2018-05-14 - Warm Hearts, Warm Steam

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Title: Warm Hearts, Warm Steam

In which Kasagami Araki and Setsuna Meioh recover from SPACE JAIL and have a lot to talk about.


Kasagami Araki and Setsuna Meioh


An onsen not far from Tokyo Bay

OOC - IC Date:

Mon May 14th, 2018 - Fri April 17th, 2015

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

The nearest train station, by walking, from the beach at Tokyo Bay feels like it might as well be a thousand miles away rather than one and a half. In the last forty-eight hours they have not eaten a single thing. They've been knocked unconscious, power-drained, incarcerated, and subjected to the crushing gravity of multiple miniature black holes. Then, to top it all off, there was that violent crash landing from space...

Setsuna Meioh knows that the only reason she made it all the way to this train is because she's had Kasagami Araki to lean on. Her knees wobble and threaten to quit on her, and whenever it happens Kassie is always there, steadier than Setsuna in that moment. And if, a few steps later, it is Setsuna who in turn flexes an arm round the swordswoman's waist to brace a weary stagger from her, that is just one of countless ways they've kept each other going recently.

She's back in her violet skirtsuit, and the extent to which her outfit looks fresher than the woman wearing it has only increased. The unraveled red ribbon, two holes torn in it still, is stuffed in a pocket, and her shoes... Well, they're atomized up beyond Earth's atmosphere somewhere. Now Setsuna Meioh, elegant Outer Senshi and sometime Akamira model, flops along audibly in some cheap straw sandals she picked up from a beachfront store.

A rush of train-displaced air precedes its arrival across the mostly empty platform. The senshi of the outermost reaches shivers, actually /shivers/, as the wind brushes bare legs and tugs at long, tangled locks. She tucks closer into their sidelong embrace, unabashed and uncaring of their surroundings. Setsuna is cold, and she is worn, and she is sad to the very marrow of her bones. Being this close to Kasagami warms the edges of all of that away.

She hasn't said much, this whole time, other than the occasional soft murmur to check on how Kassie is doing or to share affection in the other girl's ear. As they find and settle into their adjoined set of seats, Setsuna lets out a bottom-of-the-lungs sigh, simply to be off her aching feet. "Ahhh. I have never in my life wanted a meal more. Or a bath. Or sleep... I hardly know where to begin."

Setsuna leans in, her forehead to Kassie's cheek, and one of her hands seeks a clasp. Her fingers are cool for once instead of warm, another symptom of her depleted reserves. "But I know I want it to be with you." They've boarded the only train that comes to this station, so no real decisions have been made yet, but soon enough they'll need to choose a stop or an exchange. "Where should we..."

She just about interrupts herself. "Didn't you mention a spa? I think my muscles would cry from happiness for hot water. Why don't I treat us to an onsen?"

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

Never more before this perhaps has Setsuna and Kasagami leaned on each other more, in both the physical and mental sense. Setsuna stumbles, and Kassie is there to pick her up. Kasagami stumbles just as much. She really isn't looking much better, and is far less well dressed. She's still in her muscle shirt that's miraculously looking untattered, and her jeans are only shredded enough to put off this punk aesthetic that she never before has offered to the world. It /does/ look good on her, and her roughed up nature only adds to the look. Such is the power of Ohtori's fabulous members, even while going urban punk she can pull it off with such grace and elegance.

This does not, mean however that she's immune to the onrushing chill of the train that has her arms shivering nor that she hasn't been forced to also don the cheap sandals. Her ankles feel like ice, and she too is pretty much glued to Setsuna's side. One hand tries to brush through her tangled locks, Kassie's hair similarly in dissarray. Her gaze is right on her love as she waffles between leaning her head against her shoulder and leaning her head back to stare exhaustedly at the roof of the train. She settles for a weird combination of the two.

Which is then interrupted by fingers and a forehead to her cheek. She feels so much warmer. One or two train goers gives the pair worried glances or little giggles amongst the younger middle school crowd. Kassie ignores them, no matter how well meaning.

"All of those things. And not necessarily in that order. Bath first!" Sighs Kassie, but the odd cut off of her sentence strikes the young woman as a bit...odd.

"Don't you want to go back to the Tower? After all of that...even I won't say no to an onsen, we both deserve it. But shouldn't we at least check in with Marshmallow-chan? I bet she's worried to death about you. Maybe me too if I'm lucky. I have about ten texts to deal with too. And those are just the ones from people I care about." The first, and hardest, being a Totally Normal Girl. She's dreading it, but Kassie is just the right kind of thankful to be 'home' and alive, and exhausted, to attempt it.

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

"Bath first," the senshi agrees easily. She's suffered multiple Robonoid goopings and just feels... /filmy/. The rest is not so easy. Kassie asks a reasonable question, the one Setsuna failed to preempt with the onsen suggestion.

