2018-08-01 - Miscommunication

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Title: Miscommunication

Setsuna finds Mikoto by Tama River, and tries to talk. But both of them say more than they mean to, in the eyes of the other, and all the good intentions and honest efforts in the world mean nothing in the face of a threat.


Mikoto Minagi, Setsuna Higashi, Fate Testarossa


Tama Outer City, Tama River

OOC - IC Date:

2018-08-01 - 2015-05-03

.****************************** Tama Outer City *******************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Tama River +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 At the head of this river, deep in the Tama region, a dam forms Lake
 Okutama. Gazing upon its calm waters, it is difficult to imagine that
 beneath the dam, a great river erupts. In days past, the Tama River ran
 rampant, flooding frequently, often so intensely as to wash away towns or
 permanently alter its course. Today, the dam and an expensive series of
 levees have tamed this serpent of water, and its floods, while frequent,
 cause no significant damage.

 The new Tama River is a beloved location for leisure and recreation.
 Kayaking along its rapids, rock climbing and bouldering in nearby parks,
 picnicking alongside its slower sections; Tama is a long river, and has
 something for everyone. A great number of sports fields have sprung up on
 its banks, for children and adults alike, and it's not uncommon for the Tama
 River to host school games. Neighboring areas flock to the riverside at
 festival-time, erecting food stalls and fair games.

 The mouth of the river empties into Tokyo Bay in the Yamanote region of the
 city, right next to Haneda Airport.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

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

Another day, and Mikoto Minagi is searching again. That these are holidays - that she ought to be relaxing - is a point which seems entirely elided in her desperation. She tried. She tried, and it didn't go well.

She just has to find him and everything will be fine.

She wears a pale purple shirt, 'FREE' printed in English letters upon it, and denim shorts to her knees; it's warm enough, today, that she has forgone tights. The afternoon sun is kind on pale skin, and there are many people out, today; from Shibuya to Akihabara, everyone seems eager to do something fun.

So too is it as the search proves fruitless in the depths of the city, and she comes to Tama. There are less people here, perhaps, than in the heart of Tokyo: they approach Golden Week with the very same enthusiasm. Mikoto finds nothing in the residential areas; no hint of familiarity which would tell her that her task is done.

She comes to the river. There are people here, too, enjoying the natural pursuits. But in a place like this, there will always be those areas more populated, and those which are quiet. Spots in the river where there is nothing to attract the townsfolk... or where it would not be good for them to dwell.

Mikoto scans the faces of those merrymakers, having fun on the river. But she finds herself pressured by the amount of people she has been around. It's hard to deal with such big crowds. And so, here on the river - she finds a quiet spot. It's a place where the river is more wild than it ought to be, a wan reminder of its tumultuous past. Few people would let their children linger here.

She perches herself on a fallen log, and watches the rapids with a distant expression.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Another day, another holiday. They're for all kinds of things; Setsuna enjoys the choice she has over what she does these days, though she does enjoy school, too. ...And like she often does when she's thinking, she's elected to walk. Just, to walk, and see the changing landscape, the way town gives way to tree gives way to bigger city gives way to change in all directions; the uniformity of Labyrinth is nowhere to be seen here. Buildings of different colors, shapes, heights... Signs everywhere, people in different clothes.

She doesn't gawk, though; she just walks. Khaki shorts down to her knees, calf-length dark boots, a long-sleeved loose red top; light clothes for warm weather, but not too much sun for the pale girl. Her dark hair falls down her back as she keeps walking, making her twists and turns more by whim than anything, occasionally pulling out her phone to tap out a text.

She, too, glances at the folk on the river... But slowly finds herself gravitating towards less of a crowd herself, towards quiet, and nature, something she really didn't have back in Labyrinth. And here...

"Oh...?" She tilts her head, seeing the girl ahead... and then thinks to what Lera told her. With a determined expression, she nods, and then steps forward, all neutral again.

"...Hello, Minagi-san," Setsuna greets from far enough behind not to be too much an obvious threat.

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

Pale skin, dark hair; in this, Mikoto Minagi and Setsuna Higashi are two of a kind. Yet Mikoto's hair is short, but for the braids framing either side of her face; it's barely ruffled in the spring breeze.

Behind those braids, her ears twitch like a cat as a new sound joins birdsong and flowing water. The sound of boots on sandy earth - another person. She tilts her head, chin across shoulder, to see what hiker has come across her path. She doesn't intend to interrupt them.

