2020-01-12 - Call Of The Wild! Can We Make It To Summer Vacation?

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Call Of The Wild! Can We Make It To Summer Vacation?

Part 3 of the 2015 Sister Schools camping trip. The ghost stories told around the fire are starting to come true...


Tsuru, Takeo Akamizu, Kyouko Sakura, Steven Universe, Nori Ankou, Rei Hino, Fuu Hououji, Ren Aizawa, Lera Camry, Setsuna Higashi, Endo Naoki, Usagi Tsukino


Nishitama Park District (#512)

OOC - IC Date:

1/12/2020 - 07-29-2015

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Nishitama Park District (#512) +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
  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.                                      
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Are You Afraid Of The Dark? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcTNU5gwptg


  • Bus!
  • Hike!
  • Fog!
  • Lake!
  • Boats!
  • Island!
  • Tents!
  • Campfire!
  • Food!
  • Stars!
  • Ghost Stories!


It feels very late, but it's all but impossible to tell. The morning mists have reconverged around the campsite, muting sound and blocking sight, until the whole world is reduced to the fire at the center, and the children around it. Even the tents, nearby, are invisible, let alone the skies above and lake below.

The group has told story after story to pass the time -- tales of animated statues, traditionalist demonesses, gambling spirits, deathly miners and their eyeless wives.

There's little left of the campfire now but coals. They smoulder, hot but mostly smokeless, casting a dim orange light beneath those who sit around it. The snacks are gone, down to the last marshmallow. It feels like the end of the night, but...

...one last person has started her story.

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

"Once upon a time, you were born or you died, and in either event you were buried. You drank the rain a day after it fell, when it came to you muddy and foul. You ate things that chittered and things that crawled; first those with ichor and then those with blood, the small ones and then the big ones. By the time you saw the sky your eyes could no longer bear its light, and so you made it your enemy, waiting for the moonless skies and the nights where the mist seeped from the ground."

Tsuru speaks matter-of-factly, with no real embellishment or drama. She looks at the fire rather than her companions, as though recalling a memory.

"And on just such a night as that, a group of young people came to your forest. Real people, who spoke and laughed, who ate and told tales. People who had never been buried. They clung to the fire like a mother's skirts instead of fleeing it as you did. And oh how you envied them. How beautiful. How happy a thing, to have never been buried."

At last Tsuru looks up, but her voice does not change intonation. She explains, patiently.

"So you waited. You watched your favorite and waited for her, for him, to be alone. For sooner or later they all had to take water, or make it. They had to sleep, or wished to wander. And at a time just like that you were there, waiting outside the fire's edge. They came face to face with you in the dark, they saw your earthworm skin and oily eyes and so they drew a great breath with which to shriek."

Tilting her head, Tsuru so lightly imitates a voice not hers. The simulation amounts to little more than a more familiar tone, and her first real spoken emphasis. "And you thought, I will look like that. If only for a while, before they wilt, I too will speak and laugh and eat and tell tales. All I must do is..."

Tsuru makes a sharp slashing motion with her forefinger, diagonal.

"And sew myself inside."

Pausing, Tsuru lowers her head again humbly.

"I must apologize, for I have begun a tale I should not finish. For I should not spoil the ending for those of you who will learn it soon..." Her eyes travel the campers, recognizing them one by one with a moment of eye contact.

"...nor belabor it for those who know it already. And so." Tsuru bows a few inches lower for a moment.

"The end."

Settling back into seiza, Tsuru folds her hands again.

COIN FLIP: Nori Ankou flips a coin. It lands on heads!
<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Satisfied with his tale, Takeo leans back, smiling at the reactions form the others. Then Tsuru speaks and he listens smiling slightly. He leans back on elbows, feet stretched out to warm by the slowly dwindling fire, still warming his feet even after the fire has turned to embers in the mist shrouded night. When she finishes Takeo squints and looks into Tsuru's eyes.

He remains that way for a long moment. A look of skepticism covering his features. Finally he speaks with narrowed eyes, still locked on the only slightly younger girl. Finally he leans forward, still keeping eye contact. "Are you Morgana? And if not, how do you feel about Rabbits?"

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.

Kyouko Sakura sits among the circle with the others, no more or less prominent then any of the others, in the great equalizing manner of the ring around the fire. Some people who are accustomed to cities remark about the grandly expansive openness of undeveloped nature, how widely spacious it all is. But at night, with only the glow of the stars overhead and the warmth of a fire marking the center of the world itself, once grand spaces shrink into a very small circle, such that even wandering off to use the restroom feels like a voyage into the void. The fogs ensconcing all those present heighten this feeling all the more. There is a primordial fearfulness quietly under the surface of the natural night, even among friends.

Her stomach is sated, no small task. But like night bleeds into morning, this too shall pass. As ever, Kyouko has her own private stash of the sweet and the savory, but might not manage much more stock than what she and Eri might desire. Shuffling a little in her little camping chair, a blanket loosely swaddled about her, she watches, and listens, to Tsuru with a placid lack of affectation. Most ghost stories are fun, at least a little, but this was all spooky, no kooky. A sobering thought...another would be Kyouko watching jealously in the dark.

"Scary stuff...good thing I'm so full. I don't think even a fly could fit inside me right now. No room! But I guess that means I'll gotta go do my business sooner or later..."

A look of realization crosses her face, and she snaps her fingers, shaking her head.

"Dang...I guess that's how they getcha..."

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

The ghost stories have been passed around, as trading currency for fond memories in the future. The dinner and snacks have been scarfed, for nourishment and a good sleep. That mist is back, and enshrouds the area, giving a damp scent to the air, and causing the remnants of the fire to glow hazily i nthe night.

Steven has gotten himself a sleeping bag, and has been chilling out on it, listening to others tales. Some were lame, some were cool. Each left a small chill. Nothing to terrible.

Tsuru's tale is different.

By the time it is over, only a tuft of curly dark hair sticks out of a sleeping bag. "I uh, I think I will just sleep in my bubble, yeah I think that is safest..."

He isn't sure he can maintain it that long. He has never tried. Or better yet! He can just sleep in the bubble out on the lake! THe bubble floats, right? "Can earthworms swim?" he asks, his voice an octave or two higher.

No, the sleeping bag isn't shaking. Its dancing, yeah! Just dancing.

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

Nori Ankou listens to the story that Tsuru tells.

It resonates with her. She is still slightly dishevelled from when Takeo startled her. She is feeling the chill of the foggy night, but Tsuru's words have already intoxicated her in the past; this is, in itself, comforting. She can imagine a beast within one, with earthworm-skin and oiled eyes, quite readily.

Though not everything is the same.

She touches her throat, as if to echo Tsuru's little, precise mechanism of a gesture.

Steven asks a question.

Nori's eyes turn towards him. They look paler in the darkness.

"Yes," she murmurs. "They can."

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

Rei settles back down, after her startled spirited defence, that ofuda tossed out into the embrace of dark mist. She's not jumpy, she tells herself. It's just because Usagi gets so scared over these things. Besides, Nori was frightened. She was just reacting to Nori's fright!

