2019-02-16 - TIMELINE 3: Dis/Closure

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Title: TIMELINE 3: Dis/Closure

Mikoto spits it out. She and Mai go on a date. Everything is okay. Nothing is going to go wrong.


Mikoto Minagi, Mai Tokiha


Ohtori - Dormitories, Nishitama Park

OOC - IC Date:

2019-02-16 - 2014-09-10/11

.******************** 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.
<SoundTracker> Yuki Kajiura - Because I Fell In Love With You... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_emRzTfkBg

When Mikoto came to Tokyo, she was suspicious - aggressive - impossible to reason with. Her danger was wordless and destructive. And when she knocked down Mai Tokiha, she was just one more obstacle in her way. Mikoto was fully prepared to steal her breath and her life, so that she could continue fleeing the pain in her mouth - except.

When her strength ran out, Mai did not capitalise on her weakness and destroy her. She took her home, she fed her... and even after she fled, revitalised, Mikoto would not forget. She came to Mai's defence. She realised she wanted to see her again, though she had such a vital task. And Mai let her stay. Mai helped her adjust. Mai translated her terse thoughts where others did not understand.

Mikoto is inexperienced with feelings, but she knows Mai is important. Mai might just be the most important girl in the world. ... and maybe this feeling of fondness for her fellow girls is 'love'. Of course, that would mean she loves Eri, too - and Homura, and Madoka, and Yumi. But Mai, most of all.

Mikoto would do almost anything, for Mai's sake.

That statement is not as charming as it appears.

Because Mai has received help from a sinister woman. She has told Mikoto when Mai was in peril, while Mikoto was busy searching. Without her suggestions, Mikoto may never have known, might have been left sure Mai hated her after she wasn't there to help. There are still times she is not there - but less, with information from shadowy parties.

Mikoto should have known there would be a cost. She could not have imagined that the Woman in Black would threaten Mai as well. It was frightening enough, realising how simple it would be to turn magical Tokyo against her - but she was not the only one being watched. The Woman in Black had eyes on Mai, too.

And the thought of something happening to stop Mai smiling was just too much to bear.

Apply the right sort of pressure, and it is so, so easy to control Mikoto.

Perhaps it is a kindness that the Woman in Black bid her to do something so easily accepted by her peers. Perhaps it is design which keeps Mikoto from recognising how much easier it is to get someone to commit to dark acts when they have agreed to do reasonable things.

Right now it is simple.

If Mikoto is a team player, Mai will be safe. If Mikoto fights for justice, Mai will be safe. If Mikoto obeys the Woman in Black's terms, Mai will be safe.

Mikoto cannot know that Mai has received her own missive - a demand not to fight - from a boy who much more favours white.

Mikoto can't know, because she hasn't spoken to Mai about why she's been disobeying curfew at all. She can't know that the two of them are dancing to different tunes entirely.

She's home now, though - perhaps a little later than she ought to be, a little more roughed-up than normal. With the advent of dinner they're in pyjamas, and Mikoto is busily leafing through a cookbook on the bed they've long shared by this point. She does not think of what she has to do, or the pressures she has brought upon them, or Orphans in the night which took to wing before her blade could cleave through. Her eyes are bright, and her smile is wide. "Mai, looks yummy!" She insists, pointing to a takoyaki recipe in the book. "Make this for me, Mai!"

More than anything, Mikoto knows she loves Mai's cooking!

But there's something about that thought which brings her thoughts back to a conversation in the woods, and she tilts her head as she considers the cookbook. Certainly it is true that Mikoto loves these moments, plain and direct and without complication. Even if there is complication in their lives, their relationship is not. There are no questions of duty or obligation here. She is with Mai because she wants to be.

And yet there are things they do not say, subjects they do not broach, thoughts they do not entertain. It is a matter of mutual politeness. Perhaps Mikoto did not even properly realise they were dancing around it - until someone barged in and pointed out the truth.

... and it's hard, because maybe if she says something, it will put Mai in more danger.

Whenever Mikoto has a hard problem like this, there's one person she's always asked for the right solution.

She puffs out a breath, looks sidelong over to the first friend she ever made. "Hey, Mai..." She trails off, more thoughtfully than the cookbook ought to inspire in her. "If I wanna say something, but, might make things hard... should I be honest, Mai?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Since transferring to Ohtori, it seems as though shadow after shadow has fallen over Mai's life.

