2019-02-28 - TIMELINE 3: She Needs To Eat! All The Eyes On Eri Shimanouchi

From Battle Fantasia MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search
Title: TIMELINE 3: She Needs To Eat! All The Eyes On Eri Shimanouchi

Eri comes across a collapsed Mikoto back at the camp they've made for themselves, and struggles past her complicated relationship with meat to prepare Mikoto a meal. In the process, she discovers that Mikoto's relationship with Miroku is complicated, too.


Mikoto Minagi, Eri Shimanouchi


Ohtori Academy (Forest)

OOC - IC Date:

2019-02-28 - 2014-09-15

.******************** Yamanote High City - Ohtori Academy *********************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Ohtori Academy +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 The ivory crown on the brow of Southern Cross Island, Ohtori Academy is
 separated from the world by more than just water. Outside, education can be
 a luxury. Within this white-walled compound, education is luxurious.
 Marble colonnades spring up like fountain spouts, scarlet flowers drench
 every free surface. The architecture is at once daringly art deco and
 austerely Classical, white marble lending an angelic weightlessness to
 pillars and fences that can seem more woven than carved.

 At the center of campus is the Chairman's Tower, a dizzyingly tall spire in
 the center of a manicured grassy field. Radiating around this field are the
 lecture halls, dormitories, art buildings, and other facilities by which the
 chosen few receive education, with small class sizes in large buildings.
 It's common for students to refer to a building's location as if the hour
 hand of a great clock extended from the central tower. At twelve o'clock,
 for instance, the Duel Arena looms like a jade stormcloud, a great forest
 forming a living pagoda of leaves that reminds even longtime students that
 their school keeps many secrets.

 The rose is the emblem of Ohtori, and campus is decorated with a profusion
 of them, both living and frozen in frieze. Poppies are favored as well, and
 thick carpets of either flower can be found wherever the loosest excuse is
 available. Only the most bitter of winters seems able to fully erase the
 faint fragrance from the air, and students who leave the island via quick,
 convenient bridge or ferry can often find a memory of it on their clothing.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

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

The camp, by a stone-shadowed creek which runs to the beach, is quiet. No one is here, but it has not been disturbed, so Mikoto is not worried about the absence. But then - staggering in, barely one foot in front of the other, she could not worry even if she had to. The Crimson Rook did not wound her severely, but certainly she has depleted her. Mikoto went too far.

She buries her blade in the ground, and uses its leverage to lower herself down. She even manages to get halfway to sitting before she makes a disquieted noise and falls, face-down, beside Miroku. A dead rabbit is grasped lightly in her other hand, by its cute little ears.

And this is where she will be found - tulle stole torn to pieces and hanging by threads around her sash, feed clad in socks, dirty as if she has been rolling in leaf-litter. She bears the scratches and scrapes of battle, though with no obvious mortal wounds. Face-down, it is difficult to tell if she is breathing; she is unresponsive, fallen in a crumpled heap.

One thing is certain: she did not leave the camp with Miroku in hand.

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

Fighting witches by yourself was different than fighting them as a team of five. She wasn't used to it. Watching her own back, her own flanks. Squeezing out enough magical power to take one out on her own. Not slipping up and making mistakes you couldn't recover easily from. As a result, she was tired and wounded as she plucked up the pointed seed - and the witch ichor started to fade from her at the same time as the labyrinth did.

Still - she had to do it. She had to do it by herself. It was the only way to supply Homura and herself with enough magic to do them any good here.

As it faded, the rubber duck imagery of the last fading vestiges of the witch went away and instead there was... the salt smell of the sea in that fresh air, the feel of her boots sinking in the creekbed mud and...


Eri runs up to her, knowing it could be a trap, but not caring right now. She rushes to her spot, and kneels down - crunching fallen leaves, seeing the way Miroku is planted, "Mikoto - Mikoto speak to me. Was it the enemy!?"

With her arms, she gives this small heft, and tries to roll her back face up. It's only then that she notices the rabbit - her eyes doing a quick scan of the camp.

