Description: The Scarlet Dahlia accepts an audience with the hunter known as Bulleta. The two young survivors work to feel each other out while figuring out the terms of a business arrangement that could benefit them both-- if, that is, they're able to trust each other.
The city of Kashima doesn't often garner more than a passing message in most tour guidebooks. Sure, there's one of the oldest Shinto shrines in all of Japan here. And Kashima Soccer Stadium is the home to the Kashima Antlers F.C., by far the most successful football club in Japan. But if one's not here for soccer or religion, it's probably because Kashima is the center of the Kashima Industrial Zone, a huge industrial park. Over a thousand factories call Kashima home, and the vast majority center around petrochemicals and steel manufacturing. If one wants to disappear, the loud white noise from the factories and the constant truck traffic make Kashima a great place for it.
It's not really high on the list of 'great places for a meeting,' though. One can easily chalk up the choice of locale to the onset of warfare between the Hokkaido-centered Akatsuki-gumi and the Southtown Syndicate. Just under two hours from Southtown, Kashima's just on the periphery of "convenient" for anyone based there.
And the meeting location... well, let's just say it's unconventional. The address provided is a warehouse, flanked on the left by a steel mill and on the right by a chemical processing plant; both running 24/7. There are a handful of cars parked at the warehouse, perhaps surprisingly so for the late hour. Who schedules meetings for nine PM, anyway?
Scarlet Dahlia does, that's who. The lights would be on in the warehouse office. And if the expected guest were to walk in the front door, they would be escorted by two gentlemen back to an enclosed "clean room" in the center of the warehouse. Regardless... on the way to said meeting room, said guest would encounter not only the dozens of forklift operators and pallet loader jockeys, but there would also be a number of men in black suits who... don't seem to have much of a purpose at all. Surely there's not a need for -that- many QA people.
A black town car pulls into the lot and lingers long enough for a girl in red and white to emerge. With a picnic basket on her arm, a red hood pulled over her blonde hair, and a constellation of Makoto-inflicted bruises flowering around her bandaged nose and sunny smile, she approaches the mysterious warehouse. Polite creature that she is, she kept the weapons to a minimum: just a few small blades tucked here or there. And the basket, of course; if the men who meet her at the front door or any of the other weirdly athletic, alert, and formally dressed warehouse employees she encounters ask, she'll happily give them a peek at the belt-fed grenade launcher tucked where sandwiches and fruit ought to be.
She wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the dealer responsible for supplying her with that marvel of miniaturized munitions, after all.
Bulleta is a fairly fresh face even in the niche world of 'monster' hunting, with just a few years of tracking dangerous(or lucrative) Darkstalkers for the greater good(of her wallet). She's made a few forays into less specialized bounty hunting and mercenary work; nothing exceptional, but enough that Scarlet Dahlia might have an idea of who the small young woman who paid handsomely to meet her is other than a girl with disposable income and a contact with enough connections to put it to good use.
"Gosh," she exhales as wide blue eyes dance between the machine operators, "these guys really are something, busting their buns to make sure people have..." Her gaze shifts towards a crate or two before settling on a QA goon. With a soft giggle and a sheepish smile, she quietly finishes, "... well, what they /need/, whatever /that/ is." Another sigh, and then her eyes go up to one of the escorts so she can offer, "Thank you /so/ much for showing me the way through all of this-- I'd hate to take a wrong turn and, oh, gosh, get in someone's /way/ or something...!"
The escort walking Bulleta through the concrete-floored warehouse seems to be utterly unfazed by the red-hooded lady's glances throughout the facility. After all, he was present when the gentleman at the front door uncovered the secret of the belt-fed grenade launcher. And if it weren't for his superior's okay at letting the weapons through the checkpoint, well... he might be a bit more open to discussion.
As it is, the escort nods dully in response. When thanked, he bows his head rapidly, answering, "It's my pleasure, ma'am." You know, the things you're -required- to say.
Thankfully, Bulleta isn't here to make conversation with one of the many Akatsuki personnel present, clearly in defiance of Duke's order to scram. And as the escort opens the door, her host is seated behind a large stainless-steel desk. Arrayed upon the desk are an array of tablet computers with various colored displays. The room itself is spartan, save for a large wall calendar on the left wall and a reproduction of a famous Hokusai painting opposite it.
