2018-11-11 - TIMELINE 1: Hedging Bets

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Title: TIMELINE 1: Hedging Bets

You know how it is. Girl runs into girl, girl flees headlong into hedge, girl faints... wait, you don't know how it is? Yeah, guess it is kind of strange. Mai's getting a pretty strange introduction to Ohtori Academy. That doesn't make it a bad one, though.


Mikoto Minagi, Mai Tokiha


Ohtori Academy

OOC - IC Date:

2018-11-11 - 2013-09-20

.******************** Yamanote High City - Ohtori Academy *********************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Ohtori Academy +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 The ivory crown on the brow of Southern Cross Island, Ohtori Academy is
 separated from the world by more than just water. Outside, education can be
 a luxury. Within this white-walled compound, education is luxurious.
 Marble colonnades spring up like fountain spouts, scarlet flowers drench
 every free surface. The architecture is at once daringly art deco and
 austerely Classical, white marble lending an angelic weightlessness to
 pillars and fences that can seem more woven than carved.

 At the center of campus is the Chairman's Tower, a dizzyingly tall spire in
 the center of a manicured grassy field. Radiating around this field are the
 lecture halls, dormitories, art buildings, and other facilities by which the
 chosen few receive education, with small class sizes in large buildings.
 It's common for students to refer to a building's location as if the hour
 hand of a great clock extended from the central tower. At twelve o'clock,
 for instance, the Duel Arena looms like a jade stormcloud, a great forest
 forming a living pagoda of leaves that reminds even longtime students that
 their school keeps many secrets.

 The rose is the emblem of Ohtori, and campus is decorated with a profusion
 of them, both living and frozen in frieze. Poppies are favored as well, and
 thick carpets of either flower can be found wherever the loosest excuse is
 available. Only the most bitter of winters seems able to fully erase the
 faint fragrance from the air, and students who leave the island via quick,
 convenient bridge or ferry can often find a memory of it on their clothing.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Seatbelts - Cat Blues https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bfVQ1S5Vx0

Welcome to Ohtori Academy, where there are a hundred new faces!

The trip to Southern Cross Island was a tumultuous one. A battle broke out, between a girl with a sword and a girl with a gun - and neither seemed particularly willing to back down. It was an alarming sort of thing, because it just doesn't happen in a peaceful country like Japan. At its worst, they found themselves struggling in the ship's carpark - and the girl with a sword carved one of those vehicles in half. The smoke as the engine exploded obscured them, and the girl with the sword disappeared.

The ship's staff found her hours later; wherever she'd foxholed up, she ended up inhaling smoke from the fire. Takumi was the one who pointed her out, recognising her after her dramatic entrance floating in the sea, after they made a brief visit to the infirmary so he could cope with the momentary alarm on the ship. When they made landfall and got acquainted with the school's own nurse, Youko Sagisawa, there that girl was again, still unconscious.

Well, it's the Academy's problem now, surely.

Except - there was only one witness to the fight between those two girls.

And there's a familiar face here at Ohtori Academy, too.

Oh, dear.


The hospital bed is empty, and the window is open.


Welcome to Ohtori Academy, where there are a hundred new faces! No, wait - you're supposed to introduce yourself - oh, dear.

Mikoto Minagi doesn't seem inclined to play by the rules of being a new transfer student at all!

She's leapt out of the window, and in her disorientation she has taken to sneaking about from bush to bush, knowing only that she has to keep moving, and has to keep hidden, because there are threats present. It's hard to judge what the threats are. There are so many people, here. More people than she's ever, ever seen before. Some of them are yelling. Others have mean edges to their voices. Definitely not people she wants to talk to.

Sneak, sneak, and it's not long before she notices her stomach rumbling. She whines. It's been too long since she's eaten. Ever since her first fight, she hasn't eaten at all. It's intolerable.

There's bound to be food somewhere.

From bush to bush she goes, and ends up at the back of the dojo. Two boys are talking about something or another. That's not important. The important thing is that there is something which looks like food beside one of them, and they're paying attention to each other and not their surroundings.

