2022-01-13 - Whose Fault Is It, Anyway?

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Title: Whose Fault Is It, Anyway?

Setsuna takes Rei to relax in the hot springs after her hard work during the Hatsumode festival, but New Years can bring up old wounds, too.


Rei Hino, Setsuna Higashi


Hibikijima Hot Springs

OOC - IC Date:

13-01-2022 - 04-01-2016

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


'It seems the spirits were hard at work for you this year. I hope you found the love you were looking for.'


'If your fortune didn't favour you, be sure to tie it to the pine. Oh, don't worry -- it can hold all those fortunes!'


'An amulet for protecting young families..? I have just the thing.'



That's the approximate noise Rei made, face-down on her bed, scarcely bothering to lift a hand to swat at her friend. The busiest festival of the month is right at the start, and after three days of helping what feels like half of Tokyo put their yearly affairs in order, the inexhaustible Rei Hino is all out of juice. She doesn't even want to think about Little New Year right now.

It probably says something about how much she trusts Setsuna that she let her in without straightening herself out; even tired as she is, it's hard to imagine Rei letting anyone see her dishevelled.

It's this power of appearances which lets her get ready, when Setsuna insists, to go out to --


"Ayaaah... I'm saved!"

That's the sound of Rei sinking into Hibikijima's hot springs, her fashionable dayclothes temporarily traded for a towel. Her black hair hangs heavy until it hits the water, whereby it fans out, a hundred roots to an ancient tree. "You're right... the hot springs are marvellous this time of year! Ahh, this is so much better than being at home..!"

She streeetches out over the stones at the edge, and she's finally really smiling, instead of putting on a good act.

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

What was Setsuna Higashi doing on the first, the second, and the third? It's a mystery! Because it wasn't working at a shrine. She has had the vaunted 'free time' instead, and has spent it well on things that suit the beginning of a new year. But now...

Well, now there's something else to handle, and that's a certain friend who has not had free time. Setsuna knows full well how tired Rei has to be after all that anyway, and it does say something that she trusts her enough to let her see. To her credit, Setsuna doesn't even comment on it... except to mention her PLAN.


"Mm-hm," Setsuna Higashi comments laconically, sinking into the springs after. Her purple hair fans out less impressively, longer than it used to be but still not so long as Rei's, and she relaxes amiably against the rocks, leaning her head back. "Much."

But she turns her head a little, and opens her eyes again, to smile back at Rei. "I thought it would be."

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

There are plenty of things to do in the New Year... and notably, despite everything else she had to do, Rei's room back there was still clean.

Now safely entrenched in the hot springs, Rei waves her hand -- which, given it's most of the way in the water, ends up stirring up the smokey water, too. "All right, all right," she concedes, goodnaturedly, "you were right." Mark one point to Setsuna. Luckily, she's not keeping a logbook of all these events. Right???

(Rei still needs to take custody of that one notebook of Usagi's. Call it a new year's resolution. These crimes cannot stand.)

She s i n k s a few extra inches down, flopped back against the rocks. "Between keeping Grandpa in line, and delegating what Yuuichiro can handle... ahh, geez," Rei sighs, head lolling to look at those old timber logs protecting their privacy. "Obviously we can handle it, but this time of year makes it entirely too clear how many people depend on Hikawa. Ahh," she adds, with a little shrug, "not to say I'm not glad the city remembers its spirituality... it would be more depressing if we didn't get any visitors."

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

Rei Hino is powerful...

Setsuna nods in satisfaction at the acknowledgement though, not putting on much of a facade for the moment--which means she's a little harder to read, but Rei knows her well enough by now. And... she's not keeping a log book.

But she might be part-computer...

"Yes," Setsuna answers, nodding along to Rei's list of tasks. "I don't know much about spirituality," she admits. But she did visit a shrine with the Momozonos for the new year, so there's that. However, Rei said something interesting too...

"Was it your idea to send him to that exorcism then?" Setsuna wonders of Rei, surprised at the thought. "At the Konishi house."

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

"More than some," Rei supposes, on the topic of Setsuna's spirituality. But then, she's shared some strange theories with Setsuna, in her time. The life of a tree...

She's distracted from that, though, by Setsuna's question. Rei blinks, head turning to look directly to her again. "Eh? Konishi house..?"

Mind you, Rei's phone -- safely in her bag out of the water, mind you -- has this in its recent message history:

From Usagi: rei-chan! act proud of yuuichirou-san when you see him
To Usagi: Just what has he done that's worth any praise?
From Usagi: jus do it Rei-chan!!!

