2021-03-20 - Sister Schools Joint Exercise: Heart-Pounding Swim Race

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Sister Schools Joint Exercise: Heart-Pounding Swim Race

PE class today is swimming, but Professor Croix and Viluy are really conducting another test entirely, driven by Viluy's HeartBeats.


Kozue Kaoru, Yumi Ohzora, Mikoto Minagi, Fuu Hououji, Michiru Kaioh, Haruka Tenoh, Yui Bidou, Croix Meridies, a half dozen mascots

GM: Pink Moon Stick


Infinity Institute

OOC - IC Date:

3/20/2021 - 04/10/2015

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Infinity Institute +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
  The inner wards of Tokyo boast most of its largest skyscrapers, but there is  
  an unusual exception. Located in Hachioji District, the Infinity Institute    
  is by far the largest building in Tama, and the second-largest skyscraper in  
  Tokyo. At 52 stories tall, its glass and stone the sort of primeval obsidian  
  that shimmers like oyster shell, Infinity is commonly supposed, by visitors,  
  to house some megacorporation, but there is only a scrap of truth to that.    
  Infinity is, in fact, a school, and what a school it is.                      
  Offering a complete education from elementary to university, this daring new  
  charter school offers talented students a literal and figurative chance to    
  climb in the world: its vertical campus has students moving up a few floors   
  every year. Black metal monoliths with lighted white globes flank students    
  as they approach the entranceway, itself styled like an abstracted            
  grandfather clock, purplish glass panes forming an arch on the facade.        
  Within, a lushly austere atrium whispers water-sound from its great           
  fountain, beams of light slicing falling water elaborately. The atrium's      
  ceiling is five stories tall, and so many balconies and walkways are visible  
  as one stands on the violet carpeted black granite.                           
  There is considerable variation between the fifty two floors, but the         
  unifying theme is one of sleek modernity. Heavy use of polished metal and     
  glass lend the building the feeling of an appliance freshly peeled of its     
  plastic coating. The walls are painted in cool tones of purple and deep       
  blue, and the accommodations are lavish, if stark. At times, the architects   
  even seem to have played artful little tricks, making a hallway appear too    
  long, or bend in a way that it does not. It is just a trick of the eye,       
  isn't it?                             

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> In The Afternoon Schoolyard - FWPC OST - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COvPsSKG2Ks

Of course this place has an infinity pool. Come on.

Even in November, it's available; enclosed seasonally by two glass walls and a glass ceiling, it's somewhat like swimming in a fishbowl forty stories above Tokyo. It's easy to forget to turn around at the end of a lap, and just keep swimming, swimming, off into the sky.

Heated indoor pools are nothing like the beach and nothing even like (for example) Juuban's good-weather-only outdoor pool; the air is warm and wet and chemical-heavy, but not unpleasantly so.

Since it's the Institute, the pool's of Olympic dimensions. It is currently set up with racing lanes, which is usually the case; this is not, particularly, a playtime setting. Though the exception proves the rule: the victims^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hvolunteers of the Sister Schools Joint Exercise Program are currently all bobbing in the rightmost lane, allowed a warm-up period that vaguely resembles recreation.

They're a colorful sight; the school swimsuits are red, blue, and yellow one-pieces respectively, as one might expect. Infinity's design is the sportiest; Ohtori's design is the sexiest; Juuban's design is the plainest; this too is basically within normal bounds, along with a certain amount of good-natured grumbling from anyone who wishes they were wearing another school's, which oddly enough is virtually everyone. The grass is always greener.

The EXTREMELY cool new Professor Croix (of 'saved everyone from dodgeball robots' fame) is standing over a poolside table, and the student sitting there, both. The latter is NOT in a swimsuit, but in normal Infinity uniform; Croix and Yui Bidou (Computer Club president) could be mother and daughter, with their similar silvery hair, except that Croix is way too young. She's giving off intensely powerful 'cool big sis' vibes instead, well-assisted by her aggressively short haircut. Yui, in turn, is channeling 'sulky younger sis' to some degree, as they go over some kind of data on the monitor set up there.

"We really don't need your supervision--"

"Ah," Croix counters, "But it isn't about need."

"Fine," Yui shoots back, rolling her eyes a full three-sixty, "We don't want your involvement."

Croix smirks. "You should be honored by my interest. It's a compliment. These HeartBeats you've seeded throughout the city are powerful little monitoring machines. I just want to see if they can exceed that passive potential for a more... active use."

Everyone in the pool is wearing a HeartBeat currently, either the one they were given at the Uminari festival, or at one of the Get Your Love-Love contests, or if, somehow, incredibly, they still hadn't received one in all this time, they got handed one today. They're basically very cute fitbit bracelets, and come in every conceivable color.

Yui runs two fingers through her long hair, pushing it back off her face. "Fine," she spits. "Conduct your test..."

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Come Back to Earth - Mac Miller - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4ocPPhtglU

Kozue Kaoru isn't very much interested in whatever the Joint Exercise Program is hoping to achieve. The newest member of Infinity's Swim Team as a recent defectee from Ohtori's Swim Team is only here for a singular reason...

... it gives her another excuse to be in the pool. And so she has a Heartbeat on her wrist, and has made the transition from 'sexiest' suit to 'sportiest' suit swimmingly which may earn the model more than a few glances.

Right now she's lazily floating on her back, only occasionally using her legs for an indolent kind of propulsion. In motion, yet she still appears like she's half asleep, her eyes lidded. It feels like she must be asleep however, given how she typically moves within the pool.

The Infinity Pool clearly has this lane for them, yet it feels without borders. The filter making her body half-aglow with aquamarine in this infinite expanse. The sense of relaxation seeming almost spiritual for her.

Some of the best and worst moments of her life were in the pool. So much so that she feels like she belongs to the chlorinated waters... not just Ohtori's waters... but... the water. Those memories come unbidden, and right now she gets this strange sensation of being unmoored from present... and instead belonging to an ephemeral past.

So she floats, purposeless, and smells the chlorine during this period of warmup. Not approaching anyone, nor seemingly rebuking approach to her.

It's hard to say whether the blare of a whistle or the call of her name would be cruelty or mercy while she's like this.

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

Yumi Ohzora happens to have one of those little HeartBeats! Not only that, but she has one of the sportiest of swimsuits, which... strikes her as something of an irony since she doesn't expect to be making any speed records in the pool or anything. But even so, she likes it in the water, and anything with the super cool Professor Croix is worth a thought at least.

Yumi floats in the pool, treading water casually (well, it looks more casual than it is) and letting herself just be in the water for a bit. It's a warmup period and that mostly means she's just hanging out at the moment, her own silvery hair back because it's exercise time and... well.

