Description: Kenshi Takahashi, an Earthrealm champion and blind telekinetic swordsman, finds himself having to act with discreet movements and care to not tip his hands to the many eyes of the sorcerer, Shang Tsung. Retiring to a well-hidden safe space within the Wastes, he comes in to find that two others have, somehow, found this same humble hide-out from the elements and Outworld agents... what sort of branches will fate take following this mild inconvenience?
The cowardly sun hangs directly overhead, its wavering light falling across the blasted remains of the wasteland. Though it is high noon, a time when the sun should feel as the conqueror to all, the dusty light filtering down through the gritty haze feels somehow weak. It is as if the shadows are merely retreating beneath obstacles for a short break, resting up in preparation to rush out and once more consume the land.
It is through this heat and desolation that Kenshi steps, each footfall landing with deliberate care. Though a crimson cloth hides his eyes, the armored swordsman's boots find no bones.
Little puffs of dust rise around his ankles as he stalks forward beneath the gaze of a grotesque statue, it's gargoyle features twisted into a horrible snarl as it leans out from its perch atop an empty archway. It is beneath this archway that the aging warrior passes, turning sharply to the right to slip between the arches wall and the collapsed ruins of what might have once been a stable.
Stepping out of the dust and up onto the sloping pile of rocks, he calmly navigates its lower edge, the ruined stonework beneath his feet neither shifting nor crunching as he picks his way slowly across.
But then he stops.
head cocked to the side, ear forward, he listens. The tendrils of awareness that radiate from his mind, connected to all around him as the webs of a spider, tremble with unexpected activity. Ahead, concealed in a small roofed nook of three standing walls hidden behind this large pile of rubble, is the nook in which he has slept the last two nights. But it is no longer empty.
Posed as still as a statue, gloved hands raised defensively, the blind man awaits the sounds of those who have invaded his shelter. Spreading out around him, busted walls and crumbling ruins stretch as far as the eye can see. However, Kenshi has ears for only one.
Have Shang Tsung's assassins finally found him?
For lack of direct eyesight, the other senses tingle with red flags. Red flags that smell, taste, and touch in a way that would say 'red flag.' Maybe just 'flag.' The saying might be lost on Kenshi, but let's not look past the simple idea that a place of sanctuary for the wielder of Sento... may no longer be a place of sanctuary. (And that maybe he shouldn't taste the red flags. Who licks flags?!)
To his ears, he can hear the rustling of a fabric attributed to the robed preists of fell magic. Subtle, quiet - could they be lying in wait?
Breathing. One is troubled. One is reasonably steady. There are at least two others drawing breath within this. One of them must be a veteran in Shang Tsung's employ - such controlled breathing when lying in wait is a sure sign of a skilled assassin. Yet, none could hide their breathing to Kenshi's ears.
The smell of death. Whatever or whoeve wears or utilizes them, they have been in the company of violence, perhaps worn by people who have inflicted pain and misery upon countless many. If threads could talk, the tales they could tell!
These must be dangerous invaders, without a doubt. There is no true sanctuary from the eye of Shang Tsung, indeed, and it may be that Kenshi need to draw his sword anew before fleeing to consider a new place of saf--
Then, there is an exaggerated snoring sound.
So, someone else is just asleep here, then... at least one. For two confirmed presences, it seems another is not...?
With near endless patience born of age and experience, Kenshi sifts through the sounds and scents of the interlopers.
Two men, perhaps one no more than a boy. One surely asleep. The smells of past kombats...
Even before the snore, however, Kenshi has begun to step forward. As one of the stronger telepaths who still walks the realms, very little is hidden from his sight. The quickest of surface scans is enough to banish any idea that the two within his shelter are a threat.
However, if they had been followed?
There are those with the power to hide themselves from him, just as he hides from the ruler of this island. When surrounded by enemies, caution is applied wisdom.
The swordsman's boots thump softly against stone as he picks his way around the edge of the rubble pile and down onto the cobblestone floor of his nook.
The shelter is nothing spectacular. A simple room perhaps 10 feet by 15, with three walls of grey brick and a sloping roof of rotting wood shingles. It couldn't keep rain out, but the wastelands are dry.
