Description: With the aid of the ancient kamui and the souls bound to her, the Scarlet Dahlia delves into the condemned excavation in search of the recently departed.
Aranha just -had- to fight back, didn't he? By declaring him as a servant, her negotiating posture was much stronger. With Aranha as a servant, the duties of housing and caring for the capoeirista would have fallen onto her, and not the host of the tournament.
It was a fine shade of difference that she hadn't explained to Aranha. If she had clarified the ruse -- singled it out as a shade of difference that would not have affected him in the slightest, then perhaps he wouldn't have balked.
The Ainu woman, of all people, should have known that the scars of racial injustice would not be erased through the simple passage of time.
Now, the Akatsuki Advisor has a larger problem. Notably -- what to do about Zach Glenn. His body, undoubtedly, would have been taken by Shang Tsung and his men, much as the body of Sergei Dragunov. The soul, though -- could the essence of the warrior have eluded the grasp of Shang Tsung? Obviously, this is not a question she plans to ask the enigmatic sorceror when she has alternate means at her disposal.
A dozen guards stand at her back. Each has been armed with a talisman -- willow shavings, attached to a long stick in such a fashion to resemble a larger willow tree. The Dahlia herself carries one, although it is much larger, wrapped with fine hemp. Each of the thirteen also carries a torch in their other hand -- each is mindful to keep the two from accidentally brushing against one another.
"You will wait here," she explains, "and will do nothing unless the spirits raise arms against you. If that happens, tell me so -- clearly, and calmly."
The Dahlia strides into the condemned excavation. The flickering torchlight casts grim and ghastly shadows from the wooden scaffolding onto the cavern floors, bringing the bones of the deceased into sharp relief. The Dahlia strides forward, her skin clammy from the warmth of the torch carving through the chill of the subterranean cave.
She drives the point of her torch into the floor, propping it upright. She kneels before it, a good distance away. And closes her eyes, relying solely upon the sixth sense of her psychic abilities to keep her aware of the area around her.
She takes a deep breath. And then, in the Ainu language, she begins.
"/ I come to you in time of need, o Kamui of Flame. / " Her voice echoes in the darkness, repeated by no one. Her words hang in the air for a moment before she continues. "/ A soul has passed into the next realm -- a shisam named Zach Glenn. This soul is lost. I wish to speak to him, to walk alongside him, to guide him along. I believe him to be close. And I beseech you -- I ask of your wisdom, for your aid in finding him. / "
One would think that when you die, that it. The end. Nothing after that. At least one system of belief holds that as a central pillar of belief. Others would tell of reincarnation, or perhaps some kind of final destination.
Zach Glenn would disagree with all of them. Or, at least in this place he might. Given that Outworld is positively brimming with the souls of the fallen, maybe this place simply breaks the rules of ALL of those conventions. Zach Glenn has found that death here is not the end. But he has also learned that here it is... more of the same.
Zach Glenn is fighting for his existence, even after his death at the hands of Kitana. He, however, the monster hunter is still whole of body. He is not, however, wearing the tactical gear he wore in his fight. He is wearing one of his more comfortable business casual outfits, complete with the long coat.
And the slave shackle that he was 'given' during his fight with Aranha.
Shadows, and not-shadows, reach out for him. Threatening things. Promising things. Glenn stands and fights against all of them, claymore and pistol in his hands, and power from his soul. This went on for seemingly an eternity. He was not sure how much longer he would be able to last until the most unlikely thing had happened: help had arrived.
The at-first-glance stranger was similarly garbed, but aside from the difference in armament and the fact that the stranger was about half a foot shorter than Glenn? The stranger could have been his twin. The smaller man waded in armed only with an oddly familiar wakazashi in his right hand, and large gauntlet composed entirely of psychic energy on his left. "Still need my help, I see," the smaller man comments as he shreds one shadow with a blast of energy the diameter of a bowling ball. "We've gotta get you out of here."
In many ways, Ape-huchi, the Kamui of the Hearth Flame, works in mysterious ways. The first and most important of the Kamui, she is often relied upon as the go-between from the Ainu to the elder Kamui.
In this case, she will not have to go far at all to provide the Dahlia the requisite information. As the Dahlia extends her senses into the realm of the departed, the flickering torchlight itself lights the path through the darkness. The torchlight falls upon the ethereal forms of hundreds of spirits -- perhaps more. And the sound of fighting...