At first, all the swordswoman gets back is a long silence, and quiet fingers laced with hers.

Halfway to the next stop, an answer: "No." No, Setsuna does not want to go back to the Tower.

When everyone else's phones, including Kassie's, were blowing up with delayed texts on the ship... It was a bittersweet blessing that the others were so inundated by messages from those who'd missed them that Pluto could use that distraction quite easily to hide her lack of the same.

Her head's still down and against Kassie's cheek, and somewhat flattened evergreen bangs finish the job of hiding Setsuna's face. She speaks softly, and the words barely carry over the rattle of the train. "Not yet. I don't... I am not sure yet what the situation is, back home."

With her other hand Setsuna rubs at the spot between her eyebrows, then tents fingers over her eyes. They're a bit shaky, and the senshi is herself unsure whether the tremors come from exhaustion or emotion. She's too tired to tell the difference.

There are the things she cannot say, the things she does not want to say, and things that might have consequences once they inevitably get out. And then... right here, warming her side and her heart, here is Kassie. And whatever secrets Setsuna must still keep, she finds, she is unwilling to let them come between herself and her love. So she says what she can.

"Right before I texted you about the alien ship, I was in a fight. With Uranus and Neptune." That wording, she realizes, is not clear. Setsuna draws a deep breath and tries again. It is hard to even say, she finds. "...They ambushed me."

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

Pluto's vehement denial of going back to the Tower hits Kasagami hard. It's so pure and strong, and Kasagami is suddenly focused on Setsuna even more than before. She pauses, hesitating for a moment. This is /not/ something she'd ever thought she'd hear from her love. Abandoning her home seems completely without any reason. After all, it's not like she's in Kasagami's situation!

Stock still, body feeling a chill for a moment, those tremors in Setsuna has her pulling the young woman even closer. She doesn't question, not right now. She chokes them all back, and as her heart beats with fear and confusion for her love, she holds her close.

As she's so learned, sometimes it takes time to say what needs to be said.

When it comes out? There's a long, almost oppressive silence as Kasagami Araki's body slowly tenses up. Setsuna can no doubt feel the growing anger the young woman, that sense of furious betrayal at the mere /thought/ that the other Outers would /betray/ her so! /Ambush/ her so!

The only reason she doesn't scream outrage is that her voice catches, exhaustion and a brief moment of fire running down her arm chokes off her initial outburst. She's too weak to scream. She reaches for a trio of pain pills she'd somehow managed to rescue from the Space Ordeal, and downs them.

The train has a voiceover, offering a spot near an onsen. Kasagami feels somehow even weaker than when she was hit with a destabilizer, at least in spirit.

"We have a lot to talk about, Setsuna-chan." Squeeze. Her voice is low, filled with equal amounts fury and yet /exhaustion/. She knows she can't process the truth that Setsuna's offered.

"I think...that onsen is good for us both. I want to know everything about what happened. First, we need rest and relaxation." Her head is pounding with a headache, both from so much stress over the last week and from the after effects of Outer betrayal /and/ her medicines.

It's all far too much to process. Once again, she leans on her love for support as they move towards a wonderful, highly recommended onsen.

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

If she'd been less utterly flattened, Setsuna would have anticipated that anger of Kassie's and might have continued explaining immediately, rather than leaving it there. Or she might have led with something a little less blunt. She's customarily much more thoughtful. When Setsuna feels that tense reaction through their contact she realizes.

Pain interrupts before she can explain, and Setsuna swallows and drops her own concerns. Instead she half-turns to smooth a hand down Kassie's back, over and over, while the other young woman downs the pills. "Oh, Kassie. I'm sorry..."

She can only agree, subdued, when they take the stop for the nearby onsen. "There is a lot, yes. Maybe we could finally catch up, if the world would stop spinning for a bit-..." Setsuna's voice hitches. She shakes her head. "Forget I asked for that."

It's early, and the onsen isn't busy. Setsuna Meioh's credit limit more than suffices to secure them a private suite for as long as they want. It has a changing room complete with towels and set of showers, to rinse clean beforehand, then another chamber for the onsen itself: sunk into the wooden floor, filling the air with heat and steam. It's large enough to accommodate a party of four with plenty of space between.

There's this moment, right after Setsuna locks the door of their suite behind them, when she turns to Kasagami and smiles -- softly, briefly, to be ensconced away with her love. Then something even rarer shows up. Their privacy and their choice of activity sinks in, layered atop the delicate beauty of fresh-renewed romance, and Setsuna's cheeks bloom warmly. She blushes and blinks and makes the realization more obvious than maybe she'd prefer.

"Ah. Well. I am ready to get clean and soak, aren't you, Kassie?" At least Setsuna isn't preoccupied with her problems for a moment. She gives this little nod and throat-clearing sound, then turns for the nearby towel-laden bench and starts unbuttoning with her back to the swordswoman.

