Description: A blind man walks into a diner and meets a ghost. The blind man says "Sorry, I didn't know what this was and was just passing through." The ghost says, "Yeah, so was I."
The moon is a silver crescent, slicing a path slowly through the black sky above South Town. Little wisps of cloud cling to it, dimming its radiance and making it difficult to compete with the blazing lights of the growing city. It is symbolic in a way. representing the glacial shift of the Japanese mind from the terrors of the night, to the worries of the future.
There are still those in the world that know of the terrors. Those that fight them, waging a shadow war with the forces of evil. More often than not their struggle goes unknown. But they know this, and bare their burden with quiet dignity, safe in the knowledge that--
The near constant blare of angry horns fills the night as cars hurtle along the highway. The smelly metal and plastic death traps swerve and wheel, each driving convinced that they own the road, and that the other people upon it are nothing more than obstacles to their joy. Suspension systems bounce and complain as tiny hatch backs are flung onto the sidewalks in a desperate bid to out maneuver the larger cars on the road.
Stepping neatly to the side, a tall man in a ratty crimson blindfold barely avoids being run down by a painfully orange hybrid with a 'Honk for Kami' bumper sticker. In contrast to the car that nearly took his life, the man's modern armor is all dark greys and blacks, splashed across the arms and knees with crimson.
There is something oddly traditional about the blind man. It might be the simple crimson and gold hilted katana that is sheathed over his left shoulder. Or possibly the fact that, like the wanderers of old, he finds himself walking down the side of the highway when so many would have taken a cab.
His boots crunch across the gritty cement as he continues on his way, a deadpan look of idle patience on his strong Eurasian features. The smell of exhaust hangs heavy in the air, cars continuing to blitz past as he wanders along beneath the street lights, dwarfed by the towering outlines of twinkling skyscrapers. His tattered white sash catches the artificial light and reflects it back dimly, the snaking red dragon near his right shoulder showing up stark in the darkness.
Kenshi, blind swordsman and seeker of evil, strides down the pedestrian walk at the side of the highway. There are yet a couple of miles left to walk before he can rest for the night.
Kasumi had given him much in the way of information, but she hadn't known how to actually track down the Lin Kuei. That, it appeared, would fall to Scorpion to discover on his own. To that end he'd been carefully researching, tailing and studying the world that he had rejoined, but there was a wall that he hadn't been able to bypass. The Lin Kuei were always more technologically advanced than the Shirai Ryu, this in the ghost's mind was to make up for their lack of strength. But it did mean that there were certain trails even a ninja from Hell couldn't follow.
Still, he wasn't giving up hope, he had nothing but time on his side after all. And so here it was, that the assassin sat, blending in with the night time populace, by the time a blind swordsman walked past them, forced to travel through the business district as the moon rose in the sky. With people retreating back to their worlds, and the lunatics slowly trickling out to take their place, this was a dangerous idea for most.
Would Kenshi notice, one 'businessman' sat at a table, who didn't belong? Certainly, without the gift of sight, Kenshi wouldn't be fooled by the stolen suit, or the sunglasses that hid Scorpion's milk-white eyes, but he also wouldn't see the rigidity of the man, the way he carried himself far too proudly. Still, there were plenty of non-fighters who tried to compose themselves like samurai, thinking it would give them some sort of ridiculous edge in the white-collar world, was this man any different? Even with his thick fighter's hands, or his calloused knuckles?
Still, there were some things that couldn't be completely suppressed. And for those who were especially sensitive, auras and 'power' could be seen like a burning star in the cold black of space. And certainly, as Scorpion turned his head to look at Kenshi walking past, the ninja's energy could not be hidden. That feeling of unease, the way his body was giving off far too much heat to be healthy, the general psychic stink of something not from this world. Even though he could infiltrate the world of men with few problems, in the hidden world he now found himself part of, in certain pockets of society? He stuck out like a sore thumb. Unfortunately for him.