The Dahlia feels her body starting to go limp. Her eyes snap open, alert -- and with consternation on her face, she plunges the lower tip of her inau into the dirt, anchoring it as well. She wraps both of her hands around the stick, drawing in a deep breath of the stale air... and closes her eyes once more.
A low murmur begins to rumble from her throat. A rhythmic sound -- a song, perhaps, though it's hard to make out at first.
Spirits rush away from the Dahlia, fleeing in terror. Those beyond the veil will see the spirit form of Honoka rise up, her eyes glowing purple. Her clothes are simple, the elm-bark attush of the Ainu people -- a stark contrast to the silken finery she wears in the physical realm. Her hair flutters about, no longer beholden to gravity.
The rose-hued energies rise up around her -- partially eclipsed by the faint forms of eight fragmented souls who float up around her.
"You -could- be fighting them for an eternity," sounds her voice -- hazy at first. The souls watch in awe, as they begin to acclimate to her presence. "Or... you can find your way out."
Zach Glenn cannot hear the voice at the moment; he's locked in close combat with something, his sword flaring with a radiant light as he leans in to get an advantage. The smaller man quickly dispatches another shadow, and whips around as if hearing something. The dimunitive man rushes to one side of Zach, and obliterates his opponent with a three-quarters uppercut.
That gets the taller man's attention. He blinks at the shorter man, putting some things together. The shorter man dismisses his gauntlet, and slaps Zach hard across the face. "We don't have time for this," the young appearing man says sharply. "/You/ don't have time for this. You have to go. /Now/. We both have a job to do, and we can't get that done if you're still here." The wakazashi is pointed off to the distance. "We can talk about all of this later," he says, answering the unasked questions. He reaches forward and taps on the shackle. "I'll find you."
Zach frowns at the small man, tilting his head to one side.
"I would not have bet on it happening, not from what I knew of her," the smaller man says, "But she came to get you out of here. It's just as dangerous for her here as it is for you. /More/, actually." He turns, and gestures with his left hand. A column of energy erupts from the ground, disintegrating a small pack that had formed to prepare and charge the pair. "So /go/, already!"
The third time apparently does it. Zach opens his mouth, no words coming out. Not an issue right now, worry about that later. The former Marine nods, then turns to run towards the purple light.
From Honoka's perspective, the danger is obvious, and yet, she stands in the midst of it, willfully and intentionally. The other spirits look at one another nervously, wordlessly communicating with one another. If they have been hesitant thus far at the bright light emanating from the living Ainu, their hesitation may not last much longer as the two men begin running towards them.
Far below, the torchlight flickers, its light cast greenish-blue. The realm of the living seems so far away, as if the spirit realm is a body of water held to the ceiling by upside-down gravity. The Dahlia's meditative form remains in deep concentration before the inau below, with the dozen guardsmen dutifully remaining at a fair distance back from them.
"I see you!" calls out Honoka into the depths of darkness, to Zach and the curiously shorter figure. Her attuned eyes spare a glance at the other spirits, though she tenses her jaw. Despite her anxiety, she calls out again, extending her arms wide as she calls out to the pair. "Just a little further..."
Zach takes off at a run, his eyes wide as he recognizes the voice. The shorter man takes up a rearguard, making sure that both men are unmolested by the things that lurk just outside of vision. The shorter man's body language as he wields power and steel is confident, relaxed, and oddly familiar to Honoka.
But apparently not quite sufficient. Something blurs across the Ainu's field of vision, tearing a swath of pain and fluttering cloth across Zach's back. The former Marine goes down, his mouth open to scream, but strangely silent as he falls. The shorter man turns as if alerted and his eyes, a striking shade of emerald, go wide at the sight. There is another blur, and the shadow lurking over Zach's body is suddenly cut into quarters by the blazing wakazashi.
The shorter man reaches over to grab Zach's long coat, and there is another blur before the pair appear at Honoka's feet. Zach is dropped uncerimoniously, but not ungently, as the shorter man turns to survey the surroundings. He turns to regard Honoka, and the identity of the shorter man should become immediately clear. He considers things for a moment, his expression one Honoka may have seen when the monster hunter was about to do something he knew he shouldn't do, but wanted to.
