2021-05-10 - Delicate Dark (Don't Fight Boars)

From Battle Fantasia MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search

Title: Delicate Dark (Don't Fight Boars)

Mikoto and Nori go hiking, and Mikoto cheerfully tells Nori stories from the woods - but when the conversation turns to the past, Nori finds herself navigating a delicate situation. After some evasiveness, Mikoto tells her why the Orphans attacked them -- and, she fears, Kozue and Tsuru, too. With more understanding of the foe she's up against, Nori makes a promise.


Mikoto Minagi, Nori Ankou



OOC - IC Date:

2021-05-11 - 2015-11-22

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

Mikoto, since her recovery, has been chasing moments. Hungrily, with vigour, she's had moment after moment - special little snapshots in time - with so many of her friends. Sharing snacks, or going out, or celebrating festivals...

Living. It's called living. For herself, not for the search, not for the Lord Brother it led to.

Mikoto has gotten very good at capitalising on these moments... or perhaps she always was, that freespirited part of her which existed outside of her obligations. She has, at least, gotten a little better at planning ahead, now her future is hers to consider. Like so:

"Let's go hiking!"

That's what Mikoto proposed to Nori, a few days ago after school, bringing them to this present moment.

Nishitama, Sunday afternoon.

Once upon a time Mikoto was accessory to its curse; but that was a world away, and the little girl called 'Shigeko' is doing well, this time around. Mikoto's affection for the region dates back further than her misdeeds, because she has always been a rural child, and the wilds beyond Tokyo are so obviously where she thrives. She may spring down from rooftops, or balance tightrope walking along a handrail - but they are skills she learned from arboreal inclinations.

Which might be why she's waiting for Nori in a tree.

This close to the train station, nature is still tamed; the trees are behind borders, the paths are paved and lit. There are no stray branches dangling down to catch unwary travellers, and so it may not be immediately obvious how she got up there. Or, perhaps, obvious she is there at all - but there's a black case leaning against the tree-trunk, her characteristic calling card, and it's a blatant hint to look up.

At first glance, Mikoto might blend in with the leaves, too; her polo shirt is a rustic yellow, all striped with green on one side. There's a faded patch over the breast pocket declaring it to be the uniform of the Chofu Chancers rugby team. It has not been the uniform for some years, and Mikoto doesn't play team sports, but she thought it was very fashionable, so it's hers now. It joins a cream skirt down almost to her knees, and green tights to ward against the cold.

(She has a sweater, delightfully pink, but it's tied about her waist. Apparently climbing around is hot work.)

Mikoto at least hasn't invited Nori to the furthest reaches of Nishitama; not yet knowing her personal capacity to handle nature, she's selected a walk more easily made, with an actual path all the way through... albiet, mostly dirt. It may still be a little challenging - Mikoto's idea of an easy walk may not quite agree with reality - she made some effort, at least, to consider Nori in picking her location.

Well, it's a lie to say she wasn't biased when she suggested this afternoon out, but she wants to see how Nori enjoys it, too.

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

> Certainly

Nori Ankou has gone hiking in the past. Rarely. Not a key pastime for her. But she can walk! She has good legs and enjoys wearing boots. And she enjoys, of course, Mikoto.

(Batiste immediately died at the prospect of a completely unneccessary hike not even near the water, twice, requiring an emergency application of a shrimp to revive him from death's door.)

Nori thus emerges from the train station. She can easily be spotted by the preposterous coat she has on. It is a vivid scarlet and seems to be made out of velvet - this is an illusion from rich and well-dyed wool cloth. Strips of rich-cut embroided fabric with silver and spider-lily decorate the front of the captain's coat over button and button-hoe alike, with a long tail line coming to her thighs in front and down past her knees in back. Her hair is worn loose.

The rest is relatively subdued: there's a cable-knit sweater on underneath the jacket, currently visible from the sleeves and the collar as well as the front. She is also wearing warm-looking leggings, and seems to have foregone a bag. Presumably the captain's coat has pockets sufficient to fulfill her needs.

