2018-04-27 - Rebuilding

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Title: Rebuilding

Eri and Mikoto visit an obsessing and depressed Kasagami. Her two friends offer advice.


Eri Shimanouchi, Kasagami Araki, Mikoto Minagi


Araki Estate

OOC - IC Date:

<04/27/18 - 4/14/15>

Logfile from BF Mush.

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

Even in the afternoon at the Araki Estate, it's mostly empty and lonely halls take on a melancholy vibe. It's exactly the sort of place that would be haunted by ghosts. The old style Japanese buildings take up the bulk of the estate, and yet the sprawling complex has but a single light on. It's the main building, a single window lit up dimly. To one looking around, it wouldn't be hard to find.

Inside is an office with a large desk and plush office chair. Kasagami Araki, dressed in a midnight blue kimono pours over ledgers and homework at turns. Her good eye is bloodshot and her face is pale on her good side. The lack of sleep shows, darkness under her eyes as she mechanically goes over work and the dire state of her finances.

She sips a hot cup of green tea, shuddering as she eyes the numbers again. She starts to shake, and not for the first time tonight has to steel herself to not break down and cry.

Remembering Pluto's advice on facing it, she stares down. Teeth grit.

"...What am I going to do?" Kasagami mutters to herself, the young woman's fire gutted out into melancholy despair.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

There's something about the Araki Estate that feels very Ohtori to her. It's strangely eerie - like that feeling she gets when she goes to the lesser travelled yet more witch infested areas of the campus. Take a turn and there's a building she's never seen before. The next day it may not be there... like a hint of how the apathy of wealth leads one not to understand how the world is waiting to gobble you up any moment.

BGM Change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3dpghfRBHE

The words of a poem she translated in English class resound in her mind as she crosses the foyer.

Look upon my Works, Ye Mighty, and despair. Nothing beside remains. Round the Decay Of that colossal Wreck boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away

She doesn't look at Mikoto through the foyer and down the halls. In the office however...

Her expression is distant, the girl in the Ohtori High Schooler's uniform looks at Mikoto every so often now. Then exhales, her thumbnails gripping her skirt from where she's seated and looks up at Kasagami. "It's simple really. Survive. Meet your most basic needs... then rebuild. You can lose everything and come back from it if you still have your life - and the will to better your circumstances. So tell us-"

She prompts gently, "-what is it that you need right now - that Mikoto and I can do for you?"

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

Mikoto spent the day with Yumi in hospital - she hadn't intended to stay so long, but Yumi /needed/ someone, and Mikoto scared her so badly, or at least reminded her of something so scary...

... and Yumi asked her not to go. So Mikoto didn't go, even after Yumi fell asleep, not until the nurses all but picked her up by the scruff of her neck and threw her out.

It means it's afternoon by the time Mikoto gets on the train to go home. It's so difficult to hear anything in the din of the carriage, but one of the hands on her shoulder, when she turns to fix them with a withering death-glare to warn then away from /touching her,/ turns out to be someone she's actually quite happy to see! That dangerous warning instantly shifts to a smile as she recognises Eri, and naturally she follows her when tugged off of the train.

She's shed her walking stick; as crushing as the guilt might be, especially when they divert their course from Ohtori to the Araki Estate, Mikoto has some limits on what she'll endure, even for Mai Tokiha. She still moves so much /slower/ than she should, but at least it seems her limbs are giving her so much less trouble than they used to.

When they come to the front door, Mikoto tries it, and it opens. She blinks, looking up to Eri with a concerned frown. Doors are not /supposed/ to just be open, are they? Not front doors, anyway. They're supposed to be closed, so enemies can't get in. But instead of saying all that, she just says one word, plainly concerned. "Kasagami..."

Mikoto makes her way into the estate without a single care for whether she's /invited,/ stopping at the threshold to take off her shoes. In white socks she pads inside, that sharp nose sniff-sniff-sniffing as she scans the huge estate. "... this way."

Because she can smell the gentle scent of green tea, even here. Mikoto follows it through the halls, and into the office. The frown on her face only deepens, as she sees Kasagami's state. Mikoto's looking much better, than she did, when she and Eri retrieved Kasagami from the duel - she's shed her bandages, now, and there is just the raised line of skin where her removed stitches have sewn her together again. Her bruises have faded to scuff-marks, and her scrapes are barely lines any more.

