Description: The stash of Golden Angel is an unusual prize to say the least. In the aftermath of the successful tournament, the stock of the rare substance was assumed destroyed. The obvious trail of where it could lay? The Golden Angel Waterpark. The mysterious Aurora has arrived at the waterpark, trying to find any clues on the Golden Angel spray. But her investigation is disrupted by Maria. Maria's, or rather, MARIA's motivations are more aesthetically pleasing, as she is after the true nature of hostess of the KOG. And what would she do to the Spangle performance of King of Fighters? Destroy it, and the fundamental core of hollowness that runs through it's artless execution. The two may be able to work together, if they can tolerate their own eccentricities!
SOUTHTOWN, THE PLACE WHERE THINGS START
The Golden Angel Waterpark is of course still in business. The place even sees a lot of traffic, thanks to the Japanese love of going to places when there are perfectly good actual beaches relatively nearby. To be fair to the average Ken and Karen, of course, this place has better amenities, and air conditioning.
Even so, it's Monday and it isn't a national holiday. Traffic is light.
Which is why...
MARIA, aka Maria Satake, is here.
Maria Satake used a secret power to get into the office space of the Waterpark. That secret power is that she is actually from a wealthy family, and as such if she frowns and wears little glasses and an expensive power suit (in the sense of a fancy suit - not... the other kind), she can often emit a level of wealth radiation, however feigned, that will subdue the unwary.
And it is just this trick that has gotten her into the office spaces. Sitting 'behind the scenes', this area has no bright and cheerfully colorful splotches, just a bunch of pipes and tubes and humming utilities equipment. Maria herself is sitting in the large space, half storage and half desk/office space, tapping away on the computer. This open zone has a range of shrink-wrapped pallets of equipment - premiums, gift shop supplies, extras for the snack bar, mysterious tanks of enigmatic fluidized substances, spare beach umbrellas, inexplicable large inflated frogs - and is exactly one unlocked double door away from the actual waterpark.
Maria is already sweating through her blouse. "Who laid out this file structure...? Ugh! I'm probably looking at directories set up by that horrible woman herself!" Her back is turned towards the aforementioned double doors.
Waterparks are fun. Who doesn't like waterparks? Literally no one, that's who. Which is why the Golden Angel Waterpark has managed to stay in business despite it's rather scandalous grand opening. Or maybe because of it. The creation of the 'golden angel' substance that led to this entire massive operation caused quite a stir, not least because of it's rather... unique properties.
None of that is relevant to the park's newest visitor, however. Perhaps one of the only people in the world who has been to a major city and not experienced a water park at least once in her life, Aurora's arrival at the grandiose and almost disturbingly ostentatious Golden Angel resort involves a great deal of gawking. Almost every square inch of the interior sparkles from the layers of glittering gold paint that coats the place - the walls, the ceiling, the floor, the doors. It's like someone dunked the entire place in an unimaginably huge vat of molten gold.
For someone like Aurora, who is a rather big fan of all things that sparkle and glitter, she looks like she's stepped into the streets of Heaven rather than the gaudy left-overs of NESTS' bizarre machinations. After managing to recover her wits and shake the glitter out of her eyes, the young woman sets off into the park like a child let loose in a toy store. Every store is rummaged, every food cart visited, every overblown attraction given far too much attention.
Everywhere she goes the young fighter draws attention, if not through her bizarre enthusiasm then by way of her risque outfit. More than once she gets mistaken for a performer by other visitors and ends up posing for pictures, more than happy to spread her cheerfulness for posterity. However, her parade around the waterpark comes to a sudden halt as a large man wearing a gaudy golden suit grabs her by the arm suddenly, yanking her aside. Aurora stares up at the figure, his eyes hidden behind a pair of oversized sunglasses covered with spangle and golden glitter.
"There you are! I've been looking all over for you! You're the new girl right? Geez, whoever gave you that uniform is a complete moron. It's not even gold!"
