2021-07-18 - Let's Plan A Shopping Trip! Television's Influencing The Youth!

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Title: Let's Plan A Shopping Trip! Television's Influencing The Youth!

Mikoto convinces Mai to unwind and watch a cooking show with her, amidst Mai's tireless efforts to study for university entrance exams. But when a drama starts playing, Mikoto finds herself reminded of all the sadness she watched on the screens of the Obsidian Palace. She tells Mai a little, and excuses not telling her a whole lot more.


Mai Tokiha, Mikoto Minagi


Ohtori Academy - Dormitories

OOC - IC Date:

2021-07-18 - 2015-12-09

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

There are times in a young girl's life that bear great significance. Harbingers of drastic change, momentous occasions that sit as flagstones on the path to adulthood. Some of these come unexpected; others loom with long shadows to heighten anticipation.

One of the latter has stood before Mai, its shadow growing ever darker with every passing day. She is not alone in fearing it - but many seem to take it lightly and languish in confidence that all will go well, or resign themselves to despair and put off all thought. This is not the path Mai Tokiha has chosen, however - her doom stands before her, but whatever preparation she can make, she will. She must.

Thus is explained the stack of books that has forever darkened a corner of the dining table. Thus is explained inkstains and a wastepaper bin more often filled than not.

Entrance exams are barely a month away, after all.

Tonight, though. Tonight there might have been an intervention. A desperate plea to relax for one night, at least. And so the books have been closed (with bookmarks for later access), and Mai is actually doing something that could, in some loose definitions of the word, be considered as 'relaxing'.

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

Twelfth grade sure is complicated, huh..? Mikoto has more sympathy for academics than she did a world ago, but much of Mai's frenzied studying is still lost on her. The idea that it's THAT important has instead been papered over with the stopgap measure of understanding that it's that important to MAI.

(This has terrible implications for her own fate, next year, but that's an entire year away.)

What Mikoto knows is that Mai has been working so, so hard, and when Mai works that hard at anything, she forgets about herself. Thus has Mikoto been a regular voice of relaxation, even if most of her efforts end up being as simple as an accompanied trip to the grocery store.

Or closing the books to watch a cooking show. Mikoto likes cooking shows! They have good ideas. And Mai has great commentary.

Mikoto might have been sitting on the cushions in front of the television at one point, but she's long since leant over, and bonelessly moved down -- until she's all flopped in Mai's lap, watching the end of the show with big, gold eyes. "Mai!" Mikoto chirps, happily, tilting her head to look up at her too. "Let's make hamburger steaks tomorrow, okay?"

It's true! Media influences the youth!

But now that show is over, and there's an episode of something else starting up...

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Cooking shows can be...hit or miss with Mai. Some of them - admittedly the more cutthroat-competitive ones - bring back memories of participating in a few culinary challenges. Some of them are just vicious enough to be unsettling, and usually a call to change the channel.

Likewise, Cake Wars has been vetoed.

But others are more relaxing. Some of the competitions are more fascinating than traumatizing, and other more educational programs give all kinds of kitchen ideas. ...admittedly she might have binged a few of those years ago when she was still learning to cook, but not all such shows harken to those memories.

And in other cases, the chefs are getting things wrong that she knows are wrong, and calling them out seems to entertain anyone watching with her. ...so why not dial up the snark a bit.

At the moment, Mai appears to have a cat in her lap. Also at the moment, the mental exertion of a day of studying is catching up with her - she was starting to doze off during final plating, and is still halfway in that state. Abruptly, Mikoto is looking up at her, and even on a good day a request like that would be hard to deny.

So she doesn't bother trying. "Hamburg steak? Sure thing. I think that..." A half of a yawn slips out. "...sale on bread, should be easy..."

The show's over, and the remote is...over there. She should probably turn it off, right?...

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

"Yup!" Mikoto chirps, almost always an everpresent source of sunshine again, these days. "Let's get bread!" They can go on a trip! The fact that the trip is only to the store is totally inconsequential. It's a trip and she's excited.

At this hour, it seems the next show in the lineup is a Kaiju drama. Apparently, the last episode left on a cliffhanger -- because there's a wail from the television screen, as a woman realises how small her existence is.

Mikoto stiffens, in Mai's lap, eyes shifting back to the screens. That destruction...

A survivor, calling out the name of someone who didn't. Or is that what's going on? That's what it sounds like. That's the quality of that terror.

... all a sudden the noise isn't just coming from the television, as Mikoto yawlps and hides her face against Mai's knee.

She's almost always a source of sunshine. Except for when she wakes up in the middle of the night, to latch onto Mai. (She's been curling up next to her more often than sprawling on top of her, since the anniversary of the invasion; a strange shift which she must be deliberately attempting, but which she nonetheless hasn't managed to explain.) Except for when she practices standing up for herself in the bathroom mirror, quiet enough that she thinks Mai can't hear her. Except for when...

