2019-10-28 - The Logic Trap Snaps Shut! Users And The Used

From Battle Fantasia MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search
Title: The Logic Trap Snaps Shut! Users And The Used

Mikoto struggles to justify Eri's actions, on behalf of a higher power. Homura helps. Homura has been helping for a long time, in fact.


Mikoto Minagi, Homura Akemi


Tama Outer City - Chofu Suburban District

OOC - IC Date:

2019-10-28 - 2015-07-09

.****************************** Tama Outer City *******************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Chofu Suburban District +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 Chofu was built on a vast natural terrace that reinforces the town against
 the slope down to the sea. It has its own town limits, and it is large
 enough that you can get anything you need without leaving them. It has
 lovely houses and apartments, well-appointed town centers, and beautiful
 green fields around it. But the Tama River that flows through and past Chofu
 feeds into the main city, and the great splay-legged power lines that follow
 its course at a safe distance link town to metropolis. This is and is not

 Just fifteen minutes (and a scant 230 yen) by high-speed rail from Shinjuku
 Station, Chofu is one of the largest "bed towns" for central Tokyo. Most of
 the people who live here work in the Special Wards, the short commute buying
 them vastly cheaper, less cramped lodgings, though some maintain local
 businesses. While this makes Chofu a suburb of inner Tokyo, it is certainly
 still Tokyo, and the expansive lawns and sprawling development one envisions
 when thinking of a suburb are not to be found here. Still, there are no
 skyscrapers here, and freestanding houses replace the massive apartment
 buildings of Tokyo.

 Chofu's river banks host old-fashioned festivals that draw many from
 surrounding areas at the proper times of year. In contrast, Chofu is also
 home to the headquarters of JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.
 Though Japan is not yet involved in manned space travel, those interested in
 Japan's satellite or other space-related technology can find ample materiel
 for research or wrongdoing.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Nine Inch Nails - Getting Smaller https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcmhd7srRl8

hey, and for what it was worth
i really used to believe
that maybe there's some great thing
that we could achieve

Night falls on the city, and with alarming frequency, so does Mikoto. The Fallen girl has been relentless in her assaults; magical Tokyo has a considerable problem on their hands, even in this better world.

But whenever she launches an attack...

... someone's always there to get in the way.

In a warped sort of way, Mikoto can at least recognise their reliability. She is not happy she is stopped, of course; not happy she is spared from devastating the civilians she menaces. She couldn't possibly... be happy about that.

Not after she had to be encouraged to do what she should do regardless.

She's just... acknowledging their dedication to herself.

It's safe to do that much, isn't it?

It must be.

Mikoto comes to rest on a park bench, in some little leafy retreat in Chofu. It's late enough that there aren't many patrons, stopping here - the city never sleeps, but the park is tucked away, and Chofu itself isn't precisely the final bastion of Tokyo's nightlife. It suits her just fine, as she rips open a konbini candy bar and nibbles at it.

It's good, really. It's just... Mikoto doesn't eat ravenously unless she's starving, these days. Food is...

It used to make her happy, but in the end, that was just another temporary conceit of Tokyo.

The last time Mikoto was happy...

Her eyes veil in sadness, and she pushes the thought away. Candy bar munched, she shoves the wrapper in a pocket of her black uniform - no cape or spaulder, today, and in the gloom she could be mistaken as some teenager with an affection for alternative fashion.

But Mikoto didn't choose her uniform. Her Lord Brother gave her something which would be warm enough for their cold home. If it's uncomfortable in the warm nights of Tokyo... that just means she doesn't belong here, after all.

Or, maybe the point was just... for him to choose.

She should go home. She will, soon. She'll go back to that place where it's so difficult to think, and everything will be simple, and her Lord Brother will be pleased she's working hard, and...

... and he won't talk about what happened to her. He means for that to happen to her. When she is pushed into the back corner of her own mind, falling into the endless black, she's working precisely as intended.

She wanted to abandon her attack - to try and ask Setsuna's help.

That was no good. She wasn't supposed to do that.