Her glasses are off. But she can tell where Kozue is. She notices how she's all... in her own world, at the moment, and she doesn't want to really interrupt her. So she doesn't! Instead...

Yumi floats backward and towards the wall again, looking around. "Pity Hana-chan didn't make it..."

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

Chlorine has a particular sort of PUNCH.

It's less omnipresent in Juuban's pool, open to the air and breeze; here, forty stories up, there's nowhere for the smell to go. It's just hanging there, in the background, a constant reminder of the artifice of a pool of water this high up. There's a reason Mikoto Minagi doesn't visit this pool as much as the others, even if it's getting too cold, these days, for her to casually dive into Tama River and wrestle fish to bring up the tower to one Tama Cat.

(The sight of an Ohtori student with still-damp braids casually standing in Infinity's elevator with a newly-slain salmon might not ever stop being kind of weird, so maybe that's for the best.)

She suits her uniform as well as a moose suits ballroom dancing; even with a less childish appearance, Mikoto will likely never stop being astoundingly boyish for an Ohtori girl, no matter how many years she claws from the Reaper. In the changing rooms she remarked to Yumi that she liked her uniform better; the blues of Infinity are a much better match to the stripes of Mikoto's personal one-piece, after all. With a similar pique, she picked at the HeartBeat on her wrist; the stray Mikoto managed to avoid receiving one for some time, only to be handed one today. It's a graceful muted gold, and it feels weird to have something just sitting on her wrist like this.

(Not at all like having a sword sitting on her shoulder. Of course, Miroku's case is leant against a locker in the changing room, banished from the pool. That's always the way for poor Miroku. It's hard to swim and carry a sword at the same time!)

But the HeartBeat is securely strapped on there, as much as it might be hard to tell right now, because Mikoto... is not currently visible on the surface of the pool.

BGM: John Williams - Jaws https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvCI-gNK_y4

A shadow passes under Kozue, the water shifting with the weight of something, as something soars underneath in the infinite sky of this pool...

... getting closer...

... and closer...

... and CLOSER....

With her glasses off, can Yumi possibly feel the swell of water shifting, as something swims underneath her, past her, and finally -- water shifting as something comes up, up, UP --

"Yaaah!" Gasps Mikoto, plus the goggles she wears to protect her really quite delicate eyes from all the chemicals in this water, as she surfaces right beside Yumi Ohzora with a big splash. "Yumiiiii! Yumi, Yumi! It's time to swim!"

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

While phys ed may not be her strongest suit, Fuu Hououji does take it as seriously as her other classes - and she's taking this session seriously as well, stretching and loosening up to the fullest of her ability, and taking advantage of the apparent slight delay in starting to do a little more of the same. Her blonde hair is tucked under a regulation Infinity swim cap, and she's similarly glasses-less but wearing goggles to protect her eyes all the same.

Her own HeartBeat, green in color (of course), is nestled about her left wrist. She hasn't been seen with it all *that* often since she got it, but she does put it to use ... rather thorough use, in fact. What Fuu may lack in athletic drive, she makes up for in mathematical enthusiasm - taking the HeartBeat's outputable data, looking at what the existing algorithms do to analyze it, and performing her own analyses to see if there's any further extrapolation worth doing.

She may have been getting *more* exercise just to have the additional data to study. She may be a computer nerd of the first stripe, but Fuu Hououji is ultimately no couch potato. For now, she surfaces from a brief dive under the surface and 'looks' around, doing her best to match blurry shapes and colors up with the faces she saw before putting her glasses safely away ...

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Michiru Kaioh characteristically does not wear the school swimsuit when she swims, but this is a special occasion, is it not? She has her HeartBeat on, carefully tracking every elegant interior pulsation - and she has one in aqua-green, which helps bring that blue into a stylish concordance around her figure.

Michiru is floating in a vertical position, resting lightly - from the side she would seem to be floating in the air, an illusionary buoyance. She reaches up to sweep back a long strand of hair that has decided to drape, heavy with the water, and gives Yumi a conspiratorial little smile.

"Is that so? How sad... I think she would have found this quite diverting," Michiru says to Yumi, a moment before she turns herself around with a gentle sinuous motion of the hips and shoulders that would send subtle ripples and currents through the pool-- though such things are soon enough drowned out by the arisal of the great and terrible CAT-SHARK; whose eruption splashes Michiru enough to make her close her eyes.

"Ah my," Michiru says, though she sounds obscurely pleased. Her legs kick once or twice in the water, slowly.

COIN FLIP: Kozue Kaoru flips a coin. It lands on heads!
<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

One of the beach-style lounge chairs along the side of the wall is occupied by perhaps the most frequent visitor to the pool who does not swim in it, barring the janitors. Michiru Kaioh has many high-profile fans, both in the world at large and in the none-too-small microcosm of Infinity Institute, but few more notable than Haruka Tenoh. Refined an individual as she is, she was not necessarily known as a specific devotee of competitive swimming, the art gallery, and the concert hall prior to her association with Michiru Kaioh. But Michiru's participation in these fields has been sufficient to create many specators, out of individuals with far less ability to take her out to dinner afterwards than Haruka Tenoh has.

Inevitable defeat is the most honorable sort.

At the moment Haruka has a book on her lap, a piece of paper on the book, and an exam on her mind. But she looks up from time to time to see what her girlfriend is up to, or down to when the occasion calls for a dive. She has not changed into anything out of the ordinary, simply folded her uniform's jacket over the top of the seat, to recline in slacks, a dress shirt, and a tie. But if one finds that insufficiently exciting, there are many enough who would appreciate your stepping aside for those who do, thank you.

There is a time at which Haruka looks up and her eyes unfocus, her face growing hard. Perhaps she is deep in thought over her studies. But those unfocused eyes are, briefly, over Kozue Kaoru, and it is not the first time they have encountered her in a swimming pool.

Soon enough she is taking school notes again, marking the paper with brief, unsentimental motions of the wrist.

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Croix - LWA OST - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-zhMek-adM&t=1576s

Croix strides over to the side of the pool filled with students. It takes a second for her (Infinity seal-emblazoned) white lab coat to catch up with the rest of her when she stops; she's wearing a swimsuit beneath, but it is decidedly not uniform. Privileges of the staff. It's red, black, and strappy; it matches her eyes. There is something of a wetsuit feel to its central zipper.

With pursed lips and squeezed fingers, the young Professor emits a terrific whistle. "All right, everyone gather up at the wall!"

Once the group is sufficiently assembled, she explains the premise of the day. Croix is an enthusiastic lecturer, but also an intense one. She paces back and forth along the edge of the pool, gesticulating both widely and sharply.

"So as you may have heard, our talented Computer Club has been distributing monitoring devices cutely called HeartBeats widely for some months now. Bidou-san and her friends can use these devices to monitor typical vital signs like heart rate, blood oxygen, temperature, and so forth. BUT!"