Yes, surely Rei Hino is a bastion of stability. She is a rock in the river. She is unshakable.

And the graceful and stunning Tsuru has a story, too!

Rei turns to her, as she tells a story, and it is not at first clear to her that the you she addresses isn't Rei. An easy mistake. An unsettling mistake, as slowly and without high drama the truth unveils itself.

Snip snip would feel more apropos than a slash, but there it is, laid bare in implications.

"Ehh..." Rei begins, a nervous sort of warble, a nervous sort of grin. "Is this really your first campfire story, Tsuru-san..?"

Did she ever answer whether she'd gone camping before..?

Maybe Tsuru is the real pro here.

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

They should have been asleep by now. At least in theory. But given how effectively frightening some of the exchanged stories have been, Fuu couldn't really see herself dozing off for a peaceful night in dreamland; *something* would have haunted her. A statue that wasn't quite an inanimate object, or an old mountain hag seizing upon a breach of protocol, or something, from one or another of the stories that have been exchanged. Or several of them.

Add the fog that cloaks the island around them and the fire, veiling even the sky above, and Fuu's been reluctant to remove herself from the circle in favor of attempted sleep. She listens raptly to Tsuru's tale, and blanches at the implications as they sink into her rational - sometimes *too* rational - mind.

The hints of light which herald the dawn may, when they begin to illuminate the fog, come as something of a relief to realize that the night is over. Even a night which passes entirely without sleep should eventually end.

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Seated by the fire, Ren has listened to all the ghost stories that have been told thus far. Popping a piece of candy into her mouth, she chews it as she looks around, smiling at Setsuna, Lera and Endo when she makes eye contact with them.

And then Tsuru tells her story.

Ren's eyes widen, mouth falling open as the girl drops a suitably spooky tale on them. When she's done, Ren blinks, mouth closing as she looks around again.

"That's... really scary!" She says, even shivering a bit as she wraps her arms around herself, laughing nervously. She's normally not one to get too put off by campfire tales... but this one was pretty darn effective at giving her the heebie jeebies!

"It's a good thing that's just a story..."

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.


Lera had been present for the ghost stories. She isn't very good at ghost stories; her head isn't much of one for horror, prone to either overthink it or miss some of the details. The result is that, as she listens to it... well, it takes her a moment to really understand it. That working through it is visible on her face: eyes narrowing, brow furrowing, and then her eyes widening.

In the end, she looks between Setsuna, her girlfriend, and Ren, her best friend. She towers over them both, but Ren a little less.

So she hides behind her.


<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Late... it does feel late. Setsuna is no stranger to the occasional late night, considering her old occupation and all the things she has during the school year to do. She is a little chilly to the dim light, or maybe just to the next story.

Discomfort filters through her expression as it goes on. She watches Tsuru and her lips press together in something like a frown, as the device of second person is one that makes it all the more vivid at the moment. Tsuru speaks of a forest that belongs to this someone, to the 'you', and Setsuna is not entirely comfortable with the owner of a forest, when it is put that way.

Except... Except one thing breaks the spell of it and that's--

"Lera!!" Setsuna complains as her girlfriend hides behind Ren, siiighing with a look to the older girl of 'what can you do'.

"You..." She glances to Tsuru then, "You don't have to apologize." It's awkward, because it sounds entirely sincere, because the purple-haired girl is occasionally excessively literal. Also because she's slouching in nerves and fidgeting.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo has been sitting at the fires edge, listening attentively to each story in turn. He's been equally as attentive about the long stick of marshmallows that's now charred and nearly empty, nibbling occasionally.

By the time Tsuru's story finishes and Endo remembers his last marshmallow, pinned at the end of the twig now grasped a hair too tight, it's too late to save the soot black square that now dangles at its end. "Aaahh..." He breathes, eyes slanting around at the dark corners beyond the campfire. "That's too scary." He decides, matter-of-factly. "Tsuru-san must have spent a lot of time practicing that one..." Something that might want to be a laugh comes from the boy, a titter that trail off nervously.

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> The Blue Spirit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqYUvxLpvlA

It happened earlier, during Takeo's story, so quiet and brief as to be easily forgotten.

But when the music starts up again, high pipe and low, low drum (or... maybe that's just blood, pounding in frightened ears), it does so with such abruptness, and such volume as to lay to rest any question of its reality.

There's something out there. Someone playing. Very nearby, yet not close enough to see, not with that mist veiling even hands that stray too far away from noses.

It's coming closer.


Close enough, perhaps, to be hit by a marshmallow, were there any left to throw.

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

Tsuru's eyes blink inquisitively at Takeo. Her clarifying question is swallowed up by crosstalk, however, and as established, Tsuru's voice competes poorly with most others. She dips her head a second time in appreciation of the response, particularly from those who chose to express it by hiding. Briefly she makes eye contact with Nori, acknowledging her brief formation of a fear-conspiracy against one Steven Universe.

"I've never camped with anyone else before," Tsuru answers Rei, considering inwardly. "But perhaps I told stories, all the same."

Lifting her head, Tsuru listens to the music in the dark.

"Are we the only ones camping nearby?" she asks. Is that a hypothetical question from someone trying to scare everyone more? Or is Tsuru nervous? She emotes so little, and her eyes are often large--not just when things lurk in the mist.

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

There's no two ways about it this time; Fuu lets out a fearful squeal as she hears that eerie music, pipe and drum threading through the mists. *Especially* on the heels of Tsuru's story.

In her favor, probably, she doesn't try to hide behind anybody else; she *does* fumble about briefly in search of something to defend herself with. There isn't much, though, unless she wants to take up a piece of wood from what's left of the fire - and she discards that thought quickly; too many risks.

"The island's not big enough for two camping groups," she replies to Tsuru - rational thought is helping her brain find a 'foothold' other than fear - "and we didn't see any other paths to alternative sites on *this* island ... right?"

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.

Kyouko's ears all but twitch like a dog's at the sudden sounds so very nearby, and picking up the volume of proximity. A very strange thing..there seems to be more than one instrument, and it's strange to play along on something while moving. Live music is typically for an audience, a stationary sort of pleasure, something for people to gather around. The musicians rarely go to their audience unless they're marching in parade. Tsuru asks if there are other campers nearby...but if these sounds were for their benefit, why do they seem to be getting louder?

Kyouko's starting to feel just a little on guard. But just a little...scary stories are supposed to be scary, after all, and part of the fun is letting the fear in, but not too much. She doesn't want Tsuru to see that she's gotten her goat, so for now she keeps the reins of the metaphorical beast close in hand.

"Weren't the worm people's deal that they wait for people to go off on their own, away from their friends? Maybe we should just enjoy the free concert...too bad we're out of snacks, huh?"

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

Music Starts, and Steven pokes his head out of his sleeping bag. "Its the earthworms! They are coming to steal our souls and lunch money!" And promptly dives back into his bag. A pair of eyes peek out of the zipper, that slowly try making their way toward a tent-- or at least where he thinks a tent was.

He also is moving about a foot every ten seconds or so in a poor attempt to move this way.