Once upon a time, meals were a ritual in and of themselves. To kneel at a table and share food with another held significance, and demanded proper respect. But like the way of the Samurai, this tradition has lost its weight.
Kenshi's boots crunch softly across the gritty tarmac as he crosses a sloping exit that leads down into a diner and rest area, the blazing neon sign that stretches above his head proclaiming it to be 'The Smack Shack: snacks, drinks, and clean facilities.' It is likely at least one of those claims is true.
Though the swordsman is clearly blind, the thick red cloth that is wrapped around his face more than enough to smother any vision he might have, he does not move like a blind man. Each of his steps are firm and confident, his path leading him in a straight line across the diner's entrance.
That is, until he stops. Stooping forward, the tall warrior braces a hand on one knee, as if taking a breather. His head cocks slightly to one side, the dangling ends of his blindfold brushing across his nape. For a moment he seems completely unaware that he has stopped in the exact center of the exit ramp.
A furious driver blares their horn, swerving sharply to avoid hitting the idiotic man who is resting in the center of the road.
With a slight shake of his head and very little sign of startlement, Kenshi straightens up and makes his way down the exit ramp at a casual pace.
Stepping out onto the gravel lot, he stretches his armored arms above his head, kicking up loose rocks on his way in amidst a small cluster of tables. As if completely by chance, the chair that his left foot first strikes is across the table from the oddly intense business man's.
Dropping both of his hands to the chair back, Kenshi leans his weight lightly against it. The armored knuckles of his fingerless gloves gleam in the dim light as he peers down sightlessly at the center of the table. Backlit by the garish neon of the diner, his shadow stretches ominously long across the seated figure.
"Mind if I sit?" He asks easily, voice a bit rough and weary but his tone and the set of his body seeming friendly enough. Sure he might be wearing armor and carrying a sword, but he doesn't seem the confrontational type. However, if one as perceptive as this 'Business man' were to look deeper...
Behind every action the swordsman takes, there is a driving force of curiosity. Though he lacks sight of a conventional means, the world remains open to him. A net of tactical sensation spreads out in all directions, feeding him shapes, expressions, threats. Beneath that there is the thrum of emotions. The buzz of thoughts not his own, always open, but rarely scanned.
It is this mesh of preternatural senses that has lead Kenshi to Scorpion. An instinctive desire to protect others from the horrible rage he feels, or to sooth it if possible. A need to right wrongs, and help those less gifted than himself. For at the core of his being Kenshi is a good man.
In front of the well-dressed man, was a briefcase, which he moved aside softly even as he regarded the swordsman briefly. Truth be told, Scorpion was here on business, a now stone-cold cup of tea at his side as well as a glass of now tepid ice-water, the ice cubes having melted long ago.
The ninja's voice is curt and terse, his hands opening and closing every so often, as if to remind himself that he can.
"By all means, wanderer. Sit where you like."
Despite the formal permission, the suited ninja sat a little straighter, unsure of this new player. Where the optimist might see curiosity and friendliness, Scorpion saw a potential threat. Was this man Lin Kuei? Were they already aware of his pursuit, and attempting to end it immediately? He had no doubt this man could use the sword on his back effectively, and was not willing to underestimate him simply for the blindfold. With his guard up, Scorpion spoke even while studying the room once more. Even with his voice calm and civil, it was impossible to keep the seething out of every syllable, buried beneath the surface and constantly clawing to find its way out.
"It's unusual to see a warrior dressed for battle, unless he's planning to go to war. What tournament can you possibly be going to, so late at night?"
Yes, Scorpion had been doing his research, as mentioned. He did discover the obsession with fighting that had so gripped the world, so much that the pursuit and practice of martial arts had become globally recognized and respected. It had certainly struck the ninja as strange, but he was already finding ways to use this to his advantage.