The wind stirs Nori's hair as she reaches the appointed time and glances left and right. With a motion that would suit a sextant, she reaches into the coat, although she brings out instead her phone. A glance, perhaps, in case of a notification. And then she stops, and gradually raises her eyes upwards towards the tree, her usual hesitance in smile alchemizing into a shared secret as her eyes reach upwards.

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

If these trees could talk, they'd say: "Nori, Nori, Nori!"

Wait, hang on.

Certainly the voice comes from the boughs, but with a rustle of leaves, something suddenly CRASHES down --

-- and swings --

-- and there's Mikoto, dangling by legs hooked over a branch, with all the alarming acrobatics one might expect from the girl who somehow STILL isn't in gymnastics club. "Nori!" Mikoto chirps greeting a fourth time, as a twig falls from her scruffy-short hair down to the path.

And then, almost in the selfsame moment, she straightens her legs.

Down Mikoto crashes, only for those legs to cartwheel out as her hands impact the ground, and like a whirling Ferris wheel she goes from upside-down to rightside-up in a flurry of motion. Her knees bend, a bounce at her heels, as she straightens up on her feet again. She does not say, 'ta-daa!', but the beaming smile on her face might as well.

"Hi!" Mikoto chirps, heedless of the scene she's made.

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

Nori smiles again, wider, more softly at the same time, and she steps forwards to clasp her hand together with a faint jingle of silver buttons and bow deep at the waist. "It is wonderful to see you again, Minagi-nyan," Nori says, straightening back upwards after the toned and postured dip.

Her hands slide back into the outer pockets of the coat, probably because it's chilly. "Hi," she concludes. Looking upwards, she says, "You were up quite high... I'm surprised you got through it. Did you get poked any?" She draws out one hand, fingers curling experimentally, seeing the lingering twig.

Nori does not seem to care about the opinion of passerby, at least not right now.

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

Which is convenient, because Mikoto also doesn't care about the opinions of passers-by, right now or at any other time in her life.

Her head goes all atilt at that mimicry of cats, loosing another leaf from her hair, where it had stuck halfway in her left braid. (They are astoundingly resilient braids; no matter what Mikoto puts them through, they keep framing her face, just the way they were.) "I'm okay!" She announces, entirely pleased with herself, on the heels of Nori's query. "I'm good at climbing."

Well, never mind that she just demonstrated being good at falling, but maybe the climbing is just kind of implied in how she got up there.

"These trees are gardened, so it's easy to get down," Mikoto goes on to explain, turning to point upwards at the way the branches have been pruned around the walking area. "Just drop! And the bits they cut off make it easy to get up, too." Here she points to a alarmingly slight protusion of something which used to be a branch before the whole thing was sawn off, some decades prior.

It DEFINITELY doesn't look climbable, but then again, Mikoto is perfectly comfortable scaling sandstone walls whose handholds would better suit a mouse. (Or, perhaps, an otter, if otters were not allergic to physical exertion.)

She shakes herself out, and loosens her sweater from where it had tied her shirt in place about her waist, shrugging it over her head. (It is VERY pink.) Thus warmed, Mikoto bounces over to grab her sword-case and shrug it onto her shoulder, in a motion which leaves her facing Nori again.

"Nori, hike much?" Mikoto asks, bustling back over to her, all motion, all smiling.

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

Nori reaches over to touch the stump that was once the branch. She runs her fingers up and down along it.

"Huh," she says.

Her head turns to look back towards Mikoto as her lower lip purses out in thought and perhaps approval, as she says, "It's a good skill to have." Nori can, at least, see inwardly... well, that WOULD make it easier than just shimmying up a pole, wouldn't it?

"Not lately," Nori says. "I used to go skiing when I was younger, but for the last while I have mostly been in the city! So nothing out like this. It's funny, I really have never gone into the woods here on the main islands."

"But!" Nori suddenly hikes up one leg and rests a booted sole against the side of the tree. These are not AoAka shoes! They are Doc Bartens, suitable shoes for all terrains! Oil and slip resistant! Also, she has black ribbon-looking shoe laces. "I think I can handle anything, with these."

