2020-03-24 - It's Bitter! The Acquired Taste of Dark Fall

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Title: It's Bitter! The Acquired Taste of Dark Fall

Hayato Nishi finds another girl who left, and seeks out answers. Mikoto gets a crepe and a chance to recognise one of the most helpful dark figures of July.


Hayato Nishi, Mikoto Minagi


Tama River

OOC - IC Date:

2020-03-24 - 2015-08-16

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

It's a lovely afternoon, here on Tama River. The heat has driven everyone out to the water-side, but there are still quieter places on the river - it's a big river, after all.

Mikoto has, at least, dried off by this point, and she's back in her clothes instead of her swimsuit. They're nice, light things, light colours: a pink shirt with cats printed across the front, white shorts with a sporty blue stripe.

No fish. Either she didn't catch any, or she gave them away.

She's lazing on the sand by a bend in the river, sword-case lying nearby. There's a cute purse in the shape of a cat's face resting beside it. There is an actual cat nestled in between her neck and her arm. Where did the cat come from? No one can answer that question.

There's plenty of sun shining down, and Mikoto doesn't have to worry about anything.

It's a good day.

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

The sun is shining, there's warmth on the wind, and even with dives into the river people still find they have a need to cool down. There's options to be had, fortunately - stalls to be found or carts to chase, to get a cool drink or sweet treat to beat the heat.

"Strawberry! Oh, you're out? Then, uh..."

There's one such cart that winds its way along the path, offering crepes rolled with cool sweet fillings. Naturally, it attracts customers - though not so many, and some snacks remain unfinished.

"Pineapple and hot caramel? I guess I'll try it..."

Eventually, as it winds its way along the path, it comes to a stop. The umbrella casts just enough shade to stir the cat from slumber, just enough to disturb the peace - and the smells from the cart are things like butter pecan or pomegranate. Not bad, per se, but arguably disappointing. The proprietor tips his cap to the lazing girl, and calls out in a familiar but cool voice.

"Any interest in a crepe, Minagi? Full price, though. You don't get the discount after you quit."

It's a lovely afternoon, and he is a horrible Executive.

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

"Nnnrrarrrrmmm..." Mikoto murmurs as she hears the sound of a cart approaching, s t r e t c h i n g out with ultimate languorousness. Her friend looks up, as the cart stops. Sniff, sniff...

'Mrrrrrow!' That kitten complains, puffing up and jumping up to run away.

Mikoto's eyes scrunch up, and she looks over at the place which used to host a cat. Up, up...

Well, that explains where the sun went, she thinks.

Her eyes fall on the man at the cart, and a little wariness crosses there, too, as she pushes herself up to a sitting position from where she'd sprawled out. It's uncertainty mixed with confusion, as she tries to figure out why he knows her. "I... quit? But, I..."

Mikoto can't think of anything she's quit recently...

... except...

The blood drains from her face, and palm pressed flat to the ground, Mikoto springs standing and takes a good few steps back. "You're with..!"

You, as if she can't quite place who he is.

Her eyes dart to her bags - but there's a crepe cart between her and the both of them. Her sword - and what she could use to call for help. Her hand comes up, crossing her chest; she swallows. "What do you want?" She issues, and she tries very hard to be stern, even though she can feel her heart racing.

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

One cat flees, and another is clawless. Tactically, it's an advantageous position for the crepe-seller, and for him to create a monster here would be ever so easy. It would, but...

Violence might not be what he's here for.

He simply nods. "Yeah. That whole...coalition. Just like you were, Minagi." He folds his arms - muscular, bared from his short-sleeve shirt - and glowers. "As for what I want? Answers. Answers as to why, after everything, you teamed up with everyone you were fighting."

He unfolds his arms, reaches out...and grabs a bottle of batter, squirting it onto the griddle with a sizzle. It's as much to be doing something with his hands as it is to make the food itself - but his gaze falls down to his work all the same. Careful, diligent.

