2019-05-17 - Intermission 8: Friends

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Intermission 8: Friends

Mikoto and Yumi make choices. Madoka listens.


Mikoto Minagi, Yumi Ohzora, Madoka Kaname


The Land of Fuuka

OOC - IC Date:

5/17/2019 - 06-02-2015

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> DJ Shadow - You Can't Go Home Again https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfqqwrQH6FI

The Obsidian Palace is a cold place - a strange place, in many ways, at the heart of a hundred little dead-ends and impossible routes. At once hewn from stone (black, black, as if light has forgotten it) and possessed of the most ubiquitous modern convenience: so many screens fed by so many wires, hanging down and showing the theatre of the world above.

The dais below is where they dwell, but there are other crannies; who knows how anyone is supposed to get to this ledge, up here, high enough that the screens are eye-level instead of so high above. But, then - the Obsidian Lord does tend to surround himself with feline-natured people. Perhaps they have their ways.

Certainly Mikoto and Yumi have their ways - but they're at once here and not here at all. Does that make sense? I suppose not; forgive things being a little strange right now. The world rearranges itself. Ah --

Mikoto's legs show white socks as they swing loosely over the edge, fearless of the height. An Ohtori uniform, winter jacket fastened closed. The countless screens, right now - all of them focused on one girl, one outpouring of power.

"Changing rules... Madoka's really that powerful," Mikoto marvels, head canting as she watches the pink. "We saved Eri, back then. I guess... Madoka learned something different to me. But, is Madoka gonna be okay?" She frowns, looking down at her hands, clasped about the edge of the stone. "Once was hard enough... and now Madoka wants to erase every Witch. That's... lots of girls... and Madoka'll be on her own, now..."

Mikoto looks from the screen, back to Yumi, concern writ on her face. "Madoka'll be okay - right?"

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

Cold, and strange, and yet, wouldn't power favor some strangeness? The stone, and the energy that hums through it... in a sense, a place like this melds both, embodies control. Or, at least--

Yumi Ohzora, girl who would keep potion recipes and incantation study on her cellphone, doesn't see the contradiction there as one too difficult. She, too, has her ways to be up here, and maybe that's part of why it's here, in particular. After all--in a moment like this, with all the world paused...

Is it so strange, that a part of her might see this set of moments near someone she looks so hard to try to find?

The young witch's broom is propped up beside her on the ledge, within easy reach. Her feet swing back and forth, lightly. She's in black, of course, her hat tipped back, pointed as it should be. And looking at the screen...

"...It's clever," Yumi admits. "You read about it, now and then--the maiden pulls one over on the old demon. It's..." She nods. "It's kind of satisfying, isn't it? To see."

She presses her lips together then, lookng down. "...You don't expect girls like us in the background to do something like this. But... a solution like this..."

Yumi nudges Mikoto with her elbow a little. "I wonder that, but... look at her face, right? There's no hesitation at all. She took what she wants to see, and... She'll make it happen, herself."

It's amazing. And...

"...When it's for someone you care about, I think," Yumi says--and she's thinking here, fixing Mikoto with a look, "You can do more than you thought you could. Not just blocking out pain, but... making something, too."

She doesn't know the answer, but--the feeling? Watching how she looks, saying those things, how certain she is, when before she could only step back? Well...

"And that's where... I think, that power..." She trails off, and looks, and leans on her friend a little bit. Her eyes are still on the screen, on so much light.

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Uehihi," giggles Madoka, in her distinctive way, warm and playful and wry all in one. "I don't think in my whole life anyone has ever called me clever. So this is what that's like..."

There's the soft click of lacquer against stone, as Madoka sets down the bento, between them, and sits down, behind them. Or maybe she was always there. She's neither feline-agile nor broom-accompanied.

Somehow it doesn't seem to matter very much.

She lifts the lid, and steam billows off the rice-based face of a cat, on the top layer.

Which works well for both Mikoto and Yumi, really.

