Description: Tendrils of soul energy act as living splints for the Scarlet Dahlia as she prepares for her next battle in the Mortal Kombat tournament. In the midst of the Dahlia's practice, Nakoruru arrives to provide her with a much-needed ray of hope.
It is not long after noon, yet the vaulted throne of the sun can only evidence itself as a vague, light-gray disc upon the expansive cloudbanks. Judging from the puddles of varying sizes, one can surmise that a storm had passed through several hours prior; further evidence is provided in the distant rumbles of thunder that can be heard every so often.
In the Bloodsand Arena, a dozen mercenaries have paired off to spar against one another, taking full opportunity of the reduced humidity and temperature. And one other -- the exotic benefactor who has organized the group of unrelated parties into a de facto security force is balancing upon a stone pillar.
The Scarlet Dahlia needed some time, after a deadly battle with the White Angel of Death. To say nothing of the bruises, the minor concussion, the wrenching of her arm, or the significant internal hemorrhaging caused by the Spetsnaz agent's attacks, she also suffered a fractured sternum and two point-blank shots to the knees.
In a shambles, both mentally and physically, she could have been rendered dead from the bleeding alone. When the adrenaline had worn off, the Ainu woman had found herself vulnerable in many ways. Unexpectedly, she found herself forced into some hard conversations with the souls in immediate proximity to her.
Standing atop the pillar, the Scarlet Dahlia looks down upon her mended legs. Medical science was enough to set the bones back in place. Her boyfriend Zach was able to mend much of the damage -- to accelerate the body's natural regenerative processes nearly tenfold. But she would not be walking, let alone balancing on the stone pillar, without help from the peculiar gemstone affixed to the sash wrapped about her hips. Her billowy garment -- a long red dress over top of loose-fitting white pants -- was chosen to conceal the scarred tissue that Zach had not been able to restore. It was a canny fashion choice -- but she hadn't expected the gemstone to manifest a sticky, tarry unguent beneath her bandages, nor had she expected the thin network of plantlike tendrils to fill the gaps left behind by the Russian's hollowpoint rounds. And yet -- she understands, in retrospect, how the branching growths came about: a dark bargain made in the fleeting gaps of consciousness while lying crippled in the uppermost chamber of the Tower. An advance payment for the retribution the souls would later experience in the fields of Kombat. Unattractive and unflattering additions to the acrobat's lithe figure, the tendrils nonetheless allowed her to move, with considerable effort.
As always, the Dahlia's hair is, as always, drawn up into a high bun, with sidelocks of raven black drooping down to frame her face. She has, however, ditched the decorative eyeglasses for now, as they were damaged beyond repair in Kombat. Her head injury also requires an unsightly bandage to be affixed to her temple. The patterning upon the Dahlia's billowy dress is humble, with flowers adorning the front and rear flap of the dress. Aside from the outer garment's vibrant colors, it has very few decorative features. The baggy pants, likewise, serve more to conceal her horrific augmentations in a way that her prior form-fitting cheongsam could not. Hung loosely about her hips is a golden yellow sash, marked with an intricate pattern of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines. Complementing and contrasting the Vietnamese ao dai, the geometric pattern is a callback to its wearer's Ainu heritage. And, of course, the sash serves as a convenient anchoring point for the gemstone responsible for her feat of walking.
The Scarlet Dahlia balances on the stone pillar, both bare feet curled around the rough surface. Her hands are stretched out to either side, palms extended. After a moment, she hops upward lightly -- the thirtieth such time she has tested herself in such fashion. Earlier, her legs were shakier; the tendrils shuddered with each hop, threatening to separate from her fragile legs. Now, though, their hold is steady, their branches firmly rooted against her legs.
There was a point that she had considered halting this exercise, due to the considerable penalty of falling from such a height. This would, however, not be the first time the acrobat has called upon her own iron discipline to train the irascible muscles into doing what she asks of them.
There will be no time to relax and recuperate. The penalty for failure is, in a word, absolute.
She could not afford to rest -- she needed to come to grips with her shortcomings, and exceed them.
With her arms out as a counterbalance, the injured acrobat is able to compensate for the weakness of her legs. She holds the pose for a minute, allowing herself a brief smile as she casts an amused glance towards the dozen mercenaries in their decidedly non-mortal combat. Their presence reassures her, even though she knows they would be unlikely to help her against a foe worth her time.
To some, risk is an aphrodesiac.