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

The camp is empty, as far as scanning eyes can tell; whatever enemy Mikoto has fought, she has not led them back here. She knows to be careful with the location of her home, even when she is hurting. She cannot risk letting someone discover their hiding-place. They are skills she requires.

Eri calls her name, and there's no reply. Eri's boots suck in mud as they rise and fall from the creekbed, and there's no reply. Eri comes to her, and at first, still, there is no reply. At least there is no attack, either. If this is a trap, they are patient.

Mikoto is completely unresponsive... until she's physically hefted up. Her eyes open - bleary, unfocused, as if she's seeing nothing at all - and she mewls, piteously: "... hungry..."


Mikoto does not need Grief Seeds to fight, no - but without food, she can do nothing at all. She is a furnace, burning energy at an accelerated rate so that she might fuel her unusual capabilities. And there comes a time when she can hold out no longer, and she simply... collapses. Perhaps Eri has seen it once or twice before.

What happens when she is not fed at all? This, at least, is a mystery, and not an enticing one, at this juncture. But given the rate at which she burns through energy...

Well, it's safest to keep her fed.

Luckily, she has brought back a rabbit, its neck bloodlessly snapped - and it is whole, and uncleaned, fallen on the ground where Eri has turned Mikoto about. (And perhaps the looseness of her grip is its own ill portent; when she doesn't want to let go of something, there are few forces on Earth which can remove her, even while she is unconscious.) She has brought back no other food. This was the extent of her hunting trip.

Judging by how she looks - it was probably cut short.

(And cut does appear to be the right word; the tears are consistent with slashes from a blade.)

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

It doesn't make sense. Nothing does. There are no corpses, no signs of battle other than Mikoto being facedown - and the rabbit. There are of course more signs as she turns her over. Small scratches and scrapes... Then.

"... hungry ..."

Eri freezes in that position for a few moments and then... "EHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!?"

Her mind is spinning round and round in circles. Trying to make sense of it.

Mikoto was in a fight. There's a dead rabbit. Mikoto is hungry.

Her imagination runs wild.

A soldier shrieks. "A BUNNY! A BUNNY IS ON THE LOOSE!" A killer rabbit running on a rampage, with glowing demonic red eyes. It leaps up through the air, opening it's mouth, it's large buck tooth gleaming as it aims for the supple, warm neck.

And then there's the gleam of two more red eyes, as a hungry demon cat jumps out to meet it.

It's a fierce battle - but ultimately, Mikoto is triumphant.

And hungry.

Oh. OH.

They'd found no more food. Eri didn't have her field guide on safe edible plants, and hadn't found any she knew by memory.

Which meant the only food is...

Eri Shimanouchi focuses on the corpse of the little rabbit, its whole form flaccid. Suddenly she feels incredibly nauseous.

It takes her back to that elementary school trip to a farm in Hokkaido. Where there were chickens - and little piglets - and cows. She knew intellectually of course how people got their meat, but she'd had to excuse herself to cry alone after she'd bonded with one of the little piggies.

It's why she became a vegetarian.

"Hck-!" The girl puts a hand over her mouth, and runs to the creek...

... it's a good thing her stomach is so empty right now, though she still loses what little was in it. "Oh my god... oh my god." The girl trembles and shakes as she wipes her mouth. "Can't be picky... can't be picky..." She glances back at the rabbits dead - staring eyes, and suddenly it's ten times worse.


This time she keeps it in, as she pants, and walks over to the rabbit. "It's... for Mikoto-chan... she... needs to eat... she... needs to eat." The girl's flexes her fingers on the lash she's holding...

And then suddenly there are a few quick motions, faster than the eye can see.

The rabbit looks normal for a moment. Then it's skin peels off as if it were thoroughly flayed. Leaving it bare, and bleeding. All muscle and sinew.

And the bug-eyed shaking girl staring right at it.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Akira Yamaoka - Sliced https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5xdhr2TEPE

Well, that's one theory.

Mikoto certainly isn't lucid enough to correct any wild flights of fancy at the moment.

This doesn't look like a rabbit of unusual size, though; it looks like a perfectly normal wild rabbit. Perhaps it's a little more coloured, a hint of a feral edge to it. Students sneak all sorts of pets into Ohtori, and when they're secrets, there's no one they can go to for help when their pets escape. It's not difficult to imagine interbreeding between wild and once-beloved populations.