She raises a finger.

"Those are far from the only qualities of the heart, no? And so I've made a tiny modification to the collection software, so that they might measure emotion. Quality and quantity. Passion, drive, competitiveness. Happiness, sadness, anger. In other words..."

She thrusts an arm out horizontally, towards the far side of the pool and its many jumping-off slots for racers.

"...while you race today, we should be able to monitor not just how hard you work to win, but how badly you want to win! I'm expecting everyone to give their all at one on one hundred meter freestyle! And if you're slacking off," a wicked gleam enters her eyes, "We can tell."

She snaps off pairings.

"Hououji, lane one! Ohzora, lane two!"

"Kaioh, lane four! Kaoru, lane five!"

"Minagi, lane seven! This heat you'll race the clock instead of another person and we'll see how that affects your motivation!"

That's totally an experimental control and not something she made up on the spot to handle her odd number of subjects^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hstudents.

There is a moment to climb out of the pool and arrange oneself at the starting points of each lane. Naturally, that also means there is a moment to (trash) talk.

Bidou, over at her table, is operating a keyboard with such rigidity that each keyboard clack sounds like the falling of a guillotine. Every so often she glances over at Haruka, then swiftly averts her gaze, with a sort of self-correction that is also at whipcrack-strength. Shy? Or something else?

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

"Yeah!" Yumi agrees with Michiru, smiling her way too. She can't even begin to compete with her sheer elegance, but she isn't trying to compete, either; she's just happy to have the older girl around. "She would've, too. But I guess she's been pretty busy lately, I've been missing her a lot..."

But suddenly--suddenly, subtle motions are overtaken by ERUPTION and water goes splaaash and Yumi jumps half out of the water. "Aah!"

Her HeartBeat certainly records a spike--before she laughs, seeing it's just Mikoto, and leans on her friend a little in the water. "Oh, you scared me!" She laughs--it's a light, breezy thing, though she's going to need a moment to catch her breath.

Hers is pink, incidentally. Though green would've also been OK. And there's surely a lot of interesting data in it already!

But Yumi gathers up at the wall when asked, and she waits for a moment to hear the plan. She has heard about the HeartBeats and all, of course. But... the only qualities...?

"Oh!" Pause. "Ah--um--Competitiveness? Ah, ha... ha... ha..."

Yumi, of course, was planning to slack off. She doesn't expect this to be much of a problem, considering. But when it's put that way...

Maybe she could afford to try a little harder. Steping out of the water, the gray-haired girl rolls her shoulders a little and sets herself up at lane two, looking over at Fuu with a small, self-deprecating look. "Good luck," she says, though she doesn't really expect that Fuu will especially need it--she's in a sports club, even if it's not swimming. But there's a little glint in her pink eyes all the same, one that suggests that maybe she doesn't want to be a couch potato today, either.

"But I am feeling pretty good today," she says, straightening her back a little, "So maybe you should watch out after all." She does feel pretty competitive after all.

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

Fortunately for Fuu, this 'lecture' is strictly a vocal one, without significant visual aids (apart from the HeartBeatworn by each student). She focuses on the Croix-shaped-and-colored blur as the teacher strides along the edge of the pool -

'so that they might measure emotion.'

Fuu can't stop her jaw from dropping at those words. Her stomach drops much further, before she makes an effort - a very conscious effort, at that - to pull herself together and not only act, but THINK, like an ordinary schoolgirl. Is it even possible - ?

Well, yes. Neither Croix-sensei nor Yui Bidou are idiots; the only reason why Croix would lie about something the HeartBeats actually *can't* do is to see how the students would react, and in this case, maybe to make sure nobody's slacking off as they swim. And there *are* physiological indicators for a person's emotional state: heart rate, temperature, certain hormones ... really, if you look at a polygraph, that's a form of 'emotional monitoring,' isn't it? Although it's a very specific kind of emotional state, and none too accurate.

The pairings are announced, and Fuu climbs out of the pool to join Yumi and the others at the starting blocks. "Let's both do our best, Yumi-san," she says with a genuinely friendly smile, hiding the confused tumult in her mind. But that turmoil hasn't gone away.

If the HeartBeats actually CAN read the wearer's emotional state, mundanely or not ...

Fuu adjusts her goggles, making sure their edges are snug against the skin around her eyes, then takes in a slow, deep breath, inhaling until her lungs are full to capacity. That breath is then released, slowly and evenly, before Fuu takes her place on the starting block, hunkering over to await the starting signal.

One equation at a time. Experiments and tests notwithstanding, she has *every* intention of doing her best. If her best isn't superior to Yumi's, so be it.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.


Mikoto is hardly the only rowdy student in the pool right now, yet like a pianist discordantly fumbling the wrong note, the familiar voice of the HiME excitedly shouting at Yumi causes Kozue to go cross-eyed. There isn't a sudden flailing from Kozue, just a slight dip in her weight near the small of her back, before she course corrects. Annoyed, she smoothly drops her legs down and just glares at Mikoto rough-housing with Yumi.

It is perhaps fortunate that the Professor lets loose that whistle now, as otherwise Kozue was contemplating sabotage of a certain pair of goggles.

Instead she makes a smooth turn, and glides towards the wall in question. One of her forearms is up against the wall, her chin seemingly just behind it. Her other hand lazily tracing on the edge of the wall. She doesn't even look at the heartbeat during the initial explanation. She's never needed a fancy gadget to swim, so why should she care now?

Her eyes though flick upwards from whatever imaginary thing she's tracing to Croix as she mentions she's modified them to measure emotion.

Kozue fights the urge to immediately smash the thing, when she thinks of the idea of her feelings as data. Instead she dismisses it to herself, as if considering the idea that any device could measure those feelings utterly absurd.

"What next? Gonna require us to wear these souped up lie detectors during our exams?"

It's said conversationally, though not especially loudly. It just has the feeling of her trying to insert scandal or rebellion into how sister school students regard the things.

However, the pairings are announced, and Kozue's eyes slide upon Haruka in the background. He's hard to miss after all. Harder still to miss that it was just announced that Kozue is racing his girlfriend. Before she kicks off the wall and simply dives underwater, her last view of Haruka being refracted through the ever-shifting lens of the water's surface as she makes her way to Lane 5 entirely from the side of the pool underwater. Before then breaking the surface and spinning around at the start of her lane.

"I'm surprised your boyfriend is able to study at all while you're in the pool." Kozue banters one lane over, Michiru's way, "...I figured he'd be the kind of guy to show off by you know... lifting weights poolside or something."

Kozue flicks her eyes forward, "But I guess if he at least knows to not try to take your spotlight while you're in the pool..."

