2021-02-28 - A Very Special Birthday

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A Very Special Birthday

Mikoto celebrates her first birthday party. Unfortunately, so does her brother.


Mikoto Minagi, Lera Camry, Nori Ankou, Yumi Ohzora, Ren Aizawa, Fuu Hououji, Eri Shimanouchi, Steven Universe

GM: Pink Moon Stick


Uminari Seaside Park

OOC - IC Date:

2/28/2021 - 11/04/2015

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Yuki Kajiura - Once Again I'm Hungry! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvmshmODbmI

Bejigetsu -- Vegetarian Monday, said real fast -- is a long-standing fixture in the Tokiha-Minagi dormhold. The week begins with a standing invitation to one Eri Shimanouchi to come eat a full dinner with them, with food she can actually eat. It's hard to tell when the tradition begun, but it's been around for a long, long while.

It's during one of those bejigetsu dinners that Mikoto declares, all apropos of nothing: "... I wanna have a big party!"

It didn't take long after that for her to let it slip to Yumi Ohzora, who'd just demonstrated birthdays to Mikoto - and, well, with her funding, supported by Mai's wealth of knowledge of how to fill Mikoto's bottomless stomach on a student's budget...


They've set up in Uminari; in the manner of Japanese efficiency, they have a permit. Mikoto was quite insistent they do something outside, because --

and this is a direct quote --

"I want it so cats can come too!"

And so, they've colonised a cluster of picnic benches under the trees by the lake. True to her wishes, there are vases of dried catnip on the two benches which don't have food on them; one has already been knocked over by Yakisoba, the ginger stray who haunts this area of Tokyo. His twin-patterned associate, Yakitori, perches beneath the bench, batting up at a delicate strand of catnip which teeters on the edge.

The vases, of course, are plastic. Eri possesses great foresight.

A big sheet of butcher's paper has been placed on a table near the path leading over here, weighed down at each corner by feline figurines, with some acrylic paints set out there. Cheerful kanji -- it's VISUALLY happy, all big sweeping strokes and hearts painted around the artful penmanship -- request of visitors to record something which makes them happy! A few entries have already been set up: in Mikoto's handwriting, for instance, the message 'all my friends'. There are also some acrylic paw-prints, from where a cat has walked over the entire ensemble. This, presumably, translates to the strays' desires.

There is a boombox set up by the clearing by the lake, playing energetic dancing music; the paper plates on the benches which hold the food (plural, because this is Mikoto's party, after all) are a cheerful yellow colour, and there are paper lanterns on those tables which seem suspiciously hand-painted in warm shades. (It looks like Yumi's handiwork, for those with an eye for art.) The tealights inside them are pleasantly scented, and that's their main contribution, right now, with the sun still hanging above the horizon. It won't be long before it slips down underneath it, though; the sky is already beginning to show a few shades of pink and orange, a nippy Autumn breeze through the leaves.

(A few people have already dropped by to offer their well-wishes; this is a configuration which allows someone to be plausibly passing through, for those of her friends who need the excuse. It may have been designed for cat access, but Mikoto knows well the similarities between people and cats.)

And then, of course, there is the food.

This requires its own introduction: it is the integral BACKBONE of this entire operation. Most of the snacks are savoury, which speaks to Mai Tokiha's speciality and the inspiration afforded Eri Shimanouchi; fried satsumaimo potatoes, the strange and delicious maple leaves of momiji tempura, sticky rice kuri-gohan all made from sweet chestnuts, and kabocha korokke, those croquettes made from Japanese pumpkin. All these are laid out on one of the benches, in snack-serving style...

... then there's the cake. This was Eri's responsibility but not necessarily her work; Eri knows a specialist, after all. It is a majestic concoction which seems to evoke the very spirit of a parfait in fluffy cake form, all white cream and only the freshest and plumpest fruits carefully arranged atop. It is covered with a clear protector to keep it safe from the breeze, and also Mikoto, who had to be educated on the proper time to eat a cake in a party.

The savoury snacks have not quite escaped the same treatment; there are some evident gaps where they have been nibbled on. Don't worry, it's okay! They were designed for the nibbling. There is also a larger gap where a tray of crepes ought to have gone, which were tragically abandoned during the prepwork this afternoon. Luckily, Mai is on the case -- she's hurried back to go fetch them before things get too hectic.

Some people, of course, are already here; Mikoto invited a great many people. Amongst them is Miroku, safe within in its sword-case, leant against one of the picnic benches; there is a cheerful yellow ribbon tied around the top of its casing, like some ancient peace-bond, the trailing ends competing with its grim-grey zipper to define its length. It is deeply celebratory, and speaks to the intentions Mikoto has, for this party.

It also matches Mikoto herself, who has two similar ribbons tied at the base of her thin little braids, either side of her face. This is evidently not the only way she's tried to dress up; there is, foreign to her features, a hint of lip gloss and blush on her face. It's entirely too subtle for anyone's first attempt at makeup, and that's because Yumi helped her with it. She is, after all, turning seventeen: that makes her practically an adult, so she'd better look the part!

Her vest is earthy-coloured and more masculine than the cream skirt which goes down to her knees, all pleated at the edges; long white socks protect the rest of her legs from the early November chill. It's a fitting wardrobe to itself and to her eyes, which means she must have had help with that, too; luckily, the bright yellow cardigan she wears over it still has 'Mikoto' written all over it. Metaphorically. Literally, the English word 'COSMIC' is stitched in fancy pink lettering on the back, but in the manner of English phrases in a wardrobe, it doesn't mean anything, especially not to her. It just looks cool, right?

She bounces about, and latches herself around Yumi's midsection, with all that free and boundless affection she has for everyone. "I'm happy!" She declares to the people already here and those just arriving, with vim and volume, giving her tall-taller friend a light squeeze before she twirls away. "I've never had a birthday party before!" She sounds excited but one could mute the feed and see it just as plainly; it's in the way her heels bounce as she moves, the way her arms swing back and forth with her motion, the Cheshire-grin which shoves the rest of her face out of its way.

The sound of the music pouring out of that boombox rings out, all thumpa-thumpa-thump, and it could not HOPE to drown her out, all that sunniness pouring from her like a wellspring even as clouds move across the late afternoon sky. "I get to be with my friends... it's good!"

One cannot escape that this is the fourth of November, with all the ill tidings it carries. 'Four' and 'death' sound just the same, in Japanese - one as the other, shi and shi. It is a little like the worries the West holds for the thirteenth number, but by the same token is little like it; here in Tokyo, the fear around the fourth is much more severe. One is unlikely to even find the number in phone numbers or business cards, let alone alighting on the fourth floor - avoiding the dates, likewise, is very common. Certainly, one avoids the fourth in their festivities. It goes so far that the polite way to refer to four is in fact yon - or yo, clipped. With careful side-stepping, the fourth of a month is said yokka.

And so, perhaps - with effort and with love - the fourth doesn't have to be a frightening number. Say it 'yokka', not 'shi', and it's not so inauspicious. After all... it's hers. It's hers, and that's why Mikoto wanted it to be today.

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

Lera Camry isn't going to miss Mikoto's birthday.

Mikoto isn't a rare thing in her life. A former enemy, that she once fought bitterly, that has become a true friend without reservations. Perhaps for some, this would be stunning -- something never replicated. This isn't to say that Mikoto isn't unique. She is, and she is to Lera. But the circumstances aren't.

Lera, for her part, considers this development in her life wonderful.

She is wearing a dark red T-shirt, blue jeans, and a leather jacket over it. Her hair is the same, unruly mess as ever; long, orange, and unkempt. She towers over most of her fellow students, as ever, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

She walks up -- spots Mikoto, spots Yumi (because one couldn't help but see Yumi when Mikoto is hugging her), and everyone else -- and then waves.

In her arm is Mikoto's present.

It is an enormous fish on a massive wooden placard. "Mikoto!" Lera says, before she holds it out. "I got you a present! This is RATBERT, THE FISH KING OF BELKA. You have to say it right, y'know? Not Ratbert, the Fish King of Belka. RATBERT, THE FISH KING OF BELKA."

Then she nods.

"He sings!"

Lera presses the button, and RATBERT, THE FISH KING OF BELKA begins to sing in a tinny voice.






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

Q: La Sirene, is it OK to just have wild cats show up and eat at a friend's birthday party?

A: Yes, absolutely. Is this really a question?

Nori Ankou came here in a fashionable cable-knit sweater, which in this case is perhaps not ACTUALLY AkaMira produce - because some things are just not perfect fits for the idiom, even if surely when all human clothing is sold through the AoAka line in late 2022, there will still be like, socks and stuff. Below this were looser hakama-style pants, ultra comf if not the most flattering, along with sneakers and socks, because Nori knew it would be OK here in this context.

Just right now, Nori is crouching near the grand banner and is painting her own addition. (It is directly above another statement, signed with a single paw print. Batiste had otter business to conduct, but he too would not miss the chance to wish well.) Nori and Batiste appear to have the same idea, because both of their writing is



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

Cats! Of course, for cats. Yumi doesn't mind a little fresh air, even if it is a little chilly for her. She has been hard at work on her end of the preparations, both logistically and practically, but here and now she is already here! Dressed for the party means in a short dress in pink and a jacket, with brown boots and some thick tights because of the aforementioned getting cold easily. But with Mikoto wrapping around her..

"Aw, good," Yumi answers her, ruffling Mikoto's hair a little as she goes. Only a little though--she wouldn't want to ruin it!

Thump thump thump. yes, it is good. Yumi doesn't seem bothered by the date--Yumi seems pretty happy even, herself, and not just because things are going well.

Though partly because things are going well.

"...Ahahaha," Yumi laughs at the fish, "That's amazing!" She looks over Nori's way as she writes, curious. But she doesn't go interrupt or anything. Instead, she peers down at her phone as if to check something before putting it away, and then steps over to where Mikoto is.

"So you'll need to decide where to put him!"

...She lingers near one of the strays, though. Cat!! Though there is another present here...

A very, very fluffy black cat calmly watches the festivities. Comfortably. She decided to be present.

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

It's a party! A birthday party!

Ren got the invitation for Mikoto's birthday bash and quickly made her intentions to attend known. Even if they were sort of former enemies in the sense that they fought one another once. But that was then. And this is now. And now it's time to party!

Opting for a plain white t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, she has her dark hair tied back into a neat, fashionable top bun.