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

Slowly, slowly, Kasagami smirks. "Don't apologize yet. I'm not convinced it's your fault, after all." Comes Kassie's reply, a lot weak, very exhausted, but yet having belief in the senshi that she's come to care so much for.

It's an automatic reaction, one based off of her own heart. Not any logical intuition, no matter how the situation has her head pounding. Thankfully medicines vaguely help with that, and by the time they're booked and ready?

"I'd like to go a week without being abducted by aliens, yeah." Grumps Kassie to Setsuna right before they head into the hot springs room.

When that lock clicks? Kasagami has an odd relationship with her own body. There's a certain level of self consciousness she has. Amongst Ohtori's student body at large, she tends to wear clothing that is particularly covering. It's been that way since middle school, and part of the reason why she trends towards masculine clothing despite not being against the more feminine.

The long sting of insults since she'd first suffered her injuries and then the resurgence with her loss of status has only dredged up that old weakness.

Setsuna, however, is hardly a faceless member of Ohtori. Freed of the risk of being looked down upon for her wounds, Kasagami has levels of bashful that approach zero. "The last thing I want to cling to me is jail smell. This onsen better have scalding showers!" Proclaims the young woman, sitting down on a bench and neatly folding her clothes in well practiced motions. Her good eye finally rounds on Setsuna as she takes a far-too-long moment to outright /strut/ to the first cleansing shower of the onsen.

Despite the tension earlier, she can't help but shoot a sharp glance to her love with a warm, blazing look.

"If any of those buttons get stuck, I'd be happy to help you with them, Setsuna-chan."

Then the sound of a shower head and soap can be heard, as Kasagami Araki belts out a rather respectable version of "Fuel" as she washes off the Robonoid and fighting and Space Jail grime!

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

"Aliens. Ugh. I could tell you about aliens..." Setsuna sounds long-suffering. "Their ships never make any sense. Never. Ah, and the slime, too. There is always something repulsive when aliens are involved, and it always ends up in your hair."

In bashfulness, Setsuna is the inversion of her love. Out in the world she walks tall and with confidence, even in relatively body-baring or attention-seeking pieces of avant garde clothing. Her body consciousness nears zero, even when changing backstage or walking the runway in front of flashing cameras. Her shyness comes out in private. She may have thousands of years of experience as a soldier and Guardian of Time, but until she went on a date with Kasagami, she'd never been on one at all.

In turning around, Setsuna achieves some small remedy for her burning cheeks: it mostly removes the distraction of Kasagami disrobing and it hides her blush. Her fingers manage her shirt fastenings fine until the very last, when the comment itself inspires a fumble and she nearly pops the button right off. "Kassie...!" The swordswoman knows that tone well. It's somewhere between outrage and fondness.

Once her clothes are folded too she follows after, towel held before her, and with some very grateful sighs sloughs off goop and sweat and a thin layer of exhaustion with it. Her hair takes the longest, easily. Then it's off to the onsen itself, finally!

It's a deft bit of towel handling that sees it go from held before her, again, to wrapping aaaaall that dark wet hair up into a twist atop her head as she sinks down into the still water. The heat seeps right in, and in a flash all of her aches make themselves known -- a groan -- and then begin slowly melting. A long, deep sigh follows.

The waterline traces just beneath the wings of her collarbone. She looks over to Kasagami once they're both in the onsen, lids heavy, and then just keeps looking; she takes her time, just enjoying the leisure to take in the details of Kassie's face, her eyes, the scars and smoothnesses both. "You are so beautiful," Setsuna murmurs, and it shines in her gaze and how she can't look away, now.

"Thank you. For coming, when I texted. For always being here when I need you... For everything. And," she smiles. "And most especially, for that kiss."

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

Frown! "I very much am inclined to agree." Pause. Shudder. But she pauses. "I suppose Steven has half an exemption thoug. And a vast majority of his family." Gernet of course slides into the odd corner of the Chevaliers. The same corner, admittedly, where Fuu once resided. The mere fact that the Gem hugged and fought them all out of the way of Jasper initially and also guided them through multiple parts of the ship has Kasagami feeling very much less murderous towards the old Gem.

Still, she mostly focuses on Steven right now.

That lovely tone of love and anger, and Kassie openly laughs!

"You're adorable when you're annoyed and want to chase me around, Setsu-chan!" Teases Kassie, just before she's stepping out of the shower before Setsuna. That long garnet hair is far greater than her's at the longest, and she's into the onsen very, very eagerly after her short shower.

Kasagami is floating in their private onsen, rotating in an extremely slow motion that was mostly a result of her all but collapsing into the deep, warm water. Her limbs are well on display, burnt and soft alike, and yet with every long rotation there's a gentle look to her love. There's several dark red petals floating in this particular bath for the pair. She only pauses when one hand reaches to grasp an ankle, then lazily float herself towards her love.

"I'll come to you for any call, Setsuna-chan. We both have ambitions, we both have oaths that we live for. And maybe, together? We can both find the end of our path to a better world!"

