the promise of ramen made from scratch, because Mikoto is finally home again. But Natsuki has questions about why she's been gone - and Mikoto has questions about the nature of their Children.


Mai Tokiha, Natsuki Kuga, Mikoto Minagi


Ohtori - Dormitories

OOC - IC Date:

2018-04-21 - 2015-04-12

.******************** Yamanote High City - Ohtori Academy *********************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Dormitories +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 There is some variation between the dormitories to provide a range suitable
 to different tastes, but they are typically old-fashioned and elegant, with
 low stone walls guiding the walkways and ivy creeping up their white walls
 and columns. Their exterior is classically European, like sedate manor
 houses, and for the most part this style is maintained inside, with
 dignified old paintings in thick goldleaf frames. However, the dormitories
 do not lack for daring Ohtori touches, with whimsical art deco floor
 panelling here, fantastical geometric lamps there, and odd little secret
 panels and dead ends throughout.

 Dorm rooms are generally shared between two same-gender students, but
 singles are almost as common; Ohtori students were not generally raised to
 share. There are some triples and quads available as well. Some dorms permit
 a great deal of leeway in decoration, others require students to stick to
 the default antique furniture. Many dorms have at least a small balcony,
 which provides an escape route for particularly rebellious students when
 curfews are instated.

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

That evening, Mikoto is recovering quietly, just as she'd promised Mai she would. She has, in fact, been resting all day, though she's had a couple of visitors. It's been an utterly miserable experience, staying still, but... it's so much easier to lie still when there's such crushing, overwhelming guilt pressing down. stop hurting mai

The lights are off, and Mikoto lies flat on the couch, Miroku resting in its case against the side of it - because of course she'd drag that thing everywhere, even when she's so hurt. She's never been without it. Why can't it just disappear when it's not in use, like a nice, sensible Element?

... unfortunately, that's a long question, and not really one Mikoto remembers enough to answer.

There's a box of deluxe dorayaki on the coffee table, from some mysterious benefactor, and there are, miraculously - or perhaps worryingly - still some left. Mikoto really did, enjoy them - and they're good, really! ... but Mai will want some too, right..? Right!

She holds an obsidian bead delicately between two fingers, rubbing it between them, deep in thought. Her lips press together to stop them from quivering with suppressed tears.

If only... if only...

When she hears footsteps approaching and the click of a key in the door, Mikoto hastily shoves her necklace back inside her shirt, swallowing against the emotions which have lodged in her throat.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

The key fits the door as well as it ever did - a little stiffly, but the lock isn't as stern as it once was. As the door squeaks open, though, the sounds of a conversation in progress filter into the room - perhaps the returning occupant isn't alone today. A careful ear might pick up on a few other details - the shuffling of bags, heavier footsteps, a quiet second set of footfalls - but generally the voice gives the game away.

"And if you ever bothered to cook actual food for yourself, Kuga, you might realize that this is absolutely reasonable. Sensible, even. Besides, I took the heavy bags - Mikoto! I'm home - and Kuga's with me, so don't worry, okay?"

A familiar hand opens a familiar door, carrying an...unfortunately familiar burden. There seems to have been a sale at the grocery store - Mai's arms are both laden down with a number of shopping bags, and the dark-haired girl in her wake has a couple more. She tries to wave, but 'tries' is the operative word when the hand is weighed down by a new bag of rice; abandoning the attempt, she simply slips off shoes on her way to the kitchen counter.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, Mikoto - I wanted to pick up a few extra things for supper tonight. Since you're finally out of the hospital, I wanted to make something special - so ramen from scratch! ...or mostly scratch. We'll see how it goes." She coughs awkwardly as she sets down the bag, then waves Natsuki in. "Hope you've been able to get some rest! And whatever Kuga tells you, this was not going overboard, okay? Not overboard at all."

She crouches down to search for a mixing bowl, because trying to make soup noodles from scratch is totally not going overboard in any way, shape, or form.


