Description: Piece by piece, the puzzle is assembled, the image rendered complete, the horror made all too real. From the finished picture, a fractured child stares back at the young kunochi. The truth is worse than she had ever imagined.
It had taken a while to get anything on the girl that had flounced onto Taiyo High and typical schoolyard combat with one of the first year students, Yuri Sakazaki. This in and of itself wasn't too big of a deal. Fights between students were as common as 'the darkstalker ate my homework' at the five Southtown campuses. No reason to bat an eye most of the time. Kids will be kids. It just takes the wrong look or right word to set them off into a fight.
It was what came afterward that sent a ripple of dismay throughout some of the student body at Taiyo. Defeat in fight is one thing, but abject humiliation of one of their own? That was a lot harder to dismiss along with the rest of the typical afternoon's gossip. Especially for one of the new Seniors on campus. Having transfered in only a few weeks prior, 'Airi' had already come to think of the mass of students of all walks of life as the closest thing she had felt to as a clan since her life on the run began. That students would come in from other schools and assault her own was not acceptable. First she would deal with the Seijyun girl. Then it would be on to Daigo. She would make sure they, and anyone who heard about what happened to them, understood that Taiyo High was to be off limits!
It felt off the way the whole thing got swept under the rug so fast. The administrators suppressed the story quickly, those who were eye witnesses were summarily hushed up about it. It was hard to get the full story. Perhaps it was too much of a black mark on the school to discuss openly, she had decided, not really suspecting any other reason for the school to be so tight lipped about it all. That left it up to her to figure out who the girl was and pay her a visit.
No one knew a name but plenty were able to describe her. Gorgeous tresses worn long in intricate ringlets... tall... clearly sporting the Seijyun uniform... It wasn't much but it was enough to start with. Breaking into the Seijyun offices was not beyond her skills and, with the password crackers built into the advanced phone newly acquired from her new employer, she was able to narrow the search down significantly. Given the way no one seemed to know who she was, she narrowed her search through student records down to new students this year on a hunch. Then she looked through the student bios for height and hair color records. The majority of the students at Seijyun bore the natural black or dark brown hair of natural Japanese beauty.
Once she eliminated a few candidates that were attending dance lessons, piano lessons, and sewing lessons on the night of the incidents, the kunochi turned high school vigilante had her target - one Elsa of Seijyun High. She had snuck into the school a second time - this time during the afternoon, just before the last hour of classes had finished. She had the girl's dorm room. The plan was simple enough, on the surface - break into her room, wait for her return, ambush her when the cruel child returned, scare her way from ever doing something like that again.
Thus it is that Kasumi finds herself alone in the dorm hall right outside Elsa's room now. She has about ten minutes before the last classes let out. Plenty of time to pick the lock and scope out her room and then let the waiting begin.
She is clothed in a simple outfit - one that could blend in anywhere. A dark blue skirt, a black, long sleeved button down shirt, black stockings up to below her knees, and dark blue sneakers. A small purse rests over her shoulder and it is from it that she produces the tools of lock picking - a tension wrench and hook pick, after glancing up and down the hall to make sure it is clear. Dropping to one knee, she goes to work on the dorm lock. It will only take about fifteen to twenty seconds to handle a mundane door. If all goes well, she'll be inside and have the door closed by the time thirty seconds have passed.
Surprisingly, the lock proves to be just as simple as Kasumi could have hoped. Pranks amongst the student body are certainly a normal thing but for an all-girl's school the dormitory is sacred ground. Breaking into someone's private sanctum is an extremely rude thing to do, and for Seijyun High, a school that prides itself on upholding the ideal of the proper Japanese woman, bad manners is almost as much of a black mark as bad grades.
So the locks are pretty simple. No one would dare attempting what the ninja does now; no one who attends the school atleast. A dozen seconds or so tick by before she's rewarded with the soft click of rolling tumblers and the beautifully polished wooden door swings silently inwards an inch or two on its oiled hinges giving her access to the sight that lies beyond.
The sizable dorm room is stocked with the usual array of expected furniture. A large wooden desk with a cushy padded chair, the kind one might find in the executive office of a large business firm. Next to that is a standing full sized mirror, easily six feet high from top to bottom, presumably to accomodate the foreign girl's unusual height. A few shelves line the walls, covered with text books and bits of paraphenelia, though none of them look particularly well used. A short walk-in closet takes up most of the far wall, though it appears to be completely empty for some reason, save for a small pile of dirty looking rags.
The major set piece to the room, however, is the massive four-post bed that takes up the center. Bits of frilly lace circle the heavy wooden frame while loose see-through curtains drape over sides of the towering scaffolding creating a sort of privacy tent for the person within. Or it would, if they weren't half shredded into bits of confetti. Through the tattered remnants it's easy to make out the shapes of thick embroidered comforting and fluffy oversized pillows.