Offers Kassie, gathering up as much ambition and inspiration is in her. She then distinctly flumps in the water, still floating in the warm spring. Finally though?

She's close once again, and leans in. Another warm little smooch to Pluto's cheek.

"I'd kiss you any day, my sweet." A pause. And then a big, big grin, despite all of the pain in her limbs that at least the onsen is slowly easing.

-= Later That Night =-

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

Dressed in one of the kimonos of the onsen, the fading sun casts warm light into the room that Kasagami and Setsuna have taken for the night. It's fairly large and spacious, with plush bedrolls, pillows, and of course a nice, warm and toasty Kotatsu. Their dinner is on the table, Kassie have a nice heaped up plate of fried rice, veggies, and beef. Chopsticks fly as the young woman eats, occasionally reaching for water or a soda.

After imprisonment, the athletic young woman is /starving/! She looks relaxed, if still exhausted, but how she packs away food definitely still shows the effects it's had on her.

She pauses after a while though, washing down her food, and then spears one more piece of beef. She leans over the table, and offers it to Setsuna.

Her gaze is loving, and warm. "You're so very beautiful Setsuna-chan. To think, we're alive, and back home." A heavy sigh. No matter how much she enjoyed the freedom of a life threatening situation in the moment, the physical and emotional backlash ihas taken it's toll.

A pause though, and her eating slows. She ponders. "We really should talk, though." Comes Kassie, uttering those horrific words no one ever wants to hear.

"Especially about Uranus and Neptune."

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

A long soak at the onsen has done wonders toward restoring some of Setsuna's equilibrium. Leisure spent in the company of her love, insulated from the world and all the problems in it... even moreso. Her hair is mostly dry now, falling loose down her back to pool in a neat green coil on the floor behind her. She sighs and shrugs further into her own kimono, enjoying silk on skin.

With her own plate piled high in similar fashion -- chicken instead of beef -- the senshi has also tucked in with particular singlemindedness. Usually she takes her time eating, but Setsuna is just as worn and ravenous as Kassie after their space ordeal. Her own looping chopsticks have finally begun to slow when the speared bit of beef goes on offer.

She looks up and across the kotatsu, smiles, then leans in to nab the offering with a neat bite. "Mm. Good sauce, on yours." Kassie can see the effect of her compliment in the softening of that smile. "We are," she agrees. "It's good to be back. Not just here, but... with you."

Her gaze drops after the swordswoman continues. With care, Setsuna neatens up her place setting, making sure the chopsticks go back just so.

She doesn't know where to begin.

Kasagami has seen her troubled before, but perhaps has not seen her look quite so... lost. Her mouth opens a few times before Setsuna finally speaks, quietly. "Would it surprise you to hear there are things I cannot tell you? There are things I could not tell them, either. That is part of the problem, of course. So many secrets, and I have my Taboos." Imbued with weight, the last sounds like a proper noun.

"They planned it. They watched me, and found me... wanting." Her voice drops. "They may not have been wrong, but their remedy was..." Setsuna shakes her head, slowly. Her eyes are still on the table between them, and she looks haunted. "I had to stop them from- from killing Chibi-Usa."

She uses a name Kasagami will have heard, and recently. She means the same pink-haired girl who helped save all their lives, on the UFO, and who has seemed unusually important to Setsuna before.

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

Similarly, Kassie puts down her chopsticks and sets aside her food. She leans on her elbows, and gazes into her love's eyes. Seeing her /lost/ is certainly new, and it makes her heart ache to know how much pain she's in.

Kasagami gives a bitter little chuckle. "I know. I know, Setsuna-chan. I hate it, but...I would be a hippocrit if I complained too much about that. I'm not letting secrets get between us. Not again."

She goes silent though.

"Wanting or not...you don't attack your allies!" Snarls Kasagami but a few moments after. The young woman does /not/ like this situation at all. "First Usagi, then Chibi-usa..." Grumbles Kassie a moment. Squint. "At least Chibi-usa is a brave little kid. She saved us back there, along with Steven." Kasagami can in fact realize when someone's saved her butt.

"What's so important about her? Can you tell me? And why did they try to kill her?"

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

Setsuna feels that gaze on her. She doesn't look up at first. Having brought another secret into this sweet seclusion, a knot has been forming in her chest. It isn't until Kasagami says she won't let secrets come between them that it begins to unravel again, and she can look up again, seek with her hand across the table for a clasp. "Neither will I. Whatever happens... we'll find a way through together, from now on."

She still looks haunted, though. "It's fair to say they attacked her, not me. Uranus and Neptune..."

The Guardian of Time has gone over and over and over the events in her mind: everything Uranus did (and that cold dead look in her eyes); everything Neptune said (and her hard grip on Pluto's arm). "They were doing what they thought they had to do, Kasa-chan. To them, I was endangering our mission. And our mission is everything, you know it is. They just didn't know who they were threatening, to try and force my hand.

