2019-09-27 - Conviction ~ Belief

From Battle Fantasia MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search
Title: Conviction ~ Belief

Mikoto draws the battle-lines - but she's fighting a war on many fronts, and it's hard to forget a good argument.


Mikoto Minagi, Yumi Ohzora, Eri Shimanouchi, Steven Universe, Vita


Nishitama - Kawai Campsite

OOC - IC Date:

2019-09-27 - 2015-07-04

.****************************** Tama Outer City *******************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Nishitama Park District +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 The largest, but least densely populated area of Tokyo, Nishitama is on the
 westernmost border of the great metropolis, where city has become town,
 which becomes forest, which finally becomes towering mountain. Consisting
 mostly of woods and mountains, Nishitama is home to lush greenery, ample
 wildlife, and fresh flowing water that has yet to be tainted by the city
 below. Fishing and hiking are popular here, and in good weather,
 city-dwellers who long to stretch their legs can camp out in the forest
 without ever leaving Tokyo's borders.

 The spiritually inclined can find a wealth of opportunity in Nishitama's
 mountains. The nearby Mount Mitake has been regarded as sacred since time
 beyond memory, and a Shinto shrine at its peak safeguards its considerable
 power. Mount Mito was forbidden ground throughout the Sengoku era, a policy
 which preserved some ancient beech trees on its hills. Finally, the
 2000-meter Mount Kumotori is the tallest in the area, with a clear view of
 distant Mount Fuji and much of the region from its summit.

 All of this natural beauty is a mere hour and a half from Shinjuku Station
 even at the extreme end of the district.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Maclaine Diemer - Fear Not This Night https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilN1fylw3zY

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.

Deep beneath the earth, through dark forgotten tunnels, along a path only the chosen may tread: this is where the Obsidian Palace lies. It is a vast cavern. Water pools below, screens show Tokyo above, and stone rises up in testament, dais black as sin.

This cold, hard demesne is the most comforting, most comfortable place Mikoto Minagi could possibly know.

Because it is his.

He sits comfortably on his red throne, listening with eyes closed to the sadness playing above. It is Mikoto who watches that heartbreak, standing in silent vigil. She does not know the girl, but she could be any one of her peers, clad in Ohtori orange and storming away from a group which might have been her friends.

(Mikoto does not wear Ohtori orange without purpose, these days.)

"Wonderful," the Obsidian Lord smiles, and Mikoto tells herself it is. That the sound of their suffering is good - something to savour and enjoy, as he does.

... even so, he's the only one smiling.

She tried to explain the difference between delight and satisfaction to Kintoleski, in her fashion, but it is no plainer than here. He smiles delight in comfortable silence, and she knows satisfaction as she sees him content.

She does not interrupt. He speaks, and she listens. After all, she is 'Mikoto': receiver of his honourable words.

What would she interrupt him with, anyway..? She has everything she could possibly need. Everything is well, in his Palace. Nice, and comforting, and...

Everything a little blunter, a little more difficult to focus on.

There are no ghosts here. She is aware, distantly, of her discontent. There is so much empty space between her and that tumultuous sea. She's happy here. She must be happy here with him. Happy to hear them crying. Happy to see him smile. She's happy.

In silence they stay, screens playing above, until finally his eyes crack open. Gold and bright, a mirror of her own, warm to see her. "Mikoto," he says, voice rich and soft as kitten's fur, "come, sit with me."

Affection sparks in her dulled heart, grim gaze softening in a moment. Instantly she follows his invitation, perching herself down beside him on his throne, and she is happy: because she is close to him, because he looks at her like there is nothing else in the world.

"My cherished little sister," he says, and his affection is plain to her. "You've been fighting for me for a month now, haven't you..?"

"Yes, Lord Brother," Mikoto replies, and pushes away the strange sense that it can't have been that long. He would know better; she must have misplaced a week somehow. She is forgetful. He is infallible.

"Even so... you're still using their methods, aren't you?" Her eyes widen with the revelation, and he smiles sympathy.

"Yes, Lord Brother," Mikoto admits, feels small under his gaze to say it. He's right, she thinks. He always is.

Asking Westar for advice, shadowing his attacks to learn the proper way to assault them... wishing for Kintoleski's single-minded strength, and applying his own wisdom... rushing to the aid of Kaolinite's Mistress, offering her own experience in proof of the other girl's worth... she's still trying to find strength in her allies. She's still trying to share and to learn and to aid them.

Even with her enemies, she --

Just as he says: her methods are different to a magical girl's.

Every inch of the realisation plays out on her face - she has never been able to hide anything, and perhaps now the beneficiary of that honesty is clear. "Mm," he wonders, a deliberate thoughtful noise. "It must be hard for you..."

She can see the sorrow in his eyes to dwell on it, as he adds, softly, "stranded amongst them for so long."

She remembers desperation; she remembers confusion; she remembers struggling against some thread of logic she cannot quite grasp, looking into his eyes. Things which frightened her to consider, worries she couldn't quite dismiss from her thoughts, questions she dared not answer. Her lips tremble to try and shape mora, with no breath to carry them through.

There's something - something there - in the difference between their happinesses...

... in the gulf of what he wants, and how she feels to bring his will about...

