2019-04-15 - Black Glass Girls

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Title: Black Glass Girls

One of them can't stop moving, and the other can't bring herself to move. But there are things which bring them together, reaching past old battle-lines.


Nori Ankou, Mikoto Minagi


Nori's apartment

OOC - IC Date:

2019-04-15 - 2015-05-29

.***************************** Yamanote High City *****************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Shibuya Shopping Ward +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
 Any rural ingenue looking to come to the big city and get swept away at
 first sight would be well-advised to get off at Shibuya Station, where you
 could fill a high school yearbook with the people teeming over a single
 crosswalk, and a legion of ten-story department stores offer a choice so
 broad it resembles existential crisis. Shinjuku might administrate Tokyo,
 but Shibuya is its style capital. Its densest concentration of boutiques,
 retailers, and restaurants is bound together by Shibuya Crossing, a bustling
 pedestrian intersection resembling an even gaudier Times Square.

 Within walking distance to Harajuku, Shibuya is less whimsical, and far
 grander. Its most iconic symbol is the Shibuya 109 department store, a
 cylindrical grey monolith famous even outside of Japan. Each floor of 109
 has about a dozen shops, and with ten flights of escalator to ascend, it
 doesn't take a mathematician to realize that even this single store can be a
 lot to take in. But Shibuya too has its side streets and quirks, and it's
 not hard to find a chic little cafe to rest in. Those who find themselves
 energized instead have recourse to the night clubs that trade on Shibuya's
 stylish reptuation.

 Shibuya Station has a humbler landmark as well. It was here that the loyal
 dog Hachiko waited for his owner each day, even after the owner had long
 since died. A bronze statue of Hachiko waits here still, a reminder that
 love and loyalty never die.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

It is here and now, at the time when time will end, or reach an ending, at any rate.

Endings are strange things, because they are so rarely conclusive. When one thing might vanish, a part from a living animal or plant, it is rare that the end comes in a comprehensive and complete way. Great industries have been made around the tiniest tricks and subtlest strategems meant to teach potatoes that have come from the depths of the soil that they can just bide their time and wait, neither rooting nor decaying. Waiting. Waiting for better times.

Better times, of course, in the cooking pot.

So it is that the girl Nori Ankou, the Siren of Diamond, the Red Future, and some other names besides which she has not learned - some of which may be quiet mysticisms that will fade and some of which may have faded for good - came home, to Shibuya 4-4-4. To her apartment in the higher reaches, in spaces that were offices not that long ago.

She wept, she slept, she ate. She slept some more.

She ate a little bit while watching a program on television, something soft, an ocean documentary. There is a curated list kept by Batiste... but during it Nori simply started crying and curled up and wept and begged with Batiste to promise her, promise her, promise her, promise her -

Promise her what?

Batiste has some idea.

Batiste left Nori on the couch then. He left, to obtain food (it is not that there was nothing in the house, but they did not expect the extended siege Batiste now does; Batiste does not know what he can do, and he feels the burden of a Chevalier too; it would be some consolation to the brave little otter to know that perhaps all of this is a sign of his success; but for now, he has left, in this warren of a thousand subtle asides where pain can be forgotten, or at least, delayed;)


That meant that Nori was dozing alone when the text message came.

> Minagi98: I wanna talk. Where are you

Nori looked at the phone. It took her long moments to remember the name.

Then she replied.

> n9-am: at home
> n9-am: you got my jacket here
> n9-am: do you remember?
> n9-am: feel free to come by. you may have to knock a little

Then Nori went to sleep for a while.

Soon enough someone was there.

Nori opens the door.

Nori is wearing a loose black fashion-print T with a pattern suggesting an MC Escher print, ducks turning into fish turning into ducks, or is it the other way around? Her hair is long and loose and unkempt, by her standards. She has no makeup on, and while she has not really pressed hard on it, it is unusually clear today that she has unusually dark circles under her eyes. They seem a bit puffy, too.

Other than this: fluffy slippers and silk pajama bottoms.

"Hallo," she says, as if she's remembering how to speak.

She smiles, as if she's remembering how to smile.

"Come in," she says, opening the door. "Do you want a cup of tea, or coffee, or? It's a little cooler up here, compared to the street..."

The living room is rather large, by Japanese standards (and the blocked-off windows clearly came from an office). There is also a large interior pond... but this would not be totally unfamiliar to Mikoto, if she has come here in the past. There are no fish there. That is where Batiste hangs out. He is, of course, not here, right now. Just them.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Bear McCreary - Elegy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuVh3BVJCmo

Days continue to pass, stubbornly, despite the horror which has come.