Boot goes back down. "They're a little clunky but very comfortable."

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

"Yup!" Mikoto agrees, shamelessly, when Nori supposes climbing is a handy skill.

(Humility has never particularly been one of her virtues.)

"Skiing..." She proceeds to echo, before she hums affirmation, a bounce-bounce of her braids as she nods. (This is the sound effect of Mikoto remembering that skiing is the one with two boards.) She proceeds to BEHOLD NORI'S MAGNIFICENT BOOTS, leaning in a little to stare, wide-eyed. "Wow!"

Mikoto is wearing her sensible Ohtori flats, as always. Let us not dwell here, now, on the trials and tribulations Mai went through convincing Mikoto that in Tokyo, shoes were an all-the-time clothing when she was outside. Maybe that's why she always wears the same type of shoes..?

Oh, she's been seen in zorii sometimes, but they're not attending a festival, after all. And would Mikoto dare to climb a tree in such high sandals?

(Obviously yes.)

"They look heavy," Mikoto says, with a note of scepticism, before it occurs to her: "Oh, but that means Nori won't feel anything neither! It's feet armour!" Mikoto is an expert in armour now, for reasons we will not expound on in this particular text, so she sounds entirely confident in her assessment.

Mikoto starts bouncing off down the path, though she at least makes some effort to set a pace Nori seems comfortable with. "There's good woods here," she goes on, with enthusiasm, pointing up to a bird which was quietly dwelling up on one of those too-high branches. "It's not quite like I grew up, 'cause there's more stuff around, but if you go real far out it's kinda the same!"

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

"Oh yes. It's been a while, though... It doesn't snow so much down here, after all. At least not... AS much."

"Oh thank you! If you'd like a pair I can tell you where I got them later," Nori tells Mikoto. "They're imported!"

"Yes," she says. "They were originally supposed to be for working men. They were actually made by a ..." Nori trails off because she realizes abruptly that she did not actually learn this particular factoid, and aims to segue into moving after Mikoto, striding deliberately. She is, it seems, OK with a brisk pace - she is fit enough that she isn't huffing and puffing to walk vigorously, at least. A bird is indicated to her: Nori looks at it, heedlessly, and nods once, firmly.

"The depths of the forest... do you like to go out that far? It seems like such a hassle but it must be *so* peaceful. Though this time of year, I suppose it's a little quieter than it might be. Or less..." Nori reaches for a word and settles on:


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

"New shoes..?" Mikoto wonders, head canting the other way. She wonders what Natsuki would think.

She doesn't wonder for long, though, because she is shortly thereafter occupied by wandering instead. Down the path! It's an easy enough path to amble along, and Mikoto, for one, doesn't point out the way Nori trails to nothing; she's comfortable bouncing along in silence, it seems.

She's walking around with one of her friends! It's a good time! This is the wisdom of Mikoto.

"Yup!" She interrupts her silence to agree, cheerfully, when Nori thinks of another question to grasp. "But, it's noisier when the leaves drop off. Gets quiet when there's snow. Peaceful..." Mikoto repeats the phrasing, looping her hands about the back of her head as she looks up, still walking.

"Kinda," she settles on, a moment later. "There's lots going on, but it's different to the lots in Tokyo. I like it better, 'cause I'm not so good at city stuff. If there's deer rubbing their heads on trees, or squirrels finding stuff to eat, that's just normal."

She hums though her lips, tilting her head back. "Okay," she cedes, looking over to Nori, "Tokyo stuff's normal to Tokyo too. Just feels like too much to me 'cause it's not my normal."

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

"Do you ever go out when it rains?" Nori asks. "That's one of the things that I kind of like out here. I've heard people remark on it, too. It rains so rarely here... relatively speaking."

She takes a deep breath and lets it out, walking in relative silence. Relative because she's moving - there is a faint whisper of the coat against her leggings, the occasinal subtle sound of a rubber sole against stone.

Or dirt as the case may be.

"Have you ever run into a monkey?"

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

"When it rains..."

