2019-04-13 - I Want To Know! A Witch's Promise And The Hunting Partner's Burden

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Title: I Want To Know! A Witch's Promise And The Hunting Partner's Burden

Yumi seeks out Mikoto, who doesn't much feel like talking will help with her problems. Talking does, surprisingly enough, help with her problems, and she finds that perhaps there is one girl amongst the Shepherds she can still lean on instead of trying to be strong.


Mikoto Minagi, Yumi Ohzora


Tama Outer City - Nishitama Park District

OOC - IC Date:

2019-04-13 - 2015-05-28

.****************************** Tama Outer City  *******************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Nishitama Park District +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 The largest, but least densely populated area of Tokyo, Nishitama is on the
 westernmost border of the great metropolis, where city has become town,
 which becomes forest, which finally becomes towering mountain. Consisting
 mostly of woods and mountains, Nishitama is home to lush greenery, ample
 wildlife, and fresh flowing water that has yet to be tainted by the city
 below. Fishing and hiking are popular here, and in good weather,
 city-dwellers who long to stretch their legs can camp out in the forest
 without ever leaving Tokyo's borders.

 The spiritually inclined can find a wealth of opportunity in Nishitama's
 mountains. The nearby Mount Mitake has been regarded as sacred since time
 beyond memory, and a Shinto shrine at its peak safeguards its considerable
 power. Mount Mito was forbidden ground throughout the Sengoku era, a policy
 which preserved some ancient beech trees on its hills. Finally, the
 2000-meter Mount Kumotori is the tallest in the area, with a clear view of
 distant Mount Fuji and much of the region from its summit.

 All of this natural beauty is a mere hour and a half from Shinjuku Station
 even at the extreme end of the district.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Darren Korb - Vanishing Point https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_VI61pZczo

'> Hey, Mikoto-chan. How are you doing?'

Mikoto taps the message to display it on the screen. It helpfully pops up 'read', which is true, in the strictest sense. Golden eyes scan over the digital curve of the characters, forms them into words; her mind translates word to sense and shape in an extra step she hardly notices, after two years in Tokyo.

It's Yumi, she notes, distantly.

How she's doing...

Mikoto slips her phone back into her pocket.


'> Things were a little busy, weren't they? I'm just checking in.'


It's such an obvious question that it hardly seems in need of an answer.

Besides, if she just wants to check in, she already has.

Mikoto slips her phone back into her pocket.


Ring, ring! Ring, ring!

Mikoto's pocket starts chiming out an incessant and notably default ringtone, to inform her that she has a call. The boy she was tailing turns to look at the noise. He's not the right one. She scowls.

She leaves her phone in her pocket, because it's too frustrating to always mistake someone else for him.


Ring, ring! Ring, ring!

The cat who was creeping out from under the hedge bolts at the noise, and Mikoto puffs out a breath, sadness crossing over her eyes as her brow turns up to see it go.

She leaves her phone in her pocket, because she doesn't want to make Yumi sad, too.


'> It's Yumi. Did you make it home?'

Mikoto's eyes are teary, this time, when she pulls her phone out again. She tries to get rid of them, and they just keep coming back. They're not the first characters she's read through a watery film.

She doesn't want to start saying something, because she's still too upset to remember how to delete things.

Mikoto slips her phone back into her pocket.


'> If you see this, I'm going to come looking. If this is someone who just found the phone, please return it to Infinity Institute, ask for Yumi Ohzora.'

Mikoto can taste battery acid at the back of her throat, and it isn't safe for Yumi, here. It isn't safe for Yumi to try and find her and talk to her, here. She needs to stay calm, here.

But there are no girls prowling around, looking to take advantage of the absence, and she's already taken stock of the flowerbeds. She puffs out a grumbly sigh, trilled tongue halfway to a growl, and jabs at the keys.

'> Station'

It's better for her if she doesn't wander around the woods.

She won't go so far as to tell her what station, though. That much should be obvious.

Mikoto slips her phone back in her pocket, and starts walking back.


Nishitama Station is brightly-lit for the regional area around it, and at this time of night, it is deserted. There is nothing being fed, here; it would be too obvious, for travellers who knew how to look. It is as safe as Nishitama gets.

