Pink Sunset, Part 1 - The New Girl

Momo and Sachiko sit down for lunch, only to be joined by Reiko. The three meet a mysterious new friend.

Date: 2016-03-26
Pose Count: 28
Griselda 2016-03-27 00:35:26 36017
    It's blooming. That's how some of the students at Seishou know the year is coming to a close.

    It's usually something students only realize once they've been here a while, but Momo might already be aware. She knows that tree well. In the center of Seishou's grounds, a Japanese lilac tree extends its branches, providing shade for those below. For most of the year, it grows green, but as spring approaches, it turns a brilliant pink-white as a thick layer of tiny, delicate flowers blooms. They come and go, but for a few years each, there's usually some group of students who choose to make the shade of that tree home during their breaks. And in this particular generation of Seishou Public's elementary class, those students were Mei Akatsuki and her friends. Momo was there too, though. Even when she was too young to go to school, her sister sometimes brought her here after classes ended, forced by her mother to let Momo join in her play. But Mei's friends seemed to find her cute, even if Mei herself had a decidedly mixed opinion about her presence, and it was fun. In that imaginary world that they shared, she was a heroine. She was Prism Keeper Pink, fighting the Shades of the Grey Kingdom.

    Years have passed, though. Now she's the same age Mei was when the Prism Keeper games started, or perhaps a little older than that. Her first year of elementary school has come and gone. Only she knows what she's thinking, but it's a different perspective.

    It's recess. It's a sunny day in the high 60's, warmer than it has been lately, and lots of the younger elementary students are playing with barely contained excitement, their spirits high with the approaching end of the year. Today, the shade of that lilac tree is mostly empty. Mei is gone. For whatever reason, Reiko and her friends aren't eating lunch there, at least not yet. Instead, two younger girls are enjoying lunch. Momo and Sachiko sit together beneath the tree, talking.

    Things have been a little tense, this last week, for Momo. They've been strange for a long time, but now that strangeness seems to be coming to a head. First her sister disappeared with little warning, months ago, after a long period of not seeming like herself. And now something seems to have happened to the relatives who are taking care of her. Their spirits are usually high, at least around her, but things have changed. For her, the end of the year might not be so joyous.

    Is it Momo's fault?

    It isn't, but it's sometimes hard for seven year-old minds to discern that. Whether or not she's mature enough to know that is anyone's guess, especially with how strange things have been. Roy and Biv left suddenly at night, a week ago. It was rare for both to leave like that at once, but they sometimes did, leaving Momo in the care of their trusted, grandmotherly neighbor. "Work emergency," they always said. They were back a few hours later, but when the three of them returned to their home, it was silent. And silence wasn't good. When they went to check, their family was missing a member. Their pet bird was gone; she was only a chick too. Roy and Biv told Momo it wasn't her fault, but . . . feeding Gigi was Momo's responsibility, and when they came back home, the cage door was unlocked and open. Was something wrong with the cage? Or had she just forgotten? Whatever the case, Roy and Biv seemed devastated; they haven't been the same since.
Momo Akatsuki 2016-03-27 00:43:55 36018
Momo leaned back against the tree, staring up at the flowers blossoming above her head. Her foot lay in her bento box on her lap, forgotten as her mind wandered towards things other than where she was. Sachiko was with her, at least, but where was Mei? Where was Gigi? Why did everyone keep disappearing on here? Was it something she'd done?

She lifted up, trying in vain to reach for one of the flowers as her mind raced through these thoughts. Her hope struggled to continue under the burden of the feeling that everyone around her seemed to just go away. It was easy to blame herself at her age, to think that everything might be her own fault and it was weighing down on her.

After a moment or so more of trying to reach for a blossom she sank to her bottom beneath the tree and looked over at Sachiko.
Sachiko Hayakawa 2016-03-27 00:52:09 36019
Sachiko is half-asleep, leaning against the tree. Her nights have been long, and filled with vampires and monsters of her own, of late. And as Momo has already remarked upon, her friend's bento is just about the saddest thing: once again it is a bed of rice with little hot dogs. This time there's bits of fruit in there, too: kiwis and strawberries. It's at least a little more color than usual.