Mikoto hasn't really talked about it, but she did, apparently, come from Dark Fall, after all.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Getting bread. Right. Mai will have to...make a note, and fill out the grocery list in the morning, when she's actually awake. Bread, and...meat, and...sauce? Figuring out that recipe is a challenge for Tomorrow's Mai, not today's. She might have been studying a bit too hard this week, if this is how she's feeling tonight...and contrasted with how cheerfully eager Mikoto is, kind of tells Mai that this break was kind of necessary.

And meanwhile, the TV has moved on from some Couples' Cooking Challenge thing to some kind of drama. Starting off with smoke and ash and wails of despair, which -

Mai's come to terms with Kagutsuchi. There's mercifully few things that warrant absolute fiery destruction, and being as diverted as she has been by studying helps further, but reducing everything to cinders and ruin - it's not something she relishes thinking about.

Much. Okay. There are a few situations and a few people who warrant it, but fiery murder would be wrong.

In any event, it's not a relaxing ambience, and so Mai decides she should really just turn off the TV or at least mute it. The remote's handy...ish...so if she can just reach it without disturbing Mikoto, she-

-the sound is in stereo, suddenly, as Mai's dearest partner wails in turn.

Mikoto is already disturbed, but. One hand goes to her back, to hold her close; the other arm lunges for the remote, fumbling a moment to wrestle the TV into silence and darkness. For a moment, there's a glimpse of a fast food advertisement - and then the TV is dark and silent at last.

Mikoto is cheerful and eager, right up until she isn't.

Mai doesn't let the silence linger too long. Long enough to let Mikoto know that it's here, the show is gone, it's safe again - and then, ever so quiet, a voice. "...Mikoto?"

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

She's trembling, under that hand.

There was a time Mikoto attacked Akihabara for daring to celebrate a dramatic anime, all the anguish on the screens. Her explanation for why it upset her so much was impoverished, at the time, in the way all her explanations were. Really, it's an aspect to the Palace she hasn't spoken of much at all, despite the impact it had. Like so many things, she has approached it sidelong, or not at all.

But screens upset her, when they're showing upsetting things. The world cried out, so often, so rich, and they watched. It made him happy... and, she...

Mikoto doesn't lift her face when the sounds are gone. It's only when another sound cuts through the darkness of her displeasure that Mikoto makes a little noise of her own, somewhere between a whine and a grumble. She shifts her weight, so she's lying on her other arm, instead; facing Mai, rather than the television.

She's quiet, for a long moment, lips all twisted up like a gnarled tree.

"... when Walpurgisnacht came," Mikoto says, finally, tone so much more muted than her usual cheer, "I was... safe, with my Lord Brother." She hasn't spoken of him, to Mai. But the wound's all raw, and Mai is worried, and for once she does, a little. "I... wanted to... I couldn't go help. But, Lord Brother let me watch. So, I couldn't look away..." There is something there, in the words she uses to describe such gentle brutality -- that allowance -- seated beside the way she ascribes no actor to the way she was denied permission to go to her friends and protect them, at the end of the world.

Written in the shame and shaking of those words is the truth she cannot speak; it broke her, broke her in. The isolation and control which followed was surely just the re-setting of her shattered bones, to a form which suited him better. Standing aside and witnessing their deaths was just another test.

Mikoto is good at passing tests. Maybe Mai should ask for pointers.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

The last few years have brought all kinds of memories. Many good, many bad, some whose recollection will crush any hope of a peaceful sleep. Of the latter, Walpurgisnacht is one Mai tries never to think about.

(Because it didn't happen. Whatever miracle sundered that darkness undid it so utterly that it might as well have been less than a nightmare, because Witches- )

...in all honesty, she's happier letting those memories stay hazy. Destruction wrought across Tokyo, desperate flames thrown forth to little avail, up until she'd burnt out every scrap of strength she had and it still wasn't enough-

-and on some level she'd hoped that Mikoto was just...unaware, kept away from it. Or even so immersed in shadow that she couldn't care. But the truth, the truth-

Mai's hand on Mikoto becomes an arm wrapped around her, holding her close, holding her tight. "...I'm sorry. Sorry you had to see all of..." She trails off, because what can she say about that night?

-the truth is that Mikoto's 'Lord Brother' is among that rare breed of people that Mai could turn Kagutsuchi loose on without an ounce of hesitation.

Mai lets the silence breathe for a moment, a few heartbeats, seeking the words to answer. At last: "...I don't blame you. You know that? Knowing you weren't there, that you weren't caught up in that..." She laughs, mirthlessly. "...is kind of a relief? Just...it's okay. And you're here."

