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@Asuras: I would not, as long as you run stuff by me first. And she'd be one of very few nonhuman Iron Rose Knights.

Also your signature is one of my favorite pictures of Raikou!

Would you prefer things to be run by here in the OOC or over DM's?
Would you be opposed to an elf knightess?

Mana barreled into the wall back as a solid object slammed upon her windpipe. She gasped for breath in the split second she had before her back hit the solid surface. Mana cried out in pain, whimpering as the tables so suddenly turned violent. She clasped at her throat, eyes wincing as the girl continued her assault with words. Through tears she looked up, pain written in a spin around her face.

"You... you didn't hear me calling your name?" she asked with a hoarse voice. The exhaustion she had been powering through was apparent in her chest and breath. Setting a hand aside, she tried to dislodge herself, pressing against the wall. "Hanami. I saw you on the train. Look I just... wanted to talk. Do you really not remember me?" she asked. Her tone had become a mixture of frustration and sadness, already lamenting that she might have been able to save herself this sprint and clothesline if she'd just been more upfront and approachable.

"I'm an acquaintance of your boyfriend -of Kouta?" Mana said, trying to jog Hanami's memory. She let out a precautionary cough, as if afraid that Hanami might have severely damaged something, and was testing it out. "He's worried about you. Where have you been? He says you haven't responded to anything!" Mana protested, grasping Hanami's arm with her other hand and trying to wrench it off. Even if she had frightened the girl into feeling so cornered, Mana wasn't about to just play guilty and let Hanami continue hurting her.
What? Oh no, no, no.

Mana was not about to be ignored like that. But then... surely there was a reason? She knew Hanami would have recognized someone as characteristic as her, so Mana doubted the girl simply didn't like that some ragged girl her age somehow knew her name. Mana gave chase, passing by the other passengers. Some of the cars were more crowded than others, and knowing the best tactics for escaping chase in a train station, had herself made sure not to simply pass Hanami by, were she to have taken a seat in hopes of throwing Mana off. She went through each car deliberately, searching for the short-haired girl in the seats and ahead. She was running out of cars to retreat to, and Mana knew that Hanami was definitely aware of it.

With the next stop arriving in mere seconds, Mana could tell the girl was aiming to get as much distance before ducking out of the train car, and lose her in a crowd outside. That is, if Hanami were smart. If she were doubly smart, though, Hanami would know that and stay on board, waiting for Mana herself to jump out. Such thinking would have quickly devolved into a guessing game, so for the time being Mana simply aimed to keep the girl in her sights. If she dove out of the train, so too would she. If Hanami would opt to run all the way to the tail end of the train, Mana would corner her there. Whatever was amiss, she wasn't about to just give Hanami the benefit of the doubt and offer her some privacy.

Kouta was depending on her.
The disinterested look that she had left upon the crowd and trains persisted for a second more as a realization sunk in. An involuntary action, Mana slamming her stretched fingers down upon the dirty subway table, was followed by a dropped lower jaw. Mana didn't even have time to really reflect on what she saw before her feet carried a hesitant body forward. The two appearing there was such an unlikely event, processed barely by an unconscious portion of her brain, that she couldn't even fathom an internal voice more complex than a silent 'what'. She rushed forward. The eyepatch-wearing girl was of little consequence; whatever their relation, Hanami dropping right into her vision mattered far more

If she had run like a sprinter before to save the suicidal girl, then she was the Blue Blur himself right there and then. The doors inched closer and closer, threatening her with images of snipped fingers, but she dropped any sense of self-preservation for this. Already she had brutally shoved three innocents aside to reach the train car and recklessly threw her palms between the doors. She had no idea if they worked like elevators, but any prospective pain just didn't matter. The doors paused, their bristly rims spreading between her fingers as she tried to wrench the doors open. Automatic or by her determination alone, they gave way, followed by a robotic request from the intercom not to mess with the doors.

Mana threw herself inside with a huff, and absent-mindedly checked her fingers. They were all there. A look up met her with disgusted and fearful stares from the rest of the riders, no doubt a combination of her appearance and the total lack of decency in her forcing her way on board. She ran a hand through her short hair, and paid them no mind.

"Hanami? Hanami?" she called out to the car. Surely they thought she was an early drunkard by then, fumbling through the cabin to seek some 'Hanami' out.
What else could she have suggested? Mana knew of no other suggestions, but that very fact kept pounding at her head. She was lost in the situation, feeling all too useless for the young man. Perhaps it was his pallid appearance, reminiscent of what she saw in herself every morning, that tugged so tightly at the strings to her heart.

"Keep in touch, alright?"

"Ah," Mana mumbled, lifting a hand as if to pause Kouta. She did have his number, but got too lost in thought to answer him. It seemed he himself was done with the running about. She wasn't much of a help, clearly. Nevertheless, Mana resolved to try. It was the least she could do to try and bring a boisterous smile back to Kouta's life. He, at the very least, could always get such a thing back unlike some others. Mana drearily returned to her post, continuing on with the shift until labor laws released her from the full grasp of menial work. She folded up her apron, paid for a discounted lunch, and set off down the street to enjoy her break.

