Golden Angel 2018 - Golden Angel Finals Gaiden - The Higher Ground[Toggle Names]
Description: The Grand Finale of the Golden Angel Tournament had some pretty exciting stuff going on! But in the midst of it, one observer preferred to watch the proceedings from a safer distance. Which gives her a unique opportunity to speak with one of the controversial tournament's sponsors...
ABOUT TEN MINUTES AGO:
Rei Hazuki leans on the sixth floor railing of a fire escape, climbing the outside of the Golden Angel Hippodrome. It MAY be that just now, inside, a major commander in the NESTS Cartel was briefly spotted on the catwalks over the inside of the venue, and in a normal situation he might not have been worried about being noticed. But there was something in Rei's eyes when Krizalid met them, some flicker of recognition, that suggested to the battlesuit-wearing individual that he should make a hasty retreat. Which he did.
Rei figured he should follow. which he did. But he did so after climbing five flights of stairs, then jumping across catwalks, then down the side of the building, and then back UP six MORE flights of stairs."I swear to god, if he's got some sort of escape helicopter up there, I'm going to be really put out."
ABOUT THREE MINUTES AGO:
Krizalid gives a little wave to Rei from the open door of his escape helicopter, before it flies off over Southtown.
"Oh, COME ON!"
With the speed of his steps being slightly erratic, at this point there is very little for Rei to do but trudge his way back down to the ground floor. He's just... you know, really tired. Physically, but also kind of emotionally. And while he is currently alone, the expression written across his face in big bold ink would surprise the few people who know him well, because of its rarity:
"You know," he says aloud, to no one in particular, "I'm so used to trusting my instincts in most situations but no! This time I have to give someone the benefit of the doubt and the result?" With a contemptuous sweep of his arm toward the distant roof, he continues ranting. "An entire week's worth of cardio compressed into 10 minutes."
A very long pause, and then a metallic *CLANK!* as he takes a couple stairs two at a time, landing heavily.
"Stupid helicopter. I was KIDDING."
"That's what trusting people gets you."
The voice comes from a woman standing about 5'5", standing with her back to the Hippodrome wall. She's dressed in a black sport coat and matching, perfectly pressed slacks. The fashionably unbuttoned jacket hangs loose, the woman's loose purple silk blouse visible underneath. Her shoulder-length hair looks dark violet in the moonlight, with highlights of pink running through to the tips.
"I'm getting the idea that the festivities might be going according to plan, but that someone had the audacity to leave you -out- of said plans. Y'know..."
The young woman leans away from the wall, standing flat-footed as she tucks the phone into her lapel pocket.
The star juggler from the Twilight Star Circus angles her head towards Rei, a captivating smile crossing her face.
"Hey, Rei. Been a while."
Well, that was definitely not who or what he expected to see at the bottom of the fire escape, that much is clear. As he rounds the last of the common spirals of such a stair, coming from the midway landing between the ground and 2nd floors, the redhead gives the study in violet standing at its bottom a once-over, visually, and his brow furrows, trying to figure out just what in the hell she's even DOING here, let alone where she fits into things.
The woman speaks of things not going to plan and Frei being left out of the proverbial loop, and when she says the latter, the sennin -- unable to prevent it, given his level of frustration and exhaustion -- merely raises a single, Spock-like eyebrow and bites out, "Gosh, you _think_?"
There's a pause, a pinch of the bridge of his nose, and then Rei Hazuki sits down on the third-to-last step, exhaling a very long and tired-sounding breath. And when he opens his eyes again she's still there, and so niceties must occur, now that he's more in control of his mental and emotional state. "As for trusting people, well, that goes both ways. Besides, Alma's too guileless for this to be his fault, and judging by the person I just chased across what amounts to a vertical city block, I'm pretty sure the only person who should have known better in this situation was me."
Honoka Kawamoto cannot help but flash a feral grin in response to Rei's blurted-out response. Sometimes, one just has to come right out and -state- the obvious, to head off attempts to give an unnecessary summation of the events just witnessed.
"Alma Towazu. When our paths first crossed I had a feeling he would show up again, but I never felt he was... so enamored with the human form to consent to..."
Honoka gestures towards the dome with a dismissive gesture of her hand.
