Description: Entrusted with the body of a fallen kombatant, one Howard Rust, Jr. and his adopted son Jao Puntasrima take their journeys towards the dangerous graveyards. Frightened by one of the many unnatural phenomena that dot the island, the two become separated. By chance, the heir to the throne of Outworld passes through for her own reasons... how will she deal with this unexpected, out-of-place child in a brutal world that would hardly suffer one such as himself?
After her fatal encounter with the bloodthirsty monster Lotus, a spirit foreign to the mortal shell of Aya Hazuki entrusted one ninja handyman to see to the safety of her body, and her sword. Before the fight with the young woman of ice, Erika Hill, he had the brilliant (debatable) idea to take her to the Temple and try to leave her unattended for as long as it took. No one would think to desecrate a dead body further within hallowed grounds, right?
A few chases with priests thinking to cremate, transmute, or otherwise remove the body later in the aftermath... let's say it was equal parts hilarious, sad, and memorable. You should've been there for it.
Still raw from his injuries, with a young man continuing to be frightened of his surroundings, Rust Jr. embarks on the next item of his terrible ideas for how to best take care of a young woman who has completely left the company of the living...
"Yep. Here," he says, setting down a giant lump of oversized black tarp so large that one could fit a body in there and not see much difference in the amount of space it takes up, unless it were tightly wrapped... which it's not. Wiping off his brow, his head full of hair somehow having survived the fire that took hold of his scalp, he sets it down before one of the many gravestones about one of the few places where civility for the dead is recognized upon this island.
A conventional graveyard... aside from the constant fires far in the back, and the disturbing green twister of energy that seems to wax and wane in intensity, not far from here, all in the company of tombstones and mausoleums that speak of at least some lingering affection and grace for those that came before.
"Why do we have to carry her?" Asks the young boy. "She's... gone."
"Ahh, it's a long story, Jao," the father says as he sets the lump of black tarp. Set on a decline, he puts one of his feet up against it to stop it from unfurling and dumping the dead body. A rare bit of forethought, by standards of this man, "but if I got the right read about," he continues as he takes a seat next, with his back up against the body, "it's the only way to keep her safe."
"She's dead!" Jao shouts. "I don't know her! Do you know her? I... we didn't do this fo--"
"It's all right." A fatherly hand goes upon the shoulder of a child working themselves up into a panic - as if he needed any more reason to be. There's that knowing (slash ignorant) smile. "I gotta do this, or el--"
"It's not all right!" Jao shouts, tears coming from his eyes. "Father! This place is terrible! There's nothing good! Nothing but death! Fear! I... I'm tired of..."
"Jao. Hey. Hey." The father stands up. "I kn--"
"What do you know?!" He screams, shoving him so hard that he stumbles... one nudge of his own foot later, the black tarp rolls down the hill.
If that's not enough, the twister of energy flashes brightly. Blinding. Jao screams and runs. He's not sure where he's going. The sounds of souls at extremes of emotion - laughter, terror, hatred, despair - mask the calls of names. Fight or flight kicks in, and Jao staggers across the stretch of memorials of people he doesn't know - nor would most people of this generation - running as far as his legs can carry him.
Some time later, he's gone as far as he can go. Dressed in ratty brown rags like the peasants and slaves of the Emperor, covered in dust and grime, his eyes wet with tears... and yet, his face is dry.
He's called out the usual names. 'Father,' and its ilk. So far... nothing. The feeling of vulnerability sinks in deep, and powerlessness keeps him rooted near one of the tombstones... where is he? Where is his father? What was that...?
All he knows, is that he is alone.
"I heard Yelling."
A voice from a silhouette that was only 'not-quite' so easily mistaken for aged grave markers at a second glance. This unknowable presence which had appeared and made itself visible so very abruptly; a woman by her voice, makes no sudden movements beyond her calling out to him with a strong hint of concern. The boy might be startled by her and this was a haunting setting at the best of times, in her estimation the boy was upset enough about something. Enough for him to call out to someone (living or dead) for aid in a place that was in no way 'safe.' If anywhere on this Island could truely be considered so.
The figure lifts hands to its face and sweeps the cowled hood back and lowers it to settle neatly. The light more easily falling on the revealed human features the boy is face to face with a beautiful woman with long dark hair. One who at least tries to give him a smile in a reassuring manner.
