Description: Bloody and beaten after his battle with Jedah Dohma, Frei dozes fitfully on the outskirts of Hyakuri Air Base, recovering. An angel searches for the wings to take him to the field of battle. Like the orbit of two moons, their paths swing perilously close and then part, under the dark blue sky.
Roughly an hour from Southtown, Hyakuri Air Base is mostly an adjunct to a tiny local airfield, Ibaraki Airport. For most of its tenure as a public location, it's seen little use, being mostly forgotten in favor of bigger airports closer to the city. But now... well. With Gear and Darkstalker forces marching across an increasingly embattled Honshu, tiny little Hyakuri Air Base found itself in the path of the Blood Lord, Jedah Dohma, and his army of Darkstalker reavers. The single runway and its outbuildings have been almost entirely decimated, the JSDF having almost no time to defend themselves thanks to Jedah's initial disguise. And while some defenders managed to fight the Dohma clan scion off, the threat has not entirely passed.
But with the active fighting having moved on, rescue vehicles and other first responders have been able to make an appearance at Ibaraki. With Southtown itself under siege, the air base's single runway is a precious resource for potential air support and relief, meaning it needs to be cleared *now*. Various forces are already massing to make this a reality for military and civilian planes alike. Destroyed tarmac or not, the hope is that soon, planes will take off from this point again.
Things being as they are, however, the security gate at Hyakuri isn't exactly being heavily manned right now, especially since the relief workers are too busy and the stationed JSDF soldiers are too *dead*. This means that people are coming and going as they will, right now, vehicles going in and out without concern.
Weirdly, however, one area right in front of the security gate -- a bus stop with no benches, just a sidewalk and a tall lamppost shining blue-white halogen down into the pre-dawn darkness -- is mostly deserted, in a "being conspicuously left alone" way. Why?
Sitting against the fence separating the lawn from the airbase proper, highlighted by the street light, is a figure in a black shirt, with bright red hair. His legs are sprawled in front of him, his chin tilted up, so that his gaze is trained on the slowly-lightening sky, and the vanishing silver crescent of the moon. Blood stains his bare shoulders, his face, his neck, and what's visible of his jeans.
Amidst the sound and bustle of frantic wartime rescue, the revving of a single Vespa's engine will go unnoticed. So hopes Alma, dressed for perhaps the first time with stealth in mind. His outfit, though characteristically snug, is in drab earth tones, a hooded top mostly obscuring his face. He speeds unhesitatingly toward the airbase, seemingly confident that he will not be questioned in the chaos.
In reality, Alma has never felt so uncertain of his future. He does not know if he can make it to Metro City. His involvement as an independent agent of the Sacred Order has made him something of a supernatural investigator, but he has no gift for subterfuge or espionage. He does not know if he can make it to the United Nations headquarters. And he does not know if, should he make it that far, he will be able to defeat the Illuminati -- who still think him dead -- and save the Sacred Order, stop those commanding the Gear attacking Japan, and perhaps save the world. No psychic could see so far.
Alma does not know what he can do. He simply knows what he must do. He has never before made a choice like this: to walk past those in need in the name of completing a task that only he might manage. But he has made that choice unhesitatingly, believing in the greater good and in his capacity to shoulder his choice's attendant responsibility.
Some things never change.
Alma cuts the engine and rolls up slowly on a seemingly abandoned security gate, coming to a stop in the shadow of a lamppost. He dismounts, looking toward the base in the distance. It's highly unlikely there are any direct flights to Metro City, to put it lightly. But if he can get out of Japan, even just to Korea, it shouldn't be long before he can find a direct flight. The Illuminati shouldn't be looking for him, so as long as he keeps a low profile--
He pauses as a body in the light by the bus stop catches his eye. It's hard to tell if the man is conscious at first glance. There is little time to tarry, but if no one has helped this person, he cannot simply leave. Alma is still for only a moment before striding into the light, quickly closing the distance to the fallen man.
"Pardon me, do you need assistance? Can you--"
~ Nothing was wasted, Alma. ~
The face is different, younger. But--
~ The memory of 'us'-- ~
He hasn't forgotten it.
Slowly he reaches up and pushes his hood back, revealing a familiar face unscarred. He is silent with lips parted, thunderstruck.
"Can you hear me?" he finishes at last, his voice somehow hollow to his own ears. Yes. Can my words reach you? You, whoever you are--
Are you really here?
In two lifetimes, the person now going by 'Rei Hazuki' has experienced much in the way of personal trauma, up to and including a literal violent death and first-hand experience of a world ending. One might imagine that nothing could truly scar him at this point. But the face that Alma finds staring up at the sky suggests that perhaps it can. Green eyes are glassy, flat, devoid of their usual warmth, staring at nothing... yet the dark circles of his pupils dart and shift erratically, like someone trapped in a bad waking dream.
