Description: Southtown has been deeply damaged in the wake of the Black Dragon's schemes. But slowly, surely, the town is recovering. And the middle of ensuring smooth rebuilding of his turf, a Yakuza boss encounters an unlikely new drinking buddy.
Southtown is devastated.
Sure, it might take much more to end a city like this, but between the chaos unfolded by the Black Dragon herself and the internal strife within Southtown's underworld that took hold under the shadow of it all, the town's gained a great deal of scars to show.
Cars burnt out, storefronts ruined, windows shattered, pavement broken apart. At least by now there's not much in the way of bodies left visibly on the streets anymore. People are starting to brave the outside again. Southtown might still not be a pretty sight...
But the city *is* starting to heal.
"As if we didn't have enough problems getting shit running again already."
A man in a gaudy, dark-blue dress shirt with striped patterns, with over-stylized blonde hair spits the words out, along with a glob of spittle sent down onto the curb while he walks along the street along with two other men. "Bad enough we have 'ta do restructuring. Ain't anyone gonna be having anythin' for us to collect, eh?"
"Sure," the man walking besides him, following a third, offers. This one bearing a shaved head, wearing shades and a much classier grey suit. "But complaining about it isn't going to magically make things any better, is it?"
"Hey, you're the weird un' here, bein' all calm and shit. Things ain't ever been like this 'fore!"
"After you oathed up, you mean."
"Hey don't ya pull seniori--"
"Cut it out, you two. You're making a scene."
The two stop with the words from the man they're following. Black suit pants and blazer jacket, over a maroon, partially-unbuttoned dress shirt. The japanese man doesn't even look back to his compatriots, instead surveying the streets where he stands. Watching the people of Southtown moving about, trying to clean up messes -- trying to repair what's been broken, get stores lining the streets back into some presentable condition. It's going to be a slow process, for sure.
"Start making the rounds, check on the businesses that were paying protection money before," he instructs the other two. "Check what they need, and offer it to them. If we have boys to spare, send some to help with labor in the worst places.
"Letting them know continued business is still in their interest?"
"Guess you can look it like that. But we need to give them what they actually paid for, is what I'm thinking. Just get going, get it done. ...And watch the language, Saito. We're not here to run extortion schemes."
The man with the overstyled hair huffs, but he doesn't seem interested in protesting. "What're ya gonna do, boss?"
"Mmm. My own part for my hometown, I guess."
Nothing else needs to be said. Katashi Tairyu's lieutenants might seem a bit dubious about the notion of letting him go off on his own for what ostensibly seems like is going to be grunt work, but they move off on their own orders without complaint.
And so, Tairyu makes the beeline for the nearest wrecked storefront. A convenience store, with all of it's windows blown out, and a supporting beam of wood knocked down from above the main doorway.
"Oooooi, Hanekawa-san," he calls in through the door, peeking over the diagonally-leaning length of debris towards the middle-aged man sweeping the floor inside. "The insurance from that time before give you enough money to help with the damages here, or you need more?" He asks, even as he wraps his arms underneath the obstructing piece to hoist it up.
The sound of his name being called causes the hunched over figure to straighten in surprise, turning to regard his unexpected visitor with a curious look. As always, Hanekawa seems to be a little overdressed for the occasion, sporting a crisp tie and freshly-pressed dress shirt that is at odds with the casual nature of his job. The heavy industrial broom that he clutches in his hands only further clashes with the relaxed businessman look. Lifting a finger to adjust the pair of thin wire-frame glasses sitting on his hawkish nose, the store owner responds to the gangster with a welcoming nod.
Setting the broom aside, the man picks up a rag and wipes his hands clean before wandering over to the front of the store to properly greet the yakuza. Offering up a friendly smile, Hanekawa gives him a more formal incline of his head as Tairyu wrestles with the fallen beam. The thick piece of wood proves to be disinclined to cooperate with his attempts to shift it aside, much to the man's amusement.
"Don't bother," he says, chuckling softly. "I already tried to get it clear this morning. Heavier than it looks and I think it's jammed up in the ceiling. Might bring the roof down on you if you're unlucky."
Hanekawa crosses his arms and sighs, glancing at the offending piece of debris with a shrug. It is but one of the many issues that will have to be resolved in the aftermath of the past couple of weeks. That he even has a store left to fix at all still amazes him. Naturally, most of his stock was stolen. The shattered front windows were not a result of the dark stalker invasion but rather the work of hoodlums and hungry refugees trying to make their way towards the parts of the city that were being protected by the NOL. The broken doorframe was a different matter.
"I saw one of them, you know. Big shaggy wolf thing. Came right through the door like it wasn't even there. Trying to get at someone who had run inside to hide, I think."
He hadn't been able to get a good look at what went down inside the store after the creature broke in. By sheer luck, he'd been downtown on an errand the day everything went to Hell. Only some grainy footage captured by the security cameras offered a brief glimpse into the nightmare that had run rampant through the streets. It was like a bad horror movie, only the stains he found in the back of the ruined store weren't stage props.
"Can still smell it," he says somberly, gazing out the broken windows to the scene of ruin scattered across the street. "No matter where I go in the city, the smell won't go away."
He doesn't need to elaborate on what that smell might be. The scent of death continues to hang over Southtown like a wet blanket, a thick and cloying miasma reminiscent of rotten meat that seems to slip through all barriers and buffers as if to haunt the residents with a constant reminder of how close Death brushed their lives. Even now the pungent sickly aroma of decay hangs heavy in the air, though rather than dead bodies rotting in the sun the culprit proves to be the lack of power necessary to keep the store's array of freezers functional. Heaps of thawed and spoiled foodstuffs have already been piled into one corner of the store with plenty more still waiting to be collected.
With a sudden snort, the older man waves his hand dismissively at the air in front of his face as if to waft away the foul scent of the topic.
"Sorry, didn't mean to spoil the mood."
Turning back to the store's interior, Hanekawa rests his hands on his hips and shakes his head.
"As for the money, I think I have more than enough for now. I was smart enough to have some savings tucked away. Normally, most of that would have gone to paying for help getting everything cleaned up."
A loud thumping noise drifts out into the store from somewhere in the storage area at the back as something heavy is tossed about. No doubt some of Hanekawa's employees busying themselves with something. Tilting his head back to peer over one shoulder at Tairyu, the store owner offers him a wide grin as if he knows something special.
"But, the kami themselves have chosen to show me their favor and have sent a divine servant down to assist in my time of need!"
As if on cue, the wide double doors leading into the storage room suddenly swing open. For a moment, the gangster would likely find himself wondering if his eyes are playing tricks on him. Perhaps a trick of the light or a strange optical illusion created by an unusual perspective. But, it quickly becomes obvious that the creature that emerges from those doors is not actually some sort of hallucination but very disturbingly real.
The monster in question towers so tall that the top of its head very nearly touches the ceiling, a sleek bright red horn protruding from its forehead leaving the occasional scratch along the surface of the cheap tiles. Thick heavily-muscled limbs glisten with a coating of fresh sweat atop lightly tanned skin, each of its meaty limbs as wide as a man's torso. Bright red eyes the color of hellfire blaze with an inner flame that smolders in the darkened interior of the store like a pair of freshly stirred coals.
The ground shudders slightly as the creature strides forward with heavy thundering steps that sets the store's mostly empty shelves rattling noisily. Yet, as it draws closer to the illumination provided by the afternoon light, the towering beast's more monstrous features seem to grow less defined, steadily softening into the visage of a strange young woman.
"Yo." The giant offers a broad grin as she draws near, flashing a set of impossibly white teeth in a friendly manner, though the pair of wickedly sharp fangs is impossible to miss. "I hath finished with the matter of the crates. No doubt looters were the primary pilferers but the rats made sure to avail themselves of what remained. There was little to salvage."
As if only just noticing Tairyu, the colossal woman shifts her head towards him and gives a casual nod in his direction.
"Who is thy friend?"
Hanekawa's grin remains fixed firmly in place as this strange woman stomps out into the open, watching the yakuza's face to try and catch his reaction upon being exposed to one of the local rare wonders of Southtown. But when asked he gestures towards the mobster to make introductions.
"This is Tairyu-san. He's someone who takes an interest in the well-being of the locals. Tairyu-san, this is Riki-san. She lives at one of the shrines on the outskirts of town. Been one of my best customers for the last couple of years."
Riki's lips peel back to reveal even more of her pearly whites as she gives the gangster a wide smile.
Now that he has a moment to stare, he's given the chance to fully take in what stands in front of him. The 'woman' stands well over eight feet tall, casually dwarfing even Tairyu's unsually large height. Everything about her seems to be a collection of extremes, her height merely the tip of the iceburg. She sports thick cords of well-defined muscle that would make any body-builder green with envy yet somehow blends this unusually masculine trait with an attractive female form. Her womanly curves are just as over exaggerated and obvious, the white t-shirt she wears almost seeming to intentionally cling to her chest in a suggestive fashion. The most obviously inhuman feature is the scarlet horn jutting from her forehead, though the ominously glowing red eyes come in at a close second."As the shop-keep hath indicated, I am known as Riki. A pleasure to make thy acquaintance."