The sun is shining again. Mikoto has not been at school. Mikoto was not at school yesterday, either. Now it's Friday afternoon, and everyone is excited for the weekend. A few diligent students are still hard at work in their clubs, but many have broken for their dormitories, or the wider Tokyo sprawl. They apologise for leaving first.

Mikoto does not leave first, when it comes to things which matter. School doesn't. She does not know the students in their clubs. It is a form of pastoral normality which is distant to her.

It feels like the world will never be normal again.

It feels like no one gets it.

But, then...

... someone did give her Kozue's number, even if she didn't manage to use it until it was too late.

And there are reasons for someone like her to take interest.

Mikoto brings out her phone, figures out her way to the messages, and sends one off with the assistance of an autocorrect which is more helpful now.

She should be searching, but she doesn't expect her to answer in the first place.

An answer comes through.


Knock-knock-knock, three raps with even spacing. "It's me," says a voice, behind the door.

There is a brief pause.

"Mikoto," the voice clarifies, a little uncomfortably, as if she has just realised that announcement might be insufficient.

It's Friday, so of course Mikoto is in her school uniform, uncomfortably warm in the late-Spring heat. She does not carry any hint of books with her, though there is a black case slung over her shoulder. It is not scholastic; surely by now Nori knows it hides a sword.

There is the strain of weariness about her, but it is an understated thing. Her hair has been mussed by the wind. She has made no attempt to tame it.

(Mikoto is not wearing makeup, but this is not unusual; she rarely does. Her eyelashes are just dark and thick enough to be pronounced.)

She steps inside, slips out of her shoes, declines to rest Miroku by the doorway in a place she feels a stranger to; white socks pad across the floor, to stand inside. She remembers. There is water for Batiste, and the windows are blocked-off.

She was unnerved by that, when she first came here. She was looking for exits.

But perhaps it's sensible.

Anything can come in through a window. Mikoto would know.

"Yeah," she says, of the temperature. "... tea's good," she says, of drinks.

She shifts from foot to foot, glancing at the water of the pond, looking back up to the other girl. "La Sir... Nori," she corrects herself, with a little shake of her head which sets her braids tumbling over the shoulder of her school blazer. They're curious little things, long where the rest of her hair is so short. "I guess... it's weird, I'm here, but... I wanted to..."

Mikoto hums thoughtfulness through closed lips. "Nori knew Kozue, too," she says, finally, glancing down. "... I know... I don't really get to, say this stuff, since I..." tried to murder Kozue, she does not quite manage to say. "But, I thought... maybe Nori was sad too."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

What is normal? Is it just when you forget the last time things changed?

Nori lets Mikoto in. Sword and all. She does not look at Miroku with anxiety. Prompted, she turns to shuffle towards the kitchen, and then she stops, because Mikoto spoke.

Her hands are still uplifted. She seems to have frozen in place.

"... ahheh... Mikoto..."

Nori puts her hand on the counter and leans forwards, not facing her.


"Or should I call her, by all capitals... KOZUE. The blue princess. She was a year younger than me... I thought that I was - lame, to find her appealing... I found her very appealing, when we were younger, and I disgusted her, once... I think you might have heard that, but, perhaps you didn't. She was very obstinate, wasn't she? A very difficult person to get along with. She was always filled with energy, but I felt like she was filled with scorn... she was a woman of sharp edges and jagged things, glittering, beautiful. Like a diamond... it would suit her better than me to have a name like 'Diamond'. I should have one like... like 'jelly' or..."

Something goes 'pap' onto the countertop.


"... I thought... I thought maybe it was all a big trick... because, that's the kind of trick that she would do, isn't it? The kind of thing where she'd be sitting somewhere, standing on a high place and watching us all, laughing a little, but because she'd neatly wrapped everything up, because she was so terribly clever... And... and.... I want to think that... I wish I was someone who could still think something like that... I wish I could curl up on the couch and tell myself that it's all, that it's just a joke, or a mistake... that soon, a miracle would happen, and oh, it was all alright, it had all been fixed, or that it would be fixed by and large... That, that she would be there, that she would be fine, safe... that she'd go,"

Nori makes a perfect imitation of a little scoffing noise Kozue has made, which had heretofore never really mattered.

