2019-04-12 - Deepening Depression! Steven's Scalding Hope

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Title: Deepening Depression! Steven's Scalding Hope

Mikoto and Steven have hung out together many times. She never used to leave in tears. Then again, she never used to deal with death so often. Unfortunately, Steven doesn't know how to deal with it, either.


Mikoto Minagi, Steven Universe


Tokyo Bay

OOC - IC Date:

2019-04-12 - 2015-05-28

.**************************** Shitamachi Low City *****************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Tokyo Bay +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
 Once known as the "Inner Sea," the shelter Tokyo Bay once provided for
 merchants and fishermen helped Tokyo develop into the powerhouse that it is
 today, nor is it less useful today. Japan's largest shipping ports operate
 out of the Bay, as does its own navy and that of the US Forces. Herculean
 efforts dredge up its silt to create artificial islands, and factories drink
 its water to soothe their smoky throats.

 To most residents, however, the Bay is simply blue water glittering,
 salt-seasoned breezes, and gently drifting sails. The aptly named Rainbow
 Bridge crossing the bay enhances rather than damages its beauty, its white
 towers lit many nights by an artificial rainbow. A provincial visitor might
 consider Tokyo Bay to be trimmed like a garden hedge; it has a number of
 oddly geometric islands with arranged greenery, and any land touching the
 water often makes the best of it with a park, intake valve, or other
 imposition on nature. To a city-dweller, though, it is a miracle of open
 space and calm.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Bear McCreary - One Year Later https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwHh3NNn_IQ

On the day after oblivion, it ought to be raining. Pouring down-down more like sheets than droplets, choking out locked gardens as the water creeps up, up, up. Splisher-splash against the wrought iron fences and the hedges, lap lap against the cobblestone, past the cobblestone...

It is not raining.

Mikoto is not crying.

There are people who should cry, for Kozue Kaoru. They are the people who have not tried to kill her. Mikoto has long since learned how someone ought to act - when an enemy they love dies. Mikoto listens to so much more than what is said.

On the day after oblivion, perhaps she would be forgiven for lapsing in her duties. It is true that she was not very attentive, making bentos with Mai. She made some mistakes. She couldn't pay attention. She has not said why. Lock it in the garden; let it drown. It's fine. It's fine because she's out now; she's searching. She is not in class. Children start pouring home as the afternoon hour ticks over, the ones who are not seeing to their clubs. Mikoto is not in any clubs, either. She's searching.

Now she does not have to see to the thing which was Sayaka, she has more time to devote to her other duties. Mai. Eri. The search. These are the things which are important. There are things which are not important.

(There are things it is too painful to face up to, seeing her in the school halls, never seeing her again.)

Here, now, it brings her to the shoreline, where the breeze is crisp from sea-salt air and the sun has come out to shine on the sand. She is still in her winter uniform; it will be a few more days until they change. The jacket hangs open in concession to the growing heat of almost-summer, caught over a shoulder by the black strap of Miroku's case.

But it is difficult to move with purpose, right now.

Going down the sandy shoreline, Mikoto's pace could be described as 'wandering'.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

The hidden battles of a few can sculpt a generation. What goes on in the dusky corners of refineries, of the skyscrapers far above, the airport far below. Events may never be known by the public, but great change came that night. For weal or woe.

The group of people Steven Universe calls friends have been acting stranger and stranger lately. Aloof, saddened, trumatized. THeir lives were being tampered with in a way Steven could not quantify. None wished to talk about it, at least directly. The death of Mami Tomoe suggested something more however.

She wouldn't die so easily. The boy did not know he too well, but was saddened for her departure, of course.

He really liked her ribbons.

Badguys, evil powers that be, all possible avenues.

Mayhap he will find an answer.

Steven was once again on the beach today, as he was always, enjoying the time after school. Yes, school, the one he was enrolled in! Why wouldn't he be? But musical writer's block-- composer's block?-- has hit him.

The flaming ukelele is jammed into the sand, and the boy is gazing over the water, the white form flaying and dancing, ephemeral in the glow of the sun before falling back to the water. But movement catches his eye. A look to the side.

They were familiar! A plump little hand shoots up and waves from his seat as the other party walks.

Maybe this would be a good day after all!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Bad guys, evil powers...

They're all possible avenues, yes.

Mikoto sees the pink before the movement, small and round; Steven Universe. She looks to him, blinks.

After a moment, she remembers to wave.