There's a competitive sort of gleam in her eyes, as she looks down the lane of the Olympic size pool. "...then I suppose he really is a keeper for more reasons than being unimaginably hot."

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

Splash! Now Mikoto is the star! She laughs, and happily supports Yumi as she treads water. "Rar!" She's a shark! Or, perhaps... a cat-shark, right, Michiru?

Her own monitor records the furnace of activity inside of her; Mikoto, who is always ready to move, has a particular sort of presence. She is well-adapted to activity. And so, perhaps... it might catch the way her slow heart quickens, reactive, when she glances over Kozue's way and catches her glowering expression. It's a worry expressed in the way her lip scrunches, for that brief moment before the Professor demands their attention.

And so without calling to Kozue, Mikoto turns, hand-over-hand in the water to the wall. She's short enough that she can't possibly touch the bottom, so she just puts a hand on the tile to anchor herself, instead. The water splutters in and out of the gutter designed to keep it from splashing over onto the ground, little haptic reminders at her side of just how carefully-built this piece of sky really is.

Wrist out of the water, she can turn her head to look at the HeartBeat, as Croix explains it to them; it's a fearless gesture, taking her eyes off the astounding presence of their DODGEBALL SAVIOUR, but Mikoto doesn't seem to notice whether she might be being rude. She blinks, as Croix-sensei lists off a series of statistics which are probably impressive, only to look back over to her as her tone rises with her finger.

Mikoto's face lops to the side as Croix speaks on emotion, one side scrunching as her other brow rises up, all tilted to the gravity of her claims. Her braids do not dangle as much as stick to the side of her face, damp from the sterilised water. If she can take the measure of her obsidian heart...

... no, she tells herself, it's fine. Last time the doctors measured hers, they didn't notice she was sharing. Normal people can't tell.

What they can tell now, apparently, is how much Mikoto likes swimming, and that was never a secret in the first place, so it's fine. Her head cocks the other way, as Croix wonders about her, "... motivation..?"

Okay, so it IS true that Mikoto only originally volunteered for this joint program because someone convinced her to participate with a good argument. Or snacks. (It was probably snacks.) But since then, she's gotten great reasons to participate in team sports! So there's no way Croix could know she didn't come into this project with a pure academic drive to succeed in physical education, right? Right.

Up she hoists herself from the water, and here her upper-body strength serves her well; Mikoto doesn't bother swimming to the ladder to leverage herself up onto the tiles. Off to the head of lane seven, and Mikoto, who has never been one for small talk, trash or otherwise, doesn't interject on anyone's behalf.

Instead she pokes at the HeartBeat on her wrist, fixing it with a quizzical expression. If this thing can tell how she's feeling...

... does it know she's worried about what Kozue thinks??

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Michiru glances towards the observers' chairs for a moment, perhaps, but it is part of a general sweep of her surroundings. Although, of course, one particular chair occupied by a studious figure was probably seen more favorably than the others.

"Ah; what a clever device, if it can measure so many such things, don't you think?" says Michiru after her assignment is given to her. To whom does she speak? Why, to the younger woman to whom she is assigned against -- to Kozue Kaoru, of course. For she leaned forwards and simply pushed herself forwards, moving almost without sign of stroke or stress towards lane #4.

"It's an unlucky number for me," Michiru continues, "but I suppose there was no choice, to keep us all properly separated, one from the other."

Her head tilts to the side as Kozue speaks, though, and Michiru smiles, wanly. She raises her arms above her head, breaking the water to thread fingers together and gently flex her shoulders in a smooth S-curve of a motion. "Mm. That's right. Haruka's not the sort to be deterred or distracted so easily... and Haruka has nothing to prove. It's that sort of immortal confidence that's rare, isn't it?"

As she slides into the fourth lane, Michiru leans forwards, dipping her head momentarily and raising it upwards at a tilt to make sure that her hair does what she wants it to do. "I hope you'll hold nothing back," Michiru says to Kozue. "I suppose, if this is everything they're claiming, we would have proof, one way or the other..."

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Haruka listens in idly to the explanation about the HeartBeats. At her old school, she'd have found this startling. She's gotten used to Infinity's endless thirst for innovation, however, and the quirky forms it often takes. And though she does not know it, she and Kozue share a similar cynical view on this matter. As if a smartband could see into a heart. Even human beings rarely succeed.

Granted, Haruka has enough faith in the device that she would avoid checking on Michiru right now if she was wearing one, lest it tattle. Kozue's surprise is well-warranted. Existing at Michiru's side is highly distracting even without the aid of a one-piece swimsuit and hundreds of thousands of gallons of water. Sometimes it comes down to poker face.

And hers does hold, during Bidou's glances. Perhaps she is feigning unawareness, perhaps she is actually unaware. The fact that she hasn't winked or anything is soft evidence for the latter, but the active distraction of swimsuit Michiru probably pushes it back to a toss-up. It makes little difference; she wouldn't read much into it if she noticed.

"Yare yare," she comments softly to herself when the competitors are announced. The instinct to cheer for the underdog has her interested in Yumi's success; that poor girl looks like a leek with cellophane wrapped around its midsection. But her key investment is in lane four, of course.

Michiru is more competitive than she acts, Haruka knows, and Kozue is quite the swimmer--and none too gracious a personality. This could get interesting.

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

"Do your best -- the winners today will receive a prize!" Croix calls into the chatter, without interrupting it.

It seems she heard Kozue's muttering, because she passes behind her casually, while the group is getting arranged.

"Truth and lies are beside the point," she remarks, low-voiced but passionate. "It's strong, the power of the heart." At her side, half-hidden by lab coat's length, her hand clenches into a fist.

But, before her recalcitrant student can respond, she switches to battlefield-volume: "Ready!" roars Croix. "Set! GOOOOOOOO!"

<SoundTracker> Need for Speed - MIYAVI - youtube.com/watch?v=QiGDGUUl76o

In a swim race, the initial launch into the pool is one of the most important parts. At the moment, the relative air/water temperatures are such that re-entering the pool means sinking into warmth instead of chill. And then it's nothing but blue, the blue of the pool, its white tiles below, the glass ceiling above, and at the far end, the sky...

To the right or left, one's opponent surges, transformed into a being perceived only in bubbles and currents, except for Mikoto who has empty lanes on either sides and has to face this infinite horizon alone.

With the pool clocking in at fifty meters long, this race will be, as all truly great journeys are, There And Back Again.

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

If Yumi notices Kozue's BLATANT CYNICISM then she does not comment about it. Instead she focuses on Fuu, and--well, should she find the idea of a band that can detect emotion weird? She doesn't seem to in any case. Instead, looking to Fuu she smiles back. She is likewise unaware of her tumult. "Yeah," she agrees to the younger girl, and gets onto the platform. She should probably be doing some kind of special breathing or something. She's pretty sure she sees Hanae focus like that when she's on the starting block at competitions. But she doesn't actually know what those are.

