2022-01-07 - Hatsumode Crossroad

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Title: Hatsumode Crossroad

Hikawa Shrine is observing Hatsumode, the traditional New Years' celebration. Good or bad, there's sure to be fortune for the coming year.


Rei Hino, Chibi-Usa Tsukino, Hotaru Tomoe, Ye-jin Song, Fuu Hououji


Hikawa Shrine

OOC - IC Date:

2022-01-07 - 2016-01-01

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Sarah Slean - Day One https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHKmAOh4qhg

Hatsumode is the celebration of the New Year, which, in Japan, falls on January 1st. The first half of the first day, traditionally, is a matter for domestic worship; once the toso sake has been drunk and the osechi-ryori breakfast has been eaten, it's time to face the day. And for many (many, MANY) people here, on those first few days of the new year, everyone returns to their local (or favourite!) shrine or temple to pray for the year's prosperity.

Of course, the New Year is a time for cleanliness -- clean room, clean soul. The first of these involves organising one's living space, to more or less complaint depending on this individual; the second is a matter of shrines. The omamori amulets which everyone has acquired over the year (for such blessings as safe travelling, avoidance of evil, good fortune, good education, romance, and personal and commercial prosperity) have absorbed so much bad luck, it's now customary to return them to where they came and receive a new blessing. The old amulet is burned, not simply discarded, to offer thanks to the deities who watched over them; receiving the new year's amulets is a matter of great importance to many.

Really, a great MANY people -- all dressed up in fancy clothes for the event, which, in the case of the girls here, typically involves their best furisode kimono. Long sleeves are just the thing for winter!

And that's why...

All the shrines and temples of Tokyo have been packed like sardines, all day. Long lines stretch out past those steep stone steps, as the devoted and the determined alike gather together, worn omanori clutched in their hands, to pray. The sun climbs, over the collection; mercifully, it's not a snowy day, today. And then... the sun sets, and still, not everyone has visited the shrines they want.

"Caw, caw!" Calls a large black bird, as a crow flies over the crowd waiting for entry to Hikawa Shrine. One may get the distinct -- if, perhaps, slightly unsettling -- impression that she, and the other crow currently perched atop the torii gate leading into the shrine, are both acting as ushers to keep the line orderly. (This is, of course, impossible, because as clever as crows are, they're still just crows. Right?) "Caw!" Cries that leaner bird as she alights, announcing another group leaving the shrine. The line has to squish a little to let them out, but it also means that everyone who has been waiting so long, now finally gets to climb up and visit...

Hikawa Shrine has been hard at work all day receiving everyone's prayers, of course, and now the sun has set on the first day of the year, they're still working. The lighting out tonight reveals a pine tree which already has a great many bad fortunes tied to it -- a great bell to pray by -- and, of course, a spiritual bonfire. This is attended by the shrine maiden, Rei Hino, to make sure those old omamori are properly burned. "It seems the spirits were hard at work for you this year," she says, to one girl, as she throws her charm onto the fire. "I hope you found the love you were looking for." (Hikawa Shrine, of course, dispenses plenty of love charms to the youth.)

"Come find your fortune! It only takes a little offering!" That's Grandpa Hino, who, of course, is collecting offerings in exchange for omikuji fortunes. These are random but nonetheless detailed fortunes, estimating the reader's chances to have good health, love, fortune, or fulfilled hopes. Good fortune can be kept for luck, of course, but there is always the pine tree -- or the matsu, which happens to be the word for 'waiting,' too. Bad fortunes can be tied on the pine tree, in hopes that the bad luck will be stuck waiting by the tree. But wait! Good fortunes can be tied there, too, so that the good luck will amplify on itself as it waits, causing it to have an even greater effect.

Meanwhile, Yuuichiro Kumada, resident trainee priest who recently banished a ghost all on his own that's definitely how that happened, is helping to make sure the crowds are moving in an orderly fashion and everyone's prayers are being heard. He's sympathetically saying things like, "Oh, was it a bad fortune..? Just come over this way, and tie it to the tree!" -- all the while gesturing people off towards the pine.

