2019-06-14 - More Important Than Homework

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Title: More Important Than Homework

After a long day of bussing and homework, it's time to go home. It's nice that, after so long, a couple of friends can go home together again.


Mai Tokiha, Eri Shimanouchi


The long path from Linden Baum diner back to Ohtori Academy Dormitories

OOC - IC Date:

2019-06-14 - June 8th, 2015

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

The sun is low in the sky, but has yet to dip below the horizon. Long shadows stretch out from many a building as twilight descends upon Tokyo, summer's heat making its approach well-known. The days are getting longer, and even a business like Linden Baum won't stay open until nightfall.

As closing time arrives, the last calls for orders go out. Coffee machines are turned off and cleaned, slices of cake are offered at an end-of-day discount, and one by one chairs get set on tables. Eventually, though, even the things left to clean run out.

It helped, admittedly, that some troublemakers were banned yesteday. Maybe someday that ban will even stick.

One by one, the waitresses duck in back to change into street clothes before heading out. Third from the last is Mai, giving the managers on duty a wave once dressed in jean-shorts and a red t-shirt. With a satchel slung over her shoulder, she approaches one of the few tables not yet wiped down, one of the few that still has someone seated at it.

"Well, once we're out of the way, it looks like they'll be able to lock up. How goes the battle against the monster that is..." She peers over a shoulder, frowning at the page for a moment. "...literature analysis?"

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Twilight Street - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvhLzvpwxZ4

"Trouble you for a to-go cup?" The girl asks, but doesn't have Mai actually take the task of transferring coffee from the mug to the enclosed cup, complete with corrugated ring to keep her hand protected. She's standing at the doorway after Mai is done changing, waving that to-go cup back and forth at nearly eye level, before turning and adjusting her bag over her shoulder. "Tolstoy is so dry. I wouldn't want him to hang around my g- Oh hold on a second."

The girl interrupts raising her coffee cup to dance over a few steps in front of Mai towards one of the Lindenbaum window boxes of flower. Her fingers trace a line across the topsoil instead, sending a green glitter over some gardenias with limp stems.

They're already starting to perk up by the time she sidesteps back in front of Mai and starts walking backwards in front of her on her sidewalk. Holding up her coffee cup like she's about to take a sip. "And everryooonnnee has their own take on him whether you want it or not. Remember that upperclassman that dropped by my table earlier?" She has this curl of her lip like she's both smiling and experiencing a bad smell all at once, "He sure had his. Had to tell him I just wasn't interested."

And then she does take that sip of coffee, lowering it not long after.

"In... both respects."

There's a glimmer of mischief in her eyes, before that look softens out into just a smile that reaches her eyes too.

"These kind of battles. They feel so normal - ne - Mai-chan?"

Pivoting around, she falls back into line beside her, her chin lifted upwards slightly. "Kind of nice."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

After a day spent around coffee and cake and myriad Western-style foods, simply being outside in Tokyo is a relative breath of fresh air. Mai stops in her tracks as Eri ducks over to check on the flowers, taking a moment to stretch out her arms and back.

Another day, another paycheck.

She catches a glimpse of the green sparkles, a moment's worry flashing in her eyes - but things are different now. Such a little thing is fine, now. They're supposed to be different.

The sidewalk is quiet; bright as the skies might be, this hour is a quiet one around here. Most places would have closed, already, so the two of them have freedom to just walk and enjoy the twilight hours. As Eri comments on that upperclassman, Mai's own face contorts into a look of similar disgust.

"Ugh, that guy? I think I saw him get chalk thrown at him in math class last week. Not surprised he assumes he's some magical fount of knowledge." A smirk replaces the disgust for a moment, a keen look in Mai's eye. "Honestly, Eri-chan, I might kind of have to judge you if you were interested."

Mischief meets mischief, smiles meet smiles.

"...yeah. I really missed this. Maybe not all the customers at work, but having something reliable. Being able to just stop by a table and vent for a minute between orders. Just...being able to talk again."

There's no cold breeze to accompany those words, no sudden pathos in the world; the sun is still bright, the air is still warm. And yet, and yet, the shadows of the city grow longer and longer.

