Masks Upon Masks


The identity tango is attempted -- perhaps a bit too zealously.

Date: 2015-07-02
Pose Count: 25
Makoto Kino 2015-07-02 01:11:15 3415
In retrospect, it occurs to Makoto, she could've thought this out a little better.

Then again, thinking things out in advance is not really Mako's strong suit. When she feels like she needs to do something, she just *does* it. That's what brought to Infinity Academy this afternoon - there's a question that's been nagging at her mind since the night of the charity gala, further crystallized by a recent discussion with her fellow Sailor Senshi, part worry and part curiosity and part a tiny but persistent shadow of doubt.

She doesn't really have a reason to be here, not one that she could explain if anyone were to ask, but there's no point in second-guessing when she's already here. Instead, with an air of purpose that's kept anyone from asking her why she's there or where she's going, she heads down one of the hallways containing staff offices, in search of Masato Sanjouin or someone who can point her in his direction.
Nephrite 2015-07-02 01:41:15 3419
Nephrite likes to think himself a calm man. A reasonable man. A level-headed man, who clearly and without emotional bias makes his strategic decisions, no matter the cost.

This is perhaps not the most accurate self-assessment.

"What?!" the man exclaims, holed up in his Infinity office where he has opened up a small portal to observe the stars. He slams his fist on the table, eyes narrowing at the projection above him. "Why *now*?"

After his humiliating defeat at the hands of Tuxedo Kamen, Nephrite had vowed to redouble his efforts for Queen Beryl, to make up for the loss of the Scorn girl and her bird companion. He'd already laid the foundations for a number of Dark Seals, even concocted a few more of the mass energy draining schemes he detests so much, all in the name of salvaging the failure of his mission. Tokyo was, by all accounts, about to face a Dark Kingdom blitzkrieg. So why are the stars telling him to withdraw and bide his time?

"Damn it all," the Shitennou curses under his breath, waving away the stars and returning his office back to normal. If the advice had been to simply scale back his plans, he'd have obeyed without question; but a total cease-fire? Including those leads he's pursuing as Masato? Surely they would grow cold without his constant attention!

Or...maybe not. Frustrated as he is, the man blinks at a familiar sensation in his mind. That inexplicable energy that crackles and shines, hardly dimmed at all by distance or fatigue. The energy of the girl he left so suddenly at the ball.

It seems Makoto Kino has found him once again.

Without thinking, he extends a tendril of magic, a beacon to call her over to him. He can't seem like he's waiting for her visit. That would give too much away, and until a second ago, he hadn't given much thought to when he'd see her again. But if, by some lucky coincidence or intuition, she found his office -- how could Masato Sanjouin turn her away?
Makoto Kino 2015-07-02 02:21:27 3422
She'd have gotten there anyway, sooner or later, but that tiny nudge of magic turns Makoto's eyes in just the ridge direction. Barely seconds later, she's brightening at the sight of his name on the nameplate of the office door, and the doubts that had been flickering through her thoughts only a short while ago vanish as though they'd never been.

The door's closed, of course, and maybe he's not there, but maybe he is. Either way, there's only one way to find out. Makoto knocks, a light but brisk rap-rap-rap against the door, but she barely waits for an answer before enthusiasm overtakes politeness and she dares to try the knob.

As the door begins to open, Mako peeks in from the hallway outside. "Sanjouin-san...?"
Nephrite 2015-07-02 02:38:29 3425
"Hmm?"

In the seconds between him sending out the flare and Makoto peeking her head into his office, Nephrite has become a changed man. Gone are all traces of the stars; his General's uniform faded back into the (expensive) business casual attire of Masato Sanjouin. He's pulled up some random email or memo on his computer, poised above his keyboard as though responding to it, like any teacher might be doing during their office hours. Save for the mysterious chill that hangs in the air, the scene that greets Makoto is completely mundane. Boringly so, in fact.

The change that comes over him when he spies the girl is immediate. Nephrite's face relaxes into a manufactured mix of pleasant surprise and just a touch of relief. "Kino-san! Please, come in." He stands and walks briskly to the door, opening it fully so that she's not peering in like an outsider. "I'd been meaning to contact you ever since -- well. This misfortune at the charity gala." With purpose, he casts his eyes away; is he perhaps *hiding* something?