So she darts in, and she darts out, and no one notices her at all. From the bushes, she can hear the boy lamenting. Something about a... super-spicy curry bun?

Mikoto doesn't know what a super-spicy curry bun is, but she knows that a bun is a type of bread, and she's very hungry. So she tears open the plastic surrounding the bread, and she takes a big, contented bite.

This lasts for, oh...

Let's say two, three seconds of silence as she slowly, slowly recognises her grievous error.

The pain hits her all at once. It's like her mouth is on fire and every part of her is overheating. It's the worst sensation she's ever tasted. Food isn't supposed to taste like this. Food is nonthreatening and all kind of tastes the same. What is this? How could this happen?

BGM Change: Yuki Kajiura - Oharahetta! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-vTdtFHzEY


And to make matters worse - an attack!

She leaps from the bushes, kicks her would-be assailants in the face, and flees this horrible, horrible fate.

One problem: it stays with her.

She can't outrun the burning in her mouth.

Even though she runs faster, and faster, and faster! She knocks over more and more people, disrupts several events, and terrifies a blonde-haired girl as she leaps straight over her and her group of friends, and whomever she was speaking snidely to. (They flee from Nanami while they have the chance, and surely this one good deed makes up for the ruined basketball game and all the other mayhem she causes.) She even runs down a pink-haired girl, misery on her face as she stares down at her.

There's another scream, as she abandons that middle-schooler and tears off into the distance.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

There were any number of things Mai Tokiha might have expected from a mid-term transfer to Ohtori Academy. Every other school has its own rumours, some of which almost manage to match the absurdity of reality - and so Mai's expectations were admittedly tempered.

As such, stumbling across a battle of gun versus sword were definitely outside reality as she was ready to imagine it.

Something...strange had happened in that cargo hold - trying to just keep out of the way of the apparent deathmatch had her firmly in the path of half a car engine. She should have been hit, and had closed her eyes...and then, for some reason, the thing had exploded as if all the oil and gasoline ignited at once.

Mai, being kind of freaked out, had fled under the cover of smoke, finding her way back to Takumi's side. The sight of the sword-wielding girl unconscious in the next bed over was a jarring one, once her brother had pointed it out, but...

...it isn't her problem, surely. Mai made a promise to her brother, and she's determined to keep it as best she can. Sure, a new job at a local diner - Lumber Barn or something like that - isn't entirely in the spirit of 'enjoying her school life', but there's a life outside work and school to firmly enjoy. Introductions to make to her classmates, a reputation to earn as someone who likes to go out and enjoy karaoke...it's all going to work out.

Well. Mostly.

Learning just how much power the school gave to the student council was a rude awakening, admittedly, putting Mai in a grumpy mood as she made her way down the garden path. Getting permission for a part-time job shouldn't have been difficult, but that whole impression that it was going to be tentative was frankly an annoyance. Still, if 'Ohtori student willing to work' was the aspect that made her stand out most in her time here, that would be just fine.

There's shouts in the distance, giving Mai pause as she passes between rows of still-blooming flowers. (Frankly, the groundskeepers of this place deserve a medal - everything is so pristine it almost hurts.) She looks over her shoulder, curious - but can't see much but a bit of commotion at the basketball court. With a shrug, she digs out an aging flip phone, tapping out a quick message.

that was kind of a pain, rich people suck

Sis, you didn't get into trouble on my behalf, did you?

nope, totally my own problem. omw, still good to take you to the checkup.

You know you don't really have to do that...

Mai's fingers pause on the keypad, the words 'no, i want to' staring up at her in deceipt. Slow steps come to a final halt as she stares down at the screen, unaware of whatever demonic forces might be barrelling toward her. Even 'got nothing better to do' would be a lie, so what should she...

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Running running running running -


Mikoto isn't precisely looking where she's going, and the taller girl wouldn't be the first one she's run into in her desperate attempt to flee. She slams into her, tangling up in a moment and going down to the ground below. It's not such a long trip for her; she was running on all fours in the first place.

And for a moment, she looks down on Mai Tokiha in misery, too.

But there are familiar faces, here in Ohtori Academy, and the pieces slip into place for her immediately. This girl was present in the battle. This girl is a threat.