And on top of all that is a monster.
Sprawled out in a loose heap at the center of the bed, the Hound is fast asleep. Most of the coverings have been pulled into a sort of circular mound, almost like a nest, and her body sits in the small indention at the middle, her limbs hanging out loosely over the sizes. The creature's head is tilted to one side, bending her entire back along with it in a posture that appears decidedly uncomfortable, but with her reverse jointed legs splayed apart as they are she almost looks like a dog stretched out on its back.
Fortunately, she seems to be in much better hygiene than their last encounter. No blood or gore is apparent on the creature's lips or claws and her clothes, while both new /and/ shredded at the same, are also free of the dirt and viscera she seemed to have bathed in prior to their first meeting.
The Hound's foot twitches briefly at the sound of the clicking lock causing the wicked curved claw that makes up her primary 'toe' to dig into the curtains. It catches on the tightly-knit lace and for a moment the surprisingly durable fabric manages to hold out, dangling her foot up in the air awkwardly. But then it gives way to the sharp surface and weight and with a loud tear, the leg drops back down into place.
Had she possessed even the slightest inclination that her target was anything other than an especially sadistic brat; one likely corrupted by a life of opulence and luxury, Kasumi would have approached this moment differenly all together. More cautious staking out, more thorough preparation, more equipment than just herself and the locksmith's tools would all have been a factor had she suspected anything beyond Elsa being a ruthless, potentially confused child who just need to be scared into never stepping foot near Taiyo again.
While she doesn't expect anyone to be inside, the girl's touch is quiet, hand resting on the handle after the lock has been turned to the open position and the tools returned to the small purse. Was there a noise within? She freezes for a moment, holding her breath. No... no, she was just being jumpy she tells herself.
She moves the door slowly at first, trained to listen for the threat of squeaky hinges only to marvel how smooth it opens without hardly any sound at all. One last glance is cast up and down the hall before she slips into the room with silent steps and pulls the door closed behind her, turning the handle slowly as to avoid any audible click as it settles back into place, then letting it return to its latched angle just as carefully. She is no longer holding her breath, breathing slowly as she looks away from the door to glance over the room itself. One look is all she needs to be reminded of the kind of money showered on the students here. No expense is spared in raising Japan's next generation of perfect women.
The lighting is dim around the edges, the room illuminated only by the light from the curtained window. The color is grey - it is overcast outside, threatening to rain later on, perhaps, giving the habitat a cool, dreary atmosphere. Dressed in dark colors herself, Kasumi nearly vanishes into the shadow adjacent to the door opposite of the window as she furtively glances around. Minor details are noted in an instant - the closet suspiciously empty, the desk of largely neglected school materials, and then finally her eyes come to rest on the severely damaged bed itself.
A number of thoughts immediately come to mind - did she just stumble upon a crime scene? No student of this school would ever live in a room like this! Maybe she got the wrong number from the student records and this is some damaged mess left over from a prior term that has never been cleaned up - a prank gone wrong, or a fight- only the room does not feel abandoned. No, in spite its condition, she has every sense, in an instant, that is very much occupied. A little TOO occcupied, in fact.
As her eyes glance over the shadowed form in the tattered, expensive bedstead, the so-called 'Airi' freezes stiff, mouth partially agape in complete surprise.
Gentle closing of the door and the barely audible sound of the ninjas padded steps on the plush carpetting do nothing to rouse the beast from its slumber. She lies there, happy as a clam in it's shell, with only the occasional twitch or sniffle to indicate that her rest might not be entirely peaceful.
The faint light spilling into the room goes through a double layer of filters, first from the curtains and then the thin veil draped over the bed, casting the large monster into an ominous silhouette on its silken surface. If Kasumi hadn't met the Hound once before it would probably look a whole lot more scary. Fortunately, she knows that this particular monster is mostly harmless... right?
Then again, it was the Hound that got the drop on her the last time around. Who knows how things could turn out if the skiddish thing were to be taken by surprise. But more importantly what is she doing /here/? That question is probably the most pertinant out of all of the ones the kunoichi could be asking herself at this moment.
Perhaps this creature is some sort of pet. She did mention something about having masters before, people who had sent her out with specific orders to hunt someone down. Maybe this 'Elsa' was one of those individuals.
When the reality of what she has found settles in, the infiltrating kunoichi lifts her hand to her forehead, half closing her eyes in thought. It's an overwhelming discovery to take in - one she was not prepared to make in the slightest. The implications are many. That the Hound answered to the command of some masters was already known to her. That those tyrants would have anything to do with Seijyun High, on the other hand, is not what she expected at all.
