Description: After the fighting around and inside Team Frost's warehouse drawn by Juri's kidnapping of Coco, Daisuke goes to find Juri on the rooftop, intending to give her a piece of her mind. Different choices and promises are made, instead.
Silence has finally fallen across the warehouse.
Juri had watched the intruders make their getaway from the rooftop vantage point. Climbing up here is difficult now, requiring that it be scaled by irregular handholds, but that isn't the reason why she's lingered. If she wanted to get down, she could just drop. She's not so badly hurt that she couldn't manage that.
Her legs dangle over the front of the warehouse roof. The fighting has obviously been fierce up here; the place is a mess, and Juri herself looks... hurt. Usually the woman projects an air of invincibility, but now her outfit is burned and blackened, ripped in several places, her face is bloodied and swollen. She's even let her hair back down.
She'd gotten everything she wanted. Her suspicions were proven correct. She'd provided a demonstration of what was possible. Her own students had been given their test. Everything had gone precisely as planned, excepting some details.
She turns something over in her hands. Smooth. Cold. Hard. It's such a small thing, and yet it has defined her life for so very long.
"Weak." She mutters to herself, sighs. "Weak, and broken."
The silence reigning over the now-calmed rooftop is broken with the creak of a door opening. Someone stepping up from the rooftop access stairs. A steady, slow pad of footsteps, getting progressively louder in their approach to Juri.
And maybe, if Juri's ears are attuned enough, even the faintest sound of droplets of blood pattering on the ground in a trail left behind each step.
She can probably guess even without looking that it's Daisuke who ends up standing there, roughly two meters behind her. He doesn't look *much* better off than Juri, all told. His shirt is torn along his side to reveal a still-open, still-bleeding cut running through there, and another long cut runs across his left forearm. Both arms very visibly bearing fresh chi burns across them too, for that matter.
And the redhead doesn't exactly look happy. Russet brows are twisted into a faint frown while his reddened eyes stare at Juri's back.
He might not look as angry as he did a couple seconds ago, though. He can tell well enough that Juri might not be in the best of spots right now either.
He can save his outburst for at least a little further away. For now, he just stands there, and waits for her to speak the first word.
"Tch. Sit down."
Juri doesn't even turn around to acknowledge Daisuke. She doesn't need to. The amount of time they've spent in each other's company, he'd need to spend a lot of time working on how to cloak his presence before he had a chance of sneaking up on her, even if she's currently nursing her wounds and stewing in some self-pity.
"How did it go?"
A beat, and then she clarifies.
"I'll pull the footage later so we can go over it properly, but right now, gut instinct, how do you feel you did?"
Her hands keep working around the object in her lap, rolling it in her fingers as she looks out across the city. Sunshine mirrors her mood pretty perfectly right now; it's almost comforting.
The redhead doesn't move right away after being urged to sit. He might be momentarily hesitant to get any closer, but... eventually, with a hefty sigh, he takes those last few steps forward. Easing himself down, carefully, to sitting besides Juri upon the edge of the roof, feet brought to dangling over it.
He winces once he's down there, the hand of his undamaged (or, well, less-damaged...) arm going to press against his still-bleeding side, as if he'd only just remembered that he's actually hurt in his own right.
"How did it go...?"
That question makes him stiffen up. The further elaboration that comes after, then, makes him actually grind his teeth together for a moment.
"It went like shit."
Green eyes turn to peek sidelong to Juri, for just a second, before that gaze drifts forward, past the buildings surrounding the warehouse and off to the horizon.
"That why you did it?" He asks, then. "Just to see how all this'd go?"
"Tch. Don't be naive."
As Daisuke settles next to her, she turns her hands over, hiding the object within from sight. She cracks her neck, but she still doesn't actually look at the redheaded boy.
"They're getting strong. And I've gotten weak." She says, sighing. Rather than looking at the city, she tilts her head up to the sky. Long black hair falls away from her face, showing the one good eye... and the patch. "There were a lot of reasons. The main one was that I needed to know if Coco is one of us. She is. Completely untapped talent. Should have seen it at the draft but, now we know. We can keep an eye on her. Help her out."