It's certainly BUSY, but that's because so, so many people have so, so many prayers for the future.

What's yours?

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

What is Chibi-Usa's wish for the new year? For the future as a whole?

...That's a secret. She has too many wishes to share all of them... and too few to word properly. The future is a very important subject to this little girl...

And she's here! She wouldn't miss Hikawa Shrine! Not with so many of her friends here! Like Rei, who is admittedly busy, and Hotaru, who... isn't... actually here yet.

Chibi-Usa waits down at the stairs for the moment, dressed in a lovely small red kimono with pink obi, happily waiting for her friend. It is very busy, but she is slightly to the side, where even she can stand out--and there might be people watching out for her nearby....

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

Hotaru arrived separately. She and Chibi-Usa planned to meet at Hikawa Shrine, an invitation tendered to the former by the latter via the rabbit backpack that has become their shared, back-and-forth, maximally cute mailbox.

But at first, Hotaru didn't see her best friend in the crowd. Then she DID, but she would have had to cut in line to meet up with her, and was too shy to try to join the group further ahead. So, lowering her eyes in the hopes that this will magically render her invisible (because she does not really want a compassionate and enthusiastic Usagi Tsukino, or whoever, to DRAG her to the front of the line, in front of all these people), she waited a couple extra minutes to get in.

What really makes it easy not to see her until she's right on top of everyone is her drab clothing. She's a thin little weed, blackened by winter, in a blooming garden of brightly-hued furisode delights. Hotaru is often kind of a shadow at the best of times, in both physical and emotional affect, and never more than now. It's hard NOT to overlook someone all in nearly skin-tight black (leggings, tunic, shoes), swimming in what looks to be a man's winter overcoat thrown over it. Her father's jacket is very dark green, with a yellow collar, and engulfs her hands completely unless she rolls up the sleeves. Though it helps that she's been seen in it many times before. Doesn't she own anything else?

Maybe not. It's difficult to imagine Kaori Kishi -- let alone Kaolinite(?!) -- purchasing a kimono and helping her wear it. Though she'd look amazing in one, surely. Something about her distinctive combination of fragility and pallor has always evoked a porcelain doll. And the most fun thing to do with a doll is dress them up...

At any rate she seems to have enough appreciation for the pretty clothes around her, entirely sans jealousy, a pure, deep emotion, outsized in the way feelings can be for small children -- enough, that is to say, to make up for not actually wearing any. Her eyes are huge and round and her mouth only avoids this fate because of a certain native composure. And even that falls away as she spots the prettiest girl in the prettiest kimono of them all.

"Chibi-Usa-chan!" Hotaru closes the last few meters between them quickly, and takes both of her hands in her own. Hers are larger, longer, paler. Chibi-Usa's are pinker and stronger. She loves holding them... "Happy New Year!"

<Pose Tracker> Ye-jin Song [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It is the Year of the Ye-jin.

Or, at the very least the year that the Ye-jin has decided to visit Hikawa shrine. It's the first New Year she's spent in Tokyo, after all.

Morning had been reserved for breakfast and celebration with her grandfather, a traditional meal and equally traditional offerings left at the small shrine in their home. Yet theres only so much time the Song family can spare, and spending the evening alone in an empty penthouse was not the most appealing choice to be made.

So come evening Ye-jin, like a genuine Tokyoite, made her pilgrimage to join the line of visitors that stretch outward from the shrine with thoughts of the future in her heart and a fistful of yen in her hand. Dressed in a heavy white jacket, woolen red dress and thick leggings, she braves the line with her eyes on the prize: A sheet of paper that will confirm how lucky she is.

Yen that is quickly disposed of when she makes it to the front of the queue and makes her offering, trading one paper for another. Theres a lot of squinting after that, consulting with those nearby, and several minutes of effort as she deciphers the sheet of paper shes received. And, once shes finished, she promptly digs into a pocket and fishes out another handful of coins.

"I want a different one."

Maybe she didn't get the part about the tree.

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Caw," calls a crow, as Deimos circles over Chibi-Usa's head, as if to serve as a convenient indication over the crowd that Something Important is Here. Or, in this case: someone, all dressed in red.