... it's hard for her... it's really hard for her because of hi--

No! It will drown her - he will drown her! There are fathomless depths to him, a gaze which consumes her and every drop of her pain. She gives, and gives, and gives, and in turn he takes... takes on every burden, because he is her Lord Brother, and he loves her so, so much.

She can see nothing else.

She can have no one else.

Something is wrong. Something is wrong and she needs --

"Help," Mikoto whispers, she pleads, hopeless and lost and needing, needing, needing.

She sees the softening of his eyes in his concern, and his hand slips behind her, pulling her in against him in a gentle embrace. "Shh," he hushes her, low, soothing, as his fingers trail through her hair, "it's okay, Mikoto. It's okay..."

And with the glow of warm magenta pendant-light, it is.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.

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

All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

There's something in the shadows, by the Nishitama campsite called Kawai. One tent has already been set up, this Saturday eve: a young man and his girlfriend argue playfully about setting up a second.

They don't notice the treeline until that figure moves forward, and there in the gloom of the trees gleam two pinpricks of gold.

"Leave," Mikoto Minagi demands.

"Hey, what?!" That young woman steps forward, gesturing with a hand. "It's way too early to be pulling off creepy stunts like that! Come on!"

Mikoto takes another step forward, and out from under the shaded tree what is in her hands becomes clear: a claymore, black as the coming night and sharp as the stars which have begun to come out up above.

"... won't say it again."

The woman takes a step forward, only to reconsider it when she sees the girl snarl. "Do you think this is a joke?! We're on vacation, here!"

Her boyfriend steps up next to her, tugs at her arm. "Kei-chan, no, I think that's a real sword --"

"Come on, what is she, forty kilos soaking wet? There's no way she can --"

"Nah, nah," speaks up the other voice at the campsite, as a tiny old woman emerges from the other tent. "I reckon you better listen to the girl, kiddo. Let's beat it."

Mikoto growls, as she watches her herd the youngsters to pack up their things.

Soon the campsite is empty.

Soon, it won't be.


You've got mail. A message, sent widely - though not exhaustively - to magical girl phones:

> Kawai midnight




An addendum comes a few minutes later:

> Nishitama

Kawai campsite lies on the bend of the river, a suspension bridge hanging high overhead. Forest trees don't manage to quite make it down to the shoreline, long lines of silt and sand where the river might one day rise. The water is low, now - low like the moon is high, full and shining overhead. School is long over, and instead of celebrating the end of the week in the city...

Perhaps that's why everyone has been called so far out.

Certainly it is kinder than the other explanation.

No explanation is offered for the abandoned campsite, either. There are no tents, no banked fires. Everyone is gone. Everyone except...

Mikoto stands on that suspension bridge, looking down at the sandbanks below. Her blade out before her - spaulder and vambrace along her dominant arm, illuminated by the miserable moonlight. This is not a social call. It's never a social call.

There is a certain tension to her brow, to the squaring of her shoulders and the thin line of her lips. A method which suits her better...

The way Mikoto learned is unkind.

But isn't that the way she used to do things, as she once said - before Mai?

... even so, she still chased the civilians away.

Silently she waits for them, glaring down at the ground below. She listens to his pronouncements, carries out his will: what worth have her own words in such a task?

Homura once told Mikoto that understanding was useless.

Homura had to remind Mikoto of that because her years in Tokyo suggested another path forward.

When she first came here, she offered no explanation, sought no common ground.

It was only after she settled in Tokyo...

... only after making so many friends...

... maybe that's why there's a shade of sadness to her stern expression.

Three things will last forever -- faith, hope, and love -- and the greatest of these is love.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has fully healed herself. She is now ready to take on 5 opponents!

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

Another late night. Midnight, this time--Midnight, to be out in Nishitama... At least Yumi is used to getting out of the Infinity dorms late, knows the places past that to go unseen. But that's all general. What happens is--

Yumi's phone buzzes, rattling along the table with its vibrate function. She stirs, vaguely, leaned over on her couch, mutters something unintelligble--

"...Yumi," the black cat now on the back of the seat chides, "Again?"

"Hm? What?" The gray-haired girl blinks and sits up suddenly--and then wobbles slightly. "...Mistake," she says with a little wince. "What...? I was just..."

She looks down to the textbook on the floor in front of her... and hears the second beep as her phone goes off again. "Who's messaging now? ...What time is it, Tama?"


Tama sees the way Yumi pauses, suddenly, as she reads the message, her expression changing. "Yumi?" the cat starts, and the young witch sighs, starting to bring herself up to her feet, glancing at the brace on one wrist. "Looks like a raincheck on that whole sleeping thing," she says, and flicks her thumb across the phone screen. Two recipients...

>Did you get a message from Mikoto just now?


The silhouette of a girl in a wide, pointed hat accompanied by her cat passes as a shadow on the side of the Infinity Institute. Yumi's broom sails up, up--And towards the trees.


Mikoto may see Yumi passing under clouds, on the way through--but in black, she might not. She will, when Yumi reaches the bridge, hovering over it with a serious look, eyes set on Mikoto, gray-white braid if anything more severe in the dark.

The long, white staff in her hand sheds a pale light in the gloom.