Inhaling the aroma of lunch, she looks at each of them in turn.

"I think I'll be okay," she adds, easily -- maybe a little too easily, but her smile is real enough. She pulls chopsticks out of the side of the box and rests them diagonally on the corners, for the others to claim. "Because I care about them."

She cares about them all.

"Itadakimasu," she chimes, picking up her own utensils.

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

"They can be beat," Mikoto says, with no small wonder. "Even when they've been hurting us for so long... one girl can change all that. Well," Mikoto shakes her head, "it's two, right? If Homura hadn't loved Madoka so much, Madoka wouldn't be so powerful now. And then, Madoka..."

Well, just as Yumi says, it's for someone she cares about. (Someones, she thinks. Madoka cares so much.)

And as if summoned by fond thoughts, there she is. "Madoka!" Mikoto brightens, and shifts on the stone so that she can more easily see the girl who sits behind them. Was she behind them before?

Well, she supposes there's always been someone at their back, supporting them.

Even if it didn't always look that way to a girl who saw things so black and white.

She takes the chopsticks in hand - snip-snap - and relief floods her eyes as Madoka reassures them. "Yup," she nods, with a sunny smile. "Madoka chose it, right? All on your own. Madoka doesn't have to do it... but you want to do it, right? That's the difference."

Looks down at the rice, her smile spreading. "It's cute... Madoka's bentos are always cute. Itadakimasu!" And after a few quick mouthfuls: "It's good!"

It's not surprising. After all, Mikoto first saw Madoka working in Linden Baum alongside Mai. Of course she's good at food.

A cat's ear disappears under her hunger, before she lowers her chopsticks to muse again. "I wasn't always nice... or paid much attention... 'cause I thought, Madoka was just someone else to save, and I didn't wanna get you even more involved. And then, I thought we were too different to get along, 'cause I saw Madoka supporting your friends, and I was fighting them... but I figured it out at the end. We really are the same. With these hands... we love them, and we kill them. But, Madoka..."

She smiles, shaking her head. "I should never have thought Madoka wasn't strong. Madoka's one of the strongest girls I've ever met. It's not always force, right? Believing, and trusting, and hoping, and trying... and being true to yourself, too. It was on a screen... how sure you were, Madoka. Even when Madoka's mother tried to stop it. It's - it's --" she waves a chopstick in the air, trying to catch the word, but in this moment it's entirely possible. "-- advocacy. Won't say I'm not worried, 'cause I love Madoka, but... I think if anyone can do this, it's you, Madoka."

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

"Mm!" Yumi answers Mikoto. "That's the great magic, I think. When it's like that, it's almost simple... Well, almost."

But suddenly, "Madoka-chan!" Yumi greets cheerfully, smiling as she turns to look--sees--oooh. "Well, you know," the other kind of witch answers, "You know it's true, too. I wear glasses, so I'm an expert on smartness."

A beat, "Eh heh, or maybe I just was pretty hungry..." She accepts the bento with both hands--always with this little politeness, just too ingrained even when she's being kind of lazy, and does her thing, too. It's fine; Madoka's here, so, that's how it is.

"Oh, that's so cute!" Yumi announces about the rice, smiling--and then she looks up to Madoka, pink gaze to pink gaze. Sure, maybe too easily--Yumi knows that kind of answer--and yet..."

"Yeah," Yumi agrees. "Well, I'm pulling for you, you know? Besides, that Kyubey is taking advantage of Witches--as a witch myself, I can't stand for that kind of thing."

Her humor does dip a little as she tilts her head, studies Madoka in the moment, assessing--does she think it? Does she mean it?

...Yumi nods, after a moment, apparently satisfied with something she's found. "Itadakimasu," she agrees."

"...I wouldn't want someone fretting after me, thinking, 'can she do it? It's so big, and she's so small.' I never liked that much. Being protected, being held back... Now it's your turn, to do the protecting, isn't it?"

