Description: The lure of a far-off flute brings the being that was Hanzo Hasashi to a secluded shrine, compelled to meet with an aged master who promises him the path to Sub-Zero-- assuming Scorpion agrees to abide by an ironclad set of terms. This time, it's not the summoned demon manipulating the terms of a bargain...
It's hard to attach a great amount of subtlety to a wraith of vengeance, even one who was once a mortal ninja. Still, it takes some measure thereof to track one down. Scorpion's public appearances have been few and far between-- but televised appearances, period, do make one easier to identify. Not that many could put it together, recognize both the extinct style of the Shirai Ryu and the elemental spirit of such a hellspawn. Fewer could connect the figure that might have the will to become that spectre of vengeance to the recent rumblings in the underworld about a vendetta against the Lin Kuei.
Scorpion's learned how difficult that vendetta is, however-- the sorcerous clan of ninjas has an elaborate network of safehouses and cells of operation. Even when he's been able to locate one, or corner one of the assassins themselves, it gets him little closer to Bi-Han. Still, the efforts, the inquisition does yield fruit along a likely exceptionally unexpected angle. Another who seeks Scorpion out; who perhaps understands his compulsion. It's a secondary compulsion that would gradually overcome Scorpion now, however.
It starts akin to the mortal tingling on the back of one's neck, and it crescendos until the directive is a deafening obsession. The wraith is being called, compelled to appear-- summoned. As Scorpion is no longer the non-corporeal essence of his vengeance, this manifests in a discomfiting urge to travel to the location of his calling. Since the restless spirit who was Hanzo Hasashi has no capacity to teleport vast distances by strange and plot convenient portals, this means a journey by foot, plane, train, or automobile-- resisting would likely be possible, but the call would continue until it was answered or abated... and either would likely require following the sound to its source.
This source would prove to be a private shrine in Chinatown, a small courtyard sectioned off from the city like a small piece of natural paradise by tall stone walls and wrought iron gates-- no problem for Scorpion to leap, or simply rend his way through. Within the walls are cherry trees and a well landscaped stone walkway amidst a natural courtyard, culminating in an archway and stone steps up to a modest covered shrine. It's dark out, and in this area of Chinatown few denizens wander the streets making it rather peaceful despite the metropolis surrounding it.
An old, diminutive man sits before the shrine, refreshing the carefully crafted, intricately blessed incense that's calling specifically to the one who was Hanzo Hasashi-- whether Scorpion realizes it or not, that legendary assassin is known to another-- nearly a myth, a spectre himself. He has drawn none of the complex warding runes and laid no other protection against wraiths... despite his obvious intention to draw one of substantial power here. Perhaps he is ignorant of the standards and practices to make such summonings even remotely safe for the amateur sorcerer using materials procured from his master alchemist ally. Perhaps the deceptively unassuming little old man is more than he appears. It might even be both.
The only light near the shrine comes from two candles bordering the area where he burns the censer, their high flames flickering wildly despite shrouds as the wind picks up, the temperature dips, and distant rumbles promise a storm's approach.
The days, and the nights, and the weeks and the months, they all blended together for Scorpion. He was here, and he knew he was of this world, once. He heard the old sounds he had before, he tasted and felt, but it felt distant. When he had been a man, a rose might bring with it a smell that captivated him, now brought him nothing. He did not eat, he did not truly 'sleep', his life had been a neverending cycle of rage, and regret. Of a sense of mourning, that would not leave until his bitterness turned it into a desire for vengeance.
Lately, there was something else. Instantly Scorpion knew what it was, he could never forget the sound of the shrill wooden flute that his son had loved so much. There were times when Hanzo had hated it, times when his patience as a man, warrior and father were all sorely tested, but now he wouldn't trade that sound for anything. He'd let his son conduct a symphony of shrill sound if he had him back. He would do anything, he already had but he would do more...
It was two days before the ninja realized that it was not merely a memory. When he turned his head to the left, he heard it less, when he faced toward the sound, he could hear it clearer. At that point, there was no hesitation, and the line between the man and the ghost were blurred, an ancient thing's instincts blending with a father's longing. It was child's play to board upon a leaving plane, holding on to a wheel as it raised up into the aircraft. He stayed there for many hours, the sound becoming louder, becoming clearer. Hanzo did not understand, but he did not need to. He merely needed to find the source.