But they - she does. Golden eyes widen in recognition as Mikoto realises who has come here, and she stands, turning to face Setsuna with guarded suspicion. She is silent for a beat, two, three, as those eyes scan over her.

Casual clothes. Staying at a distance. It's possible she's just happened upon Mikoto by chance. It's possible she's just another person enjoying Golden Week.

(It's possible, but, then - she is an enemy.)

Finally, the motion stiff, Mikoto nods in return.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Another person is right. Setsuna could just keep walking--she could just move on. But she doesn't; instead, she returns the same silence, looking over Mikoto with an expression nearly impossible to read, thoughtful and quiet but not emotional at all. Casual clothes, staying at a distance.

"...It's a nice place, isn't it?" Setsuna asks, selecting the little bit of small talk carefully, to focus on the environment, not on... their relationship. She takes a step closer, towards the river, looking out onto the water. "Rivers are still interesting, to me."

She doesn't get too close; her path takes her diagonal, maintaining a certain amount of distance but getting closer to the banks of the river proper.

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

She could move on. She isn't. Mikoto regards Setsuna warily as she takes a step towards the river, turning to keep her in her sights. It's evident she doesn't trust her at all.

Still - it's unlikely she's brought company. That's not the Chevaliers' style. They try to corner her alone.

They probably don't think they need help, since Mikoto is so bad at fighting with her words.

... and maybe they're right. Maybe she is the weak link here. Why else would they keep finding her - keep trying to engage her with words?

Maybe they're right, because Mikoto can't fathom how talking about a river is an attack at all. It must speak to her inexperience. There must be something here she's missing.

She's silent for long moments in her suspicion, scowling at Setsuna, trying to figure it out. But she just can't. She's not good at this, and she can't figure out why Setsuna would try and talk about the beauty of nature after she screamed at her last time at all. And if she doesn't have enough information - well, she needs to catch up somehow. "Interesting," she echoes, finally, skepticism laced through the word.

It's a bit too flat to be a question, but it's a question nonetheless.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Setsuna isn't too bothered by the obvious lack of trust; it doesn't affect her outwardly at all. ...The truth is, she's a bit wary around Mikoto, too, but it's easy not to show too much of it. Why is she here? ...Well, Setsuna doesn't exactly offer more clues.

Instead, she makes her way to the river, looking down at it thoughtfully. She admires the current, the way it flows, onward and onward...

Setsuna looks sidelong at Mikoto, but doesn't scowl back; she keeps the same neutral, thoughtful look as before. When her words are echoed--

It's a little easier to talk when Mikoto isn't asking much. Just a simple clarification. That much, she can do.

"It's very pretty--but where I come from, we didn't have... nature, like this. Everything was organized, set in its place. There was none of this... color."

"...It's nice."

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

Mikoto grunts, from the back of her throat, as Setsuna shares that Labyrinth was devoid of nature. Perhaps it's skepticism - perhaps it's just disapproval.

She's the opposite way, after all. Where she came from, there was nothing but nature.

But can she really say something like that to an enemy..?

It's a question which settles about her like an uncomfortable shroud, and it doesn't leave even as she examines Setsuna so carefully for answers. Because as much as she's asking herself that question - it must have occurred to her enemy, too. It's difficult to read Cure Passion. It makes it even more difficult to divine her intentions.

"Why?" Mikoto asks, after long silence. She puffs out a breath between parted teeth, clarifies. "Why tell me this?"

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

It could be either. Setsuna can hardly get too mad about Mikoto being... Mikoto. Not yet anyway. She is trying to be patient, outgoing...

The question settles, and Setsuna waits. She doesn't seem to mind the time it takes Mikoto to answer; she doesn't seem to mind much of anything right now, which makes understanding what she's after that much more maddeningly difficult. But when Mikoto does ask--

Setsuna dips her head, thinking to find the right words. "...It's a normal thing that humans do, I think," Setsuna answers after a moment. "Share information about themselves and where they come from, in an effort to understand one another. I don't remember what it's called."

She turns her head to look at Mikoto finally. "I'd like to get to know you. To understand you."

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

As if Setsuna isn't human.

Well - she's from Labyrinth.

Perhaps she's just a -


- Mikoto snarls, as Setsuna finishes her explanation and looks to her.

'I just want to understand you. And understanding sometimes hurts. Sometimes it's with words - and sometimes it's in battle. And either way can hurt - but in the end I want to understand you so I can help you.'