A second later Zach Glen, hero of another time and another world, thrust his hands out to both sides, causing the air to ripple oddly. "Should give us a moment or three," he says in a slightly higher, but all too familiar tone of voice.
The wispy shadows clustered around Honoka can barely be seen next to the rose-hued light emanating from Honoka. In stark contrast to the two Zachs, she remains rooted in place, unable -- or perhaps unwilling -- to venture further into the realm of the unliving. To abandon the anchor to her earthly self. Her fingers flutter in motion as the two approach, near-invisible threads stretching downard from her fingertips.
When the shorter of the two men shatters the slurking shadow into quarters, Honoka frowns visibly. The wakizashi may be an efficient way of dealing with the spirit, but it is sadly impermanent. For the shade has not been destroyed -- only separated into pieces. Already the fragments are beginning to reform, to reconstitute the shade into its former shape -- perhaps stronger.
The space around Glen resonates, forcing the other attacking shades backwards a measure. Cowed, they halt their advance, distended hands curling up in fear.
"Brute force may have gotten you this far..." cautions Honoka, drawing her hands back so that she can renew her focus upon the inau, acting as a beacon below. Ravenblack hair flutters about her face like a halo, as the torchlight beneath her ripples -- the light of the earthly realm so close, and simultaneously, so far away. Her hands clasp closed, the light coruscating around her. "But a gentler touch will be necessary to undo what was wrought. I thank you for being the wind at his back."
She smiles towards the taller Zach, beckoning him closer. "Just a little further. I will need to take you upstairs somehow..."
The Ainu spirit's head then inclines towards the shorter spirit. "I alone do not have the power. You will need to still your rage, for it is your healing touch that I will require." She looks back at the face -- more muscular, more... angry? But still recognizable in some fashion. Familiar.
The eight shades surrounding her begin to sink back through the threshold to the realm of the living. As they sink, their forms light up with a faint golden hue. Gradually, each turns into their own golden thread -- and each thread swirls back towards the honeyed gemstone at the Scarlet Dahlia's hip, below.
"The Kamui smile upon us, for they have given us the means to accomplish the impossible."
"Brute strength is my only option at the moment," the short man replies. "I'm allowed to displace, to drive off, to hold at bay. It is not my purpose or my place to cosign any one or anything here to its next destination." Zach lurches toward Honoka, wearily, barely able to keep his balance, it seems.
The shorter man regards Honoka carefully. "Nor can I help you with this any further than I have. Like him," He nods towards Zach, "I am a guardian. A protector. The events that brought us here, these are mortal affairs. They must be handled /by/ mortals. I am already pushing boundaries helping you this much. I can't even guess at the consequences this time."
He looks at Zach, a mixture of regret and fondness in equal measure in his face. "If I had known what Ichijo had planned, I wouldn't have shown up. He deserves a life without the kind of interference memory can bring."
Then he looks at Honoka, his expression curious. "In a lot of ways that burden set him on this path, Ms. Kawamoto. It has brought you here as well. He's staked his life, his soul, everything that he is, so that you meet a better fate than that of the woman I remember. That perhaps, instead of an assassin's knife in the heart, that your fate would be kinder."
The projection of Honoka spares a glance towards the spirit of the man she knows -- the Zach Glenn who perished to Kitana's bladed fans just a short while ago. She draws in her breath -- regardless of the spirit's need for such things, it is still a conscious affectation of hers.
"It was a matter I had planned to handle, yes," she snaps, turning back to the shorter Glen, bristling somewhat at the suggestion that she, a mortal, could not or would not handle the matter. But even after expressing her umbrage, she cannot help but flash a brief smirk back at the shorter of the two spirits.
Hands are raised to either side. Rose-hued energy swells from her fingertips, warding off the braver spirits who had showed signs of taking advantage of the attention-deficited Zachs.
"He has told me much about how you have... -shaped- him. Confused, because he's never had to do the heavy lifting on his own. Thrust into one role after another with no true knowledge of how or why." Her smirk turns into a more honest smile, as she bows her head politely. "You have helped him. But he still insists on learning things the hard way. Can you blame him?"
Honoka's form becomes more translucent. Pain begins to show in the way her forehead creases.
Below -- the knees of the Dahlia begin to form a more ruddy stain in the pale white fabric. The yellow gemstone at her hip is swirling, beckoning the three closer.
