A Lullaby to Nightmares

After months of suffering, Klein convinces Asuna to go to their friend Uta and get her nightmare curse removed.

Plot Room 3

    It's been a long time coming, but Klein's insistence is just the motivation Asuna needs to finallly take care of herself. She is reluctant to say just why she has put it off this long. But she will send the chims to set it up!

    She's waiting outside on the patio in front of her home in Mac Anu. She is looking a bit uncertain.

    "Relax, Asuna. Uta is a really important friend. She will understand."

    Honestly Klein and Uta are Asuna's two most important friends. The thought inspires an inventory of friendships and Asuna realizes she could really do well to add more people to that list. But that's for another time.

    She busies herself figdgeting with, of course, food. She's prepared snacks this evening with a hedge of having a whole meal she can put together promptly, if needed.

Plot Room 3

Klein may have been putting half-remembered information together when it comes to this plan, but at least he's finally pushing Asuna to take a step in the right direction. He's been noticing the lack of sleep for a while now, but with it not getting any better, it's time to make sure a cure is found. Uta is the perfect candidate for this as well, with her already being a good friend of Asuna's and having the tools they just need.

So while Asuna is being quite nervous, Klein is more relaxed and at ease. Honestly, he's more relaxed than he has been for the last week now, though he still kept glancing back towards the front door. "Honestly, i'm more sure of the fact Uta is going to chew us both out for not going to her sooner."

Klein had made sure that the table was set for three people, at least. He's no help in the kitchen, but he's not going to stop Asuna from finding a way to relax either.
Plot Room 3

"I should chew the both of you out for not coming to me sooner," Uta begins with a slight frown, as she approaches. "But first of all, Klein probably didn't know he could come to me, and second..." her slight frown breaks into the smallest of understanding smiles, "that would sort the exact opposite effect of encouraging people to reach out as soon as possible the next time something like that happens, would it?"

She bows to Klein and Asuna. "Thank you for reaching out and calling me over. You never have anything to fear from me." Unless Uta is in a strange mood testing experimental syringes on people. Which is a thing that happened. "I am a friend, and ready to help you."
Plot Room 3

    "Thank you for coming so quickly!"

    Asuna ignores the chewing out part. She is used to it, honestly. But more seriously, can Uta actually chew people out? It seems somewhat less likely than getting yelled at by the sun.

    She would rise, but she's already on her feet. "Um, please, sit down. Or, um. How does it work, exactly? Do I need to lay down? Or do we hold hands?" She looks from Uta to Klein. "I've never had a curse lifted before."

    She's nervous. Every time someone tells her she has nothing to fear she's only more concerned. But then again, she's a ronin. She's strong. She can handle this.

    It ends up with her having a determined expression. She can handle anything! It's not at all convincing to those who look carefully and know her fairly well, but it has worked many times in the past.

Plot Room 3

The scruffy redhaired samurai just points a finger at Uta, not even hiding his grin from her. "Exactly that! But the moment I saw what you did against those pirates, I knew you were the right person for the job." That point turns into a two finger wave, and he returns the bow. "And really, thanks again for coming. It means a lot."

Asuna does bring up an interesting point. After all, it's not like he seen this curse be lifted either. "I'm not sure either, but if I remember right, just being able to hear her should be it...right?" He looks to the expert singer, after all. Cursese were just nasty to deal with, and most curses you can't just swing your sword at and shatter it.
Plot Room 3

"Thank you, Klein. You're too good." Uta mentions. "I am trying... this is probably not the 'healing through sheer music' the Alv could do, a technique I am eager to find out more out about. But hopefully it's a step in that direction." And then, with a serious nod as she navigates her menu, she continues, "Asuna, I am going to do something special today." She looks up. "I have been studying the Sirens, and how they can influence people's mental states." She flicks her menu open, and materialzies her staff: an exquisitely carved wooden masterpiece, two intertwined snakes which, at the top, coil around a red jewel, which looks like an actual-size, anatomically correct heart. "This focus gem is not just a sculpture. It is the actual crystallized heart of a Siren," she explains, with the professionality one would expect to see at a clinic, as she shows the item to Asuna; white glints briefly flash off it as Uta tilts the item towards Asuna and Klein, in case they want to take a closer look. "Thanks to its properties and heavy musical research around the maidensong isle, I can induce a trance like that of the Sirens, but in a perfectly safe and controlled environment. Without the victim murdering afterwards."