Kasagami, on the other hand...

Kasagami looks like she hasn't slept in a week.

"Kasagami?" Mikoto calls, and it is caring and concerned. She goes to her, step over careful step, and stands by her side - Mikoto's unwounded side exposed to her, in case she decides to lean when Mikoto lays a hand on her shoulder.

She doesn't see the ledger, the numbers, those meaningless things. She looks at Kasagami, her friend, who is worn and broken and who she cares about so much. She lets Eri handle the comforting words; Mikoto has never been very good at them. She is just /here./

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

Kasagami blinks, and looks up. The usually sharp Duelist is a shell of her former self on appearances alone. Tear-streaked cheeks tilt up as she finally /looks/ to the duo that have entered her study. Eri. Mikoto. Her dear, dear friends and allies. The advice runs through her head as her good eye focuses. The pen she's been using drops from her hand.


Lips purse, and then she drops her gaze. Right to the ledger. Her hand twitches, and then turns into a ball as she clenches it. Gloves creak.

"You've...lost before, Eri-chan." Kassie knows the weight of experience when she hears it, even now, when she's so lost and despairing. She looks up again.

"All of my life, Eri-chan, I always thought that I was fighting for the world. For other people. But this entire time? I've been selfish. So very, very selfish. Even with the Shepherds. It was really all for me. I've been a terrible friend, Eri-chan, Mikoto-chan. I..."

A sucked breath. She has to face this.

See to her basic needs. Rebuild. Better her circumstances.

She realizes that Mikoto is /here/ and seemingly whole. "And I barely have even looked at /you/, Mikoto. Are you alright? I should have visited. Forgive me." Her voice cracks. She's so, so weak right now. Her vulnerable face that she hides so often is on full display to Mikoto and Eri.

"Can I...ask you both how to live? I don't know how to live as anything other than a spoiled rich girl. That's how I got myself into this mess. Me and my ego." A bitter chuckle. She couldn't become President. She's not even on the Council. What a fall.

"...How can I go from pauper to King?" The smallest spark enters her voice only to fade.

"What even is a King?"

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The moment Kasagami says that, something grips her like ice in her chest, her throat feeling parched, however she simply says quietly in reply, "Yes."

She's told her the story before, but all the same she does so again. "There's nothing to give you a little perspective on losing everything like nearly dying in an alley over a foolish dispute - over childish ideals. Feeling that life ebb from your body gradually, knowing the end is coming and there is nothing you can do. Only to be saved - and my reward for clinging to life was only to be kicked out of my home. Disowned in almost every way."

It's stated coldly, dispassionately, matter of factly. But there's no condemnation there, "There's nothing wrong with being selfish. Each of us came together for our own reasons. To defend what's important to us. The Shepherds are there for each other - but each of us have our own agenda. If anything - I've been selfish asking each of you to defend my territory all this time."

And yet she doesn't apologize for it exactly either - does she? She nods at Kasagami's own apology, not saying anything there, perhaps she doesn't believe Kasagami has been a poor friend? Whatever thoughts she has there she keeps to herself.

Kasagami says she should have visited, but Eri cut off all contact from the world for a few days there...

And then she looks sideways at Mikoto as Kasagami asks her how to live. The two girls perhaps sharing a look there for a moment, before she stares forward at her. "That depends I suppose on what your pride will allow. My senpai sleeps on the streets, in sewer bolt holes. She tells me that pride and dignity are death's snares. There are things my pride has to endure to continue to stay at Ohtori - living in the dorms."

Her hands are more sedately folded over her lap now. As she stares through her spectacles, "We can teach you how to live but first we must know- what will your pride allow you to endure Kasagami?"

The final two questions though - "Mmm." She makes a small sound as if she's debating it like considering how to answer questions in class. "Japan has an Emperor - but as we well known he's more a figurehead. A symbol. Monarchs throughout the world have lost most of their power - but there's still meaning in symbols. Which is why politicians keep them on - and keep them living in wealth."

There's a faint tilt of her head, as she looks back towards Mikoto again, "The idea of a King as you've always stated it feels like an ideal to me..." And she doesn't put much stock in ideals, "Someone larger than life, that inspires people to greatness."

There's this faint wince in her expression, like something of that statement hurt...