"and say, 'Of course, what did you expect, Nori-chan?' Then she'd... she'd call me silly, or delicate or something... and... and she's not going to do that, any more, is she, Mikoto? She won't. She was so clever, so beautiful, so shiningly bright, and, well, and," Nori suddenly sags against the countertop, her elbows on it and her hands in her hair, "and that is that, isn't it?"

Nori makes a noise that is partly a deep breath, partly a sob, and partly a sniffle.

"... You are right," Nori says, still not looking at Mikoto. "... I'm sorry, I am... being rude... I don't... I can't look at people right now, like... like this. I'll... I'll - I don't know. Please excuse me... i-if... if it isn't too much, could you sit? And just - face towards Batiste's pool for a minute? I'll make the tea, I just..."

"I don't like how I look, right now..."

Swallowing, Nori makes it over to the electric kettle and puts some more water in it. Cabinets open and close, as she sets things down, the little motions of making tea.

"Is the air alright? I can turn on the aircon, if... if you want. I hope, ahh-h, I hope you haven't... been... alone, too much..."

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

It's hardly an insult. Where Mikoto goes, Miroku follows.

Its magics are suppressed by that black case, anyway.

Even attempting to take care she speaks bluntly, and finds now that the few words she has are matched by many of Nori's. When she supposes whether Mikoto heard the rumours, she shakes her head, with a little noise of negation which does not interrupt. Certainly she hears the things the girls in Ohtori say, but she does not listen to most of them.

It is a strange picture, but not one Mikoto disbelieves.

But then, perhaps Mikoto got along with her because the both of them were sharp.


Nori says that perhaps it is a trick and Mikoto shakes her head, again, silently this time.

"... don't gotta look at me," Mikoto says, finally, and she averts her gaze, too. "I'm not here to fight... so don't worry about it..." Sometimes it is too hard to look someone in the eyes. It is challenge and assertiveness and there are strange rules around it in Tokyo. It's hard to explain.

There is the sound of footsteps, a case resting against the armrest of a chair, a girl sitting down.

"Air's okay," she answers, after a moment's pause. "I got warm things."

Perhaps she means her clothes.

Silence, for a moment, two, and it is still as the water. "... too much," Mikoto echoes, finally, with a distant sort of wonder. "I, tried. But... lots of times, I mess it up."

She takes a breath. "I gotta keep going, so..." Mikoto shakes her head, finally, announced by the sound of flicking braids. "I tried to not be sad. But, I'm sad. But I can't... stop and be sad. Dunno if that makes sense..." There's a measure of uncertainty, to her tone.

"'Cause... I tried to defeat Kozue," she says, "and Cassandra. And then... I didn't stop it. I --" here her voice catches in her throat, chokes on the wavering.

There is silence, for a moment.

"I could've. I don't know. I was wielding my strongest weapon. If I'd tried, maybe - Kozue would be okay. I didn't... even try. I couldn't -- I let Kozue do it alone. And, Kozue died!" Her voice rises, momentarily, in its strain.

She takes another breath; it shudders. Her voice is quiet again when she speaks. "Kozue was my friend, Nori. Before everything. Even though I was mean..." She made only one overture to her, during the war. She cried in disbelief to see Kozue enter the battlefield. She accepted it from then on. She gave her no quarter at all. "Met Kozue a year ago... back when I didn't know much. Kozue helped me. Never treated me like a kid. Never lied to me. Everyone was mad when I told Kozue the truth but I, we..."

The mora trails off into nothingness. Eventually, she speaks again. "I knew... people said stuff about Kozue. But, they said stuff about me, too. I didn't care about that stuff. We were HiME... and we both went out at night, and... Kozue's a sister too. But... after invasion, I... I was too sad, and then, after that..."

Her voice dies to a murmur. "... I guess I got too busy."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Nori does the little motions of making tea. It is not a ritual - or maybe it is. She puts several bags into a little pot. She waits for the kettle to boil. In the dark calm of her house, she listens to Mikoto.

Mikoto, perhaps around the fringes of her thoughts, might notice that the opaque panels Nori put up aren't just sun blockers. They do let a little light in, if indirectly. They would not repel an intruder but it would seem that Nori has great faith in the fact that she is a number of stories above ground level -- perhaps she has never considered the risk of aerial attack, but then, so few architects and interior designers do.

But what they are not - though illuminating - is not as important as what they are. They fill the space here, now that the lamps are all off and the sun is up, with an ambiance curiously like a gray and stormy day.

Comforting, perhaps.

"... Mikoto..."

