Description: Dahlia has gone underground, and Nagase believes she'll be trying to liquidate all of her assets to keep the fledgling Akatsuki afloat. But in the midst of pursuing that lead, the Syndicate kunoichi stumbles across someone with more intimate knowledge of the shadowy crime boss.
Inheritance Arms is a fairly unassuming brick building sitting alongside the Cuyahoga River in Northern Ohio. A simple wood and metal front door, decorated only by a woodcarved sign stating that this place is the home of Inheritance Arms. There are two doors in the back; one is a large bay door for moving larger shipments and one meant for people to enter and exit through.
There is, oddly, very little snow on the ground. The weather was oddly warm for this time of year, and despite falling temperatures does not seen conducive to a white Christmas this year.
There are no guards, noone waiting outside, no real indication that anyone is actually here aside from the smoke rising from a pair of chimneys atop the slanted roof. The place seems like it would welcome visitors, but is perfectly okay if noone showed up anyway.
Knock, knock, knock. The frequency and duration of the knocking suggests femininity and control -- someone looking to make a friendly housecall, not break the door in. And if the owner of Inheritance Arms happens to have a camera outside, the lens would capture the image of a young Japanese woman about 5'3", wearing a puffy winter coat with a muffler hat, leggings of thick, mouse-grey velour, and oversized winter boots. Cradled in the crook of her arm is a clipboard.
And yet, despite dressing for the cold, Nagase's not even -attempting- to hide her identity. The amber-lensed glasses flicker with telemetry and statistics, as she stands on the thinly-blanketed front walk, her boot-prints marking the shinobi's completely un-ninja-like approach. She looks up at the door -- but, given a moment, she'd turn to look directly at the camera.
Because of -course- she knows it's there. How could the tech-ninja -not- know?
The door is answered somewhat promptly; perhaps whoever maintained the storefront wasn't busy. A man with Japanese features, more cute than handsome becomes visible as the door opens. The odd thing about the man is the shock of natural red hair that seems to simultaneously clash with and suit the young man's obvious heritage.
He smiles politely as he opens the door to allow entrance. "Welcome," he says, still politely, "Come in." It *is* still pretty cold out, and the wave of warm air that washes out into the afternoon air is probably even more inviting than the young man seems to be.
After the two enter, the young man closes the door after the Iga ninja enters. He still seems polite, but he also sounds a bit tired. The pair enter a simple waiting room. A desk with a computer sits near a door leading to the back of the building. A couple of confortable chairs sit before a coffee table with some magazines scattered on its surface. A small Keurig sits on another small table, complete with cups, stirring sticks, creamers and sweeteners, and an assortment of drinks. One can hear, somewhat muted thanks to good soundproofing, a rhythmic clanging of metal striking metal. The sounds of impact are consistent in both timing and strength from the sounds of them.
"He won't see you, Nagase-san," Takehiro Glenn says. "He's not seeing anyone. Or are you here to commission a weapon?"
Nagase's eyes cross as the door opens, and a red-haired Japanese person answers. So close, and yet, so far from home...? Lines trace the outline of the figure, cross-referencing the identity of the figure against known databases. The Iga-ryuu ninja's nose wrinkles -- and yet, she doesn't seem altogether concerned that her database is not really turning up anything useful. Because she didn't -expect- to find a match on anyone here.
"Thank you! It's chilly out here."
She steps in gingerly -- though, from the way she hesitates to look around, it seems that the Japanese presence is limited to Takehiro himself. So she keeps her snow-damp boots on as she tromps about the tile floor, her glasses starting to fog up at the warmer interior air.
For a moment, she removes her glasses, allowing her unaided gaze to pass over the computer, the Keurig, and the soundproofed door in turn. And then, taking in the words she's heard, she arches an eyebrow, mouth screwing into a look of confusion.
"'He?' Am I supposed to know who 'he' is?"
Cracking a smile, she shakes her head dismissively. "I mean, hell, I -had- another reason, but damn, you got me curious now!"
