2018-11-29 - TIMELINE 1: A Mewracle! Let's Come Together To Help Momma!

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Title: A Mewracle! Let's Come Together To Help Momma!

Eri Shimanouchi harbours a fugitive, and discovers support from likely and unlikely sources.


Eri Shimanouchi, Nori Ankou, Homura Akemi, Mikoto Minagi, Madoka Kaname


Ohtori Academy - Gardens

OOC - IC Date:

2018-11-29 - sometime between Fusion and Hokkaido

.******************** Yamanote High City - Ohtori Academy *********************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Garden +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 Ohtori's grounds rarely miss a chance to include flowers, particularly roses
 and poppies, whether they be in planters, decorating terraces, or engraved
 into the stone walls. Nowhere is this theme more evident than in the
 courtyard garden, an open-air enclosure surrounded by the pillars of nearby
 walkways, permitting those traversing the facility to enjoy a bit of natural
 beauty on their way to class.

 The courtyard features a French formal garden, with nature kept in strict
 manicured order, man's dominion over nature turning shrubs and blooms into
 paint for the gardener's brush. A great glass jewel of a greenhouse
 dominates the courtyard, with the same lacelike white-painted cast iron that
 decorates the walkways supporting its cloudy antique glass panels.

 In contrast to without, the garden within the greenhouse is rampant and
 lush. Order is maintained with a subtler hand, and everywhere the flowers
 and trees are permitted to spill a bit, nature's cornucopia lovely in its
 excess. Exotic, oddly-shaped blooms that would wither outside the glass cage
 flourish within the winterless warmth, and small quantities of tropical
 citrus fruits are produced, most destined to be gifts for valued visitors.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Azumanga Daioh - Shin Gakki - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh75dOudd5s

It's a cooler fall day, and the Gardening Club was getting ready to 'winterize' Ohtori's plants. Tapping a finger to the light when it doesn't come on, she shrugs her shoulders, before starting the process of hefting up bags of fertilizer from a corner into a wheelbarrow. With the height of the stack dwindling though, it was only a matter of time until she revealed...


... she wasn't alone. "Oh!" A brown tabby cat had taken up residence in a crate behind the stack. "Where'd you come from?" Dropping her load in the barrow, she surreptitiously closed the door. "Keeping out of the cold?" The cat did not answer, simply staring at her.

"Well, duh, that's obvious. Stupid question huh?" Putting a gloved finger to her lips as if confiding a secret. "Well it's alright with me if you stay here for a while. We just can't call attention to it."

With that she began the process of stacking the remaining bags to provide the cat cover from sight.


"So cats are definitely carnivores, not omnivores. Sorry about before. I looked it up after last time." Eri says as she dropped down a small bowl filled grilled chicken she'd gotten from the cafeteria by the crate. "Didn't know you wouldn't like bread..."

The tabby cat slinked out of the crate, and she sniffs it for a moment, before gobbling it up.

"Huh. For a stray you look really well fed! Was someone taking care of you before me?"

There's an electric 'tink', but the bulb stays dark.


Opening the door past the crack, she steps in quietly, then peeks behind the stack only to see the cat was still there. "Oh... I was hoping to catch you out."

Holding a small stack of linens, she simply puts dangles the edge of one in the box.

"Do you go out to like hunt and stuff? I mean I keep the door cracked for you but it's like you're always in here..."

The cat has no answer save its claws gripping the linen and pulling it into the crate. The light bulb in the room sparks, before going dark.


The next time she entered the shed...

"Wow it's a real mess in here. Is everything..." The middle schooler looked behind the fertilizer pile into the crate, and stops. Just stares.

The lightbulb in the shed sputters on, glowing to full brilliance.

BGM Change: Azumanga Daioh - Ki wo Tsukeru - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAUbNFOg4vM

The door to the shed slams open fully, as she starts jogging across the gardening grounds, past the birdcage like greenhouse. "Oh-oh-oh-oh-!"

She must be quite a sight to those observing, though she herself seems heedless of her surroundings.

Slowing down to a fast walk as she crosses over to the breezeway, fingers fumbling on her phone in panic, she ran into a girl with brown twintails sticking out like a busy broom on either side of her head.

"Hey watch it!" Eri turned towards her and blurted out a single word, "KITTIES!" With a phone in hand, Keiko Sonada glowers at her, "You are so weird." Slowly she keeps walking in the opposite direction, "All worked up over cat pictures on the internet."

On any other day that little faux pas might have worked her up even more, right now though she couldn't be more high strung. As she started to pace one way as if to head to the administration building. Then another as if to go towards the animal care club. Wracked by a state of frayed nerves spurring her into total indecision. "Oh what am I going to doooo?!"

She already knew she could get in trouble for keeping a stray cat hidden on campus. However now she's more worried about what happens to the cat and her coming litter of kittens if a teacher finds out. Who could she even trust at this school? Who was it alright to bother of who she trusted?

Switching from a half typed up search for what to do for a cat in labor, she instead switches to her text messages and tries to rapidly type with tremulous fingers.

Txt to Madoka Kaname: hlp
Txt to Madoka Kaname: I mean I need help! At the Garden Shed!
Txt to Madoka Kaname: kitties!!!
Txt to Madoka Kaname: I mean there will be kitties!

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Nori Ankou looks up from where she had been about to slide an unwrapped crab roll into the side of her book bag. Briefly she feels a squirt of fear at the sudden sound and presence of Eri Shimanouchi, and briefly she takes a breath, letting out a soft "ah!" in surprise.

(A mysterious force grasps the crab roll and draws it into the book bag.)

But then she puts two and two together. She blinks slowly and shifts on the bench where she had been enjoying a falltime lunch, her mostly-eaten school bento sitting on her knee. Her eyes focus as she rewinds the mental tape of what had happened.

'What am I going to do?'