"To -this-... Then again, dressing school-age kids in water-soluble swimsuits didn't seem -your- style either. Which is, of course, what I've been trying to get hold of you for..."
The half-Ainu woman raps her knuckles along the side of the dome, making herself a bit more comfortable for a moment. "Well, I've got good news: for now, we know where that helicopter's headed. What we do with that... kinda depends on how you -know- that guy. Or, I guess I should say: -if- you know him."
She pauses for a moment, shrugging faintly.
"How -did- you get to the point of trusting this whole operation, anyway?"
Does Rei know him?
On the inside of his now-closed eyelids, he relives the experience of seeing an entire rank and file of clones of *himself* step out of a machine built to harvest their preternatural chi affinity as an energy source. Images of Kula, K', and lord knows how many others that were touched by that organization in some way.
Looking up at the sky, eyes re-opening, Rei gives a loud sigh. "Yeah, unless things in this world are very, very different -- and I suspect they aren't -- I know all about them." He blows a raspberry of frustration before tilting his head down to look at Honoka with a shrug. "Which was the problem. When this idea was pitched, someone involved... well. Let's just say I had an inkling up front things would go bad, so I figured, better they go bad in a situation I can closely monitor and intervene in."
He looks toward the building, rolling his head on his neck a bit. "Besides, those are trained fighters in there, and what's the worst that could happen? It's not like they've got a kaiju down there this stuff is being made from like that Cloverfield ARG." The what now?
Turning his attention back to Honoka, something that she said bubbles back up from the churning whirlpool that is his awareness and his brow knits. "Wait, *what* about Alma and the human form?"
As Rei looks inward, the gifted psychic can't help but peer at him. The sennin's mind is not one that gives itself up to casual inspection, and yet -- she knows the look. And she knows what people like him -- people like Zach Glen -- had seen in another world. And she feels she doesn't need to press for the -source- of the information.
Especially when he confirms as much - a fact which is met with an attentive nod and a knowing smile.
From the way her knowing look dissolves into confusion, she knows less about -that.
"... Oh. He's a pretty famous painter, yeah?" Her brows furrow for a moment. "In 'this world', anyway. He was an opponent, had no fights worth speaking of... that's all Google turned up."
And her expression lightens, at that.
"I met him once. He's... a charmer. I can see why you'd trust him. But this... Angel, I know nothing about her, save for how she really didn't hesitate to stoke the fires of controversy at that opening gala. Her -- and that Golden Idiot up there. Anything you can tell me about either of -them?-"
That gets a smirk from Rei, the 'golden idiot' reference. He does seem genuinely, if darkly, amused. "You caught that too, huh? I almost missed it, but since I'm technically one of the sponsors, I got to see the paperwork. Once the kanji are in front of your eyes, there's really no mistaking it." He doesn't explain farther than that; presumably, he assumes that Honoka knows what he's talking about, but if she doesn't, he has no plans to go into it.
The subject of Alma, though... ever since they ran into each other at the airbase, hot on the heels of Rei's traumatic experience with Jedah Dohma, and just before his equally unsettling experience at the Meian Jinja. How does he explain this to her? Where do you even start telling the tale of Frei and Alma, let alone the tale of Rei and Alma?
"You know," the sennin says carefully, running his hands through his hair, "every time I feel like I've got a life here and now, and I'm adjusting and doing okay... every time I'm about to settle in to that, some reminder of the other world pops up. You know?" He gives Honoka a rueful smile. "Sometimes I wish cartoon retrograde amnesia was real. Just get someone to smack me in the head with a shovel and I'd wake up not knowing about anything."
For a moment, he thinks of just telling the young woman what she wants to know. After all, according to her indiscreet boyfriend, she's a Yakuza boss now too. It's going to come at her eventually.
He vaguely recalls her inquiring about Shadaloo, and how a careless comment from him went south there.
"Alma is... well I was going to say harmless, but that's not even remotely true. It's more accurate to say that he wouldn't hurt innocents knowingly. That woman Angel isn't necessarily all that sinister, either. But she..." A pause. "Look, the people involved in this? That guy that just escaped by helicopter like this was a James Bond film? They're very dangerous. If we get out of this with a ruined waterpark and a couple of bruised and annoyed teenagers, then I think we can count our blessings."
