Description: Pursuant to the plan Ayame concocted concerning the fallen champions of Mortal Kombat, the miko and oni brave the darkness of the Living Forest to retrieve the first of the deceased.
Throughout the preceding weeks, Ayame had been content to stay at Shang Tsung's palace. The accommodations were more than enough and while no where on the island could truly feel safe, at least she didn't have to worry about carnivorous trees, stone bridges bereft of any safety features whatsoever, or unintentional acid baths. So the fortress had that much going for it at least.
But carrying out her latest plan was going to require that the miko venture forth from the comparative known risks of the mountain top castle and brave the rest of what the prison island had to offer. The morning had begun in the hallowed halls of the Warrior Shrine, studying the chiseled memorials of those who had fallen, either in defense of Earth or in pursuit of Outworld's ambitions. Ultimately, she would need to make good on her word to help Miss Aya Hazuki, an actual client she had promised to aid. But... she decides doing a practice run with using her faintly glowing gemstone would be prudent. The last time she tried putting the shard to use in a combat capacity, the results were, well, catastrophic. Hopefully she had gotten a better handle on the thing since then.
"They only work to bring back other shard bearers, as best I can tell," she had discussed with the only individual she fully trusted on the entire island - a towering, powerfully built creature straight out of the legends of her homeland. "And when I focus - and this will require you to be quiet for once - I can feel the faintest of tugs toward possible beneficiaries of this gift. We just need to get to the general area to narrow down who we are actually looking for..."
And so the two set off Eastward across the island, leaving the palace, crossing over the precariously designed bridge over the great dividing chasm at the center. A steady wind with the occasional gust blows through these parts though never quite threatening to send either of the two wanderers toppling over into the abyss. Occasionally, howls echo up from the canyon, no doubt the wind whistling over rock formations and not the screams of the wretched damned that must assuredly haunt this place.
Wind whipping at her hair, and lengthy white sleeves and crimson dress, the strawberry-blonde doesn't seem particularly bothered by either the height or the discomforting sounds surrounding them. It is only when the girl and ogress stand at the entrance to the forest itself that the shrine maiden slows to a stop, staring into the cavernous woods with no small amount of reluctance. Breathing in, she flicks her right wrist, her golden gemstone lantern dangling from a crimson cord falling into her fingers.
She swallows, glancing along the dark path that leads further into the corrupted felwood, and then looking over her shoulder back toward the palace across the bridge. "Ah, on second thought, I am sure we could start with someone who, well, managed to die at a more accommodating location." Her eyes flick to her small, dangling golden lantern. "I have to imagine..." she murmurs, still debating with herself, "There might be too many dead in there to find Miss Luwanda anyway."
The ground shudders with faint tremors as the small miko's partner steps forward to stand at her side, dry hardened earth cracking into thin spiderwebs and powdered craters beneath feet the size of tugboats. Riki turns her head to peer down at her dour companion, a brow quirking upwards in response to the girl's reticence beneath her own mane of wind-blown golden hair. The corner of her mouth follows suit a few moments later, tugging her rougish features into a grin that, like its own, fails to be subtle in any way.
Having been informed that she would be required to be silent for an extended period of time, a challenge most dire and taxing to be sure, the ogress had taken great pleasure in redoubling her usual efforts to chatter incessantly throughout their brief journey from the fortified palace to the edge of the cursed forest before them. Now, she says nothing, merely offering Ayame her quiet stare. The smirk that she angles down at the girl practically beams with amused smugness and rather than say it out loud, she allows the miko to fill in the silence with whatever words she might imagine would be forthcoming from her Hell-born tormentor in reponse to this uncharacteristic hesitation.
The human imagination often does far worse than reality ever could.
The British spec ops soldier walks the line between living and dead wandering the living forest as a disembodied spirit every since her ill-fated fight between Lotus and herself when she had gone there expecting to fight the Psycho Soldier member, Momoko.
In her time of being dead but not quite crossing over to the hereafter she's found that one of the benefits to being living impaired was that she was largely ignored by the vicious flora in the proximity. The downside? It was the fact that there was no interaction. It was an existence of intense loneliness. The other spirits in the general weren't exactly conversationalists.
The Lieutenant hears her name in the distance. Was someone looking for her? Are they here to speak with her? To end her lonely existence with beautiful oblivion or to, for a moment, just give her a respite from the emptiness.
She moves towards the sound with a speed she didn't have in life. Welcoming relief be it from speaking with them or being ended completely.
