As a socially inept pariah and the unluckiest half-demon in Hell, Setsuna can't help but feel her mission to befriend Konoka Konoe is doomed to fail. Everyone has their run-in with fortune sooner or later, however, and she soon finds that her assignment may be going a little /too/ well... Cosmic warfare, magic powers, and accidental romance included. [KonoSetsu]. [AU].
Setsuna had mostly stopped bleeding by the time they'd reached the car. Konoka was thankful for that, at least, since the sight of so much of it made her a bit sick. She'd tried repeatedly to tell Setsuna she needed stitches, but Setsuna's an adult, and Konoka stopped trying to convince her after several polite "no thank you"s. How anyone could be so level-headed after that is beyond her. Legitimate martial art or not, that sword fight had been by far the most violent thing she'd ever witnessed in real life.
She's certainly weird, Konoka muses as she turns the hot water on for the shower. She realizes it's a bit belated to ask herself whether or not travelling with a complete stranger was a good idea. I probably should've asked myself that question before we left...
But Setsuna really doesn't seem dangerous, or threatening, or anything like that. And she hardly seems like the type to rob Konoka in her sleep – but it's not like she really knows for sure. Aren't psychopaths supposed to be really good at charming you into thinking they're trustworthy?
She considers that briefly as she strips off her clothes, but by the time she's stepped into the shower she passes it off as paranoia. Setsuna isn't really charming, per se. In fact, most people would probably find her apathetic nature off-putting. Konoka is a firm believer in giving people chances though, and really she's just happy to finally have someone she can call a friend, even if it's only by name right now.
It's pretty much a first for her. Her mother died when she was five or so, and after that her father had hardly let her out of his sight. Konoka was home-schooled until she'd been allowed to go off to college by herself, but even then, he hadn't let her apply anywhere further than a couple of states away. She knows her dad is just protective because he loves her, and because he'd already lost his wife, but sometimes Konoka thinks about her past and can't help being frustrated with him. His insistence on keeping her caged up had sabotaged any opportunity of making friends. Who wants to hang out with someone who, at seventeen, still has to ask their father for permission to even leave the house? The answer was usually no, too, or more like "are you sure? You have exams coming up…"
She can't blame it all on him, though, and she doesn't really. Besides her father, people had shied away from her on many occasions because of her status, and it was especially difficult since she wasn't forced to be around thousands of other teenagers for half the day like most school-aged kids.
Part of her thought she'd be able to fix that when she went to college, and for a while she'd forced herself to talk to people and put herself out there. It almost seemed to work, but no one appeared to be interested in much except homework, keg parties, and sex. Despite her lack of interest in the latter two things, she'd given it a try anyway. But several drunken escapades and overly-assertive men later, she'd all but given up and resigned herself to studying. She'd done well, but graduating eighth in your class with a business degree from an Ivy League university is a lot less satisfying when you don't have any good memories to go along with it.
Then she'd been shoved into working right away, not needing a master's degree with her dad being who he is, and nobody wants to hang out with the woman who has the power to fire you. Despite all her acts of kindness and her openly compassionate nature, things always seemed to get in the way of her interacting with people her age.
Maybe that's why she and Setsuna have gotten along thus far. Konoka doesn't mind people being weird or awkward, so far as she can tell, and Setsuna either doesn't notice or doesn't mind all of Konoka's eccentricities: her status and overly-protective father, her lack of other friends, her weird interests and the sometimes strange way in which she conducts herself – none of it seems to matter. She's certainly grateful for that.
It's hard to tell if Setsuna feels the same way; the girl isn't exactly easy to read. Probably because I don't know her, Konoka concedes once again. So we'll just have to change that.
Optimistic as usual, the brunette hops out of the shower and reminds herself that she's probably going to have to be the assertive one here. She leans over the bathtub to ring the water out of her hair before wrapping up in a towel.
The hotel they're staying in is pretty modest considering her wealth. There's only one large room with a desk, a TV, two dressers plus a closet, and two beds. She finds Setsuna lounging in one and flipping through the channels, although most of them are in Japanese.
"How are your injuries?" Konoka asks from halfway in the closet, rooting around for something comfortable to wear and finally downgrading her expectations to pajamas. After the fiasco yesterday they'd come to the hotel and Konoka had torn her luggage apart to find the first aid kit (the one time dad's craziness actually came in handy). Now, however, her clothes are pretty much dumped in a heap.
"Good, actually. Almost healed."
Konoka steps fully into the closet to throw her pajamas on and pokes her head out from between the doors.
"You mean, like, they're healing nicely, or…?"
Setsuna lifts up the sleeve of her shirt to examine the gash near her shoulder.
"They're almost gone." That's impossible.
Adjusting the tie on her pants, Konoka approaches the bed and runs her hand over the spot where the gash is. Or used to be, anyway. That's so weird. Konoka lifts Setsuna's shirt to check her ribs. They looked so bad yesterday…
She would know; she'd been the one to wrap them up, after all.
"Is it normal for you to bleed so much when you get injured? I mean, these must've been shallower than I thought if you healed so fast, but that was a lot of blood."
Setsuna watches the other woman undo the bandages around her torso. Where there had been a huge, jagged line yesterday, there's now just a narrow streak of red, congealed blood.
"The last time I was injured this badly –" Setsuna pauses. The last time she was injured like this she'd been killed… "Yes, this is normal," she decides to say instead.
But Konoka is still looking at her funny.
"Do you get hurt like this often?"
"I get beat up a lot." What? What does that even –who is this girl? And to say that with such a straight face is…
"Um. I think I need an explanation for that."
"Oh," Setsuna pauses, seeming to consider that. "…I'd rather not talk about it, if that's okay."