Takehiro smiles a bit wider as he speaks; he clearly is not buying what he perceives to be an act on Nagase's part. "You're here to see Zach," he says, poilte but confident, "And we both know that, because you definitely were not here to see me and you clearly have no need for a new weapon that you did not make yourself."
He bows slightly at the waist, not waiting for the gesture to be returned, "Takehiro Glenn," he says by way of introduction. "Welcome to Inheritance Arms."
Takehiro can perceive whatever he likes, of course. But Nagase's pupils are contracting as he matter-of-factly overwrites her stated viewpoint of the situation. Takehiro may be Japanese, but his manner of tone still manages to make her feel about three inches tall -- and with the kunoichi's mood souring and her hands going to her jacket pockets, that might -not- be a good thing.
The retort is nearly instantaneous.
"Zach? Who the fuck is Zach?"
And the -danger- is imminent, if Takehiro were to have insisted on pushing his luck any further.
If it weren't for him volunteering the last name, well.
"-Glenn?-" Her eyes cast to the ceiling. "-Fine-," she insists. "So, since you know everything about why I'm here when even -I- don't know, would you like to tell me what I'm doing here? I'm on a schedule, Tocky." Her irritation lasts a beat, before her expression shifts to quirky amusement. "Tick-tocky. That's your name now: Tick-Tocky Hero."
Takehiro shrugs good naturedly. "Zach's my cousin," he says by way of explaination. The grin fades a bit when Nagase puts the challenge and the nickname to him. He doesn't seem flustered by the odd name; Nagase will do as she pleases to some extent.
"I'm cautious by nature," he says, "But I'm not a mind reader. I recognized you from that King of Fighters match, and I might have jumped to a conclusion." This is delivered in a joking tone, meant to put Nagase at ease without being deliberately insulting.
"But you're on a schedule," he says agreeably. "Perhaps I can help you?"
Tick-Tocky Hero's response appears to placate Nagase, as her closed stance opens up; the hands tucked into her pockets communicate a relaxed ease now, as opposed to the impending threat of moments prior.
"Cousin, huh? I dig the hair! I wanna say you got the better genes, but what do I know?" She flashes a coquettish wink, as she begins to amble around the waiting room.
But -- then the Hero reminds her of the schedule she purportedly placed upon herself. "Look, Tick-Tocky -- maybe we got off on the wrong foot, yeah? Didn't know Zach was here, but... " She spins around, her knuckles resting upon her hips in a pose that communicates clearly, even through the young shinobi's puffy down jacket. "... it'd be a damn -shame- if I were to leave without sayin' hi now, wouldn't it?"
Intimidation? Something like that! "C'mon, we're friends. We go -way- back. Surely he'd make time in his schedule for his good ol' pal -Nagase-, yeah?"
Takehiro folds his arms across his chest. He's already called bullshit on Nagase's display of ignorance-slash-innocence; he's too polite to do so again. He frowns a bit, thinking through some things before turning to regard the back door. He stares at it for a long moment as if trying to reach a conclusion of some kind.
Then he takes a deep breath, as one might before sticking their hand into a fire or ice cold water, before turning to face Nagase again.
"I'll take you to him," he says finally, sticking his hands in his pockets. One hand curls around something, probably a smartphone or a similar device. "But if he tells you to leave, you probably should." Something in his voice suggests he is not going to brook dissent on this point.
Nagase knows that frown. Heck, she -planned- on it. But she also knows -- from the way she was greeted -- that Takehiro knows just as well as she does that there's nothing he can do to stop a translocating ninja from getting what she wants, with permission or otherwise. Which is why she (magnanimously, in her mind) granted him the illusion of a choice in the matter.
"Thanks! You're a real peach, Tick-Tocky. It'll be a quick hello, honest!" She flashes a charming smile back at the young man, stepping closer to him. The clipboard pinched underneath her left arm sags somewhat, but she corrects for it. And -- as she moves to the back door, she bows her head with respect.
