2019-11-02 - Screen Time Blues

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Title: Screen Time Blues

Mikoto takes out her frustrations on television, and her friends quickly surmise that she's not really mad about sad stories. They make another attempt to reach out - but she's scared.


Mikoto Minagi, Yumi Ohzora, Fate Testarossa, Fuu Hououji, Nori Ankou


Shitamachi Low City - Akihabara Electric Town

OOC - IC Date:

2019-11-02 - 2015-07-13

.**************************** Shitamachi Low City *****************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Akihabara Electric Town +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 Brave Akihabara, holy land of nerds, Akihabara of the cartoony signs and
 gumball-machine colors. One can buy anything in Akihabara, as long as it is
 computer gear, electronics or anime merchandise. The main strip is the
 glitziest, with a large percentage of the visible building faces covered in
 electronic signs, huge posters, or garish paint jobs, and there one can
 purchase coveted new items at (or just a hair before) their street dates.
 The streets to either side are home to a messier brand of store, where one
 can, with a little luck and persistence, find used goods like that rare
 out-of-print first edition Sailor V figurine or vanity press Pretty Cure
 doujinshi. These smaller stores compete ferociously for space, and can be
 found crammed into alleyways and spilling out onto sidewalks as well as in
 more standard configuration.

 Those whose tastes run more to programming than fandom can find the area,
 also known as Akihabara Electric Town, quite rewarding as well. It's the
 perfect place to shop for computer parts and other gadgets for projects both
 personal and paranormal, with the venue ranging from a posh cutting-edge
 robotics store on the main strip, to tiny stalls wedged into alleys that
 sell high-grade electronics on the cheap. The latter category manage this
 feat of thrift by selling unpackaged items taken from wholesale lots, and
 piled up for display like supermarket apples.

 It's relatively safe to be seen wearing unusual clothing here; it's likely
 to be taken for cosplay, or the uniform of one of the diversely themed maid
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Depeche Mode - The Darkest Star https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6ijQpWABAI

Down, down past the stale air of caves which have seen no visitors for centuries, past the stalagmites and ancient carvings... deep, deep down, far enough that depth ceases to have such a straightforward meaning... this is where the Obsidian Palace lies.

The Lord of this land stands and watches the screens which hang above his vast stone cavern, hands folded casually behind his back. So too is Mikoto positioned behind him, standing silent vigil as she looks up, too.

But there's a bob of green hair on a Juuban girl, the viewscreens show, and with the indirect reminder Mikoto finds tears springing to her eyes again. She swallows at the lump in her throat, and her gaze lowers as she scrubs at her eyes, sniffing back the tears.

She does not pay attention to her surroundings as she tries to dismiss the quivering of her lip; the hand at her shoulder comes as a surprise, guiding her to the warmth of her Lord Brother's side. "Mikoto," his voice rumbles low, and they are siblings and he can express just as much as she can in a name. She feels his love, his sheer concern, all the sorrow to see her tears.

Her breath catches in her choked-up throat, and her cheeks colour with sororal affection. After that moment of surprise she sinks in against him, eyes closing as she surrenders herself to his comfort. Her voice aches in its devotion. "My Lord Brother..."

"I'm here." His assurance is short, but no less heartfelt to her ears: it's in the firm and steady grasp of his embrace, his so very gentle tone. He'll take care of her, she knows, she must know; she's safe here, by his side.

She must feel safe here; she could only feel safe here. And if there's a little pit of unease dragging down her stomach, it must just be from how she has been hurt up there on the surface. She's safe here.

She reaches out with a feeling hand, to hold his other, only for her eyes to open as her proprioception fails her and she grasps empty space. It's just in time to see that that other hand has lifted, and his fingers tuck gently around her chin to guide her gaze upwards. Gold finds gold, and she sees in his a rare vulnerability, as his cheek cants to the side and his teeth press lightly against his bottom lip. In the closeness she is privileged to know, he confides: "... I'm glad you're here for me, too."

She gasps in a little breath, gaze softening in her own concern - her own sorrow - her own guilt, too. It must have been so hard for him, she thinks, on his own. And she starts to think something else --

-- that surely if what Eri says has any weight at all, he has learned his manner from someone, too, control passed down like tradition --

-- but that thought is too dangerous, too close to associating him with wrongdoing, and it washes away before she can even fully grasp it.

No: Mikoto just sees his need and it pains her, desperate to support him as he so kindly supports her. "I'll work hard!" She speaks, she promises, no matter the toll of her toil. But she hears herself say it, and for the first time she recognises the pressure which came before her promise. It reminds her so much of...

... something...

... she can't quite reflect on what that might be.

All she can see is the glow of his golden eyes, reflecting the magenta light of their obsidian pendants.

That warm, comforting light, which takes her far away from her troubles...


Akihabara Electric Town is the centre of nerd culture. Not a day goes by in this place without the discovery of a new manga - or a new gadget coming into the spotlight - or a new costume getting accolades.

(Maybe that's why a girl all in black, pink and yellow spaulder strapped across her shoulder with red cape dangling, goes without notice. Some obscure series villain, maybe. Nothing to worry about.)

Tonight, the moon shining in its third quarter and illuminating a sky free of clouds, the main event of Akihabara is a midnight release. The acclaimed sci-fi anime, Privateer Swing, has received an action-adventure video game of its very own - and its marketing strategy has actively reached out to similar fanbases to try and build more excitement. With a split between high-pitched spaceship battles, gun combat and bare-knuckle brawling, just like its parent anime offers, Second Swing Solo promises much to its playerbase.

Lines have formed along several of the major electronics stores of the district, out from the store into the street, and many of the people here are in costume: there's a girl dressed as the carefree ex-pirate who can't quite give up her old life, Faire, and there's a boy as the jaded captain who cares deep down, Pitch. There are dozens of memorable characters, and many more people here who love them.

The televisions shown on display in the windows of the shop are, naturally, all playing popular episodes from the series, in glorious high definition on large screens, just in case these patrons would like to make an additional purchase.

They're large enough that they can command attention even from the opposite rooftop, regardless of the lack of sound.

That just happens to be where the other girl in costume is, here. Mikoto promised she'd work hard. She has been working hard - she's always out here, making them suffer and cry for her Lord Brother's happiness. But she has to work harder; has to make up for the awful things she's listened to, the awful things she's said and thought.

Her Lord Brother is relying on her. She can't let him down.

