2020-01-20 - The Closest Thing To A Toast

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Title: The Closest Thing To A Toast

Hayato checks in on the progress of his protégé, between frenzied university studies. Mikoto reveals a desperate final plot.


Hayato Nishi, Mikoto Minagi


Infinity Institute - Starbooks Cafe

OOC - IC Date:

2020-01-20 - 2015-07-30

<Pose Tracker> Hayato Nishi [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

This is not the week to visit Starbooks coffee, if one can avoid it at all.

Universities run on their own schedule, and the week ending July is one of final projects and exams, and students running around with their heads all aflurry. Most tables have been claimed by frantic study groups, laptops blazing with light and churning fans as presentations render and forgotten lectures are rerun. It's loud in spite of occasional calls for quiet, and a courteous patron would get in and out as quickly as possible.

"-oh, I almost forgot." He didn't, this was the script he was given. "My roommate wants a to-go order, he wrote it down - can you start making it?" There's a grumble from the line behind Hayato as the blond-haired student picks up his snacks and drinks - ordering at the pick-up station is kind of rude, but surely one drink isn't too much, right?

A moment, to revel in the look on that barista's face as the little note with Shun's order is unfolded, and unfolded, and unfolded...

While the overworked baristas search for kitchen scales to measure the right number of grams of caramel drizzle, Hayato reclaims his seat. It takes getting up early in the morning to lay claim to a booth by the window, but he's been good at that for a while - and finishing a jog as his fellow students are staggering out of bed is weirdly satisfying.

Shunting his bag to the side, he sets down two hot drinks and a plate with an assortment of pastries. A moment to stretch his upper arm across his chest, before claiming his seat. "Sorry about the wait - Shun's doing his thing as usual but wanted me to pick something up for him. Honestly there's kind of enough misery to go around this week, so it's quiet for us - sounds like you've been keeping busy, though."

Distantly, a barista fires up the blowtorch.

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

"Seat's taken," Mikoto brusquely rejects the search of no less than three wandering university students by the time Hayato manages to rejoin her at the window.

(They're just two people, so it's a little rude to take up an entire booth all by themselves. ... which is the point, really.)

All dressed in black, she earns a few strange looks - but without her cape and spaulder, she might be starved for colour but she at least doesn't look dangerous. The case resting beside her in her half of the booth is much more likely to hold golf clubs than a sword, as far as the harried young adults here are concerned.

And then Westar finds his way back, and Mikoto's attention still, to this day, zeroes in on the pastries. "It's fine," she says, of the wait, reaching over to grab a cupcake. Which, logically speaking, will be a good and delicious cupcake.


It doesn't look very delicious, going by the expression on her face.

She hums vague agreement, to his notice. She remembers to swallow, before she actually answers. "... that's right. I attacked the fireworks, and a beach party, and the pool. I..." Mikoto pauses, delicately, a frown crossing her features as she thinks of how to explain those last two failures. Twice in a row now she has faltered and thought wrongly - and felt the consequences. She does not want to falter again.

... it is not pleasant, going away.

"Those girls got in the way," she settles on.

A pause, and she adds, quietly: "... Sailor Moon is scary. I could still feel that, even coming back from the dark place."

<Pose Tracker> Hayato Nishi [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

There's delicious treats, and then there's what Starbooks has at cram time. Even the sinister schemes of an Executive of Labyrinth can't change that.

For his part - having come here before - Hayato goes for a scone. Sure, it's dry, but at least the dried fruit is hard to really screw up. Not that the bakers haven't made an attempt...

"...she really is. Not that I'm about to tell her that, but...it's rough for my Nakwameke. They try their best..." He lets out a sigh, and takes a sip from his coffee.

...it's not terrible.

"Shun and I have just been busy with this whole 'university' thing lately. Everyone's busy being miserable and studying this week - but next week is the summer break." A brief wistful look flits across his face. "The snacks on the beach are still good, right?"

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

It's not really the cupcake's fault.

Everything just tastes...

"They're good," she assures Hayato, distantly. "Really." It is precisely the tone taken by a nurse assuring a difficult patient that it won't hurt at all. It's not intentional.

Munch, munch. "If they're miserable... I guess that's good, too," she says, looking over to him and gesturing with half a cupcake. "So Hayato can spend more time studying. Must be hard... doing that, too." Mikoto has scarcely spent any time at school, over the past few months. She isn't sure how she'd ever manage to balance school and the task she has been given.

"Next week..." She starts and trails off, glancing out the window. "... let's go see how the snacks are." She can't quite manage enthusiastic volume, the way she always used to, but her genuineness is still there - even if it's downtrodden.

Her gaze shifts up, to the flickering lights. Someone ought to replace them. Everyone's busy, right now.

"... maybe by then..."

All her Lord Brother asks, all he asks is she keep fighting a little longer. It must mean they will achieve their future soon. It must mean she can be happy, soon. That's what Mikoto tells herself. She thinks of the comfort she has read between the lines, and not the brutality of her orders.

How can something be so gentle - and not gentle at all?

Don't think of the contradiction.

(It sits, regardless, at the back of her mind, knits at her brow and tugs down her lip.)

"... I'm attacking Tokyo Tower in a few days," Mikoto volunteers, grim, in a way which might not seem attached to her thought at all. "I think... it has to be a place like that. That's what it takes. No one will be able to send text messages, or call anyone, or watch television, or anything. Just a little suffering, for lots of people, but... lots of people. And some of those conversations will be important... and no one will ignore it, either."

She probably doesn't mean the sorts of people who listen to radio when she says that.