Not terribly safe, because there's a small girl sitting on one of the benches, a long black case propped up against the armrest next to her. Mikoto leans her chin against a palm, and watches the leaves rustle beyond the train tracks.

She'll need to go home, soon, or Mai will be worried. But it's not time, yet.

She never has enough time any more.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

It's been... intense.

That's the only word that isn't complicated, there, the only one that's accurate without needing explanation, fair without needing caveats. There might be others, sure--but it's the one that is easy. Little about this is easy...

But Yumi Ohzora knows that it could be worse. It could have been her dear friend, that they couldn't save. One day, it probably will be. She could have more grief than she does, knowing that someone didn't come back, one more even than they expected to lose. ...And...

She could be drowning in this darkness, like Yumi worries is going to happen to others. The quiet presence of her Staff, softly mourning, is sobering. Tama's thoughtful look, sitting near the girl who rescued her those months ago.

Her messages have gone unanswered. There is the possibility that something happened. ...But even if something hasn't--what could happen, soon?

By late night, Yumi's finished her homework, done all her studying, done all sorts of things to pass time... and finally, looks up at the quirky, sea-themed clock Hanae picked up for their dorm.

...Her door closes a few minutes later, just enough time to throw on some outside clothes and apply some concealer to the bags under her eyes.

'Station' is as good an answer as any.


Mikoto may, or may not, with all the electric lighting blocking the sky, see the shape against the night's clouds. She may not see the way she descends to the ground, behind the station... but she almost certainly sees the girl walk in fron the side entrance. THe colorful attire she favors is a factor, naturally--jeans, tennis shoes, a lime green sleeveless top, draping to take advantage of her slight figure, and then, of course--a heavy jacket that she's just finished unbuttoning.

"...Hey," Yumi greets Mikoto, warning her she's here before she actually gets close. "Thanks for answering."

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

Mikoto is not looking at the sky. The moon will be full, soon. It bothers her.

Step, step, she hears shoes against the concrete, and the green catches her eyes like something glinting. She turns her head to face her, and it is not green caught in her eyes; it is grief.

She has never spoken about Kozue as anything more than an enemy to be destroyed.

The contrast between her death and the others is striking, regardless.

Mikoto's head inclines, with a hum of affirmation. She does not smile to see her. Even when she was so sad - she has almost always smiled to see her. After a moment, her eyes slide off of her, glancing down to the bench beside her instead.

"... I don't wanna talk," she says, finally, recalling warm sand. "It's useless." The tone of that particle drops like a rock, but there's something deliberately mild about the sadness on her face. She is trying to control herself.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Step, step. Yumi, too, knew Kozue. Yumi worked with her. Yumi has a lot of memories of that girl... were they friends? It was always hard to tell. But they'd been through things, together.

And Yumi knows the look in Mikoto's eyes when she sees it.

...Yumi's not going to hold a lack of smile against her, instead stepping over and taking a seat. The broom she carries--like a fresh-grown branch, straight but with bristles twined in living ivy--she sets beside herself, and looks forward, into nothing. There's the tone...

"Yeah," Yumi agrees. "Talking doesn't really do anything about this sort of thing. ...Talking doesn't make you feel magically better... It doesn't bring anyone back. It doesn't tell you what to do, now. How to feel... How to stop feeling like you do."

Yumi turns, eyes on Mikoto, through her glasses. "But," she says. "...Even though I know it won't make you feel better, and even though I know I can't fix it."

"...I'd like to know, what you're feeling. If you're willing to tell me. Maybe it's not useful... But consider it a favor, okay? A request."

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

Yumi sets down, and Mikoto doesn't protest. They are pinned down on either side by broom and black case, in stark contrast.

Mikoto does not look at her but she listens, ear twitching with the sound. There are gaps between them, the trailing silences. There is so much, in silences. Yumi is a girl who lives in them, Mikoto knows, and it is not just the breathiness of beleagured lungs.

She does not offer to fix it, and does not try to say it is okay.

Mikoto closes her eyes, puffs out a breath. "Doing stuff for people..."

Her chin dips. "Already trying real hard, Yumi." And there is a tensile quiver to the words, a bowstring plucked. It is the fine vibration of a wide, wide web.

But Yumi is asking of her, and she still has something to give. She shakes her head, braids swaying, with a little grunt of dissatisfaction. It has always been so hard to describe feelings. It never feels adequate. Like she cannot see the shape of it - cannot explain it to the world. "I'm..." And at first she trails, too.