But whatever it is, she doesn't elaborate.

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

Kasagami looks to the ledger; Mikoto sees it for the first time. She still doesn't properly understand. She's never understood numbers. But she's seen the hospital bills Mai tries to keep hidden. She knows that red numbers are bad.

... really bad.

She squeezes Kasagami's good shoulder, lightly, as she listens. Her eyes are heavy with sorrow, all for the weight which lies across them. Selfish... Eri calls herself selfish, too. It seems like all her friends think they're so selfish...

But it's not such a bad thing, to be a little selfish.

Mikoto shakes her head, when Kasagami asks how she is. She doesn't smile, but her expression is soft. It takes her a moment to speak, as she considers how to answer all the questions Kasagami lays at their feet.

"... not great," Mikoto admits, after a long moment, to her first question. "But I'll get better. It's okay, Kasagami."

To the second...

Mikoto frowns, as she considers it, looking to Eri as if the other girl could provide her with guidance. These are deep questions, questions which tear at a dark underbelly Mikoto would prefer to leave untouched - but Kasagami is open like a wound, and Mikoto cannot deny her. It hurts her so, to see someone so confident now crumpled. Her voice, when it comes, is quiet and halting.

"... how I live... how Kasagami lives... will always be different. 'Cause I wasn't made to lead." follow fight find

Her thumb rubs at Kasagami's kimono, absently, as she tries to order her thoughts. Mikoto doesn't seem to have any shame over her admission at all. "... but Kasagami wouldn't be happy with that."

Her gaze is so distant, and Eri's cannot reach her now. There's an edge of /formality/ to her voice, and it sounds so strange on her lips. "To command is a binding promise. To make difficult decisions, even when they're painful. To know measure of your servants, and your enemies. It is always thinking, always preparing, always knowing way forward. Heavy weighs the crown. That is why it must never be questioned."

It's almost like she's reciting some lesson, from long ago...

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

The alleyway. Eri bleeding out over ideals. The girl she killed and yet defended her name. Eri kicked out for surviving. Kasagami's eye flashes with anger at the idea. That Eri's parents would betray her so! But for once she doesn't spit venom. The insult to the leader of the Shepherds rankles her, tucked away for another day.

And then, Eri's words spark clarity. Maybe Utena is right. Maybe she's been selfish. But she's fought with the Shepherds. Wielded the Sword she won and then lost for them. Even when it dragged her into conflict with her former friend. Even when it led to the Duel against Utena that cost her everything.

"...How could I forget? It's been so long since we've all been together. Right now, all of you...really are family to me. If we're all going to be selfish..."

She pauses, swallowing her words and letting the duo continue. And then Kasagami is rock straight in her chair. Mikoto plays with her Kimono. The young woman reaches over, running her hand over Mikoto's short hair like a beloved pet or fond younger sister. She smiles. It's a sad one, her wound gaping and bleeding. But Mikoto and Eri are /here/ and they're trying and they love her.

She isn't alone.

Kasagami /listens/ to that formal statement of a King. To the ideal that Eri rejects. One she so proudly boasted to Eri long ago. Mikoto's formal idea strikes her.

Is she to be the ideal, or the heavy reality? Utena's words haunt her.

Could she be both?

"I won't live on the street. I am an Araki! I will not disgrace my family again!" She suddenly roars. The mere thought angers her, rankles all of that arrogant pride. Hands slam to the desk, and send a ledger flying. 
And then she drops her head into her arms and chokes on a sob. 

"I really have fallen far. But...I told you I'd change the world, Eri. Become a King. To show you that change really is possible."

Can she still do that?

She /has/ to. Why else is she still alive?

"I want to be stronger than anyone. More powerful, wiser, more skilled than anyone. I want to /lead/! To inspire and make change. I'd forgotten that. I only focused on myself. To only turn inward...isn't a King. I'm not ready to wear a crown yet, but..."

She goes silent, and steadies herself. She looks to her two wonderful friends, her family, and her gaze is solemn, hurt, but some small spark of her ambition lurks in her eye again. It's faint.

But she isn't down yet.

"If I'm going to be selfish, I want to be selfish /for/ all of you. Call on me again, and again, and again, Eri, Mikoto. And I'll...do the same. I'm going to need you both. My dear family..." She's up. And she's trying to pull the two close into her arms.

