The State of Things


Date: 2019-01-26
Pose Count: 30
Ariel Theodore 2019-01-26 20:10:50 103044
    Things have been going on. And there's no more pussyfooting around the fact that things are going on. Stuff has been happening, and that means Ariel is probably in over her head and can't tackle what's going on by herself.
    So the littlest Dream Defender has sent out some texts and a meeting place, and word probably trickled through the grapevine on where to meet and that something was up.
    The spot is a quiet little cafe. Out of the way, subtle, and generally relaxed and quiet in the middle of the day on a Saturday. Ariel is settled in a corner table, nursing a mug of some sweet smelling herbal tea, waiting for people to show up.
Rei Hino 2019-01-26 20:15:20 103045
Rei's history with Ariel is brief, and... mostly unpleasant for reasons outside of their control - mostly consisting of having died in front of her - but Rei was there with her and Lacrima when the school was attacked, so she figures it's only right that she follows up. She arrives at the cafe dressed for cold weather; peering about for a moment before spotting Ariel and smiling softly as she approaches. "Ariel-san." She greets with a small bow.
Lacrima 2019-01-26 20:20:02 103046
Lacrima shows up quickly, dusk stepping across town to the locale and having herself a seat. She sighs. "I let some others know in my house about a meeting." she says quietly. She shifts a bit uncomfortably. She still hasn't talked to Ariel about the thing. Lacrima still looks sad and bothered. She settles down next to Ariel and gently touches her hand "Hi..." she says. "--too." she says.

She gently looks up as Rei arrives and she seems to shrink... "---R--rei-san. H--i." she says quietly. She gently looks from Rei back to Ariel and sighs a little.

"Did you ask Akashimaru to bring the book...?" she asks quietly. "It's fine if you didn't- but..." she says. "It'd help to see if things have been added to it since this new stuff started happening..."
Seishi Tamashige 2019-01-26 20:21:34 103047
Seishi's already in residence at the corner table that Ariel has staked out, with a mostly-full iced coffee steadily getting watery as the ice melts. She's mostly forgotten about it, as she's hunkered down over a notebook and a pile of books.

Things are indeed Going On, but homework waits for no one. Not even on a quiet Saturday afternoon.

She looks up when Rei approaches to greet Ariel, though, putting her pencil down across the pages of her notebook. "Hi." She bows her head politely to the other girl, before she begins collecting some of her stuff and shoving it back into the backpack that's been sitting on the seat next to her, so that she can clear the space and stash the backpack on the floor behind her feet instead.

The vaguely tapir-shaped lump wedged in next to her, doing his best impression of an off-brand Drowzee plushie, stays where he is, though if someone were watching closely they might see one of its round little ears cant toward Rei's general direction.

"I don't think we've met. Seishi Tamashige. And yes." She flashes a little quirk of a smile and a nod to Lacrima. "I have it with me." More stuff gets shuffled into the backpack, from which she fishes out... a roughly book-shaped lump wrapped in a pillowcase.
Jiaying Maki 2019-01-26 20:28:37 103048
Jiaying Maki followed Norie along, having been coaxed out of her own little hiding place in that strangeness between worlds. She figures it's close enough, it might be good to look into what's going on. Also you know, friend troubles. Always a good thing to help out with. She's wearing a long coat and a deep green winter dress and dark stockings. At least she's warm. Also wearing shoes. Something she's of mixed feeling about.

Taking her seat nearby, even if it just involves dragging a chair over, sitting side saddle and leaning against the back to watch the others. She keeps her mouth shut for once, which might be a surprise on it's own and she even fishes a notebook out to take notes (And doodle in the margins) too!
Kotomi Kobana 2019-01-26 20:30:12 103049
Kotomi isn't a magical girl (as far as she knows), and there's a small part of her which can't quite believe that all of this is real, although even that small part of her can't overcome the memory of Unmei transforming right in front of her. That leaves her usual anxieties over Meeting New People, which is offset somewhat by the fact that presumably, she's about to meet more Real Magical Girls.

