Description: Gateau, the strange anthropomorphic tomcat, escapes Rome to meet with a contact with the Kaka Clan, looking to share some invaluable information about what he discovered in the city. However, as he waits in Venice, he is surprised when the clan sends in the patriarch of the clan, Jubei himself.
Gateau needed to keep his head down.
The cat-eyed calico peers from beneath the canal bridge in the heart of Venice, staring out at the constable passing through the streets. Tail switching, he stares with a neutral face. Certainly, this was not unusual for a cat. But as he pulls his whiskers nervously, it's clear that the baggy-jeaned and jacketed hoodlum was no mere cat. A Darkstalker, mingled with the cat blood lines. This wasn't his usual stomping ground, he didn't even want to prey on the locals. But as the constable wanders out of sight, he doesn't let down his guard. He was on edge, nervous. Basically?
He just wanted to leave Rome behind.
The Rat and the Wolf were gone; taken up by that demon angel thing. He wasn't gonna risk it. He just needed to start over in Venice, prey on a few tourists there, and avoid the law. That is, after he takes care of a little business. See, before they were taken up, Gateau heard a little snippet of information. And while Gateau was... well, generally speaking, a complete and total outcast and outlaw of his old clan, he had a sense of obligation. A sense of duty... and a sense of opportunity. He sent the word out through a trusted outcast, who would send the word to a trusted low-life, who would send the word to a respectable member of the clan, who would then eventually get a representative out here. For now, he was waiting in the shadows, staring out.
There was just one clan he could trust with this information.
Jubei hasn't been keeping up with much, as of late.
His estranged daughter is alive, and likely wants to dissect him.
His wife is alive, and likely wants to murder him.
And there are still Yuuki Terumi and the NOL, who likely want to murder him as well.
Fighting the world's strongest was a pleasant distraction from that, all things considered.
And then his cellphone went off, alerting him of a message. The old cat really didn't know what to make of the message -- but it's not like he had anything better to do.
A crimson eye peeks out across the canal. A calico shape is spotted and catalogued. And the orange-clad elder begins to make his way across the bridge, walking with near silence.
He slides over the edge of the bridge.
Gateau will see him appear almost instantly, like a ninja.
The one-eyed cat flashes a friendly smile.
"I understand you have some information...?"
Gateau had a lot of expectations on who would be arriving.
Certainly, the cool exterior was almost criminal. He was a brute, a thug, and cold-blooded thief. But as the soft footsteps come, the cat was waiting, looking up. He expected a cat like himself. But when he sees Jubei?
Even the hardened criminal has to bow his head in deferrence.
"... Cavalo!" He curses in a hiss, keeping his head down as he averts his eyes. "Mary mother of jesus, I didn't... I didn't think you would come, I didn't think they would send -you-" He says in hushed tones, as the network of the Kaka clan finally brings about one of the few males with it. A tomcat like himself had expectations and standards; to fail in those standards, well, it was unacceptable to be a danger. The calico expected Old Deuteronomy, or even one of the female guardians before...
If Gateau had any smug arrogance before, it was gone now.
The calico goes to his knees, lowering his head in submission before Jubei. "I'm sorry." He says, finally. "I knew I said it was important, but... please, if I waste your time?
"please forgive me."
Jubei gets that kind of reaction a lot.
And yet, he never seems to have a good response to it -- nothing more than a genial smile, his surrogate paws raised in a sign of surprised innocence.
At least, there's nothing to respond to until the calico drops to his knees in obeisance. The paws drop -- and then they invert, gesturing for Gateau to return to his feet.
"Hey, giddup. At the end of the day I'm just a cat, same's you. I'm between tasks right now, so unless you go on and on for a day or two, don't worry y'self about my schedule."
And in that vein -- he presses his paws together and bows forward.
"I don't guess I gotta introduce m'self, then. But if it's all the same -- Jubei. Nice t'meet ya. Your name is...?"
"I am... I am Gateau. Like the- like the cake." He says sheepishly, lifting his head up. He looks around warily, nervously, still skittish. More so, in fact. While Jubei was calm and kind, Gateau could not miss the fact that the progenitor of his entire clan was right before him; he was the savior and the first father. To be a rogue tomcat was... well, Gateau felt humbled. As Jubei drawls out, even the accent was infecting him. Rising back up, he wringes his paws together.
"TH-thank you, again."