'Do you want to know what abuse really is?'

'You know...'

Oh, no. Those two things can't go together.

'It's a game of manipulation and control.'

'I'm the only one who can help you.'

Mikoto shakes her head, even as her mind focuses in on the last part of Eri's speech, calls to mind his guiding question at just the same time.

'It's slowly forcing someone else's world to revolve around yours whether it's a daughter - a lover - a wife...'

'... isn't that right, Mikoto?'

'... a little sister.'

'Yes, Lord Brother!'

'And often the only way to do that - is to slowly cut them off from anything that might make them insecure that they're not the only one in their world.'

In the third quarter of the moon Mikoto is pale, a little crinkle from her side as her arms curl around herself. The wrapper protests, as she hugs her arms about herself in an attempt to keep everything where it ought to be. She was so angry at Eri. She was angry at Eri, but...

"I messed up," Mikoto whispers, to herself. "Eri didn't do anything wrong..."

and now i can't tell the difference
don't know what to feel
between what i've been trying so hard to see
and what appears to be real

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

The weary length of this day-turned-deep-night is present in the ache at the back of Homura's neck, in the spots on her arms and legs which remember bruises magically healed and in the terrestrial swish of her Ohtori skirt when she prefers taking the rooftops home. She does not allow it to show in her gait or her posture, though. She is too proud for that, even on these empty paths beneath night-dark boughs..

At least she doesn't smell like Ogre breath any more.

Not to the dull instrument which is Homura's nose, at least. After proximity to the belching youma itself, she's grown somewhat inured to that which... lingers. It might not be enough to keep the seat next to her empty on a train car, but to someone more sensitive it just might amount to an olfactory assault.

The grey girl's thoughts run to purifying green flame and then inevitably to purifying pink. She is not insensate to her surroundings the way she is to her unpleasant aura, not Homura Akemi, but it's enough that she moves from registering 'person on a park bench ahead' to 'naggingly familiar head of spiky hair' to '...that's Mikoto Minagi' more gradually than she might have otherwise.

Hearing 'Eri didn't do anything wrong' helps that identification along.

Her steps slow and stop some meters from Mikoto on her park bench. She is very quiet by practiced habit, perhaps even quiet enough that the whisperscuff of soles on stone might be taken for leaves shifting overhead... if not for that whiff of Ogre breath.

But -- even in those soft moments which the Puella Magi believes are hers to command, she does not summon her gothic longbow. She watches Mikoto hug herself; she wonders what a better person than Homura Akemi would do.

It's from a place of unaccustomed uncertainty that she speaks aloud. Her empty palms itch.

"Mikoto Minagi." ...what next? With chin high and neck straight, she continues. "Are you too far gone to peacefully accept the payment of a debt?"

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

Mikoto's nose scrunches at the approach of some faded noxious smell. She does not remember ever facing down an Ogre, and its particular profile is novel to her.

If anything, it just reminds her of Shinjuku. If anything, that just makes her feel worse.

Maybe memory is what saves Homura, pulled back to dwell on what has come.

It does nothing for the pit in her stomach.

Someone is there, of course, but in her miserable reflection she does not challenge them at first. Someone is there, but she has no inkling who until she hears that voice - Homura doesn't smell much like Homura at all, right now. She grunts, lips and brow tugging down as she papers over her vulnerability, glaring sullen at the other girl.

She asks if she is too far gone and that cuts for a different reason, as Mikoto remembers coming to in the middle of the petting zoo. Her chin ducks over her vulnerable neck; she hums discontent through lips tightly pressed together. It's a defensive display which doesn't quite cover up the edge of fear and uncertainty as she has to think about it.

But she wasn't attacking anything, she thinks. She was just having a snack. So she's not shying away from her responsibilities, so there's no reason for it to make her.

"... fine," she answers, finally, gruff and tense and unfriendly.

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

Mikoto hunches where she sits and Homura stands tall and still: defenses manifest differently, between them.

