2019-03-05 - TIMELINE 3: Weariness Winnows! What Do I Do..?

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Title: TIMELINE 3: Weariness Winnows! What Do I Do..?

Mikoto and Yumi struggle to communicate through stress and fatigue, but they eventually manage to take care of each other.


Mikoto Minagi, Yumi Ohzora


Ohtori Academy - Underground

OOC - IC Date:

2019-03-05 - 2014-09-16

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Bear McCreary - Among The Ruins https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T71g4CnX8wA

It is dark, and dangers are lurking. Homura let Mikoto sleep for a few hours, and it was sorely-needed recuperation; but the clock is tick-tick-ticking, and Homura knows time better than many others ever could. She rouses her, and they leave. And for a time, they even manage to stick together.

But it is dark, and dangers are lurking, and there are a hundred-hundred monsters beneath the earth. Miroku is not the only thing which hides beneath the surface. A rogue Familiar harries them, and both Mikoto and Homura know they cannot waste their energy on inconsequential fights. They split up; they run.

By the time Mikoto is sure there were no monsters following her, it is impossible to find her way back to her fellow in braids. Every tunnel looks alike, every ruin is impossible to find once left. They all smell of old dirt and stale air.

The stone wall she passes by now is flatly vertical, carved out by some ancient hand; there are etchings upon it, an old, old script, and there is no hope of discerning its meaning. They look as though they were chipped in with chisel and hammer, all triangles and straight lines.

Mikoto pauses beneath them, leaning against the wall; she is not part of the Library Exploration Club, and does not know the dangers of touching ancient history. Luckily, the wall is just a wall, cold and supportive against her bare arms, birthmark clearly visible. Her sash is tied in a hasty knot at her hip, no longer an elegant bow. One side of her face is bruised where something has impacted; the lower hem of her dress is shredded, and the rest shows damage, too. Her legs are scratched like a hundred cats have clambered up her, and the combat boots Homura stole for her are incongruous with her battered ballroom aesthetic.

At least she does not look as exhausted as she did hours ago.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Metric - Youth Without Youth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttqMGYHhFFA

It's dark, down here. It's dark, and it's cold, and it's terrible. There are things, here--but could that be any worse than how much there isn't above, besides smoke and ruin and soldiers? It was hard enough up there before all of this happened, but now...?

Now, Yumi can feel it--a deep grief from the staff she carries, and she knows, somehow, what it's about--what this scale of destruction has wrought. And for what?

There's a little noise--click against the stone, click against the stone again. It's something metal, against the stone, coming from across the bend of a tunnel. If this gets Mikoto's attention, she may see who's rounding the corner--

Or who rounds it first, almost hidden by the shadows except to someone of Mikoto's keen vision. It is a black cat with green eyes that are almost all black pupil now, who pauses. "Yumi," Tama announces. "...It's all right."

"...Okay," Yumi answers, and she sounds tired--no, tired doesn't begin to describe it. But there's a certain edge to her voice. She rounds the corner, too--

Her hair is gray, and bedraggled, hanging loose and messily down, since she gave up on the braid. She's dressed... unusually, her clothes loose-fitting, the boots she's wearing tied tightly to make up for being too large. It's dark, her outfit--and the perceptive may notice that it looks a lot like what the soldiers were wearing underneath their armor. It's pretty thick fabric.

"Hey," Yumi says to Mikoto as she sees her, and the little signs of exhaustion and pain are obvious--and without makeup to touch up, she looks terrible, frankly. Her eyes are sunken, her skin too pale, her eyes bloodshot. But there's something else there, too. There's something...

Harder, in her eyes, in the particular set of her jaw, despite her tone being nice.

"...Apparently you're pretty popular right now, Mikoto-chan."

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

There are Witches, in the labyrinth.

There is a witch, in the labyrinth.

And when Mikoto sees a familiar cat rounding the corner, at first relief floods her face, from the guarded way she has straightened to look towards the tap-tapping. She takes a step forward, one hand lifting from the hilt of the blade held loosely by her side to reach out. "Yu--"

The mora catches in her throat as she hears how tired Yumi sounds, and her hand lowers with her smile. It is dark, but her eyes reflect the soft light the staff emits, gold to Tama's green. She can see enough. She can see how terrible Yumi looks.

Cold ice wraps about her heart as she realises just how hard this must have been, on someone like Yumi.

It is sadness which turns to shock as Mikoto sees the way she looks at her. She is by the wall, and she cannot retreat by half-steps or otherwise; instead she presses back against it. Yumi has never looked at her that way before.

