2019-04-09 - Stray Sympathies
|Title: Stray Sympathies|
Two strays commiserate in the wake of a failure.
Yamanote High City - Rainbow Bridge
| OOC - IC Date:|
2019-04-09 - 2015-05-27
.***************************** Yamanote High City *****************************. *+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Rainbow Bridge +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Despite its name, the Rainbow Bridge spends most of its time bone-white, like an angel's harp carved of driftwood in the dark water of the bay. Periodically it crosses beneath an island every bit as man-made and geometrical as the bridge itself, planting pillars to claim it and then traversing water again. It's visible from a wide variety of angles from the coastline, forming a hypoteneuse that crosses the bay via Odaiba and, with the aid of less iconic bridges, permits quick travel from Yamanote to Shitamachi. Foot traffic is possible across the bridge, and many visitors dare the long walk to get a good view of the city on one side, and the sea on the other. Walking atop a bridge is a poor way to see the bridge itself, of course, but that is what the Yurikamome elevated train line is for. Slung beneath the bridge for much of its journey, the fully automated, driverless train gives a great view of the Rainbow Bridge on its way to Odaiba. For a few hours every night, this expensive landmark truly lives up to its name, glowing with different hues depending on the season or holiday. Rarely, a combination of floodlights makes a genuine rainbow of the bridge, with deep reds at its foot and violet at its peak. Small, colorfully lit tugboats and civilian craft float beneath the gleaming bridge, buoyant on the liquid dream of a starry sky. *+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed. <SoundTracker> Yuki Kajiura - Loss https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-mabEIlIjk
There is a point where sunset cedes to twilight, as lights flicker to life along the highways and the skyscrapers. And at first it is civil, the politeness of admitting the day is through, and there is enough light still to cast things in gentle blue. This is the time where cats are hit by cars, soft darkness deep enough to foil human eyes and light enough to fool them into thinking they see perfectly. Mikoto has no such limitation; gold glints brightly as the light reflects back through her retina, caught by an anatomical impossibility behind it. The moon as it rises is not yet full, as if it has brought a kimono a little too large for its age. It will grow into it.
In this blue tint it is easy for the world to pass by a girl in need, as salarymen rush home. It helps, perhaps, that the tiny girl who carries another takes the back-roads and the alleys; it is better if she is not questioned, now. She could have taken her to Tama river, but the river is Kyouko's, and it is best if she does not disturb her garden like this. Right now...
Mikoto has to go further, though acidic weariness eats through her muscles. There are precious few safe havens for monsters, but she knows Eri would be able to help Kyouko. She knows Eri still has the Grief Seeds, because she has seen to it. She has not kept a single traveller from her garden, young or old. In their innocence she offers them up to Eri's altar, as she was always meant to do. She does not tell Eri of the ones she fails to save. Eri wants to stop the little girls from being taken - Eri needs to eat; Eri is in Mikoto's hands, and she has taken responsibility. A homeless man is made of the same flesh as an executive. Each feeds Familiars.
'I - I'm supposed to have a line, right? Something I'm not willing to do? I don't got a line, Homura. I'm just, scary, and I do bad things, stuff other girls wouldn't. I'm... different.'
'If you have a line, that means there is something Eri-chan may be forced to do that you would not. What would that cost her? Would it be too much? Think on what you can bear in her stead. Think what you can spare her.'
Homura is right. She will need to try harder, now. There is no other option. There is no salvation. There is only perpetuity, at exponential cost. She will have to... have to...
She has to go further, but the enormity is heavier still than a hundred-hundred promises. All at once the weight of it crashes down on her and she knows she must rest, or risk dropping Kyouko like a stone. Kyouko is precious to Eri; she cannot hurt her.
The blue grows deeper as she makes her way down the slope, beside the abutment which links the Rainbow Bridge to solid ground. The lights of the bridge are a veil, to something in its shadow; they shine over dark water, and it is not so difficult to miss a small form taking a detour beside the massive structure. The sound of cars rush overhead, and the river laps below. A horn rudely cuts through the noise of traffic; everyone wants to go home. Mikoto wants to go home, desperately. Her lighthouse is there, can shine a path through the black. Mai will make her dinner and not ask why she is sad. Mikoto needs it so badly. But the target of Mikoto's affection is not the only girl driven by her duties. She cannot go home yet.