Now, though, she looks back to her legs, lifting herself up onto her tiptoes. Satisfied with the flexibility granted by the tendrils, the Dahlia draws in her breath, steeling herself. Closing her eyes, she rehearses the next maneuver in her mind.
Her knees flex; her hips lower.
She suddenly pitches forward into a flip, her arms held out to either side as a fixed axis.
The Dahlia snaps out of the somersault, her toes caressing the crown of the next pillar in sequence, while the light fabrics of her garment settle back into position.
Exhaling, her duck-egg blue eyes slowly open once more. A faint smile crosses her lips. Her bargain with the souls in the gemstone may have bought her some time before her next bout -- it will be up to her to fulfill her side of the arrangement. And that means -- practice.
The Scarlet Dahlia knows better than the wander the treacherous island alone, bringing with her an entourage of those both beguiled and persuaded to follow the charismatic woman. Few from Earth had adapted so well to playing the game of fate transpiring on the prison arena as she, giving purpose to the purposeless, and hope for the tragically hopeless. The very idea that many of those who answered her beck and call would survive to see the setting sun of their homelands another day was slim. But for nearly every representative of the besieged world drawn here, it was their first time pulled into the deadly conflict - who could blame them for such naive notions.
Scattered palm trees and open sands surround the beach front arena. Were it not for the history of bloodshed buried beneath the fine layer of grains, the location may be easily considered picturesque, a strangely tranquil refuge on the island that seems to afford so vary little of tranquility or safe havens to be. It is a good place to train, especially with her company in tow for however effective they might be. There are no directions by which one could approach without being seen from some distance.
Which will no doubt make the swish of moving cloth behind her alarming as she finds herself joined atop the balancing pillars. Stepping once more from the yukar of the half-Ainu's childhood, Nakoruru perches with ease, right foot on her own pillar, her left foot out a little at an angle, toe pointing, for counter balance. Her hands are clasped behind her back as she blinks twice at the Shadow Advisor.
The make of her robe is identical to the last time they met - draping down to her ankles, pristine white but for the interweaving crimson and azure geometric pattern bordering its length. Only, the sleeve that had been torn free the last time they met is restored, and even the section of cloth she had cut away to bandage herself looks as good as new.
The sea breeze whips at her robe and hair, the two long locks that frame her face drifting in-land with each gust. Her long, black hair and the beribboned bow decorating it appear damp, as if she had been out in the passing storm, yet the rest of her clothing bears no evidence of having been caught in a deluge.
Following the rumble of distant thunder, another sound is heard above - the cry of the great hawk circling the site, twisting into the wind to coast effortlessly with its large wings spread.
Her voice is calm, her expression somber for it is a somber fate they continue to face.
Focus flicks to the Dahlia's knees then back to her face. "Against impossible odds, you stood face to face with death. I'm glad you are still here." She gazes at the beautiful victor, her hands still clasped behind her back as she maintains her own balance with statuesque poise, a glimmer of a smile that fades as fast as it appears.
"He died a pointless death, a horrible death, and he brought it upon himself. But you..." slowly she lifts her eyes to the sky above, watching the raptor wing around back toward the cliffs as if to hunt the smaller birds that nest along the rocky heights. "It was not the first time for you, it seems."
She brings her attention back to the Scarlet Dahlia, "Maybe that is why you are here."
Beneath the thin cloth of her lower garment, the tendrils flex. It is an... unusual sensation, to have them distributing the weight normally associated with healthy knee bones and ligaments redistributed to spots further up and down her leg. But more than that, the Scarlet Dahlia can hear the light murmurs of voices in the aftermath of the strain. Nothing distinct enough to make out as words -- perhaps a language she does not fully understand. That alone would be disquieting...
But not quite so much as the rustle of cloth behind her. The Dahlia closes her eyes, expanding her awareness to the soul who had stepped upon the pillar as easily as moving from one room to another. She glances over her shoulder, listening quietly to the comments made by the Kamui-Sent as she turns about on the pillar. It's somewhat difficult with such narrow space, but the acrobatic juggler just sees this as more... practice.
Her shoulders are not fully square with the Ainu warrior's, but her face is turned towards her. Her lips turn upwards into an honest smile, as, for the moment, any attempt at pretense is discarded to the ground below.
"Th-thank you. I'm glad to see you again, in... safer conditions."