Aurora blinks at him for a moment, her mouth half-stuffed with a hotdog then glances down at her body suit, mumbling around her snack."Oh? Ish... ish it shuposed to bhe?"
The man slaps his forehead and lets out a dramatic sigh. "/Obviously/. This is the /Golden/ Angel park, after all. I mean, just look around! Everything here is gold. Now, hurry up and go change. I think there's some spare outfits in the back."
Placing his hands on her shoulders, the man whirls her around and gives the confused girl a shove towards a pair of large double doors. A bright golden "EMPLOYEES ONLY" sign hangs overhead. She stumbles a few steps then starts to jog on her own. Obviously there's something important going on! She wouldn't want to miss the chance to help out!
Aurora shoulders the door open with a quick nudge, stuffing the other half of her hotdog into her face as she does so. The doors open onto a space that is almost the stark opposite of the main park. Everything is dull and dark, slate grey concrete walls and exposed iron pipes making up the majority of it. She hesistates for a moment, almost feeling like some of the excitement in the atmosphere has been siphoned away, like she just stepped into a dark spooky forest or something. Ah, it's probably just her imagination.
Munching away like a squirrel with full cheeks, she wanders down the long hallway for a hundred feet or so until it opens up onto a larger room. Thrumming machinery joins the array of dull boring shapes that line the walls and several crates create a sort of winding maze in the center. Aurora squints, looking around for something that might be a changing room or a box of costumes. A faint glow catches her eyes near the back of the room, illumination cast by a small lamp or eletronic device. A voice drifts out from behind the clutter and the girl keys in on that, peering her head around the stacks of sealed merchandise.
"Hey! Anyone there? I was told to come back here for the Golden Angel costume stuff!"
Someone comes in through the door.
Maria looks up.
She swivels around. The fashion glasses she has on in order to make her disguise have extra social-pressure mean-schoolteacher points glint in the dim light as the woman approaches. She sits upright, sternly so. She reaches up and adjusts her glasses by the bridge of them.
A question is asked.
"No," Maria answers, before turning around and resuming industriously clicking.
Aurora will find, as she approaches, a wide range of those mysterious cylinders labelled GOLDEN ANGEL - UNIFORM APPLIQUE. They are shrink-wrapped together. Slightly dusty. One of them has what looks like a kiss print on it. That seems wholesome and honest.
On top of one of those boxes is a gym bag which contains a portable hard drive and a small plush Hoedown Dillo that has had a knife jabbed into its head. (Is that a real knife? It has to be like, a gag, right? Dillo Hate?)
Maria clicks. Drags. Click click. Drags.
"... Dammit," Maria curses. Then she gets up with a click of her heel, whirsl round, marches towards her bag --
"I told you there isn't anyone here," Maria says as she reaches into her bag to collect the portable hard drive. "Don't you believe me?"
Aurora blinks at the woman, her expression reminiscent of a confused owl as she cocks her head to the side, still peering from behind the stacks of crates. Several seconds pass in silence, the young fighter apparently taken completely off-guard by the sarcastic reply and unsure how to proceed with this particular meeting.
Fortunately, the stern looking woman takes the initiative and her question manages to reboot her unexpected visitor's brain. Aurora blinks again then steps into the open, one hand going up to rub the back of her head curiously.
"Um... nope? I mean, you're here talking to me and every other time someone's done that they've been... you know... there."
The pink-haired girl makes her way down the lane, pausing as she spots the stacked bottles of Golden Angel. Her senses seem to key in on the kiss print and she pauses to peer at it, giving the annoyed woman a chance to get a better look at her in profile. She definitely seems to fit right in with the rest of the 'wholesome' content of this place, her skin-tight red and black outfit riddled with heart-shaped holes at strategic points such as her cleavage and the base of her spine. A little pink heart is tattooed onto her cheek and several more of them can be found attached to her uniform in various places. She looks like some kind of wonky combination between a stripper and a magical girl. Probably a cosplayer.