The robes which so camouflaged her in this setting on second glance are actually a mix of blues and layers with a scarf or two as accessories. She was bundled up as though by a matron whose belief that she was recovering from being ill and must to avoid catching a chill.
The boys clothing should have given her a solid indicator of what the situation may have been about, but it did not. None of the servants here should be found wandering the graveyards at this hour calling out for their father or seemingly in such dire need of aid.
This was anomalous and worth investigating but she bore the poor boy no ill will.
"I have seen no-one else here. You have... lost someone?"
None who appeared to live save this one appeared to be here at all, she wondered if he had recently lost someone and was simply grieving and out of their mind with the loss? Such a thing must sometimes happen in a graveyard.
The boy - a young teenager, about thirteen give or take a year - gasps loudly and tries to hide (poorly) by the gravestone he would use to rest, as if to better stave off the eternal rest that eventually awaits him. Sixty seconds, sixty years... what difference does it make? (It is a large difference in seconds, but...)
"I, I," he stammers. Does he know who she is? He is frightened. Scared. Why would he be? The beautiful daughter of the Emperor is not one seen as a monstrous, fearful presence. He doesn't make any eye contact with her, but from what features she could pick up - subtle tells and cues they may be - he doesn't seem like he's from any of the neighboring realms that make up the whole of the vast, unfathomably powerful Outworld.
Cowering behind the stone marker that is easy enough to simply walk around and approach, the woman may spy a bracelet made up of misshapen gold beads, casting warm lights... this detail may speak of a truly horrifying thing.
He's one of the chosen, and yet... he does not appear a warrior.
"I... I want Father," he pathetically blubbers, "please... don't hurt me... don't hurt me!! I didn't do anything..."
The performance could be comical were it not so bizarre and surreal to the princess. For a boy of that size and age to be acting so when most similar young men she knew of were entering into trades or working to support or feed their families. The princess can do naught but watch and try to make sense of his words and actions. A foreigner to be sure, and in a place no child should be left unattended. A formative mind and weak spirit in a place teeming with very old and desperate spirits; fuelled by ancient vendettas and those reluctant to accept their demise.
When her eyes fall on the bracelet what few pieces she had puzzled out align themselves. There was at least some inkling of what kind of situation she had wandered into.
"Cease that blubbering!"
Her tone was unreasonably harsh, sharp and brisk but she also keeps her voice low. She likewise wanted no more attention drawn to them. The fact she had wandered carelessly into this situation was her own failure, at least translating into some measure of security for the boy. Whether she would foolishly trust that this was in fact a child in distress and not some ploy to lure her off alone.
"I mean no harm to a child but through your own actions you continue exposing yourself to danger. To begin! Tuck that arm away, hide that damnable bracelet. Secondly after that, enough bawling and calling for your father. He is not here, yelling loudly attracts attention and you want no-more-of-that. Then! ...we will perhaps have greater luck and more rewarding experience retracing your steps than standing here."
She raises a hand to gesture back toward the west. Holding the pose she waits for the boy to comply while giving the impression she is not a woman people successfully disagreeing with or failing to obey her. She would not lose a battle of wills with an infant.
"If your father is nearby or trying to follow you he would have to be following your trail... he is likely as unfamiliar with the land here as you are. You will have to make part of the journey again under your own power."
Both Earthrealmers most likely, this father figure of his would certainly have to follow the trail or seek some vantage point to try spotting this small boy. The trail would be her choice; the boy could be easily misplaced or missed in amongst a sea of grave markers.
"...how. How did you come to be separated from him in the first place?"
The boy was tired and sweaty already. He had been running from something. There was always the chance there could be a sad and grisly scene wherever they were returning to. Blast the sorcerer; this was no place for children. What was he playing at with this?
As the princess commands, the boy obeys with a yelp that is lost to the tail end of the word 'blubbering.' He may have ceased his words on the outside, but on the inside, emotionally there is still... noise. The body language in the way he continues to shake, to shrink, to otherwise hide himself within the shadow of the tombstone that serves as a shoddy shield.
