2019-02-04 - TIMELINE 2: The First Step

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Title: TIMELINE 2: The First Step

Mikoto shows Setsuna to her dorm after the disaster between dimensions, and feeds and encourages her. In turn, Setsuna gives Mikoto the strength to make a decision of her own about what she wants from her life.


Mikoto Minagi, Setsuna Higashi


Ohtori - Dormitories

OOC - IC Date:

2019-02-04 - 2014-

.******************** Yamanote High City - Ohtori Academy *********************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Dormitories +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 There is some variation between the dormitories to provide a range suitable
 to different tastes, but they are typically old-fashioned and elegant, with
 low stone walls guiding the walkways and ivy creeping up their white walls
 and columns. Their exterior is classically European, like sedate manor
 houses, and for the most part this style is maintained inside, with
 dignified old paintings in thick goldleaf frames. However, the dormitories
 do not lack for daring Ohtori touches, with whimsical art deco floor
 panelling here, fantastical geometric lamps there, and odd little secret
 panels and dead ends throughout.

 Dorm rooms are generally shared between two same-gender students, but
 singles are almost as common; Ohtori students were not generally raised to
 share. There are some triples and quads available as well. Some dorms permit
 a great deal of leeway in decoration, others require students to stick to
 the default antique furniture. Many dorms have at least a small balcony,
 which provides an escape route for particularly rebellious students when
 curfews are instated.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mikoto tried not to make Eas too uncomfortable, in the moments on Arthas, as the healers saw to their wounds. (Against a foe superior to her in every way, Mikoto could certainly use their help.) But she stayed close to her, because Eas was different, now. And when the magics had taken hold and gauze and bandages have been applied, and the agents moved to help other girls, Mikoto said, with her usual brevity, "... thanks."

In plain recognition of her selfless defence, just as true as any of their efforts: "I couldn't do it alone."

But she won't dwell on it. Mikoto thinks being Eas is probably hard enough, right now.

... shortly, there's no time to dwell on it, even if she'd like to. In the wake of the dimensional transfer which saves them from the ravages of space, they are left safe and more or less sound in Nanoha's garden.

And Eas is left with nowhere to go.

"Come with me," Mikoto offers, because there are so many places Eas could be safe, so many people who would protect her, but shelter is the best way Mikoto can think to offer her gratitude.

Besides. There are leftovers in the fridge.

What other place in Tokyo has Mai's leftovers on hand?


The train ride is, most likely, downright quaint to someone from a world of technology, but it gets them there fast enough. The dormitories are quiet; Mai is still out working, or perhaps seeing to Takumi. It's in the way she says - "I'm home," as she opens up the door, only to receive no reply.

She slips off her shoes, slips off Miroku's case and rests it by the coatstand at the door. It might feel ridiculously domestic to know that even her claymore has a place in the home, but Mai gets upset if Mikoto drags it around the dorm with her, and she can see it from here just fine. She gestures Eas to the couch, a thing of typical Ohtori ostentatiousness (if not muted compared to some of the more luxurious dorms around).

"Hungry?" She asks, and this, at least, is entirely typical. She doesn't ask if Eas is okay; she focuses on more practical things.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

"I mean..." Eas--Setsuna?--glances Mikoto's way, "I said you needed me. So, it's fine. I was just right, is all." Watching Mikoto for a moment extra, Setsuna glances away, rolling her shoulder with a wince against the bruising that's all that's left of what would've been an awful wound. Things get tricky...

And 'Eas' looks up to the sky in the garden, watching the falling debris, and shudders despite herself. She doesn't really want to stop and think too much yet, let alone dwell on the fact that all her possessions at the moment are now on her person. Her phone still has service, she finds as she glances at it... and then answers Mikoto, "Yeah. Okay."

There's someone she needs to talk to. ...But she wants to be more ready first.

Dark jeans, black tanktop, gray overlayer; it's fine enough for this time of year, for someone who doesn't run too hot. The white hair is different from Setsuna's usual look, though. At least she knows her way around town well enough... Though she can't go rooftop hopping right now.