That gruff assent precipitates movement. "Good." The Puella closes perhaps half the distance between them on the balls of her feet, her pace measured. Homura Akemi knows she doesn't need to explain herself to anyone. That's not what she's doing here.

"There are plenty of things I accept responsibility for. There are very few I'll ever apologize for."

It certainly has nothing to do with how Mikoto's flash of vulnerability and wounded curl call to mind the way she curled up and sobbed on a rooftop. That was not so long ago; that was forever ago, another world.

"This is about something else."

Homura reaches up, and it's a familiar gesture: eyes half-closed, fingers through bangs. Now, it allows her to brush the backs of her knuckles against soft red silk. The bow in her hair shines.

"Tell me what happened with Eri." She folds her arms across her chest; her chin is still high. It comes off as a command, at least at first, But Homura says something else, adds as much context as her pride will allow.

"I'll stay." This time, she'll stay. "I'll hear you out."

...From a few meters away. It's not a shoulder to cry on, nor does it address all that lies between them. It is, however, more than a girl with a clockwork shield was able to give.

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

Mikoto sniffs the air and waits to hear what Homura is playing at, and perhaps those two things are related.

(They're not, really, but she doesn't comment.)

She is paying a debt, sidelong and oblique. Responsibility and apology, and there are few things Homura will apologise for and she does not, Mikoto notices, define what they are.

And she tells her what to say, and Mikoto's eyes narrow and her lips purse and a hand comes up to press her obsidian bead in against her chest, a picture of sour suspicion.

It wasn't so long that forever ago, Homura asked:

'Why are you so sad, Mikoto Minagi?'

But Homura goes on to clarify, and Mikoto frowns, glare sliding off the other girl to look at the sword-case beside her with an expression muted.

She sees through the obscurity, and she thinks of how she struggled to make Homura realise she knew what it felt like, to offer her some amnesty. She doesn't like to think of it, but the memories claw into her mind, and it is in Mikoto's nature to think it must be the same for everyone else.

Homura isn't very good at this, but she's... trying.

It might not be an apology, but it's...

... honestly, if Homura had walked up and apologised so plainly, Mikoto would certainly have run off to try and find where Nagi was hiding, because it happening twice must just mean it's another trick being played on her.

She doesn't, though, and Mikoto doesn't either. She stays right there on the bench, silent for a long moment.

"Eri... told me what she was doing to me," she begins, finally, the mora slow and hesitant. She speaks and does not lift her gaze to Homura again, though her eyes are bright in the moonlight and it is not so simple to hide them. "Manipulating me. All that time. Eri was sorry. Really... sorry."

Homura is not the only one whose speech can end up obscure, though Mikoto approaches it with marked difference.

"... Eri controlled me 'cause she wanted me to stay, and I left her like that."

Her hands drop to her lap, ball in the black skirt there. It's not just sadness, there in her eyes. "I was... so mad. But... all that stuff Eri told me about... what Eri called abuse, it's just normal, Homura. There's people who use people, and people who are used, and... I shouldn't be mad." She swallows at the bitter lump in her throat, lips twisting against the emotion, and her last words come out miserable. "I just... thought Eri was like me."

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

Speaking of things Homura Akemi won't apologize for...

Mikoto speaks of Eri's manipulation and the violet magi stands very still and very silent. She'd treated her once-braidsister as a loaded weapon, had repaid the tutelage of timelines past with a cold and calculated honing of Mikoto which they might all yet pay for. Eri is a better friend than Homura, but they all of them know that, right? Eri apologized for using Mikoto, and Homura...

Homura will not. Apologies are for things regretted, for actions one would take back. The difference between responsibility and apology is a sharp one for her.

She does not move nor reply yet, but her dark eyes do not leave Mikoto. She is staying. She is listening. She is, in fact, trying.

'...and I left her like that.'

There is another reason Homura is in no rush to give Mikoto Minagi heartfelt hugs. She remembers exactly how Mikoto left Eri. Now there is movement: she shifts her weight from one foot to another. Her chin rises incrementally.

But she's still listening.