"I... I guess y'all- I mean, you heard that I wanted to tell the clan about something very important." The calico says hastily. "I didn't know if- I mean, I'm not doing it to get back in good favors with the clan." Gateau admits. "I know I'm not gonna earn that back for a while, I know how they feel about tomcats like me, but- This is something very important. I think..." He says slowly, drawing out.
"I think I know where the Command Gear is."
"It's nothin', really."
To Jubei, it really isn't any big deal. The old samurai does not see himself as substantially different from any other being. While there are some situations that might trigger a bout of pride, by and large his humility goes much deeper than flesh -- if he, a flawed individual who had many trials in his life -- could become a great warrior, he honestly believes that anyone can be.
So when he looks at Gateau, he sees not a street urchin, or a hardened criminal, he sees the potential for greatness. A cat worthy of his sincere respect.
The oversized paw raises, inverting to scratch at the samurai cat's chin.
He answers -- a deliberate attempt to remind Gateau that the two are standing toe to toe, having a simple conversation with all the markers and pauses that such communication entails.
He's done wrong? He's been outcast from the clan? Jubei's aloof smile demonstrates that he believes these are simple matters to overcome. But this time, he will not interrupt -- one ear twitching while the other perks up to listen intently.
"The Command Gear... " he repeats in a quiet baritone.
He hadn't expected -this- kind of information.
The nekomata's twin tails flick about in opposing directions.
The cat smiles faintly.
"The one who attacked Mt Fuji, in Japan? Or another...?"
"I.. I think it's the other one, I'm not sure, it's- look."
Gateau pulls out a small paper, printed out a while back. IT was stained and creased, especially as he unfolds it. The dim moon light was no challenge for the cats, but the rogue cat flattens it against his body first. The URL was faint, barely noticeable in the corner, but undeniable on the source: an internal web-based database for NOL bounties... for accredited informants outside the immediate control of the NOL. The message was clear, with a picture underneath:
Dizzy AKA: Maiden of the Grove
Class: S Bounty: $1,345,000.00
WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
Rogue Gear with an extremely high potential for massive collateral Damage.
Note that information leading to the capture of this dangerous threat has a partial reward of $50,000.
With it, was a somewhat grainy, indistinct picture of some kind. It was located at some harbor location, shot from the ground up at an angle over a passing warehouse. It looks to be a leather-bound girl with blue hair, squatting on top of the warehouse. There is a train approaching in the background. The woman is framed by a clear-cut reaper figure, and a maiden-like angel. "That." The calico states, tapping it with his claw.
"I saw that."
"She crashed in through the ceiling, when me and my associates were recovering from a..." He side tracks a bit. "We had committed a crime, it was a mugging gone bad, I didn't do it, it was the dirty wolf, but we were hiding and... We got tracked by someone. And she just came ripping through the roof to save us. It was her, clear as crystal Jubei. I... I thought about reaching out to the NOL, but, I-I-I felt like it would be better to reach out with the Kaka Clan, I mean." Gateau looks up at Jubei nervously.
"I felt like this was important."
At first, Jubei isn't entirely sure what to make of this information. He's already made it clear that he doesn't think this important information of Gateau's is a waste of his time, but... maybe it is?
But as soon as the bounty is pulled out, Jubei reaches for it, supporting the paper with one of his claws. The old samurai's tails droop low, pointing outwards like walking canes searching for a curb.
Suddenly, things are a bit different to him.
For Jubei himself has an SS-class bounty.
And this so-called Command Gear has a bounty almost as high as his own.
"I would say you did the right thing, Gateau."
Jubei's reassuring smile is matched with a slight nod of his head.
"The NOL is notorious for placing bounties on people they don't like. Some are legitimate dangers to society. And some..."
He nods towards the photo.
"Some people just want to do the right thing. Even if it's not the most profitable thing."
The old cat draws in his breath. He wants to reach out -- give the poor, troubled Gateau a big old hug. But that'd get weird.
"... You're safe. I want you to understand that, first and foremost. And -- if you want to work towards reaching the clan again, I can help."
His crimson eye flicks back towards the photo. "... You said you knew where she was?"
Gateau... wasn't a noble cat.