The Dahlia seems to be in a bit of mild discomfort -- with her more honest smile on display, perhaps it will be a bit harder for her to hide such a thing from the gaze of Nakoruru. Of the warrior maiden's words, five words do bring a damper to the Shadow Advisor's smile:
Pointless death. Brought upon himself.
By the time the woman's nature as a killer is alluded to, she's already returned to neutral stance -- both in the way her hands are lowered by her hips, and the joy has faded from her lips.
"It was, indeed, a terrible death. Arrows of wood and flint may be an impediment. A wormwood arrow may be fatal. But guns..."
The Shadow Advisor expels a sigh, her eyes meeting those of Nakoruru head-on. She does not turn away -- does not break the gaze. "A lot can happen in an instant."
The Dahlia nods her head quietly in response to the supposition. Perhaps that -is- why she is here... She hesitates for a moment, considering her words carefully. And most of all -- remembering how Nakoruru spoke to her in the glade.
After that moment of introspection, she answers with a nod. "It was not the first, no. The... Ainu people have been tested greatly since the time your yukar was first sung. The kamui of wildlife are saddened -- all but forgotten. And those who would sleep with the enemy outnumber those who would take up arms and fight to preserve the old ways."
The Dahlia settles her hands behind her back, bowing lightly. The tendrils twitch lightly at the shift of balance, as does one of her eyebrows in sympathetic pain, but she does not falter, all the same. As she rises, she forges a bittersweet smile. "The Ainu ways are dying. With each generation, there are fewer hearths. Fewer speak to Apehuchi. Fewer still know of the elder Kamui. I regret that..."
The Shadow Advisor lowers her eyes, casting her gaze down to Nakoruru's feet. "I wish I knew more. But as I do not... I would lay my life down, so that those who -do- know might be able to save our people."
Her eyes lift -- their flexible blue lenses hardly necessary in the face of the Guardian of Nature. "Perhaps that is why you are here as well?"
A slight nod of acknowledgement is offered regarding safer conditions. Normally, the idea of relative safety on Shang Tsung's island would be a strained concept, but compared to the vortex of wrathful spirits deep in the plagued forest, the circumstances they find themselves in now are practically idyllic.
In the Ainu warrior's eyes she would find no judgement for being a killer - if even half the stories told about Kamui's chosen are true, she is no stranger to the decisive resolution to... irreconcilable differences. Nor would her legends be the only yukar rife with death for the corrupt, the greedy, and the malevolent. The vindication of Nature's Wrath can be a frightful sword - a danger modern minds have become dulled to over time.
It is with wisdom that the Scarlet Dahlia answers with honesty, affording the response with context of a people dwindling, their voices falling off one by one. Her thoughtful words provoke a response as Nakoruru flinches slightly then glances to the side to look toward the vast ocean. "Even... in the years I recall, the struggle of our people did not bode well. The form Nature wore had faded as few could remember her beautiful gown of grass and leaves for eyes were drawn to the citadels of man in the Land of the Rising Sun."
She sighs softly, her expression strained, memories of trying times brought to the forefront. Any hopes that her people's circumstances had improved dashed with the Dahlia's honesty. "The Ainu life was never an easy one. To hold the traditions sacred that the rest of the world would reject required resolve not common among even the greatest." She lifts her hands from behind her back, folding them over each other at the base of her neck, balance maintained with her right foot, supported by an ankle that seems inexhaustible.
"Perhaps that is why their voice is but a whisper now," she contemplates softly, a revelation that even she is unsure whether the pantheon of gods and legends the old story weavers once brought to life even still exist in the fallen modern world. "I strain to listen, but..." A soft sigh, a lowering of her shoulders. Bowing her head briefly in thought, she moves her right arm out in front of her as a shadow descends from the sky and the bird of prey that accompanied her arrival alights on her arm guard, its talons securing its perch without harming the girl.
Adjusting her left foot to provide the proper counterbalance, she lifts her left hand to run along the back of the hawk's feathered head.
"As long as even one carries their stories in one's heart, they will live on." Steel blue eyes find Honoka's own once more, "In the end, it is easy to lay down a life for a cause. Here and now, you must live. The dead have no voice, and if..." her words catch in her throat, eyes flicking to those training in the arena below, aiming to stay in tip top readiness for whatever challenges might be ahead of them as well. Shaking her head, she looks back toward the woman she appears to see as a comrade in the crucible of this island.