As a quiet nomming sound comes from her bag, which is really kind of a convenience given that she lives in the dorm, Nori Ankou rises up and smooths out her skirt. "Ara, ara," she calls ahead in a moment of unusual archaicism, stepping towards Eri as she texts and saying in a low voice, somewhat urgently, "Is everything alright? Please, remember, take a breath."

A beat passes.

Nori's eyes slowly turn to the side as if to see if Eri has some kitty videos she can scope on the down-low.

But as she does, she says, "Did you find a hurt cat, or something like that? They say that cats..."

Nori stops, eyes closing for a moment, and starts over: "But let's look on the optimistic side." She looks back at her bookbag as if hoping it has answers.

The answers within are along the lines of 'nom nom nom nom nom' even now.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"Was... was that Shimanouchi-san...?" Homura Akemi wonders aloud, eyes and mouth making similar round shapes. She's just emerged from her final class of the day, venturing out after all of the other students boiled through the doorway to freedom (or clubs, whichever the case may be -- either way, to Not Class). It being the end of the school day, Homura's inward-turned toes drag just a little on the school tiles. Though her meager stamina shows some improvement thanks to weeks of regular walking and book-lugging, the transfer student is sure her cardiology will always limit her.

The halls of Ohtori Academy still feel a little strange to her, but she's getting used to them day by day. It's strange. There are people here who know her name... Rare and precious, like jewels dropped into the life of a pauper. Homura tries not to cling too obviously to them, knows she fails at it, but cannot quite help herself.

Now she looks sidelong to the brightest of them all in the wake of a frantic and phone-engrossed green-haired girl, as ever seeking guidance from the girl who rescued her in every sense possible: body, heart, and soul. "Do you think it's a..." she starts off, and then goes so hushed that her quiet voice is hard to hear over the usual hallway sounds, realizing she was about to say something about their secret lives in public.

"Is... is there trouble, do you think?" Homura's eyes round further with the question. Witches terrify her, but the way they all hunt them... amazes her, even so.

Then from further down the hall a word that sounds suspiciously like 'KITTIES!' rings out. Hmm. One of Homura's eyebrows goes down, even through her shock, as she considers. Maybe not a Witch? But she still looks to Madoka Kaname for confirmation. Eri sounds awfully frantic.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Andrew Lloyd Webber - Prologue: Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYcS2Rl6XNc


There is a cat who is caterwauling even though it's autumn, and Mikoto gives her an odd look, because it's awfully late to be trying to find a mate. It's not the strangest thing in the world, of course, but it's strange she hasn't found anyone yet.

After a moment's skepticism, Mikoto smiles to her and chirrups at her supportively, because she's sure that she'll find a partner eventually. She's a nice cat, after all! Sure, Mikoto is new here, and doesn't know all the cats very well yet, but she can tell this cat is good.

There is, of course, a cogent argument to be made that Mikoto thinks every cat is good.

That won't stop her from spending time with this cat.


Mikoto carries a knapsack of cans onto the rooftops and into the hidden crannies of the gardens, and uses her UNIQUE SUPERPOWER (hands. It's hands. She has opposable thumbs.) to distribute illicit cat snacks amongst her friends.

She has at least moved beyond pilfering Mai's tuna to acquiring a new source of food for her cat crimes. She cannot be stopped in her quest to make Ohtori Academy an even more comfortable place for stray cats. She cannot be stopped by gravity, either. More than once, she gets away with her reign of terror by feeding the cats in a tree. Cats can climb trees much more easily than the Student Council. Something about the twigs getting in their hair and the bark messing up their pressed suits.

But it's strange, because Mikoto knows exactly what cats show up at exactly what place, and there's a brown tabby who hasn't been showing up as much recently.

And when Mikoto sees her, she's looking even more well-fed.

Well. It's not that strange.


'Mau~auuuu', calls Mikoto as she searches.

'Au~auuuuur' comes a reply from the greenhouse.

And she peeks inside, and finds that she's acquired a place to hide. And then she hears students approaching, and scurries out before she gives her friend away.

Sneaking in to give her extra food is tough when people use this shed so much, but it's important for her to eat. Never mind that she notices signs of someone else feeding her, too. The more people feeding her, the better. She's eating for five, after all! Well, maybe four or six. It's difficult to tell.


Mikoto Minagi is curled up on her side, having a nap under a perfectly manicured hedge-brush. This is just a thing she does sometimes, especially when the last class of the day is maths and she can't be bothered. The ground is cool with the approaching season, but they've switched to winter uniforms, and the leaves shield her from the breeze. Plus, it means none of those pushy Ohtori students ask her what she's doing lying down, because they can't even see her.

It's a great arrangement, really. She has no clue why more people don't do it. Are they afraid of dirt or something? Dirt never hurt anyone.

And so Mikoto is snoozing quite happily, a little black cat nestled up against her chest, until a panicked voice cuts through her nap. 'KITTIES!'

S l o w l y, one golden eye cracks open. Mikoto yawns and stretches, and the kitten attached to her clambers up to her shoulder instead. More distanctly: 'Oh what am I going to doooo?!'

Mikoto grunts, glancing over to the kitten on her shoulder. Her questioning expression is met with a little 'mew' of protest as her shifting weight causes the small cat to leap off of Mount Mikoto onto the ground.

It's entirely possible that this is some unrelated cat emergency, but that first exclamation came vaguely from the direction of the shed, and that second one moved away from it...

Well, it would be about that time, wouldn't it? That brown tabby stopped caterwauling about two months ago.

Mikoto shakes herself off, clambers out from under the hedge, drags her sword-case out after her, and stands as she shrugs it onto her shoulder. With another little shake which doesn't quite manage to shed the leaves which have fallen into her hair, she ambles on over to the shed, and her suspicions are confirmed when she finds the door wide open, and...



... a chatty cat.

Sniff sniff, sniff sniff, and it's pretty obvious she's going to need some background support soon. So Mikoto starts casting around the shed, because there's bound to be something here which can hold water, and some source of fresh water. She can worry about going out and getting her a snack and making sure she's got enough stuff to sleep on once she's taken care of the thing which is already available here.

