2019-04-26 - Hairtrigger

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Title: Hairtrigger

Mikoto almost does something to Homura she can't take back. Homura succeeds.


Homura Akemi and Mikoto Minagi


Akihabara Electric Town

OOC - IC Date:

4-26-2019 -

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> New Model Army - Sky In Your Eyes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lEZmS_9i4Q

It's been hard to pin Mikoto down.

She hasn't been in class since Oktavia fell. It's not unusual for Mikoto to cut classes - to leave halfway through the day. She always at least used to /try./

And now...

Mikoto cannot handle Witches, the way she is. She knows very well how helpless she would be, in a garden, the way sadness weighs at her like an anchor. When she feels that little prickle at the back of her neck - she needs to reverse course promptly. She needs to be anywhere else.

She's just too sad.

There's only one person who can fix her.


Mikoto visits Sensouji Temple, at the sort of hour he would. There are no boys here this early in the morning. She leaves.


Mikoto tails a couple through Jindai's gardens until the boy happens to turn in her direction. It's not him. She does not linger before peeling off to mix with a group which passes the other way, scanning their faces with quiet intensity. He's not here.


Mikoto walks a long route around JAXA's headquarters as she files through Chofu. She wonders how much easier this would be if she could search from space. She'd probably still mess it up somehow. There aren't any boys here, so she doesn't stay long, not even when she sees a cat sitting on the wall. She can't play with cats right now.


Mikoto drapes over a low railing of Tokyo Tower in the middle of the day, as a class traverses down below. She should be in class, but she isn't. Mai is at Ohtori, and Mai can't deal with her any more. She watches from here, instead. She is disappointed.


Mikoto trespasses onto Juuban's fields, as members of both schools' Kendo clubs file into the gymnasium. From behind the building she watches them enter, and she thinks in desperation that someone who taught her so much might have an interest in play-fighting like this. But each boys' face is wrong. There's no recognition at all.


At some point, Mikoto sleeps for a few hours, pressed in against a vent on a rooftop far above the city streets. She hates sleeping alone. She doesn't feel safe now she doesn't have a place to go back to. It's not like her naps, when she was perfectly secure in being able to go home at the end of the day. And she's so agitated that she's disturbing the cats. They're not sleeping with her, either.


Mikoto leans over a low railing on the World Tree, watching the visitors file in. There's a boy; he doesn't fit. Another group walk in, shoving each other and laughing in typical joviality. None of them are right, either. There's a boy glued to his phone, who does not even notice the golden eyes boring into the back of his head until he finally looks up to apologise for running into someone. Obviously, that's not him, either.


Mikoto walks through Tomoeda without even looking at the attractions. She is looking at the boys taking their dates to a special place, or the boys hanging out with each other, or the boys waiting for people who are devastatingly late. There are a lot of boys here. None of them are the right boy.


Mikoto walks along the coastline, openly staring at the people enjoying the afternoon sun. He's not the boy putting on sunscreen, and he's not the boy arguing with his friend over a workbook. She wonders for a sceptical moment what sort of boy brings homework to a beach. She realises she should not have those sorts of thoughts. Perhaps he likes studying on the beach. She doesn't know, because she doesn't remember. None of these boys make her remember.


Mikoto walks down the highway, but the cars' lights are on and she can't see anything. A car stops. He's not inside. She declines the offer of a lift.


Mikoto has not checked her phone for some time. She doesn't want to talk to her friends. She doesn't want to make it worse. She sees a distinctive face in the crowd, and turns and moves in the opposite direction, as surely as she would evade a Witch. She's not tired enough to stop, not yet.


Mikoto is tired enough to stop. It doesn't last long.

Even if she did not feel too vulnerable out here to sleep, the rain would wake her.

It comes and goes in waves, the rain. At times it is calm, and at times it patters down without a single care for girls without umbrellas. Here she comes to the latter, as big lone drops become a hundred-hundred droplets, and she is forced to acknowledge that as relatively safe as her rooftop is, it is a poor haven.