She arrives at the cafe, wearing her navy blue jacket over the Verone middle school uniform, looking slightly nervous and lost. She stares for a few seconds when she sees Ariel. Yep, she's real, all right! And Lacrima's there, too! And ... a couple of people she's never seen before, uh-oh! (She still doesn't 100% remember the dream, but Seishi looks familiar in a way she can't quite place.)

Nevertheless, she manages to rally enough to head on over to the table, and arrives just in time for Seishi to introduce herself. "Hi, um, Ariel-san and Lacrima-san," she says, giving a very stiff and somewhat uncomfortable bow. "And ... um ... and everyone else. I'm Kotomi Kobana."
Kokoro Akakuma 2019-01-26 20:42:15 103050
    It has long since become obvious to Kokoro that she's not going to be able to hide her identity among these people. She still makes at least a vague pretense of it, but the simple and honest truth is that without some kind of disguise field, it's gong to be panifully obvious to anyone who sees her in one form, when they meet her in the other for the first time. The fact her untransformed brown hair tends to cover most of her face at any given time will only help a smidge.

    So while the brunette isn't going to be volunteering her identity, it's pretty much a given that just by walking into the cafe, there are going to be people who know who she is outside of the dream now. Thus, rather than give an introduction, Kokoro just offers a simple, "Yo," to the table, and drags up a chair so she won't be crowding anyone off the bench. She does, briefly, turn that one un-covered brown eye Rei's way; that's a face she doesn't recognize.
Ariel Theodore 2019-01-26 21:00:40 103051
    Annnnd people are showing up. Firtly, Ariel's hand slides right into Lacrima's when the vampire arrives, fingers squeezing gently as everyone settles in and Seishi wraps up with her studies. Rei gets a polite bow of the smaller girl's head in greeting, even if it is hard to force certain memories from her mind every time she meets the senshi. Then there's Jiaying and Kokoro, and... It took some work figuring out how to reach out to Kotomo, but it looks like the two managed.
    "A-ah, hello, thank you all for coming." Ariel says, shifting in her seat.
    The motion is so casual- how she plucks that 'plushie' O-Yasu up from where he's settled and just tugs the baku to her lap like a stuffed animal, arms looping around the middle in a light squeeze.
    "So... I think it is pretty obvious this is no simple social call. There's another big issue going on in the dream realm." She starts to explain, motioning for the book that Seishi produces.
    "The last time this book was active, the Nightmare Prince was weakening the barrier between dreams and reality. Right now things are still pretty stable, but I'm beginning to think he's on the move again."
Rei Hino 2019-01-26 21:03:53 103052
Rei's smile wavers slightly as Lacrima greets her. "I-" she hesitates for a moment, clearly uncomfortable and unsure of the... appropriate way to greet someone under the circumstances before she decides she's overthinking it. "... Hello, Lacrima-san."
    Looking to Seishi, she bows politely. "Nice to meet you Seishi-san. I'm-" Rei's eyes get a bit large and drift over to the small creature next to Seishi. "... I'm." ... Good GOD that's distracting. Is that...? It is! What? Uh! "... I'm Rei Hino."
    Rei takes a seat without ever quite taking her eyes off of Seishi's friend, greeting the various familiar and unfamiliar people who join them, noting Kokoro's curious look with raised eyebrows and offering a friendly, silent little wave.
    Listening intently once Ariel starts, Rei frowns. "Do we know anything about what they're doing to make that happen? What they were hoping to accomplish at the school? I'd like to... cut them off early if it's possible."
Jiaying Maki 2019-01-26 21:13:07 103053
Jiaying Maki scribbles a few things into her book in what looks like very shorthand Chinese. Then she makes a brief sketch of something and draws an arrow to the notes. Tapping her pen against the notebook briefly she looks over the back of the chair. There's O-Yasu which is given an odd look now that it's presented. That's a pokemon right? Right? "Norie, your phone didn't spit a creature up right?" She asks, catching herself too late to stop from asking it. Forehead to book, she sighs and mutters, "Sorry." and then resumes her notes.

