DAMNED || LANDEL'S INSTITUTE

A Multifandom Asylum RPG


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Day 57: Cafeteria
So... you're single?
gald_digger wrote in damned
Edgar's charming company had raised Anise's spirits enough that not even the Head Doctor's voice could bring them back down. Besides, she was feeling pretty sure that Landel wasn't actually around. To begin with, it wouldn't make sense, and secondly, his announcements sounded suspiciously like ones she'd already heard before. While Anise wasn't very familiar with Earth technology, she'd seen the little devices in the Music Room that could play recordings of people's voices. This had to be something like that.

It wasn't long before Anise was escorted to the Cafeteria, and then to the section where edible food was being served. As she filled her plate with waffles, fruit, and sausages, she looked to the other side of the counter with a look of sympathy. It was hard to enjoy her own meals while knowing what the other patients had to suffer through.

She wasn't about to refuse her meals just out of guilt, though. Anise needed her strength for tonight. There was still a bit of a nervous twist in her stomach whenever she thought about what could happen down in the basement... but she wasn't going to back down. Not after promising her friends they'd go together.

With her tray in hand, Anise seated herself at an empty table in the middle of the room. She preferred to have company while eating, but it looked like she was one of the first patients there, so there was no one to sit with. Maybe if she minded her manners and tried to look her cutest, she'd attract someone handsome! Holding her utensils delicately, she began to cut her waffles into smaller pieces.

[For Battler.]

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Almost a week. Almost a week...

Utena was still hung up on that as she headed into the cafeteria. She had never been knocked out for that long in her life. Even the times she and Himemiya had blown up in those freak curry accidents, she hadn't been out for longer than a day or so (god, was she starting to get nostalgic for those kinds of incidents even?). After talking with S.T., she had spent as much time at the bulletin as she could, but even trying to force-feed herself information wasn't doing much to help her get over how much time she had missed.

And now, it seemed as though the people in charge of the Institute were intent on making her force-feed herself something else. She had gone to the buffet table as usual, only to be rudely redirected to a pot full of... she didn't even know what, but it smelled gross. And what confused her the most was that a select number of patients seemed to be getting brunch as normal. Utena had protested, but the staff weren't up for explaining their reasoning or for dealing with a whining patient. She was just expected to sit down, shut up, and eat what she was given, unless she wanted to get herself sedated.

"This is so ridiculous!" Utena fumed to herself, gripping her tray tightly as she made her way over to a table. It wasn't as though the bad food was the worst thing she had to deal with right now, but it sure did make a crappy topping to an unbelievably crappy day back. She set her tray down hard, just short of slamming it, and started looking for Himemiya in the crowds as she pulled herself into a seat.

[Care for a frustrated prince, Edgar?]

Edited at 2011-06-27 05:57 am (UTC)

[It'll be his pleasure. ♥]

While the smells of the cafeteria were promising, Edgar was mildly disappointed to find there were two lines for food: as with the day before the trip, there was one for the higher ranks, and one for the rest. He sighed to himself as he was handed a bowl of gruel to accompany the glass of water on his tray. If there was anyone they were trying to fool with the soldiers being in nurse attire and the recording of Landel, it certainly wasn't the patients. Perhaps the visitors were the ones for whom they were putting on the show after all.

Tray in hand, Edgar resolved to find a seat and get as much of it down as he could manage. He needed his strength- Anise had been right on that- and it would be some time until he could get his hands on any other morsels. His arrival was later than usual, as most of the solitary seats had been taken. While looking for a familiar face in the crowd with whom to spend the shift, his eyes were drawn to a vibrant color amidst the sea of drab shirts and smiling emblems: a young woman with pink hair, sitting alone and looking rather irritated.

"Do you mind if I take this seat?" he asked calmly as he approached, hoping her frustration wouldn't bleed into introductions.

"Sure, that's fine," answered Utena, tone unintentionally short. She didn't want to be rude to whoever this was, but it was hard for her to be herself at the moment. Too much confusion and worry swirling around in her brain all at once did not make for a happy Utena.

At the very least, she realized how her answer might have come off, and sighed slightly after a few moments of silence between them. "Sorry. I don't mean to sound snippy. I'm just having a tough day back, and it's not even half over," she clarified, giving the man as apologetic a look as she could muster. Which wasn't saying much, but it was something, at least.

Well. Edgar took the seat, thinking it was best to save his usual moves for later. If a lady obviously wasn't feeling well, an advance wasn't likely to make things better. He did hate making a poor first impression.