"But hey, you don't believe me, do you? I've been visiting -every- arms store, with a very simple request. That's all, I swear!" Hand leaves a pocket, holding the clipboard out to Takehiro. A one-page printout is on top -- showing six different views of a Japanese-style sword, photographed on a reference grid. A museum piece, with insurance-grade documentation. "I'm looking for this sword. Someone stole it from us, and... due to -reasons-, we think they're gonna try to pawn it off for a crazybux payoff."
Nagase grins cheerfully, tilting her head towards the back room. "So he's back here, yeah?"
"That," Takehiro says with an easy grin. "Is something I can actually help you with. We only sell weapons we make here. We do custom jobs, special orders, that kind of thing." Takehiro takes the clipboard and flips through the papers attached before coming back to the pictures again.
He grins that easy grin again and hands it back to Nagase. "The sword of Shakushain," he says, identifying the weapon. He points to the hilt of the sword, "The blade of the weapon is clearly of Japanese make, but the hilt is done up in an Ainu style, with elm bark fiber in the handle." He walks towards the door, placing a palm on it.
"I don't think she'll sell the sword," he says quietly. "It means too much to her." He reaches down for the door knob and opens the door. A wave of hotter air rolls out from behind it as he holds the door open for Nagase.
Nagase frowns. "Yeah, that's... what -most- people who run a weapons shop say, but then they tend to have their own private collection, too, so..." She shrugs her shoulders. "Just sayin', if you -do- come across someone looking t' unload it."
She glances back and forth between Takehiro and the clipboard -- at least, until he name-checks the name Shakushain. One downward dart of her eyes shows her doubt: did she leave it written on the pages, somehow? But then as Takehiro demonstrates the unique features of the weapon, she understands that he knows his stuff when it comes to weapons -- and that turns her lips back to a smile. "Great, so you'd know it if it--"
The true import of Takehiro's words slams into her, a moment before the wave of heat from the forge. Nagase quails considerably, finding herself stepping back and scrabbling for the zipper on her parka. Sweat beads on her forehead, as she peels out of the outerwear; beneath, she wears a simple knitted sweater, and even -that's- probably too warm... Oh well! She leaves her jacket in the waiting room. "Wh-what do you mean? Do you -know- her?"
"I don't really keep weapons, personally. Zach, though, has a small collection of his own making," he says smirking a bit at the pun he just made while he waits for Nagase to shed a few layers. The door, now swinging closed on it own hydraulics, shuts as Takehiro leads Nagase down a hallway. The rhythmic hammer strikes, which had persisted throughout their conversation, continues their steady beat.
"And we've met," he admits. "Zach knew her better than I did. They... went through a lot together." On either side of the hallway are various doors leading to smaller workshops. At the end of the hallway lies the forge room, as evidenced by the growing volume of the hammer and the increasing heat in the air. "She's half Ainu, and that heritage means worlds to her. The sword holds too much significance to her for her to sell it."
As the pair reach the end of the hallway, Nagase can get a better view of the room. Dominating the far wall is the forge set into the base of the wall. Hanging above the furnace, on two pegs, is what was once a claymore if one were to judge from the hilt of the weapon. About seven eights of the blade are missing, however, with the end of it erupting in jagged spikes. Around the rest of the room, on more pegs, rest blades of many types. Swords, daggers, arrowheads, spearheads, a couple of hammers, and a few maces decorate most of the other three walls leaving only room for a smattering of tools.
Working at the anvil is a man. A bit too thin for a healthy build, the light of the forge plays with the ripple of muscles and occassional rib, and hints of scars wrapping around his torso. His hair is a faint reddish hue but a second inspection would reveal that too, is a trick of the light. The hair is white, turned red by the light of the forge. There is a hideous mass of scar tissue on the back of his neck, at the base of his skull.
When Takehiro and Nagase enter the room the hammer, raised for another strike, pauses a moment before lowering to his side. He turns his head to look over his left shoulder so that he can take in the pair, and a faint scar running over that eye is visible. He could clearly stand a shave, the beard and mustache uneven from a lack of tending. He stares at the two for a moment before speaking in a hoarse word.