Does it mean that this bunny - with a hint more white than it ought to have, a splotch over a tan-furred eye and down a cheek - could have one day been tamed? Could it have been someone's best friend, with enough effort?

Is its tragic genetic history why it was so much easier to catch?

It's dead, now. The dead do not stop looking; it is why it is custom to close their eyes. Left to their own devices they stare, and stare, and stare, as if they could lay accusations at the feet of the living. There are slight hints of blood collected at the edge of its tear-ducts and at the slits of its little bunny nose, perhaps from the force which snapped its neck so effortlessly.

It is cool, but not yet stiff. It still flexes like a living thing. It is easily flayed.

Peel off the skin and everything is the same. Mikoto knows it well. Here there is the muscle which twists about the foreleg to bring its cute little paws up; there layer over layer which controls the diaphragm, such an important thing for breath. The rabbit is not breathing any more.

It is not clean, and it is not one colour, and Mikoto could have told her that, too.

But right now Mikoto can say little at all. She mumbles incoherently as her nostrils flare at the scent of death, curling in on herself a little as her brow knits. She dozes, fitfully, and she dozes alone. The miasma of her thoughts joins the miasma of the corpse.

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

Eri Shimanouchi takes a step. Then another step. She already knew she could kill. It didn't even have to be on purpose. Dead was still dead. The coiled lash in her hand has a few droplets of red pooling upon the bottom of its length, before drip. Drip. Drip.

If someone could kill, them someone could mutilate its corpse. She hated flowers being plucked, unless there was a pragmatic use for them. Why shouldn't this body of this already dead thing go to use? Otherwise it would be a waste. Like a plucked flower.

Flowers don't stare though, with those empty eyes. The girl lowers herself down to a knee. Reaches out as if she were going to take it by its ears - having no idea it's not clean. Then hesitates, as if it were going to bite her.

Instead she steps sidelong. Grabbing a fallen branch - using her whip to strip off the bark with scraping noises as thorns carve it off. She then walks back over to it, and plunges it into the thing, skewering it - her expression cringing. Then picking it up, she takes the flapping hide, and pulls it off, dropping it back on the ground. She then plunges the gorey stick's butt end into the ground, mashing it in until it stands straight up.

Moving away, she makes several trips. Picking up smaller twigs and making a pile with the bark shavings from earlier, then more branches. More. And more. She's made a decent firepit just a ways from the wet earth of the creek. How to start a fire though?

She remembers that flint and steel can make sparks. Stepping towards the river, she grasps a little rock...

Then looks at... Miroku.

Step. Step. Step. She approaches the blade Mikoto would never let out of her sight. "It's necessary..." She whispers, as apology to the girl. "... for you to eat."

She knows she doesn't like anyone else touching her sword.

Both hands surround the hilt - and try to pull it out of the ground.

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

In goes the stick. There's a wet noise. It smells sick.

Yes, it is true; flint makes sparks. And a sword must be made of steel - mustn't it? No matter if the blade is black, it must still be a blade, like any other. Blades are not made from obsidian. Would it not chip away or shatter?

Eri grasps a rock, and steps forward, and this she may do. Step, step, step, past Mikoto, collapsed on the ground. She is too hungry to parse such a low whisper. She grumbles something nonsensical, cheek against the earth.

Mikoto has never once let anyone else touch Miroku.

And here, the question must be asked: why not?

Eri's hands surround the hilt and she will find it heavy - unbelievably heavy. How does Mikoto heft such a thing so effortlessly? It feels as if she would need a crane to lift it. One tug, two --

-- danger is a sense well-developed, in Puella Magi. They have to know when they are at risk; they deal with some of the most deadly predators known to man. On Eri's third tug, Miroku runs out of patience for Mikoto dealing with the situation. Red sigils like eyes alight on the blade, snapping into existence as if suddenly awoken, and with their light the stony alcove is awash with menace. It is an old thing, a jealous thing, a cruel thing, and there is so little in the world it does not hate. Eri is hardly an exception.