(Meanwhile, Phobos lands in the branches of a nearby tree, all the better to watch the line. Is she keeping a particular black beady eye on one invisible little girl? Surely not. She's just a bird!)

When Hotaru and Chibi-Usa get inside, they'll find, at least, that Hotaru is not entirely alone in not wearing one of those furisode kimono -- Rei, waving to them, is all dressed in the white and red of the shrine maiden's robes. (And the priests, in-training or otherwise, naturally have their own robes to wear on the job.) Certainly she notices Hotaru's (lack of?) choice in clothing, as one of the things which drew her attention to those two in particular -- plus a little crow help to point them out in the crowd, of course. She notices, but...

Well, let's just say Rei made her own prayers to the spirits, before they opened the gates. In her eyes, the gods are more likely to answer her wishes for wayward girls than someone like Kaolinite.

She doesn't call them over too obviously, though; she knows both Chibi-Usa and Hotaru can be shy, in their own ways, and as far as she's concerned, they're getting to the age where they'll have to navigate their prayers themselves. Besides, they have plenty of other people to greet --

Like Ye-jin, who soundly shoves the Fire Monkey out of frame in order to claim 2016 as the Year of the Ye-jin. (It's an easy substitution; both are said to be as ambitious as they are irritable.) Grandpa Hino laughs, good-naturedly, as Ye-jin beholds her omikuji fortune only to demand -- a second fortune. "My, my! You're the sort of girl who can change luck just by trying again, are you..? Well," he gestures over to that shrine maiden, amused, "that determination reminds me of something..!"

Yuuichiro, who is better (or at least younger) at handling the rich, hears Grandpa's teasing, and steps in to mollify the situation. "If you're not fond of your fortune," he explains, "you can tie it to the pine tree so it won't catch up to you. Don't worry, that's how it works!" Ye-jin isn't the first person he's had to explain this to; there are plenty enough visitors, during hatsumode.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa looks, and looks, and stands on her tiptoes and looks some more. (This does not win her very much height, actually.) But she is rewarded for her persistence by the sight of her very best friend in all the world, in a timeless, classic sort of look--

"Hotaru-chan!" Chibi-Usa steps forward, folding her hands into Hotaru's with a big smile that threatens to brighten the whole sky.

She does not notice certain crows watching over them. Instead she says, "Yay! You're here!" She beams still, and stands there for a moment, in front of everybody, just basking in the presence of her favorite person. And then she turns, to lead them up to the shrine proper, and start to head that way. "Hikawa's really popular," she comments in the childlike way of pointing out something clear like it's new and nifty. Chibi-Usa's smaller, pinker hand stays in Hotaru's as long as she has something to say about it, as she starts off towards Rei and the fortunes.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

Hotaru's look is maybe timeless and classic like The Little Match Girl is a timeless, classic bedtime story. But then, Chibi-Usa's furisode was bought on a Tsukino budget. It's lovely, but far from the most luxurious one here. In conclusion they could both be wearing grain sacks and would probably be staring at each other with the same beatific expressions...

Hotaru continues to bask in Chibi-Usa's radiance and is likely to keep at it until interrupted by a comet falling out of the sky onto them (or a youma, whatever comes first). Her bob fans out across her shoulders, just enough above it to not quite touch, as she shakes her head -- in wonder -- at Chibi-Usa's pronouncement. "Wow, so many people," she agrees, impressed by her friend's powers of persuasion. Or maybe a little discomfited by the sheer quantity of people. She was like that back at the Uminari festival, too.

They pass Ye-jin as she makes her counteroffer to fate, and a little complexity leaks into Hotaru's expression, like food coloring into a glass of water. She seems thoughtful, maybe troubled. But the cloud on her face is not threatening to rain.

"Hino-san," she greets politely, as she's towed in front of her regardless of any intent on the shrine maiden's part to stay aloof. "Um, please..." Maybe she would have let that sentence stammer to a stop if not for some of their previous interactions. After all, Rei Hino has done some very kind and supportive things for Hotaru Tomoe over the last year! So, she summons her courage and bulls through, finishing the thought.