"...Mikoto," she says simply. "It's just you, here?"

COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora transforms into Witch Ivy!
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Earbuds in her ears, Eri hums along with the JPop as she sits on the side of the building, holding up her phone to check the time. "Last train soon." She remarks to herself as she slips away a trio of cubes into her bag. "Homework mostly done." As the refrain hits her ears, she smiles as she looks out over the skyline. "Perfect night."

And then a text message chime hits her ears and interrupts the song. Holding up her phone, she squints at the preview of the message. Unlocking it with her thumb, she taps back.

>Would it be too much to hope for that she just invited you out to eat?

"Well... almost perfect..." She amends, as she gathers up her things and stands up, still looking at her phone.


Eri perhaps allows Yumi to appear above, before she simply steps onto the bridge itself. "Feeling nostalgic?" Is a familiar voice that comes even before she can be seen, stepping onto the bridge. She's still in her school uniform, there's no smile. There's just sadness in her eyes. "I took you to a lot of places like this. Seeded them. Made victims of people who didn't deserve to be."

She takes a few steps forward, at a sedate gait. "All because I was scared. Scared of dying young - before I really got to do anything. Paranoid that I wouldn't have enough power to do overcome whatever threat was coming - the Chevaliers - the Silence."

Her fingertips brush the rail, and she looks out the edge onto the sandbanks. "It's nice that all those people are alive now. It's like it never happened - like we never did any of that." A beat, "Can we really say that it didn't happen though if you and I remember all of it?"

Eyelashes flutter as she looks down, like she's trying to recall something both close, and yet distant. "I just think of that and wonder how much worse things are for you now - because of me." And then her fingers curl over the rail, "Sometimes I even ask about whether it'd be better for you if we'd never met."

Turning her head, she faces Mikoto and now she smiles, through eyes that are misting up. "Well - I can only speak for myself - but I guess what I'm trying to say is I've decided that... even after all that... it wouldn't be better at all."

Taking her hand off the railing, she upturns her palm, and there's a glitter of a green gem there within it. It bursts forth into a flare of green, a smell like rain, and with a tug, she slips out the braided handle of her lash, slipping it out even as she places it to her head, using the back of her other hand to give her eyes a once over, her hand winding her lash into a sedate rest upon the bridge.

"Okay. I'm ready. Do what you've gotta do."

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi transforms into Puella Magi Eri!

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

He knew this night would come again.

Like the pall of a harvest moon, it comes, expected from a gentle chime, beyond normal hours. A stout hand ejects from quilted covers, and pulls the phone within. A humanoid shape erects underneath them.

"She's back at it," comes a young boy's voice, muffled from the downy cover. It was time to move. People were not in danger, this was a direct call-out against everyone she knows. Best not to keep her waiting.

Lion was already at the screen door, staring out across the water. Down the bay. He could already sense this was how tonight was going to happen, it seems. And while the feline has no such powers along the lines of precognition, sometimes... animals just know.

"Uh... where is this?" he asks, saddling up with his backpack. "Maybe I should ask-- WHOA!" Lion just busts open the door and heads onward. Seems like he knows where to go.


Somewhere, in a peaceful forest glade, the wind blows peacefully. An own hoots in a nearby tree, searching for predators. It gets an extremely startling blast of pink light and tears into the sky as a portal of beauteious pinks and blues swirls open, and Lion leaps through, carrying his charge.

"Okay I really wish I had cellphone reception in there..." he says, as it pings twice, once again from Mikoto, and another from Yumi. He doubts he will get a response from the form, but...

>I did! Me and Lion are on the way, I think! He is taking me somewhere, anyway.

It takes some portal-jumping and searching to locate the proper spot, and a good deal of shouting. "Mikotooooo!" Steven's voice echoes through the landscape. Multiple times. Lion stops below Mikoto, but Steven shouts a time or two more before he realizes his buddy is jsut staring up at her. "MIKO--oh. Hello! Um."

"I don't suppose you just wanted to finally talk, huh?" he asks, a spark of hope yet remains. Yumi and Eri arrive as well, regarding them with a smile and a nod. There aren't as many magical girls present this time, like at the refinery. This could be tough.

The small child summons a shield, and gets off of Lion. "Fighting never solves anything, but if this is all you wanted me here for... then I guess I at least like the chance to spend time with you all."

COMBAT: Steven Universe has fully healed himself.
COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Serious Steven!

<Pose Tracker> Vita Yagami [None] has posed.

The Yagami Clan have been, perhaps, quiet for a time. Content to stand by. Revel in their happiness.

Ten minutes ago: "Ha ha! Draw four."

Family stuff, basically.

But the text that comes to the littlest Yagami ends a night of amusement, her lips crooking at the number that sent it. "...was kind of expecting she'd just knock the door down," Vita muttered, then.

Now, clad in her Knight Outfit with the poofy crimson skirt and POOFY crimson hat, Vita Yagami streaks across the skyline, muttering instead: "Was kind of expecting she wouldn't invite half the town!"

The red streak of the Crismon Iron Rider blasts onward, slapping down with the clap of her iron boots, and swings Eisen up to her shoulder, other fist on her hip, head cocked expectantly. "Guess it is you," she says, with her usual brassy growl. "Don't suppose this is a social call?"