... which is really all the context Rei has to say: "Is that what he was so happy about!" She folds her arms, with a mighty pout. "I can't believe him! He's still in training -- that's so dangerous! Ugh... at least Usagi was with him... ahh, and you too, right?" Rei puts the pieces together, her grumpy expression getting a shade more gratitude. "I hope it wasn't too much trouble."

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

"That's..." Setsuna considers. "Hm." She probably does know more than some. "That's not great." Because she considers her own knowledge of the matter to be very lacking, even with a Personal Spiritual Advisor in her friend Rei here; she just didn't grow up with it. But the distraction is fine, because it's Setsuna's question!

"I think so," Setsuna answers, since obviously she wouldn't know for sure. "It was pretty dangerous," Setsuna admits, "But it turned out all right. He did his best!"

"Lera was there too, and La Sirene, and even Sailor Uranus. So he had plenty of backup. But I think he did all right."

Pause. "I'm not sure it was actually a ghost, but Hiroko-san seemed to think it was all solved..."

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

"He did mention..." Rei muses, trailing off, as she taps a finger to her lip. "... ah, and he said Nori-chan was ringing him, when he finally managed to interrupt me. But that was later," she waves her hand, dismissively, and splishes it back into the water.

(Rei had her own problems, over Christmas Eve; she wasn't particularly nice about them.)

She sighs, looking up. "It's often not a ghost," Rei says. "In my experience, plain old hauntings are actually pretty rare... but youma acting like ghosts are all too common. That's why it's way too much for Yuuichiro to handle! He's just lucky you were all there!" She grouses, sinking deeper into the water. Bubble, bubble, goes the water around her mouth as she huffs.

"I don't get that boy at all," she finally grumbles out of the water, when she pushes herself back up a bit. "It's not like he isn't talented, but he's always such a pain in my side! Running off on his own to exorcise a house... what was he thinking?!"

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

Rei is often hard to interrupt. Setsuna takes that at face value; she was talking a lot, for whatever reason, at the time. "Right."

Setsuna had very few problems on Christmas Eve, frankly. Or Christmas Day. Oh, some, to be sure, since the world had some... but on the whole hers went very well!

"Ghosts seem to be pretty shy," Setsuna reflects thoughtfully, and then looks back to Rei. SHe continues to be utterly relaxed, at perhaps maximum chill in the lovely springs. She is not quite so deep as Rei though.


"I don't know how boys think," Setsuna admits. "But if I were him... Maybe I'd be thinking, 'I'll do something to prove myself.'"

"Maybe he wants to impress you?"

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

"I'm reluctant to paint every spirit with one brush," Rei says, "but certainly, many of them do keep to their own business." Whatever that unfinished business might happen to be.

Rei, of course, has the superpower of getting nettled even here in the seat of relaxation. Maybe that's just a sign she's regaining her energy..?

She shifts in the water, so the she can rest an elbow on the rocks, a hand to her cheek. Conveniently, this makes it easier to look at Setsuna, too. "Well, I'm not impressed!" She huffs, waving her other hand. "And you'd better bet I'm going to give Usagi a piece of my mind for making him think I'd condone such a ridiculous thing! Why would I be proud of him foolishly risking himself?! It's completely unnecessary!" She's awfully worked up about it, but, then... it is Rei.

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

"We never had any spirit problems back in Labyrinth that I knew of," Setsuna says, which may be a feature of Mobius's rule or it may be a feature of Labyrinth. It's not Earth, after all. "But I've heard of hauntings here..."

Rei is definitely getting her energy back. It's a good thing.

But Setsuna casually watches her friend huffing and puffing and considers what she's saying... Foolish, unnecessary risks...

"That's true. If he puts himself in danger, he risks trouble for the people who care about him, like you." Yep. She said it.

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

"Even here at Lake Hibikijima..." Rei will play along with the inn's ghost stories. Is it because Rei knows something they don't, or because Rei has a particular sense of humour?

She's not telling.

The problem is that Setsuna also has a particular sense, and Rei walks right into it. She straightens up all a sudden, water going splish-splash around her. "W-wait a second!" Rei yelps, looking DEEPLY offended. Scandalised, really. "Who said I cared about a moron like him?! I could care less what he does with his miserable life!" Which is an interesting slip from someone whose grammar is normally so good.

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

"I think I heard about that..." Setsuna thinks. She isn't sure. Because she's kind of like that, it doesn't involve snacks so she might forget about it. But that's fine. Super fine. Because Setsuna indeed has a sense...

"That's true too," Setsuna says. "You could care a lot less about him, I think."

She delivers that line completely straight, and then grins faintly at Rei, to show that she isn't quite as space case as she once was. "...But of course you do, or you wouldn't worry about him. And why not? He's been with the Shrine for a while now, right?"