Dahlia herself is seated in a high-backed executive chair, decked out in a white dress with an executive, bespoke style. Which... oddly, accomodates a dark purple necktie. Her hair is swept back, save for a stylish forelock that cascades across her face. ... Which is probably meant to draw attention away from the hideous burnt skin that discolors her face from mid-cheek downward.
As soon as Bulleta enters, Dahlia rises to her feet -- though from the sound, and the way the chair rocks backward, it almost seems as if the slender executive weighs quite a bit more than she looks.
"Ahh, our eagerly awaited guest. Welcome! I'm Scarlet Dahlia -- though Dahlia is fine. Pleased to make your acquaintance." She makes a smile, though it might be a bit creepier to see her crimson, striated skin strain at the expression. "'Miss Bulleta', is that right?" Excessive Japanese hospitality be damned...
Her shoulders shudder from a small tremor -- ended only as she places her left palm upon the desk. After a steadying pause, she extends her right hand to the empty chair in front of her desk. "Please, please, come on in and make yourself at home. Would you care for anything to drink?"
Only when her guest sits would the executive herself move to follow the gesture.
Indeed, Bulleta isn't here for Dahlia's personnel; after registering her escort's neutrality, she simply smiles her way to the other woman's office without wasting more effort on trying to charm the help. He still gets a brisk curtsey when she arrives, of course; manners are manners.
After an almost unconscious check for exits other than the door, she fixes her eyes to the scarred executive's and beams. "Oh, gosh-- just Bulleta's fine!" A few steps into the room, she exhales heavily and the smile shrinks, somewhat: it's still sincere enough, but the extra layer of saccharine's been peeled away. Her hand begins to extend--
-- her eyes snap to Dahlia's shoulder, laser-focused--
-- and she makes it to the desk in time to smack her palm on the desk near the executive's while stopping mid-reach for that braced bicep. Even if she makes contact, she'll step away after a moment; Dahlia's clearly got it, and hospitality can only be damned so far, right?
Not that manners keep her from curiously eyeing that shoulder for a beat longer before looking back up to the other woman's face.
"I'll take scotch, if you've got it," she murmurs with an undertone of apology. Backing from the desk, she sets the basket beside that empty chair with a heavy *thnk!* and rummages in the inner pockets of her hood long enough to come out with a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. A couple flicks draws two of those white sticks forward so she can offer the pack to Dahlia with a questioning brow arch. "Or whatever you've got! Thank you. Thank you for /seeing/ me, for that matter: from what I understand, you're, well-- you're a good woman to know, y'know? So. I appreciate getting the change to make your acquaintance, Miss-- Dahlia? Miss Dahlia."
Scarlet Dahlia doesn't keep track of every participant in the high-stakes world of professional fighting, but when it comes to someone offering up a large sum of money? ... She does her research. That said research turned up a fight between Bulleta and Jezebel was just a sweet bonus.
And it would seem that she spent her research wisely. Bulleta's reflexes are top notch -- and there's little doubt in Dahlia's mind that if there were any nefarious purpose in mind, it would have evidenced itself in that moment of weakness. As it is, though, the Yakuza trafficker senses nothing but.. curiosity and concern? It's enough to draw a somber smile from the lady in white as she recovers. Quite... fascinating, this little woman is.
Dahlia draws in her breath, easing herself back into her seat with the ease of a senior citizen, despite not looking a day over twenty-seven. Elbows rest on her armrests as she nods back to acknowledge the request. Her eyes close partly as she gives a glassy-eyed nod in the direction of the door -- though if she might have seemed spaced out for a moment, her gaze is razor-sharp as it turns back to Bulleta. No response is given -- one might be forgiven for thinking she didn't even hear the request. Of course, one would also have to account for the offering of a cigarette -- a request met with a lightly wrinkled nose and an upturned palm. "Quite all right, but thank you."
Slender fingers lace together, the tips of her index fingers tapping together as she prods the raw red flesh of her chin. The name, and the 'Miss', are met with a smile and an accepting nod. "Whichever you prefer, of course. ... I do hope to make this meeting worth your while." Dahlia's smile fades considerably, as the twin index fingers pull themselves away from her chin. "... Please forgive my ghastly appearance, but... as you may know, the conflict between ourselves and the Syndicate is a direct result of -why- I was so eager to meet you here tonight."
Her executive smile returns as she draws in a breath. "But... I'm getting ahead of myself. How is it that I and my organization can best help you reach your goals?"
She keeps her gaze locked on Bulleta for a moment -- but then she shifts her gaze to the door. And just as she does so, the door opens, causing Dahlia's smile to grow once again.
