2019-03-25 - TIMELINE 3: I'll Find You

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Title: TIMELINE 3: I'll Find You

It's Christmas Eve in Ueno, and Mai and Mikoto are out late.


Mai Tokiha, Mikoto Minagi


Shitamachi Low City - Ueno Museum District

OOC - IC Date:

2019-03-25 - 2014-12-24

.**************************** Shitamachi Low City *****************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Ueno Museum District +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
 Stepping off the bullet train at Ueno Station, one is greeted by the green
 grass and cherry blossom trees of one of the least developed sections of
 Tokyo. Wide footpaths decorated with manicured shrubbery and flowers stand
 in stark contrast to the crowded sidewalks of inner Tokyo, and a lush
 barricade of forest helps block out the skyscrapers of busier districts,
 though they peek above the greenery as a reminder. This is Ueno Park, the
 most popular area for cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo, and it forms the
 center of this district. To the south is Shinobazu Pond, a large body of
 water with a Shinto shrine in the center, and bridges leading to the shrine
 where one can view the birds and water lilies that flourish there.

 Ueno is best known as a museum district, and Ueno Park is surrounded by some
 of the best museums in the city. To the north is the Tokyo National Museum,
 a massive multi-building complex devoted to Japanese history and art. To the
 west, Ueno Zoo, the largest in Japan. To the south, the National Museum of
 Western Art, and the National Science Museum, which focuses on life
 sciences, but does not neglect the physical. Further south is the Shitamachi
 Museum, which features reconstructed homes and furnishings from the early
 20th century, designed to give a glimpse into the lifestyle of an earlier
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

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

There's a gentle flurry of snowflakes in the air. Maybe they fall from darkened clouds overhead; maybe a chill December wind carries them from where they fell before; maybe they just crystalized out of the sheer spirit of the evening. The sun has set, but streets and paths are lit by myriad rainbow lights.

It's Christmas Eve in Ueno.

Mai couldn't escape work today, and she knew fate was bound to be harsh - which is why she volunteered for the morning shift, to get her work obligations out of the way as soon as possible. That shift got extended and extended again thanks to call-outs, but eventually even the grouchiest manager couldn't justify the cost of the overtime to keep her any longer.

Eventually. Mikoto might have been kept waiting a little.

It's been a lovely evening so far, though. For a change of pace - purely because it is Christmas Eve, after all - Mai suggested a reputable restaurant she'd heard decent things about that she hadn't had to work in five days a week. The Italian food wasn't exactly the height of cuisine - in fact, tastes stolen from the Infinity cooking club would have likely surpassed it - but filling enough, and a change of pace from the usual.

And here they are now, walking down a path in Ueno. The snow in the air dances amid twinkling lights, and though the skies are dark everything seems so bright.

Mai, dressed in a puffy coat and bright red scarf, breathes into cupped hands for a moment. "It's a bit cooler out than I was expecting - probably thanks to getting going so late. Sorry again about that, Mikoto." Her footsteps carry them to a crossroads, and she pauses there, looking back and forth. "I'd kind of been thinking we could go to the museum and then the zoo - they're keeping both open a little later tonight - but I think we might only have time for one, now."

She turns to her companion, tugging down her scarf to give Mikoto a warm smile. "I guess I'll have to leave it up to you - would you rather check out those history things, or see how the animals are doing tonight?"

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

Mikoto had planned to kidnap Mai's phone so she wouldn't get called into work today, but unfortunately, she didn't plan for sleeping in coupled with Mai volunteering herself as tribute. ... she isn't very good at master plans.

It's okay. Mikoto has plenty of things she needs to do while Mai is busy, especially since she spends so much time when she isn't practically shadowing her. She never stopped having to search, after all.

Admittedly, she was waiting around a bit after Mai wasn't here when she said she'd be here, which is probably why she wandered off to go make friends with a cat. She popped her head out when she heard Mai, kitten atop it.

The kitten meowed along to her salutations.

Unfortunately, he jumped off before anyone could get a picture.

Italian food, Mikoto decides, is fantastic, and she quickly starts asking whether Mai can make things like this, because she's quite sure Mai could do it better. Of course, Mikoto thinks Mai can do any dish better, so it's possible she's slightly biased. Even if the Cooking Club could outpace the restaurant, Mikoto still voraciously approaches the issue of spaghetti. They're like ramen noodles, but weird? Europe sure has interesting ideas about how food works.