"…You're not a hit man, are you? Or part of the CIA, or the mafia, or – please don't tell me you deal drugs, because –"
"No," Setsuna shakes her head, calm as ever, "I'm not any of those things. I'm just frequently dragged into violent altercations."
Konoka narrows her eyes and leans forward – is she lying? – and her hand puts a little too much pressure on the still healing wound. She sees Setsuna flinch, but instead of moving away, the girl simply picks up Konoka's hand and puts it on the other side of her stomach.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I can move –"
"If you like," Setsuna shrugs, "But you're really warm. It feels nice."
They make eye contact until Setsuna looks away to grab the remote and change the channel. Konoka stands there, both hands still on her friend's torso, and tries to decide whether this is weird or not. The thought process ends with the very unsatisfying realization that I have no idea what the hell is going on.
Part of her wants to run away from this very uncomfortable situation, but she'd already promised herself to make an effort. It's pretty obvious that Setsuna's about ten levels more clueless than she is, which doesn't help much. What do people usually do together…?
She remembers her college days and considers the idea. It's been a long time since she went out to any kind of club or party, and the plane ride was the first time in two years she'd gotten drunk. Far more pleasant, though. Her last drunken adventure involved a bad date and box wine. Yep, that's pretty sad.
"Hey, Setsuna, since you're feeling better, what do you say we go out?"
"Isn't it getting late?"
"It's only nine, and we've been inside all day. Or did you want to sleep soon?"
"That's alright, we can go," Setsuna turns off the TV, signaling her compliance, "I don't really sleep."
"Ah, you have a hard time getting to bed?"
"No, I just…. Don't really sleep."
Konoka's sure that was an attempt to reassure her, but for the sake of their friendship she's going to ignore that claim for now. There've been enough vague and confusing statements for one day.
"Alright then, let me call up Ayaka. She might know a good place around here."
Konoka goes for her cell phone and Setsuna gets up to dig through the dresser. She gives up after a moment though, realizing that she doesn't really know what Konoka means by going out. Does she mean literally going outside? Or, maybe, going out to a store. But most things are probably closed by now, so…
"Hey! Ayaka, how are you doing…? I'm fine; Setsuna and I have just been cooped up all day. I was wondering if you knew any place to go out… nah, not that fancy, just like a club or something…" Ohhh. That kind.
"Which district…? Like, near the sushi restaurant…? Oh, I think I get it. I'll grab a cab or something just to make sure… Yeah," she laughs, "We could use one after yesterday… Yeah, just let me know when it's rescheduled. Like on Monday or Tuesday, or… okay, just text me… Don't worry, I'll be careful… See you then!"
She hangs up and types something into her phone.
"Ayaka said she doesn't usually go to regular clubs and stuff, but apparently there's a strip with a lot of night life around where we went to lunch yesterday. Are you up for finding one?"
"Okay," Setsuna agrees, "What should I wear?"
"Usual club wear," Konoka says, once again halfway in the closet. I really need to fold my clothes at some point…
"I, um, don't know if I have anything like that."
Konoka grabs a pair of jeans and finally finds a cute t-shirt, throwing both of them on the bed. She walks over to Setsuna's dresser and helps her go through her outfits, but the entirety of her wardrobe seems to be made of sweatpants, loose t-shirts, cargo shorts and work clothes.
"Huh. You don't go out much, I'm guessing?"
"I've never been to a club before."
"That I can understand," Konoka smiles sympathetically at her. "They're pretty crappy most of the time. But hey, I figure we may as well check it out since we're in a foreign country, right? You can borrow some of my clothes for tonight."
She returns to the closet-of-never-ending-mess and grabs her smallest pair of black jeans. After more searching she finds a dark-red, slim-fit shirt with gold beading in the shape of a smiley face. Maybe the expression will rub off on her, Konoka laughs to herself.
"Here you go," she tosses the clothing to Setsuna. "I'm going to run to the bathroom to change and do my make-up and stuff. Do you think you can call the cab? The number's already dialed in my phone."
Konoka closes the door behind her and Setsuna presses the "call" button.
"Ah, sorry, no English." Click.
Setsuna stares blankly at the phone and considers her options. Well, Mana had ingrained English into her brain; maybe she can speak Japanese as well? How would I do that, though?
She fiddles with the pactio card. Does she really want to get yelled at again…? But then, she still hasn't told Mana she hadn't been killed yesterday. Grabbing the card and double-checking the bathroom door is still closed, she touches it to her forehead resolutely. Hello?
Pause. I see you're alive. Yes. I got into a fight, but it turned out fine. That's good news. Is that what you wanted to tell me? That, and also, I need to call a taxi, so I was wondering if I can speak Japanese. No. Oh… Are you sure?
Mana sighs. Talking to this girl is quite an experience. I don't speak Japanese, which means you couldn't possibly speak Japanese. The only languages you know are English and daemonic. Do you think I should try daemonic?
The gunman is about to explain to Setsuna why that's a terrible idea, but a tempting thought crosses her mind. Setsuna has been causing an annoying amount of worries for her lately… Is Konoka around? No, she's in another room.
Mana can't help the small smile from forming. It's hard to understand over the phone. Why don't you try it on the concierge downstairs? Ask him if he can grab you a taxi. Okay, I will. Thanks.
They both put their cards away. Even for someone as experienced and battle-hardened as Mana, she can't help but find the situation humorous. She only wishes she could see the look on the poor guy's face…
Back in Japan, Setsuna changes into the clothes Konoka had given her and throws her hair up into a crooked ponytail before heading downstairs. The man standing at the counter is shorter and skinnier than the one that had greeted them on the first day.
"Um, hi," she says at first, wondering if maybe she could just get away with using English. To her dismay, the guy only gives her an apologetic look and a broken response.
