Description: In the blighted landscape that is Metro City Park, the scars of the Majigen Incident remain. Two children of Metro, Brandon Malone and Clio St. Jeanne, meet in that blasted place. Where magic has burned, two schooled in the arcane seek answers for causes and for cures.
Metro City park was barren. Even after all this time after the Majigen incident, it was still scarred by the damage done when it was forcibly pulled into Makai. While it was officially closed, beings would still make their way into it. Well humans and darkstalkers, if they were particularly brave or stupid. Other creatures tended to give the location wide berth.
At the moment, the park is deserted, with the exception of a man clad in a white trench coat, white fedora with a black band, white slacks, and mildly scuffed white dress shoes as he wanders around the park gathering small samples of dirt as well as sending pulses of energy out towards the various plant life.
With a sigh, he walks from rotting tree to rotting tree occasionally taking small pieces to put in small plastic bags. He doesn't look exactly happy.
The King of Fighters is over for Clio St. Jeanne. It ended at the hands of a ghost. But a ghost she took down. But now the world was blown for her, she was on the run again now that Captain Hazama had seen her. Worse, Noel had seen her. She could only hope her old friend still thought well of her.
But those thoughts are far from Clio. She's come back home to Metro. In her pocket, the weight of Morrigan's offering to her. She has her hood up, the ear cups resewn after fight damage. And she has her Kaka Clan styled mask on as well to help obscure herself further. She's in the park, her chains rattling with her steps in a click-clack time. She's here to observe the damage to the park, a place she had been told to remain from in her time with the local NOL branch.
The scarring to the place, and the infusing of Makai's energy had left things off, but also left them interesting. Not the least of interesting things being the man in the out-of-place clothing for picking at dirt and rot. He had something about him, and a strong essence on him. The curious young woman narrows her eyes, hums to herself, and begins to skulk along, taking to the rotten tree boughs with a light step to get a good vantage point on this man in Hazama's preferred hat.
As he moves around, gathering samples and pulsing various locations with his energy he can't help but feel as though he was being watched. As he collects a small twig from what used to a bush, he rises back to his feet, bags it, tags it and turns around to glance at the Kaka Clan clothing clad woman. From what he can tell, she doesn't seem to have ill-intent but not everyone is obvious about it.
The man figured that more than likely, the person would make their intentions known when their presence was acknowledged. He steps closer, not wanting to project aggression but rather to get a better idea of who he was dealing with and as he gets closer, he recognizes the clothing from another King of Fighters competitor even if they didn't compete in the same year.
"Didn't expect anyone else to be here."
The purple, the large design over her chest, and the larger still chain wrapped crossways around her body are all pretty good signs of a unique sense of dress. The mask, if anything, is just all the more obvious. But there she is, watching, and then sitting to let her feet dangle and kick in the air. Her head tilts as she thinks and focuses and tries to work out the information she already has put in front of her.
Unlike Brandon, Clio hasn't had much interest in the KoF tournament. She was not historically a competitor, but a soldier. At least, the Golden Angel Tournament notwithstanding. But that was a thing in her past, her swimsuited and body painted past.
"What'cha doing down there?" she asks, likely giving up much of the Kaka Clan ghost in her speaking. Unless there is an offshoot of the clan that happens to have Metro City accents.
She lets the weight of her chain dangle and sway like a pendulum as she leans forward and looks down. "No one really expects anyone to be waltzing around like this in this place. Not anymore. But you don't look like a normal guy doing soil samples." She leaves the question unsaid, happy to let him fill in dots for himself.
With the woman that has an interesting fashion sense content to remain up high, and showing no intent other than satisfying curiosity while he in particular wasn't doing anything here that required secrecy beyond not parading around calling himself a mage. Granted, America was no longer doing witch burnings but he probably didn't want to announce it on a bullhorn or something.
"While occupation-wise I'm a private investigator, this is more of a pet project."
He glances out towards the desolate park where plantlife refuses to grow and where only human and darkstalker would willingly tread. He then returns his attention back to the former soldier.
"Given your accent, I'm sure you're familiar with how plants and as a result animal life fails to thrive here so long after the incident. It seemed as though, it was abnormally long considering the weather patterns in Metro City, let alone New York state. Something else is at play. Didn't really have a chance to do my own research into it since I still had some cases to deal with."
Witch hunts were still happening. Clio St. Jeanne knows that. She did not earn the title of Lieutenant in an organization dedicated to policing the arcane without hunting a few witches. She can appreciate the need for secrecy; she is the one wearing the Kaka Clan mask in the situation.
"Interesting hobbies," she deadpans, idly coiling the hanging length of her chain about her ankle and just as slowly letting it unwind itself. She doesn't follow his eyeline when he glances away, just keeps the mask focused on the man.