Still holding the staff, she looks up. "I will need to keep you entranced for a while, just to make sure that the Lullaby is absorbed properly. Then, after this phase, I will crank up the musical magic and put you under all the way." Silence. "I won't actually perform surgery, of course. I'll just make sure you'll enter a deep sleep to recover at least some of what you've lost of late. You might want to equip a pyjama or something like that, and either sit or lie down directly somewhere where you can eventually lie down and fall asleep on. If you don't have one suitable for being used in polite company, I've brought one along."

She remains silent for a moment to give the explanation time to sink in. "If you have questions, I will be glad to answer them. But before that, there are two important things to take care of. First, -I- have a question for you: since you'll be unconscious for a while..." Uta looks towards the table. "...can we help ourselves to the snacks while you're out?"

As she says this, she's already flicking through her inventory. "Oh, and second -- a very important aspect to take care of when performing medical procedures: paperwork. I'll need you to fill this out."

More inventory navigation, and Uta materializes a 'form', which is offered to Asuna. It turns out to be hand-written. It's a questionnaire with entries like:

    * Are you allergic to specific musical genres or chord progressions? [ ] yes [ ] no    If yes, which: ________

    * Have you undergone symphony in the last six months? [ ] yes [ ] no.

    * How many times per week do you:
        Shred hot guitar riffs ____
        Drop the bass ____
        Get down on the dance floor/get funky (please specify which) ____

    It finishes with the usual disclaimer, lines for date/place/signature, et cetera.
Plot Room 3

    Asuna's favorite part of spending time with Uta is that she's never entirely sure if her friend is being serious or not. Seeing her in this highly professional mode, though, is really kind of fun.

    "I am glad you explained that in such detail. I have limited experience with siren-based artes. Oh, and I have a place that will do quite well for this purpose."

    She leads the way inside, to her bed. It's got a very comfy look to it. Like the rest of her home, it is kept neat and tidy. She stands near it for a moment, then decides to switch into some night clothes. It's a relatively modest (compared to most armor in ETO!) camisole and a pair of shorts. Seeing her in the pale blue clothing may be a bit weird. She's always in white and red. Even her bedding is white and red.

    She will settle down there and turn her attention to the form. She looks thoguhtful. She marks herself as allergic to rap and country music, with particularly averse reactions to Shigin (but seriously, who can stand that stuff?!)

    She does not shred hot guitar riffs (but makes a note that she would like to receive the newsletter about learning opportunities), she drops the bass 1 or 2 times a week (and she is all about it, no treble), and she gets down on the dance floor rarely, but is trying to improve.

    With that important matter completed, she tries to get comfortable. But she can't. She's nervous. Even talking about food doesn't help much.

    "Oh, and yes, you can certainly eat. I have more in the kitchen. I was ready to cook a full meal, but... I'm stalling. Klein, can you um, stand here?"

    She indicates a place near the bed. Should he comply, Asuna will try to be super casual and take his hand. For reasons. Which she isn't going to explain. Because she's a strong ronin and an independent woman who doesn't need anyone. A strong ronin who is scared to sleep.

Plot Room 3

The staff that Uta holds up is a rather beautiful piece of work...that might be slightly marred by the fact that the gem at the top looks like a fossilized real heart. Now that was just creepy. Come on, weren't staffs supposed to go with the classic cartoon style heart when it comes to healing? Just goes he didn't get a good look at it beforehand. "From the sound of things, it's the cure first, then helping to make sure Asuna gets some proper sleep for once. It's been like this for months, so she absolutely needs it." He looks over at Asuna fondly and lets out a soft sigh. It seems like her living nightmare is going to come to an end soon!

And Uta is asking the important questions! He almost forgot about the food, but there was absolutely no need for it to go to waste.

