one passing night

the evening is spread out against the sky

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In the woods with no one around...
mercury ☿ headturn
waterfell wrote in onepassingnight
[The forest is dense enough to inhibit light, leaving a dappled pattern of shadow on the ground as the thin sun filters through the leaves. There are no obvious landmarks, but Mercury walks purposefully, as if she knows the way.

For all her bravado, the distant sound of a waterfall grows no closer; and when she comes to a small pile of rocks, she stops short.

She was here just a moment ago.

Cautiously now, Mercury keeps a wary eye on her surroundings and stays alert to every noise and rustle. To be sure of herself, she slips off one glove and lays it beside the rocks.

Straightening, the senshi moves forward again. But although she seems to make progress, ultimately she finds herself back at the pile yet again - and the glove remains exactly where she left it. She is lost.

Or trapped.]

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[the woods are new and Cloud's not exactly sure how he got here? Looking up at the overhead canopy doesn't help him much but... maybe... Gongaga? Either way, he's sitting on a low flat stone, his sword a reassuring weight against his back and a skein of almost transparent thread in the other hand. He's no more sure why he'd got the thread than he is where he is but he accepts it and knows that, somehow, it's important. The same way he knows that he's waiting here for a reason. An important reason.]

[He should recognize her by now, when Mercury steps back into the same area, from the opposite direction she'd left in perhaps ten minutes earlier.

How is Cloud here without her knowing?]

Cloud. [She stays on-guard, on the chance that it's a trick or illusion.] How did you come here?

[his pale eyebrows go up just a little at her arrival, having heard the quiet approach before he actually saw her. He hasn't seen her like this often but to him, she's easy to recognize. He murmurs her name in answer, somehow not surprised to find her here even though he can't think of why it would seem normal. At her question, his shoulders lift and fall the littlest bit and there's a small shake of his head.]

Don't know. Just found myself here. With this. Is it yours?

[the skein of thin thread gets lifted and it catches light that isn't there to run down it's surface.]

[It's something that would have been easy for her to miss, in her preoccupation and nervousness at the simple realization of the trap. She narrows her eyes and then, she can see it as the nonexistent light glints off it.]

A thread...? [Her head turns to follow it as far as her eyes can, but that isn't far enough to have a guess as to where it leads.]

Where did you find it? Just here?

I had it when I -

[when he what? He doesn't remember walking in here and as used to having memory lapses as he is, it's been a couple of years since the last one. He's supposed to be over that by now. There's a slight head shake. He's not going to let this freak him out. He'll remember how he got here soon enough.]

I guess I've had it since I got here.

[sudden realization and his eyes lift to hers]

How long have you been here?

[How long...? Suddenly, now that she's thinking about it, it feels like it could be days - weeks - years. Who knows? Her whole life could so easily come down to just wandering this forest.

Except for this thread. Except for Cloud. In her mind, she clings to them as a chance of a way out.]

I don't know how long.

[he watches the shift in her eyes and it's answer enough. His own determination hardening, he stands up in one fluid, dark move. It's the protector in him, responding to the brief moment of being lost he thought he caught in her eyes, that has him offering his free hand. Against his back his sword is a reassuring weight.]

Come on. Let's get out of here.

[But in the end, she demurs.]

I can't go. I belong here.

[It was always supposed to end here. She's always been trapped.]

[his eyebrows go up for a second because that's not what he's getting from her at all. But he doesn't argue with her right away either. Instead he lets his hand drop and his eyes, almost having a glow of their own in the dim light, watch her steadily.]

So where's here?

This is the forest of the Dark Kingdom. That's why you can't just walk out of it like a normal forest. [Her eyes automatically seek out the thread.]

[he follows the glance and thoughtful lifts his hand. Light runs down the thin thread leading away from the spool in his hand to disappear less than a foot from where he is. But there's tension there. Whether they can see it or not, the thread leads beyond that point. He looks back at the woman in front of him.]

So why are you here?

[Didn't she say she belongs here?]

Who knows? Probably, someone is acting against me.

[Except she can't be sure of that. It makes no sense; and to give credit to the shitennou, if any of them acted against her it would be for a reason.

No, though she either hasn't realized it or doesn't want to, this is all the doing of her own frozen mind that refuses to go forward or backward to somewhere new.]