It's not like she doesn't feel a twinge of guilt, looking down at the gathered civilians excited for some new purchase or another. But if she backs down... she knows it will only get worse. And there's something about those glossy television screens, showing a woman in a moment of quiet despair, which just...

... it makes her feel...

BGM Change: The Seatbelts - LIVE in Baghdad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfz5O4tzf-A

Hate flashes over the guilt in her eyes, and suddenly she isn't deliberating any more. Blade in hand, she crashes down - cratering the earth not so far from two of those cosplayers. One catches the other, as she stumbles in her heels. "What--?!"

"That, uh - that's a prop, right..?" Another pipes up, nervously.

But Mikoto just hoists her blade up out of the concrete, resting its broad edge on her unadorned shoulder, and snarls: "Run."

There's something about the intimidating curl of her lips, the gleam in her too-gold eyes, the cracked concrete in front of her - which prompts the patrons of the store to scatter to the streets.

Mikoto clicks her tongue against her teeth, and with a smooth step forward, brings her blade down on the glass of the storefront, crushing a diagonal line of screens in her vast sweep. Another whirling step forward - and the reach of that greatsword is enough to take out the back wall of screens, too.

Electricity crackles from broken screens; glass crunches underfoot. The store has no chance of stopping her. Certainly, the regular night workers aren't getting paid nearly enough to evict this unruly customer. They've fled, too.

None of those people could hope to stop Mikoto, as she completes her spinning revolution with an angry scream.

... but maybe Mikoto isn't the only one out tonight whose costume carries deeper implications.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has fully healed herself. She is now ready to take on 4 opponents!

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

The simple truth is that good costuming should be treasured! ....Even if it kind of interrupts Yumi's midnight flight a little. She happens to have taken up a spot in an inconspicuous place on a roof. She's got a blanket over her outfit, which also helps to conceal her a little but mostly helps against it being super cold at night, and she's watching the midnight release with some interest. Her pink eyes settle on the screens now and then, and then all over the costumes...

...As the broom that took her here hovers lightly behind her, acting as a backrest just at the moment. All is well; she's picked up snacks (mostly eaten, there weren't many) a drink, is fairly comfortable--ex...cept...

"Cccrap," Yumi says, as she sets down her drink and feels around quickly for her phone and things. "Not good, not... good...'

After a moment her staff springs into being and she holds it up, blanket falling to reveal her bright greens and pinks of dress--

"Staff of Lost Ivy! In my hand, remembered be!"

In a brilliant column of green, Yumi's eyes open; her outfit shimmers, and becomes a black dress. Her limbs shine, and are wrapped in green leather; a green belt cinches her waist, and her hair, suddenly braided silver, is covered with a wide-brimmed pointed hat--

And then she's standing at the edge of the rooftop, looking down. "MIKOTO!" Yumi calls, skipping the honorific as she leaps off of the rooftop, her broom zooming beneath to catch her in a seated spot as she points out her hand.

"This is NOT OKAY!"

A beam of green light erupts from her hand, and zooms after Mikoto's sword.

COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora transforms into Witch Ivy!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has used Dark Beam on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly dodges 28 Fatigue damage from Yumi Ohzora's Dark Beam, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Critical Dodge!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

"You realize what line you're in right?"

There are a trio of elementary schoolers here in line. One with purple hair, and two with blonde. There's also an older maid violet haired girl in a maid outfit. She's not cosplaying, she's an actual maid - here as a Chaperone.

"Are you talking to us?" Fate inquires to him.

"Yeah. I just wonder if maybe you're in the wrong line."

Fate replies to the high school boy in cosplay. "This is the line for Privateer Swing right?"

"That's right - but I still wonder if you shouldn't be here."

"And why shouldn't we be?" Arisa Bannings inserts herself into this with crossed arms.

"Well it's just this isn't a game for little girls - it has to be wayyyy past your bedtime too."

Suddenly the boy has a palm in his face. "Let me stop you right there. One - it's none of your business. Two - we have a chaperone." The maid with the trio offers this small wave. "And three - we like games."

The boy rolls his eyes, "Sure sure you like games, but I've seen the whole anime and it's clearly too violent for her!"

He jabs a finger Fate's way.

Arisa looks past his hand at him, then turns her head and looks at Fate. Then she starts laughing so hard that she has to cross her arms over her stomach. Suzuka puts up a hand and starts giggling behind it. Their maid chaperone simply shrugs at him.

Fate looks between the two, "Ah... it's not nice to laugh at him. Even if he is wrong." This just causes Arisa to laugh even harder.

And that is the moment that the television screens of a store across the street crumple. Shattering in Mikoto's great revolution.

"Oh!" Shizuku exclaims, with a startled hiccup, as her loyal maide shrieks. Whereas Fate withdraws a golden triangle out of the pocket of her blouse. It chimes, a synthetic baritone. "Get to safety. I'll take care of this." <Get Set. Drive Ignition.>

Lightning cascades all over Fate's body, armoring her in her barrier jacket, as Bardiche shimmers into a materializing polearm. She immediately pushes off on her foot and starts across the street.

The boy gawks. "What in the?"

"She's a very dedicated cosplayer!" Arisa exclaims, "Now go home - it's past your bedtime!"

As Suzuka grabs hold of the sleeve of her now frantic maid, and Arisa and her take off, Arisa can't help grinning when Suzkua breaks into a continuous rhythm of hiccups and giggles.

<Cartridge Load.> Bardiche chimes, just moments before Fate rams into Mikoto bodily, axe head leading, and upon contact - a detonation of thunderous magic from the burst of infused mana following.

"We were really looking forward to playing this tonight..." Is Fate's soft lament in the wake of that explosive force.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket Assault!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Thunderous Clash on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

While Fuu has heard of Privateer Swing, and has seen a few episodes, it hasn't really grasped her interest the way some shows (and more to the point, some RPGs) manage to. And while the advertisements for Second Swing Solo have certainly been interesting, it's more action-based than role-playing. Fuu is here anyway, though, mostly because Akihabara can be a dangerous place for a high school girl alone in a game release line. This release might be less dangerous than some of them, admittedly, given the franchise's overall appeal.

The sound of a storefront window (and several high-end TVs) getting sworded, on the other hand, makes Fuu wince, even more than the sudden scattering of civilians and the feral scream of an angry swordswoman. "Kanae-san, meet me back at the subway station," she prompts her companion. "I need to make sure people get away safely. Go - I'll catch up with you soon!"