"Hi Mikoto!" She calls as she walks in not far behind Lera. She's all bright and cheery smiles, and like her best friend she also has a present for the birthday girl in question! After giggling at Lera's presentation of her singing present, Ren steps up beside her to hold out the present she's gotten -- a long, cotton sleeve of some sort. Huh?

"It's a sword cover! I made it myself!" Oh! That explains it! It's a dark blue-ish color with little smiling stars embroidered upon it. "I know you have that case you bring around everywhere but I thought you might like to wrap Miroku in something nice and soft from time to time."

Souverain Heraut is not jealous. Honest.

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

Fuu Hououji is a late arrival in the scheme of things - perhaps "fashionably" late, although that implies she did so more deliberately, rather than as a side effect of traffic snarls on her way from Tama. But arrive she has, wearing a light grey sweater over her white blouse (its cuffs visible at her wrists, just past those of the sweater) and knee-length green skirt, darker green tights helping to keep her legs warm. Finding the party isn't difficult at all, thanks to the combination of lights, music, and general merriment, and seeking out the birthday girl herself requires only a little more searching.

"Happy birthday, Mikoto-san!" Fuu says with a smile, approaching the birthday girl, and holding out a small, soft, cloth-wrapped package - she actually used a furoshiki of dark green brocade, rather than wrapping paper. "It's not much, but I hope you find it useful as well as pleasant. I'm just glad I had time enough to make it," she adds with a sheepish look.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

As far as Eri is concerned, whatever Mikoto wants when it comes to celebrations, she gets. Though she's remained mostly quiet about that fact during the preparations. Unlike Mikoto, who loudly proclaims that she's never had a birthday party before.

And there it is. The reason is intrinsic to that line.

So certainly, she helped with the planning. The cooking. She asked a friend to bake the cake. She even grew the catnip... fresh. A move which caused her clubmates to give her strange looks for quite some time and wonder if she was hiding a secret cat on campus.

Nothing's too good for this day.

It's special because it's her first. It's special to her because she was never meant to be at her birthday party... and yet. Here she is.

Today she's wearing a brown cardigan over a white button up blouse with a collar. A long grey skirt, and a pair of laced up brown boots.

She's sort of been supervising the party. A presence, but a subdued one. Right now she's over by the bench with the ginger stray Yakisoba, picking up a plastic vase and setting it back upright. "I suspect I'll be doing this a lot..."

Then folding her hands, she sedately steps backwards... expecting that it'll soon be on it's side again. She's not admonishing them for this behavior.

"...but go right ahead. Courtesy of the birthday girl."

Turning her back, she trods back over to the stretch of butcher's paper, and thinks she hears the tell tale sign of it being knocked over anew.

"Hm. I'll just space out that part of my rounds... every five minutes? Ten?" She muses with a smile. Snatching a plate with a savoury snack, she places it in front of Tama... "No need to hold back." And... her eyebrows shoot back up at Lera's gift.

Eri keeps her composure until the end of the song, voice cracking, "I-If I'd known we had royalty attending, I would have asked for more help decorating." Eri then looks at Ren's gift in wonder, "Oh. Right. That's a very 'you' gift Aizawa-chan." Eri says, as she thinks of Heraut.

Eri simply passes by Mikoto, putting her fingers on her shoulders and asks quietly, "While you're collecting gifts and greeting guests... think I should set up the candles?" It occurs to Eri that maybe Mikoto isn't aware of that birthday tradition, so she adds, "For the cake..."

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

Where there is birthday, there is Steven!

Also Lion, because if he didn't show up to a CAT PARTY, he would never live it down. Not that he needed to be asked. He was already there! He has come to mingle with cats, both humanesque and animal-like.

Meanwhile, a boy huffs it up a sloper in the seaside park with an unusually large tray of... At first they look like bread loaves. The soft pastel coloring indicates they are something else though, and a savory-sweet scent comes from them.

Inspection later reveals them to be MASSIVE daifuku. Something solid is in them as well. Solid chunks of strawberry, larger than what possibly makes sense in natural agriculture. Folks might have to take a fork to these.

"Hi everyooooone!" Steven calls, setting a small card by the dish, sunsetting oranges and reds, with a few signatures on it seen from afar.

"Been a while! Happy birthday Mikooootooo!" he says, running over to her, his hands out. "Oh man, everyone's here! How many kitties are gonna be here? I heard you were beinging some too."

Meanwhile, Lion's nose starts working at the scent of something in the air...

The boy offers haves to everyone he sees attending, which are all people he recognizes! Eri, Fuu, Ren, Yumi, and Nori! Some folks seen here and abroad with Mikoto at times. She keeps good friends.

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

Mikoto beams up at Yumi, as she ruffles her hair. Mikoto's hair - and Yumi may be aware of this, now, with how she helped her prepare - that Mikoto's short, scruffy hair defies the reach of any comb, but the lucky thing about that is that it's hard to mess with her hairstyle.

She parts from her side to bound up to Lera, all big saucerplate-eyes to see such an ENORMOUS FISH. She knows he is not a real fish (for eating) because his scales are a little too uniform and also he does not smell like a fish. (One doesn't really need Mikoto's sense of smell to figure that bit out.) This means he is A MYSTERY, and she looks up to Lera with eagerness as she takes him into her hands.

This mystery is revealed to be...

"RATBERT, THE FISH KING OF BELKA!!" Mikoto echoes, with enthusiasm, as he finishes his song. Of course, she immediately presses the button again.


"Glory, glory!" She echoes, less tinny, with a wide grin, and one might get the distinct impression this fish will be singing a lot. "I love him!!"

She grins, to Eri, and says: "It's okay! Eri can be friends with royalty!" It's one of those things more telling than she makes apparent, but clearly Mikoto considers RATBERG, THE FISH KING OF BELKA to be a benevolent ruler.

Yumi brings up a very good point, though, especially as Ren comes up, too. "Ren!" Mikoto exclaims, and impossibly she is even sunnier, more brightness layered on what is already there to see more friends arrive. The fact that she was mortal enemies with so many of the people who have come today is just another little miracle, in no way diminished for being one part of a larger whole of redemption; she considers herself so lucky, to have so many friends, no matter how they started.

She looks down at RATBERG, THE FISH KING OF BELKA, and around. Luckily, not all of the picnic tables nearby are covered with food. Some have catnip on them. (The catnip is not on the food tables, at least. It's okay for stray cats to show up with the proper planning!) She carefully enshrines RATBERT, THE FISH KING OF BELKA on one of those tables, guarded by Yakisoba, whose vase crimes are interrupted by Eri's watchful hand. He immediately bats it over again. This is a fun game he has made.

The similarly-ginger Yakitori, meanwhile, goes over to thonk his head into Yumi's ankle, tail held high. He has a big, thummy purr, which matches the energetic music.

Summarily Mikoto turns back to Ren, and looks down at the sleeve, her eyes rounding with delight again. "Ren thought of Miroku..!" She exclaims, in delight, hugging it to herself. "Ren made this for us! I'm really happy!" This, she bounds over to fold next to Miroku's case, so it can behold the gift they were given. (Can Miroku see out of that thing? ... can Miroku even 'see'? Oh, maybe it doesn't matter.)

She hops over to Nori, peeking over her shoulder. "Nori!" She exclaims. "Nori and Batiste both like clams...! Good! I wanted us all to make an art," because surely these happinesses are the grandest of artworks, no matter the lack of pictures, "so I'm happy!"

(No, Mikoto doesn't mind comfy fashion in the slightest. Clothes should be comfy!)

She turns to find Fuu, with a package..! With careful fingers Mikoto unwraps the cloth, and she beams, to see another soft home for things important to her. A cell phone pouch, hand-knitted, and Mikoto holds it up to examine the patterns with delighted fascination. It's dark grey, with yellow eyes and ears at the top, a stylised cat's smile. She reaches into her pocket and immediately brings out her phone, tucking it into the pouch. "Now it's warm!" She exclaims, and Mikoto thinks that's a vast improvement. "Fuu made this..! It's good!" Her friends are all so talented-!!!

SPEAKING OF TALENT: more food coming! Sniff sniff, Mikoto turns to see... "Steven!" Her eyes widen with her smile to see the daifuku - there's room for it on one of the tables - and she slips her phone back in her pocket so she can go and take a big bite. A very big bite. Who knew her jaws could open so wide? HOMPH.

"... it's good!!" Mikoto declares, and HOMPH HOMPH HOMPH, polishes it off. She reaches out to take Steven's hands, and spins with him in a merry circle, which is like dancing. (Much like the dress code, the dancing code is relaxed here.) "All cats are, invited!" She laughs, happily. "Maybe more will come later!"

Not all her cat friends will arrive, but that's just because Mikoto has cat friends all across Tokyo, and cats are not very good at catching trains. Generally. Umeko-momma is exceptional.

There is plenty of catnip for Lion, too. Yakisoba bats a vase over to him. Cat solidarity! They have to commit all their vase crimes in the next five minutes, before Eri does another round. No cats bother Tama, but that's because Tama has cat seniority. It doesn't save her from Mikoto exclaiming, in delight: "Tama! And Lion's here, too!" So many cat friends..!!

There's still a bit of daifuku on her cheek as she tilts her head to Eri, blinking up to her. Eri, of course, has helped set everything up just as Mikoto wanted, so Mikoto knows that she must be talking about some aspect of party preparation, but she isn't quite sure which... until Eri explains, and realisation dawns on her face like the sun. "Yup!" She nods, firmly, and Eri shortly will find Mikoto wrapped around her waist too, in a hug which squeezes much more than Yumi's did. Again, she repeats to her, perhaps with more meaning to say it to her: "I'm happy!"

(She does let Eri go after a moment so she can attend to THE CAKE, at least.)

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

"Good," Nori tells Mikoto. "You should be happy, if you want." And she reaches into her L.V. bag to draw out a black cardboard box, longer than it is wide. She proffers it to Mikoto, and says, "Here."

Inside of the box are a half-dozen copper braid-beads - wrapped perfectly for putting round a braid of the thickness that Mikoto favors, give or take a smidge of squinching to adjust for volume, stance and so forth. They are linked by a tight-woven strand of hempen string. Each of the beads has a carved and polished piece of glass in it. They form, in an approximate sense, a spectrum (or perhaps a rainbow) - at least, that is the idea, even if it is more red / orange-yellow / green / green-blue / black-blue / purple.

"I hope you like it," Nori says in a rather quiet way, turning her eyes down to the table. Mikoto may have the sense that at this moment there isn't a veil of any kind over Nori, not even the casual-breezy everyday one. She takes a deep breath and it does sneak back in as she looks up, smiling.

