Ayana gets taken (read: dragged) to the Hikawa Shrine for a fire reading. Ayana really, really does not like this plan...

Date: 2017-04-27
Pose Count: 31
Kazuo Takeba 2017-04-27 00:35:00 75313
It should be made clear that this is not a surprise visit.

Then again, when Kunzite worked for the Dark Kingdom, Rei Hino ranked higher on his 'problems to avoid or take into consideration' list than most of the Senshi did. Including Sailor Mars. He honestly thought that the miko had more capacity to foil him than the senshi did --

-- and now that he knows they're the same person, even a year later, he's still taking pains not to surprise her in either identity.

After all, Mamoru was deeply upset the last time he got all of his hair burned off.

Therefore, when he escorts a certain fox to the Hikawa Shrine, and goes to approach the resident shrine maiden, that resident shrine maiden is forewarned. Granted, Kunzite didn't necessarily try to describe the problem in detail. Remembering having been a high school student does not render all people more adept with things like human relations and empathy. But 'the resident kitsune is having trouble balancing her needs and her emotional ties, and trouble defining or recognizing herself' is a start.
Ayana Tasogare 2017-04-27 00:40:02 75314
Being tricked into not only clothing and shoes wasn't difficult, but getting Ayana to the shrine without her realizing their destination is something approaching a miracle. It's wasn't until they drew near the shrine's Torii that it really dawned on her, and by then it was too late to back out.

As they continue up the walk, Ayana in a little black sundress and exceptionally thin-soled strappy sandals, the kitsune's ears (her real ears) twitch periodically with uncertainly. But she's leaning heavily into Kunzite, who has thus far been highly supportive of her. It helps.

"Last time I was here, I met another fox," Ayana mumbles quietly. "She didn't like me. She didn't believe Inari was real, either. And then ... then he didn't answer when I asked him what to do. I don't think he's going to answer, now, either."
Rei Hino 2017-04-27 00:46:09 75315
Rei Hino does not necessarily /like/ this plan. To say she has issues with the fox is an understatement. 'Almost eating her' is high on the list of issues. It doesn't help that Kunzite is involved. She knows what happened to the young man, that he's changed, but old terrors and conflicts still lurk.

But Usagi likes Mamoru and Mamoru likes Kunzite. That alone is enough to have her waiting at the top of the steps, entirely unwilling to burn either of those coming up them. Framed by the gates, in her miko outfit, she seems taller than she is. Her broom is in one hand, sweeping pointlessly, while Deimos sits on her shoulder. Phobos is up on one of the Torii, watching like a...well, a raven. Several cries of others go through the shrine.

Rei is smiling. Her body is straight, and just a little combative. But her smile is concerned. She really is trying. It's her duty. And it's for Kunzite, who she counts as a friend despite it all. And most importantly a friend of a friend.

"Kunzite-san. Ayana-san. Welcome." She starts. A bow, a flick of her hair.

"Can I get you two anything?" Comes Rei, slightly nervous. For all of her confidence and fire, she still gets that way. Especially given the two before her.

She does, as well, offer an arm to Ayana if she needs it. The fox-girl looks rough, and some of that confrontational gait relaxes as she realizes it.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-04-27 01:01:55 75316
Physically supportive can be added to the role if necessary; Kazuo keeps an arm half-around Ayana's shoulders. Not tight enough to be trying to herd her, but enough to catch if need be.

"If that's the other fox I've met," Kazuo says, "she has some problems with her own beliefs."

He considers her statement about Inari for a moment, quiet. "My understanding," he says finally, "which is admittedly flawed, is that Inari governs not only foxes, but increase of all kinds -- fertility and industry and commerce alike. It seems likely, then, that a spirit of growth would want his chosen children to grow. And that he believed that simply telling you what to do would not foster that growth."

Or he was sleeping off a bender. Kunzite does not voice that possibility.

"We may not get a clear statement today, either. But perhaps we can find a way to put a question that might gain you a hint of what path to take. And if not ... well. You'll have had the strength to face something that frightens you. That's a mark in your favor on any day."