In walks Bulleta's earlier escort, carrying a silver tray. Upon it? One glass of Scotch, and the Glen Scotia bottle. The escort places a napkin upon the desk, and the glass upon the napkin -- perfectly prim and proper for Bulleta -- before setting the tray on the desk and excusing himself from the room with a bow.
One of the cigarettes is tipped into Bulleta's mouth after the other is refused. Once the pack is back where it belongs, she gives Dahlia another questioning look while telegraphing the lighter's ascent; it won't come close to being flicked until - unless - she's given leave.
"I should be asking /you/ that, shouldn't I...?" she wonders, cigarette dangling from her smile. The same desire to please - to find a crack in Dahlia's heart to slither into - that drove her from one side of the office to the wobbling executive's desk rolls off of her as she demures. More than just a broad, human need to be liked by a stranger, Bulleta unconsciously betrays an imperative to maximize the potential value of this encounter.
"I, ah, I'm not sure what, /exactly/, Mr. Shizue told you about me," she continues while smoothing her dress beneath herself and sitting, "but,"
The door opens. Bulleta momentarily tenses before deciding to turn the smile back up to full strength, look towards the door-- and sag a little once she sees it's just the escort. He still gets a brisk, "Thank you!" while arranging the tray and a friendly wave as he leaves.
The door closes. The Hunter heavily sighs again, mildly annoyed at having wasted her energy on a brick wall, then gives Dahlia a more subdued smile and an appreative bow of her head.
"I dunno what he told you, but I'm a hunter: people, things..." the sharp twist breaking into her otherwise sweet and amiable tone ought to make it clear that she doesn't mean /objects/, "it doesn't matter! I hunt 'em." The cigarette comes down so she can delicately sip, then appreciatively, wordlessly murmur and nod. "My goals... well. I guess I wanna make a nice, long career of this thing, it's-- it's kind of a family trade, y'know? I want to be the best bounty, monster-- /whatever/ hunter I can be." A beat passes as she rolls her glass in her fingers, then lowers her eyes. "I wanna get rich as /fuck/," she softly admits as the smile falls into tight, affected self-consciousness. "And I feel like you and I could be all /kinds/ of helpful to each other: the Akatsuki-gumi have connections and resources that could help me /really/ establish myself, and /you/..."
Blue eyes pointedly drift from Dahlia's to rove over warped flesh.
"... have a message or two that needs sending... don't you?" Sympathy trickles into her voice as her features contort into a wince. There's an echo of it in her psyche, trailing from that overarching, tactical need to be liked.
"You don't look ghastly at all, by the way," she thinks to gently add as her smile starts to return. "You look like a /survivor/. Strong; beautiful. Like the last person on Earth to be fucked with."
The question on whether or not to light the cigarette is met with an indifferent shrug from Dahlia. It's not necessarily her -preference-, but the Akatsuki executive can certainly afford to allow a transgression here and there. Besides, it's not as if she will be joining in.
In a similarly accomodating vein, Dahlia smiles and shakes her head in the negative to the suggestion that Bulleta should be asking -her- how she could help. "I appreciate your gratitude, but you shouldn't sell yourself short. I wouldn't be here talking with you if you weren't, after all..." A hand reaches up to stroke her forelocks as a glint of amusement creeps into her eyes. "Besides -- if we both insisted on full formalities we could be here till the wee hours of the morning, hmmm?"
Bulleta's interplay with the escort earns a particularly amused smile from the Dahlia -- a rising heartbeat, followed by a disappointed sag, buoyed up by the need to play nice-nice -- and a similar pattern that plays in miniature as the small woman turns to face her. An interesting spectacle that Dahlia commits to memory. Hands settle back onto the armrests of her chair.
Her eyes widen as she leans forward in her seat with rapt interest. A hunter -- of both humans and non-humans alike. A particular ex-Interpol agent comes to mind, there.
"I agree. And I believe you've come to the right person. I have need of many people with your particular skill-set. And I feel that the coming weeks will bring many people in need of... messaging."
Her lips spread into a rictus smile as she nods. It's a bit creepy. But the smile does soften into genuine appreciation as Bulleta continues buttering her up.
"Flattery gets you everywhere, Bulleta. And without belaboring the point, I tend to agree with your assessment."