The sandy earth would prove tough to navigate while carrying a delicate load, for many people. But sensible Ohtori flats do not slip and tumble on the decline, though she picks her steps carefully. It is a balancing act; she is acrobatic. When they come to the vast bridge, at a point where the slope is not too steep, she kneels to lay Kyouko gently beside the structure. This is not the cruel sanctuary of obsidian spires; in this, she is kind. She takes a seat at her side, a little lower down - back pressed against the concrete, the black of her case resting on the ground by her hip.
She does not excuse herself to an unconscious girl; Mikoto sees no reason to speak and rouse her, yet. Warm air brushes past her upper lip as she snorts a breath through her nose, chin tilting up to the darkening sky. A million stars to join the first.
Mikoto draws a knee up to her chest, and then the other; her arms hook around her legs, as if she could compress into a little ball and disappear. It is a poor mirror to the vice of her chest, screw-tightened. She feels as if every part of her is choked.
Primarily her throat.
This close to the water, the air is cool and damp, with all the scent of city rivers. The flat of her tongue rises to the roof of her mouth, presses there as her teeth grit against each other. Her lip oughtn't tremble. Her face should not be so cool. Or damp.
This time she draws air in through her nose and it is noisy, too, snuf-sniffle hiccough as she rolls her face across her knees. Mewling dismay escapes her lips in quiet murmurs. She closes her eyes and she sees the sword she did not even attempt to stop. The girl she did not even attempt to --
Fall back, Kozue said.
And Mikoto did, as soon as it doomed her.
The blade which wields her could not suffer her to try.
She was not permitted to save her.
Not all oaths are new. Not all girls are heroes.
Heroes die. Crushed beneath a blade the size of a building, Child destroyed. Mikoto could not suffer the same fate. She had to leave Kozue to hers; she had to let Kozue die. She should not feel so poorly for it. Kozue chose her opposition. Kozue was an enemy. She should not be crying, shoulders trembling with grief for the loss of a friend she has known for over a year. A friend war took from her, as all things take from her.
It's supposed to be over - it's supposed to be done - and still it takes.
It was going to...
She wanted to try...
One day they'd...
... she will never eat crepes again, she resolves, ice in the jagged scars of her heart.
Mikoto realises with a start that her nails have dug into her knees, where white shorts dirtied by battle cannot protect her. Hers is a vice-grip and it clenches at her flesh. With effort she relaxes her grasp, scrubs at the angry red lines with the first knuckles of her fists. She soon finds herself scrubbing at her eyes, instead, trying to dismiss her tears. Her breath whines ragged past her lips, a low keening noise, and she buries her face in her palms and sobs.
She does not realise she has been making noise for some time now.
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
Kyouko rouses gradually, tiny specks of consciousness filtering down a narrow passage to cobble together an accumulated awareness like hourglass sand. But there's no countdown at play, and this particular descent does not signify an ending of one state so much as the beginning of another. Her time is not running out.
The sounds come first, all the bustle of a grand hive of humanity sorting itself out in a count down of its own. Most of it runs together, the sound of one engine bleeding into so many others, and generally speaking Kyouko is well accustomed to the regular din of urbanity. A blaring horn asserts itself to its audience, and the sleeping spearfighter is not immune to its interjection. The cutting noise doesn't launch her completely from the recessed depths of her slumber, but it punctures the bubble and the rest is just a matter of escaping air ushering once far off walls to settle down into a clinging veil which cannot be ignored, and must be cast off like any other blanket before waking life can resume.
She was tired, and battered. She had been tired and battered before. Puella Magi are a resilient tribe and Kyouko is molded of a hardy stock even among them. She is quick to recover, quick to heal, but not quite so quick as Sayaka. Except...that isn't quite true, is it? Recovery and healing are not the same thing. She'd excelled at the one, but the other..a burning wick does not recover. It simply shines bright and incandescent until there is nothing left. Sayaka's skin had mended itself before Kyouko's eyes. Now there is nothing left to stitch back together, and Kyouko's healing has outpaced her former friend, if that isn't too strong of a term.