The good eye closes. Breath leaves her in a long, heartfelt sigh.
"But they're getting strong. All of them. I can still take any one of them, but two? It wasn't even close. Not really. I think I made it look good, but they had me. And if they're good enough for that... how long do you think it's gonna be before the powers in the shadows start making their moves, huh?"
"... That's it?"
Daisuke sounds and looks phenomenally *unimpressed* by the main reason Juri offers. His expression steadily fills with building frustration, and doesn't seem to ease at all even as she laments on her own performance during all this.
"You really had to kidnap her for *that*?" He finally spits out, though the effect of his tone might be undercut by the consequent surge of pain that forces his hand to press tighter against the wound at his side. "You... nnnh... Keep talking about all these evil people in the shadows who want to capture folks like us, but does that really make it okay? You must have known how everyone would react. They didn't come here for friendly chats. They didn't come here for matches everyone could walk away from. They came here ready to die. At least one of them I'm pretty sure came here ready to kill. And people got hurt real bad for it. I'm pretty sure Ayala's going to need to be in the hospital for a couple days."
Air hisses out through Daisuke's teeth, and against his better intentions, his body shakes subtly now, while he goes on. "Did you count on me getting put through that? Did you want me to hurt them?"
"I wanted to know I could count on you."
Juri's voice is uncharacteristically soft, and she finally turns to look at him. "Daisuke. You're not, hearing the important things here. Yeah. I knew they'd come. And I knew they wouldn't hold back. But I also knew they could be handled. They aren't killers. But they were unexpected, and angry, and I need to know you have what it takes when the next ones come."
Her hand has balled into a fist, now. Very tight. Knuckles white.
"Because NEXT time... we won't know who it is. And they will try to take us. They'll only kill us if we're lucky. Do you understand that? I know how these people operate."
Her voice tightens.
"I *AM* them."
Daisuke practically *feels* her gaze falling on him, and with it comes him mirroring that motion, in turning his head to guide his eyes staring straight into hers. Or at least the one good eye. He might not say anything right off the bat in protest or counter-argument to her words right away, letting her say everything she has to say first.
And even after that, that tight-voiced declaration at the end leaves him quiet for a moment. Still staring at her, without his own expression softening at all.
Ten seconds pass, before he releases a breath he had been subconsciously holding back, throat clearing with an audible sound after. And only then, does he speak again, to present a single question to her.
"Is that who you still are?"
Juri laughs. Not her usual, high-pitched cackle. There's no humour in it; not even the cold, vicious humour she usually enjoyed. The noise is bitter. Miserable.
"I don't get to make that call."
She stands up, then. The motion is pained, slow. She looks back down at Daisuke, and runs her hand back through her hair, sweeping it away from the eyepatch covering her socket.
"I didn't kill anyone." She says. "Not even when they came to take me back. Did I tell you that before? I forget. Because they've tried once. And I didn't even kill the leader."
Another hateful little laugh.
"Wanted to, though. Coco could sense it. I might've, if she wasn't here."
Now, Daisuke blinks with surprise. At the way she reacts. At the way she laughs that is so unbelievably unusual from what he's used to hearing for her.
And more importantly, at the answer she gives him.
Hostility fades away from him while he processes what she has said. He was ready to come here and punch Juri if he felt he had to. He was expecting to be deciding to walk away from all this at the very least.
But just like that, the way he looks at Juri changes. There's no fear, no hatred. Anger does return, though--
"Oi, don't joke around like that..."
--But for an entirely different reasson.
"Doesn't that mean you've been making calls about that already?"
His palm stamps itself against the flooring of the rooftop, to help push himself up -- and perhaps expecting some kind of argument from Juri, he pre-emptively grunts out, "Shut up, just shut up for a second."
He comes to one knee, groaning with pain as the motion unfortunately causes uncomfortable motion on his wounded side, and a bit more blood spurts out from between his fingers. "Don't even try saying something like that... Don't get to make that call my ass..."