Let it not be said that Tairyu doesn't put effort into the task of moving the weighty piece of debris. But, no matter how much strength he might have in the physique hidden underneath that suit, he can't quite break the laws of physics. It's after Hanekawa's assurances on the futility of the attempt that he lets himself cease with the straining and grunting, and withdraw his arms. Green eyes drawn up to follow the length of the piece of wood towards the ceiling. A frown creases his expression, over what he sees up there. "...Going to need construction crew for that, probably," he mutters. "Could cut it loose... but you're right. Might well bring this corner of the building down with it."
Thus, the young Yakuza vaults himself over the debris instead to get through to the store proper, and get a closer look to the damages within. He's silent, while the old man speaks. But the further tugging of a scowl along his brow is evident -- at the mention of the *smell*.
Indeed, he doesn't need to elaborate. He's had to step over way too many corpses in recent times. Even after enough work has been done to make the scent proper leave the physical realm, it may very well remain in the memories of the citizens for some time after the fact. A lot of people lost someone.
The apology for the mood - or spoiling of it - draws a quick, dismissive wave from the mobster. "Don't worry about it. Doesn't do any good to pretend none of it happened, you know? Still... Eyes forward, right? It might be a hot minute, but we'll get through to the other side."
Even if there is that faint little feeling. A premonition. One that says nothing will ever be the same again.
While Old Man Hanekawa's explaining his situation with money, Tairyu's wandering towards the general direction of the source of the rotten stench -- only to eventually think better of it a few paces away, with a hand held over his nose. "...Gonna need a face covering and a couple bags for that..."
But then, something Hanekawa's said catches his interest. His head snaps to peek back over one shoulder to the man himself after he's backed away out of the lethal radius of the rotten food. "Hm? Did you get volunt--"
He doesn't have the time to finish the question before the 'Divine Servant' shows itself. Of course, while just the foreboding silhouette is visible, Tairyu's body instinctively tenses up after spinning around to facing the doors to the store room. It's only a few seconds that he remains wound up, though -- he can see from the corner of his eye that the owner of the convenience store is perfectly calm, so he lets himself relax himself enough to at least stop himself from assuming a battle-ready stance. No matter how much like some demonic darkstalker the approaching figure might seem.
By the time Riki's actual, proper features have come to view within the light... well. The tension might have left Tairyu's body, but the sight isn't any less awe-inspiring. Or perhaps shock-inspiring. It's hard to tell. The man's trying very hard to keep a straight face, but the end result of it is an expression that very much *shows* he's putting effort into it -- and he can't quite stop his eyes from widening while they openly stare at the massive woman. Yes, Tairyu is tall for japan, but the size of the woman before him is well beyond that.
Nevermind that the young man's gaze does linger on... certain parts of the woman for a bit longer than is strictly necessary, too. Everything about Riki is stare-inducing.
"...Hello," he does manage to let out in mirroring of Riki's initial greeting, as his eyes properly settle on her face, to maintain eye contact. Even if he has to crane his neck some to do so.
"I am Tairyu Katashi," he offers then, with his body bending forward slightly in a casual bow, eye contact broken briefly with it only to return again after he straightens up. At least he's not trying to get away from her. And that, then, gives her well enough time to get a good look of him, too. He might not be as... pronounced and attention-grabbing as the mountainous woman, but there's definitely a presence about the young man, wrapped into the black suit cut to his tall, broad-shouldered figure, the top two buttons of his shirt deliberately left unbuttoned, giving way for a peek to the toned flesh there underneath. Bright green eyes below dark brows staring up at the woman with the same intensity that subtly permeates the man.
And yes, he's caught himself staring again. What should he even say, in the face of this? Somehow, even after all these years, the city still has a way of catching him off-guard like this. Just... don't say anything about her size. Don't say anything about her size. Do *not* say anything about her size.
"... You are very large."
The dumbfounded stare is met by the amazon's broad grin. It's impossible not to notice the way that Tairyu's gaze wanders or where it wanders to but she shows no signs of being offended at his brazen interest in her figure. A sparkle of amusement twinkles at the corners of her crimson eyes as he takes in the marvel that has presented itself before him, a task that requires a fair bit more time and effort than usual considering how much of her there is to see. The fact that his eyes keep getting drawn back to certain places does nothing to dampen her cheerful attitude.
Yet, surely even the most calm and understanding woman would balk in the face of what he says next. There is no segue into the topic of her unusual size, none of the typical social warning signs that he might be about to broach a potentially sensitive subject. It just blurts out with all the grace of a car muffler backfiring.
There is a long terribly silent pause in the wake of this bombshell landing. Hanekawa's face contorts slightly in surprise before he regains control of his expression, faint hints of anger and disappointment warring beneath a mask of neutrality. Behind the gangster an audible intake of breath can be heard. A handful of pedestrians who had been passing by and grew interested in this bizarre meeting stare in open-mouthed shock at Tairyu, their eyes, now wide as dinner plates, frantically flicking back and forth between him and the mountain of muscle.
All eyes shift up to Riki, the expectation of a fiery rage - or at least an indignant fury - fully on the minds of all present. But, once again, the towering amazon defies expectations, offering no signs of anger at being addressed so bluntly. Instead, she throws her head back, letting out a bellow of uproarious laughter towards the sky. Despite it's jovial nature, the sound is loud enough to be startling and the two gawkers lingering behind Tairyu squeal in fright, taking off like a pair of rabbits scared out of hiding by a clap of thunder.
"Bahaha! By the gods, boy! Even I hath more tact than that!"
It takes a few seconds for the woman's mirth to die out. Wiping a tear away from the corner of one eye, Riki shakes her head, still chuckling softly. She fixes the gangster with another broad grin, reaching out to give Tairyu an enthusiastic clap on the shoulders that threatens to floor him as effectively as if she'd dropped a pair of anvils onto his back. The sheer size of the hands that grip his arms is such that they very nearly completely engulf his torso.
"Thou art, of course, correct! Mine size /is/ quite considerable! But tis only natural for I am no mere mortal such as thee. I am oni!"
She bellows that declaration out with obvious pride, clearly enthusiastic about the fact that she considers herself to be a demon of ancient myth. The claim, while utter nonsense to a rational mind, makes a disturbing amount of sense. There's her massive size for one. It isn't completely unheard of for humans to grow to gargantuan stature but such things are extraordinarily rare, usually bringing with them great health complications, while the creature towering over him looks as if she could bend a steel beam like a toothpick. Then there's the glowing eyes brimming with Hellish energy. Possible to emulate with the right manifestation of ki but beyond the parlor tricks of some street con. And, of course, there is the matter of that giant horn growing out of her forehead...
Dropping down to one knee, Riki glances conspiratorially to the left and right, her expression almost comically exaggerated as she tosses suspicious looks about to ensure no one else is around. Leaning in slightly towards the gangster, she puts a finger to her lips and makes a shushing noise. In such close proximity a fresh new scent strikes his senses, a deep earthy smell like freshly tilled soil mixed with burnt wood that cuts through the miasma of decay like a supernatural air freshener.
"Let us keep this a secret between us, mm? I would not wish to frighten the peasantry."
Well. Tairyu likely realized pretty well that he'd just say something he should normally not even *consider* uttering out loud. But, having gone past the point of no return on it, he doesn't flinch. He maintains the eye contact with the enormous, horned woman (now even managing to prevent his gaze from wandering downwards!), expecting the reaction to come...
And when that bellowing laugh comes, he looks more confused than anything else. No, he certainly didn't expect that from the giant before him. But still, he doesn't so much as wince from the sudden, loud sound, unlike the couple passerby sent fleeing.
"...Yes, well," he rumbles, while her laugh is still shaking through the room. "I tend to be a straightforward man." He doesn't even take issue with being called 'boy'. Somehow he gets the sense that she's earned the right to call people even older than himself that.
What *does* draw a physical reaction from him though is the weight of her huge hands coming down upon his shoulders and grasping his arms. THere's a faint, instinctive wince from not having braced for it at all, even if he does still take it much better than she may have expected from... well, most people. He's surprisingly solid for being that much smaller than her.
Still, he can't help but wonder if he's going to end up seeing bruises there when he wakes up tomorrow.
The revelation of her being a creature of divine legend is something he takes in stride, too. After everything else he's seen in the past, and the initial shock of seeing her, it's not really that surprising. He even murmurs out a deadpan, "I see."
His stoic frown breaks when she drops down to bring herself to level with him, however. Eyes blink, brows lift up, bemusement rising visibly within his gaze with the conspirational gesture, even as his nostrils flare slightly to takein the scent of her. To an outside observer, it may easily appear as though he's hypnotized by the proximity of this attractive woman -- gargantuan as she might be.
