5355/P:WtWM - House Call

From Multiverse Crisis MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search
P:WtWM - House Call
Date of Scene: 06 July 2017
Location: Alberichstadt <P:WTWM>
Synopsis: Ran and Hikaru have a PTA with Bella Liberi
Cast of Characters: Janine Liberi, 1040, 1039

Janine Liberi has posed:
    The Liberi household seems different. Part of that may just be in the head of the visiting nurse, based on recent events. Part of it may be the absence of Emily rendering the place less spic and span that usual. The lawn has actually grown beyond it's impeccable tidiness, even just a little. Windows are not perfectly clean and transparent.

    Other than that though, it's like nothing ever went poorly inside. The door stands shut, not entirely inviting. But there is the doorbell, awaiting use.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    Ran's one and only experience with Janine's family's house was at the semi-disastrous birthday party. It had seemed like something out of a movie, or a fairy tale of its own - so many relatives, all there to celebrate Janine. The few she'd spoken to, especially Bella Liberi, had all seemed to dote on the girl. 'It was like they were talking about a completely different Janine,' Ran had remarked later to Hikaru. As someone raised in Japan, she certainly knows about public face and private face, but for there to be such a huge difference... well, isn't that /extra weird/??

    What will you do, if your family finds out? she'd asked Janine later.

    Ran hadn't expected the results to be anything, anything at all like this. She looks sideways at Hikaru as they mount the steps. "..." She knows what he must be thinking about.

    "Ne," Ran murmurs to him, looking up at the (to them) enormous showhome. "We can stop it this time, okay?" But she'll leave the doorbell to him, because Hikaru is braver.

Hikaru Kurosawa (1039) has posed:
    This is Hikaru's first experience with Janine's house; he'd had an important appointment to keep during her birthday. Accordingly, the sheer /size/ of the home seems to sprawl on forever; if he didn't have Janine on his mind, he might have been even more intimidated than he is. But she's forefront in his mind right now, and as he glances back to Ran, it's obvious she's thinking the same thing. "Yeah," he asides to her, frowning. "Yeah, we can fix this."

    They're far too close to the issue to fix this.
    But they're also the adults who have experience with Personas - at least, the ones least likely to shock Bella in other ways. So they /have/ to be good enough for this; they have to be able to explain. Hikaru bites at his bottom lip, momentarily, and then hides it with a smile as he rings the doorbell.
    They just have to believe that they can fix this.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    The doorbell chimes, a cheery tune that's at-odds with the sombre air of the home. The answer is a long time coming, over a minute before the sound of the lock turning comes, the door swinging open.

    There stands Bella Liberi, and she looks terrible.

    Her hair is greasy, looking more and more akin to how Janine's is. She has bags under her eyes and her skin is lacking that healthy glow she had at the party. She peers at the two, blinking blearily before seeming to recognize Ran. "Oh, you."

    She stands aside wordlessly. As if inviting them to come in.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    They're good enough to do this. They /have/ to be. Ran nods wordlessly at Hikaru, taking a little encouragement from watching him put on a familiar mask.

    The problem, aside from the obvious, is that... well, Ran doesn't really /know/ Janine. She only knows what the girl has shown them at school, and the glimpse she got of some strange girl at the party.

    "Mrs. Liberi," Ran greets the older woman, lips thinning invisibly at the sight of how Bella's appearance has deteriorated in such a short time. She supposes in a way it could be a good sign? Doesn't it mean that Bella's mother really cares about her? That she's bothered by what happened? "Please excuse the intrusion..."

    With a glance at Hikaru, she steps in through the door. The rabbit pendant around her neck feels unseasonally cold against her skin.

Hikaru Kurosawa (1039) has posed:
    As awful as it sounds, Bella's appearance is /relieving/ to Hikaru. If she's up all night worrying, if she's not taking care of herself, that means she cares about Janine in some way. If she's not looking the way a rich woman should, that means she's bothered.

    He was worried that Janine's mother wouldn't be.