"Yeah," she admits to the reality of the park. It doesn't make her happy that it's all still in this place. It shouldn't be the way it is. "This's all cause of the incident," she states the obvious, "But, what sorts of stuff you think you're gonna find out picking through weeds and dirt?"
Keeping questions simple, obvious, and wholly wrong in Clio's eyes. Her mother is a biologist, Clio knows that what's happened here is tied up in the Boundary, as magic is, and just what happens when things get exposed for too long. She knows what magic can do because it's a power she's strongly attuned to.
And this is where the detective has to tread carefully. Sometimes, it is isn't what you say but how you say it that communicates what he needs to say. If it's the right type of person, they'll get it. If it isn't, he at least will have plausible deniability to at least somewhat protect him. Especially in an age where people wielding energy is at least common enough that he can say it's chi rather than magic.
He says,"My thinking is that either the process of causing the incident or the incident itself bombarded the area with a certain type of energy." There's something about the way he says energy that there's a bit of a deeper meaning.
"What I'm collecting are samples to see what type of energy had caused it. Perhaps, if enough people or a powerful enough individual with enough with the right type of energy put it into this area with the intent of fixing the location, it might be able to jumpstart the location's ability to heal."
Chi energy is not an unknown factor. Fighters use it day in and day out. Their spectacular talents take the energy of the world and channel it to feats rarely seen outside of willful combat.
It's rarer though that people know of what makes magic so much more potentially insidious. Clio is one, most of the NOL knows, and the world is waking up to the reality post Majigen and the construction of Jedah's spire in South town. They know, but they don't understand.
Clio's eyes shut behind her mask. Unlike a proper Kaka Clan mask, her's doesn't showcase her thoughts in quite the same was a Taokaka's does. It just has the toothy grin and red eyes permanently plastered on it. But she considers, and she's never been shy about what she is. Plus, to her, this could be helping someone getting in over their head.
She kicks her feet and looks around at the blight and collects her own suspicions. "You think someone could block the flow of chi from this place?" she asks. "To keep the leylines from flowing where they need to, so that this may return to what it was?"
Brandon has an intimate insight into what makes magic dangerous. Direct usage was often capable of harming himself as much as anyone he used it upon and often he had to use it indirectly by channeling it through his cards to minimize the potential damage to himself.
"That's a possibility. Another possibility might be doing the exact opposite if the problem is the leylines are clogged and preventing energy flow from coming in and fix by clearing the clog then redirecting more energy into here. The possibility that I entertained was that the problem was that the area had been tainted and would need an influx of energy to strip the taint away and possibly more to sort of feed the area nutrients."
He gives his current conversation companion a shrug. At his heart he was a bit of a geek when it came to magic and enjoyed spitballing ideas with other people. It was after how he came to be mentored by Trish aka. 'L. Horne.'
Magic often burned away the life of practitioners. Taste of power that comes from bolstering chi with the energy of the Boundary was strong, but it would consume. Clio often wondered about her own connection to it, and the ease with which the hermetics spoke to her and brought that power to the fore. But that was just one curiosity of many. Right now she had a park to talk about.
"Are you saying you want to roto-rooter the flow of chi?" Clio asks, amused by the mental image of a clogged pipeline being blasted by chi. She laughs to herself, just slightly muffled by the mask. If only she believed he was right.
She falls back, leaning and leaning until she slips off the branch with her chain's counter wait to grip and arrest her fall. There, she corrects and lands with the softest touch of her boot. The chain itself unwinds and seems to coil under its own volition around the woman's left arm, wrapping like a snake. Along its links, sigils and arcane maths burn with a dim violet light.
"I just hope you're right and I'm not," she admits, giving the ground a small kick with the spikes on her boot.
Brandon would have responded to the roto-rooter comment but then she tilts backwards into a fall before using her chain to control her descent and eventually landing softly. It isn't until after her ground kick that he actually has room to respond.
"I lean more towards the tainted earth possibility than the roto-rooter possibility but I am open to your possibility as well. Without more research, it would be hard for me to say with certainty. It's why I'm collecting the samples. That and the fact that it would have a connection to the location from which the sample was obtained."
His eyes move towards the chain and it is in that moment that he gets confirmation that she is a fellow practitioner. He reaches for his pouch on his belt and pulls a deck of tarot cards and shuffles it, as he puts small pulses of his energy into the cards. His lips form a slight smile.
"Interesting chain you have there."
Ars Magica, the bread and butter of the NOL Magical Infantry Division. Weaponry that tap into the arcane to supply free flowing chi power to those that might otherwise lack it. Swords, spears, truncheons, axes and more are all inscribed and imbued with charges of arcane might so that the NOL can fight on even footing with the things that exist in the dark.