Hearing nothing from Riki to acknowledge her thoughts, Ayame's fingers tighten over the crimson cord, her left hand gripping her rune-carved staff lazily at her side. When she finally glances it up, the motion comes suddenly as if she had to convince herself to take a look at the oni's face, already dreading what she'd find. "Well?" she declares, the annunciation sounding more like a demand than a question as her eyes trace over the bemused expression of the giant woman.
Brown eyes study the banished guardian, her lips drawn into a tight thin line. "I am not afraid of this place!" Ayame asserts unprompted, sweeping her left hand out as to point into the forest with the end of her wooden staff. "It just strikes me as likely a more difficult place to attune myself to this entire process. It is not like I have a manual on this works!"
She looks back into the woods, lowering her pointing weapon while lifting her lantern a little more as if to push back the darkness of the canopy with the faintly golden light the boon affords. "Besides, how can anyone concentrate in there, with all the moving around, the creaking noises, and-" She breaths in, nose wrinkling in disgust, "The smell." She lowers the lantern then. "There has to be an easier place to start." She allows silence to reign again before breaking it. "And then, once I have it down, we can come here."
Quiet. Slowly, Ayame looks up over her shoulder at Riki again, previous trepidation replaced with growing irritation, her mouth twitching now. "Sure, sure, it would be easy for you to not understand how difficult it is going to be. All you have to do is loom over whoever we bring back and look menacing and entirely unpleasant to deal with. So basically just be yourself."
She sweeps her left arm back to the forest again, "I have to do all the work here. And all the thinking! And this place just makes that more difficult." Her voices is getting louder now as she keeps gesticulating toward the path leading into the black. Breathing in, she rests her right hand against her hip, cheeks becoming faintly read as her frustration only seems go grow. "It is not like I am afraid of the dark like a little child, this place j-just-..." She cuts her voice off at the stammer, sucking in her breath, turning around to glare into the woods, hands tightening over staff and cord.
"Now that I think about it," Ayame growls, "Since we have already come out this far, let us just get this over with." She finally budges, stomping forward into the Living Forest. "Lita Luwanda was scheduled to fight in here. She never came out. Considering her opponent was slated to be a harmless little pixie, I have to imagine something else happened to her here." She stops short, several feet into the woods, eyes glancing over the scattered bones, the hanging corpses, and the bloody smears across the path.
"I am sure we will be perfectly safe though. Of course. Just," she waves her right hand forward, "Keep up. And stay quiet. I need to focus. And all this chatting of yours is making it unnecessarily difficult."
Actually following the promptings of the gemstone is certainly easier than the miko seems to let on. The number of shard-blessed to fall within the forest is perhaps greater than other areas of the island, but some of them have already been called back from the discomforting twilight in-between the dead seem to suffer here on the Isle of the Damned. Others have talked of visits from the departed, of visions or ghostly communions. Body or soul, Ayame thinks to herself, either should work as long as her lantern has the power to do it.
Eying the unmistakable presence of a gaping maw on a nearby ancient tree trunk, Ayame adds sourly, "If a tree bites me, you are so fired."
It takes only a few moments of oppressive silence before the obvious lack of conversation from the oni starts to squeeze at the girl's nerves. Just as Riki had expected, the young teenager's mask of hard-nosed stoicism quickly begins to crack when she is confronted by a situation for which she is not prepared, a weakness which had revealed itself in their very first encounter and one which the demon's ancient cunning was quick to home in on.
The gargantuan woman continues to stand quietly as Ayame fills in the void with her own thoughts, allowing the girl's obvious nervousness to chip away at her normally tight control. Naturally, this brings forth a great deal of instant denial in regards to the unspoken but obvious accusations. This is followed swiftly by attempts to rationalize her lack of enthusiasm, grasping for whatever excuses seem to be the most easily hurled into the empty lull of conversation. Next comes the blame and the insults, one of the miko's favorite fallbacks whenever an argument doesn't go her way.
Not entirely heartless, the demon woman lets her grin fade into a faint smile after a few moments. Opening her mouth, she prepares to give a proper answer, but then the small girl speaks again, and... oh my.
Riki's mouth snaps shut, her smile returning two-fold, her eyes practically sparkling with delight. She had been trying to dig at the girl for weeks now, constantly prodding her in an endless battle of wits as a counter-attack against the suspicious priestess' constant antagonism and disdain, searching for any openings or weaknesses which she might exploit in her eternal crusade to annoy the girl to the point where her careful mask would crack. Ayame had thus far proven a most challenging foe in many ways, her discipline and pride always managing to reign in her sharp temper at just the last moment, leaving her only the mild sense of accomplishment that came with riling the girl up. Entertaining, to be sure, but not quite satisfying.