COMBAT: Vita Yagami transforms into Crimson Iron Rider!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Joe Satriani - Dweller on the Threshold https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7b4XV1jwtTg

Long, white staff; long, black sword. One sheds light, the other in pitch.

This is not to say Miroku cannot emit light.

Rather, it is quiet.

Mikoto sees the shadow, looks up - and her golden eyes narrow to see that witch in full-moon silhouette, cat astride her broom. She bites back the question which bubbles in her throat - why she would bring Tama here, of all places - but her silence does not preclude Yumi's voice.

She hums through her lips, ducking her chin down over her neck. She thinks she recognises the question: like the ones she asks of them. Are you alone? Is there anyone here to help you? Or are you separated - exposed - vulnerable..?

There's a twitch to her upper lip and a curling to her shoulders and she does not, verbally, answer the question.

Face lowered, it's not so much effort for her to look aside - to Eri's voice, and Eri's features, stepping onto the bridge at her level. (They have always been on the same level.) Already defensive, it's not so much effort for her lips to pull into a grimace.

Once, she didn't stop them.

Now, she --

Mikoto did not, strictly speaking, tell Mai that her trajectory was her fault.

Mikoto told Mai she knew who mattered in the making of it.

Certainly, by one view, Mai mattered, and Eri mattered...

... by another, the person with the most impact on her actions...

Mikoto swallows, eyes blinking perhaps a shade too heavily as Eri reaches her conclusion. Her gaze flicks down, to the side, struck by a wavering chord. Another blink, and she catches fast on some scrap of what she has said, and looks up at Eri again. "This place... there's things I didn't tell Eri, too."

(Shigeko is fine. Mikoto made a point to look her up, when she had the freedom to move amongst Tokyo again. And Youta is getting help, and Reina has a girlfriend who loves her for who she is. She has not shared her joy over this mysterious miracle; it would not do to smile with them. What she has done --)

Well, the campsite was empty, before everyone showed up.

But here they are - the shorter of their company, Steven and Vita. Two more opposite children she could not name: one she owes a debt, the other...

Mikoto glares to Vita, the girl she found herself trying to kill with little input or oversight from her whatsoever. It's unsettling. She never... quite... settled that question.

... it's fine. She doesn't have to worry about it.

They want to know if she is here to talk. To socialise.

"No," she answers them both, in perfect economisation.

An extra growl, at Steven's final conclusion --

Last time they tried to deescalate, she set the ground atremble, though her opponents both took to the air.

This time she hefts up her blade - and with a single, mighty swing, brings it down, carving through the careful tension of the bridge, sending it whipping-crashing down into the ground below. The bridge she is on - because Eri is on it, because Steven is under it, because Vita is nearby. The cables whip up, and they threaten the air, too, in that moment. In the flurry of violence, she springs up and lands heavily on the sand.

The cables have already scored a long line along the cape she wears.

Vita might recognise the style: offence without regard for how it hurts her.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Vita Yagami.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Yumi Ohzora.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mikoto has not concluded their actions. Reactions are not yet available.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 27 Fatigue damage!  Stagger applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi perfectly counters 28 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Eri Shimanouchi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi's counterattack, Gardener's Trick, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora counters 13 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Yumi Ohzora's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Yumi Ohzora!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora's counterattack, Witch's Mirror, partially gets through, doing 13 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Steven Universe braces 15 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Steven Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Steven Universe!
COMBAT: Vita Yagami braces 13 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Vita Yagami's Block and Parry abilities activate!

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

Maybe Yumi should've said more to start. ...But what hasn't she said already? She knows the kinds of things Mikoto did--she doesn't have to get them out there, like Eri seems to need to, though she does look to her friend as she hears her bring these things up again. She worries for her, a moment.

"..Eri-chan," she says--but--Eri says it wouldn't be better. And that much helps. "Right."

"...Steven," she starts, sighing softly. It's so nice. And Vita--well. Vita is small, and terrifying. Much like Mikoto herself, in fact. As she looks--

Mikoto doesn't have the measure of Yumi's question--but if they could communicate clearly, really understand each other just now, would they be fighting at all? Yumi hoped to ask--did you drive people off? Is it just you?


The bridge comes down. The bridge comes down fast, and as parts of it go up, they crash towards Yumi. "Look out--"

Her familiar calls the warning, and Yumi traces runes--Even as a cord of bridge support whips across her with a nasty sound, she finishes a shield, and the next piece of concrete, the next piece of steel--these batter against an invisible wall and erupt into green beams that rocket straight back towards Mikoto and her sword, girl barrier objects and the night all suddenly gleaming with an unsettling eldritch light.

"No matter how hard you come at me--"

Yumi dives, then, taking hold of her broom and shooting through the air, "I won't give up!"

She throws out her hand, and chants--"Know--"

"The ache we feel without you!"

Yumi's curse settles down towards Mikoto, hollow and empty and hungry, as she banks upward to try to sweep away again.

