Bad News

Ami tracks down Akari, and delivers the bad news about the situation with Lacrima. But there is hope.

Date: 2018-11-01
Pose Count: 15
Akari Hayabusa 2018-11-01 16:15:43 99611
'Nightbell' would have been easily recognizable as being nearly seven feet tall and having glowing red cat-eyes and with eldritch markings on her skin (which are actually magical tattoos). But even in her "base" form, Akari's appearance is pretty distinctive, too.

First, there's the fact that she doesn't look Japanese; her ethnicity is "Ancient Belkan". Second, in spite of the fact that she was created to look sixteen, she's a good seven inches taller than the average adult Japanese woman. These are details that Lacrima might have given Ami about Akari's appearance.

Akari bustles into the Crown after an afternoon of kendo training at the nearby harbor (near Mikoto's hideout). She grabs a glass of lemonade, and then heads upstairs to sit down and take a break. She's dressed in a gray tracksuit that looks loose but kind of stretchy, and she has a long bag slung over her shoulder with the handle of her bamboo kendo sword sticking out. There's a pendant hanging around her neck shaped like a double-barred cross made out of black metal, with a red gemstone embedded in a ring at the crux of the upper bar.

... which Lacrima might have told Ami is the standby form of her Armed Device, Rubindorn.
Ami Mizuno 2018-11-01 16:27:47 99612
Ami can't help but spot the Belkan woman and half-follow at a respectful distance. Once she sees Akari go into Crown, she waits a bit so it doesn't seem like she's stalking the poor thing. Ordering a "milk smoothie" downstairs, she then heads upstairs with it and looks around. The place is full; Akari grabbed the last table.

Swallowing her shyness, Ami walks over to Akari. "Hi," she says quietly. "The place is full; can I sit with you?" She offers a little smile.
Akari Hayabusa 2018-11-01 16:33:46 99613
Akari didn't notice she was being followed, because her guard has been completely down these days, and she counts on Rubindorn to alert her to any supernatural dangers.

She blinks at the fullness. Wow, looks like she picked the right time to come here! She sits down at the table and takes a careful sip of her lemonade. (The first time she came to the Crown was also the first time she got brain-freeze.)

When Ami approaches, Akari brightens, and smiles up at her. "Oh, hi, sure!" she says. "No problem at all! My name's Akari Hayabusa, I'm on Infinity High's kendo team. What's your name?"
Ami Mizuno 2018-11-01 16:35:15 99614
Taking her seat, Ami smiles and relaxes. "Ami Mizuno. I'm a member of Seishou High's Chess Club and Swim Team." She blushes a little and shrugs. Her name's well known. She half-expects to be recognized, especially if they're close in age, she and Akari.
Akari Hayabusa 2018-11-01 16:51:02 99615
Akari blinks in mild surprise. She certainly recognizes Ami's name, but she doesn't associated her with the swim team anymore. "Oh, yeah, I'm ... acquainted with Agera-san, he told me about you after, um, Tarnished," she says. (Takashi really didn't want his own people to make the same kind of mistake.) "I'm, uh, I'm not associated with him anymore, though, I quit UMBRA a couple weeks ago." Well, she's certainly not acting like some sort of Belkan war machine ...
Ami Mizuno 2018-11-01 16:56:31 99617
Ami exhales softly. That actually solves part of the problem. Although it brings up some others...

"I see," she says gently, the bluenette nodding with serious eyes. "That's actually, um. Why I wanted to talk to you." It's all Ami can do not to shake right now. Instead, she forces herself to square her shoulders.

"Lacchan--Lacrima--has asked me to keep you under my protection," she says quietly. "From, ah." She gulps lightly. "Herself." She looks away then, before training blue eyes on Akari's. "Eclipse wants you back, and Lacrima wants to make sure that doesn't happen--but she can't disobey a direct order." She takes a slow sip of her chocolate milkshake and drops her intense gaze, letting it relax before glancing up at the former employee of said organization once more.
Akari Hayabusa 2018-11-01 17:07:34 99618
Akari's initial reaction is worry and concern about Ami shaking. But then the news hits her, and her eyes go wide with shock.