'Quaint' is a word for it. The trains are primitive, dirty, and crowded by Labyrinth standards, completely inefficient. ...And yet, the press of people around them helps her feel a little more insulated for the moment. She walks through campus, and--

"...Just you?" Setsuna asks, glancing around before she steps inside, slipping off her own shoes. She has nothing to set down, so she doesn't bother, instead glancing to Miroku's stand and walking further in. She looks over the couch, the walls... The way the room's set up. The little messiness that people usually wouldn't notice.

"Yeah," she answers. "I could eat." She's quiet--she's been quiet, between looking into space and looking at Mikoto. At least she walks over to the couch and takes a seat, if a little warily.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mikoto, frankly, hates trains; they're cages of metal which echo sound and scent and heat and there are too many people on them, all the time. But they're also the best way to get around Tokyo.

She'd argue that roofhopping is perfectly possible without powers, but Mikoto has always been alarmingly acrobatic. Perhaps she can help Eas with that, one day.

But in the moment she shakes her head, with a grunt of negation, as she closes the door behind them. "Mai lives here too, but Mai's out." Their dorm isn't particularly messy, but it has the lived-in look of people who have a lot to do and not a lot of time to keep house. The kitchen is clean, but there are still some dishes on the drying-rack which haven't yet been put away; there's some homework laid out on the table which is still half-finished. In the bedroom, there's a laundry hamper living on one of the beds which has lain unmade for some time, a hairbrush resting on the edge of one which has been hastily straightened.

She could eat, and that's good enough for Mikoto, who goes to the fridge to retrieve last night's dinner. It's rei shabu, so it's meant to be cold; she grabs those plates from the rack and some chopsticks and portions it out for the both of them. She remembers to leave some for Mai, at least. (Mai will understand her bringing another stray home to feed, surely.)

Luckily, there are no peppers in the dish.

Mikoto brings them over and hands a plate over to Eas, sitting next to her with the other. "It's good," she assures her, which both means 'it's not dangerous' and 'it's tasty', given her audience. "Mai made it." As if to demonstrate, Mikoto tears into her plate, with all the ferocity of a black hole consuming everything in its path. Maybe she had ulterior motives in asking whether Eas was hungry. Well, it's certainly true that Mikoto has high energy requirements.

"Eas," she starts, once the food has been devoured or at least efforts have been made. "... no, not Eas, right?" There was something else, but Mikoto doesn't want to guess at it when the words weren't meant for her.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Setsuna is fairly fast and acrobatic, herself--she'd be rather better at it than she imagines, even without the power of the Data Diamond at her disposal. For now, though... She doesn't mind trains too much. For all that she wanted to be noticed, right now there's a comfort in anonymity.

Here, at the dorm, Setsuna glances Mai's way again, nods thoughtfully. "All right." Even owning possessions is messy by Labyrinth standards, of course, but at least it isn't as cluttered as some dorms she's seen. Setsuna resists the immediate urge to organize the homework, to set things to edges and neatness. It isn't her place, anyway.

Setsuna takes a plate, looking down at it. "All right," she says, and has some herself. She is not as quick... at first. After the first bite, she blinks in surprise. "...It is," she agrees, and then--

Well, and then she eats pretty much like Mikoto does; when she said she was hungry, she definitely understated the issue. it does not take long at all.

"She's... good at this," Setsuna says first. And then she looks up again; not Eas. There's quiet for a moment; Setsuna is strangely hard to read, as ever.

"No," the white-haired girl agrees. "I don't think I qualify for that title anymore. ...I don't really..." She glances away. "I don't really have a name, or I didn't before I came here. But on Earth, people call me Setsuna. Setsuna Higashi."

Yes, it's the same girl; the wrong hair color, but now that she says it, her demeanor, her actions, everything fits as her. "...You were saying something, though?"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Yup!" Mikoto chirps, as Eas realises the truth about Mai's cooking. She takes the empty plates and puts them aside on the coffee table, for now, not realising just how aggravating that might be.

She realises other things, though. What's in a name - or a title, as she says. Her eyes widen, with a sharp intake of breath, as she puts two and two together: Setsuna, like the shy girl who's always behind Lera. After the moment of surprise, though, she smiles, because maybe she didn't always have bad luck talking to the other girl after all. "Name's just what people call you," she points out, plainly. "So, it's Setsuna!"