And then there is Rei, and it's difficult to bow with an arm around a girlform fox's shoulders. Kazuo half-manages it, with a more Western-style gesture of his free arm to try to make up for the lack. "Hino-san. Thank you for agreeing to see us." He hasn't used her first name yet. Ami's either. Makoto and Usagi, sometimes. Venus, he might not even know the actual name of yet. Maybe. "Ayana, would something to eat help calm you at all?"
Ayana Tasogare 2017-04-27 01:14:25 75317
"Hai, Jiaying Maki," Ayana replies to Kunzite quietly. "She has many issues. Had? I don't know, I have not seen her in a long time. I don't know if she and Sora-chan are still da--" she cuts off a tthe sight of Rei greeting them.

The kitsune's ears perk up into an alert position, twitching just a little as they collect information on her surroundings. She wiggles her nose, then bows just a little to Rei in the form of a headbob (and nothing more). "H-Hino-san," she greets quietly. Fear is certainly the starkest emotion in Ayana's present state. This woman taught her the true meaning of it, once, in the form of nearly turning Ayana to ash.

"Food. I like food," Ayana agrees quietly. "It might help. Why are we here?" She already knows the answer to that question, but seeing Rei has made her uncomfortable all over again.
Rei Hino 2017-04-27 01:22:49 75318
Rei's unburdened bow is low and respectful. Her skills as a miko shine here. She's at once stark and serious, as well as welcoming. When Ayana grows fearful, she glances away for a moment. She leans harder into that shell of stoicism.

"I'm here to help, Kunzite-san. Especially coming from friends." She smiles just a little again at Kunzite.

"Ayana-san, we are going to perform a fire reading. So that we can help you. You're safe here, I promise. Follow me."

She'll lead the pair first towards the house portion of the shrine. Grandpa is out, thankfully. Soon enough, there's some pizza laid out for Ayana, and Kunzite if he wants some. She needs a few moments anyway.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-04-27 01:26:37 75319
"You should not need to go near the fire," Kazuo says quietly to Ayana, "and if need be, I can protect you from it." It's not dispute of Rei's 'you're safe here'; it's an echo of it, reaffirmation.

And the pizza is entirely Ayana's. There will be no competition for it.

(Whether that is because Kunzite doesn't know Grandpa is out is a good question.)
Ayana Tasogare 2017-04-27 01:29:55 75320
Ayana whimpers almost immediately at the suggestion of a fire reading. Luckily, Kunzite is quick to reassure her. Unfortuantely, it's only vaguely reassuring, and her touching nearness turns into earnest leaning, as they make their way towards the house. "I don't wanna," Ayana whispers quietly to Kunzite. "I don't like fire," she explains.

When they reach the house, she eyes the pizza, but doesn' immediately run to secure it for herself. Right now, there is amore important topic than food at hand: that being the avoidance of fire.
Rei Hino 2017-04-27 01:38:35 75321
Rei looks from Ayana to Kunzite. Oh boy. They have a tough nut to crack. And Rei is partly the cause here.

"No one's forcing you to do anything, Ayana-san. But it might help you find answers. I can't guarantee of course,'s a chance."

She eyes the foxy girl. "I'm only here to help. That's my duty as a Miko. And Kunzite-san is here with you as well." She offers, as gently as she can. Inwardly, she wants to yank a fox tail.

Another glance to Kunzite.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-04-27 01:45:06 75322
Kunzite considers the might of the I-Don't-Wanna. Fortunately, Ayana is not in fact the heir to his employer. That means this is not the worst bargaining position he's ever been in.

"If I understand correctly," he says to Rei, "she should not have to be near the fire. Does she need to be in the same room? If she does, is it reasonable and within the bounds of etiquette for me to stand between her and the fire?" And a glance back to Ayana. "Would that be enough of a certainty for you?" She can hide behind him. If necessary, she can even hide behind his cape.

(Of course dealing with gods is covered by etiquette, in Kunzite's head. What else would it be?)
Ayana Tasogare 2017-04-27 01:47:46 75323
Ayana mumbles unhappily, but doesn't argue. At least Kunzite's trying to find a compromise. "Can I be a fox and you can just hold onto me in your arms so if it gets bad you can carry me away before the fire kills me?"
Rei Hino 2017-04-27 01:54:44 75324
The Miko's back does seem to get up just a bit. There's a pause. Rei's jaw sets just a little bit, then she forces herself to relax. Someone help her.

"That's right. You just have to be in the same room. And...I suppose being in a 'pure' state wouldn't be breaking any traditions." Rei's being a bit generous here. She looks to Ayana. A sigh.

