2018-08-31 - Reaching Out, Flinching Back

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Title: Reaching Out, Flinching Back

Mikoto sets out to warn the Chevaliers away from their business so she can avoid further bloodshed, and ends up sharing her feelings with Setsuna, instead.


Setsuna Higashi, Mikoto Minagi


Tama Outer City - Clover Town

OOC - IC Date:

2018-08-31 - 2015-05-10

.****************************** Tama Outer City *******************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Yotsuba Clover Town +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 On one horizon, there is mountain and forest; on the other, city and sea.
 Here there is Yotsuba, a town named for its clover-carpeted hills. It's hard
 to say if it's any luckier than neighboring towns because of it, but it does
 feel a little easier to smile around here. Yotsuba is a town for families,
 with no real pretense of hipness, and enthusiasm spills from every store
 awning, town council meeting, and local festival. Streets are broad and
 brick-paved for walking, and the architecture and decorations are
 birthday-cake pastel against the rich green shrubbery and hills.

 Like so many Japanese towns, Yotsuba is built around its shopping district.
 Clover Town Street runs straight down the middle of town, marked on either
 side by large archways bearing its name. Greenery, lamp posts and benches
 cut down the middle. Shops of all kinds line both sides: florist, tofu,
 candy, supermarket, and accessory, to name a few. Most of the businesses
 here are locally owned, and their proprietors live on their upper floors.

 Yotsuba Park is the social center of the town. With broad pavilions and
 famous donuts, it is popular enough to be lively and spacious enough to
 avoid crowding. Its amphitheatre regularly hosts performances, as well as
 the beauty, dance and idol competitions that have become popular among
 locals lately.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

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

The day is warm and stretches ahead; the vacation is over, and the school year is set to begin in earnest. Some are inclined to bemoan the loss of their free time, sigh at the return of homework and schedules...

Setsuna Higashi doesn't mind so much. School is fun; seeing her classmates, having somewhere to go most days, learning... Seeing people she wouldn't see otherwise. Even travelling on the train is pleasant for her; it's all part of the tapestry of how humans live.

...But sometimes she does go away for quiet, and sometimes she just likes to sit somewhere. She isn't with her friends right now, or her girlfriend, or the Chevaliers whom she's been helping. Right now she's in a spot familiar to her, fun; down the street from one of the main thoroughfares of town, just distant enough from the shops and down the hill that she's closer to the parks. She sits on stone stairs, looking out into nothing as she looks up from her phone, thoughtful.

She's dressed casually, rather than in uniform, in shorts and a breezy long-sleeved top, with... one tennis shoe. Her other leg is too bound-up for that, bandaged up to the knee thoroughly, her trunk is a little stiff, too, and peeking from the hem of her shirt is the suggestion of more bandages. She has crutches set to the side, and is... quiet. Unreadable. It's like she hasn't remembered to put on an expression so she's just at neutral.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> 2 Mello - Intimidation Tactics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rml1VFo0p9I

Mikoto has been watching them, just as Homura bid her to. Making sure none of them get too close to Eri Shimanouchi. None have; she has not announced herself.

One of them is still hurt, she notes with dry and distant satisfaction.

There are words she remembers, impossible desires. It would be easier to control a situation with an enemy already wounded. If she could impress the truth upon them...

... would it make Eri happier if less of them got hurt?

It is a question she struggles with as the one who is wounded comes to sit on the stairs below. It takes her long moments to come to a conclusion.

And then she does.

The leaves of a tree overlooking the stairs rustle, and something drops from a branch to land in front of Setsuna. No - someone. Mikoto Minagi alights in loose crouch, one hand upon the ground; she straightens. The movements are effortless, even untransformed. She is in black shorts, a t-shirt with a cat emblazoned on it, the sort of thing one would wear on a Sunday but for her sensible Ohtori flats.

"Cure Passion." Mikoto's voice is measured and cold. "I'm here with warning."

Implicitly: she is not here to destroy her this day.

"If Chevaliers try to get involved in Eri's business again..." An edge of hot anger, as she adds: "If Chevaliers stop us from protecting Eri again..!" Those terrible golden eyes narrow. "Stop getting in the way. Won't forgive anyone who hurts Eri. I'll really make you all regret it." Her words are low and laden with threat.

After all - the Chevaliers have only ever acted to bring them down.