Klein absolutely turns his head aside as Asuna changes into her nighttime clothes. Even with ETO instantly changing clothing like that, it's rude to be looking while a lady changes. Not that it didn't look good on Asuna, but that's besides the point. As for the form Uta has Asuna fill out? He feels like there could be a few exceptions, but he honestly agrees with all three of those 'alergic reactions'.

With only a slight hesitation, Klein sits on the edge of the bed and smiles softly as he takes Asuna's hand and squeezes it tightly once. He softens his grip, but doesn't make any move to let it go in the sligtest. "I, uh, might not be leaving this spot for a while, Uta. If you do get something to snack on, could you get me a plate as well?" Sure, he didn't promise anything here, but he's still going to keep a previous one.
Plot Room 3

Uta also politely turns her head away when the patient changes, and so on. When practicing her medical profession, she's got all the motions and little attentions down pat, as if they were second nature. Which they probably are by now -- probably the main circumstance where Uta's Etiquette skill is in plain sight for everyone to see.

One might also have noticed another important detail: Uta hesitates, a bit conflicted.

"In normal circumstances," Uta begins, professionally tactful, "I should tell you to leave the room, Klein, or at least stand at a safe distance. Behind an acoustically insulated window." Inhale. "I will -try- to focus the Arte on Asuna, but the procedure is a bit hard to control at this close a range. You might end up entranced yourself. Possibly asleep. Deeply deeply so."

Glance at Klein. Glance at Asuna. Inhale. "But we're friends and we're doing this informally. Risk is low." Back at looking straight at Klein. "If you tell me you have no extra allergies, and promise to fill out a form yourself when you wake up..." Sideways glance. She's not -saying- that Klein can stay, but... it's obvious that Klein can stay if he accepts that he might be join Asuna in this wonderful trip through Slumberland in case things go pear-shaped.
Plot Room 3

    Asuna nods along with all of this, but she's so distracted. Nervous. Restless. Afraid of falling asleep and having a nightmare. Klein has probably heard her cry out in fear at night. Don't ask how.

    Wait, did she say Klein might fall asleep, too? Well, it's a low risk. Uta is a professional. Surely nothing can go wrong.

    "I.. I am ready," she finally says. Her voice sounds rather like that of a child, trying to sound brave. And failing. Oh so totally failing. And blushing a bit.

Plot Room 3

Uta is the medical professional here, and it clearly shows. But he can feel it in his grip the nervousness Asuna still has, even if she's putting forward a brave face. And honestly, if that was the side effect for standing too close for treatment? It's perfectly fine with him! He remembers just how crazy some medicine commercials got, with so many smiling people while listing the possible ways a skin cream can kill you. "I promise, and I even give you one extra. I promise not to get mad if you doodle on my face if I end up asleep."

With his other hand, Klein gives Uta a thumbs up, urging her to continue.
Plot Room 3

Uta simply nods. She inhales, and, she begins singing, softly. The crystal resonates, and tendrils of light and magic dance on the staff.

Someone with the right training would immediately be able to tell that Uta's performance is... far far below what she's actually capable of as a Sage of Song; to the others, in a case of 'ignorance is bliss', it's just a beautiful melody, vocalized by a beautiful voice. It lulls one into the kind of cozy torpor where one's self is slowly lost, and one finds oneself floating into some sort of state of vagueness; emotions and feelings -almost- in focus, at the edge of a consciousness which begins diluting. But, what is important in this context, the ability to move, talk, react... seems just gone. It just... doesn't happen. 'Held Spellbound', as they say.

Being based on a technique by the Sirens, the usual way it works is that target's attention is drawn towards the singer, filling the "victim"'s conceptual field of vision with the figure of the caster and blocking out anything else, but this time, maybe because of Uta not wanting attention on herself or perhaps because of the imperfect technique... the target mind's isn't held in as tight a clasp, and not necessarily (and probably even not at all) on Uta. It's more likely left free to drift, possibly lulled in.. maybe happy, maybe bittersweet... general feelings and impressions of memories, more than sharp, clear-cut feelings and memories. Or perhaps -- Asuna might (or might not) even be gripped by the Fears brought about by her Curse -- in which case they'd slowly be dissipated as the soothing song works it magic.