Mikoto puffs out a sigh, stretching her arms over her head. A grand yawn stretches her jaws in the motion, taking in the air she just let out. At the end of that grand motion, her hands drop down to grasp lightly behind her, turning to Nori: "... I stay inside where it's warm!"

That release of tension might seem entirely innocent, one and another lesson from her feline tutors, but the silence she falls into afterwards has a thoughtful tone to it.

(Because silences have inflections, you see.)

Cheerfully, though, she answers again: "Yup! There's monkeys here!" She uses the word saru, but there's only one monkey she could mean, with such a broad term: even rural girls would recognise the standard monkey as their very own macaques. "And there's salmon, and foxes, and habu! And boars!"

Mikoto pauses, and looks over to Nori, and says with a completely straight face, "Don't fight boars."

One might get the terrible impression Mikoto is speaking from experience.

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

"Ohhhh," Nori answers Mikoto, tilting her head to the side, even rolling it lightly so her hair falls loose and she looks at Mikoto from a slightly-upside-down position. "You see some interesting things when it's raining. One day we should try it."

She breathes in and lets it out.

Monkeys, Nori thinks. When Mikoto mentions their presence, she immediately reaches into her coat as if to check that something (money? probably) is still there. "Oh, I didn't know salmon came up this far, that's actually quite something.. or are we nearer to the sea than I thought?"

("What's a habu?")

Nori then opens her mouth and closes it for a moment.

Her eyes go towards the sword case that Mikoto is rarely seen without. Then back to Mikoto. In the hall of mirrors that lurks behind the eyes of Nori Ankou, in that darkling tower's cobwebs and dusty veils, there is a truth there. An image. A mentality; an awareness.

"... Really? ... I'll be sure not to, then. But..."

"Have you...??"

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

"Together," Mikoto can agree to, in any case.

"I caught one this big!" She declares, but surely Mikoto is exaggerating, because she throws her hands out so broadly that she couldn't possibly be talking about salmon. Perhaps a middling-sized dolphin.

This may cast aspirations on Mikoto's animal identification skills, particularly as she goes on to aside: "Hime, but snakes! Oh," finger tapping to her lip, "or were they on another island..?" One might wonder whether snakes can, in fact, be HiME, but Mikoto knows the truth: there are plenty of snakes with justice in their hearts.

(She has even fought some of them.)

Speaking of animals Mikoto has fought and lost against:

"Mmmm-hm," she nods, humming overlong through her lips, a little drum of her tongue to her palate to really drop the point of Mikoto's truth. "I said, I can catch it! And then it chased me all the way up a tree..."

She rubs at the back of her head, a rueful grin over her face. "My Lord Brother had to carry me home after that. I learned not to hunt things bigger than me... they're tough!"

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

Nori has seen salmon in all kinds of situations. Pates... filets... sashimi... grilled... even smoked, a few times!

"Wow," Nori says, accepting Mikoto's estimate completely. She has no idea how big salmon actually are.

She takes a deep breath and lets it out. "So you've gone walking a long ways, eh! All up and down Japan? If you could take the mountain routes, you really could go in a lot of neat directions," Nori says, folding her hands behind her back.

And then the boar comes up. Boring it is not. Nor is it something for swine. The story is not long, as it concludes in a chase up a tree, and...

The mention of Lord Brother.

Inwardly Nori contemplates this matter. There is a silent pause, which perhaps is not that anomalous in the context of this walk. But it is a pregnant sort of pause, one that seems to present the question of what will emerge, rather than simply being a companionable sharing of space and time and nature. Nori's fingers curl together.

It is a sensitive matter, Nori knows. And like gems, moments like this can be delicate. In a very real sense, you are making a first impression, and Nori knows that much. You can overcome errors here. But it isn't easy - and the marks may never go away.

"Did he fend it off for you, then? I don't think you've said much about him," Nori says, with a sort of breezy curiosity. "I hope you weren't... hurt."

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

Salmon aren't usually that big, but the mention of the size does seem to invalidate Mikoto's later point about not hunting things larger than her.

(The difference, of course, is that isn't HUNTING. It's FISHING.)

