Description: It is important to remember the things you are fighting for, to have a 'what next?' in your mind to help you fight through the challenges in your life. Glen, annoying shade that he can be, has some things he wants to bring to the Dahlia's attention concerning some of those possible 'nexts' that could be coming.
Finally, some time to breathe again.
Rose may have been cordial, polite, and even friendly to the Ainu shaman, but the annoying thing about paranoia is that one can never truly shut it off. It's always right there in the periphery of one's mind, clamoring for attention amidst the open displays of trustworthiness and friendship. She speaks sweetly -- but what could she /really/ mean? She claims to have lost track of the conversation -- but how much has /really/ been paid attention to?
Everyone other than Nakoruru had the decency to question the Dahlia's motives directly -- to reveal their mistrust, to allow the Ainu woman to respond accordingly. Even her own boyfriend, and his alternate self. But Rose... either she truly was preoccupied, or she is a lot better at this cloak-and-dagger game than the Akatsuki Advisor had wanted to believe.
If only she had more time to observe, prior to their fight...
That is, of course, why she'd needed to study the woman in private.
To study her breathing patterns.
To establish a baseline for her level of activity.
To attune with her on a deep and personal level.
Even if the Italian's psychic defenses were honed to a degree far greater than the Dahlia's ability to reconnoiter, she would at least gain some knowledge for a future rendezvous she believes to be inevitable.
But now? Now is a time to meditate, and reflect. The Scarlet Guard stands watch outside -- no one is allowed to barge in unannounced. And within is the featureless, tomb-like room that seems more like a prison cell than the temporary domicile of one of the few remaining competitors in the bloody tournament. A mahogany chair, no doubt borrowed from elsewhere in Shang Tsung's palatial estate. A bed, bare but for a fur-lined comforter.
It is upon said bed that the Dahlia kneels, eyes closed, hands folded in her lap.
Six spirit guardians surround her -- Ainu who fought in previous wars. None of them are saying anything -- but there is nonetheless an exchange of wills going on.
The spirit known as Glen generally cares little for things like physical guardians. He's slightly more concerned about physical privacy. There is a knocking sound from the door, and a pause to allow the Dahlia to prepare herself, Glen simply walks through the door as if it were air. He glances back at the door, smirking at the novelty of the thing, before turning back to face the woman.
He observes the conference for a moment before bowing slightly at the waist. "I apologize for the interruption, ma'am'," Glen says devoid of sarcasm, "But there was something I needed to discuss with you when and while there was time to do so."
The shade appears dressed well, not quite as formally as his charge, but certainly as sharply. There is a wakazashi hanging at his left hip in a manner that suggests that the weapon simply /belongs/ there. There is nothing in Glen's posture that suggests a fight.
The knock at the door does its job of alerting the room's occupant to the new arrival.
Incidentally, the knock also serves an additional purpose of scaring the bejeezus out of the Scarlet Guardmembers standing watch. Practically jumping out of their skin, they turn to the sound of the knocking -- only to see the ghostly form of Glen.
A moment later, the Dahlia has snapped out of her trance. Her eyelids part, allowing her to squint at the door. A second moment passes -- one in which she extends her senses to the spirit on the other side of the door.
The Dahlia has a faint smile on her face, as she nods her head to her spiritual companions. Her understated, whispering dismissal of them, as always, seems as if it were preordained, somehow. "<< I will see you again shortly. >>"
"... Of course, Glen. I ... may be a bit exhausted, but I should be able to talk for a little while. What is on your mind?"
Her eyes flick back and forth across his form, analyzing his mood, his expression. Nothing threatening about his posture, or his presence -- and yet, the nature of his arrival had always seemed to put her on edge before. What could he be seeking?
Glen's nod is short, his glance toward the wall (the wall in the direction to where Zach is currently sleeping) is a touch furitve. "There are things I need to discuss with you, about Zach," Glen says quickly, quietly. Almost... conspiratorially. "But there is background information I need to give you before you can make anything like an informed decision."