"But the release - !" Kanae protests, angry enough that the tiger ears on her costume prick up and her tail frizzes out quite convincingly.

"Your copy will still be at the store in the morning if it comes to that! Please get going!!" Fuu turns towards the center of the chaos, mentally giving thanks that she's not the only magical girl here to confront Mikoto. The bespectacled blonde has to weave between a few other fleeing civilians before she can duck into the mouth of an alley ...

"Belief becomes power ... Winds, guide me!"

... and one transformation sequence later, the Magic Knight of Wind makes her presence known with a shout of, "Winds of Admonishment!!" as she tries to ensnare Mikoto with a conjured whirlwind.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Wind Knight!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Admonishment on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to counter Fate Testarossa's Thunderous Clash, taking 23 Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa is Psyched!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Fate Testarossa!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 9 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Winds of Admonishment, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Fuu Hououji is Psyched!  Cripple and Trap applied to Mikoto Minagi!

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Why is Nori Ankou here? That's a good question, and she isn't sure herself. But the real answer is loyalty to a friend. She has her hair up and has no makeup on so she is not exactly flashing AkaMira super loud, and so she has just gotten a couple more smiles than the average. She has, by and large, been on her phone.

(Fade out. Zoom into her big L*uis V*itton bag. In it there is an otter. The otter is wearing a Privateer Swing tube sock like a shirt. His eyes are wide as saucers.)

Of course, there is someone else coming. Someone who Nori Ankou, at least, sees perfectly well. She presses back when the crowd does, and when the sword begins swinging, she runs. Instead of passing through the streets, fleeing in obscurity, however, she takes an abrupt left turn into -

"WELCOME" says the store keeper, who is unusually enthusiastic for someone working at this hour.

Nori looks at him.

"Do you want a potion?"

Batiste's head pops out of her bag. (The store keeper offers the potion, which is a novelty beverage in a plastic pouch with a certain characteristic monster on it, towards Batiste.)

("Absolutely," says Batiste.)

"Can I change in your bathroom?" Nori says, setting the purse down and fishing out her battered lantern.

"If you're quick... usually you want to use the one in the train station for costume stuff."

"Thank you," Nori says, entering the bathroom.

As the scent of a sunless sea and the distant chords of mystic memory resonate from within, Batiste gets out several 500-yen coins from Nori's pocketbook. "And some kara-age, please--"

The door of the back room swings open. La Sirene de Diamant strides out, takes a left at the Mandarake Complex, and stalks down the street.

"Mikoto." she says, as she comes back into view, seeing the winds of Admonishment into play. In the neon corucsation the shadow she casts ripples and the limned outline around her seems to be in even starker relief. Her inverted light flows down the storm drains on its way to loop round, to try and catch Mikoto by the ankle (reversal of fortune?) --

"What are you doing."

COMBAT: Nori Ankou transforms into La Sirene de Diamant!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Polyploia on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly dodges 40 Fatigue damage from La Sirene de Diamant's Polyploia, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Critical Dodge!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The Witch of Lost Ivy barrels down, strips her name to its bones, and Mikoto's gaze darts up as she hears Yumi. A flare of her nostrils, a lengthwise pull of her lips over her teeth, and she can't stop to reply because her eyes have sighted an attack and she's moving. With all the automation of instinct, her legs spring and she leaps away, leaving the beam to crash into a pile of screens.

It serves to get her out of the store, at least, back into the street. It's a much lonelier place than it was, a few minutes prior: all the excited shopgoers have fled, leaving only a few girls in costume behind.

Mikoto lands on the boot of an old car - that's something with a nerd following, too! - and snaps to the second girl all in black: "Good!"

All that said, black is a popular choice, tonight.

Here's a third, crashing in, and Mikoto hears Bardiche's voice and whirls to catch it on Miroku's edge. But Fate's cartridges are vast wellsprings of power, and Mikoto finds her blade pushed in by the other, and she yelps as she's sent sprawling over the roof of the car and to the ground on the other side.

"That's - the point," Mikoto grits out through her teeth, as she puts one palm to the ground to push herself up. "You'll suffer..."

It's an explanation cut short as she sees the whirlwind rushing for her, and Mikoto plants her stance stubbornly to stop herself from being thrown down by the wind, too. It buffets at her, and it leaves her having to look around, for a baffled moment, as she hears the impact of her name again.

It means she sees the inverted light, first, as it flows in, and her eyes widen as she categorises the attack, and once more she springs away before that grasping shade can get a grip.

She comes to land on a stop sign; her eyes find la Sirene, finally.

There are two answers she could give to that question, and the one she starts with...

"I don't like it," Mikoto says, gaze snapping to the devastated electronics store before she looks back to her. "Watching everyone be sad... you don't have to, so why would you?! Well, now it's over!" Her voice rises to a yell, as her grip tightens around her sword. "Now you'll be sad!"

She springs off of the sign which could not tell her to stop, slamming the flat of her blade down overhead against Fate. Charging along, she sweeps Miroku in a horizontal twirl against the Wind Knight, Fuu - still with that added note of restraint she never had, in the shadow - and when she comes to a stop in the middle of the road, she plunges her blade into the earth. An explosion of light rocks the earth beneath la Sirene's feet, rocking up through the buildings - and the promotional sign at the top of the store shakes free, plunging towards Lost Ivy on her broom.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Devastation on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Yumi Ohzora.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa braces 17 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Psyched!  Fate Testarossa's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Diversion applied to Fate Testarossa!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant perfectly dodges 33 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Critical Dodge!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora counters 17 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 17 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Yumi Ohzora's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora's counterattack, Witch's Mirror, partially gets through, doing 15 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji neatly dodges 24 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Devastation, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Stagger and Stun applied to Fuu Hououji!

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

...Those TVs can't have been that big a deal anyway, right? Well, nothing's on fire. It's okay. It's fine!

Either way, she banks up on her broom to avoid htiting the gorund, and looks around at the others. All of them--but Mikoto says good, it's the point...

"I mean--" Of course it's the point. "I mean I'm not going to let you keep this up!"

