2018-04-24 - Not a Charity Case

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Title: Not a Charity Case

In which Setsuna tries to cheer Kasagami up with a nice meal out.


Kasagami Araki and Setsuna Meioh


An Indian restaurant

OOC - IC Date:

Tuesday, April 24, 2017 - Two days or so after the duel between Kasagami and Utena

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

All around are the rich hues of the sunset, in the low red-lacquered table and the cushioned seats laden in pillows of orange and burgundy, in the mottled gold of the walls and the cone of amber incense burning between them. Mahogany screens carved in ornate patterns separate the dining pair from the rest of the restaurant.

"Hmmm... how about this one?" Setsuna leans over the table, tracing one violet nailtip down the menu she's holding out, then tapping. An ornate key pendant swings from her neck with the movement. "That much spice might be a welcome kick. And it's enough to share. I could use the energy myself."

Setsuna's wearing a lowkey outfit from the day bag she threw into her car's trunk: a scoop-necked black shirt above a flowing print skirt and sandals. Her bangs are tousled from the drive over, and the wind's still in her cheeks, a natural rouge. Her garnet eyes are on Kasagami, have gravitated to Kasagami this whole time, aside from the necessities of keeping her gaze on the road between the Araki Estate and here.

"I'll get something milder, so we can take breaks between turns at breathing fire." It's that kind of place, with large portions and extra plates. "We never did make it here before. You should know, they are serious about their spices here. Mmm, I could never bring Mikoto-san here, Eri-chan would..." She pauses for a long moment, then: "I'm glad we came, finally."

The entrees are printed on a single page, traditional Indian dishes cooked with the freshest ingredients sourced from the markets that morning and prepared by a chef whose renown is of the hushed high-society sort that prevents the place from getting overrun by the little people. There are, of course, no prices listed.


Their entrees have only just arrived, piping hot.

This is the culmination of a goal Setsuna Meioh set, privately, for the both of them earlier that morning and worked toward all day: get Kasagami Araki out of her big, sad, curiously empty Estate, if only for a meal. She set about accomplishing this with all of her patience, giving a devastated Kassie all the reassurances and support, in ways large and small, she needed to get her feet set outside the front gate.

They're out in the distant Tokyo suburbs, and they've arrived in the dead hours between lunch and dinner, making the booth an extra layer of seclusion that's almost unnecessary. She drove them here with the windows down and a touch of lead to her foot, filling the car interior with swirling spring air. Now they're cocooned in sweet-scented privacy over a fine shared meal.

"Kassie..." Since charging through the window and gathering the swordswoman up in her arms, she hasn't found herself able to use any other name but this one, this fond and warm and familiar one. Setsuna does not know what they are to each other yet, aside from... needed. For now, that is enough.

"What can you tell me? What has happened?" Setsuna does not want to ask, and maybe Kasagami does not want to say. But it feels like time. "There wasn't a soul at the Estate, us aside." Between Student Elections and... whatever it was that went down between Kasagami and that Utena Tenjou girl... Setsuna can connect neither to this mystery. She starts here.

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

Kasagami Araki has taken one of the better outfits she's retained from her less cash strapped times: a red-and-black dress shirt, black pants, belt with a rose-buckle, as well as a proper bowler hat and that golden eyepatch she wears whenever she wants to feel stylish. She's been remarkably quiet, but perhaps Setsuna would have expected that. She's been in a funk that even the Senshi's presence can't seem to cure.

At least, though, she's out of the Estate and she's been doing homework. And taking phone calls! The reddened eyes after might show that they're not happy ones.

The drive over /is/ refreshing. Kassie even made a joke about Haruka teaching her to drive! But other than that it's been mostly agreeable grunts and a far away look that shows just how preoccupied and outright depressed the girl is.

But once they're in that secluded booth? The familiar, fond name finally summons some kind of real response from Kasagami. She laughs. Low and bitter. Angry. Not at Setsuna of course. But at Utena. At all those that left her. At herself.

"Isn't it obvious?"

A shrug, painfully helpless. "I lost."