Then, like a cloud on a clear day, the moment passes, and he's back to his original, welcoming smile. "It seems you've beaten me to the punch once again, in that regard. Our minds must be quite in synch."
Makoto Kino 2015-07-02 03:18:45 3430
Apprehension flickers over Makoto's face for a fraction of a second at the sight of him. Then he asks her to come in, and it's gone as quickly as it came, vanishing into a relieved smile. "Hi," she says brightly. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything..."

She watches him closely as she steps through the door and into the office, looking for any indication that he might not be in the best of health. He seems all right - well, it's been a good several days now - but the way he looks away has her brows drawing together as, unbidden, her mind supplies several possible suggestions about what it might be that he isn't saying.

When he smiles at her again like that, it's *her* turn to look away, ducking her head a little and blushing brightly. "Ah," she says, voice hitching out of her in self-conscious laughter, "well, that's - I was here, and--" She meant to make an excuse for why she happened to be at Infinity, but there really isn't one, so Mako just skips over that part hastily. "--I was worried, since... you left the gala so suddenly."
Nephrite 2015-07-02 03:51:55 3434
"Nothing at all," Nephrite replies when she asks about interrupting him. "I welcome the company, in fact. Answering emails is such a dull thing." And my *god* it is -- the Dark General is not lying about that particular sentiment. The mundane chores of his life are necessary to maintain his cover, but he loathes them all the same. Swiftly may the day come that the Dark Kingdom claims victory, so he'll never have to look at Microsoft Outlook again. He gently shuts the door behind Makoto as she comes in, moving to sit at one of the two chairs that's not behind his official desk.

(It's really absurd that a part-time tennis coach should have an office as spacious as this, but no one seems to question it.)

He skips the pleasantries, not bothering to ask why she came to see him. He knows why: the girl has fallen deeply for Masato Sanjouin, and seems to believe his hints that he's Tuxedo Kamen. Truly, she's a project of his that is going all too well. It's a downright shame that he'll have to let her be for so lon -- *stars* --

Nephrite winces in pain as he settles into the chair, forgetting yet again that his mortal form still bore the injuries from the gala. It's all he can do not to curse in surprise, gritting his teeth as he rides out the sudden spike of pain. "Apologies," he says, tense. "This weekend was rather eventful."

He's not sure how much she saw of Kamen at the ball, if she saw him at all. He figures he'll leave his answers vague for now, letting her fill in the blanks with what she knows. Thank the stars for the girl's unthinking honesty.

"It was rude of me to leave you so suddenly," the man acknowledges, tone relaxing once more as the wound's aggravation subsides. "After all, it is usually Cinderella who must leave the ball at midnight, not her would-be prince. I suppose I ruined the fairy tale." He smiles wryly, then drops his voice, deciding to be frank.

"Kino-san. At the gala...how much did you see?"
Makoto Kino 2015-07-02 04:14:45 3438
Makoto is a study in flusterment as she moves to sit down in the other chair. She perches herself at the edge of the seat, not seeming to know where to look; she can't maintain eye contact while she's trying to talk around half a dozen things she can't say directly, but she can't stop looking at him either. The fact that he's just compared her to Cinderella isn't doing anything to help her stop blushing, either.

"...not very much," is the best answer she manages to come up with. "There was a commotion upstairs, but by the time all of the dust cleared, it seemed like whatever happened had already happened."

She's been looking down at her own hands in her lap as she says it, all too obviously evasive, but at last Makoto can't restrain herself any longer and she looks back up to meet his eyes with concern clearly written in her expression. "Are you all right, Sanjouin-san?" she asks. "If you're still hurt, you should be taking it easy--"

'Still,' she says.
Nephrite 2015-07-02 05:25:10 3452
Nephrite goes very still for a while when Makoto finishes speaking, a solemn air falling over him. So she had seen something -- more than that, she knew that *he* had reason to be hurt. Unless that was some unfortunate slip of the tongue, the girl had just tipped her hand in a very big way. But it still isn't enough; the picture has yet to come together in his mind. Who did she see that she believed to be him? How did she even get close enough to the battle to see -- pure happenstance, or was she one of the transformed fighters he faced that cursed evening?

She's given him much to think about, that's for certain.

"With your keen intuition, I suppose it was only a matter of time until you figured me out," the man finally says, abandoning his friendly tone for a more severe one, though he's clearly not angry. "It's for the best, really. A masquerade can only go on so long." He steeples his fingers, pensive, his gaze resting on her unfailingly, even as she looks everywhere in the office other than him.