But now... she's just been handed the keys to a treasure trove.
Riki attempts to smooth out her features into something nonchalant, lifting a hand to cough gently as if changing the subject despite having not said a word thus far, and moves to follow after the miko as she stomps off towards the forest in a huff, having eventually come to the conclusion that it would be simpler and less taxing to brave whatever horrors lie in wait within the dark forest than face the demon's mute ridicule any further. Deciding that she's having entirely too much fun simply following the girl's orders literally, the towering amazon continues to trott along in silence, though she gives the priestess another broad grin at the thought of one of the trees gnawing on her like a dog with a bone.
Heavens help whatever creature proved that foolish.
Lita in the meanwhile has been moving closer and closer to the Miko and Oni duo having decided that approaching these two was better than just sitting around waiting for the world to end or whatever the hell she was waiting for.
More of the conversation can be heard with clarity an amused smirk comes to her translucent face as she steps out into the path in front of the two her deeply ingrained military training giving her a sort of caution that emotionally she didn't feel. She stands before the Ayame and Riki in Delta Red Gear, looking much like she did in life with the exception of bloody tears pouring out of her eye sockets and a perpetually bleeding neck.
"The lady doth protest too much methinks. Were you looking for me?"
Like everyone else who has ventured into this forest, it doesn't take long to realize that what started as a simple, direct path quickly becomes anything but that. Branching routes, dead ends, and paths that look like they were deliberately destroyed or sabotaged by collapsing trees, a sudden mountain of coiling vines, or a large pool of fetid water that appears to block a path that heads directly into it all contribute to making navigation something of a challenge.
Still, the intruding duo are not looking for a way to the other side but rather a location within, and Ayame's attunement with the gentle nudges provided by the soul-sensitive lantern she wields helps guide the way regardless of the convoluted, maze-like paths of the dark forest. The girl holds the lantern aloft with her right arm, sweeping it around, allowing its golden glow to cast some light on their surroundings. The gemstone is not particularly brilliant compared to the ones wielded by the few still-living champions, but with how effectively the canopy blocks out the sun from above, only a little light is needed to see by anyway.
"I have been theorizing that death does not work here the same way as back home. All of these..." she lifts her arm a little, allowing the lantern to swing for emphasis as the miko navigates around a fallen log with black ichor spilling from its cracks. "Special circumstances, mechanics, and abilities... this place is a special arena, with special rules." After complaining about Riki talking so much, she is clearly the one doing the chatting, as if intent on filling the silence left by her mute, ponderous companion.
"Like those utterly preposterous contrivances sometimes enforced on fighters in broadcast matches." she grimaces with a shake of her head. "Though I suppose you would not know about those..." She falls quiet for a long moment, slowing her step briefly as if to reorient her direction of travel, then continuing along at a steady pace, shoving the lantern toward every uncertain shadow or dark shape in her path.
"Anyway, I have another theory that-" she continues, her foot coming down on a dried looking stick that breaks beneath the pressure and begins to bleed dark red. Arcing an eyebrow at the bleeding twig, Ayame shakes her head briefly, exhaling softly, lifting her lantern back up to light the way forward only to come to an immediate stop at the sight that greets her.
At first, her instincts tell her she's just looking at another corpse - one propped up in a gruesome display, perhaps, but dead bodies are hardly a scarcity on the wretched isle. But she can't see the strings or stakes that would keep the deceased upright, and the wounds seem too fresh, seeping crimson even as the girl studies her.
And then the horrid sight speaks and Ayame recoils a half step, eyes widened briefly before she composes herself quickly. Studying the unliving figure before her, she glances at her lantern briefly as if seeking confirmation before attention settles once more on the ghostly form.
"Miss Lita Luwanda?" Ayame declares. "I am sorry to see my suspicions about your demise proven true..." The girl's voice falls quiet, her expression somber. There is so much she is dying to ask the specter - what of the afterlife? What was it like to die? Has she learned anything of import in her time beyond the veil? But this is hardly the time for interrogation and her need to sate her curiosity can take second chair to her need to further her plan.
Lita would find herself facing an unlikely duo. The smaller of the two's Shinto priestess attire identifies her as a revered figure of trust, purity, and reverence for the faithful Japanese back home. Of course, Lita is not Japanese, and this isn't Japan. At her side is an impossibly towering woman with a wild mane, loose, comfortable clothing, and powerful musculature that suggests immense physical strength.