Red energy spider-cracks out from where Miroku is planted in the earth, and all a sudden the blade glows a painful, searing light - and a burst of energy explodes from it. The ground opens in fissure, and the blade plunges down into the earth, and Miroku is utterly careless of the fact that Mikoto is beside it - will surely fall into the same hole. The rabbit is far out enough that it is saved from the localised quake, but with no one to eat it, is there any point..?

It may be some time before Eri realises that the heat from the blast caught on the tinder, and it has begun crackling away.

More alarming still is the way some of that tinder-nest was blown out of pile Eri made - and is threatening to catch on the leaf-litter by the creek.

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

It's a well developed instinct. After all they are predators to worse predators. That is what girls like Kyouko Sakura would have her believe. However - she does not initially understand where the danger is from. In this scenario she'd expect it to be from soldiers approaching camp. Which is why the red flash of sigils is misinterpreted for...

... the runes on orphans.

Is it a thing slipping in to predate on them both. One of those monsters in control of the Golden Age? She does not think the light is from the blade. And thus, she takes a short hop back - at the same moment the energy bursts out. It strikes her - sending her careening towards a tree in mid-flight.

The girl is dazed from the blast wave which has lit part of her clothing on fire, until her vision catches the sight of- "Mikoto-!" And suddenly her feet flip around behind her, in an aerial stunt.

The girl's heels press into the trunk with a sickening crunch of wood, her knees following- before she reverses the momentum - launching herself off. It sends her flying over Mikoto - just as the girl starts to slip in the hole. Her arms encircle her, and the two hit the ground in a rough roll, taking them all the way to the edge of the river mud.

It's a good thing the stop drop and roll in the wet mud puts her out. It's only then that she feels the burns she suffered in the adrenaline rush. And she finds herself letting Mikoto go to rush up to her feet and face-

Nothing. There's no Orphan.

But the little fire nest is careening towards-

Raising her lash up, there's a vertical strike, the concussive force of its crack on that point separating the leaf-litter into the air.

Then rushing forward, she uses a foot to push the pile from the edge back - back - back.

Then she scans the area again.

No Orphan.

"What could have...?"

BGM Change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSbtDr4JFSo

The girl's eyes look at the fissure opened at the Earth - as she walks over to the edge. Staring down at the blade down in the hole.

Standing there for a long time over the crackle of the fire, silhouetting her with its haze. The girl then finally pulls her eyes away and takes the impaled rabbit up - deciding the sword can just stay down in the pit.

She does not know the rabbit is still not ready for cooking.

After all, she was a girl who cried at the idea of killing them. She had no interest in the process of preparing them for practical use when she had the chance.

Mores the pity.

Sinking down onto the ground with her aches and burns, she sticks the game above the heat haze of the fire, slowly turning it to try to cook it evenly.

She has no idea how long one has to cook a rabbit. She assumes she'll know it's ready by the look of it.

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

Why would an Orphan's runes be on Mikoto's blade..?

There's no time to worry about it. The concussive blast - it is, largely, concussive, the heat little more than a by-product of the massive amounts of energy released - sends Eri careening away and slams Mikoto into the earth as it opens. Mikoto does not have the defences Eri does, right now.

And Miroku does not care if she gets hurt, so long as they get away.

It never has.

Luckily, someone does, and Eri manages to catch Mikoto just as she's about to slip away forever. She is limp in her arms, like a puppet with strings cut, though she moans in pain as they land so heavily.

Well, perhaps it's only natural.

She is unconscious, after all.

The river-mud yawns as Eri struggles up from it, with a wet plopping sound; Mikoto sinks into the damp earth without protest. Kicking embers into the air is at once a sound plan and a poor one - some extinguish in the motion, but a few, burning bits of twig, stay lit as they land further away. Stomp stomp goes a foot, and those little holdouts are snuffed out, one by one.

Soon enough the only fire is the one in the pit, and that's one problem settled.

But there is no enemy, here. No explanation for the sudden attack. Nothing but a blade - now firmly lodged deep within the earth. Ten feet down in its personal fissure, those sigils glow in anger, and fade when no further attempts to meddle with it come.