Mikoto tilts up her chin, lips in thin-pressed downward crease, her fingers curled up loosely at her sides. "Understand?" The implicit message in the gesture is obvious, to her; she may expose her neck fearlessly to Setsuna, because she is the greater force amongst them. She has broken Setsuna once, and if she thinks to fight again, she will break her anew. It is unkind.

In her mind, all she has to do is scare them off, and there'll be less corpses at the end of the day.

That's the right thing to do - right..?

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

Sometimes, Setsuna notices people who watch her. ...Often she doesn't. She remembers what it's like to look over her shoulder, still needs to... But her detection isn't perfect. She isn't looking for catlike tread, after all. She doesn't seem to be looking for anything at all. The trees rustle, and Setsuna glances towards the sound--and sees Mikoto. She gives her a look-over immediately, though her expression doesn't change.

Her eyes linger for a moment on the case though. Just a moment, before she looks back--

'Warning.' Setsuna is silent at Mikoto's reply. Perhaps it's a triumph that Setsuna keeps her eyes on Mikoto, notes the anger. But--

She blinks, in surprise. She does not understand the gesture at all, frankly; she sees Mikoto looking down at her, but that's all. Mikoto...

Before, she didn't seek to convince her of anything, didn't try to scare her or talk to her. Now, she's changed tactics. It--

Setsuna is silent still as she tries to work it out, for long moments.

"...Why?" She asks first, head tilting to the side, as if the angle will help her understand. "I don't understand."

She pauses, for an instant, straightens, regards Mikoto thoughtfully. Her voice, somehow, is not cold; it is not angry. Her confusion is apparently genuine.

"...Stop you from protecting Eri...?" She repeats it as if it will make more sense that way. Then she just shakes her head, sighing once.

"I don't want to hurt Shimanouchi-san," Setsuna answers simply. "I don't even know her. ...But she's human. Her life matters."

She pauses, and glances off to the horizon for a few moments, over Mikoto's shoulder. "...If I were to let Shimanouchi-san die... It would be the same as what I'm trying to stop." Maybe she does understand more than she thinks; she doesn't seem to be challenging Mikoto at all in her demeanor. ...She doesn't seem to feel very much at all. Her low affect is even more prominent at times like this, when she isn't angry, but...

She seems not to have any more words for the moment.

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

Cure Passion is confused. The corner of Mikoto's lip scrunches in her frustration. She thought she was clear.

But before she can think of how to force understanding onto her, Setsuna starts talking again.

'Why don't they understand?! Why don't any of them understand - Eri has to live?'
'Why do you want their understanding? You might as well look for mercy from a Witch. It would be as impossible to attain, and as useless.'
'I - I thought...'

Homura said it was impossible, but - Setsuna expresses some measure of understanding, despite saying she doesn't understand at all. And it brings hesitation to those cruel yellow eyes, a widening of them.

All those things she thought so foolishly come rushing back to her.

'...That one life is worth saving. I won't sacrifice people for myself, or let others do the same.'

She'd said as much before. But how can she trust the words of an enemy who meant to destroy her?

'Cure Passion wasn't trying to fight you. She messed up by transforming.'

... unless it was a mistake.

'Hang on a minute!! I'm not--!'
'... you!'

... ... ...

No. Not that.

BGM Change: Kawai Kenji - Omoi Daite https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-N7sxi8iDI

Mikoto takes a step back, and drops her steely gaze from Setsuna, focusing on the tree-trunk to her left instead. Her shoulders fall back from the tension which knots them in the presence of an enemy; she releases that same tension which curled her hands. They are loose at her sides, tilted to keep palms visible.

Perhaps these nonverbal signals would not be enough - but her voice soon joins them. "I..." And it is not hostile and cold, any more. It is uncertain, guarded, a shade awkward. It is so much closer to the tone she wore after the events at the World Tree.

"... would Cure Passion, really protect Eri from Sayaka?" The words halt over each other, each more unbelievable than the last. "Sayaka's Cure Passion's ally. Eri's Cure Passion's enemy. Doesn't make sense."

She looks back to Setsuna, as suspicion wars with doubt on a face which reveals everything. Lips drawn, brow upturned, a tension to her eyelids and her cheeks. She demands: "Make it make sense!"

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

Yes, Passion is confused. The red-eyed girl just stays forward, purple hair caught on her shoulders, curling lightly there in locks before she straightens her shoulders enough that it falls normally again. She is accustomed to confusion.

...She is also accustomed to mistakes.