If this isn't Elsa's room, then where is she? Perhaps she didn't actually stay at the school, contrary to her records. Many of the student body here came from families plenty wealthy to buy a second home right off campus if they were so inclined. But even if that WERE true, there was no way the school wouldn't know that one of their rooms was being used to house some kind of living biological weapon, would it? Is the school involved?
Her strange employers seemed to think something suspect was going on in the Southtown schools, but their eye was on Taiyo High's principal himself. A cautious step forward is taken into the room, eyes flicking over the rest of the details in short order. The more she studies the quarters, the less it seems as if someone fitting Elsa's description could possibly live here. The poor beast must be her slave... Which means Elsa is far more than just a vicious bully... What WAS she doing at Taiyo High that day?
Her heart races. She has to decide fast what to do. She knows full well that the senses of the creature were strong. Just being here, even if she were to leave now, would likely be more than enough for the altered being's powerful sense of smell. Kasumi suspects she would know she had been here... and every second she stays increases the likelyhood that she might awaken at any moment. She can't count on their prior encounter mattering here... she doesn't know what they do to keep the poor thing in check. It's possible any memory of their lonely meal shared would be wiped by whatever savage conditioning she must be put through.
Still, this is a damning discovery - one she can't let go. It will be risky. She has to be on her guard, having no idea how the Hound will act to the surprise of being awoken. Softly, she pads over to the desk and puts her hands around the back of the chair situated there. Gripping it tightly, she lifts, turning around to face the bed, and lobs the heavy furniture to land against the floor with a thud right adjacent to the bed - if something is going to alarm the creature and wake her up at once, Kasumi would rather it wasn't her own body that was in close proximity. Let the chair take the chance for her!
"Hey-" she calls out just after chucking the chair. Her voice is audible but hushed. The hallway was empty when she left it, but she can't count on it staying so.
"Hey, it's me. Kaede."
The chair is actually pretty heavy. Made from a molded frame of polished steel, it weighs in at atleast fourty or fifty pounds, clearly made to endure whatever punishment big important people can dish out on their surroundings in moments of worry or excitement. When it comes crashing back down even the heavy carpet can't completely muffle the sound.
The Hound snaps upright with a startled squeak of panic, her feet kicking wildly as whatever dreams were dancing around in her altered mind are sent tumbling into the void of her subconscious to be replaced with the blurry color of the veil-darkned room. Surprisingly, she doesn't lash out at the source of the noise; quite the opposite infact. The creature rolls over onto her side away from the crash and drops off the far edge of the bed, landing with a dull thump on the floor.
"Sorry, sorry, ssssorry! This one did not mean to oversssleep! Please, not the..."
Her voice trails off into muted whimperings that aren't entirely intelligable, mixed with the tell-tale hissing sounds of the creature's strange stutter. This goes on for several seconds but when no further chastisement is forthcoming, the Hound finally looks up and slowly lifts her head peering cautiously around the room.
It doesn't take but an instant for her sharp animal eyes to zero in on the lone figure of the kunoichi and the small red dots of her irises practically turn black as their interiors widen to absorb this sight in the dim light. She freezes like a deer caught in headlights, lips pulled back in the beginnings of a confused snarl.
"P-Pretty Kaede...? Why...?"
The Hound suddenly bursts into motion, scrambling back against the far wall as if recoiling from the very thought of the other girl's presence. She slams into the hard surface, feet still kicking futilely at the carpet as if she might somehow press herself into the wood but the architecture holds firm despite her efforts.
"No, no, no, no, no, no! Y-you can't be here! You ssshouldn't be here!"
Kasumi waits quietly as the sequence plays out, realizing that her initial greeting undoubtedly went completely unheard in the commotion. A tinge of guilt hits her for waking the slumbering creature so. How often does she even get to rest in the first place? But things have gotten far too complicated for her to hesitate now.
It also serves to remind her of what kind of horrific treatment this Elsa girl or those like her must inflict on the troubled, mutated child. She had never forgotten the chance encounter at the temple ruins. The old structure itself is gone now - destroyed by another monster only a couple weeks ago - but the memories are still fresh in her mind of their quiet conversations alongside her humble fire.
She waits leaning against the ornate desk, arms folded in front of her, letting the Hound have her brief if extremely fervent outburst. Well. On one thing, they are decidedly agreed. She shouldn't be here. Unfolding her arms, she lifts them up, palms forward, "There, there, it's okay, I'm not going to do anything. No one will know I was here..."
She pauses, canting her head to the side a little at the second half of the mutant's outcry. "Me? Why are /you/ here?" she asks back, her tone a touch challenging but not overly so, nor is she defensive, as if the issue of her being somewhere she most definitely shouldn't be isn't a topic worth trying to explain away or discuss further.