"I call… ano… other worker, yes?" Now or never, Setsuna figures, and tries again in daemonic.
"There's no need. I was actually wondering if you could just call me a taxi. My friend and I are trying to get to a different district," she says.
Or that's what it sounds like to her.
To the concierge, this unassuming woman just opened her mouth and unleashed a fury of low-pitched, unearthly, pants-shitting doom upon his ears in way of a demonic tongue reminiscent of your typical exorcist movie.
He stumbles backwards, eyes wide and mouth open in an expression of utter horror, and Setsuna watches the wet spot on his pants grow at an alarming rate. I guess that didn't work.
She apologizes to the man – in English – and heads back up the stairs without another word (thankfully).
"Hey," Konoka calls out to her when she gets back to the room, "Where'd you go?"
"The people on the phone didn't speak English. I went to try with the concierge downstairs, but he didn't speak English either."
"Ohhh, that's alright. I'll try a different number."
Setsuna leaves her to it and steps into the bathroom, once again putting the pactio card to her skin. It didn't work. You don't say.
A moment, and then something occurs to Setsuna. Did you do that on purpose? Good job figuring it out. I recommend not doing that again, by the way, it won't turn out well. Yeah, I kind of figured. That's impressive, for you.
Setsuna isn't sure if that's a compliment or not. Anyway, good luck with whatever it is you're doing.
She sighs at her own gullibility. Stepping out of the bathroom, she finds Konoka at the tail end of another phone conversation.
"They said they'll be here in ten minutes," Konoka turns to her. She looks like she's going to say something else but gets distracted. "You know, I've seen you put up your hair like that before, and I have no idea how you get it to go that way."
"It just kind of does that; I'm not very good at doing it properly. Should I let it down?"
"Somehow it suits you," the brunette cocks her head slightly to the side, examining the mystical gravity-defying physics of Setsuna's hair.
"Thank you," the swordsman says, and realizes she should probably say something in return. At the same time, she has no idea how to give compliments, so she goes for a simple, "You look really good, by the way."
"Aww, thanks." Konoka turns to the mirror on the wall to check her reflection again. "I'm not used to putting on make-up; I was kind of worried I overdid it or something."
"Not at all."
Satisfied with her reflection, Konoka grabs some cash and shoves it into her clutch.
"I can pay for drinks tonight," she offers Setsuna, "You have your ID with you right?"
Konoka turns to ask what she means and has to laugh at Setsuna trying to shove her passport in the pocket of her jeans.
"Yeah, those jeans kind of suck like that. I'll carry it for you if you don't have a purse."
"Thanks," she hands the passport over. I miss pockets…
They head downstairs and Setsuna glances at the concierge's desk as they pass by. She locks eyes with the guy she'd terrified earlier, and he quickly ducks beneath the desk. They get outside just as the cab is pulling up, and after a disjointed conversation with the driver and a fifteen minute car ride, they arrive without further trouble at the street Ayaka had mentioned.
The road is lined with bars and clubs, and they can hear the music even over the chattering of the crowded street. Signs they can't read are lit up in neon colors, and Setsuna looks around a bit dazedly. She's hardly ever out past eight o'clock or so back home.
"Kind of sensory overload, huh?" Konoka has to raise her voice a bit over the noise, and the other girl just nods while she scans the street with wide eyes.
Konoka follows suit, trying to decipher where the best place to go would be; not being able to read the signs makes it difficult though. She sees a large, youngish looking group stumble outside one of the buildings and grabs Setsuna's hand.
"Let's try this one," she points at the building and drags Setsuna across the street.
The quick, techno-pop bass of a remixed song is palpable in the air, and Setsuna stares skeptically at the entrance. No choice now. Opening the door, though, she nearly turns right back around. Konoka glances back at her worriedly, still holding the door.
"That is… really loud."
"Oh, yeah," Konoka laughs, "Your ears will be ringing for a while, but you get used to it."
She turns back around and Setsuna follows with a resigned sigh. As if the ear-bleedingly loud music isn't enough, the strobe lights have her head spinning too. Konoka leads them up to the bar and orders two drinks, handing one to Setsuna, who takes it distractedly.
"Konoka?" She has to remind herself to shout over the music. "Is there a reason that guy is staring at me?"
"He probably wants to dance with you. Or have sex with you." Konoka pauses. "Probably both."
"Both those things seem like a bad idea," Setsuna mumbles, not loud enough for the other girl to hear. She locks eyes with him: a tall, skinny-muscular guy with his black hair spiked in haphazard fashion, and guesses if she were pretty much anybody else she'd probably find him attractive.
"You should dance with him!"
Setsuna looks around the dance floor. There are too many couples to count, and most of them seem to be doing the same thing: girls rubbing their rear-ends on the crotches of men, who all appear to be standing there and swinging their hips awkwardly while it happens. People do this for fun?
"…Ah, I don't think so. I've never danced before."
Konoka pauses with a long island iced tea halfway to her lips.
"You've never danced? Ever?"
…Crap. If I keep saying stuff like that, she's probably not going to want to hang around me anymore…
The worried expression on her face thankfully passes for embarrassment, and Konoka cringes at her own bluntness.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to embarrass you. Here," she finishes off her drink, orders another, and downs half of that too. "Liquid courage," she explains, "It's been a while since I've been out like this. I'll go dance; you can watch me until you get the hang of it. Then come join me, okay?"
"Thanks," Setsuna smiles, honestly grateful for the girl's understanding, and not for the first time. Konoka walks away and Setsuna is left with her drink, which she takes a sip of and nearly throws away. Not wanting to waste it though, she chugs the nasty liquid and points to a different drink on the menu, which thankfully has English translations on it. The bartender hands her a glass of something pink, and as she reaches out her hand to take it, she realizes her grip isn't quite as firm as it should be. What was in that first drink? She wonders, blinking rapidly to try and refocus her vision. It doesn't work. She wonders if ordering a second cocktail was a bad idea, but with the nasty aftertaste of the last one still in her mouth, she gratefully downs the juice-flavored cocktail.