After all, Mikoto has had dozens and dozens more cat friends than human friends. People are such a recent addition. But cats? Mikoto's been around cats all her life. Only a fool would think she's never helped with something like this before.

She's so wrapped up in finding water for her cat friend that she dismisses entirely the fact that there was a panicked girl running around worrying about it.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Madoka's twintails wobble with the speed of Eri's passage.

Her phone chimes.

Bewildered, she looks down at it.

She isn't a fast typist; bit of a chicken pecker, in fact. Her response is painstakingly careful.



She looks over at Homura.

"You know how we were going to Gardening Club?"


"We're still going to Gardening Club!"

They go to Gardening Club.

Strangely enough, no one is there.

No one except...

"KITTIES," breathes Madoka, in wonder.

Her eyes are shining. In fact, her everything is shining. It's like the dingy little shed has gone from midnight to noon.

She looks over her shoulder at Homura.

"Look, look, Homura-chan... it's a Mama!"

Without further ado, and without any particular concern for the cleanliness of her uniform, she gets down on the floor for a better look -- though not so close that the incipient mother might be alarmed.

She hears rustling from deeper in the shed, and looks over just in time to see Mikoto emerge from behind a bunch of burlap sacks.

"Hi Mikoto!" she chirps happily. "Are you here for..."

She watches the girl rummage around.

"...what are you looking for?" she asks, innocent as the dawn.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"Ankou-san!" There's something like relief, as she looks at Nori Ankou, and tries to calm down her breathing, "Ah- I-" She tries to explain though - and the words just don't come out. Or rather they do - though just not as she hoped. "I- something like that-! Though - not bad - it's more - !"

Feeling unable to string the words together and embarrassed about what the result of trying would be. The phone chimes, Eri swiftly looks at the message, and her whole self just seems to wobble like gelatin with relief. "Oh thank goodness! Ah-"

Getting all red-cheeked at the thought of actually managing to explain it, eventually she just opts for grabbing Nori's hand and blurting out, "Youshouldseeforyourself!"

And then she's all but dragging the other girl towards the shed like a freight engine hauling cargo. All the way towards the shed, where Madoka and Homura are at the open door, "Kaname-chan! Akemi-chan!" She only let's go of Nori's hand when she's in full view of the door and thus in view of the dilemma, "Thank you so much for coming so quickly-! I'd been hiding her for a while because she wasn't hurting anyone and it was getting colder out. And then-! I found out she was- I mean-"

Her volume drops to more of a whisper, "...expecting."

That's when she notices the other girl. Blinking her eyes in surprise she immediately checks off the idea that the girl is the 'cat police' given that she's not wearing a Student Council uniform. And instead. "Oh! You're-" She doesn't quite say it. The girl she saw during that disaster.

For some reason the presence is calming, though she's not certain why. Perhaps it's someone taking decisive action that makes her think they might know what to do. Clasping her hands together, she asks, "Are you... here to help too?"

The thought does calm her enough so she could breathe easily, And now that with help here, surrounded by the three of them, she was able to enjoy the wonder of it all for the first time. "They're all so tiny." She murmurs, now as bright eyed as she looks to Homura, Madoka, and Nori. "I was scared I'd hurt them if I even did... anything."

The youngest of her family, she's never witnessed this kind of thing on her own, never had a pet, never held a younger sibling. To her perhaps this is a small miracle unto itself.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Nori smiles at Eri then, opening her mouth to say something in reply - no doubt something gentle, soothing of her panic over whatever-it-is. What could she do that is less? After everything. After all that they've -

"Ah - I - h - oh," Nori says, stopping when the phone rings. Nori begins to ask something else, but then stops, before saying, "Well, alright -" And then her hand is seized in all its cool majesty!


Nori passes by her abandoned bag on the way towards the garden shed, seeming to be amiable enough on the topic. She has no club herself and so why not try the Gardening club? A cat is afoot, too. She's feeling pretty good. Especially when there is the revelation of Madoka, and her herald, Homura Akemi. "Good afternoon," she says with a firm now, before her eyes turn towards

The kitties.

Nori's eyes widen.

Her mouth opens.

She draws in a deep breath.

"Ah - ah - th, they're... oh my god - they're - Madoka, look at them...!!!"

Clutching at her collarline, Nori says, "They're so precious - ah, I - I can hear them mewing -!!"

The spell is momentarily broken when she says, "It is freezing in here."

At this point Nori gasps. "Oh no--"

"We need blankets - oh no, the poor little things--!"


Nori's abandoned book bag rustles and then begins to quietly exfiltrate towards the dormitory. A little stray sushi rice is left behind it.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

They go to Gardening Club!

Homura is Madoka's big-eyed shadow, thanks both to the contrast of her swinging black braids and the way she trots into the shed behind her. This, she has firmly established since her transfer to Ohtori Academy.

It's the word of the day, and Homura cannot but repeat it as her eyes soften into violet wobbles of joy, espying the source of all this hubbub. "Kitties... oh my gosh..." Her voice is high and climbing.

She kneels down next to Madoka on the shed floor, pale hands on pale knees, and glances between two sources of delight, the pink-haired girl and the kittens -- then to Mikoto, too. Homura peeks up at the rummaging girl and gives a weak wave, like a flag trying to flutter in a nervous puff of breeze.

Eri and Nori arrive, two more incredibly cool girls, and Homura brings her hands up, clasping them to her chest. She looks to them, then down to the kittens again, because kittens are simple and hypnotically cute. "They... really are," she says after Eri comments on how small they are. After a few long moments where she's clearly debating on whether to keep talking, Homura finally continues. "It's hard to believe they do so much growing... to become adults."

Nori's worry has her blinking. "Oh... I um..." Homura has something that might help. She thinks. Maybe. The uncertainty makes it even harder to speak up. But... it's for the kitties! Making little "um" sounds, she digs through her satchel and comes up with a lavender kerchief, violet-trimmed at the corners with a cute little stitch. It's large enough for a girl to sit on, so maybe it's enough to cover some kittens...? Homura makes another "um" sound before holding it up to the disarmingly pretty Nori and the green-hued of her puella heroes. "Would... would this..."