This woman has, doubtlessly, seen fear in others. The landscapes of Outworld tend to inspire such dread among the weak. Her life has been long-lived enough that to say any sort of immediate, out-of-ordinary thing would dare qualify to top its respective list against a near-endless list of competing events and ideas is a stretch.
This conceded, the boy is about as terrified as one could imagine. Terror in almost its rawest form, outside of the few concessions of higher logic like 'mostly coherent speech' or what have you. The reassurance of the princess alone may not fully quell this boy's many doubts and fears.
His brown rags are not the most adequate protection, but he does appear to try and dart that bracelet-bearing forearm underneath a ratty sleeve. Proof that the boy is listening, and not just making raw emotional reactions to loud sounds. Progress. He doesn't seem to calm down any further even as she goes down the bullet points... where is he?
Around them, there's nothing but tombstones, a long trail to the west, a distant green geyser of energy, and a mausoleum that appears to have misshapen decorations on its roof that are wreathed in shadow, and thus devoid of detail or even much interest. Something like a man and a cocoon, maybe? (Its dead occupants may believe in rebirth, then?)
The idea of him having to go much of anywhere else further of his own power is not one that appears well-received, breaking eye contact to look towards the uneven hills, the almost lifeless dirt. He tries to wipe away the tears already at his eyes. It takes much more of an effort for him to stand up from the tombstone.
"Th-there was... a light. It was so bright." He must be talking about the energies that like to gather and twist upwards in bright geysers, shaped like trees. The sort of thing souls like to gather around, gibbering and screaming whatever feelings they have that try to anchor them to a world they can no longer be part of.
The boy starts to walk again, but doesn't seem keen to turn his back upon Kitana entirely. She might have to take the lead, if she decides to try and walk with him.
"J-Just... laughing! Screaming! Shouting! I, I couldn't take it, I... I ran! I ran. I, I kept running, and... I don't know where Father is...!" He starts to hug himself, trying to shrink against the ground like a sad little frightened lump.
Did something happen to the father in question when one of those geysers flared? Maybe it ripped his soul clean from his body, and said body couldn't run after him...
"This is a sorcerers realm little one. It's not unwise to beware things like that but fleeing from it into untold dangers may not have been your best choice of action."
She chastises him while at the same time gradually speeding her stride, just a little at first she begins outpacing him. Passing in and out of shadows she continues to forge ahead, she has to feign losing the trail a couple of times to given him enough time to sort through his feelings regarding her. Reaching a hand inside her robe she draws out some small trinket and raises it to her lips. Her whispered words are for the trinket alone
"Please lend me a little of your light."
Occasionally having to stop and look for signs of where the boy had gotten turned around and they must change direction was wearying; the swelling bright yellow glow from her cupped hand expands to surround her, the change might worry her charge at first but the princess sweeps her arm around and slowly examines the ground. The faint tinkle of a bell rattling with the swaying of her hand.
"It may be that your father is the one in the most danger for now. This is not a place to linger in - for whatever reasons you were here..."
She want's no answer but angles her head around back toward the boy that he might know her disapproval.
"if everything is fine and your father well. He is now also alone as you were and he probably knows this strange and dangerous place as well as you do."
She wanted it to sink in; understanding the hero he was counting on to come to his rescue was endangered expressly because of his actions. Fear, not for himself but for his family. In that he might find some courage all his own, in the least he might find reason to hurry. Guilt or fear could be paralyzing but prodding at the boys weakening emotional states to dry and dig something other than /this/ out of him seemed preferrable.
If he started bawling thoughc what did you do with children when they did that?
"You cannot change what is done, it is in the past. What matters is what you choose to do now. Will you cry? ...Or search for him?"
She Really hoped he would rise to the challenge, She doubted being caught carrying the child an an inopportune moment by a worried father would result in anything other than a misunderstanding leading to bloodshed.
Every time Kitana moves towards the shadows, the boy's composure drops. Fearful of the light, fearful of the darkness, fearful of people, fearful of a lack of people... does it help him gather any of his thoughts, or just scatter them about like a pile of seed to a hungry flock of urbanized pigeons?
The princess may not be too familiar with who this boy's father is - it's impossible to tell if any of the footprints she sees are fresh, or of those of previous travelers. There are many going to and fro the various places of interest on Shang Tsung's island. Careful study, at least, allows her to pick out the boy's own footprints, and where he may have come.