Some shadows are more literal than others. The schemes of the likes of Beryl or Precia Testarossa left wounds on body and soul, and the ongoing rise of the Orphan menace has her looking over her shoulder more days than not. Besides that, there are precious few names she can unreservedly call 'friend'. Cheerful classmates know nothing of the world of magic, a fact that fills her with no small amount of envy. Those few champions she knows as ostensible allies in the fight against the dark...

Well, after some battles with Kagutsuchi, she knows how they might look at her. Besides which, even fewer of them might she know by name.

But it's not all doom and gloom. She has a handful of new friends who are privy to those secrets, and on occasion she can even meet two of them without a fight breaking out. Classes, while getting worse in difficulty, are honestly worth the tuition that Kazahana seems to have arranged, and Linden Baum is most definitely not the worst job she's ever worked.

It's not much light against the looming shadow, but it's a start.

As she tends to a handful of pots, she muses on Nagi's words. The brat in question is as obnoxious as he is mysterious, and never has Mai had a meeting that she hasn't wanted to set the white-haired boy on fire. Maybe just a bit, but every time... Still, in spite of his attitude, his advice has been...helpful enough. Tip-offs to disasters like the Garden of Time or the final battle against Beryl were sorely needed, and in spite of the ensuing pains Mai is glad she was there.


The cook's hand tightens around a ladle's handle, edge of the metal digging into her palm. Nagi can't be trusted as far as Takumi could throw him - even before Homura's conspiratorial ranting, that much she could be certain of. His demand that she stay out of the coming fights might be good advice...but it might also have some secret motive.

The stock pot begins bubbling, the smell of pork beginning to sear without Mai attending to it. It's not until Mikoto speaks up that the girl visibly jolts, looking around in a hurry before turning down that pot's burner. "Can't afford to get distracted like that...sorry, Mikoto, what were you looking at?"

She makes her way over, peering over the relaxing Mikoto's shoulder to see the bright picture of takoyaki. There's the faintest wince while Mikoto peruses the pages, Mai's mind running through the contents of their kitchen. They don't have the equipment, and new tools aren't necessarily cheap...but.

"That does look good...maybe the next time octopus goes on sale. Unless you want to try just catching one like those fish..." A wistful smile finds its way to Mai's face, and she rests the ladle in her hand against her shoulder. "That wasn't a serious suggestion, mind - the grocery store should be fine."

It's worth it, after all. Life here in the dorm room...it was a little weird a year ago, but at this point it's become a comfortable part of her life. Spirits renewed by just that moment of proximity, she makes her way back to the stove. "Just about time to start the frying...and get the kettle going."

There are, admittedly, a couple of things left to do for supper. The soup broth is done, the vegetables chopped - but there's water to boil for the noodles, and she still has to cook the pork cutlets. One stove burner roars, distantly reminiscent of her Child as the oil in the pan heats up to a bubble. As Mai reaches to pick up the first pork steak to dredge and begin frying, she looks up at Mikoto's thoughtful words.

"If you want to say something..." Mai considers the question for a moment. There's plenty she hasn't said to Takumi...but those have been things she doesn't want to put her voice to. "...It'd be harder to pretend everything's just fine, right? If you think it's something you can say, if you really want to say it...then yeah, I'd say you should be honest."

Dredge, dredge, and Mai moves to oh-so-carefully drape the prepared meat into the sizzling pan.

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

"Octopus is easy!" Mikoto insists, brashly, and perhaps it's good that Mai clarified a moment later. It's not hard to imagine Mikoto going out to catch an octopus. Knowing Mikoto, it would probably be giant.

But Mai has helpful advice, and Mikoto hums thoughtfully as she listens. If she wants to say it...

... she's right, isn't she? Besides, Mai can take care of herself too. Even if the Woman in Black causes trouble, Mai's the strongest girl Mikoto knows! Well, certainly the strongest one she likes, anyway. There are a few distant girls, whom her destruction does not agree with, who might come close - the likes of Sailor Moon.

"Right!" Mikoto chirps, with new determination. She has no experience in this field, but luckily, Kozue gave her specific suggestions. And so she leans on her elbows and asks, quite plainly: "Mai, ever date girls?" Mikoto does not realise the ambiguity between 'would you' and 'have you'; she thinks it is obvious.

She also does not think to wait until Mai's done working with the pan.

Mikoto is good at a lot of things, but thinking ahead was never really her strong suit.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Octopus would surely be easy for Mikoto!

So would a kraken.

This is why Mai clarified as quickly as possible. She's known Mikoto long enough to predict how these things will go, and knows all too well the importance of getting ahead of these things.

