2019-06-14 - Friend Of A Friend

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Title: Friend Of A Friend

Chibi-Usa helps Rei with Hikawa's festivities, and brings her and Setsuna together.


Rei Hino, Chibi-Usa Tsukino, Setsuna Meioh


Hikawa Shrine

OOC - IC Date:

2019-06-16 - 2015-06-08

.***************************** Yamanote High City *****************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Hikawa Shrine +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
 At the entrance to this shrine, a red torii gate signifies passage from the
 mundane realm of Tokyo to sacred ground. Ascending a long stone staircase
 with moss in its crevices, one reaches an open, stone-paved veranda
 surrounded by a copse of old trees, many of which wear plaited ropes
 dangling long strips of paper, signifying the presence of a tree kami.
 Ferocious carved lions and heavy, stylized stone lanterns accent the
 traditional Japanese architecture, with its oversized gabled roofs,
 rough-hewn wooden pillars, and thin walls. This is the Hikawa jinja, a
 Shinto shrine almost 300 years old, and a cherished cultural touchstone for
 a city too often starved for quiet and serenity.

 The square veranda has a building on each of three sides, with a second,
 unpainted torii on the fourth that guards the top of the stairs. The left
 structure is a small open-air theatre for the performance of rites and
 ritual dance. The right structure contains the living quarters for the
 priests and miko that live here, as well as their offices and the iconic
 donation box. The central structure is also the largest, as it is the
 haiden, or hall of worship, where people can kneel and quietly pay tribute
 to the kami, or attend religious ceremonies. The most important building on
 the grounds, however, is behind the haiden, and not open to the public.
 Called the honden, it is protected by a strong fence, for it is the home of
 the spirits that reside in this place.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Sanno Festival is not, strictly speaking, just a parade, though certainly the parade is the main event, the thing which pulls everyone in. There are a many smaller celebrations, over the week -- little gatherings to honour the spirits of Tokyo and the protections offered.

Of course, daily life and spiritual life aren't always clearly delineated, in a religion which is so uniquely Japanese. Certainly the Shinto shrines have been putting work into these celebrations -- but the rest of Tokyo is involved, too. Take a Juuban class, who have been learning about their city's cultural history in the leadup to the major festival: and now, in the midst of Sanno Festival, their education comes to an apex. They're getting involved, right here at Hikawa Shrine!

Kaho Mizuki might be a substitute teacher, but she's very comfortable in shrines -- so she's a natural choice to help the kids with this project. She's helped the kids set up their very own festival food stand to support Hikawa Shrine's own celebration: by popular vote, they're serving up takoyaki! The little balls are stabbed with toothpicks, and the plates are little paper boats.

Naturally, the residents of the shrine are out to bless the visitors, too: the head priest of the shrine dances with a gohei wand, streamers zig-zagging down from the wood, to bless the festival-goers. He has attendants, too, of course: a young man who eagerly introduces a group to the history, and a young woman who makes sure the quiet souls are given charms for their protection, too. That girl, in particular, is Rei Hino, and she takes a break from her rounds to visit the elementary schooler's efforts. It's possible she hasn't visited... every lurker before she does so.

But let's be honest, even if she's supportive of all the students, she's visiting one particular girl.

"Great work, everyone!" Rei insists, clapping her hands together. "You're all really making today special."

"Have some teroyaki!" One boy insists.

"I'd be happy to," she says, smiling to him. And, given a boat filled with little balls of octopus, she asks: "Chibi-Usa-chan -- is it about time for you to have a break, too? Come sit down with me!" Because if she's going to have a moment's rest enforced on her by small children, she knows who she'd like to spend it with.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa Tsukino has a great fondness for making things, and even a casual look at her while they're working finds the pink-haired girl in intense youthful concentration, attending to each detail carefully before she moves onto the next. There's no self-consciousness in her work just now either, even in the face of a lot of other students in class. That's special in its own way. But...

There's also the casual innocence with which she watches the dance, even though obviously she knows this shrine, she's been here lots of times. The history isn't exactly entirely new to her. But with Rei approaching... Well.

The Small Lady (see? see?) visiting with her class brightens visibly when she sees her older friend approach. "Rei-chan!" she greets warmly, and hmms for a moment, looking at her work, and then...

"Yes," she agrees after a moment, "I can do that!" With great dignity she lowers her work and walks over to sit with Rei. "They all seem to appreciate the shrine," Chibi-Usa opines to Rei, in seeming approval of her classmates... this time, as she turns her head to smile at the glamorous young woman nearby.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Her long silvery-grey skirt and a navy cami top make for a muted sort of chic; Setsuna Meioh is not trying to make any kind of splash. She's just another visitor to Hikawa Shrine, or so she'd like to pretend. A pair of aviator sunglasses completes her incognito look, not that a woman of her height, with her dusky skin tone, and sporting all that dark-like-the-shadows-of-an-enchanted-forest hair could ever really manage to go incognito in Tokyo.