"Honestly, at first I just wrote it off as a variety show name. Like, which dumbass comedian wants to kickstart his career this week?"
Having said that, Honoka's more than happy to let the discussion go. She looks down at her wrist, frowning slightly at her sleeve being seemingly caught in the inner lining of her sport coat, but that's the price one pays for dressing formally and such.
"Well, just be careful what you wish for, I've been known to punch people who ask for it too many times." Honoka looks up from her sleeve with a grin. She's not going to follow through with that threat now, anyway.
... or is she? She lets Frei figure that one out. And she doesn't interrupt his thoughts -- she'd always found it more profitable to simply -listen- to people's concerns before superimposing her own, after all.
"... This man have a name? I work great with names. I can cross-reference names. As it is, calling out 'hey, broody asshole with dark skin and white hair' gets half of the World Warrior tournament lookin' my way."
Honoka presses her back against the wall, closing her eyes for a moment. As Frei has done this, it has been to look inward -- but for Honoka, she is sensing the mood of the audience inside. And as Frei has already connected her cutthroat Dahlia personality with this more innocuous one, she has no real qualms about telling him, in a reassuring tone: "... On the plus side, the only problem on the inside seems to be the sunken stage blocking the audience's view."
An eyebrow goes up at the idea that Honoka will brain him with a shovel if he asks her to, joke or no. But the request she makes is one he very definitely isn't going to accede to, regardless of her apparent good humor. "I'm keeping that information to myself," he says, though not unkindly. If the Ainu woman watches Rei's face, she can see sympathy in the green eyes... not enough to change his mind, but enough to be understanding about it. "That's... look. All this knowledge from my previous life? I don't think having it has actually done anyone here any good. And that's what this is, really. Memories from a different world. So it's... it's just like the stupid company name. I THINK I know. But I can't be CERTAIN, not really certain."
He sighs, rubbing his neck a bit, looking off to the side. "If you're really serious about this crime lord business, you'll run into them eventually anyway." Crime lord? What? He tosses the phrase off like it's nothing, as if he were calling her a baker or a chief financial officer. "And then it'll be organic, and you can deal with it then."
Turning his head back, he tilts his head at Honoka curiously, finally stopping to wonder what she's doing here at all. "Were you following him? I can't think this kinda bread and circuses situation is really your deal." A brief pause. "Pardon the unintentional pun, I guess. But you know what I mean."
Honoka's smile had faded when she'd extended her awareness out to the crowd, but as it returns to the red-haired sennin in front of her, her eyes alight with a mischievous glow. Frei is -resisting- her -- and this actually brings her smile back.
"See? I knew I could get you to be a bit more cynical. It's working already."
Her fingers loom together, thumbs pressing against each other as she rests her wrists upon her upper thighs, her body language screaming 'idle amusement.' Her lips curl into a smile at the apellation -- is that meant to be a pejorative? "Wow, and here I got the idea we were -friends- at some point. If you must know -- and I really don't think you do, but work with me -- I was here because I wanted to help. You know, like I wanted to -help- save the world from getting overrun by a bunch of fashion disasters with a pair too many arms? So quickly people -forget- about that..."
Honoka rocks forward onto her heels, unlacing her hands from in front of her, and relacing them behind her head as she looks off into the distance.
"I came here because I saw this circus falling apart the moment we had a girl screaming buck naked in the middle of a crowded hippodrome. There's getting eyeballs, and..." The Ainu star trails off, turning her eyes back to Rei. "Then there's whatever -that- was. Point is, you looked like you could use a hand."
She steps out of Rei's path, gesturing towards the doorway back into the dome.
"Buuuut maybe you should get control of your crowd, before it turns even uglier, hmm...?"
"You know? I think you are telling the truth," Rei says quietly, as he slowly gets up from his seat on the stairs, dusting his hands off on his pants and giving Honoka a surprisingly bland look... well, bland for someone like him, with no poker face whatsoever. "But, well. You're a Moist von Lipwig," he says, in what may be the most ill-fated attempt to make a literary allusion ever. Before she can question what that means, he holds up a hand to forestall. "Character in Terry Pratchett's books. He was a people person, which is to say, a con artist. And he was most able to disguise his motives by just being honest about them."