"I can't make it! I am doomed! Just leave meeee!" he squeaks. Hes barely gone anywhere. After the overdramatization and the music closes in, Steven grows quiet to listen and wait to see what comes.

"Doomed," he whispers.

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

"I would say, someone could have come up in the night, but this is a lake," Nori murmurs. "We did not circle round, but it would be very hard to bring another boat upon this lake, that we would not have seen in our crossing..."

She sucks in a deep breath through her nose, the music coming around them. She shifts herself, to turn her back nearer to the fire, towards the others. "... Hello?" Nori calls, though she can't bring herself to really raise her voice, so the address outwards is weak, almost meek. Sweat is glistening on her skin, despite having gotten down to a sarashi and trousers.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo discards the twig with his burnt marshmallow, head craning over toward Ren and Lera. He shrugs at Setsuna helplessly.

He might have something to say, but then he catches the music. His head cranes further, back and forth, searching for the source of the sound. "Is someone there?" He scoots over toward Ren and nearby friends, squinting into the dark. It does not do much good.

"Maybe they'rea lost bad." Kyoko's reminder of the story they just heard does not encourage Endo to move very much.

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

Music might soothe the savage beast, but then, there's Rei Hino. Again she hears that noise, and there is a part of her which wants to spring up and demand who's playing tricks this late at night.

That would be the standard response of a teenager spending a night in the woods with other teenagers, as far as she's concerned. It's normal. It makes sense. Of course it's someone with a music file, playing from some pocket speakers, right?

But sometimes - not always, but sometimes - there are old things, or forgotten things, or troubled things.

She puts that out of her mind when she hears Steven bemoan his fate, though, with just the tiniest twinge of regret for her story, even if she didn't mention the part where the mountain hags liked to eat children. So she picks herself up, and sits herself down next to the wriggling bag, patting it at about where his head ought to be.

This has the added benefit of letting her keep track of him, because she's a little worried he's going to wriggle off into the mists forever.

"Hey," she shifts her voice down a notch, in an attempt to be comforting, "come on, now. You planning on blending in with the worms, there? Don't worry, if anything comes out to bother us, Rei-chan will send them packing!"

Somehow, she manages to refer to herself in third person with complete confidence.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"It was scary!" Lera whines back at Setsuna. She stays ducked down behind Ren, and peeks around her from behind.

When she hears the music start, though, she blinks. Lera sits up straight, then looks around. "Music? Did--did anyone bring a musical instrument or anything, that any of you saw?" she asks. "Um, maybe--" Her amber eyes blink slowly, as she listens. "--hey, I think it's getting closer!"

She glances at Endo. "Should we go look?"

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Take squints at Tsuru. Then he points at his eyes, and turns them back to the Infinity Student. Then he cocks his head, listening to the music. He stands up and stretches, popping his neck and then stretching his arms in that way that only young men who are athletes can do. He finishes and then shrugs to those there, "It's probably somebody's Cell Phone Ring Tone, or Alarm, or a sibling put something in somebody's pack to play a prank."

He does however look in the direction of the music and frowns. He shrugs a second time after a moment's listening and then pat's Steven's head. "Nobody would leave you behind Steven. You're small. Endo or I would carry you." He beams at the younger boy. "Remember? We don't leave a man behind!" Then he looks toward the music again. "The night certainly DID sneak up on us huh?"

To Lera he says, "Too dark. We should stay together whatever we do."

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Setsuna's shoulders droop and she siiighs, in that way where she doesn't actually have a retort. But she's not going to stay bugged, though she does stand up... and as she does, she notices the music too; she can't deny it. So her shoulders straighten and she looks around. "That's not funny," she says, thinking first along those 'normal' lines, but she doesn't sound entirely convinced of it. Instead, she looks over at Rei, who sounds very serious--and Lera talking to Endo. "...I believe we're the only ones here," Setsuna addresses Tsuru as well, after that, still uncomfortable. "I don't..." Her arms cross, her stance closing off.

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Lera's hiding behind her helps ease some of the nerves that have been disturbed by Tsuru. Ren grins at Lera and reaches over to pat her shoulder lightly. "Heh heh. Yeah, it's just a story Lera-ch-"

And then the music starts. Ren stops mid-sentence, eyes widening. "W-wait. What's that? A joke, right? It has to be a joke...!"


<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

No one responds to entreaties. Calls into the night go unanswered.

The music just plays, and plays, and plays, with such cold beauty -- and, more to the point, continuity -- that it is difficult to tell how the piper could possibly ever be taking a breath.

Just as the inability to see what is surely adjacent becomes agonizing...

...the music begins to depart, a different direction from which it came.

Which direction is that, relative to the tents, or the toilet, or the privy? Impossible to tell. The fog might as well have turned the island into a roulette wheel. The piper could be going anywhere.

The mists are very slightly thinner in its wake, less the parting of the Red Sea and more the lifting of a layer of veils, that still, like in the story of the princess who never laughed, leaves a final veil underneath. What was impenetrable is, at least in a narrow band away from the campfire, now a shifting, translucent path. Individual streamers of mist undulate. Sparkles and shadows. Perhaps the missing stars, overhead, have been caught in these nets.

The music ceases exactly long enough for a pair of silver gleams to twinkle further down the path. They last for the span of a heartbeat. Then they wink out -- one, two -- and the song resumes...

Unless there's a terribly cruel prankster among the other two groups of Sister Schools students camping at the lake tonight, it is much more likely that they are asleep in their tents, oblivious to any danger.

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

Tsuru's long lashes flicker in two confused blinks at Takeo.

When the music begins, Tsuru sits quite still at first, staring out into the mist. Then, reaching down, she picks up her paint brush, and shifts her knees choreographically to turn to the tea box next to her. Opening it, she neatly settles the bamboo brush back into its slot. Next, the tiny water bowl, which she lifts with her fingers, then tilts with a little tug, almost as though she's jerking it out from under the water. It minimizes dripping. Rotating her sleeve along the rim, she dries it the rest of the way, then settles it, too, in its slot.

When she closes the box, there is a sense that the time of leisure is truly over, for her.

Rising, Tsuru faces away from the fire, but does not make to leave its protection. Instead, she lingers behind Nori, half-shielding herself. She does not grapple on, as Lera had to Ren, but the message is much the same.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

"Eeeh..." Is Endo's response to Lera's question, his eyes straining to follow the thin strands of fog and the glimmer within. He doesn't sound very eager to go looking. A glance is spared to the rest of the campers before he turns to give a response: "Well, I guess if we all go, like Takeo-san said. That's safer, right?

He stands, though not after rooting around to find a some means of self-defense: A stick. It's pretty thin and not very fearsome. Still, maybe it helps.

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

As Steven wriggles toward sanctuary, he feels a hand press upon him. "Rei! But the dangerous earthworms that know how to play music...!" She does come up with a cool idea fo blending in as a worm, he could use the sleeping bag to do it! "Oh,,. if you are sure! I believe in your worm-stomping abilities!" he ekes out.

He still sounds unsure. "But I am heavy! I think? I haven't weighed myself in a while," he comments toward Takeo.

