2021-03-31 - I'm Scared..!! Setsuna Models Solidarity!

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Title: I'm Scared..!! Setsuna Models Solidarity!

When Setsuna notices Mikoto's worries, Mikoto shares with her the secret of her birthday attack. Setsuna knows what it's like -- so she's able to give realistic advice, and show Mikoto a path forward. The two of them remember the Kiryuu sisters, and find relief in being able to live their lives, even if Dark Fall won't forget what they've done.


Mikoto Minagi, Setsuna Higashi


Yotsuba Clover Town - Park

OOC - IC Date:

2021-03-31 - 2015-11-13

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

Mikoto was bountifully joyous, that night at the amusement park; she was so happy she got to spend time with all her friends. Though, she did happen to mention... with passing malaise... that an Orphan attack interrupted them, in the middle of the party. But it's okay, she told Setsuna; she and Miroku defeated it.

It's not the first time she's included her sword as its own entity, so perhaps it's not so strange she'd give it equal billing.

She moved on from that frown quickly, bouncing back to excitement. It was fine!

And so the days roll by, and it comes to pass that Mikoto invites Setsuna out again; it's hardly uncommon, because now Mikoto has the power of a phone she can bother people without even having to find them first. A pleasant afternoon at Clover Town's park; it has the best donuts, after all. She's repaired - or at least someone has repaired - her yellow COSMIC cardigan, a cheerfully green polo shirt beneath it, knee-length pleated cream skirt with high white socks against the chill. On a scale of one to horrific, today, Mikoto's fashion sense is... not as bad as it could be! (It's still not good, though.) The most fashionable addition to her wardrobe is perhaps the rainbow beads clipped to her left braid, increasing their fanciness significantly.

No wonder; it's a gift from a model. Not one Setsuna might have seen, yet; Mikoto is proud to be able to show it off to her, finally. And it makes her feel pretty!

Well, it was supposed to be a pleasant afternoon. But then the late Autumn rainclouds rolled in, without warning or invitation; the outpouring of rain left the park visitors scattering. Mikoto, who has a precious bag of donuts to protect and no home nearby, scrambles instead to the shelter offered by a helpful pavilion. It seems she's the only one who had that idea - most visitors, on such an outpouring, instead sensibly decided to leave.

Mikoto is a little damp, but the package she protected kept dry. She sighs, finding a more-or-less dry bench to sit on, shrugging off her sword-case and leaning it to the side; the bag of donuts she keeps protectively in her lap.

Getting caught out in rain like this... it's a little sad, but she's grateful, too. Because this time a friend is coming, and she has a warm place to go home, too...

With a gasp, that thought resolves, and quickly she retrieves her phone from a lower pocket.

> Bring umbrella!!!!!!

Phew! If Mikoto didn't give Setsuna any warning, she might have risked being a bad friend!

(Never mind that it might have been far too late a warning.)

Down goes the rain, pat-a-pat-pat, and as Mikoto slips her phone back into one of her many occupied pockets she reflects that it's not just sad for her. Perhaps many of the park-goers weren't rudely awakened from anxious naps by the downpour, but there were plenty of cries of ruined picnics, good kite days which had to be abandoned, dogs who didn't understand why playtime was cancelled...

Sudden rain puts a damper on everyone in Tokyo.

It means there's a lot of sadnesses to focus on...

Her hand strays to her breast pocket, also occupied, and she wonders. She looks back over her shoulder - and she wonders.

She doesn't wonder for too long, though, because she can smell those delicious donuts. And Mikoto thinks: it wouldn't hurt to just open the bag and take a little peek, would it..?

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

Sometimes bad things happen, but it's important not to let them overshadow good things. Setsuna didn't pry too much that night about what happened at the party... But it stuck in her mind, and she's thought about it. Not that it stopped them from having fun at the amusement park, anyway, especially not late at night with no one there...!

But there's something important to understand about Setsuna Higashi when it comes to the rain. It's not just storms out of nowhere are especially out of nowhere to her, given that Labyrinth doesn't exactly have a lot of sudden weather. It's not just that she kind of appreciates the rain for that reason. No, it's something altogether different:

The simple fact is that when it comes to remembering an umbrella, Setsuna Higashi can cheat.

> Okay!

So she's only a little damp when she shows up, holding a red umbrella, walking through. The rain sometimes suits her mood. ...It's interesting, that a whole world can seem to change just because of one thign. So while it's sad that peoples' days are ruined...