Instead she waves over at Mikoto while she waits for the start, towering over her opponent where she sort of stands awkwardly. A leek with cellphane, maybe. She just shakes out her arms at the effort of getting out of the water, and looks over at Michiru and Kozue curiously... Not that she can see them very well.

But a prize! Ready! Set! GO!

Yumi steps forward and jumps, splashing into the pool with all the grace of a falling duck. She vaguely arranges herself to hit hands-first, though it's more like elbows in practice, and when she's in the water she draws in a heavy breath before she starts swimming forward, one arm swinging widely before the other performs the next. Her form isn't actually terrible; she's watched enough swim meets that she at least knows in theory how it's done. But Fuu will not find that Yumi zooms ahead early at the start; the taller girl has a little advantage by virtue of longer arms and legs, but is not exactly... fast.

Plunging along nevertheless, she rushes as best she can, taking another big breath every few paces as she makes her way towards the other side. Blue, everywhere, warmth around, and a sense of lightness...

By the time she's approaching the other end, still kicking wildly, Fuu has probably already reached it. Nevertheless she doesn't tangle in the floating buoys dividing the lines, instead reaching out a hand towards the far glass wall--!

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Kozue always expects a teacher to react to her challenges. What she doesn't expect is that this 'cool' teacher reacts with the passion of a true believer.

She gives her a small stare, and a single eyebrow lofts. It's not that Kozue doesn't know the fact that she's saying. She was once a girl who thought romance was impossible after all. She just doesn't believe some device can manage to touch into feelings so complicated.

Yet she doesn't snark back to her teacher, her usual response to such, a backfire that usually comes from the idea that she must never buckle to that kind of authority. Something about her passion... disquiets her enough that she just... doesn't.

And instead focuses on the race...

"You're the one who wanted me in the pool."

Kozue gives Michiru one last look out of the corner of her eye.

"So you above everyone else, should realize that I hold nothing back when I'm in the water."

When Croix calls out 'Ready!' the swimmer's muscles throughout her body don't seem to tense in some static position, but seem to be making this gradual, subtle yet dynamic climb into her launching position.


There's an almost elegant violence to how Kozue slips into the pool, breaking the surface below, legs together, arms pointed out straight in front, a wave motion with her legs that feels almost mermaid like. Until that moment she reaches the surface again, and her arms begin stabbing at the surface while her legs flex over and over at the knees, churning the water behind her.

She propels herself across the pool, her neck coming up every three count of each fluid stroke of her arms to take a breath with well-practiced timing.

She knows the importance of timing when it comes to breathing. Perhaps moreso than anyone in this pool.

Though perhaps not too. The strangeness of being in competition with someone in the pool is that Michiru Kaioh ceases to be more than another shape in the water adjacent to her. It could be a race between the water and her, for all Kozue knows, pushing herself for just because the water drives her forward.

Is it a competition between herself and herself? Herself and the water? Or herself and Michiru Kaioh?

Perhaps not even she truly knows. She never has sought to fully understand why she swims. Only why she remains.

Though perhaps Michiru Kaioh being in the water is a convenient impetus all the same, given that Michiru was part of the reason why she remains. Upon reaching the other side, Kozue doesn't touch it with her hands, instead she tucks herself around into an underwater flip and drives her feet into the wall to shove herself around, torpoedoing herself with those wave like motions of her legs yet again...

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Persona 4 - I'll Face Myself (Battle) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zl74EmI0DxE

Mikoto may wear her spicy swimsuit with all the awkwardness of a moose in a ballgown, but she wears the water with much more familiarity. 'Go,' Croix roars, and she goes, hands apoint as she dives with all the grace and strength of any professional swimmer.

Down into the deep.

Mikoto is hardly a stranger to swimming alone. With the way she fishes, having company on hand is problematic; besides, other people prefer using nets, and she's gotten tangled in enough of them to want to stay quite clear. But the reason she thinks of fishing, here, is as plain as the fact that Mikoto is not on the Swim Team, no matter how many of her friends could easily invite her in.

Mikoto likes swimming, but she swims for a purpose. There are fish in the water, and fish are still okay to bring home for Mai to cook, so they're the best things to hunt. But swimming just for the sake of beating someone else...?

Here it is written in plain letters, for anyone who has spent long hours observing aquatic individuals: there's plenty of strength in Mikoto's overhead stroke, and, yes, that initial burst of speed, but it doesn't SUSTAIN. Fish, in the water, are inevitably faster than a girl, even a girl overclocked; much of hunting in the water is waiting. There's a quick burst of activity, a show of strength to wrestle them away from the mortal coil. It's not racing.

And indeed there is no one in lane six nor lane eight to point out to Mikoto that her initial burst of speed slows afterwards; in this group activity the walls of her isolation might be expected to press into her, but the strange thing, perhaps, is that they do not. Racing along a path, diving into Tama River...

... it's always the same. The water pressures into her, but her heart is not only hers, and a lack of a partner cannot change the fact that Mikoto never lacks for a partner.

(Miroku likes hunting, too. This, of course, is not hunting, and so is less interesting.)

Even if she's not the fastest one in the pool, though, there's no sign of exertion which would explain it, no feeling of strain; Mikoto is confident, crossing those fifty metres. There's a rhythm to the strokes, the kicks, the occasional breath; moving in water is a particular challenge she has always enjoyed.

It seems the promise of an elusive prize isn't much of a motivator for Mikoto Minagi. Or, perhaps, she just hasn't noticed the efforts everyone else is putting in. They are a world away from her, right now.

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

A prize? Fuu allows herself a moment to wonder what that prize might be, then puts it out of her mind again, in favor of focusing on the actual race at hand. Prizes are for afterwards.

Croix signals the start at full throat, and Fuu's legs coil briefly beneath her before pushing off from the block, managing to lead her way into the water with her hands instead of her stomach, piercing the pool's surface not unlike an arrow. A good start does make a difference - less resistance, more speed - and as Fuu resurfaces, legs kicking strongly if not quite efficiently, she keeps going as well as she can, remembering to exhale underwater, then turn her head above the surface to breathe in again before the next stroke with (in her case) her right arm.

In a way, her sub-par vision is sort of an advantage - she can't focus on the competitor next to her, and there *isn't* another lane on her other side - just the tiled wall of the pool, useful mostly by the necessity of not plowing into it. It is, however, more readily visible than the glass at lane's end ...

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

"I'm glad to hear it," Michiru answers Kozue, almost sunnily. Then the experimenters speak and make a promise:

A prize?

Now there truly is something on the line.