"They said there was some spare uniforms back here but all I see are boxes. Do you know where - oooo hey, whatcha doing?"
Aurora's voice raises an octave in enthusiasm as she discovers the source of the glow - a computer. She peers at it curiously, leaning on the desk like a playful puppy attempting to read whatever information might be present on the screen at the moment. She really likes computers, even though she hasn't had a lot of experience with them. All of her fight money goes to bus tickets and food, usually.
The answer was, perhaps, sarcastic in intent, but the delivery was totally sincere. This is a woman who has studied an art far more arcane and unusual than those of battle:
She has studied... THEATER arts.
"That's an interesting preposition," Maria says, adjusting her glasses. "Do the lights seem low in here to you...?" Then she turns her head for a moment, pursing her lips as she says, folding her arms, before --
Aurora moves on.
"Nothing!" Maria snaps. "-- What is that outfit you're wearing, anyway. This place is preposterous. I don't think wearing things like that is appropriate for children unless you're some kind of costume character, and even then, we merely move the blame from - I mean it, don't look at that screen!"
The screen is receipts. Scanned in receipts.
Receipts that are... at this point, mostly for liquor, but receipts nonetheless.
Despite her objections, the girl still sneaks a look at the screen. However, upon realizing that there aren't any interesting pictures, only a bunch of numbers that she can't make any sense of, she quickly loses interest and pushes away from the desk. Her attention instead turns to her choice of attire which seems to be under attack.
Aurora looks down at herself, unsure what part of her wardrobe might be considered inappropriate. She's had people say things like that before and in usually the same accusatory tone but none of them ever bothered to explain themselves. Besides, lots of people like her outfit! She gets compliments about it all the time and people always want to take pictures of her.
"Huh? What's wrong with my outfit? I think it's really cute! See, there's hearts all over it!"
The girl bounces happily over to stand in the light put off by the computer screen so Maria can get a proper look at her suit. The thing practically clings to her like a second skin, emphasizing all sorts of things that /definitely/ aren't child friendly. Yet, the young fighter seems proud of this, either oblivious to the concept of sex appeal or too air-headed to care. She grins broadly, flashing a smile that's far too adorable for someone her age.
"My name's Aurora, by the way! How come you're way back here in the dark? This seems like kind of a creepy place to hang out. It's way more colorful outside."
"You are dressed like that... person that keeps appearing on the front page of Fighters World," Maria says. She looks at Aurora again, not for the first time. Her lips purse for a moment, then grow thinner yet.
"... I might as well tell you, as you seem to be in no condition to remember or perhaps even comprehend," Maria says, with a sigh.
"You've heard of the King of Fighters? It's very colorful," she says, putting a hand on her hip, "and it will no doubt be on television. Well, it's being sponsored by this horrible American woman, yes? Lightning Spangles. Perhaps you've seen her program." Maria seems unthrilled at this very mention.
She raises a hand to touch her blouse at heart level. "I," she says, "am many things... but an artist of fighting is the greatest among them. This woman, Lightning Spangles - Jezebel - she is... I don't know how to put it concisely. She is the death of art. It is like the old story in the American books, about the Anti-Life Equation. Have you ever heard of that? That is her."
"And yet," she says, "though dead, she organizes King of Fighters. It is a mystery, and one which I intend to get to the bottom of!" Maria's hand comes down to pap! into her fist, after which she reaches over. "In order to obtain this information, I have to investigate... and the trail leads here. This is potentially quite something, my little heart-shaped box. Is there a Hell, from which only the least worthy can escape? Was her death a fraud? Does she serve some greater master? Will art itself die, beaten into a wet slurry and then fried into novelty corn-chip shapes to be sold at a profit, sacrificed on the smouldering altar of Moloch!??"
Her portable hard drive almost falls to the ground. Maria stops monologuing to grabble for it. Aurora may be able to grab it instead, and at least now nothing's in the way of the mystery COSTUME CANISTERS.