<Pose Tracker> Natsuki Kuga [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Natsuki sighs as she struggled the giant bags of groceries in her arms. "You have enough here to feed two armies," she grumbles as she carries the bags through the door. "ALthough, considering how much I"ve seen the kid eat, maybe it's not enough food." She places the bag on the counter. "Although, I still don't see why you had to buy that much pork just because it was on sale."

Natsuki takes a seat on the couch and lets her body sink into it. "Anyway, I am glad to hear Mikoto out of the hospital." She raised her head at Mai. "Mind telling me now how she ended up there in the first place?"

Natsuki had been so busy with her information gathering lately she hadn't even realized Mikoto had been hurt until Mai sent her a text. She hadn't bugged the girl for much details then, Mai had enough to worry about, but now that things were calm it felt like a good time to ask.

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

Sharp ears catch conversation, but Mai sounds friendly, so Mikoto doesn't tense for long. "Mai!" She chirps, happily. But there's an edge to that happiness - it must be from pain. "Natsuki!" Her first name, without a single care for Natsuki's carefully-cultivated aloofness, because Mikoto's never honoured that.

She pushes herself up into a sitting position, with a little huff of exertion. "Mai's ramen?!" Excitement enters her voice - a hint of desperation. Mikoto knows one thing about herself: she loves Mai's ramen. "Mai's ramen is the best ever!"

It's an ineffable truth of the world, just as Mai buying too much during sales is. Natsuki knows, now. Mikoto nods, in response to Mai's wishes. "Yeah, been resting. But, Mai..." She starts, awkwardly. "... can still go to class, right..?" She's honestly unsure whether Mai will even let her out for school. And Mikoto, being Mikoto, would gladly skip class if that's really what Mai wanted, but somehow the prospect seems to scare her a little, as if she wants something to do even if it's schoolwork.

But Mai wouldn't stop her from going to school, right..? Mai likes it when Mikoto goes to school! School is a totally normal thing. (And she's in second grade high school now, Natsuki. She's not a kid any more!)

But then, there are things she's been getting up to which aren't normal at all, and Natsuki pries. Mikoto looks away, frowning, when the coolest of all her friends asks how she was hurt. She doesn't answer, because Natsuki asked Mai, but the question clearly troubles her.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Natsuki's quip about the amount of food is answered with a blunt response - namely, Mai sticking her tongue out in spite. "A good deal's reason enough, especially given my plans for it." Mikoto's cheer gets a smile in response, and Mai settles down to work - first getting a pot on the stove to start water boiling for broth.

Which leads her to the bags of groceries, and digging out a few choice bits. It was on sale, so it's not the ideal cut - but there's a couple of pork bones to quickly rinse and set to simmering. Maybe not authentic tonkotsu broth, given the addition of some bouillon, but it's something she hasn't made for a while.

But hey, it's just her, Mikoto, and Natsuki tonight, so it's fine.

As she's mixing flour and water to start making the dough for the noodles, Mikoto's question makes her hands pause in their busywork. "Going to class?..." The fact that she hesitates, even for a moment, might say a great deal about her worries. It isn't long, though, before she lets out a sigh - and when she speaks again, there's the hint of a smile. "Yes, Mikoto, going to class should be fine. I think your new classroom isn't too far from mine, I can walk with you if you like."

Even with that question answered, though, she's slow to start working again; instead she glances to the window now again, as if checking for mystery assailants. Natsuki's question is a distraction, but the slump of Mai's shoulders suggests it wasn't a cheerful one. "That...is a horrible mess of a story, frankly. The very short version is that Eri Shimanouchi had some...ethical disagreements with a few other magical girls. This turned into fighting in the shadows, which turned into a whole secret war, and Mikoto was...part of it, at least for that last showdown. I can't give the full details, I went to intervene too late to...do anything, really. Anything."

And now Mai's staring into the mixing bowl, as the potful of water before her grumbles softly on its meandering way to a boil.