Brown eyes study the translucent young woman for a moment, eyes tracing over the neck wound and bleeding eyes as if struggling to find a place to focus her attention that is somewhat less distracting. She finally settles her focus on Lita's forehead and manages a faint but quiet smile. "I am Ayame Ichijo and this is my partner, Riki. We have discussed at length the plight of those who have fallen in defense of our world and, having been fortunate to come across a fortuitous means to reverse such a fate, have decided to make it our personal mission to find you and retrieve you from the grave. Regardless what happens in this appalling contest between worlds, champions such as yourself do not deserve to be left in the dirt."
She hefts her glowing lantern, offering a faint smile, "Shall we proceed then? I will confess this is my first attempt at this rite, though I know that others have been brought back before now. No reason you should be neglected."
Despite the fun that she's having at her partner's expense, Riki's attention becomes more focused as the duo treads past the outer edge of the forest, her posture growing more alert and tense. The dark and cloying nature of this place is so pervasive that it would be obvious to even the most spiritually inept simpleton. To a creature born entirely of the fabric of the afterlife, it is something much worse.
Her eyes sweep from side to side as they walk, faint embers of glowing hellfire rising up behind them, granting her the ability to see past the blackened wood and into the realm of the spirits. Countless souls gnash and wail in an eternal prison of cursed design, crying out in a torment that has lasted for centuries. What remains of their etheral forms is hardly recognizable to her eyes, little more than ragged strips of emotion and purpose that have slowly been tainted into little more than dark tendrils of searing agony. The dark trees are far more than mere ghastly growths on an ancient killing field. They are stains, freshly bleeding scabs on wounds clawed in the border between life and death which have never been allowed to heal.
And someone had done this on purpose.
The oni's expression fades from a broad smile full of amusement into something that grows steadily darker as they wander deeper within the mangled forest. She continues to say nothing as they walk though her silence becomes the product of jawed clenched tightly in anger than a further attempt to annoy the miko. Outrage flows through her veins in hot running rivers of molten fire but it is nothing compared to the fury that grips her in reponse to the affront that such a place poses to her lord. To steal away the souls of the dead and keep them from reaching His gates to be judged accordingly - the sacrilege of such an act is staggering.
The sound of the cracking branch causes the ogre's head to whip down, her body rounding on the noise like a startled cat, one which happens to be the size of a small rhinocerus. The blood that spills forth from it causes a low growl to escape her throat unbidden and she finds herself beset with a sudden desire to smite the closest thing in reach. Ayame would probably not appreciate joining their recently departed quarry in the afterlife, however briefly such a visit might be, though it might answer a few of those burning questions of hers.
Fighting to reign in her righteous fury to a managable level in spite of the horrendous injustice all around her, the Japanese demon turns to regard the sudden arrival of their guest with a withering look. The horn jutting out from her forehead adds yet another feature to the list of things that mark her out as obviously inhuman alongside her unnatural size and the sharp fangs she bears in an involuntary snarl at the sight of the wandering spirit.
"This place..." She growls, glaring at the ghost as if it were a focus for her hatred. "This is an affront to the natural order!" Her fists clench tightly into balls, blossoms of scarlet flame beginning to flicker to life around them. "Hurry and complete this dark business! Lest I give in to mine desire to burn this blighted domain into ash!"
"Yes... Unfortunately, rumors of my death were greatly understated."
The Lieutenant looks at both the shrinemaiden and the oni with a raised eyebrow that only make the blood tears flow more freely on the raised side. She listens to the proposal that Ayame makes and a few questions enter her mind... Wait... Does she even have a mind anymore considering she's currently a disembodied spirit?
Before Lita can even give voice to those thoughts, Riki sounds off at her dipleasure of being here with her being the focus of the glaring.
"The bloody 'ell!?!?"
Lita in turn glares back at the oni and while she's considered fairly tall by human standards, she's utterly dwarfed by Riki. Hell Riki even dwarfs MURDERHOUSE Mick. However, being dead and bored absolutely emptied her 'Fucks to Give' tank.
"It wasn't my idea to get my eyes plucked out their sockets with daggers and then get my throat slit in this place. And if you're wondering how that feels, love, IT BLEEDIN' HURTS!!!!"
To emphasize that statement, the blood flow from the eye sockets and the neck flow even heavier.
She then turns to Ayame and with a significantly calmer voice responds to her, "Actually, most of my body is in that tree over there. Afterwards, it spat my bones out picked clean. Not fun to watch as a ghost, I tell you... Anyway, why me? What do you hope to gain from bringing me back?"