Surprisingly, the young woman proves to be a good listener. There is an obvious energy about Maria as she explains her reasons for lurking in the dark corner of the store room, something that her interloper seems to key in on. She stares attentively, nodding her head every so often in agreement or acknowledgement with a sort of child-like doe-eyed look as if this is all incredibly fascinating information - that or she's completely lost and just humoring the woman.
When Maria's anger overwhelms her briefly at the end of her spiel and hard drive slips from her grasp there is a flash of pink as the girl darts forward, her hand practically blurring as snatches the fragile electronic out of the air before it's had the chance to tumble even a couple of inches towards the floor.
"Wow, that person sounds pretty bad," she says, the cheerfulness in her voice failing to convey any hint of concern as she eyes the hard drive. "I mean, the anti-life equation is some sort of mind control thingy right? Loneliness, alienation, fear, despair, and self-worth divided by mockery, condemnation, misunderstanding, guilt, shame, failure, and judgement, where hope equals folly, love equals lies, life equals death, and self equals darkness. That anti-life equation?"
The pink-haired girl rubs the back of her neck for a moment thoughtfully then shrugs, grinning again.
"Sounds pretty silly to me! I mean, no body could be all those things at once, right?"
Aurora holds the small black electronic drive back out to Maria, no longer interested in it.
"Well, I don't know about all that philosophical stuff... but I do know about the King of Fighters tournament! In fact, I'm a member! Me and this guy Danny teamed up and decided to join in! We're both pretty new at this whole fighting thing but I'm sure it's going to be a lot of fun! Also what does novelty corn-chip art taste like? Sounds yummy!"
Maria's brow knit slightly.
"I see you're no greenhorn when it comes to the work of Jack Kirby," Maria says, taking the proffered drive, tentatively. "And don't underestimate the human capacity for relentless self-negation. Even the wisest can fall into that pit, and it is very difficult to depart."
Then, her expression softens slightly, or at least moves as if she is now addressing a peer. It also takes some of the arch-teacher snap out of her voice. "Is that so? ... So am I, though I don't know if I've heard of your friend Danny. You can call me - actually, I suppose I am being a weensy bit illegal here, so let's say that you'll recognize me..."
She taps her nose, "If you look closely."
What does that mean?? (The narrator would explain MARIA's costuming and disguise skills if anyone asked him. Nobody does.)
"I would encourage you, though," she says, "to step with caution. I have no fear - art is worth more than my own life. But you are younger than me, and you have a lot to live for... and this is already a King of Fighters with one corpse involved."
Probably that's Lightning Spangles...
Aurora tilts her head, looking slightly confused. "Jack who?"
Sometimes, random bits of information seem to come to her aid when the right questions are asked. She isn't quite sure what precisely triggers it but apparently something about this life equation thing prompted a response. Of course, this information dump is of little use without any context and what she says in regards to it can be a little weird but it usually proves useful somehow. In this case, it made the angry lady more friendly!
The young fighter seems to take that as an invitation and does precisely that, leaning in uncomfortably close as if trying to spot something that might make Maria stand out. After a few seconds of a rather intense intrusion into the woman's personal space, she shakes her head and shrugs.
"Nope, still don't know you."
Aurora's eyes widen at the mention of corpses, however.
"Corpses are involved?! Wait, how does that work?" She gasps, suddenly filled with enthusiasm. "Is it a zombie?! I've never seen a zombie before! Do they really turn other people into zombies and eat brains? Is this one animated by an evil necromancer or is it more of a virus thing? Man, I hope it isn't one of those zombies that run really fast, those things are freaky!"
"... Don't worry about it," Maria says, as she walks her hard drive over to the computer and attaches it. She moves around the mouse even as Aurora leans inwards, close enough to tell exactly which brand of Shiseido hair care products Maria uses, what brand of makeup, and the fact that she had some miso soup for breakfast. Her eyes to the side.
Aurora pulls back.