And as the music reaches what seems like the point the enemy will reveal their wormy selves, the music begins to fade, and the fog becomes at least a layer less thick. "Oh... I think they missed us! Maybe they can't hear." Hum.

What was that glint? "Hey, did you all see that?" the boy asks, emerging from the bag. "Worms don't carry shiny stuff. What do you think it was? We should go check it out! Maybe they are floating instruments or something crazy like that."

The fear from earlier seems to have vanished, or at least been overtaken by curiosiy.

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

Nori's eyes track towards Endo momentarily at about the point where Rei says that Rei-chan will send them packing. To Endo she nods slightly, once.

She can feel Tsuru behind her. Nori reaches over for something - she remembered where it was... And unlike many a trip down the lane of memory, with all of its turn offs and mud hazards and sloughs of despond, Nori is correct, and finds the something. She rises upwards in a low crouch, holding the metal skewer in her hand, loosely, as if it were a knitting needle or -- a short fencer's foil.

"Perhaps Takeo called it," Nori murmurs to Steven. "Or it could just be a coincidence. But take heart. We're all together, right? United like this, we can't be taken apart in detail. I think detail is the word..."

She rises a little further, fully upright. Her eyes turn to Setsuna, to Lera, and Kyouko. To each she gives a little nod, twirling the skewer in her fingers one full rotation-- and the cool aura of this is somewhat damaged when Nori finds marshmallow goo on her fingertips.

She silently passes the skewer to her other hand and raises the goo'd finger to her mouth to take advantage of the residual sucre. She steps forwards, then - but gingerly.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"...I'm not so sure if it's a joke, Ren-chan," Lera says with a frown. The silver gleams make her eyes narrow, with a bit of concern; it looks like a path is opening. But what's at the end of the path? She swallows, nervous. Her eyes are on Endo, as he grabs a stick.

"We better be careful, Setsuna," she says. "This is even spookier than I thought!" She swallows, and stands -- just a little behind Endo. She looks at Steven, though, and stares.

Well, he is a brave kid...

"...I-I'm not sure," she admits. "Let's just all stick together!"

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

As Endo reaches for a stick, thin as it is, Takeo bends down and grabs one of his own. Because. Good Idea Endo! Takeo looks toward that trail and tilts his head at the two gleaming 'silver' points of light. In his other hand is the Skewer that still holds the Hot Dog he was roasting. "Right." He says with a nod. "Creepy trail in the night out of the mist, nothing bad could happen as long as we stick together."

He takes a deep breath, and then, being who he is he grins to Steven. "Really Steven. All will be okay. Have I ever been wrong before?" Then he takes the first steps down that trail, confident people will follow him.

He Hopes.


<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Departing in a direction--but what direction? Setsuna steps to the side, and then the other side, turning her head as if she can try to get a better sound direction by shifting... But no luck. She turns her head then to where the mist thins, and veils lift.

She frowns at the silver gleams... "Yes," she agrees with Lera when she says to be careful. "We'll be okay if we're together."

She's not sure if they should stay, or go, but she does step over to Lera... and then between her and the shining lights, as if to shield the taller girl with Endo. No picking up anything for her. Instead--

"But I see it, too..."

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.

Kyouko first cracks a grin as the sound starts to trail off, waving her hands through the air with open-palmed magnanimity. "They must have heard me say that we don't have any food...gone off for greener pastures. Can't play for your supper if there's nothing to sink your teeth into. So, what are we gonna...ah."

She'd meant in the way of, did anybody else have any stories? Should they rekindle the fire and keep the party going a little while longer? Kyouko did not mean it in the way of, what is to be done about the beckoning path that is blooming right before them. As others stand and step, a look of some incredulity passes across her features.

"Wait, we're not planning on leaving the fire, are we? This is pure Pied Piper!"

But within moments, it's apparent that she is in the minority of opinion. And, well, she is awfully curious herself, and there is sense in sticking together, even if it means a trip into the mists of mystery and away from the comfortable coziness of a still warm, if waning fire.

Stretching her legs out and sighing with some good natured theatricality, she shrugs the blanket-shawl off back onto her seat, cracking her neck to the right and to the left. She considers transforming, just in case, but her goat won't be gotten that easily. "I can't think of any stories where worms have treasure...but maybe we'll find some buried gold?"

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Ren stands still, biting her bottom lip in anticipation. Surely nothing could get all of them if they stayed together like this?

"If anything rushes us, we have to be prepared!" She says in response to her friends, putting herself in a defensive position.

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

"That's right," Rei asserts, to Steven, "no worms will get you on my watch." Still, maybe it's a good thing he's in his sleeping bag when she says it. Not every ghost is a demon, but there is something which does not sit right here, at the back of Rei's mind. She wants to reassure Setsuna, when the other girl looks at her, but that little slip of the tongue earlier really did betray the concerns which are just as visible on her face.

Anything, not anyone.

Most people would have taken a breath by now, after all.

The world breathes instead, as the piper turns aside, and though Rei looks through the lifted veil of mist as it parts from them she can still see little at all. Nothing but --

-- twinkle, twinkle.

In the dark of the night, it could have been a fox, or an owl, or a tricky little raccoon. But the island is far from shore. (Far from help, the corollary intrudes unwelcome into her mind.) She looks back to the cautious Setsuna -- Steven, drawn out of his bag -- Lera, who suggests investigating despite hiding behind Ren.

Everyone seems to have the same idea, when it sparks.

Rei straightens up, too.

"Don't worry, Kyouko-san," she offers over to the very hungry redhead. "The Pied Piper is a European story." She does not mention all the similarities to some of their own tales. She's not that mean.

She strides out with the others and she, at least, does not take a skewer to defend herself. Instead, she's retrieved another of those ofuda paper-slips, the sort which seat God in their calligraphy. ... well, bring a shrine maiden to solve shrine maiden problems.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Usagi's been mostly frozen for some time, on occasion making a low pitched whine, but she's been rather inarticulate with fear.

The prospect of going out there though into the fog with the music - even as part of a group has galvanized her into action.

Cowardly action.

"But... what if we all stayed right here?"

Usagi Tsukino asks the question while leaning to the side, with a little change in the timbre of her tone, with impromptu and ineffective ventriloquism.

Usagi then straightens herself up with crossed arms, aheming, "Yeah that sounds like a really good idea, I agree with her - and Kyouko-san. Maybe we should all just stay here by the fire and not do anything to find out the end of Tsuru-san's story for ourselves."

Usagi pauses in that pose for a few moments.

But some people are already rising.

And Usagi let's out a whimper, at least rising to her feet and in a moment of actually biting hhe ends of her nails, whispers to Nori, "I don't want to find out if detail is the right word N-Nori-chan..."

At Rei's announcement Usagi suddenly has an image of an Earthworm with a beret eating them all alive. ... ... As ridiculous as that seems it's still terrifying to her so she doesn't share. It instead causes a faint whimper from her lips.

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

Heading out into the mists in pursuit of those silver eyes, chasing the music, seems like the very worst decision possible to Fuu. But she can see that she's in a dwindling minority, and she hesitantly picks up a skewer of her own, double-checking which end is (more) pointy.