Breathing in, she lifts her face to the sky again, another soft breath released. "I believe... we must look to the example of the fox for inspiration here." Eyes shift back to the gem-supported fighter. "Tiger and bear alike fell to the cunning of a sharp mind. Strength alone will not win the day. As long as we dance to the song of the sorcerer, he is in control. But it isn't so easy... the edicts concerning kombat are intricate, woven with language too complex for me to understand. Perhaps... you could help find a way to bend them to our advantage?"
It is easy for children to gloss over the fine details with the lyrical storytelling of the yukar singers and uwepeker. After all, heroes like Okikirmui and heroines like Nakoruru are told to have "defeated" or "punished" their foes: the storytellers use simple euphemisms to describe the end of necessarily mortal conflicts.
The Scarlet Dahlia is used to being silently judged for her decisions. From the mouth of another, Nakoruru's words might be seen as a leading accusation, a prompt for the Dahlia to incriminate herself further. But instead, it comes as a welcome relief that the living embodiment of the yukar stories of her youth not only abstains from passing judgment, but expresses her solemn support. A pained expression is shared with the Kamui-sent Warrior -- a quiet nod of agreement.
She finds her gaze drifting to the falcon, lost in its insightful eyes. Is the falcon, also told of in the yukar, itself a kamui at this point? She thinks back to the owl -- to the bear festivals of her youth. With some measure of bitterness, she explains, "In many kotan, the ceremony of the Iyomante is carried out thrice daily for the entertainment and education of the Wajin masses. The dance is carried out, but the performance is hollow. The children may claim to understand the meaning, but the dance does not fill their hearts with joy. Their songs will never reach the ears of the kamui."
The Dahlia had heard before that Nakoruru's connection with the kamui had been weak. But now, as the lines are traced to present a more complete picture, the Shadow Advisor draws in her breath sharply. Her eyes glisten with moisture at the realization -- at the mild rebuke, perhaps moreso -- that the Dahlia should not be so willing to throw her life down for the Ainu with their numbers dwindling so. In a population of fifteen thousand, with more passing on each month, the very real threat of extinction is a clear and present danger.
Fear begins to show on her face -- fear that goes over and beyond the real possibilities of death in Kombat.
Fear that sacrificing herself for her people might prove worse than not taking action in the first place.
The Dahlia falters, raising a hand to her face, covering her eyes. Her ribcage heaves as she draws in another harried breath.
And then hope is provided.
"That's..." The Dahlia withdraws her hand, drawing in her breath. Eyes tinged with a touch of red look back upon Nakoruru's steel blue eyes. "-- That's true. I have been attempting to focus upon the Sorceror himself, but perhaps the answer is right in front of us."
The Shadow Advisor casts her eyes across Nakoruru's clothing. To simply be -having- this conversation with the living legend fills her with hope, but to see her Ainu attire -- fresh, and free of the damage that befell it in the Living Forest -- is an inspiration in itself. "I have two questions, then... "
She looks up, a hopeful smile filling her face.
"One -- are the rules written anywhere that a mortal may find them?"
An eyebrow arches, as the smile turns into a more lopsided smirk.
"And, two -- Might you have a particular course of action in mind?"
"Sadly, for centuries, our people have suffered for the lack of a strong leader. Gone are the chieftains of old who could lead the villages in solemn rite and sacred worship. As our people withhold their gifts from the kamui, so too will the kamui do likewise. It was said that for every blessing we could hope to receive from the spirits, their is a commandment upon which receipt of that blessing is predicated."
The beautiful, sharp beaked raptor on her arm studies the Dahlia in return, head canting sharply to one side then the other, bottomless brown eyes exercising a silent evaluation. The moment passes eventually, the bird busying itself with preening, lifting its wing to reach its head beneath as it commences its own ritual of cleaning.
At her suggestion that perhaps a new perspective is needed on the threat that rests heavily on the beleaguered planet they call home, she notices the change that comes over the half-Ainu's demeanor - a glimmer of hope echoed in the eyes of Nature's Will. The two questions are posed, one after the other, and Nakoruru pulls her left hand away from stroking the back of the great hawk to rest against her cheek. "I believe they might be, but unfortunately, I know not where. Kamui Kappa, the Stormbringer Dragon, is supposed to be here. From his mouth I heard the bylaws recited once before when he called himself Raiden..." Her expression darkens slightly, her left arm resting against her side as the hawk continues to use her right arm as a perch. Memories of the last Grand Kombat she attended are not particularly fond moments to recall.
