Description: In which Ramlethal and Jack-O' meet, discuss existential issues of purpose, uncertainty, family, and the sheer, terrifying power of nakama. The adventures of Straightmurder Sharkface and Maskrandom Rainbowdoom begin here...!
Welcome to the AirBnB 'room "yamato" in Guesthouse Kotone', which as it declares, is a single room in a manor-house 8 hours by bus from Tokyo. After her half-amazing, half-disastrous fight with Akuma, Ramlethal (Thrustdeath Truelove to the fighting commission) had been gathered up by I-No, and dumped at a quaint and out-of-the-way AirBnB to recover while the witch went out looking for Jack-O' to complete her collection of space cadet Gear murder-ladies.
The main house had many of the accoutrements of living, and the guest house had wonderful tatami-matted rooms with paper sliding doors. The washroom areas were shared.
But, I-No had said that she 'wasn't paying for cleanup' and that Rammy could 'bleed wherever she wanted', so Ramlethal had taken it upon herself, in her beat-up state, to bathe 'her' dog.
Biteslob was a random quadrupedal mutt-approximate creature who was not only dumb, but probably a festering disease ground, acquired by Ramlethal in Central America in an stinky alley. She had attempted Command Gear dominance of it, but mostly it was too stupid to either obey or disobey.
Today, it was becoming Bathslob, and woe betide the poor tub it was being soaked in. Ramlethal was swiftly realizing that there was more dirt than dog on the poor stupid pooch, though unlike Mere Mortals, she did not have any trouble holding the dog down. He was only a dog.
~* WHEN LAST WE LEFT OUT HEROINE! *~
Jack-O' Valentine sits on a rooftop somewhere in New York City, covered in glass, currently sobbing her eyes out. Not over her injuries or the pieces of glass that may or may not be lodged in her body:
It's the candy.
In her hands is the tattered remains of a sack that was once a wellspring of sugary sweet candy she may or may not have stolen ('illegally,' depending on your 'perspective'). She mourns it like the loss of a lover, cradled to her cheek.
"*sniff* I'll never forget you...! You were the only thing in this world that made sense! Especially because you were my only source of existential stability!" She blows her nose into the tattered sack, distraught in a way that makes it all the more jarring how instantly it wipes from her features in favor of a look of mild, perplexed concern.
"... Mm. Instability is rising, and this body is still too incomplete." She looks at the glass covering her, head tilted with knitting brows. "These injuries aren't healing nearly as quickly as they should. Maybe I should have gone with I-No after all. Hrm. ... No, there's still too much to be done. I suppose I should go check on the rest of them first..."
And with that, Jack-O' rises back onto her feet, casting those tattered pieces of cloth casually to the winds, a cheery smile dancing at her lips. "Okay! Jack-O's big amazing unstoppable plan is a go! I-Noes, take me to the other Valentines!"
Ten seconds of long, tense silence pass by. Jack-O' remains pointing to the horizon this entire time, until something dawns on her. "I-Noes? ... oh wait. Oh no. Oh no!!" Her expression shatters.
"OH NO!!! I-NOES IS GONE!! Where did she go!? AAHHH HOW AM I GOING TO FIND THEMMMM?!"
Exactly three seconds loiter by before Jack-O' smacks a fist into her hand, decides she doesn't need I-No's help at all because she abruptly decided she's an expert tracker, and then blasts off once more.
Launching herself through some poor elderly couple's apartment in the process.
"HERE I COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOME~~~"
~* NOW, PROBABLY LIKE FIVE DAYS LATER OR SOMETHING *~
"OH NO I HAVE NO IDEA HOW I GOT HERE~~~"
Jack-O' has completely forgotten she was trying to find the other Valentines by the time she comes crashing into Ramlethal Valentine's life.