Isn't it nice the way it doesn't have to go according to plan?

"Mikotooooo," Setsuna complains as she approaches, as if she can read Mikoto's very thoughts.

She remembers to smile as she steps under the little roof and folds her umbrella, waving at her as if she hadn't been considering eating the donuts herself. "Hi!"


Maybe she's trying to look extra at Mikoto's face. But as she does she notices, "Your beads are pretty!"

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

Maybe Setsuna won't notice if Mikoto juuust eats --

"Nyeep!" Is the exact sound which comes out of her mouth when she hears such a complaint written in her name, closing the bag in a hurry and looking up. Caught.

And there's Setsuna! With umbrella! Mikoto brightens as she waves, lifting a hand to wave back. (The other hand keeps the donuts safe, of course. With the rain coming down like this, they would have had to close their little stand up quick. It makes the donuts even more precious.) "Setsuna!" She chirps in jovial greeting, and she doesn't have to remember to smile, bright and sunny despite the clouds.

The fundamental impossibility of Mikoto is that the enormity of her joy can always grow further; when Setsuna notices Nori's gift her eyes shine with all those reflected raindrops, all big, all round, all creased at the edges from a smile too broad for her cheeks. She hums bright affirmation, head bobbing up and down; her braids come up and come down, and on her left side, the beads do, too.

"Nori gave them to me!" She shares, happily. "I got lots of good gifts... I like these! Now I can wear things in my hair, too!" She doesn't quite get to explaining why she avoided it, before; but then, she doesn't feel like she has to explain why she would avoid decoration, to someone who has fought just like she has.

The privilege of hair decs is not worrying about how they could be used by one's opponents!

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

Setsuna knows those donuts like--like something she knows very well! ...Analogies are hard.

Nyeep! Setsuna understands of course keeping the donuts safe--that requires, demands a hand--and she steps the rest of the way over, setting her umbrella down by the edge so that she doesn't get the table here all super wet and everything. It's just the little basic things, turning back to Mikoto and--

"Oh!" Nori has good taste. Setsuna knows this. It makes sense. And of course, she doesn't have to explain why she avoided it--Setsuna understands that well. Not that it ever stopped her much, but it's perhaps ot a coincidence that her hair has grown out some since she's had the chance.

"It's nice to put things in your hair," Setsuna agrees. Then she steps over. "So it looks like it rained after all... But you kept the donuts safe!"

A normal person might start with a little small talk to get the conversation going, but Setsuna goes straight for 'snacks with friend'.

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

There's plenty of room for accessories to be leant against things here. Like umbrellas! And Miroku. Who, in its case, is still just sort of chilling out right there, Mikoto's eternal companion.

Mikoto nods, cheerfully, when Setsuna supposes it's nice; her nose wrinkles in distaste at the rain (still going patta-patta-pat, that never stopped being a thing or anything), but her expression bounces back to brightness as soon as Setsuna mentions the donuts.

"Yup!" She says, holding the precious bag of donuts out for Setsuna, and thanks to her vigilance none of the half-dozen frosted prizes have been nibbled on. (It's easy to say they wouldn't have missed one donut, but Mikoto knows and Setsuna knows it wouldn't have just been one donut.) Once Setsuna has retrieved snack, so too does Mikoto, and she finds a dry spot on the table to place the bag so she can gnomph into her donut with both hands, as nature intended.


Homph nomph nomph nomph... nomph.

Eating these donuts makes her happy..!

But with flecks of strawberry frosting still rimming her lips from the horrific execution of that poor donut, Mikoto becomes aware of her happiness; and so, again, she glances over her shoulder. Just in case.

She thinks she is being subtle. (She rarely is.)

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

For her part, Setsuna is in her usual more fashionable state of course--darker colors mostly, plus a particular shade of red. She happened to pick boots instead of ordinary shoes when she stopped by her house for the umbrella on her way here. Teleportation is nice that way.

Raaain. Mikoto doesn't like it. This is clear. Setsuna has already understood this detail, however. For now, she also takes a donut, and in time with Mikoto, in just the same way--


Setsuna is also happy for eating the donut. She smiles, eyes closed, and is one with the donut force for the next few moments... except--that Setsuna opens her eyes and spots Mikoto looking over her shoulder. She thinks about it...

"Worried?" Setsuna wonders.