"You're not the first, you know. You, and Testarossa, and Mercury, and even Setsuna - almost everyone I can think of who's actually willing to work together decides enough is enough and leaves. Doesn't matter what we schemed, what advice we traded - you all bail."

Westar - or whatever name he goes by when his hair is blonde and his back is capeless - raises the brim of his hat to stare down the girl before him. "So what's the deal, Minagi? Why?"

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

What advice...

That man stares her down, and with a grimace Mikoto looks away. It's a poor method of disguising the fear in her own eyes, as her other hand comes up to rest by her elbow. All closed off; all defensive.

It sounds so much more personal. It bites at the back of her mind, an itch she can't quite scratch.

"It... wasn't good," she answers, finally, slowly. "It was hurting me... and when I tried to say it was, I was, punished. I had to do worse and worse things, and when I didn't do it right... my body... did it anyway," her voice down to a whisper, as her hand curls to a fist.

She shakes her head, eyes squeezing shut for a moment. "The people I was fighting - they didn't want me to hurt! They brought me back, when I was sent to the dark place and tried to kill them! They respected, how I felt... what I thought! I... I wasn't just a tool to be used! They didn't want me to get so sad, so they could, take that sadness away... so I'd just get sad again!"

She tightens in on herself, shoulders curling in. "My Lord Brother... didn't treat me well, and... I hope he'll change, but... it wasn't getting better. I deserve to be safe, too... so... so I didn't go back..."

Is that okay? She thinks, and does not ask.

Instead, she looks back up to him, all creased in tension. "I... knew you, right..?" Mikoto asks, slow in this as in every word she has said. "Sorry, I... I don't remember some things... when the pendant my Lord Brother was using to control me broke, I guess... it'd been with me too long."

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

Westar's hands still as Minagi tells her story, gives her reasons, makes her excuses. There's no reason it should bother him - it's the kind of thing that half his Dark Fall colleagues would scoff at, would dismiss as weakness. It's nothing he should dwell on.

The smell of scorching crepe batter yanks his attention away from staring at Mikoto Minagi, and he practically flails to get the rounds flipped before they blacken entirely. It's not poised, it's not collected, and if small children were around they'd be laughing.

(Honestly that one cat probably is laughing.)

"I'd like to tell you, Minagi, that Lord Mobius is a better ruler than that Lord Brother of yours." He would - but Setsuna left too, and he saw the same note Soular did.

"So it's like Testarossa, again. You decided that the loyalty you owe was less important than this...self-respect stuff I keep reading about." He slides the lifter underneath the crepe, frowning - then shrugs, setting them onto the paper wrappers he's been using. A moment to start rummaging for toppings, a quiet little sound of triumph as he emerges. "...taking a minor in business admin, there's that whole 'employee retention' thing that seems to kinda matter here on Earth."

It might seem flippant, but his tone hasn't changed. Grave, solemn, strangely earnest. "So I guess that's that. If that Lord Brother guy values you enough, he'll come after you - and if he doesn't, then that's his loss." He takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly - looking down at the crepes he's working on. They just sit there for a moment, steaming faintly in the summer heat, as he considers what to do next.

And then he decides. A chilled pastry cream - cold enough that ice crystals can be seen - and a chocolate sauce not from the hot fudge compartment but from a special set-aside bottle. With growing ease, he folds up the crepes, wrapping them and holding one out to Mikoto.

"Here. Price is free, anyway, so you're not getting any discount. And yeah, you knew me. Westar, Executive of Labyrinth, faithful servant of Lord Mobius."

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

Lord Mobius...

Well, he'd like to say that.

Mikoto's lips twitch a little wider in their grimace, as that man mentions loyalty. She does not laugh at his flailing antics, all wound up in tension and fear.

Especially when he suggests her Lord Brother could seek her out. There's a hiss of air through her teeth, a widening of her eyes, and she shifts back another half-step. "I'm not going back!" She issues, with panicked edge. "I - I need some time," she clarifies, looking away again. "I want to help my Lord Brother, but, if I went back now, it would go back to..." normal, "I don't think we'd change much."