Lightly painted lips purse into a smile, as she reaches across to pluck one of her tablets from the table. Panning through the screens for a moment, she settles on a picture, inverting the tablet and sliding it across the desk so that Bulleta can see. Pictured is a man in an orange jacket, with dark skin and jaundiced yellow eyes. His name is listed as 'DANIEL LITTLE' with 'DANIEL JACK' written below in smaller text. And there is a quite sizable number beneath it.
"This one's dangerous -- and he won't stay dead. I don't recommend taking him on alone. And don't get me wrong, this is not a job I want you to take -- but rather, someone to watch out for."
She pauses for a beat. "You're probably his 'type.'"
Dahlia's eyebrow arches, as her lips curl into a sly grin. "What do you know about him, anything?"
Framed in thin, white curls of smoke, the petite hunter shyly averts her gaze and radiates a little silent pride when Dahlia seems to bite on her flattery. Dahlia goes for the tablet and Bulleta sits back, crosses her legs, and puffs through her curious anticipation. When the tablet eventually comes down, she leans forward just enough to give it a good look.
"Ex-Interpol," she replies after exhaling.
After a beat, she adds a soft, mocking lilt and a thin smirk: "~The Lady Killer~. One of those strange Todoh folk; I saw old SNF footage. Wanted by NOL, DOA; used to be human or human-passing, but now...?"
She looks up to the woman in white, trailing into a little groan, a wince, and a slightly shaken head. The smirk doesn't soften back into a smile until she continues, "I appreciate the heads up! Is he poking around your operations? Do you think he's gonna/?" Despite - or because of? - the warnings, Bulleta seems to be as intrigued as she is anything else.
Killing an unkillable monster would look /great/ on her resume, after all.
"Or is this just a favor for a new asset-slash-friend?" she adds, audibly hopeful. A slow sip is taken - savored - while she looks up and listens.
Dahlia seems more than pleased as Bulleta instantly identifies the former agent. The picture was a softball test, one that the shadowy manipulator had expected any bounty hunter worth her salt to ace. And she did, of course, with flying colors.
"He's more than a mild annoyance -- he was able to delay some past initiatives of mine. If you happen to spot him making trouble, don't hesitate to do what you do best, and I can make it worth your while."
As to whether it's a favor or whatnot, Dahlia simply shrugs, an opaque grin spreading upon her lips. "It's whatever you make of it. All I'm saying, you're gonna get paid back handsomely if you feel the need to pump bullets into him."
Dahlia glances at her various tablets. Some have interesting things on them. One is a spreadsheet full of really boring numbers. But the one Dahlia reaches for is a news article -- and she leans over and picks that tablet up.
Rapping the back of the tablet against an open palm -- as if it were a newspaper, even? -- she muses aloud, "Sadly, I don't have much in the way of active targets at the moment. If there's a number you can leave me with, I can certainly contact you whenever something comes up. But there -is- a job that you might be able to help me out with."
Dahlia turns the tablet around, sliding it to rest beside the tablet with Daniel Jack's face on it. On the screen is a picture of a large, glitzy casino, with a number of construction barricades in place to show the landscaping still in progress. The caption on the photo suggests the name is the 'Dragons' Den Casino.'
"I've had to shuffle my people out of Southtown for the time being -- and while the cat's away, the mice will run in and open up a casino, apparently. I sure could use someone on the inside here to check out this Dragons' Den Casino."
Dahlia flicks to scroll the article down. "Oceanfront property in one of the richest cities in the world. Staffed by 'things' the Librarium would be salivating to get under their iron fist."
She leans back in her chair. "It's a bold move for Kira Volkov. She knocked over a ton of small-fry African warlords. And now she's traded hot, sweaty watering holes for the only city on this planet that matters. I need a brain and a pair of eyes to tell me what they see there, who's working for whom and whatnot. You up for it?"
"Let's just see what happens, then," Bulleta chirps while setting the drink down. Puffing idly, she glances between what can be seen of the tablet screens until one is pushed towards her for attention. She skims and listens, nods, and smiles a little wider at the mention of 'things', but the name puts a stop to all of that.
"Pain in my ass," she murmurs a beat after freezing up and grimacing. "/Our/ ass-- the bitch gobbles up all the high-value contracts she can, pretty much sets a ceiling for what the /rest/ of us can make..." Her eyes shut as her gripe trails off. There's a degree of respect amongst the annoyance as she briskly burns hrough the cigarette for a few seconds of thought. "I'm gonna need ID-- just going and playing tourist won't cut it, y'know? I need to /be/ there, and-- well. I can pass for a sorta-lucky 20, be a cocktail waitress, or whatever... but my papers need to be /perfect/, and we don't have great people for that. Doesn't come /up/ a lot when you're mostly focused on semi-people." Looking up at Dahlia, she starts to puff again, seemingly content with letting the request remain implied, but after a second: "Can you...?" comes out.
