Deep Blue Sea, Part 2 - From Ivory Towers

Hoshi awakens to a seemingly normal morning, only for an unexpected development to bring her into collaboration with Hiroko

Date: 2016-03-09
Pose Count: 12
Griselda 2016-03-09 23:24:09 32835
    It's an unwelcome sound, no matter how pleasant a tone one chooses. What was formerly a warm, restful sleep is interrupted by the insistent chirping of Hoshi Kogane's alarm. It's morning, isn't it? The sun is already streaming through the gap in the curtains which cover the glass doors to her balcony. This is the beginning of her morning ritual. Which means, right about now . . .

    "Ojou-chan." The words come through the door. That's a bit of a contradiction in terms, the respectful married with the diminutive, but that just might be an inside joke between the two of them. There's a knock on the door, and a few moments later, it opens, a smiling young woman peeking through. It's Ran Kouno, nineteen years-old. She's not quite a maid; the Kogane's arrangement with her is more modern than that. No, she's a part-time nanny, working mornings and afternoons to take care of Hoshi, spending the rest of her time going to school at Infinity University or attending to her personal life. With how wealthy her employers are, it's probably a better job than most college students can get. "Breakfast is ready. You should hurry." Why hurry? She usually tells Hoshi to take her time.

    Ran enters the room a moment later, moving to the balcony. This is the painful part for waking eyes. With a broad stroke of her arms, she draws back the curtains. The room is immediately bathed in the yellow glow of the morning sun, and beyond Hoshi's balcony, one can now see Tokyo as it wakes. This apartment is one of a handful of exclusive residential highrises. It's out of most familys' price range, but to the Koganes, it's just a second home in the city, a place of convenience for both their careers and their daughter's schooling. Just outside, a few equally tall skyscrapers stretch. Infinity University isn't far, part of the reason a student there was hired, as well as a cluster of tall commercial buildings.

    And then comes what Hoshi might have already been expecting, after she was told to hurry. "I think your mother would like to speak with you about something "
Hoshi Kogane 2016-03-09 23:30:28 32837
"Good morning." Hoshi normally has no issues getting up, so she notices the weirdness about that right away; and the expectation is verified soon enough while she's starting to get dressed for the day. "Thank you for warning me, Ran." She finishes dressing soon after, looking out of the window as though trying to think of an excuse to avoid a conversation.

She can't, not beyond packing her bag before going to leave her room. She at least takes that opportunity to ask a simple, polite question. "How are your classes going?" She knows Ran still goes to school, and has in the past showed a genuine interest in the matter.
Griselda 2016-03-09 23:51:03 32842
    "Good!" Ran replies, her usual cheerful self. "I have to keep my grades up. They won't allow me to work part-time otherwise. They're pretty serious with their standards there." She throws a few clothes into a hamper. "I was having a little trouble with one of my science classes, but then I met this . . . " The young woman stops herself there. "I got a new tutor, and I'm doing pretty well now." Oh, right. Things she's not supposed to talk about. She's very much a normal girl her age, but in moments like these, one sees the veil of propriety upon which her employment is conditional. "I made rolled eggs, by the way, spiced the way you like it! And the usual side dishes." Is that supposed to be a treat? Her face is a little apologetic as she heads out of the room, rushing off to start a last bit of laundry before Hoshi is ready to leave for school. Does she know something you don't?

    The dining table isn't far. True to her word, breakfast looks good. Hoshi's dad is already there, dressed and ready to go. The same is true of her stepmother. They're talking about something. Hoshi only catches the tail end of it.

    ". . . good people to know!" That's Hoshi's stepmother, glamorous as always, though dressed up a little more than usual. She's going somewhere today.

    "Yes. I've been talking with Hachirou. We're at a bit of loss as to how to respond to these latest events." These latest events: first Walpurgisnacht and, just a few weeks ago, the battle at D. Point. "The effects of climate change are getting more severe more rapidly than the scientists predicted." Yes. Climate change.

    "Aya and I have been talking about another relief fundraiser for this particular . . ." Wait. Aya and Hachirou? Great. /Great./ They're the heads of another blue-blooded family Hoshi knows well: Aya and Hachirou /Koumoto/.

    The two elder Koganes turn to face their daughter as she enters. Her father speaks first. "Good morning, dear." He gestures to the spread of food. "It's good today!" He always says that, though thankfully, it usually is true. Then her stepmother.