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

"That's -- that's not what I -- ugh!" Rei sinks back down into the springs until only her deeply frowning eyes are visible, bubble bubble bubble.

She rises up to drape over the side of the pool, with all the drama the situation demands. (Rei, tragically, cannot summon fainting couches from nowhere.) "He has!" She laments, cheek to her outstretched arm. "And he's as stupid as anyone else in my family! Do you know how much of a pain it is to be the only one with any sense?!"

Here she pauses, and lifts her head to add: "... oh, yeah, come to think of it."

Beat: "So you know how annoying it is!"

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

Frown. Deep, deep frown. Setsuna eyes Rei's frown and doesn't even laugh at her. Rei knows she's capable of it. But she doesn't. She is good. ...Also she seems to be relatively serious about it.

Setsuna maintains her perfectly comfortable position, her arms now floating lazily in the water while her head is still mostly back. Does she know how it feels to be the only one with any sense...?

"Don't worry," Rei's extradimensional friend says. "I won't tell him or anything. But I think it's nice that you're trying to look out for him."

Then a beat, "...Of course, a lot of our friends aren't exactly full up on sense..."

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

"It's not like I'm worried," Rei grumbles, which might be a response to worrying about Setsuna talking, or worrying about Yuuichiro's safety, and either way is probably playing havoc with the truth.

She sighs, head flopping back down. "Oh, tell me about it. Usagi has been as airheaded as ever! Secchan, how do you just let all this just roll off your back? I swear..!" One way or another, or perhaps in both senses.

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

It's OK. Setsuna doesn't have to call out blatant lies. It's just not necessary.

Besides, it's not like she's worried, because she is! It is itself!

"She seemed to be that night too," Setsuna answers, though it's not un-fond. She likes Usagi rather a lot, after all. They share that friendship. "But how? Hmmm..."

She considers the airheads in her life.

"I find it a bit charming," she admits. "I used to get mad at it... but I don't so much anymore."

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

Rei, who is both fully herself and full of herself, doesn't catch that slip, either. She slips a little deeper into the water, instead, when Setsuna shares her feelings on airheads. Considering Usagi and Minako...

"Aaah, geez!" Rei, who has not had quite the trajectory Setsuna has, wails. "I'm swearing you to secrecy on this --" here she points at Setsuna, with an incisive expression, "-- but I guess I'm not so different. It's..."

She's the one who puts her own back to the wall, as she shifts in the water, head tilting back against the rocks. "Oh, I don't know," Rei defers, with a long s i g h. "Maybe I had to grow up too fast... it's people like that who remind me not everything is that serious. I'm busy taking care of the family, but..." This time, when she trails off, she doesn't immediately manage to pick the thread back up again.

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

Usagi, Minako.... Love. Sometimes Lera.

"Ahahahah," Setsuna laughs, finally allowing herself to move a little bit. She lowers her hands, and then nods seriously. "Right." Secrecy is serious stuff!

"...It's hard not to appreciate them a little," she says. "Maybe that's true.. I didn't really get to be a 'kid' either," she says thoughtfully. "I was always so serious... and people managing to break that up is part of what saved me, I think."

She's busy, but... Hmm. "It's important to have your own life too," Setsuna says. "That's what I think."

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

"That's what saved you, huh..?" Rei reflects, hands curling in closer to herself. "I can sympathise with something like that." Because before Usagi befriended her, Rei...

Well, never mind that.

"Ahh," she breathes out, looking over to the timber screen. "You think..? But men are so unreliable... it's a lot of pressure, but I'm the one who can actually take care of things." It's an interesting conclusion to reach, because while Grandpa Hino is occasionally profit-driven or overinterested in improving the shrine's image, he's always been there maintaining Hikawa Shrine -- and Setsuna has seen how dedicated Yuuichiro is.

Rei shakes her head. "... but Usagi would say the same thing, I suppose," and it's telling that she says it in the sort of tone which presumes that's why it's correct. "You know, something like, 'I know you can take care of everyone else, but don't forget about you, either!'... haa," her shoulders lift, in a vast shrug, "maybe I'm overdoing it."

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

"Not just that," Setsuna allows equitably enough, "...But that, yes. Seeing there was more to life than the mission... It made me mad. It made me jealous. And it made me want to see it for myself."

Setsuna looks out into the distance, and then back to Rei, thoughtfully. "Are they?" she wonders. "Love's father seems pretty reliable. There's Endo..." She can think of a few, at least. But, "It's a balance anyway; you do need to take care of your responsibilities... But you're young, too."