Kyouko doesn't know if she'd dreamed. Her immediate thoughts have a dreamlike quality to them, a resistance to the sort of mundane anti-aura that marks most everyday goings in human hearts. But a Puella Magi's life is often surreal, and as formless darkness gives way to blinking, stammering sight, she no longer questions whether the Witch was real.
Wordless and still, she parses her surroundings as best as she can, thankful that the Rainbow Bridge's signature namesake is as distinctive as it is, and quickly clocks a companion. Without calling attention to her increasingly alert state, she observes Mikoto with a sideways gaze. Kyouko notices the bloody furrows first, but doesn't interrupt. Sometimes one needs to bleed. When she speaks, she croaks, soft and wry, her hand shaking a little as she fishes for an inky urchin to suck the venom loose.
"..you've got a lot going on in you, don't you?"
Less shakes now. Her eyes squint less, her vision less bleary. Pocketing the grief seed, her soul gem shines bright and bold in the in between of the lights.
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
It is better not to dream. This is not advice Mikoto can give Kyouko, ignorant of her mind; she would if she could.
She is not fit to give any advice to Kyouko, right now; she does not even notice her rousing. Mikoto is occupied with her tears, face covered with splayed fingers. Distantly, she is aware of how vulnerable she is. She should not fold into herself in an unprotected place, where anyone could find them. Not only for her sake - but Kyouko's, too.
The war is over, everyone says, but Mikoto cannot shake her wariness so easily. It is too comfortable to assume the world is her enemy. It is too strange to think they do not want to kill her. She tolerates them as well as she can, but she cannot shed the thought at the back of her mind that she is in danger, that she has to be on guard.
A thread of tension she has not known since -
How long was it since that cruise liner was destroyed, anyway..?
Those shining days...
But there is a distant voice closer than the din of the city, and Mikoto startles as she realises it is Kyouko's. Her face snaps to her, hands lowering to let her eyes see through the watery film, and for a moment her expression is stricken: brow curved up, lips pinned down like butterflies on a board. Hurriedly she shakes her head, braids whipping at either side of her face, and her hands scrub at her eyes again. "I - I --"
After a moment the meaning of her words sink in, and Mikoto swallows and sniffles, gaze turning aside. "I don't even know what's in me, Kyouko."
"... but it's not good."
And perhaps she means that she feels as if Tokyo Tower has fallen upon her in all its weight, and she feels bad, even worse than how bad she normally feels, which is still bad.
It is a convenient story.
She shakes her head, again, teeth dragging over her bottom lip before she looks back to Kyouko again. With a deep, shaky breath, those too-bright golden eyes look for her soul gem, and there is relief on her sorrowful face to see it. "Kyouko's okay... I'm glad." It's a strange reversal, between the blood-deep berserkergang she shows in battle and this; Mikoto is honestly happy to see that gem bright again, with no hint of sharp edges to her.
Mikoto's gaze turns out, towards the water again. The smile falls from her face in degrees as she realises what Kyouko does not know; what it falls to Mikoto to tell her. Her face draws in tension, and for long moments she is silent instead.
When she breaks the silence it is with a wordless hum, as Mikoto looks back to her. "It... didn't work. I'm -" the corner of one lip tugs down, as she glances aside. "I'm sorry. We can't save Witches."
All at once she seems to tighten in on herself, becomes smaller than she was. "Kozue was defeated," and surely Kyouko is familiar by now with Mikoto's little euphemisms. "... everyone else got out." There is a high sort of cast to the words as her voice wobbles, but she does not sob into her hands again.
It's not right for her to cry for Kozue.
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
At Mikoto's response, Kyouko turns her head to look directly at her, studying her companion's expressiveness and body language. Although Kyouko is largely expressionless, there is an obvious sympathy tempering impassivity to those with the eyes to see it.
"It's alright. Try not to get too wrapped up in it. You'll be ok if you're not swept away. Gotta breathe, gotta believe you're gonna live."