The pleading look shifts in an instant to pained intensity, jaw setting rictal against the burning there. And hands which previously caught themselves on the pavement either side of Mai move instead to slam down on her shoulders, knees snapping in against her thighs to stop her from kicking. It all happens in an instant. Contain her, and debilitate her, and get out.

And perhaps Mai can feel her hands trembling from the horror she is experiencing.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Engrossed as she is in her cellphone, Mai didn't see the newly legendary Fire Demon Of Ohtori coming. The impact bowls her over in an instant - Mai's shoulder rebounding off of a vined trellis as she goes down, skidding along the ground.

Her phone skids further. Mercifully, she chose the model for durability, not appearance.

"What in the..." Mai's momentary musings mute themselves as recognition kicks in. The girl atop her is familiar indeed - the hospital bed, the battle in the car park, the first response to a victim of the ocean.

She's familiar.

And Mai is probably about to die. Her eyes widen as the girl's panic shifts to intent, hands and knees pinning her in place. The face that gazes down is one of pain and fury. The face that gazes up in response...

Surprise shiftly shifts to resignation - less fear, more sorrow. Mai Tokiha doesn't know what this mysterious girl's problem might be...but if she's the embodiment of karma, come calling at long last, then maybe that's just how things are.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

That's odd.

They're not supposed to react like that.

The heel of her palm lifts, and in a moment it will impact her brachial plexus, where shoulder meets neck. Except - it doesn't. Because it's still trembling, after all. And Mikoto wails, with simple words from a burning mouth: "Buuuurns!"

That hand comes to rest beside Mai's head, instead, as Mikoto leaps up and away. It turns out thinking about why her attacker would resign herself in sorrow and dealing with the overloading agony of spicy food is just too much at once.

But she can't have gone far, in gardens as well-wrought as these.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Resignation. Acceptance, of a fate deserved, of the inevitable.

Despite those thoughts, Mai flinches as the hand slams down - next to her neck instead of into it, more's the surprise. In a moment, she's aware of just how much this deadly girl is shaking, how uncertain that fate really might be - and then there's a wail of pain, and the girl is leaping away.

Mai is left blinking, for a moment - and then for reasons she can't consciously name, she scrambles to her feet to give chase. By the time the previously menaced girl is on her feet, her assailant is gone - but how far?

Something 'burns' - maybe to that elaborate fountain, by the gardens' entrance? As good a guess as any, perhaps - and so Mai starts running there. Concern for her attacker's well-being or complaint for a job unfinished, neither speaks too well of her self-preservation...

Forgotten amidst the roses, a flip phone buzzes. A reply to a reply, showing on the screen.

Look, if you don't want to come, don't worry. I can make it to an appointment by myself. Leaving now, even.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Well, that would be a fair guess, except...

It looks like Mikoto tried to dive through a hedge.

And got halfway through the hedge.

And got stuck. In the hedge.

This normally wouldn't be an issue. Mikoto is strong enough to best a plant. Except, here's the issue...

She got halfway through struggling free when her strength ran out.

So here's this girl who has fainted in a shrubbery, twigs tangled in her braids, and it's frankly a startling reversal of the trained warrior Mai's seen before. How did this happen?

(Mai wasn't fast enough to see the way Mikoto crashed into it, the way she flailed about. Perhaps she was close enough to hear her anguished cry before her body finally gave into the compounded stresses it's under. Suffice to say, it was terrible.)

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

To her credit, Mai was giving the mysterious girl more credit. She went to the fountain first, then backtracked - and only then, did she see the dark-haired girl lodged through a hedge.

Her first thought is that it's a trick - a danger - some kind of ambush plan. It is caution that measures her steps forward, approaching an assailant in spite of past behaviour, but wary of that behaviour all the same. But...close up, it seems like she isn't moving.

The second, stray thought is that somehow this girl has ignobly perished. ...but she's breathing.

The third thought is interrupted by a growl of some ferocious, ravenous beast. It takes a moment to recognize the sound's origin, and for a moment Mai's hands fall slack to her sides. "You've got to be kidding me...how hungry were you anyway?!"