"Is this where Elsa keeps you? I came looking for her. She has something to answer for." she finishes, her faint frown visible in the shadows in the Hound's enhanced vision. She doesn't move from her place by the desk to reduce the distance between them. She can't predict how the poor girl will react. She clearly means her no harm at the moment, but backed into a corner or feeling trapped, how will she react? Any animal can become unpredictable in such circumstances.
The soothing tone in Kasumi's voice seems to do little to assuage the rampant panic running loose in the Hound's mind but she does atleast stop trying to climb the walls, which she might actually be able to do if she wanted, judging by their first encounter.
The creature drops slowly down onto her haunches and whimpers some more, staring at the floor and the walls in rapid succession, purposely refusing to meet the other girl's gaze. Such questions aren't things she can answer. They bring too much trouble, for her and for Kaede. If one of her masters were to come check on her right now...
The thought makes her cringe. They would do things to the kunoichi if they caught her. Death would be the kindest of those options. And the Hound would help them do it. Because that's what she is - a trained dog that follows orders. Right now, there's nothing compelling her to act against the kind girl, but with every passing moment that possibility lingers in the air.
"You want... Elsa..."
The Hound stares at her in confusion for a moment then lowers her gaze again. Maybe she doesn't know? That or she's being very subtle about it, maybe trying to trick the information out of her. Clawed fingers lift up to rest on her lower lip and she chews on their pointed tips nervously, stalling for an answer.
"E-Elsssa is... not here. Yesss, not here so... so you ssshould leave now."
She wishes she could feel safe in getting closer as the poor tortured thing cowers and whimpers... but every twitch of those claws serves as a painful reminder of how whoever made her has doomed the creature to a life of solitude. Unless there was some kind of surgery that could work a miracle for the girl, no one will ever be able to get close to her and the space that exists in the room between them only serves as a silent emphasis of that fact.
Wishing it wasn't so won't change anything, Kasumi reminds herself. The only thing she can do is hope to unravel the mystery behind her and bring to light those responsible. She can't hope to stop whatever amoral science made the living weapon on her own, but armed with knowledge, maybe she could find someone who COULD. Perhaps her mysterious employers?
"Yes, Elsa. I didn't expect you to be here... this is supposed to be her room, isn't it?" She leans her head to the side a little, arms now resting against her sides, no longer gesturing or folded in front of her.
She notices the stalling but it's to be expected. Inevitably, she would have been conditioned to not betray the cruel mistress or any of the others. She nods slightly in agreement about the golden haired princess not being there. That much is obvious. "I know... but I have to find her and I can't leave until I know where to look next."
She tries another angle to continue gauging the nervous one's reactions. "Did you know she was going around hurting students at other schools? Attack them and tormenting them?" She pauses for a moment, attempting yet another vector.
"Why do you think she would do that?"
Her pleas for the ninja to leave ignored yet again, the Hound sinks further down towards the ground, looking truly dejected and at a loss. She could, ofcourse, assault Kaede and force her to leave but the creature never really learned how to use force on someone without killing them. There... aren't very many parts of her that aren't sharp and deadly. Maybe she could headbutt her safely?
The thought is considered for a moment but quickly discarded. Even something as ridiculous as that would put the kind girl in jeapardy, either from accidentally being struck by her claws or taking a harder hit to the head than she intended. No, it looks like she'll have to talk her way out of this.
"Yesss, this is... Elsa's room. Also this one'sss."
She glances up nervously, darting looks at Kasumi's face in the same fashion as when they first met, clearly trying to choose her words carefully. Sadly, she doesn't have a very good poker face. Not a lot of chancese to practice with lying when the very idea of telling a falsehood to her handlers had been beaten out of her years ago. She's almost comically unable to grasp the concept, dropping little hints with every word.
The accusation that 'Elsa' has been causing trouble also causes her to flinch and she looks down in shame. But why would that make /her/ feel bad? Maybe some sort of sympathetic feeling of guilt for her mistress being such a bitch?
The Hound licks her lips and stutters, teeth clacking together. "P-perhaps ssshe... did not have any other choice? Maybe these... ssstudents...", she emphasizes the word as if it's foreign to her, but again she looks completely transparent as she does so, practically broadcasting the fact that she knows something. "Maybe they... had to be... taught a lesssson..."