"No," he says, and resumes his hammer work on a piece of hot steel, a sword possibly. Or maybe a very long knife.
There are times in which one cannot shut Nagase up.
And then, there are times like right now, where the tech-shinobi finds herself at a marked loss for words. Not... only does Takehiro know the Dahlia, but Zach... knows her -well?- That revelation causes Nagase's eyebrows to knit together in consternation. But the revelations that -follow-...? Nagase knows all about Honoka Kawamoto, the circus star who teamed up with Zach at the past two King of Fighters tournaments. And she knows the little starlet is half-Ainu, and proud of it.
But why would -Honoka- take possession of a prized relic? "... Ah, I... I see."
The sound of footfalls -- Nagase's boots, and Takehiro's shoes -- fills the hallway. And no other sounds, as the kunoichi is lost in thought.
And then Nagase enters the forge -- allowing her sight of the impressively-muscled man hard at work. Nagase waves her hand, in a silent greeting --
Only to be cut off by a single word. No.
Nagase bristles for all of about two seconds before trademark sassiness floods back into her expression. Gloved fingertips scratch at the nape of her neck as she answers, chirpily, "Well, a 'howdily-ho fuck off!' to you too, Glenn!" She offers a laugh -- only for it to fade away in the depths of the cavernous chamber, glancing across any multitude of weaponry, machinery and tooling.
"Holy shit, are we mortal enemies now? Is that a thing that happened? Forget about the good ol' days or anythin', let's just cut right to the chase, huh?"
Nagase abruptly turns to Takehiro, leaning over to him with wide eyes and a mock-hushed tone. "Hey, Tick-Tocky. This... this is where I slit your throat in outrage, right? I hate workin' without a script here!"
Blinking melodramatically, she wheels back around to Zach. "Oh, wait, -no!- This is where I say, 'Hi, it's so good to see you, Zach Glenn, my good friend! Seasons greetings! I brought you a fruitcake!'"
She'd try to wrap her arm around Takehiro's shoulder, at that.
She's okay if that doesn't work out.
Takehiro seems to see, know, or sense the reach coming. He takes a long step away from Nagase some time between Zach's refusal and her outrage. "I did warn you he's not seeing anyone," he says to her just loud enough to be heard over the murmur of flames from the furnace. "He tolerates my presence, and only because he doesn't have an acceptable way to get rid of me." Zach continues to strike the metal, pausing occassionally to flip the piece over.
When Nagase starts leaping to extremes, Zach stops, and sets his tools aside. He turns to Nagase, and it should become quickly apparent that he is not exactly taking care of himself these days. His eyes are sunken, almost hollow, from a lack of rest. His ribs are showing just enough to suggest that he is not really eating as well as he should. His hair is an utter mess, given how neatly he had kept it in the past.
"You and I are nothing," Zach says in a hoarse, harshly cracking voice, "We were never friends, never enemies. Just opponents a couple of times." He's about to turn back to his work when Takehiro speaks up.
"Nagase is here about her," he informs Zach. "And the sword of Shakushain." Zach turns flat emerald eyes on his cousin before going back to Nagase. "I don't think she's put things together just yet."
"Give her a moment," Zach says, before reaching for a bottle of a clear substance, taking a long pull. It's difficult to tell what it is; too many smells in this room. Takehiro's wince would suggest that it's not water, though. "She's smart enough."
Nagase -hears- Takehiro, but at least for the moment, her attention is focused on the man who is trying really hard to ignore her. The one she actually has -history- with, of course.
Then her words land home. Her attempt to stoke a conversation bears fruit -- something more than a singular word of denial. It's enough to bring a smile to her face. "H-hey, quit it, you're gonna make me blush, Glenn..." she answers flatly.
The repeated mention of 'her' though draws her attention back to Takehiro. Why is it -her?- Why are the two guys talking about her like she's missing an inside joke? Aren't there -two- parties in play here? Honoka should be the only -her- for someone in a romantic engagement. And the -her- that Nagase is concerned with is...