And then it's back to puffing and thinking-- /calculating/, really. Volkov's reputation is formidable, and even if it wasn't... anyone who's lasted as long in their world as she has is liable to have learned a few hard lessons about operational security. Getting close enough to feel out the full scale of the Casino - much less the Dragoons - would no doubt take more than a sunny demeanor and a waitress' uniform, even if they're a fine place to start.
"I'm pretty sure I'm gonna have to join her," she quietly concludes after a spell of contemplative silence. "Maybe after her people catch their new waitress-or-whatever snooping around somewhere she shouldn't be, and said new waitress-or-whatever explains how she heard... /things/ about what the woman who runs the place /really/ does, and ~desperate~ she is to join her..."
The teenaged hunter's nostrils flare with a deep inhale and she shifts nearly on a dime as it's released. Eyes grow wide, wet, and fearful. Her bottom lip is drawn in because suddenly, her teeth are the only thing that stop it from quivering. Her shoulders hunch and sag to the point that she's only /just/ showing Dahlia that expression, while her knees squeeze together and her heels jitter and bounce.
"'I-it's just... ever since the Metro City incident, I've... I've been struggling, y'know? My dad, he just-- he was, just, he was /gone/ when everyone first got taken, and Mom...'" The scarlet girl's shoulders shudder and one of her hands races to clap over her mouth and muffle the sob that she just can't contain. "'M-mom was... s-she was my first, she... she was-- something /happened/ to her, a-and I-I had to do it, I /had/ to, I-- I didn't /want/ to, b-but it was me, or-- or /it/, and...'"
After releasing another sob with a trembling sigh, she raises her eyes hopefully - fearfully - to Dahlia's while leaning forward a little.
"'... well, I'm still here,'" she whispers. "'And as long as I am, I wanna do everything I can to make sure nobody /else/ has to suffer like I did-- or give them a little peace of mind if they do, a-and-- well-- nobody's BETTER at that than YOU, Miss Volkov...! If I could just... if I could join you, /learn/ from you...'"
She lets the plea linger between herself and the executive in white for a few seconds before dropping back into a comfortable sag. The trembling and tension melt away in the time it takes for the filter to touch a faint grin.
"Or something," she breezily says while recrossing her legs and letting smoke trail out. With her free hand, she dabs away the lingering evidence of tears. "I'll cross that bridge when it matters. Just as long as we're on the same page, here."
Dahlia wasn't sure what the outcome of sending a potential ally into the den of a potential competitor would be. Another test, maybe? But her outlook improves considerably when Bulleta starts grousing about the impact the Dragoon has had upon the black market -- as shown by the Dahlia's serpentine smile.
She listens in mute silence, nodding occasionally as Bulleta puffs about, not wanting to interrupt the creative process. Her eyebrows do knit together when Bulleta explains about her aspirations to -join- Kira, though... It only takes a moment before she understands that this tangent is just a ruse. And, naturally, she offers a bit of a smirk as the play-acting turns into full on waterworks.
Dahlia is certainly one who can appreciate the value of acting.
She nods, clapping her hands together, with obvious mirth in her expression. "How -convincing- that was! Of course, with that performance..." By this point, though, her smile begins to falter, lips pressing into a solid line. "... you've managed to plant a seed of doubt in -my- mind as to where your true loyalties lie..." Manipulators tend to know their own kind, after all...
She eyes the tip of the cigarette for a moment, before her eyes track back to Bulleta's. Her pause -- deliberate, for effect.
"Perhaps I'd be... inviting my own doom, sending my newest asset-slash-friend into the Dragon's Den, with its nest of cutting-edge weaponry, hmm..." She trails off, intentionally yet again.
And then her hands flatten onto the table, as she leans forward. The corners of her lips pull upward, incrementally. "Don't let her tempt you. Volkov is all about -personal profit-. She'll fuck you harder than a football star on prom night if she can get away from it." Her head tilts sideways, eyebrow lifting with interest. "Me? I'm fine with you getting rich as fuck -- as long as you produce results."