Ramlethal might hear the terrifyingly adorable squealing as a faint sound on the horizon as she washes her dog...shaped... animal... thing. The Bathslob. Whatever. The point is:
This would be the sound of Jack-O' Valentine slamming through wall after flimsy wall of Guesthouse Kotone, flailing her way past guest after guest on the end of her rocketing familiar Dorpos. It eventually brings her on a collision course through the window of Ramlethal's temporary domicile like the loudest, screechiest meteor in this entire planet of earth until she lands with a foundation-rocking THOOM just beyond the bath currently being sullied with god only knows what kinds of sloppy, toxic substances. And it is there that Jack-O' lingers, face planted to the ground, dark iron mask's eyes somehow comically etched into two mighty 'X's of defeat, ass thrust high into the air like she was practicing her best downward dog, halo glowing beatifically, Dorpos just kind of... nudging her with its face to see if she's still alive. Is she still alive?
"bwuhhhh my life is overrrrr i smell deeeeath"
Ramlethal is calm, and deliberate. Her mechanical heart beats in metronome time. Her world is facts and numbers and probabilities. She evaluated goals and mission objectives, sorted them by primacy, and went about them economically.
She was a 'perfect' weapon.
Her "family" was a complete lunacy trolley in one of those complex trolley problems, simultaneously tying people to train tracks and cackling about 'DO YOU PULL THE LEVER' and suggesting multi-track drifting while comically lashed to the metal railings themselves.
Case in point: Enter - Jack O'.
The partitioning wall of the bath exploding in a shower of rice paper and splinters before Ramlethal 'exclaims' one of the flattest 'ii-yaan' ever uttered by a person in Japan. "I have become aware that is what is said when one intrudes on the bath, by the person within the washroom."
Getting up, to float-vault the bath, Ramlethal alights on the ground near Jack-O's crater, looks down, and in complete deadpan, speaks an absolute command.
"Gear - I order you to make sense."
She has such high hopes.
Behind her, the bath becomes a sloshing filth apocalypse as Bathslob becomes Bathslosh, the dog flailing around like a moron without Ramlethal's firm and unimpeachable guidance. It won't drown. Probably. More lethal circumstances have tried to end the stain of Bathslosh.
"hrmlgfl impact event did not exceeded the metaphysical improbability threshold, phew"
Such high in the sky hopes.
"but also owwwwwwwwieeee"
And so, Jack-O' lingers there for a time, marinating in the untold misery that is ruining an Airbnb and also the backwash of the bathpocalypse beyond. Slowly, black gloved fingers scratch at the cratered earth, feeling the splintered wood beneath their fingertips. Those glowing green slits somehow manage to flutter like they were blinking. A second passes by.
"Woof! That was a doozy!"
And instantly, Jack-O' is back on her feet with a jump so sprightly one could almost imagine the 'sproi-yoi-yoing!' sound effect that should doubtless have accompanied it. Go on. Imagine. It's okay. Jack-O's just going to be busy here, dusting herself off even as she seems perilously oblivious to Ramlethal's presence.
"Hummmm... Oh! Yes! If I got the trajectory right, I should be in Japan now, I think. It's been so long... ... has it, though? I wonder if things have changed much. ... Or if enough time has even passed for it to change. It's so hard to remember, like bath water slipping past between my fingers." The disco-suit-clad Gear pauses, her masked eyes narrowing into slits. "... bath water?"
And then she finally looks at Ramlethal. No -- /past/ Ramlethal. To the bath. To Bathslosh. Currently having its flailing way with the horrifying cocktail of toxicity that bath has become, splashing about like it was a giggling schoolgirl in an onsen.
Instantly, Jack-O' has her hands at her masked mouth, big green eyes somehow widening with shock.
And instantly, she averts her gaze like a demure maiden. Is she blushing? Over a dog-thing? Bathing?? How is her mask able to blush???
The world may never know, because a second later, those glowing green eyes are blinking. They tilt up. Look square at Ramlethal.
"... Are you...?"
And only a second passes before Jack-O' seeks to march right up to Ramlethal, dragging Dorpos behind her--
-- to try to reach out and pinch Ramlethal's cheeks.
Shh. She's sciencing.