"I suspect the sorcerer is to blame. But maybe his underlings know something as well as to why our Arbiter is no where to be seen. However, any of his minions that are in the tournament are protected - do not attack them without issuing a challenge to be accepted. But any that are eliminated... or are not participating anyway... no such protection exists for them."
She pauses for a moment to allow the implications to sink in before she continues, "There are in the edicts lines concerning the ability to challenge others, and the rights and circumstances by which these challenges can be enforced. You might have noticed that while the rank and file are from Outworld, the warriors of worth from Earth outnumber those from Outworld. If we could find a way to twist the rules of challenges to our advantage, maybe our superior numbers could become a weapon."
Eyes shift to the sash about the recovering acrobat's waist. "Also, keep in mind, it is possible for us to transfer the power accumulated within these sacraments amongst each other. Perhaps therein lies the advantage regarding the number of Earth's champions present."
Her left hand lifts, finger raised, "But first, knowledge pertaining Kamui Kappa's circumstances is necessary-"
Mamahaha cries out, wings flapping, her focus suddenly on the sand where the waves crash against the shore. Nakoruru glances as well, eyebrows raised briefly as attention falls on a great beast walks out of the sea, waves swirling around his feet. His thick mane of dark fur is soaked against his body, and his eyes glimmer with a faint glimmer of gold visible even in the overcast afternoon illumination. His shadow seems almost unnaturally dark, as if light around him is made darker simply by proximity.
His form is a mighty Siberian wolf, another creature from the stories of Nakoruru's legacy, but the Dahlia would know full well that it is no mundane beast that has happened to drag itself from the ocean. An aura of absolute, unyielding vindication can be sensed around the creature that stalks toward the pillars.
Mamahaha screes again, wings flapping, before finally launching herself into the sky to rise back up toward the clouds. The Kamui Sent herself frowns faintly, a somber presence washing over her. "Shikuru. So then... the time draws near."
The wolf looks up toward the two young women atop the pillars - his left eye is missing, a mangled, scar in the shape of an X occupying the spot where it should be. His snout is likewise bearing a vicious gouge across one point of it, evidence of violence not so easily healed even by the passage of centuries.
A soft growl thunders from the animal as it comes to a stop on the side opposite from the sand arena. Nakoruru bows her head slightly, both hands folded over her chest as she maintains her right footed balance, "Know that I will not run, I know well my duty. I had only hoped... to not see you so soon."
The Scarlet Dahlia rose to the challenge of leadership, quietly asserting control of the Japanese yakuza under the smokescreen of a tremendous difference of opinion. The Kamui-Sent Warrior may not have been intending to compliment the manner in which the Shadow Advisor had ripped the Yamaguchi-gumi apart, giving rise to the Akatsuki-gumi. It is much more likely that Nakoruru had been drawing allusions to the manner in which the Ainu-Japanese woman's charisma has won over those without hope -- those looking for meaning in their life, meaning that would give cause for them to plunged into the madness of looming death.
Whatever the cause, the Shadow Advisor bows her head in praise of the acknowledgment from the heroine of her youth. Acknowledgement in any other fashion would feel arrogant, and possibly presumptuous -- and less desirable.
As the Advisor lifts her head to address the Warrior, she feels comforted by the fact that the raptor seems to be distracted with its own preening. Hawks unnerve her -- predators of the air, they can strike at any moment, silent in their approach and brutally lethal in their execution. Like many of nature's beasts, the sharp-eyed creature is immune to honeyed words and grandiose appeals to righteousness and order -- a single-minded killer, once its attentions have been fixed upon a target. She can sense that it resonates with the aura of its keeper, which allows the Advisor to rest at ease. She shifts her weight onto her other foot, biting her lip at the decidedly unsubtle way in which her body finds a new way to complain about the motion.
Raiden -- the name comes as a reminder that the Advisor has asked similar questions before, only to be similarly disheartened at the absence of the true Arbiter. The Dahlia's lips press into a thin line at the revlation, though a glimmer of hope does appear in her eyes at the mention -- even the /suggestion/ -- that the woman can take action into her own hands. To act against the minions directly.
"Interesting. There is now a puzzle to determine which of his minions might actually possess the knowledge that would benefit us, that challenging them to Kombat would be a worthwhile endeavor."
Moreover, Nakoruru just explained -another- method that the Dahlia had not really registered before. No such protections exist for someone who has been eliminated. She stares at the Kamui-Sent for a moment, unblinking -- and then nods slowly, absorbing the information. To twist challenges to their advantage...