She'd really be much happier with her bow and a quiver of arrows, whether the mundane sort used in archery club or the more elaborate set she retained from Cephiro. But she didn't bring the former, and the latter aren't an option at the moment (although the key to said option rests in a pocket of her jacket, retrieved as the night grew cooler); a skewer will have to suffice.

Besides, those glints of silver weren't really a good target, especially with the mist veiling whatever they were in ... if anything. They might have just been disembodied lights of some kind. Maybe fireflies, in a coincidentally eye-like formation.

"Somebody should probably try and get the fire burning again," Fuu suggests uneasily, not sure who's still going to be around the tents (and awake) *to* tend the fire. "Don't use all the wood if you can help it."

She accompanies the others who are setting off in search of the lights, the music, the shape of their terrors. "I'm pretty sure we have to be dead for a while before the earthworms can eat us, Usagi-san, and they don't usually have much in the way of teeth or claws ...."

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Moon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKdE-HSfny4

The journey is over almost before it has begun -- those who went last may not be able to avoid knocking into those who went first, from behind.

Because, only a small handful of strides into the mist...

...the group reaches the water's edge.

Impossible. It isn't a large island, but the campsite, campfire at its center, was at least five minutes from the beach.

Look back if you dare; the campfire is gone. Everything to your backs is nothing but more rolling, billowing, chilling fog.

But the water is visible, if very, very dimly, in the darkness of night. Mostly when it moves; the glint of a ripple catches a bit of the grayness of mist or shadow or perhaps it's endless sky, creating a hint of distinction and shape away from inky blackness.

The lake smells a little off. Less like freshness, and more like...

Surely it isn't that...

A tiny wave, pushed by an invisible wind, laps against the rocky shore...

...kissing the toe of the single, empty shoe that awaits them there.

The shoe from Nori's story...

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Takeo Akamizu looks down at the shoe. Then looks to water. Then to the mist behind him. He then lifts the skewer in his right hand, and slowly takes a bite off the hot dog there. He spends a minute devouring this hot dog, either for comfort food, or because Hot Dog is anybody's guess. When he finishes, he looks to the shoe again and nudges it with a toe.

"That. That is a shoe." Take says helpfully. "So. Let me get this straight. Mist. Silver Eyes. Evil as Tofu music. And a shoe." He looks to Tsuru then says to Endo, "Right. So Tsuru's story was about Zombies so remember, aim for the head." He nods once and looks around him.

That isn't nervousness in his shoulders. That's One Hundred Percent Readiness.

He would swear.

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

Rei strides forward with confidence --

-- and steps in a puddle.

At least she thinks it's a puddle, with a baffled "eh..?", pulling her foot back reflexively as she looks down at ground which shouldn't be damp with the weather they've had. Instead she finds something more astounding still, as the shoreline laps back. She shortly has to take a step back, to make sure she doesn't get any damper.

She might bump into someone on the way.

But when she looks back, all she sees is the group -- and no fire, embers or otherwise. She looks back forward, to the sudden shoreline.

Forward and down and oh.

"Usagi," Rei says, "can you see the moon at all up there?"

Her attempt to direct attention upwards might not work very well when she's staring at that shoe, though. For a long moment, at least, before she tears her attention away to cast along the shoreline instead.

"Let's leave another way," she says, her voice a little louder now, as if she's trying to convince everyone or someone else. "We're leaving." Leaving, not intruding...

If there's even a path behind them, still.

Rei doesn't plan on turning her back to the shoreline to look for one. If something is going to leap out at them, she fully intends to issue a rejoinder.

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

"Calling them 'worms' is a bit..." Tsuru voices her mild, indirect style of objection, but leaves it be.

Tsuru does not bump into Nori, because Tsuru steps where she is stepping. Looking up, she regards the uninvited beach for a moment, then turns back, peering, perhaps in vain for the campfire.

At the discovery of the shoe from Nori's, Tsuru grasps both corners of Nori's shoulders. Like a balsawood picture frame, she contains Nori with but fragile boundaries. Whether she seeks to shelter behind her or comfort her is not initially clear.

"Red Future?" she inquires gently.

<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Whatever Ren is expecting, it certainly isn't a shoe. The high schooler blinks, though it takes her a few seconds to come to the realization of how this eerily relates to Nori's story from earlier.

"...No way!" She exclaims, feeling a chill go down her spine. She steps a bit closer to Endo, reaching up to grip his shoulder. Takeo's mention of zombies doesn't make things any less spooky, and Ren begins to look around just in case something undead and hungry comes lurching out of the darkness towards them.

"Too weird!"

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.

Kyouko comes very close to bumping into one of her nocturnal companions, her gaze casting left and right like a searchlight to try to make out any detail through the veiled curtain of mist, but to no avail. The only thing preventing her collision is her finely tuned awareness of her immediate surroundings, which kick in very abruptly, and nearly too late. A sort of wry half smile had been on her face, as she has still been quietly debating whether this is still an amusing gambit of a campfire prank or something actually serious and concerning.

When she loses sight of all that is familiar, the smile starts to fade. She doesn't recognize the shoe per se, but knows of one just like this..one that had been recently described to chilling effect.

Rei suggests leaving another way, to which Kyouko thoughtfully nods. It's a good suggestion, but the normal rules might not be in effect right now. "I'm all for leaving, but I'm not sure if we can without losing each other. It's like we've been whisked away to another place. All I can see is what's in front of us."

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo creeps along forward on that short walk, trying to keep an eye out through the fog. When they come to a stop at the edge of the water he wobbles, making a small noise of surprise when he realizes he's nearly waded in.

"Shoe?" Endo asks, his eyes focusing on the sole floating in the water. He begins to lean down, only to jump abruptly when Ren's hand touches his shoulder. "Ah!" Once he realizes this is Ren and not a zombie, he reaches to take her hand. "There's no statue, right? So it's fine." Hopefully.

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

"Y-Yeah!" Steven says, attempting to sound reassuring toward Nori. "We can take whatever is out there! Even if it is bodysnatching worms. Which I hope it isn't BUT STILL." He holds a fist out in confidence.

The fist is trembling a little. A look toward Takeo. "I don't think so. Have you?" he asks. He doesn't recall a time he has been wrong before, though getting a group opinion could help! Having Rei nearby helps steady himself as well for what may lay ahead.

Delving into the mists reveals results... unusually quickly. "Was there water this close to camp? he asks. He swore he remembered Takeo and Nori taking like five or ten minutes to get water. They walked like twenty paces just now!

Looking down at the water, he catches a good whiff of the air. "Why does it smell like a penny out here?" he asks. And there is a shoe out there. A single shoe. "Please tell me that belongs to one of you guys," Steven whimpers.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Lera moves along, looking over the tops of a couple heads. Her eyes spot the offending shoe when Takeo points it out, and her eyes go wide. She looks sideways at Ren, then nods. "Way too weird, y'know?"

Her voice is hushed. "U-Um, you don't... suppose... it'll make all of the others come true, right? It wouldn't work that way! Th-that'd be silly!"

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

At first Rei steps into a puddle.