"And if you smell burning Miko, then yes, run. If anyone's going to get caught on fire, I'm the one who's going to burn first."
Kazuo Takeba 2017-04-27 02:00:20 75325
"Certainly, then." Kazuo gives Ayana a solid nod to back this up, and ruffles her hair by an ear gently with his fingertips. There is still pizza right there. He hasn't even touched it. Reassurance may or may not help with pizza-related urges, but at least he's going through the motions.

He does not point out that Rei is still here and clearly not yet burnt. That never actually works.

(He might possibly sneak a glance Rei's way when Ayana is not looking, but there is nothing obviously reading 'for my sins' about it. Certainly not when Ayana is actually in the room.)
Ayana Tasogare 2017-04-27 02:05:47 75326
It's not the words, but the ear-scritches, which mollify the fox-girl. Stop doing it and sh'ell go right back to a nervous ball of energy. The kitsune closes her eyes and leans into Kunzite even more--there's a severe risk of falling, this time, without his support.

But at least she's not running away, right?

After a few moments, Ayana lets out a soft sigh, then quietly asks, "Do we gotta do it right now?"
Rei Hino 2017-04-27 02:22:53 75327
That look is caught. Kunzite gets a sneaky smile in turn. A long suffering one. No, there won't be burning in Kunzite's feature. FOR NOW!

Scritches calm the poor fox, and then, Rei's right over. There's something warm in her hand being held up to Ayana's mouth. It's cheesy and meaty and /delicious/!

"You don't. In fact, as the head Miko in this shrine, I forbid it until you've eaten." There's a Serious Rei Face at Ayana! Eat the delicious food, Ayana!
Kazuo Takeba 2017-04-27 02:29:06 75328
Fortunately for Ayana, her leaning-post is not about to go anywhere. Which makes things slightly awkward for tempting her with -- ahhh. Rei has the tempting with pizza covered.

... well. Usagi probably gives her a lot of practice in that department.

The mental image of Sailor Mars tempting her princess toward a youma with a milkshake in each hand causes Kazuo to focus very carefully on the air in front of him in order to keep that straight face. Earscritches will pause only as necessary for pizza consumption. Well. Slow as necessary for pizza consumption. The problem with appealing to base drives is that only one can really be in operation at a time.
Ayana Tasogare 2017-04-27 02:52:34 75329
Ayana's eyes slowly crack open when the ears-scritches slow. She's just about to protest, when the scent of delicious cheesy meaty goodness in front of her nose attracts her attention.

Then it's gone, and Rei is lucky not to lose fingers to the suddenness which with Ayana managed to not-quite unhinge her jaw and down that slice of pie.

At least she's chewing, though that looks to be more a product of a whole slice not quite fitting down her throat all at once than a distinct desire for manners. Her mouth is stuffed, and she's not quite managing to keep it all from showing while she chews.
Rei Hino 2017-04-27 02:57:29 75330
Rei keeps her secrets. That includes the viability of using sweets and junk food to tempt Usagi into things. She might be smiling a little more though for some reason!

There's a moment of slight horror as she almost loses her fingers. Slight. She is, of course, used to a nom-expert like Usagi. More pizza! She'll offer each piece up a little more gently until Ayana is satisfied. Careful for her fingers. See, fox? No burning!

Or in the more likely occurance, they're out of pizza. And possibly the last few cookies. Finally, Rei is offering a genuine, warm smile. "Feeling any better? I'm ready if you two are."
Kazuo Takeba 2017-04-27 02:59:46 75331
(And now Rei knows what is clearly the real reason Kazuo has his fingers someplace Ayana's mouth cannot reach.)

"I can still carry you," he reminds the fox calmly. "If it makes you more comfortable."
Ayana Tasogare 2017-04-27 03:03:57 75332
Ayana swallows precisely when she's worked the ball of pizza into small enough pieces to get down. Slowly, piece by piece, she lets Rei hand-feed her the entire box of pizza (and, yes, the cookies, too). Somewhere along the way, the Kitsune finds her way to the table with the box and kneels down beside it.

When the last of the food offerings are gone, the shapeshifter licks her lips, then looks up at Kunzite. "Car--" crap, she forgot all about why they were here. But the food was really tasty. And they were treating her like a princess practically.