A hand lifts, palm turning upward. "And of course, with me, you get to keep your autonomy, pursuing any contracts you choose. From me, or otherwise. Nothing like being locked into slave wages with -that- nutcase."
Dahlia sits up straight, folding one hand over the other on her desk. "But, enough about -her-. She's trying to piss on Akatsuki -and- the Syndicate. And we're fuckin' busy right now." She smirks, leaning back in her padded seat.
"We need to get -Southtown- mad at her. The -nerve- of this crazy bitch, dropping Darkstalkers in the midst of a city like this. Doesn't anyone remember Metro City? Madness. Sheer madness."
A finger is raised. "Would you say there might be something that could earn the NOL's attention?"
"I'll take that as a compliment~."
Bulleta's initial response comes quietly, with a sweet smile and an undercurrent of concern. Afterwards, she remembers to breathe. That Dahlia's suspicion made an eventual turn into a pitch helped to soothe the carefully hidden but impossible to disguise alarm brought on by the executive's falling smile, but the lingering desire to impress and please - even if it means showing off a little /too/ much - is enough to keep her on edge.
"I don't need or want to be some cog in her operation-- it's big, and strong, and /impressive/, sure. But /anyone/ can be big, and strong, and impressive if they work at it long enough-- if they /want/ it bad enough. If they make the right connections," she continues as her own smile fades into a sober line. She pauses long enough to drag and exhale, keeping her eyes on Dahlia's.
"So if I'm gonna bust my ass to build up /anyone/, it's gonna be me and and the people who enable me to /do/ it; I'm not gonna be anyone's cheerleader." A thin smirk is mustered as she leans to take up her drink. "I wanna be the quarterback," she finishes before draining the glass.
It burns-- hardly enough to make her cough or grimace, but she feels it. It helps, gives her something to think about besides how close she cut it with her little display. There aren't any signs of dishonesty behind her assurances, at least: she's definitely hoping to make sure Dahlia's mind is at ease, but there's only a minimum of forbidden curiosity for Kira's resources and no lurking malice at all.
"Besides, I /live/ in Southtown," she murmurs, lowering the glass. Bit by bit, the smirk spreads and her pitch rises until she hits a pearl-clutching crescendo: "Why would I wanna throw in with some nutjob sweeping in, keeping /monsters/ penned up where people /work/ and /raise their children/... some foreign bitch who's probably trafficking god knows /what/ through her, her den of SIN and INIQUITY. Gosh, I HOPE the NOL's willing to pay attention; maybe if some brave soul can sneak out evidence of what's going ON in there..."
A puff, a beat--
"I'm thinking I might blog a little," she thoughtfully floats while gesturing with what little is left of the cigarette.
The criminal mastermind's capricious mood swings are mercifully quick, in most cases. One would really have to be -trying- to tick her off for them to last for any significant duration. As it is... well, she's smiling -now-. That's all anyone can really hope for.
She nods slowly as Bulleta clarifies her stance towards Kira. And even as some shade is cast towards the sprawling connections Dahlia has made for Akatsuki-gumi -- a forgivable statement considering that one in Bulleta's position might not even see how far the web of influence stretches.
For a moment, Dahlia's eyebrows lift as if she were about to say something to that 'quarterback' line, but her eyes instead fixate upon the drained glass in Bulleta's tiny little hands. And rather than say something else -- she lets the burn kick in. She smiles, as she enjoys the tingling warmth of the drink vicariously through the heavily armed mercenary's expressions.
Again, she parts her mouth as if she might speak, just as Bulleta looses one seemingly disjointed clarification.
"... Okay, I -was- gonna say we were on the same page..." After a pause, she flashes a reassuring smile, holding her palm up. "More than fine working together to enable your dreams. Perfectly acceptable to protect Southtown, as I've been fighting that way for years. Not sure how blogging fits in, is all."
Still, she leans back with a shrug, as smoke continues billowing forth from her houseguest's cigarette. "I can get you an ID, no problem. Any nationality, any age, or you want to go in with something in mind? Acting's all about getting in the head of the role, and I don't want to box you out of it."
Dahlia reaches up to slide a stylus out of the nearest tablet. And she begins spinning it around her finger with practiced ease. "I'm sure I'll have -other- contracts to send your way, but that's the big one for now. Did you have any other questions for me?"
The shade was inadvertant, but Bulleta is mercifully unaware when her eagerness to find just the right things to say leads her to another pothole.