<Pose Tracker> Natsuki Kuga [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Natsuki quietly watches Mikoto, noting how the quiet the normally chatty girl was. Whatever happened clearly must have shaken Mai up quite a bit. Mikoto tended to care more if Mai was upset rather than how her own health. Then Mai explains a brief retelling of what happened. Natsuki frowns as she reached into one of the bags for a bag of chocolate she had picked up while they were out.

"I heard about that, at least the whispers of it, but didn't realize Mikoto was part of it too." Probably just as well Mai was late to it. Whole place might have turned into ash if Mai had shown up.

She opens the bag, pops a candy into her mouth and then holds the bag out to offer to Mikoto. "So," she asks with a curious raised eyebrow, "how many girls did you take out?" She swallowed the chocolate. "Know your power, you probably took out close to an army, right?"

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

Mai offers to walk her over, and Mikoto's heart clenches, tightly, because it's the same overbearing worry she shows...

... Takumi.

Is that all she is, now? A burden, another worry, another person to pretend around? After Mikoto has tried so hard to keep Mai honest, even though it's such a herculean task - is that what her actions have wrought?

"No," Mikoto says to her offer, quickly, sharply. Catches herself, after a moment, her tone softened by guilt and some deeper concern. "... I'll be okay, Mai." Please, please, don't coddle me, don't put me in that box of your heart, Mai, I couldn't bear it.

Her hand grips and releases in her lap, as she looks down at it. Ethical disagreements. That's what it comes down, to Mai, doesn't it? As if it were such a simple question, instead of one of survival. As if it were... easy. Does it look easy, from the outside? Perhaps it does.

"... not just last part," Mikoto says, quietly, clipped by shame, because she's been involved in this war from the beginning.

And then Natsuki shoots the target at a hundred metres, as Natsuki does. Mikoto snatches up the chocolate, shoves it into her mouth. She looks troubled, at the question. Having her mouth full is a good excuse not to answer for the moment. Hasn't Mai always told her not to talk with her mouth full?

Unfortunately, chocolate doesn't last forever. It melts, like obsidian exposed to extreme heat.

"I... couldn't defeat him," she admits, finally. "... I broke him, but I couldn't defeat him." So much shame, in those quiet words. "And, then... couldn't destroy the enemy. Had to... get everyone away. Eri wanted to go..." Eri wanted to leave, and Eri was in danger, so Mikoto forced herself away from her conditioning. Natsuki has seen her berserker rage - has seen how difficult it is to do anything but defeat the enemy. "... had to cover escape."

And it seems so logical to assume that statement means she gave them the opportunity to flee. After all, Mikoto has no way to ferry people away from a battlefield, right..?

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Mikoto will be okay. That's what she claims, that's what...Mai will have to believe. The look Mai gives Mikoto in response to that quick retort has a hint of sadness, a hint of worry, a hint of that box of her heart...but eventually, finally, there's a nod. Mikoto will be fine.

It'll be fine.

It's fine.


Mikoto's tense. Mai's tense. Mai's version of the events was a...polite lie, maybe. Cushioning things, even though Mikoto was involved well before, even though Mikoto was injured before, even though Eri's ethical stance was 'I need to let people die so I can live' and what kind of fairness is there in the whole world -

It's a rumbling inferno underneath the surface, just looking for an excuse for rage to do something productive, and it can't stay buried like an ostrich's head in the sand. It can't-

Mercifully, Natsuki pierces any pretense of avoiding the issue with a sniper's bullet. "Wh- KUGA?! Is that seriously your take-away - wondering about Mikoto's battle record?!" The smouldering fury finds an outlet, and sputters out like Mai's attempts to stay coherent. The girl is flush, she's staring incredulously at Natsuki, and the whole situation is perilously close to being disarmed.

"Besides which, I...sincerely hope there weren't actual armies involved. Just...a lot of people who had fought together against the darkness, fighting each other for what seemed like justice. Or survival." Somewhere, on some tree branch, Nagi is laughing. "It was...a mess."