"Ahaha-ahaha- Rei-chan just stepped into a puddle! No monsters out here. Just wet socks."

She starts gesturing the opposite way, "We should go back so she can get a change." Usagi even takes a step back that way as if to lead the group back.

Before looking back into the chilling mist.

"Um, so - I must be looking the wrong way - because... I can't see the campfire. But... someone knows the way back to camp - r-right?"

Rei asks her question, and Usagi looks her way, totally believing Rei Hino is calling attention to something important, looking up at the sky. It's absence would be a truly telling thing but... "Hm - nope."

She then looks down where Rei is looking, her luminous blue eyes blinking wide.

"No Moon. Just... Oh a shoe."

If one looks at Usagi right now one can see the gears actually grinding in her head. Synapses firing. Connections made. Give her a second.

Her pupils dilate.

"Oh... the babysitter."

There's a little shake in her arms.

And then suddenly she launches herself at Rei, wailing as she latches onto her, clinging to her shoulderblades and driving her face against her back with closed eyes, "RUH-REI-CHANNNNN! I DON'T WANNA BECOME A SHOE!"



... Usagi really didn't understand the ending of that story did she?

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

"Tofu isn't evil, Takeo-san," Fuu replies - maybe more acerbically than she should, given the circumstances. "It's traditional and healthy and used in a lot of tasty dishes."

She takes a moment to rummage in her pocket, making sure that a certain something is there, just in case. "And they sounded more like parasites than typical zombies ..." She pauses. "Actually. Fried tofu might be useful, if we run into any kitsune out here. I don't suppose anyone happens to have any with them, though?"

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

Tsuru's hands rest on clammy shoulders. The feeling is honestly not wonderful - the beauty of Red Future may not be diminished, but she's been sweating, it's been dusty, her hands have dirt on them, the residue of woodsmoke and the dirt Nori's been squatting on...

Nori breathes out.

She keeps breathing out... and then despite that featherweight touch, she seems to slump forwards. She sinks first to one knee, then forwards, rolling to the side. The metal skewer falls from her fingers as she starts to gasp out something, as if she's choking but quietly. Her eyes stay focused ahead, and she seems to be saying -

"g," she says. "G, gi...n... Gin..." The hard G - silver? Her eyes are pointed fixedly, locked as if by magnets upon that shoe...

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Step, step, soft. By the water the ground is easier to sink into, and through the mist Setsuna is visible brushing herself off as she steps closer to Rei and Usagi amidst the sudden noice. ...It honestly doesn't help very much; she's a little grimy after everything, if a little is a lot. She looks them over, regarding Rei in particular as she says they're leaving.

It is not the shoe that keeps her attention. Instead she nods slowly, a little too smoothly, and smiles. The smile is accompanied with a little tilt of her head, and is quite wide.

Is that marshmallow residue on her teeth?

Maybe not, as her red eyes turn towards Usagi, instead.

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

One wisp at a time, fog is consuming the water's edge as quickly as it was revealed. There is no clearly delineated path back, however, not by music nor gleaming, not by undulating density. There is just the gray, gray ground, all too full of rocks and roots for tripping, and the gray, gray clouds, which have come down from the heaven to keep you all company.

The smell of blood is getting stronger...

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

Tsuru's long lashes flicker. "Nori?" she asks this time. But when Nori falls, she skims one sandal back, drawing her wrist to her chest, mouse-grey sleeve dangling like a shield across her breast.

"Gin--?" she wonders briefly, alert. But as Nori does not recover herself, Tsuru casts about. "Please," she raises her voice, so well as she can. "Someone must help her."

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.

Kyouko's brow furrows as she glances to Nori and Tsuru, the former appearing to be caught in the grips of some sort of distress. "Gin? Like...booze?" Tsuru asks for help, but Kyouko doesn't know how she could. Stepping towards Nori with concern upon her face, she sees the shoe vanish back into the nothing, as if it never were.

But Kyouko knows the scent of blood. With a scarlet flash all but swallowed up in the light refracting gray, her raiment is upon her, and a spear in her hand. Goat be damned..but even with her powers at her fingertips, she doesn't know how to aid Nori.

But more and more she gets the impression that something is coming. Something she intends to be ready for, as best as she can.

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

"I am not sure going back is an option...!" Steven comments, looking on at that shoe. The fog cloys even more, obscuring most from sight. "If we about-face and go we might be-- whoah!" THe boy nearly loses his footing on an upturned root. Could have been much worse if he only had the flip flops! "Maybe we should have had a rope line or something! The island is only so big, we should be able to get back..."

A whiff of the air again. "It smells like even more pennies now... gross."

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

"Fuu," Takeo says rolling his eyes at his friend, "Tofu isn't even food that the food of my food eats. Therefor," He gestures with the skewer, "Totally. unmistakably, completely evil." He nods once, and then hears somebody cry for Gin? Much to young to drink. He looks to the path though, and hears Tsuru's call for help for Nori. He turns on his heels in time to see Kyouko help her, and just stays out of the way.

He looks to the darkened path and frowns. "Grey and depressing it may look, but heck, it's a path, and we're on an Island that is tiny. Let's head down it, and I bet we'll find our fire and tents." He nods once and begins to walk down it. "Besides. I think I'm done with ghost stories tonight." He nods once and begins to walk that grey and gloomy trail. He ruffles Steven's head, "Don't worry buddy. It's just the night playing with our heads and totally not the Spirit of the Land or the Wife with Silver Eyes hunting us to our very deaths. That thing only happens in stories."

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

There's another rustle of movement from Fuu as she finally digs out her glove-jewel; she doesn't transform, but she's decidedly more comfortable with the focusing talisman upon her left hand. If somebody not in the loop sees it to ask, she'll claim it's a good-luck charm. And then Fuu crouches next to Nori - reaching to make sure she still has a steady pulse, for one thing. If she knew enough to try and assist Nori's breathing, she'd set about first aid; she can at least try to ascertain if she needs something akin to the Heimlich maneuver.

"Can somebody help me carry her? Wherever the path takes us -" And she REALLY hopes it'll lead back to the campfire and the tents, as Takeo seems certain. "- we shouldn't leave her down here by the shore." And if there's danger coming from the lake, all the more reason to get Nori as far from the water as they can.

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

Whumph! Rei has an Usagi backpack again, and she very narrowly avoids stumbling forward into the water with the both of them. "Usagi!" She looks back, and the first thing which crosses her mind: "You're not going to turn into a shoe, dummy! Is that really what you got out of Nori-chan's story..?!"

She says that, but she still reaches back with a free hand to pat her on the head. Or vaguely at a hair-bun. It's hard to direct her comforting gestures where she can't see.

Looking back like that, she manages to catch the eye of the approaching Setsuna, smooth in her smile "Secchan," Rei says, hesitantly, turns her front towards her so that she's between her and Usagi, "are you feeling..."

G, g, gin, Nori mumbles out, and Tsuru is there to be her voice. "Ah -- Nori-chan!" This is no good, she can't figure out the source of it all, the ambience permeates --

Nori doesn't look like she can breathe.

"Usagi," Rei tries to shake her from her shoulders, "keep an eye on Setsuna-chan, and be careful!" Hopefully, that's a good enough reason to get her to detach.

