2022-11-28 - Heightened Expectations

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Title: Heightened Expectations

Tired from endless studying for High School Entrance exams, Ladybug and The Witch of Wise Levin head out to get some fresh air. One of them crashes into a tree.


Ladybug, Witch of Wise Levin


World Tree Plaza (Tama Outer City)

OOC - IC Date:

11/28/2022 - Saturday, January 30, 2016

.****************************** Tama Outer City *******************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* World Tree Plaza +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
  The World Tree Plaza is both a social and mystical center in Tama Outer       
  City, a huge concourse with chairs and benches and shopping situated beneath  
  the eternally gentle shade of the titanic World Tree. The tree itself is a    
  100-meter behemoth that commands the local skyline, visible from many miles   
  away. Stairs and walking paths - first concrete, then hewn into the bark and  
  branches - allow climbers and hikers to clamber over a dozen meters above     
  the ground. Its size makes it a reliable landmark, popular both for giving    
  directions and for meeting friends. Although visitors find the World Tree a   
  stunning sight, for citizens of Tama, it's simply a beloved local landmark.   
  The World Tree's true identity is the sacred tree Bontou, a site of enormous  
  natural magical power. Every 22 years, Bontou releases a tremendous rush of   
  magical energy. The city around the tree has been groomed by the Magic        
  Association for more than a century, and so six points of power harness the   
  Tree's power at all times: Five in a pentacle around the tree, and one in a   
  cavern beneath the trunk itself. At the moment, the Infinity Institute sits   
  directly on top of one such control point; the Institute's Library Island is  
  in charge of another. Another point supposedly contains the local Magic       
  Association headquarters...although an unwitting visitor would find only St.  
  Ursula's, a small church and Catholic school with distant ties to the         
  Infinity Institute.                                                           

COMBAT: Raiko Takashima transforms into Witch Levin!

<Pose Tracker> Ladybug [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The misery of entrance exams is an unending wheel of despair. Dark forces that prey on negative emotions have a ready bounty this time of year, as countless students throughout Tokyo desperately strive for a chance at future success - or at least, escaping doomed failure.

"...I can't do this any more. I'm going to fail, and I'll be kicked out of Juuban, and my parents will discover I'm a failure at baking, and I'll have to go press olive oil in Italy..." Marinette has been studying. Rather than sewing supplies, her room is strewn with books and notes, and what seemed like helpful shorthand has become a cryptic cipher.

"Marinette, it isn't that bad! You're doing fine in...some of your classes! And students have been dealing with this kind of thing for years - even those juggling magical responsibility!" A little red sprite looks up from trying to make sense of Marinette's handwriting, foregoing doom-and-gloom for a pep talk.

Marinette groans - and then looks up. "...I've been at this for hours. It's dark out. I think I should take a break for a bit - and one of my responsibilities would be patrolling for trouble-makers, wouldn't it?"

Her kwami hesitates, glancing at the mess of paper. "That, um, makes some sense - but there are plenty of people who aren't studying for exams! It's good to finish things..."

"It's good to balance your tasks too, right?" Marinette stands up, grinning with nervous energy because she has to move right now, and this is just the way. "Tikki, transformez-moi!"


Evening has long fallen, and the shopping outlets around World Tree Plaza are beginning to close for the night. Gentle moonlight flits between scattered clouds, but the night is pleasant - if a little cold. Perhaps one might glimpse birds in flight, or more elusive creatures.

And of course, the World Tree stands. Still standing, in spite of any number of disasters that have haunted nights over the years. Winter might not be the kindest thing for a plant, but its branches stretch wide, providing shade and shelter to all who linger below.

Or, for the bold, handles to latch onto.

Red, even if spotted with black, is a flash of colour that might catch the odd eye. A young woman in a bodysuit of that pattern, masked, swinging from branch to branch in a mix of vaults and leaps and sprints. Ladybug's 'patrol' took her this way, and...well, dark forces have come for the tree before, it's good to be sure.

And she needs some more practice moving without relying on her yo-yo, just in case. It's training for future disasters too.

Ladybug swings from one branch, flipping end-over-end six dozen meters from the ground, before landing on another branch with her arms outstretched. A flashy gymnast's move, but it burns energy and feels good to pull off.

She's not running from anything. Honest. She's just running.

<Pose Tracker> Witch of Wise Levin [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Entrance exams. That oh so important and yet oh so stressful milestone in a student's academic career. Raiko, blessedly, does have magical talent that is of interest to Infinity... but on the other hand, it's magical talent that's gone squandered as she chased her obsession for the last few yeas and withdrew from friends, clubs, and studies. Even if someone were to take an interest in her work (which is, honestly, a big if, given the number of traditionalists among the instructors), the fact that she got there at the cost of her fundamentals...