The help Mikoto thinks her Lord Brother needs, and the help he asks from her...

... they're not really the same thing, any more.

Her eyes fall on the crepe-making, as Mikoto tries to find something which isn't him to watch. It's extended out - his explanation --

Mikoto's head cocks to the side, brow knit as she looks up to him. "..." It's a notable elison, as her lips part and for a moment she finds no voice to pass over them. "Westar-senpai..?"

That's notable, too, from a girl finding herself in the leading role so much more often in this world.

She recovers from her stunning in time to realise he's still offering her food - and in the end she does step forward close enough to take it, even if it might be a mistake.

"... I'm sorry," Mikoto says, as she pulls the crepe back closer to her. "I didn't wanna leave Westar behind."

She takes a bite.

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

She's not going back. The words aren't unexpected, but there's a finality to them - even if she walks back the statement, even if she tries to give reason and mitigation. There's the knee-jerk reaction, there, and that...

That's what seems to stand out on Earth. Who these people are is best reflected in how they act when backed into a corner. When push comes to shove...most of them rush to help. It's strange, but Westar is learning.

When Mikoto calls him 'senpai', though...it's not a smirk. It's not a smug grin. It's the hint - however fleeting - of a smile at the recognition, at the naming. It fades soon enough, though.

"You did, though. You left. And it's not my job to drag you back. It's not even my mission to drag Setsuna back, not any more. Frankly unless those friends of yours become meaner than your Lord Brother, you're probably not going to come back." He frowns, wrapping up the second crepe, and takes a bite himself.

And oh, the wince on his face. The filling is ice-cold, and the main flavour is extra-dark chocolate - chocolate to the point that there's barely a hint of sweetness even if you squint.

"...yeah. That's the kind of reception you'd get in Dark Fall, Minagi. If you've got a taste for it, come on back - but you pick your own orders right now. I'm supposed to be working alone, anyway." He pulls the brim of his cap lower, shading his eyes, and turns to start pushing his cart down the path anew.

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

"It's bitter!" Mikoto yelps, automatically, on taking that first bite.

Which is the reception she can expect, even if there was that fleeting smile.

What an apt metaphor.

Westar talks about what he's supposed to do, turns away --

Except, he'll find a hand grasping at the hem of his shirt, as Mikoto transfers the crepe one hand and reaches out with the other. "Westar, you don't have to!" This too is hurried, but it's a different kind of anxiety, on the scale.

"Back when I couldn't have any friends, Westar was my friend! Westar helped me do what I could to make it not so bad! Westar..!"

Maybe her logical mind finally catches up to her - trying to stop one of Labyrinth's Executives - or maybe she sees something, there, which causes her grip to slacken, her hand to pull back away to herself again. "... Westar's my friend," she says, with a stubborn and almost sullen insistence. "That won't change."

It's bitter, but she takes another bite from the crepe, anyway. It doesn't taste very good, but Westar made it for her, after all. She can bear eating this, even though the overpronounced unpleasantness screams loud on her tongue. She can do that much.

She can do that much, even if she can't stop him.

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

It's bitter, but maybe there's a hint of sweetness - or maybe it's just an acquired taste. In the heat of the moment, though, it's not a tasty crepe.

There's a hand gripping his hem, and Westar's footsteps slow to a halt. The imploring, the honesty, the heat of the moment -

- and then the hand lets go. "...that much is an order, Minagi. I've got things I have to do, to make sure things turn out better." There's no pride in his voice, no fervor, no enthusiasm - just the party line that he's here to repeat.

"...make sure you talk to Setsuna and Testarossa, right? Call that a tip from your old senpai - you three should support each other. As for me, it'll be fine - the scariest warrior I've had to face is finally taking it easy, after all."

He glances to Mikoto's bag, to the encased sword - and then just moves on. Maybe he'll sell more crepes...or maybe he'll just go home. He got what he came for.