Ayana bares her fangs only briefly, then sighs and drops to all fours. The dress flutters to the ground around a little black fox. The girl is gone, and only her true form remains. She kicks her way free of the cloth, then pads her way towards Kunzite. All four of the kitsune's fluffy black tails are curled up tight beside her, and her ears are pressed back against her head. But she's not running away.
Rei Hino 2017-04-27 03:24:00 75333
A deep breath. She lets it out as the great fox finally is...well, both mentally prepared, in mind and heart and stomach, and also a fox. A proper fox. Ayana, when not trying to eat her, is adorable.

She grows serious, and leads the pair to the part of the shrine where the fire pit is. she pauses, bows, and then she motions for a few moments. Less that they need to stay out, and more to give Ayana a few more moments. The fire is lit, it grows, and finally there's the scent of incense and flame. Finally, she comes out and offers the pair in.

"Let's do this. If you're ready, Ayana-san." A confident, very much Rei smile. Then she kneels.

Beads in her hands, she's making hand seals. She chants old, time honored words, and the flames reach hire. The heat grows in the room. She might seem utterly inattentive. But all of her focus is on the flame, the powers she was granted reaching to the questions Ayana might have, and then, into the fire and the kami beyond.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-04-27 03:35:59 75334
Kazuo crouches down and extends his arms, letting the fox step into them before he gathers her up. He's been watching Mamoru deal with her for a while, now, and Mamoru knows when someone he's touching is uncomfortable. He's had a chance to learn the best way to carry her in her four-footed form, therefore, and he uses that now.

This essentially means that she's being carried like a princess, too.

The chamber with the fire pit is not a particularly small one; there is space behind where Rei kneels to perform her reading. Which means that there's space between Ayana and the flames. And up in Kazuo's arms, there's always the possibility of scampering over his shoulder to escape if need be, leaving him, as promised, between her and the fire.

He does not speak, and he does not bow, when they are permitted to enter the chamber. He can't, with the fox in his arms. He does incline his head warily to the flames, as he might to a respected opponent.
Ayana Tasogare 2017-04-27 03:39:36 75335
Ayana is all too happy to be scooped up into Kunzite's arms. The fox settles as best she can while he carries her off towards the chamber like an inmate on the way to death row. (That's her perspective, anyways.)

When they enter the room, the fire dominates Ayana's attention, and the little fox squeals and scarpers and attempts to free herself from Kunzite's arms.

But he's stronger than she is, and even being gentle it's likely he can find a way to prevent her truly getting out of his arms. It takes a few minutes, but eventually the attempts to escape turn into little more than frantic breathing and plaintive little whimpers of discomfort.

Fire bad.

Fire real bad.
Rei Hino 2017-04-27 03:51:33 75336
At first, it's just fire and the sounds of Rei shifting beads in her hands. Soon enough, Rei is truly lost to her mind and realms beyond. Once again, the flame burns brighter, almost threatening to scorch the maiden before it. Rei shows no fear, doesn't move except for light breaths. Her brow sweats.

And then, the flame shows images. Hand-in-paw, the dark image of a fox and a light image of a girl are as one. They start out together, but then they break away. The light girl prances, happily, only to trip and stumble. The dark fox pads away, circling, dancing as a fox only can. Then tumbles, tail-over-head. Apart, they stumble.

Both struggle to their feet in the ephemeral images. Slowly, they walk back to one another. Their dances are slower, painful almost, and full of mis-steps. Finally, they meet. At first, the fox grows large, greater than the girl. It's mouth opens, becoming a swirling mass of infinite nothingness. It's jaws reach, and again stumbles just before devouring the girl. The girl is terrified, but upon seeing the dark fox on it's hind legs, so much small, she reaches out. The fox is scared. It tries to run, and the girl follows. They land in a heap, tangled, in this fiery shadow play. Only then, slowly, does the girl lift the tiny dark fox, and hugs it to her chest. They fade, only to stumble at the last moment, arms and paws entwined. There's the wag of a tail. And the smile of a girl.

In the last few seconds before the fire dies down to normal, a large fox with many tails, holding a sheath of rice in it's mouth, gently puts it's paw on the image of the girl and the fox in her arms. Then, it all ends.

Rei's eyes open, and she gasps. She wobbles, a bit, to the side. She nearly drops her beads. Rei sweats, blinks, and slowly she's starting to come back. Silence.

Rei needs a moment.