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

Caught! Again. Mikoto hums affirmation through her lips, but this is more a descending sound than a chirp, tongue down; all those non-verbal sounds have a strange sort of nuance to them, like they're a language all their own. She looks back to Setsuna, shoulders rising and falling in a light shrug.

"Yeah." The word is a little more muted, too, as Mikoto gnaws lightly on the inside of her lip; it still, of course, tastes like delicious donut. "It's not all the time, but sometimes, when I'm having fun... bad things happen. So, it's on my mind..."

But she must have been right. The rain ruined everyone's day, so he has plenty of suffering to watch today. Isn't that logical? She tells herself it is.

Mikoto shakes her head, and reaches for another donut; this one, instead, has chocolate frosting. "Setsuna, you ever feel like... you're seen?" It is a particular construction, not quite the way the sentence ought to go. "A silly part of me thought, maybe I didn't matter enough, since everyone said my Lord Brother was so big and bad, so maybe I could just leave..."

Nibble, nibble, nibble. "... but that's wrong," she says, all complicated. "We're family... after all." She's not beneath notice. Is that good, or is it bad? It's checking over her shoulder when she's overtaken by the joy of donuts.

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

They are a language of their own! Setsuna... understands a little. Not completely. She looks to Mikoto though, watching her quietly as she chews donut. It is indeed delicious. But...

"...Mm," Setsuna answers about bad things. She understands that. She's worried enough about Mikoto that she doesn't finish her donut first; it takes her a couple more bites, after all.

Do you ever feel like...

"Yes," Setsuna answers simply, and she withdraws a little despite herself, becomes quieter. Even her bites are a little softer than before--the effect is immediate.

"...Yes," she says. "I can imagine thinking that..." She nods, then. "But it isn't like that. He still... notices. He's still out there."

For her, of course, it's different--she was nobody, really, except the authority given to her. But for Mikoto...

"But I think I understand."

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

It takes Mikoto more time to finish off that second donut, but she still puts the effort into enjoying it. It's nice to have nice things, even when...


"Maybe if I never wished something like that, he wouldn't have noticed... I guess I asked for it," and she is not wearing Ohtori yellow but there is no mistaking the school she comes from, with a statement like that. It is steeped in the ornate halls and history of the Academy, where the girls are responsible for too too much. "I wanted my Lord Brother to be there, and... and..."

She polishes off her donut, and wipes her hands off on her skirt, looking down at them. For a moment her repeating mora trail off into nothing at all as she weighs whether she can bear placing this weight onto Setsuna, even if Setsuna heard her wish, back then.

Is Setsuna the only one listening?

He's still out there.

If this is a test it is not one she thinks she wants to fulfil; she told Eri how scared she was, back then, hidden away in the far-off woods. Perhaps it was that outpouring of her fears which now gives her the strength to edge sidelong to her disclosure, hands balling up in her lap as she looks back up to Setsuna with lips all scrunched up like a zipper which doesn't quite work.

"Um... can I, show Setsuna something?" She ventures, on unsure bearing.

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

Even then.

Setsuna looks to Mikoto, and she is worried in the moment--she knows what that sound is, though she does not really understand in her bones what Ohtori can be like in that way. Setsuna cannot say for sure it isn't the case, but... "...I don't know..."

But while maybe Setsuna isn't the only one listening, she is lilstening now, and she finishes her own donut. She'll get another soon--for now she places her hands down, turns to look just at Mikoto. It could be a test. But here...

"Yes," Setsuna answers, nodding her head to emphasize her answer. She waits for Mikoto to show her... whatever it is.

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

Setsuna isn't sure, and Mikoto isn't, either, if perhaps for different reasons; she still has not reconciled the earlier Orphan attack with what she now knows. But in the uncertainty is the doubt - and in the doubt, the possibility.

"During my party... there was another present. An Orphan was in it... and then lots more came. They were really scary..." Mikoto's muted explanation says more with the context she does not provide; she was a girl who willingly fought Witches, and yet now she describes these Orphans as really scary, with quiet dread. What may have changed - if anything has at all - is something she does not explain.

She scrubs her hands on her skirt a second time, and retrieves a piece of cardstock from her breast pocket; it's also dry, which suggests a particular care to its storage. "... I found this in that box, after."

Mikoto swallows, as she passes the cardstock to Setsuna, with fingers which tremble a little on the release. "Don't rip it up... it's all the proof I got."