Her shoulders tighten in around herself, and her hands curl to fists in her lap. "I'm sad, Yumi. I shouldn't be. I am. I'm scared. I don't know what to do, but I gotta."

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

It could be more on the nose, if it were Yumi's staff. As it stands, it's still more than stark.

Yumi's breathing, Mikoto's senses can tell, is only a little troubled just now. There's just the normal telltale signs sof her occasional difficulty, the little hints that they don't work quite so strongly as someone else's might. But Mikoto acting for others...

"I can tell," Yumi answers when Mikoto says she is trying hard. "You really are."

And yet, knowing that this is difficult for Mikoto, knowing full well that words are hard at the best of times and that Mikoto will almost certainly comply despite it--Yumi still asks. She's aware, of that gravity--but, it's for a good cause. She hopes.

"...It's scary," Yumi agrees. "And it's sad. I think it's okay, for you to be sad. There's... a lot of reasons to be, right now." She considers, "...Kinda like how I can't keep walking--I should be able to. But should doesn't change anything, right?"

She extends a hand--not to touch Mikoto, but to place it on the bench, beside her, to look forward. Yumi has learned something of the way of cats.

"...None of us are going to sit by and do nothing. Why not figure out what we have to do together?"

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

Mikoto is recognised, and her lips press down on each other to try and keep them from trembling. She doesn't know why it upsets her to be seen. Maybe it doesn't upset her, precisely.

She shakes her head, as Yumi tries to tell her it's okay; the motions slow, as she explains why should is insufficient. She opens her eyes, glances aside. She does not directly acknowledge the hand, but shifts closer to it and Yumi behind it, regardless. Her fingers twitch around each other, in her lap.

"What I have to do..." Mikoto does not have the same struggle to breathe Yumi does, but this does not mean she does not have her own peculiarities. There are things she leaves unsaid, too. Less, now, after so long in Tokyo, but it has never truly left her.

She never had to say much, after all.

"I can do it myself," she insists, finally. Her gaze turns to the case beside her. "... I gotta." But that isn't something she can say much about. It might be difficult to tell the way the topic switches, with how reluctant her words are in the first place. "It's too hard, Yumi. It's not good. I'm not good either, so I can handle it. But Yumi's good. So... don't..." Her shoulders pull in a little tighter, as if she could curl into herself and disappear.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Is it so bad, to be noticed in pain by Yumi? She gets people wanting to hide that kind of thing. ...it's just, it seems to her that that's a really, really bad idea to let slide right now. So maybe it is, maybe it isn't...

Yumi leaves her hand where it is. She keeps her eyes forward for the moment, and waits.

Ah. There's the insistence--there's... Yumi can detect some of the shift, anyway. Mikoto's not addressing exactly what it is, that much is clear. And...

"Good, and bad," Yumi answers, shaking her head a little. "I think it's easy for people to separate each other out that way. You're one, or the other. You do all good things, or you do all bad things. That's just it, it's simple. But... I can't really think like that, these days. Or, when I do... I feel like I'm losing something important."

"...Eri-chan's going through a hard time. She does things that I think she shouldn't. ...But she's a good friend, too."

She sighs, looking down. "...All right. I wanted... I wanted to go on, to talk about this whole thing, about how people are good and bad. Then i wanted to say, if I know what you're up to, then I can make sure to take care of something different, so we can still work together even if we're doing different things. ...But, with everything that's happened... I don't want to be the sort of person who goes all indirect like that. It's not my style, and it's not your style."

"I want to know what you're doing because I'm worried about you. Eri-chan's doing it already--she's decided she's bad, and so things'll get worse, because whenever she stops to think, she thinks--I'm bad. It's self-reinforcing."

"...Now I hear you saying you're bad, so you can do the bad things, it's 'fine'. How long until you forget that there's other things? How long until you're only doing 'bad', because it's fine, because you can handle it, instead of hanging out with your friends, or trying Tokiha-san's ramen?"

"...I'm worried. I feel like... Everyone's drifting away. Everyone's drifting apart. And it's all getting worse. But didn't the Shepherds team up to take care of each other? ...If we lose that, then how long are you all going to last?"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Nobuo Uematsu - Loss of Me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVxxd4Wrvqo

Mikoto has ever dealt in contrasts. Her world is black and white, with little room for grey. And, these days...