Honoka's form begins sinking towards it as well. "I... I do love getting a chance to speak with you both again. But I will need to ... move you two. Upstairs."
Eyes wince shut.
She adds, weakly, "... soon."
One eye cracks open, as she speaks with strained voice. Her hands continue to be held out, as the connection is maintained. "Do you both trust me to act as your guide?"
Zach the Guardian Spirit looks at Honoka, the weariness evident in his eyes. "It's the only way /to/ learn, sometimes," he says quietly, turning to face the horde of angry spirits and vengeful souls as that strange looking wakazashi reappears in his hand. "You just need to help /him/ get back." He points at the shackle on the recumbent Zach's wrist, "I can follow that pretty much whenever and whereever."
He looks over at Honoka, a smirk of his own gracing his features as he winks at the Ainu woman. "I might have arranged things a bit. Like I said, pushing boundaries. When the tournament is over, it's back to the rest of my job for me."
Zach stirs a little, looking up at Honoka. The man appears drawn, worn down, but the look on his face is full of gratitude and love for the woman who has crossed the border of life and death to bring him back abundantly clear. He drags himself to his feet, his lips forming words without sound, starting to walk away from the shorter man. He doesn't have a lot of strength, but he seems to know where he needs to go.
"Don't feel bad for me, Kawamoto. It's a bit of reward, this task of mine," the shorter man says. "A reward for facing things beyond the ken of mortal men and winning. My world is still gone, though. I'll help you as best I can, to make sure yours doesn't end as well."
Honoka's expression softens, as she nods her head gratefully. "If it wasn't for your warning, it might have."
Her spirit projection rushes to the side of what remains of Zach Glenn's spirit. She lacks the strength to continue diverting her attention between one and the other, while still warding off the malevolent spirits of the accursed excavation. A shoulder is positioned under his arm -- an arm is wrapped about his ribcage, drawing him close. Her spirit form is warm to the touch, her face on the verge of tears from the considerable stress she is placing her spirit under.
She has not, after all, done this before.
"Then... let us be going, then."
She holds on as tightly as she can, drawing the pair close to the swirling vortex of yellow energy. As she nears, the force becomes irresistable to the two departed souls -- a yawning, chaotic maelstrom to drag them inside.
As soon as the two are inextricably drawn forward, the Honoka spirit fades away entirely.
The Dahlia's eyes open with a start, glancing down to see two bright spots of energy flowing into the gemstone. A pained sob escapes her throat as she pitches forward, clutching at her knees. Without the psychic energy needed to keep the wounds sealed, the tendrils that had held her knees together had faded away -- the strength of the captured souls was required to keep the gateway between the living and dead held open. The smell of iron had begun to grow thick in the air, powerful enough to overpower the dank atmosphere of the caverns; only with the return of the spirits were the tissues able to seal shut once again.
While the round, scintillating gemstone of amber simmers with light, struggling to contain all within its grasp, the Dahlia calls out to her hired help -- the twelve standing just inside the mouth of the cave.
The Dahlia's strength is slow to return. "H-help me stand..."
Torches and willow-leaved inau are passed off, as two of the mercenaries take positions alongside the Dahlia, lifting her to her feet as bidden.
"We must... head to the Warrior Shrine, upstairs."
The Dahlia's gem flares once more, with a gentle violet light that wraps around her carefully. It is not, precisely, intimate but it is infinitely gentle. It supports her weight almost well enough that she might not even realize she is being supported. The energy also goes to work on her knees, trying to accelerate the healing of those joints. She needs to walk, and under her own power. She cannot be seen as weak by these people if it can be helped.
The strange thing about all of this, perhaps, is that there are no words accompanying the quiet surge of strength. Just an emotion. A desire to /help/.
The Dahlia has been defying death with leaps and bounds all her life: she does not fail to realize the moment when her body stops feeling like it's made of molten lead. She had been leaning upon her men for stability, half-expecting to require their aid to walk, but as the gentle violet light empowers her, she breathes a silent thought, that only a handful of souls would be able to hear.
// Actions are louder. //
A smile crosses her face as she stands firm. Her pride intact, she nods back to her guards; one retrieves her flickering torch, while another retrieves her inau. With only a brief delay to ensure that her help is holding, she begins the long walk up to the Warrior Shrine.
Log created on 13:08:35 10/05/2016 by Honoka, and last modified on 11:40:52 10/07/2016.