Gesturing to Ariel with her pen, she says, "We've noticed some oddities in the Harbor. More than just the-... problem that tried to eat my magic I mean. Think it's related?" Then she pauses. Has she really talked about it? Norie might have, she gets to be normal people there after all right? She quiets up quickly after, wanting to listen in and compare notes.
Lacrima 2019-01-26 21:16:17 103054
Lacrima relaxes at the squeeze with a smile. She gently settles a little, and with a blush clears her throat. She sighs. "Right." she says quietly. She softly nods. "...Something is happening. Those gems seems attached to him. Something about him.. hiding something?" she says. "Regardless..." she says.

She smiles and waves to Jiaying and nods to Kotomi. "Hello Kotomi-san." she says.

She looks towards Rei. "I'm pretty sure the school incident is unrelated." she says quietly. She looks towards Ariel and frowns.

"Right now. These gems have apparently been calling out or something to Ariel." she says. "They're probably pieces of a greater gem, if I had to guess." she says trails off.

She looks to Jiaying. "....Is there?" she asks as she taps her bottom lip. "I'm not sure... maybe?" she asks with a shrug.

She does eye O-Yasu, giving a little sideways smile, before looking back up and curiously at the book-- as Ariel motions for it. She'll let Ariel handle it.
Seishi Tamashige 2019-01-26 21:18:02 103055
The 'plushie' lets out a surprised grunt, wriggling for a moment in Ariel's lap before he remembers he's supposed to be a stuffed toy as far as the public eye is aware. Huffing a sigh, the baku submits himself to Ariel's cuddling, though the already grumpy-looking cast of his features gets grumpier as his ears flatten down against his head.

"Hey," Seishi greets the remaining arrivals as she unwraps the pillowcase from a very old-looking leatherbound book. "Please don't mind O-Yasu," she tips her head towards the sulking lump currently occupying Ariel's lap; "he's a cranky old man, but he knows a lot of useful things so I thought I should make him come along for this."

O-Yasu emits a low grumble that sounds something akin to 'not a sack of rice,' but keeps still.

"This book came out of a dream," Seishi explains, "the last time the Nightmare Prince started causing trouble. Each time... well," she corrects herself, "maybe not every time, but a lot of the times we've run into Nightmares that were connected to what he's been doing, it adds more of his story." Handling the tome very carefully, she opens it up and sets it down on the table in front of Ariel, so that everyone can get a look at it if they want to.
Kokoro Akakuma 2019-01-26 21:22:30 103056
    "Considering how many dreams ain't quite-" Here, Kokoro stops herself short, catching her own wording. When she starts speaking again, her Japanese is rather more polite. "...haven't quite been real dreams lately, I had a feeling something was starting." She settles bck a little and listens to the others talk; they seem to have more context for all this than her. She does lean over a little to look more at the book, brow furrowing. "...I didn't hear about that before. How long's this thing been giving us the web novel version? And does it have any clues that might let us get ahead of whatever's happening?"
Kotomi Kobana 2019-01-26 21:26:01 103057
Kotomi just sort of shrinks back into her seat as the conversation goes on. That said, she has surprisingly few questions about this situation. It's obvious that the Nightmare Prince is the big bad guy of the hypothetical magical girl anime about the dream realm. And O-Yasu is the mascot. This all seems like 'early second season' talk, too; she makes a mental note to see if she can't find the DVD of the first season anywhere, and then she makes a mental note to stop making mental notes like that.

She peers over at the book. "Oh!" she says. "That ..." She points at the last entry. "That's, uh ... that's the singer! The one we fought in the dream-world! The one I threw ... a light-pie at." For some reason, she gives a nervous glance at Lacrima as she says that last part.

