Description: Amid the crisis in Southtown, a hero meets a villain in a place of peace. But what rumblings are there in the distance, and is the blind man fated to see more than the sighted?
A city afire. Monsters on the streets and in the high-rises. Not a war, but a matter of survival. In the daytime, life continues however. And at times, things are even still and quiet. It's here, in a warm spring afternoon, that a strange stillness hangs over a street sequestered in the aftermath of an attack. The quietude is only broken by the distant airy echoes of traffic. Standing on the side of the overpass, looking over a distant street where an NOL checkpoint stands, is the man known as Whitney Saulder.
A cigarette held in an overhand fashion, Whitney leans on the railing, looking through the safety cage and watching the work of the NOL. He smokes, and stares with half-lidded eyes. A sleepy consideration of the state of Southtown and the situation that has dragged itself into the world. Near his scuffed, old dress shoes lay a battered dufflebag. Whatever contents lay inside give the bag a lumpy, misshapen form. Every few moments, Whitney's foot shifts to scrape on the ground and tap the bag to ensure its presence.
The warm light of the sun filters down through a haze of smoke to give the entire scene a grey, washed out cast; and The distant sound of traffic marks a majority of cars fleeing the city in fear of a second Majigen incident. Off in the distance, the NOL relay orders and prepare, getting a read on where the activity is worst. But up here, above it all, a moment of peace can be found.
A subtle hum of energy vibrates the air, accompanied by a dim wash of blue light from just a few meters behind the smoking criminal. From out of that light can be heard the slow, measured steps of an approaching figure, stepping neatly out of the street before he gets splattered by an oncoming car.
"I would avoid staring for too long." the new comer advises, voice pleasantly relaxed, "They are more suspicious of strangers."
Stepping up to the rail a couple of arms lengths to Whitney's left, the newcomer reveals himself to be a wandering swordsman of some kind. A couple inches shorter and a few pounds lighter than the smoker, he has that rangy look of someone trained to be both fast and strong, with shaggy black hair flecked with grey and a short but ragged black beard. There is a well traveled crimson blindfold tied across his eyes, matching the long sleeveless coat he wears over a loose gi that might at one point have been white. He holds his sheathed katana in his left hand, propping it lightly against the railing as he leans his weight upon it, one sandaled foot coming forward to brace against an upright bar.
He looks, tired. His already ragged coat is marred here and there with long ragged slashes, the crimson fabric dark with fresh stains. Recently cleaned, but not well enough to erase the evidence of fresh bloodshed.
A noise. No matter. Whitney Saulder continues to smoke. A long drag, a slow release, and a tired eyed look out to the distant movings of a city in crisis. His suit rumpled, loose on his frame, meant to disguise and obscure the figure of the person inside. Carefully constructed and forward facing dishevelment, at odds with the depths of ennui the man himself genuinely feels. Even as he watches the things most on his mind.
"Doesn't appear you have a great choice in the matter," Whitney says, off-hand voice dripping with a resonant honey tone. He flicks the ash off the end of his cigarette to the street below.
Another long drag. A hold. An exhale. Whitney Saulder doesn't give the man more than a quick look, side-eyed and sleepy. He parks the end of his cigarette in the corner of his lips and reaches into his blazer. A pack procured, the offer is made. "Smoke?"
While he waits, Whitney Saulder explicates. "If they want to be suspicious of me, and waste resources, then what happens for their lack of focus is their fault."
"No thanks. I do not like the smell." Kenshi declines, waving the offered cigarettes away with a short tilt of his free hand. Chin dropping down toward his chest, he listens to the hub and bustle of the city at war, relaxing against the rail and seeming to contemplate the situation he has found himself in.
"Is it the fault of the merchant that his goods are stolen while he deals with a customer, or does that burden rest on the thief? And what if the customer is actually his partner?" A slight twitch of Kenshi's lips follows the mild musings, callused hand turning over to lightly grip the sun-warmed metal.
"I do not often find myself to be the merchant in these stories. Once, perhaps, I was the thief. Now I am little more than a concerned citizen. It is in my nature to aid troubled merchants when I am able. But Where do you fit in this drama of ours?"
The cigarette disappears with a flick of the wrist and the packet is pocketed in a single motion. Once more, leaning with both forearms on the railing, he watches the goings on of the NOL. Watching them play at control, to work toward assertion, to capitalize on the chaos.
"And what if the merchant is in on it with the customer, the pair conspiring to gain from insurance on poor stock while the third party thief is patsy to take the fall?" Whitney asks, "Or perhaps the police and society is entirely complacent in focusing on the material matters rather than the context of the act? What if hypotheticals are meaningless lies meant more to comfort our ideologies than observe the realities of our world?"
He flicks aside ash before pinching off the end of the cigarette and sticking it behind his ear for later. "My position? Actuary," Whitney explains, "And other tasks as needed per my contract." He tugs at his wrist, rounds his shoulders, loses a good deal of the lackadaisical manufactured dishevelment. A blind man does not need to be deceived through simple posture and dress. And unnecessary put-upons is not something Whitney trucks in.
