2019-02-21 - TIMELINE 3: Secrets and Sharp Edges! The Trouble We're In

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Title: TIMELINE 3: Secrets and Sharp Edges! The Trouble We're In

Mikoto opens up about the pressures certain mysterious figures have been putting on her, and her feelings after the incident at the refinery, but Eri has her own feelings about death and obligation.


Mikoto Minagi, Eri Shimanouchi


Ohtori Academy

OOC - IC Date:

2019-02-21 - 2014-09-13

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

The Sports Festival goes on, and Mikoto found her way to Mai again. Not competing - just spending time with her. But Mai has been called to take part in an event, and so Mikoto is alone again. She sits on the uppermost line of bleachers, far away from the students who have gathered around the action - and leaving no space behind her where she might be observed. Regardless of her distance she seems perfectly able to watch the action below; her eyes are keen, after all.

But as much as she is watching Mai, she is watching the crowd, a hand resting lightly on the black case beside her.

She knows they are being watched. She has no intention of letting them hurt Mai. She does not think they would attack in the open - but perhaps they are waiting. Next time, Alyssa said; next time. But when would she put forward her dark offer? It is nothing they would like, Mikoto is certain of that.

But the HiME are not well-beloved, compared to paragons like Pretty Cure. Each HiME Mikoto knows has a fierce independent streak - whether her own obscure ends, Mai's reluctance to get involved, or the intent conspiracy-hunting Natsuki devotes herself to. They are all self-interested.

(It strikes Mikoto that perhaps Natsuki would be the most qualified person to ask now a shadowy group has declared their intentions - but Natsuki is an enemy, and Mikoto cannot go to her for help.)

The only true team player amongst them was Midori, and Midori is dead.

And Mikoto still remembers the Woman in Black's words.

It would be easy, so easy, to turn the world against Mai - let alone Mikoto. And Mikoto is not prepared to let Mai be destroyed by Alyssa, or Miyu, or the girls in golden masks. Mikoto loves Mai. Mikoto will do whatever she has to do to keep Mai safe.

They are thoughts which draw her expression in quiet intensity, as she watches the crowd below. Like she's tracking a bird, and she's just about to strike, lashing out to grasp hand about wing before it can hope to flee.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

A sports festival is a snapshot in the social dynamics of Ohtori. Not just between boys and girls, but within boys and girls as well.

One Eri Shimanouchi isn't actually bad at physical activity. Yet she knows there'd be very few people cheering for her in any of the events today. Instead, she's considering just sitting with Homura Akemi throughout it.

What was more telling than that fact?

Whispers among the supernatural community was that Midori Sugiura was dead. And Eri isn't sure what to think of that fact. Midori had treated her alright - up until a certain event. Then it felt like she was always a little terse in her interactions with her.

Threading through the bleachers, Eri sees no sign of Homura Akemi, and so she starts removing her sketchpad from her bag, expecting to spend her time that way. However then she spies Mikoto Minagi on the top row of the bleachers.


Stopping to regard her from a distance for a while, she finally continues forward, sliding her sketchpad back as she goes. And instead fishing around for something else.

Mikoto suddenly is face to face with a wrapped granola bar that's being dangled in her vision. "All that staring has got to have made you hungry." The girl says as she drops her bag down on the silver metal of the bleachers, and takes a seat beside her, still dangling the granola bar in her reach. "How about you take a break, Mikoto-chan? I can watch for you..."

Whether the other girl takes the bar or not, she puts her hands on her lap. "Everything that happened at that refinery must have really spooked you - huh?"

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

Sitting with Homura Akemi isn't a bad method to pass the day. Mikoto's done some of it, herself, even if Homura tried to relate everything back to her outlandish theories at the worst possible time.

What she has done none of at all is compete in events - even when her name was called. She's been a complete non-factor in this event, even less than she was last year. At least she managed to stun people with a few feats of athleticism, in Juuban. This time --

-- well, she says there's no point.

That's what she says.

Mikoto sees Eri on her approach, intent as she is on her surroundings; but Eri is a friend, and even if suspicion has fallen on her, Mikoto has never been one to listen to gossip. As a friend, she filters her out of her observations; she's not a threat. (The whips are entirely different.)

It means that her head jerks up, when suddenly her field of view is taken up by a granola bar, a surprised noise halting from her throat. "-- Eri?" She blinks at it, for long moments, before she reaches up and takes it; with a crinkle of packaging she frees it from its prison and summarily begins biting into it.