She didn't explain it to Eri; but Setsuna, she knows, is far more verbal in her understanding than Mikoto is. Even if she can't quite crystallise her impressions of the other girl, she knows she cannot expect Setsuna to read all the nuances in her body language. So she tries to speak the words instead, though they come hushed now she speaks the hidden things.

How valuable is evidence, with regards to a man who makes reality agree with him..?

(And not just reality.)

Setsuna has surely seen Mikoto's handwriting by now; hers is a surprisingly elegant hand for someone so plainspoken, with all the art of an ancient samurai transcribing poetry to the page. The words here have that same bearing, that same timelessness to them: bold strokes and complex characters. It could not be Mikoto's work - only because it is more.


Mikoto is quiet, as she lets Setsuna read; she knows it might be hard to read, so she doesn't interrupt. She cannot quite stop herself from glancing aside in the silence, just... to make... sure.

Theirs is in secrecy; it's not the way of Minagi to share these things. She knows she's transgressing, letting someone else read his words, his handwriting. It's not the first little rebellion she has made, in her heart or someone else's.

But now, she's keen to the consequences.

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

An Orphan was in it. That's concerning on its own; particularly scary Orphans even moreso. Setsuna has seen many scary things, herself... And she knows that Mikoto wouldn't use the descriptor unless it were true. But this is one of the ways in which she is observant: she notices the dry state of the card, the way it is not bent or crumpled or worn at the edges but still quite intact.

"I won't," Setsuna assures Mikoto, though she does not entirely understand at first--proof of what? Only after she reads it does it start to make sense. The quiet way Mikoto speaks is striking, too, so different from her usual words. It's true--Setsuna cannot read all the nuances in Mikoto's body language... but there are other things she can read.

She does not harm the card. She does not clench her fist about it, does not fold it or bend it. She looks at those bold strokes, those complex characters, and does something else--

She frowns. She frowns, reading it over, and then hands it back to Mikoto in both hands.

"...I don't like it."

Bold words, in their way--simple, to the point. There is something intent in her expression as she says it, an intensity that her lack of emotiveness does not conceal. But how can she express that feeling? She looks troubled, briefly frustrated as she fails at first to think of the words that would explain her feelings to Mikoto.

She tries for a long few moments, her hands folding in distress. It was hard to read, but not for the reason that might have been thought.

"..." She bites her lip, hard. "...He shouldn't... tell you what it is that you want," she says, and she says it as fervently as any oath.

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

Setsuna hands the card back in both hands; Mikoto receives it in both hands, grasping it by the edges rather than placing her thumbs over the complex kanji. Carefully she hides it away in her pocket again. Does she just carry it with her all the time..?

... Setsuna doesn't like it, either. That intense expression, the frustration...

She is more plain in her objection; this both surprises Mikoto, a widening of her eyes before they blink-blink-blink with all the rapidity of the rain coming down, and doesn't surprise her at all. Setsuna and Mikoto may be almost opposites, in some ways, but in others they are very much alike.

"I... have lots of treasures," she starts, after another lingering moment. "But, he made me question if those were... Lord Brother can make me not sure. Even with four lines... I get pulled one way and pushed another way, he takes advantage of Orphans to attack me and then he praises me, and I don't know how to feel, and I end up... miserable!" It's not her description; there's too much nuance to the word. Regardless it may fit particularly well, here.

She shakes her head, braids and beads a-flicking; one braid, still a little damp from the shower, ends up stuck to her frosty cheek. "He makes me not sure, then he tells me what I want... I thought I was out, but he still did that! So... so I don't feel so safe right now, Setsuna," Mikoto says, and her eyes are still wide but they are not so much windows to joy right now.

"Lord Brother still loves me... it's complicated, but, I'm scared!" Her lips wobble; she presses them together, with a gulp, before she manages to push her questions from herself, as if Setsuna were the only one who could answer them. "Am - am I gonna keep being punished? What if taking advantage of Orphans like that hurts people? What if using other monsters is too hard and he takes me back? I don't wanna fight like that again..."

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

Setsuna knows how to treat objects that are important. She does not like this object, but that does not lessen its importance.

In this way they are alike. And after that lingering moment... Yes. It is difficult. It is not her description, but it shows Setsuna that she has talked about it or thought about it before. ...Besides; it is a word Setsuna knows very well, after all. She is quite familiar with misery.

"You can leave," Setsuna says, "...But it doesn't all go away just because you did." Mikoto knows this. Setsuna is just saying it aloud. "But being together with others makes you safer than you would be otherwise."