It was honestly a little easier when she had... well, given up, frankly, but now...

She's trying to fix things. She's trying to be the person she wants to be. And... she doesn't want to let Yumi down.

And so, skipping club again, she'd come back to the dorm with a large hot chocolate from Starbooks and gotten to work.

Several hours later, Raiko sighed and pushed her books away from her, putting her forehead on the table. "Ugh... Shiori, my brain feels like mush. I've been at this for hours. I need a break..."

Elsewhere in the dorm, Shiori lifted her head from where she was curled up on the couch. She glanced over to the clock on the wall and frowned. "You have been at this for a while, dear... Do you feel like you've made any progress?"

The girl shrugged her shoulders without lifting her head up, continuing to talk directly into the table. "I dunno. Maybe? Between trying to catch up with my current schoolwork, catch up on all the schoolwork I skimped out on the last couple of years, entrance exams, trying to prepare some finding spells for Yumi-chan so we can help her friend, and trying to work out the spell for the staff AND trying to figure out Grandpa's study... I'm exhausted. I haven't even gotten to fix up the blender yet, and I've totally got all the parts I need, now."

Shiori got up, walking over to the desk Raiko was studying at and nuzzling at her cheek. "I know you feel all of those things are important, and they certainly are, but if you burn yourself out you won't be able to get anything done. Why don't you take a break to work on that blender?"

Raiko lifted a hand to pet over Shiori's head. "Mmm... I dunno. I feel like I need some fresh air. But just taking a walk feels so unproductive when there's so much to do..."

"I see. Then how about..." Shiori turned to nose through the papers on the desk until she unburied a notebook, then pawed through the pages. "Maybe you could tackle two things at once?"

"Mmm?" Raiko lifted her head to look at the page... and then her eyes lit up. "Oh, yeah! That's perfect!"

A short while later, Raiko, bundled up for the cool night air, and her familiar found a good spot to transform--the late hour and the shops starting to close meant less people (as well as darkness and the winter chill), so it was relatively easy to find an out-of-the-way alley where she wouldn't be observed.

Shiori brought out the staff, Raiko grasped it, said the ancient words, and with a flash of light and a boom of thunder in an out of the way alley, Levin appeared.

"Now, take it slow," said Shiori from atop a crate. "I'll try to keep an eye on you but obviously you'll be much more mobile than I will. Flight can be tricky, so you should restrict yourself to simple, slow movements, until you're comfortable with the basics."

"I know, I know!" complained Levin, before she paused. "Sorry, I really do appreciate it, Shiori. But I'll be okay. I've been studying the spell carefully and being in a magical nexus will help provide plenty of ambient energy to work with.

"As long as you're sure, dear... Oh, and one more thing."

Levin had been about to hold out the staff to start changing, but paused. "Hmm?"

The tabby smiled. "Have fun."

Levin grinned and nodded. "Will do!"

And with a simple chant and a tapping into various mystical sources of energy, the witch rose into the air. "So far, so good..." she muttered to herself.

She rose carefully above the roof line (Shiori quickly scrambled up the fire escape to get to the roof to maintain line of sight), and then, started to fly through the night sky, going slow at first, and then slowly picking up speed.

"Okay, let's see..." Levin pulled deep, pushing more and more mana into the flight spell to increase her speed--until she reached a critical tipping point and skewed slightly off-balance--leading to a chain reaction of overcorrections at speed, that left her tumbling, and her efforts to halt her progress while her direction kept changing just made it worse...

And so naturally she ended up plummeting into the branches of the tree with a yell and a very heavy thump.


<Pose Tracker> Ladybug [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

It's a very nice night, and the spotted heroine takes a moment to survey the area from the branch she's momentarily stopped on. The lights of the city glittering in the darkness peacefully, no screams of despair or panic - it's wonderfully quiet.

Which means she can't exactly justify staying on patrol too long, and should probably get back to studying...

Abruptly, though - there's a yell from nearby, followed very rapidly by a heavy thump that shakes nearby branches - including Ladybug's own footing. She windmills her arms a bit, starts to tip off - then she grabs the branch on her way down, hanging out while she looks for the cause of the noise. Up?...

...that is definitely someone caught in the branches. She swings a moment, frowning, then lets go so she can use her yo-yo properly - no sense playing around if there might actually be trouble.

In short order, a disc whips around the branch near the crashed Levin, pulling taut - and then loosening as a figure garbed in crimson swings up through the air past her to the next branch above. Ladybug lands, seated, upon that branch, and recalls her yo-yo to smack into her hand.