Chomp - chomp - chomp. At first Eri's questions go entirely unanswered, but it's hardly abnormal; it's a rare day when Mikoto doesn't devour food as soon as it's in front of her. Perhaps Eri meant it as a joke, but it is true that the tension which runs through her body is demanding. She has been ready to fight for some time now. It's not an easy state to maintain.

And then she swallows, and remembers to breathe. "Thanks," she says, smiling as she looks over to her. It's honest gratitude.

It doesn't last, because Eri did ask something, after all.

Mikoto frowns, crinkle-crackling the wrapper in a hand. "Eri heard, right?" She asks, as her eyes track over the crowd. There's a hollow sort of cast to her words as she glosses over it: "Midori's gone." Midori was annoying, at times; she was always telling Mikoto to be better. But Midori believed in her - not just magically but scholastically - and Mikoto had to acknowledge what a good person she was.

"Was..." Mikoto does not know the word 'premeditated'. "... planned. They wanted us, Eri. HiME." Here she looks at the nearest students, a few rows down, eyes casting left and right in her suspicion.

Her voice lowers. "Eri - girls in golden masks - they wanted us all there. One... made sure I'd... listen," she admits in halting mora, shame crossing into her voice. Crackle goes the wrapper as her hands tighten to fists. "But she wanted Mai active, too. Wanted Mai there. If Mai hadn't told me Mai wasn't sure about fighting, during date," during WHAT, "maybe I'd asked Mai for help, and..."

Mikoto does not finish her sentence.

She hardly needs to.

"Alyssa's gonna make another offer," she says, instead. "I'm not gonna let Mai get hurt." And Mikoto has always been the first to espouse how powerful Mai is, but the tension on her face suggests there is a very real threat - even to someone like Mai Tokiha.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

Death and Eri Shimanouchi had an uneasy understanding. It can happen at any time. To anyone. It can be on purpose, or it can be an accident.

Was it truly an accident?

It's a question she asks herself every day, as if the answer might change after the fact. Right now though, she just nods as her eyes scan ahead of her. "Yeah, I heard." There's this light sigh, "I don't know... how I feel about that. Am I supposed to take them more seriously because they're willing to kill? What do they think sending a message is supposed to get across to the HiME?"

Eri slowly slides her hands off her lap, onto her palms. "Submit or die? I mean isn't that what kind of message Dark Fall tries to send us all the time? All of us, any of us can die on any given day to some monster." And then she adds, in a sotto voce, "Or to another Magical Girl. So the only thing more threatening is that it's so pointed - so personal..."

Eri's eyes try to find Mai on the field. "That you're being targetted specifically. That they sought you out specifically, to try to intimidate you. Well that just makes them more assassins - but still not much different than monsters..."

Though then she looks at Mikoto out of her periphery. "Madoka-chan tells me all the time it's not good to kill. That she'd rather us not fight each other if there's an alternative... but these people don't sound like they're not going to give us a choice."

So she concludes lightly on, "...We'll take care of our own. Come what may. Right Mikoto?"

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

Surely there are some girls who don't believe it.

Mikoto, for her part, has never confronted Eri on the matter, never demanded she explain herself. Perhaps Mikoto understands better than most how violent a battle can get - the ends to which it can go. She knows that Eri is a good person; she says it often enough.

Eri wonders on their message, their motives, and Mikoto frowns as she watches the crowd. Perhaps she might catch the way her gaze drops down, the little tilt of her head, as she mentions the way Mikoto was intimidated. In her life, Mikoto is utterly shameless; it might be strange to see her ashamed.

"Assassins and monsters," she says, finally, "they're different, Eri."

A girl cannot be a monster; but an assassin?

She shakes her head; her braids whip at her face. "... right. I won't let them hurt Mai." Mikoto looks to Eri: "or any of you." That's the way it's always been; Mai has always been the centre of Mikoto's world, as far as most people can tell. She so rarely speaks of her motives, after all. It's part of why she's so suspicious.

It's strange, because trying to find a lost family member seems like a perfectly innocuous quest, and yet she has only mentioned her Lord Brother to the people she is close to, and never once in detail.

"Maybe Madoka could stop Miyu..." Mikoto wonders, but there is honest uncertainty in her voice and this, this is surely a portent of misfortune; Mikoto openly admires Madoka's unassailable strength. If her belief wavers - the threat must be immense. "But I don't think Madoka gets stuff like this. They don't hesitate. No," she pauses as she thinks of the word, a light frown of concentration crossing her face, "negotiation."

In order to talk someone down, first they must be willing to talk.

Perhaps that's why it's so hard to stop Mikoto in the middle of a battle.