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

Mikoto knows that cats are good at taking care of themselves, and that extends to pregnancy, too. There's no need to interfere when the queen knows just what she's doing, unless something goes wrong, which it doesn't. What she can do is--!

Well, that's about when Madoka appears and asks the pertinent question. Well, technically she asks two questions, but one is obvious, so Mikoto doesn't bother to answer that one.

"Water," Mikoto replies to her second question, simply. "Clean dish."

She pauses in digging through the empty plant pots (they all have holes in them, they won't do!) to glance back at momcat. One, two, three, four, five... it looks like they've all found her tummy, so Mikoto is satisfied.

And then that Eri girl who sometimes shows up appears, and asks if she's here to help, and Mikoto just gives her a Look. It's the sort of skeptical look which is one part 'isn't it obvious?' and one part 'what do you mean, too?' "Shizuka's my friend," she answers, as if that explains everything.

And then another girl makes a much more pertinent observation, and Mikoto puffs out her cheeks, because, yes, there are a lot of things wrong with this shed, and she can't take care of them all herself.

"Can't keep warm alone," she confirms. "Not this young. Clean blankets. Food. Litter box. Water. Shizuka's not gonna wanna move far." It may well be the longest sequence of words anyone has heard her say for ages. And then the girl who wasn't picked up enough as a child - Homura? - offers her kerchief, and Mikoto makes an affirmative noise. "Yeah. Stuff like that. Don't put on top. Replace dirty stuff first. ... think Shizuka's done, so it should be okay."

It's strange to hear her talking this much, let alone giving instructions, but... she seems to know what she's talking about..?

And then she just sort of goes back to looking for a dish to put water in, as if she just expects everyone to know what to do with that information. Maybe one of these trays the pots are supposed to sit in will do? They don't have holes because they're designed to catch the water and feed it to the plants.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Madoka, transfixed by kitties!, leans against Homura as they coo over them. They are shoulder to shoulder, and also twintail to twintail, though the ends of the former's end practically before the latter's begin. She does not look away when they are approached from behind by cute-voiced and obviously equally enthusiastic

"Ericchi, Norin..." no one is safe from Madoka Nicknames in this timeline, she's too timid to assign them in the final one but the first time around she hands them out affectionately, early, and often, "...it's kitties."

One does not have to be able to see her eyes to hear the sparkles in them. Yes -- profound words from Ms. Kaname. Actually, a profound whisper, with the same sort of hushed awe one might contain in a beautiful cathedral.

Mikoto answers her question, and this at last stirs Madoka to action; in no time at all she has produced a clean dish from a high shelf (it involved an obviously handmade stepstool that, in fact, she made in Crafts Club last year; its paint is already chipped but the wobbly painted flowers are still bright), popped outside to fill it with water from the faucet, then returned.

Reverently, she places it down in reach of Mama Cat.

Though it must be said that her eyes lingered on each of the others -- their joy, their wonder -- and that her own quiet happiness increased threefold each time.

"She must be so tired," Madoka observes. It wasn't so long ago that she got her own younger sibling. Forward-thinking, the Kanames made sure that their daughter was present for quite a bit of the whole pregnancy finale. Li'l Madoka got scared and spent most of it hiding in a waiting room corner, her twintufts (only tufts, back then) trembling with worry for Mama.

But grown-up Madoka -- or at least older Madoka -- has a certain veteran sense about her. She lacks Mikoto's expertise but also Eri and Homura's complete ignorance. Somewhere in-between, as usual. Not that she isn't eager to defer. Meeting Mikoto's eyes, she nods, firmly.

"I don't think we can get all that stuff on campus, I guess I need to go shopping."

She casts the cats another longing look, obviously less than eager to leave the shed.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Eri nods her head almost reverently at Madoka, upper lip squeezed down to her bottom as if to try to prevent herself from squealing on the spot. "Oh I wish I could keep them..." She says, with the look on her expression that she knows she can't.

"...and in such a short time too." She replies to Homura. It feels like everything is faster for cats than people.

"Blankets!" Nori mentions, and Eri repeats it like some helful parrot. "Oh I put the linens away. I had to tell them we were throwing a gardening party."

She doesn't even look that sheepish about her lie there, "I should go get more-" However she can, Homura offers a handkerchief. "Oh this looks like the perfect size. And it's so nicely made. Are you sure?" Before she smiles, "That's so thoughtful of you to give it up for the babies!" She says, as grateful as if Homura had been offering her a gift for Eri's own children.

Whereas Madoka produces a dish, "Oh did you make that yourself?" Eri says with a certain note of awe. "It's like you predicted this and made her a gift in advance..."

However Mikoto then offers a name, "Shizuka? Oh! She's your..." Eri had been hesitant to name her on her own - out of such concerns as the cat already having a name. Looking out over the Mama cat nursing, Eri says quietly, "Yoku Ganbattane Shizuka-san!" In her own way of congratulations to the new Mama. Before stating to Mikoto, "I'm so glad she has a friend like you that... knows what to do right now. I'm... Eri Shimanouchi by the way. What's your name?"

Madoka upon observing she must be tired, causes Eri's expression to flicker in concern. "... it's too bad we can't take the kitties for a little while so she can rest." She obviously would want to, as much as she's scared of hurting them, but she understands the wisdom of leaving them with their mother.

Mikoto gives her advice, and Eri keeps her hands clasped together, nodding repeatedly. About to agree, however Madoka raises a good point, "Oh - oh! You're right... and then - after we get all of that. We can take turns watching after them. You and me are here all the time for club... and maybe Akemi-chan and Ankou-san can check on them during breaks between class...?"