"Yup," Mikoto agrees, when Nori supposes she's walked all around Japan. This, too, may not be literally true, but perhaps it is more the feeling of the thing.

Silences have accents, and Mikoto can hear that one, as she lowers her hand down and keeps walking. She doesn't regret speaking honestly, but she can at least suppose someone who thought about their words might have told the story differently.

She thinks her friends don't like him terribly much, and that's a little sad, but she can't exactly blame them.

Still, when Nori speaks up it's with curiosity, so Mikoto tries to take her at that, instead. She hums hesitancy through her lips, looking up at the canopy, speckled yellow-green. The sun's up out there, somewhere. "When I couldn't defeat it, my Lord Brother stepped in and cut it down. He's really strong... I learned it all from him." Evident in her voice, she admires him; there's a strange sort of fondness in her voice to relate the adventure, too. But when she laughs - and she does laugh - there's a shade of nervousness to it. "I guess if I'd used Miroku it'd been easier, huh? But that's no fair! They're just animals!"

Conspicuously, she doesn't answer the query about whether she was hurt.

(She also doesn't address why it was fair for him to use a blade on an animal, in much the same way it was difficult for her to reconcile her distaste for harming unpowered civilians with the demands of his orders.)

"Even when I couldn't fight, Lord Brother still figured out a way forward... they said I shouldn't've let that happen, but..." Mikoto scratches at an ear, head canting as her pace slows. "... I guess it makes sense now, too. 'Cause they'd say I shouldn't've run away now, neither, but... still..."

Her gaze tilts diagonal, too, tracking down to a path now made from packed dirt. "Hey, Nori. Kozue and Tsuru... are they okay?"

What a strange shift.

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

Fishing... is good.

It is, after all, how you get fish. Nori Ankou's family made its money from freezing fish and fish-related foods for resale. It's true! look it up

She learned it all from him, Nori thinks. That means he's dreadfully strong, as well as his other various traits thus developed. Great, Nori also thinks, though it's sort of in the back row of les Theatres des Norittes. Her hands slide back into her pockets.

"If you had to hunt for your dinner, I would say all is fair... but yes; if you were just poking around, or practicing your stalking..." Nori says, not quite finishing the contrariwise thought. No need, she thinks.

When she couldn't fight, Lord Brother figured out a 'way forwards'. Towards what? Nori doesn't know. She does not know if Mikoto knows, either, or at least not exactly. She could just ask, but-- this is another place, she thinks, where the gem could break. And there's a vaguely dirty feeling to the thought at all.

The school colors shine through, Nori thinks, breathing out -- and that much is clear, though she closes her eyes for a step or two afterwards, sweeping back a long lank handful of glisteningly moisturized hair.

"Tsuru is being her usual darling and enigmatic self... and Kozue... remains Kozue, as hard as she possibly can," Nori says, "so I would say, yes. I don't visit with Kozue as much as I did lately, but I do see her around, of course, here and there."

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

"We were having fun..."

Which says many things, really.

1) For all the trials which came and went, as hard as Mikoto herself has admitted her life was, there were still things she thought of as 'fun',
2) Fun, for rural siblings, apparently involved harrassing the local wildlife, much like a cat playing with a mouse,
3) 'We,' inclusive, invokes a shared experience with that man who is hurting her so much,

And, unlucky four, even when Mikoto is recounting a fond memory, there's still a lag of hesitation to the words, alongside a certain shroud of defensiveness.

Mikoto brings her hand up to her heart, as Nori relates their conditions, and she says: "... okay."

This time, the tone of the silence is anxious; it must be, because Mikoto is painfully aware of the sound of her sensible Ohtori flats hitting the dirt. (And a bird calling out in the bushes, and a rustling of some ground-dwellers in the leaf litter, and...)

"It wasn't my fault," Mikoto says, apropos of nothing, "but... I think those Orphans attacked 'cause I was there. Or, maybe that gave him the idea... I don't know. I guess Kozue would say, 'don't you dare blame yourself!'... something like that," Mikoto hesitates, appends: "only, more, of that. But it looked hard for Tsuru... she had to jump into a car." The way Mikoto relates the tale, she probably doesn't mean 'jumping into a car' the way most people use that turn of phrase.