Accepting the permission to sit with a grateful dip of his head, Kenshi drags the wire-frame chair out from beneath the table and lowers himself into it with a travel-weary sigh. The leather fastenings of his armor creek, the sheath on his back knocking quietly against the chair back as he settles himself. Thus seated, he turns his hidden gaze on the spectre across from him, expression one of vague contemplation.
"Tournaments? Once, they were important to me. Much of my time was spent traveling from one to the next." His response is light and mellow, holding a note of reflection as if the blind man were glancing backward through time. "Still, they keep the senses sharp. But I am not here for a tournament."
Kenshi's knuckles click quietly against his armored thighs as he draws in a deep breath through his nose. Letting it out, he relaxes his shoulders and tilts his head to one side, as if to observe Scorpion's disguise from a slightly off angle. He can feel the anger rolling off of the being. Taste his burning drive for revenge.
"What I normally do is of little importance. I am here, now, to speak with you." The swordsman states this with calm assurance, lips pressing into a thoughtful line as he takes a brief moment to debate his next words.
"I could feel the heat of your rage from the road. You do a poor job of concealing it." Leaving those words to hang in the air between them, Kenshi lapses into thoughtful silence. Still he peers across the table at Scorpion, gauging his reaction, weighing the response his carefully baited words will bring.
A short distance away, the roaring stink of traffic continues on, oblivious to the moment that passes between the warriors. Their sole contribution is a light, fume-laden breeze that wafts across the table and ruffles the blind man's short black hair.
The small diner didn't have a great amount of people, but as the lights started going out one by one, a subtle message to customers that it was time to go home, around the two strange men, people began to slowly trickle out of the store, oblivious to everything but their own lives. For his part, Scorpion did not move from his spot, no he came here for a reason and that reason had not reared its head as of yet.
However, right now it seemed that the ninja had another issue: The issue of what this warrior had just said to him. 'I came here to speak to you'. Scorpion's right hand subtly moved towards his own body, fist clenching slowly as he paid more attention.
He didn't see anyone around the blind man, he didn't see anyone to join in if this was an ambush. Which meant that either this man was strong enough to handle this situation on his own(or at least thought he was), or this was a stranger, unconnected to the dead man's journey. In any case, he hadn't made a move just yet, and so Scorpion would humor the man for the moment. Until it was time to do his job.
"You have not felt my rage, stranger, but merely the shimmering heat of a fire that rages. And by coming here and provoking me, all you're doing is supplying more fuel. Speak plainly, and wisely."
As he speaks, it's hard for him to keep that anger down, and the angrier he gets...the more unsettling his voice becomes. There's something else behind it, a pitch that joins his words, but is not purely his own. Something that spoke a language older than sound. And older than good. As if that wasn't bad enough, a bus boy came up to the pair, clearing his throat before speaking nervously.
"Uhh...sirs? We were gonna close up soon, d-did you want something else, or-"
Instantly, the man in the business suit responds by grabbing his cup of tea, pivoting around and hurling it down at the feet of the unfortunate temporary employee, the porcelain shattering on the ground and tea dousing the kid's legs.
"This tea was garbage. Send me the manager immediately!"
Was he just lashing out at anyone? Or was there a controlled plan, a reason for such a sudden burst of hostility? It was hard to tell at the moment.
Kenshi can feel it as his words strum the notes of fury within the spectre, fanning his suspicion and drawing him further out of his simmering shell. He can sense the depths of the dead man's rage, radiating through the cracks of his control, waiting to be unleashed. But despite his knowledge, the swordsman seems unafraid.
The blind man continues to sit, quiet and reserved, as fragmented pieces of his companion's cup pelt the unfortunate bus boy's legs amidst the shower of tea. tilting his chin up, he offers a faintly wry quirk of his lips to the young man.
"You might take some time in finding him." Kenshi adds on the heels of the enraged man's demand, the words emerging in a mellow deadpan.
Once the boy has scurried off, Kenshi's blindfolded gaze shifts to once more lock onto the suited specter's face. There is no trace of wryness in his tone as he continues, expression hardening into a look of quiet intensity.