"...can you show us what to do? This is my first time... I think."

When you're barely double digits, you're more likely to remember that there's a span of time you DON'T remember.

<Pose Tracker> Ye-jin Song [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Ye-jin notes the presence of Rei Hino when the shrine maiden is gestured at. She has at least a passing familiarity with hearsay about Ohtori's fortune-telling shrine maiden, even if they haven't met personally. This may need to change, but there are other important things to see to first:

"And then I can get a better one." Ye-jin surmises from Yuuichiro's explanation. "After I get rid of this one." She doesn't really say it like a question.

This at least gets her out of the line of fortune seekers, the girl shuffling out of the way and heading for the aforementioned tree. She stands up on tip-toes to tie her sheet of paper to a branch, making sure it assumes the highest and most important position that her height allows. She dusts her hands afterward, content with her work.

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

"Isn't it proper to let other people draw their first fortunes before you reach for a second one, Ye-jin-san?"

It is, in fact, so busily crowded at Hikawa Shrine today that a certain blonde, glasses-wearing archer - from Infinity, of all places - has managed to sneak up on Ye-jin, without even trying to sneak up on anyone, much less the Ohtori-ite. Fuu hasn't had a chance to pick up *her* first fortune yet; she's still carrying several omamori from the past year, including a ceremonial hama-ya ("evil-destroying arrow"), all ready to be offered back to the gods via the fire. Fuu herself is decked out in full kimono, the outermost layer in green (of course) with a bamboo-forest pattern embroidered into it.

Fuu smiles, bowing politely to Ye-jin and Yuuichiro. "A most happy and propitious New Year to both of you, Ye-jin-san, Yuuichiro-san. May any wandering demons who hear your footsteps tremble and flee at your approach."

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

This WOULD be the perfect place for a youma to drop out of the sky, wouldn't it..? And yet, for all the people gathered here, evil seems to be minding its manners. Perhaps there are simply too many spiritual guardians present for it to be worth raising a wicked fuss. Or --

Rei is momentarily saved from the storm of Ye-jin, because Chibi-Usa comes to her, Hotaru in tow. "Hi, Chibi-Usa-chan," her hands clasp together, with a warm smile -- "and Hotaru-chan, too. I'm glad you could both make it!" It's an exclamation, but not an overly-loud one; Rei's energy is at least a little more moderated than some of her other friends.

(Is moderated really the right word for it..? It still counts as high-energy if you put so much energy into looking like you didn't try too hard, Rei.)

She gives Hotaru the space to finish her question in two ways -- firstly by nodding and then by largely looking to Chibi-Usa so she's not staring at that haphazardly-dressed porcelein doll, and secondly by not launching immediately into a screed of her own. (The first one is a natural way to spare someone socially in a group, the sort of thing she learns every day in Ohtori, where she's heard a thing or two about the Vice-President in turn; the second is much more a deliberate decision, considering how much Rei loves hearing herself talk.) Her attention comes back to Hotaru once she screws her courage to the sticking-place and finishes her thought, and Rei looks delighted.

Being entirely fair, that's also her job -- she's been Pleased Someone Is Making The Effort For The Gods all day, because spiritual guidance and customer service have a surprising amount of overlap in this modern era -- but there's something a little EXTRA genuine in her happiness that Hotaru asked, because it's Hotaru asking, or perhaps the emphasis is it's Hotaru asking, or even it's Hotaru asking.

"I'm glad you asked," she says, and gestures to the flames. "This is the bonfire where we offer the past years' lucky amulets to the Gods -- after a whole year, all the bad luck gets pulled into the omamori, so it's better to offer them back to the spirits and take a new blessing. Ah," she adds, gesturing over to the omikuji stand, "you see Fuu-chan, over there? What she's holding? Those are symbols which protected her from evil last year, so you bet she'll be offering them up here."