Her hand reaches up, nervously curling a braid about her fingers. "I'm HiME, so Orphans will fight me... we're destined enemies. Alyssa figured it out, and used them to attack us, last year. Now... now my Lord Brother is..." She bites at the inside of her cheek, a little inward wince. "I didn't know," she defends herself, instead. "I really didn't know. But, I found a note after my birthday... in the Orphan's box. It..."

That trails off, too.

"'Cause I'm not fighting for him, I guess Lord Brother took advantage of Orphans to attack me," there's something flat to the explanation, ringing hollow, even as her finger draws that braid tense. "Lots of people could get hurt... I'm worried." Mikoto says it and says more than she means, in the saying; surely she would be worried about collateral damage, but that can't be the extent of her worries, in the face of him.

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

Four things. That's never good, is it?

Of course, four doesn't always mean death. There's always four winds and there's often four heavenly kings.

"... Tsuru is tough; she is strong. If she were truly in peril I think she would simply spread her wings and fly away, even if she's not quite as much of a bluff old captain such as myself," Nori says, self consciously fastening a button on her coat as she says this. "I would not worry about her."

Kozue is of course a wild animal in her own right, and must be considered separately.

The facts of Mikoto's life echo past what Nori knows. The echo gets deeper, richer. Perhaps she understands, even if she doesn't Understand. "Well," Nori says, "in that case I will not tell you that, except that I will say that I agree with Kozue!"

Her head turns to gaze at Mikoto. The shorter girl. Was she always taller than her? Nori thinks - she thinks so. I wonder if I will just become thirty yards high and stretch across the sky one day, she thinks irrelevantly. "So you feel guilty, from what you're saying. Your heart's in turmoil, because of what it is that you think that he is doing. It feels as though, it is really your doing."

"Is that right?"

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

Mikoto smiles a small smile, to hear of Tsuru's hidden talents. "Okay," she says, again, and in Mikoto's hands the word is an honest acceptance of Nori's tale.

Mikoto was not always this tall. She scarcely measured over four-feet-nine, when she came to Tokyo; a few years of Mai's food, and she's managed to grow into a respectable 4'11". She will likely never breach five feet. Perhaps she simply grew too much in the shadow of something.

Which is to say, she's used to looking up.

Nori echoes her worries back at her, and Mikoto stops, turning to her. "Um... yeah," she says, a slight pause as her hand tucks her braid behind an ear, and certainly there's guilt in her eyes. "I - I know it's what my Lord Brother chose to do. But if I hadn't left, he'd still have someone to fight for him... he wouldn't have had to figure something else out."

Her lips form a thin line; shortly all her efforts to categorise her braid are for naught, as she shakes her head vigorously back and forth, and they whip at her cheeks. "It's not just that!" She declares, fiercely. "I - I wanted my Lord Brother to come to my party, I said so, and, he sent something, and, I should've known he'd send something to hurt me, but I said that anyway! And when I saw the nice things he said, I was really happy, Nori! It took me ages to figure out it was still mean! But even though I know that, I still..."

Mikoto's movement slows to a dead stop, hands pulling up to grasp each other at her chest. "I'm happy I... matter, to him. It's all twisted up, but, my Lord Brother still..." She swallows down the thought, can't quite figure out how to say it with honesty, and settles on: "... that's why I feel bad."

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

Nori also stops. She gazes at Mikoto.

Nori is now five feet and eight inches. She is still moving up in the world. Will she end up passing the tallest person she knows socially, Setsuna Meioh? Maybe. She might. It's impossible to say. She does, of course, not expect to actually become thirty meters high.

But three? No, probably not. She has grown up on the waters of Earth.

"Yes," Nori says. "I cannot know his mind. But it was cruel of him to do that. Cruel enough to direct the Orphans, and I don't want to excuse that. But it was cruelty on top of cruelty to do what he did, that you have said. But..."