"I see more than you know." States the swordsman firmly, "Many of us Cary hate within our hearts. You can not let it rule you. Such anger is most often vented on the innocent. I will not stand in the way of justice, but I can not allow you to punish those undeserving."
There is a feeling in the air that grows as he speaks. A prickling along the senses that warns of focused power, as the wanderer gathers his will around him. But still he makes no move to draw his sword. Perhaps he is a coward, or perhaps he has no intention of fighting Scorpion over the honor of a young boy. But there remains a feeling of looming pressure, and an alert readiness for kombat that hints at the true warrior spirit of the blind swordsman.
"And you think I punish the undeserving? That I strike out at the world like some petulant child, unable to tell the difference?"
Even as he spoke anger rose in his voice, but it was anger that he quickly quieted down. But he could not quiet down the heat that came from him, his own deep power clashing with the blind man's, psychic energy wrestling with the powers of Hell, a struggle that proved to make the room uncomfortable, tension and heat filling the diner in a way that ensured that any civilian who walked in wouldn't want to be there for very long. But the ninja wasn't even sweating, though as he spoke he started patiently, and silently untying that necktie.
"We were taught precision, to be certain of your target before you strike. We were not butchers, razing villages to the ground!"
Tie threw to the diner table, the ghost started to continue.
"But why don't you tell me why it is you -really- came here. Surely it wasn't just to lecture a stranger? Who sent you, swordsman? And how long before you choose to strike?"
"You have not struck out at me yet, and this bodes well of your self control. But I can only wonder how long it will be before you justify violence to yourself." Kenshi replies, his tone quiet but stern. "Even now you accuse me of being an assassin, when I have found you only by chance. If such mistakes can be made in your opinion of me, they will be made in your opinion of others."
Behind his hard expression and stern words, the blind man's mind is racing. He can feel the power radiating from this being, and sense its rage. But despite the overwhelming fire within, the being is attempting to control himself. To direct the feelings toward their intended target. The only question is, how long will he be able to maintain that control? How much strain would it take to break the damn, and release hell upon this earth?
A decision must be made. Clearly the being before him is no mere man, but neither is he a monster. His words, speaking in the past tense of his people. His attempt at control. All of these things give shape to the tormented soul the swordsman can sense. Slowly, word by word, a picture is forming in his mind. A tapestry of loss and revenge.
Well Kenshi understands the need for revenge.
"I wish not to fight you." Kenshi states quietly. His expression softens slightly, still guarded, but lacking much of the aggression of before. The sense of gathering will seems oddly defensive, pulling away from the spectre.
"What has been done to you? Why does vengeance burn so brightly in your heart? I believe I have been brought to you for a purpose. But I must know the answer to this question."
No attention is given to the dropped tie. The blind man's hidden gaze remains locked on Scorpion's hidden eyes, his curled fists braced on his thighs. His posture is intent and alert, a feeling of great expectation hanging about him.
For a long time, Scorpion just sat there, the room filled with silence while the tension remained. But even anger tempered by the fires of the Netherrealm could not last forever, and the room temperature gradually lowered. The ninja had his eyes closed, breathing in deeply through his nose, and seemed to be in thought for half a moment.
Should he trust this man? Should he allow anyone else in on this mission? He had to, if his recent encounters on this world taught him anything. The priestess, the ninja princess, the mad cyborg Bryan Fury. Scorpion was powerful, stronger than he'd ever been after the gifts he'd received in Hell. But even with those abilities, even with his own near-perfect skill, he'd been blindsided by each of them at some point. And if he was going to go after the Lin Kuei, powerful assassins with few equals, he would not be able to go at it alone. He would need help. He needed to take a chance, here. His eyes opened, and even as the kitchen doors swung open and a big fat looking man marched through, the ninja spoke at Kenshi with a calm voice.
"Very well. If you want to help, we can start now. Consider this your first test."