"I'm going to need help. If you're willing to give it...I think I can be worthy of a crown, with just a little luck and dedication."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Family - is what Kasagami says. And there's a slight flutter of her eyelashes during that moment, but no change to her expression. It's a touching statement certainly... and right now Mikoto seems to look every bit the little sister to Kasagami. Right now though she can't really respond other than the faintest sort of nods - especially with Mikoto saying she's not great.

What she's feeling in these moments isn't complicated to understand - but one wouldn't know it by her expression.

Then Kasagami roars and slams the table.

This time Eri doesn't even bat an eye. Even as the ledger flies across the room. Whatever anger Kasagami's feeling quickly changes to sobbing sorrow.

"It was an unfair challenge. Because I believed it was impossible from the start." Eri murmurs quietly. "Please don't blame yourself for failing to show me something better. Sayaka Miki declares constantly that she'll show us something better too. She told my senpai that once..."

Her gaze lowers fractionally, "... and I slapped her for it. It's not like I wouldn't want to see it... something better. A better world. I just can't allow myself to hope."

She won't say what she's really thinking - that it's time for Eri Shimanouchi to grow up, and be a big girl now. Not to rely on things like false hope - because she doesn't want Kasagami to think she's implying the older girl is immature.

Her eyes however slide over to Mikoto, while Mikoto says that. She can see the distance that Mikoto has from both of them right now. And Eri Shimanouchi just stares - the sides of her lips contracting just fractionally. For whatever reason she seems - tense?

Then all of that tension seems to be gone. "That's quite an answer... Social Studies always was your best subject Mikoto-chan." As if she were playing it off - like Mikoto writing an essay from class.

Because if she says what she's really feeling right now... things might get bad.

Getting pulled up into Kasagami's arms - right now it's not a gesture she feels like she can return well, but she tries. Her arms touch Kasagami's side loosely. "... Thank you. As always, you can call on us if you need us... and we'll do whatever we can."

But whether she's worthy of the Crown? That's not her place to judge, to say.

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

The touch calms Mikoto, makes it so much easier to speak. She smiles, vaguely, because that touch, so fond, almost possessive, reminds her so much of... him.

Her hair is always messy, no matter what Mai tries to do to it, but it's soft as cat's fur.

Eri says she cannot hope, and Mikoto hears her, distantly, and the sorrow reaches her heart but cannot touch her distant eyes.

Then Kasagami roars, her hand slipping down to slam against the desk, and Mikoto startles, stiffening against her for a moment. It rips her from the trance she's found herself in, and she looks stricken, for a moment, terrified as if she's anticipating some terrible punishment -

- before she realises where she is, who she's with, as Kasagami starts sobbing. Those eyes turn to concern, as Kasagami sobs. She glances to Eri, uncertain. "Yeah," she nods, "guess so..."

What answer did she give, again? She just remembers the smell of sweet things burning.

It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, because Kasagami is crying out her hopes and dreams, and Mikoto smiles when she sees the spark in her eyes. She is pliable; she moulds into Kasagami, reaches a hand out to Eri.

"I'll help Kasagami, because Kasagami is my friend, and I love Kasagami." She realises there is nothing else she could do, nothing else she could give to someone so commanding.

But she's still a friend, because Kasagami is not kept by obsidian edges. Mikoto can accept their considerations, accept being considered family - but as Eri has already seen, she cannot return the favour.

... family is obsidian ritual and old vows and unwavering service to dark and transcendent things, and they will not, cannot understand.

That her help is not a promise of that same service is implicitly understood, and Mikoto doesn't bother to explain.

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

The sob dies, and Kasagami looks to Eri. Slowly, a weak smile comes to her face. "Hah. Maybe I could use a good slap." A small smirk.

That smile fades. "Impossible challenge, huh? Yeah, I guess it is. I swear, Eri-chan, you know how to tempt me. As long as we're both alive, that just means one more chance to try, right?"

Arms touch her, and as Eri sems so awkward, and Mikoto moulds? Kassie sighs. She reluctantly lets go.

"I'm going to need to learn from you especially, Eri-chan. You've been a good leader. And you know how to...well, live without being grand." She hates it. Having to lower herself from the heights she's attained due to necessity is painful. But she has to, if she wants to retain her Estate. To be worthy of her departed parents. To obtain that respect she so craves from the people who've abandoned her.