"Well... it was forced, all right. But not how they hoped."

And now they know. And Kasagami, brave and beloved Kasagami, wants to know, too.

"She is..." Who is Chibi-Usa Tsukino? How can she explain, without telling about the future and Crystal Tokyo, without betraying royal trust and Time itself? "She is someone I would die for," Setsuna says, simply. "I cannot say why, I wish... I wish I could, Kassie."

Then Setsuna clears her throat. She looks up to Kasagami again, and now one of her eyebrows is arched. "I can tell you what she is not and never will be, though." Pause. "A 'brat'."

Yep, that is a direct quote from Kasagami thanking Chibi-Usa.

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

A deep, deep sigh. Kasagami rubs her temple. "So let me guess? Chibi-usa got in the way, you tried to protect her, and then all three of you got into a fight. As much as I would love to blame the both, I guess you have a point. That's the problem though. If they think you're 'wanting', then I doubt they will listen to you if you say someone is important." Pluto, not being worthy? A ridiculous thing in Kasagami's mind. As far as she's concerned, Pluto is one of the most elegant and strongest of the senshi.

She's biased though.

"Well, she's impressed me so far." It's begrudging respect, but it's there. Her actions of bravery at least offset Chibi's personality that so grates on Kasagami!

Cheeky arrogance doesn't sit well with her coming from someone so young.

Kasagami audibly chokes. Suddenly? She's down more food and hiding her expression behind chowing down.

She may have said that. There's a light blush to her cheeks, and the occasional cheeky grin that says 'I'm in trouble aren't I?'. There's a little shine to her eyes though.

It feels good to be close and in trouble again.

"She's a cheeky child, that's for sure."

She ponders a moment though. "What are you going to do now? Does Eri-chan know? This is going to get complicated fast."

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

"That is close enough to how it happened, at least." And yet so far from it, too. She would die for Chibi-Usa? She very nearly /did/ die for Chibi-Usa. Setsuna offered her life up in sacrifice and her comrades and friends... accepted that sacrifice. A shiver courses through her, a flash of cold to match that look in Uranus's eyes. "I don't think they'll come after her again, but I didn't see them coming in the first place. So, really... what do I know?"

There's a ceramic saki flask and set of cups, and Setsuna busies herself pouring one -- a glance up to Kasagami inquires whether she wants some, too, and if so Setsuna pours a second cup. Soft clinks substitute for speaking, for a while.

A sip, then: "Small Lady saved us all, you know." The nickname is easy enough to pin to a person, with context and having heard Setsuna yell it at Chibi-Usa back on the UFO more than a few times. She's caught that twinkle, those grins. With a studiously flat expression, Setsuna siiips again.

That looks like /classic/ trouble.

"Perhaps you should consider the optics of trading insults with a fifth grader, when you are not also a fifth grader." Another eyebrow arch as Setsuna chooses a different vector to make her point. "Mm, but wait. /She/ didn't insult /you/, did she? When you see her again, maybe you should give her that thanks."

Now, /now/ there is an answering sparkle in garnet, a curl at the corner of dark lips. Setsuna takes one last sip, then sets the little cup down. Shortly the sparkle fades as serious topics resume.

"Eri-chan does not know. But... we're not..." Setsuna shakes her head, trying to find the right words. "We still share our mission. That hasn't changed. At least, not for me. That aside..." She slumps a little. "I don't know. I just don't know, I don't know how complicated this is going to be. I don't know what I can say, when I see them next." She sounds small, and sad. "Whatever complications exist, the fault is mine."

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

She takes the cup, sipping the sake slowly. Nice and warm. A small sigh.

"Well..." A pause. Kasagami thinks, and then smiles. "Even you can't see everything. People are wild and unpredictable, as is the world and it's cruelty. And remember, you're not alone. If push comes to shove, I'll help you in anything."

Oh god. The /look/! That sip. The grin!

Truly, Kasagami is doomed to the kassie-doge house! Tomorrow, anyway. Tonight is onsen!

Twitch. "That wasn't an insult. It's called 'appreciative ribbing'! There's a difference!" Insists Kasagami, nodding to herself self assuredly.

"I will though. We all owe her." Offers the young woman more seriously. MOre sipping, and a hmmm. "Don't dwell on it. You need to move forward and prepare. We have a lot to work on. We both need to be strong if we want to complete our ambitions." She's over to Setsuna's side soon, and offers her shoulder, wrapping an arm around her waist to pull her close.

"You're strong, and you believe in what you're doing. Your mission to stop that.../thing/ will save this world. Now more than ever, I'm going to be there with you, whatever you need, Setsuna-chan."

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

Tomorrow indeed -- it just isn't in Setsuna to maintain tension between herself and Kasagami, not tonight. And, after all... "Thank you, for understanding. And for accepting what I'm able to tell you. I... it would make my heart glad, to really introduce you to each other. I love the both of you so dearly."