The realization hits her like a cracked whip.
"-- SSSSON of a -bitch!-"
Her fist slams into her palm.
A moment passes, as she sorts things out for herself. "Okay, so wait." Nagase clears her throat, clasping her hand about a clenched fist. "Help me out here. Scarlet Dahlia's Ainu? Yeah? And that's who you've been talking about, Tick-Tocky, yeah?"
"... You got a thing for Ainu? What am I missin' here?"
"Zach had a thing for only one Ainu woman," Takehiro says, his own eyes locked on Zach. "And all three of us are talking about the same woman."
Zach lets out a low growl, and goes back to abusing that hot piece of metal before snarling and throwing it back into the furnace. Sparks and heat flare up at the point of impact, and Zach stalks out of the forge room. He walks to the door at the end of the hallway, and another door opening and slamming can be heard before the door closes. Takehiro heaves a sigh, and gestures toward the hallway, where the heat is not as oppressive. "Let's talk," he says.
Along the way he scoops the bottle, which still sloshes with a clear liquid, pausing long enough to toss it into a trash can.
She was close. But now with the lines etched so clearly, cognitive dissonance is abandoned to the flames. And with Zach storming out...
"Shit. Sorry, man. I..." Nagase may be rude and impertinent, but she wasn't trying to piss him off. Not -this- time. She lets out a sigh, with both hands curling around her clipboard. It took -that- much for the 'tech genius' shinobi to connect the lines?
"Sure," assents Nagase, allowing Takehiro to lead her into the hallway. Numb, chastened -- but not quite sullen yet.
It's a few moments before she musters the will to speak. She turns to Takehiro, with pained apology in her eyes. "Look, Takehiro. I... I'm just tryin' to do my job here. That's -all-, I swear to you..."
"I believe you," Takehiro says, "I don't think that Zach does, but he's... too close to this situation." Takehiro leads Nagase to one of the side rooms, which is apparently kept cooler in relation to the rest of the rooms in this wing. A small conference room opens up before the pair, with a scythe that looks like it could have been built to suit Nagase dominating one wall. The metal looks... odd, with the highlights and reflections not matching any metal the Iga might readily recognize. There is a projector screen and a small laptop on the meeting table and a number of chairs.
Takehiro offers one of them to Nagase before sitting down in one of his own. "There are... things you should probably know," he says after a moment.
Nagase scratches her cheek as she follows Takehiro, a chastened expression on her face. She keeps her voice low, mindful of the possibility of Zach overhearing -- even over the din of his metalworking machinery. "Well, yeah, I mean, she's terrible enough just -existing-, but having her in the bedroom is -bound- to mess a guy up..."
She's led into a conference room. Which is... weird, since she halfway expected to be tossed back out into the cold.
And the confusion is apparent on her face as a scythe is placed into her hand. Eyes cast down to its scintillating colors, before snapping back up to meet Takehiro's.
"... Hey man, I don't wanna be questioning the gift horse's dental work or anything, but... you're bein' awfully hospitable here, yeah?" She smiles faintly, running fingers across the fine metalwork. "I appreciate it, I'm just... surprised, is all."
Takehiro shrugs slightly. "I don't have a reason not to be just yet," he replies as he watches Nagase examine the scythe.
"The Dahlia," he says, bringing the moment back to matters at hand, "Is now working for a group known as Shadaloo. Has been since some time after Duke turned her thigh into powder." He takes a deep breath; he knows he is about to cross a line here. "One of the first things she did was to sell Zach out to a man, a warlord really, called Vega."
Reluctantly, Nagase sits down -- not wanting to inconvenience her gracious host. She continues examining the scythe, though it's quite clear that she's listening to every word Takehiro has to say. ... Or at least, reading a running transcript on her Battle Disc System's lens display.
"Mm, yeah." She laughs mirthlessly. "It's been made clear to us, yeah." She looks up to Takehiro over the rim of her lenses. "Didn't know about Zach being sold out, just figured... well, that's the M.O. for Shadaloo. 'V1', I think that's what they called him on comms."