Watching everyone be sad, huh...? That's--

...Oh. Oh, that's--

"Mikoto, that's--" Her urge to explain is briefly curtailed, not by the shining power of La Sirene, the lightning of Fate Testarossa, or the whirlwinds of the Wind Knight drowning out her words--but by the fact that there's abrubtly a sign crashing towards her. Yumi's eyes widen, and she traces a sigil--the worst of the sign crashes down around her harmlessly, but a big chunk cut out by her spell still hits her hard, leaving a beam of crackling energy to make her counterattack as she spins out of control.

...Once she catches herself she calls, "Watching people who are sad can give us the experience--when you cry, it makes you feel better! It's--it's why tragedy exists as a story! Or at least, part of the reason!"

She throws a curse, this time, breathing in and then focusing her mind, murmuring the quiet chant--before a projectile rune rockets towards Mikoto to weaken and tire her.

COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has used Weakness Hex on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

"I know it's the point."

Fate whirls her Device in a two handed spin in mid-air, eventually ending the flourish and pointing the polearm's axe head at Mikoto.

"You're Dark Fall now."

To be part of Dark Fall is to spend all of your time working towards the end of making people suffer - in Fate's eyes.

Mikoto springs, bringing the flat of her blade down, and Fate floats in mid-air to meet her head on. The flat of the blade slams down on the haft of Bardiche with a screech of metal that forces Fate earthwards.

The moment her feet touch the pavement, she twists Bardiche to try to force Miroku to break their parry.

Pivoting around in a whirl which causes her metallic boots to scrape the concrete, her cape follows, and Bardiche shifts. His axe head folding backwards into a wicked dark hook. A scythe blade of lightning infused mana emits forth from it, glowing and sparking.

<Haken Form.>

Her revolution finishes just as Mikoto rounds on La Sirene, and Bardiche chimes. <Haken Saber.>

The yellow energy of the blade launches - as a whirling projectile - that drives towards Mikoto with surprising force - attempting to blindside her before she can cause further damage.

The projectile if it strikes would drive onward with terrifying force until Fate simply commands, "Saber Explode."

Crackling with lightning, it glows brighter, then detonates into an explosion that is more fury than sound.

"I like sad shows." Fate notes, as if adding onto Yumi's statement, "Because it makes me feel better about the time in my life when I was sad all the time. It helps me deal with those feelings - so I can move on. Just ask La Sirene..."

She nods her way. "...she's an expert on sad things."

... That's saying something coming from Fate Testarossa.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Haken Saber on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi partially dodges 3 Fatigue damage from Yumi Ohzora's Weakness Hex, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Yumi Ohzora is Psyched!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Exhausted and Stagger applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly dodges 46 Fatigue damage from Fate Testarossa's Haken Saber, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Why," la Sirene tells Mikoto.

She sweeps fingers through her hair. "WHY," she says.

"No, I know, because you hurt," she continues to herself, "and because I imagine your lord brother commands, yes, I know, I know I'm repeating myself, but I am not JUST repeating myself! I'm not THAT forget-"

Mikoto explains in somewhat more detail and then she swings that blade round, round, and down into the street. The blast expands to reach her feet, and she is thrown upwards-- no, not thrown; she leaps! Landing atop the Kuronoana Annex C sign, across the street from where she had begun, la Sirene crouches down, for the sign is rather old and battered. Beneath her, a cartoony figure declares they are on PATROL - no doubt for shoplifters.

La Sirene breathes heavily for a moment.

"Do you want to know why people enjoy sad things?" she says.

"It is like immunization," la Sirene continues. "By feeling sorrow in a place where you can control it - for you can always turn off the television, put down the comic, walk out of the theater - you learn to handle it. To endure it later in your life. This is why," and her hands come up to clasp the air before her, "when you are forced by friends, the terror becomes real. But there is no force here, no compulsion. Those who were here were gathered, though perhaps excessive in zeal, to celebrate the story they share. For I am told -"

She raises her voice, "that it is NOT simply a sad story - that it contains multitudes - like every tapestry, even ones that are woven with a single color as dominant may have threads of so many others, and those very few key moments, the tiniest threads, the moments of laughter or light or passion, may be the ones that make all of the difference! The savor of life itself--!"

"But there is another thing that such stories can do," la Sirene continues. "And I don't feel like telling you -- because you are busting up all the televisions!!"


(Flash cut to: Batiste, who has realized he shouldn't run out into the street and is energetically climbing up the black mesh covering over Mandarake Complex's eight story external stairwell. He's really doing it! This is the power of a potion!)

"Les Mysteres," la Sirene says, straightening and raising her left hand: "COME!" The burst of silvering-black light washes towards Mikoto, as if to try to box her in against the ground!

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Les Mysteres on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"If it's *us* you wish to make suffer, Mikoto-san, your accuracy leaves much to be desired!" the Wind Knight retorts.

Not that Mikoto's *physical* accuracy is anything to sneeze at; the twirling slash doesn't catch the Magic Knight of Wind on her head or her neck, as she manages to leap away - but it *does* clip her ankle quite nicely. Miroku's edge doesn't even need to slice into her boots to inflict injury, as massive as the claymore is; even a mundane weapon would do some hurt, and the magic suffusing Mikoto's sword is substantial in its own right.

In short, the Wind Knight may stick her landing, but she winces, wobbles, and has to brace herself with her feet apart.

"Seeing others suffer isn't about making ourselves feel better ... not unless we were as evil in our hearts as Dark Fall's worst minions. On television, or in movies or books or games, seeing them transcend their suffering is the good part, at least the way I read them. But in reality? Seeing others suffer makes us want to help people - to lift them up and ease their pain."

A wry smile crosses the green-clad Magic Knight's face. "The way we want to lift you out of *your* suffering, really."

She may be going in the wrong logical direction compared to what Yumi and Fate are working on, but ...

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Gentle Chiding on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge La Sirene de Diamant's Les Mysteres, taking 39 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts Fuu Hououji's Gentle Chiding, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Quipped!

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

"That's right," Mikoto says, and maybe she's responding to what Yumi's not going to stand for, or maybe she's responding to Fate's identification of her allegiance.

Maybe, in the way she compresses her words, she's responding to them both, as her eyes track over two girls in black.

Mikoto forces Fate to the ground, and in turn Fate forces Miroku to the side - and Mikoto moves on in an instant. She has to dart away from the crackling energy of the Witch's Mirror in the process, but she's occupied with her offence, and it clips into the armor at her shoulder.