And that's just a real a name as Mikoto's is.

Mikoto blinks, as Setsuna reminds her that she was talking. "Right," she nods. "I don't... know what Setsuna's gonna do, after this," here she pauses, her tone growing a little more serious with the topic. She directs her gaze to the armrest beside Setsuna, rather than at her directly. "That's Setsuna's choice. But this is where I live. If stuff gets too much, feel free to come. Window's usually open."

Well, it is where Mikoto makes her entry and exit alarmingly often. After a beat, she blinks. "Or... knock." Which is what people are supposed to do, and which, to her credit, she remembers to add eventually.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

There are many things Eas has called stupid about Earth and Tokyo, but its food is the one she would've been lying the hardest about there. She does glance to the plates on the table... But given everything else going on, she merely considers taking them to the kitchen. She can probably do that after she gets to catch her breath a little; it would be polite as a guest to contribute. Right?

She's already made it work in her mind.

Setsuna--Setsuna, who goes to Infinity, and had a title. "Hmm," she answers, tilting her head thoughtfully at Mikoto's simple smiling answer. "Guess so. Setsuna, then. You can use that name--you don't need to be formal."

Not that Mikoto would anyway, but Setsuna has learned that this permission is an important part of human social interactions here.

As for what she'll do, though--the lack of eye contact is kind of a relief, and she hears the offer for what it is. She's quiet, at that, until--"Ah. Yeah. I don't know if your roommate would appreciate me coming in the window. I..." She considers her words. "I appreciate that. It's... good, to have a place to go."

After a pause she says, "My first step is going to be to... talk to Lera. She knows--about who I am. I'm not sure what will happen yet, from there. But I guess it is my choice. It's weird, to think of it that way. This whole big city..."

"It's odd, to be just someone else in it."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Permission is an important part, yes - but not one Mikoto has ever been terribly good at. She's on a first-name basis with everyone, something she demonstrated aptly back there as she referred to Precia by name. "'Kay!" She chirps, regardless.

Mikoto tilts her head, with a questioning noise, as Setsuna points out that Mai wouldn't like a window intruder, as if she's honestly never thought of that before. It would be bad if Setsuna were really an intruder, but she was invited, so it's fine, right? But Mikoto doesn't air the thoughts running through her head, because she has Setsuna's words to focus on, instead.

"Talk to Lera," Mikoto affirms and encourages the idea, nodding. It's a good choice. Mikoto knows that Lera will take take of Setsuna; she's always looked out for her, after all.

Her gaze slips to the window, and she hums thoughtfully through closed lips. "Weird for me, too," she offers, finally. "When I came here. It was hard sometimes." She glances back to Setsuna, smiling. "But Setsuna can handle that."

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Setsuna's used to that kind of thing anyway--at least, as Earth goes. She's not accustomed to worrying too much about that kind of thing anyway, albeit for highly different reasons, and if she's more formal, well...

It's not saying a ton on its own. She takes a lot of cues from those around her.

Setsuna couldn't say for sure about Mai--she doesn't know her! But it's a guess anyway. That affrimation--well, encouragement is encouragement. Setsuna's sure of it too, it's just... a lot, to talk about, and it's sort of the final--well.

Not very final, now, is it?

"Yeah," she allows, "I bet. You're not used to this kind of thing, either, I remember. Though... Differently, I guess. I..." She trails off, looks down, then back up. "Yeah. Thanks. I... Probably can. I've been here a while now, anyway. It takes more than that to get to me." Down, again. Quiet.

"So..." She pauses. She stays paused for a little longer. "Ugh. Talking is hard. How do they manage it?"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Setsuna says as much in the gaps between her words as in the words themselves; they're not so angry, not so firm. They trail and lose themselves and pick up again. Mikoto thinks she must still be reeling, even if she doesn't have the words to say it.

"I dunno," she says, scrunching up a corner of her lip. "Gets easier with practice. There's rules, but no one ever wrote them down. Stuff like... adding stuff to sentences. Don't see why it's bad to say what I mean and not bother with bits which just fill space, but..."

Mikoto shakes her head, blowing out her lips in a wordless noise of frustration. "It's weird," she concludes.