Hubris is terribly cruel, though. Mai had believed she had prevented a disaster, and Mikoto's followup question was innocuous enough that she thought nothing of it. Her focus, such as it is, is almost entirely on carefully dipping this meat into boiling oil-

"W-what?!" Splat. Mai had been laying the pork steak away from herself, because kitchen safety is in fact a thing - but her train of thought is thoroughly derailed, and she drops the ball entirely. There's a loud hiss as the meat splatters into the pan, a spat as the hot oil sloshes over the side of the pan, and then a foomph as their kitchen's gas stove ignites the spill. Flames dance around the pan, illuminating Mai's panic.

"That - I - who told you that?! She promised she'd keep it secret - oh, I am going to have words with her..." She glances around frantically, as if searching for some kind of escape - and only then does Mai Tokiha notices the fact that her stove is on fire. "I, uh, one minute Mikoto!"

There is a brief flurried scramble for a pot lid, which Mai slams down on the rising flames without hesitation. Fire is a familiar friend, after all, and this is far from her first kitchen incident. For a long few moments, she's breathing heavily - a panic not entirely born of the burning chaos.

"There was...one time? Kind of short-lived, and a...special situation. Not bad, exactly, I just know that I wasn't exactly a great catch for her..." Her hands on the lid before her, Mai looks down at the supper that's hopefully not ruined. There's...not much to tell, right? Mikoto probably doesn't want details, does she?...

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


"Mai!" Mikoto yelps, in alarm, as the flames start doing something they're distinctly not supposed to. She pushes herself up in an instant, cookbook forgotten as she scrambles to the kitchen proper. "Mai, fire!"

Luckily, Mai realises, and slams down a pot lid before it can get any worse. Mikoto frowns, looking from the grip she has on that handle, to the way her shoulders move with her breath. "Mai's okay?" She presses, concerned, putting a hand on her shoulder as if to remind her to breathe less violently. "Sorry... Kozue said Mai'd fall over, but, I thought that question was easier..." Perhaps that name is surprising; Mikoto says little to Mai about her friendship with Kozue. She frowns, looking back towards the pan. "Didn't mean to make Mai upset."

The corner of her lip scrunches up, and perhaps that name explains how she does not jump to a hunter's explanation of Mai's last line. "Mai's good," she insists, stubborn in the face of her self-depreciation.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It takes the hand on Mai's shoulder to pull her out of whatever thoughts had embroiled her. Slowly, she breathes a little more easily; slowly the deathgrip on that pot lid relaxes. "...I'm okay, Mikoto. Sorry for, uh..." She trails off without bothering to put words to exactly what the heck that was.

The mention of Kozue's name brings a grimace and a sigh. "Of course she'd say that...I swear, Mikoto, half your friends seem to get perverse joy out of messing with me." There's a pause, followed by another sigh. "Aaaand half of mine don't get along with you, so fair's fair I guess. It's fine, it was just...surprising."

When she lifts the lid, a sudden cloud emerges from beneath. Not smoke, as it might have seemed at first glance, but steam; even with open flame extinguished, hot oil tends to retain a fair bit of heat. The sight of the meat still sizzling seems to reawaken Mai's cooking spirit; in a trice, she's ignited a separate burner entirely, moved the pan, and taken up chopsticks to flip the cutlet.

"A little scorched, but it should be all right. The second one will be better, I swear - at least, as long as you don't derail me with another of Kozue's questions at the wrong time." She winks, and finishes the fiddly bit of work. As the meat starts sizzling on the other side - the first side just dark of golden - she leans against the nearby counter. "So, that'll need a few minutes - any other bombs to drop, now that I'm not working on something that's on fire?"

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

"Kozue wasn't!" Mikoto protests, and at first she does not say what Kozue was doing, if not messing with Mai. Certainly, it's the most logical explanation. Kozue does an awful lot of messing with people.

Still, it's true that Mai's friends do not always get along with Mikoto. Even her normal friends are suspicious of her. That Chie girl is constantly keeping an eye on her, trying to figure out whether she's really the source of half the rumours in the school.

It's annoying, because Mikoto is usually just trying to nap.

Mikoto leaves Mai to her cooking, hand lifting to brush her braids back behind her ear, because Mikoto does not want to interrupt Mai doing something so important. Even if there is something to her assertions which makes Mikoto regret not being able to say it. She was trying to say Mai was a good catch. She isn't getting any proof to the contrary.

And then Mai asks, and Mikoto blinks, looking back up at her.