Not just compared to Jubei, either. He was a greedy, violet tomcat who got what he wanted. Usually. It would have been so easy to just tell the NOL about Dizzy, take the $50,000, and be forgotten. There were in fact just a few things more valuable than cash. Family, for one. As Jubei keeps things calm, Gateau doesn't quite drop his hackled guard. "Like I said, it's not- it's not necessary." He lies, as he looks away. If it was anybody other than Jubei, he might have been trying to bully them into letting him back in. But to bully Jubei... it made him sick to think about it. He looks at the paper, he blinks at it, trying not to lose his composure again.
"Yeah, well, she's dangerous."
"There was a human there, they talked to each other, they must have thought I didn't understand. I was hiding, looking to see if I could, like, save my cohorts. She was holding them like bags of grain, she tore open the road to get in there. She's very strong, Jubei, and dumb as a brick. She wanted to take them to the Sacred Order, which she was with. The Sacred Order is a group of do-good-niks with the Catholic Church, I stay out of their way, or try to. They have bigger fish than me to fry. As to where they are, uh... she flew towards the St. Peter's Basilica, like the Vatican. I think she's holed up in there, with the Sacred Order's protection. And that's..." The calico grimaces more so, a full grumpy cat face.
"Uh, that's why I left Rome." He says flatly.
"It's not necessary, no."
Jubei offers a genial, fatherly smile.
"It's an offer. No strings attached."
He holds up both paws, his eye twinkling with light as he takes a step back -- showing that he doesn't plan to impose on Gateau's lifestyle -or- his personal space.
"St Peter's, hmm?" One paw reaches up to scratch at his chin. "I'm sure you're right, she -does- sound dangerous... but I ain't really one to run from a fight. Point is -- she's supposed to be dead."
Jubei's jaw slides sideways for a moment, as his eyes half-lid.
"Seems like there's a lotta that goin' around lately."
A moment later, that crimson eye is wide open again. His twin tails swish around from side to side. And his mouth curls back into a faint smile, as Jubei thumbs back over his shoulder. "I know you just got here, but... what's good to eat around here, Gateau?"
Jubei was the lost father of the clan.
The calico's behavior reflected that, a prodigal son who wasn't expecting to come back so soon. And Jubei shows that warrior edge, though, he just sputters, sounding smaller and smaller. "So I did the right thing, telling you all?" But that wasn't important for Jubei now, something was more pressing.
Gateau. "I know a bakery around here, they specialize in sweets, pastries, and... cakes..." Gateau pulls his whiskers. "They owe me a favor, um, a lot of... favors. For protection. I met them last night." He sounds more ashamed by the word, and just wildly changes the subject. "I don't even think the other one is dead, you know? I mean, you were supposed to be..." He trails off, uncertain of how to continue it. A strained look spreads across his face. He averts his eyes again, rubbing the back of his neck. "I'm sorry, I wasn't- I mean." He stammers, as the fear reflex builds on him. He gets a look of fight, and flight, one familiar to Jubei. But the calico takes a moment for a deep breath, and calms down.
"I'm sorry, do you want me to lead the way?"
Jubei nods briefly in response. It was the right thing -- that's what the nod is for.
The rest, though... ? Jubei's expression is free of judgment. Gateau can self-incriminate all he likes -- and he will only receive the silent, paternal gaze of a loving father in exchange. Merely listening. He's not a statue; Jubei doesn't stop blinking, he doesn't prevent his whiskers from twitching at the shifting winds of Venice, and he certainly doesn't keep his tails from undulating side to side.
No, he just listens, patiently.
"That sounds delicious. Of course, I'm starving, so pretty much anything sounds delicious to me at this point. Your choice."
He doesn't press further -- and if Gateau wants to bolt, he's fully welcome to.
But he might miss out on a free meal, if so.
Gateau leads the way through the night.
The bakery is actually getting closed; well is closed, based on the sign on the window. AS the calico, he adjusts a kerchief. The cat tap tap taps on the glass, glaring in at the lone girl sweeping. The teenager shrieks, calling for her father as she runs from the door. An old man with gnarled hands and... some fresh bandages on his face and wrists, strides slowly towards the door. He does not open it. But Gateau thumbs a paw back at Jubei. "Don't bother opening up the ovens. I give me a little of everything... the old stuff." He hastily adds, looking ashamed.
"I need something for my... father." He says deliberately.
At the moment, Jubei's serene smile appears to be completely oblivious. If the old cat catches wise to any deviousness, he makes no attempt to show it as he follows along in response. His crimson gaze passes from one sight to the next, the long shadows cast by the passing streetlights barely garnering a mention.