And then another.
And then another. Woah. The room sways as Setsuna goes to get up, and she quickly changes her course of action, plopping back down in her seat.
Konoka has, by now, charmed quite a few men. She waves over to one of them, but unlike many other couples here, she dances front-to-front with him. It's not nearly as awkward and ridiculous looking. Setsuna would even go as far as to say it looks good. Like, fun. Or attractive. Or something.
The guy wraps his arms around her waist, his hands landing on her butt. She indulges him for a second, grinding her pelvis against his before guiding his misplaced limbs somewhere a bit more appropriate. Konoka glances at Setsuna and pointedly rolls her eyes at the guy. Setsuna smiles back and shrugs. It's really kind of her to try and teach me, Setsuna thinks happily. For her, she considers herself spoiled if she can be in the company of someone who isn't trying to kill her. But it's always hard with Asuna because of all the lies, and being around Mana just makes her feel incompetent most of the time. Konoka, on the other hand, has been nice to her since the first day, especially considering she'd had very little reason to do so. Despite Setsuna's awkwardness, and her strange behavior, and her lack of experience with almost everything, she hadn't had to cover any of that up around Konoka. The girl just plain accepted her despite the eccentricities, and even went out of her way to befriend her. She plays games with me, and paid for me to go across the world, and bandaged me even though it really wasn't that bad… and she bought me pancakes.No one's ever been that nice to me.
Setsuna figures that maybe this is what friendship is supposed to be like, and the thrill of happiness makes her head spin even more.
(And if alcohol has anything to do with her sudden openness, she certainly doesn't notice.)
She watches Konoka politely step away from the guy she'd been dancing with. She walks back up the bar, orders herself another of those gross iced teas, and chugs it almost immediately.
"I forgot how fun this can be," Konoka shouts, handing over more cash for another drink. She'd been a bit unsure since most of her memories involving clubbing usually ended badly, but now that she's here, she's ready to get into the spirit of things. She finishes half her drink and knows she's on the high end of tipsy now, but she figures she owes herself some good drunken memories. Putting her glass down, she stands and nods back at the dance floor.
"I'm gonna go back out. Come join me soon, 'kay?"
Konoka saunters back out and almost immediately there's a guy approaching her. Setsuna watches them dance for a few minutes. Her hand taps the beat of the music against her empty glass, and she watches Konoka move in time with each clink. I think I kind of understand how this works. Whether or not she's ready to try it is another thing entirely, but she did say she would. She gets up, ignoring the slight spin of the room, and dodges her way through throngs of people to get to her friend.
"You ready to try?" Konoka smiles at her, sidestepping the guy she'd been dancing with. He doesn't seem too hurt and goes to find another girl.
"I think so," Setsuna says with a bit more confidence than she feels.
"Here, give me your hand."
With their fingers laced Konoka leads the other girl through some simple motions first, keeping them both timed to the music. Setsuna copies her motions awkwardly at first, but despite her slightly addled brain, she manages to grasp the rhythm and creates her own pattern. It's kind of like doing katas.
"See! You're a natural!" This is actually pretty fun, Setsuna thinks, enjoying herself more than she thought she would've. It feels good to move so freely, to be able to shut out her anxiety over whether or not she's being normal. With the pounding music and the darkness, she doesn't have much to be worried about.
"What was that one thing you did with that guy a second ago? He seemed to really like it," Setsuna shouts over the music, feeling a bit braver now.
"You mean grinding?"
"I think so. How do you do it?"
Konoka considers that. They are friends, she supposes, and it's not like girl-friends don't dance like that sometimes. I think, right…? Although it is kind of sexual. But since Setsuna's asking her for lessons, more or less, that would make it okay, right? After all, they're not doing it to be sexual, like the men she'd been dancing with. It'd be like teaching.
"If you don't want to do it with me that's okay," Setsuna notices the other girl's hesitation and tries to reassure Konoka the same way Konoka had done for her earlier.
"Well, it's not you," Konoka shouts back. It's not that she has an issue with Setsuna. She's a good friend to come out with her despite her obvious discomfort, and it's not like she's not good-looking or anything. Not that her attractiveness should be a deciding factor. Or a factor at all, for that matter.
Konoka shakes her head, laughing at her own paranoia. It's just weird because I'm making it weird.
"Just tell me if I make you uncomfortable, okay?" She finishes, and Setsuna nods at her, not really understanding. Why would that make me uncomfortable?
Reminding herself not to be weird about it, Konoka closes the gap between them until they're almost touching. She leans close to Setsuna's ear so she doesn't have to shout quite as much.
"The guy will usually put his hands here," she gestures to her waist, "Or on your butt, if he's feeling brave. Don't worry about that though. Other than that, you just kind of…" She trails off and presses the fronts of their bodies together, grinding her pelvis against Setsuna's with a decent amount of pressure.
It immediately becomes clear to Setsuna why this might make someone uncomfortable. It also becomes clear why people do it in the first place. For someone who's never had friendly, full-body contact – really not even a good hug – the sensation can only be described as holy fucking crap.
Setsuna can feel some sort of noise unintentionally creeping up her throat, and she bites her lip to swallow it back down. She has to remind herself that Konoka hadn't seemed to appreciate that guy's hands on her earlier, but her fingers twitch as she fights the reflexive urge to put her hands on the other girl's waist and bring her closer.