[she can say she belongs here but that doesn't mean he believes her. Especially if she's going to question why she's here when he asks. Another motion with the thread, another glint of running light. Calmly watching, Cloud will ask:]

Then if you're not here because you want to be but because someone is acting against you - why would you want to stay?

I've been searching for the exit.

[If that were true, wouldn't a girl who always talks about quick action, like she does, already be following the thread?

She may need to be pushed.]

[more than most, Cloud understands being trapped because of yourself. So he just watches her for a moment more. Ami is a fighter, sometimes more than she needs to be and he's rarely known her to be so still and placid. He wouldn't mind if she found a bit of stillness in her life- but not this way. Again, he'll hold out his hand and it's expectant this time.]

I will too. Come with me.

[She looks away and while she keeps the gesture from becoming childish, she shakes her head.]

You can go on.

[She knows she can't just walk out of here. She has to find the way on her own, doesn't she?]

[there's an obvious way he has of settling his feet, the thick soles of the boots seeming to almost root themselves, that's warning to anyone that knows him. He does exactly that now while hardly moving at all. The look he gives her is stern - and a little flat as if he can't really buy that she thinks that would work on him. He states the obvious anyway.]

I'm not leaving without you.

spoiler: it will/can XD

You shouldn't become involved in this.

[But even as she says it, she supposes he already is involved by the simple chance of being here. After a long pause, she reaches for the thread, barely touching it with her gloved fingers.]

Tell me now: Does this lead outside? [She'll trust him if he says yes. And that's a thought that frightens her even more than this place.]

awesome! we like spoilers like that :D

[he doesn't even bother answer her objection. It's noise in the wind to him. She's his friend. It's the only answer he needs. Under her finger the thread vibrates out more of that inner light, zipping away on a thin bolt into the dark before disappearing into the trees. For a second, the blue glow in Cloud's own eyes reflects that glint of gold.]

I don't know. But it leads somewhere that isn't here.

[It's that, the glint, that makes her suddenly pause. She looks to the thread again. Nehellenia's spider webs? She looks to Cloud again. Nehellenia's influence? Both had come with a golden glint...

But he's acting like himself, and the people under the Dead Moon influence always became mindlessly aggressive. And as he said, even the middle of the Dead Moon tent would be away from this trap.

She can handle fighting. Both of them can. She nods.]

Let's follow it, then. [To be careful, she tries to stay behind him, no chance of him betraying her unseen at her back.]

[he doesn't like her behind him because he can't keep a protective eye on her when she is there. And he's not entirely sure that he trusts her to not simply stop moving while he's distracted and end up left behind. So he simply hands her the spool of thread and puts his own fingers on the tension of the single line that leads away from it. His eyes meet hers.]

Think you can keep up with me?

[She takes the spool with a wordless nod, and keeps moving. As they go, she winds it carefully around and around.

The irony isn't lost on her: a thread, just like in the myths of the minotaur and Perseus; a thread, when she still enjoys sewing. But she makes no comment on this for now. Instead, she keeps winding it, as though taking her focus from the task will set them back.]

[she doesn't respond to his challenge with her usual attitude and that alone just makes him all the more determined to get her out of here. He's not the best with comforting words or actions but he doesn't leave his friends when they're in trouble and he'll fight to the end for their freedom if that's what it takes. Under his finger the thread moves with each step she takes, reassuring him that she's still behind him and ahead of him there's only the dark forest. He can't even see the thread under his fingers anymore but he can feel it and he - trusts it. It's got a point and whatever that point is, it's at least a goal instead of aimless wandering. It's not too long though before he becomes aware of shadows that don't match the trees slipping along on either side of them.]

[She sees them, too, and she's alert at once. She reaches for her sword and it materializes in her hand. She firms up her grip.]

If youma were sent here, they should be easy enough to defeat.

[Except for the bounds of the trap making it easy to hedge them in. Except for the simple disorienting nature of her quickened heartbeat and that thread of fear she can't banish.]

[his own sword comes free easily but his other hand doesn't leave the thread. The shadows mill, just on the edge of their boundary, but nothing slinks over. Not yet. Cloud's brows twitch down. After a minute of tension, he lets go of the thread. They can't hold that fragile sliver of light and fight at the same time. He shifts so he's in the back now, protective and covering. The shadows continue to grow and whisper over each other in the darkness just at the edge but - still nothing steps foot closer. His voice is low as he takes up position to be rear guard.]

Keep walking, Ami. Don't let go of the thread. Not for anything.

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