The sensible thing to do might be to leave her here, to get the authorities, report the attack...pretty much anything to ensure that she doesn't have any more dealings with this half-drowned half-choked half-starved beast of a sword-wielding maniac. That would be sensible. That would be reasonable.

As Mai's hands grip onto shoulders and begin to pull, the thought crosses her mind that it wouldn't be responsible - it would be looking away from someone in trouble. Reason enough to act, to put an assailant into a fireman's carry and take her back up to the dorm rooms.

...you're not mad, are you? I'm serious, you don't have to worry. At the doctor's office now, it was all fine.

Eventually, there's a smell that might rouse the famished. Plain, in some respects; lavish, in others. The faint harshness of sliced green onions, the warm umami of reconstituted broth, the muted creaminess of a part-poached egg, just the slight smokiness of toasted sesame seeds - a blending of aromas, tying back to the flavours they promise.

There's warmth and softness to be felt - that of an actual bed, with a cover on top. And...not too far away, steam rising from a bowl that holds such promise, held together by aromatically silent noodles...

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Here lies Mikoto Minagi, slain by a hedge.

No - it's not that bad yet.

There's no response from her, though, aside from the growl of her stomach. She's a tiny thing, when she's not menacing anyone - light and easy to carry around.

Now, here's an interesting question. How long has it been since Mikoto has slept in a bed? She's been travelling since --

Well, it's much more comfortable than whatever foxholes she's found for herself. More comfortable than the hospital cots she's found herself in of late, too. Sniff, sniff, and it's a strangely comforting way to wake up.

And as soon as Mikoto realises she's not dreaming, she bolts up to a sitting position in an instant.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Oh, you're up." It might be an unfamiliar voice - for words said to a drowned girl might have been unheard, and little was said in the heat of battle. It's warm, though, with little edge to it.

Surprisingly little, perhaps, given that the speaker is that fiery-haired girl who has been caught in Mikoto's attacks twice and counting.

She's in the middle of removing items from a cardboard box - ladles, tongs, implements of the kitchen. The box before her is one of many, though - quite a few lined up against a wall, so many that it's as if she packed up an entire apartment. Such a miracle, that none were lost in the travel here.

Mai herself is still wearing her school uniform - occasionally caught off-guard as an arm is prevented from moving quite the same way it did in other clothing. Over it, a pink apron cheerfully displays a couple of recent splatters from her work - the cutting board and pot set aside for washing in the near future.

"It isn't much - just some instant ramen - but you seemed like you could use something to eat. The egg might help if you had something spicy recently...again, sorry it isn't much." She gestures to the table, to the single bowl and chopsticks sitting there for a hungry petitioner.

(None for Mai, of course. She isn't hungry, and she has other things to do.)

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

It's that girl, Mikoto realises, as her gaze snaps to her. But... she's talking in such a nice way, and it gives her pause. Pause enough for Mai to explain she has made her a meal, and Mikoto blinks uncomprehendingly at her for a moment before she moves to the box and the ramen without a word.

So, here's an interesting thing about food in a remote mountainous region. There's no electricity - which means no fridge. There's no corner store - which means bringing in months of supplies at a time. And there are no flavours, because food is designed for nourishment, not enjoyment. It means eating the same thing an awful lot. It means food is predictable. It's an annoying little detail Mikoto has to see to far too often, because her body needs so much food. It's not worth noting at all.

That's why food being an enemy came as such a wounding surprise.

And that's why she regards the ramen in front of her with such suspicion, for a moment.

But she groans defeat with the grumbling of her stomach, and takes the chopsticks in hand. Even if she's being attacked with food again, she just can't stand it any more. She needs to eat so badly. She lifts the bowl to her lips.


And here, Mikoto's expression shifts from wariness to sheer, unveiled delight.

She's never experienced food like this. It doesn't just taste good, like some of the things she's stolen since she started travelling. It's more than that. It's brilliant. It is the work of someone with skill and passion. Every little thing weaves around every other little thing, and they all work in concert to form an experience Mikoto has never, ever had.