Open eyes stare and watch; the dead and the differently-living. Perhaps it is a mercy when they close.

It is a mercy not afforded to Eri as she cooks the rabbit, as best she is able. They are eyes which never close, even as the heat dries the vitreous body and shrinks that wet thing down into the skull. It's just like a fried fish - but this time she sees it happen.

And in time it does seem cooked, perhaps. Certainly the outer flesh cooks and chars, going from ill grey to dark brown. That is what meat looks like when it's done - right..?

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

Those red sigils just stay with her, as she turns the rabbit manually. Eventually her arm is tired enough of it that she plants the butt end in the ground, holding it at a diagonal, and using the least amount of energy possible to rotate it.

Why was her sword glowing with orphan sigils?

Tiredly, she realizes that she left Mikoto in the mud, though perhaps she's looking for an excuse not to look at the eye humours evaporating. Planting the stake back down, she takes a break just to lift Mikoto out of it. And pull her back down over to the fire instead.

It's a good thing she wasn't face down. It's a good thing Eri hadn't been that negligent.

Either way though, she's pulled Mikoto closer to the fire, hoping that it'll counteract the cold of the wet mud. The mud will dry, but it's easy enough to wash it off later... if she has enough motivation to force Mikoto to take a bath out here.

She certainly will for herself, later.

Taking back up the stake, she continues the slow process of cooking it, as it goes from ill grey to dark brown. Eri tries to remember what a steak looks like. It looks browner than this right?

Something closer to black. She could cut it open to check, but she doesn't have a knife, and the thought makes her queasy.

Instead, she raises it up fractionally over the heat haze of the flame, and gives it another five minutes. She does this manually, since her phone is now... very dead. In a slow count of three hundred to zero.

Once it's done, she restakes it. Waiting a few minutes to cool. Then using a thorn from her whip, severs a piece of meat by the leg. It starts to fall. And Eri does a little hot potato in her hands as she catches it - inspecting it for a moment. Then sticks it out over Mikoto's nose.

Sounding utterly exhausted, she notes. "Mikoto... food's done."

It is not Mai food. Part of her worries that it still may not be fit for human consumption.

It's still the best she's got to give her.

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

Mikoto is, in fact, laid in the mud, just where Eri has left her. Luckily, she's lying on her back. That's going to be hell to get out of her hair, later. It used to be curled, like a fancy rex; there's no hope of retaining the debutante waviness out here.

She shivers where she is grabbed, but seems to warm up by the fire. And perhaps Mikoto's lack of reaction is the first clue that the meat is not done, even though it is a little charred on the outside. Mikoto has a knack for telling when food is here. If Mikoto isn't waking up...

... well, it must not be food yet.

There may be an uncomfortable period of wondering whether Miroku did some damage to her, defenceless as she was - if perhaps she won't rouse in response to food. But sniff-sniff, sniff-sniff, as Eri waves the scrap of meat under her nose like smelling-salts, Mikoto's eyes snap open.

They are not a rabbit's, glassy and dead; neither are they Miroku's uncomfortable red sigils. They are bright, bright gold, and they zero in on the meat in an instant; she lifts her chin and bites it right out of Eri's fingers.

Hopefully she doesn't take her fingers out, too.

Mikoto rises in an instant and grasps the rabbit in both hands, tearing into it with her teeth. The meat steams, and there is a strange smell to it; but it is food, it is cooked, and Mikoto rips into it without pause. Her sharp front teeth tear into the cooked flesh at its belly and perhaps it would be better for Eri to look away. Some of those organs are good to eat, and Mikoto does. The heart is one of those things which is consumed. There is black poetry to the gesture.

She does not eat the head; the brain is not good to eat. Whether this is a mercy or not depends on one's point of view. It's still staring.

And all at once the fact that Mikoto is so country is cast in a different light, severe and painful like the flash of white from an obsidian blade. She has learned so much from her cat friends and it has left her a wild thing, red of tooth and claw, and it is so very clear that the question of bunny-as-friend never once crossed Mikoto's mind. She is a hunter, and this is her prey.