Her height really does single her out here, though, because most of the rest of the shrine's crowd is decidedly shorter than her, today. Perhaps she should have chosen a different day...

But this crowd is why she's here, or rather, a certain member of the crowd. She would have chosen no other, and perhaps is not alone in this.

Though she's here to quietly watch someone from afar, that does not keep her from enjoying the innocent enthusiasm of Juuban's busy little worker bees. The sounds of children working and playing fill her ears with joy. Though her face is solemn, her eyes have a sparkle in them as she roams the grounds.

Still. Her gaze keeps circling back to one girl among the many. A girl with hair as pink as a bubblegum bubble -- a girl whose diligent work fills Setsuna's heart with reflected pride -- a girl who is ladylike and small.

She's here to watch from afar, but... Setsuna Meioh has lived in the Tokyo of Here and Now for almost a year, now. A single short year, in such a very long lifespan... but the Tokyo of Here and Now has lived in her, too. She has learned things about the world she watched for so long; she is still learning things about herself.

For instance: she has learned that quietly watching from afar, which is to say, from across the shrine grounds, only makes her want to quietly watch from... less afar.

She was just making her circuitous way around to try and peek at Small Lady's work when Rei Hino glides by with her long beautiful locks; instead Setsuna steps into the shadow of a wooden pillar to let them pass. But they go to sit not far, and... she can just catch the lilting highs of their voices. She shuffles her clasped hands in an uncharacteristic fidget before circling around closer again, to better hear what they say.

Too close, perhaps, to go unnoticed once she steps out of that tall shadow which she fit into so well. The light finds her just as Small Lady turns to smile at Rei: a tall shadow, herself, who cannot help but look right at her best friend's eyes, to see them herself rather than through Luna-P's relayed feed, despite how such eye contact can draw attention. Her hands are folded before her, her shoulders high and square; she's holding her breath, though she does not realize it.

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Great!" Rei smiles, as Chibi-Usa decides, with ceremony and grace, that she can take a break. She finds a quiet place with her -- it's a little hard, with everyone here to celebrate, but Rei does live here -- and perches down on the steps, boat in hand. From above, birds crow.

"It seems like everyone's learning a lot," Rei agrees, as she looks back to the stand and the students studiously attending it. "I bet you've been helping, right, Chibi-Usa-chan?" Looking back to her smaller friend, she grins, in celebration of Chibi-Usa's own attention to detail. "Really, I should get you to help with shrine work instead of Usagi. But then she'd never learn any work ethic!"

(Mutual hobbies: dunking on Usagi.)

Popping a teroyaki ball in her mouth, she remarks -- once she's swallowed, she's not a monster -- "These are tasty!" So, naturally, she has another. Munch! But it's in the middle of that snacking that her gaze wanders some from Chibi-Usa, and she notices the other girl who's lingering about. "Oh," she smiles, to her; she's seen her before, certainly, and she hates to be rude. "Hello! Are you enjoying the festival..?"

That's why she's here, obviously.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

If you asked Chibi-Usa, she wouldn't limit height to the things that shine clearly about a certain distant planet's soldier. But nobody's asked her yet; instead, Rei is asking her things, and she nods along brightly,considering the others before--Oh! "Well," she says, "I'm not going to just slack off..." A siiiigh, "Like Usagi," she agrees, longsuffering in having to deal with this terrible irresponsible teenage girl all the time. Parenting is the worst.

"I think she's not going to learn it anyway," Chibi-Usa proclaims skeptically, but--

"Oh great!" she answers, all smiles because hey the octopus is turning out well! But as she turns her head to look properly at Rei again--

That's where she spots her. Chibi-Usa glances past Rei for a moment, smiles fondly sort of like a candle flame rising just after it's lit. There was a time when she would have been certain not to say anything, to keep utterly quiet, but...

Technically she doesn't say something; instead she lifts a small hand and waves, an innocent--maybe too innocent--little greeting of someone who remains younger than maybe she has a right to be after all this. "Hi," she says, and it is not really an unfamiliar, surprised kind of greeting.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Setsuna's heart preoccupies her, and so Rei catches her unaware -- at least, enough that the other girl gets a glimpse of the conflict on those fine features: the thinning of painted lips to hesitance, at odds with the soft tilt of her eyebrows. At the question, those deeply red-violet -- or are they violet-red? -- eyes shift their gaze to Rei, and she releases that held breath in the lightest of sighs.