What Clio St. Jeanne wields, however, is not Ars Magica. Nor is it a grimoire or the fabled might of Nox Nyctores. During her time in the NOL Military Academy, and in her service, most were told she was no different from any other soldier. The truth was, the chain that coils up her left arm and sits clasped at the oversize collar hanging loosely around her neck is just a big chain. The etchings, the Hermetic maths, those are just conduits for the power Clio can draw around her. A channel for the arcane.
"Thanks," Clio says, "I made it myself." Not entirely true, the chain she took from the shipping yards at the harbor. She didn't have a manufactory to hand. But she hoped this guy would realize that part of the matter.
She clinks the chain when the tarot comes out. She smiles behind her mask, amused at the choices made. So many differing styles out there. She has questions, curiosities. She cannot dig into it though, as this revelation, the truth that this guy might be looking deeper, changes the stakes.
"How much do you know, about what it is that you do?" she asks. Her tone, which up to this point had been fairly light and self amused, suddenly shows the soldier and NOL officer that she had been.
His assumption would be that the chain was made and then she linked her energy to it. The musculature and hands lacked any sign of smithing and while fabrication might be a possibility it would be hard to get a hold of a workspace which might require connections he couldn't see her having based on the clothing that she wore. Appearances could be deceiving but either way, the important part of what made the chain fascinating was more than likely hers.
As for the question, it something that it might require a bit of clarification. A different response would be required based on what she means by 'what it is that you do.'
"Do you mean this," he asks as he holds up the deck of tarot cards before sliding them into his leather pouch. "Or this?" He then gestures towards the Makai scarred area.
Free hand in her hoodie's pocket, the other clinking the chain against itself, the masked Clio listens to Brandon's questions. She shakes her head, a short gesture, before explaining, "Both".
She digs at the ground with a boot spike. "Those two things are more related than not," she starts to explain. She crouches and with the plumb of her chain she begins to scratch symbols into the dirt. "Are you familiar with the term Seithr?" she asks, her masked face lifting to look at Brandon. "I need to know what you do before I start explaining some of my thoughts."
Both? While fair, it didn't give him a direction in how to answer that question. Thankfully, she elaborates which then gives the opening to answering the question in one direction or the other but which in turn will eventually to lead to answering in the other.
The topic is more than merely familiar. It was a concept that was drilled into him by first his uncle and then elaborated upon by his mentor figure.
"Seithr is life energy laced with energy from another realm. It's one of the things that makes what we do different from someone who uses chi. In high concentration, it's harmful to mind, body, and soul. However with /careful/, /responsible/ utilization, an incredibly useful tool I'd prefer to be used for the benefit of mankind."
He pauses to look at his masked conversation companion in the eye. "Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way."
An accurate assessment. That was good, it keeps things from being too teach-y. Clio smiles behind her mask. Knowing that she isn't going to dance around subjects makes things much easier.
Standing back up, she stretches and yawns, feeling the day getting to her before she settles to an easy stand slightly on the back of her bootheels. "Look around you," she says, "This is the kind of thing that happens when it's not used the right way." She pauses, then shakes her head. "No, that's not fair. This was all someone that knew what they were doing, they just didn't care what it did to people."
The bright red eyes of her mask look back at Brandon. "Most people see it that way," she says, "When you get down to it." She shrugs. Her chains clink. "Just cause you think you're careful or responsible doesn't mean you are. Shit. The most careful and responsible people I know do the worst with it."
He's quiet as he listens to her response. As far as he's concerned, he's heard enough from her to know that she at least knows a little about what she's talking about. As she continues, he finds it hard to disagree with her on most of the details. It /is/ what happens when it's not used correctly. It /is/ what happens when someone using this stuff doesn't care what happens to people. And yes just because you think you're careful and responsible doesn't mean he you actually are.
"And that's why it's important that reality checks are important. One often needs someone to call them on their stuff because they may be too close to matter at hand, or it's too personal, or even if they have a lot of knowledge on a matter, there might just be a tiny little blind spot that they have that causes a critical mistake. It could even be a matter of pride that keeps them from seeing what they're doing wrong."
He looks her in the eye once more before turning back to the ruined park.
"I admit to not knowing everything. I admit that this may even be too much for me. I just can't let myself look at this without seeing if there is something I can do. And if there is nothing I can do or if the only thing I can do would cause more harm than good, then I would be okay with backing off."
There is something terribly refreshing about this man. His lack of cynicism is almost pleasant for Clio. She may think him correct, maybe a little naive, but he seems like a good boy. Even if he is most certainly older than she is. She would just argue she lived a little harder than most, that was all. So she walks, pacing a few steps, from one side of the man, around toward the other. "Whoever beat the responsibility into you really did their job, didn't they?" she asks, laughing a little bit.