Her eyes make it an accusation. Mikoto looks down, chin lowering. "Yumi..." She starts, and her voice is sad. "I know - it's our fault," she says, without quite looking at her. She knows, and she does not know how to fix it. What she knows is that she feels horrible, seeing what it has done to her friend. "I didn't want this..."

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The witch here is not so large or impressive as the Witches that have Labyrinths of their own, but she too understands the nature of hiding in dark places. She spots the way Mikoto stops, though--the way her smile fades, the way she is afraid, maybe? Sad, or... shock? Mikoto seems to be retreating, and Yumi would like to believe that she doesn't know what it means, doesn't intuitively understand the look in Mikoto's eyes and in her face. Mikoto starts...

"No," Yumi says then--more firmly than she usually would, as she leans forward on her staff, no longer looking forward. "It's not your fault. You didn't want it, and you didn't do it. They just want us to think it's your fault, so that we'll do as they say."

The emotion becomes clearer here--it's... anger.

Yumi's fingers tighten on her staff's grip. "To turn on each other, to obey them, to be good little students..."

She looks into nothing, for a moment. "It's their fault." The words assign blame; Yumi's gaze says something harsher.

But she relents slightly, puts on a small, distant smile as she looks back to Mikoto. "You thought I was going to try to turn you over to save myself and the others, right? ...I don't mind. Mother always taught me that fear can be useful. I guess I just never really wanted what it could give me, before."

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

'We're all just doing whatever we have to, to get through this.'

It's not difficult to see someone like Endo looking at Mikoto, the way Yumi does. It is so much more difficult to see it from Yumi herself. Mikoto did not apologise to him; only accepted the guilt he placed on her. And yet, here, now, her body language and tone is conciliatory. She would apologise to Yumi. She is afraid of Yumi's wrath in a way Endo could never hope to match, because Yumi is her friend.

But Yumi denies her, and as she speaks reveals she denies them instead. It's not her fault, again. "That's what Homura said..." Mikoto says, but it is small and it is sad and it is clear it is so hard to believe.

Mikoto glances up as she hears the blame in her words, sees the smile on her face, and releases a breath she had not realised she was holding. "I --" she starts and does not quite manage to answer, and she looks away, frowning. Her hand curls into a fist, pressing in against her chest.

"Don't," she says, quietly, and it is a morose plea. "Don't... play with me like that... like they do, Yumi. It makes me feel bad. It's not good to feel bad here." There is a tension at her jaw, as her teeth set in a line. There is an edge of bitterness to the words - resentment. "If it's really not my fault, don't be mean to me."

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

it is small, it is sad...

"I'm sorry," Yumi says more gently. "I wasn't trying to make you feel bad, or to scare you--I'm just... tired, and in pain, and... mad. I didn't mean to direct it at you." She shakes her head, and steps forward instead, moving towards the cavern wall so that she can lean heavily against it. "I'm kind of..."

"It's like I have to stay kind of angry to keep going. I'm so tired. I didn't bring much more medicine, and..."

She stops. "I was thinking about them, is all."

Tama pads forward in silence, and her lack of response is itself an agreement with Mikoto.

"I don't blame the others, either. None of you, right? You didn't do anything. That's what I mean. ...A witch shouldn't let herself be swayed by the lies of the powerful. A witch should treat strong and weak alike, according to her own way."

She is almost reciting that. "...How are you feeling? You look hurt."

It's hard to see all that much of Yumi's condition in these baggy clothes. And speaking of, "..Looks like you got stuck in your dress, too. I was at first, but..."

She glances to the side. "Well, he's not going to need these anymore."

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

Yumi apologises, and the angry edge in Mikoto's own eyes softens with it, predictably. She gives her a small, wan smile, and nods.

"It's hard, right..?" She offers, as if to encapsulate the explanation. Not just food, or sleep -- Yumi has to worry about medicine, too, because Yumi is sick. Mikoto wonders if Takumi is still all right, and wonders in the next beat what Mai will do now they cannot easily find him.

She said she would, but now she can't get close. She's not even sure she could find the surface if she tried. Who could live in the cold and unforgiving stone of this place?

But Yumi says she does not blame Mai - and the others, tangentially. She can hear the recital. It's a familiar form to her.

Mikoto grunts acknowledgement, as Yumi asks, and nods. She does not ask about the soldier. She's fought enough of them herself. "No time to find anything else," she says, instead, of her dress.

Against the wall she can feel the ache of a cut on her back, and she scrunches up her lip. "Been fighting lots," she says, of her first question. "Sometimes they hit." Despite her best efforts, she is not faster than everything which comes at her.