Walking side by side, Mai leans her head in her friend's direction. "It's really nice."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"To suffer the slings and arrows of your judgement over my taste in guys..." Eri gives this small shake of her head, grinning from ear to ear for a moment. She doesn't finish that story right away, as the impishness of that grin smooths out into a smile as Mai talks more and more. And when she leans her head her way.

"Who are you and what have you done with Mai-chan?"

The girl says with the hint of a collected and calm accusation, "The Mai-chan that complained constantly over the torrid love affairs of the pineapple duo, the demanding customers, the awful manager."

And her smile just seems more and more present as she teases her harder. "To make serving them into such a positive experience. Surely you're an agent of Dark Fall here to lull me into complacency."

Raising up the hand that's bearing a ring rather than a coffee cup to her mouth, she allows this little giggle.

Rather than simply agree that it's nice, as she already has, she decides to tell instead.

"Well as it turns out - you won't have to judge me in my taste in guys. Oh sinister soldier of the Dark Restaurant Corporation. The story ends with him getting all /angry/ over me telling him I'm not interested."

There's this tiny turn of her head, just enough to show more of her eyes to the other girl.

"But I didn't want him to make so much of a fuss that you'd have to intervene, so I just told him I have a girlfriend."

Rather than providing any further details though she just instantly moves into asking, "And how have /you/ been doing in class? No fibbing by the way. We have class in the same building now, I can always just check the lists~"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

In response to mocking accusation, Mai springs away from Eri, a gasp on her breath and a hand on her heart. "Eri-chan! How could you - how could you be so clever as to see through my disguise! Now, all my sinister schemes of discounting cake and giving free refills are ruined - ruined, I tell you!"

Laughing, she spins to take a turn walking backwards in front of Eri, grinning broadly. "Well, as a member of the Dark Restaurant Conspiracy - I'm not sure I can even kid about that, you know I resorted to working for Dark Burger for a few weeks? Anyway, I'm supposed to prattle on about the customer being right - but if two customers disagree then I'm supposed to side with whoever buys more." With a flourish, she gestures to the coffee Eri's holding, a grin refusing to leave.

"So with that said - my thanks for breaking the brain of another teenage guy. One down, and only far too many to go." The lights of the bridge to Southern Cross Island are shining bright against sunset-blazoned skies, Mai's feet tracing a familiar path without even having to look behind her. "Seriously, though, if you need backup I will not hesitate to boot a jerk out. I've got seniority, now. It's like authority except without any kind of pay increase."

She turns back to facing forward - there's just enough traffic on the bridge that walking backwards is a little unwise - and runs one hand along the railing. "As for classes, uh. Worse, better, worse. Honestly my grades were taking a nosedive before everything...happened. Doing better now, I guess, though focusing on homework is a bit tricky some nights."

Most nights, if she's honest. But instead, she's Mai.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Eri simply puts her fingertips in the air as a gesture like an anime detective having solved the mystery. "Did you expect anything less from me?"

She can't keep it up though, as it becomes laughter again in short order. The girl breaking up her laughter by taking a sip from her coffee.

"Unfortunately it's a thing that only works for so long. Once he puts the pieces back together he might even come back." Before there's something soft and warm in her eyes, "I know you would. Dark... Restaurant... Senpai."

Perhaps one of the things she learned is that she doesn't have to do things on her own. However, in this case it was a privilege to handle this one on her own.

However then Mai turns back to facing forward again, and Eri finds herself just listening for a moment. There's a soft sound from her, and before long Mai feels the sensation of fingertips on her arm. With the cool sensation of a metal band breaking it up.

And for a few seconds that's all that happens, just a quiet touch. Then a light pressure beyond just that delicate touch not long after.

"I think we both know there are things more important than homework."

It's a quiet statement of solidarity perhaps. Saying it without saying it. Like she doesn't want to intrude upon Mai talking about it until she's ready.