Snarls - takes a step back, bodily. A hand grasps Miroku's strap, the other coming up to cover her core. "No!" She snaps, volume to her voice. "I won't get hurt again!"

Cure Passion wants to tear out all her soft things and use them to destroy her.

Just like Fate.

But Mikoto doesn't say why that wish of Setsuna's agitates her so thoroughly. She doesn't explain why her chin ducks to cover her vulnerable neck, why she glares from behind those hanging braids, why her breath snorts from flared nostrils as if she's preparing to run.

Or to fight.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

A what? What else might she be? It doesn't seem that Setsuna considers that aspect of her words overmuch. However--

She's considering a lot of what she says immediately after as Mikoto starts snarling, analyzing to wonder what it was that she said wrong at the same time that she takes a step back, putting her weight on her back leg and putting her hands up as if to forestall violence--or to be ready for it, to Mikoto's eye. "What?" she asks, blinking in surprise.

Without an explanation, Setsuna doesn't understand. She's left only to guess; once she might have reacted the same way to someone...

Could it be that she thinks understanding would make her weak? Could it be that--

"I don't want to hurt you," Setsuna says more firmly, mentally recalling the place where her Linkrun sits. ...Is it such a hard thing for Mikoto to believe, that she would? After all, Setsuna once did exactly that--tried to get close to other girls, to find their weaknesses. Maybe she is the wrong one to try to help like this.

"I only wanted to talk!"

...But there's a note of desperation to her voice that, for Setsuna, rings hollow.

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

Mikoto takes in every action. Perhaps she's backing away. Perhaps she's preparing to strike. Lower back her weight, spring forward - a Cure's fists are her weapons, and Passion's are firmly raised.

It only adds to the rising tension which clenches at her jagged heart and every other muscle.

She sounds confused. As if she's innocent.

She says she doesn't want to hurt her, and Mikoto growls, again, another step back. "Liar," she says, and at least she's not screaming any more - but her voice is guarded like a fortress, chill in its certainty. "Chevaliers always do that. Just talk. But Chevaliers know you're hurting. Don't lie to me. Fate admitted!"

Ah - there's the shouting again.

"I know Cure Passion's fighting me now! I'm not defenceless any more! Don't think Cure Passion can just hurt me, and - hurt me -" Mikoto's voice wavers, there, flinching at some unseen memory. "- like there's nothing I can do! I'm not as weak as Chevaliers think I am!"

That she is referring to fighting with words is, again, something Mikoto entirely fails to explain. The only possible clue she gives is the way she does not draw her sword, the way her posture is defensive.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Calm as she tends to be, Setsuna's not immune to the nerves of the moment--she can feel her heart beating faster, feel her mind going as reminders of what happened before when she went off on her own, before when she went after one of their opponents without help or a plan. Lindy's words about recklessness echo for her just as much as Lera's worried looks. ...But she is confused, as she sounds, and--

"I'm not lying!" Setsuna snaps back, frustrated. But she is a liar, has been for a long time. "...What did Fate--"

She's--she's fighting her? "We're not fighting!" Setsuna answers, her voice sharper, harsher. "And I'm not trying to hurt you! I don't--"

She scowls, "I'm not saying you're weak! Talking doesn't make you weak!" Didn't she think it did, once? And Setsuna can see Mikoto ready to draw her sword, too.

...A hand slips downward, towards her Linkrun, though she doesn't break what she doesn't quite realize is a standoff yet. She could, though. "You--"

But words aren't her strong suit, and already they're failing her.

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

Mikoto's sharp eyes narrow, as Setsuna gets halfway through a question. As she denies, denies, denies.

"Can't fool me any more," she snaps, grip tight against the strap of her case. "Mai told me. When people hurt with their words, that's attack too. And I don't gotta just take it like I did. I can defend myself! I can yell, or -" - a frustrated noise, as Mikoto realises she can't call Mai for help at all. She's far too far away. "Yelling's fine!"

But maybe yelling's not fine at all. Maybe there's only one way someone like Mikoto Minagi can defend herself.

But Mai said she should answer words with words.

Mikoto hisses out a breath through grit teeth. "Doesn't it?" She asks, and perhaps it's not immediately obvious she's jumped to Setsuna's statement about words and weakness. "Always happens. I start to talk. But Chevaliers are so much better at words, so I end up hurt. Don't know how Chevaliers do it. Never had to know this stuff. But it's not 'cause Chevaliers are right. Fate lied." She only tenses further under the memory of it.