And finally, the urging of secrecy. No longer is he able to maintain that deadpan expression, with one corner of his mouth tugging itself upwards, forming a surprisingly warm smile of amusement, small as it might be.
"I will take it to my grave, Riki-san."
Nevermind that anyone so much as glancing their way can tell she's more than human. But that's not really as important in that moment. His answer is still given with all the due weight of an official oath.
Riki's expression shifts to a mischievous grin, as if the two of them were a pair of conspiring children, and she gives him a knowing wink. For a flesh-rending brute of legend she seems rather laid back and affable.
"Honesty tis a rare trait among your kind. But everything in moderation, mm?"
Pushing back to her feet with more grace than her size might have suggested, the oni turns to glance down at the shop owner as if only just now remembering he exists. Clearly relieved that Tairyu's blunt comment didn't result in another smear to mop up off the floor, Hanekawa lets out a soft sigh and shakes his head.
"I think this is the first time one of my customers didn't run away screaming when you spoke to them, Riki-san."
The giantess grins at that, snorting in amusement.
"Tis a good thing that my patronage is worth ten of your other customers then."
A claim that is only slightly hyperbolic. It takes a great deal of calories to fuel a monstrous physique such as that possessed by the oni. While her form may be partly spiritual in nature the physical parts crave sustenance like any other living thing. Unfortunately for her tiny master's expense account it didn't take long for Riki to get exposed to the modern vice of junk food. A diet of beer and chips for a regular person is already costly. Now imagine a diet of beer and chips for an elephant and you're getting a closer picture.
"Indeed," Hanekawa says cheerfully. "A shame most of my stock was plundered already. One of your shopping sprees would likely fund half my repairs."
That makes Riki grimace. She'd been looking forward to indulging in a bit of vice after nearly two straight weeks of fighting. Not that she doesn't enjoy her job. Fighting and drinking could accurately be described as her two passions in life. But one without the other just feels off somehow. Her reserves at the Ichijo temple have long since been emptied and no one in the city seems to have anything left to sell.
Running a hand through her thick hair, a big windswept mess of golden locks that could adequately be described as a bestial mane, the ogress heaves out a long-suffering sigh.
"Aye. Yet another travesty that the Dragon must answer for!"
A brief, low sound of a laugh from Tairyu over her wink and her words. "I'll keep that in mind."
With her lifting up to standing properly again, he draws his hand to rubbing along his other shoulder, briefly, before peeking back over to Hanekawa. "Just another day in Southtown, Hanekawa-san. You know how it goes."
He steps aside while the two converse, drawing his arms up to be folded over his chest. Mind, his eyes do still primarily focus on Riki rather than the old man -- though now his gaze is more considering, thoughtful. Contemplating the particular subject of their conversation.
"I can have one of my men look into some logistics," he offers, then, mostly to Hanekawa's benefit. "Get some emergency relif and get some product moving again as quickly as possible. Get those shelves stocked up, huh?"
A hand draws up to scratch a single finger along his cheek, just below the line of a light, trimmed sideburn. He can't help the look of amusement that ends up coming to be directed at the Oni. "A great travesty, indeed." Though he can't help but instinctively shift a bit uncomfortably at the name. Sure, it's not even vaguely directed at him, but it's hard not to feel a bit self-conscious about having a dragon tattood on your back while recent events have brought some very negative connotations to the title for the people in the city. "You know, I might not be able to help with the food immediately, but one of my... businesses should still have some beverages in stock, Riki-san. Wouldn't mind parting with some of it. Call it a show of gratitude for the help you're giving to the old man here."
Riki's gaze shifts back to Tairyu at the mention of access to the coveted spirits, fresh interest kindling in her eyes. It's been nearly a week since she ran out of reserves. While she can always fall back on alcohol of a more divine nature, over indulging in the literal ambrosia of the gods tends to take a heavy toll on her mortal body. Ayame had forbidden her from touching her sacred wine for a full month the last time she got drunk and accidentally smashed a hole right through the side of the temple. So, mortal booze it is.
"That would interest me a great deal!"
The ogre tilts her head to the side as if considering something. She allows her gaze to drift over Tairyu, clearly sizing him up.
"Tell me, art thou a merchant? Thy manner of dress is more akin to the common men I see traversing the city."
Riki rubs the back of her neck thoughtfully as she tries to recall one of the many conversations between herself and the little miko regarding the modern world.
"What did she call them... office drones?"
The shift in Riki's posture brings to light another bizarre feature that, until now, went unnoticed in the awkwardness of their first meeting. A heavy pair of iron manacles akin to those one might find in movies about medieval castles are fastened tightly about giant's wrists. The chains that once bound them to some restraint have long since been shattered leaving only a few inches of iron links dangling from cuffs. The oni seems to pay them no mind, regarding the heavy bindings with as little attention as she might a common piece of jewelry.
While many might feel any number of things from being eyed in such a manner by the ogre ranging from slight nervousness to outright fear, Tairyu's only reaction to it is a subtle upward arch of a single brow. He doesn't even show any kind of self-consciousness from the kind of look-over that some might mistake for being checked out. His manner of dress is a bit flashier than the typical office worker's, at least -- not a single wage slave would let himself be caught by a shirt worn so loosely, either! But then again, perhaps a literal celestial being dropped off to Earth might not be able to tell the difference so much.
But beyond that, the muscle definition's clear enough where his chest is revealed by the two undone buttons. And the way his sleeves strain at his arms with them crossed like that -- not to mention the sturdiness she must have felt when her hands slapped down on him. There's no doubt about it, she looks close enough for it; this man has the build of a fighter. Not really an usual trait for office workers or merchants.
"Either that or wage slaves, I would guess," he suggests, with a low snort, finally unfolding those arms now, so he can stick one hand lazily into a pocket of his pants. "I wouldn't really call myself a merchant either, though..." It's no great secret to the civilians working and living in the turf Aizawa-gumi operates in who Tairyu is and what he does, but somehow it doesn't feel right to outright say it in this particular instant. "Let's just say I am a businessman of sorts. I may elaborate on that to you further one day, but it's not really important right now. ... Though, I suppose I am a club owner now."
A quick glance over to Hanekawa. This one would be news to him too. "Remember that old two-story club that shut down a couple years ago? Figured the building should be put to some actual use again."
The fact that she hadn't smashed him into the pavement did not elude the oni. Her gesture had been as much a test of character as playful teasing, the amazon spurred to curiosity at whether such a brazenly honest man had the fortitude to back up his words. He did not disappoint. In much the same manner that his gaze had wandered over her upon their initial encounter the demon's discerning eyes shamelessly absorb every detail they can.
Riki's familiarity with the modern world still borders on being all but nonexistent. While she's certainly had a few conversations over the months regarding many of the technological marvels created by the ingenuity of mankind since her previous incarnation upon the Earthrealm, Ayame's knowledge was often lacking. As a reclusive shrine maiden who lived on the outskirts of town she didn't exactly have her thumb on the pulse of modern society. Things that have analogs in the past such as cars and wagons were the easiest to explain. The Internet is something she still can't wrap her mind around.
Naturally, the distinction between an average office worker and a made man of the yakuza is beyond her knowledge. Not that she's completely clueless. Criminals and thugs aren't a modern invention, after all. At least he's dressed more smartly than the bandits that roamed the streets a thousand years ago.
Certainly he isn't referring the sort of club that first comes to her mind. Riki wracks her brain for any mention of the word used in a more modern setting while Tairyu brings the store owner up to speed. Ah, then not a weapon, but a building of some kind. After a few moments of pondering she manages to jog the appropriate memory loose.
"Ah, thou art referring to a tavern, yes?"
She grins at the prospect of being given access to the full stock of a bar, practically salivating over the possibilities. Now she's /really/ interested.
The ogre's manner of speech did clue Tairyu in on some things. Namely the potential age of the being in front of him, and the kind of culture she came from. It's the first time he's met someone much more in tune with a completely different time period, but somehow it's not... really a surprising him to have found someone like that, now. Kind of telling of how many strange things this city has gone and thrown at him.
Still, perhaps he underestimated just how out of touch with modern conventions she was, judging from the large lift of his brows when she expresses her confusion on such a simple matter as the usage of the word 'club'.
Then again, it probably wouldn't be such a simple thing for someone from the feudal times.
"Kind... of?" He suggests in answer to her speculation, albeit a bit uncertainly. "It's not quite the same thing, with what we're setting up. Think of, um...A tavern where a member of the staff solely attends to them for their stay, and provides company. ... Erm. Social company." Never before did he have to consider how to explain a host or hostess club to someone who wouldn't know what it is. And without making it sound like a whorehouse!
The particular look that Riki develops over the fantasy of potential gallons worth of liqour isn't missed by Tairyu, either. An empath he might not be, but the kind of expression is easy enough to read, and make some conclusions out of. And the conclusion he makes brings him narrowing his eyes at the woman.