Something she said did catch his attention, however. He clasped his hands before him, leaning his chin on them. He wasn't ready to tackle the meal yet, anyway. "Day back? Pardon me if this is intruding, but where have you been?" Was she one of the 'released' patients? He'd heard they sometimes returned with their memories of the institute intact, but from his own experience, it was more likely they'd start fresh.

Perhaps something else had happened to her, or she returned of her own volition. The latter was unimaginable for him, but he was curious.

"That's the thing — I don't even know!" Utena answered after taking her first bite of the gruel. Thankfully, the stuff was more tasteless than anything else. Still, not exactly something she was excited to be putting in her mouth. It didn't season her frustration well at all, that was for sure. "I just woke up last night in a room that wasn't mine, wearing a uniform that wasn't this one—" Utena tugged at her grey shirt "—and then this morning, I found out I missed six days somehow! None of the 'nurses' will tell me about what happened, either. And to top it off, there's a person who's gone missing on me! Maybe."

Again, she felt bad for dumping this all on a complete stranger. The man seemed nice enough (and looked more like a typical Ohtori student than most people in the Institute, which also helped), but it was hard not to just spill everything when asked directly about it.

"Sorry again. I'm dumping all my problems in your lap and I don't even know your name," she apologized, forcing down another spoonful of gruel. "I'm Utena."

Edgar smiled, giving her a polite nod. "Forgive me, Utena. I should have introduced myself. My manners must be slipping. I'm Edgar."

From the sound of it, she'd simply been out the entire time, whether by a medicinal sedation or by sleeping spell. The fact that her room had been switched still made him think she might have been 'released,' though he had to admit to himself that it was just as likely she'd been carried somewhere and held there for six days for whatever reason. There certainly were enough places to hide.

Though... The more he thought about it, the more familiar the scenario sounded. Hadn't Celes said something similar? She'd been sleeping for days, and couldn't determine how they'd kept her under for so long? She had disappeared that night. He could only hope there wasn't a connection between the sleeping and the vanishing, but if so, at least he could keep an eye out for it as a warning.

"And don't worry," Edgar continued after a beat. "You're welcome to chew my ear as much as you like. I asked because I was curious if, perhaps, you were one of the patients who had been 'released' from this horrible place. I've heard they occasionally return with their memories of being here, though I've not been lucky enough to meet one who has yet."

Utena nodded at Edgar, acknowledging him. Another American, then, or maybe a British person, judging by the name. English speakers seemed to make up the majority of patients, for whatever reason. Much as she hadn't wanted it to, S.T.'s comment about Himemiya's race earlier had brought those sorts of demographics questions closer to the surface of Utena's mind. Why so many Americans? Why so many men? Why so many young people? The short answer for now was: Utena had no idea. She had absolutely no head for figuring out statistics and patterns and whatnot. And she could only hope that figuring out things like that wasn't incredibly important to solving the secrets of the Institute or something like that.

"Well I know for sure that I was 'released' at least once before," Utena answered, shifting with slight discomfort at the reminder. "I remember first waking up here... I guess it must have been almost three weeks ago now. But I was told pretty quickly that I had been around before, and I just didn't remember it. The same thing happened to my friend, the one who might be missing. She was gone for two days. They said she was released, and then when she came back, she didn't remember anything that had happened in this place. Just stuff from back home."

Too much from back home, a voice tickled darkly at the back of her mind, which Utena ignored as much as she could. Now wasn't the time.

Her teeth pressed down on the inside of her lip.

Utena shook herself out of the temporary daze quickly enough. "Anyway, now this happened, and I'm starting to wonder if maybe what you said you're looking for is what happened to me. It'd make sense. Sort of." As much sense as Landel's ever made, anyway. "Still doesn't explain what happens to the people who never come back, though," she added with a sigh.

"Unfortunately," Edgar agreed, stirring the gruel with his spoon idly. It was a question he had posed to himself a few times: why was it that some people came back? And in Utena's case, perhaps twice. Did they find a way to regain themselves, or did the brainwashing of the institute just wear off somehow? There'd be no way of knowing if she actually was 'released' a second time or not without some confirmation from the staff, and if they refused to tell her...

More questions. His frustration with them grew with the list.

"I suspect I was one of the 'released' patients at one point," Edgar admitted after grudgingly swallowing a mouthful of gruel. It was no better than it had been two days ago. "I had a friend from home who, when I first saw her here, acted as though she expected me to have been here already. It's not something she would have done otherwise... But giving up and accepting defeat wasn't exactly Celes' style, either." He sighed lightly, looking into his bowl. "She's been missing for over a week now."

As morose as thoughts of Celes could make him, there was hope on the horizon: if Utena could return, memory intact, after six days, who was to say Celes couldn't? Or Locke, if he had truly left, too.