In his mind's eye, only crimson; in his ear, only the muffled sound of drowning. Until...
'Can you hear me?'
The red-haired man's lips had been twitching slightly, though it's not clear if he was speaking silently to himself in whatever unpleasant reverie trapped him, or it was merely the body acting on its own, muscle and sense memory playing out to the tune of some inner script. But at the offered question, all of this stops. The lips purse, the eyelids stop fluttering, the pupils center, widen. A deep breath, taken in through the mouth, and then the man sitting on the ground seems as if some... veil is taken from him, like there had been a gauzy lace shroud from head to toe. His head lolls faintly to the side, and the gaze goes from looking into some distant space, into the face of this newcomer with the muzziness of the newly-awoken.
Dance music. The scent of Bailey's Irish creme.
'I'm Alma Towazu. Pleased to meet you.'
For a moment, everything is quiet, awkwardly so, this random stranger sitting on the ground just... *staring*, for only a few seconds that feel as if they'd stretch into infinity. But, eventually, the bloodied young man gives a sleepy smile. "I'm alright. It's kind of you to check, but I'll be fine."
A reassuring smile that is anything but, and a leaden pause, before he adds: "Did you just ride through a warzone on a Vespa?"
Alma blinks and straightens somewhat when the young man replies, as though surprised that he can speak. But once that uncanny silence has passed, the psychic finds himself relaxing, his composure returning. It's true that this stranger has appeared in his visions, the only figure to have appeared when encountering someone who looks and behaves entirely differently, and so the only one about whom Alma still knows nothing. He has reason to be shaken. He has experienced these visions for so long -- albeit infrequently -- that he no longer speculates much about why they happen, still hoping to learn this with future psychic training and investigation. But perhaps some part of Alma assumed that the figure before him had been reincarnated or some such.
Nevertheless, he quickly finds himself at ease again. There is something profoundly calming about this young man's manner and presence. That smile is more "a good effort" than genuinely reassuring, yet it reassures Alma nonetheless. So he is able to glance back at his erstwhile vehicle with a casual air.
"Yes," he replies solemnly. "I couldn't find a tank in the right color."
He looks back and pauses a moment before cracking a smile, his eyes glittering with mirth. Being a globetrotting artist seems to have rounded him out a bit. "I'm glad you're alright. I'm Alma Towazu. Pleased to meet you." He pauses again. "Despite the circumstances. Ah--"
It should be an odd question, but somehow, Alma feels as though this person doesn't mind odd questions.
"Would you happen to know an Aya Hazuki, by any chance?"
The worst part about all of it, Frei will observe to himself later, is that he saw it all coming. He knew, and more than knowing, a part of him *wanted* it to happen. So many desires in his heart, raging anew, the strain bordering on too much after the almost psychologically torturous treatment he received at the Blood Lord. For a moment he is back on the shores of Shang Tsung's island, newly reborn, alone in the wasteland, bawling with so much intensity he thought his body would shatter from the power of it. Such an intense, powerful loneliness as he'd never felt before.
There's a shfit in the redhead's weight and posture that suggests he *wants* to get up, to move, but it is brief, and it is a struggle that he very definitely loses; it was a miracle he made it this far, really, and though his will is strong, there's only so much a body -- even an immortal one -- can do. Instead, he expels a breath heavily, and then accepts his fate, settling onto the ground a bit and giving Alma a sheepish what-can-you-do look.
"My cousin," he answers, voice a little hoarse. "My name is Rei Hazuki. I've been told that Aya and I look alike, though I don't see the resemblence as much."
It is strange, Alma will later reflect, that his encounter with Rei did not trigger another flashback. Meeting Aya had granted him a vision of Rei, not Aya. Meeting Rei has not granted him a vision, yet the young man seems tremendously familiar, while Aya had not. The more he learns, the more it seems he has yet to know. What if anything connects people as disparate as Tran, Mimiru, Ayame, and Rei? Is Alma the only one -- other than perhaps Ayame and her mysterious and threatening ally -- who feels them to be connected, who possesses the "memory of 'us'"?
He cannot believe that is true, not until he has reached his absolute limit. He must make it through these trials and continue his quest. The fate of the world is at stake here and now, and his mind remains focused on that. But later, when his mind is able to wander again, his conviction will return: someday the world will be at stake again, and these connections he is struggling to understand will be key to its survival.
"I see. I'm acquainted with your cousin." Alma doesn't elaborate. It doesn't occur to him that Rei's lack of surprise or questioning is anything other than a coincidence. "I must catch a flight, and soon. But, if you really will be alright without my assistance--" He reaches into his pocket and then reaches out, offering Rei a silver key. "The Vespa's yours when you're well enough to ride it. Please give Aya my warm regards."
An escape route with style.
"Ah ... Rei."
Alma's noble features cloud.
"Do you believe ..."