It's a strange delay, for someone who has always been so friendly towards him. Mikoto turns, and makes her way to the boy and the buried ukelele. They will not bury her. There was no body.

"Steven," she says, yobisute, and there is little inflection to the word. She smiles, faintly. It is a thing on her lips, not her face. Just like last time - worse than last time.

She looks as tired as she was, bone-weary, as if she has lived a hundred years and will live a hundred more. She tries not to let it show. She fails.

Mikoto grunts, as she looks to his instrument. "Music?" She asks, and this tone, at least, manages to rise at the end.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

There is a concerning delayed response to the wave. Perhaps she was distracted. Perhaps school or relationship troubles. Or perhaps it was something else.

"Heeeey Mikoto!" the boy greets. ever-present smile, ever inviting demeanor. "Everything okay? Come hang out with me!" he asks. "I Have drinks here we can-- oh." A look to a picked up can. It is caked with sand. "Hang on!" the boy says, scampering to his feet, the flip flops plod against soft damp sand as he runs to the oceanside. The soda can is dunked into the rolling waves ankle deep and quickly washed off before returning over by the young lady.

"I got other kinds of drinks too!" THere is a moment of silence. "You uh... look tired."

"Yeah! I wanted to write a song, but I am having trouble thinking of lyrics. I wanted it to be about how fu nthe beach was! I cant find a rhyme for 'seafoam' though that fits the song."

The mound of sand by Steven's belongings shifts ever-so-slightly. A pair of large eyes open from within it. Seems like they aren't alone.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

'Come hang out with me!'

... on a beach in Okinawa, and the differences between enemies and bad guys which went completely unaddressed...
... in Tokyo Bay, as Mai spluttered over the advent of a child riding a lion, and Mikoto cheerfully informed her how good they were...
... Akumatised in the the zoo, two separate cats with very different approaches...
... rescued from a cell in the middle of space, led back to what would lead her...
... taking her inside his home and insisting she was good, foul actions fueled by love...
... telling him not to get involved, because the truth is harder than he knows...

Mikoto watches, as Steven scampers to the shore. She reaches out, a moment later, to take the salty can. "Thanks," she says. She's always been monosyllabic, so perhaps it's just normal.

Except he says she looks tired, and she just grunts in reply, not quite looking at him.


She turns the word over, in her mind. Words are not her universe; she is a visitor to them. Their meaning is at times lost to her. But she tries to think of a word which rhymes, anyway.

"... never coming home," she concludes, after a long moment. She has not opened her can. There is no danger of it being pressurised.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

STeven hands that little fizzy drink over, and plops back down on the beach. THose big eyes blink, but otherwise whatever the yare attached to seems content to remain submersed in sand. A large exhalation does puff a bit of sand out, revealing nostrils.

A nod of his little round head, his poofy hair vouncing with it. He sits down in a cushy spot in the sand and reeeeaches for that ukelele. He begins to strum it, humming.

It is a lovely tune, a lot of upward swings in sound, sounds like a beach party tune--

'...never coming home.'

Steven's hand slips, and his several strings at once in a dischordant roll of sound. "...Come again?" He thinks for a moment. "Unless you were going with the beach being so nice you are never going home, I feel like something is on your mind."

"...Wanna talk about it?" he asks, concern growing. "You haven't been yourself lately! Maybe having someone to talk to can help!"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto listens as his fingers drag down, G-C-E-A as each string vibrates in protest. She looks down, because she hasn't taken a seat. She hasn't taken a seat, because she has to keep moving. She can't stop here. She can't stop now.

She blinks, as Steven says something is on her mind. Almost like Kyouko. On her, in her. It's another distinction which might not be a distinction at all. There are so many of them, with words. So many words which mean the same things.

Ah, and at the same time...

'Nah. Think of it like... a word can have several meanings.'

Mikoto's gaze grows distant, as her eyes slide to the sea. At first, it's almost like she doesn't hear Steven's concern at all, as if it has not been a mirror to her own so many times. She takes a deep breath. It shudders.

She shouldn't cry.

Finally she shakes her head and grunts, seating herself in the sand beside him. She unslings her case from her shoulder; it rests beside her, between them. "Myself," she echoes, and the word rings in empty hall.

"... I think I haven't been myself... long time, now." Her fingers curl around the can, loosely. "I forget lots of stuff. But... it's easier to remember, these days. It's easier to know... what I'm supposed to do." She puffs out a breath, through open lips, and watches the waves. "And it's harder to forget. That's what I miss most. It was easier to forget."