    "Thank you, Mrs. Liberi," he nods to Bella as he steps inside. He lets Ran take care of the niceities before he goes ahead. "My name is Hikaru - Hikaru Kurosawa. I'm the school psychologist at Drachenblatt Academy; I believe you've met Ran already. If you've a moment, could we sit and talk?" He keeps his voice soft, mindful of the strain Bella's under.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Bella doesn't answer, but she does lead them to the living room. There sit Felix and Penelope on the couch, eyes staring blankly ahead. They too, look pallid and exhausted. The coffee table before them is strewn with junk food bags and wrappers, with more littering the floor.

    Bella sits between them, and also stares blankly ahead. Across from them is a couch, the same that Janine and the others sat in when they were thrown from the premises. No gesture is made, but that seems to be the seat they're being offered.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    This is...

    This is bad. What can they possibly say that would fix /this/? Even the kids are messed up. This can't be something else, can it...? It's not unheard of for household strife to bring in a bad spirit, but ... even with Personas and lizard wizards and human-shaped battleships running around, that seems a little far-fetched. Ran glances over at Hikaru again, but sits down on the proffered sofa. If there's something weird here, could Fox Sister notice it?

    A million thoughts run through her head, and yet all Ran can do is smile uncomfortably at Janine's siblings. "We're here because we heard that sometime after Janine's birthday party, there was..." she gropes for a phrase, "a misunderstanding?"

Hikaru Kurosawa (1039) has posed:
    No gesture is made, but Bella lead them here, and she's sitting down, so it's reasonable to infer she's accepted the offer to talk. Hikaru makes his way to that same fated couch, and sits, leaning back but keeping his knees together. He doesn't want to project an image of stiffness, but he also doesn't want to look too comfortable and instead come across as rude. It's a delicate balance.
    He glances to Ran, and then looks back to the haggard trio. Their combined appearance hasn't escaped him, either, but without summoning Fox Sister there's not much he can do to analyse the situation; he'll have to rely on his own good sense. "We'd like to hear what you think," he adds onto Ran's statement. Because any tack he could take, any angle he could push, will depend on what Bella thinks about all this. He knows what he's heard, but unless Bella feels heard too, he fears he'll never get to the bottom of it.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Bella's face twists when Janine's name is mentioned. As do the children's, in an eerily similar way. "Devil child," Bella spits, her words filled with vitriol. It's a stark difference to how lethargic she sounded before.

    "No misunderstanding. I won't tolerate a child who calls horrific things into the world under my roof," she snarls. "She scared my beloved youngest twins." She gestures at Felix and Penelope, who's angry snarls fade to... fear? It looks very artificial somehow.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    As much as Ran wants to say something, she knows that Hikaru is the one more suited to making heads or tails of the situation. They owe it to Janine to do this right.

    But when Bella responds with that kind of sudden vitriol, Ran has to make a conscious effort not to retort in kind. She knows damn well that to her, this isn't just about Janine. But she has to /make/ it be. Janine is the only one they can help.

    So after a long moment of silence, Ran speaks up again. "Her Persona is scary. I know, right?" She looks to the twins, not registering the odd quality of their expressions. "But Janine isn't. She's still your big sister."

    Ran looks to Bella, eyebrows furrowing slightly. Something's not right, but... what?

Hikaru Kurosawa (1039) has posed:
    It feels as if they've rehearsed this. The children emote as the mother directs.

    Clamping down on the warning bells in his mind for the moment, Hikaru gestures with an open palm. "I understand your concern," he says, after a moment of looking for the word 'apprehension' in his mind only to not be able to recall the German. "After all, you have never seen anything like this before. It must feel inexplicable."

    If that's the game, if it's Bella controlling the family, he has to appeal to Bella. He leaves speaking to the twins to Ran. "But," he continues, meeting Bella's eyes, "I fear you are taking a metaphor literally, Mrs. Liberi. In Jungian psychology, the 'persona' is the mask an individual wears to protect themselves. It is designed as a shield between themselves and the world. If the mind decides that something will be a good defense, it will appear in their Persona."

    It all sounds so simple when he explains it to someone /else/.