... Those who met her in the dream world might notice that she just looks subtly ... different in the waking world. Her voice is just a little less girly, too, while still being obviously feminine.
Ariel Theodore 2019-01-26 21:30:59 103058
    There is a beat during which Ariel glances curiously between Lacrima and Rei, brow furrowed faintly. But she goes on.
    "Oh um. I spoke with my mother- she's a retired Dream Defender- about what happened that night at the school. It was kind of semi-related. That was the work of a Nightmare named Maboroshi no Manako. She made a pact with a dreamer, and she was working to um. Alter that person's identity based on a wish they made. Maboroshi was a servant of the Nightmare Prince but she was purified recently and is no longer an issue. As for the Harbor... It could be related, I'll explain that in a moment."
    With that tabled, and the book presented for all Ariel clears her throat. Lacrima brings up the subject of the gems and this has Ariel flipping to a specific segment of the pages.
    "It only became active again recently-- since the north pole dream." She answers Kokoro before thumbing the pages. "It says here that the prince, in a fit of despair at losing a Dreamer that he loved, ripped out a part of himself and split it into pieces so it would never be found again." She says before trailing off.
    "Seishi believes it may have been his heart. And I'm thinking it could be that as well. The gems are definitely a part of a larger whole than the pieces we have, though-- we have two right now."
Rei Hino 2019-01-26 21:34:22 103059
Rei nods once and folds her hands on the table, listening with growing concern. She's not so familiar with this Nightmare Prince, but some of what Ariel's saying gives alarming impressions.
Seishi Tamashige 2019-01-26 21:42:05 103060
Seishi nods along as Ariel speaks, in silent confirmation. "It's still just a guess," she disclaims, "but it makes sense considering what we know."

She picks up her neglected drink, absently swirling it around with a little rattle of ice in the cup. "What's in the book is more about where he came from than what he's up to now. He used to be a Dream Defender, kind of like Ariel and her mom, but the dreams of the person he protected got - eaten."

Suddenly seeming uncomfortable, Seishi looks down at her iced coffee. A low, faintly gritty and very masculine voice picks up where she left off, from the vicinity of Ariel's lap. "That's a bigger problem," O-Yasu puts in. "Our saving grace is that they aren't working together. But in any case, what you're thinking... it's not impossible."
Lacrima 2019-01-26 21:47:06 103061
Lacrima softly settles and takes a deep breath. "His heart...?" she asks quietly. She shifts. She looks up. "What happens... if we get all the pieces?" she asks quietly. "Does it.. it help him? Make things worse...?" she asks quietly. She looks back down and then frowns.

She looks between Seishi and O-Masu a bit with a just a slight smile. A cranky old man. Snert!

She is finding it remarkable that anyone is able to remain grumpy in an Ariel hug though. Not worthy of study but still!

"--the book fills itself as incidents happen. It hasn't told anything 'to happen' yet, more 'what is happening- what has happened' as Seishi said." she says quietly.

"It'd be nice if it could give us clues but..." she shrugs a little.
Kokoro Akakuma 2019-01-26 21:48:24 103062
    Kokoro blinks. She considers for a moment.

    "...so he tore out his heart over a lost love and scattered it across the dreamscape. And now we're finding bits of it."

    There's a quiet forehead rub. "When did my life become a fantasy manga?"

    But the tall girl grunts as if to dismiss the thought. In contrast to Rei, she ends up with her arms folded over her chest, leaned back slightly and thinking. After a second or two, she speaks up. "First step in any campaign is to figure out what the other side's after, and how they're likely to get it. If we just keep reacting, he sets the pace. We need clues on where the other fragments of, uh... his heart or whatever, where they might have gone. How much we actually know about him?"
Jiaying Maki 2019-01-26 21:54:55 103063
Jiaying Maki looks to the plushie critter. She leans forward, leaning the chair forward, sniffing at it briefly. Her eyes narrow as she tries to remember something. Leaning back, she reaches up to make sure she's maintaining her illusion. Because sniffing the air definitely didn't give things away anyway. Ariel's comment about explaining in a moment is given a nod. Instead, she draws what she assumes is a heart gem. Looking mostly like a heart shaped ruby-ish thing. In three pieces. With a little Link holding one of the pieces up. Then hastily scribbled out.