"Am I weirding you out?" Konoka asks, noticing the other girl's stiffness (pun intended?). Setsuna bites the side of her tongue. Don't say anything stupid.
"Not at all. I think I get it now."
"Oh, good, I was kind of worried since I've never danced with someone shorter than me," Konoka smiles at her. "Give it a try then, I'll tell you if you're doing it right."
Of course, Konoka's never been on the receiving end of this before, but she figures it must be pretty easy to tell if someone's doing it well despite the lack of boner. It takes Setsuna a second to regain her wits, and she counts the beat in her head until she has the rhythm down. Taking a breath and preparing herself, she copies Konoka's movements. It's a bit clumsy at first, but after a few seconds they manage to get it right.
Setsuna grits her teeth and tries not to be too obvious about the fact that she wants this to never stop, ever, please. Once again she's glad that it's dark except for the strobe lights, which do little to illuminate details. She keeps her hands close to her sides so they don't go wandering, but she's surprised to feel Konoka's hands on her waist first.
And Konoka hadn't meant to, really, but she can understand why guys are so into this now. She's similarly glad for the lack of visibility; otherwise she'd be forced to notice that their faces are very close together, and at that point she'd have to admit they should probably not be doing this.
Except now the thought's planted in her brain. To compensate, she leans forward more, putting the side of her head against Setsuna's so their faces aren't quite as close. It's only weird if you make it weird, she reminds herself. But with the increase in contact and their new position, Setsuna can feel the other girl's breath – I wonder why she's breathing so hard – on her ear, and against that warmth Setsuna fails to resist putting her hands on the other girl this time.
Konoka feels the arms wrapping around her, pulling her closer and increasing the friction, and she can't help the visceral, full-body shudder that follows. Nope, this is definitely weird.
As calmly as possible, and maybe with a bit of regret, Konoka extracts herself from what she realizes is an extremely provocative position. Other people seemed to realize that as well, she notices, glancing around. She meets several pairs of eyes, mostly belonging to some very interested looking men.
"What are they staring at?"
Konoka turns her attention back to Setsuna, and seeing the girl's genuine confusion, sighs at her own thoughts. Of course she didn't notice; because it was just in my head. …I really need to get laid.
"I wouldn't worry about it," she dismisses, not wanting to make it awkward by explaining, "I really need a drink. Do you wanna come with me, or are you going to show off your new skills?" She half-jokes.
"I'll give it a try then come join you in a bit."
"Sounds good," Konoka gives her a wave and heads back to the bar.
Setsuna sighs a bit dejectedly. That felt really nice… and that's an understatement. She's still not sure if she wants to dance with other people, but she does want to regain that feeling. And looking around, it's pretty obvious that there are more than enough willing participants. Several men are staring at her, looking increasingly curious after the show she'd unwittingly put on. A few of them look American – unsurprising since it's a touristy area – and one of them approaches her and gives her his best charming smile. She smiles back, being a bit more in the habit of it now, and with his lead she feels out the beat of the current song and dances.
It's still fun, but it's not like what she'd just done with Konoka. Probably because we aren't really touching, she figures, but the guy – who is blonde and significantly bigger than her, with a strong-jaw and broad shoulders – seems happy to remedy that.
Setsuna has to consciously tell herself to keep dancing at that point; it's tempting to just stand there and let him touch her. It's not exactly like with Konoka, but it feels just as good – just different. He's way bigger for one thing, and not as soft. And two, there's a lot more in his pants. Which isn't necessarily bad, Setsuna finds, really just wanting that same feeling she'd gotten earlier.
Somehow they've migrated from the center of the dance floor to the side furthest from the bar, but Setsuna only notices when her back touches something solid. The guy leans one hand against the wall behind her but doesn't stop dancing – and Setsuna's totally okay with that.
"I'm Mike," a masculine voice says in her ear, "My friends and I are staying in a pretty nice hotel a few blocks away. You wanna come home with me? I can show you a good time."
He gives her another winning smile and presses their bodies closer together so their chests are touching. Setsuna, sandwiched between a wall on one side and feelings of pure awesome on the other, doesn't really know or care what the hell is going on.
Thankfully for Setsuna, or at least for her virginity, Konoka has noticed by now that her friend appears to have disappeared. She puts down her drink and scans the dance floor, a bit worried, and spots Setsuna practically having sex with some guy in the back of the club. That can't be good.
She hastily makes her way through the crowd and taps the guy on the shoulder.
"What's up?" He asks pleasantly after giving her the up-and-down.
"I think you have my friend pinned against the wall, and we're supposed to be heading back now."
He steps back, a bit confused, and Konoka seizes the moment to grab Setsuna by the hand and lead her away. She goes straight for the door, and the weather's gotten a lot chillier in the past couple of hours. The cold seems to knock some sense and soberness back into Setsuna.
"Um, is something wrong?" She asks when they're a decent distance away from the club.
"I was going to ask you. I mean, if you want to go home with that guy you can, I just had to be sure you weren't making a drunken mistake or getting taken advantage of."
Setsuna blushes, knowing that it was pretty much a combination of both.
"Yeah, actually, thank you."
"Don't worry about it, just be careful. And maybe you should stay away from grinding," she laughs, and Setsuna responds with an embarrassed smile that quickly drops at the sound of someone's voice.
"Hey, why'd you run off so quick?" Both women turn to see Mike approaching them in full-on swagger mode, a couple of the other American guys in the club tailing him. Konoka takes a brief look around. They've walked a sizeable ways from the door, and with it getting so late, there aren't as many people around. Of course, that's probably just her dad's over-protectiveness rubbing off on her, but it still makes her nervous.
"Sorry, but we both have work tomorrow, and it's getting late," she says, smiling politely. One of the men Mike walked up with, a slightly shorter guy with dark hair and big arms, looks skeptical though. He glances back and forth between the two women. Something seems to click for him, and he grins at them both.