She hefts the weapon, gauging its balance. "So this is just... extra or somethin', yeah? It's not bad -- kinda pretty, really! My scanner's going nuts tryin' to figure out the material. But, uh, -geez-, he can make all these sharp slicy things and he doesn't see fit to cut down the forest on his chin? He -must- be in a bad way."
The scythe is balanced on a pair of fingers, eyes crossing as she fixates upon the handle. "... So how'd he get free?"
"That one's actually my work," he says, obvious pride in his voice. "Mythril blade. Zach's still learning steel." Then he sobers a bit. "Yes," he says. "For a time, he was the entity known as V1, one of Vega's enforcers." He heaves a sigh.
"Vega, with Honoka's help, turned Zach into everything he stood against. Zach remembers. *All* of it. He was made to be aware of what he was doing, with no way to stop it from happening. A prisoner in his own mind and body." Takehiro pauses for a moment, taking a centering breath.
"He was betrayed, by someone he loved and trusted, and then..." Takehiro pauses, looking for the right words. "What was done to him," he finally says, "It's akin to rape, but on a mental and spiritual level." He regards Nagase with steady eyes.
"He doesn't talk much about it," he says finally, "He keeps a lot of it inside, where he dwells on it, chews on it. But he told me the name of the one who finally helped him break free of whatever it was that was done to him."
"Oh. Well, " considers Nagase, repeating her assessment of the work on the scythe. "It's great work! I've never even -heard- of mythril before."
But... Nagase then finds herself in unknown territory. Listening -- and providing sympathy -- for someone who has actually been a -victim- of Shadaloo's invasive techniques. She has nothing to really share, there -- just a sullen frown, and nods whenever most appropriate. Zach might not like the Iga-ryuu ninja or her employer, but it's a one-way dislike -- the kunoichi really doesn't wish ill upon him in any way.
When she hears the name, though, she offers a hopeful smile.
"Hayabusa's good people, yeah. He saved my bacon on more than one occasion."
Nagase rises back to her feet. As much as she might normally like to learn more, she feels... unprepared. Out of her element. "So, hey. I should probably get goin'." The scythe flips around, so that the blade is pointed away from Takehiro -- and she holds it out for him to take. "Thanks for letting me check this out! Pretty sure I won't be able to claim it as a carry-on, though! And, well. I don't think I have -anything- that matches."
Takehiro takes the scythe back, setting it on the display pegs again. "It's... not easy to come by," he admits. "It was a special project." He walks Nagase to the door, holding it open for the young woman.
He is silent for a moment, before offering something up. "Zach's been like that with pretty much everyone since Hayabusa brought him back," he says with a slight frown. "Please don't take it too personally."
Nagase starts for the door, and almost makes it through if not for Takehiro's last attempt to salvage the kunoichi's feelings. Which -- really, she'd already zeroed out to a neutral state, more or less.
"Listen, I just came in to drop some info 'cause I couldn't reach you on social media. I came -ready- to piss someone off, and..." She shrugs helplessly. "Just sign up on GoDaddy or somethin', get yourselves a website. Get angry at Yelpers leaving bad reviews. Help him -move on-, rather'n unloading his sad story on anyone who'll listen. Anythin's better than moping in the fire drinkin' to death with cheap hooch."
Nagase moves to slug Takehiro in the shoulder. Which is to say, ninja reflexes will -not- let him dodge this one.
"You're good people too, Takehiro. I mean that."
"I've been trying. He's not ready to take the help. I'll be honest, I was kind of hoping he'd take a swing at you. It would have been -something- at least," he says, rocking slightly with the slug, "But we're both stubborn like that." There is metal and bedrock in that statement, mixed in with a certain relentless optimism.
"Have a safe trip," he says. And then he closes the door about half a second after Nagase clears it.
Log created on 12:42:32 12/17/2018 by Nagase, and last modified on 11:01:48 12/21/2018.