The fat man was big, and powerful looking. And judging by the tattoo sleeves that started at his big biceps and went all along his shoulders, he was a bit more than just a restaurant owner. He was wearing a wifebeater, and put his hands down threateningly beside the two men, those dull violent eyes glaring at the businessman.
Thug: "Excuse me, sir, nobody breaks my dishes, and threatens my fucking workers, you got that you piece of shit? You got money to excuse your behavior, or are we gonna get violent?"
The ninja did not move for a long time, until seconds later he did. His hand was a blur of motion, grabbing a steak knife, flipping it upside down...and stabbing it clean through the big fat giant's hand and deep into the hard plastic counter. The big man let out something similar to a pig squeal, although it was cut short by a quick backfist, and a slam of his own face into that counter, courtesy of the ninja who was now standing behind him. Instantly the room felt like an oven with the gas turned all the way on, and Hanzo was now screaming down at the beaten, bloodied small time criminal who thought he was big time.
"You've met the Lin Kuei, haven't you? You've done business with them, asked them their help with a problem you couldn't solve, didn't you? Didn't you?!"
In a burst of flame the business suit was gone, the ninja now looking slightly more traditional. Black with quilted yellow, face hidden beneath that hood and mask, milk white eyes glaring with malevolent hatred. His hands were still bare, but he quickly ripped the briefcase on the counter open, to reveal the gauntlets he liked to wear...along with a plethora of weapons. It seemed the ninja had come prepared for this encounter!
For a moment, there is stillness. The powers of both man and spectre are withdrawn, allowing an opportunity for peace between them.
The blind man begins to release a soft breath, but half way through the gesture he stops. On the other side of the kitchen doors he can feel the approach of the angry thug. Instinctively he knows that this is what the spectre had been waiting for, and that what is likely to come next will not be pleasant. He has conducted interrogations before himself. However, his methods tend to be easier on everyone involved.
Even as the man's hand is being pinned to the counter with a steak knife, Kenshi is rising to his feet with a surprising amount of calm. His handsome features are set in an expression of stoic indifference, the corners of his mouth turned ever so slightly downward.
"There are easier ways of doing things." Kenshi states simply. While the man splutters on the blood gushing from his broken nose, the psychic ronin braces his armored right hand atop the counter and leans down to take the fat man's head in his left. Focusing his considerable telepathic talents upon the thug's pain-filled mind, he begins to work. Unless the tattooed slob is secretly a gifted master of the psychic arts, it will take very little effort for the blind warrior to slip into his consciousness.
Inside the thug's mind, the questions Scorpion bellows are creating connections. The paths of memories are being explored, his brain racing toward what it knows about the Lin Kuei. All that Kenshi must do is follow him there, using his own confusion and lack of training against him.
"A lighter touch," Kenshi states as he concentrates, the heat of the room causing sweat to prick beneath his heavier armor, "Will often bare the best results."
There is no effort to stop Scorpion arming himself. No attempt to calm the hellish being down. The psychic's efforts are focused entirely on the prey beneath them, and the matter of his guilt. When all is laid bare, and the unfortunate fellow's mind is put beneath a microscope, just what sort of man will he truly be?
After the suit, the gauntlets and other accessories are easily equipped, as the ninja watches Kenshi do what he does best. The thug certainly isn't kind of psychic wunderkind. He was just a low-ranking wannabe gangmember. His tattoos weren't Yakuza or Triad, but he was a criminal, it turned out. Hiring a Lin Kuei assassin, or at least attempting to before they walked away from the job. As it turned out, one of the most ruthless ninja clans was not interested in killing an ex-girlfriend's father or dog for the laughable sum of two thousand dollars. Really, it was a miracle this idiot walked away from them with his life, but it's lucky that he did. Because he got close enough to see a number of them in person...and to see the safehouse that they seemed to use when in Japan. Including an address, right there in his thoughts just waiting for them.