"Miyu's not human," Mikoto explains, after a pause, as if she has just realised she's forgotten this important detail. "It's why Miyu's weird. Turned arm into sword - cut Gakutenou in half. Gakutenou couldn't react." And Midori has made herself enough of a spectacle that surely Eri knows the meaning of that: Gakutenou is swift as the wind.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"I suppose." Eri says in the mildest kind of agreement. What's the difference between monsters and girls, other than you can kill monsters without remorse? Though perhaps she's caught the way Mikoto looks ashamed - and has decided to break off into kind of conversation rather than make the other girl feel worse.

"Well if anyone could - it'd be her." Eri says lightly, despite the knowledge that Mami was there too. Madoka is stronger than Mami in a fight. "Hmm."

With her palms back, Eri looks sideways, not at Mikoto precisely, "When you put it like that - it sounds like you're looking down on her Mikoto. I don't think she'd hesitate. I think she understands why people think they need to kill better than you know. It's just she doesn't agree with it. Maybe she'd have shot an arrow at Miyu's arm... or leg. Or just peppered the area with so many arrows that Miyu was pinned down and couldn't hurt anyone."

The girl does debate though when Mikoto tells her that. She'd certainly seen Miyu around campus, usually with Ohtori's golden angel. The way the two interacted though... she wouldn't think...

"You say that. And I believe you. She has to be something... different... to be able to pull off something like that. However..."

Her eyes crease the field, "... the way I hear it, it sounds like there's something they're striving to accomplish, no matter what the cost might be to people like you - or Mai-chan... or Midori-sensei."

There's a pregnant kind of pause, as she let's it linger in the air, "What could be more human than that?"

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

Mikoto frowns, with a grunt of frustration. "Eri doesn't get it," she says, and grief sharpens her words, though she keeps her voice quiet. "Miyu's too fast. Nothing - anyone could do." Her bottom lip trembles as it draws down, exposing her teeth in a grimace. "I was helpless. Everyone was."

Because if someone could have acted faster than Miyu, herself moving quicker than even Mikoto's eyes could track - then perhaps she could have known - perhaps she could have stopped it.

Perhaps she would not have seen the debt collected.

Oh - she hates it. Hates the fear, hates the grief, hates the anger and the sorrow and the tension.

She takes a breath; it trembles. "They believe," she says, and the words are numbed. She remembers the White Queen. She does not contest how human it is. "Really believe. Say they've been... influencing world for thousands of years. That... Searrs needs HiME's power for their Golden Age. But... they're willing to kill. Can't need all of us." She cannot guess how many is enough. She doubts any of the HiME she cares about would be considered docile enough to let live for their ends.

Mikoto folds and re-folds the wrapper in her hands, biting at her lip in thought. "... and it's weird. There was Orphan, vampire. Working with them. Being smart. It's not normal. Orphans don't got purpose like people do." Just as Eri knows Witches, Mikoto knows Orphans; she has let them pass now and then when they weren't a threat, but she understands them intristically. She was born to fight them.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"Don't say that I don't get it." There's nothing angry in her tone. Nothing severe. It's just soft, remonstrative in a way. "Don't say that I don't know what it's like to be helpless against an overwhelming force."

The way Mikoto puts it, Miyu's speed is terrifying. However, she's been helpless before, ambushed by an invisible foe that strung her up like a turkey. Made her stare down the barrel of a crossbow that was meant to be an execution.

"I once fought a girl that made me feel that way. Like there was nothing that I could do. Nothing that could be done. Do you know what happened to that girl?"

The girl looks sideways at Mikoto. "I grew strong enough that she couldn't make me feel that way anymore. And then... she died. To a stupid - accident."

The girl just keeps looking Mikoto's way. "If you sit here - and just keep feeling overwhelmed by how helpless you felt, then you're going to keep feeling that way every time you face her. That's the way she wants you to feel. Just like Queen Beryl wanted everyone to feel - or Precia Testarossa wanted everyone to feel. To make you feel small, while they seem so big - bigger than you."

Eri makes this small gesture, "So be careful - but don't act like you're helpless just because they're different. So long as you keep on living - then those things that terrify you right now. One day... you'll be able to stare back and scare them."

There's a moment's pause before she adds, "As for why they can control Orphans... I don't know. Maybe there's some weird science... magic thing they can do? Or maybe they created them? I don't really know much about Orphans. Do you know where they come from?"

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

Well, Mikoto does tend to assume certain experiences. It's hardly malicious. People assume she doesn't know things about Tokyo all the time. They're right. Generally, so is she.

Green meets gold and Mikoto looks away first, ceding ground with her gaze as it flicks down. "I didn't mean..." She begins to protest, but the words die in her throat.