It's the duty she's taken on; the responsibility she's chosen. But...

Yumi agrees--she eats a little slower than Mikoto--okay, a lot--but she finds something so incredibly good about just, the rice; hot, filling...

She nods, to Mikoto, thinking--watching her. What she thought, what she didn't think...

"...Yeah," Yumi says. "There's different kinds of strong. ...The strength to endure, waiting for everyone to come back... That's a form of it, too, I think." She doesn't talk about standing up to moms, exactly, but...

"It's... nice," Yumi says, "To have the reminder. Sometimes, it's hard to keep hoping, when everything is so dark. But if you can do it... So can I."

"But, I'll do my part, too, okay? Back here, with the ones still here--to help... make sure that those smiles happen, now that they can again."

She admits, after a moment, "...It's a big thing. I don't know all the implications, but... When you're bringing hope to others I think, it's easier to keep it for yourself, isn't it? I believe in you. ...Besides, it's kind of a win for us clumsy girls, right?"

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Mata Aou Ne https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mCFGa2uSro

Madoka seems happier about the compliments to her cooking than those to her life choices. She is especially embarrassed by the comment about her mother, and rather than reply right away she chows down on the cat's nose, which was an umeboshi -- sour!

She does her best to keep the inevitable noises she makes whenever she eats sour things to herself, and they come out like little meeps that aren't too much of an interruption.

Her face, however, as she struggles to keep a straight face in the face of this flavor, is... indescribable.

It saves everyone from having to see how she would have looked, hearing such nice things, on and on and on, so many of them.

Or maybe not. There's something inside Madoka now -- no, maybe-probably it was always there, but only now able to shine through -- and it shone while she almost killed herself with her own cooking and it shines now, as she looks between the two girls.

It's a little shy, maybe, like a fawn that was just born.

But it's standing up on spindly legs.

"I won't let you down," she promises Yumi, and means it. It's easy to say things will be okay, but this comes from a deeper place than that, a more profound truth. Her truth, which she's claimed for herself. "I know there are a lot of witches counting on me, too."

Putting her chopsticks back down, she brushes her hands off on her skirt, then places one on Mikoto's knee. "I love you too, Mikoto-chan..."

She looks at her, then past her, at... the other one, below.

Reunited with her brother at last, after all this time...

...and yet.

She nibbles at her lip, worrying it with just the very edge of her teeth, then letting it go, letting the little white marks remain.

"That's why it's so hard, seeing you like this," she says, finally, soft but earnest in her distress. "I'm not sure what's about to happen, but... a lot of what led you here is because of things that are going to change. So... I don't think... you'd have to stay. But..."

Madoka squeezes, very gently.

"...it isn't about 'have,' like you said. What do you want to do, Mikoto?"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Sia - Elastic Heart https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RYY0hwHIRw

Mikoto is not part of the Clumsy Girls Club, but she can appreciate their coalescence.

She smiles at the contact, but it's an expression which fades to something sadder as she catches the way her gaze shifts, down to the dais. To a girl sobbing as she fears her friends will die, shrinking against the very man who forbade her to lift a finger to help them, seeking comfort from the source of her suffering. From a higher perspective, it's...

Well, there are easier things to watch, and they're already on screen.

For a moment she's quiet - before her hand curls over Madoka's, on her knee. "Madoka could make it better, right..? Fixing everything that happened. All the fighting... which made me... slip back into that. Can't say there's a part of me which doesn't want it, now I see it clearly. To rely on someone else, again..."

She shakes her head, looking back at Madoka. "But I've always been - changed by other people. Without even knowing... I've been lied to so much. Even my Child, my Element... he gave me his power. They changed me. Made me sharper, grafted Miroku into my magic, possessed me with that... darkness the Dark King brought out. Broke me, and trained me, and, conditioned me... until I was a useful tool." A shade of digust creeps into her tone: "So I'd be his good girl. So I'd love him, even while he hurt me." A jerk of her chin to the girl below, clinging to her brother.