He looks back into the building, crossing his arms over his chest, continuing to talk. "On Shang Tsung's island, you didn't like the idea that I had you confused for the 'other' Honoka. You wanted to be treated as 'you', the person here, the person you are."
He turns his head somewhat to look at the Twilight Star Circus's most famous performer. "Well, you're right. That's what I should do. I should treat you like the person you are, here, which is: a stranger to me, someone who LOOKS familiar, SOUNDS familiar."
With a gesture, he points into the building. "I think you genuinely did want to get involved. That you didn't like what happened in that last round of the tournament. But the first thing you said to me tonight is 'that's what you get for trusting people', so why should I trust you with dangerous knowledge? I don't even know you."
A pause, and then Rei runs his hands through his dark red hair, breathing out heavily. "I'm not trying to be your enemy, Honoka. Really. But with one hand you're chiding me for not protecting the crowd, for not putting a stop to the stuff in the previous round. At the same time, you didn't actually help them in there. You followed me instead. It's hard for me to accept that kind of rebuke without comment, you know?"
The man before her already knows that another Honoka was the worst kind of opportunist -- one who slaughtered thousands to declare herself the Empress of Japan. With that as a starting point, 'con artist' is a step up.
The con artist in question finds herself looking up at the stars, a languid smile painted across her face. "Who are you trying to convince here, me or you? I know damn well who -I- am..."
Her eyes cast back downward, the moonlight gleaming with almost piercing intensity as she looks down the bridge of her nose to the redhead, enunciating each syllable of his assumed name clearly: "Rei... Hazuki..."
She tilts her head, mouth splitting as if the name itself was a joke to her. Her blouse shifts, the halves of her unbuttoned jacket splaying apart as she stretches her hands skyward. "Look, I don't expect you to trust me, but can you really blame me for -trying?-" Her hands fall to either side, as she looks out toward the ocean of light named Southtown. "This? This is just the edgy remake of a world directed by some hotshot who was barely a baby when the original came out. And me..."
She slowly turns back to Rei, the humor falling from her expression. "I just want to save my people, Rei. And if this psychoreactive slime were anything more than a side arc -- and I assure you, that's all it -looks- like from my perspective -- I might even be a little concerned about it."
Her hands tuck back into the pockets of her sport coat. "But these kids? They need to be the ones dealin' with it. Part of growin' up. I just wanted to see where the hell this train was rolling."
Her head inclines towards the Hippodrome audience, and the sunken grand stage.
"And here we are. The Super-Science Golden Angels fighting the Goop Monsters, by popular demand whether the audience knew it or not."
Her lightly padded shoulders shrug once more, as a thin smile slides back across her lips. The juggler begins to stride back into the Hippodrome, barely able to resist a chuckle at the way things are panning out.
"A few snags in the production, but I gotta give you props for the finale..."
In another life, Rei had a reputation for both calmness and acceptance. That no matter what happened, or who did it, he held certain beliefs about the nature of people and treated everyone in accordance with them. To some people, it was infuriating; to others, a balm. For himself, Rei never really thought about it one way or the other. It was just the way of things.
But this is a new world with new rules and as Honoka delivers her rejoinder, in his head, the red-haired sennin allows himself to just... feel negative emotions when they happen. Maybe acceptance means letting bad things be bad, too.
"'Can you blame me?' is a funny turn of phrase," he says, once she's stopped talking. "If you think about it, the answer is always 'yes', if you wanna be literal? Can I blame you for stuff you did? Yep." He shrugs. "Of course, what people MEAN when they say that, is: 'do you understand my reasons'? And the answer there is... well, maybe I do? Well, insofar as I think you have a reason to do what you're doing."
A hand grips the handle of the door that leads back inside, and Rei takes a deep breath, closing his eyes for a moment, very clearly centering himself before looking back at Honoka. "I hate that this conversation has ended this way. I really do. Maybe not hate... maybe regret. That's probably a better word." His head lowers slightly; if he wore glasses, he'd be looking at Honoka over their rims right now, for certain. "I don't... *get* you. Because I believe that you have something you want to protect. Everyone does. And I believe that you sacrificed a lot back during Mortal Kombat to achieve your goals. But I just..."