Gesturing to the book, she asks, "I've seen some books like that. In books. Scrolls. Auntie had them okay?" She stops herself before she goes on a tangent.

Kokoro's comment gets a snrk and she grins, "What's wrong with a bit of fantasy?" There's a conspiratorial look around, then she brushes her hand through her hair to reveal the fox ears, then back the other way. And then stops and murmurs, "I think I'm starting to understand why we're noted for a lack of impulse control."
Kotomi Kobana 2019-01-26 22:01:08 103065
Kotomi stares at the book for another moment. "... yeah right, I've heard 'never found again' before," she says, and for a brief moment she has a small smile. "We already have two of 'em." She settles back down. She still looks uncomfortable, but ... yeah, she can already see that this Eater of Dreams named in the verse from the North Pole incident is going to be another problem they have to deal with. Possibly in the third season --

No.

At Kokoro's comment, she gets another faint smile. "I think it's more of a magical girl manga," she interjects. And then she just ... shrinks back slightly, feeling as if she said too much at once.

She blinks at the sight of Jiaying's ears. Oh, a kitsune! ... Maybe! She doesn't speak up, however; she doesn't want to show a lack of impulse control on her own part ...
Ariel Theodore 2019-01-26 22:04:11 103066
    O-Yasu can grump all he wants, right now he's getting cuddled, and there's no escaping it as Ariel rests her chin on top of his head. For a second, she looks like she just sucked on a lemon, the way her face puckers at the sheer volume of how much just isn't known about what's going on. And that's partly for one major reason.
    "We haven't seen him, personally, yet, this time." She replies to Kokoro. "Last time he was active he was taking a very direct hand in everything. Either he's trying to be more subtle, or something else is going on. But he obviously doesn't want us finding the pieces. Why else would the grinches be trying to take the one they had? And the other one was guarded by a powerful nightmare." A Nightmare that makes Ariel cringe.
    "... My ears are still ringing from that one."
    "Right now what he is doing is weakening the barriers between dreams again, but this time not the barrier between dreams and the waking world. There's... Probably going to be some really weird bleedover happening soon and-"
    And before Ariel can continue, the book flips to a blank page.
    A shard of something happy, a shard of something sweet, bounced from hand to hand like a precious little treat. It wandered near, it wandered far, distant and long, not one carrier could bear it for a time prolonged.
    A fragment of hope ambled this way and that, only now to fall into the grasp of a cat.
    "... Uh."
Seishi Tamashige 2019-01-26 22:13:10 103067
"I spoke to him, once." Seishi's head lifts abruptly as she volunteers this information. "Or, well, someone else wanted to talk to him, and I sat in. It wasn't super productive."

Snort, says the lump of baku being cuddled in Ariel's lap.

Seishi shoots O-Yasu a narrow look, before going on as though she hadn't been interrupted. "Last time, when he was trying to break the boundaries between dreams and the waking world, it was for revenge. He thought that would be a way to get it. I don't know if that's still what he's after, but if it is..."

Her voice trails off, because the book has just roused itself to volunteer its input. Eyes widening, she watches as the text unscrolls itself on the once-blank page.

"...that's new."
Lacrima 2019-01-26 22:16:06 103068
Lacrima nods at Ariel. "...So ... w... what could they be trying to weaken? If not between the Dream and 'Real World's?" she asks. "What borders the Dream Realm?..." she asks quietly as she shifts a little.