Mikoto managed to avoid Beryl and Precia both. She had her own task to see to, while the magical girls of Tokyo were busy saving the world. Perhaps it is why she is so shaken now; certainly it is part of why there is so little love for her in their community.

"Dunno," she says, of Orphans. "Nagi knows that stuff. Nagi's annoying." Not a liar, not the way Homura tells it; but a pest, certainly.

Mikoto takes a breath - another.

She glances back, finally. "... I do," she says, and does not specify precisely what she is responding to. "Already learned to do that. But can't I --" here her voice cracks and her breath comes in a sharp gasp, and she squeezes her eyes shut, shoulders curling in around her.

"Can't I feel stuff too?" She asks, and the question is gossamer-thin, like a veil woven from spider's silk. "Everyone thinks I can, just, fight, and nothing bothers me... but just 'cause I can't let it, doesn't mean I don't feel it, Eri. I - Midori was --"

Mikoto bites again at her lip, this time with force which whitens the edges of pink lips, as she fiercely shakes her head. "Sorry. I - I know. I can't... I gotta look out for Mai. It's okay. It's okay," she says, again, as if it is a mantra which will protect her.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

There's something about the way Mikoto looks after that, that makes Eri feel like she kicked a puppy. And for a while she's pretty quiet, feeling ashamed about the fact that she did. Mentally kicking herself over it. Not even doing more than a little nod as Mikoto says that of Orphans.

However then Mikoto finally does respond meaningfully and she feels herself holding her breath a little, waiting for her to actually ask, when she cuts herself off the first time. Observing the way she made her miserable. She doesn't like herself very much in this moment.

You feel the way you feel...

And Eri just says quietly, "Sorry... I'm... sorry. I'm not any good at this. Even though someone taught me what I should be doing..."

Her own posture hunches a bit, "Of course you feel how you feel. Of course you're allowed to hurt." She takes a deep breath, closing her eyes for a moment, "It's just whenever I hear about someone dying... it sorta makes me feel like I'm on the defensive. Like I'm trying to keep myself from feeling... bad about it all over it again. Even if it's about someone else."

Because it's like the subject of death causes many other girls to look at her. Someone who had inflicted it to someone.

Then even though her eyes are closed, she sorta looks away to the side, like she's ripping away from something painful, "... I guess I didn't want you to feel bad too, like I could protect you from it but... Sugiura-sensei dying is not the same thing. So it was tone deaf and... defensive of me for no reason..."

After another moment she whispers, "Sorry."

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

Even though someone taught her...

Well, someone taught Mikoto too, but she still messes up a lot.

For instance, the way she wasn't thinking of Eri's own pain at all. Mikoto glances over as she shares her worries, humming concern through closed lips. "Eri..."

She looks down at her hands, trouble written on the crease of her brow, the tug of her lips. It's frustrating, in a way, the way they try to protect her; underestimate her. They make assumptions just like she does, but she does not see her own in quite the same light. But...

Even so, Eri still cares about her, enough to try and make her not feel sad.

Finally Mikoto shifts on the bleacher, scooching closer to Eri, and leans against her. "Eri was trying to help, right..?" She says, quietly. "... thanks, Eri." She knows, she knows that being able to help is important; being able to contribute is valuable. Homura let her know so recently.

"I've been... acting weird," she admits, and in a way admits fault. "I even got attacked. It's just, Midori's dead, and... I dunno how I'm feeling, but it's bad. I guess I lashed out..." And here, certainly, she takes the blame, as guilt enters her tone. "I want it to make sense."

'With that much power, cost makes sense. 'Course it's fair.'

Mikoto shakes her head. "But it's okay, Eri. This stuff doesn't bother me, when I'm fighting. So I won't be scared."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

One wouldn't expect to have to think of someone else's pain right now though. Right? Opening her eyes eventually, she does look back hesitantly, "Not very well." There's a ghost of a smile though as Mikoto thanks her. "... you're welcome."

The girl relaxes a little, though she's still obviously tense, which Mikoto would notice as she leans against her.

"I don't think it's weird... I guess I underestimated how much... you'd feel about her. But... she's a HiME too. And that's frightening, to think you or someone you care about could be next."

There's a light pause though. "It's understandable to look for sense in the senseless... meaning in it. They'd probably tell you that the meaning is in what they're trying to create."

Feeling her shoulder against Mikoto's shoulder, there's a certain weight, like they're supporting each other up from falling.

