2019-02-11 - TIMELINE 3: Everyone Is Watching

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Title: TIMELINE 3: Everyone Is Watching

The Woman in Black finds Mikoto, and quickly establishes that she's here to talk, not to fight. Specifically, she's here to talk about what Mikoto is doing - and what she could be doing more of. The Woman in Black has done Mikoto enough favours, and now there's something she wants from the girl who doesn't often care to get involved.


Mikoto Minagi, The Woman in Black


Ohtori - Gardens

OOC - IC Date:

2019-02-11 - 2014-09-10

.******************** 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> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The school is in disarray.

Vampires are attacking - that's what they whisper. Mikoto hears the whispers, even if she does not pay them any mind. It could be supernatural, of course, but figuring out the root cause is difficult when the School Council is making it so hard. But Mai isn't trying to figure it out, so Mikoto isn't trying very hard, either. In the end, she knows she can handle herself if anything comes to threaten her, and she's satisfied with that.

In fact, Mikoto seems fairly relaxed about the panic going around the school in general.

Perhaps that's why she's out here, so late in the afternoon, sprawled out under a gazebo in the light of a sun creeping closer and closer to the horizon. On the floor, even, though there are plenty of servicable benches lining the sides! A kitten has curled at the crook of her neck, and the black case she is always seen with lies beside her, its strap loosely curled in a hand. Her other hand, curled up to meet the kitten, has its fingers twitch occasionally to scritch at his ear, so perhaps she's not quite asleep, but she's certainly dozing - and at a time like this.

Confidence has left her unhurried, in multiple interpretations, and she has no interest in joining the circus of concern which has consumed Ohtori.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Naturally, the Student Council is hard at work identifying the culprits, and encourages the students not to worry over rumors of vampires of all things. Just as naturally, the curfew is sure to help, and they will all do what they can to keep the students safe.

Blah, blah, blah.

The sun is shining, the light is warm despite the coming sunset... and the beautiful gardens of Ohtori are only starting to take on the sinister shadows of twilight. It's just at the edges, really, how scary such an open and yet constrained place can be. But, the napping surely don't see that. No, with a little kitten in the mix, it is the very picture of good cheer.

Also, there's a 'click' and then a couple more, the sound of a shutter opening and closing even though that's not how cameras work on phones anymore, is just a required legal noise. Speaking of pictures--

If Mikoto cracks an eye she'll spot first a nondescript but expensive cellphone, then a gloved hand, then the fine fabric of an expensive suit. Black, naturally. A woman stands there, eyes unseen behind a strange mask, holding the phone, thumb on its front screen selecting 'picture' again with another click.

It has a smart cut, and she wears a lavender tie; her mask is highly stylized, concealing most of her face easily, and her dark hair is left loose. She has of course been seen before--

The Woman in Black is not the only one who could claim the title, but she has before, and she will again.

"How adorable," she comments blithely.

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

Mikoto has napped through monsters passing by before, and she no doubt will again.

There are signs, of course. The pad of quiet feet. The 'click' of a phone's obligations. The scent of venom and incense and tea.

She cracks open an eyelid. Of course.

Mikoto puffs a breath through her nose and it tickles at the kitten's fur, as she takes that hand and scoops it around her little friend, depositing him to the side even as her other hand grips at the strap of her sword-case. In the next moment she rises, her other hand going to the top of that case in preparation to draw her blade. They are smooth movements; blink too long and it might seem she goes straight from dozing to standing ready.

But she knows the Woman in Black better than to think she would ever, ever blink.

"What?" She demands, eyes narrowed, and it is a broad question. What do you want - what are you doing here - what's with the phone.

The kitten, wisely, scampers down the steps of the gazebo and off into a hedge.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

The woman standing doesn't really even try for complete stealth; it would be a wasted gesture... even if she wanted not to be heard. She knows Mikoto's senses fairly well, by now.

She smiles, beneath her mask, and dips her head and shoulders slightly, as if bowing in greeting. ...There's something light about it though, the edge of mocking like anything she does. And indeed, she does not blink.

She does glance at the photos she has though, save one, start apparently flipping through, judging from her hand gestures, though it seems she is now focusing on Mikoto.

"No small talk, no asking how my day was? I'm hurt."

She does not sound particularly hurt. Instead, she sighs, dramatically.