"Tama--can you see anything? There has to be something strange--"

COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has used Hollow Curse on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts Yumi Ohzora's Hollow Curse, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Cripple and Diversion applied to Mikoto Minagi!
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Eri's eyes slide up to Yumi, and there's something apologetic there - as if she were apologizing for causing her to worry about her for that moment. Then it moves one to another to the other girls - and finally to Steven, and something softens in her eyes. "Ah kid. If only that were true."

Mikoto carves the bridge asunder. "If only."

Slipping on her heels, Eri simply shifts her body weight and allows herself to slide, the cables above flicker like writhing serpents, and turning around on her heels, she slides backwards - using the pivoting motion to draw up her lash and circle it around. The moment that the cables start to descend for her punishment, she flicks up her wrist.

Just as her feet touch only air from reaching the end. Each tendril snags a descending cable in a wrap, and as her snag controls their momentum, brings them together - twirling them around as if she were simply bundling up the branches of a tree.

As it grows taut in mid-air, she swings just clear of the devastating debris shower. Tugging with her wrist, the lash lets go and she falls into the sandbank, smashing down in a geyser of sand on her knees.

"We both did things for each other that the other knew nothing about."

The girl says with a shake of her hair, to get out some of the lingering sand.

"Didn't we?"

Bringing her arm up, she simply makes a casual motion overhead, and the lash suddenly slips out of the sand banks, showering sand as it moves over Eri's head.

Yet despite how casual it seems, it violently sideswipes so low to the ground that the air shreds with a whistle, on it's path to make contact with Mikoto's leg. Whether she sweeps the leg, or wraps it and pulls Mikoto's leg out from under her - either is fine by her by her intent to cause a hard impact into the sand.

"That's just what loyalty was for us."

Is it so bad that she wishes they were two children playing in sand instead of this?

"Ivy-chan - be gentle." It feels teasing, but there's sadness along the edges, "If your curse is really that strong then I'm worried."

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Gardener's Grasp on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi dodges 5 Fatigue damage from Eri Shimanouchi's Gardener's Grasp, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Eri Shimanouchi is Psyched!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Stagger and Tangle applied to Mikoto Minagi!

<Pose Tracker> Vita Yagami [None] has posed.

Vita may indeed be small and terrifying, but she's also here and not attempting to hammer anyone andor eat their souls which is already a big step up from not all that long ago!

She glances to Steven, whom she knows almost entirely from that one time they were in the same room while horrible things happened; Eri, who she knows mostly by reputation and...did they drain her? You forget these things. And then Yumi, whom she doesn't think she knows at all.

Well, this must be how the game works, she thinks. It's not like she's a stranger to fighting alone.

...or to how Mikoto goes about the same. Vita's eyes narrow sharply. "Eisen!" <<Panzerschild!>> the Iron Count declares, and Vita swings the monodirectional defense toward the first attack she sees. It snaps against the barrier and sends her blasting into the air, but it means she doesn't get flattened, at least. Vita manages to skid to a stop (in the air, yes), knees bent like she'd had to grind against stone to do it. Her eyes flash up, two blazing blue as she takes in the new seen. "Bridge won't hold forever with damage like that," she mutters. Then, louder: "You know, time was I would've been satisfied with that," she says, and whips her hand up, a pingpong ball sized ball bearing flying out of her fingertips.

"Strange what changes, eh?" she says, and Eisen declares in reply, <<Schwalbefliegen!>> The steel ball grows, magic filling it and the thing simply changing, before Vita whips her hammer wide and slams it, sending the Swallow Flyer screaming down toward Mikoto. It swerves, abruptly, shortly before impact, attempting to ping off the air itself and past Miroku's guard. "So how about you tell me what this is about!"

COMBAT: Vita Yagami has used Schwalbefliegen on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Vita Yagami has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi dodges 7 Fatigue damage from Vita Yagami's Schwalbefliegen, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Vita Yagami is Psyched!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

It doesn't take long to tell Mikoto is itching to fight. It isn't out of hate or anger. It is out of sadness and frustration if anything, though it cannot just be that... It isn't so simple.

Nothing ever is. A cute little wave is given to Yumi with a dimpled smile. "Hoping is one of the things I do best, I think," he says toward Eri. "Couldn't hurt to be optimistic about the metting, even if I knew it wouldn't shape up that way." A small shrug. Would have been a lovely surprise if it worked otu that way!

Mikoto makes her intent known physically, as the bridge in the immediate vicinity is sundered like a Christmas ham. Lion is like a pink bolt, out of the way in a second. Steven has to defend against the snapping debris, blocking pieces aside in the cloying dust left in its crashing wake. Coughing is heard, and the glow of pink can be seen from his implement in the siltscreen. "We won't go down quite as easily as you think!" shouts the boy, steeping into view.

A deep breath or two is taken to recover from the effort, and other than seeming scuffed up, is relatively unharmed. But of course any magica leffort comes at a toll for the child; he can only do so much. He has to be careful.

"We have been through a lot, you know! You should know I am not just any little kid!" he says, seemingly prideful. "...I'm a kid with a star on my shirt! I dunno if that makes me any different, but I like to think so, at least in the style department." Oh, okay, a pun.

"Be careful up there!" he calls to his friends. Also, there is another person present! That Vita girl! Oh she is super strong, right? He faintly recalls seeing her somewhere else as well, but he cannot recall the reason for it. Odd.