Not completely safe--Setsuna knows that too well. But safer.

"...It's complicated," Setsuna agrees. "And it's..." She bites her lip again, looking down. "...Being scared... makes sense. It's something that can help keep you safe, too."

"You can choose not to go back," Setsuna says, because she believes it is true and it is for her. "He wouldn't spend all of his time focusing on you--whatever plans he had before, he must still have them. But... People might get hurt. He won't just leave you alone. It isn't as easy as being over."

Setsuna reaches out to Mikoto's hands, and tries to take one of them in hers. "But we won't leave you alone, either. I promise."

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

Setsuna's intuition is correct; that isn't the first time Mikoto has expressed that particular frustration, which is why it's now joined with an explanation not entirely her own, more cohesive in its crystallisation of her confused feelings.

She can leave, Setsuna says, but it doesn't go away.

(He's still out there.)

She names strength in numbers; she names strength in fear. It makes sense, to Mikoto, and she hums dull affirmation. Her friends can see what she can't, in those ornate words. And the fear runs distaff to other feelings entirely; the relief that he would still speak kindly to her, happiness to hear his praise. The fear is a reminder of what came before the rebuilding of her perceptions. He sent monsters to hurt her in a way which hurt her so, so much.

It's mean, she said. It wasn't really nice at all. But she only said that after...

Well, it's still hard for her.

Setsuna believes it is true and Mikoto believes it too, and that is why she's scared, really; the power of her Lord Brother has always been the power to get her to agree to the choices he poses her. She is both reassured and not at all to think that he is still focused on his machinations, and new nervousness floods her face as Setsuna confirms people may well get hurt.

He still wants her, is what her mind supplies, as she confirms her fears and something which is not quite terror, either. She cannot hide the way her face falls, to hear that it isn't going to be easy; making it over was the hardest thing she's ever done. There's supposed to be a happily ever after!

(But then, that's only the fairy tale she believes.)

Setsuna reaches out, and these days Mikoto can, too, closing the gap to place her hand in hers. Her gaze drops to the joining, a shadow over her golden gaze. "I was scared... to tell everyone Lord Brother wrote to me. It felt like a secret... I was all shamed. But I tried to figure it out on my own, and... and I realised... it's what he'd want. He didn't like it when I could rely on anyone else..."

Mikoto swallows, her fingers curling in. "But, he's... being mean to me! And, now he's using Orphans, like Alyssa did back then... I shouldn't keep that secret! Even if it's 'cause I left, so he doesn't have anyone left to fight like I did... but... but that's not my fault, right?" Is the mindless destruction of an Orphan herded to a purpose better or worse than the wilful suffering enacted by a girl who attacked civilians in broad daylight? She wonders.

"Setsuna really won't leave me alone, even though all those dangerous things are happening..." It might sound like a question, but it isn't; there's no rising tone, though it does wobble, a little, the tightness of her throat leaving little room for trembling error. "But... aren't you scared? Setsuna left, too... but, you're still helping me?" Her eyes lift to find Setsuna's, shiny-shiny against the backdrop of the rain.

"Didn't it already happen to Setsuna..?"

Well, perhaps it's no wonder she's preoccupied with consequences, right now.

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

There are many ways to find strength. There is the old way, of course, and that works for a while... but not forever. And there are other feelings. Setsuna has those, too--old feelings, newer feelings... some that she can't entirely place.

Like this one, this particular upset. Setsuna isn't sure if it touches on her old fears or if it's all new fears. But what she can't do is be... completely reassuring. Oh, she could lie--theoretically she still has that capability, could simply deceive to try to achieve a certain end.

But she knows fairies' stories and they are not always so nice.

What she can offer is this little comfort, though, even if it is difficult to do. When she feels like this she wants to withdraw, to become smaller, but that isn't what needs to be done right now. So she closes her hands around Mikoto's had, and looks at her instead.

It is difficult.

"What he'd want..." She hadn't thought of that. But it makes sense. "But he is being mean. And no--no that's not your fault. It's his, for doing it. For making it happen. It isn't yours at all."

Wobble. Yes, and there's the question--Setsuna's deep red eyes are there when Mikoto looks, and they are the color that is why they used to call it the 'wine-dark' sea. Shiny-shiny from Mikoto...