Behind the pair of Valentines - Straightmurder Sharkface and Maskrandom Rainbowdoom - the bath continues to be a stew of a !!!NAKED!!! dog and the equal measure of raw filth. Jack-O' is right to avert her maidenly eyes. Her green, emotive-masked, anime blushing SOMEHOW. With the bright pink hashmarks. Hovering in the air.
It's magic. Gears are magic. And, like the imagination of a child, Jack-O' is EXTRA magic.
Ramlethal is also extra double magic but all her spells are 'kill a man'. It's a very boring spell list, and not fueled by candy at all.
Ramlethal's cheeks are pinched by the halo'ed, ball-and-chained CONVICT PIXIE, and her expression remains entirely flat as her cheeks are stretched, revealing peeks at her sharklike teeth. Her expression is entirely neutral. Her eyes don't move. Jack-O' tugs and stretches.
One muffled word, slurred through taut cheeks, is all she gets.
Dismissively, Ramlethal brings a hand up to bat one of the two hands on her face away, before placing it on Jack-O's shoulder and getting a firm grip. "You are not just a Gear... You are..." Realization dawns on her amber eyes, but unfortunately even as anime as this is, Ramlethal doesn't brighten. She just sort of sighs.
"Like me. You are a Valentine. Where have you been? Do you still have a mission?"
"Did I-No send you?"
Sergeant Straightmurder Sharkface and Lieutenant Maskrandom Rainbowdoom. One's a by the books veteran who's dead inside and full of grit and luciferos. The other's a wild card who refuses to play by the rules and struggles with a crippling addiction to rock candy and quantum uncertainty. They might not get along, or even know each other at all, but one thing's for certain:
They are definitely occupying the same space right now.
For the moment, anyway. The next moment's a whole new ballgame.
Case in point: "Huuuuuuu~uuuh, streamlined design for assault purposes, but there's something different about you, isn't there? You're not what you once were, are you? You're even learning to emoooowagh my hand!" This is the sound of Jack-O' transitioning from intellectual curiosity to high-pitched agony, glowing green tears streaming from what accounts for her eyes at the moment as her hand is subsequently smacked away.
"Gah! Rude!" proclaims Simple Country Command Gear who was just busily pinching a complete stranger's cheeks as she shakes out her hand wildly, her big green maskholes somehow doe-like in their wounded innocence. Some...how. Despite the fact that her remaining hand is just pinching all the harder as if trying to get into some sort of grip-off with Ramlethal. Don't do it, Valentine Hunter Jack-O'! You can't win this fight!!
But the realization comes. And as it does, Jack-O's hand relaxes (just a little bit (like barely at all shut up it's the thought that counts)). She stills. Her head cocks like an owl's.
"Oh wow! You figured it out?? Um. Um um welllllll I mean kind of. I-Noes isn't here, is she?? I was going to find her to find you but then I found you first so now I don't really need her and I think she's still a little mad and oh my gosh it's just not a great situation but I tried to explain to her the extenuating circumstances -- you see, the Backyard is pulling me towards it like the way the moon drags the tides, but I need to familiarize myself with concrete concepts so I don't spiral into a pseudo-false positive existence."
All this, she says.
"So you see, it was unavoidable, what happened."
While still aggressively pinching Ramlethal's cheek.
Her tone, however, has shifted in the midst of this conversation, a transition disorienting in how utterly smooth it is: high-pitched and saccharine melts away into a smooth calm as Jack-O' lifts her free hand to her chin, cupping it in thought. "Mm. Though I don't know if saying I'm like you is appropriate, either. You have your purpose, and I have mine, and that makes us both our own, unique entities. Don't you think? Besides, I like think of myself more like a mother to you a....ah? Mo...ther?" Her masked head tilts v e r y s l o w l y. "Ummmm. Wait. Is that right...? Mother? No -- no... that's not right, no? Yes. No... No! Yes. Yes? Yes! Yes!! YES!"