She's always had a different way of expressing herself, but she's not sure it would suit Setsuna at all. Still, with how rudderless she is... Mikoto reaches out, cautiously, to try and lay a hand over hers. It's easy enough to dodge.

"It's okay not to have words," she says, regardless. "Words are hard."

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

It's true; she's still in something of a state of shock over all of it, still drifting along down the current after all that's happened. It's too much to really process all at once, even for someone who is used to handling change. For someone who isn't, well...

"I don't get it," Setsuna admits. "Even after going to school with them for so long I can't... predict them. And they always have so much energy, it seems like, for the next thing."

Werid. Setsuna agrees, nodding along. Definitely weird. ...But at this point Mikoto reaches out, and Setsuna blinks, glancing down at her hand, up at Mikoto, in some surprise.

...She doesn't take her hand back, though.

"...Heh. Its.. Nice? I guess, of you to say that. But I'm... going to have to get used to it. It's not like I can go back, now."

"...I can probably never go back. And what other world could I get to? If I'd even be welcome. ..." She trails off, looks down. "...Earth never felt so... large, until now."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> 2 Mello - Tell Me Your Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTsiEkj2zJM

Mikoto, resident furnace of energy and bad ideas, can't quite understand not having energy for things, but she can at least accept that Setsuna is struggling with it. "Even if Setsuna don't get more energy," she says, because maybe she is like Takumi and just can't do as much as everyone else, "I think it'll be easier to figure out now Setsuna's not just observing." Immersive learning is an effective teacher.

Setsuna doesn't move away, and Mikoto doesn't move in; she just lets her hand rest there, a singular point of contact. Her first instinct in seeing someone in the sort of distress Setsuna must be in is to latch onto her fiercely, as if she could squeeze the pain out in a tight embrace, but she is trying to be mindful of what Setsuna can accept, the pressure she's under.

She listens, quietly, to Setsuna's reflections, worrying thoughtfully at her bottom lip with her teeth. "For, long time..." she starts, finally, glancing to the window. "... I thought whole world was a mountain, our shrine at centre. Everything I knew was... trees, creeks, rocks. I mean... I knew Japan was out there, learned what happened getting us here, but... didn't feel real to me. Not really. But then..."

Her hand tightens, slightly, over Setsuna's. She doesn't notice the grip.

"... I had to leave. And I couldn't go back, neither. It was, scary. Things I'd never seen, only heard about... trains, and boats, and big buildings too tall to climb... and I... wasn't very good at talking. Felt too threatened to ask." Mikoto frowns, gaze dropping to their empty plates. "Everything was new. Even food could hurt me here. But... Mai found me, and Mai brought me home, and Mai made me food I could eat, and Mai explained all the weird stuff. And - it's not like Tokyo got smaller. Still big, still weird. But after that it got... better. Easier."

Mikoto glances back up, and smiles. "Yeah. Setsuna'll get used to it too."

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Setsuna has never had much issue with energy in and of itself--but the ability to channel it into some of the things she's seen people do on Earth definitely seems strange. It's more an adapter issue than a power issue, in the end. But even if it weren't, "...Mm." She agrees, apparently, "It matters more now. So maybe so."

A straight-out hug would definitely spook her, much like it would a cat still growing used to someone's company. ...It's not that different, really.

But when Mikoto shares in turn--when Mikoto explains, Setsuna blinks lightly, looks up to her, listens. The picture she paints is something Setsuna can imagine, thanks to what she's seen, and the way Mikoto explains it it makes sense.

...The tightened grip on her hand suggests a difficulty, too.

Setsuna looks thoughtfully at Mikoto--not in the same way that someone else might, who would study her facial expressions with more facility, just... looking in her direction.

"...Before I'd have said that wasn't good enough, to rely on someone else that way. But it sounds like she helped you a lot." Setsuna glances down, and actually smiles faintly, if briefly, before she lifts a hand to brush white hair out of her face. "...I see. So... It gets..."

She nods, looks up again. "Thank you. It seems a little better if I... have a path forward."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

A difficulty, certainly, but Mikoto would struggle to explain it. She doesn't remember much about leaving, aside from her directive to find her Lord Brother in the land of Fuuka. But something about it...