"Happy birthday!"

"I'm going to get a bit to eat," Nori concludes, before moving towards the food tables at a leisurely pace.

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

Ren turns to Eri and grins even wider than she already is. "Eri-chan! Heh, yeah, you know me!" She laughs in response. "I'm glad you like it!" She turns to face Mikoto again as the girl places the present next to the encased sword. Ren isn't entirely sure Miroku is capable of saying thank you -- or anything at all, rather. But still, she likes to think Miroku has silently thanked her for the gift.

With the gift-giving being done, Ren decides to put something yummy in her stomach. "Ahh! What do you think we should try first?" She questions Nori who also happens to be going over to the food in question. "It all looks so good...! Oh! Hi Steven! And Lion!" Ren is distracted by the boy and lion in question for a few moments, stopping to wave cheerfully before continuing onwards.

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

Tama enjoys cat seniority. She will simply be present and so offer her endorsement of this occasion in that way. It is all she needs to do. ...Well, that and snack, looking to Eri for a moment and then nomming into the food offered her in a dignified fashion. Eri is approved.

Yumi spots the sword cover and she smiles at it, seeing those little stars. "Oh, that's lovely..."

Maybe with a nice cellphone pouch Mikoto will be able to keep better track of her phone this time.

"Oh those are lovely," Yumi says of Nori's present too, and says, "These will look great on you."

Yumi is lingering near Mikoto for the moment--though the snacks are tempting, she has to wait a little longer.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Tama's approval is something she always works hard to win. For... obvious reasons, of having a talking cat like you.

Eri gives Ren a wink, "Well-played, giving it to Mikoto." As if she thinks it's real recipient... well, he'd be grumpy to put it mildly. At least she thinks so, it's not like she herself can talk to Miroku.

Eri's eyes pass over the Lion as Steven shows up. Then her head just whips back, and slightly weak kneed, she leans on the table. "What- Oh..." As she thinks of all the havoc a Very Pink Lion can wreak on festivities. "... W-Well we weren't... especially specific in the invites." Not that she necessarily thinks it will. Just that it could.

Eri then looks back at Mikoto, as if she were trying to catch back up, "Well I'm sure I'll have to. You're going to be giving him quite the royal... perch in your dorm, right?" She's still looking around, trying to think of ways to entertain ie. distract a pink lion. She's not even certain what canip will do to one.

As Mikoto gives her assent, Eri nods, "I'll get it read-" And then she finds Mikoto attached to her waist in a tight hug. And Eri smiles at her, and leans down to encircle her arms around her in a hug.

"Well it's your birthday... but..." Her smile grows wide, and her eyes just lightly moist. "... it feels like I'm the one getting a gift."

Eri holds her for a moment longer until Mikoto lets her go. Before she heads over ot the cake, to finally take off it's plastic armor from felines and wind both. Setting it to the side to remain some kind of barrier. Opening a package, she begins dotting the cake Mami made with candles with a sort of delicacy of someone who feels like they're marring a work of art.

Then she turns her back for just a single moment... to fish out a small box of matches from her bag.

It's just an ordinary box of matches, yet she still stares for far longer than is necessary, picking up one and drawing it across the pad on the side.

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

"I'm working on a strap for it as well," Fuu notes while she has the opportunity, "since you might not always have a pocket ... I'll let you know when I have it ready for you, if you'd like."

But Mikoto does have other friends to converse with, so Fuu doesn't want to monopolize her. That also provides the bespectacled blonde with a chance to see who else is currently around, and to procure some food for herself. There's certainly no shortage of either, especially if you count the number of cats around the catnip arrangement. As tempting as the giant daifuku are (and as piquing to her curiosity as they are), Fuu focuses on savory foods first - there will almost certainly be sweets left when she gets to them.

Procuring food also provides its own opportunity to mingle. "Lera-san, hello," Fuu greets the 'transfer student' with a smile and a polite bow. "We haven't had much chance to talk lately ... well. Outside of 'work,'" she amends with a wry smile. "Have you been well?"

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

"Isn't it just?" Lera says with a grin at Yumi. Then, she looks sideways -- back at her best friend -- and she grins. Then she bobs her head, clearly impressed by Ren's offering too. She grins -- then looks at Eri, and she grins a little wider. "Mm-hm!"

Then, she looks at Mikoto -- and she grins bright and wide at Mikoto's reaction. It is, suffice to say, exactly what she was hoping for. She bobs her head once in true agreement. Her amber eyes gleam a little, shining with pride.

"I'm so glad, y'know?" she says to Mikoto.

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

Lion gladly accepts his part in vase crimes. No one can interrogate them on the plan, because the ycant talk! It will never get solved. The perfect crime.

He can also teleport away, making capture moot.

Steven gets spun around at a good speed! His shirt ruffles in the wind. "Wheeee!" he squeals, accompanying his usual laughter. Boy likes to go fast! "Hooray, more cats! I hope they get here safely."

The chunks of strawberry inside are one whole consecutive piece Mikoto will find. Like a literal strawberry steak! Surrounded by red bean goodness. The strawberry it came from must have been enormous.

"Hi Ren!" Steven returns to the young lady. Been a while since they saw each other. Good to see they are still doing well after such an ordeal. "What's new with you?"

Lion looks up briefly at the mention of his name, something herb-y resting on his nose. Thankfully, to Eri's potential relief, he has done nothing but take point near the vase pushed his way. Though given what it does, there is no telling what could happen. So far, he doesn't seem to be acting inebriated, oddly enough. "I will make sure to keep a good eye on him," he assures Eri, giving her a firm nod.

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

Mikoto has received so many gifts today, and hastily, eagerly, joyfully unwrapped all of them.

But there's one more -- one final -- present...

Unasked for; unrequested; and now, to everyone's peril, unnoticed.

It's only the fairy tale...

It never suddenly appeared; it was always there. Among the clutter of wrapping from various other gifts on one of the picnic table, it is unassuming in profile. Small enough to contain jewelry, perhaps, if it is an exceptionally large ring box. Black silk wrapping, all tied up in crimson cord; someone knows Mikoto's colors. Or, at least, Miroku's.

The first time there's rustling on the table, it is plausibly a cat. Paper scraps attract cats, after all. But if it were one of her feline friends, it was a hit and run maneuveter, because NO cats are on this particular table; they are, if anything, avoiding it like the plague.

That is the only warning.

<SoundTracker> One-Winged Angel (first thirty seconds) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ziury0uVl7c

The second time, wrapping paper disintegrates into confetti in the path of the arachnid who has erupted out of the box. So black that it's almost violet, and chitinous, chittering, skittering, psyche-scarring, the single spider -- the size of a large tarantula -- soars through the air to land -- with a meaty-metallic THUMP -- RIGHT NEXT TO the candletopped cake -- almost as though Eri's uncovering it was somehow an invisible signal that prompted its reveal in the first place.

It has too many legs and too few eyes, this not-spider, this Orphan; ten of one and one of the other, centered at the place where the legs converge, like the heart of the world's creepiest flower. Red, of course. Of course it's red. Why wouldn't it be a blood-red eye the size of a thumbnail?

And despite it carving its way out of its own packaging, despite it being sharp enough to render an injury to most anything it touches... the cord from the packaging has come with it, somehow, looped around one of those ten legs in a childishly simple bow. A 'reminder around the pinky' kind of knot, produced by red string.

It has no mouth to hiss with, but does not wholly obey Earthly laws, and defies them to do so anyway.

And a ring of matching hisses respond, rushing inward from every direction towards the party.

Of those assembled, Fuu and Nori remember these horrific little monsters from two weeks ago in Shibuya.

And Mikoto, of course.

Perhaps they were always for her.

COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick transforms into The Swarm!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Wind Knight!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP, Mikoto makes her way through the strawberry. This is Mikoto's power. "Big strawberries!" She declares, to Steven, with delight.

It's hard to say whether Miroku speaks or whether it echoes, reinforces, reminds; regardless Mikoto is the only one who has ever heard its influence, and it will probably not find its voice to... thank Ren. That's okay, though. Mikoto is a much better face of the party, as she nods with bright hummed assent to Eri's query about RATBERG, THE FISH KING OF BELKA'S perch.

"Good!" She chirps, to Eri, all attached to her side for a moment. If Eri feels like she's getting gifts, that makes Mikoto happy, too.

And lo, Mikoto receives... A BOX. "I want to be happy!" Mikoto confirms, and what she wants is being made manifest here as she receives that box, and -- there is something inside!! A rainbow of beads, and her eyes shine as she reaches up to affix them to her braid immediately. That's now: ribbon-beads-braid, on her left side. She looks DEEPLY pleased by this improvement. "It's good!"

(Let us stop here and remind the text that though Mikoto simply refers to all these things as good, there is nuance in her tone not reflected in her plainspoke words; an extra rise in her tone for the beauty of Nori's beads, the awe to see the talent shown by Ren and Fuu, the sure volume of her voice at the advent of food, the delight at RATBERG, THE FISH KING OF BELKA. All of these things are good, but that doesn't mean they meld together.)

When Fuu speaks of a strap, Mikoto nods, or rather her whole body nods, shoulders bobbing with her head and braidsa and beads and ribbons all falling up and down with the motion. "'Kay!"And Lera says she's glad and now she is going to get a Mikoto missile attached to her side, which might be a distracting force, all told. She hugs her, fiercely, in entirely another way to the ferocity she used to hold for Lera and her friends.

It means Lera will be the first one to feel it -- when the character of that grip changes.

Mikoto doesn't seem like the sort of person who would be afraid of spiders, but this isn't a spider, not really; when it bursts from the paper she hears it, and it's FELT, in her body, the way her heart pumps so much faster as her gaze snaps over to it. All a sudden her supportive grasp is a cling, a horrified noise whimpering from her throat as she shrinks in against a dear friend who used to be her enemy. Like the character of 'good' in its eternal nuance, there is nuance to the way her eyes widen, here; in fear, not delight.

... Mikoto is terrified.