"Kozue was just trying to help me," she explains, finally, an awkward sort of cast to her words, glancing aside with a light frown. "'Cause I never... that stuff wasn't for me, so I didn't ever..." How can she explain something so complicated? Mikoto did not need to know about romance; Mikoto only needed to know about one thing.

Mikoto shakes her head, braids flicking across her face, as she dispels her uncertainties. "Mai!" She insists, fiercely, fists curling at her sides as she looks up to her again, because she hasn't forgotten what gave her courage in the first place. "Wanna date?!"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Sizzle, sizzle. Burble, bubble. Almost everything is done - it's just cooking the meat and noodles that remains. The smell of cooked pork fills the air, and sliced vegetables gleam in a nearby bowl.

It's easy, standing in this kitchen, to forget the drama of the school day...but every morning, heading off to classes, the shadow of those suspicions loom long. Still, right now it's just the two of them, in nice cozy quarters.

When Mikoto brushes those braids, Mai reflexively brushes at her own bangs. It's warm in the kitchen, after all.

"Help? How could she..." Reflex and suspicion, perhaps, but Mikoto elaborates. It's something that silences any kind of snide remarks from Mai in an instant; her experience, tangential as it might be, with Mikoto's other lacks in socialization make it all to clear that the poor girl's never had any kind of talk about that kind of thing.

And Mai explaining that would be awkward in some inexplicable way, so she privately thinks a brief word of thanks to Kozue for jumping on that grenade.

With a frown, Mai pulls the cooked cutlet from the oil. It's still sizzling, even when removed to a plate, but it's crisply cooked all around. Pattern recognition isn't completely foreign, though, and Mai looks back to the concentrating Mikoto before putting the next piece in...

...which really worked out for the best. The cutlet drops, but only back into the flour from which it came. "Date?! You mean - you and me?"

She doesn't answer right away, because in an instant Mai is aware of how many oil stains there are on her apron, how long it's been since she last washed her hair, the fact that her current t-shirt has holes cropping up at the hems. Her mouth opens once or twice, trying to find words to answer - but they don't seem to be coming. It's a matter of-

The kettle starts whistling, steam billowing near Mai's face. The girl springs away from the unexpected cloud, waving frantically at it as she tries to buy a few seconds to think. It's time to put the next cutlet in the oil, so she occupies herself with that for a moment, getting the meat to start sizzling. What answer would be right? Can she even spare the time for something like...

...to hell with it.

"I mean. We'd have to work around my schedule at the diner, either a day off or make it a late-evening kind of...outing. But I guess...if you're okay working around that...we could try?"

It's really warm in the kitchen. That would be why her face feels hot. Simple logic.

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

Do any of those things matter? Baths are horrible, Mai's shirt basically does what society expects it to do, and every oil stain is just evidence of another meal she has cooked. (Which were all delicious, just for the record.) Mikoto frowns as she considers Mai carefully, and with no small alarm as she springs up like a startled cat.

Did she say the wrong thing? Her face creases in concern as she wonders, an uncertain tilt to her brow and a tenseness at the corners of her lips. Maybe it isn't different with girls after all. Maybe she did something wrong...

Her worries are swept aside as Mai makes her guesses, replaced by a bright smile. "Really?!" She asks, and there's no hiding how thrilled she is at the suggestion. "Let's go tomorrow! Mai's not working, right? Right?" Perhaps it's strange to think Mikoto pays so much attention to Mai grousing about her schedule - or perhaps it isn't strange at all. "We'll have fun, Mai!"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Hygiene and appearance matter at least a little bit to Mai. Sure, it's not everything, but it's something - and something she can find appealing on occasion, too. She doesn't indulge herself in people-watching too much - since she tries not to indulge herself on much of anything - but she has a type.

(Utena Tenjou's basketball games are a bit too crowded, anyway.)

So she's a bit sheepish, especially at Mikoto's very careful consideration. She has something on her face, doesn't she? Or maybe she smells like bacon, that at least explains why Takeo Akamizu is a recurring presence.

Mikoto's very obvious cheer, though, is infectious. It takes a moment's thought before Mai remembers her own day off, but when it comes to mind she's smiling almost as brightly. "...I'd forgotten. You're right, tomorrow's free - let's go for it!"

It's just a date.

Between girls.

Who share a bed.

...this kitchen is very warm and oh look that cutlet needs flipping. As the other side of the meat starts sizzling, Mai starts setting up the noodles. A large mixing bowl partly filled with dried noodles, to which she adds some boiling water. It won't take too long to cook them, and then...