Mikoto has a nice thick black coat which she's small enough to seem to disappear into, and the effect is remarkably similar to the void of a black cat with bright yellow eyes. Her hat has little cat ears on it, only furthering the comparison. "It's okay!" She chirps, as Mai apologises. Her own plan to drag them to Nishitama was, of course, also derailed, but she's not at all put out about it because Mai is here.

She smiles back, broad and joyful, as Mai presents her with two of her favourite things. Mikoto's head tilts as she hums consideration for a moment, and says: "... museum! It'll be warmer inside!" Grasping at one of those hands, she tugs Mai forward, in that direction. "Come on! Come on!"

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

There were plans flying around, and some of them even worked out.

Some of them didn't. The less said of the attempted Christmas Cake, the better.

The sight of the cat on the cat-hat was too adorable for words, and Mai's greatest regret of the week is that she wasn't fast enough to get her phone out in time. More's the shame.

Italian food was definitely interesting, but Mikoto's beaming enthusiasm was infectious - although Mai had tried to quietly suggest Mikoto save those 'do it better' comments until the chef was out of earshot. She tried. Honest.

There may be hefty tomato purchases in future - or maybe seeds and begged tips from Eri. But that's for the future.

"Thanks. If it helps, the manager's definitely going to think twice about keeping us late..." There's the hint of promised payback glinting in her eyes - if anything, she's been even less willing to put up with mismanagement at work in the last few months. Many an evening has been host to a ranting Mai, eventually calmed down by catlike cuddles and consultation. Somehow, she still has her job...maybe the arguing helps more than it hurts.

Work drifts away from her thoughts, though, at Mikoto's smile. Mai can't help but grin at the momentary indecision, and jogs to keep up as a warm hand takes hers along. "History it is! I'm going to count on you to remind me what's what, you know..."

That hand squeezes, relishing the warmth as they jog down the path to the history exhibit. It's late, but they should be open another hour...right?

Even if they aren't.

Even if the delay messes with their plans further.

"...I don't want to give this up." Half-whispered, a thought to herself as they run, slipping loose into the open winter air.

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

It's okay, Mai. There are plenty of opportunities to see Mikoto and a cat, because apparently Mikoto knows every cat in existence. Some of them even stick around long enough for photos!

Unfortunately, Mikoto's enthusiasm isn't very good at social context, but hopefully Mai was able to laugh off the comments to the chef without too much trouble. At least Mikoto conceded that this spaghetti was still good..?

(Perhaps a tomato plant can join the catnip plant.)

"Had better," she huffs, of Mai's manager. Mikoto is quite open about how little she cares for him, but she's more concerned with Mai's happiness than with payback, which is for the best, really.

... it's really for the best.

Mikoto laughs, happily, and makes an affirmative noise as she drags Mai along. "Yup!" Mai whispers and even sharp ears can't quite catch it, but the indistinct murmur of her voice has Mikoto squeezing her hand as she runs.

It's late, but the museum is open, and it's not so difficult for two more girls to find their way inside. Just as Mikoto thought, it's warmer in here - not too warm, but they're out of the air and the snow. She quickly drags Mai in towards the Japanese history; after all, that's what she knows.

"Look!" She declares, bringing her to a particular exhibit of woodblock prints. "Ukiyo-e! Looks, um..." Mikoto hums consideration as she peers at it, for a moment. Surprise crosses her face, and she blinks. "... Hishikawa school? It's old." She does not say quite how old. It is quite old.

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

There hadn't been too much trouble at the restaurant, but they didn't stay for dessert. A Linden Baum dessert was also out of the question, for unrelated but ultimately similar reasons. No parfaits have been obtained, and so perhaps another stop will have to be made tonight.

If there's time after the museum run.

The path there wasn't a long one, Mai following in an eager Mikoto's wake. For a moment after murmuring, as Mikoto's grip tightened, Mai could only hang her head and trust in her girlfriend's guidance.

...it's fine. It's not tonight's problem, right?

This close to closing, it's a discounted entrance fee - one Mai pays without a second thought. The tips tonight, at least, were decent enough to afford a little splurging. From there, it's off to the warmth and the hallways, dragged along to the most familiar and thoroughly documented history here.