The plane prepared for landing as the sun set, but the figure in black and yellow dropped soundlessly from craft and plummeted toward a building below. He hit the side of it running, and soon was leaping and bounding across the Southtown landscape in a relentless hunt for the sound. He needed it to stop. He needed to hear it. He needed it, he needed to know. He already knew but maybe he was wrong.
It was that evening as the moon rose into a blue, orange skyscape that the ninja staggered up the stone steps through that archway, his milkwy white eyes wide and unblinking, his hands almost outstretched. He spoke and was unable to keep that double-voice from emerging. A man and something older, competing and working together, voicing their confusion in unison.
"What...what, is this? Where is he?"
The old man meditating by the candles, amidst the incense and the echo of ritual mantras that brought forth the beast, rises smoothly as said wraith makes his appearance. Even drawn up to his full height the strange fellow falls well short of five and a half feet, but there's a strange calm confidence in the white eyes-- or did he have dark, near-black pupils a moment before, when he first turned to gaze upon Scorpion? The wraith knows the sound of power, the way chi burns in the warriors of this world, and many others... the way powerful psychics radiate will, personality.
The strange old man does neither-- to hear his energy signature is to listen for a whisper, to delve its magnitude is like guaging an endless series of echoes formed from the similarly ceaseless murmurs within. A vast, deep chasm of howling winds... their presence barely tangible on the surface. Despite their similar gazes, it was likely immediately clear to the spirit that was Hasashi that they are not kindred beings-- indeed, it's hard to select a parallel for Gen from among Earth's myriad creatures. There -is- something inherently different, otherworldly about the old man as well, however.
One wrinkled, pronounced ridge where eyebrows should be rises, the old man's visage that of weathered leather, aged well beyond what his apparent vigor suggests. Each small limb is a gnarled root network of muscle and sinew, Scorpion has experience enough to know that intuitively, even catching only a glimpse past the ornate blue and silver Tangzhuang the mythical assassin wears as both of those deadly hands are tucked into their opposite sleeve. Not so much safely, as non-threateningly behind him. There is no fear in the exchange as he looks upon the spectre, though said spectre's confusion doesn't make him any more menacing; still, it's unlikely it would matter. "Where is... who?"
The boy, the memory, the flute.. none of these were conjured by Gen, or more appropriately, by Lee's concoction and the proper incantations. The illusions subverted Scorpion's will, showed him what he needed to see to answer the call. While he may have been able to resist it, few do-- and in his case, why would he want to? Surely, to see the little boy in the courtyard instead of the diminutive old master would have been great validation of his impulse. Why question it? Perhaps long enough has passed since the massacre that the old man could be-- ??!!
But no, he's far older than that. And while he knows who Hanzo Hasashi was, perhaps better than most living beings, there is no sentiment to the connection. The old man paces back and forth without concern for his wellbeing, eyeballing Scorpion thoroughly, peering as if through-- or deep into-- the undead warrior. "You've come back for vengeance on the Lin Kuei." It's not so much a question as a segue to the conversation he wants to have; come on, wraith of revengeance, game face.
Even with most of his face hidden, and his eyes without pupils, the confusion in the ninja's face and body language was clear enough. All too soon, however, his eyes narrowed and those thick eyebrows of his furrowed even as the old man's raised. If Gen was a void, a wound which broke up the web of energy around the world, then Scorpion was a fountain of heat and rage. Even now, a mere simpleton could feel the unnatural energy radiating off of him even as his temper rose at the slightest provocation. the words of the old master, while truthful, accosted the ninja like a threat. And as Scorpion spoke, his right fist started clenching, while still at his side.
"You do not know what brought me to this place, old man. It certainly wasn't so I could find treachery and deception waiting for me."
He started pacing, naturally, unconsciously starting to close the distance even as he slowly circled around the ancient assassin. It was a slow orbit, something he was taught to do long ago when appraising a target's situational awareness. Even his life spent in hell couldn't make him forget the Shirai Ryu's teachings.
"Do you speak for the Lin Kuei? Or have they perhaps simply begged you for your services, hoping you'd finish the job they couldn't?"
His tone was full of accusation, full of anger. It seemed that vengeance ghosts from Hell generally were not interested in having tea or breaking bread. Who knew?