Kenshi had left no supplies here to be robbed, and so upon arriving he settles down atop a particularly large chunk of rock, his back to the pile of rubble that hides the open wall from casual inspection. Idly he brushes clinging dust from his crimson coat as he waits for his presence to become known. The powdery sand of the wastes clings to his back, and is dusted throughout his greying hair and beard. He must have been traveling for some time.
One of them reacts to the sound of boots moving. No, they seem like they'd be reacting to any stimulus, of which Outworld has no shortage. Kenshi's suspicions - his very educated guesses, over years of honing his talents - reveals the mind of a very troubled young man, in his early teenage years. A boy. This is no place for any youngster to be caught.
He looks upon the sitting wanderer with a wordless gasp. Fear. Like most, a seeming inability to measure the character of a man beyond what context clues are given by sight and maybe what could be eavesdropped from speech - or lack thereof.
The robes rustle in odd ways - they're not actually wearing those foul robes now, are they? - with words of pleading and haste made under his breath as though a futile hope that they could not be heard.
The other... stirs. They stir slowly.
Leisurely. Arms reach up, stretch out, a prolonged sigh. These are gestures and movements of someone at complete comfort with their surroundings. Someone at peace with resting on a cold floor, in the middle of the wastes. It's...
"Mmmrghbhlrptffnjvcs." Doubly so, for the string of consonants that hum out between the lips of the far older one - is it a man? The sound of strands of hair brushing against surrounding rock and those robes make them out to be awful long...
"Whassamattr," the words slur tiredly together from the aging man (voice confirms it, that is another man) as the young child points a finger towards Kenshi, probably sensed by the smallest flick of air being displaced by the arm movement.
The child is wearing a bracelet with misshapen and uneven golden beads that have a warm glow to them. The man... a sapphire-hued one, so dim as to be almost unnoticeable other than the matching shapes. The older one stands up...
Going by the sounds that follow, the rustling and dropping of robes on the ground, either they've stripped... or those robes were being used as bedsheets. (The latter is confirmed with the further sound of fabric movement, but that's no less strange.)
Neither say anything. One is too afraid to speak, the other is taking his sweet time waking up in a land where one moment of hesitation or weakness tends to result in death.
"I believe there are children's tales from which you could learn." Kenshi informs the intruders, his tone a curious mix of light humor and grave rebuke. It is a tone most often found in kung fu masters, who, through many years of training and meditation, have gained the ability to be both insulting and humorous. Judging by the odd inflection of certain words, English may not be the swordsman's first language. he doesn't much seem like your typical kung fu master, though.
"Goldy Locks, perhaps?" A faint, wry quirk of the lips accompanies his words, the blind man dropping his hands to rest his armored forearms atop his thighs. Between his knees, his nimble fingers lock, staying well away from the sword hilt that juts up behind his head. The younger of the two is already terrified. No need to push him any further.
"Howard Rust junior, Jao Puntasrima. Though this place is not much of a home, you appear to be my guests. I am Takahashi Kenshi, one of many champions of Earth Realm. It is good to meet you."
A small trickle of dust drifting free of his messy hair, the blind ronin bows his head to the two in respect. The corners of his expressive lips remain twisted up just slightly, showing some level of amusement at the situation he finds himself in. Disgusting priest robes dropped in his shelter? Random bumbling strangers showing up unannounced?
Well, if the elder gods will it.
Lips smack habitually as one of the intruders takes another worryingly sluggish wait to do anything other than accustom themselves to the world of reality. Its colors, its sounds, and its aged blind swordsmen. All the fundamentals of things that simply are, as the masterful dry scolding threatens to be cut-off half-way with a yawn. Way too leisurely, for the remote possibility that this intruder (or, perhaps, rightful squatter) could have ill intent.
"W-We're sorry, don't hurt us--" Jao stammers, voice too weak to speak up over much of anything as Takahashi Kenshi politely introduces himself to his highly unlikely, bordering outright improbable guests. Of all the places - this is an island with no shortage of 'places' - to just by mere cance find and decide to sleep...!