The shade thrusts his hands in the pockets of his greatcoat in a display of attitude that suggests he's incredibly uncomfortable with what he is about to do. There is an almost defiant air about the stance. "The reason he remembers the things that I knew is because he was born with a small portion of my soul," the spirit says. "When he was born," the shade grimaces in an expression that might remind the Dahlia of Zach trying to find the right phrasing. "I... I was basically able to follow the string of choices and events that led to his birth. Like... /all/ of them. Or at least the direct choices anyway. I know more about his family's history than anyone currently alive. Not all of it, mind, but it's still a significant amount."
Glen fixes the Scarlet Advisor with a direct look. "Zach is a direct descendant of the man who founded his clan, who was also the first person to wield that sword he carries."
He pauses to let Honoka process some of that before continuing.
The Dahlia slips her shins out from under herself, draping them across the side of the bed in a more casual position. Never once does she give a sign that she's not paying attention to Zach -- she may be impatient at times, but she is a good listener all the same. The windows to her soul glisten with emotion, even while her face bears only a slight semblance of a smile.
He begins by telling her things she already knows, in some capacity. Her smile fades somewhat, as she realizes where the story may be going...
But then it takes another turn, as a very -crucial- piece of information is conveyed. Eyelids narrow: a signal of intense focus. "You have quite the lineage, then..."
There are other things she could say. But it is rude to interrupt a story before it has even been told.
Glen shrugs at this. "He does, at any rate," he half-agrees. "I never even knew my grandfather, so I can't really say the same for myself. My dad's father went missing in Viet Nam." Which means that that person is most certainly dead. "The clan in general, and his family in specific, pay very... close attention to things like marriage." Glen makes a moue of distaste. "In some situations, capacity for the talents the three of us have in common are more important than things like compatibility between the potential spouses. It is important to his clan that his family at a minimum retains its potential for psychic talents."
The shade takes a deep breath, despite the whole spirit thing, before continuing. "The concerns that bring me here are based on some assumptions. The first being that Earthrealm succeeds in this tournament. The second that both you and Zach survive it, and the third being that his family learns that he's not actually dead."
He looks back at Dahlia, at Honoka, with a fairly serious expression. "Assuming all three come to pass, there is more than likely going to be... considerable pressure on his to find a wife. Have kids." He tilts his head to one side, a look of sympathy flicker across his face. "They will, for a lot of reasons, not be very accepting of you. Your actions, how you got to where you were in Southtown." Glen sighs. "They have people that make Little look like a stumbling idiot, and /he/ tumbled to more than a few uncomfortable truths about you." He pauses, realizing some inferences that could be made.
"They won't, I don't think, take anything like overt action against you. They'll likely ply Zach with potential female suitors..." Glen looks thoughtful. "Suitresses?" He shakes the tangent off. "Possible matches that they would approve of more."
At this, Glen's face looks concerned. "But he's not interested in anyone else," he finally says. "He wants you." There's no judgement of anyone in the way Glen says it. It's an admission of fact.
The Dahlia looks back at Glen, her blinks slow and languid as she takes in the family history. The bloodline is important to Glen -- and may even be important to Zach, if his connection with the "Grampig" that Glen never got to know is any indication.
"Those are the assumptions I'm hoping to work with, yes..." she states, eager to show her participation in the dialogue.
Normally, she is prepared to deal with almost any question possible, but when the topic is steered towards marriage, and then kids, she pales considerably -- even in contrast to her already fair skin color. A hand reaches up to brush the hair away from her face, with the (completely coincidental?) side effect of hiding her eyes from the shade for one moment.
Glen always sounds so serious. With an easygoing smile, she comments, "I'd go with 'prospects.' The word 'suitor' always brings some -really- creepy stereotypes to mind, and... yeah."
The calm before the storm.
Her face returns to a mask of seriousness in the course of about two seconds.
"I'm... flattered to have made such a positive impression on him."
If she'd smiled -now-, it would definitely be read as fake.
"Whether I win this tournament or not, I've placed my soul on the line as collateral, just as Zach has. I even took an enormous personal risk to bring Zach back into the world. Do you think there are other... 'prospects' who could say the same?"
"Word choice was a bit intentional," Glen says. "The whole idea of arranging marriage brings creepy stereotypes to my mind." He shrugs again. "Your loyalty to Zach is not anything I am going to question," he says honestly. "Your actions spoke to that sentiment quite clearly."