"... I hope you're not planning to take advantage of my hospitality to paint of draining me dry, Riki-san."
Riki's grin only grows wider as the young yakuza attempts to explain what a hostess club is to someone completely unfamiliar with the concept. His description brings to mind a mental image far more scandalous than he probably intended. Such things by and large did not exist in ages past. Entertainment of the sort that he describes was provided by geishas and courtesans both of which tended to end the evening with something a lot more intimate than a nice chat over drinks.
The oni crosses her arms and nods knowingly, very clearly having gotten the wrong idea. Her smile becomes wolfish in the face of Tairyu's sudden wariness, once more revealing the wicked canine fangs nestled amidst a set of otherwise normal-looking teeth.
"Have no fear, human. I would never wish to overstay mine welcome!"
Ayame would probably die laughing if she was present to hear that. Fortunately, the uptight little miko is off attending to her own affairs today which means that there is little reason not to indulge in such a generous offer! It's been more than long enough since she had a good drink. Considering all the work she's done over the past few weeks, she'd definitely say she's earned it too. Killing werewolves and snakemen is thirsty work!
"Well, I believe that mine work here is done for the day."
Turning to regard Hanekawa with a slightly less mischievous look, the giantess gives him a nod which the man returns.
"Your help is much appreciated, Riki-san. I will be sure to let you know when we start restocking our shelves. I'll set aside a case of your favorite."
"Thy attempts to bribe thy way into my good graces are as effective as ever, little man," she says jovially. "If you've further need of me, feel free to come calling."
The two share a quick bow, which Hanekawa offers to Tairyu as well, before wandering off back into his store to continue with the task of cleaning things up. Riki shifts her attention back to the yakuza, her expression quickly resuming its eagerness at the prospect of the promised spirits.
"Now then... show me this tavern!"
Tairyu narrows his eyes at the oni. The way she reacted to his explanation has not gone past him. It's not hard to guess what conclusion she's probably made. He... decides not to make any further clarification on it for now, though. She'll see for herself, anyway.
Well, kind of.
The assurances that come afterwards from the woman don't make him look at her with any less wariness, however. "I'm sure..." Much too late for regrets now, though.
A bow is given to Hanekawa on the way out, alongside the offer of, "My boys are still in the area, so reach out if you feel the need for extra help." A nod to Riki, then, before stepping out, with a small gesture urging her to follow her.
The walk on the street isn't a particularly eventful one though, surely. Tairyu does give the assurance that their destination isn't so far as to warrant travel by car. Though on the way, there are passing greetings given to people moving about, working on the cleaning and rebuilding efforts. The neighbourhood knows the man, clearly, lending some truth to the way Hanekawa introduced him to her earlier. Even if he hasn't been forthright with his actual profession to the Oni walking alongside him, yet.
With his lead, she's brought to a building closing on the nearby entertainment district. An ornate structure set in the corner of a set of tightly-packed stores and restaurants, with double-doors leading in at the very front, with a set of stairs leading to another one story higher. Up above, a sign proclaiming the building with the title "Mars & Venus".
How... very on the nose.
It's through the bottom set of doors that Tairyu leads her through, though he does have to work a key to get the door open. "Haven't gotten to opening yet, with... everything else going on," he offers in mildly rueful explanation. The exterior of the building does show some signs of damage.
And the inside is only better in the sense that it doesn't appear to have seen much use. There are cleaning and renovation equipment scattered here and there, but for the most part it would appear that the large, open room with enclosed cushioned booths in dark-blue colorings lined up throughout leading up to a small stage reserved for performers hasn't... actually seen much use in a long time.
Without stopping, the Yakuza leads her further in from the entryway itself, where normally an attendant would lead a customer to table from, rounding himself to a bar counter with various bottles of alcohol lining the wall -- either left behind by the previous owner or already filled out by... the new buyer.
"I will make a confession, Riki-san, I'm not offering this just because of the help you were giving Hanekawa-san."
The declaration comes with him picking out a bottle of sake and turning to the counter, drawing out two glasses from underneath it to set on the surface. His green eyes draw over her -- in a way that might easily be mistaken for something that precedes a very, very different addition to what he said.
"You were helping the folks around here while everything was happening too, weren't you?" is what he asks, instead, when his eyes meet hers. Apparently confident enough in his ability to pour the liqour into the two glasses without looking down to them.
"Got a certain feel about you."
The journey down the street is largely unremarkable though it isn't hard to see that most people are quick to give them a wide berth. While Riki has made several trips into the city since taking up residence on its outskirts she is hardly a familiar face to the majority of Southtown. Ayame is partially to blame for that, always nagging and warning that an ogre blundering through the streets would almost certainly lead to trouble. She was right, of course, though Riki would be more inclined to think of the unexpected encounters as exciting adventures into an unknown world rather than pointless exposure to unwanted attention. Despite her shackles of iron and flesh, the wild beast lurking within her bosom ever yearns to wander.
That the city has only just freshly been assaulted by supernatural beasts does little to help make the residents more welcoming. Riki's obviously inhuman appearance was already enough to keep the socially distant Japanese from approaching her before. Now she might as well be swinging a club and breathing fire as she wanders down the street behind Tairyu. Most of the people they meet quickly make themselves scarce; some outright flee, darting for the protection of alleys or nearby buildings.
The giantess does not fail to notice these reactions. Her attitude seems to remain jovial regardless but there's a bit more somberness in her tone as she prattles at Tairyu while they walk, talking of various inconsequential things. For a ogre, Riki seems quite gifted at the art of making small talk. Then again, no one's met such a creature for over a thousand years. Perhaps they were all fond of chattering on to pass the time. It's not like they had televisions or computers to keep themselves entertained.
Upon arriving at the club, Riki pauses to read the sign. Whatever innuendo might be suggested by such a title is clearly lost on the demon who scratches her head in obvious confusion. But the meaning behind the building's name isn't important enough of a mystery to delay her from following hot on Tairyu's heels. That booze is nearby, she can smell it!
"Then I shall bear the honor of being thy first customer!"
How exciting! She's never gotten to christen a new bar before. The mental image of Ayame's face filled with disgust upon learning what she's been up brings a fresh grin to the fore. Hah! Let the little miko stamp and sputter. The life of a chaste and devout religious fanatic holds no interest for the oni.
Ducking low to clear the doorway, Riki strides inside and takes a moment to give the place a good look around. The presence of excessive dust and scattered equipment doesn't bother her all that much. She's used to taking her leisure time in what is functionally a storage room with a few mats and pillows scattered about so this is a step up in her book. Sadly the booths all look far too small for someone of her considerable bulk but she's used to that too. More disappointing is the lack of geishas or consorts loitering about. It might have been nice to be doted on a by a serving girl for a while.
Her attention is drawn back to the bar by Tairyu's sudden declaration. Riki saunters over to the long counter and gently nudges several of the stools into a small cluster creating a makeshift seat capable of supporting her weight. Her gaze is immediately drawn to the bottle in his hands, like a hungry hawk spotting a mouse scampering across an open field, and her grin returns.
"Mmm. I do not recall if mine efforts to combat the creatures brought me to this particular area of town," she says, rubbing the back of her neck thoughtfully, her manacle's chain rattling gently. "But, aye, twas by the efforts of myself and my master that many a foul beast was laid low!"
Fresh thoughts of the many battles they'd indulged in surge to the front of her mind. Riki can't help but grin cheerfully as she recalls some of the more impressive highlights. Nearly two solid weeks of daily fighting. By the gods, it was glorious! If only such wonderful sport could be had more frequently then she might not mind her confinement to this mortal shell so much! Alas, humans are fragile things and would not long suffer such treatment in good health.
"Twould be a lie if I said I am full glad to see the conflict come to an end. Such entertainment I have not had in centuries! But, likewise happy am I to know that no further harm will come to the innocent. Mine only true regret is that the Dragon was laid low by another. Facing such a formidable foe would have been exciting indeed."
"Our first customer."
Tairyu repeats those words with a faint hint of amusement in his voice, one that grows into a subtle rumble of a chuckle afterwards as he shakes his head. "Well... I feel regretful I can't provide you with the same full service we're intending to have here. If we were actually up and running, I would have had to ask you if you'd preferred to be served down here or upstairs."
A finger taps against the edge of the glass he's just poured to being at capacity iwth sake, before he provides a proper explanation on that. "...It's technically two clubs. Upstairs is the hostess club. Down here's a host club." A brief pause, before realizing he probably needs to actually explain those, too. "...Means upstairs it's women serving the customers. Down here it's men. Depends on your tastes. Hmh..." His brows knit together briefly, before he sends the glass sliding over to Riki. "Reminds me we need to try to find at least a couple guys who don't mind playing host for men, too..."
He might not have given much thought to the bindings on her arms before, but now he can't help but give the piece of metal on her upraised wrist a rather pointed look. "...Master, huh..." There's brief concern there. But she doesn't sound like she's holding any ill will towards the one she calls by that title, so maybe there's no need for that there. At least he would like to hope so.