When Mikoto steps back, Setsuna's gaze returns to her, and once again, all that is clear in her gaze is this: she does not understand. She looks at Mikoto an alien, knowing that she does not belong in this way, still here regardless. The signals without words are not enough. The words themselves, are nearly not enough, though there is the change in that tone. But when Mikoto asks...

No, when she demands. Setsuna sees it; this, she understands. This, she shares.

...Mikoto doesn't understand her, either.

"I would," Setsuna answers after Mikoto's demand. Her voice is quiet, but sure; there is no tension, there is no doubt; by the time she voices these words, she has decided on them.

"I've told Miki-san as much. I don't intend to let her kill your friend." She pauses. 'Make it make sense'. Setsuna looks down, quiet, forming her words again. It is difficult, but she has to make the effort.

"...I disagree with her. With what she plans to do, with the idea that it's a solution that we should use. She's my ally--but I think she's wrong." Setsuna turns her gaze back on Mikoto. "...I don't want to kill my enemies. The enemies I most have to face... They're from my world. I know that they're doing what they think is best, what they think has to be done. We were comrades, once. ...I want to show them my point of view. I want them to understand how precious this world is."

"I want Eri to understand. Life... it's precious. I want to find better ways to solve our problems than that. ...When I was the enemy, the people I faced gave me that chance. They showed me how they felt; what they believed."

"...And..." Here, only here, does she hesitate, before nodding once, as if agreeing that it's time. "I know how it feels, to have done terrible things. To have hurt people. Your friend's life is important. ...But it's also true that I don't want Miki-san to ever understand that feeling." She pauses, and something is set in her eyes, a resolve that is clear, that is like iron.

"The only way to protect Miki-san from that feeling is to protect Shimanouchi-san. So that's what I'll do."

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

Setsuna says she would protect Eri, and Mikoto cannot believe such a thing.

It doesn't make any sense.

She says she thinks Sayaka is wrong.

It doesn't make any sense.

She says she doesn't want to kill her enemies.

It doesn't... it doesn't...

'I think they genuinely don't want you dead - and genuinely think they want to help you. It's just... thoughtless. Short-sighted.'

Mikoto's hand curls at her chest, as she looks to the ground, sorrow catching at her features.

For someone like Setsuna - could it make sense?

But it's just so hard to believe.

Perhaps it is a boon, then, when Setsuna comes to a place where she finally hesitates, as if she is sharing the truth of the matter. She says she wants to protect Eri - for Sayaka's sake. To protect Sayaka. It's so much easier to believe Eri's life would be incidental to Sayaka's happiness, for Setsuna. That it is a tool to a purpose - rather than something with inherent worth.

Mikoto nods, with a wordless grunt of assent, and for long moments she is quiet. She could leave, knowing that. She should leave.

'Who told you the world is fair?'
'No one. I want it. Myself.'

She does not leave.

"... listen, Cure Passion," demands Mikoto, quiet but firm. There is an edge of desperation to the words, and for a moment they are chased only by silence. She frowns as she struggles with herself, struggles with sharing information with the enemy. She does not look at her when she finds the words she may speak.

"Eri's one of three most important people in the world. Eri helped save me. Eri never ever gave up on me. Even when I was useless, Eri still wanted me. Eri is like me. Eri wants good things for me. Eri takes care of me. Understand?" Mikoto asks, eyes narrowed as she finally glances back to Setsuna again. "I'd do anything for Eri. Eri's what's important. Won't hurt people keeping Sayaka away from Eri. Not if Eri's in trouble."

She does not say: please help me keep Eri safe. Eri means the world to me.

But she does glance away, hesitation creeping into her voice again. "... I... shouldn't tell Cure Passion this. But... but Cure Passion's gotta understand..." Mikoto's teeth grit, and her hand clenches to a fist as she raises her gaze to her again, indignation captured in them. "... Eri isn't just Chevalier's bad guy. It's not fair-!!" Anger peaks her voice, but even as it does, her brow draws up, and dampness rims at those terrible golden eyes as they soften to sorrow again.

She looks up past Setsuna, to a sky blotted by the leaves of a great old tree, and tears roll down her cheeks as her hand drops back down to her side. Her voice cracks in something new, now - despair.

"... it's not fair..."

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

Thoughtless. Short-sighted.

Maybe; Setsuna can't control how Mikoto sees her, can't control what she thinks, or feels, and wouldn't want to if she was asked. But she can understand sorrow when she sees it. ...She is not sure what it is that makes Mikoto understand her, but she sees that it happens. And Mikoto...