"Haha... those who chase two hares won't even catch one, even lovely young ladies like yourself!" Grandpa Hino laughs to Ye-jin's assumptions, as he offers his wisdom, in his particular way. "But if you'd like some extra help, we do offer all kinds of omamori! Do you need protection in love? Your studies? Your family? Oh, or is a modern girl like you working already..? We have amulets for business prosperity, too -- oh, tell her, won't you?" He asides, to Yuuichiro, as Ye-jin goes to tie her poor fortune to Godot -- er, the pine.

"Happy New Year to you, too, Hououji-san!" Yuuichiro says, cheerfully, to Fuu. A thumb to his chest, he declares: "Haha... you know no demon's a match for me!" (Okay, so he fell asleep, but he was pretty sure he banished the ghost when he woke up.)

"That's how you do it," Yuuichiro confirms, encouragingly, as Ye-jin beholds her work tying up the fortune. "So, uh, like the Head Priest was saying, we can get you fresh omamori..." Yuuichiro is not nearly as much of a salesman as Grandpa is, because he really didn't get into this business expecting it to be so modern. He's... he's doing his best.

Rei beholds all this, a finger to her cheek, with a thoughtful hum which may soon spell Grandpa Hino's destruction. It's a moment's thought which she soon breaks, smiling to Chibi-Usa and Hotaru brightly. "And over there, we're offering omikuji fortunes! They tell you how well the year is going to go for you. Hey, why don't we go over and get some together? I can step away from here for a moment -- oh, Yuuichiro! Would you mind watching the fire a moment?" She calls, waving him over, hopefully in time to avoid him getting eaten alive. The two of them can trade off! (Again. They've traded spots more than once, today.)

Rei is a problem-solver as well as a problem creator, sometimes. Sometimes!

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Definitely would still be delighted to see her.

No youmas fall indeed, and there are probably a lot of reasons for that. None of that particularly matters to Chibi-Usa at the moment, who is aware of Hotaru's general reaction to crowds and ready to be a pink-haired shield against all excessive people, just by being here. As Ye-jin makes her counteroffer, Chibi-Usa doesn't even seem to notice.

She is too busy being proud of Hotaru for mentioning that she needs to know what to do. "Oh oh, I'll help!" the small pink girl volunteers brightly.

"Of course!" Chibi-Usa chirps to Rei. And to Hotaru, "It's OK if you don't have one; they just give them to you!" She says this brightly, and gets to work on the matter of what to do, getting out her old omamori to offer forward, so thta she can show Hotaru how it works when it's her turn, with a big smile at Fuu ahead of them.

"And we get to draw a new fortune, too... Oh I'm getting ahead of myself!" she says. "But like this!"

Chibi-Usa has eyes for one girl at the moment, now that Rei has moved to rescue Yuuichiro. And she reaches to get last year's amulet...

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

Hotaru is, as always, a little embarrassed to be called by her first name by anyone but Chibi-Usa. It feels like an embarrassment of riches, you see, to potentially have more than one friend in the world, especially when your one friend is the GOAT. Her eyes lower when Rei politely averts herself during her hesitation, but when the whole exchange is over, the shrine maiden is amply rewarded by her particular brand of soft, quiet, intense gratitude. A sort of whole-body experience, as Hotaru is suffused by the feeling of having been HELPED in some way.


But also, she seems worried, as she looks past Rei to watch some people surrender their amulets to the flames. Chibi-Usa may suspect why. She gets it half right, as Hotaru nods shamefacedly to the notion that she doesn't have one. But then she lowers her mouth to a pink-odango'd ear and whispers, behind a hand:

"Please don't burn my amulet, okay? I don't think it's the right kind. And... it was my mother's."

(It wasn't her mother's, but that lie is ANOTHER timeless, classic bedtime story, told to her by her father this time, and she believes it.)

It was kind of a loud whisper, in order to be heard in such a crowd, and it's possible Rei heard some or all of it.

Straightening up, she is agreeable to the notion of being brought over to the fortunes. But she's also not quite sure what Chibi-Usa wants to do first, and hesitates at her side.

"Which is the part with the wishes?" she asks them both. Chibi-Usa was particularly enthusiastic about the wishes when convincing Hotaru to attend this event. Not that it takes much arm-twisting. Hotaru would follow her anywhere.