"Quite a night for a little crash landing, isn't it? ...oh!" One gloved hand comes up to the lady's mouth in surprise. "You're that witch from the other day, aren't you? Are you all right?"

<Pose Tracker> Witch of Wise Levin [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Somewhere, off in the distance, Shiori is frantically descending the fire escape she just climbed so she can make her way over to the tree, but... it's going to take her a while to get there.

At the tree itself, Levin doesn't respond for a moment, drapped over a branch, hat still, somehow, on her head, but her cloak draped over that. "...'m fine..." she says, though it's not clear if she's saying that to Ladybug in particular or just to herself.

Still draped by her stomach over the branch, Levin very carefully feels herself over. And this time, in a louder voice, she says, "I don't think I broke anything... Ummm.. Hrm." She very carefully puts her hands on the branch, pushes up, and then gets her legs under her so she can sit properly on the branch. Once upright, her cloak falls back into place and she looks up.

She blinks as she recognizes Ladybug, and then blushes, looking down and trying to hide her embarassment with the brim of her hat. "Y-yeah, um, Witch of Wise Levin, at your service!" She doesn't have nearly the confidence saying that as she did staring down the ogre a few days prior.

"And... you were there too, right?" she says, looking up. "You were... really awesome, in that fight."

<Pose Tracker> Ladybug [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Masked though she might be, Ladybug can't hide the look of dismay at Levin's pained groan. She doesn't move right away, casting her gaze around for a monster, an ogre, anything that might have caused this kind of crash...

But maybe it was just an...accident.

Ladybug smiles beneath her mask at the introduction, and nods with whatever elegance she can have in this situation, awkward as it might feel. She replies with a bit more ease, "Ladybug, at yours."

But how she's looking up - literally, even - makes Ladybug shake her head. She glances a second to judge the distance, and then - drops.

It isn't a long drop - she lands softly on the branch next to Levin, crouching down to be on the same level. "I'm just glad I was able to help a bit. It was you and...Ivy, right? You were the real heroes - I was just a little diversion."

Ladybug doesn't quite reach out yet - her eyes are flitting around, taking in the area. "...speaking of which. It doesn't feel like that ogre is back - is there another problem? Or were you just branching out a bit?" It's a slightly-teasing smile that gets turned towards Levin.

<Pose Tracker> Witch of Wise Levin [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Levin is looking around as well, seemingly searching for something, though there are no monsters or malevolent forces or malicicious entities in sight. Finally Levin looks up, in the direction she came from--and there's her staff, waiting patiently. She lets out a relieved sigh and holds her hand out to summon it. It's a bit taller than her, made of polished black wood with a geometric iler inlay running along its length, and a blue crystal on top. Once it's in hand she lays it in her lap.

She thinks she heard that name the other night, but it's nice to have a proper introduction. "It's, um, nice to meet you, Ladybug. Or to meet you properly, I guess."

She's trying so hard to get back into that confidence she had the other night, but... she really didn't start off with the best footing.

Speaking of footing, she starts when Ladybug drops, but is relieved when it's just to get to the same level as her. "... You must be really good at climbing to get up here so fast..."

Levin nods to confirm the other witch's identity, and then adds, "Um, yes. She's the Witch of Lost Ivy." Shouldn't be any harm in saying that, right? Right. "And you were more than just a diversion. You were really resourceful! Using that cider barrel gave me an idea for putting out the fire, and that thing you did with the cart was kinda really cool," she enthuses a bit, quite sincerely.

She looks around a bit in confusion as Ladybug continues to scan the area... And then blushes and ducks her head once more once she realizes what Ladybug's looking for. "N-no, there's no monster, just..." She turns her head away and mumbles something that might just include the words 'practice', 'flight', and 'spell.'

<Pose Tracker> Ladybug [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

During the daytime, Ladybug is - someone else. Someone a lot less confident, someone who looks up to much more certain classmates and upperclassmen, someone who tries not to lean too hard on that support but who often needs it.

So it's a gentle smile that she steals from her blond-haired and dark-haired seniors, to try to reassure someone who sounds like she has an all-too-familiar embarrassment going on.

"Well, I was already up here. Also, I cheat." In demonstration, Ladybug flings out her yo-yo - and oh, what a long way it goes before she recalls it. "And that's very kind of you to say - but I knew that the Ogre was a lot bigger than what I usually face, so I was honestly just trying to keep it distracted while you two figured something out."

She starts to add something - but then just shakes her head, frowning slightly. "Accidents hurt a lot, don't they? I was madly clumsy when I first started out - so even now I try to get out to do a little gymnastics to make sure I'm ready for when I need it."