"Ohh, wait, I totally get it. I thought you ladies were just putting on a show when you were dancing, but don't tell me you're actually together?"
It's Konoka that's blushing now. She averts her eyes and goes to say something, but Setsuna gets there first.
"Well, yeah," Setsuna says like it's obvious, and Konoka's about to question what she means, but realizes Setsuna's probably just doing it so these guys will leave them alone.
(She's not, of course. She thought he meant together as in proximity.)
Mike doesn't seem discouraged by this at all. In fact, he seems happy. With the brightness of the street lamps they can both see his eyes are bloodshot, and when he leans forward excitedly they can smell the booze.
"That's awesome. Then you can both come home with me."
"Woah, woah," the third man, a skinnier guy with a dark tan and a goatee, interrupts. "We can share, can't we? I mean there're two of them."
"They're clearly a package deal, Paul, and I found 'em first. You and Ron," Mike gestures at big-arms guy, "Can go home and touch each other."
Paul rolls his eyes in response, and Konoka has, by now, had about enough of this.
"Listen, I'm sorry to disappoint you guys, but we're going home. Right now."
She grabs Setsuna's hand to lead her away, but she only takes two steps before meeting resistance. She looks back, confused, and finds Mike holding Setsuna's other arm by the wrist.
"Don't be such a fucking tease." His voice is a bit louder now. "You can't seriously dance with me like that and leave me hanging. You owe me."
"She doesn't owe you anything," Konoka half-yells back, narrowing her eyes at him. "I'm sorry if you were confused, but she doesn't want to go home with you." She looks at Setsuna for back-up.
"Right. Sorry if I mislead you," Setsuna offers, pulling her hand away from Mike's grasp. He and his friends make quick eye contact, all three of them looking fairly pissed off.
"Now hold on a second," Ron growls, reaching a hand out and grabbing Konoka by the upper arm.
Setsuna watches fear flicker across the brunette's face.
Konoka has done a lot for her in the past few days, she reminds herself. Even just now she'd stood up for Setsuna and tried to protect her, in a way, from getting hurt. It felt good to have Konoka stick up for her like that, and she remembers Evangeline's words about the golden rule. Not to mention, it wouldn't be good to let her charge get hurt. And besides all those reasons, she doesn't want Konoka to get hurt.
So Setsuna gently extracts her right arm from Konoka's grasp, balls her hand into a fist, and delivers a swift uppercut to Ron's face.
He hadn't seen it coming, and his head snaps back with little resistance. His grip loosens and he falls backwards, hitting the ground with a thump. The other two men stare in shock, first at his unconscious body, then angrily at Setsuna.
"What the fuck," Mike snaps, stepping towards the two women menacingly. Setsuna steps in front of Konoka and pushes her away gently.
"Se – Setsuna, he's way bigger than you, you can't –"
Setsuna turns back to her with a consoling smile. "I'll be fine, I promise."
"Like hell you will!" Mike shouts.
He reaches out to grab her, expecting it to be easy without the element of surprise on her side. Unfortunately for him, she knocks his hand out of the way and punches him squarely in the stomach. He grunts in pain, but he's a big guy and can take a few hits. Setsuna makes a half circle around him so Konoka isn't next to them anymore.
That happens to make a perfect opening for Paul, though, and he goes to catch her from behind. Setsuna lets him just barely touch her shoulder before reaching back and catching hold of his hand. He'd made a lunge for her, and she uses his forward momentum to flip him over her back and directly into Mike, who happened to be mid-punch.
His fist strikes Paul's head, and the guy goes down and stays down. He groans a bit, and Mike glances uneasily at his two incapacitated companions.
By now a couple of bystanders have called the cops, and the sound of sirens pierces through the chatter and cries of encouragement. Glaring half-heartedly at the two women, Mike turns and makes a run for it.
Setsuna relaxes, letting her arms drop to her side. She turns around to face Konoka, who is looking at her with no small amount of awe.
"Okay, I think we can go now," Setsuna says, gesturing at the red and blue lights. Konoka glances uncomfortably at the two incapacitated men on the sidewalk.
"Shouldn't we stay and give a police report or something?"
"I don't think we'll have to. These other people don't look like they're leaving soon."
Attracted by the noise and excitement of the fight, several people have formed a small crowd around them. A few point to Setsuna and mutter to each other.
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Konoka agrees, mostly because she wants to get out of there.
They flag down a cab and get in, avoiding the stares of all the bystanders. Konoka sits quietly in the backseat with Setsuna, trying to piece together the events that'd just occurred. Most of it makes no sense to her – one minute they were being accosted by three men, and the next Setsuna had kicked the crap out of two of them. It doesn't make any sense that one girl could've done that, and she wonders once again who the hell Setsuna really is. It was still freaking awesome though, Konoka thinks, smiling when she remembers the look on Mike's face before he ran off.
As soon as they get into their room, she opens up the mini-fridge and grabs two small bottles of liquor. She tosses one to Setsuna.
"Thanks," the girl catches it in one hand. She hadn't really planned on drinking more, still being a bit drunk, but she copies Konoka's actions anyway and unscrews the bottle. The brunette sits down next to her on the bed.
"I figured we could have a toast," Konoka explains, tapping her mini-bottle against Setsuna's, "To you, for saving me." She seems to have reclaimed her wits, and in her now stable but still drunken state of mind, she downs the clear liquid in one go. Setsuna follows suit, flinching at the taste.
"It was no big deal. You've helped me out a lot since we met."
"Hardly," Konoka waves off her thanks, seeming more interested in what had just happened. "How the hell did you do that, by the way? I mean, I know you can sword fight – you were really awesome at the Shinmeiryuu too, but that guy you flipped was huge. He was, like, six-foot-five or something."