Eri does pause and straighten up though in thought, "So everyone. Noone can know. The teachers might not... understand." And that's just the best case scenario. A hundred worse case scenarios come to mind instantly, "I don't want them turned out while they're so little, so I know it's asking a lot but... would you all mind keeping this a secret just between all of us...?" It takes a lot of courage for her to add, "And... if they get found out, I'll take the blame. So there's no need to worry."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Nori looks at Homura as she speaks. It is probably more words than Nori has heard Homura say aloud in one place before, and when the hankerchief is presented she feels her nose twitch a little. Not wrinkle; it's an almost lapine sort of motion, but she tells Homura, "Ahh, good thinking - it's clean, isn't it? Of course, a cat might not be too picky, but..."

'Water,' someone says.

"If you put them in water they'll just get colder!" Nori blurts, eyes widening as she looks at Mikoto. But she's - oh, Nori thinks, her mental train sliding onto the Night Mail route - she knows about cats. And...

And it must be her kitty!!!!

Before Nori can do more than try not to squeal, which makes her feel tense, like she's sucking in breath through her teeth over and over, she sees Madoka moving. She hears her words. Tired, Nori thinks. She must have been tired beforehand. And she'll be tired afterwards. Her eyes turn back to the kittens: Which will be her favorite, Nori thinks -

Eri's thanking Homura. Speaking of Madoka's prescience! Nori blinks at her several times, before she takes a deep breath and lets it out. Her hands go to her hips and she considers what to do, what to say. She looks at the tiny kittens again as Eri speaks, and then she says diffidently, "That would be fine, yes... ah... I could say that I joined your club if anyone asks."

It's a secret.

Something about that is pleasant. To Eri she says, reaching up to push back a ringlet of hair, "I will. No one will know."

To Eri and Mikoto then she looks. "Could you use sand? Shimanouchi there's sand for the gardens, isn't there? Or something like that. Just in case she needs it now. I suppose litter must be better if people use it..."

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Biosphere - It's a Great Big World https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bTfWuJc360

Mikoto knows so much about cats! The other braid-bearing girl earns Homura's open amazement, and Homura gets another sort of hero in the trade. She heeds close to each laconic word, so densely packed with vital information for a vital moment. "Oh..." Between little-big lessons in catwifery she looks back to those brand new lives, so vulnerable and magical.

She'd wandered through the maternity ward once, not long before her transfer to Ohtori, untethered from her hospital bed late one night and restless thanks to a literal rash of side effects from a new set of meds. Homura in her white gown haunted the wee hours of the morning unsupervised thanks to a nurse shift change and a bit of careful timing. Birth observes no business hours, and while the curious ghost never peeked into any rooms she heard wails that fed her overactive imagination, and when she got back the nurses were beyond cross with her for having slipped away.

Ever since then she'd thought of birth as an especially terrifying mystery among many. This... changes all of that, transmutes lead to gold. It still looks kind of messy and scary, but she sees all the kittens too, and look at that mama cat, all tired like Madoka says, and proud. "You know so much," she marvels to Mikoto, impressed to the point of awe and overcoming clear shyness to do so. Definitely not picked up enough as a child.

Her shoulder feels a sudden coolness when Madoka gets up to help, and she reaches up to rub the spot with a puppyish follow-glance toward the other girl. Then she's offering her kerchief up and it gets accepted, against Homura's sneaking anxieties otherwise, and she bobs her head five times at least to Eri and Nori's inquiries.

"Of course! Whatever Shizuka-san needs. It's clean I promise!" And it is, pristine and dainty and spotless. "Please, take it!" She rises with half a stumble just to bow and offer it up over her lowered head. "Oh, gomenasai... and ganbatte," she murmurs in hushed apology to the new mother, echoing Eri, after her hasty fluster.

Then Eri includes her in the list of people to take care of them and her eyes widen all over again. Homura rediscovers her stammer. "R-really?" A heartbeat later, more nods ensue. She can keep a secret, she thinks but does not say out loud.

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

Eri wishes they could keep them, and Mikoto tilts her head. "So keep them," she says. "I feed cats lots. Just don't get caught!" She chirps, as if it were that easy.

And there's Madoka to the rescue! Using a stepladder to defeat her diminuitive height (an issue Mikoto can easily empathise with), she produces a lovely dish which, soon enough, is filled with clean water. That's one issue down!

The skittish girl Homura overcomes her shyness to compliment Mikoto, and Mikoto beams. "Yup!" She chirps, happily. Whoever this mysterious cat maven is, she's apparently not blessed by humility.

Her own happiness is a practical sort of thing; she's not overcome by awe at something she's seen so often before, she's focused on what to do to help her friend. It doesn't mean she's not smiling about it.

It's a smile which is breached by brief bafflement as Nori exclaims they'll get cold in the water. "Drink," she clarifies, after she realises that perhaps Nori just doesn't know. "Shizuka's already cleaned babies." There's no barb to the explanation; Mikoto speaks with candour and without rancour.

"Shizuka is Shizuka's," Mikoto replies, to Eri's trailing realisation. She cants her head, considering, as she keeps talking. "Mikoto," she says, and remembers after a moment the point Mai keeps trying to make that she ought to give her entire name to strangers. "... Mikoto Minagi!" She smiles, brightly. Perhaps it's a familiar name from the battlefield.

(Long ago, but in the opposite direction, all Eri Shimanouchi earned for her earnest introduction was a suspicious glance, a wordless 'hmph.')

The reason for her beatification is clear as she continues: "Eri's been helping Shizuka too, right? Eri's good person." Her name is yobisute, but considering she spoke of the cat in just the same way, perhaps it's just how she talks.

Mikoto nods, with an affirmative noise, as Madoka realises how tired she must be. Mikoto's never done this herself, but she can imagine it must be tiring. Going to the store... she blinks, pats down her pockets, realises she's forgotten her purse again. Oh, no!

Homura is willing to offer up her possessions without a thought. "Homura's kind!" Mikoto says, firmly and without a single regard for how that might make her shrivel up into an embarrassed little violet.