    "How are you dear? Did you sleep well?" She tries her best to make peace, though her efforts sometimes feel more than a little awkward. "Oh! There's something I'd like your help with! I want you to be the face of a new campaign I'm spearheading. You like doing that kind of thing, don't you? Don't worry. You won't be alone. We arranged for one of your friends to help!"
Hoshi Kogane 2016-03-09 23:59:18 32844
"Good morning." Hoshi sits down, and makes a small respectful gesture, saying the standard words before meal, following proper protocol to the letter. Grandmother wouldn't have had it any other way, "I did sleep well, did you?" She doesn't really mention any of the discussion they had before then, if it was for her to hear, they'll repeat it. If not, she knows it's none of her business.

Of course, it's starting to sound like it's her business, "I do." She agrees, and even the idea of Hiroko doesn't seem to cancel her smile. Sure, Hiroko is a bully, but Hoshi is not an easy target; and Hoshi has been exposed to too many mean girls for it to bother her too much, "With Koumoto-san?" She asks, subtly dropping the hint that Hoshi and Hiroko aren't really friends, "I don't mind working with her."
Griselda 2016-03-10 00:30:38 32852
    "Yes. Hiroko-chan seems agreeable to the idea." Agreeable in that she agreed. What Hiroko actually felt about the idea is less clear, though Hoshi probably could venture an accurate guess. Hiroko has a lot of faces, most of them polite, though what's beneath is often less pleasant in a sadly predictable way. Yes, perhaps the more unfortunate reality of Hiroko Koumoto's existence is just how normal her behavior sometimes is within her social context. Sure, there might be smiles around the breakfast table and talk of charity work and money used for social good, but when it comes down to it, there are few families this wealthy that aren't at least partially conscious of their status at all times. Appearance. Ambition. These things matter in this circle perhaps more than they should. And sometimes, for some people, that can be poisonous.

    Breakfast passes with a bit of small talk. Hoshi's stepmother shares a few details as the meal is slowly, politely consumed. It's another relief fundraiser, though they're not throwing another gala just yet. "The optics are bad to hold another black tie event so soon." She knows how to juggle public opinion, even if she's not the best mother. There's a reason she can do what she does, after all. She got her degree in communication, and she knows how to use it; she's quite intelligent in her own way. And Aya Koumoto? Apparently classmates with her at the elite private university they both attended before getting married. Are they close? Maybe. It's hard to tell whether they're actually friends or just social allies.

    "There's a bit of donor fatigue among the better-off set after the big storm." She never really uses the word 'rich.' "So we were hoping to use that donor pool to instead set up a matching funds program, to encourage smaller online donations from middle income families and . . . " She goes on for some time. The idea is certainly sound. It takes her a while before she winds her way to Hoshi's role.

    "You need to be the face of the program. It's an important role!" She sounds hopeful, encouraging. Is she trying to pull Hoshi into her world? "It won't take you long. We just need you to be part of some videos we're producing. It will be after school. Hiroko-chan will explain the specifics." Explain? When? "Ran won't be taking you to school today. You're going to be riding with Hiroko-chan instead." More good news.

    Breakfast winds down. Ran escorts Hoshi down to the ground floor, apologizing briefly for not dropping Hoshi herself, before placing the golden-haired girl in a black Towncar that pulls up to the curb in front of the apartment building. On the far side of the back seat, there's Hiroko.

    The door closes. It's just the two of you, separated even from an unspeaking driver by a tinted glass enclosure. "Hello Kogane-san," the black-haired girl says. It's not her usual politeness today. Her elbow is leaning on the armrest of her door, gray eyes staring out the window with dark circles beneath them. Hiroko doesn't turn to face Hoshi, her words sounding almost rote. "How are your parents? I'm pleased that we'll be working together on this."
Hoshi Kogane 2016-03-10 00:37:55 32854
And as much as Hoshi knows doesn't really want to work with Hiroko, she meant it when she says she didn't mind, and raised in an environment like this, well... she knows that things like this can help shape an image of being concerned, hard-working and genuine that could help her decades down the line, when she's running for prime minister. Her grandmother made sure to mention that.

In a way, that makes this more bearable, so she doesn't object, and enters the car with a cheerful smile and a warm, "Good morning, Koumoto-san, they are doing well. How are yours?" She really doesn't hold any grudges against Hiroko, "I'm looking forward to this project with you." The emphasis is on the project, not on Hiroko.
Griselda 2016-03-10 00:55:17 32857
    The car starts to move. Beyond Hoshi's window, Ran gives a final farewall wave before disappearing from view. It's a quiet, smooth ride as the girls begin to move, though they've perhaps come to expect that from the types of cars they find themselves in. A Towncar with luxury trim might just be their normal.