For her part, Mai doesn't have the slightest clue what Mikoto's referring to - but she can trust in the catlike girl's expertise. "You'd know better than me - oh, there's a placard." She leans in, reading through the short summary - and then coughing abruptly upon seeing the correctness and the date. "Y-yeah. That's...pretty old."

There's no hope of her remembering this for a test, but it's still...kind of neat. Mostly for Mikoto's enthusiasm, though - and Mai takes a step back while Mikoto peruses exhibits, smiling at each comment or correction the dark-haired girl makes.

"You really like this kind of thing, huh? Do you ever think of trying to teach it?"

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

"Yup!" Mikoto chirps, helpfully, as Mai notices the placard. She did not bother to read it.

Some of them, she does; she knows more about old history, the days of lords, and as the exhibits get newer she knows less of them. But what she knows, she imparts cheerfully, if perhaps in a manner a little too laconic to be much help in their studies.

Well, it's probably fine.

After all, their history teacher is...

... it's fine. That's not tonight's problem, either.

Mikoto laughs, happily, as Mai notices her interest after she points out a kokugaku text, how Japan became interested in its own national studies after the arrival of the Dutch. It's only a moment later that she realises it was an earnest question.

She cants her head, looking up at Mai as if she can determine precisely how she gave such a precious person such an impression. "I can't do that," she says, finally. "I'd gotta go to school, and then go to school but as teacher... I dunno if I'd..." Mikoto shakes her head, finally. "Can't count on doing all that."

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

Maybe some of Mikoto's laconic explanations might help. It's not like she's going off on tangents about how much of a flirt Tokugawa Ieyasu was or anything.

Besides, it's not like Ohtori didn't appoint a replacement teacher or anything. Admittedly, that teacher is something of an obnoxious flirt that most of the class has learned to tune out, but there's someone ostensibly giving lectures.

...okay, fine, history class has been terrible for months.

This isn't history class, though, and there's laughter to be had on a date. There's serious conversations too, though, and Mai has stumbled right into one; a wince flashes through her expression, and her smile's a little sad. "...there's too much going on - too much to do - to think about that kind of thing, huh? Sorry for bringing it up. I guess I've just been worrying about the future a bit. It's like there isn't enough time-"

A chime fills the halls, interrupting Mai's musing. "Attention, honourable guests. We will be closing in ten minutes. Please begin to make your way toward the exit."

Mai glares up at the nearest loudspeaker, as if blaming it for time's march. "Speak of the...okay, I guess we have to hurry. Anything down this hall you want a better look at before we have to leave?"

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

Mikoto has been tuning history class out for months, because Midori isn't here any more.

... her grades have absolutely plummeted, over recent months. She used to at least do all right in social studies, thanks to her interest in history, but now she can't even manage that much. Students in class have begun whispering about what sort of miracle scholarship is even keeping her here. Mashiro's had a Talk with her charge about it.

But it doesn't really matter, because...

Well, this isn't history class. Mikoto points out a lot of interesting things, but in the end, the biggest mystery in the room is holding Mai's hand. Mikoto blinks as she looks up at her, mouth opening to -- say nothing at all, because a chime sounds.

Mikoto scowls, with a dissatisfied little grunt, before she brightens again as Mai asks. Perhaps she can explain with this. "This way!" She declares, tugging Mai down the hall -- to a suit of samurai armor. This, too, is old; there are some things which are outdated. "Nobility in military service," she explains, and perhaps it is a strange thing to comment on; even Mai must be aware of something as iconic as this.

It's strange, but she seems a little on edge as she examines it.

Soon enough ten minutes come to a close, though, and the two of them have to hurry out - gestured out of the hall by a disgruntled guard. The crowds are thinner, now, with the hour, and it's not difficult for Mikoto to find a free bench to drag them over to so they can sit down. "... that was fun!" She declares, happily.

And, you know, there is a span of nothing, because Mikoto often says nothing at all, but she'll scoot close to Mai so she won't be too cold even though the snowflakes are falling.

She can't help but remember what Mai said, though - what she was trying to say. She bites at the inside of her cheek as she considers, for a moment. "... hey, Mai..." Mikoto starts, uncertain. "... even when I gotta... I'll still be here for Mai. If all those girls can balance it... I can too, okay? So... so don't worry... about what's coming."

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

The current Ohtori history teacher really doesn't matter.