Flip-flops clap against the ground as Steven runs up the side of the hill the bridge suspended over, as Eri and Yumi begin to attack Mikoto. Seeing vines begin to lash out, the boy takes the chance, and whips his shield at a vertical angle, where it bounces once, twice, and pop-flies toward Mikoto at a high velocity!

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Throw Shield on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Steven Universe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Steven Universe's Throw Shield, taking 34 Fatigue damage!

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

Yumi dives, and Mikoto looks up at her, and she asks her to know that ache and in that moment sadness creeps into the corners of her eyes because she


She knows, she knows, he is so content when she comes back from hurting them, and every inch of pain she has wrought has him smile a little easier. All of the terrible things she has done to them and he wants it and she --

-- draws in shaky breath, because perhaps the curse is hollow but there is space for it to echo still. Her eyes blink at the moisture at their edges. It doesn't make much sense. The sky is clear.

Her head bows, for a moment, with a noise of acknowledgement as Eri supposes their actions. But she is fighting and she must not slow, and her gaze turns sharp to Eri at that question, just in time to see her lash moving overhead. Her legs bend and she throws herself to the side, lash biting in at one of those black socks, a tear in the dark fabric. She bites back on a cry in response, too. At least it didn't catch her.

Nevertheless, Mikoto staggers a little on her landing, a shade harder than it ought to be. It is a fumbling which costs her, as Steven's shield darts in on the heels of Eri's whip: bounce, bounce, it careens towards her before she can recover, and in her attempt to leap once more she is instead caught by it and sent sprawling to the sand.

She coughs against the veil of earth she has kicked up in her tumble, pushing herself up. "... something like this..." And perhaps she means the curse of Lost Ivy, or perhaps, tone rising to a rage -- "it won't stop me!"

She sees the steel ball careening towards her and moves again, twirling with the projectile. If it kept coming for her at that trajectory, she would have moved with it, moved past it --

Instead it swerves at the last moment, and impacts heavily with her spaulder, sending her staggering forward with a grunt. Her glare turns to Vita, then, who is asking.

"I'm not like you," she answers - you, omae, in all its arrogance - "so I don't need to explain anything. I just need you to suffer."

This time she is not wounded, as she springs high into the air to bring Miroku down on Vita in an overhead crash --

-- but there's one small difference, between the last time they fought and now --

-- she's swinging with the flat of her blade.

The flat, to be fair, of an incredibly solid, broad greatsword. It is not, in the scope of things, the most measured attempt at restraint.

It is not, in the scope of things, how she ought to be attacking.

But she still - she still doesn't --

Mikoto lands with a bend of her legs. "That's right," She turns, glaring at Steven, now. "Be careful." With that warning she charges, her blade coming around in revolution to meet him in a horizontal slash. She doesn't linger there, moving, now, to the place she wishes she did not have to go...

... right into Eri's exclusion zone.

But she has fought alongside that whip so many times - it's a familiar dance, to move in close, and this time she's not trying to avoid hitting her. She brings her blade in, swiping up from below, and tries to ignore the fact that she can see tears up this close, ignore the fact that Eri must be able to see hers.

If only...

Air hisses through her teeth and she springs away, suddenly, magenta light from her pendant bathing her in comforting, centreing light. Comforting, at least, for her - there is little kind can be said about it viewed from the outside.

And it is something Tama can plainly see.

There are dark things here, and not just on account of the witching hour.

She insists, resolute, over her sorrow and theirs: "It's supposed to hurt." And deliberately she does not think of Kasagami, does not think of exponential sorrows.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness on Vita Yagami.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dynamo on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used The Obsidian Pendant's Purification on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts Mikoto Minagi's The Obsidian Pendant's Purification, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Accelerate applied to Mikoto Minagi!  Cleanse! All of Mikoto Minagi's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi partially dodges 9 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium, taking 35 Fatigue damage!  Eri Shimanouchi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Exhausted applied to Eri Shimanouchi!
COMBAT: Vita Yagami perfectly counters 32 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Vita Yagami's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Vita Yagami's counterattack, Tödlichschlag, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Steven Universe partially dodges 8 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, taking 33 Fatigue damage!

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

Empathy is the enemy of stubbornness, of misunderstanding, of hatred. For an instant, Yumi sees Mikoto's eyes--and the two of them do understand each other. ...Not enough--not enough to change everything. But it is a moment. Yumi doesn't find herself feeling any happier, as she channels the magic.

But there's no anger in the gaze in the moment.

Something like this... Yumi watches Vita carefully--

"Belkan magic," Yumi murmurs at Vita--"Oh! It's you! Oh, that's a relief--"

An ally she wouldn't have counted on--one they might well need, here. Kind of like Steven's renewed hope. But... Hope is important to hang onto--

But you wouldn't need to hang on if the ride weren't bumpy. It gets bumpy.

Yumi banks out of the way again, giving Tama a good angle; she watches her friends, older and newer, clash with her other friend. And there, she sees--

The black cat on Yumi's broom narrows her green eyes, tail thrashing. "Yumi! Look! --That light--see what it's doing to her!"

Yumi does see, and her eyes widen. "I saw before, but--" The older cat continues, "It's reinforcing her power--...reinforcing her resolve. We aren't just facing Mikoto herself."