It is an exceedingly literal answer to her question, and perhaps for a moment it seems as though it is just Mikoto addressing the surface reading of her question. But her fingers lower to rub at the knot of cloth at her waist and perhaps she is thinking, instead.

"I feel bad," she admits, finally. "But I don't get to feel bad here, 'cause there's Witches. And Homura's not here any more." Oh. A Puella Magi's Witch. "It's bad," Mikoto explains, succinctly. "I just gotta keep going. Yumi, don't feel too bad neither, okay? Don't think those Witch'll be nicer just 'cause Yumi's a witch too."

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Yumi smiles back, and Tama sits down, though she doesn't lay down--her tail lashes back and forth, slowly, with her awareness. And Yumi--

"Yeah," Yumi agrees. "My inhaler's still good, but..." She lets that go, as if running out of motivation to finish the sentence and just letting it drop and drift away, instead.

"Yeah, that's fair," Yumi says. "I kinda had to, but..." She glances down to Tama, "I had help." Among other things. Witches, after all, are used to dealing in strange things, at the edges.

"Mm," Yumi answers Mikoto, at first the literal answer, and then... Ah. Her feelings, too. "...Yeah. It's bad," Yumi agrees. But don't feel bad, huh? Like it's simple, even though it clearly isn't for Mikoto either.

"I bet they wouldn't," Yumi agrees. "I'm OK. I mean..." She pauses. "OK that's a lie. I just mean..." She considers, and she seems to be thinking about it too. "Mother would be able to do something. Nobody would dare try to treat her like this. ...So I've got to... step up too, you know?"

She bites her lip, turns to Mikoto. "Hey. I know a little first aid. I swiped a few things from the nurse's office while I was there... Let me check you over."

Yumi pushes off of the wall, and moves to take off the thick, bulky jacket hanging over her arms--and as she does, it becomes clear that her left arm is almost entirely covered in bruises, and from the way she moves carefully, it's probably still tender.

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

Yumi says she still has her inhaler, at least, and Mikoto is relieved. She does not know the specifics of Yumi's illness, but she knows the little odd stick helps her.

And Yumi had help, but Mikoto was helping people, too. She hopes that Homura and Eri are all right. She has to believe that Mai is all right. "Glad Tama's okay too," Mikoto says, to the cat. Maybe if Tama is okay, her cat friends are okay..?

Don't feel bad, as if it were so simple to just turn off negative feelings. Well, certainly Mikoto can try, but Yumi saw just how well that resolution went when she gave Mikoto such a hard look. Yumi says she is okay, immediately reneges, and Mikoto watches her as she laments not having the power her mother has.

"It's not Yumi's responsibility..." Mikoto says, quietly, and the words remember what he has said.

It's not Yumi's responsibility, because it's hers.

Mikoto bites at her lip as she sees the bruising on Yumi's arm, reaching out with curled hand. "Yumi's hurt, too..." She says, in sad recognition. "It's hard," she repeats.

And perhaps it becomes clear that Mikoto does not quite have the words to describe the horror they are experiencing.

She acquiesces with Yumi's check-up, though, laying Miroku down on the stony ground so that she can manipulate her as needed. She will find her burnt, and if her experience or eye is sharp enough perhaps she will divine the way it is from multiple sources, over different events; likewise, there are many bullet skims from evading the soldiers. Her skin has tiny little piercings in many places as if something has plunged needles into her; her legs bear the scratches of scraps of metal forced past at high velocity, the sort of thing which might have shredded a girl without magic. Orphans have bitten her at arm and at hip, and she has subtle bruises on her body to match the more obvious one on her face. She has been cut by a blade in several places: her leg, her arm, a long shallow slice along her shoulder.

And, perhaps most worryingly, a thin line of red along her neck where a blade was pressed in just so.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"Cats are better at humans than finding safety," Tama answers, and while her body language remains aloof there is something slightly gentler in her tone. "The soldiers largely leave them alone, as do your Orphans. They are in less danger than the students."

Which does not mean no danger, of course. But Tama does not say that aloud for now--either out of kindness or some other reason, one would have to guess. As for responsibility--

"Whose responsibility it is isn't important," Yumi says, and it is also quiet. "What matters is who's here, who acts. And..." She finds her words, after a moment, "They're my classmates. My underclassmen--Ohtori, Juuban... they're with us, and they all count. I care about them. ...They're mine," she says, more firmly, and when she looks at Mikoto her eyes say that she feels that way about her friend, too. "And I won't forgive the people who did this."