It's just that moment, though; and that it is this moment tells its own story, with Mikoto, who has always been ready to fight. Its own story, told in the way a hand goes to her neck, cheeks pale under the blush. And then -- "Eri!" Mikoto yelps, and scrambles away from Lera back to the picnic bench --

A yellow peace-bond ribbon, torn to the ground in two pieces --

And Miroku's case flutters away, as Mikoto grasps her blade in her hands, all red cord wrapped about its grip, with that red tassel. "That's -- that's my cake!!" She snaps, at the things-which-aren't-spiders, tension carried in her shoulders and her voice, stumbling over the onset. "Get away from -- aaah!" here there are all the others, rushing in, and Mikoto turns to slash at one, with no finesse at all.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Devastation on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

When Mikoto hugs onto Lera's side, she laughs. She puts an arm around her -- their height difference is considerable enough -- and gives the other girl a hug one-armed hug. She does give a glance at RATBERG, THE FISH KING OF BELKA. As gifts go, she thinks that is a good one.

Lera isn't nearly aware enough to catch the arachnid before it erupts from the box. Her head twists to the side only after it lands, with that metallic noise. Then she looks at the Orphan, stares, and draws in a sharp but soft gasp. She stares down at the spider -- and it registers with her, despite not having seen this one before.

She registers the way that Mikoto is afraid. How she stiffens; how she hugs her tighter. She looks to the ground, and then she looks at the spiders. She grits her teeth. Mikoto scrambles away, and she holds her hand up. The jewels in her necklace glow.

"Set up!"

<Get set!>

<Get set!>

A flash of light shoots up around her. Her green jacket flutters out, and her sword appears in her hand -- Soaring Sky gleams, two-toned with gold and silver -- and then the clockwork shield flashes into existence on her other arm. The gem at Broken Ground's center flashes, brilliantly, as Lera turns for one.

"Mikoto, what are these?" she asks, with some alarm. A light glimmers across Broken Ground -- and then a a blast of energy explodes off it, hurtling across the groun, and straight on towards one of the spiders.

<Fault Siege!>

<This is a new one, Lera!> Soaring Sky chimes.

COMBAT: Lera Camry transforms into Barrier Jacket Dynamic!
COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Fault Siege on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Whatever she was ruminating upon with the match is interrupted by the burst of confetti. And as she swivels around, flickering flamestick held between thumb and forefinger she finds herself nearly face to face with the giant spider-like creature - save that it's far too grotesque with too many eyes, and mouths.

Eri looks very much like she's going to scream for about a full second, from the sheer shock of turning around and seeing that right up in your face.

Mikoto's call though seems to snap her out of that impulse, as it makes it clear she's not the only one seeing this. Help is on the way. Though perhaps not in time... for one thing.

And then drawing her pointer finger back, flicks it in a lazy arc, "Excuse you." In the same motion calling her ring into a soul gem in mid-air. Catching it, as the invocation of the energy starts decking her out in a bodice and skirts and lace and boot that just say that they're meant for a fight. Her soul gem coming to a rest on the right side of her hair upon a thorny looking barrette.

At the same moment that the match completes it's flight, so too does the girl's transformation complete. "The candles haven't even been blown out yet."

And the girl darts forward, fingertips slipping under the cake platter and balancing it like she's seen Mai do dozens upon dozens of time sat the Linden Baum. Save that she already is crossing foot over foot and turning around in a rough turn where she tries to instantly deny the cake from any snapping pincers by revolving it away. And then leaping, with hand stretched out, cake balanced on one hand, landing a good ten meters away.

"It's fine Mikoto. See? I'm not about to let a party crasher ruin your cake for y-" That's the moment where she sees her backup wasn't coming her way. So much as they're all spread out and dealing with various spider related disasters, "-Oh. God. How many of them are there?!"

It's only then that she pulls the whip out of her soul gem with her single free hand, looking only slightly anxious from underestimating the exact scope of this birthday disaster.

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi transforms into Puella Magi Eri!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Taking the Cake on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts Eri Shimanouchi's Taking the Cake, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Cheered!  
<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Tama isn't doing a lot of talking out here at the moment, but it's hard to say whether that's because she's in public or because she just doesn't have anything to say at the moment. She is an old cat. ...But she hasn't noticed that small box. She hears the sound of rustling, and assumes it is one of the younger, more energetic cats.

Yumi doesn't notice it at all. Abrubtly there is something there, and it is next to the cake, and Yumi's eyes widen in alarm. She doesn't recognize this thing--these things--but a single eye, ten legs, some sort of creepy blossom of awfulness is bad enough. Yumi registers something else as the ring of matching hisses respond--

That Mikoto is afraid. And that worries her even more.

But her phone is handy, and she quickly pulls it back out to extract her staff from it. The Staff of Lost Ivy is abrubtly in her hand, its white length spiraled gently, the green crystal at the top glowing bright. "In my hand, remembered be!"

Lifting her staff up to the heavens, the next moment sees a flash of green light; her dress is replaced by something black and flowing, boots and gloves enwrapping her limbs and her hair braiding back in an instant. A pointed black hat finishes the transformation, and Yumi immediately moves into action.

"Look out!!"

Spiders do not scare Yumi. These are not exactly spiders though, and they're creepy. A part of her just wants to get on her broom and lift up until she's out of range, or else just swing her staff at them. But she does not do those things. Instead she extends a pointing finger, "Dark Beam!"

A shaft of green light extends from her hand to rush like water towards the strange creatures. "Seconding her question!!" Yumi exclaims as she steps back.

COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora transforms into Witch Ivy!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has used Dark Beam on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

It is very rare that Fuu actually *recognizes* a monster, and never a good sign when a monster is recognizable on a return appearance. Not that a monster's sudden emergence is ever anything but a bad thing, familiar or not, regardless of their surroundings ...

But as the ten-legged near-spider Orphan makes its leap, Fuu catches enough sight of it for her eyes to go wide with recognition. By the time it lands, her half-laden plate is falling the short distance to the tabletop (how intact its contents will be after landing is a very good, yet very irrelevant question) and she's digging in her skirt pocket for her glove-jewel. "Belief become power," she starts even before donning the focal accessory ...

She doesn't get to finish before the hisses resound from all around the party. The blood drains from Fuu's face as she yanks the gold-trimmed white glove the rest of the way on, its green gem flashing in the lanterns' light - and then that green flash seems to encompass her as she finishes her call, "WINDS, GUIDE ME!" The 'light' becomes a whirlwind, hiding Fuu long enough for the Magic Knight of Wind to take her place, the armored variation on an old uniform replacing her civilian garb. One last flash of green as her sword materializes, and the Wind Knight charges, not towards the cake but towards the perimeter, calling out, "Storm-Dance of Kamaitachi!!)" and sending a controlled tempest ahead of her.

Then she has a moment to answer the predominant question. "They're an Orphan!" she calls out in answer to Lera and Yumi. "The little ones are more resilient than they look, and they can merge into a monstrously strong big one! Terribly dangerous either way, so don't hold back!"

  • She* certainly isn't; if any of the spider-things are still there after the Storm-Dance of Kamaitachi tore through them, she brings her sword to bear on them without hesitation.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Storm-Dance of Kamaitachi on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Ren is completely focused on the food as she approaches the table. She hasn't even seen the big fluffy looking cake yet! Upon reaching said table, she leans forward and looks at the various treats laid out upon it. "So many choices! Maybe I'll try this... or this... or maybe this?" She rubs her chin, unable to decide on something right away it seems.

No matter, though. Because things quickly take a sharp turn for the not so bright and cheery. Hearing the reactions of the others behind her, Ren spins around, and sees the source of the commotion pretty quickly.

Spiders. Lots of spiders. They're jet black and menacing and totally here to ruin the fun! It's around this time that she finally spots the cake which was briefly in danger. Briefly because Eri has gracefully grabbed and saved it from being ruined by one of the aforementioned menacing spider creatures.

"Good save Eri-chan!" She calls out, hopping to the side to avoid one of the scuttling spiders. "You jerks are crashing Mikoto's party! Heraut!"

As she calls out the name of her device a corresponding chime rings through the air. <Ready! Set Up!>

Light billows forth from around her, replacing her clothes swiftly with her regal barrier jacket. Clasping her hands together, she pulls them apart as a pillar of bronze light burns into existence between them, shaping itself into the shining lance that is Souverain Heraut. She grasps it with both hands, holding it out in front of her authoritatively.

"Let's show them how much of a bad idea it was to come here!"

<Partizan Snare!>

The scuttling spiders will suddenly find themselves assaulted by brightly-colored lance constructs that seek to pin them down in place!

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa transforms into Barrier Jacket Lustre!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has used Partizan Snare on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Nori Ankou, halfway to the food, turns her head at a slight thump near the cake and comes face to face with:


No. This is no spider. It is no crab, either; no wholesome animal of this or any other world, but some created thing, some emanation of malice. Nori stares at it with dawning familiarity and a tense expression. She straightens upwards. She takes a deep breath - and then yelps, once, before fleeing for the lake and leaping in, wailing as she goes, "It's so creepy. !!!!"

That was a pause there, wasn't it? And when she reaches the shore of the lake, Nori Ankou jumps in.

The water ripples. The lake gleams subtly.

-- and some distance from where the local fashion queen leapt into the lake in arachnophobic terror, a Siren strides! De Diamant strides ashore, water sluicing off of her in weird and skittering patterns as a nightling glow rises, distorted but not greatly until the Brazen Pharos - held fast by rope round her waist - rises above the waterline.

La Sirene's left hand comes upwards, her shadow itself seeming to ripple outwards like a groundbound wave towards the Orphan (Orphans?) as she says, "The Magic Knight speaks true. Beware their perilous bite -"

And this seems to be the limit of what la Sirene can reveal to the others. Especially since the CAKE is in peril... In her heart, la Sirene seethes, not with anger for herself but for Mikoto, for a day that even should they win, will now be something other than it should be. She said she was happy! Whoever sponsored this...

COMBAT: Nori Ankou transforms into La Sirene de Diamant!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Polyploia on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick perfectly dodges 28 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Devastation, taking 0 Fatigue
damage!  Critical Dodge!  Pink Moon Stick's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick perfectly counters 13 Fatigue damage from Lera Camry's Fault Siege, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick's counterattack, There's Just Too Many, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Lera Camry!  
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick perfectly dodges 18 Fatigue damage from Yumi Ohzora's Dark Beam, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!
Pink Moon Stick's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick braces 22 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Storm-Dance of Kamaitachi, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick perfectly counters 0 Fatigue damage from Ren Aizawa's Partizan Snare, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Hit!  Critical Counter!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick's counterattack, There's Just Too Many, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Ren Aizawa!  
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick fails to dodge La Sirene de Diamant's Polyploia, taking 30 Fatigue damage!  Tangle and Trap applied to
Pink Moon Stick!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Garnet was right. This was the best gift to bring.