Abuse. Users, and used. ...Tears, in the other girl's voice and in her eyes. "Like you, meaning Eri was one of the used instead of being one of the users."

Her gaze shifts to the shadowed boughs above: the sort of perch a whitebodied wishgiver prefers. There is no gleam of round red eyes from on high. "Things were never so neat. Not then. She was both." A pause; the next comes more softly, as only inward-turned bitterness can be. "We were both."

Her arms unfold, and her attention is mostly on Mikoto again. "Wanting someone to stay is not the greatest sin. There are worse ways to use someone."

It's not the most comforting reply, but it is a personal truth shared from the lips of a liar, so that is something.

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

Mikoto nods, as Homura clarifies her point, and there's a niggling little thought which comes with the clarity, only to be pushed aside.

... she wasn't following Eri because Eri was a follower, after all.

Homura suggests inclusion, once and again, and supplanting or. "I know." Mikoto says, voice flat like the impact of the broad side of a blade. She remembers.

It is not a pleasant memory.

And here now there is a little truth, and Mikoto does not quite see how dwarfed it is; she does not have the ear for deception, and so many of Homura's words have always sounded honest to her. But she can see the course of a winding road, and she has been made to look at it, after all.

Her face turns; her grim gaze falls on Homura, finally. A little damp at the edges. It's fine.

"Worse ways," she echoes, and her voice is quiet, even so.

What is quiet is not always gentle, is it, Homura?

"... I guess I should thank you. It would've been harder, if I never crossed those lines. You helped remind me... what I can do."

She stares up at her, and there is something foreign about the shine of her eyes, things so easily belonging to some demon at the end of a fairy tale. "You've been very helpful, Homura."

Maybe it's inclusive after all.

"Eri was, too. And Mai, and Yumi, and Kasagami... and everyone else who manipulated me. No, Homura. It's not a sin. I get it. I know what I am." What, not who.

"I'm not angry," she says, knuckles white in their tension and nostrils flared along a stiff lip. "That's what people do when they care about each other."

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

The liar knows how well Mikoto trusted her. She made such extensive use of that trust, after all. Homura helped herself.

Homura helped... Mikoto become this. She helped.

She shifts her weight, from one foot to the other. Madoka saw those things she did, too, saw her encourage Mikoto to attack a defenseless Sayaka -- to kill. Madoka has seen it all. Acid gnaws at the pit of Homura's stomach. Her eyes narrow minutely. Mikoto helped her, too, although this Mikoto would not remember those lessons.

Now, to her, it looks like another cruel twist of fate. And perhaps that is what it is.

Mikoto looks at her with those eyes and Homura cannot help it: a shiver runs down her spine at that fey eyeshine, and her empty fingers twitch.

"We all use each other," she returns, and her voice is the sort of flat that comes with control. "Being manipulated doesn't make you any different from the rest of us, Mikoto Minagi. What you should be thinking about is why all those people manipulated you, not whether they did." Homura Akemi bent her entire being toward protecting the girl she loves more than the world itself via manipulation, after all.

Notably, Homura does not include herself in that last group for reconsideration.

In fact: "There are worse ways to use someone," she says, and it is both repetition and personal admission. She regards white knuckles for a long moment. "Worse than what they did. But you get it. You're not angry, after all."

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

Everyone uses each other.

Homura asks why over whether, and it is Mikoto's turn for her eyes to narrow, and her expressions are not quite so subtle. There's something about the consideration which feels dangerous, for a moment - a moment only exacerbated as Homura suggests she knows worse ways than how her friends have used her. She does not see the way Homura plunges her dagger into her very own belly; rather, the way Mikoto has struggled not to be angry, the reason she has tried so hard to tell herself it's fine...

"I don't know anything like that!" Mikoto snaps, a panicked edge to her raised volume, as she hears Homura accuse her of knowing her Lord Brother has done worse. And perhaps it is a gulf of misunderstanding to baffle the both of them, but Mikoto's insistence is not quite so subtle, either. "My Lord Brother isn't like that!"