"... It is as you say." She nods quietly. "Perhaps more communication with those warriors is in order. To remind them of the gravity of this conflict, and inspire them to do that which may prove distasteful in this day and age. This battle began a thousand years ago, and tactics of new may not be adequate for concluding it."
The shift Nakoruru's gaze is noted; the Akatsuki Advisor looks down self-consciously. The steady beat of her tendrils' energy surges at her knees -- a constant reminder of the powers at her beck and call. That those powers can be reallocated as the needs demand is an interesting notion, but exactly -how- that power can be best wielded is a matter which requires a bit more thought. Not only will she need to speak with the warriors -- she will also need to take inventory, and treat the assets of Earthrealm as a true strategist, rather than as a simple opportunist. Her skills may prove better utilized as a strategist, than as a soldier...
Lost in thought for a moment, the Dahlia is suddenly distracted by the keening cry of the falcon. She looks up at the beast as it approaches -- and a mild wave of fear washes over her. Her stance shifts awkwardly, forcing her arms to snap out to either side for balance. Pain grits her teeth as she stabilizes with a lower stance, though she is careful to keep her head lowered to keep from presenting herself as a threat to the wolf below.
Shikuru, the loyal Destroyer who accompanied Nakoruru through her darker paths in the yukar of her youth. The face is recognizable -- yet another aspect of the legends that stuck with the younger Dahlia when she had first heard the tale.
"... Kamui-Sent, please forgive me for saying so," she offers, short of breath as she rises back to her feet. "but I do not expect you to run." Was Nakoruru speaking to -her- or to Shikuru? It matters little to the Dahlia, whose eyes tremble as she fixates upon the fearsome wolf.
"I have heard the yukar sung about you. I prayed that one day, I might get to meet you, Nakoruru. That I might glimpse of Mamahaha, who words could never properly convey. That I might never be a recipient of one of Shikuru's terrifying strikes..."
The Dahlia stabilizes herself, placing her hand atop the gemstone on her sash. The tendrils surge -- begin to glow yellow, even through her fanciful attire. Faintly, the spirits within murmur back to her.
The Shadow Advisor slowly begins to smile, nodding back at Shikuru, the fearless destroyer. As a child, she had been terrified of the wolf -- as a beast, it was permitted to be much more vicious in the yukar retellings than Nakoruru herself. But now that she sees him as a kindred spirit -- now that she can -sense- the vengeance and its willingness to be used as a weapon, she finds comfort in the wolf instead.
"This is a dream, come to life. A terrifying, vivid reality." She draws in her breath, rising up. Invigorated, with the resonations from her gemstone, she adds, "I am proud to fight alongside you, that those of the Earthrealm may once more dance and dine with the kamui."
The Dahlia nods her head solemnly. "Our resolve is tested. And as our path becomes clear, we shall succeed."
"Please," she states, giving Dahlia the first lasting smile since she arrived, "Just Nakoruru. You would be surprised how reassuring it is to hear your own name after... so long." Her smile warms even further concerning the idea of her flight from the mortal danger that looms ahead. "Thank you and forgive me, I-" she glances back toward the wolf, her expression warm but reverent, "There is history between myself and the guardian wolf... He lends me his strength only when my most difficult tasks lie ahead..."
Settling on his haunches, that his thick mane is damp against his sides only makes it even more obvious just how large the predatory Forest Lord actually is. Both of them are focusing on the recovering Shadow Advisor now as she makes reference to the yukar created about her own life. There is a hint of sheepish humility, a bit of a blush blooming in the young warrior's cheeks as she bows her head, "Someday... when this war is won and Earth enjoys her freedom from the scourge of Outworld, I hope you might share with me the yukar you have heard concerning me. I-" Her grin becomes almost self-effacing, the idea that she is featured in the legends the old crones in the village would chant seems something she's not entirely comfortable with yet. "Well, I'm not really sure what story they actually weave, but I would like to know."
Finally, she springs to the side, landing on her left foot on an adjacent pillar, having supported herself with her right all this while. Closer now to the waiting wolf, she glances toward the powerful shamaness then shifts her eyes toward the nearby men dedicated to staying distracted with the training she has tasked them with. Her right hand lifts to her forehead, shading her eyes for a moment as she glances toward the sky in the direction of the cloud covered sun.