Besides - she realises, as she pushes herself up and scrambles down the fire escape, that she is hungry. She can't remember when she first got hungry, so she knows she should get some food very soon, because she knows the cost of not eating.

The problem is that she forgot her purse, that fateful morning.

But it's not like Mai can get any more disappointed in her than she already is.

The second problem is that the sun has gone down, so it will be harder to steal someone's lunch.

But Mikoto knows where people get lunch.

She slips into the konbini just as the rain shifts into a higher gear, pounding down on the rooftop like a giant tapping its fingers. Nestled into a corner of Akihabara, it's a cramped, homey sort of place; the back shelves, the ones which stock things other than food, might not have been changed much for months. There's a bit of dust back there.

The shelves are high, so it's hard to say exactly how many people are here, but it doesn't sound too crowded.

It should be easy to grab something and leave, right..?

It's not like anyone here could stop her if she really tried.

Mikoto isn't like them.

The cashier - he's not who she's looking for, either, he's a few years too old and too long in the nose - gives her a long look along with the traditional greeting as she enters, hair mussed, dirty cheeks, and a long-sleeved uniform which is more than a little damp. But she doesn't even look at him as she goes to disappear between the shelves, so surely she has a legitimate purpose here. Even if she's rude about it.

She scans the shelf, looking for something to eat, trying to figure out what she can grab and run without causing too much of a scene.

It is a crime interrupted by darkness, as the lights flicker out.

"Aw, man," the cashier grumbles, fumbling around his desk. "Don't tell me them next door's doing their thing with the lighting again - I keep /telling/ 'em it messes with us when the weather's bad - ah, hey, honoured customers, everything's fine, I'll get you a light, just give me a sec --"

But he doesn't really matter, and Mikoto isn't really listening to him. He's just a normal person.

She's not listening to him - because she knows that unexpected darkness is so often a prelude.

There is the sound of a sharp edge drawing in the black.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - It Catches Up With You https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEWIngn2_eM

Homura Akemi rents space in the slender pale thing called her body rather than occupying it the way a normal human girl might. Still -- still, it needs regular maintenance, much like the dirty soul upon the back of her hand needs regular cleansing.

Even dead girls walking have to eat.

She snaps a nondescript black umbrella closed just inside the cramped shelter of the konbini and leans it against the entranceway, careless of the ill spirits she shepherds in beneath its canopy, nevermind the shunted rain that splatters to the tiles. It splashes her brown Ohtori loafers, too, but they're already unavoidably drenched.

Walpurgisnacht comes. Homura feels it in her bones, in her blood. Her toes recognize the oily chill of the stormwater soaking them. She inhales its imminence into her lungs with every breath -- the air tastes of ozone and deja vu. It is all so very familiar.

The fear she exhales has a new taste to it.

Display cases up front, in the better traveled and better maintained part of the konbini, offer plenty of good food: cellophane-wrapped onigiri, bentos with their self contained variety, tonkatsu, fresh if cheap sushi. Homura walks right past the good stuff, long hair flowing, and picks up a couple of instant noodle bowls. Their labels make a flavor promise which their dry contents won't be able to deliver on.

Her eyes drift to the mochi display... to the sakura mochi. Her minds drifts, unbidden and inexorable, to a memory of mochi split with a smiling Madoka once upon an aching forever's worth of timelines ago. A ghost of shared sweetness past fills her mouth, then curdles on her tongue.

Grueling, costly timelines ago.

She's been doing far too much remembering since the Incubator left her apartment, and no sleeping whatsoever.

Homura's eyes drop from the mochi. Her instant noodles crinkle in her grip; she forces herself to relax her fingers again, then turns on a heel to head for the counter with her cardboard rations. One foot in front of the other. The storm comes. She has to be ready.

Why? asks a small, plaintive voice from deep within her. It is a young voice; it is a very old voice, having survived more years than any normal teenage girl should have to endure. It is soft with despondency. Why try?

All she has done is get in the way.

All she has done is make things worse-

As she has for the hundredth time in the last few hours, Homura wrenches away from the thought with desperation, with savagery. Not without injury. Each time it tears another piece out of her. Each time the flawed muscle in her chest spasms.