And suddenly, her hand (graciously) releases Ramlethal, to point at herself. DRAMATICALLY!
"YES THAT'S INCORRECT~!"
"I'd like you to think of me... as your Cool Big Sis! Okay??"
Ramlethal stands strong. It is fortunate that she's still working on emotions like hate, anger, spite, or other things that require an escalating amount of Emotional Investment Points. Currently, she has a total of 2 points, after her adrenaline-pumping encounter with death (and also her run-in with I-No, which was more an encounter with aggressive buttonpressing).
And so she allocates them to the situation, resulting in a 'mild irritation'. Her brow tightens, her prominent cream-white eyebrows scooching closer to each other, never to touch. Her shoulders set. Her neck tenses. All these little things start adding up, as she's talked at. As her cheek is pulled. There's so much to process, so MANY words that flow over her like an energetic vocal hose that it takes long moments of consternation to just process out what's actually being said.
"I was aware of others, but not you. Elphelt was made to understand. I was made to fight. Feelings were not required of a weapon."
Jack-O' makes a big deal of being half-swatted away, even as she continues her intense cheek-tugging acts, and it barely registers. A Valentine wouldn't be so weak as to react that way. It was a show.
A calculated moment to have her enemies lower their guard. Yes, good, Jack-O'. This is wise of you.
"I-No isn't here." Simple. Direct. To the point. Ramlethal still fully committed to Mild Annoyance, and simply can't muster the emotional escalation to get any more mad.
"No, we do not. We had a purpose. It was destroyed. What have you found? Tell me."
'Mother' is repeated. "The sound? The feeling? Backyard..."
Ramlethal's squeezing hand falls back to her side, as her eyes twitch once. "You heard something too. And you are incorrect."
She plants a hand on her chest, her brow releasing some of its stored emotional tension. "I am the First. So I am the big sister. It is acceptable for you to become a little lost while you find your way. I can be your..." Pause. "Stable point?"
It is, frighteningly enough, truer than one might think.
But right now, there's no strategy apparent in her body language or behavior, no sharp edge to her bizarre tumble of words. No, just a sense of curiosity, and something else as she tilts her head up to stare at the taller Valentine a bit more directly.
Something else a bit more clear as Jack-O' lifts a gloved hand to her face and detaches that mask to let it fall away to reveal the Jack-O's features beneath, somehow looking so much older than she sounded just seconds before. A look that seems to melt away the hyperactivity like snow under the sun until all that's left is a serene, sympathetic warmth. Sympathy. Understanding.
"Mm," exhales Jack-O' softly; her hand holding her mask falls to her front, held against her abdomen as she watches Ramlethal. Her brows soften just a bit, as if she were looking at the other Gear in a whole new light. "So you haven't found it, then," she muses, considerately. "The thing that makes you, 'you.'"
She shifts then, taking a step back from Ramlethal to abruptly crouch next to her strange, pumpkiny familiar ever-loyally at her side, which has nothing to do with how it's chained to her like a horrific kidnapping victim. Nonchalantly, she shoves a hand into the thing's mouth, talking as she goes rummaging through poor Dorpos' insides. "What you're talking about wasn't your purpose, you know. It was someone else's, just inflicted on you. Do you know what it means to exist? Like, truly exist? It's something I've been thinking about for a long time, you know. At least, I think I have. It's unclear sometimes. Which memories are real and which are just..." Her brows knot as she fishes. "... smoke, made by my neurons desperately trying to fill the gaps. Phantom memories, anxiously trying to be real. To have meaning. To /be./"
She tilts her head back to look at Ramlethal with a smile, seconds before she just casually -yanks- something free from Dorpos' mouth.
"Well? Do you know?" asks the wise Jack-O'.
Seconds before she plops a lollipop into her mouth.
... that has been residing in god only knows what exists inside that glowing green maw.
And there she might stay, somehow looking graceful and mature despite that act, until something happens. Until Ramlethal says something. Not the big sister thing. That part is just met with a, "Are you? In terms of when these vessels were made, you would be... hm..." before the second part comes.