"I understand too what you mean," Nori says, glancing towards the forest. "That he cares enough to be cruel."

Nori takes in a huge breath; lets it out in a sigh. She tilts her head down to look at the forest floor.

"... This kind of pain... that turbulence..." Nori says, the sentences not quite forming right. Then she opts to take one half-step forwards and sweep up her arms to abruptly embrace Mikoto, gathering her close for a warm hug, the damp fragrance of the glycerine-rich shampoo she slathers her locks with momentarily overwhelming the scent of the cooling season.

It is brief; she loosens afterwards; but she does not pull back as far as she was.

"You do not deserve to be put in this place. To have the goodness, the sweetness inside of you used like that. *He* should be apologizing to *you* and here you are, like the Kozue in our heads said, saying 'don't you dare blame yourself'. Because you knew that that is what she would see, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen, right?" Nori continues, a certain city-lightness in her tone mixed with a focused, almost absorbed depth.

"It's awful... I know what you mean and - I wish - I wish I could just say -" Nori breathes out again.

"I promise you that if he does this again, I --" Nori wants to hedge somehow but she doesn't: "I will make sure everything is alright. Alright? I can't promise perfect. But alright; alright I think I can pledge. As long as it takes."

A leaf falls from a tree, perhaps a little early; it lands, after some time, on Nori's shoulder. She smiles.

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

Cruelty on top of cruelty; Mikoto dips her head in a nod, and thus recognised, she's able to share a little more. "He said, I was his adorable little sister... he always said things like that when he was happy with me," and there is a strange lilt of longing to her voice, even pained. "... but, he said violence was my precious treasure, and victory, and, that's what my Lord Brother wants from me. So he gave me that... gift."

Perhaps it says something, at least, that Mikoto can trust her own account now, instead of having to get her friends to gauge the message's severity. ... still, those are awfully fancy words, for her.

(They're not her words.)

There's something sickened to that last mora, as if Mikoto is horrified by the idea that a gift can be warped to something which hurts so much. (Despite everything, she can still be horrified.) It is pain, at least, Nori sees, even if it is a horror their tongues cannot speak; more striking, still, to Mikoto, the fact that Nori cannot speak it. Nori, Mikoto thinks, has always known what to say, in precisely the way Mikoto doesn't.

She blinks in surprise, to see Nori sweeping forward; but she doesn't shy away, and when she ends up cocooned in that big fluffy lie of a coat she sinks in against the other girl, for a moment. Mikoto carries a great weight with her but she, SHE is light, even if what is there of her is quite solid muscle; even so, there simply isn't enough of her to be heavy.

Mikoto straightens, too, but one hand still grasps at Nori's woollen coat, the one which looked like velvet until she laid hands on it. Her other hand comes up to her chest, grasps to a loose fist there; perhaps her heart hurts.

"Used..." Her lips feel numb, but it's probably her conclusion, not the cold: "... my Lord Brother's still using me." Stranger still is the idea that HE ought apologise to HER, an utterly foreign thought, but that one is too challenging to echo. She can at least notice the struggle.

(She can notice the way Nori understands where she's coming from, and what a horrifying notification that is in her mind.)

Mikoto swallows, with a little tug-tug on that coat, when Nori decides what she can promise. "Are you strong enough to fight Orphans that strong, Nori..? When you stab them, their heart moves somewhere else... when you cut off their legs, they grow right back. Even if you chop them right in half... sometimes, there's nothing we can do but use our Child." She describes the body horror dismally, and one might get the distinct impression she has dealt with all of these trickeries, and more.

"If Nori can handle something like that..." Mikoto swallows, eyes blinking shut in the wince before she looks up to her, eyes wide and too, too gold. "I'm counting on you, okay? My Lord Brother knows me better than anyone... so he can find the Orphans that scare me more than anything. The ones what hurt me like..."

Here her gaze shifts aside, and she says more than she knows, "... like... like he did."

Where is he finding Orphans who can play tricks on her mind, whose venom is heavy as love lies..?

Mikoto, at least, seems convinced he found them.