"I seem to have a better idea what brought you to this place than you do." Gen observes matter-of-factly, pausing in his step to let the vengeful spectre stalk and speak. Letting him survey the little old man who one would think should be far more concerned than Gen is. "I speak for myself." He answers, somehow frank and enigmatic at the same time. "If I wanted you destroyed..." For indeed, Scorpion is already destroyed, "I would offer a little bow, like this." Gen places his hands fist to palm before him, and bows traditionally, eyes never leaving the wraith, "... and then destroy you, my heart unmoved by whoever prostrated themselves before me."
The gnarled old hands slip back into their opposite sleeves, disappearing from view once more. "You are a spectre of vengeance, a being of wrath and fire. Hanzo Hasashi-- violence and deception, death and betrayal are -all- that await you. That was the bargain, was it not?" The opposite, gnarled hairless brow rises, and Gen gives a chuckle that's only mildly sympathetic... there's little pity in his heart.
"And there, I suspect, our purposes may cross. The destruction of the Shirai Ryu was an atrocity, a foolish power play by men who reach beyond their ken; but I cannot allow you to compound it by eradicating the Lin Kuei..." There's more to that offer, but just how willing to listen -is- the spectre?
Hanzo's confusion was genuine, stopping in his tracks for just a moment, as he tried to recall something. It was on the tip of his consciousness. A pale man, he was saying something...but it was all fragmented. The journey from the Netherrealm to this world was an exhausting one for any creature. And his memories of Hell amounted to flashes of fire and pain, just like his memories of home had been warped while he'd been in Hell. But he was snapped out of his introspection but the old man saying something proposterous. Instantly the wraith's fists clenched, both of them igniting immediately in balls of Hellfire. The temperature around them started to rise instantly. Did Gen know entirely what he was doing?
"You pay lip service to the eradication of my home, and the slauughter of my family. And then in the same breath you say that I cannot do what is right by them, that I cannot end the lives of honorless animals, who the world would not miss in the slightest? I have respect for your deeds, but your senses surely must have left you in your old age!"
He was getting agitated...but he also wasn't leaping in for the kill like he surely would be with anybody else. Was it fear that held his hand? Or did he want to hear the man out before burning him to ancient ashes?
"Hmph." It's somewhere between derision and amusement-- which is also tinged with derisive mirth. It's hard to really blame him, when the wraith does not even truly understand its own nature, Scorpion's confusion evident indeed to the white-eyed old man who sees far more than he should. "First of all, powerful magic binds you to this Realm, a well-stoked furnace burning where your heart should be-- but it is unlikely to be enough. Even as you court allies, assuming one of them does not destroy you for the spectral abomination you are, you hunt an enemy that is beyond you. Tied to enemies greater than they."
The smile Gen smiles bears no warmth, no comfort-- it's a smirk on his leathery face, a disagreeable shake of his head. "They will destroy you, banish you-- perhaps bind you to their service." This draws Gen to stroke pensively at his long, white beard, trailing it between his gnarled fingers, "Without knowing how you were sent back, I can only guess at the reasons for it." But relying on it being magnanimous appreciation of Scorpion's rightful justice seems unlikely to the master assassin.
"Here you have a choice to walk a different path, a chance to sever the head of the Lin Kuei and liberate its body to follow a new thread of destiny. Strike at the serpent who made the pact that sealed the Shirai Ryu's fate-- gut the organization of the ninja that carried out the strike. I'll give you Bi-Han, always a step ahead of your single-minded, compulsive nature. You are no longer a ninja assassin, Hasashi-- what is it now, Scorpion? You are neither patient nor subtle."
Gen smirks out the other side of his mouth, "You will conduct your mission of vengeance against a target that matters; none of this ridiculous talk of genocide, insane spirit or no." Gen's putting his foot down, "This may seem like a bargain..." And indeed, Gen initially presented it as a choice for Scorpion to make-- and there is one, one may have just mis-assessed the options.
"However, it is an ultimatum. Serve your retribution according to my whims, with precision befitting the creature you once were... or I will strike you down, spectre, and find another who can." The knuckles on the beard-stroking right crack profoundly, before the limb is tucked back within his fine old-world suit.
Gen played a dangerous game, throwing these threats out at the ghost before him, at every single one, his temper rose just like the temperature around them. He spoke in low, hushed tones, but they echoed all around the two men ominously.