Much of it leads off from the trail proper. He must have hauled butt through scores of grave markers, and who knows what sorts of terrible dangers that could have reached up to grab him...?
One set goes past another mausoleum with the shadowed-out statue decoration of a man standing triumphantly with one foot raised, balanced against a... log? This detail is probably not important, other than maybe making for a good landmark for reference.
"I... he..." The boy stammers as Kitana brings the point that, yes, now that the two are separated, his father must be equally as lost. That's what logic dictates. Met with the question about what there is to do, what can he do...
"Father, he... he always knows what to do," the boy says, "he's never lost... he's never scared... always has a thought on what to do..."
That's very lofty praise. How much of that is actually warranted?
"I, I, I don't know what to do...!" Uh oh. She might be losing him, as he brings both hands to his face - bringing that bracelet back into view. "How would I look for him?!"
...Some ways away, something might catch Kitana's eye. A curious object that has a rounded handle with protrusions that are oval in nature but feel... kind of good to hold? The material of the handle is reasonably firm, though it is translucent. Out one end, from the center, is a long shaft of metal that terminates into a peculiar shape.
Some kind of dagger, maybe? It doesn't seem like it would be good for cutting. Maybe the blade is for thrusting instead? Either way, it's in very good condition. It may have been dropped recently.
Kitana has to stifle the laughter by touching the light giving hand to her lips and pressing firmly against them. Was she ever so naive as a child as to believe all her parents did was possess magical powers and qualities that only they had and were admired for?
It would be improper of her to laugh aloud in such a setting and hurtful to the boy but his statement was an absurdity. She'd long since abandoned such notions about family and power; Seeing her father sit at this throne long into the night deciding on the best course in choosing between unpleasant outcomes or enforcement of his laws and retaining loyal allies versus powerful ones. Heavy is the head that wears the crown and there were only so many agents and hours in the day to do and police what he willed. The pieces constantly moved around a board in a game he played against a thousand hidden opponents.
"Don't stand idle and worship your father such that you expect him to do everything for you. Stand instead by his side and learn from him you might learn how to be a little 'never lost' and 'never scared' like he is."
Kitana reaches down and bends knee to pick up the c what was it, a toy practice sword? In the current setting it seems fortuitous enough to find something at so ridiculously low a level as to be a toy in her eyes but maybe a weapon in the boys eyes.
It might have even been something the boy himself had lost. Kitana reverses her grip to hold the short blade in her hand and extend it toward the boy.
"He will not be here for you forever little one. His love for you is a danger to him; did you listen to him when you were so afraid you ran? Though he is never lost, he lost you. Though he is never scared he will be afraid for you. You are his weakness."
Was that what she wanted with him, to expose and draw out an Earthrealmer with his weak and feeble child and the potential for two quick kills? She continues to offer the 'weapon' to the boy though she sinks to one knee to more level her gaze with his.
"Resolve to do better the next time, better and stronger again the time after that."
It's only at that point she'll release the strength of her grip enough he can take it from her. This boy was so na?ve that she pitied his father not because of the boy's character. This weakness was born of doting and a peaceful and happy life where the boy did not yet need to be of useto anyone up until now. For now he was a danger that could get his father killed, in death there would be no peace for the father because his son had not yet matured and would now be alone and vulnerable..
This was bad comedy, rather a tragedy. Her thoughts turning sour at how miserable such a thing might take place would be she instead shifts focus to expediently finding the man who would be the greatest champion she had ever heard of.
A man without fear who was never lost.
The boy stutters out more single-syllable counterpoints that are not worth committing to written word, for their insubstantial nature and overall uselessness in combatting - or even concurring - with the princess' wisdom. There should come a time, indeed, that the child should learn to be able to stand on their own - to move past seeing their father as some great infallible superman.
Whatever the item's purpose that Kitana retrieves, it does feel nice to the touch! As this tenth contest may yet be won by Outworld, the secrets of such a grip shall soon be theirs. Maybe there could even be more like them... would the original owner miss one?
The boy falls back onto his bum when the handle is pointed towards him, as though he were beset by a threat! One hand covers his face as if to protect himself from a perceived attempt on his life. Leveling a gaze could be a challenge unto itself... when the following words are, themselves a challenge. No, a truth.