... she can't call herself good.

She hasn't been able to call herself good for a long time.

She listens to Yumi talk, and talk, pouring word after word into her efforts. Talking around the issue; carving in and getting to the point. Mikoto does not look at her. Her cheek tilts to the side as her head tilts, facing away. Her fingers tighten, again. How long...

But Yumi is worried; Yumi feels the distance. Mikoto hums through closed lips as she glances back towards her side of the bench, frowning.

She inches a little closer.

She looks down at her hands.

"If everyone knew... if everyone really knew... they'd take care of me," she says. Perhaps Kozue would be proud of her. She has learned how words mean different things. "I'm scared..."

She takes a breath; it shudders. For long moments, she is silent.

Her eyes turn to Yumi's hand, again.

Her hands unlace, and the fingers on one instead curl around the palm of the other. "... what I'm doing."

This, too, is quiet, and silence follows it again as Mikoto struggles to find the words. Guilt wars with sorrow for dominion of her eyes, the curve of her brow and her lips. "Eri doesn't know," she says, first, and implies more in the telling.

"I'm not doing anything any more. ... used to. Used to stop some of them. Eri didn't like vulnerable people being ate. So I made sure they didn't go there too."

Mikoto draws in a breath through her nose, with the hint of a sniff. "Eri's in my hands. I took responsibility." She pauses, there, fingers rubbing at the side of her hand. "... no way to fix Witches. They tried. Nothing worked. And Eri needs more, these days. More and more..."

She does not know mathematics; she is unfamiliar with the term exponential cost. This does not mean she is unfamiliar with the concept.

"I don't stop anyone now. I gotta make sure Eri has enough Grief Seeds. Not many people visit out here. Eri needs all of them." There is a dull cast to her words, as if her grief has been carved from stone which does not shine in the light. "It'd make Eri sad. But Eri doesn't do much no more. So I can just let it happen..."

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Talking is something Yumi can do. Pour words, and words, and more words into something, explain or muse or babble on and on until she's too tired to say anything else. When she couldn't act, she could talk, and when she couldn't even talk, those were awful days. ...But sometimes...

Sometimes, words can get across your feelings, and when you can't find the right words, you can just use enough words until like the river shaping the stone you have at least shown the shape of what you wanted to share even if it's messy and slow.

'Take care of her.' In this context, it's not a nice thing to say. It makes Yumi wonder, then--if it's really 'care', if there's a careful way to eliminate someone, some sanitized method that does away with the messy parts like the people who would miss them or the memories they leave, and she doesn't think so but she imagines that some people do.

Yumi's hand is pale, a little cold still, from being up in the air, in the wind. Her nails are a cheerful pale green, freshly painted today, a nice little cover over everything that's happened. They're thin, too--delicate, careful, the hands of an artist... but also, hands that show if one looks the blue lines that carry life.

It's not the eyes Yumi watches here; oh, she can see a little. The nice thing about night is that she can watch a reflection, in the window. But it is the voice she listens to; the struggle, the difference in the sound when Mikoto looks down, the little sniff... The pauses. The ideas.

It's what Eri said, again. ...A different girl would wonder, to herself--is she desensitized? Has it stopped mattering? ...But Yumi isn't that girl, not today.

"...She doesn't know, and you think she'd feel worse, if she did," Yumi says, and it isn't a question--it's a conclusion, a plank in the new bridge she's making between this distance, if only it can be finished, and crossed.

"Responsibility. ...Yeah. That's hard. And it's not good." Mikoto said these things; Yumi might as well hand it to her. Mikoto is more insightful, wiser than so many give her credit for.

What can she say? Over the silence of the next few minutes, possibilities float before her, play out, and fade. All the things she could say...

"It sucks. There's not a good answer. It's like you said--talking... doesn't fix it. You know how I feel--I don't need to tell you that, what I think or feel or imagine about how this all works."

"...So, I can't fix it." She speaks more softly, here. A little bit of her own grief shows through, a little bit of the tears she's good at not showing, has learned to conceal. But it's only in her voice, really.

"I won't tell you to abandon her. ...I won't tell you that even a few more days isn't worth it. But I can't tell you I think it's good, either, that I think you're wrong about it being bad. Maybe, if I could say one of those things... maybe I could make it less hard. If I just lied."