"Well. Still, it's a thankless kind of job... even if you don't seem to mind terribly." Glass poured full for himself now, he draws it up -- if she hasn't already drained the serving he provided for her, there'd be a brief clinking of glasses. "Least I can do. Besides-- I get the feeling it'll be good to know someone like you."
His eyes do continue considering the enormous woman over the rim of the glass while he takes a slow, steady sip of the rice wine. There's contemplation that rises even further with her talk on The Dragon -- one that makes him frown briefly again, purely out of reflex.
He really is going to have to get over that eventually.
"I have to admit... It would have been interesting to meet the woman personally, too," he murmurs then, after lowering the half-drained glass down onto the countertop, his weight leaning lazily against it by the support of one arm. "Like you said. It sounded like she could have given one hell of a fight."
His gaze goes wandering over the oni's figure again. Though it's largely at one of her arms that he sizes up now. The thickness of it, the strength of muscles clearly visible.
"I would say I would be happy to try to offer you fights to participate in," he rumbles out, with a slow roll given to one broad shoulder underneath the tailor-made jacket. "But I don't think it would be fair to you to try to treat you like any of my other... employees. Not to mention your master might not approve either."
Riki places her hand on the counter with a soft thud, catching the glass as it slides her way. As she does with everything, the giant's massive mitt dwarfs the tiny vessel to a comical degree such that it looks more like a shot glass when she picks it up in two fingers and downs the contents in a single toss the moment it reaches her. Apparently she isn't the sort to worry about polite social interactions.
A deep sigh of appreciation wafts out of the oni. Damn she needed that. And about twenty more just like it! Setting the glass back on the counter, she's quick to slide it back towards Tairyu in an unsubtle request for a refill. Offering to ply an ogre with alcohol may prove to have been an unwise decision after all. At least she's not ill-mannered enough to simply take the bottle.
Riki snorts in obvious amusement at the thought, shaking her head. Human society has always been baffling to her in many ways but that is a new one. Then again, she is no stranger to deviant behavior and there have been far stranger things witnessed in her long lifetime. Perhaps it is odd that there weren't male entertainers in the past. She was usually too busy raiding and pillaging to care much for the nuances of polite society.
An oni took what it wanted regardless of what anyone else thought about it. Usually food, booze, and fights, not in any particular order of importance. The idea of romance was laughable. A strong oni dominated a weak one and took what it wanted. Such was the way of things, raw and primal survival of the strongest.
That isn't how she operates any more, largely due to the fact that humanity is no longer the easily trampled gaggles of frightened villagers any more. If she had been inclined to engage in her old ways upon returning to the Earthrealm the power of the modern weaponry developed by humans would have laid her low with disturbing ease. Even in the days of yore, samurai were often avoided rather than fought out of concern for stirring up an entire nest of the pests. How strange would her fellows think it to see her now, no longer a wild untamed monster but a chained servant of gods.
"Thankless? I disagree! Tis been no end to the heartfelt appreciation lavished upon myself and the little mistress for our deeds."
She bares her teeth at him in a wild grin, her eyes flaring with inner fire for a brief instant. A very pungent odor fills the air around the demon for those few moments, a sour mixture of rotten eggs and burnt hair. Though he may not be familiar with it, it is impossible to mistake the distinct odor of brimstone.
"It seems that humans are quite tolerant of monsters when they are properly leashed and wielded against their enemies."
Tairyu's continued oogling of her powerful build earns no reprimand from his guest. If anything she seems to be rather enjoying his blatant staring. Being 'appreciated' for her appearance is something that the demon is still getting used to but it doesn't bother her all that much. Let the little man look and marvel at the might of an oni all he wants.
His last comment is met with unexpected and ferocious laughter. Riki throws her head back and roars with amusement very nearly falling off the makeshift seat she's created for herself.
"No," she wheezes through her guffaws. "No, she would most certainly not approve!"
Tairyu had probably not taken into account the effects on the wild size difference when it came to drinking arrangements. He couldn't help but give a good, long peer at the way she's forced to holding the glass. "... I should have gotten you one of those big pitchers instead," he mutters with an amused shake of his head.
A sharp, surprised cough comes just as he's taking another sip for himself. All for those two words. 'Male courtesans'. "I... nh." A hand wiped over his lips to wipe off the little spillage of rice wine there from his chin, before he takes the bottle to pour a refill for his... customer. "I suspect you're using that term in a... much more old-fashioned meaning than what we have going on here. They don't provide... that kind of service. The staff will just be giving company and conversation." His brows lift subtly. He looks almost amused with the anticipation of how she will take this revelation on modern entertainment.
The scent of brimstone draws a subtle flare of nostrils. He surprisingly doesn't flinch as the odor flows into his breathways, though he does narrow his eyes at the oni, meeting her briefly-fiery gaze with his own. His eyes might not have an otherwordly flame to them, but there is a certain heated intensity in the green orbs regardless. It's not exactly the kind of hunger that some men might have given the woman before realizing just what they were looking at. This is the look of a warrior who is seeing a potentially exciting challenge in front of him. He might not openly confess to it, but there is still a desire for a good fight in him, too.
The fire fades from him when his brows knit together at her musings on how humans tolerate monsters. Being oathed to a family head might not be too different from being held at the end of a leash or a chain according to same, but... the taste of it feels much more sour, in that context.
"As long as you are not just an attack dog," is all he says on that particular matter. It's a low little growl, and she might notice his fingers briefly tightening against his glass. The last few months, for him, could very well have been comparable to being treated as an attack dog for a master he did not wish to serve, so he has some... opinions on it.
A blink at the laughter that comes from the oni. Maybe he didn't expect that. "... I assume you get along with this master of yours well enough." His head tilts subtly to one side. "Would your Master at least approve of requests of help in the event that something like this happens again?"
"Offer the strength of mine arm to the defense of the innocent? Aye, that she would."
Riki gives a straight answer once she's finished chuckling at the idea of Ayame approving of her getting into random brawls in some fancy tavern. The very notion of the oni going anywhere near a bar is probably giving her a conniption all the way back in the temple even as they speak. If the girl had her way Riki would be locked up in the storage room until someone had need of her brute strength for some menial labor. Assuming she didn't just banish the demon back to the nether realm to be rid of her.
In the early days of their 'partnership', if it can be called as such, she would have had no doubt of the miko's desire to cast her into the deepest pits of Meido and put as many seals as she could muster over the entrance. Now their relationship was far more familiar and amicable, though one would be hard pressed to tell the difference with how often they bicker. In particular, Riki's aversion to anything resembling hard work and her love for over indulging in spirits tends to be a sore point between them. The girl is far more fond of pasttimes such as quiet meditation and intense study. The mere idea of being cooped up with nothing to pass the time but books and introspection is enough to make the demon shudder.
But, despite their differences, there are a great many things upon which the two are agreed. Lending their considerable power to the destruction of evil is a passion shared equally by both, though their motives for doing so differ somewhat.
"Twas she who insisted that we involve ourselves in the first place," Riki says, sounding quite proud of the fact. "She may be a tiny little thing but her skills are not to be trifled with."
Growing tired of waiting for her host to top off the glass, Riki brazen nabs the bottle and does it herself. The contents vanish just as fast as before and she downs three more full glasses in quick succession hardly seeming fazed by the hard liquor at all.
"Do not be overly concerned for mine use of the word master," she says, smiling affably at Tairyu. It seems that his distaste for her choice of words did not go unnoticed.
"In truth, tis to the gods that I am bound. Namely, he who stands in judgement over the souls of the departed, Enma-O, Lord of Jigoku. To the girl I have sworn an oath of fealty, granting her leave to command me in her ancestral duty of sheparding the dark forces that infest this world to their final judgement."
A dull rumble fills the air suddenly, the familiar sound of distant thunder dancing through the clouds. That would not be particularly noteworth if it the sky were not completely devoid of any signs of storms earlier. Riki glances up at the ceiling for a moment then grins as if enjoying a joke only she can hear.
"My lord wishes me to say that he is looking forward to meeting you in person one day."
"Is that right?" One brow lifts up slightly, and... that little intense heat flashes briefly in Tairyu's eyes again. Apparently the Yakuza is intrigued by this 'tiny' master of the Oni, too. "Perhaps I will see for myself, one day."
Wether he means that as seeing her in action as a spectator, or experiencing fighting her himself, is not entirely clear.
While he doesn't really protest Riki's capture of the bottle, he does... give a bit of a stare at her. And the pace at which she drains through the liqour, for that matter.
It may be dawning on Tairyu that he may have made a horrible mistake somewhere along the line here.
"I have a feeling you would rack up a hell of a bill here if your friend lets you come in after we're fully open for business."