Kassie makes her way over and Setsuna finds there is nothing she wants more than this closeness, right now, this comfort. She scoots up and gratefully accepts that shoulder, sliding kimono-clad arms around Kasagami's waist in return and swinging legs up and over her lap. In short order, the swordswoman has Setsuna softly curled and secure.

She's not alone. "I'm so..." Setsuna draws a long breath. "Thank you. You know, you always know how to make things better, Kasa-chan. The last month or so has been..." Her arms tighten, and her fingers brush Kasagami's side. "This is how it should be. You're right. I won't let secrets come between us, either."

Setsuna lifts her head, then, to search Kassie's face. Her eyes are bright, her smile a little wobbly. "I am so in love with you. I could spend forever here, just like this." It's a slow lean that closes the space between them and brings their lips together, and she's slower still in the parting.

"So... I'm going to be here for you, too." Still lingering near, Setsuna bumps her forehead to Kassie's. "Would you tell me more about your ambitions, Kassie? Whatever you can share with me. Your dreams are a part of you, and I know they must be as beautiful as you are. I want to help you reach them."

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

Her smile is warm, if a little teasing. "Then I should cook dinner some time. We might just end up /not/ strangling each other." Even after a short exchange or two, Kassie already knows that the little tiny pink ball of cheek is going to be...contentious.

It's like having a bratty little sister. Sorry Pluto!

When Setsuna leans, and then slides into her lap? Kasagami lets out a longing sigh. To be this close, to truly show her affections so openly? It feels like it's been an eternity.

Arms wrap in turn, and have her oh-so-close, luxuriating in each other's warmth and proximity. Kasagami Araki doesn't want to let go, for fear the world once again will conspire to tear her away. And she doesn't want to leave those arms, for fear that Setsuna will miss a moment of them being together.

"I'm good for that much, I guess." There's that note of depression seeping into her voice for a second. She's still lost so much, her entire life is upside down, and Kasagami is very much using Pluto and the Shepherds as her lifeline. At least now she seems to have some kind of emotional focus.

Lips press, and Kasagami shows all of her passion in it. Her eyes are half lidded, but never depart from the dark eyes that so often come to her sweetest dreams, and close in her worst nightmares. Seeing the spark of love in them, and offering her own in turn, keeps her going.

"If only we could stop time for a while, hmm?" The irony doesn't hit her. She's too preoccupied with her love than to think about any careless words.

Forehead to forehead, Kasagami's smile fade. What /can/ she tell Setsuna? She knows the rumors about campus are furious, of the fight, and no doubt the magical community have heard much more. Yet, the secrets of the Letters have to be upheld. But, she can't keep her in the dark entirely either.

The letter after winning the Duel against Utena flashes into her mind.

"I want to become King of this world, Setsuna-chan. You've seen the threats that are against our world. Aliens. Dark usurpers. Evil monsters of so many stripes. People that turn things to monsters and create despair. Nevermind war, poverty, all of the senseless violence in the world."

Her voice rises, passionate and confident. A true believer, she speaks boldly. "Even since my parents died, I have always wanted to make sure nothing random or unjust takes away a girl's parents, or snatches away a child from their parents. A lover from their partner, two friends from one another through the world's random cruelties. The only way that can be accomplished is by having a powerful King, wise, strong, and noble. More passionate, more furious, with love like no other for thier people!"

Her eyes, fully open, sparkle as she indulges in her impossible dream.

"I've...come to realize that a person like that isn't enough. That they need other strong people to support them in their rule. That's why I love interesting people so much. The talented, the oddballs, those with a spark of ambition, or abilities that are unique and unusual. And so that's why I want to meet and inspire as many people as possible, so I can gather those most worthy to help me, if I succeed in my goals of a better world."

A pause. "Most importantly, being my Queen." A hand reaches, and brushes through Pluto's hair. A meaningful look, and then she moves on.

"But I'm nowhere near ready to become a King. Especially now. I've lost any influence in the adult world I had, I have no money, or even social status at Ohtori. All I have is my sword, and my pride. So I need to rebuild. I'll need your help. Everyone's help. And you've already done so much for me, Setsuna-chan. I'm sorry to ask more of you."

A squeeze to her side once again. The fight. "I'm...fighting for something that could possibly give me the power to make my dreams come true. Against very, very strong people." She pauses, and lifts a finger.

"But it's not something you can help me win. Not directly. I have to do that with my own two hands. I was very, very close to doing it. But then...Utena."

A long, bitter chuckle. "I got arrogant. I lost my...hunger. Was too full of myself, and then? I lost it all in an instant. But right now my belly is empty and I'm starving."

She goes silent for a minute or two, and finally? A savage grin comes to her.