"Ain't a bad thing," Clio adds quickly. "Keeps people like the NOL off your ass." She pauses there, to look and listen and gauge the reaction from Brandon. She wants to know his feelings toward the international self appointed magic cops of the world.
It'd be a surprising amount naivety coming from him especially when one considers his past. Life on the street as a runaway, making money on the street as a fight hall brawler. As a result he had to become a good judge of character and do so quickly. Upon becoming a detective and starting his business made it all the more important that his ability to judge character was good. So far in this conversation, Clio hasn't said or done anything to make him suspicious of her or her intention.
"Occasionally getting it beaten into me. More often, it was watching it get beaten into others or seeing what happened when it /wasn't/."
When she mentions NOL he frowns. He's had no personal run ins with the NOL beyond the minimal interaction he had during his banshee case. He has seen how top brass interacted during their fights in the King of Fighters which in the end left him with a level of distrust for them if they were the ones in the upper echelons of the organization.
"True. Never had any run-ins with them. I'd rather keep it that way."
The wheel of Fate turns for everyone. A child taken to Metro City as a baby. Raised with the ideas of heroes and knights in shining armor. Raised to fight for what was right and just. A child seeking that out, picking fights in the dead of night with stray gangsters. Mostly cold and wet, bloodied, bruised, the child not being chastised for her night time activities, but sent off to a military academy that did everything to encourage her.
Clio St. Jeanne flourished and loved what the NOL did for her. She would come to learn their lies and aims. And that sometimes kindness and favors are not the marks of what's just and right.
Now Clio pulls her hood down, she slips the Kaka Clan mask up to rest atop of her muss of short black hair. She looks half-lidded, sleepy and self-amused as she keeps pacing about Brandon. Always moving, always making the steady rhythm with her chain. "I don't think any of this is accidental, not in a real accident way. Or in anyway that the guy's that did this are gonna apologize or nothing," she says, chain-free arm swinging about the park. "But with what's happened here? Just what happens when people don't give a fuck. It's burnt up, got too close to the Boundary and all that was good got burned away."
"I'd allow for an unintended side effect but it definitely wasn't 'accidental.'" It sounded like he was contradicting himself but he was hoping to get across a more subtle meaning. "This area was intentionally drawn into Makai for a tournament called the Unholy Genesis, headed by Jedah Dohma. I'm pretty sure that this whole scorched earth thing, even if it wasn't planned for, wasn't exactly unwelcome for him."
While Clio continues to pace, Brandon sets out to collect more samples. Rotted bark here, dead bush twig there, an occasional sample of dirt. At this point, he has slipped several bags of assorted collected items into his trenchcoat pocket. Probably enough samples to test and see what he can find out.
"I should probably get going to see what I can learn from these samples."
Using sleight of hand one of the minor arcana cards seems to just appear in his hand before a pale yellow glow is emitted from it. Not much power is coming from it. Only a small enough amount to pull a minor cantrip. He then proceeds to scrape the card across both hands, up and down both of the sleeves of the trench coat. He then flicks the card towards ground sending the dirt back to its point of origin. With a flourish, the card vanishes from his hand. That must be how he manages to save money on his dry cleaning bills.
Clio closes her eyes. She turns from Brandon, keeping away from him. "I know the situation with Jedah Dohma," she says, having difficulty biting back the bitterness. A situation, the organization she was part of wasn't fully active. She was learning, training, and she missed her own backyard being torn asunder. It burned. One more thing she quietly blamed upon the NOL.
She pulls the Kaka clan mask down over her face again, and once more flips up the eared hood. It doesn't take much for her to wiggle the sleeves down and make her copycat outfit look close enough to fit the bill. "If you find anything, let me know. Leave a message here, or at the harbor," she says. "There's a mechanic's place, big dude named Abigail runs it. I crash there sometimes."
She steps a small distance away from Brandon, watching him, observing his practice and the coloration therein. "If you're looking to bring this place back, I'm in for helping you. And I've got a few friends."
"Abigail? I'm familiar with him."
He looks down to give trench coat and hands a final once-over before moving towards the Kaka Clan clothing clad(try saying that five times fast) woman before performing one more sleight of hand trick to make a business card appear in his hand which he then hands to Clio.
"That is my investigation agency info if you need to contact me. I'm sometimes out of town on cases, so email or phone is usually the best way to reach me. I don't think I'll need to leave Metro City for the time being though."
With that he readies himself to take the walk to the subway and eventually make his way to his detective agency. Filled with hope that he can do something about the condition of the park and the fact that he has a new ally to assist with that endeavor, there might be a little extra bounce to his step.
Log created on 10:59:54 12/26/2019 by Clio, and last modified on 00:23:53 12/29/2019.