He does seem curious about what the oni speaks of after, too. He has relented to counting the original bottle of sake a complete loss to the thirsts of the Oni, so he instead draws a seperate bottle out from the wall behind him while she speaks. His expression is... uncertain, when it comes to processing everything. He might be used to Darkstalkers, but the concept of demons and gods? All that is foreign ground for him. And here's an Oni in a human vessel, speaking of direct service to the buddhist deity presiding over the passage of departed souls.
It doesn't help that the ominous rumble of thunder in a perfectly clear reaches their ears through the walls. Alarmed the Yakuza might not be, but he is somewhat perturbed, judging from the scowl.
"... A lot of people have wished death upon me before, Riki-san. But this is... certainly the first time it has been in such a manner." After that, he doesn't even bother topping off his glass with the new bottle, instead taking a good swig straight out of it after popping the bottle off.
"Your lord may have to wait a while, though. I have too many people relying me down here on the mortal realm. Too much work to do, still. But then again, I suppose for Enma-O a few decades is barely a blink of an eye, hm?"
The oni's deep rumbling laughter fills the air once more at Tairyu's reaction. Her glass is filled and emptied once more, the contents of the bottle rapidly dwindling in the face of the ogre's thirst.
"Tis the fate of all things to pass, little man. Rare is the person who gets to chose the time and place."
Even gods are not always immortal. She does not say it aloud but the thought comes unbidden to her mind. The ways of the spiritual world are strange and emphemeral even to one such as herself who calls them home. There was a time when she thought herself mighty beyond reckoning, a powerful force of nature against which no puny mortal could stand. Yet it is time itself which has proven her wrong. The very idea of what she is, the essence of what it means to be an oni, has changed over the course of centuries simply due to the belief of those puny mortals.
Her old self would probably be horribly disappointed to see what she has become. But, her old self was a selfish angry asshole. Good riddance.
There are still traces of the mindless brute still floating about inside that thick skull of hers, however, and upon one thing they still agree - dwelling on serious matters while there is good drink to be had is a waste of everyone's time. Refilling her cup, Riki grins at the human and hoists the glass in his direction. She isn't offering to daintly clink glasses with him as he'd attempted before - not unless he plans to stand up and try to jump for it. Rather she presents an old-fashioned toast, the sort one makes when bringing up something extremely good or extremely depressing.
"Live! Be merry! And hope thou art fortunate enough to die gloriously in combat or comfortable in thy bed! What more can a mortal hope for, mm?"
"Don't get me wrong, I'm not... " Tairyu eyes over the glass in his hand, and... promptly decides to top it all over again. Heaven forbid he let himself get caught up in that particular thought for too long.
"I've no illusions or fears about what's fated for me. I just don't intend it to come before I have my matters settled."
The refilled contents of the glass get quickly knocked back and down his throat. More sake filled in, just in time before she's lifting her glass up.
Even he can't help but smile at the toast she presents. "I'll drink to that, alright! May it be glorious, indeed!" He declares, his hand drawing up the glass (though not quite as high as Riki does, for obvious reasons). And tipped back, down it all goes once more, before the glass is slammed down against the countertop with a satisfying *thunk!*.
"Mmmh... People like me? A quiet death doesn't really suit us, anyway. I have to say, though..."
The bottle's brought up -- and this time, he reaches to offer a refill for Riki first, since the bottle she'd been draining might very well be empty by now. "Out of all the things that I've had happen to me through this life, I think I think sharing a drink with an oni was one I expected the least. At least one that looked like you." Well, at least he's still honest.
However, the look he gives her now isn't the kind that a lecherous man at a bar would give a floozy. His eyes narrow subtly, a sharper intensity settling on her, instead.
"Thought I would end up fighting one, first."
Riki downs her own glass with matching cheer. Even after polishing off the majority of the bottle on her own she still shows no signs of slowing down. Only the faintest of pink hue touches the edges of her pale cheeks to indicate that the booze has any more effect on her than water. Her own glass joins Tairyu's on the counter with an even louder thud though most of that comes from her arm, fortunately. Even the sturdiest of drinkware rarely manages to survive a properly drunk oni.
The offer of another refill is not rejected. She still has enough for one more glass in her own bottle but no self-respecting ogre would turn down any offer of booze. Should her worst enemy march in through the front doors with a bottle in hand she'd grudgingly accept it before punching them in the face. Hell, she might start throwing punches even if she likes the person. What better way to enjoy a good buzz than to have a good fight?
Fortunately for Tairyu, Riki has more restraint these days so she just takes the drink. Maybe the punching can come later.
"Hah! Tis an honor, yes? Not often a living legend wanders into the life of a mortal."
Riki grins broadly, clearly enjoying the attention. Her reception into the mortal world had been a fair bit less enthusiastic at first. Ayame isn't the most friendly person in the world and that's before taking into account the fact that she's a demon. Fortunately, most of humanity is far less dour than the little miko. Getting attention hasn't been terribly difficult other than getting chewed out every time she leaves the temple for 'frivilous reasons' - i.e. every single time.
Tairyu's final comment brings forth a different expression to the amazon's face. Her brows knit up and her lips purse into a look that is half frustration and half wistfulness.
"Aye. Tis not a form I ever expected to find myself wearing."
Lifting one of her thick arms, Riki clenches her fist and flexes. Thick knots of heavy muscle bulge powerfully at her command straining against the pale flesh as if trying to burst free from their confines. The raw power possessed by the woman is undeniable. Yet, she glowers at the display with obvious disdain and lets out a long sigh.
"This pitiful cage of flesh is but a pale imitation of mine true form. A prison crafted out of necessity and punishment. Would that thou could behold the terrible might of a true oni."
Riki lowers her arm and downs the contents of her glass with a bit more force than is necessary. A grunt escapes her lips as some of the contents end up missing her mouth in the process, splashing over her face and across her chest. She makes a half-hearted attempt to wipe the excess away with the back of one forearm but otherwise pays the mess little mind.
"I think," she says, turning back to Tairyu with a fresh grin. "That thou would be far more hesistant to wish such a challenge were I unrestrained."
Ah. Tairyu may not have expected this kind of reaction from bringing up the oni's current appearance. He does still spare a look of respect at the display of power that can be seen just when the Oni flexes her arm in such a way. But still... her feeling behind the form can't be missed.
"It restricts you, then," he murmurs, his own brows drawing down together with those words. "I can understand the frustration... at least to an extent. Well. It's not a bad-looking form, at least, but still..."
Those dark brows jump up, clearing the frown when seeing the spill happen. She might take it in well enough stride, but the would-be club owner still ducks down briefly to bring out a cleaning cloth from underneath the bar, holding it out to the oni in silent offer.
Even while he's mirroring her own grin. "It would be shameful to wish for a challenge only because it would be lesser in form than normally," he claims, in retort. "I am not arrogant enough to assume an Oni at it's full power would be an easy match. But still, it's... an interesting prospect, nonethless. And to be able to give a decent match for one is something I'm sure warriors across the centuries have strived for."
His glass is, belatedly, refilled, with another top-off offered for the Oni, as well.
"Perhaps one day."
"Aye, that it does."
Riki accepts the cloth, dismissively patting it at one of the wet spots on her shirt before tossing it onto the counter. Though she may appear to be mostly human at the moment it's clear that things like keeping tidy don't rank particularly high among her priorities. The wild mane of golden hair that she sports would probably cause any salon worker to faint at the sight of it, much less the prospect of trying to detangle and clean it.
"But, tis in part a necessary restraint," she admits with a shrug.
"I hath not a full understanding of the nature of such things, mind thee, but the essence of a spiritual being such as myself is bound to the other realm. There art places where the barrier between the Earthrealm and the Divine grows thin. Such places were the traditional haunts for things that your kind now regard as myth - deep forests, old mountains, hidden waterfalls."
Anyone familiar with mythology, Japanese in particular, would understand of what she speaks. Such places were often considered touched by divine or hellish influences. Many became the sites for monasteries or temples once they had been 'purified' of their demonic taint or after a local deity had given their blessings. Such temples can be found even now, often secluded deep within the forests or resting on a mountainous slope. They are little more than tourist attractions these days, whatever otherworldly power they might have once held long since faded as monsters and demons were forgotten by humanity.
"Yet, such powerful creatures rarely wandered beyond their domains, even those full of hatred and malevolence. For that there is a simple reason. They were bound to these places. To step beyond the reach of the spiritual energy would hath drained them quickly of their power."
Riki taps one of the rough iron manacles encircling her wrists, her claw-like fingernail rapping on its cold surface.
"A gift and a punishment. Though a powerful oni, I did fail at a duty assigned unto me. Cast out from Jigoku, I hath been sent to this world to redeem that failure. In order to do so, I require a vessel capable of ranging beyond the normal limits of spiritual beings."
She pauses and rubs the back of her neck again, something that appears to be an indication of deep thought or recollection. Like everything that the demon seems to do, the gesture lacks any sort of subtlety.
"My master made a comparison to one of thy modern contraptions. I believe she called it a... space suit?"