Sachiko opens her eyes and stifles a yawn as Momo plops down next to her. "What's wrong, Momo-chan?" she asks curiously, noting her friend's unhappiness. See? She's not totally out of touch with reality.
Reiko Touyama 2016-03-27 01:01:12 36021
Tiny hotdogs! The best staple of bentos ever. Well Reiko thinks so. Grandpa makes the best tiny hotdogs. But she didn't have that today. Today she had the school lunch because the last few days of school were special!

She escaped to the lilac tree, the place everyone had played years back-- now a Prism Keeper Meeting spot for the group.

But Reiko wasn't here for a meeting. Nope. She had her sketchbook, she paused a moment at the two, and smiled a little wide. "Oh! Hello!" she says with a wide smile at Momo and Sachiko.

Then a blink. "Huh, what's wrong?" she asks softly.
Griselda 2016-03-27 01:09:48 36023
    The wind briefly picks up, the leaves above audibly rustling. Around those three girls, the rest of the elementary school continues to enjoy their respite from class, most of them oblivious to the more magical challenges faced by some of their peers. Yes, even while chaos reigns for some, it stays blissfully calm for others. Momo's classmates are still playing as hard as they were a week ago, or the week before that. Reiko's non-magical friends are still enjoying the recent weather. Even Hiroko in the distance, who hasn't quite been herself lately, seems to be enjoying the sun while gossiping with her meangirls. It's hard to tell with her, as she rarely smiles regardless; at the very least, it thankfully looks like there won't be any interruptions from her today.
Momo Akatsuki 2016-03-27 01:21:26 36024
Blinking as Reiko appeared in her line of sine of sight, Momo started at the sudden speaking of both Sachiko and Reiko as they asked much the same question. It had been silent beneath the tree until that moment, a bubble of her own worries keeping Momo from having noticed that it was recess and everyone was outside chattering away.

"Oh um... I'm just worried about stuff...". She didn't mention what exactly it was that was worrying her, although she did continue to speak. "I accidentally forgot to close GiGi's cage and she wasn't there when Roy and Biv went to check...". Well, half her worries she might say.
Sachiko Hayakawa 2016-03-27 01:26:58 36028
Sachiko blinks at Momo confusedly. "GiGi?" she asks, having not heard the girl mention that name before. "Who's GiGi and why does she live in a cage?" she asks, furrowing her brow in confusion. She doesn't really even acknowledge Reiko--big kids are scary, and right now Momo seems upset. Sachiko stays focused on what she can cope with.
Reiko Touyama 2016-03-27 01:31:55 36031
Reiko Touyama listens as she purses her lips and frowns a bit.. "Did.. did Gigi get out?" she asks softly. Oh no! Poor Roy and Biv! Momo may not know, but GiGi is practically thier kid. She frowns. "Momo-chan, it's okay... okay!?" she says with a smile.

"Accident's happen sometimes, I'll help search for him okay?" she asks. "How many green birds could there be?~" she asks softly with a smile.

"She smiles and nods to the two girls. "Gigi is a bird." she says.
Griselda 2016-03-27 01:48:43 36037
    "Momo-chan," the voice that speaks is quiet and timid. One might even have missed it, were it not for the momentary quiet of the wind and the brief lull in the raucous laughter and shouting of lunchtime play. A few feet away, partially hidden from sight as they shyly stand on the opposite side of the lilac tree, a young girl waits for a response to her greeting.

    She's a Seishou elementary student, judging by her uniform, but she's not instantly familiar to Momo or Sachi. Which is perhaps a little strange, as it looks like she's in their grade. She has to be. She stands just under four feet in height, and she looks like she's seven, maybe even six, perhaps a little younger than even most of the first grade class. Her appearance is distinct too. Long seafoam green hair extends nearly to her waist, and large eyes, bearing the same color, betray her growing uncertainty and nervousness.

    But maybe she's just in another class. It's a big school, after all, and Momo and Sachi certainly don't know everyone in their grade. And to Reiko, who has little exposure to Seishou students this young? She's just another face in the crowd.
Momo Akatsuki 2016-03-27 02:02:56 36039
Momo just barely catches the words in the small space of quietness but when one hears their name it's hard to miss even with noise so her head swivels towards the origin of the utterance. She doesn't know the strange girl at all, and Momo had thought she'd took enough pictures around recess that she'd seen everyone but this girl was unfamiliar to her and seemed her age.