Her fingertips lift off her arm not too long after, returning to her side as she walks alongside her, "You know I don't have to hunt so much anymore. Believe it or not, I got done less than an hour the other day. Means I have so much more free time." There's something in her tone which is optimistic, positive. Like she's looking on the bright side of life and is trying to lure Mai over to that side too, "I can see myself coming over for dinner so much more often."

Perhaps what she can do for Mai is give her someone to cook for.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

A light touch on one arm. A quiet bit of solidarity. A statement that dances around what isn't said.

Mai's response is wordless. Silence for a moment; a long breath, drawn in; a deep sigh.

If Mai leans into that touch, however brief it might have been, she doesn't say anything about it.

But maybe Eri found the best thing to give Mai, in the end.

"An hour...really?" There's a look of awe in Mai's eyes, and her posture straightens up a bit as she looks at her friend. It's almost as if there was a burden she'd worried about carrying, left abandoned at the food of the bridge; as the land of Fuka finds its way beneath their footfalls, Mai practically beams at Eri's optimism. "That's a relief - I mean, that's great! I'd wondered, when you started helping the flowers again..."

The path to the dorms is shrouded, as a burning sky grows just a little bit dimmer with the passage of time. There's just a bit more life to Mai's steps, now, at least compared with the last few days' treads homeward. "Well, if you're not caught up in...as much, now, that'd be great. You're welcome any time! Just, er, excuse the mess for tonight."

There's a buzz, briefly, sounding from Mai's satchel. She pauses just a moment to glare at it, but moves on without reaching for whatever it was.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Wouldn't be an hour for most people, but... I'm pretty incredible, if you didn't know." The girl says with a sense of haughtiness so over the top that it can't /truly/ be real. "No competition. No territory to maintain. No reason we have to fight over it. I can take days off if I want."

She still has to hunt for the rest of her life, but it feels less like chains now. Doesn't it?

Still. Perhaps one day she'll disappear within the Law of Cycles. That's just how it works now, and she couldn't be happy about it.

There's a glimmer of a smile in her eye, "And yes - I have a little extra magic now for such things."

As if to demonstrate Eri lifts a hand, and there are four little dark cubes held between her fingertips. Mai might remember how grief seeds look. They're so different that it is evidence perhaps that the world is truly different.

Dipping her hand back down into her bag, she releases them for now.

She hears the buzz of course.

"How about I help you tidy up? Though later I'm going to be asking you for more cooking lessons."

Whoa, really? That's a surprise.

And yet Eri has a smile on her lips that seems intent on dispelling whatever feelings were in that text message. "I was hopeless at it before - but sometimes I wonder if that was because I sabotaged myself a little. Made myself hopeless at it."

Perhaps she's not just talking about cooking either...

"Well. It's high time I learned - if you're willing to give it another go at teaching me. After all, I'm seeing someone with..." Now her smile is so wide it's dimpling, "... quite an appetite."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

It's like a strange dream, in a way. There's a suspicion worrying at the back of Mai's mind, that this is another of those dream-world fantasies like what the Book of Darkness absorbed everyone into, that all the hopes and reliefs of the past week are nothing but illusion.

...but the world isn't perfect. Enough has gone wrong - is going wrong - that it's hard to reconcile with a fantasy. The cubes are different enough to the seeds of old that it puzzles her for a moment, but...different isn't necessarily bad.

The world is better, even if only incrementally.

There's surprise in Mai's eyes as she turns to Eri in the wake of that offer, mouth working for a moment before she stammers out an answer. "That...that'd be great, if it isn't any trouble. It's hopefully not too bad, I've just not been staying on top of things." The dormitory itself is just visible through the trees that line the path; they're getting close.

Mai only hums quietly at the thought of sabotage, glancing over Eri for a moment before smiling. "Well, if you're talking about who I think you're talking about...you definitely shouldn't hold yourself back. Quantity cooking isn't exactly a specialty of mine, but I'll do my best to come up with a few things. Ask around, see if I can find a few possible favourites. Tonight's my treat, though!"

Ramen is always doable, though.

Maybe now, it's getting a little darker. Maybe now, it's getting a little colder. A mischievous idea flirts with Mai for a moment, and she glances at Eri as they walk. Waiting for the right moment, waiting for Eri to take a sip of her coffee, before almost nonchalantly asking a light-hearted question.