It takes him some time to even dare to raise a hand towards her. Such is the majesty of the daughter of the Emperor, and the great shadow she casts over the boy...
"Th-that's... that's my father's screwdriver," the boy says. Is that hope breaking through his voice? It could be resignation... but the screwdriver is clean of blood, so it's not like some wild zombie-beast or whatever came by and tore it off of him. (Maybe.)
"He... he has to be close by!" His voice raises, up to levels that Kitana may not approve of as he shoots up to his feet. "There's... there's more that way...!"
True to form, if Kitana looks, there's a number more like them running through the graveyard in plain sight. It's like someone haphazardly scattered them in a hurry.
No, more like deliberately stabbed them into the ground. They're angled, their blades stabbed a ways into the earth (this is Outworld territory, so should we say 'into the out'?).
They don't seem to be going anywhere particularly secluded or more dangerous than usual, though, as the path would eventually pass by another mausoleum with another shadowed figure of a man holding up a... log? A pillar? Like they're some kind of weightlifter. An odd decoration choice, but it probably doesn't warrant further dwelling upon - it's not uncommon for the living to immortalize the dead in positions of strength and glory.
None of the screwdrivers have blood, or show signs of battle. They all share the exact same level of gripping comfort... well, no, there's some very subtle differences in blade length and shape. Some even have a few nicks and even tiny holes going through the blade, the purposes of which would probably elude Kitana.
There is, at long last, a trail to follow.
A trail? And assumedly since he wasn't at this end the man that was sought would be at the other. The Otherworld princess was more than tempted to wash her hands of the child here and now since the trail was clear. The boy had his path to follow but without the light her soul shard was giving off he might very well lose even this trail.
The boy's raised voice, his trembling excitement and eagerness to rush back to his father's skirts. Her words and all she tried to impart were wasted and she might as well be speaking to a pet. If this was what it was like to be a parent this would be enough to deter her from ever considering it.
Her declarations decided the fate of nations and clans, her words changed how lives were lived for the better or worse. Her same sharp words could not breach this wall of ignorance. They rebounded off harmlessly or were promptly forgotten or ignored. Her dislike of children as people was intensifying.
She opens her hand and allows the weight of the handle to rolls it out of her palm where she can let it fall. To drop the father's tool in front of the son, she had little interest or investment in his father bt at least he could do one thing she would owe him for; her wish that he arrive and take his child in hand.
"Is that so? If they are his then you can carry them back to him and then be gone from here."
She half turns her back on him and refuses to look down at the boy any further. Her disapproval was near a tangible aura thta clung to her her as she lingers silent and judgmental, waiting for him to pick these seemingly useless things up and they can be done with this. Instead of aiding the boy in any way she leaves the chore to him and waits to see if he'll collect the tools or seemingly run to his father and leave even this job to him.
It is not one of the brightest days to be demoted, however temporarily, to the rank of 'surrogate babysitter.' Such matters are, largely, beneath her.
The scope of their very lives could not be any different. A lowly child to some man of unknown character and presumably negligible importance and impact on the world around him, to the heiress of the very realm who deigns to give this panicked child a generous slice of her extraordinary amount of time afforded to her to see to his continued safety.
All of which seems to come to an end the moment she allows the screwdriver to hit the dirt, a simple gesture of severance of interest and responsibility as the lowly child reaches out and scoops it up as though it were a thing of great warmth and comfort to himself.
What the two value, and the very breadth of what their values encompas... it really is, as the cliche goes, night and day. Though he may stand to leave the light and safety of her person and protection...
There is an eagerness in which the tools are retrieved. Whatever these silly items are used for, to what end they could ever serve, they seem to bring hope to the young and simple. He is at the age where, over the following years, he will physically mature into a man... but he seems to yet be able to clear some of the other hurdles set before him mentally.
Gathering them all up against himself, lacking any sort of useful pockets to put them, he holds them tightly to his chest almost like one might a favored toy. Worst case scenario, these are loving mementos of a man only loved and cared for by this youngster. Best case scenario... the father's about to arrive to take him off her hands.
"I, I," the boy stammers, not able to look at the (half) back of Kitana's head with a level gaze, voice tinged with excitement and relief. Optimism. Blind optimism, that this land quickly bleeds out of its denizens.