They both are, Setsuna would say. But Usagi--yes. "Usagi-chan is right," Setsuna says. "You probably are. But I think it's a good impulse. You have to take some time for yourself... but it's not bad to care about your 'mission', too."

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

"And that's why I like you!" Rei replies, with a sly smile. "A girl's got to have ambition in life. Ambition!" Sometimes ambition means getting so mad that you switch sides to figure something out. And sometimes it means eating an entire steak, but this isn't about Setsuna's culinary talents.

She blows air out through her lips, neck crik-cracking as she moves it back and forth. "Yeah," she agrees. "Besides, Usagi knows better than to tell me to chill out!" It's delivered like a joke, but is it REALLY a joke..?

"After all, I'm calm city," the girl who's been howling this whole time asides.

She lifts a hand from the water, a dozen sparkling droplets, to wipe her damp hair from her face; weighted down as it is, she has no hope of tossing it over her shoulder, the way she normally would. "Ahh, but I mean... it's not like there aren't other men out there," she gestures, vaguely, as if to encompass all the Uminos of the world in her fingers. "I guess when I say that, I'm thinking of one man, after all..."

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

"Is that why?" Setsuna asks, and Rei might not be able to tell if Setsuna is serious or not. She smiles back a moment later, though. Ambition!! Setsuna... Hmm. Is that what 'ambition' means to her now...?

"I do have things I want," she admits thoughtfully. But she is happy to move to the matter of Usagi and nod firmly. "Fire shouldn't be cold," she agrees, and is she... using a metaphor???? Maybe. Only maybe though.

Setsuna does not call Rei out on not being calm city. This time. But she looks at her for a moment. Just looks, no particular emotion.

Setsuna lowers herself deeper under the water for a few moments, just to let her hair get evenly wet, and then bobs back up again. "True," she says. "There are many men in the world."

"...Do you mean...?"

She has a guess. But she isn't confident in that guess--or in herself, on matters of family.

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

"Was that a metaphor, Secchan?" Rei gasps, hand to her chest. "I'll always remember this day!" It's kind of a joke, but it also kind of isn't, given how literally Setsuna has taken certain statements in the past. She can be proud of her for that!

On the other hand, Setsuna is plenty adept at meaningful looks, and Rei ends up pouting by the end of that one. She has the opportunity to sink back into the nice hot water while Setsuna is dipping, and even when she comes back up, she's still mostly submerged. Her head tilts up, in the water, and it might seem like she didn't hear the question, for a moment.

(That's not entirely true.)

"... I don't know if you'd have noticed, since it doesn't really affect us," Rei starts, after a moment. "But there's a Minister Hino in parliament, too... in the Democratic Liberal Party." Her lips press to a thin, unimpressed line. "My father."

The silence stretches out. It is hot not like springs but like rage.

"A man so useless, he couldn't even find his way to his wife's deathbed." Her eyes narrow, voice dropping to the floor. "Though the funeral made a fine photo-op."

It's not something she typically speaks on, but then, she did swear Setsuna to silence.

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

"Yes," Setsuna answers simply. It is not quite proud herself, but it's not not proud. She... might've had to think about that one to make it work. Or maybe she got lucky! It's fine. "Will you?" ...It's very fine.

Yes. Setsuna is good at the Look. She gives it without really even having to try. She comes back up partly out of the water and leans on the rocks again, getting more comfortable again--or at least trying to. But... The matter of a man. A man in particular, who Rei knows.

"...I read the name, once or twice," she says. She has paid attention to News, though mostly for school purposes. But that rage... Setsuna can't quite...

"I don't..." She looks down. "...Mm."

She does understand leaving a family, actually. She feels guilty, all of a sudden.

"...I can't really understand all the way," she admits then. "I never... had a father." A pause. "...But someone who can't make it to something that important... That is pretty unreliable."

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

Rei, like a shark, lurks half-beneath the water. The scowl on her face might well bury her expression the rest of the way.

She has to pay attention to the news for school, too. The people around her are all quite aware of each others' relative status; Rei is quite used to her fellow students trying to score points with her through her family name, whenever it has occasion to come up.

Politics in Japan don't follow family lineages -- but that doesn't mean there isn't power in having one. There are many people, in Ohtori, who think that making friends with Rei will be politically convenient later in life.

How... disgusting.

But she looks up at Setsuna, downcast, and her frown gains another dimension. Rei pushes herself up, from the water, reaching out to pat a hand on the other girl's shoulder. "Ahh, don't worry about it, don't worry! A man like that isn't worth giving any thought to, anyway!" She's all but laughing it off, all but declaring herself bulletproof.

... she doesn't want to isolate Setsuna, just because she had a unique upbringing.