"I..." Glen looks away. "I have no idea regarding any prospects that his family would be lining up for him, just that I know that there will /be/ prospects," he says simply. "It's something I wanted on your radar," he finally says. "It's something that the both of you will have to navigate. I figured one of you should have the information, and he was... strangely obstinate when I offered to share some of that history."
"Fair enough," agrees Honoka, not sure what else to say in that regard.
Behind closed doors, the Ainu shaman is comfortable enough to let some of her guard down. Glen already knows more of -her- than she'd like to admit, so there is less of a need to hide her emotions behind a stolid mask. She reaches for a hairbrush, and begins to sift the tangles out of her raven-black tresses as she listens.
"It's less that I want to convince you, more that I'm curious to learn the standards under which I'd be judged. You've... already found how difficult it can be to convince him of something once he's set his mind to it."
"What do -you- think, Glen? You've done your best to remain objective and impartial in this business, and I appreciate that. But -- and I promise to refrain from any outbursts, as I know darn well he can sense them from across the hall -- I'm curious to know. Knowing what you know now... Do you think I'm the right choice for him?"
Glen's stance shifts slightly, squaring up to the woman. "I know that it doesn't really matter," he answers honestly. "I know that you are smart, strong, and competent. He finds all of those things very attractive." Glen grins a bit boyishly. "It is one thing he and I have in common." The grin vanishes, a neutral expression taking its place. "But as true as that is, it's also a dodge. I think that your choices, your methods of operation, those run a bit counter to how he prefers to work. He likes the goals you have told him, but the ways you seem to go about it make him uncomfortable. It's going to cause strain."
Glen shrugs, and turns to leave. "You're going to be you, and he's going to be him. Not me, not anyone else. Either the two of you will make it work or you won't. It's not something I can have anything like a hand in."
Honoka knew that Zach loves her with all his heart -- and she'd always gotten a sense that the vaguely-familiar shade harbored some affection for her as well. He confesses to finding her attractive -- even getting the Ainu to lower her chin, her cheeks to stain a faint shade of pink, her lips to crack a smile.
Rationally, she knows it's not Zach -- just someone who looks like him. ... If a bit shorter. But a compliment is a compliment.
"... He's going to have to make the choices."
She says this while looking down at the hairbrush as she turns it about.
"I want him to be happy. Whether that's with me, or with someone else a little less..."
She hesitates, tensing up. Her gaze could nearly burn a hole in the brush.
She closes her eyes, drawing in her breath -- reminding herself of the promise to not get too upset.
When she releases the breath, she looks up -- smiling. Honestly.
"So... thank you for warning me. I appreciate that."
Glen is... leaving though?
"... H-hey. You know how we started to talk, right? He won the right to ask me one question, I won the right to ask him one."
She leans forward, resting her elbows on her knees. The shift in her demeanor is considerable -- not only has she shed the vestiges of anger she'd been harboring, but she looks to be unburdened. Refreshed -- even younger.
"Say the worst happens -- I die, and stuff hits the fan, and we never get to talk again. Is there anything you would regret not having asked me right now?"
Glen stops. "Actually, I remember him telling me that the two of you met when he was trying to find the site of my last fight," the shade says with a grin over one shoulder. "He got a date out of the contest you're referring to. You got the question. It was a /very/ specific one, in fact." The grin fades a bit when Honoka poses a question of him. He turns to face the woman again, arms folded across his chest as he considers her question.
He tilts his head to one side, obviously thinking on the matter. "Nothing I know how to put words to right now," he admits after a moment, unfolding his arms to shrug again. "'Why' seems way too broad."
A charismatic smile, and a glimmer in her eye.
"You're not wrong -- that is when we met. But I meant when we started to really -talk-, instead of just dancing around issues. Where we started to actually trust one another."
His pose is a closed, guarded one -- even with her being open and confiding in him, he still has his doubts.
And that's fair, really. She wanted him to ask, and he asked.
"Why? You mean, why am I not the bestest little Ainu who could?"
Her smile diminishes, but -- really, she's not upset.
And she's not lying.