The oni peers at Tairyu to see if that analogy makes any sense to him. Hopefully she doesn't sound like a crazy person. Ayame has not proven herself to be a trickster - but, if the girl was going to try something that would make the oni look like a fool, it would definitely be done by making her say ridiculous.
"A quest for redemption, of restoring honor, then," Tairyu eventually concludes, all the while giving a studious look over Riki's... current form, again, mulling the thought over. And even more so when the analogue of a... space suit is made.
"A space suit," he repeats, brows furrowing for just a brief moment. "A protective suit that astronauts use to walk in the space beyond the Earth. ONe that they need to be able to sustain their own life there... for the human body is not built for that environment."
Tairyu leans his weight further against the counter, eyes narrowing briefly while he considers the Oni-woman further. "If the comparison your master makes is an accurate one, then... An oni in it's natural form could not be sustained in this realm? But that would not account for all the stories that have spread across the lands in ages past, I'm sure. But then... I suppose your presence wouldn't be very sustainable in... society, in general, without this appearance." A vage gesture made with one hand towards her.
"Even if a great deal don't seem to appreciate it, anyway."
Riki shrugs at his explanation. She wouldn't know if he's accurate or not about what a space suit does but it sounds like a reasonable approximation. For all their power, spiritual beings such as herself need something to maintain that form in the Earthrealm.
"Twas different in those bygone eras," she says, pouring the last of her bottle into the glass. "The barrier between realms was less..." Her lips twist up as she tries to find the proper word. "Real, I suppose. Mankind once believed strongly in the presence of spirits, demons, and gods. That belief gave power to such things, allowed them to act more openly."
The liquor vanishes almost as quickly as it is poured managing to mostly get where it belongs this time. Riki idly tosses the empty bottle aside, too distracted with conversation to focus on maintaining good manners.
Deprived of her primary vice, she seeks out a different sort of distraction. One finger twirls in a strange gesture through the empty air, the movement casual but clearly with purpose. Seemingly from nowhere a long wooden object suddenly snaps into existence with a soft popping sound. The ogre's fingers close around the center of the thing which is revealed to be a long slender pipe. Expertly crafted from gold and wood, the pipe is a work of incredible art. A slender Japanese dragon is etched into the surface of the wooden body, starting with the tail near the mouth piece and ending with an ornate golden head. The open mouth of the beast spews a cloud of light gray smoke as Riki puts it to her lips, hellfire flaring down into the pipe to ignite the bundle of spices and incense stored within. A rich and powerful aroma fills the room almost instantly, the crisp and tantalizing scent overpowering even the ever-present stench of death that seems to permeate the city.
"Now... mankind hath no need for such things, twould seem. Few art the visitors that come to pay their respects to the old shrines. Fewer still that remember the names of those to whom the shrines were dedicated. The barrier between the Earthrealm and those beyond is dense and unbending in all but a few places."
"Thus..." She takes the pipe out of her mouth and taps it against her manacle, smiling. "Space suit."
Several moments of silence drag out as the giant partakes of her pipe, inhaling deeply of the rich smoke. An equally drawn-out exhalation sends the dark gray smoke pouring forth from her nostrils in twin jets as if she herself were a dragon. The cloud seems to dance and shimmer in unnatural ways as it leaves her nose, twisting into faint images of hulking humanoid figures with large clubs engaged in some manner of martial contest. The illusion lasts only a few seconds before dissipating into a formless cloud once again.
"Mmm, once again thou assumes a lack of appreciation for mine efforts. While there art those who art frightened by mine size and unusual appearance, I hath found the opposite to be true quite often."
She grins at him, chuckling softly.
"In fact, the most annoyed I hath ever seen my master was upon learning that mine countenance had been captured by one of thy modern devices. A cell phone, yes? I do not know what this 'internet' is but she was quite cross to know that my likeness was being spread throughout it. Apparently, I am quite the popular topic among the youth!"
"So..." Tairyu's mind mulls over everything he hears, with Riki's explanation, tongue clicking audibly against the roof of his mouth. "The way the world has changed... the culture, and the spiritual... focus of the people populating the land, has made it more difficult for divine beings to maintain their true forms as they used to."
Tairyu does not look, in the least bit, surprised by any of this. He takes everything well-enough. It's hard not to take things like this at face value after witnessing so many very much non-mundane events within the city so far.
Especially when it's coming from a woman with a great big horn on her forehead.
He does, however, send a blank look after the bottle tossed aside nonceremonously and sent to shatter into a million tiny shards. "... Suppose the cleaning crew will get that anyway."
Of all things, the pipe brought out into being earns a rather impressed look from the Yakuza. Subtly, he leans closer, to study the design there more closely, seemingly utterly unbothered by the smoke that inevitably lingers in the air after the equally-impressive display of outward-blown smoke from the Oni. "Impressive piece."
He leans back again inevitably, flashing a wide smile to the woman. "Don't misunderstand me. I have no doubt your efforts during all this chaos aren't appreciated. And Hanekawa-san certainly took well to you. Though... Equally many do react with an unwarranted... aversion."
The remnants on the second bottle are poured out onto each of their glasses, and his eyes wander down, for a moment.
"Something the two of us seem to share, to an extent. For all our attempts for the better, there is... a certain side that many people will refuse to look past."
She gets it now. This conversation isn't about her; not directly, at least. The man sitting with her at the bar seems to believe that human society has unrightfully labeled him as something to be feared. Perhaps he is some sort of criminal or has been ostracized for some other reason that she wouldn't understand. It bothers him, enough that he would comisserate with an obviously inhuman monster that he has known for a handful of minutes about it.
Riki mulls this over in silence for a few moments. No one ever accused her of being wise or smart. Her contributions to conversations are usually the sort that make people groan or laugh at their foolishness rather than nod in appreciative understanding at some fresh morsel of wisdom that has been imparted to them through deep philosophical thought. Yet, in regards to being treated as a monster, she has a great deal of experience to draw upon.
"Like it do you?"
The oni twirls the pipe in her fingers, deftly spinning it about in a circle. It's not a terribly impressive party trick by most standards but for someone with big clumsy sausage-fingers like hers she considers it to be a fair display of skill. The dragon's mouth spews a fresh wave of pungent smoke into the air, each repetition adding more to the cloud beginning to form about her head. Once she's built up what feels like an appropriately ominious shroud, the demon sits fully upright plunging her head into the grey so that it lightly obscures her features.
"I took this from the corpse of a man I killed," she says, quite cheerfully. "A samurai. Probably the lord of some province or other. Such details did not concern me, only that he possessed it and I wished to have it."
The pipe ceases to spin and Riki places it back in her mouth, puffing decadently on the slender tip with a sigh of deep appreciation. She exhales again and this time the cloud that billows forth takes on the shape of a seething mass of fire, flames licking and spitting wildly as if a dragon were venting its wrath. The scent of sulphur and brimstone quickly overwhelms the pleasant aroma of burnt herbs.
The oni's eyes flicker to life behind the thick misty smoke, blazing hellfire dancing in her crimson irises. She grins at Tairyu and there is nothing friendly behind the expression this time. A demon stares down at him, eyes full of menace and violence, deadly fangs flickering in the dim glow of her Hellish gaze. Her mouth parts slightly, revealing yet more of the long curved teeth, and she breathes out even more smoke in a dark choking cloud. Hissing red embers spew outwards into the mist creating a pyroclastic display as if a volcano were slowly rumbling awake in the middle of the club.
After allowing the yakuza to react to this sudden display of power for several seconds Riki closes her eyes and inhales deeply. The hot cloying cloud of sulphurous smoke retreats into the demon, funneling towards her mouth like an angry tornado. Within a few moments it has vanished and with it the vile stench of hellfire. The ogre exhales again and once more the smoke billows forth in a pleasant mist of scented incense that wafts lazily about the two of them, coiling about the man and the oni like a cat seeking attention.
"There art good reasons for people to fear me, human," Riki says, leaning lazily against the bar with a broad mischievious smile upon her face. She emphasizes the last word as if to bring attention to the fact that they are, in fact, not remotely similar to each other. "Though I may bear a resemblence to thy kind, deep down there is a primal understanding that I am not of your world. The fear and mistrust that I doth evoke in mortals is ingrained into their very soul. If thou believe that thy create similar feelings of mistrust then perhaps thou should consider long and hard what that might imply about thy own actions."
Tairyu does not appear, at least outwardly, by the story behind the pipe. Sure, he might quirk one brow slightly, but there's no immediate show of judgement, there. "I admit I am not typically a pipe man," he offers in answer to her question, instead. "But I can appreciate the design."
The gathering of clouds, the menacing air and fire and brimstone, though? That does make the Yakuza stiffen, briefly. But he doesn't retreat. He maintains his eye contact with her, brows faintly furrowed up and eyes slightly narrowed. He's not foolish enough to directly challenge an Oni exhibiting such ominous signs, surely -- but he's making a point of standing his groudn there.
He doesn't flinch at the all-too-direct indictment she gives. Even if there is a brief ruefulness showing in his gaze -- an acknowledgement of the truth behind the words.