<Pose Tracker> Ye-jin Song [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Mmm?" Ye-jin pauses when addressed, lowering herself back to the ground and reorienting to face the blonde-haired girl that's emerged from the crowd. "Aah, have you not gotten one yet, Fuu-san? You'd better hurry, before they run out." Which is probably unlikely, unless they let Ye-jin buy them all.

The archer's well-wishes draw a bright smile from Ye-jin, along with a titter of amused laughter. "You too, Fuu-san."

On the topic of onamori, Grandpa Hino's salespitch seems to also placate Ye-jin somewhat, if only because it was largely complementary of her. She nods her head thoughtfully, one finger tapping her cheek for just a moment before she turns to Yuuichiro.

"Yes." She says. "Give me those."

And, deciding she's going to be extra helpful, she adds: "Whichever ones these are." A gesture is made to Fuu's stock of talismans, because Fuu Hououji seems to know what she's doing.

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

Fuu raises her eyebrows a little at that last, but helpfully rattles off the omamori she's bought over the past year: "Three for academic success, two for athletic prowess, half a dozen for recovery from illness or injury ..."

It doesn't seem to occur to her that giving away this many of the things she's specifically been praying for *might* not be a good idea. At least, not until she finishes the list with:

"... and one for successfully conquering the known world," with the brightest and most beatific smile you could *possibly* imagine. Does Hikawa even *sell* world conquest omamori? Does *anyone*?

(... at least outside of Akihabara?)

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Chibi-Usa-chan, you really know your way around here," Rei encourages the other girl in red (red and pink, not red and white, but details, schmetails). "You're so reliable! I wish everyone paid attention like you do." It's high praise, of course, but it's given with a different flavour to the way Hotaru and Chibi-Usa are eye-to-eye; Rei has more big sister than best friend energy around Chibi-Usa, which is for the best, really.

(It's maybe not completely TECHNICALLY correct, but if she refers to Usagi yobisute, clearly she's adopted her in some way or another. This must go for her extended family, too.)

However one views her connection to Chibi-Usa -- and, implicitly, her connection to Hotaru, because one always seems to come with the other in a diminutive matched set -- she's welcoming to that pale wisp of a girl, all buried in her father's coat. She does happen to catch something about not wanting her amulet burned, but she doesn't reassure her that not every amulet is for burning, because she has the social poise to realise the whisper wasn't for her.

Rei watches Chibi-Usa's charms burn in the fire, all the bad luck drawn away from her by the will of guardian spirits. She watches the flames dance, sparks of yellow and red, rich and formless, and --

She blinks; she shakes her head, the smile dropping from her face to a troubled expression. For just a moment, her sight -- her Sight -- saw just HOW much ill fortune broke to smoke and embers, how MUCH she was protected from evil, HOW MUCH her travels needed warding. It's not the first time the hairs at the back of her neck have stuck up, but for this girl, of all of them --

"Oh, the wishes!" Rei pulls herself up, smiling again, as she looks from the fire to Chibi-Usa and Hotaru. "If we come to the shrine, we'll be able to pray for a prosperous new year! You see that big bell?" She gestures, to it. "That's a good place to pray. If you want something in the new year, you can ask the Gods to oversee your efforts." It's not, exactly, asking the Gods to do it for them, but Rei is still Rei, in-uniform or out.

Meanwhile, Yuuichiro comes to watch over the fire so Rei can help the kids out, and he looks from Fuu's charms to Ye-jin. "Conquest isn't exactly one of our most popular charms," he laughs, a hand to the back of his scruffy scruffy long hair. "But if that's what you want, we can help." After all, omimori come back to the shrines they were given from; that means that Hikawa has sold at least one amulet with that sort of forcefulness behind it.

He goes around to fetch some of those ominari, and promptly hands them over, to Ye-jin. "Say," he adds, to Fuu, "that's an evil-destroying arrow, too, isn't it? Are you in the Archery Club too, Hououji-san?"

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Worry!! Chibi-Usa gets it immediately and smiles forward as Hotaru whispers to her. She whispers back, "Don't worry! I'll keep that one safe!"