Very slowly, cautiously, Kasumi crouches down from across the room, finally settling into a kneeling position next to the desk. She's leaning forward a little, eyes never leaving the girl for a moment, her expression one of intense interest but not reflecting anything in the way of skepticism or suspicion as she listens. She can't begin to guess as to how much time she gets before this gets dangerous, how far she can probe before she triggers some kind of reaction beyond the tormented soul's power to control. She doesn't believe she would hurt her willingly, but she is no stranger to some of the more horrific ways individuals can be controlled like puppets... even ones who had a far more comfortable live than this one.
The idea that the girl the witnesses at Taiyo described would live in this room is preposterous though. She was the very image of the wealthy elite given form, her golden locks of hair identifying her as a likely foreigner on the soil of Japan. The room would be full of her trappings and necessary items. Even if she was working undercover, as the girl is beginning to suspect, she would need so much stuff just to maintain the image. The empty closet is a glaring contradiction to the idea.
"Oh?" Kaede asks openly, "Elsa too? You share this room?" Still, her tone suggests that she is accepting everything being said, no matter how unlikely.
The patient girl folds her hands over reach other in her lap, finally bowing her head in thought for a few seconds as if considering the idea before finally looking up and reasserting her unwavering attention on the timid thing. "Why would she have no choice?" the kunochi asks. Her tone remains patient as she averts her eyes down toward the floor now, a vaguely sad expression in her eyes.
"If she had no choice, then what happened would not be her fault and... then maybe I wouldn't need to find her anymore... maybe you can help me understand." She looks up again briefly, studying the Hound with visible worry. She seems to exude nothing but concern now, though it is hard to say how practiced her own skills of deception might be.
As if in response to Kasumi's choice to sit, the Hound drops even lower to the ground, plopping her rear on the carpet with her knees bowed up on either side of her body. She keeps her head low, instinctively doing her best to remain at a lower posture than the other person in the room lest she be mistaken for taking an aggressive stance. It is a behavior both animalistic and habitual in nature, but one that she does seemingly without conscious thought for her eyes remain focused on the floor as often as possible.
"Ssshare... n-no... not ssshare but... both... use?"
She offers the response weakly, lacking confidence even in her own answer. Moving on quickly, the monstrous girl tries to shift the focus back to talk of the events that transpired elsewhere. The massive curved scythes of her left hand dig into the carpet and she starts to drag them slowly towards her, lifting and repeating over and over, like a cat pawing at the side of a couch.
"She had no choice becaussse... they challenged her... and tried to ssstop her from going where she needed to go. They were very rude to... to Elsssa... so she had to punisssh them."
Scratch, scratch, scratch.
"If she made them sssorry then... they won't hit her any more." The Hound's voice drops in tone, becoming something dark and a little dangerous. "She doesssn't like being hit..."
As the words come slowly forth, Kasumi can't help but feel a sinking sensation in her stomach; that tightening knot of unease as she struggles to wrestle with what her instincts tell her must be true while her mind is unable to sort out the logistics that would even make it possible. Her own emotions have been a roller coaster of highs and lows, nervousness and calm as the exhange with the tormented soul has played out.
She needs to get to the bottom of this. When she embarked on this trail it was to track down a bully and warn her off from ever threatening Taiyo High students again. Confident in her own abilities, she felt she would be capable of making that point so very clear. But now it's clear that there is so much more going on, so much more at stake. Yet part of her wants to stop prying further this instant. Just leave. Get outside, get a breath of fresh air, think through what she should do about what she's discovered.
A living weapon is being sheltered at Seijyun. Either the staff is aware or it is being done secretly, which prompts a lot of other questions pertaining to /how/. Eyes flick to the claw scratching at the floor - a constant reminder of the desecration done to this girl's body either before she was born or afterward. A normal life will never be hers to enjoy. To say nothing of the chemical dependency that Kasumi has not forgotten about.
Looking up again as the Hound touches upon the incident at the school, Kasumi finds herself nearly holding her breath again. The clues are there. She knows and she fears that if she puts them together, she will arrive at the answer she is actively trying to keep herself from putting together.
"Say... can you..." she asks, leaning her head forward a little, hands still in her lap, "...tell me what Elsa said to that other girl? About what the point of what she did to her clothes was?"
Scratch, scratch, scraaaatch...
A pause at the question. The Hound continues to stare at the space on the carpet between her legs as if it is the most interesting thing in the room but her idle pawing at the floor stutters out and the terribly muscled fingers instead begin to flex and relax, clicking the boney blades against each other.
Click, click, click.
This girl has more nervous ticks than a chihuahua in a snow storm surrounded by hungry bears. The question isn't any easy one to answer. Not because the words don't exist to explain her motivations behind what she did, that is easy enough; but they are dark and ugly things, just like she is. A person like Kaede - pretty, kind, understanding Kaede... she'll never understand. Or worse, she will, and the truth will make her hate the creature that sits before her.