"Ahh... hello." The older man, at long last, comes to some vague understanding of what it's like to 'be awake' and also 'be confronted by someone whose safehouse has been violated,' stretching one last time to get out a kink in one of his knees. He makes eye contact - for all the good it does! - rubbing the back of his neck as he speaks next.
"Ah, y'know, funny you mention... Goldilocks," he starts waving a pointing finger, "was gonna try and make some oat porridge next I woke in," which begs further questions of how he intends to make it, let alone procure anything that resembles the 'oats' necesary to call it that. Edible vegitation tends not to be a resource this part of the island is rich in. Tired laughter follows.
Jao continues to cower, as is normal. To Kenshi's senses, this boy's psyche seems to be subject to a great trauma, incredible stress... there is no sense of anything that one might find in a potential champion of Earthrealm for Mortal Kombat.
"Gee... sorry for the trouble, Mr. Kenshi!" So says Rust Jr., whom Kenshi might get an idea that his presence is oft synonymous with the very idea of 'trouble.' "Sure if I stub my toe on another stack, I'll find another room."
That explains their particualr fortune in finding shelter, then.
Though finding two strangers sleeping in your shelter due to sheer dumb luck might be cause for a raised eyebrow on Earth, it is much less so here. Champions must come together, and thus their faits are often guided in strange ways by the powers that be. Perhaps that is why Kenshi is able to accept all of this with such dry placidity. Or, maybe he's just a really mellow guy.
"I do not harm my allies, of which I think both of you are. The trinkets you carry mark you as chosen, and those chosen of Outworld are harder to read." The swordsman's explanation comes calm and collected, head tilting to the side as he considers the words of the elder man. That head tilt brings his left ear around, cocked to listen as if unsure that he is hearing the jumbled mess of words correctly.
"I am sure Shang Tsung's castle is provisioned with oats, and his chefs are said to be second to none. If you had requested a sack lunch, I think they would have provided you with something."
Though Kenshi's words remain light, if not a little bland, he skirts neatly around the issues of why he is hiding here, and where his own sack lunch might be. After all, he is the one asking the questions.
Shifting his hidden gaze to Jao, the bearded sword sage allows the humor to melt from his tone. His lips press into a thin line of consideration, mental fingers ghosting across the edges of the boy's terror as a surgeon might inspect a wound. The play of his power is subtle, even delicate, honed as it has been to fill the gap left by his sight.
"You have nothing to fear here. While I am with you, you are safe." Kenshi's tone is firm, attention locked on the cowering teenager. He does not attempt to influence him, not mentally, but there is a certain solidity and focus about the man that seems to be absent in his father. Where Rust might be a wind, or a gas, or maybe a bit of poisonous but very shiny mercury, the swordsman seated upon the rubble is a rock.
It can come to a point where one may question whether it is the will of a greater power, or that such a concept can be rivalled - or even surpassed - by sheer foolhardiness.
"See, Jao? He's all right," Rust Jr. says in a low voice as to not interrupt Kenshi mid-discussion about 'allies' and the importance of their bracelets. He seems to take this word as gospel as he wraps an arm around his adopted son, patting him with the hand attached to that arm. Jao seems only a little dubious of this, taking another step back as the subject briefly segues into matters of procuring food.
The cowering stops when Jao is reassured another time of his safety. A simple mental combing reveals a strong key component of where his fear may lie - maybe not the blade, or the lack of sight, or the simple unfamiliarity. Kenshi seems to be giving off an idea of strength - a fear of the strong?
Does that mean the older man there is almost harmless, if he allows him to come that close? Maybe he just masks it better...?
The emotional read on the two of them seems easy enough to identify, but... one is hard to digest.
Jao's is entirely logical for his situation. His meekness, his vulnerability. Kenshi is dealing with an ordinary young man in an extraordinary situation, and his means of dealing with that effectively will probably not deviate much from any previous experience in dealing with frightened children.
He seems to be having a grand old time of things. A highly off-kilter attitude, for his environs. He is of Earthrealm, and one of its champions, stuck in a terrible landscape of complete horror and death. Why is he in such a good mood?