"I... don't know why, but..." He bows his head deeply in gratitude, even as his form threatens to be enveloped in the dark shadows outside of the sight of the power Kitana has borrowed to cast a light around her.
"Thank... thank you." He stumbles over his words. "Thank you for... for helping me." These are words said in deep gratitude, even as she could sense the rapid excitement in his heart. On a deeper level, it might be something incredibly uncomfortable for him - like the idea this is not something he's used to saying, or doing, to... anyone (else other than his father?).
While Kitana looks (half) back the way they came, she'd see only the usual sights to be seen. The stillness of the earth, the stones that serve as a reminder of those who lived and existed before, the featureless roofs of mausoleums that serve only nominally more protection for the bodies of the fallen. Neither of them appear to be in danger... no sign of them being followed from that direction, at least for now. (Who would dare move in on Kitana, masterful assassin, anyway?)
He might be okay from here, if the trail is indeed fresh... as long as her curiosity is satisfied, even if opposed by her shortened patience.
The princess registers this newfound and display of gratitude with a faint eyebrow raise and gentle sigh. That he would not know why an unfamiliar adult would take the time to come to his aide while also appearing such a distressingly pathetic figure.
"You are welcome child and it is good to see you have some manners. "
There were more than a fair share of dangerous and predatory figures walking this land but most she was acquainted with would take the time and effort to do as she did. The unexpectedly gentle giant that was General Kotal would probably insist on returning the child to his encampment and going further out of his way than she would risk. Shang Tsung's motives and attitude always seemed suspicious, her newfound ally Testament or even her sister finding the boy in her place... she was at least somewhat sure they would see the child back without physically harming him.
They would probably have not been as gentle however. The timid and frightened nature of the boy would probably have delighted Mileena.
Kitana found him wearying. When so many struggled to live and worthier people were dying all around them to support the existence of such people as this. It was also probably in part her still lingering fatigue from healing wounds and the heavy robes. The wounds inflicted by the last opponent were slow to heal and she had been so very close to death herself. Perhaps that is why the boy's behaviours bothered her the most. In this place of all on the island-
"I think you would find most adults would take the time to help a child making such a sight of themselves. Especially here, this place is filled with spirits who fought for ideals or duty they placed above what they wanted for themselves."
She didn't expect him to understand, nor does she show much reverence to the headstone she takes a seat upon.
"You do not belong here, and despite all the dangers surrounding you boy; you will most likely return to your home unharmed at the end of this. I may not live to see my home again; your father also may not if he is participating or forced to fight in the tourney. You in all likelihood will and those that are buried here can sense that, it's probably what agitated and woke some of these dormant spirits enough to reach out."
Envy, anger, desire, despair, loneliness. There did not seem to be much peace to the grave but she could understand the even the dead might want to shake this boy by the scruff of the neck, the souls resonating away quietly in her own shard say nothing, it was enough they assented and move with her to support her in all that she did. The dead here did not talk to or bother her, here it was only the sounds of the night and the distant shores.
"Even amoung them, like adults. I wager most mean you no harm or they are even may be calling out to those contained in the bracelet you wear on your wrist. The dead and the living both probably consider your presence here to be a curiosity."
Was she trying to reassure him a little about those voices he'd heard or frighten him more with the kowledge that he was carrying unfamiliar sould around with him everywhere he went. He was wearing souls all his own to command fastened around his wrist. For whatever reason they had chosen him or were bound to his shard they were there to be closer to him and potentially at his command.
"Ask them for help in lighting your way. And then you will have no more need of my time."
For his gratitude, the boy seems ready - no, almost eager! - to part ways and find his way back to their father, or maybe the gruesome corpse of what was his father, or what have you. He's taking a few cursory steps away. Kitana could be reassured that this is less an invention of his individual cowardice and fears, and more that of relief that this present trial is all over.
Both of them, at this point, might be eager to put all this behind themselves... and yet, when she speaks, he stays put. Hers is a voice that most would be wise to listen to, to acknowledge as being in action and thus spur them to inaction.
His head trends downward at mention about most adults - especially in a place like here. She might see his mouth move, as though he were thinking to interject... but he can't find the courage to do so, while the princess moves to take her seat.