"I confess, Kino-san, that I worry for your safety in this new world you've entered," he continues after a moment, choosing every word carefully. Given how little she knows about her own knowledge, any slip of the tongue could reveal his lie. "You're an exceptionally capable girl, and I have no doubt you can handle yourself. But I'm afraid a war is on the horizon." Nephrite sets his jaw tightly in a facade of subtle dread. "A war that could claim soldier and civilian alike."

He leans forward and lowers his voice to a near whisper. "I'm sorry I cannot be more direct. There are ears everywhere, where you least expect them to be."
Makoto Kino 2015-07-02 06:08:56 3462
His tone changes, and Makoto sits up a little straighter, finally abandoning her flustered fidgeting to look at him directly as - it seems - what she'd suspected is confirmed to be true. Despite the graveness of his words, she can't help but smile. "...I knew it was you," she murmurs, feeling almost giddy.

The smile fades from her face, however, as he goes on, leaving her wide-eyed and serious. Slowly, she nods. "I understand," she says, careful to pitch her voice a little lower than she did before. "But, Sanjouin-san - even though I'm new to this sort of thing, please don't underestimate me. I'm grateful that you're concerned for me, but I want to help you the way that you've helped me."
Nephrite 2015-07-02 23:45:21 3502
Good. Not a shred of doubt in her heart -- he can tell just by looking at her. Then it's all going according to plan.

Nephrite eases a bit in his chair, seemingly reassured by her words, or perhaps just the confidence with which she speaks. He lets some of his ultra-serious aura go, though he hasn't quite returned to the friendly, debonair gentleman that Makoto must be used to by now. "I'm relieved to know that you're taking this so seriously," he says. "That will help keep you safe. With as much...business as I have around the city, I will not always be able to come to your aid."

At the remark about underestimating her, the man breaks out a small smile. "Oh, believe me. You've exceeded my expectations since the day I first met you. Even now, you're the only one to have guessed my true identity." He pauses for a moment, contemplating. "That is why I think you're the only person I can trust, at the moment."

A touch of sadness flickers in his eyes, just the amount he thinks will make the girl sympathetic to his 'plight.' "It's unfair of me to ask for your help, Kino-san, when you already must have a great deal on your mind. But if you could spare even a moment for me, I'd be immensely grateful."
Makoto Kino 2015-07-03 00:35:16 3506
There's no hesitance whatsoever in Makoto's reaction; she leans forward, hands gripping the front edge of the seat of her chair, all earnest intensity. "Of course I have time for you!" She says it passionately, as though emphasis will somehow help to communicate her sincerity. "Didn't I just say I want to help you if I can? If there are things you can't talk about that's fine, but - anything you want to talk about, or anything you need to ask, I'll always listen. You don't need to worry about being unfair."
Nephrite 2015-07-03 01:02:35 3512
It's dangerous, he knows, to be getting so involved with a mortal in matters like this. If she did not have that dynamo of energy burning in her heart -- if he did not have reason to suspect that she was something *more* -- then Nephrite wouldn't dream of telling Makoto Kino about (a facet of) his mission. But, as it stands, she appears to be wholly on his side, with connections that just might be of use to him. In the name of that, he's willing to risk a bit of divulgence.

"First, you must promise me something," he says, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "As I'm sure you know by now, this world is a vast, dangerous place. There may be people you consider to be allies -- friends, even -- without question." His tone is ominous, as though he's speaking from painful experience. "I ask you: how many of them do you know? *Truly* know, in your heart of hearts? How many can you say for sure hold your best interests at heart?"

The irony is almost enough to make him laugh, but the Shitennou pushes forward, steely facade never breaking.

"The dark powers of this world are subtle. They can take even a good-hearted person and push them to do heinous things. And then there are those who would deceive of their own volition. It's hard to say which is the more dangerous," he continues, then frowns. "I don't mean to scare you, of course. The matter has simply been on my mind, of late, as I have heard news of an imposter bearing my name running about the city. Worse, we appear to be pursuing the same goal."

Nephrite looks Makoto dead in the eyes, to see any reaction she might have to the name he is about to reveal. Her face may tell as much as -- if not more than -- her actual answer.

"The Silver Crystal."
Makoto Kino 2015-07-03 01:56:12 3526
She holds his gaze, listening carefully to what he has to say... and as he speaks, a trace of confusion gradually begins to find its way into Makoto's expression. Her brows draw together slightly, and the corners of her mouth tighten into a faint frown.