"What gives them meaning though - is cold comfort for us. I don't think there is any in... someone dying. I used to try to think of ways to create meaning... but that just made me more miserable. Because then you try to uphold that meaning and... it rarely does. It just gets harder. I think it's easier to focus on giving meaning to life than it is to death."

After a while though, she says softly, "... I'm scared too. I don't want you to or Mai-chan to get taken away from me."

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

Mikoto thinks on it, on what Midori means, on what it all means, and she leans against Eri and Eri leans against her and together they reach some sort of equilibrium, even if it is a little miserable.

Because Eri is tense, and Mikoto is tense, and perhaps they are tense for different reasons, but the effort is the same.

She tucks the wrapper into a pocket, and reaches out to take Eri's hand, as she admits that she is scared as well. "I'll always be here when Eri needs me," she says, and this much, at least, is true; for all that Mikoto does not involve herself in the issues of magical Tokyo on her own terms, she has always stepped in to help her friends when they asked. "I love Eri, so I'm not going away. And I won't let anything happen to Mai, neither, 'cause I love Mai too."

It is the first time she has said she loves her, instead of the things she does.

Mikoto looks for sense in many places.

"... Midori annoyed me," she supposes, again, but the tone is different now, more reflective. "But Midori thought I was good at school. Everyone else thinks I'm not good at it... but, not about how close I was. Someone died. Can't just... pretend death doesn't matter 'cause I wasn't Midori's friend."

She puffs out a breath. "... Eri probably knows this stuff better than me, right?" She offers, with a shade of apology. She has never killed anyone, after all. Mai would be sad if she did. "But... Eri's right. I think about, Gakutenou disappearing, and then I wonder if Miyu could cut Kagutsuchi in half that easy, or..." Mikoto's gaze shifts sidelong, to the black case beside her, opposite Eri's shoulder.

There's more in the implication of that mora than there has been in many of her words. Mikoto does not mention her Child; it has never appeared. When she is roused to anger, the only thing she brings to bear is her blade.

"I want to," she says, instead. "... make meaning for life. I want to be with Mai, and have fun with everyone, and... I won't let Searrs take it away. I'll fight."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.

"That's a promise then." Eri says, and she doesn't suggest it's one that can't be kept. As Madoka has taught her to think on the hope of life rather than the despair of death most of the time.

Her cheeks pinken a touch though with startlement as Mikoto says she loves her, but that's just because of the surprise of the word love. The jolt. The thought of what 'love' means. But between two girls, it's easy enough to know it means a different kind of love than the one that's embarrassing.

"I love you too." She says, sweet and low, thinking it is a sororal thing. "I'm glad... I'm expecting you to welcome me into high school you know."

She gives her shoulder this light nudge, in this moment. "You'll be my senpai after all."

However, Mikoto then speaks of the virtues of Midori thinking Mikoto is good at school. And it's hard to gainsay that. She knows what other people must think of Mikoto's ability. "You're right... it matters... and... you should mourn the people that brought good things into your life. No matter what they were."

However she does bristle slightly at the idea she knows more, breath tensing, and that stays just a touch as she thinks of Kagutsuchi getting cut in half. She's not on the defensive right now, she's just thinking of the idea of it. "I think... she'd have a hard time. No matter how fast you are... it's hard to get away from that much fire. But... we should still be careful."

However she seems to relax. Just enough, to say supportively, "You will. You'll get all that Mikoto-chan." She promises, "We won't let them take away a happy future where we're all together."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Akira Yamaoka - Promise https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qalGezr76o

Promises are heavy things.

They are pacts and pledges, debts rendered and hearts bound. There is weight and ceremony behind them, and they cannot be put aside once made. Mikoto does not promise things often, but she does not easily break her vows.

Eri must know the weight behind it as she agrees: "I promise."

And Eri says she loves her, and a smile brightens Mikoto's face again. "Yup!" She agrees, and the thought of Eri in highschool, at least, seems to make her happy for a moment - even if the thought of Midori brings her mood down again.

She does not quite realise she has caused Eri to bristle, though she does feel the shifting tension. She murmurs in wondering, frowning lightly.

But she smiles, as Eri relaxes. It is easier for her to relax a little when someone else is, too. It is so easy to feel what she feels. "So long as we're all together... it'll be okay!" She insists, in honest belief. "And they can't hurt us."

She tilts her cheek against her, looking up at the clouds. "And maybe Kagutsuchi's too big to be cut up. But... still think Mai should be careful." The corner of her lip tugs, not quite a smile. "I'll be okay. It's not time yet."

It's the sort of obtuse statement which makes her so unpopular, but surely Eri can appreciate that Mikoto is reassuring her.