Maybe that will be for the best. If the kunoichi hates her then she won't want to come around any more and then her masters won't take interest in the girl. The Hound looks up slowly and peers at Kasumi for a long moment, chosing her words.
"Ssshe took the clothes away from her becaussse it made her feel like Elsssa did when ssshe was younger. Ssshe took away her pride and her protection and made the others ssstare and mock."
The monster looks down again, her expression trying to remain neutral but the emotions are written upon them clear as day. Pain. Fear. Sadness. A well-spring of suffering that only those who have experienced what she has could ever comprehend. And she had inflicted just a little sliver of that on the girl that day.
"Ssshe let her feel what it is like to be an animal."
Kasumi resumes breathing after a few seconds but otherwise doesn't break the silence between them. It is a vacuum that demands to be filled and the longer she waits, the more pressure the questioned experiment will feel to answer. Together they sit in the quiet room lit only by the very slowly dimming glow from the curtained window. It will be dark soon in the typical early dusk of Winter. She does not want to still be sitting here across from the Hound when that happens. Perhaps she'll have to turn the light on.
She's still looking back at the mistreated creature when she glances up, soft, copper brown eyes casting no sign of judgement on her; only a look of concern unfeigned. As the words spill forth haltingly, Pretty Kaede nods her head slowly, swallowing once, but otherwise doing nothing to interject. These are the words she knew she would hear before she even asked - the confirmation she still cannot comprehend. How could this poor, twisted creature waltz into Taiyo High and convince everyone she was a member of the point-one percent of the world's elite? Golden ringlets... fancy, untorn clothes... a different voice all together.
It doesn't make sense.
But it has to be.
"What Elsa did was wrong," Kasumi murmurs quietly at last, finally lowering her own eyes to the floor in front of her. "I came here looking for her because..." Her right hand closes into a fist in her lap, "I wanted to warn her away from ever doing something so cruel again. Maybe it wasn't her fault... maybe it was how she was raised. But she can be better than that."
Her hand unclenches and lifts, coming to rest over the center of her chest as she looks up again. "I don't think she is a monster. But the people who tell her what to do are monsters. What happened is their fault." She blinks her eyes slowly. What is she going to do now? There is nothing she can do here that would not endanger the Hound or herself, but she can't leave such a dangerous weapon among a school full of innocent students, can she?
"I wonder... did Elsa chose her name or was it given to her?" A tangent, perhaps - a moment to buy herself time to think of her next step. Lingering is risky though. What if someone is coming to check on their pet? How DOES she receive her orders? Where does she go to get more of that drug she injects into her neck?
The emotion building here is thick but the Hound doesn't cry. She doesn't have any tears left to give. She's just... empty, a hollow shell around a ball of bitter regret and self-loathing. Her fault, their fault - does it even really matter who's fault it is? It won't change what she's done or what she's going to continue to do, regardless of how she feels about it.
This conversation is pointless - no, worse than that. It hurts. It hurts because it reminds her of a time when she did have a choice. But that time is long in the past. Now she's just the Hound, a simple and loyal beast.
A sudden flash of anger wells up inside of the twisted girl's gut, hot violent rage surging into her brain, and she snarls, lips pulling back to bare the terrible crags of her teeth. Her head lifts slightly, still remaining low enough to keep her hunched over but for the first time she turns her slitted eyes upon the kunoichi's face giving her a piercing stare.
"You know /nothing/!", she hisses, the creature's voice a harsh and threatening whisper, as if even in her anger she is afraid to raise her voice. "You have not been her place! Have not sssssseen the things she had to endure! What ssshe had to become to sssssurvive!"
A terrible grinding crack, like a hundred twigs snapping in rapid succession, fills the empty room as the Hound's talons bite into the floor with renewed vigor, tearing through the carpet and the wood beneath with incredible ease. The grotesque muscles in her mutated flesh twist and bulge with alien power beneath their hardened chitinous surface, bending and flexing in disturbing ways that cast aside all pretense of human anatomy. Veins stand out on her forehead, visible even in the faint light that fills the room, and it appears to be only through sheer effort of will that she does not throw herself across the room in a frenzy.
"Elsssa is a monster! An animal! And ssshe cannot ever go back!"
The entire time she's been here, the young kunoichi has flirted with disaster. She has threads to pull at, but she has no idea what will unravel when she tugs. Each leading question has been a gamble - learn more and find answers or cause the tortured thing to clam up or, even worse, lash out violently. How far can she go before the Hound will feel cornered and react like any trapped beast would? What can she tread on before her next step comes down on a mine that cannot be diffused?