"Adorable," she explains. "Cute; inspiring soft and tender feelings. Pictures of kittens are terribly popular, I'm sure you're aware."

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

Fairly well - and learning a little more all the time.

Like the way Mikoto didn't look surprised by the time she opened her eyes.

It's in the little details, the things she doesn't think to hide. For all she has made some effort not to draw her blade unnecessarily, as she does now, it is not difficult to piece together that Mikoto is special. She doesn't even obscure her name with an alias.

The Woman in Black does not blink, and tries to talk casually, as if they're friends. Mikoto has come to expect it. She plays games like this.

"Know that," Mikoto snaps, irritation flashing over her face, after she tries to explain what 'adorable' means - as if Mikoto is too foolish to understand something so simple. She grinds out the words, making it very plain, because perhaps the Woman in Black is the one missing such an obvious point. "What - do you - want?" It is undeniable that there is an arrogance to her pronouns, what might have been intimate familiarity instead becoming rude in the context.

She has not bowed in greeting; she does not offer small talk. Mikoto is still trying to figure out if she has to hurt her.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

The devil is in the details, they say. Maybe it's true.

"Ah, my apologies," she replies, as if that reaction weren't precisely what she was soliciting. Mikoto doesn't really play social games like this--which of course is all the more reason to play them up even more, to keep the structure going when the dance's steps are non-obvious. She notes the rudeness, naturally.

It doesn't really faze her.

"Just this moment?" the taller of the two asks aloud, tilting her head idly, her brown hair dropping down past her shoulder, gravity's tug gentle enough. "Habanero ice cream," she muses thoughtfully. "That would be ideal for the moment."

A beat, as she straightens and flips through her gallery some more, "But also to remind you that I'm watching. You know we've had to speak before about some of your more... thoughtless excesses, yes?"

"I'm sure you remember. You're a smart girl, after all."

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

Ice cream. Of course. The Woman in Black plays games. She's... complicated. For every time she has met Mikoto in battle there is a time she has met Mikoto in the shadows to impart some wisdom or another, and Mikoto cannot trust her but her information, at least, is true.

It's a dance she doesn't know well. She is uncomfortable with enemies who help. Perhaps that's why the Woman in Black seeks her out on her own, sometimes, instead of greeting both her and Mai together.

But she gets to her point eventually, and recognition flashes in her eyes as the Woman in Black mentions the eyes which are on her, a breath hissing in past her grit teeth. Perhaps it is just the price she pays for what she learns from her. But it's not just her she's helped; it's not just her she's watching. Mikoto is a smart girl. She can figure it out.

The Woman in Black plays games, but even knowing that, it's hard not to get taken in, because Mikoto is not good at these games, and doesn't know how far she can go.

Now - now her gaze lowers, with her hands, as she stands down. She remembers. If she doesn't take care not to destroy so indiscriminately, they will all lose patience with her, and she will become one more pariah in the community. Worse - she might cause trouble for Mai.

"Haven't gotten in trouble lots..." She tries to defend herself, grumbly but no longer with the edge of aggression she had. This much, at least, is true - she's avoided getting into fights, except where Mai involves herself. Of course, she's still been out at night, no matter the curfew - but she hasn't gotten in trouble, so surely it's fine. "Tried to, not do so much damage." 'Tried' is the operative word. It's difficult for Mikoto not to surround herself with collateral damage.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Games are fun! ...Well, they're fun for her, anyway. Otherwise... is that important?

Obviously not.

Today may be another peaceable day, as it turns out, with the only weapon the masked woman is holding being the high-end cellphone in her hand.

There's the recognition though--there's the little spark, the hiss of breath... One tick mark down.

The Woman in Black seems to relax, too, shifting her stance somewhat, but then she already seemed relaxed; now she seems almost lazy. She can afford to be; Mikoto can make the connections on her own, now. ...For now, at least--the first ones.

"Yes, that's true," the woman with the purple tie allows. "You've clearly been making an effort. ...But trying won't be enough, soon. Tensions are rising; people will be looking for someone to blame. You've heard of the disappearing girls."

"It's an opportunity. You could lay low, naturally, or you could make a point of doing something the community would appreciate. Then the next time something goes..." She muses that, and then makes a little explosion noise, pshoooo.