Otherwise Rei is going to have to get to Nori with a backpack.

She can't tell where the source of the possession is -- but in her experience, when someone is affected like this, the source is local. It might well be the shoe, but between them she is closer to Nori, and Rei doesn't know as much as Ami about the human body but she knows that people need air to live.

"Rin, Pyou, Tou, Sha, Kai, Jin, Retsu, Zai, Zen," she chants, again, makes the nine cuts across the paper slip, and unlike Fuu's ministrations crashes it against Nori's forehead. It is not the kindest application of ofuda, but no one goes to Rei Hino for her bedside manner.

(Which is a shame. She's actually not the worst at it.)

COIN FLIP: Nori Ankou flips a coin. It lands on heads!
COIN FLIP: Nori Ankou flips a coin. It lands on tails!
<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.


Unfortunately it looks like Usagi is not so easily soothed out of this horror situation. Her mind cannot truly connect to the idea that a ghost is not necessarily any more frightening than the things she's faced. A ghost in a story is simply an invincible horror, and if one is not the monster, then one is simply the victim.

Usagi though actually doesn't as Nori begins to stutter, "W-What's wrong with Nori-chan?" Usagi asks pathetically, with the faintest hint of a whimper. "Someone help her!"

Rei though shakes her by her shoulders and Usagi's head ragdolls back further than it ought to have, as she's offering little resistance in this scenario.

"Watch... Secchan?"

Usagi gets out of it.

"Why? Does the pirate think she's the babysitter!?"

Panic for herself becomes more panic for someone else now between Nori and Setsuna as Usagi lets go of Rei and...

Comes up on Setsuna Higashi. Cringing a little. "Scary." She whispers to her, then double takes as she looks at her face. Her smile.

"Um - Secchan... I realize you're better with spooky things than the rest of us but don't you think..."

Usagi sorta tries to articulate an explanation, then fails and...

"You've got something in your teeth." She whispers again closer to her ear.

No need to embarrass her in front of everyone.

"... Do you need me to find you a toothpick?"

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

Nori's eyes don't turn towards Tsuru as she pleads for help for her. It must be a terrible and fragile moment. Her eyes do saccade blindly as Kyouko gathers herself and approaches - and perhaps nothing much can tell in the fog what has gathered together around Kyouko.

There is a subtle noise in her throat. It's like she's choking, or like she's got something snapping, faintly. It's a tense, taut sound. Nori's jaw works a little as she curls slightly. She trembles. She feels clammy, dirty to Fuu's first-aiding touch. There's more of that noise deep in her stomach, her throat.

Is she having an allergic reaction? This would be an awful time for it. Maybe something stung her feet - something that's only now catching up with her. Maybe the marshmallow. It's not clear, not sure.

Rei, naturally enough, suspects the worst. She invokes the spirits. She attaches the ofuda to Nori's forehead.

Nori's eyes focus abruptly on her. There's a low gurgling noise in the back of her throat and another noise, before stitching RIPS and something horrible comes out of Nori Ankou's throat.

It blooms outwards, an impossible thing with pale colors. Fuu Hououji would no doubt be able to think of comparisons - it resembles something like a classical garden snail, with rugose skin, polychromatic inner veins with nothing like blood at all. But there are three eyestalks, not two, and from the contorting and hollowing of the skin it rested within, it may be no snail at all.

Did not Tsuru warn about this? The enormous pallid muscularity of the Thing surges forwards, the triad of eyestalks pivoting upon Rei as it lurches forwards, trailing its dirty skin like a hermit crab's shell as it aims to bowl her over and bring down an audibly-grinding rasper towards her hair - in the back of it, a horrid chittering sound, from bone against bone, 'giiiin! giiiiin! giiiiin!'

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Setsuna doesn't answer immediately; with all the attention towards Nori, though, surely she's also turned to look to their falling friend who seems to be choking. When Usagi looks back at her though she's looking at Usagi, and has straightened out her neck. The smile is wider, though. Usagi cringes, and she speaks, and then--

"Yyyyy.. es," Setsuna answers Usagi about the toothpick, "Th...at..."

She turns a little more towards her, but her eyes go before her face--she seems to get stuck, trying to turn, her gaze there and then one--two--

There's a tearing sound as whatever held Setsuna back rips, and so does the side of her face. There's dirty, filthy bone visible in an instant, as the threads stretch harder and snap snap snap all the way down the side.

"YoU'Ll ddO nIccely," something halfway in Setsuna's voice says, and as it rips free, a mop of purple hair falls backward and the strange roots coiled around half-visible bones ragged with wear and thick with dirt snake out to move to ensnare Usagi with sudden, violent force, bringing her that much closer to a skull that has something wriggling in the sockets. There are a hundred shrieks in unison as in the fog it's visible suddenly that there is much, much more wriggling than that.

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

Drawing her wrist from her chest to her mouth, Tsuru shields her face partially. As increasing tumult begins to spread, she watches Nori, curious what will happen.

What happens is worse than she'd imagined. Ballet serves her well as she sails back instantly, the way a feather might slid out from beneath a fist. Her sandals clomp down not too far away, however, and she keeps her face shielded, eyes wide. A crinkle of disgust wrinkles her smooth features, and she seems to try to turn away, but ends up returning her gaze almost immediately.

Her shoulders start up as the Thing slathers and leaps at Rei. Repulsed by the sound as well as the display, she makes herself a little smaller and looks to what used to be Setsuna. This sound is even louder, and the filthy, spinal monstrosity crinkles Tsuru's eyes deeper in revulsion. Other than that first hop backward, she stands as if frozen, neither fleeing nor assisting.

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

"Oh," Rei says, as the spirit tears free of a home suddenly too pure for it. It's not the sort of noise one would expect a teenage girl to say, faced with something which is not, quite, a snail.

The way she pales, she still wasn't expecting something quite so horrifying, but to her credit she doesn't shriek for help, as it stares her down for that instant.

But it's that very moment of staring the monster down, trying to comprehend its edges...

The thing which is not a snail lurches forward, and Rei finds herself bowled onto her back as she struggles to push it away from her face. "Get off!" She issues through grit teeth, pushing back at it with both hands. "I can't -- reach my ofuda --"

They sway in their struggle, and that happens to be the moment Rei glances from the corner of her eye -- 'YoU'Ll ddO nIccely'.

"Usagi!" Rei yells, with fresh terror which did not cross her voice to struggle for her own soul, a thing she is still surely doing. She tries once more to throw the thing off, finds it is more difficult still to negotiate with something which wants her flesh so badly. "Ugh -- someone help her!"

She asks for help for Usagi, but if someone gave Rei an instant's breathing-room, she might be able to get an ofuda in hand and dispel the evil of this thing which is not a worm and not a snail and not a friend to humanity.

<Pose Tracker> Kyouko Sakura [None] has posed.

Kyouko's eyes bug out as all manner of sensory alarms start to blare at the same time. The sanguine scent spilling out, the horrible rip shattering across her ears, the profane sight of a creature crawling out from Nori's throat, gazing and grasping out into the naked air..and then pouring out towards Rei, calling for gin.