"It's more likely, I am sorry to say, that it is someone using the dead Ms. Spangles' identity for malicious purposes, or at least, promotional ones... do you have a particular zombie movie you like? I have a few minutes here before it finishes."
On the screen: Sending ALL to E:/ .......
Aurora blinks at that question, peering off into the distance for a couple of seconds.
"I've never actually seen one. Always wanted to. Sometimes I stop to watch TV in the subway stations but those are usually just playing local news shows. Knowing about the weather is super helpful but it's not very interesting."
The girl peers down at the computer screen again, curious about what Maria is doing. Unfortunately, it's still just a bunch of technical stuff. Boooring. Instead, she turns around and goes to inspect the wrapped up packages of Golden Angel again.
"Hey, you think is the extra costume that guy was talking about? It's pretty weird that they'd put clothes in little bottles."
Another flash of pink parts the dim light as she darts the tip of two fingers at the plastic, punching a hole in the packaging with a sharp jab. One of the bottles is removed - sparkling gold in color, naturally - and she fiddles with it, eventually finding a small label on the back.
"Apply to bare skin to experience the ultimate in modern clothing technology. Woah. Hey, you think I should try it?"
"... What? Oh, god," Maria says before trailing off to mutter to herself in Japanese, as if she'd just put something together, but she does not clarify.
Data keeps transferring.
"... I don't know who 'that guy' is," Maria says, turning her head. "That looks like a spray can. Something you'd find in - wait, it says to spray that onto your bare skin? That seems... foolish. What other instructions does it have?"
Maria shifts herself so that her body is between herself in the computer, and pushes the glasses further up her nose, as if to grimly await something.
"I suppose I should have asked. Do you work here?"
Aurora turns to offer a sheepish smile in response, chuckling softly to herself.
"Eh heh heh... nah. Some guy in a golden suit just sorta grabbed me as I was passing by. He seemed really convinced that I was someone he knew, which is weird since I've never met him before. Then he told me to come find a spare uniform because mine isn't gold and pushed me into some doors and then I walked down a long hallway and spotted your computer lights and here I am!"
She turns her attention back to the spray can, tearing the top off with a quick twist. One of her long yellow gloves is peeled off with her teeth and she holds her bare hand up in front of her, depressing the nozzle without any signs of hesitation. A thick spray of wet golden mist fills the air with a hiss and a layer of moisture starts to build up on the surface of her skin. Slowly, it starts to change color and flow like liquid, rippling up her arm as if it were alive.
"Hey, that's kind of stra-eek!"
The apparently sentient goo crawls all the way up to her shoulder and then dives underneath the surface of her top. Aurora drops the can, squirming back and forth as she pats wildly at the surface of her chest, giggling like mad.
"Wha-ahaha, hey, no that's, ahaha, stop it that tickles!"
Distracted by the strange phenomenon, neither women hear the approach of the gold-suited man as he rounds the corner of the stacked boxes. One look at the giggling Aurora is all he needs to jump to conclusions, letting out an aggravated sigh as he stomps his way over to her side.
"Damnit, girl! I told you to be quick! We don't have time for you to be fooling around back here!"
He grabs the teenager by the arm even as she continues to squirm around then turns to glare at Maria from behind his oversized golden sunglasses, jabbing a finger in her direction.
"And you. I'm guessing you're one of the new secretaries. This place is a mess, make sure you properly run the inventory this time! Heads will roll if any more of our product goes 'missing' and winds up on the black market, you hear me?!"
He gives her a long glower that's probably meant to be intimidating but against the backdrop of his sparkly golden suit it just makes him look like a cartoon character. Satisfied that he's made his point, the manager marches back the way he came with Aurora in tow.
"Hey...wh-ahaha-what about the costume!"
"No more time, you're on in 2 minutes! We'll figure something out!"
Log created on 19:58:01 06/03/2019 by Aurora, and last modified on 16:14:15 06/04/2019.