Wait, what was he thinking? OF COURSE SHE KNEW. She always does.

Steven goes to eye some of the snacks himself, not noticing the vibrating gothic box. Meanwhile, Lion looks up from the shared prize among cats to spy the box. He squints at it. He can tell something is up with the box. Unfortunately Lion has come down with a chronic case of cat and cannot speak.

His face is a palpable 'Oh here we go again' before everything happens.

Wrapping and flies like a popped party favor, and the creepiest spider imaginable shows up! "THATS NOT A CAT! PARTY FOUL!" Steve nsays, his voice extremely high pitched. The proportions and number of appendages is off. It also looks too.. pointed?

Why does it seem to want a cake?! "Mikoto, what is this cake made off and why does the creepy spider want it?!"

The boy summons his shield, and does what anyone with a sufficiently large object does with a spider-- whap it off the table with it onto the floor!

And worse yet, it called more cake-hungry spider things to the party too! "No plus ones allowed! Also creepy creatures! Take your pick on reason to leave!"

COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Serious Steven!
COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Shield Slam on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick fails to brace Steven Universe's Shield Slam, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Steven Universe is Psyched!  
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

The little monsters emerge from the grass, the trees, the lake, to converge upon the party. What catches the eye and arrests the breath, beyond the sheer scope of the swarm, though, is the ways in which they are not quite spiders after all. The brain tries to fill in the gaps, unable to process every motion of every leg, and... CAN'T, it doesn't line up quite right, animation frames drop all over the place, because their gait is... off. Like rather than spiders they're approximations of spiders. Whatever environment evolved them into being, it wasn't playing by... quite the same rules...

But they must play by the magical girls', which in a way levels the field in an awkward fashion; for if these creatures, which are so very alien, interact with the girls so very naturally, then what does that make the girls?

They do not fare well at first. Mikoto's panicked slash goes straight through the air where an Orphan once was; Yumi suffers a similar problem, her green darkness hitting nothing but turf, parting blades of grass but no weird, one-jointed legs. Lera and Ren have a different problem -- they shoot and pin numerous spiders with their energy and constructs, but what was an advancing, contracting ring is becoming something of a carpet, and for every spider they blast backwards or immobilize, there are dozens more, advancing, forward, forward, a creeping doom that passes OVER anyone in their path, with chilly but not-yet-murderous legs, more gross than dangerous (though VERY gross), for now, because they are intent upon their target.

Forward towards Eri. Forward towards the cake...

Steve defends it at point blank, whapping the first, original spider -- the one with a red string around its leg -- onto the ground. Its single eye swivels to gaze balefully at him.

Fuu creates a reprieve from one direction with, functionally, a wall of wind, her microtempest of the appropriate scale and force to accomplish the analogy


and La Sirene, emerging unexpectedly from the lake, creates another, swallowing up sufficient quantities of spiders within shadow that there is, at least, somewhere to run.

And run Eri must; even then, there is no escape. With spiders closing in from all directions, the only way to save the cake, surely, is to let it go to someone else...

COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used In Your Face on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used In Your Face on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used In Your Face on Ren Aizawa.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used In Your Face on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used In Your Face on Yumi Ohzora.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used In Your Face on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used In Your Face on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used In Your Face on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi decisively counters 12 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's In Your Face, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Pink
Moon Stick is Psyched!  Eri Shimanouchi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!  Diversion applied to Eri Shimanouchi!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi's counterattack, Gardener's Trick, partially gets through, doing 28 Fatigue damage to Pink Moon Stick!
Exhausted applied to Pink Moon Stick!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi counters 8 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's In Your Face, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi's
Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!  Blind and Diversion applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, partially gets through, doing 25 Fatigue damage to Pink Moon Stick!
COMBAT: Lera Camry fails to dodge Pink Moon Stick's In Your Face, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  Blind and Diversion applied to Lera
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji perfectly counters 24 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's In Your Face, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Hit!  Critical Counter!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji's counterattack, Unorthodox Swordplay, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Pink Moon Stick!  
COMBAT: Steven Universe braces 16 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's In Your Face, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Steven Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora dodges 8 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's In Your Face, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Diversion applied to Yumi Ohzora!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa dodges 11 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's In Your Face, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Ren
Aizawa's Flash ability activates!  Blind applied to Ren Aizawa!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant fails to dodge Pink Moon Stick's In Your Face, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Blind and Diversion applied
to La Sirene de Diamant!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

A blind slash so rarely finds its target; that is why Mikoto's focus so often narrows down to the perfect wedge of only her opponent, only her next blow, only their defeat. There is no room for fear in those instincts and the reason now is clear, as fear broadens her focus, gives her more to focus on than the fight.

At first the noise which comes from Mikoto's throat at Lera's question is a drawn rasp, as if she inhales and forgets what comes next; a hitch of her breath. "... they're scary!!" She finds the words and they're a wail, plaintive, distraught. "They found me again... I don't want this..!" It's so much easier to tell herself she could fight them when they're not here, isn't it?

Her world is narrowed to her fear but that doesn't mean she's the only one they found again; the Wind Knight, luckily, has her thoughts more in order, and can actually answer the question.

Eri reassures her, at least; it's fine, Eri says, and Eri is one of the few people Mikoto can trust with everything, so it must be fine. Mikoto takes a breath, fills her lungs. "Bad when they're lots," she clarifies the answer, and there is that gruff-gravel quality of her voice with all the warmth shorn away, the way shi hides behind yon, inescapable. "Other way's worse."

A little shake of her head, and her answer to Steven has more emotion behind it, but it only makes the words dismal. "It's cream... and fruits... I got it special..." Eri heard that Mikoto wished to know what wonders a parfait cake would hold, and she made sure Mikoto got just that cake, and it made Mikoto so happy. "... I don't know, why Orphans do anything." Her brow knits, as she struggles for old memories; she is fighting very hard, to speak and to reason, and it's effort which is, for now, rewarded. "Just, hunting them's our 'natural calling'... us HiME."It's hard to organise her thoughts into words when they all want to slip away to a red haze; thankfully, la Sirene emerges with watery grace to complete the details. Ren and Yumi are willing to fight, too, with their lances and dark magics. It's okay. It's okay. It's

not okay.

It's not even a LITTLE okay because those spiders are clambering over Mikoto, and she shudders, eyes squinching shut as she goes very, very still. She doesn't want to be stung by them again. She doesn't want to remind them she has flesh to be pierced.


Didn't she just sat that Orphans are the enemies of the HiME?

Enemies must be defeated.

With a bellowing warcry Mikoto twists and strikes around, at the skittering-skittering not-at-all-spiders-don't-think-of-spiders, and screaming still she leaps down to sweep her blade around in a wide circle, which threatens to catch many of the too many too many Orphans in its spinning arc.

One may wish to take care and make sure they are not close enough to get caught in it.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Decimation on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"Yumi!" Tama speaks up from her perch on--when did she get up that tree? Well, she's sure up it now, in the branches scowling down at the Orphans. "You'll have to use a broader attack, or slow them down!"

"I'm trying!!" Yumi answers her familiar as her beam goes wide, and worries at Mikoto's reaction still. She can't quite look at them right, can't quite see them right. But--Orphans...

"Mikoto-chan, we're with you!"

But what she's going to do about it she's not sure, yet. "Eri, are you okay??" Yumi calls over, and--

wow that's an entrance, from the lake

"Right!" she calls to Ren instead of the super-cool Sirene for the moment, and thinks--"Think, think... making them hungrier is bad, but--"

She goes for something practiced, tracing out a rune with a green-gloved finger in mid-air for Ruin. The symbol glows black where it hangs before Yumi points through it, sending a burst of green light for the crowd of spiders.

Yumi wants to go to Mikoto... But, with her swinging around her sword like that, that's a terrible idea. So instead she edges back towards the tables.

COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has used Weakness Hex on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Praise me more." Eri says wryly to Ren, "Though actually wait until we're all having cake together."

Fuu names them Orphans. La Sirene confirms them. And suddenly it makes a lot more sense that they're here. Where HiME go, orphans go. There's an exception, but she doubts(hopes) that there's not a PMC being run by an actually not dead Alyssa SEARRS crashing the birthday. Mikoto sounds pretty scared. "Agreed." She says, taut, as if Mikoto's fear was bringing on a certain intensity, as she tries to find a place to run, but quickly finds many paths closing. "Don't worry, you'll get to enjoy it yet."

Eri jukes left, and right as if trying to figure out a way to go but there's it's like seeing a whole carpet of gross creepy crawlies advance towards you. No way you go is safe. And so many of them seem honed into her.

And so she has to rely on Steven and his bash to make a run for it, as she then banks in a turn around the ever-shifting orphans that are getting PERILOUSLY close to her to go up to La Sirene- "No time to explain!" -and thrust it into her hands without brooking any argument. "Take it! Keep it safe!"

Beat. "Mami made it." As if she thinks that'd incentivize La Sirene to give it her all.

Before she turns around, and scythes her whip to crash it just in time to a single orphan whose pincers were coming PERILOUSLY close to her, the impact cascading into multiple others.

On the backswing, the circling loops of her lash glide back around, as she attempts to try and catch a single, or perhaps several Orphans by their far too many grotesque legs. And tugging it taut... she tries to see if she's able to tear them off their footing and swing them around like a grotesque tether ball to crash into the thick of this awful swarm in her attempt to try and give La Sirene some time to make some distance.

"Cake's okay! La Sirene's got it!"

She calls out, shamelessly putting all the responsibility on Nori's head to save the day now.

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Gardener's Grasp on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

The lances do pin down some of the spiders. But it's not enough. There's just...

"So many!" Ren exclaims, furrowing her brow. She turns to glance at Eri and the cake, making sure it's still in one piece. She's relieved to see it is, smiling back at the Puella Magi. "Ahh! Of course! We'll eat that cake together!" Ren seems pretty convinced the spiders won't ruin things any further.

Of course, they choose that time to try and do exactly that. "Ahh!" She yelps as they come crawling her way. So fast! She barely has time to dodge out of the way. Though she doesn't get away completely clean in this case, several of them clinging on to her and crawling up to scuttle over her face as well.

"Get off!" She shouts, brushing them off, taking to the air. She shudders at their cold touch. "D-Don't let them touch you!" She says, though Fuu had said the exact same thing moments before.

"The cake is safe?!" She calls out, and gets confirmation from Eri. "Good! Heraut!"