Riki's voice startles the miko slightly as Ayame jumps. After hearing nothing from the ogress throughout their hike through the forest, having her finally speak with such burning vehemence catches Ayame off guard, the girl pivoting halfway toward facing the horned oni. But as she continues, the young demon hunter pauses, nodding her head slightly, uncertain as to what cemented the conviction in her partner's voice, yet not inclined to disagree either. She has her own list of reasons as to why she'd rather not be here, though the thought of trying to take on the broken environ herself never crossed her mind.
"I understand. I have no reason to tarry here any longer than is necessary."
She turns back toward the ghostly person of interest only to face an incensed response from her direction as well. Propping her staff against the ground and allowing it to rest against her left shoulder, she lifts her left hand and right hand, the lantern swinging from its crimson cord. "Now, now, there is no need to be at odds. This place can simply be trying for even the most patient to endure, as I have to imagine you well know by now. Please, my partner's invective is against these woods, not those who suffer because of them."
The girl lowers her hands to her sides and bows forward at the waist, her long hair draping down along her right shoulder. Maybe it's an excuse not to be stuck staring at the ever flowing blood from the final, lethal wounds suffered by the British operative.
The calmer follow up is heard - information and a question, and the miko straightens out of her bow, lifting her right hand again to hold the lantern out before her. She blinks and then offers a smile that seems genuine enough, the girl keeping her distance as to avoid an aggressive posture concerning the matter.
"As to the selection of our beneficiary, our options are presently limited by the level of power I have collected within my lantern... You happen to fall within those limits." She pauses for a moment, head canting to the side just slightly, an eyebrow raised questioningly, "As to the profit, well... you are not the only one we intend to aid. However," she waves her left hand toward her lantern, "I confess that the business of restoring life to you will drain me of nearly all the potential I have. We will be unable to aid any others after this... unless you are able to provide what power your own soul gem collected in life."
She lowers her left hand to rest against her side, right arm steady in holding the gemstone lantern. "With your help, we can find another, and with their help, another, and so on. We need not leave our dead warriors behind... as long as we know they fought for Earth. Traitors and enemies can be left to rot." she finishes with a touch of vindictive in her voice.
Her shoulders fall slightly, "I wish it was not necessary to insist that you surrender your hard fought strength, but at this final dark hour, what greater purpose could it serve but to help fellow champions of Earth?"
Her voice falls quiet, the girl holding back from saying anything more. A glance is cast up at Riki at her side. If the diplomatic approach falls, well, there's always the stick. She shifts her focus back to the wounded, bleeding soul, "Now, please, let us help you, but understand that in accepting this second chance, we will need your help so that we can continue in our quest."
If the shock her anger has provoked in either her companion or the ghost bothers her, Riki does little to show it. She meets Lita's dead bloody eyes without any of the trepidation shown by the miko. Even if a demon such as she could be flustered at a few nasty wounds, her time as shepard of the dead has provided hundreds of years of innoculation against such sights. Even reduced as she is and bound to mortal form, some vestige of that divine power remains within the towering figure and it radiates as an aura of oppressive authority over the departed soldier.
The oni's snarling growl fades into an annoyed scowl with some effort though the hellfire burning around her hands and within her eyes continues to smoulder with unearthly power, flames licking angrily about as if stirred by the cold winds. That too would present an unpleasant sensation for any wayward spirits, particularly those whose lives may have been colored by bloodshed and impurity.
"The girl speaks true."
The demon's voice rumbles out only moments after Ayame finishes giving her short explanation of their quest. The hard edge of emotion has left her voice making it merely annoyed rather than threatening, but she pulls herself upright and levels a stern look at the fallen soldier, her muscles flexing and rippling as she does so. There is no effort to hide what role she will play in this exchange should asking nicely fail and with her mood soured by the reality of the dark forest, she doesn't have a lot of patience left to negotiate.
"Thy strength is needed, warrior. Lend the power thou hath received unto our righteous cause and be vindicated for thy failure. Else ye shall face divine judgement."
When Ayame lays it all on the table, she can't find a single thing disagreeable with that particular mission and with her being eliminated from the tournament by way of fatal stabbing/slashing she doesn't really have any skin in the game from both a figurative and literal perspective.
| She thinks on it and she has easily came to her decision. To be honest, it didn't take much deliberation for her. Since while she fights for Queen and Country, ultimately if the Earth gets endangered so does her priority.