She sees Yumi's curse building, and she leaps again; but perhaps Yumi knows Mikoto better than she expected, because this time she finds that when she lands, that's where the rune resolves itself. She is a leaf withering on the branch she feels the strength waning from her muscles, in much the same way as the wind addled her. Her expression tightens; she blinks against the sensation.

Eyes open, and there's the whirling projectile of Haken Saber, careening in towards her.

Eyes wide open.

Mikoto springs back, once and once and once again, onto car and sign and the battered awning of the shopfront. The Saber is fast, but so is she, and it explodes in the air as the Fallen girl drops back down to the ground.

La Sirene speaks and invokes Les Mysteres, and one of these Mikoto confronts before the other. The light which is not quite is not something easily predicted, however: she moves and Les Mysteres is just a little to the side, a little further forward, a little faster than she thought. It bowls her over before she can even properly leave the ground; she scatters to the roadside, one hand grasping her blade and the other throwing itself out to catch her.

She is a little slow to rise. An open moment to consider their treatises.

Tragedy exists to make people feel better, Yumi says. Fate likes sad shows, she says. Nori calls it vaccine; Fuu calls it compassion.

"I don't get it!" Mikoto snaps. "Everyone's sad and there's nothing you can do! All I can do is watch - just watch!" She does not quite notice the slip in pronouns; she's busy yelling. "I keep an eye on everyone getting more sad, but I..."

With a wordless, frustrated yell, she leaps forward, blade sweeping out around her. "At least when I'm fighting I'm doing something!" Something, indeed: even if the Wind Knight and Fate and la Sirene keep out of range of the blade, there's a crack of a shockwave washing out around her, threatening to rock them from their perches. She plants her heel to come to an abrupt stop, and plunges her blade into a dark portal in the earth; darkness yawns from four more which open below Yumi, red-wreathed shadows lancing out to pin her spirit rather than her flesh.

Maybe she's proving la Sirene's thesis entirely correct, as she takes refuge in action against passitivity. She can control her blade, after all.

... well.

That might be a bad example.

But there's something about that last point which cuts deep, and Mikoto's eyes are pained as she looks to the Wind Knight again. "I think - it's supposed to make me feel better. But... but I... I just..."

She shakes her head, emphatically. "I can't help anyone! I need to make you suffer!"


"... that's why I broke the televisions!" That last, spiteful little addition fired off towards la Sirene.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Decimation on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Decimation on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Decimation on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Darkness on Yumi Ohzora.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji counters 10 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Decimation, taking 30 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji's counterattack, Spinning Slash, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora braces 11 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Darkness, taking 17 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Yumi Ohzora's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Trap applied to Yumi Ohzora!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa dodges 23 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Decimation, taking 35 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Fate Testarossa's Fade and Flash abilities activate!

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

Fate likes sad stories. She would, wouldn't she? La Sirene understands them. She should--it does say something to Yumi, that Fate says that, and then La Sirene gives a much more detailed explanation than her own, and Yumi looks at her gratefully. ...But Fuu's talk of suffering...

"She's not doing that badly," Yumi admits. "Hey, I mean..." She's kind of uncomfortable with the way she says it, but can't entirely articulate it. Instead--

Key moments, the savor of life....

"...Can't blame her for not wanting to say that," she admits.

But Mikoto answers, all right. Yumi knows Mikoto more than well enough to target her magic--maybe she doesn't have the raw power in her of some, but she knows Mikoto's heart and her methods. The battle rushes on--

"That's because you won't let yourself feel it!" Yumi snaps at Mikoto. "It helps because you feel the sadness, and you let it out! But if you never acknowledge your feelings, if you never admit that your life sucks and you hate being stuck in the hospital all the time, then you can never move forward! You can never start making real friends, and--And some girl who always liked food, and never... n-never..."

Yumi cuts off her words, blinking away tears that surprise her as much as anyone. She doesn't have time for this. Especially not when the portals open--

Yumi throws out her hand and runic shields burst into existence, blocking two of those portals but being hit hard enough to launch backward and hit a wall despite her efforts, dazed for a long few moments and inclined to feel bad for reasons not emotional. "Nnn..."

"...Don't you even think you're helpign your brother?" Yumi asks, tangled up in a canopy that she landed on, and trying still to get loose.


She breathes, and then works another set of magic. "Life sleeping beneath the ground, rise and trap my foe! Ivy Binding!"

And at Yumi's command, spectral vines and thorny ropes snake upward to trap her in place, to prevent her moving around so dang much.

"Just stop it already!"

COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has used Ivy Binding on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

Fate seems satisfied by La Sirene's explanation. "That was really good." She notes, with the earnestness of a child listening to a lecturer speak on the subject.

Fate suddenly grips Bardiche more tightly as Mikoto goes on the offense. And the moment that she sweeps her blade out, Fate is already moving in an aerial strafe just sideways, intending to come over and back at Mikoto's flank.

However then the shockwave bowls her over in mid-air- "MMF!" The child exclaims as her fast trajectory is suddenly interrupted, and she goes crashing into another store window. Glass shattering.


Bardiche notes - a half second too late, and Fate finds herself picking herself up out of a display case of anime figurines. "A little late." Fate mumbles in a daze. <Yes Sir. I am sorry.> "It's alright."

Fate shakes the glass off of the shimmering gold fields of her auto-protection spell.

Fate tentatively points Bardiche at Mikoto.

<Lightning Bind.>

Shimmering cubes phase in and out of existence in random patterns - making it difficult to get a lock on when they're actually going to take effect.

"When I was in Dark Fall - I never cried. I wouldn't let myself. No matter what I saw. No matter what I went through." Fate makes a short hop down from the store window, to the ground. Her footsteps slow, as she changes her term with some thought, "I couldn't let myself. Not just because it was admitting that my circumstances were terrible - but because my Mother would see it as a sign of weakness."

Fate doesn't smile.

"And if I was weak. Then she'd hurt me. That didn't matter - because when I was strong - she also hurt me - and I just told myself I had to be stronger. I had to get out there and do something."

And then all of a sudden, the blocks materialize, in an attempt to clamp down on Mikoto's limbs, and hold her in place. As if illustrating what she says next - turning the emotional into the physical.

"You just feel so helpless. No matter what you do... nothing changes. Nothing gets better. It only gets worse" She notes, before looking sidelong at Yumi, as if acknowledging her statement of Mikoto needing to stop, before her eyes fasten onto Mikoto again. "Until you do."