... well, it's easy enough to rationalise as being afraid to leave the safety of home. That's a normal thing girls experience. That's a sound explanation for why she'd feel bad.

She is troubled enough, as she speaks, brow creased and eyes narrowed slightly as they don't quite focus on their target, as if she's looking past the dishes entirely. But when she smiles to Setsuna it is a warm thing, reassuring, and there is a kindness to the crease of her eyes as her curved lips reach them. She has never been able to hide her feelings from her face; her expressions are eminently honest.

"Truth is..." Mikoto shakes her head, braids flicking at the sides of her face. "I thought I had to do it on my own too. But... Mai was really nice. And then I met other good people, and... it was lots easier, with friends." She glances back to Setsuna, smiles again: "And Setsuna's got friends! Lera, and Madoka, and... I'll help, too."

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Setsuna doesn't pry, but she does file it away with the rest of what she knows and has learned about Mikoto; this, with the way she reacted to her own double. That struck Setsuna, having fought with her before in different circumstances.

But then, she doesn't have much of what 'normal girls' do to settle on easy answers.

Setsuna can almost read Mikoto more easily right now--almost. For her, it's not even a matter of hiding her emotions; it's just difficult to remember to show them at all, sometimes. She learned for so long to do otherwise, after all. But here--

"Mm. I wouldn't be here otherwise. ...I just.. wasn't willing to..." She trails off, shakes her head, unwilling to touch that wound yet. "I mean, you're right. I do. Madoka--I could never really keep her out. And Lera... Lera's never minded that I'm quiet. And you..."

Setsuna hesitates, then. Thinking of how to phrase her feelings is hard. "Well, I'm... I appreciate that you're here. Besides... You're so different from what I'm used to." A beat, "At least you're honest about things. Honest in ways I'm not even sure how to be."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mikoto has reacted with anger, Mikoto has struggled to reach out, Mikoto has charged through pain and fatigue... but never once, fighting Setsuna when she was Eas, has Mikoto fled in terror.

Of her emotions, Mikoto hides nothing; Mikoto can hide nothing. No grand manipulator is she, playing those around her with false kindnesses. Her honesty has always been encouraged. They learned entirely the opposite lessons, but...

She blinks, as Setsuna finds words for her own feelings. "I'm... different?" She asks, glancing over in surprise, as if it had never even occurred to her. Her gaze tracks back down, to the couch-cushion between them; they hardly need to sustain eye contact to signal attentiveness.

And the way her brow knits thoughtfully, she wouldn't want Setsuna to think she was mad at her.

"... maybe I don't say opposite of what I think too much," Mikoto says, quietly, "but there's other ways to lie, Setsuna. There's lots I... don't say at all."

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Not once. And Setsuna has been pretty scary at times. At least, she would assume so; she has enough ego for that, anyway. But...

Emotion--it is only one of the axes here. It's one that's naturally on Setsuna's mind, of course, but for the moment--Mikoto glances in surprise, and Setsuna answers, "Yes." She doesn't feel the need to maintain eye contact either, naturally--she looks down at her plate, letting herself think and listen without the extra energy of focusing on a face.

"Hmm..." Setsuna considers the new information afforded to her; another complex aspect of someone that she wouldn't have entirely noticed, despite it being the sort of thing that she would say.

"...But even then you're willing to say that. You aren't pretending otherwise. 'Not saying' is different from saying something else."

"...But I won't say honest, then. I lied a lot that way, myself."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

It's weird to think that Mikoto might be different from the others. It's not a comfortable thought. Certainly Ohtori has told her as much, but filtering out Ohtori's rumours is second nature at this point.

She can't be that different, she thinks. She fights monsters and eats icecream and fails tests just like everyone else.

Mikoto makes a wordless noise of surprise as Setsuna points out that Mikoto has been entirely honest about not being honest. "Oh... guess so." She really isn't very good at lying, as soon as she has to start talking. Subtle machinations aren't her thing.

And Setsuna's done it, too, and it is plain enough in the way she is Setsuna, that same girl Mikoto has spent long afternoons not saying much to as cats clamber over them. "Guess it's harder... when it's Setsuna's whole life. Not being able to say anything. But... it's painful, right? Being honest, to good people, when it might make them sad, or try to stop it..."