It is the others she hands over, the ones meant for this purpose.

"It's important to pay attention," Chibi-Usa replies to the compliment, and she is too nice and sweet and happy to say UNLIKE SOMEONE at the moment but its generally implied mot days. She is always happy to be rewarded with good thoughts on Rei.

She doesn't even notice all the bad fortune thateats up off of her amulets.

"Yes!" Chibi-Usa says next. "We'll go over there next." She makes a little prayerful pose at the fire, and then leads Hotaru over to the other place. Wishes are very important to Chibi-Usa...

Though she has kept them secret from most. Hotaru, though...

World conquest is more for her mother than for her. Right?

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

Hotaru's immediate amulet destruction concerns thus quelled, she clenches something on a chain around her neck while she watches Chibi-Usa burn OTHER amulets. Which she's content enough to do until she gets distracted watching Rei watch Chibi-Usa's amulets. Then she shifts her extremely slight weight in a protective way, as though offering herself as a human shield against what she perceives as Rei's disapproval. Or perhaps against Rei's getting weirded out. The two are basically the same thing to Hotaru herself, who routinely weirds people out, who then disapprove of her. And even after the shrine maiden reverts to all smiles, her own seriousness lingers.

"Okay," she tells Rei. "Thank you very much for your assistance."

From wide-eyed child to adult-in-a-child's-body, just like that. She really doesn't relax often or easily enough. And she's much too attuned to the moods of others...

But she does calm down a LITTLE when Chibi-Usa takes her hand again and leads her off to the bell.

She looks at her friend, solemn as the grave. Then over to the bell, which she doesn't quite have the presumption to RING. But she dutifully replicates the prayerful pose she saw Chibi-Usa do at the fire.

Her lips move; nothing comes out. This is on the presumption that wishes are supposed to be in secret, because someone told her that once around birthday-cake candle wishes and why shouldn't all wishes operate on the same ruleset?

But whatever she wished for, she must want it a lot, because she bows and prays again afterwards, then a third time, just in case it might help.

And if Chibi-Usa was paying attention, one of the words on her lips is especially easy to read: 'Mama.'

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

Wait, Hikawa Shrine actually *has* those? Fuu blinks in surprise at how seriously Yuuichiro takes it - but then the subject changes, and Fuu latches onto it with just a hint of relief. "Yes, it is," she replies, holding it so he can see more clearly. "And yes, I'm on the Infinity Institute archery team - captain of the high school division this year, as it happens. I know Rei-san is an archer, but I didn't realize you practice it as well ... ?"

<Pose Tracker> Ye-jin Song [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Ye-jin casts a slanted gaze at Fuu as the other girl lists her fortune collection, lips pursing thoughtfully. Especially at the last bit. She's about to question further when Yuuchiro confirms that world-conquering is on the menu.

"Yes. And give me some of the ones that aren't boring, too." She requests. When Yuuichiro returns she accepts her offerings, gathering them in her hands and giving a short nod toward Fuu. "Thank you for your help, Fuu-san. I'm going to go make a wish now."

She begins to head toward the bell after that, lingering to observe and listen to proper ringing etiquette before she attemps it herself.

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

More for her mother? Well, Rei DOES have a world conquest amulet, obviously --

Wait, hang on a second!

There's a good reason for Rei to hang on a second, too, because Hotaru noticed something about Rei's reaction, and now she's back to being such a serious child again. "Of course!" She assures her, regardless. And to Chibi-Usa, she deputises: "You'll take care of her, right, Chibi-Usa-chan?" Off to pray..!

Rei pauses by the fire to look over to Fuu, and say, cheerfully: "I'm surprised by how careful you are with academic luck, Fuu-chan! But I'm sure the Gods will be pleased you're ensuring your success. Happy New Year!"

Yuuichiro laughs, as he hands over some fresh omimori to Fuu, as well. "Oh, I'm hardly as talented as Rei-san in the field," he says, "but I've picked up a couple of things from her. Wow, though, captain... sounds like you're a pretty hard worker, too. I hope these amulets help!"