As she observes the shift in emotions, the tensing of muscles, Kasumi already knows she is close to the line. She keeps her kneeling posture, even if she is bracing herself for a possible attack. If the situation devolves into violence, she will have to run for it. She can't risk engaging the creature here. But... given her keen senses, could she even escape her? It would be a contest of speed, not cunning, for only by leaving the hunter in her dust could she hope to get away.
The floorboard shatters under the bone claw of the altered girl and Kasumi flinches, not averting her eyes from that angry glare she was getting. Her own expression has not changed significantly - a hint of wariness, a slight slouching of her shoulders, a faint frown, but otherwise she has not yet moved. She is constantly re-evaluating that decision as she listens quietly. This is, undoubtedly, not a situation where she can fall back on any kind of training. All she can do is follow her instincts and her heart and hope neither gets her maimed or killed.
"Why don't you tell me about her,"
Her voice is a whisper against the shout, her eyes studying the tension in the girl.
If she attacks, there is no question it will be an assault from one armed with the most effective, natural armaments she has ever faced herself. Maybe she should say nothing at all, she thinks to herself, recalling how her words had provoked the dangerous man who called himself Urien to lash out with violence beyond what she had expected.
"Help me understand."
She hasn't moved, but her hands are pressing down against her lap now. She might have to move in an instant if she's pushed the piteous experiment too far at last.
Despite the danger, still she persists. Madness. The Hound glares at the rogue ninja with real anger. Not at the questions Kasumi has been asking, as she pretended, there was some of that there as well to be sure, but at her refusal to leave no matter what the creature seems to throw at her. Vague answers, desperate pleas, overt threats; none of it is working! How can she make this girl understand that every moment spent in this room is the same as sitting under a slowly swinging pendulum.
She still has one card left to play. Maybe if she gives Kaede a glimpse of what she wants to see then she'll leave - and if she's smart, never come back.
The fury and tension in the Hound seems to fade away like a passing summer breeze. Her muscles relax and her snarl vanishes as she clambers to her feet, moving slowly, so as not to seem like she might actually attack. She sighs and wanders over to the desk, pulling open one of the drawers to withdraw a small metallic circlet from within.
The moment she places it upon her head, the Hound /bends/. The air distorts into a shimmering ripple of twisted light and blurred shapes until the figure within is nothing more than a smear of blended kalediscopic colors. The visual disturbance lasts for a few seconds and then resolves into something normal once again.
Where the mutated teenager once stood, a young and beautiful girl with a full figure and long golden ringlets peers down at the kunoichi with a cold and arrogant stare. She is dressed in the familiar garb of a Seijyun High student, though she also carries a frilly parasol in her left hand, its silken tarp tied with a small ribbon about the base to prevent it from being opened on a whim. A long metal spike protrudes from the tip of the girlish umbrella, gleaming faintly in the dim light.
Elsa casually lifts a hand to flip her bushel of curls in a dismissive fashion and speaks in a voice that carries with it a tone of absolute authority and practiced contempt. "Do you see now, foolish girl? The answer was quite obvious, ofcourse, though I suppose I can't expect someone of low birth to show enough wit to grasp even that much without help."
If she was edge before, the feeling is only exacerbated when the room's owner finally moves from her place huddled against the wall. The resignation in her motion is clear even if her intent is not immediately obvious to the visiting kunochi. Slowly, equally eager to not exhibit signs of hostile intent, she pushes up out of her kneeling position to stand, pivoting to face the other girl as she approaches the desk. Will she call for help? Summon her keepers and force the nukenin to flee into the night?
The circlet is observed with suspicion. But after an instant, she realizes that it is, in fact, the last missing piece to the puzzle with the picture she had already regrettably figured out. The illusion spills down over the twisted body of the living weapon, leaving in its wake a bastion of beauty - the elite, stuck up, Elsa of Seijyun High.
Glancing up into the perfected visage of the halographic girl, it is with a sad smile that she answers. She started this hunt out of anger for the offense inflicted, eager to put the bullying Seijyun girl in her place. But now that she knows the heart of the matter, she finds herself suffering a wave of sadness she had not expected. Is it any wonder she would act out in such a way when moving about in this guise? It was the closest thing she could experience to any form of normalcy - that ability to move through a crowd and not be reviled or feared, but rather revered and admired. The storm of emotions such subterfuge must conjure up within the heart of the subjugated child must be bitter to the taste yet... so enthralling as well.
"Yes," she replies softly, not provoked by the contemptuous attitude.
"I have found my answer, even if it was not what I was looking for."
She begins to back up slowly then. There was nothing else she could do here. She now knew something larger was going on than she could have possibly imagined, but as of yet... had no idea how to respond to something of this magnitude.
Her hands are at her sides, but there's no doubt she's tense and on alert.
"I will go now."