Now there was something that pulled Utena up out of her haze. "Wait, did you just say Celes? As in Celes Chere?" Utena asked on the heels of Edgar explaining how long she'd been missing. "I know her! Knew her? Doesn't matter. I was a member of the Cooking Club with her for a while! We went on a mission together once, even." Well, if searching the patient block for a man who had turned out to be asleep in a new room counted as a "mission". Still, the fact stood.

"Did you get to see her much before she disappeared?" Utena asked. She really hadn't gotten to speak to Miss Chere much beyond the bulletin, really. It had worried Utena to not know what was going on with her.

Utena's surprise was matched by Edgar- Celes had been missing for a while, and to find someone who knew her was intriguing. The fact that she'd been out for six days was possibly a blessing, however minor.

"I wish I could say I did," Edgar replied, "but I was only able to have a few brief conversations with her before she disappeared. She seemed so distant by the time of my arrival, more so than usual. I can only imagine what might have happened to her during her long imprisonment." His voice grew quieter- nearly a month, she had said. He was just at the two-week mark, and even he was beginning to question his convictions from time to time.

But when had she changed? His first meeting with her, though brief, hadn't been surprising- well, save for the part where she vanished right before his eyes. That was curious- how had she described what had happened? That was right- she hadn't, in a sense. She'd been spirited away, along with a few other people, and couldn't seem to say a word about it. He hadn't put much thought into it before, but now that he did...

Edgar shook his head. It could wait for later. "I haven't heard about the Cooking Club in some time," he continued. "One of the last times I saw her, she spoke of trying to reorganize it, along with another club. I suppose it was left without a leader after her disappearance."

Utena had no idea what Miss Chere would have been like before her arrival, but it wasn't hard to imagine her being more lively than the one time Utena had seen her. She could see see the woman's smile of relief at finding Hughes safe and sound, clear as day in dark hall. Maybe she wouldn't have been the world's most outgoing person, still, but she could at least see why Edgar would find her distance strange.

And then there was the matter of the Cooking Club. "Ahh. Yeah, I was sorry to see it go too. I was the most active member left after a while, so I maybe should've picked it up? But I don't really have the kind of organizational skills that she or Mr. Hughes had," Utena explained after another few unappetizing mouthfuls of goop. "I'm better at rushing in to attack a problem head on. Planning's never really been my thing," she admitted, letting out a small, self-deprecating laugh.

Edgar couldn't help but chuckle at Utena's response, a smile crossing his face. In spite of the topic, his illness, and the vile food being served, he found his mood improving. Rushing in, attacking without a plan- it reminded him of a few people he knew, his brother included.

There were points were Edgar was more than a little grateful that the institute somehow existed apart from history- or at least that was what he'd conjectured, given the impossible situation with Celes having been brought from an earlier time, but having still been with them on the Floating Continent. He was sure Sabin would be finding his way into trouble without him. Sabin wasn't a trouble-maker (usually), but he was one to go looking for his brother when he went missing. The king still had concerns for his people, especially if the castle was trapped under the sand... Edgar didn't like the prospect that he might be trapped for several months or longer, but it was one he had to keep in mind.

"Trust me, it's better not to dive into trying to lead when you're not prepared for it," Edgar noted. "To have the wisdom to know when it's better to not pursue it is admirable. There are still a few of the clubs running: History, Arts and Crafts, Search and Rescue... I'm positive one has mostly filled the void left by the loss of the Cooking Club."

"Yeah, I think the only thing the Cooking Club did that no one else really does much is weapon-making. And there isn't really much of anyone who does that sort of thing anymore period, clubs or not," said Utena, leaning her head in one hand as she thought of the alchemist Skuld with the same dulled pain that sprang up whenever she thought about patients she knew had been "released". It was just so hard to get as incensed about the disappearances as she had a few weeks ago. There were too many of them; it was exhausting to think about too much. She could only afford to get really fired up about the people closest to her now, unfair though that was.

After a little while longer, Utena heard the recycled intercom message overhead and tensed up, expecting to see a staff member coming to fetch her for a visitor at any moment. To her relief, no one came after a little while, and she was able to relax. Relatively speaking.

"Well it was good to meet you, Edgar," she said, pushing herself out of her seat and leaving her bowl with a small portion of gruel still at the bottom of it. "I'm gonna go outside for a bit this shift and clear my head, I think. Here's hoping we can talk again, though! It really is good to know someone else who knew Miss Chere."

With parting pleasantries exchanged, Utena waved at the man, then headed out to grab a coat from her room. Her head was still heavy with thoughts and worries, but maybe just slightly less so than it had been at the start of the shift.

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