"Just like he said, Jao," Jr. says, turning his head to give him that fatherly smile, "it's all right."
Jao is wordless. He's at least not trying to shrink away from Kenshi any more.
A child, and a fool? That is how the pair before him appears. One scared, untrusting of strength in a land where only the strong survive. The other, full of joy in a place where very little of that should exist.
If Kenshi were a younger man, he would have scoffed at Rust's behavior. He would have thought him to be a buffoon, and a waste. What other champion could have been sent in his stead? What great warrior could this man's presence be preventing?
"Mortal Kombat," Kenshi states, his calm voice full of solemn gravity, "Is a tournament of life. We fight to protect those of Earth Realm."
Why it is that the blind man decided to say this is anyone's guess. However, upon saying it, he smiles slightly, his somber mood breaking. Smoothly he rises to his feet, dust falling from his coat, and unclasps his gloved hands to spread them in a vague sort of shrug.
"Whether our meeting has been pure circumstance, or faited by the gods, you have reminded me of something near forgotten. Be careful as you wander these lands, for not all is as it appears to be."
Having offered his final words of advice to the father son duo, the blind man turns away and steps carefully up onto the edge of the rubble pile. Without another word he begins to pick his way up the stack, seeming to have an innate sense of which stone is stable, and where his feet should fall.
Kenshi has very little time to linger, for what he must do has become clear. It is impossible to know if Rust could ever understand what he has done. What event he has set into motion simply by appearing.
Such absurd contentment in the face of adversity. Even if it were an act it would be remarkable. A reminder of life, and of the human spirit. A rebuke to the ronin who has been hiding, skulking at the edges of the tournament while he plotted his revenge.
Mortal Kombat is a tournament of life, and protection. So it is that the aging swordsman steps to the top of the rubble pile, then vanishes in a swirl of brilliant purple energy.
Off to protect.
There's plenty of grounds to scoff at this man. Lots of angles, too. Maybe even velocities. They could teach college courses about scoff trigonometry - maybe even scoff calculus - off of this man. Whose idea was it that he appear before Shang Tsung as one of Earthrealm's champions? Granted, the way he fit into the proceedings was about as abrupt as the way he just entered Kenshi's life...
Jao turns his head away at mention about fighting to protect those of Earth Realm - why him, one could see that in his face. One could also see the interrobang on his face. (The way the light filters through here, this is literal - it kind of does look like the union of a question and exclamation marks.)
"Don't you worry, Kenshi, buddy," now they're buddies, according to the speaker that is Rust Jr., as he gets a screwdriver out of his toolbelt with his left hand (...more about this in a moment), for reasons that seem obscure. There's no threat around them. Nothing that looks like it needs to be tightened, or loosened, as he spins it about his fingers deftly.
He waves his free right hand as the blind swordmaster steps out back into the wastes with a dramatic flourish of energy, leaving little but a friendly goodbye and a dubious reassurance that he shouldn't worry.
Jao just stands there, before leaning back in closer to dad.
There is one last detail to Kenshi's senses that may startle him as he leaves. He does not detect aggression, or ill intent - any level of advanced emotional masking does seem beyond this man... but there is, technically speaking, a weapon drawn around the time he leaves. A mere screwdriver, but...
Kenshi's highly enhanced senses doesn't pick up the noise of the draw. Rust Jr. did pull it out of the toolbelt, but there was no sound of plastic against fabric, or metal scraping and clashing against metal no matter how this man moves. If he had his eyes, he could have seen how tightly packed they are. He did not have the screwdriver in his hand when they met.
How does he manage that? It's not a threatening gesture - it seems like an action taken by idle thought, maybe to just keep his fingers busy as he finished waking. Kenshi could definitely hear the gloves interact with the screwdriver, but with a lack of sight it's a complete sensory void in regards to the toolbelt...
"Father... why are you so calm?" Asks Jao. "If he attacked..."
"You remember what I told you back in Nashville?" Jr. leans in closer. "You see..."
What is said, if there are any eavesdroppers, is lost to a storm of dust that starts to rage outside.
Log created on 18:07:17 10/02/2016 by Rust, and last modified on 22:26:51 10/02/2016.