Nori thinks to herself: This is so strange, isn't it? Until recently Mikoto was standing against us. Endo would be livid that I am having her over for tea, I would expect. Perhaps he would be right to do so. Well, she tells herself, I am on funeral leave, aren't I? I can have who I want over for tea. She asked me with peace and has treated fairly.

I wish you hadn't given me this burden, Sayaka, Nori thinks further. I wish you'd just hugged me. I wish you hadn't made me carry your dream, because now I can't put it down because then that's the last of you. I have to carry it. But it was built on something so strange. We had everything wrong...

The kettle peep-whistles.

Nori pours the hot water. It took about two minutes to get there. (Nori's kettle is not very efficient, but it charmed her.) "... You know Madoka, don't you?" Nori says.

"She said something to me. Something very wise... ah-h, I hope she is alright... mm, but, she would want me to share this more than to worry about her, I think. She's that kind of a girl."

"She told me that I could not blame myself for the past," la Sirene says as she swirls the little teapot. "I... can't call to mind the exact words, right now. But that was the idea. Things had already been done and I had done my best... I could not... undo, things. I could only go forwards. It is easy to say something like that, isn't it? I'm not saying it the way she did, I'm - sorry -"

There are a few more soft paps on the countertop and a lengthy interval of silence. After a little more fiddling, Nori comes out, with the teapot and a cup, which latter item she places before Mikoto before filling it and then moving to take a seat of her own. Her face, really, is not that much different than it was a moment ago, her eyes a bit more puffy and the wet stains of tears visible, but it is not as though it split down the middle or anything like that. If she is bleeding it is not where Mikoto can see it.

Nori breathes out.

"... If it won't put you out..."

"Tell me a little more, about how you met Kozue?"

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

Many people who live high up forget that cats can climb, and Mikoto learnt many things from them.

There was a time, long ago - before the world broke - when Mikoto scaled the outer hospital walls, just searching and searching for Mai's room, because Mai got hurt and Mikoto wasn't there, and visiting hours had long since passed.

She does not know Nori's thoughts turn to Endo; she has her own thoughts on him. Her own fears.

She is trying to honour the peace amongst Eri's enemies, but, then...

... the difference is...

Madoka, Nori says, and Mikoto nods, with an affirmative noise. Perhaps she does not know Madoka as well as she should; perhaps she has filled in too many of the holes with her assumptions. But Madoka saw her, and perhaps in turn that is enough. So Mikoto listens, as Nori speaks on what Madoka has said, and there is the sound of another light thoughtful hum as she does.

"It's okay," she assures her in small interjection, as Nori apologises.

For all her faults, Mikoto has never once condemned someone for not speaking properly. She knows how difficult words are, how tough the finding. "Steven said it, too," she says, in the interlude. "Moving forward..." And yet Mikoto is afraid, because the future only seems to flow one way. She does not say it, but for the way trepidation latches to the edge of her trailing words.

When Nori comes back to her view again she will find Mikoto perched on one of her chairs, shoulders forward, one hand curled about the other in her lap. Miroku rests in its case, tilted against the chair to her left side. Her braids fall into open air from the tilt of her face. Her eyes are damp, but there are no long tracks etched along her cheeks.

"Thanks," she says, as she reaches out to take the teacup. It's warm, too.

She nods, as Nori poses her question, and for a moment she is quiet. She is thinking.

"I was in town, searching. Shinjuku... near bar. Kozue summoned an Element, so I got closer. Even then... Kozue knew Mai was worried, 'cause I was going out after curfew," Mikoto glances aside, with a light frown. "... but... Kozue got it, when I said why."

There's a light pause, "wasn't Kozue then. Cassandra." It wasn't really a lie; Cassandra was a name associated with her. "We knew... what we were. HiME. Kozue said stuff I didn't really get... or maybe stuff I just couldn't say." Perhaps it is both at once. The secret of her Child was well-guarded, until recent months. And then...

"I got confused. So Kozue said, sometimes same words mean different stuff. Being sweet on, wasn't the same as sweets. Wasn't always cake. Sometimes it was attraction, or being nice. It was the first time I'd ever... heard any of that stuff. Not for girls..." Her upbringing hardly included an education on sexuality. It wasn't for her.

Mikoto's breath catches in her throat; she shakes her head. "Never got the chance to tell Kozue she was right. Took me so long to figure out I was sweet on girls. If Kozue'd never told me about it, I might've never..."

The words trail off, and she puffs out a breath, taking a sip of tea.