He would vocally agree and scream that he doesn't belong here, if he could - he sure did get up to a lot of that in the early goings, all the way up until he was sent to potentialy die by the hands of another. (Until a certain someone came by in the nick of time and made things even worse, but, let's not dwell on that one for now.) That his presence here is a curiosity is, indeed, that! The events that led up to his summoning are... well... unusual. Frightening. With no clear cause, all he saw at the beginning were unfamiliar figures, some of whom exchanged worried looks.
The boy's head turns suddenly, off to the distance. There's nothing but more gravestones and a flat-roofed mausoleum devoid of decoration that way, but this is only a momentary distraction as Kitana gives the suggestion about using the power she displayed for himself.
"Me? I... I'll... I'll try," he says, voice shaky as the grip he has around the gathered tools as he shrugs the bracelet-bearing arm up closer.
What did the voices of that shard say to him? The majority of souls that have been swept up into these wards are, at least, conscious. Who knows what they would have to say with the many Earthrealm champions, foreigners and strangers to this land... and how that might have affected this boy.
"Please... can you give a light? I, I'm begging you... please..." He speaks from a position of weakness, rather than that of strength. This should be his power to command, to wrest from the souls that give power... but it remains a passive voice.
A warm glow grows outward, a shining light somewhat dimmer than the princess' own, but more than enough to give sight to his surroundings. His eyes widen as he staggers backwards towards one of the tombstones, the only thing that stops him from falling on his rear end in surprise.
"Ah...! It worked... I... th-thank you," he bows to her yet again, "I'm sorry, I won't... I won't... I'll... I'll try not to," that's a dip in resolve, "make... anyone worry again."
Could he live up to that lofty promise, in this terrible land?
Who would acknowledge the good deed of the princess? Nary a sou-- wait, no. There are a countless number of souls, but the impact of their opinions may not amount to much, if any aren't too self-involved in their own miseries and regrets to care to absorb what happens before all of them.
It's fortunate that at least one saw fit to see to his protection...
When the light finally grows and steadies she is relieved. She dips and partially closes her hand around her own shard so as to test the light his was providing. The synergy between shard and warrior she had noted and personally experienced she was not sure would apply to a non-kombatant like the boy. He asked rather than commanded and perhaps more earnestly than she did.
Her asking was a matter of manners and being respectful to the souls whose identities she would never know. She expected results and compliance because it was her due; his request was that of one beseeching aid. The boys bracelet responded to it so at least there was that much of a connection and the light itself was suitably bright enough.
"That is good. You know your path and you can now see it under your own power. That is a start."
The bright and radiant yellow light so suddenly extinguished and only a faint glowing wick bobbing in the darkness as she lifts it close to her lips, words spoken so softly it was like she blew it out. Reaching up to draw her hair back Kitana tucks the precious bauble away and once again while reversing the motion with which to raise and secures her hood. The bell-shard jingling away as was it's want like it was saying its own farewell to the boy or the souls that he carried.
Unlike most adults she listens carefully to his every word, it was most irritating when he stammered and took so long to say the simplest of things.
"I pray you do that by becoming a confidant and competent man rather than hiding away from the world. If all went well for your realm perhaps in a hundred year's one of your descendants might come again to this place to defend your world. I would gauge your success in their calibre."
Whether she be living at that time or watching among the dead still gathered here. A hundred years was only a long time for the Earthrealmers, not so much for an Edenian. A hundred years however was enough that if they did not meet at this tourney again, the boy would only next see her at the head of armies sent for conquest of his realm else never again.
"Fare you well Boy."
Her gentle rise and turn to look back the way they had come is punctuated by her drawing the gleaming blade which catches and reflects the light the boy gives off. The leap into the air and sudden clap of wind might startle the boy but she had tarried enough here. Her watchers would be anxious to know where she is and what she was plotting or who she was speaking to. The game of politics did not stop for even something as sacred as Mortal Kombat.
The rightful heir to the throne of Outworld, The Princess Kitana first of her name and diplomat/assassin who speaks the words of emperor and delivers his judgements. She speeds of in a straight line, feet touching down upon headstone and branch alike is a hopping run as she speeds back toward the castle as the crow flies. She never did ask the boy's fathers name after all that. Another regret or morbid hope to add to her list that she hoped she was not confronted with and then having to kill that man.