"I agree to the conditions set forth. I will also give this advice. While, I don't think Sergei Dragunov has betrayed our realm, if you do decide to bring him back, do so cautiously. Having both had him as both an opponent and a team mate, I can say with absolute certainty that while he's an incredible fighter, he's dangerously uncontrollable and is just as likely to hinder your plan as he is to help it."
Especially damning testimony considering the fact that it was through mostly the strength of Sergei and Daniel that brought them to the finals of the King of Fighters. But it was also Sergei that was the reason that Daniel didn't show up to the final match against the Psycho Soldiers.
As Riki adds her considerable weight and, to a certain degree, invested authority on matters pertaining to the deceased and their need for vindication or judgement, Ayame finds herself holding her breath in anticipation. The plan they have agreed to is a risky one, fraught with the risk of incurring Outworld's wrath or maybe even invective from the unseen manipulators behind these baneful tournaments and their convoluted rules. And in order for it to even succeed, they will need support from the ones they approach. At the very least, Ayame is certain, no one can be forced back to life against their will. Even if they could be, would she dare cross that bleak line into something as vile as necromancy to make this work?
When Lita agrees, the girl looks visibly relieved, nodding her head in acknowledgement of the accord but staying quiet as the talented swordswoman offers additional advice the two might want to keep in mind. An interesting warning, considering it is a teammate she speaks of, Ayame recalling their presence in the King of Fighters tournament together. She nods slowly, taking in the information with a contemplative look. He did seem powerful, but with how risky the plan already is, can they chance someone like him?
"Thank you, Miss Luwanda. Now, I will make good on our offer. I ask that you bear with me for a moment, this is..." She exhales softly as she drops to her knees in the dark forest soil, resting her staff flat on the ground at her side, ever within easy reach. "New territory for me, to say the last."
Shifting on her knees, she moves to cradling the golden lantern in both hands, focusing on it for a moment. She was certain she only needed either the soul or the body of the fallen. Having both should make the task at hand even easier, right? She had figured out how to draw power from the thing to enhance combat abilities, but sharing life with another? Well... it is similar to transferring, right? And that is straight forward enough.
Gritting her teeth, she begins to force the life energy of the gemstone lamp from within, an ember glow radiating out from around her hands, expanding into a dome-like hemisphere around the girl, bathing the small patch of forest in light that seems so foreign to the forest tomb all around them.
"Step into the light," she urges the bloodied specter, "And be made whole." She hopes. What if she comes back sans-flesh? Was anyone else resurrected with such grievous injuries? Well, Zach's head was chopped up and he seems to be out and about, right? The girl pales slightly at the thought that she will simply be restoring life to a doomed, inevitably dead body, the gruesome thought distracting her for a fleeting moment before she forces the idea aside, compartmentalizing it away.
The lantern in her hands grows dim, the girl's word regarding the cost of this effort appearing true. Every trace of energy it possessed has been forced into the effort. There exists no room for mistakes here.
It would seem that her posturing is not necessary for the dead soldier is quick to accept their offer. Riki lets out a soft grunt and steps back, allowing the priestess to work the magic of the shard for the first time. Being somewhat closely related to the whole spirits of the dead angle in this equation, she can't help but watch with curiosity as the light of the gem spreads out into a warm yellow dome, narrowing her eyes in concentration as if that will somehow help her glean more information about how the divine object functions. Ofcourse, no Gods, elder or otherwise, have yet proven the sort to divulge their secrets so easily, so mostly she just squints and waits nearby.
When the ghost steps forward and into the light, a lemon yellow shard materializes, suspended in mid air shaped like a triangle before a chord forms into a necklace. Considering the ultimate condition of her body and the fact that everything except her eyes and her bones was consumed by the tree, the energy seems to figure that it was just easier to create a new body than to try to fix the old body.
A new skeletal system is formed out of thin air, then the muscles overlay the skeletal system, then the circulatory system, before finally the skin and the hair. Unfortunately for her, her clothing was also consumed.
She looks down at her body and touches her cheeks and looks down and she sees no blood on her finger tips. This time it's tears of joy of actually being able to breathe. A joy which seems out of place in such a gloomy environment.
On one hand, her modesty would balk at being naked right now but her sense of practicality wins out. She needs to bring her weapons just in case and she needs to make sure she brings proof that this happened so they don't lock her away when she makes her final report.