Up to a crouch, then, with legs shaking underneath him for various different reasons. "Unlike animals and actual monsters, us humans actually get to choose what we do with our lives, you know? We choose how to treat people, choose to care after someone, choose to hurt someone... That's what makes us that much goddamn scarier, too..."
Slowly, the redhead rises up to standing fully, though he's left hunched over enough that Juri might very well still find herself looking down at him in spite of their difference in standing heights, while his head hungs slightly downwards still. "And like it or not, I don't see someone here who's any less human than me. Even with most of them being choices I might regret, but that's just part of being human, too-- it's just something we have to accept and own up, too, and try making better choices after..."
He takes a deep breath, steadying his own body and gathering some energy-- right before he damn near snaps his head back fully upright, to lock his eyes into Juri's good eye again.
"So just keep making those choises instead of settling for something some asshole tried to decide for you, you absolute moron!!"
That final outburst actually leaves him panting, for a few seconds... and then avert his gaze from Juri, with an instinctive shuffle of a half-step backward, like he's immediately regretting saying all that.
A shadow falls across Juri's face when Daisuke tells her to shut up. Her lips press together, but she does listen. Maybe it is because she's too damn tired to want to get in a fight about it. Maybe she just wants to see where this is going to go; it's the first time Daisuke has shown any actual passion to her. It's good. She likes it. Even if he does call her a moron.
"You're not looking close enough."
Juri stretches, and yawns. And as she lowers her arms, her fingers hook beneath the material of the eyepatch. Lifting it, she reveals what lays beneath. Not a grizzly, scarred socket, as one might expect. Smooth. Metal. Perfectly flush with her skin. Her finger runs around the rim of it.
"They reached right into my skull, and they scooped out everything good. Left behind a nice little hole. There's only one thing that fills it now."
She opens her other hand, revealing the Feng Shui Engine. Disconnected as it is, the artificial eye sits in her palm, inert, dead.
"I only feel happy when I'm hurting other people. Their suffering is what fills up this nasty little hole in my soul. I can stop myself killing them, sure. But Daisuke. Look me in the eye."
And she smiles, again; a sick, twisted grin across those lips of hers.
"And tell me you ~really~ think I'm not a monster."
He didn't expect to see that. It's the first time Daisuke has really gotten to see what lays within Juri's Other Eye. The first time he has really gotten to see the true presence of the Feng Shui Engine. It makes him want to shiver, out of fear. Out of desperation. It certainly would do so to people stronger than him.
But still, something else feels... different. Something else she said he lingers on.
'The hole in my soul'.
Without even realizing it, Daisuke's hand shifts along his own chest, fingers curling over the very center, like he's trying to clutch at something. Something that isn't there.
Something he isn't sure will ever be there.
He has a hole inside of him too, afterall.
It's different, certainly. It's there for different reasons, and the symptoms of it are completely different. But somehow... That realization still makes him look at her differently.
It makes him look her in the eye without any hesitation. Not even a single iota of it, not even with that familiar sadistic smile greeting him, the smile that has put so many others to fleeing for their lives. And he gives her his answer, in a calm but resolute tone that reflects similiarly in his eyes:
Juri reaches up, and forces the Engine back into its proper place.
Pain. Immediate and raw, it flows through her. Power, too. That eerie, bright purple Psycho Power; the artificially generated energy that supplements and seeks to supplant her own. She shivers. And she forces it back down. Her fingers draw the eyepatch back into place, and she draws in a long, deep breath.
When she'd worked for Shadaloo, she'd never bothered to really analyse the Engine and the effect it had on her. It was just a tool; one she used rampantly to cause as much pain and devastation as she pleased. She had no reason not to indulge her appetites, and the more she indulged, the more the Engine urged her to do. Psycho Power, generated from the blueprint of the man himself, can only push in one direction.
But she does see that now. And as weak as she is in some senses, she's stronger in others. She refuses to let herself be controlled by anything; even her own magnified, sadistic appetites. She is not a puppet. She never will be.