There is desperation there. Setsuna, still seated, still injured, simply watches the other girl. She does not hurry her; she does not show impatience. It might be maddening in its own way, the placid, simple way that the girl who is also Cure Passion waits. ...The way she doesn't interrupt.

She inclines her head shallowly when Mikoto asks if she understands. She does, she thinks; not everything, not all the details... But all Mikoto had to say was how important Eri is.

No, Mikoto doesn't say everything. But to Setsuna, 'Eri is important', 'Eri is in trouble', says more than enough. ...When Mikoto hesitates, Setsuna continues to watch, notes her frustration, her indignation--

Her despair. For all that Setsuna does not understand all emotions, cannot handle them all at once... She understands despair. She understands its feeling, she understands its taste, dark and rich and faintly oily, its color brilliant and sickly yellow. She knows despair.

"...It isn't fair," Setsuna agrees quietly, closing her eyes for a moment, opening them only when she looks down in thought. "..." Silence lingers for a little while. It takes time, to think of what to say, how to say it; not even because she wants to say the thing that will work, but because she has to order her own thoughts and feelings.

"I know what it's like to have someone like that in your life. Someone important. Someone who didn't give up on you. ...It's a lucky feeling, isn't it? It takes time to realize it, but... there's nothing like it."

Setsuna lifts red eyes back to Mikoto, her gaze like the ocean at night, wine-dark. "No one... is only one thing. What you're saying... I believe you."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Robert J! Lake - Everything Is Something To Somebody https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reSPRXEtVmg

Perhaps people ought to find it maddening, the way Cure Passion waits and listens.

But Mikoto is accustomed to listening, and does not see her silence as insult at all.

Accustomed to listening - but not talking, not like this, not to someone she's so grievously injured, someone on the other side. She does not know how simple it would be, in Setsuna's eyes, to communicate Eri's preciousness. So she tries to lay words over words, tries to find the right ones to bridge the yawning gulf between them. It's frustrating. It feels impossible.

Impossible, but - she indicates her understanding, and Mikoto grunts in assent. Good. If she understands, perhaps she won't get in the way any more. Even if she doesn't...

... she'll know just how dangerous it is to oppose her.

(It's still so hard to believe that Cure Passion will help Eri on her own terms.)

Anger becomes despondence, and for all Mikoto is having so many emotions towards Cure Passion they all seem to pour out and over into the boiling point of despair.

It isn't fair, Cure Passion agrees.

It isn't. It isn't fair that they expect Eri to be weak and helpless and dependent on people who may well want her dead. It's as good as expecting her to die. It isn't fair that there are people who fully require this of her. It isn't fair that Eri has to keep fighting and can't ever have a normal-girl future. It isn't fair that Eri can never have what she wants. It isn't fair that Eri is dying and it isn't fair there's nothing she can do. Even though Mikoto tries so hard, all the time...

'...there's no way to save her.'

Her throat constricts and she takes in sharp breath through grit teeth. Mikoto tilts her head down to rub at her face with the back of a hand, face knot together as she tries to get a hold of herself.

Cure Passion speaks up again, and somehow, even though she's agreeing with her, it still hurts. Mikoto's hand lowers and her eyes lift back to her.

Cure Passion has seen hatred, in those eyes. She has seen killing intent, distant and unreachable. She has seen fury and destruction and something terrible and cold. But at rare times - like this - it is so clear there is more to them than sharp edges, wide and glittering with tears. Mikoto has never been able to hide anything. She cannot mask her vulnerability here.

It feels far too threatening, to meet Cure Passion's eyes like this, and Mikoto looks away. She nods assent, as Setsuna says she believes her. She does not quite get to thanking her.

"Lucky," she echoes, instead, the word wavering a little from a throat tightened by tears. "... yeah. Took a lot to realise." Mai had to die before she could... "So I won't give up on Eri. No matter what."

She swallows. "Eri says, I deserve better. Mai says, I did what I could. Sailor Neptune says, Eri replaces me. But I won't give up. I won't ever give up. Even if - even if I don't know how to do it - I'll figure it out. I'll kill anyone. I'll save anyone..."

And takes shuddering breath. "... if I could just carve a path to everyone's happiness..."

Mikoto shakes her head. "... not that easy. It's never easy. That's... what we've been saying this whole time." The Shepherds, that is. "But - it's okay. It's okay," she insists, again. "I can do hard stuff. I'm good at doing hard stuff. So - so just stay out of my way - and I'll fix it."