She moves to pick up her own skeletal hand and then picks up her kunai, hanging them on the skeletal fingers by the rings. Then she moves to pick up her own femur, and tucks it under her arm and then she moves towards her sword, stabbed into the ground to be used as a support before her final moments and pulls it free from the ground and carries it over her shoulder.
"Let's go back. I'd rather not spend any more time in here than necessary. I'll transfer my energy to when I'm clothed and away from my graveyard."
The miko watches with unerring focus. If there is anything she needs to do in order to direct the restorative energies now in play around her, she needs to be ready for it. With this effort, her lantern will be all but empty of potential and any hopes of reviving others will be dashed completely. Her heart skips a beat as the effects seem to begin working, a bright yellow soul shard forming the focus for the regenerative process to build around.
As it begins to reform that which was lost, the dome of light slowly shrinks, its power being drained into the hovering gift of the unseen gods and then converted into physical life anew. The girl doesn't blink, afraid to miss even the slightest step or detail, but the process seems to play out largely autonomously as bones solidify, the raw elements combining together into the framework of the human body. Then comes the layers, one at a time. The unsettling sight is akin to watching a flaying in reverse as finally she is staring at the now revived form of Lita Luwanda, the dome of light she had summoned now completely gone, her lantern now a lifeless yellow rock.
Mouth slightly agape, Ayame pushes herself to her feet, ignoring the dirt clinging to the knees of her crimson hakama as she stares at the newly formed life then glances down at the lantern she cradles. It worked. It really worked. She seems staggered briefly at the success, eyes having lost their focus, mind racing. "Well," she whispers breathlessly, "Allow me to welcome you back, Miss Luwanda."
She glances up again, eyes catching sight of the gentle tears rolling down freshly created cheeks. Her own expression is somewhat neutral, as if she's too busy thinking about this experience rather than appreciating that it is at least over with. The forest around them is darker now, the miko's lantern no longer able to provide its gentle glow.
Only then does she notice that while life and form have been restored, trappings and accoutrements have not, leaving the resurrected woman without the clothing consumed by the voracious tree. Ayame's cheeks blush a bit red, left hand lifting to rest against the side of her head as she looks away, grunting softly as Lita goes about collecting her things and her... own bones? The Ichijo scion arcs an eyebrow at the morbid collection she is building, but doesn't ask any questions for now.
The soldier, all business as per her training no doubt, suggests they go back, to leave this wretched place, and, by virtue of her request, guarantees that the miko and oni will escort her back to safety in order to get the soul energy they say they need. "Yes. Yes, of course, that is understandable," the blushing priestess murmurs, turning away then. Well, better to suffer indignity than death, she considers with a soft exhale.
Her right hand reaches into her left sleeve, producing a small, pale blue paper talisman. Bending down, the girl retrieves her wooden staff with her left hand, the ward held in her right. With a flick of her wrist, the blue paper ignites with a pale ghost like, bright enough to see by as she turns to lead the way back out of the forest toward the palace in the distance.
"Who..." the priestess asks, "Who killed you and left you here for the forest?"
As she takes her first steps towards the castle, along with the miko and the oni. She doesn't answer at first. It's not exactly a pleasant memory to revisit. Eventually she does break the silence.
"She goes by Black Lotus. She racked up quite a kill count. Aya Hazuki, me... I don't even know how many she killed after me."
She grunts and continues walking towards the palace in a hurry to get away from the forest. Quite frankly, she spent enough time in this place.
The pace the trio makes back out of the forest is a hurried one. With Riki bristling to burn it all down, and Ayame entirely uncomfortable with the countless angles of potential ambush all around them, neither of the two escorts have any desire to linger longer than necessary.
Lita's answer provokes a soft grunt. "Perhaps it would be some small solace to know that her rampage eventually came to an end." She continues briskly as they step out into the light of day, facing Shang Tsung's palace across the vast gorge, only a thin stone bridge separating them from the walls of the fortress. "Carved up and filleted by a swordsman, as the rumors go. She will... not be on our list of champions to bring back."
Pausing at the bridge, the priestess shakes her right hand, scattering the burning blue talisman that had provided their illumination into ashes that drift to the ground at her feet. The cause for her hesitation at the bridge is not hard to imagine as the girl scans the way ahead, peering at the palace gates and then looks back over her shoulder toward the forest. Crossing the bridge is always a risky proposition... once out in the middle of it, one is at risk of being surrounded easily on either side with no other method of egress but the pit below.
But everything looks clear. "If you want to wait with Riki at the gates, I could go find you some clothes before we head inside," she offers, finally striding out to cross the bridge with the other two.