He looks toward the air base, the figure scurrying in the far distance, and beyond, toward the enemy at the gates, out of sight but all too close.
"Do you believe an ... end is coming?"
His voice feels unfamiliar again. But the words are not his own.
"Do you believe there is ... a way to prevent it?"
He parts his lips to speak words he does not know and so leaves unsaid, but there, in the curve of his mouth, might be caught the ghost of a whisper:
The answer is too swift, too certain, too emphatic to contain even an ounce of doubt. But if Alma is watching his interlocutor, it's obvious that Frei... Rei... has his eyes closed as he says it, looking at some distant world on the inside of his own mind. Having delivered that simple answer, however, his eyes open and he turns, seeing the offered silver key. He'd expected to hitch a ride back to Southtown with the JSDF, who've been giving him a wide berth after it was made clear he was one of the fighters that repelled Jedah Dohma.
A scooter sounds really nice right now, actually.
Rei reaches up to the take the key, smiling gratefully, and lets it fall into his palm, closing his hand around it, feeling the sharp edges of the cold-ish metal dig into his skin. A weird but not unpleasant reminder of this physical plane, here and now.
"I don't think the end is coming," he elaborates, looking at the velvet blue of the sky slowly shading to a violet pink at the edge, the sun finally making its appearance, as he knew it must. A mere five hours ago that this adventure started, and now?
"Do you want to know the truth, Towazu-san?" he says, pausing, the words tasting like bile in his mouth. Do you want to know the truth, about those memories you seek? Do you want the answers?
Frei knows he must lie and the feeling is like a granite boulder in his stomach.
"Not that long ago this place was attacked by creatures of the night. Taking advantage of the conflict. Their leader was..." A pause. The scent of blood. The wet, echoing sound of drowning in his ears. "...dangerous. We managed to drive him away, myself and a... friend. But my being here was largely a coincidence."
He lets his head roll to the side a moment, and smiles genuinely at Alma. "But maybe that's why I don't think the end is coming. No matter how bad things get, there will always be *someone* to step in. Someone riding a Vespa through the night to fly off into the dawn. Am I right?"
A shrewd conversational gambit on his part, but one which Rei knows will pay off.
Alma cannot recall the last time he sought reassurance from a stranger. His teacher, Rose, certainly. His friends and colleagues in the Sacred Order, sometimes. But the previous figures from his flashbacks have never seemed to know him. They have always begun as strangers and inevitably become friends. Presumably Rei does not know him either.
Yet Alma finds himself speaking those words that were spoken to him in that vision, and he finds Rei responding with assurance. Alma is more used to offering such faith to others. It is humbling and somehow gratifying to receive it from another. It feels right -- strange, but right.
Alma smiles warmly, a little lopsidedly, with a hint of bashfulness -- because his question might have sounded like a request for support from someone weakened and injured, because the Vespa is his -- and nods.
"You're absolutely right."
He turns toward the air base.
"Many of us are stepping in. Together, we will resolve this crisis." He glances back, still smiling. "Thank you, Rei. Rest well. When I return, I'm sure we'll meet again."
Thoughts of deja vu are put behind him. What was before a grave resolve is accompanied by a buoyed spirit. For the task before him is not only a duty: it is a passion, too.
Drawing up the hood again, he raises a hand in farewell and moves to depart, leaving the light for the shadows.
A faint smile. "I'd like that. For starters, I can return the scooter." Rei doesn't say anything more than that; he doesn't need to. Simply a nod, an acknowledgment of the wave. As Alma jogs away, the green eyes track him, though perhaps this is expected; outside the gate, he's the only motion, drawing the eye. But soon enough he's gone.
A few moments pass, and despite himself, Rei's legs get draw up, his gloved arms wrapped around them. It's impossible not to cry, at this point, not on some level. Perhaps it was Jedah's invocation of Ayame that set this stage, the Blood Lord's dire omen that someday she would give in to whatever demonic blandishments Jedah had in mind. Maybe it was Rei's own perception that despite her life here, something is missing for Ayame... a thing she is cursed to be aware of but potentially never to have.
A familiar feeling.
But that was the resolution he made... the dividing line between 'Frei' and 'Rei'. That the old world was gone; only this new one exists. The thing Aya is quick to remind him of. Part of him is happy at a chance to know this new person, this warmly familiar feeling in his heart. As the sun dawns, he tries to embrace that feeling.
The sound of a plane roaring off the tarmac, not long after, makes Rei look up, following its trajectory out over the sea. To the east, the sun is a golden haze just below the purple dawn, and above it, a single bright point of light, hanging just low enough that it appears to be the plane's navigational center.
Venus, the 'Morning Star'. Lucifer, the light-bringer.
'I'm sure we'll meet again.'
Log created on 22:16:35 11/29/2017 by Frei, and last modified on 01:05:12 11/30/2017.