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Lightning Bind on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi dodges 4 Fatigue damage from Yumi Ohzora's Ivy Binding, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Stun and Trap applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Fate Testarossa's Lightning Bind, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Stun applied to Mikoto Minagi!

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The Wind Knight tries to meet Mikoto's slash with a spinning attack of her own - but Miroku's weight outclasses the Magic Knight's own sword, and she's thrown back, landing in an untidy and uncomfortable heap from which she gradually extricates herself.

"You say you can't do anything, Mikoto-san," the Magic Knight points out, "but it wasn't always so. You've fought alongside us against how many monsters? Orphans, Nakewameke, Terribads ... Before your 'Lord Brother' pulled you to his side, we were friends, and allies. That's why we don't want to let go of you, Mikoto-san ... that's why we refuse to give up on you. That's why we don't want you to suffer, or to spread suffering."

She pauses, taking a deep breath, and letting it out slowly. "If the only way left to stop you is to end you ... well. None of us want to think that way, as far as I'm aware. Not to our former sister-in-arms." She raises her sword again, gazing past the blade at Mikoto.

"Liberating Gale!!"

Rather than charging into melee (which, to be fair, has served her fairly awfully so far), the Wind Knight unleashes another spell, trying to smite Mikoto with the force of the wounds she's given the green-clad Magic Knight thus far.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Liberating Gale on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to brace Fuu Hououji's Liberating Gale, taking 29 Fatigue damage!  Bind Break! All of Fuu Hououji's debuffs are cleared!

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Sometimes the hardest thing to do is nothing," La Sirene tells Mikoto, and then a moment later she has to leap backwards, up and along the display for Kuronoana, finally finding a lack of traction and falling down to land on her hands on the ground, sparks flying from where the soles of her boots hit stone and metal.

La Sirene's lips thin for a moment as Mikoto rubs it in just a little. But is not such in her nature? La Sirene takes a deep breath in and pushes to her feet.

"The televisions are unimportant, in the greater scheme of things," la Sirene says (she doesn't have to pay for merch insurance). "What matters is what was on them. What matters is that..."

She stops.

There is a moment. In this moment the Magic Knight speaks. La Sirene glances at her, but then back to Mikoto.

"... Do you remember," she says: "Before? At the airport?"

"You could have cut me," she says further. "I would have died, or at the very least been wounded. Your sword is no joke. You had me dead to rights. I was too busy arguing, with 'that girl' - it was that, wasn't it? I only realized later. You helped me, then."

La Sirene lowers her hands with a rustle-clank of gems and jewels.

"If you are frustrated," she says, "and you need to fight, to move your body and exert your powers... I will be glad to bear it all. But this place... you hurt strangers for nothing. You don't further your goals, you just make the world a little bit worse."

La Sirene spreads her arms, palms forwards.

(Extremely close Sirene Spotters might see her fingers are crooked slightly as if to invoke that charm of defense, if she has to, but that may just be covering your bases. As a wise otter once said, trust in Allah but tether your goats.)

(And speaking of an otter...)

"This was a horrible idea," Batiste says from the roof of Mandarake Complex. "I can't see anything from here." (A late serving maid cafe across the street on the sixth floor - heedless of this disorder - has several patrons take photos of what looks like an otter standing on the edge of a roof top with his paws on his face.)

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday. on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts La Sirene de Diamant's I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday., taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Mikoto Minagi is Quipped!

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Rag'n'Bone Man - Wolves (solo version) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nM35X5hdzEs

Yumi admits it hurts, and Mikoto should be satisfied to hear that, too.

And then Yumi tells Mikoto she is not admitting her feelings, and at some point in her snapping she stops just talking about Mikoto, too. They're words she can't stand to hear, but not even her darkness can stop Lost Ivy from talking. That question --

It hurts, but Mikoto has to get out the way, first. She leaps away from those grasping vines, but the ivy finds her anyway: Mikoto can jump quite high, but she cannot fly, and she is locked into her movement in the air. The greenery wraps about an ankle; it means that when she tries to twist out of the way of Bardiche's binding, she has nowhere to move. Clack-clack-clack go the cubes; one for each of her ankles, one clamped around the grip of her blade, which her hands never left.

Which is the moment Fate starts talking about hopelessness, and the difference in their tenures is written in the tears tracking down her cheeks, in just the way the younger girl said she never could.

"I..." The last mora catches in her throat; she swallows.

"My Lord Brother asks me to help, and all I can do is say yes! Even though it's like this... it's what my Lord Brother wants! So, I'm helping Lord Brother!" She can't help anyone, she said; she's helping him, she says. She doesn't stop to explain her doubt, as shame - of all things - trembles her voice. "... my Lord Brother is kind, and gentle, and forgiving... I can't let him down."

There's something about the admission which sticks in her throat. She tries not to think of the word 'manipulation.'

Fuu names all the things she's done, and Mikoto's eyes blink shut for a moment. "I'm not yours any more," she whispers, pained. "... I'm his." It's all she can do to try and brace for the whipping winds, all done up in vines and bindings, and even that is a forgone effort; it's a gale which tears through her with all the force she has thrown at them, and as Mikoto has screamed so loudly, she hates being presented with the wrongdoing she has done.

La Sirene asks her to remember directly, the way Yumi doesn't quite. When she could have carved through - when she should have carved through --

"No one wanted it," she murmurs, and that is painful too. "I thought I could..."

Her teeth grit; she shakes her head. "It's not fair," she insists, "and I can't make it better. I can't... stop," she says, to the girl who felt her stop, looks instead to the girl who could not stop her. To Yumi, she asks: "What else can I do? I have to make my Lord Brother happy."

Her eyes track over Fuu, and she adds, "I have to make them suffer."

But it's Fate she finds as new tears well in her eyes. "... I'm scared," she admits in a quiet breath, and she doesn't explain why.

She has reason to be frightened. She is built on a frightening foundation.

Mikoto's fingers tighten in the blocky cubes of Lightning Bind, and she sways in the vines, expression tightening again. She's been pinned, and she knows the solution. If she just lets go - if she just gives in - she'll be able to succeed.

it's a slow road to nowhere walking with the dead
it's hard to keep on moving with you hanging 'round my neck
and i can see the shining of his blade...