"Bet Cure Passion's gonna try and say we're the same, too," Mikoto accuses her, with black expression, and she really isn't very good at this, because she reveals so much more than she means to. "Not gonna work!"

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Hurting with words... Setsuna does feel a similarity, here. But it's eclipsed by the sheer frustration of what's happening, of Mikoto calling her of all people good at--

"Fine!" Setsuna scowls back. "Yell if you want! Go ahead!"

Is it really going to stop there, though?

It's not immediately obvious--Setsuna's nerves are jagged, as she forces herself to remain calm, to think rationally. ...Unfortunately, rationality in this case has to bow to how dangerous Mikoto can be. She gets it, after a moment.


She shakes her head, and finally, an aura of red light begins to surround her; in moments, standing there by the river is Cure Passion, her pink hair brilliant against the colors of the river, her red clothes vibrant.

"No," Cure Passion answers, shaking her head, resolute. She no longer shows the sadness she had a moment ago. "...I'm not going to say we're the same. I don't understand you. Maybe we have something in common..."

Passion sets eyes on Mikoto. "I didn't come here to hurt you."

COMBAT: Setsuna Higashi transforms into Cure Passion!

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

Mikoto thinks, when Setsuna confirms it, that she understands what kind of a fight this is.

Thinking that, it's so obvious what Setsuna means to say as transformative light floods the river.

It's so obvious that she means to show threat.

And that tiny girl's breath catches in her throat and she knows, she knows that if she keeps playing by Mai's rules, she will perish. "I tried," she says, to herself - to someone who isn't even here. The words are strained and quiet and they are overshadowed in an instant by the way Miroku's case swings around, the way the sword is drawn in a single smooth motion.

There is no light about her, red or otherwise. Visually, she shows no difference at all. But there is a creeping sense of malevolence as that black blade is exposed - as Mikoto holds it before her, knuckles white in their grip.

She snarls, visibly bristling. Eri didn't want - Eri didn't want this - "Liar. Always, always lying! If Cure Passion didn't mean to - why's Cure Passion making this a real fight?" And Lera - well, Lera's an enemy, so it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter at all.

Cure Passion is resolute. Mikoto trembles in some wan attempt at restraint.

It can't last.

Mikoto Minagi works exactly as intended.

It was a mistake to escalate. She is terrible at fighting with words. She was made to destroy her enemies.

And those who attack her are enemies.

And it is so eminently clear Cure Passion means to attack.

There is no reason to gather her vestments but to annihilate the opposition.

No reason... no other reason...

Mikoto's breath quickens in her chest as she launches herself forward with all the force and fury of a freight train, blade sweeping in a curve, once, twice, three times - a terrible cutting edge which tears through topsoil as surely as it must tear through a girl. She moves with the twirl, closer, closer, until she plants her feet to slam her momentum into Cure Passion -

- it is eminently clear why it is good to be wary of Mikoto and her obsidian blade.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Destruction on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Cure Passion dodges 23 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Destruction, taking 35 Fatigue damage!  Cure Passion's Fade and Flash abilities activate!

<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Obvious. So, so clear. ...When Passion found herself eyeing that sword, moved to defend herself from a clear threat to her. Mikoto says something about how she tried... And Passion's thought that this could be dangerous is proven when Mikoto draws her sword. Visually, there may be no difference--but Setsuna can feel the aura of the sword. And she's called--

"..." Passion doesn't know what Mikoto means, making this a real fight--but expressing uncertainty now, would that just be showing weakness to her opponent, giving her something to seize on? She's not sure what she should say, if she should say anything.


She can't come up with the words; there's just the look, as if Passion can prove her sincerity simply by staring at Mikoto, but it's not to be. Mikoto launches herself forward, too too quickly, and Passion starts on her feet immediately. The curve sweeps, and sweeps, and Passion steps to the edge just as Mikoto plants her feet. She avoids the immediate cutting force of the blade. ...She does not avoid the sheer power of the swing, the force that slams the dirt and sends rock and grass and cut air crashing towards her, sending the legendary warrior Pretty Cure straight into a tree with a crack. "Gh--"

Passion winces, but shoves herself to the side, sprinting away before Mikoto can follow up--and then rushes back her way in a curving path, dropping down in an instant to sweep at Mikoto's leg and start pushing herself up, up, up in a set of spinning kicks.