For a time, the incident the prior day seemed to fade to the back of her mind passively, though of course being replaced with an unfortunate missing person's case didn't help to draw stress away from Mana anyways. As she strolled through town, always frustrated that she wasn't 'supposed to' on the go outside like Westerners could. She was somewhat tempted to go to the same rooftop foodcourt as yesterday, if only out of a curiosity that the heterochromatic girl would be standing there again, but thought better of the whimsy. If she were there, Mana would have to sprint again.

Eventually she found a different food court, settled in a dusty subway of Tenoroshi. Outside rush hour, the comings and goings of pencil-pushers was settled, but no less constant. Mana sat down at an old metal table, barely big enough to hold two meals, and thought on who would be best to contact first. A brief consideration sprung to mind, as Suzume's dark red hair manifested in her eyes. Mana chuckled to herself. It would be extremely rude to assume the daughter of a yakuza knew all about kidnapping's. She'd get punched for sure.

As Mana continued chewing on her randomly-chosen pre-made meal, she fell deeper into a sense of uselessness. What the hell could she possibly do? Making a promise to Kouta then only felt like empty words, but she couldn't just call Kouta and tell him she was sorry for even offering. But... she also couldn't just wander around doing nothing productive, all in the name of 'trying'.

Mana let out an audible growl to herself, uncaring of any stares she might receive. She dug into the food faster out of frustration with herself.
Mana absently rang up the pack of gum, her eyes still quite drawn to the young man's dilapidated downgrade of an appearance. A few button presses, a 'kaching' of the register, and she cupped some change for him with curled fingers, dropping it into his hands as he continued to speak. She hummed intrigued by his situation. She knew Hanami had a tendency to just drop Kouta each and every fight they had, but always came back. It was unusual to hear about her being missing for this long, and with a total lack of contact to seemingly anyone.

"A-!" Mana stopped, feeling Asahi's hand. She blinked, and moved aside, silently ushering Kouta out of the way of the confined convenience store. "Are you sure she didn't... book it out of town or something? Maybe her parents spirited her away, y'know? How'd they feel about you? Did you check her house?" Mana questioned Kouta in a hushed voice. Her hand slid into a hoodie pocket beneath her apron, touching at the pack of cigarettes resting half-empty inside.

"I know it's not ideal but... I mean you could report it to the cops, right? Surely it's not completely pointless, 'specially if you're that worried." Mana tried her best to comfort Kouta with a reassuring tone. She'd dealt with missing acquaintances before, but they almost always turned up, or turned out to have simply moved out of Tenoroshi. Sometimes the panhandling wasn't enough, and they had to ingratiate themselves before a relative for shelter outside the city. Other times their families simply took them with them. It didn't seem all that likely Hanami would have left Kouta without a word, unless the perfect storm of circumstances prevented her from doing so. Mana began to worry herself, by then, but kept up appearances.

"I'll help you look for her, if you can give me some suggestions where to start. I might know some folks who're familiar with her too."
"Can I help you with someth..." Mana stared at the man as he furiously approached, initially unperturbed. When the realization finally hit, she managed a quick, more friendly greeting before the slam startled her into recoiling away. She lifted up her hands in mock surrender, more playful than actually fearful. She lifted her brow high, shooting glances aside to Asahi and the other customers who, for the most part, were apathetic to the rabble-rouser.

"Kouta, what's u-" before she could finish he slammed again. He didn't seem specifically violent, so Mana remained cautious at most. "H-Hanami? I didn't see her, no. She not responding to your texts... again?" Mana asked, lowering her arms. "I don't know what to tell you man. Maybe get a drink and cool your head?" Mana said jokingly. She leaned, speaking quietly.

"Look Kouta, I can't have you barging in disrupting things like this. My boss will think I'm attracting trouble just by being me," she said, returning back over the counter. "I can help you look for her," she said in a normal voice, "I owe you one anyways, I suppose."
Ding dong.


The words came out her mouth like a machine. Monotone. Perfect. But without life.

Mana maintained that cultural imposition of giving great service, no matter how soulless she truly felt about it. When someone stepped into the convenience store, she welcomed them -that was simply the requirement. The apathy latent in her voice battled with a forced friendliness, as if two voices came out of her at once.

But there was more to it today; a certain level of distraction came through as well, and her averted gaze from the customers, even as she turned her head to them, made it plain her attention was elsewhere. Mana was on autopilot. Across the street, gray beams of light silted onto the city as the dreary weathered held fast. It refrained from dropping rain for the time being, but she couldn't help but recall the smell up on that rooftop the day prior. The dampness in her clothes, and a worry that a cold would latch on through the drooping attire.