"I will not underestimate the Prince twice. She's the one I have to surpass in everything now. To think it was /him/ I was aiming for. I really am a fool, Setsuna-chan." One more laugh, and then she's half sobbing, half laughing into her neck.

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

To that note of depression, Setsuna says, "And so much more, Kassie. If only you could see yourself through my eyes, somehow." The warm angle and bright aspect of garnet eyes speak eloquently to the senshi's perspective on her beloved. She indulges in their closeness, too, the warm and soft contact, and finds Kasagami more restorative even than a soak in the therapeutic heat of the onsen.

After the lingering interlock of lips they are close enough that the swordswoman can easily catch a twitch in one of Setsuna's cheeks, brief and pained-looking, at the mention of stopping time. She knows how Kassie meant it, and tries to take it as such, but the words tread upon a delicate scab. It's a conscious choice, to not mention how close she came to death, so recently. What good would it do Kasagami to know? She sees only pain down that path, and so opts not to inflict it needlessly.

Besides, Setsuna wants to listen, not speak. As long as she has known Kasagami Araki, she's associated the word "King" with this courageous spirit. It has fallen from Kassie's lips so many times, and in truth, for a long while Setsuna abstracted the notion. There are many magical girls in the Tokyo of Here and Now, with many disparate goals. One particular goal of one particular Shepherd ally did not matter so much, sd long as they also supported her own goal.

Until... it did. And even then...

She'd confessed it, back in the cafe when their paths diverged. 'I did not take you seriously.'

Now Setsuna takes Kasagami seriously. She asked, and now she listens. All of those heartfelt words receive their due: rapt attention, unwavering and pure. With small nods and little expulsions of breath the senshi signals her focus. She cannot fail to see how her love lights up, speaking of her heartfelt desires. Only once the other girl is truly done, and chuckle-sobbing into her neck, does Setsuna venture to speak in return.

"Ah, Kassie... They are. Your dreams are just as beautiful as you." With one hand she smooths Kasagami's hair, stroking gentle fingers along the back of her head and down. "You love so fiercely. I've never known anyone quite like you." She's quiet for a time, assimilating this ambition, finally, into her own worldview.

"I used to think that... certain events were fixed. And that nothing mattered outside of our mission. What could be more important than saving the world? But... as it turns out, the world needs many different kinds of saving." Her hand drifts from hair to cheek, tracing the unevenness of scar tissue that is just as familiar and dear to touch as the smoothness mirroring it. "It doesn't just need to keep existing. You're right. It needs more."

And, she thinks but cannot say, there is a vast span of time between now and the rise of Crystal Tokyo. So many lives lived, between now and the future Sailor Pluto pledged her own to protect.

"I just want to keep it going. You want to make it better." She's smiling. "Now, not later. And I've come to realize how important that is, in large part thanks to you." She finds Kassie's eyes, returns the meaningful look. "I don't know what lies in store for me, after we prevent the Silence." She's still using 'we,' despite everything, to refer to the Outer Senshi. In this she cannot do otherwise, Setsuna finds. "But whatever I can give, I will."

The word 'Queen' makes her... uneasy, even as the meaning from Kassie's lips warms her. But she does not, cannot, say that, because that too belongs to the shining future. "I believe in the goodness of your heart's dreams, Kasa-chan.."

Finally... "Utena," Setsuna repeats. She's heard the name by now. Impossible not to. "You... what did she say to you? When... when I came to you, after I heard. Is she the one you mentioned?" That female pronoun, connected to so many heartbreaking statements, did not escape Setsuna's notice.

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

"I want to look in the mirror again, Setsuna-chan, and feel something other than ugliness. But with you? I think I might find that." Whispers Kasagami to her love. Her eyes threaten to mist. She blinks it back.

She's managed to miss that twitch, that discomforting moment as she buried her head into Setsuna's neck. Her warmth is there, the young woman knowing acheingly little of her love other than what she's witnessed and has been told. That gaping distance has become a small chasm at least, and one Kasagami wishes nothing more than to make the leap. But now isn't the time. They both have their secrets, and they both have their goals.

And yet, in a paradox, she feels closer to Setsuna now than she ever has before.

That soothing, gentle stroak of her hair coaxes a smile back to her face. "Well of course. A real King needs to love, to laugh, to live more loudly and more passionately than any other. Their sadness and despair deep, and their heights glorious and shining. But I think I much prefer shining to the darkness of a brooding King."

Fingers trace her scarrs, and she leans into them. No one else would dare be so close, so intimate. There's no distress in the motion that would bring her to violence or fear in any other. She feels comforted, loved, and /appreciated/ in a time where few are willing to associate with her in the wider world beyond a cadre of magical girls.

She clings to that closeness, ignorant of the future. Instead, she looks forward to a world she imagines can be brought to fruition.

"I'm glad, Setsuna-chan! That's right! No matter how cruel the world is, as long as..."

A thought pops into her head. Is a Kingdom land, castles, or fortifications? Or...