Her hand pulls back, to cup at her cheek, head tilting to the side. "Secchan, I'm sure you know enough unreliable people too, right?"

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

Setsuna would be pretty well lost in something like Ohtori's environment; as it stands, a lot of the scheming there goes entirely over her head. She is friendly enough, and nice, and popular herself... but she doesn't put out much of an effort to be, either. She doesn't 'get' people the same way that Rei does.

"I'm sorry," Setsuna says first, and 'downcast' is a good way to describe her expression. She feels guilty for leaving; she feels guilty for not being able to understand Rei. And she worries that she's missed something important...

"...If you say so," she says about 'that man', but she seems dubious. The question turned around to her thought makes her tilt her head, thinking about it.

"Yes," she says.

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

Ohtori is a complicated place. Rei fits in better, now she's not such a witch. That... wasn't always the case. But even now she has her very own fan club...

Well, there's a reason most of her friends are in Juuban, instead.

But it's also true that growing up in the arms of Ohtori has given Rei a certain social understanding. She hears the way Setsuna's responses become more short, the doubt in her voice; ahh, Rei thinks, where is Usagi, at a time like this? She'd obviously make a mess of it, but the messes Usagi makes with people's feelings always seem to work out in the end, because Usagi has a certain power to reach people. Rei has to acknowledge -- admire -- that, because she reached her, after all.

"So you see," Rei says, glancing away from Setsuna to the wooden privacy-screen to give her a break from eye contact, "you understand the important parts, don't you think?" She's enforcing herself on the question; she's making an effort, anyway.

Setsuna didn't understand all the way... ugh, Rei thinks. Is her own reluctance making this worse? It's not exactly comfortable, but it's not like she means to lock Setsuna out of something like this. She's characteristically grouchy, as she adds: "Even if it's not family specifically... well, it's not like he ever shows up, so frankly I think I'm the best argument that fathers are totally unnecessary anyway." She snorts a laugh, derisive, through her nose. "You know he sends his assistant to visit me on my birthday? Mr. Kaidou." It's an awkward acknowledgement, these days. "... really, if my father doesn't have time to have a family, why even pretend? It's all just stupid convenience. Using each other to get ahead or look good... no wonder he put me somewhere I wouldn't embarrass him when I called him on his crap."

... is that why Rei lives with her Grandpa?

Is that why she's a shrine maiden, instead of a political starlet?

The reason she's making it on her own, in the end...

"But what's done is done," Rei shrugs. "It's my territory now, and unlike some people, I don't just leave things half-finished so I can make everyone who can help me happy." She pauses, and sighs, shoulders sagging from the sheer velocity of breathing out all that tension. "... but I guess it's true I push pretty hard, so... you really helped me out here, Secchan."

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

A fan club! Setsuna has fans of her own, though they haven't formed a club like Rei's have. ...That she knows of. But speaking of things that she knows of, she doesn't realize in the moment how transparent she is to Rei; she may not be emoting very much, but the signs are still very much there for someone who knows how to read them.

She appreciates the break in eye contact, though she doesn't realize she appreciates it in the moment either--it's a little like relief. "You think so?" she wonders.

But Rei is grouchy, and that's fine, and she explains, and--that does make more sense. "Really?" she asks, and shakes hr head. At least in this case it seems more like she gets why if nothing else that's something crazy. "...he can't have it both ways," Setsuna ventures.

Rei was 'put somewhere'. Setsuna understand what that's like.

"That's true," she says. "You don't do that." She pauses, and that is a lot of tension, but...

"...I'm glad I was able to help," she settles on. It is subtle, but she seems--relieved? More comfortable, certainly. She can't quite figure out what to say to Rei about all of it but she thinks she understands better, at least.

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

"You'd think he can't have it both ways," Rei sighs, "but he gets plenty of milage out of being a family man with a tragic backstory. But that's fine," she insists, in exactly the sort of tone which suggests it isn't, really. "He can live his life, and I'll live mine." She scowls, deeply, briefly.

He'll be sorry, she thinks but does not say, when Rei ends up more loved and more famous than he could ever be. One day he'll lose the wrong election and be regulated to the dustbin of politics, and her star will still be rising. Even at her young age, Rei already has so much experience in performance, project management, public events...

... if she didn't have an axe to grind against politics, she'd be a terrifying opponent in his own backyard.

(But politics is the one slice of fame Rei is antipathic about. No wonder, with a story like this.)

She shakes her head, though, with a rueful smile. "Ah, geez," she says, looking back to Setsuna. "Look at me oversharing all these personal details... it's a little embarrassing, huh?" She laughs, a shade nervously; a hand comes up, to rub at the back of her head. "I just found some photos while I was doing my New Years' cleanup, so I guess it brought up some things which were already settled..."