Cats don't need honorifics.

"Be careful!" Yumi says. "I mean, more careful! There's something strange going on!"

And it undid her magic. So she'll have to just keep trying. "All right--let's see if we can't pin you down--"

She traces runes through the air, suddenly carving out a spell in light--


Ivy erupts from the broken bridge, life growing from destruction... and promptly attending to bind the berserker.

COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has used Ivy Binding on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 7 Fatigue damage from Yumi Ohzora's Ivy Binding, taking 3 Fatigue damage!  Trap applied to Mikoto Minagi!

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

"Didn't say you were a little kid. Just a kid." She clarifies to Steven with a teasing kind of fondness reserved for younger ones. "But okay super-star. I won't argue that you've got style." A beat as she adds unseriously, "And a bedtime."

Wait I thought she wasn't teasing him for being a little kid!?

Eri twists out of the way, quickly using the motion to wrap one of the lengths of lash around her arm like an improvised shield. Leaping backwards out of sand, she jukes sideways half a millisecond into the turn.

Just as Miroku slams into her side in a swing from high to low.

The blunt impact knocks her high in the air, like she'd been uppercutted by a titanic fist, before she sails to land in the ground.

For a while, she's dead silent. Before she then mumbles out a dazed answer to Vita, like a wounded soldier that's been shell shocked by an explosion. "It's for her Brother. She'll do anything he asks - no matter what it is." If Mikoto isn't going to offer her motive, then she does instead. "She's been raised that way her whole life."

When she gets up, sand sloughs off of her, more like she can focus. And one arm seems strangely motionless, the girl flinches, as she grabs it with her opposite hand by the wrist, bringing it up to a ninety degree angle. A vine appearing and encircling her arm and neck to immobilize the limb. "What light - what'd you see Tama?" She asks - pained. "Ivy - what's reinforcing her?"

With the other arm, she slowly lifts it up, before twisting it in a circle. The lash is a blur as it slips out of the sand, each circle sending it forward to bully Mikoto's space, punishing her advance with one thunderous whipcrack after another. Another twist of her arm overhead and she continues the well practiced dance - the whip's movements becoming more and more difficult to follow as she gains momentum.

The words that slip from her lips though next are for Mikoto.

"It's not supposed to hurt like this."

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Ephemeral Dance on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Eri Shimanouchi's Ephemeral Dance, taking 38 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

The hit seems firm, though it would take a lot more than a shield smacking her to stop her. She was always much stronger than everyone, it felt like. Maybe it was just her reckless fighting that reflected that. It is hard to tell in hindsight.

One shield vanishes, and another appears on his forearm. A look to Eri. He swells up a little bit at her comment, at leasy until the last part, at which point he opens his mouth, but has no words, instead puffing his cheeks out, and unceremoniously exhales loudly when he concedes he has no response to that burn. "Ya got me..."

What feels like an advantage quickly dissipates as their adversary lashes out. It is difficult to keep track of where she goes, despite Lion trying to trail her. Even he finds it hard, it seems.

"Mikoto, do you really want to actually hurt us?!" he calls out. He has asked this before. He knows the answer already, but he refuses to believe the truth. He has often been told he can be stubborn.

Greg says it comes from his mother's side.

A comment and a look upward finds a massive claymore coming right for him. Steven barely has time to dive out of the way. The blade misses, but the concussive force, the sheer power from the hit causes a burst of force that seens Steven right into a tree. A sharp exhale of air can be heard, as there is a distinct thud of wood, as some leaves sprinkle down where he lands. "Urfff...."

The boy makes it to his hands and knees, but has to catch his breath. "You weren't... kidding..."

Yumi mentions something is amiss. "I knew it!" the boy shouts, pointing toward Mikoto. The boy whistles, and Lion comes to his side. The boy pets his good buddy once, and hops on. "I need speed, Lion!" he says, and the cat bounds toward Mikoto, running at ramming speed. The boy projects his shield out in front of Lion, and the pair attempt to run her down!

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Shield Slam on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Steven Universe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 7 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Shield Slam, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Steven Universe is Psyched!

<Pose Tracker> Vita Yagami [None] has posed.

"'course it's me!" Vita boasts at Yumi, puffing out her chest. "Can't have people smashin' stuff up in Hayate's city! 's against the rules now!" 'Now'. It was then, too, actually, but water under the bridge, right?

And in the middle of that, Mikoto comes at her. She looks up, her nose wrinkling as her whole face twists, and she SCREAMS, a belly-deep release-- "Tödlich!" SCHLAG!>>

The hammer and sword connect and a BLAST of energy ROARS from the weapon. It would shatter concrete or magic barrier; against the mighty Miroku it serves mostly to equalize pressures, allowing the two forces to collide with something like safety.

Albeit, Vita's eyes are bugged out because she can currently feel her entire skeleton vibrating, but she grits her teeth and gets it together, setting her stance against the sky. She screams anew, forcing Miroku off and to the side; and then spirals around on her heel. "See that's the thing!" she screams.

"I think you're EXACTLY like me! FLAMME!"