Yumi winces, despite herself, when Mikoto is even near touching her arm. "...Heh. Dramatic, huh? I must be tired." She waits a beat, "I am, but... I've already done about as much as I can for myself." She pauses. "...It is hard, yeah."

Yumi doesn't have the words for it, either, really; she looks over Mikoto, and by sheer experience she recognizes the difference in the wounds, if not all of the things that would cause them. Scratches, scrapes, burns... Bites, bruises. Cuts.

That line, at her throat.

"We shouldn't have to go through things like this..." She starts her work; there is a certain magic, in caring for someone important, that goes beyond the way she points to bandages and tells them to move where she wills. Most of what she does is clean the wounds; she has no special power to heal, but she knows more than most the worries of infection, the way that an exposed injury hurts more when it's touched.

As she works, she is largely quiet, for concentration if nothing else. But not completely, as she murmurs over one and then another.

By the end of it Yumi's movements have slowed, and she is leaning more heavily on the wall than she was before. She forces herself through, though. "Sorry I don't have anything better for the pain," she says. "But that should at least make them not get so much worse."

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

Tama speaks as if she can hear Mikoto's thoughts, though perhaps she has just seen what is written over her face. "Yeah," she smiles, in relief. Her cat friends will be okay.

She listens as Yumi speaks on responsibility, and sucks in a sharp breath as she draws her conclusion. Perhaps it's something she might have abjured, before. But she told Homura the truth about her limitations. "Yumi," she murmurs, and she sounds so lost: "what do I do..?"

First of all, what she should do is let Yumi check her injuries. She winces and whines and wriggles, occasionally, but for the most part she tries to be good, even when the wounds hurt to be cleaned. Yumi says they shouldn't have to go through it, and sadness floods her eyes. "It's not always like this," she says, because Mikoto cannot imagine realising her power and immediately being thrown into this situation. "It's usually better."

And she does feel better, by the end of it, despite the sting of antiseptic. "Thanks, Yumi," Mikoto smiles. But she can see the way Yumi sags, and Mikoto worries at her lip as she pushes the thoughts of their encroaching deadline aside. Instead she sits, back to the wall, and reaches out for her friend. "Yumi, sit," she beseeches her, with the motion. Perhaps it is familiar; Mikoto often lounges with Yumi so that she does not feel alone in having to rest.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Tama continues her watch, as Mikoto expresses her relief. The main answer she gives is that for a few moments, her tail does not lash. ...She remains fairly stoic, naturally, not about to admit that she just did something nice.

"...First," Yumi answers, cautiously because she thinks there is a weight to that question, "Let me look over your wounds, okay? We've got to tend to ourselves before we can do anything else."

Yumi is patient with winces and whines, largely because she remains in a lot of pain herself and it makes her more sympathetic, not less. But Mikoto suggests something, and Yumi blinks, quiet for a moment and then watching Mikoto. "...Okay," she answers. Not always this bad. Maybe not.

But when she's finished, "You're welcome." Yumi smiles back, if tiredly, and then when Mikoto sits down she blinks again, and then..

Well, it's not a bad idea, is it?

"Yeah," Yumi agrees. "We should let the bandages sit for a little while..."

Yumi, with a little bit of effort, does sit, laying her gentle staff down on the ground, where the light dims helpfully. She leans on Mikoto, and pulls her jacket back over. "Yeah..."

It is familiar. ...And after they're both settled, Tama pads over and curls up beside them both. She will keep lookout, for the moment.

"I'm just," Yumi says, "A little... tired..."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Alias Conrad Coldwood - Desperately Safe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCywWxg5DoY

There is a weight to it, yes.

It's very easy to play with Mikoto, with the right words, after all.

She is patient as Yumi figures out how to get down from all the way up there - all injuries aside Yumi is quite tall - and puts an arm around her, hugging her into her side gently. Miroku lays on her other side, within reach.

Mikoto remembers the way Homura let her rest, what a boon it was. "It's okay," she reassures her, and perhaps now she is just speaking quietly because she is right next to her. "Yumi's been fighting for a long time now, right..? Going, and going, and there's never time to stop, right..? And it's, tense, and scary, all the time... gotta be hard to get through it..."

She's talking about what Yumi went through, right?

With a little shake of her head, she dismisses the thoughts. "... it's no good to feel that way always. I won't let anything hurt Yumi, so rest a little, okay..?" And the cave is cold, but Mikoto is warm, and the jacket is well-designed to capture that heat.