"Well, people are more forgiving of their friends, aren't they?"

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

"Nothing to do with me!" Mikoto protests, looking up in alarm, as the Woman in Black casually brings up the girls who have been disappearing. Why would they think that was her fault? Even if she doesn't talk about her motives much, it's obvious she's not looking to just hurt random girls - right?

But it's an opportunity, she says, and Mikoto frowns as she looks away, humming discontent between closed lips. "Don't think they... appreciate what I do much," she says, of the community, and there is a shade of sadness to it. She doesn't fight like her friends. She doesn't have Madoka's arrows, which pierce enemies with tactical precision - or Eri's vines, to bind them - or the fiery shields Mai can employ, in fierce defence of her allies. She only does one thing, though she does it very well.

It should be no surprise that Mikoto first responds to the surface level of the Woman in Black's suggestion; she is an astoundingly literal girl.

It's only a moment later that she puts the pieces together, and gasps in another sharp breath, eyes widening as her chin ducks down.

Why would they need to forgive her?

What is she going to blame her for?

"What are you saying?" She asks, and her voice is thin.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

"I know that," she answers. "You know that. Mai Tokiha knows that. But do the others?"

The woman waves a hand, vaguely, a pleasant enough gesture that does not at all fit with the gravity of this discussion. Mikoto, of course, is right--much of the community does not appreciate what Mikoto does, what she can do, and what she tends to do.

But someone does.

"All the more reason," she continues pleasantly, as Mikoto takes that sharp breath, and the suited woman turns her head towards her again. It is not the most comfortable scenario, looking into a mask. "Hmmm?" she asks then, waiting. She lets it hang for one moment--two, three, stretching further, drawing it out.

Then, "Nothing yet. But don't you think it's inevitable that one of you--already with significant destruction in your pasts--will go a bit too far? You can try your best, but it's difficult for you... And it only takes one mistake. One mistake, while everyone is watching so closely."

"It's bound to happen. One way or another. Think on it. On the other hand, if you take care of what's going on... Then people would be very grateful, don't you think?"

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

Madoka would believe her, Mikoto thinks. Eri would believe her. Homura believes all sorts of things. Takeo would believe her.

... they'd believe her... wouldn't they?

Even though she's just Mai's friend...

Mikoto looks into that mask and her own face is drawn, in a different way entirely, tension in the arc of her brow and the way her lips pull down. It is difficult to intimidate someone like Mikoto, who is so intimidating in her own right. It takes a different approach entirely.

The Woman in Black plays games, she tries to remind herself. She is playing a game with her.

One of them - her eyes widen as she realises she includes Mai in her estimation. They are watching. They will make sure everyone knows if they slip up.

Or perhaps she's not talking about that sort of mistake at all, any more.

Perhaps Mikoto has received too many favours from the Woman in Black, in the twilight. But she could not have just ignored her words. She told Mikoto when Mai was in trouble. She's an enemy, but Mikoto can't just attack on sight; she didn't attack on sight. Because sometimes, the Woman in Black tells her things, and they're things Mikoto needs to know.

If she makes a mistake, and doesn't do what the Woman in Black says, it will come down on them both.

But if she handles the current situation...

Mikoto bows her head, eyes squeezing shut. "I understand," she says, with a note of defeated deference. "I'll take care of it, so... leave Mai alone."

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

They might, or they might not--regardless of whether it's true, it's all too easy for someone better at social games to call it into question, to cast doubt... Because regardless of whether it's true, there's no way to be absolutely sure until it happens. That's just how it is, isn't it?

The Woman in Black knows better than to use outright force with Mikoto; win or lose, it won't be the best use of their time. ...But this way, imagination can go a long way, can fill in gaps...

"There you are," she says, when Mikoto acknowledges it, gives that lowering of her head as her answer. "You don't need to do it alone, naturally--but the bigger the group, the less credit you'll get. Unfortunately, the world of the city trades on such things quite widely." She speaks as if about to sigh; how regretful, the corruption of man.

She pauses, there, and then turns around her phone.

"Personally, I think she looks much better with this kind of look, don't you?"

It's a picture of Mai Tokiha, at school; she seems to be smiling, looking to the side as if she might be talking to someone.

Powering off the display, the woman slides the phone back into a pocket. "We'll meet again."

