Description: Alma Towazu Gets A Japanese Woman A Drink, Vol. XXIV
Today is the grand opening of Southtown's Golden Angel Waterpark, a giant greenhouse-like structure that stays warm even in the depths of winter. The sun's rays pierce a chill unfelt by the park's lucky denizens to shine through its transculent ceiling, setting aglimmer the spiderweb of steel that holds the dome together. The corporate sponsors of the upcoming Golden Angel Tournament, in collaboration with the owners of the Dream Amusement Park, spared little expense in the swift construction of this edifice as a way of hyping up their products and as a staging ground for battles showcasing Golden Angel swimsuits, an otherwise improbable prospect in January.
Despite the waterpark's impressive capacity, tickets to the grand opening were understandably in short supply. The only visitors who need not worry on such trifles are the executives, the hosts of the tournament, and -- of course -- the participants.
Thus, Alma Towazu may be found standing outside the women's changing room, clad in white and pale blue board shorts, arms crossed contemplatively. As a host of the charity tournament, it behooves him to attend this event and mingle with its enthusiastic guests (though most prefer to avail themselves of the slides and pools). But though his recent televised appearance wouldn't betray it, Alma is concerned with more serious matters than the Golden Angel Tournament or raising Southtown's spirits. Involuntarily his eye is drawn to his left hand as it rests upon his right arm and its single missing finger, the pinky taken by Urien as a price for Alma's second defeat.
The Illuminati is now fully and secretly in charge of the United Nations, and this means that the Sacred Order must quickly find another base of support if it is to avoid destruction and continue to fulfill its noble mission. The members of the Sacred Order must soon gather in order to discuss what their future plans will hold. Alma has taken this opportunity to meet with one of the number members of the Order's wide network and a participant-to-be in the Golden Angel Tournament: Haruna Abe, whom he knows as a formidable exorcist. It would be prudent to hear her thoughts privately before the date of the decisive meeting comes.
Though then again ... that water slide looks pretty fun.
Alma is not left hanging for too terribly long.
Haruna emerges from the dressing room in a two piece swimsuit. The top is relatively modest if flattering, a tankini that's dark navy blue at the bottom, light white-purple at the top of the straps, and an intermixing gradient between that has a dynamic, galactic froth to it. The bikini bottoms are low cut, dark blue and a familiar version of a particular star sits right on the front.
Haruna Abe has a pair of completely unneccessary chunky shades on, as well as a white towel over one shoulder and a ditty bag of unclear provenance or contents. She may have worn the sunglasses purely to be able to look over the rims of them towards Alma, her lips parting into a plump yet authentic smile.
"Mr. Towasu," she says, sandalled feet closing the distance. "What an honor to finally meet you. I suppose this is a little bit of a casual place, so forgive my informality."
Haruna reaches up to take her sunglasses off with a toss of her hair.
"Show me around? I haven't been in Southtown in years to begin with; to say nothing, of course, of this beautiful place." Somewhere not too far away the actual ocean is there, but, to be fair, you'd freeze your no-nos off this time of year.
Alma's thoughtful expression melts away at Haruna's fashionable approach, fey features brightening as his arms uncross. "The pleasure is mine, Ms. Abe. May our relations always be informal." His smile widens into a grin at Haruna's little flourish. "Yes, of course. I am ostensibly a host, after all." He leads the way, gesturing broadly toward the people at play.
"The main attraction is this water slide," he remarks of a vast swath of tortuous tubes, "said to be the largest in Japan. But I myself am fond of the elaborate heated pool." In the opposite direction from the monstrous chutes, from which emanate ceaseless shrieks of joy (mostly), lies a veritable archipelago: a pool dotted thickly with 'islands' for swimmers to rest. "Each of these islands is equipped with jets that progressively heat the water, allowing swimmers to choose their preferred temperature simply by swimming in the right direction."
Alma then nods toward the center of the park, where the light seems brightest and where are arrayed a spiral of lounge chairs. "The dome above is designed to focus a considerable amount of light on that location, making it the perfect spot for sunning oneself even in the dead of winter." He inclines his head toward Haruna, smile broadening again. "Perhaps we might further acquaint ourselves there before deciding which amusements you prefer?" Though given Haruna's outfit, she may not actually be planning to enter the water at all.
"By the way, how long have you been with the organization? As a more independent agent, I don't receive the same intel-- oh," he interrupts himself, "pardon me, would you like any refreshments? I would be happy to fetch them."