They're not settled. She just swallowed them down, seething in her belly like every other wrong ever done to her.

"... but, I mean..." Fumbling over her defences, she is slower in her addendum, slower to trust. "It's... not like I mind you seeing that or anything," Rei settles on, after a moment. "And it's not like I didn't trust you to share this before, either. I just... don't talk about this sort of thing, you know? It's just... messy." It isn't the first time she's described her feelings like that, to Setsuna.

Rei is someone who keeps a clean house. Never mind all the garbage she has to shove in the closets to make it look that way.

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

It definitely isn't fine. Setsuna can tell that much. She frowns a little, remembering to put on the expression now that she's more comfortable. "...Living your own life is important."

Rei has a lot of impressive qualities in her life so far. Not that Setsuna's inclined to tell her that, even just now, but she definitely thinks it.

Setsuna puts on a small smile herself--a little thing, but knowing how little Setsuna emotes in the first place, maybe it means more for it. "I don't mind," she says at the matter of embarrassment. Instead, she listens, tilts her head... Photos...

"Memories can be... complicated," she settles on. She doesn't have any photos of her time in Labyrinth, or even at the mansion. But she has memories enough. And that's on its own.

Rei settles on she doesn't mind, and... Setsuna appreciates that. "...Thank you," she says, perhaps a little awkwardly, to the implied compliment behind all the prickliness.

"...It is messy," she agrees after a moment. "It's hard to talk about things that bother you."

"...Feelings are... very messy, I think." She picks out each word carefully, so very carefully. "And it always seems like things you thought were settled... can come up again, and not be so much, after all."

She pauses. "...For me, at least, it's like that."

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

Setsuna is emoting! Rei notices that; she might be given to passion, but she has plenty of friends who aren't, after all. She nods, with confidence, when Setsuna agrees that living her own life is important. It is!

But -- Setsuna doesn't mind, which is relieving, even if it's only one part of the puzzle. (Rei has her own standards for disclosure, after all. She's always hardest on herself.) She smiles, a little awkwardly, a little unsteady, but warm regardless.

Memories... and feelings. She tilts her head to indicate engagement, looking to Setsuna as she speaks her piece, too. She's as careful with her words as Rei is careless with hers, so the least Rei can do is listen.

(Let's not think too hard on how many times Rei DOESN'T listen.)

"So, that's how it is for you," Rei sighs, looking up to the sky, for a moment, before she looks back to Setsuna. (It's another of her gambits to give the other girl a break from eye contact.) "Well, I can understand that," she says, a little evasive, but not unkind. "Sometimes it's just too complicated to properly sort out, or something like that..?"

She thinks of the North Pole, not for the first time in recent memory.

She'll address that, hmm... never!

(Rei isn't the only one who prefers not to talk about sad things too much, after all.)

"Ahh, it's a pain for someone like me, because getting caught up in things like that make divination quite difficult. A quiet -- well, that doesn't really apply here," Rei cuts herself off, because she can't espouse clearing her mind of thoughts for greater clarity to the girl who grew up in Labyrinth. "But in normal life, too..."

Rei is circling around the point. It's a good thing there are no drains in the hot springs, or else she'd be doomed. Her fingers touch her cheek, a delicate bend; they're unpainted, right now, because she was preserving the traditional appearance of the shrine maiden for hatsumode. "I mean, what I'm trying to say is... is this just in general, or did something come up?" There. THERE. She expressed concern for her friend. WAS THAT SO HARD, REI?

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

Setsuna certainly has Passion, but not really in the same way that Rei does. In a very distinct way, in fact.

Setsuna makes eye contact again when Rei looks back at her, though once again it helps to get a little break from it. Evasive... Yes, evasive, but Setsuna doesn't really expect Rei to come out with her feelings outright, as a general rule.

"Mm," she agrees about complication, though. "Or you thought you had... but there's something to it that you didn't think about before."

Setsuna doesn't talk that much about dying, either. She definitely doesn't talk about the North Pole--she wasn't there. She was far, far away from Beryl back then, as far as she could get.

A quiet... what? A quiet mind? "Yes," Setsuna agrees. It's a pain in normal life, too. But she watches Rei--what she's trying to say, and what she does say--Setsuna looks a little surprised, when she works it out. "Oh..."

"...I usually have a lot on my mind," she admits. "But in this case I was just thinking..." She trails off. Can she say it? Rei was able to express herself.

"...I left a 'family', too," she says quietly. "Westar... always wanted us to have a relationship like that. But I never wanted to listen. And now..."

She looks down. She can't quite keep eye contact up herself at this point. "Did I... abandon him...?"