"Mm," Setsuna answers. "I'm..." She hedges, and looks a little pale. "I'm scared," she admits. "...I'm scared a lot of the time. And I'm scared for me, and for you."

"But standing with my friends... is what I chose. And that's important. Because I chose it."

"And your choice matters, too."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> New Model Army - Into The Wind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6Zf5WXCT34

Mikoto knows what it's like to withdraw, to cede space. Without speaking, with no complaints; not there to cause trouble. She can easily empathise with how hard it is to reach across the gap.

It's his fault, a step beyond not being her fault. She doesn't protest. It's the truth, even if it's hard to say.

Red and gold and they are both colours particular to their origins, but there's nothing monstrous about the way Mikoto's other hand reaches out at that pale hedging. She curls it around Setsuna's, and there they are, all locked around the other.

Holding on.

She gives their hands a squeeze, as Setsuna repeats once and once again her fear; the saucers of her eyes blink, and patter-pat the liquid falls from them to the tabletop, rain inside to match the rain outside.

Her choice...

"I... chose to stay here. It was hard, but... hurting everyone to save Japan... I couldn't believe in that. 'Whatever it takes'... every time I acted like that..." Her eyes blink shut, for a moment, as she trails off; perhaps she doesn't need to complete the sentence, when Setsuna saw first-hand the havoc she wrought under that philosophy. Her lips scrunch up - and her fingers tighten, too, for a distressed moment, before the pressure eases and she looks up again. "... I decided I wanted to find another way, too. It doesn't have to hurt, Setsuna!"

It is not, precisely, the same as Setsuna's resolution to stand with her friends; she cannot forget the man she left behind, raised in the same dark crucible.

But perhaps it's close enough.

That better way she can't quite phrase the way she wants...

... it's not something which could come from Dark Fall.

"It's... it's scary," she addresses it, quietly. "I don't like being punished... even more when my Lord Brother makes me wonder if he really thought he was being nice. And sometimes I think about what happens to us..."

Mikoto looks aside, old shame crossing over her eyes, a sense of dread she can't quite shake. "... there's a lot I don't remember, but I never found those sisters in our meetings... the Kiryuus."

... she doesn't remember.

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

It's hard to say a lot of things, hard to do a lot of things, but that makes them especially important sometimes. Like with this; their hands fold together and Setsuna nods minutely again, continuing and then... seeing Mikoto start to cry... Well.

"Whatever it takes... usually ends up being 'too much'. It ends up being everything... or someone else paying the price instead." Which is what did a lot of it for Setsuna, anyway. But this...

"Yes," she says. "It doesn't have to."

It is not the same, but that difference is itself a good thing; it can be different for each of them and that in and of itself is precious. For Setsuna, anyway. Something about how to phrase it...

"It's scary," Setsuna agrees. "It hurts. It..." She can't quite find the words to explain it, but Mikoto knows anyway, knows the costs Setsuna herself has paid at least. "I don't think he was being nice. I... really don't."

The Kiryuus. Setsuna opens her mouth and closes it, annd her face falls, before she shakes her head. It is perhaps the most emotion she's shown by some metrics, but she does show it, subtle as it is. "They..."

"You wouldn't have. Back then... Around the time the World Tree was blooming, and the Book of Darkness was filling..."

"They sacrificed themselves for their friends. And that's why..."

She squeezes Mikoto's hand. "That's why you and me have to go on."

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


'Please! I'm begging you! If you do this here - then - then - I DON'T WANT ANOTHER SHINJUKU! PLEASE-!'

Is that how it ends, when he asks? But he loves her. He wouldn't send her to die. Surely he thought... she could do it.

Mikoto told Kintoleski, back then; she doesn't tell Setsuna, now. All the horror in that abyss of gold is silent. Even the most thoughtless girl can recognise how much the difference would cut...

... given why Setsuna knows what it's like to look over her shoulder.

(And is she so sure they're different? Can she really be sure? That numbed feeling...)

Her eyes blink, another patter-pat across her cheeks.

"It's not... really nice," she agrees, after a beat, a particular phrasing. She recognises the acrobatics of the sentence, and shakes her head; in this second gesture now her damp braid unsticks from her cheek. "It's not." A second time, unqualified.

Violence and victory... are what he wants her to value, after all. Trying to give her the qualities he desires from her... it's all centred on what he wants.

But then, the Minagis have always been self-centred.

Back then, Mikoto was self-centred, too.