"We don't have to--" Strike. "Fight!"

COMBAT: Cure Passion has used Rising Passion on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Cure Passion has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 6 Fatigue damage from Cure Passion's Rising Passion, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Cure Passion is Psyched!

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

Mikoto could not have known that Cure Passion saw threat in a sword sheathed. She could not have known that perhaps she did not understand how the HiME's own vestments operate. That even Mikoto, whose Element is ever at her side, is a normal girl when it is not exposed to her enemies.

It's obvious.

It's obvious, so why bother explaining?

Cure Passion gives her that look - receives only hate in reply. She is closed-off, imperious in her rage, and even the vague hope of hesitation is shattered in an instant.

Even Eri said that the peace-bond only went so far.

Even Mai said that sometimes there's no other choice.

She will end this. She will end Cure Passion. She will not be hurt again.

They are black thoughts which drive the terrible power of her strike - but Cure Passion is fast, faster still than a blade with so much dragging momentum behind it. Mikoto notes with satisfaction that she cannot avoid the wake. If only she fell into the rapids.

A tree will do.

Mikoto launches herself towards it - and proves Cure Passion's intuition entirely right as she cleaves it in twain, precisely where her core was a moment ago. The trunk crashes to the ground as Passion comes up again - and the boughs of the treetop behind her block easy movement. Mikoto growls, planting Miroku in the ground just as that first kick comes up, using the broad flat of the greatblade to defend her against the martial prowess of the Cure.

Again - again - again - each spin knocks a little further back, a little further up. And as Cure Passion cries out, she might see Mikoto's eyes behind the blade, terrible and sharp and without a shred of mercy at all.

They don't have to fight, she cries.

Mikoto does not cry out in reply.

Mikoto only bares her teeth and snarls as she bends down to defend herself against the rising strikes of Cure Passion.

It's obvious.

It's obvious, so why bother talking?

When those strikes rise too high Mikoto takes the opportunity to wrench herself downwards, to roll underneath the spinning Cure. She springs upwards, hand flat against earth torn in a thin line by Miroku's blade, and leaps forward to bring her blade up in diagonal motion.

And she does not reach out for understanding with her words.

She only screams, a bloodcurdling rage-filled sound.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Cure Passion fails to counter Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness, taking 47 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Psyched!
COMBAT: Cure Passion's counterattack, Crimson Counter, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!

<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

It's less and less obvious to Cure Passion; now that they're fighting, she just doesn't know the sheer single-mindedness of the HiME before her, is wholly unfamiliar with this kind of need to fight. When she fought magical girls often, Setsuna was brutal, vicious--but talkative, aiming to get a mental, a spiritual victory, not just physical.

Mikoto, on the other hand, strikes to kill and strikes quickly. Passion might have been better off falling into the rapids--but instead, she looks to the fallen tree where she was, attempts to keep moving. She hits the greatblade hard, but little by little, she drives her back, she drives her up. And then she sees--

Eyes like she's seen in others, but not like she sees in humans. It's jarring, strange--the girl from Labyrinth finds her eyes widening for a moment in surprise.

It doesn't interrupt her movements, at least. ...Not at first, anyway. Up, up, to take things out of Mikoto's comfort zone and into hers, except--Mikoto moves down, and leaps. Passion is mid-air when it happens, and she spins, using her leg to force momentum mid-air in an effort to impact the flat of the blade, force it back down--

There's a line of red as Passion's kick swings, and Mikoto's sword-arm overpowers her; the cut is deep, and Passion spins through the air uncontrolled, hitting the ground hard. To her credit, she doesn't cry out.

"--" Passion hits the ground in silence, looks up, and--favoring one leg and one side clearly--rushes upward. She can see the river behind, a way out, and Mikoto between. So...

She speeds up. Where Mikoto has to swing her blade for momentum, Passion only has to move, and she becomes a red blur, crashing towards Mikoto in a flurry of spinning strikes heedless of her injury, aiming to reappear behind her--

And keep moving.

COMBAT: Cure Passion has used Passion Flash on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Cure Passion has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly counters 47 Fatigue damage from Cure Passion's Passion Flash, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Critical Counter!  Mikoto Minagi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Cure Passion is unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, bursts all the way through, doing 45 Fatigue damage to Cure Passion!  Cure Passion is unable to keep fighting!

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

They are terrible eyes, catlike in the worst possible way, more beast than girl in their form and feeling.