She is whiter than usual as she steps up to the counter, not that the guy behind the counter knows her to tell the difference between shades of parchment pale. Otherwise the girl with the rude umbrella handling does not emote, her doll-like face frozen and beautiful over turmoil. A handful of yen coins tink onto the counter, exact change dropped in cold silence -- she doesn't even look at the cashier. Homura doesn't exactly want to go back to her apartment, but neither does she want to be here any longer.

Then -- the lights flicker out.

And two girls aren't listening to the cashier's grumbled reassurances.

Homura'd heard someone at the back of the store, noted it and made nothing of it. Another late night customer on the other side of tall shelves hardly matters to her. But the hard snikt of drawn blade in the black comes from the same direction.

There's a flash -- the lights have not come back on, it is violet and violently brief -- followed by the hollow rattle of dropped instant noodle bowls hitting the tiles, and Puella Magi Homura Akemi crouches low by the checkout counter.

Metal echoes metal. A cold double *ka-click* sounds over the driving rain, between Mikoto and the only exit: guns being cocked in near-unison.

COMBAT: Homura Akemi transforms into Puella Magi Homura!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Akira Yamaoka - Ain't Gonna Rain https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUSoHCcI9nI

Light catches against a gold reflection, echoing it back until it paints a picture of direction and intent. It does not last long enough to show its origin, seen between shelves.

Sound illustrates, too. Mikoto knows the sound of a gun being cocked. It was her introduction to Tokyo, after all.

It's there - and she's here - ah.

Between her and the exit.

It makes sense that a threat would get in the way after cutting the lights, she thinks.

There's a terrible grinding sort of noise as metal - or something close enough - drags across the konbini floor at pace, and a feral growl of warning as something sharp is hoisted up and through the air.

The konbini cashier is wailing something in the darkness, but it hardly matters.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Richard Gibbs - Inbound https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLXUEhgNXJU

It makes perfect sense to Homura that whoever or whatever laid in wait for her at the back of the konbini would strike after cutting the lights.

The brutal immediacy of an unexpected attack is a strange kind of balm, but balm it is for the haunted Puella. She is still too practiced at survival to do anything but, in this moment. It drives away all other thoughts, for now. Filling each palm with a Desert Eagle has its cold way of comforting her, too.

More than the menace of shrieking blade, that advancing growl makes Homura's throat feel vulnerable, as though what comes from the dark might tear it out bare teeth.

From her crouch she goes lower still, handheld cannons splayed apart in the blinding black, one gun upraised against an attack from above, the other low and level.

Her teeth clench -- her legs coil -- small fingers bear down on twin triggers...

...with a fuzzy bz-bzzt and a white-strobed stutter, the konbini's lights come back up. They reveal all pending violence, all its dark participants, with the unkind blare of overhead incandescence.

Puella Magi Homura kneels with one Deagle muzzle angled for a blind headshot and the other for any legs her opponent may or may not have -- has -- it's -- her fingers freeze just before passing the point of no return on each trigger.

Her eyes widen by mere fractions, and in the moment she remembers -- she calls out the name she was told to use by the girl herself:

"Mikoto Minagi...!"

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

Up goes the blade --

-- something doesn't smell right --

-- up go the lights --

-- and there they are, in profile. It is difficult to manoeuvre a greatsword in tight quarters: she has brought it up in a short upwards strike, and as the light returns it is clear that it promises to carve right through her assailant's neck, just as surely as she stares down the barrel of a gun.

But something doesn't smell right, and her name calls her back as shock blanches her own face. Hers is obvious. "Homura!" It's Homura - it smells like Homura - and Homura is not her enemy.

Is she?

For an instant Mikoto stares down that Desert Eagle, alarmed and wary still.

But Homura called out to her and she struggles to think, to reason, and she realises Homura has not shot her either, and she thinks perhaps she is reacting just like her.

Breathing heavily, gold eyes flicking back to violet, Mikoto slowly, agonisingly stands down. Miroku lowers; Mikoto's trunk drops an inch, chin ducking down. "I didn't mean to," she says, and actually manages to say it this time. In words and stance she screams: forgive me, I do not want to start this fight.