Ping. <Alright!>

Ren comes down on the nearest blanket of spiders, lance poised downward to strike through them.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has used Lance of Faith on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

So many extra attendees! There aren't enough plates and silverware to go around!Also cake! And the people also don't wanna get eaten! There are numerous problems with this increasing situation.

Steven nods towards Mikoto, but has no idea still why spiders, or an approximation thereof, want cake. "At least they aren't eating people I guess!" he calls back. Unfortunately with them retaliating, that could abruptly change, as the Orphans now will defend themselves.

The main spider gets a whoopin, but the spider is much more hardy than a simple swat will deal with. Even as they all crawl in, Steven can feel their movements nearby. It is an uncomfortable sensation. And thankfully they want the cake more than anything. Reflexive swats keep them at bay for the moment, but the tide is coming in. And the surge isn't made of water.

Lion at this point has begun to yowl very loudly toward spiders with sonic might, also sharing the unified goal of EEEUGH GET THEM AWAY FROM ME. Fluorescent tinted waves of sound mark the areas the spiders get hit, the flowing swarm buffeting against an unseen force.

Though he too is looking for a swift exit.

"Uuuuuhhhh, what did you do to deal with guys you fight?" He calls to Mikoto, and the group as a whole. Maybe they have a weakness or something.

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Just Lion Things on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick perfectly dodges 45 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Decimation, taking 0 Fatigue
damage!  Critical Dodge!  Pink Moon Stick's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick braces 5 Fatigue damage from Yumi Ohzora's Weakness Hex, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Yumi Ohzora is Psyched!
Exhausted and Stagger applied to Pink Moon Stick!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick dodges 6 Fatigue damage from Eri Shimanouchi's Gardener's Grasp, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Eri Shimanouchi
is Psyched!  Pink Moon Stick's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Stagger and Tangle applied to Pink Moon Stick!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick fails to brace Ren Aizawa's Lance of Faith, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Ren Aizawa is Psyched!  
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick partially dodges 6 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Just Lion Things, taking 25 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!  Pink Moon Stick's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Tangle and Trap applied to Pink Moon Stick!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Not-remotely-spiders leap at the Wind Knight - and are met with her sword.

A lot of Orphan spiderlings. A lot of leaps. A lot of parrying. There isn't quite enough force for her to cleave any of the little monsters apart, as much as she'd like to - the same lack of weight which lets her blow them around means they can bounce off rather than being smote in twain - but she'll settle, for the moment, for successfully defending herself.

"Just focus on whittling away at their numbers for now," the Wind Knight calls out - mainly to Steven but also to everyone. "And do your best not to get bitten! If we can wipe the swarm out entirely while they're small, all the better ..."

During the previous encounter with this type of Orphan, as she recalls, they *couldn't* defeat them/it until the remaining spiders merged into one giant grotesquerie. And now, thinking back, she's not even sure if they really DID take it out completely - if any little spiderlings chose to escape instead of fighting to the bitter end ...

Meanwhile, the cake is passed off - and while the Wind Knight is sorting out her next move, she focuses on La Sirene de Diamant, reaching out with her left hand as the gemstone shines. "Winds of Protection!" she calls out, weaving her wind magic into a protective barrier for the current Bearer of Birthday Cake. Every little bit helps, after all - and Fuu has as much investment in the cake's safety as everyone else.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Protection on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Protection, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Accelerate and Withstand applied
to La Sirene de Diamant!
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Darkness crests and clears space. La Sirene doubts it will be enough but the un-light may strive against the dread of these Orphans, despite the irony, if one looks at matters from a Tolkienic perspective. She strides forwards, breathing in deeply, before -

A cake is given to her.

La Sirene accepts it with due and solemn gravity, shifting it to hoist it above her head in a firm grasp, the aura around her rippling upwards and flickering over the cake itself - helping to hold it in place, perhaps, or to ward off Orphans who might seek to disrupt the burning torches, the frosting of delight!

Or maybe just to hold it a little bit in place as she turns and runs.

Again! Fleeing so ignomiously! But there is a greater cause at work here: "Begone, you awful little things! This is more precious than whatever petty vendetta or darkling thirst you seek to slake! Go away! Come back tomorrow if you must!" (Will they go for the old Patrick, la Sirene thinks, before--)

One lands right on her face. La Sirene freezes, the Orphan's body hiding the truly immense expression of sudden dismay for the three heartbeats before which la Sirene is freed from this burthen of deadly multilegged terror by the Magic Knight.

"Hgnh - Mikoto! Stay clear! I do not know how to stop this but if I have to run all the way to New York City to protect this cake, I shall, though my very legs fall off!!!"

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Taking The Cake on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts La Sirene de Diamant's Taking The Cake, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Cheered!  
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

All of Mikoto's savagery is for nothing -- despite the now uncharacteristically careless width of her swing's diameter, Miroku catches no spiders at all. It's like a nightmare as they close in all over her. If they wanted to STING her, she'd be stung dozens of time in an instant, because she is not defending herself.

It's a good thing she isn't here alone.

Yumi's weakness hex settles on those nearest Orphans. Their architecture is fast and tough but not, individually, strong, and spiders tumble off of Mikoto and all around her, weighed down by central red eyes that their ten legs can no longer lift.

Their bretheren stab them casually underfoot -- not just with their feetless legs but with their stingers, they take the time to kill their own, once they've revealed this weakness -- as the swarm passes, switching directions to pursue La Sirene.

But she isn't alone either... Fuu's windweaving gives her a personal shield, while Eri, Ren and Steven buy her time to get some real distance -- with a tetherball of spiders impacting the group, three or four at least within that thorny whip; with a shield exploding the ball; with Lion, baying sonic discomfort, clearing a path more for himself than for her but nevertheless a path...

The surviving spiders pause collectively, simultaneously, instantly, when it becomes obvious that there is no hope, that they cannot catch her.

Correction: when it becomes obvious that they cannot catch her LIKE THIS.

Mikoto did warn them...

A dozen dozen red eyes stare upwards, then swivel within their bodies to look at the same thing: nothing. It is an empty point of space near the lake.

(Fuu, La Sirene, and Mikoto experience deja vu, as...)

<SoundTracker> Yami no Butou - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSbtDr4JFSo

And then it isn't empty anymore, when the horde converges there. There is another flash of light; black this time, making every other color just a little bit weirder during the eyeblink in between there being hundreds of small Orphans and one really big one.

One might expect it to be a giant spider and one would be wrong. Apparently one plus one plus one plus one plus hundreds plus one spiders equals something else completely.

There is something of the biblical angel here. Not the feathers and halos and divine radiance kind; the too many wings and too many eyes kind. The eyes are the same -- red, lidless, and scattered along its bulk in no particular pattern, there are places with enough eyes to fill an egg carton all next to each other, and other places with only one eye, or no eyes at all. Where eyes aren't, the wings are recognizably that same violet-black material as the skittery legs; only now there's no space in between them, they are welded together, each quintet a five-ribbed organ instead.

It has no mouth, so it does not roar -- nor hiss, as its component Orphans had sometimes with or without such an oriface -- but the shriek of metal made by its hundreds of rustling wings does an excellent impression of a kaiju scream regardless.

And then all of its eyes change, becoming paler. Not because pink is stylish, and not because the crimson is draining out of them. Because a layer of white energy is intensifying OVER them. Like a lid, if a lid was shaped like a sphere. A humming sphere -- as the power rises --!

As lasers crash everywhere at once, one fact becomes painfully clear: the kaiju-Orphan has decided that if it cannot have birthday cake, then no one else can live to have it either.

COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick transforms into The Beast!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven on La Sirene de Diamant.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven on Ren Aizawa.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven on Yumi Ohzora.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi dodges 17 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven, taking 25 Fatigue
damage!  Eri Shimanouchi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji partially dodges 7 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven, taking 29 Fatigue
damage!  Fuu Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora cleanly braces 40 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven, taking 7 Fatigue
damage!  Yumi Ohzora's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa braces 30 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven, taking 13 Fatigue damage!
Ren Aizawa's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Pink Moon Stick's A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven, taking 46 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Steven Universe braces 21 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven, taking 32 Fatigue
damage!  Steven Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant braces 20 Fatigue damage from Pink Moon Stick's A Time To Every Laser Under Heaven, taking 16 Fatigue
damage!  La Sirene de Diamant's Block and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto's arc clears no ground. They are on her again; again she screams, as they clamber all over her. She does not have the thoughts free to wonder why they are not stinging. They so easily could, but they seem content to swarm her, to make her cry out with the revulsion and terror inherent to them.

But everyone's with her.

It's a struggling impossiblity not to feel OVERWHELMED, by how much, how not, how many these Orphans are, tricks on her mind and horror in their screams; but Mikoto does not stand alone and in fact she never did, not really, not even at her worst. The spiders tumble off of her, and she scrambles back.

One breath, two breath, three, in quick succession. Mikoto swallows and nods to Yumi, a short grunt of affirmation.

"R...right!" She calls, to Eri, when she promises she'll get to have her cake - and spares a glance that way as soon as she can, to find that Nori has taken up the defence, instead. La Sirene, whose obsidian seems so unlike hers but who has always spoken in such ferocious defence...

Speeches don't work on Orphans, of course; Mikoto knows that. (In some sense, perhaps, it is knowledge which has been instilled from the beginning.) But if an Orphan could be moved by words, maybe it's la Sirene who could do it. She is all the orator Mikoto isn't.

It's a vain little hope and it is a thought, and she clutches to it before it falls through like sand through a sieve. Listening to la Sirene means she must be present to listen; she is trying so hard, to be present, as everything she is screams to cut all distractions from herself and fight.

"... yeah," she takes another breath. "Together." And it may not be immediately apparent that she's affirming Ren's declaration, with such a delay between the words, but she looks to her, and she nods. It is a more subdued thing, now, like the energy she needs to fight has borrowed too severely from her boundless enthusiasm, left her lean and winnowed.

Steven asks a question; perhaps he does not realise he asks two, to Mikoto's ears. What did they do to end up dealing with these enemies? How do they deal with them? Mikoto answers both. "We made a vow." She looks away, down to her blade. "But, I... I don't know if..."

These monsters which rearrange themselves without care for logic or earthly construction, who come back and back and back - there has always been a method the HiME have had to fight them. Georgia showed them, last time. Mai has shown them, in the past. Natsuki, and Kozue, too...