She thinks back to the battle against the ogre a bit, and tentatively reaches out to Levin. "Is it a lucky guess to say you haven't done much flying before?"

<Pose Tracker> Witch of Wise Levin [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Levin idly wonder what it says about her that she's wishing for an ogre attack so she has an excuse to be more confident. It was so easy when she was face to face with both of those ogres, when Ivy was in need of her help and she wanted--needed--to provide it.

But the gentle smile does put her at ease, at least a little bit. At least Ladybug isn't making fun, so that helps, too.

The demonstration of the yo-yo does get a smile from Levin, in turn. "That's really cool, though." Not like her attmpts to ascend moments ago. "Still, you did help--it... it seems like we came really close on that one. If you hadn't been there..."

She does tense as Ladybug mentions the accident, and then gives a very small nod. She does look a little surprised as Ladybug mentions that she was clumsy at first, too. "Really?" she asks. "Huh..." She looks down at her lap, at her staff, contemplating that.

Levin tries to puff up her chest a bit. "My forebearers are are aligned to the skies and the heavens, and flight is but--" she sighs, unable to even finish that sentence. "It's a new spell, " she admits. "I... might've gotten a little ahead of myself." The admission is a little painful, but... well, if Ladybug can have been clumsy when she started, then it's fine if she is too.

She doesn't really seem to react to the hand, but doesn't seem like she'd mind a pat on the back.

<Pose Tracker> Ladybug [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Ladybug does, in fact, finish reaching out to pat Levin on the back. It...seems like she might need it. Small gods know she's needed the same some days.

And from how Levin's talking...it really, really feels like she's new to this life. Ladybug lets her feet slip from the branch so she can sit next to Levin - there's room, after all, entire battles took place on some of the larger branches. Which brings to mind...

"Some days go better than others. And that...I won't lie, that was a close one. I was worried I'd gotten Ivy killed - it was such a relief to see her still standing." Her other hand comes up to her chest, fist clenched tightly. "It wasn't the darkest day I've seen, but - it was close."

She's faced few things bigger than that ogre. One of them still haunts her memory.

The outstretched hand pats again, and Ladybug laughs a little bit - not mockingly, but warmly. "Oh, and you have a legacy to live up to, too? I might know a thing or two about that - there have been Ladybugs by other names over the years, and it's hard to live up to what they did in their time."

She shakes her head, and finally pulls back her hand. "But there's only one way to know if you can do something, and that's to do it. Take your time, if you need to - but it's worth trying again. I mean - " And now, Ladybug's smile brightens into a grin. "You're learning to fly! Setting foot into unconquered skies - isn't that worth reaching for?"

<Pose Tracker> Witch of Wise Levin [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

There is a brief, but grateful smile turned Ladybug's way when she pats her back.

Levin was annoyed when Tama brought up how new she was in the middle of their fight--but that was also within ear shot of the ogre, who... well, didn't really need that information. But here, with a fellow magical girl, it's different.

"I was worried about her, too. I just met her, and she's been so supportive..." She can't exactly say with what, but, well... there might have been a slightly tear-filled hug after the ogre left and Conflagria delivered her message.

"Yeah... apparently we go... well, way back. But I didn't have any idea about it all until recently." She perks up a bit when Ladybug mentions there have been previous Ladybugs. "Oh cool, does..." 'does it run in your family, too?' That... might be a bit more personal than she's willing to get about herself, so she doesn't ask it of Ladybug. Different question, then. "Um. Have you ever met any of the previous ones?" That should be safe enough. But she nods in agreement about it being hard. "Yeah, the..." she pauses. This should be safe enough to say. "... the staff chose me to wield its power, so... I'm trying really hard to be worthy of it."

She does break out into a small grin when Ladybug enthuses about flight. "Yeah... it's... really cool. I never thought I'd be able to do it, but with the staff's power to help... I was really enjoying it up until... well, a few moments ago." She looks thoughtful. "Being able to fly will be useful in a fight, too... I can stay out of range of attacks, get to people more easily, position myself for attacks..."

<Pose Tracker> Ladybug [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

There's something of a knowing nod as Levin talks a bit about Ivy - she can kind of understand partners or mentors who help out. But some of that - well, there's personal secrets.

Ladybug's eyes do flit to the staff - she doesn't know what it is, exactly, or whether it has a mind of its own, but it's got power. And it's a power that seems to be willing to help out this witch.

"Legacy...it's a challenge. In my case, I've got - well, a source of some information, but for the most part I'm expected to create my own path. It's a different sort of expectation - especially when the last one was, I think, a few centuries ago?" Ladybug taps her lips ponderously. "Something I suppose I should look into sometime..."