Michiru breathes in deeply, breathes out, and then--


She slides into the water with grace, grace of cetacean scale and quality and *force*. Kozue makes more froth than her and perhaps has the advantage of force; and perhaps a slight advantage in mass, though some of that is simply a model compared to a concert violinist with several years between them.

And the truth must be said: Michiru is not competing.

Well, she is competing in the literal sense: she is swimming in comparison to Kozue. She is drawing herself through the water; she is moving with speed and vigor; she is moving in an elegantly classical breast-stroke; and she is not holding back for the sheer joy of it. Her pulse quickens with the exertion as she carves meter after meter behind her with gentle scoops of dextrous hands, with striking kicks of the water.

But in her heart she is swimming with such speed, simply because she *can* - because in this school of wonders in a city of wonders, she can send herself forwards, and swim forever, as if in memory of something in a dream...

... although perhaps this enigmatic detachment loses a certain something when she reaches the far end. Instead of turning properly, she dives down, drawing up her leg and twisting backwards -- her return trip will be a backstroke.

<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Haruka sets her pencil down for the first time as the race begins. It's just a 100; it won't take long. Especially with Michiru swimming it.

Pushing her shoulderblades back against the lounge chair to stretch, Haruka settles her hands on her abdomen and, eyes smiling, watches her girlfriend do (what really ought to be) what she does best (were it not for her astonishing multitude of talents competing for the crown).

She has a sense for different ways Michiru swims, after all this time. Today's swimming seems... happy.

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



There are four doors that lead to the Infinity infinity pool: one directly from a hallway, one from each of two locker rooms, and one that does not go FROM, but rather TO.

To a sacred space.

The gleaming chromes and matte blacks of Infinity's interior are banished. Here, every surface is wood. In allowance to the bones of this place, it isn't ANCIENT wood, but wood of any age can sweat.

And that's what saunas are all about.

It smells marvelously of cedar. There are seats leading upwards in every direction, stadium-like, around a center field where a brazier is the star. Hot flame, hidden, guarantees hotter rocks, visible.

The seats are more empty than full, despite the large number of visitors. Almost none of them are as wide as the bench, is the thing.

One could call this an emergency meeting; one could call this extra security, while so many precious Artifacts are in the locker room; or one could call this what it is.

<SoundTracker> Hoeeee - Cardcaptor Sakura OST - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9esLj8UgwY

A gigantic burst of steam billows upwards, released sizzlingly from a cup of water wielded by a winged cat plushie.

"Aaa," Kero-chan groans, fluttering in a lazy and somewhat lopsided circle back to his spot on a medium bench. "I'm glad I was born in Japan..."

Suddenly, all heads swivel towards the door; a ripple of cool air has passed across the chamber, due to this disruption.

"It's terrible-nya!" cries Hummy.

"Whaat?" yawns Finn Fish, who is up on a top bench, where it's hottest.

"They matched Kaioh-san against Kaoru-san for the first heat!" the kitten explains urgently. Only, in her soft pink mouth, the two names sound much the same. 'Kaaoh' and 'Kaaou' honestly both sound a lot like 'meow'. "I canya't tell them apart, I'm not sure which girl I bet on-nya..."

OOC: Mascot cameo round! Corresponding alt's presence in pool not required, bring your favorite choice for sauna
commentary/relaxation session/betting pool.

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

The wise, learned cat Tama-chan of course is not so big as the bench she's on. But she, too, turns towards the ripple of cool air at the disruption, peering over in something like disapproval at being disturbed. She is lounging incredibly comfortably in the sauna, curled over the bench and pointing green eyes towards the kitten. The adorable, adorable kitten.

"Honestly, Hummy," she sighs. "Losing track..."

But she is not so grumpy as that to Hummy, of all mascots. "...If you're willing to specify now," she says, "I bet we could make it much more interesting. Say... an extra fish on Kaioh-san."

Her black tail flicks lazily. "...This is pleasantly diverting," she allows to Kero-chan after a moment. "One of the many benefits of our home..."

But it isn't hard for the perceptive to tell that her attention is on Yumi possibly finishing her lap.

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


Marshmallows and saunas do not, as a rule, mix. Fortunately, Mokona only *looks* marshmallowy - although at this point, one could be forgiven for wondering, given how it seems to sprawl bonelessly across part of a bench, in a state of extreme and supreme relaxation, one that could pass for bonelessness.

At least until Mokona raises an arm. "Puu pu puu puu pu puu, puu puu pupupu puu~" <You're lettin' the good hot air out, but never mind that. Three cookies on Kaioh. Or one super deluxe donut from that other shop. 'Sall good.>

The arm falls limp again, as Mokona once more bends its considerable mental and spiritual prowess upon the ineffable task of savoring the sauna's heated comforts. "Puuuuuuu ..." Nope, it doesn't care that strongly who wins or loses. Mokona did put a token bet on Fuu vs. Yumi (of course; gotta stick up for one's partnered magical girls, after all), but other than that, the Cephiran faerie is in Maximum Chillaximum mode. Much as usual.

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

The Hikawa crows are comfortable in heat; naturally they've come here to help safeguard the precious things, which has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they get to relax in a sauna.

Phobos fluffs her feathers up IMPRESSIVELY big, while Deimos hops forward, holding a crow-sized stick in her mouth to poke at the sauna coals and release more of that amazing steam. (One doesn't have to be acting the part of a crow to use tools, but it is a very authentic performance. Even normal crows will employ a stick or two in their calculations!)

"Caw," Phobos comments, on the match. "Caw-ohh."

"Ka-CAW!" Deimos protests, hopping back to the seat. "Caw-ku caw!"

Phobos' head tilts a solid ninety degrees, scary shiny black eyes fixing on her compatriot. "Caw?"

Deimos settles back down, her wings slightly aired out from her body to let the hot air settle around her feathers. "Caw."

The two crows are evidently in disagreement about who they're betting on.

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

An orange puppy with a begemmed forehead watches the race, her tongue out and panting because she's incapable of sweating. Though at the ripple of cool air, she appears... grateful for it, but she still looks increasingly upset.

Eventually in resignation she grumpily gnaws on the edge of a pen, it's tip squiggling across a chunk of notebook paper that seems moist from the steam of the room.

Then dropping the pen, she nudges a slip of paper across the bench with a badly written.


In Arf's defense, penmenship is tough when you're writing with your mouth.

"I really thought you were playing coy when you wouldn't bet on your girl."

It's preemptive of course, but she still seems irritated all the same by what seems like a foregone conclusion as she returns to panting in the Sauna.


<Pose Tracker> Haruka Tenoh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

"Well, I put in my bet at the very beginning, mepo."

Mepple has a towel around his waist as he lounges in the heat, even though he doesn't actually wear clothes. When in Rome is extra important when it's a sauna, perhaps.