How much does Eri know about Mikoto - really..?

Surely she knows that when Mikoto rocks back, dropping the corpse near to the fire, and sighs contentment, it is entirely genuine. "Eri saved me..." She says, and her eyes shine with gratitude and there is rabbit-juice on her smiling lips.

It is not blood; perhaps it looks that way.

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

How much does she know about Mikoto really? It's a question that resounds through her mind. And it raises more questions. However, there is one thing she knows - beyond the image of the very country Mikoto eating game meat like that.

It's disturbing, and she's not certain what she'd prefer watching - the rabbit's corpse, or the the girl eating it. The point is moot though, because soon Mikoto is grasping the corpse and stripping it with her teeth.

The thing she knows isn't that Mikoto is different from the rest of them, more rough and tumble-

It's the way Mikoto rocks back, and the way her eyes shine with gratitude. And the love and admiration in such a simple comment.

Eri reaches out, and affectionately picks out the mud from her hair, and tries not to think about it. "Yeah..." There's a ghost of a smile, as she puts her arm around Mikoto's shoulders, and pulls her close. "... yeah." She repeats, tiredly.

For a while she's just holding her like that, in that one armed hug, the two sitting on the ground before the crackling fire.

It takes her a while to ask... "What happened to you? The way I found you... I got pretty spooked."

However, there is something she knows she needs to address more, because she does in fact care about what Mikoto cares about - and she knows Mikoto would care. "Miroku's down there..." Eri gives a vague gesture to a hole, "I needed steel to start a fire to cook your dinner and..."

There's a lengthy pause, as she sounds a little awkward, embarrassed. How does she explain what happened? How does she explain what she suspects? "... well I don't know what happened, but I got a fire alright."

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

Well, it's not like they have chopsticks in a place like this. Even if they did, they don't have a knife to fillet the corpse into pieces small enough to be plucked up by a pair. Mikoto is not, however, immediately worried; she can still feel Miroku close by, so she does not think to check, at first.

Because Eri is here, and Mikoto tucks herself in against her side, curling in against her and resting her cheek against her shoulder. Her eyes lower closed, and she smiles. She is relieved that Eri is here, is whole, was able to help her; she is overjoyed at the opportunity just to be close to someone she trusts, in the middle of all this stress.

But there is stress, after all, and Mikoto's eyes blink open as her chin tilts up to look at Eri in the wake of her question. "Girl in golden mask found me," she explains. "The one with nodachi. We fought. I -" she realises all a sudden that she feels worse than when she collapsed; perhaps she was more wounded than she thought. "- I thought I wasn't hurt too bad..." She trails off, uncertainty entering her voice.

With a little grunt, she dismisses the thought. "She made me mad. I guess... I went all-out. I shouldn't have..." Mikoto adds, sadly, because she knows just why she got put in such a desperate situation. She went out to get everyone food, after all. The reason she did that was because she was hungry. She knows what happens when she gets too hungry. "... I just wasn't thinking."

There's a word Eri says, then - and alarm floods Mikoto's face as she whips around. "Miroku's--!" But she scrambles up and there it is, down the hole it has made, and Mikoto puffs out a sigh of relief.

It's fine, it's safe there, it can stay there for the moment, and she returns to the fire to sink back down next to Eri. "I said not to touch it," she reprimands her, frowning. "It's..." Mikoto starts to explain, a little more uncertainly, glancing to the fire. She bites at her lip. "Special. Not just steel. And it doesn't like other people touching it. Miroku can defend itself if I'm not here. Not good at details." Miroku cares little for context or circumstance.

She reaches up to feel at her ribs, and sighs, again. "Right... so Eri threatened us and it reacted... so that's why." She does not bother to explain what she has realised. Instead she says, again: "Don't ever touch it, Eri. Only I'm allowed to touch Miroku."

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

Nodachi. Eri isn't exactly a sword buff, so she doesn't know anything other than 'extra long sword'. She just nods lightly, trying to take in the details. "Well you made it back... and you were fine after eating a little..." The girl comments, as if trying to give her a small pep talk. Though it sounds so tired, so wan.