"For now, though, it's supper time. Could you get the soup bowls, Mikoto? The big ones, I wound up going all out tonight."

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

Mikoto has a type, too!

It's called 'Mai Tokiha.'

That's what a type is, right?

... perhaps there's something there, in the way she has never realised these sorts of feelings for anyone before. Perhaps there's a story worth telling in the way it took Mikoto so very, very long to feel comfortable enough with Mai to realise just how much she loved her.

Almost as if...

Mikoto brightens, as Mai remembers, and her name is overjoyed. "Mai!" She nods, firmly, and she, at least, does not look particularly scandalised, because she hasn't realised what would make Mai so bothered at all. (Sleeping, after all, is just sleeping. There's nothing strange about it.)

She nods again, with a cheerful affirmative noise, as Mai requests the large bowls. Mikoto spins on a heel to go and retrieve them, setting them out. "Mai's food is the best," she chirps, happily.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

There's probably a story there. It would be dishonest if Mai were to say that some of Mikoto's...issues don't make her wonder.

But, at the same time...it's good to be honest about things you want to say. Whatever curiosity Mai has, it's not worth ruining the peaceful happiness that comes from having Mikoto by her side. She has her own secrets, and Mikoto has hers - and that's fine and normal.

As she pulls the second cutlet from the oil and turns off the stove, Mai takes a moment to think to herself. A date. In those actual words, said directly by Mikoto, it's going to be a date. They've started dating. No more of it just being the two of them living together, sharing meals, sleeping in the same bed, having each others' backs against a world of dangers, trusting each other to the point that just being near each other brings happiness.

...how long have they been dating, again?

Mai laughs to herself, and starts cutting the cooked meat into long strips. Once Mikoto has the bowls set out, Mai gives her an even brighter smile. "Thanks, Mikoto - for the help, and the compliment. Admittedly, this is a new recipe, but hopefully it'll work out...

Into the bowls, layers. A pile of cooked ramen noodles, followed by the sliced vegetables - leeks, carrots, corn, and so forth. Over all this, she ladles the soup broth - boiling the pork bone seems to have taken forever, but the smell seems to have made it worthwhile. Finally, on top of the steaming soup she sets the sliced fried pork steak - long strips of crispy-coated meat just ready for chopsticks.

Served with a smile, it's supper time.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Fall Out Boy - The Kids Aren't Alright https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuGUUZqNfjE

It's fine - it's normal.

It's all clicking into place.

Mikoto does not realise how obvious it is, how obvious it has been. She's never done anything like this before. Perhaps she never will again. But - right now - she is happy.

She is happy, because talking to Mai worked out. She didn't have to hide how she felt. Mai understood. Mai didn't run away.

"It will!" She insists, with no room for argument. "I can tell! Smells good!" And Mai must know by now to trust Mikoto's sense of smell. She perches in a chair, hands grasping the side of the table as she waits for her to finish serving it up.

Her confidence is backed up by her enjoyment; even with that little fire incident, it's a good dish. Mikoto loves Mai's cooking, and she's not shy about saying why. But it's not just Mai's cooking Mikoto can appreciate, either. Mikoto can love Mai, too!

The next day... there's so much which can be done, in an afternoon. In the safety of Nishitama Mikoto and Mai enjoy a day outside, away from the troubles of Ohtori and the demands which have been placed on them. Mikoto impresses Mai by clambering up anything she can climb, balancing on a foot, the other outstretched - as if it were the most casual thing in the world, and she was not perilously high. She amuses Mai by outdoing the local dogs at frisbee, and compliments Mai on the bento she has packed for them. And when Mai entrusts Mikoto with the weight she feels over the directions she is being pulled, her own obligations and duties, fighting or standing aside, Mikoto's advice is simple:

"Mai is Mai, so do what you want."

And perhaps at first it seems like encouraging advice, the sort of fierce individualism HiME are supposed to display, which Mikoto encapsulates so well. Unlike Mai, Mikoto does not struggle with the question of being HiME; she does not mourn a normal life. In all respects it seems Mikoto is an exemplar.

Perhaps, on a surface level, this is true.

But there is more to her words; there is always more to her words. Mai can handle the situation however she likes - because she is Mai. Mai has leave to enforce her will on the world - because she is Mai. Because she is Mai...

A heart like Mikoto's has been forged for one method, and one alone.

The new experiences Tokyo has offered her must cede to the model carved in its jagged edges.

And she will understand her love for Mai as devotion.

And for someone so important,

s 	w 	d 	a 	.
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