He fetches Ye-jin a non-boring amulet -- which she may notice professes to be a kotsu-anzen, offering protection for travellers and traffic safety to drivers. Does Ye-jin look about the age to drive something..? She must.

Meanwhile, Rei goes over to the omikuji stand, and there is a hushed (in the loosest possible sense of the word) exchange which seems entirely charactertised by her berating someone who is her senior in every possible way. Something about inappropriateness and daring to try and monetise a festival.

This means that by the time anyone else visits the stand -- particularly if they're small -- Grandpa Hino will be much more well-behaved in offering omikuji blessings. "Here you go, girls! Just reach into the box and pick one out at random! It's the luck of the draw..!!"

Rei, beside him, adds: "If you get bad luck, you can tie it to the pine tree, and it will be stuck waiting by the tree instead of finding you. Leave the bad luck pining, right?" Matsu matsu... at least Rei giggles, at her bad joke.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

"Right!" Chibi-Usa replies cheerfully to Rei, because of course she'll take care of Hotaru. Chibi-Usa stays wide-eyed child a lot longer. She will ring the bell for Hotaru, when she seems to finish her wish; Chibi-Usa does not intrude on the sanctity of a silent wish no matter how curious she might be, because such things are part of the immutable laws of childhood. ...But she was paying attention, and caught that one word. She doesn't ask about it.

Instead, when it is her turn, she fervently makes a wish, one of many... but the one she needs, right now. The important one.

Hotaru may recognize the words 'grow' and 'up' among them. And then she reaches to get a fortune, her other hand still in Hotaru's--

"Oh oh!" she says. "I got best luck!" she says, and looks cheerfully to Hotaru. "I should tie this one to the tree too... Good or bad, if you tie it to the tree, it's more likely to turn out well for you!"

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (7)] has posed.

Secretly, Hotaru wished for two things. She only wished for Chibi-Usa to be able to save her Mama with her lips and held breath, but more deeply, fast inside those stilled lungs, she wished for the other. In her heart of hearts, she suspects it's an impossible wish. But it doesn't hurt to try. Right?


After waiting with Chibi-Usa for her to make her wish, she goes with her to collect a fortune. Chibi-Usa opens hers first and it's like the sun rises in Hotaru's face, she's so delighted for her friend.

Then she hesitates, like someone who knows what's about to happen, with her thumb and forefinger around her own closed fortune.

A little reluctantly, she opens it.

Her chin lifts; her eyes grow cold. Only her shoulders are allowed to be sad; they tremble a little. It would be easier to see how very sharp her back is if she wasn't swathed in that enormous overcoat.

"Worst luck," she reads aloud coolly. Her mask is slipping faster by the moment, and she clenches her jaw to keep it still. There's no need to get upset by something so inevitable. And Chibi-Usa's so happy. Focus on that.

"I'm really glad for you," she says to her best friend, and means it. It helps so much that she means it. And she does follow her to the tree, and help her tie her good fortune there.

As for her bad one, she almost doesn't tie it at all. Sometimes she just wants all the bad things to get over with already. But... then she wouldn't get her second wish:

To come back next year and do this again together.

She squeezes Chibi-Usa's hand.

"Happy New Year," she repeats, a little bit of wonder returning to her mien. "A new year..."

<Pose Tracker> Rei Hino [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Congratulations!" Rei says, happy for Chibi-Usa, when she reports the best luck. "You're right, the tree will help you, either way..!"

Either way...

Hotaru reports precisely the opposite luck to Chibi-Usa, and there's sympathy, in Rei's eyes. "It's okay," she assures her, sees that iron jaw. "Hard work is just as important as good fortune." The first bad-luck slip tied to that tree this year, after all, belonged to...

There's not just Rei's slip on the tree, though. There are dozens -- hundreds -- perhaps thousands of slips of fortune, tied to the Hikawa's pine, to slow down the bad luck and save up the good. Up high and even down low, on the branches low enough for children to reach, neither Hotaru nor Chibi-Usa are alone in their predictions.

But on all the tree, there's no luck worse than Hotaru's.

And on all the tree, there's no luck better than Chibi-Usa's.