Haruna lets out a laugh. "Oh, is that how you like things to be?" she says, before she looks upwards at the indicated network of pipes whose contents are not sewage, hot water, or ???, but rather JOY and FUN. "It's like a summer day, isn't it? At least, if you're only feeling it with your skin..."
The archipelago is observed with approval. And then Alma brings matters to the DOME - ah, Dome sweet Dome. "I hope they've a plan to maneuver it out of focus during the summer," Haruna muses, but it seems like she's not too fussed at the concept. Surely they wouldn't just use it to flame-broil Duck King during the high days of summer, would they?
The sunglasses come off formally and are tucked in the bag. "Well, before the entire nuclear attack and Gear assault and Mount Fuji thing, I -- oh!" Haruna's eyes widen. "Yes, actually, I'd love something. Get me whatever they have as the house special."
When Alma returns, Haruna has already stretched out on a lounge chair. (Her swimsuit does seem as if it could survive swimming. Those bikini bottoms are firmly affixed. Spiritual gum?) "I'd filled everything out before all of that hit the fan - if you'll excuse me, again, for speaking casually. So in a real sense I'm just starting out--"
She stops abruptly.
Haruna's eyes: e_e --------- b(:D)c :Alma's hand
"When I have a choice in the matter," Alma replies to Haruna's first amused query. Her musing, however, leaves him perplexed, staring up at the bright dome above and its shining glass. "Oh, er-- yes, probably." The sponsors of Golden Angel wouldn't be so foolish as to spend a lavish amount of money constructing this facility and fail to consider that obvious issue.
Briefly, Alma flashes back to the golden-tanned Kintoki Aho's bombastic introduction.
"Probably," he repeats.
He returns promptly after he departs, doubtless given priority given both of their stature here. In his hands he totes two shimmering yellow cocktails. "The branding never ceases," he deadpans, his sense of humor a little more worldly than his earnest demeanor might suggest. The life of a globetrotting artist tends to expose one to the vagaries of capitalism. "This is the Golden Angel: grapefruit, orange, simple syrup and soda." Non-alcoholic, figures. "Pardon me for tasting mine first to be sure. It's quite refreshing."
As he hands it off, Alma notices Haruna's gaze and smiles again, softly this time, before settling down on an adjacent chair. "The price I paid for my most recent battle," he remarks of his finger. "I failed to best one of the leaders of the Illuminati, Urien, in his lair. It was a long journey that amounted to little, but I have no regrets about giving my utmost to fight for justice." It's the kind of hokey line that Alma manages to deliver well. "Under other circumstances, I think the Order would discipline me for avoiding contact with them in order to evade discovery by Illuminati spies. But we all have bigger problems now."
His expression warms again soon, though. It's difficult to remain dire in this setting. "How about you, Haruna-san?" In keeping with their stated informality, he shifts casually to her first name, if not in *too* familiar a fashion. "Any battle scars? None that I can see." Is he teasing her? It's very hard to tell.
Haruna reaches up to take her drink and raises it to her lips without really sitting up. She takes a sip. It's not dainty but it's not a chug either. As Alma sits, she says with a murmur, "Awful. Miserable. I suppose you're lucky you came away with your life, given everything."
Then she extends her hand. "May I see?"
At the question, she says with a raise of the eyebrows, "None that you can see. I'm told that I have some suggestive moles on the small of my back, though - care to look? This is perhaps your best opportunity..."
Alma doesn't hesitate to extend his hand. The pinky in question has been burned down to the stump, though it is less blackened in the wake of the flames than it once was. "Yes," he agrees, "it would be most regrettable if the efforts and hopes of my teacher and friends were to be wasted by my premature passing. But I cannot restrain myself from facing down men like that. So--" He smiles, the twist to his lips almost wan or wistful but the look in his eyes genuinely resolute. "I must continue my training and redouble my efforts, for when the next decisive moment comes."
Serious matters call for a serious Alma, but the solemn pronouncement starts to seem a little absurd when, after just a moment's pause, he raises his fanciful cocktail to his lips with his other hand and takes a sip.
"Oh, what an offer." His mirth makes it to his voice this time. "I'm sure it would be a sight fit for a painting. Though my own paintings tend to be a little more impressionistic or-- abstract." Occasionally those who commission Alma for portraits unaware of his previous work come away disappointed when his brush reveals the colors only he can see (and significantly fewer, to him less relevant, physical features).