Doing what any properly raised little girl would do, she raised up and offered the other girl a bright smile despite her own internal worries. "Hi! I'm Momo Akatsuki, but you seem to know I'm Momo already... Still! Hi! Nice to meet you!".
Sachiko Hayakawa 2016-03-27 02:05:31 36041
Sachiko is not a properly raised little girl, and new people are scary. Worse, new people are a threat! Jealously, Sachiko stands up and makes her way around the tree, keeping it between herself and the 'new girl'. (Isn't Sachiko the new girl!?)

Peering out from behind the tree, Sachiko watches with contained jealousy as Momo moves to greet a girl that Sachiko certainly hasn't ever seen before. But that's not saying much; Sachiko's still new to the school, herself.
Reiko Touyama 2016-03-27 02:15:10 36044
Reiko Touyama blinks a bit as she looks over to the green haired girl.

"Oh is this one of your other friends, Momo-chan?" she asks with a soft smile at both girls as she looks out at Sachiko as she hides. She purses her lips and walks to the tree. "Hey... are you okay?" she asks Sachiko. "It's okay!" she smiles.
Griselda 2016-03-27 02:30:16 36048
    The young girl seems frozen where she's standing. Her head tilts, briefly, matching Sachiko's movement as she peers around the tree at her. The new arrival struggles for a moment, then musters a smile at the other girl, even if she's not sure if it's wanted. She seems like the type that's extremely reserved on the best day, and dealing with a lot of new people doesn't help. Maybe she empathizes with Sachiko in some small way.

    But she came here for a reason, didn't she? She had something to say to Momo, right? "Hi Momo!" she repeats, smiling a bit now that the pink-haired girl is actually talking to her. And then she falters, seemingly realizing something. Oh, right. This is the part where she's supposed to introduce herself, isn't it? "I'm . . . Gina." Gina? It is a Japanese name too, albeit an uncommon one. "Gina" finally takes another uncertain step forward, bringing herself into a polite conversational distance with those near her. She looks around for a moment, eyes briefly dropping as if thinking of something. "I'm in class 1-D." Is she really? She seems a little less certain about that statement, though the question that comes after carries more conviction. "Do you want to have lunch together?" It's a bit out of the blue, but the question is asked earnestly, hopefully. Sure enough, she finally brings her hands forward from their previous position, nervously fidgeting behind her book. She's carrying a plastic bag. Looks like she bought a convenience store bento on the way to school.

    Like Sachiko, Gina also seems a little intimidated by Reiko, but she manages to rally herself enough to offer a brief but emphatic wave in greeting at her, adding a sharp, "Hi!" a moment later.
Momo Akatsuki 2016-03-27 02:39:42 36051
The quiet behaviour of Momo puzzles her for a bit, but she was used to it by now. Her warm smile only grew wider, more encouraging as the other girl introduced herself. She let the name roll around in her head for a moment, Gina... She hadn't heard of a Gina before but that didn't really mean anything since she didn't even know the names of the people she'd seen.

"Class 1-D? I'm not sure I know the names of anyone in Class 1-D...". Momo's eyes go wide as the new girl asks about joining her at lunch, but the surprise doesn't stop her from answering. "Um... Sure! As long as Sachiko is okay with it and since she's here, I guess Reiko-sempai too.". Momo glanced to both of them, scrunching her nose at the way Sachiko was hiding behind the tree.
Sachiko Hayakawa 2016-03-27 02:45:08 36052
Sachiko hunches her shoulders when both Reiko and Momo notice her hiding. This only makes her want to hide even more. 'Okay' is not a word she would use to describe this situation.