Magenta light washes over her from the flare of her pendant, and there's a measure of distance to her eyes, a shallowness to her quick breaths - as she pleads with herself to let her finish what she's started. She'll hurt them, she insists; she'll make them suffer. She makes sure to think it, because every thought she has is a thought still in her head, and if she's thinking, it's still her head.

All the time knowing: she has no other choice.

It's a knowledge she clutches to, because the alternative is terrifying.

Mikoto yells as she wrests herself in her bonds, the sick light bleeding into block and vine; they shatter as she spins, whirling an exclusion zone around herself. "Making your world worse," she huffs, drawing in breath like she's been holding hers, "is my goal!"

She leaps for Fate, blade crashing down, and she is not trying to split her down the middle but it is still a shuddering blow: "And it'll get worse!" Perhaps she craters girl, perhaps earth; neverless she springs away, up and up and up and her blade comes overhead down on a girl and her broom, and for a moment Mikoto is level with Yumi and in that moment she can see she's still crying. "It doesn't matter how I feel!"

Down to earth and she charges in to the Wind Knight, with a whirling diagonal slash from below. "I'll think that way!" She insists, even though this, too, is a flat-bladed assault.

La Sirene - la Sirene, who did not try to bind her with the rest, who did not buffet her in her bindings - nevertheless Mikoto charges her, slams her blade against her middle with force which threatens to rattle at her even if it isn't trying to make her into two equal halves. "So bear it!"

And she is angry, but she is desperate, too, in her assault and in her eyes.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dynamo on Yumi Ohzora.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Devastation on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Destruction on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa braces 30 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Exhausted applied to Fate Testarossa!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora perfectly dodges 43 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant decisively counters 45 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Destruction, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  La Sirene de Diamant's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant's counterattack, Wake! The Boundary Glass, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji braces 11 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Devastation, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Psyched!  Fuu Hououji's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Stun applied to Fuu Hououji!

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

"That's NOT TRUE!" Yumi shouts back at Mikoto. "You say can't this, can't that, but the only reason you can't is that he won't LET you choose otherwise!"

Yumi calls out loudly, standing up again as she watches Fate put in her binding, too. Their words seem to sink in. "Your Lord Brother isn't kind, or gentle, or forgiving--he's a tyrant who won't let you make your own choices! No good leader needs to force their underlings to act like that!"

She gets--mad, if anything. Mad, and hurt, and sad, and all of those feelings at once, each of them burning like a fire within her, a green flame that bursts from the tip of her staff, the green gem radiating power in time with the beating of Yumi's heart, the breaking of it as she asks.

"I don't know what you can do! But I hate that he won't let you decide for yourself! And I promise--I PROMISE I'll free you one day! No matter what!"

She watches that magenta light again, and her eyes burn. She hates it. There is no other choice, and she knows that now. It's going to get worse...

It doesn't matter.

"...You won't think that way, I know you won't."

Mikoto's blade comes forward--and Yumi is crying, too, in the moment when they're level--and abrubtly she's to the side, a black furred shape on her broom shoving her to the side and going with her, all safe for now from the awful strike that comes. She says to bear it--

"...I'll bear it. Because... Because unlike him, I..."

Yumi shakes her head, and lifts her staff. She begins to chant the words. "...Growing, growing, growing, from the very soil. Climbing, climbing, climbing, through all walls, up past all barriers--"


Yumi poitns her weapon forward and the vines leap upward from the ground, like her binding but writ large--from the asphalt spectral vines course upward, and it is not just a few vines--it is practically a garden, flowers blooming from every spare patch of grass, coming up to meet the moonlight as Yumi's magic courses forth.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Yumi Ohzora has used Climbing Ivy Curse on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

"I understand. I wanted my Mother to go back to the kind person she used to be. The kind Mother I knew." Fate says gently, however something changes. "I never actually knew that person. She was never that person for me. She never loved me."

Fate knows it's not the same situation for Mikoto. She doubts that Mikoto has memories of another girl within her. She only knows... from Setsuna, from herself. Dark Fall is full of people who will use your love and devotion for the worst ends.

Fate follows Mikoto as she speaks to one after another, trying to keep up with it. Imagining how she might have been in this same position if everyone knew how her Mother was treating her. Defending her like this.


'I'm scared.'

"It's scary... Mikoto." Fate replies, "It was scary for me too. It was scary for Passion. I think... it would be scary for anyone."

It's erratic, but Fate continues to try to follow how these contradictory feelings are creating such dissonance in Mikoto.

And then Mikoto leaps at her. The girl sweeps up her device, and Bardiche catches Miroku right below the head for a moment, twisting it in order to divert the force from the haft to the magical scythe blade.

Holding her like that for even a second is so terribly exhausting

But the haft begins to crumble. And then before her eyes, it snaps in half - cutting it into two pieces. Fate suddenly leaps back, cape billowing in front of her for a moment, as she lands back on the ground, holding the broken Bardiche in both hands. "Ah... are you able to...?" <Restoration.>

That answers that, as the missing length of the polearm suddenly rematerializes as if it had never been broken in the first place.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Fate gives Mikoto a sad look.

"It will get worse."

She agrees. Before holding up her palm. Suddenly three runic rings of Midchildan make appear in front of her hand, each one larger than the last. Energy gathers near her hand - a ball of lightning energy with arcs of violet electricity shining over its end. It begins to move outwards, from one ring - to the next - to the next. Each time growing larger.

"I'm sorry."

<Plasma Smasher.> Bardiche tones. "Fire." Fate commands.

The ball of lightning collapses, and an intense column of energy riotously erupts towards Mikoto - intending to catch her in the midst of it.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Fate Testarossa has used Plasma Smasher on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking.
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.


Raising her voice is one thing; often enough, she has to do so just so her allies can hear her clearly. But to hear the Magic Knight of Wind actually *yelling*, in anger or shock or sorrow? That's far more uncommon - and for all her normal gentle smiles and polite demeanor, one look would reveal her current emotional state as nothing short of livid. And she's trembling - her left hand clenched into a white-knuckled fist, her right squeezing just as tightly around the hilt of her sword, her arms quivering just noticeably as the rising wind whips at her hair and sleeves and skirts.

"Mikoto-san," the Wind Knight speaks - not shouting this time, but the fury still overflowing from her voice. "The brother you treasure so highly treats you, not as a beloved younger sister, but a weapon. Possibly a disposable one. If you still have a mind and a heart of your own ... turn that sword against the chains by which your 'brother' binds you, and cut yourself free."