Mikoto's hands pull in, to fold in her lap, and she looks down at them. "... I'll probably... have to leave when I do what I came here for. We live... far away. It, makes sense we'd go back home. I mean, unless..." She shakes her head, her brow creasing again. To think on her training is useless conjecture. "... but it's sad. There's lots of things I wanna do here. I have stuff I want to do now, just for me! I wanna help Homura, and I wanna beat Endo, and I wanna graduate with everyone, and... I want Tokyo to know how good Mai's cooking is, and I want my friends to have jobs, so the School Council stops trying to shoo them away. 'Cause - I wanna be with Mai. Before I came here, I didn't... I mean... what I wanted was easy. But now..." Now she has her own thoughts, her own feelings, her own ambitions, and it's hard.

She shrugs her shoulders, with a puff of breath. "I don't think they'd get it. So I don't say anything. But, I mean... I get it."

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Even when she's not trying to be cruel, Setsuna's particular perspective can come off in that way; she spots differences, notices things differently than those more accustomed to Earth... and differently from those who themselves aren't used to this kind of place. As a citizen of Labyrinth, her threshold for different remains much lower.

The purple-haired girl looks up at Mikoto again, then away, as she listens; she does not answer at first, the matter of whether it's different, or harder for her. What she feels... what she wants. Setsuna remembers something like that. She remembers how she interacted with the others. So eventually, when Mikoto shrugs--

"...It hurts either way," Setsuna says softly, starting at the beginning, so to speak. "Telling people things they won't like to hear--not telling them things, when it's going to hurt them sooner or later not to know. Knowing they'll find out eventually anyway. When you have to make your own choices... It hurts. And you can't get around it by just thinking that 'Mobius-sama decided, so it must be for the best.' You can't put it off, or do more than push it away for a while... but not forever."

"I thought I had to do what I was doing; that I had to keep going, no matter what. But then... I didn't. And now I'm still here, past that, after disobeying."

"I didn't think people would understand me, either. I'm still... not sure. But it's more, than I expected."

Setsuna looks down at her hands, thoughtful still. "So I don't think it's a matter of have to, or not have to. It feels that way--but it isn't. Even when you don't think you have a choice..."

She looks up to the sky. "It turns out that you do. I guess you always do."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Setsuna starts talking, and Mikoto looks in her direction - not quite at her, but directing her eyes to her shoulder. Her hands tighten in her lap as she realises just how much she understands what Setsuna is saying - how intuitively. She always thought she was good at deciding what she wanted to do, but...

... she was always deciding in a window, wasn't she? She always had something she had to do, didn't she?

It's Mikoto's turn to look down, in stunned silence. She hadn't realised she wanted so many things, so fiercely, until she said them out loud, until she voiced the fears which shadowed them. And she'd been so ready to just push it aside, to resign herself to a temporary future. She'd made herself think that temporary things weren't so bad. And maybe they're not.

But what if she doesn't want it to be temporary?

"... saying something like that..." she starts, finally, as she looks to Setsuna proper, her words a little shaken. "... it's hard, right? Thanks, Setsuna..." The gratitude is heartfelt, if laconic. Mikoto does not know if anyone else could have said something like this to her, the way she did.

Smoothing one hand over the other, Mikoto swallows. "... Setsuna's right. I've decided. I'm gonna... ask if we can stay. Maybe - maybe it's no problem," she says, and it has all the air of someone who was never told the plan, who has guessed at her purpose on dark nights. "Maybe I learned to fight so I could fight monsters here, and I'm worrying over nothing, 'cause we were gonna stay anyway... but... I don't wanna go back. I want to stay here. I wanna build cafe with Mai, and, do all this stuff with everyone... that's what I want." And what she wants is such a precious thing, when she came into wanting so late.

She listens to what she has said, and she shakes her head. "No, I - I can at least be as brave as Setsuna, right?" She says, with a small and wavering smile. "I choose to stay. I choose to stay with everyone, and, I'll make more and more friends, 'cause the city's so big. That's..." She does not quite notice her hands have entwined together, fingers laced through fingers, as if entreating. "... my choice."

And her choices must matter.