"So does that mean Tomoe's single, now?"

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Hey I get it." Eri knows how her room looked when she was too depressed to consider picking it up. "You're just a little behind. I'm here to help you catch up."

Before Eri lets out this low hum, her cheeks pinkening from Mai making her own internal guessing. "Well she also likes /quality/ cooking. Did you know she once took me to Sukiyabashi Jiro? Sometimes I wonder how she got a reservation..."

There's a glimmer in her eye that seems a little mischievous. "I'm not worried though. If there's one thing your cooking is good at. It's having that... sense of hospitality. Making people feel like they're home again. And that's worth more than any number of Michelin Stars."

However Eri mistakes Mai echoing the mischief as something else and so she's lifting her coffee the moment Mai asks that question. Suddenly her eyes flare wide and she's coughing, making this hacking noise as she less spat it up and more that it just went down wrong as a result of trying to stop herself from that. "G-Geez Mai. Timing!" She mentions as she dabs the back of her hand across her lips.

There's this light inhalation like she's getting herself ready to answer, and then slowly she forms her answer, "I don't know. Maybe she is. Maybe she's not. The two of us made up - but agreed we're wrong for each other. I think we've still got a ways to go before I feel like I can..."

Her chin tilts up and there's this awkward look behind her eyes, "...ask her something like that. You know? We just started being friends again. I don't want her to see me as her... jealous ex."

For a moment her eyes shutter and a smile forms again, "One step at a time. That's the right way to handle this I think."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Mai's face might be a little flushed from the effluent praise, but the grin at Eri's sputtering surprise is undeniable. She stalls her steps for a moment to give Eri time to recover, but she's too proud of her timing for it to have been anything but intentional.

Eri winds up giving a far more serious answer than expected, and the triumphant grin soon fades to an understanding smile. "Sorry about that. The opportunity was right there, and it's not like it's the first time we've done that to each other..."

Mai shakes her head, and gestures toward the dorm. The doors still admit students at this hour, and the stairs aren't too far from there. "You're handling things...pretty maturely, honestly. One step at a time, being friends after everything...that's probably the best way. I was mostly kidding, anyway - I do want to see if I can be friends with her, but let's face it. If we wound up having to do anything domestic together, the security deposit would not survive."

She pauses on the threshold of her room, hand on the door handle. "...that is something I've been working up the nerve to do. To have people over again - to have friends, or people I'd like to be friends over for a meal. Just...it's something that just feels right, somehow."

With that, she opens the door, to reveal a darkened room. A moment to find the light switch, to illuminate things - to illuminate a bit of gradual creeping disarray. Laundry piled up to spill over the end of a bed, a few pots left to be cleaned later, books and papers scattered over the table - a dozen little signs of having just let things slide one day after another.

The kinds of things that couldn't be left alone with a roommate around.

"...sorry about the mess."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Maybe I've grown up a little." Is Eri's simple response to Mai stating she's handling things pretty maturely. Well that and - "The Security Deposit wouldn't last a week." As they walk through the door.

However as Mai mentions that she's trying to work up the nerve to ask people over again, Eri shakes her coffee cup as if testing how much is left. Before then looking sidelong. "Take your time. You want it to feel natural right? You don't have to force yourself."

There's that smile, as she steps through the door. "Especially around m-" That's Eri catching sight of the extent of the mess. Elongating a single syllable word in that moment. "-e."

For a moment the girl just stops. Then she slowly drops her nearly empty coffee cup at the top of an overflowing waste bin, before reaching into her bag and dropping it after producing one item. Skirting over Mai's apology as if it never existed.

"You know someone once told me that wearing a headband makes cleaning up go by that much quicker. Shame I don't have one."

Instead she simply puts on two leather gardening gloves, as she walks into the kitchen. And returns with a large black garbage bag. And a laundry bin not too long after.

"Don't worry about a thing Mai. I've got this."

After all, if there's one thing she's learned, it's that sometimes people just need a helping hand. And so long as they're still accepting help? It's a sign that things can get better.