"... but it was too hard to reach out. Kozue would use it if we were enemies. And, even though everyone said they're done, I just... it's hard. I was trying - I'm trying," she brings it to present tense, dismal. "Maybe, if it got better, if there was more time, I could've... I don't know..." Her head cants to the side, looking down at dark liquid. "... I don't know."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Dreams of Mikoto's ascent to the higher reaches of 4-4-4 will have to wait. Today there is a different 4 in residence.

Nori sits with Mikoto as she speaks. She leans backwards. Steven, she thinks, remembering him. He's safe and fine, Nori thinks. Why wouldn't he be? Oh, how long has it truly been...

The tea is of decent quality although it is black, not green. And, well, it did come in a bag originally, but it was a high quality sort of a bag. Nori is an indifferent housekeeper, and Batiste, though he enjoys the savor of human food, has no stomach for tea.

When Mikoto says 'attraction', Nori, somehow, smiles. Just a tiny introductory little bit. It is a surprise to her too, but the idea that Kozue said something like that... Nori had no reason to suspect Mikoto, but the term struck a true and authentic chime.

She says, quietly, "She would have, I think, used it... but I think she would have used it to try to help you... in her perspective. I do not know if that makes sense... it is so twisty that I cannot easily concieve of it. But I think if I understand her, it is that she did all these things to try to encourage us to..."

Nori looks at her hands, and then spreads them, slightly.

'I don't know,' Mikoto says. 'I don't know.'

Nori does not know either.

But things do not, quite, come to an ending there.

What should I say here, Nori thinks.

She does not want to think of Kozue. Not right now. She has done that a great deal. It hurts. It is selfish to want things not to hurt but perhaps it is natural.

Remembering their fights is set aside, too. More shards of ice in her skin. She feels herself bleeding still from when she lost *Mami*. Now? Now it is like a source of tears that could never end. A source of weeping that would drive her inevitably to a far-away street, where she would be cared for, yet never cease her sorrow.

Nori lets herself list to the side.

And then she speaks.

"You know," Nori says, "it had never truly occured to me, but to carry your Miroku around, it must be difficult, isn't it? My Black Mirror was smaller when I got it, but in Hokkaido - was it Hokkaido? No, it was before... yes, I remember it all now. Ugh, it is all so blurry... Batiste brought me the Pharos, the... the lantern, you know? Pharos is Egyptian for lantern, I think."

Nori starts over. "It was smaller before the Pharos," she says, "and even now it is a little bit of a pain. I keep it in a room here, when I am... you know... in residence. Was your Miroku always..."

She gestures, towards the bag.

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

Four is an unlucky number, after all.

Black tea is invigorating, but at least less so than coffee. Mikoto tried coffee, once, but her body is a sensitive engine, and it was a poor experiment. Mai knows to keep her drink of choice away from her, now.

Perhaps it ought to be a secret, but Mikoto does not know much about the pressures on love. She does not know enough to hide it. She is hiding something else.

"Yeah," she agrees, of Kozue, and she does not say anything else on the matter.

Mikoto is not uncomfortable with silence. There are hundreds of silences, and not all of them need be interrupted. She does not know what Nori is thinking; does not know her well enough to guess. But Nori has stopped speaking, and Nori speaks terribly much, so Mikoto leaves her to quietude as she sips her tea. She does not think it rude; she is not trying to be rude.

She blinks, as Nori supposes something new to break the silence. Surprise crosses her face, and she glances to her left, to the case there. But Nori keeps talking, volunteers her own experience, and...

Secrets are funny little things. It is hard to speak of something which has never been spoken, and it becomes easier with each admission. There is a time when Mikoto would have ignored the question outright, as if she had not heard at all. She has said a lot, since then.

And Nori is talking, too.

"It's not heavy for me," Mikoto replies, carefully, after a beat of hesitation which stretches out just long enough to introduce the uncomfortable question of whether she will answer at all. "Not the same way."

In this way she answers the implications of her question, and does not answer the obvious point at all.

Is it difficult? Is it difficult to wear constantly the signal that she is different, different amongst HiME and different amongst magical girls and different amongst the people of Tokyo? Is it difficult to carry a blade more important than her life?

She breathes out, glances back. "... Hokkaido. Not so long back... Nori'll get used to it," Mikoto assures her, with all the benefit of experience. Mami is not the only veteran Tokyo knew. Perhaps that is why the two of them knew so keenly the other.

"Nori's Pharos..." Mikoto starts, in uncertain venture, because it is always delicate to talk about something so personal. "... it's black too, right? Like mine."