Or perhaps -

Mikoto roars her anger as she brings up her blade, and she is a wild thing, bestial in her beserkergang. She smells it as she sees it, sharp and iron, and Passion crashes to the ground. Mikoto's descent is more controlled - she lands three-point against the sand of the river, whirls to face Setsuna again.

Teeth bared, blade flashing - she does not assume Cure Passion is done fighting at all, the way she charges towards her. Injury does not slow a magical girl. She has fought injured enough in recent days to know.

She does not think Cure Passion is trying to escape at all.

Enemies do not abscond by running straight at her.

It's obvious she means to attack.

But she is weakened, and those sharp, cold eyes spy the wounds in a moment. She sights the way Passion rises, the way she looks from her to the river - as if she means to knock her into it. It's what Mikoto would do. It makes sense for an enemy to think such a thing.

She is already bringing her blade about by the time Passion becomes a blur of movement, so fast that if Mikoto's sight were not so keen, she would surely lose track of her. She strikes out, but there is a side to her weaker than the other, and as that kick lashes out, so too does Miroku, to meet those wounds before Cure Passion can even think of destroying her.

Mikoto presses the weakness as she howls wordless challenge.

She will not fall.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Passion has been cruel. Passion has been violent. ...But just as she wasn't used to rivers in Labyrinth, beasts are far from her expectations, far from her experience. Maybe it's appropriate, given the animals she's hurt in her schemes before, that a catlike girl is fighting her now. But this is a different kind of berserking than Setsuna is used to, and her descent is not at all controlled. Injury has not slowed her too much, no.

But with this girl with a sword set to kill her, what else can she do but find the fastest means of escape? She's hurt already. The decision is quick... But again, their perspectives clash. Maybe Fate would say something about that; the way that their intentions and feelings are simply moving past one another, not meeting at all.

But Passion, pink hair billowing out behind her, can only let her thoughts run as she ignores them, focuses on the moment. And Mikoto brings out her blade. Her sight is keen, too keen. Passion strikes, and swings--

She feels something break as Miroku hacks against her, builds on her wounds and leads to the blur turning into a girl rolling on the ground towards the river, cut deeply. Still Passion doesn't cry out--

But she does crumple. Fruitlessly, she tries to push herself back up, but her hands are slick against the muddy ground, her body protesting beyond her will's ability to direct it. "Nn--"

Red makes it a little harder to spot her wounds. "We..." She gets out the word, shakes her head, tries to push herself up, away, but her vision is swimming, darkening quickly.

It's not working well.

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

The enemy falls.

She still draws breath.

And for a moment there is stillness, to Mikoto. As if perhaps there is still a chance she will not rend Eri's peace-bond in twain. As if perhaps she will not make Lera cry. As if perhaps this is enough.

The enemy...

... it's not enough. Cure Passion will come back, more vengeful and more driven. Cure Passion will hurt her again, and again, and again. Cure Passion will... Cure Passion will...

It doesn't matter what Cure Passion will do.

Enemies must be defeated.

And so Mikoto advances, step over terrible step. She does not hurry to Setsuna's struggling form. Neither is she slow. She is deliberate.

If she hears Setsuna - there is no indication at all.

There is no recognition in her eyes, no mercy, as she comes to Setsuna, as she raises her blade overhead.

It is an executioner's swing.

And perhaps it would be familiar, to certain people absent now.

But this time, there is no escape pod.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

It has been a day of cats. Suzuka Tsukimura's cats in particular. Having obtained two new kittens to her family of cats that roam wild and free through the Tsukimura estate - Fate Testarossa has had a good Sunday. Waving a hand towards Suzuka, the other girl says, "Ah are you sure you don't want a ride home? I promise you that Noel wouldn't mind."

"It's okay! I promise."

Suzuka then inquires with a note of restraint, "Are you going to fly home?" Fate then looks at her as if uncertain, "Well I don't... usually. I walk mostly." Suzuka then walks up to her to take her hand, "Can you take me flying sometime? Please?"

Fate's eyes grow wide for a few moments - before she finally smiles and nods, "Of course!"


Her mood was still light on the walk home. It was at least until... <Caution. Emergency.>

Fate's gaze snaps towards the river in the distance - and the sounds she hears.


Fate does not know how this fight started. She doesn't know who is to blame. She doesn't know anything except one thing.

Cure Passion is on the muddy shore of the river banks. Wounded. It's a dangerous enough location for the wounded girl even if Mikoto Minagi were not advancing on her like some grim executioner.