Worse still, Momo's put power in her hands to say no. But that's a trap. Sachiko can see the trap for exactly what it is. If she says no, Momo will be unhappy. And that is not an acceptable outcome. And so, "It's okay," she parrots Reiko quietly, even as she stays behind the tree, barely visible to 'Gina'.
Griselda 2016-03-27 03:14:21 36057
    Gina approaches, closing enough of the distance that she's on the same side of the tree as Momo now. She watches Sachiko as she moves, perhaps inartfully, not quite sure how to react to the other girl's response to her. She doesn't seem particularly socially adept, not even for a seven year-old. She offers what she likely thinks is an olive branch. "I'm Gina," she says, smiling as she directly addresses the avoidant girl. "I'm not trying to butt in between you two. I just . . . I don't get to eat lunch with other people very often. And I kn . . . I've heard that Momo-chan is friendly with new people. I guess you've learned that too."

    Looking back at Momo, she smiles a little wider. "I hope we can all eat together. Even you, Reiko-senpai." Gina finally takes a seat on the ground, briefly looking up at the tree above. She seems a little more comfortable now. Does she know this tree too? She doesn't really wait, withdrawing her bento from the crinkling plastic, stuffing the bag into a pocket to avoid it flying away. Or maybe she's just nervous, and keeping her hands busy prevents her from confronting the feeling. She's already removing the final layer of packaging when she speaks again. "Are you really OK with this, Momo-chan?" Isn't it kinda late to ask that? There's a hint of heaviness in her voice, though, as if she was thinking of something less obvious as she asked. She adds a moment later, more quietly. "You looked sad a little while ago."
Momo Akatsuki 2016-03-27 03:23:47 36062
When Gina asks her question, Momo briefly falters in her bright smile but then it comes back twice as heavy. "I was just thinking about somethings, but it's absolutely okay! It's nice to eat together with friends!". With 'friends'... Momo has already placed Gina as a friend, without really consulting anybody else about it.

Momo turns and beckons to Sachiko. "Come sit out here, Sachiko! We can finish our food with Gina-chan!". She settles herself on the ground and pulls a pair of garishly pink and garishly glittering chopsticks from a pocket with one hand, prying her bento box open with the other. Her smile never falters though, as she does her best to make Gina feel welcome beneath the tree.

She also beckoned to Reiko, hoping she'd join the younger girls beneath the tree.
Sachiko Hayakawa 2016-03-27 03:28:51 36063
Sachiko hesitates, watching Momo cozy up to a new best friend. She has a choice to make, right now. She can give up and run away, leaving her bento behind to find some quiet corner to be alone. Or she can suck it up and make sure this interloper doesn't hurt Momo.

Of course she chooses Momo.

Sachiko edges back around towards her own bento, then bows just a little before sliding down to sit with her food. "I'm Sachiko Hayakawa," she introduces herself to the new girl, guardedly.
Reiko Touyama 2016-03-27 03:30:09 36064
Reiko Touyama smiles. "Sure." she says as she sits down and puts her bag on her lap. She pulls out a small container and smiles. "I have cinnamon rolls!" she says. She smiles and places the box down. She takes one. There's three left. Exactly four in there.

"Grandpa always bakes them special for me sometimes..." and- she doesn't add, she used to share them exclusively with Mei in the past. Well. Hey, it's nice to share with new friends, right?

"I'm Reiko Touyama." she says softly.
Griselda 2016-03-27 03:55:24 36067
    "Cinnamon rolls?" Gina's cheeks puff up a bit as she grins wide. "I haven't tasted one of those in a long time. They're really good. Thank you, Reiko-senpai." She accepts one, perhaps predictably starting to eat it even before she finishes the rest of her lunch. She has about as much restraint as one would expect from someone her age, it seems. She takes a first bite, a bit of frosting messily left on her lower lip. "It's just like I remember!"

    Turning back to Momo, she continues their conversation. "If you say you're OK. You just looked like something was on your mind." She pauses there, her face briefly locked in an expression of childish pondering. "Maybe it was just me," she eventually continues. "Sometimes I think about things like that."

    She looks at the girls around her. "Have you guys been to the botanical gardens in Mitakihara? The one near Pengy Park?" Reiko, at the very least, has been there. She might remember it for the magical battles she fought there, including her very first.
Momo Akatsuki 2016-03-27 04:00:49 36070
Momo reached for a cinnamon roll too, placing it on the lid of her bento for after she gets done with the actual food. "Thank you, Reiko-sempai.". She does the equally childish method of shovelling loads of food into her mouth and eating it quickly to get to the cinnamon roll. When she finally gets to it and bites into it she lets out a small sigh of satisfaction.