"H-hey," calls the harried cashier, whose alarm is at least loud enough to be noteworthy now, "I get that this is a cool opportunity for your cosplay, but you can't do that in here! Your props are gonna mess up my shelves!" He thinks it is a game; Mikoto is not focused on him at all.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Note, if you will, amidst the arrested violence between allies the light reveals:

Note how Homura Akemi's fingers freeze on the triggers of heavy pistols, but do not ease from them, even after she recognizes the other girl and calls her name.

Only years and years of practice, of control, allow the grey girl to stand unflinching in path of sure decapitation -- even as something deep in her screams. Mikoto Minagi is confronted by the unblinking barrel of a Desert Eagle. Its diameter speaks eloquently to the damage it can do.

Mikoto says her name; still the guns do not lower. Neither have Homura's eyes narrowed back to their customary flat, cool baseline.

Mikoto stands down...

A privately terrified Homura lowers her arms, lowers her guns, half a second after. A brief delay; an eternity. She inhales, deeply, through her open mouth. Mikoto's apology shuts it for her, after.

Her soles shffff softly on the floor as she straightens in place. "...You didn't," she replies, on the same delay. You didn't mean to; you didn't do it, at all. As if a blow that swings but does not connect leaves no marks. It's less a forgiveness than an attempt to dismiss the situation entirely, uncomfortably emotive apology she doesn't know how to handle inclusive.

There are a great many things Homura would like to pretend have no effect on her. This joins them. Note, if you will, how she offers no apology in return.

Keeping her hands below the counter's level, she slides her weapons away into her shield. The girl in the sharpest cosplay on the block finally glances sidelong at the clerk, without facing him. "That's fine," she says, cool as ice, and stoops to retrieve her dropped noodle bowls.

Then a glance to Mikoto. "We were just leaving," she prompts -- more to the girl who was once her treetop sensei than the clerk, with pronoun and with action. Her utterly flat face in no way acknowledges the near-mutual murder which just transpired, nor betrays her still-elevated heart rate. "Did you want anything?"

It's no apology, but it sounds like Homura is buying.

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

Oh, yes. There are old truths, and they are screaming.

Screaming still, as Mikoto lowers herself and there is a heartbeat between Homura's reciprocation. That jagged thing hammers in her chest, speaks through the desperation in her eyes and the part of her lips for shallowed breath.

Please, she does not say.

And then the half-second passes and Homura stands down, straightens her body and her expression. Homura confirms her intentions, or lack thereof - what has not come to pass. Mikoto nods, mutely, and does not press her for an apology, because she does not think Homura needs to give one.

She thinks it perfectly reasonable to react to someone like her that way, in the darkness. She said it before, didn't she? She's scary.

Just as Homura slides her guns back into her shield - it's such a strange and canny storage device, Mikoto has always fancied how useful something like that would be - the dark girl turns back, to grab the strap of her discarded sword-case and slip Miroku back inside. (The act of casting it aside knocked a few cans of sardines from the shelf. She does not put them back.) Homura excuses them to the clerk, and Mikoto hears the implicit imperative in her inclusion.

She owes her that much, she thinks, after scaring her like that. ... if Homura was even frightened. She might have just been... bracing herself, Mikoto thinks, with a little shudder she does not explain.

(But then, hasn't it always been that way between them? Mikoto tried to kill Alyssa. Homura succeeded. Despite all her training, Homura has always outclassed her in doing what has to be done, as far as Mikoto can tell.)

Regardless, Homura speaks, and Mikoto nods compliance.

And then Homura asks, and helpfully, her stomach growls.

Mikoto points to the tonkatsu, speaks plainly: "That." It's a short confirmation, but there's gratitude in her eyes. She is glad Homura still cares enough to make sure she is fed, even after she almost hurt her. She does not question whether it is anything other than concern.

The cashier is polite enough, but it's clear he's glad to see them go.