Her eyes don't lift from her blade, as her lips thin in tension.

The last time she asked, she asked for restraint. They know that isn't the path, here. There is no show of force which could ward an Orphan away, without consciousness to reason.

Fuu says they need to whittle them, and it is a brief moment of hope, in her chest, that perhaps they can; perhaps, with so many of her friends here, they can smash them down again and again until they don't get back up. That does work, sometimes, overwhelming force. Even regenerating foes can't reconstitute forever. Right?

But hope, perhaps, is unwelcome here.

"No..." Mikoto says, without volume, throat too tight, as she looks up to the nothing-space those eyes find, nothing plus nothing plus nothing plus EVERYTHING, and the word is with God and it sounds like a mechanical scream.

She feels those eyes on her, and she can't move, all frozen, all looking up at them.

move, cries something deeper than her mind, all underwritten in her muscles.

She can't.

This is not to say she is not moved. The lasers rain down and the blast may well drown her cry out, and she weighs so little and flies so far, cracks against a tree which a sharpness which sends her down to the ground with a deceptively quiet thud. She groans, as she pushes a hand under herself; the other still, as ever, around her blade.

Sway and shudder; her cardigan will need repairs, but that's why they have a sewing kit well-stocked, after all. Her teeth grit; her eyes narrow.

Miroku carves a wide arc through the ground as she sweeps in full revolution, and the energy is white light even as the portal she plunges it into is black as sin, pale light arcing out from the unthinkable abyss, splitting her shadow to two. "MIROKU!!" She cries; she asks; she invokes. The invocation is a word and this word is with God, too.

OST: Nightwish - The Phantom of the Opera https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBhozE-TkQo

The ground shudders.

The ground QUAKES.

Mikoto has invoked her magic of 'Miroku' before. Mai uses fire; Natsuki invokes ice; Kozue knew the water. These spires were her element and it seemed, so often, it was the expression of her Child, that power given to the HiME.

No. They are one part of a whole.

Rising - and rising - and RISING, with a rumble of ferocity reflected in the red glow of her gaze, those spikes move up and up and up, a roundness to them, a surface revealed in short order to possess a hand - a massive hand - wresting from the earth. Another. One grasps a club.

Let us mention the size.

This is a club the size of a building, and as Miroku -- the Child Miroku -- tears itself from the earth like blood from a wound, it is as large or larger still, stories tall. She is a speck upon its back, dwarfed, encompassed. At least her eyes are gold, again.

And Miroku -- which does not have legs but floats, in the air, where it has displaced the trees, one of them fallen right over one of those picnic tables with the savoury goods -- is a large and circular oni, those demons of Japanese folklore, clad in armour which may well look so familiar to everyone here. Those bracers -- those spiked bracelets -- those pauldrons -- they are just what Mikoto's uniform evoked, when she worked for Dark Fall.

"Miroku!" She cries, as much anger as fear now. At her command its free hand clenches to a fist, and at once a cacophony of obsidian spires tear from the earth, to pin and the Orphan as if a butterfly to a board.

At once it is clear why Miroku would never thank Ren: because its voice, the voice they can HEAR, is a mechanical roar, bestial and enraged and as wordless as any Child.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into Mikoto and Miroku!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Spire: Erasure on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Sure we will." Eri tells Ren, "Just as soon as we take care of this." Before, she looks strangely at Steven's efforts at the Sonic Shout, "That Lion actually comes in handy..."

Eri keeps swinging for a time. Hearing La Sirene's attempts at keeping the cake safely away. "Excellent. That's just the kind of enthusiasm I was hoping f-" Suddenly noticing the fixation of the many many spiders, she goes cross-eyed. "Wait... what did she mean by the other... way..."

And then Eri turns just in time to see them all converge.

Into something horrible.

The Puella Magi takes a step back. Then another.

The shriek of metal of it's rustling wings causes her to flinch notably. Right as she sees the color draining out of its eyes. She doesn't understand what that means... at first. Until suddenly that hum rises and...

Suddenly she dives into a roll. A multitude of small laser burns creasing her limbs and flanks as she moves, only narrowly avoiding a far worse fate of having been burned to death by Kaiju lasers. However as she hisses in a breath from her new position, and doesn't rise smoothly, it's clear to see that she's hurting. But hurting isn't down.

Mikoto looks afraid though. And... Eri finds herself becoming increasingly disturbed by it. Like that day at Ohtori when Mikoto was alone in the art room. How freaked she got by a simple prank.

And suddenly she's scared too. "MIKO-" 'MIROKU!!" "-to." The ground rumbles. The ground quakes. And Eri's eyes grow wide as she sees the club emerge from the ground. "You're really..."

The girl swallows, as Miroku emerges in its full glory. It's not as though she hasn't been around Miroku. She's been exposed to his full appearance as much as anyone can be. It's just... it feels like the stakes are even higher.

Because Mikoto is scared enough to summon it. Mikoto thinks the stakes are high enough for it.

As high as... that day.

There's not too much she can say to soothe Mikoto right now. The situation has changed from simply assuaging her fears. So instead she looks towards Lost Inheritor Yumi, "Yumi-chan. Let's back her up... we need to get a handle on this quickly." She regards it as her fault, that things went so far before. And things seem to be fast slipping out of anyone's ability to control...

Suddenly running her hand down the length of her whip, fingers pulling it taut, green magical energy gleams through it, before she kneels down, plunging it's handle towards it. The tendrils move at the beat of her magical direction, burrowing into the ground like oddly plant like worms. "I'm going to try to fence it in for a moment! Think you're up to the challenge of blasting it?"

The ground does not rumble, or quake... it is a more subtle thing. Just a light shifting of dirt... before vines erupt all around the Orphan beast, beginning to try and curl around it, twisting up around it in shifting ascents, thorns ripping and tearing across its flesh as it goes - almost like she just summoned razor wire momentarily around it. For an instant.

She doesn't intend to maintain the magic for more than a second or two...

... just long enough for someone else to act upon it.

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has started a combo targeting Pink Moon Stick!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

And that's what the Magic Knight of Wind was hoping they could avoid: the uncountable mass of almost-arachnids swarm *together* and merge into one nightmare-worthy giant. She'd forgotten that it seemed to retain all of its members' eyes - and somehow, she'd also forgotten the lasers.


The Wind Knight scrambles, trying not to get blasted, but there are literally too many lasers - she gets singed and scorched multiple times despite her best efforts. Somehow, she remains on her feet when the lasers abate ... but when the ground quakes beneath her, the green-clad Magic Knight's legs finally stop supporting her, just long enough to dump her on her backside.

At least she has presence of mind to roll with the fall, and she remains on hands and knees for stability while Miroku - not the sword but Mikoto's rarely-called Child - manifests fully in the material world. Only once the Child has completely formed and the ground is stable does the Wind Knight get back to her feet, sword once again in hand and her attention returning to the Orphan. Peculiarly, one of the thoughts in her mind right now is that next to Miroku, the Orphan actually doesn't *look* as awful as it did before.

And in a way, that's all it takes: a slight abating of her fear, followed by her courage - her determination - her *belief* stabilizing once more, and power welling up with them. And as it does, so too does the wind rise about her, gathered by the force of her will as she steps forward ... walks ... *runs* towards the monster from which, moments ago, she would have run *away*.

"Tempest ... !"

The wind coalesces further, like a tailwind speeding her forward - but if it pushes the Magic Knight, it pushes her sword so much more evidently, turbulence gathering around the blade as she levels it, brandished out to her right as she charges. The blade dips slightly, along with its wielder: not faltering, but gathering herself for a leap - and then the gale howls with full force, behind and around her.


As the second half of her spell-call resounds, the Magic Knight of Wind is pushed into an aerial pirouette, a spin that looks like it should leave her dizzy and wobbling and all too vulnerable. And maybe it will - but that same spin drives her blade crashing and cleaving into the now-giant Orphan's flank and legs, rotational velocity letting her strike again and again in rapid succession, with all the force she *didn't* have while parrying the myriad tiny spiderlings.

The wind's force is expended not long after, and the Magic Knight's booted feet touch the ground - and while she's at least off-balance, she has the presence of mind to push off again from the ground and point herself away from the monster. She most particularly wants to be out of Miroku's field of attack ... but she'd like to make sure their other allies can safely get their assaults in without worrying about her.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Tempest Slash on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"Yeah!" Yumi calls out to second Eri's encouragement to Mikoto, even as she manages to help her out another way. But--the cake! the cake is still going! Yumi looks to it almost in wonder for a half-second before she looks to see the 'spiders' making sure to sting their fallen and recoils in some horror. "They're crushing the weak ones...."

"Focus!" Tama calls to Yumi, and she straightens up and does, spotting the way the spiders pause, and stop, and then--

Black light flashes and Yumi blinks away the afterimages, only to find the strange angelic creature still in her vision. The shrieking makes her wince, but she pushes through--Nori is still handling the cake...

No, Yumi can't think about the cake as the energy intensifies over the strange eyes. Yumi's eyes widen again and she immediately starts tracing a defensive rune in front of herself, staff held up high as she carves the air with glowing runes. A powerful green barrier erupts before herself just in time to block most of the laser blast, though the explosion that results still makes her stumble back. "This is what this is!?"

It is not the only awful sight that comes first. Mikoto calls out for Miroku, but she's already holding Miroku. What comes is...

A hand grasps a club; a gigantic thing rises from the ground, and Yumi blinks again, staring at it at first. It's familiar, after all. Not just because of Mikoto's old uniform, but because of the form of this particular Child. "What...?"

Eri snaps her out of it by saying her name. The witch shakes her head, looks at Eri again. "...Yeah," she agrees. Regardless of other questions, this needs to be handled quickly. So as Miroku apparently brings forth more spikes, Yumi starts tracing runes in the air again, green-glowing black gleaming in front of her hand as her other hand lifts the Staff behind her. "Wrath of forgotten spirits...!"

Yumi aims for where Eri is trying to pin the monster down, and the runes begin to burst. "Dark Radiance!"

Green beams rush forward like torrents of emerald water, force crashing towards the monster to converge on where the vines go--


COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has joined the combo started by Eri Shimanouchi!
<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghb6eDopW8I

Mikoto is in terror, agony, la Sirene can tell. She's with Yumi, at least in some sense. That is good, la Sirene thinks as her eyes flick around in this world where she just had a spider-Orphan on her face for approximately infinite times more than she had ever really wanted. She shifts her legs, to steady herself, she breathes out.

Mikoto is...