Having danced around the suggestion, Alma's gaze shifts to the people at play once again. "They are merry despite how recent the threat of destruction was," he remarks. "No doubt eager to banish the shadows from their minds. More power to them." Alma wouldn't have agreed to help host this tournament if he didn't think the efforts were on some level more than frivolous. "But you surely know of the reports of monster sightings. It's unlikely the NOL can handle them all given how recently they've set up operations here." The Sacred Order are ostensibly allies with the NOL, but recent events have rendered that relationship a bit ambiguous. "Perhaps, until we are called to receive further orders, we might assist. You're an exorcist, Haruna-san, yes?"
He looks back at her, smiling again.
"And one of a noble lineage, is that right? Or did I only think so from your noble bearing?"
Haruna takes that proffered hand in her own. Beneath a surface chill from the drink her touch is warm. Vibrant, even. She runs a finger near but not on the injury and clucks her tongue. "It was brave of you," she says, "and stupid, too, probably. But those things are always kind of near each other."
Her eyes go up to Alma, and her eyes narrow, but warmly. "I guess I'll have to do my part. Morbid thoughts and obscure corners... They're where all sorts of evil can sprout, and I imagine we're already going to be pulling up a bumper crop." So to speak. After another sip off the drink, she slouches back, groaning.
"Well, lovely," she says with a sigh. "At least I'm a LITTLE ahead of the emerging market. Maybe I can write a lesson plan. On second thought, that would get someone killed." Haruna shifts then, to regard Alma - though she turns to face him, not to show her back, so any pattern there remains veiled.
"You've read me quite right. If I weren't in a swimsuit at a water park I'd definitely be standing up high. I promise I won't be /too/ haughty during the fight." And here she... did she wink?
Her eyes do tilt down. "... I was a little surprised that THIS is what I got from that... goop; it's hardly athletic standard, is it?"
Alma grins at Haruna's banter. It's reassuring to have a mature and self-possessed woman on his side at a time like this. For independent agents who aren't high up in the official hierarchy, the Sacred Order remains a somewhat mysterious organization. If the other members whom he meets are as welcome a presence as Haruna, the fate of the organization is assured no matter what obstacles come to meet them.
"Don't hold back on my account," he replies at the woman's saucy wink, clearly entertained. "Though it might be difficult to fetch you a drink in battle. Perhaps if we were close to an establishment that serves them. I *am* able to teleport short distances, though I only do so for the *most* important reasons."
Alma's gaze follows Haruna's own only to flicker upwards, realizing quickly that examining her would be untoward. "Some say that Golden Angel does not only take on a flattering design but has the power to reveal the user's true self." This is, of course, marketing pablum, but it's of exactly the sort that Alma would find interesting. "Do you find it surprising because you think it does not befit you?"
He leans back in his reclining chair, setting his drink to the side and looking up at the light shining through the glass, bathing them all in soothing warmth, casting long and hidden shadows.
"I think it suits you very well."
What Haruna does not mention:
She is like 21.
Alma is probably freaking her out on a low key level not in a negative way but in a positive one. It's very low key given his soothing tone, but it's jangling her nerves and making her act like this in order, perhaps, to -
"Are you!" she says, because teleporting is Cool and Novel. "Well. I'm envious." Before she rolls onto her back and crosses her legs at the ankle, raising her glass in a momentary salute. "As for the question of my 'true self', I was just... surprised!"
That was a little over-enthusiastic. Haruna laughs two seconds too late. Too late indeed.
As she settles back, the glow of the focused sunlight warms her, and the suit seems almost to sparkle in the light - a slice of the midnight heavens brought to life. Haruna herself doesn't see it, because she closes her eyes. The drink is gone and she's told herself: thankfully, I didn't answer him the way I did that boy back in high school.
FLASHBACK TO RURAL HIGH SCHOOL
"Hey, Abe, I just uh - I wanted to say that that hair pin - it really looks great," says a man who, in the previous incarnation of reality, became Haruna's husbando.
"Oh, thanks!" Haruna says, beaming. "You too!"
The young man's friends crack up.
BUT HERE AND NOW...
"I hope you know... I'll be working very hard to win that Prize."
Log created on 21:08:30 01/04/2018 by Haruna, and last modified on 23:55:20 01/04/2018.