"Because our people are already dying off. It's only one or two more generations before we're gone for good. We don't have the time to play nice and hope that the system gets better on its own."
Her brush is placed upon the bed, allowing her hands the liberty of turning her palms upwards.
"So I'm changing the system from the inside. The real driving force behind the Japanese way of life is the yakuza -- they are the ones who get things done. And even then -- I'm not leading. I'm just showing them all the cards -- including the ones they'd never have opened their eyes to otherwise."
She purses her lips, lost in thought for a moment. "That was before I met Nakoruru, you understand." And that charismatic smile returns. "So, best case scenario may have the Ainu population -growing- for a change."
Glen listens patiently, openly. It was something he had not really /meant/ for her to answer, admittedly. He folds his arms across his chest, turning her words over in his mind. He frowns as he tilts his head to one side. The whole posture is clearly his 'pondering mode'.
"Nothing you said is untrue," he admits after a moment, his stance still suggesting that he is thinking the whole thing through. "And admittedly, I have no /clue/ what it would be like to be in your position. Or the position of the Ainu." He is still frowning. "It has to be a hard thing, knowing your people are dying."
"Mind if I offer you a parallel?"
Honoka laces her fingers together, nodding quietly at Glen's careful consideration of her words. "Understandable. It's... a reality for us. A riddle my family never figured out the answer to. But... I want to get back to it. The tournament is the way for me to have a say in it, a real chance at change."
As for... offering a parallel?
Honoka's laughter is soft, even musical. It might seem like an inappropriate response to a simple question.
"Heh... sure, go ahead. I just hope I don't keep talking your ear off with my fatigue-addled responses."
Maybe that's why her skin has taken on a pallor: the fight itself, plus a long time of never really allowing herself to fall asleep.
The laugh gets a grin out of Glen; this place is always in dire need of a laugh. He slides his hands in his pockets, an easy gesture.
"You know as well as I do," he says, "That people of our talents are rare, period." He heaves a sigh. "In some parts of the world, centuries ago, people took the things we could do for witchcraft or sorcery. Something to be feared and reviled, if not actively fought against. The first Glenn was as distrusted for his power as he was sought after for his talent in fighting things considerably worse. People like him were often killed. The thing he had going for him was his power. He used it to throw down against anyone that would dare to bring harm to his family. He waged the next best thing to a /war/ to keep his people safe." He lets that sink in for a moment.
"And he won," he continues. "But he knew that the peace he had earned was a fragile and possibly short-lived thing. He's also responsible for the clan's policy of community service. He decided that the people around his family needed a very strong reason that would override the whole murderous fear thing."
"It seems to have worked out fairly well," he finishes. "Your fight will end one day, one way or the other."
For a moment, Honoka considers the possibility of chiming in: it -is- witchcraft, it -is- sorcery. She contents herself by simply nodding attentively -- not bothering to hide the look of detached amusement. It... is nice to smile, here in the place of such misery.
She listens -- and commits the story to memory as best she can. If Zach is unwilling to learn it from Glen directly, perhaps... she will have the opportunity to share similar ideas with him later.
But for now -- she nods.
And rises to her feet, hands still clasped gently before her.
"That's true. Community service is the pillar around which healthy civilizations are built."
The Akatsuki Advisor does not belabor the point of the yakuza's own community commitments. Most of the adherents lived in squalor at one point in their lives; they can certainly appreciate the plights of the downtrodden.
"That's true. I will do everything I can to make it an outcome we can all live with." Her confident grin is tempered by the the non-insignificant possibility that Prince Goro will succeed in ending Earthrealm's sovereignty and ways of life.
"Thank you for stopping by."
As she bows her head, her aura fades slightly. Sleep is imminent -- and that much is apparent from the way the weary woman retakes her seat on the edge of the bed.
"I really... I really am glad we spoke."
With that, noting Honoka's condition, Glen turns to leave again. "Good," he says. Hopefully things landed in a way that works out well for all involved. "I'll not keep you awake any longer," he says. "Fight well," he says. Points made, hopefully not belabored. The shade simply vanishes without fanfare, leaving the woman to her much-needed rest.
Log created on 20:42:59 01/07/2017 by Zach Glenn, and last modified on 13:10:04 01/08/2017.