The corner of her mouth scrunches, as she looks back to the girls on the ledge. "I don't remember half of what they did, Madoka. They did that to me and I don't even remember. I won't do that to myself, too," she insists, braids flicking at her face as she shakes her head. "Even if I'd never know. Especially if I'd never know! I don't wanna be changed without knowing again, even if it's nice this time. I'm so, sick of not knowing."

Her other hand puts down its chopstick, too, so she can grasp the air. "I'm gonna learn the truth. Who I am - and what I'm not. I know it's gonna hurt. It's already hurt, and I haven't even had to hurt no one yet. But I've hurt so much, Madoka," and suddenly that hand has to scrub at her face, instead, and it might not be so strange that she's smiling at her when it lowers. "And it didn't make me half as mean as I think I am sometimes. 'Cause I know what being hurt is like, I can understand people who are hurting."

She hums, through closed lips, as she considers. "And I think, if I didn't go through it, I wouldn't be Mikoto. I'd be someone else. Maybe she'd be happier... even if she was HiME... but I don't want to be someone else. And I don't want to wait for my Lord Brother forever, never knowing how bad he really is for me... and for everyone else." Mikoto picks up the chopstick in her free hand again, tapping it against the side of the bento box. "My story's mean, and scary, and painful, but - it's mine. No matter how much he tries to take away from me. My feelings, my mind, my body, my magic... he can't --" Mikoto shakes her head, corrects herself: "no one can take everything from me forever. So I want to see it through. I wanna be able to confront him, at the end. See him fall so he can never take another, little sister again. Madoka proved it, right? We can win against the things which are trying so hard to control us. 'Sides..."

Here she actually laughs, a little, as if the absurdity of it is so vast to even reach her. "I got so many people to save me. But I'm not the only one serving him. Some of us have done it for a really long time, and some of us just started... some of us love it, and some of us hate it... some of us submit, and some of us struggle... but we're all just tools, Madoka. Things to be used - and used up. Who'll save them?" It's a rhetorical question, as she puts down her chopstick, laying her other hand over Madoka's. "I want to. I know they hurt me, but in the end, we're all servants. I had to kill Grandfather, and I --" she swallows at a lump in her throat which forms suddenly, "I can't give back the life I already took. But I know for sure," here she looks to Yumi, "my friends'll save me. And when they do - maybe I can do it, too. I'd like it if we could all get better. If they could know... they didn't deserve it, neither. And not just them, neither. I want to reach my Lord Brother. No, I think... I want to reach him most of all."

She smiles, brightly. "They tried to make me an assassin, but I always was a magical girl! We make things better. I couldn't fix it like Madoka's fixing it... 'cause I've got my own way to help!" She puffs out a breath, looking up. "And I'm not the only person messed up like this. There's other girls... if I forget all about this, if everything gets fixed and I don't have to hurt, I'd never reach them the way I could. The way everyone's trying to reach me, now. There's people who... really get it, and what they tell me... it helps. Even if I can't listen all the time. I still hear them. I want to be able to do that for someone else who feels all alone, too."

Finally Mikoto looks back down, to Madoka, and a hand lifts to brush against her cheek. "I know it's a lot to ask... and Madoka doesn't wanna see me hurting. But this is my choice, too. I think, maybe... it's the first choice I've ever gotten to make... all on my own." Her hand drops, pulling back to her face to rub at the corner of her eye with a curled finger. "I'm really grateful for that."

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

A lot of witches counting on Madoka, too. That's true, Yumi's sure. ...Well, she's one of them now. Even if for a moment she forgets all that trouble to giggle Madoka's way, a sound that's all the softer given how tall she is. "Not big on sour, huh? I didn't used to be..." Yumi picks up the cat nose, beams, "But you get used to it after a while. Sorta learn to like it, right?"