"... Well. Those Golden Masks seem to be able to push your buttons really easily." Eri says as she brushes more mud out of her hair. "I'm really angry too, given all they just pulled. So don't worry about it? Okay. Just try to calm down if you can. It's clear-headedness that's going to get us out of it."

However, then Mikoto scrambles over to the hole, and Eri unlaces her arm as she gets up. "I know - I know you did." She holds up her palms, "I just didn't know another way to start a fire - unless I left you here and did something dangerous. And I didn't want you to get sick eating it raw." She explains.

"Sorry- I wasn't... trying to threaten it- you. I was trying... to save you." She explains, slowly, sounding completely worn out. Before she slowly drops her hands. She doesn't know what to think of this. Her head is spinning a little. A sword doesn't like other people? The sword has thoughts, feelings? Desires? Boundaries? It was a little too much for her to consider right now. "I won't - I promise I won't." The girl tries to say in a conciliatory way. "I... wouldn't even want to."

It's even true. Completely true.

She wouldn't want to. Not after those glowing red eyes freaked her out.

"I just thought I had to..."

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

Mikoto is easily manipulated. She still seems sad to realise it, as Eri brushes the mud from her hair. "Thinking clearly..." She echoes, thoughtfully. She is evidently trying to take it on board.

But it's so easy to elicit Mikoto to action, and so difficult to get her to stop and think - as Eri sees in her brief panic. Her gaze softens as Eri explains that she wasn't threatening them at all, and Mikoto reaches up to her again. "Eri..." Mikoto says, and her name reaches out, too.

It is so hard to say the words. They stick in her throat like little bones. It feels like a lie but it is for Eri, for Eri, and Eri is so sad.

"It's - okay," she says, finally, halting over them, and once she has said them she rushes over them. "It's okay, Eri, it's okay. I know Eri didn't mean to do anything bad, Miroku's just - really protective." It did not feel defensive. It felt malicious. Or does one feel like the other, to Mikoto? Or, perhaps... "And I, I gotta take care of it." Again her gaze slides off of Eri, to the side, and her outstretched fingers curl. "... I promised. A long time ago. It's really serious, Eri. If I had to die to save Miroku... that's what I gotta do," she admits, quietly. Perhaps she should not, but Eri seems so, so sad, and Mikoto does not know how to make her understand. "So that's why... I'm so serious..." And her voice dies down to a whisper in her throat.

Mikoto's brow knits as she takes a shuddering breath. "I'm - I'm really happy Eri helped me. I'm happy Eri was - willing to go that far. It's not, your fault, Eri. Didn't know that was too far, too dangerous. I... if I said why no one could touch it... people wouldn't understand." Her head hangs, and perhaps she is ashamed. "Lots people already think I'm dangerous, no good. I don't want... my friends to..." Vulnerability sets her words to trembling.

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

Mikoto's anger seems to melt under that, with the way she says that name, and the tension in Eri eased. For a moment there she had actually felt really small. Like a child being admonished for breaking some fundamental command - even if it was for a good reason. She'd hurt, suffered, all for the small triumph of trying to make Mikoto okay. Except it wasn't good enough.

However - Mikoto says it was in those moments, and there's this uncertainty there, like she's not certain if she misread the situation - how Mikoto felt. How she felt. What she does know is she didn't misread the utter malice directed her way by Miroku. That's all she can be certain of.

"It's... that serious to you." Eri finally says, swallowing, at the idea of Mikoto dying for that malicious sword. It's a terrible thought. However, she doesn't say it's okay. She doesn't think there's anything okay about that.

"Hey..." Eri slowly reaches, and she brings herself up onto her knees, and draws her arms around Mikoto. "Hey..." She says, and there's a certain softness to her serious. "Lots of people think that about me too."

The girl says quietly. She knows what they must think of her. Murderer. Killer of children. It's not truly fair. The things they say make her doubt herself.

She was so angry after all.

Putting her arms around her, she rubs her fingers across the other girl's mud cached back.

"Let them say - think what they want." She murmurs quietly. "You're not that to me."

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

Like a brief glimpse into an imperious world - where everything was absolute and commands were ironclad, immutable, inarguable.