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

In this, maybe they can have an understanding. Just in this, maybe, but in silence and words, in doing without the padding and gesturing in other conversations, that most people rely on, that most people find comforting. Neither of them, really, is normal for this. ...But, just a bit...

Setsuna waits again. The difficulty is clear, but Setsuna does not know the words that would comfort her. She does not know the words that would make this better. She only knows how to stay and listen... and that is what she does.

It hurts, maybe, because Setsuna knows that this agreement is not kind; her agreement does not suggest that things are better than they seem. She doesn't have a solution to this problem either. How can she solve it for her opponent when she can't solve it for herself?

...But she's not here to solve it. She's only talking.

Setsuna does not try to force eye contact. She simply looks forward, into nothing at all, her expression calm.

"I would feel the same way, I think. ...I could never leave the people who are so important to me." She quiets, at that. Better...

It helps in a way. It tells Setsuna more. And yet--

"I think..." Setsuna still doesn't look at Mikoto; she caught the message she thinks, that Mikoto does not want to be watched, that she feels vulnerable. "That the way you help her is important. It's necessary. How can we help her, if we can't keep her alive?"

"...It's kind of her, to try to spare you. I... did that, once. To the people who wanted to help me... I tried to push them away."

"I don't think you should give up. But I don't think... that you can save her on your own. I don't know how to do it, either."

Setsuna looks out still. "It would be easier if we could just fight our way to fixing everything. But I think we have to find another way. ...So keep her safe, until we can find a way where no one has to die."

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

Neither of them are normal in this. And, perhaps...


Mikoto does not look at Setsuna, and Setsuna does not look at Mikoto, and perhaps it is enough distance. She feels a flash of anger, as Cure Passion tells her she would feel the same way, that she could never leave her precious people - if that were really true, thinks Mikoto, then why is she trying to stop her?!

But she's not even... the only person trying to stop her.

... even her friends...

And so the anger dies to sadness again as she speaks. Once again, she addresses a Chevalier with words meant for someone else entirely, as she tries to reason with the impenetrable wall her loved one has built.

'Does Fallen Stern's wielder think - I like letting them die? That, I wouldn't involve them if I could? Does Fallen Stern's wielder think... I'm a monster? ... if it's for people I love, I'll be a monster.'
'That's the wrong choice.'
'But it's the only one I can make.'

As she realises the irony, she hopes that this too will be another situation where everything works out. Where she will be able to share her feelings with Eri and come to an understanding, just as she did with Mai. Where there is a happy ending...

... Cure Passion talks more than Endo ever did.

The way she helps her - and Mikoto looks away, hand curling at her chest. Unseen, it presses against something, and there is sorrow writ on her features. For a moment she does not say anything at all; it gives Cure Passion a chance to speak her measured words.

And then for a moment longer she doesn't say anything because she's trying not to cry again, and putting the words in order in her brain is momentarily impossible.

"It's not," Mikoto's voice finally finds itself, wobbling in her tears. "It's not kind! Everyone leaves, Cure Passion! And now Eri's - Eri's trying to do it on her own and I - and - I, I know I messed up but I can fix it! I can!" Her voice cracks in a sob as she buries her face in her hands, openly pleading. "Just give me another chance to fix it!"

Her shoulders shudder as she takes in ragged breath, and long moments stretch out before she manages to get a hold of herself. She makes a disquieted noise as she lowers her hands. "I... um... sorry."

She shakes her head. "... Cure Passion's right. I can't save Eri alone. But - but I'm not alone." She has the Shepherds.

"Another way..." Mikoto's hand presses in against her chest. "... I don't know. Maybe. It's hard when everyone's given up." When Eri's given up. "But... I'm only good at one thing, Cure Passion."

And Setsuna should know exactly what that one thing is.

After all - Mikoto did this to her.

"But I'll keep Eri safe," she insists. "I will always, always protect Eri." 'No matter what' is implied.

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

Talking isn't easy for Setsuna; she really doesn't talk all that much in her daily life... But in this, what else can she do?

The sadness is there, again. Setsuna does not know the irony. Nevertheless, Mikoto suddenly echoes again, and those tears remind Setsuna of feelings she's had--of feelings she's caused. But she waits. She has found equilibrium at least, in being able to talk. ...She is not afraid for now that Mikoto will lash out at her, will injure her even further. Her anger at her can't stay in the face of this raw misery.