Mikoto says she loves her, that she'll help. Kassie misinterprets it entirely, but doesn't seek clarification. "If only I'd had a little sister like you. He's lucky, your Brother, that the loyal, loving Mikoto is his flesh and bleed. We'll find him, Miko-chan."

One more ruffle on the short girl's head, and she pulls away from the pair.

A sigh. Her stomach growls. "I know I'm not sleeping tonight, but this is accomplishing nothing." She waves her hands at schoolwork and ledgers. She opens the door, and takes out a flashlight.

"I need to get the food in the kitchen eaten, or it's going to go bad. I can't afford that. Come on. Who's hungry? Then I'm training." Fists clench. She has so, so much work to do.

But at least she can try to repay her friends.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"I'm not going to be the one to do it." Eri says quietly, but then one of her arms that's loosely hugging finds itself draping around Mikoto, near the small of her back. It's a gesture meant to comfort. "I was mad at her. I'm not mad at either of you." It's meant to be soothing, what she says.

But Kasagami states that she feels she's going to need to learn... from her. And there's a distant look. "I'm not certain you wish to look too far towards me as an example... up to a certain point."

She continues quietly, "I've just been what everyone needs me to be. But I am especially what my senpai needs me to be... you said earlier what your pride wouldn't allow you to do. And that's fine - but you should understand too, that despite how she lives, she's probably the closest among us to acting like... nobility I guess."

There's something sedate about her posture, "Her fellow magical girls are treated like fellow Lords in her court. Eating with her is like partaking of her hospitality - at her table. She's down to earth while seeming unaffected by how humbly she lives to those who see her, defending her lands as viciously as anyone I've ever known and all the people in her territory serve her - whether they know it or not."

She closes her eyes, "I'm more her general... or her steward. Much of what I do is so she doesn't have to... and as it stands, because I've done my job well - her territory remains untouched."

Trailing off for a while - she sighs softly, seeming tired. She doesn't say anything on finding Mikoto's Brother...

Maybe because the subject hangs in the air around her like a miasma. The source of quite a bit of tension lately.

Which then releases again when the subject changes, "Alright we'll eat together... and then you can train /lightly/. But even if you're not sleeping well you should still rest."

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

Mikoto leans back, when Kasagami pulls away, but she doesn't go far. She smiles up to her as her hair is ruffled yet again. Her love is pure and unfettered, and while she cannot think of Kasagami as family...

... is it even /possible/ for someone like Mikoto to love romantically?!

But Mikoto doesn't know about the four loves, and cannot possibly explain the difference between Eri's storge and Kasagami's philia and Mai's eros and her Lord Brother's agape when she doesn't understand them herself. Love is love is love, after all; what difference is there? What difference can there possibly be? She loves her people, she wants to protect them, and that is enough.

And it's also enough for Eri.

Mikoto looks up, when Eri starts talking about Kyouko - and there's such /recognition/ in her eyes. Her well-tuned ears catch every quiet word, and her breath catches in her throat. "Eri," she says, quietly, and the word is acknowledgement and understanding because they are the same, they are the same, they are the same. She smiles, softly.

There are a lot of familiar things about that precious girl Eri Shimanouchi, but so many of them are like looking into reflective glass.

And then Kasagami speaks up, and Mikoto nods, firmly, as she promises to help her find her dear Lord Brother. "Yup!" She doesn't - or refuses to - sense Eri's tension over the subject. Her mind rejects the possibility out of hand.

Yet there's guilt as well, reflected so plainly in those too-bright eyes. Because Mikoto hasn't been able to search. For so long, she has left one of her most important duties undone, simply because she has been too injured to search. It hurts her, to think of it. she is failing him

But Kasagami pulls away, and declares that /food/ is /going to go bad,/ and that is the most terrible and alarming thing Mikoto can possibly think of. "I can help!" Mikoto declares, fiercely. "I'm good at knowing when food's bad!"

Her senses have always been so much /sharper/ than a normal girl's, after all.

She frowns, considering. "Then training..? But -" Mikoto blinks, realising how useless protesting is a moment later. She wouldn't respond well to being told to go to bed, either. But there's one thing Kasagami /has/ responded well to, all this time. "... I bet Kasagami could sleep if Kasagami really tried. Even if sleep's hard!"