He wasn't quite that tall, but praise is a rare thing for Setsuna, so she doesn't correct the discrepancy.
"Experience, like I said. I get into a lot of fights and stuff."
"Yeah, but why?"
"I prefer not to talk about it, if you don't mind."
Konoka hums, remembering Setsuna had mentioned that earlier. She toys with the empty bottle in her hands momentarily. She hadn't been keeping track of how much Setsuna had drunk over the course of the evening, but it must've been just as much as she had – which was quite a bit, given her size and the fact that she doesn't go out very much. And if Setsuna doesn't go out at all, she's probably even drunker. Which makes her feat even more amazing, if anything.
There are quite a few more bottles left in the mini-fridge since they hadn't touched it until now. Konoka screws the cap back on her drink and gets up to root through the bar, tossing her last one in the trash. This is kind of a cheap trick, but… Well, Setsuna doesn't seem too keen on talking to her while sober. Konoka tells herself that she's not being manipulative by trying to extract secrets from the other girl through alcohol. I'm just… encouraging her.
But it's difficult to be friends with someone you hardly know, as she'd admitted to herself earlier. First of all, this is the second time in two days that Setsuna's gotten into a fight, and if she's a magnet for violence, Konoka certainly feels she has the right to know about it. Plus, every time she feels like she's starting to get a grasp on Setsuna's personality and way of thinking, the girl does something exceedingly strange. Like beating up drunkards.
Konoka's been getting far more questions than answers, so she tosses a bottle to Setsuna resolutely.
Setsuna goes to snag it out of the air like before, but her depth perception is a bit off now. She misses by half a second and the bottle hits her squarely in the chest.
"Getting kinda clumsy, eh?"
"Well, now I don't have to worry about weird guys, so I think it's okay."
They clink their bottles together again and down them, and Konoka gets up for a third round. And a fourth. And a fifth.
And then they're both staggeringly drunk, having had almost ten drinks each in the past three hours or so.
"Oh jeez," Setsuna mumbles, rubbing her eyes and trying to get the ceiling to stop spinning, "Why do people get this drunk?"
"It's fun. Or something." Not really. But she hadn't wanted Setsuna to drink alone; that would just be unfair, considering her ulterior motives.
"Hey, Konoka," Setsuna turns on her side and pokes the girl next to her. They're both lying sideways on the bed with their feet dangling off one edge. "Are men usually like that?"
"Nah. Those other guys I danced with seemed pretty nice. The ones that were bothering us were just douchebags, and the club was kinda seedy…" she giggles, "That was probably a mistake."
Setsuna tries to turn back over, but her body seems extraordinarily heavy. Even lifting her head feels like a chore right now, so she resigns herself to her position and studies Konoka's face in profile. The brunette is drunkenly staring cross-eyed at the ceiling, but despite the silliness of the expression, the same appreciation she'd felt in the club comes back. The happiness makes a warm nest in her belly, and she smiles for seemingly no reason at all. She can kind of tell it's the alcohol now, but even knowing that doesn't make the feeling go away.
"Can I tell you somethin'?" Konoka asks. Her speech is slightly slurred, and she hardly feels like having a conversation anymore, but she had sensed the change in Setsuna's demeanor and decided to take hold of the opportunity.
"I'm really glad we're friends." She turns over on her side to face Setsuna. "And thank you again for rescuing me tonight, more or less. If you hadn't been there that could've gone a lot worse."
"It's – it's okay," Setsuna stammers and pulls away a little, trying and failing not to blush at the compliment. Konoka shakes her head at the other girl's dismissal.
"No, seriously, you were really awesome. I wish I knew more about you, and why you fight so well, but I know you don't really trust me with that stuff yet –"
"It's not that!" Setsuna lifts her head up with no small amount effort. "I just… don't really think, um…" She narrows her eyes in thought, trying to find the right words. "It's just kind of a long story."
"I'm here to listen, if you want to tell me."
Setsuna hesitates. Somewhere in the still reliable part of her mind, she knows any kind of explanation might be too weird for the other girl to understand – and that's only if she can find a way to tell it without actually telling it. The less reliable part of her brain, however, is pretty much ready to spill the beans. She tries to decipher the driving force behind that, but can only narrow it down to the fact that, for one reason or another, she wants Konoka to know. …Being drunk is weird.
"Okay," she says with a sigh, "But you have to promise you're not going to get scared or anything…"
"I promise," Konoka replies excitedly, despite that Setsuna's preface is rather foreboding.
"Okay, so… I already told you I grew up in an orphanage, right?"
"Right," Konoka nods, ignoring the way it makes her head spin.
"It was a pretty horrible place. The only times I got to go outside were to do chores, and it was really cramped inside the rooms, and really, really hot."
"Where was it?"
Setsuna makes a mental note of that so she doesn't get her places mixed up later. Konoka nods again, encouraging her to continue.
"I was really different from all the other kids, so I got picked on a lot. Even the caretakers and home-school teachers really hated me, and sometimes they would gang up and corner me just to beat me up."
"The teachers or the kids?"
Konoka's eyes widen and she leans forward, entranced by the foreign and gruesome thought.
"What did they do to you?"
Setsuna tries to think of a reasonable human equivalent to what she'd experienced as a child in Hell.
"The teachers would make up excuses to punish me. Sometimes they'd lock me in a closet and leave me there for hours without food or anything, maybe even days. Other times they just hit me. I had a lot of broken bones from that."
More like all her bones, up to dying sometimes. But she doesn't mention that, obviously.
"Oh my God, I'm so sorry," Konoka averts her eyes, less fascinated and more horrified now. Setsuna shrugs.