Only when Kenshi was finished with the disgusting example in front of them, would the ninja walk up and speak softly.
"I am Scorpion, of the Shirai Ryu. I thank you for your assistance, and ask forgiveness for my earlier suspicion."
As he spoke he gave a stiff bow, his right fist in his left palm, eyes narrowing as he studied the sightless armored man. He spoke again, calmly but with a bit of that anger boiling back up. Just enough to be noticeable to a psychic that was sensitive to emotions.
"If you want to know what happened to me, I will tell you in time. But for now all you need to know, is that the Lin Kuei are responsible. And for what he's done to me, I will have the head of the man called Sub-Zero."
Kenshi's once delicate mental manipulations become less so as he begins to get a sense of just what level of sub humanity he is dealing with. Every crime, self-important rant, and mindless binge is glanced at in passing as the man frantically thinks back over every little thing he might have done to deserve this treatment. And on top of it all, glittering and sharp as the edge of a knife, is the recent attempt at assassination.
'130 West cherry blossom avenue.'
"This man is the one you seek." The tall ronin states with idle stoicism. As he speaks, however, he lifts his right hand from the bar. A soft blue light begins to radiate from his fingers a fraction of a second before the hilt of the blind man's katana slaps into his palm.
Bare fingers curl tightly about the hilt of the weapon as the solemn warrior peers yet deeper into the thug's mind, insuring that he has gathered all of the information he needs. Only then does he reverse the angle of his sword, slanting the glowing blue blade down toward the chest of the unfortunate ball of slime.
he says not a word as he rams his katana cleanly through the man's heart. The glowing blade cuts through bone, muscle, and organs with little resistance, erupting from his back in a spray of thick red blood. The bulky thug spasms once, entire body convulsing on the length of steel pushed so callously through his body, before falling still.
Sento slides free of the corpse with a wet 'shlk', the dead meat sagging against the counter, its pinned hand all that keeps it upright.
In somber silence, the blind man wipes his sword carefully clean on the shoulders of the man's wife beater.
"He has attempted to hire the Lin Kuei. I have seen there masked faces in his mind, but I do not know them. However, the address of their local safe house is 130 West Cherry Blossom Avenue." Kenshi's sword lifts from loosening fingers and snaps back into its sheath in the blink of an eye, the blue glow that had once outlined his hand fading away. It is a small house, yellow and trimmed in white. You will find it without trouble."
turning slowly to face Scorpion, the armored warrior returns the shallow bow with one of his own, metal-plated knuckles tapping softly against the leather that protects his palm. As he straightens his hidden gaze focuses on the ninja with quiet intensity, the casual violence he has shown still hanging between them.
"I am Takahashi Kenshi, wanderer and vanquisher of evil. I had thought your rage would force my hand against you, but I see now the depth of your wound. Know that I too burn with revenge. One day I will corner the sorcerer who blinded me, and there will be a reckoning. But until that time, know that while your vengeance harms only the deserving, I will remain an ally."
Scorpion did not flinch at the slain man, just watching him slump on the counter, the weight of his massive body straining against his hand, still pinned with that steak knife. Even now, the tension was causing the wound to worsen, by dawn it would probably look horrific. After a moment he took his attention away from the scum they'd removed from this world, instead focusing entirely on his new ally. He spoke with a tone of respect, impersonal, but not with the hostility he'd started with.
"Takahashi Kenshi, after Sub-Zero is rotting in the deepest pit of Hell, I will aid you in slaying this sorcerer, that I promise. Meet me at the Lin Kuei's warehouse in two nights time. There, we will find answers for my problem. And I pray, that before long we will find answers for yours as well."
With that the ninja was gone, submerged in flame and replaced with ash falling to the floor, gone to whatever pit he'd crawled out of. Of course, Kenshi was left to make his own escape, probably before the authorities arrived.
Log created on 16:35:24 06/29/2016 by Scorpion, and last modified on 03:22:53 07/05/2016.