"Yeah, I'll be fine. I've just got to hope everything turns out okay, you know?". She tilts her head to the side smiling at both Gina and Sachiko now, glad to have both her BFF and a new friend there, and also one of her sempais. It was a gathering of great people to Momo.

She scrunched up her face, trying to recall if she'd ever been to the place Gina was talking about. "I don't think I have, Gina-chan.". Such familiarity, so quickly! Ah, the ability of youth!
Sachiko Hayakawa 2016-03-27 04:06:11 36073
Cinnamon rolls. Sachiko gets a brief, shivering flashback, but then reaches out to take one. "Thank you, Touyama-senpai," she mumbles quietly. Unconcerned for getting her fingers sticky, the girl starts tearing apart the cinamon roll (isn't it cute how much the roll matches the colour of Sachiko's hair?) and nibbling on it little piece by little piece. Her teachers will be so unhappy with her.

"I've been to the garden," Sachiko mumbles quietly. "An-chi took me there a lot. That's where I met Greta-chan."
Reiko Touyama 2016-03-27 04:12:27 36075
Reiko Touyama does her best to make Momo happy in Mei's interm, but there's something to be said for one's own sister despite people around you doing your best. Sometimes.. sometimes you can only do so much, but today- this Cinnamon Bun is doing it's job.

Grandpa always gets big thank you hugs for them!

Maybe that's why he continues to make them for her. And also his Noodle Kaboodle.

Delicious Noodle Kaboodle. "Oh! I go there all the time. It's my favorite place. The koi pond is my happy place~" she beams.
Griselda 2016-03-27 04:30:48 36079
    "Isn't it nice?" Gina asks Sachi and Reiko, smiling. To Momo, she quietly suggests, "You should go there sometime. I don't know if it will help you as much as it helps me, but I find it very peaceful. It's the kind of place where you can go and forget the hard things in your life for a little while." She pauses there, eyes falling as she hesitates, debating whether she should share something. "I'm sure you could take good pictures there. Me . . . I sometimes sing there a little, when I think nobody is listening."
Momo Akatsuki 2016-03-27 04:46:59 36081
"Oh? Do you really think I could get good pictures there?". Momo listens to Gina talk about the gardens and then turns her head to Sachiko. "Do you think you'd be able to come, Sachiko? I know that mean lady from the day we met might stop you but maybe...". She had a spark of hope in her voice, gazing on her friend. She even turned to look at Gina and Reiko. "Maybe we can all go together, right?".
Sachiko Hayakawa 2016-03-27 04:49:53 36082
Sachiko ducks her head a little, then shrugs. "If we go after dark I can sneak out," she says quietly. "But I don't think I can go while they're awake. Sorry, Momo-chan," she mumbles quietly.
Reiko Touyama 2016-03-27 04:50:51 36084
Reiko Touyama grins. "I'd love to go! Maybe you can take a picture of some koi-- or there will be some pretty birds there in the trees and bushes, or maybe just some fancy bugs out and about getting ready to buzz in the summer~" she beams.

She glances at Sachiko and raises a brow. She winks at her. "Then we can go late~" she says.

Reiko does her own sneaking out. A lot. Grandpa doesn't mind~
Griselda 2016-03-27 05:09:31 36089
    Gina looks around herself as the three girls near her, one by one, agree to something she had clearly thought impossible a moment ago. A toothy, irrepressible smile soon replaces her previous incredulous expression. "You guys want to do that? Really?" A few thoughtful moments pass as she parses the details. "I don't have a phone. What time should we meet there? Ten?" It's Friday, at least. They won't need to worry about getting enough sleep for school tomorrow. That doesn't make it a good idea, of course, but it's one less worry, if they were even bothered by that to begin with.

    The green-eyed girl seems like she's about to say more when their conversation is rudely interrupted. The bell rings, marking only a few minutes until they're due to return to class. Gina stands, spending a few moments finalizing the details of their meeting before it seems she has to leave. She again waves briskly. "It was good meeting all of you! I'm looking forward to seeing you again!" And then she turns and runs off, heading back into the school building, disappearing into the now merging crowd of Seishou students.