How many of those words register, as the young boy parts company from his temporary protector? His ability to comprehend the vast scope of time available to the Edenian royal compared to himself is... likely not the first thing on his mind. He is young. His needs and desires do not stretch too far beyond the need for warmth, guidance, sustenance, and protection - moreso than ever, around these parts.
Would he want to meet her again before a hundred years is up? Should he be able to start his own family, would he ready them for what further machinations of Outworld could yet befall the Earthrealm? Any circumstance in which the two would cross paths would be nothing short of terrible, no matter how warm one may be to the other.
The boy, and his light, disappear from the sight of the merciful princess, a spring in his step towards whatever end and destiny - however bright or otherwise - awaits him and his father. A young (10,000 years young!) woman returns to her duty, a far younger boy to his own guardian.
The trail of screwdrivers - all of them sticking from the ground - might yet raise the question as to why they're even there. Trail markers in the darkness (that he'd find by stubbing his toe on them, maybe)? Attempts to toss them at someone or something while retreating? The handles all slant towards one of the mausoleums that the young boy wreathed in golden light passes in his hurry...
A softer sapphire light further violates the night, causing the boy to flinch and bring his bracelet-bearing arm up to his face as if to blot out the intrusion with his own light...
"Jao, it's me!" That voice.
The boy drops all the screwdrivers into a loud clatter of plastic-on-plastic-sometimes-on-steel, all but leaping into the bearer of the sapphire light whom deftly catches him in a fatherly embrace.
"Father! Father! I'm... I'm so sorry," the boy - Jao - sobs.
"Ahh, don't worry about it," says the father far too calmly for such an emotional reunion, "never lost, never scared, always has a thought on what to do... just like you said, yep. Glad you're all right."
The sobbing from the boy continues. The father - the one and only Howard Rust, Jr. - continues to pat at his back as his gaze goes back out over the boy's shoulder, and beyond. Appearing satisfied, he kneels down. He doesn't really need to do that, Jao's been going through growth spurts as he's entered his teenage years, but maybe it's an automatic thing at this point.
The scolding waits, if it was ever even on the father's mind after all they went through. In these trying times, these two still yet have one another. The very idea that one might have lost the other for good might be punishment enough. Time passes, and the night sky continues to stir and churn with disturbed energies and the distant illumination of flames a ways away.
"We'll talk about the rest later," the father says as he rises back up, and then bending back down to pick back up that overly long rolled-up mass of black tarp that contains the body of the late Aya Hazuki, "we got someone to help."
"Y-Yes," Jao says in a belated understanding, swallowing a lump. Both of them are on the same page, now, at least to the trust and understanding that another - no matter how far removed they are from the living - requires their help.
"Got to keep her safe, until we find out how we save her," he says, allowing Jao to pass ahead of him so that he can keep the boy in his sight, "and I got an idea. Who'd look for a body in a graveyard?"
Jao, shaken from his trials, doesn't come up with any sort of meaningful objection, and nods along.
"So, right... about in," he nudges the back of an unremarkable marker, by which he probably means to say 'behind here,' but who knows where his mind is wandering in order to blurt out the wrong preopositions, "April 14th, 2015. Easy to remember, eh?"
The child, eyes wet with happy tears, nods again.
That's not a unique identifier. If one takes a good five minutes or so to stake out this expanse of memorials and interred remains, that date comes up no less than... five? No, ten. Maybe twenty? Wait. Counting it up, that makes.. forty, or... if one also looks all the way over there, then...
Even haggard from his close battle with the young woman of ice and the following antics that transpired after, the father retains that silly, can-do smile that this world does not deserve. Maybe he just doesn't exist in the same world as everyone else...
Setting down the rolled-up tarp, he reaches out for a shovel that rests off against the side of the mausoleum nearest to them. Between the two of them, they set to work on an ill-thought plan for keeping Aya's body safe as safe can be. Who would be able to find it from here?
All they'd have to do is remember the date that's printed on an improbably high number of tombstones, but, that's a challenge for another time...
Log created on 20:31:08 10/15/2016 by Rust, and last modified on 01:30:06 10/20/2016.