"Perhaps you know it was once said by the grandmothers that each morning the sun tries to rise in the Eastern sky and that Wei Kamui, the Devourer, tries and absorb it into his infinite maw and deprive the world its light. But each dawn, Okikirmui shoves into the devil's mouth foxes and crows so that he might not eat the sun that day." Her expression is grim now, her tone not reflective of the tales of her own youth but of the gruesome future that lies ahead.
"It is easy to murmur our quiet thanks to the sacrifice of those countless creatures. But it may not seem so easy to the crows and foxes that pay the price."
She pauses a moment, considering her next words, before continuing with a heavy heart. "Each life is precious. There will be loss, there will be pain. See to it that their sacrifices are not in vain, see to it that their names are not forgotten."
Below, the wolf gets back up to his feet and begins to vigorously shake out the seawater in his coat. He turns to face along the shore, taking a few strides forward before pausing and looking over his shoulder with his one good eye toward the perch Nakoruru occupies.
An apologetic smile is cast toward the rising ringleader, "I am called elsewhere, I have my own fated battle. If I survive, we will meet again. May your efforts bring you victory as well."
Bending her leg, she leaps down to the sand, landing next to the ruthless fanged Destroyer. "Come, Shikuru, we must see to it that fate does not repeat itself. I am ready, my old friend."
The past meetings had left the Dahlia in doubt as to whether the young woman before her was truly the figure of legend. But as she implores the Dahlia to drop the hero worship act, the small coincidence of -both- young women standing upon equally-tall pedestals does not escape her. The Dahlia cannot help but smile at the realization -- nor can she keep a straight face at the living legend's humility. She does not question it, now -- to do so would be rude. In truth, she is glad to be able to see Nakoruru as she wants to be seen -- as an Ainu woman with a firm communion with nature. As a warrior of conviction -- one who will fight to the death, but only for the right reasons. A plain and simple Ainu -- not the heroine who the Akatsuki Advisor had looked up to in her youth.
"It's quite all right," answers the Dahlia, turning to address the beast and its distinctive coat. Her words flow, almost unbidden: "If the kamui favor us by placing an ipetam in our path, it would be foolish to leave it for the enemy to make use of." And yet, by invoking the ipetam, the swords of legend, she considers that the beast is not just -similar- to her mental concept of Shikuru -- it is -exactly- like her concept.
The paranoid part of her wonders if perhaps this instantiation of Nakoruru has not been in fact pulled from her own memory to mislead her -- so perfect is the replication of the beast from the spoken tales of yore. The possibility is considered for a fleeting moment -- and yet, if it were an illusion, she would not -feel- it so vividly. The beast is alive, as much so as the falcon at Nakoruru's side, or Nakoruru herself.
The Dahlia turns away from the wolf to smile at Nakoruru. Days ago, she was in a fight for her life against a silent assassin, and now she is chatting up a storm with a heroine from the past who expresses curiosity in her own legend. Amused, she nearly laughs: "I would be delighted to share the tales, though my telling would be... rusty?" My aunt would sing the songs much more vividly."
The Scarlet Dahlia's eyes follow the forever-young Ainu as she leaps down to an adjacent pillar, a pang of jealousy flickering across her face at recognizing the full mobility she was so recently robbed of. She notices the warrior's gaze, pressing her lips together in acknowledgement. The tale is another poignant reminder that the men will most likely be lost to their fate as crows and foxes -- the tale is quite familiar to her.
"Should the kamui be so kind, their tale will be woven into a yukar of their very own -- never to be lost, or forgotten, ever again."
Hands spring out to either side, as the tendrils at her knees tense, ripple. The souls within her stone grow restless, agitated, and compel the Dahlia into motion. She leaps again, onto a different pillar.
This time, the pain is lessened -- perhaps even nonexistent -- now that her mind is more at ease.
"I will continue preparations for my battle, then. May you fare well in your battle." Her words come quickly, with practiced ease. They may ring hollow -- but only because the Dahlia is still feeling more than a little starstruck from her rendezvous with the Kamui-Sent.
It has been a long time since she has heard a legend sung. The Shadow Advisor's path may be fraught with peril -- some of her own making -- but she resolves to hear the legends again.
As the Ainu warrior maiden joins her guardian, the Ainu-Japanese shamaness bows back in a humble farewell. "May one day a tale be sung about us both."
Log created on 23:54:49 09/26/2016 by Honoka, and last modified on 01:37:18 10/02/2016.