    Hikaru sighs, folding his hands in his lap. "Janine was left crippled, and this must certainly have had a large impact on the way she views herself. I don't know how much she's shared with you, but Drachenblatt is not kind to those who don't fit in. Because of this, Janine had to protect herself by taking her condition and using it as a defense. She does not summon a demon, Mrs. Liberi; she summons a maimed woman because she has had to look at the world and say 'yes, this is what I am, and you will not use it against me'. Such a Persona reflects a tumultuous inner world... but not a devil's child," he finishes, quietly. He doesn't know if she'll see reason, and that's the most fraught part of all of this. No matter how well he explains the theory... religion is a compelling answer for a believer.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    The two adults plead with the woman and children. And the response is likely something they are uncomfortable familiar with. Glassy stares, blank expressions. Their words budging them about as much as they might budge the Earth itself.

    "If she is facing harassment, then it is only fair. She's a monster, and should be treated as a monster deserves. Her 'Persona' is merely a hideous mask over a hideous face," Bella snarls. She says that, with an icy voice... and yet, her eyes seem moist.

    As for the children, there is something strange... it does seem like they're taking cues from Bella. But they're still looking entirely straight ahead at the two, with no deviations. Pulling the exact same expression, without guidance? That seems unlikely.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    This is why Hikaru gets to do the explaining most of the time. Ran would've just blurted out, 'IT LOOKS UGLY BECAUSE SHE FEELS UGLY'.

    As the twins continue to stare blankly, Ran can't avoid the horrible, crawling feeling... something isn't right here. Something is very, very wrong. She looks at Hikaru again, eyes asking a question she doesn't need words for. What's going on here...?

    And she almost, almost could have waited until another time. They could have done this the right way, quietly, risking little. The way she would have done it in a tabletop game, sending the rogue in ahead of the big clunky fighter.

    But there are words that hurt Hikaru, and words that hurt Ran /for/ Hikaru, and by the time she realizes just what her hand is doing, Ran is committed to her mistake. The rabbit's ears dig into the soft flesh of her palm as she stands up and shouts, "TSUKI-NO-USAGI!"

    The lapine alien bursts through into reality, eyes covered by her lunar mask, but Ran hesitates. She's angry, she's so angry, because, because that's what Hikaru had heard /every day/ and she /didn't know/--

    The Rabbit holds her long-handled mallet up in a defensive posture, standing guard between the two sofas and their occupants. Oh god. Oh god she's wrecked it-- The blonde nurse swallows hard. There's only forward left to go. If she's just ruined any chance Janine has to come home--

    "Hikky." Ran ignores the warm, sticky trickle of blood down her wrist. "Something's wrong. Call Fox Sister!"

Hikaru Kurosawa (1039) has posed:
    Something is definitely wrong. Even as Hikaru flinches back at Bella's words, he knows something is wrong.

    Bella is saying horrible things as her eyes glisten. The children stare ahead, faces a perfect mimicry of each other, but they never seem to glance at each other for confirmation.

    ... he has to focus on them, on their reactions, because if he thinks about the things Janine's mother has said about her he'll be of no use to anyone. Ran can tell, anyway, when he glances to her. Ran can always tell.

5tAnd because Ran can tell, she does something unwise, and Hikaru's voice catches in his throat: "Ran, no-" - because they could have done this surreptitiously, they could have avoided any potential damage, but that's not the way Ran thinks. Ran is simpler, more direct, and Ran commits them to the path.

    It's all Hikaru can do to follow, as he's always done.

    He stands, lifting his wrist to dangle the reflective surfaces on his bracelet in front of his eyes. "Come on, Fox Sister," he says, his voice grave, as blue reflects blue and a fox-tailed peasant sidles through the curtain which separates their worlds. He clasps his hands, and she covers them with her own; he closes his eyes, and her ears begin to turn and flick, catching and searching for anything metaphysically untoward.

    If there's something wrong, he's going to scan until he finds it. The physical world fades away as he focuses on another layer of reality.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    And so, two more Persona are summoned in this household. Here is where another strange thing happens. For people who are so frightened by this alien power, they don't seem to react all that much. And even if the kids are supposedly scared, for a brief instant, all three show that same, matching look of utter distaste.

    "So the staff of Drachenblatt are on this too? Leave my home immediately, least I have the police come down on the institution. I'll see to it that you two are left destitute, never to work in Europe again," Bella says coldly.

    However, as the Fox Sister's ears twitch, there is definitely /something/ strange here. It's unlike anything previously experienced though. The air in here is similar to the Forest somehow...