The girl wrestles with indecision even as she backs away. She knows her only recourse will be to report this information back to the one paying her. But what will they do with this knowledge? It isn't safe to leave the Hound here at the school, but what will become of her? If she was caught, she would be deprived the drug that she was clearly engineered to depend on. It... it could be a death sentence!
"You must understand," she has to warn her even if she cannot begin to imagine the repercussions.
"It will not be safe for you here anymore."
Her hand reaches for the door handle behind her.
The holographic mask that covers her face prevents the look of knowing sadness from showing as the Hound nods once and the modulations of her artificial voice twist her weariness into contempt as she speaks.
"Hmph. Ofcourse, I do. Now run along, back to whatever little hole it is you crawled out of. Carrying word of my identity to someone troublesome, no doubt."
The parasol at Elsa's side swings up suddenly, jabbing into the air before the retreating kunochi, its wicked tip and the much more deadly claws beneath the veil mere inches from her face. The beautiful girl narrows her eyes on Kasumi in an overtly threatening manner.
"Do keep in mind, little rodent, that your safety cannot be guaranteed from this point forward either. You may have hunted me down but it shall be -I- who does the hunting next time. And I am /very/ good at my job."
The parasol lowers and Elsa turns away, arms crossing over her chest, apparently no longer interested in the ninja. She does deign to offer a final few words, however, spoken to the air as if to no one in particular.
"If I were you, I would disappear somewhere far away from this place and never return."
Kasumi lacks the benefit of a face shrouding illusion to keep her emotions hidden. The conflict is easily read in her eyes, torn between the safety of many and the safety of one. It isn't a fair choice to have to make. The proximity of the dangerous point is focused on for a moment, the reach evaluated, but she reads the warning for what it is - a gesture to reinforce the message, not an attack.
Her hand is on the door handle now, turning it slowly. She has given the warning she needed to, in good conscience. And a heartfelt apology, whether or not it is accepted with the intent behind it.
But now she's receiving one of her own.
"I know what it means to be hunted."
The reply is soft, neither contrary nor resigned - a statement of fact. She has had some experience in the matter. Though what will be the catelyst of this chase? Will the Hound's puppeteers sic her on her? It could happen at any time. She is playing a very... dangerous game now.
The gorgeous girl's back is turned at last, leaving Kasumi to depart. The handle is turned, the door opened, the empty hallway beyond.
One last warning is offered and Kasumi pauses, looking away now, soft, copper brown eyes shimmering.
Damn the monsters that have created this situation, she thinks to herself. A dilemma with no easy answers, no magic solution. It's their fault - those devils that sit in power to lord it over everyone else, apathetic about the lives they destroy in the process.
Her parting remark hangs in the air as she steps into the hall and pulls the door closed after her with a gentle click. She would be gone from the building within seconds. Off the campus within a minute.
'Elsa' remains with her back to the door for a long time, standing in the silence and ever increasing darkness. Her eyes have little need of the light, enhanced as they are, but such things are irrelevant to her at the moment for her gaze is not turned upon anything in the room. Instead, she looks into the nebulous turmoil of the future.
Wondering about what the next day will bring is not something that she has grown into a habit of doing. It never leads to a happy place. This time is no different. But, unlike the countless faces she's forced herself to forget over the years, faces of the failed experiments she's been forced to eliminate for one reason or another, that of the ninja girl remains firmly fixed in her mind.
She'd been nice to her, even after being attacked by a hideous monster that by all rights shouldn't exist outside the realms of nightmares and cheesy horror films. A few of the boys and girls back in the labs had tried to befriend her on occasion, sometimes offering her food, sometimes a gentle touch. Every time the men in white coats had punished her for accepting their gestures of acceptance or affection. Not with yellings or beatings or torture. They'd just made her kill them herself.
And she'd done it. Eventually, it just stopped hurting when they gave her the orders. Something inside of her had withered away or locked itself in the deepest hole it could find and never come out again. Now when she kills it is just instinct, raw hunger for the taste of blood that brings her delight on a level that is truly stomach turning when she stops to think about it in the aftermath.
The girl that is the Hound wants to say that this time will be different - that this kind soul would elicit some sort of spark, a sign that she isn't completely dead inside. Maybe she could just... not tell any one. Surely, her masters couldn't be all knowing, not here so far beyond their domain. The thought of disobedience sends a wave of nausea through her body that physically doubles the creature over and she reaches out, digging her claws into the desk as she eases towards the floor.
And so she sits, alone in the dark, searching through the ruins of her heart for something, anything to latch onto - but all she finds is dust.
Log created on 23:23:39 12/11/2014 by Kasumi, and last modified on 03:46:00 12/13/2014.