"It was a long time ago." Setsuna thinks to her TV soap opera education for inspiration, kind of having fun with her story now, and continues. "I got a public education for middle and high school, but everyone still seemed to hate me for some reason."
"Was it something you did?"
"No," she answers firmly, and Konoka watches a wave of intense anger flash across her friend's face. Setsuna doesn't have any delusions about it being her fault – it was just bad luck; a stupid twist of fate and some bad genes. For those simple, uncontrollable reasons, she'd spent her life miserable and abused. She clenches the empty liquor bottle in her hand until it breaks quietly, gouging her palm with sharp pieces of glass. The pain snaps her out of her thoughts and she doesn't mention it to Konoka.
"I guess it's because I was quiet or something. But people would always pick fights with me – shoving me into lockers, framing me for stuff. That kind of thing," she lies more easily now. She recalls her first experiences with the arena in Hell and squeezes the shards of glass in her hand, allowing the pain to help keep herself in check. "I got the crap kicked out of me the first few times. Broken bones, black eyes; but everyday I'd go back to the orphanage and no one would care. They'd tell me it was my fault and just do the same thing. Eventually, because of the frequency, I learned to fight back. I got pretty good at it after a while. That's how I was able to beat up those guys."
"That's crazy," Konoka whispers, trying to imagine growing up in that kind of pain. "When did it stop?"
The question almost makes Setsuna smile. It would've been nice to be able to give a real answer to that, to be able to name a time when she hadn't been in a state of constant suffering. That time doesn't exist though, or at least, not yet. Her only hope, marginal though it might be, comes with Konoka's death. She frowns at that.
"It didn't," she says finally.
"I'm… I'm really sorry, Setsuna," Konoka grabs the girl's hand, at a loss for words. She'd wanted to know about her friend's past, but she hadn't been expecting this. "Is that why you don't like hospitals? Because you had to go so much?"
"Yeah," Setsuna lies. "I didn't go too often, since nobody was able to pay for it. But when I did, even the doctors didn't treat me well. I guess they figured since I always had physical injuries that I was picking fights myself, like I was a troublemaker or an instigator, or whatever you call it. They even refused to give me anesthesia after a while."
She doesn't feel bad about the lie. The truth is much worse, involving experiments and scalpels and surgery as entertainment… she shudders at the memory – one of her worst. Konoka squeezes her hand.
"I don't know what to say," Konoka says honestly. "I'm sorry I opened up all those memories for you. I just really wanted to know who you are, but I won't ask again if it's too hard to talk about it."
"No, it's okay," Setsuna tries to smile at her, knowing that's the right thing to do in this situation. "I've never really had anyone to listen to me. It feels good to talk about it."
"Well, I'm here to listen," she insists gently, "Whenever you want. And I know there's nothing I can do or say to make your life any better, but –"
"That's not true. My life's been better since I met you," Setsuna says it without thinking, but as soon as it's out in the open, she realizes how true it is.
"Same here, you know," Konoka whispers, touched by the sincerity behind Setsuna's words. "My life's been a cakewalk compared to yours. I'm sorry if I seem really spoiled by complaining about not having friends and stuff…"
She kind of does, to Setsuna. It's not like Konoka complains often, but even just being the way she is – rich, surrounded by luxury, having a father – conjures no small amount of bitterness in Setsuna. It doesn't make her dislike the other girl though. She, of all people, knows you can't help what you were born into. She just has to remind herself sometimes.
"Don't be sorry. I don't know very many people, but I think loneliness must be just as hard for everyone. And I want to listen to you, too," Setsuna adds, once again remembering Evangeline's wise words.
"Thanks," Konoka gives her a genuine smile, but it falters quickly under the weight of their conversation. "I know it's kind of a lame offer, but is there anything I can do? To help you, I mean, either now or in the future."
Their hands are still clasped together comfortingly, and Setsuna can think of at least one thing. She averts her eyes and tucks her head down before she answers.
"Actually, I really liked dancing with you…"
Konoka can feel the blush spreading on her face and hesitates. She'd enjoyed it too, but at the same time, it'd also made her pretty uncomfortable. She doesn't want to do that again purely for physical gratification. That would be crossing a few too many lines. Again, I seriously need to get laid soon.
"What did you like about it?"
"Um, everything, I think. I haven't had much physical contact with people, so I'm not used to it, and it feels good…"
"Oh," Konoka sighs quietly, relieved, "We don't have to go dancing for that, Silly. We can just cuddle."
"Cuddle?" Setsuna looks up again curiously.
"Yeah. Hold on."
Konoka stands up woozily to turn off the lights. She climbs under the covers, right-way-up this time, and motions for Setsuna to join her.
"How's this?" She asks when they're situated. Being a bit shorter, Setsuna's head is against her chest, and one of her arms rests comfortably on Konoka's stomach.
"S'good…" Setsuna mumbles sleepily, and Konoka giggles at her impaired speech. The sound of her laughter is comforting now, especially accompanied by her rhythmic heartbeat. Setsuna cuddles closer, relishing the warmth and comfort.
They lie there together for an hour before Konoka's breathing evens out, signaling her descent into sleep. Setsuna struggles to stay awake, if only to enjoy this feeling a little longer. She knows this might be happening only because they're both drunk, and if this is the last time it's going to happen, she wants to enjoy it. The beating of Konoka's heart and the occasional sound of traffic from below is lulling though, and her eyes close of their own accord.
Setsuna can't help but think this is the most peaceful she's been in her entire existence. How has her life improved so much, and in so little time, since meeting this one girl?
The same one she has to effectively kill in order to escape the hellhole of her reality. Her actual reality, not the pseudo one she has on Earth. When I have to do it, I will, she reassures herself and shoves the thought out of her mind.