Her face further softens as Mikoto's grief is interrupted by relief. There is a tremendous openness to the other girl, not much guile in sight. She's seen it before, and it comes as no surprise, but they'd never really had a moment alone. Without other souls in the soup it's all the more apparent just what Mikoto is responding to. Kyouko likes such unguarded souls. They help her feel like she doesn't have to play it so close to her chest all the time.
"Thanks..I'm still here, it's true. I'm glad you're okay, too."
Some thought enters into the other's mind. It's as obvious as the sweep of a shadow across the ground on a bright day as a cloud wanders off in front of the sun. Now, as before, Kyouko studies Mikoto. Whereas before, there was a great transparency of feeling, now there is something taut and pent. She believes the swordswoman is readying herself for something, and is content to let her arrive at it in her own time. Unless, of course..it is to attack.
Kyouko doesn't think so, but one can never know. Mikoto is dangerously capable, yes, but more to the point Kyouko doesn't fully grasp her psychology. Mikoto's sentiments may be clear, but the upstream sources of those feelings are not. How does she see the world, and her place in it? People don't only do things happily, or eagerly. Ultimately Kyouko can never fully relax around somebody or something she does not feel that she fully understands. But she knows that Mikoto is loyal to her friends and suspects that if Kyouko were to find herself in danger in the next minute, her companion would put her own life on the line with her, if only for Eri's sake. So she does not worry overmuch.
Besides, Kyouko is dangerous too.
Mikoto does not, as it turns out, unsheathe her sword, but instead draws something more cutting. Kyouko looks off to the bay now at nothing in particular, and nods a little nod. "...I thought that might be true, when I woke up here. Didn't seem like a place for a party. Didn't really believe it would work either, I think. Just..just really wanted. Hoped..hope for her. Would've meant hope for me. Dunno how it would've worked, if we saved her, if we could save the others..no more Witches, no more seeds. Probably couldn't have survived that world. But it sure makes this one that much worse..."
Kyouko sighs a little, and closes her eyes, and nods again. "..I hope heaven's real. I hope they're there now, or at least together somewhere. I'm glad everybody else is ok...just seeing you made me wonder.."
Leaning back, she threads her fingers through the sparse and hardy grass at the base of the bridge's bottom, opening her eyes and gazing up to the concrete ribbon and its vivid glows.
"...Homura told me that Walpurgisnacht is coming. I feel calmer about it now, I think."
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
"I can't help..." Mikoto murmurs, in response to Kyouko's advice. "... being swept away." There is something so, so sad to the admission.
Is Mikoto okay?
Certainly she smiles when Kyouko says she is still here; certainly, she is glad. She is whole, she is... ah, well. There is a time she could be described as 'hale'. Mikoto knows a good deal about feudal history, though few outside of class would guess she has such a skill. Once upon a time...
The word meant something a little different.
Something a little more fitting to her current condition.
It is a sharp-edged metaphor, to go from modern meaning to archaic. To slip into the past, and all its dark corners. She was hale, once; she is hale still.
There are so many dark corners to a person like Mikoto, who explains so little of herself, who exhibits such extremes. Few have seen the shape of them. Eri has seen enough to think she knows the truth, and this is the time when cats are are hit by cars, the time when the darkness is deep enough to fool the eyes and light enough to trick the mind.
But Kyouko was never in any danger, after all.
Kyouko is Eri's, and Eri is the third most important person in the world.
She says she did not think it would work, and Mikoto scowls at the water, with a low dissatisfied noise. It is a complaint which dies as the other girl keeps talking, and the frustration dies to heartache. "Kyouko..." She trails off, looking to her, and her name on her lips is grief and compassion.
Mikoto takes a shuddering breath, as Kyouko lists out her hopes. Her lips press together, part to share a secret. "... Kozue was my friend. Before everything went wrong." She may be talking about a different event to the one Kyouko brings to mind. The world went wrong long before the war started, for Mikoto Minagi. "Kozue's only girl who never lied to me. Took me seriously even when I didn't know stuff. Explained without making fun of me." She does not meet her eyes as she says: "I tried to kill Kozue."
So many dark corners.
She does not excuse herself, eyes tracking over the water. Here, she hears a foreign word. Mai has heard her struggling over the German items in Linden Baum many times; Japanese is hard enough. "Wal..pur..gis..nach..t..." She says the word slowly, trying to find the places where consonants mash together unnaturally. "It's coming?"