And Nori has thoughts of her own, which have Mikoto nodding. "Yup," she says. "Sand's good." Cat litter, after all, is mostly designed for the convenience of people. She pauses, for a moment, and then turns back to grab one of those pot-plant trays. "Maybe fill this..?"

And then Eri proposes not only keeping it a secret, but taking the blame onto herself. Mikoto blinks. "That's problem?" She asks, as if getting into trouble hadn't even crossed her mind. Apparently, it still doesn't, because she shakes her head. "Don't care!" As if the sterling rules and regulations of the all-powerful Student Council are just vague suggestions, to be taken or left at her leisure. "It's secret," she remembers to assure her, after a moment.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Madoka looks -- at Homura's hankerchief, and her face, at the way she overcomes a tiny gigantic thing, one heartbeat at a time. She looks at Nori's confusion, her satisfaction, her eager innovation. She looks at Eri's eagerness, her worry, her willingness. She looks at Mikoto's joy, her understanding, her practicality.

She looks long and quietly and so, so fondly. At some point she stopped looking at the kittens entirely.

Eventually she realizes she's been staring at them all for a little too long, and a faint flush creeps across her nose, from one cheek to the other.

"Of course I'll secret the -- ah, keep the secret," she says so quickly and eagerly that she almost stumbles over her own tongue. "And I'd never let you eat the blame alone, Ericchi. Um..."

She nibbles her lip, and for some long moments seems reluctant to finish the thought. Finally she shakes her head and simply doesn't, keeping whatever's on her mind to herself.

"I-I think I have just enough allowance left for some essentials," she declares instead, with a merry enough smile to banish questions about whatever moment she's just had. "I'm gonna go get them right now!"

She grabs an empty wicker basket from a pile in the corner and tucks it over her arm. "Why don't you stay with the kitties, Homura-chan, everyone?" she suggests, after a moment's thought. "Now is a very special time for Mama Cat. I'm sure she'd be glad to have people stay to guard her from any trouble."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"Keep them...?" Eri looks slightly non-plussed by the thought. Like it had occurred to her but she'd previously discarded it. Her home doesn't approve of pets. "I..." Yet... perhaps there was a way. She was willing to take care of these kittens against the rules. So perhaps... she could find a way around her family's rules too.

Nori blurts that out and Eri looks back and forth between the two for a moment as Mikoto clarifies its for drinking. "Oh. That makes sense." For a moment perhaps she got an image in her head of Mikoto watering the kittens like flowers thanks to Nori's misunderstanding.

Relieved when it's cleared up... she's then introduced to Mikoto, and she seems a little surprised by Mikoto replying with her first name, "Oh that's so kind of you to say... " On saying she's a good person, though she seems pleased, smiling from the praise, "It's... very nice to meet you Mikoto-san." As she echoes at least the first name basis.

She nods at Nori, "We have it for when we do rock garden projects." Ohtori preferred European gardens perhaps, however that doesn't mean there wasn't any demand for such. Then Mikoto gives the okay, "Litter problem solved. Good thinking Ankou-san!"

Relieved when everyone agrees to keep the secret, "Right I'll just tell our club members you're just checking us out on a trial basis." She agrees with Nori. However Madoka insists on her not eating all the blame, "Kaname-chan..." She says as if touched by the idea of solidarity even if they got in trouble. "You're sure you don't mind doing that all on your own? That's so generous of you..." Eri says as if awed by her doing that, however also grateful. "Definitely. You can count on us to look after them." Eri beams a smile at Homura, "And... of course Akemi-chan! You're a part of this too now."

Lowering herself down beside the crate to peer in at the nursing kittens, Eri eventually hones in on one. A little orange-red fuzzball that looks like the transition of the leaves throughout the season.

Before there had been doubt about her keeping one. Now instead though, she says quietly. "Akiko." The name itself was a combination of the syllables for autumn and child. It felt fitting. Bring it all together though... and you get something else. "Because look at you..." She says with a quiet sense of wonder, "...you're so bright, it's like you're sparkling."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Just Don't Get Caught: The Nori Ankou Story

Nori Ankou blinks several times, sweeping a hand through her hair and coloring as she realizes what she'd said. But Mikoto wasn't cruel about it, was she? It's a relief, and tension leaves her shoulders. The next thing that Mikoto says is marginally nonsensical to Nori but she accepts it anyway, saying as she does, bowing her head: "It's good to meet you. I am Nori Ankou. Please take care of -"

"These kittens."

She looks back to Madoka then and she smiles, but Madoka is then seizing the basket. Much as one might seize the day.

Madoka says a word that strikes Nori in a resonant way. Guard.

"Of course," she says. "Good idea. They will just think that we are having a gardening club meeting if anyone comes by..." And at that point Nori asks Eri, while tipping her a wink (and in a louder tone of voice), "So, is there stuff to do in the gardening club if I have a delicate constitution...?"

As she crouches down she tells Eri, "I am interested, I just worry that I cannot commit..."

And at that point she looks in at the kittens.

She sees a little gray ball of fluff. The gray has some texture to it; not a pattern, exactly, but something that might eventually become tabby stripes. But for now it reminds Nori of a cloud, and so she curls her fingers and lets her fingers tremble with the thought of just how terribly, enormously soft that tiny, shaking creature must be. Full of promise, full of hope. Full of joy -

"Joliette," Nori pronounces.

She giggles a little, before asking Mikoto, "Is it alright to name them like this? I know they're young..."

And after a little while, when Madoka has moved along, and Nori is rather sure she is out of earshot, Nori says - "Hey, Akemi."

She looks towards the girl with the pigtails, who gave so unstintingly. "I don't feel right to let Madoka pay for all of this. But, I think she wouldn't take it back, either. If I give you a bit of money, will you get her a present some time, just to make her smile?"

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

The brightly-smiling cat expert gives her name, and the transfer student makes note. But Mikoto Minagi is speaking to Eri, clearly, and Homura doesn't feel nearly enough confidence to insert herself into the introductions. It's not until that easy and overwhelming offer of a compliment that she has her opening, and then it takes her several moments. Violets aren't supposed to be red, are they? Ah well...