The rain still pitter-patters, but it is gentle enough now for two girls to escape to the rooftop with ease. The handholds are slippery, but Mikoto has climbed many trees in her youth; buildings are not so different. The light of a billboard blaring a lit-up advertisement shines above them, broad enough to provide a cover at the edge of the roof; the rain parts around it, and long hours lit create a sense of warmth underneath, in the way of lamps which have been left on too long.

It's the sort of thing Mikoto has to rely on, right now.

She hates it. She misses Mai's bed, and Mai's warmth.

At first she is quiet - she is eating. Tearing through the tonkatsu as if she has not eaten a proper meal in ages. This much is true; it is safer to steal snacks, because it is less likely they will hurt her. Snacks are poor fuel for the engine which keeps Mikoto at the ready, every hour of the day. She has to make do.

But eventually the tonkatsu is devoured, every inch of it, and Mikoto is left with her silence.

She looks down at the pre-packaged bowl and for a while all she says is: "Thanks."

Well - that's all she says with her words.

Mikoto has always told a much more detailed story with everything aside from them. She is dirtied; her long-sleeved uniform is crumpled and stained from so much rain; her hair is messy and uncombed, even by her standards. There are dark circles under her eyes, as if she has not slept; there are tracks down her cheeks which speak to liquid more localised than rain.

She is a mess.

She does not try to hide it.

When she speaks she speaks abruptly, with no preamble or context. "I'll go back soon. ... to Nishitama," she realises she should specify, after a moment. "But I can't, right now. I'm too sad. I'd get caught. Don't think Eri's gonna save me again." It is not a judgement she offers with any particular bitterness; she does not fault Eri for needing to be saved, now.

"I just need some time," she repeats herself, and does not realise the irony. "So I don't mess it up worse."

She sounds so sure she has made a mess of it.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

After a moment's thought, Homura picks up both the asked-for tonkatsu and a cold tamago sando for herself -- it seems she won't be heating up those noodles after all. She leaves her umbrella behind in its puddle of rainwater when they go, and tucks their bag of food into her elbow. When the grey girl travels with Mikoto Minagi, she expects to need her hands free.

And sure as the rain falling down on their heads, they ascend. Still, it is no relief to be right, though the time mage usually derives some small satisfaction whenever her predictions prove correct. Not when she knows how very wrong she has been about the most important things, for so very long.


A plastic konbini bag is just one of many things which lie between Homura and Mikoto, in the glowing lee of one of Akihabara's famous rooftop billboards.

There's nothing comfortable about the stretch of silences, not to the Puella Magi. Memories lie thick about her like a miasma, precious and devastating. Mikoto does not know this is not the first time Homura has stood in the path of her sweeping blade. This used to be the girl who taught her the terrible things she needed to know. Her once braidsister had apologized then, too. Now...

Homura handles Mikoto's gratitude with as much grace as she did the apology. The other girl gets a long silence and then a single deliberate blink. Beneath the ice she exerts costly control. With mortal danger's distraction faded, she now has herself to contend with again.

"Ohtori Academy is not in Nishitama," Homura points out in that near monotone of hers. There is more than one place Mikoto has not been in a while, and the ever-watchful Puella has noticed. She observes the rest of the girl's disarray here beneath the spotlights' spillage; how could she not?

Rain pours in revulets from the face of the advertisement, making an uneven veil between the girls and the bright lights of Electric Town below. The storm comes.

"There's no time left," Homura says, so quietly the falling water nearly washes the sound away. Such small words, to bear such unimaginable weight.

A very long moment passes. In a more normal tone for her, Homura Akemi does one of the things she does best: makes a question which could be gently-expressed concern come out as coolly clinical. "Why are you so sad, Mikoto Minagi?" When they were braidsisters, she would have asked as a friend. But... hearing about Mikoto's troubles might distract Homura from her own, even for a moment.

The selfish girl in grey has always indulged in vain hopes. It's just that now she recognizes them for such. She takes a mouthful of bread and egg and mayonnaise, chewing mechanically, swallowing it as a dry lump. Forcing herself through the paces.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> How To Destroy Angels - A Drowning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhFyog5zmm8

"I know," Mikoto says, as Homura points out the obvious truth, and it is small and miserable. Perhaps it is only obvious to her. "Ohtori's central... but... Mai's there..."