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

It's true, passion and Passion are different things. Rei is involved in one, and Setsuna, the other.

Well, she thinks, it's true that the multifarious viewpoints of everyone around her sometimes see things she wasn't looking at. Not that she couldn't see them, she thinks, deliberately. But some of these things matter more to other people! And sometimes they point that out.

Rei wonders, briefly, how she should feel about Setsuna being surprised she asked what was on her mind. She resolves not to dwell on it, because she's listening to the other girl, instead.

Setsuna trails off, and Rei scrunches her damp little toes up in a physical reminder not to jump in and draw her conclusions for her. (Why her toes? She's trying not to make it obvious. They're hidden under the water! It's plenty cloudy!) It's not like Rei isn't trying to take care of her friends when she does things like that, but Setsuna is trying to find her own words. So she waits for her to find them, gaze drifting to the wood-wall, again.

And give her credit, Setsuna does find them, eventually. Her eyes find their way back to Setsuna when she speaks up, quietly; in the splish-splash of the water, part of her attention is entirely practical. Speaking quietly, Rei might miss something, if she isn't oriented properly on Setsuna. And Rei doesn't want to mishear something it was this hard to say.

(She knows something about how hard it is to say things like this, after all, even if she talked brashly around the point instead of going silent. They're just two different expressions of the same struggle.)

And it's a family... she didn't acknowledge.

Maybe a family she couldn't acknowledge, Rei thinks.

Her expression softens, brow arcing up, lips parting in an unsaid word. She reaches out, again, to put a hand on Setsuna's shoulder; this time she just lets it sit there, as a kind of quiet shorthand for physical connection.

"Hey, no way," she says, more seriously than the lighthearted dismissal and casual bitterness she's treated half her feelings here. "Maybe Westar was onto something first, but it's not your fault you weren't ready to hear about it. There was a lot of pressure on you back then, Secchan. Would -- would she have really accepted you relying on each other like that?" Rei catches herself before she names Northa; the weight to the pronoun is clue enough. She glances away, and it's not just for Setsuna's benefit, this time. "It... you can't be blamed for not listening when you weren't in a safe place, anyway."

She squeezes her shoulder, gently. The frown on her face is gentle, too. "Come on... you're really being unfair to yourself if you say it like that. In the end, it's not like Labyrinth tolerated you being in both worlds. You chose to live your own life," which might sound a little different, repeated in this context, the idea of living given particular nuance. "That doesn't mean you wanted to leave anyone behind. Look --"

Rei takes a breath, and looks back, to Setsuna. "If Westar came to us today and asked for help getting out of there, you'd definitely help him, right?" She resists the urge to complete the question; her very important point can wait for Setsuna's feelings.

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

Setsuna is the type to bottle things up, too, just like Rei in that respect. They do it a little differently, but she's more likely to circle around an idea herself than just to move on from it. The lack of drains in here is probably good for both of them. But...

Given the chance to draw her own conclusions, Setsuna does. It just takes her a bit. And she does speak quietly. Perhaps to her credit she comes out with it, instead of talking around it... but maybe she just isn't as good at talking around things as Rei, either.

Rei has a near-immediate answer for her--that hand on her shoulder says things that the words don't, at first. Setsuna looks up at Rei and listens, her dark red eyes like a sunsetting ocean in how liquid they are in the moment. "...No," she admits. 'She'. The weight of the pronoun is more than enough. Setsuna knows that it wouldn't have been tolerated.

It wasn't tolerated as it was. She wasn't tolerated as it was.

But Rei is gentle enough with Setsuna here that the girl from Labyrinth nods after a moment, and looks back up at Rei. "...Yes," she answers simply. She would. But it's not an 'of course'. But she seems to be waiting on Rei to finish whatever point she's making, before she says anything else.

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

Rei didn't expect any other answer. She does pause, though, for a moment after Setsuna's answer, just to make sure she doesn't want to say anything else.

"Knowing that," she goes on, after that beat, "how could anyone say you've abandoned him? Just because you accepted help... I wouldn't put it past Dark Fall to encourage feeling like that, but if there's anything worse than politicians, it's that group!" Despite herself, her voice raises, with her upset. "Something like that -- have you just been carrying it by yourself?! Why would you --"

(why would Rei --)

Except the realisation that someone could say that to Rei just as easily comes with it the context of the whole conversation, and Rei's demands deflate, head hanging down. "Oh, damn it, it's... I'm sorry, Setsuna." It's too close to home; she feels close to crying. She won't, though, for the same reason she keeps her hand on Setsuna's shoulders. "I wasn't considering your feelings at all... listen, it's not the same at all, all right? What happened to you and what my father did... they're not the same at all."