Some of the conflict smooths to politeness. She inclines her head with dignity and returns, "Hello. I am." Simple words, yet she imbues them with gravitas. Her answer is the truth, after all. "Arigatou. Everyone is working so hard on it."

A sense of being regarded touches Setsuna, then, and she looks back her best friend's way.

And just like that, there they are, looking at each other. So simply. So close. Not that much gets to be simple, not in her world and not in Small Lady's, but -- this, this moment, is. How long can a moment be? Well, that is a mystery whose answer Time's Guardian shall keep... but perhaps she can stretch this one.

Her best friend waves, and says hi, and Setsuna's smile rises through the uncertainty and takes her face from sober to warm. Her fingers unclasp, freeing one hand to swing to her side and the other to rise in a small wave back.

"Hi," she says, and, "How are you?" which, by grace of Setsuna's quiet intensity and that smile, is both a polite question and an earnest one. Their greetings match for familiarity; clearly, these two know each other, if their other reactions have not given it away by now.

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

One set of eyes owes something to violet and something to red; the others are dark and purple, a match to the purple sheen of her raven hair. Certainly, Rei has seen Setsuna before; at times in places of gravitas. But she seems comfortable in her distance, as far as Rei can tell, and she knows something of staying apart. Reaching out to someone like that can be more complex than just barging into their lives.

There's a difference, though, between degrees of politeness. There are a thousand words which can be shed on the difference between 'hi' and 'hello', she thinks, even spoken in grace; it's a nuance which does not escape the Ohtori student present. Even more, given Chibi-Usa's own greeting: familiar, expected.

She doesn't interrupt Setsuna's question; give Rei at least this much social grace. "I'm glad to see another of Chibi-Usa-chan's friends here, Meioh-san," she says, afterwards. Last name basis -- she knows enough to know she's a university student, while Rei's barely in high school. (She's certainly tall enough, Rei thinks, with brief jealousy.) "Have you tried the teroyaki? It's very good."

As if to demonstrate, she picks up one by the toothpick. Snacky!

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa is many things, but 'subtle' is not high on the list; she feels strongly, she speaks strongly, she even looks at someone in obvious ways. So it is with her and Setsuna Meioh just now. ...In the same way, though--

She doesn't bat an eye at formal, dignified language, doesn't squint the way some kids might. She seems not to qusetion time at all, flowing easily instead, and she beams at Rei who so clearly and gracefully understands the dynamic here that there's practically imaginary flowers blooming over the small Lady's head.

"I'm doing great!" Chibi-Usa answers easily--not too loud, but with obvious enthusiasm. "--Oh! Rei-chan's right, we were really tyring to make sure it all came out right..."

Chibi-Usa actually takes and offers one of the little delights to Setsuna herself, a casual sign of closeness on top of all the others. Or maybe she's just too young to queston the wisdom of sharing.

"Do you know each other?" she asks, looking between the two--that would mean she doesn't have to do introductions... Probably. It might give her certain other details, too.

"It's lucky that you're here the same time as my class," she was, still brightly. "...Though Rei-chan would be here anyway; I think this is the first break she's taken all morning!"

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Gentle undercurrents require a reader of subtle things; a recipient of visions such as Rei Hino well qualifies, then, to catch note of those ways Setsuna expresses herself. It is true, as well, that Setsuna herself has become more expressive -- and that her current company encourages that even more.

"Hino-san, was it?" A university student Setsuna may be in comparison to Rei's high school status, but she is not one to adopt informality easily. It feels very of a piece with the way she carries herself: what posture! "I could say the same for you." She means it, despite having also envied Rei their easy closeness, as well. "Not yet, although I have been wanting to..."

She trails off, and her small smile grows at Small Lady's bright-as-a-penny answer. "It looks delicious," she says, and it feels like her heart simply grows in her chest when the teroyaki extends her way. Given the choice of stretching a long arm down or bending, herself, she chooses the latter to bridge the gap. Her long hair whispers over one shoulder as she leans, and she accepts the treat with light fingers.

Her lean then becomes a bit of a bow -- it's hard not to, really, she's almost all of the way there -- but when she straightens up and says "Thank you very much" it's with a bit of a sparkle in garnet eyes, making the gesture light, too. And it IS delicious, she finds.

"I know Hino-san by her name and by the good reputation she has attached to it," Setsuna replies with a gracious nod to Rei. "I find it to be my very good fortune, indeed. The festival already serves one of its purposes: bringing people together. Your excellent food serves another." Setsuna has discovered she is quite fond of festivals.

"I hope you do not mind my interrupting your hard-earned break time, then. I only found that I had to come over, once I saw you here. Will you be working all day long?"