She won't let Setsuna Higashi be executed.

The telltale bell-like sound of a Midchildan magical circle occurs first, followed by - <Sprite Zanber.>

"Get away from her!" Is the urgent command - filled with a sort of desperate resolve. Yet words are not where it ends. Because action must be taken.

It's followed by a bright crackling greatsword of darkened energy with a bright edge of lightning flowing around it cleaves across horizontally, the blade growing mid-swing as it flashes with arcing electricity to try to intercept the swing. "Haaaa-!"

The wielder is blonde - with a fluttering white jacket over it. Darkened and silver armor beneath it.

There's not much wiggle room to avoid striking the river and possibly harming Passion further. But in order to get to Setsuna Higashi she must go through this girl first.

So she'll do it.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket Blaze - Full Drive Mode!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Sprite Zanber on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi counters 35 Fatigue damage from Fate Testarossa's Sprite Zanber, taking 35 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Mikoto Minagi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, partially gets through, doing 25 Fatigue damage to Fate Testarossa!  Critical Counterhit!

<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

It is not the first time Setsuna has faced an executioner, but it gets no easier from the last time. If she can just make herself move, drifting in the river is a much better chance than staying here to await Miroku's swing. Her eyes squeeze shut, tearing up with the strain, the emotion of it, and she gets her fingers spread, digging into the dirt--

Fate's magic--Bardiche's magic--rings in her ear, in her heart, and the words of her friend are there. The swing never hits her. "F-...Fate," Passion manages to say, opening her eyes and turning her head towards her as best she can.

"..." Her lips purse together again, and all the things she can't manage to say, all the turmoil, just becomes a look.

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

There is a cry.

It doesn't matter.

Mikoto will deal with the next enemy after this one.

Miroku comes down -

- meets the crackling blade of another greatsword. Mikoto snarls, wordlessly, as she struggles against the power of Fate Testarossa. Bardiche and Miroku converse, the only way swords possibly can. It is violent, for all it is brief. Such is the way, between Devices and Elements.

It ends with Mikoto shoved backwards, stumbling to regain her footing. The water of the rapids foams and sprays behind her, catching at her ankles, reminding her of the price being forced further back carries.

(If only she could look down, could realise that Setsuna has spoken just as she does, has communicated just as she does.)

She realises, instead, as she assesses this new challenger with those terrible eyes, who her new enemy truly is.

Fate Testarossa.

Of course.

More Chevaliers have come to attack her.

Those who attack her are her enemies, and so her course is set.

She roars challenge as she tears forward, Setsuna's beaten form forgotten as her sword swings around, once, twice, three times, sand flying as it is carved away by horrific force. She plants her feet - she brings Miroku to bear. And there is desperation in the strike, evident in its raw power, even though she does not say a word. She holds nothing back. She fights for her life. She fights to end theirs.

She will destroy all comers.

She will not fall.

She will not fall.

She will not fall.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Destruction on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa partially dodges 11 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Destruction, taking 43 Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa's Fade and Flash abilities activate!

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

That's right.

The weight of Fate Testarossa's blade swings her around in mid-air. And there is Mikoto Minagi's sword. She does not have to stand against her for long.

She just has to stand for long enough.

Forget all about her.

Fate shouts a word, "BARDICHE!"

And the sword hilt pounds in one-two-three cartridges. Fate tries to fly to the side, but Miroku is already descending, the Obsidian Blade coming down to where her shoulder is. The weight driving her against the ground even from the glancing blow.

Blind yourself to her existence.

Fortunately. <Defenser Plus.>

A Golden Barrier shimmers, trembling under the strain of holding back Mikoto's Greatsword.

There's a new enemy to fight. An obstacle to remove.

Even as Mikoto drives Miroku further and further into her cracking shield - Fate Testarossa raises Bardiche overhead with a single hand, shouting - "Get ready!" Who is she talking to?

And then Fate Testarossa drives Bardiche down with a strained shout - because Miroku is still driving into her shields.

Her Auto-Protection shatters.

At the same moment Bardiche chimes. <Blade Impulse.>

The concussive wave of Bardiche's descent drives into the muddy shore - and beneath the mud to the soil beneath. Sending up a geyser of mud and sand in a blinding cloud.

And obstacles must be removed. Right Okaasan?