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

And maybe that's why there's a piece of cardstock which Mikoto has carefully kept out of Mai's sight for a month running, now. She has some sense of how the most important girl in the world feels about the most important man in the world.

Mikoto doesn't want them to fight. Anything but that.

A hand balls in Mai's shirt, as her arm wraps around her. Ashamed as she is, she absorbs that affection like a desert eating rain. It's a relief...

She hums, wordlessly, nodding against her leg. She's here. Her eyes scrunch up, closing for a moment, as she draws a long, shuddery breath.

"I'm not... trying to hide it," Mikoto says, finally, apology joining the shame in her voice. "I'm not. It's just, all twisted up..." And here there may be echoes of Mai's own accusation -- that Mikoto's love was a twisted thing -- and perhaps some clue as to why. "... complicated." She says, a moment later, and that much must be true, if Mikoto is still speaking of him the way she just did now she's free. "I... don't want Mai to think I'm no good." Stained, rejected, broken. Mikoto knows no one blames her; she still has to tell herself it's not her fault, sometimes.

She swallows. "'Cause of what happened, I feel different... but I don't want to be too different. I'm a girl, like, everyone else." She might have said 'like Mai', but she remembers how poorly she reacted to that; Mikoto at least tries to respect the feelings of the people who are so important to her, even if she's still so ignorant so often. "If everyone else thinks I'm weird, that's fine, but... but, Mai..." Mikoto looks up at her poor, tired friend, the girl she loves more than anyone, and the vulnerability in her eyes are open as a wound. "I just want to be here with Mai... that's okay, right..?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Mikoto has been so helpful with the cleaning while Mai's been busy studying. The older girl has hardly had to tidy at all, it seems...and so a card remains unfound.

"It's okay. It's always okay." Looking down, how could Mai answer that vulnerability with anything else?

She keeps Mikoto close, musing on those words. Twisted up and complicated; there are harsher words for Mikoto's familial relationships Mai could use, but those will do for now. The most important thing is that Mikoto isn't there any more, is here with her friends. That's what matters.

...she isn't sure how to answer the guilt, though. Maybe another friend could, but Mai knows just enough about her own handling of guilt to know that she shouldn't be advising anyone.

"...it was a mess. But...things happen. Some things are messy and, well, complicated or twisted up. 'Everyone else' includes friends like Eri, or Takeo, or - " Mai waves with her non-Mikoto-holding hand for a moment. "There are differences. Some people might find them weird. But I think you're fine as you are, Mikoto. Okay?"

There's a warm smile, from Mai, and then a glance toward the kitchen. "...and when you're ready to get up, I think we should make a bit of dessert. Does that sound all right?"

She's been keeping a few ingredients on hand, these past months. Cream for whipping, fruit in the freezer, and every few days a bit of cake that gets chopped and bagged up for later use. Just enough that when the mood strikes, it's easy enough to whip together a quick parfait.

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

It's okay, Mai says, and relief floods Mikoto without reservation. "Okay." For all she isn't telling her, it's not because she doesn't trust her. Rather, Mikoto trusts, fully and completely, that Mai would come for her if she were in trouble.

(Or if she were trouble. That's not as bad as it sounds.)

When Mikoto first came to the land of Fuuka, in search of her long-lost Lord Brother, when she was assigned to Mai's own dorm...

... she asked Mai, then, if she would be a burden on her, staying there.

For all the stark differences in their lives, there are some things about Mikoto and Mai which are strikingly similar. The guilt, for one. It's not something Mikoto shows often -- but then, Mai doesn't wear it on her sleeve either, does she?

Mikoto doesn't know so much about that, either. But it is, once more, something she has some sense about. A dream conversation she entered too late. All the anger of Obon, rushing past too, too quickly. Dark implications from a friend in the depths.

Speaking of which, she nods against Mai's leg, as she mentions who 'everyone else' is. "That's okay," she says, of people like Eri, and Takeo. The truth is, if they think of her differently because of her family... it's different, to Mai thinking that.

It's different for the same reason she's been trying to be a little more respectful of Mai's space, recently. She's realised how she feels, a bite of the apple of wisdom. But knowing that and expressing it are two very, very different things.

It means her eyes light up with all that love and affection, when Mai says she's fine as she is. "Okay!" Mikoto answers, with that untold relief. Mai thinks that... if Mai thinks that, then..!

She nods, again, and she's smiling, as Mai mentions the idea of dessert. Mikoto loves parfaits a whole lot; Mai's parfaits, even moreso. "Yup!" She agrees, and that's the sort of agreement she can only muster when she's happy; a far cry from the formal 'yes' she used, under her Lord Brother's shadow.

Mai's been keeping those ingredients around...

It makes Mikoto happy.

(She makes Mikoto happy.)