It takes her long enough that she feels self-conscious about the gap after Mikoto said such a nice thing, and built-up pressure means the words initially vent like steam: "Ah I'm sorry, thank you, um, I'm, I'm..." and then start to trail off as she loses that head of steam, but reminds herself, Madoka said her name was cool, and remembrance propels her along that extra bit necessary, "ah... Homura Akemi from Saotome-sensei's... eighth grade class," and a deep breath, and her cheeks are red as she realizes she's been talking a while and is sure everyone is looking at her even if they aren't, "it's nice to meet you Minagi-san..."

Imagine the words getting smaller and smaller until they try to disappear. Sort of like their utterer is, shrinking visibly inside an already loose Ohtori uniform. In an anxious overcorrection she falls very silent for a while.

From her embarrassed wallflowering she still observes, though, with the same thoughtful eyes that note nurse shift changes and seek the wonder of puella magery in the dark: that moment of pause from Madoka, clouds passing across the sun Homura has already begun to rotate around. She wonders if Madoka is okay, and one of her hands makes what is for Homura a daunting venture away from her side: all of three brave inches, with half-unfurled fingers, but only after the other girl turns to leave.

Homura makes it an unseen-by-Madoka little wave instead, and feels bad that she didn't say nice things like Eri does. Madoka is so thoughtful... She finally breaks her wallflower silence to call after, "Thank you, Kaname-san," as brightly as she can manage. It's wobbly but a decent effort, really, like a half-shined penny flipping through the air.

It's harder when Madoka isn't around, but Homura handles it better than she used to. There's still this dimming that happens, though Eri's warm welcome right after helps. It's really nice of Eri to say that to her, that she's a part of this. They're all so thoughtful and kind, it's a bit much, so she turns back to the comforting magical kittens, as uncomplicated as they are fragile-looking.

Then Eri's at her elbow and she gives the green-haired girl a shy sidelong look, cheeks a faint enough red that it could be new or fading -- hard to tell. Homura watches as the other girl picks a kitten and name to fit, and whispers, because she just feels it, somehow, "She likes you..." and then stammers, "or is he a boy cat?" and then falls silent all over again because she isn't sure and is way too embarrassed to suggest checking.

She's still rooted to the spot when Nori crouches down to select her own fuzzball, or maybe the fuzzball selects her -- hard to say with these things. Again Homura watches, nearly holding her breath, and thinks, what a lovely name! Of course, Ankou-san is herself so lovely. I could never come up with names these good... She looks down at the two remaining kittens and paralysis takes hold as she realizes one is meant for her. A welter of terrified reactions run through her -- what if I go back to the hospital? they can't mean it, I've never had... no one's ever... -- and she fists her hands up by her face.

But her violet eyes keep following the runty one, a dark tabby with one white back paw who's easily the least energetic of the bunch. She's still healthy, just in those lower percentiles for weight and pep, a sleepy little kitten. "You... you pick first, Minagi-san."

Then Nori's addressing her and she attends immediately, with a little betraying quiver of anxiety. Is she in trouble?

No, no she's not in trouble. Homura starts nodding pretty easily at first, because she agrees, Madoka shouldn't pay for all of it and she's way too kind to return it or probably take money for it... and then... the nods turn into a deer-in-headlights freeze.

"I-I-I..." Nori Ankou is entrusting her with buying a gift for... for... Big eyes, red face, stiff braids. Homura bows low and stammers, "H-h-hai! Arigatou gozaimasu Ankou-san..." It takes her a looong moment to rise again.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Andrew Lloyd Webber - The Naming of Cats https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8pnzDW8Isk

Eri seems confused by her suggestion, so Mikoto nods with an affirmative noise. It's not hard! Mikoto takes care of lots of cats in Ohtori! ... of course, they're all still strays. They all belong to themselves, as Mikoto's said. But she's friends with them! She has no clue why anyone would see this as anything but the natural state of sharing one's life with a cat.

Homura finally stammers into her own introduction - if only she realised that Mikoto had already stolen her name from Madoka's exclamation earlier! It's notable, perhaps, that as she stumbles through the words, Mikoto isn't really looking at her - she glances at her, and glances away. (Did her ear - twitch?) Because Homura is clearly very nervous, and Mikoto isn't sure how to handle nervous people, but she knows how to handle nervous cats, and that's to not put them on the spot by staring. She's still smiling, though, and she nods, with a cheerful little hum. "Thanks!" She chirps, looking her way long enough to grin, and perhaps it sounds like she's thanking her for saying it's nice to meet her.

Oh, no.

She's thanking her for finding so many words, when words are clearly hard for her.

Luckily, Mikoto knows that humans staring isn't necessarily unfriendly. It's a little confusing when Madoka blushes, but Mikoto assumes she's just reacting badly to the eye contact, and she helpfully looks away. She still looks happy when Madoka volunteers to get supplies, though!

She nods, firmly, as Madoka tells them momma cat would appreciate a guard. "Yup!" She doesn't elaborate, because she thinks Madoka has already said everything which needs to be said.

And then Eri leans down to consider the kittens as Madoka goes to take care of shopping, and Mikoto watches with wide eyes which are catlike in their interest. Nori, too, finds herself swayed by cat, and Mikoto smiles brightly to her. "Yup! Cat's got lotta names!" She pauses, for a moment, tapping a finger to her chin in thought. "Like... some girls call Shizuka Toshi, 'cause they think Shizuka's boy. 'Nother calls her Aoi, but I know Aoi already. Not weird!"

Or when cats are just 'Cat' to most people, but to her they have names. That's two names, too.

Homura, on the other hand - though her eyes are clearly focused on one kitten, Mikoto notices, when she looks to her - asks her to go first. Mikoto cants her head, and nods. "'Kay," she says, and turns her attention to the crate, with a friendly 'prrt' of greeting which is astoundingly close to what a cat might really sound like.