    "I trust Kogane-sama told you the basic details of this project?" She refers to Hoshi's mother respectfully. Deference to adults is a constant with her. "After school ends, we'll be heading to the docks. There's some fairly serious damage there. I saw it myself the other day. I think our mothers chose that spot because it's an area that was hit hard both by," there's a pause, "the storm and by the events of these last few weeks. It's a good backdrop of a place in need, I suppose. I think we're supposed to talk with the local workers who have been affected and . . . " She keeps going. Her tone doesn't change much, holding at a flat, neutral constant. Is she really that disinterested? Or is it something else?

    Finally she finishes, turning to Hoshi for the first time. The circles under her eyes are a little more evident now. She looks tired, maybe even sick, which is perhaps out of character for her. She's usually the well-kept girl who dodges illness, who never looks anything less than her best. Or at least she usually appears to be; some degree of that image is probably artifice, though if it is, that artifice isn't present today. "We'll be there for most of the evening, but it should only take us one night. Does that plan sound agreeable to you?"
Hoshi Kogane 2016-03-10 01:05:48 32859
"She has gone over the basics, and told me you would fill me in." Hoshi definitely notices that, but decides not to comment on it, certain that Hiroko would be aware of it and that drawing attention to it would not be welcome, so instead she focuses on business. "That sounds like it would be fine." She agrees, with a smile.

Unlike when she's around the not-quite rich girls, Hoshi makes sure to keep her manners flawless, or close to at least. "That spot should be good at reminding people why we need their help." She muses, thinking about the matter a little more. "Will a script be provided?" Yeah she's done this before.
Griselda 2016-03-10 01:10:54 32863
    "There will be, I'm sure," Hiroko begins. The gray-eyed girl turns back toward her window, again leaning close to the door. Her voice drops a little lower, something creeping in that she doesn't often show so openly: hints of outright disdain. It's not aimed at Hoshi, though. "But you know how it is. They'll expect us to ad-lib a little to play the part. Somewhere between cute and proper." It's just not a neutral statement about the realpolitik realities of their life. No, she hates something about that process, and she's barely hiding it.
Hoshi Kogane 2016-03-10 01:21:20 32868
"I'm sure it won't be too much." Hoshi suggests with an encouraging smile, not discouraged by the idea, apparently she had been expecting that, too. "If you want some suggestions, I could brainstorm a little with you." There's no malice, no insult; even the phrasing has been chosen to be less 'help you if you need it' and more 'we're in this together, so let's co-operate.'
Griselda 2016-03-10 01:41:02 32875
    Hiroko turns a weary eye toward Hoshi. She watches her for a few quiet moments. It's moments like this that she seems like more than an attack dog who only restrains herself because of a leash of social nicety. Still, it's hard to say what's beneath. Is it something warmer? Or is it just another side of her which is even more cold and more calculating?

    "I will consider it, Kogane-san," Hiroko says. "We will both have time to think more about it, during our breaks at school." She reaches into her backpack, shuffling briefly through immaculately-sorted folders. She withdraws one and hands it to Hoshi. "The scripts, if you would like to take some extra time during school to prepare." Not much appreciation for the outstretched hand. Just more cold officiality."

    The tinted window separating the back seat from the driver's compartment rolls down. A man in his early thirties speaks, though he doesn't take his eyes off the road. "Ojou-samas. We're almost there." Compared to Ran, he's much more formal. That's the Koumotos for you.

    Hiroko falls silent, again looking out the window. Only a brief while later, the car stops, and the driver steps out to open both doors in the back, Hoshi's first. As the car leaves, the driver's duties complete for the moment, the golden-eyed girl finds Hiroko across from her, on the curb in front of Seishou Public, adjusting her backpack. Her face hasn't changed. Tired, distant, detached. "I will meet you here after school, Kogane-san." That's it. She waits briefly, to see if the other girl has a reply.
Hoshi Kogane 2016-03-10 01:50:06 32878
"I look forward to it, Koumoto-san." Hoshi's statement is true, but curt and polite, and she doesn't linger around her very long. Most of her friends don't like Hiroko, and she doesn't want to scare them off. "I'll see you after school."