Description: From beyond the pale, a new challenger arrives within Metro City. From what timeline does he hail? What impact will this forgotten hero have upon the world he has found himself in? Will he find the answers he seeks?
The Wheel of Fate is turning.
In another set of circumstances. In another time. In another age. A young officer from the NOL stands in a blighted park. Her uniform is pristine, her heavy chain rests crossways over her torso. She's investigating a Seithr blighted park. In some cases, it's Metro City. In other cases, it's one of the Hierarchical Cities. On some other cases, it's not her at all.
But here, in this turn, it's a young woman in a hooded sweatshirt, wearing a copy of a Kaka Clan mask. She has a circle around her. She has circles everywhere. Some in the dirt. Some carved into the remaining bits of tree. Some etched into the pavement and stone of pathways. Some made of metal refuse found around. Some of the circles are less serious than others. Symbols and designs of a less than accurate sympathy.
Clio St. Jeanne, working in the center of her current circle, focuses on the writhing dark potential that is the power held within her hands. Called up seithr, coiled in the weak chi of the area. Wrapped up and folded to create the core of arcane ephemera at her command.
She studies it. She studies the core and the flickering of chi coating it. The health of the arcane here. A gaping wound barely scarred over. It's a problem too large for her at this junction. She knows magic, she has an intrinsic understanding of it. But this, this is too large for her to handle on her own. But the more she's here, in her hometown, the more she feels the connection to the type of chi that flows through the city. And that much closer to understand the remnant blight.
In another time, in another place. At once and always never before. Each thing is connected to another, and all things exist as one. Yet there are so very few in the world who can see it. Overlapping realities all playing out in sink, creating infinite branches of possibility.
Giving the illusion of choice.
The first sign that something is amiss comes in the prickling of small hairs, a warning of a sudden spike of energy in the immediate area.
The second is the blast of wind that swirls through the park, dirt and bits of withered plant matter swept up into a miniature cyclone confined to the space within 50 feet of where Clio is standing.
The third is the blurry silhouette of a tall humanoid that begins to take shape not 20 feet in front of her. Starting out as a vague smear of white and crimson in the rough outline of a person, as the energy builds and the wind howls it begins to solidify into something much more recognizable. Shadows form along the white exterior before separating into distinct patches of black cloth-like material. The white smears harden into armored plates. Crimson blotches clarify into a series of baleful eyes without lids or pupils. In no time at all, what had been an indistinct blur has resolved itself into the towering form of Hakumen, leader of the Legendary Six Heroes.
The dying wind rustles his long silver hair as the hero tilts his horned head to one side, faceless gaze focused on a spot above and to the left of Clio herself. At the same moment, the crimson eyes studded across his armor shift and scan in all directions, taking in his desiccated surroundings like the searchlights of some beastly craft. Though the wind has calmed itself, the energy in the air has only grown more sharp-edged with the figure's arrival, his very presence oppressive in its intensity.
"Huh." Hakumen grunts, harsh voice emerging in an electronic murmur pitched too low to be an address to the girl not far off. "It appears that I have once more been freed from my imprisonment within the Boundary. Or perhaps this is another illusion? But no. This place, it is real. Is it possible I have been returned to the same world in which I fought The Cat? This damage...Hmm."
The words escape in a flow of consciousness that the armored figure seems completely unaware of, crimson eyes scanning his surroundings for some time before he seems to register the presence of Clio. Once he has, however, every eye spread across the front of his armor pivots to focus upon her, faceless helmet turning to pin her with its eyeless gaze.
"Ah." he states in a slightly louder tone, clawed hands remaining at his sides and oversized sword sheathed on his back. "It is clear that I have been returned to this place. Tell me, student of The Cat, is the Black Beast responsible for this devastation?"
The dark seithr writhes and dances within the indigo flame. A deep violet color, it burns with passion and anger. Clio doesn't understand it in the moment, but the reactions to the shifting within reality are beginning to mount. She's still focused on the seithr when her hackles raise. Behind her mask, her eyes narrow and she glances behind her. Waiting, wondering if this is where the NOL has decided to take action against her.
But there is nothing there. And then there is wind. And when she looks forward again, she can see the apparition. Shades, color, and finally form. A face she knows. A face she's seen before. A face she's fought before. And one she's fought not long ago.
Clio dispells her casting. A sharp wave of her hands and the energy she had built around her dissipates. Getting to her feet, her chain slithers and tightens. The links coiling toward her arm as the etched sigils shine with angry light.
While wary, she remembers how highly Jubei spoke of him. Hakumen. Hero and slayer of the Black Beast. So she holds. Though she doesn't hold without arming herself.
Student of The Cat. So it seems the ghost remembers her. Her mask tilts along with her head. "Even without seeing me, you know, huh? That obvious?" she quips. She knows the way she looks right now.