"They may try to bind me. And I will collect their heads for the effort."
But despite the big talk, he still listened. Gen was giving him a choice. Strike the Lin Kuei one time, but let their number scurry like rats. None of them deserved any such mercy for the wrong that was done to those he loved. A war raged within the ninja, and he stood there, looking at the ground in thought.
In the darkness, he felt Kana in his arms pressed against his side, and it was hard for him not to drift to sleep immediately. This was his first night back home after many days of long, arduous and meticulous work. He'd never been more relieved to be back in his own home, to have a bath in his own bath, and be in bed with his wife's head rested against his heart to hear the beating. Even with his head leaned back and his eyes closed in the darkness, it would have been easy for him to miss the soft voice of his wife, also close to asleep herself.
"Jubei missed you."
"Only Jubei?" Hanzo couldn't help but smirk as he spoke, and giving a soft snort, Kana all but melted into him even more, before she responded a few moments later.
Her words were still ringing in his ears when the ninja looked up, eyes uncertain, stance unclear. The fire was gone, the temperature lowering slowly. Crickets and frogs dare not approach, but some slight semblence of normalcy was starting to appear once more. And when the man once known as Hanzo Hasashi spoke, it was a quiet tone, not at all full of that earlier fire(forgive the pun) and rage that punctuated every syllable earlier. However...there was still something there, a steel resolve that could only have come from a man of great respect and honor. Even the fires of Hell could not melt that away.
"I do not fear your threats, assassin, that emotion was taken from me when I tried to put the halves of my son back together again."
For a brief moment the sound of Scorpion inhaling deep through his nose could be heard, his eyes narrowing while the air started to sizzle. But it was only the briefest of moments, and the ninja spoke once more.
"But I will accept your proposal. I will work with you, in removing the head from the serpent of the Lin Kuei. And in return, you will not interfere when I take Sub-Zero's head from his shoulders."
Right fist into left palm. A show of respect to the older, wiser man, and the stiff upper bow the ghost gave was respect on top of that. In truth, it was all Scorpion could do to keep from shaking. He was finally going to get his vengeance. And finally, he could rest knowing he had righted the wrong done to his world.
"I do not seek your fear." It's unlikely Gen expects the wraith to still share that sentiment, even. "I care little /what/ you feel. I seek simply to discover if enough of Hasashi's mind has survived within the hellfire that's replaced his heart to temper his plan along a course that might actually /succeed/." There aren't many who would dare scoff openly at the Scorpion. Fewer still who could do so from a place of rational certitude; Gen fulfills both, "Collect all the heads!!" the old master laughs with a harsh and derisive chortle, but clearly finds it genuinely entertaining.
"If a single vengeful spectre had the capacity to topple every entity and organization that wronged them in life, the world would be a very different place, Hasashi. Best case, you manage to get close to Bi-Han, take your vengeance-- but the trail to the schemers who actually caused the destruction of your family goes cold. In all likelihood, the elite ninja that Sub-Zero surrounds himself with would be too much for you, in your pride."
Gen shakes his head, and paces a half-turn to the side of the unhewn stone steps, turning his white eyes from the wraith. "Gather whatever forces you can, Scorpion-- you will need them. Return here soon, for our window will close if we do not act. I will do better than standing aside as you assassinate Bi-Han: I will help you trace the line to your true foes. I will elucidate the means by which you will find Sub-Zero."
Gen smiles slowly, a dark and intimidating thing to most, adding weight to the reality of the mission ahead. "Alongside every elite assassin in his personal cadre."
Scorpion, Hanzo. Whoever the entity was now, his eyes still narrowed as he slowly straightened from that bow, studying the wily old man who so openly berated him. If this were any other time, if Sub-Zero's head was not being offered on a platter, then he would be reduced to ashes for how he was speaking to Scorpion. As it was, the black and yellow-clad ninja started walking backwards, drifting towards bamboo chutes that had been planted some time ago. As he did this, he would speak in a voice that echoed across this miniature shrine, a voice that was hardened and merciless.
"Two nights from now, old man. I will do what you have asked of me. You had better come through on your end."
He passed by one of the tall, green plants...and did not appear on the other side. The ninja, it seemed, had vanished.
But he WOULD return.
Log created on 16:41:57 07/13/2016 by Gen, and last modified on 15:43:29 08/05/2016.