For long moment, there is silence.

"I wasn't lying... wasn't trying to. I guess I just didn't really know what it meant. What it cost. It was easy... fighting monsters. Remember, Steven?" And here she does smile, with a laugh which shudder-trembles at the onset, fades to a whine. "But even then... even when everything was okay, I was still... different. Destroying my enemies..."

She shakes her head, and still does not look at him. "It's weird, Steven. I thought I was fighting girls now. But I was right first time around. I've been fighting monsters... this whole time." Tap-tap-tap against the side of the can. "Not all of them. Just the Puella Magi. When they stop eating Grief Seeds, they become Witches. And they need more and more and more... Kozue thought we could stop it. Get through to them. Kozue died, 'cause there's nothing left. Kozue's never coming back, Steven. I guess Sayaka might come back, if any Familiars got through. But it's not Sayaka, no more. It's just..."

Here she turns to him, braids falling over her dull-eyed face. "... a monster. And it's up to me to stop Eri from becoming one too. I've been listening to them, Steven... before they die. I've been following them..." Shigeko. Youta. Reina. So many more don't mention their names.

Her brow curves up, eyes shining with tears. "... I don't stop them. Not any of them."

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

As Mikoto sits, even as she still talks, the boy continues to play a little soothing music. It could help calm her. She seems so flustered, disturbed even. "Did you have amnesia? Or has it been so long some things are fuzzy?"

"Well... yeah! Badguys gotta be stopped. Or people get hurt. I was wondering why they seemed to stop coming, not that I am complaining! Haven't been in a fight in a while."

Mikoto reveals a bit of a stunning truth to Steven. He stops playing the music. "They... do?" He goes quiet. There is a time where only the waves make sound. "I... Don't know what to say..."

He believes her. Oh, he definitely believes her. She is far to oupset to lie. Not that she ever lied before anyway. "Theres gotta be a way around it, right? I mean... we have pulled off some crazy things before." of course he knows very little about the Magi.

"But the Witches gotta be stopped or they hurt people, right? We can't let people get hurt. Its our duty to helpe thing. Sorta! I don't think there is an oath or something as I might have missed that, but people that can't save themselves deserve a chance."

"Did you say you were fighting girls? You weren't fighting other girls, were you? We need everyone possible to fight badguys." He seems to be trying to put things together, but may be off the mark on a thing or two, still.

"I bet if we all put our heads together, we could find a way around it!" Optimistic as ever.

Having heard another person, possibly two, has died, is brutal to listen to. Steven always saw this shining young ladies as some kind of heroic pantheon. And now that some are dying its... It will be a tough pill to swallow.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto can't meet his eyes, as Steven speaks so honestly about what they ought to do, what he wants to be possible.

She turns her face away, back towards the ocean. The water condemns her. She lets him talk. It's his duty to help people, she does not say. Her duty has always been a thing narrower, no matter the things she has added to her obligations.

There's a slight curl up of her lip, as he asks his question; the expression is tugged as one side of her mouth scrunches up. And she lets him talk, and she is silent.

"Steven really is... a good person," Mikoto says, finally.

A beat, two, three.

"Yes," she says, with feudal weariness. "I fought girls. I almost killed Mami, before Eri did. Garnet got me to stop. Took Eri's soul gem hostage. I didn't know how bad that was," and she does not stop to explain, "but I still knew it was bad. Wasn't the only time. Later... when we went to Mami's territory, no other purpose than defeating her..."

Her fingers tighten around the can. "I think that's when I started to figure it out. It's good to know what you are, isn't it..?" 'What', again. Not 'who'. Never 'who', these days.

Monsters live here.

"Endo, too," Mikoto says. "Peridot. Reinforce. Vita. Setsuna. Sayaka. Kozue." She lists the names she has tried to erase as easily as she would list shopping.

But then, if we are to speak of ingredients...

"They all fought back. Food doesn't."

There's a dull cast, to her words. Resignation. "I told Steven already," she says, the words weighed-down. She does not say what she has told him. She does not say that she has already told him that she is bad - why she is bad.

Mikoto breathes out, through her nose. "... but they say they're done. It's over. No more fighting... guess that's what happens, finding out girls are monsters. If it'd happened earlier..." She shakes her head, braids whipping at her face. "... I dunno. Maybe everyone could be happy. Maybe it'd be okay. But I'm just good at fighting, Steven," says the girl who has made sand-castles with him, and sprawled on his Lion as if she belonged there, and listened to his music. "I couldn't make it better."