There is a word she does not use here, and perhaps it is because she speaks plainly.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Oh, I do not mean that it would bother you with its weight," Nori says. "I just mean..."

She gestures again.

And again, a little more emphatically. "It is so... so large; doesn't it clash with outfits?" Of course she would think of that...

Then she smiles, a little, if wanly. "It is not heavy," she says. "But sometimes I have felt a small pang of envy, to see what other people had to carry with them. I suppose everyone else has something..." What did Kozue or Sayaka have? Nori realizes the thought, feels the passage of that great black ship, and is quiet for several seconds, before finding a new course. A safer, more comfortable course.

(They say that you should take the riskier course. The dangerous course. That you should learn to meet challenges, that you should be willing to fight, that you should take the road less travelled by. That this is how you grow. Nori Ankou is the sort of person who would take the road safer and well trafficked eight times out of ten... and would, the other two, go into the woods.)

"Hm? No, it is brass, with ammolite... Oh, you mean the Mirror," Nori says, blinking slowly.

"Yes," she says. "It is obsidian. Well, more or less obsidian... it was the walls of the tomb of Melancholy's helpmeet, the tomb where he was buried. The tomb in which she died. When she screamed, she made the storm break, and the walls too."

Nori is quiet for a moment.

Her eyes turn up to Mikoto. "Melancholy is the name of... um... she is my very, very distant grandmother. She has been dead for a very, terribly long time. But we remember her, in the Sea."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Homestuck - Questant's Lament https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yQ6sbTwjRE

"... outfits?" Mikoto asks, momentarily dumbfounded. With a sceptical sort of look, she says, "I don't worry about that stuff." This much is obvious. She has never been particularly fashionable, though at times she wears nice things.

Well, she does have friends, after all.

It is surprise of a different strain as Nori shares her envy. But then, Mikoto supposes, perhaps it makes sense. It is comfortable and comforting to have a destiny, a prescribed path. It is so much easier not to think about choice or consequence. Isn't that why it's been so hard - operating on her own?

"Nori's right," Mikoto says, gratefully. "I'm lucky."

And here in time they come to the objects which keep them, and Nori speaks.

"... obsidian..." Mikoto echoes, slowly, and looks through Nori, towards nothing at all.

It is a thing she knows; a thing etched into the core of her. It is a word which rarely comes to her, though it is a concept intrinsic to her being. It passes her lips in distant wonder, a jeweller turning a diamond about in careful examination. Well. Certainly there is one here.

She is dimly aware of the way her hands move, shifting teacup to one set of fingers, her other hand reaching into her shirt. There has always been a red cord about her neck; its source has never shown itself. Fate is a red cord, too. It twists and binds two souls together, crossing time and distance and thought and devastation.

It is a pendant; at its end, a dark obsidian bead, with gold decoration and red tassel not unlike the ones at Miroku's hilt. Perhaps Nori is familiar with the richness of nobility, expressed in small and finely-crafted things. She is a small and finely-crafted thing.

And for long moments she looks at it, cradled between thumb and forefinger, and it is as if Nori has disappeared from the world. Vaguely, she hums affirmation.

Oh, on some level, she is listening.

On so many levels, she is listening.

Have you ever had a dream you could not remember? And then one day someone says something, does something, and nostalgia for nothingness floods in. There is the shape of something which cannot be described, and it is so close and impossible to grasp. It slides through fingers like sand, and there is the sensation of weight and - it passes.

And slowly, slowly, you learn to cup your fingers together, to make a nest from your palms...

The sand falls through. The pendant falls back underneath her clothing.

Mikoto looks up.

She blinks, as her gaze focuses on Nori again. She takes a moment to remember what she has just said, with a little shake of her head to dismiss the fuzziness which has settled in there.

"Nori knows Melancholy's name," is the first thing she notices, in honest surprise, and perhaps it is a shade too unguarded.

"The sea," she wonders, next, more present this time. "That's why Nori's magic smells like it?" A brief pause as she puffs out her cheeks, frowning a little as she glances away. "Sorry. Forgot I'm not supposed to mention that stuff..."

Apparently it is rude to point out what things smell like, in a way unlike noticing how they look or sound. Mikoto has always found it a bizarre distinction, a peculiarity of Tokyo, but she tries to fit in.

"I guess, if Melancholy shattered it screaming, Melancholy's not normal either." Mikoto has no reason to suspect obsidian is brittle. An Element is almost indestructible. "... feels sad to die in tomb. I don't really get graves, but... they're for alive people, right..?"