"There are not many battles left in the tournament to decide our world's fate. I cannot really say with confidence how it will all turn out. It will become clear enough within the next few days, I imagine."
On the other side, she makes good on her offer, heading into the palace to retrieve surplus clothing that had been provided to all the guests of the Sorcerer King before coming back out to the gate to meet the swordswoman and Riki and offer the simple but viable wardrobe over to Lita. "Is there anyone you want us to pay particular attention to in order to bring back? We intend to keep at this for as long as we have the energy to do so and... are not prevented, of course." Who knows how long before Outworld gets wise to what is going on. Of course, the dark one's eyes may be drawn toward the final matches between titans more than what the gnats in his periphery are up to. Ayame can hope, at least.
Lotus' rampage was eventually ended by a sword wielder after having taken down two of them. There's comfort in that however she is still disappointed in the fact that she was unable to avenge the swordswoman who she held in high esteem in their first fight on the island.
Lita happily let's Ayame go off to grab some clothes for her and when the miko returns the spec op soldier is happy to remain silent as she puts on the garments.
When the question is posed as to who to look out for as who to bring back, besides Aya, no one else comes to mind. She has been out of the loop for so long that she has no idea who to target. "I've been dead for too long to be able to give you an answer. Other than Aya, I don't know any others. I need to play catch up in order to find out what happened while I was gone."
Lita's answer is taken with measured acknowledgement by the miko who brought her back. Brown eyes study the young woman, considering how her story was nearly brought to a premature end by the circumstances of this tournament. Yet, knowing that was the risk she faced, she fought all the same. "You fought well for your part, soldier. I wish I could offer more information... and there are many things I would love to ask. But our time draws short and there are many still that we need to get to," she continues, gesturing toward the oni at her side.
With a flick of her wrist, she drops her golden lamp back into the palm of her right hand and holds it up. "Unless there is any further assistance you require of me or my partner, it would be best for us to continue with our quest." The miko bows her head forward, arms at her side. "Allow me to express my gratitude for the risks you have taken for Earth. The world may never know the price you were willing to pay, but I will never forget it."
She stands up straight, looking at Lita expectantly now.
Lita nods and holds up her lemon yellow, triangle shaped soul shard pendant up towards the miko. When she said she was willing to assist in this cause, she truly meant it. There's a bit of uncertainty since she never used her shard in this fashion.
She closes her eyes as she concentrates, focusing on moving energy from her triangle to the lantern. With her eyes closed, she's not even certain that it's working.
To those with their eyes actually open, the pale yellow glow forms into a ball as it slowly hovers towards the lantern and then gets drawn in. When Lita opens her eyes once more, she looks down at her pendant and can see how dim it is now.
"And actually if you need my assistance, just let me know. I pretty much owe you my life and I'm not sure that giving you the energy in my shard will be enough to cover the debt."
Standing up straight out of her bow, Ayame holds the empty lantern up once more. She's quiet as the British operative exercises her own instinctual control over the powers of her own soul shard to transfer a sizeable sphere of glimmering energy forward. The miko holds her breath, having no experience with direct transfers like these either and afraid any motion on her part runs the risk of interfering in some way.
At last the sphere collapses into her own gemstone, the lantern once more glimmering with brightness, and the priestess exhales, eyes closing briefly. Reaching her left hand over, her staff resting against her shoulder, she tucks the lantern back up into her right sleeve where it and its soft golden glow vanishes from sight.
She is quiet at the offer from Lita, brown eyes studying her quietly, the genuine expression of debt seeming to catch her off guard. Averting her focus to the side for a moment, the young if resolved miko appears to reflect on the magnitude of thanks the revived warrior expresses. She could leverage that, couldn't she? A sense of debt of this magnitude, couldn't she twist that to her own ends someday? On the edge of the waterfall in Africa, she had told that tricky Iga ninja that trust is a precious commodity, more valuable than riches. Could she so easily betray the trust extended her?
Lips pursed in a brief, pensive moment, Ayame looks back up to Lita, meeting her eyes. "As far as I am concerned," the girl states, her voice somber as her expression, "There is no debt to cover. Please, Miss Luwanda, accept my help as a small token of gratitude for your fight for Earth. Take care of yourself. Perhaps we will meet again someday."
Taking a step back, the miko offers one more swift bow before pivoting on her feet, lifting her staff into her left hand, "Come on," she calls to the thoughtful giant that has accompanied her. "We are just getting started."
Log created on 12:31:54 12/30/2016 by Ayame, and last modified on 23:18:00 12/30/2016.