She pauses in speaking, driving her sword into the pavement in front of her, at least a foot and a half of the blade piercing through the roadway. She uncurls her hands from their fists, but still seems to be grasping the air as she draws her hands back - and her emerald eyes burn with rage as their gaze fixes on Mikoto Minagi.

And the winds rise, in pitch and fury, with the green-clad Magic Knight at the heart of their tightly-gathered storm.


Then the storm is loosed, the gale howling no less loudly than the Wind Knight, tearing and ripping at Mikoto with an utter lack of mercy.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Fuu Hououji has used Emerald Cyclone: Full on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Adequately forewarned perhaps by Mikoto's choice of whom to strike first, la Sirene is able to meet her attack. She sees which way she is coming - her hands do not spread out to form a dome, but instead both point towards Mikoto, even as she breathes to herself, "Les Mysteres--"

And Mikoto can see something happen with that lantern at her waist. The glass framing around it changes posture for a moment. It's like it flipped inside out, like one of those fortune-telling folded papers -- except that it split along points that would appear to be solid to all appearances. There is no seam. For a moment that dark shepherds-crook of obsidian from another world is bare and there is an instant of threatening sense --

As if she MIGHT chop something down -

But there is no counterstroke. How could there be? La Sirene declares, "WAKE!" and brass and green glass erupt out of her hands (or so it seems). Even so Mikoto nearly breaches them - the bubble of guard wants to spread and instead DIMPLES around Mikoto, momentarily enclosing her as la Sirene is pushed back, throwing sparks from the pavement as she staggers, sways for a moment. Her arms uncross and she spins for a moment, breaking the distance between them.

Others strike at Mikoto.

"How you feel doesn't matter?" la Sirene says.

INSERT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53HZ7LoqhSQ&t=117

"That's wrong," la Sirene says.

"I don't feel like arguing about it," she concludes, twisting round and crossing her arms before her face again. Her fingers splay to veil her eyes, though she peers through them. The light around her fades-- no; it rises, that's just the play of things. In the manifold hues of Akihabara, the reflections coming off of her have a coruscant play they often do not.

"People are not things that belong to other people," la Sirene says. "They are not PROPERTY. Even the claiming of marriage and passion is only a metaphor, a way to explain a mystery -- nobody belongs to anyone... it is not a matter of belonging to yourself. It is like the difference between impossible and very difficult...!"

The light shimmers around her. "Very difficult, Mikoto, is to be the strongest warrior in twenty worlds."

"Impossible -"

The light around her suddenly changes some phase or crosses some threshold and it is as if a giant threw ink into the Electric Town street.

"is eating both suns."

The ink begins to move forwards. It vaporizes into indescribable mist, casting eerie spectra celebrating all things as it compresses. Contorts in a widdershins cannon. And finally, with a bone-chilling certainty and a shuddering satisfaction of crushing abyssal force, POURS at Mikoto -- if she is not wary she may be washed away.


A good question.

COMBAT: FINISHER! La Sirene de Diamant has used The Light That Never Warms on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Yumi Ohzora's Finisher, Climbing Ivy Curse, taking 95 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Fate Testarossa's Finisher, Plasma Smasher, taking 132 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Mikoto Minagi is unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to brace Fuu Hououji's Finisher, Emerald Cyclone: Full, taking 88 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Mikoto Minagi is unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 45 Fatigue damage from La Sirene de Diamant's Finisher, The Light That Never Warms, taking 67 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is unable to keep fighting!

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

Mikoto doesn't have a choice, and Yumi drags out why.

It's because of... it's all because of...

Someone who isn't kind or gentle, Fuu screams; a tyrant, Yumi shouts. Both of them are soft-spoken, for their reasons; it is strange, to Mikoto, to hear them yelling now.

There's this little voice, at the back of her mind, which pipes up that maybe Yumi could help her, if she let her get close enough, and maybe --

It's something silenced quickly.

Fate's mother never loved her, and this isn't a story yelled at her, isn't related so directly to her life; all she does is share her experience. It's left to Mikoto to join the dots, draw the conclusion, and new despair sinks into her eyes as she shakes her head against the thought.

Her Lord Brother says he loves her. She is loved.

She is loved because she hurts them, because she is a weapon, after all.

Bowling Yumi aside - shattering Bardiche in her rage - shuddering the Wind Knight and carving into la Sirene's waking obsidian from an alien world. And then she comes to a stop and - they're still standing, after all.

She breathes heavily, eyes darting from one to the other to the other to the last.

First, the vines.

Mikoto leaps and the ivy clutches at her, drags her screaming back to earth, and the flowers sprout from every crack in the cratered ground and somehow those roots just seem to draw the cracks together, fixing the street as if no one had ever rampaged.

The Wind Knight bid her break her bindings, and Mikoto tries to cut her way free of these - but she's not fast enough to get away from the next apologetic blast, as Plasma Smasher falls on her like a gavel. "No!" She yells denial but it is something drowned out by the light; light which falls over the awning, and when it passes that promotional sign is right where it started.

And here there is that anger, as the Emerald Cyclone tears through Mikoto, and she staggers in the vines - and perhaps it is just. Mikoto so often tore through the Chevaliers without mercy, in the old world. Now the Wind Knight exacts violence, and it is all Mikoto can do to bear it. She does not look at first to the way the gale blows through the storefront, knits together the screens and electronics.

La Sirene explains the difference between difficulty and impossibility, and Mikoto tightens around herself as the impossibility of that unlight bleeds in like a waterfall. Her tears smear over her cheeks from the force of it; finally she loses her footing and falls back, but she crashes against the restored wall of the store, back impacting with a now-smooth surface.

She sinks to the ground; she swallows at the lump in her throat.

"... free..?" Mikoto echoes the question, distant and numbed, as she lifts her head. "But... my Lord Brother... needs me. I can't leave him alone. Being alone's... the worst thing."

She pushes herself standing, slowly, slowly, one hand grasping at the side of the storefront for support. "... I guess it's fine if it's sad," she looks back at the televisions, a hint of apology to her halting words. "I just... got mad... I..."

Why was she angry?

How does she feel?

Mikoto looks to Yumi and then she looks away, down to the ground. "... I'll go now." She concedes with clipped words, shaking her head to free it from the rattling remnants of force, and leaping away from the girls.