More quiet, and she leans back, stabbing the heavily spiced beef, rice, and veggies in front of her. She eats automatically. Even as she begins to sweat, she keeps eating.

"A complete and utter defeat. Just when I was so close."

More eating. She doesn't explain. After a few minutes, she pulls out something. It's a ledger. She drops it, opens it, and shoves it over. She manages to not knock anything over in the process.

Even a cursory glance one can see the numbers are /horrible/.

"Congratulations. You're right next to the world's biggest fool of a pauper, and all because I was so caught up in my own success that I didn't think beyond my damn nose. They've all left me, every single one of them. No one will speak to me. Take my calls. Bunch of traitors!"

Another laugh that gets choked into a sob.

"After all I tried to do for them. Politicians are terrible."

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

All the bright and subtle flavors cooked into her dish get sadly lost on Setsuna's tongue. Listening to Kasagami occupies the whole of her attention, and the tone and content of that reply dulls any pleasure she might have taken from the food.

Setsuna doesn't look at the ledger, not at first. Her eyes linger on Kasagami, as kind and sad as they have ever been. At last she glances down, then traces the columns with the same nailtip that traced a well-appointed menu earlier.

It does not take long for elegant brows to furrow. Setsuna sucks in a sharp breath. It's not the whole story, but as a horrible snapshot it more than suffices.

"The staff, then, and the Estate itself..." Empty, and under grave threat. Setsuna oversees the books of her smaller operation in the city, has a sliver of insight, and voices her dismay: "Ah, no." She gives a small wince when Kasagami refers to herself so harshly.

"I am next to the world's bravest, boldest heart," she returns, the gentlest rebuke. "You're a marvel, Kassie, and I know this will not keep you down. Not for long. And you will come back better and stronger for it, so... they are terrible, for not standing with you through the dark. They don't see your worth."

Setsuna closes the ledger, hiding the cruel numbers beneath its cover. "What can I do to help? It is yours, you know it is." She doesn't reach across the table for Kassie's hand, though she badly wants to.

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

Kasagami shudders. That little dismay is a needle into her heart. She wants to push blame onto others. But she knows the truth. She lost. And so she lost everything. And yet so too has that defeat sparked a mote of vengeance to sit right next to the one she first felt so long ago. Kasagami Araki is not one to forgive betrayals. And this, to her, is a betrayal.

Fists clench. She devours more food. Spice certainly helps her concentrate, and not sink back into depression. Scowl.

"You...are far too kind for your own good, my beloved." It's said fondly, with a chuckle that's more cuddling puppy dog than depressed. For a moment, that haze lifts, and she looks at Pluto with a warm, loving smile.

It fades, though. Where /do/ they stand now? It's not a subject she can broach. Her heart is too soft right now, and burnt.

"Though I guess you're not all wrong. At least I know who my real friends are now, right?" Smile! A bitter one, but a smile nonetheless.

Stab. Stab. /Stab/. More food. She eats so much that she has to chug down half a glass of water. "Just..." Gulp.

Twitch. Stubborn pride rankles. "Don't treat me like charity, okay? I'm not blameless in all of this. For a lot of reasons. I...was only thinking of myself. She really was right. Maybe."

Indecisiveness crosses her features. Then she lets go of chopsticks. She's the one to reach her hand out, to grasp lightly.

"Setsuna. You're the wisest person I know. I won't...let my family go to ruin. I refuse! No matter what it takes! But...where do I start? What can I do?"

It's brief, and then she lets go. She leans back, one more stab, and a bite.

A shudder, and then teeth grit. Kasagami Araki is bullheaded, and here? It might just pay off. "No. I will not lose everything. This is just a setback. If...If I can just find the path forward, I can...!" A single grey eye looks to Setsuna.

Her entire body shakes. Can she really rebuild after this? Kasagami desperately searches the woman she loves for an answer.

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

The fondness and chuckle, the 'beloved'... Setsuna cherishes that warm smile and shares one of her own in return, a flicker of a thing at the corners of her lips. It holds about as long as Kassie's did. However brief, the moment is precious, a spark amid the dark.