Beat. "I tried," she admits, voice small, "at the end. When I realised. Nothing changed." Her lips form a thin line, and she takes in a sharp breath.

"... no one can make it better. There's no way around. We can never go back to how it was," and there is a creaky sort of shuddering breath, "I can never go back."

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

It is difficult to respond correctly in a situation like this and called a good person. A little cheeky grin is all he can manage, as any words he finds felt strange to say.

She says Garnet was involved. His eyes grow wide. "G-Garnet...?" Steven bites his lower lip. "Well, that answers why she won't talk about where she has been lately. Tell me any stories about whe she's done at night before bed. I guess she didn't want me to know..." Hands grip the ukelele tightly.

He is upset with her, but it could wait. She didn't tell him for good reasons. He can already tell. What would he have done if fighting people who were once friends? Could he have even done it?

"Did... did you try talking to her, at least?" he asks Mikoto. Of course meaning trying to kill Mami. Why couldn't they just defeat them? Why kill?

He knows the list of targets she mentions. Some were enemies, others were reformed allies. "I guess it took something dire to stop the fighting." Steven thinks for a moment, lost in a bit of emotion. "What... what started the fighting?" Seems like not even that info he knew.

"I'm sorry, I don't believe that," Steven says defiantly toward Mikoto, a sudden change in tone. "I feel like you have resigned yourself to only be good at fighting. You are good at other stuff too. You have really cool reflexes, so you could be a gymnast. You really like cats, you could run a charity function to rescue strays and help them find homes. You like good food, maybe cooking would be fun!"

"I just feel like you haven't found what makes you special yet."

"...Maybe I am wrong," he continues. "Maybe fighting is it. Fighters can do stuff too, like be a cool stunt double in action movies."

He listens to her speak. His brow furrows with a sad, panged look on his face with her last words. "Heh... Why would you want to go back?"

It seems a simple statement. Perhaps to certain folks, an insult. "We always gotta look to the future and move forward. Going back is never really an option, only something to help you bake better choices should the same thing happen again. Something like that, anyway."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"No." Mikoto's answer to his question is immediate. Others tried to talk; she only screamed. At first she does not answer his second question; she listens.

Her eyes soften, as she glances towards him in his defiance. He speaks and she hears Eri - she hears Yumi - she hears Lera. "Steven..." For a moment the mora trail off into nothing, softly. "... I'm glad. But no matter how much I hear that... it doesn't fit." Not with her.

"Back then..." Mikoto takes in a breath, and it turns into a sniffle, despite herself. The back of her free hand comes up to scrub her face. "I was busy lots. Sometimes I'd be out searching for days. But everything was simple, Steven. I had Mai. That's all I had to worry about... then Mai died. And it got complicated, even after Mai came back. 'Cause I didn't want Mai to die again."

She puffs out a sigh. "Steven asked why the Chevaliers started fight, right..?" And she lingers on the uptick, as if wondering just how much of his faith in her to kill.

Maybe it would be better if he didn't know anything.

If he still thought she was a good person.

But that would be a lie, and Mikoto is no liar.

"Cultivation," she answers, after a moment's pause. "Familiars feed on people, and become Witches. Familiars don't have grief seeds. Witches do. Puella Magi need grief seeds. Making sure Familiars become Witches, so Puella Magi have grief seeds to eat..."

She looks past him. "It's... deliberate. It's not nice. And I help kill the Witches when they've eaten. I've helped for a long, long time. I've seen lots and lots of people go away to kill themselves. I always looked away. 'Cause they're not really killing themselves. They're being eaten by Familiars. Eventually I couldn't say I was good any more. Wasn't just that I knew bad things, Steven. I used what I knew. I did bad things. Now I..."

'It feels like I'm swimming in some dark place and I can't get... back... to a place where I can feel anything good or beautiful... I can just... tread water... and choke...'

"I can't get back," says the girl who has tried so hard to shine for them. Mikoto has ever been an engine of hope for dark and broken girls. But, then - Mikoto was always able to pretend she didn't care about the girls who died, before this. "Even though I want to. And I don't see a way forward, neither. All I know how to do... is be bad."