Taking a breath, Mai starts to return to mixing - or kneading, because mangling some dough seems like a good way to vent her frustration at the world. Unfortunately, Mikoto finds her voice, and the sad look on Mai's face says too much. "Mikoto... That..."

There's a wet squelch, as Mai's hand crushes the dough before her. Another deep breath, let out in a shudder. "...Eri had to leave, after what happened there. You...kept her safe the best way you could, and you didn't get anyone killed. You did well, Mikoto."

Squelch. Smoosh. It's fine, dough is meant to be contorted like this...honest.

<Pose Tracker> Natsuki Kuga [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Seeing the actions upon Mikoto's face, Natsuki starts to suspect it was perhaps not the best question to ask. Natsuki reaches over and gives Mikoto and sympathetic pat on the head. "Sounds like you did your best kid, and that's all you can do." At least she made it out in one piece.

And then, without thinking, Natsuki stands up and pulls Mikoto into a hug. "But dang, it had to be bad if you decided to draw back. It means something for you to give up a fight." Normally, Natsuki doesn't let herself get this touchy, but in this moment, she would for Mikoto. After a moment, she lets go and looks to Mai. "So...want some help in there Mai?" She knows what the answer will be, but it was her best method of changing the subject.

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

Mikoto's eyes meet Mai's, and those huge yellow things are rimmed with guilt and sorrow and the terrible, gnawing fear that Mai Tokiha is slipping further and further away.

She has never been able to hide anything.

But she'll be okay, because she has to be okay, because if she's not okay then she'll be one more burden, one more person to pretend around...

Mikoto blinks and looks away.

"... no armies," she assures Mai. Natsuki is making Mai mad, and Mikoto doesn't like to see her angry. but isn't it mikoto who's really making her mad

Mikoto looks up, as Natsuki pats her on the head - and pulls her into a rare Natsuki hug. Has she ever gotten this touchy, since Mai disappeared...? But Mikoto just sniffles, and wraps her good arm around Natsuki, burying her face against her.

"Yeah..." It means a lot, to give up the fight. It means... a whole lot. And she did try, so hard. Natsuki thinks she did her best, and Mai... Mai seems happy she didn't kill anyone. Mai says she did well, too.

Mikoto should believe her dear friends implicitly. So why, why, does her dark heart echo with the horrible truth that she has done so much wrong?

The war brings up questions for her fellow HiME, in Mikoto's mind. It takes her a moment to order them, to ask them properly. Her throat feels so dry, all of a sudden. It gives Natsuki time to pull away, to offer help to Mai.

"... Mai," Mikoto asks, uncertainly, after a long moment. "Natsuki. When Kagutsuchi and Duran are here... what do they make Mai and Natsuki feel?" Her words are selected so, so deliberately. But where Mikoto means to ask what emotions a Child forces into its girl's mind...

The words she uses are so much kinder.

Mikoto, as she always does, assumes her meaning is obvious. Because Miroku must act the same as Kagutsuchi and Duran, right? Each one is a Child, so it's only sensible for them to be the same. Which means she can find out whether this is normal, from her friends, and she won't have to worry any more...

And what a strange question to ask, so out of the blue.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

For a fraction of a second, Mai meets the comforting Natsuki's gaze - and in the erstwhile chef's eyes, there is gratitude.

Mai might even let Natsuki forget about this, rather than needle her later.

Rage applied to dough turns to some more sedate kneading, which itself segues into a bit of last-minute seasoning before she starts rummaging for a rolling pin. She pauses, considering the work remaining, when Natsuki makes her offer - to which Mai just shakes her head. "It's fine - the broth's going to need a little while to cook properly, and it's relaxing here. Maybe make some coffee, if your taste buds won't be ruined by what I call 'acceptable'."

She can always needle Natsuki about -something-, after all.

The anger's fading as the subject of the war is quietly shoved under the bed, and Mai with a knife is strangely less threatening than her earlier barehanded work. She's just laying out the first of the vegetables when Mikoto speaks up, interrupting her cooking train of thought. For a moment, Mai looks at Natsuki, puzzlement written on her face - but she sets down her work to consider the question properly.