In many things Mikoto's words are obscure; in other ways she can say so much more than she intends to say.

Here she glances aside, fingers of her other hand coming up around the teacup again. "... can I see it?" She ventures, unsure, and there is an element of vulnerability to the question. "Nori's Pharos. Even back as Mirror... we only saw each other in fights... never really been able to focus on..."

A finger rubs at the side of the teacup, as she tries to think of how to say it. "I wanna know," she settles on. "... if it's like me."

She has never met someone else with power built on black glass.

It is a strange little hope.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzxIEFpIc94

Nori's eyes half-close at Mikoto's statement. It is not the first time, perhaps, that she has heard such sentiments. She then, halfways, smiles.

"Obsidian is a glass that is made from volcanos... I don't understand all of the details, but that is the idea, anyway. I wonder if it's not quite identical, because the Sea... well..." Nori then is being shown a special thing. She recognizes a treasure when she sees it. She leans forwards. She looks.

She listens. She waits...

Mikoto speaks.

"Yes," she says. "We kept the stories. Melancholy was... mmm... I don't know how to put it... I could say, 'a goddess,' but that does not feel quite... right. It is close enough... but it is not quite right."

She takes a deep breath, and lets it out. "It is alright," she says. "But: yes. Melancholy cried as she did, because she married a mortal man and she had children, who of course had other children in their turn... but even with the blessing of Melancholy's hand he could not live forever, you know? It..."

Is another missing tooth in the mouth of conversation, and so Nori changes again. "I don't know," she says. "I met a Siren, once. From the Grand Banks, a place in the North-Carolina waters, out in America's Atlantic coast. She had died many years ago, but she stayed on."

Nori breathes in and breathes out.

"Yes," she says. "Wait here, a moment."

Nori leaves.

Mikoto does not have to wait long. Nori seems to go past some other room and disappear from view or sound entirely. She returns with the Pharos.

It is not the Pharos Mikoto sees on the waist of the Siren of Diamonds. It looks, to be frank, like garbage. It has been repaired with *tape* - but the shape is clear, the intention. It is something not unlike a train lantern, brass that has been cared for. The ammolite chasings around the base, where it might be set down on top of something, have been polished with love, and gleam with their strange colors. If Mikoto fancies fossils she might have the feeling that the grain of the ammolite isn't quite right.

"I do not know what you mean by 'like you,'" Nori says. "And... forgive me, but this is a very personal thing. So I will have to ask you to be patient with me." She adjusts some of the panel. It opens. Despite its battered appearance, as if it had been smashed, it is absolutely silent when it opens.

Nori lingers. Then she reaches over for a cloth napkin. She uses that to draw out the Black Mirror.

The Black Mirror is a fragment, now, if a large one. It has a loose 'S' shape to it. It smells of the sea. The light in the room seems to fall into it. It does not really shine.

"You can touch it," Nori says, "on the flat part. Once I was able to stretch it round, a portal into another world. But I grew up a bit, and then things changed. Even so... I wouldn't touch it too long. It is not, exactly, a stone..."

Touching it feels like smooth wet glass, with only the faintest suggestion of the patterning of obsidian in the wild. It leaves a taste of salt on a touching fingertip.

And the edges, of course, are sharp as a razor.

"They find the mirrors from the sandbars, around where the tomb was," Nori says. "They fell in seven - streaks? Anyway; the first is empty. I suppose I am from the second. I don't know what we will do when all of them are gone... re-use the old ones, I suppose. But that won't be for a LONG time."

After a second, Nori says, "I've never told anyone this before... ...I suppose I never had the chance. I don't think it is supposed to be a secret, but..."

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

If Nori's grandmother is a something like a goddess...

Well, that says some curious things, doesn't it.

Dead things ought to die, Mikoto thinks, and does not say, because she has learnt a few things about talking in Tokyo.

Nori bids her to wait and she does, finishing off her tea and putting the cup down on the saucer with a gentle clink. The disappearance of her footfalls only adds to the liminal feeling of this place, grey and cool and high above.

This is a place she could disappear, Mikoto realises in that instant, and no one would think to look for her.

Yet here she is - drinking tea as if they were close friends and not warriors from opposite sides of an old war.

It's a strange, strange thing.

And back she comes, with a ramshackle thing which does not look like the Pharos Mikoto has glimpsed at all. She tilts her head in confusion, blinking at it. She is unused to artifacts which can be damaged; it is strange to see the scars worn. But Nori asks for her patience and she nods, with an affirmative hum.