"The world itself doesn't matter. It's the people within it, maybe. The only point in fighting is to make a better world for those you love, and if you gain power? Everyone." Reaffirms Kasagami solidly.

"Otherwise you either have stagnation or decline. I'd rather be dead than see the world around me rot." Teeth grit.

There's no words as Setsuna believes in her. Only shifting even closer, and being unable to hide her tears.

More silence. Utena is an enemy, to be sure. Someone to be surpassed, to be beaten again, to be conquered and taken from for the sake of World Revolution.

But what is a King, really? That question haunts Kasagami.

"What she said doesn't matter."

Utena Tenjou, after all, has been a friend as well. She never cared that much for her status on the Student Council. Was always there to pick her up in times of need, that Kasagami found so captivating and lovely. Stirred her heart with the love for a Prince, and equally sewed the selfish desire as her own personal Prince she once saw as so ignorant.

Maybe she is. Is she, herself, any less? Many questions flurry in Kasagami's mind.

"I want to be a King. But one kind of King is the type we've seen all throughout history. Crumbling Kingdoms that die in infighting and intrigue. I was on the path to becoming just another pure Tyrant, high on my success and prizes I'd coveted. I wonder...if that kind of King can make the world I seek."

A shiver. "But what kind of King can?" She slumps a bit against Setsuna. She looks exhausted, fully, but most of all emotionally.

"I chased a path that was more ordinary than I thought. I want to become an extroardinary King. Setsuna-chan?"

She looks into her love's eyes once again. "What does a King represent to you?"

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

"If passion and brooding were all it took to crown a monarch..." A soft chuckle from Setsuna. "When you shine... I've seen none brighter." As Kasagami thinks out loud, working through portions of her dream anew here in their embrace, her girlfriend admires the workings of a determined heart and dedicated mind.

The reply about Utena puts a thoughtful crease between Setsuna's eyebrows. It's a confirmation of identity and denial of importance, all at once. She lets it pass unremarked on, but does not forget.

Kasagami wants to be King, wants to rule the world in order to better it. It is a true ambition, as real as the swordswoman's desire to end suffering and senseless tragedy. But what kind of King? And what does a King represent to Setsuna? The senshi attends to the questions and falls into visible reflection.

That's when her gaze drifts away, casting upward at an oblique angle to focus on nothing at all. For a time she is quiet.

"I haven't known many Kings," she says at long last. Her voice distant, the Guardian of Time walks the antediluvian halls of her memory. "Known... /of/ Kings, yes, countless Kings who ruled lands forgotten before any of the histories you've studied began. To see a person's works from afar is one thing, to... have experience of them... another entirely."

She comes back to Earth, to Kassie, with a slow blink and a shifting upon her lap. She smiles, then, and squeezes the other young woman. "Mmm. It's good, to have personal experience of the world and the people in it, I have to say. Hmm. What does a King represent... I've seen more than the world's fair share of tyrants, too." Setsuna turns somber.

"I've only known one kingdom not to crumble, Kassie, and even then... maybe I simply haven't existed long enough to see its end." The senshi does not name it. "Most things in this universe end. Not all, but most. But when the greatest kingdoms fall, they live on, too. In tales and dreams. In memory, and in your history books.

"If you want to rule, Kassie, if you want to bring the world into a Golden Age... you could do worse than to study those who came closest. I know you've made a study of history and rulers, but there are so many, across the years... Have you ever studied Suleiman the Lawgiver?" Setsuna chooses a terrestrial example from extremely recent (to her thinking, at least...) history. Something more accessible to Kasagami than, say, the Silver Millennium.

"He was... a conqueror and a poet, a champion of culture and a man who refused to be bound by his own society's rules. You could read on and on about his military campaigns. They are impressive. He conquered the unconquerable. But the real measure of Suleiman's rule is found in what he brought to the people he ruled. And he brought it to them all. He was widely known to be even-handed and just, even to newly taken territories. They all benefited from his rule."

Another smile dawns, slow and soft. "I think you would like how he managed his personal affairs, too. His best friend was his most trusted advisor, and he married for great and passionate love, against every tradition. And Suleiman's name is known today, even though he and his empire died hundreds of years ago. But..." A pause.

"It crumbled, of course. Like you said, it happens throughout history. Suleiman was no different. It fell apart for him, too. Infighting, intrigue. He grew paranoid and bitter. In the end, he executed the same friend he'd once trusted with his empire." Setsuna sighs. "It was hard to watch, even from afar."

She finds Kassie's eyes with hers. "You could never be an ordinary anything, Kassie. Only extraordinary. I know it's possible for one ruler to unite the world and better it. I've seen it done." This, said with the same utter sincerity and conviction the senshi uses to speak of the end of the world -- but now her eyes shine.

"Hmm. Although... I should say, I've never seen it done by a King." There's an extra sparkle in them now. "Only a Queen."