The exact moment that happens, Fate flies backwards with all the speed she's known for - flying into Cure Passion to pick her up with her wounded arm without stopping. And fly.

Fly at blinding speed. As fast as she can - never stopping.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter. It's irrelevant; it's beside the point. Words, some her own, swirl about in Passion's mind. They're incoherent, they don't mesh; there is just the ring of battle in her ears, the cold feeling of wounds and the rush of the river beside her. ...The grass is nice, so nice. But she cannot communicate this, or much else to Mikoto right now.

"Fate..." Her voice is weak, dazed. She hears Bardiche, hears--ah. Get ready. That must be...

Passion starts to curl in on herself a little more as directed, and the mud and soil and sand and water crash around her. Some lands on her, even. ...But that's less important--more important is the fact that Fate picks her up on her way back, flies faster than she can keep track. Nausea wars with her as she elects to just close her eyes.

"I just... wanted... to talk," she manages, but she sounds so defeated about it. Maybe that's just physical.


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

A golden shield means to separate Mikoto and the enemy. But she is a blade; she is one with her weapon. They share the same blood.

And the blood of the earth is obsidian.

Sigils alight on the obsidian blade, blazing red menace, and they are like eyes as they stare down at Fate in silent judgement. White light floods the cracks - red energy flows through them. Miroku's explosion is great, and terrible, and strong enough even to destroy such desperate defence.

It ought to be the end, but for the way Bardiche chimes out.

Mikoto howls vengeance as Fate momentarily disappears in a cloud of debris. Nostrils flare, but the scent of river-mud is stronger still than that of girls.

But not of blood.

It means she smells, rather than sees, the movement as Fate darts in, darts away. Too busy is she shaking her head, violent motions to try and dislodge the sand from her eyes. She roars her frustration, but she does not follow.

And when she manages to wipe the stinging particles away, one hand still on her blade, she finds herself alone.

It takes long moments after that for the tension to wipe from her muscles.

There were two. Perhaps there are more.

But, in the end... no other enemies come to face her, here. And Mikoto sinks Miroku into the mud of the river, and leans on it, breathing out in a long sigh. She looks askance at the felled tree, at the torn earth.


But there is no one to hear her hesitating words, now. No one to witness the way her eyes widen as she remembers the form which was in front of that tree. "- Did I --"

No one to see the way her shoulders slump as she tears the foggy memories from her mind, lets out shaky breath as she realises she didn't kill her.

Mikoto fills her lungs with air, and pulls herself up, taking step over reluctant step back to her sword-case again. She sheathes her blade; she shrugs it onto her shoulder.

What has she done?

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

Fate doesn't say anything. Until finally she's convinced that Mikoto is not leaping after them. And even then she doesn't say anything. Finally though - she lands in the park just near Clover Town Street - as Bardiche dematerializes in a shimmer of gold to become the Golden Triangle on the back of her barrier jacket.

And she puts Passion down.

"Don't apologize for wanting to talk."

The girl says, pained, as her expression spasms from the dagger like pain in her shoulder.

"She's dangerous though. Just like both of us were."

Her red eyes look sharply at Cure Passion.

"Can't you feel it now though? What talking to her really entails? It means breaking through a conviction just as strong..."

There's a pause, but it's only for emphasis, as she enunciates the next few words.

"...as Eas'."

She allows that to linger for a few moments before adding. "And now that you know that. You know that to talk to her you'll have to be willing to put everything on the line."

<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Passion doesn't say anything as they fly, either. Maybe she can, maybe she can't, but she takes advantage of the chance to rest until they land in the park. Passion is set down, and a blur of red outlines her form before she's just Setsuna Higashi again, the magic of her transformation shielding her from wounds that would have been potentially fatal... and instead are just painful, exhausting. It could've been any normal, if nasty, fall down a hill, some other normal accident.


She wasn't apologizing for wanting to talk, though. Setsuna looks up at Fate, managing to push herself to a seated position. Fate looks at her sharply, and Setsuna returns that gaze, even, sturdy. She may be hurt, but she has not lost herself.

"...Yes," Setsuna says quietly. "I underestimated what was happening... I thought..." She shakes her head. "I thought... It doesn't matter what I thought. I can't do it halfway."

Setsuna sets her eyes back down on the ground for a moment, before looking into Fate's eyes again.

"...Now, I know. How it feels..."

"You all are even stronger than I thought, back then." Setsuna says it--and then hisses, a breath coming with some difficulty. "...Thank you."