Focused on why such a confusing thing happened to her; lost for words and lost for explanation, she did not know why the light shone such gentle gold. The yawning darkness, and then --

Here a widening of her eyes, a narrowing all top-to-bottom slit as she recognises why. With her sharp look aside her pupils round out again; she breathes again. "I went away... so I didn't know." It's a statement which may not at first make sense; Mikoto certainly was there, when the World Tree bloomed.

Then again, the Dark King woke many darknesses, back then.

Why would she not be roused just the same?

"I... there were enemies to fight... so I never asked. But... that's why it was warm..." And what would have happened, if they did not shine that light down? ... what would she have done to them?

(What would they have had to do to her, transformed out of sight so far down the tower, rampaging up with no hint of girl beneath the black?)

All it is is what and why, and in those moments she falls silent; she wonders, and she regrets, and eyes blinking closed she is thankful, too.

They have to go on...

"Setsuna..." Now it's Mikoto's turn to squeeze at Setsuna's hand, looking back up, and there is a complicated sort of twist to her lip, in trepidation. "... is that what happens to us?"

Mikoto isn't sure she likes that. It's a little scary, too.

... she knows how it feels, to be the person left behind.

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

Does he, though? But Setsuna can't say that. It's not the kind of thing someone else can think for you, not like this. But Setsuna has her doubts. The results of his actions, after all...

So maybe it's best that Mikoto doesn't voice it. Of course, it would also hurt Setsuna's feelings.

A sentence can do a lot of work. Setsuna focuses on Mikoto through that oen ayway. The why... Yes. Went away... So it was true like that. "I see," Setsuna answers. But then, for a while they all did--just not the same way. "Mm."

Setsuna looks back to Mikoto in the next moment, though. The question... Is it?

Setsuna shakes her head. She is good at it, a little gesture of negation. "...It's..."

It did happen to her--a few times. But that wasn't 'redemption'. It wasn't a necessary following. It wasn't...

Setsuna understands some things better because of her position; because of her persoanlity. Because of just reasons. Or because of her friends. Like this.

Setsuna moves closer and hugs Mikoto, here in the rain, for all that she does not usually reach out to touch people like that, physically.

"No," she insists. "It doesn't have to be. Sometimes, but..."

"You, me, and Fate-chan..."

"What happens to us is that we get to live now. ...And we get to be there when the next girl comes. We get to be with our friends. And no matter how long that lasts... It's precious."

She pulls back. "But for me, I'm... going to make it last as long as I can. We're not... completely different, from the others."

"...They were able to reach us because... we're the same."

She looks down, and then to the rain. "...It's been a lot of near-misses... And sometimes not misses, at all. But just because it could go badly... Doesn't mean it has to."

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

Mikoto wasn't expecting Setsuna to slide over and hug her; it wasn't so long ago that any contact at all was difficult, and perhaps that's written, in the way they clasp their hands together. But Setsuna closes the space, and after a sharp breath inward Mikoto sinks in against her.

Arms curled around her, Mikoto is just as good at applying pressure on a wide scale as she is when it's focused on a palm. She's not so worried about squeezing the air out of Setsuna. Mikoto knows how tough Setsuna is; she's tried to kill her enough times.

Her heart goes hammer-hammer-beat, and the speed and ferocity of its pace speaks to the anxieties she has trouble putting to words; it seems Setsuna is not the only one who struggles. But Setsuna is the one talking, now, and Mikoto the one listening, nodding against her shoulder with a muffled little hum.

(The next girl... Mikoto wasn't able to help her, back then, but...)

Mikoto straightens back up, swallowing and scrubbing at her face, to get that dampness off. (And the frosting, which has been there the whole time.) They're not so different...

She follows Setsuna's gaze, to the raindrops, and her head tilts to the side. "Yeah," she decides, after that long moment. "Setsuna's right. I... we can't look over our shoulders all the time, right? If I worry like that... then my Lord Brother doesn't even need to do anything to make things bad." Imagine doing his work for him..?

... Mikoto makes a face, a grimace and a grunt, and cedes the point to herself, even though she's pretty sure that sort of thought comes straight from her conversations with Eri.

"They tried really hard for us... Setsuna tried really hard for me!" Mikoto smiles, turning to her again. "So I'll be okay... even if Dark Fall won't forget! 'Cause I'm here with my friends! If Fate and Setsuna can do it, I can live, too!"

... well, Setsuna's right on the money.

She's able to reach her, because they're the same.