With no hilt to grasp, it makes sense she would take something to hold it in.

Obsidian can only carve away with sharp edges, after all.

Nori makes her offer and there is hesitation in Mikoto's hand as she reaches up, curled fingers; it is an intimate thing, at times flatly forbidden. It takes a moment for her hand to press forward, for her fingers to brush against it; long enough, in fact, for Nori to finish talking.

Those fingertips jerk back a moment later, and so does she.

It is not, precisely, that she was cut. There is no scent of blood, no red welt.

It just...

... doesn't feel quite right.

Hers are fingers which have traced every inch of Miroku; she knows the painted etchings along its centre, the way the blade raises in degrees as it falls to its edge, the old-old cast of it, forged so long before she drew breath. Mikoto Minagi knows the way her obsidian feels. Like her, she said; not hers. They share an obsidian heart. It is of her.

And there is no salt in obsidian.

There is shock on her face as she pulls her hand to her chest, and soon it is chased by sadness. "I'm sorry," she says, dismal and small. "We're different, too."

She shouldn't have expected anything else. It should not be such a heartbreak to face up to her differences, day after day. It should not be so shattering that one more thing she thought might be the same was not at all.

If it was the same, maybe Nori would be able to help her, after a year and most of another failing and failing and failing. Maybe she would have some hint as to him. But it's not the same - not at all. It's something from this sea, far away from here.

"But..." She looks up to Nori and gold meets blue, and her expression is earnest, if sad. "It's hard... talking about this stuff. Thanks, for telling me." As if it must have been the hardest thing.

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Touching that stone...

It isn't wet with blood, but with tears.

In many cases soldiers from the opposing sides of a war would come together, especially if they shared a bond. Usually, of course, it did not happen so quickly, but then, those were men, usually, and they had their pride, usually. Nori Ankou has pride, too, but it is in mourning as well.

Nori draws it back. "It's alright," she says softly. "It's alright that we are different. I am just glad that you thought of it, Mikoto."

She carefully puts the Black Mirror back into the Brazen Pharos. She closes it.

"I am not from this world," Nori says. "Not ultimately. This is a stone from another world. In some ways a parallel to our own. In others, alien. The north pole there has not been seen by anyone... some say it is a vast temple, stretching into the distant void. Personally, I cannot say. I have never gone far from Desolation Row."

Nori is quiet for a whle longer. She rests the Pharos on her knee, comfortably.

"... Mikoto... I thank you, most deeply, for visiting. But..."

But Nori remembers the one time since she took on this mantle that she went back to that storm-drenched city. The time Mami Tomoe ate cake in a room with a checkerboard floor.


"... I think... that I need to, ah, to be alone, for a while. If you - need help... I know it must be difficult... but please message me. And, and," she says, looking up, "if I do not answer, please, I promise you: I will always answer, when I can. But I may not be able to. Alright? Please, don't... Do not think that..."

Nori trails off.

But the words come to her suddenly.

"Do not think I forgot the hand that you have offered me."

That pleading, weaker note comes back into her voice. "Do you need a little money, or... anything? If you're hungry, ah... I have things, you could take..."

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

Of course.

It is uncanny because it is foreign.

Mikoto hums acknowledgement, as she nods. She's heard stranger things. Girls who come from space, and boys who are partly gemstone. It is not so hard to accept another world.

They are silent, for a time, and Mikoto does not interrupt her. How can she guess the thoughts of a girl she would have killed not so long ago? And then Nori speaks, with trailing voice, and Mikoto cants her head as she listens. Nori wants to be alone, she hears. Perhaps she has done her some offence.

It would not be the first time.

She will not forget, Nori says, and once again Mikoto is struck with the feeling that she is doing something wrong, and she glances away.

"I need..." She trails off, for a moment, teeth dragging in her lower lip. "I need to find my Lord Brother." And they are old words, archaic and formal and entirely unfitting to her simple vocabulary.

She stands; she shrugs Miroku onto her shoulder. It is not heavy in the same way. This does not mean it is not heavy.

"He'll know what to do." There's a numb sort of resignation to the words. "I don't."

There is a quiet cast to her voice as she goes to the door, as she slips into sensible Ohtori flats. "... I never have."

She lays a hand on the doorknob; she glances back.

With surprising gentleness: "... it's okay for Nori to be sad. Eri said so."

And she steps outside, and she leaves.