"I don't /think/ I can just kill my way into pissing Southtown off," she explains, softening her smile as she tries to avoid the issue Dahlia actually points out. "It might help, here or there, but-- well. I've got all /kinds/ of weapons in my arsenal." Miniature rocket launchers, tears, stories, Twitter fingers...
"A little social pressure can't /hurt/, right?" After a final puff, she flicks the butt into her glass so it can hiss itself out while she gives Dahlia a curiously arched brow and listens. She starts to offer a thought about IDs only to stop herself and contemplatively quirk her lips this way or that.
"Can I get back to you on the ID thing? I've got ideas, but I gotta make sure they aren't /too/ precious, y'know? Otherwise... well..." She trails long enough to set the glass on Dahlia's desk so her hands are free to be folded over her knee. Blue eyes rove over designer garments and scars, deliberately appraising.
"You told me what Volkov's all about," she eventually murmurs, "but what about /you/? You're new, you're bold - you're a /young woman/ who tells Yakuza what to do - I /like/ you. But I dunno a whole lot about you, /really/, and I /should/." The flattery may seem a bit less constructed and composed now that Bulleta's had time to interact with Dahlia for a while-- to see the way she carries herself and get a feel for the type of employer she seems to be. Those brief observations might not be enough to win the wee mercenary's undying loyalty, but Dahlia's seeming strength and steady, reserved confidence certainly earned some respect.
"We /are/ gonna be friends-slash-mutual-assets, after all," she finishes with a wink and a smile.
Dahlia actually laughs out loud at Bulleta's denial of ability to piss off Southtown. Of course, as a lady, she's able to cover her mouth for that particular part. "That sounds like quitter talk to me! Hah!" Despite the laughter, the mirth is still quite evident upon her face as she holds up a hand, curling her fingers ever so slightly. "The only thing stopping you from striking terror into the hearts of your enemies is how close you're willing to get."
As for social pressure... Dahlia's lips turn into a wry smirk. "Yeah, but... blogging? What -year- are you from?" Again, the mirth is only skin deep -- though it might look a bit more macabre than that given the condition of her face. "... By all means, take as much time as you need." She reaches into her desk drawer to withdraw a small card. After squinting at it for a moment, she slides it across the table to Bulleta. "Let me know whenever you've decided. But for this particular job, time is of the essence. If it passes..." Dahlia shrugs her shoulders limply, donning a calculating expression. "There will be more opportunities. I'm fine playing a long game against Miss Volkov."
When she is questioned about herself, though...?
Dahlia leans forward, stroking her chin with one hand, while the pen continues to twirl about her other hand as if it were in a gymnastics competition. "It's been quite some time since someone's asked -that- question," she responds with a more thoughtful smile. Her eyelids close part way, and she considers in silence for a good three seconds or so.
"Forests thrive upon the burning flame. Before the time of humans, forests blanketed the earth. And whenever lightning struck a tree, a small section of forest would erupt into flame. And the fires would be contained -- for there was no way for fire to spread. Old, rotten wood would burn, clearing the land for new saplings to sprout forth. Better saplings -- hardier ones, that can grow even mightier than their forebears."
Dahlia moistens her lips, pinching her thumb and forefinger together, stopping the pen cold in mid-flight. "And then humans came along. For a time, we lived in harmony with the forests -- hunting the deer, fleeing the flames when they chased us from our homes. And then -- we learned how to defeat the flame. Underbrush grew out of control, rampant as weeds. And now... lightning threatens not a small grove, but an entire nation of trees. And when that burns down -- there is nothing left. There -are- no survivors."
Dahlia draws in her breath, closing her eyes -- and shaking her head.
"Who am I, Bulleta? You said it yourself."
She opens her eyes once again. "I am a survivor. And I am here to ensure that humanity learns from its lessons. That humanity advances forward -- rather than regress back to the flawed ways of old. That humanity understands its flawed past, and vows never to repeat its past mistakes."
Dahlia's eyes glimmer with self-awareness. And to replace to look of somber, breathless prophecy comes a very -human- smile in its place. "... Or something like that. Only we, the young, can carry us forward into the future."
"You know what I /mean/," Bulleta lightly scoffs with a good-natured eyeroll and a light grin. After a glance, the card goes where her cigarettes are stashed.