<Pose Tracker> Hayato Nishi [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Labyrinth is a downtrodden place to hail from. Emotions are prohibited, and every day blends into an endless grey of monotony. A lack of enthusiasm is nothing new to a denizen who calls that place home.

But Hayato Nishi has been on Earth for over a year, and has seen these people at both their worst and their best. The cupcakes are tasty enough that Minagi's malaise is somewhat uncharacteristic, the lack of enthusiasm unusual.

And the plan is ambitious.

"Your, uh..." The words 'boss' and 'master' don't seem to fit, so Hayato just waves awkwardly. "...hasn't given you any monsters to use for this kind of thing, right? I know you're strong, but the kinds of people who'll show up have a nasty habit of working together in large numbers. Doesn't sound like it'll be fair."

He sips his coffee, frowning a little more severely, thinking through what strategies he can come up with. "...on the upshot, it'll be hard for them to call for help. Still...there's reasons you're doing it this way, right?"

Westar once came up with the idea of calling out Precure, specifically, to come fight him.

Then he realized just how many Precure there are.

Finally he just shakes his head, speaking with a little more levity. "Afterwards, let's make plans for the beach. Have a big delicious-smelling barbecue and don't invite anyone not on our side - that'll show them. Just...exams for me first, yeah. There hasn't been much studying all semester, but now..."

He looks at his books, one of which is still in cellophane. "...eh, I'll figure them out."

Distantly, a cry of despair. "What do you mean, there's a third page?! How is there a third page?!"

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Mikolai Stroinski - Fate Calls https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwGVy6An-F8

Mikoto Minagi, for all her time tormenting Tokyo, has never gone after the waitstaff, for some reason.

Perhaps she still has much to learn, from one Hayato Nishi.

That lesson is not for today, though; that despair is distant from her. "It's... not fair," she agrees, glancing down. "My Lord Brother doesn't want me to hold back. I can't keep them from getting hurt, any more."

Mikoto doesn't think it's fair, but it's not for the same reasons Hayato does.

"I did my best, but... I'd better do whatever it takes," she says, dismal. "It's... better if I do it. If I go away, it'd be..." Mikoto shakes her head, braids flicking at her face, scared to think of it. "I don't have monsters. I just have me. There's so much of me, Hayato. Me, and Miroku, and... that. Like I told them... I'm alone, but I'm not by myself."

The corner of her lip scrunches; she swallows at a piece of cupcake which must be lodged in her throat. (It isn't.) "My Lord Brother wouldn't tell me to go this far if I couldn't do it," she tells herself, and him. "I believe in my Lord Brother, so I'll make it." He wouldn't set her up to fail.

(Then again, Mikoto knows very little is fair, in this world.)

"I'll deal with them," she insists, "then we can have a big barbeque. Even if Hayato fails, we'll still eat a lot. It's okay!" She assures him, forces some enthusiasm back to her voice for this reassurance, if nothing else. "I used to fail exams all the time!" Used to, as if she's not, technically, still in school.

<Pose Tracker> Hayato Nishi [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Even Hayato has to glance at that outcry with a wince - all he did was deliver Shun's order, but this...this will be fine, right?

(He might leave a big tip.)

More important, though, is the order that was delivered to Minagi. 'No more holding back' is...one that sounds familiar, and it takes him a moment to place where it echoes from. Maybe it's the ring of Bardiche unfolding for a winner-takes-all gambit; maybe it's the rustle of a letter from Klein.

He's had the luxury of picking his strategies - as long as the Misery flows, the methods don't matter. Westar isn't the most efficient Executive, but he keeps working, and so far that's all his superiors have cared about. The day that changes...

Until that day, he'd rather think about donuts. But Starbooks was out.

"You're a lot on your own, Minagi. You were even when we were on opposite sides, and you still are." He reaches out, picks the danish from the plate, and after a moment's thought rips it in half. "Just...be careful, okay? You're up against a lot."

He's frowning - like he's trying to place a tune, find a word, spot a pattern. Something about giving an order and not caring about how possible it was...

But there's forced enthusiasm, and he laughs in spite of the mood they can't escape. "See, that's what I can tell Shun. I'm just blending in with the other students who didn't study!" He laughs, and there's a moment when all they have to think about is that taunting barbecue -

- but then Hayato's holding out half a danish as an offering. "I think this is the closest thing to a toast on the plate. To difficult orders?"

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

It's easier to be concerned about her enemies, now Mikoto has to do whatever it takes. Taking her own capabilities for granted is familiar to her. Familiar, and much more comfortable than the alternative.

Maybe neither of them want to look directly at what asking something so grievous really means, sending her against the combined might of magical Tokyo.

Hayato confirms that level of her concerns - and her confidence; the danish tears, and Mikoto nods. "I'll come back," she assures him, doesn't quite get to talking about why they're worried she won't.

Instead, she tries to cheer him up. She really does try, even though she doesn't feel good, hasn't felt good for a long time now. There aren't many people who Mikoto doesn't have to bring suffering to who would join her for pastries; she doesn't want Westar to feel bad.

He laughs, and she huffs air from her nose, expression gentling. She can't quite manage to laugh alongside him, but... "Hayato blends in really good," Mikoto says, and he's the only one who would join her for pastries and here she is openly admiring his skills. "I bet no one recognises Hayato at all."

Mikoto certainly got a surprise, when he first greeted her out of uniform.

She blinks, looking down at the -- "Toast..?" There's that brief echoed moment of wondering, before Mikoto gets it, with an affirmative noise. "Okay," she agrees, taking half the offered pastry, "a danish to difficult orders. Right?" Mikoto prompts, as she tries to remember how that tradition works.

In any case, she chomps down the danish, and maybe it tastes a little better than most of the other things she's eaten.