Eisen's hammerhead shoots up and SLAMS down, a mighty kaCHUNK thundering out as the hammer fills itself with power. Then Eisen's customary hollow chime rings out, and then: << Schlag.>>

The head of Vita's hammer IGNITES, roaring flame trailing the hammerhead as it cruises for the side of Mikoto's head.

COMBAT: Vita Yagami has used Flammeschlag on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Vita Yagami has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi counters 13 Fatigue damage from Vita Yagami's Flammeschlag, taking 40 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Vita Yagami!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Akira Yamaoka - Fear Of The Dark https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVCDvUJXxUU

Of course they have bedtimes. Why else would Mikoto call them out here - in the middle of the night?

Mikoto tries not to feel awful, seeing the way Eri and Steven fly into the air, the way Vita expends so much to neutralise her swing.

With the help of magenta light, she doesn't feel much at all.

Vita says she is like her but more importantly Graf Eisen ka-CHUNKS, and in that instant Mikoto brings Miroku's blade up, as naturally as breathing, and barely - just barely - the broiling head of Eisen's hammer does not meet a head of a different kind. Instead, it catches on the edge of her claymore. Her snarl as she struggles against the flame is vicious - and wordless - and finally pained, as she is forced to redirect the blow down rather than risk the assault plain. The hammer strikes at her flank, hot, and off she tumbles.

She presses a hand to the sand - uses her own thrown momentum to push herself back upright.

Something strange is going on. Distantly Mikoto's gaze catches on Eri, lips stern and eyes grim. For a moment, it's like she doesn't see the brace of those vines at all.

Or, perhaps, like they don't matter.

But Eri asks that question...

... and Mikoto hears the pain in her voice...

... and her eyes widen, and she moves to exit Eri's sphere of influence but she is made slow by her horror. Breath hisses through her lips as the whip catches at her - and finally with the lashing she cannot help but cry out, in punctuation to the girl's correction.

If this is a dance, Eri is leading.

Just like always.

Suddenly in her vain attempts she finds herself facing down another type of plant entirely - and Mikoto whirls to try and face it, brings her blade up to protect herself, and when the ivy finds her it does not strike in force at all. Rather it curls about her, the same way it curls about that bridge, finding all its broken pieces and pulling it together once more.

In the binding there is little she can do against Steven's charge but brace herself, teeth grit against his shield. For something which is not designed to kill, she forces herself to think, it makes a remarkable impact.

... if Mikoto really wanted to hurt them, she would not think about the pain they were in, would not say a word, would not sacrifice instinct to remain present in the moment. She would not be battered if she did not stop to care.

Their methods are bringing her to ruin.

Ah, Mikoto thinks.

See now the layered wisdom her Lord Brother brings to bear.

All she has to do is...

... let go...

'Do what you think is best.'

Mikoto's arms slacken with her surety that she does not think that way at all. More than anything else that cuts, carves deep enough to reveal some preserved light far below the surface, where obsidian is still too-too warm. Maybe Mikoto doesn't really think this is the best course. How could it be, facing everyone down at the end of a blade..?

She shakes her head, braids whipping at her face as she hums negation through her lips, a sound which builds rapidly to an anguished, desperate yell.

"I DON'--!"

Mikoto's pendant flares once more with the magenta light of command, and in that instant her movement halts within the vines. Her eyes widen; her teeth grit. Perhaps it is pain. Perhaps it is terror.

"tuh" is the sound of a girl colliding with a brick wall at speed, or choking silently under a great weight, or slipping off a sheer cliff into the black below. It's tongue hitting teeth - it's air pushed through that steel trap. What it is not is a word.

What comes next is unspoken and it is fast.

A dark shadow descends.

There has often been something unsettling at the back of the teeth, when it comes to Mikoto and her magic. A shred of malevolence - above and beyond what a magical girl ought to show. Now the veil parts: no, it's not just Mikoto. There was something just below.

Where there was once vague malice, now there is overt demonic maleficence. Where there was once colour to her imperial cheeks, there is now shadow, inky black as deepest void. Where her gaze once gleamed now it glows lamplike, all features of the eye elided in favour of bright and terrible gold. The only other feature of her face is the pearly-white of bared teeth; the only feature of her blackened form is the everpresent glow of a magenta pendant. Her edges are outlined in sick energy, roiling-red, light which does nothing to illuminate her. Total darkness - in total anonymity. Mikoto would be unrecognisable, had it not happened in plain view. It is only the witnessed change which informs her shape.

And no sound is made from it.


COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Strangled Plea: Sororal Similarity on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Strangled Plea: Speak, Friend on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Strangled Plea: Promised Understanding on Yumi Ohzora.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Strangled Plea: Paths Well-Travelled on Vita Yagami.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora accepts Mikoto Minagi's Strangled Plea: Promised Understanding, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Yumi Ohzora is Reinforced by Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Steven Universe accepts Mikoto Minagi's Strangled Plea: Speak, Friend, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Steven Universe is Reinforced by Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi accepts Mikoto Minagi's Strangled Plea: Sororal Similarity, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Eri Shimanouchi is Reinforced by Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Vita Yagami accepts Mikoto Minagi's Strangled Plea: Paths Well-Travelled, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Vita Yagami is Reinforced by Mikoto Minagi!