She frowns at Seishi. "What does he want revenge on...?" she asks. She gently sighs a bit and shifts. Then the book opens.

"....Ugh." she mutters at the text. "This is lame." she says as she sulks.

She sighs a little and looks left and right and then leans against Ariel. "Um.. b..before we go-- can I..." she says. "Can I talk to you?" she says quietly. "When less people are here." she whispers quietly.
Kokoro Akakuma 2019-01-26 22:20:52 103069
    Kokoro sits in silence, listening, eventually even closing her eyes as if to shut out visual distractions. "Mm. Most important part is we don't get trapped into one line of thinking. Maybe he doesn't want us to find the fragments. Maybe he does. Maybe there's a third party involved. Wish we could sit him down and drag the info out of him, we'd at least know where we stand. Too easy to dance on someone else's puppet strings when we're in the dark like..."

    Finally she seems to catch on. "...What? What happened?" Everyone's looking at the book. So Kokoro stands up and leans over it, scowling at what she reads. "...real helpful, book. Thanks." Sigh. Fwump. Back into her seat she goes. "So now we gotta find some cat." Or maybe it's not a cat. Maybe it's someone who is cat-like in demeanor. Stupid metaphorical nature of dreams and poetry.
Jiaying Maki 2019-01-26 22:22:32 103070
Jiaying Maki points to Norie and says, "A few things." Having at least knowledge of one of those shared areas. She scowls, "I should check on the door at home- ward it better. Or trap it." She doesn't sound like she's going off on a wild chase, for once she sounds focused.

The idea of revenge and lost love gets her thinking, the removed heart and so on. "Think he removed his metaphorical heart and not his real heart?" What, it's a guess. One that makes more sense to her. And then she scowls, "That might be bad too."

Of course all of that thought is pushsed aside as the book writes in itself. "Neat." Is about all she can think of it at the moment. Especially since trying to read Japanese upside down is hurting her head. "I can ask if any nekomata are being weird...er than usual. They do weird things with ghosts." She offers at Kokoro's idea.
Kotomi Kobana 2019-01-26 22:24:38 103071
Kotomi frowns. "If barriers are going down ..." She sighs softly. "W-well, I ... definitely hope I can help out with any other incidents. If, if I get wrapped up in them, I mean."

And then the book starts writing itself.

Kotomi's eyes widen as peers down at it. "... Welp," she mutters, and sits back down heavily. "Um. My statement still stands," she says weakly.
Ariel Theodore 2019-01-26 22:33:59 103072
    "Didn't he want revenge on the... The Eater of Dreams?" Ariel ventures. "I mean it's the most obvious thing, if the dreams of someone he loved got eaten." She does remind gently, sparing one arm to drape over Norie when she's leaned on. "Yes- we can talk after this--" But now she's looking at the book, too, just as baffled as everyone else.
    "Mn. Guess we should start looking for cats." Said before shooting Kotomi a curious look.
    But she does not press her on it.
    "Anyway, that's basically what's going on... We'll have to see how things play out in the days to come, but I just wanted to have everyone on the same page."
Seishi Tamashige 2019-01-26 22:39:21 103073
Ariel answers Lacrima's question before Seishi can pull her thoughts together enough to do so; expression very grave now, Seishi nods her confirmation. "That's right," she says quietly. "The Eater of Dreams is sealed for now. If the Nightmare Prince breaks the seal trying to get at him--"

"Forget it," O-Yasu puts in bluntly from Ariel's lap, turning his stubby tapir snout towards Seishi. "At your level of ability, there's no chance of beating that thing."

Seishi actually flinches, a flush of color rising in her cheeks as she looks away. "Thanks for the vote of confidence," she murmurs. And then sighs. "He's right, though. We can't let that happen."
Kotomi Kobana 2019-01-26 22:39:43 103074
Kotomi looks nervous as she sees Ariel's expression! "I-I just mean, I'll help out if I'm in the next dream," she stammers nervously.