She keeps up the mystique a moment longer, then smiles mysteriously. "Learn from the past, Levin. Listen to whatever advice you need. But here and now, you're the wielder of that staff - so the story you write is yours."

...mystery soon returns to enthusiasm. "Seriously, though, try to include flying in that story. Don't just think about your future fights - think about what joy it might bring. Look up at the sky, and dream of looking at the city from higher than most of us can reach - I think that's a goal worth a few awkward tree-crashes."

<Pose Tracker> Witch of Wise Levin [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Levin does feel a connection with the staff, though, she might not neceesarily say the staff is alive or intelligent in the same way she is, but... it can be hard to define these things, with magical artifacts, sometimes.

She nods as Ladybug explains about carving her own path. "Oh, that's cool. You're lucky to get to forge your own path. There's... a lot of tradition involved, in witchcraft. So that can be difficult, sometimes."

She nods firmly when the other girl tells her to write her own story. "Right! Tradition's never stopped me before. I might have a legacy to live up to, but... I wanna do new things with my magic nobody's ever seen before." A beat. "I... have my own source of information that might worry if she heard me say that."

"Right!" she says, with an affirmative nod on the subject of crash landings. "... I guess I'm used to setbacks, so if those didn't stop me before, this shouldn't either. I was doing it, up until I went too fast and couldn't correct myself."

<Pose Tracker> Ladybug [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Traditions and paths...it's an interesting question, and the girl behind Ladybug's mask would be lying if she said she wasn't a little frustrated with how blank a slate she's handed sometimes. The key bits, she was told, but the rest...

Well. Her best talent is figuring things out on the fly.

"Don't worry, I won't say a word about your plans." Ladybug winks, flourishing one hand at her mask. "I'm familiar with secrets, after all! But I look forward to seeing what else you learn how to do."

She taps her chin. "And, hm. Maybe a little bit envious? Whenever you figure out that flight spell, that is."

It's a friendly smile, though perhaps there's that slight hint of bitterness - or maybe that, too, is a mask. "Whenever you're ready to try again, I hope it goes well. If you've had enough for today, I could offer you a lift down - but if you're ready to try again, I don't mind being a spotter."

She holds up her yo-yo as part of...well, both offers. "I've really got no other plans tonight besides practising my mysterious facade." And Ladybug gives Levin another wink.

<Pose Tracker> Witch of Wise Levin [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Levin smiles, really smiles when Ladybug promises not to divulge her plans.

(Down, far below the tree, Shiori has arrived--but as she sees Raiko has picked herself up, and she's with another magical girl, she's content to find a place to watch and to let Levin handle things on her own.)

Levin then giggles when Ladybug indicates her mask and keeping secrets. "I didn't get a mask, but..." She tilts her head a bit, trying to strike a dashing pose with the brim of her hat obscuring her face. "... I could do something with the hat, maybe?"

"And... thanks. I appreciate that." It's nice to know there's another magical girl out there who seems interested in seeing her suceed.

"Well..." She contemplates. There's still studying to do, but Shiori did basically urge her to go get some fresh air and take a break, so... "... if you wouldn't mind spotting, I think I could give it another go. Maybe someday when I get it working right I could give you a ride, show you what the city looks like from the sky? Though..." she looks out at the city from their perch. "It's a pretty amazing view already."

She lets go of her staff--it seems content to just float in midair--as she works on trying to figure out how to get up to her feet. But she does laugh at Kadybug's joke. "Should I practice mine? Witches can be mysterious, right?"

<Pose Tracker> Ladybug [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Ladybug, as it turns out, has a wonderful laugh.

She shades her eyes to match Levin's hat placement, giving the idea a thumbs up - and as Levin reconsiders flying, Ladybug casts her gaze out to the city at large. "It really is a beautiful sight, even from here. Soaring above the skyscrapers...well, I may have to take you up on that someday."

She gets to her feet, offering Levin a hand up if one's needed, and smiles honestly beneath her mask. "Oh, by all means. A mysterious visage, cryptic advice - and a cackle!"

<Pose Tracker> Witch of Wise Levin [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Levin nods, with much more determination than she had upon her initial landing. "Then as soon as I figure it out, like, really figure it out and master it, you'll be the first person I have a ride to."

"Naaah, a cakcling witch is an old stereotype. I'd rather be cool and mysterious." She does accept the offer of a hand up though, since it's an akward perch and rather a long way down. "Thank you, Ladybug-senpai."

From there, a simple gesture of her hand causes her staff to lift up to meet it. "Okay, here goes..." She focuses, and soon enough a small flurry of wind manifests around her, lifts her up, and carries her back out into the nighttime sky.