<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.
So maudlin...Mikoto isn't the first magical girl to speak with such stark resignation as to her fate. Without knowing a thing about it, Kyouko can at least sense the sincerity of her conviction. "...well, as long as you keep your head above water. Hold your breath from time to time." Mikoto's initial displeasure is easily read, but Kyouko continues saying what she has to say. When her fledgling friend calls her by her name, Kyouko smiles a sad little smile, and shrugs. "..I know. It was my idea. I didn't believe in would, but I convinced myself in could. My dreams don't seem to last."
She listens, staring off at the current, neither interrupting nor offering particular reaction before Mikoto is done. It's a brief eulogy for a girl that Kyouko never particularly knew, but one of the better ones that the holy man's daughter had ever heard. "I'm glad you didn't. That would've been hard on you. Sayaka was my friend too, before. I think. Not far from one at least... I'm sorry Kozue's not with us anymore. There's nothing to say to make it okay."
Kyouko glances over to Mikoto again. "I think "nacht" means "night." Not sure about the rest. It's a story Puella Magi tell. The Witch of all Witches...traveling the world without a Labyrinth to contain it. To contain her, I guess. I didn't think it was real, but Homura says it is. Anyways..."
Kyouko smiles softly.
"I'm pretty hungry. Wanna grab something? My treat for hauling me."
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
There is so much in breath. Mikoto is carefully conditioned, with a heart which pumps slow and muscles which remember. And yet there is one thing which betrays her, time and time again: the air on her lips. At times it shudders and at times it shallows, and at times it is caught between diaphragm and throat as she finds she cannot breathe at all. Enough to quicken the black-glass thing in her chest, enough to set her to trembling.
She has held her breath. Though Natsuki tried, the ocean could not slay her.
(She does not remember why she is overestimating her abilities; she does not remember her saviour.)
Kyouko offers her condolences, and Mikoto grunts, puffs a breath out through her nose. She hums affirmation: "Yeah. It's hard." And in that moment, she does not think of the hardship she escaped.
Her name was Shigeko, a little girl trying to run from the death of her mother on a camping trip with her father. His name was Youta, dragged into nature by a friend to help him with a sadness he had known for years. Her name was Reina, and she could not believe the man who loved her would abandon her just because she scored badly on her exams. His name doesn't matter.
'I'd do anything for Eri. Anything Eri asked.'
'Oh anything? Would you tell me no if you thought I was wrong? That you don't like doing the things you're having to do for me? Because you can you know.'
'I... I wouldn't say no. But, I... I wish we didn't have to kill people... who weren't even warriors... it's wrong, Eri! They never brought a blade against me! They never, made the choice, to fight...'
'I won't sacrifice people for myself, or let others do the same. Your leader kills innocent people to sustain herself--for power.'
'Eri HAS to! Chevaliers just keep fighting! Without power, Eri'd die too, doesn't Cure Passion get that?!'
'Minagi-san. Are you taking good care Eri-chan's territory for her?'
'Yeah... Eri can rely on me.'
"... I can handle it," Mikoto says, and the words are dull, and her eyes are sharp. Here is the truth: hale was once a verb, used to describe coercion - obligation - pressure.
There are a thousand pressures facing them; it is not so strange to put a name to another. "Witch of all Witches," Mikoto echoes, frowning lightly as she considers the words. Another thing Homura carried alone. It's sad, and that sadness is reflected in her eyes; she has never been able to hide her emotions from her face.
Perhaps it's a sadness Kyouko sees, because her next words are an offer. Mikoto blinks, as she looks over to her. It seems like such a strangely normal thing - right after Kozue died. Like the world is going on without a single thought for her death.
But Mikoto is hungry, after all, and it is so easy to push hard feelings into a dark corner where she will not have to look at them. A small smile crosses over her face - grateful, if not marred by melancholy. "'Kay," she says, with a firm nod. "Let's eat, Kyouko!"
Even if Mikoto is difficult to understand - there is one thing which has always been clear.
Kyouko and Mikoto share essential common ground: they both love food.