"Mokona has the wrong idea-mepo," Mepple says smugly. "I happen to live with a human, so I'm pretty much as expert as you can be about them. And when it's brute force sports stuff like this, there's one simple rule, mepo."

Mepple holds up his featureless paw as if he thinks he's putting one finger up. Or maybe he knows what he's doing; it is still "one," after all.

"The stupidest human is the strongest... mepo."

Mepple tosses his paws behind his head, assured of his imminent victory.

"I feel sorry for whoever bet against Mikoto, mepo. Who is she against, anyway-mepo?"

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

"That's not great programming," says Batiste D'Otter, reclining with a towel over his tummy and with a small dish of adjacent clam fritters, which have not done well in the baking heat. (But at least they won't go cold.) He had turned to his side to regard the incoming Hummy, but as the news has been shared, he rolls back to lay on his back.

He contemplates the topic, musing aloud, "They really must be focused on science... otherwise they would - though, hm, they're certainly far closer in merit than the others..."

Batiste crunches up a clam fritter in a slightly disturbingly enthusiastic way before saying, "I'll wager a thousand in lunch coupons on Kaoru. Will anyone cover me on this...?"

This would be more impressive if he wasn't talking yens. But it's still a decent sum for an animal.

"Oh, yes, if we have some action with Minagi, I'd prefer to get in on that," the otter says. "What is that situation, Hummy?"

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


Bets have been placed on the outcomes of the swimming races, but not everyone can be a winner.

Challenge Outline:

  • Cuteness: Lose the bet, but get out of having to pay because who would collect on those big kyoot eyes?
  • Roughness: Lose the bet, but get out of having to pay because nobody wants to force it.
  • Quickness: Lose the bet, but get out of having to pay by stealing your bet from the winner in the first place (or by fleeing before they can collect).
  • Smartness: Win the bet.



Croix has drifted back over to Bidou's table. Bidou is grumbling.

"I told you, your addition is redundant code."

"That's impossible," Croix replies. "I added functionality."

Bidou side-eyes no particular direction.

"Unless..." Croix muses.

"Oh," Bidou backpedals hastily. "You're right. Definitely we didn't have this kind of capability until now."

"The real question," Croix continues over her, "Is why the device already has active collection capabilities."

Bidou gives Croix a steely, blue-eyed stare; as though her sulky self was a mask, which has now given way to an impenetrably tough poker face.

"The real question," Bidou murmurs, "Is what do you intend to do now?"

  • click*

Bidou's gaze drops down to her keyboard, where Croix has just reached across her to depress a single key.


The last part of the race is the most difficult. There are numerous reasons, of course. Fatigue is the obvious choice but there's a psychological strain also, as regards competition; it can make it easier or it can make it harder, when every stroke is more important than the last.

But it is particularly hard today. The stronger one's feelings -- the more one wants to win, most likely, though it need not be actual competitiveness -- the greater the tension in the chest -- in the heart -- and in the wrist.

This phenomenon reaches its peak a few meters from the wall; then abruptly cuts out. The final few strokes are joyously easy in comparison.

OOC: You can work out between yourselves who won each race!

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

While all this with the code is going on, Yumi keeps swimming! She makes her way to the glass wall and for a moment has to stop where she is, catching her breath along the wall instead of just pushing off and resuming. But she wasn't blustering about feeling pretty good today, so that's only a little diversion. She can see the splashing of her opponent ahead vaguely, but pushes off and continues her fairly decent butterfly stroke through the water. But it gets harder today. She doesn't actually expect to win, but... Even so, she really wants to. So she swims, and swims, and it gets harder and harder as she goes. She can't keep track of Fuu anymore by the time the strange heaviness cuts out and she finds herself smoothly making her way to the last few strokes against the wall--

But once she's there she pants for breath, hanging onto the edge of the pool and huffing with difficulty. "I--"

But she did make it. "Did it..."

But then she remembers the race part, and looks around to see...?

<Pose Tracker> Kozue Kaoru [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

It's easy not to notice your competitor when you're so focused on the water ahead of you. So Kozue doesn't immediately.

Not at first.

1 - 2 - 3


1 - 2 - 3


And then something of the shape of Michiru's beautiful face gives it away. The way that elegant nose breaks water.

It's a strange moment then when Kozue's first hand stops in the water. And then her next hand joins it. Her legs stop their kicking.

And instead her hands start flowing outwards in elegant arcs, her head breaking the water, while her knees lead her legs with each propelling motion. Each time her arms move, her head breaks the surface and she takes a breath. Somewhere along the way she switched to a breast stroke.

Switching strokes perhaps is not so much about winning, or Kozue's sense of 'fairness' in competition.

The breast stroke is well known as being her best stroke, but she didn't switch to it because it was her stroke.

It doesn't belong to her alone.

I don't want to go in the deep end first.

It hasn't for some time now.

Yet, even if she loses a fraction of a second of momentum from switching from what is universally accepted as the faster stroke... to this one... she must switch all the same if she is to give it her all.

Shallow truths can be taught. Deeper truths are recognized. It is a feeling like meeting a familiar stranger.

Even beyond the loss of momentum though, it's becoming harder. Her limbs are feeling heavier. Doing a 100 suddenly feels like she's doing 400. Each breath she takes feels like she's getting not enough air at all even for her athlete's lungs and limbs. The heaviness in those limbs is worsening with every stroke. Holding onto those feelings that is driving her is becoming harder, and harder. So she pushes herself, and pushes herself.

As if something... about herself... depends on it.

Until those last few meters when she lurches forward with an almost joyous rush. Her fingertips reaching for that wall...!

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

Fuu committed, even before diving into the water, to doing the best she could in this race - not for the sake of victory, but just to give it her honest all. She's still not pleased by the idea that the device on her wrist can read the emotions in her heart; those emotions are *hers*, thank you, and not for others to study or analyze without permission. But that concern is pushed to the back of her mind as she continues to focus on swimming; it may be a matter of muscle memory - swimming has been part of the annual rotation of sports in her gym classes ever since she was old enough to stay in the water without drowning - but there's a conscious element to it all the same.

And she's conscious, among other things, of the fact that it shouldn't be wearing her out *this* badly.

On the way back from the glass wall now. Over halfway through the entire race ... then three-quarters done, halfway down the home stretch. Twenty-five meters, if she were counting (she's not, she's only barely aware of how far down the lane she is, thanks to her poor uncorrected vision). She *is* breathing right, she isn't swallowing water ...

Twenty meters. Why does her chest hurt, why does her *wrist* hurt? But it's a dull ache, not a sharp pain, she's not cramping up. Still, her speed slackens a little - just enough to take it a bit easier on herself. It might be noticeable but she clearly isn't giving up.