Finally, she turns. "...Kunzite-san? Ayana-san?" She questions, out of breath. This image was intense, to say the least.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-04-27 04:03:03 75337
Gentle, yes. And quick. She has plenty of room to writhe and kick, yes, but he catches her, and whispers to her. ("It's all right. You're safe. Do you need me to shield you?") ... and that last comes with a kind of shielding less likely to kick stray magic around the room and interfere with Rei's reading. He simply turns in place, resettling the fox so that she can peek over his shoulder without the flames being able to reach her directly. Keeping her in his shadow, so to speak, as well as keeping her in his arms. He has to turn his own head at an awkward angle to be able to see --

He hadn't been expecting to be able to see anything.

But the glimpse of Inari's image explains a great deal, there.
Ayana Tasogare 2017-04-27 04:08:35 75338
The settles only a little as Kunzite turns her to where the fire is out of sight. But out of sight is not out of mind, and she continues shivering and shaking all through Rei's fire-reading. At least she isn't trying to get away, though.

When the fire reading is over, the little fox nuzzles her face gently up against Kunzite's chest and breathes in against him. She didn't watch--how could she? The thought of the flames is enough to send her into an anxiety attack. She has no idea wh at they've seen.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-04-27 04:16:39 75339
"I saw it," Kazuo says quietly in answer to Rei's question. "I'm not sure Ayana did." He leans his head down, chin tucked against his own chest just above the fox's nose. "You've been sent an answer, this time," he tells her, "even if you needed someone else to help you read it. So we know he's listening, when you call."

He straightens a moment after, and glances back at Rei; if she's still seated, he ... can't offer her a hand up, without stepping nearer the fire and terrifying the fox. "Is it safe for us to step out of this chamber again?"
Rei Hino 2017-04-27 04:19:01 75340
Rei finally, as Kunzite offers strength and she notices Ayana cuddling in, douses the fire with a bucket of water. Aside from a few candles, the room is dark. Rei slowly draws herself back up, and turns to the pair. Her eyes are on Ayana.

"Ayana-san. I might be reaching, but what I feel is...that you're an amazing person. An amazing person that needs to accept yourself. All parts of you. Without one, the other one will fall down. But I think both can pull the other up."

Serious Miko Face relaxes, and she gives a winning smile. "With the help of Kunzite and everyone, I'm sure you can succeed. Believe in yourself!" She encourages, fist clenching, with fire finally lit in her eyes for this young foxess.

But then she calms a bit, as she stands, very much the picture of a mysterious miko. Her smile doesn't leave. "Yes. Let's go. I think I need to sit down for a while anyway." She opens the door for the pair, starting to lead them back to the house. When she's in?

The miko collapses onto the couch. All the while, there's a thankful smile to Kunzite. The white-haired young man has definitely earned himself some Rei Points today!
Ayana Tasogare 2017-04-27 04:31:38 75341
When the fire is put out, Ayana can sense it. It's cooler, there's less flickering light, and it's darker. She raises her head just a little, but her little heart is still beating all too fast--doki-doki! The kitsune doesn't truly settle until they start to leave the room back towards the main house. There, she nuzzles into Kunzite's arm in a more affectionate manner, eyes watching the Miko and the house curiously, but with no fewer questions than before. Maybe she'll understand, in time. Maybe with more discussions. Maybe with more patience. Right now, she's just content to be carried.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-04-27 04:42:26 75342
Back into the house. Kazuo folds himself down, settling himself and the fox onto the floor, and strokes the fox for a little. "All parts of you," he says quietly, echoing Rei. "Fox as well as girl; girl as well as fox. It will take time to find a balance. There will be mistakes and missteps. And yes, it will be frightening sometimes. But this was frightening just now, and you did very well with that. As for missteps -- the only people who make no missteps are the ones who do nothing at all. And she's right. Both can pull the other up, in time."

He's familiar with how that works. Just... not both halves living inside the same skull. Foxes are complicated.

They'll leave Rei be in a little while. After the fox's heart won't actually explode at going back into public again.
Rei Hino 2017-04-27 04:48:32 75343
Rei is mostly silent during the exchange. Her eyes are closed by now, and one could almost be forgiven to think she's out entirely. No, not just yet. Her smile remains.

"Yin and yang...darkness and light...Ayana-san. I think you're balance." Mutters Rei, just before she nods off. The Miko gently snores in plain view of the two. There's two guest beds already made up. The offer was explicit in Rei's texts back to Kunzite on the outset. They have full run of Shrine and home at once, if they need it. Tonight is Ayana's night, after all.