But the cat is, as always, examining everything with a critical eye. To him -- everything is a potential threat. But nothing he sees is worth raising his hackles over.
The one-eyed cat looks at the closed sign -- keeping himself at a distance, so as not to alarm anyone inside.
But of course, he sees her.
And as the old man presents himself, Jubei reluctantly steps forward as the object of Gateau's indication.
Jubei locks eyes with the bandaged old man.
He smiles, guilelessly.
"Bless you for your kindness."
He says this, fully cognizant of the risk of being declared a do-good-nik by his 'son.'
He watches the old man's responses intently.
And he would look at Gateau as well.
If one eye is unable to see through deception, he has another that can.
The old man sighs, as the tears come to his eyes.
He nods his head, palms open. Gateau was looking more and more anxious, nervous.... aggressive. Jubei could see very carefully the nuances through the scene before him. The teenager daughter that was hiding at the doorway, peering out. The old man gesturing to her, before rubbing his neck. You could see the cat claw marks on his neck, too shallow to inhibit healing. The daughter runs out of sight, before coming back with a basket of day-old baked goods; including small cakes. The old man takes it, he doesn't let her anywhere near the door. He points to the back. "Please..." He whispers, as she backs away, terrified. He turns around to the front door, basket in hand, as he finally... unlatches the door, ready to brace himself if the calico forces his way in again.
Gateau doesn't do anything, but the fear was a breaking point.
The old man pushes the basket out of the doorway, as the catman takes it. He seems ready to say something, staring -dead on- at the man with bared teeth... but he loses heart. "Th... than... I'll be back later, you get me?" Gateau weakly hisses, trying to keep up the air of intimidation. Intimidation. Jubei and Gateau wouldn't need to pay for this 'gift' to them. That was the favor, cut deep into the man's flesh, seen in the trembling eyes of the teenage daughter, as they look out at the duo of freakishly looking figures.
The all too familiar monsters that had come again.
The one-eyed cat's smile never falters, even as the crimson eye flits back and forth from one actor to the next. The telltale signs are there -- the narrative needs no words to bring itself to life.
But of course there was the one word that stands out in stark contrast to the message delivered by Gateau, on the trip over. The lie, paraded out into the street, stark and naked.
As Jubei bows his head to the old man in thanks, there is one particular gesture that might be noticed -- a wink of his crimson eye.
Gateau take the basket.
And he makes his threat.
And in the very next instant, Gateau will find himself kneeling.
He might not notice the transition, actually -- the change in perspective was that abrupt. Only when he thinks about the sudden pain of his knees slamming into the street will he remember the sensation of a feline paw slamming against the back of his knees, or the steady pressure forcing down upon his shoulders.
It will take him that full moment to realize the brutal efficiency with which he had been humbled by the progenitor.
But after that moment passes, the pressure on his shoulder will be remembered.
The Kaka clan claws have their own distinctive signature. Sharpened steel, bent into brutally sharp curves. Lethal enough to slice his neck to ribbons, if the progenitor wished. But the way they are turned, the option will not be exercised -- three blunt edges press firmly into Gateau's neck.
And three more claws liberate the basket from him, fluidly and efficiently.
The basket is held out to the old man.
"Y'know, come to think of it, I don't think I can handle all this wonderful food. Y'all should save it for someone more needy."
The smile has still not faltered.
But neither has the pressure of Jubei's claws upon the kneeling Gateau's neck.
"I sure am sorry for any trouble my boy may've caused. Won't happen again."
It happens so fast.
Gateau almost expected it at this point. Every thing he did, he felt on the judgemental eye of the father of the Kaka clan. He... he just wanted to get him food. He should have just taken him anywhere else. Why did he take him here?
Because he deserved this.
The old man did not react in fear, as he saw the glance from Jubei's eye. He knew what that look was. He knew what this was now. As the calico takes the basket, he is just as quickly on his knees, trapped down. The old man takes the basket, with only a single, soft word. "Grazie." He looks down at his attacker again, and shakes his head sadly.
He would never see this man again, he knew it.
Gateau doesn't even try look up at Jubei. The shame was overbearing, overwhelming. The calico just keeps his head down as tears come into his eyes, the pure shame overtaking him. "I'm... I'm sorry father." He says with great choking sobs. "I'm sorry." He just repeats again, as the old man takes the basket into the back. He had to still clean up, yes. But he did not want to bring any more shame to his assaulter, to the mere boy who made his mistakes. He was a father.