"This?" she looks around the blighted park. But she shakes her head. "Not exactly. But I can't rule out that whatever that Beast is can't capitalize on this. And if you're suddenly popping up here, I really, really can't rule that out."
Perhaps the universe has a sense of humor after all, for the one entrant in the King of Fighters tournament to be recognized for the only thing he doesn't have. Well, besides common manners, of course. But if whether or not the universe has a sense of humor, Hakumen clearly does not. There is no sign of amusement at Clio's weak attempt at a joke, not a single flicker of an eye or shift in posture. If it weren't for the slight flutter of cloth and hair teased by the faintest hint of breeze, there would be no motion from the forgotten warrior what so ever. Only a deathly stillness. A consideration of the weight of fate as the swordsman feels it pressing in around him.
Eventually, however, the hero shifts, clawed fingers flexing at his sides and horned head tilting slightly in thought as he works his own way through the problem.
"While it is true that my fate is intrinsically linked with that of the Black Beast," Hakumen responds, blunt words coming harsh and electronic while he studies the cat-masked girl before him, "the creature he will become is one of instinct. Entire nations will be left in ruins, and in their panic, the fools who cling to power will turn their super weapons upon it, spreading further devastation to no effect."
The utter contempt Hakumen feels for those who would take such an action bleeds through in every syllable, the rough edges of his tone hovering somewhere between disgust and rage. His left hand curls into a tight fist at his side even while his right lifts, 3 clawed fingers coming slowly to rest on the hilt of the sword that pokes up from behind his head. His tone is less enraged as he continues, still harsh, still stoic, but focused and direct.
"If I am to prevent such senseless devastation, I must find him before the transformation has taken place. With one death, I can divert the course of history. If he did not exist in this world, surely I could not. The power of Order attracts us."
Taking a single step toward Clio, the towering figure angles his horned head in the opposite direction, as if his faceless countenance were judging her from another angle. His eyes, however, remain fixed. An unblinking sea of crimson that bares down upon her even as the air crackles with the legend's presence, every sense seeming amplified, every sensation sharp-edged and uncomfortable.
"I do not yet know why that has brought me here. Perhaps it is your link to The Cat. The One-Eyed Twin Lotus sees much, and yet is blind to the faults of those he is closest to."
Clio doesn't joke for anyone's sake but her own. A defensive mechanism to quell the nerves inside of her. Her mask doesn't allow the look on her face to be known, and he posture is half slouched and eased despite the heavy chain around her.
The Hermetic math on her chain sparks with life. Defensive in the face of the man approaching her. Her head turns slightly. She listens. She's always been a good listener. His anger is obvious. That's for sure. And he's obsessive. Also fairly obvious. "That's real dramatic and all," she says, starting a slow and rhythmic clinking of her chains. "But I don't know who you're talking about. The Black Beast is dead, isn't it? You, Jubei, Nine, others, you all did something to kill it."
She rolls the spike end of her kusari-fundo in her right hand. Where her fingertips touch, they spark with arcane power. "Are you included in that group? Cause I talked a lot with him. And you two, you were close."
Advancing another two strides toward Clio, armored feet crunching heavily through the withered vegetation and long claws leaving distinctive pricks is the earth beneath, Hakumen lets out a quiet huff from within his helmet. The sound is at once dismissive and impatient, matched by the intent way the hero remains shifted forward on his front foot even as he stops his slow forward progress, as if the urge to shatter a path forward through this conversational obstacle were building within him.
"Your world is yet untouched by the ravages of the beast." Hakumen points out with blunt impatience. "I am, unsure of whether this means those with memories of the event have been displaced in time, or if your world is one parallel to our own. As my physical body now dwells primarily within the boundary, my existence is such that either could be the case. But for The Cat to be here?"
Tone having lost much of the annoyed edge, the forgotten warrior seems to consider the implications for a moment, lost in some internal logic that he is unable or unwilling to share with the young X soldier. Soon, however, the full weight of his attention returns to the moment and he is once more focused fully upon her, tone softer, but firmly dismissive.
"It matters not. If the power of Order has drawn me to this place, then there must too be the potential for a Black Beast. All things exist in a state of perpetual balance, and this is no exception."
Only once that matter has been put to rest with Hakumen's typical forceful finality, does his helmeted head dip, hand lowering from the hilt of his sword. Words much quieter, addressed at least as much to himself as to Clio, he considers her secondary point.
"For what purpose am I here? Could it be a shared link to The Cat as I have suspected?"
There is a beat of silence, the swordsman once more standing very still, lost in a drift of his own thoughts. With every inward turn of his mind the surrounding area seems to calm, the force of his will retreating, his very presence wavering. It is an odd sensation to witness the fluctuating spirit of such a being, see as he once more returns to himself, attention falling upon her yet again.