How much does anyone know about Mikoto, really..?

Eri confirms the severity of the situation and Mikoto nods, mutely. She cannot think to explain why she is afraid, though the Woman in Black spelt it out so clearly. She knows how easy it would be, to turn everyone against her. She knows how easy it would be for them to decide she was too much trouble.

But Eri says that word, softly, and Mikoto looks up again and all but falls into Eri's arms, chest heaving with a deep breath. "They shouldn't," she insists, fiercely, though her voice is quiet. "Eri's a good person." Mikoto is not given to lie, and as she clutches at Eri and buries her face against the crook of her neck she does not sound like a liar.

There's a noise a little like a sob, as Eri murmurs, but it is a sound of utter relief. "Eri," she says, and her name on her lips is adoration. "Eri..."

Her breath trembles; she trembles. "I was scared, Eri was mad, 'cause I hurt Eri... but I didn't mean to, Eri. Eri's not my enemy... it wasn't on purpose... I wasn't even, angry this time..." Ah. Miroku has hurt her friends before - hasn't it? "But Eri's not mad, right? So I'm happy... I'm so happy, Eri," and there, yes, that was definitely a sniff.

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

"You didn't hurt me." The girl finally responds. Quiet, but insistent. "You didn't."

And she knows it's true. For Mikoto never would have done that. It's instead - a malicious blade. It's even logical. Mikoto wasn't even capable. She was unconscious.

However she knows that might not reassure Mikoto. She didn't know why she attributed what her sword did to her. It would be logical if she were a Golden Mask wielding a nodachi. Or if Mikoto's arms brought it down upon her. The sword acted on it's own though in her eyes.

But that isn't good enough for Mikoto.

"And even if you had. I know... I know."

There's something almost heart-breakingly sad about how succinctly she puts it next.

"You didn't mean it."

She could leave it at that... she could. Only she doesn't.

"Accidents happen." She says it in a low voice, from someone who has first hand knowledge of that terrible fact.

"So if you're feeling bad about it."

She says the words she knows that girl wouldn't say, if she could speak to her now. Because Eri Shimanouchi does not deserve it. And perhaps Mikoto wouldn't either if she'd murdered her...

...but she didn't.

"I forgive you."

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

Perhaps Mikoto just does not have control, precisely.

And here, the question must be asked: how much of their vicious berserkergang is Mikoto, and how much is her blade?

Where does one end, and the other begin?

Is Mikoto the cheerful girl who cries in relief to realise her friends do not hate her - or the brutal warrior who always seems to go a little too far against her enemies?

Certainly, Mikoto seems confused. She speaks as if she was the one to hurt Eri, the one to turn that explosion of energy upon her. But Mikoto is Miroku and Miroku is Mikoto; their hearts beat the same blood.

But Eri knows she did not mean it, and Mikoto curls in against her, grasping tightly to vestments and words. It was an accident, an accident; it is an accident when she hurts them. She doesn't mean to do it. She'd never mean to do it. They are not her enemies.

And yet, there's a strange elision, between Mikoto's reaction to Homura, and this.

Relief softens her voice and Mikoto does not realise the blow as she says, "I'm glad... I forgive Eri, too."

... she never said she was sorry.

Eri is the one who did something wrong.

Mikoto can regret the pain she has caused - but she knows the rules.

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

As Mikoto curls against her, grasping tightly. Eri thinks perhaps there's a chance it's settled...

... and there's a chance this will just stay with Mikoto. However, there's a subtle stiffening when Mikoto says she forgives her. Maybe it's just because she was breathing extra sharply at that moment. Or maybe she didn't take it quite so well as it appears.

However, there's this smile after, as she draws backwards. "I'm glad." She says. And maybe it's a lie. Maybe it's not though. Perhaps she's genuinely glad that Mikoto's system of rules, of life allows her forgiveness.

The girl then stands up, and uses a boot to scatter the firewood into the creek. "They'll notice the smoke." Eri says with a sigh. "We should move camp as soon as Akemi-chan gets back."

She turns around and studies Mikoto, then looks at herself.

"And after we're done the two of us need to take a bath."