Pride surfaces, and the dear swordswoman tells Setsuna the first thing she can do to help. "You could never be charity to me," she assures, easily. That seems so obvious to the senshi, a simple thing to agree to -- because she does not understand, not really. The rest of what Kasagami says distracts her.

Who is this 'she' Kasagami keeps mentioning? Setsuna hasn't found a good moment yet. "There is the courage I know so well." And love so well, is in the tone of her voice if not spoken aloud. "To face it so squarely." Admiration shines in garnet eyes. "It's how I know you can do this."

Perhaps the longing in her hand drew Kasagami's across the table -- it feels that way to the senshi, a little wish answered though she didn't give it voice. Her fingers remember the fit of Kassie's well, welcome them with a gentle press upward, and are as gentle in the farewell.

She sees the gritting of teeth and the shudder, and listens, and... a second smile comes to the senshi, curls her mouth and crinkles the corners of her eyes, at odds with the turn of mood -- or perhaps not. "You can, and you will. If it was anyone else I would doubt, but not you. I've never known anyone so driven, Kassie, and your ambition is just a part of it. Here you are, in the immediate shadow of all of this, and already you face it head on. Already you've been trying. You don't know how to quit, and it inspires me."

She's hardly dented her meal, her emotions leaving little room for an appetite after all. Setsuna scrapes at her plate some more but in the end relents, leaving the food to steam away and cool unappreciated. She murmurs a gracious apology to the concerned waitress who eventually comes to clear the table, assuring her that what she ordered was quite good. She does /not/ have the forethought to request the check come to her.

It's a place with a well-heeled and subtle clientele, and the waitress, left to read the social cues, makes her own call. The young lady with the long, long green hair is dressed more simply, and wears most of the feminine cues between the two; with her bowler and her golden eyepatch, her mode of dress and her overall flashiness, the young woman with the black hair and the scars reads as both more butch and more wealthy.

The check, when it comes, gets slid to Kasagami's side of the table, the total hidden beneath a discreet cover much. Flipping it open reveals a column of numbers as cruel, on the small scale, as the ledger's were in macro.

Setsuna only realizes when the slip of paper becomes visible. Her eyes fly a bit wide, in a touch of shock that in happier times would have pulled a tease from Kassie, and her hand lifts into the air and hovers there, arrested in reaching.

"I..." A painful little pause, then Setsuna forges ahead. "I invited you out tonight, Kassie. Why don't you let me get it this time?"

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

The moment is taken in, gladly. Love shines amidst the darkness, even as it's so quickly guttered out. Setsuna's response? A clench of fists. There mere word 'charity' seems to rankle the girl and Kasagami manages barely to bite back a cutting insult. Setsuna means well. She couldn't do otherwise.

Teeth grip her lip, and Kasagami finally /looks/ at her beloved. The press of fingers, a squeeze, and then they're apart. Kassie wants it again, eternal, but she knows there's still that distance. Yet another pain lashed into her heart.

Kasagami swallows openly, and tries to set herself with Setsuna's words. She can't quite. She can't /not/ face this. It's hard, knowing just how /much/ is at stake. Just how much she's lost and those that won't stand with her. She feels alone. And yet? Even when Setsuna puts aside her food, Kasagami finishes off her plate. She's always been one to eat well, and soon enough her own portion is clean.

A brief look of jealousy crosses her gaze. To leave behind food. Could she even do that again? Suddenly, her gaze goes lower. Such a terrible thing to think.

"...When people die so that you can live, Setsuna-chan, your only choice is to keep moving forward. Doing anything else would be to live as a corpse." Teeth grit.

And then she eyes that little slip of paper. An eye closes. She shivers. And then as Setsuna's hand reaches?

Her last chopstick hammers down towards it, then she cruelly tugs it towards herself. Tears stream down Kasagami's eye.

"Like I said." A choking sound, and then she glares.

"I am /NOT/ a charity case!"

A pause, and she looks at Setsuna with nothing but apology.

"...Please?" Sometimes, pride is essential to a person. Even in defiance of good sense.

Kasagami Araki trembles even as she tosses away funds she can't afford, all for her own nearly shattered pride.