_I can be your... stable point?_
Jack-O' pauses. Her lollipop hangs out of her mouth as she just sort of... stares at the other Gear, for the longest time. And then something terrible happens.
Her eyes go wide as dinner plates.
And start to /sparkle./
Run, Ramlethal, run--!
"AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW THAT'S SOOOOOOO SWEEEEEEEE~~~~~"
And off leaps Jack-O', with every intention of pouncing upon Ramlethal in the world's biggest hug.
For some reason, she's also menacingly wiggling her fingers in mid-air before the potential collision. Maybe... maybe don't think about that.
The mask comes off. Jack-O' Valentine can do that. Take her Masks off, and simply be herself. That self is a quantum knot of instability and potential states, but it is a self, and between her and the world, a magic metal mask.
Ramlethal doesn't wear a mask. She is the mask, her whole outer being, her shell, her jawbreaker coating around an unobserved core of... something, that everyone seems to have an opinion on.
The people that created her thought it empty, or a small knot of black hate, perfect for a weapon.
I-No had her private thoughts about what truly made Ramlethal tick.
The spectre with his red eyes and pointed teeth and fist of absolute shadow thought there was a worthy opponent within her.
And now, Jack-O' brought forth her own empathy for the filling beneath the layers and layers and layers of her mask, her programming, her mission.
Ramlethal un-allocates her Emotional Points from annoyance, and simply Is.
"These vessels... You will have to explain. Is there something more? I-No said something similar. That I am..."
"I'm different, 'this time'."
A hint of concern, of genuine emotion trembles through her brows, a shudder of breath. "Jack-O', are you... okay? After Justice was destroyed, and she gave her final order, I felt myself lost for a long time. But it wasn't being lost that scared me. It was having choices made for me. It was uncertainty. Are you also uncertain?"
Jack-O' latches onto her Extremely Anime Words. Where did those words come from???
I-No sets Ramlethal's battered black catsuited bottom down in front of a TV in an AirBnB in Japan. She, in an I-No way, tells her to sit there and recover.
Days pass. Ramlethal barely requires food and sleep. The TV awakens within her Certain Things.
BACK IN THE PRESENT:
She's super-hugged, command-grabbed by a mega-glomp. Thankfully, Physics only sketchily applies to her. Instead she very stiffly gives Jack-O' two pats on the back. Just two.
"Yes. It is a big sister's mission to be the stable point for her siblings."
After Justice was destroyed...
For some reason, Jack-O's brow creases just slightly at that. The why of it remains a mystery, as do answers to Ramlethal Valentine's abiding uncertainties. After all:
"J A C K - O' - T T A C K ~ !"
It's time for the #Jack-o'-ttack#.
Also known as a power hug. Potayto, potahto.
But Jack-O' hugs it out with the best of them, which is of course the natural consequence of being a highly volatile candy elemental who flaunts the physical laws that govern mere mortal men with the blithe disregard of the most Anime of Animes. Yes, she infuses all her bubbly love into that embrace, and when she gets the stiffest and most awkward of 'you're okay, fellow' back pats, she lets out a squeal of triumph and hugs -all the harder-, arms as wiggly as snakes as she inflicts herself upon Ramlethal.
"OH YOU HUGGED BACK," no she didn't, "AND SAID SOMETHING ALOOF BUT CARING," highly debatable, "THAT'S SOOOOO COOOOOL~!"
Subjective, but at least Jack-O' thinks so.
"Don't worry, Ramlethal. We are now....... ~ <3 n <3 a <3 k <3 a <3 m <3 a <3 ~."
And that's what matters.
And so, the air with them very literally filling with a suffocating amount of green glowing hearts (anime magic, don't question it), Jack-O' eventually detaches, or potentially is pried off; either way, the Gear ends up with her lollipop plopped in her mouth, two-tone hair flowing around her in a way that stands in such stark, ethereal contrast to the bubbly jubilance that dominates her expression and squeezes her eyes shut. Her halo expands outward as she flips herself on top of it, landing in a simple crouch as she hovers over the grim sluice that the bath water has transmogrified into.