He knew what must be done.
As the old man retreats away to the safety of his shop, the old cat nods back in reply. Fathers know the story here -- and don't need words to share it.
The door shuts.
Jubei's ribcage heaves with a sigh.
The pressure against Gateau's neck subsides.
He probably doesn't need to bring up the fact that Gateau -chose- to expose Jubei to this side of his life. He probably doesn't need to rub that in -- so he doesn't.
The claws retract into their paw. And Jubei steps around in front of Gateau, placing both paws on his shoulders. Not to bear down -- but to ensure that no one else can see the younger cat's tears, with Jubei blocking his front, and voluminous sleeves drooping down on either side of him.
His voice is heavy with emotion, even though it may not show through bicolor fur.
"You understand people well enough. You understand that a father can't help but protect his daughter. It ain't... ain't no different for a son."
His mouth closes. His nostrils flare. And yet -- he smiles.
"If I heard you right -- your choices would have led you to death in Rome. This... situation... if I'd let it pass -- may've led you right back to that same path."
The paws pat reassuringly against Gateau's shoulders.
"I'll be taking my leave soon. There ain't nothing stopping you from ignoring this moment -- goin' right back to your ways."
The paw lifts from Gateau's left shoulder.
And that same paw bats lightly at the side of Gateau's temple.
"Understand, there won't nothin' else I coulda done here. You can't only think about the next meal -- you gotta think beyond that."
Jubei steps back, releasing Gateau. He does not step far away -- just enough so that the understated presence of the One-Eyed Twin Lotus is no longer pinning him into place.
"Hold your head high, Gateau. You're a cat -- you deserve to bask in the sunbeams. But you won't get that hidin' in shadows and fightin' for scraps."
Jubei crosses his arms, taking another step back.
"But you don't gotta put on an apron and bake bread for a livin'. There's... professions you can get into. Respectable ones, yeah?"
Gateau was a scum bucket, a living smear barely worth a place in the litterbox. And as he shows his true character to Jubei... he knows that he would be disciplined. He expected it, part of him wanted it. And yet, as the firmness of the father comes, as Jubei's stern nature falls to a kindly understanding... it worst of all. He wanted to be smashed against the wall, he wanted to be beaten. He wanted to hate him, he wanted a reason to hate him. He wanted to hate Jubei.
But all Jubei shows him is wisdom and understanding.
The sobs grow harder, as he is released, as the worst he gets is a little bat on the temple. He sits up, cross legged, head staring down. He wanted Jubei to hurt him, hate him. "I... I've never been any good, Jubei." Gateau admits, confessing. "I've never been good. I lied, I cheated, I stole, and I... and I hurt own clan members, or family. What I did to that quean; and what I would have done to our kits..." He trails off. Remorse. It was the sound of remorse. "I'm never going to be good, Jubei. I'm never going to be good at anything. There are no more good tomcats, Jubei. I'm... I'm just..."
"I'm just a loser."
"I'm sorry I wasted your time, d-dad." Gateau stumbles into a stand, ready to run away, run towards the shadows. To get away, to run away. He could have come back. Just like he could have kept Jubei away from this. He could have hid it all away. All he would have had to do is lie to Jubei.
And that was a lie too far for the thug.
Jubei smiles in an almost beatific fashion.
He knows that Gateau wants to be punished. It's easier, isn't it...? To loathe someone with every fiber of your being? To detest them, to wish they would just turn over and die? To hate them, more than anyone else?
He says he's never been good.
Jubei reaches out -- planting his paw on Gateau's shoulder again. Keeping him from running, for just that moment.
"Then blame me, for never being there, Gateau. Blame me, for never disciplining you, never scolding you for doing wrong. Blame me -- for everything wrong in your life."
Jubei's eye trembles.
And yet, the rest of his face remains the same.
"Forget the past. Move ahead -- as a new you who ain't gonna make those same mistakes. And whenever you catch y'self making another mistake...?"
Jubei draws his hand back. And turns to walk away in the direction he came.
"Blame that one on me too. If you do that -- you'll turn out alright. I promise."
Jubei shifts the scabbard strap upon his shoulder.
He sets his jaw, as he looks at the road ahead of him.
The road is getting blurry.
How can Jubei make such a promise?
Because everyone else who has blamed him for not being there seems to have turned out okay.
Log created on 13:03:13 02/21/2018 by Dizzy, and last modified on 22:35:19 02/23/2018.