He shakes his head, looks away for a moment. "I just can't escape the feeling that every word you've said to me since I ran into you has been... playing with me, somehow. And not just to get what you want. Everyone does that on some level. It's basic sociology. But that, like..."
An exhalation, sharp, makes his bangs flutter for a second. "That you had to layer in the other things. Make me feel guilty about bad stuff that happened on my watch, for example. Angling for the moral high ground. Maybe I'm misreading you? After all I'm already... REALLY cranky right now. Because something bad DID happen on my watch. And it's worse than you know, and I'm going to have to fix it. I'm going to have to make myself a target to fix it. I've got bad days ahead of me."
Honoka nods slowly, eyebrows shifting in miniscule response to nearly every syllable uttered by Rei. Every word has meaning to her -- every shade of nuance, and tone. After all -- the man is indulging her in discussing her favorite topic: Herself.
A hand traces up from her pocket, sifting its way through flamingo pink and raven black forelocks. And that beguiling smile dims only the slightest.
"Maybe I have been playing with you, Rei. It's who I am -- and that's not going to change."
She angles her head skyward for a moment. "Once you know a person's lying, it's hard to take them seriously, hm? Guess that's why I got really good at not breaking character."
Honoka's eyes cast back down, staring into Rei's. "And yet, you know things about me I haven't told anyone. You -always- get the moral high road over me, don't you? So it's hard for me to feel sorry for you, Hazuki."
Honoka's stance screams with expectation -- as Frei is now the one holding the door handle. And yet, she only favors him with a lopsided smile.
"If it helps you sleep any better at night, though -- I'm a reasonable person. Who listens to words, and doesn't hop onto helicopters to avoid an unsettling conversation. And, having experimented with this 'Golden Angel' concoction..."
Again with that infuriating shrug.
"I think I have a better grasp of what that stuff does than that white-haired asshole ever can. Bought a few cases of it for the Circus, actually. Marvelous stuff. It's pretty amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it." Did she emphasized the word 'mind', just then? Hard to tell.
"But hey. Listen, I'm serious. And no, I'm not jerking you around. If you and your cousin need legal help distancing yourself from this crap, I can help. SyFi is part of what this city needs to fight the folks who'll try and ruin it. Cut ties -- make a clean break -- and you'll be fine."
The questionably fake smile drops, as do Honoka's eyebrows, as she raises her right hand.
"If you *want* the moral high ground I appear to have won by default," Rei says, with utter sincerity, and maybe a bit of his usual humor, "you can have it. I certainly don't want it."
He takes a deep breath, again, and tries to center himself... again. A more mismatched pair, conversationally, there could not be, here. Honoka weaves her words like a gossamer web; Rei is used to just saying whatever it is he thinks. Neither approach is necessarily better than the other, but when you mix fire and water, what you mostly get is steam, and if there's anything steam is good at, it's obscuring sight of what's going on.
But at the final offer, the redhead gives a faint smile. "Oh, trust me. I already texted Aya. There's a very good chance that the Hazuki Industries lawyers are already hard at work in the law mines figuring out something to do with this. Once I go reassure the people in there that we weren't trying to kill them, I'm probably going to have to advise them on that course of action." In his head, he mulls over how to explain that this entire affair has links to an international crime syndicate with access to apocalyptic levels of nonsense science fiction technology and that a simple lawsuit might not cut it.
Argument for another day, probably.
"But I can appreciate the sentiment."
Inclining his head toward the door, Rei looks ready to leave, himself. "I'd better get back in there. Take care of yourself, Honoka."
"High ground's overrated anyway. It's no good when you wear a skirt."
Honoka seems relieved that Aya's been contacted -- though, it could be just as much because it means her legal team doesn't need to be involved anyway. The world may never know, because her face doesn't reveal any change at all.
"Best of luck to you. Have a good evening, what's left of it." The faintest of smiles lights her expression as she steps back inside -- though, rather than follow Frei, she just folds her arms and leans against the inside wall, watching.
There's still -something- to be gleaned from the experience, and she's eager to find out what that might be.
Log created on 23:00:03 03/17/2018 by Honoka, and last modified on 11:12:22 03/19/2018.