"...I know there are dark forces out there," she says, voice lowered almost to a murmur now. "I know they lie, and manipulate and use people. But I also know my friends." There's no more doubt in this than there was in her desire to help him. It's a simple, honest statement of fact. "I know that I can trust them."

The rest of what he says has her frown deepening - a fake Tuxedo Kamen? The mental gears are almost visible spinning behind Makoto's eyes as she thinks back, trying to remember if she's seen or heard anything regarding Tuxedo Kamen that seemed off. Nothing comes to mind. Nor does the name of the Silver Crystal bring any spark of recognition to her face. "A crystal?" she echoes, head tilting slightly to the side.
Nephrite 2015-07-03 23:34:19 3633
Irritating mortals and their naive, blind trust. Nephrite glowers internally at Makoto's unwavering faith in her friends. It would be much easier to manipulate her to his own ends if he could separate her from those close to her, make himself the pillar of stability and affection in her life. But without even a seed of doubt in her heart, that just wouldn't be possible; worse, pressing the issue could paint *him* to be the villain. Better to let it go, at least for now.

"I'm glad you can place your trust so readily in your friends," he says, carefully controlling his voice so not a hint of his displeasure colors his words. "Perhaps you keep better company than I have." What's that? An implication that he has lived through such betrayal?

The moment passes quickly by, leaving the question hanging almost palpably in the air. "A crystal, yes. Of a sort," the Shitennou explains. "It's more than just a simple gemstone, mind you. A civilization long ago created the Silver Crystal as the most powerful weapon in the universe, to ensure their kingdom would never fall." (This is all parroted from what Queen Beryl had told the four of them, of course; Nephrite himself has no memories of the Crystal, but he trusts his liege to be truthful for the sake of their mission.)

"Alas, even that great power could not protect them. After a great battle, the Silver Crystal disappeared, and has been missing ever since." A grave look comes over his face when he finishes. "Make no mistake. If this jewel were to fall into the wrong hands, it would spell doom for this world. And all too many of those hands are searching for it as we speak. If I cannot find it before they do..."

The man turns his gaze from Makoto, clearly weighed down by the responsibility upon his shoulders.
Makoto Kino 2015-07-04 00:15:03 3640
"I see..." Makoto says slowly, though it can't be said that she really does see, entirely. It's a little hard to wrap her head around the idea, a single crystal with the power to doom the world. Still, hearing his explanation makes her feel unaccountably uneasy, deep down in the pit of her stomach in a way that can't be entirely put down to how serious he clearly is about it--

(--the storm wind roars in her ears loudly enough to drown out the shouts of battle. Her mouth tastes of tears and ash. Part of her knows that it's not over, the Queen still holds the Silver Crystal and the Enemy must not by any means be allowed to take it... but that knowledge holds no sway over a heart drowning in rage and grief.

Her princess is dead. She's failed.)

Makoto breathes in, swallows the inexplicable sharp taste that's come into her mouth. "I haven't heard about anything like that," she says, "but I'll be sure to keep my eyes open. If it's that powerful, then we definitely can't let it end up in the hands of somebody who'd use it carelessly, or for selfish reasons." The Dark Kingdom, Corvus and his misguided pawn, people like Miss White - no, Mako has no trouble imagining the kind of damage that could be done if someone like that got hold of an artifact with enough power to doom the whole world.
Nephrite 2015-07-04 00:58:36 3645
(In the fury of the storm, a gale of wind and thunder that casts thousands of bodies in hazy silhouette, an armored figure slinks slowly toward the epicenter, toward the grieving Senshi laying his men to waste all around them.

His armor is blackened iron. His glaive is anointed in the blood of the Moon Kingdom he has spilled today. His cape billows out behind him, topaz stained with matted brown and crimson. His eyes are cold, cruel.

His eyes are not his own.

"You've failed, Jupiter.")

"Few people know of it, beyond those of us engaged in this battle," Nephrite says, oblivious to Makoto's moment of discomfort. "It's for the best. Mundane people are better off not knowing about something as astonishingly powerful as the Silver Crystal. It would disturb their everyday lives quite needlessly, seeing as they can't rightfully do anything about the situation," he muses, turning back to the girl. He's careful to watch his tongue -- it would be difficult to explain away him calling the citizens of Tokyo 'mortals.' "That puts the responsibility of finding the Crystal squarely on our shoulders, however. I would not ask that you strain yourself trying to locate it, since you no doubt have other duties in your life that you must attend to."