"...You don't have to apologize to me," Setsuna answers eventually, unmoving. Her voice is soft, though. "...She doesn't understand that," Setsuna explains, "...I think, where she is right now... She can't understand how cruel it is to push you away; she thinks it's better for you, that your life would be better without her in it. And it's not true... But she must be in a lot of pain, to think that way."

"...But it's hard not to blame yourself, isn't it?"

She lets that hang. "It is hard. People don't believe it's possible. But only by seeing it through... By not giving up, can we have a hope of doing it." She stops. Finally she turns her head to Mikoto again, and she has that same distant look, as if she's studying the other girl, emotionless despite her voice. "I don't think you're only good at one thing. It sounds to me like you're also good at caring for someone. At expressing love. That's... a valuable thing, too."

She pauses. "I'll do my best to help. To make time, so that we can find that way." She inclines her head, as if this is a solemn vow, and maybe it is.

"...And..." She hesitates, and then nods again. "My name is Setsuna."

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

Those soft words cut sharper than any blade. Mikoto makes a small, miserable sound, as she tries not to cry again. Her shoulders shudder for the effort. Setsuna makes logical deductions from her experience and they rend Mikoto open and leave her trembling and helpless in their wake.

How can she not blame herself, when it is so clearly her fault?

'Such behaviour is unbecoming for his HiME. Come, now - you know he has reason for all things. Do you truly mean to question his motives now?'

Mikoto flinches as she remembers. She has never been good at this. She has never handled it with grace.

"No," she whispers, and it might sound like agreement, but it is a plea. No, no, it is not like that. Eri is still here. Eri is still asking for help. Eri has not left her. She still has a chance to fix it this time. She can still...

... she can still...

It is hard, Cure Passion says. She goes on, tells her what else she's good at, and Mikoto finally lifts her gaze to look at her again, face streaked by tears and tensed with pain. The shock of her offer is writ plain on her face, in the widening of her eyes, the flaring of her nostrils, the way her lips part for ragged inward breath.

She has made vows of her own, after all.

But to hear it from Cure Passion -

- Setsuna, adds the other girl, as if correcting Mikoto's thoughts. This, too, makes little sense to her. She was obviously using her magical name to offer herself a measure of protection against Mikoto. Why would she expose her civilian identity like that?

Mikoto glances away, and swallows at a lump in her throat. "I..."

When her eyes fall on Setsuna again, they linger at the bandaging about her leg. "... okay," she speaks in acknowledgement, finally. "Setsuna."

She frowns, humming uncertainty through thin lips.

It wasn't meaningless to Eri.

If she could just, somehow, make things better...

... this would make Eri happy, right?

Eri and Mai both dreamt of a world without enemies. Mikoto is wholly unsuited to it. She doesn't know how to bring about their happiness. All she can do is carve away with sharp edges. But - everyone else has given up. Mikoto's the only one left.

All she can do is destroy her enemies. But if she can scare them off, or make them stop... there'd be less bodies at the end of the day. They'd be closer to that world. Even if Mikoto has to destroy the ones who won't listen...

Can Mikoto do that much?

Is it okay to do that much for the girls she loves?

"Is it okay?" Mikoto asks, voice thin and strained, and she is not really asking Setsuna at all.

She is asking something much deeper and more powerful than a girl.

But dark and transcendent things do not offer absolution.

They only demand.

Mikoto's hand curls at her chest as she looks to Setsuna and she knows what the answer must be.

Perhaps she can use her enemies - but they are still her enemies. The best answer will always be to fight. That is what she knows. That is what she has prepared for.

That is how she will bring about their happiness.

That is... the only way someone like her could...

The answer to her question is writ plain on her face as that fragility shuts down to a scowl again. "Forget it," she snaps, of the weakness she has displayed. "I --"

'I just think I do stupid things. A lot of stupid things. Because I know what I want - and I don't do anything to get it. I just do what I think needs to be done. Have you ever heard of anything so stupid? You though. You know what you want. And you do whatever it takes to get that. Because that's who you are... Isn't that right Mikoto?'

Uncertainty crosses her again, warring with her anger. "-- I --"

'I was talking to Mami Tomoe. On a park bench. I was in a world where all of our enemies...were still there. Even that wretched girl I sent you to kill. She was laughing - making jokes with me. Do you think that's meaningless Mikoto?'

"I don't," Mikoto says, of the memory, breath quick on her lips, "but, I can't --"

Perhaps it sounds like she is denying something entirely different.

"I gotta go," she says, sharp in her desperation as she turns on one limber leg and bolts into the park.

She can't question it.

She can't question it.

She can't question it.