She pops it into her mouth, and has the sharp little expression of something very strong--and then smiles, before chewing. She in fact... She makes a point, of eating, while Madoka asks Mikoto what she wants. She remains quiet, through that. She says nothing, save to smile at Mikoto for a moment when she seems happier, growing nevertheless a little distant, as she thinks back. ...Not just to the girl below, unable to help, but...

"Doing it with..." Yumi speaks up, and finds she trails off, her shoulders slumping, "Your own hands, though. I want... I want to think it's a victory. I mean, it is--obviously, it is. We get to keep the world, right? But..."

"...I did, you know? I tried. But maybe not hard enough. At first, I just... let myself not think about it. Let myself draw a line, and think, maybe it was fine. But it crossed that line, too. It... " She bites her lip. "Is it, though? Is it... worth it?"

"...On, and on. You want us all to live on, and smile, and..."

"I.. I want that. I do. I--I wasn't lying, when i said you were amazing. But... you are, you know? ...But me, all I could do is..." A faint gloom surrounds her, despite the wondrous nature of everything right now, "I said I'll help, but it seems like... I never quite manage to. You're... you're amazing, but maybe I'm just fooling myself. I said, if you can do it, then so can I, but what does that mean? You're good at it. But I'm... I don't even know how long I'm going to even be here to see much more, and--"

She looks down. "It's all been so much. I don't know what to do. I've been stuck like this so long, I..."

She sniffs once, tries to hold it back, shakes her head. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to sound ungrateful. I only... I wish I could help. I wish I could do something."

<Pose Tracker> Madoka Kaname [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Friends - Yoko Kanno https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0wDEFtSBpA

Madoka is a very good listener.

She holds Mikoto's hand on her knee, when she talks, and doesn't interrupt, except with comforting, supportive squeezes; not even when she's troubled, which she obviously is, at parts; it is difficult at times to listen to. And it isn't that she hides that struggle -- it's just that it isn't important. This isn't about her, or her feelings, or what she wants.

This is about Mikoto. Mikoto speaks, at last. And Madoka listens to her, without judgement, without fear, just... opening herself to Mikoto's story, Mikoto's inner universe, laid bare...

...Mikoto's choice.

"Mmm!" she replies, at the end: warmly, gladly, and wordlessly. That does not make it a simple statement, or one any less profound for its mode of delivery. Mikoto, of all people, knows how much you can say without words.

Doubly so when Madoka leans in and presses their foreheads together.

They remain like that for a long moment, in silence, eyelashes all but intertwined, black hair and pink hair gently tangling.

When Yumi speaks of choices, too, Madoka straightens up and abandons all pretense of eating, instead taking the witch's empty hand in her other one. Lightly, she rubs at the other girl's wrist with her thumb, working her skin in tiny, soothing circles, exactly as she's done for her Mama, in the middle of the night, more than once.

Exactly as her Mama has done for her, more than a dozen dozen times.

"Oh, Yumi-chan," she murmurs with a terrible chord of empathy, when the witch starts to break down. Gently disentangling from her hand, she tries to wipe the tears away. She's a little clumsy, but nobody's eye gets poked out. "You can do anything. It isn't that someone like you can't make a difference."

She cups Yumi's cheek -- not like it is delicate, rather like it is precious.

"If I've learned anything, it's that someone like you is the only one who ever really can."

She looks between the two of them; the princess demanding to be held captive in the heart of darkness, and the witch who yearns to find the light, but doesn't quite know how; and her hope never left, but now it flows from her smile like a river, it burns in her eyes like the heart of a star -- because that's what it is, of course.

"I believe in you both," Madoka says, softly, but fiercely, "So so so much. I don't know exactly what's about to happen, but... even if I'm not here to see it, I won't be afraid. Not for the whole wide world, and not for either of you. Because... your choices, I just know..."

Her eyes shine.

"...they're going to create..."

Everything shines.

"...a true miracle..."

And the white light rises to claim them all.