Washes her hands while mulling it over, even.

Drying her hands with a towel, gaze looking up at the ceiling, she finally muses aloud. "How does Kagutsuchi make me feel? Scared, sometimes - worried about what he could do. Braver? Brave and scared, now that's a weird combination. I guess..."

A memory, of a dragon rising up, locking its gaze with Mai as she stands fearful over an unconscious Takumi.

"...I guess Kagutsuchi feels like duty, responsibility. He shows up...I summon him when there's something I have to do, something I have to protect." Something she has to destroy, like a symphony hall. "That feeling of going from deciding what should be done...to committing to do it. I...guess that's it for me? Is that what you meant?"

<Pose Tracker> Natsuki Kuga [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Natsuku is glad to see the tension fade from Mai's face. She does have opinions on the kind of coffee Mai buys, but for tonight she'll keep her mouth shut. "Yeah, I can get it brewing for you," she tells her as she goes for the pot and tries not to cringe at the no brand coffee.

Then Mikoto asks her the question. Natsuki pauses as she is force to actually stop and think. "How does Duran make me feel?" She turns the tap on for water and she muses over it.

Duran..makes her think of her mother. Her time with her mother was stable, comforting and loving. There was no fear, no hesitation and no worry in her life.

"Safe," Natsuki answers as she scoops up the coffee grounds, "Duran makes me feel safe I guess." SHe glances to Mikoto. "Any reason you're asking this?"

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

Scared... Mikoto nods. It's scary, to hear thoughts which aren't yours, even if that's her role as word-holder. And brave...

Mikoto thinks of fighting, long after she ought to have collapsed. ... yeah, bravery makes sense, too.

But it's Mai's next line which makes Mikoto frown in recognition. "Duty..." She echoes the word, turning it over in her mind, remembers duty and purpose and old, old things. When there's something she has to do... like utterly destroy a boy who made her cry.

As Mikoto puzzles over it, Natsuki adds her own experience into the mix. "... safe," Mikoto wonders, aloud. Yes. Miroku demands she fight, but Miroku would never abandon her. They share the same beating heart. Mikoto can trust Miroku above all else; it is a deeper kind of safety than the physical.

"Yeah," Mikoto nods, again, after a moment. "Yeah, that's what I meant."

So it's normal, for Miroku to force her feelings into the shape it desires. It's normal, and Mikoto smiles, visibly relieved. She's not so different to them after all...

It takes her a moment, to answer Natsuki's question. "... I just wondered. 'Cause there's lots I don't know, about being HiME." Even though she's never known any other life. It's so clear to her that she's different to the others, that the rules she's learnt don't quite apply.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Well, if that's a good enough answer for Mikoto, then it's all good.

Resolutely ignoring the ominous feeling of doom that hasn't moved out for two years so why would it start now, Mai sets out the ingredients. There's a burbling as the pot of broth finally hits the boiling point, and Mai turns the pot down to a gentler simmer. She smiles, softly, and lays out the carrot for its imminent julienning.

At Mikoto's reply to Natsuki, there is a sharp snort from the kitchen. "You can say that again - I'm certain that Nagi guy has some preeeetty concrete answers on what being a HiME actually means, and I'm also certain that getting a straight answer from him is like getting the Ohtori student council to run an honest election." She has been paying some attention to recent events, after all. The knife resounds against the cutting board as Mai starts the chopping process.

"All right, all underway...Tonight's menu, as soon as this broth's had a while to cook, is pork ramen. I picked up enough cutlets, as Kuga so helpfully noted, to feed a small army - so we've got homemade noodles, pork broth, seared cutlets, and whatever vegetables I feel like slicing today." Chop-chop-chop.

There's the flash of a confident grin as the broth's aroma begins to rise up, and Mai gestures just a little dramatically to the work in progress. "And before I forget to say it again - welcome home, Mikoto."