"That makes one of us." She says, faux-cheeriness in her voice. "An untamed animal. That's what they used to call me. And I used to believe it. Truth was, Vega had me on a leash for years. And he'll slip one on you, and Genie, and Coco, if we give him the chance."
That's a name.
She doesn't even seem to realise she's said it. It's the first time she's said his name out loud since the moment she crawled out of the wreckage of her former life. And it just, happened. So casually. She's even waving her hand as she starts to walk to the edge of the roof where the fire escape had once been.
"I know you think I'm paranoid, but we need to be ready. I need to know you and the others won't lose your heads when things aren't just a game any more. But you're getting better."
She smirks, looks back over her shoulder. "Just don't make a habit of mouthing off, or I'll have to put you in your place."
As resolute as Daisuke's stare might have been, the overflow energy that permeates the air while Juri is pushing the Engine back into her eye. It's an entirely reflexive thing on his part, seeing as he isn't entirely certain of how it actually will physically manifest itself during the process.
When it's said and done, he does let out a calming breath, and listen patiently enough at her words.
"...Unforunately that's the one thing I can't promise," he tells her bluntly, tone just a *bit* challenging over the idea that he shouldn't be mouthing off.
"Listen--" He even points a finger at her back while she's still there in view. "Whatever might be coming, none of us have to give up our humanity. And I firmly believe that goes for you, too. As long as I have even the slightest reason to believe that, and that you're able to make that choice, I'll be there to call you out on things you do." There's truly no fear in his voice when he claims that. He surely must understand how much higher Juri still is in the pecking order of power, but...
He truly isn't afraid to make that gamble, right now.
"And should you one day come and tell me you have started believing that too, even just a little..." He lets out a low sigh, and lets his pointing hand fall down back to his side.
"...Then I will give everything I have to help you."
Such a ridicilous claim. But the look in his eyes is enough to say he is truly committed to that idea, now. And the belief that this woman who most call a monster would actually come do that one day.
"This I promise.
Juri pauses at the edge of the roof. It's interesting. She has no idea what she's done to inspire this kind of devotion in the boy; she'd picked him purely because she was pretty sure he was going to get himself killed if he kept running around in that stupid mask picking fights. There's nothing she's done that she can think would give him reason to pledge that kind of loyalty to her. But she believes it. It's the kind of thing she can't possibly understand; so alien to her nature that he might as well be from a different planet. But. She knows he really thinks that way.
"I never was the one who was good at talking to people." She says, at last. "I need to sleep. You too. And Ayala from what you said. Come downstairs with me. I'll get you bandaged and see if I can deal with her, too."
She hesitates for a moment, and then she adds.
"And if something does happen to me, there's a name I was given once. I've never been able to find her, and trust me I looked, but... Rose. Remember that. If I go down and you need to keep the others safe, find her. She'll help."
What does she have to base that on?
Well. Only the word of another snake in the old boss' nest. But she'll trust that more than most.
"...That can be worked on too, you know," Daisuke insists, though this one comes with a more sheepish smile on his part. He does come stepping along after when she urges him, though, and... well. The subject of him getting bandaged makes him wince and groan, as if he'd actually momentarily forgotten he's supposed to be hurting here.
"Nnh, yeah... I gave everyone first aid already before I came up here, at least..." Everyone, he says. So definitely also the intruders he and Ayala had gone up against, too.
But wait, did he really just skip first aid on *himself* in order to save time?!
But he does hesitate when she does, too, right at the edge of where the fire escape... er... used to be. He halts there just a step behind her, and blinks with a mild measure of shock at her words.
"Um... I don't really know what I can do with that that you couldn't, but..."
He takes in a breath, lets his shoulders slump a bit, and then... he actually gives her a smile.One he hasn't been able to give her very easily most of the time, and not even when he was giving her that spiel a moment earlier.
"I promise, I'll do what I can."
Log created on 13:23:50 07/26/2023 by Daisuke, and last modified on 21:25:50 07/26/2023.