She knows she should monitor the heart of Fuuka, but Mai told her not to come home.

Isn't it enough to scour the outskirts for now? Just while she seems so mad?

(It's never enough.)

It's never enough, and there's no time left, and Homura might have gotten away with the whisper if Mikoto were anyone else. Her ears are sharp; she catches the murmured mora. Mikoto looks to her, and her eyes crease in new worries, no matter the weight bearing down on her own shoulders. "Homura..."

But she doesn't quite manage to follow it up with a question, because she never knows what to say. It's just her name, caring and concerned and so, so sad. Mikoto is an expert in fitting a novel into a name.

She's used to saying a lot without saying much at all, because she was never of use for her words, after all. It is a strange skill she has developed, here in Tokyo.

A skill Homura calls upon, as she dissects Mikoto's sadness with a direct question. The girl still wearing braids looks down, again, and tells herself Homura would not ask if she didn't care, even if she sounds so cold.

For a long moment she does not say anything. She almost does - lips parting for inward breath, shaping to a mora - but she can't bring herself to say that she does not want to burden her. Homura is not the only selfish girl in attendance. She knows the truth they have lived with; she is a friend; most importantly she is /asking./

Instead her breath grows shaky, and she shakes her head.

Silence beats like a drum.

"Mai... got mad when I messed up breakfast again. Then I hurt Yumi," Mikoto says, finally, the words laden with shame. "I didn't mean to. Then... Endo fought me, and I meant to. Mai and Fate got in the way and... Mai was even more mad. I - I think Mai hates me," her hands tighten around the empty bowl. "Really hates me. I'm burden, and, I'm all twisted up, and, my love's no good, and I was mistake, and my sins are too much..."

She sniffs, loudly, and swallows at a lump in her throat. "Mai cuh- can't deal with me no more, I - can't go home!" Here her voice raises in the same gesture as her face crumples, and the bowl falls into her lap, because suddenly she has buried her face in her hands.

And she cries.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Some other girl might sag her shoulders to hear a friend say her name in such a tone. Some other girl, some softer girl, might crumple altogether to have the sorrow which bleeds from her acknowledged. Some flawed girl, some failure with faulty eyes and wobbly knees...

Homura abruptly despises herself for her lapse, for uttering the words, for letting Mikoto hear. She despises herself for so many reasons... Her neck stiffens; a muscle jumps at the hinge of her jaw. She stares straight ahead, into the rain, and it is anger which leaks from her now.

It is not aimed at Mikoto, precisely, but there is nothing about her tight-lipped silence to tell the other girl that Homura's subtle cold fury is for herself.

It passes, or rather, its evidence fades as Homura makes herself eat. A detached thought floats through: Kyouko would be angry, if this food got wasted. She manages one bite more before setting the sando down in her lap.

All the while she listens to Mikoto. Violet irises edge over, seeking an impression through peripheral vision. It is too hard to look directly at the other girl's despair. She doesn't offer a hand, or any soft murmur of solace, but she is present; she hears each and every word.

Feels them, too keenly.

Love's no good. Sins, too much.

The girl at the center of Mikoto's universe can't deal with her any more.

The selfish girl's sorrows rise up, a tide in her, and she closes her eyes.

The black behind her eyelids is too dark -- Homura opens them again, immediately.

Mikoto is crying.

Homura makes herself process this. It is an action as mechanical as her chewing was, but the time traveler is in the end still good at forcing herself to do what is needful. (Is it? that small voice asks, and she pretends she can ignore it.) Mai... has left her, they have fought. Homura remembers how poorly it has gone in other pasts, when the two have had fallings-out, as well as she remembers the way they cannot ever truly leave each other alone.

The timing... Mikoto sobs into her hands, and Homura does not move except to tilt her head back so that she can stare up into the rain-filled shadows beyond the billboard spotlights. The timing.