The man's eyes meet hers, pleading. "All I ask is that, if you find any kind of information, hear anybody mention the Crystal in passing, that you please tell me. There's vanishingly little to go off of, at the moment, and any intelligence at all would be most useful."

Nephrite shifts as he continues on, losing the vulnerability he temporarily displayed. "I would also ask that you keep what I have told you in strict confidence. Should the wrong person hear of my search, I could easily end up dead."
Makoto Kino 2015-07-04 01:30:48 3650
The strange feeling passes as Makoto meets his eyes, answers that pleading look with a firm, decisive nod. She's never been able to leave a person alone if it seems like they need help, even when they haven't asked for it - to be asked so clearly and directly, by someone who's made it clear they have no other support to rely on, there's no way that she could refuse.

"I promise, Sanjouin-san," Mako says, her voice and expression full of conviction. "You can rely on me." Perhaps it's hasty to make promises like this, without even discussing it with the other senshi... but Tuxedo Mask is their ally, isn't he? If he wants to keep the details of his identity and his search close to his chest, that's his right.

It's not as though he's asking her to lie.
Nephrite 2015-07-04 02:01:12 3656
He should be satisfied. With that look of conviction -- devotion, even -- Makoto has agreed to be his ally, a resource he can use to locate the Silver Crystal, and then drain and cast aside once it is his. This is the outcome he wanted. This is a step toward completing his mission.

So why does he feel so hollow when he meets those trusing eyes of hers?

Confusion momentarily overtakes him. Nephrite stands up from his chair, making to pace back over to his desk. It would be unwise to show any undue hesitation to the girl, even if she really had no way to interpret its origin. Facing away from her, he finally replies, "Thank you, Kino-san. That means more to me than I can say."

Change the subject. Quickly. Unstable emotional grounding could put this whole operation at risk.

The disguised General glances back to her, a slight rueful smile on his lips. "However, I must deliver some unfortunate news. Starting from today -- and for some indefinite time after -- I will not be able to speak to you as Masato Sanjouin."
Makoto Kino 2015-07-04 02:16:57 3659
Because he's glancing toward her when he says it, he gets the dubious satisfaction of seeing the way dismay sweeps over Makoto's face. this unexpected news surprises her enough to have her on her feet, surging up out of her chair without thinking about it. "What?"

Her voice comes out a little louder than she'd intended; Mako winces slightly, beginning to flush in embarrassment, but dismay still furrows her brow. "But why?" she asks, with an effort to keep her voice a little more moderate this time.
Nephrite 2015-07-04 02:54:27 3660
(A deeply, deeply buried part of himself hates the dismayed confusion he's sent Makoto into, hates the idea of hurting her at all, hates that he's been lying to her since the moment they first met. Those emotions are closer to the surface than they have ever been, and yet--)

Nephrite is entirely pleased with how upset the poor girl is at the idea of his absence. Finally beating down the hollow melancholy of a moment before, he faces her completely once again, though this time several feet away. He raises a finger to his lips.

"I'm being watched," he says, a legitimate whisper he hopes will carry to her from the distance. It's a lie, of course, but if she believes it, it will give his sloppy explanation a crucial bit of context. 'I can't tell you the real reason, because it isn't safe right now.'

Returning his voice to its normal volume, the man continues, "It's a matter of scheduling, really. Tennis nationals and important concerts will be taking up much of my time over the next few weeks. A shame. I do so enjoy our conversations." He's acting, as though to an unseen audience, further driving the point home that they are being 'watched.' "Let me give you my card, however. I'll contact you when I'm free next."

Nephrite takes a business card from his pocket, hastily scribbles a message in the blank space, then holds it out for her to take.

It reads, in shorthand: 'The imposter Kamen will likely approach you before we next meet. He is to be considered extremely dangerous, and is hardly distinguishable from myself. Say this code to verify that you are speaking to me, and not to him. Otherwise, the Dark Kingdom may gather information on the Silver Crystal, or on you.' The code itself is on the other side of the card.

'The fault is not in our stars--
--but in ourselves.'