One dark brow rises slightly at Whitney's blunt response, the swordsman's lips remaining quirked up into an almost smile as he gazes blindly down over the edge of the overpass. Pointer and middle finger lifting from the railing, he taps it twice, then nods once, slowly.
"Society will only judge that which they allow themselves to see, and in that, I am not as blind as one would think. This world is not a kind place, and many individually would have no power to change it. I do not blame the mother for wanting someone to protect her child, and to live within a cage is safe. Those of us who would offer protection without bars are not so numerous."
Whatever smile had been playing around Kenshi's lips has gone now, the aging warrior contemplating the world beyond his blindfold without shift in posture or stance. The ragged nature of his appearance is no act, the exhausted slant of his shoulders not affected.
"The reality of this world is one ruled by Elder Gods that care only for order and self preservation, and the few beings beneath them that strive to insure we do not destroy ourselves. Fights for the fate of all people that only rarely spill over into the public eye, and attacks like these, that hurt them much more than it will I. I do not wish to fight you, Whitney Saulder, but I am only one man. And in this game of numbers, if removing you from here will allow the NOL to save more lives, then you know what I must do. But your fate, as always, is in your own hands."
Whitney stares off, unconcerned, uncaring. He holds nothing within in. He is not a deceptive murderer. He is, emotionally, a yawning void. And this moment is no different. He simply watches, and he simply is.
His eyes move, almost the only part of him that does so. He is languid, and amused. "If you consider the NOL anything more than profiteers off the back of a petulant mercenary's self destructive tendencies, you misread the situation." His hand making a slow gesture to the checkpoint.
"Or are you just another tired ideologue? Wrapped up in your self-importance and determined to believe your actions are the arbiter of some immeasurable fate? You don't need eyes to see the board in front of you." Whitney looks down at a fingernail and picks a bit of blackened dirt out to flick away. "My employer is wholly concerned with stability."
The single, quiet sound holds a measure of understanding, and two more of regret. A deep, world-weary emotion that matches the ragged look of the traveler.
"We all have our part to play, in both fate and metaphor. It is my hope that your employer wishes to maintain stability rather than upset it, and that you will consider the consequences of your actions. The NOL here have worked alongside me. Hopefully me being here has helped to, as you have said, keep them focused."
Pushing up from the railing, Kenshi lifts his sheathed sword from where it was resting and brings his free hand up to scratch fingertips through his beard, corners of his mouth twitching down as he makes to turn away from Whitney and pace off along the rail.
Whitney Saulder is a murderer. That is clear. But today he is not murdering. Tomorrow he might. The more days into the future one goes, the more the chance grows closer to one-hundred. But whether that is fate, or whether that is the conscious decisions of a man, is up for debate for those that focus on such things. Whitney Saulder is not a man who choses to focus on those things.
But he is a man that needs to consider game theory, and what it means to the near future. It is, after all, what he paid to do beyond rigging said games in the favor of his employer. But despite his intention to ultimately gain from his actions, he nevertheless believes in what he says when he nods out to the checkpoint.
"More than anyone, this situation stands to benefit the NOL more than any other player," Whitney admits his findings. "You should consider that when you're deciding where you stand." He lifts his head, rolling his neck, and looking at the old swordsman. "Because your elder gods will not be immune to their chains in the end."
Slowing to a halt some 15 meters away from the larger man, Kenshi lowers his free hand to trail fingers lightly over the warm, weathered metal. Head tilting back, he draws in a long, deep breath through his nose, upper body expanding and contracting with the exhale.
"Many of the NOL are simply men who wish to protect those around them. Perhaps more of them are that than you would assume. Men who are willing to lay down their lives to protect a city besieged by monsters. You have said that at their heart they are the pawn of a mad mercenary? I do not think so. In my heart I feel they are a much larger threat than that, but for the moment, as dark as the core may be, it is putting defenders where they are most needed."
Muscular shoulders lift in a relaxed shrug, Kenshi raising his sheathed sword overhead, hilt toward the sky.
"If your employer were a vast power protecting the city, I would be working alongside their men instead. It is the fate of the Gods to have their power challenged. It would not be the first time we were forced to defend it."
With that, several motes of cool blue light flow forth from the upheld sword, swirling around the swordsman with a low, air thrumming hum. Closing in upon him, they pour into his body, forming a perfect, glowing representation of him standing there, sword held high, before bursting apart to reveal the wandering sage to be gone.
Whitney Saulder watches the world around him, keeping tabs on the wandering swordsman with the corner of his eye. A righteous man was a dangerous one. A righteous fatalist even more so. A zealot, thought Saulder. But the matter of so-called gods is one to pass on through to Kolin and above her to Gill. A matter of concern for when things come to a head.
Whitney turns his head to answer, and sees only motes of light. A shake of his head and Whitney draws his cigarette from behind his ear. A flick of a lighter and the soothing smoke curls up once more.
There would always be heroes lining up to put a stop to those shaking up the nature of society. All there was to do was find the way to profit.
Log created on 12:36:46 04/08/2020 by Whitney, and last modified on 20:46:30 04/11/2020.