Ten meters left. Now, when she puts her head up to breathe, Fuu *can* make out the starting blocks where she started.

Five meters - maybe, Fuu finally thinks to herself, something really *is* wrong. She's still moving, and at this point, making it to the end is almost the faster option instead of bailing out via the wall alongside her. And she tries to gauge where the blurry, Yumi-colored shape was next to her - only to not see her, not even an indistinct shape.

And with the next stroke, the pain ebbs, fades, is gone like a dream. Fuu's good swimming form only falters at *that* point, a surge of near-desperation driving her to the end; her hand slaps down on the tile, and she pulls herself upright, kicking more gently as she treads water, looking around. "Yumi-san - ?"

Oh, there she is. "Are you all right, Yumi-san?" Fuu asks, still catching her breath, and giving her HeartBeat a suspicious (and absolutely non-focusing) look. "Sensei, I think this may have malfunctioned after all. I didn't think I hit it on anything ..."

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

Between Phobos and Deimos, they've made bets which one of them is bound to lose; Phobos is the smarter between them, but Deimos is stronger, so whoever wins, the other will struggle to keep a hold over the no doubt pilfered jewellery they've put into the pot.

But that's for the birds.

Mikoto, who is entirely unlike a bird exempting their shared likelihood to go flying when hit with a great force, is still swimming. It's true that she is QUITE strong, and perhaps that's why the turn to the last fifty metres hasn't seen her flagging.

Though, to be honest...

... the real reason she hasn't collapsed is a simple matter of what happened last time Mikoto raced someone.

The track isn't quite the same as the pool, but her experiences with Setsuna have taught her that going fast takes a lot of energy, and so: Mikoto ate lunch just before coming over here. With the power of foresight, she is unstoppable! Please ignore how stoppable she was without foresight.

(It may have been second lunch, or pre-lunch, depending on timing; but lunch, it turns out, is timeless.)

There is the burn in her muscles, as effort redoubles over effort, and that's why it was so smart for her to snack in advance; the molten furnace which is Mikoto tears through her energy to maintain her performance, unerring and unfaltering. She may not be going as fast as she can, but perhaps it's a boon that she is surrounded by choking emptiness with no opponents opposite her; without the desire to show off to someone else, Mikoto isn't nearly as likely to burn through all that energy in one spectacular burst.

There's just... one... problem.

Alone in the lane is alone with her thoughts, and without the interest in catching something innocent and tasty in the back of her mind, it keeps coming back to the blue. The last time Mikoto saw Kozue -- well, that hardly turned out well for her. And she looked terribly cross with Mikoto just now...

Of course Kozue matters; it was a fool's errand to pretend she didn't. She's been Mikoto's friend - associate - person of interest for years now, and she was treating Mikoto as her age long before many others realised how old she was. Kozue isn't happy, and Mikoto fills in the gaps.

She's worried about her, in more than one way, and that's something more claustrophobic than any isolation. It presses in like a vice, and it is no drive to competition. Why would it be? Mikoto is racing no one but her own fears.

It's not an unfamiliar sensation, so Mikoto doesn't question it. Strange that it would clutch her wrist as surely as her chest, but it must just be the foreign addition to her wardrobe.

Can something like that speed someone up..?

Evidently it must; and like a spring wound up tight, when that tension releases, it propels Mikoto to the wall as surely as a stone loosed from a sling. Her fingers find something solid and shortly the rest of her follows, quick reflex all that stops her from smashing into it. Her head pops up out of the water; she takes a big, big gulp.

... and she still doesn't call out to Kozue.

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Push. Push. Push.

Michiru does have a goal here, even if it is not the burning drive to win the conflict and ascend past Kozue that a typical expectation might hold. She is able to watch Kozue here, and her eyes have that sanpaku mystery to them, gazing at her as Kozue returns her gaze. Returns her gaze and then pours her all into it.

And yet...

Troubling, Michiru thinks. If Haruka's eyes are on her face she can tell that it is making Michiru push. Is she having a spot of poor health - perhaps a lunch that did not agree, or a muscle cramp? (Even her perfection has the occasional, tiny rough spot -- and Haruka is privileged indeed to be among the few to witness them.) She is glad she kept the backstroke when her head rolls back to gaze at the infinity-pool's roof; this way she can make herself breathe faster.

Is this the feeling of defeat? How quaint, Michiru thinks to herself, and this is the source of one of her mysterious little half-smiles.

Push, push, push --

-- and break through! Michiru's shoulders relax at the final stretch as she pushes through that peculiar little glissando of a boundary, and the droplets of water cast by Kozue's passage gleam on her face as--

-- it's a matter of perhaps a single stroke, and the HeartBeats may be what verify it, but it would be clear to those who watched.

By a single arm's length, or a little less, the victor is Kozue Kaoru. Given the strength of their passage, it is all but simultaneous when not taken into account with judging, and Michiru Kaioh twists around with a sudden release of breath as she draws herself partway out of the water, letting her legs float comfortably as she indulges herself in this momentary posture, straightening her back gradually to work out what she thought might have been a cramp.

"horaa," she says, finally, drawing herself out with her shoulders and arms alone, twisting round as she pulls herself up to a seat on the edge of the poolside, feet still in the water. She too glances at the HeartBeat, with another sidewise glance to Fuu along the way. IS it malfunctioning...?

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

The HeartBeats are normal on inspection; just (soggy) fitbits. Cute bracelets. Croix and Bidou are also normal; the latter still at her table, squinting at the monitor, trying to make sense of what she sees; the former at the wall, waiting to meet the winners, Fuu and Kozue (and Mikoto, by certain reckonings; Homura is not present to lecture her on one's inevitable loss to the hands of time).

"Wow!" says Croix. "That was a splendid meet. Hououji and Kaoru, come visit me at office hours some afternoon and I will give you your prize. But," she stares at the haggard faces surrounding her, "You all look exhausted..."

Concern enters her voice, then her eyes, in that order.

"Get out of there, dry off, and juice is on me."



Mimete, Second of the Witches 5, Idol and Goddess On Earth, drops the power cord she ripped out of the outlet a few seconds ago.

Following it along the floor, it snakes past several counters, a coffee machine, Eudial's workstation, until finally terminating at a full server rack which had suddenly started blasting all its fans with high activity, until she made it stop.

"Like I'd let you cut in line, Viluy," she giggles into her hand. "Um, I mean... oops~!"

Eudial strides in, in a better mood than she's been in months. Which is surprising, considering that she lost her precious station wagon recently. She plants herself at her desk and starts typing furiously. Then she pauses... cocks an ear... identifying the silence.

"What happened to the server?" she asks her kohai.

But it's already whirring back to life, and Mimete is in front of the coffee machine.

"You work too hard, Eudial-senpai," she purrs. "Let me get you some espresso..."