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

The Woman in Black gives Mikoto instructions, and there is something there, beyond the way she tells her to do it with as little help as possible. The way she intimates the foibles of the city...

... as if Mikoto doesn't know.

And she does not think that she simply acts very country, not as she's struggling to keep up with the Woman in Black's games. She thinks that perhaps she knows, though she could not have known, though Mikoto has shared so little, and with precious few people.

How closely is she watching, Mikoto wonders, and pales in the thought.

It is a question she seems to answer in the next moment, as she turns her phone around, and reveals who else she has been watching. Mikoto raises her eyes to see and sees Mai, Mai in class, Mai as a perfectly normal girl in the perfectly normal life she values so highly.

And she looks better smiling, says the Woman in Black, as if mocking the way Mikoto has said that to Mai so much.

Mikoto shrinks back, breath coming past and shallow past open lips. "Why are you, doing this to us?" She asks, with tremulous voice, and it is meant as a demand but it comes out as a plea. "I'll - I'll tell Mai to be careful, you can't just... do this... not to Mai..." But her voice is small, and though she holds her sword-case in her hands she knows there are more people behind the Woman in Black, who would not hesitate if she struck her down. Perhaps she's even working with Nagi; they have the same sort of airs. It's too much for someone like Mikoto to handle at all.

<Pose Tracker> Shizuru Fujino [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Closely enough, it seems. The masked woman offers no facial expressions for Mikoto to read; her body language never changes from casual, pleasant, unconcerned with much of anything. And her voice doesn't give many clues, either. It must be particularly unpleasant--

Or maybe what she says is worse. Mikoto asks, and the woman turns back towards her, for a moment, simply standing there as that small voice questions and the woman in the suit seems to consider her.

"...The truth?" the woman asks, letting that hang, though it is obvious that she is not actually waiting for an answer.

"The truth is that I came here to offer you the opportunity as a favor. The two of you are much more useful to me active; while you may oppose me at times, in others your presence is quite welcome."

"...And yet," she says, and Mikoto might be able to imagine the sickle-smile, "I didn't have to do a thing to render you utterly terrified of what could happen. You know already how precarious your position is, how easily you could lose what you already have. You scared yourself enough that even if I'd wanted to, you'd have beaten me to it."

"That's very interesting, don't you think?" Another beat, as she starts to turn away again. "Don't worry," she says. "I won't forget."

Her shoes click against the stones as she begins to walk away.

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

It's certainly unsettling, to someone who relies so much on nonverbal communication.

The Woman in Black smells like snake-venom and she is as obscure as one, too.

She says it is a favour, an opportunity she has offered them. She wants them out there, fighting. "Mai doesn't like to fight..." Mikoto protests, looking down. She does not like to be thought of as 'useful'; it's an eminently uncomfortable thing, in her mind, like a little raft in the middle of a pond which looks so still and betrays nothing of its abyssal depth.

It's uncomfortable because it doesn't feel strange.

But the truth is evident to her even as she says it: perhaps if Mai does not like to fight, and the Woman is Black is seeking to use their strength, Mikoto has to fight instead. Perhaps if Mikoto is an active force against darkness, she can keep the Woman in Black happy, and she will not come after Mai.

They are thoughts interrupted as she goes on, with smiling tones. Mikoto flinches, teeth grit, face turning aside. Her brow knits, her nostrils flare, and her shoulders shift with shallow breath. She cannot trust the Woman in Black, but that does not mean the things she says are not true.

Her position is precarious, and she could lose everything so easily.

If she does the wrong thing...

... she's been doing something wrong, talking to the Woman in Black, hasn't she?

Mikoto swallows, chin ducked down against her neck. Her shoulders curl in around her chest, tensed against the trembling. The Woman in Black will not forget; she doesn't specify what she will remember, and it is a pit in Mikoto's stomach.

"... okay..." She says, quietly, as she leaves, and it is a miserable acceptance.

And it is not so unusual, for Mikoto to flaunt curfew and dodge past patrols in the wake of their lockdown. But now she is not looking to escape to the city, or to protest the tight grip they hold the student body in: this time she hunts with intent the source of the rumours which make everyone so scared.

She doesn't tell any of the magical girls she might meet with similar designs what brought on her change of heart.

... she just feels like helping now.

That's all.