Tsuru was right. "Worm" wasn't quite the right word for it.

Gin, gin. Kyouko doesn't have a martini glass, nor vermouth. She does not have an olive...but she does have a skewer. And, fortuitously enough, she had summoned it to hand just a few moments before the terrible reveal had taken center stage.

She does not move artfully, nor acrobatically. She simply twists at her hips, her sight following along with the surging thing, rotates her shoulder, and stabs at it with her spear, just like she is wielding a harpoon.

<Pose Tracker> Usagi Tsukino [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Setsuna pauses mid-turn, and gets stuck in the motion, or at least appears to. And Usagi just says.

And then Setsuna rips in half, with vertebrae and thread.

Usagi beholds this all at point blank and of course.


Her scream is drowned out by the hundred shrieks in unison wriggling around her.

Usagi back-steps while it's mid-ensnaring her, and finds herself falling. A motion which gets her twisted up further within the purple hair and bone of the terrible effigy of the thing that was Setsuna Higashi.

Her limbs get twisted up and tangled between the strands and her golden twintails falling out of the mass like spindles of yarn that fell out of a basket soon becomes the only part of her that's not enveloped in violet and bone.


What is she sorry about? Probably all the couples photos she took of Setsuna Higashi and Lera Camry in secret.

... ... ... If she lives through this there's a non zero chance she might delete them.

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Takeo stops dead in his tracks and spins, leaping at the closest pair, which is Usagi and Setsuna. He tries to bodily throw Usagi behind him and to the side, just to get her out of the way. He'll apologize later. Either way he calls out, "Endo!" as he swings both the thin stick and the skewer at Setsuna if he manages to get Usagi out of the way. He plays tug of war wiht the stick hand and beats on Setsuna (or tries) with the skewer if the Setsuzombi is feeling ... possesive. "Two of the girls have turned into flesh eating things and I'm pretty sure they're going to try to eat us and or our souls. Do something. With the finger waggling!!!" He pauses. "It's just like I always knew. Girls were gonna be the death of me."

There is a longer pause in speach as he continues to flail at Setsuna. "I'm just surprised it's not Rei."

He kicks at Setsuna's legs trying to knock her off balance while he also flails at her. There might even be a moment where he shrieks not unlike a small 3 year old girl. Not that girls are bad and would shriek at anything, it's more so you understand the tone he suddenly and inexplicably uses for a short three seconds. "Somebody squish the thing the came out of Nori!" He swats at Setsuna some more. "Steven! PANIC FOR ME!!!"

Somebody else shrieks just like he did earlier. He'll swear it was somebody else. Both times.

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

It doesn't remind Fuu as much of Tsuru's story as she probably would have expected to; the creature which erupts from Nori's throat is going *out* rather than *in*. As for what's exiting - no, it doesn't look like anything she's ever seen, read about, or particularly imagined, and it's WAY too close for a sword even if she had a moment to produce one; even the skewer in her right hand is forgotten in her shock.

Fortunately, Kyouko already had her spear, and is *terrifyingly* accurate with it given the relatively close quarters they're in.

Given the look on Fuu's face - nearly as white as a ghost herself, eyes nearly wider than her glasses - she is quite probably too terrified to even get a proper scream out at this point.

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

Steven doesn't like the look of any of this. THe smell, the changing terrain, the sense of building to something. "Oh yeah, yukk it up Setsuna, you dont have to be creepy!" he says, his voice wavering.

And then, that noise. That horrible ripping noise. "EH WHAT--" is about all Steven says before Usagi gets pulled and freakish colors, scents and movement ensue. "I can panic real good I tell you what!" Steven sputters out, seeing the situation unfold.

"Uh, uhhh! Quick, get it out of her! I can trap it! I think?!" he says, completely unsure of his idea.

But when you have a lava pit incinerator in the basement, and have seen a lot of cheesy movies, it tends to work.

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

It's over too quickly for more than a few brief, terrible memories to be made.

The gooey feeling beneath Rei's palms, and the scent that rises as she tries to grasp, to seize, to strain against the Thing that stole Nori's skin. Blood alone fails to capture this aroma. Fear alone would fail, also.

The indescribable SCHTHULLLKCH made when Kyouko impales it.

The paleness of Fuu's face, looming large in the darkness. The darkness of Tsuru's eyes, looming large in her face.

Takeo and Usagi's equally inarticulate screams, which almost seem to do more to drive back that which had sewn itself into Setsuna's flesh, than any amount of flailing. The velocity of Steven's words, stammering, hammering into the night, blending together into something unintelligible.

It's just luck that saves the day, in the end, luck and adrenaline and red, crimson, scarlet that replaces the gray, first invading it with a little spatter, then all at once.

And then it's over.

There's nothing left of Nori or Setsuna but mist. Even the bruises and scratches on their victims will fade by morning.

But it isn't morning yet.

Caution -- nee paranoia -- is able to get the group back to camp through that impossibly thick fog, one step at a time, backs to backs, sticks and skewers drawn in every direction. There are only minimal frights to be had against the forces of tree root and unstable stone; for the most part the dirt is tightly packed and flat, like the trail between lake and campsite.

They come across the campfire all at once. Isn't that always the way, tonight? And it hasn't burned out, after all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Its flames leap high and crackle merry, as though they've been fed well in the group's absence.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Setsuna Higashi is seated with Nori Ankou, having made herself reasonably comfortable on a log beside the merry, warm fire.. She's slouched, in that particular way she occasionally rebels against proper posture when she doesn't feel like bothering. She isn't dirty. She has in her hands: cards. A whole set of them actually, with familiar black backs and colorful symbols in the middle. She isn't just slouching--no, Setsuna is staring at her cards, thoughtful, preparing. Her red eyes track up towards Nori's face. She places down a card--

"There! Your turn," she says, pleased with herself. "This time, I've got you!" Then she straightens, blinking as she sees the others. "Oh!"

"There you all are," she says, looking around at everyone curiously, and sharing a glance with Nori. "I kept getting turned around," she admits sheepishly. "But now that you're back..."

"I'm relieved," Setsuna says with simple feeling. The red-eyed girl tilts her head and smiles warmly and widely to the group.

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

Nori Ankou is there - all threaded together - and she is significantly cleaner than she looked. Sure, there's still some wood smoke on her face-- she may have had to tend the fire -- but she has a hand of cards of her own and is reclining against a piece of wet wood that is near enough to the fire to be drawing out.

"Do you know what this reminds me of? That time when they were attacking Ohtori, and we were in the sea caves, Batiste and I... mm, I guess that's a bad time. - Ukk--"

Nori looks at her hand, but then over her shoulder. She startles; she rolls over, pushes herself upright with sudden poise, recently drilled. Her lips purse in a little as she folds up her hand of cards. She sits upright, legs crossed, and then rises upwards -- much as she did earlier, the first time she faced away from this camp fire -

And asks everyone, "There you all are! We tried to look round -Are you alright?"

Her eyes widen, bright in the shadow of the merrily burning campfire.

"You look as if you've seen something horrible."