It's a very personal experience, different for everyone.

And as for Klein... as said, Uta's attempt is not the most precise this time. The technique is mainly focused on Asuna, so, how much of, and to what degree the effects are also affect Klein, it's hard to say. It's a lottery. He could undergo pretty much the same experience as Asuna (minus the curse), seem fine at the start but slowly slip into it, or be hit by it all at once.

Some time after Asuna has been lulled into a sense of coziness and prevented any action, once she's sure that her friend has been properly de-cursed, Uta will focus on slowly leading Asuna into the promised comfort of the arms of Morpheus -- and if Klein ends up piling up on that load, well, let's hope Morpheus hasn't skipped leg day; he's got quite some weight to carry around now.Ã
Plot Room 3

    To Asuna, this song is simply the most beautiful thing she's ever heard. She will say so, but not until later. Her initial reaction is a touch of resistance. She's afraid. But the song moves past that level of control and she is ensnared.

    She is not drawn to the singer, though. Her attention instead drifts to something else. Something warm. She squeezes Klein's hand. At least, she thinks does, anyway. It feels nice.

    The Flash sighs quietly, and then a few visions from the nightmares move past her. They don't scare her for long, though. She ends up turning away from them and letting those bad things slip away.

    Her mother's constant disapproval. Thoughts of being a failure. A thousand variations of her not being who she is 'supposed to be'. They drain away bit by bit.

    Asuna ends up rolling onto her side. Before sleep can take her, that is. She drifts and her focus locks into a happy place. She's snuggled up against Klein, as he sits on the bed. She may or may not be using his lap as a pillow at this point.

    Whatever happens, the curse is broken, and a deep, dreamless sleep is waiting. Asuna is drawn into it comfortably.
Plot Room 3

As Uta sings her siren's song, it echoes in his head and older memories are recalled in his head, both sweet and sad. A dramatic duel in black and white. Hanging out with a group of friends he hasn't seen in years. An argument broken because of one terrible joke. And then there's one memory that's much more recent and yet just as wonderful as it was the first time. Honestly, it was like he was experiencing it all over again...?

Yawning softly and shaking his head free from the siren's 'net', he realizes that last one wasn't exactly the same, yet just as nice. Fondly and gently, Klein carefully strokes a hand through Asuna's hair as he gazes down at her head resting on his lap. Seeing her face finally at rest and at ease lifts a burden that he didn't realize was weighing him down so much, and he only adjusts himself slightly to make himself more comfortable.

Then Klein looks up and realizes that Uta didn't just magically vanish while singing. His cheeks flush a deep red just as vivid as his headband, and he stammers for a few moments in shock. "Hey-I...well...um...we can explain?" He glances downwards towards Asuna, then back up, and he just lets out a happy sigh. "Later though?"
Plot Room 3

As the last echoes of the last note of the lullaby fades away, Uta smiles at Asuna. No matter how long she's been practicing medicine in this world (shy of two years and a half by now), and no matter how sure she is that this is all for a good cause, she still can't help feeling a nagging tug of guilt at putting a friend through a procedure originally used by monsters to mess with people's heads and render their them helpless. But seeing how peaceful Asuna seems now makes the weight of responsibility at least sweeter.

"I will glad to hear explanation," is what Uta says, turning to Klein. With the same quiet, level tone of voice she's kept for the whole treatment. Professionally affable.

But what she actually thinks is, "...Explain what? Have I missed something?" Uta is pretty sure she's missed nothing about the -procedure-. Given her attention span issues, she had to actively focus her whole being on the procedure -- and even then, she barely managed it due to the unexpected Bedside Variable. No, it has to be something unrelated. Probably unimportant. And if it is important, hey, Klein will explain later, right? She's really curious about what this is going to be about.

"Perhaps while we eat something," she offers to Klein, as she approaches Asuna, and after selecting the medical inspection option in her menu, touches her friend's hand with a finger. "Once I'm sure she's all fine, you can treat me to an interesting story during snack time."