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Rei nods, as Setsuna ventures her name. "That's right." They don't have much occasion to speak; she's just glad she has a good memory for names and status. "It really shows!" Rei adds, when Chibi-Usa talks about the effort they put into their teroyaki. Her expression is bright with the clarity of delight as her younger friend offers a snack to the older; she really is relieved to see Chibi-Usa having more friends. (She worries about her, sometimes.)

Setsuna explains how she knows her, and Rei has to laugh a little nervously as Chibi-Usa points out precisely how long she's been on her feet. "Ah, it's nothing, really! I'm just glad everyone's enjoying the celebration! Please, don't worry about interrupting," she assures Setsuna. "Any friend of Chibi-Usa-chan is a friend of mine. Besides, it's nice to get the chance to talk to you!" She explains her side of things to Chibi-Usa, still smiling: "Meioh-san's really an impressive university student -- I've heard a lot about her from people in the Institute. And leaving academics aside," she turns back to Setsuna, "I saw your performance on the runway, too! I really have to admire your elegance!"

It's hard not to, when she can effortlessly turn leaning down into a bow.

"This festival has been very successful," she says, with unvarnished pride, and a broad smile to Chibi-Usa. "But for me, it's a bigger success with Chibi-Usa-chan on my side. I'm really happy your class chose this shrine to help out!" She gestures, with a hand, to the visitors. "I bet Grandpa will be talking about how big the crowd was today all through dinner." With a brief pause, she realises her opportunity, and asks them: "You want to join in?"

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa doesn't seem particularly surprised or embarrassed to hear two people older than her talking about how they're both her friends. She has a certain composure to here there socially... so is the other Usagi really the real one???

No if Chibi-Usa happens to glance down and put her hands together it is at least mostly because it is nice to see the two of them getting along and not because she knows certain things that others might not. She looks up again as addressed though, beams as Setsuna tries the teroyaki. "Mm!" She smiles at both, actually, and frankly sitting here listening to them finding the other great is not the worst way she could be passing a break anyway, far from it.

She beams anyway--apparently her nudge at Rei's working habits was entirely sincere, entirely innocent, because she doesn't follow up with a tease or anything. "Well, you understand what responsibility is like," Chibi-Usa says, and then--

Beams, glancing down in a little bit of embarrassment at the praise falling on her here. "Oh! Well, when we were thinking about shrines..." She fidgets a little, before suddenly shaking her head to Setsuna's worry, and--"Oh!"

The offer seems to surprise her--but she lights up again an instant later, unsubtle as any Usagi ever was, "Oh that's a great idea! Are you sure?"

To Rei but mostly also to Setsuna now there's a girl with very large red eyes waiting in wonder for the answer to her question with all th eexcitement of someone who was told there would be puppies.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

There comes from the self-possessed young woman a sense of pride, when Rei speaks of her scientific achievements, and of pleasure when the runway comes up. "Your esteem honors me, Hino-san. Hikawa Shrine is a beautiful sanctum, and glad I am to meet its maiden and match. Thank you."

Small Lady speaks of responsibility to Rei, and Setsuna offers an affirming nod -- surely they all three of them understand such a thing -- only to grow quiet after. Though she only admits this in the privacy of her own thoughts, it is easier to enjoy visiting this festival... because Hotaru Tomoe is not here. Still, that does not keep Setsuna's thoughts from going to the girl with the big dark eyes. From wondering where she is. From wondering... how she is.

The only thing sadder to Setsuna than what she considers to be Hotaru's certain dark fate is the fact that Small Lady has involved her brave, vulnerable heart with the doomed girl.

Thus Rei's question finds her. Setsuna lifts her chin again; it had lowered by subtle millimeters. "For dinner?" By the upward twitch of her eyebrows, there was nothing in the university student that expected such an invitation, and there's something lonely about that honest surprise. There's something lonelier in her pause, after.

"You are very kind," she temporizes, first. She wants to, badly. She fears to. Not for nothing has Puu kept her distance from Small Lady. There is the matter of ensuring her Princess's safety, of danger which comes simply through closeness -- danger most vividly realized at the hands of Pluto's own soldier-sisters. Her folded hands curl tightly. "It would be my pleasure, but... the timing," she begins to decline.

And then... big red puppy-hopeful eyes strike a blow directly to Setsuna Meioh's heart. Watch closely and you can see her melt: the loosening of clenching fingers, the helpless upward hitch of evergreen eyebrows. A seasoned soldier knows when a battle is lost.

"...the timing..." she says again, and then finds a new way to finish the thought, "...is important, but perhaps it is not as important as some other things." She's smiling at Small Lady again. "I will make it work, this once."

And she will, even if it means standing silent and secret watch over the Tsukino household all night afterwards to ensure nothing and no one threatens. Vigilance is devotion, for her sentinel's soul.

Besides, she wants to get to know Small Lady's friend better.