Nephrite fixes his eyes intensely on Makoto, seeing if she will understand his meaning. If she does gather information on the Silver Crystal, he does not want it in the hands of the real Tuxedo Kamen.
Makoto Kino 2015-07-04 03:08:50 3661
The frown of confusion and concern on Mako's face doesn't disappear, but there's a certain amount of understanding that comes into her expression as she listens to what he says, and what he doesn't say. When he holds out the card to her, she takes it from him, and takes a good few seconds to look it over before finally she looks back up at him and nods slowly.

"I understand," she says, and manages a lopsided smile. "It's too bad, but that can't really be helped, then. Please take care of yourself, all right?"

There's a momentary pause while Mako tucks the card safely away, and then she looks back to him again with a question in her eyes. "You know how to get in touch with me if you need to, right?"
Nephrite 2015-07-04 03:43:39 3662
"I will. Stay safe, Kino-san," Nephrite says, then cracks a playful, nigh flirtatious smile of his own. "I believe I owe you the rest of that dance, some time soon."

He thinks that's the end of it -- and then she asks her question, which ignites a brief spark of panic in his heart. Damnit! Had she and the real Tuxedo Kamen already exchanged some kind of signal, one that he doesn't know about? Is she testing him, perhaps, the same way he encouraged her to test others? If so, she plays these games much better than he thought, and he might've fallen into a trap--

No, he must be *calm.* The odds of an eighth grade mortal outwitting him in these matters are astronomical, and no game is truly lost until it's ended. The Shitennou forces his face into a reassuring calm as he meets Makoto's questioning eyes. "Of course. But I do warn you, I will be scarce in the upcoming weeks, both as Masato and as...well." He's sure she gets the implication.

The man closes the gap between them, then places his hand on her shoulder in a friendly farewell. "It was lovely to see you today. As I said -- take care." A split second later, he leans in to whisper, their faces inches apart. "Stay on your guard against the imposter. Use the code if you have any doubt in your mind. And remember: no one must know of our alliance, for your safety and mine."
Makoto Kino 2015-07-04 04:10:21 3666
If she were thinking clearly, it might occur to Makoto to wonder why he's so insistent that she keep all of this so secret, when Tuxedo Kamen has hardly been secretive about being an ally to the Sailor Senshi up until now.

Of course, with him leaning in to whisper to her like this and his handsome face so close to hers, Makoto is not anywhere near thinking clearly. Steam is all but curling up from behind her ears - if she blushed any harder, she'd damn near glow in the dark.

"I - ah - yes!" She stammers, fumbling wildly in an effort to string words together something like coherently. Her half-strangled voice rises almost to a squeak. "I will!"
Nephrite 2015-07-04 04:30:32 3668
Nephrite's face eases into a pleased smile. "Thank you," he says quietly, then leans back once again. "I hope the rest of your day goes well, and I would certainly like to speak with you again, as my...well, 'schedule' permits." More implications, more doubletalk -- it's a miracle he himself can keep it all straight. He can only hope that Makoto can do the same. It would be a shame for her to become a liability just when he found a good, concrete use for her.

(Why he's so fixated on finding a reason to keep this mortal alive is a mystery that eludes even him, so he's chosen not to think about it much.)

"Oh, by the way," the man says when he's seated at his desk once more, looking back over to the ponytailed girl. This could be reckless...but the romanticism of it all should make up for it, if Makoto's blush is any indication. He makes a small gesture with his hand, and out of nowhere, a deeply scarlet rose, full in bloom, appears suspended in the air before her.

"The eclairs were absolutely delicious."
Makoto Kino 2015-07-04 04:52:54 3671
She'd started to step back, in the act of turning toward the door - there was a distinct tone of farewell in his words just now, and Makoto doesn't doubt that there are plenty of other things that require his attention. That 'by the way' stops her, though, at least long enough to glance back toward him--

--and the look of wide-eyed, open-mouthed startlement that comes over her face when the rose appears out of nothing in front of her is absolutely priceless.

"Oh--" She can't resist reaching out, hesitantly, like she's not sure that it won't disappear like a burst soap bubble if she touches it. It doesn't, and a wondering smile curves her lips as her fingers close carefully on the rose's stem and she brings it closer to her face to breathe in its fragrance. "...Thank you. I'll, ah, let you get back to your work now."

She pretty much scoots for the office door, only to pause at the threshhold and look back one more time. "Please take care," Makoto says, holding the rose close to her chest - then she ducks out, nudging the door to behind her and disappearing off down the hall.