The ground is rumbling.

La Sirene's jaw tightens because she remembers this and the memory, though perhaps paradoxical, is also not a good one. She remembers an offer and a taking, but that is the past. The fact that SHE has the cake, given to her by ERI, is proof of that. And perhaps, she thinks, she would need to --

"Steven," la Sirene calls in her penetrant voice. "You are the ne plus ultra of defense that I have seen. I have seen your shield yield never - and so in the name of all that is sorrowful and holy, I ask you please -"

She leaps forwards! Coming down, perhaps, on one of the Orphans, immediately besides Steven and Lion, who is hopefully not having a bad trip at the moment. "Guard this," she tells him. "I know it is a light thing, but Mikoto needs all the light that she can get."

And speaking of light. La Sirene's gaze turns upwards. She crouches then, into a deep squat, and vaults herself forwards with the power so gained. Atop a bench she stands, and her left hand comes upwards as she tilts herself to the side. Her legs flex a bit further with a creak of sacred leather. The light comes -- the horrible combined light from that unthinkable shape --

les mysteres

la Sirene says into the chaos:


In that white there is a strike, an ink-swirl of vivid and throbbing life, a negative-space sketch of some glorious and intermittent glyph. Unusually clear, given the background it stands against. Especially since light doesn't usually quite work like that, right? Well: It's not quite light: the burst that rises up towards the Orphan stands alone, independent, and laden with resolve.

COMBAT: La Sirene de Diamant has used Les Mysteres on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: COMBO! Eri Shimanouchi and Yumi Ohzora have used Combo: Dark Ivy Curse, composed of Horticultural Horizon and Dark
Radiance, on Pink Moon Stick.
<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

"Take that!" Ren exclaims as she puts a dent in the crowd she lanced. She doesn't waste time flying back up into the air, not wanting to be swarmed like before. She floats there panting heavily from the effort. Heraut chimes.

<If we keep this up we should be able to take them all out!>

"I think you're right abo-"

She's cut off when a much bigger threat coalesces on the horizon.




"...What is that thing?!" Ren exclaims, though immediately has to go on the defensive when it suddenly shoots out a very potent, very dangerous laser. Because of course it would. Just look at it!



Midchildan runes spin and burn into existence just in time to take the brunt of the laser's sheer power. Ren is forced backwards when the shield breaks and the concussive force hits her dead on. She tumbles out of the sky to Earth, impacting with it with an audible "Oof!". Laying there for a bit to catch her breath, she gets back up, just in time to see Mikoto get hit hard.

"MIKOTO!" Ren screams, already making her way over to where the HiME was thrown.

But Mikoto wouldn't need her help. Ren skids to a halt when the girl gets up and channels all of her rage. She invokes the name of Miroku. But this time... it's different. Ren can feel it even before the ground starts to shake.

And that's when the ground itself splits apart and out comes a massive, heaving beastial creature. Ren of course recognizes those spikes. How they closed in on her during the one and only time she and Mikoto did battle. As it turns out, they were part of a much, much large whole.

"That's... Miroku." Ren says aloud to herself, though there's no disbelief in her voice. It's sheer recognition. Recognition that if Mikoto had wanted to, back then during their fight, she could've called forth Miroku just like this and very likely end her.

...But she didn't. And now, Mikoto needed help. Gripping the lance tight, she instead turned her gaze to the offensive monster that had lasered everything in its immediate vicinity. The monster that was most definitely ruining the party!

<Let's help!> Heraut chimes, and Ren doesn't need any more prodding on that front. Another Midchildan runic circle spins into existence, this time above the aforementioned abomination. "GO! HERAUT!"

<Bane Spike!>

A large, phantasmal lance made of pure mana shoots forth from the runic circle, down onto the creature, seeking to pierce it through and through!

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has used Bane Spike on Pink Moon Stick.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick cleanly braces 23 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Tempest Slash, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Pink Moon
Stick's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick fails to brace Ren Aizawa's Bane Spike, taking 25 Fatigue damage!  Stun applied to Pink Moon Stick!  
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick perfectly braces 32 Fatigue damage from La Sirene de Diamant's Les Mysteres, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Brace!  Pink Moon Stick's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick fails to brace Eri Shimanouchi and Yumi Ohzora's Combo: Dark Ivy Curse, taking 102 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick braces 18 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Spire: Erasure, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Pink
Moon Stick's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Pink Moon Stick!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

So very many spiders. Why do they desire a cake so badly? Is it what it represents maybe? Perhaps they just wants Mikoto to have a bad time. Or maybe it, as the moment reveals in time. The spiders are done having their fun in a mosh pit. They elect to take a singular form and take the cake in a form that can work for all the spiders. Julienned.

"OH, they got bigger. GOOD," the boy says, sounding not-so-thrilled in a monotone voice. Lion seems fed up with everything as well, still fighting remnants of spiders.

Then the lasers come. "Duck for cover!" the boy says, widening the shield and diving under it, though not before getting caught on the leg and feeling a bit of burning. "Ow hot hot hot!" he says, his voice sounding as if he is in a plastic section of playground tunneling. "Oh no! Wait!"

As white-hot lasers fly, a chubby hand darts out from under the shield and grabs the deluxe backet of party plates off the nearby ground before a laser nearly abliterates them, the hand carrying the goods retracting like a snail into its shell.

Through the cotton candy pink and cyan shroud does a titan rise. Through Rose-tinted shades does this event not get blunted in the slightest. It is terrifying. Steven has seen this form before, or at least a segment of it. Devastating efficiency is its goal, and friendly fire is not on its list of checks before attacking.

But he cannot stay. Iti s time to move. And as does the cake as well, as La Sirene points out. Coming out from under the shield he looks her way as she lands nearby. "C-Cake Guardian...!" he says, eyes growing wide. "I'll-- I'll do it!" he says, eyes full of stars! "Go get um! I can get it to safety!"

The boy accepts the cake as if the world depended on it. And if very well might! "Good luck out there!" He says, hopeful as ever! "Uhhhh. Lion! We gotta book it!" Feeling the need to leave, as being anywhere near Miroku and the Orphan is gonna get nutty, the boy pops a bubble into existence around him, and starts getting the heck outta dodge. Lion follows close behind as a slightly wobbly feline escort!


(At least for another few minutes.)

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

The Orphan is very big -- gone is the problem of its quickness, and gone is the problem of its quantity. There's only one now, and it doesn't move far nor fast.

And so it is that Eri struggles to summon enough flora to bind it in place for Yumi to shoot, and Yumi struggles to create a large enough, fierce enough ray; that Fuu's windblade, though mighty, cannot be enough on its own to bisect such a vast sphere of eyes and wings; that Les Mysteres plunges in and in and in and yet does not emerge out the other side; that Heraut's spike slows within the mass long before it hits the ground beneath the floating orb--

Size doesn't matter; every magical girl knows that; and yet, and yet, and yet--

Miroku flips the scale.

No longer is the Orphan large at all. And as though that simple, altered perspective is sufficient to rewrite reality, as it disappears within Miroku's shadow, and then within its spires--

Fuu's blade pushes forward and one can see silver unlight rippling through the Orphan's shadow, redefining it in silhouette within Miroku's and then another, a green one, that Yumi and Eri wrought; and at last Ren's magic finds the ground it seeks--

--and obsidian, obsidian everywhere, a terrible quantity of it, stabbing--

--the orb rips free, soaring over the lake, and into the sky, and out of sight, disintegrating as it goes--

--(into dust, or into not-spiders? hard to say)--

--and that's the end.

The party can continue.

It's time to cut the cake.

The Orphan's gone...

...but not, it turns out, without a trace.

Later, when she's cleaning off the tables, Mikoto finds it. The box, burst open from the inside, is six pieces only. And at the center of this odd flower of cardboard and black silk... there's a card, which must have been tucked away at its bottom.

The writing is innocuous enough, insofar as it is simple black ink on white cardstock; but it is elegant both in calligraphic refinement, bold, fearless slashes; and traditional in vocabulary, historical even; formal, complex kanji galore.





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

In Mikoto's steely gaze is a command she does not shed words to speak:


Because in those spires is the cruelty of Miroku. It is the cruelty which made too long Endo's torment - the cruelty which discounted Eri's mayfly existence - the cruelty which demands negotiation from the very girl it serves.

But it's a funny thing, anger.

Anger can be empowering, too.

Mikoto does not like to be afraid; too often is Mikoto afraid.

No, she is not alone. There are many beings who love her, and this affection boils her blood from their obsidian heart to her chthonic veins. Destroy what is terrifying; know safety again.

But it follows the order, in the wake of so much obsidian, and the assistance of so many girls. It dies, and she is left, atop an oni who looks down on everything below by sheer matter of scale. Here now her brain catches up to the cries of Eri and Ren, to Yumi's scream; her eyes scrunch shut, as her chin ducks down.

"... it's okay, Miroku." She finds her words, taking a breath. "I'm - I'm okay. We all defeated it... together."

And perhaps there is this horrible sense of tension, for a moment, before it reaches up with that massive palm; Mikoto climbs upon it without any fear at all for the malice which pours from it, hugging a thumb far too broad for her to reach around for support as it lowers her down.

Obsidian spires crash up from the earth; they surround it; they shatter into sparkles, and Miroku is gone, too. Soon the sword is gone from view, too, placed back inside its sword-case.

Mikoto swallows, looking over to Eri and Yumi, to the others. "Thanks..." Her hands twist in front of each other, a little awkwardly. "... can we have cake now?"

Luckily, Steven is EXCEPTIONALLY good at defending things.


Mikoto volunteers to help cleaning up; she can't help but feel a little responsible, for the debris strewn around, given Miroku's approach. Her hands fall on a strange box; she can't quite remember anything coming in a container like this.

Of course she has to look inside.

There is a certain penmanship which comes from classical training; Mikoto shows something of it herself, in her samurai's brushstrokes. It is instantly familiar. Her eyes do not stumble over the archaic kanji.

Why would they? 'Ani-ue', Lord Brother - it is, after all, a word from long ago.

'... children of the old century, just like Grandfather said.'

Her eyes scan over it, and here when they widen, it is more difficult to define. It is more complicated still than fear or delight, this thing which catches her breath in her throat, which spurs her to clutch it to her chest.

All the questions -- all the horrific implications -- all of them don't matter in this moment as she knows that he wished to give her something, too.

She still loves him.

She tucks the card away, and does not show them. She knows what they would say.

For now, for today, she just wants to be happy.