She plays her part once it's time to sit back and listen, nodding slowly - politely - here or there. The overall message, with all its metaphor and idealism, tracks just fine; she does not, however, quite know what to /make/ of it, not that she lets the bemusement show in her features. For a young woman apparently motivated by getting rich and propping up the family trade, connecting organized crime with shepherding humanity towards a better tomorrow takes a few more leaps of logic than she can readily muster. When Dahlia's smile comes, it actually summons a little flutter of nerves within the hunter; for all she knows, this is some kind of test.
"I'm a survivor too," she murmurs after a quiet beat. If nothing else, that shared quality offers yet another foundation for genuine respect and regard. "Once upon a time, a werewolf killed my grandma, so I stabbed it a whole bunch and blew up her house with it inside." A slight pause, then: "I was nine."
She averts her eyes through a longer beat, then:
"That one's true," she softly assures. "I don't-- I dunno about advancing civilization and building a future for humanity, or whatever, but I /do/ know that people are fuckin' /stupid/-- that they /love/ playing with things that they don't really understand until it bites 'em in the ass and it kills 'em. Or changes 'em so someone /else/ has to kill 'em." Bulleta stands, steps forward, and leans to offer the executive her hand.
"/Someone's/ gotta keep an eye on their dumb asses, for all our sakes."
Dahlia is often seen as insane. Deranged. And she's okay with that, even if she'd prefer words with positive conntations like 'visionary' or 'seer.' When she plays the long game -- it's because she's attempting to ensure that her body of work has repercussions long past her own lifespan. If that means her name is omitted from the history books, so be it.
After all, only a select few of her ancestors' names were memorialized in the yukar.
As long as her plans and machinations are carried out as she asked, though, she's fine with people thinking whatever they like. And while Bulleta may not share her bemusement, Dahlia expects it -- much as she's received from nearly everyone who's heard the tree speech and wondered how it fit in with seemingly random assassinations and trade of illegal weapons. Did Bulleta pass?
As soon as she shares her so-called origin story, the answer is clearly 'yes.' Dahlia's smile fades into one of nearly motherly concern. Lips purse; a flame-scarred chin droops. The stylus is set aside, as her hands fold over one another.
"At that moment, half-measures would not have sufficed. I feel your pain. And I resonate with your loss."
For a moment, she considers sharing her own loss. But this is is not a contest, she reassures herself.
She finds herself nodding. Whether or not Bulleta drew the connection or not, Dahlia seeks to fill the gap. "... Indeed. We as a people have toyed with nature for far too long. Those who seek to transcend it are not cast out as they once were, but raised up as gods, invincible to our laws and so-called 'justice.'"
Dahlia rises from her seat -- though she clearly favors her right side. She reaches out to grasp Bulleta's hand. She shakes it, firmly, with a confident smile.
"And that's where we step in, hmm?"
To her credit, the prophetic demeanor and lofty goals suggest a more modest degree of crazy to Bulleta than something more genuinely incomprehensible: the connections are weird and the degree to which Dahlia seems to get into proclaiming them doesn't make them any less so, but she's crossed paths with eccentric and truly mad souls, both; the former's easy to swallow if it doesn't affect her. Dahlia's money should still spend, after all, and the patronage of a Yakuza executive still has value even if said executive is a bit-- unique.
Besides, Bulleta's well aware of how-- unique-- /she/ is, especially in the world of organized crime; even if she /hadn't/ been able to find some common ground regarding humanity and its tendency towards stupidity, she'd have been a fool to turn her nose up over something as minor as Dahlia being dramatic about her ideals.
As it /is/, well-- it's rare that she bothers with using /real/ stories to establish empathy and endear herself to strangers. There's still some lingering tension and unease that she's managing to edit out of her posture as Dahlia smiles down at her, unused as she is to letting herself be truly seen.
"I'm not /exactly/ a law and order kinda girl," she quietly admits while gripping - far more firmly than her stature might suggest - Dahlia's hand and cupping her other around it to shake, "but I'm /definitely/ not a 'worship some jack-off who can vaporize a building with his eyes because he sold his soul' kinda girl either. I'll step on whoever you /want/ me to if it means I get to keep living my life without /that/ kinda garbage in it."
When the handshake stops, she keeps squeezing Dahlia's hand for a second or two further before letting go, stepping back from the desk, and flashing the woman in white a smile. The basket is reclaimed, then her eyes return to Dahlia's long enough to offer a sincere, "Thanks for seeing me! I'll definitely be in touch."
Log created on 21:09:42 06/20/2018 by Bulleta, and last modified on 17:40:17 06/23/2018.