"Soooo. Oh! The other stuff! Right-o! Like, um, okay, I dunnnnnoooooooo if you're really gonna get some of the answers the way you are now or if they'll just go 'shwoop!' and you'll be all like, 'I do not understand. You are a fool. Do not bother me.'!" She even casts her voice at a very Emotionless Girl pitch there before punctuating it with an airy little 'hee hee!' and continuing on her merry way, leeeeaaaaaaaning forward to slowly reach that lollipop out towards Bathslosh with big, wide eyes.
She continues, despite it: "But!! That's just I-Noes' thing, I guess you could say? Like you have your thing, with the stabby stabby woosh kaplowy TOTAL SLAUGHTER OH NOOOO~! And I-Noes has her thing! With the um, tick-tock goes the clock oops there's a paradox~!"
It's all very technical.
"(Also I think she might be a ma~so~chist (but you didn't hear it from me!))" Shhh.
"Anyway, vessels, purpose, programming -- I wouldn't worry about it, okay??" She looks up from what she's doing, to give a cheery grin and a thumbs up. "We Valentines were made for different things, but I'm not like you or Elphelt. My 'uncertainty' is a something that goes beyond physical or existential. I'm very certain of who I am, even when I'm not that person. And sometimes it is an objective truth that everything about me is uncertain, but I'm very certain of that uncertainty. Everything that I am and was and could be is a state of endless fluctuations that feels like a fraying of yarn at the ends of a tacky Christmas sweater. I'm okay, but I'm not okay, but that's okay too. Do you understand?" Her shoulders lift; a soft sigh escapes her lips as her eyes lid. "Honestly, I-No might get upset that I am even talking to you now, and understandably so. But what's important right now is you. That uncertainty of yours is important. I meeeeaaaan, it's super scary right?? But that's totally a-okay! It means you're finding out you're you, and whatever that means! Only you can do it, and that's frightening, but when you do, you'll get all super powerful, and your hair will turn gold and shoot straight up and you'll be like 'HNNNH, THIS ISN'T EVEN MY FINAL FORM, FOOLS!' and kick someone into the SUN!"
A second passes by.
"Orrrrrrrrrrrrr something like that?? Um. Is that real life or something I remember watching once or didn't watch? ... hm..."
Jack-O' and Ramlethal Valentine become closer than family, closer than sisters.
They become Nakama.
There is a deluge of words, and of feelings, and of extremely sketchy non-answers to questions. Jack-O' contradicts herself repeatedly, and Ramlethal, were she a normal anime girl, would be having eyes growing wider and wider and more and more confused.
Ramlethal is no NORMAL anime girl.
"Understood. We are 'nakama'. And you... are confusing."
She pats Jack-O' again. Twice. It's very unwarm. She doesn't smile, but her voice is soft.
"That's what you are, so I will be me for you."
A bond beyond words. A bond beyond bonds.
Truly, there is no connection greater than one's precious nakama.
And so, as she receives the twice-delivered pat once more, with all the emotional weight of a very emotional rock, as Ramlethal declares her confusing, and yet accepts it for her all the same... as Ramlethal says that last, most important thing, Jack-O' Valentine does what comes naturally to her:
She double fingerguns, clucks her tongue twice, and goes,
"'aaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy, you do you, soul sistah~!"
And then winks.
And just assumes that the deeper meaning will of course be implicitly understood.
Because such is the power of nakama.
"Oh and um if I-Noes shows up again I was never here. Or or or it was my twin! Yeah! My evil twin! And I'm dead! And she shouldn't follow me anymore! And tell her I'm definitely not going to Southtown next, that's the last place she should look for me! Okay??"
A truly great power.
Ramlethal nods. "I will tell her that."
Log created on 20:20:01 10/19/2018 by Jack-O', and last modified on 04:29:45 10/20/2018.