And... the girl. The weird girl. She knew of two students her age who had commit suicide, neither of which were close in any sense, so the reality of such a world was no stranger to Mana. But seeing it in person -nearly, anyways- had left far greater an impression. One which she couldn't shake from her thoughts. Just how casual could someone be about killing themselves? The girl expressed such little shock, such little regret.

A customer placing the basket of groceries onto the conveyor belt roused her temporarily. She made the exchange, never forgetting the final 'thank you', and quickly drifted off back into her thoughts. She'd had even worse sleep than usual, and something about the attempted suicide urged Mana not to use some sleeping pills the night before. Her eyes were dark and sullen, but her lips always managed to lift up that courteous smile.

When a hand suddenly planted itself on her shoulder, she jerked. Asahi was standing behind her, a mild smile on his face.

"You alright? You really don't look great," he asked. There were no customers in the store. Mana spoke plainly.

"I stopped a girl from killing herself yesterday," she replied in as composed a voice as humanly possible. Asahi's eyes looked stricken for the briefest second, but he kept up his unfettered demeanor like always.

"O-oh... Was she a friend?" he asked.

"No. I don't even know her name. I just saw her on top of a building and... I guess I had a hunch. Yanked her off just in time. She was fuckin' weird," Mana explained, turning around and leaning on the counter where the register sat. "I don't know what's wrong with her, I'm just... stunned."

Asahi smiled warmly at Mana.

"You're a good person to care enough to try," he said.

"Yea?" Mana hummed, unconvinced, "Wouldn't most anybody try?"

"You'd be surprised, I think, about how many would just say it's too late and shrug," Asahi said, mimicking the motion. "You know they say there's three types of people in a crisis situation." Asahi held up three fingers, "The first panics, and freezes up. They protect their brains by shutting down. The second kind remains firm and steady, but require leadership to act. They are prepared to act, but they subconsciously won't come to terms with their own ability to take charge. And the third-"

"Takes charge," Mana interrupted, grinning. Asahi lowered his hand and nodded. "I get it, I get it. I just wish the whole thing wasn't sticking to me like this. If I just knew why she decided to do that, I don't know... Maybe it'd be easier to process it and forget."

"Maybe you just need some more time. It's not a normal thing, being that close to something so alien. Just let me know if you need anything else to talk about, Mana, okay?" he asked tenderly. Mana nodded, pushing off of the counter. Another customer had walked in.

Ding dong.

Mana retracted slightly, her overlong sleeves folding down as she lifted her hand to her chest. Her face was one of a confused cringing; was this girl actually in middle school? She lifted an eyebrow and spoke in a manner she thought echoed her ‘disreputable’ friends all too much.

“Ahn? The hell are you talking about? You lose your parents in a crash, or something?” she said, waving a hand in dismissal.

“Oh no,” the schoolgirl shook her head, “I’d be able to indulge in self-pity if that were the case. This...better that you don’t know.”

Mana crossed her arms, frowning. “Well now you have me curious. You’re really weirding me out. Are you on drugs? What did you take today? No need to be embarrassed. I’ve been there.” Mana’s expression softened somewhat. She really was convinced at that point that something was mentally up with the girl, self-induced or not.

Her eyebrows raised slightly, a sliver of surprise at Mana’s concern. But she shook her head again. “Didn’t take any. I don’t take any. Not anymore. But I…” The girl cut herself short. Restarted with a different sentence. “Miss, are you happy with your life?”

Mana dropped her hands to her sides, staring for a moment. Why were the tables being turned?

“Happy…? Well, I suppose I could be happier, yea. Not exactly easy being me, but then I guess you’d tell me you ain’t… well you’re worse off than me. What’s your point?” she asked, briefly looking up into the grey sky. She’d have preferred at this point to be inside, but she definitely wasn’t about to turn her back on the lunatic girl in front of her.

“A red pill, glowing like an ember in the center.” She closed her eyes, as if envisioning it in her mind. “Don’t take it, no matter how you feel. They might even label it as an anti-depressant. And tell your friends too.”

She opened her eyes again, wiping the rain from her face, shifting wet strands of hair behind her ears. “Like the apple in Eden. Take anything else, just not that.”

“You’re… really weirding me out, kid,” Mana said, shaking her head. She stepped aside, silently gesturing for the girl to back down the stairs before her. “I’m not leaving till you’re back on ground level.” Mana crossed her arms -she was quite adamant about the demand. She wasn’t going to follow her forever, but once the girl was out of her hands, she’d at least feel that her responsibility to her and the clean-ish streets was absolved.

That was the end of that, wasn’t it?

“Then I suppose I will comply.”

A quieter place then.

“Keep what I said in mind though, ok?”

With that, she picked up her shoes and walked down, bare feet leaving prints in the cement.

Mana watched her go back down, and so as not to make it awkward, stayed up on the roof for a minute longer, listening to her trek down the stairs. A red pill, glowing in the center? She’d never heard of a drug like that circulating around. Perhaps it was just some fancy rave ecstasy. But…

How’d they get the glow to be inside? Mana shrugged off the thought, and headed back to work.
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