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    This can't be happening. ...No, it absolutely is. Ran didn't so much 'take a chance' as 'botch her Will save' but even so... this has all gone very wrong, very quickly. It's all her fault. It's all her fault if Janine's mother won't...

    She clenches her fist tighter around the points of her pendant, until the lancing pain leaves no room in her brain for things like regret. "How could you," she chokes, tears filling her eyes. "HOW COULD YOU. She's your DAUGHTER!"

    She can't blink them back any longer. It's too much like... it's too much like what happened to...

    She can't scream at Hikaru's mother. And she /shouldn't/ scream at Bella Liberi. Something's wrong, she reminds herself. She can't be wrong about /that/. The Bella Liberi who had greeted her with such effusive praise at the party, all because she thought Ran was taking care of Janine's medical needs... Ran has to cling to the memory of that mother. Bella is /not/ Megumi Kurosawa.

    Ran forces her fist to unclench. The pendant's shiny silver ears and face are smeared with red; it drops to her chest and leaves a stain on her blouse. She's breathing hard, staring at Bella with angry amber eyes, but she won't apologize.

Hikaru Kurosawa (1039) has posed:
    Hikaru doesn't hear Bella's threats, doesn't see the trio's same mechanical expressions. The air reflects on itself, and it tastes like the sharp edges of a mirror bush's leaves. In the real world, the Fox Sister cants her head to the side, worrying her thin lips with sharp canine teeth. She sings a single note, a melodious soprano 'ti'. In his own world, Hikaru watches the sound bounce off the edges of the room, blinding like a laser caught in an airplane cockpit.

    It smells like the Forest. The realisation hits him all at once as the sensations finally harmonise in his mind, and Hikaru takes a shuddering gasp as he staggers back, breaking off the psychic connection. /That shouldn't happen/, something is wrong, horribly wrong, and he can't be unaware for it. His heel catches on the sofa, and he falls back onto it, the Fox Sister watching him with smug bemusement. Ran is screaming at Bella; Bella is watching them like bugs which have deigned to crawl from beneath the floorboards. Hikaru locks eyes with her, with Janine's mother, and asks, breath still struck from his lungs: "/What has happened here?/"

Janine Liberi has posed:
    It might seem that the jig is up, no matter what the 'jig' is. If there even is one. Bella Liberi only stares at the two as they shout at her, hurl vitriol and demand explanations. Her only response is to reach into her pocket and produce a smartphone. With deliberate thumb motions, she unlocks it, opens the keypad, and presses three numbers.

    This PTA, it seems, is over.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    Ran turns her head sharply when she hears Hikaru stumble back and fwomp onto the sofa. If he heard something, saw something...

    But Ran hears something. It's the click of a mobile phone, and a three-tone cadence that's too familiar. "Whatever. Hikaru, come on." Stiffly, Ran grabs for his hand, ignoring the sting of warm-salt skin on her puncture wounds.

    Maybe they can help Bella, maybe it's all for nothing, but they can't do /anything/ to help if they're persona non grata at Alberichstadt. Even Ran's aunt and uncle in town can't be expected to put them up for more than a few days at most, and if they do lose their jobs... Hikaru doesn't even /have/ a savings, and Ran's isn't much to boast about.

    They can do what they should have done the first time if she hadn't fucked it up, and go in the quiet way.

    And someone has to tell Janine.

Hikaru Kurosawa (1039) has posed:
    Bella doesn't answer. Or perhaps she does - with a three-dial tone which indicates that she's going right for emergency services. Hikaru's eyes widen, and the Fox Sister fades with the knowledge that there's no more time to investigate; now it's time to run. He takes Ran's hand to right himself, and hurries out with her, right back to the old junker they call a car.

    He piles into the driver's seat, guns the engine (which refuses with a stubborn chug before it finally deigns to start), and pulls out onto the street to drive away from Bella's house as quickly as safety will allow. One hand reaches down to the space behind the gears, where he grabs one of the many candy bars he's stashed in the car, and tears it open with his teeth, swallowing it in a few hungry gulps. "Something's /wrong/ back there," he hisses, knuckles of his other hand white on the steering wheel; "it tastes just like the Forest when you look at it directly." And there's nothing they can do about it, not now, not yet.