"I have no illusions about my place, Oni," Tairyu eventually retorts, with a shake of his head. "Neither when it comes to how I'm viewed and the reasons behind them -- or how I compare to you. Hm. Had this meeting taken place centuries ago?" One corner of his mouth tugs subtly upwards. "I'm sure you would have killed me. Hell, if the concept of reincarnation holds any truth to it... perhaps you did, even." The notion of having died to this demon in a previous life doesn't seem to bother him too much.
Now, he turns away from Riki -- but not for long. Just long enough to recover the third bottle of the night, returning with it to calmly pour out renewed glasses for each. "And yet... Here we are. An outlaw human, sharing a drink with a mighty demon. The world has changed, hasn't it? For both divine beings like you, and people like me."
His own glass is quickly drained out, in that point. He might not be drinking with anywhere near the same pace and veracity as the Oni, but for a human, he's taking his liqour pretty well.
"There's plenty enough reason for people to be fearful of... well. A lot of other people, to be frank. But we all employ those reasons in different ways. If you told your Master that you shared drinks with a Yakuza today, I'm sure she would... have some choice words to give about that. I wouldn't hold it against her. There is a reputation... and even expectation tied to that word. Some of it good, but most of it bad. No matter how much I might try to leverage the power and resources that come with it to help civilians in my turf, how much I might work to keep things running smoothly for everyone and offer a place for the lost and strays of Southtown... There's no denying where the roots of it all are. No denying that the scorn and hatred directed at us, who are seen as only good for violence... isn't entirely unjustified."
He discards his glass for the time being, and folds his arms along the countertop, leaning slightly forward on it. Eyes holding onto the Oni's, with no hesitation whatsoever. There's no otherwordly power there in him, no. No divine hold, no centuries worth of life experience. But there is the intensity of a human with purpose and responsibility.
"To claim that my situation is similiar to yours, or that I fully understand what your life is like, would be arrogance of the greatest order, I know. But, Riki-san... I am, at least, comfortable enough to say that I understand some of what I see. Enough to respect it."
He rises up in his posture there as he pauses in his words, so he can take hold of the bottle again -- afterall, no doubt Riki's glass will be empty by now, and needing of a refill.
"And happy enough for the honor to be your drinking buddy, even if just for one evening."
Riki listens. She's good at that, despite what any human mikos might have to say on the matter.
Being bound as the guardian of a shrine for hundreds of years teaches one something of patience; and boredom, lots and lots of boredom. There was little for her to do during those long years of servitude but to listen. And listen she did - to the wise old priests sharing stories of hard life lessons; to the poor and destitute forced from their homes by war and famine; to the children with their innocent dreams of the future; to the grizzled soldiers worn down by reality. All of them had hardships to endure and came offering prayers to that little stone shrine in the hope that doing so might grant them a sliver of divine mercy so that their world could be just a little bit better.
When he is done speaking, Riki removes the pipe from her mouth and puffs another cloud of aromatic smoke into the air. She gives the man a long look, considering her words with a thoughtful smile. It has always amused her how easily alcohol loosens the tongue of mortals. Just a few little drinks and all their inner thoughts come spilling out. Perhaps they are simply looking for an excuse to open up and share their deepest concerns. For such insignificant creatures, humans always seem to carry a great weight upon their shoulders as if the very fate of the cosmos rests upon their actions. Arrogance, perhaps, or simply the unavoidable sideffect of a perspective so very limited to a single brief moment in time.
"Mine first act upon arriving in this realm was to protect a holy mountain from a wicked onibaba."
Riki leans back, shifting her weight as she crosses one leg over her lap into a more comfortable position. The gaggle of stools groans beneath her in protest, clearly unhappy with their treatment.
"No witness was there to this confrontation, no one to offer plaudits for mine success nor mourning should I hath failed. Merely duty and necessity. Not soon after I sought to return to the shrine where I had kept watch for many centuries - only to find it aflame."
The ogre purses her lips at this, the memory still painful to bear. Her emotions are writ plain on her face, subtlety not being a strong suite for such demons apparently.
"Within the burning ruins I did stumble across a wounded girl. Seeking to salvage something from the destruction I bore her into the woods and nursed her to health. Yet, upon rousing in the morn, I was greeted not with thanks or praise but fear and suspicion."
She grins at Tairyu, flashing her fangs once again, and taps the pipe on her horn.
"Upon mine appearance was I judged, my deeds ignored. Yet, through persistence I did prove myself righteous of intention. And though she yet grumbles, frequently and loudly, my master she did one day become."
Reaching out to take her freshly filled glass, Riki hoists in the yakuza's direction once more.
"If thou believe thy actions just and thy path righteous, stay the course. Though there will be those who doubt the sincerity of thy actions, through persistence thy rewards shall surely come. Who knows? Perhaps one day, if thou possesseth the necessary tenacity, I shalt brag unto others that I was given the great honor to drink with the great Tairyu!"
And on that cheerful note, she downs her drink and sets the glass back upon the counter.
When it comes to Tairyu's turn to listening, he doesn't even work on his drink this time around. Refilled his glass might be once more, but he's content to just let it be cradled within one hand while lazily leaning his body agains the coutner. Taking in the story. There's a strangely satisfying feeling, perhaps, to being allowed to hear the recounting of a story from an Oni's past by the Oni itself.
And though he might frown, momentarily, over parts of it, in the end it is still a story that ends up drawing a smile to his lips.
The final declaration from Riki, however, draws a cough much more sheepish than one might have expected from the man by this point. "Sheesh. Wouldn't that be a sight?"
Still, he draws his drink up alongside her in the impromptu toast, and downs it in synchronous motion. All the way to the sound of the two glass containers hitting the counter echoing out through the club.
"There was a thing, that the man who raised me told me, once," Tairyu says, then, while pouring what remains of the bottle's contents into Riki's glass.
"It's not for titles and glory that men and women should forge their paths. Those two things should follow their deeds, not the other way around."
For just a second, Tairyu's eyes take on a distant look to them. The memory is one that prompts longing thoughts in the man. Of the one who spoke the words -- and never again can do so.
"...Well, I suppose there is a certain irony in him saying not do things with the primary motivation of seeking praise when he was in a position that inevitably attracted brown-nosers," he mutters with a more amused tone of voice once casting that brief emotional tinge aside from his mind, without any consideration if that particular... wording has any meaning to the centuries-old woman.
"Wise advice," Riki says, offering no complaints to a freshly filled cup. "Or, I shalt assume so. The inner workings of human society hath never been of great concern to my kind."
She grins at him before polishing off the last of the liquor. While she isn't quite as ignorant as she claims about things like titles and accolades it isn't her place to urge a mortal into specific action. She is merely a messenger, a thug that gets sent out when someone crosses a line that offends the powers that be. For all the power that she might possess, she lacks the same freedom to act that even the lowliest human living in the gutter owns.
"Do as you feel is right," she concludes with a shrug, summing up her attempt to pass on a pearl of wisdom. Blunt and to the point, just how she prefers. All this philosophizing is just making her more thirsty. "Only the gods get to determine if thy life was just."
Pushing to her feet with a final protest from the abuse stools the ogre makes a show of stretching her powerful limbs out. It is probably best she get moving before this conversation gets any more heavy. Three bottles in is enough for even her divinely enhanced constitution to start feeling the touch of the liquor creeping into her mind. The last time she got properly drunk she put a hole in the temple wall. Best not end such a promising new friendship on a sour note.
"Tis best I make my return to my master's side. Though she would never admit it, she worries easily. Perhaps more so that I shall embarrass her through mine carelessness than for my safety," she says with a chuckle. "But I see no need to inflict needless concern upon her this day."
Riki claps her hand onto Tairyu's shoulder once again subjecting him to a veritable sack of bricks being dropped across his shoulders as she gives him a friendly pat. Either she doesn't have much control over her own strength or she's testing him again. Considering she's a literal demon whose name means 'strength' it's not terribly surprising that she'd be the sort to engage in playful roughhousing.
"Thy hospitality was most appreciated, mortal! Once thou hath finished preparations for thy club I shalt see to it to patronize this establishment once more."
"The only thing most of us can really do, I suppose," is all Tairyu has to offer in response to that. What more can there be said? Or done, for that matter. In the end, everyone in this mortal realm is merely trying to keep going forward, one day at a time.
When Riki's hand collides with the force of a small meteorite onto the Yakuza, he doesn't even let his expression twitch this time around. But then again, he did know what to expect and brace for after last time.
"You will be welcomed," he assures the Oni, with a subtle downward dip of his head to her direction. "Perhaps I may meet your master one day, too.
Though he may very well have to invest in better seating options for Riki. Those stools had a great many complaints to give about the massive woman's presence there.
"Be well, Riki. May your next battle be a glorious one."
Log created on 15:22:19 12/27/2020 by Tairyu, and last modified on 19:20:20 01/12/2021.