Holding Mikoto's hand is nice, and comforting, and capable of bringing in many a diversion from the troubles of the day. It's Christmas Eve, after all, and at least the pair of HiME are at the museum to look at the exhibits instead of to find a secluded corridor to make out in. Priorities, and all that.

So they study art and military history and exhibits of fashion past, right up until the guards usher them outside again with no small amount of annoyance. Even literally chased out, Mai is grinning right back at Mikoto. "It sure was!"

Now, there's a bench and some quiet. Now, there's a chance to simply be, to exist in this glittering twilight hour, to just be together. There's room on the bench for three people or more, but Mai slips in right next to Mikoto, cuddled up next to her. It's cold, after all.

It's cold, and it feels a little colder as Mikoto makes a promise. The sometimes-cook doesn't answer right away, electing instead to wrap an arm around her companion. There's a long breath, a faint sigh, and then an answer.

"...you're wonderful, Mikoto. I'll try, but at the same time...I have to. It's not just your duties, it's mine too." She looks up at the sky, watching those snowflakes drift ever downward. "We can't really plan for the future, can we? You've got your search, and I...one of these days, Takumi's going to get a call. It'll be a great day, when he gets what he's been waiting for so long - but that surgery is probably going to have to be in America. He's going to have to go abroad, and I'm going to have to go watch over him."

Silence falls like drifting snowflakes, implications slipping into place. Nothing more really needs to be said about that truth.

"...and I don't want to leave you behind."

Nothing needs to be said, but Mai says something anyway.

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

Mai wraps an arm around her, and Mikoto slips in closer to curl an arm around her waist in turn. Mai speaks and Mikoto listens, and perhaps it is well her cheek is pressed up against that coat; it makes it harder to see what's in her eyes.

It's pretty cold out, huh..?

She lets out warm air, like an exhale which can't quite commit to a sigh. It's nice, that she says so. It's nice she says anything.

"It's okay, Mai," she absolves her, quietly. "Everyone leaves. Sometimes it's while I'm sleeping... sometimes it's in middle of night... sometimes it's when my back's turned... but everyone leaves. It's okay," she repeats, like a mantra. "I was taught how to rely on myself, 'cause I'd be fighting alone."

She does not explain why she would not have any friends on her side.

There's a little sniffle, against that coat, as Mikoto smiles. "Anyway, Mai'll wanna come back once Takumi's okay, right..? So I'll just find Mai again, too. Searching for one more person won't be so bad..." There's a thinness to her voice, though she tries to be cheerful. She has not found him yet. She is not good at finding people.

But she'd try to find Mai. She really would try.

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

It's definitely cold out. Why else would they need to stay this close together?

The arm around Mikoto pulls her a little tighter at that little sniffle. Mai is listening, after all. Listening to every heartbreaking word.

She doesn't answer that sometimes people leave while in a hospital bed, that sometimes there's no way to find them again.

She has a better answer in mind, anyway.

There's a soft kiss to the top of Mikoto's head, as if to bring back the current time, the present instead of that terrible future. "I'll come back, yeah. Because...eventually, Takumi won't need me any more. So I'll come back, and I'll find you. We'll both be looking, and we'll find each other. Okay?"

Maybe it's a thin promise.

Maybe it's cast in metal and stone.

Mai pulls back a bit, just enough that she can look into Mikoto's face. There's a smile on her face, even though there's dampness by her eyes. "...and there's still time. It's not all changing tonight, after all. So for now...maybe we should just focus on being happy tonight."

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

Mikoto wouldn't know anything about her loved ones dying, after all. There's no way she could relate to the experience Mai had.

Sometimes they just 		leave.

Her breath catches in her throat as Mai's lips press against that cat-eared hat, the short hair beneath. She cannot relate to her brother not needing her any more; she cannot imagine a life where her Lord Brother has no need of her. But there's something else there -- something Mai can see, as she pulls back.

Brow arced up over damp eyes, lips parted for shuddery breath, the sort of hope born from disbelief which wears her face in tension, even as her cheeks draw up the corners of her mouth.

"Mai," she says, and her name is gratitude on her lips, because no one has ever looked for Mikoto before. She is always the seeker; she has never been sought. Mikoto could not begin to explain the meaning of it. "Mai..."

She nestles back in against her, burying her face against her neck. "... I'm happy," she says, and says it honestly. "I'm happy I get to be here with Mai..."

Tonight they can be happy.