"But I don't want to lie to you, Mikoto. And... I can't say the other thing, really, either. I can't act like I don't have an opinion, like I haven't made a choice myself."

"...What you said is true. What you're doing--what you're not doing, to help her--It's wrong. It's wrong, and I don't think... it'll be enough. I think the best thing we can do for Eri is just to be with her. I don't think there's a solution--I just think... we can help her feel a little better."

Yumi looks down. "I don't expect my view to change your mind. So... Here's what I won't do, okay?"

"...I won't leave. In the broader sense, but... also, for right now... I'll stay right here, with you. We can just sit together for a while. Because..."

"No matter how many bad things you do--no matter how awful it gets, no matter how sure you are that you have to go it alone... I'll be here. You can always come back to me. Even if you can't say anything, even if all you do is sit there for a minute. I'll be there."

"I promise. And a witch doesn't break promises."

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

Mikoto listens, and the sorrow in her eyes gains life in the form of liquid, gathering up against her eyelashes as she blinks against them.

She swallows; she hums assent, through closed lips, as she nods. And for a long moment, she is silent.

"Eri's given up on Eri," she says, finally. She is morose. "Mai's given up on Eri. Everyone thinks... it's over. But I can still do this," her voice trembles with her shoulders, "this is all I can do, Yumi! I promised... wouldn't let Eri become a monster... ahn-, and I don't wanna --"

Her voice hitches in a sob, as her hands come up to press at her chest. "I don't wanna-!!" She wails, and she does not say what she abjures.

The moon is almost full.

It's a hot stove.

All at once she collapses to the side, pulling herself in to crowd against Yumi's side, hiding her face against the taller girl's shoulder. "I can't - I can't --" and perhaps it seems like she is talking about what she does not want to do, instead of what she cannot say. "Don't go," she pleads, instead, as she grasps at that open jacket with pale fingers.

And perhaps that seems a strange request, when Yumi has just promised she will not.

'Mikoto... I can't promise I'll always be here...'

"I'm scared and I'm, tired, and I keep messing up, and... and..." her voice dies in her throat, to shuddery breath and a whisper. "... I can't stop..."

Perhaps she is too muffled, against her side. "... I've never been able to stop."

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Eri's given up. Yumi knows that, naturally; she's seen it. But it's different, to say it aloud, to let it be said, to actually make it real and part of a moment, under a night sky and a filling moon and the electric lights of an isolated train station.

Mikoto doesn't have to say what she doesn't want. Suddenly she's there, and Mikoto can get under Yumi's arm easily; in the span of just the moment, Yumi wraps an arm around her, then the other, quietly asserting presence just with raw physicality.

...Yumi's thin; she sometimes feels tenuous, barely there, chilly and insubstantial. But she is here. And maybe it's a strange request, but this is the kind of moment when nothing is right anyway.

"It's okay," Yumi says quietly, and it's tired in its own way, but it's also solid, it's a bit of the weight of a feeling settling next to someone's. There's a shuddering breath, sure, and Yumi finds her makeup is going to run a little after all, a few extra blinks doing nothing to change it.

"I'm here. And I'm not going right now, okay?"

"...I'll stay." Yumi moves to pet Mikoto's hair, small, gentle little soothing motions, speaks softly. "I'll stay."

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

Yumi is frail and Mikoto is small; Mikoto is strong and Yumi is tall.

"Thanks," she murmurs, and perhaps it is echo. "Thanks, Yumi..."

Teary eyes lull closed under the soft touch of thin fingers in her hair, and the shudder-hitch of her sobbing slows. Nothing is right, but it is so easy to make it right, for a moment. She has always been driven to physicality, to connection. After all, this...

"Sometimes I feel like..." Her cheek turns, against Yumi's shoulder. "... I'm going away... like everyone's far away and I can't, reach... but, I try, Yumi." She takes a shakey breath, swallows against the lump in her throat. "I'm gonna figure out how to be a normal girl, and... it'll be okay. Maybe it'll make Eri happy, too..."

Her fingers coil in against the fabric, and perhaps she is warming Yumi rather than the other way around. "But it's hard," she murmurs. "It's... hard."

Perhaps she is not just talking about her attempts.