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

Nothing else there at the moment. There is more she wants to say, but she wants to understand Rei's point, first. And so--

"Well..." Anyone, is it? Rei is clearly upset herself, and Setsuna can understand that, she thinks. Definitely, considering. "...I've talked about it with Lera a little," she admits. "But..."

Rei deflates, and she figures it out. It was much too close to home for her. She feels like crying already, and she won't, because she has her own apology to make. "...It's all right," she says to Rei. "It's... It just..."

She looks down again. "...I'm sorry too," she says, and looks back up again. "You were telling me something important, but I couldn't help but think..."

She shakes her head. "...I'm sorry about your father. I think he's a fool."

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

... a little, Setsuna says.

It's always a little with people like them, isn't it?

"Don't-- you-- you told me something important too," Rei says, the words hitching over themselves. Her other hand reaches up, to rub at her eyes. The steam got in them, obviously. "You were trying to tell me for ages, weren't you? You were trying..."

Rei sniffles. Obviously, her hair is wet, so it's dripping all over her face. That's... that's what this is.

(That's not what this is.)

"My father's awful," Rei agrees, shaking her head. "And that whole situation with Labyrinth is just the worst, too. Like... Gods, we're stupid." Her hand lifts, to swipe, gently, at the back of Setsuna's head before she pulls it back. "Why are we sitting here feeling bad about ourselves when there are way better people to blame for all this?" She laughs. It's a halting, shuddering sort of noise, but it shucks the lump in her throat, anyway.

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

Always a little. Rei rubs at her eyes, and Setsuna's are wet, not just 'like the sea'. It's both of them, now. Setsuna can't entirely help it. It is not what it is.

"...It is a little dumb, isn't it?" she asks, as Rei swipes at her. Feeling bad about themselves, when...

Setsuna has a reason for that, she thinks. The reason is very simple. It's that Northa is really, really, really scary, and blaming her is terrifying.

"...but we're supposed to live our own lives, with our eyes open. So let's do that." It helps her, to think about it that way. To remember the chance she was given...

"We have another chance. So let's take it."

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

It's comfortable for Rei to operate in the realm of blame; someone else might have phrased it differently, but in Rei's eyes, it's not Setsuna's fault for leaving Westar behind because her previous organisation forced her hand. It's easy for her to blame Labyrinth, and Dark Fall. For leaving Setsuna feeling that way, and...

Rei is a fault-finder. She finds faults. Sometimes this is useful, like when examining bridges. Sometimes this isn't terribly useful, like when inviting earthquakes.

But maybe it's useful enough, today.

"We can't let it slip away," Rei agrees. "Perseverance is the mark of the true woman!"

She leans back, in the water.

"... and when he's ready to take a chance," Rei adds, not quite as sharp and ferocious, "I know you'll meet that with eyes open, too." Rei doesn't say she'd help him, though certainly she would, because the point isn't that Rei would help Westar if he chose to turn away from the dark. Rather, Setsuna... "If you live your life well, I'm sure one day he'll be ready to hear about it." She draw connections between Setsuna and Westar, then and now, but she doesn't drag it completely out into the light.

Sometimes, saying a little is fine. But she can say a little more, too.

"Besides," Rei adds, wagging a finger in the air, "I can't have you falling behind me! It would just be sad if you didn't put up a challenge!" IS REI IMPLYING THAT LIVING A GOOD LIFE IS A A COMPETITI-- obviously she is. "I just organised an entire multi-day festival... what are you going to do with the new year, huh?"

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

Setsuna Higashi, though she's gotten better about it in the time since she's left Dark Fall, is still good at finding fault with herself. It's something she may never entirely get out of, but with good friends, and good counsel, she can get through the worst of it. ...And maybe she will get out of it.

Today it's useful.

"Right!" Setsuna agrees. The 'true woman' sounds good. And Setsuna, too, leans back in the water, listening at the matter of... Yes, of Westar. Maybe even of Soular, too. If she lives well... That's a good thought.

"...Mm." Pause. Finger wagged in the air. Of course she is. So Setsuna doesn't say 'don't tell anyone I care about Westar'. That's just assumed. Instead...

"Oh, that's easy," the girl from Labyrinth who lives in Tokyo answers.

"I'm going to spend more time with my girlfriend."

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

Since Rei swore Setsuna to silence, it's only polite she would respect the same covenant, after all. And --

"Aaaaie!" Rei squeals, hands to her cheeks. "You said it so straight out! You two... geez, I'm so jealous!" Wriggle wriggle, she twists around in the water.

Does that mean Setsuna won this round..?