"Very well." He states, tone once more forcefully direct and at a more respectable volume. "You wish to know of my relationship to The Cat. When first we met he was little older than a child, an unproven warrior forced to witness the death and sacrifice of much of what he loved. I witnessed his growth into the being you know today upon the fields of many battles, and saw the scars these events left upon his soul. He is one of few left with the strength of purpose to do what must be done."
Nail-tipped boots scrap on the ground. Clio lightly kicks the dead earth beneath her feet. A slight, steady, impatient sound. She's face Hakumen before. Specter or not, she knows enough about what she is, and she's not unfamiliar with a good pain.
"Cat's here. His wife's here. Probably more," Clio confirms. "And there's a lot of stuff that's gone on here, and in Genoa, and is starting over in Japan. Coupled to the Illyria Leyline rising and going dim. I mean. Not to rain on your drama, but there's a lot of unbalancing going on."
She drums her fingers along her chain, clinking them together. They fall into an offbeat time with her tapping. "But, how did you meet him as a child. You just said yourself you just got here. And he was saying how at one point you already stopped this Beast. We all just don't know it."
The restless shifting, flippant attitude, and pointless questions. All of those aspects that are Clio St. Jeanne, break upon the expressionless mask of Hakumen, provoking an electronic scoff of savage dismissal. Perhaps the forgotten hero is friends with Jubei, but the two share almost nothing between them in terms of patience or personality.
"There is little point in continuing this conversation if you have no intent to listen." Hakumen responds, not even a sliver of softness creeping through the electronic edge of his voice. "If the Black Beast were already slain, fate would not have brought me to this place. I know not if those who have memories of it were displaced through time, or if this world exists in parallel to ours. Nor have I discerned the method in which those less resistant to the effects of the Boundary could have made such a journey. If you wish the answers to those questions you must seek out one who exists outside of the flow of time."
Straightening himself from the aggressively forward posture he had been holding up to now, the legendary hero finally glances away from the girl before him, faceless mask turning as if to gaze off through the trees. The majority of the eyes scattered across his suit do likewise, spreading his attention across the blighted park while one or two keep careful watch over the mouthy X officer.
"For one who has trained with The Cat, your understanding of Order is greatly lacking. Though it is not a power available to him, he should know of the balance it maintains. To look upon the world and see only disasters is to be blind to the truth of what you see. For every force there exists somewhere an equal force to oppose it. If this were not the case, a much greater portion of this world would already be in flames."
A self important dolt of a spirit. Clio stops clinking her chains. The masked face turns one way, then another. Then she thinks. And then she realizes.
This idiot is just like some of the command within the NOL.
That's where she's seen his brand. That's where she's seen his kind of behavior. It makes her smile behind her mask. "I've listened. You just don't know how to talk," she says. "You haven't told me a damn thing about anything. Just that you knew Jubei. Congratulations. But if you haven't noticed, it all breaks causality the way you describe it. If you don't know, or can't explain, how all of this actually works, just admit it."
She starts to draw a circle in the air. Finger touches make little iridescent sparks that hold certain shape. "You meet him when he is young. You train to destroy Black Beast. You destroy Black Beast. And yet, you claim to be dragged here to prevent the coming of the Black Beast. Which, by all accounts, you already did but none of us remember. Is this a cyclical event that also denies most people memory? If it is, then why are you so puzzled? If it isn't, then through what mechanic do you know any of this!"
Clio has a hanging litany of symbols and arcane math hanging in the air, written in Seithr wrapped in chi.
"And that's a lot of words to just say 'Someone else's problem'. If you're not here to help, you can just go tromp off and swing your sword somewhere else."
Of all the people in this strange and twisted world Clio could have accused of being unhelpful, she chooses Hakumen. Never before has such an accusation been so incredibly right, and yet still so horribly wrong.
Tilting his helmeted head forward, the forgotten swordsman allows the young woman her words, fully half of his crimson eyes swinging back toward her, the oppressive press of his presence still very much in evidence. And yet, if she is expecting some sort of attack or outrage from the figure, it does not come.
"I have given you the answers you sought." Hakumen replies with blunt dismissiveness, "I care little if you choose to listen. Those who train beneath The Cat often share your lack of ability to do so."
This being said, the once legend takes the girl's final advice and turns away from her, long hair trailing behind in a flutter of silver. Stepping away from the conversation, he begins to stride deeper into the heart of the blighted park, making his way toward a thicket of desiccated black trees.
"I do not know what part these events will play," the swordsman murmurs even as the distance between them grows, seeming once more to be talking more to himself than Clio, "but the touch of fate lies heavily upon them. Could this Ninth Sage be she who was thought dead, or is this yet another illusion? I will seek her out, and there, perhaps, I will find answers."
Log created on 12:35:31 01/22/2020 by Clio, and last modified on 16:19:40 01/26/2020.