It's always been a curious fact of life that much can be inferred through the sorts of things a person will deny.

<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> nine inch nails - 34 Ghosts IV - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF_ceFugJjQ

"Your Lord Brother?"

It's a mild reply, paired with a single eyebrow's rise. That is all the Puella needs do to convey that he was no part of her statement. She gives no ground to Mikoto's volume. Homura Akemi has some small experience with denial and its ways.

In the quiet before she speaks again a plane can be heard crossing the skies, somewhere above the full-leafed Tama canopy.

Then Mikoto's words from minutes earlier come back to her, returned in an incisive monotone. "'There's people who use people, and people who are used.'"

Homura resumes motion. The path will take her by Mikoto's bench and past, into the summer night. "It's just normal, Mikoto Minagi. On that, we can agree. I've listened to you now." Her debt: discharged. Because this is all transactions to Homura, not friendship... right? She's still all business, all the time. Her business has simply changed. "You should try listening to yourself sometime."

Her sable swallowtail lofts behind her as she walks, gait as smooth as if she was not fight-spent from earlier and agitated from, well, now. She finds it... expedient to get moving, just in case Mikoto decides to take this disagreement physical. Homura Akemi: peacemaker. Madoka would be proud, she thinks to herself, and the acid in her stomach grows.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Depeche Mode - Suffer Well https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PB69ERIl98

Mikoto's eyes widen, looking to the other girl, as she realises too late: Homura was not making such a grievous comment.

She wasn't, and that means...

Her eyes follow Homura on her path past her, and any will to start anything dies in the pit of her own stomach as the devil on her shoulder suggests she listen to herself. At that her breath catches in her throat - her gaze drops down, as if it could cover up the shame there.

"... it's normal," she agrees, the words a little leaden. "Right."

How relieving is it, to hear someone confirm the way of the world to her ears? No - really - how relieving is it? Mikoto can't tell whether she's unburdened or even more troubled.

Unburdened, of course. She must be relieved to hear someone talking sense.

"Tell Eri that," Mikoto says, scowling, as her fingers find the outer edge of her elbow and dig in. "There's only so much I can put up with." The words toll danger in their quiet resentment; perhaps it will even cover up the unnerved edge of fear at the edge of them, all the work she has put into not destroying her best friend.

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

"The same Eri who didn't do anything wrong." By the time Homura makes direct reference to what she overheard from Mikoto, she is past and walking away. The dance of red bow and black hair obscures her doll's face.

Homura does not feel relieved in the least. "I'm not your messenger." Her emphasis on 'your' is subtle; the Apostle is clear in her allegiance.

That considered, she should be trying to save Mikoto, but... Homura Akemi has not the slightest clue how to go about that. Behind that ice-cool facade she feels the pressure that comes from being in over her head. Eri Shimanouchi may hear some version of this night's encounter from her later; it is sure to be edited.

The grey girl walks on.

Later, with trees and time between herself and the girl on the bench, Homura lifts her fist to her chest and speaks to the warm night air; she speaks softly, to someone who she needs to believe is listening. "I'm... sorry. I'll try to do better."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> dai - happiness of marionette (at .5 speed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbSKE3nomeQ

Once again, Homura bids Mikoto to listen to her own words, and Mikoto's teeth set in a line as she remembers the knots she has tied herself in.

To absolve him she absolved Eri; she cannot absolve Eri; she cannot...

There's a little hiss of air, expelled between the steel trap of her teeth, as Homura denies her. It's all the reply the other girl receives, and the pleasant lie is that it's a deliberate omission. The truth is - Mikoto's words have fled from her throat, and she is too proud or too stubborn or too far gone to ask Homura to wait again.

She tightens into herself, there on the bench, and does not look at Homura as she leaves. She is screwed into place for some time before she shudders, unlaces herself standing, grasps sword-case and she leaves.

And she gets onto the train, and she

And she enters the cave system, and she

And she steps into the Palace, and she

"... I'm home," and she leaves.

"Welcome home."