There is a big brown tabby - well, big for a baby, anyhow - with a white splotch over his chest and across the bottom half of his face. And Mikoto nods, with a grunt of approval, and gestures to him immediately. "Katsu!" She declares, because she can think of nothing more victorious than a group of girls coming together to help her cat friend.

(She does not realise how close this name is to being an excellent cross-lingual joke, because she so often naps through her English classes. Perhaps later, when Madoka reveals her chosen name is 'Kitty', she'll let Mikoto in on the joke.)

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

Eri clasps her hands together, as she smiles at Nori, "Of course! We take all kinds here. You don't have to do heavy labor to enjoy gardening."

Nori names her kitten Joliette, and Eri smiles in approval, "I like it. It sounds European! And I think it's alright. Shizuka-san can't exactly name them herself - right?" Then Mikoto adds in her own wisdom, "Ohhh... so that's how it is." She says in wonder of the idea of cats having different names to other people, yet it makes sense.

Now elbow to elbow with Homura, she looks sidelong at her, the two girls in spectacles cooing over kittens as she giggles, "You think so? I'm not s-" However then the question of gender comes up and Eri considers the subject, not thinking of checking herself yet. "I think she's a girl." She pronounces, "And if she turns out to be a boy - then he'll have an especially cute name."

The thought of Nori lending money to have Homura buy Madoka a gift makes her a little self-conscious, fidgeting as she tries to do some mental calculations, but she doesn't weigh in on it.

So instead of focusing in, she instead looks at the kitten that Homura has her eye on. As Homura asks Mikoto to pick first, she instead finds herself looking at the one Homura is eyeing, "So cute." She's especially runty, and it's in that that Eri seems to understand why Homura seemed drawn to her. "I think... you're the best suited for taking care of her Akemi-chan." She murmurs to Homura Akemi. "It's a big world out there for her, but I bet it'll seem a little more manageable with someone like you looking after her."

Why someone like Homura Akemi? Well because... Eri figures Homura knows what it's like out there for someone small and forgotten and overlooked, better than anyone.

And then Mikoto names the big brown tabby, "Eh!?" Eri looks back and forth between them. Her mind knows enough English to grasp the pun, so now Eri thinks Mikoto is like a cat naming genius.

"Oh my gosh that's such a cute name."

Eri says in approval, though now she's thinking of the kitten as like a chicken or pork dish. Perhaps its Mikoto's way of calling him a 'big boy'. "Katsu-kun! He's like their big brother or something."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

"It's alright, it's alright," Nori says to Homura gently. "Just be sure to take good care of her, alright?" Nori then refers into the blouse pocket of her uniform, and she counts out - well! That's an allowance, alright; although she says, "I suppose it's a little unlucky," as she hands over a 1000 yen note, four 100-yen notes, a 50 yen coin and two 10s. "If you have to go a little over, I'll cover the difference," she assures Homura as her little wallet goes back.

After this she looks to Eri and smiles, a little hesitantly. "It's actually Caribbean," she offers, "but they speak French there... mm, I suppose she might, though what would a cat call them? They have to have names for each other, don't they? I know they can recognize people... but would they say, meow, or meow, or meow meow?" Nori considers aloud.

Mikoto speaks to them of the ad-dressing of cats and Nori blinks slowly, before saying with a tone of revelation, "Oh - then, you mean that the different names... all are the names of the same cat. A cat, with many names..."

To Eri Nori says, "What if I wanted to garden inside...? I'm sorry to be so particular. It's just that sometimes I can't really stand the sun..." Her attendance record bears it out.

But then she looks to Homura, as if awaiting her pronouncement of a cat's true name.

It's a secret; and she is standing watch.

Somehow it feels good. Even if...



"oh Batiste Batiste Batiste it was so amazing," Nori gushes as she enters her dormitory room: "There was a cat, and I suppose she was pregnant; she must have been, because she had kittens, and they were adorable. Madoka, you remember her, yes? The kind girl? She was there - and even that gardener girl, Shimanouchi. She's not so bad, now that I know her a little. There was some tough girl there too, and of course that Homura girl was with Madoka - Oh, Batiste, the kittens were so precious and so cold. When you were born, did your mother find a place to hide, or den, or something?"

Batiste blinks very slowly, rolling over from the poofy cushion in which he lays.

"Ah... cousin; I was born in a clinic..."

Nori blinks back, very slowly.

"A clinic?"

"Of course," Batiste says. "In case, heavens forbid, something happened!"

Nori's eyes slowly widen and Batiste accepts his lot. Soon, he will have larger - or, for a while, smaller - problems to contend with.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (8)] has posed.

In her catwisdom Mikoto gifts the painfully shy girl some needed space to recover, and spies the longing stare. Homura eases further to hear all about cat names from the girl who knows them so well, and to witness the heartier tabby get its name, too. The whole thing sends the transfer student into deep thought...

The tiny tabby kitten receives a gentle, careful head-tap of greeting from Homura when she finally works up the nerve to reach in, with a generous and kind assist from Eri in the encouragement department. She doesn't mind the comparison; it makes her feel... understood, somehow. Just a bit.

"Kutsushita," she says, just above a whisper. A big moniker for a small creature. It means "sock," and because of how the word is constructed it also means "under shoes," which makes it a good name for a runty kitten with one white foot, she thinks. And how small, how precious that sleepy life feels beneath her fingertips...! Homura feels a sudden fierce protectiveness, even as she's frightened all over again at how delicate the kitten is.

No, not the kitten.

Her kitten.

She sniffs a little but keeps it together, peering down at the wobbling little one. Then Homura looks up at the shed door, seeking the girl who left, but she's not back yet. She thinks, Ankou-san is right. I have to find something really special for her... And so much money! Homura herself has no shortage of funds and very little to spend them on, but it's the generosity that stuns her. "I can..." she'd murmured about covering the difference, with the ashamed guilt of someone who is also well-heeled but doesn't know how to say so gracefully.

Something special. "I'll take good care of her, Ankou-san," and she makes it sound as earnest as a vow.