It's the best thing she's ever tasted.

She proceeds to devour it all without a single care for decorum or grace.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mai, too, is wary. This girl wields a giant sword and has attacked her, and Mai's response was to invite her into this new home...what if it goes wrong? What if she's made a terrible mistake here, in trying to extend a helping hand...

And then Mikoto tastes the ramen, and that expression dispels all those worries.

For her part, Mai can't help but laugh a little bit at how...eagerly Mikoto devours the soup. The sheer delight, the casting aside of any guardedness - it brings a warmth to her heart unlike any she's had in a long while. The cook leans forward, elbows resting on the counter, and just watches her guest eat.

"I'm Mai, by the way. Mai Tokiha. What's your name? And do you want another bowl - seriously, I might still be unpacking but a day I can't manage instant noodles is a dark day indeed." She smiles, warmly - this place could be comfortable for a guest in need of rest.

At least, if there's nothing more important to do.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Certainly, it's true that Mikoto is a terror. She cut a car in half. Even with a greatsword, is that even humanly possible..?

But she doesn't have a sword right now. It's a curious subtraction which Mai cannot possibly have the context to fully comprehend. Almost drowned, injured, and placed in a strange environment full of alarming new experiences - even she's forgotten to bring her blade back to her side. It's still out there, somewhere.

Mai laughs, but Mikoto is too busy eating to notice. She doesn't stop until everything's gone, and it's only then that she lowers the bowl, contentment written on her face for long moments before she thinks to peer at the girl who made it.

Whoever this girl is, she's evidently never learned that it's rude to stare.

But Mai answers her silent question all the same, and asks another of her own. "Mikoto," she answers, blinking up at her. With those big golden eyes, the effect is not dissimilar to a cat.

She cants her head, as this Mai asks if she'd like another bowl. This, too, is foreign to her. She always gets enough food the first time. She's never really had to ask for more. It's never occurred to her as an option. She's never felt so good eating something that she'd want to go back again and again before.

She looks down at the bowl, and back up at Mai, questioningly.

Yes, the effect is definitely not dissimilar to a cat.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mai's never had a cat, or a dog, or even a weird bird. Just a little brother - and in all honesty, a little brother mature enough that the similarity just isn't there.

This cat before her doesn't have her claws, but the memory of them lingers. Cutting a car in half - it's kind of ridiculous to think about. She could try to pretend it never happened - maybe that'd be for the best?

So easy it is to picture the girl - Mikoto - as just a hungry stray. In the end, though not a word is spoken, the confusion and almost-desire are a clear enough answer, and Mai can't help but laugh again. It feels good to smile, honestly - easily worth another packet of ramen.

"All right, another bowl it is. Should just be a few minutes, okay?" She fills the pot partway with water, tossing it onto a lit burner while rummaging for ingredients. It's a hot stove - maybe a little too hot for delicate work, honestly - so it won't take too long to boil. By the time the water is bubbling, though, she's already managed to rapidly dice the green onion. A glance at the directions, and into the water goes a brick of noodles and an envelope of soup powder - plus a few dashes of soy sauce and dashi to push it up a level.

"Could you hand me your bowl? It'll save cleaning a dish." Without waiting for an answer, she's back to work - this time cracking an egg. The shell splits cleanly, and as it pulls apart the delicious contents are dropped directly into the soup. Two minutes of poaching, just what was needed to finish the soup - and then it's just the plating. Noodles, topped by the egg, surrounded by broth, sprinkled with green onions and toasted sesame seeds.

"And there you go, Mikoto. Enjoy - have as much as you like." The cook smiles, and Mai leans on the counter again. Frankly, right now, this is where she'd like to be.


Outside, forgotten - hopefully to be remembered before erelong - a cell phone lies, screen pointed to the sky. As the sun lowers, it buzzes again, a new message joining a handful already sent.

Done the appointment. Same as usual, you didn't miss anything. You're not going to barge in, right?

I mean, I do remember that time in fifth year.

Heading home.

Home. Seriously, everything was fine, you don't have to worry about me. Just go out and make some friends, okay, Mai?

You promised.