And then she sits back and exhales. "Well, that explains why Lacrima-san has been blocking my calls," she says in a low voice. "... I know exactly who's behind this." She hesitates. "I mean ... I don't know who it is, we only ever saw him as a shadowy silhouette on a screen, but ... when I was first 'activated', he took an interest. Not long after I learned Japanese, he asked Frau Doktor, the Eclipse scientist who activated me, whether there were more of me, whether I could be replicated, and whether I could be controlled." She shakes her head. "... Respectively, no, no, and yes in the sense that I volunteered. And he ... assigned Frau Doktor as my handler, and I was Eclipse's new 'asset.'" She doesn't seem comfortable with any part of this, and there's a little bit of guilt there, too. "I knew Lacrima-san just wanted to let me go, but, um ... thank you."
Ami Mizuno 2018-11-01 17:11:55 99619
Ami Mizuno nods, and gives a sort of smile. It's grim, and troubled, but a smile nonetheless. "Of course, Hayabusa-san." Her blue eyes aren't the bright vivaciousness Akari may have heard of from Takashi; no, this is the blue of a deep, still ocean, nearly inky-black with concern. "Lacchan said she'd find others to help protect you, as well. It's not just me," she says. And while Ami is powerful in her own right, she knows she's not a powerhouse on Jupiter or Mars' level, for example. Or Miho's, or anyone else's. She sighs.

"What can I do to help?" She asks, spreading her hands to try and show her honest worry for the person, not the device, before her.
Akari Hayabusa 2018-11-01 17:28:01 99620
Akari takes a deep breath to steady herself, and shakes her head before taking a longer sip of lemonade. "Right now, I'm staying in this hideout belonging to my girlfriend, uh, Hagane of WPS," she says. "Two of the Knights of Waldia and Sailor Mars and Sailor Jupiter were there when my sort-of-adopted-sister Sakura Kinomoto persuaded me to leave Eclipse, and the Knights offered to help me in case Eclipse didn't take no for an answer." She pauses. "I might be able to handle a fight with Lacrima-san on my own, but she knows everything I can do." She sighs softly. "Because I was being a good little minion."

She pauses. "Also, this isn't quite related, but I need someone who can ... purify me and Rubindorn." She looks down at her pendant. "My Linker Core is suppressed in this form, but ... due to lying in the Dusk Zone for almost a thousand years -- or at least, that's what my Device's internal clocks said, I don't know how long it was outside of the Dusk Zone -- it produces Dark Energy along with my regular mana. I'm forty percent Dark by volume in my 'Nightbell' form." She sounds uncomfortable saying the name. "Once I realized how badly that was messing with me, it just ..." She shakes her head. "It feels almost intolerable. Not to mention I'm almost useless against Dark Energy-based enemies."

... There just seems something fundamentally lonely about her demeanor now.
Ami Mizuno 2018-11-01 17:29:53 99621
Ami can't help but get up and move to sit next to Akari, instead of across from her. "Akari-san," she says, less formally, and with more warmth. "Nothing is going to happen to you. I promise." She nods, emphatically, hands wrapped around her milkshake like she'll throw it at the next person who approaches and is unfamiliar.
Akari Hayabusa 2018-11-01 17:34:08 99622
Akari blinks in surprise at Ami's closeness, and she almost pulls away slightly. "... I ..." She shakes her head. "Three weeks ago, I ... just thought I was an UMBRA die-hard with a difficult sister ..." She seems faintly bewildered. "Why are you just ... trusting me and trying to help me?"
Ami Mizuno 2018-11-01 17:35:11 99623
Blinking back, Ami then smiles gently. "Because, for an UMBRA die-hard, Lacrima is pretty good to us." Meaning magical girls. "And because you haven't betrayed my trust yet." She smiles warmer, but pulls back, not crowding Akari.
Akari Hayabusa 2018-11-01 17:39:54 99624
Akari blinks a few times, and shakes her head. "... I still can't get over how proud Sailor Mars looked, when I helped them fight this youma that was attacking some kids," she murmurs. "I just ..." She stares off into the distance for a moment, and sips her lemonade. "... As 'Akari', I think I always knew that Eclipse was in the wrong and ... and you all were in the right. 'Nightbell' ... had actually different thought processes. It's been a struggle to ... to 'stay as Akari' in my other form."

She manages a weak smile at Ami. "... Sorry, I sort of rambled there," she says. "But, um ... well, I guess ... thank you." She's stumbling over her words, but her genuine gratitude is shining through.
Ami Mizuno 2018-11-01 17:41:01 99625
Smiling, Ami nods. "It's okay. It'll take time," she says softly. "Don't fret." And she starts to move to pet Akari's arm, before pulling back without touching her. "Just... be safe."
Akari Hayabusa 2018-11-01 17:41:49 99626
Akari blushes faintly, and nods. "Yeah," she says, smiling back at her. "I ... yeah. I'll do my best. Thank you."