Homura thinks, I cannot rely on Mikoto's sword arm for what comes any more than Eri can for aid in Nishitama -- she thinks the coldest thoughts, as if doing so could inoculate her from all that emotion. No use. Those heartbroken sobs batter at her like waves, and Homura has eroded so far already...

She asked. She has her answer, and it cuts too close, exposes bone as surely as Miroku could have cleaved head from shoulders earlier.

Some other girl might reach for the sobbing Mikoto, however her hand shook from shyness. Some other girl, some softer girl, might stammer that name with the same worry she heard her own expressed with earlier. Some hopeful girl, some friend with bashful almost-smiles and black braids to match...

Homura Akemi flees.

She doesn't jump up and run away into the rain, hair flying, however strongly that urge rises in her. With conscious, careful control -- an icy demeanor that runs to brittle more than cold, though Mikoto may or may not be in any position to notice -- she gathers her legs beneath her and rises. The plastic bag rustles as Homura places a mostly uneaten meal back into it and leaves it there.

"...I can't stay." Truth from the lips of a liar. The flat inflection is her deception by omission. "You need to pull yourself together."

She's speaking to Mikoto; she's speaking to herself. She's walking away, along the edge of the roof, her sable swallowtail rippling in the rising stormwinds. She's stepping off, dropping out of sight...

She's landing light but hunching down hard, and remaining in place for a frozen moment as the rain begins its drench. And then she is, finally, running, pelting away in the night.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Kawai Kenji - Main Theme (Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0mKAiSPtVQ

Mikoto says Homura's name and Homura is angry, and perhaps the other reason Mikoto does not reach out to her is plain.

She is afraid.

She does not want Homura to be angry with her, too.

If she asks Homura what's wrong, she is sure she will only make her angrier.

Mikoto has always been a selfcentred girl, as well-meaning as she is; she understands the world through herself. She sees the grit of that jaw, that fixed stare, and she is so sure she has caused it with her imprecise word. She is so sure she is at fault.

It was an important skill to learn, around faultless people.

She does not stop to consider that there is only one faultless person in the world, and her life is damaged by applying it too widely. She doesn't think like that.

She doesn't think that she might hurt Homura with her honesty. She is just grateful Homura reached out, despite her irritation. She answers her question frankly, as she always has.

She does not realise at first the error she has made, because she is crying.

She does not realise until she hears the sound of a bag rustling - sees Homura standing up. She is a small thing as she looks up to her, jaw dropped, brow knit, eyes blurred with tears. The shock is writ plain there, a wound Homura has carved. For a moment her breath comes quick and she cannot say anything at all.

"W-- wait, Homura..." But her throat chokes on the words, and they come out too strangled, too thin, as she turns away. It is only as she starts walking that Mikoto finds her volume, and her voice tears in desperation. "Don't leave me! I need help! Please--!!" A hand reaches out, trembling in the night air.

"... come back..." Her volume leaves her just as Homura does, dropping off the side of the building into the darkness below. That hand drops to the ground, made warm by a light left on too long. She has been left on too long, and it feels so obvious that no one wants to get too close. In quiet misery she begs pardon, "... please..."

But pleading is useless.

"I didn't mean to," Mikoto mumbles to herself, vision blurry, as she sinks to her side and curls in, hands pressing in a bead at her chest. "... I didn't mean to..."

'Okay. Just- when you're feeling more up to it... you don't have to do this to yourself. Come to us and... we'll be here - ready and waiting to help you.'

But when she came to them, it was too much -- she was too much. And she should have known she was too much, she thinks, in bitter realisation. She should have known not to want help - or support - or understanding. Selfcentredly she blames herself, and does not think of Homura's feelings. Her own choke her too surely.

She blames herself, and the blade of her condemnation is hot to the touch, like it has been left in the hearthfire too long. Homura told her to pull herself together, but she can't even do something as simple as that. No wonder they leave her, she thinks. No wonder she is alone.

Eventually she will realise Homura left her lunch. Kyouko needn't worry.

It won't go to waste.

It's so cold.

She's so cold.