Her breath shudders, and she takes a moment to grit her teeth, scrunch her eyes shut for a moment. Finally, she opens them, eyelashes damp. "I can't make it better. No one's fighting any more. I can't believe it, 'cause it feels like they should still be fighting me. That's why Chevaliers started fight. 'Cause they thought it was wrong. It is wrong, Steven. But I won't leave Eri alone. I won't let Eri become a monster."

She does not say: there is nothing I would not do.

Because she loved Kozue, too.

And she didn't even try.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

There is a pair of Steven that expected that answer. Yet he is still startled by its abruptness. "It takes people a long time to find what fits. I won't give up on you finding something easily!"

The boy draws his finger through the soft sand. "I can understand that. But if you live your life always worrying, you'll never be truly happy. Always looking over your shoulder. I'm not saying you shouldn't look out for Mai, but if you only think about that, you might miss out on something else."

And Mikoto lays out the vicious cycle.

Steven looks like someone blew his mind. Hard. "Whaaaat?!" He holds the sides of his head, he feels like he jsut heard one of Ronaldo's crackpot theories. "Thats... terrible! I mean like... Well..." He starts to come back down from shouting rather quickly. "That's too deep for me to try and figure out a solution. I hate that though. I don't like it at all. It's mean and awful."

"...But I doubt anyone became a Puella Magi knowing that. The real badguys are either Puella Magi that became what they are knowing this. Did any of them know this when they got their powers?"

"I mean, if there are, they might as well be those guys from Labyrinth that wanna fill their weird gauge thingy. Or Gems from Homeworld, or something." He seems a little disgruntled at the thought of their power.

"I think it was a good thing I didn't get involved, now that I know. I don't want anyone to die. But that is also unfair to both them and the poor people the Witches get."

"So, just to make sure I got this right. One side was fighting to keep normal people safe, and the other didn't want to let their friends die."

Another bit of silence.

"And I bet they can't just give up their powers."

More silence.

"Maybe there is a way we can stop it still. I dunno. I don't have any ideas, but we have all pulled off the impossible together before. Would probably take something super special to get it done, though..."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"I don't like it neither," Mikoto says. "No one does."

There's only one Puella Magi she can think of, who might have known from the start. It is true that Homura knows many things; it is true Mikoto does not know why or how. She cannot bring herself to think Homura is at fault, because Homura is her friend. Even if Homura had some way of knowing the truth...

It's a bitter pull, between resentment towards a girl who might have known better, and the girl who avenged Mai Tokiha.

Her lips part; her breath elides the question. "..." She shakes her head. Perhaps it is negation.

"It's good," she says, instead, with surety. "Don't fight girls, Steven. It changes you. There's... one thing I don't regret," she insists, curling both hands about the can which has since dried. "Mai's Eri's friend, too. But we kept Mai out of it. And Mai was mad, when she found out... but if Mai was fighting, Mai'd get enemies, too. Mai'd have to look over her shoulder. I fought instead. I took care of Eri. Now I got enemies. But Mai doesn't have to worry. I'm happy about that..."

She bows her head, clasping the can to her chest. "It's okay for me to have that much, right..?"

There is a beat of silence; another. "... yeah," she says, finally, of the conflict. "More or less." Perhaps a little 'more' than 'less', on the intricacies of their conflict, but Mikoto has ever been economical with her words.

"They can't," on the subject of their powers, and it is resigned.

"We can't," on the subject of stopping it, and there is a hint of anger, now.

"They tried," Mikoto's voice strains on the emphasis, shoulders curling in. "They tried real hard, Steven! And - and maybe there's bits of Sayaka there. I don't know. There was a piano. But it didn't care about the people it used to love most. It hurt them. It killed Kozue. It hit her and Cassandra with a big sword and crushed them. I just watched it happen!"

The can drops to her lap, as she hugs her hands about her arms. Her voice rises to a high pitch, wobbling at the top like a balancing plate. "Steven, even listening?! Just telling me it's fine when I know it's not..." It hurts. It is so obvious that it hurts.

"... Kozue would've never lied to me like this," she says, and her eyes scrunch shut. She does not think of how unfair she is being, in that moment.

Her breath hitches, again, and she shoves a palm against the sand, grasping at the strap of her case blindly as she rises. "Forget it," she says, and the sharpness of the words are compromised by the tears which leak down her face, the way her voice wobbles. "I messed up."

What was she thinking - trying to get him to understand?

There's no way he could help her, and his platitudes only carve away at the jagged edges of her heart.

Without another word, Mikoto turns and flees down the beach, breath shudder-stuttering with sobs as she sprints.